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From Bethlehem to Calvary - Chapter Two - The First Initiation - The Birth at Bethlehem
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.) [33]

I.

In our discussion of these five major initiations we shall seek to do three things. First, we shall endeavor to realize 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. (See p. 15.)

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 personalize 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 civilization, and may embody the salvation which had to be brought to us, but the East had its own teachers, and each of the past civilizations 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 realize 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 unfoldment 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," (St. John, III, 7.) and to express the death unto life which is the outstanding message of St. Paul. (I Cor., XV, 31.)

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." (Pavel Florensky, quoted in The Recovery of Truth, by Hermann Keyserling, p. 80.) 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 refocusing 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 revitalization of the essential and inner nature of humanity, with the consequent reorganization 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.

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