Studies in Occultism by H. P. Blavatsky
Theosophical University Press Online Edition

The Esoteric Character of the Gospels

Part III

No one can be regarded as a Christian unless he professes, or is supposed to profess, belief in Jesus, by baptism, and in salvation, "through the blood of Christ." To be considered a good Christian, one has, as a conditio sine qua non, to show faith in the dogmas expounded by the Church and to profess them; after which a man is at liberty to lead a private and public life on principles diametrically opposite to those expressed in the Sermon on the Mount. The chief point and that which is demanded of him is, that he should have — or pretend to have — a blind faith in, and veneration for, the ecclesiastical teachings of his special Church.

"Faith is the key of Christendom,"

saith Chaucer, and the penalty for lacking it is as clearly stated as words can make it, in St. Mark's Gospel, Chapter xvi., verse 16th:

"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."

It troubles the Church very little that the most careful search for these words in the oldest texts during the last centuries remained fruitless; or, that the recent revision of the Bible led to a unanimous conviction in the truth-seeking and truth-loving scholars employed in that task, that no such un-Christ-like sentence was to be found, except in some of the latest, fraudulent texts. The good Christian people had assimilated the consoling words, and they had become the very pith and marrow of their charitable souls. To take away the hope of eternal damnation, for all others except themselves, from these chosen vessels of the God of Israel, was like taking their very life. The truth-loving and God-fearing revisers got scared; they left the forged passage (an interpolation of eleven verses, from the 9th to the 20th), and satisfied their consciences with a foot-note remark of a very equivocal character, one that would grace the work and do honor to the diplomatic faculties of the craftiest Jesuits. It tells the "believer" that: --

The two oldest Greek MSS. and some other authorities OMIT from verse 9 to the end. Some authorities have a different ending to the Gospel, (42)

— and explains no further.

But the two "oldest Greek MSS." omit the verses nolens volens, as these have never existed. And the learned and truth-loving revisers know this better than any of us do; yet the wicked falsehood is printed at the very seat of Protestant Divinity, and it is allowed to go on, glaring into the faces of coming generations of students of theology and, hence, into those of their future parishioners. Neither can be, nor are they deceived by it, yet both pretend belief in the authenticity of the cruel words worthy of a theological Satan. And this Satan-Moloch is their own God of infinite mercy and justice in Heaven, and the incarnate symbol of love and charity on Earth — blended in one!

Truly mysterious are your paradoxical ways, Oh — Churches of Christ!

I have no intention of repeating here stale arguments and logical exposés of the whole theological scheme; for all this has been done, over and over again, and in a most excellent way, by the ablest "Infidels" of England and America. But I may briefly repeat a prophecy which is a self-evident result of the present state of men's minds in Christendom. Belief in the Bible literally, and in a canalized Christ, will not last a quarter of a century longer. The Churches will have to part with their cherished dogmas, or the 20th century will witness the downfall and ruin of all Christendom, and with it, belief even in a Christos, as pure Spirit. The very name has now become obnoxious, and theological Christianity must die out, never to resurrect again in its present form. This, in itself, would be the happiest solution of all, were there no danger from the natural reaction which is sure to follow: crass materialism will be the consequence and the result of centuries of blind faith, unless the loss of old ideals is replaced by other ideals, unassailable, because universal, and built on the rock of eternal truths, instead of the shifting sands of human fancy. Pure immateriality must replace, in the end, the terrible anthropomorphism of those ideals in the conceptions of our modern dogmatists. Otherwise, why should Christian dogmas — the perfect counterpart of those belonging to other exoteric and pagan religions — claim any superiority? The bodies of all these were built upon the same astronomical and physiological (or phallic) symbols. Astrologically, every religious dogma the world over, may be traced to, and located in, the Zodiacal signs and the Sun. And so long as the science of comparative symbology or any theology has only two keys to open the mysteries of religious dogmas — and these two only very partially mastered, how can a line of demarcation be drawn, or any difference made between the religions of say, Chrishna and Christ, between salvation through the blood of the "first-born primeval male" of one faith, and that of the "only begotten Son" of the other, far younger, religion?

