"Christ — the true esoteric SAVIOR — is no man, but the DIVINE PRINCIPLE in every human being." — H. P. Blavatsky
That Jesus called the 'Christ' was unique in the annals of human history — that he was the only 'Son of God,' the only 'Savior of Mankind' — is no longer the universally accepted belief in our Occidental world. An unbiased study of historic record, an acquaintance, however slight, with the great literatures of India, China, Persia, Egypt, Greece, Scandinavia, and the Celtic lands — coupled with a modicum of common-sense — all tend to dissipate such an idea.
That there did exist, perhaps some hundred-odd years before the Christian Era, a young Syrian Initiate, a pre-eminently holy man, who paid heavily for endeavoring to enlighten mankind and relieve its burdens by teaching his sublime code of ethics and philosophy, is conceded by all students of the Ancient Wisdom. About this mysterious figure, of whose life actually nothing definite is known, the later Christians wove a composite mystic tale. Indeed, the Gospel-story, from the Virgin Birth, the advent of the Magi following the Star, to the Crucifixion, the Descent into Hell and the Resurrection, far from being the life-story of any particular man, actually imbodies some of the secrets of the Initiatory Cycle, which the Neophyte, in his training to become a Teacher of men, had to undergo in the Pagan Mystery-Schools. Moreover the term 'Christ' or 'Christos,' as H. P. Blavatsky tells us, "was never applied to any one living man, but to every Initiate at the moment of his second birth and resurrection," that is, when his higher spiritual self is born within him — in other words, when he becomes united with his inner god, the Christos within. It is this event in the spiritual life of the Teacher Jesus (and equally so of every real Teacher), rather than any physical resurrection, that lies at the root of our modern Easter festival.
Moreover there is historic evidence that this term Christos was in use long before the alleged life-time of Jesus. Even at about the beginning of the so-called Christian Era, the coming of a teacher or Messiah (Masshiah) was expected, so that "many persons were thought at that time to be, and undoubtedly thought themselves to be, the Christ." Simon Magus and Apollonius of Tyana, it is said, were both called 'Christs' by some of their contemporaries, although the term was not applied to Jesus until some time after his death.
So that in the broader meaning of the term 'Christ' — - that of an Initiate, one who had been through the mystic ceremony of anointing, who had become one with his inner divinity — it is not farfetched to apply it to other great Helpers of Humanity, other Sages who had earned the right so to serve by giving up their lower personal selves, and who, through following the path of chelaship, had become Masters of Life.
The human race has had its teachers, its saviors, in all ages, and a study of the legends and symbolic stories attaching to these outstanding figures in the drama of human evolution, points irrefutably to the truth that the great Sages and Seers of whatever race, of whatever religion, of whatever epoch of history, have been members or Messengers of one and the same great Brotherhood. They have been trained in the same Secret Wisdom, albeit the outward terms in which they expressed it have necessarily differed with the peoples to whom they came and the language in which they spoke.
For this reason it is that their life-records contain such a great number of similarities. Compare the stories of Krishna, Christ, and Apollonius of Tyana. They are almost identic in general outline. They all, as is also the case with numerous others, are called 'Soter' or 'Savior.' Each came to birth in a miraculous manner; each one in childhood was searched for and threatened with death by an opposing power. They all go through a period of temptation, are all persecuted, and finally meet death — that is, the death of the lower personality. They all descend into the Lower World, Hades or Hell, whence they ascend to union with their 'God in heaven,' their own spiritual nature, and are 'glorified.' A host of other parallels will reward the search of the earnest student, but a glimpse into the universality of the Easter story will suffice us here: Osiris, the Egyptian Savior, descended into hell and later rose from the dead, bearing the title of 'The Resurrected One.' This event was celebrated annually in Egypt about the 25th of March, with great festivity and rejoicing. Horus, son of the virgin goddess Isis in one of her aspects, underwent the same experience.
Baldur, the Scandinavian Sun-god, after being killed, journeyed to the Nether Regions, but rose again to immortal life.
Adonis, virgin-born god of the Phoenicians, whose rites were widely celebrated in the Mediterranean world in ancient times, descended into Hades and rose again. At his festival in early spring, his image was buried amid weeping and wailing, culminating in a joyful shout: "Adonis lives and is risen again!"
Lao-Kiun of China, also born of a virgin, when his work on earth was completed, ascended to spiritual realms, since which time he has been worshiped as a god.
