Who is this King of Glory? – A Critical Study of the Christos-Messiah Tradition
Alvin Boyd Kuhn
“What profit hath not that fable of Christ brought us!” (Pope Leo X)
The pick that struck the Rosetta Stone in the loamy soil of the Nile delta in 1796 also struck a mighty blow at historical Christianity. For it released the voice of a long-voiceless past to refute nearly every one of Christianity’s historical claims with a withering negative. The cryptic literature of old Egypt, sealed in silence when Christianity took its rise, but haunting it like a taunting specter after the third century, now stalks forth like a living ghost out of the tomb to point its long finger of accusation at a faith that has too long thriven on falsity. For that literature now rises out of oblivion to proclaim the true source of every doctrine of Christianity as Egyptian, the product and heritage of a remote past. The translation of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Pyramid Texts, and the Book of Thoth lays on the table the irrefutable data which show that, far from being the first gleam of true light in a world previously benighted in heathenism, Christianity was but a poor and crippled orphan, appearing – after the third century – without evidence of its true parentage and sadly belying in its outward form the semblance of its real ancestral lineage. The books of old Egypt now unroll the sagas of wisdom which announce the inexorable truth that not a single doctrine, rite, tenet or usage in Christianity was a new contribution to world religion, but that every article and practice of that faith was a disfigured copy of ancient Egyptian systematism. Christianity, it proclaims, not only did not register a single advance in any line of wisdom or truth, but deplorably vitiated and disfigured the beautiful structure of religion which it ignorantly adopted and so wretchedly purveyed as its own alleged new creation. The shadow that pursued the faith with the semblance of outward similarity for sixteen centuries, now resolves into the substance of veridical proof of original identity. The entire body of Christian doctrinism is now seen to be nothing but revamped and terribly mutilated Egyptianism. Through the chance stroke of a trench-digger’s pick Christianity is brought to book to face its Nemesis. The heathen parentage that it strove so desperately to deny and the marks of which it so sedulously endeavored to obliterate in the early centuries now rises from the dead past to charge its ungenerous offspring with faithlessness and deceit. And Christianity, as Edward Carpenter so frankly asserts, must now acknowledge its parentage in a pagan past or, failing to do so, must perish.
The entire Christian Bible, creation legend, descent into and exodus from “Egypt,” ark and flood allegory, Israelite “history,” Hebrew prophecy and poetry, Gospels, Epistles and Revelation imagery, all are now proven to have been the transmission of ancient Egypt’s scrolls and papyri into the hands of later generations which knew neither their true origin nor their fathomless meaning. Long after Egypt’s voice, expressed through the inscribed hieroglyphics, was hushed in silence, the perpetuated relics of Hamitic wisdom, with their cryptic message utterly lost, were brought forth and presented to the world by parties of ignorant zealots as a new body of truth. The only new thing about it was the pitiable exegesis that inspired and accompanied the reissuance. But the sheer fact that even amid the murks of ignorance and superstition the mere ghost, shell, husk and shadow of Egypt’s wisdom inspired religious piety to extremes of faith and zealotry is singular attestation of its original power and majesty. Only by acknowledging and regaining its parenthood in that sublime pagan source will Christianity rise at last to its true nobility and splendor.
There can be no question of this necessity on its part. Almost alone one significant item enforces it. From the scrolls of papyri five thousand to ten thousand years old there comes stalking forth to view the whole story of an Egyptian Jesus raising from the dead an Egyptian Lazarus at an Egyptian Bethany, with two Egyptian Maries present, the non-historical prototype of the incident related (only) in John’s Gospel. From the walls of the temple of Luxor, carved there at a date at least 1700 years B.C., there faces Christianity a group of four scenes that spell the non-historicity of four episodes purveyed as history in the Gospel’s recital of the Christ nativity: the angel’s pronouncement to the shepherds tending their flocks by night in the fields; the annunciation of the angel to the virgin; the adoration of the infant by three Magi; and the nativity scene itself. Egypt had used the symbol of a star rising in the east as the portent of coming deity for millennia anterior to the Christian era. Egypt had knelt at the shrine of the Madonna and child, Isis and Horus, for long centuries before a historical Mary lifted a historical Jesus in her arms. Egypt had from remote times adored a Christ who had raised the dead and healed the lame, halt, blind, paralytic, leprous and all afflicted, who had restored speech to the dumb, exorcized demons from the possessed, dispersed his enemies with a word or look, wrestled with his Satan adversary, overcome all temptation and performed the works of his heavenly Father to the victorious end. Egypt had long known a Jesus, Iusa, who had been born amid celestial portents of an immaculate parenthood, circumcised, baptized, tempted, glorified on the mount, persecuted, arrested, tried, condemned, crucified, buried, resurrected and elevated to heaven. Egypt had listened to the Sermon on the Mount and the Sayings of Iusa for ages. Egypt had known a Jesus who long antedated the Gospel Messiah and who presents to the student some one hundred and eighty items of identity, similarity and correspondence in word, deed and function with his later copy.
But Egypt’s Christ was not a living person. It would have been equally fatal to Christianity if he had been. But the fact of his non-historicity rises now out of the past that Christianity thought it had sealed in oblivion forever, to strike the death-knell of a false and spurious religion. The Gospels’ “life” of Jesus turns out to be nothing but the garbled and fragmentary copy of an Egyptian prototype who never lived, but was a purely typal dramatic figure, portraying the divinity in man. With this one revelation of lost truth the structure of historical Christianity topples to the ground. It must be replaced by a purely spiritual Christianity. In the splendid light of ancient Egypt Occidental religion can now find its way from Medieval darkness to sunlit truth. The Dark Ages can be brought to their dismal end at last.
The ineptitude of scholarly acumen in the face of the mountainous evidence supplied by the study of comparative religion, especially since the recovery of Chaldean and Egyptian antiquities, surpasses all belief and flouts all conscience. It has been exhibited on so colossal a scale, with consequences of the direst nature, that the question whether ignorance or deliberate chicanery engineered the total suppression of truth that has glared its overwhelming obviousness in the face of studentship, inevitably rises to the foreground of thought. It must be assumed that both ignorance and disingenuousness combined to produce the catastrophic result. A thousand big and little items of comparative religion, many of them sufficient in their single weight to clinch decisive determinations fatal to Christian claims, conspire to erect a positively impregnable fortress of proof of Christian errancy. This mass of data has been blithely ignored, brazenly flouted, or damned with slighting notice, by the ecclesiastical regime which would lose its easy hold on the masses by honest recognition of the truth.
The lesson of European Renaissance history has not been assimilated in its full import. Christian Europe, groping in early Medieval darkness for centuries following the violent extinction of Platonic Academies and schools of esoteric philosophy and religion, regained a portion of the lost light in the fourteenth century when re-established contact with Greek literature brought to light the long-buried works of classic Hellenic wisdom. This recouping of cultural status went far to illuminate the night of Christian gloom. But it can be seen now that it did not go far or deep enough to effect a complete restoration of the full glory of ancient intellectual brilliance. Greece had much to offer to a Europe blinded by theological obscurantism. But its gift was a secondary and derived product, not the original and genuine treasure. That had been lost in the silence of Egypt’s desert expanses. Now, in the fullness of time, the Occident is destined to enjoy its final Renaissance to the full heritage of ancient culture. Once again Christian Europe will experience a “Revival of Learning,” as the lingering smudge of Medieval obfuscation is wafted away by the pure breath of a recovered Eastern civilization. This time it is Egypt, whose hidden wisdom is released by the finding of the Rosetta Stone, that will enlighten the last areas of Medieval nescience.
The primary truth of human culture which is presented by all sage religions of antiquity is the fact that there resides deeply embedded in the core of man’s constitution a nucleus of what, for want of a better designation, must be called a divine spark or sun. The glow of Christliness – a thing at once both chemically radio-active and intellectual – in us is indeed the hope of our glory. Modern science, through the work of Dr. George W. Crile, late head of the Cleveland Medical laboratories, has rediscovered what the ancient sages were familiar with – the radiant SUN in man. “Every man,” proclaimed the ancients and the Medieval “Fire Philosophers,” “has a little SUN within his own breast.” This sun is the Christ in man, a nucleus of fiery divine spirit-energy. All the Christs in antiquity were denominated “Sun-Gods.” The names of nearly all of them are the immediate words for the sun, or epithets appropriate to the solar orb. “All things are the products of one primordial Fire,” assert the Chaldean Oracles. Life nucleates glowing centers of this fire throughout the universe in the radiant cells of its physical body, which are the suns. Every creature that his life shares a portion of this pervasive fire, which is the rock of its hope for evolution to its greater glory. St. Paul avers that Christ – in man – is the Rock. And so ancient drama represented the Christ figure himself as saying to Peter, whose name means “Rock” in Greek, “Thou art Peter and on this Rock will I build my church.” There is no other enduring Rock in man’s life on which the assembly of deified mortals – the church – could be founded. And obviously the community of Christified beings could not be established on any spiritual Rock external to man’s own immanent subjectivity.
The rock of human culture thus being established as a fiery power within man’s own breast, Christianity becomes chargeable with the most opprobrious of all possible accusations. It can be indicted for the crime of being the only religion that in large measure destroyed the force of man’s inspiration and incentive to cultivate this divine solar light within his own bosom. It did this by diverting the direction of its followers’ effort from the inner self-culture of a purely subjective consciousness to the worship of the Christ as embodied in one man in history. Granted that there is a powerful and effective psychology in the adoration of an ideal model of perfection, the main issue here involved can never be dodged. No matter how emotionally, how fanatically the worshipper pours out adoration to a person in objective life, the work of his own evolution is not accomplished until he effectuates the ultimate divinization of the nuclear potentiality of deific fire within his own self-controlled area of consciousness.
The balanced forces of human uplift would be thrown into immediate chaos if it were in the end possible for a man to achieve his apotheosization vicariously, or in any other way than through his own effort. By virtue of the fact that man was provided from the start with the presence of a unit of divine fire within the heart of his conscious being, he was adequately equipped to fight his own way to the goal of glory. The only treason of which religious devotion could become capable was the setting up of a fetish outside the life of consciousness, which would divert a single iota of resolute will from the culture of the resident deity. Christianity is the only religion in the civilized world that has perpetuated this treason. The point is inexorably established by logical thought as well as demonstrated by the historical sequel. The matter is beyond debate. By so much as the exaltation of a personal Jesus has beguiled human devotion away from the inner direction in the individual’s task of perfecting his own innate divinity, by precisely that much has the outer presentation weakened the strength of mortal struggle to the light. It is psychological, but it is mathematically measurable. The amount measured is the item that ends all argument. If the worship of a Judean carpenter has taken any time and absorbed any psychic effort that could have been expended in the culture of divine graciousness within the heart of humanity, it has by so much held back the evolution of the race.
Christianity has taught its adherents, so to say, to play around the fringes of the cultural problem instead of bearing with all their psychic force directly upon its heart. It has hypnotized their devotional mentality under the spell of a promise of vicariousness which is itself subtly conducive to the weakening of the native nobility of man’s true selfhood. It has made of its millions – what Nietzsche so thoroughly detested – groveling beggars, reveling in the turpitude of sin-confession and praying for God to have mercy on their unworthiness. It has made them wretches pleading piteously to be saved. How it has ever been assumed that a God of good sense would enjoy seeing his creatures, whom he has himself divinely endowed with a portion of his own Mind, writhing in worm-of-the-dust sycophancy at his feet, is beyond rational understanding. It is naturally to be presumed that he would take far greater delight in seeing them standing up in the might of their incipient divinity and making a fight of it. The morbid cast of mentation generated in millions of Christians over sixteen centuries by the doctrinal falsification of the esoteric meaning of “sin” is perhaps the most lamentable spectacle presented to the world in all time. That a religion could so far lose touch with sober sanity as to expect that it could exalt and edify man’s spirit by grinding it down into the dust is evidence at once of its complete divagation from basic sound truth.
It is a grave question whether the ecclesiastical system and movement known as Christianity has any right to its name. So far from being the cult that brought in a true Christ-worship for the first time in “heathen” darkness, it was indeed – after the third century – the one system that destroyed such a true worship. Ancient cults bent all effort upon the cultivation of the god within man. This is the nucleus of the only true Christianity. In its genuine sense there has been no Christianity in the Occident since that fatal third century. Historical Christianity has substituted a personal fetish for the real Christos, the inner Fire of Love. No matter how appealing the figure substituted, it never can do the work of actual soul culture. And history has sealed this verdict. It is almost certainly true that in no quarter of human life has history so obviously and glaringly demonstrated the want of mankind’s reliance upon the god instinct in the heart of the nations as has been evidenced by the horrifying spectacle of inhumanity and animal savagery put on display by the so-called Christianized nations. Christianity has never led the fight for culture. On the contrary, it has hung like a drag-wheel on the car of real cultural and scientific advance for many centuries. It has struck at every pioneer in the progress of true culture. Its highest practical aim has rather been to maintain an average level of decency in traditional forms of social life. Much incidental good of course has emerged from an effort to which millions of good people, in more or less ignorance of historic truth, have consecrated their life’s devotion. But never has it been the single aim and objective of the Christian ecclesiastical system to ground the aspirational life of its devotees upon the one-pointed quickening of the Christ within all hearts.
A fairly considerable number of books have been written to defend the thesis of the non-historicity of Jesus, George Brandes’ Jesus a Myth being a typical example. All of them have advanced data of weight and validity. But none of them has presented the real argument in the case. This springs from the material now available from ancient Egypt’s fount of sage sapiency. From a hoary civilization comes the literature that ends all debate by offering the incontrovertible evidence that the Gospels are not and never were histories. They are now proven to have been cryptic dramas of the spiritual evolution of humanity and of the history of the human soul in its earthly tabernacle of flesh. The thesis, universally held by Christian theologians, that these Gospel books were “written” after Jesus lived and from the eye-witness record of his objective “life,” must yield place to the knowledge that they first appeared in the second century, having long been held in the secret background of esoteric religionism. The allegation that the publication of the Gospels can not be explained or accounted for unless a great Teacher had lived whose life inspired their writing, must give way before the understanding that their appearance was due to the breakdown of esotericism, or the violent popular incursion into the secrecy of esoteric polity, and the dragging forth of the arcane books and the dramas of the occult spiritual life from the Mystery holy of holies.
A noted present-day clergyman in New York City, the eminent Dr. John Haynes Holmes, has declared in a printed sermon – Christianity’s Debt to Judaism; Why Not Acknowledge It? – that Christianity drew its Founder from the Jewish people, along with five-sixths of its Bible, the Hebrew Old Testament, as well as everything that the character Jesus has spoken in the New Testament. Practically every word uttered by the Christ figure in the Gospels is to be found in the Mishna, the Gemara, the Talmud and the Hagadoth of the Jews, he asserted. But what now must be the astonishment of the eminent minister to be confronted with the mountainous evidence that all the material of both Christian and Hebrew systems has emanated from ancient Egypt’s crypts of secret wisdom! Truly the Rosetta Stone is to be the Nemesis of a falsity that has shrouded religion in gloom and obscurity and shot it through with insincerity and dishonesty for some twenty-four centuries.
It is a sign of the aberration in religious thinking now prevailing that the presentation of the case for the non-historic Christ will run afoul of many persons of general probity who, even when measurably convinced that the Jesus story is a fable, as Pope Leo X so glibly asserted, will still adhere to the persuasion that it is better to suppress the bald and revolutionary truth and prolong the “beautiful illusion” of the Christ’s personal existence. The original perpetration and now the perpetuation of blank falsehood concerning the fact of Jesus’ existence is argued to be morally justifiable, even highly good, on the ground that it has wrought a prodigious psychological and moral beneficence. But this is, at bottom, to argue that Christianity can be better promoted by a lie than by the truth. We are adjured by the holy scriptures of that same faith that our only freedom comes from knowing the truth. While the world is hoping and planning to establish the better course of its life upon four fundamental freedoms, it might be well to remind ourselves that in a democracy there is a fifth freedom upon which the salutary influences of the four and all other freedoms are dependent and contingent, and that is the freedom of all to be put in possession of the truth, to the farthest limit of its availability. In minor situations it often appears both judicious and beneficent to withhold the truth. But the justification is always secondary to larger objectives and temporary. Every situation must ultimately be resolved by a facing of the truth. Final issues ever demand that life be met on its own terms. The extensive concealment of historical truth at once argues something unlovely and sinister. A great world faith, soliciting the loyalty of millions, could offer no surer evidence of its integrity than an unbroken record of instant eagerness to examine and accept every sincere presentment of the truth. This work is given forth with no other motive than to present the available evidence beating upon an issue of transcendent importance. In the hurly-burly of human affairs truth is not always welcome or pleasant. That is understandable. But far more vital is the understanding that it must be faced. Our attitude toward truth-seeking is one of the supreme tests of our worthiness to take on the responsibilities and enjoy the liberties of a democracy.
Lest it be assumed that the author’s implied charges of dishonesty in Christian leadership spring from a personal animosity against Christianity, he takes the liberty to insert here a few sentences taken from a brief article in The New York Times of present date (Nov. 29, 1943) reported from a sermon of the Rev. Bernard Iddings Bell, eminent Episcopalian clergyman, preached in St. Paul’s Chapel of Columbia University on Nov. 28. By inference Dr. Bell charges the Church with dishonesty, and nobody believes that he does it from “spleen.” He said that present-day civilization “needs above all things a restored humility and a renewed honesty in two high places – the universities and the churches.” “From kindergarten to the Ph.D. degree,” he added, “our educators help their students to run away from ultimate decisions. . . . The universities have become resorts for the pursuit of instrumental tricks rather than of fundamental and immutable truth. And then our educators, having abdicated from their ancient and honorable post as keepers of the sanctities of truth, cry out in their pride their all-sufficient greatness.
“The churches, too . . . make of themselves pious clubs, daring not to rebuke the brazen multitudes for fear of loss of membership and money; and having sunk to the low estate of men pleasers, insist they hold the future of mankind in their proud hands.”
The sun of man can not be too long beclouded with the fogs of hypocrisy and bigotry. Its mighty power will dispel them in due season. A new day of its shining arises with the accidental stroke of a soldier’s pick on a slab of stone.
