In fact, much of what passes as Christianity has nothing to do with the original teachings of its founder. The Grail discussed therein was not an actual chalice but a symbol of the indwelling of the divine. Immanence, in the true sense intended by Jesus, thus allows for spiritual attainment in this life by ordinary individuals without the intermediary of Church or priest. This was the real meaning of the Last Supper and why the Naassenes believed that Jesus was the fulfillment of all the Mystery traditions. The New Testament knows nothing of the Stoic conception of providence.
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In fact, much of what passes as Christianity has nothing to do with the original teachings of its founder. The Grail discussed therein was not an actual chalice but a symbol of the indwelling of the divine. Immanence, in the true sense intended by Jesus, thus allows for spiritual attainment in this life by ordinary individuals without the intermediary of Church or priest.
This was the real meaning of the Last Supper and why the Naassenes believed that Jesus was the fulfillment of all the Mystery traditions. The New Testament knows nothing of the Stoic conception of providence. There is a great gulf between God and the world. I will never forget my puzzlement and my dismay as the nuns explained in all seriousness that Christ had transformed ordinary bread and wine into his own body and blood. What was this strange mystery known as the transubstantiation about?
Why did Jesus do it? Was it real? What was the point? I remember my childish doubts. And I recall too the unsettling moment in catechism when another student--he was bolder than I--dared to express his feelings. But the nun quickly put an end to our incipient discussion.
It was not the place for small boys to question a hallowed teaching of the Church, a teaching that had been the heart of the Mass for 1, years. It was something that had to be taken on faith--simple as that.
Because religion dooms itself to stagnation when it fails to explore the deepest issues. Put differently, religious doctrine replaces truth seeking at the risk of irrelevance. Each succeeding generation has both the responsibility and the privilege to rediscover anew the truths of religion. Had institutional Christianity taken a different road, had the Church actively encouraged Christians to pursue the deepest spiritual questions, perhaps a larger segment of the Christian world today would appreciate the deeper mystery of the Last Supper: the teaching that never took root in the West.
Alas, I have never met a priest yet, not even one, or a nun, nor have I encountered even one scholar who suspects that a deeper lesson had been conveyed on that final evening. For most of my life I was no different. It was only after I began to study the Naassene Sermon that I began to suspect that orthodox Christianity had suppressed one of the most important teachings of Jesus.
Slowly it dawned on me that the main purpose of that ancient document was to announce a great mystery. But it also hints at something more. No, he was making a much more profound statement.
He was acknowledging a deep spiritual truth. The God who dwells within me is also present in this bread, yes, in very vibrating atom! This bread is imbued with the divine. And why? Because matter and spirit are co-extensive.
The deity of the Old Testament was exclusive in his transcendence. Yahweh reigned in Heaven. True, he occasionally intervened in human affairs. For the most part, however, Yahweh remained aloof.
Of course, the Hebrews of the southern kingdom Judea believed that Yahweh was also present in a special way within the inner sanctum of the famous temple of Jerusalem.
And, no doubt, the Hebrews of the northern kingdom Israel held similar beliefs about their own temples and high places where they also made burnt offerings and blood sacrifices. It is a curiosity of history that during the long transitional period when the great prophets of North and South were guiding Judaism over the threshold to monotheism a coincidental convergence of priestly and secular interests was also underway.
To appreciate this, one must read between the lines of Scripture, with a little help from archaeology. The same southern scribes who wrote or compiled most of the Old Testament roundly condemned the northern Hebrews as corrupt and idolatrous, as, no doubt, some of them were. But their judgment seems too harsh, because idolatry and corruption were no less rampant in the South. Moreover, there was nothing about monotheism that required a centralized place of worship and a centralized priesthood.
Yet, the marriage of priestly and political interests in the southern kingdom demanded a showplace for the national God. And for this reason, during the reign of Josiah, the northern temples were razed, the high places were desecrated, and the great stones pulled down.
But the destruction of shrines and holy sites was no solution, and only foreshadowed a greater cycle of destruction at the hands of the Babylonians.
According to Hippolytus, the Naassenes were the first Christians to be called Gnostics. The Naassenes were concerned with the first man Adamas and had a system consistent with other Gnostic sects, which included a material paradigm which had 3 classes of men: material, psychic, and spiritual. This trinitarian view of man is consistent with the Valentinians. Another stunning consideration is that Naassene is a corruption of the term Nasaraene , that Jewish group I speculate were immediate predecessors of the earliest Christians. There is dissonance here, in terms of their awareness of Paul.
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Of course, the official representatives of the various orthodox churches would probably dispute this in the strongest terms. They generally hold that the New Testament is a completed work of revelation, a done deal. Today, however, increasing numbers of Christians are disenchanted with the standard salvation formula. They find the liturgy tiresome and the rituals and sacraments empty exercises.
Gnostic Secrets of the Naassenes: The Initiatory Teachings of the Last Supper