41. Jesus' Public Life -- His Esoteric Teaching -- The Miracles

I have tried to illumine with its own light that part of Jesus' I life which the Gospels have left in obscurity or hidden beneath the veil of legend. I have told by what initiation, by what development of soul and spirit the great Nazarene arrived at the Messianic consciousness. In other words, I have tried to reconstruct the inner genesis of the Christ. Once this genesis is recognized, the rest of my task will be easier.

Jesus' public life has been related by the Gospels. In these accounts are divergences, contradictions and additions. Legend, concealing or exaggerating certain Mysteries, still reappears here and there, but from the totality appears such a unity of thought and action, a character so powerful and so unique that invincibly we feel ourselves in the presence of reality, of life. There is no question of reconstructing those inimitable accounts which, in their childish simplicity or their symbolic beauty tell more than all commentaries. But today it is important to clarify Jesus' connection with esoteric traditions and truths, to show the meaning and transcendent significance of his dual teaching.

Of what great news was he the bearer, -- the already famous Essene who came from the shores of the Dead Sea to his Galilean homeland, there to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom? How was he to change the face of the world? The thinking of the prophets had reached a climax in him. Richly endowed in his being, he came to share with men this Kingdom of Heaven which he had conquered in his meditations and his struggles, in his infinite pain and boundless joy. He came to tear away the veil that the ancient religion of Moses had cast over the after-life. He came to say: "Believe, love, act, and may hope be the soul of your actions. Beyond this earth is a world of souls, a more perfect life. I know it; I come from there; and I will lead you to it. But it is not enough to aspire to it. In order to reach it, one must begin by bringing it about here below, first within yourselves, then in mankind. With what? -- With love, with active charity."

The young prophet came to Galilee. He did not say that he was the Messiah, but he discussed the Law and prophets in the synagogues. He preached on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in fishermen's boats, beside the green oases which abounded near Capernaum, Bethsaida and Korazim. He healed the sick by the laying on of hands, with a look, or a command, and often by his presence alone. Crowds followed him; already many disciples were attached to him. He recruited them from among the men of the people: fishermen, tax collectors. For he wanted upright, unspoiled natures, ardent and believing, and he irresistibly won them over.

In his choice of men he was led by that gift of spiritual insight which in all epochs has been the special possession of men of action, but especially of religious initiators. A look sufficed for him to fathom a soul. He needed no other test, and when he said, "Follow me," they followed him. With a gesture he called to him the shy, the hesitant, saying, "Come to me, all you who are heavy laden, I will give you rest. My yoke is easy, and my burden is light." He discerned the most secret thoughts of men who, troubled and disturbed, recognized their Master. Sometimes in a man's apparent unbelief he recognized uprightness. Nathaniel having asked, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Jesus replied, "There is a true Israelite, in whom there is no guile!" He required neither oath nor profession of faith from his disciples, but only that they love him and that they believe in him. He put the community of property into practice, not as an absolute rule, but as a principle of brotherhood among his own.

In his little group Jesus thus was beginning to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven that he wished to establish on earth. The Sermon on the Mount offers us a picture of that Kingdom already formed in embryo, with a resume of Jesus' public teachings. The Master is sitting on the top of the hill; the future initiates are gathered at his feet; down below, the assembled people avidly receive the words which fall from his mouth. What is the new doctor announcing? Fast? Mortification? Public penance? No. He says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven! Blessed are they that mourn, far they shall be comforted." Then in ascending order he unfolds the four sorrowful virtues: the marvelous power of humility, compassion for others, inner goodness of heart, hunger and thirst for righteousness. Then the active, triumphant virtues appear in radiance: mercy, purity of heart, loving-kindness and, finally, martyrdom for righteousness. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God!" Like the sound of a golden bell, before the inner eye of the hearers this saying reveals a part of heaven, radiant with stars above the head of the Master. They see the humble virtues, no longer like poor, thin women in the grey robes of penitents, but transformed into beatitudes, into virgins of light, whose radiance dims the splendor of the lilies and the glory of Solomon himself. The gentle motion of their palm branches spreads the perfume of the heavenly kingdom over these transformed hearts.

The wonder is that this kingdom does not unfold itself in the distant expanses of heaven, but within those who are listening to this teaching. The latter exchange astonished glances. These poor in spirit have suddenly become so rich! More powerful than Moses, the magician of the soul has struck their hearts; an immortal stream gushes forth. His popular teaching is contained in the words, "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you!" Now that he explains to them the means necessary for attaining this unknown happiness, they are no longer surprised at the extraordinary things he asks of them: to root out even the desire for evil, to forgive trespasses, to love one's enemies. So powerful is the river of love which overflows from his heart that he draws them to himself.