FAITH WEDS FOLLY
To the conscientious student who will give to the matter sufficient time and reflection it becomes a conviction that the most devastating cultural calamity that has befallen the human race in all its history was the degradation of the esoteric spiritual purport of ancient scripture into a debased literal and historical sense, entailing centuries of mental benightedness and spiritual thwarting, that took place at about the third century of the Christian era. And in this catastrophic conversion of cosmography, evolutionary pictography and racial history over into alleged factual occurrence, the single feature most signally fruitful of age-long fatuity was the transformation of the dramatic figure of the Christos, or divine essence of man’s nature, over into a historical person. It is not too much to say that the withering wind of this distorted doctrine spread its blight upon all sane comprehension of the sublime message of ancient sacred literature over all the sixteen centuries since that fatal epoch. Indeed the truth of the situation warrants the statement that the injection of a living man into the spiritual drama in the place of the personified divine Ego in man has held the rational mind of the Western world in the grip of the most arrant superstition to be found in the history of civilized humanity. This work will amass the data to support the sharp asseveration that this was the central item in the entire debacle of theological systematism which then ensued and which must be rated as the most tragic catastrophe in world history. The causes that led to the fatal transference of character from the dramatic personification of an element in human consciousness into an alleged man of historical entification will be the central theme of this essay. To what inadequate degree the iniquitous consequences of the blunder can be seen and delineated, these will be dealt with in the unfoldment. But the task involves little less than the penetrating analysis of all ancient sacred writ, and the amassing of a vast array of factual data and basic argument in support of the momentous conclusions adduced in the sequel. The power of tradition, and more especially religious tradition indoctrinated in the childhood of many generations, is so overwhelming that the effort of this work to clarify the status of the great doctrine of divine Messiahship in ancient scripture will almost certainly be received with the cry of blasphemy from the shocked partisans of orthodoxy. All the obloquy that has been concentrated in the word “Anti-Christ” will be flung upon the undertaking. For this reason it is desirable to state at the outset that, on the contrary, the task is motivated by the highest possible reverence for the Christ ideal as the core of all religious culture. So far from being an attempt to devastate the benignant efficacy of the role of the Christ in religious practique, it is expressly the aim of the study to establish that efficacy upon its true psychological bases. This purpose entails the revelation of the true in place of the false grounds of the claim of the Christ ideal upon our reverence. Instead of being a vicious attack upon the sanctified name and function of Christhood, it is directly an effort to redeem that name and function from centuries of impious desecration that should have been seen all along as the real grounds for horrified indignation. When rightly viewed in relation to all the facts in the case, it must be conceded that the justification for resentment at a real sacrilege against the Sonship of God weighs heavily on the side of the book, and is not on the side of the inevitable hue and cry of violent condemnation that will greet it. In the face of this anticipated raucous chorus of vilification of the book’s aim and intent there is hurled the forthright declaration that this is an utterly sincere and consecrated attempt to rescue the sacred name of the Christ from an ignominy already heaped upon it over long centuries. There is abundant warrant for asserting the righteous character of the motive on the ground of its aim to redeem the conception of Christhood from the incredible error and falsification that have befouled it for ages. As Socrates and Plato so thoroughly demonstrated by a masterly dialectic, the only source of evil in connection with anything is the failure to grasp its true status and function in a perfect balance between excess and deficiency. Nothing is good, say these two profound thinkers, unless its basic raison d’être is clearly apprehended and its use fulfilled in exactly balanced proportion. The record of historical frightfulness that has emerged into actuality over many centuries because of the unbelievable miscarriage of the first true conception of the character and office of the Messiah is overwhelming justification of a sincere effort to remold the mistaken view to its original truth and beauty. In final curt statement the high intent of this work is to end the sway of an entirely false and stultifying idea of the nature of the Christ and inaugurate the dominance of the only conception that truly honors it. The thesis, then, is to demonstrate that the Christ was a grade of distinctly divine consciousness that is coming gradually into rulership in humanity, and being this, it was nothing else. It was not a man.
Just as the conception of the Biblical Adam as man, generic, is a true envisagement of the meaning of the term and yields intelligible significance in exegesis of ancient scripts, but becomes both ridiculous and unintelligible when taken to mean “a man,” so with the Christos. The conception of the Christ as man in his divine genius, or the God in man, opens at once the whole of scripture to lucid and consistent intelligibility. It is indeed the “key” to any true grasp of the whole sense of that revered body of primeval literature. But the instant the concept is shifted from man divine to a divine man in an historical personage, dire confusion, entanglement in contradiction, ridiculous inconsistency and the eeriest “historical” nonsense are thrust into the structure. The concept of the Christos as the godly higher Self in man meets the tangled riddle of the exegesis of the Bibles with complete satisfaction of every intellectual demand, and no other concept does so. The concept of Christ as a man immediately afflicts the entire exegetical situation with hopeless sabotage. Used as the “key,” it jams the lock and opens nothing to the reasoning intelligence. But it does open something to the unreasoning psychic and emotional aptitudes of less intelligent folk: the hypnotic gullibility of religious piety and a pitiable slavery to religious superstition. And the quantity of the tragedy wrought in the world by the prevalence of these two psychological forces makes perhaps the most lugubrious chapter in human history.
The concept of the Christ as “a man,” who ate, drank, slept, walked and spoke as any mortal, is beyond any possibility of refutation the most fatuous ideation that ever found a place in the effort to rationalize human religious experience. No less has it been at the same time the most baneful influence in blocking the cultural enterprise of grasping the central power and fullest unction of that experience. Here again the truth of the situation runs in a direction exactly counter to that commonly believed. Pious orthodox opinion is wholly aligned to the idea that the historical Jesus is the most positive assurance of the individual Christian’s salvation and the active agent of its realization. This work ventures, doubtless for the first time in religious discussion, to fly directly in the face of that presumption with the claim that it is this very idea of the Christ as a historical person that has stood as the most concrete obstacle in the way of that salvation! The whole essay must be taken as the evidence advanced in support of that amazing reversal of all accepted belief. The basis of this strong contention will be the undeniable fact that the thesis of the historical Jesus has taken the mind and aspiration of all devotees outside themselves to an alleged man of Galilee, when the whole effort at spiritual growth and cultivation of our divinity must be focused within the depths of our own consciousness. It is no rank untruth to say that the cult of the historical Jesus has stood squarely between men and their immanent God and tended to keep them apart from each other. It has thwarted the culture of their own divinity. It would seem as if St. Paul wrote with this cogent realization in mind when he fairly shrieks at us: “Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is within you?” He is not a man outside yourselves; he is the God whom you keep buried so deeply in your own hearts and minds that you do not know he is there. It is a notable thing that august ancient spiritual science rightly regarded it as a sinful aberrancy for one to worship a power outside one’s self, or a deity lodged elsewhere than in the inner shrine of one’s selfhood. Medieval and modern blindness has reversed this direction of aspiration, and with calamitous consequences. Some sixteen centuries of spiritual benightedness have produced for historical record the pitiful and demoralizing spectacle of millions of misguided votaries turning outside themselves for salvation and pleading with an alleged personal figure on the stage of remote history to enter their lives and transform them into loveliness, all the while neglecting the voice of the only real Christos that ever existed, their own instinct for goodness, truth and love. It was a turn that almost alone proved sufficient to effect the total abortion of the Western world’s religious endeavor for a millennium and a half. It alone holds the legitimate answer to the insistent question, propounded in every epoch when gross barbarism rises to crush the nobility of spiritual culture: – why has religion failed to avert humanitarian catas- trophe? Failure in religion’s practical effort is certain to follow as long as a meaningless worship is paid out to the divinity alleged to be embodied in one single historical savior, while the principle of divine mind within the self is left totally uncultivated. Granting some psychological virtue to the adoration of a historical paragon, it is still admitted in all religious discussion that men can be saved in the end only by their own righteousness. No world savior was ever sent into the world to save men from the task of saving themselves. Ever memorable and oft quoted are the lines of Angelus Silesius, Medieval mystic:
Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born,
But not within thyself, thy soul shall be forlorn;
The cross on Golgotha thou lookest to in vain
Unless within thyself it be set up again.
If any actual vicarious atonement or salvation were possible, the whole purpose for which souls from the celestial empyrean migrate to earth to further their evolution would be thwarted. Each soul must become the dynamo and citadel of its own strength, or there would be inequity and chaos in the counsels of evolution. Life grants nothing to any unit of being that it has not earned. To do so would be to introduce favoritism and particularity into the universal economy. The importance of this argument merits a fuller consideration, and additional treatment of it will enter the study later on.
The enormous fatuity of the concept of humanity’s Savior as a man must be examined in the light of a more candid scrutiny than any to which it has heretofore been subjected. Indeed one of the bases of quarrel with it is the very fact of its having been accepted without either psychological or historical critique of a thoroughgoing kind. The closer and more keenly one brings reason and data to bear upon the matter the more clearly it is seen that the very vogue and sway of the idea has been made possible only through the almost total default of the rational faculty and its displacement by sheer unction of faith. It is perhaps the most notable example and instance of the power of the psychological elements of mystical pietism to override and paralyze the rational elements in religion. For at any time in many centuries it needed only a half minute’s cool and steady facing of the realities of the situation to bring to view in the sharpest of outlines the utter irrationality of the presupposition that the power able to redeem human weakness to godlike status could be embodied and expressed, wielded and effectuated to its grand purpose, in the person of a man. The sheer thought that the savior of mankind from evolutionary undevelopment to perfection could be a man, or a power, no matter how divine, lodged in the body of a man in history, is such an anomaly, so out of line with all known natural process, that merely to pose the idea to the mind and hold it steadfastly there in the light of all its ancillary implications, is to see it for what it is – an utterly baseless creation of distorted religious fantasy. Merely to face the thought that the whole evolutionary advance of mankind across the gulf of undeveloped capacities from animal through human to divine nature was alleged to be effectuated and instrumentalized by the forces embodied in a single man at a given date in history, is to see the notion in all the glaring baldness of its inherent absurdity. The human mind can readily enough envisage as a modus consonant with reality the elevation of humanity from brute to philosopher, from savagery to Christhood, through the injection from without or the regeneration from within of a light and power to change base selfishness to divine charity, and thus redeem the race. But it can contemplate this process as operative only through the sweep of an influence which pervades the mass of mankind, animating all hearts and enlightening all minds, after the natural analogy of a little leaven raising the whole lump. That is a methodology which the human mind can grasp and accredit as harmonious with veritude. But that this vast regeneration of the race should be implemented by and dependent upon the birth and existence of a single historic individual, even through the inspiration of his resplendent example, is a concept that grows more weird, crass and chimerical the longer it is held in the focus of thought. It has in fact held its grip upon millions of minds solely by virtue of the total dearth of intellectual candor and the mental paralysis induced by rabid elements of emotional religiosity. It can not for a moment bear the light of reason. It can live only in the dim twilight of intellectual stultification wherein the clear outlines of the rational problem can not be distinctly discerned.
There is indeed a natural revolt in the character of all normal men and women against the thought of their accepting salvation purchased for them by another, the more so if the price of the ransom is for the vicar pain and suffering. What person of wholesome instincts wants to be saved by the sacrifice and oblation of another free being? Who that has the slightest iota of moral integrity would wish to live under the obligation of indebtedness for his evolutionary redemption to the sacrifice of another? Mankind cherishes a natural sense of the moral turpitude of taking what one has not won. It introduces whim into the normal order wherein man looks confidently for the reign of law. It is repugnant to man’s inherent sense of right. Vicarious salvation was one of the items of theology that led Nietzsche to cry out his bitter denunciation of Christianity as “slave morality.” Not merely the superman, but any man worthy of the name wants to face life and nature on their own terms and with his own resources, and will hold in contempt the man or faith that accepts the boon of salvation in the spirit of a craven. The purchase of man’s redemption by the “shed blood of Christ,” in the literal sense in which it stands as a doctrine of Christianity, is indeed one of the heaviest marks of Christianity’s doctrinal degradation. (Happily it can be made rationally acceptable, as can all other doctrines, through a restoration of the true esoteric significance.) The learned Celsus in the third century tells us that Christianity appealed to and welcomed only the slaves of Roman tyranny, men and women of the most abject position. It was held in the lowest contempt by Pliny, Seneca, Tacitus, Suetonius and the more intelligent groups generally. It was rejected by all who were genuine enough to despise the self-confessed ignominy of letting a historical scapegoat bear the burden of achieving their karmic immunity. The gross teaching of an ersatz salvation of man, the race’s restoration to its lost Paradise by way of the nailing of a quivering body of human flesh on a wooden cross on a given day, has been an insuperable obstacle to the swallowing of the Christian epos by thinking people down the ages. Vicariousness on any grounds is an unnatural and bizarre methodology; but the vicarious salvation of the human race through the sacrifice of a person in history transcends in fatuity the crassest fetishism of any wild children of forest and sea isle. Nature nowhere authenticates such a procedure to rational comprehension. It has stood as the weirdest anomaly in rational effort, defying all plausible explanation or fitness, thwarting all sincere search for true light, and taxing even the blindest of pious faiths to accept it as an inscrutable mystery. All this irrational thesis was held for centuries in spite of the total dearth of any logical answer to the difficulties involved in the practical problem as to how the divinity historically embodied in one person could become and remain effectual for the evolutionary divinization of all the other children of humanity. Jesus might be in himself a mighty reservoir of divine essence, a veritable dynamo of godly unction. But how it was to be made available for all other men, how transferred from him to a distribution amongst all others, by what transmission wires or channels it was to pass from him into the lives of those “believing on him,” on what conditions it was to be received by some and denied to others, or what pleas, prayers, sacrifices or cajolery were necessary to draw it forth from him, – all these elements of the practical or factual operation of Jesus’ saving grace to deify all men have never had an answer. And they can never have a rational answer. The groundplan and framework of Christian theology has ever had an artificiality that has rendered it a weird and fantastic thing in all conscientious effort at rationale. The spectacle of an omnipotent creator of all the worlds setting a trap to catch his own creatures by tempting them to sin, then condemning them to eternal misery in consequence of their inevitable “fall,” and afterwards negotiating with them to appease his wrath on condition that his own Son, only begotten, consent to die in their stead, has stood for sixteen centuries as the rock foundation of that religion which shouts down all others with its vociferous claims to all-highest excellence among the faiths of earth. Through the force of the wholly unaccountable magnanimity of the man Christ in sacrificing himself to save a reprobate humanity, the minds of the countless millions of Christian devotees over the centuries since his “death” may have been, as the hymn sings, Lost in wonder, love and praise.
But it is even more certain that they have been hopelessly lost in total incomprehension. Forced to swallow it by the overwhelming combination of ecclesiastical authority and unreasoning faith, they have yet been nearly choked by its unpalatability.
It is probably the opinion of millions of votaries of the atoning blood of Christ the man, that his saving grace has been made accessible to them, distributed to them, by his still-living active presence and his personal attention to their lives individually. Granting the continued existence of his individual personality after these two thousand years on some “spiritual” plane of being assumedly in touch with earthly affairs, there must be faced the infinitely complex problem of explaining how the consciousness of one man is able to give attention to the multitudinous details in the lives of millions of mortals at every moment of every day without cessation; how he is able to read the conscious content of innumerable minds and hearts with particularity and accuracy and adopt appropriate measures of spiritual strategy to answer the spoken and unbroken prayers of all these; how, in short, he is able to be a very present help in trouble in millions of complex situations all the time, and act in relation to all of them with impeccable accuracy and unfailing justice. Blind zealotry blots out this problem from the uncritical minds of the masses and priestcraft is warily content to let the dangerous dog lie asleep. It is not made the subject of debate. But if occasionally a hint of the dilemma is ventured, such a minor obstacle to piety is swept lightly aside with the ever-handy reminder to such intellectual temerity that with God all things are possible, and with the only-begotten Son of God no less. Surely the almighty hand of Supreme Deity could manage a trifling difficulty of the sort, and at any rate
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform.
To minds submerged in the aura of miracle and overborne by pious authority and sacerdotal glamor, all things in a mysterious theology were made palatable. Jesus’ pronouncement that “thy faith hath made thee whole” and his assurance that by faith we can move mountains into the sea had paved the way for the triumphant march of religious gullibility and the obscuration of reason. It is granted that we must have faith where we do not yet have knowledge. What else can a dependent mortal creature do but have faith in the beneficence of the universe? But a universal Power that is itself an all-embracing intelligence would not ask its creatures, who are destined to embody all degrees of that same intelligence, to hold to any specific formulations of faith the substance of which contravenes our reason and the regular courses of natural law. Our faith must rest upon and be supported by the inviolability of law and not take its stand upon any fantastic scheme that flouts what we do know and sets at odds all our reason- ing faculties. With either flaming zealotry or stolid indifference holding the critical faculty of the masses in abeyance, and occasional outbreak of rational inquiry smitten down with vengeful violence, the problem of how the man Jesus, dead ages ago, could still be the divine guest in billions of human hearts all at once and all the time, was held in leash.
Again, it is undoubtedly the thought of hosts of minds adjusted to miraculous possibilities of many sorts that Jesus’ still-potent spirit was detached from the limitations of his personality or even his earthly mind and, continuing to float about in some form of a ubiquitous presence like a permeating atmosphere, functions with a sort of automatism like air rushing in, wherever there is a spiritual vacuum or spiritual pressure. It is conceived that somehow that mind which St. Paul adjures us to let “be in” us as it was also in Christ Jesus pervades the world like a stratosphere and is there for us to register and lay hold of after the fashion of tuning in spiritually with the proper wave-length. But how the efficacy of such a vibrational force could be linked with and still dependent upon the personal Jesus of history, is in no way apparent or explainable. There is no necessary or factual connection. Divine consciousness or grades or rates of it may indeed conceivably be about us, bathing us in the universal aura of their supernal vibrations. But that any of them should have derived their origin and their present presence and operation from a man in history is again a matter that asks for our acceptance of a wholly irrational theological dictum.
