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CHAPTER FIVE - The Fourth Initiation . . . The Crucifixion - Part 1

CHAPTER FIVE

The Fourth Initiation . . . The Crucifixion

KEY THOUGHT

A fire-mist and a planet,

A crystal and a cell,

A jelly-fish and a saurian,

And caves where the cave-men dwell;

Then a sense of law and beauty,

And a face turned from the clod—

Some call it Evolution,

And others call it God.

Like tides on a crescent sea-beach

When the moon is new and thin,

Into our hearts high yearnings

Come welling and surging in:

Come from the mystic ocean

Whose rim no foot has trod—

Some of us call it Longing,

And others call it God.

A picket frozen on duty,

A mother starved for her brood,

Socrates drinking the hemlock,

And Jesus on the rood;

And millions who, humble and nameless,

The straight, hard pathway plod—

Some call it Consecration,

And others call it God.

William Herbert Carruth.

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CHAPTER FIVE

The Fourth Initiation . . . The Crucifixion

1

We now come to the central mystery of Christianity, and to the climaxing initiation to which men, as human beings, can aspire. Of the next initiation, the Resurrection, and of the Ascension connected with it, we know practically nothing, beyond the fact that Christ rose from the dead. The Resurrection initiation is veiled in silence. All that is recorded is the reaction of those who knew and loved the Lord, and the after-effects upon the history of the Christian Church. But the Crucifixion has always been the outstanding, dramatic episode upon which the entire structure of Christian theology has been founded. Upon this has the emphasis been laid. Millions of words have been written about it, and thousands of books and commentaries have attempted to elucidate its meaning and to explain the significance of its mystery. Down the ages a myriad points of view have been presented for the consideration of men. There has been much misinterpretation, but much also that is divinely real has been expressed. God has been misrepresented many times, and the interpretation of what Christ did has been travestied in terms of men's small views. The wonder of the happening on Mount Calvary has been unveiled through the illumined experiences of the believer and the knower.

A new world order came into being when Christ came to earth, and from that time on we have moved steadily forward towards a new age wherein men inevitably will live as brothers because Christ died, and the true nature of the kingdom of God will find expression on earth. Of this, past [176] progress is the guarantee. The immediacy of this happening is already faintly understood by those who, as Christ has said, have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. Inevitably we are moving forward towards greatness, and Christ emphasised this in His life and work. We have not yet achieved this greatness, but the signs of it can be seen. Already there are indications of the coming of this new era, and the dim outlines of a new and more nearly ideal social structure, based on perfected humanity, are discernible. It is this perfection which is of importance.

One of the first things that it seems essential to recognise is the fact, the definite fact, that Christ's Crucifixion must be lifted out of the realm of its purely individual application, into the realm of the universal and the whole. It may perhaps cause some consternation when we emphasise the necessity of realising that the death of the historical Christ upon the Cross was not primarily concerned with each individual man who claims to profit by it. It was a great cosmic event. Its implications and its results concern the masses of humanity, and do not concern specifically the individual. We are so apt to take to ourselves, as a personal affair, the many implications of Christ's sacrifice. The selfishness of the spiritual aspirant is often very real.

It is surely evident, if one approaches the subject intelligently, that Christ did not die in order that you and I might go to heaven. He died as the result of the very nature of the service which He rendered, of the note which He struck, and because He inaugurated a new age and told men how to live as sons of God.

In considering the story of Jesus upon the Cross, it is essential, therefore, that we see it in broader and more general terms than is usually the case. Most of the treatises and writings upon the subject are controversial and argumentative, usually defending or attacking the evidence or the theology associated with the theme. Or they may be of a purely mystical or sentimental nature in tone and object, concerning themselves with the relation of the individual [177] to the truth or with his personal salvation in Christ. But in so doing, it is possible that the real elements of the story and their highest meaning have been lost. Two things emerge, however, from the research and the questioning of the past century. One is that the Gospel story is not unique, but has been paralleled in the lives of other Sons of God; secondly, that Christ was unique in His particular Person and mission, and that, from a specific angle, His appearance was unprecedented. No student of comparative religion will question the Christian parallels to earlier events. No man who has truly investigated with an open mind will deny that Christ was an integral part of a great continuity of revelation. God has never "left Himself without witness."  [clxxix]1 And the salvation of mankind has always been close to the heart of the Father. To quote one writer who seeks to prove this continuity:

"At the time of the life or recorded appearance of Jesus of Nazareth and for some centuries before, the Mediterranean and neighbouring world had been the scene of a vast number of pagan creeds and rituals. There were Temples without end dedicated to gods like Apollo or Dionysus among the Greeks, Hercules among the Romans, Mithra among the Persians, Adonis and Arris in Syria and Phrygia, Osiris and Isis and Horus in Egypt, Baal and Astarte among the Babylonians and Carthaginians, and so forth. Societies, large or small, united believers and the devout in the service or ceremonials connected with their respective deities, and in the creeds which they confessed concerning these deities. And an extraordinarily interesting fact, for us, is that, notwithstanding great geographical distances and racial differences in the details of their services, the general outlines of their creeds and ceremonials were—if not identical—so markedly similar as we find them.

"I cannot of course go at length into these different cults, but I may say roughly that of all or nearly all the deities above-mentioned it was said and believed that:

1. They were born on or very near our Christmas Day.

2. They were born of a Virgin-Mother.

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3. And in a Cave or Underground Chamber.

4. They led a life of toil for Mankind.

5. And were called by the names of Light-bringer, Healer, Mediator, Saviour, Deliverer.

6. They were, however, vanquished by the Powers of Darkness.

7. And descended into Hell or the Underworld.

8. They rose again from the dead, and became the pioneers of mankind to the Heavenly world.

9. They founded Communions of Saints and Churches into which disciples were received by Baptism.

10. And they were commemorated by Eucharistic meals.

 [clxxx]2

These facts can be checked by anyone who cares to do so and who is sufficiently interested to trace the growth of the doctrine of world Saviours in world idealism. Edward Carpenter goes on to say, in the same book:

"The number of pagan deities (mostly virgin-born and done to death in some way or other in their efforts to save mankind) is so great as to be difficult to keep account of. The god Krishna in India, the god Indra in Nepal and Tibet spilt their blood for the salvation of men; Buddha said, according to Max Müller, `Let all the sins that were in the world fall on me, that the world may be delivered;' the Chinese Tien the Holy One—`one with God and existing with him from all eternity'—died to save the world; The Egyptian Osiris was called Saviour, so was Horus; so was the Persian Mithra; so was the Greek Hercules who overcame Death though his body was consumed in the burning garment of mortality, out of which he rose into heaven. So also was the Phrygian Attis called Saviour, and the Syrian Tammuz or Adonis likewise—both of whom, as we have seen, were nailed or tied to a tree, and afterwards rose again from their biers or coffins. Prometheus, the greatest and earliest benefactor of the human race, was nailed by the hands and the feet, and with arms extended, to the rocks of Mount Caucasus. Bacchus or Dionysus, born of the virgin Semele to be the Liberator of mankind (Dionysus Eleutherios as he was called) was torn to pieces, not unlike Osiris. Even in far Mexico [179] Quetzalcoatl, the Saviour, was born of a virgin, was tempted, and fasted forty days, was done to death, and his second coming looked for so eagerly that (as is well known) when Cortes appeared, the Mexicans, poor things, greeted him as the returning god! In Peru and among the American Indians, North and South of the Equator, similar legends are, or were, to be found." [clxxxi]3

Into the argument for and against these ideas it is no part of this book to enter. The only question which is of importance for us is what part Christ really played as the World Saviour, and what constituted the uniqueness of His mission. What was this world to which He came; and what is the significance of His death to the average human being today? Are the facts of His life historically true; and was there a period in our racial history wherein He walked and talked and lived an ordinary human life? Did He serve His race and return to the Source whence He came?

The fact of Christ constitutes no problem to those who know Him. They realise, past all controversy, that He exists. They know Whom they have believed. [clxxxii]4 For them, His reality cannot be disproved. They may differ among themselves as to the emphasis to be laid upon the various theological interpretations of His life story, but Christ they know, and with Him they tread life's pathway. They may argue about whether He was God or man, or God-Man, or Man-God, but on one point they all agree, and that is that He was God and Man, manifesting in one body. They may struggle to perpetuate the memory of the dead Christ upon the Cross, or they may endeavour to live by the life of the risen Christ, but to the reality of Christ Himself they all bear testimony, and by the multitude of witnesses the fact is surely established. The one who knows cannot doubt.

