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From Bethlehem to Calvary - Chapter Five - The Fourth Initiation - The Crucifixion
In considering the story of Jesus upon the Cross, it is essential, therefore, that we see it in broader and more general terms than is usually the case. Most of the treatises and writings upon the subject are controversial and argumentative, usually defending or attacking the evidence or the theology associated with the theme. Or they may be of a purely mystical or sentimental nature in tone and object, concerning themselves with the relation of the individual [177] to the truth or with his personal salvation in Christ. But in so doing, it is possible that the real elements of the story and their highest meaning have been lost. Two things emerge, however, from the research and the questionings of the past century. One is that the Gospel story is not unique, but has been paralleled in the lives of other Sons of God; secondly, that Christ was unique in His particular Person and mission, and that, from a specific angle, His appearance was unprecedented. No student of comparative religion will question the Christian parallels to earlier events. No man who has truly investigated with an open mind will deny that Christ was an integral part of a great continuity of revelation. God has never "left Himself without witness." (Acts, XIV, 17.) And the salvation of mankind has always been close to the heart of the Father. To quote one writer who seeks to prove this continuity:

"At the time of the life or recorded appearance of Jesus of Nazareth and for some centuries before, the Mediterranean and neighboring world had been the scene of a vast number of pagan creeds and rituals. There were Temples without end dedicated to gods like Apollo or Dionysus among the Greeks, Hercules among the Romans, Mithra among the Persians, Adonis and Arris in Syria and Phrygia, Osiris and Isis and Horus in Egypt, Baal and Astarte among the Babylonians and Carthaginians, and so forth. Societies, large or small, united believers and the devout in the service or ceremonials connected with their respective deities, and in the creeds which they confessed concerning these deities. And an extraordinarily interesting fact, for us, is that, notwithstanding great geographical distances and racial differences in the details of their services, the general outlines of their creeds and ceremonials were - if not identical - so markedly similar as we find them.

"I cannot of course go at length into these different cults, but I may say roughly that of all or nearly all the deities above mentioned it was said and believed that:

  1. They were born on or very near our Christmas Day.
  2. They were born of a Virgin-Mother. [178]
  3. And in a Cave or Underground Chamber.
  4. They led a life of toil for Mankind.
  5. And were called by the names of Light-bringer, Healer, Mediator, Savior, Deliverer.
  6. They were, however, vanquished by the Powers of Darkness.
  7. And descended into Hell or the Underworld.
  8. They rose again from the dead, and became the pioneers of mankind to the Heavenly world.
  9. They founded Communions of Saints and Churches into which disciples were received by Baptism.
  10. And they were commemorated by Eucharistic meals."

- Pagan and Christian Creeds, by Edward Carpenter, pp. 20, 21.

These facts can be checked by anyone who cares to do so and who is sufficiently interested to trace the growth of the doctrine of world Saviors in world idealism. Edward Carpenter goes on to say, in the same book:

"The number of pagan deities (mostly virgin-born and done to death in some way or other in their efforts to save mankind) is so great as to be difficult to keep account of. The god Krishna in India, the god Indra in Nepal and Tibet spilt their blood for the salvation of men; Buddha said, according to Max Müller, 'Let all the sins that were in the world fall on me, that the world may be delivered;' the Chinese Tien the Holy One - 'one with God and existing with him from all eternity' - died to save the world; The Egyptian Osiris was called Savior, so was Horus; so was the Persian Mithra; so was the Greek Hercules who overcame Death though his body was consumed in the burning garment of mortality, out of which he rose into heaven. So also was the Phrygian Attis called Savior, and the Syrian Tammuz or Adonis likewise - both of whom, as we have seen, were nailed or tied to a tree, and afterwards rose again from their biers or coffins. Prometheus, the greatest and earliest benefactor of the human race, was nailed by the hands and the feet, and with arms extended, to the rocks of Mount Caucasus. Bacchus or Dionysus, born of the virgin Semele to be the Liberator of mankind (Dionysus Eleutherios as he was called) was torn to pieces, not unlike Osiris. Even in far Mexico [179] Quetzalcoatl, the Savior, was born of a virgin, was tempted, and fasted forty days, was done to death, and his second coming looked for so eagerly that (as is well known) when Cortes appeared, the Mexicans, poor things, greeted him as the returning god! In Peru and among the American Indians, North and South of the Equator, similar legends are, or were, to be found."
- Pagan and Christian Creeds, by Edward Carpenter, pp. 129, 130.

Into the argument for and against these ideas it is no part of this book to enter. The only question which is of importance for us is what part Christ really played as the World Savior, and what constituted the uniqueness of His mission. What was this world to which He came; and what is the significance of His death to the average human being today? Are the facts of His life historically true; and was there a period in our racial history wherein He walked and talked and lived an ordinary human life? Did He serve His race and return to the Source whence He came?

The fact of Christ constitutes no problem to those who know Him. They realize, past all controversy, that He exists. They know Whom they have believed. (II Tim., I, 12.) For them, His reality cannot be disproved. They may differ among themselves as to the emphasis to be laid upon the various theological interpretations of His life story, but Christ they know, and with Him they tread life's pathway. They may argue about whether He was God or man, or God-Man, or Man-God, but on one point they all agree, and that is that He was God and Man, manifesting in one body. They may struggle to perpetuate the memory of the dead Christ upon the Cross, or they may endeavor to live by the life of the risen Christ, but to the reality of Christ Himself they all bear testimony, and by the multitude of witnesses the fact is surely established. The one who knows cannot doubt.

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