This general notion receives some support from Jesus’ own assurance that when he left earth he would send the Paraclete, the Comforter, who would guide us into all truth and be the ever-solicitous monitor at our elbow. But all that this does is simply to rename the ubiquitous influence. It transfers the generative power from the personal Jesus to an impersonal principle. The new divine comforter must distribute his consciousness over as much ground as the personal mind of the risen Jesus would have to cover. Strangely enough one of the very phrases which the Greek theologians of the ancient philosophical religion used to picture the pervasive scope and functioning of a divine element in humanity was that “the gods distribute divinity.” But this was in reference to the distribution of a seed fragment of God’s infinite and universal mind to every creature according to its rank in evolution. The presence of potential divinity distributively in all levels of life is not a crotchety but a quite reasonable and natural procedure. It is indeed one of the great features in the early philosophies that gave form to basic Christianity. It is readily conceivable that a type or degree of supernal mind or consciousness does pervade the universe, an ethereal essence, so to say, of which evolving entities such as man can partake through the development of a receptive capacity in their own brain and nerve mechanism. To make God’s infinite largesse available to man some such method of impartation on the one hand and appropriation on the other must be conceived as provided by the Oversoul of the world. But this is not the problem that is crucial to the tenability of the idea of a historical Jesus carrying out the part assigned to him in theology. He is there alleged to fulfill the function of saving millions of souls through his individual agency both during his life and for thousands of years after his death. If to substantiate the still operative power of Jesus Christ when he is no longer living, recourse must be had to the hypostatization of his personal mind as a universally pervasive cosmic atmosphere, the entire force of the method of explanation goes to weaken still further the claim for his historic personal existence and to strengthen that for his purely spiritual nature.
It is not conceivable that the mind of one personal human being could reach and save billions of mortals. Therefore, to postulate a conceivable method by which such a mind could administer salvation to myriads in all ages, that mind must be released from any attachment to personality and characterized anew as a cosmic mental emanation or diffusion of mental substance. This deduction from the premises at once erases the personal Jesus from the picture of theology, if not in his life, then certainly from the moment of his death. If to render his mind operable for salvation its connection with his personality must be severed, then its connection with any personality is seen to be a clearly unnecessary, indeed impossible requirement. And this brings us face to face with the final outcome of this argument, which is that that mind which was in Christ Jesus would have existed, has existed and does exist, entirely independently of the fact or the question of any man’s historical presence on earth. For no more did Jesus originate that mind than does the radio mechanism originate the sonata that it renders in your room. Any man can catch it, as does the radio, from an omnipresent univer- sal vibration, register it and give it expression on this plane of being. The vibration-wave of the sonata is in your room whether there is a radio present to reproduce it on the plane of your senses or not. The Christ consciousness was present as a cosmic outflow of divine thought energization, whether or not any man of requisite organic sensitivity lived to become its tubes and amplifier. The best that can be done for Jesus’ uniqueness in this purview is to assume that perhaps he was the first man in history (if he lived) who was equal to making that register and that expression. But such a claim is bizarre from the first instant. It would have to rest on pure conjecture and assumption. And against it would be arrayed a host of vital considerations, such as that research now discloses that all the highest and truest sermons he allegedly preached to found a saving religion had been uttered by sage men centuries before him. If his message was the first release of the wisdom of supernal divine mind to humanity, it should have towered in grandeur and beauty to immeasurable height above anything taught antecedently. Organized ecclesiasticism has been bold enough for centuries to flaunt this legend before its following.
But the discovery of the Rosetta Stone and the Behistun Rock has put an entirely new complexion on the study of comparative religion, opening up whole vast areas of ancient literature from which it is seen that Christianity itself drew the body of its material. The disconcerting result of all this for the Christian position is that it definitely refutes the claims as to Jesus’ founding the first true religion and, far to the contrary, thrusts upon the apologists for these claims the difficult task of defending this sole emissary of deity to earth against the charge of wholesale literary plagiarism! If when he came to uplift humanity with a shining spirituality never before dreamed of, the best he could do was to repeat the sagas of early Greek, Chaldean, Persian, Hindu, Chinese and especially Egyptian wisdom, on what does the claim for his supreme uniqueness and matchless exaltation rest?
Then, of course, there is that other predicament arising from the egregious claims of the Christian party, which, had it ever been frankly faced by ecclesiasticism, would have left the Occidental world in better situation. It is the matter of God’s leaving the world prior to the year thirty-three or thereabouts without any chance to be saved by appropriating the mind of Christ. That the mere opportunity for the operation in humanity’s evolution of the saving principle of God’s grace should have been held off until the birth of a babe in Bethlehem at a given year in history, and not have been freely accessible to righteous men antecedently, needs nothing more than its clear statement to advertise its preposterousnss. It would be to say that the normal course of human evolution was held in abeyance, estopped, until the man Jesus arrived. One of our Christmas hymns sings
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the Virgin’s womb.
It is of course an absurd idea that the road to human elevation was not opened until the man-Christ, Jesus, landed on the planet at a late epoch in the race’s career. This is one of many twists and quirks which Christian dogma has asked its votaries to accept, to the dislocation of their rational mentality.
MYTH TRUER THAN HISTORY
It would seem to remove the discussion from the province of rational dialectic and throw it into the field of abnormal and precarious psychic phenomenalism to introduce an argument that has been frequently advanced by a number of people that is by no means inconsiderable. It must, however, be given a place in the debate if only for the reason that it arises from a special type of experience that appears to be actual among a surprising number of people who are at any rate sincere in their report and interpretation of it. It falls in a domain of psychology that has for the most part been shunned by academic investigation, its phenomena being commonly rated as abnormal, eccentric and unauthentic, categorized in fact as mostly self-delusion or hallucination. It has lately received some open countenance from scholastic authority and has been admitted to the field of legitimate study under the name of parapsychology. It may be better recognized under the designation of psychic phenomena. At any rate the phenomenon in question has been presented by many persons in modern religious groups of spiritistic character as a real experience of themselves or others testifying to them, and such is the veridical and empirical nature of the occurrence that for them it settles the entire debate categorically and summarily. The arguments based on it sway the attitude of thousands on the theme of this work and it therefore merits presentation and critique.
The point is advanced by mediums, psychics, clairvoyants and sensitives, to the effect that they can testify directly to the fact of Jesus’ historical existence because, forsooth, they have seen him and talked with him, in inner vision! His personality is not a matter of doubt or speculation, because he has appeared to them in his shining form! They have seen him as St. Paul saw him on the road to Damascus. Their need of faith is lost in the certitude of sight. To these persons the debate is closed with their declaration that others may argue – they have seen. This phenomenal experience, commoner than is generally supposed, must, however, be subjected to a critical scrutiny that it apparently has not hitherto received. This is the more desirable because these reports of the appearance of a radiant personage to the inner sight of many people are both too voluminous and seem too sincerely founded to be thrust aside with the cry of hallucination. As evidently veridical psychic phenomena they prove an interesting theme in themselves. It seems to be necessary to concede that visions of the sort are actually seen. The shining apparition seems to these seers to be present in reality. Whatever it may truly be and however to be explained, it is evidently actually seen. The point at issue for our discussion is not the veritude of the experience or the veracity of the psychics; but what the thing proves. The critique is not directed at the fact, but at its interpretation. The position taken is that such apparitions present no necessary or valid evidence for the existence of the Gospel Jesus in Judea nineteen hundred years ago.
The identity of the personage of light in the radiant vision can not be other than a matter of presumption. Upon asking any of those who have “seen Jesus” in their subjective world how they have identified their spiritual visitant with the man of Galilee long dead, the answer is invariably: “Why, of course it was Jesus; I know it was he.” On top of this one will be informed that he looked just like the pictures of him, or that the visionary recognized him by his whole appearance, as being just what he or she expected. Or the startling assertion will be made that he talked and declared his identity as Jesus, or even displayed to view the nail marks in his hands and feet. These rejoinders may seem at first glance to be pretty formidable testimony, but they are evidence not so much for the existence of the Galilean long ago as they are of the total failure of the clairvoyants to think out the implications of their assumption. They offer glaring evidence also as to the extraordinary capacity of persons endowed with these unusual gifts for psychic impressionability and intellectual credulity, if not gullibility.
Looking first at the latter, the “varieties of religious experience” include a wide range of phenomenalistic susceptibility. Old men have dreamed dreams and young men have seen visions. Saints have had rapturous exaltations, seers have beheld apocalypses and mystics have been wafted aloft in ecstasies. These experiences have abounded in great multiplicity, variety and profusion – unless the record is one long train of fiction and falsity, delirium and delusion. There is Joan d’Arc, there is Swedenborg, there is Madame Guyon and a legion of others. Modern students of this side of psychology assert that a thought is in reality a shaped figure in the mental ether; and assert that if thousands of people hold the same picture of such a person as the Christ in mind with great intensity and devotion for a continued period, the thought-form will become reified, hypostatized or substantialized to the extent that it will drift into the mental purview of psychic sensitives and be seen and mistaken for a veridical appearance. Modern psychology might catalogue it as an entification of the unconscious or subconscious object of much devotion. There are strange and uncanny possibilities in nature’s bag of tricks. There are denizens in more worlds than the solid physical. It seems evident that many people have seen a personage of luminous tenuousness in their subjective world. But all proof is wanting that their testimony as to the identity of the apparition has any validity.
There is no field in which people generally are more gullible than in that of religion. Nowhere else are the bars of the critical judgment so quickly and completely let down for the entry of superstition, the supernatural, miracle, magic and marvel. Indeed no Christly claimant would be accredited unless he could do “mighty works” to awe the multitudes. If he can not heal the sick and raise the dead he is no Christ. But the impotence to which these tendencies reduce the reasoning faculty in devotees is perhaps nowhere better seen than in the situation here portrayed. These psychics testify unhesitatingly and with total conviction that the figure of light they have seen is the still-living Jesus of Nazareth, without a moment’s pause to reflect that no one can identify a figure seen now with another person never seen at all! Identification can function only on the basis of previous knowledge or acquaintance. No one can identify the figure seen in a vision with the historical Jesus. The assumption that they can do so is ridiculous. Logic rules it out. Their claim that the figure is that of Jesus is based on pious assumption and can be nothing but sheer guess. The eyes can not identify the appearance of a person unless the eyes have seen him before, or his photograph or likeness. The figure seen matches the popularly conceived appearance of Jesus, and Jesus is the only historical person they can think to call it. The claim that the apparition resembles the pictures of Jesus in books and prints is the weakest item in the “identification.” In fact it reduces the entire claim to blank folly. In spite of gratuitous assertions of the existence of portraits of the Galilean, assuredly there has never been an authentic picture of the man, even if he lived.
How can the apparitional Jesus look like his portraits when there were no portraits? If even in hallucination the visionary Jesus does resemble the conventional portrayals, we may have before us here an interesting psychological phenomenon. For the fact would seem to lend some support to the “occult” theory that the general communal thought-picture of Jesus, based on the customary portraits seen for centuries, has actually entified a spiritual thought-formation of the man in the image of his published likenesses. The allegation of pictorial resemblance is final proof of the purely subjective character of the visions and their inadmissibility as testimony in the case. What they give evidence of is some extraordinary capacities of the human psyche, not remote past history. The proof of connection between present subjective event in these cases and past objective event is totally wanting. The phenomena manifest in this realm are far too uncertain, undependable, even dangerous, for the practical uses of life. As a final observation on the point, one is permitted to express a robust doubt whether, if the living spiritual counterpart of some other ancient personage, unknown and unpictured through the centuries, should present itself before the inner gaze of these psychics, they would have any ability or means of identifying the specter. Could they identify, say, Apollonius of Tyana?
There is, however, another consideration that falls within the realm of psychology which has far more direct pertinence to the great question. The inquiry faces the task of evaluating the psychological influence and spiritual or cultural serviceableness of the idea of the personal Jesus as against the conception that makes “him” to be a high type of universal consciousness or principle. The defense of the historical point of view invariably lays vast store upon the claim that any vital religion, at any rate Christianity, could never have generated effective psychological dynamism among millions of followers if based only upon the characterization of the Christos as sheer principle. It required the living Jesus to generate in the Christian movement the driving power that it has become. Jesus must have lived, is the argu- ment, if only because such a life in actuality was necessary to give the religion based on it just that vital psychological reinforcement that it has manifested. He must have lived because it can be shown that it was most eminently desirable, from a psychological point of view, that he should have lived. The conception of Christ as principle could never have developed enough dynamic force or fervor to have enabled Christianity, so to say, to effectuate itself.
It must be stated that the outcome of this phase of the argument can have no direct evidential bearing upon the question of the historicity of the Christ. To prove that his existence was highly desirable does not prove that it was a fact. But the point is given a quite extraordinary importance in the debate, and this not without reason. It strikes close to the central nerve of the whole Christian system. That system bases its unique efficacy upon the claim that it alone of religions offers to believers a living God. The only time God ever came to earth in person, he outlined for humanity its true religion, the Christian. By many people this point of the psychological power of the historical Christ is maneuvered into the place of central importance in the whole discussion. They urge the claim that the Christ was sent into personal embodiment for the express purpose of providing mankind with one historical example of divine perfection, and assert that the whole argument stands or falls with the question of the psychological value of his example. Such an example was necessary to effectuate the religious salvation of the world. Jesus must have lived because such an ensampler was a psychological necessity. God had to send his Son in answer to this inherent need. It would be unthinkable that such a need would not have been providentially met. Therefore Jesus did live. The broad prevalence and strength of this position calls for an exhaustive critique.
It can be conceded at the outset that in the effort of a divine hierarchy of overlords to humanize and eventually divinize an animal-born race, the advantage of the employment of a living example would be evident. God or his hierarchical agents, archangels, demi-gods, heroes, divine men, could not but be fully aware of the powerful force and virtue of a concrete example of perfection set before the eyes of mankind. It would both quicken and stabilize the general human inclination to strive after the ideal. It would give solid and constructive form to that aspiration by focusing its drive upon a spe- cific set of ideal characteristics embodied and manifested in the exemplar. It would thus prevent the waste of infinite quantities of devotional force spent in direction toward ill-defined goals. The great divine man would stand before the world and lure all men unto him by the attractive power of his shining beauty. No other impartation of inspiration from God to man could make its salutary influence so effectively fruitful of constant good stimulus. A divine model of perfection would uplift the world through the magnetically moving force of his example. The gods must know that humanity is psychologically set and disposed to ape a paragon. The dynamic moral power of an embodied ideal is ever great. This psychological disposition well prepared the stage for the presentation to the world of its ideal hero, the Christos.
The gods did know that man would ape the divine paragon, and they did present the hero, the great sunlit figure of Christos, in every religion of antiquity.
With the keenest incisiveness it must be contended, as perhaps the prime spiritual motive of this study, that the argument based on the psychological beneficence of a divine ensampler for the human race falls out in favor of the non-historicity, and not, as almost unanimously believed, of the historicity. This astounding assertion must be vindicated against the general mass of contrary opinion.
If all other things were equal, naturally the impressive force of an ideal of perfection embodied in a living man would be conceded to be more effective for character in the lives of devotees than would the same paragon depicted only in the figure of a drama. A life lived on the same terms as our own would emotionally impress all mortals more powerfully than would any fictional representation. But all other things are not equal in the case of the Christ. There are elements in the theological situation environing the figure of the Gospel Jesus that make the difference between the two quite abysmal.
The first great divergence is in the fact that theology has made of the historical divine man the only possible such figure in the human record. Jesus is in the religion that exploited him the only-begotten Son of God. He is the only embodiment of the Father’s glory and cosmic presence ever manifested in human form. He is totally unique and lonely. No man can match his perfection.
This fact of his solitary uniqueness at once destroys whatever psy- chological value his incarnation in a man of flesh might otherwise have. It defeats the very purpose for which an ensampler is designed – the effective working of the lure of his perfection under the force of the assurance that by striving the aspirant may achieve identity or equality with the ideal one. If it is published beforehand that the worshipped Personage is the unattainable and forever unapproachable Ideal, the springs of devotion and zeal are dried up at their very source. Why strive, why aspire, why copy, if it is to be all in vain? The glistening paragon becomes only a romantic ideal, the more radiant and bright-hued because of its eternal remoteness and inaccessibility. It is placed there only for mortals to gaze and gape at in awe and marvel. But it is rendered useless for the very thing claimed as the strength of the argument from psychology, the inspirational power of the life lived to be a moving example for us. The manipulators of the psychological factors in the ecclesiastical enterprise, in straining to assure the Christly figure of perennial reverence and worship of the romantic sort by placing him on an inimitable level of perfection and uniqueness, unwittingly sacrificed the very element in the psychological situation that it was most ardently hoped to gain by the procedure. To keep him secure in his lofty place of adoration they weakened the force of his ability to stimulate emulation. He is the stainless One, incapable of sin; men are doomed sinners, who must in craven fashion plead with him for salvation from innate degeneracy.
Thus the luminous picture of the mighty paragon has not worked out, and can not work out, as a triumphant force designed to elevate character by the cogency of its living reality. It has in fact operated directly to defeat that effect. It has left men facing a hopeless effort and turning from resolute zeal for attainment to sunken morbidity expressed in the conventional theological ideas of sin and its dog, remorse. Before the Ideal the eyes of sinning man have been lowered to the ground with sense of unworthiness and self-depreciation; they have not been lifted up to face the revealed divinity as the possibility of man’s own accomplishment. Before the figure of the man-Christ man has made himself abject, groveling in unmanly beggarliness before the unbearable glory of the One who stands clothed in unattainable majesty.
The psychological influence of this only-begotten manifestation is further decisively emasculated by the accompanying theological doc- trine that this one epiphany of God’s nature was not a man of our own earthly evolution, but came directly from the hand of supreme Deity, a product of divine fiat from another world. Though frequently emphasis is laid upon his community of nature with us, still he is exotic, a transplantation from the empyrean. He did not need to go through the long evolutionary gateway of our humanity, but was already a citizen of the cosmos, a dweller with God before the worlds were, existent before Abraham was. Though so high, he yet condescended, abased himself, to become for a generation one among us, sharing our immature nature without yielding to its seductions. He had not come up the long road of development from unicell or moneron to man, but came down from the skies full-panoplied in cosmic resplendence, to lay for the time being his glory mildly by, as the Christmas hymn has it. His coming was not an act of common brotherhood of a creature kindred with us, but a condescension and a gratuity, arbitrary in cosmic counsels and unrelated to natural contingency. He was a pure gift from the Gods. The Father’s whim and his own munificent spirit of self-sacrifice brought him here. The merit was his; ours the unmerited benefit. So again the alleged great psychological efficacy of his exemplary life is annulled by the strangeness and vast remoteness of his nature from our own. He is no brother but a distant ambassador who deigns to visit us for a season and labor with us, but can not abide with us forever. He must in a moment return to the celestial palace, sending a substitute to remind us of his one charming sojourn with us.
