When and where
“Augustus Caesar reigned and Herod Antipas was ruler of Jerusalem. Three provinces comprised the land of Palestine: Judea, Samaria and Galilee” (Aquarian Gospel 1:1, 2).
This is important for us to know, for Israel was sharply, even acrimoniously divided.
Judea. In Judea lived the more sophisticated Hebrews, descendants of Abraham and Sarah, who had contact with other nations. Because of this, all Hebrews were called “Judeans” (“Jews”), just as the world often calls Americans “Yankees” even though that is really only an appellation for New Englanders. As humans are wont to do, the Judeans considered themselves the only “real” or worthy children of Abraham, and looked down upon the people of other sections. The despised, in return, despised their despisers.
But it was the Hebrews in diaspora, scattered throughout the Mediterranean world and eastward into Asia, who really detested, even hated the Judeans. First, in common with those in Israel whom the Judeans despised, they considered the Judeans betrayers of Israel and its people into the hands of the Roman Empire. Not only was Israel oppressed by the Romans through military occupation and unjust taxation, it was really ruled by a Procurator appointed by the Roman authority. And to the disgust and outrage of all but the Judeans, this Procurator appointed the High Priest of the Jerusalem Temple–always a Judean who had bribed him to to so. For example, at the time of Jesus’ ministry Annas and his son-in-law Caiphas were alternately appointed High Priest by Pontius Pilate, each producing the required bribe when the other’s term expired. Even more abhorrent, the Judeans involved in religion were recognized by Rome and its Procurator as the only legal religious authorities.
Worse, they had obtained from Rome the permission to coin the money used in the Temple. They told the rest of Israel that they did this because the regular coins had the images of Caesar on them and were therefore inappropriate for use in sacred purposes. The way it really worked was this. Those wishing to make offerings in the Temple had to purchase those offerings in the Temple, the excuse being that only those so certified were sure to be worthy for offering. But it did not stop there. Only Temple money could be used for buying the offerings, so everyone had to change their money into Temple money at a cut-throat rate. Rich Hebrews of the diaspora often came to Jerusalem with a small fortune to be spent in the Temple only to find that the rate of exchange was so low that they could obtain only a fraction of what they intended to offer. Then, if any Temple money was left over and they had to change it for secular money, the rate of exchange was outrageously small. Some people left Israel virtually impoverished, their lifetime savings depleted.
All this is background for the understanding of references to “the Jews” in the Gospels and early Christian liturgical ceremonies of Holy Week. “Jews” does not mean every descendant of Abraham, but only the Judeans of that time. When the Gospel of John tells us that Joseph of Arimathaea was a secret disciple and the eleven remaining disciples of Jesus were in hiding in Jerusalem “for fear of the Jews,” the Greek text is dia ton fobon ton Ioudaion, “for fear of the Judeans.” Jesus was murdered by the machinations of the corrupt Judeans in authority. That is a fact. The rest of Israel, and nearly all of Judea, had nothing to do with it and were not in any way implicated. So it is moronic to say that the Hebrews killed Jesus. But those Judeans involved in the plot certainly did, using the arm of the Roman authority because they were not permitted to execute–only the Romans could do that. Furthermore, Jesus was betrayed by Judas, whose name sounded enough like Judean to make him a symbol of Judea. So Jesus was considered a symbol of the Hebrew people in general and Judas was Judea who betrayed them into the enslavement of Rome. A Saint Thomas Christian priest once explained to me that the Aramaic texts of Holy Week that virtually curse the Judeans were written by early Hebrew Christians who thus vented their loathing in such expressions as “O, you cursed Judeans!” This explains the expression perfidis Judaeis and Judaicam perfidiam–“perfidious Judeans” in the ancient Latin prayers of Good Friday. “Perfidious” is defined as: “deceitful, untrustworthy, treacherous, and traitorous.” Which is just what most Hebrews thought of the Judeans. Enough about them.
Samaria. We are used to identifying Samaria only with the religious group called “Samaritans,” which was detested by all “regular” Hebrews, but actually it is was a district of Israel mostly populated by ordinary citizens.
Galilee. Every country has its equivalent of hillbillies about whom jokes and sneering remarks are common coin. I grew up hearing the terms “green” and “ignorant” in relation to the hill people of Kentucky–and this from other Kentuckians who considered themselves sophisticated and superior, at least relatively speaking. Our local hicks were not disliked or rebuffed because they were “a source of innocent merriment” to the rest of us. But things were different in Israel, where there was very real contempt and social prejudice. Much of this was directed toward the Essenes, who were numerous there and who maintained their own tabernacle in the Mosaic style on Mount Carmel (which was in Galilee) and which they considered the true center of worship, rejecting utterly the Jerusalem temple which was build in Gentile style by Herod who was the puppet of Rome and himself thoroughly pagan in thought and deed.
