Midweek Mysticism: Are you Born Again?
Born Again is an intriguing and evocative phrase in the Christian pantheon. It arises from the Baptist version of the faith and traces its origins back to John the Baptist in the New Testament, in particular to the scene in the Gospels when Jesus is “baptised” in the River Jordan by what seems to be the leader of a mystery school, so typical of the period.
Immediately after he was baptised, as he was praying, the heavens opened and a dove came down and rested on Jesus. It was the Spirit of God in the form of a bird that had come down to show who Jesus was. Jesus saw it and John also saw the dove. Suddenly there was a voice from heaven saying, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”.
This account, with its burst of light, the dove and a voice, has all the hallmarks of a mystery rite, presided over by an adept, and accords with specific states known to manifest in such a context.
Born again lives on today in the southern states of America, where being a born again Christian is a settled part of the religious heritage of the Old South.
This ceremony is now widely imitated in churches around the world. In modern times, a Born-Again Christian is someone who has been baptised into a Baptist church or another denomination, usually by two burly men dunking them in a river and declaring the dunkee “born again”, a mere shadow of the ancient procedure.
I was “Christened” into the Church of England as an infant when a Vicar put a finger into a font of “holy water” and traced a cross on my forehead, a sad case of reductionism.
The emergence from water to air imitates the action of birth. Modern clergy are often ignorant about real spiritual states and resort to play-acting rather than the initiations found in the ancient mystery schools and in the solitary practices of genuine mystics.
But what does it mean? Are people really born again? The truth has its origins in ancient Egypt, with echoes of it living on in the higher degrees of masonic rituals, in the spontaneous, or induced, mystical states of mystics, and in near-death experiences (NDEs), widely reported in hospitals.
Here’s how it’s presented in my book The Eternal Quest for Immortality — Is it staring you in the face?: “The process involves the emergence of something alive, though not physical, from out of the body. There is a distinct “plop” or shock as it happens. The living body remains unaware that the separated part has gone, temporarily in the cases we are describing. This “soul” is the personal consciousness and is therefore the essence of a person. It is the part that survives bodily dissolution at death. The undisputed fact that it can leave a living body shows that anecdotal reports of the soul departing a person in pain and distress, as in near-death experiences, are true. Death is not the fearful thing it seems to outside observers. It’s as if a lifeboat removes consciousness from the worst aspects of physical shut-down.”
In ancient Greece, young soldiers were put through a process leading to this experience as a means of removing all fear of death. The tiny force of Greeks who sacrificed themselves against the vast armies of the Persian king Xerxes at the Battle of Thermopylae, gives a sense of their fearlessness in the face of assured extinction.
In his book A Search in Secret Egypt (1935), Paul Brunton illustrated how the mystery schools precipitated this mystical state in their candidates. According to Brunton, the candidate was taken to a chamber deep inside one of the pyramids, tied to a sarcophagus and left in total darkness in the sealed room overnight. You can imagine the terror of the situation, even if you were not claustrophobic or afraid of the dark.
Fear was the essence of the practice. So horrific was the experience that the personal consciousness (soul) springs out of the bodily envelope into a place of supreme calm, where darkness doesn’t exist.
This is the after-death state, the Bardo of the Tibetans and for which all cultures have a special name. In the Far East the experience is called “a showing of the nature of reality”, demonstrating its temporary nature. Dante calls it Purgatory — you can’t get away from sin in Roman Catholicism.
Many commentators wonder why modern Christian denominations in the West are declining so fast that they are being ignored in favour of secular governance and more mystical philosophies.
The reason is obvious: churches have become meeting places for the nostalgic, and comfort stations for the elderly. All the life and living truth has been sucked out of them, as science replaces genuine mysticism in public discourse.
Religion will only become relevant again when the real story behind the much edited texts of antiquity is told without the concealments. Total honesty is the only way to resurrect the original meaning. That is Syntagma’s mission statement.
Christianity in particular must be Born Again!
To round off this discussion, here’s a link to my own experience of the state. If you read Syntagma regularly, you have probably come across it before and are excused: Consciousness after death
… who is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.
Coming up: Mystology: A different way of looking at the world. Also a website, mystology.com.