Beliefs and Teachings of the followers of Melchizedek as found in the later books of the Bible
A final summing up of His Teachings.
It is clear that much of our knowledge of the Teaching of Melchizedek is drawn from the Book of Genesis, but it is also clear that all this knowledge is based upon the same Ancient Wisdom as is found in other faiths.
Obviously the details vary, for human beings vary considerably, both as individuals and as societies. And although in this article we will at times take note of the ideas of many other groups, our main interest is in determining the beliefs and teachings of the followers of Melchizedek.
We shall see that these beliefs are fully consistent with the Ancient Wisdom, yet we will find that they are concerned mainly with one particular aspect thereof – the evolution of the human spirit throughout the whole of its earthly journey. And they provide information about this development from the earliest life on earth as a human being, to the time when, its earthly lessons learned the human spirit no longer has need to return to earthly existence any more.
Spiritual significance of Abraham’s blessing by Melchizedek
In the pursuit of this wisdom we will refer back to one of the few incidents in the Life of Melchizedek of which we have firm knowledge and which we have considered previously – namely His Blessing of Abraham. Hitherto, we have noted, with St Paul (Hebrews 7; 7) that “the less is blessed of the better”, and assured ourselves that this is but one proof among many that Melchizedek was indeed the Divine Salvator. It is now time for us to consider the spiritual significance of that Blessing.
Was it merely in the nature of a simple Benediction? After all Melchizedek was Priest of the Most High God, and the bestowal of a spiritual blessing has always part of the work of a priest. Or was it part of a larger ceremony?
It must be acknowledged that the giving of tithes, which seems to have followed the blessing, suggests that Abraham attached great importance to it. Did it involve Melchizedek placing His hands on the head of Abraham – a sort of “laying on of hands” as was used in New Testament times to confer Ordination? Was it perhaps, some form of initiation into the following of Melchizedek? Or even an ordination to His priesthood?
It is likely that there were other “priests” among the followers of Melchizedek, even during His time on earth, and almost certainly there would have been priests of some sort among his followers and probably also among those who promoted His teachings long after His passing. Was Jethro, the priest of Midian perhaps a direct lineal descendent of the priesthood of Melchizedek? We know that Salem itself, (Jebus as it was later called) was afterwards ruled by priest-kings. Perhaps they too had some link with the priesthood of Melchizedek!
Whilst we cannot be absolutely certain that Melchizedek founded a “priesthood” as we understand the term, it was not just St Paul who saw Him as “the Great High Priest”. There is no doubt that many early writers viewed Him in such a way. The title is applied to Him both in Early Christian and in Gnostic writings and He is always seen as a mysterious representative of God.
Mormon views on Melchizedek
As recently as the nineteenth century, the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith invoked the authority of Melchizedek and even today Mormons see Him as having been the founder of a priestly hierarchy, just like Christ and His Apostles. They contend that like the Christian priesthood, this priesthood was transmitted from one worthy man to his successor for many years, and that Moses, and a number of other Old Testament Figures received this priesthood in this way. They see this priesthood as being superior to the Priesthood of Aaron that was in effect, hereditary. They do not actually identify Jesus with Melchizedek but claim that He actually received His Priesthood through Moses and Elias at the time of the Transfiguration before passing it on to His own Disciples as the Christian Priesthood.
Mormons also claim that the successors of the Apostles somehow “lost” this priesthood and that the Apostolic Succession so prized by the majority of Christians is no more than an empty shell without any spiritual substance. They claim, however, that their Founder received this Melchizedek Priesthood again through a vision in the early nineteenth century, since when it has been preserved within their Church!
Obviously I do not ask you to accept this apparently preposterous claim, but I do wish to point out one or two valid points within it – specks of gold amidst the dross, as we might say – such as we shall find in most religions.
Firstly, please note that the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, did not claim to have received this “Priesthood of Melchizedek” from any physical man, but only though a vision – what we would describe as a Mystical Experience or at least a spiritually abnormal event. Secondly, by suggesting that Christ Himself only received the priesthood of Melchizedek through Moses and Elias at the Transfiguration, he inferred that this too, was conferred through a mystical experience rather than a physical contact.
