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CHAPTER THREE - The Second Initiation . . . The Baptism in Jordan - Part 1

CHAPTER THREE

The Second Initiation . . . The Baptism in Jordan

KEY THOUGHT

"It is a propitious moment to put the Christian life into serious practice.... At a time of catastrophe, a process of ascetic purification takes place, in the absence of which there can be no spiritual life, whether for society or for the individual...."

Freedom of the Spirit, by Nicholas Berdyaev, p. 46.

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CHAPTER THREE

The Second Initiation . . . The Baptism in Jordan

1

"Wherever a thing is both perceived and felt, there is the experience of the soul; and whenever a thought and a feeling become indistinguishable, there is the soul. Soul means oneness, unity, union between the inner wish and outer reality. As man moves toward acceptance of the universe, toward compatibility between what he feels as a wish from within, and what he perceives as the arrangement without, and as both elements expand, the soul moves towards greatness." (Italics are mine. A. A. B.) [xcvi] 1

The first initiation has taken place. Christ has been born in Bethlehem. The soul has come into outer expression, and now this soul—Christ (as the historical representative of all a soul can be), the individual initiate—moves on towards greatness. The mission of the Saviour definitely starts at this time, but for the sake of those who will follow after, He must sound the note of purification and conform to the ritual requirements and the general trend of thought of His time The initiate who has taken the first step must lay emphasis upon the purification of the lower nature which it is essential should preface the second initiation. The baptism of John was the symbol of this purification. Christ submitted Himself to the baptism, setting aside the protests of the Evangelist with His: "Suffer it to be so now; for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." [xcvii] 2

Christ had reached maturity. Tradition tells us that He [88] was thirty years old when He was baptised and started on His brief and spectacular public career. How true this may be historically, who can say? It is of no real importance. Christ was, is, and ever shall be. Speaking symbolically, it was necessary that He should be thirty years old, for there is significance in that number, where humanity is concerned. Thirty signifies the perfecting of the three aspects of the personality—the physical body, the emotional nature, and the mind. These three compose the form side of man, and veil or hide the soul. They are in reality his mechanism of contact with the outer world, the equipment whereby his consciousness unfolds and awakens. In their totality they constitute his "response apparatus," as the psychologists call it. We know that man is a physical animal as well as an emotional, sentient being and a thinking entity. When these three parts of man's lower nature are functioning smoothly, and together form a unit for the use of the inner man, an integrated personality, or an efficient lower self, is the result. To this the number thirty testifies. Ten is the number of perfection, and thirty testifies to perfection in all three parts of the equipment of the soul.

It is interesting to bear in mind that through these three aspects (or reflections of the divine being) man is brought en rapport with the existing universe, and therefore with God, immanent in nature. The physical body enables us to touch the tangible, visible world. The emotional, feeling nature enables us to say, "I lift up my heart unto the Lord." Most people live in their heart nature and in the feeling body, and it is through the heart that we find our way to the Heart of God. Only through love can Love be revealed. When through right use and understanding the mind is definitely directed and properly oriented, it is brought en rapport with the Mind of God, the Universal Mind, the Purpose, the Plan and the Will of God. Through the illumined mind of man, the Mind of Deity stands revealed. Thus man is seen as "made in the image of God." [xcviii]3

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At the second initiation Christ stood before God, the Initiator, with all these aspects purified and matured; His mechanism was adjusted and ready for the task, and thus enabled to give proof of that purification and tension in attitude which would enable Him to carry through His mission to a satisfactory conclusion. This He had to prove to God and man through the purification which the baptism could give, and through the subsequent temptations in the wilderness. Ready for His work, He possessed what Dr. Sheldon calls "the three cardinal elements of a great mind, namely, enthusiasm, intuitive insight, and systematized factual equipment," and it is further pointed out that the first two "are the more vital two, for they cannot be acquired if a person has reached adult life without them." [xcix] 4

Christ stood thus equipped.

