"What do you know of Judas? He was a great initiate.
He was the second disciple after St John the Baptist.
All that is told about him is false.
If you wish to know, he was even the master of Christ."G.I. Gurdjieff, 1944
When he left the dormitory, Jesus and Judas were snoring. He had been told not to wake them and to come while the moon was still high. The Essenes, unlike Sadducees and Pharisees, did their most sacrosanct work before dawn. Yet the heat was still oppressive—even here in the inner court's gloom.
He walked up the three marble steps, across the tessellated floor, past the scented oil lamps, past bronze sphinxes to the sanctum.
When he entered, the tortoise-like Empty One, raised collar and prune-like face—some said he was a hundred and fifty—was seated in his niche.
Aaron did not speak, knowing the other could read his thoughts. He sat on the ivory-inlaid stool and brought his mind to the pristine state—the stabilized mind was the only true pilgrimage and penance—then glanced at his superior, the one established in the Self.
'It is neither being nor non-being,' the sage chanted, 'or of the nature of both. It is beginningless, endless, changeless and throbs as the self-effulgent light.'
Aaron joined the recitation. 'There is no worship, pardon, remission of sins, salvation attainment, merit, act. Apart from I AM there is nothing to be known.'
The liturgy ended. They sat in silence again. He pondered the word "salvation". They were, happily, free of the violence provoked by that pervasive idolatry. Any god that could be pleased or appeased was already a dualistic fiction. How to explain to people that everything was one?
Eventually the Empty One said, 'Two days and I die.'
Aaron felt surprise, then sadness—and recognised the sadness as self-pity.
'Exactly,' his teacher smiled. 'Reaction is inaction and whatever changes is not absolute. So where is the ambiguous place where the unmanifest and manifest join?'
But he was now too concerned for profundities—fearful about the effect of the Empty One's departure on the Passion Play. Although blocked out in scenario, much of it was still being pondered—The Sermon on the Mount, for instance, and the wording of the parables. It was far too early for rehearsals and casting was unfinished. They had sent those already cast as fishermen to the port to work for the Phoenicians but had still not agreed on the pivotal messianic figure.
The best choice was the admirable Judas, but the role was arduous and his weak lungs concerned them. That left the meticulous Jesus as his possible replacement. Both young men, indentured to them since children, were exemplary.
But this was to be far more than a demonstration for locals in the valley.
It was designed to be played out in life.
And the man chosen had to die on a cross.
The sacrifice was indispensable because the cross symbolised two worlds—the one above, the one below and the place between that united them where the vertical met the horizontal—between the inner and outer life. Through the centuries, it would indicate, to the few who could decipher its significance, the fulcrum required for transformation.
They had developed the concept from the Shiva myth —the god, blue-throated from eating the poison of the world. Its echo of atonement still concerned them but they hoped to minimise that aspect.
Others in the drama would die, too. The waste of adepts chilled him.
'They will die anyway,' the Empty One said, voice percolating from his gut. Manifestation is relative. No death, no source of anguish, no path. Still, physically we die. And lose contact with one another.'
Unless.... he thought.
'That's why you're here.'
Simple people had a ritual called blood brotherhood but knew nothing of its origin or power. It was a technique for keeping in touch with an adept after death. Here, in this school disguised as a monastery, the practice was applied. But it worked only for a time—only with the newly dead.
The one about to die shed his blood into a grail and also cut off and distributed a portion of his flesh. Those wishing to communicate with him were constrained to drink and eat. Of course the later communication was not by speech but transmitted by intuitive feeling, though images could sometimes appear. It was this practice, in fact, moving out into general life and half-understood by the ignorant, that sustained the myth of resurrection.
Aaron nodded. 'When?'
Tomorrow at dawn.
'And who will sup?
'You, Jesus and Judas. Come with them tomorrow.'
'Four.' He frowned. The seminal number was three.
'Three. Remember, I'm leaving. You three will remain.'