The Essenes and Me
by Danaan Parry
My present connection to the Essenes began with an "accidental" discovery in 1974. My friend Lila and I were at the Association for Research & Enlightenment (A.R.E.) in Virginia Beach, VA, which houses the library of research done on the life and "readings" of modern Christian mystic, Edgar Cayce. While poring through the research on his ability to perform medical diagnoses on people while he was in a trance state, I began running into references to communities of white-robed spiritual seekers who lived in the deserts of the Holy Land around the time of Christ.
I remember my first encounter with these references to spiritual communities. It was in a reading/diagnosis for a middle-aged woman from Tennessee. In trance, Edgar Cayce said that her medical problem was only partially caused by dysfunction in her life today. He said that a good deal of it was residual from her life as an Essene in the community of Qumran, a hundred years before the birth of Jesus. He spoke of some conflict in that life that was still unresolved today, thereby leading to her imbalance. I found myself much more intrigued with Cayce's reference to the existence of this Essene community than to the medical diagnosis. I wondered who these people were and what they were doing in that barren land at that time? As I continued my studies of Cayce's readings, I came upon more references to these fascinating beings who walked out of major cities of the fertile crescent and gathered in communities in the most isolated parts of the desert. Cayce made vague reference to their common task, that of preparing the way for something very new and different. I was hooked.
I left the Cayce research and embarked upon a journey of discovery. I was almost addicted to the need to find out who the Essenes were, and why I felt such a deep kinship to these obscure people who I had never heard of. It turned out that not many other people had heard of them either although it was supposed that they were the ones who wrote the "Dead Sea Scrolls" which had been found in caves near the ruins of an ancient spiritual center outside of Jericho, Palestine, near the old Qumran water hole. As I digested the meager writings available on the Essenes from biblical scholars and read the more popular writers like Edmund Bordeaux Szekely, I felt a bond of knowing growing between me and those dedicated visionaries of 2000 years ago. I felt their message of love for one another and of the earth come alive again, needing to be shared in today's troubled times. I packed my bags and went to Qumran.
A Carmelite monastery sits on a hill overlooking another ancient community of the Essenes, and in that monastery is a deep well. The well has been there long before the monastery was built during the Crusades. I know that it is the well of my brother and sister Essenes. I drank from this well, I slept on the stones of the ancient community and felt their message, as alive and as pertinent today as it was 2000 years ago. I hope that this book conveys that message in a form that they would find acceptable.
It took me a few years to integrate the nonlinear learning I experienced at Qumran, but when it was ready to come out, it came out like a freight train. One of the most important places for me on earth is a meadow high up on the north face of Mount Shasta in Northern California. For years, I have been making an annual spiritual retreat to the mountain, camping out in that same meadow. It is my "power spot." In 1979 I again went to this meadow, but there would be no meditating for me there that year. In the middle of the first night I awoke, grabbed my journal and started writing. Four days later I was still writing. I had used every page of my journal, and every square inch of every scrap of paper and paper bag I had with me. When those four days and nights were over, I was exhausted, covered with sweat and higher than a kite. I had the essence of the Essene Book of Days down on paper. Every daily meditation, every evening blessing, the interplay of daily and seasonal energies, I had them all. It took another year to bring the book to publication, but that was just the mechanics.
I did the first edition, The Essene Book of Days for 1982, entirely alone. My friend Lou Halligan did the artwork and I laid out the type and self-published it. It was a monumental task, and absolutely perfect. It felt like what an Essene would have done, to connect with the book and its essence at each level of reality.
As I look back on the years of integration of the Essene Way into my life, I see the effect they have had on me. My work in international conflict resolution looks very different than the simple lifestyle of the desert communities. But the seeds have been planted in me, and they bear fruit in the strangest ways. I am a preparer-of-the-way for something very new, as new and as needed as The Christ was needed 2000 years ago. And wherever I go, I meet my brothers and sisters who also quietly do their work of preparation. Perhaps you feel it, too.
Each year I ask," Should I change or update the Meditations?" And each year the message is given: "Leave them be; they were given." But this year when I asked, I was told, "Prepare for the second cycle, the millennium." The seasonal flow of life energy in this book has an important rhythm and consistency to it. It honors the part of us that is deeply rooted in the ebbs and flows of nature, the cycles of life, death, and decay that lead to new birth. In our hectic lives, it is this connection to nature that gives us meaning, amidst the chaos that swirls around us. However . . . .
As we approach the year 2000, it seems that we are being told to prepare for some important changes. I have slightly revised some of the meditations to reflect these changes so that we are ready for the challenge.