The Spiritual Baptism
From several extraordinary sources, it appears that Jesus practiced a secret spiritual "baptism" with specially chosen aspirants. In the Gospel of Mark (chapter 14) we come upon a strange passage describing what happened in the garden of Gethsemene as Jesus was praying and then arrested by the Jewish scribes and elders.
"Then all the disciples deserted Jesus and made their escape. There happened to be a young man among Jesus' followers who wore nothing but a linen shroud about his body. They seized him, but he left the shroud in their hands and took to his heels stark naked."
In trying to make sense of this strange statement, we must go to the researches of a biblical scholar named Morton Smith.
In 1958 Smith, then a graduate student in Theology at Columbia University, was invited to catalogue the manuscript holdings in the library of the Mar Saba monastery, located twelve miles south of Jerusalem. Smith discovered a copy of a letter written by Clement of Alexandria. In the letter Clement mentions not the familiar canonical Gospel of Mark, but a different, secret gospel that Mark had written in Alexandria. Clement said that after Peter's death, Mark had brought his original gospel to Alexandria and had written a "more spiritual gospel for the use of those who were being perfected." Clement says this text was kept by the Alexandrian church for use only in the initiation into "the great mysteries" as it would "lead the hearers into the innermost sanctuary of that truth hidden."
Clement quotes from the Secret Gospel of Mark the tale of a young man who, like Lazarus, was raised from the dead by Jesus and who later came to Jesus "wearing a linen shroud over his naked body." Clement quotes the Secret Gospel of Mark as stating that Jesus spent the whole night teaching the young man "the mystery of the kingdom of God."
Morton Smith spent a decade examining this Secret Gospel of Mark and finally came to this conclusion concerning the special rite of psychic immersion into a new realm of being:
"Jesus could admit his followers to the kingdom of God, and he could do it in some special way, so that they were not there merely by anticipation, nor by virtue of belief and obedience, nor by some other figure of speech, but were really, actually, in." Morton Smith, The Secret Gospel
What we have, then, is a clear indication that Jesus--and his authentic followers--practiced a baptismal initiation rite in which they "immersed" aspirants into a new realm (kingdom) of Higher Consciousness. Through initiation, neophytes came into contact with an inner awareness of a Higher World--their Real Self.
It is only after experiencing entry into the search for the unitive state that one can begin to discern the authentic parts of the New Testament and other genuine spiritual literature. It makes it possible to discriminate between what is real and what is concocted. Only that which speaks to a dying to self and re-birth to a Higher Consciousness is understood to be genuine.
The person initiated begins to experience a force kindled within him, his true spirit. A new being has entered him and become active in his life. Forces slumbering within are awakened; he begins to experience inspiration from a Higher Source and feels the necessity to act in such a manner that he can share in the life of others. Spiritual transformation--re-birth--has occured, bringing about a change in that part of him that is open to "intuition," the voice of "the teacher within."
The Perennial Tradition is alive and well in all its embodiments--Esoteric Christianity as well as others. The esoteric teachings and practices which were used by Jesus and his authentic followers are still being practiced today--but by contemporary Perennialist teachers in ways which are not easily recognized by those "who have eyes to see but do not see."