[Originally published by Theosophical University Press, Covina, California, 1945]
10. The Golden Rule
11. The Lord's Supper
12. The Spirit of God Dwelleth in You
13. "In Christ Shall All Be Made Alive"
14. The Second Coming
15. The Old Testament
16. The 'Holy Ghost'
17. The Cross
18. Did Jesus Have an Esoteric School?
All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. -- Matthew, vii, 12
Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. -- Matthew, v, 44-5
The Golden Rule is of course universal. No religion is without it; on it religions are based. Sectarians may say that Christianity superseded all other religions by introducing a new principle of love; but it is not true. Buddhism and the Indian scriptures are full of it; unbiased scholars can find its parallel everywhere. For it is a fundamental truth, basic to man as man independently of race and age. But in our age, when religion has lost its rational element, when the intellect is busy with the world of the senses, and a spurious value has been given to personality, the Golden Rule seems an exotic, a counsel of perfection, an unattainable ideal, a barren emotional indulgence -- anything but a practical rule of life. So great is the confusion of thought as to the meaning of this Rule, that some say it would decompose society if followed, and others repeat the saying without stopping to think whether it means anything. This delusion is based on that other delusion whereby it is supposed that society is organized by the motive of self-interest. Self-interest may be a useful and necessary force, but of itself it is disintegrative, as we understand better today; and what really binds men is the law of love which, despite their unwise minds, their human nature compels them instinctively to follow.
Some explanation is needed for the fact that the Golden Rule is so universal, both in religion and in philosophy. It would seem that it has been generally recognised by the wise in all ages as a necessary rule of conduct for mankind. As to the Christian Gospel, as has been said before in this pamphlet, the esoteric and philosophic teachings have mostly disappeared; and the result of this, as regards the Golden Rule, is that it appears in an emotional aspect, as a counsel of perfection, a more or less unattainable ideal, a law of God superimposed upon the laws of earth, intended chiefly for those who have renounced the life of the world, and to be politely disregarded by people in general. And apart from Christianity, there is no lack of insistence upon the Golden Rule on the part of those who are striving to promote harmony among sects and nations and find a practical cure for our social ills. But the weakness of their cause lies in the lack of an intellectual basis, a philosophy, behind their ethical maxim; and so we find little more than mere exhortations and appeals to the beauty of the rule, without an adequate basis of motive and incentive. On the other hand the forces in a contrary direction are powerful and deeply rooted in human nature.
Now the difficulty here is easily understood when pointed out as a Theosophist can point it out; and the remedy, once the complaint is understood, is equally obvious. Our philosophy is out of gear with our ethics. Neither our religion, stripped as it is of its most vital elements, nor our philosophies, grounded in materialistic and mechanistic conceptions, supply a rational and logical justification for the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount. To find such justification, we must take a different view of human nature.
As has been said in a previous chapter, Christianity, in its familiar historical form, was somehow fabricated out of materials obtained from the numerous centers of esoteric philosophy existing in Alexandria, Antioch, and other places, at the time of the Christian era. And to discover the real essence of Christianity we must examine the tenets of those Gnostics, Nazarenes, Essenes, and others, whose teachings were gradually driven out and the teachers regarded as heretics. Whereas the fact is that the dogmatizing, ecclesiastical, and political Christians were the real perverters, the case has been so misrepresented that these ancient philosophers are made to seem heretics who imported into the Christian Gospel various foreign Greek or Syrian elements. Going back then to the teachings of the Gnostics, we find that their chief doctrine was that man is an emanation from the Supreme Deity, and that man has therefore had transmitted to him, through a hierarchy of celestial Powers, all the attributes of deity. Some vestige of this teaching is still to be found in our New Testament, in such words as Angels, Archangels, Principalities, and Powers, which are English translations of Greek Gnostic terms; or in the first verses of John's Gospel, where the life of the Word is said to be the light and life of men. Christian apologists may, if it suits them, call this an introduction of Pagan speculations into Christianity; but actually these rejected Gnostic doctrines repeat the universal teachings of the Wisdom-Religion. Bearing in mind what has been said in previous chapters as to the nature of man, we shall recognise him as a divine spirit garbed in various sheaths, the outermost of which is his physical body; and that consequently man has a dual nature, being at once God and beast, partaking of the natures of both, while his self-conscious mind hovers between the two, being destined eventually to tame the beast by allying himself with the divine in himself.
This means that there are two laws in our nature -- that of instinctual self-gratification, which we share with the beasts, though in man, being allied with intellect, this instinct acquires an evil character; and that of the divine nature. When Jesus or any other Teacher, enjoins the law of Love, the Golden Rule, he simply points out the only rule of conduct which is proper for man, if man is to live in accordance with man's nature. The fact that these wise teachings seem so ineffectual, so much disregarded, should not cause undue despondency or cynicism. They have remained as a lamp for our feet throughout ages of darkness, and are still recognised as our sheet anchor. Whatever failure there may have been in practice, the principle has been maintained. The doctrine of each for himself was not so long ago proclaimed as an economic panacea; but its disastrous results have become apparent. If there are cynical individuals who try to make a gospel out of self-seeking, they are not happy. The man who worships self exclusively cuts himself off from life and enters a path which, if persisted in, would lead to his being isolated with the object of his worship -- a fate awful to contemplate.
