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CHAPTER FOUR - The Third Initiation: The Transfiguration on a High Mountain - Part 2

It is interesting to note that, in spite of their recognition of the significance of the event in which they were participating, the three Apostles, speaking through the mouth of St. Peter, were able to do no more than express their awe and their bewilderment, their recognition and belief. They could not explain or understand what they had seen, nor do we find any record of their ever having done so. The meaning of the Transfiguration is something which has to be wrought out in the life before it can be defined or explained. When humanity as a whole learns to transform the flesh through divine experience, to transmute the feeling nature through divine expression, and to transfer the consciousness [158] away from the world of mundane living into the world of transcendental realities, the true subjective values of this initiation will reveal themselves to the minds of men. Then will come a deeper expression of that which has been intuited. Dr. Sheldon tells us with truth that "all of the finest human thought and feeling is carried for generations, probably for ages, in intuitional minds, long before it becomes articulate." [clxii]17 Not yet are we articulate where this experience is concerned. We sense dimly and distantly its wonder and its finality. We have not yet, as a race, passed through the new birth; the Jordan experience is only attained as yet by the few. It is the rare and developed soul which has climbed the Mountain of Transfiguration, and there seen and met with God in the glorified Person of Jesus Christ. We have looked on at this episode through the eyes of others. Peter and James and John, through another apostle, Matthew, have told us about it. We remain as onlookers, but it is an experience in which we shall some day share. This we have forgotten. We have taken to ourselves the language of the fourth great event in Christ's life, and many of us have attempted to share and enter into the meaning of the Crucifixion. We have looked on at the Transfiguration, but have not attempted to become actively transfigured. But that must some day happen to us, and only after the Transfiguration can we dare to climb Mount Golgotha. Only when we have achieved expression of divinity in and through the lower personal nature shall we have attained to that of worth and value which can be permitted, under the divine Plan, to be crucified. This is a forgotten truth. Yet it is all part of the evolutionary process whereby God is revealed through humanity.

The great and natural phenomenon which humanity will some day—through self-expression and also under the law—reveal in itself includes the beauty which shone forth from Christ as He stood transfigured before His three [159] friends, was recognised by God His Father, and received the testimony of Moses and Elias, the Law and the Prophets, the past and that which bears witness to the future.

One point might here be brought out. In the Oriental correspondence to these five crises in the life of Jesus Christ, this third episode is called the "hut" initiation, and the words of St. Peter as he suggests that they should make three "huts," one for Christ and one for Moses and one for Elias, link up this Christian happening with its ancient prototype. Always, in these rarely occurring events, God has been glorified by the light, ineffable and effulgent, shining forth through the raiment of flesh, and this mountain experience is not uniquely Christian. But Christ was the first to gather together into one sequential presentation all the possible experiences of divinity made manifest, and portrayed them for our edification and inspiration in His life history, and in the five Gospel episodes. More and more men will pass through the birth chamber, enter the stream and climb the mountain, furthering God's work for humanity; and Christ's example is rapidly bearing fruit and bringing results. Divinity cannot be gainsaid, and man is divine. If he is not, then the Fatherhood of God is but an empty form of words, and Christ and His Apostles were in error when They recognised, as They constantly did, the fact of our sonship. The divinity of man cannot be explained away. It is either a fact or it is not. God can be known in the flesh through the medium of His children or He cannot. All rests back on God, the Father, the Creator, the One in Whom we live and move and have our being. God is immanent in all His creatures, or He is not. God is transcendent and beyond manifestation, or else there is no basic reality, purpose or origin. Probably the growing recognition in men's minds that He is both immanent and transcendent is true, and we can take our stand upon His Fatherhood, knowing ourselves to be divine because Christ and the Church of all ages have borne testimony to it.


