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From Bethlehem to Calvary
Chapter II - The First Initiation - The Birth at Bethlehem

CHAPTER TWO

The First Initiation - The Birth at Bethlehem

KEY THOUGHT

"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
(St. John, III, 3.) [33]

I.

In our discussion of these five major initiations we shall seek to do three things. First, we shall endeavor to realize that Christianity is the flower and the fruitage of the religions of the past, being the last to be given out, with the exception of the Mohammedan religion. We have seen that the emphasis of the Christian religion has been laid upon the unit in the human family, and also upon the unique mission of Christ Himself. Christ came to teach the supreme value of the individual, as I have already indicated in the previous chapter. (See p. 15.)

It would appear that the emphasis laid by the followers of Mohammed upon the fact of God, the Supreme, the One and Only, was in the nature of a balancing pronouncement, coming forth as it did in the fifteenth century, in order to safeguard man from forgetfulness of God, as he drew nearer to his own latent and essential divinity as a son of the Father. The study of the relationships of these different faiths, and the manner in which they prepare for and complement each other, is of the deepest interest. This our Western theologians have often forgotten. Christianity may and does preserve secret within itself the sacred teaching, but it inherited that teaching from the past. It may personalize itself through the instrumentality of the greatest of the divine Messengers, but the way of that Messenger had been prepared beforehand, [34] and He had been preceded by other great Sons of God. His word may be the life-giving Word for our Western civilization, and may embody the salvation which had to be brought to us, but the East had its own teachers, and each of the past civilizations upon our planet had had its divine Representative. As we consider the message of Christianity and its unique contribution, let us not forget the past, for if we do we shall never understand our own faith.

Secondly, we must remember to think in terms of the whole and to realize that the great expansions of consciousness to which we shall constantly refer have their universal parallels. Some of these unfoldments in the race lie in past racial history. Some lie ahead. One lies immediately possible in the present. As man's physical and mechanical equipment develops to meet his expanding consciousness, he is gradually led to experience more and more of the divine Immanence, to perceive more of the divine Transcendence, and to register with an increasingly illumined awareness the revelation which is sequentially presented for his education and his cultural growth.

Today we stand at the very verge of the birth hour of the racial Christ, and out from the darkness of the womb of matter the Christ child can enter into the light of the kingdom of God. Another crisis is upon us, and for this Christ has prepared the race, for when He was born at Bethlehem, it was not simply the birth of another divine Teacher and Messenger, but the appearing of an Individual Who not only summed up in Himself the past achievement of the race, but Who was also the forerunner of the future, embodying in Himself all that it was possible for humanity to achieve. The appearance of Christ in the cave at Bethlehem was the inauguration of the possibility of a new cycle of spiritual unfoldment for the race, as well as for the individual.

Finally, we shall consider these unfoldment from the standpoint of the individual, and study those episodes related in the Gospel story which vitally concern the individual human being who, approaching the end of the long and weary [35] way of evolution, is ready to re-enact the same drama in his own experience. To him there comes the opportunity to pass from the stage of the new birth to that of the final resurrection, via the steep path of Mount Golgotha. In his innermost nature he must learn to understand the words of Christ, "Ye must be born again," (St. John, III, 7.) and to express the death unto life which is the outstanding message of St. Paul. (I Cor., XV, 31.)

Each of us must sooner or later prove this for himself, because "living religious experience is the only legitimate way to the comprehension of dogmas." (Pavel Florensky, quoted in The Recovery of Truth, by Hermann Keyserling, p. 80.) Only by following the example of those who have achieved can we ourselves learn the meaning of achievement. Only by our living divinely can our hidden divinity find true expression. This involves a practical self-application which brings its own reward but which must at first be entered upon blindly.

The history of humanity is therefore the history of this individual search for divine expression and light, and for the ultimate achievement of the new birth which releases a man into the service of the kingdom of God. Down the ages, individuals throughout the world have passed through these five expansions of consciousness, and have entered into a deeper life of fuller, richer service. Step by step, their sense of divinity has grown, and their awareness of the divine Life, immanent in nature, has led them to the recognition of the paralleling truth of God transcendent. God in the individual, and God in Christ. God in all forms, and God the informing life of the cosmos, and yet a God Who consciously informs a universe as well as a man and the minutest atom of substance. The evolution of this recognition of divinity in man has been gradual and slow, but at certain points in racial history (as in the history of the individual man) critical moments have been reached, and crises have emerged and have been transcended, each definite initiation leaving the [36] race with an expanded understanding. Today mankind is being prepared for just such a transition, and for the refocusing of the human consciousness in a higher dimension and in a richer field of experience. Humanity is ready to step on to a higher rung of the evolutionary ladder. Faced with a situation so peculiar and an experience so unparalleled, our present chaotic bewilderment need cause no surprise. We are trembling on the verge of another step forward; we are ready for another initiation; we are on the point of widening our horizon, and passing through an open door into a larger room. All that is transpiring is no indication of failure, of senseless confusion and blind upheaval. It is rather a process of temporary destruction for further rebuilding, and is but a correspondence in the racial life to those tests and trials which are always the lot of the disciple preparing for initiation. For this, Christianity has prepared numbers of the race. The new interpretation and the next revelation are imminent.

This coming revitalization of the essential and inner nature of humanity, with the consequent reorganization of world affairs and of human life, is already sensed and awaited by the thinkers of the race, and they constantly isolate the present opportunity. The expectancy in the race is assuming vital proportions.

In the words of an ancient Mexican aphorism, "Always in the center shall come a new Word." Every form has its positive center of life. Every organism is constructed around a central nucleus of power. There is a center in our universe from which the Word went forth, bringing into being our organized solar system as we now have it, and the planet on which we live, with its myriad forms of life.

"In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
"The same was in the beginning with God.
"All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.
"In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. [37]
"He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not."
- St. John, I, 1, 2, 3, 4, 10.

What is thus true of the Whole is true also of the part. Each civilization, as an expression of the human consciousness, has had its Word. Two thousand years ago a Word was for us "made Flesh," and around that dynamic center of spiritual life our Western world revolves. Whether we accept this fact or question it matters not, as far as the results are concerned, for as Dr. Schweitzer tells us:

"The historical foundation of Christianity, as rationalism, liberalism, and modern theology count it, exists no longer - which, however, is not to say that Christianity has therefore lost its historical foundation. The work which historical theology believed it must carry out, and which it sees falling to pieces at the very moment when completion was near, is only the terra cotta veneer of the true indestructible, historical foundation, which is independent of any historical knowledge and proof - simply because it is there, it exists.

"Jesus is something to our world because a mighty stream of spiritual influence has gone forth from Him and has penetrated our age also. This fact will be neither shaken nor confirmed by an historical knowledge."
- The Mystery of the Kingdom of God, by Albert Schweitzer, pp. 28, 29.

Always the Word has sounded out which has enabled the race to see and recognize its next step. The Christ enabled man to hear this in the past; He will enable man to do so again today. Some day, as all Masons know, these Words which have been spoken periodically will be superseded by a WORD which is known among them as the "Lost Word." When that Word is finally spoken humanity will be enabled to climb to the final peak of human achievement. The hidden divinity will then shine forth in its glory, through the medium of the race. The height of material achievement has perhaps been reached. Now comes the opportunity for that subtle divine Self to manifest through the agency of the experience which we call the "new birth," [38] and which Christianity has ever taught. The effect of all that is now transpiring upon earth is to bring to the surface that which is hidden within the human heart, and to unveil to our eyes the new vision. Then we can pass through the gateway of the New Age into a world which will be characterized by newer awareness, a deeper understanding of the vital realities, and a truer and higher standard of values. The Word must again sound forth from the center - the Center in the Heavens, and the center in every human heart. Each individual soul must hear it for itself alone. Each of us has to pass through that experience wherein we know ourselves to be a "Word made Flesh," and until the Bethlehem experience is a part of our individual consciousness as souls, it remains a myth. It can become a fact - the major fact in the experience of the soul.

I cannot here enter into a definition of the word "soul." An extract from a book by Dr. Bosanquet expresses the idea in terms which link it up with individual experience, and yet preserve the cosmic implications in their beauty. An isolated soul is an impossibility. He says:

"The Soul - I use the term in the most general sense to mean the center of experience which as a microcosm has acquired or is acquiring a character of its own and a relative persistence - the soul is not to be contrasted as a detached agent either with its constituent externality on the one hand or with the life of the absolute on the other. Our idea has been throughout... that the soul is a range of externality 'come alive' by centering in mind. And when we speak of the soul as a will creatively molding circumstance, this is another expression for the microcosm, including the center which its circumstances stand around, remolding and reshaping itself. It is, on the other hand, a thread or fiber of the absolute life, ...a stream or tide within it of varying breadth, intensity, and separateness from the great flood within which it moves."
- The Value and Destiny of the Individual, by B. Bosanquet, p. 129 [The italics are mine. A. A. B.]

What this soul is, when unveiled and manifested (even through the limitations of the flesh), Christ made clear to us. [39] The partial in us is complete in Him, a fact in full expression. He has linked us to Himself through His perfected humanity; He has linked us to God through His expressed divinity.

Two thoughts must therefore be borne in mind by all of us at this time if we are not to be submerged in the apparent world chaos and thus lose our perspective. One is that each age provides its way out. This, Christ meant when He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life." (St. John, XIV, 6.) He knew that He synthesized in Himself the soul of the past and the spirit of the future. And what is true of Him is true also of the teaching He gave. In Christianity the past is comprised and its best religious elements are included.

The soul of man stands at the gates of revelation, and he must learn that this revelation will come through himself perfected. Browning expressed this in the well-known lines:

"Thus he dwells in all
From life's minute beginnings, up at last
To man - the consummation of this scheme
Of being, the completion of this sphere
Of life: whose attributes had here and there
Been scattered o'er the visible world before,
Asking to be combined, dim fragments meant
To be united in some wondrous whole,
Imperfect qualities throughout creation,
Suggesting some one creature yet to make,
Some point where all those scattered rays should meet
Convergent in the faculties of man.

