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CHAPTER FIVE - The Fourth Initiation . . . The Crucifixion - Part 2

We have seen that one of the factors responsible for the sin-complex of the West has been the development of the mind faculty, with its consequent aftermath of a developed conscience, a capacity to have a sense of values, and (as the result of that) the ability to see the higher and the lower natures in opposition to each other. When the higher self with its values and its range of contacts is instinctively contacted, and the lower self, with its lesser values and its more material range of activities is also realised, it necessarily follows that a sense of division and of failure is developed; men realise their lack of achievement; they become aware of God and humanity, of the world, of the flesh and the devil, but at the same time of the kingdom of God. As man develops, his definitions alter, and the crude so-called sins of the unevolved man, and the faults and failings of the average "nice" citizen of modern times involve different attitudes of mind and judgment, and surely different punitive approaches. As our sense of God changes and develops, and as we approach nearer to reality, our entire outlook upon life, ourselves and our fellowmen is apt to alter and widen, and become more divine as well as more human. It is a human [197] characteristic to be conscious of sin, and to realise that when a man has offended he must, in some form or other, pay a price. The germ of mind, even in infant humanity, gives rise to this realisation, but it took nearly two thousand years of Christianity to raise sin to a position of such importance that it occupied (as it still does) a primary place in the thought of the entire race. We have a situation wherein the law and the Church and the educators of the race are almost entirely occupied with sin and how to prevent it. One wonders sometimes what the world would have been like today if the exponents of the Christian faith had occupied themselves with the theme of love and loving service instead of with this constantly reiterated emphasis upon the blood sacrifice and upon the wickedness of man.

The theme of sin runs naturally and normally throughout human history; and the effort to expiate it, in the form of animal sacrifice, has always been present. The belief in an angry deity, who exacted penalties for all that was done by man against a brother, and who demanded a price for all that was given to man as a product of the natural processes of the earth, is as old as man himself. It has passed through many phases. The idea of a God Whose nature is love has battled for centuries with the idea of a God Whose nature is wrath. The outstanding contribution of Christ to world progress was His affirmation, through word and example, of the thought that God is love and not a wrathful deity, inflicting jealous retribution. The battle still rages between this ancient belief and the truth of God's love which Christ expressed, and which Shri Krishna also embodied. But the belief in an angry, jealous God is still strongly entrenched. It is rooted in the consciousness of the race, and only today are we slowly beginning to realise a different expression of divinity. Our interpretation of sin and its penalty has been at fault, but the reality of God's love can now be grasped and can thus offset the disastrous doctrine of an angry God Who sent His Son to be the propitiation for the world evil. Of this [198] belief Calvinism is perhaps the best and purest interpretation, and a brief statement as to that theological doctrine will present the concept in understandable terms.

"Calvinism is built upon the dogma of the absolute sovereignty of God, including omnipotence, omniscience and eternal justice—a common Christian doctrine, but developed by Calvinists with relentless logic to extreme conclusions. Calvinism is often summarised in five points. (1) Every human being as a descendant of Adam (whom all Christians in those times supposed to be an historical character) is guilty from his birth of original sin, in addition to later sins committed in his own lifetime. A man can do nothing to remove his own sin and guilt; that can only be done by the grace of God, mercifully vouchsafed to him through the atonement of Christ, and without any merit whatever on his own part; (2) So only those certain persons can be saved (particular redemption); (3) To whom God gives an effectual calling, strengthening their wills, and enabling them to accept salvation; (4) Who shall, and who shall not be saved is thus a matter of divine election, or predestination; (5) God will never fail those who are his elect: they shall never fall from ultimate salvation (perseverance of the saints). Calvinists insisted with great heat, and endeavoured with much subtility to demonstrate, that their doctrine fully provides for human freedom, and that God is in no way responsible for human sin." [ccvi]28

In view, therefore, of this emphasis upon human sinfulness, and as a result of the age-old habit of offering sacrifice to God, the true mission of Christ was long ignored. Instead of His being recognised as embodying in Himself an eternal hope for the race, He was incorporated into the ancient system of sacrifices, and the ancient habits of thought were too strong for the new idea which He came to give. Sin and sacrifice ousted and supplanted the love and service which He sought to bring to our attention through His life and His words. That is also why, from the psychological angle, Christianity has produced such sad, weary, and sin-conscious men. Christ, the sacrifice for sin, and the Cross of Christ as the [199] instrument of His death, have absorbed men's attention, whilst Christ the perfect man and Christ the Son of God have been less emphasised. The cosmic significance of the cross has been entirely forgotten (or never known) in the West.

