When the young Sun sent forth his vibrant beam to kiss the nascent periphery, living form had its beginning. The Sun-born infinitesimals began their long journey through Space and Time, undergoing Change by self-expansion. After millions of eons the solar system achieved its primitive form and planets circled around their parental Lord. One of these planets was the Earth. It, too, expressed itself by motion and evolvement, going through the ages of mineral, vegetable, and animal until at last there were human beings living upon its round surface, dependent on the Sun for life, truly Children of the Sun.
The western part of this round, Sun-bathed world of ours is often referred to as the Christian world, because its entire civilization has been influenced and even dominated by Christian theology. This theology began to be organized by the church fathers early in the fourth century at the time of Constantine. The Christian Bible grew from the various writings that were being used by the early Christian groups, including both the Old Testament and the writings of Paul. A selection of these writings became the basis for the theology.
At first the Bible was used only by the clergy, and its contents were passed on to the church members by being read to them or discussed by the clergy. It was not until printing was invented that the book was translated from Greek through Latin into the more modern European languages. The English language version that has been most widely used is the translation that was made at the time of King James I. Since that time the book has been in nearly every home and is constantly being cited for, strange as it may seem, quotations come from it to fit any and all occasions. But there are so many conflicting statements and hard-to-believe stories, such as the story of Jonah being swallowed by the whale and the immaculate conception of Christ described by Matthew and Luke, that considerable controversy has arisen at times over the book's authenticity. Such tales are allegories, and not to be taken literally.
Scholars of many nations have spent their lives in seeking answers to their questions about the Bible, but whatever they found seemed always to be disputed by other findings or conclusions. This confusion is unfortunate, for there are many passages of beauty and true spirituality in the book to which believers cling, only to feel frustration and bewilderment at the contradictions and ambiguities.
It is largely a matter of not knowing or understanding the symbolism used for, as Paul told the Corinthians, "We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world . . . " (1, 2:7). When symbols are taken literally, however, the truth is seldom found.
The first part of the Bible, the Old Testament, contains the Hebrew Scriptures, the remainder is the New Testament. When some of the later parts of the Old Testament were being written, around 430 B.C. and earlier, the Sun was a principal deity and object of worship in the Near East and along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. To most people the Sun was the Life-Giver, the Lord of the World. The Jews wrote their scriptures with that background, but they let Jehovah eclipse the Sun. The book of Ezekiel (Chapter 8, verse 16; chapter 43, verses 1 to 5; chapter 44, verses 1 to 9) tells how the priesthood "shut the eastern gate" on the Sun worship that had prevailed under Babylonian influence, and excluded from the temple henceforth all but full-blooded Jews.
In the writing of the books of the Old Testament, the Jews had often adopted symbols, myths, allegories, and even fables from the sun-worshiping religions of other peoples. The leading personalities involved — most of them personifications of the Sun — were given Jewish names and settings, and the events a Jewish chronology and character. Sargon, the Akkadian king who lived a thousand years earlier, reappeared as Moses among the bulrushes, and "Brahma" was reversed to "A-brahm," becoming Abraham, father of the Jewish nation. But those knowing the custom could look behind the names and the symbology for the truth that was concealed therein.
Man is related to the Sun and his world in a physical way in the Old Testament. This is shown by the nature of Jehovah or Yahweh who, although presented by the priests in those times as the One True God, was in fact representing the dual aspect of the reproductive force of the Sun upon the Earth. His very name shows this duality, this bipolar positive and negative, male and female nature. The Hebraic character used for the first syllable of the name Yahweh is actually the male reproductive symbol. The second syllable, VEH, is equivalent to EVA or EVE and represents the female principle.
The Old Testament contains allegories of different aspects of the Sun and the Solar System, and also of the Zodiac, that cast of constellationary characters that wheels majestically across the sky along the ecliptic. Jonah, as a personification of the Sun, spent three days and nights in the 'Whale's Belly,' so-called by ancient astrologers to mark the winter solstice between the twenty-first and twenty-fourth of December, when the winter constellation Cetus, the Whale, is just above the horizon, in a position to 'swallow' the Sun as it plunges into the sea.
Samson also personifies the Solar Deity. His strength lay in his golden locks, the rays of the Sun. He overcame the Nubian Lion, Leo of the Zodiac, and this his great strength made August (Leo) the hottest month of the year. His other feats, like carrying off the Gates of Gaza, refer to the power of light over darkness. When he entered the house of Delilah, or Virgo, the beginning of Autumn, the rays of the Sun (Samson's locks) were shortened, and he lost his strength.
