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"The Mystic Society of Essenes"
THE MYSTIC SOCIETY OF ESSENES
by , Ph.D.
Happy New Year!
The Essenes were a unique and fascinating group of men and women
whose chief purpose in life was to become temples of the Holy Spirit
that they might receive a special revelation from the Almighty,
and thus be the means of bringing the promised Messiah into the world.
History declares that their desire was fulfilled,
that Jesus was born in the fold of their organization,
and that He and John the Baptist, with many other Biblical characters,
were members of the Essene communities both in Palestine and in other lands.
Since this group of mystics, prophets, healers, and miracle workers
contributed so much to the origin and spread of Christianity
in their making of history and the fostering of its course,
it seems somewhat surprising that intelligent people
know so little about this branch of the Great White Brotherhood.
The Freemasons, however, find pure Christianity in Essenism
and consider it to be the most important fraternity the world has ever seen.
Dating back at least to the time of Moses
and designated at various times and places
as Nazarites, School of the Prophets, Hasidees,
Nazarenes, Essenes, Therapeutae, Brethren in White Clothing,
Contemplative Ones, Ministers of Peace, Friends,
and the Pure and Silent Brethren,
this mystic group not only prepared for the birth of the Messiah,
but distinguished itself in many other ways.
The Essenes were the first to proclaim the equality of all mankind and to denounce slavery;
they were the first socialists to organize a community high above the standards of their times;
they were also the first communists to encourage the ownership of all things in common,
as well as the first mystic sect in all Jewish history.
Although the purpose of this paper is to give briefly from ancient and modern sources
the principal historical facts concerning this society of mystics,
it is of interest to note in passing that much additional and confirmatory material on
the Essenes may be found in the Life Readings given during the past forty years
by Edgar Cayce of the Association for Research and Enlightenment, Inc.
Through the Life Readings several formerly declared to have been Essenes have been located,
and among them are some who were vitally concerned with the preparations for the birth of Jesus,
with His protection during His flight into Egypt, with His training in the Essene community
to which He and His parents belonged, and later with his education in Essene schools abroad.
These records bear out in detail the historical references brought down through the centuries
by such authorities as Josephus, Philo, Pliny, Solinus, Prophry, Epiphanius, Eusebius,
the Talmud, Midrashism, the Bible, and many other witnesses both ancient and modern.
Although historians differs as to details they are generally agreed upon
the more important facts concerning the Essenes.
For example, they agree that this pioneer mystic order was of "dateless antiquity" as Pliny declares.
The Talmud speaks of the brotherhood as "the holy community in Jerusalem",
while Strabo mentions the "Essenes in Heliopolis with whom Plato and Eudoxus consulted".
Josephus considers them "the oldest of ascetics,"
and tells us that they believed in reincarnation,
in the resurrection, the communication with angels,
and says that it was from "Egypt that their doctrines spread abroad."
For a time Josephus was a member of the Order of Essenes.
Philo calls the mystic brotherhood "champions of virtue,
a race by themselves more remarkable than any other in the wide world."
Epiphanius, famous church historian of the fourth century,
declares that "Jesus joined the Essenes", and that
"for their healings they sometimes used a Book of Remedies attributed to King Solomon."
Every Jew, it seems, according to Josephus, had to belong to one of the three sects,
the Sadducees, Pharisees, or the Essenes.
He notes that while Jesus spoke scathingly of the scribes, Sadducees, and Pharisees,
he never uttered a word against the Essenes,
although as a member of the Brotherhood with His cousin John His teaching differed
in some details from that of the Essenes.
And again, Solinus affirms that "the Essenes who differ from all other nations
in their marvelous constitutions, have according to my opinion been appointed
by divine Providence for this mode of life.
Money they know not, and connubial pleasures they have renounced,
yet they are the richest of all men."
To turn for a moment to representative modern historians,
we find Dean Prideaux in writing on the descendents of the Essenes
in a work entitled THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS CONNECTED,
notes that the Essenes absolutely antedated the Holy Scriptures,
and absolutely condemned slavery which both the Old and New Testaments allowed.
He believes that this proclaiming of freedom and equality will be recognized unanimously
by the civilized world as one of the glorious features of Essenism
anticipating the spirit of Christianity and the philosophy of the twentieth century.
Dr. Graetz in his book on the HISTORY OF THE JEWS, says
"The Essenes first proclaimed the kingdom of heaven",
that "John the Baptist lived the life of a Nazarite, belonged to the Essenes,
took up his abode with the other Essenes near the waters of the Jordan,
Those penitents who were baptized joined at the same time the Essenic Order.
When the Jewish nation would confess its sins and bathe in the Jordan
the Messiah would not tarry long in His coming."
The historian Ginsburg, in his book THE ESSENES, THEIR HISTORY AND DOCTRINE says
"The purpose of Jesus, the Essene, was to effect a great moral revolution.
From the age of twelve to thirty He was in the Essene colonies
and conceived the plan which He intended to carry out.
There He was educated until He was sent out by His Order
to effect a great moral revolution.
His object in life was to bring about a reformation in Judaism
by the means of Essenism, and He Himself was a pliant tool in their hands,
although He taught a somewhat modified Essenism."
It is C. D. Ginsburg who declares,
"It cannot be doubted that our Savior Himself belonged to this holy brotherhood."
And again, one of the most painstaking, scholarly, and historical researches,
that by A. A. Schutz on THE ESSENES, compiled from the numerous records
of the Literary and Philosophic Society of Liverpool in 1896,
finds the above statements, together with many others that will be mentioned,
confirmed in the ancient documents written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.
Several of the references declare that the Essenes were a branch of the illuminated brotherhood
or Great White Lodge which had its birth in the country of Egypt
during the years preceding Amenhotep the Fourth, Pharaoh of Egypt
and the great founder of the first monotheistic religion,
who encouraged and supported the existence of a secret brotherhood
to teach the mystic truths of life.
The several mystic schools of Egypt which were united under one head constituted
the Great White Brotherhood, but branches of these schools assumed different names
in different parts of the world, in accordance with the language of each country
and the peculiarities of the general religious and spiritual thought of the people.
