The Public Life of Jesus: Popular and Esoteric Instruction
"Jesus happens to be passing by Jerusalem. He is not yet preaching in the temple, though he heals the sick and gives instruction to his friends. The work of love must prepare he ground into which the fruitful seed shall fall. Nicodemus, a learned Pharisee, had heard of the prophet. Filled with curiosity, though unwilling to compromise himself in the eyes of his sect, he requests with the Galilean a secret interview, which is granted. The Pharisee calls at his dwelling by night and says t him: "Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him." Jesus replied: "Verily, verily I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus asks if it is possible for a man to enter a second time into the his mother's womb and be born. Jesus answered: "Verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.""
JESUS : THE LAST GREAT INITIATE
The Public Life of Jesus: Popular and Esoteric Instruction, Miracles, Apostles, Women
Hitherto I have endeavoured to illuminate with its own light that portion of the life of Jesus which the Gospels have left in comparative obscurity, or wrapped around with the veil of legend. I have related by what kind of initiation and development of soul and thought the great Nazarene attained to the Messianic consciousness. In a word, I have endeavoured to reconstruct the inner genesis of the Christ. The rest of my task will be all the easier if this genesis be once acknowledged. The public life of Jesus has been related in the Gospels. These narratives contain divergences and contradictions as well as additions. The legend which overlies or exaggerates certain mysteries may still be traced here and there, but from the whole there is set free such a unity of thought and action, so powerful and original a character, that we invincibly feel ourselves in the presence of reality and of life. These inimitable stories cannot be reconstructed; their childlike simplicity and symbolical beauty tell us more than any amplifications can do. But what is needed nowadays is the illumination of the role of Jesus by esoteric traditions and truth, showing the signification and bearing of this double teaching.
What were these good tidings of which he was the bearer, this already famous Essene who had now returned from the shores of the Dead Sea to this nave Galilee to preach there the Gospel of the Kingdom? How was he to change the face of the world? The thoughts of the prophets had just found their realisation in him. Strong in the entire gift of his very being, he now came to share with men this kingdom of heaven which he had won in meditation and strife, in torments of pain and boundless joy. He came to rend asunder the veil which the ancient religion of Moses had cast over the future beyond the tomb. He came to say: "Believe, love, act, and let hope be the soul of your deeds. Beyond this earth there is a world of souls, a more perfect life. This I know, for I come there from; thither will I lead you. But mere inspiration for that world will not suffice. To attain you must begin by realising it here below, first in yourselves, afterwards in humanity. By what means? By Love and active Charity."
So the young prophet came to Galilee. He did not say he was the Messiah, but discussed in the synagogues concerning the laws and the prophets. He preached on the banks of the lake of Gennesareth, in fishermen's boat, by the fountains, in the oases of verdure abounding between Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Korazin. He healed the sick by laying-on of hands, a mere look r command often by his presence alone. Multitudes followed him, and already numerous disciples attached themselves to him. These he recruited from among the fishermen, tax-collectors, in a word, from the common people. Those of upright, unsullied nature, possessed of an ardent faith, were the ones he wanted, and these he irresistibly attracted to himself. He was guided in his choice by that gift of second sight, which has ever been the peculiarity of men of action, but especially of religious initiators. A single look enabled him the fathom the depths of a soul. He needed no other test, and when he said: "Follow me!"he was obeyed. A single gesture summoned to his side the timid and hesitating, to whom he said: "Come unto me, ye that are heavy-laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." He divined the innate thoughts of men, who in trouble and confusion recognised the Master. At times, he recognised in unbelief uprightness of heart. When Nathaniel said," Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"Jesus replied: "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!"From his adepts he required neither oaths nor profession of faith; simply love and belief in himself. He put into practice the common possession of goods as a principle of fraternity among his own people.
Jesus thus began to realise, within his small group of followers, the Kingdom of Heaven he wished to establish on earth. The Sermon of the Mount offers us an image of this kingdom already formed in germ, along with a"résumé"of the popular teaching of Jesus. He is seated on the top of a hill; the future initiates are grouped at his feet; farther down the slope the eager crowd drinks in the words which fall from his mouth. What is the doctrine of the new teacher? Fasting or maceration or public penance? No; he says," Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted." Then he unrolls in ascending order the four final beatitudes, the marvellous power of humility, of sorrow for others, if the inner goodness of the heart and of hunger and thirst after righteousness.... Then, in a glowing colours he depicts the active and triumphant virtues, compassion, purity of heart, militant kindness, and finally martyrdom of righteousness' sake."Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." Like the sound of a golden bell, this promise gives his listeners a faint glimpse of the starry heavens above the Master's head. Then they see the humble virtues, no longer in the guise of poor emaciated woman in grey penitent's robes, but transformed into beatitudes, into virgins of light whose brightness effaces the splendour of the lilies and the glory of Solomon. With the gentle breath of their palm leaves they scatter over these thirsting souls the fragrant perfumes of the heavenly kingdom.
