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From Bethlehem to Calvary - Chapter Six - The Fifth Initiation - The Resurrection and Ascension
How then shall we recognize truth or reality when we meet it? How shall we know that a doctrine is of God, or not? It is so easy to make mistakes, to believe what we want to believe, and to deceive ourselves in the desire to have our own ideas endorsed by other minds. The words of Dr. [240] Streeter have here a definite note of encouragement because they indicate requirements that are possible for us to follow:

Even self-deception, the last stronghold of the enemy, will lose its power in proportion as the individual conforms to certain conditions which (in the view of the biblical writers) must be fulfiled to qualify him for the reception of an authentic message from the Divine - whether at the level of the epoch-creating prophet or of the simple person rightly guided on the path of everyday duty.

These are mainly four:

(1) 'I would fain be to the Eternal Goodness what his own right hand is to a man.' Absolute devotion or surrender of the self to the Divine. 'Here am I, send me,' says Isaiah; and when Christ addressed to his earliest followers the words 'Follow Me,' we are told they left all and followed Him.

(2) Self-knowledge, and the consequent admission of failure. The promise 'I will guide thee with mine eye,' in the Psalm quoted above, is given to the man who has confessed his iniquity and thereby established a right relationship with God. The first response of Isaiah to the divine call was that flash of self-knowledge which brings home to a man a conviction of unworthiness and sin: 'I am a man of unclean lips.' ...

(3) 'Tarry ye ...until ye be clothed with power from on high.' (St. Luke XXIV, 49.) But this life of power, a power instinct with love and joy and peace, can only with difficulty be lived continuously except in a fellowship, within which mutual challenge, mutual encouragement and mutual confession of failure are easy...

(4) Entrance into such a life and such a fellowship involves some measure of suffering, sacrifice, or humiliation. 'Whosoever doth not bear his own cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.' (Luke XIV, 27.) It is perhaps not an accident that already in the Old Testament the promise 'Thine eyes shall hear a word behind thee, saying This is the way, walk ye in it,' is preceded by the words 'and though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction.'

- The God Who Speaks, by B. H. Streeter, pp. 175, 176.

It takes courage to face the fact of death, and to formulate with definiteness one's beliefs upon the subject. It is a statistical fact that about fifty million people die every year. [241] Fifty million people are more than the entire population of Great Britain, and constitute a large group of human beings who make the great adventure. If this is so, the establishing of the verity of Christ's Resurrection and the truth of immortality are of far greater importance than the individual may deem. We are too apt to study these problems either from the scientific angle or from a purely selfish individual one. Death is the only event which we can predict with absolute certainty, and yet it is the event about which the majority of human beings refuse to think at all until faced with the imminent and personal issue. People face death in many different ways; some bring to the adventure a feeling of self-pity, and are so occupied with what they have to leave behind, what is about to end for them, and the relinquishing of all they have gathered in life, that the true significance of the inevitable future fails to arrest their attention. Others face it with courage, making the best of what may not be evaded, and look up into the face of death with a gallant gesture because there is nothing else they can do. Their pride helps them to encounter the event. Still others refuse altogether to consider the possibility; they hypnotize themselves into a condition wherein the thought of death is refused all lodgment in their consciousness, and they will not consider its possibility, so that when it comes, it catches them unawares; they are left helpless and unable to do more than simply die. The Christian attitude, as a rule, is more definitely an acceptance of the will of God, with the resolution to regard the happening as therefore the best of happenings, even if it does not seem so from the angle of environment and circumstance. A steadfast belief in God and His predestined purpose for the individual carries them triumphantly through the gate of death, but if one told them that this was simply another form of the fatalism of the Eastern thinker, and a fixed belief in an unalterable destiny, they would regard it as untrue. They hide behind the name of God.

Death can, however, be more than these things, and can be met in a different way. It can be made to hold a definite [242] place in life and thought, and we can prepare for it as something which cannot be evaded, but which is simply the Bringer of Changes. Thus we make the process of death a planned part of our entire life purpose. We can live with the consciousness of immortality, and it will give an added coloring and beauty to life; we can foster the awareness of our future transition, and live with the expectation of its wonder. Death thus faced, and regarded as a prelude to further living experience, takes on a different meaning. It becomes a mystical experience, a form of initiation, finding its culminating point in the Crucifixion. All previous lesser renunciations prepare us for the great renunciation; all earlier deaths are but the prelude for the stupendous episode of dying. Death brings us release - temporary perhaps, though eventually permanent - from the body nature, from existence on the physical plane and its visible experience. It is a setting free from limitation; and whether one believes (as many millions do) that death is only an interlude in a life of steadily accumulating experience, or the end of all such experience (as many other millions hold), there is no denying the fact that it marks a definite transition from one state of consciousness into another. If one believes in immortality and the soul, this transition may make for an intensification of consciousness; while if the materialistic point of view dominates, it may indicate the end of conscious existence. The crucial question is, therefore: Is that which we call the soul immortal? What is the meaning of immortality?

It is urgent today that we recover some form of faith in the inner subjective world, and in our relation to it. Upon this, the success of the work and message of Christ must rise or fall. These are days wherein everything is being questioned - and the fact of the soul and its immortality perhaps most of all. This is a necessary and valuable stage, provided we go on seeking answers to these questions.

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