The Essenes

The origin of the Essene community goes back to the time of the Maccabees, some 150 years before Jesus was born, having their spiritual centre in the “City of Salt,” a barren place situated in the Judean desert and near the shores of the Dead Sea. In those times and that area, within the social groups of the Jewish community, a peaceful and minority brotherhood of men and women appeared, motivated by a strong will of progress, nobility and spiritual liberation, which grouped themselves establishing a community of personal development that would carry new seeds to future civilizations. People called them “the pious” and also “the nazarenes” (“nazarene” means “consecrated to God,” and also, “he who knows the hidden things”), nevertheless, they called themselves “Sons of Light.” The word “Essene” comes from Aramaic, “asaia,” that means “doctor.” In this sense, the term “Jesus” is in Aramaic Ioshua, which comes from the verb leoshia and is translated as “to heal.” In Hebrew, the Essenes were called isiin, term that has the same root as Ioshua. After explaining this, we could think this community would have devoted itself to treating and healing diseases, among other things, having available an area (nursing home) to which could go any person or social group that would travel there as pilgrimage (Sadducees, Pharisees, publicans, etc.), as their high level of consciousness and their dedication to remedy the suffering of men, wouldn't let them distinguish between castes, as they knew that when they took care of the individual, they were also caring for the Supreme Being that was in him. The Essenes lead a monastic life; they shared their goods, and constituted a secret brotherhood that didn't take part in any political controversy, being acknowledged for their hospitality, purity, peacefulness, generosity and prudence.

Accounts about the Essenes

The Roman scholar Pliny (24-69 AD) writes about them; “they are solitary people and very superior to the rest of mankind.” Philo of Alexandria, a Jewish philosopher (Alexandria, around 20 BC – 50 AD), points out: “There are around 4000 Essenes living in many towns of Judea. They avoid cities. They all have common goods. They farm the land and are dedicated to peaceful jobs; they are farmers, shepherds, and craftsmen. They mustn't produce instruments of war or dedicate to commerce. Among them there are no slaves or lords as they are convinced that human fraternity is the natural relationship of man. They have the gift of predicting the future; they are very clean and always dress in white. They don't give any importance to time or use it as an excuse for not working. They return happy from their tasks. The Essenes have united by cause of their zeal for virtue and their passion of love for Humanity.” Flavius Josephus (37 or 38 AD – Rome, 94 AD), a Jewish Pharisee historian that descended from a family of priests, writes: “They identify pleasure with vice, they practice temperance and self-discipline. They renounce wealth, and eat only the necessary food. Most of them live for over 100 years and they read the writings of the ancient. Their silence gives the impression of a tremendous mystery. They say that the body is corruptible but the soul is everlasting. The spirit emanates from the purest ether, a natural spell drags it down and it's trapped in the prison of the body; but, once freed by death, it is taken to the High. They are victorious over pain thanks to their resolute will. Roman occupation and the torments they were inflicted put their souls to the test in every way possible: in agony, they smiled and forgave their torturers. Any word from them is stronger than an oath. They don't hurt anyone on their own accord or if ordered to do so; when they have authority they will never take advantage of it; they love truth; they keep their hands off robbery and their pure souls off any sinful profit, they don't hide anything to the members of their community, but they don't disclose any of their secrets to strangers, even when they are tortured to death; they communicate the rules exactly as they received them and keep with care the books of the group.”

The Essene task

As we have seen, it consisted in giving hospitality, helping, comforting and soothing the dormant souls, trying to awake those that were half way, and welcoming and guiding the awaken souls. They called their teachings “The New Alliance.”

Fundamentals of Essene thought

Show love everywhere you go: especially in your own home.

To be an Essene meant to be an example of morality, learning how to control passion, desire and anger.

They didn't want temporary things, and served others developing their spiritual values. They lead a simple and harmless way of life.

They didn't use money. They were vegetarians.

Their rule was to respect the privacy of others.

Private life was related to the interior of the temple; internal life, to the couple; and external life, to the community.

The law of silence and of discernment was imposed strictly.

No Essene could have a servant. For them, slavery and servitude were related with the existence of obscure entities.

Their community had a triple hierarchy of congregations; the postulants, the novices, and the initiates, to who, after three years of training, was reserved the revelation of a gnosis.

They knew how to communicate with the angels.

They acknowledged gender equality. Women took part in spiritual activities.

They dressed in white linen clothes, which was a symbol of purity and unity of the soul.

They did daily ritual ablutions in four big tanks and seven small ones. The refectory, that was full of vessels, was used as a «communion room» where the chosen ones ate their common sacred food.

They didn't study only one religion, but deepened their knowledge in all of them to be able to extract the best of their fundamentals.

At the same time, they were fervent students of esoteric teachings and of the hidden mysteries of Nature, unknown for other men.

Knowers of their finitude on this Earth, they lived with the purpose of not corrupting their eternal souls.

They were researchers, they deciphered codes and translated them to several languages so as to preserve and perpetuate their knowledge. They considered this work a sacred task.

They studied the secrets of plants and minerals, and their applications for the benefit of humans.

They were governed by a council of 12 people that was ruled by the so called “Master of Justice.”

The Essene Manual of Discipline III, 13 - IV, 26, says:

“The source of Truth is in the Lake of Light, and the source of wickedness is in the Fountain of Darkness. All those who practice Justice are under the domain of the Prince of Light and walk the path of light; all those who practice wickedness are under the domain of the angel of Darkness.”

The numerous similarities that exist between the Essene thought and the idioms that would appear in the New Testament are especially interesting. In both, the imminence of the kingdom of God is emphasized, the need of an immediate repentance, and the awaited defeat of Belial. Similar references also appear related with baptism in the Holy Spirit, and similar characterizations of the congregations are referenced as the “chosen ones” and “sons of light”; see (Titus 1,1; 1 Peter 1,2; Ephesians 5,8.) These parallelisms are remarkable, as the congregation of Qumran lived during the same period and in the same region as John the Baptist, precursor of Christian ideas. Lastly, recent studies describe that a «Master of Virtue » existed a hundred years before the Son of God, which preached humility, charity and love for fellowmen. He was condemned and executed by cause of the hostility of the priests and the «dominant Jewish caste» –as happened with Christ. The Essenes suffered very many persecutions over time, and in the year 68 AD, this community was annihilated or dispersed by the Roman troops, who also destroyed the monastery of Qumran. Although Rome was not able to destroy the Essene historical-documentary legacy, that was hidden in advance in the caves of Qumran. Bibliography: The Essene Gospels of Peace, volumes I, II, III, IV by Edmond Bordeaux Szekely, link.