THEOSOPHY, Vol. 57, No. 11, September, 1969
(Pages 336-343; Size: 25K)
(Number 23 of a 36-part series)

THE CHRISTIAN SCHEME(2)

JESUS: Various Views

EXCEPT the kabalistic sects of the Essenes, the Nazarenes, the disciples of Simeon Ben Iochaï, and Hillel, neither the orthodox Jews nor the Galileans, believed or knew anything about the doctrine of permutation. And the Sadducees rejected even that of the resurrection. "But the author of this restitutionis was Mosah, our master, upon whom be peace! Who was the revolutio (transmigration) of Seth and Hebel, that he might cover the nudity of his Father Adam -- Primus," says the Kabala. Thus, Jesus hinting that John was the revolutio, or transmigration of Elias, seems to prove beyond any doubt the school to which he belonged.

Until the present day uninitiated Kabalists and Masons believe permutation to be synonymous with transmigration and metempsychosis. But they are as much mistaken in regard to the doctrine of the true Kabalists as to that of the Buddhists. But this doctrine of permutation, or revolutio, must be understood as a belief in reincarnation. That Moses was considered the transmigration of Abel and Seth does not imply that the Kabalists -- those who were initiated at least -- believed that the identical spirit of either of Adam's sons reappeared under the corporeal form of Moses. It only shows what was the mode of expression they used when hinting at one of the profoundest mysteries of the Oriental Gnosis, one of the most majestic articles of faith of the Secret Wisdom. It was purposely veiled so as to half conceal and half reveal the truth. It implied that Moses, like certain other god-like men, was believed to have reached the highest of all states on earth: -- the rarest of all psychological phenomena, the perfect union of the immortal spirit with the terrestrial duad had occurred. The trinity was complete. A god was incarnate. But how rare such incarnations!

That expression, "Ye are gods," which, to our biblical students, is a mere abstraction, has for the kabalists a vital significance. Each immortal spirit that sheds its radiance upon a human being is a god -- the Microcosmos of the Macrocosmos, part and parcel of the Unknown God, the First Cause of which it is a direct emanation. It is possessed of all the attributes of its parent source. Among these attributes are omniscience and omnipotence. Endowed with these, but yet unable to fully manifest them while in the body, during which time they are obscured, veiled, limited by the capabilities of physical nature, the thus divinely-inhabited man may tower far above his kind, evince a god-like wisdom, and display deific powers; for while the rest of mortals around him are but overshadowed by their divine SELF, with every chance given to them to become immortal hereafter, but no other security than their personal efforts to win the kingdom of heaven, the so chosen man has already become an immortal while yet on earth. His prize is secured. Henceforth he will live forever in eternal life.

It is the acceptation of this doctrine which caused the Gnostics to maintain that Jesus was a man overshadowed by the Christos or Messenger of Life. The early Nazarenes, who must be numbered among the Gnostic sects, believing that Jesus was a prophet, held, nevertheless, in relation to him the same doctrine of the divine "overshadowing," of certain "men of God," sent for the salvation of nations, and to recall them to the path of righteousness. Had not the Christians burdened themselves with the Revelations of a little nation, and accepted the Jehovah of Moses, the Gnostic ideas would never have been termed heresies; once relieved of their dogmatic exaggerations the world would have had a religious system based on pure Platonic philosophy, and surely something would then have been gained.

In the ideas of the Christians, Christ is but another name for Jesus. The philosophy of the Gnostics, the initiates, and hierophants understood it otherwise. The word Christos, like all Greek words, must be sought in its philological origin -- the Sanskrit. In this latter language Kris means sacred, and the Hindu deity was named Chris-na (the pure or the sacred) from that. On the other hand, the Greek Christos bears several meanings, as anointed (pure oil, chrism) and others. In all languages, though the synonym of the word means pure or sacred essence, it is the first emanation of the invisible Godhead, manifesting itself tangibly in spirit. The Greek Logos, the Hebrew Messiah, the Latin Verbum, and the Hindu Viradj (the son) are identically the same; they represent an idea of collective entities -- of flames detached from the one eternal center of light.

