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From Bethlehem to Calvary - Chapter Three - The Second Initiation - The Baptism in Jordan
The devil approached Jesus when the forty days of solitary communion were over. We are not told what Christ did in those forty days. No account is given to us of His thought and determinations, His realization and consecration at that time. Alone, He faced the future, and at the end, encountered the tests which released Him from the power of His human nature.

As we study the life of Jesus this solitariness emerges ever more clearly. The great souls are always lonely souls. They tread uncompanioned the most difficult parts of the long way of return. Christ was ever lonely. His spirit drove Him again and again into isolation. "The great religious conceptions which haunt the imaginations of civilized mankind are scenes of solitariness: Prometheus chained to his rock, Mahomet brooding in the desert, the meditations of the Buddha, the solitary Man on the Cross. It belongs to the depth of the religious spirit to have felt forsaken, even by God." (Religion in the Making, by A. N. Whitehead, p. 9.)

Christ's life alternated between the crowd whom He loved and the silence of the solitary places. First He is to be found in the daily life of the family experience, where the intimacies of personalities can so sadly imprison the soul; thence He passed into the solitary desert and was alone. He returned, and His public life began, until the publicity and noise and clamor of this were succeeded by the deep and interior silence of the Cross, where, forsaken of all, He went through the deep dark night of the soul - utterly alone. Yet it is in these moments of complete silence, when the soul is thrown back upon itself and there is no one to help, no hand to aid and no voice to strengthen, that those revelations come and that clear insight is developed which enable a Savior to emerge for the helping of the world. [112]

Christ was tempted of the devil. Is it necessary in a book such as this to give an interpretation of the devil? Is it not apparent that there are in the world today two dominant concepts, both of them passing out as factors in the consciousness of the young, and therefore determining their later beliefs - the devil and Saint Nicholas, or Father Christmas? These names embody opposing ideas. Each of them symbolizes one of the two major problems with which man has, in his daily life, to deal. These are called by Oriental philosophers the "pairs of opposites," and surely it is the manner in which man handles these two aspects of life, and his subjective attitude to them, which determine whether his life reacts to evil or to good. The devil is the symbol of that which is not humanly divine, for there are evil things done by man which, when done by an animal, are not so regarded. A man or a fox, for instance, may raid a chicken coop, but in the one case a moral law is broken, and in the other a natural instinct is followed. An animal may kill another animal in rage or in defense of its female, but when a man does the same thing it is called murder, and he is duly punished.

Father Christmas is the embodiment of that which is selfless; he is the symbol of giving and of the Christ spirit; he therefore stands to man as a reminder of God, just as this other figment of the imagination, the devil with horns and tail, is a reminder of that which is not God, that which is not divine.

"The key is supplied by mythology. The myths demand a serious interpretation in correspondence with objective reality, they must not be treated as pure poetry without any solid truth behind them, a mere play of the imagination! The garment which clothes the substance may be as fabulous, as fantastic, as inconsistent and as patchy as you please. But this does not alter the fact that popular mythology tells of an invisible reality, and of mysterious 'figures,' 'figures' remember, not 'forces' at work everywhere. Everything is alive and possesses a soul. The world is full of spirits, of souls. The myths speak of them. Who invented these myths? Nobody. For inventions are arbitrary, are fiction. But these tales are accepted [113] by those who tell them and by their audience as unquestioned truth. The psychology of the primitive compels him to regard things in this way 'magically.' What in our more developed and more individual psychology has become a 'subconscious' in which the collective life of our ancestors is still operative, is the normal psychology of the primitive, a state of 'natural somnambulism' with its distinctive forms of sensitiveness, telepathy, and second-sight, a direct apprehension akin to the artist's of the whole in its parts, of the essential in a multiplicity of detail."
- Religions of Mankind, by Otto Karrer, pp. 121, 122.

To this the symbols of the devil and of Father Christmas bear testimony - embodiments of the primal dualities in the realm of quality. Man's entire existence, as man, is spent swinging between these pairs of opposites, until eventually the balance is achieved and, from then on, he moves towards that which is divine. It might profit all of us if we pondered long and deeply at times upon these two extremities of human existence - good and evil, light and dark, life and form, spirit and matter, the self and the not-self, the real and the unreal, truth and falsehood, right and wrong, pleasure and pain, the urge and the drag, the soul and the personality, Christ and the devil. In these last two the problem of the three temptations is summed up. These dualities have also been defined as finiteness and infinity which are the characteristics, one of man and the other of God. That which emphasizes our finite nature is of humanity, that which is comprehensive is of God. We shall see, in our study of these three temptations, how clearly the distinctions between the dualities emerge. Christ, in the temptations, could not contradict Himself; and thus identifying Himself with perfection, He gives us a presentation of a human being "in the world, and yet not of the world," (St. John, XVII, 16.) tempted of the devil yet free from wrong reaction to the devil's suggestions. Thus He was a free soul, which is a divine soul, untrammeled by desire and its tests, undefiled by the flesh and its temptations, and liberated from the sins of the mental processes. Such is [114] the will of God for each and all of us, and the writer quoted above says: "There cannot be freedom... unless the divine will is genuinely one with that of finite beings in a single personality." (The Value and Destiny of the Individual, by B. Bosanquet, p. 245.) Such a Personality was Christ. Good is the contradiction of evil, and Christ's attitude to the devil was one of uncompromising contradiction. In this He clarified the issue and did what all souls can do. Herein, as I have earlier pointed out, lies His uniqueness and His distinction - it consists in the basic fact of His utilizing those methods of service, triumph and sacrifice which are available to any of us. Many in the past have died for others; many have faced evil with uncompromising opposition; many have dedicated their lives to service, but none have succeeded with the completeness and the perfection of Christ.

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