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CHAPTER SIX - The Fifth Initiation . . . The Resurrection and Ascension - Part 1

CHAPTER SIX

The Fifth Initiation . . . The Resurrection and Ascension

KEY THOUGHT

"Apart from Christ we know neither what our life nor our death is; we do not know what God is nor what we ourselves are." — Pascal: Pensées

"There is a Soul above the soul of each,

A mightier soul which yet to each belongs!

There is a sound made of all human speech,

And numerous as the concourse of all songs:

And in that Soul lives each, in each that Soul,

Tho' all the ages are its lifetime vast;

Each soul that dies in its most sacred whole

Receiveth life that shall for ever last." — Richard Watson Dixon

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CHAPTER SIX

The Fifth Initiation . . . The Resurrection and Ascension

This initiation is divided into two halves, and of neither of them do we know very much. The detail of the Resurrection episode, or crisis, in Christ's life is left untold by the writers of the New Testament. It was not possible for them to know more. After the Crucifixion we are told little of Christ's own life, or what occupied Him between the time He rose again until He left the company of the Apostles, and "ascended into Heaven"—a symbolic phrase which can mean very little to any of us. The crucial initiation for humanity to understand at this time is the fourth. Only when we have mastered the significance of service and sacrifice can the fact of immortality and its true meaning be revealed to us. How Christ rose, what were the processes undergone, in exactly what body He appeared, we cannot tell. We are assured by the Apostles that it resembled the one He had previously employed, but whether it was the same body miraculously resurrected; whether it was His spiritual body, which appeared to be the same to the physical eyes of those who loved Him, or whether He had constructed an entirely new body on the same general lines as the previous one, it is not possible for us to say; neither is it possible for us to be confident that the vision of the disciples was not supernormal or that, through the intensification of His expressed divinity, Christ had so stimulated their inner vision that they saw clairvoyantly, or in another dimension. The important matter was that He did rise again, that He was seen of many, [232] and that the fact of His resurrection was credited in the minds of His friends and for the two or three centuries after His departure.

The psychology of the disciples is the best proof we have of the reality of their conviction that death could not hold the Saviour, and that after death He was present and living among them. It is difficult for us to gain this high achievement in consciousness which they showed. Apparently their world had come to an end upon the Cross. Christ had apparently failed them, and instead of being the divine Son of God, and King of the Jews, He was nothing but an ordinary man, convicted of treason and punished as a common malefactor. What they must have endured during the three days of His absence it is not hard for us to imagine. Hopelessness, despair, the loss of confidence in themselves and of prestige among their friends; the cause for which they had been so ready to dedicate themselves, as they tramped with Christ from place to place in the Holy Land, had ended and collapsed. Their Leader was discredited. Then something happened to alter the whole trend of their thought. All that had been lost of confidence and hope and purpose was restored, and the first few centuries of the Christian history (before theology gave a turn to interpretation, and so altered the Gospel of love into a cult of separation) reveal to us

"... a company of men and women full of confidence, enthusiasm and courage, ready to face persecution and death, eager missionaries. What has given them this new character? Not long before some of them had fled in dismay at the first threat of personal danger. When Jesus was crucified they had lost the last glimmer of hope that he might prove to be the Christ. When he was placed in the tomb, Christianity was dead and buried too. Now we meet these men and women a few weeks later and they are utterly changed. It is not that there is some faint return of hope among a few of them. All are completely certain that Jesus is indeed the Christ. What has happened to cause this transformation? Their answer is unanimous: on the third day he rose from the dead."  [ccxxxvii]1

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"Christ is risen," is their cry, and because He has risen the kingdom of God can go forward upon earth, and His message of love can be widely distributed. They know now, past all controversy, that He has overcome death, and that in the years that lie ahead they will see death vanquished. That they expected an immediate kingdom and that they looked to see the fact of immortality universally recognised is evident from their writings and their enthusiasm. That they were mistaken, nearly two thousand years of Christianity has proved. We are not yet citizens of a divine kingdom definitely manifesting upon earth, the fear of death is as strong as ever, and the fact of immortality is still but a source of speculation to millions. But it was their sense of time that was at fault, and their failure to understand the slow processes of nature. Evolution moves slowly, and it is only today that we are truly on the verge of the demonstration of God's kingdom upon earth. Because this is the end of an age, we know that before long the hold death has on the human being, and the terror which the angel of death inspires, will disappear. They will vanish because we shall regard death as only another step on the way towards light and life, and shall realise that, as the Christ life expresses itself in and through human beings, they will demonstrate to themselves, and in the world, the reality of immortality.

