The Apostle Paul: Initiate and Occultist

Some people may know of the Apostle Paul better as Saint Paul. In the Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican, Presbyterian, or Episcopalian churches, he’s generally referred to as Saint Paul, but the other forms of Christianity tend to prefer not speaking of such figures as “Saints” in case it encourages excessive veneration or praying to them or worshipping them, such as has happened in Roman Catholicism and the Orthodox churches especially. So the rest of Christianity – of which the largest form is Pentecostalism – refer to him as the Apostle Paul.

And this designation comes from Paul’s own writings for in his letter or epistle to the Ephesians he lists the five main offices of the church, as he envisioned it; he says there should be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, and some may hold several of those roles at once. (Ephesians 4:12) In a similar passage to the Corinthian Christians, he says: “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:28)

What no-one can deny is that the early Christian Church was something very different from what we generally see and think of today as Christianity.

The miracles and healings and wondrous things that we all know of as attributed to Jesus in the Gospels apparently did not stop with the death of Jesus. In the Gospels, Jesus tells his disciples and followers that after his death they should gather together and wait for something called the “Holy Spirit” to descend upon them and that this will then give them power, or sacred ability, to perform mighty works that will help to advance the Cause that Jesus represented.

After the Four Gospels comes the Book of Acts, the Acts of the Apostles, and it reports that this is what happened, that the Holy Spirit descended, on the Day of Pentecost, like tongues of fire which enveloped each of those who were gathered, and they began speaking in other tongues, meaning languages they had never learned, as well as absolutely unknown and otherworldly unidentifiable languages. They also found they were then able to help others to have a similar experience to this, which became known as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Different from water baptism, this was a spiritual baptism, and the New Testament describes that in those days once a person became a convert to Christianity they generally also underwent this secondary experience, of being baptised with the Holy Spirit, marked by receiving the ability to speak and pray in an unknown tongue, and feeling empowered to lay hands on the sick to bring about healing and many other things that some would describe as “supernatural.”

Theosophy says however that nothing is truly supernatural or miraculous, for even the strangest and most extraordinary things happen according to Laws of Nature. But we mention all this in order to help set the scene. If one imagines the Christianity of Paul’s day as being anything even remotely like the old traditional liturgical or ritualistic Christian churches of today, we’ll have entirely the wrong idea. Paul was dealing with an extremely vibrant, energised, living movement and the closest thing to it today is Pentecostalism, which we’ll touch upon later.

The word “Apostle” is from the Greek “Apostolos” meaning “one who is sent” or a “messenger.” In the Bible, Jesus chooses 12 people as his closest disciples and tells them they are Apostles. Twelve is a symbolic number as we know. But Paul is unique in being an Apostle who never even met Jesus, at least not physically.

We’ve probably all heard the expression “Road to Damascus experience,” this comes from the Bible’s account of Paul’s dramatic conversion to Christianity. Previously he was known as Saul and was a very learned and zealous follower of Judaism and violently persecuted the early Christians after the death of Jesus. On his way to Damascus in Syria with the intent of throwing Christians into prison, a bright heavenly light suddenly shone around him and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He asked the voice to identify himself and the Book of Acts reports that it told him “I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest.” This had a dramatic effect on him and he immediately expressed his willingness to obey and follow Jesus.

When this experience ended Paul found he was now blind and so others had to help him complete his journey to Damascus. In Damascus a Christian named Ananias had a vision of Jesus, who told him what had just happened to Paul and told him to find him and lay hands on him, so that his sight could be healed and so he could receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit; this is what reportedly happened and Paul then immediately began preaching the Christian message with the same zealousness with which he had tried to destroy it. His letters of guidance and doctrine to early Christian churches make up 30% of the entire New Testament and played a key role in the formulating of Christian theology.

But of course whenever any form of today’s Christian Church speaks about Paul, there’s one extremely important factor which they never mention, probably because they don’t know about it and wouldn’t accept such a notion anyway . . . and that is that this man was in reality an Initiate, an Occultist, a member of that hidden esoteric Brotherhood which guides and watches over the spiritual evolution and advancement of humanity . . . and he was, H . P. Blavatsky even says, an Adept in his own right.

