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Gnostic Catholic Denominations: Exoteric and Esoteric Service

Many clergy and laity in Gnostic Catholic denominations—what might loosely be called the "Leadbeater family" become very frustrated because of the low numbers in their congregations—even though they are offering something of incomparable value, it seems, their denominational offerings never seem to "catch on" as do denominations which ignore or even repudiate the esoteric truths of Gnosticism and, instead, offer only "mainstream" Christianity. As a result of this frustration, an unfortunate development often occurs. These denominations "forget the glory" of their esoteric heritage—to cite the "Act of Contrition" most often used in churches of Leadbeater and Wedgwood heritage—and "wander from the path which leads to righteousness" by failing to espouse fully or even by repudiating the priceless responsibilities enjoined upon them to keep the "Ancient Wisdom" alive in Catholic Christianity.

These developments have occasioned a debate which has not always been carried on pleasantly. Many, including prominent bishops, have argued that our church is not intended to be "for the many," but rather "for the few," intended that is to serve an unmet need for a few souls on the Catholic Christian path who, in at least some senses, are ahead of most others on the Catholic Christian path. According to this view, at least as sometimes propounded, these churches ought not to attempt to proselytize much, but rather to preserve their identity for those who will be led by the Lords of Karma to find them. This seems to be the position which was most often taken by Bishops Leadbeater and Wedgwood. Critics frequently argue that this seems to evince a sinful spiritual selfishness, an objectionable elitism, and that the enlightened few ought, in some sense, to sacrifice their own spiritual comfort for the benefit of those less advanced in these areas and that this sacrifice should even go so far as banning open the proclamation of the great truths of reincarnation, dharma, karma, and the unity of all religions in these churches.

The essentials of this debate seem reducible to two questions: (1) Should Gnostic Catholic churches be "for the few" or "for the many?" and (2) Should they be esoteric or exoteric? These two questions, many would say, are in reality one question.

In the divine economy, in my opinion, Gnostic Catholic denominations are intended to be exoterically for the few and esoterically for the all; a Gnostic Catholic church in the short run is for the few but in the long run is for all.

These denominations are exoterically for the few because they are not and probably never will be large. In the early centuries of Christianity those running the Catholic Church, probably under angelic guidance, decided to remove certain esoteric knowledge--karma and reincarnation, universal salvation, the hidden unity of all religions, creation, including man, as emanations of God rather productions ex nihilo, spiritual evolution, Brahmanic inhalations and exhalations, among other ideas--from the teachings exoterically presented to the many. This decision has persisted throughout many centuries and is unlikely to change in the immediately foreseeable future. Most Christians, Jews, and Muslims--even very religious ones--tend to be very resistant to the above and other central ideas of esoteric Christianity. For this and a variety of other reasons it seems reasonable to speculate that there may be some esoteric reason why most people belonging to the Abrahamic family of faiths are not to be given this knowledge until comparatively late on their spiritual pilgrimage (unlike those on Hindu, Buddhist, Druse, and certain other paths who have been conversant with these truths for many centuries). Christians will eventually integrate these ideas into their repertoire of beliefs, but most have not been ready for them and probably will not be ready for a long time.

Accordingly, a Gnostic Catholic church is unlikely to attract a large membership if it remains true to the tasks entrusted to it. To be competitive with mainline denominations, it would have to become like them and in the process betray its mission. Lay members are almost always not required to subscribe to Gnostic truths, but, preferably, in a Gnostic Catholic church, there would not be many such members. A large lay membership hostile or indifferent to such insights would probably exert enough pressure for conformity to culturally mainstream Christianity and, consequently, derail such a church from its appointed path. Accordingly, in my opinion, churches of the Leadbeater family, while not excluding anyone—Leadbeater was always emphatic in proscribing such exclusiveness—ought to in various ways discourage large numbers of such entries. Catholics whose beliefs are exoteric and are "liberal" on sexual issues, for example, have many other potential spiritual homes.

Our churches fulfill a very important function for those few souls on the Christian--particularly the Catholic-- path who are ready for such esoteric insights and need to integrate them into Catholic spirituality and combine them with Catholic sacramentalism in order to progress spiritually. Very few churches are fulfilling this need, while many churches exist to serve the many Catholics and other Christians not yet ready for such gnostic insights. Our churches, therefore, are small and ought not to attempt to become large. A Gnostic Catholic church making such a misguieded attempt would in the process be providing service already provided by many other churches and fail to provide the important service the World Teacher asks of it.

The whole universe, however--and, in particular, the human race--is interrelated. What benefits some necessarily benefits all. Paradoxically, the few Catholics ready for Gnostic integrations who wish to progress spiritually must do so by serving the many; one does not progress spiritually by serving oneself alone. They can provide this service through such churches in two ways.

In the short run they serve other Catholics--and the whole world--esoterically. Certain spiritual energy patterns which can be formulated in no other way are formulated and spread upon the world by those who participate in the Eucharistic and other Catholic sacramental acts with the knowledge and understanding of those who take advantage of the philosophical and theological treasures of our Gnostic Catholic tradition. Also, the knowledge and understanding Gnostic Catholics gain and the improvements in their own vehicles lead them to make good choices and serve the people in their sphere of influence more effectively (whether that sphere be large, as in the case of a politician like Henry A. Wallace, or small, as in the case of a grandmother who has been a housewife for most of her life).

In the long run, however, our churches will serve the many exoterically--whether or not particular individual Gnostic denominations continue to exist in their present forms-- in the distant future. Knowledge presently esoteric will be exoteric--even mainstream--at some point in the future. Our churches will have then performed a valuable service by preserving Gnostic insights and combining them with Catholic Christianity so that one what we experience now will be available later for the many when they are ready for it. Furthermore, today's Liberal Catholics and other Gnostic Catholics may be in training karmically for spiritual leadership roles in the future when "the many" on the Catholic and other Christian paths are ready for their services'.

Let us joyfully serve esoterically now that we may be worthy to serve exoterically in the future.