Christianity is the restatement of a very old doctrine. It is not new. It is so essential to the salvation and to the happiness of the world that God has always proclaimed it. [180] The Gospel narratives are dependable and true, just because they are integrated with the spiritual revelation of the past, and are being reinterpreted today in terms of Christ. Therefore, mankind being more evolved and intelligent, that reinterpretation will more readily and adequately meet humanity's need. But it is no new thing, and Christ never proclaimed Himself in such terms. He foretold a new age and a coming kingdom of God. Out of the wide sweep of time and out of the aeonian grasp of God's consciousness, mankind is only today beginning to see a world and a humanity ready for the new revelation—a revelation which will be based upon truly Christian ethics and vital Christian truths. That for which Christ stood, the truth which He embodies, is so old that there has never been a time when it was not present as a need in the human consciousness, and yet it is so new that there will never be a time when the story of the birth and the death of the world Saviour will not be of the utmost moment to man. Edward Carpenter points this out, throwing light upon this ceaseless and age-old focussing of the love of God and the desire of man in the person of a son of God. He says:

"If the historicity of Jesus, in any degree, could be proved, it would give us reason for supposing—what I have personally always been inclined to believe—that there was also a historical nucleus for such personages as Osiris, Mithra, Krishna, Hercules, Apollo and the rest. The question, in fact, narrows itself down to this, Have there been in the course of human evolution certain, so to speak, nodal points or periods at which the psychologic currents ran together and condensed themselves for a new start, and has each such node or point of condensation been marked by the appearance of an actual and heroic man (or woman) who supplied a necessary impetus for the new departure, and gave his name to the resulting movement? or is it sufficient to suppose the automatic formation of such nodes or starting-points without the intervention of any special hero or genius, and to imagine that in each case the myth-making tendency of mankind created a legendary and inspiring figure and worshipped the same for a long period afterwards as a god?

[181]

"As I have said before, this is a question which, interesting as it is, is not really very important. The main thing being that the prophetic and creative spirit of mankind has from time to time evolved those figures as idealisations of its `heart's desire' and placed a halo round their heads. The long procession of them becomes a real piece of History—the history of the evolution of the human heart, and of human consciousness."  [clxxxiii] 5

The Crucifixion and the Cross of Christ are as old as humanity itself. Both are symbols of the eternal sacrifice of God as He immerses Himself in the form aspect of nature and thus becomes God immanent as well as God transcendent.

We have seen that Christ must be recognised, first of all, in the cosmic sense. The cosmic Christ has existed from all eternity. This cosmic Christ is divinity, or spirit, crucified in space. He personifies the immolation or sacrifice of spirit upon the cross of matter, of form or substance, in order that all divine forms, including the human, may live. This has ever been recognised by the so-called pagan faiths. If the symbolism of the cross is traced far back, it will be found that it antedates Christianity by thousands of years, and that finally, the four arms of the cross will be seen to drop away, leaving only the picture of the living Heavenly Man, with His arms outspread in space. North, south, east and west stands the cosmic Christ upon what is called "the fixed cross of the heavens." Upon this cross God is eternally crucified.

"The sky is mystically spoken of as the Temple and the eternal consciousness of God. Its altar is the sun, whose four arms or rays typify the four corners or the cardinal cross of the universe, which have become the four fixed signs of the Zodiac, and as the four powerful sacred animal signs, are both cosmical and spiritual.... These four are known as the consecrated animals of the Zodiac, while the signs themselves represent the basic fundamental elements of life, Fire, Earth, Air and Water." [clxxxiv] 6

[182]

These four signs are Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius, and they constitute pre-eminently the cross of the soul, the cross upon which the second Person of the divine Trinity is crucified. Christ personified in His mission these four aspects, and as the cosmic Christ He exemplified in His Person the qualities for which each sign stood. Even primitive man, unevolved and ignorant, was aware of the significance of the cosmic spirit, immolated in matter and crucified upon the four-armed cross. These four signs are to be found unequivocally in the Bible, and are regarded in our Christian belief as the four sacred animals. The Prophet Ezekiel refers to them in the words:

"As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side; and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle." [clxxxv]7

And again in the Book of Revelations, we find the same astrological symbology:

"And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes, before and behind.

