The Theosophical Forum – August 1939


Jesus As a Man (1)

We leave it to every impartial mind to judge whether Jesus is not more honoured by the Theosophists, who see in him, or the ideal he embodies, a perfect adept (the highest of his epoch), a mortal being far above uninitiated humanity, than he is by the Christians who have created out of him an imperfect solar-god, a saviour and Avatar, no better, and in more than one detail lower, than some of the Avatars who preceded him. No Theosophist, of those who ever gave a thought to Christianity — for our "heathen" members, of course, do not care one snap of their finger whether Christ and Paul lived or not — ever denied the existence of the Apostle who is an historical personage. Some of us, a few learned Christian mystics among our British Theosophists included, deny but the Gospel Jesus — who is not an historical personage — "Zero" and padris notwithstanding, — but believe in an ideal Christ. Others are inclined to see the real Jesus in the adept mentioned in the oldest Talmudic as well as some Christian books, and known as Jeshu Ben Panthera. — The Complete Works of H. P. Blavatsky, IV, 193 (2)

In days of old the "mediators" of humanity were men like Christna, Gautama Buddha, Jesus, Paul, Apollonius of Tyana, Plotinus, Porphyry, and the like of them. They were Adepts, Philosophers — men who, by struggling their whole lives in purity, study, and self-sacrifice, through trials, privations and self-discipline, attained divine illumination and seemingly superhuman powers. — The Complete Works of H. P. Blavatsky, I, 184

"The air is full of souls," states Philo, "they descend to be tied to mortal bodies, being desirous to live in them." (De Gigant., 222 C; De Somnus, p. 455).

Which shows that the Essenes believed in re-birth and many reincarnations on Earth, as Jesus himself did, a fact we can prove from the New Testament itself. — The Secret Doctrine, II, 111

The motive of Jesus was evidently like that of Gautama-Buddha, to benefit humanity at large by producing a religious reform which should give it a religion of pure ethics; the true knowledge of God and nature having remained until then solely in the hands of the esoteric sects, and their adepts. — Isis Unveiled, II, 133

All this points undeniably to the fact, that except a handful of self-styled Christians who subsequently won the day, all the civilized portion of the Pagans who knew of Jesus honored him as a philosopher, an adept whom they placed on the same level with Pythagoras and Apollonius. Whence such a veneration on their part for a man, were he simply, as represented by the Synoptics, a poor, unknown Jewish carpenter from Nazareth? As an incarnated God there is no single record of him on this earth capable of withstanding the critical examination of science; as one of the greatest reformers, an inveterate enemy of every theological dogmatism, a persecutor of bigotry, a teacher of one of the most sublime codes of ethics, Jesus is one of the grandest and most clearly-defined figures on the panorama of human history. His age may, with every day, be receding farther and farther back into the gloomy and hazy mists of the past; and his theology — based on human fancy and supported by untenable dogmas may, nay, must with every day lose more of its unmerited prestige; alone the grand figure of the philosopher and moral reformer instead of growing paler will become with every century more pronounced and more clearly defined. It will reign supreme and universal only on that day when the whole of humanity recognizes but one father — the unknown one above — and one brother — the whole of mankind below. — Isis Unveiled, II, 150-1

Alas, alas! How little has the divine seed, scattered broadcast by the hand of the meek Judean philosopher, thrived or brought forth fruit. He, who himself had shunned hypocrisy, warned against public prayer, showing such contempt for any useless exhibition of the same, could he but cast his sorrowful glance on the earth, from the regions of eternal bliss, would see that this seed fell neither on sterile rock nor by the way-side. Nay, it took deep root in the most prolific soil; one enriched even to plethora with lies and human gore! — Isis Unveiled, II, 303

All this did Siddhartha six centuries before another reformer, as noble and as loving, though less favored by opportunity, in another land. If both, aware of the great danger of furnishing an uncultivated populace with the double-edged weapon of knowledge which gives power, left the innermost corner of the sanctuary in the profoundest shade, who, that is acquainted with human nature, can blame them for it? But while one was actuated by prudence, the other was forced into such a course. Gautama left the esoteric and most dangerous portion of the "secret knowledge" untouched, and lived to the ripe old age of eighty, with the certainty of having taught the essential truths, and having converted to them one-third of the world; Jesus promised his disciples the knowledge which confers upon man the power of producing far greater miracles than he ever did himself, and he died, leaving but a few faithful men, only half way to knowledge, to struggle with the world to which they could impart but what they half-knew themselves. Later their followers disfigured truth still more than they themselves had done. — Isis Unveiled, II, 319