The Old Testament looks at man's relation to the Sun and the other heavenly bodies in an exclusively Jewish way. Even the history given of the origin of the Jews does not include other peoples except incidentally. Noah was a Jew and his descendants were Jews. Genesis appears to have been of Brahmanic origin but was written into the Old Testament for the Jews alone. It is natural to wonder why so Jewish a scripture was joined to the Christian testament, especially since the Christian movement had been dominated by gentiles for around two centuries before the work of organizing the scriptures gathered momentum under the official protection of Constantine.
Paul's words to the Corinthians in the New Testament show his disapproval of the emphasis that the Old Testament gives to the physical and literal application of the Law instead of to the observance of moral law in heart and spirit. There must have been much discussion of the question among the bishops who were working to put together written scriptures as a basis for Christian theology, but whatever the reasons, the Old Testament became a part of the Bible regardless of the objections made to it in Paul's writings. Yet it was in the days when Paul read his letters in the bazaars and market places of the towns of the Near East that the real history of Christianity began (c. 50 A.D.). Perhaps the Old Testament should be considered as a necessary prologue, relating the Jewish prophecies of a celestial figure who would be a kind of redeemer of the Jews, a Messiah, the fulfillment of these prophecies then being presented in the New Testament. Paul's view that Christ's mission was to all men and not exclusively for the Jews eventually prevailed in other ways, however, because of the need for the early Christians to curry favor with Rome by showing themselves as separate from the Jews.
Paul implies that the Old Testament history of Moses is not for Christians in these words: "And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face . . . . for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ" (II Cor. 3:13-14).
Paul also tells the Galatians that the story of Abraham's two wives and their respective sons is an allegory: " . . . he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory . . . " (4:23-4). The allegory referred to those who were bound by the dogmas and observances of a traditional theology, as were those who followed the way of Peter, while the sons of the freewoman were "children of promise" and able like Paul's listeners to live in the freedom of the spirit.
The Old Testament concerns the physical side of man's relationship to his world, to Jehovah and, although obscurely, to the Sun. The New Testament presents the life of Jesus as a dramatization of the spiritual development of man, and gives guidance for man's relationship to his fellow man, to a universal deity, and to his own spiritual self. The essence of it is in Paul's exhortation: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? . . . for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" (I Cor. 3:16-17).
Some of the passages in the New Testament have in mind the equinoctial era of Pisces (the Fish), which began in the year One and continues through the present. The first of the disciples mentioned by the gospels as followers of Christ were Simon Peter and Andrew, who are described by Matthew as fishermen. The astrological interpretation of life appears symbolically in the New Testament in a more enlightened way than in the Old Testament. The Sun as Life-Giver and Lord is represented in the life of Jesus himself, with his disciples corresponding to the 12 signs of the Zodiac. The heart of the New Testament concerns spiritual man, bringing knowledge to mankind for a better life and understanding of life's purpose.
There is a tale in the New Testament that can be recognized as an allegory of the era that we are now experiencing, the effects of which will be felt for ages to come. It is the story of the Last Supper. Jesus sent Peter and John into the city to prepare a place for them all to eat the passover and told them to follow a man who would meet them, bearing a pitcher of water. The man with the pitcher is the symbol for the zodiacal sign of Aquarius, the water bearer. Aquarius, carrying the precious liquid — which is the fluid of life — and being careful to preserve it and not waste it, conveys the implication of responsibility, the cardinal feature of this sign. It is the equinoctial era of Aquarius that lies ahead of us, following the era of Pisces that we have been going through for nearly two thousand years.
Jesus, the spiritual man, representing the Sun, sat at the table with the 12 apostles, representing the 12 signs of the Zodiac, which embrace all mankind. When Jesus said that one of those who ate with him at the supper would be the one to betray him, he was speaking of Judas, who represented the sign of Scorpio. Each sign, in addition to its overall spiritual ascendancy, rules a specific area of the human physical body. Scorpio rules the reproductive functions which, as with any other bodily function, must be subjected to discipline and mastered. Now, think of what frightens the world today. It is overpopulation, so much the result of indiscipline and overindulgence. To this is added the demand for more sexual 'freedom' and the popular approval of perversions, with utter disregard for self-discipline, and with never a thought for the vital progress of the human race. This wastage of the precious fluid of life — which is so evident during this present period — can lead only to the eventual impotence of man himself. It is Judas betraying the Master, the spiritual man.
