Introductory Remarks on Initiation
Part 1 of 3 here…
It is of interest to recall that other teachings besides that of Christianity have emphasized these five important crises that occur, if so desired, in the life of those human beings who take their stand upon their essential divinity. Both the Hindu teaching and the Buddhist faith have emphasized them as evolutionary crises which we may not ultimately escape; and a right understanding of the interrelation of these great world religions may eventually bring about a truer understanding of all of them. The religion of the Buddha, though preceding that of the Christ, expresses the same basic truths, but phrases them in a different manner, which can help us nevertheless to a larger interpretation of Christianity.
“Buddhism and Christianity find their origins respectively in two inspired moments of history: the life of the Buddha, and the life of Christ. The Buddha gave his doctrine to enlighten the world: Christ gave his life. It is for Christians to discern the doctrine. Perhaps in the end the most valuable part of the doctrine of the Buddha is its interpretation of his life.”
– Religion in the Making, by A. N. Whitehead, p. 55.
The teaching of Lao-Tzu can also serve the same purpose. Religion must eventually be composite, gathered from many sources and composed of many truths. Yet it is legitimate to feel that if one had to choose, at this time, one faith, one might choose Christianity, and for this specific reason: the central problem of life is to lay hold upon our divinity and to make it manifest. In the life of Christ we have the most complete and perfect demonstration and example of divinity lived successfully on earth, and lived – as most of us have to live – not in retirement, but in the full tide of storm and stress.
Exponents of all faiths are today meeting to discuss the possibility of finding a platform of such universality and truth that upon it all men may unite, and on which the coming world religion may be based. This may perhaps be found in a clearer interpretation and understanding of these five outstanding episodes, and in their practical and unique relationship not only to the individual but to humanity as a whole. This realization will bind us more definitely to the past, anchoring us in the truth that was; it will indicate to us our immediate goal and duty, which when understood will enable us to live more divinely, to serve more adequately, and thus to bring the will of God into fruition on earth. It is their inner meaning and our individual relation to them that are of importance.
There is nothing but a valuable gain to us, an enriching of our consciousness, when we realize the unity, and at times the uniformity of the teaching as it is given in both the East and the West. For instance, the fourth event in Christ’s life, the Crucifixion, finds a parallel in the fourth initiation of the Oriental teaching which is called the Great Renunciation. There is an initiation, called in the Buddhist terminology the “entering of the stream,” and there is in the life of Jesus an episode which we call the “baptism in Jordan.” The story of Christ’s birth at Bethlehem can be paralleled in practically every detail in the lives of earlier messengers from God. These proved facts should surely evoke from us the recognition that though there are many messengers there is only one Message; but this recognition in no way detracts from the unique task of the Christ and the unique function which He came forth to fulfil.
It is interesting also to bear in mind that these two outstanding Individualities, the Buddha and the Christ, have set Their seal upon both hemispheres – the Buddha being the Teacher for the Orient, and Christ the Savior of the Occident. Whatever may be our personal conclusions as to Their relations to the Father in Heaven or to each other, the fact stands out past all controversy that They gave the revelation of divinity to Their particular civilizations, and that in a most significant manner They worked together for the eventual benefit of the race. Their two systems are interdependent, and Buddha prepared the world for the message and the mission of Christ.
Both embodied in Themselves certain cosmic principles, and by Their work and sacrifice certain divine potencies poured through and upon mankind. The work done by the Buddha, and the message which He sounded, stimulated intelligence into wisdom. Wisdom is a cosmic principle, and a divine potency. This the Buddha embodied.
But love came to the world through Christ, and He, through His work, transmuted emotion into Love. As “God is Love,” the comprehension that Christ revealed the love of God makes clear the magnitude of the task He undertook – a task far beyond the powers of any teacher or messenger who had preceded Him. The Buddha, when He achieved illumination, “let in” a flood of light upon life and upon our world problems, and this intelligent understanding of the causes of world distress He endeavored to formulate into the Four Noble Truths. These are, as most of us well know:
- That existence in the phenomenal universe is inseparable from suffering and from sorrow.
- That the cause of suffering is desire for existence in the world of phenomena.
- That cessation of suffering is brought about by eradicating all desire for existence in this universe of phenomena.
- That the way to the cessation of suffering is by treading the noble Eightfold Path, wherein are expressed right belief, right intentions, right speech, right actions, right living, right endeavor, right-mindedness and right concentration.
