Saturday, 16 August 2008


"And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine; and he was the priest of the most high God.

And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth.

And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thine hand." GENESIS 14:18-20

The Priest-King Melchizedek gets only these few, suggestive lines in the whole of the Old Testament and yet in esoteric circles he is one of the most important figures in the Bible. Only Enoch, the righteous man 'who walked with God and was transported' has an similarly enormous tradition attached to such a fleeting mention. As the High Priest of a mysterious religious Order he was especially important to the Knights Templar who included him along with Solomon in one of their most important stained glass windows in Chartres Cathedral. Given that this is one of their most mysterious buildings, steeped in alchemical, astrological and esoteric symbolism and the one most assocaited with the Templar connection with the Ark of the Covenant, the fact that Melchizedek is featured there indicates that something unusual is going on. In the Gnostic PISTIS SOPHIA, he appears as a key player alongside Christ in the process of releasing souls from the darkness of the World of Matter to the Light Realms of God. So who is this man and why is is he so important?

Melchizedek appears fleetingly in the Old Testament in the brief passage mentioned above. He is described as the Priest of the most high God and comes out to meet Abraham after a major battle to give him 'bread and wine'. Significantly, Abraham is still called Abram at this point. He does not take on the later name until the Covenant is fully established and God is pleased with him. If this is so, then Melchizedek, as the Priest of the most high God, is a servant of God even BEFORE Abraham. Given that Abraham is regarded as the Patriarch of all the so-called 'Abrahamic Religions' (ie Judaism, Christianity and Islam) the fact that a Priest exists who is connected to God BEFORE Abraham's Covenant is established is quite remarkable. Melchizedek is clearly intended to be seen as the representative of a spiritual tradition which predates even Abraham. He is also not part of the dynastic bloodline of Noah, which makes this fact doubly significant. Melchizedek is a High Priest from an entirely different lineage.

Melchizedek offers Abraham 'bread and wine', blesses him and offers up a prayer to God. In esoteric terms, he is Initiating Abraham. A ritual is taking place in which Abraham is being sanctified in the name of the Most High. Melchizedek is translated as 'King of Righteousness' or 'King of Justice' and presumably has etymological links to Melchior, the name of one of the Three Wise Men of the Nativity and Zadok the Priest mentioned later in the Bible. He is from the city of Salem, meaning Peace (cf Shalom/Salaam). That the Initiation of Abraham involves bread and wine is extremely significant as it presages in a very profound way the ritual of the Last Supper:

"And as they were eating, Jesus tool bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.

And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." MATTHEW 26: 26-28

The symbolism of wine and bread is highly complex, and central to the Christian Mystery. The act of Communion inaugerated in the Last Supper is designed to evoke the taking on of Christ's nature through the ritual of eating the bread and drinking the wine which Christ's flesh and blood respectively. But it does not stop here. Bread and wine also represent the universal iconography of the White and Red of Initiation. From the white and red roses of Alchemy to the red and white triangles of the Sri Yantra, from the red and white outer pillars of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life to the red and white elements of the Pharoanic Crown, all symbolise the union of the Female and Male principles, symbolsing Wholeness and the Divine Marriage. On their most primal and physical levels, red symbolises menstrual blood while white signifies semen (female and male again), the two sacred bodily fluids of the early Gnostics and other Pagan Rites. This image of the Divine Union is contained within the iconography of the Last Supper and the Act of Communion both of which are clearly meant to echo the Rite of Initiation that Melchizedek carries out with Abraham.

But the mystery of Christ's connection with Melchizedek does not stop there, for the biggest exposition on Melchizedek does not occur in the Old Testament but in the New, in the anonymous, and highly unusual EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. Historically this Epistle has been attributed to Paul, but modern scholars are not so sure. Apart from the usual doubts about style, HEBREWS conveys such an unorthodox and usually passed over view of Christ, not as the Son of God so much as a member of an apparently eternal Order of Melchizedek that it feels very out of place in Paul's canon. And yet it is here, perhaps, that the esoteric Mystery of Melchizedek really comes to the fore. For according the author of the EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS, Melchizedek was more than human:

"For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;

To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of Peace;

Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually." HEBREWS 7:1-3

Here, at the heart of the New Testament, which is usually thought of as a celebration of the uniqueness of Christ, Melchizedek is being described as a superhuman figure, eternal, unbegotten, a High Priest of God outside Time and Space; a High Priest who initiated Abraham into the Mysteries of the Most High God, linked, therefore, to Moses, Aaron and by extension the whole Priest Caste of the Tribe of Levi, the Cohanim (linked but superior, by dint of his immortality).