Atys, the Phrygian, and Mithras, the Persian Saviors, both were put to death, descended into hell, where they remained for three days and three nights, and then both rose again from the dead. In the mysteries sacred to Mithras the priests watched his 'tomb' until midnight of March 25th, when all at once lights burst forth from all quarters and the cry arose: "Rejoice, Oh sacred Initiated, your god is risen."
Bacchus, the Greek Savior, son of the virgin Semele, went down into Hades and later rose from the dead. His resurrection was celebrated with great rejoicings.
Quetzalcoatl, the Mexican crucified Savior, after being put to death, rose from the dead. His resurrection is represented in Mexican hieroglyphics.
Numerous other instances might be mentioned, but the above is sufficient proof that a spring festival celebrating the resurrection of their gods was held annually among ancient peoples, before the time of Jesus Christ; that it was almost universal; and that it dates back to great antiquity.
To the casual reader these may be but interesting tales and their similarity but a coincidence, but to the intuitive mind the idea inevitably suggests itself that they are symbolic stories of the trials these Teachers had to undergo during Initiation, with which the details of their personal lives have little to do; hence the confusion and in many cases the absolute non-existence of the records of such unimportant details.
The title of Christ, "applied to every initiate at the moment of his second birth and resurrection," is equally appropriate in connexion with those Great Ones of historic times who have left their ineradicable imprint upon men's hearts and minds, ever seeking to awaken in their disciples the consciousness of that same bright Flame of Divinity which was the Light of their own life. Lao-Tze of China was one of these — the Sage of whom legend has it that he was endowed at birth with complete intelligence and the power of speech and that when his life-work was done he rode away upon a white ox into the West, flinging back as he went a pearl of great price — the wisdom of Tao, the Way to Perfection; also that after his passing he was given the title of 'Tan' or 'Master,' equivalent to that of Christ or Buddha. Another was Kung-foo-tze, upon whose work the whole of Chinese education has been based from that day to this, and yet who said: "I only hand on. I cannot create new things" — just as the Sages of India would say: "Iti maya srutam" — "Thus it has been heard by me; as I have heard it, so I pass it on."
In the same Golden Chain of Teachers was Gautama the Buddha, than whom it has been said that no more sublime figure has incarnated in human form; and who, though of noble birth, traveled far in quest of Truth, studied Indian philosophy at the feet of the Rishis, became an ascetic, and at last, after a period of meditation under the Bodhi-tree, became a fully enlightened Buddha, ready to enter Nirvana. Choosing to remain among men because of his divine pity, he taught his high philosophy for forty-five years; and the undercurrent of his teaching was compassion, and the doctrine of becoming — of becoming one with the Buddha within.
Zoroaster of the Persians, "a divine messenger sent to redeem men from their evil ways," whose birth, foretold far in advance, was the occasion of marvelous natural phenomena, was said to have been tempted by the Prince of Evil if he would forego his mission; but, refusing, he invoked Ahura-Mazda, the Shining One, demanding that the Law be revealed to him. With the knowledge thus obtained, because he had been prepared through Initiation, he thenceforward took his place as a Teacher, a Christ among men.
Pythagoras of Greece studied in the Mystery-Schools of Egypt and of Babylon, and, returning to Europe, founded his famous School at Crotona, Italy, where he taught his pupils to understand the science of numbers as divine energies in action in the Universe, and in the lesser universe or man. Among his illustrious successors were Socrates and Plato, and also Empedocles of Sicily, philosopher, physician, and physicist.
And so the Chain of Teachers continues — and indeed has never ceased since the childhood of the Race, when semi-divine rulers, now known dimly through legend and folk-tale, came to earth and taught infant humanity. Springing, as we have pointed out, from one sacred Brotherhood which is in existence today, and where the secrets of nature have been preserved for mankind from race to race, these Messengers come among men when the need is greatest, each bearing the same tidings, but couched in different outward forms. And what is the teaching above all others, that the Christs of the Ages have come upon earth to recall to men's consciousness? It is the knowledge of the God within, the Immanent Christ, the Inner Buddha which enlightens every man, making of him a god in human form, albeit very much disguised and enmeshed by material bonds. Many, oh, so many, do not yet even dream of the greatness that is locked up within their own being, and of the sublime destiny that is theirs; but some there are who unconsciously approach it at times; and others have definitely set their feet upon the mystic inner path which leads to those spiritual heights.
Theosophists are endeavoring to spread the knowledge of these facts concerning the existence of World-Teachers other than the well-known Sage of Syria, thus expanding the consciousness of Occidental minds, held for so long in the thraldom of creed and dogma. This will open wider the door to that vast treasury of knowledge which the Wisdom-Religion holds for mankind.