Esoteric Christianity, or The Lesser Mysteries Part 6
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The beginning of what may be called the ministry of the Christ come to manhood is in that intense and permanent sympathy with the world's sorrows which is typified by the stepping down into the river. From that time forward the life must be summed up in the phrase, "He went about doing good;" for those who sacrifice the separated life to be a channel of the divine Life, can have no interest in this world save the helping of others. He learns to identify himself with the consciousness of those around him, to feel as they feel, think as they think, enjoy as they enjoy, suffer as they suffer, and thus he brings into his daily waking life that sense of unity with others which he experiences in the higher realms of being. He must develop a sympathy which vibrates in perfect harmony with the many-toned chord of human life, so that he may link in himself the human and the divine lives, and become a mediator between heaven and earth.
Power is now manifested in him, for the Spirit is resting on him, and he begins to stand out in the eyes of men as one of those who are able to help their younger brethren to tread the path of life. As they gather round him, they feel the power that comes out from him, the divine Life in the accredited Son of the Highest. The souls that are hungry come to him and he feeds them with the bread of life; the diseased with sin approach him, and he heals them with the living word which cures the sickness and makes whole the soul; the blind with ignorance draw nigh him, and he opens their eyes by the light of his wisdom. It is the chief mark in his ministry that the lowest and the poorest, the most desperate and the most degraded, feel in approaching him no wall of separation, feel as they throng around him welcome and not repulsion; for there radiates from him a love that understands and that can therefore never wish to repel. However low the soul may be, he never feels the Christ-Soul as standing above him but rather as standing beside him, treading with human feet the ground he also treads; yet as filled with some strange uplifting power that raises him upwards and fills him also with new impulse and fresh inspiration.
Thus he lives and labours, a true Saviour of men, until the time comes when he must learn another lesson, losing for awhile his consciousness of that divine Life of which his own has been becoming ever more and more the expression. And this lesson is that the true centre of divine Life lies within and not without. The Self has its centre within each human soul--truly is "the centre everywhere," for Christ is _in_ all, and G.o.d in Christ--and no embodied life, nothing "out of the Eternal" can help him in his direst need. He has to learn that the true unity of Father and Son is to be found within and not without, and this lesson can only come in uttermost isolation, when he feels forsaken by the G.o.d outside himself. As this trial approaches, he cries out to those who are nearest to him to watch with him through his hour of darkness; and then, by the breaking of every human sympathy, the failing of every human love, he finds himself thrown back on the life of the divine Spirit, and cries out to his Father, feeling himself in conscious union with Him, that the cup may pa.s.s away. Having stood alone, save for that divine Helper, he is worthy to face the last ordeal, where the G.o.d without him vanishes, and only the G.o.d within is left. "My G.o.d, my G.o.d, why hast Thou forsaken me?" rings out the bitter cry of startled love and fear. The last loneliness descends on him, and he feels himself forsaken and alone. Yet never is the Father nearer to the Son than at the moment when the Christ-Soul feels himself forsaken, for as he thus touches the lowest depth of sorrow, the hour of his triumph begins to dawn. For now he learns that he must himself become the G.o.d to whom he cries, and by feeling the last pang of separation he finds the eternal unity, he feels the fount of life is within, and knows himself eternal.
None can become fully a Saviour of men nor sympathise perfectly with all human suffering, unless he has faced and conquered pain and fear and death unaided, save by the aid he draws from the G.o.d within him. It is easy to suffer when there is unbroken consciousness between the higher and the lower; nay, suffering is not, while that consciousness remains unbroken, for the light of the higher makes darkness in the lower impossible, and pain is not pain when borne in the smile of G.o.d. There is a suffering that men have to face, that every Saviour of man must face, where darkness is on the human consciousness, and never a glimmer of light comes through; he must know the pang of the despair felt by the human soul when there is darkness on every side, and the groping consciousness cannot find a hand to clasp. Into that darkness every Son of Man goes down, ere he rises triumphant; that bitterest experience is tasted by every Christ, ere he is "able to save them to the uttermost" who seek the Divine through him.