This time the Word spoken differs from the previous one. The first part of the pronouncement made by the Initiator Who stands silently behind the scenes as Jesus takes initiation after initiation is practically the same as that at the Baptism initiation, except for one expressed command. He said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," but added this time, "Hear ye him." At the first great episode, God the Father, of Whom the Initiator is the symbol, did not make His Presence known. The angels spoke the word, embodying Christ's mission on His behalf. At the Baptism He accorded recognition, but that was all. At this Initiation, God commanded humanity to pay attention to this particular crisis in the life of Christ and to listen to His words. The power and the right to speak is now conferred upon the Christ, and it is interesting to note that the major part of the teaching (as given in St. John's Gospel and in many of the parables) was given by Christ only after He had been through this experience. Again God gave evidence that He recognised Christ's Messiahship, which word is man's interpretation of the recognition. At the Baptism, He recognised Him as His Son, sent into the world, from the bosom of the Father, to carry out the will of God. That which Christ had recognised in the Temple as a child was later endorsed by God. This recognition is repeated, and the endorsement is strengthened, by the command to the world to hear the words of the Saviour, or perhaps from the esoteric and spiritual standpoint, to hear that Word which was God made Flesh.

"There is in fact an inward connection between the Baptism and the Transfiguration. In both cases a condition of ecstasy accompanies the revelation of the secret of Jesus' person. The first time the revelation was for him alone; here the Disciples also shared it. It is not clear to what extent they themselves were transported by the experience. So much is sure, that in a dazed condition, out of which they awake only at the end of the scene (St. Mark, IX:8.) the figure of Jesus appears to them illuminated by a supernatural light and glory, and a voice intimates that he is the Son of God. [161] The occurrence can be explained only as the outcome of great eschatological excitement." [clxiii] 18

The same writer goes on to point out:

"We have therefore three revelations of the secret of messiahship, which so hang together that each subsequent one implies the foregoing. On the mountain near Bethsaida was revealed to the Three the secret which was disclosed to Jesus at his baptism. That was after the harvest. A few weeks later it was known to the Twelve, by the fact that Peter at Caesarea Phillippi answered Jesus' question out of the knowledge which he had attained upon the mountain. One of the Twelve betrayed the secret to the High Priest. This last revelation of the secret was fatal, for it brought about the death of Jesus. He was condemned as messiah although he had never appeared in that role.[clxiv]19

This evokes in its entirety the question as to the nature of that mission which Christ came to forward, and what constituted the Will of God which He came to fulfil. Three major points of view usually held by the orthodox Christian might be enumerated as follows:

1. He came to die upon the Cross to appease the wrath of an angry God, and make it possible for those who believe in Him to go to Heaven.

2. He came to show us the real nature of perfection and how, in human form, divinity might be manifested.

3. He came to leave us an example that we should follow in His steps.

Christ Himself laid no emphasis upon the death on the Cross as being the apex of His life work. It was the result of His life work, but not that for which He came into the world. He came that we might have "life abundantly," and St. John tells us in his Gospel that the new birth is dependent [162] upon belief in Christ, when power is given to us to "become the Sons of God, even to them that believe on his name, which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."  [clxv] 20

Is it not reasonable for us to gather from these words that when a man reaches the point of recognising and believing in the cosmic Christ, "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," [clxvi]21 then the new birth becomes possible, for the life of that universal Christ, animating every form of divine expression, can then consciously and definitely carry the man forward into a new manifestation of divinity? The "blood is the life," [clxvii]22 and it is the living Christ that makes it possible for all to become citizens of that kingdom. It is the life of Christ in each of us which makes us sons of the Father, not His death which makes us sons. Nowhere in the Gospel story does an opposite statement find support. Christ, at the communion service, gave His disciples the cup to drink, saying "This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." [clxviii]23 But these are His only references to blood in its remedial aspect, so strongly emphasised in the Epistles, and He Himself nowhere correlates blood with the Crucifixion. He speaks in the present tense, and does not relate the blood to the new birth or to the Crucifixion, or make it a factor in the exclusiveness which has so deeply coloured the presentation of Christianity in the world.

It is the Christ life in all forms which constitutes the evolutionary urge. It is the Christ life which makes the steadily unfolding expression of divinity possible in the natural world. It is deep within the heart of every man. The Christ life brings him eventually to the point where he transits out of the human kingdom (when the work of normal evolution has done its part) and leads him into the [163] kingdom of spirit. The recognition of the Christ life within the form of man makes every human being, at some time, play the part of the Virgin Mary to that indwelling reality. It is the Christ life which, at the new birth, comes to fuller expression, and from crisis to crisis leads on the developing son of God until he stands perfected, having achieved "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." [clxix]24

We shall see later that upon the revelation of the risen Christ must the new world religion take its stand. Christ upon the Cross, as will appear when we study the next great crisis, showed us love and sacrifice carried to their extreme expression; but Christ alive from all time, and vitally alive today, is the keynote of the new age, and upon this truth must the new presentation of religion be built and, later, the new theology be constructed. The true meaning of the Resurrection and the Ascension has not yet been grasped; as a divine subjective reality those truths still await revelation. The glory of the new age will be the unveiling of those two mysteries, and our entrance into a fuller understanding of God as life. The true Church of Christ is the assembly of all who live through the life of Christ, and whose life is one with His. This will be increasingly realised and will bring forth into clearer and more radiant light the wonder and glory which lies, unrevealed as yet, in God the Father.