Melchizedek’s Priesthood in History – a Mystic Society
Whilst the idea of acquiring a formal position such as the priesthood solely through mystical contact is clearly unacceptable to most people, it does seem that the Priesthood of Melchizedek included some sort of mystical initiation. Certainly from what we have just read in the Sayings of Melchizedek, it is clear that mysticism played a most important part in His Teachings. This is in spite of, or perhaps because of, the fact that there is no evidence of a physical Line of Succession such as exists within the present Christian Priesthood whose origins are based on this tangible physical link with the Apostles. But it too has always acknowledged the importance of mysticism. Bearing all these facts in mind, as well as the claims of the Mormons, let us examine the mystical experiences of some of the key figures in the Old Testament.
Firstly, let us look at Moses. His mystical Initiation was a most remarkable experience – God appeared to Him in the Burning Bush and asked him to return to Egypt. At the time he was already old, eighty according to the Bible, but even if this figure is considered to be an exaggeration he was certainly not young. Nevertheless, from this time onwards, God seems to have been able to speak to him freely, more so, according to the Biblical editor of the fifth century B.C., than to any other. The reverse is true of young Samuel, who was still a child when God spoke to him and still nominally subject to the old High Priest Eli. 1 Samuel 3; 1 begins to describe this incident thus:
And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.
When we read that “the word of the Lord was precious in those days”; we are being told that it was uncommon. That whilst not unknown, there was no regular and well-established spiritual contact (“no open vision”) This of course changed once God spoke to Samuel and he became one of the best-known prophets of the Old Testament. And indeed there are many records in the Old Testament of God speaking to those whom He chose for his work. Is this evidence of a link with the Lost Wisdom of Melchizedek? Was this knowledge deliberately concealed by Moses from the uninitiated, but passed on to those deemed worthy? Or was it more a case that although many were given some sort of basic training in this way, only a few were sufficiently spiritual for God to set them apart to be His Messengers?
A study of the books of Joshua and Judges will reveal that after the death of Moses, it was his successor, Joshua who initially took his place as the leader of the children of Israel. Clearly Joshua had been trained by Moses – he had been his assistant for forty years, but Joshua himself seems to have left no such designated successor. Rather, once they were settled in the land of Canaan, the Israelites appear to have degenerated into a motley collection of tribes and sub-tribes with local leaders and priests of the Aaronic priesthood, but with no permanent mystical leader.
Instead when there was need, God “spoke” to someone “chosen” from among the people with apparent arbitrariness and raised him/her up to act as “Judge” over the people. Leaders such as Gideon were selected in this way, and whilst they lived, God worked through them and the people followed them. After they died the people turned away from God again, (Judges 2; 19) until God “raised up” another Judge.
Comparison with the Priesthood of Aaron
This system of “Judges” was quite different from the Aaronic priesthood which was handed down from father to son and though the sons of priests did not always become priests themselves, they often did and certainly no one else could take on the role. Even the High-Priesthood was largely hereditary, though on one well-known occasion God intervened to change this. Occasionally the priest could hear the voice of God, (Numbers 18; 1) but more usually it was necessary for God to send him a message through another. (See 1 Samuel 2; 27) Usually the bearer of such a message was known as a prophet, or simply a “man of god”, but there is no indication that these were usually priests.
Furthermore, whenever a member of the Aaronic priesthood worked with such a prophet, it was always the prophet who dominated. Aaron obeyed Moses, even calling him “my lord” (Exodus 32; 22) though they were brothers and Aaron was the older of the two; whilst Samuel the last of the “judges” of Israel was clearly preferred over Eli and the other descendants of Aaron at that time. At a later period Elijah, too, was held in the highest respect. He made and unmade kings and interestingly enough anointed his own successor. (1 Kings 19; 16) It was Haggai the prophet who ordered the high priest to begin the rebuilding of the temple. (Haggai 1; 1 – 12) And even in Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament it is the prophet who criticised the priests, (Malachi 2; 1 – 4) not the other way round. (And remember, it was the priestly hierarchy who approved the inclusion of this book in the Bible though it was the last such inclusion.)