So alienated was Galilee from the rest of the land that the Galileans even celebrated Passover on a day different from everyone else. In the Gospels we see that Jesus celebrated Passover on Thursday evening, when the rest of Israel observed it on Saturday. That is why Saint John says: “the Judeans’ Passover was at hand” (John 2:13; 11:55). Much of the prejudice against Jesus on the part of the Judeans was simply the fact that he was a Galilean. Apparently one of the charges against Jesus was his celebration of Passover in Jerusalem on the “wrong” day. The Galileans even had their own ghetto in Jerusalem called “Galilee.” Saint Matthew uses the term “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Matthew 4:15). It is said that many of the Galileans were Gentile converts to Judaism, so the others considered them as of “impure blood.” All in all, it was no advantage to be a Galilean unless you were an Essene, as was Jesus’ family. (For more about Jesus and the Essenes, see The Christ of India.)
“Joachim was a master of the Jewish law, a man of wealth; he lived in Nazareth of Galilee; and Anna, of the tribe of Judah, was his wife” (Aquarian Gospel 1:3).
Various books tell us about the parents of the Virgin Mary (see The Unknown Lives of Jesus and Mary). They were Essenes, and Saint Anna was a prophetess among them. Saint Joachim was the wealthiest person in Israel. His financial policy was most interesting. Each year he gave one-third of his possessions to the Essenes’ tabernacle on Mount Carmel, one-third to the poor, and kept only a third for himself. Yet, from the blessing gained from annually giving away two thirds of his wealth, Saint Joachim was still the richest man in Israel. Both were examples of spiritual living, whose holiness was renowned.
“To them was born a child, a goodly female child, and they were glad; and Mary was the name they gave the child” (Aquarian Gospel 1:4).
On December 8 the Christian Church for many centuries celebrated the Conception of Mary because it was a supernatural event. Here is the account from Robe of Light.
“Joachim and Anna had grown old without having children. Yet, when he was serving in Jerusalem as high priest, Saint Joachim was told by an angel that he would indeed have a child. Further, the angel told him to go to a particular gate of Jerusalem, and there he would meet Saint Anna, who had also received the same revelation and instruction. And it was so–the two met right at the gate.
“The priests of the temple knew of the angelic prophecy and arranged for its fulfillment. Taking Saints Joachim and Anna, they separated them and led them to different parts of the temple. Though few knew it, there was a passage under the temple which ran directly beneath the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. The Ark was the one object on earth where God’s presence dwelt in its fullness, and in the Ark was the golden jar of manna. The Ark and the golden jar were prophetic symbols of the Virgin Mary, for in Her God was to dwell in His fullness as Jesus, her Son, Who was to be the new manna, the ‘bread from heaven.’
“At the divinely ordained hour, Saints Joachim and Anna were taken to opposite ends of the passage, unknown to each other. The priests simply instructed them to start walking forward into the passage, and then departed. The holy ones did as they were told.
“Meeting directly beneath the Most Holy Place, in a state of divine exaltation, the two saints embraced in greeting. Brilliant light descended from the Ark above and enveloped them both, and in that moment Anna conceived the glorious Virgin, not through the earthly animal mode of sexual intercourse, but in the way Adam and Eve would have channeled the upward-moving spirits into Paradise had they not fallen. Thus the Virgin was conceived in the truly human manner.”
“Joachim made a feast in honor of the child; but he invited not the rich, the honored and the great; he called the poor, the halt, the lame, the blind, and to each one he gave a gift of raiment, food or other needful thing. He said, The Lord has given me this wealth; I am his steward by his grace, and if I give not to his children when in need, then he will make this wealth a curse” (Aquarian Gospel 1:5, 6).
A worthy descendant of Saint Joachim, Jesus told some rich Pharisees who had invited him to a banquet: “When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee” (Luke 14:12-14).
Three principles are taught in these words from the Aquarian Gospel and the Gospel of Saint Luke:
- All things belong to God, and even though they may have come to us through the agency of our karma, still they belong to Him alone and never are “ours.”
- We are obligated to help those in need from our material resources, for they belong to God, Whose children they are. To not do so is to render our possessions a curse of selfishness. Conversely, to do so is to make them a blessing of noble character.
- If human beings cannot reward us for what we do for them, then God will reward us of His great abundance, and our blessing will be spiritual as well as material.
“Now, when the child was three years old her parents took her to Jerusalem, and in the temple she received the blessings of the priests. The high priest was a prophet and a seer, and when he saw the child he said, Behold, this child will be the mother of an honored prophet and a master of the law; she shall abide within this holy temple of the Lord” (Aquarian Gospel 1:7-9). From Robe of Light:
“At the end of the third year, Saints Joachim and Anna took their divine child to Jerusalem to offer Her unto the Lord’s service to be one of the consecrated virgins who dwelt in the Temple and made the priestly vestments and the great veil which hung before the Holy of Holies. To demonstrate to the priests that, though so young, the Virgin yet came of her own will and understanding, her parents decided to place her at the foot of the flights of steps which ascended to the Temple, and to have her walk up them unassisted. However, when they placed her at the foot of the steps, she was instantly transported to the top of the steps!
