The Jesus of the New Age Movement
Part Two in a Two-part Series on New Age Christology
by Ron Rhodes
In her best-selling book, Out on a Limb, Shirley MacLaine recounts how a friend
once said to her: "You know that nothing is recorded in the Bible about Christ from
the time he was about twelve until he began to really teach at about thirty years
old. Right?" "Yes," MacLaine replied, "I had heard about that and I just figured he
didn't have much to say until he got older." "Well, no," her friend responded, "a lot
of people think that those eighteen missing years were spent traveling in and
around India and Tibet and Persia and the Near East....They say he became an
adept yogi and mastered complete control over his body and the physical world
around him....[he] tried to teach people that they could do the same things too if
they got more in touch with their spiritual selves and their own potential
Did Jesus travel to the East to study under gurus? Did He become "the Christ" as a
result of what He learned and accomplished there? Are there mystical "gospels"
that have been suppressed by the church, keeping us from knowing the real Jesus?
In this article, we will look at these and other important questions related to the
Jesus of the New Age movement. We begin by examining the claims of a
controversial Russian writer.
Glossary of Key Terms
Caste. A term applied to the social groups in India which rank in a hierarchical
order. The four primary castes -- from highest to lowest -- are: Brahmins
(priests), Kshatriyas (warriors), Vaishyas (peasants), and Sudras (unskilled
Cosmic Christ. Variously defined, but always seen as divine. Many New Agers
speak of him (it) as a universal, impersonal entity who -- among other things --
indwelt the body of the human Jesus for three years (from his baptism to his
Jains. Followers of Jainism. Jainism is a religious system of India that arose in the
sixth century B.C. in protest against the ritualism of Hinduism and the authority of
the Vedas. Jains are rigidly ascetic, believing in a strict control of wrong thought
and action as a means of escaping from the transmigration of the soul (rebirth)
that results from one's past actions (karma).
Monism. A metaphysical theory which sees all reality as a unified whole.
Everything is seen as being composed of the same substance.
Sutras. Collections of aphorisms (or proverbs) which highlight the teachings of
the Vedas and Upanishads (Indian scriptures).
Vedas. The oldest and most sacred scriptures of Hinduism. (The word veda
means "sacred knowledge.")
Zoroastrians. Followers of Zoroastrianism, a Persian religion founded by
Zoroaster (c. 628 B.C.-c. 551 B.C.). Zoroastrianism is an ethical religion which
espouses an ongoing struggle between two primal spirits: Ahura Mazda (the good
spirit), and Angra Mainyu (the evil spirit). Ahura Mazda will ultimately triumph.
Note: Additional technical terms used in this article are defined within the text.
THE LIFE OF SAINT ISSA
As the story goes, in 1887, Nicolas Notovitch -- a Russian war correspondent --
went on a journey through India. While en route to Leh, the capital of Ladakh (in
Northern India along the Tibetan border), he heard a Tibetan lama (i.e., monk) in a
monastery refer to a grand lama named Issa (the Tibetan form of "Jesus").
Notovitch inquired further, and discovered that a chronicle of the life of Issa existed
with other sacred scrolls at the Convent of Himis (about 25 miles from Leh).
Notovitch visited this convent and was told by the chief lama that a scroll did in fact
exist which provided details about the Prophet Issa. This holy man allegedly
preached the same doctrines in Israel as he earlier did in India. The original scroll,
the lama said, was written in the Pali language and later translated into Tibetan. The
Convent of Himis possessed the Tibetan translation, while the original was said to
be in the library of Lhassa (the traditional capital of Tibet).
Notovitch eventually persuaded the lama to read the scroll to him, and had it
translated from Tibetan by an interpreter. According to Notovitch, the literal
translation of the scroll was "disconnected and mingled with accounts of other
contemporaneous events to which they bear no relation," and so he took the
liberty to arrange "all the fragments concerning the life of Issa in chronological
order and [took] pains to impress upon them the character of unity, in which they
were absolutely lacking." He went without sleep for many nights so he could
order and remodel what he had heard.
