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CHAPTER FIVE - The Fourth Initiation . . . The Crucifixion - Part 3

Christ had passed through all the climaxing episodes of adjustment. The Transfiguration experience was only just over. Let us not forget that fact. In that experience God had been near, and the transfigured Christ had seemed in His initiation to link God and man. He had just uttered the Word which had testified to the relation of the body nature, the Mary aspect, and the personality, in the person of St. John—the symbol of a personality carried to a very high state of perfection and realisation. Then for three long hours He wrestled in the dark with the problem of the relation of God and the soul. Spirit and soul had to be fused and blended to one great unity—just as He had already fused and blended the soul and the body, and had testified to that consummation in the Transfiguration. Suddenly He discovered [220] that all the achievement of the past, all that He had done, was but the prelude to another atonement which He had to make as a human being; and there on the Cross, in the full blaze of publicity, He had to renounce that to which He had hitherto held, His soul, and realise for a brief instant that in this renunciation everything was at stake. Even the consciousness that He was the Son of God, the soul incarnate in the flesh (for which He had fought and sacrificed), had to disappear, and He be left bereft of all contacts. All sense of feeling and all possible reactions failed to fill the sensed void. He seemed deserted, not only by humanity, but by God. That upon which He had relied, the divinity of which He had felt assured, was found to be related to feeling. That feeling He must also transcend. All had therefore to be relinquished.

It was through this experience that Christ blazed the trail to the very heart of God Himself. Only when the soul has learnt to stand alone, assured of divinity, and yet with no outer recognition of that divinity, can the very centre of spiritual life be recognised as stable and eternal. It was in this experience that Christ fitted Himself for the Resurrection initiation, and so proved to Himself, and to us, that God existed, and that the immortality of divinity is an established and unalterable fact. This experience of loneliness, of being bereft of all that protects, all that has hitherto been regarded as essential to one's very being, is the hallmark of achievement. Disciples are apt to forget this, and one wonders for a brief moment, as one listens to Christ thus veiling His agony, whether He was not again "in all points tempted like as we are," and whether at this moment He did not descend into the deepest recesses of the valley and feel that utter aloneness which is the reward of those who mount the Cross on Golgotha.

Although each son of God at different stages upon his way of initiation prepares for this final loneliness by phases of utter rejection, when the final crisis comes he must experience [221] moments of loneliness such as he could not previously conceive. He follows in the footsteps of his Master, being crucified before men and deserted both by his fellowmen and by the comforting presence of the divine self upon which he has learnt to rely. Yet because Christ entered thus into the place of outer darkness, and felt entirely deserted of all that had hitherto meant so much to Him, both humanly and from the angle of divinity, He has enabled us to gauge the value of the experience, and has shown us that only through this place of outer darkness, which the mystics have justifiably called "the dark night of the soul," can we truly enter into the blessed companionship of the kingdom. Many books have been written about this experience, but it is rare—far rarer than the literature of the mystics would have us believe. It will become more frequent, as more and more men pass through the gates of suffering and of death into the kingdom. Christ hung pendent between heaven and earth, and although He was surrounded by crowds, and although at His feet stood those whom He loved, He was utterly alone. It is the loneliness whilst accompanied, the utter sense of being forsaken whilst surrounded by those who seek to understand and help, which constitutes the darkness. The light of the Transfiguration is suddenly obliterated; and because of the intensity of that light, the night appears more dark. But it is in the dark that we know God.

Four Words of Power had now been uttered by the Christ. He had spoken the Word for the plane of everyday life, the Word of forgiveness, and in it He indicated the principle upon which God works in relation to the evil done by men. Where there is ignorance and no defiance or wrong intent, then forgiveness is assured, for sin consists of definite action in the face of the warning voice of conscience. He had spoken the Word which brought peace to the dying thief, and had told him that he was assured, not only of forgiveness, but of peace and happiness. He had spoken the Word which brought together the two aspects which were being symbolically crucified [222] upon the Cross—matter and soul, the matter of the form and the perfected lower nature. These are the three Words of the physical, the emotional, and the mental planes, whereon man habitually lives. The sacrifice of the entire lower nature had been completed, and there was silence and darkness for three hours. Then was uttered that stupendous Word which indicated that Christ had reached the stage of the final sacrifice, and that even the consciousness of divinity, the consciousness of the soul itself, with its strength and power, its light and understanding, had also to be laid upon the altar. He had to undergo the experience of an utter renunciation of all that had constituted His very being. This brought the cry of protest and of questioning: "My God, my God! Why hast Thou forsaken me?"