It may be of value if we study here for a few minutes the purpose for which He stood thus equipped. We saw in our last chapter that this planet we call the Earth, is regarded by many modern scientists of eminence as probably unique in its constitution and its purpose. It apparently provides a conditioning of life to be found on no other planet. This may or may not be so, and only the unfoldment of man's consciousness can verify or negate this theory of uniqueness. Today, as we look out upon our planetary life, in all kingdoms the vision is discouraging. In all kingdoms we find death and disease, and in the animal and human kingdoms not only these, but also violence of many kinds. In the human family particularly the vision is saddening, so little have we learnt to understand that for which Christ stood, and so little have we gained from the purificatory processes of modern living. The will to betterment can be seen working in many fields where individuals are concerned, but the impulse is still weak in humanity as a whole. However, it can be aroused and we shall thus awaken to our environing responsibilities when we study anew the message of love which Christ gave.

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It is probably true that Christ came to us with a wider and deeper message than any previous Messenger from the Centre, but this in no way detracts from the status and work of Those Who preceded Him. He came at a crucial time, and in a period of world crisis, and embodied in Himself a cosmic principle—the principle of Love, which is the outstanding quality of God. Other aspects, qualities and purposes of the divine nature had been revealed by earlier incarnations of God, and appeared as the race reached the point in its development where a right reaction was possible. Zarathustra, to mention one such Messenger, had called the attention of mankind to the fact of the two basic principles to be found in the world—those of good and of evil—thus emphasising the basic dualities of existence. Moses revealed the Law, calling men to recognise God as the principle of justice, even if it may seem an unloving justice to those of us who live after the revelation which Christ gave. Buddha embodied in Himself the principle of divine wisdom and, with clear insight into the world of causes, saw mortal existence as it was and pointed the way out. But the principle of Love—the fundamental principle of the universe—had not been revealed before Christ came. God is love, and in the fullness of time this outstanding characteristic of the divine name had to be revealed and in such a manner that man could grasp it. It is thus that Christ embodied in Himself the greatest of the cosmic principles. This Law of Love can be seen functioning in the universe as the Law of Attraction, with all that is involved in that term—coherency, integration, position, direction and the rhythmic running of our solar system; it can be seen also in the disposition of God towards humanity, as revealed to us through Christ. This unique function of Christ as the custodian and the revealer of a cosmic principle or energy lies behind all He did; it was the basis and the result of His achieved perfection; it was the incentive and impulsion to His life of service, and it is the principle upon which the kingdom of God is founded.

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That paganism knows no goal or purpose is today for many of us a statement which will not bear investigation. All that had transpired in the past had for its goal that which happened when Christ appeared; it prepared humanity for the opportunity then offered, forming the foundation upon which the present is based. Similarly, the imminent revelation of the coming century will constitute the foundation upon which the future will rest, and for this purpose all that is now transpiring is of supreme importance.

Not only did Christ bridge the gap between the East and the West, summing up in Himself all that the East had of worth to contribute, but He gave to our occidental civilisation (at that time unborn) those great ideals and that example of sacrifice and of service which today (two thousand years after He walked among men) are becoming the keynote of the best minds of the age. The story of ideas, how they come and how they make their impact upon the human consciousness, thus changing the course of human affairs, is the story of history; but curiously enough, ideas constitute the one unpredictable element of the future. Some individual of outstanding personality steps out from the rank and file of the race, and thinks through into being some great and dynamic idea based on truth. He formulates it into such terms that his fellowmen can grasp it and eventually live by it. New trends, new incentives and new impulses then emerge, and thus history is made. It might be said with truth that without ideas there would be no history. In the enunciation of a cosmic idea, and in the capacity to make that idea an ideal of dynamic force, Christ stands alone. Through His life, He gave to us an idea which became in time the ideal of service, so that today the attention of many rulers and thinkers throughout the world is engrossed with the well-being of nations and men. That the technique employed and the methods used to enforce the sensed and visioned ideal are frequently wrong and undesirable, producing cruel and separative results, in no way alters the fact that behind all these idealistic experiments of the race lies this great ideal, [92] divinely inspired and summarised for us by Christ in His life and teaching.

Christ gave the greatest of all ideas—that God is Love and that love could manifest in human form, and, thus manifested, could constitute a possibility for all men. His life was the demonstration of a perfection such as the world had never previously seen.