In Old Testament times, for example, the Essenes were known as the Nazarites
or seers of the School of the Prophets; in Engeddi and Alexandria
the members of the Brotherhood assumed the name of Essenes or Brethren of the White Clothing,
while in Greece they were known as Therapeutae or healers or physicians.
For many centuries before the dawn of the Christian Era, the Essenes,
as active bands of workers, maintained two principal centers,
one in Egypt on the banks of Lake Maoris,
and the other in Palestine at Engeddi near the Dead Sea.
The branch in Palestine had to contend with the depotism of the rulers of the country
and the jealousy of the priesthood.
These conditions forced the Palestine group to hold themselves in greater silence and solitude
than they had been accustomed to in Egypt.
Before they moved from their small buildings and sacred enclosure at Engeddi,
to the ancient buildings on Mount Carmel, their principal activity seemed to be
the tanslation of ancient manuscripts and the preservation of such traditions and records
as constituted the foundation of their teachings.
When they came to change their location their greatest problem
was the secret movement of their manuscripts.
Fortunately they succeeded in preserving the rarest of the manuscripts that came out of Egypt,
together with their ancient traditions, stories, and teachings.
It is from these that we derive most of our knowledge regarding the Essenes
and the Great White Brotherhood.
It is from these documents that we learn that from one of the holy women set aside,
as a possible mother of the Messiah, the Savior would be born and within an Essene community.
They expected Him to be a reincarnation of the greatest of their past leaders.
The doctrine of reincarnation was not only an established belief among these mystics,
but also among the most orthodox of the Jewish people
and of all peoples during the Old and New Testament times.
The Bible declares time and again the truth of reincarnation.
The Essenes believed that the greatest among them were the greatest
because of previous preparation, previous existence, and previous attainments.
They naturally looked for the great Master to come out of the past,
and as He did with the words upon His lips, "Before Abraham I am."
Through their highly evolved knowledge and intimate psychic contact with Cosmic Consciousness
the Essenes were well informed of coming events.
They kept continually before them the Scriptural prophecy,
"For among thy brethren I shall raise one who shall guide my people."
The meaning of the mysterious word "Essene," the characteristics of this secret brotherhood,
a picture of how they lived, what they believed and thought,
together with their absorption into Christianity is a story of intense interest
to all modern students of mysticism and sacred literature.
Before we can properly understand and appreciate the history and real story
of the birth and life work of the Master Jesus,
we must have an understanding of the ancient organizations and schools
which contributed to the preparation for His coming.
Since the term "Essene" was not popularly known, only the learned knowing it,
it is easy to account for the lack of references to the Essenes
in most of the popular histories or writings of the time.
The Essene attire was so distinctive and unique that among the populace
they were often known as "the brethren in white clothing",
for after initiation each member adopted a robe of white composed of one piece of material,
such as the "seamless garment" worn by the Master Jesus.
Silence seemed to be the motto of the Brotherhood.
When they did speak they were well trained in the value of vowel sounds
and the use of their voices in incantations.
They were soft-spoken in conversation and were often known as "the soft-speaking men."
Those who were called "the healers" or "physicians" spoke softly to their patients
using certain vowel sounds without any evidence of a formula.
They often performed the greatest of cures by the simple laying on of hands
or by instructing the patient to retire to the silence of his home
while the cure was concluded in a psychic manner.
Some historians claim that the word "Essene" comes from the Egyptian word "kashai"
which means "secret".
There is a Jewish word of similar sound, "chsahi" meaning "secret" or "silent"
and this word would naturally be translated into assaios or "Essene",
denoting "secret" or "mystic."
Even Josephus found that the Egyptian symbols of light and truth
are represented by the word "choshen" which transliterates into the Greek as "Essene".
A branch of the organization established by the Greeks translated the word "Essene"
as being derived from the Syrian word "assaya", meaning physician,
into the Greek word therapeutes, having the same meaning.
While most of the members of the Essenes were healers or physicians,
the organization was devoted to many other humanitarian practices
besides the art of healing, and not all of its members were physicians in any sense.
There are twenty or more explanations of the mysterious term,
deriving the word Essene from holiness, piety, the mysterious, silent, reticent ones
to those endowed with the gift of prophecy, or performers of the law,
the stout or strong and pure race.
Epiphanius declares that the Essenes borrowed their name from Jesse, the father of David,
and were called Jesseans.
By others they were known as "seers", "puritans", "the retired", and some thought the name
was derived from "essa, a town situated beyond Jordan."
Still others thought the word was derived from the Chaldee root "to be strong",
"bound together or associated", so-called because of their strength of mind
to endure suffering and to subdue their passions.
Again, they were known as "observers of the law of purity and holiness",
"the reticent ones to whom the scrolls were entrusted."
Philo's dictionary of Hebrew names gives the meaning of "Essene" as "those in silence";
still other possible meanings include "blameless ones",
"mystics whose secret lore was given in a whisper",
"men entrusted with the administration of alms".
The Essenes had a chamber in the Temple where they deposited their gifts of charity in secret,
whence the respectable poor drew their "support in secrecy".
From these Essenes the "Gate of the Essenes" in Jerusalem derived its name.
They also had in every city for their charity a special chamber for their charity box,
so that money could be deposited and taken in secret - a thing that could only be done
upon the presumption that the money belonged to all alike.
Each city had its administrative body consisting of its best men who took charge
of the collection and distribution of charity and who established hospices
in various communities for the care of the sick, especially during epidemics of famine or disease.
These places were called "Bethsaida".
We find in this feature of their work the origin of the hospices and hospitals
which became well-known some centuries later.
A special staff of workers was connected with these places and were called hospitalers.
The Essenes likewise had their rescue homes in various communities,
and at the entrance of most cities they had a place called "a Gate"
where strangers or those in need of something to eat or of guidance
would be cared for temporarily.
They call themselves "ministers of peace", "friends", and stood for peace in every way.
The Biblical words of Jesus, "Agree with thine adversary on the way",
were literally carried out by them.
