Morality and Ethics in Esotericism – Dirty Words in an Unclean World

Morality and Ethics in Esotericism – Dirty Words in an Unclean World

by esotericist Mark Stavish

Kabbalah for Health and Wellness book cover for spiritual counseling teaching healingWhile it is generally agreed that our outer health, and even material circumstances, are a direct reflection of our inner wholeness, the connection of this idea in reality is a lot less simple for many in practice.  Much, if not all of this difficulty comes from the notion that esotericism is a sort of ‘do it yourself’ process, in which practitioners can ‘pick what they like and leave the rest behind’.  In reality, while that is fine to tell drug addicts and alcoholics in an NA or AA meeting and who are on the edge of total self-destruction (so anything is better than nothing) it is a lie when it comes teaching students who “of their own free will and accord” have placed themselves on a path of illumination.

In Kabbalah for Health and Wellness there is a discussion of the role of the Ten Commandments (as well as the two given by Jesus) in psychological and physical health so that inner realizations could take place.  Somehow the knee-jerk rejection of anything rooted in Western culture took sway, and some neo-pagans reviewing the book seemed bent on criticizing this point rather than taking a step back and remembering that kabbalah is essentially Jewish, even when it is dressed up in late 19th and early 20th century polytheistic and reconstructionist metaphors.  You can throw the baby out with the bathwater, but then in the end, you are left holding an empty bucket.

This desire to strip traditional teachings of any connection to their past is in no means limited to studies of kabbalah. American Buddhists are notorious for it as well. Like their Leftist, counter-culture, Sixties holdovers in the neo-pagan community, American Buddhists find it nearly impossible to sit down, shut up, listen, and change their point of view – even if for a moment – but instead insist on picking and choosing what moral and ethical precepts they like and which ones they don’t like. This is especially true when it comes to teachings against sexual license in general. This is further extended into the need to turn everything into a political and social movement rather than do the hard work of deconstructing and reconstructing themselves as individuals. It is as if the idea of actually being an individual – even for a moment – is too frightening to their entrenched collectivist ideology.  “If it is good enough for me, then it is good enough for everyone” seems to be the motto of too many pathological reforms across many of the current spiritual groups in the United States, Europe and the Middle East.

Within Buddhism and its Tibetan predecessor, Bon, there are Ten Virtuous Deeds. Like the Ten Commandments for those who practice kabbalah, in any of its forms – Christian or Hermetic – the Ten Virtuous Deeds are not an option, but must be strictly followed.

These Ten Virtuous Deeds are:

  1.  Avoiding taking another’s life, including animal and plants beings whenever  possible.
  2.  Practicing generosity.
  3.  Being mindful, paying attention to what you are doing and what you are  thinking of at any moment.
  4.  Following moral discipline to overcome sexual misconduct.
  5.  Telling truth and avoiding falsehood.
  6.  Working to bring together friends who have separated, and not spreading  rumors.
  7.  Speaking peacefully and calmly and avoiding harsh language.
  8.  Practicing – prayer, meditation, pilgrimages, and other works, rather than  wasting time, particularly on gossip.
  9.  Being free of evil thoughts towards others, generating love and kindness  towards them rather than harmful thoughts.
  10.  Being free from wrong views of the teachings one is receiving, particularly firmly realizing the truth of the law of karma (cause and result or effect), and firmly entering the spiritual pathway.

If we take a careful look at these non-optional moral and ethical requirements, we can see that they are in fact even more stringent than the so-called Ten Commandments found in Jewish scripture and adopted by the Christians. The Ten Commandments can be summarized into: put God first, don’t blaspheme, keep one day set aside for spiritual practice, don’t steal, don’t kill, don’t lie, don’t commit adultery, and don’t desire for what another person owns.  The Egyptian Negative Confession to Truth or Maat is even more detailed, yet repeats the same themes.  All of these guidelines are direct and to the point – if you want to know God, or experience enlightenment, then these are the rules you need to follow.  And if these are too burdensome, then your journey will become a longer and more difficult one. The choice is up to you.