So now let’s take a look at some (not all, because there are so many) of HPB’s most important statements about Paul and what she, and the Masters – the “living, human Mahatmas” – behind the modern Theosophical Movement, reveal about him.

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The Apostle Paul



“There was but one apostle of Jesus worthy of that name, and that was Paul. However disfigured were his Epistles by dogmatic hands before being admitted into the Canon, his conception of the great and divine figure of the philosopher who died for his idea can still be traced in his addresses to the various Gentile nations.” (Vol. 2, p. 241)

“The erudite author of Supernatural Religion [i.e. a book anonymously published in 1874] assiduously endeavors to prove that by Simon Magus we must understand the apostle Paul, whose Epistles were secretly as well as openly calumniated by Peter . . . The Apostle of the Gentiles [i.e. Paul] was brave, outspoken, sincere, and very learned; the Apostle of Circumcision [i.e. Peter], cowardly, cautious, insincere, and very ignorant. That Paul had been, partially, at least, if not completely, initiated into the theurgic mysteries, admits of little doubt. His language, the phraseology so peculiar to the Greek philosophers, certain expressions used but by the initiates, are so many sure ear-marks to that supposition. . . . In his Epistles to the Corinthians he [i.e. Professor Alexander Wilder, early Theosophist and Platonist] shows Paul abounding with “expressions suggested by the initiations of Sabazius and Eleusis, and the lectures of the (Greek) philosophers. He (Paul) designates himself an idiotes – a person unskilful in the Word, but not in the gnosis or philosophical learning. ‘We speak wisdom among the perfect or initiated,’ he writes; ‘not the wisdom of this world, nor of the archons of this world, but divine wisdom in a mystery, secret – which none of the Archons of this world knew.’ “

“What else can the apostle mean by these unequivocal words, but that he himself, as belonging to the mystæ (initiated), spoke of things shown and explained only in the Mysteries? The “divine wisdom in a mystery which none of the archons of this world knew,” has evidently some direct reference to the basileus of the Eleusinian initiation who did know. . . . Another proof that Paul belonged to the circle of the “Initiates” lies in the following fact. The apostle had his head shorn at Cenchrea (where Lucius, Apuleius, was initiated) because “he had a vow.” [Acts 18:18] The nazars – or set apart – as we see in the Jewish Scriptures, had to cut their hair which they wore long, and which “no razor touched” at any other time, and sacrifice it on the altar of initiation. And the nazars were a class of Chaldean theurgists. We will show further that Jesus belonged to this class.

“Paul declares that: “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation.” [1 Corinthians 3:10] This expression, master-builder, used only once in the whole Bible, and by Paul, may be considered as a whole revelation. In the Mysteries, the third part of the sacred rites was called Epopteia, or revelation, reception into the secrets. In substance it means that stage of divine clairvoyance when everything pertaining to this earth disappears, and earthly sight is paralyzed, and the soul is united free and pure with its Spirit, or God. But the real significance of the word is “overseeing,” from optomai I see myself. In Sanscrit the word evâpto has the same meaning, as well as to obtain. . . . The title of master-mason, in Freemasonry, is derived from this, in the sense used in the Mysteries. Therefore, when Paul entitles himself a “master-builder,” he is using a word pre-eminently kabalistic, theurgic, and masonic, and one which no other apostle uses. He thus declares himself an adept, having the right to initiate others.” (Vol. 2, p. 89-91)

“The narrative of the Apostle Paul, in his second Epistle to the Corinthians (xii. 3, 4), has struck several scholars, well versed in the descriptions of the mystical rites of the initiation given by some classics, as alluding most undoubtedly to the final Epopteia. “I knew a certain man – whether in body or outside of body, I know not: God knoweth – who was rapt into Paradise, and heard things ineffable, which it is not lawful for a man to repeat.” These words have rarely, so far as we know, been regarded by commentators as an allusion to the beatific visions of an “initiated” seer. But the phraseology is unequivocal. These things “which it is not lawful to repeat,” are hinted at in the same words, and the reason for it assigned, is the same as that which we find repeatedly expressed by Plato, Proclus, Iamblichus, Herodotus, and other classics. “We speak WISDOM only among them who are PERFECT,” says Paul; the plain and undeniable translation of the sentence being: “We speak of the profounder (or final) esoteric doctrines of the Mysteries (which were denominated wisdom) only among them who are initiated.” So in relation to the “man who was rapt into Paradise” – and who was evidently Paul himself – the Christian word Paradise having replaced that of Elysium.” (Vol. 2, p. 146)