Salvation is not primarily connected with sin. Sin is a symptom of a condition, and when a man is "truly saved" that condition is offset, and with it the incidental sinful nature. It was this that Christ came to do—to show us the nature of the "saved" life; to demonstrate to us the quality of the eternal Self which is in every man; this is the lesson of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection: the lower nature must die in order that the higher may be manifested, and the eternal immortal soul in every man must rise from the tomb of matter. It is interesting to trace the idea that men must suffer in this world as the result of sin. In the East, where the doctrines of reincarnation and of karma hold sway, a man suffers for his own deeds and sins and "works out his own salvation, with fear and trembling." [ccvii]29 In the Jewish teaching a man suffers for the sins of his forebears and of his nation, and thus gives substance to a truth which is only today beginning to be a known fact—the truth of physical inheritance. Under the Christian teaching, Christ, the perfect man, suffers with God, because God so loved the world that, immanent in it as He is, He could not divorce Himself from the consequences of human frailty and ignorance. Thus humanity gives a purpose to pain, and thus evil is eventually defeated.

The thought and idea of sacrifice for the sins of the people was not the original and basic idea. Originally, infant humanity offered sacrifices to God to appease His wrath, displayed in the elements through storms and earthquakes and physical disasters. When, instinctively, men turned on each other, when they offended and hurt one another, and so transgressed a dimly sensed realisation of human relationships and intercourse, sacrifice was offered again to God so that He too would not hurt mankind. Thus little by little [200] the idea grew until, at last, the salvation concept might be briefly summarised in the following terms:

1. Men are saved from the wrath of God in natural phenomena through animal sacrifices, preceded in still more ancient times by the sacrifice of the fruits of the earth.

2. Men are saved from God's wrath and from each other by the sacrifice of that which is valued, leading eventually to human sacrifices.

3. Men are saved by the sacrifice of a recognised Son of God, hence the vicarious atonement, for which the many crucified world Saviours prepared the way for Christ.

4. Men are definitely saved from eternal punishment for their sins by the death of Christ upon the Cross, the sinner guilty of an unkind word being as much responsible for the death of Christ as the vilest murderer.

5. Finally, the gradually emerging recognition that we are saved by the living risen Christ—historically presenting to us a goal, and present in each of us as the eternal omniscient soul of man.

Today it is the risen Christ who is emerging into the forefront of men's consciousness, and because of this we are on our way towards a period of greater spirituality and a truer expression of religion than at any other time in the history of man. The religious consciousness is the persistent expression of the indwelling spiritual man, the Christ within; and no outer earthly happenings, and no national situations, no matter how temporarily material they may appear to be in their objectives, can dull or obliterate the Presence of God in us. We are learning that that Presence can be released in us only by the death of the lower nature, and this is what Christ has always proclaimed to us from His Cross. We are realising increasingly that the "fellowship of His sufferings" means that we mount the Cross with Him and share constantly in the Crucifixion experience. We are coming to the knowledge that the determining factor in human life is love, and that "God is love." [ccviii]30 Christ came to show us that love was the motivating [201] power of the universe. He suffered and died because He loved and cared enough for human beings to demonstrate to them the Way that they must go—from the cave of Birth to the mount of Transfiguration, and on to the agony of the Crucifixion—if they too are to share in the life of humanity and become, in their turn, saviours of their fellowmen.

How then shall we define sin? First let us look at the words which are used in the Bible and in theological works and commentaries dealing with the theme of sin, transgression, iniquity, evil, separation. All of these are expressions of man's relation to God and to his fellowmen and, according to the New Testament, these terms—God and our fellowmen—are interchangeable terms. What do these words mean?

The real meaning of the word sin is very obscure. It signifies literally "the one who it is." [ccix]31 Literally, therefore, the one who is in existence, just in so far as he sets himself up against the divine aspect hidden in himself, is a sinner. Some words by Dr. Grensted are illuminating in this connection. He says:

"`Men turned away from God,' says Athanasius, `when they began to give heed to themselves.' Augustine identifies sin with the love of self. Dr. Williams has argued that the underlying principle from which sin arises is to be found in `the self-assertion of the individual against the herd, a principle which we can only designate by the inadequate titles of selfishness, lovelessness and hate.' And Dr. Kirk declares that `sin may be said to begin with self-regard.'" [ccx] 32

