Theosophical University Press Online Edition
(Lecture delivered October 5, 1930)
CONTENTS: The Christian New Testament and its imagined source of inspiration. — The Christian attitude towards people of past ages. — The prevailing uncertainty of the authorship of the Gospels. — Was Christianity only a religious hoax? — The so-called Apocryphal Gospels. — Was Jesus only a solar myth? — The meaning of the word Christos. — Were the peoples of ancient times forsaken by the great ones? — Insane warrings over the meanings of words. — There is an esoteric story about Jesus. — Many Jesuses in Jewish history. — Interpretation of the story of Jesus and Barabbas. — The Hebrew words Bnei Yisael or "Sons of Israel." — Are you spiritually dying? — The fallacy of a modern school of materialistic philosophy. — Are theosophists unchristian? — Can the less become the greater? — An amazing misunderstanding of ancient esoteric teachings. — The heart of the sun is a cosmic divinity. — For those who await a "Coming Christ." — Behold the light on the mountains of the Mystic East.
I have the intention of briefly talking to you about Jesus! You may ask me: What do you know about him? And to that I could give a ready and perhaps satisfactory answer. But do you realize that it is only within recent years that such a question as this one has ever been asked with any degree of moderation of feeling? European people used to take the documents which form the Christian New Testament, these documentary books which we now know to be of varied value and of different type, and study them with the idea that they were dictated by the Spirit of Almighty God, written with full inspiration of the Holy Ghost; and that the authorized English version or translation of them — and doubtless the other translations in other European tongues — were due to the plenary inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Hence it so happened that what each European reader found in these books composing the Christian New Testament was supposed by him to be indeed the word of God Almighty, infinitely accurate and truthful, and divinely given to the men of earth some two thousand years agone more or less; and that till the time of this divine gift the entire human race had been virtually uncared for spiritually, except for those more or less intuitive feelings and thoughts which were implanted by the almighty creative power in the human soul, in the human consciousness, and in the human mind.
Within a short time after the alleged crucifixion of the Master Jesus — at any rate from the time when the Christian scriptures began to have circulation in the Mediterranean world — and all through the Middle Ages and till nearly our own days — men quarreled and fought about the documents composing the Christian New Testament, not only with regard to just what these documents had to say, but about mere words and phrases, and also as regards their age, and as regards who wrote these various Christian scriptures; and even today nobody knows anything positive, real, and certain about them, although many clever and learned theories had been emitted and had been accepted as true because of utter lack of positive proof.
Now, consider what all this means. Men do not know the exact date when the four Gospels were written, nor the exact date when the Book of Acts was composed, nor the exact date when the various Epistles were written and sent forth, nor when the last Book called the Apocalypse was composed, supposedly by St. John on the Isle of Patmos. Some humorous skeptics have said that John must have partaken rather freely of underdone lobster the evening before writing this Book, or of some other indigestible food, and that the result of this physiological state was the Apocalypse called the Book of Revelations. We may smile at this humorous and rather unkind criticism, but perhaps it has had its effect in destroying the hard dogmatic spirit, so unkind, so unbrotherly, which afflicted men so sorely till very recently.
Even today I say, nobody knows anything about the writers of these various scripts or scriptures as they are called. Nobody knows who wrote them; nobody knows when they were written; and furthermore nobody knows if the things recorded in these New Testament Books were true, or about the mystical aspirational feeling of those who wrote them down. Consider also what Christianity has been for nigh upon eighteen hundred years, a religion of vigorous dogmatic propaganda, a religion teaching certain very definite and strict doctrines of faith which one must believe at the peril of his supposedly immortal soul.
Now, in view of the almost complete darkness of ignorance enshrouding the origins and writers of these mystical scriptures, what are we to conclude therefrom? Was Christianity only a religious hoax, a cruel and diabolic hoax, perpetrated upon the entire Western world? Some people have said so. Theosophists do not teach anything like that; but nevertheless what our teaching is concerning these matters is very different indeed from what the orthodox theologians teach and have taught. For hundreds and hundreds of years it was almost forgotten except perhaps by the theological learned few that in the early days of Christianity, in the times of primitive Christianity, there were many more than the four Gospels which now are accepted as the canonical — several more than the one Book of Acts which now finds place in the accepted Christian New Testament — many more than the Epistles which presently are found in the collection of writings called the New Testament. We know that at the very least there were something like 24 or 25 different Gospels which are now called apocryphal, also Epistles galore, and many Books of Acts — Gospels and Epistles and Acts of all kinds emitted and circulated by the various primitive or early Christian sects. They are called apocryphal or doubtful merely because they do not now belong to the present Canon of accepted scriptures, and yet scholars know full well that these so-called apocryphal writings were in their times considered canonical by those who accepted them and used them.
