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CHAPTER TWO - The First Initiation . . . The Birth at Bethlehem - Part 1

CHAPTER TWO

The First Initiation . . . The Birth at Bethlehem

KEY THOUGHT

"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (St. John, III.3.)

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CHAPTER TWO

The First Initiation . . . The Birth at Bethlehem

1

In our discussion of these five major initiations we shall seek to do three things. First, we shall endeavour to realise that Christianity is the flower and the fruitage of the religions of the past, being the last to be given out, with the exception of the Mohammedan religion. We have seen that the emphasis of the Christian religion has been laid upon the unit in the human family, and also upon the unique mission of Christ Himself. Christ came to teach the supreme value of the individual, as I have already indicated in the previous chapter. [xxix]1

It would appear that the emphasis laid by the followers of Mohammed upon the fact of God, the Supreme, the One and Only, was in the nature of a balancing pronouncement, coming forth as it did in the fifteenth century, in order to safeguard man from forgetfulness of God, as he drew nearer to his own latent and essential divinity as a son of the Father. The study of the relationships of these different faiths, and the manner in which they prepare for and complement each other, is of the deepest interest. This our Western theologians have often forgotten. Christianity may and does preserve secret within itself the sacred teaching, but it inherited that teaching from the past. It may personalise itself through the instrumentality of the greatest of the divine Messengers, but the way of that Messenger had been prepared beforehand, [34] and He had been preceded by other great Sons of God. His word may be the life-giving Word for our Western civilisation, and may embody the salvation which had to be brought to us, but the East had its own teachers, and each of the past civilisations upon our planet had had its divine Representative. As we consider the message of Christianity and its unique contribution, let us not forget the past, for if we do we shall never understand our own faith.

Secondly, we must remember to think in terms of the whole and to realise that the great expansions of consciousness to which we shall constantly refer have their universal parallels. Some of these unfoldments in the race lie in past racial history. Some lie ahead. One lies immediately possible in the present. As man's physical and mechanical equipment develops to meet his expanding consciousness, he is gradually led to experience more and more of the divine Immanence, to perceive more of the divine Transcendence, and to register with an increasingly illumined awareness the revelation which is sequentially presented for his education and his cultural growth.

Today we stand at the very verge of the birth hour of the racial Christ, and out from the darkness of the womb of matter the Christ child can enter into the light of the kingdom of God. Another crisis is upon us, and for this Christ has prepared the race, for when He was born at Bethlehem, it was not simply the birth of another divine Teacher and Messenger, but the appearing of an Individual Who not only summed up in Himself the past achievement of the race, but Who was also the forerunner of the future, embodying in Himself all that it was possible for humanity to achieve. The appearance of Christ in the cave at Bethlehem was the inauguration of the possibility of a new cycle of spiritual unfoldment for the race, as well as for the individual.

Finally, we shall consider these unfoldments from the standpoint of the individual, and study those episodes related in the Gospel story which vitally concern the individual human being who, approaching the end of the long and weary [35] way of evolution, is ready to re-enact the same drama in his own experience. To him there comes the opportunity to pass from the stage of the new birth to that of the final resurrection, via the steep path of Mount Golgotha. In his innermost nature he must learn to understand the words of Christ, "Ye must be born again," [xxx]2 and to express the death unto life which is the outstanding message of St. Paul. [xxxi]3

Each of us must sooner or later prove this for himself, because "living religious experience is the only legitimate way to the comprehension of dogmas." [xxxii]4 Only by following the example of those who have achieved can we ourselves learn the meaning of achievement. Only by our living divinely can our hidden divinity find true expression. This involves a practical self-application which brings its own reward but which must at first be entered upon blindly.