These thoughts bring us directly to the central problem of sin which is (in the last analysis) the problem of man's essential duality, before he has made the at-one-ment for which Christ stood. When man, before he awakens to his dual nature, does that which is wrong and sinful, we cannot and do not regard him as a sinner—unless we are old-fashioned [202] enough to believe in the doctrine that every man is irretrievably lost unless he is "saved" in the orthodox sense of the term. To St. James, sin is acting against knowledge, and he says "To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." [ccxi]33 There we have a real definition of sin. It is to act against light and knowledge, and with deliberation to do that which we know is wrong and undesirable. Where there is no such knowledge there can be no sin; therefore animals are regarded as free from sin, and men acting in equal ignorance should likewise be so regarded. But the moment a man becomes aware that he is two persons in one form, that he is God and man, then responsibility steadily increases, sin becomes possible, and it is here that the mystery aspect of sin enters in. It consists in the relation between the "hidden man of the heart" [ccxii]34 and the outer, tangible man. Each has its own life and its own field of experience. Each therefore remains a mystery to the other. The at-one-ment consists in resolving the relationship between these two, and when the wishes of the "hidden man" are violated, the sin occurs.

When these two aspects of man are united and function together as a unity, and when the spiritual man controls the activities of the carnal man, sin becomes impossible, and man moves on towards greatness.

The word "transgression" signifies the walking across a boundary; it involves the displacing of a landmark, as it is called in Masonry, or the infringement of one of the basic principles of living. There are certain things which are recognised by all as having a controlling relation to man. Such a compilation of principles as the Ten Commandments might be cited as a case in point. They constitute the boundary which ancient custom, ordained right habits, and the social order have imposed upon the race. To step across these boundaries, which man, from experience, has himself instituted, and to which God has accorded divine recognition, [203] is to transgress, and for every transgression there is an inevitable penalty. We pay the price of ignorance every time, and thereby learn not to sin; we are penalised when we do not keep the rules, and in time we learn not to transgress them. Instinctively we keep certain rules; probably because we have often paid the price, and certainly because we care too much about our reputations and public opinion to transgress them now. There are boundaries across which the average right-minded citizen does not step. When he does, he joins the large group of sinners. Controlled action in every department of human life is the ideal, and this action must be based on right motive, be actuated by unselfish purpose, and be carried forward in the strength of the inner spiritual man, the "hidden man of the heart."

"Iniquity" is a word with a seemingly innocuous meaning. It signifies simply an unevenness, an inequality. An iniquitous man is therefore technically an unbalanced man, one who tolerates some unevennesses in his daily life. A definition such as this is broadly inclusive, and even if we do not regard ourselves as sinners and transgressors, we surely come under the category of those whose lives show certain inequalities in conduct. We are not always the same. We are fluid in our expression of living. We are some days one thing and some days another, and because of this lack of balance and of equilibrium, we are iniquitous people in the true sense of the word. These things are good to remember, for they prevent that dire sin, self-satisfaction.

The question of evil is too large to elucidate at length, but it might be defined simply as adherence to that which we should have outgrown, the grasping of that which we should have left behind. Evil is, for the bulk of us, simply and solely an effort to identify ourselves with the form life when we have a capacity for soul consciousness; and righteousness is the steady turning of the thought and life towards the soul, leading to those activities which are spiritual and harmless and helpful. This sense of evil and this reaction to good is again latent in the relationship between the two [204] halves of man's nature—the spiritual and the strictly human. When we turn the light of our awakened consciousness into the lower nature, and then with deliberation do, "in the light," those things which are determined and vitalised from the lower levels of our existence, we are throwing the weight of our knowledge on the side of evil, and are retrogressing. It is not always expedient from the point of view of the "carnal man" to do, or to reject, certain things, and when we choose the lower, and do it, making a specific choice, then the evil which is in us is dominating.

It is gradually dawning on the human consciousness that a separative attitude has in it the elements of sin and of evil. When we are separative in our attitudes or do anything which produces separation, we are transgressing a fundamental law of God. What we are really doing is breaking the Law of Love, which knows no separation, but sees only unity and synthesis, brotherhood and interrelation everywhere. Herein lies our major problem. Our study in connection with sin and evil will, as Dr. Grensted tells us, serve....

