A handful of mostly poor people that constitutes the fellowship of the Re-Structured Church of the Holy Ghost, firmly believe that they are the only “rest” that keeps the true religion that came from Israel. A religion that had to be developed in a continuous evolution guided by Elias, the third person of a Trinity formed by Moses, Jesus and himself who reincarnated in the body of the leader of the Church. They also believe that they have the mission of bringing the light of this religion back to Israel. The aim of this paper is to describe the sacred history, fellowship beliefs, rituals, organization, and the members’ duties of this Mexican Church.
The history and doctrine of the Re-Structured Church of the Holy Ghost, “Purity, Love and Light” as their full name reads -, is mainly based in oral tradition. The only written but not official document is a 52 pages leaflet containing some elements of Church’s sacred history and credo, as well as some prayers and hymns. The following presentation of the sacred history, beliefs, rituals, organization, duties, and mission of the members of the Church is partly based in this leaflet, partly in ethnographic observation, and for the most part in oral information.
The sacred history
According to Renée de la Torre (1995:46, 55) religious organizations use to have a sacred history that scarcely takes the factual history into account. They instead make a mixture of facts and beliefs aimed at the glorification of the churches and their founders. The sacred history of the Re-Structured Church of the Holy Ghost goes back to the XIX century when Roque Rojas - a Mexican layman founded the Church of the Holy Ghost in 1867. Rojas himself narrates this event as follows:
The revelation of the seven seals to be shown in the front of the seven churches of the Holy Ghost was given to me on the 16th of August, the year of grace 1867.
While I was experiencing an ecstasy and a mystical enrapture, and hearing a heavenly music my spirit was transported to heaven, and a strong voice coming from a golden cloud spoke to me. An angel came from the infinity and from the unknown holding a book made of the most pure gold that he put in my hands saying to me: “this is the book sealed with the seven seals. You are going to know how those seven seals look like”. When the angel pronounced those prophetic words I saw in the sky the apparition of the seven seals one by one (Iglesia Reestructurada del Espíritu Santo, s/f: 6).
It follows the description of each one of the seven seals. Here it is for instance the description of the first one:
I saw in the sky the apparition of the first seal. It was a rectangle with a circle inside. Both the rectangle and the circle were drawn with double black lines. Inside of the circle there was a triangle drawn with blue lines. This triangle had a black point in each of the angles, and in the center a red and yellow sun with a man’s face. Inside of the circle there were 22 green laurel leaves and seven green flower buds. The seal had the following legend written with black characters: “This is the first seal, which is a representation of the first person of the Holy Trinity, who personifies power and wisdom. On the Enlightenment XIX century on the year 1869 of the Kingdom of God” (Iglesia Reestructurada del Espíritu Santo, s/f: 6-7).
I haven’t found information about the development of this Church from its inception to the first half of the XX century. I just found out two research reports by Kelly (1965) and Lagarriga Attias (1975) with some scarce information for the second half. The former is about folk practices in the northern region of La Laguna, and the latter about practices of spiritualism and traditional medicine in the eastern state of Veracruz. Both of them refer to spiritualism as a healing ritual that the priests of the so-called Marian Spiritualist churches - regarded as heirs of the Church of the Holy Ghost- use to perform. Lagarriga Attias also produces some interesting facts about these churches’ practices, organization, and fellowship.
According to information from the believers, the Re-Structured Church of the Holy Ghost, “Purity, Love and Light” is the result of a reformation of the Marian Spiritualist churches that was undertaken by its founder, brother Justo around 1950. He considered that the Marian churches had deviated from the one founded by Roque Rojas, because they had substituted spiritualism for spirituality. He also criticized that the priesthood of these churches used to practice healing rituals with the only purpose of earning a pay from the poor people who would attend their religious services. But above all things he criticized the fact that they did not evolve and consequently were still living the second coming of the Holy Ghost when these are actually the times of the third one. These churches are called “biased” in order to differentiate them from the Re-Structured Church.
