The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
December 1999 Vol. 2 Issue 10
Christmas is the year's moment of truth. It is the consummation of the ancient resolve: "I will arise and go to my Father." What is this Father but the indwelling spirit that sustains all life?
Out in space, our planet approaches its perihelion at Christmas - the point in its orbit nearest to the Sun. This could symbolize for us what may be happening among its humanities. We are drawn nearer to the great essentials; something in us has responded to the divine harmony.
Our present civilization must be profoundly influenced by this annual period of purification and peace. We may never know how far the protective forces released at this time have helped to stabilize and preserve the forward movement of the human race. - Madeline Clark
Theosophists look upon Christmas in two ways: first, as the record of a sublime fact in occult history and life, that every son of man some day in his own spiritual history will repeat if he climb successfully. And the other way, that there is an unborn Christ in the soul of every one of us, the Christos, the Prince of Peace, the Prince of Love. As the cycling days bring the Christmas season around and the Christian world celebrates the supposed birth of the physical body of its Chief, its Savior, we may take the words of the avatara, the Christ, in their higher sense: that we humans are the "sons of god," of the divine, and that the spirit of love and consciousness of the most high dwelleth in the sanctuary of every man's heart - which means that there is a Christ-child in my heart, in your heart. Certain Orientals call it the Celestial Buddha in our hearts, but the idea is the same.
So the Christmas season is a good time to let the Christ-child in our hearts speak, to attempt to understand it; nay more, to become at one with it so that with each new Christmas we may become more Christ-like, more Buddha-like, more spiritual, nobler exemplars of the Christ which lives in the heart of each one of us, so that one day, at the proper time, the Christ-child may be born as a Christ-man. Then the sun of healing will have arisen with health, with wholeness, in its wings, healing our sorrows, simply because we as individuals shall have become at one with the spirit of the universe of which a bright ray lives at the heart of each one of us. This is what we understand by the true birth of the Christ.
Let the Christ-child live. Do you know, we have not ever tried it? We talk about it and dream it and debate it, but how few of us men and women live it, come under its celestial influence? The one who does so is ten times the man he was before, keener of intellect, quicker of wit, larger of mind; for he is inspired by the very forces that hold the universe in order, in proportion as he becomes the Christ-child in his heart. -G. de Purucker
Monthly Discussion Group
This month we will be discussing "The Sacred Seasons of the Year." Why are so many of the world's spiritual celebrations connected with the solstices and equinoxes? What do the various seasons mean to the inner life of each of us? Come and share your ideas about them!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge.
January 6: Mind, Soul, and Body: Healing Ourselves
Christmas is a very ancient festival which comes down to us from pagan cultures existing thousands of years ago. In many countries the winter solstice was celebrated with festivities lasting twelve days, accompanied by a message of peace and good will aimed largely at calming farmers contending with each other over rights to land, water, or cattle.
We may wonder whether there is any esoteric reality behind these festivities. To understand the real basis behind our Christmas celebration we have to go back to pre-Christian times. For at least a thousand years before the Christian era, the near-Eastern world was, in a spiritual and intellectual sense, running down like a giant clock, reaching its lowest point in the dark ages. The ancient pagan religions and their Mysteries became increasingly decadent and in certain instances depraved. Eventually the Eleusinian and Samothracian Mysteries of Greece, the centers in Syria, Persia, and Egypt, and those of the Druids of Europe either ceased to exist or became like dried husks containing no life of the spirit. But to the last there were a few centers and individuals of spiritual stature, though their light became hidden until it was but a flicker.
The initiatory cycle, however, was known by many. This was portrayed in the Eleusinian rites and more distantly in the Christian Easter when the neophyte entered the initiation chamber and after three days in the underworld was resurrected. In the solar rite of the Greater Mysteries the initiant entered the crypt and left his body for fourteen days while his spirit-soul traveled to the sun, shedding in each planetary sphere the aspect of itself that belonged there. When totally freed, it became infilled with the solar god. On its return the spirit-soul gathered to itself its respective planetary life-energies and finally entered its entranced body. Resurrected, the initiant was said to have "risen from the dead," for initiation follows the same pathways traveled during death, only with full awareness. Such a person glowed with the light of the sun. This sacred event was called Epiphany, from the Greek epiphaneia, appearance, that is, the appearance of divinity through the just returned neophyte fourteen days following what was then the winter solstice. Later Christians observed January 6 as the feast of the Magi.
There is in fact a unity of truth between the celebrations of the birth of a Savior and the birth of the new year, which goes beyond the astronomical sun reaching its southernmost point and commencing its northern journey. The birth was not of Jesus but of the Christ in him, the solar life and light - hence the custom of lighting candles at Christmas. This was a birth of the spirit, a second birth. Indeed, Jesus was said to have been born anew at the particular time of year when it is possible for the spiritual life of the solar being to infill him.
Life was accepted as being everywhere and in everything. As Paul said to the Athenians on Mars Hill (Acts 17:28), "For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring." And again, "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things" (Romans 11:36). H. P. Blavatsky portrays the view of the ancients: "The Sun is matter, and the Sun is Spirit. Our ancestors - the 'heathen,' [were] wise enough . . . to see in it the symbol of Divinity, and at the same time to sense within, concealed by the physical Symbol, the bright God of Spiritual and terrestrial Light" (The Secret Doctrine 1:479).
The birth of Jesus at Christmas followed by Epiphany, and the death of Jesus on the cross and the resurrection after three days at Easter, are in a sense a division of the initiation ritual acts. Spirit is crucified upon the cross of matter, not only cosmically in the spiritual solar being, the Real Sun, but in the spirit within each human being. Only after the human soul has risen above his animal nature can he bring his Christ into manifestation; hence the symbolic sacrifice of animals by the pagans during the period of their winter festival. This illustrates the accomplishment of the initiant and the future promise for every person and being. It is the hidden story of Jesus the Christ, and also the reason the festivities of the winter solstice were universally held: to commemorate the birth of the solar being in man.