The history of humanity is therefore the history of this individual search for divine expression and light, and for the ultimate achievement of the new birth which releases a man into the service of the kingdom of God. Down the ages, individuals throughout the world have passed through these five expansions of consciousness, and have entered into a deeper life of fuller, richer service. Step by step, their sense of divinity has grown, and their awareness of the divine Life, immanent in nature, has led them to the recognition of the paralleling truth of God transcendent. God in the individual, and God in Christ. God in all forms, and God the informing life of the cosmos, and yet a God Who consciously informs a universe as well as a man and the minutest atom of substance. The evolution of this recognition of divinity in man has been gradual and slow, but at certain points in racial history (as in the history of the individual man) critical moments have been reached, and crises have emerged and have been transcended, each definite initiation leaving the [36] race with an expanded understanding. Today mankind is being prepared for just such a transition, and for the refocussing of the human consciousness in a higher dimension and in a richer field of experience. Humanity is ready to step on to a higher rung of the evolutionary ladder. Faced with a situation so peculiar and an experience so unparalleled, our present chaotic bewilderment need cause no surprise. We are trembling on the verge of another step forward; we are ready for another initiation; we are on the point of widening our horizon, and passing through an open door into a larger room. All that is transpiring is no indication of failure, of senseless confusion and blind upheaval. It is rather a process of temporary destruction for further rebuilding, and is but a correspondence in the racial life to those tests and trials which are always the lot of the disciple preparing for initiation. For this, Christianity has prepared numbers of the race. The new interpretation and the next revelation are imminent.

This coming revitalisation of the essential and inner nature of humanity, with the consequent reorganisation of world affairs and of human life, is already sensed and awaited by the thinkers of the race, and they constantly isolate the present opportunity. The expectancy in the race is assuming vital proportions.

In the words of an ancient Mexican aphorism, "Always in the centre shall come a new Word." Every form has its positive centre of life. Every organism is constructed around a central nucleus of power. There is a centre in our universe from which the Word went forth, bringing into being our organised solar system as we now have it, and the planet on which we live, with its myriad forms of life.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

"The same was in the beginning with God.

"All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.

"In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.

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"He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not." [xxxiii]5

What is thus true of the Whole is true also of the part. Each civilisation, as an expression of the human consciousness, has had its Word. Two thousand years ago a Word was for us "made Flesh," and around that dynamic centre of spiritual life our Western world revolves. Whether we accept this fact or question it matters not, as far as the results are concerned, for as Dr. Schweitzer tells us:

"The historical foundation of Christianity, as rationalism, liberalism, and modern theology count it, exists no longer—which, however, is not to say that Christianity has therefore lost its historical foundation. The work which historical theology believed it must carry out, and which it sees falling to pieces at the very moment when completion was near, is only the terra cotta veneer of the true indestructible, historical foundation, which is independent of any historical knowledge and proof—simply because it is there, it exists.

"Jesus is something to our world because a mighty stream of spiritual influence has gone forth from Him and has penetrated our age also. This fact will be neither shaken nor confirmed by an historical knowledge." [xxxiv]6

Always the Word has sounded out which has enabled the race to see and recognise its next step. The Christ enabled man to hear this in the past; He will enable man to do so again today. Some day, as all Masons know, these Words which have been spoken periodically will be superseded by a WORD which is known among them as the "Lost Word." When that Word is finally spoken humanity will be enabled to climb to the final peak of human achievement. The hidden divinity will then shine forth in its glory, through the medium of the race. The height of material achievement has perhaps been reached. Now comes the opportunity for that subtle divine Self to manifest through the agency of the experience which we call the "new birth," [38] and which Christianity has ever taught. The effect of all that is now transpiring upon earth is to bring to the surface that which is hidden within the human heart, and to unveil to our eyes the new vision. Then we can pass through the gateway of the New Age into a world which will be characterised by newer awareness, a deeper understanding of the vital realities, and a truer and higher standard of values. The Word must again sound forth from the centre—the Centre in the Heavens, and the centre in every human heart. Each individual soul must hear it for itself alone. Each of us has to pass through that experience wherein we know ourselves to be a "Word made Flesh," and until the Bethlehem experience is a part of our individual consciousness as souls, it remains a myth. It can become a fact—the major fact in the experience of the soul.

