THEOSOPHY, Vol. 56, No. 11, September, 1968
(Pages 334-344; Size: 32K)
(Number 11 of a 36-part series)
THE CHRISTIAN SCHEME(4)
GNOSIS AND CHRISTIANITY: Jesus-Logos-Christos
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. Whatever words may have been put into the mouths of Jesus, Peter, John, Paul, and others, there is not a single act of adoration recorded on their part, nor did Jesus himself ever declare his identity with his Father. He accused the Pharisees of stoning their prophets, not of deicide. He termed himself the son of God, but took care to assert repeatedly that they were all the children of God, who was the Heavenly Father of all. In preaching this, he but repeated a doctrine taught ages earlier by Hermes, Plato, and other philosophers. Strange contradiction! Jesus, whom we are asked to worship as the one living God, is found, immediately after his Resurrection, saying to Mary Magdalene: "I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God!" (John 20:17.)
Does this look like identifying with his Father? "My Father and your Father, my God and your God" implies, on his part, a desire to be considered on a perfect equality with his brethren -- nothing more. Theodoret writes: "The hæretics agree with us respecting the beginning of all things.... But they say there is not one Christ (God), but one above, and the other below. And this last formerly dwelt in many; but the Jesus, they at one time say is from God, at another they call him a SPIRIT." This Spirit is the Christos, the messenger of life, who is sometimes called the Angel Gabriel (in Hebrew, the mighty one of God), and who took with the Gnostics the place of the Logos, while the Holy Spirit was considered Life. With the sect of the Nazarenes, though, the Spiritus, or Holy Ghost, had less honor. While nearly every Gnostic sect considered it a Female Power, whether they called it Binah, Sophia, the Divine Intellect, with the Nazarene sect it was the Female Spiritus, the astral light, the genetrix of all things of matter, the chaos in its evil aspect, made turbido by the Demiurge. At the creation of man, "it was light on the side of the FATHER, and it was light (material light) on the side of the MOTHER. And this is the 'two-fold man,'" says the Sohar. "That day (the last one) will perish the seven badly-disposed stellars, also the sons of man, who have confessed the Spiritus, the Messias (false), the Deus, and the MOTHER of the SPIRITUS shall perish."
Jesus enforced and illustrated his doctrines with signs and wonders; and if we lay aside the claims advanced on his behalf by his deifiers, he did but what other kabalists did; and only they at that epoch, when, for two centuries the sources of prophecy had been completely dried up, and from this stagnation of public "miracles" had originated the skepticism of the unbelieving sect of the Sadducees. Describing the "heresies" of those days, Theodoret, who has no idea of the hidden meaning of the word Christos, the anointed messenger, complains that they (the Gnostics) assert that this Messenger or Delegatus changes his body from time to time, "and goes into other bodies, and at each time is differently manifested. And these (the overshadowed prophets) use incantations and invocations of various demons and baptisms in the confession of their principles."
Neither in the Homilies nor any other early work of the apostles, is there anything to show that either of his friends and followers regarded Jesus as anything more than a prophet. The idea is as clearly established in the Clementines. Except that too much room is afforded to Peter to establish the identity of the Mosaic God with the Father of Jesus, the whole work is devoted to Monotheism. The author seems as bitter against Polytheism as against the claim to the divinity of Christ. He seems to be utterly ignorant of the Logos, and his speculation is confined to Sophia, the Gnostic wisdom. There is no trace in it of a hypostatic trinity, but the same overshadowing of the Gnostic "wisdom (Christos and Sophia) is attributed in the case of Jesus as it is in those of Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. These personages are all placed on one level, called 'true prophets,' and the seven pillars of the world." More than that, Peter vehemently denies the fall of Adam, and with him, the doctrine of atonement, as taught by Christian theology, utterly falls to the ground, for he combats it as a blasphemy. Peter's theory of sin is that of the Jewish kabalists, and even, in a certain way, Platonic. Adam not only never sinned, but, "as a true prophet, possessed of the Spirit of God, which afterwards was in Jesus, could not sin." In short, the whole of the work exhibits the belief of the author in the kabalistic doctrine of permutation. The Kabala teaches the doctrine of transmigration of the spirit.
"God's son" is the immortal spirit assigned to every human being. It is this divine entity which is the "only man," for the casket which contains our soul, and the soul itself, are but half-entities, and without its overshadowing both body and astral soul, the two are but an animal duad. It requires a trinity to form the complete "man," and allow him to remain immortal at every "re-birth," or revolutio, throughout the subsequent and ascending spheres, every one of which brings him nearer to the refulgent realm of eternal and absolute light.