From the scroll, Notovitch learned that "Jesus had wandered to India and to Tibet
as a young man before he began his work in Palestine." The beginning of Jesus'
alleged journey is described in the scroll this way:
When Issa had attained the age of thirteen years, the epoch when an
Israelite should take a wife, the house where his parents earned their
living...began to be a place of meeting for rich and noble people, desirous of
having for a son-in-law the young Issa, already famous for his edifying
discourses in the name of the almighty. Then it was that Issa left the
parental house in secret, departed from Jerusalem, and with the merchants
set out towards Sind, with the object of perfecting himself in the Divine Word
and of studying the laws of the great Buddhas.
According to Notovitch, the scroll proceeds to explain how, after briefly visiting with
the Jains, young Issa studied for six years among the Brahmins at Juggernaut,
Rajagriha, Benares, and other Indian holy cities. The priests of Brahma "taught him
to read and understand the Vedas, to cure by aid of prayer, to teach, to explain the
holy scriptures to the people, and to drive out evil spirits from the bodies of men,
restoring unto them their sanity."
While there, the story continues, Issa sought to teach the scriptures to all the
people of India -- including the lower castes. The Brahmins and Kshatriyas (higher
castes) opposed him in this, and told him that the Sudras (a lower caste) were
forbidden to read or even contemplate the Vedas. Issa denounced them severely
Because of Issa's controversial teachings, a death plot was devised against him.
But the Sudras warned him and he left Juggernaut, establishing himself in
Gautamides (the birthplace of the Buddha Sakyamuni) where he studied the sacred
writings of the Sutras. "Six years after, Issa, whom the Buddha had elected to
spread his holy word, had become a perfect expositor of the sacred writings. Then
he left Nepal and the Himalayan mountains, descended into the valley of Rajputana,
and went towards the west, preaching to diverse peoples the supreme perfection
of man." Following this, we are told, Issa briefly visited Persia where he
preached to the Zoroastrians. Then, at 29, he returned to Israel and began to
preach all that he had learned.
According to Notovitch's "scroll," by the end of Issa's three-year ministry, Pilate
had become so alarmed at his mushrooming popularity that he ordered one of his
spies to accuse him falsely. Issa was then imprisoned and tortured by soldiers to
force a confession which would permit his being executed. The Jewish priests tried
to act in Issa's behalf, but to no avail. Issa was falsely accused and Pilate ordered
the death sentence:
At sunset the sufferings of Issa came to an end. He lost consciousness, and
the soul of this just man left his body to become absorbed in the
Divinity...Meanwhile, Pilate became afraid of his action and gave the body of
the saint to his parents, who buried it near the spot of his execution...Three
days after, the governor sent his soldiers to carry away the body of Issa to
bury it elsewhere, fearing otherwise a popular insurrection. The next day the
crowd found the tomb open and empty. At once the rumor spread that the
supreme Judge had sent his angels to carry away the mortal remains of the
saint in whom dwelt on earth a part of the Divine Spirit.
Following this, some merchants in Palestine allegedly traveled to India, came upon
some people who had known Issa as a casual student of Sanskrit and Pali during
his youth in India, and filled them in on Issa's demise at the hands of Pilate. And, as
the story concludes, Life of Saint Issa written on a scroll -- author(s) unknown --
three or four years later.
Reactions to Notovitch
This alleged manuscript generated a number of lively responses. Let us briefly look
at a sampling of these.
F. Max Muller. In October 1894, preeminent Orientalist Max Muller of Oxford
University (who himself was an advocate of Eastern philosophy and therefore could
not be accused of having a Christian bias) published a refutation of Notovitch in
The Nineteenth Century, a scholarly review. Four of his arguments are
noteworthy: (1) Muller asserted that an old document like the one Notovitch
allegedly found would have been included in the Kandjur and Tandjur (catalogues
in which all Tibetan literature is supposed to be listed). (2) He rejected Notovitch's
account of the origin of the book. He asked how Jewish merchants happened,
among the millions of India, to meet the very people who had known Issa as a
student, and still more "how those who had known Issa as a simple student in
India saw at once that he was the same person who had been put to death under
Pontius Pilate." (3) Muller cites a woman who had visited the monastery of
Himis and made inquiries about Notovitch. According to a letter she wrote (dated
June 29, 1894), "there is not a single word of truth in the whole story! There has
been no Russian here....There is no life of Christ there at all!" And (4) Muller
questioned the great liberty Notovitch took in editing and arranging the alleged
verses. Muller said this is something no reputable scholar would have done.
