THEOSOPHY, Vol. 18, No. 8, June, 1930
(Pages 351-355; Size: 15K)
(Number 8 of a 12-part series)
[Compiler's Note: This series is entirely
"Collated from the writings of H.P.B."]
JESUS: INITIATE AND TEACHER
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. This knowledge was in the hands of the Jewish adepts of the school of Hillel and the kabalists. But the "scribes," or lawyers, having gradually merged into the dogmatism of the dead letter, had long since separated themselves from the Tanaïm, the true spiritual teachers; and the practical kabalists were more or less persecuted by the Synagogue. Hence, we find Jesus exclaiming: "Woe unto you lawyers! For ye have taken away the key of knowledge [the Gnosis]: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering ye prevented" (Luke xi, 52). The meaning here is clear. They did take the key away, and could not even profit by it themselves, for the Masorah (tradition) had become a closed book to themselves as well as to others.
Neither Renan nor Strauss, nor the more modern Viscount Amberley seem to have had the remotest suspicion of the real meaning of many of the parables of Jesus, or even of the character of the great Galilean philosopher. Despite missions, despite armies, despite enforced commercial intercourse, the "heathen" find nothing in the teachings of Jesus -- sublime though some are -- that Christna and Gautama had not taught them before. The Christian virtues inculcated by Jesus in the sermon on the mount are nowhere exemplified in the Christian world. The Buddhist ascetics and Indian fakirs seem almost the only ones that inculcate and practice them.
Jesus is tempted on the mountain by the Devil, who promises to him kingdoms and glory if he will only fall down and worship him (Matthew iv. 8, 9). Buddha is tempted by the Demon Wasawarthi Mara, who says to him as he is leaving his father's palace: "Be entreated to stay that you may possess the honors that are within your reach; go not, go not!" And upon the refusal of Gautama to accept his offers, gnashes his teeth with rage, and threatens him with vengeance. Like Christ, Buddha triumphs over the Devil. (Hardy's "Manual of Buddhism," p. 60.)
"Let all sins that have been committed in this world fall on me that the world may be delivered," exclaimed Gautama, the Hindu Saviour, centuries before our era ... Even the New Testament teems with quotations and repetitions from the Book of the Dead, and Jesus, if everything attributed to him by his four biographers is true -- must have been acquainted with the Egyptian Funereal Hymns. (Every tradition shows that Jesus was educated in Egypt and passed his infancy and youth with the Brotherhoods of the Essenes and other mystic communities). In the Gospel according to Matthew we find whole sentences from the ancient and sacred Ritual which preceded our era by more than 4,000 years. We will again compare.
The "soul" under trial is brought before Osiris, the "Lord of Truth," who sits decorated with the Egyptian cross, emblem of eternal life, and holding in his right hand the Vannus or the flagellum of justice. The spirit begins, in the "Hall of the Two Truths," an earnest appeal, and enumerates its good deeds, supported by the responses of the forty-two assessors -- its incarnated deeds and accusers. If justified, it is addressed as Osiris, thus assuming the appellation of the Deity whence its divine essence proceeded, and the following words, full of majesty and justice, are pronounced! "Let the Osiris go; ye see he is without fault ... He lived on truth, he has fed on truth ... The god has welcomed him as he desired. He has given food to my hungry, drink to my thirsty ones, clothes to my naked ... He has made the sacred food of the gods the meat of the spirits."
In the parable of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew xxv.), the Son of Man (Osiris is also called the Son) sits upon the throne of his glory, judging the nations, and says to the justified, "Come ye blessed of my Father (the God) inherit the kingdom ... For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty and ye gave me drink ... naked and ye clothed me." To complete the resemblance (Matthew iii. 12): John is made to describe Christ as Osiris, "whose fan (winnow or vannus) is in his hand," and who will "purge his floor and gather his wheat into the garner."
The same in relation to Buddhist legends. In Matthew iv. 19, Jesus is made to say: "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men," the whole adapted to a conversation between him and Simon Peter and Andrew his brother.
In Schmidt's "Der Weise und der Thor," a work full of anecdotes about Buddha and his disciples, the whole from original texts, it is said of a new convert to the faith, that "he had been caught by the hook of the doctrine, just as a fish, who has caught at the bait and line is securely pulled out." In the temples of Siam the image of the expected Buddha, the Messiah Maitree, is represented with a fisherman's net in the hand, while in Thibet he holds a kind of a trap. The explanation of it reads as follows: "He (Buddha) disseminates upon the Ocean of birth and decay the Lotus-flower of the excellent law as a bait; with the loop of devotion, never cast out in vain, he brings living beings up like fishes, and carries them to the other side of the river, where there is true understanding."
