We must distinguish between the popular Christian cult that exists today and the esoteric teaching of Jesus. The popular Christian cult is not esoteric but exoteric. That is, it is a religious cult associated with organized institutions, a cult that appeals to masses of ordinary people by offering a conventional religious solution to the problem of existence. The cult of Christianity has never developed a consistently and truly esoteric message.
The primitive Christian church of Jesus' lifetime and shortly after was just another cult among many. In those very early days it was still possible to establish a secret, esoteric, non-popular teaching and process.
The history of modern Christianity, however, begins when Christianity was accepted as the official religion of the Roman state. From that time Christianity moved into the West and the rest of the world through the agency of the state and in the form of an exoteric religious teaching. The original esoteric and higher spiritual teaching was systematically eliminated during the development of the Christian cult over the centuries.
The popular Christian cult is a system of beliefs oriented toward the convention of religious salvation. It is quite a different system of religious understanding and processes than the esoteric teaching at the origin of Christianity. In the popular Christian cult Jesus, the individual, is the dominant offering or message. Salvation or reunion with God and the advantages that come from that union are offered as a process wherein one accepts Jesus and the drama of his apparent life as the means of salvation, or a positive personal destiny in which one is among the elect, those who are rewarded at the end of time, at the second coming or beyond it, in heaven, or even during this life. The goods of life, the blessings of God, come to those who believe.
The basic message of this exoteric cult is that Jesus is God, that Jesus has always been God, that Jesus is in fact the God who spoke to Moses and who is described in the Old Testament. He is simply God, who, at one point in human history, incarnated in human form. The teaching of Jesus, apart from his moral message, is not of any great significance within the exoteric cult. Rather, what is significant is that he is God and appeared on Earth, that he survived his death and returned to his God-state, and that in the process of dying and resurrecting and returning to the God-state he paid for the karmas—or in Western parlance, the sins—of mankind.
Therefore, in order to become associated with God, to be free of the condemnation that comes from one's sins, or karma, or accumulated tendencies, one must accept that there is God, that Jesus is God, and that Jesus has paid for your sins, thereby rendering unnecessary your suffering now and in the future. One who simply accepts this dogma can be born without ultimate negative consequences. One need only believe that Jesus performed the ceremony of birth, death, resurrection, and ascension that has saved you.
This is the basic exoteric message of the popular Christian cult. It is not a message about life in the Spirit or any higher form of life. It is a message to egos, to born beings, that if you will believe in Jesus, you will be granted a very high destiny that may be revealed to some degree while you are alive. In other words, by believing in God, by feeling yourself close to God and therefore to God's blessings while alive, you can probably expect good things to happen to you.
A kind of mysticism also developed within the cult of Christianity, but if we examine the esotericism that seems to have sprung from Jesus and the gathering around him, it is difficult to perceive a direct relationship between what that esotericism must have been and the development over the centuries of Christian mysticism, particularly within the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions. The mysticism that has appeared within the greater cult of Christianity is largely an ascetic mystical tradition, not at all akin to what must have been the esotericism of the early Christian community.
Ascetic mysticism has appeared within religious groups all over the world since ancient times, particularly among oriental mystical traditions. Such mysticism expresses an ascetic point of view toward God-realization, wherein this world and the body are viewed as negative forces. Mystical association with God in these traditions is basically a matter of inverting attention in order to pass beyond desiring and attachment in this world, even beyond perception of this world, into the domain of the immortal soul wherein one exists as an immortal spark of the Divine.