Jesus, the Last Great Initiate, by Edouard Schuré, , at sacred-texts.com
"Hosanna to the son of David!" This was the cry which greeted Jesus as he entered by the eastern gate of Jerusalem, along streets covered with branches of palm trees. They who welcomed him with such enthusiasm were adherents of the Galilean prophet who had assembled from both without and within the town to greet him with this ovation. They were welcoming him who was to free Israel, who would soon be crowned king. Even the twelve apostles still shared this illusion in spite of all Jesus had said. He alone, the proclaimed Messiah, knew that he was advancing to his death, and that only afterwards would even his disciples penetrate the inner sanctuary of his thought. Resolutely was he offering himself, of his own free will, and fully conscious of the end. Hence his resignation, his sweet serenity. As he passed beneath the colossal porch, cut in the gloomy fortress of Jerusalem, the cry resounded beneath the vault and pursued him like the voice of Destiny, seizing its prey: "Hosanna to the son of David!"
By this solemn entrance into the city, Jesus publicly declared to the religious authorities of Jerusalem that he took upon himself the rôle of the Messiah, with all its consequences. The following morning he appeared in
the temple, in the Gentiles Court, and, advancing towards the cattle-dealers and money-changers who by usury and the deafening click of money profaned the parvise of the holy place, he uttered against them Isaiah's words: "It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves." The dealers fled, carrying off their tables and money-bags, intimidated by the partisans of the prophet who formed a solid rampart around him, and even more terrified by his imperious gesture and flashing look. The astonished priests marvelled at this boldness and manifestation of power. A deputation from the Sanhedrim came demanding an explanation, with the words: "By what authority doest thou these things?" To this insidious question Jesus, as was his wont, replied by a question no less embarrassing for his enemies: "Whence was the baptism of John, from heaven or of men?" Had the Pharisees replied: "From heaven," Jesus would have said, "Then why did you not believe him?" Had they said, "From men," they would have had to consider the anger of the people who looked upon John the Baptist as a prophet. Accordingly, they replied: "We cannot tell." "Neither tell I you," said Jesus, "by what authority I do these things." Once the blow warded off, however, he assumed the offensive and added: "Verily I say unto you, the publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you." Then in a parable he compared them to the wicked husbandman, who kills his master's son so as to inherit the vineyard; and he called himself: "the stone which had become the head of the corner, and which should grind into powder whomsoever it should fall upon." These acts and words show that in making this final journey
to Israel's capital, Jesus wished to cut off all retreat. His enemies had long been in possession of the two great keys of accusation necessary for his ruin: his threats against the temple, and the affirmation that he was the Messiah. These last attacks exasperated his enemies; from that moment his death, determined upon by the authorities, was only a matter of time. Since his entrance into Jerusalem, the most influential members of the Sanhedrim, Scribes and Pharisees, reconciled in common hatred against Jesus, had come to an understanding on the death of this "seducer of the people." They hesitated only on the matter of seizing him in public, for they dreaded a rising of the people. On different occasions already, officials sent against him had returned, won over by his words, or alarmed at the multitudes of people. Often had the soldiers of the temple seen him disappear from their midst in mysterious fashion. So also had the Emperor Domitian, fascinated and struck with blindness, so to speak, by the image he wished to condemn, seen Apollonius of Tyana disappear from before the tribunal and from the midst of his guards! The struggle between Jesus and the priests thus continued from day to day with increasing hatred on their side, and on his, an enthusiastic strength and impetuosity, given him by the certainty he felt as to the fatal issue. This was his last assault against the powers of the day; in it he manifested a mighty energy as well as that masculine force which like a coat of mail clothed that sublime tenderness of his, which might be called: The Eternal-Feminine of his soul. This formidable combat ended in terrible maledictions against these debasers of religion: "Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, who shut up the kingdom of heaven against such as
wish to enter in. Ye fools and blind, who pay tithes and neglect justice, pity, and fidelity; ye are like unto whited sepulchres which appear beautiful from without, but are within full of dead men's bones and of all uncleanness."
After having thus branded religious hypocrisy and false sacerdotal authority what had for centuries held sway, Jesus considered his struggles at an end. He left Jerusalem with his disciples and proceeded to the Mount of Olives. As they ascended, Herod's temple could be seen in all its majesty, with its terraces and vast porticoes, its sculpturing of white marble incrusted with jasper and porphyry, and its dazzling roof of gold and silver. The disciples, discouraged and under the presentiment of a catastrophe, drew the master's attention to the splendor of the building he was leaving forever. Their words were tinged with melancholy and regret, for, to the last, they had hoped to take their seats therein as judges of Israel around the Messiah, the crowned priest-king. Jesus turned, facing the temple. and said: "See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." 1 He was judging the duration of the temple of Jehovah by the moral worth of those who ruled therein. He meant that fanaticism, intolerance, and hatred were not sufficient arms against the battle-axes and battering-rams of the Roman Cæsar. With the insight of the initiate, which had become more intense through that clairvoyance given by the approach of death, he saw the Judaic pride, the policy of their king, the whole Jewish history, terminate fatally in this catastrophe. Triumph did not exist there, it was rather
in the prophetic thought, the universal religion, that invisible temple which he alone at that hour had full consciousness of. As for the ancient citadel of Zion and the temple of stone, he already saw the angel of destruction standing, sword in hand, at its doors.
