Information: This is an important work as to the mystical symbology of Christianity, particularly so in relation to the symbology of the New Testament.
Translations of this work already exist in several languages, and we naturally
recommend that the interested student should have a copy in his own language if
possible. The original work, in English, can be bought from its publisher:
Below we have the Table of Contents, and the links only to the Foreword and to the first chapter (Introductory Remarks on Initiation), for the work is still copyright protected.
Table of Contents
The First Initiation – The
The Second Initiation – The
The Third Initiation – The
Transfiguration on a
The Fourth Initiation – The Crucifixion
The Fifth Initiation – The Resurrection and Ascension
Our Immediate Goal – The Founding of the Kingdom
This book goes out with the earnest wish that its effect may be wholly constructive and result in a deepening of our belief in Christ and a broader recognition of the work which He came to initiate. Many years of work as an evangelist and as a teacher in the field of Christian principles, and a difficult cycle in which I faced the problem of my own relation to Christ and to Christianity, have brought me to two definitely clear and clean cut recognitions: first, a recognition of the reality of the Individuality of Christ and of His Mission; and secondly, a recognition that the development of the Christ Consciousness and the Christ Nature in individual man, and in the race as a whole, carries with it the solution of our world problem. Most heartily do I endorse the words of Arthur Weigall when he says:
‘Yet the Jesus of History as distinct from the Jesus of Theology, remains ‘the way, the truth, and the life’; and I am convinced that concentration upon the historic figure of our Lord and upon His teaching can alone inspire in this Twentieth Century that fervent adherence and service which in former ages could be obtained from the average layman by the expounding of theological dogmas, the threat of hell, and the performance of elaborate rites and ceremonies.’
– The Paganism in Our Christianity, by Arthur Weigall, p. 16
The kingdom of God is now in process of rapid formation, as all those with forward-seeing vision and a realization of the rapidly emerging beauty and divinity of man can bear testimony. We are passing through the transition period between the old age and the new, and the true mission of Christ, so deeply and frequently obscured by theological implications and disputations, embodies in itself the coming revelation. The development of humanity guarantees the recognition of Christ and His work and its participation, consciously, in the kingdom of God.
The conscious evocation of the Christ Life in the human heart and our rapid integration into the kingdom of God are the immediate tasks ahead, embodying our responsibility, opportunity and destiny.
In closing, I would like to offer my grateful thanks to Mr. William Cummings and Mr. Alan Murray for the willing and intelligent help they have given me. They have made the writing of this book possible.
From Bethlehem to Calvary
Of those who sought my crib at Bethlehem
Heeding a voice and following a star,
How many walked with me to Calvary?
It was too far.
Glory surrounded that once mangered babe,
And hope for men who struggled with their loss.
But hope, fulfiled, came through my thorny crown
And through my cross.
Truth was my sword and pain the accolade
Which I bestowed on those who followed on,
A tethered ass the charger which I chose
To ride upon.
Gone was the glory, then, of Bethlehem,
The gifts of Kings and Magi from the East;
Gone were the multitudes and only twelve
Were at the feast
Of humble bread served in the upper room
Where that sad cup was passed from hand to hand
In token of my love for all mankind
Within the land.
When, at Gethsemane, I prayed alone
That a more bitter cup might be withdrawn,
Ye could not watch with me one little hour
Until the Dawn!
So many sought my crib at Bethlehem
Heeding a voice and following a star,
But only Simon walked to Calvary –
It was too far.
– H. Le Gallienne.
Reprinted with the kind permission of The New York Times and the Author.
‘There is a human desire for God; but there is also a Divine desire for man. God is the supreme idea, the supreme concern and the supreme desire of man. Man is the supreme idea, the supreme concern and the supreme desire of God. The problem of God is a human problem. The problem of man is a Divine problem ... Man is the counterpart of God and His beloved from whom He expects the return of love. Man is the other person of the Divine mystery. God needs man. It is God’s will not only that He should Himself exist, but man also, the Lover and beloved.’
– Wrestlers with Christ, by Karl Pfleger, p. 236.
We are in process of passing from one religious age into another. The spiritual trends of today are steadily becoming more defined. The hearts of men have never been more open to spiritual impression than they are at this time, and the door into the very center of reality stands wide open. Paralleling, however, this significant development is a trend in the counter direction, and materialistic philosophies and doctrines of negation are becoming increasingly prevalent. To many, the whole question of the validity of the Christian religion remains to be determined. Claims are made that Christianity has failed and that man does not need the Gospel story with its implications of divinity and its urge to service and sacrifice.
Is the Gospel story historically true? Is it a mystical tale of great beauty and of real teaching value but nevertheless of no vital import to the intelligent men and women of today, who pride themselves on their reasoning powers and upon their independence of ancient mental trammels and of old and dusty traditions? As to the perfection of the portrayed character of Christ there is never any question. The enemies of Christianity admit His uniqueness, His basic profundity and His understanding of the hearts of men. They recognize the intelligence of His ideas and sponsor them in their own philosophies. The developments which the Carpenter of Nazareth brought about in the fabric of human life, His social and economic ideals, and the beauty of the civilization which could be founded upon the ethical teaching of the Sermon on the Mount are frequently emphasized by many who refuse to recognize His mission as an expression of divinity. From the rational point of view, the question as to the historical accuracy of His story remains as yet unsolved, though His teaching upon the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man is endorsed by the best minds of the race. Those who can move in the world of ideas, of faith and of living experience testify to His divinity and to the fact that He can be approached. But such testimony is often passed over lightly as being mystical, futile and incapable of proof. Individual belief is, after all, of no value to anyone except to the believer himself, or as it tends to increase testimony until the total assumes such proportions that it eventually becomes proof. To fall back upon the ‘way of belief’ can be indicative of a living experience, but it can also be a form of self-hypnotism and a ‘way of escape’ from the difficulties and problems of daily life. The effort to understand, to experiment, to experience and to express what is known and believed is frequently too difficult for the majority, and they then fall back upon a belief which is based upon the testimony of the trusted, as the easiest way out of the impasse.