The simple truth is that only by following such guidelines, particularly when it is difficult, causes us material or social loss, and goes against our predisposed ego (self-pitying and self-limiting) image we cherish of our self, can we really say we are on the Path.  Only with a firm commitment to organize our inner life and master the inner energies that run rampant within our psyche, can we hope to be open to deeper realizations and experiences we call spiritual, as well as to project that new found harmony as power and form in the material world.

We can either treat genuine and authentic spiritual teachings as a rich multi-course meal that has been laid out for us by a master chef and staff, or we can treat it like a buffet where we indulge our preferences and walk away having paid too much money for second or third rate food only to get indigestion.

For Western esotericism to survive and thrive in its own soil it must provide solid evidence that it is more than just a collection of occult and psychic thrill seekers, but has real and tangible means of living a healthy and happy life. Morality and ethics is the beginning and end of who we are and the litmus test of our spiritual path, for this shows how we treat others and ourselves.

The above article was first posted in VOXHERMES in February 2008.

Words of My Teachers – A Companion to the IHS Audio Programs


Debating the Resurrection, Jesus, Magdalene on Easter Sunday

I posted “Did the Resurrection Actually Happen?” by Dinesh D’Souza to several of the various YahooGroups forums I moderate. D’Souza is a mainstream Christian whose arguments, I think, are very good and very useful to esoteric and alternative Christians who believe in the historicity of Jesus and yes, in the resurrection.

Dr. James Gardner responded with the Jesus website’s intellectual tear-down of the resurrection – it was “just literary”, it didn’t really happen, Mark made it up, t’was added later, etc. etc. Boring, dry argument designed to make us all exclaim, “Aha! We were lied to!” And then go forth as miserably depressed myth-bashers and atheists like the Jesus Police author(s).

Such nay-sayers poo-poohing all our myths and making our spiritual stories nothing but dry historical events, lifeless “legends” that despite a total “lack of value” nevertheless caused supposedly deluded people to faithfully record them. Even though the Jesus story is completely lacking in any spiritual value according to the JesusPolice intellectuals, lacking in any luminosity, our ancestors recorded and repeated these myths over and over for centuries. Nothing supernatural — “above and beyond nature” — nothing greater than our chemical selves has ever really happened, dontcha know. Blah blah blah, delusion and ignorance of the masses, and pooo pooo pooh, is what they do on Jesus The Adversary is probably very pleased with them. But then I am an ignorant, deluded, naïve so-and-so for even believing in the Adversary.

The only page of theirs I like is their Magdalene page because I agree with their factual analysis of her. But the Jesus Police, like countless other “scholars” fall short and refuse to give Magdalene her Feminine Divine aspect. At least they agree she was a real historical person (while seeming to doubt Jesus was!), but they make her dry, unluminous, just another literary figure….

Still they’ve got the Magdalene facts right (in my opinion) even to the point of quoting “our” Margaret Starbird and Bishop Spong.

Lore and I had an exchange regarding the “Did the Resurrection Actually Happen” article as follows:

lkemsley at writes:

Oh, boy, I’m having a hard time deciding: do I blow his assertions
out of the water (so easy to do), or do I just be quiet because most
people need the belief in the physical resurrection? It isn’t that
belief that bothers me, but his inaccuracies, like the statement that
there is so much proof for his historicity. There is none.

Hi Lore: The writer of the article is Dinesh D’Souza. He is the author of What’s So Great About Christianity, a new and useful book.

Yes he’s a mainstream Christian, altho he’s a bit unique in that he was born and raised in India where Christianity is somewhat esoteric. Dinesh D’Souza gives all kinds of Christians, including us underground streamers aka esoterics, many useful tools to use when we debate with atheists, Satanists (I occasionally encounter such via our website and the online Mystery School), with those who think Jesus never existed, was just a fable. As D’Souza points out in the article, there is more proof of Jesus’ historicity than there is for Aristotle and Pythagoras and countless other figures — yet nobody doubts they existed.