When did Jesus live? When was he born? Did he ever live in fact? Was he a myth? If so, was he a solar myth so called, a mere mythical figure which certain students and scholars of skeptical mind have supposed to be the true explanation of the figure of that sublime entity whose lineaments scholars dimly perceive on the horizons of primitive Christianity? The answers to those questions are still unfound and still occupy the attention of not a small army of scholars and students; but behind all the cloud of uncertainty and the dust of conflicting opinions, through all the ages since Jesus later called the Christ came and taught his fellow men, through all and behind all this we nevertheless discern the sublime figure of a great teacher — not the only great teacher in the annals of history, say theosophists, but nevertheless a grand and sublime teacher of men, his heart full of love and pity for erring mankind, and who passed his life upon earth in instilling elevating teachings into men's hearts and minds, and who finally passed away, according to the Gospel theory, by suffering the death penalty of crucifixion. Was he indeed crucified or was he not? Here again, while most scholars believe he was crucified, we are obliged to say "nobody really knows."
Who indeed was Jesus? Nobody really knows. There is not one single, definite, conclusive, and proving answer to the questions that I have just placed before you — not a single answer which is known to be a certainty. Nevertheless, theosophists teach that there did indeed live, shortly before the beginning of what is now called the Christian era, a great seer and sage later called Jesus the Christos.
Christos is a Greek word which means one who has been anointed. This is a direct reference, a direct allusion, to what happened during the celebration of the ancient Mysteries. Unction or anointing was one of the acts performed during the working of the rites of those ancient Mysteries in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. The Hebrew word for an anointed one is Mashiahh, meaning exactly the same thing as the Greek word Christos — the Anointed. It is of course well known that the Jews were even then expecting and still expect the coming of their Messiah, which is a common way of misspelling the Hebrew word Mashiahh; and the mystical allusion here in this ancient Jewish belief is identical with the mystical and esoteric meaning that the word Christos contained when employed with an allusion to the rites of initiation.
Nevertheless the Jews: what have they to say about Jesus? As all the Occidental world knows they have not accepted him as their Messiah or Anointed; although, according to the story as it has come down to us in the Christian scriptures, Jesus was born a Jew, lived among the Jews, and in the Gospel according to Matthew we there find the legend coming from his own mouth, so it is stated, which proclaims: "I come but unto the lost sheep of the House of Israel." According to the general Christian idea, the Jewish Messiah Jesus came to his people and was rejected by them, and non-Jewish people, the gentiles, heard his message and accepted him and believed in him. This significant fact should arrest our attention, and give us pause for thought.
Don't you get the hint already from what I have said that there must be a profound mystical meaning and story behind all this welter of legend and tale and record? Was Jesus the only great seer and sage who has ever existed, who has ever taught and worked to save his fellow human beings from becoming bond slaves to selfishness and the destructive calls of the world of material existence? No! The annals of human history are full of the records of others, great ones, great sages and seers who came each one in his time and to his own people and taught a doctrine which however much it might have differed in form or in language, contained fundamentally the same identic message. Some of the names of these great ones are very familiar to you: I have often called your attention to them in connections similar to my present theme: Lao-tse and Confucius in China, Krishna and the Buddha in India, Zoroaster in Persia, and in the Greek lands Pythagoras and Empedocles and Plato and Apollonius of Tyana; and heaven knows how many more in other parts of the world.
