The rituals of the Mysteries were based on representative episodes from mythology, focussing on local deities, or a mythic episode which occurred locally - e.g. the local Kabiri in the Mysteries of Samothrace - or the Mysteries of Eleusis, where Demeter is said to have stopped in her search for her girl (Kore) Persephone, and there instituted this most famous of the mystery cults. The Initiate was believed to have an aware experience of the higher worlds, a spiritual journey in a higher body over the river of forgetfulness - to Know by direct personal experience what lay beyond. Such Initiation was reserved for the few and worthy.
During the ceremony, the carefully prepared initiate acted the role of the central figure in a carefully orchestrated ceremony or ritual or mystery play which melded all the senses and emotions and thoughts and spiritual aspirations of the initiate in a coherent plan to evoke a specific but rare and subtle state of consciousness. The Initiate Acted out key mytho-spiritual events - usually facing a challenge or trial or suffering of some sort which then leads to a super-physical meeting with Deity - passing through the dark tunnel to the light at the end to meet those who dwell there and return to talk about it.
This mechanism of evoking and role-playing of mythic or spiritual characters with multi level stimulation, is found at the heart of every working system, such as Freemasonry, the Golden Dawn, the Qabalah, Christianity, Shamanic Ritual, or even Jungian Depth Psychology for that matter. These Gods are not silly stories, they actually represent and express fundamental components or organs of human consciousness, and by extension, the essential principles or ciphers of nature - the Organs of Reality - they are attempts to describe the various levels and interactions and poles of the outpourings of forces and the regulating forms by which things come to be.
The times leading up to our current era was one of the most prolific and fertile periods for spiritual and religious thinking and writing. Jerusalem was a melting-pot of Jewish, Persian, Greek, Roman and Buddhist ideas - a tumultous period of history as new teachings fertilized the old Greek myths and Roman superstitions, as new schools and teachers taught and travelled under the Roman Republic's expansions and its regulation and religious tolerance. But as Rome's star ascended while Greece's fell so the Mysteries lost their life - oath-breakers told the secrets, seekers found the rites empty, critics exposed the nature symbolism of the rites. 'Great pan is Dead' went the cry as the Roman Empire rose. The early Christians criticised the Greek and Roam rites as empty and dry of spiritual connection, while their own still flowed because there prophets still spoke to God - they still attained Gnosis in the Christian Initiation ceremonies.
Around the beginning of our era, seekers sought new ways, seers and reformers interpreted ancient truths using current themes fertilised by the great diversity of thought in these times. The established form of the Mysteries were transmogrified into a Jewish form during much ferment and experimentation and sectarianism in Israel. These Jewish mysteries were rooted in the myth of Iasius (Greek Healer) a minor figure of Greek myth who bridged the mythos of the Greeks and the Romans - being a revealer or founder of the Greek Mysteries, and also part of the mythic founding of Rome. Onto his stock was grafted elements of the Jewish stories and archetypes of Yoshua (Hebrew Saviour), and satellite themes such as the Suffering Servant, and the Righteous Jew.
Iasius + Yoshua = Jesus.
The essence of this school however was that it was a Initiatory system - they knew how to work the higher machinery of the human soul, so as to bring about an initiatory experience in which the Initiate realised the Deity within. This divine part within humans was called the Christos and was a reflection of the Logos principle (called the Word or Son-of-God) which emanated from the unknowable God-head. The various cults which recognised this Logos-within-man called Christ were loosely known as Christians.
The newly synthesized Mysteries of Jesus was an initiatory system designed to lift the Initiate to a state of consciousness to realise the Christ, (the immortal part with man, said to be crucified in matter) thus recognising his immortal nature. The central figure of this new cult was Jesus Christos who was the Logos within man, the image of God in man, and also considered a fundamental archetype inspiring BOTH the Greek and Jewish tradition - the image behind Iasius and Yoshua.
