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Thread: 'heterodox' Essenes/Nazareanes

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    'heterodox' Essenes/Nazareanes

    Quote Originally Posted by sanjaya View Post
    Well the Pharisees promulgated the hell doctrine, which is probably why it appears in the New Testament. They also were expecting a messiah who would destroy all of the pagan Romas. But they weren't mystics by most standards. The Saducees did not believe in any sort of afterlife and largely were in league with the Romans (that's how they got control of their temple). I don't know too much about the Nazareans or anything at all about the Therapeutae, but I do know that the Essenes had expectations of a messiah who would rid the world of other religions and establish Jewish monotheism as the one true faith. So I don't know how their beliefs could be reconciled with Hinduism. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts, though.
    I think you are right, though sometimes now the term 'Essene' is used to refer to the Nazareans, Therapeutae, and Ossaeans, the latter of which is probably just another translation. So you are right if Essenes means 'Ossaeans' but not other 'Essenes.' The Ossaeans were pescatarian, wanted the Jerusalem temple for animal sacrifice, and thought they were 'sons of light' against 'sons of darkness.' The Nazareans were completely vegetarian/vegan and long-haired and there is no evidence they believed what the Ossaeans believed. So I think their beliefs can easily be reconciled with Sanatana Dharma. They are the sect that for various reasons some people consider to have produced Almah Mary & Joseph, John the Baptist (though he was closer to the Ossaeans location,) Yeshua (Jesus,) and several Apostles. The Nazareans survive today in Iraq--called the Nasurai. However their beliefs have changed--now some of them eat meat. The ancestors of those specific ones also did not accept Yeshua as the Messiah.

    The Nazarean book Codex Nazaraeus (only in the original language and translated to Latin and French) is said to be mystical and related to esoteric Eastern Philosophy. One (the book?) has the name 'Fetahil' and the other (a pre-Buddhist name meaning 'Buddha' or 'Pranava?') has the name 'Fo.' The 1800s Theosophy founder stated that the Western name ('Fetahil?') was directly derived from the Eastern. I have never come across these but this is a very interesting idea that not only is Judeo-Christian tradition with ethics and long hair sort of like Yoga/Shaivism in those and Kabbalistic ways, but it may be a reoccurence of the Eternal Philosophy if India is the first literate civilization that influenced the rest of Eurasia.

    If Fo is not real at least Mazdayasna's Ahura Mazda and the devas is similar, though this is said to have influenced the Pharisees (Parsis?) Monotheism has problems, but who knows if original Mazdayasna was like that, which I guess the Nazareans would have been aware of.

    Surely if the Silk Road led to the oldest literary/philosophical country then people elsewhere would not have just used it for trade if they were wise... and if Sanatana Dharma is reasonable it would have been continually spreading among wise people of nearby countries.

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    Re: 'heterodox' Essenes/Nazareanes

    Hi David, I'm sorry I didn't get back to you earlier. I've been travelling for work recently (that, and an astronomer's schedule usually has ill effects on one's sleep schedule).

    You seem to be suggesting that middle easterners might have travelled east to India and there been influenced by Hindus. I fully agree that this is probable. Indeed, the Indian language of Sanskrit is at the root of most Western languages, and in this sense India has had a tremendous literary influence on the rest of the world. However, Hinduism certainly wasn't the only influence on these Jewish mystics, nor was it even the primary one. In a way this reminds me of the Western "New Age" movement. It's undeniable that there's a certain Hindu influence on this brand of spirituality (despite the "new" adjective being applied to it). However, New Age spirituality strips away the Hindu teachings of surrender to God, reliance on him, spiritual practices, and austerity. What one is left with is an empty spirituality that consists of burning incense and reciting a few platitudes. It's possible that the same thing might be true here. Perhaps Jewish mystics were influenced by Indians. But the influence of Judaism was obviously a lot stronger. Ultimately there are a few Biblical principles that simply don't agree with Hinduism. It would be difficult to get rid of these principles without throwing away the Bible as well. For example, Hindu monotheism doesn't make sense in a Jewish context. They would see our devas and murthis, and incorrectly assume that we are polytheists and idolaters. It's difficult to read the Bible in a way that allows for worship of the devas as different manifestations of God.

    But I must confess that this is all speculation on my part, as I have not read the Codex Nazaraeus. Are there any specific teachings in this book which you think make the Nazarene sect compatible with Hinduism?

    On a sidenote, I should add that while I don't see Judaism and Hinduism as sharing too many theological principles, they do share the very important ethic of tolerance for dissenters. Maybe that's why Jews and Hindus have historically had such a good relationship, and why India can boast that it is the only country in the world that never persecuted Jews. I would never see myself worshiping in a synagogue or gaining any particularly useful spiritual experience from Judaism, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't continue relating to them as we always have.