Is it at all conceivable that the spiritual powers that be, which rule and inspirit the universe and infill it with light and life, with guidance and intelligence, of which we human beings are inferior reflections, could exist as they most certainly do, and yet have left the entire human race from its first appearance on earth without spiritual guidance and without spiritual teaching until a certain Jewish boy was born some two thousand years ago? What a limited, insane, and therefore repulsive idea! The ancient doctrine of a god living in the core of the core of every human being tells us in vibrant notes a very different story, for our hearts and minds both, when we consult them apart from prejudices and misconception and miseducation, vibrate with instant sympathy to the theosophical doctrine of the divinity indwelling in the core of every being. How familiar this doctrine of the indwelling god is to our hearts! I tell you in all the earnestness of my soul that in the heart of the heart of every one of you abides a living and inspiriting god, of which you as human beings are the feeble expressions — feebly manifesting the divine powers of the individual divinity within. What does even the Christian scripture say as to this point: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of the living divinity and that the spirit divine dwelleth within you?"
Jesus the Avatara is also said to have taught that every man could become like unto him, and as he did so could they also manifest forth the divine powers within. And instead of accepting this sublime teaching among others of the beautiful doctrines and teachings of spiritual Christianity, men have battled for dogmas, opinions, words, phrases, and theories, so that certain medieval battlefields of European countries flowed with human gore, shed because men quarreled insanely about the meanings of words. How could it be otherwise, my Brothers? Lose the spirit, and ye lose the vision, and in losing the vision ye lose hold of truth and compassion and peace and love and brotherhood.
It is to restore to men this vision sublime that The Theosophical Society in our present day was founded, being one of several objectives that we hold so dear to our hearts to achieve. Theosophists say, and say truly, that we bring back to Christians the teaching of the Christ living within — or to put it otherwise, of the Buddha living within — each one of you, of the god within each one of you: truly a god living in the inmost of each one of you, for in each case it is a spark of the Divine, of the Most High, dwelling in you and above you, and it also is the very fountain of all your being. Therefore do theosophists say that there is a mystical, an inner and esoteric and true, story about Jesus, which is the true story of him and of his life, and this became esoteric only because it has been forgotten, lost sight of; and this is the story which theosophists study, not only on account of its being a part of our training, but also because we look upon Jesus called the Christ as having been one of the theosophical teachers of his time. Our doctrines tell us of a long line of such teachers stretching far back into the dim mists of antiquity and reaching in inverse direction even to the present day — a long line of great seers and sages, each of whom had become one with his own inner divinity, with the god within, the immanent Christos, the inner Buddha; and having become so at one with the inner divinity, they knew all necessary knowledge because they saw it, and therefore could they teach, and teach the truth.
Yes, some two thousand years or more ago a great sage and seer did live, who in later times was called Jesus the Christ or "the Anointed." Jesus was a common name in the history of the Hebrews. There were many Jesuses among them. The name itself means "Savior" — one who saves or rescues whether by physical act or by spiritual and moral and intellectual teaching. There were many Jesuses in Jewish history, as I have already told you. Joshua and Jehoshua are two variants of the same name.
Let me now turn to an important aspect of the mystical story of Jesus which I think you will find interesting. You will doubtless remember one scene, as it is given in the Christian scriptures, told in all the four Gospels in various fashion, setting forth how, according to the Christian Gospel story, Jesus, after he was betrayed and when brought before Pilate, received the unconscious homage of that Roman official — "I see no fault in this man." But as it was the custom of that day, says the Christian narrative, to release a political prisoner to the Jews on the Feast of the Passover, Pilate is stated to have said to the accusers of Jesus: "Whom will ye that I release unto you, Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Christ?" And they said: "Barabbas."
Now, here is a very interesting and significant point of the narrative. In some of the old manuscripts of the Christian New Testament the full name of the so-called robber Barabbas is given as Jesus Barabbas. As Jesus means Savior and Barabbas is a compound word which means "son of the father," when we remember that the name of the Christian Savior is given as Jesus and that he also is frequently alluded to in a vague way as the son of a divine father, we find not a little of interest in these mystically significant facts. Do you begin to get my meaning? Do you begin to see the esoteric or mystical light breaking into your minds? "Whom will ye that I release unto you: Jesus, son of the Father, or Jesus whom ye call the Anointed?" — We have here therefore two Jesuses — two saviors, because please remember that the word Jesus means "savior." Therefore: whom will ye (according to the esoteric rendering) that I shall release unto you for freedom, although having offended your man-made laws? Jesus, the son of the father — the inferior part of a human being — or Jesus the anointed of the divine spirit? And the legend states that the answer was: Barabbas. Give us the man Barabbas.