It is only the man who has understood something of the value of the Transfiguration initiation and the nature of the perfection then revealed who can follow along with Christ, to the vision which was accorded Him as He came down from that high point of achievement, and can later share with Him an understanding of the nature of world service. This world service is rendered perfectly by those whose inner perfection is approximate to Christ's and whose lives are controlled by the same divine impulses and subordinated to the same vision. This stage connotes that complete spiritual freedom which we must eventually reach. [164] Now the time has come for human beings to leave off believing, and pass on to true knowledge, through the method of thought, reflection, experiment, experience and revelation. The immediate problem for all who are seeking this new knowledge, and who desire to become conscious knowers instead of faithful believers, is that they should achieve it in the world of every-day. After each expansion of consciousness and each unfoldment of a deepened awareness we return, as Christ did, to the plains of every-day life, and there subject our knowledge to the test, discover its reality and truth, and find out also wherein lies for us our next point of expansion, and what new knowledge must be acquired. The task of the disciple is the understanding and the use of his divinity. The knowledge of God immanent, yet based on a belief in God transcendent, is our endeavour.

This was the experience of the Apostles upon the mountain-top. We are told that "when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only." [clxx]25 The familiar appeared to them again. It is of real interest to compare a somewhat similar story related in The Bhagavad Gita, wherein Arjuna has had revealed to him the glorious form of the Lord. At the close of the revelation God, in the person of Krishna, says to him, with tenderness and understanding, "Let not fear nor confusion overcome thee, beholding My form so terrible! Behold my former shape once more, thy fear gone, thy heart at rest!" and then he goes on to tell him:

"This form of Mine which thou hast seen is hard indeed to see! Even the Gods ever desire a sight of this form! Nor can I be seen thus through Vedas, penances, gifts, sacrifices, in the form which thou hast seen. But I can be known thus through single-hearted love, Arjuna, and seen as I truly am, and entered, O Consumer of the foe!" [clxxi]26

The Word of Recognition had gone forth, and the command to hear the Christ had been given. Jesus having returned [165] "to His proper form," the descent from the mountain had to follow. Then occurred what might be regarded as a great, sad, spiritual reaction, inevitable and terrible, expressed by Christ in the following words:

"The Son of Man shall be betrayed into the hands of men, and they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again." [clxxii] 27

Then comes the simple comment that the disciples "were exceedingly sorry." This vision of Christ's, if we trace it in the records, fell into two parts. First, He had a vision of achievement. The mountain-top achievement, a great spiritual experience, lay behind Him. Now He has a vision of a physical consummation in the form of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. But this is accompanied by a presentiment or a prevision of the culmination of His life of service upon the Cross. He saw clearly, perhaps for the first time, what lay ahead of Him, and the direction in which His service to the world was leading Him. The via dolorosa of a World Saviour stretched out before Him; the destiny of all pioneering souls climaxed in His experience, and He saw Himself rejected, pilloried and killed, as have many lesser sons of God. World rejection always precedes world acceptance. Disillusionment is a stage on the way to reality. The hatred of those who are not yet ready to recognise the world of spiritual values is ever the lot of those who are. This, Christ faced, and yet "He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem." [clxxiii]28

As we consider these happenings, the particular test which Christ now encountered becomes clear in our minds. It was again a threefold test, as was that after the Baptism initiation; but this time it was of a far subtler nature. He was faced with the test as to whether He could endure and handle worldly success, and pass along the triumphant way of His entry into the Holy City, without deviating from [166] His purpose, without being attracted by material achievement and by being acclaimed King of the Jews. Success constitutes a far more drastic disciplining, and produces many more opportunities to forget God and reality than do failure and neglect. Self-pity, a sense of martyrdom, and resignation are potent and effective ways of handling one's failure. But to rise upon the crest of the wave, to be accorded public recognition, and to seem to have achieved the earthly goal are far more difficult factors to face. These Christ did face, and He faced them with spiritual poise and with that far-sighted wisdom which produces a correct sense of values and a proper sense of proportion.