Such a one has become truly divine, a Saviour of men, and he takes up the world-work for which all this has been the preparation. Into him must pour all the forces that make against man, in order that in him they may be changed into forces that help. Thus he becomes one of the Peace-centres of the world, which trans.m.u.te the forces of combat that would otherwise crush man. For the Christs of the world are these Peace-centres into which pour all warring forces, to be changed within them and then poured out as forces that work for harmony.
Part of the sufferings of the Christ not yet perfect lies in this harmonising of the discord-making forces in the world. Although a Son, he yet learns by suffering and is thus "made perfect." Humanity would be far more full of combat and rent with strife were it not for the Christ-disciples living in its midst, and harmonising many of the warring forces into peace.
When it is said that the Christ suffers "for men," that His strength replaces their weakness, His purity their sin, His wisdom their ignorance, a truth is spoken; for the Christ so becomes one with men that they share with Him and He with them. There is no subst.i.tution of Him for them, but the taking of their lives into His, and the pouring of His life into theirs. For, having risen to the plane of unity, He is able to share all He has gained, to give all He has won. Standing above the plane of separateness and looking down at the souls immersed in separateness, He can reach each while they cannot reach each other.
Water can flow from above into many pipes, open to the reservoir though closed as regards each other, and so He can send His life into each soul. Only one condition is needed in order that a Christ may share His strength with a younger brother: that in the separated life the human consciousness will open itself to the divine, will show itself receptive of the offered life, and take the freely outpoured gift. For so reverent is G.o.d to that Spirit which is Himself in man, that He will not even pour into the human soul a flood of strength and life unless that soul is willing to receive it. There must be an opening from below as well as an outpouring from above, the receptiveness of the lower nature as well as the willingness of the higher to give. That is the link between the Christ and the man; that is what the churches have called the outpouring of "divine grace"; that is what is meant by the "faith" necessary to make the grace effective. As Giordano Bruno once put it--the human soul has windows, and can shut those windows close. The sun outside is s.h.i.+ning, the light is unchanging; let the windows be opened and the sunlight must stream in. The light of G.o.d is beating against the windows of every human soul, and when the windows are thrown open, the soul becomes illuminated. There is no change in G.o.d, but there is a change in man; and man's will may not be forced, else were the divine Life in him blocked in its due evolution.
Thus in every Christ that rises, all humanity is lifted a step higher, and by His wisdom the ignorance of the whole world is lessened. Each man is less weak because of His strength, which pours out over all humanity and enters the separated soul. Out of that doctrine, seen narrowly, and therefore mis-seen, grew the idea of the vicarious Atonement as a legal transaction between G.o.d and man, in which Jesus took the place of the sinner. It was not understood that One who had touched that height was verily one with all His brethren; ident.i.ty of nature was mistaken for a personal subst.i.tution, and thus the spiritual truth was lost in the harshness of a judicial exchange.
"Then he comes to a knowledge of his place in the world, of his function in nature--to be a Saviour and to make atonement for the sins of the people. He stands in the inner Heart of the world, the Holy of Holies, as a High Priest of Humanity. He is one with all his brethren, not by a vicarious subst.i.tution, but by the unity of a common life. Is any sinful? he is sinful in them, that his purity may purge them. Is any sorrowful? in them he is the man of sorrows; every broken heart breaks his, in every pierced heart his heart is pierced. Is any glad? in them he is joyous, and pours out his bliss. Is any craving? in them he is feeling want that he may fill them with his utter satisfaction. He has everything, and because it is his it is theirs. He is perfect; then they are perfect with him. He is strong; who then can be weak, since he is in them? He climbed to his high place that he might pour out to all below him, and he lives in order that all may share his life. He lifts the whole world with him as he rises, the path is easier for all men, because he has trodden it.