Let me now carry you on a little farther in our mystical story: the entire story of Jesus as given in the Christian New Testament is an esoteric or mystical tale setting forth in mystical form what took place in the initiation-chambers — initiation as you may know signifying the dying of the lower man, so that the higher nature of the neophyte could thereafter be released, and further that the postulant, when he had finished his three-days' initiation trial, might go forth 'anointed' or as one who had received the unction or anointing in the Mysteries.
They took Barabbas, the Jesus Barabbas, the lowest part of the man considered as a human being, and they "crucified" the divinity within — not a crucifixion according to the Roman way of punishing by hanging on a physical cross until death mercifully came; but the neophyte was taken and laid upon a cruciform couch, a bed in the shape of a cross, and there he lay in a trance for three days and three nights, and thereafter arose as a Messiah, a Christos — both these words signifying the same thing — an anointed one. These terms are all esoteric terms, every one of them.
Jesus is stated to have said, according to the story in the Gospel, which story is current under the name the Gospel according to Matthew: "I come but unto the lost sheep of Israel." Do you know what this Hebrew word Israel means? It is more accurately written in the Hebrew Yisrael, a word derived from a Hebrew verbal root Sarah, which means "to rule," "to govern," "to command," and also by a connection of sense "to struggle to attain." Consequently, the phrase, the Bnei Yisrael, meaning "the sons of Israel," was a phrase used exactly in the same sense in which the Hindus spoke of the Aryas, meaning the noble, the elevated, the superior, the rulers, as contrasted with the Mlechchhas or inferiors or outcasts; and exactly in the same sense again in which the Greeks spoke of the Aristoi, the aristocrats — not meaning aristocrats in the modern social sense, but signifying men who were aristocrats in heart and mind, builded by natural evolution to be the better ones, the evolved ones, the superior, the grand men, no matter what their physical birth was; and just as the Hindus spoke of the Mlechchhas, so did the Greeks speak of the Barbaroi, barbarians. In a similar way did the Jews speak of all those who were not Bnei Yisrael as outsiders, or Gentiles, etc. Note also that the alleged statement of Jesus says that he came to teach the "lost sheep" of Israel, mystically signifying those by nature ready for and capable of esoteric training, but who had not yet received it, and therefore were wandering in the outer darkness of material life.
I don't want to burden your minds this afternoon with thoughts too recondite and difficult. Yet I am trying to make clear to you at least something of the esoteric or mystical story of Jesus so that you will get at least some ideas of value and worth which you can take away with you, and think over, thus enabling you, if you should be interested in studying the Christian Testament in this newer light, to see something other in the story of Jesus than the mere exoteric words.
I tell you that the story of Jesus is a story of initiation, of what took place in the initiation chambers; and this fact accounts for the inconsistencies and the difficulties and the contradictions and the variations in the various scriptures and in the different manuscript-readings of those scriptures which still exist. This mystical and esoteric tale is a very interesting and a fascinating one, for it was in fact a tale told around the ideal figure of a great Seer and Sage who did indeed live as a man, but who, as a man, was quite different indeed from the esoteric or mystical or mystery-figure discerned as the Jesus of the scriptures. The Jesus of the scriptures is an ideal figure of one represented as having attained quasi-divinity by having passed through the initiatory rites then used in Palestine, and who because of this had become "a son of the spiritual Sun," a son of Father Sun.
We can say today in exactly the same way as hinted at a moment ago that men are divided into two classes: first, into those who are spiritually "dead" although alive in the body, the 'living dead' as Pythagoras neatly put it; and, second, into the sons of Israel — in other words, those who are the natural-born spiritual rulers of men, or who become such through initiation. Let us also remember that just as the Hindus and the Greeks spoke of themselves as being the "superior" men, the Aryas and the Aristocrats, doubtless partly from motives of racial pride, so the Hebrews in exactly the same way and doubtless from the same motives spoke of themselves generally as being the typical Bnei Yisrael — the sons of Israel, or the natural rulers or superiors of other men. Such racial or national pride and prejudice is a psychological phenomenon that may be observed in the history of every distinct people or racial strain, and exists even today in the foolish and blind racial or national pride and prejudices with which we are all, alas, so well acquainted.
