The Christmas festival, and the teachings which have gone with it from early Christian days, are not at all Christian in origin. They never were invented by early Christian theologians or by Christian devotees, but were all based upon current Pagan ideas of the sanctuary. And this, very far from being an unusual event in Christian history, was a very common thing, for the Christians took over from the very philosophies and religions of the day which later they scorned and rejected, the great bulk of the ideas that in later times became what was known as Christian theology.
The early Christians were brought up in the Pagan world where it was an acknowledged fact that there was an exoteric religion or series of such religions, and a secret teaching kept only for those who had proved themselves to be fit and worthy to receive the teachings of the Mystery-Schools, the secret things of the Divine. All the exoteric faiths hid something wonderful, sublimely majestic, taught within the sanctuary. Get this fact clear, because it is history; and early Christian historians always blurred over or forgot or passed by that idea, without even a mere hint, and yet that is the atmosphere in which Christianity was born. If you get this key and hold it in your mind, you will have something by which you may unlock what has been so difficult even to Christian theologians themselves not merely to understand but to explain.
As regards the Virgin Birth, this is not anything original with Christianity. The conception has been common over the face of the earth from immemorial time. Many peoples in the archaic days taught of virgins giving birth to great sages and seers, and you may read this same story of Jesus the Avatara in other tongues and after other ways, but having essentially the same fundamental truth of a great man achieving manly divinity by a new birth. So common was this idea that it was even popular exoteric language of the streets and of the mart.
The Hindus spoke of a dwija, a twice-born, the idea being that of physical birth, born of the mother, as all sons of men are, but when ready after training, receiving inner birth, inner enlightenment, which was the second birth of the man, a new birth into the light of the spirit. You see how grand this thing is once we throw the light of Theosophy upon it. Yet it becomes no longer Christian but universal, and see how it appeals to the human heart and to the human mind. How grand indeed shines the light of truth upon the face of the man whose heart is enlightened by the sense of his oneness with all; and what pathos there is when the sense of separateness drives him away from his oneness with other men.
What did this teaching mean in the early days of Christianity? Precisely what it meant in all the other great Pagan countries. It represented scenes passed in the sanctuary where the neophyte or disciple after long training had so developed his inner being, his inner perceptions, that he was on the verge of becoming Christos, a Christ, or as the wonderful Mahayana Buddhism has it, a Bodhisattva. The next step would be that of Buddhahood. Even in exoteric writings this wonderful truth from the sanctuary was spoken of as virgin birth, a second birth; and all the saviors of man in whatever country, of whatever clime, and of whatever day, all the great ones, the sages and seers, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of highest rank, the greatest, were all born of the Mother, the holy spirit within. How beautiful, how true! It appeals to us instantly, and it is in strict accord with even the little that modern scientific research is beginning to tell us of what they call psychology. We all recognise it when a man's life is improved and raised by his own efforts and strivings to become greater. It is the first faint dawn in the mystic east, the beginning as it were of the holy birth pangs whereby a man becomes super-man. In time he becomes an incarnate god, the god within, and he thereafter manifests through the Christ-child, and the man of flesh becomes responsive to the inner flame, the inner light, the inner fire. See you not what dignity this lends to us human beings? What hope for the future for those who dare, who strive, who keep silent!
Here is a very significant thing in early Christian writings. If Mary were virgin, how could she give birth to children? In early Christian scripture there occurs a remarkable passage in the Greek Christian writings, and rendered into English it means: My Mother, the Holy Spirit — for the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, amongst primitive Christians was always feminine, never masculine as it became afterwards — my Mother, the Holy Spirit, took me by the hair of my head and brought me to the holy Mount Athor. Do you get it? Here is the spirit in me, the Holy Spirit, my Mother from whom I was born, born anew, no longer born of the flesh but born of the spirit: born first of water according to the flesh, then born of fire according to the spirit: the first birth and the second birth. This is indeed the virgin birth; for the spirit of man, a ray from the divine, from the ineffable, is eternally virgin, and yet eternally fecund, eternally productive. The cosmic Christ is born of the cosmic Spirit, feminine also in ancient time, and in the same way is the spiritual man feminine, and in the holiness of achievement gives birth to the Bodhisattva, the Christ-child, and from then on the man is infilled with the holiness of the spirit pouring through him from the source divine.
What connexion has all this with the Sun? From immemorial time, Father Sun was looked upon with reverence: not necessarily the physical globe clothed with beauty and light and splendor and vital energy, the giver of light unto his own kingdom, but the divinity within and above and behind that sun as of all other stars. Our sun was an emblem of the cosmic spirit, for through that sun poured these floods of vital splendor and life and light: light for the mind and love for the heart, without which no man is man.
Even the Christians used to sing hymns to the sun, record of which is still extant, outside of other references, in a communication by Pliny, governor of Bithynia and Pontus, to the Emperor Trajan in Rome. He said that in his jurisdiction the Christians seemed to be innocent and harmless folk, for they assembled every morning at rise of the sun and sang hymns to that divinity. And in a collection of old Christian hymns we have one of those hymns to the sun still extant, something I have often quoted from this platform. In English it is: "O thou true sun, shine on forever, glittering with perpetual light. (Now hearken to this:) Image of the holy spirit (not merely a creation of holy spirit but its image), image of the holy spirit, infill us full." No Parsi or so-called Sun worshiper ever created a more typical hymn to the sun than these early Christians did. These earliest Christians knew what they meant; they did not worship the physical sun, it was the divine light, teaching what the sun stood for. The sun was the emblem, the image, of the Cosmic Christ, not a creation of god, but the image of the Divine. O thou true sun — and the most common expression among the Christians was to liken their Savior Jesus the Avatara to the Sun.
I would that I had the time and could tell you more of the recondite mysteries of this teaching, but I will merely say this: that in man's constitution there is a solar element. Could it be otherwise? There is a lunar element, and an element derivative from every one of the planets. Even modern science tells us today that we not merely share in the cosmic light, and as they say the cosmic heat, that reaches us from Father Sun, but that the very heat we get from the coal which we burn or the wood which we burn, originally came from the sun, that the atoms which compose it are the same which passed through us, that the solar body reaches not merely the earth but all the other planets. Of course there is a solar element in us and a lunar element and an element from each one of the planets. Otherwise we should be incomplete. Man has everything within himself that the Universe has!
I will just close with this thought: Even though I have all knowledge and have not love in my heart, it profiteth me nothing; for it is simply a declaration that the man is incomplete, unevolved, because, being a part of the Universe, he does not show forth or manifest all that is in the Universe, everything that the whole has. I might have all the truth in the world, but I cannot understand it properly. I can reason and think about it, but I do not get the coherency of the reality because the heart is not yet awake within me. The magic key of love flames not yet in my breast.
Just ask yourself this question: Two men you know. One has all the knowledge in the world, but he is heartless; and the other is a simple-minded man, is not sophisticated, but his heart is great with love's universal, all-comprehensive sympathy. Which of the twain would you choose for a companion, and one to whom you can turn in time of trouble? — A Very Happy Christmas to you all!
— Informal talk at a public meeting, Point Loma, California, December 22, 1940.
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