"Every son of man may become such a manifested Son of G.o.d, such a Saviour of the world. In each such Son is 'G.o.d manifest in the flesh,' the atonement that aids all mankind, the living power that makes all things new. Only one thing is needed to bring that power into manifested activity in any individual soul; the soul must open the door and let Him in. Even He, all-permeating, cannot force His way against His brother's will; the human will can hold its own alike against G.o.d and man, and by the law of evolution it must voluntarily a.s.sociate itself with divine action, and not be broken into sullen submission. Let the will throw open the door, and the life will flood the soul. While the door is closed it will only gently breathe through it its unutterable fragrance, that the sweetness of that fragrance may win, where the barrier may not be forced by strength.
"This it is, in part, to be a Christ; but how can mortal pen mirror the immortal, or mortal words tell of that which is beyond the power of speech? Tongue may not utter, the unillumined mind may not grasp, that mystery of the Son who has become one with the Father, carrying in His bosom the sons of men."
Those who would prepare to rise to such a life in the future must begin even now to tread in the lower life the path of the Shadow of the Cross.
Nor should they doubt their power to rise, for to do so is to doubt the G.o.d within them. "Have faith in yourself," is one of the lessons that comes from the higher view of man, for that faith is really in the G.o.d within. There is a way by which the shadow of the Christ-life may fall on the common life of man, and that is by doing every act as a sacrifice, not for what it will bring to the doer but for what it will bring to others, and, in the daily common life of small duties, petty actions, narrow interests, by changing the motive and thus changing all.
Not one thing in the outer life need necessarily be varied; in any life sacrifice may be offered, amid any surroundings G.o.d may be served.
Evolving spirituality is marked not by what a man does, but by how he does it; not in the circ.u.mstances, but in the att.i.tude of a man towards them, lies the opportunity of growth. "And indeed this symbol of the cross may be to us as a touchstone to distinguish the good from the evil in many of the difficulties of life. 'Only those actions through which s.h.i.+nes the light of the cross are worthy of the life of the disciple,'
says one of the verses in a book of occult maxims; and it is interpreted to mean that all that the aspirant does should be prompted by the fervour of self-sacrificing love. The same thought appears in a later verse: 'When one enters the path, he lays his heart upon the cross; when the cross and the heart have become one, then hath he reached the goal.'
So, perchance, we may measure our progress by watching whether selfishness or self-sacrifice is dominant in our lives."
Every life which begins thus to shape itself is preparing the cave in which the Child-Christ shall be born, and the life shall become a constant at-one-ment, bringing the divine more and more into the human.
Every such life shall grow into the life of a "beloved Son," and shall have in it the glory of the Christ. Every man may work in that direction by making every act and power a sacrifice, until the gold is purged from the dross, and only the pure ore remains.
RESURRECTION AND ASCENSION
The doctrines of the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ also form part of the Lesser Mysteries, being integral portions of "The Solar Myth,"
and of the life-story of the Christ in man.
As regards Christ Himself they have their historical basis in the facts of His continuing to teach His apostles after His physical death, and of His appearance in the Greater Mysteries as Hierophant after His direct instructions had ceased, until Jesus took His place. In the mythic tales the resurrection of the hero and his glorification invariably formed the conclusion of his death-story; and in the Mysteries, the body of the candidate was always thrown into a death-like trance, during which he, as a liberated soul, travelled through the invisible world, returning and reviving the body after three days. And in the life-story of the individual, who is becoming a Christ, we shall find, as we study it, that the dramas of the Resurrection and Ascension are repeated.
But before we can intelligently follow that story, we must master the outlines of the human const.i.tution, and understand the natural and spiritual bodies of man. "There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body."
There are still some uninstructed people who regard man as a mere duality, made up of "soul" and "body." Such people use the words "soul"
and "spirit" as synonyms, and speak indifferently of "soul and body" or "spirit and body," meaning that man is composed of two const.i.tuents, one of which perishes at death, while the other survives. For the very simple and ignorant this rough division is sufficient, but it will not enable us to understand the mysteries of the Resurrection and Ascension.