The problem of religion and the problem of orthodox Christianity are not one and the same thing. Much that we see around us today of unbelief and criticism, and the negation of our so-called truths, is based upon the fact that religion has been largely superseded by creed, and doctrine has taken the place of living experience. It is this living experience which is the keynote of this book.
Perhaps another reason why humanity at this time believes so little, or questions so unhappily what is believed, may be the fact that theologians have attempted to lift Christianity out of its place in the scheme of things and have overlooked its position in the great continuity of divine revelation. They have endeavored to emphasize its uniqueness, and to regard it as an isolated and entirely separated expression of spiritual religion. They thereby destroy its background, remove its foundations, and make it difficult for the steadily developing mind of man to accept its presentation. Yet St. Augustine tells us that ‘that which is called the Christian religion existed among the ancients, and never did not exist from the beginning of the human race until Christ came in the flesh, at which time the true religion, which already existed, began to be called Christianity.’ (Quoted by W. Kingsland in Religion in the Light of Theosophy) The Wisdom which expresses relationship to God, the rules of the road which guide our wandering footsteps back to the Father’s home, and the teaching which brings revelation have ever been the same, down the ages, and are identical with that which Christ taught. This body of inner truths and this wealth of divine knowledge have existed since time immemorial. It is the truth which Christ revealed; but He did more than this. He revealed in Himself and through His life history what this wisdom and knowledge could do for man. He demonstrated in Himself the full expression of divinity, and then enjoined upon His disciples that they should go and do likewise.
In the continuity of revelation, Christianity enters upon its cycle of expression under the same divine law which governs all manifestation – the Law of Cyclic Appearance. This revelation passes through the phases of all form-manifestation, or appearance, then growth and development, and finally (when the cycle draws towards its close) crystallization and a gradual but steady emphasis of the letter and the form, till the death of that form becomes inevitable and wise. But the spirit remains to live on and take to itself new forms. The Spirit of Christ is undying, and as He lives to all eternity, so that which He incarnated to demonstrate must also live. The cell in the womb, the stage of littleness, the development of the child into the man – to all this He submitted Himself, and underwent all the processes which are the destiny of every son of God. Because of this submission and because He ‘learned obedience by the things which he suffered,’ (Hebrews, V, 8) He could be trusted to reveal God to man, and (may we say it?) the divine in man to God. For the Gospels show us that continuously Christ called forth this recognition from the Father.
The great continuity of revelation is our most priceless possession, and into it the religion of Christ must, and does, fit. God has never left Himself without witness, and He never will. The place of Christianity as the fulfilment of the past and as a stepping-stone to the future, is often forgotten, and this perhaps is one of the reasons why people speak of a failing Christianity, and look forward to that spiritual revelation which seems so sorely needed. Unless this continuity is emphasized and the place of the Christian faith in it, revelation may come and pass unrecognized.
‘There was,’ we are told, ‘in every ancient country having claims to civilization, an Esoteric Doctrine, a system which was designated WISDOM, and those who were devoted to its prosecution were first denominated sages, or wise men ... Pythagoras termed this system ... the Gnosis or Knowledge of things that are. Under the noble designation of WISDOM, the ancient teachers, the sages of India, the magians of Persia and Babylon, the seers and prophets of Israel, the hierophants of Egypt and Arabia, and the philosophers of Greece and the West, included all knowledge which they considered as essentially divine; classifying part as esoteric and the remainder as exterior.’
– The Secret Doctrine, by H.P. Blavatsky, Vol. III, p.55.
We know much of the exoteric teaching. Orthodox and theological Christianity is founded on it, as are all the orthodox formulations of the great religions. When, however, the inner wisdom teaching is forgotten and the esoteric side is ignored, then the spirit and the living experimental experience disappear. We have been occupied with the details of the outer form of the faith, and have sadly forgotten the inner meaning which carries life and salvation to the individual and also to humanity. We have been busy fighting over the non-essentials of traditional interpretation and have omitted to teach the secret and the technique of the Christian life. We have over-emphasized the doctrinal and dogmatic aspects, and have deified the letter whilst all the time the soul of man was crying out for the spirit of life, which the letter veiled. We have agonized over the historical aspects of the Gospel narrative, over the time element, and over the verbal accuracy of the many translations, while failing to see the real magnificence of Christ’s accomplishment and the significant teaching it holds for the individual and for the race. The drama of His life and its practical application to the lives of His followers have been lost to sight in the undue importance attached to certain phrases which He is supposed to have uttered, whilst that which He expressed in His life, and the relationships which He emphasized and regarded as implicit in His revelation have been totally ignored.
We have fought over the historical Christ, and thus fighting, have lost sight of His message of love to all beings. Fanatics quarrel over His words, and fail to remember that He was ‘the Word made flesh.’ We argue about the Virgin Birth of the Christ, and forget the truth which the Incarnation is intended to teach. Evelyn Underhill points out in her most valuable book, Mysticism, that ‘The Incarnation, which is for popular Christianity synonymous with the historical birth and earthly life of Christ, is for the mystic not only this but also a perpetual cosmic and personal process.’
Scholars spend their lives in proving that the whole story is only a myth. It should, however, be pointed out that a myth is the summarized belief and knowledge of the past, handed down to us for our guidance and forming the foundation of a newer revelation, and that it is a stepping-stone to the next truth. A myth is a valid and proven truth which bridges, step by step, the gap between the past gained knowledge, the present formulated truth, and the infinite and divine possibilities of the future. The ancient myths and the old mysteries give us a sequential presentation of the divine message as it went forth from God in response to the need of man, down the ages. The truth of one age becomes the myth of the next, but its significance and its reality remain untouched, and require only reinterpretation in the present.
