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From Bethlehem to Calvary - Chapter Two - The First Initiation - The Birth at Bethlehem
Isis was often represented standing on the crescent moon, with twelve stars surrounding her head. In almost every Roman Catholic church on the continent of Europe may be seen pictures and statues of Mary, the "Queen of Heaven," standing on the crescent moon, her head surrounded with twelve stars.

"It would seem more than a chance that so many of the virgin mothers and goddesses of antiquity should have the same name. The mother of Bacchus was Myrrha; the mother of Mercury or Hermes was Myrrha or Maia; the mother of the Siamese Savior - Sommona Cadom was called Maya Maria, i.e. 'the Great Mary'; the mother of Adonis was Myrrha; the mother of Buddha was Maya; now, all these names whether Myrrha, Maia or Maria, are the same as Mary, the name of the mother of the Christian Savior. The month of May was sacred to these goddesses, so likewise is it sacred to the Virgin Mary at the present day. She was also called Myrrha and Maria, as well as Mary... "
- Bible Myths, by T. W. Doane, p. 332.

In the symbolic language of esotericism, a cave is regarded as the place of initiation. This has always been so, and a very interesting study of the initiatory process and of the new birth could be made if the many references in the ancient writings to these events which have transpired in caves were collected and analyzed. The stable in which Jesus was born was in all likelihood a cave, for many stables were, in those days, hollowed out of the ground. This was recognized by the early Church, and we are told that "it is well known that whereas in the Gospels Jesus is said to have been born in an inn stable, early Christian writers, as Justin Martyr and Origen, explicitly say He was born in a cave."
- Pagan Christ, by J. M. Robertson, p. 338.

In studying these five initiations of the Gospel story, we find that two of them took place in a cave, two on a mountain top and one on the level between the deeps and the heights. The first and last initiations (the Birth into life and the Resurrection into "life more abundantly" (St. John, X, 10.) took place in [60] a cave. The Transfiguration and the Crucifixion were enacted on the summit of a mountain or hill, whilst the second initiation, after which Christ entered upon His public ministry, took place in a river, in the plains around Jordan - symbolic perhaps of Christ's mission to live and work down amongst men. The Masonic phrase to "meet on the level" takes on here an added significance. After each mountain experience, the Christ came down again on to the level of daily life and there manifested the effects or results of that high event.

Mithras was born in a cave, and so were many others. Christ was born in a cave and entered, as did all the others, upon a life of service and of sacrifice, thus qualifying for the task of world Savior. They brought light and revelation to mankind and were sacrificed, in the majority of cases, to the hatred of those who did not understand their message, or who objected to their methods. All of them "descended into hell and rose again on the third day." There are twenty or thirty of these stories scattered through the centuries of human history, and the stories and the missions are ever identical.

"The Jesus-story, it will now be seen, has a greater number of correspondences with the stories of former Sungods and with the actual career of the Sun through the heavens - so many indeed that they cannot well be attributed to mere coincidence or even to the blasphemous wiles of the Devil! Let us enumerate some of these. There are (1) birth from a Virgin mother; (2) the birth in a stable (cave or underground chamber); and (3) on the 25th December (just after the winter solstice). There is (4) the Star in the East (Sirius) and (5) the arrival of the Magi (the 'Three King's); there is (6) the threatened Massacre of the Innocents, and the consequent flight into a distant country (told also of Krishna and other Sungods). There are the Church festivals of (7) Candlemas (2nd February), with processions of candles to symbolize the growing light; of (8) Lent, or the arrival of Spring; of (9) Easter Day (normally on 25th March) to celebrate the crossing of the Equator by the Sun; and (10) simultaneously the outburst of lights at the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem. There is (11) [61] the Crucifixion and death of the Lamb-God, on Good Friday, three days before Easter; there are (12) the nailing to a tree, (13) the empty grave, (14) the glad Resurrection (as in the cases of Osiris, Attis and others); there are (15) the twelve disciples (the Zodiacal signs); and (16) the betrayal by one of the twelve. Then later there is (17) Mid-summer Day, the 24th June, dedicated to the birth of the beloved disciple John, and corresponding to Christmas Day; there are the festivals of (18) the Assumption of the Virgin (15th August) and of (19) the Nativity of the Virgin (8th September), corresponding to the movement of the god through Virgo; there is the conflict of Christ and his disciples with the autumnal asterisms, (20) the Serpent and the Scorpion; and finally there is the curious fact that the Church (21) dedicates the very day of the winter solstice (when any one may very naturally doubt the rebirth of the Sun) to St. Thomas, who doubted the truth of the Resurrection!"
- Pagan and Christian Creeds, by Edward Carpenter, p. 50.

Any student of comparative religion can investigate the truth of these statements, and at the end will stand amazed at the persistence of God's love and the willingness to sacrifice Themselves which all these Sons of God manifest.

It is therefore wise and timely to remember that:

"These events are reproduced in the lives of the various Solar Gods, and antiquity teems with illustrations of them. Isis of Egypt, like Mary of Bethlehem, was our Immaculate Lady, Star of the Sea, Queen of Heaven, Mother of God. We see her, in pictures, standing on the crescent moon, star-crowned, she nurses her child Horus, and the cross appears on the back of the seat in which he sits on his mother's knee. The Virgo of the zodiac is represented in ancient drawings as a woman suckling a child - the type of all future Madonnas with their divine Babes, showing the origin of the symbol. Devaki is likewise figured with the divine Krishna in her arms, as is Mylitta, or Istar, of Babylon, also with the recurrent crown of stars, and with her child Tammuz on her knee. Mercury and Aesculapius, Bacchus and Hercules, Perseus and the Dioscuri, Mithras and Zarathustra were all of divine and human birth."
- Esoteric Christianity, by Annie Besant, p. 158.

It is apposite to recall that the cathedral of Notre Dame [62] in Paris is built upon the ancient site of a Temple of Isis, and that the early Church very frequently availed itself of a so-called heathen opportunity to determine a Christian rite or a day of sacred remembrance. Even the establishing of Christmas Day on December 25th was so determined. The same writer quoted above tells us that:

"On the fixing of the 25th December as the birthday of Jesus, Williamson has the following: 'All Christians know that the 25th December is now the recognized festival of the birth of Jesus, but few are aware that this has not always been so. There have been, it is said, one hundred and thirty-six different dates fixed on by different Christian sects. Lightfoot gives it as September 15th, others as in February or August. Epiphanies mentions two sects, one celebrating in June, the other in July. The matter was finally settled by Pope Julius in 337 A.D., and St. Chrysostom, writing in 390, says: 'On this day (i.e. 25th December) also the birth of Christ was lately fixed at Rome, in order that while the heathen were busy with their ceremonies (the Brumalia, in honor of Bacchus) the Christians might perform their rites undisturbed."
- Esoteric Christianity, by Annie Besant, p. 160.

The choice of this particular date is cosmic in its implications, and not unwittingly, we can be sure, did the wise men of earlier times make these momentous decisions. Annie Besant tells us that:

"He is always born at the winter solstice, after the shortest day in the year, at the midnight of the 24th December when the sign Virgo is rising above the horizon; born as this Sign is rising, he is born always of a virgin, and she remains a virgin after she has given birth to her Sun-child as the celestial Virgo remains unchanged and unsullied when the Sun comes forth from her in the Heavens. Weak, feeble as an infant is he, born when the days are shortest and the nights are longest..."
- Ibid. p. 157.

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