ROBERT W. BROCKWAYTHE ROOTS OF NEW AGE
believed to have been written between 40 and 132 C. E. Each appears to have arisen among specific Jewish Christian communities.
Without entering into discussion which deserves volumes rather than a few paragraphs, I will only comment on certain features in the Gospel accounts of Jesus which are relevant to the occult and esoteric. These include his frequent exorcism of evil spirits, as in the case of the Gadarene pigs, his healing of certain individuals, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, and the other miracles. He also had visions.
In some ways, Jesus appears to have played a shamanic role. According to the Gospel accounts, however, these miraculous visions and acts are subordinated to the principal theme: to prove that Jesus was the promised Messiah [הישם] or Christ [Χρστόσ], meaning the coming king. According to Mark, the oldest of the four Gospels, Jesus is the “suffering, dying, rising, Son of Man,” the herald of the Kingdom of God and its good news (Mark 1:14-15) and the inaugurator of a new age (Mark 2:19). (This is relevant to the term “The New Age” used by contemporary American occultists for the dawning Age of Aquarius.) Jesus heals, forgives sins, and has power over nature. His disciples feel a sense of awe when they are in the presence of the numinous (4:41; 6:51;10:32). Once they see him transfigured (9:2-8), so that they share the experience Jesus himself had at his baptism (1:9-11). At the cross, even a Roman centurion can say: “Truly this man was a son of God!” (15:39).
There is, therefore, an esoteric quality about Jesus, who remained a mystery to his disciples. His teachings are only understood through special revelation. The demons, being spirits, recognize him and address him as “Holy One of God” (1:24) and “Son of the Most High” (5:7). Much of his teachings are indeed esoteric: secret, veiled, and hidden (occult). Therefore, the Gospels lend themselves to esoteric interpretation. For this reason, the Western tradition of esotericism is predominantly within the Christian context, even though there are also Jewish and Pagan varieties.
Jesus as Exorcist
According to the gospels, Jesus attracted followers chiefly as an exorcist, one who drives out demons. This is one of his major roles as a worker of miracles. According to John 20:30 “These [manifestations] have been recorded in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.” Eusebius, an early Church historian of the first century in Asia Minor [Turkey], states that there were “many. . . who amplified far and wide in the world. . . evangelizing. . . with God’s favor and help, since wonderful miracles were wrought by them in those times and also through the Holy Spirit. As a result, assembled crowds, every man of them on the first hearing, eagerly espoused piety toward the maker of all things.”
In the New Testament and early patristic writings, Christianity is presented to potential converts in terms of the warfare between God and Satan. Both are rulers of hierarchies of angels struggling for mastery of the souls of human beings in a fallen world. This is amplified in the pseudepigryphal Jewish and