I cannot here enter into a definition of the word "soul." An extract from a book by Dr. Bosanquet expresses the idea in terms which link it up with individual experience, and yet preserve the cosmic implications in their beauty. An isolated soul is an impossibility. He says:

"The Soul—I use the term in the most general sense to mean the centre of experience which as a microcosm has acquired or is acquiring a character of its own and a relative persistence—the soul is not to be contrasted as a detached agent either with its constituent externality on the one hand or with the life of the absolute on the other. Our idea has been throughout ... that the soul is a range of externality `come alive' by centring in mind. And when we speak of the soul as a will creatively moulding circumstance, this is another expression for the microcosm, including the centre which its circumstances stand around, remoulding and reshaping itself. It is, on the other hand, a thread or fibre of the absolute life, ... a stream or tide within it of varying breadth, intensity, and separateness from the great flood within which it moves." [The italics are mine. A. A. B.] [xxxv]7

What this soul is, when unveiled and manifested (even through the limitations of the flesh), Christ made clear to us. [39] The partial in us is complete in Him, a fact in full expression. He has linked us to Himself through His perfected humanity; He has linked us to God through His expressed divinity.

Two thoughts must therefore be borne in mind by all of us at this time if we are not to be submerged in the apparent world chaos and thus lose our perspective. One is that each age provides its way out. This, Christ meant when He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life." [xxxvi]8 He knew that He synthesised in Himself the soul of the past and the spirit of the future. And what is true of Him is true also of the teaching He gave. In Christianity the past is comprised and its best religious elements are included.

The soul of man stands at the gates of revelation, and he must learn that this revelation will come through himself perfected. Browning expressed this in the well-known lines:

"Thus he dwells in all

From life's minute beginnings, up at last

To man—the consummation of this scheme

Of being, the completion of this sphere

Of life: whose attributes had here and there

Been scattered o'er the visible world before,

Asking to be combined, dim fragments meant

To be united in some wondrous whole,

Imperfect qualities throughout creation,

Suggesting some one creature yet to make,

Some point where all those scattered rays should meet

Convergent in the faculties of man.

When all the race is perfected alike

As man, that is; all tended to mankind,

And, man produced, all has its end thus far:

But in completed man begins anew

A tendency to God. Prognostics told

Man's near approach; so in man's self arise

August anticipations, symbols, types

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Of a dim splendour ever on before

In that eternal circle life pursues.

For men begin to pass their nature's bound,

And find new hopes and cares which fast supplant

Their proper joys and griefs; they grow too great

For narrow creeds of right and wrong, which fade

Before the unmeasured thirst for good: while peace

Rises within them ever more and more.

Such men are even now upon the earth,

Serene amid the half-formed creatures round

Who should be saved by them and joined with them."

 [xxxvii]9

Man the human being, a soul in incarnation, is on the verge of taking that step forward which will bring about that first of the great unfoldments which we call "the new birth." Once that has been undergone, the life of the infant Christ will increase, and the momentum set up will carry him forward along that Way which leads from one high peak of attainment to another, until he himself becomes an illumined Light-bearer, and one who can light the way for others. The illuminati have ever led the race forward; the knowers, mystics and saints have ever revealed to us the heights of racial and individual possibility.

The Way from the Birth at Bethlehem to the Crucifixion Mount is a hard and a difficult one, but it is trodden with joy by the Christ and by those whose consciousness has been attuned to His. The joy of physical life is changed into the joy of understanding, and new values, new desires and a new love replace the old.

The Birth at Bethlehem marked the beginning of the long way of tragedy of the Saviour. It made Him "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." [xxxviii]10 It was the beginning of the end, and marked His initiation into higher states of consciousness. This is apparent in the Gospel story.

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2

Before we take up a definite consideration of these great initiations, it might be of value to touch upon one or two points in connection with the subject as a whole. So much peculiar and unsound teaching on the matter is being given out at this time, and so wide is the general interest, that a measure of clear thinking is badly needed, and attention should be called to certain factors which are frequently overlooked. It might be asked at this point, "Who is the initiator? Who is eligible to stand before Him and to pass through an initiation?"

