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From Bethlehem to Calvary - Chapter Two - The First Initiation - The Birth at Bethlehem
According to the concordance, the name Mary means "the exalted of the Lord." As one says these words, the famous picture, by Mulillo, of the Virgin, standing on the crescent moon and being gathered up into the clouds of Heaven, comes to mind. Such is the assumption of the Virgin into glory. There is another interesting point in connection with the constellation Virgo, upon which we might touch. Mary, the Virgin, in the symbolism of the ancient wisdom, stands [67] for virgin matter, for the substance which nurtures and nourishes and hides within itself the Christ child, the Christ consciousness. In the last analysis, it is through form and matter that God stands revealed. That is the story of the divine incarnation. Matter, over-shadowed by the Holy Ghost, the third Person of the Trinity, brings to the birth the second Aspect of the Trinity, in the Person of Christ - cosmic, mythical and individual.

Associated with the story-book of the heavens there are three constellations (besides the constellation Virgo) which are symbolized by women. There is Cassiopeia, the Woman Enthroned. This is the constellation which is the symbol of the stage in human life at which matter and form are dominant and triumphant; when the inner divine life is so deeply hidden that it shows no sign, and only the material nature controls and rules. Then there comes the later stage in the history of the race and of the individual, when we find Coma Berenice symbolically emerging - the Woman bearing the Christ Child is seen. Here matter begins to reveal its true function, which is to bring to the birth the Christ in every form. When the turning of the great wheel of life has played its part, then Mary can come out of Galilee, from Nazareth, and journey to Bethlehem, there to give birth to the Savior. Finally there is Andromeda, the Woman chained, or matter brought into subservience to the soul. The Soul or the Christ now rules. First, matter dominant, enthroned and triumphant. Then matter, the custodian of hidden divinity, beauty and reality, ready to bring them to the birth. Finally, matter as the servant of that which has been born, the Christ. However, none of this is brought about unless the journey is made from Nazareth, the place of consecration, and from Galilee, the place of the daily round of life; and this is true, whether one is speaking of the cosmic Christ, hidden by the form of a solar system; of the mythic Christ, hidden in humanity down the ages; of the historical Christ, concealed within the form of Jesus; or of the individual Christ, hidden within the ordinary man. For always the [68] routine is the same - the journey, the new birth, the experience of life, the service to be rendered, the death to be endured, and then the resurrection into more extended service.

Joseph's name means "he who shall add"; he was a builder, a carpenter, a worker in the building trade, one who adds stone to stone, or beam to beam. He is the symbol of the building-creative aspect of God the Father. In these three people, Joseph, the infant Jesus, and Mary, we have the divine Triplicity symbolized and represented, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, or Matter informed by Deity, and therefore typified for us in the Virgin Mary.

Today the masses are on a journey. Today the teaching of the Path and of the Way to God is engrossing the attention of the aspirants in the world. We are on the Path of return to the individual and to the racial Bethlehem. We are now on the point of entering the cave wherein the new birth can take place, and therefore one stage of life's long journey is nearly completed. This symbolism is truer, perhaps, than we care to think it is. The world problem today is bread, and our anxieties, our bewilderments, our wars and our struggles are based upon the economic problem of how to feed the peoples. Today the whole world is occupied with the Bethlehem idea, with bread. In this subtle implication there surely comes to us a guarantee that as He came before to the House of Bread so will He again fulfil His word and fulfil Himself and return. The cave, a place of darkness and of discomfort, was for Mary the place of pain and weariness. This cave or stable story of the New Testament is perhaps as full of symbolism as any to be found in the Bible. The long and trying journey ended in a dark cave. The long and weary journey of humanity has brought us today to just such a hard and uninviting place. The life of the individual disciple, prior to taking initiation and passing through the experience of the new birth, is ever one of the utmost difficulty and hardness. But in the dark, and through difficulty, Christ is to be found, the Christ life can flower forth, and we can stand face to face before Him as the Initiator. The blind poet, [69] George Macdonald, sensed this when he wrote the beautiful words which have brought comfort to so many:

"Challenge the darkness, whatsoe'er it be,
Sorrow's thick darkness or strange mystery
Of prayer or providence. Persist intent,
And thou shalt find love's veiled sacrament.
Some secret revelation, sweetness, light,
Waits to waylay the wrestler in the night.
In the thick darkness, at its very heart,
Christ meets, transfigured, souls He calls apart."

In this cave of initiation, all the four kingdoms of nature can be seen unmistakably symbolized for us. In the rocky structure of the cave, the mineral kingdom appears. The fodder and the hay, naturally there, symbolize the vegetable kingdom. The ox and the ass represent the animal nature, but they represent also far more than that. The ox stood for that form of worship which should have been passing off the earth at the time Christ came. There were still many to be found who worshipped the bull, which was the worship prevalent in the age when our sun was passing through the age of Taurus, the Bull, and which was preserved at that time in the mysteries of Mithras and of Egypt. The sign immediately preceding the Christian era was that of Aries, the Ram or Lamb, and this is symbolized for us in the sheepfolds which surrounded Bethlehem.

It is interesting also to bear in mind that asses are definitely associated with the story of Mary and her Child. Two asses are found mentioned in the Gospel story, one coming from the north and bearing Mary to Bethlehem, and the other taking her down into Egypt. These are symbols of the two constellations called the Northern Ass and the Southern Ass, which are in the neighborhood of the constellation Virgo.

We find the human kingdom represented in Mary and Joseph, with the human unity plus the duality which are so essential to existence itself. In the newborn Babe divinity [70] expresses itself. Thus, in that little cave, the cosmos is represented.

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