Although historically confused with and misunderstood as the Essenes, the writers of The Essene Gospel of Peace, which the following practices are taken from, are more likely to have been Sampsæans.
The Sampsæans were described as sun-worshipers who were formerly Essenes, and who are likely to have converted to the esoteric side of Jesus’s teaching. The Essene Gospel of Peace details many conversations Jesus has with members of this group, and the teachings he gives are entirely different to those found in The Dead Sea Scrolls, which are often accredited to the Essenes.
The following is an excerpt taken from The Path of the Spiritual Sun by Belsebuub with Angela Pritchard:
The Essene community is believed to have existed between around 200 BC to the first century AD and lived together in various places in Palestine, Syria, and Egypt.
The largest room of their stone communal building at Qumran is aligned so that the rays of the setting sun on the summer solstice illuminate the eastern wall where there are two altars.
Additionally, a limestone sundial was discovered there, designed to measure the sun throughout the year rather than the day, and which could measure the solstices and equinoxes. The historian Josephus Flavius describes how the Essenes addressed prayers to the sun.
However, there were many different groups in the region where the Essenes are said to have lived, which have been broadly defined as Essene, but historically had different names.
Two different historians, Philo and Epiphanius, describe groups in the area which practiced a form of sun worship. Jesus is believed to have spent time with one or some of these groups, and perhaps even gave rise to them, as the author below describes them as a remnant of the Essenes who accepted a so-called “spurious form of Christianity.” The author probably sees it as “spurious” because it was based on Jesus’ esoteric teachings and is therefore considered unorthodox.
“Philo relates of the Therapeutes (Vit. Cont. II, II. p. 485), that they ‘stand with their faces and their whole body towards the East, and when they see that the sun is risen, holding out their hands to heaven they pray for a happy day and for truth and for keen vision of reason…’
Epiphanius (Hær. xix. 2, xx. 3, pp. 40 sq., 47) speaks of a sect called the Sampsæans or ‘Sun-worshippers,’ as existing in his own time in Peræa on the borders of Moab and on the shores of the Dead Sea. He describes them as a remnant of the Ossenes (i.e. Essenes), who have accepted a spurious form of Christianity and are neither Jews nor Christians…
In this heresy we have plainly the dregs of Essenism, which has only been corrupted from its earlier and nobler type by the admixture of a spurious Christianity. But how came the Essenes to be called Sampsæans? What was the original meaning of this outward reverence which they paid to the sun? Did they regard it merely as the symbol of Divine illumination, just as Philo frequently treats it as a type of God, the center of all light (e.g. de. Somn. i. 13 sq., I. p. 631 sq.), and even calls the heavenly bodies ‘visible and sensible gods’ (de Mund. Op. 7, I. p. 6)? Or did they honour the light, as the pure ethereal element in contrast to gross terrestrial matter, according to a suggestion of a recent writer (Keim I. p. 289)?… We cannot fail therefore to recognize the action of some foreign influence in this Essene practice—whether Greek or Syrian or Persian, it will be time to consider hereafter.”
~ J. B. Lightfoot, On Some Points Connected With The Essenes
This influence may have come from Jesus and the Gnostics, or from mystery schools that understood the significance of the spiritual sun.
Image credit: Jesus and the Disciples going to Emmaus is a public domain image foundhere.