One of the greatest teachings of the Wisdom-Religion is that man is a part of the universe, that the universe consists exclusively of living beings, of many different kinds and degrees, and that all these lives are blended with one another, so that man and the universe interpenetrate. This is very different from the idea that each man is a separately created soul, walking about on a dead earth which has been created as a sort of playground for him. Such a change in our ideas must throw a different light on the meaning of the Golden Rule. It makes us realize how impossible it is for any man to act or feel or think alone; he must necessarily affect, and be affected by, other people.
The subject being somewhat difficult to treat upon, it is advisable to guard against possible misconceptions of what is meant. Some may think that we are seeking to reduce the Golden Rule to a policy of expediency or a means of achieving personal beatitude; but such is by no means the case. Self-renunciation is at the root of the matter; for it is only by freeing oneself from attachment to the personal self that one can hope to experience the freedom of conscious union with the greater Self -- what Jesus would have called the Kingdom of Heaven. Hence his maxims as to conduct are meant to be taken seriously. It is through service to others that we learn to enter this Kingdom. And we should remember that charity begins at home, and that the first step for each individual is to reform himself. The need for co-operative efforts, for unions of all kinds, was never more fully recognised than it is today; and we are attempting here to see what can be done to make these ideals more easily realizable. So much of our science, philosophy and economic and social theory, pull in an opposite direction, being grounded in materialism and personalism, that a sound philosophy of life, a better understanding of the real human nature, will help very much. What is so cynically called human nature is only the perverse nature in man; if we understood better what human nature is essentially, we should have a sounder foundation for our philanthropic efforts.
The essential divinity of all men, and the unity of all that lives -- these are the groundwork of the Golden Rule.
And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed, for you. -- Luke, xxii, 19-20
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. -- John, vi, 53-6
The sacrament of the Eucharist, the Lord's Supper, Holy Communion, means much to those who partake of it devoutly; but it could mean much more. Its sacredness, its power, are due to its august origin from one of the sublimest rites of the Sacred Mysteries of old. Its frailty as a potent influence for good in the world is due to the attenuated form in which it has come down to us. The writer, having been a devout Christian, and familiar by his own experience with the rite, is not among those who seek strength for their own cause by belittling that of others, or who mix in one sweeping condemnation the most reverend and learned divines with the crudest fanatics and the most ignorant bigots. The sincerity and reverence for things divine and sacred, which he claims for himself, first as Christian, then as Theosophist, give him the sympathetic perception which qualifies him to recognise those qualities elsewhere. His experience has not been that of those who, finding absurdities in their religion, have thrown overboard all religion and joined the chill and cheerless ranks of the scoffers and doubters. He feels that he has merely grown and expanded -- found the real Gospel underlying the travesty; and it is the purpose of this study to assist others who may find themselves similarly situated.
If we study the accounts of the various ancient Mysteries, we shall find that wine and bread play a foremost part in the ritual of initiation, as also in the 'Lesser Mysteries' displayed before the lay public. In the 'Greater Mysteries' candidates were initiated into what Jesus calls the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God, into which he seems anxious that his disciples should also be initiated. Wine is often used alternatively with blood, and both signify spiritual life: the words are thus used in the New Testament. Over against these was used bread or grain, or alternatively flesh; and these words also we find in the New Testament. This latter signifies the terrestrial life; so that the two together signify the higher and lower nature of man. There was a twofold initiation, symbolized by bread and wine, or flesh and blood; the candidate had to be pure in body and the lower principles of his nature, before receiving the baptism of blood, or the wine of the Spirit. It was the same truth as that referred to in the private teaching which Jesus gave to Nicodemus, when he spoke of the first birth, which is of the flesh, and the second birth, which is of the Spirit; and this is also a dominant theme of Paul.
Our second quotation, and the verses which precede it, illustrate this symbolic meaning of the words. The Teacher, speaking in the first person, as Krishna does in the Bhagavad-Gita -- that is, speaking as the Higher Self addressing the lower self -- says: "I am that bread of life. . . . This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die." By so partaking, man wins the 'eternal life'; he becomes able to live consciously in that part of his nature which does not share the transience of the body. He realizes the impermanent and limited nature of his mere earthly personality, which is but a temporary mask for the Soul. In short, man must seek to blend his mind with his Higher Self.
This interpretation is consistent with what has been shown in previous chapters as to the real teaching of Jesus. When he uses these terms of the Sacred Mysteries, and himself performs the rite on the Passover day, he speaks and acts as an initiator in those Mysteries. As said, a great force still clings to this rite, all diminished and misunderstood as it is; and this on account of its august origin. To enter into a discussion of the dogmatic distinctions that have caused so much bitterness between various sects, does not seem pertinent to our present purpose. Whether the sacred elements become transmuted into the flesh and blood of Christ, or are merely intended to help the devotion of the communicant -- these points seem trivial by comparison with the gap between the present meaning and the original. The rite is now viewed in the light of current theological and eschatological views, whereby this life is to be regarded as a single brief episode preparatory to an endless and changeless life elsewhere; and whereby God is considered separate from his universe, and man is regarded as separate from Nature. The idea that the universe is composed exclusively of living beings, at various stages of evolution; the idea that man is himself essentially divine; that the deathless part of man inhabits many successive terrestrial vehicles; all this and more quite changes our view of the significance of Holy Communion. It is not denied that comfort and edification may be derived from the participation; but the idea of entering thereby upon a path that leads to self-mastery and divine knowledge, is lost. The Sacred Mysteries await their restoration.
