Baptism in its original form was neither a symbolic act nor was it a declaration of membership to a religious community. The submersion by an experienced person, in this case John the Baptist, was often something close to drowning and therefore quite a frightening experience. It resembled in this respect antiquated forms of "Initiations" and/or. "Initiation tests". But in this case the possible psychological experiences were not the main reason or a means of overcoming the fear of death. Baptism signified the call to "repent" (better translated: "to change one’s ways"); namely to the will of the creator, whose "Heavenly Kingdom" had been announced (cf. Matthew 3, John 1).
When Jesus asked John to baptize him, John did not feel worthy to help him. He agreed, but had no control over the event and could only observe a far greater change in Jesus than he was accustomed to bringing about. He had already anticipated the possibility of a higher kind of baptism through the fire of the spirit, through One that comes after him. He then saw the "Spirit of God" descending on Jesus. Christian esoterics saw here the actual "birth of Christ in Jesus". However, this does not require the idea of Jesus and Christ as two separate beings that had not had anything to do with each other before.
Baptism In general and and especially the "baptism in spirit" - the term is used in various ways, e.g. in free churches – can be looked upon as a lead-in to a "New Birth" of man. (John 3) The term "rebirth", more customary in Christian literature, is avoided here because of possible confusion with "re-incarnation". This does not mean that the question of re-incarnation does not appear in the Bible: Matthew 11,14 may be interpreted along these lines.
Instead of wishing to resolve theoretical, theological quarrels about the nature of baptism, the interest could be directed towards what this "New Birth" could really mean for people. We can start, feel, and investigate our entire lives again from a new viewpoint, from a deeper hidden (higher) layer of being, one which is turned toward God. God can take shape in the human being, allowing men and women to become more clearly recognizable as "God's images", or, as mystics express, "Christ's spark" in the heart - full of love - becomes filled with life and begins to grow. The person who deals with that meditatively can also observe this in the image of a child that really unfolds, or that of a child with the mother as an image of the soul. Unlike a fleeting mental picture, created at will during some exercise, it reflects the person’s stage of spiritual development, which cannot become produced at will by the ego. This inner child will become adult later and is even later continuously present in consciousness.
For the less imaginative, the same phenomenon may express itself more through inner feelings or mental impressions, or simply through transformations in life. Works of art such as the Sistine Madonna might also have arisen from visions and therefore helpful, in finding access to inner realities.
In the book "The ways to spiritual rebirth" published by Lorber (german) three stages of rebirth are distinguished in another manner.
A similar way of supporting this development is the meditation on St. John's gospel, a practice almost forgotten today. After a chapter or so, something of the inner content may begin to twinkle in meditative images or in dreams and it may even be felt too and can be taken up in daily life. Then one goes on with the next chapter of the gospel. The chapters of this website may help to do this work. The meditation itself can include learning and speaking the text aloud, or looking at and meditating on the context without speaking. See "methodical tips" in the Introduction.
A further essential feature of a path in the sense of Jesus can become apparent here: the development and its measure is present within each individual. One can develop everything within oneselfand in exchange with life, without the urgent necessity of an institution to endow them with grace. That does not exclude advising each other in a brotherly way. The way is given for the "imitation of Christ".
The "inner" kind of experience itself is not considered to be a substitute for praying to the "external" God: " Remain in me and I in you" (John's Gospel 15)
There was no great necessity to continue with the water baptism after Jesus had begun his teaching activities, or even after the "spiritual baptism" of the Whitsun experience. Jesus already saw it as an external sign of a new development phase that had already matured inwardly. While the baptist movement still taught: "Repent and let yourself be baptized!", after the fusion with this movement the disciples of Jesus taught: " Believe", that means to open oneself for the power of the conviction, "and let yourself be baptized". This part was a concession to the supporters of the baptist; but they started with a positive attitude. They both baptized adults who were able to decide consciously. That does not necessarily exclude the fact that there might also be some kind of blessing for newly born children as their right since 2000 years; but presumably it would have been more expedient to distinguish this from the actual baptism and also from the question of the affiliation to a specific church. This would have resolved many of the quarrels regarding this matter.
Inevitably dependent on the interpretation of the announced Messiah as a king that was prevalent in old Israel, people also understood baptism as an entry into the new kingdom. It did not help to explain that it would be neither a physical kingdom, nor an external church organization, but the community of all those who accept God as their father and themselves in their souls as sons and daughters newly born from this father. This belief, combined with the brotherly attitude of "brothers" and "sisters" among each other and with the human and divine son Jesus as the elder brother formed the core of the teachings that were offered to people to comprehend. In old Israel, the idea of God as a father already existed, as well as the old idea of God as something inaccessible. However, in this case he was considered to be more the father of Abraham and the nation descended from him. God was only the father of the individual through the nation. At the most, a few individuals may have experienced God as a direct father of the individual. This teaching was first brought by Jesus to the public at large; of an individual who feels guided by God in the soul and who could at any time seek communication with God. This was a person who could already feel the eternal part of their own being by this connection with the eternal God. That is already there, and is anchored more clearly in the further course of the way of Jesus.
Note: It is possible, that the following description of Jesus’ experiences in the desert - along with relevant experiences with God not handed down in the Bible - is one of several such phases of seclusion.
Liberal theologians have portrayed the baptism of Jesus as a vocational experience. Seen from a traditional theological point of view, however, the calendrical and prophetic embedding in world history was also an issue (e.g. Luke 3:1-4 including the reference to Isaiah 40:3-5; ): the prophecy deals with a redemptive act of God.
Extra window concerning baptism in present time
Help: a self-examination for the work with the main text
If I haven't already, can I give my life into God's hands ?
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