Jesus knew that his hour was nigh, but he did not wish to fall into the hands of the Sanhedrim, so he withdrew to Bethany. As he had a predilection for the Mount of Olives, he came there almost daily to converse with his disciples. From the summit the view was magnificent. The range of vision embraces the rugged mountains of Judæa and Moab, with their purplish-blue tints, whilst away in the distance could be caught a glimpse of the Dead Sea, like a leaden-hued mirror, from whose surface rise dense sulphurous mists. At the foot of the mountain stretched Jerusalem, the Temple, and the citadel of Zion towering above all other edifices. Even in these days, as twilight descends on the dark, mysterious gorges of Hinnom and Jehoshaphat, the city of David and of the Christ, protected by the sons of Ishmael, rises in imposing majesty above these gloomy valleys. Its cupolas and minarets reflect the fading light of the heavens and seem to be ever awaiting the angels of judgment. It was there Jesus gave the disciples his final instructions regarding the future of the religion he had come to found, and the destiny of mankind, thus bequeathing them his promiseat once terrestrial and divineintimately wedded with his esoteric teaching.
Evidently the writers of the Synoptic Gospels have handed down to us the apocalyptic sayings of Jesus amid a confusion which renders them almost impenetrable. Their meaning only begins to become intelligible
in John's Gospel. If Jesus had really believed in his return on the clouds, some years after his death, as is admitted according to the naturalistic interpretation; or if he had imagined that the end of the world, and the last judgment of men would take place in this manner, as orthodox theology believes, he would have been a very ordinary visionary indeed, instead of the sage initiate, the sublime seer every word of his teaching and every action of his life proclaim him to have been. It is evident that here, especially, his words must be understood in their allegorical signification according to the transcendent symbolism of the prophets. John's Gospel, the one which has most fully handed down to us the Master's esoteric teaching, forces this interpretation, so perfectly in accord as it is with the parabolical genius of Jesus, when he relates the Master's words: "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. These things have I spoken unto you in parables, but the time cometh when I shall no more speak unto you in parables, but I shall show you plainly of the Father."
The solemn promise of Jesus to the apostles embraces four objects, four increasing spheres of planetary and cosmic life: the individual psychic life; the national life of Israel; the earthly evolution and end of humanity as well as the divine. Let us take one by one these four spheres through which radiates the thought of the Christ before his martyrdom, like the setting sun, filling with its glory the whole terrestrial atmosphere right to the zenith, before shining on other worlds.
1. The first judgment signifies the ultimate destiny of the soul after death. This is determined by its own inner nature and the acts of its life. I have already
expounded this doctrine, with reference to Jesus conversation with Nicodemus. On the Mount of Olives he says to his disciples: "Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.'' 1 And again: "Be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh." 2
2. The destruction of the temple and the end of Israel. "Nation shall rise against nation. They shall deliver you up to be afflicted. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled." 3
3. The terrestrial aim of humanity, which is not fixed at some definite epoch, but must be reached by a graduated series of successive realizations. This aim is the coming of the social Christ or the divine man on earth; i. e., the organization of Truth, Justice, and Love in human society, and consequently, the pacification of the nations. Isaiah had already foretold this distant epoch in a splendid vision beginning with the words: "For I know their works and their thoughts; it shall come that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see my glory. And I will set a sign among them," &c., &c. 4 Jesus completing this prophecy explains to his disciples what this sign shall be; the complete unveiling of the mysteries or the coming of the Holy Ghost, whom he also calls the Comforter or "the spirit of Truth
which shall lead you into all truth." 1 The apostles shall have this revelation beforehand, the mass of humanity in the course of time. But whenever it takes place in an individual consciousness or among a group of men, it pierces through and through. "For as the lightning cometh out of the east and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the son of man be." 2 Thus, when the central and spiritual truth is kindled it illumines all other truths throughout creation.
4. The last judgment signifies the end of the cosmic evolution of humanity, or its entrance into a definitely spiritual state. This is what Persian Esoterism had called the victory of Ormuzd over the Ahrimanes, or of Spirit over Matter. Hindu Esoterism named it the complete reabsorption of matter by Spirit, or the end of a day of Brahma. After thousands of centuries a period must come when, through series of births and rebirths, incarnations and regenerations, the individuals composing a humanity shall have definitely entered the spiritual state, or been annihilated as conscious souls by evil, i. e. by their own passions symbolized by the fire of Gehenna and gnashing of teeth. "Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds. He shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds." 3 The Son of Man, a generic term, here signifies humanity in its perfect representation, i. e. the small number of those who have raised themselves to the rank
of Sons of God. His Sign is the Lamb and the Cross, i. e., Love and Eternal Life. The Cloud is the image of the Mysteries which have become translucid, as well as of the subtle matter transfigured by the spirit; of the fluidic substance which is no longer a dense obscure veil, but a light transparent garment of the soul, no longer a gross obstacle, but an expression of the truth; no longer a deceptive appearance but spiritual truth itself, the inner world instantaneously and directly manifested. The Angels who gather together the Elect are glorified spirits, who have themselves sprung from humanity. The Trumpet they sound symbolizes the living word of the Spirit, which lays bare the real nature of the soul, and destroys all lying appearances of matter.
Jesus, feeling his end near, thus explained to his astonished disciples the lofty perspectives which from bygone times had formed part of the doctrine of the mysteries, but to which each religious founder has always given personal form and color. To engrave these truths on their minds and facilitate their propagation, he summed them up in such images as were characterized by extreme boldness and incisive energy. The revealing image and speaking symbol formed the universal language of the ancient initiates. Such a language possesses a communicative virtue, a power of concentration and duration lacking in the abstract term. In using it, Jesus merely followed the example of Moses and the prophets. He knew the Idea would not immediately be understood, but he wished to impress it in letters of flame in the simple souls of his followers, leaving to succeeding ages the task of generating the powers contained in his word. Jesus feels himself one with all the prophets of the earth who had gone before, as he had
done, messengers of Life and of the eternal Word. In this sentiment of unity and solidarity with immutable truth, he dared address to his afflicted disciples the proud words: "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away."
