The Yoga of Jesus: Teachings of Esoteric Christianity

The Yoga of Jesus: Teachings of Esoteric Christianity

MAURI LEHTOVIRTA, translated by Antti Savinainen; edited by Richard Smoley

PDF. Available for free download at An audio version, recorded by Richard Smoley, is available for free download at:

This inspiring volume is a reminder of the cultural and linguistic reach of Theosophy, to which English-speaking readers can sometimes be blind. Finnish author Lehtovirta draws heavily on Finnish Theosophist and Rosicrucian Pekka Ervast (1875–1934) as well as other Finnish writers and cultural references. I was delighted to be introduced to a side of the Theosophical family that I did not know and will certainly explore further. Lehtovirta helpfully includes a guide to writings from Ervast that are available in English translation (including The Divine Seed, published by Quest Books in 2010).  

Lehtovirta takes “yoga” in a broad sense, referring to practices that lead to spiritual integration and union. He carefully explores the teachings of Jesus from a practical yet esoteric standpoint. What would it mean for us to strive to understand and take up what was given to humanity through Jesus? Most of the book focuses on the Sermon on the Mount and the Lord’s Prayer as the core of the guidance on self-giving love from the Gospels. How do we enact these teachings, and what happens when we do?

In his preface, Lehtovirta says that Ervast “probably was the first one in the world to talk about the changes that take place in those who follow Jesus’s five commandments in their lives.” In this, he points to one of the most illuminating threads running through the text. Drawing on Ervast as well as his own insights, Lehtovirta shows how taking up the ethical path of Jesus opens higher spiritual potentials in the human being. For example, one who keeps one’s thoughts pure (such as following Jesus’ directive to avoid not only adultery but looking upon another with lust) will gradually come “to see others’ emotions—to see their energy bodies, that is, their auras.” When we are committed to speaking the truth, no matter what, we develop the ability to accurately perceive the talents, inclinations, and characteristics of other people. Furthermore, “extending love and doing good acts have profound psychic influences and consequences, allowing us to see God, the Heavenly Father.”

Much more detail on the developmental potentials in the path of Jesus can be found throughout the book. If Lehtovirta and Ervast are to be taken seriously, undertaking this yoga, this ethical life, following in the footsteps of Jesus, is the most powerful fuel for psychic and spiritual development. If one wants a balanced unfolding of the true nature of the human being and our greater capacities, there is no better way than through a life of self-giving love extended to all—or at least taking that as far as one can at the moment. Years ago, I recall Theosophical speaker Ed Abdill saying that if one cannot yet take on the loving of all people, one can always start with an animal or even a plant. We begin where we are, with what we can do, and the doing of what is possible allows for the unfolding of further capacity.

Lehtovirta takes Finnish Lutheranism to task for emphasizing grace and faith in a way that set aside the development of the moral life in the yoga of Jesus. One might have some sympathies for this point of view when one recalls that we all find ourselves in the place of St. Paul: “What I would, that I do not; but what I hate, that I do” (Romans 7:15). How do we navigate when we find our will seemingly bound and unable to do the good we know? How do we keep the yoga of Jesus from becoming a long and burdensome list of ethical imperatives rather than an invitation to loving freedom? Perhaps the key is Lehtovirta’s reminder that God always remains “in the depths of our hearts as a divine spark, a monad, an invisible sound of silence.” No matter where we are on the path, we are never separated from God, as we are held in existence at every moment by divine love. Knowing God’s ever present love, “we also understand that grace and mercy are essential features of karma.” When we fail in our strivings, even when there are karmic consequences to work out, we are always, first of all, met by mercy.

With gentleness and great clarity, Lehtovirta invites us into a path of transformation and service, following in the way opened to us in Jesus. Like the Master, he says to those drawn to this way, “Come and see.”

John Plummer

John Plummer is a member of the Theosophical Society. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.