We are free to choose and to reject; but let us see to it that we choose with eyes opened by that sagacity and wisdom which are the hall mark of those who have penetrated a considerable way along the path of return. There is life and truth and vitality in the Gospel story yet to be reapplied by us. There is dynamic and divinity in the message of Jesus.
Christianity is, for us today, a culminating religion. It is the greatest of the later divine revelations. Much of it, since its inception two thousand years ago, has come to be regarded as myth, and the clear outlines of the story have dimmed and have come frequently to be regarded as symbolic in their nature. Yet behind symbol and myth stands reality – an essential, dramatic and practical truth.
Our attention has been engrossed by the symbol and by the outer form, whilst the meaning has remained obscured and fails sufficiently to affect our lives. In our myopic study of the letter we have lost the significance of the Word itself. We need to get behind the symbol to that which it embodies, and to shift our attention away from the world of outer forms to that of inner realities. Keyserling points this out in these words:
‘The process of shifting levels from the letter to the inner meaning in the matter of spiritual attitudes can be clearly set forth by one single proposition. It consists in ‘seeing through’ the phenomenon. Every living phenomenon is, first and last, a symbol; for the essence of life is meaning. But every symbol which is the ultimate expression of a state of consciousness is in itself transparent for another deeper one, and so on into eternity; for all things in the sense-connection of life are inwardly connected, and their depths have their roots in God.
‘Therefore, no spiritual form can ever be an ultimate expression; every meaning, when it has been penetrated, becomes automatically a mere letter-expression of a deeper one, and herewith the old phenomenon takes on a new and different meaning. Thus, Catholicism, Protestantism, Greek-Catholic, Islamism and Buddhistic religiousness can in principle continue, on the plane of this life, what they were and yet signify something entirely new.’
– The Recovery of Truth, by Hermann Keyserling, pp. 91-92.
The only excuse for this book is that it is an attempt to penetrate to that deeper meaning underlying the great events in the life of Christ, and to bring into renewed life and interest the weakening aspiration of the Christian. If it can be shown that the story revealed in the Gospels has not only an application to that divine Figure Which dwelt for a time among men, but that it has also a practical significance and meaning for the civilized man today, then there will be some objective gained and some service and help rendered. It is possible that today – owing to our more advanced evolution and the ability to express ourselves through more finely developed shades of consciousness – we can appropriate the teaching with a clearer vision and a wiser use of the indicated lesson. This great Myth belongs to us – for let us be courageous and use this word in its true and right connotation. A myth is capable of becoming a fact in the experience of an individual, for a myth is a fact which can be proven. Upon the myths we take our stand, but we must seek to reinterpret them in the light of the present. Through self-initiated experiment we can prove their validity; through experience we can establish them as governing forces in our lives; and through their expression we can demonstrate their truth to others. This is the theme of this book, dealing as it does with the facts of the Gospel story, that fivefold sequential myth which teaches us the revelation of divinity in the Person of Jesus Christ, and which remains eternally truth, in the cosmic sense, in the historical sense, and in its practical application to the individual. This myth divides itself into five great episodes:
1. The Birth at Bethlehem.
2. The Baptism in Jordan.
3. The Transfiguration on Mount Carmel.
4. The Crucifixion on Mount Golgotha.
5. The Resurrection and Ascension.
Their significance for us and their reinterpretation in modern terms is our task.
A point of crisis and of culmination has been reached in the history of man, and man owes this to the influence of Christianity. As a member of the human family, he has reached a level of integration unknown in the past, except in the case of a select few in every nation. He is, as the psychologists have indicated, a sum total of physical organisms, of vital force, of psychical states or emotional conditions, and of mental or thought reactions. He is now ready to have indicated to him his next transition, development or unfoldment. Of this he is expectant, standing in readiness to take advantage of the opportunity. The door into a world of higher being and consciousness stands wide open; the way into the kingdom of God has been clearly pointed out. Many in the past have passed into that kingdom and awakened there to a world of being and of understanding which is, to the multitude, a sealed mystery. The glory of the present moment lies in the fact that many thousands stand thus prepared, and (given the needed instruction) could be initiated into the mysteries of God. A new unfoldment in consciousness is now possible; a new goal has arisen and governs the intentions of many. We are, as a race, definitely on our way towards some new knowledge, some fresh recognitions, and some deeper world of values. What happens on the outer plane of experience is indicative of a similar happening in a more subtle world of meaning. For this we must prepare.
We have seen that the Christian revelation unified in itself the teachings of the past. This, Christ Himself pointed out when He said, ‘Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.’ (St. Matt., V, 17.) He embodied all the past, and revealed the highest possibility to man. The words of Dr. Berdyaev, in Freedom and the Spirit, throw light on this:
‘The Christian revelation is universal, and everything analogous to it in other religions is simply a part of that revelation. Christianity is not a religion of the same order as the others; it is, as Schleiermacher said, the religion of religions. What does it matter if within Christianity, supposedly so different from other faiths, there is nothing original at all apart from the coming of Christ and His Personality; is it not precisely in this particular that the hope of all religions is fulfiled?
– Freedom and the Spirit, by Nicholas Berdyaev, pp. 88-89.
Each great period of time and each world cycle will have – through the loving-kindness of God – its religion of religions, synthesizing all the past revelations and indicating the future hope. The world expectancy today shows that we stand on the verge of a new revelation. It will be a revelation which will in no way negate our divine spiritual heritage, but will add the clear vision of the future to the wonder of the past. It will express what is divine but has been hitherto unrevealed. It is therefore possible that an understanding of some of the deeper significances of the Gospel story may enable the modern seeker to grasp the wider synthesis.