The key to the overcoming of death and to the processes of realising the meaning and nature of eternity and the continuity of life can with safety be revealed only when love holds sway over the human consciousness, and where the good of the whole, and not the selfish good of the individual, comes to be the supreme regard. Only through love (and service as the expression of love) can the real message of Christ be understood and men pass on towards a joyful resurrection. Love makes us humbler, and at the same time wiser. It penetrates to the heart of reality and has a faculty of discovering the truth hidden by a form. The early Christians were simple in this way because they loved one another, because [234] they loved Christ and the Christ within each other. Dr. Grensted points this out in the following words, giving us a fine summation of the attitude of the early Christians and of their approach, in those enthusiastic days, to Christ and to life in the world:

"They spoke in plain terms of God. They did not think of Jesus of Nazareth as a crucial experiment. They knew Him as Friend and Master, and they flung their whole being into the enthusiasm of His friendship and service. Their preaching was the good news about Jesus. They assumed that men already meant something when they spoke of God, and, without challenging the inheritance which they received from Judaism, they set side by side with it the Jesus whom they had known living, and dead, and alive again. They had been through much more than a time of inexplicable miracles, healings, and voices, and a strange mastery over Nature itself, and at the end a conquest of death. If they had told the world, and us, these things alone, they would have been believed. Such stories have always found a hearing. And men would still have known nothing more of the meaning of God. But their experience had been one of such a Friendship as man had never known, of disastrous failure and a forgiveness beyond all believing, and of a new, a free, a creative life. Nothing of all this was of their own achievement. They knew they were men remade, and they knew that the mode of their remaking was love. This was a providence, a deliverance, greater and more significant than anything that the Jew had ever claimed for the Creator-God. Yet they could not think of it as other than His work, since God, as all their national tradition taught, is One. It interpreted for them, as we might put it in our more cautious way, the creative reality to which they, with all men, had looked with uncertainty and even with fear. Henceforth the central hypothesis which men call God was known as love, and everywhere He was made manifest just in so far as love had passed out from Christ to the fellowship of the Christian community." [ccxxxviii] 2

Christ had risen, and by His Resurrection proved that humanity had in it the seed of life, and that there was no death for the man who could follow in the steps of the Master.

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In the past, being wholly engrossed with consideration of the Crucifixion, we have been apt to forget the fact of the Resurrection. Yet on Easter Day, throughout the world, believers everywhere express their belief in the risen Christ and in the life beyond the grave. They have argued along many lines as to the possibility of His rising, and whether He rose as a human being or as the Son of God. They have been deeply concerned to prove that because He rose again, so shall we rise, provided we believe in Him. In order to meet the theological need of proving that God is love, we have invented a place of discipline, called by many names, such as purgatory, or the various stages of the different faiths on the road of departed spirits to heaven, because so many millions die, or have died, without ever having heard of Christ. Therefore belief in Him as an historical figure is not possible for them. We have evolved such doctrines as conditional immortality, and the atonement through the blood of Jesus, in an endeavour to glorify the personality of Jesus and safe-guard Christian believers, and to reconcile human interpretations with the truth in the Gospels. We have taught the doctrine of hell-fire and eternal punishment, and then tried to fit it in to the general belief that God is love.

Yet the truth is that Christ died and rose again because He was divinity immanent in a human body. Through the processes of evolution and initiation He demonstrated to us the meaning and purpose of the divine life present in Him and in us all. Because Christ was human, He rose again. Because He was also divine, He rose again, and in the enacting of the drama of resurrection He revealed to us that great concept of the continuity of unfoldment which it has ever been the task of the Mysteries of all time to reveal.

Again and again we have found that the three episodes related in the Gospel story are not isolated happenings in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, but that they have been repeatedly undergone in the secret places of the Temples of the Mysteries, from the dawn of time. The Saviours of the past were all [236] subjected to the processes of death in some form or other, but they all rose again or were translated to glory. In the initiation ceremonies this burial and resurrection at the end of three days was a familiar ceremonial. History tells us of many of these Sons of God who died and rose again, and finally ascended into Heaven. We find, for instance, that "the Obsequies of Adonis were celebrated in Alexandria (in Egypt) with the utmost display. His image was carried with great solemnity to a tomb, which served the purpose of rendering him the last honours. Before singing his return to life, there were mournful rites celebrated in honour of his suffering and his death. The large wound which he received was shown, just as the wound was shown which was made to Christ by the thrust of the spear. The feast of his resurrection was fixed at the 25th of March." [ccxxxix]3 There is the same legend attached to the names of Tammuz, to Zoroaster, to Esculapius. To the latter, Ovid addressed the following words:

"Hail, Great Physician of the world! All hail!