Notovitch promptly responded to Muller's arguments in the preface to the London
edition of The Life of Saint Issa which was published the following year (1895).
But his response did little to satisfy his critics. He said: (1) The verses which were
found would not be in any catalogues because "they are to be found scattered
through more than one book without any title." (But in his first preface he
said the Convent of Himis contained "a few copies of the manuscript in
question.") (2) Regarding the unlikeliness of Jewish merchants encountering
those who knew Issa as a child in India, Notovitch said "they were not Jewish but
Indian merchants who happened to witness the crucifixion prior to returning home
from Palestine." (Even so, it would still be unlikely that -- among the millions in
India -- the merchants would come upon the precise people who knew Issa as a
child.) (3) As for editing and arranging the verses in The Life of Saint Issa,
Notovitch said that the same kind of editing was done with the Iliad and no one
ever questioned that. (But how does this legitimize Notovitch's modus operandi?)
(4) As to the refusal by the lama of Himis to affirmatively answer questions about
the manuscript (as he apparently did with the lady who wrote Muller), Notovitch
says this was because "Orientals are in the habit of looking upon Europeans as
robbers who introduce themselves in their midst to despoil them in the name of
civilization." Notovitch succeeded only "because I made use of the Eastern
diplomacy which I had learnt in my travels."14 (This was a convenient
rationalization, for Notovitch could always point to a lack of "Eastern diplomacy"
on the part of a European challenger whenever a monk refused to corroborate the
Assuming (wrongly) that his response to Muller laid criticism of his work to rest,
Notovitch suggested that in the future his critics restrict themselves solely to the
question: "Did those passages exist in the monastery of Himis, and have I faithfully
reproduced their substance?"
J. Archibald Douglas. J. Archibald Douglas, Professor at Government College in
Agra, India, took a three-month vacation from the college and retraced Notovitch's
steps at the Himis monastery. He published an account of his journey in The
Nineteenth Century (June 1895), the bulk of which reproduced an interview with
the chief lama of the monastery. The lama said he had been chief lama for 15
years, which means he would have been the chief lama during Notovitch's alleged
visit. The lama asserted that during these 15 years, no European with a broken leg
had ever sought refuge at the monastery.
When asked if he was aware of any book in any Buddhist monastery in Tibet
pertaining to the life of Issa, he said: "I have never heard of [a manuscript] which
mentions the name of Issa, and it is my firm and honest belief that none such
exists. I have inquired of our principal Lamas in other monasteries of Tibet, and
they are not acquainted with any books or manuscripts which mention the name of
Issa." When portions of Notovitch's book were read to the lama, he
responded, "Lies, lies, lies, nothing but lies!"
The interview was written down and witnessed by the lama, Douglas, and the
interpreter, and on June 3, 1895, was stamped with the official seal of the lama.
The credibility of The Life of Saint Issa was unquestionably damaged by
Nicholas Roerich. In The Lost Years of Jesus, Elizabeth Clare Prophet
documents other supporters of Notovitch's work, the most prominent of which
was Nicholas Roerich. Roerich -- a Theosophist -- claimed that from 1924 to 1928
he traveled throughout Central Asia and discovered that legends about Issa were
widespread. In his book, Himalaya, he makes reference to "writings" and
"manuscripts" about Issa -- some of which he claims to have seen and others
about which people told him. Roerich allegedly recorded independently in his own
travel diary the same legend of Issa that Notovitch had seen earlier.
Per Beskow -- author of Strange Tales About Jesus -- responded to Roerich's
work by suggesting that he leaned heavily on two previous "Jesus goes East"
advocates: "The first part of his account is taken literally from Notovitch's Life of
Saint Issa, chapters 5-13 (only extracts but with all the verses in the right order).
It is followed by 'another version' (pages 93-94), taken from chapter 16 of
Dowling's Aquarian Gospel." (We will consider the Aquarian Gospel shortly.)