The soul, which is the hidden Christ in all, mediates between the spirit (the Father) and the human being. Christ emphasised this when He called attention to man's essential divinity, speaking of God as "our Father," as He was the Father of Christ. It was the light which He came to show and which He saw also (hidden and veiled) in all, enjoining upon us that we should let that light shine forth." [c]5 He challenged us to show, and commanded us to demonstrate the perfection of which He was the embodiment. He proved to us the possible, and called upon us to express it. In this uniqueness of revelation Christ stands alone, because He was the greatest, the highest and the truest that has ever appeared, but not because—dare I say it?—He was the greatest that ever could appear. One dare not so limit God. Under the evolutionary revelation of the nature of divinity it appears that Christ climaxed the past and indicated the future Is it not possible that there may be aspects and characteristics of the divine Nature of which we cannot as yet have the faintest conception? Is it not probable that our sentient apparatus is still inadequate to grasp the fullness of God? May not our mechanism of perception require further evolutionary unfoldment before still other divine and spiritual characteristics can be safely revealed to us and in us? There may be future revelations of such stupendous wonder and beauty that as yet we can form no faintest idea of their possible outline. Otherwise God would be limited and static, and unable to do more than He has already done. How dare we say that it is possible for us to envisage the limits of the nature of Deity? How can the human intellect arrogantly believe that [93] it can recognise, even through Christ, the ultimate objectives of the divine Will? The history of the unfoldment of the human consciousness proves that truth has been given out progressively, and that the brilliant galaxy of World Teachers gave an ever-widening interpretation of Deity, reaching, as time elapsed, an ever larger number. Christ has given us the highest and the most inclusive revelation to which the human consciousness can respond, up to the present era. But how shall we dare to say that no more is possible to God, when we are ready to receive it? For this we are fast preparing. Even Christ Himself told His disciples that "he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do." [ci]6 Either these words express a truth, or the whole structure of our belief falls to the ground. There is more still to be revealed, or else past history loses its point; ancient beliefs lose their significance; and we have reached an impasse which God Himself would seem unable to transcend. This we cannot accept.

The cosmic Christ, the mystic Christ, the historical Christ, and the individual Christ are to all eternity, and the revelation can therefore be progressive. If we can believe that God is inclusive of all forms and of that which the forms reveal, surely as our equipment develops and our mechanism of contact improves we shall be able to see more of divinity than at present and be deemed worthy, at a later date, of a greater revelation. It is only our limitations as human beings which prevent our seeing all that there is to be seen.

The new birth brought us to the point where we became aware of a new world of light and of being. Through the process of that initiation we became citizens of the kingdom of God which Christ came to establish as a fact in the consciousness of men; we pass through the new birth into a world which is governed by a higher series of laws, the spiritual laws and new objectives open up before us, new aspects of our own hidden spiritual nature emerge and we begin to discover in ourselves the delineation of a new being, with a [94] different set of wishes, desires, ideals, and methods of world activity.

We speak much of the at-one-ment which Christ made within Himself and for man. We recognise the unity He felt with the Father, and that He has called us to a similar divine unity. But is it not possible that He established a synthesis broader than that of the individual and God—the synthesis of the kingdom of God?

What do these words mean? We have talked of the kingdom of Heaven in terms of separation. We are either in that kingdom or out of it. We are told that we must step out of the kingdom of men (controlled by the world, the flesh and the devil) into another kingdom which is pictured as utterly different. Yet is this so? All aspects of the three sub-human kingdoms—animal, vegetable and mineral—are found in man; and their synthesis, plus another factor, the divine intellect, we call the human kingdom. Man unifies in himself the so-called lesser manifestations of deity. In the sub-human kingdoms of nature we find three major types of consciousness: the mineral kingdom, with its subjective discriminating power, its capacity to grow, and its ultimate radio-activity; the vegetable kingdom, with its sensitivity or sentiency, and its developing response apparatus which is sensitive to sunlight, to warmth and cold, and to other environing climatic conditions; the animal kingdom with its greatly increased awareness, its capacity for free movement and for wider contacts through its instinctive nature. The human kingdom embodies all these types of awareness—consciousness, sentiency, instinct—plus that mysterious human faculty which we call "the mind," and we sum up all these inherited qualities in the word "self-conscious."

There comes, however, in the experience of the intelligent human being, a slowly dawning recognition that there is something still greater and of deeper value outside himself. He is sensitised to a subtler range of contacts and to impressions which he calls spiritual or ideal or mystical. Another type of consciousness begins to germinate in him, and at the [95] birth at Bethlehem this awareness becomes manifested and recognisable. Just as the human being synthesises in himself all that has been, plus his own peculiar constitution and qualities, so in him can also begin to emerge and demonstrate qualities which are not human.