Some of these deeper implications were touched upon in a book published many years ago, entitled The Crises of the Christ, by that veteran Christian, Dr. Campbell Morgan. Taking the five major episodes in the life of the Savior, around which the entire Gospel narrative is built, he gave them a wide and general application, leaving one with the realization that Christ had not only passed through these dramatic experiences, in deed and in truth, but had left us with, the definite command that we should ‘follow His steps.’ (I Peter, II, 21.) Is it not possible that these great facts in the experience of Christ, these five personalized aspects of the universal myth, may have for us, as individuals, more than an historical and personal interest? Is it not possible that they may embody some experience and some initiated undertaking through which many Christians may now pass, and thus obey His injunction to enter into new life? Must we not all be born again, baptized into the Spirit, and transfigured upon the mountain top of living experience? Does not the crucifixion lie ahead for many of us, leading on to the resurrection and the ascension? And is it not also possible that we have interpreted these words in too narrow a sense, with too sentimental and ordinary an implication, whereas they may indicate to those who are ready a special way and a more rapid following in the footsteps of the Son of God? This is one of the points which concern us and with which this book will attempt to deal. If this more intensive meaning can be found, and if the drama of the Gospels can become in some peculiar way the drama of those souls who are ready, then we shall see the resurrection of the essentials of Christianity and the revivifying of the form which is so rapidly crystallizing.
It is of interest to recall that other teachings besides that of Christianity have emphasized these five important crises that occur, if so desired, in the life of those human beings who take their stand upon their essential divinity. Both the Hindu teaching and the Buddhist faith have emphasized them as evolutionary crises which we may not ultimately escape; and a right understanding of the interrelation of these great world religions may eventually bring about a truer understanding of all of them. The religion of the Buddha, though preceding that of the Christ, expresses the same basic truths, but phrases them in a different manner, which can help us nevertheless to a larger interpretation of Christianity.
‘Buddhism and Christianity find their origins respectively in two inspired moments of history: the life of the Buddha, and the life of Christ. The Buddha gave his doctrine to enlighten the world: Christ gave his life. It is for Christians to discern the doctrine. Perhaps in the end the most valuable part of the doctrine of the Buddha is its interpretation of his life.’
– Religion in the Making, by A. N. Whitehead, p. 55.
The teaching of Lao-Tzu can also serve the same purpose. Religion must eventually be composite, gathered from many sources and composed of many truths. Yet it is legitimate to feel that if one had to choose, at this time, one faith, one might choose Christianity, and for this specific reason: the central problem of life is to lay hold upon our divinity and to make it manifest. In the life of Christ we have the most complete and perfect demonstration and example of divinity lived successfully on earth, and lived – as most of us have to live – not in retirement, but in the full tide of storm and stress.
Exponents of all faiths are today meeting to discuss the possibility of finding a platform of such universality and truth that upon it all men may unite, and on which the coming world religion may be based. This may perhaps be found in a clearer interpretation and understanding of these five outstanding episodes, and in their practical and unique relationship not only to the individual but to humanity as a whole. This realization will bind us more definitely to the past, anchoring us in the truth that was; it will indicate to us our immediate goal and duty, which when understood will enable us to live more divinely, to serve more adequately, and thus to bring the will of God into fruition on earth. It is their inner meaning and our individual relation to them that are of importance.
There is nothing but a valuable gain to us, an enriching of our consciousness, when we realize the unity, and at times the uniformity of the teaching as it is given in both the East and the West. For instance, the fourth event in Christ’s life, the Crucifixion, finds a parallel in the fourth initiation of the Oriental teaching which is called the Great Renunciation. There is an initiation, called in the Buddhist terminology the ‘entering of the stream,’ and there is in the life of Jesus an episode which we call the ‘baptism in Jordan.’ The story of Christ’s birth at Bethlehem can be paralleled in practically every detail in the lives of earlier messengers from God. These proved facts should surely evoke from us the recognition that though there are many messengers there is only one Message; but this recognition in no way detracts from the unique task of the Christ and the unique function which He came forth to fulfil.
It is interesting also to bear in mind that these two outstanding Individualities, the Buddha and the Christ, have set Their seal upon both hemispheres – the Buddha being the Teacher for the Orient, and Christ the Savior of the Occident. Whatever may be our personal conclusions as to Their relations to the Father in Heaven or to each other, the fact stands out past all controversy that They gave the revelation of divinity to Their particular civilizations, and that in a most significant manner They worked together for the eventual benefit of the race. Their two systems are interdependent, and Buddha prepared the world for the message and the mission of Christ.
Both embodied in Themselves certain cosmic principles, and by Their work and sacrifice certain divine potencies poured through and upon mankind. The work done by the Buddha, and the message which He sounded, stimulated intelligence into wisdom. Wisdom is a cosmic principle, and a divine potency. This the Buddha embodied.
But love came to the world through Christ, and He, through His work, transmuted emotion into Love. As ‘God is Love,’ the comprehension that Christ revealed the love of God makes clear the magnitude of the task He undertook – a task far beyond the powers of any teacher or messenger who had preceded Him. The Buddha, when He achieved illumination, ‘let in’ a flood of light upon life and upon our world problems, and this intelligent understanding of the causes of world distress He endeavored to formulate into the Four Noble Truths. These are, as most of us well know:
1. That existence in the phenomenal universe is inseparable from suffering and from sorrow.
2. That the cause of suffering is desire for existence in the world of phenomena.
3. That cessation of suffering is brought about by eradicating all desire for existence in this universe of phenomena.
4. That the way to the cessation of suffering is by treading the noble Eightfold Path, wherein are expressed right belief, right intentions, right speech, right actions, right living, right endeavor, right-mindedness and right concentration.
He provided a structure of truth, of dogma and of doctrine which has enabled many thousands, down the centuries, to see the light. Today Christ and His disciples are occupied (as they have been for two thousand years) with the same task of bringing enlightenment and salvation to men; blows are being struck at the world illusion, and the minds of humanity are arriving, en masse, at an increasing clarity of thought. Through the message, therefore, of the Buddha, man can, for the first time, grasp the cause of his eternal discontent, of his constant distaste and dissatisfaction, and of his endless nostalgia. From the Buddha he can learn that the way of release is to be found in detachment, dispassion and discrimination. These are the first steps on the road to Christ.