“Paul, writing to the Corinthians, declared that the entire story of Moses and the Israelites was typical; [First Epistle to the Corinthians, x. 11.: “All these things happened unto them for types.”] and in his Epistle to the Galatians, asserted that the whole story of Abraham, his two wives, and their sons was an allegory. [Epistle to the Galatians, iv. 24: “It is written that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bond-maid, the other by a freewoman . . . which things are an allegory.”]” (Vol. 2, p. 493)

“Take Paul, read the little of original that is left of him in the writings attributed to this brave, honest, sincere man, and see whether any one can find a word therein to show that Paul meant by the word Christ anything more than the abstract ideal of the personal divinity indwelling in man. For Paul, Christ is not a person, but an embodied idea. “If any man is in Christ he is a new creation,” he is reborn, as after initiation, for the Lord is spirit – the spirit of man. Paul was the only one of the apostles who had understood the secret ideas underlying the teachings of Jesus, although he had never met him. But Paul had been initiated himself; and, bent upon inaugurating a new and broad reform, one embracing the whole of humanity, he sincerely set his own doctrines far above the wisdom of the ages, above the ancient Mysteries and final revelation to the epoptæ. As Professor A. Wilder well proves . . ., it was not Jesus, but Paul who was the real founder of Christianity.” (Vol. 2, p. 574)


“Alone, among the Apostles of the Western religion, Paul seems to have fathomed – if not actually revealed – the archaic mystery of the Cross.” (Vol. 2, p. 556)

“St. Paul was an Initiate, and his words have quite a different meaning when read esoterically.” (Vol. 2, p. 513)


“Paul was a Gnostic himself, i.e., a “Son of Wisdom,” and an Initiate into the true mysteries of Christos, though he may have thundered (or was made to appear to do so) against some Gnostic sects, of which, in his day, there were many. But his Christos was not Jesus of Nazareth, nor any living man, as shown so ably in Mr. Gerald Massey’s lecture, “Paul, the Gnostic Opponent of Peter.” He was an Initiate, a true “Master-Builder” or adept, as described in “Isis Unveiled,” Vol. II., pp. 90-91.”

“Their successors [i.e. later successors of the early Christians] have all been made to fall into the mistakes of the “foolish Galatians” reproved by Paul, who, as he tells them (Galat. iii. 1-5), having begun (by believing) in the Spirit (of Christos), “ended by believing in the flesh,” – i.e., a corporeal Christ. . . . That Paul was a gnostic, a founder of a new sect of gnosis which recognized, as all other gnostic sects did, a “Christ-Spirit,” though it went against its opponents, the rival sects, is sufficiently clear to all but dogmatists and theologians. Nor is it less clear that the primitive teachings of Jesus, whenever he may have lived, could be discovered only in Gnostic teachings; . . .”

“. . . Paul was undeniably – an INITIATE.”

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So among many other interesting things, we read in the above that for Paul, Christ was not in reality a person or a being, and that he was an initiate into the true Mysteries of Christos, Christos being the Greek term that the word “Christ” is derived from. It’s always good to reflect and focus on the great occult significance of what the Christ or the Christos represents. For one thing, Christ was not the surname of Jesus or Yeshua. It is an honorific title, just as “Buddha” is an honorific title for an awakened one, and it is a synonym for the spiritual divine eternal nature within every being.

Sometimes Theosophists say that the Christos Principle is the Buddhi principle within the human being but more often than not HPB actually uses the Christos term for Atman, which is the Higher Self, pure eternal Spirit, the One Universal Divine Essence, which is at the innermost core of every one, every thing, every atom, for the Higher Self IS the Infinite.

HPB, in “The Secret Doctrine” (Vol. 1, p. 132) says: “Note well, “Christos” with the Gnostics meant the impersonal principal, the Atman of the Universe, and the Atma within every man’s soul – not Jesus.” In her article “The Kabalah and The Kabalists” she writes: “Christos is neither the Christ of the Churches, nor yet the Jesus of the Gospels; it is only an impersonal Principle.” In her correspondence with a French Catholic priest she stated: “A divine Christ (or Christos) has never existed under a human form outside the imagination of blasphemers who have carnalized a universal and entirely impersonal principle.”