And ” Arriving three days after his death, the women brought spices
to his tomb to anoint and preserve his body. Only then did they
observe that the stone had been rolled away and the tomb was empty.”
ignores MM’s importance completely.

True, he is not Margaret Starbird (hee hee, wish he was), nor is he an alternative or esoteric Christian, and so he does not share our reverence for and belief in Magdalene’s prominence.

And “The apostles were deeply skeptical about reports of a
resurrection, and Christ had to appear to them several times before
these doubts were dispelled.” does the same.

Much of history ignored Magdalene’s importance, she was cloistered away, secreted away, protected from Paul the persecutor-turned-Christian whose writings are a large part of early Christianity. The mainstream Christians like Dinesh D’Souza are still getting used to our revolutionary revelation of Magdalene’s role in Jesus’ life and the heart of Christianity. Just because they haven’t got the new message yet, the feminine divine message, we can still find use for such mainstream arguments in any place our beliefs overlap or intersect.

Ever notice how dry the “just the facts, ma’am” approach is? How
lacking in passion? There is not one word of the intensity of that
week in his argument. I use that approach too, quite often, but it is
hard to do on this [Easter] morning. None of his [D’Souza’s] inaccuracies make the
stunning events of this week any less important. I long ago came to
the conclusion that even if not one word of it is literally true, the
mythological truth of it is astounding and deeply needed.

Dinesh D’Souza is a mainstream but not fundamentalist Christian — and very left brained. Reminds me of Thomas Aquinas in some ways. His style is that of debate, using logic and all that male left-brain mode of argument which is actually helpful to have in one’s communication toolbag, I think. He is scheduled to debate Christopher Hitchens in Las Vegas about the existence of God. Hitchens you recall wrote the book God is Not Great and is convinced there is no god, no supernatural, no luminous myth, nothing but chemical reactions and psychosis in our brains. His debate with D’Souza is going to be a big event. D’Souza has debated other atheists (he debates one per year at this venue) and now he’s gonna face Christopher Hitchens who no longer believes in the Judaism of his childhood, thinks Christianity and Islam are proof of the evil of religion because of all the wars they “caused”. D’Souza points out, and will no doubt do so during their debate, that atheist states like the Soviet Union and China, and the 3rd Reich which was what — occult pagan? with a secretly Catholic leader? — killed way more people, and did so recently compared to Christianity.

We are all Children of Divine Love. We’ll all be “resurrected” with
or without our physical bodies, although why we’d want physical
bodies in an ethereal world is beyond me. There was no evil in Eve or
her seeking Wisdom, no original sin to atone for, no reason for a
petty, jealous god to demand his only begotten son to die in agony to
atone for a single one of us. We live eternally, with or without his
death and resurrection.

I agree with you on all of the above, and discuss on our Mystery School’s Easter Cycle page my belief that God-the-Father was not the petty jealous god we have been taught who demanded human sacrifice. Human sacrifice was anathema to the Old Testament God as we see in the account of Abraham being stopped by God from sacrificing his boy, Isaac. Hebrew scholars have pointed out this story was the Old Testament God’s way of communicating his strong desire for people to STOP the prevalent ancient Middle East practice of sacrificing babies, children and virgins to all those supposedly hungry “gods”.

I also agree we live eternally with our without his death and resurrection, but I don’t think we should just throw the resurrection onto the dust-heap of history and call it “mere myth.” It’s the lynchpin story-myth that connects Jesus to Tammuz and Osiris and the glorious annual return of vegetation with its hope of food (no grocery stores in the ancient world). As Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkein said to his buddy CS Lewis, “The Christian story is a myth that just also happens to be historically true.” It is both myth and the physical fulfilment of myth. Very cool. The Jesus myth is like an onion with layers, like a dream symbol that means several things all at once.