The wonder is that this kingdom expands, not in the distant heavens, but in the hearts of the listeners. They exchange looks of astonishment with one another; these poor in spirit have, of a sudden, become so rich. Mightier than Moses, the soul's magician has struck their hearts, from which rushes up an immortal spring of life. His teaching to the people may be summed up in the sentence: The kingdom of heaven is within you!
Now that the lays before them the means necessary to attain to this unheard-of happiness, they are no longer astonished at the extraordinary things he asks of them: to kill even the desire for evil, to forgive offences, to love their enemies. So powerful is the stream of love with which his heart overflows, that he carries them away along the current. In his presence they find everything easy. Mighty the novelty, singular the boldness of such teaching. The Galilean prophet sets the inner life of the soul above all outer practices, the invisible above the visible, the Kingdom of Heaven above the benefits of earth. He commands that the choice be made between God and man. Then, summing up his doctrine, he says," Love your neighbour as yourself!.".. Be ye perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect!"Thus, in popular form, he afforded a glimpse of the whole profundity of science and morals. For the supreme commandment of the initiation is to reproduce divine perfection in the perfecting of the soul, and the secret of science lies in the chain of analogy and correspondences, uniting in ever- enlarging circles the particular to the universal, the finite to the infinite.
If such was the public and purely moral teaching of Jesus, it is evident that in addition he gave private instruction to his disciples, parallel, with and explanatory of the former, showing its inner meaning and penetrating to the very depths of the spiritual truth he derived from his own experience. As this tradition was violently crushed by the Church from the second century onwards, the majority of theologians no longer knew the real bearing of the Christ's words, with their sometimes double and triple meanings, and saw none but the primary and literal signification. For those who deeply studied the doctrine of the mysteries in India, Egypt and Greece, the esoteric thought of the Christ animated not merely his slightest word, but every act of his life. Dimly perceptible in the three Synoptics, it spring s into complete evidence in the Gospel of John. Here may be stated an instance touching an essential point of the doctrine:
Jesus happens to be passing by Jerusalem. He is not yet preaching in the temple, though he heals the sick and gives instruction to his friends. The work of love must prepare he ground into which the fruitful seed shall fall. Nicodemus, a learned Pharisee, had heard of the prophet. Filled with curiosity, though unwilling to compromise himself in the eyes of his sect, he requests with the Galilean a secret interview, which is granted. The Pharisee calls at his dwelling by night and says t him: "Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him." Jesus replied: "Verily, verily I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus asks if it is possible for a man to enter a second time into the his mother's womb and be born. Jesus answered: "Verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."
Under this evidently symbolical form, Jesus sums up the ancient doctrine of regeneration already known in the mysteries of Egypt. To be born again of water and of the Spirit, to be baptized by water and by fire, mark two degrees of initiation, two stages of the inner and spiritual development of man. Water here represents truth perceived intellectually, i.e. in an abstract and general manner. It purifies the soul and develops its spiritual germ.
A new birth by the Spirit, or baptism by (heavenly) fire, signifies the assimilation of the truth by the will in such a way that it may become the blood and life, the very soul of every action. From this results the complete victory of spirit over matter, the absolute mastery of the spiritualised soul over the body transformed into a docile instrument; a mastery which awakens its dormant faculties, opens its inner sense, and gives it an intuitive insight into truth, and a direct action of soul on soul. This state is equivalent to the heavenly one which Jesus Christ called the Kingdom of God. Baptism by water, or intellectual initiation, is accordingly the first step in rebirth; baptism by the spirit is total rebirth, a transformation of the soul by the fire of intelligence and will, and consequently, to a certain extent, of the elements of the body; in a word, a radical regeneration. From this come the exceptional powers it gives to man.
This is the earthly signification which might briefly be called the esoteric doctrine concerning the constitution of man. According to this doctrine, man is threefold: body, soul, and spirit. He has an immortal and indivisible part, the spirit; a perishable and divisible part, the body...
Now water, in ancient esoterism, symbolises fluidic matter which is infinitely transformable, as fire symbolises the one spirit. In speaking of rebirth by water and spirit, the Christ makes allusion to that double transformation of his spiritual body and his fluidic envelope, which awaits man after death, and without which he cannot enter the Kingdom of lofty souls and purified spirits. For"that which is born of the flesh (i.e. chained down and perishable), and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (i.e. free and immortal). Marvel not that I say unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and wither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit."
Thus spoke Jesus to Nicomedus in the silence of the night at Jerusalem. A small lamp, placed between the two, daily lights their vague, uncertain forms. But the eyes of the Galilean Master shine with mysterious brilliancy through the darkness. How could one help believing in the soul, when looking into those eyes, now gently beaming, now flashing forth the glory of heaven? The learned Pharisee has seen his knowledge of Scripture texts crumble away, but then he obtains a glimpse of a new world. He has seen a divine light in the face of the prophet, whose long auburn hair is falling over his shoulders. He has felt the powerful warmth emanating from his being draw him to the Master. He has seen small white flames like a magnetic halo appear and disappear around his brow and temples. And then he imagined he felt the breath of the Spirit pass over his heart. Moved to his inmost soul, Nicodemus returned secretly in the silence of the night to his home. He will continue to live among th Pharisees, but in the secrecy of his heart he will remain faithful to Jesus.
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