These mornings and evenings on the Mount of Olives flew swiftly by. One day, obedient to an impulse peculiar to his ardent and impressionable nature, which caused him suddenly to descend from the most sublime heights to the sufferings of earth, which he felt as his own, he shed tears over Jerusalem, the holy city and its inhabitants, whose frightful destiny he foresaw. His own was also approaching with giant strides. The Sanhedrim had already discussed his fate and decided on his death. Judas Iscariot had already promised to deliver his master into their hands. It was not sordid avarice, but rather ambition and wounded pride which occasioned this black treachery. Judas, a type of cold egoism and absolute positivism, incapable of the faintest idealism, had become a disciple of the Christ merely from a spirit of worldly speculation. He was relying on the earthly and immediate triumph of the prophet, and on his own consequent gain. The Master's profound words: He who wishes to save his life shall lose it, and he who is willing to lose it, shall save it; had no meaning for him. Jesus, in his boundless charity, had received him as one of his disciples, in the hope of changing his nature. When Judas saw that matters were not proceeding as he wished, that Jesus and his disciples were compromised, and himself deceived in his hopes, his deception became converted into a feeling of rage. The wretch denounced the man, who, in his eyes, was only a false Messiah who had deceived him. The penetrating
insight of Jesus told him what was taking place in the mind of the faithless apostle. He now determined he would no longer avoid the destiny whose inextricable folds were daily tightening around him. It was the eve of Easter, so he ordered his disciples to prepare the meal at a friend's house in the town. He foresaw it would be his last repast, and accordingly wished to give it an exceptional solemnity.
Now we enter upon the final act of the Messianic drama. In order to thoroughly understand the spirit and work of Jesus, it has been necessary to shed an inner light on the first two acts of his life; his initiation and public career. Subsequently, the inner drama of his consciousness has been unfolded. The final act of his life, or the drama of the passion, is the logical consequence of the two preceding. Since it is known to all. it explains itself, for the peculiarity of the sublime is that it is at once simple, grandiose, and clear. The drama of the passion has powerfully contributed to the institution of Christianity. It has drawn tears from every human being possessed of a heart, and converted millions of souls. Throughout all these scenes the gospels are of incomparable beauty. Even John descends from his lofty heights, and his circumstantiated account assumes a character of poignant truth such as an eyewitness alone could give. Every one may live again in himself the divine drama, no one could recreate it. And yet, in ending my task, I must concentrate the rays of esoteric tradition on the three essential events by which the life of the divine Master came to an end: the Holy Supper, the trial of the Messiah, and the Resurrection. If light is thrown on these points, it will be reflected
backwards on the whole career of the Christ, and forwards on the succeeding history of Christianity.
The twelve, forming thirteen with the Master, had met in the upper room of a house in Jerusalem. The unknown friend, Jesus host, had covered the floor with a rich carpet. In oriental fashion the Master and his disciples reclined on four large divans in the form of triclinia arranged around the table. When the paschal lamb, and the golden chalice lent by the friend had been brought into the room, and the vases filled with wine, Jesus, seated between John and Peter, said: "With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God." 1 Thereupon their countenances became overshadowed: silence filled the air. "The disciple whom Jesus loved," who alone divined everything, bowed his head on the Master's breast. As was usual among the Jews at the Easter meal, not a word was uttered as they ate the bitter herbs and charoset placed before them. Finally Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks, he brake it and distributed unto them, saying: "This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me." He also took the cup, saying: "This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you." 2
Such is the institution of the Supper in all its simplicity. It has a far wider signification than is generally granted or known, for not only is the mystical and symbolic act the conclusion and résumé of the entire teaching of the Christ, it is the consecration and rejuvenation of a very ancient symbol of initiation. Among the initiates
of Egypt and Chaldea, as among the prophets and Essenes, the fraternal agape marked the first stage of initiation. The Communion, under the element of bread, the fruit of the sheaf, signified knowledge of the mysteries of earthly life, as well as a sharing of terrestrial blessings, and consequently the perfect union of affiliated brothers. In the higher degree, communion under the element of wine, the blood of the vine, penetrated through and through by the sun, signified the sharing of heavenly blessings, a participation in spiritual mysteries and divine science. Jesus, in bequeathing these symbols to the apostles, enlarged their meaning. Through them he extends to the whole of mankind fraternity and initiation,, formerly limited to the few. To them he adds the profoundest of mysteries, the greatest of forces, that of his own sacrifice. This he converts into the invisible but infrangible chain of love between himself and his followers. It will give his glorified soul a divine power over their hearts, as well as over the hearts of all men. This cup of truth which had come from distant prophetic ages, this golden chalice of initiation which the old Essene had offered him in addressing him as prophet, this chalice of celestial love the Sons of God had offered him in the ecstasy of his loftiest rapturethis cup in which he now sees his own blood reflectedhe now gives over to his well-beloved disciples with the ineffable tenderness of a last farewell.
Do the apostles see and understand this redeeming, world-embracing thought? It shines in the Master's profound though sorrowful glance, as he turns from the "disciple he loved" to the one about to betray him. No, they do not yet understand; they seem to breathe with difficulty, as though under the power of some frightful
dream; a kind of heavy, ruddy vapor floats in the air, and they wonder as to the source of that strange radiance about the Christ head. When, finally, Jesus tells them that he is about to spend the night in prayer on the Mount of Olives, and as he rises, requests them to follow him, they no longer doubt as to what is about to happen.
