On or about the 21st of December every year, after passing far to the South, the Sun, speaking astronomically, slips out of the sign of Sagittarius, the Archer, into that of Capricornus, the Sea-Goat. Long centuries before the coming of Jesus, the enlightened of all races recognized this season as the first, in cyclic sequence, of the four Sacred Seasons of the year marked by the four pivotal points of the Summer and Winter Solstices, and the Equinoxes of Spring and Autumn. Each of these periods had its own special significance and was the occasion for appropriate ceremonies and rites.
This particular sacred season, the Winter Solstice, the Ancient Wise Ones called the time of the Mystic Birth. For them it held — as for Theosophists today, it holds — a double significance. Cosmically, it commemorates the recurrent advent of the manifested worlds of Being from out the womb of Space, the Virgin-Mother, or Holy Spirit, through the Being of the Logos; and mystically it denotes the coming into being in the individual initiate of his Christ-hood through the mediation of his own virgin-spirit.
The Immanent Christ in the human being is that part of ourselves we contact in our dominant aspirations, in those times when revealing intuition illuminates situations for us, in the ideals that persist unbroken by the bitter attacks of material existence throughout our lives, in our deep allegiances and self-effacing loves. It is the part of us that is joyously free, soul-satisfyingly creative, compassionate and true, serene and wise. Through exercise and development of these qualities and attributes the initiate throughout his years of self-discipline and aspiration prepares himself for the Mystic Birth. Thus it is that the Christos-self of every man becomes the Virgin-Born in this second and spiritual birth.
The Universe is a composite Entity, a Being in which, as St. Paul taught, "we live and move, and have our being": the last phrase of the sentence being of especial importance. Such a profound statement has many far-reaching implications.
It means that if the Universe is composite, man is a composite entity, as are all other entities comprising the Universe; if the Universe is a sevenfold compound, sevenfold is the constitution of man; if divinity, or deity, inheres in Universal Being, it is inherent in each of the seven sevenfolds of man; if the Universe is essentially divine in origin, and destiny, divine must be the destiny, just as it is the essence and was the origin of man. Pure divinity — Cosmic Spirits, Super-Gods and Gods — form the most highly evolved sections of the Universe and therefore in the virginity of his highest part man too, is divine, while universal spirit surges potentially through every sub-division of his humanhood. The functions, the forces, the influences, which result in the majestic cosmic processes we marvel at have their counterparts, their stirrings in our lives.
How sad it is that the significance of these mystic truths, so full of aspiration and power, has been lost to us or forgotten, and the beautiful symbols of the lighted Christmas Tree and Holy Family Group become little more than traditional emblems of a festival season! How arresting is their appeal when we know ourselves to be cosmic seeds of Eternity nourished by the spiritual essence and individuality of one divine Parent-Spirit and destined with the sacred tides of initiation to become God-men in our own right, just as the regal Pine becomes the sparkling Christmas Tree; when we feel within ourselves the power of divine Fatherhood and spiritual Motherhood quickening the Christ-babe sleeping in the inner sanctuary — a babe whose presence inspires our highest moments and pleads with us for truer, grander, nobler, self-expression, that whispers to us of the vast reaches of potential expansion surging within us. Knowing these things who can ever again see the lighted Tree or the Nativity Scene without a lifting of his heart in joyful self-dedication as he shares with all beings participation in the wondrous mysteries of the Winter Solstice. The gifts on the Tree also may be said to symbolize the divinity we share with, and that links us to, the Universe — the gift of Selfhood which becomes the Christ-Man. This gift we share with all beings; and our personal gifts one to another are tokens of our individual recognition of this fact.
In The Esoteric Tradition, Dr. de Purucker tells us that the Three Wise Men or Magi of the Gospel-legend, Melchior, Kaspar, and Balthasar, when their names are properly understood, represent the planets Venus, Mercury, and the Moon. Thus we learn that Melchior means "King of Light'; Kaspar may be defined as "like unto a Scribe," and Balthasar is associated with Ba'al and probably means "Lord of Riches or of Prisoners." We have also been told that the gifts the Wise Men brought of gold, frankincense, and myrrh are not only associated each with its respective donor, but symbolize attributes or qualities possessed by those participating in the Christos-rite.