Whether there was a historical Jesus or not, the words of the Gospels have been built up around the mission of some Teacher; and in any case if we are addressing those who believe in the historicity of the Jesus of the Gospels, we can meet them on their own ground, and show that this person had an esoteric school. For instance:
Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. . . . Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. -- Matthew xiii, 9 et seq.
The same is repeated in substance in Mark, iv, 11, and Luke, viii, 10.
And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples. -- Mark, iv, 33-34
In John, xiv, 12 et seq., we read as follows:
He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
The same teachings are found in the Epistles:
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? -- 1 Corinthians, iii, 16
As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. -- 1 Cor., xv, 22
In this last quotation, the word 'Christ' is used not of a person but of the Higher Self within man. In John's Gospel, Jesus gives man teachings in which he uses the first person, which may easily lend itself to the interpretation that he is speaking of himself personally; whereas he was most earnestly striving to arouse the Christ within his hearers. If man is made in the image of God, he must therefore have free choice; which is abrogated if he relies on the will of another instead of his own. When the man called upon Hercules to lift the cart out of the rut, Hercules bid him put his own shoulder to the wheel; which is the right interpretation of the saying that Heaven helps those who help themselves. Therefore the teacher can but point the way; he cannot perform a man's evolution for him. For ignorant lowly natures it may be necessary help to pray for aid from a personal God; but a time comes when we must do without crutches.
But we must be careful to distinguish the Self from the mere personality of man, for that is trivial and evanescent. The real Man is the eternal Man, he who has the eternal life. The servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. -- John, viii, 35
Paul is very emphatic about this difference between the spiritual man and the earthly man.
Once we have in mind this key, it becomes easy to interpret the Gospels and Epistles. They are what is left (in the canon) of the ancient Wisdom, which shows man how to achieve his own salvation by self-directed evolution, by realizing his latent divine potentialities.
In the times of the early Christian Fathers there were extant certain collections of Logia or 'sayings' of Jesus, and these are believed by scholars to have been the basis upon which the Gospels were compiled. These were some of the secret teachings of Jesus, as alluded to in the quotations above. There were two sects known as the Ebionites and the Nazarenes, who used these sayings as the basis of their teachings and their rule of life. These sects taught a much purer form of Christianity, in which it was recognised that all men are potential Christs, inasmuch as there dwells in every man the Christ, the Son of the Father; so that man needs only to be quickened by the Second Birth in order to come to a realization of his sleeping divinity. In Jesus himself they saw, not a unique son of God, but one of those men who, having themselves attained to knowledge, then become Teachers for every man. But later on, when the increasing materialism of the age had converted the original gospel into an exoteric religion without any Mysteries, these Nazarenes and Ebionites were regarded as heretics. If Fundamentalists would only go back far enough into the fundamentals of their religion, they would find it something very different from what they actually have made of it.
In one of our quotations we find a definite assurance by the Teacher that any one of his hearers would be able to do the works that the Teacher did, provided that he followed the rule of life laid down.
Anyone reading John's Gospel in the light of what has been said cannot fail to recognise the earnestness of a Teacher striving his utmost to deliver his message of salvation and to win disciples for it. One of his disciples, Peter, fails at a test; and then, when too late, repents, and turns the teachings into a rigid and neurotic religion. It has been well said by people at the present day that Christianity has never yet been really tried; and their words are even truer than they think.
The letters of Paul teach a more spiritual and more philosophic Christianity than is usually found in the established forms; and they give plenty of proof that Paul had actually been initiated into some of the Mysteries of the Gnosis. He was under the necessity of adapting his teaching to the capacities of the people he addressed; and he strenuously resisted the strong tide of materialism and earthliness which was turning Christianity into the worldly thing which it became, and literalizing the symbols into superstitious dogmas and rites. The burden of his teachings was that Christ lives in the heart of all men, being in fact the Higher Self of man, the Son -- that is, the Father made manifest in the flesh. Jesus the Christ was to Paul an exemplar, a model to copy; not a unique incarnation of the Godhead, as he was according to ecclesiastical ideas. It would be easy to quote passages innumerable in support of this; the only difficulty is one of selection.
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. -- Romans, vi, 3-8
As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. -- 1 Corinthians, xv, 22
The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. -- 1 Corinthians, xv, 47
Marcion, who founded the churches of the Marcionites in the second century A. D., taught a purer Christianity; he taught the gospel of Christ and Paul and rejected the corruptions and mutilations which he found prevalent.
