The Essenes existed in Palestine from the 2nd century BC to the 1st Century AD. The main Essene community was on the western shore of the Dead Sea in Qumran.
The communities were not monasteries, but a mixture of families and single adults. They lived in harmony with nature. Theirs was a spiritual community that was self-supporting; all worked at a trade, cultivated their own fields and made food and clothing.
They devoted their lives to charity, prayer, study of the scriptures, ancient writings, healing, astronomy and ancient Egyptian philosophy.
They used plants and herbs for healing. they did not engage in commerce. They bartered for the things that they needed. They did not believe in having worldly goods. They were strict vegetarians and refrained from sacrificing animals.
The Essenes believed
In pre-destination and were adept in prophesising the future.
Their teachings were not like religions where they enforced their beliefs but rather they believed that we are all responsible for finding our path to God.
They were like Gnostics in studying different religions. In fact it was the Essenes who initiated the Gnostics that lived in Palestine into the hidden mysteries of life by teaching them Gnosis and philosophy. They believed in dualism, good and evil and light and darkness.
They believed that these two forces were engaged in an eternal battle between them. They believed that in every human being is a self which is a microcosm of the Creator.
They taught that even though we live in a world of duality, it is still possible to reach a state of perfection. This was done by practising and perfecting Gnosis.
The Essenes Spiritual teaching
The chief priests were known as Christos; their ultimate goal was the same as the Gnostics - that of achieving the state of Nirvana (Buddhism) or Samadhi (Hinduism).
The Essenes' spiritual teaching was handed down orally from teacher to novice. Then later, when the novice had achieved the state of Nirvana/Samadhi they would take over the teaching. This was done so the teaching could be perpetuated from one generation to the next.
They were responsible for issuing teachers and healers. Jesus would have spent around 12 years with the Essenes where he was guided by the chief priests to achieve the state of Nirvana/Samahdi.
The Essenes wore white robes. Another name for this movement was called the White Brotherhood. The White Brotherhood also existed in ancient Egypt, India and China.