Clearly therefore the authority of the prophet was supreme, but is there any indication that this authority derived from Melchizedek? Or was it merely the result of some sort of choice by God? If it was simply Divine Choice, was it mere arbitrariness? Or was there a guiding principle involved? Perhaps the best answer to these questions lies within the Sayings of Melchizedek themselves, so let us read Saying Number 32
God sees the spirit enter the spiritual waters of life, which clean and consecrate it to His service. There, the chosen spirit dwells in purity and ponders the lofty ideals of his Heavenly Father. Through his meditations God elevate him to the heights of the spirit. This is God’s appointed way of uplifting him.
This indicates that the spirit who is to be “uplifted” will first have spent time in the “waters of life” that is to say he will have been serving God and receptive to spiritual influences for a long time, perhaps for several lives. During this time he will also have devoted the power of his own mind to considering and understanding the Will of God, through meditation and contemplation and it is through this that God is able to “elevate him to the heights of the spirit”. Finally we are told that that God has “appointed” this way for the “uplifting” of such a spirit. In other words, it is through meditation that God uplifts us. Sayings Number 75 & 76 also refer to the subject;
In material existence, the spirituality of man develops gradually. His tears of penitence draw forth his spiritual essence and the Lord increases it. He makes contact with God, who judges his increasing worth and progressively develops it.
The Source of Life shall strengthen the one who has made contact with God. As his friendship with God increases he crosses into the spirit realms and there begins to follow the Two Laws of God. At first they are feeble like tender sprouts but gradually develop until through these Twin Laws his mystical need for God is at last satisfied.
In other words, “contact” with God takes place only after much suffering and penitence has brought forth from the earnest seeker, “his spiritual essence” which is further strengthened by God and in time leads to “contact”. But it should be noted that “contact” is not the end in itself. It may at times enable God to use the mystic to help others, but most importantly it is the means by which the mystic can become closer to God. This statement may require a little more explanation. Mystical contact helps us to link up with those in higher states of being, and thus it becomes the means by which we can learn to function on the spirit planes and there learn to understand and work in accordance with the Twin Laws of God. And as we have previously seen it is only through the following of those Twin Laws that any one can achieve perfection.
Thus mystical “contact” with God is seen to be but a step on the Path. It is not a proof of sanctity, as in fact the story of many Old Testament prophets makes clear. Even the great Elijah himself, had to be reproved by God, (1 Kings 19; 9) because, fearing the wrath of Jezebel, he fled “for his life” (1 Kings 19; 3) not waiting for God to instruct him. It should be noted that Elijah had recently performed one of the greatest acts of faith on record, by confronting hundreds of pagan priests before a mighty congregation and demanding a miracle from God in front of them all. When God honoured his faith and thus proved His power over both the pagan priests and their gods, the people slew them all.
It was this that had aroused the wrath of Jezebel, for they had been “her priests” and obviously she blamed Elijah for their deaths. But, one may ask, if Elijah had the faith that had enabled him to trust in God to perform such a miracle, surely he would have had sufficient to trust Him to protect him from Jezebel?
Obviously Elijah did not have sufficient faith at that time. Probably he was exhausted, both physically and spiritually by his actions, and this teaches us a very important lesson. It is just at such a time that the Tempter will test us and often find us wanting. According to the narrative, Elijah soon realised that he had done wrong, for in verse four we read that “he requested for himself that he might die; and said, “it is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers”.
Clearly the Elijah who had fled from the wrath of an angry queen was not the real Elijah, who would normally risk his life cheerfully for God. Realizing how he had failed, he asked God to take away that life – clearly not the action of one who was afraid to die, but rather the action of one who realised that he had failed and was seeking to atone for that failure. And for the benefit of those who have not yet reached that stage on the road, let me make it clear how serious was this failure to one who had travelled so far along the mystic path.