All Nature awaits this advent; the kingdoms respond to its impelling sway: bird and beast reverently rejoice and "flowers bloom in profusion" at the coming of the Virgin-Born, just as it has been portrayed in the Nativity Stories and Scenes of tradition. The Christs, like the Buddhas and all other World-Saviors, appear each in their proper season or cycle. These "hours" are marked on the Zodiacal Clock of the Universe and the Initiate-Astrologers — the Shepherds of the New Testament — noted the portents and therefore were guided not by one star, but by the hosts of stars, to anticipate the coming of a Sage or Savior in quite as natural a way as the astronomers and weather-experts today predict radio-disruption due to sun-spots or storms caused by varying pressures, etc. If the lower kingdoms of universal being are present at the Mystic Birth can we exclude the denizens of the Celestial Spheres?
The Sufi mystics relate a legend of a Wanderer in the Desert Places for whom a beckoning light shone ever beyond his reach. Seeking to attain this radiance he traveled over trackless stretches of barren waste, through sand-storms and intense cold, losing his way oft-times, and having to retrace his steps time and time again. He traversed rocky ravines and was taunted by many a mirage. The glory of sunrise and sunset and the twinkling presences of heaven but enhanced his unsatisfied yearning search. Repeatedly as the years passed the gleaming radiance led him over the threshold of death, but always he returned once more to his seeking. Sometimes the light was dimmed and became just a glow within him. At other times it blazed like a search-light across his vision, all but blinding him.
Thus his pilgrimage continued. He began the ascent of a steep mountain on the peak of which the radiance seemed to rest. Up and onward he mounted: once an avalanche hurled him downward and at another time he traveled with a band of elated pilgrims who sought the light he followed. So onward and upward, ever upward and onward he climbed through beautiful meadows and round perilous bends, until at last he attained the crown of the mountain.
Light, rainbow-shaded, flooded the scene; light, tender and glowing, brilliant and penetrating, emanated from every surrounding atom and radiated in the heart and figure of a Being in the center of the Radiance.
With downcast eyes the Wanderer of the Desert stood in the blazing effulgence face to face with the Light he had so long and so faithfully sought. Overwhelmed with awe and enraptured by the forces surging within, he dared not lift his eyes.
Then from the earth beneath his feet, from the air about him and the sky above, the voices of Life rang with the challenge: "Raise your eyes and Look! Lift up your eyes! Behold!" The Wanderer lifted his eyes and gazed into the source of the Radiance and beheld — Himself.
At the Winter Solstice, the Season of the Mystic Birth, the Christs, Buddhas, and Apollos have been and are "born of the Virgin." But what significance has the season for us, for ordinary, earnestly striving and aspiring, but fallible men and women? Can there be for us a mystic birth — a happy Christmas in the truest sense of the wish?
The first and among the most important initiations take place in the kitchen, the office, the market, and on the street, in each and all of the contacts of life. Initiation literally means "a beginning." And if, during the weeks intervening between the 21st of December and the 6th of January, as the days steadily but definitely lengthen, there is a similar steady and sure tide of purposiveness in our lives; a growth in character: if we are more generous in our judgment, more thoughtful of others, more self-controlled ourselves, and if we withstand the temptations which belittle us with an ever-stronger integrity; in as far as our motives are self-less there will be for us too a mystic birth of the Christ-Self within.
Even a Buddha or a Jesus had first to make a vow, which is a desire, in some life, that he would save the world or some part of it, and to persevere with the desire alive in his heart through countless lives. — The Ocean of Theosophy, p. 46
Most auspicious is the Winter Solstice, the Season of the Virgin-Birth, for the making of such a vow.
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