He provided a structure of truth, of dogma and of doctrine which has enabled many thousands, down the centuries, to see the light. Today Christ and His disciples are occupied (as they have been for two thousand years) with the same task of bringing enlightenment and salvation to men; blows are being struck at the world illusion, and the minds of humanity are arriving, en masse, at an increasing clarity of thought. Through the message, therefore, of the Buddha, man can, for the first time, grasp the cause of his eternal discontent, of his constant distaste and dissatisfaction, and of his endless nostalgia. From the Buddha he can learn that the way of release is to be found in detachment, dispassion and discrimination. These are the first steps on the road to Christ.
Through the message of Christ three general concepts emerged into the racial consciousness:
- • First, that the individual, as an individual, is of value. This was a truth which the general Eastern doctrine of rebirth had tended to negate. Time was long; opportunity would endlessly recur; the evolutionary process would do its work. Let mankind therefore drift as a whole with the tide, and eventually all would be well. Hence the general attitude of the East was failure to emphasize the supreme value of any individual. But Christ came and emphasized the work of the individual, saying, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works.” (St. Matt., V, 16.)
- • Second, the opportunity was presented to the race as a whole to take a tremendous step forward, to undergo the “new birth” or take the first initiation. This we shall deal with in our next chapter.
- • The third concept which was taught by the Christ was that which embodied the technique of the new age, which was to come when individual salvation and the new birth had been properly grasped. This was the message or command to love our neighbor as ourselves.” (St. Matt., XIX, 19). Individual effort, group opportunity, and identification with each other – this was the message of the Christ.
In the teaching of the Buddha we have the three ways in which the lower nature can be changed and prepared to be a conscious expression of divinity. Through detachment man learns to withdraw his interest and his consciousness from the things of the senses, and to turn a deaf ear to the calls of the lower nature. Detachment imposes a new rhythm upon the man. Through learning the lesson of dispassion he becomes immune to the suffering of the lower nature as he detaches his interest from secondary things and the non-essentials, and centers it upon the higher realities. Through the practice of discrimination the mind learns to select the good, the beautiful and the true. These three practices, leading to a changed attitude towards life and reality, will, when held sanely, bring in the rule of wisdom and prepare the disciple for the Christ life.
Upon this racial teaching follows the work of the Christ with humanity, resulting in an understanding of the value of the individual and his self-initiated efforts at release and illumination, with the final objective of group love and group good. We learn to perfect ourselves in consonance with Christ’s injunction, “Be ye therefore perfect,” (St. Matt., V, 48.) in order to have somewhat to contribute to the group good, and in order to serve Christ perfectly. Thus that spiritual reality, spoken of by St. Paul as “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” (Col., I, 27.) is released in man and can manifest in full expression. When a sufficient number of people have grasped this ideal, the entire human family can stand for the first time before the portal which leads to the Path of Light, and the life of Christ will flower forth in the human kingdom. Personality then fades out, dimmed by the glory of the soul, which, like the rising sun, disperses the darkness, reveals the life-situation, and irradiates the lower nature. It leads to group activity, and self, as we usually understand it, disappears. This is already happening. The final result of the work of the Christ can be seen portrayed for us in His words to be found in St. John XVII, which it would be of value to all of us to read.
Individuality, Initiation, Identification – in these terms the message of the Christ can be expressed. This He epitomized when on earth in the words: “I and my Father are one.” (St. John, X, 30.) That great Individuality, the Christ, through the process of the five great Initiations, gave to us a picture of the stages and method whereby identification with God can be brought about. This sentence gives us the keynote of the entire Gospel story, and constitutes the theme of this book.
The interrelation of the work of the past and of the present, as given to us by the great Teacher of the East and by the Savior of the West, can be expressed as follows:
- • The Buddha – The Method
- • The Christ – The Result
Christ lived His life in that small but significant strip of land which we call Palestine, the Holy Land. He came to prove to us the possibility of individual attainment. He emerged (as all the Teachers throughout the ages seem to have done) out of the Orient, and worked in that country which seems like a bridge between the Eastern and Western hemispheres, separating two most different civilizations. Modern thinkers would do well to remember that Christianity is a bridging religion. Herein lies its great importance. Christianity is the religion of that transitional period which links the era of self-conscious individualistic existence to a future group-conscious unified world. It is outstandingly a religion of cleavage, demonstrating to man his duality, and thus laying the foundation for his effort to achieve unity or at-one-ment. The realization of this duality is a most needed stage in man’s unfoldment, and the purpose of Christianity has been to reveal this; also to point out the warfare between the lower and the higher man, between carnal man and spiritual man, united in one person, and to emphasize the necessity for that lower man to be saved by the higher. This, St. Paul points out in the words so familiar to all of us: “…to make in himself, of twain, one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body, having slain the enmity in himself.” (Eph., II, 15, 16, Marginal Reading.) This was His divine mission, and this is the lesson of the Gospel narrative.
