More about the Essenes


By Bardo Mountjoy, for The Bardo Mountjoy Saga


28 Feb. 2009


(These are mostly quoted passages from Barbara G. Walker’s The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 1983, pp. 283-85. Naturally enough, I have chosen these for their bearing on “The Kundalini Kid.” To what extent did these beliefs and practices shape that former life of mine?)

  • The Essenes were a monastic brotherhood of Jews living in Palestine from the second century BCE to the second century CE.
  • “Based on sun-worshipping Persian anchorites…and from Jain yogis professing to work miracles by living apart from the world and practicing extreme self-denial.”
  • “Jesus, John the Baptist, and Simon Majus were said to have been trained in Essenic communities.”
  • “An Essenic hierarchy included a chief priest called Christos (Anointed one)”
  • “There were ordinary priests called ‘sons of Aaron.’”
  • “Another functionary known as the Messiah of Israel….[or] as the Teacher of Righteousness was singled out.  ‘He suffered physical abuse in atonement for the sins of the entire community, enduring vindictiveness, sentences of scourging, and the terrors of painful sickness, and vengeance on his fleshly body’ (according to Rudolph Augstein, qtd. in Walker, 283).
  •  According to Josephus, the Jewish historian of the first century CE, the Essenes “reject pleasures as an evil….They neglect wedlock, but choose out other persons’ children, while they are pliable and fit for learning; and esteem them to be of their kindred, and form them according to their own manners” (qtd. in Walker, 284).
  • “The harsh anchorites imposed cruel sentences for the least infraction of the rules, partial starvation being the most common punishment.”
  • “The doctrines were startlingly similar to those of early Christianity.”
  • “[They taught] that immortal souls belonged in heaven, but were drawn down to earth and entrapped in corruptible flesh by the ‘natural enticement’ of sex” (Charles F. Pfeifer, qtd in Walker 284).
  • “The soul’s purity might be recovered by ascetic techniques such as mortification of the flesh, fasting, renunciation of sensual pleasures, and by solitary meditation in the wilderness, like the voluntary exiles of John and Jesus.”
  • “Essenes called themselves Therapeutae, “healers,” claiming their austere lifestyle gave them power to cast out demons of sickness, even to restore life to the dead.”
  • “Much of their training as exorcists consisted of learning lists of spirits’ names, and the holy names that would expel them.”
  • “Essenes preached giving away all one’s worldly goods upon joining the sect, which meant those who joined gave away everything they owned to their superiors. Dire punishments were meted out to those who lied about their possessions in order to hold something back for themselves or their families.”
  • “Despite their vows of poverty, the Essenes were strangely obsessed with visions of wealth and power coming to them after Armageddon, ‘The War of

      the Sons of Light with the Sons of Darkness.’ Sons of Light of course were

      the Essenes, and all others outside their brotherhood were Sons of Darkness,

      otherwise called ‘men of the Pit.’”