"Angels and powers are in heaven!" says Justin, thus bringing forth a purely kabalistic doctrine. The Christians adopted it from the Sohar and the hæretical sects, and if Jesus mentioned them, it was not in the official synagogues that he learned the theory, but directly in the kabalistic teachings. In the Mosaic books, very little mention is made of them, and Moses, who holds direct communications with the "Lord God," troubles himself very little about them. The doctrine was a secret one, and deemed by the orthodox synagogue heretical. Josephus calls the Essenes heretics, saying: "Those admitted among the Essenes must swear to communicate their doctrines to no one any otherwise than as he received them himself, and equally to preserve the books belonging to their sect, and the names of the angels." The Sadducees did not believe in angels, neither did the uninitiated Gentiles, who limited their Olympus to gods and demi-gods, or "spirits." Alone, the kabalists and theurgists hold to that doctrine from time immemorial, and, as a consequence, Plato, and Philo Judæus after him, followed first by the Gnostics, and then by the Christians.
Thus, if Josephus never wrote the famous interpolation forged by Eusebius, concerning Jesus, on the other hand, he has described in the Essenes all the principal features that we find prominent in the Nazarene. When praying, they sought solitude. "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet ... and pray to thy Father which is in secret" (Matt. 6:6). "Everything spoken by them (Essenes) is stronger than an oath. Swearing is shunned by them" (Josephus II., viii., 6). "But I say unto you, swear not at all ... but let your communication be yea, yea; nay, nay" (Matt. 5:34-37).
The Nazarenes, as well as the Essenes and the Therapeutæ, believed more in their own interpretations of the "hidden sense" of the more ancient Scriptures, than in the later laws of Moses. Jesus, as we have shown before, felt but little veneration for the commandments of his predecessor, with whom Irenæus is so anxious to connect him.
The Essenes "enter into the houses of those whom they never saw previously, as if they were their intimate friends" (Josephus II., viii., 4). Such was undeniably the custom of Jesus and his disciples.
Munk, in his work on Palestine, affirms that there were 4,000 Essenes living in the desert; that they had their mystical books, and predicted the future. The Nabatheans, with very little difference indeed, adhered to the same belief as the Nazarenes and the Sabeans, and all of them honored John the Baptist more than his successor Jesus. The Persian Iezidi say that they originally came to Syria from Busrah. They use baptism, and believe in seven archangels, though paying at the same time reverence to Satan. Their prophet Iezed, who flourished long prior to Mahomet, taught that God will send a messenger, and that the latter would reveal to him a book which is already written in heaven from the eternity. The Nabatheans inhabited the Lebanon, as their descendants do to the present day, and their religion was from its origin purely kabalistic. Maimonides speaks of them as if he identified them with the Sabeans. "I will mention to thee the writings ... respecting the belief and institutions of the Sabeans," he says. "The most famous is the book The Agriculture of the Nabathans, which has been translated by Ibn Waho-hijah. This book is full of heathenish foolishness.... It speaks of the preparations of TALISMANS, the drawing down of the powers of the SPIRITS, MAGIC, DEMONS, and ghouls, which make their abode in the desert."
There are traditions among the tribes living scattered about beyond the Jordan, as there are many such also among the descendants of the Samaritans at Damascus, Gaza, and at Naplosa (the ancient Shechem). Many of these tribes have, notwithstanding the persecutions of eighteen centuries, retained the faith of their fathers in its primitive simplicity. It is there that we have to go for traditions based on historical truths, however disfigured by exaggeration and inaccuracy, and compare them with the religious legends of the Fathers, which they call revelation. Eusebius states that before the siege of Jerusalem the small Christian community -- comprising members of whom many, if not all, knew Jesus and his apostles personally -- took refuge in the little town of Pella, on the opposite shore of the Jordan. Surely these simple people, separated for centuries from the rest of the world, ought to have preserved their traditions fresher than any other nations! It is in Palestine that we have to search for the clearest waters of Christianity, let alone its source. The first Christians, after the death of Jesus, all joined together for a time, whether they were Ebionites, Nazarenes, Gnostics, or others. They had no Christian dogmas in those days, and their Christianity consisted in believing Jesus to be a prophet, this belief varying from seeing in him simply a "just man," or a holy, inspired prophet, a vehicle used by Christos and Sophia to manifest themselves through. These all united together in opposition to the synagogue and the tyrannical technicalities of the Pharisees, until the primitive group separated in two distinct branches -- which, we may correctly term the Christian kabalists of the Jewish Tanaïm school, and the Christian kabalists of the Platonic Gnosis.(1) The former were represented by the party composed of the followers of Peter, and John, the author of the Apocalypse; the latter ranged with the Pauline Christianity, blending itself, at the end of the second century, with the Platonic philosophy, and engulfing, still later, the Gnostic sects, whose symbols and misunderstood mysticism overflowed the Church of Rome.