In his presence, everything seems easy to them. They are struck by the great newness and extraordinary boldness of his teaching. The Galilean prophet places the inner life of the soul above all external piety, the invisible above the visible, the Kingdom of Heaven above all earthly possessions. He orders them to choose between God and Mammon. Finally, in summing up his teaching, he says, "Love your neighbor as yourself, and be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect."

Thus he set forth all the depth of morality and science in popular form. For the supreme goal of initiation is to reproduce divine perfection in the perfection of the soul, and the secret of knowledge resides in the chain of similarities and relationships which link ever more closely the specific to the universal; the finite to the infinite.

Since this was the public and purely Moral teaching of Jesus, it is clear that along with it he gave his disciples a secret teaching which explained the first, revealing its inner meaning, penetrating to the depths of the spiritual truths which he had gained from the esoteric tradition of the Essenes and from his own experience. Since this esoteric tradition was violently stifled by the Church after the second century, the majority of theologians no longer knew the true significance of Christ's words, with their sometimes double and triple meanings, and saw in them only the basic or literal meaning. For those who have penetrated deeply into the teaching of the Mysteries of India, Egypt and Greece, the esoteric thought of Christ animates not only his least important words, but all his deeds as well. Already visible in the three synoptic Gospels, it stands out clearly in the Gospel of John. The following example relates to a basic point of his teaching:

Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem. He is not yet preaching in the Temple, but he heals the sick and teaches among his friends. His work of love must prepare the ground where good seed will fall. Nicodemus, the educated Pharisee, had heard of the new prophet. Filled with curiosity, but not wishing to jeopardize his position with his friends, he requests a secret interview with the Galilean, which Jesus grants. Nicodemus arrives at Jesus' home at night, and says to him, "Master! We know that you are a wise man come from God; for no one could work these miracles that you work if God is not with him." Jesus answers, "In very truth I say to you that if a man is not born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus asks if it is possible for a man to return to his mother's womb and be born a second time. Jesus replies, "Indeed, I tell you that if a man is not born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God."

In this evidently symbolic form, Jesus sums up the ancient doctrine of regeneration, already known in the Mysteries of Egypt. To be born again with fire and spirit, and to be baptized with water and fire, marks two degrees of initiation, two stages of internal and spiritual development in man. Here water represents truth perceived by the intellect, that is, in a general, abstract manner. It purifies the soul and develops its spiritual seed.

Rebirth in the spirit, or baptism by heavenly fire, means the assimilation of this truth by the will so that it becomes blood and life, the soul of all actions. The result is a complete victory of spirit over matter, the absolute mastery of the spiritualized soul over the body, now transformed into a docile instrument, a mastery which awakens the soul's sleeping faculties, opens its inner significance, gives it an intuitive view of truth and of the direct effect of one soul upon another. This condition is equivalent to that heavenly state which Christ called the Kingdom of God. The baptism with water, or intellectual initiation, therefore, is a beginning of rebirth; the baptism with the spirit is a total rebirth, a transformation of the soul by the fire of intelligence and will, and, subsequently, in a certain measure, of the elements of the body. In a word, it is a radical regeneration, hence the exceptional powers it gives to man.

This is the earthly meaning of the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus. It has a second meaning, which can be called the esoteric doctrine of the constitution of man. According to this teaching, man is threefold, consisting of body, soul and spirit. He has an immortal and indivisible part, the spirit; a perishable and divisible part, the body. The soul which links them, shares in the nature of each. As a living organism, it possesses an etheric fluidic body, similar to the material body which, without this invisible double, would have neither life, movement nor unity. Depending upon whether man obeys the promptings of the spirit or the excitations of the body, whether by choice he attaches himself to the one or the other, the fluidic body etherealizes or densifies, unifies or disintegrates. Therefore after physical death the majority of men must undergo a second death, that of the soul, which consists in ridding themselves of the impure elements of their astral body, sometimes even in experiencing its slow decomposition, while the completely regenerated man, having formed his spiritual body here upon earth, possesses his heaven within himself entering that region into which his affinity draws him. -- And water, in ancient esoterism, symbolized infinitely transformable, fluidic matter, as fire symbolized the one Spirit. In speaking of rebirth by water and spirit, Christ refers to the double transformation of his spiritual being and his fluidic sheath which awaits man after his death, and without which he cannot enter the kingdom of glorified souls and pure spirits. "What is born of flesh is flesh (i.e., bound and perishable) and what is born of the spirit is spirit (i.e., free and immortal). The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its breath, but you do not know where it comes from nor where it goes. So it is with every man who is born of the spirit."

