Baptism - the ritual immersing of someone in water comes to us originally from the Hindus. Water has always been associated with the cleansing of the body—and the soul also. The practice of baptism (The Jews adopted the ritual while they were in India during their Persian captivity. They practiced baptism as the purifying rite intimately associated with the cleansing of the body from “uncleanliness”. The Zealots (the Jewish precursors of the modem Christians) required baptism to purify the initiate from all allegiance to King Herod. This is most likely what John the Baptist was doing at the River Jordan.
The Hindus have practiced baptism for at least 4000 years. They believe that the major rivers of India are the life’s blood of the Goddess Indus. Every eleven years they hold a great convocation at the juncture of three great rivers. The last time it was held, over ten million Hindus participated, making it the largest religious meeting in the history of the world.
While the Jews practiced baptism to purify the body of “uncleanliness”, the various Christians are divided over its purpose. Some Christians say it is essential as an initiation into the family of God (a prerequisite for admission to heaven), while others say its purpose is as a sacrament to wash away sin” so that we appear clean in the eyes of God. Some say it is to wash away the sin of Adam and others say it is to wash away our own sins.
Infant baptism appeared European history around the second century, while Christianity was still developing. Some say its roots lie in the Pagan influences of Baal worship, but it came about as a result of the doctrine that baptism is essential to salvation. Consequently, it was natural for those holding to this doctrine to believe that everyone, should be baptized as soon as possible. Thus, baptism of infants came into vogue among many of the churches. New Agers teach that children have no need for baptism.
While the Jews and the Christians believe that it is the rite of baptism that purifies the soul, the Hindus believe it is the water itself that cleanses the soul of impurities and sin.
The Jews and Christians generally believe that baptism, in order to be effective, must be performed in a particular way under the guidance of a certain authority.
The Hindus, on the other hand, believe that any washing or immersion in the waters of one of the sacred rivers will have a purifying effect. No religious authority is required.
Baptism was created by ancient sages as a tool to help us reunite our divided spirit and soul. This division is experienced by everyone and originally arose with the “sin” of Adam and Eve when they first began to believe in good and evil.
The Christians have made radical changes in the form or mode of baptism during the first half of the third century—a change in which its essential symbolism was destroyed. Immersion, typifying:
1) death followed by resurrection, or
2) a watery birth, coming forth from the womb of Mother Earth, or
3) being completely washed or cleansed,
was no longer deemed an essential feature, and sprinkling with water was allowed in place thereof. St. Cyprian, the noted bishop of Carthage, advocated sprinkling in stead of immersion in cases of physical weakness. We are told that the first instance of record is that of Novatus, a convert who requested baptism but who was to old and feeble to travel to a place of immersion.
New Agers practice baptism by immersion in the waters of a flowing river or stream. They believe that while the magnetic properties of the water itself can have a healing effect on the body, the ritual, when done in the proper state mind, has the potential to wash away our “sins” - our feelings of guilt.
An interesting footnote to the history of baptism is the Mormon practice of being baptized by proxy for the dead. As do other Christians, Mormons believe that one must be baptized to be “saved”. Since many people have died without hearing of Christianity or being baptized, the Mormons baptize those who have died “unsaved” by proxy.
The Mormons believe that those who have died will have a chance to convert to Christianity in the Spirit World where there are many Mormon missionaries preaching the “word of God”.