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    Re: 'heterodox' Essenes/Nazareanes

    Quote Originally Posted by sanjaya View Post
    [...]Perhaps Jewish mystics were influenced by Indians. But the influence of Judaism was obviously a lot stronger. Ultimately there are a few Biblical principles that simply don't agree with Hinduism. It would be difficult to get rid of these principles without throwing away the Bible as well. For example, Hindu monotheism doesn't make sense in a Jewish context. They would see our devas and murthis, and incorrectly assume that we are polytheists and idolaters. It's difficult to read the Bible in a way that allows for worship of the devas as different manifestations of God.
    Whether Judaism was influenced by Sanatana Dharma, to the rest I say 'not necessarily.' Just as there are many sects of Dharma, there have been quite a few sects of Judaism, which disagree. Even the major sects disagree, and there was at least one semi-major and three minor, which had a considerable amount of members in a fairly good-sized area. The minor sects threw out parts of the 'Bible' that the major all interpeted differently, and the minor sects had some of their own separate 'Biblical' texts, as I mentioned. In very ancient sects (mixed with other Semitic ideas) and (discussed below) Essene-derived ones there were even more similarities to Dharma.

    Even in the major sects of Judaism, there was a history of polytheism: Genesis has statements that can be read 'in the beginning, gods created,' and 'let us create man in our image,' the latter of which is still the translation. There are also many names for Divinity in the Jewish tradition, including ones as different as Shakti & Shiva and Lakshmi & Vishnu (and very pairs,) and Hebrews sometimes also worshipped other gods such as the Queen Ashtoreth (similar to Lakshmi) of Heaven, and Mot. As for deva worship, if that was not enough, there is also angel magic in which angels are prayed to; gods were Elohim and 'angels' were their children--Bnai-Elohim, and these two original types preceded all later 'angel' types, which also mostly have divine names and a few are/were esoterically considered on the level of gods.

    But I must confess that this is all speculation on my part, as I have not read the Codex Nazaraeus. Are there any specific teachings in this book which you think make the Nazarene sect compatible with Hinduism?
    I might be able to read the French version but have not got a copy yet. Essene history and other texts shows how they are compatible. They were pescatarian-vegetarian or vegetarian/vegan (depending which sect,) Pythagoras studied with them, and they kept copies of some of Plato's texts. Pythagoras & Plato's ideas are similar to Dharma in the ideas of Chaos (Parabrahm and pan(en)theism,) the Greek gods (polytheism/(kat)henotheism) and the development, reincarnation, liberation of the soul (autotheism, karma, ahimsa, etc..) Actually all of those ideas (except maybe ahimsa) are in the Jewish Kabbalah, which has the idea of the Absolute, (im)personal Goddess & God (Elohim,) and personal spirits born from them (Bnai-Elohim, etc.,) which is still accepted, and the latter is really a pantheon. The Essenes were probably the best at Kabbalah and certainly had its ideas such as Divine feminine because they were the only sects that allowed holy women. Many Gnostics, after Christ and all influenced by or a continuation of the Essenes, were very polytheist/henotheist, and Gnostics practicing ahmisa and such theology were around through Mediaeval times, such as the Cathars, and thentheir ideas went into the Western mystic/esoteric tradition with various groups to the present day (Rosicrucians in Mediaeval times, which continued in Renaissance mysticism and until today, and Theosophy, the latter two of which connect Essenes with Dharma.)
    Last edited by DavidC; 16 November 2009 at 11:15 AM. Reason: formatting

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    Re: 'heterodox' Essenes/Nazareanes

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidC View Post
    Even in the major sects of Judaism, there was a history of polytheism: Genesis has statements that can be read 'in the beginning, gods created,' and 'let us create man in our image,' the latter of which is still the translation. There are also many names for Divinity in the Jewish tradition, including ones as different as Shakti & Shiva and Lakshmi & Vishnu (and very pairs,) and Hebrews sometimes also worshipped other gods such as the Queen Ashtoreth (similar to Lakshmi) of Heaven, and Mot. As for deva worship, if that was not enough, there is also angel magic in which angels are prayed to; gods were Elohim and 'angels' were their children--Bnai-Elohim, and these two original types preceded all later 'angel' types, which also mostly have divine names and a few are/were esoterically considered on the level of gods.
    Thank you for all of this information David. One question: do we have any extrabiblical information about these near eastern gods referenced in the Bible? The Bible's description of these gods connects them with such practices as human sacrifice. Ashtoreth, for example, is referred to as "the abomination of the Sidonians" (2 Kings 23:13). If we were to take the Bible's description as accurate, then it would seem that none of these gods have the required benevolence to be similar to our Hindu gods. The Ashtoreth of the Bible bears no similarity at all to our Lakshmi. That said, it's certainly possible that the Bible vilifies the gods of Israel's enemies as a political statement. This is why I'm wondering about extrabiblical descriptions of these gods.