According to the sacred history, brother Justo lived in a city called Los Mochis in the state of Sinaloa. He had no formal education but was such an intelligent person that he could successfully argue against catholic priests. He was also a leader who attracted many people to his doctrine due, in part, to his inflamed eloquence, and in part to the miracles he used to perform healing people from their diseases. The members of the Church firmly believe that at least in one occasion brother Justo resuscitated a man. Nobody of my informants had witnessed this, but they say they received the testimony of people that had.
There is a photo of brother Justo in the wall at the back of the altar in the main church located in the city of Celaya in the state of Guanajuato. The picture portrays a man in his thirties wearing clothes that resemble those of the apostles, as they usually appear in the popular catholic engravings. Brother Justo died recently. He was succeeded by his son Mario, who is the current leader of the Church.
At the top of the hierarchy of the Church Brother Mario is appointed. He holds the position of Elder Brother once occupied by his father. Roque Rojas, the founder of the Church of the Holy Ghost proclaimed himself to be the reincarnation of Elias, the third person of the Trinity, and so did brother Justo. Brother Mario proclaims that just before dying his father pronounced the following consecratory formula: “Where I am there is Elias, and where my son Mario is, there I am”. It is believed that by virtue of these words Brother Mario is the reincarnation of Elias, and consequently the leader of the Church, the keeper of the true faith and the prophet of an endless revelation.
After the Elder Brother, the heirs of the white church come in the hierarchy, followed by the servants of the white church (I couldn’t find out whether this is a collegiate body, nor who belong to it). The following degree is occupied by the priesthood. Men and women can become priests, but only male priests can be in charge of a congregation. Women are helpers of male priests and they are devoted to culturally considered female roles like doing the cleaning of the churches, cooking and serving meals and the like, but they also participate actively in some of the healing rituals. After the priesthood, male and female guards come in the hierarchy; they have the responsibility of keeping order during rituals.
The priests in charge of a church are appointed by Brother Mario who can, and frequently does assign a man to a church far away from home. Priests do not receive a salary. On the contrary they have to work to provide for themselves, their families and the needs of the church they are in charge of.
There are not very many temples of this faith disseminated around the country, and the main church is the one located in Celaya. The leader of the Church, however, does not live in Celaya but in Los Mochis. The priests are the ones who take one month turns to look after the main church. Not only do they have to take care of the worship, healing rituals and other religious practices but also they have to provide for the material needs of the church and the adjacent buildings, including the construction of new ones. Twice a year, when people in Mexico have vacations because of the celebration of the passion of The Christ usually in April or March and Independence day - September 15th and 16th - the members of the Church gather in Celaya. The purpose of the gatherings is to deliberate in order to take collective agreements about matters concerning the life of their religious organization. In fact, as I could observe, it is the leader Brother Mario who makes the decisions that are always supported by the priests and by all the other fellows of the Church.
The total fellowship of the Church is approximately one thousand people. They belong to the lower strata of Mexican society. Men are bricklayers, gardeners, forgers, shopkeepers, taxi riders, car mechanics and the like. Most of the women are housewives but some of them have jobs as cooks, waitresses, maids, etc. It is important for them that men and women can easily take days off work to attend the calling of Brother Mario for moving at any time to different places, whether it is for building a church or helping get a congregation going.
Most of the fellowship with perhaps the exception of the elder have, at least, primary school, but they are not used to reading or to writing, so that it can be said that they are practically illiterate; hence the importance of oral tradition.
There is no systemization of beliefs in the Re-Structured Church of the Holy Ghost, nor any effort of a systematic reflection upon them. In other words there is no theology. The orally transmitted beliefs are a mixture of not always coherent ideas; moreover, this Church does not appreciate theology. It is considered an obstacle in the way of an intuitive knowledge of God that is highly appreciated. For the members of the Church, theology often asks questions that have no answers at all, and that do not matter anyway, such as questions about the nature of the relationship between Jesus and the Father. Instead, for this Church it is enough to know that Jesus was a great man, the greatest one of a handful of great men.
