THE GNOSIS OF THE HEART
The Mysteries of the Brideschamber
(Inner Traditions. 2007) Permission to reprint
by Victoria Lepage
“Listen,” said Krishna, ” to a very great and deep secret, to the sovereign, sublime and pure mystery. In order to reach perfection it is necessary to acquire knowledge of oneness, which is above wisdom; it is necessary to lift oneself to the divine Being, who is above the soul and even above intelligence. Now this divine being, this sublime friend, is in each one of us. For God dwells within every man, but few know how to find him. And this is the way to salvation.”
-THE BHAGAVAD GITA
Excerpt from Chapter 9 Gnosis of the Heart
“Jesus’ mission was aimed at more than the restoration of the Judaic Mysteries to the Jerusalem temple. The wider aim was to bring them into the public domain, to “rend the veil” of the Holy of Holies and to bring spiritual knowledge into the world at large, to offer a new path of initiation that would be open to all. The key to his innovatory teachings, their central motif and driving power, was his new Way of the Spiritual Heart, an initiation that was to be potentially available to every man and woman who aspired to it. There is evidence that besides the initial baptism ceremony in water, Jesus offered a further initiation in a secret form of fire baptism administered to those of his followers who were ready for it.
The John Gospel in particular with its wonderful Light terminology reveals layer upon layer of hidden meanings open to the Mystery initiate but to none other, hinting at sciences and esoteric practices that were unfamiliar to the world at large. As already mentioned, preeminent among the advanced sciences was that of the spinal system of energies in the human body, involving various occult techniques for the holotropic transformation of consciousness. The existence in antiquity of such a science of spiritual physiology is amply confirmed by the painted temple murals in Egypt that depict the serpent power—that is, kundalini Shakti—emerging from the brows of ancient initiate kings. As well, there are scenes of enigmatic funeral ceremonies in which priests are facilitating the royal ascent to higher worlds by the application of curious implements to the king’s spinal cord. Royal adepts due for death had their consciousness thereby raised to the realms of Light even while they received deep instruction in spiritual knowledge, and could then become healers, Light-bringers, and bestowers of prosperity to their people from their vantage point in the heavens.
Karl Luckert1 notes that the Light theme runs through all the Mediterranean mysteries back to the ancient Coffin texts of Egypt, and believes these highly esoteric texts “will enable us to revise our historical understanding of Hellenic philosophy, of Neo-Platonism, and of the Origins of Christendom and Gnosticism.” He bases his claim on the frank belief that “the Kingdom of Heaven movement . . . founded by John the Baptizer and Jesus of Nazareth” employed these same yogic techniques lifted from the Mystery temples and adapted them for more general use. Morton Smith2 takes Luckert’s proposition further. He believes the Light texts throw into relief one of the most important topics in the Christian scriptures, the source of Jesus’ healing and miracle-working energy. They lead us to a greater understanding of the secrecy that permeates the Christian scriptures on the whole subject of spiritual physiology and its attendant science. We shall see that the new mystical Way Jesus taught, which gave a unique character to Christianity, can be understood in no other way than in terms of the merkavah science taught secretly in the temples, and that it was this circumstance that was to arouse extreme antagonism in certain quarters.
In the lexicon of the primitive Church, a Greek word of immense potency was exousia. It occurs frequently in the Christian scriptures in relation to Jesus, and is translated there as “authority” or “power,” as in Luke 4:36; but these translations, although nominally accurate, are misleading. They conceal the word’s true meaning, that of a spiritual energy. It is really only now, when so much initiatory information is flooding into our Western culture from the East, that we can appreciate the true occult meaning of exousia as the energy or power Hindus know as kundalini Shakti—a term that is now a great deal more familiar to most Western people than its biblical equivalent. It was in this strictly esoteric and Eastern sense that Jesus succeeded in transmitting exousia first to his immediate followers and later to a rapidly widening circle of disciples committed to the new Way of the Heart.
The spiritual energy of exousia derives from the merkavah science and its elucidation of the mysteries of Angelology. Since it is a concept of energy that, as the Gnostics knew, covers qualities both material and spiritual, it has no modern scientific equivalent and could not have been understood until very recently, when the West first became acquainted with the Eastern system of kundalini yoga.
Exousia signifies an extraterrestrial source of energy that is crucial to the functioning of the psyche as well as of the body. Behind the term, says Andrew Welburn, “can be discerned vastly older, Near Eastern perceptions of religious ‘power,’ such as that possessed by Jesus. In the primitive Church the receiving of exousia was closely related to magical power (dynamis) and to spiritual grace, or more specifically charisma (charis), which conferred the supranatural gifts of the spirit such as clairvoyance, clairaudience and prophetic, and healing powers. This supernatural Power working through Jesus was normally under his control but sometimes operated unintentionally. The magician experienced exousia as a high charge of psychospiritual energy having miraculous properties that could affect matter, as has kundalini.
