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From Bethlehem to Calvary - Chapter One - Introductory Remarks on Initiation
We are free to choose and to reject; but let us see to it that we choose with eyes opened by that sagacity and wisdom which are the hall mark of those who have penetrated a considerable way along the path of return. There is life and truth and vitality in the Gospel story yet to be reapplied by us. There is dynamic and divinity in the message of Jesus.

Christianity is, for us today, a culminating religion. It is the greatest of the later divine revelations. Much of it, since its inception two thousand years ago, has come to be regarded as myth, and the clear outlines of the story have dimmed and have come frequently to be regarded as symbolic in their nature. Yet behind symbol and myth stands reality - an essential, dramatic and practical truth.

Our attention has been engrossed by the symbol and by the outer form, whilst the meaning has remained obscured and fails sufficiently to affect our lives. In our myopic study of the letter we have lost the significance of the Word itself. We need to get behind the symbol to that which it embodies, and to shift our attention away from the world of outer forms to that of inner realities. Keyserling points this out in these words:

"The process of shifting levels from the letter to the inner meaning in the matter of spiritual attitudes can be clearly set forth by one single proposition. It consists in 'seeing through' the phenomenon. Every living phenomenon is, first and last, a symbol; for the essence of life is meaning. But every symbol which is the ultimate expression of a state of consciousness is in itself transparent for another deeper one, and so on into eternity; for all things in the sense-connection of life are inwardly connected, and their depths have their roots in God.

"Therefore, no spiritual form can ever be an ultimate expression; every meaning, when it has been penetrated, becomes automatically a mere letter-expression of a deeper one, and herewith the old phenomenon takes on a new and different meaning. Thus, Catholicism, Protestantism, Greek-Catholic, Islamism and Buddhistic religiousness can in principle continue, on the plane of this life, what they were and yet signify something entirely new."
- The Recovery of Truth, by Hermann Keyserling, pp. 91-92. [9]

The only excuse for this book is that it is an attempt to penetrate to that deeper meaning underlying the great events in the life of Christ, and to bring into renewed life and interest the weakening aspiration of the Christian. If it can be shown that the story revealed in the Gospels has not only an application to that divine Figure Which dwelt for a time among men, but that it has also a practical significance and meaning for the civilized man today, then there will be some objective gained and some service and help rendered. It is possible that today - owing to our more advanced evolution and the ability to express ourselves through more finely developed shades of consciousness - we can appropriate the teaching with a clearer vision and a wiser use of the indicated lesson. This great Myth belongs to us - for let us be courageous and use this word in its true and right connotation. A myth is capable of becoming a fact in the experience of an individual, for a myth is a fact which can be proven. Upon the myths we take our stand, but we must seek to reinterpret them in the light of the present. Through self-initiated experiment we can prove their validity; through experience we can establish them as governing forces in our lives; and through their expression we can demonstrate their truth to others. This is the theme of this book, dealing as it does with the facts of the Gospel story, that fivefold sequential myth which teaches us the revelation of divinity in the Person of Jesus Christ, and which remains eternally truth, in the cosmic sense, in the historical sense, and in its practical application to the individual. This myth divides itself into five great episodes:

  1. The Birth at Bethlehem.
  2. The Baptism in Jordan.
  3. The Transfiguration on Mount Carmel.
  4. The Crucifixion on Mount Golgotha.
  5. The Resurrection and Ascension.

Their significance for us and their reinterpretation in modern terms is our task. [10]

A point of crisis and of culmination has been reached in the history of man, and man owes this to the influence of Christianity. As a member of the human family, he has reached a level of integration unknown in the past, except in the case of a select few in every nation. He is, as the psychologists have indicated, a sum total of physical organisms, of vital force, of psychical states or emotional conditions, and of mental or thought reactions. He is now ready to have indicated to him his next transition, development or unfoldment. Of this he is expectant, standing in readiness to take advantage of the opportunity. The door into a world of higher being and consciousness stands wide open; the way into the kingdom of God has been clearly pointed out. Many in the past have passed into that kingdom and awakened there to a world of being and of understanding which is, to the multitude, a sealed mystery. The glory of the present moment lies in the fact that many thousands stand thus prepared, and (given the needed instruction) could be initiated into the mysteries of God. A new unfoldment in consciousness is now possible; a new goal has arisen and governs the intentions of many. We are, as a race, definitely on our way towards some new knowledge, some fresh recognitions, and some deeper world of values. What happens on the outer plane of experience is indicative of a similar happening in a more subtle world of meaning. For this we must prepare.

We have seen that the Christian revelation unified in itself the teachings of the past. This, Christ Himself pointed out when He said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." (St. Matt., V, 17.) He embodied all the past, and revealed the highest possibility to man. The words of Dr. Berdyaev, in Freedom and the Spirit, throw light on this:

"The Christian revelation is universal, and everything analogous to it in other religions is simply a part of that revelation. Christianity is not a religion of the same order as the others; it is, as Schleiermacher said, the religion of religions. What does it matter if within [11] Christianity, supposedly so different from other faiths, there is nothing original at all apart from the coming of Christ and His Personality; is it not precisely in this particular that the hope of all religions is fulfiled?
- Freedom and the Spirit, by Nicholas Berdyaev, pp. 88-89.

Each great period of time and each world cycle will have - through the loving-kindness of God - its religion of religions, synthesizing all the past revelations and indicating the future hope. The world expectancy today shows that we stand on the verge of a new revelation. It will be a revelation which will in no way negate our divine spiritual heritage, but will add the clear vision of the future to the wonder of the past. It will express what is divine but has been hitherto unrevealed. It is therefore possible that an understanding of some of the deeper significances of the Gospel story may enable the modern seeker to grasp the wider synthesis.

Some of these deeper implications were touched upon in a book published many years ago, entitled The Crises of the Christ, by that veteran Christian, Dr. Campbell Morgan. Taking the five major episodes in the life of the Savior, around which the entire Gospel narrative is built, he gave them a wide and general application, leaving one with the realization that Christ had not only passed through these dramatic experiences, in deed and in truth, but had left us with, the definite command that we should "follow His steps." (I Peter, II, 21.) Is it not possible that these great facts in the experience of Christ, these five personalized aspects of the universal myth, may have for us, as individuals, more than an historical and personal interest? Is it not possible that they may embody some experience and some initiated undertaking through which many Christians may now pass, and thus obey His injunction to enter into new life? Must we not all be born again, baptized into the Spirit, and transfigured upon the mountain top of living experience? Does not the crucifixion lie ahead for many of us, leading on to the resurrection and the ascension? And is it not also possible [12] that we have interpreted these words in too narrow a sense, with too sentimental and ordinary an implication, whereas they may indicate to those who are ready a special way and a more rapid following in the footsteps of the Son of God? This is one of the points which concern us and with which this book will attempt to deal. If this more intensive meaning can be found, and if the drama of the Gospels can become in some peculiar way the drama of those souls who are ready, then we shall see the resurrection of the essentials of Christianity and the revivifying of the form which is so rapidly crystallizing.

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