Thus, Christos, as a unity, is but an abstraction: a general idea representing the collective aggregation of the numberless spirit-entities, which are the direct emanations of the infinite, invisible, incomprehensible FIRST CAUSE -- the individual spirits of men, erroneously called the souls. They are the divine sons of God, of which some only overshadow mortal men -- but this the majority -- some remain forever planetary spirits, and some -- the smaller and rare minority -- unite themselves during life with some men. Such God-like beings as Gautama-Buddha, Jesus, Tissoo, Christna, and a few others had united themselves with their spirits permanently -- hence, they became gods on earth. Others, such as Moses, Pythagoras, Apollonius, Plotinus, Confucius, Plato, Iamblichus, and some Christian saints, having at intervals been so united, have taken rank in history as demi-gods and leaders of mankind. When unburdened of their terrestrial tabernacles, their freed souls, henceforth united forever with their spirits, rejoin the whole shining host, which is bound together in one spiritual solidarity of thought and deed, and called "the anointed." Hence, the meaning of the Gnostics, who, by saying that "Christos" suffered spiritually for humanity, implied that his Divine Spirit suffered mostly.

Such, and far more elevating were the ideas of Marcion, the great "Heresiarch" of the second century, as he is termed by his opponents. He came to Rome toward the latter part of the half-century, from A.D. 139-142, according to Tertullian, Irenæus, Clemens, and most of his modern commentators, such as Bunsen, Tischendorf, Westcott, and many others. Credner and Schleiermacher agree as to his high and irreproachable personal character, his pure religious aspirations and elevated views. His influence must have been powerful, as we find Epiphanius writing more than two centuries later that in his time the followers of Marcion were to be found throughout the whole world.

The danger must have been pressing and great indeed, if we are to judge it to have been proportioned with the opprobrious epithets and vituperation heaped upon Marcion by the "Great African," that Patristic Cerberus, whom we find ever barking at the door of the Irenæan dogmas. We have but to open his celebrated refutation of Marcion's Antitheses, to acquaint ourselves with the fine-fleur of monkish abuse of the Christian school; an abuse so faithfully carried through the middle ages, to be renewed again in our present day -- at the Vatican. "Now, then, ye hounds yelping at the God of Truth, whom the apostles cast out, to all your questions. These are the bones of contention which ye gnaw," etc. "The poverty of the Great African's arguments keeps pace with his abuse," remarks the author of Supernatural Religion. "Their (the Father's) religious controversy bristles with misstatements, and is turbid with pious abuse. Tertullian was a master of his style, and the vehement vituperation with which he opens and often interlards his work against 'the impious and sacrilegious Marcion,' offers anything but a guarantee of fair and legitimate criticism."

How firm these two Fathers -- Tertullian and Epiphanius -- were on their theological ground, may be inferred from the curious fact that they intemperately both vehemently reproach "the beast" (Marcion) "with erasing passages from the Gospel of Luke which never were in Luke at all." "The lightness and inaccuracy," adds the critic, "with which Tertullian proceeds, are all the better illustrated by the fact that not only does he accuse Marcion falsely, but he actually defines the motives for which he expunged a passage which never existed; in the same chapter he also similarly accuses Marcion of erasing (from Luke) the saying that Christ has not come to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them, and he actually repeats the charge on two other occasions. Epiphanius also commits the mistake of reproaching Marcion with omitting from Luke what is only found in Matthew."

Having so far shown the amount of reliance to be placed in the Patristic literature, and it being unanimously conceded by the great majority of biblical critics that what the Fathers fought for was not truth, but their own interpretations and unwarranted assertions,(1) we will now proceed to state what were the views of Marcion, whom Tertullian desired to annihilate as the most dangerous heretic of his day.If we are to believe Hilgenfeld, one of the greatest German biblical critics, then "from the critical standing-point one must ... consider the statements of the Fathers of the Church only as expressions of their subjective view, which itself requires proof."

