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The Value of Ritual

Hoffman's portrait of ChristPart 19 of the Aquarian Gospel for Awakening

The prime thing in spiritual life is a living example. But there are other helps, and Matheno now explains them to John.

“Men comprehend the inner life by what they see and do. They come to God through ceremonies and forms. And so when you would make men know that sins are washed away by purity in life, a rite symbolic may be introduced. In water wash the bodies of the people who would turn away from sin and strive for purity in life. This rite of cleansing is a preparation rite and they who thus are cleansed comprise the Church of Purity.

“And you shall say, You men of Israel, hear; Reform and wash; become the sons of purity, and you shall be forgiven. This rite of cleansing and this church are but symbolic of the cleansing of the soul by purity in life, and of the kingdom of the soul, which does not come from outward show, but is the church within.

“Now, you may never point the way and tell the multitudes to do what you have never done; but you must go before and show the way. You are to teach that men must wash; so you must lead the way, your body must be washed, symbolic of the cleansing of the soul. John said, Why need I wait? May I not go at once and wash? Matheno said, ’Tis well, and then they went down to the Jordan ford, and east of Jericho, just where the hosts of Israel crossed when first they entered Canaan, they tarried for a time.

“Matheno taught the harbinger, and he explained to him the inner meaning of the cleansing rite and how to wash himself and how to wash the multitude. And in the river Jordan John was washed; then they returned unto the wilderness.” (Aquarian Gospel 15:17-28).

Teaching through ritual

Men comprehend the inner life by what they see and do. Humans learn by example better than by any other way. Even a printed book is a compilation of symbols. Language itself is symbol. Therefore to decry symbolic ritual is to ignore human nature. It the duty of those performing the rituals to explain their meaning, for in many instances ritual is performed like a magical superstition without perceivable meaning. But once a rite is explained people can learn much from it, just as we have to learn a word before we can meaningfully use it.

They come to God through ceremonies and forms. But ritual is also reality. That is, ritual can have a definite spiritual and even material effect on the participants, sometimes visible and sometime invisible. As Matheno says, ceremonies and forms can be pathways and bridges to very real God-contact. All conscious people engage in ritual, even if it is only brushing their teeth, taking a bath, dressing or cooking. And spiritually conscious people are very aware of the value–and even the necessity–of ritual. For a religion to “work” it must have ritual of some kind. It cannot be denied that excessive elaboration of ritual can distract seekers and turn into nothing but holy show; but that is no argument against ritual any more than misuse of a tool could be turned to its condemnation. Rather than engage in elaboration of this subject, I recommend that you read The Yoga of the Sacraments, The Science of the Sacraments, and Liturgy and Personality.

And so when you would make men know that sins are washed away by purity in life, a rite symbolic may be introduced. In water wash the bodies of the people who would turn away from sin and strive for purity in life. This rite of cleansing is a preparation rite and they who thus are cleansed comprise the Church of Purity.

Baptism was originally done by total immersion in water like a bath, so its symbolism was obvious. However, it has an inner dimension far beyond mere appearance, for it is a vehicle for cleansing and empowerment of a person’s total being. Nevertheless, it is only a beginning, an initiation and preparation for much more to follow. The Yoga of the Sacraments and The Science of the Sacraments explain the total meaning and effect of the ritual.

And you shall say, You men of Israel, hear; Reform and wash; become the sons of purity, and you shall be forgiven. This rite of cleansing and this church are but symbolic of the cleansing of the soul by purity in life, and of the kingdom of the soul, which does not come from outward show, but is the church within. The first step is reformation and the continued purpose of reformation. “Reform” comes before “wash.” The next great principle is: “Become the sons of purity and you will be forgiven,” because only through purifying ourselves can we be in such a condition that our negative karmas and samskaras can be expunged. (Karmas are our past actions, and samskaras are the mental impressions and behavior patterns produced by those actions.) Finally Matheno makes it clear that no rite is of value if there is no corresponding inner change for the better.

Be an example

Now, you may never point the way and tell the multitudes to do what you have never done; but you must go before and show the way. If only all leaders in all segments of society would know and follow this principle, things would be ideal. When Saint John was told this he instantly asked: “Why need I wait? May I not go at once and wash?” This and this alone is the attitude of one who is going to succeed in spiritual life. No delay; immediate compliance with the divine precepts. Those who grudgingly drag their feet and do the least they can should not even be bothering, for they will never attain any good whatever. Nor should spiritual teachers waste their time with them. As the saying rightly goes: “Never try to teach a pig to sing; it only annoys the pig and wastes your time.” Humanity is much more than walking upright and having a flexible thumb.