* * * * * * *
The night is past; the anguish of Gethsemane at an end. With terrifying clearness he has seen the infernal circle about to destroy him grow less and less. In the horror of the situation, and the dreadful momentary expectation of being seized by his enemies, a shudder passed through his frame; for a moment his soul shrank before the tortures that awaited him; drops of bloody sweat stood on his brow. Then prayer came to his aid. Confused cries, torches flashing beneath the gloomy olive-trees, the clash of arms, were so many signs testifying to the approach of a band of soldiers sent by the Sanhedrim. Judas, at their head, kisses his Master, so that they may recognize the prophet. Jesus returns the kiss with a look of ineffable compassion, and says to him: "Friend, wherefore art thou come?" The effect of this gentleness, this brotherly kiss given in exchange for the basest treason, will be such on that heartnotwithstanding its hardnessthat, a moment later, Judas, overcome with horror and remorse, will take his own life. And now, with rude, cruel hands, the soldiers have seized the Galilean rabbi. After a brief resistance the terrified disciples have fled. Peter and John alone remain at hand, and follow the Master to the tribunal. Their hearts are well-nigh broken as they anxiously await his fate. Jesus has now regained control over himself; from
that moment not a single protest or complaint will break from his lips.
The entire Sanhedrin is hastily assembled, and Jesus is brought into their presence at midnight, for the court is determined to deal promptly with the dangerous prophet. Priests and sacrificers, turbans on their heads and wearing purple, yellow and violet tunics, are solemnly seated in a semi-circle. In their midst sits Caiaphas, the chief priest, wearing on his head the "migbâh"; at each end of the arc, on two small tribunes sit the clerks, one for acquittal, the other for condemnation: advocatus Dei, advocatus Diaboli. Jesus, in his white Essenian robe, stands impressive in the center. Officers of justice, armed with ropes and thongs, men with bared arms and evil-looking eyes, stand around. Witnesses for the accusation alone are present; there is not one for the defense. The high priest, the supreme magistrate, is the principal accuser; the trial, apparently a measure of public safety against a crime or religious treason, is in reality the preventive vengeance of an anxious priesthood which feels its power in danger.
Caiaphas rises and accuses Jesus of being a seducer of the people, a "mésit." A few witnesses taken at hazard from the crowd give their depositions, but only succeed in contradicting one another. Finally, one of them reports the words of Jesus, "I can destroy the temple, and build it again in three days"words which had been considered blasphemous, and which the Nazarene had more than once flung in the face of the Pharisees under Solomon's porch. Jesus holds his peace. "Answerest thou nothing?" asks the high priest. Jesus, who knows he will be condemned, and is unwilling to lavish words to no purpose, still makes no reply.
[paragraph continues] These words, however, even if proved, would not form sufficient motive for a death penalty. A graver avowal is needed. To force one, Caiaphas, the cunning Sadducee, addresses him a question involving his honor, the vital question of his mission. The greatest skill often consists in going straight to the root of a matter. "If thou art the Messiah, say so now" Jesus at first replies evasively, thus proving that he is not their dupe. "If I say it, you will not believe me, but if I ask you the same question you will give me no answer." As Caiaphas does not succeed in his artifice, he uses his authority as high priest, and solemnly says: "I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God." Thus called upon either to retract or affirm his mission before the highest representative of the religion of Israel, Jesus no longer hesitates. He replies calmly, "Thou hast said. Nevertheless, I say unto you, hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of Power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." Thus expressing himself in the prophetic language of Daniel, and of the book of Henoch, Jehoshoua, the Essene initiate does not address Caiaphas as an individual. He knows that the Sadducee agnostic is incapable of understanding him, and accordingly speaks to the sovereign priest of Jehovah, and through him to all future priests and priesthoods of earth, saying to them: After my mission, sealed by death, the reign of unexplained religious Law is at an end, both in principle and in deed. The Mysteries shall be revealed, and man shall see the divine through the human. Religions and acts of worship which cannot be demonstrated and vivified by one another shall be void of authority. This, according to the esoterism of the
prophets and Essenes, is the meaning of the Son sitting on the right hand of the Father. Thus understood, Jesus reply to the high priest of Jerusalem contains the intellectual and scientific testament of the Christ to the religious authorities of the earth, just as the institution of the Supper contains his testament of love and initiation to the Apostles and to mankind in general.
In addressing Caiaphas Jesus spoke to the whole world. The Sadducee, however, who had obtained what he wished, listens to nothing more. Tearing his vestment of fine linen, he exclaims: "He has blasphemed; what further need have we of witnesses? Ye have heard his blasphemy; what think ye of it?" A gloomy though ominous murmur arose from the Sanhedrim: "He is guilty of death." Immediately vile insults and brutal outrage on the part of those of lower rank gave answer to the condemnation uttered by their superiors. The guards spit on him and strike him in the face, as they exclaim: "Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, who is he that smote thee?" Beneath this outburst of low and savage hatred, the pale sublime countenance of the great sufferer resumes its visionary marble fixity. Some one has said that there are statues which weep; there is indeed a tearless grief, victims unuttered prayers, full of terror to their assailants whom they pursue for the remainder of their lives.