"in the main to reveal the fundamental character of our problem as resulting from a failure of faith and a refusal of love. The psychologists do not escape from this view of sin when they deal with it as moral disease, for their one hope of treating such moral disease successfully rests in an attempt to awaken the latent personal resources of the ego, through processes in themselves personal. Where, as in certain of the major psychoses, this appeal cannot be made, there is no human hope of a cure. The key to psychological healing lies in the transference and there is the closest possible parallel between this and the Christian way of forgiveness. Both methods are wholly personal, both depend upon a readjustment of relationships which begins at priest or physician and passes out into every relationship of the social environment." [Italics are mine. A.A.B.] [ccxiii]35

The sense of responsibility for one's actions grows as one progresses from stage to stage upon the Path of Evolution. [205] In the early stages there is little or no responsibility. There is little or no knowledge, no sense of relationship to God, and very little sense of relationship to humanity. It is this sense of separateness, this emphasis upon personal and individual good, which is of the nature of sin. Love is unity, at-one-ment and synthesis. Separateness is hatred, aloneness and division. But man, being divine in nature, has to love, and the trouble has been that he has loved wrongly. In the early stages of his development he places his love in the wrong direction, and turning his back on the love of God, which is of the very nature of his own soul, he loves that which is connected with the form side of life, and not with the life side of form.

Sin is therefore a definite infringement of the Law of Love, as we show it in our relation with God or with our brother, a son of God. It is the doing of those things from purely selfish interest which brings suffering to those we have in our immediate surroundings, or to the group with which we may be affiliated—a family group, a social group, a business group, or just the group of human beings with whom our general destiny casts us.

This brings us to the realisation that, in the last analysis, sin signifies wrong relation to other human beings. It was the sense of this wrong relation which in the early days of man's history gave rise to the sacrifice of worldly goods upon the altar, for primitive man seemed to feel that by making an offering to God he succeeded in making redemption of his character possible with his fellowmen.

It is beginning to dawn upon the race today that the only real sin is to hurt another human being. Sin is the misuse of our relationships with each other, and there is no evading these relationships. They exist. We live in a world of men, and our lives are spent in contact with other human beings. The way in which we handle this daily problem demonstrates either our divinity or our erring lower nature. Our task in life is to express divinity. And that divinity manifests itself [206] in the same way that the divinity of Christ expressed itself; in harmless living and ceaseless service to our fellowmen; in a careful watchfulness over words and deeds lest in any way we should "offend one of these little ones"; [ccxiv]36 in the sharing with Christ of the urgency which He felt to meet the world's need and to act the part of a saviour to men. It is gloriously true that this basic concept of Deity is beginning to grip humanity.

Christ's major task was the establishing of God's kingdom upon earth. He showed us the way in which humanity could enter that kingdom—by subjecting the lower nature to the death of the cross, and rising by the power of the indwelling Christ. Each one of us has to tread the way of the cross alone, and enter God's kingdom by right of achievement. But the way is found in service to our fellowmen, and Christ's death, viewed from one angle, was the logical outcome of the service which He had rendered. Service, pain, difficulty and the cross—such are the rewards of the man who puts humanity first and himself second. But having done so, he discovers that the door into the kingdom is flung wide open and that he can enter in. But he has first to suffer. It is the Way.

It is through supreme service and sacrifice that we become followers of Christ and earn the right to enter into His kingdom, because we do not enter alone. This is the subjective element in all religious aspiration, and this all the sons of God have grasped and taught. Man triumphs through death and sacrifice.

That superhuman Spirit, Christ, did this perfectly. In Him was no sin because He had perfectly transcended the ephemeral lower self. His personality was subordinated to His divinity. The laws of transgression touched Him not, because He crossed no boundaries and infringed no principles. He embodied in Himself the principle of love and therefore it was not possible for Him, at the stage in evolution [207] which He had reached, to hurt a human being. He was perfectly balanced and had achieved that equilibrium which released Him from all lower impacts and set Him free to ascend to the throne of God. For Him there was no holding on to the lower and to that which was humanly desirable but divinely rejected. Evil therefore passed Him by, and he had no traffic with it. "He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." [ccxv]37 He knew no separateness. Rich men, publicans, fishermen, learned professors, harlots and simple folk were all His friends, and the "great heresy of separateness" was completely overcome by His all-inclusive spirit. Thus He fulfilled the law of the past, emphasised the type for the humanity of the future, and entered for us within the veil, leaving us an example that we should follow His steps—an example of sacrifice unto the death, of service rendered ceaselessly, of self-forgetfulness, and of a heroism that led Him from point to point upon the way, and from altitude to altitude, until no bonds could hold Him (not even the barriers of death). He remains the eternal God-Man, the Saviour of the world. In perfection He fulfilled the will of God, and said to us the words which give us a simple rule with a great reward: "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God." [ccxvi] 38

The simplicity of this instruction is almost baffling. We are told simply to do God's will and then truth will be revealed to us. There were times in Christ's life, as in the Garden of Gethsemane, when He fought with Himself to do God's will. There were moments when His human flesh quailed before the prospect which opened up before Him. He therefore knew the difficulty of this simple rule.