Paul wrote as an Initiate of the Mysteries of Jesus or knew of them and spoke in terms familiar to Initiates. He uses the terms Jesus Christos, and Christos Jesus and plain Christos which he calls "the power of God, and the wisdom of God" and "the image of God". The great leap which Paul made was to see that the Christos in man inspired both the Greek mystery system and the Jewish spiritual beliefs. He was able to do this as a result of his personal spiritual experiences, and it was this that gave his words authority : "... this man was caught up into Paradise - whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows....and heard things that cannot told, which man may not utter..."
The Initiate in the Mysteries of Jesus Christos acted the archetypal story of Jesus, in an attempt to achieve a State of Consciousness able to experience or receive the Christ, to join the lower man with the higher Christ essence. Paul wrote: " For we Initiates impart the Gnosis in our Mysteries "
The central plank of this mystery cult would be the story of the Jesus i.e. the Acts and Sayings of Jesus Christ - a mystery initiation play, with rubrics used to direct the ritual. With the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE (with Jerusalem finally erased in 130 CE), the mythic ritual of Jesus Christ would have been the most treasured and secret teachings of the the sect - the most important to be saved from the destruction - it may have existed in written form before the razing of Jerusalem, or was perhaps committed to writing afterwards. This ritual, or story, or initiation ceremony of Initiation in the Mysteries of Jesus Christ was passed Orally initially and became the seed of the forming the Gospels, the four variant forms of the Gospels are perhaps from four different temples of the cult, or four separate initiates from the cult who committed the ritual to writing from memories of their own initiation..
After Paul the figure of Simon Magus appears - a Qabalist and Mystic who was also considered a founding Gnostic Christian, later condemned by the literalist Church - we have very little hard evidence about him., yet he is remembered as an Arch-Gnostic heretic - his doctrine is purely Emanationist and Qabalistic: "The world, therefore, that which is generated, was produced from the unbegotten fire.... He who was begotten from the principle of that fire took six roots, and those primary ones, of the originating principle of generation."
Cerinthus was a student of Simon Magus, a Gnostic and Qabalist but he thought Jesus was a man who had been visited by the Christ : "And he supposed that Jesus was not generated from a virgin, but that he was born son of Joseph and Mary, just in a manner similar with the rest of men...after the baptism (of our Lord), Christ in form of a dove came down upon him, from that absolute sovereignty which is above all things. And then Jesus proceeded to preach the unknown Father"
The Docetae of this period have a deeply esoteric view of the baptism in the Jordan: "He washed in Jordan, and when He was baptized He received a figure and a seal in the water of (a higher body beside) the physical body." They rejected the idea that Jesus had a physical body.
During this Oral period when records were lost that Jesus Christ was mistaken for a historical figure. Early 2nd century the first seeds of a historical Jesus of Nazareth appear - but only highlights of the story.
Basilides, flourished at the turn of the century - he equated Christ with Nous (Mind), and denied the physical reality of Christ : "Christ was sent, not by this maker of the world, but by Abraxas; and came in a phantasm, and was destitute of the substance of flesh"
Ignatius in the 110s and later is the first to write of a physical Jesus Christ: "For our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost. He was born and baptized." Polycarp knows sayings of Jesus.
Papias in c.130 is the first to name any of the Evangelists : "Mark had been the interpreter (or translator) for Peter. And he wrote down as much as (Peter) told of the sayings & deeds of Christ"
As the decades pass by more of the Jesus story forms and more writers began to talk of Jesus as a historical personage, more and more of the mythic Acts of Jesus Christ are portrayed as historical Events. And during this phase the Gnostics argue against a physical side to Jesus - the reaction to the mis-taking of Christ as historical Jesus.