In the first of these quotations we note that Christ descends into 'death,' and is raised again; which signifies that the Divine part of man descends into the 'death' of the physical life, from which he is destined to rise glorified. In this process all believers take part, enacting the same drama in their own lives. The word 'crucifixion' is here used in the sense of purificatory chastening; but the cross, with its four arms, is a glyph for the world of matter with its four elements. The second quotation refers to the twofold nature of man, how he is compounded of an earthly part, symbolized by Adam (which in the Hebrew means 'earthy') and a heavenly part -- the Christos in man; this is even more clearly rendered in our third quotation. In the time of Paul it was recognised that a true following of the gospel of Christ confers spiritual gifts; for in the twelfth chapter of his epistle to the Corinthians he speaks of such gifts, enumerating wisdom, knowledge, faith, the power of healing, the power of working miracles, the gift of prophecy, the interpretation and speaking of foreign languages. What has become of all this in our day? We hear a little about gifts of healing, but it does not amount to much; but what do we hear of those other gifts? Truly Christianity has become emasculated, diluted, made weak and sentimental; too often has it dreaded and opposed the growth of knowledge, instead of conferring it. It has been concerned rather with a vague life to come than with the life which we are here to live; and when it does concern itself with this life, it plays the part of follower rather than leader.
It is little realized how our view of Christianity suffers from the lack of historical perspective. Christianity was one of a great number of systems competing for favor and combining in various degrees the doctrines of Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, Oriental cults, and Christian theology. Scholars may have considerable acquaintance with Marcionism, Manichaeism, Gnosticism, Mithraism, and many others; but it is surprising how historical facts can be interpreted to suit foregone conclusions. The Theosophist, having ample warrant for saying that the ecclesiastical creeds are degenerate products of ancient mystery teachings, sees in these competing Oriental faiths the surviving relies of a purer and older teaching, which was gradually ousted by the growing materialism. Christian apologists, having made up their minds that Christianity (as it became) is the last word of divine truth, regard the other elements as extraneous, as heretical, as borrowings from Paganism. Thus we have been viewing the whole matter in a false light; and a flood of illumination is thrown on it when once we have the clue. Christ has indeed descended into the tomb, and we have been buried with him; but it promises resurrection; and when scholars begin to study history with a view to finding out, instead of with a view to disposing of the truth, they will discover more about that mysterious Teacher upon whose teachings were founded that which has become the Christianity of today.
It is easy to see from the Gospel stories, as also from what we learn about the early Christians from historical sources, that there was a widely-spread idea that Jesus would actually come, and that very soon, in bodily presence and as a conqueror, to overthrow the Roman Empire, destroy the wicked, and set up an earthly kingdom of righteousness. The Jewish expectation of a Messiah was based on their own prophetic books, some of which are included in the canon of the Old Testament. Passing from the particular to the general, it may be said that the notion of Messiahship, the return of some great personage or divinity, has always been more or less prevalent among mankind in the historical periods. It has a real basis of fact, but usually comes to notice in a form which shows us that prophetical sayings have been interpreted too literally and too grossly. In the case of the scribes or compilers of the Gospels, it is clear that they have been influenced by this idea and have fathered it upon the Jesus of the narrative, so that he often seems to be anticipating such a return for himself and such an earthly kingdom. Writers of 'Lives of Christ,' acting on this clue, have supposed Jesus to have been a kind of deluded enthusiast. But the Gospel writers do not take all the blame, for they have had translators, who have given matters a further twist in the wrong direction. We need not picture these translators as artful villains, for no doubt they were pious and sincere within their lights and believed their own rendering of the Greek text to be adequate. Still, with regard to the particular case about to be mentioned, the learned body of divines and scholars who drew up the 'Revised Version' of 1881 have not endorsed these earlier translators. Following the actual Greek text, they have produced a rendering much more in accord with the view a Theosophist takes of the matter.
Let us turn then to Matthew, xxiv, 3, which in the Authorized Version runs as follows:
And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
Jesus had just been predicting the destruction of the Temple. Now the Revised Version renders it: "The sign of thy presence, and of the consummation of the age"; and this is strictly in conformity to the Greek, further confirmed by the Latin of Arias Montanus (16th century). The Greek word translated 'presence' or 'coming' is parousia, which means 'presence,' but can sometimes be equivalent to 'arrival'; and the Latin version gives praesentia, which certainly means 'presence.' The 'end of the world' is the A. V. rendering of the Greek sunteleia tou aionos, which means the completion of the age, and is represented in the Latin version by consummatio seculi. Seculi certainly cannot mean 'world,' and does mean 'age' or 'cycle'; and consummatio means 'consummation' and might possibly imply termination.
A knowledge of the Secret Doctrine of the Ages gives the clue to all such sayings, to the Hebrew symbolic prophecies, to that marvelous allegory called the Revelation of John, and to myths like that of Prometheus and the finding of infant boys floating in arks on sacred rivers, etc., etc. That key is the true history of the human Races and their evolution; and pari passu the evolution of worlds and of cycles of time. For it is taught that all evolution proceeds in a circular form, the circle consisting first of a downward are representing the descent of spirit into matter, and then of an upward are representing the reascent of matter into spirit. As regards man, this means that he first passes into a more and more material state, during which his spiritual faculties become obscured and lie latent; and after having passed the lowest point of the circle he regains his spiritual faculties -- paradise lost and regained, we may say. This process, thus briefly stated, might seem to imply merely a forward and a retrograde movement bringing the evolution back to its starting-point; but the teaching further explains that, though there is actually a swing to and fro, yet there is progress all the time, for throughout the whole process spirit is continually expressing itself through matter, first by descending into matter, and then by raising or evolving matter up to a level with spirit. Thus the latter stages of evolution, though analogous to a reversal of the earlier stages, are actually much more advanced.
