The Christmas festival, and the teachings which have gone with it from early Christian days, are not at all Christian in origin. The early Christians were brought up in the pagan world where it was an acknowledged fact that there was an exoteric religion or series of such religions, and a secret teaching kept only for those who had proved themselves to be fit and worthy to receive the teachings of the Mystery Schools, the secret things of the divine. All the exoteric faiths hid something wonderful, sublimely majestic, taught within the Sanctuary. If you get this key and hold it in your mind, you will have something by which you may unlock what has been so difficult for Christian theologians not merely to understand but to explain.
As regards the virgin birth, this is not original with Christianity. The conception has been common over the face of the earth from immemorial time. Many peoples in the archaic days taught of virgins giving birth to great sages and seers, and you may read the same story of Jesus the Avatara in other tongues and after other ways, but having essentially the same fundamental truth of a great man achieving manly divinity by a new birth. So common was this idea that it was even popular exoteric language of the streets and of the mart.
The Hindus spoke of a dvija, a "twice born," the idea being that of physical birth, born of the mother as all sons of men are, but when ready after training, receiving inner birth, inner enlightenment, which was the second birth of the man, a new birth into the light of the spirit.
How grand shines the light of truth upon the face of the man whose heart is enlightened by the sense of his oneness with all; and what pathos there is when the sense of separateness drives him away from his oneness with others.
What did this teaching mean in the early days of Christianity? Precisely what it meant in all the other great pagan countries. It represented scenes passed in the Sanctuary where the neophyte or disciple after long training had so developed his inner being, his inner perceptions, that he was on the verge of becoming Christos, a Christ or, as Mahayana Buddhism has it, a bodhisattva. The next step would be that of buddhahood. Even in exoteric writings this wonderful truth from the Sanctuary was spoken of as virgin birth, a second birth; and all the saviors of man in whatever country, of whatever clime, and of whatever day, all the great ones, the sages and seers, the buddhas and bodhisattvas of highest rank, the greatest, were all born of the Mother, the holy spirit within.
Here is a very significant thing in early Christian writings: if Mary were virgin, how could she give birth to children? In early Christian scripture there occurs a remarkable passage in the Greek Christian writings, and rendered into English it means: "My Mother, the Holy Spirit [for the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, amongst primitive Christians was always feminine, never masculine as it became afterwards] my Mother, the Holy Spirit, took me by the hair of my head and brought me to the holy Mount Athor." Here is the spirit in me, the Holy Spirit, my Mother from whom I was born, born anew, no longer born of the flesh but born of the spirit: born first of water according to the flesh, then born of fire according to the spirit -- the first birth and the second birth. This is indeed the virgin birth; for the spirit of man, a ray from the divine, from the ineffable, is eternally virgin, and yet eternally fecund, eternally productive. The cosmic Christ is born of the cosmic Spirit, feminine also in ancient time, and in the same way is the spiritual man feminine, and in the holiness of achievement gives birth to the bodhisattva, the Christ-child. From then on the man is infilled with the holiness of the spirit pouring through him from the source divine.
What connection has all this with the sun? From immemorial time, Father Sun was looked upon with reverence -- not necessarily the physical globe clothed with beauty and light and splendor and vital energy, the giver of light unto his own kingdom, but the divinity within and above and behind that sun as in all other stars. Our sun was an emblem of the cosmic spirit, for through that sun poured these floods of vital splendor and life and light: light for the mind and love for the heart, without which no man is man.
The Christians used to sing hymns to the sun, record of which is still extant, outside of other references, in a communication by Pliny, governor of Bithynia and Pontus, to the emperor Trajan in Rome. He said that in his jurisdiction the Christians seemed to be innocent and harmless folk, for they assembled every morning at the rise of the sun and sang hymns to that divinity. And in a collection of old Christian hymns we have one to the sun still extant. In English it can be translated thus:
O thou true sun
Shining with perpetual light,
Image of the holy spirit
[not merely a creation of holy spirit but its image]
Infill us full.
No Parsi or so-called sun worshiper ever created a more typical hymn to the sun than these early Christians did. These earliest Christians knew what they meant; they did not worship the physical sun, it was the divine light, teaching what the sun stood for. The sun was the emblem, the image, of the cosmic Christ, not a creation of god, but the image of the divine. O thou true sun -- and the most common expression among the Christians was to liken their savior, Jesus the avatara, to the sun.
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