Edgar J. Goodspeed. Notovitch's The Life of Saint Issa refused to die; it was
republished in New York in 1926. This motivated Edgar J. Goodspeed, Professor at
the University of Chicago, to publish a Christian response. He commented that "it is
worthwhile to call attention to [The Life of Saint Issa] because its republication in
New York in 1926 was hailed by the press as a new and important
discovery," even though first published over thirty years earlier (1894).
Three of Goodspeed's arguments are noteworthy. (1) Goodspeed suggests a
literary dependency of The Life of Saint Issa on Matthew, Luke, Acts, and
Romans. This would not be odd except that The Life of Saint Issa was allegedly
written three or four years after the death of Christ, whereas Matthew, Luke, Acts,
and Romans were written two or three decades later. An example of this
dependency relates to how The Life of Saint Issa attempts to fill in the silent
years of Jesus between the ages of twelve and thirty: "these two ages are taken
for granted by the author of this work, who unconsciously bases his scheme upon
them. We know them from the Gospel of Luke alone, and the question arises: 'Has
the author of Issa obtained them from the same source?'"
(2) Notovitch describes Luke as saying that Jesus "was in the desert until the day
of his showing unto Israel." This, Notovitch says, "conclusively proves that no one
knew where the young man had gone, to so suddenly reappear sixteen years
later." But, says Goodspeed, "it is not of Jesus but of John that Luke says this
(1:80), so that it will hardly yield the conclusive proof Notovitch seeks. At this
point in Luke's narrative, in fact, Jesus has not yet appeared."
(3) Goodspeed comments that The Life of Saint Issa does not purport to have
been deciphered and translated by a competent scholar: "The lama read, the
interpreter translated, Notovitch took notes. He could evidently not control either
the lama or the interpreter, to make sure of what the Tibetan manuscripts
Throughout the twentieth century, many individuals have responded positively to
the work of Notovitch, including Janet and Richard Bock (makers of the film, "The
Lost Years of Jesus"), Swami Abhedananda, Sai Baba, Paramahansa Yogananda of
the Self-Realization Fellowship, and Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Evidence abounds
that the Issa legend is alive and well today.
Max Muller, J. Archibald Douglas, and Edgar J. Goodspeed have all presented solid
refutations of the legend. These should challenge any serious Issa advocate to
reevaluate his or her position. I shall offer further arguments later. But first, it is
necessary to examine additional features in the New Age profile of Jesus.
THE AQUARIAN GOSPEL OF JESUS THE CHRIST
Another major source for the New Age Jesus is The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus
the Christ, written by Civil War army chaplain Levi Dowling (1844-1911). The title
page of this "gospel" bears the words: "Transcribed from the Book of God's
Remembrances, known as the Akashic Records." (Occultists believe the physical
earth is surrounded by an immense spiritual field known as "Akasha" in which is
impressed every impulse of human thought, will, and emotion. It is therefore
believed to constitute a complete record of human history.) Hence, unlike
Notovitch whose conclusions were based on an alleged objective ancient
document, Levi's book is based on an occult form of subjective (nonverifiable)
The bulk of Levi's gospel, first published in 1911, focuses on the education and
travels of Jesus. After studying with Rabbi Hillel (a Jewish scholar), Jesus allegedly
traveled to India where he spent years studying among the Brahmins and
Jesus supposedly became interested in studying in the East after Joseph (Jesus'
father) hosted Prince Ravanna from India. During his visit, Ravanna asked "that he
might be the patron of the child; might take him to the East where he could learn
the wisdom of the Brahms. And Jesus longed to go that he might learn: and after
many days his parents gave consent." So "Jesus was accepted as a pupil in the
temple Jagannath; and here he learned the Vedas and the Manic laws."
Jesus then visited the city of Benares of the Ganges. While there, "Jesus sought to
learn the Hindu art of healing, and became the pupil of Udraka, greatest of the
Hindu healers." And Jesus "remained with Udraka until he had learned from him
all there was to be learned of the Hindu art of healing."
Levi proceeds to chronicle a visit to Tibet, where Jesus allegedly met Meng-ste, the
greatest sage of the East: "And Jesus had access to all the sacred manuscripts,
and, with the help of Meng-ste, read them all."
Jesus eventually arrived in Egypt, and -- in what must be considered a climax of
this account of the "lost years" -- he joined the "Sacred Brotherhood" at Heliopolis.