It cannot be too clearly emphasised that the first initiator with whom a man has to deal is, ever and always, his own soul. Many esoteric schools and teachers direct their teaching and their aspirants towards some great Master Who is supposed to prepare them for this step, and without Whom no progress is possible. They forget that it is not possible for such a Master even to contact a man in this relationship until he has made a clear and definite contact with his own soul. It is on the level of awareness which is that of the soul itself that those who can help are to be found, and until we have, as individuals, penetrated into that state, it is not possible for us to be brought into intelligent touch with those who normally function there. Initiation relates to consciousness and is merely a word which we use to express the transition which man can make out of the consciousness of the fourth or human kingdom, into the fifth or spiritual kingdom, the kingdom of God. Christ came to reveal the way into that kingdom.

This initiating soul, as we have already seen, is called by many names in the New Testament, and in the other religions it is called by a terminology suited to the time and temperament of the aspirant. Where the Christian disciple speaks of "Christ in you, the hope of glory," [xxxix]11 the Oriental disciple may speak of the Self or the Atman. The modern [42] schools of thought speak of the ego, or the higher self, the real man, or the spiritual entity, whilst in the Old Testament reference is made to the "Angel of the Presence." A long list of these synonyms could be compiled, but for our purpose we shall confine ourselves to the word "soul" because of its wide use in the West.

The immortal soul in man prepares him for the first initiation, for it is this soul which manifests upon earth as the "infant Christ" and appears in man. This is the new birth. That which has been slowly gestating in man comes at last to birth, and the Christ, or soul, is born consciously. Always the germ of the living Christ has been present, though hidden, in every human being. But in due time and season the infant soul makes its appearance, and the first of the five initiations is made possible. The work proceeds, and the Christ-life unfolds and develops in the man until the second and third initiations take place. At that time, as many believe, we are initiated through the instrumentality of the Christ, and in full waking consciousness the initiate stands in His Presence and sees Him face to face. Browning expresses this truth in the great poem Saul when he says:

"Oh, Saul, it shall be

A Face like my face that receives thee; a Man like to me

Thou shalt love and be loved by, for ever: A Hand like this hand

Shall throw open the gates of new life to thee!

See the Christ stand!"

After the third initiation, the Transfiguration, when the personality has been subordinated to the soul, or the indwelling Christ, and the glory of the Lord can shine forth through the medium of the flesh, we are faced with the supreme achievement of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. Then, we are told, that mysterious Being, spoken of in the Old Testament as Melchizedek, and as the Ancient of Days, will play His part and initiate us into the still higher mysteries. Of Him we are told that:

"This Melchizedek, King of Salem, Priest of the Most High God [43] ... was, in the first place, as His Name means, King of Righteousness, and besides that, King of Salem (that is King of Peace). Being without father or mother or ancestry, having neither beginning of days nor end of life ... He remains a priest in perpetuity." [xl]12

He is the One Who receives the initiate and superintends the higher transitions of consciousness which are the reward of the tests triumphantly undergone. He is the One Whose "star shines forth" when the initiate enters into light.

There are therefore three initiators: first, a man's own soul, then the Christ of history, and finally the Ancient of Days, the one in Whom "we live, and move, and have our Being." [xli]13 These ideas are interesting when we realise that out of the five initiations there are three which seem, and naturally so, to be of supreme importance. In the life of Christ there are episodes which represent great points of attainment, all climaxing cycles and initiating new ones. These are the first initiation, the Birth; the third initiation, the Transfiguration; and the fifth, the Resurrection. There is in nature some mysterious value which is connected with the first, the third, and the fifth—the beginning, the middle point and the climaxing consummation. As has been pointed out, "it is the intervals, not only between the base note, the major third and the perfect fifth, or those which distinguish the quaver from the semi-quaver, which enable us to build up a symphony or song." Between these high points, in the intervals of which the details are given us in the Gospel story, the work is carried on which makes the later achievements possible. We are primarily considering in this book the technique of the entrance into the kingdom of God. That kingdom exists, and birth into it is as inescapable as birth into the human family. The process is a sequential proceeding from gestation until, in "the fullness of time," the Christ Child is born; the soul begins to manifest on earth, and the life of the disciple and initiate begins. He passes from stage [44] to stage until he has mastered all the laws of the spiritual kingdom. Through birth, service and sacrifice the initiate becomes a citizen of that kingdom, and this is as much a natural process connected with his inner life as are the physical processes in their connection with his outer life as a human being. These two go on together, but the inner reality eventually comes into manifestation through the sacrifice of the human to the divine.