Thus speaks Jesus before Nicodemus in the night-silence of Jerusalem. A small lamp, placed between them, barely lights the faces of the two men, and is faintly reflected on the ceiling of the high room. But in the darkness the eyes of the Galilean teacher shine with a mysterious glow. How can one not believe in the soul when one looks into those eyes, sometimes gentle, sometimes flashing fire? The Pharisee teacher has seen his wisdom of the letter crumble, but dimly he sees a new world. He has seen the light of the spirit in the eyes of the prophet, whose long, blond hair falls upon his shoulders. He has been attracted by the powerful warmth emanating from his being. He has seen three tiny white flames appear and disappear like a magnetic aureole around Jesus' head. Then he thinks he feels the breath of the Spirit pass over his heart. Deeply impressed, the silent Nicodemus steals away to his home in the dark night. He will continue to live among the Pharisees, but in his secret heart he will remain faithful to Jesus.

Let us note a major point of this teaching. According to materialistic concepts the soul is an ephemeral and accidental result of the forces of the body. In the usual spiritual teaching the soul is regarded as an abstract thing, without any conceivable link with the body. In esoteric doctrine, the only rational point of view in this matter, the physical body is a product of the incessant activity of the soul, acting upon the physical through the organism of the astral body, just as the visible universe is but a result of the activity of the infinite Spirit. This is why Jesus gives this doctrine to Nicodemus as the explanation of the miracles he works. It can serve as the key to the spiritual healing practiced by him and by a small number of adepts and saints before as well as after his earthly activity. Ordinary medicine fights the ills of the body by acting upon the body. The adept or saint, as a center of spiritual and fluidic power, acts directly upon the soul of the sick, and, by his astral body, on his physical body. It is the same in all hypnotic cures. Jesus works with the powers which exist in all men, but he functions with strong doses through powerful and concentrated projections. He gives the Scribes and Pharisees his power of healing men's bodies as a proof of his power to forgive or heal their souls, which is his higher purpose.

Thus physical healing becomes the counter proof of moral healing, which permits him to say to the completely restored man, "Stand up and walk!" Modern science seeks to explain the phenomenon which the ancients and men of the Middle Ages called "possession by devils," as a simple nervous disturbance. But this is an insufficient explanation. Psychologists who seek to penetrate further into the mystery of the soul, see in it an intensification of consciousness, an eruption of its latent part. This question is related to the various levels of human consciousness, which sometimes acts on one level, sometimes on another. This activity can be observed in the various somnambulistic states. It also relates to the supra-sensitive world. Hence it is certain that Jesus had the ability to reestablish balance in troubled bodies and to restore souls to their proper state. "Real magic," said Plotinus "is love, with hate as its opposite. By love and hate magicians act through their philters and charms." Love, in its highest manifestation and supreme power, was the "magic" of the Christ.

Many disciples shared in his intimate teaching, but to make the new religion permanent, a group of active chosen ones was needed. They would become the pillars of the spiritual temple he wished to erect. Hence the institution of the Apostles. He did not choose them from among the Essenes because he needed vigorous, free natures and because he wanted to implant his religion in the heart of the people. Two groups of brothers, Simon Peter and Andrew, sons of Jonas on the one hand and John and James, sons of Zebedee, on the other, all four fishermen by calling, and of respectable families -- formed the nucleus of the Apostles. At the beginning of his activity Jesus comes to their home at Capernaum on the shore of the Lake of Gennesaret, where they did their fishing. He dwells among them, teaches and converts the entire family.

Peter and John stand out as the two principal figures among the twelve. Peter is the upright of heart, simple, naive and limited, as quick to hope as to discouragement, but a man of action, capable of leading others because of his energetic character and absolute faith. John is the withdrawn, intense nature, filled with such bubbling enthusiasm that Jesus calls him "the son of thunder." John is the intuitive one with the burning soul, almost always turned inward, is generally dreamy and sad, with tempestuous outbursts, apocalyptic furies, but also with depths of tenderness which others are not capable of detecting and which only the Master has seen. John alone, the silent, contemplative one, will understand the Master's thought. He will be the Evangelist of Love and divine Intelligence, the esoteric Apostle par excellence.

Persuaded by Jesus' speech, convinced by his works, directed by his great intelligence and surrounded by his magnetic radiance, the Apostles followed the Master from village to village. The popular preaching alternated with the intimate teachings. Slowly he unfolded his thought to them. Nevertheless he still kept a profound silence about himself, his role and his future. He had told them that the Kingdom of Heaven was near, that the Messiah would come. Already the Apostles whispered among themselves, "It is he!" And they repeated this to others. But with gentle gravity, he simply called himself, "The Son of Man," an expression whose esoteric import they did not yet understand, but which in his mouth seemed to mean, "The messenger to suffering humanity." For he added, "Wolves have their caves, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."

