The Essenes And Their Teaching
Thou hast made known unto me Thy deep, mysterious things. All things exist by Thee and there is none beside Thee. By Thy Law Thou hast directed my heart that I set my steps straight forward upon right paths and walk where Thy presence is.
From the remote ages of antiquity a remarkable teaching has existed which is universal in its application and ageless in its wisdom. Fragments of it are found in Sumerian hieroglyphs and on tiles and stones dating back some eight or ten thousand years. Some of the symbols, such as for the sun, moon, air, water and other natural forces, are from an even earlier age preceding the cataclysm that ended the Pleistocene period. How many thousands of years previous to that the teaching existed is unknown.
To study and practice this teaching is to reawaken within the heart of every man an intuitive knowledge that can solve his individual problems and the problems of the world.
Traces of the teaching have appeared in almost every country and religion. Its fundamental principles were taught in ancient Persia, Egypt, India, Tibet, China, Palestine, Greece and many other countries. But it has been transmitted in its most pure form by the Essenes, that mysterious brotherhood which lived during the last two or three centuries B. C. and the first century of the Christian era at the Dead Sea in Palestine and at Lake Mareotis in Egypt. In Palestine and Syria the members of the brotherhood were known as Essenes and in Egypt as Therapeutae, or healers.
The esoteric part of their teaching is given in The Tree of Life, The Communions, and the Sevenfold Peace. The exoteric or outer teaching appears in "The Essene Gospel of Peace,' "Genesis, An Essene Interpretation," "Moses, the Prophet of the Law," and "The Sermon on the Mount."
The origin of the brotherhood is said to be unknown, and the derivation of the name is uncertain. Some believe it comes from Esnoch, or Enoch, and claim him to be their founder, their Communion with the angelic world having first been given to him.
Others consider the name comes from Esrael, the elects of the people to whom Moses brought forth the Communions at Mount Sinai where they were revealed to him by the angelic world.
But whatever their origin, it is certain the Essenes existed for a very long time as a brotherhood, perhaps under other names in other lands.
The teaching appears in the Zend Avesta of Zoroaster, who translated it into a way of life that was followed for thousands of years. It contains the fundamental concepts of Brahmanism, the Vedas and the Upanishads; and the Yoga systems of India sprang from the same source. Buddha later gave forth essentially the same basic ideas and his sacred Bodhi tree is correlated with the Essene Tree of Life. In Tibet the teaching once more found expression in the Tibetan Wheel of Life.
The Pythagoreans and Stoics in ancient Greece also followed the Essene principles and much of their way of life. The same teaching was an element of the Adonic culture of the Phoenicians, of the Alexandrian School of Philosophy in Egypt, and contributed greatly to many branches of Western culture, Freemasonry, Gnosticism, the Kabala and Christianity. Jesus interpreted it in its most sublime and beautiful form in the seven Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount.
The Essenes lived on the shores of lakes and rivers, away from cities and towns, and practiced a communal way of life, sharing equally in everything. They were mainly agriculturists and arboriculturists, having a vast knowledge of crops, soil and climatic conditions which enabled them to grow a great variety of fruits and vegetables in comparatively desert areas and with a minimum of labor.
They had no servants or slaves and were said to have been the first people to condemn slavery both in theory and practice. There were no rich and no poor amongst them, both conditions being considered by them as deviations from the Law. They established their own economic system, based wholly on the Law, and showed that all man's food and material needs can be attained without struggle, through knowledge of the Law.
They spent much time in study both of ancient writings and special branches of learning, such as education, healing and astronomy. They were said to be the heirs of Chaldean and Persian astronomy and Egyptian arts of healing. They were adept in prophecy for which they prepared by prolonged fasting. In the use of plants and herbs for healing man and beast they were likewise proficient.
They lived a simple regular life, rising each day before sunrise to study and commune with the forces of nature, bathing in cold water as a ritual and donning white garments. After their daily labor in the fields and vineyards they partook of their meals in silence, preceding and ending it with prayer. They were entirely vegetarian in their eating and never touched flesh foods nor fermented liquids. Their evenings were devoted to study and communion with the heavenly forces.
Evening was the beginning of their day and their Sabbath or holy day began on Friday evening, the first day of their week. This day was given to study, discussion, the entertaining of visitors and playing certain musical instruments, replicas of which have been found.
Their way of life enabled them to live to advanced ages of 120 years or more and they were said to have marvelous strength and endurance. In all their activities they expressed creative love.
They sent out healers and teachers from the brotherhoods, amongst whom were Elijah, John the Baptist, John the Beloved and the great Essene Master, Jesus.
Membership in the brotherhood was attainable only after a probationary period of a year and three years of initiatory work, followed by seven more years before being given the full inner teaching.
Records of the Essene way of life have come down to us from writings of their contemporaries. Pliny, the Roman naturalist, Philo the Alexandrian philosopher, Josephus the Jewish historian and soldier, Solanius and others spoke of them variously as "a race by themselves, more remarkable than any other in the world," "the oldest of the initiates, receiving their teaching from Central Asia," "teaching perpetuated through an immense space of ages," "constant and unalterable holiness."
Some of the outer teaching is preserved in Aramaic text in the Vatican in Rome. Some in Slavic text was found in the possession of the Habsburgs in Austria and said to have been brought out of Asia in the thirteenth century by Nestorian priests fleeing the hordes of Genghis Khan.
Echoes of the teaching exist today in many forms, in rituals of the Masons, in the seven-branched candlestick, in the greeting "Peace be with you," used from the time of Moses.
From its antiquity, its persistence through the ages, it is evident the teaching could not have been the concept of any individual or any people, but is the interpretation, by a succession of great Teachers, of the Law of the universe, the basic Law, eternal and unchanging as the stars in their courses, the same now as two or ten thousand years ago, and as applicable today as then.
The teaching explains the Law, shows how man's deviations from it are the cause of all his troubles, and gives the method by which he can find his way out of his dilemma.
The Teachings of the Essenes
From Enoch to the Dead Sea Scrolls
The Law was planted to reward the children of Light with healing and abundant peace, with long life, with fruitful seed of everlasting blessings, with eternal joy in immortality of eternal Light.
"The Manual Of Discipline"
of the Dead Sea Scrolls