When all the race is perfected alike
As man, that is; all tended to mankind,
And, man produced, all has its end thus far:
But in completed man begins anew
A tendency to God. Prognostics told
Man's near approach; so in man's self arise
August anticipations, symbols, types [40]
Of a dim splendor ever on before
In that eternal circle life pursues.
For men begin to pass their nature's bound,
And find new hopes and cares which fast supplant
Their proper joys and griefs; they grow too great
For narrow creeds of right and wrong, which fade
Before the unmeasured thirst for good: while peace
Rises within them ever more and more.
Such men are even now upon the earth,
Serene amid the half-formed creatures round
Who should be saved by them and joined with them."

- Paracelsus, by Robert Browning.

Man the human being, a soul in incarnation, is on the verge of taking that step forward which will bring about that first of the great unfoldments which we call "the new birth." Once that has been undergone, the life of the infant Christ will increase, and the momentum set up will carry him forward along that Way which leads from one high peak of attainment to another, until he himself becomes an illumined Light-bearer, and one who can light the way for others. The illuminati have ever led the race forward; the knowers, mystics and saints have ever revealed to us the heights of racial and individual possibility.

The Way from the Birth at Bethlehem to the Crucifixion Mount is a hard and a difficult one, but it is trodden with joy by the Christ and by those whose consciousness has been attuned to His. The joy of physical life is changed into the joy of understanding, and new values, new desires and a new love replace the old.

The Birth at Bethlehem marked the beginning of the long way of tragedy of the Savior. It made Him "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." (Isaiah, LIII, 3.) It was the beginning of the end, and marked His initiation into higher states of consciousness. This is apparent in the Gospel story. [41]

II.

Before we take up a definite consideration of these great initiations, it might be of value to touch upon one or two points in connection with the subject as a whole. So much peculiar and unsound teaching on the matter is being given out at this time, and so wide is the general interest, that a measure of clear thinking is badly needed, and attention should be called to certain factors which are frequently overlooked. It might be asked at this point, "Who is the initiator? Who is eligible to stand before Him and to pass through an initiation?"

It cannot be too clearly emphasized that the first initiator with whom a man has to deal is, ever and always, his own soul. Many esoteric schools and teachers direct their teaching and their aspirants towards some great Master Who is supposed to prepare them for this step, and without Whom no progress is possible. They forget that it is not possible for such a Master even to contact a man in this relationship until he has made a clear and definite contact with his own soul. It is on the level of awareness which is that of the soul itself that those who can help are to be found, and until we have, as individuals, penetrated into that state, it is not possible for us to be brought into intelligent touch with those who normally function there. Initiation relates to consciousness and is merely a word which we use to express the transition which man can make out of the consciousness of the fourth or human kingdom, into the fifth or spiritual kingdom, the kingdom of God. Christ came to reveal the way into that kingdom.

This initiating soul, as we have already seen, is called by many names in the New Testament, and in the other religions it is called by a terminology suited to the time and temperament of the aspirant. Where the Christian disciple speaks of "Christ in you, the hope of glory," (Col., I, 27.) the Oriental disciple may speak of the Self or the Atman. The modern [42] schools of thought speak of the ego, or the higher self, the real man, or the spiritual entity, whilst in the Old Testament reference is made to the "Angel of the Presence." A long list of these synonyms could be compiled, but for our purpose we shall confine ourselves to the word "soul" because of its wide use in the West.

The immortal soul in man prepares him for the first initiation, for it is this soul which manifests upon earth as the "infant Christ" and appears in man. This is the new birth. That which has been slowly gestating in man comes at last to birth, and the Christ, or soul, is born consciously. Always the germ of the living Christ has been present, though hidden, in every human being. But in due time and season the infant soul makes its appearance, and the first of the five initiations is made possible. The work proceeds, and the Christ-life unfolds and develops in the man until the second and third initiations take place. At that time, as many believe, we are initiated through the instrumentality of the Christ, and in full waking consciousness the initiate stands in His Presence and sees Him face to face. Browning expresses this truth in the great poem Saul when he says:

"Oh, Saul, it shall be
A Face like my face that receives thee; a Man like to me
Thou shalt love and be loved by, for ever: A Hand like this hand
Shall throw open the gates of new life to thee!
See the Christ stand!"

After the third initiation, the Transfiguration, when the personality has been subordinated to the soul, or the indwelling Christ, and the glory of the Lord can shine forth through the medium of the flesh, we are faced with the supreme achievement of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. Then, we are told, that mysterious Being, spoken of in the Old Testament as Melchizedek, and as the Ancient of Days, will play His part and initiate us into the still higher mysteries. Of Him we are told that:

"This Melchizedek, King of Salem, Priest of the Most High God [43] ...was, in the first place, as His Name means, King of Righteousness, and besides that, King of Salem (that is King of Peace). Being without father or mother or ancestry, having neither beginning of days nor end of life... He remains a priest in perpetuity.)"
- Hebrews, VII, 1-4, Weymouth Translation.

He is the One Who receives the initiate and superintends the higher transitions of consciousness which are the reward of the tests triumphantly undergone. He is the One Whose "star shines forth" when the initiate enters into light.

There are therefore three initiators: first, a man's own soul, then the Christ of history, and finally the Ancient of Days, the one in Whom "we live, and move, and have our Being." (Acts, XVII, 28.) These ideas are interesting when we realize that out of the five initiations there are three which seem, and naturally so, to be of supreme importance. In the life of Christ there are episodes which represent great points of attainment, all climaxing cycles and initiating new ones. These are the first initiation, the Birth; the third initiation, the Transfiguration; and the fifth, the Resurrection. There is in nature some mysterious value which is connected with the first, the third, and the fifth - the beginning, the middle point and the climaxing consummation. As has been pointed out, "it is the intervals, not only between the base note, the major third and the perfect fifth, or those which distinguish the quaver from the semi-quaver, which enable us to build up a symphony or song." Between these high points, in the intervals of which the details are given us in the Gospel story, the work is carried on which makes the later achievements possible. We are primarily considering in this book the technique of the entrance into the kingdom of God. That kingdom exists, and birth into it is as inescapable as birth into the human family. The process is a sequential proceeding from gestation until, in "the fullness of time," the Christ Child is born; the soul begins to manifest on earth, and the life of the disciple and initiate begins. He passes from stage [44] to stage until he has mastered all the laws of the spiritual kingdom. Through birth, service and sacrifice the initiate becomes a citizen of that kingdom, and this is as much a natural process connected with his inner life as are the physical processes in their connection with his outer life as a human being. These two go on together, but the inner reality eventually comes into manifestation through the sacrifice of the human to the divine.

The initiate is not simply a good man. The world is full of good men who are probably a long way from being initiates. Neither is the initiate a well-meaning devotee. He is a man who has added a sound intellectual understanding to the basic qualifications of a sound moral character and devotion. Through discipline he has coordinated his lower nature, the personality, so that it is a "vessel meet for the master's use" (II Timothy, II, 21.), that master being his own soul. He knows that he walks in a world of illusion, but is training himself whilst doing this to walk in the light of the soul, realizing that in service to his fellowmen and in forgetfulness of self he prepares himself to stand before the portal of Initiation. Upon that path he meets those who, like himself, are learning to be citizens of the kingdom.

This has been the knowledge and the message of all true Christians down the centuries, and their united testimony bears witness to the reality of the kingdom, to the fact that those who seek it truly can find it, and that those who make enquiry as to its existence shall not be disappointed. The way into the kingdom is found by questioning and answering, by seeking and finding, and by the obedience to that inner voice which can be heard when all other voices are stilled.

When that voice is heard we come to a consciousness of the possibilities ahead and take the initial step towards that first initiation which leads to Bethlehem, there to find and meet with Christ. Within ourselves we find God. In the cave of the heart the divine life can be felt throbbing. Man discovers himself to be one of a vast number who have undergone the [45] same experience, and through the process of initiation he gives birth to the Christ. The "infant life," newborn into the kingdom of God, starts on the struggle and the experience which will lead him step by step from one initiation to another till he too has attained. Then he also becomes a teacher and an expression of divinity, and follows in the footsteps of the Savior, serving the race, sounding the needed note, and helping others to reach the point he has reached. The path of service and cooperation with the divine will become the purpose of his life.

Not all initiates can reach the altitude which Christ reached. His was a unique and cosmic mission. But experience of each stage of illumination, as portrayed in the Gospel story, is possible to the disciples of the world. Therefore, in summing up these ideas concerning the new birth into the kingdom, which at this time faces so many, it must be borne in mind that:

"At the first great Initiation the Christ is born in the disciple. It is then that he realizes for the first time in himself the outpouring of the divine Love, and experiences that marvelous change which makes him feel himself to be one with all that lives. This is the 'Second Birth,' and at that birth the heavenly ones rejoice, for he is born into 'the kingdom of heaven,' as one of the 'little ones,' as a 'little child,' - the names ever given to the new Initiates. Such is the meaning of the words of Jesus, that a man must become a little child to enter into the Kingdom."
- Esoteric Christianity, by Annie Besant, pp. 185, 286, 53, 54.

The same writer points out in another place that:

"The 'second birth' is another well-recognized term for Initiation; even now in India the higher castes are called 'twice-born,' and the ceremony that makes them twice-born is a ceremony of Initiation - mere husk truly, in these modern days, but the 'pattern of things in the heavens.' (Hebrews, IX, 23.) When Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus he states that 'Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,' and this birth is spoken of as that 'of water and the Spirit,' ( St. John, III, 3.5.) this is the first Initiation; a later one is that 'of the Holy [46] Ghost and fire," (St. Matt., III, 11.) the baptism of the Initiate in his manhood, as the first is that of birth, which welcomes him as the 'Little Child' entering the kingdom. (St. Matt., XVIII, 3.) How thoroughly this imagery was familiar among the mystics of the Jews is shown by the surprise evinced by Jesus when Nicodemus stumbled over His mystic phraseology: 'Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?' (St. John, III, 10.)"