Kundalini is the diminutive term derived from Maha Kundali, the Mother of Space and Time, and applies to the Cosmic Mother’s universal presence when found in particular bodies. Thus the scholar J. M. Hull, in his monograph on the gospels and their relation to the magical healing of bodies, shows that “for Mark’s readers it meant a mysterious superhuman force whereby demons were controlled and afflictions healed.” Exousia was, in addition, over and above the inhabiting dynamis of the magician, the divine power that was at work in the initiate kings of ancient Egypt— and therefore, a secret reserved to the Mystery temples along the Nile. It is through the god, whom the kings represented, Amun-Re, adored as the Hidden-and-Manifest, that we learn more about the physical attributes of exousia.
The god was conceived as a source of vital energy, filling the universe. His power floods into everything that will receive it. But in the highest degree it charges the King, who is the living portrait of the god. And by extension it flows into things connected with the King and his form, such as his garments and regalia. The source of energy in the god is infinite. Indeed, this is the essence of the secret of royal power imparted by the god Krishna in the quotation from the Bhagavad Gita that heads this chapter. The quotation is part of a dialogue being held on the summit of sacred Mount Meru between the god and Arjuna, a warrior-prince descended from the Sun kings of India. Undoubtedly Near Eastern Gnostics, too, were well aware of this same power and its supernatural manifestations, more familiarly known to Christians as the work of the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel of Philip we learn of the relevance of exousia to the mystery of the physical body: The holy person is utterly holy, even including that person’s body. Such a person, if picking up bread, makes it holy—likewise the cup or any of the other things, which that person picks up and sanctifies. Then how could he not consecrate the body also? (Philip, 91.)
Like the ancient Egyptian mystics and the yogis of Upanishadic India, the Gnostics knew that the body is one of the great secrets of the spiritualization process. Because of the interconnectedness that reigns in the universe, the supreme Life energy, when awakened by initiation, radiates outward beyond the body, so that everything a perfect master touches, his clothes, the very cup he drinks from, the chair he sits in, becomes saturated with the luminous spiritual energy emanating from his body and can be transmitted directly to others. We know from the many gospel anecdotes like the above that the secrets of the human body were well understood by Jesus. It is a subject that has long engaged the minds of Eastern thinkers. We learn from Sir John Woodroffe, a British official working in India in the early years of the twentieth century, that for Indian philosophers the body has always been a holy temple filled with deities and their servants, the angels and elementals. “Whatever of Mind or Matter exists in the universe,” says Woodruff, “exists in some form or manner in the human body.” There is nothing in the universe, he suggests, that is not in the human body; and moreover, it is a spiritually potent magno-electrical system. The law of the universe is polarization into either static–dynamic or potential–kinetic aspects, and so it must also be in the body. “In the living body, therefore,” says Woodroffe, there must be such polarization . . . It may be compared to a magnet with two poles. In fact, the body is a vast magazine of Power (Shakti). The Tantras say that it is in the power of man to accomplish all he wishes if he centers his will thereon. And this must be so, for man in his essence is one with the Supreme Lord (Isvara) and Mother (Isvari) and the more he manifests Spirit the greater is he endowed with its powers.
Nor is this ancient body wisdom confined to the Orient. Hermetic initiates have long understood the potentially spiritual nature of the body, which, as the Austrian mystic Rudolf Steiner says, is “a copy of the Godhead and is shamefully belittled when looked upon as something inferior.” He reminds us that, on the contrary, the physical body is of supreme evolutionary importance. Only in the body can we gain control of all the forces of physical creation, only in the body can we pay off all our karmic debts contracted in the long saga of the soul’s evolution, and only in such conditions can we enjoy a spiritualized body freed of all dark matter. “The redeemed physical—a level of glowing perfection—is evident in the Christian resurrectional traditions and images,” asserts David Ovason.
“In the arcane tradition, it is maintained that in the distant future the physical body will be redeemed and spiritualized: this will be the “body of light rays,” the augoedeian body in the hermetic terminology. This arcane concept was expressed in medieval art as an aura of radiations round the body of Christ.” In Hermetic writings, the efficacy of exousia as a subtle animating force in the body is recognized. It is described in the literature as a cosmic Life energy, an everlasting and inexhaustible reservoir of vital energy whose influence flows down from the stars into the “womb” of the earthly elements. As we have seen, the ancient Egyptians equated it with their god Amun, who was visible as the sun but was also the invisible power radiating out from the sun as an ethereal auric presence filling the world.