Every Christian who has made even a superficial study of the human const.i.tution recognises in it three distinct const.i.tuents--Spirit, Soul, and Body. This division is sound, though needing further subdivision for more profound study, and it has been used by S. Paul in his prayer that "your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless." That threefold division is accepted in Christian Theology.
The Spirit itself is really a Trinity, the reflexion and image of the Supreme Trinity, and this we shall study in the following chapter.
The true man, the immortal, who is the Spirit, is the Trinity in man.
This is life, consciousness, and to this the spiritual body belongs, each aspect of the Trinity having its own Body. The Soul is dual, and comprises the mind and the emotional nature, with its appropriate garments. And the Body is the material instrument of Spirit and Soul. In one Christian view of man he is a twelve-fold being, six modifications forming the spiritual man, and six the natural man; according to another, he is divisible into fourteen, seven modifications of consciousness and seven corresponding types of form. This latter view is practically identical with that studied by Mystics, and it is usually spoken of as seven-fold, because there are really seven divisions, each being two-fold, having a life-side and a form-side.
These divisions and sub-divisions are somewhat confusing and perplexing to the dull, and hence Origen and Clement, as we have seen, laid great stress on the need for intelligence on the part of all who desired to become Gnostics. After all, those who find them troublesome can leave them on one side, without grudging them to the earnest student, who finds them not only illuminative, but absolutely necessary to any clear understanding of the Mysteries of Life and Man.
The word Body means a vehicle of consciousness, or an instrument of consciousness; that in which consciousness is carried about, as in a vehicle, or which consciousness uses to contact the external world, as a mechanic uses an instrument. Or, we may liken it to a vessel, in which consciousness is held, as a jar holds liquid. It is a form used by a life, and we know nothing of consciousness save as connected with such forms. The form may be of rarest, subtlest, materials, may be so diaphanous that we are only conscious of the indwelling life; still it is there, and it is composed of Matter. It may be so dense, that it hides the indwelling life, and we are conscious only of the form; still the life is there, and it is composed of the opposite of Matter--Spirit.
The student must study and re-study this fundamental fact--the duality of all manifested existence, the inseparable co-existence of Spirit and Matter in a grain of dust, in the Logos, the G.o.d manifested. The idea must become part of him; else must he give up the study of the Lesser Mysteries. The Christ, as G.o.d and Man, only shows out on the kosmic scale the same fact of duality that is repeated everywhere in nature. On that original duality everything in the universe is formed.
Man has a "natural body," and this is made up of four different and separable portions, and is subject to death. Two of these are composed of physical matter, and are never completely separated from each other until death, though a partial separation may be caused by anaesthetics, or by disease. These two may be cla.s.sed together as the Physical Body.
In this the man carries on his conscious activities while he is awake; speaking technically, it is his vehicle of consciousness in the physical world.
The third portion is the Desire Body, so called because man's feeling and pa.s.sional nature finds in this its special vehicle. In sleep, the man leaves the physical body, and carries on his conscious activities in this, which functions in the invisible world closest to our visible earth. It is therefore his vehicle of consciousness in the lowest of the super-physical worlds, which is also the first world into which men pa.s.s at death.
The fourth portion is the Mental Body, so called because man's intellectual nature, so far as it deals with the concrete, functions in this. It is his vehicle of consciousness in the second of the super-physical worlds, which is also the second, or lower heavenly world, into which men pa.s.s after death, when freed from the world alluded to in the preceding paragraph.
These four portions of his encircling form, made up of the dual physical body, the desire body, and the mental body, form the natural body of which S. Paul speaks.
This scientific a.n.a.lysis has fallen out of the ordinary Christian teaching, which is vague and confused on this matter. It is not that the churches have never possessed it; on the contrary, this knowledge of the const.i.tution of man formed part of the teachings in the Lesser Mysteries; the simple division into Spirit, Soul, and Body was exoteric, the first rough and ready division given as a foundation. The subdivision as regards the "Body" was made in the course of later instruction, as a preliminary to the training by which the instructor enabled his pupil to separate one vehicle from another, and to use each as a vehicle of consciousness in its appropriate region.