Facing these possible heights of attainment stand the disciples of the world at this time. Here also stands the weary world disciple, humanity as a whole, worn and distraught, bewildered and restless, yet conscious of divine potentialities and great dreams, visions and ideals which evoke a hope and a refusal to be defeated and are the guarantee of eventual success. The voice of all the world Saviors and the example of the Christ indicate to humanity the Way that must be trodden. This leads away from the superficial and the material, from the world of unreality to the world of reality. "Man has had enough of a life cut off from its religious center, and a quest for a new religious balance, a spiritual deepening will begin; in no order of his activity can he carry on any longer merely on the surface, a purely external life." (The End of Our Time, by Nicholas Berdyaev, p. 59.) Deep calls unto deep, and from out the darkness of those depths, and through pain and suffering, the Christ child will emerge, and humanity as a whole will stand ready to make the great transition into the kingdom of God. Man can now pass on into the kingdom and commence making spiritual history. Up to the present, history has been preparatory. The race is only today, for the first time ready to take the great step on to the path of discipleship and of purification which precedes the path of initiation. Individuals have ever emerged out of the rank and file and lifted themselves to the pinnacles of attainment, and so climbed the mountain of initiation. But today this becomes possible for the many. The voice of those who have achieved, the clarion call of those who are [47] initiate in the mysteries of the kingdom of God, make the new step possible. The moment is unique and urgent. The call is to the individual but also, for the first time in history, it is sounded in the ears of the crowd, because the crowd is ready to respond.

Such is the situation now. The voices of these individuals who have entered into the kingdom call to the multitude today in no uncertain terms, and the issue is sure, though to some the initiating of humanity may seem a slow process. Old truths enunciated by the world Teachers and Saviors are in process of reinterpretation, to meet the ancient needs in new terms and in a more vital way. Those Leaders who mould the spirits of men are holding the doors wide open, and through them mankind will be obliged to pass, rapidly if it will listen, but inevitably, whether it now hears or no.

Our theme therefore gradually emerges in our consciousness. We can see that it must be approached from two major angles. We shall study these five initiations of Jesus from the angle, first of all, of the individual aspirant, so that it may become apparent that, as children of God, we can all participate in what the Christ went through. One of the interesting things which appear as we study the life of Christ and note how the divine Plan for that life was progressively registered in His consciousness, is that at first He only dimly sensed what He had to do. The ideas developed as He grew older. After the first initiation, the Birth at Bethlehem, His words to His mother were, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (St. Luke, II, 49.) He knew that He was ordained to work and to serve, but the specifications of that work were only later made clear to His mind. He simply recognized a Plan, and to that Plan He dedicated Himself. This must also be done by those who follow in His steps.

The second initiation, that of the Baptism, then took place. Christ had achieved manhood, and this attainment was followed immediately by a definite and conscious rejection of evil. Recognition of work to be done must be succeeded [48] by the purification of the one who must thus work, and a demonstration must be given of that purification and freedom from evil. This, Christ gave in the victory of the three temptations. Then, only after this evidenced preparation, do we read that He proceeded to teach. (St. Luke, IV, 14, 15.)

Recognition and preparation for participation in the divine Plan was next followed by dedication to that Plan. After the Transfiguration He entered into a full realization of what lay ahead for Him, and He defined it clearly to His disciples, saying:

"...the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day... If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." (St. Luke, IX, 22, 23.)

Then we read later in the same chapter that "He steadfastly set His face to go" up to the place of suffering and of sacrifice.

Finally came the realization that He had accomplished what He had set out to do. He had fulfiled the Plan; the Father's business had been done and the "many things" undergone. We read that even on the Cross the Plan still engrossed His attention, and with His final "It is finished," (St. John, XIX, 30.) He passed through the gates of death to a joyful resurrection.

The gradual revelation of the Plan and its service always accompanies the initiation process; the individual learns to subordinate his life to the Will of the Father, and to become - as Christ became - the servant of that Will. The initiation process itself is only a part of the general Plan for the race, and the paths of discipleship and of initiation are but the final stages of the Path of Evolution. The earlier steps on the Path are concerned with human living and experiencing, but the final stages, after the new birth, are concerned with spiritual unfoldment.

What is true of the unfoldment of the individual is true [49] of the race; and all these stages must be worked out in the racial life. Those who see the vision clearly can trace the evidences of this unfolding Plan in the steady growth of several ideas that are now dominant in the world. Without going into detail or entering into lengthy expositions of the subject, the growth of the Plan and of the racial response can be traced quite clearly in the development of the God idea. First, God was a far-away, anthropomorphic Deity, unknown and unloved, but regarded with awe and fear, and worshipped as the Deity expressing Himself through the forces of nature. As time elapsed, this distant God drew a little nearer to His people, taking on a more human coloring until, in the Jewish dispensation, we find Him much like ourselves, but still the wrathful, ethical Ruler, and still obeyed and feared.

He approached still nearer as time went on; and before the advent of Christianity men recognized Him as the beloved Krishna of the Hindu faith, and as the Buddha. Then the Christ came to the West. God Himself was seen incarnate among men. The distant had become the near, and the One Who had been worshipped in awe and wonder could now be known and loved. Today God is coming closer still, and the new age will not only recognize the truth of the past revelations and testify to their validity and their progressive revelation of divinity, but to all this will be added the ultimate revelation of the Presence of God in the human heart, of Christ born in man, and of each human being manifesting, in truth, as a son of God.

In a consideration of the unfoldment of consciousness the same emerging divine Plan appears. Though the race in its infancy was governed by instinct, as time elapsed the intellect began to show itself and is continuing to control human affairs, government and thought. Out of the intellect, rightly used and understood, something fairer and still more revealing is being evolved, and steadily we can trace the growth of this new force, the intuition, in modern intelligent man. This, in its turn, brings illumination, and so [50] man passes from glory to glory until the omniscient cosmic Son of God can be seen, expressing Himself through every son of man.

Again, the same unfoldment can be traced racially in the transition we have made through the various stages from that of the isolated savage to the family and the tribe, then to the unification of the tribes into nations under one central government, until today we live in a world which is beginning to respond to that which is greater than the nation - humanity itself - and to conceive its expression through the development of an international consciousness. No matter by what line we trace the growth of the Plan, we come from a distant, dark and ignorant past to a present point wherein truer values are seen emerging. We begin to see what that Plan is and whither we are going. We are entering steadily into the world of spiritual realities, because "there is a road from every natural group of facts to every spiritual reality in the universe; and the essential nature of mind forces it always in some degree to traverse this road..." (The Value and Destiny of the Individual, by B. Bosanquet, p. 111.)

At this "end of the age" man stands before the door of opportunity, and, because he is in process of discovering his own divinity, he will enter into the realm of real values and arrive at a truer knowledge of God. The mystery of the new birth confronts him, and through that experience he must pass.

This divinity in man must be brought to the birth, both in the individual and in the race, and thus can the kingdom of God on earth be brought into being.

III.

All of these five initiations have certain basic points in common, resemblances which in themselves are of real significance. There are factors which are germane to all of them. The Way into the kingdom is universal, and man himself is the symbol and the reality. He looks out at all [51] the myths and symbols of the world; he reads and knows the story of the world Saviors; at the same time he himself has to re-enact the same story and make myth a fact in his own personal experience; he must know Christ; he must also follow Christ stage by stage through the great experiences of the initiatory process.

Every initiation is preceded by a journey; each stage and each dramatic happening comes at the end of a period of travel. The symbolism of this is apparent. "The treading of the Path" is a familiar way of describing the approach of a human being to the mysteries. It is interesting to note that today the whole world is on the move. Everybody is travelling and journeying - a process symbolic of an inner condition of search and movement towards a preordained goal. Travel by rail, by steamship and by airplane is today the lot of everyone. Groups of people in many countries are being transferred from place to place as economic conditions make possible and destiny dictates. We are journeying hither and thither. We are on our way, widening our horizons. We are also preparing for expansions of consciousness which will enable us to live in two realms at once - the life which must be lived on earth and the life which we can live in the kingdom of God. Humanity is on the first stage of its journey towards the mystic Bethlehem where the Christ child will be born, and the first initiation is, at this time, an imminent happening for many.

"To every man there openeth
A way, and ways and a WAY.
And the high soul takes the high way
And the low soul gropes the low;
And in between, on the misty flats,
The rest drift to and fro,
But to every man there openeth
A high way and a low.
And every man decideth
The way his soul shall go."

- John Oxenham. [52]

Again, every initiation is marked by the enunciation of a Word of Power. The initiate hears it, though the rest of the world may not. When Christ passed through these crises, in every case a Voice sounded out, and the sound which went forth "opened anew the gates of life." Door after door is opened on the demand of the initiate and at the response by the Initiator, standing on the other side of the portal. We shall see what each Word signified. The Word always issues forth from the center. Again and again in the New Testament we are told that "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear," (St. Matt., XI, 15.) and a study of the words spoken to the seven Churches in Revelations will bring much light upon the factor of the Word.

Great racial Words have been sounded forth and have brought about needed changes, and have signified a potency of true spiritual value to the sensitive.