I have given you in the preceding observations, my Brothers, the foundations or key of the esoteric or mystical story of Jesus; and now let me ask the question: Who was Jesus as a matter of fact? A fortnight ago I spoke to you on this last theme, and I tried to answer briefly the question which I propounded: Was Jesus man-god, great seer, or myth? and in answer to my own question I told you that he was what theosophists call an avatara.
An avatara is an unusual event in human history. It is a case where a human being in certain unusual circumstances is spiritually linked straitly with one of the gods with whom the universe is filled full, and this human being thus steps down, to use a figure of speech borrowed from electrical practice, the divine flame of this divinity so that he — the divinity's human vehicle — may communicate it to his fellow human beings as spiritual and intellectual energy, and who therefore teaches, and teaches with the authority of a divine being. Such an entity was Jesus; but he was not by any means the only avatara who has ever lived. There have been many other avataras in the past history of the world, and there will be many more in the world's future history.
Is an avatara the same as the case of a human being who allies himself with his own inner god, with the native spiritual-divine essence within him? It is not, because the latter case produces what theosophists call a buddha — one who has attained through human birth, after human birth, after human birth, in the age-long battle of self-conquest and achievement, a status of quasi-divinity, and who has verily thus become like a man-god walking the earth: one who has conquered through willpower and spiritual aspiration the Barabbas part of his being, and who therefore has become a much fuller expression of the divinity in the heart of each of us than the average man is.
Such is a buddha, but Jesus was not one. Jesus was an avatara; and for a fuller exposition of my meaning I refer you to the printed report of my lecture two Sundays agone. Nevertheless, Jesus also could truly be called a man-god or a god-man because he expressed through his human nature the cosmic divinity with which he was linked in the highest part of his constitution. So far as his physical body was concerned, he was born just as I was born, just as you were born, in the regular and usual way.
The part of the mystical story of Jesus which alludes to the virgin birth refers to one of the profound mystical teachings belonging to the same initiatory cycle that I have already spoken to you about this afternoon. This teaching regarding the virgin birth would be too deep a matter to go into at all adequately this afternoon, but I can say that it is strictly connected with the same esoteric or mystical scheme that I have spoken of; and, indeed, one or more of the oldest Christian manuscripts — the Greek writings from which the translated Christian scriptures of today come — plainly state that Joseph was the father of Jesus, thus doing away at a stroke with the wrong idea of the alleged physical virgin birth of the great Jewish avatara.
How much grander is the figure of Jesus as an avatara than is the orthodox idea about him! How gloriously human does that strange and sublime being become to us! How humanly divine becomes the sublime figure of Jesus the avatara — a man, but a man through whom coursed the electric fire and flame of a cosmic divinity, so that through the mind and consciousness and even the body of the avatara Jesus his disciples and those around him who had the eyes to see it could feel and understand that they were in the very presence of a living spiritual fire, one of the living and self-conscious Fires which infill the universe. How suggestive and beautiful this mystical story is! It clothes the figure of Jesus with both spiritual grandeur and human sublimity, and furthermore sets Jesus forth as a grand exemplar or type which all other men can become themselves if they will but follow the pathway leading to the heart of the universe.
You men do not know what you have within you! Most men today are spiritually dead — alive in the body which after a while they will lay down, but during life they are spiritually dead: unmanifesting all the higher part of themselves, afraid even to become compassionate, afraid to give the heart generously in impersonal love, afraid to forgive, afraid to feel grandly. One of the noblest of the objectives of The Theosophical Society, based on one of the most important teachings of theosophy, is to awaken men to the spiritual reality in their souls, to tell them what they have within them, unmanifest, but nevertheless there — the living and self-conscious god dwelling within the core of the being of each one of you.
Where does your intelligence come from? Wherein is your mind rooted? How about the grand feelings which, according to the usual saying of men, flow from the heart? Look at the example of a man who is self-sacrificing. Pause in contemplation of the picture. Is it not a grand and inspiring thing to see? Such a man is self-forgetful to the point of gladly laying down his life for others if the call should come. Is that grand impulse ordinarily and materially human? Consider on the other hand the mad and frenzied rush in our great Occidental cities today, wherein every man is brushing aside his fellows in the frantic scramble for selfish material achievement. They are nearly all doing it, and this accounts for the unholy and unbrotherly battle that we see waged everywhere. These last are not the men who move the world. The men who move the world are the men who think grandly, the men who feel sublimely, who set the example of self-forgetful service for others, and who are ready to live and die for a principle. This last is superhuman, indeed divine. Where does the impulse come from? It comes from the divinity within, within the human soul, and often manifests as an instinct that in that way only lie peace and happiness and the realization of true manhood.
