In 1908 a book appeared on the shelves of American bookstores that was destined to garner interest throughout the world, so much so that today it has gone through more than seventy editions in America alone. This book was The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ by Levi H. Dowling. Destined to be continually derided by those who “give liking unto nothing, but what is framed by themselves, and hammered on their anvil”1–in other words the Bible-believing of varying stripes–it yet evoked a response in those who intuited and sought for a deeper meaning of the person and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Many at that time, as well as today, could not honestly accept the limited interpretation of Jesus and His words that was offered by “Churchianity”–an acceptance that would have obligated them to reject Him as but one of many misperceiving religionists of the past. For them the Aquarian Gospel was truly Light in Darkness, a fount of life-giving knowledge.
What were (and are) the advantages of the Aquarian Gospel for seekers of deeper truth?
Firstly, it made no claim to be “the word of God” or even perfect–much less infallible–in its expression. Nor was it some kind of “new revelation for a new age.” It was a transcription of the psychic investigations made by Dowling into what is popularly known as “the akashic records.” It was entirely subjective and made no demands to be accepted in whole or even in part. Dowling saw and spoke; the rest was up to the reader. No promised blessings or curses were set forth to those who accepted or rejected it. That was left up to the “true believers” of the “mainstream churches.”
Secondly, it was not a translation of Jesus’ original Aramaic speech, but Dowling’s relaying of the concepts that underlay the outer words of Jesus, for that was what was conveyed in his investigations. For this reason we find anachronistic words like “harpsichord” and “photograph” used in the text to convey the idea, but not the literal wording. Whether he caught the inner meanings correctly was a matter for the reader to decide. Nor could it be used as an authoritarian club to beat unbelievers or doubters into submission, or a razor to dissect Jesus’ words into hair-splitting dogmatics. Although its being put down in English was advantageous to those who knew that language, recourse to dictionaries could not be a basis for proving “the truth” about any passage.
Thirdly, the message conveyed in its pages was not the inbred deformity of “orthodox” Christianity, but the universal message found at the heart of all valid religions–religions whose study was recommended to better understand the person and teachings of Jesus. (Some years back a priest of the Saint Thomas Christian [Malankara Orthodox] Church of India said to me: “You cannot understand the teachings of Jesus if you do not know the scriptures of Hindu religion.”2) Thus students of the Aquarian Gospel are urged to study Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and Judaism on an equal footing. How greatly–and blessedly–this contrasts with the bitter and hostile exclusivity of “orthodox” Christianity which cannot survive outside the confines of pious arrogance, narrowness, and ignorance.
Who was Levi H. Dowling? Not a great deal is known, because he did not want to be heralded as a messenger from God or a prophet of a new age with the accompanying personality cult that inevitably arises. Like Saint John the Baptist, his motto was: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”3 But we do know the following from the printings of the Gospel.
Levi H. Dowling was born on May 18, 1844, at Belleville, Ohio. His father was a Disciples of Christ (Christian Church) minister. Levi was always a student of the deeper things of life, and a devoted student of the religions of the world from childhood. At the age of thirteen, in his first public debate, he took the negative side against a Presbyterian Elder on “The Everlasting Punishment of the Wicked.” He began preaching at the age of sixteen; and at the age of eighteen was pastor of a small church. He entered the United States Army at the age of twenty as Chaplain, and served in this capacity to the end of the Civil War. Afterwards he became a publisher of Sunday School Literature, issuing Sunday School Lesson Papers, Song Books, and a Children’s Sunday School Paper. Much of his time was devoted to the cause of Prohibition. He was a graduate of two medical colleges and practised medicine for a number of years. He finally retired from the medical profession in the early 1900’s to resume his literary work–particularly the Aquarian Gospel.