The Word or sound for ancient Asia in the past was TAO, or the Way. It stood for that ancient Way which the Initiates of the far East trod and taught. For our race the sound is AUM, which has degenerated in our Occidental vernacular into AMEN. The ancient scriptures of India regard this Word as peculiarly the indication of divinity, of the spirit of life, the breath of God. What the new Word will be which will "come forth from the center" we do not know, for it will not be heard until the race is ready. But there is a common Word of Power which will be given into the custody of our race if we measure up to our opportunity and, through the new birth, enter into the kingdom of God. It is this Word which will quicken into life the hidden soul of man and galvanize him into a renewed spiritual activity. As the race grows in sensitivity, as the aspirants of the world in all the many religions cultivate the ability (through meditation) to hear the Voice which can tune out all other voices, and as they learn to register the Sound which will obliterate all other sounds, they will, as a group, record the new Word which will issue forth. [53]

At each initiation of Jesus, as we shall see, a Sign was given; it was a Sign which registered upon the consciousness of those who were not initiate. Each time, a symbol or form was seen which was indicative of the revelation. Christ Himself tells us that at the end of the age the sign of the Son of Man will be seen in the Heavens. (St. Matt., XXIV, 30.) Just as the Birth at Bethlehem was ushered in by a Sign, that of the Star, so shall that birth towards which the race is hastening be likewise ushered in by a heavenly Sign. The appeal which goes up from the hearts of all true aspirants to initiation is beautifully embodied in the following prayer:

"There is a peace that passeth understanding; it abides in the hearts of those who live in the Eternal. There is a power which maketh all things new. It lives and moves in those who know the Self as One. May that peace brood over us; that power uplift us, till we stand where the One Initiator is invoked, till we see His star shine forth."

When that Sign is seen and the Word is heard, the next step will be the recording of the Vision. The Plan and the part to be played by the initiate are shown to him, and he knows what he has to do. This Vision is spoken of as "the vision of God," but it is expressed to man in terms of God's will and the completeness of that which God intends. We are intended to be initiate into the mystery of that will. The vision of God is the vision of God's Plan. No man has seen God at any time. The revelation of God comes through the revelation of Christ.

"Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
"Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father."
(St. John, XIV, 8, 9.)

Christ revealed in Himself the will of God and gave to humanity a vision of God's Plan for the world, this Plan [54] being the coming of the kingdom. He was God, and the word of God went forth from Him.

Man lives by the incarnation of God in himself. By passing through the gate of the new birth, he can redeem the flesh in which that divinity is encased, and can then help in the redemption of the world. For the race, too, there is the crisis, the initiation and the vision. "Where there is no vision, the people perish." (Prov., XXIX, 18.) But that vision is never of the whole Plan. It is not of the ultimate experience nor of the unfathomable consummation. For that we are not as yet prepared. Christ Himself did not proclaim the final revelation. He saw and proclaimed the next step for the race. The events immediately ahead are sensed, to be later intelligently considered; there is a moment of prevision, a foretelling of movement and activity, of difficulty and service, and of the next unfolding glory.

Following the vision, as that followed initiation, comes a renewed cycle of test and of difficulty. The truths revealed and the revelation accorded have to be worked out in the experience of daily life. Moments of assimilation and reflection must succeed the periods of exaltation and of vision. Unless there is a practical experience of that which is known, it remains upon the mountain top of revelation.

Finally, every initiation leads to expanded service. Practical spiritual living must follow the moments on the mountain top. Self and its attainment must be forgotten in service to others. From this there is no escape. Every pinnacle of achievement is followed by a cycle of testing. Every new revelation grasped and appropriated has to be adapted to the needs of a consequent and strenuous life of service, and initiation ever calls forth renewed testing and enhanced power to serve.

IV.

"And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth [55] her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." (St. Luke, II, 6, 7.)

In these simple words the momentous story begins - a story of such far-reaching consequences that only today are we beginning to register the results. Only today, two thousand years after the event, is the lesson of Christ's life taking formative effect in the imaginations of men; only today is the unique lesson which He came to teach producing the needed changes in the capacity of men to apprehend. Only now are we becoming aware that the historical evidence of His arrival on earth is history itself, and that there is in the world the evidence of two great streams of endeavor or of activity - that which is the stream of the common, separative, unfolding consciousness of man, and that which is the steady application of the message of Christ to current affairs, modifying them, changing them and determining - far more than we can realize - the way that we should go. Christ came in the fullness of time, just as humanity was approaching maturity, and showed us, in Himself and through His life, what a man could be and was.

The Son of God is also the Son of Man! This fact has, perhaps, been forgotten in the emphasis laid upon His divinity. That divinity is there, and nothing can touch or hide it; it is radiance and pure white light. But the manhood is there also, a guarantee to us of our opportunity and of our potentialities, an endorsement of our faith. In the magnetic power, breathed out through the words of the Beloved Apostle as he portrayed Christ as the Son of God Who speaks divinely, we have fallen down in love and adoration before that divinity. But the manhood is emphasized by St. Luke and St. Matthew, just as His life as the Great Server was emphasized by St. Mark. We have fought over the divinity of Christ. Had there been no Gospel but the Gospel of St. [56] John, only His divinity would have been known to us. Christ as man, and what He did and was as man, is not considered by this writer.

Any modern writer, when responsible for a biography of the Christ, would come under most serious criticism (from the theologians and the orthodox) had he omitted these important points. But evidently, in the opinion of the apostle, they were not of paramount importance. It was the Spirit of Christ that was vital and necessary. The other three apostles supplied the setting and the detail, and apparently did much to bring that detail into conformity with the teaching of the past, as to the environment and lives of the past world teachers and saviors, for there is a curious identity in events and occurrences.

We have fought over the detail connected with the phenomenal appearing of Christ, and have overlooked the emphasis laid in three of the initiations upon His words and their meaning. We have taken our stand upon the physical happenings of His life and have struggled to prove the authentic historicity of those physical events, and all the time God Himself speaks, "Hear ye Him."

Another point which is frequently forgotten is that, in so coming to earth and taking human incarnation, God testified to His faith in the divinity which is in man. God had sufficient confidence in men and in their reaction to world conditions so that He gave His Son to demonstrate the possibility to man and thus save the world. In this He gave expression to His belief, and His conduct was dictated by that belief. In reverence I would like to say that man's divinity warranted an expression of divinity. So God acted. Dean Inge, when writing upon the works of Plotinus, says very appositely that "the conduct of life rests on an act of faith which begins with an experiment and ends with an experience." These words are true of God and of man. God had such faith in man's innate spirituality - and what is spirituality but the expression, in form, of divinity? - that He ventured on a great [57] experiment which has led into the Christian experience. Faith in Christ! Faith in humanity! Faith in man's responsiveness to the experiment! Faith that the vision given will be transmuted or developed into experience! Such was the faith of God in humanity. The Christian faith, in spite of dogma and doctrine, and in spite of the distortions of the academic theologian and the impositions of a few unintelligent churchmen, has brought together God and man, blended in the Christ, and so presented the truth that each human being can also have faith to venture the experiment and undergo the experience. This vital, dramatic, mystically pictured yet living truth, when grasped by the mind and understood by the heart, will enable each aspirant to the Christian Mysteries to pass through the gateway of the new Birth into light, and walk thenceforth increasingly in that light, for "the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." (Prov., IV, 18.) This truth is still a living truth and enriches and colors all our faith.

In this continuity (which is the basis of our faith in the love of God) there have been, as we have seen, many Words sent forth from the Center. Many Sons of God, down the ages, have given to humanity a progressively revealing vision of the "heights of possibility," interpreting God's Plan to the race in terms suited to each age and temperament; The uniformity of their life story, the appearance again and again of the Virgin Mother (whose name is frequently a variation of the name Mary), the similarity in detail of the birth story, all indicate to us the constant re-enactment of a truth, so that from its dramatic quality and its repeated happening, God impresses upon the hearts of men certain great truths which are vital to their salvation.

One of these truths is that the love of God is eternal, and that His love for His people has been steadfast and unalterable. Whenever the time is ripe and the need of the people warrants it, He comes forth for the saving of the souls of men. [58]

Krishna in ancient India proclaimed this truth in the majestic words:

"Whenever there is a withering of the law... and an uprising of lawlessness on all sides, then I manifest Myself.
"For the salvation of the righteous and the destruction of such as do evil; for the firm establishing of the law I come to birth in age after age.
"He who thus perceives My birth and work as divine, as in truth it is... he goes to Me, Arjuna."
- The Bhagavad Gita, Translation of Charles Johnston, IV, 7, 8.

Again and again such teachers have come forth, manifested as much of the divine nature as the racial development warranted, spoken those words which determined the culture and the civilization of the peoples, and then passed on their way, leaving the seed sown, to germinate and bear fruit. In the fullness of time Christ came and, if evolution means anything at all and if the race as a whole has developed and unfolded its consciousness, the message He gave and the life He lived must necessarily sum up all the best in the past, completing and fulfiling it, and proclaim a possible future spiritual culture which will greatly transcend all that the past may have given.

The majority of these great Sons of God were, curiously enough, born in a cave and usually of a virgin mother.

"In regard to the Virgin Birth it is significant that there is no reference to it in the Epistles which form the earliest Christian documents; but, on the contrary, St. Paul speaks of Jesus as 'made of the seed of David according to the flesh' (Romans, I, 3.) that is to say, of the seed of Joseph, David's descendant. The earliest Gospel, that of St. Mark, dating between A.D. 70 and 100, does not mention it; nor does the Gospel of St. John, dating from some time not earlier than A.D. 100. The Book of Revelation, written between A.D. 69 and 93, is silent on the subject, though had the Virgin Birth then been an important tenet of the faith it would undoubtedly have figured in the mystical symbolism of that composition."
- The Paganism in Our Christianity, by Arthur Weigall, p. 42. [59]

Isis was often represented standing on the crescent moon, with twelve stars surrounding her head. In almost every Roman Catholic church on the continent of Europe may be seen pictures and statues of Mary, the "Queen of Heaven," standing on the crescent moon, her head surrounded with twelve stars.

"It would seem more than a chance that so many of the virgin mothers and goddesses of antiquity should have the same name. The mother of Bacchus was Myrrha; the mother of Mercury or Hermes was Myrrha or Maia; the mother of the Siamese Savior - Sommona Cadom was called Maya Maria, i.e. 'the Great Mary'; the mother of Adonis was Myrrha; the mother of Buddha was Maya; now, all these names whether Myrrha, Maia or Maria, are the same as Mary, the name of the mother of the Christian Savior. The month of May was sacred to these goddesses, so likewise is it sacred to the Virgin Mary at the present day. She was also called Myrrha and Maria, as well as Mary... "
- Bible Myths, by T. W. Doane, p. 332.