In any disagreement with strangers they would gladly pay any price
rather than enter into an argument or have any strained relationships.
For this reason they were well thought of by other sects even though
their religious practices were severely criticized.
Some called them "the pure-minded" who fitted themselves in every way to speak God's name.
The Essenes claimed to possess, from the founders of the Synagogue,
the correct pronunciation and the magic spell of the Holy Name
by which they could achieve miracles as did the men of old.
Like other Hebrew proper names, the name of God is more than a mere distinguishing title.
It represents the Hebrew conception of the divine nature or character
and of the relation of God to His people.
The Name represents the attributes which He bears and which
are revealed through His acts to His people.
Any new manifestation of His interest or care gives rise to a new name.
Even to make mention of Yahweh's Name is to assert confidence in His strength.
The Lord said, "My Name is in him".
God's Name excites certain emotions.
The forty-two letter Name of God is Azilut or "Animation".
The Cabbalists added the forty-five letter Name which is equivalent in value
to the sentence referring to Yahweh, "What is His Name",
found in Proverbs 30:4.
The numerical value of the letters is counted.
A combination of God's seventy-two-letter Name appears in the Urim and Thummim,
onsisting of the names of the twelve Patriarchs and the twelve Tribes of Israel.
When the Urim and Thummim were consulted in regard to any matter,
the divine Name lit up the letters which were brought into relief
or into such a combination as to make the answer to the question asked intelligible.
Creation is said to have occurred by the manipulation of the sacred letters
forming the divine Names.
The Essenes used the word "god" in their mystic prayers and rites
and had a voluminous esoteric literature on these matters.
They felt the need of being absolutely pure, truthful, honest, upright, virtuous, chaste,
and charitable in their continual purification of the soul.
Magic power was known only to the initiated.
Their mysteries made them cognizant of the names of the angels, the angelic world,
and of employing its ministry.
The constant purification and the study of their prophetic writings
gave these "pure-minded ones" the powers of prediction.
The same mystic writings revealed the remedies in plants and stones for the healing of the body.
It should be emphasized that communication with the angels and the secret traditional literature
with its teachings concerning mysterious remedies are frequently referred to in apocalyptic literature.
For example, in the Book of Enoch and in the Book of Jubilees there is much about communication
with angels and of the "seers" who received angelic instruction and revelations.
In the Book of Jubilees the angels are distinctly represented as teaching Noah
all "herbal remedies for diseases."
This knowledge is also claimed to have been given to Moses.
Undoubtedly the BOOK OF REMEDIES ascribed to Solomon which the Essenes used contained
much of this earlier revelation.
The seamless white robe worn by these "pure-minded ones" was also a symbol of inward purity,
a freedom from the distracting, degrading influence of matter,
and a result of higher fellowship with the Divine.
But whence came these Essenes?
It has been suggested that these teachers and preachers of the secrets of the new
and deeper phases of religion were found at different times under various names,
that in the Old Testament times,
the Essenes mentioned in the Book of Judges are called the Nazarites;
in Kings they are called the School of the Prophets;
in the Maccabean times they were called the Hasidees.
During this period Jewish theosophy, until then the spiritual diversion of a chosen
and select few, became the popular passion of whole groups of people.
The Jewish group rose to full tide in the midst of this strange and curious brotherhood
later known as the Essenes.
Scholars have declared that these Mystics of the White Clothing
were the first systematizers and practitioners of an occult science
which later went by the name of Cabbalah.
They have interpreted their name to mean
"those who are engaged in secret things."
It was in the time of Christ that this unbroken line of interpreters
of the veiled truths of spiritual realities became known as the Essenes.
They claim Mosaic origin for their brotherhood.
Even Abraham, "the humble one", and all doers of works of benevolence learned it from God,
their Father in heaven, so tradition has it; thus the brotherhood may antedate Moses.
The Israelites under Moses were driven out by Amasis I, founder of the eighteenth dynasty,
and with this event materialism superseded the things of the spirit.
After this expulsion from Egypt, the mystic Shepherd Kings gathered in a place
named Avaris and remained there for a time, the Egyptians not being able to dislodge them.
Later they passed through the wilderness into Syria and into a country now known as Judea
where they entered a city afterwards called Salem and where much later Melchizedek
bestowed upon Abraham the mystic rites of the Order later known as the Essenes.
Many centuries afterwards this same city was known as Jerusalem.
Thus we note that the Essenes are "ageless, of dateless antiquity"
as Pliny tells us - "thousands of years they existed before" his time.
Some historians claim that the ancient Order went by its new name "Essenes"
during the second century before Christ.
History mentions them in the days of Johathan, the Maccabean, B.C. 166.
Later in the reign of Aristobulus I, B.C. 106,
they are mentioned in connection with the prophecy concerning
the death of Antigonus uttered by Judas the Essene,
together with the statement that up until that time
no prophecy of the Essenes had ever failed
- nor has any prophecy of their failed since, so far as is known.
Again, Ewald's Jewish History, among other histories, states that
"the Essenes, or the people who left the great community
to live a holy life with the permission and under the direction of the law,
were to be found in Israel from the remotest times and were formerly known as Nazarites."
Although historians differ among themselves in details,
they are generally agreed that the essential characteristics of the Essenes
included their conviction that fate governs all things,
their absolute confidence in Jehovah's will
being manifested in whatever comes to pass,
although free will is not denied;
their unqualified belief in prophecy and the ability to see coming events;
their belief in preexistence or reincarnation;
their uniformly holy and unselfish life;
their abstinence from visiting the Temple
or in taking part in bloody sacrifices;
their unbounded love of virtue and their contempt
for earthly fame, riches, pleasure;
their industry and temperance, the latter including
a vegetarian diet and abstinence from intoxicants;
their modesty and simplicity of life;
their contentment of mind and cheerfulness of temper;
their love of order and abhorrence of even the semblance of falsehood;
their benevolence and philanthropy;
their love for the brethren from whom they never concealed anything,
and their following peace with all men;
their hatred of slavery and war;
their aversion to taking oaths or to swearing or to anointing with oil;
their tender regard for children,
and reverence and anxious care for the aged;
their attendance on the sick, and readiness to relieve the distressed;
their investigation of plants and minerals for healing,
their miraculous cures, and the perishing of many of their secret doctrines
when they were absorbed into Christianity;
their humility and magnanimity;
their firmness of character and ability to subdue their passions;
their heroic endurance under the most agonizing suffering for righteousness sake,
and their cheerful looking forward to death as releasing their mortal souls
from the bonds of the body to a state of bliss with their Creator.