The initiate is not simply a good man. The world is full of good men who are probably a long way from being initiates. Neither is the initiate a well-meaning devotee. He is a man who has added a sound intellectual understanding to the basic qualifications of a sound moral character and devotion. Through discipline he has coordinated his lower nature, the personality, so that it is a "vessel meet for the master's use," [xlii]14 that master being his own soul. He knows that he walks in a world of illusion, but is training himself whilst doing this to walk in the light of the soul, realising that in service to his fellowmen and in forgetfulness of self he prepares himself to stand before the portal of Initiation. Upon that path he meets those who, like himself, are learning to be citizens of the kingdom.

This has been the knowledge and the message of all true Christians down the centuries, and their united testimony bears witness to the reality of the kingdom, to the fact that those who seek it truly can find it, and that those who make enquiry as to its existence shall not be disappointed. The way into the kingdom is found by questioning and answering, by seeking and finding, and by the obedience to that inner voice which can be heard when all other voices are stilled.

When that voice is heard we come to a consciousness of the possibilities ahead and take the initial step towards that first initiation which leads to Bethlehem, there to find and meet with Christ. Within ourselves we find God. In the cave of the heart the divine life can be felt throbbing. Man discovers himself to be one of a vast number who have undergone the [45] same experience, and through the process of initiation he gives birth to the Christ. The "infant life," newborn into the kingdom of God, starts on the struggle and the experience which will lead him step by step from one initiation to another till he too has attained. Then he also becomes a teacher and an expression of divinity, and follows in the footsteps of the Saviour, serving the race, sounding the needed note, and helping others to reach the point he has reached. The path of service and cooperation with the divine will become the purpose of his life.

Not all initiates can reach the altitude which Christ reached. His was a unique and cosmic mission. But experience of each stage of illumination, as portrayed in the Gospel story, is possible to the disciples of the world. Therefore, in summing up these ideas concerning the new birth into the kingdom, which at this time faces so many, it must be borne in mind that:

"At the first great Initiation the Christ is born in the disciple. It is then that he realizes for the first time in himself the outpouring of the divine Love, and experiences that marvellous change which makes him feel himself to be one with all that lives. This is the `Second Birth,' and at that birth the heavenly ones rejoice, for he is born into `the kingdom of heaven,' as one of the `little ones,' as a `little child'—the names ever given to the new Initiates. Such is the meaning of the words of Jesus, that a man must become a little child to enter into the Kingdom." [xliii] 15

The same writer points out in another place that:

"The `second birth' is another well-recognised term for Initiation; even now in India the higher castes are called `twice-born,' and the ceremony that makes them twice-born is a ceremony of Initiation—mere husk truly, in these modern days, but the `pattern of things in the heavens.' [xliv]16 When Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus he states that `Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,' and this birth is spoken of as that `of water and the Spirit,' [xlv]17 this is the first Initiation; a later one is that `of the Holy [46] Ghost and fire, [xlvi]18 the baptism of the Initiate in his manhood, as the first is that of birth, which welcomes him as the `Little Child' entering the kingdom. [xlvii]19 How thoroughly this imagery was familiar among the mystics of the Jews is shown by the surprise evinced by Jesus when Nicodemus stumbled over His mystic phraseology: `Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?'" [xlviii] 20