"And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast was like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle." [clxxxvi]8

The "face of the man" is the ancient sign of Aquarius, the sign of the man carrying the water-pot, to which Christ referred when He sent His disciples into the city, saying: "Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in." [clxxxvii]9 This is the zodiacal sign into which we are entering. It might be as well to point out that this is astronomically true and not simply a pronouncement [183] of the astrologers. The symbol which stands for the zodiacal sign Leo, is the Lion. This sign is the symbol of individuality, and under its influence the race arrives at self-consciousness and men can function as individuals. Christ, in His teaching, emphasised the significance of the individual and in His life demonstrated the supreme value of the individual, his perfecting, his service and his ultimate sacrifice in the interests of the whole. The constellation Aquila is always regarded as interchangeable with the sign Scorpio, the serpent, and it is therefore frequently used in this connection when considering the fixed cross of the cosmic Saviour. Scorpio is the serpent of illusion from which the Christ nature finally frees us, and it is to the illusory wiles of this serpent Scorpio that Adam succumbed in the garden of Eden. The "face of the ox" is the biblical symbol for the sign Taurus, the Bull, which was the religion immediately antedating the Jewish revelation, and which found its exponents in Egypt and in the Mithraic Mysteries. Upon this fixed cross all the world Saviours, not excepting the Christ of the West, have been eternally crucified, as reminders to man of the divine intent based upon the divine sacrifice.

The early Fathers recognised this truth, and realised that the story written in the heavens had a definite relation to humanity and to the evolution of human souls. Clement of Alexandria tells us that "the path of souls to ascension lies through the twelve signs of the zodiac," and the church festivals today are based, not upon historical dates in connection with the outstanding religious figures to which they refer, but upon the times and the seasons. We saw how in the Birth at Bethlehem the date was fixed astronomically nearly four centuries after Christ was born. The combination of Virgo with the Star in the East (Sirius), and the Three Kings (symbolised by Orion's belt) was the determining factor. The Virgin was seen in the east, with the line of the horizon passing through her centre, and this is one of the factors determining the doctrine of the Virgin birth.

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Another instance can here be given to illustrate the astronomical background of our Christian festivals. There are two festivals kept in the Roman Catholic and the higher Anglican Churches, called the Assumption of the Virgin and the Birth of the Virgin Mary. One is celebrated on August 15th and the other on September 8th. Each year, the sun can be seen entering the sign Virgo about the time of the Assumption, and the entire constellation is enveloped and lost to sight in the radiant glory of the sun. About September 8th the constellation Virgo can be seen slowly reappearing as it emerges from the rays of the sun. This is spoken of as the birth of the Virgin.

Easter Day is always decided astronomically. These facts warrant the most careful consideration. This information should be in the hands of all Christian people, because then and only then can they arrive at a full and clear understanding of what, in His cosmic nature, Christ came to Earth to do. That event was of far greater importance than simply bringing about the salvation of any individual human being. It signified far more than the basis of the belief of several million people in their heavenly future. Christ's incarnation, apart from its historical value, and apart from the keynote which He sounded, marked the closing of a great cosmic cycle, but it marked also the opening of that door into the kingdom which had opened only occasionally theretofore, in order to permit the entrance of those sons of God who had triumphed over matter. After the advent of Christ, the door stood wide open for all time, and the kingdom of God began to form on Earth. In the long processes of time four great expressions of divine life, four forms of God immanent in nature, have appeared upon our planet. We call them the four kingdoms of nature. They constitute, symbolically, the planetary reflection of the four arms of the zodiacal cross upon which the cosmic Christ can be seen crucified. Down the ages human beings have symbolised the cosmic Christ immolated upon the cross of matter, and thus have perpetuated in the [185] consciousness of the race the knowledge of that event; so in a planetary sense, the four kingdoms of nature do the same, portraying the spirit of God stretched upon a cross of material form, in order eventually to make possible the appearance of the kingdom of God on Earth. This connotes the spiritualisation of matter and form, the assumption of matter into heaven, and the release of God from the cosmic crucifixion. The poet, Joseph Plunkett, makes this beautifully clear in the following verses:

"I see His blood upon the rose

And in the stars the glory of His eyes,

His body gleams amid eternal snows,

His tears fall from the skies.