Through the message of Christ three general concepts emerged into the racial consciousness:
– First, that the individual, as an individual, is of value. This was a truth which the general Eastern doctrine of rebirth had tended to negate. Time was long; opportunity would endlessly recur; the evolutionary process would do its work. Let mankind therefore drift as a whole with the tide, and eventually all would be well. Hence the general attitude of the East was failure to emphasize the supreme value of any individual. But Christ came and emphasized the work of the individual, saying, ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works.’ (St. Matt., V, 16.)
– Second, the opportunity was presented to the race as a whole to take a tremendous step forward, to undergo the ‘new birth’ or take the first initiation. This we shall deal with in our next chapter.
– The third concept which was taught by the Christ was that which embodied the technique of the new age, which was to come when individual salvation and the new birth had been properly grasped. This was the message or command ‘to love our neighbor as ourselves.’ (St. Matt., XIX, 19). Individual effort, group opportunity, and identification with each other – this was the message of the Christ.
In the teaching of the Buddha we have the three ways in which the lower nature can be changed and prepared to be a conscious expression of divinity. Through detachment man learns to withdraw his interest and his consciousness from the things of the senses, and to turn a deaf ear to the calls of the lower nature. Detachment imposes a new rhythm upon the man. Through learning the lesson of dispassion he becomes immune to the suffering of the lower nature as he detaches his interest from secondary things and the non-essentials, and centers it upon the higher realities. Through the practice of discrimination the mind learns to select the good, the beautiful and the true. These three practices, leading to a changed attitude towards life and reality, will, when held sanely, bring in the rule of wisdom and prepare the disciple for the Christ life.
Upon this racial teaching follows the work of the Christ with humanity, resulting in an understanding of the value of the individual and his self-initiated efforts at release and illumination, with the final objective of group love and group good. We learn to perfect ourselves in consonance with Christ’s injunction, ‘Be ye therefore perfect,’ (St. Matt., V, 48.) in order to have somewhat to contribute to the group good, and in order to serve Christ perfectly. Thus that spiritual reality, spoken of by St. Paul as ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory,’ (Col., I, 27.) is released in man and can manifest in full expression. When a sufficient number of people have grasped this ideal, the entire human family can stand for the first time before the portal which leads to the Path of Light, and the life of Christ will flower forth in the human kingdom. Personality then fades out, dimmed by the glory of the soul, which, like the rising sun, disperses the darkness, reveals the life-situation, and irradiates the lower nature. It leads to group activity, and self, as we usually understand it, disappears. This is already happening. The final result of the work of the Christ can be seen portrayed for us in His words to be found in St. John XVII, which it would be of value to all of us to read.
Individuality, Initiation, Identification – in these terms the message of the Christ can be expressed. This He epitomized when on earth in the words: ‘I and my Father are one.’ (St. John, X, 30.) That great Individuality, the Christ, through the process of the five great Initiations, gave to us a picture of the stages and method whereby identification with God can be brought about. This sentence gives us the keynote of the entire Gospel story, and constitutes the theme of this book.
The interrelation of the work of the past and of the present, as given to us by the great Teacher of the East and by the Savior of the West, can be expressed as follows:
The Buddha – The Method
The Christ – The Result
Christ lived His life in that small but significant strip of land which we call Palestine, the Holy Land. He came to prove to us the possibility of individual attainment. He emerged (as all the Teachers throughout the ages seem to have done) out of the Orient, and worked in that country which seems like a bridge between the Eastern and Western hemispheres, separating two most different civilizations. Modern thinkers would do well to remember that Christianity is a bridging religion. Herein lies its great importance. Christianity is the religion of that transitional period which links the era of self-conscious individualistic existence to a future group-conscious unified world. It is outstandingly a religion of cleavage, demonstrating to man his duality, and thus laying the foundation for his effort to achieve unity or at-one-ment. The realization of this duality is a most needed stage in man’s unfoldment, and the purpose of Christianity has been to reveal this; also to point out the warfare between the lower and the higher man, between carnal man and spiritual man, united in one person, and to emphasize the necessity for that lower man to be saved by the higher. This, St. Paul points out in the words so familiar to all of us: ‘... to make in himself, of twain, one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body, having slain the enmity in himself.’ (Eph., II, 15, 16, Marginal Reading.) This was His divine mission, and this is the lesson of the Gospel narrative.
Christ therefore not only unified in Himself the past ‘law and the prophets,’ but He also provided that presentation of truth which could bridge the gap between Eastern belief and philosophy and our Western materialism and scientific attainment, both of them divine expressions of reality. At the same time He demonstrated to human beings the perfection of the task which each man could carry forward within himself, bridging that essential duality which is his nature, and bringing about that at-one-ment of the human and the divine which it is the task of all religions to aid. Each of us has to make ‘of twain, one new man, so making peace,’ for peace is unity and synthesis.