In Judaic Angelology, exousia is the creative power that emanates from a group of seven great Archangels called the Exousiai, who together, working as one, are responsible for building the visible universe. These great Beings, each one of which represents a biblical Day of Creation, can therefore be equated with the plural world-creating Elohim of Genesis, while behind this conception is the further Qabalistic idea drawn from esoteric astrology to the effect that the Exousiai are represented by the seven planets, chief of which is the Sun.
INITIATION AND THE CHRIST FIRE
The fiery energy lying hidden at the root of all institutional religions is mightier than nuclear power, but because it reveals its full range of capabilities only to the spiritual initiate, it remains as yet unfamiliar to modern science. The initiate knows that it controls the mind, awakens all the suprasensible faculties, and governs the breath, the organs, and the connective tissues of the body. It is the basis of every human emotion and instinct and the ultimate organizer of all physical systems, underlying and comprehending all the other energies known to scientists. The one who can work with this great evolutionary power, this super force, not only has the means to heal souls and bodies and bring harmony to society but also can change the very course of history and human evolution. And this is what Jesus, the first-century Christ- Bearer, did. The fundamental reformation Jesus brought about in religious practice was to improve the way this spiritual power was transmitted in the initiatory rite in order to open up areas of spiritual and psychological insight that were closed to the pagan world.
But Christian baptism brought illumination to mind and soul, for above Nature was a world to which humanity truly belonged, a world filled with numinous light. Here Christ reigned in the company of other divine beings of light who loved human beings and served only their greatest good. These Angelic beings raised humanity from the darkness of brute instinct into a higher and genuinely human realm of energies that conferred enlightenment, freedom from the wheel of Necessity, and a power of understanding that was beyond the comprehension of the pagan mentality.
For thousands of years the prophets had sought the rose of love in the heart of the causal Light. They knew it was to be found in the heart center, but as the Bronze Age advanced, the constricting, brutalizing effects of an agricultural way of life were felt more and more as a darkening of the soul, and the awakening of the heart center became increasingly difficult. Bearing in mind that in antiquity the temples were the sole purveyors of culture and religious consciousness in a passive, undereducated society, it is possible to appreciate how much the limitations of the pagan psyche directly mirrored the limitations of the temples. Initiates too were shackled by Nature’s grip in the same way as the ordinary citizen. The only method available to initiates of antiquity was to work with the chthonic earth energies active in the three lower centers of the spinal system: those of survival, procreation, and personal power. But these were the centers ruled by Nature, and few initiates indeed could rise above them to the fourth, the heart chakra. By concentrating on the root chakras, which fueled and regulated the body and its survival and procreative powers, pre-Christian initiates sought in vain to break the ceiling above the third center and so raise exousia into the higher centers. For long sexual intercourse and willpower were the only methods known among adepts aspiring to enlightenment and are best exemplified by the Hindu tantric system handed down by the ancient Indus Valley initiate kings whom we first met in the prologue. But this somatic yoga was a difficult and dangerous system in its ancient form, combining intensive meditation on the root chakras with breathing exercises, fasting, mudras or physical postures, sexual intercourse, or alternatively the exercise of willpower, and other specifically physiological methods, such as the use of narcotic drugs. Because of its dangers, the yoga was perforce restricted to relatively few practitioners and required secrecy, solitary conditions, arduous ascetic disciplines, and enormous dedication.
Furthermore, as a matter of survival, it demanded a cult of absolute unquestioning obedience to a guru, and even then the goal of breaking through the ceiling to the fourth chakra of the heart, the anahata chakra, was rarely achieved. In his classic study of the serpent power, Woodroffe unveils the Hindu teachings concerning the primal creative energy of exousia, which is stored in the root chakra, and describes the endeavors of yogis to awaken and harness it by purely somatic means. “It is said of those who attempt it,” Woodroffe reported, “that one out of a thousand may have success.”
By the time he began to unearth its secrets, the method had outlived its evolutionary usefulness and had become virtually obsolete in India. Except for the few Hindu master yogis who had retreated into the fastnesses of the Himalayas, adepts lower down the initiatory ladder had long abandoned somatic yoga for safer paths, such as they would find, for example, in the emotional raptures of Krishna worship.