Further instruction

“Now in Engedi’s hills Matheno’s work was done and he and John went down to Egypt. They rested not until they reached the temple of Sakara in the valley of the Nile. For many years Matheno was a master in this temple of the Brotherhood, and when he told about the life of John and of his mission to the sons of men, the hierophant with joy received the harbinger and he was called the Brother Nazarite. For eighteen years John lived and wrought within these temple gates; and here he conquered self, became a master mind and learned the duties of the harbinger” (Aquarian Gospel 15:29-31).

So while Jesus was spending his formative years in India, Saint John was in Egypt with the sages there.

Read the next section in the Aquarian Gospel for Yogis: The Law Behind All Laws

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The Aquarian Gospel—Commentary and Text

The Aquarian Gospel for Awakening—A Commentary on the Aquarian Gospel
by Abbot George Burke (Swami Nirmalananda Giri)

  1. The Mother of Jesus
  2. Prophecies of the Births of Saint John the Baptist and Jesus
  3. The Birth of Jesus
  4. Revelations in the Temple
  5. Coming of the Wise Men
  6. Herod’s Reaction
  7. Revelations in Egypt
  8. The Two Selfs
  9. Deliverance From Gods and Demons
  10. About God the Tao
  11. From India to Chaldea
  12. The Wisdom of Buddha
  13. God and Prayer
  14. The Mission of Jesus and John the Baptist
  15. Sin and the Forgiveness of Sin
  16. The Universal Law of Man’s Free Will and the Divine Will For Man
  17. Understanding Death
  18. The True Teacher
  19. The Value of Ritual
  20. The Law Behind All Laws
  21. Opening To The Truth
  22. In the Temple at the Age of Ten
  23. Revelation to the Teachers and People in the Temple
  24. Jerusalem to Nazareth
  25. Nazareth to India
  26. What is Truth?
  27. What Is Man?
  28. What is Power?
  29. Understanding
  30. Wisdom
  31. Faith
  32. Healing and Healers
  33. Conflict Over Caste
  34. The Destiny of All Men
  35. God and Man
  36. The Voice in the Heart
  37. Seeing the Unseeable
  38. To God Through Man
  39. Who Is Jesus?
  40. The Real Versus The Apparent
  41. The Brotherhood of Life
  42. God…and Man
  43. Relating To God
  44. The Worthy Host
  45. Come to the Light
  46. The Kingdom Revealed
  47. The King Revealed
  48. Perspective On Death
  49. Fire and Sword
  50. Evolution: The Path of Glory
  51. The Real Heaven
  52. Getting to the Essence
  53. New Perspective on Religion
  54. In Tibet and Ladakh
  55. Words to the Worthy
  56. The Thirty-Eighth Chapter
  57. The Origin of Evil
  58. The Silence
  59. The Source of Healing
  60. The Fivefold Gospel
  61. Homecoming
  62. In Athens
  63. The Oracle of Delphi
  64. The Real God
  65. Return to Egypt
  66. First Steps to Wisdom
  67. Strong in Will and Intent
  68. Here Comes the Ego
  69. Blessed are the Merciful
  70. Claiming Our Freedom
  71. The Great Test
  72. Comprehending Death
  73. The Christ!
  74. The Asembly of the Masters
  75. The Seven Pillars of the Aquarian Age – I
  76. The Seven Pillars of the Aquarian Age – II
  77. The Declaration of Jesus
  78. John the Baptist – I
  79. John the Baptist – II
  80. John the Baptist – III
  81. Baptism – Jesus and John
  82. Self-Examination and Temptation
  83. The First Disciples Follow Jesus
  84. Jesus’ First Sermon
  85. The King and the Kingdom
  86. Dealing With Challengers
  87. The First Miracle of Jesus
  88. Kings and Kingdoms
  89. The Temple of God
  90. What Is A Messiah?
  91. The Laws of Healing
  92. Nicodemus Finds The Kingdom
  93. The Prince of Peace
  94. Dealing With Spiritual Opposition
  95. The Opened Gate
  96. John the Baptist Speaks of the Christ