But the crux of the debate on the psychological efficacy of a paragon is not reached until the matter is approached from the side of the great question of the relative potency of two forces, one operative from without the subject, the other from within. This crucial point of discussion must be given thorough treatment. Though it is not critical or decisive for the question of Christ historicity, it looms as perhaps the most portentous phase of the entire survey. It is not too sweeping an assertion to aver that the whole psychological beneficence of religion stands or falls with the outcome of the discussion of the historicity of the Messiah. It stands if the world savior be proven an element, a divine leaven, within the soul and conscience of all humanity. It falls if he be reduced to the futile stature of a man in history. For it is the contention of this study that the moral effect upon general humanity of being taught to look for salvation to a savior in the person of a historical man is inherently and inevitably degrading to the immanent divinity of man. Beyond doubt this strong asseveration will be violently disputed. It will be contended that it runs counter to every obvious envisagement in the situation. Nevertheless it is urged here that these alleged obvious implications seem obvious only in consequence of many centuries of inculcation of a false view which has overridden and subjugated open minds, and that they would lose their obviousness if they could be considered in the light of pure reason and apart from ingrained habitudes of pious assumption. Had the opposite view been sanctified by such age-long approbation it, rather than the first, would carry the weight of obvious rectitude with it. For, of the two possibilities, surely the method of human salvation that would instinctively at first sight commend itself as the obviously more natural one would be that which places the agency of universal salvation from evolutionary dereliction in a power lodged within all men, as against an extraneous and uncertain influence somehow, but in no understandable way, shed upon us under certain peculiar conditions by one person in history. Obviousness is obviously with the method of a general distribution of a divine spirit among all men to act as a leaven of righteousness and self-transformation, and it is certainly less clearly with a method that makes all men dependent upon the unaccountable self-immolation of one only-begotten Son of God. The one is in consonance with man’s every normal instinct of natural procedure; the other strains at blind faith to swallow its artificially bizarre and fantastic features. The latter view, be it averred, has only won its place in the acceptance of millions of purblind devotees through the stultification of their reason by the ceaseless exploitation of the forces of religious faith. The irrational flaunting of the Biblical text “for with God all things are possible” has further tended to keep the door open to the influx into less critical minds of every conceivable absurdity in the theological field. The introduction of boundless irrationality in doctrinism was initially made when in the third and fourth centuries the esoteric interpretation of scripture yielded to the frightful debasement of exoteric literalism. The whale’s swallowing of Jonah was no more difficult for piety than the ecclesiastical swallowing of the Jonah allegory and all its brother myths in their literal form. The tragedy of its successful accomplish- ment – as far as it has been successful – has lain in the necessary preliminary derationalization and paralysis of millions of simple minds before the natural gagging and choking could be overcome. Blind faith and the peculiar weakness of the human mind in face of the alleged supernatural were the instruments of the tragic intellectual dupery. The noble scriptures were intended to gain and hold the perennial reverence of all intelligent minds; they were never designed to enslave minds with the fatal fascination of a fetish.
Once the historical status was assigned to the Christ principle the words, “look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,” have exercised a damaging sway over countless minds. To those who knew that Jesus, esoterically comprehended, was the dramatic type-figure of the divinity within us, the words carried not fatality but uplift and inspiration. The difference in the two cases clearly limns the difference in the psychological character of the two influences. This work advances the proposition that it is psychologically hazardous at any time for people to place their divinity in a person or locale outside themselves. To do so involves the inevitable repercussion on average minds that their salvation is to be vicariously won. The disastrous consequence of this reaction must in the end be the enervation and atrophy of spiritual effort and initiative on the part of the individual to win his own redemption.
The effect of the doctrine of salvation through the intercession of the Son of God – a salvation which the doctrine implies we had in no wise ourselves earned – could not be, as claimed, an intensification of the personal effort at righteousness. The very words of scripture were to the effect that man’s righteousness in the sight of God is as filthy rags. Every presupposition of the doctrine as presented emphasized the uselessness of effort and the casting of our burden upon Jesus’ shoulders. “What a friend we have in Jesus!” has been sung in full-throated unctuousness. His own invitation to the weary and heavy-laden to come unto him and find rest has had an all-too-ready response in the literal sense. Taken wrongly these words have gone far to impair the natural sturdiness of spiritual character in millions. By a psychology that was hardly subtle, but simple and direct, they militated to turn the conscientious resolution of the individual away from the actual cultus of his own immanent deity in thought, word and deed, while he pursued the chimera of vicarious salvation through pleading with his personal Redeemer. He was told that the more abjectly he confessed his own folly and failure, the more effective would be his plea in the ears of the compassionate Savior of men. In looking to Jesus in a man of flesh the devotee neglected the indwelling Jesus, and would inevitably do so in the exact ratio of his ignorance and his gullibility.
This is a simple proposition and is quite self-evident. It is the law of nature that an organism or a function not used atrophies. Man has in a lifetime only a given quantity of psychic energy. If he expends it in one direction, the possibility of expending it in another is diminished by so much. The only Christos that is available for him is that hidden divine love within him. If he wastes his soul-force in straining to induce an exterior personage to intervene in his evolutionary effort on his behalf, he loses by so much the fleeting opportunity to cultivate his indwelling guest. It is necessary to put this with categorical cogency, because it will be brushed aside as inconsequential. It is close to being the crux of the entire problem under discussion. A man can not at one and the same time serve two masters, the one within and the other without. Neither can he reap the fruit of an ardent cultivation of his potential divinity while pouring out all his psychic ardor upon the person of a Galilean peasant.
Not only will it be said that this can be done, but it will be claimed in addition that the adoration of the Judaean carpenter is itself the prime stimulus and incentive to the end of one’s inner spiritual culture. This brings us back to the question of the relative psychological power of a living or of a mythical and dramatic Christ. The great cry of the proponents of the historicity is that the psychological power of a living historical example must surely be greater and more beneficent than that of a purely dramatic figure. History, it is urged, is real, whereas a myth is fictional. This debate is of critical importance, because if the Christos of the Bible was not a person of flesh, he becomes, as would be said, nothing but a character of pure fiction. He is a myth. And many books have been written to prove that he is only a myth. How, it will be asked in vigorous spirit, can a mythical figure be presumed to exert as strong a psychological force upon the world as a Jesus in real life? As hinted briefly before, the unique strength of the position of Christianity is claimed to lie in this one item of the reality of Jesus’ living demonstration or epiphany of God in humanity. It holds up to its following the assurance of ultimate victory based on the one divine fait accompli in history. Jesus was a living example, and not a mere theological promise unaccompanied by accomplishment. Jesus’ life is the one solid rock of veritude upon which mortal man can build his hopes. What is a myth compared with this?
This is the argumentative situation as viewed from the point of naïve exoteric simplicity. It is not, however, the view revealed to deeper esoteric reflection. Esotericism understands something about the myth that is quite unknown to the uninitiated general mind. The ancient sages knew something concerning the myth that the modern mind has never grasped. It can now be said with certitude that the whole genius of religious and philosophical culture escaped the grasp of Occidental civilization as a result of the third-century loss of this certain understanding of the nature and utility of the myth. It is time, after centuries of stupid nescience, that modern ignorance of a vital matter be enlightened. Enlightenment on this detail may yet save religion and humanitarian culture, menaced dangerously by our blind failure to concentrate upon the one cultus of a higher selfhood in man that alone can redeem the world from immersion in the lower levels of consciousness and motivation.
What was known of old, and must now be proclaimed anew with clarion blast, is that the myth, as employed by ancient illuminati in Biblical scripture, is not fiction, but the truest of all history! So far from being fiction in the sense of a story that never happened and is therefore false to fact, it is the only story that is completely and wholly true! The myth is the only true narrative of the reality of human experience. It is the only ultimately true history ever written. It is a picture and portrayal of the only veridical history ever lived. All other so-called history, the record of people’s acts and movements, buildings and destructions, marchings and settlings, is less truly history than the myth! The latter is the realest of history, as it is the account of the actual experience of life in evolution. Real as history is, it is finally less true than the myth. The myth is always and forever true; actual history is never more than an imperfect approximation to the truth of life. Even as a perfectly faithful record of what actually happened, book history is far from being true. This is an admission so commonplace that every courtroom is on guard against the testimony of witnesses because of the incapacity of the human senses in making an impeccable record of event. No history book ever contained a precisely true account of occurrence. No two historians ever wrote identical narratives of a war or a nation’s life. The writing of actual history has never been other than the more or less careful exercise of the chronicler’s constructive imagination.
On the other hand the myth is, as nearly as the highest human-divine genius can construct it, a clear picture of the more real import of life itself. It is possible for conscious beings such as men to live through actual events of history and yet largely, at times completely, miss the reality, in a profounder philosophical sense, of the very experience they undergo. What history thus misses the myth expresses. History is never more than a partial slap-stick comic or heavy tragic flirtation with the deep realities; the myth is a clear delineation of them. The myth is no more a fiction than a good photograph is a fiction. It is a true picture. In the hands of semi-divine mythicists of old it was a splendid photograph of something that is of far greater utility to men whose divine destiny entails a struggle for spiritual culture than any uncertain chronicle of man’s tawdry fights and scrambles could ever be. It was made to be a glowing pictograph of those basic archai, those eternal principles of truth, those immutable laws of growth and structure which are the everlasting essence of all being. So the myth is ever truer than history. It is a portrayal of the meaning and structure of all history. It pictures and preserves forever for the grasp of unfolding divine consciousness in man that golden light of true realization which alone elevates his historical experience above animal sensuousness and vegetative existence.
With this revised comprehension of the myth it is now possible to approach with better qualification for a successful resolution of difficulties the matter of the historicity and the psychological potency of the central figure in the early Christian and all antecedent systems. That central figure was in the myths and in the religious dramas of most ancient nations for thousands of years B.C. It stood there drawn and limned by the astutest dramatic genius the race has ever produced, to be the perennial reminder to all men of all religions of their own divine endowment, and to serve as dynamic instruction in the methods of attaining its progressive evolution in and through history.
In the counsels of the Sages, who were men of our own humanity graduated in earlier cycles to the place of mastership and perfected knowledge of the whole earthly evolution – St. Paul’s “just men made perfect” – the problem facing them in their task of giving to early humanity compendia of truth and wisdom that should guide the race through the course of self-controlled unfoldment was one that called for a determination of the best practical method of both holding before man the ideal of all his striving and stimulating his steady zeal to pursue it. It is not known now as it was in ancient days that a grade and council of perfected men, risen through humanity to divinity, stood in the relation of tutors and teachers to infant humanity, and prescribed codes of morals, religion, philosophy, law, mythology, literature and art, as well as mathematics, science and physics, not to forget agriculture, for the beginnings in civilization and culture. These are the authors of the great sacred books of antiquity, the instructors in pyramid building, the founders of human progress. Their graduate status at once explains the otherwise inexplicable phenomenon that has bewildered and confounded the savants of modern knowledge, – how it was that races that were still in the semi-barbaric stage already held in their possession tomes of the most exalted wisdom and philosophical insight, as well as moral purity, which their own undeveloped mentality could not have produced.
These men, both by evolutionary selection and by humanitarian choice on their own part, performed the function of formulating the cultural heritage of the human race, particularly in the domain of religion and philosophy. One of the greatest of the problems confronting them in their sublime work was the choice of method by which mankind could be most deeply impressed with the sublimity of the divine goal toward which the race was struggling and most intelligently spurred on to attain it. The plan adopted by the counsels of the most august wisdom was based on the decision to place before the world systems of religion, in which the outline of the drama of life, the place of the world in the cosmos, the place of man in the hierarchy of being, the moral conflict leading to evolution, and the eventual deification of humanity at the “end of the age” or cycle, should be clearly set forth for the behoof of all generations. In order that there should be no possibility of man’s missing the mark, or failing to understand exactly the goal of perfection to which his whole incarnational series was destined to lift him, the Sages resorted to the measure of placing at the very heart of every religious system an ideal personage who should typify and personify man himself, in his dual nature as human and divine, struggling forward to the consummation of his high glory. This central character embodied the divine element that was to deify mankind, and the drama depicted the final victory of the god within over the lower forces in the human compound.
The figure was of course that of the Christos, who in his last triumph is clothed in robes of solar light, to indicate that the deity within man is of kindred essence with the sun and that as man progresses toward his final exaltation in glory his garments shall be white as the light and his righteousness shall cause him to shine like the sun in the kingdom of his Father. In this glorious character men could see pictured their history, their destiny and their eventual conversion into angels of light. This was the model, the archetype, the paragon of excellence decided upon by the council of perfected men to be made central in every religion given to the early nations, as their chosen means of most cogently impressing humanity’s millions through the ages to strive after the shining ideal of divinity. In order that historical man could never forget that ideal or drift away from it, the Sages incorporated in every religion this very copy and replica of the man become God, so that it needed only for men to look at the model to see the image of their own life and their apotheosization. If mankind needed to be stimulated to the good life by the force of a divine ensampler, the Sages saw to it that the great spiritual allurement was provided. The radiant figure of the Sun-God, man himself divinized, stood at the heart of every old religion. High wisdom comprehended that mortal men needed to have a picture of their own glorious goal set before their eyes. The picture was given. The psychological power of a paragon to lure impressionable mankind was recognized and the paragon supplied. The whole history of man was diagrammed and with consummate genius depicted in a great drama, with the Sun-God always the central and significant character. It is known that the features and play of the drama were of such impressiveness and moving power that no device of human conception could have transcended the purificatory, or as the Greeks called it, the cathartic moral efficacy of this representation. It was a veritable baptism of the spectator and candidate in transfiguring elevation of consciousness.
It will presumably still be urged that if these exalted personages possessed the wisdom attributed to them they must have known that the example of one living Christ on earth would be more effective for salutary influence than any number of dramatic figures. At least two considerations weighed against their holding any such opinion or acting upon it. They realized for one thing that merely to present to the world one living example of perfect humanity would defeat the very psychology they aimed at. It would have been pointless and superfluous in a world that was to be taught that the rough road of evolution would bring every man to Christhood. Again they knew that it would be both confusing and disconcerting to intelligent people everywhere to proclaim the advent of one perfected soul in unique isolation, when it was already the general knowledge of instructed men in early days that more than one of humanity’s chain had reached the mark of the high calling of God in the Christos, that a number would attain it in every age, and that all men would eventually do so. The proclamation and the production of one only example of accomplished divinization would have been meaningless and lacking in significant virtue in a world that was intended to be rightly instructed on fundamental verities. If there were but one living paragon, only one generation would see him, and if he was an obscure person like the Galilean, only a few hundred persons would know of him through personal contact. The sheer difficulty of having his name, fame and life and teaching advertised to the rest of humanity would have to be managed against real obstacles. If he himself proclaimed his unique divinity, how could he make ignorant, blind humanity accept him? His heralding by angels and portents might readily fall afoul of the general ancient vogue of such things, and pass unheeded.
It was not perhaps even considered for a moment that a purely typical ideal figure would serve to inspire men less than a living example, because every man, it was known, became a living example in the proportion in which he embodied the ideal in his life and person. Nothing was thus to be gained by a historical example that could not be better won by the ideal type impersonation. There was no point in producing one living paragon to prove to the world that man could become divine, when it was already known that all men would in due time become divine. All mortals, as they became intelligent, knew that they had the struggle of evolution before them and that perseverance would land them at the gates of godlikeness. What they needed was the vivid dramatization of the quality and character of that perfection toward which they were to aspire. These were clearly and impressively outlined in the dramatic type figure. The essential ingredients for compounding the most efficacious virtue in an ensampler were all present in this situation. Nothing was lacking that a living man-Christ could have supplied. The prime element was the knowledge that every man must be his own savior. This item of philosophical truth being known, the dramatic model possessed more sanely compelling force than a living personation. The knowledge of universal salvation robbed the latter of any advantage over the other. An embodied Christ would have been an impressive spectacle, but not overwhelmingly or inordinately so, for the knowledge that men were advancing into the highest stages of purity and illumination everywhere at all times deprived the fact of its uniqueness. One perfected man would not have been one alone, but one among many.
It is sharply to be recognized that the mere presumption of superior psychological advantage in a living type figure became possible only with the decay of knowledge that man’s upward progress is the work of the individual himself in conjunction with nature, and the consequent entry of the vicarious concept through the corruption of ancient divine philosophy. In the end the orthodox presupposition that human salvation demanded the driving force of a personal God in the flesh, so far from proving its natural correctness, demonstrates only that the world’s keenness of philosophical insight had been blunted to the degree that a totally insupportable thesis could be imposed upon the millions without a chance for successful repudiation.
The momentous task of providing nations and peoples with a divine model and exemplar was accomplished by the sagacious tutors of the race through the institution of a ritual drama designed and formulated to produce the most beneficent effect. It was adopted as the method that most readily met the terms of natural expediency and practicability. It would minister in full to the psychological needs of a race endowed and constituted as mankind was. With transcendent genius the Sages formulated the systems of myths, allegories, fables, parables, numerological structures and astrological pictographs such as the zodiac and the planispheres or uranographs to supplement the central ceremonial drama. The whole structure was, however, fabricated with such esoteric subtlety that, the keys once lost, the system has defied the best of medieval and modern acumen to recapture its cryptic import. The divinity in man being a portion of the ineffable glory of the sun, and necessarily therefore typified by it, the great scenic portrayal was built upon the solar allegory, and the successive phases of man’s divinization were enacted around the solar year in accordance with the significance of the orb’s monthly and seasonal positions. Ancient religion was for this reason called solar religion or “sun-worship.” Temples were built to the sun and hymns to the sun written to extol its splendor as typical of man’s inner splendor. The meaning of the drama thus interwoven at every turn with the movements of the great natural analogue and type of our divinity, every detail of the ritual would receive an enormous enhancement of impressiveness and meaning for celebrants, who would be subjected in this way to the greatly magnified psychic power that was generated by the co-ordination of their highest spiritual conceptions with the redoubtable truth of nature. Ancient sapiency linked spiritual law and natural law together in a kinship and correspondence that endowed the former with all the impregnable certitude of the latter. This link between the two aspects of truth was broken about the third century, and religion has ever since been crippled by want of a reinforcement so naturally strong. The modern religious consciousness has to make shift as best it can in almost total privation of the vital sources of assurance and stability which flowed into the mind from the correlation of its spiritual tenets with natural truth. Every theological presentment must necessarily fall upon mental comprehension with a manifold strength if it is immediately seen to be corroborated by the open facts of nature.