Amid this jumble of contradictions, what Christian is secure in confessing himself such? In the old Syriac Gospel according to Luke (3:22), the Holy Spirit is said to have descended in the likeness of a dove. "Jesua, full of the sacred Spirit, returned from Jordan, and the Spirit led him into the desert" (old Syriac, Luke 4:1, Tremellius). "The difficulty," says Dunlap, "was that the Gospels declared that John the Baptist saw the Spirit (the Power of God) descend upon Jesus after he had reached manhood, and if the Spirit then first descended upon him, there was some ground for the opinion of the Ebionites and Nazarenes who denied his preceding existence, and refused him the attributes of the LOGOS. The Gnostics, on the other hand, objected to the flesh, but conceded the Logos."
John's Apocalypsis, and the explanations of sincere Christian bishops, like Synesius, who, to the last, adhered to the Platonic doctrines, make us think that the wisest and safest way is to hold to that sincere primitive faith which seems to have actuated the above-named bishop. This best, sincerest, and most unfortunate of Christians, addressing the "Unknown," exclaims: "Oh Father of the Worlds ... Father of the Æons ... Artificer of the Gods, it is holy to praise!" But Synesius had Hypatia for instructor, and this is why we find him confessing in all sincerity his opinions and profession of faith. "The rabble desires nothing better than to be deceived.... As regards myself, therefore, I will always be a philosopher with myself, but I must be priest with the people."
"Holy is God the Father of all being, holy is God, whose wisdom is carried out into execution by his own Powers! ... Holy art Thou, who through the Word had created all! Therefore, I believe in Thee, and bear testimony, and go into the LIFE and LIGHT." Thus speaks Hermes Trismegistus, the heathen divine. What Christian bishop could have said better than that?
The apparent discrepancy of the four gospels as a whole, does not prevent every narrative given in the New Testament -- however much disfigured -- having a ground-work of truth. To this, are cunningly adapted details made to fit the later exigencies of the Church. So, propped up partially by indirect evidence, still more by blind faith, they have become, with time, articles of faith. Even the fictitious massacre of the "Innocents" by King Herod has a certain foundation to it, in its allegorical sense. Apart from the now-discovered fact that the whole story of such a massacre of the Innocents is bodily taken from the Hindu Bagaved-gitta, and Brahmanical traditions, the legend refers, moreover, allegorically, to an historical fact. King Herod is the type of Kansa, the tyrant of Madura, the maternal uncle of Christna, to whom astrologers predicted that a son of his niece Devaki would deprive him of his throne. Therefore he gives orders to kill the male child that is born to her; but Christna escapes his fury through the protection of Mahadeva (the great God) who causes the child to be carried away to another city, out of Kansa's reach. After that, in order to be sure and kill the right boy, on whom he failed to lay his murderous hands, Kansa has all the male newborn infants within his kingdom killed. Christna is also worshipped by the gopas (the shepherds) of the land.
Though this ancient Indian legend bears a very suspicious resemblance to the more modern biblical romance, Gaffarel and others attribute the origin of the latter to the persecutions during the Herodian reign of the kabalists and the Wise men, who had not remained strictly orthodox. The latter, as well as the prophets, were nicknamed the "Innocents," and the "Babes," on account of their holiness. As in the case of certain degrees of modern Masonry, the adepts reckoned their grade of initiation by a symbolic age. Thus Saul who, when chosen king, was "a choice and goodly man," and "from his shoulders upward was higher than any of the people," is described in Catholic versions, as "child of one year when he began to reign," which, in its literal sense, is a palpable absurdity. But in I Sam. 10, his anointing by Samuel and initiation are described; and at verse 6th, Samuel uses this significant language: "... the Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man." The phrase above quoted is thus made plain -- he had received one degree of initiation and was symbolically described as "a child one year old." The Catholic Bible, from which the text is quoted, with charming candor says in a footnote: "It is extremely difficult to explain" (meaning that Saul was a child of one year). But undaunted by any difficulty the Editor, nevertheless, does take upon himself to explain it, and adds: "A child of one year. That is, he was good and like an innocent child." An interpretation as ingenious as it is pious; and which if it does no good can certainly do no harm.
