In teaching, Jesus had two methods: one, exoteric, simple, for the world; the other, esoteric, mystic, for the initiate
|November 24, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus||
In order to produce any effect they were obliged to practise accommodation to the superstitions of the people, and introduce their wisdom to them under the garb of folly, in the hope that, beguiled by its attractive exterior, the people would admit into their minds the revelation of rational truth, and after a time be able to emancipate themselves from superstition. Jesus, therefore, sees Himself obliged to appear in the role of the Messiah of popular expectation, and to make up His mind to work by means of miracles and illusions. About this He felt the gravest scruples. He was obliged, however, to obey the Order; and His scruples were quieted by the reminder of the lofty end which was to be reached by these means. At last, when it is pointed out to Him that even Moses had followed the same plan. He submits to the necessity. The influential Order undertakes the duty of stage-managing the miracles, and that of maintaining His father. On the reception of Jesus into the number of the Brethren of the First Degree of the Order it is made known to Him that these Brethren are bound to face death in the cause of the Order; but that the Order, on its part, undertakes so to use the machinery and influence at its disposal that the last extremity shall always be avoided and the Brother mysteriously preserved from death.
Then begins the cleverly staged drama by means of which the people are to be converted to rational religion. The members of the Order are divided into three classes: The Baptized, The Disciples, The Chosen Ones. The Baptized receive only the usual popular teaching; the Disciples are admitted to further knowledge, but are not entrusted with the highest mysteries; the Chosen Ones, who in the Gospels are also spoken of as “Angels,” are admitted into all wisdom. As the Apostles were only members of the Second Degree, they had not the smallest suspicion of the secret machinery which was at work. Their part in the drama of the life of Jesus was that of zealous “supers.” The Gospels which they composed therefore report, in perfect good faith, miracles which were really clever illusions produced by the Essenes, and they depict the life of Jesus only as seen by the populace from the outside.
It is therefore not always possible for us to discover how the events which they record as miracles actually came about. But whether they took place in one way or another—and as to this we can sometimes get a clue from a hint in the text—it is certain that in all cases the process was natural. With reference to the feeding of the five thousand, Bahrdt remarks: “It is more reasonable here to think of a thousand ways by which Jesus might have had sufficient supplies of bread at hand, and by the distribution of it have shamed the disciples’ lack of courage, than to believe in a miracle.” The explanation which he himself prefers is that the Order had collected a great quantity of bread in a cave and this was gradually handed out to Jesus, who stood at the concealed entrance and took some every time the apostles were occupied in distributing the lormer supply to the multitude. The walking on the sea is to be explained by supposing that Jesus walked towards the disciples over the surface of a great floating raft; while they, not being able to see the raft, must needs suppose a miracle. When Peter tried to walk on the water he failed miserably. The miracles of healing are to be attributed to the art of Luke. He also called the attention of Jesus to remarkable cases of apparent death, which He then took in hand, and restored the apparently dead to their sorrowing friends. In such cases, however, the Lord never failed expressly to inform the disciples that the persons were not really dead. They, however, did not permit this assurance to deprive them of their faith in the miracle which thev felt they had themselves witnessed.
In teaching, Jesus had two methods: one, exoteric, simple, for the world; the other, esoteric, mystic, for the initiate. “No attentive reader of the Bible,” says Bahrdt, “can fail to notice that Jesus made use of two different styles of speech. Sometimes He spoke so plainly and in such universally intelligible language, and declared truths so simply and so well adapted to the general comprehension of mankind that even the simplest could follow Him. At other times he spoke so mystically, so obscurely, and in so veiled a fashion that words and thoughts alike baffled the understandings of ordinary people, and even by more practised minds were not to be grasped without close reflection, so that we are told in John vi. 60 that ‘many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?’ And Jesus Himself did not deny it, but only told them that the reason of their not understanding His sayings lay in their prejudices, which made them interpret everything literally and materially, and overlook the ethical meaning which •underlay His figurative language.” Most of these mystical discourses are to be found in John, who seems to have preserved for us the greater part of the secret teaching imparted to the initiate. The key to the understanding of this esoteric teaching is to be found, therefore, in the prologue to John’s Gospel, and in the sayings about the new birth. “To be born again” is identical with the degree of perfection which was attained in the highest class of the Brotherhood.
The members of the Order met on appointed days in caves among the hills. When we are told in the Gospels that Jesus went alone into a mountain to pray, this means that He repaired to one of these secret gatherings, but the disciples, of course, knew nothing about that. The Order had its hidden caves everywhere; in Galilee as well as in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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