A mystic who hears the voice of God is greatly privileged, for he is thus enabled to make much spiritual progress, as we have just seen. But all privileges bring responsibilities and one who hears the voice of God, must have completely conquered self. This means that he must not only act as God commands, he must also wait for such instructions and not act without them. Elijah could have asked God what to do about Jezebel, but he didn’t. He just fled. Perhaps that is what God would have told him to do, but it seems unlikely. It is much more likely that He had wanted Elijah to confront Jezebel and perhaps had her slain or at least forced to return to her own land – after all she had been the source and supporter of the enemies of YHWH. If so, then surely he could have trusted in God to protect him, or at least had the faith to realize that if God allowed him to be killed whilst engaged in His work, his sacrifice would earn him the right to end his earthly Journey.
In actual fact, the Law of Love tells us that one who thus places himself in jeopardy through his love of God will rarely have to suffer that which he fears. He will only do so if his past karma enjoins such a fate, probably because he has failed at such a test in a past incarnation. This is actually what happened to Elijah, for when he returned to earth as John the Baptist once again he faced the wrath of an irate Queen – Herodias – who eventually tricked a reluctant Herod into having him beheaded. (St Matthew 14; 3 – 10)
John the Baptist was born more than 800 years after the death of Elijah which may seem to be a long time between incarnations for such an evolved spirit and it is! In actual fact he probably had one or two incarnations in between, for as we will later demonstrate, a spirit which reaches great spiritual heights and then falls badly, such as Elijah did in this instance, will usually have to pass one or two lives recovering from the spiritual effects of such a fall, before again being given the opportunity of assaying the spiritual Path. Then, and only then, will that spirit be permitted to face once again the very same test at which he previously failed. This is what happened to Elijah/John the Baptist, but it is also what will happen to all who rise to great heights of spirituality and then fall in like manner.
The Mystical Schools in the Old Testament
As we have seen, those who hear the voice of God are not arbitrarily chosen by Him, but have worked long and hard, often for several lives, to prepare themselves for that privilege. This is why, in most religions such mystics learn from a “teacher” who takes to him/herself disciples, and who in turn are initiated into mysticism through his/her guidance and training. Occasionally, this process is bypassed, for if an individual has already received much of this basic training in past lives, is always possible for God to intervene directly. There are a number of such interventions recorded in the Bible and elsewhere and we have already considered two of them – the mystical initiations of Moses and Samuel. And because “prophets” that are initiated directly by God often play a major role in His Work, many people think that this is all that is needful, but nothing can be further from the truth.
Long years of training are always needed to produce a great mystic, and although occasionally this knowledge may have been acquired in a past life, usually this is not so. In Buddhism and Christianity, such training is usually received in monasteries within a formal framework, and throughout history most Christian and Buddhist Mystics have come from such a background, whilst those of other religions are usually trained in smaller groups. Apart from a few exceptions, such as those we have noted it is reasonable to assume that most of the Old Testament Prophets were the product of some such system, but is there any evidence for this in the Bible?
The Sons of the Prophets
We have noted that before the time of Samuel there was “no frequent vision” in Ancient Israel, and if any system of spiritual training existed before his time it had apparently collapsed long beforehand. Hence it is Samuel who is usually considered to have been the founder of a system of mystical training for potential prophets. Whilst the actual details of this organization are unknown it seems generally to have gone under the name of “The Sons of the Prophets”. Sometimes referred to as a school or college, this title seems to describe the inner circle of those who truly served YHWH. Often they seem to have formed a communal group, such as the later Essenes, or even the Medieval Christian monasteries, but there was no compulsory celibacy in their communities. In fact most of the members seem to have been married. There are many references to such an organisation in the Bible and also in the Antiquities of Josephus.
It was probably founded, or at least, first organised, by Samuel, (I Sam. 10. 5 et seq., See also I Sam. 19. 20 et seq.) probably as a counterbalance to the official priesthood, which under the sons of Eli had fallen into disrepute. Samuel and the prophets were based at Naioth in Ramah, (I Samuel 19. 18 – 24.) but there are later references to foundations in other places. In II Kings chapter 2., we find that there are separate foundations in different towns. Bethel, (verse 3) and Jericho, (verse 5) are specifically mentioned.