Facing these possible heights of attainment stand the disciples of the world at this time. Here also stands the weary world disciple, humanity as a whole, worn and distraught, bewildered and restless, yet conscious of divine potentialities and great dreams, visions and ideals which evoke a hope and a refusal to be defeated and are the guarantee of eventual success. The voice of all the world Saviours and the example of the Christ indicate to humanity the Way that must be trodden. This leads away from the superficial and the material, from the world of unreality to the world of reality. "Man has had enough of a life cut off from its religious centre, and a quest for a new religious balance, a spiritual deepening will begin; in no order of his activity can he carry on any longer merely on the surface, a purely external life." [xlix]21 Deep calls unto deep, and from out the darkness of those depths, and through pain and suffering, the Christ child will emerge, and humanity as a whole will stand ready to make the great transition into the kingdom of God. Man can now pass on into the kingdom and commence making spiritual history. Up to the present, history has been preparatory. The race is only today, for the first time ready to take the great step on to the path of discipleship and of purification which precedes the path of initiation. Individuals have ever emerged out of the rank and file and lifted themselves to the pinnacles of attainment, and so climbed the mountain of initiation. But today this becomes possible for the many. The voice of those who have achieved, the clarion call of those who are [47] initiate in the mysteries of the kingdom of God, make the new step possible. The moment is unique and urgent. The call is to the individual but also, for the first time in history, it is sounded in the ears of the crowd, because the crowd is ready to respond.

Such is the situation now. The voices of these individuals who have entered into the kingdom call to the multitude today in no uncertain terms, and the issue is sure, though to some the initiating of humanity may seem a slow process. Old truths enunciated by the world Teachers and Saviours are in process of re-interpretation, to meet the ancient needs in new terms and in a more vital way. Those Leaders who mould the spirits of men are holding the doors wide open, and through them mankind will be obliged to pass, rapidly if it will listen, but inevitably, whether it now hears or no.

Our theme therefore gradually emerges in our consciousness. We can see that it must be approached from two major angles. We shall study these five initiations of Jesus from the angle, first of all, of the individual aspirant, so that it may become apparent that, as children of God, we can all participate in what the Christ went through. One of the interesting things which appear as we study the life of Christ and note how the divine Plan for that life was progressively registered in His consciousness, is that at first He only dimly sensed what He had to do. The ideas developed as He grew older. After the first initiation, the Birth at Bethlehem, His words to His mother were, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" [l]22 He knew that He was ordained to work and to serve, but the specifications of that work were only later made clear to His mind. He simply recognised a Plan, and to that Plan He dedicated Himself. This must also be done by those who follow in His steps.

The second initiation, that of the Baptism, then took place. Christ had achieved manhood, and this attainment was followed immediately by a definite and conscious rejection of evil. Recognition of work to be done must be succeeded [48] by the purification of the one who must thus work, and a demonstration must be given of that purification and freedom from evil. This, Christ gave in the victory of the three temptations. Then, only after this evidenced preparation, do we read that He proceeded to teach. [li]23

Recognition and preparation for participation in the divine Plan was next followed by dedication to that Plan. After the Transfiguration He entered into a full realisation of what lay ahead for Him, and He defined it clearly to His disciples, saying:

"... the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.... If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." [lii] 24

Then we read later in the same chapter that "He steadfastly set His face to go" up to the place of suffering and of sacrifice.

Finally came the realisation that He had accomplished what He had set out to do. He had fulfilled the Plan; the Father's business had been done and the "many things" undergone. We read that even on the Cross the Plan still engrossed His attention, and with His final "It is finished," [liii]25 He passed through the gates of death to a joyful resurrection.

The gradual revelation of the Plan and its service always accompanies the initiation process; the individual learns to subordinate his life to the Will of the Father, and to become—as Christ became—the servant of that Will. The initiation process itself is only a part of the general Plan for the race, and the paths of discipleship and of initiation are but the final stages of the Path of Evolution. The earlier steps on the Path are concerned with human living and experiencing, but the final stages, after the new birth, are concerned with spiritual unfoldment.