While the mythical birth and life of Jesus are a faithful copy of those of the Brahmanical Christna, his historical character of a religious reformer in Palestine is the true type of Buddha in India. In more than one respect their great resemblance in philanthropic and spiritual aspirations, as well as external circumstances is truly striking. Though the son of a king, while Jesus was but a carpenter, Buddha was not of the high Brahmanical caste by birth. Like Jesus, he felt dissatisfied with the dogmatic spirit of the religion of his country, the intolerance and hypocrisy of the priesthood, their outward show of devotion, and their useless ceremonials and prayers. As Buddha broke violently through the traditional laws and rules of the Brahmans, so did Jesus declare war against the Pharisees, and the proud Sadducees. What the Nazarene did as a consequence of his humble birth and position, Buddha did as a voluntary penance. He travelled about as a beggar; and — again like Jesus — later in life he sought by preference the companionship of publicans and sinners. Each aimed at a social as well as a religious reform; and giving a death-blow to the old religions of his countries, each became the founder of a new one. — Isis Unveiled, II, 339

The "Life of Jesus" by Strauss, which Renan calls "un livre, commode, exact, spirituel et consciencieux" (a handy, exact, witty and conscientious book), rude and iconoclastic as it is, is nevertheless in many ways preferable to the "Vie de Jesus," of the French author. Laying aside the intrinsic and historical value of the two works — with which we have nothing to do, we now simply point to Renan's distorted outline-sketch of Jesus. We cannot think what led Renan into such an erroneous delineation of character. Few of those who, while rejecting the divinity of the Nazarene prophet, still believe that he is no myth, can read the work without experiencing an uneasy, and even angry feeling at such a psychological mutilation. He makes of Jesus a sort of sentimental ninny, a theatrical simpleton, enamored of his own poetical divagations and speeches, wanting every one to adore him, and finally caught in the snares of his enemies. Such was not Jesus, the Jewish philanthropist, the adept and mystic of a school now forgotten by the Christians and the Church — if it ever was known to her; the hero, who preferred even to risk death, rather than withhold some truths which he believed would benefit humanity. We prefer Strauss who openly names him an impostor and a pretender, occasionally calling in doubt his very existence; but who at least spares him that ridiculous color of sentimentalism in which Renan paints him. — Isis Unveiled, II, 340-1 (Footnote)

Like Buddha and Jesus, Apollonius was the uncompromising enemy of all outward show of piety, all display of useless religious ceremonies and hypocrisy. If, like the Christian Saviour, the sage of Tyana had by preference sought the companionship of the poor and humble; and if instead of dying comfortably, at over one hundred years of age, he had been a voluntary martyr, proclaiming divine Truth from a cross, his blood might have proved as efficacious for the subsequent dissemination of spiritual doctrines as that of the Christian Messiah. — Isis Unveiled, II, 341-2

Let it not be imagined that we bring this reproach to any who revere Jesus as God. Whatever the faith, if the worshipper be but sincere, it should be respected in his presence. If we do not accept Jesus as God, we revere him as a man. Such a feeling honors him more than if we were to attribute to him the powers and personality of the Supreme, and credit him at the same time with having played a useless comedy with mankind, as, after all, his mission proves scarcely less than a complete failure; 2,000 years have passed, and Christians do not reckon one-fifth part of the population of the globe, nor is Christianity likely to progress any better in the future. No, we aim but at strict justice, leaving all personality aside. We question those who, adoring neither Jesus, Pythagoras, nor Apollonius, yet recite the idle gossip of their contemporaries; those who in their books either maintain a prudent silence, or speak of "our Saviour" and "our Lord," as though they believed any more in the made-up theological Christ, than in the fabulous Fo of China. — Isis Unveiled, II, 530

There is quite enough in the four gospels to show what was the secret and most fervent hope of Jesus; the hope in which he began to teach, and in which he died. In his immense and unselfish love for humanity, he considers it unjust to deprive the many of the results of the knowledge acquired by the few. This result he accordingly preaches — the unity of a spiritual God, whose temple is within each of us, and in whom we live as He lives in us — in spirit. — Isis Unveiled, II, 561

Apollonius, a contemporary of Jesus of Nazareth, was, like him, an enthusiastic founder of a new spiritual school. Perhaps less metaphysical and more practical than Jesus, less tender and perfect in his nature, he nevertheless inculcated the same quintessence of spirituality, and the same high moral truths. His great mistake was to confine them too closely to the higher classes of society. While to the poor and the humble Jesus preached "Peace on earth and good will to men," Apollonius was the friend of kings, and moved with the aristocracy. He was born among the latter," and himself a man of wealth, while the "Son of man," representing the people, "had not where to lay his head;" nevertheless, the two "miracle-workers" exhibited striking similarity of purpose. — Isis Unveiled, II, 341


1. The entire article, entitled A Word with the Theosophists, makes very interesting reading and goes into detail concerning the historical evidence of the life of Jesus. — Eds. (return to text)

2. From these extracts from the writings of the main founder of the Theosophical Society, the reader will gather what is the Theosophical attitude towards the great Christian Teacher as a man, and the fact of his actual existence. Note particularly the distinction between Jesus as a man, and the Christ- or Christos-spirit in every man. — Eds. (return to text)

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