THEOSOPHY, Vol. 30, No. 2, December, 1941
(Pages 50-53; Size: 13K)
JESUS: PHILOSOPHER AND REFORMER[Roused from their complacency by karmic impacts of planetary proportion, the more thoughtful of western mankind are showing signs of a new awakening. Many of these are turning to the neglected past and a faith all but forgotten, in the hope that somewhere, somehow, may be found the firm foundation for a better, wiser order of society, to be built, it may be, even amid the ruins of the old. It happens, therefore, that today, and with increasing frequency, Theosophical students are asked for an account of the place and part of Jesus in their philosophy. The ethically impoverished West knows no other figure to revere. Was he man or God? Savior, or bloodless myth? To meet these current questions, a number of extracts from the writings of H. P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge have been collected and joined to form a compact and unambiguous statement of the answer Theosophy provides. The sources of the extracts, in the order presented, are as follows: Isis Unveiled II, 37-8, 337, 531, 150-1, 149, 192-3, 574; THEOSOPHY IV, 137, 138, 36 fn.; Isis II, 337, 530; Path III, 252-3; THEOSOPHY IV, 73; THEOSOPHY I, 460.--Editors, THEOSOPHY.]"EVERYONE knows," wrote the great Manichean of the third century, Fauste, "that the Evangeliums were written neither by Jesus Christ, nor his apostles, but long after their time by some unknown persons, who, judging well that they would hardly be believed when telling of things they had not seen themselves, headed their narratives with the names of the apostles or of disciples contemporaneous with the latter."
It is a poor compliment paid the Supreme, this forcing upon him four gospels, in which, contradictory as they often are, there is not a single narrative, sentence, or peculiar expression, whose parallel may not be found in some older doctrine or philosophy. Surely, the Almighty -- were it but to spare future generations their present perplexity -- might have brought down with Him, at His first and only incarnation on earth, something original -- something that would trace a distinct line of demarcation between Himself and the score or so of incarnate Pagan gods, who had been born of virgins, had all been saviours, and were either killed, or otherwise sacrificed themselves for humanity. The "heathen" find nothing in the teachings of Jesus -- sublime though some are -- that Christna and Gautama had not taught them before. Except a handful of self-styled Christians who subsequently won the day, all the civilized portion of the Pagans who knew of Jesus honored him as a philosopher, an adept whom they placed on the same level with Pythagoras and Apollonius. Whence such a veneration on their part for a man, were he simply, as represented by the Synoptics, a poor, unknown Jewish carpenter from Nazareth? As an incarnated God there is no single record of him on this earth capable of withstanding the critical examination of science; as one of the greatest reformers, an inveterate enemy of every theological dogmatism, a persecutor of bigotry, a teacher of one of the most sublime codes of ethics, Jesus is one of the grandest and most clearly-defined figures on the panorama of human history. His age may, with every day, be receding farther and farther back into the gloomy and hazy mists of the past; and his theology -- based on human fancy and supported by untenable dogmas may, nay, must with every day lose more of its unmerited prestige; alone the grand figure of the philosopher and moral reformer instead of growing paler will become with every century more pronounced and more clearly defined. It will reign supreme and universal only on that day when the whole of humanity recognizes but one father -- the UNKNOWN ONE above -- and one brother -- the whole of mankind below.
It is this absence of all proof, the lack of the least positive clew about him whom Christianity has deified, that has caused the present state of perplexity. It is a most suggestive fact that there is not a word in the so-called sacred Scriptures to show that Jesus was actually regarded as a God by his disciples. Neither before nor after his death did they pay him divine honors. Their relation to him was only that of disciples and "master"; by which name they addressed him, as the followers of Pythagoras and Plato addressed their respective masters before them.
Take Paul, read the little of original that is left of him in the writings attributed to this brave, honest, sincere man, and see whether any one can find a word therein to show that Paul meant by the word Christ anything more than the abstract ideal of the personal divinity indwelling in man. For Paul, Christ is not a person, but an embodied idea. Paul was the only one of the apostles who had understood the secret ideas underlying the teachings of Jesus, although he had never met him. As Professor A. Wilder well proves in a series of able articles, it was not Jesus, but Paul who was the real founder of Christianity.
Whence, then, the Gospels, the life of Jesus of Nazareth? Has it not been repeatedly stated that no human, mortal brain could have invented the life of the Jewish Reformer, followed by the awful drama on Calvary? We say, on the authority of the esoteric Eastern School, that all this came from the Gnostics, as far as the name Christos and the astronomico-mystical allegories are concerned, and from the writings of the ancient Tanaïm as regards the Kabalistic connection of Jesus or Joshua, with the Biblical personifications.