After the death of Samuel, the Sons of the Prophets, or more generally their leaders, were often found as advisers to King David and his successors. (See II Sam. 7. 2, et seq., II Sam 24. 11., et seq., and I Kings 1 34 et seq.,) But the “Sons of the Prophets” were not always friends of the king. At times the message they had to give would have made them very unpopular (I Kings 11. 29.) and they were always among the first targets of the civil authority whenever the Kings turned away from YHWH. In I Kings 18. 4., we read that Obadiah had saved 100 of them when the rest were slaughtered by Ahab, and according to Josephus it was his widow who in II Kings 4. 1., et seq., asked Elisha for help in paying creditors, because apparently his debts had been largely incurred through feeding these hidden prophets. There are several other references to the work and lives of “the sons of the prophets” in the Old Testament.
In later times there was often conflict between the prophets and the official temple priesthood, which continued even after the return from Babylon. It seems that there were still quite a considerable number of these “prophets”, even at that time but not all of them were loyal to Jehovah. (See for instance Nehemiah 6; 14).
This period, however, was to mark the end of the “Sons of the Prophets”. One of them, Zechariah, predicted this, and not long afterwards the official Temple authorities put an end to all prophecy. This happened after the death of Ezra when his fellow scribes completed the final editing of the Old Testament about the middle of the fifth century B.C. Many of Ezra’s fellow scribes and their successors (the Hasidim) did not support this ban, and perhaps it was one of them who wrote the last book of the Old Testament, the book of Malachi, which probably dates from this time and is loud in its criticism of the Jewish priesthood. However, the name is not the name of the prophet, for by this time all prophets had been outlawed by the High Priest and his supporters. The name means simply “Messenger” and the book slipped into the Jewish Bible more or less by accident, for the antipathy between priest and prophet is plain and the book includes a curse pronounced on the official priesthood. (Malachi 2; 1, et seq.)
Over the next few centuries the Hasidim became well-known as scholars and were largely responsible for writing commentaries on the scriptures, rather than original prophecies. These included the early stages of such well-known Jewish works as the Talmud and the Mishnah and possibly other writings.
In the second century B.C., the Hasidim split into two groups – the Pharisees who reached an accommodation with the Temple authorities and the Essenes, who did not. Perhaps it was through these latter that at least some of the Ancient Wisdom survived. Perhaps it was merely through oral transmission from teacher to pupil. What is known is that when the Essenes became established at Qumran, near the Dead Sea, in about 140 B.C. they still preserved much of that Spiritual Wisdom.
References to the Ancient Wisdom in the Old Testament
There are a number of references to the Ancient Wisdom in the Bible and one of the most important of them is found in Psalm 110; which is a prophecy about Christ’s Divinity. Verse 4 is later quoted by St Paul in Hebrews;
The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek
Samuel, David and the Ancient Wisdom
In addition to his work in founding the “schools of the prophets” Samuel, was of course the mentor of the young David. And it was David who wrote this psalm. He clearly knew more about Melchizedek than we do and probably a lot more than is actually written about Him in Genesis 14. Did he actually know that the He would Return to Earth as the Messiah as this prophecy suggests? The Essenes seem to have believed this. One of their Dead Sea Scrolls, “The Coming of Melchizedek” makes this plain, but although it includes several quotations from the Old Testament, including other Psalms, it does not refer to this passage.
So how did they derive this belief in the first place? Was it a secret sort of inner teaching that had been passed down through the “Sons of the Prophets” until they were disbanded? Was it then preserved in secret among some of the Hasidim for three hundred years before surfacing once again as part of the way that the Essenes openly defied the Temple authorities? Perhaps the “Sons of the Prophets” maintained a secret underground organization throughout those 300 years? The idea seems plausible, but is there any other evidence to support it? Was there perhaps, some sort of link between David and the Essenes, beyond what he wrote in this Psalm? Strangely, perhaps, there was!
One of the key reasons that the Essenes separated from the Pharisees concerns David’s close friend and supporter, Zadok the priest (1 Kings 1; 32-39) who anointed David’s son Solomon and then became High Priest. (2 Kings 2; 35) Zadok’s descendants retained the High Priesthood until the second century B.C. at which time Judaea was part of the Syrian (Seleuccid) Empire.