When but a boy he was impressed with the sensitiveness of the finer ethers and believed that in some manner they were sensitized plates on which sounds, even thoughts, were recorded. With avidity he entered into the deeper studies of etheric vibration, determined to solve the great mysteries of the heavens for himself. Forty years he spent in study and silent meditation, and then he found himself in that stage of spiritual consciousness that permitted him to enter the domain of these superfine ethers and become familiar with their mysteries. He then learned that the imaginings of his boyhood days were founded upon veritable facts, and that every thought of every living thing is there recorded.
Early in life, when but a mere lad, he had a vision in which he was told that he was to “build a white city.” This vision was repeated three times with years intervening. The building of the “white city” was The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, which was transcribed between the early morning hours of two and six–the absolutely “quiet hours.”
Levi passed from earth-life on August 13, 1911.
Jesus foretold Dowling’s work, saying: “This age will comprehend but little of the works of Purity and Love; but not a word is lost, for in the Book of God’s Remembrance a registry is made of every thought and word and deed; And when the world is ready to receive, lo, God will send a messenger to open up the book and copy from its sacred pages all the messages of Purity and Love. Then every man of earth will read the words of life in the language of his native land, and men will see the light. And man again will be at one with God.”4
The idea of psychically-received knowledge of the lives and teachings of the Masters of Wisdom was not new when Levi did his work.5 Both Hindu and Buddhist scriptures have been relayed in the same manner as Dowling revealed the Aquarian Gospel. It is rarely mentioned, but the Bhagavad Gita is exactly such a book, and says so at the end (18:74,75). The Mahabharata, the Ramayana (both Valmiki and Tulsidas versions), and the Puranas were also transcribed in the same way, as were a great number of the Mahayana Buddhist Sutras.
Throughout the centuries various Christian saints and visionaries such as Saint Bridget of Sweden, Mary of Agreda, Catherine Emmerich, and Teresa Neuman have psychically perceived events from the life of Jesus and conveyed their impressions to others. The perceptions of Mary of Agreda and Catherine Emmerich fill several volumes each. None of these were considered “holy scripture,” but neither does the Aquarian Gospel make such a claim. We can say with Eva Dowling:
“Further references to the personality of Levi are, seemingly, unnecessary. It matters but little who he is; his work in the transcription of the Aquarian Gospel of Jesus, the Christ, stands unimpeachable. The lessons of this book all bear the stamp of the Nazarene, for no man except the world’s greatest master could have touched the high chords of divine Love and Wisdom which characterise the pages of this marvellous book.”
As the angel said to Saint Augustine: “Take and read.”
1) From the Epistle Dedicatory to the first edition of the King James Version of the Bible. [Go back]
2) Regarding this, Father Jacob Kurian, teacher of theology at the Malankara Orthodox seminary in Kottayam, Kerala, had this to say to Christine Chaillot, the author of The Malankara Orthodox Church: “We cherish so much the [fact] that we could build our Christian tradition on the foundations of the Sanatana Dharma [Hinduism]. Of course, there is the foundation laid by Christ and the Apostles and the long spiritual tradition of Christianity. But the theological tradition of the Indian Church has to be in line with the Indian philosophical tradition, which is not necessarily only the Hindu one, but also that of the Buddhists, the Jains and other non-Christian traditions which also contribute to the Indian philosophical tradition.…We want to present to the world a model of Christianity that has lived for the last twenty centuries in a tradition of pluralism, but at the same time we want to keep the central elements of Orthodox Christian spirituality and doctrinal integrity.…When Christians adopt this attitude of Sanatana Dharma which incorporates all truth, they will be able to overcome all anxiety regarding ‘syncretism.’” [Go back]
3) John 3:30. “It was his great desire that each one should have the message regardless of the messenger,” wrote Eva S. Dowling in later editions of the Aquarian Gospel. [Go back]
4) Aquarian Gospel 7: 25-28 [Go back]
5) G.R.S. Mead’s The Gospels and the Gospel discusses the possibility that a psychically relayed Gospel may be more accurate than a “historical” one. [Go back]