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From Bethlehem to Calvary - Chapter One - Introductory Remarks on Initiation

Always there have been temples and mysteries and holy places where the true aspirant could find what he sought, and the needed instruction as to the way he should go. The prophet of old said:

"...a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it, for he shall be with them; the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein."
- Isaiah, XXXV, 8, Marginal Reading.

It is a way that leads from that which lies without to that which dwells within. It reveals, step by step, the hidden life which every form and symbol veils and hides. It assigns to the aspirant certain tasks which lead to his understanding, and produces an inclusiveness and wisdom which meet his deeply sensed need. He passes from the stage of enquiry to what the Tibetans call "straight knowledge." Upon that path [22] vision and hope give place to realization. Initiation after initiation is undergone, each one leading the initiate nearer to the goal of complete unity. Those who in the past thus worked, agonized and attained, constitute a long chain, reaching out of the remotest past into the present, for the initiates are still with us and the door still stands wide open. Through the agency of this hierarchy of achievement, men are lifted, step by step, up the long ladder reaching from earth to heaven, to stand eventually before the Initiator and in that high moment to find that it is the Christ Himself Who thus greets them - the familiar Friend Who, having prepared them by example and precept, now receives them into the presence of God. Such has ever been the experience, the uniform experience down the ages, of all seekers. Revolting in the East from the wheel of rebirth, with its constantly reiterated suffering and pain, or revolting in the West from the apparent monstrous injustice of the one sorrowful life which the Christian allots himself, men have turned within to find the light and peace and release so ardently desired.

Christ gives us a definite picture of the entire process in His own life story, built around those major initiations which are our universal heritage and the glorious (and for many) the immediate opportunity. These are:

  1. The Birth at Bethlehem, to which Christ called Nicodemus, saying, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (St. John, III, 3.)
  2. The Baptism in Jordan. This is the baptism to which John the Baptist referred us, telling us that the baptism of the Holy Spirit and of fire must be administered to us by Christ. (St. Matt., III, 11.)
  3. The Transfiguration. There perfection is for the first time demonstrated, and there the divine possibility of such perfection is proven to the disciples. The command [23] goes forth to us, "Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (St. Matt., V, 48.)
  4. The Crucifixion. This is called the Great Renunciation, in the Orient, with its lesson of sacrifice and its call to the death of the lower nature. This was the lesson which St. Paul knew and the goal towards which he strove. "I die daily," he said, for only in the practice of death daily undergone can the final Death be met and endured. (I Cor., XV, 31.)
  5. The Resurrection and Ascension, the final triumph which enables the initiate to sing and to know the meaning of the words: "Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave where is thy victory?" (I Cor., XV, 55.)

Such are the five great dramatic events of the mysteries. Such are the initiations through which all men must some day pass. Humanity stands today upon the path of probation. The way of purification is being trodden by the masses, and we are in process of purging ourselves from evil and materialism. When this process is completed, many will find themselves ready to make preparation for the first of the initiations, and to undergo the new Birth. The disciples of the world are preparing for the second initiation, the Baptism, and for this must come a purification of the emotional desire nature and a dedication of the desire nature to the life of the soul. The initiates of the world are facing the Transfiguration initiation. Mind control and right orientation towards the soul, with a complete transmutation of the integrated personality, lies ahead of them.

There is much foolishness talked these days in connection with initiation, and the world is full of people who are claiming to be initiates. They fail to remember that no initiate makes any claim or speaks about himself. Those who claim to be initiates give denial to their claim in so doing. Disciples and initiates are taught to be inclusive in their thoughts [24] and non-separative in their attitudes. They never set themselves apart from the rest of humanity by asserting their status and thus automatically placing themselves upon a pedestal. Nor are the requirements, as stated in many of the esoteric books, quite as simple as they are made out to be. To read some of them, one would think that as long as the aspirant has achieved a measure of tolerance, of kindness, devotion, sympathy, idealism, patience and perseverance he has fulfiled the major requirements. These are indeed primary essentials, but to these qualities must be added an intelligent understanding and a mental unfoldment which will lead to a sane and intelligent cooperation with the plans for humanity. It is the balance of head and heart that is required, and the intellect must find its complement and expression in and through love. This needs a most careful reproclaiming. Love and sentiment and devotion are often confused with each other. Pure love is an attribute of the soul and is all-inclusive, and it is in pure love that our relation to God and to each other consists. "For the love of God is broader than the measure of man's mind, and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind" - so runs the old hymn, and thus is expressed that love which is the attribute of Deity and also the hidden attribute of every son of God. Sentiment is emotional and unstable; devotion can be fanatical and cruel; but love blends and fuses, understands and interprets and synthesizes all form and all expressions, all causes and all races, into one flaming heart of love, knowing no separateness, no division and no disharmony. To bring about this divine expression in our daily life takes the utmost that is in us. To be an initiate takes every power of every aspect of one's nature. It is no easy task. To face the inevitable tests with which one will assuredly be confronted as one treads the path Christ trod, takes courage of the rarer kind. To cooperate sanely and wisely with God's Plan and to merge one's will in the divine Will must call into activity not only the deepest love of one's heart, but the keenest decisions of the mind. [25]

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