The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
December 2005 -- Vol. 8 Issue 10
Although in itself a symbol of ageless youth, Christmas, as an historical event, is the oldest of the world's holidays. It is older than Christendom, older than religion itself. It was recognized in pagan Rome where throngs of people on the 25th of December worshiped at the shrine of the God-child Adonis, while shouting in chorus: "Adonis has come; Adonis has returned to Earth!" Before that the old Scandinavians were commemorating, at huge stone altars, the birth of their tribal savior Thor; and Egypt since time immemorial had in its ritual the Virgin-Mother Isis and Messiah-Child Horus.
All these religious festivals, though separated by ages of time and hemispheres of distance, occurred at an identical period of the year. The time selected by them all was the winter solstice, when the sun hovers between the shortest day and the longest night of the year. In other words, the signal for the Christmas celebration of all time was flashed by the sun when from her annual retreat of darkness and cold she moved into the splendor of the new-born year with its promise of light, beauty, and power.
It is this fact of the sun's primogeniture in all the world's Christmas births that has given to this holiday its universal identity throughout the historic and prehistoric ages. From this sun worship primitive religions obtained their symbols of birth, light, beauty, and redemptive powers. In the light and life of the sun is born the hope of the year, the spirit of its beauty, and the fruits of its service.
Let us respond to the opportunities of human helpfulness, and charge every gift that leaves our hands with the spiritual values of peace and goodwill to the children of earth. -- Axel E. Gibson
And it came to pass in those days that a woman conceived a new life within her soul.
As her reason would not have it, she put it from her mind.
But her heart sent a messenger, saying, "Do not fear the inner life, for it is conceived of your own Holy Spirit.
And you shall bring forth a living expression of your higher self.
And your mind shall call this spirit-child its Savior."
And when the woman was great with child, great was her belief:
She would be one with her true nature, that her inner Christ should be delivered.
No longer would she seek the comforts of a separate self -- there was no room for them in her innermost desire.
For she would know her kinship with all, even at the lowest station and the humblest abode.
And lo, a star went before her, guiding her with the one Light to the sages of all time.
This Light has always stood over knowledge of things divine, and it opened her to the treasures in the human soul: the truth of the stars reflected in every mind.
Within her also were the silent servants of her virtue, watching over her deepest reflections.
Wisdom and compassion, patience and understanding -- these were the shepherds of her nobler nature.
They called forth a message of love that cast out every fear.
They gave her the vision to behold the Divine in all her fellow beings, to care for them as they were, and to trust in the greatness they would become.
These were the good tidings she brought to all the people she met, for unto her was born that day the Savior of her humanity -- her inner Christ became the Lord of her life.
And this shall be a sign unto us: We ourselves shall find the divine child within us, clothed with the Sun that shines equally on all.
Our own compassion will praise God in the highest, and shed light on the god-wisdom in everyone we care for.
And the quintessence of this praise shall be: "Glory to the godspark within us.
Peace on Earth be our nature, and goodwill to all that lives." -- Jim Belderis
Our topic this month is This month our subject is "The Inner Nativity." We will be discussing such subjects as: What are the universal aspects of the Nativity story? What is the significance of an inner, second birth? How is Christ or Divinity born in us? What light does the article above throw on our understanding of the essence of the Christmas story, and how do such interpretations relate to Christian scripture and other traditions? Come, bring your ideas, join the conversation!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge
Upcoming TopicsJanuary 2006: Are We Part of a Spiritual Ecology?
The topics for the monthly discussions are chosen by members of the Northwest Branch. If there is a subject that particularly interests you, or if you have ideas or suggestions about the meetings, please do not hesitate to email or mail them to the Branch or to mention them after the meetings.
Each one of us is, in our inmost essence, a god; but this god has been "made flesh": we are each an immortal soul imprisoned in a mortal body. The Jesus of the Gospels insists on this truth in many well-known passages; he desired to show mankind how they could achieve salvation by invoking their own divinity, by following in his footsteps. But this has been turned into the dogma that human nature is of itself corrupt, and that we can be saved only by faith in this particular God-man, Jesus of Nazareth.
The Jesus of the Gospels is a character, partly fictitious, partly symbolic, built around some actual personality whose identity is buried among a confusion of historical and traditional materials. Though every human being is an incarnation of divinity, there are some who are so in a special sense. These have progressed in their individual evolution to a point beyond that reached by the average humanity of their time, and who come to the world in times of spiritual darkness to teach the truths of the ancient wisdom. Such teachers are the world's Christs; and we find in the religions of India, Egypt, ancient America, and elsewhere accounts similar in essentials to the Christian Gospel narratives. The Savior is born by the Holy Spirit of a human virgin, is tempted and overcomes, is crucified, entombed for three days, rises again. Thus, the story found in the Bible and in church doctrine is but a particular adaptation of a doctrine that is both old and everywhere diffused; and, in pointing this out, we are by no means disparaging Christianity, but merely reinstating it in its original dignity.
The hinge-point of the matter is in the individual responsibility of every one of us for our own salvation. It may be objected that it is presumptuous and impious to set up human strength against that of the Divine Savior, the only Son of God; but here again we come upon an essential difference between the universal doctrine and the Christian teaching that has come down to us. Church dogma tells us that man is essentially corrupt -- due, it is said, to the sin of Adam -- and that he consequently needs the special mercy of a Savior in order to secure his salvation. But theosophy says that man is essentially divine -- and such indeed is the teaching of Jesus -- and that, being divine, he must save himself by his own innate divinity. The doctrine that man is saved by divine love and grace, and despite his own unatoned offences, may be very consoling to some, but it is both unjust and weak. The law that we must reap as we have sown holds good; and if death deprives us of the opportunity of paying our debts to society in this life, then we shall have that opportunity in one of our lives to come. The Christ upon whom we must call for help is the Christ within -- our own higher self.
The human mind is our intelligence, neutral in it self and colored by that to which it is allied. When allied to the earthy passional part of our nature, this mind becomes the lower personal self, at odds with other selves and leading us away from our true path in life. But every one has within the principle of divine wisdom; and if mind allies itself therewith, we have the higher self, which is our savior. It is taught that human beings originally were animal souls, which later were inspired by the breath of Divinity and so made into potential gods. This is the true Divine Incarnation; this is the Christ within us. But that Christ lies buried, latent, unmanifested, until called into active being by our own will.
The symbol of the Christ is the cross or, more accurately, the cross surmounted by the circle. The circle denotes divinity -- the Word; the cross denotes matter; so that the whole symbol denotes the "Word made Flesh" that dwells among us. The mystery of the Christ is therefore that of the Divine Power descending into matter for the purpose of operating in the lower kingdoms of nature. The Divine Power is at first sacrificed, for its radiance is obscured, its voice drowned, amid the turmoil of material life and the selfish passions. But it is our redeemer and must sooner or later arise from the tomb in the true Resurrection, when we each become fully aware of our own divinity. This, for the individual, may take place at any time; for the human race as a whole, at the appropriate cyclic era in the future.
So the symbol of the Christ may mean that which takes place in the life of every individual, or it may mean the case of some particular manifestation of Divinity, such as the Buddha or the mysterious teacher upon whose unknown life has been built the legend of Jesus of Nazareth.