People who base their behavior on the motivation of their faith in the teachings of Christ can experience a lot of satisfactions [...]. Everybody accepts that no other person but Christ reflects so great virile virtues. At the time of theological controversies theologians asked questions about the nature of the relationship between Jesus and the Father, and wars were even fought to adverse or sustain that they shared the same substance. I do ignore the substance of the Father and of Jesus Christ, but I do know that Jesus fills my heart with love and motivates me to follow and to revere him more than any other person. I do not care about his virginal conception, nor about his resurrection or about the multiplication of bread and fish in the mountain. Even if that is not taken into account the figure of Jesus raises high because of his sublime doctrine that is accepted - although not followed - by the entire world. I do not care about the nature of Jesus’ metaphysical relationship with the infinity. Instead I do believe that he is the Master, the Chief and the Leader I have to follow. He is the great personality I have to imitate. This is all I need to know.
I did not acquire this knowledge from any theology, and no theology can snatch it away from me (Iglesia Reestructurada del Espíritu Santo, s/f: 4).
This Church however sustains and teaches some beliefs, even incoherent, that constitute a particular vision of history, and of the human and divine worlds. Their temples are seen as places where the spirits that anxiously look for the truth about God will find true answers to their questions.
This Church does not have a holy Book. They maintain that the revelation did not and will not finish, but that it is instead a continuous process. Revelation came to the Church through his former Elder Brother Justo, and nowadays comes through his son, the current Elder Brother Mario. This revelation is transmitted to the members of the Church via teachings, predications and informal conversations. In other words, via oral tradition that plays a very important role in the transmission and conservation of their faith.
What follows is an exercise of systematization of the beliefs of the Church, although I am conscious of the risk I take in constructing the theological rudiments of a religion that does not appreciate theology.
There is, in the only written document, a so called “Spiritual Credo” that reads: “I do believe in God the Father, omnipotent, creator of heavens and earth and of all visible and invisible things, our Lord” (Iglesia Reestructurada del Espíritu Santo, s/f: 15). It is almost the same beginning as the Christian credo. But here there is an unwritten, fundamental belief that is transmitted via oral tradition: God the creator of the visible and invisible things also created immortal spirits, and assigned them the goal to always evolve towards greater grades of perfection. In order to fulfill this mission spirits incarnate in material bodies that are called “manifest bodies” (“cuerpos de manifiesto”). This means that bodies are a means for the visual manifestation of the invisible spirits. Bodies manifest spirits’ perfection or imperfection. Bodily illnesses are a manifestation of the imperfection of spirits, hence the healing rituals whose aim is to cure the spirits that will be reflected in the well being of the bodies.
Because spirits have to evolve towards greater grades of perfection the members of this Church believe in reincarnation, and that spirits reincarnate only in human, not in animal bodies. This spiritual evolution consists in liberation from material appetites, as it is asked in this prayer:
Concede us loving Father the forgiveness of our sins. Impose on us the deserved and fair penalties, so that, once taken away from any material appetite, we could obtain the forgiveness that we, from the heart, implore in the name of the Father, the Son and of the Holy Ghost. So be it, so be it done, and so it will be done (Iglesia Reestructurada del Espíritu Santo, s/f: 13). Ok
While bodies die spirits do not. Only spirits are immortal. Bodies will not resuscitate as other churches maintain because it was said that nothing material will enter into the spiritual world.
God created an army of spiritual protectors who help humans to evolve towards perfection. But he also created evil spirits that try to hinder this evolution, but hell or any other places of eternal punishment do not exist.
The spiritual credo continues as follows:
I believe that He is the true and only God. I firmly believe that other than the true God has never existed and will never be. I believe that he is compassionate, fair, and perfect and saint. I believe He is the infinite wisdom and the true light. I believe he rewards virtue and punishes vice. I believe he is the judge that sees men’s actions and thoughts. I believe that he communicates to human intelligence through the Holy Ghost, that his decisions are good and perfect, and that he never cares for bad or superfluous events. I believe that he keeps creation to the benefit of his sons. I believe he continuously sends emissaries to teach virtues to mankind. I believe that Jesus is a man in whose body God hid himself to save us from vice. I believe we will resuscitate to the life of grace. I believe in the seven churches governed by the Holy Ghost, and in the apostles who were models of love, perfection and humility. I also believe that Mary is the mother of Jesus, the Son of God. I believe she was pure and saint. I believe in the forgiveness of our sins and in eternal life in God. So be it, so be it done, and so it will be done (Iglesia Reestructurada del Espíritu Santo, s/f: 15).