All these qualities have no parallel in the history of mankind.
No wonder that the Jews of different sects, the Greeks, the Romans,
Christian historians and pagan writers all alike lavish the most
unqualified praise on this holy brotherhood.
Very remarkably do these "Mystic Ones", these "Contemplative Men"
exemplify the lessons which Christ, whom they are said to have sent out
from their Order into the world,
propounds in the Sermon on the Mount beginning with the Beatitudes.
Even Herod the Great could find no fault with the "Brethren of the White Clothing"
and showered many favors upon them, and even excused them from the taking of oaths,
even the oath of allegiance.
They gained favor with the King of Judea because of their exactness in prophecy.
History states that there was a certain Essene named Menahem
who was celebrated not only for his uprightness
but also for the foreknowledge of the future.
When he once met Herod as a boy going to school,
he addressed him by the name of "King of the Jews".
Herod thought that Menahem did not know him,
or that he jested, and so reminded him that
he was of common origin with no chance of becoming king.
But Menahem smiled on him most friendly and clapped him on the back
with his hand, saying, "Thou wilt, nevertheless, be king
and will begin thy reign happily,
for God has found thee worthy of it.
Remember the blows Menahem hath given thee as being the symbol
of the change of thy fortune.
For this assurance will be salutary for thee when thou wilt love justice
and piety toward God and equity toward thy citizens.
However, I know that thou wilt not be such a one,
for I can perceive it all.
Thou wilt obtain an everlasting reputation, but thou wilt forget piety and justice.
Thou wilt not be concealed from God,
for He will visit thee in His wrath for it,
towards the end of thy life."
Herod, it seems, paid very little attention to the Essene's prophecy at the time,
as he had no hope of its fulfillment.
But soon afterwards when advanced to the dignity of king,
he ordered Menahem to come before him.
He regarded the Essene as being endowed with higher powers than ordinary mortals,
gave him his hand, and from that time on continued to honor the Essenes.
History abounds in the fulfilled prophecy of the Mystic Order.
Judas, the Essene, was another example.
One day in the Temple surrounded by his pupils whom he initiated
into the apocalyptic art of foretelling the future, he saw Antigonus pass.
Judas prophesied a sudden death for him at a definite hour on a certain day,
in a very special place - all of which occurred as predicted.
Likewise, Simon, the Essene, probably the one mentioned in the second chapter of Luke,
was a very holy man whose prophecies also came true, among many others.
So holy were the members of the Essene communities that they developed
not only exactness in prophecy, but also magnetic personalities,
accompanied, of course, by clean bodies, clean habits, clean raiment.
Moreover, they developed such beautiful auras that on some occasions
these auras became visible to the profane.
History informs us that of all the sects of the ancient days,
the Essenes were the most exclusive.
They usually located their secret societies in small towns or
on the border of the desert apart from the crowded hives of humanity.
There in communities of small villages outside the walls or limits
of practically every city where they existed, they waited patiently,
yearning for "the kingdom of God eternal in the heavens",
as they fed the fires of their devotion in the fellowship or worship
of their mystic Deity.
In the Essene community each member had his own little house and garden.
Marriage was not forbidden among them, as was commonly supposed
by many historians.
Their ideals concerning marriage, however, were very high
and only those who were well-mated and whose mating
was approved by the higher officials were permitted to marry.
The most advanced groups, however, those who took the highest degrees,
refrained from marriage. "Some", as Jesus explained,
"made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake."
Women were permitted to become associate members of the Brotherhood,
and in a few cases were allowed to enter the early grades
of study of the work.
The Essenes did not consider women to be inferior mentally or spiritually,
but the Essene branch of the Great White Brotherhood
was an organization of men to carry on man's work throughout each community.
But sisters, mothers, and daughters of the men in each Essene community
were permitted to be a part of the community.
Those of the women who were not married, and who did not care to marry,
often adopted orphan children as their own,
and in this way carried on a form of humanitarian work
for the organization.
There were no servants, of course, for servitude was unlawful
- each household was cared for by its own members.
The Essenes apparently agreed that civilization decayed in proportion
to the number of servants or slaves, and that the fall of a civilization
is due not only to inequalities in the civilization,
but to the fact that the people in the upper classes
do not experiment or work with their hands,
but delegate all physical work to servants, and thus fail to advance.
The Alexandrian community of Essenes lived in scattered houses near enough
to afford mutual protection when necessary,
but not too close to disturb the solitude which was so greatly prized
by these "contemplative ones."
Each house contained a chamber devoted to prayer and meditation.
These "silent ones", "seers", "healers" during the week
lived and worked apart and meditated in silence,
but on Saturday they prayed and ate in common.
Their so-called feasts where no flesh was served and only cold water was drunk
(especially those held on the eve of Pentecost),
were famous and formed a contrast to Greek revels.
At these feasts the philosophical discourse was the chief feature.
This was followed by hymns and by antiphonal and joint singing
with choral dancing in imitation of Moses and Miriam at the Red Sea.
The Essene physicians treated their charges by keeping them quiet,
free from anxiety and fear, and by giving them rest and good cheer
and the benefits of medicinal help found in plants and stones.
Though interested in the welfare of the state,
the Essenes despaired of the reality of the Kingdom of God
under the existing political situation.
For them, the Kingdom was not to be established through political
or ecclesiastical institutions.
It must be revealed from God out of heaven.
He would send to them His Chosen One, whom He had selected
from the foundation of the world, and He would be the center
of a great quiet peaceful kingdom of spirits.
