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From Bethlehem to Calvary - Chapter Three - The Second Initiation - The Baptism in Jordan
In the evolution of the race the sentient feeling nature is [99] first developed, and water has ever been the symbol of that nature. The fluid nature of the emotions, the constant shifting between sentient pleasure and pain, the storms which arise in the world of feeling, and the peace and calm which can descend upon a man, make of water a most apposite symbol of this interior subtle world of the lower nature in which most of us live, and wherein our consciousness is predominantly focused. The average man or woman is predominantly a blend of the physical and emotional natures; all early races have this characteristic, and the probability is that, in old Atlantis, civilization was entirely centered in the feelings and the desires, in the emotions, and - among its most advanced types - in the heart life. John the Baptist therefore gave the baptism of water which testified to the purification of the emotional nature, which must always be a preliminary step to the purification by fire.

The Jordan baptism is symbolic of the purification of the conscience in man, just as Christ and His baptism symbolized for us the divine in man and the purification which follows the activity of that divine spirit in the lower nature. Conscience, with its call to the recognition of the higher values, of the deeper truths, and of the birth unto life, leads to Jordan, and so Christ went there to "fulfil all righteousness." This experience ever precedes the baptism into Christ and through Christ.

The baptism of John was a step upon the way into the center, and of more general application than is the baptism of Jesus, for few are ready yet for the second initiation. It is preparatory to that final baptism, for the purification of the emotional nature must precede in time the purification of the mental nature, just as in the evolution of the race (and of a child, likewise) the feeling, sentient man is first developed, and then the mind comes into active life. The baptism which Christ gives His followers concerns the purification of the mind by fire. Fire, under the universal symbolism of religion, is ever symbolic of the mind nature. This baptism by fire is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. [100]

Thus Jesus went up from Nazareth and Galilee to take the next step which was indicated in His experience. As the result of life experience and inner consecration, He was ready for the next initiation. This was taken in the river Jordan. Jordan means "that which descends," but also, according to some commentators, that which "divides," as a river divides and separates the land. In the symbolism of esotericism, the word "river" frequently means discrimination. We have seen that water symbolizes the emotional nature, and that the purification in Jordan, through baptism, typifies the complete cleansing of all feeling, of all wishes and of that desire life which is the determining factor with most people. The first initiation symbolizes the dedication of the physical body and the physical plane life to the soul. The second initiation stands for the demonstrated control and consecration to divinity of the desire nature, with its emotional reactions and its potent "wish life."

A new factor now enters in, the discriminating faculty of the mind. By means of it, the disciple can bring the mental life under control and dedicate it to the life of the kingdom of God, which is consummated at the third initiation. Through the correct use of the mind, the disciple is led to make right choice, and to balance (with wisdom) the endless pairs of opposites.

We pass through the Birth initiation somewhat unconsciously. The full significance of what we have undergone does not appear to us; we are "infants in Christ," and as infants we just live and submit to discipline, gradually growing toward maturity. But there comes a time in the life of every initiate when choice must be made, and Christ was faced with this. A clear, clean interior break is to be made with the past before we can face towards a future of service, consciously undertaken, and know that from that time on nothing will be the same.

This initiation marked a tremendous change in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Up to that time, for thirty years, He had simply been the carpenter of the little town, and the son [101] of His parents. He was a personality doing much good in a small sphere. But after the purification in Jordan, having "fulfiled all righteousness," (St. Matt., III, 15.) He became the Christ, and went about His country, serving the race and speaking those words which have molded for centuries our Western civilization. For each of us there must come the same great expansion, and it occurs when we are fitted to take the second initiation. Our desire-life is then confronted with essential choices which only the mind can enable us properly to handle.

We are told in Crude's Concordance that the name John means "which God gave," and in the three names which appear together in this episode - John, Jesus and Christ - the whole story of the consecrated aspirant is summed up: John, symbolizing the divine aspect deeply hidden in man, which prompts a man towards the needed purity; Jesus, in this case symbolizing the consecrated, pledged disciple or initiate, ready for that process which will be the seal of his purification; Christ, the divine indwelling Son of God, able now to manifest in Jesus, because Jesus has submitted to the baptism of John. That submission and completed purification brought its reward.

It was at this initiation that God Himself proclaimed His Son to be the One in Whom He was "well pleased." Every initiation is simply a recognition. It is a false idea, current in many schools of the mysteries and of esotericism, that initiation connotes a mysterious ceremony wherein, through the medium of the initiator and the rod of initiation, conditions are definitely changed in the aspirant, so that for ever after he is altered and different. An initiation takes place whenever a man becomes, through his own self-effort, an initiate. Then having taken "the kingdom of Heaven by violence," (St. Matt., XI, 12.) and having "worked out" his "own salvation through fear and trembling," (Phil., II, 12.) his spiritual status is immediately recognized by his peers, and he is admitted to initiation. [102]

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