Members of the kingdom of God will surely embody the heritage of four kingdoms, as man embodies the heritage of three. This higher citizenship involves the expression of the Christ consciousness, which is the consciousness of the group, of the relation of the part to the whole (something which Christ continuously emphasised) and of the human to the divine. The result of this realisation must surely be, under the evolutionary scheme, the appearance of another kingdom in nature. This constitutes the great task of Christ. Through the power of His realised divinity He produced the man who blended in Himself the best of all that had been, and revealed also what could be. He brought together into a functioning unity the higher and the lower, and made out of them "one new man." He founded the kingdom of God on earth, and produced a synthesis of all the kingdoms in nature, thus causing the appearance of a fifth kingdom. We might sum up the at-one-ments which He brought about as follows:

1. He unified in Himself to perfection the physical, emotional and mental aspects of man, and demonstrated therefore the perfect Individual.

2. He unified in Himself soul and body, the higher and the lower aspects, and therefore produced a divine incarnation.

3. He unified in Himself the best of all the kingdoms in nature, mineral, vegetable, animal, which means in their synthesis, the human with the intellect functioning.

4. Then He blended this synthesis with a higher spiritual factor and brought to the birth another kingdom in nature, the fifth.

Christ, having produced in Himself one unification or at-one-ment after another, for the benefit of humanity, appears before John the Baptist, and passes through the second initiation, that of purification in the waters of Jordan. Through [96] the process of baptism, and through the temptations which followed, He evidenced His maturity, faced His mission, and demonstrated to the world His purity and His power.

The third initiation, that of the Transfiguration, testified to the fact of the at-one-ment which Christ made between soul and body. Integration was complete, and the consequent illumination was made apparent to His disciples. He appeared before them as Son of Man and Son of God, and having proved to them Who He was, He faced the death which lay ahead of Him, and the intervening service.

In the fourth initiation, He demonstrated this integration not only as God-Man, but as the One Who enfolded in His consciousness the entire world of men. He unified Himself with humanity, and portrayed the effectiveness of that divine energy which enabled Him to say in truth, "I, if I be lifted up from the Earth, will draw all men unto Me." [cii]7 He was lifted up between Earth and Heaven, and for two thousand years these words of His have stood unchallenged.

2

"Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptised of him. But John forbade him, saying, I have need to be baptised of Thee and comest Thou to me?

"And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now, for it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered Him.

"And Jesus, when He was baptised, went up straightaway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him.

"And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased." [ciii]8

In these simple words we are told the story of this initiation. The keynote is purification, and it closed a period of preparation, of quiet service and inaugurated a cycle of strenuous [97] activity. The purification of the lower nature is a requirement which the Christian Church has ever emphasised as has also the Hindu faith. Christ held this ideal before His disciples and all men when He said, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." [civ]9

In an ancient treatise upon meditation, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, we find the teacher proclaiming, "Through purification comes also a quiet spirit ... and ability to see the Self." [cv]10 Purification is of many kinds and degrees. There is physical purity and moral purity, and there is also that magnetic purity which makes a man a channel for spiritual force. There is psychic purity, which is a rare thing to find, and mental purity. The word "purity" comes from the Sanskrit word pur, which means freedom from alloy, from limitation and from the imprisoning of the spirit in the chains of matter. There can be no achievement without purification; there is no possibility of our seeing and manifesting divinity without passing through the waters that cleanse. In the world today a great cleansing is going on. An "ascetic purification" and an enforced abstinence from much that has hitherto been deemed desirable, is going on in the world, and none of us can escape it. This is due to the breakdown of the economic system and the many other systems which are proving ineffectual in the modern world. Purification is being forced upon us, and as a consequence a truer sense of values must eventuate. A cleansing from wrong ideals, a racial purification from dishonest standards and undesirable objectives, is being powerfully applied at this time. Perhaps this means that many in the race today are going down to Jordan, to enter its purifying waters. A self-applied ascetic purification, and the recognition of its value by the pioneers of the human family, may succeed in leading them to the portal of initiation.

