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From Bethlehem to Calvary - Chapter Two - The First Initiation - The Birth at Bethlehem
Through love and loving practice we prove ourselves initiate in the mysteries. Born into the world of love at Bethlehem, the keynote of our lives from then on must be obedience to the highest that is in us, love to all beings, and complete confidence in the power of the indwelling Christ to demonstrate (through the outer form of our personalities) the life of love. The life of Christ is a life to be lived today, eventually by all. It is a life of joy and happiness, of test and of problems, but its essence is love and its method is love. It leaves us an example that we should follow His steps, and carry on the work which He initiated.

As we have traveled with Christ from Bethlehem towards the time when the second initiation draws near, what is the lesson we have learnt? How can we sum up the significance of that episode in terms of practical individual application? Has this episode any personal significance? What are the requirements and the possibilities which confront us? If a study of these five developments in the life of Christ are of no profit to us, and if they concern an unfoldment which can have no possible human interpretation, then all that has been written and taught, down the centuries, proves futile and [80] unavailing. The ordinary theological applications no longer make an appeal to the developed intelligence of man. Christ Himself is ever powerful to attract human interest, and to draw to Himself those who have the vision to see truth as it is and to hear the Gospel message in terms which each new age demands. It is a waste of time to go on elaborating this ancient story of the living Christ if it contains for us no specific message, if all that is required of us is the attitude of the onlooker and of the man who simply says: "This is so." This believing yet negative attitude has been held too long. Looking on at Christ from too great a distance, we have been so preoccupied with a realization of His achievement that our own individual part to be played eventually and inevitably has been forgotten. We have allowed Him to do all the work. We have tried to copy Him, and He does not want to be copied. He seeks to have us prove to Him, to ourselves, and to the world, that the divinity which is in Him is in us also. We need to discover that we can be as He is, because we have seen Him. He has had boundless faith in us and in the fact that "we are all the children of God," because "one is our Father," and His call goes out for us to tread the Path of holiness, and to achieve that perfection to which His life challenges us and for which He Himself tells us to work.

One wonders sometimes how right it has been for men to have accepted the ideas of St. Paul as given through translation down the centuries. The thought of sin is very little dwelt upon by Christ. It was emphasized by St. Paul, and the slant which he gave to Christianity is perhaps largely responsible for the dominant inferiority complex of the average Christian - an inferiority which Christ in no way taught. He calls us to holiness of life and admonishes us to follow in His steps, and not to follow in the steps, or to accept the interpretation of His words, which any disciple of His may advocate, no matter how highly esteemed or valuable.

What is this holiness to which He calls us, when we take the first step toward the new birth? What is a holy man?

Wholeness, unity, at-one-ment, completeness - this is the [81] hall mark of a perfect man. Having once seen and with open eyes beheld the vision of divinity, what can we do? In this question our problem is voiced. What is the next step, the immediate duty of the man who knows that, in himself, the new birth has not yet taken place, but who feels in himself a readiness to go up to Bethlehem, from Galilee, via Nazareth?

It entails, in the first place, effort. It means initiative, the expenditure of energy, the overcoming of inertia, and the will to exert oneself so that the initial journey can be taken. It means listening for and obeying the insistent demand of the soul for a nearer approach to God and a fuller expression of divinity; and yet "every individual is at some point torn between the splendid urge to go on towards understanding, and the craving to go back to safety."
- Psychology and the Promethean Will, by W. H. Sheldon, p. 47.

For there is difficulty and danger in the outlined way to the center. Much is to be overcome and faced. The lower nature (the Mary aspect) draws back from the issue, and prefers inertia and stability to the needed activity and to consequent relative and temporary uncertainty.

This new birth is no mystical dream; neither is it a lovely vision of something that is possible but not probable; it is not simply a symbolic expression of some ultimate goal - lying ahead of us in some dim future, or in some other form of existence and some eventual heaven which we can attain if we fall back upon unthinking faith and blind acceptance of all that theology can tell us. Relatively easy to believe, this is the line of least resistance to the majority. It is difficult to fight one's way to that stage of experience where the divine program for man becomes clear, and the possibilities which Christ dramatized for us become something permitting us no rest until we have transmuted it into personal experience, through the experiment of initiation. The new birth is as much a natural event and as much a result of the evolutionary process as is the birth of a child into the world of physical life. Eternally, down the ages, men have made and will continue to make the great transition, proving the fact [82] of this experience. It is something which all must face at some time or other.

Two recognitions must emerge into the thought-world of the aspirant of today. First, the presence of the soul, a living entity which can and must be known through the process of bringing it to the birth upon the plane of daily living; and, secondly, the determination to achieve the reorientation of the entire nature so that a closer identification with that soul may become possible, until a complete unity has been achieved. We begin to see what must be done, we begin to assume the right attitude which will make it possible. The halves of our essential duality - soul and body, Christ and Mary, over-shadowed by the Holy Ghost, the material and the spiritual - face each other and approach nearer and nearer until complete union is achieved and the Christ is born through the instrumentality of the Mother. But the acceptance of this divine idea and the orientation of the life in order to make the idea a fact are the first and immediate steps.

This, Christ taught, and for this He prayed the Father.

"Neither pray I for these alone (His disciples), but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they all may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me... I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one." (St. John, XVII, 20-23.)

This is the doctrine of the At-one-ment; God, immanent in the universe - the cosmic Christ. God, immanent in humanity, revealed through the historical Christ. God, immanent in the individual, the indwelling Christ, the soul.

How can this truth of the soul and the new birth be experienced, so simply and so practically that its meaning can appear, thus enabling us to do that which is needed? Perhaps from the following statements:

  1. Hidden in every human being is the "Word incarnate," [83] the Son of God made flesh. This is "Christ in us, the hope of Glory," but as yet only a hope for the mass of men. Christ is not yet made manifest. He is hidden and veiled by the form. Mary is seen, not the Christ.
  2. As the wheel of life (the Galilee experience) carries us from one lesson to another, we approach nearer and nearer to the indwelling reality and the hidden deity. But the Christ Child is still hidden in the womb of the form.
  3. In due time, the personality - physical, emotional and mental - is fused into one living whole. The Virgin Mary is ready to give birth to her Son.
  4. The long journey draws to a close, and the hidden Christ Child is born at the first initiation.

This truth Dr. Inge touches upon in these words:

"Macarius, following Methodius, teaches that the very idea of the Incarnation includes the union of the Logos with pious souls, in whom He is well-pleased. In each of them a Christ is born. Thus besides the ideas of Ransom and Sacrifice of Christ for us, these theologians placed the ideas of sanctification and inner transformation of Christ in us, and they considered the latter as real and as integral a part of our redemption as the former. But the doctrine of Divine Immanence in the human heart never became quite the central truth of theology till the time of the mediaeval mystics. It is Eckhart who says: 'The Father speaks the Word into the soul, and when the Son is born, every soul becomes Mary."
- The Paddock Lectures, by W. R. Inge, p. 66.

We are summoned to the new birth. Our personalities are now alive with potentiality. The hour is upon us.

The human soul must hear the challenge of the Christ soul, and realize that "Mary is blessed, not because she bore Christ bodily, but because she bore Him spiritually, and in this everyone can become like her." (Eckhart.)

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