All was not yet over, however. The Sanhedrin may pronounce the death penalty, the secular power and the consent of the Roman authorities are needed to put it into execution. The interview with Pilate, related in detail by John, is no less remarkable than that with Caiaphas. This strange dialogue between the Christ and the Roman governor, to which the violence of the
[paragraph continues] Jewish priests, and the cries of a fanatical populace, play the part of an ancient tragedy chorus, gives the conviction of a mighty dramatic truth, for it lays bare the souls of the different characters, and shows the clash of the three powers in play: Roman Cæsarism, bigoted Judaism, and the universal religion of the Spirit represented by the Christ. Pilate, totally indifferent to the religious quarrel, but greatly troubled over the matter, for he is afraid the death of Jesus will occasion a rising of the people, questions him with a certain amount of precaution, and offers him a means of escape, in the hope that he will take advantage of it. "Art thou the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered: "My kingdom is not of this world." Pilate asked: "Then thou art a king?" Jesus again replied: "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth." Pilate no more understands this affirmation of the spiritual royalty of Jesus than Caiaphas understood his religious testament. "What is truth?" he remarks, with a shrug of the shoulders. The sceptical Roman knight's question reveals the state of mind in which the heathen world then was, as it does that of all society in a state of decadence. All the same, as he did not see in the accused Jesus anything other than a harmless dreamer, he added: "I find no fault in him," and proposes to the Jews that he should liberate him. The populace, however, instigated by the priests, cries aloud: "Release unto us Barabbas!" Then Pilate, who detests the Jews, gives himself the ironical pleasure of causing their pretended king to be beaten with rods. He thinks this will satisfy the fanatics, but they only become the more furious, and madly exclaim: "Crucify him!"
In spite of this outburst of popular passion Pilate still
resists. He is tired of being cruel. Throughout his life he has seen so much bloodshed, punished with death so many rebels, and heard so many groans and curses without his equanimity being troubled in the slightest. But the mute, stoic suffering of the Galilean prophet beneath the purple cloak and crown of thorns has sent a hitherto unknown thrill through his very being. In a strange fugitive vision he utters the words, with no idea of their import: "Ecce Homo! Behold the Man!" The stern, hard-hearted Roman is almost overcome with emotion; he is on the point of pronouncing a sentence of acquittal. The priests of the Sanhedrin, with eyes intently fixed on him, see this emotion, and are filled with terror in consequence; they feel that their prey is escaping them. Craftily they deliberate among themselves. After a few moments they raise their right hands, and, turning aside their heads with horrified gesture, exclaim in one voice: "He has made himself the Son of God!"
When Pilate heard that saying, says John, his fear increased. Fear of what? What meaning had this for the unbelieving Roman, who heartily despised both the Jews and their religion, and believed in none other than Cæsar, and the political religion of Rome? There is a serious reason for this. Although different meanings were given to it, the expression "Son of God" was tolerably well known in ancient esoterism, and Pilate, although sceptical, was not altogether free from superstition. At Rome, in the Minor Mysteries of Mithras, in which Roman knights became initiated, he had heard that a Son of God was a kind of interpreter of divinity. To whatever nation or religion he belonged, an attempt on his life was a great crime. Pilate had little faith in these Persian reveries, but the name troubled him nevertheless,
and increased his embarrassment. Seeing this, the Jews fling at the proconsul the final accusation: "If thou settest free this man, thou art no friend of Cæsar's; whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Cæsar. We have no king but Cæsar." Irresistible argument; denying God is of little import, but conspiring against Cæsar is the crime of crimes. Pilate is obliged to give way and pronounce sentence of condemnation. Thus, at the end of his public career Jesus finds himself face to face with the master of the world, against whom hean occult opponenthas fought indirectly all his life. The shadow of Cæsar sends him to the cross! Profound is the logic of events; the Jews have delivered him up to judgment, but it is the Roman specter which stretches out its hand to kill. The body indeed is destroyed, but it is he, the glorified Christ, whose martyrdom will forever deprive Cæsar of the aureole he has usurped, the divine apotheosis, the infernal blasphemy of absolute power.
. . . . .
Pilate, after washing his hands of the blood of the innocent Jesus, now utters the terrible words: Condemno, ibis in crucem; and the impatient mob hurries away in the direction of Golgotha.
Following them, we find ourselves on the barren heights overlooking Jerusalem, and bearing the name of Gilgal, Golgotha, or place of skulls: a sinister desert covered with human bones, for centuries the scene of horrible punishments. Not a tree can be seen, the ground seems to bristle with gibbets. It is here that Alexander Janneus had come with his whole harem to witness the execution of hundreds of prisoners; here that Varus had crucified two thousand rebels and now
the gentle Messiah, whose coming had been foretold by the prophets, was on this same spot to undergo the terrible death penalty, invented by the atrocious genius of the Phoenicians, and adopted by the implacable law of Rome. The cohort of the legionaries has formed a mighty circle on the top of the hill; they drive away with their lances the few followers who remained faithful to the condemned Christ. These are Galilean women, mute with despair, who fling themselves on the ground before the cross. The final hour has come; the defender of the poor, the feeble and the oppressed, must finish his task in that state of abject martyrdom reserved for slaves and robbers. The prophet, consecrated by the Essenes, must allow himself to be nailed to the cross he had accepted in the vision of Engaddi; the Son of God must drink of the chalice which had appeared to him in the Transfiguration, and must descend into the depths of hell and of all earthly horror. He has refused the traditional drink prepared by the pious women of Jerusalem, and which is intended to deaden the sufferings of the crucified victims. In fullest consciousness will he suffer the agony of death. Bound to the cruel gibbet, as the stern, hard-hearted soldiers with mighty hammer-blows drive the nails into those feet, the object of such passionate reverence, and through those hands never raised except in blessing, a dull mist of horrible pain closes his eyes and chokes his throat. Still, amid such convulsions of pain and infernal anguish, the Savior pleads for his executioners: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Now the cup is being drained to its dregs; the death-agony lasts from noon to sunset. Moral is added to physical torture, which it surpasses in malignity. The
initiate has abdicated his powers, the Son of God is about to suffer eclipse; only the man of sorrows remains. For a few hours he will lose his heaven, to measure and fathom the depths of the abyss of human suffering. There stands the cross with its victim, and the superscriptionthe proconsul's final shaft of irony"This is the King of Jews!" As through a mist of anguish, the crucified one sees the holy city Jerusalem he wished to glorify now hurling anathemas against him. Where are his disciples? They have disappeared in all directions. He hears nothing but the insults of the members of the Sanhedrim, who, imagining that the prophet is no longer to be feared, exult with joy at his death-struggles. "He saved others," they say; "himself he cannot save!" Through such perverse blasphemies Jesus sees, in terrifying prophetic vision, all the crimes that unjust potentates and fanatical priests are to commit in his name. With his own sign will they pronounce maledictions, and with his own cross will they crucify. It is not the gloomy silence of the heavens veiled against him, but rather the light, lost to humanity, which tears from him the despairing wail: "Father, why hast thou forsaken me?" Then, in one final burst, there springs forth from his soul the cry, "It is finished!"