The second phase of the test lay in His prevision as to His end. He knew He had to die, and He knew how He would die, and yet He went forward undeviatingly upon the course assigned Him, although prevision of disaster was His. Not only had He to demonstrate the power to endure success, but He had also to demonstrate the power to face disaster, balancing the two against each other and seeing in both of them simply opportunities for divine expression and fields for the demonstration of detachment—that outstanding characteristic of the man who has been born again, purified and transfigured. To these tests was added the one which He had before encountered in the desert, the test of utter loneliness. The power to endure success! The power to endure disaster! The power to stand utterly alone! This, Christ had to show the world, and this He did. He stood triumphant before the world, at an intermediate stage on His way to the Cross. The agony of loneliness in the Garden of Gethsemane was probably a far harder moment for Him than the publicity on Mount Golgotha. But in these more subtle tests the quality of God Himself was revealed, and it is God's quality and meaning which save the world—the quality of His life, which is Love and Wisdom and Value and Reality. It was all of this which Christ accomplished.

Immediately, on the descent from the mountain-top, Christ [167] began again to serve. He was met, as well we know, by a person in distress, and He at once responded to the need. One of the outstanding characteristics of each initiation is the increased capacity and ability of the initiate to serve. Christ demonstrated an entirely new and unique way in which to speak and to meet the masses, as well as to teach privately and personally His chosen few. His power to heal still continued, but His work shifted into a field of new values, and He spoke those words and enunciated those truths which have proved the foundation of the belief of those who have had the insight to penetrate the theological presentation of Christianity and there find reality. His service consisted primarily at the time in teaching and speaking. But such is the wisdom and the beauty of His presentation of truth, He couched divinity in forms which the average man could grasp. He bridged the old and the new, and gave out that new truth and that special revelation which were needed at the time to unite the ancient wisdom and the more modern hope. Keyserling has grasped the wonder of what the World-Saviour does, and voices it in words which I quote:

"... the great mind is essentially the Awakener. If such a mind were to utter the entirely new, the unique, this would mean nothing to other men. His social value depends entirely on his ability to utter clearly what all feel in their innermost hearts to be true—for could he otherwise be understood?—and to utter it in so universal a manner, that is, so much in tune with the objective laws in question, that his ideas become organs for the others." [clxxiv]29

Christ gave us a great idea. He gave us the new concept that God is Love, no matter what might be happening in the world of immediacy. All great ideas come forth from the world of divinity through the medium of the great Intuitives, and the history of humanity is essentially the history of ideas—their coming forth through the medium of some intuitive thinker, their recognition by the few, their growth [168] in popularity, and their eventual integration in the thought world, the pattern world of the thinkers of the race. Then their fate is determined, and eventually the new and unique idea becomes the popularly and publicly accepted model of human conduct. "To the question, then, whether it is personalities or ideas which decide the fate of an age, the answer is that the age get its ideas from personalities." [clxxv]30 Christ embodied a great idea, the idea that God is Love, and that love is the motivating power of the universe. This constitutes the illumination which Christ as the Light of the World refracted upon all world events. The majesty of this realisation cannot be over-emphasised. We need to realise it far more deeply and potently than we do, for it constitutes the basic, fundamental character and quality of all events, no matter what the outer appearance may be. Christ illumines life. This was one of His most important contributions to life as it is lived today. He said in effect: God loves the world; all that happens is along the line of love. If this is realised as fact and fundamental truth, it illumines all of life and lightens all burdens; cause and effect are brought together, and God's purpose and His method are seen as one. Theologians have often forgotten this as they have struggled over the more technical aspects of Christ's life. What He illumined in His function as the "Light of the World," what He received of divine Light and poured forth for the world, what He refracted, is often overlooked in the struggle to prove such doctrines as the fact that the Virgin Mary was an immaculate virgin, and Christ was therefore born through the medium of an immaculate conception. Today only a few of the younger generation care much about such points of doctrine. Let us state that quite emphatically. But we do care that the love which He expressed should be demonstrated in the world and that the illumination He carried should "lighten our darkness."