What is true of the unfoldment of the individual is true [49] of the race; and all these stages must be worked out in the racial life. Those who see the vision clearly can trace the evidences of this unfolding Plan in the steady growth of several ideas that are now dominant in the world. Without going into detail or entering into lengthy expositions of the subject, the growth of the Plan and of the racial response can be traced quite clearly in the development of the God idea. First, God was a far-away, anthropomorphic Deity, unknown and unloved, but regarded with awe and fear, and worshipped as the Deity expressing Himself through the forces of nature. As time elapsed, this distant God drew a little nearer to His people, taking on a more human colouring until, in the Jewish dispensation, we find Him much like ourselves, but still the wrathful, ethical Ruler, and still obeyed and feared.

He approached still nearer as time went on; and before the advent of Christianity men recognised Him as the beloved Krishna of the Hindu faith, and as the Buddha. Then the Christ came to the West. God Himself was seen incarnate among men. The distant had become the near, and the One Who had been worshipped in awe and wonder could now be known and loved. Today God is coming closer still, and the new age will not only recognise the truth of the past revelations and testify to their validity and their progressive revelation of divinity, but to all this will be added the ultimate revelation of the Presence of God in the human heart, of Christ born in man, and of each human being manifesting, in truth, as a son of God.

In a consideration of the unfoldment of consciousness the same emerging divine Plan appears. Though the race in its infancy was governed by instinct, as time elapsed the intellect began to show itself and is continuing to control human affairs, government and thought. Out of the intellect, rightly used and understood, something fairer and still more revealing is being evolved, and steadily we can trace the growth of this new force, the intuition, in modern intelligent man. This, in its turn, brings illumination, and so [50] man passes from glory to glory until the omniscient cosmic Son of God can be seen, expressing Himself through every son of man.

Again, the same unfoldment can be traced racially in the transition we have made through the various stages from that of the isolated savage to the family and the tribe, then to the unification of the tribes into nations under one central government, until today we live in a world which is beginning to respond to that which is greater than the nation—humanity itself—and to conceive its expression through the development of an international consciousness. No matter by what line we trace the growth of the Plan, we come from a distant, dark and ignorant past to a present point wherein truer values are seen emerging. We begin to see what that Plan is and whither we are going. We are entering steadily into the world of spiritual realities, because "there is a road from every natural group of facts to every spiritual reality in the universe; and the essential nature of mind forces it always in some degree to traverse this road...." [liv]26

At this "end of the age" man stands before the door of opportunity, and, because he is in process of discovering his own divinity, he will enter into the realm of real values and arrive at a truer knowledge of God. The mystery of the new birth confronts him, and through that experience he must pass.

This divinity in man must be brought to the birth, both in the individual and in the race, and thus can the kingdom of God on earth be brought into being.

3

All of these five initiations have certain basic points in common, resemblances which in themselves are of real significance. There are factors which are germane to all of them. The Way into the kingdom is universal, and man himself is the symbol and the reality. He looks out at all [51] the myths and symbols of the world; he reads and knows the story of the world Saviours; at the same time he himself has to re-enact the same story and make myth a fact in his own personal experience; he must know Christ; he must also follow Christ stage by stage through the great experiences of the initiatory process.

Every initiation is preceded by a journey; each stage and each dramatic happening comes at the end of a period of travel. The symbolism of this is apparent. "The treading of the Path" is a familiar way of describing the approach of a human being to the mysteries. It is interesting to note that today the whole world is on the move. Everybody is travelling and journeying—a process symbolic of an inner condition of search and movement towards a preordained goal. Travel by rail, by steamship and by airplane is today the lot of everyone. Groups of people in many countries are being transferred from place to place as economic conditions make possible and destiny dictates. We are journeying hither and thither. We are on our way, widening our horizons. We are also preparing for expansions of consciousness which will enable us to live in two realms at once—the life which must be lived on earth and the life which we can live in the kingdom of God. Humanity is on the first stage of its journey towards the mystic Bethlehem where the Christ child will be born, and the first initiation is, at this time, an imminent happening for many.

"To every man there openeth

A way, and ways and a WAY.

And the high soul takes the high way

And the low soul gropes the low;

And in between, on the misty flats,

The rest drift to and fro,

But to every man there openeth

A high way and a low.