There is also to be found in this episode an interesting analogy to what is happening to the race today, from the [98] astrological standpoint. We are entering into the sign Aquarius, the Water Carrier. This sign stands symbolically for group purity and relationship, for the universality of experience and for the waters poured over all. When we began to enter this sign, about two hundred years ago, water became for the first time of general interest and of general use for sanitation and irrigation. The control of water and its utilisation as a means of transportation on a world-wide scale became possible. The use of water in our homes is now so universal that we hardly realise what the world must have been like prior to this use.

Christ in this great initiation, entered into the stream, and the waters passed over Him. In India this initiation is called that of "entering the stream," and he who undergoes it is regarded as having demonstrated both physical and psychic purity. In considering this initiation we must remember that two kinds of baptism are referred to in the story.

"John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptise you with water: but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." [cvi]11

There are therefore two kinds of baptism:

1. That of John the Baptist, which is the baptism by water.

2. The baptism of Jesus Christ, which is that of the Holy Ghost and of fire.

In these two symbols much of the story of human development is summed up, and the joint work of John the Baptist and of Jesus produced a synthesis which is indicative of the immediate objective of our racial endeavour. The symbolism is exact according to the ancient mystery teaching. A close study of this symbolic rendering of a basic truth would greatly profit the seeker in all countries, and an understanding of the significance of the symbols employed would throw much light upon reality.

In the evolution of the race the sentient feeling nature is [99] first developed, and water has ever been the symbol of that nature. The fluid nature of the emotions, the constant shifting between sentient pleasure and pain, the storms which arise in the world of feeling, and the peace and calm which can descend upon a man, make of water a most apposite symbol of this interior subtle world of the lower nature in which most of us live, and wherein our consciousness is predominantly focussed. The average man or woman is predominantly a blend of the physical and emotional natures; all early races have this characteristic and the probability is that, in old Atlantis, civilisation was entirely centred in the feelings and the desires, in the emotions, and—among its most advanced types—in the heart life. John the Baptist therefore gave the baptism of water which testified to the purification of the emotional nature, which must always be a preliminary step to the purification by fire.

The Jordan baptism is symbolic of the purification of the conscience in man, just as Christ and His baptism symbolised for us the divine in man and the purification which follows the activity of that divine spirit in the lower nature. Conscience, with its call to the recognition of the higher values, of the deeper truths and of the birth unto life, leads to Jordan, and so Christ went there to "fulfil all righteousness." This experience ever precedes the baptism into Christ and through Christ.

The baptism of John was a step upon the way into the centre, and of more general application than is the baptism of Jesus, for few are ready yet for the second initiation. It is preparatory to that final baptism, for the purification of the emotional nature must precede in time the purification of the mental nature, just as in the evolution of the race (and of a child, likewise) the feeling, sentient man is first developed, and then the mind comes into active life. The baptism which Christ gives His followers concerns the purification of the mind by fire. Fire, under the universal symbolism of religion, is ever symbolic of the mind nature. This baptism by fire is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

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Thus Jesus went up from Nazareth and Galilee to take the next step which was indicated in His experience. As the result of life experience and inner consecration, He was ready for the next initiation. This was taken in the river Jordan. Jordan means "that which descends," but also, according to some commentators, that which "divides," as a river divides and separates the land. In the symbolism of esotericism the word "river" frequently means discrimination. We have seen that water symbolises the emotional nature, and that the purification in Jordan, through baptism, typifies the complete cleansing of all feeling, of all wishes and of that desire life which is the determining factor with most people. The first initiation symbolises the dedication of the physical body and the physical plane life to the soul. The second initiation stands for the demonstrated control and consecration to divinity of the desire nature, with its emotional reactions and its potent "wish life."

A new factor now enters in, the discriminating faculty of the mind. By means of it, the disciple can bring the mental life under control and dedicate it to the life of the kingdom of God, which is consummated at the third initiation. Through the correct use of the mind, the disciple is led to make right choice, and to balance (with wisdom) the endless pairs of opposites.

We pass through the Birth initiation somewhat unconsciously. The full significance of what we have undergone does not appear to us; we are "infants in Christ," and as infants we just live and submit to discipline, gradually growing toward maturity. But there comes a time in the life of every initiate when choice must be made, and Christ was faced with this. A clear, clean interior break is to be made with the past before we can face towards a future of service, consciously undertaken, and know that from that time on nothing will be the same.