The birth of Jesus is usually supposed to have coincided with the beginning of the equinoctial period of Pisces. The date now honored as the birthday of Jesus comes just as the old year dies at the winter solstice and the new year — the new king — is born. However, this date is nowhere recorded in the New Testament, having been selected by the church fathers in later centuries. According to astrology, at the beginning of the solstice the Sun enters Capricorn at midnight (the Goat sign, suggestive of the manger), and the last few degrees of Virgo are on the horizon. Thus the new year, embodied in the Sun or Christ, is born of a virgin. This is the origin of the "immaculate conception" dogma that has evoked so much criticism when taken literally. Easter, the time for celebration of the Resurrection, comes at the season when the northward-swinging Sun has brought all of nature to new life. The sacred day of the week for Christians is Sun-day, the Lord's day, the day for weekly celebration of the resurrection of Christ, the Sun of Christianity.
When Paul read his letters about Jesus to the people gathered at Ephesus, Corinth and other centers, they were received with credibility. Miracles such as those attributed to Jesus were being performed during this same period by the Greek philosopher Apollonius of Tyana, who was born around the first of the century and lived a hundred years. Apollonius was widely known throughout the Roman world and the East for his teachings as well as for his miracles.
One of the stories told about Apollonius was that, although philosophers were frowned on by the Roman governors and were forbidden to enter Rome itself, he was afraid of nothing and entered Rome confidently. He was thrown into prison and charged with some unlawful deed in the court of Domitian. When the document on which the charges had been written was unrolled, there was nothing there, the document was blank! A verdict had to be given, but before the emperor could open his mouth to give it, Apollonius vanished from the scene. Something of this "miracle" may have been incorporated later into accounts of the life of Jesus, since there is no official record of Jesus appearing in the Roman court of Pontius Pilate.
Paul directed his message mainly to the gentiles, and for this and other reasons evoked the opposition of Peter, who was loyal to Jewish traditions. This opposition was not likely to have been shared by followers of Apollonius, since Paul's message was compatible with their beliefs.
Soon after Paul experienced his inspirational vision on the road to Damascus, he sought deeper understanding. It was then, while in his thirties, that he spent about three years with a Sadocite Essene community near Damascus, where he learned of the life and teachings of the rejected Messianic leader, the so-called "Teacher of Righteousness." A decade or two later he was at Ephesus for several years during a time when many philosophers were active there, as also were Mystery schools with numerous followers. From his life with the Essenes and from his associations at Ephesus, Paul evidently learned the arts of symbology and the use of allegories, and also gained knowledge of the Esoteric Philosophy. It may have been while he was at Ephesus that he corresponded with Seneca, a Roman statesman and philosopher who was one of the most outstanding Latin writers of the first century A.D. Letters have been preserved that were written between Paul and Seneca in which Paul called Seneca "my dear Master," and was called "brother" by him, terms customarily used by teachers and disciples of the Esoteric Philosophy in addressing one another. These letters were branded forgeries by Jerome (St. Jerome [Eusebius Hieronymus], c. 347-420 A.D., made the earliest recorded reference to these letters.) but his motives for doing so are suspect.
There was a major difference in what Paul had to talk about as against the teachings of other philosophers, including Apollonius. This was the story of the crucifixion, with the resurrection of Jesus, and his reappearance before the apostles after spending three days in the tomb. This revelation of life after death was the joyful message that the Christian gospels gave to all who had hitherto viewed death either as obliteration or as eternal punishment. Paul's concept of Jesus the Christ was understood by his listeners in a way that gave them hope of a kind that they had never had before.
But the story of Jesus is a tale having divine significance, since from birth to crucifixion it sublimes the course of evolution of man on this earth. The crucifixion should not be considered to be the result of a life such as that described for Jesus of Nazareth. It is rather a representation of the accumulated evil arising from the ignorance of man, from his selfishness and hatred, by which man actually crucifies himself.
The story of the crucifixion, followed by the three days in the tomb, can also be understood as an allegorical reference to the story of the Sun and of man. As the Sun's power wanes during the second half of the year, ending with the winter solstice, so does man's own physical life fade into old age, like the Sun to be reborn into a new year (or life). The cross represents the earth life of man; man bound to suffer the consequences of not knowing the truth, man punishing himself for his ignorance. The cross also represents the Spirit (the vertical line) dipping into the waters of physical life (the horizontal line). It is the finger of God (or the Sun) penetrating the waters of the earth.
