The Author

John Francis Nash was born in the United Kingdom but has lived in the United States since the 1960s. He earned his bachelor's degree and PhD from the University of London and holds other advanced degrees from institutions in Belgium and the U.S. A varied career led him from scientific research, to business, and eventually to higher education. Since “retiring,” after thirty years in academia, he has devoted his time to writing and teaching in esoteric philosophy and religious history. He founded, and for a while edited, The Esoteric Quarterly, an international, peer-reviewed journal of esoteric philosophy. John's lifetime output of publications includes fifteen books and nearly 200 papers and articles in multiple fields. After a long spiritual journey he returned to Christianity to become a high-church Episcopalian. His personal interests include sacred choral and organ music.

Esoteric Christianity

The dictionary definition of esoteric is “secret,” “confidential,” “subjective,” “dependent on personal experience,” or “understood by only a few privileged people.” It contrasts with exoteric, which means “objective,” “literal,” “factual,” “obvious,” or “ascertainable by anyone.” While the terms still have useful meanings, the distinction between them is becoming blurred. Scientific knowledge would claim to be exoteric, in the sense of being factual, objective, and independently verifiable; but much of it is comprehensible only by a very small elite of scientists. By contrast, most “esoteric” knowledge is now available to almost anyone willing to invest the necessary time and effort. Also, certain types of knowledge that most people would regard as esoteric are independently verifiable.

For practical purposes, esotericism can be defined as the study of realms that are hidden, shrouded in allegory, unnoticed by the masses. It is the study of the unseen world in which we live. Those unseen realms should in no way be regarded as less “real” than the seen. Rather, as one commentator expresses it, the outer physical world is “merely a garment in which to dress some inward truth.”

Christianity, like all other world religions, has both exoteric and esoteric dimensions. In Christianity the latter is strong. The Nicene Creed affirms that we believe in God the creator of "all that is, seen and unseen." Conspicuous among the esoteric aspects of Christianity are the Mass, the sacraments, prayer, mysticism, and the healing ministry. Sacred ritual, properly understood and enacted with reverence and care, provides a vehicle into which powerful energies can flow from above as well as from human participants. The present author strongly believes that much can be gained by the synthesis of traditional Christian beliefs and practices with modern esoteric teachings. Esoteric knowledge can greatly enrich Christianity, and Christianity--particularly high-church, or sacramental, Christianity--can provide the ideal religious focus for esotericists. Many of the author's writings explore such a synthesis, and John describes himself as a Christian esotericist--or esoteric Christian.

Personal Reflections

Esoteric Work

I grew up in the secure religious environment of pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism and attended religious primary and high schools. Then, in my twenties, I left the church to become an atheist. It was a wonderful experience that wiped clean the slate of questioned beliefs, emotional damage inflicted by religious schools, and especially guilt. In a real sense that was the beginning of my spiritual journey. For several years. I sampled many expressions of spirituality. Atheism gave way to agnosticism, and I found a temporary home in Unitarianism. I also explored the religions of Asia, which had the advantage of being exotic and free from associations with the religion of my upbringing. I was initiated into Transcendental Meditation and studied Raja Yoga.

In the 1970s the New Age movement had not yet peaked, but I found myself spending much time and money in New Age bookstores, attending lectures, and enrolling in courses on a wide range of estoeric topics. I began to explore Theosophy, the Tarot, and the Kabbalah. I became a semi-professional Tarot reader and was involved in healing work at the Foundation of Truth in Atlanta. By the early '80s I was studying the works of Alice A. Bailey, who served as the primary amanuensis for the Tibetan Master Djwhal Khul. A "chance encounter" put me in touch with the Arcane School, an international esoteric school devoted to the Tibetan's teachings. After twenty years study and work in the AS, I became associated with one of its derivatives, the School for Esoteric Studies in Asheville, NC. Of all the esoteric systems I have studied, I believe that the Tibetan's teachings come closest to communicating Truth, as we could understand it at our 20th-century stage of human development. New knowledge continues to be revealed to us by Higher Intelligences, and we can anticipate further revelations in the 21st century and beyond.