Mystical experience will be vastly certified to intelligence if it can be illuminated by the glow of meaning emanating from natural symbols. A graphic representation of hidden meaning is always far more effective to stamp the mind with living images than language of itself can accomplish. Hence the resort to drama in the first place, and next to a drama that was based on and interwoven with the most obvious of all natural phenomena – the rise and setting of the sun in the daily round and the larger counterpart of the same routine in the seasonal cycle. These two daily and annual operations, the alternate victory and defeat of the sun, typify of course the very gist of the whole human drama, the soul’s descent into its “death” in mortal body and its recurrent resurrection therefrom. This is the core of the central theme in all religious scripture. The daily sinking of the sun at eve in earth or ocean, and its rising again in the east at dawn, or its yearly descent to the south in the autumn and its succeeding return northward in the spring, all prefigure the descent of the soul, a unit of God’s own conscious mind, into incarnation in its “night” or “winter” of “death” and its subsequent resurrection from the tomb of the body. The fact that ancient insight allied tomb and body in one meaning is astonishingly indicated by the identity of the Greek words, soma, body and sema, tomb.
In this ceremonial drama the central figure was the sun-god, or Son of God, the Christos, Messiah. He was likewise the Avatar, the Bodhisattva, the World-Savior. A generic term for him was The Coming One, or “The Comer” in Egypt. And never until the decadent epoch that fell like a pall upon early Christianity in the third century was the Messianic Messenger ever thought of as “coming” in the sense of being born as a person in the world. This is a fact of momentous significance. The many world saviors antecedent to Jesus were types and not persons born in history. They were typical characters portraying that spirit of divine charity which should transform and transfigure human life from the rapacity of the beast to the graciousness of unselfish love. Its “coming” would be its gradual growth and its mounting sweep in the hearts and minds of humanity as a whole. It would not be “born” until it came to overt expression in the active lives of mortals. Its taking root and gradually expanding in world consciousness was likened unto the planting and flourishing of the tiny mustard seed in the Gospel parable. No Christos can possibly “come” into the world except it arrive on the waves of charitable impulse that well up in individual and mass motivation. No Christ can bring godliness in his single person. No Messiah can impart it to men in the mass by any other method than the transforming of all hearts through the throb of Christly compassion and the exaltation of all minds into the likeness of the Christly intelligence.
Treated cursorily already, the argument that for full inspirational suggestiveness humans must have their faith fortified by the assurance that one man at least actually did attain to Christhood and manifest the ideal of perfection, must receive somewhat fuller scrutiny. Its force was already weakened by the consideration that the one character in history alleged to have furnished mortals this assurance was not a man of our own evolution, and had not attained his divinity over the same pathway that we must tread, but was an immaculate emissary from inaccessible heavens, a guest from remote empyreans. It must be accentuated that this situation introduces into the picture the negative depressing influence of man’s realization of his own hopeless inferiority, the impossibility of his stepping up beside the Christ. In striking contrast to this the method adopted by the Sages obviated any such disastrous negativism. It carried with it the invincible certainty of attainment for every man. There was never a question of achievement, but only of effort, method and perseverance. The very manner of the presentation of the ideal figure carried the presupposition of final victory to the aspirant. The type was exhibited on no other grounds than that it was the picture of what could be achieved by all. Obviously there could be no sense or reason in holding before all men in all religions the type of what they could not attain. Attainment was an inevitable implication of the representation from the outset. One man’s superb attainment could only add evidence to what was already known. But the proclamation that only one man had ever reached the goal would have thrown dismay into minds long assured of the high destiny of all. Heraclitus’ discerning observation that “man’s genius is a deity” had placed a god in potentiality deep within the heart of every life, and the envisaged prospect of divinization was simply a long growth of latent into active powers and faculties, a process that could be in no wise affected by the birth of any exceptional personage. That the eventual deification of all humanity should be considered to depend upon such a birth would have been received in ancient times with bewilderment and total incomprehension. When the true nature and terms of the problem of human spiritual advancement were succinctly understood, there was no way in which the Bethlehem event on the historical plane could be given a place of crucial importance in the universal task.
It will be seen that the entire argument for the historicity on the grounds of its superior psychological influence collapses finally under the force of the admission, which must be made by all parties, that even if Jesus of Nazareth lived and is the Vicar of God on earth, every man must work out his own salvation on exactly the same terms as though he had not existed! Since Jesus can not come to any man and take his evolutionary problem off his shoulders and effect his salvation for him, the only psychological value left to the fact of the historicity is reduced to the mere force of a sort of hero-worship. The Jesus life and character, his sufferings and virtues, can stimulate devotion and desire to emulate. His lofty moral preachment sets a norm for ideal human attainment. The very contemplation of his pure life and radiant divinity inspires an answering nobility in millions of lives.
The power of a noble example, the more especially one enhanced in beauty by centuries of pious glorification, is not questioned. But the same beauty and indeed the same lofty spiritual preachment was afforded imitative devotion in the case of the sun-god figure. In the end the sublime figure of the type character was there purely for inspirational incentive, standing free from any suggestion of vicarious salvation for the adorer. It moved to noble effort, but in not the least hint did it delude the worshipper with the fatuous notion that any power save his own consecrated struggle could win his salvation for him. The greater the claimed psychological power of the historical Jesus over the devotee, the greater the tragedy of delusion thus wrought upon millions, since this stimulating influence has never been detached from the concomitant imputations of vicariousness inseparably linked with it in Christian theology. Thus the greater part of the alleged beneficent force of the living example in the end evaporates into pure delusion not unattended with disastrous consequences.
A few sentences in the preceding chapter alluded to a situation brought to light by the study of Comparative Religion and Mythology which adds further vast weight to the probability that the whole enormous body of psychological prestige exerted by the belief in the historical Jesus is grounded on a chimera and not on a fact. The events in the alleged life of Jesus are pushed closer and closer to the point of myth by the astounding fact that, as the ever-clearer implications of these studies show, they are seen to match with nearly perfect fidelity the similar cycles of purely allegorical “events” in the dramatic and mythic representations of some sixteen or more – indeed probably fifty or more – earlier type figures recorded in ancient sacred Bibles of the nations. It is certainly to be regarded as more than passing strange that when the only-begotten Son of God did descend to earth to implant the genius of the one true religion to save mankind, his life only copied or matched in great detail the dramatized typal characters or sun-gods of antecedent religions. And the earlier figures whose careers he repeated were definitely non-historical or at best legendarily semi- historical, such as Zoroaster, Orpheus and Hermes. The Christians of the third and fourth centuries were plagued to distraction by the recurrent appearance of evidence that revealed the disconcerting identity of the Gospel narrative in many places with incidents in the “lives” of Horus, Izdubar, Mithra, Sabazius, Adonis, Witoba, Hercules, Marduk, Krishna, Buddha and other divine messengers to early nations. They answered the challenge of this situation with the desperate allegation that the similarity was the work of the devil! The findings of comparative religion and mythology constitute at this epoch a far more deadly challenge than they did in the third century, for there is the massive body of the Egyptian religious literature to increase the mountain of identities between Christian and antecedent pagan gospels and there is less of Christian hypnotism to overcome now than at the earlier date. In more formidable form than ever before the Christian proponents must face the open implications of the query that springs to mind out of these comparative religion discoveries, why, if the model life had already been proclaimed by numerous Avatars before Jesus and he therefore had nothing new to add, the need or occasion for his passionate sacrifice at all? The model he displayed had already been on view in nearly every ancient nation for centuries! So far from being the climax and grand consummation of a series of ever fuller revelations, his advent was rather an anti-climax. The enlightened and emancipated study of comparative religion, vitally reinforced by the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, bids fair to become a veritable Nemesis to the exorbitant claims of Christianity. It was these momentous disclosures of identity in the material of Christian and pagan literature that gave impetus to the present undertaking, provided the data for proof and lent overwhelming warrant to all the major conclusions to be reached. And it is this body of evidence that sweeps in with crushing force to devastate every one of the arguments from psychology that have been considered. In its totality it constitutes a bulwark of strength on the side of the non-historicity that must be rated virtually inexpugnable.
It can now be stated with little chance of refutation that the Gospel “life” of Jesus had been written, in substance, for five thousand years before he came. The record is in Egypt. An Egyptian Jesus – Horus – had raised an Egyptian Lazarus from the dead at an Egyptian Bethany, with an Egyptian Mary and Martha present, in the scripts of that an- cient land that were extant at least five thousand years B.C. And a carving in relief, depicting scenes of angels announcing from the skies to shepherds in the fields a deific advent, of an angel, Gabriel, foretelling to a virgin that she should be the mother of the Christos, of the nativity in the cave, and of three sages kneeling in adoration before the infant deity, had been on the walls of the temple of Luxor at least seventeen hundred years B.C. The Virgin Mother had held the divine child in her arms in zodiacs on temple ceilings for millennia before the Galilean babe saw the light. What indeed becomes of the grandiose message he brought and the shining light of deific perfection that he flashed on the world, if both were already here long before he came?
There remains another spectacular aspect of the psychological problem to be dealt with, not now of the influence of the divine personal advent, but this time having to do with the psychological phases connected with the sheer fact of how the world could recognize the Christ in Jesus or any other embodiment. How could he be known and identified on the historical arena? The amount of mental ineptitude displayed by votaries with minds drugged into doltishness by the overweening power of “faith” and literalism is everywhere great in religion. But hardly everywhere does it show itself in such glaring inanity as in this item. In the process of converting myth over into “history” the transformers swallowed many a camel of factual ridiculousness or impossibility without choking. But surely it must occur to even palsied minds that the matter of knowing or recognizing as the one divine Avatar in all history a man who is declared to have been in all respects like other men save without sin, is a thing that lies beyond the realm of all human practicability. The whole matter of his recognition and identification as uniquely divine has been so aureoled with romantic suggestiveness, so exotically perfumed with semi-celestial fragrance, that it is quite impossible for votaries to bring their minds to take a realistic view of the practical possibilities in the case. It seems impossible to bring them out of the shimmering roseate light of adoration and mental sycophancy and have them face the blunt realities of such a situation. Not a man or women of them but would say that if Jesus appeared to them tomorrow as he appeared in his daily mien in Judea, they would immediately recognize him and be so overwhelmed that they would instantly prostrate themselves in adoration at his feet. This is questionable; but what is not questionable is that if another cosmic figure equally divine appeared tomorrow in the guise of ordinary humanity these folks would not recognize him. By what credentials would any man of “regular” human appearance, even with the saintliest of faces, enable us to distinguish him from the commonalty of the race and accept him as the one cosmic divine being, God’s only Son, come to earth? How could any spectator determine from looking at him that he was the one person in all ages set apart from the generality of mankind and really a god from the skies? Such a rating and such a distinctive uniqueness could not be determined from looking at any man in mortal flesh. Every age, indeed every community, has seen men of not only saintly appearance and bearing and wisdom, but of saintly life. Thousands of such people have lived lives essentially as blameless, innocent and charitable as his. How could any man in person exhibit unmistakably the marks of the supra-human distinctions claimed for Jesus in his life by Christian ecclesiasticism? These claims included first his uniqueness in all history as the only-begotten Son of God; then the totally novel and only single instance of a life utterly sinless and pure; then his cosmic election as the Logos of God, according to John’s first chapter description; then his role as the second person of the cosmic Trinity; then his commission as the agent of man’s evolutionary salvation; and finally as the embodied fulfillment of all ancient Messianic hope and realization. How could such qualities and functions be seen by merely looking at a man of ordinary human constitution? What stupefaction of mind is necessary to nurse the belief that the people of his day could identity him as the impersonation of all the exceptional and wholly unnatural characterization ascribed by religious fetishism to him must be left to the students of abnormal psychology to determine. It will be howled at this analysis that it is an attempt to treat a sacred thing in ribald fashion. On the contrary it is an attempt to take the situation exactly as Christian apologists represent it. If caricature is introduced it emanates from the side of ebullient faith and not from honest realism. The travesty of all natural possibility in the case is created by that naïveté of mind which even the learned theologians of every age down to the present have displayed in this matter. They have based many an argument or exegesis on the bald assumption that any person coming in sight of the man Jesus would have been at once overpowered with awe and would have known that he was looking at the only cosmic deity ever seen on earth. The sheer sight of his person would elucidate at once all the theological implications of his celestial errand. Forsooth he carried unmistakable credentials of his cosmic character with him in look, speech, majesty. Cosmic character shone all about him, glowed in his face, bearing, speech. The universal ascription to him of such egregious persuasion raises the next question as to how, if these were so, the humble people he was alleged to have contacted came to be instructed in the difficult art of recognizing cosmic characteristics. There is no evidence that the public of today has knowledge of any way to identify cosmic character.
Part of the rejoinder to this would be that he told the multitudes that he was the Son of God, the Messiah they were eagerly waiting for, the true vine, the celestial shepherd, the door and the way. They did not have to surmise; he gave them explicit information. In answer to this argument it need only be suggested that if people and popular attitudes of that day were in any way like what they are today, there is nothing that could have advanced the evidence of his cosmic mission that would so unfailingly have discredited his professions as his own statement that he was the one and only Son of God. It is the one sure token that the present age would accept as certain evidence of his not being what he claimed. Words that could appropriately and impressively flow from the mouth of the personified solar deity in a great ritual drama would create a riot in an actual street scene. One has but to use constructive imagination realistically for a moment to be assured of the vast improbability of the personal Christ’s being recognized for what he is claimed to have been in theology. If this is not convincing enough, let some claimant to divine status try it today! Were he the man with the saintliest mien, with the spiritual mystic’s benignant physiognomy and uttering the holiest of precepts, the moment he went about proclaiming his unique cosmic status a police call would in an hour be necessary to rescue him from the clownish roughness of the crowd. And the thing that would arouse both pity and subtle resentment in the crowd would be the evidence of general witlessness and lack of good sense thus flaunted in their faces. It is of course easy to ridicule or cheapen an essentially holy thing or a sincere action. Raillery is no true answer to real sincerity. Still pious religionism has asked us to accept without smiling a host of situations in the context of theological and Biblical interpretation that are wholly outlandish or screamingly ridiculous (such as the picture of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday sitting astride the backs of two asses at once!). It is after all no service to any man so to reduce his powers of judgment under the sway of religious infatuations that he is unable any longer to apply his faculties to envisage events realistically. The many events of Gospel narrative would take on quite a different aspect in the minds of gullible believers if they could be viewed in the broad light of factual realism instead of through the glamor of uncritical acceptance.
The assumption that a mob of people could “spot” an Avatar – much less the only cosmic one in world history – in any ordinary pious man of saintly appearance merely by looking at his physical person, is one of those implications of Christian doctrinism that has been painted upon the tractable imagination of millions until all power to view the circumstance through the eyes of actual occurrence has been lulled into stupor. Even in India, where holy men openly do parade their pretensions to sanctity, the self-advanced claims of one Yogi to the unique cosmic distinctions predicated of Jesus would be looked at askance. Various disquisitions on the Gospels and the life of Jesus often seriously picture the multitude as suddenly realizing in the Galilean peasant the physical fulfillment of all epic religious prophecy. And Joseph Warschauer, in his The Historical Life of Christ, dissertates on the theme of Jesus’ own awakening, at about the stage of his baptism in the Jordan, to the “humble” realization that he was to be in his single person the one living embodiment of divine messengership from God to humanity, and that through the brain, nerves and blood of his one little body were to flow the currents of a power that should redeem the human race. Even in spite of the fact that the whole ancient world looked for the coming of Messiah, and the exoterically taught masses expected it in the form of a living person, how the idea could have taken form in the mind of any intelligent man that his own body would be the vehicle or incorporation of that cosmic power is a glaring feature of the situation not explained by Warschauer or any other apologetic writer. It is left to the omnivorous camel-swallowing maw of that great monster of the genus of stupid religious gullibility, that ever-faithful animal that has carried on its back the priestcraft of the world, to ingest it without choking. The paralysis of the mass mind by the narcotic power of pious indoctrination affords one of the sorriest spectacles in all history. The cry for sanity in religion through the play of keen critical faculty will be met with violent reprobation by offended traditionalists. “There is no wild beast like an angry theologian” was the comment of the philosophic Julian, the Roman Emperor following Constantine. It has lost little of its truth in the intervening time.
This matter of the impossibility of the recognition of God’s only Son in mortal flesh has been treated with sufficient cogency, yet it is of such importance that it needs all the elaboration it can receive. It is difficult to present it with adequate impressiveness. It will be next to impossible to bring minds habituated to wholesale acceptance of the romanticism that has been built like a halo around the person of the Jesus figure to any fully detached and emotionally unprejudiced view of the matter. Psychology knows full well the hypnotizing force of religious inculcations implanted on the sensitive plate of the mind in childhood. They produce what the psychologists have called a conditioned reflex. This is hard to supplant or overcome by any merely mental presentation. It often persists even when the reason negates it. Said W. J. Bryan, “I would accept every statement in the Bible literally, no matter how it contravened my reason.” This well illustrates the massive emotional predisposition that is being dealt with here. “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” Reason has an almost insuperable weight of psychological skullduggery to overcome and push aside before it can gain a hearing at all. In the religious domain the reign of reason has been challenged and its sovereignty abrogated by the usurpation of irrational elements that spring from mysticism, and that carry an alleged higher authority than “mere” intellectuality.