Plato was right: it is ideas that rule the world, and ideas come from men, and they come from the great men; and the man who is spending all his energy and time and strength in the frantic scramble for material gains is the man who is losing all the best of his life. Part at least of every man's time should be given to high thought and to noble feeling. You are spiritually dying unless you do that. I mean thought and feeling along high and sublime lines. Otherwise, you are living merely the lives of human beasts engaged in a mad struggle for something that you cannot permanently clutch or keep with you when you die. When the time comes for you to draw up your legs in bed and say good-bye, you will realize that you have wasted a lifetime, that you have, to use the words of the Christians, "laid up no treasures in heaven" and that you leave earth-life poorer than when you came into it. You have deprived yourself of what you should have won; and I think that a man is hugely to be pitied whose heart has never been stirred by an impersonal thought, by a self-forgetful idea. I say with Pythagoras that such a man is one of the living dead.
Be the Christ within you — the Christ-spirit, the immanent Christ, that the mystical Christians of today sometimes speak of. Be the inner Buddha, the god within you, and you will have peace and happiness and you will gain moral strength and attain spiritual power, and your fellow men will sense it all instinctively and know that they stand in the presence of a godlike man. These are the real things in life. All the rest is transitory. I don't say that a man should shun the world and flee into the wilderness — not at all. His duty is to remain in the world and to do a man's work, but to do it like a man. Therefore rise! Be superior! Lead, instead of being one of the dumb following sheep! Such was the teaching of Jesus the Christ; such was the teaching of Gautama the Buddha. It is also the teaching of all the great seers and sages of the ages: Be yourself, your inner self, your higher self, your divine self! And, as the Delphic Apollo put it, "Man, know thyself!" Know the god within you!
Do you think that this injunction merely means knowing your physical senses and body — that you have two eyes and a nose and a mouth and two ears and two hands and two legs more or less well attached to a trunk? Do you want to be mentally children? On the contrary, I want you to realize what you have locked up within you. You are the ones who won't let it come out. Each one of you is imprisoning his own higher self. All of us are doing it; only some of us, my Brothers, see the vision sublime, at least a few rays of it in the Mystic East, and have said: "I can rest no more in the grave wherein I have been lying supine; I will arise and go to the god within me, my Father, and there take myself, my heritage. I will be a Man."
It is so easy to do this. Do you know that it is easier by far than living the life which the majority of men are living today, every man fighting every other man and struggling against every other man? There is actually a school of materialistic philosophy existent today which says that it is this struggle which brings out strength. What it does bring out is hell! And the other road is so easy: mutual kindliness, helpfulness, forgiveness, compassion towards each other, pitifulness, deliberately refusing to gain for yourself if your fellow loses. This path is grand. And there are men by the millions who feel this and who in many cases act accordingly. It is the grand rule, the manly road, the road of peace and happiness, of growth and strength, and it takes manhood to follow it. Don't attempt it if you are weaklings. The weakling cannot do it — in the first place because he does not want to do it. If he did, he could begin doing it.
Do theosophists teach a doctrine which is unchristian? Yes, if by the word Christian you mean the old-fashioned theology, the old-fashioned teaching, of the medieval churches. But the teaching of Jesus is our teaching; the doctrine that he taught we also teach and we try to follow it. In that we may not always succeed. Theosophists are human, just like everybody else; but nevertheless we see the ideal and aspire towards it. We know that that ideal conceived as a path of thought and action can be followed; we therefore set our eyes on the mountains in the Mystic East over which we see the light shining, and thither we march. We rescue Christ from the grave of human hearts; and one of these days we will restore Christ to the Christian churches, and when we shall have done that, then we shall take a new step forwards.
"You are a most unchristian man," was said to me some time ago. I said: "Yes, thank you!" Because I knew just what the speaker had in mind when he spoke, and I added: "Yes, I am most decidedly not a Christian," because I knew what he meant by the word. But Jesus called the Christ was one of our own theosophical teachers, was one of the theosophists of his time, was one of the great seers and sages who come at cyclic intervals in human history, in order to teach and to guide their fellow men.