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In turning our attention to the story of the Crucifixion it is obvious that there is no need to recount the details of it. [208] It is so well known and so familiar that the words in which it is couched are apt to mean little. The tale of Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem, of His gathering the disciples together into the upper room, and there sharing with them the communion of bread and of wine and of the desertion of those who supposedly loved Him, with His subsequent agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, is as familiar to us as our own names, and much less arresting. That is the tragedy of Christ. He did so much, and we have recognised so little. It has taken us twenty centuries to begin to understand Him and His mission and career. The Crucifixion itself was only an anticipated and expected consummation of that career. No other end was possible. It was predetermined from the beginning, and really dated from the time when, after the Baptism initiation, He started out to serve humanity, and to teach and preach the good tidings of the kingdom of God. That was His theme, and we have forgotten it and have preached the Personality of Jesus Christ—one theme which He Himself ignored and which seemed to Him of small importance in view of the greater values involved. This again is the tragedy of Christ. He has one set of values and the world has another.

We have made of the Crucifixion a tragedy, whereas the real tragedy was our failure to recognise its true significance. The agony in the Garden of Gethsemane was based upon the fact that He was not understood. Many men have died violent deaths. In this, Christ was in no wise different from thousands of other far-seeing men and reformers, down the ages. Many people have passed through the Gethsemane experience and prayed with the same fervour as Christ that God's will might be done. Many men have been deserted by those who might have been expected to understand and participate in the work and service visioned. In none of these respects was Christ really unique. But His suffering was based upon His unique vision. The lack of comprehension of the people, and the distorted interpretations which future theologians would give to His message must surely have been a part of [209] the pre-vision, as likewise the knowledge that the emphasis accorded to Him as the Saviour of the world would retard for centuries the materialising of the kingdom of God on earth, which it was His mission to found. Christ came that all mankind might have "life ... more abundantly." [ccxvii]39 We have so interpreted His words that only the "saved" are credited with having taken the necessary steps towards that life. But the abundant life is surely not a life to be lived hereafter, in some distant heaven where those who are believers shall enjoy an exclusive life of happiness, whilst the rest of God's children are left outside. The Cross was intended to indicate the line of demarcation between the kingdom of men and the kingdom of God, between one great kingdom in nature which had reached maturity, and another kingdom in nature which could now enter upon its cycle of activity. The human kingdom had evolved to the point where it had produced the Christ and those other children of God whose lives bore constant testimony to the divine nature.

Christ assumed the ancient symbol and burden of the cross, and, taking His stand beside all the previous crucified Saviours, embodied in Himself the immediate and the cosmic, the past and the future, rearing the Cross on the hill outside Jerusalem (the name of which signifies the "vision of peace"), thus calling attention to the kingdom which He died to establish. The work had been completed, and in that strange little country called the Holy Land, a narrow strip of territory between the two hemispheres, the East and the West, the Orient and the Occident, Christ mounted the Cross and fixed the boundary between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world, between the world of men and the world of Spirit. Thus He brought to a climax the ancient Mysteries, which had prophesied the coming of that kingdom, and instituted the Mysteries of the kingdom of God.

The effort to carry out to perfection the will of God brought to an end the most complete life that had been lived on earth. The attempt to found the kingdom, preordained [210] for all time, and the antagonism it evoked, brought Christ to the place of crucifixion. The hardness of men's hearts, the weakness of their love, and their failure to see the vision, broke the heart of the Saviour of the world—a Saviour because He opened the door into the kingdom.

It is time that the Church woke up to its true mission, which is to materialise the kingdom of God on earth, today, here and now. The time is past wherein we can emphasise a future and coming kingdom. People are no longer interested in a possible heavenly state or a probable hell. They need to learn that the kingdom is here, and must express itself on earth; it consists of those who do the will of God at any cost, as Christ did, and who can love one another as Christ loved us. The way into that kingdom is the way that Christ trod. It involves the sacrifice of the personal self for the good of the world, and the service of humanity instead of the service of one's own desires. In the course of enunciating these new truths concerning love and service Christ lost his life. Canon Streeter tells us that "the significance and value of the death of Christ springs from its inner quality. It is the expression in external act of a freely chosen self-dedication, ungrudging, and without reserve, to the highest service of God and man. The suffering incidental to such self-offering is morally creative." [ccxviii] 40

