The Strange Case of The Secret Gospel: A Controversial New Look at the Secret Gospel According to Mark

From New Dawn 82 (Jan-Feb 2004)

Even with recourse to the best scholarship and offering the best proofs for events of Jesus’ life and linked issues across history, it is not enough to claim to have found Jesus’ horoscope as I do in my book Signs for a Messiah. The findings are only a beginning. There is much to discover and the findings must be interpreted and placed in a meaningful framework if they are to be any use in helping us understand more about Jesus. 

Modern theology, much of it rationalistic and unmystical, is not necessarily the best tool with which to assess remarkable features of the emerging data. Nor can it help us deal with rarely treated questions like the sexuality of Jesus which Signs for a Messiah controversially examines with some surprising conclusions. The new perspectives and mysteries opened up by the astrological chart of Jesus need a more esoteric understanding of sex than theologians currently deal in. 

Although the Jewish Kabbalah as presently known is of only medieval and later origin, it does have roots in trends within Jewish thought already current in Jesus’ time and associated with the Essenes whom many kabbalists regarded as their forebears. Jewish and Christian theologians have suspected links between St. Paul’s theology of Christ and proto-kabbalistic concepts, thus we certainly need to perceive Jesus and his self understanding in more specifically Jewish mystical terms. 

And of course, all the trends one looks at are coloured in the broad sense by the astrology of the ages and eras affecting everything and everyone. As reflected in its symbols, the emergence of Christianity from Judaism is deeply involved with the transition from the Arien to Piscean era. All Christian theology and mysticism are in a sense an astro-theology and esoteric system which fails to recognise itself as such, though perhaps and hopefully the Magian wisdom can draw them back to their roots and into greater self awareness at this time of another era transition (between Pisces and Aquarius). 
– Dr. Rollan McCleary

Most scholars are now agreed that Morton Smith – an American historian and classicist with an almost morbid aversion to Christianity – has discovered a genuine letter of the Early Church Father, Bishop Clement of Alexandria, in a Greek monastery by the Dead Sea. In this letter, its author quotes from a gospel that scholars are less sure is, as Clement believed, from the hands of Mark.

Clement alleges that Mark wrote a second, more spiritual gospel kept by the Alexandrian church for the exclusive use of advanced believers. But this precious Secret Gospel had been stolen and altered by a member of an extremist Gnostic sect, the Carpocratians, who taught the necessity of salvation through indulgence in every kind of experience.

The story, which Clement quotes verbatim from The Secret Gospel is an account of resurrection, part of which may or may not duplicate an early form of the story of the raising of Lazarus given in John 11. When the young man emerges from the tomb it is said he looks upon Jesus and loves him and does not want to be separated from him. Jesus then spends some days with the man, instructing him in the teachings of the kingdom and also spends one night with him dressed only in a linen wrap. Clement acknowledges all this but says that what follows about “the naked man and the naked man” (which from delicacy he does not choose to quote) is pure fabrication.

Smith’s thesis is that Jesus was primarily a magician of a type quite familiar to the ancient world. His speciality came to be mind dissociation techniques in especially a baptismal context; these helped people to make shaman-like, hallucinatory ascents to the heavens, while on earth he could bend them to his will. Smith does not sensationalise the sexual dimensions of The Secret Gospel and insist that Jesus was a homosexual magician, though the thesis tends to imply as much. But he does propose that along with the techniques Jesus employed, he is to be suspected of purveying a libertarian gospel which lay at the root of all subsequent law versus grace arguments in the churches. Smith feels that even if Jesus did not preach such a gospel his personal behaviour was such as to invite suspicions about his real beliefs. He evidently behaved secretly, met people secretly and, he assumes, initiated people secretly.

The question of Jesus’ integrity has already been touched on and while admitting he could be secretive about his intentions, it was affirmed there was nothing to suggest he was the sort of person prone to involvement in secret societies or clandestine affairs. In the circumstances, then, there is nothing remarkable in the fact he should meet a leading public figure like Nicodemus at night and in private as per John 3. It is the sole recorded instance of Jesus giving anyone teaching in this fashion. A meeting at night gave cover in the face of hostile authorities and would, besides, make for clear-headedness in a hot climate. Apart from this, since the Essenes baptised daily, it is not impossible that, as The Secret Gospel has it, Jesus should take someone aside to baptise them for some particular purpose rather than the more generalised one of John.