I desire the Christians to see and feel their living Christ. I desire to restore Christ to the churches from which he has been banned, from which he has been driven. That is only a part of our work and a small part; but as far as it goes we are very sincere and earnest about it.
Listen to this kindly question that has been sent in to me:
I have read some of your lectures, Questions We All Ask, and although I am liberal in my views as an honest Christian, I cannot help hearing a note of great — even more than great, immeasurable — egoism in your philosophy. You make the statement, in substance, that men may become as our Lord Jesus Christ was on earth. [No, I have not said exactly that.] Do you really mean that, or is it said by way of encouragement? Let me tell you what is really in my heart. Since my boyhood, our Lord Jesus Christ has inspired me with all that is high and holy in my life; the idea of God himself, in the person of his Son, coming down to earth and sharing our sorrows, has been a constant help to me. But am I to supplant this holy awe for so great a being by an ambitious desire to climb to such an impossible heighth? Why, that would wreck my life. And how can a man, created by God, become God? Can the less become the greater?
Well now, how can you satisfactorily answer a man like the writer of this question? Usually the less does in time evolve into the greater. That is the meaning of growth. That is the meaning of evolution. But did not Jesus, my dear Brother Christian, tell you that you are a son of God, which means that you have a divine spark within you, and do you not understand that this divine spark is a god? Just as he was the manifestation of a divinity, and had this divinity working within and through him, so likewise can any good and sincere man manifest in ever larger measure the divinity within himself. Who then is the better Christian, I or my critic?
"Greater things than these shall ye do," said in substance Jesus. That is also what theosophists say. We say that greater things than he ever is reported to have done can be done, because there are no frontiers in rising spiritually along the ladder of life and becoming grander forever on the upward path. There have been imbodiments of beings on other planets who were so much superior to the Jesus of our planet that we can make no comparison between them. Such is one of our teachings. He was so very great and so very grand, so sublime an entity, only because we human beings are generally so imperfect.
I do not like to think of infinitude and boundless eternity as being in any wise, abstract or other, a Person or as taking upon itself a shape, human or other. All that seems to me to be infinitely wrong, an amazing misunderstanding of ancient esoteric, secret teachings, taught in the Mystery chambers; for we know that those ancient Mysteries existed: we know indeed that the mystery teachings were taught, and that they received the unqualified and unquestioning spiritual and intellectual homage of the greatest men of ancient days. We know that all the great thinkers and sages and seers of antiquity were taught in these wonderful mystery schools; and therefore do theosophists say that even so was it the case with him who later was called Jesus the Christ; and as I have already told you his crucifixion was but one phase of the initiatory ceremonies of the initiation chambers.
I would that I might describe this fully to you, so that you could see it all clearly. Let me however say this: the neophyte lay entranced for three days and nights, and during that period of time his inner being — his spirit-soul, or soul-spirit, call it what you will — was released from the chains of the body and went on its peregrinations through the entire solar system from planet to planet and from planet to sun, finally passing the very portals of Father Sun. Remember that according to the Ancient Wisdom the heart of the heart of the sun is a cosmic divinity, the source of the glorious splendor and vitality which it is constantly pouring forth.
On the eve of the third day the spirit-soul or soul-spirit began to wing its way back to its personal encasement, and on the morning of the fourth day, more or less as regards the time, the neophyte arose from the cruciform couch or bed on which he had lain attached, roped to it but for safety's sake only, and arose a Master of Light, a Master of Life, a Christ, a Buddha, one who had received the holy and mystical unction, the anointing on the forehead. Thereafter he was a qualified and authorized spiritual teacher of men. He taught by the authority that belonged to him by natural right and by initiation, and he could say, as every such sage and seer has always said: I am the Way, I am the Life, I am the Light.
Everyone who had gone through these same wonderful experiences has said the same, and has truly spoken, my Brothers; and you, if you attain in the same way, will find that it will be not merely your right but your duty to teach, and that you will teach with authority because you will know — all the inner and higher part of your being will be awakened; intuition, wisdom, and knowledge instant, quick, certain, sure, and full, will infill your mind with the mysteries of the universe. You will see grandly; and hence this is called the vision sublime.