While there, he passed through seven degrees of initiation -- Sincerity, Justice,
Faith, Philanthropy, Heroism, Love Divine, and THE CHRIST. The Aquarian Gospel
records the bestowal of this highest degree: "The hierophant arose and said...upon
your brow I place this diadem, and in the Great Lodge of the heavens and earth
you are THE CHRIST....You are a neophyte no more; but God himself will speak,
and will confirm your title and degree....And then a voice that shook the very
temple said, THIS IS THE CHRIST; and every living creature said, AMEN."
Later, following his three-year ministry as THE CHRIST and his subsequent death,
Jesus' resurrection is described by Levi in terms of a "transmutation" which all men
may accomplish. He made many appearances to people all over the world to
substantiate this transmutation. For example, he appeared to the "Silent
Brotherhood" in Greece and said: "What I can do all men can do. Go preach the
gospel of the omnipotence of man."
THE READINGS OF EDGAR CAYCE
Like Levi, Edgar Cayce claimed the ability to read the Akashic Record while in a
trance. During his life, he gave over 16,000 readings, 5,000 of which deal with
religious matters. It was from the Akashic Record that Cayce set forth an elaborate
explanation of the early years of Jesus.
The person we know as Jesus, Cayce tells us, had 29 previous incarnations:
"These included an early sun worshipper, the author of the Book of the Dead, and
Hermes, who was supposedly the architect of the Great Pyramid. Jesus was also
Zend (the father of Zoroaster), Amilius (an Atlantean) and other figures of ancient
history." Other incarnations include Adam, Joseph, Joshua, Enoch, and
This particular soul did not become "the Christ" until the thirtieth incarnation -- as
Jesus of Nazareth. The reason Jesus had to go through so many incarnations is
that he -- like all other human beings -- had "karmic debt" (sin) to work off.
Jesus received a comprehensive education. Prior to his twelfth year, he attained a
thorough knowledge of the Jewish law. "From his twelfth to his fifteenth or
sixteenth year he was taught the prophecies by Judy [an Essene teacher] in her
home at Carmel. Then began his education abroad. He was sent first again into
Egypt for only a short period, then into India for three years, then into that later
called Persia....From Persia he was called to Judea at the death of Joseph, then
went into Egypt for the completion of his preparation as a teacher." During his
alleged studies abroad, Jesus studied under many teachers (including Kahjian in
India, Junner in Persia, and Zar in Egypt), and learned healing, weather control,
telepathy, astrology, and other psychic arts. When his education was complete, he
went back to his homeland where he performed "miracles" and taught the
multitudes for three years.
JESUS THE CHRIST AND HIS TEACHINGS
There are many differing views regarding how Jesus attained "Christhood." As we
have seen, Levi said Jesus went through seven degrees of initiation, the seventh
being THE CHRIST. Cayce said Jesus became "the Christ" in the thirtieth
incarnation. Many modern New Agers say the human Jesus merely "attuned" to
the cosmic Christ, or achieved at-one-ment with the Christ by raising his own
"Christ-consciousness." But however Jesus attained "Christhood," New Agers
agree that he was a teacher par excellence of New Age "truths."
New Agers generally do one of two things with the teachings of Jesus. Some
merely reinterpret the gospel sayings of Jesus to make it appear that Jesus was
actually teaching New Age "truth." Others add that long-lost (New Age) sayings
of Jesus have been rediscovered. These "rediscovered" sayings can have one of
two sources: reputed ancient extracanonical writings (like the "Gnostic gospels"
which were allegedly suppressed by the early church and rediscovered at Nag
Hammadi in 1945) and the Akashic Record. Let us now consider samplings of
each of these.
The Gospel Sayings of Jesus. According to New Agers, we must all seek first the
kingdom of heaven (Matt. 6:33), recognizing that the "kingdom" has reference to
our inner divinity. For indeed, Jesus said "Ye are gods" (John 10:34). The
parable about those who foolishly build a house on sand (Matt. 7:24-27) teaches
us that those who fail to recognize their divinity will not be able to stand against
the storms of life. But if we come unto Jesus, we will find rest, for his yoke
(i.e., yoga) is easy and his burden is light (Matt. 11:28-30).