I see His face in every flower,

The thunder and the singing of the birds

Are but His voice—and carven by His power

Rocks are His written words.

All pathways by His feet are worn,

His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,

His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,

His cross is every tree."

 [clxxxviii]10

The wonder of Christ's mission lay in the fact that, though He was one of a long continuity of perfected divine men, He had a unique function. He summed up in Himself and brought to a conclusion the symbolic presentation of God's eternal sacrifice upon the fixed cross of the heavens, to which the stars bear testimony and which the history of religion has so successfully veiled, and today refuses to recognise. The Heavenly Man is today pendant in the Heavens, as He has been since the creation of the solar system, and as Christ said, "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me," [clxxxix]11 and not all men only, but eventually all forms of life in all kingdoms will render up their life, not as an imposed sacrifice, but as a willing offering to the [186] final glory of God. "He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it," [cxc]12 is a fact which is often forgotten and one which has a definite bearing upon the story of the crucifixion in its wider implications. It is, however, through the achievement of the last of the manifesting kingdoms, the human, that the cross and its purpose is completed, and to this the death of Christ bears testimony.

But the important point is not His death, though that was climactic in the evolutionary process, but the subsequent Resurrection, symbolising as it did the formation and the precipitation upon Earth of a new kingdom in which men and all forms would be free from death—a kingdom of which the Man released from the Cross should be the symbol. We thus complete the entire circle, from the Man in space, with arms outspread in the form of a cross, through the sequence of crucified Saviours, telling us again and again what God had done for the universe until we arrive at the culminating Son of God Who carried the symbolism down on to the physical plane, in all its stages. He then rose from the dead to tell us that the long task of evolution had at last reached its final phase—if we so choose, and if we are ready to do as He did—pay the price, and, passing through the gates of death, attain to a joyful resurrection. St. Paul sought to bring this truth home to us, though his words have been so often distorted through translation and theological misinterpretation:

"I long to know Christ and the power which is in His resurrection, and to share in His suffering and die even as He died; in the hope that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. I do not say that I have already gained this knowledge or already reached perfection, but I press on." [cxci]13

It would not appear from this passage that St. Paul regarded it as sufficient to salvation that one should simply believe that Christ died for one's sins.

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Let me state here, briefly and succinctly, what it would appear really transpired when Christ died upon the Cross. He rendered up the form aspect and identified Himself as Man with the life aspect of Deity. He thereby liberated us from the form side of life, of religion and of matter, and demonstrated to us the possibility of being in the world and yet not of the world, [cxcii]14 living as souls, released from the trammels and limitations of the flesh, while yet walking on earth. To the very deeps of its being humanity is tired of death. Its only rest lies in the belief that the ultimate victory is over death, and that some day death will be abolished. This we shall go into more definitely in our next chapter, but in passing, it may be said that the race is so imbued with the thought of death that it has been the line of least resistance for theology to emphasise the death of Christ, and to omit to lay the major emphasis upon the renewal of life to which that death was the prelude. This practice will end because the world today demands a living Christ rather than a dead Saviour. It demands an ideal so universal in its implications—so inclusive of time and space and life—that the constant explanations and the endless attempts to make theology conform to the requirements of a deeply sensed vital truth will no longer be needed. The world has outlived the thought of a wrathful God who demands a blood sacrifice. Intelligent people today must agree that "... modern thought does not clash with primitive Christian ideas; but in regard to the propitiation for these evil inclinations the case is different. We can no longer accept the appalling theological doctrine that for some mystic reason a propitiatory sacrifice was necessary. It outrages either our conception of God as almighty or else our conception of Him as all-loving." [cxciii]15 Humanity will accept the thought of a God who so loved the world that He sent His Son to give us the final expression of the cosmic sacrifice and to say to us, as He did [188] upon the Cross: "It is finished." [cxciv]16 We can now "enter into the joy of the Lord." [cxcv]17 Men are learning to love, and they will, and do, repudiate a theology which makes of God a force of hardness and cruelty in the world, unparalleled by men.

The whole trend of human life tends to repudiate those ancient tenets which were founded in fear, and instead, courageously faces the facts and the responsibilities which are inherent in its spiritual birthright.