In the New Testament, Mark quotes the explanation of Jesus to his disciples: "Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God:but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables" (4:11). Or according to Matthew, Jesus told the disciples: "it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. . . . Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand" (13:11, 13).
Thus it is that allegories (parables) are told for those "who do not know," the implication being that those who know the truth do not need parables or allegories. The words of the gospels are seldom to be taken literally; instead the true meanings of the allegories are to be found by study and spiritual interpretation. Some of those "who do not know" are not content to accept the allegories as they are given but are stimulated to look for the true meanings behind them. Thus they will eventually attain to true knowledge, which is wisdom.
The life of Jesus can be considered to be an allegory or spiritual abstraction representing the progressive spiritual evolution of mankind toward attainment of the highest wisdom and knowledge of the spiritual realities. However, there is no confirmation in history of the story of Jesus as given in the gospels. The historian Philo Judaeus made several journeys to Jerusalem during the first 40 years A.D., and even in his detailed history of the religious sects there at that time he does not mention Jesus, the apostles, or the crucifixion. Neither does any other historian of the time refer to these important subjects. Perhaps, as some scholars have suggested, it is the timing implied in the gospels that is wrong and that events parallel to those described actually happened sometime before the year One A.D.
A clue may be found in the fact that many scholars now agree that the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John could not have been written before the last of the first century A.D. This leaves mainly the writings of Paul as the earliest sources of the Christian message. But the emphasis of what Paul wrote was on the spiritual message, not on the alleged details of the life of Jesus.
Historical entries in the oldest Talmudic books as well as some Christian sources refer to a religious leader named Jeboshua ben Panthera who was born at Lod (Lydda) about 120 B.C. The Hebrew characters for this man's name can equally well be transliterated as Joshua or Jesu (Jesus). In his early years, Jehoshua's granduncle, Jehoshua ben Prachia, a rabbi, recognizing the youth's purity of character, took him to Egypt to be instructed by the High Priests and initiated into the Mysteries, which were centered there. After years of training and discipline, he took up his responsibilities as a Master and returned to his people to teach. Because his father was half-gentile, Jehoshua was rejected by the orthodox Jewish priests, who in time accused him of heresy. He was tried before the Sanhedrin and sentenced to death together with hundreds of his followers, who were known as the "innocents" because of their freedom from evil. This shameful episode was intentionally submerged in the history of Israel, only to surface twenty centuries later when the scattered fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls were pieced together. As for the so-called "slaughter of the innocents" itself, it was transplanted in the New Testament, although there the victims were alleged to have been innocent children murdered at the command of Herod, an event for which there is not the slightest historical evidence whatsoever.
Jehoshua ben Panthera is evidently the man referred to in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Damascus Document as the "Teacher of Righteousness." This man was a spiritual leader who was believed by his followers to be endowed with the power to interpret the Law and the words of the Prophets, and to be the long awaited Messiah. But through the treachery of the "wicked Priest" he and his followers were persecuted and killed sometime before 70 B.C.
It is possible that Paul and his collaborators used what they knew of the life of Jeboshua ben Panthera and possibly also of Apollonius of Tyana in preparing the allegorical life story needed for the presentation of the spiritual ideas now contained in the New Testament. What they knew of the training and trials of the great Initiates of the Mysteries seems also to have influenced them, so that finally their story of Jesus symbolized the evolution of man to final perfection and union with his spiritual Self.
The idea of the life of Jesus as a spiritual abstraction showing human evolution was not understood by the men who succeeded Paul in organizing what became the Roman church. Thus when Christianity was adopted as the state religion of the Roman Empire under the converted Emperor Constantine during the early part of the fourth century, such church leaders as Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea and historian of early Christianity, used their influence to suppress teachings with which they disagreed. They were largely responsible for burying the true meaning of some earlier Christian writings under an overlay of official dogma. The only factor that set limitations on such changes in the original writings was the factional rivalry and constant bickering among the various bishops during the first few centuries of the Christian era. The injunction spoken by Jesus to the apostles — "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another" — seems largely to have been put aside. One can only deplore that side of Christianity expressed in history by acts of the most savage cruelty, such as burnings at the stake, pogroms, massacres, religious wars, and the unspeakable inhumanities carried on over whole centuries in the name of the Inquisition, itself a total reversal of the Christian concept.