The mind itself is supposed to be transcended and overridden by something called spiritual intuition or direct vision of God. The failure of the effort to harmonize the rational and irrational elements in religion has been the crux of the great debacle of human sanity in this most important area of culture. It is a question demanding a volume for adequate handling; but as touching the subject under discussion it may be summed up with the statement that even if there are aspects of cognition and realization that transcend reason, their deposit in consciousness can not be presumed to have authority or credence in flat despite of reason. Evolution developed reason as an instrument for the guidance and safe progress of the human monad in the earthly life. It would be working at odds with its own purposes if it at the same time deployed another faculty that proved reason unsafe. Anything that is salutary to the welfare of the organism must in the end prove to be in consonance with reason; otherwise there would be, so to say, a self-contradiction within the constitution of being itself.
Yet it is believed that in spite of arrant psychologization and mental obsessions of the deepest tenure a movement’s vivid imagination used in the reconstruction of the “life” of Jesus in its every-day aspects will carry home to any sane mind the full and indisputable truth of the assertion that the world could not possibly recognize a Person of the Cosmic Trinity if such a Person could be supposed to come to earth in human body. Ages do somewhat differ in set and temper, but it could hardly be contended that there ever was an age in which the appearance of a self-proclaimed cosmic Avatar would not be greeted with the utmost skepticism and derision by all classes of people. There are not rationally conceivable any credentials such a claimant could present that would allay incredulity, overcome suspicion, implant credence and carry certitude. The impregnable truth of the matter is that such a claimant could not be accepted in seriousness, could not be identified in the character and role claimed, could not be recognized and known as outside the category of a human being of ordinary stature. In Eastern lands where yoga phenomena of healing and other extraordinary occurrences were common and understood without marvel, not even his performance of miracles and the incidence of portents would prove to be cosmic credentials. The argument is long, but it can be condensed and concluded with the bald assertion, supported by every common sense consideration, that the presupposition posited by nearly all writers on “the life of Christ” as to Jesus’ being recognized by the populace or the age as the only-begotten Son of God ever to appear on the planet merely by seeing his person, is from bottom to top the most outlandish chimera of nonsense ever to creep into the deluded minds of pious people.
So drugged indeed is the traditionally indoctrinated mind of religious susceptibility that it has no intelligent comprehension whatever of the great body of peculiar doctrine that it has, like a boa-constrictor, attempted to swallow. It is in no sense realistically aware that in upholding the historical Jesus it is accepting not only the personalization of a divine principle, cosmic love, but also of the cosmic Aeon of the Gnostics, the Demiurgus or Cosmocrator of the Greeks, the Ra of Egypt and finally the Logos of John and the second person of the creative Trinity. The unthinkable crassness of this acceptance has never once occurred to people in whom “faith” operates in place of thought. When the sarcolatrae or worshipers of a Christ in the flesh, transformed the Christly principle into a mortal man, they did not know or consider what went naturally with it, what mighty powers and functions the slender body of the man Jesus would have to carry. They did not reckon with the many ancillary implications of the transfer. It did not occur to them that the character claimed for Jesus had to cover also the power and range of the Lord of the Cosmos, and that his body would then have to contain the unimaginable creative energy assigned to this person in the hierarchy. For what is the Logos? God the Father is the supreme generator, planner, designer and creator of the universe. God the Son, the Logos, is that universe in its manifested creation. The Logos is God’s boundless power and wisdom deployed in the active work of creation. The Logos is the infinite force that upholds the galaxies of countless solar systems and carries on their evolution. It needs only a moment of sober reflection to reveal the degree of stupefaction necessary to induce any mind to believe that the cosmic power great enough to create the infinite hosts of the suns and their planets could have been contained in the tiny body of a Judean peasant on one of the smallest of planets! If the tiniest billionth of such a mighty force were infused somehow into the mortal body of a man on this earth it would burn it to a crisp in a second. This idea that Jesus the man could be the second Person of the Trinity is as dire a hallucination as any that has ever been perpetrated even in the name of religion. Allegiance to a doctrine that has to be secured by an ecclesiastical system at the price of so frightful an obfuscation of the thinking genius of man is itself a tragic affliction. The whole situation which has made such an abnormality possible is an enormity of ghastly proportions and of ominous portent. The Logos, forsooth, embodied in the person of a carpenter! We hold the Greeks in derision for – as we allege – believing that Jupiter, the God of heaven, was a man who ran off with Io and other beautiful maidens and could be jealous or vindictive. It is now known that the Greeks were only toying with a marvelous imagery. But modern moronism is not saved by allegory. In sober earnest we have claimed that the unimaginable cosmic might of the Logos that swings the galaxies through their orbits came to earth and was a man of flesh! Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity! That millions have for centuries been made to “believe” such folly is a sickening realization. This was one item in the catastrophe that was precipitated on half a world for sixteen centuries as a result of turning myth and drama into alleged “history.” A heavy price to pay for bad scholarship! The pious faith of the ignorant Church Fathers did not save them from precipitating the Western world into the Dark Ages, the blame for which has been laid at the door of an innocuous “paganism” of the northern lands of Europe, whose systems of a profounder esotericism were ruthlessly destroyed by advancing “Christianity” of the literalized variety.
Perhaps it is now possible to round out the argument as to the comparative psychological influence of a historical Christ and a dramatized typical Christ figure. Since the indwelling activity of Christos is the basic indispensable factor in salvation, anything that weakens it must be held detrimental to critically vital values. The great struggle in the human breast between the impulses of the natural man and the implanted seed of divine growth is ever so critical, the forces of “evil” resident in the carnal man so persistently powerful, and the issue of the conflict at all stages so delicately balanced, that any influence which in the least degree lessens the developing strength of the inner god, or which detracts from the personal effort to exercise its powers, dangerously imperils the outcome and the individual’s evolutionary destiny. As the worship of the historical Jesus does, by the very measure of its sincerity, divert attention from the culture of the inner spirit, it becomes perilous to that degree. In the end there is no dodging this issue in the moral field of our life. It is incontestable that the exact amount of psychic energy that we expend in actualizing our reliance upon a historical savior is so much less available for our task of developing the inner deity. While the outer savior is receiving our devotion, the inner Christ is permitted to lie unawakened. Mankind is so constituted psychologically that by so much as it can lean upon extraneous help it will not exert itself in its own behalf. The purpose of life in the flesh is to force souls who have come here from the empyrean to exert themselves against pressure, stress and strain in order to develop their greater potential divinity. It needs to be said in clarion tones for the benefit of overweening piety and uncritical faith, that any influence which in the least degree diminishes the individual’s conviction of the necessity of reliance upon his own hidden divinity must inexorably be calamitous for his progress. The image of Jesus the man and the theological teaching of his power to save us intrude to break the force of the knowledge that our only savior is within. And never will the mortal man be able to bring the full resultant of his living experience in the world to bear upon the problem of his evolutionary growth until he divests himself of all artificial props and stands squarely on his own feet, making his fight alone. Only when he meets the exigencies of his life here by calling upon the resources of his potential savior within him will he be fulfilling the conditions requisite to cultivate that savior’s dynamic possibilities. If in the stress of experience he habitually looks to a hypothetical power outside himself, he lets the real powers of his own divinity lie fallow.
Much so-called “spiritual science” of current development has worked on the assumption that a technique adequate for attainment of consummate results in this field involves only subjective effort. In the wake of the popularization of Hindu mysticism in the West practice has taken the direction of an inward retirement. Values in consciousness are sought by way of detachment from sensual experience and contemplation of purely spiritual things. But this movement stands sorely in need of the reminder that the seed power or sheer potentiality of Godhood in man requires for its development something more than mere meditation upon divine things. The spirit might dwell eternally in the world of abstraction if it could follow its own inclination, as a man might choose to lie comfortably in bed instead of getting up and exerting himself for desirable ends. But if it did so it would never achieve its evolution. It would never grow. God could have no children if his spirit did not go forth into an intercourse with matter, the eternal Mother, and implant the seed of a new birth in her universal womb. For the birthing of his progeny, the gods, archangels, angels, heroes and men, there is needed the conjunction of spiritual potentiality with the active energies of what the Greeks called physis, or nature. Clear down the diapason from God to atom every power of mind or soul has to be linked with its sakti, or physical energy, if it is to implement its ideal structure for creative purposes. Spirit can not evolve when not in relation to matter. It lies static, inactive; it is sheer ideal abstraction. To actualize its thought structures, to bring its creative designs to pass, it must be wedded with matter. It must use the energies loaded in the atom of matter to realize its entelechy (Aristotle), or final purpose. The whole flow of evolution, therefore, depends upon the stimuli provided by the contingencies arising in and from the soul’s experiences in material body. Without matter spirit can have no experience. Not the transcendent but the immanent deity grows. Says Emerson, “The true doctrine of the Omnipresence is that God exists in all his parts in every moss and cobweb.”
The conditions of experience bring latent spiritual capacity to active expression under the impact of the strong forces at play in the world of nature. Spirit awakes and exerts itself by virtue of the necessity of responding to the incidence of blows from the side of matter. Even the dangers threatening the existence or welfare of its own body, its instrument, on the good state of which its own unfoldment depends, elicits its unexercised powers.
The concept of world salvation by a personal redeemer not one’s own inner deity is thus inexpressibly wide of the mark for the basic meaning of religion. If the one and only begotten Son of God performed the racial redemption, the god within each man would be deprived of the opportunity for growth which is created only with the dawn of full consciousness of its own entire responsibility for the consequences of acts. Any influence that depletes the utter reliance of the outer personality upon the inner deity is an interference with the planned economics of moral and spiritual evolution. It should have been noted in the study of homiletics that manifestations of divine help, as if coming from an outside savior assumed to be Jesus – in olden times the tribal god – generally occur when one has exhausted all known or available helps and is forced by dire anguish to call upon some spiritual or cosmic agency in last despair. From this it might be assumed that a degree of inner agony is just the stress needed to arouse sleeping divinity to active exertion. Thus the exigencies of the outer man in mortal experience prove to be the agencies of the divinization of the inner man. And the Christ of the age-old ritual dramas was the type of the divine Self in humanity undergoing the strain, stress and strife requisite to bring to light the grand epiphany of his solar glory.
What can be said for the psychological influence of the historical Christ is that the concept has engendered in Western civilization for sixteen centuries a massive emotionalism and sentimentalism arising from thought of his personal life and sufferings, which, if it can be shown that the Gospels are not histories but spiritual dramas, that their contents were in existence thousands of years before his alleged date, must be seen at last as the most prodigious waste of psychic force, the most devastating hallucination and the most stinging humiliation of pride in human history.
It may be appropriate to close this preliminary survey of the more obvious features of the discussion with consideration of another item that is closely related to the psychological utility of the Christ conception. In fact it is the nub and core of the final judicial determination of the relative merit of the two opposing theories. If it can be determined finally that, of the two, one is entirely necessary for the beneficent working of its effects on humanity, and the other not indispensable, but only an adventitious accompaniment of the first, the verdict for superior utility must go to the necessary one. As between the Christ in the heart of all children of God and the Christ in one man, the first is the one both primarily and ultimately necessary for the redemption of the individual. It is a condition sine qua non; the other is merely superfluous and accessory at best. Had there been one personal Christ or a thousand, it is still the leaven of Christliness in the soul of a man that must save him. It is the agency that must be present and operative even if the other be extant. The other could be dispensed with and salvation still be effected. This could not be put vice versa. If the immanent Christos be not a reality in consciousness, the historic Jesus can avail nothing for the suppliant. Salvation could be won without his existence – as it must have been done before he lived! For all his life and death it could never be won without the saving grace of the impersonal Immanuel. The historical Christ is therefore only a superadded and supernumerary theological luxury. He is a negligible element in the system of redemption, in no wise indispensable. So far from being true that the scheme of human salvation rests critically and centrally upon him, the truth is that it does not even vitally need him. It could do without him. He is surely not the keystone of the arch or the cornerstone of the temple. The structure rests solidly on the presence in all men of the deific leaven, and if he enters the picture it is as mere adornment. He is not basic but extraneous and decorative. His addition to the theological equipment makes the house of religion more attractive to people of emotional susceptibilities. His humanity, especially his infancy, babyhood, childhood and the imagined pains his frail body suffered in Passion Week, make a strong appeal to emotional sympathies and thus help perpetuate the institution of religion.
The story is a long one, but to it this work is dedicated, with the motive of restoring Christianity to its original exalted purity and of redeeming it from the degradation of having crucified anew the spiritual Christ in the heart on the cross of a material concept in human thought as “wooden” as the alleged “tree of Calvary.”
The Logos was made flesh, yes, but not only one hundred and eighty pounds of it.
TRUTH WEARS A MASK
The logical point of departure for the investigation is the study of ancient methodology in the writing of sacred literature. It has been quite largely due to modern ignorance of a special methodology employed in such writing, one bearing no relation or kinship to any known technique in our period, that misinterpretation of arcane books has come about. In spite of voluminous authentic testimony to the fact of such an extraordinary literary method, scholars down to the present day have failed to take note of the evidence for it, and have with unmitigated obduracy flouted the claims for the fact and its overwhelming implications for our understanding the whole of ancient lore. The consequences have been disastrous over the whole range of religious interest. It is therefore necessary to begin with a scrutiny of the peculiar style of representation which was indigenous to the ancient mind and its approach to the grasp and expression of religious truth.
If it can be shown that the ancient sages wrote their great books of wisdom in a form that was purely typological or representative, and in no sense objectively historical, a presumptive argument of nearly clinching force will be established in favor of the non-existence of Jesus, as far as the New Testament is concerned. If practically the only documents in which his “life” is recorded are proven to be non-historical literature, the presupposition is well grounded from the start that he was not a living man but a typical personification of the god in man. The entrenched interests of ecclesiastical orthodoxy have persistently withstood the claims and the evidence for the correctness of this thesis, but it can be said in the face of such resistance that the case for it is established beyond the point of speculation or further controversy. If this is still controverted, it is designed to present in the work at hand a volume of data that will render the case virtually impregnable at last.
The purpose of this chapter is to adduce plentiful witness that the sages of antiquity wrote their Bibles in a method of designed cryptology and as much to hide their real meaning as to reveal it. Contrary to all modern reasoning and expectation, they did not write for the obvious purpose of informing, instructing or enlightening the largest number of people. Rather it is evident that they wrote primarily to preserve from popular desecration a treasure of recondite spiritual wisdom and cosmological truth, that was designed to be transmitted as nearly intact as possible from early antiquity to all later ages. Ancient literary interest centered about the safety and purity of a great jewel of knowledge, and not, as in modern days, about the most rapid general purveying of every item of discovery to the largest number of people possible. The golden motive in writing the sacred books was not how quickest to get truth to the populace, but how most surely to keep the great secrets of divine teaching untarnished by the populace, for the benefit of those of every age who would use them aright. To preserve the heritage of truth intact, and not to disseminate it among the illiterate and unappreciative masses, was the primary aim of the writers of the arcane books.
This aim and purpose dictated a peculiar type of writing, obviously one not directly open and simple in meaning, but one of indirection and disguise. Books were therefore composed in what is known as the esoteric method. An inner profounder and always more spiritual meaning than the one ostensibly carried by the outward sense of the words was intended to be embodied, and the expectation was that it would be divined by the more intelligent segment of society and missed by the unworthy and uncultured. For the attainment of this end the great cosmic, evolutionary, philosophical and religious truths, along with the vital data for understanding, were expressed, “not in dialogues, but in a wide variety of typical representations, the main forms of which were drama, myth, allegory, nomenology (or name structure), number formulations (as chiefly in the Pythagorean system), and astrographs, or pictorial designs drawn on the open face of the sky about the star clusters. The aim was to dramatize or pictorialize truth and evolutionary process, and to this end there was invented, through the exercise of the most profoundly astute insight ever exhibited by the illumined human brain, an entire language of symbolism, composed of an alphabet of symbolic characters drawn from living nature, ranging from atom to earth-worm or beetle to stars and gods. The great archaic texts of wisdom were therefore not only collections of myths, allegories and dramas, but they were couched in a language of the most extreme subtlety, ability to read which conditioned upon the profoundest knowledge of the science of natural analogy. The symbolic characters in this cryptic alphabet were by no means mere algebraic x’s in the fashion of a cipher code or system. They were actual biographs of the idea to be expressed, living and objective types of the thing connoted. This very fact alone presupposes as the foundation for adeptship in the handling of such a language a knowledge of life and of nature that would be the acquirement of only the most perspicacious philosophical genius. It would require a volume in itself to reconstruct the science of correspondences or analogy resting on the kinship or parallelism known to subsist between the two worlds of objective and subjective reality, or as Emerson puts it, “betwixt the inner spirit and the outer matter,” by virtue of which the discerning mind of man can interpret the outer phenomena as the counterparts or reflection of the inner consciousness. Nature is the analogue of the spirit; the world is the antitype of the soul. The universe is the physical construct of the Creator’s thought, and therefore he who can handle the alphabet of the hieroglyphs of divine ideation in the objective presentment of nature can read God’s mind after him. Natural forms thus become a living language of the most nearly divine comprehension man is capable of, and afford him the most voluble vehicles or symbols of the clearest expression he can frame. As the most penetrating insight into the profounder aspects of both consciousness and nature were prime essentials for such usage, obviously the mastery of a science so recondite would be confined to a minority of the most developed individuals. These were of course the philosophers, the illuminati, the hierophants of the temples and the initiates in the Mysteries. They were the members of the group to which was entrusted the custodianship and transmission of the Arcane Philosophy.