In the aftermath of the razing of Jerusalem c.135 Trypho voices the first attack on Jesus's historicity "You follow an empty rumour and make a Christ for yourselves... if he was born and lived somewhere, he is entirely unknown"
In this period we see the great debates which determined the nature of Jesus Christ for subsequent generations - there are many wildly differing views about Jesus and Christ and the Logos and the Son of God and how they fit into the grand scheme. The argument shows several poles:
Spiritual Christos vs Physical Jesus - the main argument is whether Jesus is a spiritual principle or a physical teacher - Gnostics reject a physical nature for Jesus or his body or the crucifixion.
Direct Experience vs Argument from Authority - the Gnostics and Tatian claim authority from personal experience, others argue from the previous authorities.
Creative vs Reductionist - Many writers in this period have a Emanationist world view showing much in common with the Qabalah, and even expound at great length about the numbers of Aeons and Worlds and orders of angels etc. Others reject this multiplying of principles and eventually reduce Jesus and Christ and the Logos and the Son of God into one thing.
This period produced the great exponents of Esoteric Christianity.
Valentinus, the greatest of Gnostics, taught an Emanationist Jesus equated with Christ and the Logos: "the whole Pleroma of the Aeons...with the concurrence of Christ and the Holy Spirit, their Father also setting the seal of His approval on their conduct...they produced ... a being of most perfect beauty, the very star of the Pleroma, and the perfect fruit [of it], namely Jesus. Him they also speak of under the name of Saviour, and Christ, and patronymically, Logos, and Everything"
Marcion and his followers in the 140s also "denied that Christ was come in the flesh"
During the early to mid 2nd century the argument raged as to the nature of Christ - the Gnostics argued for a spiritual, divine Christos - as the Literalists argued Jesus was an actual teacher who had attained the Christ within or who was actually the Logos.
The Pistis Sophia is the classic Gnostic work from this period - this book has Jesus Christ teaching an Esoteric and Emanationist system to the disciples with Mary Magdalene prominent.
Justin Martyr c.150 1st Apology - "Reason (or the Word, the Logos) Himself, who took shape, and became man, and was called Jesus Christ".
Marcus has a well developed Emanationist system resembling the Qabalistic Tree of Life with a theory of Four Worlds. He was considered a Pythagorean by other Christians - "Aletheia ...opened her mouth, and uttered a word. That word was a name, and the name was this one which we do know and speak of, viz., Christ Jesus ...For Jesus (Iesous) is a name arithmetically symbolical, consisting of six letters, and is known by all those that belong to the called"
Theodotus - "Jesus is a (mere) man, and that ...Christ descended upon him."
Bardesanes - "the body of the Saviour was spiritual"
Tatian c.160 - no Christ nor Jesus nor Son - the Logos is an emananation from God which is the immortal part in man : "For the heavenly Logos, a spirit emanating from the Father and a Logos from the Logos-power, in imitation of the Father who begat Him made man an image of immortality, so that, as incorruption is with God, in like manner, man, sharing in a part of God, might have the immortal principle also".
Tatian 172 published the Diatessaron containing the full story of Jesus Christ.
Athenagoras c.177 - No Jesus nor Christ, but equates Logos with Son of God - "But the Son of God is the Logos of the Father, in idea and in operation; for after the pattern of Him and by Him were all things made, the Father and the Son being one."
Theophilus c.180 - no Jesus, no Christ, no Logos - Christians are the Christened "Wherefore we are called Christians on this account, because we are anointed with the oil of God"
Irenaeus and Clement culminate the creation of the historical Jesus Christ.
Irenaeus c.185 - argues that Jesus Christ is Son of God, the Logos - "the Son of man, this is Christ, the Son of the living God... his only-begotten Word, who is always present with the human race, united to and mingled with His own creation, according to the Father's pleasure, and who became flesh, is Himself Jesus Christ our Lord"
Clement of Alexandria 190s - argues that Christ is Jesus - "This Word, then, the Christ, the cause of both our being at first (for He was in God) and of our well-being, this very Word has now appeared as man"
The trajectory of actualisation of Jesus and the Evangelists and Apostles into time and history:
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