If the explanation of the kabalists is rejected, then the whole subject falls into confusion; worse still -- for it becomes a direct plagiarism from the Hindu legend. All the commentators have agreed that a literal massacre of young children is nowhere mentioned in history; and that, moreover, an occurrence like that would have made such a bloody page in Roman annals that the record of it would have been preserved for us by every author of the day. Herod himself was subject to the Roman law; and undoubtedly he would have paid the penalty of such a monstrous crime, with his own life. But if, on the one hand, we have not the slightest trace of this fable in history, on the other, we find in the official complaints of the Synagogue abundant evidence of the persecution of the initiates. The Talmud also corroborates it.
The Jewish version of the birth of Jesus is recorded in the Sepher-Toldos Jeshua in the following words:
"Mary having become the mother of a Son, named Jehosuah, and the boy growing up, she entrusted him to the care of the Rabbi Elhanan, and the child progressed in knowledge, for he was well gifted with spirit and understanding.
"Rabbi Jehosuah, son of Perachiah, continued the education of Jehosuah (Jesus) after Elhanan, and initiated him in the secret knowledge"; but the King, Janneus, having given orders to slay all the initiates, Jehosuah Ben Perachiah, fled to Alexandria, in Egypt, taking the boy with him.
While in Alexandria, continues the story, they were received in the house of a rich and learned lady (personified Egypt). Young Jesus found her beautiful, notwithstanding "a defect in her eyes," and declared so to his master. Upon hearing this, the latter became so angry that his pupil should find in the land of bondage anything good, that "he cursed him and drove the young man from his presence." Then follow a series of adventures told in allegorical language, which show that Jesus supplemented his initiation in the Jewish Kabala with an additional acquisition of the secret wisdom of Egypt. When the persecution ceased, they both returned to Judea.(2)
The real grievances against Jesus are stated by the learned author of Tela Ignea Satan (the fiery darts of Satan) to be two in number: 1st, that he had discovered the great Mysteries of their Temple, by having been initiated in Egypt; and 2nd, that he had profaned them by exposing them to the vulgar, who misunderstood and disfigured them. This is what they say:
"There exists, in the sanctuary of the living God, a cubical stone, on which are sculptured the holy characters, the combination of which gives the explanation of the attributes and powers of the incommunicable name. This explanation is the secret key of all the occult sciences and forces in nature. It is what the Hebrews call the Scham hamphorash. This stone is watched by two lions of gold, who roar as soon as it is approached. The gates of the temple were never lost sight of, and the door of the sanctuary opened but once a year, to admit the High Priest alone. But Jesus, who had learned in Egypt the 'great secrets' at the initiation, forged for himself invisible keys, and thus was enabled to penetrate into the sanctuary unseen.... He copied the characters on the cubical stone, and hid them in his thigh; after which, emerging from the temple, he went abroad and began astounding people with his miracles. The dead were raised at his command, the leprous and the obsessed were healed. He forced the stones which lay buried for ages at the bottom of the sea to rise to the surface until they formed a mountain, from the top of which he preached." The Sepher Toldos states further that, unable to displace the cubical stone of the sanctuary, Jesus fabricated one of clay, which he showed to the nations and passed it off for the true cubical stone of Israel.
This allegory, like the rest of them in such books, is written "inside and outside" -- it has its secret meaning, and ought to be readtwo ways. The kabalistic books explain its mystical meaning. Further, the same Talmudist says, in substance, the following; Jesus was thrown in prison, and kept there forty days; then flogged as a seditious rebel; then stoned as a blasphemer in a place called Lud, and finally allowed to expire upon a cross. "All this," explains Levi, "because he revealed to the people the truths which they (the Pharisees) wished to bury for their own use. He had divined the occult theology of Israel, had compared it with the wisdom of Egypt, and found thereby the reason for a universal religious synthesis."
However cautious one ought to be in accepting anything about Jesus from Jewish sources, it must be confessed that in some things they seem to be more correct in their statements (whenever their direct interest in stating facts is not concerned) than our good but too jealous Fathers. One thing is certain, James, the "Brother of the Lord," is silent about the resurrection. He terms Jesus nowhere "Son of God," nor even Christ-God. Once only, speaking of Jesus, he calls him the "Lord of Glory," but so do the Nazarenes when writing about their prophet Iohanan bar Zacharia, or John, son of Zacharias (St. John Baptist).
James does not even call Jesus Messiah, in the sense given to the title by the Christians, but alludes to the kabalistic "King Messiah," who is Lord of Sabaoth (5:4), and repeats several times that the "Lord" will come, but identifies the latter nowhere with Jesus. "Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord ... be patient, for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh" (5:7, 8). And he adds: "Take, my brethren, the prophet (Jesus) who has spoken in the name of the Lord for an example of suffering, affliction, and of patience." Though in the present version the word "prophet" stands in the plural, yet this is a deliberate falsification of the original, the purpose of which is too evident. James, immediately after having cited the "prophets" as an example, adds: "Behold ... ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord" -- thus combining the examples of these two admirable characters, and placing them on a perfect equality. But we have more to adduce in support of our argument. Did not Jesus himself glorify the prophet of the Jordan? "What went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yet, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.... Verily, I say unto you, among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist."