Hail, mighty Infant who in years to come

Shall heal the nations and defraud the tomb.

Swift be Thy growth, Thy triumphs unconfined

Make kingdoms thicken and increase mankind.

Thy daring art shall animate the dead,

And draw the thunder on Thy guilty head;

Then shalt Thou die, but from the dark abode

Shalt rise victorious and be twice a God."

 [ccxl]4

These words might have been appropriately addressed to Christ, and they serve to indicate the antiquity of the Mystery Teaching which, with unbroken continuity, has revealed the divinity in Man and shown him the Way of a Saviour. But in ancient times these mysteries were enacted in [237] secret, and the rites of initiation were administered only to those who were fitted to pass through the five great experiences from the Birth to the Resurrection. The uniqueness of Christ's work lay in the fact that He was the first to enact the whole of the initiation ceremonial rites and ritual publicly, before the world at large, thus giving to humanity a demonstration of divinity centred in one person, so that all could see, could know, believe and follow in His steps.

The same stories are told of Hercules, of Baldur, of Mithra, of Bacchus, and of Osiris, to mention only a few of a large number. One of the early Church Fathers, Firmicus Maternus, tells us that the mysteries of Osiris bear a close resemblance to the Christian teaching, and that after the resurrection of Osiris his friends rejoice together, saying, "We have found him." Annie Besant points out in an illuminating passage that:

"In the Christian Mysteries—as in the ancient Egyptian, Chaldean, and others—there was an outer symbolism which expressed the stages through which the man was passing. He was brought into the chamber of Initiation, and was stretched on the ground with his arms extended, sometimes on a cross of wood, sometimes merely on the stone floor, in the posture of a crucified man. He was then touched with the thyrsus on the heart—the `spear' of the crucifixion—and, leaving the body, he passed into the worlds beyond, the body falling into a deep trance, the death of the crucified. The body was placed in a sarcophagus of stone, and there left, carefully guarded. Meanwhile the man himself was treading first the strange obscure regions called `the heart of the earth,' and thereafter the heavenly mount, where he put on the perfected bliss body, now fully organised as a vehicle of consciousness. In that he returned to the body of flesh, to re-animate it. The cross bearing that body, or the entranced and rigid body, if no cross had been used, was lifted out of the sarcophagus and placed on a sloping surface, facing the east, ready for the rising of the sun on the third day. At the moment that the rays of the sun touched the face, the Christ, the perfected Initiate or Master, re-entered the body, glorifying it by the bliss body He was wearing, changing the body of flesh by contact with the body of bliss, giving [238] it new properties, new powers, new capacities, transmuting it into His own likeness. That was the Resurrection of the Christ, and thereafter the body of flesh itself was changed, and took on a new nature." [ccxli] 5

Thus we find that the resurrection story is of very ancient date, and that God has always held before humanity, through the Mysteries and through His illumined Sons, the fact of immortality, as before our Christian world, through the death and resurrection of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

This whole problem of death and immortality is engrossing a great deal of public attention at this time. The World War brought the fact of death before the public consciousness in a new and arresting manner. There was scarcely a family in over twenty nations which had not been bereft by death, in some form or other. The world has passed through a process of dying, and at the present time the mystery of the Resurrection is becoming a theme of major importance in men's minds. The thought of the Resurrection is coming closer, and its significance has been the central idea of the Masonic Fraternity down the ages, forming the focal point of the work of the sublime Third Degree. In close relation to this Masonic "raising" can be placed a little-known sermon of the Buddha, in which He teaches His disciples the significance of the "five points of Friendship," and thus links up these five points, the five crises in the life of Christ and the five points in the Masonic legend. All these references serve to show the continuity of revelation of which the Resurrection (with its subsequent Ascension) was the climaxing event for the Occident.

The outstanding need of Christianity today is to emphasise the living, risen Christ. We have argued too long over the death of Christ, seeking to impose a narrow sectarian Christ upon the world. We have fed the fires of separation by our Christian divisions, churches, sects and "isms." "Their name [239] is legion," and most of them are founded upon some sectarian presentation of the dead Christ, and of the earlier aspects of His story. Let us now unite on the basis of the risen Christ—Christ alive today, Christ the source of inspiration and the founder of the kingdom of God; Christ, the cosmic Christ, eternally on the Cross, yet eternally alive; Christ, the historical Saviour, the founder of Christianity, watching over His Church; Christ, the mystic, mythic Christ, portraying upon the canvas of the Gospels the episodes of unfoldment so that all who live may know and follow; and Christ, alive today in every human heart, the guarantee of, and the urge towards divinity, which humanity so constantly exhibits. Because of the presence of Christ in man, the conviction of divinity and of man's consequent immortality seem to be inherent in the human consciousness. It will inevitably occupy more and more of man's attention until it is demonstrated and proven; meanwhile that something apparently persists beyond physical death has been demonstrated. The fact of immortality has not been proven as yet, though it constitutes a basic belief in the minds of millions, and where such a belief is universally found, there must indubitably be a basis for it.