Whether individuals like Alice Bailey will be selected to receive important new bodies of knowledge we cannot say. For the most part, esoteric study, research and writing are now group endeavors. The worldwide community of esoteric students shares ideas and encourages all its participants. I am indebted to the many co-workers who have made my own efforts possible. As a group, we sense contact with sources of knowledge beyond our own concrete minds and affirm that we may be "overshadowed" by the Masters and their senior disciples. Alice Bailey commented:

"The overshadowing of the chela during his work (such as lecturing, writing, or teaching), and his illumination for service. He will be conscious of this, though perhaps unable to explain it, and will seek more and more to be available for use, rendering himself up in utter selflessness to the inspiration of His Lord. This is effected via the chela's Ego, the force flowing through his astral permanent atom; and it is only possible when the fifth petal is unfolded"" [A Treatise on Cosmic Fire, Lucis, 1925, 757].

Healing practice eventually become a major activity after I met my wife-to-be, Sylvia Lagergren, who served as the leading traditional Reiki Master in the Tri-Cities, TN, area. Sylvia gave lectures to university classes and initiated hundreds of peple into the various levels of Reiki, including physicians and other healthcare professional. I was her helper at the weekly Reiki open house we offered at our home for many years. We both visited patients in their homes and in local hospitals. Sadly, Sylvia, my companion and soul mate, passed away in 2014.

Return to Christianity

Leaving the Church of Rome was a clean break, and I considered myself an ex-Roman Catholic, not a "lapsed Catholic." Nevertheless, I retained more from that early religious experience than I realized at the time. In particulay I never abandoned my love for the aesthetics of sacramental worship. A love of sacred ceremony—and especially a love of choral and organ music—has remained with me throughout my life. Even as an atheist or agnostic, I would listen to Anglican Chant and on trips back to the United Kingdom I would attend the Sung Eucharist on Sunday mornings at large churches or cathedrals. Indeed the sacredness of time-honored houses of worship has been a recurring experience. My sense of spirituality and reverence for the sacred steadily grew, though it was a long time before I would be ready to commit myself again to organized religion.

The pieces of the puzzle fell into place during a trip to Europe in 2006. I had profound spiritual experiences in the Lady Chapel at Ely Cathedral and then at Mass at All Saints', Margaret Street, London, a church that had played a leading role in the nineteenth-century Catholic Revival Movement within Anglicanism. Attendance at the latter was quite by "accident," though a higher guiding hand was probably at work. After the experience at All Saints', I knew that Anglo-Catholicism was my rightful spiritual home. Unfortunately, there was no Anglo-Catholic church where I lived in the United States.

Despair of finding a church was relieved when I spoke to Fr Richard Shackleford, then serving as an interim priest at a church in Kingsport, TN. He understood my need and pointed me to St Mary's Episcopal Church, Asheville, North Carolina, a church founded in 1914 in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. North Carolina itself had roots in Anglo-Catholicism stretching back to the 1840s and the Order of the Holy Cross, Valle Crucis. Asheville was sixty miles away, over a mountain range; but a recently completed Interstate highway made access feasible. A few weeks later I arrived on the doorstep of St Mary's and, in due course, received into the Episcopal Church by Bishop Porter Taylor of Western North Carolina.

My wife Sylvia Lagergren and I transferred our respective church memberships to St John's Episcopal Church, Johnson City, TN, in 2012. Sylvia was received into the church by Bishop George Young of the Diocese of East Tennessee. Two years later she passed away. I remain an active member of St John's, participating in many programs and enjoying my church family.

John F. Nash

 


Follow me on Facebook. Send messages, post comments,
receive announcements and discussion, and much more.


Go to my Facebook page