The doctrine, here briefly and incompletely stated, may be studied in the Theosophical books; our present point is that it is this doctrine which is concealed in the allegory of the descent of the Christ upon earth, as a terrestrial manifestation of Divinity, his going down into the tomb and rising again from it, and his reascent into heaven.
In the same way Prometheus brings down celestial fire to inspire humanity, suffering in his act of self-sacrifice. The various prophetic books speak of the ending of one age in destruction, the saving of a worthy remnant of the old stock, and the initiation of a new age; the races and the ages being personified in various ways. For let it be remembered that this law of the descent into matter and the reascent into spirit prevails not only on the large scale but also in small scales; so that particular prophetic books may refer specially to the end of some particular race or nation and the beginning of the next. Thus the word 'Messiah' may apply to the crest of any new wave of enlightenment that may be due.
It is evident that the Coming of Christ means the awakening of the Christ spirit in humanity, and that he will not come in the rushing wind but in the still small voice; people may cry, Lo here! and Lo there! But verily the kingdom of God is within them. And now witness the folly of humanity, that expects the arrival of Christ on some particular day within the next few months, and gets ready to wait for him on the top of some hill. Or the people who interpret the Book of Daniel into prophecies about the Lost Ten Tribes or what not. Christ is not coming to collect a few devout Protestant Christians and destroy the Church of Rome. He cannot come until a temple is made to receive the presence of their own Inner God.
The Old Testament does not play so large a part in the Christianity of today as the New Testament, but it has had a great influence nevertheless. It is one of the world's sacred scriptures; and this fact may explain its great influence, which seems insufficiently accounted for by those atheists and others who regard it as merely a mass of absurd superstition. Sacred knowledge has been handed down from immemorial ages, from the time of those early Races of mankind when man had not become so deeply engrossed in matter, and was in direct communication with his Divine Instructors. All the mythologies preserve the traditions of these instructors under the name of Gods, Demigods, Heroes, etc. Further, the sacred teachings were written down in a mystery-language, in order that they might be preserved through the ages, in a form which would conceal their meaning from the ignorant and unworthy, and yet reveal it to those who were in possession of the keys to its interpretation. These keys were revealed to candidates for initiation in the ancient Mystery-Schools, or perhaps disclosed to the intuition of individuals whose life was pure enough to make such a revelation possible and safe. Here then we have the key to an understanding of the ancient mythologies and sacred allegories: they may be mere fairy-tales on the surface, often very absurd, childish, even gross; but, read in the light of the proper clues, they are shown to contain the most vital philosophical tenets. The oldest and best, accessible to us, are those of India, Egypt, ancient Persia, and Chaldaea; the Jewish Old Testament is derived from the last, but at a considerable distance and in a much deteriorated guise. The Secret Doctrine may thus be said to have been embalmed like an Egyptian mummy, to sleep until the day of a future awakening.
The present contents and arrangement of the Old Testament canon was arrived at about the first century A. D. The Jews, after their return from the Babylonian captivity, set about re-establishing their theocracy; and the scribe Ezra (fifth century B.C.) compiled the first catalog of sacred books, his work being continued by Nehemiah and others at different dates. The Christian Church took over this collection of books from the Jews; but, whereas the Jews knew the work to be allegorical, and have their own interpretations in Kabalistic books, such as the Zohar and the Sepher Jetzirah, and a great mass of commentaries, the Christians have taken the books in a dead-letter sense. This has shed a bad influence on the tone of Christianity, for these books, thus literally interpreted, contain much of war, cruelty, treachery, and grossness. On the other hand, those who scoff at religion, are guilty of the same fault of taking these books in a literal sense. On both sides there is the same lack of the sense of proportion.
The Pentateuch, or first five books, known also as the books of Moses or of the Law, occupy a place of special importance. Though long believed to be the work of Moses, yet intelligent criticism applied to the internal evidence has shown that this cannot be the case. It is largely thought they are the work of Ezra; and, though he probably did not originate them, he has most certainly edited and greatly changed the sources upon which he drew. To these five is often added the book of Joshua, sometimes also those of Judges and Ruth. Ostensibly these books contain the accounts of creation and the flood, the ancestry of the Hebrew nation, the wanderings and final settlement, and the Law delivered to and by Moses. The attempt to find consistency and to reconcile the narratives with other historical and chronological data, is a sore puzzle to Biblical critics. No wonder, for it is a collection of allegorical legends, put together for the main purpose of conveying the hidden meaning. But, read esoterically, in the light of the Zohar, etc., it reveals a mine of priceless occult truths. Many of these are discussed by H. P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine, and no more than a brief allusion can be made here. We have already in previous chapters discussed the creation and flood. The first chapter of Genesis gives a symbolic account of the initial stages in the evolution of worlds and living beings. The Spirit of God (or, as the Hebrew has it, the Spirits) moved upon the face of the waters. This interaction of the One Spirit upon the waters of Chaos is the beginning of every cosmogony. The result thereof is 'Light,' which stands for the Creative Logos, with its seven Rays. By this, chaotic matter is organized and vivified, and the further evolution proceeds, as described in former chapters. It is noteworthy that there are two Gods at work -- one issuing orders, the other executing them. God said, Let there be light: and there was light. Let there be a firmament; and God made a firmament. The work of the second or executive God is frequently summarized in the phrase, "And it was so." This refers to the First and Second Logos.