In the symbolic language of esotericism, a cave is regarded as the place of initiation. This has always been so, and a very interesting study of the initiatory process and of the new birth could be made if the many references in the ancient writings to these events which have transpired in caves were collected and analyzed. The stable in which Jesus was born was in all likelihood a cave, for many stables were, in those days, hollowed out of the ground. This was recognized by the early Church, and we are told that "it is well known that whereas in the Gospels Jesus is said to have been born in an inn stable, early Christian writers, as Justin Martyr and Origen, explicitly say He was born in a cave."
- Pagan Christ, by J. M. Robertson, p. 338.

In studying these five initiations of the Gospel story, we find that two of them took place in a cave, two on a mountain top and one on the level between the deeps and the heights. The first and last initiations (the Birth into life and the Resurrection into "life more abundantly" (St. John, X, 10.) took place in [60] a cave. The Transfiguration and the Crucifixion were enacted on the summit of a mountain or hill, whilst the second initiation, after which Christ entered upon His public ministry, took place in a river, in the plains around Jordan - symbolic perhaps of Christ's mission to live and work down amongst men. The Masonic phrase to "meet on the level" takes on here an added significance. After each mountain experience, the Christ came down again on to the level of daily life and there manifested the effects or results of that high event.

Mithras was born in a cave, and so were many others. Christ was born in a cave and entered, as did all the others, upon a life of service and of sacrifice, thus qualifying for the task of world Savior. They brought light and revelation to mankind and were sacrificed, in the majority of cases, to the hatred of those who did not understand their message, or who objected to their methods. All of them "descended into hell and rose again on the third day." There are twenty or thirty of these stories scattered through the centuries of human history, and the stories and the missions are ever identical.

"The Jesus-story, it will now be seen, has a greater number of correspondences with the stories of former Sungods and with the actual career of the Sun through the heavens - so many indeed that they cannot well be attributed to mere coincidence or even to the blasphemous wiles of the Devil! Let us enumerate some of these. There are (1) birth from a Virgin mother; (2) the birth in a stable (cave or underground chamber); and (3) on the 25th December (just after the winter solstice). There is (4) the Star in the East (Sirius) and (5) the arrival of the Magi (the 'Three King's); there is (6) the threatened Massacre of the Innocents, and the consequent flight into a distant country (told also of Krishna and other Sungods). There are the Church festivals of (7) Candlemas (2nd February), with processions of candles to symbolize the growing light; of (8) Lent, or the arrival of Spring; of (9) Easter Day (normally on 25th March) to celebrate the crossing of the Equator by the Sun; and (10) simultaneously the outburst of lights at the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem. There is (11) [61] the Crucifixion and death of the Lamb-God, on Good Friday, three days before Easter; there are (12) the nailing to a tree, (13) the empty grave, (14) the glad Resurrection (as in the cases of Osiris, Attis and others); there are (15) the twelve disciples (the Zodiacal signs); and (16) the betrayal by one of the twelve. Then later there is (17) Mid-summer Day, the 24th June, dedicated to the birth of the beloved disciple John, and corresponding to Christmas Day; there are the festivals of (18) the Assumption of the Virgin (15th August) and of (19) the Nativity of the Virgin (8th September), corresponding to the movement of the god through Virgo; there is the conflict of Christ and his disciples with the autumnal asterisms, (20) the Serpent and the Scorpion; and finally there is the curious fact that the Church (21) dedicates the very day of the winter solstice (when any one may very naturally doubt the rebirth of the Sun) to St. Thomas, who doubted the truth of the Resurrection!"
- Pagan and Christian Creeds, by Edward Carpenter, p. 50.

Any student of comparative religion can investigate the truth of these statements, and at the end will stand amazed at the persistence of God's love and the willingness to sacrifice Themselves which all these Sons of God manifest.

It is therefore wise and timely to remember that:

"These events are reproduced in the lives of the various Solar Gods, and antiquity teems with illustrations of them. Isis of Egypt, like Mary of Bethlehem, was our Immaculate Lady, Star of the Sea, Queen of Heaven, Mother of God. We see her, in pictures, standing on the crescent moon, star-crowned, she nurses her child Horus, and the cross appears on the back of the seat in which he sits on his mother's knee. The Virgo of the zodiac is represented in ancient drawings as a woman suckling a child - the type of all future Madonnas with their divine Babes, showing the origin of the symbol. Devaki is likewise figured with the divine Krishna in her arms, as is Mylitta, or Istar, of Babylon, also with the recurrent crown of stars, and with her child Tammuz on her knee. Mercury and Aesculapius, Bacchus and Hercules, Perseus and the Dioscuri, Mithras and Zarathustra were all of divine and human birth."
- Esoteric Christianity, by Annie Besant, p. 158.

It is apposite to recall that the cathedral of Notre Dame [62] in Paris is built upon the ancient site of a Temple of Isis, and that the early Church very frequently availed itself of a so-called heathen opportunity to determine a Christian rite or a day of sacred remembrance. Even the establishing of Christmas Day on December 25th was so determined. The same writer quoted above tells us that:

"On the fixing of the 25th December as the birthday of Jesus, Williamson has the following: 'All Christians know that the 25th December is now the recognized festival of the birth of Jesus, but few are aware that this has not always been so. There have been, it is said, one hundred and thirty-six different dates fixed on by different Christian sects. Lightfoot gives it as September 15th, others as in February or August. Epiphanies mentions two sects, one celebrating in June, the other in July. The matter was finally settled by Pope Julius in 337 A.D., and St. Chrysostom, writing in 390, says: 'On this day (i.e. 25th December) also the birth of Christ was lately fixed at Rome, in order that while the heathen were busy with their ceremonies (the Brumalia, in honor of Bacchus) the Christians might perform their rites undisturbed."
- Esoteric Christianity, by Annie Besant, p. 160.

The choice of this particular date is cosmic in its implications, and not unwittingly, we can be sure, did the wise men of earlier times make these momentous decisions. Annie Besant tells us that:

"He is always born at the winter solstice, after the shortest day in the year, at the midnight of the 24th December when the sign Virgo is rising above the horizon; born as this Sign is rising, he is born always of a virgin, and she remains a virgin after she has given birth to her Sun-child as the celestial Virgo remains unchanged and unsullied when the Sun comes forth from her in the Heavens. Weak, feeble as an infant is he, born when the days are shortest and the nights are longest..."
- Ibid. p. 157.

It is also interesting to remember that:

"The Venerable Bede" Bede, (De Temp. rat., xiii.) writing in the early part of the Eighth [63] Century, says that 'the ancient people of the Anglian nation', by which he means the pagan English before their settlement in Britain about A.D. 500, 'began the year on December 25t , when we now celebrate the birthday of our Lord'; and he tells us that the night of December 24th-25th 'which is the very night now so holy to us was called in their tongue Modranecht, that is to say "Mother's Night," by reason of the ceremonies which in that night long vigil they performed.' He does not mention what those ceremonies were, but it is clear that they were connected with the birth of the Sungod. At the time when the English were converted to Christianity in the Sixth and Seventh Centuries the festival of the Nativity on December 25th had been already long established in Rome as a solemn celebration; but in England its identification with the joyous old pagan Yule - a word apparently meaning a 'jollification' - gave it a merry character which it did not possess in the south. This character has survived, and is in marked contrast to its nature amongst the Latin races, with whom the northern custom of feasting and giving Christmas presents was unknown until recent years."
- The Paganism in Our Christianity, by Arthur Weigall, pp. 236, 237.

At the time of the birth of Christ, Sirius, the Star in the East, was on the meridian line, Orion, called "The Three Kings" by oriental astronomers, was in proximity; therefore the constellation Virgo, the Virgin, was rising in the east, and the line of the ecliptic, of the equator and of the horizon all met in that constellation. It is interesting also to note that the brightest and largest star in the constellation Virgo is called Spica; it is to be found in the "ear of corn" (sign of fertility) which the Virgin holds. Bethlehem means the "house of bread," and there is therefore an obvious connection between these two words. This constellation is also composed of three stars in the shape of a cup. This is the true Holy Grail, that which contains the life blood, the repository of the sacred and the holy, and that which conceals divinity. These are astronomical facts. The interpretation of the symbolism attached from ancient days to these constellations is as old as religion itself. Whence came the signs, and how the [64] meanings and symbols associated with them came into being, is lost in the night of time. They have existed in men's minds and thoughts and writings for thousands of years, and are our joint heritage today. The ancient zodiac of Denderah (antedating Christianity by several thousand years) is ample proof of this. In the sun's journey around the zodiac, this "Man of the Heavens" eventually arrives at Pisces; this sign is exactly opposite the sign Virgo, and is the sign of all world Saviors. We have already seen that the age of Christianity is the Piscean Age, and Christ came to the Holy Land when our sun transited into that sign. Therefore that which was started and had its being in Virgo (the birth of the Christ Child) is consummated in Pisces when that Christ Child, having attained maturity, comes forth as the world Savior.

One other astronomical fact is of interest in this connection. Closely associated with the constellation Virgo, and to be found in the same section of the Heavens, are three other constellations, and in these three there is portrayed for us symbolically the story of the Child which shall be born, suffer and die and come again. There is the group of stars called Coma Berenice, the Woman with the Child. There is Centaurus, the Centaur, and Bo├Âtes, whose name in the Hebrew language means the "Coming One." First, the child born of the woman and that woman a virgin; then the centaur, ever the symbol of humanity in the ancient mythologies, for man is an animal, plus a god, and therefore a human being. Then He Who shall come looms over them all, over-shadowing them, pointing to the fulfilment which shall come through birth and human incarnation. Truly the picture book of the heavens holds eternal truth for those who have eyes to see and the intuition developed rightly to interpret. Prophecy is not confined to the Bible, but has ever been held before men's eyes in the vault of heaven.

Thus as "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth His handiwork," (Psalm XIX, 1.) we have the prophecy [65] of that world event which took place when Christ was born in Bethlehem, the "house of bread," and Virgo rose above the horizon, whilst the Star in the East shone forth.