This initiation marked a tremendous change in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Up to that time, for thirty years, He had simply been the carpenter of the little town, and the son [101] of His parents. He was a personality doing much good in a small sphere. But after the purification in Jordan, having "fulfilled all righteousness," [cvii]12 He became the Christ, and went about His country, serving the race and speaking those words which have moulded for centuries our Western civilisation. For each of us there must come the same great expansion, and it occurs when we are fitted to take the second initiation. Our desire-life is then confronted with essential choices which only the mind can enable us properly to handle.

We are told in Cruden's Concordance that the name John means "which God gave," and in the three names which appear together in this episode—John, Jesus and Christ—the whole story of the consecrated aspirant is summed up: John, symbolising the divine aspect deeply hidden in man, which prompts a man towards the needed purity; Jesus, in this case symbolising the consecrated, pledged disciple or initiate, ready for that process which will be the seal of his purification; Christ, the divine indwelling Son of God, able now to manifest in Jesus, because Jesus has submitted to the baptism of John. That submission and completed purification brought its reward.

It was at this initiation that God Himself proclaimed His Son to be the One in Whom He was "well pleased." Every initiation is simply a recognition. It is a false idea, current in many schools of the mysteries and of esotericism, that initiation connotes a mysterious ceremony wherein, through the medium of the initiator and the rod of initiation, conditions are definitely changed in the aspirant, so that forever after he is altered and different. An initiation takes place whenever a man becomes, through his own self-effort, an initiate. Then having taken "the kingdom of Heaven by violence," [cviii]13 and having "worked out" his "own salvation through fear and trembling," [cix]14 his spiritual status is immediately recognised by his peers, and he is admitted to initiation.

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At initiation two things happen: the initiate discovers his fellow initiates, those with whom he can associate, and he finds out also the mission to which he is called. He becomes aware of his divinity in a new and factual sense, not just as a deeply spiritual hope, an intriguing hypothetical possibility and his heart's desire. He knows himself to be a son of God, therefore recognition is accorded to him. This was strikingly the case with Jesus Christ. His task emerged in its dread implications before His eyes, and this must surely have been the reason why He was driven into the wilderness. The urge to solitude, the search for that quiet where reflection and determination can strengthen each other, was the natural outcome of this recognition. He saw what He had to do—to serve, to suffer and to found the kingdom of God. The expansion of consciousness was immediate and deep. Dr. Schweitzer says in this connection:

"About Jesus' earlier development we know nothing. All lies in the dark. Only this is sure: at his baptism the secret of his existence was disclosed to him—namely, that he was the One whom God had destined to be the Messiah. With this revelation he was complete, and underwent no further development. For now he is assured that, until the near coming of the messianic age which was to reveal his glorious dignity, he was to labour for the Kingdom as the unrecognised and hidden Messiah, and must prove and purify himself together with his friends in the final Affliction." [cx]15

To the man Jesus this was probably a staggering disclosure. Dim anticipations of the path which He might have to tread must at times have entered His mind, but the full implications, and the picture of the way which lay ahead of Him could not have dawned upon His consciousness in their fullness until after the second initiation was undergone, when His purification was complete. He then faced the life of service and the difficulties which attend the path of every conscious son of God. The same writer says:

"In Jesus' messianic consciousness the thought of suffering acquired [103] now, as applied to himself, a mysterious significance. The Messiahship which he became aware of at his baptism was not a possession, nor a mere object of expectation; but in the eschatological conception, it was implied as a matter of course that through the trial of suffering he must become what God had destined him to be. His messianic consciousness was never without the thought of the Passion. Suffering is the way to the revelation of Messiahship!" [cxi] 16

Christ's entire life was one long via dolorosa, but it was illumined always by the light of His soul and by the recognition of the Father. Though, as recorded in the New Testament, it was divided into definite periods and cycles, and though obviously the detail of what He had to do was only progressively revealed to Him, His life constituted one great sacrifice, one great experience and one definite purpose. This definiteness of objective, and this consecration of the whole man to an ideal are conditions indicative of the state of initiation. All life's happenings are related to the carrying forward of the life task. Life takes on true significance. This is a lesson which all of us, uninitiate and aspiring, can now learn. We can begin to say, "Life to me, as I look back on it, is not a succession of experiences but one great experience illumined here and there by moments of revelation." [cxii]17