We can do no better nor make a more correct statement of facts concerning Marcion than by quoting what our space permits from Supernatural Religion, the author of which bases his assertions on the evidence of the greatest critics, as well as on his own researches. He shows in the days of Marcion "two broad parties in the primitive Church" -- one considering Christianity "a mere continuation of the law, and dwarfing it into an Israelitish institution, a narrow sect of Judaism"; the other representing the glad tidings "as the introduction of a new system, applicable to all, and supplanting the Mosaic dispensation of the law by a universal dispensation of grace." These two parties, he adds, "were popularly represented in the early Church, by the two apostles Peter and Paul, and their antagonism is faintly revealed in the Epistle to the Galatians."

But, on the other hand, this antagonism is very strongly marked in the "Clementine Homilies," in which Peter unequivocally denies that Paul, whom he calls Simon the Magician, has ever had a vision of Christ, and calls him "an enemy." Canon Westcott says: "There can be no doubt that St. Paul is referred to as 'the enemy'" ("On the Canon," p. 252, note 2; Supernatural Religion, vol. ii., p. 35). But this antagonism, which rages unto the present day, we find even in St. Paul's "Epistles." What can be more energetic than such like sentences: "Such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.... I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostle" (II Cor. 11.). "Paul, an apostle not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead ... but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ ... false brethren.... When Peter came to Antioch I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles, but when they were come he withdrew, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled ... insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation," etc., etc., (Gal. i, and ii.). On the other hand, we find Peter in the Homilies, indulging in various complaints which, although alleged to be addressed to Simon Magus, are evidently all direct answers to the above-quoted sentences from the Pauline Epistles, and cannot have anything to do with Simon. So, for instance, Peter said: "For some among the Gentiles have rejected my lawful preaching, and accepted certain lawless and foolish teaching of the hostile men (enemy)" -- Epist. of Peter to James, §2. He says further: "Simon (Paul) ... who came before me to the Gentiles ... and I have followed him as light upon darkness, as knowledge upon ignorance, as health upon disease" (Homil., ii, 17). Still further, he calls him Death and a deceiver (Ibid., ii, 18). He warns the Gentiles that "our Lord and Prophet (?) (Jesus) announced that he would send from among his followers, apostles to deceive. "Therefore, above all, remember to avoid every apostle, or teacher, or prophet, who first does not accurately compare his teaching with that of James, called the brother of our Lord" (see the difference between Paul and James on faith, Epist. to Hebrews, 11-12, and Epist. of James, 2). "Lest the Evil One should send a false preacher ... as he has sent to us Simon (?) preaching a counterfeit of truth in the name of our Lord, and disseminating error" (Hom. xi., 35; see above quotation from Gal. 1:5). He then denies Paul's assertion, in the following words: "If, therefore, our Jesus indeed appeared in a vision to you, it was only as an irritated adversary.... But how can any one through visions become wise in teaching? And if you say, 'it is possible,' then I ask, wherefore did the Teacher remain for a whole year and discourse to those who were attentive? And how can we believe your story that he appeared to you? And in what manner did he appear to you, when you hold opinions contrary to his teaching?... For you now set yourself up against me, who am a firm rock, the foundation of the Church. If you were not an opponent, you would not calumniate me, you would not revile my teaching ... (circumcision?) in order that, in declaring what I have myself heard from the Lord, I may not be believed, as though I were condemned.... But if you say that I am condemned, you blame God who revealed Christ to me." "This last phrase," observes the author of Supernatural Religion, "'if you say that I am condemned,' is an evident allusion to Galat. 2:11, 'I withstood him to the face, because he was condemned'" (Supernatural Religion, p. 37). "There cannot be a doubt," adds the just-quoted author, "that the Apostle Paul is attacked in this religious romance as the great enemy of the true faith, under the hated name of Simon the Magician, whom Peter follows everywhere for the purpose of unmasking and confuting him" (p. 34). And if so, then we must believe that it was St. Paul who broke his legs in Rome when flying in the air.