The entire question of immortality is closely linked with the problem of divinity and of the unseen, subjective world, which seems to underlie the tangible and visible, frequently making its presence felt. Working therefore on the premise of the unseen and invisible, it is probable that we shall eventually penetrate to it and discover that it has always been with us, but that we have been blinded and unable to recognise its presence. Always some have done so, and their note sounds forth, strengthening our belief, endorsing our hope, and guaranteeing to us the eventual experience.

How then shall we recognise truth or reality when we meet it? How shall we know that a doctrine is of God, or not? It is so easy to make mistakes, to believe what we want to believe, and to deceive ourselves in the desire to have our own ideas endorsed by other minds. The words of Dr. [240] Streeter have here a definite note of encouragement because they indicate requirements that are possible for us to follow:

"Even self-deception, the last stronghold of the enemy, will lose its power in proportion as the individual conforms to certain conditions which (in the view of the biblical writers) must be fulfilled to qualify him for the reception of an authentic message from the Divine—whether at the level of the epoch-creating prophet or of the simple person rightly guided on the path of everyday duty.

"These are mainly four:

"(1) `I would fain be to the Eternal Goodness what his own right hand is to a man.' Absolute devotion or surrender of the self to the Divine. `Here am I, send me,' says Isaiah; and when Christ addressed to his earliest followers the words `Follow Me,' we are told they left all and followed Him.

"(2) Self-knowledge, and the consequent admission of failure. The promise `I will guide thee with mine eye,' in the Psalm quoted above, is given to the man who has confessed his iniquity and thereby established a right relationship with God. The first response of Isaiah to the divine call was that flash of self-knowledge which brings home to a man a conviction of unworthiness and sin: `I am a man of unclean lips.'...

"(3) `Tarry ye ... until ye be clothed with power from on high' (St. Luke XXIV.49). But this life of power, a power instinct with love and joy and peace, can only with difficulty be lived continuously except in a fellowship, within which mutual challenge, mutual encouragement and mutual confession of failure are easy....

"(4) Entrance into such a life and such a fellowship involves some measure of suffering, sacrifice, or humiliation. `Whosoever doth not bear his own cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple' (Luke XIV.27). It is perhaps not an accident that already in the Old Testament the promise `Thine eyes shall hear a word behind thee, saying This is the way, walk ye in it,' is preceded by the words `and though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction.'"  [ccxlii]6

It takes courage to face the fact of death, and to formulate with definiteness one's beliefs upon the subject. It is a statistical fact that about fifty million people die every year. [241] Fifty million people are more than the entire population of Great Britain, and constitute a large group of human beings who make the great adventure. If this is so, the establishing of the verity of Christ's Resurrection and the truth of immortality are of far greater importance than the individual may deem. We are too apt to study these problems either from the scientific angle or from a purely selfish individual one. Death is the only event which we can predict with absolute certainty, and yet it is the event about which the majority of human beings refuse to think at all until faced with the imminent and personal issue. People face death in many different ways; some bring to the adventure a feeling of self-pity, and are so occupied with what they have to leave behind, what is about to end for them, and the relinquishing of all they have gathered in life, that the true significance of the inevitable future fails to arrest their attention. Others face it with courage, making the best of what may not be evaded, and look up into the face of death with a gallant gesture because there is nothing else they can do. Their pride helps them to encounter the event. Still others refuse altogether to consider the possibility; they hypnotise themselves into a condition wherein the thought of death is refused all lodgement in their consciousness, and they will not consider its possibility, so that when it comes, it catches them unawares; they are left helpless and unable to do more than simply die. The Christian attitude, as a rule, is more definitely an acceptance of the will of God, with the resolution to regard the happening as therefore the best of happenings, even if it does not seem so from the angle of environment and circumstance. A steadfast belief in God and His predestined purpose for the individual carries them triumphantly through the gate of death, but if one told them that this was simply another form of the fatalism of the Eastern thinker, and a fixed belief in an unalterable destiny, they would regard it as untrue. They hide behind the name of God.