But this is not all, for according to the EPISTLE OF THE HEBREWS, Christ himself is the new High Priest of the Order of Melchizedek. Indeed he is the first to appear who is of the same nature as the original Melchizedek, eternal, unbegotten, immortal.:

"For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.

And it is yet far more evident : for that after the similitude of Melchizedek there ariseth another priest, who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of eternal life.

For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek." HEBREWS 7:14-17

And further, Christ only becomes part of this Order at his baptism at the River Jordan at the hands of John. In other words, he does not achieve his Immortal status, or become Divine, until he encounters the Holy Spirit in the form of the Dove. This is not what one usually hears about Christ and brings the EPSITLE closer to the position of the Gnostics:

"So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said of him [ie God], Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.

As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedek." HEBREWS 5:5-6

This, then, is the strangeness of the EPISTLE OF THE HEBREWS and the origin of the whole issue of the Order of Melchisedek. The politics of it are one thing. It is clearly written as a refutation of Judaism and a championing of the new revelation of Christianity as a superior religion, but its view of Christ and the discussion of this mysterious Order of Melchizedek with its immortal High Priest of which he is a member is something else altogether. Moreover, it does not occur anywhere else in the Bible, even though the tone of the EPISTLE suggests that it is not an unfamiliar concept to the reader.

Herein lies Melchizedek's fascination and, presumably, the interest the Templars had in him as the individual presiding over a hidden Order which bore the deepest secrets of God. If the EPISTLE is written by Paul, perhaps this is part of the 'Hidden Wisdom' which he refers to in COLOSSIANS and CORINTHIANS which he asserts is behind the new dispensation which is Christianity? Alternatively, it could all be a metaphor, the author of HEBREWS simply wanting to identify Christ with a more ancient spirituality than that of Moses, thus linking Christianity back to Abraham. Whatever the case the mystery of Melchizedek is one of the most enduring riddles of the Bible...


Pegasus said...

More developments on the Melchizedek front:

According to the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Essenes had a prophecy concerning Melchizedek which envisaged him as a sort of Messiah figure. The relevant scroll is known as "the Heavenly Prince Melchizedek' by Scholars. In this fragment, Melchizedek is referred to as the leader of 'the Sons of Heaven' and 'the Gods of Justice'. He is prophecied as returning at some point to redeem the Righteous as predicted by Isaiah, thus carrying out the desire of God.

Here are some extracts:

"He [God] will assign them to cast their lot amid the portions of Melchizedek, who will return them there and will proclaim to them liberty, forgiving them the wrong-doings of all their iniquities...

...and he will, by his strength, judge the holy ones of God, executing judgement as it is written concerning him in the Songs of David...

...And Melchizedek will avenge the vengeance of the judgements of God... and all the Gods of Justice will come to his aid to attend the destruction of Belial. And the height is... all the Sons of God... This is the day of Peace/Salvation, concerning which God spoke through Isaiah the prophet...

...And the messenger is the Anointed one of the spirit...

...And your ELOHIM is Melchizedek, who will save them from the hand of Belial."


Note that 'the Anointed One' is a translation of the word 'Christ', or 'One Who Has Received The Chrism', Chrism being linked to the Greek word for Gift. The striking thing here is that the Redeemer figure is Melchizedek himself undergoing a kind of Second Coming. It is not a huge leap of the imagination to connect the arrival of Christ as a reappearance of Melchizedek in the context of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Thus Christ is, in this sense, a reincarnation of Melcihizedek. They are one and the same person.

So if there is some kind of connection between this Essene Tradition and the birth of early Christianity then that makes a lot more sense of what the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews is saying.

In her book TEMPLE THEOLOGY, Margaret Barker argues that the equation of Melchizedek with Christ is part of a process among Judaic reformers to reconnect with the 'pure' Judaism of Abraham rather than that of Moses. She points out that, even according to the Old Testament, absolute Monotheism wasn't imposed upon the Jews until King Josiah's time (see KINGS). Josiah is credited with discovering the Scroll which bore the words of the Book of Deuteronomy, the Book of Moses which is the most Absolutist in its Monotheism centred around Yahweh. As a consequence of this, Josiah instigated a purge of anything which conflicted with the Commandments given there. Before then, Judaism was more pluralist and, dare I say it, polytheist, with Asherah being allowed within Temple worship etc.