It is generally accepted that two different accounts are commingled in the Pentateuch -- the Elohistic and the Jahvistic or Jehovistic, where the word for God is respectively Elohim and Jahveh or Jehovah. The former is more esoteric, as the Elohim were creative Spirits; the latter is a materialization, and God has become a tribal deity, who is said to be a name for the genius called Saturn. This planetary genius was patron of the Hebrews. The story of Moses and the ark is found everywhere in legends of infant boys being cast out by their parents in a vessel on the water, found by somebody and reared to be the founders of a new race. It typifies the universal process of regeneration, by which the seeds of a passing race are preserved to generate a new one. The twelve sons of Jacob are the twelve signs of the Zodiac.
The Old Testament also contains the prophetic books, and Ezekiel and Daniel contain much easily recognisable occult symbology, though much tortured by those who try to find in them details as to the second coming of Christ. Then there is the poetical and imaginative literature, such as the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. They read like the outpourings of a full heart and a well-stored mind; and it may be preferable to accept them as such rather than to try to twist them into any philosophical or didactic significance. The Book of Job is a very ancient allegorical story of the trials passed through by a candidate for initiation; it is found elsewhere, and its origin is unfathomable.
I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth in you, and shall be in you. -- John, xiv, 16-17
Mary . . . was found with child of the Holy Ghost. -- Matt., i, 18
He that cometh after me . . . shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire. [Said by John the Baptist.] -- Matt., iii, 11
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. -- Matt., xxviii, 19
The word translated Comforter is the Greek parakletos, Latin paracletus, and means one called to aid, an advocatus, especially in a law-court, but with the more general meaning of a helper. A reference to the meanings of 'comfort,' as given in a dictionary, will show that in the time of Wycliffe it has its etymological meaning of 'to make strong, fortify'; that Shakespeare uses it to mean 'help,' and the idea of consolation is of later usage. As the Bible uses English of the time of Shakespeare, it is understandable why the Greek word should have been thus translated. But the sense attached to the word as applied to the Holy Ghost has changed along with the sense of the word in its general use. A process of emasculation has taken place, as it has also in the idea of Jesus: he is thought of by many as a soother, as is the Holy Ghost. But the original meaning was that of an inspirer. Almost any deity in mythology will be found to have such a changing meaning: e.g. Dionysos-Bacchus, originally meaning divine inspiration, but degenerating into the god of vinous or erotic stimulation.
The Christian Trinity is a more or less imperfect copy of those trinities which are found at the head of every theogony. It is a necessary postulate of human thought, which sees duality everywhere in the universe, yet is forced to suppose an original and final unity. Again, the generalized idea of Father-Mother-Son is at the root of all generation and evolution. But in the Christian Trinity little more of the original symbology has been preserved than the mere number three; though the Roman Church has to some extent replaced Juno, Isis, etc., by Mary. The Son has a twofold character, as co-existing eternally with the Father, and yet being born of Mary by the Holy Ghost. This again is in accord with what we find in other theogonies.
But we have no intention of entering into learned discussions about the theological trinity and the precise relations of the three Persons to one another and to the whole. It is enough to understand that the Divinity which is at the Heart of the universe has also its seat in the Heart of man. The Sacred Breath or Spirit or Inspiration (which need not be disguised under the archaic term of Ghost) is the life-giving light-giving ray from that central Spiritual Sun. Such a Presence stands ever ready to bless him who has made his heart a worthy shrine to receive it. Paul in his Epistles teaches this doctrine; for him the Christ is within every man, and the burden of his discourses is regeneration of our life by the influence of the Spirit -- the second birth, the baptism of fire. He is never tired of pointing out the duality of man's nature, due to man's being an incarnation of divinity in a carnal vesture. Many of the Church Fathers were Gnostics, who taught the Gnosis or Divine Wisdom, which is Theosophy. They represent the purest Christianity, and between them and the times when the formalized and materialistic Church succeeded in establishing itself, there were many sects which taught a far purer Christianity than we have now (e.g. Marcionites, Marcosians, Manicheans).
