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From Bethlehem to Calvary - Chapter Six - The Fifth Initiation - The Resurrection and Ascension
It is the prolongation of value, of that which is worth while, and the continuation of the persistent, inner, divine incentive to progress, to create and to benefit others, that seem, to those who have reached the point where thought is consecutively possible, to hold the clue to the problem of immortality. The entire story of Christ goes to prove this. He had, throughout His life of consecrated service and devotion to His fellow men, proved that He had reached the point in His evolution wherein He had somewhat to contribute to the good of the whole; He had attained altitude on the evolutionary ladder, and His humanity was lost to sight in the divinity which He expressed. He had that which was of worth to offer to God and man, and He offered it upon the Cross. It cost Him His life to make His contribution to the source of the whole body corporate, but He made it. Because of the worth of what He had achieved, and the value of the livingness of His contribution, He could demonstrate immortality. It is the immortal value which survives, and where that value exists the soul needs no more the school of human experience.

This thought gives rise to the question: What is it, therefore, that we seek to see survive? What part of ourselves do we regard as desirably immortal? What in each of us warrants persistence? Surely none of us seek to see the physical body resurrected, nor are we anxious again to be trammeled [246] and confined by the present limiting vehicle in which most of us find ourselves. Its value seems inadequate for the experience of resurrection and for the gift of immortality. Nor are we desirous, surely, of seeing the same psychic nature, with its aggregate of moods and feelings and sentient reactions to environing condition, hold sway over us again. Equally surely, none of us are pleased to contemplate the old idea of a sugary heaven wherein we pass our time clothed in white robes, singing and talking upon religious matters. We have outgrown these ideas, and to them Christ Himself is a direct refutation. He rose from the dead and entered upon a life of increased active service. The "other sheep" which He had to gather must be sought and shepherded; (St. John, X, 16.) His disciples must be trained and taught; His followers must be guided and helped; the kingdom of God must be organized on earth. And still the risen Christ moves among us, often unrecognized, but busy with the task of world salvage and service. There is no heaven of peace and rest and inactivity for Christ whilst we remain unsaved; there is surely none for us who seek to follow in His footsteps.

When a man's life has gained significance, then he is ready to tread the path of purification and probation in preparation for the mysteries; as his significance and influence increase he can pass, stage by stage, through the processes of initiation, and tread the path of holiness. He can be "born in Bethlehem," because the germ of that which is dynamic and living is awakened and is gaining potency and significance, and must therefore make its appearance; he can pass through the waters of purification, and attain the mountain-top of transfiguration where that which is of worth shines forth in all its glory. Having achieved that moment of heightened experience, and that which he has of value being recognized by God as worth while, he is then, and then only, ready to offer his life upon the altar of sacrifice and of service, and can set his face to go up to Jerusalem, there to be crucified. It is the inevitable end to that which is of worth. It is the underlying [247] purpose of the whole process of perfecting, as there is now something worthy to be offered. But though this may be the end of the physical expression of worth, it is essentially the moment of the triumph of value, and the demonstration of its immortality. For that which is of value, the divine and hidden beauty which life-experience and initiation have served to reveal, cannot die. It is essentially immortal, and must live. This is the true resurrection of the body. When the consciousness of value and of worth, and the recognition of man's reach, as well as his grasp, are considered, the life of service (leading to death) and of resurrection (leading to full citizenship in the kingdom of God) begin to gain in meaning. The body which we now have is relatively worthless; the sum total of moods and mental reactions to which we now submit is of no value to anyone but ourselves; the environment in which we live and move has in it surely nothing to warrant its endless perpetuation. In short, a continuance of the personal self in some heaven which is the extension of our own individual consciousness, and the concept of an endless eternity lived with oneself, have for most of us no allurement whatsoever. Yet an aspect of oneself longs for immortality and the sense of infinity. The "endless prolongation in time of a self's career" has led to much confusion of thought. Few of us, if asked seriously to consider the problem and seriously to give an answer, would feel that as individuals we warrant arrangements being made for our endless persistence. A sense of truth and justice might lead us honestly to the conclusion that our value to the universe is practically nil. And yet we know that there is a value and a reason behind all our life experience, and that the phenomenal world, of which we are indubitably a part, veils or hides something of infinite value, of which we are also a part.

We seek assurance that those whom we love and value are not lost to us. We seek to share with them some state of happiness which will have in it truer values than any we [248] have known on earth; we long to prolong, in time and space, the familiar state which we love and cherish. We desire compensation for what we have endured, and the realization that everything has had a purpose and has been worth while. It is this longing, this belief, this determination to persist, which lies behind all achievement and which is the incentive and impulse upon which we base all effort. Socrates pointed out this basic argument for immortality when he said that "no-one knows what death is, and whether it is not the greatest of all good things. Nevertheless, it is feared as if it were the supreme evil... When death comes near to man that which is mortal in him is scattered; that which is immortal and incorruptible withdraws intact."

Three thoughts are of importance in considering this problem of value, which is so amazingly evidenced by Christ, and which was the true reason why He rose again. His immortality was based upon His divinity. His divinity expressed itself through human form, and in that form evidenced value, destiny, service and purpose. All of these He demonstrated perfectly, and therefore death could not hold Him, nor could the chains of the grave prevent His liberation.

The first thought is that immortality is the safeguarding of what we really care about. The factor on which we place the emphasis in our daily lives survives and functions on some level of consciousness. We must, and do, eventually attain what we demand. When we care for that which is eternal in value, then eternal life, free from the limitations of the flesh, is ours. Dean Inge tells us that "in so far as we can identify ourselves with the absolute values, we are sure of immortality." What we really care about, then, in our highest moments, when free from the illusions of the emotional nature, determines our immortal life.

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