The Theosophical Forum October 1948

THE LANGUAGE OF THE INITIATES H. Oosterink

Initiates of ancient days promulgated their message in the shape of myths, sagas, fairy tales, symbolic stories, parables and in other ways, telling man that there exists a sacred, secret knowledge, to be acquired by whoever is ready to follow the path that leads to enlightenment and elevation. In their stories they availed themselves of a specific language, which to one who possesses the key, gives their stories an illumined meaning.

It is of the greatest importance to know this language. When reading the book we all know, the Bible, we may put our knowledge into practice for the key provided by a knowledge of the mystic language throws a new light on the doctrines of the Bible.

These initiates used the word "wine" for divine life, "water" was a symbol of the lower life, "well or source" symbolized a "source" of spiritual teachings, "man" was used for "God," "wedding" as a symbol for "communion with God."

In the Germanic literature, as well as in the Persian poems and religious writings, we find the same words used in the same symbolic sense.

These explanations are not meant as an attempt to belittle the value of the Christian religion or to reduce its beauty. On the contrary, they make the significance of the Biblical teachings more profound; they give them a new significance. Stories from the New Testament read in this light appear quite novel. The story of Jesus' talk with the woman of Samaria may illustrate this.

Jesus meets this woman at the well of Jacob and being thirsty, he bids her draw water out of that well. The woman replies: "How is it that thou being a Jew askest to drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?" Jesus does not give a straight answer to this question, but inquires after her husband. She replies saying that she has no husband, to which Jesus gives the strange reply: "Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly." To this the woman gives an even stranger reply, for she says: "I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." To which Jesus replies: "The hour cometh and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth."

I give the story in outline. The compiler of the Scripture wished to bring home to the reader that worshiping is not limited to a particular place, but that praying arises from man's inmost being, that it means at-one-ment with God. This is in accordance with the sense of Christ's words, when he spoke of the Kingdom of God within.

Let us now see what the story means after the veil is removed.

Jesus is a Jew, the woman an inhabitant of Samaria. These two peoples had divergent opinions about the explanation of their sacred writings. Both peoples pique themselves on being descendants of the patriarch Jacob and his sons, each of whom represented a tribe of Israel. No wonder, therefore, that these two find each other back at the well of Jacob (from which both peoples draw their spiritual knowledge). The Jews maintained that God should be worshiped in Jerusalem in the temple of Solomon; the Samaritans held that it ought to be done on Mount Sinai, where Israel had received the commandments. Jesus is thirsty (after knowledge) and requests the woman of Samaria to draw water out of Jacob's well (the doctrine of the ancestors). To this the woman naturally replies: "How is it that thou being a Jew askest of me to give thee water out of Jacob's well?" (That is, you explain that doctrine in quite a different way.) Jesus now asks: "Where is your husband?" (Who is your God?). The Samaritans were divided, their religion recognized five sects. Accordingly, Jesus in reply to her answer, "I have no husband," says: "Thou hast well said, for thou hast not one but five."

If the story had no symbolic meaning she would have reacted quite differently. Now, after Jesus' answer, she says: "I see thou art a prophet." Why? Not, I dare say, because she thinks that Jesus really believes she has five husbands, but because she understands from his reply that he is acquainted with the religious conditions in Samaria. And availing herself of this opportunity, she asks him a question which the compiler of the story had been aiming at from the outset, viz. "Where is God to be worshiped?" The answer reflects Jesus' teaching, who, averse to all outward forms of religion, constantly points out to man the essence of faith, which wells up from the heart, the Kingdom of God within man.

The story of the marriage at Cana, where Jesus changes water into wine, is told in the same symbolic language.

During this marriage, which represents the rapture of communion with God, there is a lack of wine (true divine life). But for this life, divine communion cannot exist. It is Christ who brings about this ecstasy, this divine communion, changing the water (the lower life) into wine, that is raising it into divine life.

"I am the true vine," says Jesus, "every branch that beareth not fruit He [my Father, the husbandman] taketh away."

Christ is the Christos-spirit within man. Paul says: "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you," meaning the Christ-spirit, not the long deceased Jesus, who was the bearer of the Christos-spirit. This Christos-spirit had been in the hearts of men, long before Jesus' birth. This is the spiritual glory, which can manifest in and wholly illuminate us, so that we may give birth to the son within us, and may experience the manifestation of divine life. Such a man was called a "twice-born," because he had, so to say, been born again, but this time "spiritually." He had entered the Kingdom of God.

Just as Christ said he was the connecting link between man and God ("I and the Father are one"), similarly Krishna says in the Bhagavad-Gita: "Take refuge alone with me, grieve not, for I shall deliver thee from all transgressions."

In every man's heart lives the Christ-spirit, the Krishna, the splendor of the spirit, and whoever raises himself to this splendor, enters into a new life, the realm of the spirit, to which the initiates of all ages have lifted themselves and from which they have drawn their knowledge.

Again and again Jesus the Initiate speaks of the esoteric and secret doctrine as being the essence of his teachings.

Again and again he speaks in parables: "that seeing they might not perceive, and hearing they might not understand."

To his disciples, however, he expounds the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. "It has been said by them of old times," he says . . . but "I say unto you" . . . and then his exposition follows, giving the meaning of his words, and stating the reason why particular teachings or laws have been given.

Often a mystery-school or an order of initiates is compared to a tree, which is to shed its fruit in the outer world. When the spiritual knowledge is lost, the tree will wither and die, and no longer bear any fruit. This comparison to a tree is found in all religions, as well as in the Bible. We think of the fig-tree, which Christ curses because it has no fruit on it, and which instantly withers away. It is evident that the above explanation is to be applied also to this case, for nobody will think that so great a teacher as Jesus will really get angry because a tree happens to be without fruit.

The secret doctrine is the most valuable treasure that any man can find, for which he ought to renounce everything else that has value for him, because it will raise him to the highest life. To this Jesus continually refers in all his parables. And this spiritual treasure will be found by him who conquers his lower nature, and like the prodigal son, returns to his Father, his own highest Self.


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