Birth of the Spirit

By Ingrid Van Mater

There is something about the inner quality and warmth of feeling at this season that touches our deepest, most sacred nature, beckoning us, however briefly, to reflect on life's intent and the spiritual impact of the year's crowning-point. The return of the sun northward at the winter solstice has long been honored as the propitious time for the birth of saviors, for it is then that the initiant, if successful in trials undergone, is "clothed with the sun." The divine energy flows eternally through the sun, through Christs and Buddhas and, indeed, through all beings, for all are one. At this time of year the current is running strong and opportunities are greater for us to evoke more of the Christ spirit within ourselves. This quickening of the spirit is like a flash of illumination which affects everyone in varying degree, prompting acts of kindness and goodwill.

In thinking about the high attainment and compassion of the saviors of humankind, it is difficult for us to absorb the idea that we are our own saviors, and that in future ages our potential inner Christ will fully manifest. Yet the laws of nature are such that growth proceeds step by step through our own initiative and effort, for saviors are the flowering of humanhood.

A recurring hindrance to spiritual progress is our inclination to be narrow in our thinking and feeling instead of appreciating various religious views, and enriching our perception of the universal truths belonging to all mankind. In the Bible, for example, one finds many symbolic expressions of Mystery teachings, arresting in their wisdom. One of these is the passage in the New Testament where Jesus instructs Nicodemus on spiritual rebirth (John 3:3-12):

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

And when Nicodemus asked, "How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?" Jesus answered:

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Marvel not that I said 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 whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

Nicodemus then asked how this was possible, whereupon Jesus said:

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

We observe in Nicodemus' lack of spiritual awareness how a genuine teacher's hands are tied, for had Nicodemus been more receptive, Jesus might have said much more "of heavenly things." Undoubtedly many times we stand in the way of our own best opportunities.

The verses from John tell of initiation, but they also may apply to each of us. We are made aware that there are two births: one of water or flesh, and the other of spirit. In other words, a definite distinction is made between Jesus, the man, and Christ, the initiate. There is the physical birth of the boy Jesus as an ordinary mortal, and the spiritual birth of the Christ, the anointed or awakened one. Born of the virgin or highest aspect of himself, he reflected in every part of his being the radiance of his own Christ-sun. The symbol of the virgin birth associated with many world saviors is a singularly beautiful one when interpreted in this context rather than as historic fact.

First comes seeing, and then entering the kingdom of God, for seeing precedes knowing and becoming, The transforming process within involves stages of seeing ever more clearly the glimmer of our higher self or inner Christos that is continually urging us to search, to know, and to transcend ourselves. Experience is the teacher and awakener as we gradually make the transition from man-god to god-man through an ever-expanding vision, and the desire to become that vision. It is a long road of learning and experiencing before finally we are prepared for the "virgin birth." This initiation has its counterpart in other traditions. In India, for example, an initiate is called a dvija, a "twiceborn." Egyptians referred to such a one as a "Son of the Sun," and early Christian theologians called the Christ the "True Sun" and "Our New Sun."

One feels the nobility of sacrifice made by the Great Ones who, like Jesus and other helpers of humanity, give of their knowledge as they have received -- "we speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen." They are impersonal, unattached to results, and they know all the while that relatively few will be responsive. And what do they teach? Primarily that the path of the spirit is a necessary part of our destiny. "Except a man be born again, . . ." is a mandate to awaken to our human duty, for spiritual regeneration is the force behind all evolutionary unfoldment, the spur to change and growth.

In light of the grandeur of our human potential, there is always hope no matter how difficult circumstances may be. Each of us has specific needs and choices, but we can all work with the ongoing impulse of the coming year. Then the spirit, like the wind, will do what it will, and its influence will be felt.

(From Sunrise magazine, December 1984/January 1985. Copyright © 1984 by Theosophical University Press)

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