THEOSOPHY, Vol. 74, No. 2, December, 1985
(Pages 33-40; Size: 20K)
JESUS AND HIS TEACHING[Since in December there is the cyclic return of the Christmas season, and the thoughts of people in the West are drawn to Jesus, held to be the founder of the Christian religion, we gather here statements by H. P. Blavatsky on the Galilean Adept. The passages assembled are sometimes condensed, with indication at the end of the sources.]THOUGH now universally observed by Christian nations as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus, the 25th of December was not originally so accepted. The most movable of the Christian feast days, during the early centuries, Christmas was often confounded with the Epiphany, and celebrated in the months of April and May. As there never was any authentic record, or proof of its identification, whether in secular or ecclesiastical history, the selection of that day long remained optional; and it was only during the 4th century that, urged by Cyril of Jerusalem, the Pope (Julius I) ordered the bishops to make an investigation and come finally to some agreement as to the presumable date of the nativity of Christ. Their choice fell upon the 25th day of December, -- and a most unfortunate choice it has since proved! Adonis, Bacchus, Osiris, Apollo, etc., were all born on the 25th of December. Christmas comes just at the time of the winter solstice; the days then are shortest, and Darkness is more upon the face of the earth than ever. All the sun Gods were believed to be annually born at that epoch; for from this time its Light dispels more and more darkness with each succeeding day, and the power of the Sun begins to increase.
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 on 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.
Who then were the first Christians? Doubtless the Ebionites; and in this we follow the authority of the best critics. "There can be little doubt that the author (of the Clementine Homilies) was a representative of Ebionitic Gnosticism, which had once been the purist form of primitive Christianity." (Supernatural Religion.) And who were the Ebionites? The pupils and followers of the early Nazarenes, the kabalistic Gnostics.
That the apostles had received a "secret doctrine" from Jesus, and that he himself taught one, is evident from the following words of Jerome, who confessed it in an unguarded moment. Writing to the Bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus, he complains that "a difficult work is enjoined, since this translation has been commended me by your Felicities, which St. Matthew himself, the Apostle and Evangelist, DID NOT WISH TO BE OPENLY WRITTEN. For if it had not been SECRET, he (Matthew) would have added to the evangel that which he gave forth was his; but he made up this book sealed up in the Hebrew characters, which he put forth even in such a way that the book, written in Hebrew letters and by the hand of himself, might be possessed by the men most religious, who also, in the course of time, received it from those who preceded them. But this very book they never gave to any one to be transcribed, and its text they related some one way and some another." Jerome knew that this original Gospel of Matthew was the expounder of the only true doctrine of Christ; and that it was the work of an evangelist who had been the friend and companion of Jesus. He knew that if of the two Gospels, the Hebrew in question and the Greek belonging to our present Scripture, one was spurious, hence heretical, it was not that of the Nazarenes; and yet, knowing all this, Jerome becomes more zealous than ever in his persecution of the "Hæretics." Why? Because to accept it was equivalent to reading the death-sentence of the established Church. The Gospel according to the Hebrews was but too well known to have been the only one accepted by the Jewish Christians, the Nazarenes and the Ebionites. And neither of the latter accepted the divinity of Christ.
If we now recall the fact that a portion of the Mysteries of the "Pagans" consisted of the aporrheta, or secret discourses; that the secret Logia or discourses of Jesus contained in the original Gospel according to Matthew, the meaning and interpretation of which St. Jerome confessed to be a "difficult task" for him to achieve, were of the same nature; and if we remember, further, that to some of the interior or final Mysteries only a very select few were admitted; and that finally it was from the number of the latter that were taken all the ministers of the holy "Pagan" rites, we will then clearly understand this expression of Jesus quoted by Peter: "Guard the Mysteries for me and the sons of my house," i.e., of my doctrine. And, if we understand it rightly, we cannot avoid thinking that this "secret" doctrine of Jesus, even the technical expressions of which are but so many duplications of the Gnostic and Neoplatonic mystic phraseology -- that this doctrine, we say, was based on the same transcendental philosophy of Oriental Gnosis as the rest of the religions of those and earliest days.
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 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.
"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 "rebirth," or revolutio, throughout the subsequent and ascending spheres, every one of which brings him nearer to the refulgent realm of eternal and absolute light.
Primitive Christianity had its grip, pass-words, and degrees of initiation. The innumerable Gnostic gems and amulets are weighty proofs of it. It is a whole symbolical science. The kabalists were the first to embellish the universal Logos, 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 (fullness), 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 "Christ," then, and the "Logos" existed ages before Christianity; the Oriental Gnosis was studied long before the days of Moses, and we have to seek for the origin of all these in the archaic periods of the primeval Asiatic philosophy.
Laying aside the theological disputes of Christianity which try to blend together the Jewish Creator of the first chapter of Genesis with the "Father" of the New Testament, Jesus states repeatedly of his Father that "He is in secret." Surely he would not have so termed the ever-present "Lord God" of the Mosaic books, who showed Himself to Moses and the Patriarchs, and finally allowed all the elders of Israel to look on Himself. When Jesus is made to speak of the temple at Jerusalem as of his "Father's house," he does not mean the physical building, which he maintains he can destroy and then again rebuild in three days, but of the temple of Solomon; the wise kabalist, who indicates in his Proverbs that every man is the temple of God, or of his own divine spirit.