There was at the time an inward distress in men's hearts
at the wide-spread materialism, and a despairing struggle
in Jewish life for something better.
Decaying Judaism attracted attention and awakened the apprehension
of the thoughtful men of the day - such men as Cicero, Tactitus,
and Josephus who often spoke of the facts of their decadent times.
Both Judaism and paganism were in the last stages of decay.
Rabbis were talking of the coming of a deliverer.
The popular idea, not the Essene, was that this deliverer
would sweep the legions of Augustus from their land,
marvels would be accomplished, and armies would descend from heaven,
fight and overcome Rome.
At the touch of God's winds white flour would drop from the ripened heads
of wheat like manna of old. From a single grape, wine would be drawn
as from a cask.
Jerusalem would become greatly enlarged and miraculous buildings would be erected.
There would be no more sickness or pain or anything to mar the happiness
of the new kingdom.
Expectation was rife among the Semetic races, while the cry of the pagan
was voiced by Seneca, "Ah, if one might only have a guide to truth."
The Essenes knew that the fullness of time was near.
Hebrew religion, Greek wisdom, Roman politics had failed,
and in failing had prepared the way for the coming of Jesus,
the Nazarite or Essene.
The beliefs and customs of the Essenes were so closely linked together
that in their communities their conduct was a reflection of their convictions.
They considered that they could reach perfection only through
a gradual growth in holiness brought about by strict observance
of the Levitical laws contained in the Pentateuch,
mortifying the flesh and lusts thereof.
Thus they believed they would be brought into closer communion
with the Holy One of Israel. Strictness in enforcing the rigid Mosaic laws
and Levitical purity ultimately compelled the Essenes to withdraw
altogether from the society of their Jewish brethren,
to live apart from the world and apart from any one
who did not follow their strict manner of life
and thus would contaminate them.
The great fear of coming in contact with anything impure that would hinder
their spiritual communion with their Creator caused certain branches
of the Essene Order to abstain from marriage.
These looked with pity upon their weaker brethren who could not be
"like the angels of heaven, neither marrying nor given in marriage."
These weaker ones were allowed to take wives under certain restrictions,
but, as has been noted, they could never advance to the highest orders
of the brotherhood, for they were not among those who were willing to become
"eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven", as Christ expressed it.
Since historians declare that celibacy was the rule of the Essenes,
the ranks of the brotherhood were necessarily filled with recruits
from the Jewish community at large, and by children who were educated
most carefully and were taught the practices of the order
- it was believed that of such the kingdom of heaven was being built.
Every adult candidate had to pass through a novitiate of two stages
extending over a period of three years before he could finally be admitted
to the order.
Upon entering the first stage, or twelve-month period,
the novitiate was required to cast all his possessions
into the general treasury.
He then received a copy of the regulations of the brotherhood,
as well as a spade with which to bury his excrement,
an apron used at the lustrations, and a white robe to don at meals
- these were the symbols of purity set forth in Deuteronomy 23:12-14.
During the whole of this period the novitiate was considered an outsider,
as was the historian Josephus himself who did not go beyond this first stage,
was not admitted to the common meals as a probationer,
yet who had to observe during this period the ascetic rules of the society.
When the probation period was satisfactory, then the candidate was admitted
to the second stage of two years, during which time he shared in the common meals,
but not in the lustral rites.
When this period was satisfactory, then the novitiate became an associate
or a full member of the brotherhood, being allowed to partake of
the common or sacrificial meal.
Before he was admitted into close fellowship, however, he had to bind himself
by a solemn oath to observe love to Jehovah, love to all mankind,
love of virtue, purity of character which implied humility,
love of truth and hatred of falsehood, strict secrecy towards outsiders
(so as not to divulge the secret doctrines to any one),
and perfect frankness with the members of the order.
Finally, he had to be careful to preserve the books belonging to the order,
the names of the angels, and the mysteries connected with the Tetragrammaton,
as well as the other names of Jehovah and of the angels
found in the theosophy and cosmognony which play so important a part
among the Jewish mystics and Cabbalists.
There were eight different stages of development possible of attainment.
In the first stage bodily purity was attained;
in the second, celibacy or imposed abstinence from connubial intercourse;
in the third, inward of spiritual purity;
in the fourth, all anger and malice had or be banished and a meek,
lowly spirit cultivated;
in the fifth was the culminating point of holiness;
in the sixth, the Essene became the temple of the Great Spirit
and could prophesy;
in the seventh, he was able to perform miraculous cures and raise the dead;
and finally in the eighth stage he attained to the position of Elijah,
the forerunner of the Messiah.
Probably no religious system has ever produced such a community of saints
so eager for purity and spiritual attainments.
The Essenes founded not only a new sect, but almost a new religion.
The people of these secret societies wore a common type of dress,
engaged in common labor, united in common prayers, partook of common meals,
deposited their earnings in a common treasury, devoted themselves
to works of charity, for which each had the liberty to draw
from the common funds at his own discretion, except in the case of relatives.
And as has been noted they showed rare benevolence to all people,
especially to the poor, the sick, the aged, and to strangers.
In every city there was a special official from the brotherhood
to extend hospitality to strangers, to supply funds for food,
travel, and for other needs - thus they served their fellow men
as minister, prophet, and physician.
They interpreted dreams, exorcised devils, and performed miracles,
bringing peace to the soul, healing to the body,
and guidance through the predictions which never failed.
Their holy and beautiful lives were exemplified in the words of the Master
when He said, "He that loseth his life for My sake shall find it,
but he that saveth his life shall lose it."
In renouncing the temporal side they won the glory of that which is eternal.
They regarded the body as the soul's prison house.
They bore their hardships and trials rejoicing,
having learned that wisdom and self control are crystalized pain.
The teaching held paramount was the complete control of all passion and emotion,
the importance of which was stressed in the very beginning of the training
They not only forgave their enemies But sought to benefit them.
Their heroism during the reigns of various kings and rulers is described
by Josephus who declared that they were not afraid to die,
and often preferred death to mortality.