In the first century, degenerated forms of somatic yoga still dominated the religious cults in the ancient East, releasing the kind of low chthonic forces that flourished in the Dionysian orgies in Rome… The difficulty was that the physical forces, especially the sexual drive, were highly seductive and prone to corrupt, releasing animal forces that were impossible to control. As Robert Turcan has shown, as a result many dangerous malpractices had entered the ancient science: Aberrant “left-path” sexual practices, sorcery, superstition and cruelty, spirit worship, black magic, necromancy, and sex magic by now infested the Near Eastern cults like so many crocodiles prowling around the would-be initiate at every turn, while even the most advanced of the Mystery schools were limited by this outworn methodology and were in decline all over the world. Over the ages, necessary reforms have occurred within the tradition of the Gnosis, and it seems to be the task of great spiritual leaders of history like Jesus, Krishna, the Buddha, Mani, Muhammad, and others to be the vehicles of these forces of evolutionary change. But according to esoteric tradition, in order to affect such reforms the descent of divine power to earth must await the cooperation of an incarnate human vehicle. In other words, the Power can be “earthed” only by a human being already on earth prepared and able to act as a transmitting station and capable of stepping down the energy in his or her own body to a voltage safe for ordinary physical conditions.
In the first century in the Near East, precisely as the Magi had prophesied, that prerequisite was established: the new messianic impulse that would supersede the old system was able to be grounded by several great spiritual leaders, auxiliary Christs—and preeminently Jesus himself. Jesus delivered the coup de grâce to the old form of physiological yoga, which had reigned unchallenged for thousands of years, and replaced it with a method of far greater safety, speed, and utility.
This was the Way that directly opened the fourth chakra, the Spiritual Heart, without recourse to the lower centers. The descent of the Christ Spirit into incarnation had brought with it the solution to what had become an almost insoluble dilemma: how to release the primal creative energy imprisoned in the body without succumbing to the perilous seductions of animality—how to become fully human. Although ultimately in pursuit of the same goal as the old Oriental method, Jesus’ new Way bypassed the lower energy centers and directly awakened exousia in the Christ center within the region of the heart, leaving to its royal discretion all further stages in the initiatory process.
Initiates describe this “royal” center, which reigns supreme over the three lower chakras of Nature, as sunlike, radiating luminous multi-colored rays of love and wisdom, the primary attributes of the spiritual Self. As the seat of Self-awareness and of the Inner Teacher, its awakening is the beginning of true self-government. The new method of initiation was therefore genuinely revolutionary. It was psyche oriented rather than body oriented and was geared to self-development and individuation rather than merely to the acquisition of enhanced personal power. It fostered the wisdom of the heart, sensitivity to the emotional life, and the possibility of altruistic love, as well as a sense of personal independence, of autonomy. It was for “those who stand solitary,” a term for which Jesus used the word monachoi, which also means “those who have become unified.” The new initiation required neither the use of willpower, physical proximity, extreme asceticism, or sexual congress, and was able to awaken the suprasensible functions gradually, gently, and safely, even from a great distance. It did not need solitude or arduous disciplines, was suitable for a far larger proportion of the race, and could be applied in the midst of society under ordinary, everyday conditions. Most importantly, the new Way was proof against moral corruption. Its basis was ethical, being founded on consciousness of the initiate’s selfhood with its innate faculty of conscience. His unique self-identity was thus called into action rather than his physiology, with its three instinctual drives.
The new Way therefore operated above and beyond the purely egoistic goals of the past. Furthermore, it sought guidance from within, from the wisdom of the heart radiated by the Inner Teacher rather than from any external, corruptible authority. The new Way was thus a great evolutionary advance. It spelled an unprecedented expansion of consciousness as well as freedom, simplicity, and safety in spiritual practice, not merely for the privileged few but for all.
By awakening the Anahata chakra in his nightlong secret baptism, Jesus put the one baptized into direct contact with the exalted Christ Spirit he himself embodied and who thereafter took his seat of government in the disciple’s soul. Circulating through the heart organ rather than the lower centers, exousia worked in the bloodstream to purify the hereditary stains and weaknesses built up genetically in the course of generations, and drew off the poisons that had accumulated in the disciple through ignorance and wrong living over many lifetimes, replacing them with a radical new power of compassion. The issue of spiritual power or exousia —as a high-level energy presently unknown to scientists but now accessible, in principle, to all human beings—has been consistently sidestepped by the Church, and never more so than in its teachings on love. On the path on which Jesus led his closest disciples, the sacraments were but the prelude and preparation for the reception of this exalted energy in the bridal chamber of the heart. Many passages of the recently discovered apocryphal gospels throw into new relief the depth of hidden meaning in Jesus’ sermons on love, which have been frequently reduced to mere sentimentality. But they are not to be so taken: they pertain to secret knowledge; they encode the very essence of the new initiatory Christ mystery.
Permission to reprint this this excerpt comes from the publisher, Inner Traditions. Mysteries of the Bridechamber, Initiation of Jesus and the Temple of Solomon by Victoria LePage. Inner Traditions. 2007.
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1Welburn, Andrew. The Beginnings of Christianity. Edinburgh: Floris Books, 1995.
2 Ovason, David, ED. The Zelator: The Secret Journals of Mark Hedsel. London: Arrow Books, 1999