Is it not, perhaps, a fact that the Crucifixion of Christ, with its great preceding events—the communion and the Gethsemane experience—is a tragedy which has its basis in the conflict between love and hate? It is not the intention of this book to belittle the world event which took place upon Calvary. But today as one looks back upon that event, a certain truth begins to emerge, and this is that we have interpreted that sacrifice and that death in purely selfish terms. We are concerned with our individual interest in the matter. We have emphasised the importance of our individual salvation and feel it to be of tremendous importance. But the world view and what Christ was destined to [211] do for humanity down the ages, and the attitude of God towards human beings from the earliest times, through the period of Christ's life in Palestine and on until the present time, are subordinated to the factor of our belief or non-belief in the efficacy of the Crucifixion upon Calvary to save our individual souls. Yet in His conversation with the repentant thief Christ admitted him into the kingdom of God on the basis of his recognition of divinity. Christ had not yet died, and the blood sacrifice of Christ had not yet been made. It was almost as if Christ had foreseen the turn which theology would give to His death, and endeavoured to offset it by making the recognition of the dying thief one of the outstanding events at His death. He made no reference to the remission of sins through His blood as the reason for that admission.

The real issue was the issue between love and hate. Only St. John, the beloved Apostle, the one closest to Jesus, really understood; and in his Epistles the emphasis is entirely upon love, and the usual orthodox interpretation is nowhere to be found. Just love and hate; the desire to live as children of God and the inclination to live as ordinary human beings: herein lies the distinction between the citizen of the kingdom of God and a member of the human family. It was love which Christ endeavoured to express, but it is hate and separation and war, culminating in the World War, which have characterised the official rendering of His teaching, down the age. Christ died in order to bring to our notice that the way into the kingdom of God was the way of love and of service. He served and loved and wrought miracles, and gathered together the poor and the hungry. He fed them, and sought in every possible way to call attention to the principle of love as the major characteristic of divinity, only to find that this life of loving service brought Him trouble and eventually the death of the Cross.

We have fought for the theological doctrine of the Virgin Birth. We have fought over the doctrines whereby men shall be saved. We have fought over the subject of baptism, and [212] over the atonement. We have fought over the fact and the denial of immortality, and what man must do in order to be raised from the dead. We have regarded half the world as lost and only the Christian believer as saved, yet all the time Christ has told us that love is the way into the kingdom, and that the fact of the presence of divinity in each of us makes us eligible for that kingdom. We have omitted to realise that the "vicarious atonement is the harmonising of the disharmony of others by the power of a spiritual presence, which brings about the great transmutation; evil is absorbed and transmuted into good or equilibrised." [ccxix]41 This constitutes the endeavour of Christ, and the fact of His Presence is the harmonising medium in life. Men are not saved by belief in the formulation of a theological dogma, but by the fact of His living Presence, of the living immediate Christ. It is the realisation of the fact of the presence of God in the human heart which is the basis of the mystical vision, while the knowledge that one is a son of God gives one the strength to follow the Saviour's footsteps from Bethlehem to Calvary. That which will eventually reorganise our human life is the presence in the world of those who know Christ as their example, and recognise that they possess the same divine life, just as the affirmation of the basic law of the kingdom of God, the Law of Love, will finally save the world. It is the substitution of the life of Christ for the life of the world, the flesh and the devil, which will inject a meaning and a value into life.

A sense of the failure of love constitutes the outstanding problem in the agony in the Garden; it was this sense of travail with world forces which enabled Christ to join the company of all His brothers. Men had failed Him, just as men fail us. In the moment when He most needed understanding, and all the strength which companionship gives, His nearest and dearest either deserted Him or slept, unaware of His agony of mind. "The Promethean conflict is the [213] strife which takes place in the human mind between the yearning for understanding, and the nearer more immediate pull of those living affections and desires which are conditioned upon the goodwill and the support of fellow beings; desires for the happiness of loved ones; for the alleviation of pain and disappointment in minds that cannot understand the inner dream; and for the warm reassurance of mundane honours. This conflict is the rock upon which the religious mind founders and is split against itself." [ccxx]42 Upon this rock Christ did not founder, but He had His moments of intensest agony, finding relief only in the realisation of the Fatherhood of God and its corollary, the brotherhood of man. "Father," He said. It was this sense of unity with God and His fellowmen which led Him to institute the Last Supper, to originate that communion service, the symbolism of which has been so disastrously lost in theological practice. The keynote of that communion service was fellowship. "It is only thus that Jesus creates fellowship among us. It is not as a symbol that he does it ... in so far as we with one another and with him are of one will, to place the Kingdom of God above all, and to serve in behalf of this faith and hope, so far is there fellowship between him and us and the men of all generations who lived and live in the same thought." [ccxxi] 43