The young man’s wrap in The Secret Gospel story appears consistent with Essene practice since the sect did not, like fifth century Christians, baptise completely nude but might even immerse candidates completely swathed. They did this in demonstrative reaction against the sort of foreign influence that in the days before their reforming Teacher appeared had brought Israel to engage in the Greek games, a compromise they could only regard as symbolic of deeper corruptions in their society.

Mars and Neptune, especially Neptune, are the two planets chiefly associated with nudity and nudism. With these in the modest sixth of the Joshua [horoscope] chart, the house of health and healing, if the barriers of Essene custom were ever crossed by Jesus, they would most likely serve the interests not of libertarian doctrines but matters more like yoga and health. As even Smith’s study admits in promoting its magian theory, an ancient Libyan prescription for curing snake bites has the healer lying naked with the naked patient in order to apply friction of the skin to the wound. And, more generally, ancient world efforts at reviving the dead involved a specifically naked healer applying resuscitation techniques. So as usual, the Gnostic theories are culture-blind, failing to have sufficient regard to the person and their situation.

This said, in harmony with the principle “no smoke without fire”, to be plausible and accepted, even the falsehoods told about a person must link to some power point within their chart. Such a power point is involved in this case. It was shown how the natal Neptune could further myths of the Magdalene; in similar fashion The Secret Gospel controversy (whose core is baptismal custom and hence immediately referable to Neptune) relates to the condition and placement of that planet in Joshua’s horoscope.

On the physical plane there are two characteristics especially associated with Neptune. The first is the long flowing locks worn by so many Neptunian people, artists, musicians, and antipodean surfers, and which Christian iconography supplied Jesus from the first. In unconscious attunement to Neptune’s rulership in this area we speak of long hair as “flowing”, “waving”, even “cascading”. It is almost certain that Jesus did wear his hair long to express Nazarene style, dedication to his cause and/or more subtly to convey his affinity with the cosmic waters. But even if he did not do so, because the whole Piscean/Neptunian principle was so strong in him, his image would eventually have acquired the long locks of the sea god by sheer archetypal attunement on the part of artists portraying him.

But there is another characteristic of Neptune and it is sea god’s nudity, expressive of his identity with primordial Nature which, as is known, evolved from the waters. Especially in axial eras and when Neptune enters Scorpio (the sign of sex and the genitals), nudity becomes artistically, and to some extent more socially, acceptable. Modern introduction of nudity to magazine and film (Neptune, as planet of dreams, by association rules photography and film) corresponded precisely to Neptune’s slow transit through Scorpio in the 1960s.

Jesus was not only born with Neptune in Scorpio but was himself if anything the very essence of Neptune. It would seem he was therefore fated, regardless of existing custom, to appear before the public naked on at least one occasion, and there is no question that he did so – on the cross.

It is more open to speculation whether readers are intended to understand that, after the manner of Michelangelo’s sculpture of the resurrected Christ, Jesus was also unclothed in the garden on Easter morning. The graves clothes are described as left behind in the tomb. Pious supernaturalism can easily supply a robe, but virtual if not actual nudity is arguably implied, not only by the omission of any reference to some striking and colourful attire, but by the fact that the distraught Magdalene initially mistakes Jesus for the gardener – perhaps for the good reason gardeners commonly worked in a state of “nakedness”. Indeed it is possible that along with the abandoned graves clothes, nudity functioned in the disciples’ memory as proof of an absolute and very recent resurrection. And one of those proofs would need to be that the flesh was free of the very heavy anointings the corpse had received.

While later appearances of Jesus must unquestionably invoke supernaturalism as regards attire – and noticeably, unlike those in the garden, the pair on the Emmaus road are not surprised by Jesus’ appearance – it is possible the Easter scene enacts a unique and rarely considered symbolism, one in which the garden of the tomb is briefly the new Eden of the second Adam. The Jesus of Easter morning is self-revealed in the radiance of his (Neptunian) essence as one totally identified with the nature of which he is the source. Whatever the truth of this matter, Luke 6:29 implies that the Jesus the disciples had known before the first Easter was never merely prudish regarding attire. Translations with “cloaks” and “shirts” are misleading.

