"The very thing which is now called the Christian religion, really was known to the ancients, nor was it wanting at any time from the beginning of the human race up to the time Christ came in the flesh; from which time the true religion, which had previously existed, began to be called Christian." — St. Augustine, the great Church Father, has stated the matter well, for truly, Christianity is in the main stream of the Ancient Wisdom Religion.
Now what is Christianity? Today we are prone to identify Christianity with its organizational aspect. Nothing could be more confusing. Clamoring for the attention of the inquirer on the one hand are the churches of authority, the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox; and on the other hand is arrayed the maze of Protestantism, comprising literally hundreds of warring sects, each with its own interpretation of the meaning of Christianity.
This does not represent anything more than organized confusion, and an attempt at a discussion of the ins and outs of theology would not be profitable. Let us, therefore, look to the root of the religion, to its scriptures, and in particular, to those sayings which have been attributed to the Master Jesus. In so doing, let us try to find the outline of the Ancient Wisdom of the Ages.
Who was this Jesus? Surely he is the most publicized and least understood individual who has ever lived. In his name great philosophies have been given to the world, while ordinary men and women have found peace in their simple faith. Great cathedrals have been raised toward the skies, and plain country churches, too. Armies have marched in glorious Crusades, while other men died for their faith — on the cross, at the stake, and in the arena. In the name of Jesus, great paintings and sculptures have been wrought, great books written — while the Inquisition rained violence and terror upon the face of the Western world. Men taught salvation by "Bell, Book and Candle," while others shouted their defiance, claiming that there was no salvation but by "the shed Blood of the Lamb." Who was this Jesus? What did he teach?
In our Theosophical literature it is said that while the Biblical story of the historical Jesus is not accurate, still there is some basis of fact. Theosophy says that a Syrian Initiate taught in Palestine about one hundred years before the time commonly alleged as that of Jesus. This Teacher is said to have been initiated into one of the Mystery Schools of the period. Stories have been circulated in occult literature which variously describe this place of training as in Egypt, in India, in Arabia, and in the deserts of Palestine. The place and the organization are not important. What is important is that this great person passed through veil after veil until there was no more to be learned. Then having achieved a realization of his inner divinity, he turned back, and taught others of the Path he had trodden.
Theosophy tells us that the fundamental basis of all that is, is one life, one spirit, one consciousness, that this one life is beyond the power of our finite minds to comprehend, but that all which is in manifestation about us, is a part of this One Life. Further, that manifestation is governed by one law. Nothing is outside of this law. Law reveals itself in the pattern of action and reaction. Since we are part of one life and governed by one law, it follows that we are all part of one Brotherhood.
Now if we are to prove that Christianity is in the main stream of the Ancient Wisdom Religion, it is necessary to show that Christianity throws light on the ideas just stated. Let us turn to the scriptures for our answer. In The Gospel According to John we read, "God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (John iv, 24) "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men." (John i, 3, 4)
In Paul's Letter to the Ephesians it is written: "One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (iv, 6) Still further in Jeremiah we read: "Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off? . . . Do not I fill heaven and earth?" (xxiii, 23-4) And in Psalms, "If I ascend up into heaven thou art there: if I make my bed in hell behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand hold me." (cxxxix, 8-10) We can see then that "God is Spirit," "God is Love" and "God is Light."
These passages from the Bible are dealing with a universal presence, that which has no beginning and no end, that which presided at the birth of man, at his awakening from sleep, that which guided and upheld man on his long pilgrimage through manifested life. But this is not all. Not only is the Universal Life above us, below us, on every side, but it is also within us. In 1 Corinthians, iii, 16, we find this statement, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"
The great message of Jesus is that of the Kingdom of Heaven. Over and over in the New Testament we find references to the fact that we have within us a spark of the one life. Jesus commanded of his disciples, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect." (Matthew, v, 48) But Jesus did not leave the matter there. He realized full well the spiritual benefit which results from a realization of the inner divinity — so in the manner of the Ten Commandments of Moses and the Eightfold Path of Buddha, he lists the eight Beatitudes:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their's is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness" sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. — Matthew, v, 3-10
We have had these passages so imbedded in our minds that to us they seem rather insipid from too much repetition. But in essence, they present the Rule of Life: Take hold of the problem which is before you; recognize your perfect oneness with all that is; and conquer the difficulty as you ascend on the Ladder of Life.