Although tortured and distorted, burned, torn to pieces at times,
they went through all kinds of instruments of torture,
but could not be compelled to blaspheme their legislator,
to eat what was forbidden, to break any of their principles,
to flatter even once any of their tormenters, or to shed a tear.
They smiled on their persecutors in their pains, laughed to scorn
those who tortured them, and resigned up their souls
with great alacrity as expecting to receive them again.
They believed that their bodies were corruptible and that the matter
that composed them was not lasting - that their souls were immortal,
proceeded from a more subtle ether, and had been drawn into their bodies
as into prisons by some natural longing.
When they were set free from the bonds of long servitude in the flesh
they rejoiced and mounted upward; evil souls went to dark and gloomy abodes below.
These disciples of Moses of which Philo and others tell us,
steeped themselves in mystic lore and practiced a theosophic system
which they believed would hasten the coming of the Messianic kingdom.
Their ranks were constantly swelled by the thousands of new comers
who resorted to them because of their own disappointment with the world.
In these peaceful communities these souls weary with lusts of the flesh
found that rich and poor were treated alike, that there were no masters or servants,
and they the Essenes called no man master on earth,
but all ministered to the needs of all alike.
They did not lay up treasure of silver or gold or use money.
Among all men they were without money or possession,
yet they were the richest of all because they had few wants and lived frugally
and righteously, all free serving one another equally.
To them all things were determined by destiny and nothing could befall them
that was not foreordained.
"All is in God's hands and everything is foreseen" was one of their mottos.
The Essenes were vegetarians, ate nothing that breathed the breath of life,
and did not even wear woolens; neither did they use oil or expectorate.
They would not eat anything offered to idols or pass through gates
where images were placed.
On account of their purity of life they were very healthy
and many of them lived to be over a hundred years old.
Every adult member of the brotherhood was assigned at the time of his initiation
a definite mission in life, and this mission had to be adhered to
regardless of all obstacles and temptations even to the sacrifice of his life.
Some chose to be healers, physicians, artisans, farmers, teachers, missionaries,
carpenters, translators, scribes;
other chose the tending of flocks and rearing of bees, preparing of food,
making articles of dress, or weaving.
Whatever the occupation chosen it had to be something constructive
and not destructive.
There were never in the organization any gunsmiths, slaughterers of cattle or sheep,
or any engaged in any practice or business that destroyed the least
of any living thing.
History emphasizes that no maker of arrows, darts, spears, swords, helmets,
breastplates or shields, no manufacturer of arms, of engines of war,
nor any man whatever who made things belonging to war,
or even such things that might lead to wickedness in times of peace
could ever be found among the Essenes.
Again, no trading was allowed or anything by which money was made, only barter.
Pliny, among other historians, declares that the Essenes would
"not even dream of carrying on traffic, innkeeping, or navigation,
for they repudiate every inducement of covetousness."
But all peaceful, non-commercial occupations were in keeping
with their purpose in life.
While the members of the order were very industrious and worked
from sunrise until sunset, they devoted the evening hours to the study
of the mysteries of nature and of revelation and of the celestial hierarchy.
Abundant time was possible for this, since each member of the community
took his share of the work in the department in which he excelled,
and since they toiled only for their necessities and not for laying
up sums of money.
This peaceful, industrious group of people living in well-kept buildings,
usually within a sacred or well-protected enclosure, elected their own president,
judges, and officials, and considered themselves free to act only in regard
to helping those in trouble and showing charity to the poor.
They believed in passive obedience to the powers ordained by God.
Their ordinary, everyday affairs were regulated by a committee or council of judges,
one hundred in number who met once a week to regulate the activities
of the organization and to hear the reports of the workers in the field.
All disagreements, all complaints, all tests and trials went to this council.
Before any decision could be reached it had to be unanimous.
One of the regulations indicates that the Essenes were necessarily cautious
in expressing their opinions of one another or of those outside of the group.
They were not critical of the lives of those who were trying to reform,
and they adhered strictly to one of their rules,
"Judge not, lest ye be judged."
Trials were conducted by juries, composed, not as our juries are of twelve persons,
but by a majority of the community, or of at least a hundred members who had
to be unanimous in their verdict.
The brother who was found guilty of walking disorderly was excommunicated,
yet he was not regarded as an enemy, but was admonished as a brother
and received back after due repentance. Since it was contrary to the practices
of the Essenes to procure or eat anything from those outside the order,
lest the person become defiled, it was necessary for a person to repent soon
or starve to death.
Excommunications, however, were almost unknown.
The Essenes rose before daylight and did not speak
a word to anyone until after sunrise.
To them the sun was an emblem of Divine Light to which they offered
traditional forms of prayer as if beseeching it to rise.
With the following words they began their hymn of national praise
for the renewal of the light of day:
"He in mercy causes His light to shine upon the earth and upon the inhabitants thereof;
and in His goodness unfailingly renews every day.
How innumerable are Thy works, O Lord!
Thou hast made them all in Thy wisdom.
The earth is full of Thy possessions, O King,
Thou art the only exalted One from everlasting,
the praised, the glorified, the extolled since the days of yore.
Lord of the universe in Thy great mercy have mercy upon us."
After prayer and meditation, each Essene betook himself to work,
according to the directions of the overseers, and remained at work
until the fifth hour or about eleven o'clock when the labor of the forenoon
All again assembled, had a baptism in cold water, donned their white garments,
the symbol of purity, and then made their way for their ceremonial meal
to the dining room which they entered with as much solemnity as they would a temple.
The meal was a common one; each took his seat according to the order of age.
Those of the brethren who were bakers and cooks placed before each person
a little loaf of bread and a dish of the most simple food,
consisting of vegetables. Sometimes there were also palm berries,
hysop - only water was drunk.
The repast commenced with the minister or Sacedos who invoked Jehovah's blessing upon it.
A mysterious silence was observed during the meal which had every characteristic
of a sacrament, and may have been designed to take the place of the sacrifice
which they refused to offer in the Temple - sending only their tithes.