Death can, however, be more than these things, and can be met in a different way. It can be made to hold a definite [242] place in life and thought, and we can prepare for it as something which cannot be evaded, but which is simply the Bringer of Changes. Thus we make the process of death a planned part of our entire life purpose. We can live with the consciousness of immortality, and it will give an added colouring and beauty to life; we can foster the awareness of our future transition, and live with the expectation of its wonder. Death thus faced, and regarded as a prelude to further living experience, takes on a different meaning. It becomes a mystical experience, a form of initiation, finding its culminating point in the Crucifixion. All previous lesser renunciations prepare us for the great renunciation; all earlier deaths are but the prelude for the stupendous episode of dying. Death brings us release—temporary perhaps, though eventually permanent—from the body nature, from existence on the physical plane and its visible experience. It is a setting free from limitation; and whether one believes (as many millions do) that death is only an interlude in a life of steadily accumulating experience, or the end of all such experience (as many other millions hold), there is no denying the fact that it marks a definite transition from one state of consciousness into another. If one believes in immortality and the soul, this transition may make for an intensification of consciousness; while if the materialistic point of view dominates, it may indicate the end of conscious existence. The crucial question is, therefore: Is that which we call the soul immortal? What is the meaning of immortality?

It is urgent today that we recover some form of faith in the inner subjective world, and in our relation to it. Upon this, the success of the work and message of Christ must rise or fall. These are days wherein everything is being questioned—and the fact of the soul and its immortality perhaps most of all. This is a necessary and valuable stage, provided we go on seeking answers to these questions.

Many may regard these "moral disturbances" as hopeful indications of an emergence from the static condition in all [243] realms of human thought which marked the early part of the last century, and that we are today on the verge of a new era of truer spiritual values. But the newer structures of faith and conduct must have their foundations deep in the best that the past has to give. The ideals which Christ enunciated still remain the highest yet given in the continuity of revelation, and He Himself prepared us for the emergence of those truths which will mark the time of the end and the overcoming of the last enemy, whose name is Death.

This questioning of belief, and this wrestling with an inherent hope must go on until assurance has been gained, belief has become knowledge, and faith, certainty. Man knows incontrovertibly that there is a goal greater than his petty aims, and that a life exists which will embrace his widest reach, enabling him eventually to attain his highest, though dimly sensed, ideal. A consideration of the Resurrection may provide a greater surety, provided we keep in mind the long continuity of revelation given out by God, and realise that we can know little as yet beyond the fact that Sons of God have died and risen again, and that behind that fact lies a cause which is basic.

The Tibetans speak of the process of death as that of "entering into the clear cold light." [ccxliii]7 It is possible that death can be best regarded as the experience which frees us from the illusion of form; and this brings clearly to our minds the realisation that when we speak of death we are referring to a process which concerns the material nature, the body, with its psychical faculties and its mental processes. This therefore can be narrowed down to a query as to whether we are the body and nothing but the body, or whether the ancient scripture of India was right when it pointed out that:

"Certain is the death of what is born, and certain is the birth of what dies; therefore, deign not to grieve in a matter that is inevitable.... This lord of the body dwells ever immortal in the body of each." [ccxliv]8

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A modern Christian poet has expressed the same idea in the following beautiful words:

"Death is to life as marble to the sculptor,

Waits for the touch that lets the soul go free;

Death is that moment when the swimmer feels

The swift pain of the plunge into the pool,

Followed by laughter where the bubbles flow

From the divided water and the sun

Turns them to crystal: life and light are one."

 [ccxlv]9

It might here be pertinent to enquire what it is that we seek to see endure. An analysis of one's attitude to the whole question of death and immortality can frequently serve to clear one's mind of indefiniteness and vagueness, with their base in fear, in mental inertia, and in confused thinking. The following questions therefore come to one's mind, and warrant consideration.

How do we know that the process of death brings about such definite changes in our consciousness that it proves fatal to us, as sentient beings, and renders futile all previous effort of thought, development and understanding? The wonder of Christ's Resurrection, as far as His Personality was concerned, consisted in the fact that, after having passed through death and risen again, He was essentially the same Person, only with added powers. May it not be the same with ourselves? May not death simply remove limitation in the physical sense, leaving us with enhanced sensibilities and a clearer sense of values? This life has moulded us and wrought us into certain definite expressions in form and quality, and these, rightly or wrongly, constitute that which is the Self, that which is the real man, from the angle of human life. There is something in us that refuses final identification with the physical form, in spite of what science and the inexperienced may tell us. An intuitive, substantial inner Self steadily and universally repudiates annihilation, and holds firmly to the belief that the search and the goal, the values [245] perceived and for which we struggle, must somewhere, some time, in some manner, prove themselves worth while. Any other point of view argues for the utter lack of an intelligent plan in existence, and leads to the despair which St. Paul expressed in the words: "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." [ccxlvi]10 We are surely on our way towards something of value and dynamic worth; otherwise life is a futile process of aimless wanderings; of caring for a body and educating a mind which have no worth of any kind, and are of no value to God or men. This, we know, cannot be the case.