Christ came, then, to His Own flesh and blood because the world of men drew Him and the love of the Father impelled Him. He came to give to life a purpose and fulfilment, and to indicate to us the Way: He came to give us an example, so that we could be galvanized by the hope that "maketh not ashamed" (Rom., V, 5.) to "press toward the mark for the prize of our high calling." (Phil., III, 14.)

It should be noted here that the journey, preceding the birth, is also a part of the life-story of other teachers sent from God. For instance, we read:

"Among the thirty-two signs which were to be fulfiled by the mother of the expected Messiah (Buddha), the fifth sign was recorded to be, 'that she would be on a journey at the time of her child's birth.' Therefore, 'that it might be fulfiled which was spoken by the prophets' the virgin Maya, in the tenth month after her heavenly conception, was on a journey to her father, when lo, the birth of the Messiah took place under a tree. One account says that 'she had alighted at an inn when Buddha was born.'

"The mother of Lao-tse, the Virgin-born Chinese sage, was away from home when her child was born. She stopped to rest under a tree, and there, like the virgin Maya, gave birth to her son."
- Bible Myths, by T. W. Doane, p. 5.

We are told in the Gospel story that the Virgin Mary, with her husband Joseph and bearing within herself the Christ Child, went up from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem. Sometimes, through a study of the significances of the names we meet in the Bible and in tradition, we can throw much light on the episode itself and unveil some of its hidden meaning. In the study of the Bible story, I have used only the Bible itself and Cruden's Concordance. The interpretation of the names is taken from Cruden's Concordance. [66] Therein we find that "Nazareth" means "that which is consecrated" or set apart. "Galilee" means the "turning of the wheel" - that wheel of life and of death which turns continuously, carrying us all with it and keeping us upon the "wheel of existence," as the Buddhists call it, until we have learnt life's lessons and have become "a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use." (II Tim., II, 21.)

The long journey of existence lies behind the Christ, and He, with His Mother, journeys the last part of the way. Consecrated from past aeons to this very work of world salvage, He has first of all to submit Himself to the ordinary processes of birth and childhood. Christ came forth from Nazareth, the place of consecration, and went up to Bethlehem, the House of Bread, where in a peculiar way He Himself was to become the "Bread of Life" (St. John, VI, 33, 35, 41, 58) to a hungry world. He was set apart, or set Himself apart (as do all awakened sons of God) for the work of redemption. He came to feed the hungry, and in this connection two verses in the Bible convey light upon His task and its preparation. Isaiah tells us that "Bread corn is bruised," (Isaiah, XXVIII, 28) and Christ Himself told us that "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." (St. John, XII, 24.) This was the destiny awaiting Him when He came to the Birth in Bethlehem. Then He entered upon the career which eventually "bruised" Him and led Him to his death.

According to the concordance, the name Mary means "the exalted of the Lord." As one says these words, the famous picture, by Mulillo, of the Virgin, standing on the crescent moon and being gathered up into the clouds of Heaven, comes to mind. Such is the assumption of the Virgin into glory. There is another interesting point in connection with the constellation Virgo, upon which we might touch. Mary, the Virgin, in the symbolism of the ancient wisdom, stands [67] for virgin matter, for the substance which nurtures and nourishes and hides within itself the Christ child, the Christ consciousness. In the last analysis, it is through form and matter that God stands revealed. That is the story of the divine incarnation. Matter, over-shadowed by the Holy Ghost, the third Person of the Trinity, brings to the birth the second Aspect of the Trinity, in the Person of Christ - cosmic, mythical and individual.

Associated with the story-book of the heavens there are three constellations (besides the constellation Virgo) which are symbolized by women. There is Cassiopeia, the Woman Enthroned. This is the constellation which is the symbol of the stage in human life at which matter and form are dominant and triumphant; when the inner divine life is so deeply hidden that it shows no sign, and only the material nature controls and rules. Then there comes the later stage in the history of the race and of the individual, when we find Coma Berenice symbolically emerging - the Woman bearing the Christ Child is seen. Here matter begins to reveal its true function, which is to bring to the birth the Christ in every form. When the turning of the great wheel of life has played its part, then Mary can come out of Galilee, from Nazareth, and journey to Bethlehem, there to give birth to the Savior. Finally there is Andromeda, the Woman chained, or matter brought into subservience to the soul. The Soul or the Christ now rules. First, matter dominant, enthroned and triumphant. Then matter, the custodian of hidden divinity, beauty and reality, ready to bring them to the birth. Finally, matter as the servant of that which has been born, the Christ. However, none of this is brought about unless the journey is made from Nazareth, the place of consecration, and from Galilee, the place of the daily round of life; and this is true, whether one is speaking of the cosmic Christ, hidden by the form of a solar system; of the mythic Christ, hidden in humanity down the ages; of the historical Christ, concealed within the form of Jesus; or of the individual Christ, hidden within the ordinary man. For always the [68] routine is the same - the journey, the new birth, the experience of life, the service to be rendered, the death to be endured, and then the resurrection into more extended service.

Joseph's name means "he who shall add"; he was a builder, a carpenter, a worker in the building trade, one who adds stone to stone, or beam to beam. He is the symbol of the building-creative aspect of God the Father. In these three people, Joseph, the infant Jesus, and Mary, we have the divine Triplicity symbolized and represented, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, or Matter informed by Deity, and therefore typified for us in the Virgin Mary.

Today the masses are on a journey. Today the teaching of the Path and of the Way to God is engrossing the attention of the aspirants in the world. We are on the Path of return to the individual and to the racial Bethlehem. We are now on the point of entering the cave wherein the new birth can take place, and therefore one stage of life's long journey is nearly completed. This symbolism is truer, perhaps, than we care to think it is. The world problem today is bread, and our anxieties, our bewilderments, our wars and our struggles are based upon the economic problem of how to feed the peoples. Today the whole world is occupied with the Bethlehem idea, with bread. In this subtle implication there surely comes to us a guarantee that as He came before to the House of Bread so will He again fulfil His word and fulfil Himself and return. The cave, a place of darkness and of discomfort, was for Mary the place of pain and weariness. This cave or stable story of the New Testament is perhaps as full of symbolism as any to be found in the Bible. The long and trying journey ended in a dark cave. The long and weary journey of humanity has brought us today to just such a hard and uninviting place. The life of the individual disciple, prior to taking initiation and passing through the experience of the new birth, is ever one of the utmost difficulty and hardness. But in the dark, and through difficulty, Christ is to be found, the Christ life can flower forth, and we can stand face to face before Him as the Initiator. The blind poet, [69] George Macdonald, sensed this when he wrote the beautiful words which have brought comfort to so many:

"Challenge the darkness, whatsoe'er it be,
Sorrow's thick darkness or strange mystery
Of prayer or providence. Persist intent,
And thou shalt find love's veiled sacrament.
Some secret revelation, sweetness, light,
Waits to waylay the wrestler in the night.
In the thick darkness, at its very heart,
Christ meets, transfigured, souls He calls apart."

In this cave of initiation, all the four kingdoms of nature can be seen unmistakably symbolized for us. In the rocky structure of the cave, the mineral kingdom appears. The fodder and the hay, naturally there, symbolize the vegetable kingdom. The ox and the ass represent the animal nature, but they represent also far more than that. The ox stood for that form of worship which should have been passing off the earth at the time Christ came. There were still many to be found who worshipped the bull, which was the worship prevalent in the age when our sun was passing through the age of Taurus, the Bull, and which was preserved at that time in the mysteries of Mithras and of Egypt. The sign immediately preceding the Christian era was that of Aries, the Ram or Lamb, and this is symbolized for us in the sheepfolds which surrounded Bethlehem.

It is interesting also to bear in mind that asses are definitely associated with the story of Mary and her Child. Two asses are found mentioned in the Gospel story, one coming from the north and bearing Mary to Bethlehem, and the other taking her down into Egypt. These are symbols of the two constellations called the Northern Ass and the Southern Ass, which are in the neighborhood of the constellation Virgo.

We find the human kingdom represented in Mary and Joseph, with the human unity plus the duality which are so essential to existence itself. In the newborn Babe divinity [70] expresses itself. Thus, in that little cave, the cosmos is represented.

When Christ was born in Bethlehem, a threefold Word sounded forth. "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (St. Luke, II, 14) A triple Word was then given to us. It was chanted by angels in the night to the shepherds tending their flocks in the fields surrounding the stable-cave where the infant Child lay. A unique event had happened in the cosmos, and the hosts of heaven did honor to it.

This question of the earth's uniqueness has often troubled thinking people. Can so infinitesimal an atom in space as our planet be indeed of such interest to God that He permitted this great experiment to be tried here? Is the mystery of man and the significance of our purpose of such importance that nowhere else can it be paralleled?

Can anything really happen on this "ball of dust" of such vital import that it can warrant the angels in singing: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men"? We like to think that it can be so. We dread the moment when our futility appears as we look upon the stars of heaven, realizing that there are thousands of millions of universes and tens of thousands of millions of constellations! We are such specks in a great immensity.