In the context of a two garment society the truer rendering of the verse would be, as in The Amplified Bible: “…from him who takes away your outer garment do not withhold your undergarment as well.” This, if not a form of pacifist protest, is presumably witty hyperbole to make a point; but, undeniably, subversive sages like the Cynics were sometimes prepared to go about naked to demonstrate total independence or affinity with nature. And to have said this, Jesus was speaking like a Cynic, aiming to shock because, by contrast, for Essenes to have accidentally exposed one’s nakedness merited thirty days’ penance, and six months if it was done deliberately.

So at least as against the Essenes we may know Jesus held relaxed views that dissociate him from those criticisms of his gospel that make it the historical source of the crazed asceticisms that gave medieval society a surplus of dirt and skin diseases because it was deemed sin to expose the body in the interests of hygiene. Even so, the question raised by speculations around The Secret Gospel remains, namely whether there were ever occasions nudity featured in Jesus’ work in relation to healing, ritual or whatever.

This seems unlikely as it was not in the interests of Jesus’ controversy-ridden mission to supply unnecessary grounds for scandal. But, however unlikely, it is conceivable The Secret Gospel is distorting something. Essene extremism apart, it is only modern, non-tribal society that automatically equates nudity with licence. Nudism can be a quite puritanical, health minded affair – Greek doctors recommended it for the health and notable Virgos, like Goethe, have practised it for that reason. A well-known religious authority, the Benedictine Fr. Dechanet, recommends that, ideally, yoga exercises be performed nude and he would surely be indignant if people like Morton Smith insinuated such opinions were a front for libertarian behaviour. To make a point, even St. Francis reportedly preached a sermon stark naked, and though his contemporaries thought he had gone mad, nobody judged him licentious.

The proper question would seem to be whether nudity serves spirituality in any way. If it does, the reason is of an “occult” order – as mentioned, some ancient healing practices incorporated nudity and we can more or less know why. The supposed etheric current in the powerful lower chakras of the subtle body (in effect those of the Nephesh, or animal soul in Jewish Kabbalism), is said to be less impeded when a person is naked, thus allowing certain spiritual/psychic energies to flow more freely and be “recharged”. This was probably the original reason the witches’ coven was nude and why, apparently, even some members of the early Jewish prophetic schools might go about naked under trance, as appears to be case according to 1 Sam 19:24.

Such esoteric perspectives might just be relevant if Jesus’ miracles were to be seen in terms of anything like yoga. It is doubtful they should be; in Jesus’ case the comparison is surely more with the so-called “divine healer” who is recharged through the act of healing rather than depleted of energies they need to recharge by techniques like most practitioners of psychism and yoga. Even so, there seems little question that, in yogic terms, Jesus’ powers would normally have manifested through the Manipura chakra associated bodily with the solar plexus region and esoterically with the processes of alchemy, the production of apports (such as in the reported multiplication of the loaves and fishes) and the main forms of healing. Moreover, the solar plexus is associated in medical astrology specifically with Virgo and the sixth house, both important to the natus of Jesus as we are aware. If, improbably, there were any secrets or nudity in Jesus’ mission along the lines of The Secret Gospel we can be confident they had to do with health and healing.

We have still not sorted out the young man. A colleague of Smith’s, Cyril Richardson, proposed a theory satisfactory to even the ever sceptical Smith to account for the mysterious gospel. Among the writings of Clement is a tract, What Rich Man Can Be Saved?, composed to allay the concerns of wealthy Christians in Alexandria to whom the story of the rich young ruler was not the happiest in the gospels. It can be imagined The Secret Gospel touched on Clement’s further thoughts about riches and discipleship and so was read at the Easter Liturgy of baptism where it followed upon recitation of the synoptic gospels’ account of the young ruler. Whether or not the original inspiration of The Secret Gospel story had been Lazarus, the subject was now understood to be the young ruler who, though he had rejected Jesus, subsequently fell ill and died but was then raised and given a second chance at discipleship.