It is the prolongation of value, of that which is worth while, and the continuation of the persistent, inner, divine incentive to progress, to create and to benefit others, that seem, to those who have reached the point where thought is consecutively possible, to hold the clue to the problem of immortality. The entire story of Christ goes to prove this. He had, throughout His life of consecrated service and devotion to His fellowmen, proved that He had reached the point in His evolution wherein He had somewhat to contribute to the good of the whole; He had attained altitude on the evolutionary ladder, and His humanity was lost to sight in the divinity which He expressed. He had that which was of worth to offer to God and man, and He offered it upon the Cross. It cost Him His life to make His contribution to the source of the whole body corporate, but He made it. Because of the worth of what He had achieved, and the value of the livingness of His contribution, He could demonstrate immortality. It is the immortal value which survives, and where that value exists the soul needs no more the school of human experience.

This thought gives rise to the question: What is it, therefore, that we seek to see survive? What part of ourselves do we regard as desirably immortal? What in each of us warrants persistence? Surely none of us seek to see the physical body resurrected, nor are we anxious again to be trammelled [246] and confined by the present limiting vehicle in which most of us find ourselves. Its value seems inadequate for the experience of resurrection and for the gift of immortality. Nor are we desirous, surely, of seeing the same psychic nature, with its aggregate of moods and feelings and sentient reactions to environing condition, hold sway over us again. Equally surely, none of us are pleased to contemplate the old idea of a sugary heaven wherein we pass our time clothed in white robes, singing and talking upon religious matters. We have outgrown these ideas, and to them Christ Himself is a direct refutation. He rose from the dead and entered upon a life of increased active service. The "other sheep" which He had to gather must be sought and shepherded; [ccxlvii]11 His disciples must be trained and taught; His followers must be guided and helped; the kingdom of God must be organised on earth. And still the risen Christ moves among us, often unrecognised, but busy with the task of world salvage and service. There is no heaven of peace and rest and inactivity for Christ whilst we remain unsaved; there is surely none for us who seek to follow in His footsteps.

When a man's life has gained significance, then he is ready to tread the path of purification and probation in preparation for the mysteries; as his significance and influence increase he can pass, stage by stage, through the processes of initiation, and tread the path of holiness. He can be "born in Bethlehem," because the germ of that which is dynamic and living is awakened and is gaining potency and significance, and must therefore make its appearance; he can pass through the waters of purification, and attain the mountain-top of transfiguration where that which is of worth shines forth in all its glory. Having achieved that moment of heightened experience, and that which he has of value being recognised by God as worth while, he is then, and then only, ready to offer his life upon the altar of sacrifice and of service, and can set his face to go up to Jerusalem, there to be crucified. It is the inevitable end to that which is of worth. It is the underlying [247] purpose of the whole process of perfecting, as there is now something worthy to be offered. But though this may be the end of the physical expression of worth, it is essentially the moment of the triumph of value, and the demonstration of its immortality. For that which is of value, the divine and hidden beauty which life-experience and initiation have served to reveal, cannot die. It is essentially immortal, and must live. This is the true resurrection of the body. When the consciousness of value and of worth, and the recognition of man's reach, as well as his grasp, are considered, the life of service (leading to death) and of resurrection (leading to full citizenship in the kingdom of God) begin to gain in meaning. The body which we now have is relatively worthless; the sum total of moods and mental reactions to which we now submit is of no value to anyone but ourselves; the environment in which we live and move has in it surely nothing to warrant its endless perpetuation. In short, a continuance of the personal self in some heaven which is the extension of our own individual consciousness, and the concept of an endless eternity lived with oneself, have for most of us no allurement whatsoever. Yet an aspect of oneself longs for immortality and the sense of infinity. The "endless prolongation in time of a self's career" has led to much confusion of thought. Few of us, if asked seriously to consider the problem and seriously to give an answer, would feel that as individuals we warrant arrangements being made for our endless persistence. A sense of truth and justice might lead us honestly to the conclusion that our value to the universe is practically nil. And yet we know that there is a value and a reason behind all our life experience, and that the phenomenal world, of which we are indubitably a part, veils or hides something of infinite value, of which we are also a part.