4

1. "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." [ccxxii]44

2. "To day thou shalt be with me in paradise." [ccxxiii] 45

3. "Woman, behold thy son! Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother!" [ccxxiv]46

4. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" [ccxxv] 47

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5. "I thirst." [ccxxvi] 48

6. "It is finished." [ccxxvii] 49

7. "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." [ccxxviii]50

The thought of the kingdom coloured all that He said upon the Cross. The Word of Power which emanated from the Cross was spoken by Jesus Christ Himself and not, this time, by the Father. Christ spoke a sevenfold word, and in that word summed up for us the Word that inaugurated the kingdom of God. Each of His utterances had relation to that kingdom, and not the usual small, individual or selfish relation which we have so often ascribed to them. What were those seven words? Let us consider them, realising while doing so that the causes which gave rise to them produced the manifestation of the kingdom of God on earth.

In every case the seven words have been interpreted as having either an individual application in connection with the person to whom they were supposedly spoken, or as having a personal significance to Christ Himself. We have always read the Bible in this manner, with the personal significance in our minds. But these words of Christ are of too great importance to be thus interpreted. They have a meaning far wider than those usually given. The wonder of all He said (as it is the wonder of all the world scriptures) is that the words are capable of various meanings. The time has come when the meaning that Christ gave should be more generally understood by us in the light of the kingdom of God, and with a wider connotation than the individual one. His words were Words of Power, evoking and invoking, potent and dynamic.

One of the first things which emerges in one's consciousness as one studies the first word from the Cross was the fact that Jesus requested His Father to forgive the people who crucified Him; He evidently, then, did not regard His death upon the Cross as adequate to that need. There was [215] no remission of sins through the shedding of blood; but there was the need to ask God's pardon for the sin committed. The two facts which come to the fore in this word are the Fatherhood of God, and the fact that ignorance, if productive of wrong-doing, does not make a man guilty and therefore punishable. Sin and ignorance are frequently synonymous terms, but the sin is recognised as such by those who know and who are not ignorant. Where there is ignorance there is no sin. In this word from the Cross Christ tells us two things:

1. That God is our Father, and that we approach Him through Christ. It is the inner hidden man of the heart, the unrealised Christ who can approach the Father. Christ had earned this right because of His proven divinity and because He had passed through the third initiation, the Transfiguration; when we too are transfigured (for only the transfigured Christ can be crucified) then we too can invoke the Father and call on the spirit, which is God, the life of all forms, to adjust relationships, and to bring about that forgiveness which is the very essence of life itself.

2. That forgiveness is the result of life. This is a hard truth for the Western believer to accept. He is so used to resting back upon the activity of the Christ in the distant past. Forgiveness is, however, a result of living processes which bring adjustment, cause restitution, and produce that attitude wherein a man is no longer ignorant and therefore not in need of forgiveness. Life and experience do this for us, and nothing can arrest the process. It is not a theological belief that puts us right with God, but an attitude to life and an attitude to the Christ dwelling in the human heart. We learn through pain and suffering (that is, through experience) not to sin. We pay the price of our sins and mistakes, and cease to make them. We arrive eventually at the point where we no longer make our earlier errors or commit our former sins. For we suffer and agonise, and learn that sin brings retribution and causes suffering. But suffering [216] has its uses, as Christ knew. In His Person He was not only the historical Jesus Whom we know and love, but He was also the symbol to us of the cosmic Christ, God suffering through the sufferings of His created beings.

Justice can be forgiveness when the facts of the case are rightly understood, and in this demand of the crucified Saviour we have the recognition of the Law of Justice, and not that of Retribution, in an act at which the whole world stands aghast. This work of forgiveness is the age-long work of the soul in matter or form. The Oriental believer calls this karma. The Western believer talks of the Law of Cause and Effect. Both, however, are dealing with the working out by a man of his soul's salvation, and the constant paying of the price which the ignorant pay for mistakes made and so-called sins committed. A man who deliberately sins against light and knowledge is rare. Most "sinners" are simply ignorant. "They know not what they do."

Then Christ turned to a sinner, to a man who had been convicted of wrong-doing in the eyes of the world—and who himself recognised the correctness of the judgment and of his punishment. He stated that he received the due reward of his sins, but at the same time there was something in the quality of Jesus which arrested his attention and forced from him the admission that this third Malefactor had "done nothing amiss." The factor which accorded him admission into paradise was a two-fold one. He recognised the divinity of Christ. "Lord," he said. And he also had a realisation of what Christ's mission was—to found a kingdom. "Remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom." The significance of his words is eternal and universal, for the man who recognises divinity, and who at the same time is sensible of the kingdom, is ready to take advantage of the words, "To day, thou shalt be with me in paradise."