Barker argues that the Epistle to the Hebrews and this prophecy of the Essenes connecting Melchizedek with Christ points to a reforming movement within Israel which sought not to create a new religion but to return to the simplicity of the pre-Josiah Judaism which began with Abraham ie before the Commandments given to Moses, or at least those given in Deuteronomy. She includes in her argument discussion about hostility within Israel to the Second Temple which had been built by the Roman puppet Herod, with which the Sadducees and Pharisees were associated. People like the Essenes regarded it as a pollution of the true Judaism of the First Temple, hence their withdrawal from mainstream Jewish society. Thus Christ's opposition to the Sadducees and Pharisees was not opposition to Judaism but to the later, Absolutist Judaism of his time.

Barker goes further in including Paul in this. In Galatians, Paul describes going to Arabia after his revelation of Christ rather than to the Apostles in Jerusalem (Paul says he went to Damascus in particular). Barker points out that is where the Priests expelled by Josiah went to to continue their practises. Thus, she posits, Paul's Christianity was connected to the old, not quite monotheistic Judaism of the pre-Josiah period, hence the readiness of Christianity to embrace quasi-polytheistic ideas such as the Trinity.

This would also account for why HEBREWS does not equate Christ with the Tribe of Levi (ie that of Aaron), as this Mosaic Judaism would have been conflicting with the Abrahamic/Melchizedekian one...

Its an interesting theory, and would suggest that Christ and Paul were looking back to 'the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob' rather than the God of Moses and Aaron, but has some problems:

1) Paul doesn't talk much about the Trinity, its more in the Johannine works

2) The Essenes clearly saw Moses and Aaron as part of their Tradition as there are large amounts of documents referring to them in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Unless one theorises that Deuteronomy was actually an INSERT by Josiah and thus evidence of a later, doctored Judaism, its hard to see why the Essenes, in a desire for a simpler, Melchizedekian/Abrahamic Judaism would not have seen a conflict between that and Mosaic Judaism.

3) If Christ was reacting against Absolutist Mosaic Judaism in this way, why does he keep referring back to Moses in the Gospels?

Interesting stuff though... Melchy just won't go away!

Pegasus said...

Another feature of the Essene Scroll on Melchizedek is that there have been a series of such Teachers down through history who have been 'hidden', of which Melchizedek is the most well-known. This fits in nicely with the Templar idea of a concealed 'Order of Melchizedek'.

But it does beg one question:

How did the Templars know?

As we've seen, there are only two mentions of M in the whole of the Bible - he brief one in GENESIS and the longer exposition in the EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. Although the EPISTLE speaks of the Order of Melchzedek, there is no reference to this Order being hidden away. And yet that seems to have been what the Templars thought. They couldn't have had access to the Essene Scroll as they weren't found until 1947. The only possible solution is that they would have come across information of the Order while in the Holy Land. After all, we know that they were in conversation with Jewish, Muslim and Orthodox Mystics as their architecture bears witness to it.

Interesting stuff... But that would mean that there may have been traditions left over from the Essenes buzzing about in the region. Remember that the EPISTLE suggests that the Order of Melchizedek supercedes that of Aaron and Moses (Christ is described as not coming from the Levite line). So the Essenes must have seen themselves as opposed to the Cohanim-represented Judaism of the Second Temple.

The plot thickens!

Pegasus said...

Here's Simone Weil on Melchizedek in her work LETTER TO A PRIEST. Orthodox Jews may be a little upset. She clearly hadn't read the Kabbalah, for instance!:

"The passages in the Bible (Genesis, Psalms, St Paul) concerning Melchizedek prove that from the dawn of Israel there existed outside Israel a service of and knowledge of God situated on the selfsame level as Christianity and infinitely superior to anything Israel itself has ever possessed.

There is nothing to exclude the supposition of a link between Melchizedek and the ancient Mysteries. There is an affinity between bread and Demeter, wine and Dionysus...

...The passage in St Paul concerning Melchizedek, taken in connection with Christ's words 'Abraham hath seen my day ' might even indicate that Melchizedek was already an Incarnation of the Word.

At all events, we do not know for certain that there have not been incarnations previous to that of Jesus, and that Osiris in Egypt, Krishna in India were not of that number."

Pegasus said...

More on Melchisedek...

Its not in fact true that M only gets the briefest mention in the Old Testament and more in the New...

Here is a mysterious Psalm... number 110:

'The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thine footstool.
The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.
The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.
He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many bodies.
He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head."

Very strange... Who is the second Lord in the first line? Who is this Psalm referring to?

Pegasus said...

Just noticed myself (!!) that this is the Psalm Simone Weil is referring to...


I hope to visit this site again adn to read everthing when I have more time than I do now. Keep up the good work. Have been interested in these things since seventh grade or so. HALFORD E. JONES