And every man decideth

The way his soul shall go."

 [lv]27

[52]

Again, every initiation is marked by the enunciation of a Word of Power. The initiate hears it, though the rest of the world may not. When Christ passed through these crises, in every case a Voice sounded out, and the sound which went forth "opened anew the gates of life." Door after door is opened on the demand of the initiate and at the response by the Initiator, standing on the other side of the portal. We shall see what each Word signified. The Word always issues forth from the centre. Again and again in the New Testament we are told that "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear," [lvi]28 and a study of the words spoken to the seven Churches in Revelations will bring much light upon the factor of the Word.

Great racial Words have been sounded forth and have brought about needed changes, and have signified a potency of true spiritual value to the sensitive.

The Word or sound for ancient Asia in the past was TAO, or the Way. It stood for that ancient Way which the Initiates of the far East trod and taught. For our race the sound is AUM, which has degenerated in our Occidental vernacular into AMEN. The ancient scriptures of India regard this Word as peculiarly the indication of divinity, of the spirit of life, the breath of God. What the new Word will be which will "come forth from the centre" we do not know, for it will not be heard until the race is ready. But there is a common Word of Power which will be given into the custody of our race if we measure up to our opportunity and, through the new birth, enter into the kingdom of God. It is this Word which will quicken into life the hidden soul of man and galvanise him into a renewed spiritual activity. As the race grows in sensitivity, as the aspirants of the world in all the many religions cultivate the ability (through meditation) to hear the Voice which can tune out all other voices, and as they learn to register the Sound which will obliterate all other sounds, they will, as a group, record the new Word which will issue forth.

[53]

At each initiation of Jesus, as we shall see, a Sign was given; it was a Sign which registered upon the consciousness of those who were not initiate. Each time, a symbol or form was seen which was indicative of the revelation. Christ Himself tells us that at the end of the age the sign of the Son of Man will be seen in the Heavens. [lvii]29 Just as the Birth at Bethlehem was ushered in by a Sign, that of the Star, so shall that birth towards which the race is hastening be likewise ushered in by a heavenly Sign. The appeal which goes up from the hearts of all true aspirants to initiation is beautifully embodied in the following prayer:

"There is a peace that passeth understanding; it abides in the hearts of those who live in the Eternal. There is a power which maketh all things new. It lives and moves in those who know the Self as One. May that peace brood over us; that power uplift us, till we stand where the One Initiator is invoked, till we see His star shine forth."

When that Sign is seen and the Word is heard, the next step will be the recording of the Vision. The Plan and the part to be played by the initiate are shown to him, and he knows what he has to do. This Vision is spoken of as "the vision of God," but it is expressed to man in terms of God's will and the completeness of that which God intends. We are intended to be initiate into the mystery of that will. The vision of God is the vision of God's Plan. No man has seen God at any time. The revelation of God comes through the revelation of Christ.

"Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.

"Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." [lviii]30

Christ revealed in Himself the will of God and gave to humanity a vision of God's Plan for the world, this Plan [54] being the coming of the kingdom. He was God, and the word of God went forth from Him.

Man lives by the incarnation of God in himself. By passing through the gate of the new birth, he can redeem the flesh in which that divinity is encased, and can then help in the redemption of the world. For the race, too, there is the crisis, the initiation and the vision. "Where there is no vision, the people perish." [lix]31 But that vision is never of the whole Plan. It is not of the ultimate experience nor of the unfathomable consummation. For that we are not as yet prepared. Christ Himself did not proclaim the final revelation. He saw and proclaimed the next step for the race. The events immediately ahead are sensed, to be later intelligently considered; there is a moment of prevision, a foretelling of movement and activity, of difficultly and service, and of the next unfolding glory.

Following the vision, as that followed initiation, comes a renewed cycle of test and of difficulty. The truths revealed and the revelation accorded have to be worked out in the experience of daily life. Moments of assimilation and reflection must succeed the periods of exaltation and of vision. Unless there is a practical experience of that which is known, it remains upon the mountain top of revelation.