This illumination grows more constant as time goes on. The ancient Hindu teacher, Patanjali, taught that illumination is sevenfold, progressing by successive stages. [cxiii]18 It is as though he were dealing in thought with the seven illuminations which come to all the sons of God who are in process of awakening to their divine opportunities: the illumination which comes when we decide to tread the Path of probation, and to prepare ourselves for initiation. Then the light is shed on the distant vision, and we catch a fleeting glimpse of our goal. Next the light is shed upon ourselves, and we get a vision of what we are, and what we can be, and enter [104] upon the Path of discipleship, or—in the terminology of the Bible—we begin the long journey to Bethlehem. Then there are the five initiations which we are studying, each of which marks an increase of light which shines upon our way and develops that inner radiance which enables all God's children to say, with Christ: "I am the Light of the World," [cxiv]19 and to obey His command wherein He tells us to "let your light so shine before men that they may see." [cxv]20 This light, in its seven stages, reveals God—God in nature, God in Christ, God in man. It is the cause of the mystical vision about which so much has been written and taught and to which the lives of God's saints in both hemispheres have ever testified.

One wonders about the first man who received the first faint glimpse (with his dim inner light) of the infinite possibility lying ahead. He caught a glimpse of God, and from that minute the light from God waxed more and more intense. There is an ancient legend (and who shall say that it is not based on fact?) that Jesus of Nazareth was the very first of our humanity, in a dim and far distant past, to catch this glimpse, and that He was, through the consistency of His constantly directed effort, the first of our humanity to emerge into the very Light of God Himself. St Paul perhaps touched this truth when he spoke of Christ as the "Eldest in a vast family of brothers." [cxvi]21 Whether this legend is true or not, Christ entered into light because He was light; and the history of man has been a gradually growing illumination, until today radiance is everywhere to be found.

In this light, inherent and divine, latent and yet emanating from God, Christ saw the vision, and that vision demonstrated to Him His Sonship, His Messiahship and the path of His suffering. This vision is the heritage and the revelation of each individual disciple. This mystical revelation can be perceived, and once perceived, remains a fact—inexplicable often, but a definitely clear and inescapable reality. It gives [105] the initiate the confidence and the power to go forward. It is affective in our experience and is the root of all our future consistency and service; it is also unassailable. Upon this basis we move with courage from the known towards the unknown. It is finally ineffable, for it emphasises our divinity, is founded upon divine quality, and emanates from God. It is a glimpse into the kingdom of God, and a revelation of the path to be trodden on our way there. It is an expansion which enables us to realise that "the Kingdom of God is a state of the soul, coming from the spirit and reflected in the body." [cxvii]22

The first step into this kingdom is through the new Birth. The second step is through the baptism of Purification. It is a process of growth in the characteristics of the kingdom, and the gradual attainment of that maturity which marks the citizen of that kingdom. To this, Christ testified through the baptism when He attained maturity, setting us an example, and through His triumphant passing of the tests of the three temptations He demonstrated the needed purity.

The babe in Christ, the little child, the full-grown man, the perfected man! Through the Bethlehem experience the babe is born. The little child grows to maturity and manifests in his purity and power at the Baptism. He demonstrates at the Transfiguration as the full-grown man, and, on the Cross, he stands forth the perfected Son of God. An initiation is that moment in which a man feels and knows through every part of his being that life is reality and reality is life. For a brief moment his consciousness becomes all-enfolding; he not only sees the vision and hears the word of recognition, but knows that the vision is of himself, and that the word is himself made flesh.

This is the essential factor. An initiation is a blaze of illumination thrown upon the river of existence, and it is in the nature of a whole experience. There is no indefiniteness in it, and the initiate is never quite the same again in his consciousness.

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In the river Jordan the light from Heaven streamed upon the Christ, and His Father spoke those words which have sounded down the ages and have evoked response from all aspirants to the kingdom. The spirit of God descended as a dove upon him. The dove is ever a symbol of peace. For two reasons it was the chosen sign at this initiation. Water, as we have seen, is the symbol of the emotional nature, which nature when purified through initiation, becomes a peaceful limpid pool, capable of reflecting the divine Nature in its purity. Thus, in the form of a dove, the peace of God descended upon Jesus.