The minister concluded the meal by offering thanks to the Bountiful Supplier
of all their wants. This was their signal for dismissal.
After their withdrawal, they put off their sacred white garments,
dressed themselves in their working clothes, resumed their several employments
under their self-chosen overseers, until evening, when they assembled again
to partake of the common meal.
They received earnings, presents, or rewards for labor through stewards.
These remunerations were placed in the common treasury,
from which they could all draw as much as they thought proper
for the relief of the distressed and for compassion upon those
who were not even of the brotherhood, if they so desired.
Such was their manner of life during week days.
Every phase of their existence meant a continual purification of the soul.
The Sabbath day was observed with the utmost rigor, since the Essenes
took special care not to be guilty of
"neglecting the assembling of themselves together as the manner of some is"
- words that are attributed later to Saint Paul.
Ten persons constituted a complete and legal number for divine worship
in the synagogue, and in the presence of such an assembly utmost reverence
and respect were maintained and no Essene would even expectorate in such presence.
In the synagogue, as in the dining hall, each took his seat according to age
and properly attired.
There were no ordained ministers with exclusive rights to conduct the services,
but any one who desired to do so took up the Scriptures and read them,
while another who had much experience in spiritual matters expounded what was read.
The distinctive ordinances of the brotherhood as well as the mysteries connected
with the Tetragrammaton and the angelic worlds were the prominent topics
of Sabbath discussion.
The similarities between Essenism and Primitive Christianity are very striking.
Both organizations had the same belief in communism, in baptism or bathing,
in the power of prophecy, in pre-existence or reincarnation,
in the resurrection and immortality, in the casting out of devils,
healing of the sick, the working of miracles, the power of prayer and of God's name,
in destiny, fatalism, or that all things can occur only in the fullness
of time and can be foreseen, and in the equality of all mankind.
Both the Essenes and the early Christians had the same aversion to ordinary marriage
for conjugal pleasures - this aversion was also enhanced by a firm belief
in the Messianic event.
They had the same denunciation for the rich and the exaltation of the poor,
the hard-working, and virtuous; also the same system of organization,
the same rules for travelling brethren delegated to charity work,
and above all the same love feasts or brotherly meals.
Among other similarities were the aversion to taking oaths, swearing,
or eating anything that had been contaminated, such as food offered to idols.
There are, however, some dissimilarities between the two organizations,
for Jesus taught a somewhat revised form of Essenism in that he did not hold
to extreme asceticism or rigid Sabbath observance.
Among the numerous examples of the similarities between Essenism
and early Christianity it may be of interest briefly to recall
a few of the words of the Master Himself, the words of Him
whom many of the historians declare,
"It cannot be doubted that our Savior Himself belonged to this holy brotherhood".
The salutation of the Essenes was "Peace be with you."
The New Testament records that these were the words of Christ used
on several occasions, and particularly at the time of His materialization
to His disciples in the upper room after His resurrection from the so-called dead.
Incidentally, the Essenes when uttering this salutation often folded their arms,
with their right hand over the heart and the left hand over the right breast.
Again, Jesus said, "Swear not at all; let your conversation be Yea, yea, and nay, nay."
The Essenes also objected seriously to taking oath, and were even excused from
the oath of allegiance by Herod the Great whom without oaths could trust
the integrity of this brotherhood. Christ commended that elevated spiritual life,
by word of mouth and by example, which enabled men to abstain from marriage
for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, and which cannot be obtained
"by all men, except those to whom it is given."
He speaks of those "who for the kingdom of heaven's sake have made themselves eunuchs."
The Essenes also frowned on the ordinary types of marriage and declared
that the highest degrees could not be attained by married brethren.
As likewise with the Essenes who exalted the poor, and denounced the rich,
so with Christ when He said to the rich young man, among other instances,
"Go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor and come and follow me."
Afterward He said to the disciples,
"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man
to enter the kingdom of God."
The Essenes demanded that those who joined them should sell all their possessions,
and seek God, purity, virtue, soul development, and an opportunity
to be of service to mankind; while Jesus urged His disciples to
"seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness",
and forbade the laying up of treasures on earth.
Among the Essenes who recognized the perfect equality of all classes of people,
and who permitted no slavery or servitude, no one was allowed to call another
"master" on earth. Jesus held to these same principles and said,
"He that is greatest among you shall be servant of all."
Again, as humility was an outstanding characteristic among the Essenes
so with Christ who said, "Why call ye me good?
There is none good but God"; and furthermore,
"Greater things than these ye shall do."
He commended the "poor in spirit."
The same type of miracles performed by the Essenes were performed by Christ
- healing the sick, casting out demons, foretelling coming events, raising the dead.
The Master used the same methods as the Essenes when sending his disciples
on a journey with no extra coat, and without script or purse.
Both repudiated war, yet they took weapons with them on perilous journeys,
and Christ enjoined his disciples to do likewise when He said,
"He that hath a garment, let him sell it and buy a sword."
With the Essenes the Master declared that events take place at predicted times only,
and are prearranged as matters of destiny - this knowledge is reflected in His words,
"In the fullness of time", and "My time is not yet come",
"As a man sows, so shall he reap." The Brothers of the White Clothing
also believed in pre-existence or reincarnation;
so with the glory He had with the Father before the foundation of the world;
He declared, as recorded of Him in Matthew 11:14 and in other passages,
that His cousin, John the Baptist, was the reincarnation of Elijah,
and that he had attained to that spirit and power which the Essenes
strove to attain.
The Essenes were separatists, feeling themselves defiled if they had to live
with the Sadducees and Pharisees; likewise Jesus said,
"Beware of the leaven of the scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees",
denouncing them continually. Community of goods obtained among the Essenes,
as was also the case among the Master and His disciples.
Judas had the bag, and from it was taken what was needed for the support
of the group or for charity. Of the early Christian community in Jerusalem
it is written, "And all that believed were together and had all things common."
The Essene continence in eating, drinking, and fasting which Christ
before His baptism continued in the desert, was not, however,
continued throughout the rest of His life, neither did
He demand this asceticism of His disciples.