    As I said I'm not terribly knowledgable here, but I have read the Epic of Gilgamesh, which references a goddess Ishtar, who is sometimes connected with Ashtoreth. Unfortunately the Ishtar of Gilgamesh isn't much better than the way the Bible describes Ashtoreth. Really, this lies at the source of my difficulty seeing similarities between Hinduism and near eastern religions. The gods of the near east all seem capricious and hostile towards humans. Furthermore these religions are purely polytheistic, and lack the monotheistic element of Hinduism. One strenght of Hinduism is that our God is both transcendent and immanent, and he is benevolent. You don't see Hindu devas randomly deciding to flood the earth (a common near eastern theme) or toy with humans. Hinduism teaches that all humans have an element of divinity, and in some small sense we are equals with God. So when we surrender to God, it isn't a slavish subservience, but a respectful and voluntary submission. Near eastern gods, on the other hand, are powers to be feared and avoided. If the Jewish sects you've described worshiped these gods, it seems that they may have simply taken Hindu gods and slapped near eastern names on them.

    Of course, maybe I'm missing something here. You seem to be more knowledgable on all of this than I, so please feel free to correct any misunderstandings on my part.

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    Re: 'heterodox' Essenes/Nazareanes

    This is in reply to Sanjaya's questions about Semitic divinities.

    I do not know if the Essenes worshipped Ashtoreth, and I am not sure if any sect formally did, but a fair amount of ancient Israelites did. Actually Judaism has an impersonal (kat)henotheism--a pan(en)theism, i.e. an immanent- transcendent reality--in the Kabbalah. I did not think there was anything wrong with polytheism in Dharma, but polytheism is not the only viewpoint in ancient Semitic religions including Judaism or what preceded it.

    In Judaism's written tradition there are several names of Divinity that seem to have to mean different beings, and in the oral tradition that was written later this is also so and it has an idea like Parabrahm. These are what are in the Bible and Kabbalah combined.
    • Ain - Ain-soph - Ain-soph-aur (Parabrahm and maybe other things)
    • Amen/Tikkun (Om/Pranava)
    • Shemhamphorae (divine name of 72 divine names and also in a lost version with over 300 or even a book)
    • Elohim & Bnai-elohim (first & other devas, including at least one not mentioned here but considered a god)
    • (El(o)(a)h) Shekhinah & El Shaddai ('god almighty') (Devi Shakti & Mahadeva Shiva)
    • Matronit/Ashtoreth (the latter is a love goddess) & YHVH ('the eternal one') (Lakshmi & Vishnu)
    • Borem ('creator') but also
    • Sarah & Abra(ha)m (Sarasvati & Brahma)
    (note the two above and that in Dharma there is both Brahman and Brahma--and Rama)

    I do not know what gods all the Essenes/Gnostics worshipped, but there is strong evidence in the New Testament that the Nazareans (Jesus' sect) worshipped Amen rather than YHVH. There seems to be disagreement among Jews even today whether El Shaddai or YHVH is god (Elohim and YHVH each had a creation myth in Genesis.) One of the most learned Rabbis I have read from says most realize Elohim is god but YHVH is symbolic. I think El Shaddai is also higher in Kabbalah.

    There are many similar names/versions of Semitic (not just Jewish) and Sumerian divinities, so one may not be able to get a clear picture of what they all were like. YHVH was just about as bad as Ishtar/Astarte/Ashtoreth/Asherah and was a version of the Semitic deity usually known as Baal, which does not mean the devil, though some people (Ophite Gnostics and maybe some Kabbalists) think they are the same but 'Lord' and is actually that title in Hebrew.

    It seems divinities are often ascribed personalities sort of like their worshippers. I think this is just as true in Dharma as anything. I think the gods also have their own personalities--the ones that are not impersonal. Maybe the Essenes saw the Jewish divinities differently than the majority did.

    Some of the Gnostics described over 200 or 300 divine beings, though not all were good. Some in Egypt and Greece may have worshipped the gods of those countries.

    It is written that the Codex Nazaraeus uses the divine name 'Fetahil,' based on an Eastern name 'Fo,' a pre-Buddhist term for 'buddha,'
    but I have not read the book yet.