This conception should be readily enough grasped. If a man wants to travel on the solid earth, he uses as his vehicle a carriage or a train.
If he wants to travel on the liquid seas, he changes his vehicle, and takes a s.h.i.+p. If he wants to travel in the air, he changes his vehicle again and uses a balloon. He is the same man throughout, but he is using three different vehicles, according to the kind of matter he wants to travel in. The a.n.a.logy is rough and inadequate, but it is not misleading. When a man is busy in the physical world, his vehicle is the physical body, and his consciousness works in and through that body.
When he pa.s.ses into the world beyond the physical, in sleep and at death, his vehicle is the desire body, and he may learn to use this consciously, as he uses the physical consciously. He already uses it unconsciously every day of his life when he is feeling and desiring, as well as every night of his life. When he goes on into the heavenly world after death, his vehicle is the mental body, and this also he is daily using, when he is thinking, and there would be no thought in the brain were there none in the mental body.
Man has further "a spiritual body." This is made up of three separable portions, each portion belonging to one of, and separating off, the three Persons in the Trinity of the human Spirit. S. Paul speaks of being "caught up to the third heaven," and of there hearing "unspeakable words which it is not lawful for a man to utter." These different regions of the invisible supernal worlds are known to Initiates, and they are well aware that those who pa.s.s beyond the first heaven need the truly spiritual body as their vehicle, and that according to the development of its three divisions is the heaven into which they can penetrate.
The lowest of these three divisions is usually called the Causal Body, for a reason that will be only fully a.s.similable by those who have studied the teaching of Reincarnation--taught in the Early Church--and who understand that human evolution needs very many successive lives on earth, ere the germinal soul of the savage can become the perfected soul of the Christ, and then, becoming perfect as the Father in Heaven, can realise the union of the Son with the Father. It is a body that lasts from life to life, and in it all memory of the past is stored. From it come forth the causes that build up the lower bodies.
It is the receptacle of human experience, the treasure-house in which all we gather in our lives is stored up, the seat of Conscience, the wielder of the Will.
The second of the three divisions of the spiritual body is spoken of by S. Paul in the significant words: "We have a building of G.o.d, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." That is the Bliss Body, the glorified body of the Christ, "the Resurrection Body." It is not a body which is "made with hands," by the working of consciousness in the the lower vehicles; it is not formed by experience, not builded out of the materials gathered by man in his long pilgrimage. It is a body which belongs to the Christ-life, the life of Initiation; to the divine unfoldment in man; it is builded of G.o.d, by the activity of the Spirit, and grows during the whole life or lives of the Initiate, only reaching its perfection at "the Resurrection."
The third division of the spiritual body is the fine film of subtle matter that separates off the individual Spirit as a Being, and yet permits the interpenetration of all by all, and is thus the expression of the fundamental unity. In the day when the Son Himself shall "be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that G.o.d may be all in all," this film will be transcended, but for us it remains the highest division of the spiritual body, in which we ascend to the Father, and are united with Him.
Christianity has always recognised the existence of three worlds, or regions, through which a man pa.s.ses; first, the physical world; secondly, an intermediate state into which he pa.s.ses at death; thirdly, the heavenly world. These three worlds are universally believed in by educated Christians; only the uninstructed imagine that a man pa.s.ses from his death-bed into the final state of beat.i.tude. But there is some difference of opinion as to the nature of the intermediate world. The Roman Catholic names it Purgatory, and believes that every soul pa.s.ses into it, save that of the Saint, the man who has reached perfection, or that of a man who has died in "mortal sin." The great ma.s.s of humanity pa.s.s into a purifying region, wherein a man remains for a period varying in length according to the sins he has committed, only pa.s.sing out of it into the heavenly world when he has become pure. The various communities that are called Protestant vary in their teachings as to details, and mostly repudiate the idea of _post mortem_ purification; but they agree broadly that there is an intermediate state, sometimes spoken of as "Paradise," or as a "waiting period." The heavenly world is almost universally, in modern Christendom, regarded as a final state, with no very definite or general idea as to its nature, or as to the progress or stationary condition of those attaining to it. In early Christianity this heaven was considered to be, as it really is, a stage in the progress of the soul, re-incarnation in one form or another, the pre-existence of the soul, being then very generally taught. The result was, of course, that the heavenly state was a temporary condition, though often a very prolonged one, lasting for "an age"--as stated in the Greek of the New Testament, the age being ended by the return of the man for the next stage of his continuing life and progress--and not "everlasting," as in the mistranslation of the English authorised version.