Study the Vedas; read even the superficial, often disfigured writings of our great Orientalists, and think over what you will have learnt. Behold Brahmans, Egyptian Hierophants, and Chaldean Magi, teaching several thousand years before our era that the gods themselves had been only mortals (in previous births) until they won their immortality by offering their blood to their Supreme God or chief. The Book of the Dead, teaches that mortal man "became one with the gods through an interflow of a common life in the common blood of the two." Mortals gave the blood of their first-born sons in sacrifice to the Gods. In his Hinduism, p. 35, Professor Monier Williams, translating from the Taitiriya Brahmana, writes: — "By means of the sacrifice the gods obtained heaven." And in the Tandya Brahmana: — "The lord of creatures offered himself a sacrifice for the gods." . . . And again in the Satapatha Brahmana: — "He who, knowing this, sacrifices with the Purusha-medha or the sacrifice of the primeval male, becomes everything."

Whenever I hear the Vedic rites discussed and called "disgusting human sacrifices," and cannibalism (sic.), I feel always inclined to ask, where's the difference? Yet there is one, in fact; for while Christians are compelled to accept the allegorical (though, when understood, highly philosophical) drama of the New Testament Crucifixion, as that of Abraham and Isaac literally (43), Brahmanism — its philosophical schools at any rate — teaches its adherents, that this (pagan) sacrifice of the "primeval male" is a purely allegorical and philosophical symbol. Read in their dead-letter meaning, the four gospels are simply slightly altered versions of what the Church proclaims as Satanic plagiarisms (by anticipation) of Christian dogmas in Pagan religions. Materialism has a perfect right to find in all of them the same sensual worship and "solar" myths as anywhere else. Analyzed and criticized superficially and on its dead-letter face, Professor Joly ("Man before Metals," pp. 189-190) finding in the Svastika, the crux ansata, and the cross pure and simple, mere sexual symbols — is justified in speaking as he does. Seeing that "the father of the sacred fire (in India) bore the name of Twashtri, that is the divine carpenter who made the Swastika and the Pramantha, whose friction produced the divine child Agni, in Latin Ignis; that his mother was named Maya; he himself, styled Akta (anointed, or Christos) after the priests had poured upon his head the spirituous soma and on his body butter purified by sacrifice"; seeing all this he has a full right to remark that:

The close resemblance which exists between certain ceremonies of the worship of Agni and certain rites of the Catholic religion may be explained by their common origin. Agni in the condition of Akta, or anointed, is suggestive of Christ; Maya, Mary, his mother; Twashtri, St. Joseph, the carpenter of the Bible.

Has the professor of the Science Faculty of Toulouse explained anything by drawing attention to that which anyone can see? Of course not. But if, in his ignorance of the esoteric meaning of the allegory he has added nothing to human knowledge, he has on the other hand destroyed faith in many of his pupils in both the "divine origin" or Christianity and its Church and helped to increase the number of Materialists. For surely, no man, once he devotes himself to such comparative studies, can regard the religion of the West in any light but that of a pale and enfeebled copy of older and nobler philosophies.

The origin of all religions — Judaeo-Christianity included — is to be found in a few primeval truths, not one of which can be explained apart from all the others, as each is a complement of the rest in some one detail. And they are all, more or less, broken rays of the same Sun of truth, and their beginnings have to be sought in the archaic records of the Wisdom-religion. Without the light of the latter, the greatest scholars can see but the skeletons thereof covered with masks of fancy, and based mostly on personified Zodiacal signs.

A thick film of allegory and blinds, the "dark sayings" of fiction and parable, thus covers the original esoteric texts from which the New Testament — as now known — was compiled. Whence, then, the Gospels, the life of Jesus of Nazareth? Has it not been repeatedly stated that no human, mortal brain could have invented the life of the Jewish Reformer, followed by the awful drama on Calvary? We say, on the authority of the esoteric Eastern School, that all this came from the Gnostics, as far as the name Christos and the astronomico-mystical allegories are concerned, and from the writings of the ancient Tanaim as regards the Kabalistic connection of Jesus or Joshua, with the Biblical personifications. One of these is the mystic esoteric name of Jehovah — not the present fanciful God of the profane Jews ignorant of their own mysteries, the God accepted by the still more ignorant Christians — but the compound Jehovah of the pagan Initiation. This is proven very plainly by the glyphs or mystic combinations of various signs which have survived to this day in the Roman Catholic hieroglyphics.