In the first word from the Cross, Jesus considered the ignorance and the feebleness of man. He was as helpless as a little child, and in His words He testified to the reality of the first initiation and to the time when He was a "babe in [217] Christ." The parallels between the two episodes are significant. The ignorance, helplessness and consequent maladjustment of human beings evoked from Jesus the demand that forgiveness be accorded. But when life experience has played its part, we have again the "babe in Christ," ignorant of the laws of the spiritual kingdom, yet released from the darkness and ignorance of the human kingdom.

In the second word from the Cross we have the recognition of the Baptism episode, which signified purity and release through the purification of the waters of life. The waters of John's Baptism released from the thraldom of the personality life. But the Baptism to which Christ was subjected through the power of His Own life, and to which we are also subjected through the life of Christ within us, was the Baptism of fire and of suffering, which finds its climax of pain upon the Cross. That climax of suffering, for the man who could endure unto the end, was his entrance to "paradise"—a name connoting bliss. Three words are used to express this power to enjoy—happiness, joy and bliss. Happiness has a purely physical connotation, and concerns our physical life and its relationships; joy is of the nature of the soul and reflects itself in happiness. But bliss, which is of the nature of God Himself, is an expression of divinity and of the spirit. Happiness might be regarded as the reward of the new birth, for it has a physical significance, and we are sure that Christ knew happiness, even though He was a "man of sorrows"; joy, being more especially of the soul, reaches its consummation at the Transfiguration. Though Christ was "acquainted with sorrow," He knew joy in its essence, for the "joy of the Lord is our strength," and it is the soul, the Christ in every human being, which is strength and joy and love. He knew also bliss, for at the Crucifixion the bliss which is the reward of the soul's triumph was His.

Thus in these two Words of Power "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do," and "To day thou shalt be with me in paradise," we have the significances of the first two initiations summarised for us.

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Now we come to the extraordinary and much debated episode between Christ and His mother, summed up in the words: "Woman, behold thy son," and followed by the words spoken to the beloved apostle: "Behold thy mother." What did these words mean? Below Christ stood the two people who meant the most to Him, and from the agony of the Cross He spoke to them a special message, relating them to each other. Our consideration of the previous initiations may make the meaning clear. John typifies the personality which is reaching perfection and whose nature is becoming irradiated by divine love, the major characteristic of the second Person of the divine Triplicity, the soul, the son of God, whose nature is love. As we have seen, Mary represents the third Person of the Trinity, the material aspect of nature which cherishes and nurtures the son and gives birth to him in Bethlehem. In these words Christ, utilising the symbolism of these two persons, relates them to each other, and practically says: Son, recognise who is to give thee birth at Bethlehem, the one who shelters and guards the Christ life. To His mother, He says: Recognise that in the developed personality there is latent the Christ child. Matter, or the virgin Mary, is glorified through her son. Therefore the words of Christ have a definite reference to the third initiation, that of the Transfiguration.

Thus in His first three Words from the Cross He refers to the first three initiations, and recalls to our minds the synthesis revealed in Himself and the stages which we must cover if we are to follow in His steps. It is possible also that the thought was in the consciousness of the crucified Saviour that matter itself, being divine, was capable of infinite suffering; and in these words there was wrung from Him the recognition that though God suffers in the Person of His Son, He also suffers with similar acute agony in the person of that Son's mother, the material form which has given Him birth. Christ stands midway between the two—the mother and the Father. Therein is His problem, and therein is [219] found the problem of every human being. Christ draws the two together—the matter aspect and the spirit aspect, and the union of these two produces the son. This is humanity's problem and humanity's opportunity.

The fourth Word from the Cross admits us into one of the most intimate moments of Christ's life—a moment that has a definite relation to the kingdom, just as had the three previous Words. One always hesitates to intrude upon this episode in His life, because it is one of the deepest and most secret and perhaps most sacred phases of His life on earth. We read that there was "darkness on the face of the earth" for three hours. This is a most significant interlude. From the Cross, alone and in the dark, He symbolised all that was embodied in this tragic and agonised Word. The number three is, of course, one of the most important and sacred numbers. It stands for divinity, and also for perfected humanity. Christ, the perfect Man, hung upon the Cross for "three hours," and in that time each of the three aspects of His nature was carried to the highest point of its capacity for realisation and for consequent suffering. At the end, this triple personality gave vent to the cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"