But like the Essenes who did not sacrifice in the Temple He declared that
the Lord would have mercy and not sacrifice, and that God was not
to be worshipped in any special place, not in Mount Gerazim or yet in Jerusalem,
for "the true worshippers of the Father shall worship Him in spirit and in truth."
The "silent ones" enjoined reticence even to the point of death; similarly,
Christ said on various occasions, "See that thou tellest no man."
Both the Essenes and early Christianity urged love to God and neighbor,
a following of virtue and righteousness.
The Lord's Supper of the early church was a regular meal similar to
the sacred daily meals of the Essenes.
The same may be said of the form of baptism John, the Essene,
in appealing to sinners, to be regenerated by baptism inaugurated
a new movement which led to the rise of Christianity and to the words
of the early church, "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved."
Baptism was necessary to enter the Essene Order.
The words of the Master, "He that loseth his life shall save it"
point to the Essenes as their natural source, along with all
the other points mentioned, in that the Essenes counted righteousness
of far greater importance than physical existence, were not afraid of death,
and often did die in agony under the hand of their tormentors
and persecutors rather than relinquish their principles.
That courage in suffering with which the Christ himself went into death
and which He requested of His followers was the same as that of the Essenes.
Finally, the Essene idea of the Messiah and the Messianic kingdom,
as indicated in the later part of the Book of Enoch written about 64 B.C.
is practically the same as that expressed by Jesus Himself.
The Essenes did not think of the coming Messiah as a mighty worldly king
at the head of Israel's hosts to subdue or destroy the enemies
of the theocractic people in order to re-establish the throne of David
in great splendor and power, but rather they thought of the Messiah
as a great spiritual leader, the center of a large, quiet,
blessed kingdom of spirits, whose highest commander is God,
the Lord of the spirits, who is surrounded by a thousand times
a thousand and ten thousand times ten thousand angels.
The citizens of this kingdom are the righteous, the saints, the elect ones,
separated by the Lord's foreordination from sinners,
as light and darkness have been separated by Him everlastingly.
But of them all, God, before the foundation of the world, has chosen one,
who like the others is a son of man and a son of woman,
whose portion has been to overcome all things before the Lord of the spirits
in rectitude to eternity; He is the Just One in whom righteousness dwells,
the truly righteous One in the highest sense - the Chosen One,
the Son of Man, the Anointed One.
In the spirit world, according to the Book of Enoch, there dwells a female spirit
known as the Spirit of Wisdom, who after she has looked in vain for
a dwelling place among men has returned and taken her place among the angels.
In the Chosen One dwells the Spirit of Wisdom, the Spirit of Him
who imparts understanding and the Spirit of Power and Justice.
From thence the Divine Wisdom reveals to the Son of Man those righteous
and holy ones who dwell on earth, whose portion the Lord of the Spirits
preserves because they have hated and despised this world of injustice.
These are the humble who have chastened their bodies,
who loved God and did not love gold and silver or any of the riches of the world,
but rather gave their bodies over to torture; and who since they have existed
did not long for terrestrial food, but considered themselves a breath
that passes away.
Thus they lived, were often tried of God, but their spirits were found
in cleanliness to praise His name. The time of their reward will come,
the Book concludes - the chosen are saved even though wars of destruction
come upon the land.
They will come forth from all quarters of the earth and be an imperishable
blessing and light to dwell with the Son of Man throughout all eternity.
Christ and the Christian congregation or organization, according to historians,
proceeded from the Essenes. Life in the Essene communities and in the Essene schools
in various sections of the world, fill the gap, or the hidden years of Christ's life
which the evangelists of the Bible try to bridge by the words,
"And he increased in wisdom and statue and in favor with God and man."
The literature of the Essenes together with other ancient records
now partially known to some historians bridges that period of Christ's life
from twelve until thirty years of age.
Mary and Joseph were high initiates in the Essene community in Palestine.
They were guided and guarded and watched over during their flight into Egypt
as well as when they returned to Galilee.
Jesus' initiation is said to have taken place at Jutha near the great castle
of Masseda - He was recognized as an Essene by his white seamless robe
and by His baptism, and known as the Chosen of God,
and begotten of the Eternal Spirit, according to the ancient traditions and writings.
He was versed in the things of nature and of wisdom, and was brought
up in the Essene Brotherhood.
During His life in the Essene colonies or communities He conceived
the plan which He intended to carry out, until finally He was sent
out by His Order to effect a great moral revolution.
His object in life was to bring about a reformation of Judaism by means of Essenism,
although as time advanced He taught a modified Essenism.
The Essenes found in Judea and Egypt were absorbed into the Christian sect
after the ascension.
Says the historian Graetz in his HISTORY OF THE JEWS, voicing the findings
of many other historians, "Jesus thus appropriated to Himself the essential features
of Essenism, so that Christianity is nothing but an offshoot of Essenism.
The Essenes were not heard of after A.D. 40."
Historians proceed to show that the relationship between Essenism and Christianity
are similar to those of parent and child.
How could it be otherwise with its Founder an Essene and its forerunner,
John the Baptist, also a member of the Order?
John was the first to proclaim the kingdom of heaven.
The term "Baptist" means nothing else than that he was an Essene,
one who cleanses his body daily in spring water
- the water also being declared to have the power of spiritual cleansing as well.
He lived the life of a "Nazarite", which means he belonged to the Essenes
who were formerly called "Nazarites".
He lived near the Jordan in the desert country of the Essenes,
baptizing penitents who joined the Essene Order at the same time.
The Essenes drew from all classes and assimilated their environment.
They did not succumb to it, but rather imposed their mark on their contemporaries
so impressively that they conquered.
The ascetic practices of the communistic group were a means to an end
- the practice of virtue and the cult of saintliness being part
of the teaching of Judaism was absorbed later into the new group
under the name "Christians".
The Essene converts, after the preaching of the Messiah,
became the good Christians or the good Jews,
and started on the long trail of gradual loss of identity
into the harmonious background of universal Christianity.
Updated: 1 January 2014 Happy New Year!