A cryptic typology and a symbolic alphabet or language were then the essential structural features of the ancient esoteric literary methodology. The logos of esotericism is a theme of the utmost profundity, which taxes the human mind to grasp its rational essence. It again would take a volume to expound, since its analysis would run deep and broad into the nature of life and consciousness alike. There is no room in this work for any full attempt at elucidation of the abstruse subject, though much of the work bears pretty closely upon the central answer. It may be in the end the gist of all effort at comprehension of the secrecy of initial world wisdom to understand simply that as the full inner meaning of life is as deep as the deepest mind of man, the attempt to render that full meaning for the grasp of lesser minds must be couched in terms and forms that will lay the heaviest toll of intelligence and sagacity upon the faculties of the student or aspirant. The answer is in part also inwoven with human psychology, by the conditions of which nothing but these living symbols can in the ultimate awaken in sluggish men the quickened flare of genius for the apprehension of the most real sense and values. It is recognized in all education that the drama carries far greater psychic impressiveness than the best of spoken language. We can learn a mighty lesson from the Greeks who in their dramatic rituals effectuated a mighty moral purgation in the consciousness and character of the auditors which was spoken of under the designation of “catharsis.” It was known to them that the drama could be used to work a purification of the innermost springs of thought and conduct in the individual, as the beholder was made to live over vicariously in the persons of the actors the crises and heroic or tragic episodes of the human moral conflict depicted on the stage. The whole intent of the drama and the Mystery ceremonials was to bring the force of the most impressive living realization home to the inner consciousness of the audience personnel, and to stamp in the most vivid manner upon the susceptibilities of the participants the deepest sense of the incarnational drama in which all mortals are adventuring. It needs no elaborate dialectic to make clear the perception that drama carries a far more effective power for impressing moral issues upon the mind than any language can achieve. It is a copy of living reality; it is life itself in the particular and in miniature; and it is all drawn up in such a form as to present to the mind the structural nature of both action and meaning. In pain and its happiness. It gathers up a tangled or loose thread of unrelated occurrence and displays the fateful pattern of weal or woe into which it is being woven by the shuttle of life – or, as most ancients saw it, of many lives. As to the symbolism in language, it was of the same order of rationale as the drama, but cast in smaller scale. Both the drama and symbolism draw their dynamic psychological effectiveness from the fact that they bear to truth in the large the relation of truth in miniature. It was the knowledge of the early teachers of mankind that all smaller process was a diminutive copy of all larger process, or of life process in any measure. The law of life was universal. Therefore all forms of its expression, large or small, exemplified the same one law. The microcosm, they said, was a tiny reflection of the macrocosm. The fragment bore the image of the whole. Man was made in the image of God. The atom and the world are alike descriptive of the universe. Each revealed the pattern, and there is but one pattern, though it has endless modifications in minor detail. Man is looking at the whole of truth when he looks at any living part of creation. It is more than a poet’s fancy that all of God is present everywhere, and that every common bush is aflame with deity.
Hence all nature is an alphabetic language, and every form is a symbol. Autumn is the eternal symbol of death and spring of resurrection. The leaf is the alphabetic character that reads repeated incarnation for the life of the tree. The seed is the greatest of all hieroglyphs, for it is the end product of one cycle and at the same time the beginning stage of the next, thus furnishing the key to the whole ongoing process of life. The career of a dragon-fly is the whole epic of human life lived in the four worlds of sense, emotion, thought and spirit, typed in the old language by earth, water, air and fire. The symbol is therefore a powerfully moving photograph of life and reality, a thumb-nail portraiture of the whole vast meaning of the cosmos. Language is itself nothing but a designed set of symbols. But symbols taken directly from nature have the additional cogency of being parts of life itself in immediate view. In dealing with symbols man constantly bathes his mind in reality. They are his safeguards against folly and error. They are his perennial instructors. They unfold before his eyes the forms and designs of the pattern of life. Says Emerson: “A good symbol is a missionary to convince thousands.”
In its power over the human mind language comes close to deserving the term magical. Symbols, therefore, have been employed in the sphere of philosophy and religion to wield upon general consciousness a kind of potent charm akin to spiritual “magic.” This is indeed the true magic. For thought is the great Magician of the cosmos, transforming one thing into another and calling the worlds into being by the wand of its vibrational power. The simple and natural meaning of the word “magic” is this power of mind to throw matter into the form outlined by thought. Thought makes or mars lives; it is the eternal prestidigitator. Its legerdemain brings the invisible to visible appearance.
All this is implicit in the nature and use of the symbol. The picture of truth presented by it imprints its image upon the open tablet of the mind. Through the rapport which the part feels with the whole, the unit of consciousness with the entirety of consciousness, and the instinctive urge of the fragment to re-become one with the All, the impact of a symbol upon mind anywhere is inevitably to awaken in it a stir of latent cognitive delight, the impulsive thrill of its recognition of its harmony with all being. This recognition and delight become life’s truest guide to rectitude. Symbols keep the mind aligned with truth. They hold it in line with verity. They save it from vagary and fantasy. Such is the magic might of the symbol.
This magic is finally the ground of esotericism. It is admissible without cavil that mystic susceptibility to the wizardry of symbols would be developed and become operative in even step with the individual’s growth in culture. It would be a manifestation of strength of genius and a high degree of intellectuality. Obvious it is then that a literature conceived on the basis of a science so profound, expressed in its recondite symbology and dependent finally upon the possession in its recipients of the astute faculty requisite for its due appreciation, would have to be cast in a language of esotericism. Inevitably failing of comprehension amongst the populace, it would appeal to the more sagacious and the more illuminated. The norms of culture were set by the more intelligent minority, as they must ever be. The wardship of culture is in the hands of a small group, whose deeper criteria of value at once set store by things which are beyond the mob, and thus esotericism is inexorably introduced into the cultural or religious situation.
It has been necessary to elucidate the nature and bases of esotericism because the stubborn recalcitrancy of savants in the time since the closing of the Platonic Academies in the fifth century has imposed on a truth-seeking scholar the task of vindicating it against the in- orthodox refutation of its legitimacy. It remains next to array in considerable volume a mass of data that will establish beyond further evasion or quibbling the fact of its ancient prevalence and its place in the methodology of scripture writing.
It is to be understood at the outset of this enterprise that, considerable as is the evidence amassed here, it is only a tiny portion of what might be assembled if all books could be consulted. Indeed that presented here is merely additional to what has been collected in an earlier work, The Lost Light. It is by no means the main body of such authentication. The quantity given here could easily be trebled or quadrupled. In the face of such an amount of testimony the question will arise in many minds why the scholars of our day and previous periods should have so obdurately held out against the indisputable regnancy of esotericism in the ancient literary field. Substantiation of the position taken will call for much quotation of documents and authorities.
A modern theologian agrees with the fundamental rationale of the esoteric method. Benjamin W. Bacon, of Yale Divinity School, in his valuable work, Jesus and Paul, (p. 207) says that just as in modern times we are conscious that truth may be imparted often more effectively by fiction than by plain statement, so it was with the ancient world, but in much higher degree. To this another modern, the Harvard Santayana (Dialogues in Limbo, p. 185) adds his confession that “allegory has its charms when we know the facts it symbolizes, but as a guide to unknown facts it is perplexing; and I am another lost in your beautiful imagery.” Strange that the philosopher should admit his incapacity to follow natural imagery when he himself employs it in many beautiful analogies, and the general requirement of intelligence is no greater than necessary to see the fine allegorism in such a quotation as this from the same work of his (p. 56): “The soul, too, has her virginity and must bleed a little before bearing fruit.” Are we to assume that natural parallelism is permissible when used by modern poets, but to be distrusted when employed by the philosophic sages with more systematic handling?
How truly the same thinker came to stating the full truth with regard to a greater chapter of history shown in his statement (Winds of Doctrine, p. 50) that “it seems to many of us that Christianity is indeed a fable, yet full of meaning if you take it as such.” This is forthright corroboration of the basic thesis of this study, which claims that the scriptures yield their true meaning only when taken as allegory and fable, and yield nonsense when taken as history. It is worth completing his statement: “for what scraps of historical truth there may be in the Bible or of metaphysical truth in theology are of little importance; whilst the true greatness and beauty of this, as of all religions, is to be found in its moral idealisms, I mean, in the expression it gives, under cover of legends, prophecies, or mysteries, of the efforts, tragedy and the consolations of human life. Such a moral fable is what Christianity is in fact; . . .” Here is great sanity of discernment, and it largely tells the whole story of religion. Yet the same mind shows confusion again when he writes (Winds of Doctrine, p. 33): “Even the pagan poets, when they devised a myth, half believed in it for a fact.” There is no tangible evidence anywhere to vindicate this stricture. To be sure, they “believed” in their myths when comprehended esoterically; but surely none but the grossest of ignorant folk ever “believed” in them as factual occurrence. That enormity of childish folly was reserved for the modern academicians.
Bishop Laurence in the preface to his work on the Book of Enoch (p. xlvi) says that the singular and fascinating “system of allegorical subtleties” predominant in the philosophies of the East is as inseparable from Oriental modes of thought and expression “as the shadow is from the substance.”
Bulfinch (Age of Fable, p. 12), in writing of the creation of the world, says that “the ancient pagans, not having the information on the subject which we derive from the pages of Scripture, had their own way of telling the story.” As to which it may be observed that it is possible to say now that the ancient pagans had these same and many more scriptures long before we had them, and knew infinitely better what they meant than we do. But it is noteworthy that he admits they had their own peculiar method of writing the account.
One of the most direct revelations of the basic interrelation of symbols with consciousness is given in a sentence from Proclus, the fourth century expounder of Platonism who was nearly equal in esoteric wisdom to the master himself, in which he says that “the paternal nature disseminated symbols in souls,” and through the world. This statement pierces closer to the heart of the rationale of the science of symbolism than anything ever likely to be said in the elucidation of that abstruse science. The divine creative or paternal mind, or Logos, has scattered symbols through the world and placed in souls a power capable of being excited by their impingement on the outer sense. This is an item of Greek philosophy that could profitably be brooded over by thinkers today. It would tend to dispose us to a more friendly and harmonious relationship with outer nature, and would reveal to us anew the indispensable truth known to the Egyptians that, as Gerald Massey puts it, “the symbolical can only be interpreted by the natural.” This must be so for the very sound reason that generally the symbolical is the natural. For nature is herself the greatest lexicon of symbols extant. Massey enlarges upon this theme when he says (Book of Beginnings, II, p. 37) that “typology consists of various things set forth by means of one original type. Symbolism was a mode necessitated, not a system designed, because the one principal type had to serve many purposes of expression.” This, it has been seen, was true because there is but one universal law, and this one law, seen in every phenomenon, has to serve as the one norm of interpretation.
This discernment of Massey is corroborated by the observations of C. O. Müller, who is quoted by Lundy (Monumental Christianity, p. 18):
“Ancient Greece possessed only two means of representing and communicating ideas of the Deity – Mythus and Symbol. The mythus relates an action, by which the Divine Being reveals himself in his power and individuality; the symbol renders it visible to the sense by means of an object placed in connection therewith. . . . The symbol is an external visible sign with which a spiritual emotion, feeling or idea is connected. The mythic representation can never rest upon arbitrary choice of expression; so, too, the connection of an idea with a sign in Symbolism, was natural and necessary to the ancient world; it occurred involuntarily; and the essence of the symbol consists in this supposed connection of the sign with the thing signified. Symbols in this sense are evidently coeval with the human race; they result from the union of the soul with the body of man: nature has implanted the feeling for them in the human heart. The human face expresses spiritual peculiarities; and so all nature wore to the ancients a physiognomical aspect.”
With the art or science of the interpretation of nature’s physiognomy the ancient sages were profoundly conversant. It is one of the greatest of all “lost arts.” Lundy adds to Müller’s perspicacious analysis the observation that “if the mythos has no spiritual meaning, then all religion becomes mere idolatry, or the worship of material things,” i.e., the symbols in their literal reference. “But we have seen symbols of Oriental Pagan religions which indicate a supreme Power and Intelligence above matter; and also how early Christianity abhorred idolatry.”
Proclus in his great work on the theology of Plato speaks of “all the fables, therefore, of Plato, guarding the truth in concealment.” And he adds that
“if certain persons introduce to us physical hypotheses of Platonic fables . . . we must say that they entirely wander from the intention of the philosopher, and that those hypotheses alone are interpreters of the truth contained in these fables, which have for their scope a divine, immaterial and separate hypostasis and which, looking to this, make the compositions and analyses of fables adapted to our inherent anticipations of divine concerns.”
Which is to say in plainer terms that those who take a physical or historical meaning out of the allegories, mistake the intent of the great dramatist and blindly miss the sense; while the true import is to be found in a mystagogical perception of truth deeply veiled.
The same great philosopher, speaking of the “mystic ceremonies” of the Mysteries, says that “every part is full of symbolical representation, as in a drama.” Thomas Taylor, editing Proclus’ work, says
“the reader may perceive how adultery and rapes, as represented in the machinery of the Mysteries, are to be understood when applied to the gods; and that they mean nothing more than communication of divine energies, either between a superior and subordinate, or subordinate and superior divinity.”
He adds that the “apparent indecency” of these symbolic depictions had nothing to do with their “mystic meaning,” but that they were indeed “designed as a remedy for the passions of the soul; and hence mystic ceremonies were very properly called akea, medicines, by the obscure and noble Heraclitus.” Drama and symbol used as moral medicines!
Taylor in his Introduction to the philosophy and writings of Plato, quotes Proclus as saying that those who treat of divine concerns either speak symbolically and fabulously, or through images. Some, he asserts, speak according to science, but others according to inspiration from the gods. He states that those who attempt to set forth the nature of the gods through symbols are Orphic, whilst those who use “images” are Pythagoric.
“For the mathematical disciplines were invented by the Pythagoreans in order to a reminiscence of divine concerns, to which, through these as images, they endeavor to ascend. For they refer both numbers and figures to the gods.”
It is notable that the Platonic philosophers rated the mathematical discipline and the contemplation of the numerological structure of the universe as the very highest and most direct path by which the human mind could approach a rapport with the divine. (In the light of which statement it may perhaps be true that Albert Einstein, the famed physicist of our day, when, in response to his challenge to the clergy to put an end to their preachment of an anthropomorphic God, he was bluntly told by them to stay in his own mathematical field and not presume to invade one in which he was not intelligent, might be considered to stand closer to an apprehension of divinity than his clerical detractors.)
Proclus then elucidates the reasons “when the ancients were induced to devise fables,” and this remarkable passage is worth quoting if only for the sake of reminding a science-ridden age that it is utterly wrong in continuing to hold in contempt one of the greatest of all sciences, analogy.
“In answer, then, it is necessary to know that the ancients employed fables, looking to two things, viz., nature and our soul. They employed them by looking to nature and the fabrication of things as follows: Things inapparent are believed from things apparent and incorporeal natures from bodies. For seeing the orderly arrangement of bodies, we understand that a certain incorporeal power presides over them; as with respect to the celestial bodies, they have a certain presiding motive power. As we, therefore, see that our body is moved, but is no longer so after death, we perceive that it was a certain incorporeal power which moved it. Hence, perceiving that we believe things inapparent from things apparent and corporeal, fables came to be adopted that we might come from things apparent to certain inapparent natures; as, for instance, that on hearing the adulteries, bonds and lacerations of the gods, castrations of heaven and the like, we might not rest satisfied with the apparent meaning of such like particulars, but may proceed to the inapparent, and investigate the true signification. After this manner, therefore, looking to the nature of things, were fables employed.”
There are passages in the books of the ancient philosophers that fairly shout – to the discerning student – their regal wisdom in our ears, and this is one of them. Had the potential enlightenment in these words been caught and held by the scholars of the earlier centuries and incorporated in western philosophy, the entire history of Christian Europe and America would have run a happier course. The fogs of religious insanity would surely have been dissipated by the intelligence that would have arisen from contemplation of God’s natural handiwork, seen as the analogue of the verities of the unseen spiritual world. The irrational and fanatical mysticism inspired by the preachment of sheer faith would have been replaced by a mysticism of rational foundation, springing from the reading of the eternal mind in the open book of natural revelation. And Paul’s adjuration to add knowledge to faith would have averted the endless sickening horrors of pious bigotry and persecution. The great science of analogy has been contemned even in spite of St. Paul’s complete endorsement of Greek insight in his amazingly clear and simple statement that “that which may be known of God is manifest,” and that “the invisible things of Him” may be clearly seen, by looking at the visible world around us. The long and gruesome train of ills that have been engendered by the medieval and modern contempt for ancient “paganism,” the mawkish and revolting scorn heaped upon the alleged “primitive” child-mindedness of past civilizations spiritually more enlightened than our own, would have given way to a cultural sensitivity that must surely have kept the pages of the historical record free from the black stains they now bear. The spectacle of the supercilious contempt shown toward an ancient culture by a civilization that has not even evolved the intelligence to comprehend its subtleties has darkened the human outlook on life and defeated the power of the light to break through the darkness and shed its benignant rays of intelligence and sanity upon the world. It was so much easier for a mentality that could not comprehend the Greek myths to cast the stigma of its own incapacity upon the framers of the myths than to admit its proper applicability to itself. It is time that it be proclaimed in ringing tones that the alleged incomprehensibility of the myths is due to modern doltishness and not to ancient ignorance. Wisdom was so deeply grasped that the symbols which alone could awaken its cognition have left us gaping and mocking, incredulous and uncomprehending.
Had not the illustrious Platonic literature been pushed aside for a spurious and emasculated version of it, we could have been better instructed by such a sentence as this, which Proclus adds to the foregoing: “It may always be said that a fable is nothing else than a false discourse shadowing forth the truth, for a fable is the image of truth.” Had we the discerning sense to lay hold of the great fact expressed in his next sentence – “But the soul is the image of the natures prior to herself” – for a grasp of which the study of the whole of the great Orphic-Platonic system is requisite – we would be in better position to accept his conclusion that “hence the soul very properly rejoices in fables, as an image of an image.” And we could then follow his last sentence in the paragraph: “As we are therefore from our childhood nourished in fables, it is necessary that they should be introduced.”
Staggering rebuke to the stolidity of this age is implied in his further exposition:
“The poetic fable abounds in this, that we must not rest satisfied with the apparent meaning, but pass on to the occult truth. . . . But it is defective in this, that it deceives those of a juvenile age. Plato therefore neglects fables of this kind and banished Homer from his Republic, because youth, on hearing such fables, will not be able to distinguish what is allegorical from what is not.”