"Newly Discovered" Sayings from Extracanonical Sources. Jesus taught a
form of pantheism according to The Life of Saint Issa, for he said that "the
Eternal Spirit [God] is the soul of all that is animate." He also taught that all
humans have unlimited potential: "I came to show human possibilities....that which
I am, all men will be." And, according to the Gnostic gospels, Jesus spoke of
"illusion and enlightenment, not of sin and repentance." Indeed, man can save
himself: "If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save
"Newly Discovered" Sayings from the Akashic Record. According to Levi's
Aquarian Gospel, Jesus was just a way-shower: "And all the people were
entranced, and would have worshipped Jesus as God; but Jesus said, I am your
brother man just come to show the way to God; you shall not worship man."
Jesus also taught pantheism and monism: "The universal God is one, yet he is
more than one [i.e., he takes many forms]; all things are God; all things are
one." Jesus also tells us that "the nations of the earth see God from different
points of view, and so he does not seem the same to every one."
THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN RESPONSE
A Christian response to the New Age rendition of Jesus may begin with the
observation that the accounts of Jesus going East have irreconcilable
contradictions. This fact alone should make any objective investigator suspicious
of the reliability of these documents.
Each of the accounts differ, for example, regarding the beginning of Jesus' trek.
The Life of Saint Issa portrays Jesus departing secretly from his parent's house
with some merchants on their way to India so he could perfect himself by studying
the laws of the great Buddhas. Levi's Aquarian Gospel depicts Prince Ravanna
from India asking Jesus' parents if he can escort Jesus to India where he can learn
Indian wisdom. Cayce's reading of the Akashic Record has an Essene teacher
sending Jesus to India to study astrology and other psychic disciplines.
What is particularly revealing is that both Cayce and Levi allegedly obtained their
"revelations" by reading the Akashic Record, yet their readings blatantly contradict
each other. Since both Cayce and Levi are highly respected in New Age circles, how
do New Agers account for the obvious failure of at least one of them to properly
"read" the Akashic Record? Furthermore, if one of these top-rated New Age seers
cannot be trusted, which one can be?
Not only do the accounts disagree with each other, they all disagree with the
gospel accounts in the New Testament. And the New Testament has solid,
irrefutable manuscript evidence -- something that should be considered by those
wanting to replace it so easily with Gnostic gospels or alleged ancient manuscripts
claiming that Jesus went East.
The New Testament gospels are based on eyewitness testimony. Moreover, they
were written very close to the time of the events which they report. It is crucial to
recognize that the four canonical gospels are all dated much earlier than the
Gnostic gospels. The earliest Gnostic gospels date from A.D. 150 to 200. The
New Testament gospels date from A.D. 60 to 100 -- approximately one century
earlier. Clearly, the New Testament gospels are the authentic and reliable source
for information on the life and teachings of Jesus.
On the other hand, all of the "Jesus goes East" accounts contain historical
inaccuracies, several of which have already been mentioned. Other examples
include: (1) Levi's Aquarian Gospel said Herod Antipas was ruler in Jerusalem.
Antipas, however, never ruled in Jerusalem but in Galilee. Dowling meant to say
Herod the Great. This is especially significant since Levi's transcriptions are claimed
to be "true to the letter" in the introduction of his Aquarian Gospel! (2) Levi's
reference to Jesus visiting with Meng-ste was probably meant to be the great
Chinese sage, Meng-tse (tse, not ste). Dowling apparently didn't realized, however,
that Meng-tse died in 289 B.C.
The deeper one probes, the clearer it becomes that the Jesus of the New Age
movement lacks any basis in history. To many, The Life of Saint Issa appeared
to provide this. However, the world still awaits bona fide hard evidence that
can be physically examined by all interested parties. Even a photograph would
be helpful. But as Notovitch lamented: "During my journey I took a considerable
number of very curious photographs, but when on arrival at Bombay I examined
the negatives, I found they had all become obliterated." I don't want to be
In order to find a New Age Jesus in authentic documents, New Agers are forced
to deal with the language of the New Testament in a manipulative fashion.
Tal Brooke comments: "It is a little like the problem of the Marxist who wishes to
change the common understanding of the United States Constitution so that a
gradualist skewing of word meaning can enable a socialistic interpretation of words
whose intended meanings in the original were clearly different."
