Many of you will have heard of The Essene Gospel of Peace and some of you will know it well. It's often used as a 'spiritual' source to support raw eating. You may have noticed that some raw food teachers are also 'Essene Ministers' and there are several 'Essene' websites.
I know some of you don't have much truck with 'religion' (and I can understand why), but I'm hoping that those of you who don't will still find the article of interest from the point of view of learning a little more about a slim little book that was was written either thousands of years ago, or ninety years ago (depending on one's point of view) that does, at least, contain some excellent instructions on healthy living -particularly diet.
For those of you who do know The Essene Gospel of Peace well, I hope you will add to Pt 2 of the article via Comments.
Natural Hygiene - it didn't start with Herbert Shelton
Natural Hygiene is about the laws of healthy living that have been operable all the time human beings have been about, laws that apply to beings who have free will and choices. But, as we know, human beings have been rather prone to flouting those laws, to our downfall and premature destruction. And we've come up with all sorts of ways (eg medicine) to suppress the manifestations of our flouting of those laws, increasing our suffering in the long term.
The Essene Gospel of Peace, in common with Natural Hygiene, does not talk of 'medicines' or 'cures'; it simply instructs that purification and restoration of right living are what are necessary to rid the body of disease. Whether or not you feel that EGOP is authentic (see later) you will see that many of its instructions are in line with Natural Hygiene, and match relatively recent conclusions drawn about animal foods by scientists. For example, recent findings about the link between animal products and osteoporosis...you'll see in Pt 2 that Someone Else had already said that! Not everything in EGOP matches with NH, but I think you'll be interested to see the similarities.
Egop and me
I owe The Essene Gospel of Peace a debt; it was a major inspiration for my going raw. Although, the first time I read it, about five years ago, it went in one ear and out the other. That was because it came at a time when, after 25 years of not eating meat, I'd been misled (by 'Christian' writings) into eating (some) meat again, and I didn't want to hear anything that contradicted what I'd been told, as is so often the case when deep down we have doubts about what we are doing. And I definitely wasn't interested in its instruction 'Cook not.' Raw food? Bo-ring! Of course, that was then, and now is now, and when I did realise that I'd taken a wrong turn, EGOP was part of the mix that yanked me back onto the right path. I then read it again and felt great recognition, as in re-cognition, that is, I was learning something that I'd always known. Unlike many raw foodists, I've never had any problems staying raw, never had any yearnings for cooked food, and I credit EGOP with providing me with the strong underlying motivation for there never to be any question of returning to a cooked diet.
Who were the Essenes?
The Essenes are often described as a Jewish religious group living around two thousand years ago, before and after Christ. Although, as, according to historian Pliny, they 'had existed for thousands of generations', and 'Jewish' only applied to part of the original 'tribes of Israel', it may not be right to call them 'Jewish'.
They were united by their love of God, which of course included a love of honesty and morality. Some were celibate, some were married. They observed the Sabbath. They shared their money, property, food and clothing. They rejected the use of weapons and did not participate in commerce. Unlike other Jewish religious groups, they did not sacrifice animals.
They became known in modern times after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and have become particularly well known in the raw food world via the Essene Gospel of Peace, as it tells us not to cook our food.
Was Jesus an Essene? Relatively recent statements from the Pope have lent support to those who believe he was. See here.
'They lived only on vegetables that grew of their own accord, and wore only such clothing as could be procured from plants or trees.' (Josephus, 1st century historian) So they ate wild food only - they didn't cultivate. They would not have worn anything made from animals, eg no leather, wool, silk or cotton.
Philo, another historian, says the Essenes 'kept cows and bees'. They included a little dairy in their diets. Sources conflict as to the form of dairy. EGOP mentions 'milk'. Some say they ate yoghurt, or kefir, but others say they never touched fermented food. Edmund Szekeley: 'they were entirely vegetarian in their eating and never touched flesh foods nor fermented liquids.' They didn't drink alcohol.
So, the Essene diet was what most people nowadays would describe as 'lacto-vegetarian' - plant foods, dairy and honey. But, in case anyone thinks that I will be using the Essene diet to promote raw vegetarianism over raw veganism in 2010, I will point out that methods of obtaining milk and honey would have been very different then to methods used today.
There are many people nowadays claiming to be 'Essene', but the vast majority are not remotely living in the way the Essenes used to. For example, I remember reading about an Essene gathering where the food served was cooked. Others certainly 'participate in commerce'! Sure, it's a tough call in 2010 to follow the lifestyles of thousands of years ago, but there are some aspects of Essene life described above that would be relatively easy to follow for someone who wishes to declare themselves 'Essene'.
Google Essenes and you'll find all sorts of 'Essene churches', which is interesting, because the Essenes didn't have 'churches'. 'Church' was a term that sprang up a few hundred years after Christ, when Paul launched 'Christianity'. Some of the sites do contain a wealth of precious information, and for that we must be grateful. However, be wary! When I was information-gathering on Essenes a few years ago I would find from time to time significant conflicts with Essene teaching and what was being said on the sites. I e-mailed a couple, asking for explanation, but received no answer.
