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From Bethlehem to Calvary - Chapter Two - The First Initiation - The Birth at Bethlehem

The account of Christ's childhood as given us in the Gospels is dismissed in a very few words. Only one episode is related, and that is the one in which Jesus, having reached the age of twelve years, was taken up by His Mother to the Temple of the Lord and there, for the first time, gave indication of His vocation, and evidenced the realization that a mission was preordained for Him. Prior to this, His parents had conformed to all the requirements of the Jewish ritual; they had also sojourned in Egypt. Of His time there, we are told nothing. All that we know is covered by the words:

"They returned into Galilee to their own city Nazareth. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him." (St. Luke, II, 39, 40.)

Students would do well to remember that the number twelve is regarded by the esotericists of all faiths as signifying the number of completion; it recurs again and again in the various scriptures of the world. The following comments are of interest in this connection, showing as they do the significance of this number, and its relation to initiation:

"The accomplishment of the age of twelve years signifies a full period of evolution when an initiation was undergone by the Christ-soul. This took place in the inner mind (the temple) and corresponded to an awakening of the logical and intuition sides of the soul. These are the father-mother principle, indicated by the presence of the parents."
- Dictionary of the Sacred Language of all Scriptures and Myths, by G. A. Gaskell, p. 773.

And again,

"This number (of the twelve disciples) is typified by many things in the Old Testament; by the 12 sons of Jacob, by the 12 princes of the Children of Israel; by the 12 running springs in Helim; by the 12 stones in Aaron's breastplate; by the 12 loaves of the shew-bred; by the 12 spies sent by Moses; by the 12 stones [76] of which the altar was made; by the 12 stones taken out of Jordan; by the 12 oxen which bare the brazen sea. Also in the New Testament, by the 12 stars in the bride's crown, by the 12 foundations of Jerusalem which John saw, and her 12 gates."
- Bishop Rabanus Manrus, A.D. 857.

All these recurrences of twelve probably have their origin in the twelve signs of the zodiac, that imaginary belt in the heavens through which the sun appears to pass on its journey in the course of a year, and during its greater cycle of approximately 25,000 years.

Having completed the preparatory work, by His twelfth year Christ again underwent an intuitive experience, going up from Nazareth (the place of consecration) to the Temple, where that intuition led Him to a new realization of His work. There is no sign that He knew in detail what that mission was; He went into no explanations to His Mother. He started to do the work that was the nearest duty, and to teach those whom He found in the Temple, astonishing them with His understanding and His answers. His mother, bewildered and distressed, called His attention to herself and to His father, but only received the calm answer, spoken with conviction, and so changing all life for her: "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (St. Luke, II, 49.) That business, as it developed in His consciousness in the passing of the years, became far broader and wider in its all-embracing love than the average orthodox Church seems willing to admit.

The extent of this mission slowly dawned upon His young mind and He began, as all truly initiate sons of God must perforce do, to function as God's messenger as soon as the Vision was recognized, and in the place where He was. Having thus indicated His grasp of the future work, we read that "He went down with them (His parents), and came to Nazareth (the place of renewed consecration), and was subject unto them... And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." (St. Luke, II, 51, 52.) [77]

Frequently in the Gospel story, we find the word "down" occurring. Christ went with His mother "down into Egypt"; He went "down to Nazareth"; and again and again He comes down from the mountain-top or from the place of solitude to do His duty among men. After the hidden experience in Egypt (for no account of this is given to us in the Bible), and after the revelation in the Temple and the acceptance of the task to be accomplished, Christ returns to the place of duty. In this case, and after the Birth initiation, for a period of thirty years, we are told, He functioned as a man in the daily life of the carpenter's shop and in the home with His parents. This home life constituted the test to which He was subjected, and its importance cannot be overrated. Does it sound blasphemous to say that had He failed in this immediate duty, the rest of His work would have been abortive? If He had not succeeded in demonstrating divinity in the home circle and in the little town where His lot was cast, is it not possible that He would never have functioned as the world Savior? He came to reveal to us our humanity as it could be, and will be, when we have finished with the long journey to Bethlehem. This constituted the uniqueness of His mission.

Christ lived quietly in His home with His parents, undergoing that most difficult experience of home life, with its monotony, with its unvarying usualness, with its needed subordination to the group will and need, with its lessons of sacrifice, of understanding and of service. This is ever the first lesson which every disciple must learn. Until he has learnt it, he can make no further progress. Until divinity has been expressed in the home, and among those who know us well and are our familiar friends, it cannot be expected to express itself elsewhere. We must live as sons of God in the setting - uninteresting, drab and sometimes sordid - in which destiny places us; there is nowhere else at this stage that is possible. The place where we are is the place from which our journey begins, and not the place from which we escape. If we cannot make good as disciples where we are, [78] and in the place where we discover ourselves, no other opportunity will be offered us until we do. Here lies our test, and here lies our field of service. Many true and earnest aspirants feel that they could indeed make an impression on their surroundings and manifest divinely, if they had a different kind of home, a different environment or setting. Had they married differently, or had they more money or more leisure, could they meet with more sympathy from their friends, or had they better physical health, there is no saying what they might not accomplish. A test is something which tries our strength to see of what sort it is; it calls forth the utmost that is in us, and reveals to us where we are weak and where we fail. The need today is for dependable disciples and for those who have been so tested that they will not break or crack when difficulties come and dark places in life are encountered. We have, if we could but realize it, exactly those circumstances and that environment in which this lesson of obedience to the highest which is in us can be learnt. We have exactly the type of body and physical conditions through which the divinity in us can be expressed. We have those contacts in the world and the kind of work which are required in order to enable us to take the next step forward upon the path of discipleship, the next step to God. Until aspirants grasp this essential fact and happily settle down to a life of service and of giving lovingly in their own homes, they can make no progress. Until the path of life is trodden, happily, silently and with no self-pity in the home circle, no other lesson or opportunity will be given. Many very well-meaning aspirants need also to understand that they themselves are responsible for many of the difficulties which they encounter. Puzzled as to why they seem to evoke so much antagonism from those around them, they complain of meeting with no sympathetic response as they attempt to lead the spiritual life, to study, read and think. The reason can usually be found in the fact of their spiritual selfishness. They talk too much about their aspirations, and about themselves. Because they fail in their first responsibility, they find no [79] understanding reaction to their demand for time to meditate. It must be recognized that they are meditating. The house must be quiet; they must not be disturbed; no one must break in on them. None of these difficulties would arise if aspirants would remember two things: First, that meditation is a process carried on secretly, silently and regularly in the secret temple of a man's own mind. Secondly, that much can be done if people would not talk so much about what they are doing. We need to walk silently with God, to keep ourselves, as personalities, in the background; to organize our lives in such a way that we can live as souls, giving due time to the culture of our souls, yet at the same time preserving a sense of proportion, retaining the affection of those around us, and fulfiling perfectly our responsibilities and obligations. Self-pity and too much talk are the rocks on which many an aspirant temporarily founders.

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