The Gnostic Records contained the epitome of the chief scenes enacted during the mysteries of initiation, since the memory of man; though even that was given out invariably under the garb of semi-allegory, whenever entrusted to parchment or paper. But the ancient Tanaim, the Initiates from whom the wisdom of the Kabala (oral tradition) was obtained by the later Talmudists, had in their possession the secrets of the mystery language, and it is in this language that the Gospels were written. (44) He alone who has mastered the esoteric cipher of antiquity — the secret meaning of the numerals, a common property at one time of all nations — has the full proof of the genius which was displayed in the blending of the purely Egypto-Jewish, Old Testament allegories and names, and those of the pagan-Greek Gnostics, the most refined of all the mystics of that day. Bishop Newton proves it himself quite innocently, by showing that "St. Barnabas, the companion of St. Paul, in his epistle (ch. ix.) discovers . . . the name of Jesus crucified in the number 318," namely, Barnabas finds it in the mystic Greek I H T — the tau being the glyph of the cross. On this, a Kabalist, the author of an unpublished MS. on the Key of Formation of the Mystery Language, observes: --

But this is but a play upon the Hebrew letters Jodh, Cheth, and Shin, from whence the I H S as the monogram of Christ coming down to our day, and this reads as [J Ch Sh] or 381, and sum of the letters being 318 or the number of Abraham and his Satan, and of Joshua and his Amalek . . . also the number of Jacob and his antagonist . . . (Godfrey Higgins gives the authority for the number 608) . . . It is the number of Melchizedek's name, for the value of the last is 304 and Melchizedek was the priest of the most high God, without beginning or ending of days.

The solution and secret of Melchizedek are found in the fact that: --

in the ancient Pantheons the two planets which had existed from eternity (aeonic eternity) and were eternal, were the Sun and the Moon, or Osiris and Isis, hence the terms of without beginning or ending of days. 304 multiplied by two is 608. So also the numbers in the word Seth, who was a type of the year. There are a number of authorities for the number 888 as applying to the name of Jesus Christ, and as said this is in antagonism to the 666 of the Anti-Christ. . . . The staple value in the name of Joshua was the number 365, the indication of the Solar year, while Jehovah delighted in being the indication of the Lunar year — and Jesus Christ was both Joshua and Jehovah in the Christian Pantheon.

This is but an illustration to our point to prove that the Christian application of the compound name Jesus-Christ is all based on Gnostic and Eastern mysticism. It was only right and natural that Chroniclers like the initiated Gnostics, pledged to secrecy, should veil or cloak the final meaning of their oldest and most sacred teachings. The right of the Church fathers to cover the whole with an epitheme of euhemerized fancy is rather more dubious. (45) The Gnostic Scribe and Chronicler deceived no one. Every Initiate into the Archaic gnosis — whether of the pre-Christian or post-Christian period — knew well the value of every word of the "mystery-language." For these Gnostics — the inspirers of primitive Christianity — were "the most cultured, the most learned and most wealthy of the Christian name," as Gibbon has it. Neither they, nor their humbler followers, were in danger of accepting the dead letter of their own texts. But it was different with the victims of the fabricators of what is now called orthodox and historic Christianity. Their successors have all been made to fall into the mistakes of the "foolish Galatians" reproved by Paul, who, as he tells them (Galat. iii. 1-5), having begun (by believing) in the Spirit (of Christos), "ended by believing in the flesh," — i.e., a corporeal Christ. For such is the true meaning of the Greek sentence (46), "[enarzamenoi Pneumati, nun sarki epiteleisthe.]" That Paul was a gnostic, a founder of a new sect of gnosis which recognized, as all other gnostic sects did, a "Christ-Spirit," though it went against its opponents, the rival sects, is sufficiently clear to all but dogmatists and theologians. Nor is it less clear that the primitive teachings of Jesus, whenever he may have lived, could be discovered only in Gnostic teachings; against which discovery, the falsifiers who dragged down Spirit into matter, thus degrading the noble philosophy of primeval Wisdom-Religion, have taken ample precautions from the first. The works of Basilides alone — "The philosopher devoted to the contemplation of Divine things," as Clement describes him — the 24 volumes of his interpretations upon the Gospels — were all burned by order of the Church, Eusebius tells us (Hist. Ecctes., iv. 7).