Long before Smith’s discovery, on the more maverick side of exegesis there was speculation that Lazarus was the young ruler; and though the theory is particularly untenable, the sexual origins of the idea are obvious enough. When Lazarus is taken ill, a messenger comes to Jesus reporting that “the one you love” is dying and then, when belatedly Jesus arrives, outside the tomb, in the words of the famous shortest verse in the Bible, we are told “Jesus wept”. The response of the crowd to this is: “see how he loved him”. It should be obvious that the messenger’s words are simply a courtesy, rather like someone saying, “Your beloved uncle is in danger of his life”.

Jesus was a regular visitor at the house of Mary of Bethany, Lazarus’ sister, hence doubtless on very friendly terms with her brother. Had Mary and Lazarus been of the ruling elite of Israel like the rich young man this would surely have been indicated. As to Jesus’ emotion at the tomb – which is in a sense inexplicable if he believed he could shortly restore Lazarus – the crowd’s reaction to it is superficial and uncomprehending. It is very likely that the emotion is reserved for the human condition, the tragedy of death as it strikes people in every age and clime and which Mary and Martha in their distress are so vividly enacting.

Even now we are not yet finished with this confusion of identity. The authors of Holy Blood Holy Grail, in pursuit of the thesis Jesus was married to the Magdalene, take a cue from Blessed James of Vorigaine (1230-1298) in his notorious hagiography The Golden Legend and combine Mary of Bethany with Mary of Magdala. This done, they are free to say that the “beloved disciple” was necessarily Lazarus as Jesus’ brother-in-law and not John the disciple. In The Golden Legend the Magdalene was going to marry John before Jesus’ call to discipleship intervened dooming the jilted woman to wild fits of promiscuity in her frustration. This piece of identification is quite novel and fits no scholarly or psychological probabilities.

To rival such wonderful speculations but in keeping with logic within our frame of reference, for what it is worth I shall suggest why the rich young ruler attracted Jesus’ special attention. Consider what the account tells the reader of his character. He rushes up to Jesus full of an enthusiasm Jesus feels bound to check; he is a shameless self advertiser where his good qualities are concerned. He is the kind of person willing to make on the spot decisions in areas others might demand more time to reflect; he is emotional and openly so; his moods show on his face and he goes away mourning; and of course financial considerations rule his life. This amounts to something and what it amounts to is a sort of very public, “American” character and the sign of cardinal, decision-making Cancer, sign so often of advertising, materialism and the attitude of attachment.

Since the Joshua chart is so strong in water from Pisces and Scorpio it will often favourably trine the planets of anyone in Cancer, the sign in which both the Part of Marriage and the Part of Love fall. The latter Part (at 23 of Cancer), besides, trines the era conjunction, thus perhaps merging itself with the conjunction’s universalising effects; but obviously there would still be lot of relationship potential towards the Cancerian individual. These Parts are nonetheless positioned in the second house of worldly goods and personal values, meaning that these subjects would tend to be at issue in contact with any Cancerian person. Indeed it is rather interesting to compare the very Cancerian chart of America with the Joshua chart, and perceive the many ties which help explain that country’s special relation to Christianity, the determination of so many Americans to media-sell Jesus. Nevertheless, it is to be doubted that who or what is being promoted is fully understood and would be altogether approved by the one preached about since there is a lot of faux amis to this relation as there surely was to the young man who faces Jesus.

The story of the Rich Young Ruler is often cited by sceptics as proof positive that Jesus did not believe he was divine: “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” (Mark 10:18). On the contrary, this should be taken as one of those subtle hints to people that Jesus did regard himself as divine. Noticeably he does not, by way of example, confess to any imperfections in his examination of this youth with his ready-made catalogue of virtues. Jesus’ question is a rhetorical one designed to check the effusive flow and make the person truly conscious of just who and what he has chosen to confront. That divinity and a more human level of attraction can both be at stake in the encounter only confirms what has been proposed here (and in many mystical traditions), that however great the distance between them, the sexuality and the spirituality are inextricably linked.

The above is slightly abridged from Dr. Rollan McCleary’s book, Signs for a Messiah: The First and Last Evidence for Jesus.

This article was published in New Dawn 82
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