Marcion, who recognized no other Gospels than a few Epistles of Paul, who rejected totally the anthropomorphism of the Old Testament, and drew a distinct line of demarcation between the old Judaism and Christianity, viewed Jesus neither as a King, Messiah of the Jews, nor the son of David, who was in any way connected with the law or prophets, "but a divine being sent to reveal to man a spiritual religion, wholly new, and a God of goodness and grace hitherto unknown." The "Lord God" of the Jews in his eyes, the Creator (Demiurgos), was totally different and distinct from the Deity who sent Jesus to reveal the divine truth and preach the glad tidings, to bring reconciliation and salvation to all. The mission of Jesus -- according to Marcion -- was to abrogate the Jewish "Lord," who "was opposed to the God and Father of Jesus Christ as matter is to spirit, impurity to purity."

Was Marcion so far wrong? Was it blasphemy, or was it intuition, divine inspiration in him to express that which every honest heart yearning for truth, more or less feels and acknowledges? If in his sincere desire to establish a purely spiritual religion, a universal faith based on unadulterated truth, he found it necessary to make of Christianity an entirely new and separate system from that of Judaism, did not Marcion have the very words of Christ for his authority? "No man putteth a piece of new cloth into an old garment ... for the rent is made worse.... Neither do men put new wine into old bottles, else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish; but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved." In what particular does the jealous, wrathful, revengeful God of Israel resemble the unknown deity, the God of mercy preached by Jesus; -- his Father who is in Heaven, and the Father of all humanity? This Father alone is the God of spirit and purity, and, to compare Him with the subordinate and capricious Sinaitic Deity is an error. Did Jesus ever pronounce the name of Jehovah? Did he ever place his Father in contrast with this severe and cruel Judge; his God of mercy, love, and justice, with the Jewish genius of retaliation? Never! From that memorable day when he preached his Sermon on the Mount, an immeasurable void opened between his God and that other deity who fulminated his commands from that other mount -- Sinai. The language of Jesus is unequivocal; it implies not only rebellion but defiance of the Mosaic "Lord God." "Ye have heard," he tells us, "that it hath been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. Ye have heard that it hath been said [by the same "Lord God" on Sinai], 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." (Matthew v.)

If the Mosaic "Lord God" was the only living God, and Jesus His only Son, how account for the rebellious language of the latter? Without hesitation or qualification he sweeps away the Jewish lex talionis and substitutes for it the law of charity and self-denial. If the Old Testament is divine revelation, how can the New Testament be? Are we required to believe and worship a Deity who contradicts himself every few hundred years? Was Moses inspired, or was Jesus not the son of God? This is a dilemma from which the theologians are bound to rescue us. It is from this very dilemma that the Gnostics endeavored to snatch the budding Christianity.

Justice has been waiting nineteen centuries for intelligent commentators to appreciate this difference between the orthodox Tertullian and the Gnostic Marcion.


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:

THE THREAD OF EXISTENCE

The life we live is not the gift of a god, but merely an episode in a sequence of different lives, an installment in an endless series. We have lived before, we shall live again; from birth to the death which follows it, from death to another birth, the thread of our personal existence runs on, linking each life to the next. 


--ANDRE MIGOT: Tibetan Marches

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THE CHRISTIAN SCHEME
JESUS: Was He Unique?
(Part 24 of a 36-part series)

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TWO (2) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:

(2) 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) This author, vol. ii, p. 103, remarks with great justice of the "Heresiarch" Marcion, "whose high personal character exerted so powerful an influence upon his own time," that "it was the misfortune of Marcion to live in an age when Christianity had passed out of the pure morality of its infancy; when, untroubled by complicated questions of dogma, simple faith and pious enthusiasm had been the one great bond of Christian brotherhood, into a phase of ecclesiastical development in which religion was fast degenerating into theology, and complicated doctrines were rapidly assuming the rampant attitude which led to so much bitterness, persecution, and schism. In later times Marcion might have been honored as a reformer, in his own he was denounced as a heretic. Austere and ascetic in his opinions, he aimed at superhuman purity, and, although his clerical adversaries might scoff at his impracticable doctrines regarding marriage and the subjugation of the flesh, they have had their parallels amongst those whom the church has since most delighted to honor, and, at least, the whole tendency of his system was markedly towards the side of virtue." These statements are based upon Credner's "Beitrage," i, p. 40; cf. Neander; "Allg, K. G.," ii, p. 792 f.; Schleiermacher, Milman, etc., etc.
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