At this period their Syrian overlords deposed the then High Priest (Onias) and appointed one of their own supporters to the position and at the same period they sought to suppress the Jewish religion. The Jews rebelled under Judas Macchabaeus, but when the Syrians were finally forced to acknowledge Jewish independence, the Macchabees refused to restore the Zadokite priesthood.
Instead at a great meeting of the Jewish Sanhedrin in 140 B.C. their leader Simon Hasmonaeus, was chosen to assume the role of both high-priest and king. Some of the Hasidim supported this decision and thereafter became known as Pharisees – the others rejected it and with the remnant of the Zadokite priesthood withdrew into the deserts where together they became known as the Essenes.
The Wisdom of Solomon
David’s son, Solomon, is usually acknowledged as the author of a number of parts of the Old Testament. These include several of the Psalms, most of the book of Proverbs, as well as Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs. There are a number of passages in these works, which reflect various aspects of the Ancient Wisdom.
In Proverbs, he refers on several occasions to the Female Aspect of the Godhead a subject we will consider elsewhere.. He also speaks of life after death but perhaps the most important reference in his writings and one which refers to many things also discussed in the Sayings of Melchizedek, is to be found in Ecclesiastes 12; 5 – 7;
Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
In this passage the Preacher (probably Solomon) refers to physical death, and that which comes after it. He describes the death of the Physical Body as a pitcher broken at the Fountain (of Life) – in other words, no longer able to contain the Divine life-force. He also refers to the “loosing” of the Astral cord, which triggers the separation of the soul from the physical body, the breaking of the wheel of rebirth which refers to the ending of one’s earthly journeys, and finally to the ultimate return of the human spirit to God.
However all of these concepts form part of the Ancient Wisdom and most are expounded in the Sayings, as we have already seen. It hardly seems credible that the author of these books, whether or not it was Solomon, should have been unaware of the Lost Wisdom of Melchizedek.
The Wisdom of Elijah
We have already seen that Elijah was one of the most remarkable of God’s chosen messengers and there is no doubt that he was in possession of as much of the Ancient Wisdom as anyone else, and there are a number of indications of this to be found in the story of his life. One interesting passage concerns his prayer when he raised the widow’s son from the dead. This is reported in 1 Kings 17; 21& 22, where we read that he
” . . . . .cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this child’s soul come into him again. And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.
The wording of the request he made demonstrates that he understood the nature of death. That at death the soul leaves the body, just as a letter is taken out of its envelope. Normally, of course, once we take a letter out of an envelope it does not go back into it again, and certainly when once the soul leaves the body at death it does not usually re-enter it. But this time Elijah was praying for a miracle and his phraseology makes it quite clear that he knew exactly what to pray for.
Wisdom among Later Prophets
We have already referred to the prophecy of Micah, (Chapter 5, verse 2), which prophesies the birth of the Salvator as Jesus of Nazareth and also refers to His many previous “goings forth”. But there are also references to the Ancient Wisdom among the later prophets. One of these is to be found in the book of Jeremiah, a prophet who lived at the time of the Jewish Captivity. In chapter 1; verses 4 & 5, we read:
Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
This indicates that the spirit of Jeremiah existed even before he was conceived and as such was well known to God. It can be compared with the words of the Angel Gabriel about John the Baptist, before he was conceived, (St Luke 1; 13 – 17) as well as St Paul’s words about Jacob and Esau in Romans 9, 10 – 13.
Mysticism among the Essenes
We have also seen that in still later times, after the Return of the Jews from Captivity, the Hasidim tried to continue to promote the words of Jehovah, through the Mishnah and the Talmud, even though officially the Scriptures had been closed. We have also seen that the most sincere of these Hasidim supported the original “Zadokite” priesthood and with them they later withdrew from civilisation that they might serve God in the deserts, where they became known as the Essenes.