The divine birth of Jesus is an attribute common to world saviors in general and very frequent in the heroes of classical mythology. It does not necessarily have any reference to physical parentage; physical heredity is only one of several kinds of heredity which man has, so that it is no contradiction to say that he is born of man and of a deity at once. Nevertheless the idea has been turned into something supernatural, for we hear of Jesus having been born of Mary by a special action of the Holy Spirit; he was a God-man in rather a literal sense, according to this doctrine, and the Godhead was grossly connected with the seed of Abraham through the Jewish father. Alexander claimed to be the son of Zeus Ammon, which gave umbrage to those who honored the memory of his father Philip; and justly, for if there was no intention to dispute Philip's paternity, he was at all events reduced to a cipher. A great Teacher, though he might be a manifestation of a very advanced Soul, would necessarily have to be born in the ordinary way if he was to appear in human form on earth. Buddha's earthly parents are spoken of, and yet he himself was the manifestation of a very advanced Soul. The term 'Virgin Birth' applies to modes of procreation not now existing on earth except in the case of some very lowly organisms. It is appropriately applied to the origin of the immaculate Divine Man who thus appeared on earth in a human body; but not to his physical birth in the womb of Mary. Our second quotation indicates what is meant by being born of the Holy Ghost, and there is enough about the 'second birth' in the Bible, as has been shown in previous chapters.
And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull . . . where they crucified him. -- John, xix, 17-18
The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God. -- 1 Cor., i, 18
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. -- Matt., xvi, 24
The above are typical examples of uses of the word 'cross' in the New Testament; it means the actual stake used in execution, or stands for the Christian doctrine, or means a burden or sacrifice. The cross is the sacred symbol of Christianity and a perpetual reminder of its cardinal doctrine that the only Son of God was crucified as an atonement for our sins, whereby we are admitted to salvation. It also signifies the daily burden which we take up in sacrificing our personal will to our faith. But the cross is a universal religious and philosophical symbol, found in places as remote as Palenque in Mexico, India, Tibet; well known in Egyptian symbolism, as in Hinduism; an emblem used in the Grecian Mysteries. Dr. Lundy, in his Monumental Christianity, says that "the Jews themselves acknowledged this sign of salvation until they rejected Christ"; and he speaks of a Hindu sculpture of ancient date, a human figure upon a cross, with the nail-marks on hands and feet -- a pre-Christian crucifix in fact. This goes to prove the universality of the doctrine which gave birth to Christianity, and may serve to relieve minds from the terrible doctrine that all who lived before the Christian era, or who are outside the pale of the Church, are cut off from salvation. Man achieves salvation by recognising the God within him and sacrificing his lower nature to that Divine Nature; and the cross is the universal symbol of this mystic rite. It denotes the Word made Flesh, the Divine nature made human by incarnation. Its upright arm stands for Father-Nature, and its horizontal arm, Mother-Nature; the two together denoting the manifested world. The ansated cross, found in Egyptian sculpture, has a handle (or sometimes a circle) at the top, thus symbolizing the terrestrial nature controlled by the spiritual nature. The Sun, Moon, and Cross form a triad frequent in religious symbolism: the sun is the emblem of Japanese reverence; in Islam we find the Crescent and Star (the Star being a variant for the Sun). All three together make the emblem of Mercury -- the complete Man, with the Crescent above for his mind, the Cross below for his body, organs, and functions, and the symbol of the Spiritual Sun at his heart.
The Cross means the Word made Flesh, the Son of God crucified, incarnated in a human form; and thus it is that universal sacred emblem of the 'second creation' of man, whereby the 'mindless' form was enlightened by the Gods who made man in their own image. But several different things have become mixed up in the Christian tradition. The stake, often with a cross-bar, was used in Roman executions; and an actual narrative of such a literal crucifixion has been made. Again, crucifixion was a rite in the Mysteries, especially those of Egypt. See The Secret Doctrine, vol. II, p. 558. 'Crucifying before the Sun' was a phrase used in initiations in Egypt, coming originally from India.
The initiated adept, who had successfully passed through all the trials, was attached, not nailed, but simply tied on a cross in the form of a tau (in Egypt), or a Svastika without the four additional prolongations, . . . plunged in a deep sleep. . . . He was allowed to remain in this state for three days and three nights, during which time his Spiritual Ego was said to confabulate with the 'gods,' descend into Hades, Amenti, or Patala (according to the country), and do works of charity to the invisible beings, whether souls of men or Elemental Spirits; his body remaining all the time in a temple crypt or subterranean cave.
These three symbols of the Sun, Moon, and Cross, stand for the great primordial cosmic Trinity of Father-Mother-Son; or, in the language of Genesis, the Spirit of God, breathing over the Waters of Space, and thereby producing the Universe. And, since Man is the Microcosm or little universe, modeled on the plan of the Macrocosm or great universe, the same symbolism denotes the corresponding Trinity in Man. They are united, as said above, in the sign of Mercury, which thus represents the union of Spirit, Soul, and Body. The Cross therefore stands for the entire human nature of man, with all his organs and functions and faculties; its perpendicular and horizontal lines are the duality of energy and matter, and the four arms are the four elements. When there is a circle above the cross, we get the sign for Venus, and when the circle is below, the sign of Earth; and this, as explained in The Secret Doctrine (Vol. II, p. 29, misprinted in some copies) shows the human nature ruled by the divine, or the divine in subjection to the human. The two symbols taken together stand for twin planets, the higher and lower Manas, as is also represented by Castor and Pollux. Another variant of the Cross is the Svastika or Thor's Hammer; the bends at the end of the arms indicate revolution as of a rotating wheel; and one significance of this is that the adept achieves a stable balance or center by means of a harmonious equilibrium of the four elements and by preserving his balance amid the cyclic changes of his natural elements. This symbol is a universal glyph, as students of ancient sculptures know full well; it is a sacred symbol of India and is often called the Jaina Cross; it was found in the ruins of ancient Troy.