Perhaps we are of more importance than we had guessed. Perhaps what happens to us in the realm of consciousness really does matter in the cosmic scheme. We know that it does not much matter what happens to the body. It is what happens in and through that body which counts. Perhaps what happens in and through the body, which we call a planet, indwelt likewise by God, is of vital moment in the plans of God Himself. This would give meaning to life; it is only when we apprehend meaning and appreciate it that we can understand the significance of the Word spoken at the birth of Christ. Let us paraphrase the message of the angels. It came from a group of beings and was spoken to [71] a group of beings. It is therefore a world message, a message which still awaits response. When the consciousness which is Christ's has been awakened in all men, then we shall have peace on earth and goodwill among men. When this has taken place, then will God be glorified. The expression of our divinity will bring to an end the hatred rampant upon earth and break down all the separating walls which divide man from man, group from group, nation from nation, religion from religion. Where there is goodwill there must be peace; there must be organized activity and a recognition of the Plan of God, for that Plan is synthesis; that Plan is fusion; that Plan is unity and at-one-ment. Then Christ will be all in all, and God the Father will be glorified. This must be brought about by a living union with God through Christ - through the historical Christ Who revealed God, and through the individual Christ, hidden in every human heart, Who must be brought to birth. None of the Epistles in the New Testament make this so clear as the Epistle to the Ephesians, for there is given the picture of possibility in terms that leave no excuse for misinterpretation. This epistle is:

"...penetrated through by that idea of a living union with Christ, and indwelling in Him. It is expressed in many metaphors. We are rooted in Him as the tree in the soil, which makes it firm and fruitful. We are built into Him as the strong foundations of the Temple are bedded in the living rock. We live in Him as the limbs in the body... The indwelling, we say, is reciprocal. He is in us and we are in Him. He is in us as the source of our being; we are in Him as filled with His fullness. He is in us all-communicative; we are in Him all-receptive. He is in us as the sunlight in the else darkened chamber; we are in Him as the cold green log cast into the flaming furnace glows through and through with ruddy and transforming heat. He is in us as the sap in the veins of the tree; we are in Him as the branches"
- Sermons, A. MacLaren, 3rd Series, pp. 71, 72.

The realization of this is needed today. Christ in God. God in Christ. Christ in you and Christ in me. This is [72] what will bring into being that one religion which will be the religion of love, of peace on earth, of universal goodwill, of divine understanding, and of the deep recognition of God. Then His impress and His life can be seen everywhere, in everybody and everything. The divine "signature" (as Boehme calls it) will everywhere be recognized. The life of God is today agitating the minds of men and causing them to move towards the birth chamber. From there they will pass into a new world where higher ideals and deeper contacts and richer understandings will characterize humanity.

When Christ came, we read that those of vision who were prepared said, "We have seen his star in the East and are come to worship him." (St. Matt., II, 2.) This was the Sign given to the few who were ready, and who had made the necessary journey to Bethlehem. But another sign was seen by the many, and given by the angel of the Lord to the shepherds who were watching in the fields by night. "And this shall be a sign unto you, Ye shall find the babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." (St. Luke, II, 12.) Here was a sign given to those watching ones, two or three, who were ready to consecrate their all, who perceived the star of initiation flashing forth and hastened to the initiation chamber. The larger number, who were interested and watching, needed a more concrete and more easily interpreted sign and were sent to see the infant with his mother. Their attitude is expressed in the words, "Let us now go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass." (St. Luke, II, 15.) But the three who understood came to worship and to give.

When they saw this star shine forth, the three Kings undertook a journey and, laden with gifts, came to Bethlehem. They are symbols of those disciples in the world today who are ready to prepare themselves for the first initiation, to transmute their knowledge into wisdom, and to offer all that they have to the Christ within. [73]

The gifts they brought teach us the specific type of discipline which must be undergone in order to present to the Christ, at the time of the new birth, gifts which will be symbolic of achievement. These three offered to the infant Jesus three presents - gold, frankincense and myrrh. Let us study for a minute the specific importance of these to the individual would-be initiate. We are told by the esotericists that man is a threefold person in his human nature, and this truth is endorsed by the psychologists through their investigations and research. He is a physical living body, he is a sum total of emotional reactions, and he is also that mysterious something which we call a mind. These three parts of a man - physical, emotional and mental - have to be offered in sacrifice, worship and as a free gift to the "Christ within" before that Christ can demonstrate through the disciple and initiate as He wishes to do. Gold is a symbol of the material nature, which must be consecrated to the service of God and of man. Frankincense symbolizes the emotional nature, with its aspirations, wishes and longing, and this aspiration must rise as incense to the feet of God. Incense is also a symbol of purification, of that burning which removes all dross and leaves only the essence for the blessing of God. Myrrh or bitterness relates to the mind. It is through the mind that we suffer as human beings, and the further the race progresses and the more the mind develops, the greater seems the capacity for suffering. But when suffering is seen in its true light and dedicated to divinity, it can be used as an instrument whereby we approach nearer to God. Then we can offer to God that rare and wonderful gift of a mind made wise through pain, and a heart made kind through distress and through difficulty surmounted.

As we study the meaning of these three gifts brought by the disciples of old to the infant Jesus, and as we see their meaning as it applies to our individual situation, it becomes equally apparent that today humanity, as a race, stands before the infant Jesus, in the House of Bread, at the end of a [74] long journey, and can now offer, if it so will, the gifts of material life, of purification through the fires of adversity, and of the suffering to which it has been subjected. Humanity can journey from Galilee by way of Nazareth. Gold, the thing that today seems to be the very life-blood of the people, must be consecrated to the Christ. Frankincense, the dreams and visions and aspirations of the multitude, so real and deep that the nations everywhere are struggling for the expression of these dreams - these too must be dedicated and offered to the Christ, that He may be all in all. And the pain and suffering and agony of humanity, never before so acute as now, must surely be laid at the feet of Christ. We have learnt much. Let the meaning of it all penetrate into our hearts and minds, and let the reason of the pain drive us to offer it up as our ultimate gift to Christ. Pain is ever the accompaniment of birth. Suffering is found. within every birth chamber. The realization of this awakens the deepest and most constructive kind of optimism in the minds of those who ponder upon world suffering and agony. May it not indicate the birth pangs which precede the revelation of the Christ? When it is realized, then we can say with St Paul:

"For His sake I have suffered the loss of everything, and reckon it all as mere refuse, in order that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own, derived from the Law, but that which arises from faith in Christ - the righteousness which comes from God through faith... I do not say that I have already gained this knowledge or already reached perfection. But I press on, striving to lay hold of that for which I was also laid hold of by Christ Jesus... But this one thing I do - forgetting everything which is past and stretching forward to what lies in front of me, with my eyes fixed on the goal, I push on to secure the prize of God's heavenward call in Christ Jesus. Therefore let all of us who are mature believers cherish these thoughts; and if in any respect you think differently, that also God will make clear to you. But whatever be the point that we have already reached, let us persevere in the same course."
- Phil., III, 8, 9, 12, 16, Weymouth Translation. [75]

V.

The account of Christ's childhood as given us in the Gospels is dismissed in a very few words. Only one episode is related, and that is the one in which Jesus, having reached the age of twelve years, was taken up by His Mother to the Temple of the Lord and there, for the first time, gave indication of His vocation, and evidenced the realization that a mission was preordained for Him. Prior to this, His parents had conformed to all the requirements of the Jewish ritual; they had also sojourned in Egypt. Of His time there, we are told nothing. All that we know is covered by the words:

"They returned into Galilee to their own city Nazareth. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him." (St. Luke, II, 39, 40.)

Students would do well to remember that the number twelve is regarded by the esotericists of all faiths as signifying the number of completion; it recurs again and again in the various scriptures of the world. The following comments are of interest in this connection, showing as they do the significance of this number, and its relation to initiation:

"The accomplishment of the age of twelve years signifies a full period of evolution when an initiation was undergone by the Christ-soul. This took place in the inner mind (the temple) and corresponded to an awakening of the logical and intuition sides of the soul. These are the father-mother principle, indicated by the presence of the parents."
- Dictionary of the Sacred Language of all Scriptures and Myths, by G. A. Gaskell, p. 773.

And again,

"This number (of the twelve disciples) is typified by many things in the Old Testament; by the 12 sons of Jacob, by the 12 princes of the Children of Israel; by the 12 running springs in Helim; by the 12 stones in Aaron's breastplate; by the 12 loaves of the shew-bred; by the 12 spies sent by Moses; by the 12 stones [76] of which the altar was made; by the 12 stones taken out of Jordan; by the 12 oxen which bare the brazen sea. Also in the New Testament, by the 12 stars in the bride's crown, by the 12 foundations of Jerusalem which John saw, and her 12 gates."
- Bishop Rabanus Manrus, A.D. 857.

All these recurrences of twelve probably have their origin in the twelve signs of the zodiac, that imaginary belt in the heavens through which the sun appears to pass on its journey in the course of a year, and during its greater cycle of approximately 25,000 years.

Having completed the preparatory work, by His twelfth year Christ again underwent an intuitive experience, going up from Nazareth (the place of consecration) to the Temple, where that intuition led Him to a new realization of His work. There is no sign that He knew in detail what that mission was; He went into no explanations to His Mother. He started to do the work that was the nearest duty, and to teach those whom He found in the Temple, astonishing them with His understanding and His answers. His mother, bewildered and distressed, called His attention to herself and to His father, but only received the calm answer, spoken with conviction, and so changing all life for her: "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (St. Luke, II, 49.) That business, as it developed in His consciousness in the passing of the years, became far broader and wider in its all-embracing love than the average orthodox Church seems willing to admit.

The extent of this mission slowly dawned upon His young mind and He began, as all truly initiate sons of God must perforce do, to function as God's messenger as soon as the Vision was recognized, and in the place where He was. Having thus indicated His grasp of the future work, we read that "He went down with them (His parents), and came to Nazareth (the place of renewed consecration), and was subject unto them... And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." (St. Luke, II, 51, 52.) [77]

Frequently in the Gospel story, we find the word "down" occurring. Christ went with His mother "down into Egypt"; He went "down to Nazareth"; and again and again He comes down from the mountain-top or from the place of solitude to do His duty among men. After the hidden experience in Egypt (for no account of this is given to us in the Bible), and after the revelation in the Temple and the acceptance of the task to be accomplished, Christ returns to the place of duty. In this case, and after the Birth initiation, for a period of thirty years, we are told, He functioned as a man in the daily life of the carpenter's shop and in the home with His parents. This home life constituted the test to which He was subjected, and its importance cannot be overrated. Does it sound blasphemous to say that had He failed in this immediate duty, the rest of His work would have been abortive? If He had not succeeded in demonstrating divinity in the home circle and in the little town where His lot was cast, is it not possible that He would never have functioned as the world Savior? He came to reveal to us our humanity as it could be, and will be, when we have finished with the long journey to Bethlehem. This constituted the uniqueness of His mission.