Though the New Testament does not directly address this issue, there are strong
indirect evidences that Jesus never traveled East for eighteen years. First,
Jesus was well-known as a carpenter (Mark 6:3) and as a carpenter's son (Matt.
13:55). That His carpentry played a large role in His life up to the time of His
ministry is clear from the fact that some of His parables and teachings drew upon
His experience as a carpenter (e.g., building a house on rock as opposed to sand,
Moreover, the people in and around Nazareth displayed familiarity with Jesus, as if
they had had regular contact with Him for a prolonged time. At the beginning of His
three-year ministry, Jesus "went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up,
and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he
stood up to read" (Luke 4:16). After He finished reading, "all spoke well of him and
were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. 'Isn't this Joseph's
son?' they asked" (Luke 4:22). This implies that those in the synagogue regarded
Jesus as a local resident.
It is important to note that when Jesus stood up to read, He did so from the Old
Testament Scriptures. And the Old Testament -- for which Jesus often displayed
reverence (cf. Matt. 5:18) -- (1) contains numerous warnings and admonitions
about staying away from false gods and false religious systems (cf. Exod. 20:2;
34:14; Deut. 6:14; 13:10; 2 Kings 17:35); (2) clearly distinguishes between the
creation and the Creator, unlike Eastern thought; and (3) taught the need for
redemption, not gnosis (knowledge). It is no coincidence that Jesus is often seen
quoting from the Old Testament in the gospels, but not once does He quote from
(or even mention) the Vedas!
While some in Nazareth were impressed at the graciousness of Jesus' words,
others were offended that He was attracting so much attention. They seemed to
be treating Him with a contempt born of familiarity. We read in Matthew 13:54-57:
"Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and
they were amazed....'Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary,
and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?...Where then did this
man get all these things?' And they took offense at him."
Among those that became angriest at Jesus were the Jewish leaders. They
accused Him of many offenses, including breaking the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1-14),
blasphemy (John 8:58-59; 10:31-33), and doing miracles in Satan's power (Matt.
12:24). But they never accused Him of teaching or practicing anything learned in
the East. The Jews considered such teachings and practices to be idolatry and
sorcery. Had Jesus actually gone to the East to study under "the great Buddhas,"
this would have been excellent grounds for discrediting and disqualifying Him
regarding His claim to be the promised Jewish Messiah.
It is noteworthy that the self-concept of the New Age Jesus is that he is just a
man who became enlightened in the East, eventually achieving Christhood. The
self-concept of the New Testament Jesus, however, is one in which He singles
Himself out as God (cf. John 8:58).
It is understandable why the "Jesus who went East" refused to accept worship (cf.
Dowling). The New Testament Jesus, by contrast, accepted worship on numerous
occasions because He knew Himself to be the one and only God (note especially
Matthew 28:17). Of course, only God can be worshiped (cf. Ex. 20:4-5; Deut.
6:4-5, 13). It is thus significant that even when Jesus was just a babe, the Magi
(from the East) "fell down and worshiped Him" (Matt. 2:11).
The final word on this matter must belong to God the Father, for there is no higher
authority in the universe. He Himself is quoted as saying to Jesus: "Your throne, O
God, will last for ever and ever" (Heb. 1:8). It is Jesus -- the second Person of the
Trinity -- that we as Christians look forward to seeing; 'we wait for the blessed
hope -- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (Titus
2:13). And, as Christians, we exult in the truth that Jesus has a name that is
above every name, and that at His name, every knee will bow -- in heaven and
on earth and under the earth (Phil. 2:9-10).
A CLOSING REFLECTION
What if -- despite all the arguments presented above -- a manuscript should
one day surface in India which speaks of Issa? Would this prove that Jesus
did in fact go East during His youth?
Christians acknowledge that news of Jesus eventually reached India and Tibet as a
result of the missionary efforts of the early church. It is conceivable that when
devotees of other religions heard about Jesus, they tried to modify what they
heard to make it appear that Jesus and His teachings were compatible with their
own belief systems. It is possible that -- sometime between the first and
nineteenth centuries -- these unreliable legends were recorded on scrolls and
circulated among the convents in India. This would not be unlike the distorted
versions of the life of Jesus that emerged among the early Gnostics (and recorded
in the Gnostic gospels).