Sublime Nazarene, divine Son of Man, even now is the victory thine. Doubtless thy soul has once again found, in light more dazzling than before, the heaven of Engaddi and Mount Tabor! Down through the ages hast thou seen thy word fleeting victorious, and no other glory hast thou desired than the uplifted hands and eyes of those thou hast healed and comforted. Even now a shudder of dread comes over thy torturers, as they listen to thy, final words so full of meaning hut which
they do not understand. The Roman soldiers have turned their gaze at the strange radiance thy spirit has left on the tranquil countenance of this corpse, while thy slayers look at one another in wonder and say: "Could this have been a God?"
. . . . .
Is the drama really finished? The silent though formidable strife now at an end, the struggle between divine Love and Death which has united with the reigning powers of earth to overwhelm him, at last closed? Where is the victor? Does triumph remain with those self-satisfied priests as they descend from Calvary well pleased with their deed, for they have seen the prophet breathe his last, or with this pale crucified Christ, already livid in death? For these faithful, weeping women. whom the Roman legionaries have permitted to approach the foot of the cross, as well as for the terror-stricken disciples who have taken refuge in the grotto of Jehoshaphat, all is indeed at an end. The Messiah, who was to he enthroned at Jerusalem, has died an infamous death on the cross. The master has disappeared, and with him hope, the Gospel, the Kingdom of Heaven itself. A gloomy silence of deep despair hangs over the small community. Even Peter and John are overwhelmed with grief. Darkness is all around; not a single ray illumines their souls. And yet, just as in the Eleusinian mysteries, profound darkness is followed by a dazzling light, so, in the Gospels, this deep despair is succeeded by a sudden miraculous joy which bursts forth like a beam of light at sunrise, and the joyful cry resounds throughout Judæa: "He is risen again!"
Mary Magdalene, wandering near the tomb in the excess of her grief, was the first to see the master, and
to recognize him by his voice as he uttered her name, Mary! Overcome with joy, she threw herself at his feet. Again she saw Jesus look at her, and wave his hand as though to prevent her touching him; then the apparition suddenly vanished, leaving around the Magdalene an atmosphere of warmth and the delight of a real presence. Afterwards the holy women met the Lord, who said to them: "Go and tell my brethren to proceed to Galilee, there they shall see me." That same evening, as the eleven were met in private, they saw Jesus enter the room. He took a seat in their midst, and gently reproached them for their unbelief. Then he said: "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." They listened to him as in a dream, for they seemed to have completely forgotten his death, and were persuaded that the Master would not again leave them. However, just as they were about to speak, they saw him disappear from their midst like a vanishing light. The echo of his voice still vibrated in their ears. The apostles, amazed, sought the spot where he had been; there still lingered a vague light, which quickly disappeared. According to Matthew and Mark, Jesus appeared once more on a mountain to five hundred of the brethren assembled by the apostles. He also showed himself again to the eleven, after which the apparitions ceased. Faith, however, had been created, the first impulse given, and Christianity was a living force. The apostles, filled with the sacred fire, went about healing the sick and preaching their Master's gospel. Three years afterwards, a young Pharisee, named Saul, animated by violent hatred against the new religion, whose defenders he persecuted with all the vigor of youth, journeyed to Damascus, accompanied by several companions.
On the way he saw himself suddenly enveloped in so dazzling a flame of fire that he fell to the earth. Trembling, he exclaimed: "Who art thou?" A voice replied: "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest; it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." Saul's terrified companions raised him to his feet. They had heard the voice though they had seen nothing. The young man, blinded by the flash, recovered his sight only three days afterwards.
Converted to the faith of Christ, he became Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles. On this one point is the whole world agreed, that but for Saul's conversion Christianity, confined as it was to Judæa, would never have conquered the Western world.