She added to this Abbé Roca: “Once united to his Atman-Christos, the Ego, by that very act, loses the great illusion called ego-ism, and perceives at last the fullness of truth; that Ego knows that it has never lived outside the great All, and that it is inseparable from it. Such is Nirvana, which, for it, is but the return to its primitive condition or state. Imprisoned in its oubliette of flesh and matter, it had lost even the conception or memory of that condition, but once the light of Spirit has revealed to it the illusion of the senses, it places no more trust in earthly things, for it has learned to scorn them; the Son is now united to the Father; thenceforth the soul is one with Spirit! And when a man has reached this point in the Gnosis, or Theosophy, what has he then to do with the dogmas of any Church?”

So we ought to find out some of what the Apostle Paul wrote about the Christ, bearing in mind that, as HPB said, his words have been subject to alterations, distortions, and major edits, so that these verses are now probably pale shadows of how he originally wrote them. But keeping in mind the esoteric meaning of Christ and that Paul was an Initiate, let’s listen with fresh ears to these words of his . . .

To the COLOSSIANS: “I am made a minister . . . to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest . . . God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles [i.e. among the non-Jewish]; [this mystery] which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

“. . . there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.”

“. . . God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.”

To the CORINTHIANS: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

“. . . all our fathers . . . did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.”

To the GALATIANS: “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, . . .” “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

To the EPHESIANS: “. . . by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; . . . Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, . . .”

“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”

And, to the PHILIPPIANS, he wrote a line which can be used as a mantra or affirmation by anyone who understands it: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Notice he doesn’t say “Through Christ who” but “Through Christ which.”

There are numerous other good things in Paul’s letters, such as his assertion that the human being consists of spirit, soul, and body. Of course, that’s not as defined or extensive or as useful to us as the sevenfold classification of the human constitution taught in Theosophy but it is better and more developed than just thinking of oneself as body and soul, nothing else.

Unfortunately Paul’s letters as we have them today don’t actually give a definition for soul, nor for spirit, so that threefold definition hasn’t been very useful for Christianity, which tends to view soul and spirit as the same thing and often in a very unphilosophical way.

There’s also his statement, which we often see quoted in Theosophical writings about the Law of Karma, which is “Be not deceived; God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) That’s a perfectly clear teaching but as it doesn’t tally with many other sayings in the Bible, including other sayings attributed to Paul himself, it hasn’t earned among Christians the great attention and importance that it deserves.

An even clearer teaching is about what he calls the Fruits of the Spirit. He lists nine of these, in his epistle to the Galatian Christians, and says:

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.”

The first one he named is love and in “The Voice of the Silence” where it enumerates the seven Paramitas, the glorious virtues, transcendental perfections, which also relate to the Seven Portals of initiation, it also lists the Love Paramita first. That is Dana in Sanskrit, which the text calls “Charity and Love Immortal.” The 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Paramitas are Shila which is perfect harmony in word and act, Kshanti which is unshakable patience, Vairagya which is dispassion, detachment, and indifference to one’s own pleasure and pain, and Virya, dauntless energy and effort. We can see those same universal ideals echoed in Paul’s Fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.

He also speaks of nine Gifts of the Spirit, which are different from the nine fruits. This relates to the vibrant and so-called “supernatural” element in the early church. In First Corinthians chapter 12, Paul writes:

“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. . . .For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.”

So there’s the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, the gift of faith, the gift of healing, the working of miracles, the gift of prophecy, the gift of discerning of spirits, the gift of diverse kinds of tongues and the gift of interpretation of tongues. That relates to what we mentioned earlier about speaking, praying, worshipping, in unknown tongues or languages – whether real existing languages or completely unknown ones – which was such a central feature of early Christianity and often considered the defining evidence that one had truly received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The idea was that after being thus filled with the Spirit, that Spirit may give a person one or more of those nine gifts, which serve to help, uplift, and strengthen the Church collectively and its members individually.