No, theosophist as I am, and unchristian as I am according to the orthodox view, I nevertheless believe myself to be a better Christian than many are, because I know who Jesus was, and a better Christian I do believe than this otherwise kindly Christian friend who holds to the old, orthodox beliefs which he neither really understands nor can interpret.
Look into the eyes of someone whom you dearly love with an impersonal love. Be very watchful as you look. Be also impersonal; and you will see a great and holy mystery there. For, as the poet has truly said, the eyes are the windows of the soul — darkened windows it is true, dark and obscure because windows of flesh, but oh! anyone who has had this experience can see the flame of divinity there. You cannot see it, however, unless you look for it. It will be there; but you will not look for it unless your consciousness tells you that it is there.
Then turn from the one whom you love so dearly, and look into the eyes of someone else, and see the same sublime — what may I call it? — thing, entity, being, force, power, consciousness. Give to it any name you like — that wondrous, indescriptible thing which every human being shows forth. Try it, and you will succeed just in proportion as you are impersonal, just in proportion as your mind is quiet and still — still as space; you will see it when the mind is at rest and the senses are at peace. You will there feel the living Buddha, the living Christ. The Christos in you will recognize the other Christos in the one whom you love, for they are of the same race and realm, breathe the same spiritual ether, and have the same consciousness; and hence recognition is instant.
What a vision! I am sorry for those who have no eyes to see, no ears to hear, no understanding heart to comprehend. What kind of men and women are they? They are, as Pythagoras said, the living dead, alive in the body but unmanifesting in all the other parts of them. Pity them, pity and forgive!
Are you open to suggestions? [Well, as I receive so many questions each week I think I am!] I would like to suggest that you get in touch with these people who talk about a "Coming Christ," and different incarnations of Jesus, and whose wife he was in other lives, and just explain to them that Jesus, being an avatara, never had a previous incarnation and never can have another one. You explained this very clearly in one of your earlier lectures. I think you would be doing them a great kindness.
I am afraid that they would not think that I was "doing them a great kindness." But I have already done all this. I have already more than once tried to set forth what our theosophical teachings are with regard to the avatara doctrine, and every time when I speak to an audience like this, I feel that I am treading a very difficult way indeed. I look into your faces and I see the flame of understanding in some, and the pitiful look of mental fatigue in others' faces; and yet how can I make the matter clearer than in what I have already said? These good people who say that Jesus called the Christ in former lives was a woman, and once was the wife of him who in Roman times was called Julius Caesar, seem to me to wander wide from the avatara teaching.
An avatara has never had a previous birth on earth, cannot ever have a future life on earth, for the reasons which I have set forth two weeks ago, and which you will find published in one of the pamphlets called Questions We All Ask.
Read our books, come to our Temple of Peace, listen to me at least with kindness in trying to understand what I am endeavoring to say; and then, after that, after we have thought together a little while in that wise, then, if you like, come to me, or write to me, and I will do my best to show you the beginning of the path. This is a promise — if, mark you — if you understand me. I cannot show a blind man the road which may actually lie at his feet. But a man who has begun to see, in other words who has begun to feel and to understand, to him indeed I can show the beginning of the path, the path which will take him directly and rapidly to the mountains of the Mystic East of which I have spoken before, that Mystic East whence all light comes. Ex oriente lux! Light from the quarter of the rising sun, I will and can show you!
Now, friends, before we part today, I desire once more to recall your thought to the fact that I am speaking here to an audience of gods, gods imbodied in human souls, in their turn imbodied in encasements of human flesh; but each one of you in the inmost of the inmost of his being is a divine entity; and it is to this entity that I try always to make my appeal, by hint, by allusion, by a suggestion rather even than by direct word. It is this inner god within each one of you and of which you are the feeble expression that I desire to call to your attention again this afternoon: to tell you that you can become at one with this inner god of you — not one god in all of you, but meaning that each one of you in the highest part of his being is a divinity, a god; for the universe is filled full with gods, with cosmic spirits, with self-conscious, intelligent, and spiritually sentient entities, and this sublime fact accounts for the wondrous and bewildering variety that even the physical universe shows. The roots of that variety are in the inner worlds of nature, in the inner realms, and especially in these gods who verily are the roots of all beings and of all things. You are an audience of gods, and each one of you can show forth in more or less perfect fashion the divine powers within you if only you will to do it and grow to have the understanding of this ineffable verity.
Vol 2, No 14