The Mystical Practice of Receiving a New Name

In many spiritual traditions there is a common practice of receiving a new name. What is this, and what does it have to do with mysticism?

Eckhart Tolle talks about the practice of taking a “new name” in this video. Of course, he took the new name of Eckhart after his spiritual awakening, after the 13th century German Christian mystic Eckhart von Hochheim (aka Meister Eckhart, or “Master” Eckhart).

I’ve thought about taking a new name. In Mormonism many years ago I actually received a new name in the temple, which was considered sacred and not to be ever divulged. All Mormons receive a new name in the temple. Some former Mormons make fun of their new name, perhaps thinking it’s a pretty silly practice and meaningless. But it’s not just in Mormonism; it’s a pretty common practice in the world’s spiritual traditions.

The Pope takes a new name when they become pope, Francis being the new name of Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Ram Dass is a new name for Richard Alpert. Vishnu Dass is a new name for Michael Gungor (which I just heard him talk about on a recent Liturgists podcast). Buddha is a new name for Siddhartha Gautama. Christ is a new name for Jesus. Joseph Smith took several new names it seems, including Gazelem, Ahman Christ, Enoch, and Baurak Ale (not to mention perhaps all the names in the Book of Mormon). We see it a lot. It is an often occurrence in many spiritual traditions, particularly as we get into the more mystical or esoteric parts of them. And of course there is this scripture in Revelation:

To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.

-Revelation 2:17

Why? What’s going on? As Eckhart Tolle explains, it is a transition to a new state of being, a new identity, which is different than the prior one we have lived in most of our life. That old creature accumulates a lot of baggage with their name, the ego thinking it is all that, and so upon awakening the person sometimes will take a new spiritual name, which is representative of their newfound identity, the new life they’ve discovered, the new being that have realized that they are which is different than the old ego.

For me, the new name is simply “Christ.” But don’t worry, I’m not going to start calling myself “Christ,” because that would be, umm, a little weird, and an ego trip. It’s God that calls us “Christ.” When Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was, Peter said “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus replied, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:16-17). It is God, Ultimate Reality, the One, which reveals this new name/identity in us and all others.

That is the tradition that I came from, that is the name/identity that I think we are called into. That is the name by which we are called and are continually being called in Christianity:

Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd.

-Alma 5:38

As C.S. Lewis pointed out, the whole point of Christianity is to make us into Christs (which he liked to modify with the diminutive word “little,” but in my view there is nothing little about it):

… the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose… Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.

-Lewis, Mere Christianity

At some point in the Christian’s spiritual journey we come to realize that we are in Christ, and Christ is in us (Gal. 2:20). We are in the Father, and the Father is in us (John 14:10). We realize that we are a part of the Body of Christ, at-One in this Divinity. We make up that Body of God, we are that Incarnation of God, that Manifestation of God, that Son of God, that Only Begotten, that Firstborn, all of us. It’s not “lo here,” or “lo there,” because Christ is in each and every one (Luke 17:21; Matthew 24:23).

In other traditions I think this is known as the Buddha-nature, Atman, al-Insān al-Kāmil, Messiah, or Tao, etc. To come to awaken to this divinity in us, as our real true genuine eternal name/identity in this cosmos, at-one with the Cosmos, in the Source of all things. The name is not merely a word, but an identifier and identity.

It is saying that we are That (Tat Tvam Asi).


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3 thoughts on “The Mystical Practice of Receiving a New Name

  1. Perhaps we should all change our names to One. Not ‘the unique one,’ let alone ‘the best one,’ but recognizing our oneness with the holy One in All and All in the wholly One. In Hinduism, the greeting “namaste” means “I bow to the divine in you”

    1. Yes! We are that One, and yet, the One seems to delight in expressing itself, manifesting itself, in an an infinite multiplicity of diversity. So maybe a trillion trillion different names will suffice. 😉

      “Truth is One, the wise call it by many names.” (Rig Veda)

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