All of this seems to have almost entirely faded out and died out of Christianity within just a couple of centuries or so but was revived from the start of the 1900s, with the beginning of Pentecostal Christianity, in which it’s an everyday commonplace thing to see speaking, praying, singing in other tongues in the services, with exuberant worship, laying on of hands for apparent healings and reports of seeming miracles that have happened, and use of the “word of knowledge,” which they define in a way we would consider akin to psychic insight about another person’s life and needs.

It may be easy to dismiss all that as fanaticism and as being unimportant in the modern world, yet within just a few decades Pentecostalism became the second largest form of Christianity in the entire world and the fastest growing form of Christianity. Statistics suggest that in a few decades it may even overtake Roman Catholicism and become the number one form of Christianity in the world.

The unfortunate thing is that it is completely fundamentalist and evangelical in its religious worldview and considers all non-Christians as “children of the devil” who are headed for eternal hell, unless they choose to get “saved” – so although it has some striking similarities with the early Church, it cannot be the same as what the Apostle Paul the Initiate really represented. However, his letters have been so distorted that if taken literally they do indeed assert in some places that all non-Christians will be doomed.

But changing the subject now to something more positive, let’s read the famous words about LOVE from the Apostle Paul. This is the Greek word “Agape” and sometimes translated “Charity” but “Love” is more correct and naturally includes the idea of Charity.

This is in First Corinthians chapter 13 and follows directly on from where he was listing the Nine Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and those “gifts” spoken of provide the context for the well known and beautiful “love chapter.” This is undoubtedly an exposition of what in Theosophy we call the Heart Doctrine, which is the principle that all intellectual learning and acquisition of occult powers is ultimately worthless unless one has also cultivated real love and compassion. Paul says:

(1) Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

(2) And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.

(3) And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.

(4) Love suffereth long, and is kind; Love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

(5) Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

(6) Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

(7) Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

(8) Love never fails: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

(9) For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

(10) But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

(11) When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

(12) For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

(13) And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The Bible is silent about how Paul’s life came to an end but it’s generally believed by historians that after years of being in and out of prison due to his preachings, he ended up being martyred in Rome, during the Emperor Nero’s mass persecution of Christians.

And as genuine Theosophy is silent about the past lives of the Masters of Wisdom and Adepts, we cannot say what his soul may have been doing in the roughly 2,000 years since then. Some later Theosophical writers, after the time of the founders H. P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge, made big claims about Paul’s supposed later incarnations and identified him with one of the Adepts behind the Theosophical Society, but the origin of these claims is highly suspect and thus very unlikely.

It would be far more useful if we were to know and understand what is actually meant by such terms as the Mysteries, Mystery Schools, and Initiation, which are words we’ve encountered in this in the HPB quotes earlier in the article.

“Mysteries” and “Mystery Schools” are terms for Schools of Initiation and their presence and existence was documented by history throughout the whole world.

The term “initiation” is used a lot by Theosophists but what does it actually mean? In its most basic meaning, initiation is the expansion of the soul into a new and higher level of consciousness. But in its deeper meaning, initiation is also a Path undergone over the course of numerous lifetimes by one who aspires to join that hidden esoteric Brotherhood which guides and watches over the spiritual evolution and advancement of humanity. Such initiation – presided over in its higher levels by some of the Masters belonging to the Brotherhood – confers knowledge, powers, and perceptive insight, upon the successful candidate, and all for the entirely unselfish, selfless, altruistic work of helping, guiding, and teaching one’s fellow human beings.

Genuine “Mystery Schools” still exist in various places today, albeit now operating in secrecy and silence as regards the world at large.

The Brotherhoods and Fraternities of the various Masters behind the Theosophical Movement are such Mystery Schools and it was stated by HPB, William Q. Judge, and those Masters Themselves, that there is nothing to stop anyone aspiring towards them, as long as the motive is a pure one. But it all starts with a commitment to learn, comprehend, and put into practice, the almost astoundingly vast Body of Knowledge They have already given to the world under the name of “Theosophy.” For if one does not know and understand that to the deepest and most accurate extent possible, how can one expect to be able to understand or make use of anything even more advanced?

And so the keys that unlock the door are already in our hands and one day, as the Apostle Paul said, we shall KNOW in perfect fullness.

Modern photograph of the road to Damascus.


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