Reverend Mario Schoenmaker (Mario) was a man of paradoxes. He was a minister of religion, yet he was a clairvoyant. He was a spiritual teacher, yet he was married with children. He was a preacher in an orthodox church, yet he preached reincarnation. He was a modern day mystic, yet he was a man you could meet down the street. He knew his bible and theology off by heart, yet he spoke about all of it from an esoteric and metaphysical viewpoint. In 1975 he would found and lead what would become the first Christian denomination to be recognised by the Australian government. And in 1996, four months before he died, he would introduce a brand new expression of the priesthood into this church.
It was a chance meeting with Colin Read (Colin) – whom he credits with “inspiring (him) to realise freedom and seek liberty”– that set this in motion. Prior to this Mario’s background had appeared impeccably orthodox, with ministry training in the Catholic Church, the Salvation Army and the Uniting Church in Australia, plus some time spent as a missionary in the Outback WA. When Mario met Colin “It was instant recognition.” It was Colin who ‘dared’ Mario to teach what he really saw (and that which he really ‘saw’ he had experienced some years earlier). “Without Colin Read I would have remained an orthodox Congregational Minister.”
The meeting of these two brought about a complete change in the way Mario taught. He began teaching reincarnation and karma, which attracted hundreds of people. Then there were the innovative healing services to which people flocked. He provided classes in a wide variety of metaphysical topics, and commenced his worldwide Spiritual Readings ministry. He became the spiritual teacher.
The numinous experience: the awakening
The dramatic change from orthodox to revolutionary was effected by an experience that occurred to Mario in 1966. “In Perth, I had an experience which enabled me to begin to realise the potential of my clairvoyant abilities. One night (about 1966) I was lying in front of the fire in the lounge ... Although I was not even consciously meditating, I was taken out of my body into a cathedral-like building with no seats in it, and monks moving around the place. In this spiritual atmosphere, a burning coal was placed on my forehead and stomach, which actually left burns on the flesh at these two points. When I came back into the body I could see colours. Nothing was defined, but colours were streaming from everywhere towards me”.
This experience became the defining moment for his life’s work. From this time onwards he began to teach publicly about his experience of the spiritual worlds and he commenced the Spiritual Readings Ministry. By 1986 he estimated he had given Readings to “approximately 10,000 people.”
As he dealt with the implications of the 1966 experience, Mario began to extend his sphere of influence so that he could pass on the insights gained from the new vision to as many people as possible. This occurred in several ways. The original experience of “colours streaming from everywhere” became refined into a perception of the human aura. During a Spiritual Reading Mario was able to relate the colours of the individual to their character, vocation and previous incarnations.
Outer expression – the building of a Major Movement
In his work, Mario gave the spiritual experience intellectual respectability. He differentiated from the charismatic ‘born again Christian’ expression, as he considered it to be based exclusively on emotion and not spirit. He would not
refer to people as miserable sinners either, as did the orthodox streams. He was founding a new church with a completely different approach. The Independent Church of Australia was inaugurated in 1975. It was the first official denomination to originate in Australia and be recognised by the Australian government. “The essential role of preaching and teaching is to proclaim freedom for the soul, to proclaim release from captivity, and to express in word and deed the liberty of soul and spirit.” His philosophy restored hope to people that the spiritual worlds were indeed real. “The ultimate goal” he said “is the ultimate vision, the ‘open door’ through which humanity passes and becomes divinity.” Mario also instituted the priesthood, which would see over forty people ordained in his lifetime.
The Free Priesthood and the Continuing Impulse
It was 1995 when a new vision of the priesthood was given. Mario had explained years earlier that the troubled person no longer went to visit a priest to unburden themselves, but went to their psychologist, hairdresser, or therapist instead. So after years of training, and with careful thought and planning, on September 8th 1996, nineteen new candidates from all walks of life were ordained into the Order of Melchizedek. Mario and Colin would call it the Free Priesthood. This was an expression of the priesthood that was seen as futuristic, and one that would ultimately become an invisible force. Colin suggested “it would be like wearing a Superman suit, Clark Kent on top and Superman underneath.”
At the post ordination reception, Mario announced to the authors and others present. “The people won’t come to the priest, so we have ordained the psychologists, the nurses, the doctors, the lawyers, business people, musicians, and artists, and we shall send these priests to the people!
The Continuing Impulse
Mario died at the beginning of 1997, Colin followed two years later. The work of these two pioneers is continued today. The teachings of the Western Esoteric Spiritual Tradition continue to be given through the courses of the Way of the Wyse Art. Reverend Mario’s lectures and talks are available through the Rosa Veritas organisation, and the Free Priesthood continues to move forward through the The Free Priest Movement.