But the lesson and message which Christ brought to individual man He brought also to the nations, holding before them the hope of future world unity and world peace. He came at the beginning of that astronomical age which we call ‘the Piscean age’ because, during this period of approximately two thousand years, our sun is passing through that sign in the zodiac which we call Pisces, or the Fishes. Hence the frequent references to fishes, and the appearance of the symbol of the fish in Christian literature, including the New Testament. This Piscean age comes between the previous Jewish dispensation (the two thousand years wherein the sun was passing through the sign Aries, the Ram) and the Aquarian age into which our sun is now in process of transiting. These are astronomical facts, for I am not here speaking of astrological conclusions. In the period when the sun was in Aries, we find the frequent appearance of the ram or the scapegoat in the Old Testament teaching, and the keeping of the Passover feast. In the Christian age we use the fish symbology, even to eating fish on Good Friday. The symbol of the Aquarian age, as it appears in all the ancient zodiacs, is that of a man bearing a jar of water. The message of that age is one of unity, communion and our relationship as brothers, because we are all the children of the one Father. To this age Christ pointed in His instructions to His disciples when He told them to go into the city, and said: ‘When ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in.’ (St. Luke, XXII, 7, 10.) This they did, and the great and holy feast of communion was later held in that house. The reference is undoubtedly to the future period wherein we enter into that house in the zodiac which is called ‘the Water-carrier,’ and wherein also we shall all sit at the same table, and hold communion one with another. The Christian dispensation comes between the two great world cycles, and just as Christ consummated in Himself the message of the past, and gave the teaching for the present, so He also pointed to that future of unity and understanding which is our inevitable goal. We are today at the end of the age, and entering the period of Aquarian unity, as He foretold. The ‘upper room’ is a symbol of that high point of achievement towards which we are, as a race, rapidly moving. Some day the great Communion Service will be held, of which every communion service is the forecast. We are slowly passing into this new sign. For more than two thousand years its potencies and forces will play upon the race and will establish the new types, foster the new expansions of consciousness, and lead man on to a practical realization of brotherhood.
It is interesting to note how it was that the energies playing upon our planet when the sun was in Aries, the Ram, produced in religious symbology the emphasis of the goat or ram, and how in our present age of Pisces, the Fishes, those influences have colored our Christian symbology so that the fish preponderates in our New Testament and in our eschatological symbology. The new incoming rays, energies and influences must surely be destined to produce equal effects, not only in the realm of physical phenomena but also in the world of spiritual values. The atoms of the human brain are being ‘awakened’ as never before, and those millions of cells which, we are told, are to be found inactive and dormant in the human brain may be brought into functioning activity, bringing with them that intuitive insight which will recognize the coming spiritual revelation.
Today the world is reorienting itself to the newer influences, and in the processes of readjustment a period of temporary chaos is inevitable. Christianity will not be superseded. It will be transcended, its work of preparation being triumphantly accomplished, and Christ will again give us the next revelation of divinity. If all that we now know of God is all that can be known, the divinity of God is but a limited matter. What the new formulation of truth will be, who can say? But the light is slowly pouring into men’s hearts and minds, and in this lighted radiance they will vision the new truths and arrive at a fresh enunciation of the ancient wisdom. Through the lens of the illumined mind man will shortly see aspects of divinity hitherto unknown. May there not be qualities and characteristics of the divine nature which are as yet totally unrecognized and unknown? Can there not be revelations of God utterly unprecedented, and for which we have no words or adequate means of expression? The ancient mysteries, so shortly to be restored, must be reinterpreted in the light of Christianity, and readapted to meet modern need, for we can now enter into the Holy Place as intelligent men and women, and not as children looking on at dramatic stories and procedures in which we, as individuals, play no conscious part. Christ enacted for us the dramatic story of the five initiations, and urged us to follow in His steps. For this the past era has prepared us, and we can now pass intelligently into the kingdom of God through the process of initiation. The fact that the historical Christ existed and walked on earth is the guarantee to us of our own divinity and our ultimate achievement. The fact of the mythic Christ, appearing again and again down the ages, proves that God has never left Himself without witness and that always there have been those who have achieved. The fact of the cosmic Christ, manifest as the urge towards perfection in all the kingdoms of nature, proves the fact of God and is our eternal hope. Humanity stands at the portals of initiation.
Always there have been temples and mysteries and holy places where the true aspirant could find what he sought, and the needed instruction as to the way he should go. The prophet of old said:
‘...a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it, for he shall be with them; the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.’
– Isaiah, XXXV, 8, Marginal Reading.
It is a way that leads from that which lies without to that which dwells within. It reveals, step by step, the hidden life which every form and symbol veils and hides. It assigns to the aspirant certain tasks which lead to his understanding, and produces an inclusiveness and wisdom which meet his deeply sensed need. He passes from the stage of enquiry to what the Tibetans call ‘straight knowledge.’ Upon that path vision and hope give place to realization. Initiation after initiation is undergone, each one leading the initiate nearer to the goal of complete unity. Those who in the past thus worked, agonized and attained, constitute a long chain, reaching out of the remotest past into the present, for the initiates are still with us and the door still stands wide open. Through the agency of this hierarchy of achievement, men are lifted, step by step, up the long ladder reaching from earth to heaven, to stand eventually before the Initiator and in that high moment to find that it is the Christ Himself Who thus greets them – the familiar Friend Who, having prepared them by example and precept, now receives them into the presence of God. Such has ever been the experience, the uniform experience down the ages, of all seekers. Revolting in the East from the wheel of rebirth, with its constantly reiterated suffering and pain, or revolting in the West from the apparent monstrous injustice of the one sorrowful life which the Christian allots himself, men have turned within to find the light and peace and release so ardently desired.
Christ gives us a definite picture of the entire process in His own life story, built around those major initiations which are our universal heritage and the glorious (and for many) the immediate opportunity. These are:
1. The Birth at Bethlehem, to which Christ called Nicodemus, saying, ‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ (St. John, III, 3.)
2. The Baptism in Jordan. This is the baptism to which John the Baptist referred us, telling us that the baptism of the Holy Spirit and of fire must be administered to us by Christ. (St. Matt., III, 11.)
3. The Transfiguration. There perfection is for the first time demonstrated, and there the divine possibility of such perfection is proven to the disciples. The command goes forth to us, ‘Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’ (St. Matt., V, 48.)
4. The Crucifixion. This is called the Great Renunciation, in the Orient, with its lesson of sacrifice and its call to the death of the lower nature. This was the lesson which St. Paul knew and the goal towards which he strove. ‘I die daily,’ he said, for only in the practice of death daily undergone can the final Death be met and endured. (I Cor., XV, 31.)
5. The Resurrection and Ascension, the final triumph which enables the initiate to sing and to know the meaning of the words: ‘Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave where is thy victory?’ (I Cor., XV, 55.)