As these Interpretations were written at a time when the Gospels we have now, were not yet in existence (47), here is a good proof that the Evangel, the doctrines of which were delivered to Basilides by the Apostle Matthew, and Glaucus, the disciple of Peter (Clemens Al. Strom. vii. 7, §106), must have differed widely from the present New Testament. Nor can these doctrines be judged by the distorted accounts of them left to posterity by Tertullian. Yet even the little this partisan fanatic gives, shows the chief gnostic doctrines to be identical, under their own peculiar terminology and personations, with those of the Secret Doctrine of the East. For, discussing Basilides, the "pious, god-like, theosophic philosopher," as Clement of Alexandria thought him, Tertullian exclaims:

After this, Basilides, the Heretic, broke loose. (48) He asserted that there is a Supreme God, by name Abraxas, by whom Mind [Mahat] was created which the Greeks call Nous. From this emanated the Word; from the Word, Providence; from Providence, Virtue and Wisdom; from these two again, Virtues, Principalities (49), and Powers were made; thence infinite productions and emissions of angels. Among the lowest angels, indeed, and those that made this world, he sets last of all the god of the Jews, whom he denies to be God himself, affirming that he is but one of the angels. (50) (Isis Unveiled, II, 289)

Another proof of the claim that the Gospel of Matthew in the usual Greek texts is not the original gospel written in Hebrew, is given by no less an authority than St. Jerome (or Hieronymus). The suspicion of a conscious and gradual euhemerization of the Christ principle ever since the beginning, grows into a conviction, once that one becomes acquainted with a certain confession contained in book ii. of the Comment. to Matthew by Hieronymus. For we find in it the proofs of a deliberate substitution of the whole gospel, the one now in the Canon having been evidently rewritten by this too zealous Church Father. (51) He says that he was sent toward the close of the fourth century by "their Felicities," the Bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus to Caesarea, with the mission to compare the Greek text (the only one they ever had) with the Hebrew original version preserved by the Nazarenes in their library, and to translate it. He translated it, but under protest; for, as he says, the Evangel "exhibited matter not for edification, but for destruction." (52) The "destruction" of what? Of the dogma that Jesus of Nazareth and the Christos are one — evidently; hence for the "destruction" of the newly planned religion. (53) In this same letter the Saint (who advised his converts to kill their fathers, trample on the bosom that fed them, by walking over the bodies of their mothers, if the parents stood as an obstacle between their sons and Christ) — admits that Matthew did not wish his gospel to be openly written, hence that the MS. was a secret one. But while admitting also that this gospel "was written in Hebrew characters and by the hand of himself" (Matthew), yet in another place he contradicts himself and assures posterity that as it was tampered with and re-written by a disciple of Manicheus, named Seleucus . . . "the ears of the Church properly refused to listen to it." (Hieronymus, Comment. to Matthew, book ii. chapter xii., 13.)

No wonder that the very meaning of the terms Chrestos and Christos, and the bearing of both on "Jesus of Nazareth," a name coined out of Joshua the Nazar, has now become a dead letter for all with the exception of non-Christian Occultists. For even the Kabalists have no original data now to rely upon. The Zohar and the Kabala have been remodeled by Christian hands out of recognition; and were it not for a copy of the Chaldean Book of Numbers there would remain no better than garbled accounts. Let not our Brothers, the so-called Christian Kabalists of England and France, many of whom are Theosophists, protest too vehemently; for this is history (See Munk). It is as foolish to maintain, as some German Orientalists and modern critics still do, that the Kabala has never existed before the day of the Spanish Jew, Moses de Leon, accused of having forged this pseudograph in the 13th century, as to claim that any of the Kabalistical works now in our possession are as original as they were when Rabbi Simeon Ben Jochai delivered the "traditions to his sons and followers. Not a single of these books is immaculate, none has escaped mutilation by Christian hands. Munk, one of the most learned and able critics of his day on this subject, proves it, while protesting as we do, against the assumption that it is a post-Christian forgery, for he says:

It appears evident to us that the author made use of ancient documents, and among these of certain Midraschim or collections of traditions and Biblical expositions, which we do not now possess.

After which, quoting from Tholuck (1. c. pp. 24 and 31), he adds:

"Haya Gaon, who died in 1038, is to our knowledge the first author who developed the theory of the Sephiroth and he gave to them the names which we find again to be among the Kabalists (Tellenik, Moses ben Schem Tob di Leon, p. 13, note 5); this doctor, who had intimate intercourse with the Syrian and Chaldean Christian savans, was enabled by these last to acquire a knowledge of some of the Gnostic writings."

Which "Gnostic writings" and esoteric tenets passed part and parcel into the Kabalistic works, with many more modern interpolations that we now find in the Zohar, as Munk well proves. The Kabala is Christian now, not Jewish.