It should be noted that Constantine himself had much to do with the organization of the Christian church in his time and even interfered directly in order to resolve some doctrinal disputes. In later life, Constantine told Eusebius that his conversion to Christianity came about because of a vision in which be saw a cross superimposed upon the Sun just before his victorious campaign against Maxentius. Constantine had been essentially a Sun worshiper, and even after his conversion continued to emphasize the Sun; for example, in relation to the observance of Sun-day by the Christians, in the design of coinage, and in his expressed ideas of the nature of Christ.
The joining of the Christian New Testament to the Jewish Old Testament can be partly understood when one studies the apparent character and outlook of the fathers of the church as revealed in their writings. They endeavored to identify Jesus with the Messiah or Savior whose coming was predicted by the prophets of the Old Testament.
In general the church fathers were no mystics, neither did they seem to understand the symbolism of the scriptures. They sought rather to enlarge upon the story of Jesus as fulfilling the prophecies of the Old Testament. Anything that interfered with this determination was challenged, and if possible suppressed. A case in point is Eusebius' disapproval of the tales about the marvels performed by Apollonius. Eusebius deplored the affectionate esteem in which Apollonius was held, and rejected any comparison or contrast of Apollonius with "Our Savior."
The new Christian movement developed in the midst of a general atmosphere of various forms of Sun worship. In the early Christian centuries, before the Christian writings had been shaped to fit the language of the Old Testament, the Christians held the image of Christ as the Sun of Truth, the Sun of Resurrection, and the Sun of Salvation. And this is not strange, for the Sun is the Life-Giver of the solar system and all organisms depend on it for their growth and reproduction. Their pattern of growth is that of the solar system, reproduced in miniature in the structure of the atom with its central nucleus and the electrons that orbit around it, and in the living cell with its nucleus and surrounding inner cell structures. Since the Sun is the parent, we are all Children of the Sun, evolving toward the potentials of the Sun itself, the "Father-Mother" deity of our existence.
There is a universal esoteric knowledge underlying religions and philosophies. There can be, after all, but a single truth — the One Whole of the early Greek philosopher Pythagoras — though the human mind, being what it is, builds many variations as it glimpses parts of that truth.
Men are more often attracted to glamorous and egotistical interpretations than to a truth they do not easily understand and that requires them to make an effort in applying reason and self-discipline. It is the sovereign right of every man to have true spiritual knowledge, and he is privileged to try to find it. But it is not only his privilege; it is above all his obligation, both to himself and to his fellow men, to develop his spiritual potential on the way to true Mastership.
And we Children of the Sun, what are we doing now? We find ourselves coming out at last from under the dark blanket of Christian theology that has so limited our ability to know or reach the potentials our parent the Sun has given us, and to find the key to the spiritual Self within.
Some of us are still to be counted among those attending church on Sunday, one day in the week, but great multitudes among us are attending schools and universities not just one day in the week but every day, and crowding libraries in an earnest search for knowledge. There is a general upsurge among us of a desire to know, and to know truth. We have by this effort developed an amazing intelligence, enabling us to build remarkable vehicles for viewing the earth from above and for reaching out into space for the answers we want. We have made extraordinary microscopes to explore our origins in the cell and have penetrated the heart of the atom. We have constructed astounding telescopes, bringing into view parts of the cosmos that may have disappeared billions of years ago but only now are becoming visible to us.
But it is not by peering into outer space that man will acquire the truth about himself and his role in the cosmos. That truth lies within each and every one of us. The entire story of human evolution and its promise is recorded in man's own seed. Every living thing in nature expands from a center within itself, a center that holds the image of its own maturity. For the part contains the whole. Even as the future giant redwood tree is contained already in its tiny seed, so man's potential too awaits in him its full development. This can be attained only by his own efforts toward self-discipline and mastery.
Let there be an added word of encouragement for all those earnest students seeking reality. Through the long history of the world, even in the darkest and most ignorant of times, there have always been some individuals who found the light within themselves and realized their relationship with the Sun. These men seldom left their names known to posterity, but by their self-enlightenment formed a brotherhood of wise men dedicated to helping their fellow men to the benefit of all mankind. It is the responsibility of every individual, young and old, to so find the light within, to so master the physical body in which the spirit dwells, that their attainment will contribute to the uplift and future evolvement of humanity as a whole.
For we are all Children of the Sun, still immature, and with a long, long journey of self-unfoldment ahead of us in Time, Motion, and Change.
(From Sunrise magazine, June-July, August-September, 1974; copyright © 1974 Theosophical University Press)