“In that exact moment, by prophetic inspiration, Saint Zachariah, the future father of Saint John the Baptist, who was high priest at that time, came forth with all the Temple virgins, who were dressed in festal garb and holding lighted lamps as for a wedding. They surrounded the Virgin, who then began to dance in their midst. Moving slowly while she continued to dance, they led her into the Temple. Not once did she glance back to Saints Joachim and Anna, but kept her gaze intently toward the Holy Place where none but the priests were allowed to go, and which no woman had even seen, much less entered.
“To the astonishment of all, Saint Zachariah led the Virgin into the Holy Place. With furious indignation, the priests pursued them to expel Her from that sacred place of sacrifice. But upon entering, they saw to their compounding chagrin that Saint Zachariah was leading her into the Holy of Holies, where they themselves could not go, only the High Priest being allowed to enter–and that only once in each year.
“In this manner the New Ark of the New Covenant was witnessed to by the holy Zachariah. (He was later killed by the soldiers of Herod at the instigation of some of the priests, who felt that he had defiled the Temple by these actions.) There is speculation that upon the entrance of the New Ark into the Most Holy Place, the Old Ark was taken away by the angels to an unknown place.”
In the Temple
“And Mary did abide within the temple of the Lord; and Hillel, chief of the Sanhedrin, taught her all the precepts of the Jews, and she delighted in the law of God” (Aquarian Gospel 1:10). From Robe of Light:
“Thenceforth the Virgin lived in the Temple, working in silence and prayer. Until the day of her entry, she had eaten no food but the milk of Saint Anna. Here she was fed exclusively on the food of Paradise which was brought to her by angels. This was to ensure that her body would be capable of enduring the mighty power that would descend at the incarnation of Christ in her womb. An ‘earthy’ body would have been destroyed, just as was Uzzah’s when he simply touched the Ark whereon the Presence rested which was to dwell within her for nine months. Moreover, her body had to be of the type from which Adam-Christ could draw a suitable physical vehicle for his redemptive work.
“The weaving of the veil for the Most Holy Place was a great honor, bestowed on the virgins by the drawing of lots. The most honored part of this task was the weaving of the purple–the color symbolizing the Divine Presence–into the veil. While she lived in the Temple, the lots always assigned to Mary the task of weaving the purple into the veil. This was indicative of the fact that she was going to provide the Messiah with the veil of flesh by which he would enshroud his incarnate glory, revealing it only to Peter, James, and John at his transfiguration.”
It is remarkable that Hillel, perhaps the most famous rabbi in the history of Judaism, was the Virgin’s personal teacher of religion.
“When Mary reached the age of womanhood she was betrothed to Joseph, son of Jacob, and a carpenter of Nazareth. And Joseph was an upright man, and a devoted Essene” (Aquarian Gospel 1:11, 12). From Robe of Light:
“It was the custom that, upon reaching a suitable age, the Temple virgins should become espoused, and later married. To marry a Temple virgin was considered one of the highest honors in Israel. Ordinarily, the families of the virgins made the arrangements, but in the case of the wondrous Virgin, the priests decided that they would themselves determine which man should marry her, for they knew she was unique.
“The prophets among them were given the revelation that all the eligible men of Israel who were descended from David should come to Jerusalem, bringing their staffs; and the one whose staff was seen to bear flowers would be the one to whom the Virgin should be betrothed.
“This was announced, and the men assembled in the Temple. After prayers were offered, it was seen that no staff had flowered! The priests were confused at this, but when it was reported to them that one man had not brought his staff, the priests demanded that he be brought to them. There came before them a venerable, elderly man with shining white hair: Joseph, a carpenter from Nazareth. He explained that in his haste to reach the Temple that morning he had left his staff behind and, feeling assured that he could never be chosen for such an honor (also, having secretly made a vow of virginity in his youth), he had not felt the need to return and fetch it.
“The priests commanded him to bring his staff without delay. He did so, and in the presence of all, during the prayers of the priests, his staff blossomed with lilies–symbols of virginity. In this way, the priests knew that he was to be espoused to the Virgin, and made all arrangements.
“After the espousals (Saint Joseph was never married to the Virgin), the Virgin went with Saint Joseph to Nazareth. There the Saint had already divided his house into two completely separate dwellings–one for the Virgin and the other for himself. For by the budding of the lilies, he knew that God still honored his vow of virginity, and that the Virgin should dwell with no mortal man, however holy he might be.”
Read the next section in the Aquarian Gospel for Yogis: Prophecies of the Births of Saint John the Baptist and Jesus