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From Bethlehem to Calvary - Chapter One - Introductory Remarks on Initiation
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. [16]
  • 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 [17] 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
    • Detachment.
    • Dispassion.
    • Discrimination.
  • The Christ - The Result
    • Individualism.
    • Initiation.
    • Identification.

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 [18] 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.

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