The Apostles saw the Messiah only in terms of the popular Jewish idea, and naively they conceived the Kingdom of Heaven as a political government of which Jesus would be crowned king and they would be the ministers. To combat this idea, to transform it utterly, to reveal to these Apostles the true Messiah, the spiritual royalty, to communicate to them this sublime truth he called "the Father," this supreme power which he called "Spirit," the mysterious force which joins all souls to the Invisible, through his word, his life and his death to show them a true son of God, to leave them the conviction that they and all men were brothers and could rejoin him if they wished, to leave them only after having revealed to them all the vastness of Heaven -- this is the prodigious task of Jesus for his Apostles. Will they believe, or will they not believe? This is the question of the drama which unfolds between them and him. There is, however, a more poignant and terrible drama which takes place in the depths of his own being. We shall speak of it later.

At this time a wave of joy submerges the tragic thought in Christ's consciousness. The storm has not yet blown over the Lake of Tiberias. Now is the Galilean springtime of the Gospel; it is the dawn of the Kingdom of God; it is the mystical marriage of the initiate with his spiritual family. The latter travels with him as the procession follows the groom in the parable. The believing followers press close after the beloved Master, on the shores of the blue lake enclosed in its mountains as in a golden cup. They follow him from the cool banks of Capernaum to the orange groves of Bethsaida, to the mountains of Chorazim, where clusters of palms overlook the entire Sea of Gennesaret.

Women have a special place among Jesus' followers. Mothers or sisters of the disciples, timid virgins or repentant sinners surround him in every place. Attentive, faithful, ardent, they perfume his steps with their eternal sadness and hope, like a trail of love. He does not need to prove to them that he is the Messiah. Just looking at him is enough. The strange happiness emanating from his presence, mixed with the note of a divine and inexpressible suffering resounding in the depth of his being, persuades them that he is the Son of God. Long ago Jesus had stifled the cry of the flesh within himself; he had subdued the power of the senses during his stay with the Essenes. In this way he had attained the dominion over souls and the divine power to forgive -- that privilege of the angels. He said of the sinning woman who, enveloped in a sea of dishevelled hair, crawled at his feet, while she lavishly spread balm over them, "She will be forgiven much because she has loved much!" This sublime saying contains a complete redemption, for whoever pardons, frees.

Christ is the restorer and liberator of women, whatever Saint Paul and the Church Fathers may have said. In lowering woman to the role of man's servant, these writers have falsified the thinking of the Master. In Vedic times she had been glorified; Buddha deified her. Christ elevates her by restoring her mission of love and divination. The woman initiate represents the soul in mankind, Aisha, as Moses called it, that is, the power of Intuition, the loving and seeing faculty. The turbulent Mary Magdalene, whose seven demons Jesus had driven out according to the Biblical account, became his most ardent disciple. It was she, according to Saint John, who first saw the divine teacher, the spiritual Christ, risen from his tomb. Legend has insisted in seeing in this ardent and believing woman Jesus' greatest worshipper, the initiate of the heart, and legend is not mistaken, for her story represents the entire regeneration of woman as desired by the Christ.

It was at the farm at Bethany, with Mary, Martha and the Magdalene that Jesus liked to rest from the labors of his mission and to prepare himself for the supreme tasks. There he freely gave his most gentle consolations and in loving conversations he spoke of the divine Mysteries he did not yet dare confide to his disciples. Sometimes at the hour when the gold of the sunset faded among the olive branches, when twilight slipped between their delicate foliage, Jesus became thoughtful. A shadow fell over his illumined face. He thought of the hardships of his work, the wavering faith of the Apostles, the powerful enemies in the world. The Temple, Jerusalem, mankind, with its crimes and ingratitude, rolled over him like a living mountain.

Would his arms, raised toward Heaven, be strong enough to reduce this mountain to dust, or would he be crushed beneath its enormous weight? Then he spoke vaguely of a terrible trial which awaited him, and of his imminent death.

Struck by the solemnity of his voice, the women did not dare to question him. However unchangeable the serenity of Jesus might be, they understood that his soul was as though closed in the coffin of an unspeakable sadness, which separated him from the joys of earth. They sensed the destiny of the prophet; they felt his unshakable resolution. Why did these dark clouds arise in the vicinity of Jerusalem? Why this burning wind of fever and death, passing over their hearts as over the blighted hills of Judea with their violet, cadaverous hues? One evening . . . a star of mystery . . . a tear shone in Jesus' eyes. The three women trembled and their silent tears flowed in the peace of Bethany. They were weeping for him; he was weeping for all mankind.


42. The Transfiguration

The Great Initiates