Such are the facts as related in the New Testament. Whatever efforts be made to reduce their results to a minimum, and whatever be the religious or philosophical idea attached to them, they cannot be regarded as legends, pure and simple, and refused the value of authentic testimony on all points essential. For eighteen centuries the waves of doubt and denial have assailed the rock of this testimony; for a hundred years the weapons of criticism have been directed against it. Breaches have been effected in places, but its position remains steadfast. What is there behind the visions of the apostles? Elementary theologians, interpreters of the letter, and agnostic savants may dispute for ever; they will never convert one another, and their reasonings will be in vain, so long as Theosophy, the science of the Spirit, has not enlarged their conceptions, and a superior experimental psychology, the art of laying bare the soul, left their eyes unopened. But from the standpoint of the conscientious historian, i. e., the authenticity
of these facts as psychical actualities, there is one point on which doubt is impossible; that the apostles had these apparitions, and that it was impossible to shake their faith in the resurrection of the Christ. If John's account be rejected on the ground of having received its definite compilation about a hundred years after the death of Jesus, and also Luke's account of the Christ's appearance to the disciples at Emmaus as a mere poetical amplification, there still remain the simple and positive affirmations of Matthew and Mark, which lie at the very root of the Christian tradition and religion. And even more solid and indisputable is the testimony of Paul. Wishing to explain to the Corinthians the reason of his faith and the basis of the gospel he preaches, he enumerates in order six successive appearances of Jesus: those to Peter, to the eleven, to the five hundred, "most of whom," he says, "are still living"; to James, to the assembled apostles, and finally, his own vision on the way to Damascus. These facts were communicated to Paul by Peter himself, and by James, three years after the death of Jesus, just after Paul's conversion, at the time of his first journey to Jerusalem. Accordingly he received them from eye-witnesses. Finally, the most indisputable of all these visions is by no means the least extraordinary; I refer to that of Paul himself. He continually alludes to it in his Epistles as being the source of his faith. Given the former psychological condition of Paul and the nature of his vision, we see it is from without, not from within. Of an unexpected and terrifying character, it completely changes his whole being. Like a baptism of fire, it descends upon him, clothes him in a new and impenetrable armor, and establishes him in
the sight of the whole world as the invincible champion of the Christ.
Paul's testimony accordingly possesses a double authority, in so far as it confirms his own vision and corroborates those of the others. Whoever might feel inclined to doubt the sincerity of such affirmations would be obliged to reject en masse all historical testimony, and to renounce the writing of history. Note, too, that if critical history is incompatible with an exact weighing and well-thought-out selection of all the documents, philosophical history would also be impossible, if greatness of effects could not be referred back to greatness of causes. It would be possible with Celsus, Strauss, and M. Renan to refuse all objective value to the resurrection, and consider it as a phenomenon resulting from pure hallucination. If so, one is obliged to found the greatest religious revolution of humanity on an aberration of the senses and a mere delusion of the mind. 1 There can be no denying that faith in the resurrection is the basis of historical Christianity. But for this confirmation of Jesus teaching by a dazzling fact, his religion would not even have had a beginning.
This event effected a complete revolution in the souls of the apostles. In consequence of it their whole mental attitude, from being Judaic, became Christian. The Christ is living in glory, he has spoken to them. The heavens have opened; the life beyond has entered into the life within, the dawn of immortality has touched them and kindled their souls with a fire which nothing
can extinguish. Above Israel's tottering earthly kingdom they have caught a glimpse of the world-wide heavenly kingdom in all its glory. Hence their eagerness for the strife, their joy in martyrdom. Jesus resurrection gives birth to this mighty impulse and hope which carries the gospel to all nations and the good tidings to the utmost limits of earth. For the success of Christianity two things were necessary, as Fabre dOlivet has said: that Jesus should be willing to die, and that he should have the power to rise again.
To form a rational idea of the fact of the resurrection, and understand its religious and philosophical bearing, one must consider only the phenomenon of the successive appearances, and, from the very outset, remove from one's mind the absurd idea of the resurrection of the body, one of the greatest stumbling-blocks of Christian dogma, which, in this particular as in many others, has remained at quite a childish and rudimentary stage. The disappearance of Jesus body can be explained by natural causes, and it is worthy of note that the bodies of several great adepts have disappeared quite as mysteriously and without leaving the slightest trace. It has never been discovered what became of the bodies of Moses, Pythagoras, and Apollonius of Tyana. Possibly the brothers. known or unknown, who kept watch over them, destroyed by fire their master's body, to prevent pollution at the hands of enemies. In any case, it is only when regarded from the esoteric point of view that the scientific aspect and spiritual grandeur of the resurrection really appear.
By Egyptians as by Persians, of the religion of Zoroaster, both before and after Jesus, by Israelites and by Christians of the first and second centuries, the resurrection has been interpreted in two ways, the one material
and absurd, the other spiritual and theosophical. The first is the popular idea, finally adopted by the Church after the repression of gnosticism; the second is the profound idea of the initiates. According to the first view, the resurrection signifies the return to life of the material body; in a word, the reconstitution of the decomposed or dispersed corpse, so it was imagined, was destined to take place at the coming of the Messiah, or at the Last Judgment. It is useless to insist on the gross materialism and absurdity of this conception. To the initiate the resurrection has a far different meaning. It refers to the doctrine of the ternary constitution of man. It signifies the purification and regeneration of the sidereal, ethereal, and fluidic body, which is the very organism of the soul. This purification may take place commencing from the present life, through the inner work of the soul, and a certain method of existence; although, for the generality of mankind, it finds accomplishment only after death, and then for those only who, in one way or another, have aspired towards justice and truth. In the other world hypocrisy is impossible. There souls appear as they are in reality, they fatally manifest themselves under the form and color of their essence dark and hideous if they are evil; radiant and beautiful if they are good. Such is the doctrine given by Paul in the Epistle to the Corinthians, where he formally says: "There is an animal body and there is a spiritual body." 1 Jesus states this symbolically but with greater profundity for those who can read between the lines in the secret conversation with Nicodemus. Now, the more a soul is spiritualized, the farther will it be from the earthly atmosphere; the farther away the cosmic region which
attracts it by the law of affinity, the more difficult its manifestation to men.
