The Theosophical Forum – December 1949

CHRISTMAS — A UNIVERSAL EXPERIENCE — John H. Manas

According to the Bible and the Christian tradition, at twelve o'clock, middle night, on the 24th of December, 1949 years ago, Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, the Messiah, the Christos, the Savior of the world. In commemoration of this event, a special religious ceremony is celebrated on that night throughout the world among the peoples of the Christian Faith.

The Biblical story is but an allegory veiling a great Cosmic Truth, as all other Cosmic Truths were veiled from the profane in suitable allegories or myths by the ancient hierophants. Only the Initiates to the ancient Mysteries knew the inner meaning of the religious rituals which were enacted at certain times of the year in the temples. Because the consciousness of the masses was not yet able to understand the esoteric meaning of these rituals the priests had to use exoteric tangible forms, symbols and allegorical stories in order to impress on the minds of the people certain Cosmic Truths, upon the observance of which the peace and the well-being of society were based.

The date of the religious ceremony of Christmas was borrowed by the Christians from the civilizations of more ancient and more spiritually advanced nations. It is as old as the world itself. This religious ceremony was celebrated in all civilized ancient nations of the world in their temples many hundreds, if not thousands of years before the birth of Jesus in Palestine.

The Churches through the centuries gave and are still giving a literal interpretation to this cosmic event of the birth of the Cosmic Christos, who through his life force sustains the Universe. The same religious ceremony and ritual, on or about the Winter Solstice, and which is now celebrated on the night of the 24th of December in all Churches of Christendom, was celebrated with more splendor, with more religious feeling and with more understanding in the temples of ancient Greece, Crete, Egypt, Persia and India. Although the names of the deities were different, the substance and the truth of this Cosmic Law, veiled in the allegory or ritual, are the same, then as now.

The universe is sustained by the Breath of God, the Holy Spirit. The Creator breathes out and creation is on its way. When He breathes in, creation returns to the source whence it came, and the night of God prevails. This is a cosmic law that applies to all things and to all beings on every plane of the universe.

Man also breathes in and out, and thus is his life sustained. He goes to sleep for a certain period of time, when his life activity apparently comes to an end, disappears temporarily. In the morning on awakening, his soul activity comes forth again; he re-appears in active life.

This same law governs the Earth: the divine life force which permeates all and is responsible for all living beings, at certain periods of the year retires into the earth for rest, and vegetation comes to a standstill. Then at another period of the year, from within the earth this same life force comes forth again, and manifests in the magnificent growth of plants and the rejuvenation of Nature.

In ancient times this natural phenomenon and law were symbolized in the myth of the birth of the Sun-God, which was intimately related to the four seasons of the year, marked by the summer and winter solstices in June and December respectively, and by the spring and autumn equinoxes in March and September respectively. From about the 21st of September to about the 21st of December the night becomes longer and longer and the darkness seems to engulf the earth and bring death to all life, which would happen if it were allowed to continue unchecked. The crisis between darkness and light is reached between the 21st and 23rd of December, when on the midnight of the Winter Solstice darkness is checked, recedes, and light again begins to win. The day starts to grow longer, the night shorter. A cosmic event which in ancient times, in all lands and in all civilizations, was celebrated truly as the re-birth of the Sun-God — the Savior of Mankind.

The Jews borrowed this Sun-God from the Egyptians, when he became Adonai and replaced one of the sacred names of Jehovah. The same ceremony in honor of this Sun-God was also performed on the 24th of December in Palestine each year. Jerome tells us that

"Bethlehem, the traditional birth place of the Lord, was shaded by a grove of that still older Syrian Lord Adonis, and that where the infant Jesus has wept, Adonis was bewailed." The effigy of a wild boar is said to have been set over one of the gates of Jerusalem in honor of Adonis and his rites were celebrated in the grotto of the Nativity at Bethlehem. Adonis represented the solar energy which in the winter months was destroyed by the evil principle of cold — the boar.

In Phrygia a Savior Sun-God known as Attis, counterpart of Adonis, was born at midnight of the 24th of December each year out of a myrrh tree. Myrrh, the symbol of death, due to its connection with the process of embalming, thus received immortality. This is the reason why myrrh was one of the three gifts brought to the manger of Jesus by the Magi. Attis was gored to death by a boar, the winter cold. He died under a pine tree. His body was taken to a cave by the Great Mother Cybele. He arose from the dead on the 25th of March. To the rites of Attis or Adonis the modern world is indebted for the symbolism of the Christmas tree. Attis imparted immortality to the tree beneath which he died. He remained in the tomb for three days, the three winter months, and he rose from the dead upon a date corresponding to the Easter morn. By his resurrection he overcame death for all those who were initiated into His mysteries.

In the Phrygian mysteries every year a pine tree was cut down and inside the tree the image of a youth was tied.

In Egypt in the mysteries of Isis and Osiris, the trunk of a pine tree was cut. The middle of the trunk was nicely hollowed out, the image of Osiris was made from those hollowed pieces, which was buried with sacred rites.

In the Greek mysteries of Proserpine a myrrh tree was cut and made into the effigy of the Virgin Mother Demeter. It was carried within the city and mourned for forty nights; on the fortieth night it was burned. Also in the Greek Mysteries, Dionysos, the son of Zeus and Semele, was born at midnight of the 24th of December, as a Savior to the world. He was shown therein as a babe with His Virgin Mother Semele in the sacred rites in the temple.

The same religious celebration was held on the 24th of December in India when the god Krishna was born. It is reported that the same ceremony was held in Yucatan, in Mexico, and in general all over the ancient world. In all these religious celebrations it was the commemoration of the same Cosmic event and law, the birth of the Sun-God, the Savior of the world.

Under this interpretation of the Cosmic Christos, the myth of the Sun-God, one can see that this religious ceremony is not an exclusive Christian affair, but belongs to the peoples of all faiths all over the world — a universal event reflecting upon all mankind.


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