  97. John Speaks Further About Jesus
  98. The Woman at the Well
  99. The Disciples and Samaritans at the Well
  100. Jesus in Sychar
  101. More Wisdom In Samaria
  102. The Imprisonment of John the Baptist
  103. In Jerusalem
  104. The Insights of Jesus
  105. Sabbath Wisdom
  106. Prayer and Good Deeds
  107. Divine Laws and Principles for Seekers of the Divine
  108. A New Understanding of the Ten Commandments
  109. Aspects of the Higher Law – 1
  110. Aspects of the Higher Law – 2
  111. Aspects of the Higher Law – 3
  112. Aspects of the Higher Law – 4
  113. Chapter One Hundred One
  114. Chapter One Hundred Two
  115. Chapter One Hundred Three
  116. Chapter One Hundred Four
  117. Chapter One Hundred Five
  118. Chapter One Hundred Six
  119. Chapter One Hundred Seven
  120. Chapter One Hundred Eight
  121. Chapter One Hundred Nine
  122. Chapter One Hundred Ten
  123. Chapter One Hundred Eleven
  124. Chapter One Hundred Twelve
  125. Chapter One Hundred Thirteen
  126. Chapter One Hundred Fourteen
  127. Chapter One Hundred Fifteen
  128. Chapter One Hundred Sixteen
  129. Chapter One Hundred Seventeen
  130. Chapter One Hundred Eighteen
  131. Chapter One Hundred Nineteen
  132. Chapter One Hundred Twenty
  133. Chapter One Hundred Twenty One
  134. Chapter One Hundred Twenty Two
  135. Chapter One Hundred Twenty Three
  136. Chapter One Hundred Twenty Four
  137. Chapter One Hundred Twenty Five
  138. Chapter One Hundred Twenty Six
  139. Chapter One Hundred Twenty Seven
  140. Chapter One Hundred Twenty Eight
  141. Chapter One Hundred Twenty Nine
  142. Chapter One Hundred Thirty
  143. Chapter One Hundred Thirty One
  144. Chapter One Hundred Thirty Two
  145. Chapter One Hundred Thirty Three
  146. Chapter One Hundred Thirty Four
  147. Chapter One Hundred Thirty Five
  148. Chapter One Hundred Thirty Six
  149. Chapter One Hundred Thirty Seven
  150. Chapter One Hundred Thirty Eight
  151. Chapter One Hundred Thirty Nine
  152. Chapter One Hundred Forty
  153. Chapter One Hundred Forty One
  154. Chapter One Hundred Forty Two
  155. Chapter One Hundred Forty Three
  156. Chapter One Hundred Forty Four
  157. Chapter One Hundred Forty Five
  158. Chapter One Hundred Forty Six
  159. Chapter One Hundred Forty Seven
  160. Chapter One Hundred Forty Eight
  161. Chapter One Hundred Forty Nine
  162. Chapter One Hundred Fifty
  163. Chapter One Hundred Fifty-One
  164. Chapter One Hundred Fifty-Two
  165. Chapter One Hundred Fifty-Three
  166. Chapter One Hundred Fifty-Four
  167. Chapter One Hundred Fifty-Five
  168. Chapter One Hundred Fifty-Six
  169. Chapter One Hundred Fifty-Seven
  170. Chapter One Hundred Fifty-Eight
  171. Chapter One Hundred Fifty-Nine
  172. Chapter One Hundred Sixty
  173. Chapter One Hundred Sixty One
  174. Chapter One Hundred Sixty Two
  175. Chapter One Hundred Sixty Three
  176. Chapter One Hundred Sixty Four
  177. Chapter One Hundred Sixty Five
  178. Chapter One Hundred Sixty Six
  179. Chapter One Hundred Sixty Seven
  180. Chapter One Hundred Sixty Eight
  181. Chapter One Hundred Sixty Nine
  182. Chapter One Hundred Seventy
  183. Chapter One Hundred Seventy One
  184. Chapter One Hundred Seventy Two
  185. Chapter One Hundred Seventy Three
  186. Chapter One Hundred Seventy Four
  187. Chapter One Hundred Seventy Five
  188. Chapter One Hundred Seventy Six
  189. Chapter One Hundred Seventy Seven
  190. Chapter One Hundred Seventy Eight
  191. Chapter One Hundred Seventy Nine
  192. Chapter One Hundred Eighty
  193. Chapter One Hundred Eighty One
  194. Chapter One Hundred Eighty Two

The Text of the Aquarian Gospel—by Levi Dowling

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