Christ therefore not only unified in Himself the past “law and the prophets,” but He also provided that presentation of truth which could bridge the gap between Eastern belief and philosophy and our Western materialism and scientific attainment, both of them divine expressions of reality. At the same time He demonstrated to human beings the perfection of the task which each man could carry forward within himself, bridging that essential duality which is his nature, and bringing about that at-one-ment of the human and the divine which it is the task of all religions to aid. Each of us has to make “of twain, one new man, so making peace,” for peace is unity and synthesis.
But the lesson and message which Christ brought to individual man He brought also to the nations, holding before them the hope of future world unity and world peace. He came at the beginning of that astronomical age which we call “the Piscean age” because, during this period of approximately two thousand years, our sun is passing through that sign in the zodiac which we call Pisces, or the Fishes. Hence the frequent references to fishes, and the appearance of the symbol of the fish in Christian literature, including the New Testament. This Piscean age comes between the previous Jewish dispensation (the two thousand years wherein the sun was passing through the sign Aries, the Ram) and the Aquarian age into which our sun is now in process of transiting. These are astronomical facts, for I am not here speaking of astrological conclusions. In the period when the sun was in Aries, we find the frequent appearance of the ram or the scapegoat in the Old Testament teaching, and the keeping of the Passover feast. In the Christian age we use the fish symbology, even to eating fish on Good Friday. The symbol of the Aquarian age, as it appears in all the ancient zodiacs, is that of a man bearing a jar of water. The message of that age is one of unity, communion and our relationship as brothers, because we are all the children of the one Father. To this age Christ pointed in His instructions to His disciples when He told them to go into the city, and said: “When ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in.” (St. Luke, XXII, 7, 10.) This they did, and the great and holy feast of communion was later held in that house. The reference is undoubtedly to the future period wherein we enter into that house in the zodiac which is called “the Water-carrier,” and wherein also we shall all sit at the same table, and hold communion one with another. The Christian dispensation comes between the two great world cycles, and just as Christ consummated in Himself the message of the past, and gave the teaching for the present, so He also pointed to that future of unity and understanding which is our inevitable goal. We are today at the end of the age, and entering the period of Aquarian unity, as He foretold. The “upper room” is a symbol of that high point of achievement towards which we are, as a race, rapidly moving. Some day the great Communion Service will be held, of which every communion service is the forecast. We are slowly passing into this new sign. For more than two thousand years its potencies and forces will play upon the race and will establish the new types, foster the new expansions of consciousness, and lead man on to a practical realization of brotherhood.
It is interesting to note how it was that the energies playing upon our planet when the sun was in Aries, the Ram, produced in religious symbology the emphasis of the goat or ram, and how in our present age of Pisces, the Fishes, those influences have colored our Christian symbology so that the fish preponderates in our New Testament and in our eschatological symbology. The new incoming rays, energies and influences must surely be destined to produce equal effects, not only in the realm of physical phenomena but also in the world of spiritual values. The atoms of the human brain are being “awakened” as never before, and those millions of cells which, we are told, are to be found inactive and dormant in the human brain may be brought into functioning activity, bringing with them that intuitive insight which will recognize the coming spiritual revelation.
Today the world is reorienting itself to the newer influences, and in the processes of readjustment a period of temporary chaos is inevitable. Christianity will not be superseded. It will be transcended, its work of preparation being triumphantly accomplished, and Christ will again give us the next revelation of divinity. If all that we now know of God is all that can be known, the divinity of God is but a limited matter. What the new formulation of truth will be, who can say? But the light is slowly pouring into men’s hearts and minds, and in this lighted radiance they will vision the new truths and arrive at a fresh enunciation of the ancient wisdom. Through the lens of the illumined mind man will shortly see aspects of divinity hitherto unknown. May there not be qualities and characteristics of the divine nature which are as yet totally unrecognized and unknown? Can there not be revelations of God utterly unprecedented, and for which we have no words or adequate means of expression? The ancient mysteries, so shortly to be restored, must be reinterpreted in the light of Christianity, and readapted to meet modern need, for we can now enter into the Holy Place as intelligent men and women, and not as children looking on at dramatic stories and procedures in which we, as individuals, play no conscious part. Christ enacted for us the dramatic story of the five initiations, and urged us to follow in His steps. For this the past era has prepared us, and we can now pass intelligently into the kingdom of God through the process of initiation. The fact that the historical Christ existed and walked on earth is the guarantee to us of our own divinity and our ultimate achievement. The fact of the mythic Christ, appearing again and again down the ages, proves that God has never left Himself without witness and that always there have been those who have achieved. The fact of the cosmic Christ, manifest as the urge towards perfection in all the kingdoms of nature, proves the fact of God and is our eternal hope. Humanity stands at the portals of initiation.
Part 3 of 3 here…