Such are the five great dramatic events of the mysteries. Such are the initiations through which all men must some day pass. Humanity stands today upon the path of probation. The way of purification is being trodden by the masses, and we are in process of purging ourselves from evil and materialism. When this process is completed, many will find themselves ready to make preparation for the first of the initiations, and to undergo the new Birth. The disciples of the world are preparing for the second initiation, the Baptism, and for this must come a purification of the emotional desire nature and a dedication of the desire nature to the life of the soul. The initiates of the world are facing the Transfiguration initiation. Mind control and right orientation towards the soul, with a complete transmutation of the integrated personality, lies ahead of them.
There is much foolishness talked these days in connection with initiation, and the world is full of people who are claiming to be initiates. They fail to remember that no initiate makes any claim or speaks about himself. Those who claim to be initiates give denial to their claim in so doing. Disciples and initiates are taught to be inclusive in their thoughts and non-separative in their attitudes. They never set themselves apart from the rest of humanity by asserting their status and thus automatically placing themselves upon a pedestal. Nor are the requirements, as stated in many of the esoteric books, quite as simple as they are made out to be. To read some of them, one would think that as long as the aspirant has achieved a measure of tolerance, of kindness, devotion, sympathy, idealism, patience and perseverance he has fulfiled the major requirements. These are indeed primary essentials, but to these qualities must be added an intelligent understanding and a mental unfoldment which will lead to a sane and intelligent cooperation with the plans for humanity. It is the balance of head and heart that is required, and the intellect must find its complement and expression in and through love. This needs a most careful reproclaiming. Love and sentiment and devotion are often confused with each other. Pure love is an attribute of the soul and is all-inclusive, and it is in pure love that our relation to God and to each other consists. ‘For the love of God is broader than the measure of man’s mind, and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind’ – so runs the old hymn, and thus is expressed that love which is the attribute of Deity and also the hidden attribute of every son of God. Sentiment is emotional and unstable; devotion can be fanatical and cruel; but love blends and fuses, understands and interprets and synthesizes all form and all expressions, all causes and all races, into one flaming heart of love, knowing no separateness, no division and no disharmony. To bring about this divine expression in our daily life takes the utmost that is in us. To be an initiate takes every power of every aspect of one’s nature. It is no easy task. To face the inevitable tests with which one will assuredly be confronted as one treads the path Christ trod, takes courage of the rarer kind. To cooperate sanely and wisely with God’s Plan and to merge one’s will in the divine Will must call into activity not only the deepest love of one’s heart, but the keenest decisions of the mind.
Initiation might be regarded as a great experiment. There was perhaps a time, when this process of unfoldment was instituted, that it became possible to enact upon earth certain inner processes known at that time only to the few. Then that which was within could be put into symbolic form for the teaching of the ‘little ones,’ and could later be undergone openly and expressed for us upon earth by the Son of God, the Christ. Initiation is a living process, and through that process all who duly discipline themselves and voluntarily acquiesce may pass, scrutinized and aided by that band of initiates and knowers who are the guides of the race, and who are known to us under many names in different parts of the world and in different ages. They are called in the West, Christ and His Church, the Elder Brothers of Humanity. Initiation is therefore a reality and not a beautiful and rather easily attained vision, as so many occult and esoteric books seem to claim. Initiation is not a process which a man undergoes when he joins certain organizations, and which can be understood only by joining such groups. It has nothing to do with societies, esoteric schools and organizations. All that they can do is to teach the aspirant certain well known and basic ‘rules of the road,’ and then leave him to understand or not, as his earnestness and development permit, and to pass on through the portal as his equipment and destiny allow. The Teachers of the race, and the Christ, Who is the ‘Master of all the Masters and the Teacher alike of angels and of men,’ are not more interested in these organizations than They are in any movement in the world today which carries illumination and truth to men. The initiates of the world are to be found in every nation, in every church, and in every group where men of good will are to be found working, and where world service is rendered. The modern so-called esoteric groups are not the custodians of the teaching of initiation, nor is it their prerogative to prepare man for this unfoldment. The best of them can only prepare men for that stage in the evolutionary process which is called ‘discipleship.’ The reason why this is sadly the case, and why initiation seems so far away from the membership of most of the groups who claim an insight into the initiation processes, is that they have not laid the needed emphasis upon that mental illumination which perforce lights the way to the Gate leading to the ‘Secret Place of the Most High.’ They have laid the emphasis upon personality devotion to the Masters of the Wisdom, and to their own organization leaders; they have stressed adherence to authoritative teaching and rules of life, and have not primarily emphasized adherence to the still small voice of the soul. The way to the place of initiation and to the Center where Christ may be found is the way of the soul, the lonely way of self-unfoldment, of self-effacement and of self-discipline. It is the way of mental illumination and intuitive perception.
Initiation is the revelation of love, of the second great aspect of divinity, expressing itself in wisdom. This expression is found in its fullness in the life of Christ. He revealed to us the nature of essential love, and then told us to love. He demonstrated to us what divinity is, and then told us to live divinely. In the New Testament this unfolding life of living divine love is held before us in three ways, each progressive in its definition of experience, and each giving us the sequence of the revelation of Christ in the human heart. There is first of all the phrase ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory.’ (Col., I, 27.) This is the stage which precedes and immediately follows the new birth, the Birth at Bethlehem. It is the stage towards which the masses of men are slowly but steadily working, and it is the immediate goal for many of the aspirants in the world today. Secondly, there is the stage which is called that of a full-grown man in Christ, indicating an increased experience of the divine life and a deeper unfoldment of the Christ consciousness in the human being. Towards this the disciples of the world are now oriented. Then there is the stage of achievement, referred to by St. Paul in the following terms, ‘Till we all come, in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’ (Eph., IV, 13.)