Another variant of the Cross is the Tree; this word is used in the Epistles for the cross on which Christ was crucified, and translates the Greek xylon, 'timber.' The Tree occurs in the story of the Garden of Eden as the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Often the Tree has a serpent coiled around it, and is then equivalent to the caduceus or wand of Hermes. On this we read:
So little have the first Christians (who despoiled the Jews of their Bible) understood the first four chapters of Genesis in their esoteric meaning, that they never perceived that not only was no sin intended in this disobedience, but that actually the "Serpent" was "the Lord God" himself, who, as the Ophis, the Logos, or the bearer of divine creative wisdom, taught mankind to become creators in their turn. They never realized that the Cross was an evolution from the "tree and the serpent," and thus became the salvation of mankind. -- The Secret Doctrine, II, 215-6
And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables: that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. -- Luke, viii, 10
And with many such parables spake he the word unto them [the people], as they were able to hear it. But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples. -- Mark, iv, 33-4
As has been before remarked, the Christian religion has come down to us bereft of its most important features. Its ethical teachings, however sublime, are by no means peculiar to it, but shared in common with other great religions. They have no sufficient basis on which to rest; for the true foundation of ethics is a knowledge of the nature of man and of the universe. The scriptures of ancient India have a vast and profound store of such knowledge, derived from the universal Wisdom-Religion.
Christianity took its rise in the teachings of an initiated Teacher, whose life is lost in obscurity; but among the Jews, before the Christian era, there existed two sects of Jewish Christians -- the Ebionites and the Nazarenes. It is believed that they derived their doctrines from a certain Iassou or Jeshu who lived about 100 B.C. They represent the purest form of Christianity, believed that the Christ was in all men, and taught the doctrine of Aeons or Divine Emanations, of which hierarchy man himself is one of the lower members; just as did the Gnostics. It is around the name of Jeshu that the Gospel narratives of Jesus are built. Even in these we can find proof that the Master gave esoteric instructions to his disciples.
The teachings of the Wisdom-Religion have never been entirely absent from among men, and schools of the Mysteries have always existed in one place or another to preserve the tradition. Before and after the Christian era, the Mediterranean world, politically unified under the Pax Romana, devoted much thought to philosophical speculation and sought earnestly everywhere for a key to the sorrows of life. Around them were several centers from which radiated rays of the Ancient Wisdom: notably Alexandria, with its heirloom from Ancient Egypt, and the Eastern parts of the Roman Asiatic dominions, whither Indian wisdom had penetrated through Persia, and where many ancient cults had their homes.
It was by many stages that Christianity took its later and more familiar forms. Prof. Adolf Harnack, writing on the Marcionites, in the ninth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, says:
In the period between 130 and 180 A. D. the varied and complicated Christian fellowships in the Roman empire crystallized into close and mutually exclusive societies: churches with fixed constitutions and creeds, schools with distinctive esoteric doctrines, associations for worship with peculiar mysteries, and ascetic sects with special rules of conduct.
One of the most important was that of the Marcionites, which sought to lay the foundations for a pure Christianity based on the authentic teachings of Christ, and rejected most of the Gospels and certain Jewish elements which they believed to have debased the Gospel. They took Paul as their chief exemplar. According to Marcion, the God of the Old Testament was only a first creator of man, making him out of Matter, and imposing on him a rigorous law which he could not keep, so that he fell under a curse; until a higher God, hitherto concealed, took pity on man, and sent his Son to redeem man. This is an example of the more philosophical and esoteric side of Christianity: such forms are found among the Christian Gnostics, heirs of the Alexandrian Neo-Platonists, and later on in numerous modifications occasioned by attempts to adapt the real teachings to the growing materialism and ecclesiastical formalism of the age.
Even the extant authorized gospels contain a number of passages bearing out this point, as for instance Matt., v, 48:
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect;
which surely indicates the Path of self-directed evolution whereby man is his own Savior. Or Matt., xi, 27:
Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him;
which as evidently implies that all men have access to divine wisdom through the mediation of the Son or manifested God within themselves. Or the private instructions to Nicodemus, mentioned in the first chapter of this study. John, v, 21, says that "The Son quickened whom he will."
The doctrine of the dual nature of man, and of the impermanent nature of the lower self, contrasted with the abiding character of the Higher Self, is shown in the following:
Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. . . . Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever; but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. -- John, viii, 32-36
In xiv, he promises that his successful followers shall be able to perform the works which he does, and even greater works.
In short there is enough evidence to show that even in the fragments still left in the canon there survive esoteric instructions in symbolic language, readily understood by the disciples who had achieved some degree of initiation, but a riddle to the multitude. The references to bread, water, wine, the vine, the serpent, the stone, and similar well-known occult symbols, are alone enough to show it.
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