Secondly, the essential dualities of existence are typified for us in the Bible. The Old Testament stands for the natural lower man, the virgin Mary aspect, carrying within itself the promise of the Messiah, of Him Who shall come. The New Testament stands for the spiritual man, for God made flesh, and for the birth of that which the material nature carried and veiled for so long. The Old Testament opens with the appearance of the raven at the time of the founding of the ancient world, as we can begin to know it. The New Testament opens with the appearance of a dove—one the symbol of the raging waters, the other the symbol of the waters of peace. Through Christ and the unfoldment of the Christ life in each human being will come "the peace which passeth understanding." [cxviii] 23

Standing there in the waters of Jordan, Christ faced the world as Man. Standing upon the top of the Mount of Transfiguration, He faced the World as God. But in this initiation, He stood on a level with His brethren and demonstrated purity and peace. Let us remember that "from the point of view of others only that man is original who can lead them beyond what they already know, but this he cannot do until he has become their equal in their knowledge." [cxix]24 This is a point to be remembered. Christ was purified. But ahead of Him lay the temptations. He had [107] to become in His consciousness (either anew or through the recovery of an ancient past of test and trial) our equal in all points—of sin, of weakness and of human frailty, and of human success and achievement. Christ had to demonstrate His moral greatness as well as His divinity and His perfection as man attaining maturity. He had to pass through the tests to which every would-be citizen of the kingdom must be subjected when called upon to prove his fitness for the privileges of that kingdom. Of this kingdom the church is the outer and visible symbol, and though faulty and weak in the interpretation of its essential teachings, it symbolises the form of the kingdom of God. But this is not the kingdom of the theologians. It is not entered through the acceptance of certain formal beliefs. It is entered by those who have passed through the new birth, and gone down to Jordan.

The citizenship of this kingdom was on trial in the Person of Christ, and so He goes down into the wilderness, there to be tempted of the devil.

3

In this intimate episode in the life of Jesus Christ we are given perhaps the first real insight into the processes of His innermost mind. The following words open the story and are significant:

"And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil." [cxx] 25

This story of the temptation in the wilderness is most controversial. Many questions have been propounded and much agony of soul has been experienced by the serious believer who endeavours to reconcile common sense, Christ's divinity, and the devil. Was it possible that Christ could in reality [108] be tempted, and if so, could He have fallen into sin? Did He meet these temptations as the omnipotent Son of God, or did He meet them as a man and therefore subject to temptation? What is meant by the devil? And what was the relation of Christ to evil? Had this wilderness story never been told to us, what would have been our attitude to Christ? What really took place in the consciousness of Christ while in the wilderness? For what purpose are we permitted to share with Him this experience?

Many such questions arise in the mind of the intelligent man, and many have been the commentaries written to prove the particular point of each writer. It is not the purpose of this book to deal with the difficult subject of evil, nor to define the times when Christ was functioning as a man, and when He was functioning as the Son of God. Some believe that He was simultaneously both, and was "very God of very God" [cxxi]26 and yet essentially and utterly human at the same time. People make these statements, but they are apt to forget the implications. They affirm with decision their point of view, and omit to carry their attitude to a logical conclusion. The inference is that we are allowed to know about the temptation in order to teach us, as human beings, a needed lesson; let us therefore study the story from the angle of Christ's humanity, never forgetting that He had learned obedience to the divine spirit, the soul in man, and was in control of His body of manifestation.

He was "in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin;" [cxxii]27 He came in a human body, and was subject to human conditions as also we are; He suffered and agonised; He felt irritation, and was conditioned by His body, His environment and the period, as we all are. But because He had learnt to master Himself, and because the wheel of life had done its work with Him, He could face this experience and meet evil face to face, and triumph. He taught us thereby how to meet temptation; what to expect, as disciples preparing [109] for initiation, and the method whereby evil can be turned into good. He met temptation with no great new technique or revelation. He simply fell back on what He knew, what He had been taught and told. He met temptation each time with "It is written," [cxxiii]28 and employed no new powers to combat the devil. He simply utilised the knowledge which He had. He used no divine powers to overcome the Evil One. He simply used those which we all possess—acquired knowledge and the age-old rules. He conquered because He had taught Himself to overcome. He was the master of conditions at that time because He had learnt to master Himself.