Initiation is therefore a graded and realized series of expansions of consciousness, a steadily increasing awareness of divinity and of all its implications. Many so-called initiates today believe themselves to have reached this status because some occult leader or some psychic seer has told them that it is so; yet within themselves they know nothing of the process whereby they can pass (as Masonry teaches) through that mysterious door, between the two great pillars, in their search for light; they have no conscious knowledge of that self-initiated program which has to be followed in full waking consciousness, being realized simultaneously by the indwelling divine soul and the mind and brain of the man in physical life. These expansions of consciousness progressively reveal to man the quality of his higher and his lower nature; it is this realization which marks St. Paul as one of the first initiates to attain that status under the Christian dispensation. Read what he says about this revelation of his duality:
‘I know that in me [that is, in my flesh] dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
‘For the good that I would, I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
‘For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
‘But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
‘Oh, wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
‘I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ (Romans, VII, 18-25.)
Only through the revelation of the Christ within each human being can this at-one-ment be made. Only through the new birth, the baptism of spirit and of fire, and the transfiguration of the nature can deliverance be found, can unity with God be achieved. Only through the sacrifice of humanity, which is the essence of the crucifixion, can the resurrection be undergone.
What is true of the individual will be true ultimately of the entire human family. The plan for humanity concerns man’s conscious unfoldment. As mankind grows in wisdom and knowledge, and as the civilizations come and go, each bringing its needed lesson and its high point of attainment, men as a group approach the gate which leadeth unto life. All modern discovery, all psychological studies and knowledge, all group activity and all scientific achievement, as well as all real occult knowledge, are spiritual in nature, and these are aids to that expansion of consciousness which will make of mankind the Great Initiate. Just as soon as human beings can grasp in a large synthesis the necessity of entering more definitely into the world of true meaning and of value, we shall see the mysteries becoming universally recognized. The new values will be seen and the new techniques and methods of living will be evolved as a result of this perception. There are signs that this is already happening, that the destruction going on around us and the tearing down of the ancient institutions – political, religious and social – are only preparatory to this undertaking. We are on our way to ‘that which is within,’ and many voices are today proclaiming this.
We are on that path of transition (can we call it the Path of Discipleship?) which will lead us into a new dimension, into the interior world of true fact and right energy. It is a world in which only the spiritual body can function and only the eye of spirit can see. It cannot be perceived by those whose inner perception is unawakened and whose intuition sleeps. When the spiritual body begins to be organized and to grow, and when the eye of wisdom slowly opens and trains itself to see truly, then there will come the indications that the Christ, latent in each son of God, is beginning to control and to lead man into the world of spiritual being, true meaning and essential values. This world is the kingdom of God, the world of souls, and – when manifested – is that expression of divine life which we can call the fifth kingdom in nature. But it cannot yet be generally perceived. It is through the process of initiation that this world stands revealed.
Before initiation can be given, the significance of the above ideas must be grasped, and certain great developments are necessarily presupposed. These requirements can be seen working out in the life of every disciple at this time, and, for those who have eyes to see, they can be seen actively bringing changes in the race.
Aspiration is a basic requirement, both in the individual and in the race. Today humanity aspires to great heights, and this aspiration is responsible for the great national movements seen in so many countries. At the same time, individual disciples are striving anew towards illumination, incited thereto by their longing to meet world need. Spiritual selfishness, which has been such a characteristic of aspirants in the past, has to be transcended and transmuted into love of man and a sharing in the ‘fellowship of Christ’s sufferings.’ (Phil., III, 10.) Self must be lost to sight in service. Service is rapidly becoming the keynote of the time, and one of the incentives in racial endeavor. The meeting of disaster and the undergoing of painful experiences is ever the lot of the individual disciple. It is becoming obvious that the world disciple, humanity itself, is now deemed worthy of such a testing. This universality of difficulty, in every department of human life and excluding no group, indicates that mankind as a whole is being prepared for initiation. There is purpose underlying what is happening today. The birth pangs of the Christ within the race have begun, and the Christ will be born in the ‘House of Bread’ (which is the meaning of the word ‘Bethlehem’). The implications of our present world pain and suffering are too obvious to need further explanation. There is purpose underlying all world affairs at this time, and there is reward at the end of the way. Some day, sooner perhaps than many may think, the portals of initiation will open wide to the suffering world disciple (as they have ever opened in the past to individuals), and humanity will enter into a new Kingdom and stand before that mysterious Presence Whose light and wisdom shone forth before the world through the Person of Christ, and Whose voice was heard at each of the five crises through which Christ passed. Then will mankind enter into the world of causes and of knowing. We shall dwell in the inner world of reality, and the outer appearance of physical living will be known to be only symbolic of inner conditions and happenings. Then we shall begin to work and live as those who are initiate in the mysteries, and our lives will be regulated from the realm of reality where Christ and His Disciples of all time (the Church invisible) guide and control human affairs.
The goal which They have in view and the end towards which They are working has been summed up for us in a commentary upon an ancient Tibetan scripture. The words are as follows:
‘All beauty, all goodness, all that makes for the eradication of sorrow and ignorance upon earth must be devoted to the one Great Consummation. Then when the Lords of Compassion shall have spiritually civilized the Earth and made of it a Heaven, there will be revealed to the Pilgrims the Endless Path, which reaches to the heart of the universe. Man, then no longer man, will transcend Nature, and impersonally, yet consciously, in at-one-ment with all the Enlightened Ones, help to fulfil the Law of the Higher Evolution, of which Nirvana is but the beginning.’
– Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines, by W.Y. Evans-Wentz, p. 12.
Such is our goal. Such our glorious objective. How can we progress towards this consummation? What is the first step that we must take? In the words of an unknown poet:
‘When thou canst see
Beneath the outer seeming
The causes which to all effects give birth,
When thou canst feel, in warmth of sunlight streaming
The Love of God, encircling all the earth,
Then know thyself initiate in the Mysteries