“They [the Essenes] interpreted the Torah and other Hebrew scriptures in an almost exclusively spiritual, symbolic and metaphysical manner, as did the Alexandrian Jewish philosopher Philo. They also had esoteric writings of their own which they would not allow non-Essenes to see. But even more objectionable to the other Hebrews was their study and acceptance of “alien” scriptures–the holy books of other religions–so much so that an official condemnation was made of this practice. In light of this we can say that the Essenes were perhaps the first in the West to hold a universal, eclectic view of religion. Celibacy was prized by them, being often observed even in marriage, and many of them led monastic lives of total renunciation. They considered their male and female members–all of whom were literate–to be spiritual equals, and both sexes were prophets and teachers among them.
“They believed that the sun was a divine manifestation, imparting spiritual powers to both body and mind. They faced the rising and setting sun and recited prayers of worship, refusing upon rising in the morning to speak a single word until the conclusion of those prayers. They did not consider the sun was a god, but a symbol of the One God of Light and Life.
“They believed that miraculous cures were natural extensions of authentic spiritual life. They would wear only white clothes as a sign that they worshiped God who is Light and were clothed by him in light. … The disciples of Saint Thomas in India had a similar rule, only wearing white clothes in worship.” ~Abbot George Burke
The Universal Essenes, as well as other spiritual groups, did interpret scripture from all religions in a spiritual way. But what does that mean? Doesn’t everyone interpret religious writings in a spiritual way? Sadly, no, they don’t Many interpret them literally. They act as if they are reading a newspaper or history book rather than scripture.
Scripture is almost always written in the form of allegory, parables. Most ancient myths fall into this category also. They are written this way for several reasons. One is that human languages do a poor job of explaining the spiritual. They are simply not designed for it. So those who have spiritual experiences are forced to describe them in allegory. A second reason is that they wanted people who were not ready for a spiritual awakening to remember these teachings until they were. Making them into allegorical tales made them easier to remember. Third, they wanted to make it difficult for evil and materialistic people to understand the truth, so they hid it.
The Essenes did have a universal view of religion. They studied Buddhist and Hindu writings as well as Jewish scripture. This also is true of most spiritual or mystical schools. Once you know how to interpret the allegorical tales found in those books, you find that the hidden truths in all of them are essentially the same.
This is different from some of the churches of today that call themselves universal. While they have attempted to do the same thing, they to are interpreting things much too literally. As a result, they ignore some of the most important teachings of the great spiritual masters hidden in allegory.
In short, they understood that while there may be many ways of expressing it, there is really only one truth.
The Universal Essenes did believe in a “Divine Sun,” but that is not the physical sun. They were not sun-worshipers. They believed that the sun, like everything on Earth, has a spiritual self as well as a physical self. Since the physical sun is the primary source of physical energy and light on Earth, they felt that the spiritual sun was the main source of spiritual energy and light. Hey believed that the light of the spiritual sun could waken dormant spiritual faculties in man and provide the energy for developing those faculties. But people have to seek out that light. It doesn’t just come to us. At least not in sufficient quantity for a true spiritual awakening.
As the quote says, the Essenes did not consider this sun to be God. They did, however, consider it more than just a symbol of God. They thought of it as a channel for God’s divine light that man can tap into with proper teaching.
The Universal Essenes wore white to show that they worshiped God. Not just any god, but the God of spirit, the God of Light. This is the God that Jesus called Father. It is not the jealous, angry war God followed by most of the other Jews. This is why the Essenes were not well liked by the others. But the Essenes were not trying to win a popularity contest. There concern was savings souls: there own and the souls of others. It that made them unpopular, they didn’t much care.