From the very first appearance of Jesus and his twelve disciples, we see them congregating apart, having secure refuges in the wilderness, and among friends in Bethany, and elsewhere. Were Christianity not composed of "secret communities," from the start, history would have more facts to record of its founder and disciples than it has.
How little Jesus had impressed his personality on his own century, is calculated to astound the inquirer. Renan shows that Philo, who died toward the year 50, and who was born many years earlier than Jesus, living all the while in Palestine while the "glad tidings" were being preached all over the country, according to the Gospels, had never heard of him! Josephus, the historian, who was born three or four years after the death of Jesus, mentions his execution in a short sentence, and even those few words were altered "by a Christian hand," says the author of the Life of Jesus, writing at the close of the first century, when Paul, the learned propagandist, is said to have founded so many churches; and Peter is alleged to have established the apostolic succession, which the Irenæo-Eusebian chronology shows to have already included three bishops of Rome. Josephus, the painstaking enumerator and careful historian of even the most unimportant sects, entirely ignores the existence of a Christian sect. Suetonius, secretary of Adrian, writing in the first quarter of the second century, knows so little of Jesus or his history as to say that the Emperor Claudius "banished all the Jews, who were continually making disturbances, at the instigation of one Crestus," meaning Christ, we must suppose. The Emperor Adrian himself, writing still later, was so little impressed with the tenets or importance of the new sect, that in a letter to Servianus he shows that he believes the Christians to be worshippers of Serapis.
In the notes taken by a traveller we find that, during his early life, Jesus had frequent intercourse with the Essenes belonging to the Pythagorean school, and known as the Koinobi. We believe it rather hazardous on the part of Renan to assert so dogmatically, as he does, that Jesus "ignored the very name of Buddha, of Zoroaster, of Plato"; that he had never read a Greek nor a Buddhistic book, "although he had more than one element in him, which, unawares to himself, proceeded from Buddhism, Parsism, and the Greek wisdom." While Renan has not one solitary fact to show that Jesus had never studied the metaphysical tenets of Buddhism and Parsism, or heard of the philosophy of Plato, his opponents have the best reasons in the world to suspect the contrary. Then they find that -- 1, all his sayings are in a Pythagorean spirit, when not verbatim repetitions; 2, his code of ethics is purely Buddhistic; 3, his mode of action and walk in life, Essenean; and 4, his mystical mode of expression, his parables, and his ways, those of an initiate, whether Grecian, Chaldean, or Magian (for the "Perfect," who spoke the hidden wisdom, were of the same school or archaic learning the world over), it is difficult to escape from the logical conclusion that he belonged to that same body of initiates.
While the mythical birth and life of Jesus are a faithful copy of those of the Brahmanical Christna, his historical character of a religious reformer in Palestine is the true type of Buddha in India. In more than one respect their great resemblance in philanthropic and spiritual aspirations, as well as external circumstances is truly striking. What the Nazarene did as a consequence of his humble birth and position, Buddha did as a voluntary penance. He travelled about as a beggar; and -- again like Jesus -- later in life he sought by preference the companionship of publicans and sinners. Each aimed at a social as well as a religious reform; and giving a death-blow to the old religions of his countries, each became the founder of a new one.
While Philo, whom Renan calls Jesus's elder brother, Hillel, Shammai, and Gamaliel, are hardly mentioned -- Jesus has become a God! And still, pure and divine as was the moral code taught by Christ, it never could have borne comparison with that of Buddha, but for the tragedy of Calvary.
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 the kingdom of heaven. Every word of his sermon is an echo of the essential principles of monastic Buddhism. His doctrines, religious views, and grandest aspirations will be found concentrated in his sermon.
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.
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. "If any man is in Christ he is a new creation," he is reborn, as after initiation, for the Lord is spirit -- the spirit of man. 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.
Christos is the crown of glory of the suffering Chréstos of the mysteries, as of the candidate to the final UNION, of whatever race and creed. To the true follower of the SPIRIT OF TRUTH, it matters little, therefore, whether Jesus, as man and Chréstos, 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 Chréstos before Jesus of Nazareth, otherwise Jesus (or Jehoshua) Ben Pandira was born. Therefore, one may be permitted to conclude, with good reason, that Jesus, or Jehoshua, was like Socrates, like Phocian, like Theodorus, and so many others surnamed Chréstos, i.e., the "good, the excellent," the gentle, and the holy Initiate, who showed the "way" to the Christos condition, and thus became himself "the Way" in the hearts of his enthusiastic admirers. The Christians, as all the "Hero-worshippers," have tried to throw into the background all the other Chréstoi, who have appeared to them as rivals of their Man-God. But if the voice of the MYSTERIES has become silent for many ages in the West, if Eleusis, Memphis, Antium, Delphi, and Crésa have long ago been made the tombs of a Science once as colossal in the West as it is yet in the East, there are successors now being prepared for them. We are in 1887 and the nineteenth century is close to its death. The twentieth century has strange developments in store for humanity, and may even be the last of its name.
NOTE.--The sources from which the foregoing passages were taken are: "Christmas Then and Christmas Now," H.P.B. Articles III, 59-60; Isis Unveiled II, 150-51; 180-83; 191-93; 195; 204-05; 230; 335-37; 552-53; "The Esoteric Character of the Gospels," H.P.B. Articles III, 192-93.
JESUS: PHILOSOPHER AND REFORMER
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