But the image of his love, the love of Magdalene, the pain of separation and
the need to know we (even more for those we love than ourselves)
survive after death — all of that each and every one of us needs,
not just on Easter but every day of our lives.

For sure. And on Easter we think of it even more and can help reenact it in our lives.  We can use the holiday as a teaching moment for the little ones coming up who need to learn the power and healing of humanity’s myths.

I’m a dawn person. I love the sounds and smells of dawn. The birds
waking up all atwitter, then breaking into song. My four-legged
friends calling to me just as I first begin to stir. The sun sliding
out from behind the hills, kissing the flowers with gold. This is my
daily resurrection, my new birth, my eternal reminder that all is
well and I am loved.

Yes so true! I wish I was a dawn person…. somehow I got stuck being an after midnight to about 3 o’clock in the morning person!

Mary Magdalene went to his tomb at dawn, to care for the man she
loved more than earthly life itself. She was The Woman Who Knew The
All, yet her grief left her dazed and confused. Her grief made her
barely in this world. It appeared as little more than an annoying
haze when he spoke to her. Why was this man bothering her? Why did
she need to pay attention to him? Why couldn’t she be alone while her
heart burst?

And then all was healed. He Was There. He could be seen and felt and
touched and heard. Can we not imagine the joy of knowing that, for
sure, for all time, without mistake?

That is the knowledge and the love this morning brings back to us,
resurrected every year just as Spring arrives filled with new life,
promise and hope, just as Spring tells us we survived the ravages of
winter and abundance is now ours, once again.

* * * * * *
I hear ya. So true. I like the way you put it….
* * * * * *

It matters little to me if his physical body survived because his
soul did and his love did and mine does and eternal life is something
we share.

I like to think his physical body didn’t survive the crucifixion but died and was buried — but then Goddess and God (perhaps thru Magdalene’s mouth) said, “arise my Love.”  Arise and LIVE the myth of regeneration, the spring vegetation life-giving song mankind’s health and very existence depends upon.

I wonder if Goddess and God were teaching us you can’t kill divinity. Jesus represented the soul of the world, and each of our immortal souls. We can’t be killed, is the message. We rise again. Presumably his physical body would have later decayed or been transmuted into something spiritual.  That part esotericists disagree on. I think Blavatsky and her School (Theosophical Society) believe in a spiritual transmutation of his physical body so that it didn’t have to die again. Some Gnostics and Rosicrucians think he then aged and died like Magdalene and Mary.  Speaking of Mother Mary and Mary Magdalene, both these holy women embodied the sacred feminine just as Jesus embodied the sacred masculine.  We are fine with them dying “normally” and leaving their physical bodies at death, why not Jesus, too? One Gnostic text, Pistis Sophia, I think, teaches that he stayed after the resurrection for 11 years to continue teaching his pupils.

I think the resurrection was needed to get their message — the wisdom teachings — recorded and written down.  If the resurrection story hadn’t happened, we might all be classical pagans, members of either the Isis or Mithras cults depending on our gender (as was the rule in the Greco-Roman world).  Or we would be northern European heathens, or Muslims, or who knows what, if the resurrection story hadn’t shook up enough people to make them write it down for all time, and spread the story like wildfire.

Goddess and God knew that some of us (such as yourself, Lore!) wouldn’t need Jesus’ physical body to rise again in order to help you spiritually evolve, help you realize the inner luminosity of the myth symbols.  But they also knew (I think) that humanity as a whole needed that significant event to start the myths rolling again, to provide the catalyst to get the Great Lesson out to everyone. (okay, “Great Lesson” is a rather lame term, but you get the idea. )


P.S. If you find yourself debating these issues, be sure to check out Dinesh D’Souza’s book What’s So Great About Christianity from which the article, “Did the Resurrection Actually Happen?” was adapted from.