But for such a manuscript to be convincing, it would have to have the same kind of
irrefutable manuscript evidence as the New Testament, the same quality of
eyewitness testimony, and be written very close to the events on which they
report like the New Testament. Until such an authoritative document surfaces, is it
wise to base one's eternal destiny on a manuscript that has as little evidential
support as Notovich's?
Douglas Groothuis issues this challenge: "Should any supposed record of Jesus' life
come to the fore, let it marshal its historical merits in competition with holy writ.
The competitors have an uphill battle against the incumbent."
1. Shirley MacLaine, Out on a Limb (New York: Bantam Books, 1984), 233-34.
2. Nicolas Notovitch, The Life of Saint Issa, cited by Joseph Gaer, The Lore of
the New Testament (Boston: Little Brown and Co., 1952), 118.
3. Nicolas Notovitch, cited by Per Beskow, Strange Tales About Jesus
(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, n.d.), 59.
4. Nicolas Notovitch, ed. The Life of Saint Issa, in Elizabeth Clare Prophet, The
Lost Years of Jesus (Livingston, MT: Summit University Press, 1987), 218.
5. Ibid., 219.
6. Ibid. , 222-23.
7. Ibid., 245-46.
8. Max Muller, "The Alleged Sojourn of Christ in India," The Nineteenth Century
36 (1894):515f., cited by Edgar J. Goodspeed, Modern Apocrypha (Boston:
Beacon Press, 1956, 10.
9. Ibid., 11.
10. Notovitch, cited by Goodspeed, 11.
11. Ibid., 11-12.
12. Notovich, in Prophet, Lost Years 30.
13. Ibid., 103.
14. Ibid., 103.
15. Ibid., 108.
16. J. Archibald Douglas, "The Chief Lama of Himis on the Alleged 'Unknown Life
of Christ'" The Nineteenth Century (April 1896) 667-77, cited by Prophet, 36-37.
17. Goodspeed, 13.
18. Beskow, 62.
19. Goodspeed, 14 emphasis added.
20. Ibid., 5.
21. Ibid., 9.
23 . Levi, The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ (London: L. N. Fowler &
Co., 1947), 48.
24. Ibid., 50.
25. Levi, cited by Gaer, 134.
26 . Levi, Aquarian Gospel, 66.
27. Ibid., 87.
28. Ibid., 251. 253.
29. Philip J. Swihart, Reincarnation, Edgar Cayce, and the Bible (Downers
Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1978), 18.
30. Anne Read, Edgar Cayce: On Jesus and His Church (New York: Warnera
Books, 1970), 70.
31. David Spangler, The Laws of Manifestation (Forres, Scotland: Findhorn
Publications, 1983), 23-24.
32. Spangler, Reflections on the Christ, (Forres, Scotland: Findhorn Publications,
33. Mark L. Prophet and Elizabeth Clare Prophet, The Lost Teachings of Jesus 3
(Livingston, MT: Summit University Press, 1988), 273[74.
34. Notovitch, in Prophet, Lost Years, 229.
35. Nicholas Roerich, Himalaya (New York: Brentano's 1926), cited by Prophet,
36. Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (New York: Random House, 1979), xx.
37. Ibid., 126.
38. Levi, Aquarian Gospel, 54.
39 Ibid., 56.
40. Ibid., 56.
41. Levi, Aquarian Gospel, 12.
42. Notovitch, cited by Prophet, 120.
43. Tal Brooke, When the World Will Be as One (Eugene, OR: Harvest House
Publishers, 1989) 118.
44. Douglas Groothuis, Confronting the New Age (Downers Groves:
InterVarsity Press, 1988), 93.
NOTE TO THE READER: Since he wrote this article, Ron Rhodes has published a
related book on the subject titled The Counterfeit Christ of the New Age
Movement (Baker Book House, 1990).
Part Two in a Two-Part Series on New Age Christology, from the Christian Research Journal, Fall
989, page 9. The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is Elliot Miller. Copyright © 1994
by the Christian Research Institute, P.O. Box 7000, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688-7000.
†Faith and Reason Forum would like to thank CRI for graciously allowing us to put this article on our
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A, April 11, 1994 R. Poll, CRI