We seek assurance that those whom we love and value are not lost to us. We seek to share with them some state of happiness which will have in it truer values than any we [248] have known on earth; we long to prolong, in time and space, the familiar state which we love and cherish. We desire compensation for what we have endured, and the realisation that everything has had a purpose and has been worth while. It is this longing, this belief, this determination to persist, which lies behind all achievement and which is the incentive and impulse upon which we base all effort. Socrates pointed out this basic argument for immortality when he said that "no-one knows what death is, and whether it is not the greatest of all good things. Nevertheless, it is feared as if it were the supreme evil.... When death comes near to man that which is mortal in him is scattered; that which is immortal and incorruptible withdraws intact."

Three thoughts are of importance in considering this problem of value, which is so amazingly evidenced by Christ, and which was the true reason why He rose again. His immortality was based upon His divinity. His divinity expressed itself through human form, and in that form evidenced value, destiny, service and purpose. All of these He demonstrated perfectly, and therefore death could not hold Him, nor could the chains of the grave prevent His liberation.

The first thought is that immortality is the safeguarding of what we really care about. The factor on which we place the emphasis in our daily lives survives and functions on some level of consciousness. We must, and do, eventually attain what we demand. When we care for that which is eternal in value, then eternal life, free from the limitations of the flesh, is ours. Dean Inge tells us that "in so far as we can identify ourselves with the absolute values, we are sure of immortality." What we really care about, then, in our highest moments, when free from the illusions of the emotional nature, determines our immortal life.

The question then arises as to what occurs when the sense of values is distorted or temporarily nonexistent. In an attempt to meet this question millions of people have accepted [249] the Oriental doctrine of rebirth, which states the world to be the "vale of soul-making," as Keats calls it, and which teaches that we return again and again to physical life, until the time comes when our values are properly adjusted, and we can pass through the five initiations into liberation. Much of the teaching given in the occult and esoteric books is distorted and fanciful, but that there is much to be said for the doctrine of rebirth is evident to the unprejudiced student. In the last analysis, if perfection is to be ultimately achieved, the question is merely one of time and location. The Christian may believe in a sudden perfecting through the process of death itself, or in a mental acceptance of the death of Jesus, which he calls "conversion"; he may regard death as the door into a place of discipline and development which he calls "purgatory," where a purificatory process goes on; or he may believe that in heaven itself adjustments are made and expansions of consciousness are undergone which render him a different man from what he was before. The Oriental may believe that the earth provides adequate facilities for the training and developing processes, and that again and again we return, until we have reached perfection. The goal remains one. The objective is identical. The school is in a different place, and the consciousness is unfolded in varying localities. But that is all. Plato held that:

"Confined in the body as in a prison ... the soul seeks its pristine sphere of pure rationality by pursuing the philosophic life, by thinking the universal, by loving and living according to reason. The bodily life is but an episode in the eternal career of the soul, which precedes birth and proceeds after death. Life in the flesh is a trial and a probation; death, the release and the return to the soul's destiny; to another term of probation, or to the realm of pure reason."

In some place, consciously and willingly, we must learn to enter and work in the world of values, and so fit ourselves for citizenship in the kingdom of God. It was the demonstration of this that Christ gave.

[250]

The second thought which should be considered is that man's effort, his struggle to achieve, his sense of God, innate and true, his constant effort to better conditions and to master himself as well as the natural world, must have an objective; else all that we see going on around is void, futile and senseless. It was this command of Himself and of the elements of nature, and the undeviating direction of His purpose, that led Christ from point to point and enabled Him to open the door into the kingdom and to rise from the dead, the "first fruits of them that slept." [ccxlviii] 12

Purpose must underlie pain. An objective must be sensed under all human activity. The idealism of the leaders of the race cannot all be hallucination. The realisation of God must have some basis in fact. Human beings are convinced that the apparent injustice of the world provides legitimate assurance of a hereafter wherein the integrity of the divine purpose will be vindicated. There is a basic belief that good and evil are in combat in man's nature, and that good must inevitably triumph. Down the ages, man has asserted this. Humanity has evolved many theories to account for man and his future, for his preparation for the after-life, and for his reason here on earth. With the detail of these theories there is no need, or time, to deal. They are in themselves proof of the fact of immortality and of man's divinity. He has intuited the ultimate possibility, and will not rest until he has achieved it. Whether it is plurality of lives upon our planet, leading to an ultimate perfection, or the Buddhistic theory leading to Nirvana, the goal is one. This latter theory is beautifully summarised in a book dealing with the secret doctrines of the Tibetan philosophy:

"... when the Lords of Compassion shall have spiritually civilised the Earth and made of it a Heaven, there will be revealed to the Pilgrims the Endless Path, which reaches to the Heart of the Universe. Man, then no longer man, will transcend Nature, and impersonally, yet consciously, in at-one-ment with all the Enlightened [251] Ones, help to fulfil the Law of the Higher Evolution, of which Nirvana is but the beginning." [ccxlix]13

Here we have the idea of the kingdom of God appearing on earth because humanity is spiritually civilised, and the attainment of the perfection which Christ inculcated.

There is also the doctrine of eternal recurrence, in which both Nietzsche and Heine believed, with its emphasis upon a ceaseless, recurrent, earthly existence by each unit of force, until a soul has been evolved. The dreary doctrine of our survival as influences perpetuated in the race to which we belong has also been developed, emphasising a selflessness which is admirable, but is also the negation of the individual. The orthodox Christian doctrines are three in number, and consist of the doctrine of eternal retribution, of universal restoration, and of conditional immortality. To these we must add the speculations of the Spiritualists, with their various spheres, corresponding somewhat to the subtle worlds, seven in number, of the Theosophists and the Rosicrucians; and also the extreme theory of annihilation, which does not find much response from the healthy-minded. The value of all these doctrines consists in attracting attention to the eternal interest of man in the hereafter, and his many speculations as to his future and his immortality.

Christ died and rose again. He lives. And some people in the world today do not need to have this fact proven to them. They know He is alive, and that because He lives we shall live also. In us is the same germ of essential life which flowered forth to perfection in Him, overcoming the tendency to death inherent in the natural man. Surely, then, we can say that immortality consists for us in three stages:

First, as that livingness which we call the urge to evolution, the impulse to progress, to push forward, to live, and to know that one lives. This is the incentive behind man's determination [252] to know himself an individual, with his own life cycle, his own innate purpose and his eternal future.

Secondly, as that dynamic spiritual awareness which manifests in the re-orientation to eternity and the eternal values, which is the distinguishing feature of the man who is ready to take the necessary steps to demonstrate his spiritual life and to function as an immortal. Then the resurrection which lies ahead of him, and which Christ expressed, is seen to be something different from what had earlier been supposed. The following definition of the true resurrection, as it begins to dawn on the eyes of the man who is awakening to the glory of the Lord within his own heart and immanent in every form, finds place:

"The resurrection is not the rise of the dead from their tombs but the passage from the death of self-absorption to the life of unselfish love, the transition from the darkness of selfish individualism to the light of universal spirit, from falsehood to truth, from the slavery of the world to the liberty of the eternal. Creation `groaneth and travaileth in pain' `to be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.'"  [ccl]14

The third and final thought which must be emphasised is that we are resurrected to life eternal and become of the company of the immortals when we have fitted ourselves to be co-workers with Christ in the kingdom. It is when we lose the consciousness of the separative individual and become divinely aware of the whole of which we are a part that we have learnt life's final lesson and need "no more return." It is the death of the individual which we fear and dread, and the loss of personal consciousness. We do not realise that when the vision of the kingdom is ours, when the whole of creation shines forth before our eyes, it is that Whole which matters to us, and we lose sight of our personal selves.

The resurrection therefore might be defined as the persistence [253] on into the future of that which is the divine aspect, and which is integrated with the life and consciousness of that sum total which we call God. That life and that consciousness flow through all parts of God's manifestation, the natural world. The kingdoms of nature have one by one evolved, and in so doing have expressed some aspect of His life as it informs and animates His creation. One by one, they have steadily progressed from the inert consciousness and slow, heavy rhythm of the mineral kingdom, and have revealed sequentially more and more of the hidden divine nature, until we come to man whose consciousness is of a much higher order and whose divine expression is that of the self-conscious, self-determined Deity. From automatic forms of consciousness, the life of God has carried the forms of life through sentient consciousness to the instinctive consciousness of the animal; then it has progressed on into the human kingdom, wherein self-consciousness holds sway, until the higher members of that kingdom begin to show a disposition towards divinity. The faint, dim signs of a still higher kingdom can now be seen, in which self-consciousness will give place to group-consciousness, and man will know himself to be identified with the Whole, and not to be simply a self-sufficient individual. Then the life of the whole body of God can flow consciously into and through him, and the life of God becomes his life and he is resurrected into life eternal.