The primary purpose of the Essenes was to prepare the Way for the coming of the Messiah, and many of them seem to have promoted mysticism as a means of establishing contact with God. Some of their surviving works (in the Dead Sea Scrolls) are in the nature of predictions and discussions about His Coming. And certainly at least a few of them seem to have been considered to be Divinely inspired. According to Josephus, (Antiquities; Book 15; 10; 5 & Book 17 13; 3) the Essenes were widely respected by their fellow Jews, for their mystical abilities, especially their capacity to prophesy and to interpret dreams.
The gospel narrative also makes it quite plain that John the Baptist spent most of his early life in the wilderness, which means that even if he spent much of the time alone he would have had links with the Essenes who also dwelt there. The relevant reference is found in St Luke 1; 80, which reads thus
And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.
Certainly St John the Baptist was a prophet in the old-fashioned sense of the word, as we can see by comparing references about Old Testament prophets (Such as 1 Chronicles 17; 3, Jeremiah 1; 2, or Malachi 1; 1) with what St Luke says in his gospel, (chapter 3; 2 – 3);
. . . . . .the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;
From this we may adduce that at least until the time of John the Baptist, and probably even afterwards, the Essenes utilized a proper system for the training of mystics – a system apparently derived from the Ancient Wisdom of Melchizedek. Whatever may have happened afterwards, the above passage proves that John the Baptist, at least, trod the Mystic Path in his Service to God. Eventually he died in that Service, thus paying the karma of his previous failure as Elijah and ending his earthly journey, which after all is the key purpose of that Path.
Preparation for Melchizedek’s Return
We have already seen that although all Jews looked for the coming of the Messiah, some of them and especially the Essenes saw that Coming as the Return of Melchizedek and we have also referred to one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, entitled “The Coming of Melchizedek” which discusses this subject.
In this context it is important to understand that after the Destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem and the roughly simultaneous destruction of their great centre at Qumran most of the surviving Essenes seem to have become a part of Judaeo-Christianity. Like many other Jews at that time they came to see the Destruction of the Temple as a proof that the claims of Christians were valid – that the Messiah had already come and been rejected by the Temple authorities. They would also have seen the destruction of Qumran as a proof that their Work of Preparation for the Coming of the Messiah was likewise at an end and they never returned.
Many of the Judaeo-Christian Pseudo-graphical works, such as the “Revelation of Moses”, the “Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs”, and the “Word and Revelation of Esdras” seem to have been written by these prolific authors. In the Canonical Epistle of Jude, he quotes from at least one of these Essenic Books, the Book of Enoch (although the exact quotation is not found in existing copies).
Like their earlier fellows there is good reason to believe that these Christianized Essenes continued to believe in Melchizedek. And if this is so, then when St Paul spent most of the Epistle to the Hebrews linking Christ with Melchizedek, it is likely that he was seeking to provide them with additional proof that Jesus of Nazareth had indeed been the promised return of Melchizedek.
A Summing up of the Teachings of Melchizedek
Although undoubtedly the Teachings of Melchizedek covered the full range of the Ancient Wisdom, not all of them have survived and the main thrust of those Sayings that we have been able translate is clearly linked with the journey of the human spirit. It describes the various stages in its spiritual development as it passes from life to life and eventually having learned the lessons of the physical world and paid all its earthly debts reaches the stage when it does not have to return to earth life again. It also provides much good advice to help the seeker on that journey – the things that it should avoid, and those virtues it should try to practice. These teachings were not exactly the same as the later teachings of Jesus Christ, nor are they exactly the same as those promoted by Buddhist, Hindu, Theosophist, Spiritualist or other teachers, but they follow the same basic principles. So far as we know, there never was a formal Creed of Melchizedek, but in an endeavour to provide a summary of His key teachings, we have tried to define them in a form that most Christians and many seekers from other faiths, will readily understand. The most important beliefs of the true follower of Melchizedek concerning the Journey of the human spirit can be summarised as follows;
The Creed of Melchizedek
Through the Divine Life Force the world was created over a number of ages, with the more advanced life-forms developing after the more primitive, with man evolving last of all, created in the Image of God, Who is thus shown to be both Male and Female. The primitive human being first comes into existence on the Spirit Plane, from whence, through the soul, the spirit is led to enter physical life. As a physical being it becomes subject to death, passing from one earthly incarnation to another and gradually learning the lessons of the physical state.