The Gnostic Records contained the epitome of the chief scenes enacted during the mysteries of Initiation, since the memory of man; though even that was given not invariably under the garb of semi-allegory, whenever entrusted to parchment or paper. But the ancient Tanaïm, the Initiates from whom the wisdom of the Kabala (oral tradition) was obtained by the later Talmudists, had in their possession the secrets of the mystery language, and it is in this language that the Gospels were written. Thus while the three Synoptics display a combination of the pagan Greek and Jewish symbologies the Revelation is written in the mystery language of the Tanaïm -- the relic of Egyptian and Chaldean wisdom -- and St. John's Gospel is purely Gnostic. The Christian application of the compound name Jesus-Christ is all based on Gnostic and Eastern mysticism. The Christian canon, especially the Gospels, Acts and Epistles, are made up of fragments of gnostic wisdom, the ground-work of which is pre-Christian and built on the MYSTERIES of Initiation.
Too much has already been conceded to the emotional side of the story. What the world needs is a less exalted, but more faithful view of a personage, in whose favor nearly half of Christendom has dethroned the Almighty. If we do not accept Jesus as a God, we revere him as a man. Such a feeling honors him more than if we were to attribute to him the powers and personality of the Supreme, and credit him at the same time with having played a useless comedy with mankind, as, after all, his mission proves scarcely less than a complete failure.
As to the Karma of whoever Jesus was, that is another matter. [There is] a theory held by many occultists that a certain person did appear among men at the wrong time; one whose charity and zeal outran his judgment and overrode the injunctions of his superiors; one who gave out doctrines in themselves good, but inopportune; and he is now spoken of as "Jesus." A vast mass of Karma composed of all the wrong done in his name, and to which he would not be a party, were he here, is against his account; as Shakespeare puts it, "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones." A comparison may be easily drawn by considering Buddha, who, teaching at the right time, has caused no wars and no such direct evil as has sprung in and out of the religion built up on the life of Jesus. The whole question is a very deep one, for it takes hold on points in the doctrine of Karma but slightly regarded by theosophists. A great being, or adept, is affected by the inevitable law in ways that are unimaginable to those who do not know much about the doctrine; he is subject to effects that are as vast in their reach as his own powers are enormous, and when he deliberately violates, not only the laws of his order, but other laws, the result is far worse than when an ordinary mortal transgresses.
To the true follower of the SPIRIT OF TRUTH, it matters little whether Jesus, as man and Chrestos, lived during the era called Christian, or before, or never lived at all. The Adepts, who lived and died for humanity, have existed in many and all the ages, and many were the good and holy men in antiquity who bore the surname or title of Chrestos before Jesus of Nazareth, otherwise Jesus (or Jehoshua) Ben Pandira was born.
Tell the truth, but do not force it. If even a pious soul should lose the historical Jesus Christ and see instead the glorious image of the Self in every man, that were a gain worth all the pain the first rude shock might give. The danger of lifting the veil of Isis lies not in the doctrines of Unity, Reincarnation, and Karma, but in untaught mysteries which no Theosophist is able to reveal. The change from dogma or creed to a belief in law and justice impartial will bring perhaps some tears to the soul, but the end thereof is peace and freedom.
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
CHRESTOS AND CHRISTOS
The terms Christ and Christians, spelt originally Chrést and Chréstians, were borrowed from the Temple vocabulary of the Pagans. Chréstos meant, in that vocabulary, "a disciple on probation," a candidate for hierophantship; who, when he had attained it, through Initiation, long trials and suffering, and had been anointed (i.e., "rubbed with oil," as Initiates and even Idols of the Gods were, as the last touch of ritualistic observance), was changed into Christos --the "purified" in esoteric or mystery language. In mystic symbology, indeed, Christes or Christos meant that the "way," the Path, was already trodden and the goal reached; when the fruits of the arduous labour, uniting the personality of evanescent clay with the indestructible INDIVIDUALITY, transformed it thereby into the immortal EGO. "At the end of the way stands the Christes," the Purifier; and the union once accomplished, the Chréstos, the "man of sorrow" became Christos himself.--H. P. BLAVATSKY.
[Note: All of the page references to Volume IV in THEOSOPHY magazine, in the introductory indented paragraph by the Editors, in the above collated article, are to H. P. Blavatsky's article entitled The Esoteric Character of the Gospels. And the last reference, to Volume I in THEOSOPHY magazine, is to the article by William Q. Judge entitled Iconoclasm Toward Illusions. --Compiler.]
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