    The Kabbalah describes the universe caused by Ain-soph and either Shekhinah or Elohim--I forgot which. Ain-soph may be a somewhat feminine term, because 'Sophia' is related to it, so Ain-soph may be sort of like 'Parashakti.' Because of this and what I read about Elohim or Shekhinah I think Kabbalah is similar to Tantric Philosophy. Of course it has other ideas and is probably just as similar to ones in Yoga, Vedanta, and Samkhya--depending on which Kabbalist's certain ideas are.

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    Re: 'heterodox' Essenes/Nazareanes

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidC View Post
    This is in reply to Sanjaya's questions about Semitic divinities.

    I do not know if the Essenes worshipped Ashtoreth, and I am not sure if any sect formally did, but a fair amount of ancient Israelites did. Actually Judaism has an impersonal (kat)henotheism--a pan(en)theism, i.e. an immanent- transcendent reality--in the Kabbalah. I did not think there was anything wrong with polytheism in Dharma, but polytheism is not the only viewpoint in ancient Semitic religions including Judaism or what preceded it.
    I would hope that we do not compare Dharma with Western pantheism. As atheist Richard Dawkins has said, "pantheism is sexed up atheism." While it's true that we Hindus consider God to be in everything, Western pantheists tend to take this several steps further and devalue God. Admittedly, I don't know to what extent Jewish pantheists were like modern Western pantheists. All I'm saying is that I would hesitate to compare Hinduism to pantheism or other silly forms of Western paganism.

    As far as polytheism in Dharma goes. The way it's been explained to me (and from what I've read of our Scriptures), polytheism is regarded as a very immature way of understanding God. Thankfully we do not have a god who sends people to hell for theological misunderstandings, or anything like that. But Hindu Scriptures say in many places that the devas are manifestations of God. And unlike Western polytheism, our devas don't engage in quarrels with each other. This is why I made my comments about polytheism.

    I still feel like I'm misunderstanding some of your points. Could you clarify what you believe is the influence of Hinduism on Judaism. I tried looking up the Codex Nazaraeus, but I couldn't find anything online.

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    Re: 'heterodox' Essenes/Nazareanes

    Quote Originally Posted by sanjaya View Post
    I would hope that we do not compare Dharma with Western pantheism. As atheist Richard Dawkins has said, "pantheism is sexed up atheism." While it's true that we Hindus consider God to be in everything, Western pantheists tend to take this several steps further and devalue God. Admittedly, I don't know to what extent Jewish pantheists were like modern Western pantheists.[...]
    I wrote 'pan(en)theism;' I thought Dharma is panentheist, which is a bit better than plain pantheism. If you do not know what pan(en)theism is in Judaism, but Dharma has it, why assume the 'Western' (West Asian) kind has other than the minimum viewpoint of it? Judaism is not modern science or even post-Christian philosophy (though some oral tradition was written down then.)

    [...]And unlike Western polytheism, our devas don't engage in quarrels with each other.[...]
    then what about asuras?

    I still feel like I'm misunderstanding some of your points. Could you clarify what you believe is the influence of Hinduism on Judaism. I tried looking up the Codex Nazaraeus, but I couldn't find anything online.
    You may have to spell it differently: Nazaraeus, Nazareus, Nasaraeus, Nasareus, but as I said, history (such as from Josephus and Philo) and other texts up until the Gnostics are more important. I think it was clear that the idea of impersonal Parabrahm and personal gods, and the words Om and the Trimurti and Tridevi influenced the West: take a closer look at the list, which I even highlighted and is too similar to be a coincidence. Actually not all sects may have considered Amen the Tikkun (Logos): that may be a minority idea, nevertheless Paramhansa Yogananda considered Amen to be from Om.

    As I said, the Essenes were the only sect to allow holy women and to practice ahimsa (depending on the sect) to a partial or full extent. Other sects persecuted and punished holy women and called them prostitutes. Other sects killed and ate and sacrificed animals. At least in Dharma there is some equality of the sexes, though I am not sure it is so for all sects. I suppose Dharma is also somewhat patriarchal, meat-eating & sacrificial, though it depends on the sect. I thought the kinder sects had a clear similarity to the Essenes.

    Kabbalah and Sufism are also similar to esoteric Dharma. Kabbalah has seven levels representing levels in the body, levels of consciousness, and levels of worlds, i.e. the seven chakras, seven bodies, seven lokas. Sufism is basically a copy of Kabbalah but is expressed differently, and it seems Kabbalah is basically a copy of Yoga and Tantra, etc..

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