One could conclude from this credo and from some of the prayers that are done in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost that the members of the Re-Structured Church believe in the Trinity. So they do. But the Trinity they believe in is constituted by Moses, Jesus and Elias, and each of them are believed to be a messiah (although God hid himself in Jesus, not in Moses’ or Elias’ body). Hence some other prayers are done in the name of Moses, Jesus and Elias. Each of them has a Holy Ghost. Each of them also belongs to a different time in the evolution of history and of religion. Nowadays, it is the time of Elias, the founder of the seven churches of the seven seals, and who reincarnated in Roque Rojas, then in brother Justo and currently in Brother Mario.
This Church highlights that they venerate the Virgin Mary, and give her the title of humankind co-redeemer. Some prayers are done in the name of Moses, Jesus, Elias and the Virgin Mary, and some others are addressed to her. Believers cross themselves in the name of Moses, Jesus, and Elias and of the Virgin Mary.
The members of the Church firmly believe that they are the heirs of the true faith of Israel, that they are in fact the “rest” of Israel, although they do not use this word the ones who keep believing in the evolution of religion, while the current inhabitants of Israel and the members of other churches hold a faith that belongs to past dispensations. Not even one of the churches but the Re-Structured Church of the Holy Ghost, “Purity, Love and Light” understood that this is the time of the third manifestation of the Holy Ghost. They believe they have the mission of bringing back this faith to Israel.
There are religious services every day of the week. They usually consist of prayers, sermons and healing rituals called evictions (desalojos) because their aim is to remove bad feelings from the believers’ bodies. Members attend services wearing white robes, while visitors wear everyday clothes. There are particular worship rituals each day of the week and each day of the month. For instance, the last nine days of each month are dedicated to remove the accumulated bad feelings so that believers can begin a new month completely purified. Three of the nine days are dedicated to the expelling of bad feelings from men, three from women and three from children. An “eviction” ritual consist of prayers, hands imposition by male and female priests, and the rubbing of the body with a scent called Siete Machos (seven “macho” men), that is a perfume also used in witchcraft rituals in Mexico.
This Church teaches that the commandments given to Moses by God were 22. But blinded by anger because the people of Israel betrayed their faith adoring false idols Moses smashed the Stones of the Law, and he only could recover the Ten Commandments that were given to the people of Israel and were then adopted by Christian churches. The complete 22 commandments the members of the Church have to obey are the following:
In addition to those divine commandments, fellows of the Church also have to obey the orders of their Elder Brother. As said before, they have to be ready to move anywhere, anytime, alone or accompanied by their families following Brother Mario’s orders. They also have to contribute to the material needs of the Church. As poor as they are, they are always ready to give more money than one could think to sustain the works of the Church. I could observe that in a reunion they agreed to contribute one thousand pesos, which is a lot of money considering that it is twice the weekly income of a family such as those that constitute the fellowship of this Church.
They also usually help each other, and they gladly hold the roles and carry out the services assigned to them according to genre and age when they reunite in the central Church of Celaya.
The members of the Re-Structured Church of the Holy Ghost, “Purity, Love and Light” are, above all, conscious that they have a mission: they have to keep the true evolving faith that other churches and the people of Israel do not have any more, for they are religions that hold a faith that is anchored in past dispensations. They, these poor and illiterate people, have the firm and touching conviction that their mission is to illuminate all other people with their knowledge of the true faith, as well as to bring it back to Israel.
De la Torre, Renée (1995) Los hijos de la luz. Discurso, identidad y poder en La Luz del Mundo. Guadalajara, México: Iteso, Ciesas, UdeG.
Iglesia Reestructurada del Espíritu Santo. Pureza, amor y luz. S/f, s/l, edición de la Iglesia.
Kelly, Isabel (1965) Folk Practices in North-Mexico. Birth Customs, Folk Medicine and Spiritualism in the Laguna Zone. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Lagarriga Attias, Isabel (1975) Medicina tradicional y espiritismo. Los espiritualistas marianos de Jalapa. Veracruz. México: Secretaría de Educación Pública.