2

When the Church lays its emphasis upon the living Christ, and when it recognises that its forms and ceremonies, its festivals and rituals are inherited from a very ancient past, we shall then have the emergence of a new religion which will be as much divorced from form and the past as the kingdom of God is divorced from matter and the body nature. Orthodox religion, as a whole, can be regarded as a cross upon which we have crucified Christ; it has served its purpose as the custodian of the ages and the preserver of ancient forms, but it must enter into new life and pass through the resurrection if it is to meet the need of the deeply spiritual humanity of today. "Nations, like individuals," we are told, "are made, not only by what they acquire but by what they resign, and this is true also of religion at this time." [cxcvi]18 Its form must be sacrificed upon the Cross of Christ in order that it may be resurrected into true and vital life for the meeting of the people's need. Let a living Christ be its theme, and not a dying Saviour. Christ has died. About that let there be no mistake. The Christ of history passed through the gates of death for us. The cosmic [189] Christ is still dying upon the Cross of Matter. There He hangs fixed until the last weary pilgrim shall find his way home. [cxcvii]19 The planetary Christ, the life of the four kingdoms of nature, has been crucified on the four arms of the planetary Cross down the ages. But the end of this period of crucifixion is close upon us. Mankind can descend from the cross as Christ did, and enter into the kingdom of God, a living spirit. The sons of God are ready to be manifested. Today as never before:

"The Spirit Himself bears witness with our own spirits that we are children of God; and if children, then heirs too—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ; if indeed we share Christ's sufferings, in order to share also His glory....

"All creation is yearning, longing to see the manifestation of the sons of God. For the Creation was made subject to futility, not of its own choice, but by the will of Him who so subjected it; yet with the hope that at last the Creation itself would be set free from the thraldom of decay to enjoy the liberty that comes with the glory of the children of God.

"For we know that the whole of Creation is moaning in the pangs of childbirth until this hour. And more than that, we ourselves, though we possess the Spirit as a foretaste of bliss, yet we ourselves moan as we wait for full sonship in the redemption of our bodies." [cxcviii] 20

Towards this glorification of God we are all moving. Some of the sons of men have already achieved, through the realisation of their divinity.

It is of interest to note how the two great branches of orthodox Christianity, the Eastern, as expressed through the Greek Church, and the Western, as expressed through the Roman Catholic and the Protestant Churches, have preserved two great concepts which the spirit of the race needed on its great evolutionary journey away from God and back to God. The Greek Church has always emphasised the [190] risen Christ. The West has emphasised the crucified Saviour. Eastern Christianity looks to the resurrection as its pivotal teaching.

The need of a death unto things material, the tendency of man to sin and to forget God, and the necessity for a change of heart or of intention have been the contribution of Western Christianity to the religious beliefs in the world. But we have been so preoccupied with the subject of sin that we have forgotten our divinity; and we have been so intensely individual in our consciousness that we have depicted a Saviour Who gave His life for us as individuals, believing that had He never died we could never enter heaven. On these truths the Eastern Christian has placed little emphasis, stressing the living Christ and the divine nature of man. Assuredly, only when the best of the two lines of presented truths are brought together and then reinterpreted shall we arrive at the basic concept upon which we can take our stand without questioning, and also with the certainty that it is inclusive enough to be really divine. Sin exists, and there is sacrifice involved in the process of adjusting our sinful natures. There is a death unto life, and a need to "die daily," [cxcix]21 as St. Paul says, in order that we may live. Christ died to all that had its existence in form, leaving us an example that we should follow His steps. But we in the West have forgotten the Transfiguration and lost touch with divinity, and we should now stand ready to accept from the Eastern Christian what he has so long believed.

This gnosis has always been in the world. Long before Christ came the divinity of man was affirmed and divine incarnations were recognised.

The Gnostics themselves claimed to be the custodians of a revelation which was not uniquely theirs, but which had always been present in the world. G.R.S. Mead, an authority on these matters, remarks that: "The claim of these Gnostics was practically that the good news of Christ (the Christos) [191] was the consummation of the inner doctrine of the Mystery-Institutions of all the nations; the end of them all being the revelation of the Mystery of Man. In Christ the Mystery of Man was unveiled." [cc]22

In view of the proven fact that there has been a continuity of revelation, and that Christ was one of the long line of manifesting Sons of God, wherein did His Person and His mission differ from that of the others? We can and must agree with Pfleger when he says: "The Incarnation of God in Christ is but a greater and more perfect theophany in a series of other more imperfect theophanies, which prepared the way for it by moulding the human nature which received them ... the Incarnation is not a miracle in the strict and crude sense of the term, any more than the Resurrection, which is the inner union of matter with spirit, is foreign to the universal order of existence." [cci]23 In what, therefore, did the mission of Christ differ from the others?