Then followed three Words of a different quality altogether. In the words, "I thirst," He expressed the motivating power of every Saviour. This was misinterpreted by the onlookers, who have given it most naturally a physical connotation; but it surely had a deeper meaning, and must have reference to that divine thirst which sweeps through the consciousness of every son of God who has achieved divinity, and which indicates his willingness to undertake the task of Saviour. It is characteristic of all who have attained that they cannot rest satisfied with their achievement which brought them liberation and freedom, but immediately reorient themselves to the world of men and stay with humanity, working for the salvation of human beings until all the sons of God shall have found their way back to the Father's home. This thirst for the souls of men forced Christ to open the door into the kingdom, and to hold it open Himself, so that it might be His hand and His aid which should lift us over the threshold. This is the redemption, and in this redemption we all share, not from the selfish angle of our individual salvation, but from the consciousness that, as we redeem are we redeemed, as we save are we ourselves salvaged, and that as we help others to achieve, we too are [223] admitted as citizens into the kingdom. But this is the way of Crucifixion. Only when we can utter the five Words of Power do we really understand the meaning of God and His love. The way of the Saviour becomes then our way. God's life and purpose stand revealed.

It is this thirst which we share with the Saviour, and the world need (of which our own is a part, though relatively incidental) that unite us with Him. It is the "fellowship of His sufferings" to which He calls us, and the demand which we hear as He hears it. This aspect of the Cross and its lesson has been summed up in the following words, which warrant our careful consideration, and our consequent consecration to the service of the Cross, which is the service of humanity.

"When I ... turned from that world-appealing sight, Christ crucified for us, to look upon life's most perplexed and sorrowful contradictions, I was not met as in intercourse with my fellow-men by the cold platitudes that fall so lightly from the lips of those whose hearts have never known one real pang, nor whose lives one crushing blow. I was not told that all things were ordered for the best, nor assured that the overwhelming disparities of life were but apparent, but I was met from the eyes and brow of Him who was indeed acquainted with grief, by a look of solemn recognition, such as may pass between friends who have endured between them some strange and secret sorrow, and are through it united in a bond that cannot be broken." [ccxxix] 51

Then there burst upon Christ's consciousness the wonder of accomplishment. He had succeeded, so that, with full realisation of the significance of the statement, He could say, "It is finished." He had done what He came into incarnation to do. The gate into the kingdom stood open. The boundary between the world and the kingdom was clearly defined. He had given us an example of service unparalleled in history. He had shown us the way that we should go. He had demonstrated to us the nature of perfection. There was [224] no more that He could then do, and so we hear the triumphant cry, "It is finished."

Only one more Word of Power came forth from the darkness which shrouded the dying Christ. The moment of His death was prefaced by the words, "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit." His first word and His last begin with the appeal: "Father"—for ever we are the children of God, and "If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together;" [ccxxx]52 joint heirs of glory, but also joint heirs in the suffering which must be ours if the world is to be saved and humanity as a whole is to pass into the kingdom. The kingdom is in existence. Through the work of Christ and His living Presence in all of us there exists today, subjective as yet, but awaiting immediate tangible expression....

"One body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." [ccxxxi] 53

Furthermore, in words later used by Christ, the psalmist says, "Into thine hand I commit my spirit, for thou hast redeemed me." [ccxxxii]54 The implication here is clear. It is the spirit of life in Christ and in us which makes us sons of God, and it is that sonship (with its quality of divinity) which is the guarantee of our final accomplishment and entrance into the kingdom of spirit. The sign given is expressed in the words: "Behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom." [ccxxxiii]55 Access to God was established, and the inner spiritual forces could pass out without hindrance into manifestation. This was an act of God, a stupendous recognition by the Father of what His [225] Son had done. Spirit and matter were now one. All separating barriers were abolished, and man and God could meet and hold intercourse.

In an ancient scripture of India we read these words, spoken thousands of years ago, yet capable of being applied in a most significant manner to this act of Christ, which linked Him up not only with ourselves and all past believers prior to His advent, but with the Cosmic Christ, so unmistakably speaking here:

"Brahma, the self-effulgent meditated. He considered ... Come, let me sacrifice myself in living things and all living things in Myself ... He thus acquired greatness, self-effulgence, lordship and mastery."