In between such lives it returns to the spirit realms, where it learns further lessons, the exact nature of which is influenced by its activities on earth, and the lessons it has learned or failed to learn in each earthly incarnation.
In its early incarnations, the primitive human spirit is mainly interested in physical things, which obviously makes it hard for it to function in the spirit realms after death. This in turn often causes it to have to spend long periods there, in between earthly incarnations, which periods tend to grow less as it becomes more spiritual.
Primitive human spirits have little interest in spiritual things, so that in the spirit planes their spiritual sight is weak, and they seem to dwell in darkness. They only respond to the grossest and harshest stimuli, so that their actions often cause them suffering both on earth and in the spirit realms. This cause and effect is automatic and absolute and is one of the Twin Laws of God, the only one to which the primitive human spirit usually responds.
At some stage in its spiritual development, often after much suffering, the Divine Spark which lies within even the most primitive human spirit leads it to begin to take an interest in higher spiritual things, and this interest tends to war against its lower nature. Thus there develops a Higher and a Lower Self within each individual Spirit.
The more primitive spirits, though often ignorant, sinful and worldly, are rarely guilty of real evil, but once its Higher Self begins to seek for Higher things the Lower Self starts to suffer real temptation to do evil. Thus the conflict between the Higher and Lower Selves becomes more acute.
If the Lower Self is constantly victorious the Spirit surrounds itself with Evil as with a garment and after death will fall into Hell, where gradually the evil is stripped away by suffering. When the Higher Self becomes triumphant, the Spirit starts to dedicate itself to the Service of God and thus begins to respond to the Second great Law of God – the Law of Love. This in turn, enables it to pay its past debts more speedily and journey ever more swiftly towards its goal. It may yet fall, and sometimes fall badly, but once its feet are started on the Path it begins to see its goal before it, at first dimly, but ever more clearly as it continues to journey through life after life. Furthermore, as it now has a spiritual purpose even in mortal life, the time spent between incarnations gradually lessens as its opportunities for progress increase.
As a result of its efforts, it is given further help from God, who pours His Divine Life Force upon it, and it is eventually sent into incarnation in a situation where it is trained to seek God and develops a Mystical contact with Him. The Mystical contact enables it to make still more rapid progress, but it may also bring further temptations, which can cause a serious spiritual Fall. If it does not suffer such a serious fall, or if it does, when it has recovered from it, it will be given the opportunity of ending its earthly journey, usually by spending its life in working for God on earth.
If it takes this opportunity the spirit receives a mighty downpouring of the Divine Life Force, and if it proves faithful to its calling it is this that finally enables it to achieve its goal. When its last earthly incarnation is completed it does not return to earth again, but continues to serve God in the Spirit Realms.
After many further ages it returns to God Himself, from whence as a Divine Spark it descended so many ages before.
Obviously there are many other aspects of the Ancient Wisdom to which the Bible makes reference, but this seems to summarise the Sayings of Melchizedek as we have recovered them. A number of points are worthy of note;
Firstly although as given above these beliefs follow the progress of a spirit through its earthly incarnations, it will be noted that the various Sayings do not do so in exactly the order given here. This is probably because, as given they are provided in the order in which each “lesson” was to be taught to the one who sought such knowledge.
For instance, in Genesis, the knowledge about “primitive” spirits is given relatively late. This is because the knowledge is not given to such spirits, or for their benefit, because they would not be ready for it. Rather it is given to older spirits, who have already made significant progress, in order to “round out” their understanding of the subject, perhaps even to assist them in the guiding of others.
Another point that may be noted is the difference between this account and the views expressed by later Christian writers. Quite clearly the Coming of Jesus Christ brought further knowledge to the world, but it is also worth noting that His Incarnation and especially His Sacrifice on the Cross introduced new karmic elements which made the Path of Perfection a little easier for His Followers.
This is a very important point and one that, whilst over emphasized by many Christians is often ignored by Theosophists and others. It is a point that clearly we must address in some detail, but it is a point that we must consider at another time, for this article is now at an end.