Accordingly, superior souls seldom manifest themselves to man, except in a state of ecstacy or profound slumber. Then, the physical eyes being closed, the soul, half detached from the body, itself sees souls at times. Nevertheless, it sometimes happens that a mighty prophet, a veritable son of God, manifests himself to his own in the waking state of consciousness, the better to persuade them by a striking appeal to sense and imagination. In such instances the disincarnated soul succeeds in momentarily giving its spiritual body a visible, sometimes even a tangible appearance, by means of the special dynamism exercised by spirit over matter, through the intermediary of the electrical forces of the atmosphere and the magnetic forces of living bodies.
Apparently this is what happened in the case of Jesus. The appearances related in the New Testament may be placed in one or the other, alternately, of these two categoriesspiritual vision and sense apparition. What is certain is that they possessed for the apostles the character of supreme reality. They would rather have doubted the existence of heaven and earth than their living communion with the resurrected Christ; for these soul-stirring appearances formed the brightest events in their lives, the profoundest truth of which they were conscious. There is nothing supernatural in them, though there is an unknown element in Nature, its occult continuation into the Infinite, the flashes of the invisible on the confines of the visible. In our present corporeal state we can scarcely believe or even conceive of the reality of the impalpable; in the spiritual state, it is matter which will appear to us the unreal and non-existent.
[paragraph continues] In the Spirit is found the synthesis of soul and matter, two phases of the one substance. Reverting to eternal principles and final causes, it is the innate laws of intelligence which explain the dynamism of nature, as it is the study of the soul, by experimental psychology which explains the laws of life.
Consequently the resurrection, esoterically understood as I have just pointed out, was at once the necessary conclusion of the life of Jesus and the indispensable preface to the historical evolution of Christianitynecessary conclusion, for Jesus had on several occasions announced it to his disciples. The power of appearing to them in triumphant glory after his death was due to the purity and innate force of his soul, increased a hundredfold by the grandeur of the effort and of the accomplished work.
Regarded from without, and from an earthly point of view, the Messianic drama ends on the cross. Though sublime in itself, there is yet lacking the fulfilment of the promise. Regarded from within, from the inmost consciousness of the Christ, and from the heavenly point of view, the drama contains three acts, whose summits are marked by the Temptation, the Transfiguration, and the Resurrection. These three phases represent in other terms, the Initiation of the Christ, the total Revelation, and the Crowning of the work. They correspond to what the apostles and the Christian initiates of the first centuries called the Mysteries of the Father, of the Son. and of the Holy Ghost.
A necessary crowning, as I have said. of the life of the Christ, and an indispensable preface to the historical evolution of Christianity. The ship, built on the beach, needed to be launched on the ocean. The resurrection was, in addition, as a flood of light thrown on the whole
esoteric life of Jesus. We have no occasion for astonishment at finding that the early Christians were, so to speak, dazzled and blinded by the wonderful event, that they often gave a literal interpretation to the Master's teaching, and mistook the meaning of his words. But in these days, now that the human spirit has traversed ages, religions, and sciences, we can divine what a Saint Paul, a Saint John, what Jesus himself understood by the mysteries of the Father and of the Spirit. We see that they contained the very highest and truest elements of the psychical science and theosophic intuition of the East. We also see the power of renewed expansion given by the Christ to the ancient eternal truth by the grandeur of his love and the energy of his will. Finally, we see the metaphysical and practical side of Christianity, the cause of its power and vitality.
The old theosophists of Asia were acquainted with transcendent truths. The Brahmans even found the key to the past and future life by formulating the organic law of reincarnation and the alternation of lives. In entering the life beyond, however, and contemplating Eternity, they forgot terrestrial realization, individual and social life. Greece, at first initiated into the same truths under more veiled and anthropomorphic forms, became attached by its very genius to the natural terrestrial life. This enabled it to reveal the immortal laws of Beauty, and to formulate the principles of the sciences of observation. From this point of view, its conception of the life beyond gradually diminished and darkened. Jesus, in his breadth and universality, embraces both sides of life. In the Lord's prayer, which sums up his teaching, he says: "Thy kingdom come on earth as in heaven." Now the kingdom of the divine on earth signifies the fulfilment
of the moral and social law in all its richness, in all the glory of the Beautiful, the Good, and the True. Thus the magic of his doctrine, hisin a senseunlimited power of development, dwell in the unity of his moral and metaphysical aspects, his ardent faith in the life eternal, and the necessity he felt of beginning it in the world by a life of action and love. The Christ says to the soul, cast down by earthly trouble: "Rise; heaven is thy fatherland; still, in order to believe this and to attain thereto, prove it here below by deeds of love."
91:1 Matthew xxiv. 2.
94:1 Luke xxi. 34.
94:2 Matthew xxiv. 44.
94:3 Matthew xxiv. 4-34.
94:4 Isaiah lxvi. 18, &c.
95:1 John xiv. 16-17.
95:2 Matthew xxiv. 27.
95:3 Matthew xxiv. 30, 31.
99:1 Luke xxii. 15, 16.
99:2 Luke xxii. 19.
114:1 Strauss says: "The fact of the resurrection is explicable only as 'ein welthistorischer humbug.'" The expression is rather cynical than witty, and does not explain the visions of the apostles and of Paul.
116:1 1 Cor. xv. 39-46.