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From Bethlehem to Calvary - Chapter Two - The First Initiation - The Birth at Bethlehem

All of these five initiations have certain basic points in common, resemblances which in themselves are of real significance. There are factors which are germane to all of them. The Way into the kingdom is universal, and man himself is the symbol and the reality. He looks out at all [51] the myths and symbols of the world; he reads and knows the story of the world Saviors; at the same time he himself has to re-enact the same story and make myth a fact in his own personal experience; he must know Christ; he must also follow Christ stage by stage through the great experiences of the initiatory process.

Every initiation is preceded by a journey; each stage and each dramatic happening comes at the end of a period of travel. The symbolism of this is apparent. "The treading of the Path" is a familiar way of describing the approach of a human being to the mysteries. It is interesting to note that today the whole world is on the move. Everybody is travelling and journeying - a process symbolic of an inner condition of search and movement towards a preordained goal. Travel by rail, by steamship and by airplane is today the lot of everyone. Groups of people in many countries are being transferred from place to place as economic conditions make possible and destiny dictates. We are journeying hither and thither. We are on our way, widening our horizons. We are also preparing for expansions of consciousness which will enable us to live in two realms at once - the life which must be lived on earth and the life which we can live in the kingdom of God. Humanity is on the first stage of its journey towards the mystic Bethlehem where the Christ child will be born, and the first initiation is, at this time, an imminent happening for many.

"To every man there openeth
A way, and ways and a WAY.
And the high soul takes the high way
And the low soul gropes the low;
And in between, on the misty flats,
The rest drift to and fro,
But to every man there openeth
A high way and a low.
And every man decideth
The way his soul shall go."

- John Oxenham. [52]

Again, every initiation is marked by the enunciation of a Word of Power. The initiate hears it, though the rest of the world may not. When Christ passed through these crises, in every case a Voice sounded out, and the sound which went forth "opened anew the gates of life." Door after door is opened on the demand of the initiate and at the response by the Initiator, standing on the other side of the portal. We shall see what each Word signified. The Word always issues forth from the center. Again and again in the New Testament we are told that "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear," (St. Matt., XI, 15.) and a study of the words spoken to the seven Churches in Revelations will bring much light upon the factor of the Word.

Great racial Words have been sounded forth and have brought about needed changes, and have signified a potency of true spiritual value to the sensitive.

The Word or sound for ancient Asia in the past was TAO, or the Way. It stood for that ancient Way which the Initiates of the far East trod and taught. For our race the sound is AUM, which has degenerated in our Occidental vernacular into AMEN. The ancient scriptures of India regard this Word as peculiarly the indication of divinity, of the spirit of life, the breath of God. What the new Word will be which will "come forth from the center" we do not know, for it will not be heard until the race is ready. But there is a common Word of Power which will be given into the custody of our race if we measure up to our opportunity and, through the new birth, enter into the kingdom of God. It is this Word which will quicken into life the hidden soul of man and galvanize him into a renewed spiritual activity. As the race grows in sensitivity, as the aspirants of the world in all the many religions cultivate the ability (through meditation) to hear the Voice which can tune out all other voices, and as they learn to register the Sound which will obliterate all other sounds, they will, as a group, record the new Word which will issue forth. [53]

At each initiation of Jesus, as we shall see, a Sign was given; it was a Sign which registered upon the consciousness of those who were not initiate. Each time, a symbol or form was seen which was indicative of the revelation. Christ Himself tells us that at the end of the age the sign of the Son of Man will be seen in the Heavens. (St. Matt., XXIV, 30.) Just as the Birth at Bethlehem was ushered in by a Sign, that of the Star, so shall that birth towards which the race is hastening be likewise ushered in by a heavenly Sign. The appeal which goes up from the hearts of all true aspirants to initiation is beautifully embodied in the following prayer:

"There is a peace that passeth understanding; it abides in the hearts of those who live in the Eternal. There is a power which maketh all things new. It lives and moves in those who know the Self as One. May that peace brood over us; that power uplift us, till we stand where the One Initiator is invoked, till we see His star shine forth."

When that Sign is seen and the Word is heard, the next step will be the recording of the Vision. The Plan and the part to be played by the initiate are shown to him, and he knows what he has to do. This Vision is spoken of as "the vision of God," but it is expressed to man in terms of God's will and the completeness of that which God intends. We are intended to be initiate into the mystery of that will. The vision of God is the vision of God's Plan. No man has seen God at any time. The revelation of God comes through the revelation of Christ.

"Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
"Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father."
(St. John, XIV, 8, 9.)

Christ revealed in Himself the will of God and gave to humanity a vision of God's Plan for the world, this Plan [54] being the coming of the kingdom. He was God, and the word of God went forth from Him.

Man lives by the incarnation of God in himself. By passing through the gate of the new birth, he can redeem the flesh in which that divinity is encased, and can then help in the redemption of the world. For the race, too, there is the crisis, the initiation and the vision. "Where there is no vision, the people perish." (Prov., XXIX, 18.) But that vision is never of the whole Plan. It is not of the ultimate experience nor of the unfathomable consummation. For that we are not as yet prepared. Christ Himself did not proclaim the final revelation. He saw and proclaimed the next step for the race. The events immediately ahead are sensed, to be later intelligently considered; there is a moment of prevision, a foretelling of movement and activity, of difficulty and service, and of the next unfolding glory.

Following the vision, as that followed initiation, comes a renewed cycle of test and of difficulty. The truths revealed and the revelation accorded have to be worked out in the experience of daily life. Moments of assimilation and reflection must succeed the periods of exaltation and of vision. Unless there is a practical experience of that which is known, it remains upon the mountain top of revelation.

Finally, every initiation leads to expanded service. Practical spiritual living must follow the moments on the mountain top. Self and its attainment must be forgotten in service to others. From this there is no escape. Every pinnacle of achievement is followed by a cycle of testing. Every new revelation grasped and appropriated has to be adapted to the needs of a consequent and strenuous life of service, and initiation ever calls forth renewed testing and enhanced power to serve.

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