In order to complete the outline necessary for the understanding of the Resurrection and Ascension, we must see how these various bodies are developed in the higher evolution.
The physical body is in a constant state of flux, its minute particles being continually renewed, so that it is ever building; and as it is composed of the food we eat, the liquids we drink, the air we breathe, and particles drawn from our physical surroundings, both people and things, we can steadily purify it, by choosing its materials well, and thus make it an ever purer vehicle through which to act, receptive of subtler vibrations, responsive to purer desires, to n.o.bler and more elevated thoughts. For this reason all who aspired to attain to the Mysteries were subjected to rules of diet, ablution, &c., and were desired to be very careful as to the people with whom they a.s.sociated, and the places to which they went.
The desire body also changes, in similar fas.h.i.+on, but the materials for it are expelled and drawn in by the play of the desires, arising from the feelings, pa.s.sions, and emotions. If these are coa.r.s.e, the materials built into the desire body are also coa.r.s.e, while as these are purified, the desire body grows subtle and becomes very sensitive to the higher influences. In proportion as a man dominates his lower nature, and becomes unselfish in his wishes, feelings, and emotions, as he makes his love for those around him less selfish and grasping, he is purifying this higher vehicle of consciousness; the result is that when out of the body in sleep he has higher, purer, and more instructive experiences, and when he leaves the physical body at death, he pa.s.ses swiftly through the intermediate state, the desire body disintegrating with great rapidity, and not delaying him in his onward journey.
The mental body is similarly being built now, in this case by thoughts.
It will be the vehicle of consciousness in the heavenly world, but is being built now by aspirations, by imagination, reason, judgment, artistic faculties, by the use of all the mental powers. Such as the man makes it, so must he wear it, and the length and richness of his heavenly state depend on the kind of mental body he has built during his life on earth.
As a man enters the higher evolution, this body comes into independent activity on this side of death, and he gradually becomes conscious of his heavenly life, even amid the whirl of mundane existence. Then he becomes "the Son of man which is in heaven," who can speak with the authority of knowledge on heavenly things. When the man begins to live the life of the Son, having pa.s.sed on to the Path of Holiness, he lives in heaven while remaining on earth, coming into conscious possession and use of this heavenly body. And inasmuch as heaven is not far away from us, but surrounds us on every side, and we are only shut out from it by our incapacity to feel its vibrations, not by their absence; inasmuch as those vibrations are playing upon us at every moment of our lives; all that is needed to be in Heaven is to become conscious of those vibrations. We become conscious of them with the vitalising, the organising, the evolution of this heavenly body, which, being builded out of the heavenly materials, answers to the vibrations of the matter of the heavenly world. Hence the "Son of man" is ever in heaven. But we know that the "Son of man" is a term applied to the Initiate, not to the Christ risen and glorified but to the Son while he is yet "being made perfect."
During the stages of evolution that lead up to and include the Probationary Path, the first division of the spiritual body--the Causal Body--develops rapidly, and enables the man, after death, to rise into the second heaven. After the Second Birth, the birth of the Christ in man, begins the building of the Bliss Body "in the heavens." This is the body of the Christ, developing during the days of His service on earth, and, as it develops, the consciousness of the "Son of G.o.d" becomes more and more marked, and the coming union with the Father illuminates the unfolding Spirit.
Esoteric Christianity, or The Lesser Mysteries Part 6
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