Christ lived quietly in His home with His parents, undergoing that most difficult experience of home life, with its monotony, with its unvarying usualness, with its needed subordination to the group will and need, with its lessons of sacrifice, of understanding and of service. This is ever the first lesson which every disciple must learn. Until he has learnt it, he can make no further progress. Until divinity has been expressed in the home, and among those who know us well and are our familiar friends, it cannot be expected to express itself elsewhere. We must live as sons of God in the setting - uninteresting, drab and sometimes sordid - in which destiny places us; there is nowhere else at this stage that is possible. The place where we are is the place from which our journey begins, and not the place from which we escape. If we cannot make good as disciples where we are, [78] and in the place where we discover ourselves, no other opportunity will be offered us until we do. Here lies our test, and here lies our field of service. Many true and earnest aspirants feel that they could indeed make an impression on their surroundings and manifest divinely, if they had a different kind of home, a different environment or setting. Had they married differently, or had they more money or more leisure, could they meet with more sympathy from their friends, or had they better physical health, there is no saying what they might not accomplish. A test is something which tries our strength to see of what sort it is; it calls forth the utmost that is in us, and reveals to us where we are weak and where we fail. The need today is for dependable disciples and for those who have been so tested that they will not break or crack when difficulties come and dark places in life are encountered. We have, if we could but realize it, exactly those circumstances and that environment in which this lesson of obedience to the highest which is in us can be learnt. We have exactly the type of body and physical conditions through which the divinity in us can be expressed. We have those contacts in the world and the kind of work which are required in order to enable us to take the next step forward upon the path of discipleship, the next step to God. Until aspirants grasp this essential fact and happily settle down to a life of service and of giving lovingly in their own homes, they can make no progress. Until the path of life is trodden, happily, silently and with no self-pity in the home circle, no other lesson or opportunity will be given. Many very well-meaning aspirants need also to understand that they themselves are responsible for many of the difficulties which they encounter. Puzzled as to why they seem to evoke so much antagonism from those around them, they complain of meeting with no sympathetic response as they attempt to lead the spiritual life, to study, read and think. The reason can usually be found in the fact of their spiritual selfishness. They talk too much about their aspirations, and about themselves. Because they fail in their first responsibility, they find no [79] understanding reaction to their demand for time to meditate. It must be recognized that they are meditating. The house must be quiet; they must not be disturbed; no one must break in on them. None of these difficulties would arise if aspirants would remember two things: First, that meditation is a process carried on secretly, silently and regularly in the secret temple of a man's own mind. Secondly, that much can be done if people would not talk so much about what they are doing. We need to walk silently with God, to keep ourselves, as personalities, in the background; to organize our lives in such a way that we can live as souls, giving due time to the culture of our souls, yet at the same time preserving a sense of proportion, retaining the affection of those around us, and fulfiling perfectly our responsibilities and obligations. Self-pity and too much talk are the rocks on which many an aspirant temporarily founders.

Through love and loving practice we prove ourselves initiate in the mysteries. Born into the world of love at Bethlehem, the keynote of our lives from then on must be obedience to the highest that is in us, love to all beings, and complete confidence in the power of the indwelling Christ to demonstrate (through the outer form of our personalities) the life of love. The life of Christ is a life to be lived today, eventually by all. It is a life of joy and happiness, of test and of problems, but its essence is love and its method is love. It leaves us an example that we should follow His steps, and carry on the work which He initiated.

As we have traveled with Christ from Bethlehem towards the time when the second initiation draws near, what is the lesson we have learnt? How can we sum up the significance of that episode in terms of practical individual application? Has this episode any personal significance? What are the requirements and the possibilities which confront us? If a study of these five developments in the life of Christ are of no profit to us, and if they concern an unfoldment which can have no possible human interpretation, then all that has been written and taught, down the centuries, proves futile and [80] unavailing. The ordinary theological applications no longer make an appeal to the developed intelligence of man. Christ Himself is ever powerful to attract human interest, and to draw to Himself those who have the vision to see truth as it is and to hear the Gospel message in terms which each new age demands. It is a waste of time to go on elaborating this ancient story of the living Christ if it contains for us no specific message, if all that is required of us is the attitude of the onlooker and of the man who simply says: "This is so." This believing yet negative attitude has been held too long. Looking on at Christ from too great a distance, we have been so preoccupied with a realization of His achievement that our own individual part to be played eventually and inevitably has been forgotten. We have allowed Him to do all the work. We have tried to copy Him, and He does not want to be copied. He seeks to have us prove to Him, to ourselves, and to the world, that the divinity which is in Him is in us also. We need to discover that we can be as He is, because we have seen Him. He has had boundless faith in us and in the fact that "we are all the children of God," because "one is our Father," and His call goes out for us to tread the Path of holiness, and to achieve that perfection to which His life challenges us and for which He Himself tells us to work.

One wonders sometimes how right it has been for men to have accepted the ideas of St. Paul as given through translation down the centuries. The thought of sin is very little dwelt upon by Christ. It was emphasized by St. Paul, and the slant which he gave to Christianity is perhaps largely responsible for the dominant inferiority complex of the average Christian - an inferiority which Christ in no way taught. He calls us to holiness of life and admonishes us to follow in His steps, and not to follow in the steps, or to accept the interpretation of His words, which any disciple of His may advocate, no matter how highly esteemed or valuable.

What is this holiness to which He calls us, when we take the first step toward the new birth? What is a holy man?

Wholeness, unity, at-one-ment, completeness - this is the [81] hall mark of a perfect man. Having once seen and with open eyes beheld the vision of divinity, what can we do? In this question our problem is voiced. What is the next step, the immediate duty of the man who knows that, in himself, the new birth has not yet taken place, but who feels in himself a readiness to go up to Bethlehem, from Galilee, via Nazareth?

It entails, in the first place, effort. It means initiative, the expenditure of energy, the overcoming of inertia, and the will to exert oneself so that the initial journey can be taken. It means listening for and obeying the insistent demand of the soul for a nearer approach to God and a fuller expression of divinity; and yet "every individual is at some point torn between the splendid urge to go on towards understanding, and the craving to go back to safety."
- Psychology and the Promethean Will, by W. H. Sheldon, p. 47.

For there is difficulty and danger in the outlined way to the center. Much is to be overcome and faced. The lower nature (the Mary aspect) draws back from the issue, and prefers inertia and stability to the needed activity and to consequent relative and temporary uncertainty.

This new birth is no mystical dream; neither is it a lovely vision of something that is possible but not probable; it is not simply a symbolic expression of some ultimate goal - lying ahead of us in some dim future, or in some other form of existence and some eventual heaven which we can attain if we fall back upon unthinking faith and blind acceptance of all that theology can tell us. Relatively easy to believe, this is the line of least resistance to the majority. It is difficult to fight one's way to that stage of experience where the divine program for man becomes clear, and the possibilities which Christ dramatized for us become something permitting us no rest until we have transmuted it into personal experience, through the experiment of initiation. The new birth is as much a natural event and as much a result of the evolutionary process as is the birth of a child into the world of physical life. Eternally, down the ages, men have made and will continue to make the great transition, proving the fact [82] of this experience. It is something which all must face at some time or other.

Two recognitions must emerge into the thought-world of the aspirant of today. First, the presence of the soul, a living entity which can and must be known through the process of bringing it to the birth upon the plane of daily living; and, secondly, the determination to achieve the reorientation of the entire nature so that a closer identification with that soul may become possible, until a complete unity has been achieved. We begin to see what must be done, we begin to assume the right attitude which will make it possible. The halves of our essential duality - soul and body, Christ and Mary, over-shadowed by the Holy Ghost, the material and the spiritual - face each other and approach nearer and nearer until complete union is achieved and the Christ is born through the instrumentality of the Mother. But the acceptance of this divine idea and the orientation of the life in order to make the idea a fact are the first and immediate steps.

This, Christ taught, and for this He prayed the Father.

"Neither pray I for these alone (His disciples), but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they all may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me... I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one." (St. John, XVII, 20-23.)

This is the doctrine of the At-one-ment; God, immanent in the universe - the cosmic Christ. God, immanent in humanity, revealed through the historical Christ. God, immanent in the individual, the indwelling Christ, the soul.

How can this truth of the soul and the new birth be experienced, so simply and so practically that its meaning can appear, thus enabling us to do that which is needed? Perhaps from the following statements:

  1. Hidden in every human being is the "Word incarnate," [83] the Son of God made flesh. This is "Christ in us, the hope of Glory," but as yet only a hope for the mass of men. Christ is not yet made manifest. He is hidden and veiled by the form. Mary is seen, not the Christ.
  2. As the wheel of life (the Galilee experience) carries us from one lesson to another, we approach nearer and nearer to the indwelling reality and the hidden deity. But the Christ Child is still hidden in the womb of the form.
  3. In due time, the personality - physical, emotional and mental - is fused into one living whole. The Virgin Mary is ready to give birth to her Son.
  4. The long journey draws to a close, and the hidden Christ Child is born at the first initiation.

This truth Dr. Inge touches upon in these words:

"Macarius, following Methodius, teaches that the very idea of the Incarnation includes the union of the Logos with pious souls, in whom He is well-pleased. In each of them a Christ is born. Thus besides the ideas of Ransom and Sacrifice of Christ for us, these theologians placed the ideas of sanctification and inner transformation of Christ in us, and they considered the latter as real and as integral a part of our redemption as the former. But the doctrine of Divine Immanence in the human heart never became quite the central truth of theology till the time of the mediaeval mystics. It is Eckhart who says: 'The Father speaks the Word into the soul, and when the Son is born, every soul becomes Mary."
- The Paddock Lectures, by W. R. Inge, p. 66.

We are summoned to the new birth. Our personalities are now alive with potentiality. The hour is upon us.

The human soul must hear the challenge of the Christ soul, and realize that "Mary is blessed, not because she bore Christ bodily, but because she bore Him spiritually, and in this everyone can become like her." (Eckhart.)