And of whom was he who spoke thus born? It is but the Roman Catholics who have changed Mary, the mother of Jesus, into a goddess. In the eyes of all other Christians she was a woman, whether his own birth was immaculate or otherwise. According to strict logic, then, Jesus confessed John greater than himself. Note how completely this matter is disposed of by the language employed by the Angel Gabriel when addressing Mary: "Blessed art thou among women." These words are unequivocal. He does not adore her as the Mother of God, nor does he call her goddess; he does not even address her as "Virgin," but he calls her woman, and only distinguishes her above other women as having had better fortune, through her purity.
The Nazarenes were known as Baptists, Sabians, and John's Christians. Their belief was that the Messiah was not the Son of God, but simply a prophet who would follow John. "Johanan, the Son of the Abo Sabo Zachariah, shall say to himself, "Whoever will believe in my justice and my BAPTISM shall be joined to my association; he shall share with me the seat which is the abode of life, of the supreme Mano, and of living fire" (Codex Nazarus, ii., p. 115).
When the metaphysical conceptions of the Gnostics, who saw in Jesus the Logos and the anointed, began to gain ground, the earliest Christians separated from the Nazarenes, who accused Jesus of perverting the doctrines of John, and changing the baptism of the Jordan. "Directly," says Milman, "as it (the Gospel) got beyond the borders of Palestine, and the name of 'Christ' had acquired sanctity and veneration in the Eastern cities, he became a kind of metaphysical impersonation, while the religion lost its purely moral cast and assumed the character of a speculative theogony," The only half original document that has reached us from the primitive apostolic days, is the Logia of Matthew. The real, genuine doctrine has remained in the hands of the Nazarenes, in this Gospel of Matthew containing the "secret doctrine," the "Sayings of Jesus," mentioned by Papias. These sayings were, no doubt, of the same nature as the small manuscripts placed in the hands of the neophytes, who were candidates for the Initiations into the Mysteries, and which contained the Aporrheta, the revelations of some important rites and symbols. For why should Matthew take such precautions to make them "secret" were it otherwise?
Primitive Christianity had its grip, pass-words, and degrees of initiation. The innumerable Gnostic gems and amulets were weighty proofs of it. It is a whole symbolical science. The kabalists were the first to embellish the universal Logos,(3) with such terms as "Light of Light," the Messenger of LIFE and LIGHT, and we find these expressions adopted in toto by the Christians, with the addition of nearly all the Gnostic terms such as Pleroma (fulness), Archons, Æons, etc. As to the "First-Born," the First, and the "Only-Begotten," these are as old as the world. Origen shows the word "Logos" as existing among the Brachmanes. "The Brachmanes say that the God is Light, not such as one sees, nor such as the sun and fire; but they have the God LOGOS, not the articulate, the Logos of the Gnosis, through whom the highest MYSTERIES of the Gnosis are seen by the wise." The Acts and the fourth Gospel teem with Gnostic expressions. The kabalistic: "God's first-born emanated from the Most High," together with that which is the "Spirit of the Anointing;" and again "they called him the anointed of the Highest," are reproduced in Spirit and substance by the author of the Gospel according to John. "That was the true light," and "the light shineth in darkness." "And the WORD was made flesh." "And his fulness (pleroma) have all we received," etc. (John 1, et seq.).
THE CHRISTIAN SCHEME
GNOSIS AND CHRISTIANITY: ORIENTAL KABALA
(Part 12 of a 36-part series)
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FOUR (4) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:
(4) NOTE.--"The Christian Scheme," begun in November, 1967, is collated from the works of H. P. Blavatsky. It recounts the historical background and early development of Christianity.
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(1) Porphyry makes a distinction between what he calls "the Antique or Oriental philosophy," and the properly Grecian system, that of the Neo-platonists. King says that all these religions and systems are branches of one antique and common religion, the Asiatic or Buddhistic ("Gnostics and their Remains," p. 1).
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(2) Eliphas Levi ascribes this narrative to the Talmudist authors of "Sota" and "Sanhedrin," p. 19, book of "Jechiel."
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(3) Dunlap says in Sod, the Son of the Man: "Mr. Hall, of India, informs us that he has seen Sanscrit philosophical treatises in which the Logos continually occur," p. 39, footnote.
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