The difference lay in the point in evolution which humanity itself had reached. The cycle which Christ inaugurated has been one in which men have become strictly human. Up till that Incarnation there had always been those who, having achieved humanity, had then passed on to demonstrate divinity. But now the whole race is at the point of so doing. Although today men are predominantly animal-emotional, yet through the success of the evolutionary process—leading as it has to our widespread educational systems and the general high level of mental awareness—men have reached the point where the masses themselves, given proper encouragement, can "enter into the kingdom of God." Who can say that it is not this realisation, dim and uncertain as it may be, which prompts the universal unrest and the widespread determination to better conditions? That we interpret the kingdom of God in terms of the material is inevitable at first, but it is a hopeful and spiritual sign that we are today so [192] busy cleaning house, and thus attempting to raise the level of our civilisation. Christ incarnated when, for the first time, humanity was a complete whole, as far as the form side of its nature was concerned, with all the qualities manifesting—physical, psychic and mental—which distinguish the human animal. He brought to us a manifestation of what the perfect man could be who, regarding that form side as the temple of God, but recognising his innate divinity, strives to bring it to the foreground, first of all in his own consciousness and then before the world. This Christ did. The mysteries had always been revealed to the individual who fitted himself to penetrate into a hidden arcanum or temple, but Christ revealed them to humanity as a whole, and enacted the whole drama of the God-Man before the race. This was His major achievement, and this we have forgotten—the living Christ—in the emphasis we have laid upon man himself, on his relation to himself as a sinner, and to God as the One against Whom he has sinned.

Again, every great organisation or group religion or cult of any kind has originated with a person, and from that person the idea has spread out into the world, gathering adherents as time elapsed. Christ in this way precipitated the kingdom of God upon earth. It had always existed in the heavenly places. He caused it to materialise, thus becoming a fact to the consciousness of men.

Preparedness for the Kingdom, and the arrival of the time when men in large numbers could be initiated into the mysteries, required from them a recognition of an unworthiness and a sinfulness which only the development of the mind could give. The age of Christianity has been an age of mental unfoldment. It has been an age also wherein much emphasis has been laid upon sin and evil doing. There is no consciousness of sin in the animals, though there may be indications of a conscience among the domesticated animals, due to their association with man. Mind produces the power to analyse and observe, to differentiate and distinguish; and so with the advent [193] of mental development there has been, for a long time, a growing sense of sinfulness, of contrition, and of an almost abject attitude to the Creator, producing in humanity that strongly marked inferiority complex with which today psychologists have to deal. Against this sense of sin, with its concomitants of propitiation, atonement and the sacrifice of Christ for us, there has been a revolt; and in this really wholesome reaction there is the normal tendency to go too far. Fortunately, we are never able to get too far from divinity; and that, as a race, we shall swing back into a state of greater spirituality than ever before is the sincere belief of all who know. Theology over-reached itself with its "miserable sinner" complex and its emphasis upon the necessity for the purification by blood. This teaching of purification through the blood of bulls and of rams (or lambs) was part of the ancient mysteries, and was inherited by us primarily from the Mysteries of Mithra. These mysteries, in their turn, inherited the teaching, and thus formulated their doctrine, which Christianity absorbed. When the sun was in the zodiacal sign of Taurus the Bull, the sacrifice of the bull was offered as a forecast of that which Christ came later to reveal. When the sun passed (in the precession of the equinoxes) into the next sign, that of Aries the Ram, we find the lamb was sacrificed and the scapegoat sent into the wilderness. Christ was born into the next sign, Pisces the Fishes, and it is for this reason that we eat fish on Good Friday, in commemoration of His coming. Tertullian, one of the early Church Fathers, speaks of Jesus Christ as the "Great Fish," and of us, His followers, as the "little fishes." These facts are well known, as the following extract will indicate:

"The ceremonies of purification by the sprinkling or drenching of the novice with the blood of bulls or rams were widespread, and were to be found in the rites of Mithra. By this purification a man was `born again' and the Christian expression `washed in the blood of the Lamb' is undoubtedly a reflection of this idea, the reference thus being clear in the words of the Epistle to the Hebrews: `It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away [194] sins.' In this passage the writer goes on to say: `Having boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which he hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say his flesh ... let us draw near ... having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.' But when we learn that the Mithraic initiation ceremony consisted in entering boldly into a mysterious underground `holy of holies' with the eyes veiled, and there being sprinkled with blood, and washed with water, it is clear that the author of the Epistle was thinking of those Mithraic rites with which everybody at that time must have been so familiar." [ccii] 24

Christ came to abolish these sacrifices by showing us their true meaning, and in His Person as perfect man He died the death of the Cross to show us (in picture form and through actual demonstration) that divinity can be manifested and can truly express itself only when man, as man, has died in order that the hidden Christ may live. The lower carnal nature (as St. Paul loved to call it) must die in order that the higher divine nature may show forth in all its beauty. The lower self must die in order that the higher self can manifest on earth. Christ had to die in order that once and for all mankind might learn the lesson that by the sacrifice of the human nature the divine aspect might be "saved." Thus Christ summed up in Himself the significance of all the past world sacrifices. That mysterious truth which had been revealed only to the pledged and trained initiate when he was ready for the fourth initiation was given out by Christ to the world of men. He died for all so that all might live. But this is not the doctrine of the vicarious atonement which was pre-eminently St. Paul's interpretation of the Crucifixion, but the doctrine which Christ Himself taught—the doctrine of divine immanence (see St. John XVII), and the doctrine of the God-Man.

Christianity inherited many of its interpretations, and the teachers and interpreters of the early Christian times were no more free from the thraldom of ancient beliefs than are we [195] from the interpretations given to Christianity during the past two thousand years. Christ did give us the teaching that we must die in order to live as Gods, and therefore He died. He did sum up in Himself all the traditions of the past for He "not only fulfilled the Judaic Scriptures, but He also fulfilled those of the pagan world, and therein lay the great appeal of early Christianity. In Him a dozen shadowy Gods were condensed into a proximate reality; and in His crucifixion the old stories of their ghastly atoning sufferings and sacrificial deaths were made actual and given a direct meaning." [cciii]25 But His death was also the consummating act of a life of sacrifice and service, and the logical outcome of His teaching. Pioneers and those who reveal to men their next step, those who come forth as the interpreters of the divine Plan, inevitably are repudiated, and usually die as the result of their courageous pronouncements. To this rule Christ was no exception. "Advanced Christian thinkers now regard the Crucifixion of our Lord as the supreme sacrifice made by Him for the sake of the principles of His teaching. It was the crowning act of His most heroic life, and it affords such a sublime example to mankind that meditation upon it may be said to produce a condition of at-one-ment with the Fountainhead of all goodness." [cciv]26

How then is it that today we have such an emphasis upon the blood sacrifice of Christ and upon the idea of sin? It would appear that two causes are responsible for this:

1. The inherited idea of blood sacrifice. As Dr. Rashdall tells us:

"The various authors of the canonical books in fact were so accustomed to the pre-Christian ideas of an expiatory sacrifice and atonement that they accepted it without going to the roots of the matter. But this vagueness was not to the liking of the early Christian Fathers. In the Second Century A.D., Irenaeus, and after him other writers, explained the doctrine by what is called the `Ransom Theory,' which states that the Devil was lawful lord of [196] mankind owing to Adam's fall, and that God, being unable with justice to take Satan's subjects from him without paying a ransom for them, handed over His own incarnate Son in exchange." [ccv]27

In this thought we have a definite demonstration of the way in which all ideas (intuitively perceived and infallibly right) are distorted. Men's minds and preconceived notions colour them. The idea becomes the ideal, and serves a useful purpose and leads men on (as the idea of sacrifice has always led men nearer to God) until it becomes an idol, and consequently limiting and untrue.

2. The growth of the consciousness of sin in the race, due to its increasing sensitivity to divinity and its consequent recognition of the shortcomings and the relative evil of the lower human nature.