Much more could be said about God and the Father which represent in the Bible the principle of Universal Life, but perhaps we should now try to find instances where the one Law of the Ancient
Wisdom is presented in Christianity.
In the Sermon on the Mount, which is the epitome of Jesus' teaching, we find the following passage:
Think not that I am come to destroy the law . . I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. — Matthew, v, 17, 18
In other words, Jesus understood that a law is a law, that there could be no exceptions made through vicarious experience, as has become the teaching of the religion which bears his name. For Jesus this universe was a thing of beauty because of the supreme Law which governs its expression. He was constantly drawing analogies from the facts of Nature about him: a sparrow which could not drop to earth outside of the Law, lilies gently waving in a field which were beautifully clothed in fulfillment of the Law; men who could not disguise themselves as sheep, because inwardly they were raging wolves. Yes, Jesus strongly believed in the power of the Universal Law.
Judge not that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. — Matthew, vii, 1
Jesus is stressing the inevitability of the law of action and reaction. One thing he was most anxious to put across to those who followed him was the principle of spiritual dissipation which is an aspect of the Law.
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. — Matthew, vi, 5, 6
In other words, he gave strong warning that man's moral energies would be dissipated and have no effect if they were used for material things and the world of men. But that if the moral force were expended for the spiritual principle itself, it would carry great force, and would bring about definite results in the world of manifestation.
Companion with the great idea of justice, we have that of reimbodiment. Jesus considered this law so much a part of Nature that he did not feel required to lay great stress upon it. The people of that time accepted the idea more than now. Still, he did touch upon it when in speaking of John the Baptist, he said that for those who would accept it, John was a reincarnation of the Prophet Elijah. Again he says,
But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. — Matthew xxii, 31, 32
In The Gospel of John we read:
Let not your heart be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. — xiv, 1-4
Jesus is saying here that the divine spark within us leads us on a spiritual pilgrimage through many manifestations until we arrive at the point of self-conscious union with our Christ principle. Those who formulated the Jesus Christ religion gave strong hints throughout of the initiatory path which was available to all in the pattern of the life of Christ. The injunction to take up your cross was an open invitation to enter into the mysteries and to strive for spiritual advancement.
Thus far an attempt has been made to show that the religion of Christianity contains the teaching of the One Life and of the One Law. It now needs to be shown that the idea of One Brotherhood is the great theme of this religion. Gradually during the past two thousand years, this principle has been permeating the thought life of our western humanity. Slowly, to be sure, but all sound growth is accomplished by imperceptible degrees. Over the centuries have come such statements as,
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven. . . . For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? — Matthew, v, 43-46
And again he said,
This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. — John xv, 12, 13
Christianity is a thing of great beauty. There is a mystic quality in the sacraments — the initial consecration of your life to a spiritual ideal — later, confirming your dedication to that principle; then throughout life, periodically attempting to achieve a union with the spiritual energy dormant within, through communion with the Christ dwelling ever closer than our hearts. In spite of its inherent greatness, in our day, Christianity has in large measure lost its self-respect — it is not altogether sure that what it teaches has any basis of fact. This seems a shocking pity. There is no more beautiful way of life set forth in the world than the Christian. The pathway of true discipleship is marked out in bold lines. If the average nominal church-goer could but realize the great moral force which is behind the real Christianity, what a revolution we would see in our world.
Theosophy has a wonderful message to give to Christianity. As has been set forth so plainly in our literature, this body of teachings has always existed in every religion from the beginning of time and is the common property of all mankind. Christianity should be proud of its heritage. Christians should be made to realize that their religion points to the pathway of initiation, to the road leading within, on the upward arc of spiritual evolution leading ever closer and closer to a glorious union with the Christ principle within.
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