I'm surprised that I hadn't read this one “back in the day” as this was the sort of book that would have easily fit into my late '70s and early '80s reading. I'd certainly been familiar with the name
, but had never gotten around to picking up a copy until I encountered one at last summer's Newberry Library Book Fair.
The first thing that stands out about The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ
is its attribution simply “by Levi”, which (with a little bit of Googling) turns out to be one Levi H. Dowling (1844-1911). When encountering “oddly named” authors one has to wonder what the story of the name is (some are simply fruitcakes, of course). In this case, I believe the author was at least trying to flag the book as having been “channeled”. I had gotten about 20% into the book (which is set up like a Bible, with two columns a page of small sections, collected into larger sections, all numbered, etc.) and had one of those “what the heck
is with this?” moments and went off to the Internet to fish up info.
It turns out that Mr. Dowling was a sort of fringe preacher who was enamored of (and I guess at least somewhat connected with) the Theosophists. I found this amusing, as my first thought was how much this sounded like Blavatsky's stuff from a similar period. However, rather than showing up in stacks of crayon-scrawled papers in the morning, Dowling directly set himself a program of “visualizations” which he claimed enabled him to “travel in time” and see the events of the past, in this case the life of Jesus.The Aquarian Gospel
is probably best known for “filling in the missing years” of Jesus' history, that big gap that the Bible doesn't bother much with between “miraculous birth” and “ministry & death”. According to Dowling, this information has now been “transcribed from the Akashic Records” … good for us, eh?
The book is more-or-less in two parts … the early years of John, Jesus' family, and “Jesus' travels”, and then the standard New Testament stuff, retold. Frankly, the second half of the book is a real drag, as everybody knows the story, and Levi isn't adding much, just “spinning” things differently (notably, going out of his way to make Pontius Pilate look like a great guy) from the “usual version”. The early part of the book is “the good stuff”, with various teachers of John, Mary, other relatives, Jesus, etc., including transmuting “Abrahamic” religion into the “religion of Brahm”, and relating that to various Persian and Indian (ala Brahma) cults and thence into Buddhism.
Eventually, Jesus “hits the road” and first spends a lot of time bouncing around India and interacting with the Hindu teachers ... inevitably, he gets on the wrong side of the priesthood and has to flee to Nepal, working with Buddhists, then to Tibet, and then back to India. From there he goes to Persia, Assyria, Chaldea, and Babylon before headed home just long enough for his mother to put on a big dinner for him and (I'm extrapolating here) do his laundry. The next stop is Greece, where he briefly hangs out with a guy called Apollo, and heaps tons on praise on the Greeks who weep when he leaves.
After Greece it's time for some schoolin' and the Aquarian Jesus is off to Egypt to study with the big boys … the “Sacred Brotherhood” at the temple of Heliopolis. Here he passes through seven specific challenges, the last of which gives him the title of “The Christ”. Passing this degree appears to have “changed the age” and the next thing is a meeting of “the seven sages of the world”, conveniently all folks that Jesus was hanging out with in his various travels (who'da thunk?), in Alexandria.
Following this, the “standard” tale picks up again, albeit strongly flavored with Theosophical doctrine. The focus moves to John, then Jesus' early ministry, assembling his posse, and endearing himself to the mob while pissing off all sacred and temporal authority. You know the rest. The spin gets heavy after he's crucified, with a lot of “sacred brotherhood” stuff worthy of red and blue crayon, then dips back into the traditional story for Pentecost, and the book ends.
Frankly, as I struggled through the last half of the book, I wondered why this book didn't end up creating a cult of its own … after all, this is “more canonical” than the Book of Mormon, and certainly no less wacky than Dianetics ... how come those
went big-time and this stayed (while still in print a hundred years since its publication) on the sidelines? Must be not having a “huckster” to be pushing it … Dowling died within 3 years of penning this, while Joseph Smith and L.Ron Hubbard were able to market the heck out of their books!
Anyway, as noted, this is still in print more than a century down the road, but, because of its vintage, it's also available free on the web
… so if you want to check it out, it's only a few clicks away. Used copies (I got mine for $1.50 on “half-price Sunday” at Newberry), are available for as little as a buck forty-five in “good” condition via the Amazon new/used guys, so if you want a dead-tree version you might consider that, were this little bit of channeling something that you felt you couldn't go without.