Thus, what with several generations of most active Church Fathers ever working at the destruction of old documents and the preparation of new passages to be interpolated in those which happened to survive, there remains of the Gnostics — the legitimate offspring of the Archaic Wisdom-religion — but a few unrecognizable shreds. But a particle of genuine gold will glitter for ever; and, however garbled the accounts left by Tertullian and Epiphanius of the Doctrines of the "Heretics," an occultist can yet find even in them traces of those primeval truths which were once universally imparted during the mysteries of Initiation. Among other works with most suggestive allegories in them, we have still the so-called Apocryphal Gospels, and the last discovered as the most precious relic of Gnostic literature, a fragment called Pistis-Sophia, "Knowledge-Wisdom."

In my next article upon the Esoteric character of the Gospels, I hope to be able to demonstrate that those who translate Pistis by "Faith," are utterly wrong. The word "faith" as grace or something to be believed in through unreasoned or blind faith, is a word that dates only since Christianity. Nor has Paul ever used this term in this sense in his Epistles; and Paul was undeniably an INITIATE.

(This series was never completed by H. P. B.)

Contents


FOOTNOTES:
42. Vide "Gospel according to St. Mark," in the revised edition printed for the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, 1881. (return to text)
43. Vide "The Soldier's Daughter," Lucifer, vol. I, No. 6, by the Rev. T. G. Headley, and notice the desperate protest of this true Christian, against the literal acceptance of the "blood sacrifices," "Atonement by blood," etc., in the Church of England. The reaction begins: another sign of the times. (return to text)
44. Thus while the three Synoptics display a combination of the pagan Greek and Jewish symbologies the Revelation is written in the mystery language of the Tanaim — the relic of Egyptian and Chaldean wisdom — and St. John's Gospel is purely Gnostic. (return to text)
45. "The claim of Christianity to possess Divine authority rests on the ignorant belief that the mystical Christ could and did become a Person, whereas the gnosis proves the corporeal Christ to be only a counterfeit Presentment of the trans-corporeal man; consequently, historical portraiture is, and ever must be, a fatal mode of falsifying and discrediting the Spiritual Reality." (G. Massey, "Gnostic and Historic Christianity.") (return to text)
46. This sentence analyzed means "Shall you, who in the beginning looked to the Christ-Spirit, now end by believing in a Christ of flesh," or it means nothing. The verb [epiteloumai] has not the meaning of "becoming perfect," but of "ending by," becoming so. Paul's lifelong struggle with Peter and others, and what he himself tells of his vision of a Spiritual Christ and not of Jesus of Nazareth, as in the Acts — are so many proofs of this. (return to text)
47. See Supernatural Religion, vol. ii., chap. "Basilides." (return to text)
48. It was asked in Isis Unveiled, were not the views of the Phrygian Bishop Montanus, also deemed a HERESY by the Church of Rome? It is quite extraordinary to see how easily that Church encourages the abuse of one heretic, Tertullian, against another heretic, Basilides, when the abuse happens to further her own object. (return to text)
49. Does not Paul himself speak of "Principalities and Powers in heavenly places" (Ephesians iii. 10; i. 21), and confesses that there be gods many and Lords many (Kurioi)? And angels, powers (Dunameis), and Principalities? (See I Corinthians viii. 5; and Epistle to Romans, viii. 38.) (return to text)
50. Tertullian: Praescript. It is undeniably owing only to a remarkably casuistical, sleight-of-hand-like argument that Jehovah, who in the Kabala is simply a Sephiroth, the third, left-hand power among the Emanations (Binah), has been elevated to the dignity of the One absolute God. Even in the Bible he is but one of the Elohim (See Genesis, chapter iii. v. 22, "The Lord God" making no difference between himself and others.) (return to text)
51. This is history. How far that re-writing of, and tampering with, the primitive gnostic fragments which are now become the New Testament, went, may be inferred by reading "Supernatural Religion," which went through over twenty-three editions, if I mistake not. The host of authorities for it given by the author, is simply appalling. The list of the English and German Bible critics alone seems endless. (return to text)
52. The chief details are given in Isis Unveiled, Vol II, pp. 180-183, et seq. Truly faith in the infallibility of the Church must be stone-blind -- or it could not have failed being killed and — dying. (return to text)
53. See Hieronymus: De Viros, illust. cap. 3; Olshausen: "Neuen Text.," p. 32. The Greek text of Matthew's Gospel is the only one used or ever possessed by the Church. (return to text)