Some sites offer 'Essene Ministerial Home Study Programs', or the like. Do bear in mind that anyone can take one of these home courses then put 'Essene Minister' on their raw cv and be 'authorised' to preside over weddings etc. I don't mean to be disparaging - I may well take the course myself one day, but one thing I'm pretty sure about is that it's all a far cry from what it took to be an Essene 'thousands of years ago'. 'After a total of three years' probation, newly joining members would take an oath that included the commitment to practise piety towards 'the Deity' and righteousness towards humanity, to maintain a pure lifestyle, to abstain from criminal and immoral activities, to transmit their rules uncorrupted and to preserve the books of the Essenes and the names of the Angels'. (Josephus)
The Essene Gospel of Peace
The Essene Gospel of Peace was brought to the 20th century world by Edmond Szekeley. Szekeley says that a Catholic priest led him into secret vaults at The Vatican, telling him there he would find the 'Source'. Szekeley then found the ancient manuscripts of the teachings of the Essenes and translated the writings.
The Catholic Church says The Essene Gospel of Peace is a fraud, that the manuscripts/secret vaults never existed. However, those who believe EGOP to be authentic point to its similarities to other writings that predate The Bible. Most shockingly for many Christians, it portrays Jesus as a vegetarian. EGOP also includes a beautiful passage on the nature of love - in EGOP attributed to Jesus, but in the Bible attributed to Paul.
Obviously, someone here is lying.
Did Szekely lie? If so, we have to wonder what his motivation for doing so would have been. Career ambitions? Money? He was adamant that EGOP should not be sold for more than a token price.
Did the Catholic Church lie? If so, we have to wonder what their motivation for doing so might have been. I will point out that, if anyone senior in the Catholic Church were to say that EGOP was authentic, this would obviously create a huge problem for the Catholic Church and in fact millions of Christians, as, if the Church decided that the words in EGOP attributed to Jesus were actually His words, all Christians would have to be directed to stop eating meat. Tricky.
Most of the Essene sites regard The Essene Gospel of Peace as authentic. However, one site had a diet page which was at odds with EGOP, and, as a rationale, the writer opined that EGOP was a 'fake' (Why? Because The Vatican had said so.) I'll leave you to figure out why the rest of the site was sprinkled with quotes from...The Essene Gospel of Peace.
I know people are always interested to know how long those in the business of promoting healthy eating lived, what they died of etc - and it's a reasonable question to ask. Szekeley died at 70 (don't know what of), which is really quite young for someone who had undertaken to spread the the principles of healthful living with particular regard to diet.
So, did Szekeley follow the dietary instructions in Essene Gospel of Peace? No he didn't. Uncorroborated sources say he was not a raw foodist himself. And it is recorded that he told his followers to eat between 10% and 35% of their diets as cooked food. Szekeley advised people to eat according to this 'food pyramid' - 30-50% raw fruits, 30-35% raw vegetables, 10-20% raw or cooked grains, cereals, and starches, 5-10% dried fruits, nuts, oily fruits, butter, honey and fats, and 10-35% cooked vegetables such as beans and pies'. Where did Szekeley get these ideas on diet from? Definitely not from The Essene Gospel of Peace. The Teacher's words in EGOP are quite unequivocal - they are 'Cook not'. They aren't followed by 'Of course, when I say 'cook not', I mean you can cook a bit'.
If, as Szekeley tells us, he believed the instructions in EGOP were the words of Jesus, why didn't he follow them, or tell his own followers to? Did he think 100% raw food would be too much for people? If so, was he right to mollycoddle them, to effectively tell them they didn't have to do as the EGOP instructs, that they'd be better off, that it would be 'easier' for them if they followed his diet instead? Did he forget the instructions he'd been entrusted with in a whirl of ego, fame, the feeling of being a 'guru' to others? Could he simply have been a victim of his own addictions to cooked food? In short, it would seem that, for whatever reason, Szekeley, having understood how he should live, just went his own sweet way, as 99.9% of people do to some extent (including the writer of this article), that is, we live falling short of how we know we should be living and we're felled prematurely by the 'spirit of disobedience'.
I do know some of you will be sceptical about EGOP, but let's not argue about that one, as my response would most likely be 'You could be right!'. None of us can be sure, but luckily in the parts of the world you and I live, we're all free to voice our opinions. I just hope that those who reject EGOP as the words of Jesus will nevertheless see it as an interesting little book on diet etc worth of consideration. My own position after much rumination over the years is that EGOP is not a fake. However, I'll also admit that I fail on its precepts in many ways, regularly and that my own diet is a long way from the way EGOP instructs us to eat (although it's closer than it was in my first year of raw). I hope that I can in some way make up for my failings (though I know I can't, really) by writing this article and helping, as Szekeley undoubtedly did, spread the Word.
In Part 2 (What The Essene Gospel Of Peace Says), I will go through EGOP in page order, adding my comments. If you'd like the content D.Took-comment-free it can be bought for next to nothing on Amazon.