Had the erudite Archbishop Cave, Grabe, and Dr. Parker, who so zealously contended in their time for the admission of the Epistles of Jesus Christ and Abgarus, King of Edessa, into the Canon of the Scripture, lived in our days of Max Müller and Sanscrit scholarship, we doubt whether they would have acted as they did. The first mention of these Epistles ever made, was by the famous Eusebius. This pious bishop seems to have been self-appointed to furnish Christianity with the most unexpected proofs to corroborate its wildest fancies. Whether among the many accomplishments of the Bishop of Cæsarea, we must include a knowledge of the Cingalese, Pehlevi, Thibetan, and other languages, we know not; but he surely transcribed the letters of Jesus and Abgarus, and the story of the miraculous portrait of Christ taken upon a piece of cloth, by the simple wiping of his face, from the Buddhistical Canon. To be sure, the bishop declared he found the letter himself written in Syriac, preserved among the registers and records of the city of Edessa, where Abgarus reigned. We recall the words of Babrias: "Myth, O son of King Alexander, is an ancient human invention of Syrians, who lived in old time under Ninus and Belus." Edessa was one of the "holy cities." The Arabs venerate it to this day; and the purest Arabic is there spoken. They call it still by its ancient name Orfa, once the city Arpha-Kasda (Arphaxad) the seat of a College of Chaldeans and Magi; whose missionary, called Orpheus, brought thence the Bacchic Mysteries to Thrace. Very naturally, Eusebius found there the tales which he wrought over into the story of Abgarus, and the sacred picture taken on a cloth; as that of Bhagavat, or the blessed Tathagâta (Buddha) was obtained by King Binsbisara. The King having brought it, Bhagavat projected his shadow on it. This bit of "miraculous stuff," with its shadow, is still preserved, say the Buddhists; "only the shadow itself is rarely seen."
In like manner, the Gnostic author of the Gospel according to John, copied and metamorphosed the legend of Ananda who asked drink of a Matangha woman -- the antitype of the woman met by Jesus at the well, and was reminded by her that she belongs to a low caste, and may have nothing to do with a holy monk. "I do not ask thee, my sister," answers Ananda to the woman, "either thy caste or thy family, I only ask thee for water, if thou canst give me some." This Matangha woman, charmed and moved to tears, repents, joins the monastic Order of Gautama, and becomes a saint, rescued from a life of unchastity by Sakya-muni. Many of her subsequent actions were used by Christian forgers, to endow Mary Magdalen and other female saints and martyrs.
"And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward," says the Gospel (Matthew x. 42). "Whosoever, with a purely believing heart, offers nothing but a handful of water, or presents so much to the spiritual assembly, or gives drink therewith to the poor and needy, or to a beast of the field; this meritorious action will not be exhausted in many ages," says the Buddhist Canon.
At the hour of Gautama-Buddha's birth there were 32,000 wonders performed. The clouds stopped immovable in the sky, the waters of the rivers ceased to flow; the flowers ceased unbudding; the birds remained silent and full of wonder; all nature remained suspended in her course, and was full of expectation. "There was a preternatural light spread all over the world; animals suspended their eating; the blind saw; and the lame and dumb were cured," etc. ("Rgya Tcher Rol. Pa.," "History of Buddha Sakya muni" (Sanscrit), "Lalitavistara," vol. ii., pp. 90, 91).
We now quote from the Protevangelion:
"At the hour of the Nativity, as Joseph looked up into the air, 'I saw,' he says, 'the clouds astonished, and the fowls of the air stopping in the midst of their flight ... And I beheld the sheep dispersed ... and yet the sheep stood still; and I looked into a river, and saw the kids with their mouths close to the water, and touching it, but they did not drink.
"'Then a bright cloud overshadowed the cave. But on a sudden the cloud became a great light in the cave, so that their eyes could not bear it ... The hand of Salomé, which was withered, was straightway cured ... The blind saw; the lame and dumb were cured.'"
When sent to school, the young Gautama, without having ever studied, completely worsted all his competitors; not only in writing, but in arithmetic, mathematics, metaphysics, wrestling, archery, astronomy, geometry, and finally vanquishes his own professors by giving the definition of sixty-four kinds of writings, which were unknown to the masters themselves.
And this is what is said again in the Gospel of the Infancy: "And when he (Jesus) was twelve years old ... a certain principal Rabbi asked him, 'Hast thou read books?' and a certain astronomer asked the Lord Jesus whether he had studied astronomy. And Lord Jesus explained to him ... about the spheres ... about the physics and metaphysics. Also things that reason of man had never discovered ... The constitutions of the body, how the soul operated upon the body, ... etc. And at this the master was so surprised that he said: 'I believe this boy was born before Noah ... he is more learned than any master.'"
The precepts of Hillel, who died forty years B.C., appear rather as quotations than original expressions in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus taught the world nothing that had not been taught as earnestly before by other masters. He begins his sermon with certain purely Buddhistic precepts that had found acceptance among the Essenes, and were generally practiced by the Orphikoi, and the Neo-platonists. There were the Philhellenes, who, like Apollonius, had devoted their lives to moral and physical purity, and who practiced asceticism. He tries to imbue the hearts of his audience with a scorn for worldly wealth; a fakir-like unconcern for the morrow; love for humanity, poverty, and chastity. He blesses the poor in spirit, the meek, the hungering and the thirsting after righteousness, the merciful and the peace-makers, and, Buddha-like, leaves but a poor chance for the proud castes to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Every word of his sermon is an echo of the essential principles of monastic Buddhism. The ten commandments of Buddha, as found in an appendix to the Prâtimoksha Sutra (Pali-Burman text), are elaborated to their full extent in Matthew. If we desire to acquaint ourselves with the historical Jesus we have to set the mythical Christ entirely aside, and learn all we can of the man in the first Gospel. His doctrines, religious views, and grandest aspirations will be found concentrated in his sermon.
This is the principal cause of the failure of missionaries to convert Brahmanists and Buddhists. These see that the little of really good that is offered in the new religion is paraded only in theory, while their own faith demands that those identical rules shall be applied in practice.
(Collated from the writings of H.P.B.)
(To be continued)
JESUS: INITIATE AND TEACHER
(Part 9 of a 12-part series)
Back to the
"JESUS: INITIATE AND TEACHER"
series complete list of articles.
Back to the full listing containing all of the
"Additional Categories of Articles".