Biblical teachings and the great initiations
In the June 1985 issue of Share International, Benjamin Creme's Master has assured us:"It is not long until the world will see the Christ... Take heart from this promise, for the day is not far off when men's anguish will be assuaged... For the tide is turning in favor of the light.''
So it behooves us to give prime attention to the basic wisdom teachings which the Christ and the Masters hold to be important. Again Creme's Master informs us that:''Among the many procedures of which they [the Masters ---- HRC] make use, that known as initiation is the most important.'' (Share International, May 1985)
Since many of us have a background in Christian teaching from the Bible, I have been encouraged to write on biblical teaching as it relates to the five great initiations leading to Mastership. Please note that this and the following chapters on this subject are not an attempt to set forth a classical or definitive treatise on initiation. That would take volumes. Besides, this would be beyond my present capacity and has already been done by Alice A. Bailey and others. What I am proposing to do is much more modest: to show how the Bible, and especially the gospel accounts, point ---- often in a veiled manner ---- to these great initiatory experiences.
Briefly, the stories of the birth of Christ at Bethlehem symbolize the first initiation. The baptism at the river Jordan symbolizes the second great initiation, which is baptism into greater responsibility with higher consciousness. The transfiguration on the mountain top points to the third initiation, when our whole personality or lower nature is to be under the control or direction of the Soul or higher nature. The trial at Jerusalem, culminating in the crucifixion, symbolizes the fourth initiation, often called the Great Renunciation. The resurrection from the tomb beautifully portrays the fifth initiation, completing the long process of transition from the fourth or human kingdom to the fifth, which Jesus called the Kingdom of God or of Heaven, making the initiate a Master of Wisdom, or a 'full grown man in Christ', as the Bible puts it.
Ensuing chapters will deal with the Bible and the later initiations. Let us now look briefly at the first initiation as seen from the Ageless Wisdom, an initiation often hidden in the Bible. Those who are familiar with the gospel according to John will recall that a certain 'ruler of the Jews', a man named Nicodemus, came to Jesus by night to inquire about His work. In the course of the conversation Jesus is reported to have said to this Pharisee:''Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.''
And a bit later He emphasized:''Truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you: you must be born anew.'' (John 3:3, 5-7)
Clearly Jesus was pointing out to Nicodemus that the New Birth, the first initiation, is the first and a most essential step into the fifth kingdom, the Kingdom of God. Much has been written, by Geoffrey Hodson and others, as to how the birth stories about Jesus, recorded only in Matthew and Luke, are really symbolic of the first initiation, a life-changing experience toward which all of us are moving unless we have indeed been through it in this or a previous life. Be it noted that Matthew and Luke are the only New Testament writers who mention the birth of Jesus at all. And their accounts are widely divergent. Matthew's report is that of the Christmas star, seen in the east; of the wise ones who followed that star; their inquiry of king Herod; their presentation of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the new babe; and of Herod's angry and murderous response. But no trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem is mentioned.
Luke, on the other hand, tells of shepherds, ''keeping watch over their flocks by night''; of the angelic message ''Behold I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people...'' and of the heavenly chorus singing ''Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased.'' It also tells of the shepherds going into Bethlehem and finding the mother and child, with the 'babe lying in a manger'. All of this after Mary and Joseph had made the long trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census taking decreed by the Roman emperor.
In Matthew's account the three wise men can symbolize the three adepts who are said to be present at the first initiation, which is usually taken in an out-of-body experience while the physical body is asleep, perhaps half a world away. Later, after the Christ's Day of Declaration, we are informed that He will make preparations to act as Hierophant (initiator) for the first and second initiations right here on the physical plane for those who have, probably through many lives, made sufficient preparation ---- through building good character, overcoming the habits of lust, gluttony, and other physical indulgences. The Masters, we are told, can tell by reading our aura, exactly when we are ready for initiation, and when our karma permits.
The three gifts presented by the Magi can symbolize the presentation of the three aspects of our lower nature (physical, astral, and mental) to God through initiation. And Herod can symbolize the attempt of our lower nature to destroy the new Christ-consciousness born in our heart center. The lower nature is ever on guard against giving up its age-old reign over our life. So we must be vigilant and identify with our infant Christ-nature, rather than with the old and discredited 'Herod-nature'.
In Luke's account, the shepherds, keeping watch over their flocks 'by night', can symbolize for us those members of humanity who, though not yet fully enlightened, are alert enough, even amidst darkness, to attune themselves to the angel song and catch the healing word of peace and goodwill. The stable in which Jesus is reported to have been born is said by many to have been a cave, since many stables of that time and country were indeed caves. All the four kingdoms of our ordinary evolution are represented there: the mineral kingdom by the rocks and soil; the plant kingdom by the hay and fodder; the animal kingdom by the animals sheltered there; the human kingdom by Mary and Joseph. Even the fifth kingdom is represented by the newborn Christ, the Bethlehem babe. The account of the babe born in a stable among the animals can symbolize the fact that such an initiation has to take place, not between incarnations, but while we are living the physical life, with the higher vehicles encased in our physical nature.
There is much more symbolism which could be traced in these biblical stories of the birth at Bethlehem (the house of bread), which indicates that what we are really celebrating at the festival of Christmas, if we are alert to the Ageless Wisdom, is this wondrous festival of New Birth, the first initiation. And this insight can alert us also to the importance, not just at Christmas time but at all times, of making due preparation for whichever initiation lies ahead of us. Let us be about 'our Father's business', as Luke indicates Jesus certainly was, through rededicating all of our thought and life to Him; presenting our gifts through a life of meditation, sharing, and whole-hearted Soul-level service. September 1985
(Note: Most of the information in these chapters on initiation is based on the Alice A. Bailey books, and therefore I am indebted to her and to the Master DK for these insights. But, as far as possible, I have tried to put the material into words of my own choosing and vocabulary. ---- HRC)
This article is a chapter from The Joy of Christ's Coming. This book by the late Rev. Howard Ray Carey was published by Share International Foundation in 1988. It is not currently available in hard copy form. Copyright © Share International Foundation. Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard version unless otherwise indicated.
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