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From Bethlehem to Calvary - Chapter Two - The First Initiation - The Birth at Bethlehem
Not all initiates can reach the altitude which Christ reached. His was a unique and cosmic mission. But experience of each stage of illumination, as portrayed in the Gospel story, is possible to the disciples of the world. Therefore, in summing up these ideas concerning the new birth into the kingdom, which at this time faces so many, it must be borne in mind that:

"At the first great Initiation the Christ is born in the disciple. It is then that he realizes for the first time in himself the outpouring of the divine Love, and experiences that marvelous change which makes him feel himself to be one with all that lives. This is the 'Second Birth,' and at that birth the heavenly ones rejoice, for he is born into 'the kingdom of heaven,' as one of the 'little ones,' as a 'little child,' - the names ever given to the new Initiates. Such is the meaning of the words of Jesus, that a man must become a little child to enter into the Kingdom."
- Esoteric Christianity, by Annie Besant, pp. 185, 286, 53, 54.

The same writer points out in another place that:

"The 'second birth' is another well-recognized term for Initiation; even now in India the higher castes are called 'twice-born,' and the ceremony that makes them twice-born is a ceremony of Initiation - mere husk truly, in these modern days, but the 'pattern of things in the heavens.' (Hebrews, IX, 23.) When Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus he states that 'Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,' and this birth is spoken of as that 'of water and the Spirit,' ( St. John, III, 3.5.) this is the first Initiation; a later one is that 'of the Holy [46] Ghost and fire," (St. Matt., III, 11.) the baptism of the Initiate in his manhood, as the first is that of birth, which welcomes him as the 'Little Child' entering the kingdom. (St. Matt., XVIII, 3.) How thoroughly this imagery was familiar among the mystics of the Jews is shown by the surprise evinced by Jesus when Nicodemus stumbled over His mystic phraseology: 'Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?' (St. John, III, 10.)"

Facing these possible heights of attainment stand the disciples of the world at this time. Here also stands the weary world disciple, humanity as a whole, worn and distraught, bewildered and restless, yet conscious of divine potentialities and great dreams, visions and ideals which evoke a hope and a refusal to be defeated and are the guarantee of eventual success. The voice of all the world Saviors and the example of the Christ indicate to humanity the Way that must be trodden. This leads away from the superficial and the material, from the world of unreality to the world of reality. "Man has had enough of a life cut off from its religious center, and a quest for a new religious balance, a spiritual deepening will begin; in no order of his activity can he carry on any longer merely on the surface, a purely external life." (The End of Our Time, by Nicholas Berdyaev, p. 59.) Deep calls unto deep, and from out the darkness of those depths, and through pain and suffering, the Christ child will emerge, and humanity as a whole will stand ready to make the great transition into the kingdom of God. Man can now pass on into the kingdom and commence making spiritual history. Up to the present, history has been preparatory. The race is only today, for the first time ready to take the great step on to the path of discipleship and of purification which precedes the path of initiation. Individuals have ever emerged out of the rank and file and lifted themselves to the pinnacles of attainment, and so climbed the mountain of initiation. But today this becomes possible for the many. The voice of those who have achieved, the clarion call of those who are [47] initiate in the mysteries of the kingdom of God, make the new step possible. The moment is unique and urgent. The call is to the individual but also, for the first time in history, it is sounded in the ears of the crowd, because the crowd is ready to respond.

Such is the situation now. The voices of these individuals who have entered into the kingdom call to the multitude today in no uncertain terms, and the issue is sure, though to some the initiating of humanity may seem a slow process. Old truths enunciated by the world Teachers and Saviors are in process of reinterpretation, to meet the ancient needs in new terms and in a more vital way. Those Leaders who mould the spirits of men are holding the doors wide open, and through them mankind will be obliged to pass, rapidly if it will listen, but inevitably, whether it now hears or no.

Our theme therefore gradually emerges in our consciousness. We can see that it must be approached from two major angles. We shall study these five initiations of Jesus from the angle, first of all, of the individual aspirant, so that it may become apparent that, as children of God, we can all participate in what the Christ went through. One of the interesting things which appear as we study the life of Christ and note how the divine Plan for that life was progressively registered in His consciousness, is that at first He only dimly sensed what He had to do. The ideas developed as He grew older. After the first initiation, the Birth at Bethlehem, His words to His mother were, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (St. Luke, II, 49.) He knew that He was ordained to work and to serve, but the specifications of that work were only later made clear to His mind. He simply recognized a Plan, and to that Plan He dedicated Himself. This must also be done by those who follow in His steps.

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