In this broadcast further aspects are given of the esoteric symbolism of the Christ-story from the Theosophical viewpoint. This is the fifth of a series of weekly quarter-hour talks begun last spring over radio station XQHB, Shanghai, China. It was presented on April 20th by Miss Elsa-Brita Bergqvist of the Shanghai Theosophical Lodge.
Good evening, everybody:
Last week, Easter Sunday, the President of the Lodge spoke on the meaning of Easter with as much detail as there was time to give to this most mystical subject. We were told that Easter is one of the four periods of the year when initiations take place — when human beings, who have devoted their lives and their very selves to the service of humanity, are initiated into that larger life, whence their ability to serve the human race is greatly enhanced by the spiritual powers that are their reward for lifetimes of selfless work.
Miss Sjostedt also mentioned that the New Testament story of the events in the life of the Syrian teacher Jesus the Christ is the story of initiation. This does not mean that Jesus did not exist. There was indeed such a man, but the life imputed to him is an allegory, which was told in almost identical form of many other saviors or masters. The main incidents in his life, as related in the Bible, have been told of many other World-Teachers.
For instance, the annunciation of an angel bearing flowers, the immaculate conception, the guiding star and the three wise men, the virgin birth at the time of the Winter Solstice, the performance of so-called miracles, the Last Supper, and the death on the cross, the descent into hell and the resurrection after three days — these are incidents common to legends attached to various great sages. It is too striking a coincidence to be taken as a literal account of the lives of these men, but it furnishes proof of the identity of the procedure, which these various tales are intended to relate.
In the first chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew, the genealogy of Jesus is traced from Abraham through David and through Joseph, the husband of Mary; and in the 22nd chapter of the Book of Revelations, verse 16, Jesus is reported as having said: "I am the root and the offspring of David and the bright and morning star." This star, by the way, is the light-bringer "Lucifer," who has since been demoted to represent the devil, curiously enough. This genealogy traced through Joseph is unreasonable unless the virgin birth be a mystical symbol — which Theosophy avers that it is, together with the other incidents just mentioned. It is the symbol of the initiation — that is, of the birth in man of his higher spiritual nature, the pure birth of his consciousness into spiritual realms and activity.
Again the crucifixion is by no means a merely Christian idea. We are told very little of the more occult teachings of the Mysteries, but we are told this: that the initiate was laid on a cruciform couch, where he lay as one dead for about three days and nights, while his mind of consciousness explored the deeper reaches of nature and he literally passed through the state called hell, where he must meet and overcome his lower personal self, and he was then confronted with his own divine nature. If he successfully sacrificed his personal self to the impersonal divinity, he in a manner died as a man and was reborn a Master, and his whole being was suffused with glory — that is, the spiritual light within him shone so strongly that for a time it became visible even to the physical eye as a halo or aureole. People who are psychic or clairvoyant can see around a person an aura of colored light, which colors are said to depict the person's thoughts or emotions. In the case of an initiate who has recently passed the final test and become conscious in his spiritual parts, this light is so vivid that it can be seen by even ordinary people. This explains the origin of the nimbus often seen on paintings of Christian saints and Greek and Roman divinities, and the flame on the heads of images of other religions.
It is curious to note that the original text of Jesus" cry on the cross, which has been translated: "God of me, God of me, why hast thou forsaken me?" was "Eloi, Eloi, lama shabahhthanei." This is Hebrew and also Chaldaic and the word "shabahh" used in the gospels according to both Mark and Matthew, means actually to "glorify" or "to give peace to." This should be contrasted with the passage in one of the psalms, where a different Hebrew text has been correctly translated to mean, "My god, my god why hast thou forsaken me?" The word here used is "azabthani." "Azab" means to forsake or to abandon. There has apparently been some confusion by the translators of the words "shabahh" and "azab." Jesus" utterance correctly translated was therefore, "God of me, God of me, why givest thou me such peace?" or "why glorifiest thou me so greatly?" This puts an entirely different complexion on the story of the crucifixion.
The story of initiation is by no means unique — on the contrary, the events portrayed therein take place even today, and such men as Jesus exist in the world to inspire and enlighten mankind, whenever such inspiration or enlightenment is sincerely solicited with altruistic motives. We cannot find a Master by advertizing in the paper, but any human being who seeks to aid in the work of helping mankind and whose motive is entirely unselfish, can and will receive the guidance and inspiration of the Great Souls who have devoted their existence to helping the evolution of the human race toward the goal of perfection. Those of the Masters who have publicly lived among men all founded Mystery-Schools, where the deeper truths were taught and still are taught to those who have proved themselves worthy guardians of these truths. The general public, who could not be trusted not to abuse or misuse the deeper knowledge, had to be content with general ethical injunctions and truths half-veiled beneath parable and allegory. And so it is today: "Ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you" — people are given just so much of knowledge as they are able and willing to digest and understand, no more, no less. The Theosophical Society as such was founded for the purpose of providing opportunity for study to those who desire to know the truth, at a time when humanity as a whole was emerging from a cycle of crass materialism, during which very little of the Ancient Wisdom was given out, and was entering a cycle of philosophical speculation and of groping after a sane, scientific religion to replace outmoded and garbled dogmatic creeds.