In concluding this chapter upon the Crucifixion, let us consider what really was the purpose of Christ's sacrifice. Why did He die? We are told why most clearly in St. John's Gospel, and yet very little emphasis has been laid upon the statement. Only today are we beginning to understand the meaning of what He did. Only today is the wonder of His sacrifice beginning to dawn upon the minds of those whose intuition is awakened. He came primarily to do two things, upon both of which we have already touched: first of all, He came to found, or to materialise upon the earth, the kingdom of God; secondly, to show us what the love of God signified and how it expressed itself in service and in the eternal sacrifice of divinity upon the cross of matter. Christ stood as a symbol and also as an example. He revealed to us God's Mind, and showed us the pattern upon which we should mould our lives.

The kingdom and the service! These are the keynotes which today have in them that rallying power which the believers of the world demand. Christ shared with us, as a human being, the path of world experience. He mounted the Cross and showed us in His sacrifice and example what we had to do. He shared with us the way of life, because there was nothing else for Him to do, as He was a human [226] being. But He threw upon this life experience the radiant light of divinity itself, telling us also to "let our light shine." [ccxxxiv]56 He proclaimed Himself Man, and then told us that we were the children of God. He was with us then, and He is with us now, for He is in us all the time, although very often unrecognised and unapproached.

The outstanding lesson with which we are confronted is the fact that "... human nature as we know it can neither attain happiness without suffering, nor perfection without the sacrifice of itself." [ccxxxv]57 For us the kingdom constitutes the vision, but for Christ it was a reality. The service of the kingdom is our duty and also our method of release from the thraldom of human experience. We must grasp this; we must realise that we shall find release only in the service of the kingdom. We have been held too long by the dogmas of the past, and there is today a natural revolt against the idea of individual salvation through the blood sacrifice of Christ. This latter is the outer and more obvious teaching—but it is the inner meaning which really concerns us, and this we can sense only when we ourselves come face to face with that which dwells within. As the outer forms lose their power it frequently happens that the true significance emerges. This we have each to prove for himself. Frequently fear prevents us from being truthful and from facing facts. It is essential that today we face the problem of the relation of Christ to the modern world, and dare to see the truth, without any theological bias. Our personal experience of Christ will not suffer in this process. No modern view and no theology can take Christ away from the soul which has once known Him. That is outside the range of possibility. But it is quite possible that we may find the ordinary orthodox theological interpretation at fault. It is quite possible that Christ is far more inclusive than we have been led to believe, and that the heart of God the Father is far kinder [227] than those who have sought to interpret it. We have preached a God of love and have spread a doctrine of hate. We have taught that Christ died to save the world and have endeavoured to show that only believers could be saved— though millions live and die without ever hearing of Christ. We live in a world of chaos, endeavouring to build a kingdom of God divorced from current daily life and the general economic situation, and at the same time postulate a distant heaven which we may some day attain. But Christ founded a kingdom on earth, wherein all God's children would have equal opportunity of expressing themselves as sons of the Father. This, many Christians find impossible to accept, and some of the best minds of the age have repudiated the idea.

Individual salvation is surely selfish in its interest and its origin. We must serve in order to be saved, and only can we serve intelligently if we believe in the divinity of all men and also in Christ's outstanding service to the race. The kingdom is a kingdom of servers, for every saved soul must without compromise join the ranks of those who ceaselessly serve their fellowmen. Dr. Schweitzer, whose vision of the kingdom of God is so rare and real, points out this truth and its gradations of recognition in the following words:

"The descending stages of service correspond to the ascending stages of rule.

1. Whosoever would become great among you, shall be your servant. Mark X.43.

2. Whosoever of you would be first, shall be bondservant of all (others). Mark X.44.

3. Therefore the Son of Man expected the post of highest rule because he was not come to be served but to serve, in giving his life as ransom for many. Mark X.45.

"The climax is a double one. The service of the Disciples extended only to their circle: the service of Jesus to an unlimited number, namely, to all such as were to benefit by his suffering and death. In the case of the Disciples it was merely a question of [228] unselfish subjection: in the case of Jesus it meant the bitter suffering of death. Both count as serving, inasmuch as they establish a claim to a position of rule in the Kingdom." [ccxxxvi]58

Love is the beginning, and love the end, and in love we serve and work. The long journey ends thus, in the glory of the renunciation of personal desire, and in the dedication to living service.