Christ sounded with clarity the note which can usher in the new civilisation and the new order, and a close study of [169] the ideals and ideas which today, without exception, underlie every one of the great experiments undertaken by the various nations, will show that they are based, in essence, upon some definitely Christlike concept. That their method of application and the techniques employed are frequently un-Christlike is sadly true, but the foundational concepts will bear with equanimity the light which Christ can throw upon them. The principal difficulty has been that our intellectual grasp of the concepts runs ahead of our own personal development, and therefore colours disastrously our application of them. When these basic ideas are transmuted into world ideals by the consecrated thinkers of the race, and applied in the spirit in which Christ conceived of them, then we shall indeed inaugurate a new world order.

It is of supreme value for us to realise that what Christ really did was to usher in the era of Service, even if we are only beginning today (two thousand years after He set us an example) to grasp the implications of that word so widely used. We have been apt to regard salvation in terms of the individual, and to study it from the angle of individual salvation. This attitude must end if we are ever to understand the Christ spirit. A great Japanese asks the poignant question "What is the primary aim of a religion worthy of existence?" and goes on to tell us that it is salvation, but a salvation that "is pregnant with relief and redress of life and of the world." [clxxvi]31 Service is becoming more and more an objective in all human affairs. Even modern business is coming to the recognition that it must be a motivating agency if business, as we understand it in the modern sense, is to survive. Upon what is this general trend based? Surely upon our universal relation to Deity and upon our subjective relationships to each other, which have their root in our relationship to God.

That of course is the basis of service. It must be, as it was in the case of Jesus Christ, a spontaneous outcome of [170] divinity. One of the strongest arguments for the divine unfoldment of man is the emergence on a large scale of this tendency to serve. We are just beginning to get a faint vision of what Christ meant by service. He "carried this actuating motive of service to the extent of saying that when the common good and your personal success or welfare conflicted, you must sacrifice and not sacrifice the other man." [clxxvii]32 This idea of service is of course in complete conflict with the usually competitive attitude to life and the selfishness generally shown by the average man. But to the man who seeks to follow Christ, and who aims eventually at climbing the Mount of Transfiguration, service leads inevitably to increased illumination, and illumination in its turn must find its expression in renewed and consecrated service, and thus we find our way—through service to our fellowmen—into the Way that Christ trod. Following in His steps, we achieve eventually the power to live as illumined and Christlike men and women in our normal everyday surroundings.

What, therefore, is the gift that each of us can make to the world as we study the life of Christ and travel with Him in our minds from one initiation to another? We can aim at that greatness in action which will redeem our natural mediocrity and reveal progressively the divinity in each of us. Each can stand as a beacon light, pointing the way to the centre from which the Word goes forth; and each can begin to express in his daily living some of the quality of God which Christ so perfectly portrayed and which carried Him in triumph from the Mount of Transfiguration down into the valley of duty and of service, and which enabled Him to go forward with staunch determination to the Cross experience, through the triumphal way of acclamation and the sorrowful ways of desertion and of loneliness.

The impulse is strong to close with some words of Arjuna, spoken to Krishna, long before the Christian era, after the revelation of the unveiled beauty to which he had been admitted. Their relevance is unquestionable. One can almost [171] imagine St. Peter or St. John saying them to Christ when they opened their eyes and "saw Jesus only." Perhaps they may apply to us also as we consider Christ and our relation to Him:

"If thinking Thee my comrade, I addressed Thee brusquely ... not knowing this greatness of Thine, or carelessly, or through affection, or whatever I have done to make a jest of Thee, unseemly, in journeying, resting, or seated, or at the banquet, whether alone, O, unfallen One! or in presence of these, for all this I ask forgiveness from Thee, Immeasurable One! Thou art the Father of the world, of things moving and unmoving; Thou art worthy of honour, the reverend Teacher of the world. None equal Thee; how could any be greater? even in the three worlds there is none like Thee in might.

"Therefore bowing down, prostrating my body before Thee, I seek Thy grace, O worthy Lord! As the Father his son, the comrade his comrade, the beloved his beloved, so deign Thou, Lord, to pardon me! I exult, beholding what was never seen before, and my heart trembles with fear; show me, Lord, the former form; Lord of Gods, be gracious, upholder of worlds." [clxxviii] 33