Edgar Goodspeed wrote the following on the fake gospel that is popular among some occultists and New Age The Aquarian Gospel.

THE Aquarian Gospel takes its name from the fantastic astrological idea that with the life of Christ the sun entered the sign Pisces and that it is now passing into that of Aquarius. For the new Aquarian Age its author has composed a new spiritual gospel, the Aquarian Gospel. Its writer was Dr. Levi H. Dowling (1844-1911), who after years of service as chaplain, doctor, and Sunday-school worker became a believer in the Akashic Records, the imperishable records of life preserved in the Supreme Intelligence, or Universal Mind. By coming into harmony with the rhythms and vibrations of this, through meditation, Dr. Dowling, who preferred to be known simply as Levi, was able, he believed, to explore the past with unerring accuracy. The Aquarian Gospel is his record of the communications thus obtained and written down by him in California, in the "quiet hours," |26 between two and six in the morning. It was published in Los Angeles in 1911.

The subjective character of materials gained in this way is to most of us immediately apparent. Yet the Aquarian Gospel has had a considerable circulation, and has found adherents in circles far removed from the half-theosophical atmosphere which produced it. I first saw it on the religious-books table of a large department store. It is, to begin with, arranged in sections, chapters, and verses. The chapters are preceded by brief summaries in italics, and each verse forms a little paragraph by itself, as in the King James Version. The distinctive readings of that version are occasionally recognizable in the Aquarian writer's use of the Bible.
"Augustus Caesar reigned and Herod Antipas was ruler in Jerusalem." This opening sentence of the new gospel does not encourage any very high hopes as to its historical value. It is generally accepted that Antipas never ruled in Jerusalem but in Galilee. Of course Dr. Dowling means Herod the Great. The first episode of the narrative is the birth of Mary to Joachim and Anna, her sojourn in the temple, and her marriage to Joseph. This is evidently |27 derived from the ancient Gospel of James, or Protevangelium, a well-known work of early Christian literature. It is followed by accounts of the births of John and Jesus, drawn from Matthew and Luke. The location of Jesus' birthplace in a cave is another touch from the Gospel of James. The account of the martyrdom of Zacharias, which concludes this infancy section, is also drawn from that gospel.
This is followed by an account of the education of Mary and Elizabeth by Elihu and Salome, in Zoan. Their lessons dealt with the history of religions, and relate to Tao, Brahm, Zarathustra, and Buddha, the whole presentation being colored by Christian Science. The education of John by an Egyptian priest named Matheno is next described. This name recalls the famous Egyptian priest Manetho, who flourished early in the third century before Christ. Matheno was Master of a temple of the Brotherhood at "Sakara," and John spent eighteen years there with him.

But the education and travels of Jesus make up the most important part of the book. Jesus first studies with Hillel, then goes to India, where he spends years among the Brahmins and the Buddhists. He visits Tibet (Lassa, the |28 Ladakh, Leh), where he meets Meng-ste, the greatest sage of the farther East. This name suggests the Chinese sage Mencius (Meng-tsze), who died in 289 B.C. Everywhere Jesus learns the sacred books and talks with the greatest sages. He proceeds to Persia and visits the Magi, the chief of whom, Kaspar, welcomes and commends him. One is reminded that medieval legend gave this name, Gaspar, to one of the Magi mentioned in Matthew. Jesus passes through Assyria and Babylonia, reflecting on the life of Abraham and the Tower of Babel.

After a short visit to his home, Jesus goes to Greece, and preaches to the Athenians. He visits the Delphic oracle, which declares that its day is done. Jesus travels to Egypt, and joins the sacred brotherhood at Heliopolis. He passes through the seven degrees--Sincerity, Justice, Faith, Philanthropy, Heroism, Love Divine, and Christ--emerging as Logos. A council of the seven sages of the world is held at Alexandria. They formulate seven great religious postulates, and ordain Jesus for his work.

There were undoubtedly great dramatic possibilities in these situations, but the author of |29 the Aquarian Gospel has not been equal to them. The contributions of the great ancient religions to truth might have been profoundly treated, but here they are no more than a theosophical jumble. The visits of Jesus to the Brahmins, Buddhists, and Persians remind us of Notovitch's "Unknown Life of Jesus Christ," with which Dr. Dowling was probably acquainted. But that idea is carried out much more systematically here.

The rest of the Aquarian Gospel is a fanciful recast of the materials of the Four Gospels, elaborated and diluted in Dr. Dowling's, characteristic way. At the end, Jesus appears in a fully materialized body to friends in India, Persia, Jerusalem, Greece, Italy, Egypt, and Galilee. He declares himself to have been "transmuted to the image of the AM." A somewhat artificial vocabulary, now quaint, now pedantic, spoils the style of the book. Bizarre expressions like Holy Breath (for Holy Spirit), Christine (for Christian), the Septonate, the Triune God Father-Mother-Child, mingle with the technical terms of Christian Science and Theosophy in bewildering confusion. The simple piety and sound moral feeling that are on many pages are lost |30 in the mass of fantastic yet artless fancies. The result is neither ancient nor modern. The principal impression is one of literary and religious commonplace.

The Unknown Life and the Aquarian Gospel have this in common, that they seek to fill in the hidden years of Jesus' youth; they seek in a measure at least to explain his wisdom by making him an adept in all that the older oriental religions had to give; and they put into their gospels what they like to think he did and taught. Notovitch has done this under this guise of a supposedly ancient document discovered by himself; Dowling, under the more transparent disguise of inner illumination.

Edgar J. Goodspeed, Strange New Gospels, Chicago: University of Chicago Press (1931), v+110pp.


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