As it was unthinkable for us of the modern world in 1914 to believe that in a few years the whole fabric of human liberty that had been built up by centuries of struggle against tyranny would be toppling to ruin, so it must have seemed unthinkable to Plato and, seven hundred years later, to Proclus that the long-enduring structure of esoteric philosophy could be torn down and its ruins submerged under the debris of literal and historical nonsense. A juvenile age indeed!
What could be clearer than Proclus’ statement that “the Orphic method aimed at revealing divine things by means of symbols, a method common to all writers of divine lore (theomythias)?” (The word means “God-myth.”) And he quotes Plutarch (De Pyth. Orac., xviii): “Formerly the wisdom-lovers exposed their doctrines and teachings in poetical fiction, as for example Orpheus and Hesiod and Parmenides and Julian, the so-called Apostate. . . . Many of the philosophers and theologians were myth-makers. . . . Concerning the myths of the Mysteries which Orpheus handed down to us, in the very things which in these myths are most incongruous, he drew nearest to the truth. For just in proportion as the enigma is more paradoxical and wonderful, so does he warn us to distrust the appearance and seek for the hidden meaning. Philostratus asserts that in the Iliad the poet was philosophizing in the Orphic manner.”
Plutarch (De Daedal., Frag. lx, 1, 754) writes that
“the most ancient philosophers covered up their teachings in a lattice work of fables and symbols, especially instancing the Orphic writings and the Phrygian myths.”
“That ancient natural science both among the Greeks and foreigners was for the most part hidden in myths of an occult and mysterious theology containing an enigmatical and hidden meaning, is clear from the Orphic poems and the Egyptian and Phrygian treatises.”
G. R. S. Mead, in Orpheus (p. 51) quotes Pico della Mirandolo, Italian occultist of the Renaissance, as writing:
“He who does not know perfectly how to intellectualize sensible properties by the method of occult analogy, will never arrive at the real meaning of the Hymns of Orpheus.”
Mead further endorses Thomas Taylor, the enlightened interpreter of Plato:
“Taylor says that the Grecian theology was first ‘mystically and symbolically’ promulgated by Orpheus. . . . To understand that theology, therefore, we must treat it from the point of view of mysticism and symbolism, for no other method is capable of extracting its meaning.”
And Mead adds Proclus’ assertion that
“the whole theology of the Greeks is the child of Orphic mystagogy, Pythagoras being first taught the ‘orgies’ of the gods (‘orgies’ signifying ‘burstings forth,’ or ‘emanations,’ from a insert greek) by Aglaophemus, and next Plato receiving the perfect science concerning such things from the Pythagorean and Orphic writings.”
In his book New Platonism and Alchemy (p. 6), Alexander Wilder makes the unequivocal statement: “There was in every ancient country having claims to civilization an esoteric doctrine, a system that was designated WISDOM, and those who were devoted to its prosecution were first denominated Sages or wise men. . . . Pythagoras termed the system he gnosis ton onton, the Gnosis or knowledge of things that are. Under the noble designation of WISDOM the ancient teachers, the sages of India, the magians of Persia and Babylon, the seers and prophets of Israel, the hierophants of Egypt and Arabia and the philosophers of Greece and the West included all knowledge which they considered as essentially divine; classifying a part as esoteric and the remainder as exoteric. The Rabbis called the exterior and secular series the Mercavah, as being the body or vehicle which contained the higher knowledge.”
Clement of Alexandria, Christian philosopher of the third century tersely said that “it is requisite to hide in a mystery the wisdom spoken.” This is the echo of St. Paul’s “wisdom hidden in a mystery.” No statement could be more explicit than Clement’s:
“All, then, in a word, who have spoken of divine things, both barbarians and Greeks, have veiled the first principles of things and delivered the truth in enigmas and symbols and allegories and metaphors and such like tropes.”
In speaking of the exoteric version of the fables and allegories Origen, Clement’s learned pupil and one of the prime formulators of early Christian theology, asks: “What better could you have for the instruction of the masses?” Paracelsus (Vol. I, p. 17) centuries later wrote that it was “the property of the common herd to take false views of things.” It is certainly true that almost every conception harbored in the minds of the “average man” today, as in the past, concerning the true meaning of the deeper things of theology, is atrociously in error.
In Orpheus (1, p. 60) Mead declares: “These myths are not only set forth in verse and prose, but were also represented pictorially and in sculpture in the Adyta of the temples.”
“Myriads on myriads of enigmatical utterances by both poets and philosophers are to be found; and there are also whole books which present the mind of the writer veiled as that of Heraclitus’ ‘On Nature,’ which on this very account is called ‘the Obscure.’ Similar to this book is the Theology of Pherecydes of Samos. And so also the work of Euphorion, the Causae of Callimachus, and the Alexandra of Lycophion.” Mead follows these statements with the observation that while the veiling of high truth under gross outer symbols could in a pure state of society be done without moral damage, nevertheless a degenerate age would run the risk of stopping at the outer symbol, forgetting the inner reference and thus would plunge religion into grave dangers of fatal misconceptions.
Also in Orpheus (p. 24) Mead, describing the discipline enforced in the Mysteries, says:
“Another and most important part of the discipline was the training in the interpretation of myths, symbols and allegory, the letters of the mystical language in which the secrets of nature and the soul were written so plainly for the initiated, so obscurely for the generality. Without this instruction the mythical recitals and legends were unintelligible.”
Sixteen centuries of unintelligibility that still enshrouds the great myths of antiquity surely add unimpeachable corroboration to Mead’s assertion. Mead says the allegories may be interpreted either microcosmically or macrocosmically, but in either case yield the meaning of the evolution of mind.
In his magnificent Encyclopedia of ancient symbolic literature Manly P. Hall declares that nearly every religion of the world shows traces of astrological influences, and that the Old Testament of the Jews, its writings breathing the aura of earlier Egyptian culture, is a mass of astrological and astronomical allegories.
In a long passage in his great work on the theology of Plato Proclus points out how the master philosopher holds back the use of fables among those who through incapacity and shallowness would conceive only a perverted meaning from reading them, yet assents to their employment among those who are able to penetrate into the hidden mystic truth veiled by them. So, he says, Plato rejects the “apparatus of the fables” in the Republic and in certain dialogues, but admits them in the Cratylus, where “these things Socrates indicates in the Cratylus, jesting and at the same time being serious in what he says.” Proclus says that in the Fourth Book of The Laws Plato celebrates the life under Saturn, obscurely signifying the hidden meaning “through fabulous fictions.” The Cratylus is a splendid example of the easy victimization of the alleged towering modern intelligence by ancient astuteness in concealment. Present academic opinion still contends that in the Cratylus Socrates spent an afternoon in punning. He points out such “puns” as that the Greeks called the body soma and the tomb sema, and the pundits of today still can see no suggestive connection between the two words, in spite of the fact that hundreds of times the Greek philosophers have told us that in Orphic theology the soul while in incarnation in the body was as though dead in its tomb. “The body is the sepulcher of the soul” is almost an axiom of Greek philosophy. Behind every one of Socrates’ “puns” hides some great and luminous item of the piercing Platonic insight into deep mysteries.
A vivid forecast of all later imbecility of the masses in religious superstition is made by Proclus for Plato when he says that while Plato “allows the poets that are inspired by Phoebus to signify things of this kind obscurely and mystically, he excludes the multitudes from hearing these things because they believe without examination in the fabulous veils of truth.” Proclus speaks of the proper intelligence “unfolding the concealed theory which they contain.”
Socrates hints at the deep psychological springs of the symbolic methodology when he writes in the Phaedrus “that an alliance to the demoniacal genus, prepared the soul for the reception of divine light, excites the phantasy to symbolic narration.”
Proclus states that Orpheus “greatly availed himself of the license of fables.” And once more he avers that Socrates (Plato?) “narrating the types and laws of divine fables, which afford this apparent meaning, and the inward concealed scope, which regards as its end the beautiful and natural in the fictions about the gods,” dodges the mental stolidity of the crass to reach the subtler intelligence of the initiated.
The second-century esotericist, Plutarch, says that “so cautious and reserved was the Egyptian wisdom in those things which pertained to religion”; “and like them Pythagoras conveyed his doctrines to the world in a kind of riddle.” In reference to Plato’s last book, The Laws, written “when he was now grown old,” Plutarch says that Plato threw off the esoteric mask, spoke not “in riddles and emblems, but in plain and proper terms” of the more recondite aspects of truth. In De Iside et Osiride (IX) Plutarch states that if the choice of king fell upon a soldier, “he was immediately initiated into the order of the priests and by them instructed in their abstruse and hidden philosophy, a philosophy for the most part involved in fable and allegories and exhibiting only dark hints to us in many instances, particularly by the sphinxes, which they seem to have placed designedly before their temples as types of the enigmatical nature of their theology.”
In the same work (XI) Plutarch elucidates one of the animal representations of a god in such a fashion as to enable the dullest brain to catch a concealed meaning behind a symbol and to get an inkling as to how they operated the symbolic language.
“When you hear, therefore, the mythological tales which the Egyptians tell of their gods, their wanderings, their mutilations and many other disasters which befell them, remember what has just been said, and be assured that nothing of what is thus told you is really true or ever happened in fact. For can it be imagined that it is the ‘dog’ itself which is reverenced by them under the name of Hermes? It is the question of this animal, his constant vigilance and his acumen in distinguishing his friends from his foes, which have ever rendered him, as Plato says, a meet emblem of that god who is the chief patron of intelligence.”
And in another passage Plutarch tells his age that if one will hear and entertain the story of these gods from those who know how to explain it consistently with religion and philosophy, and will steadily persist in the observance of all those holy rites which the law requires, and moreover will be disposed to the conviction that to form true notions of divine natures is more acceptable to them than any sacrifice or mere external act of worship can be, one will by this means be entirely exempt from any danger of falling into superstition, an evil no less to be avoided than atheism itself.
Gerald Massey, the profoundest and most discerning of Egyptologists, in his fine work, The Natural Genesis (Vol. II, p. 378 ff.) writes:
“The lost language of celestial allegory can now be restored, chiefly through the resurrection of ancient Egypt; the scriptures can be read as they were originally written, according to the secret wisdom, and we now know how the history was first written as mythology.”
He adds that the Revelation assigned to John the Divine is the Christian form of the Mithraic Revelation, that in the Parsee sacred books the original scriptures are always referred to as the “Revelation,” and that the Bahman Yasht contains the same drama of mystery that is drawn out and magnified in the Bible Revelation. He asserts that the personages, scenes, circumstances and transactions are identical in both. Each revelation relates to the Kronian allegory and in both the prophecy is solely astronomical. He explains that Egypt is the mother of the world’s primeval religion and that the myths of Egypt were the origin of the Mysteries of the world. The main theme of most of his voluminous work is that the Hebrew “miracles” are nothing but the original myths of Egypt, misread as history. In his Reply to Prof. A. H. Sayce he says:
“I have amply demonstrated the fact that the myths were no mere products of ancient ignorance, but are the deposited results of a primitive knowledge; that they were founded upon natural phenomena and remain the register of the earliest scientific observation.”
He hammers endlessly on the point that the whole grand structure of luminous ancient doctrine crashed to ruin on the rocks of the early Christian stupidity which converted into literal history a vast body of drama and allegory that “was never anything but frankly mythological.” And he has written thousands of pages to support his contention that what purports to be “history” in Christian systematism was actually pre-extant as Egyptian mythology. He cites as proof of his main thesis the fact that the Biblical material is found to be nonsensical and chimerical, in fact impossible, as history, but becomes lucidly intelligible and possible as myth. The massed material of his great volumes goes far to substantiate this claim.
He calls attention to the fact that the Jesus character both in the Gospels and in the Gnostic Christian work, the Pistis Sophia, announces to the inner circle of his initiated disciples that he will speak with them freely “from the beginning of the truth unto the completion thereof . . . face to face without parable.” Parable was the declared method of his speaking to “them that are without” the circle of the initiated. In the full release of light and knowledge to the trained disciples parable and myth could be discarded for direct revelation.
We need the directness of Massey’s phrasing of the following passage, the truth of which is of ominous import for civilization: “The human mind has long suffered an eclipse and been darkened and dwarfed in the shadow of ideas the real meaning of which has been lost to the moderns. Myths and allegories whose significance was once unfolded to initiates in the Mysteries, have been adopted in ignorance and reissued as real truths directly and divinely vouchsafed to mankind for the first and only time! The early religions had their myths interpreted. We have ours misinterpreted. And a great deal of what has been imposed on us as God’s own true and sole revelation to man is a mass of inverted myths. . . . Much of our folk-lore and most of our popular beliefs are fossilized symbolism.”
His great contention – with Max Müller – was that the Märchen and folk tales are not reflections, but refractions, or distorted popularizations of the original mythos, and that, contrary to Müller’s assertions, it was the mythos that passed into the folk tale and not the folk tale into the mythos. The myths were first and the Märchen were their product, through the inevitable deterioration which all esoteric truth sooner or later undergoes when floated among the unlettered masses. “Typology and mythology are twins from their birth and one in their fundamental rootage.” (Nat. Gen. I, 313.)
In the same volume, preceding page, Massey has a long and enlightening dissertation on the nature of the gods as just the “elementary powers of nature,” and he reads the logical conclusions from the fact that they were represented symbolically by the animal types. Much other material is assembled to depict the wide variety of figures under which the gods and goddesses were exhibited. The hundreds of religious insignia, emblems, types and figures which Sir James Frazer presents but is powerless to interpret in his famous The Golden Bough, Massey clarifies with astute penetration into cryptic meanings. “Mythology” he says, “is one as a system of representation, one as a mold of thought, one as a mode of expression, and all its great primordial types are practically universal.”
Testimony of another life-long research student in the field of archaic philosophy confirms Massey’s conclusions. Godfrey Higgins, in his monumental work, The Anacalypsis, (p. 441) says that
“one thing is clear – the mythos of the Hindus, the mythos of the Jews and the mythos of the Greeks are all at bottom the same; and what are called their early histories are not histories of man, but are contrivances under the appearance of histories to perpetuate doctrines . . . in a man- ner understood by those only who had a key to the enigma. Of this we shall see many additional proofs hereafter.”
The Anacalypsis is some 830 pages of additional proofs. Page 446 of this work gives his final summation of his life of investigation:
“When all the curious circumstances have been considered, an unprejudiced person will, I think, be obliged to admit that the ancient epic poems are oriental allegories, all allusive to the same mythos, and that many of these works which we have been accustomed to call histories are but allegorical representations of mythologies, of the secret doctrines of which I am in pursuit and which have been . . . concealed and perpetuated . . . for the initiated, under the veil of history.”
He makes the unequivocal statement that “two clear and distinct meanings of the words will be found; one for the initiated and one for the people. This is of the first importance to be remembered.” He quotes Niebuhr as showing that what we call early Roman history was “mere mythos,” and explains that this will account for what on any other thesis is incredible, the “degree of superstition” evidenced by the Romans. He cites an Englishman, Lumsden, as saying that events purporting to be Roman history are drawn from the heroical legends of Greece and therefore must have been copied from them; that they were not copies of one another, but all drawn from a common source; and were in fact the remnants of a mythos almost lost but constantly renewed, discoverable everywhere in the East and West – “new Argonauts, new Trojan Wars,” and the like. The works of early writers without exception were “deeply tainted with allegory,” he declares elsewhere. “The mythos, not history, is the object of the writer.”
It is to be presumed that Higgins erred in saying that the ancient sages Plato, Pythagoras and others disguised the doctrines of wisdom because they were too sublime for the mass of mankind; but he agrees that they did disguise them, alleging that this concealment laid the foundation for the priesthoods “whose interest it became to take care, by keeping the people in ignorance, that the doctrines should always remain too sublime for them.” Higgins seems not quite to have arrived at the point of seeing that mystic truth is by its own nature esoteric, and disguise is not entirely artificial, but rather natural to it. He contends that there have been writers against “the modern or exoteric Christianity,” “but never have we had a Hobbes, a Herbert or a Bolingbroke to endeavor to discover their secret.” He earlier states that the Oriental sects were in the habit of using figurative language to disguise their metaphysical doctrines from the vulgar, but he says this gave their enemies the opportunity, by construing them literally, to represent them as absurd and outlandish. He connects the myths closely with astrology. He states that the book of Genesis was considered by most if not all of the ancient Jewish philosophers and Christian Fathers as an allegory.
What testimony could be more explicit than that of the Psalmist (Psalm 78) who says: “I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old which we have heard and known and our fathers have told us”? And how could he have anticipated that these “dark sayings” would lead to sixteen centuries of a nearly total obfuscation of sense and sanity in the religion of half the world? In the wake of this quotation Massey observes:
“It was the same with the Hebrew teachings brought out of Egypt as with the Egyptian writings, of which Origen observes, ‘the priests have a secret philosophy concerning their religion contained in their national scriptures, while the common people only hear fables which they do not understand. If these fables were heard from a private man without the gloss of the priest, they would appear exceedingly absurd.’”
Moses, avers Massey, received two laws on the mountain, the written and the oral. This oral law was the primitive tradition that contained the Apocrypha, the secret doctrines of the dark sayings and parables, the clue and key to all their hidden wisdom. That which was written was intended only for the ignorant outsiders; the interpretation was for the initiated. With the written version of the Jewish sacred books alone in our possession, we have been locked outside and left there without the key.
Origen’s teacher, Clement, speaks of the necessity of hiding in a mystery the wisdom which the Son of God had taught; of the hindrances which there were in his day to his writing about this wisdom, lest he should cast pearls before swine; of the reason why the Christian Mysteries were celebrated at night, like the Pagan ones, because then the soul, released from the dominion of the senses, turns in upon itself and has a truer intelligence of the mystery of God “hid for ages under allegory and prophecy,” but now revealed by Jesus Christ, and only spoken of by St. Paul “among such as were perfect” (perfected in the Mystery initiations), giving milk to the babes and meat to men of understanding; and of those mysteries as entered upon through the tradition of the Lord, or the great oral transmission from those divinely illuminated. Massey insists we can not understand the thought of primitive man without first learning the language of symbols in which it was expressed, and says that “the wisdom, or Gnosis, so carefully hidden and zealously guarded in the past” can not be regained by mere pious lucubration. To recover it we must resort to the aid of the same nature-logic that the sages used to give it expression.
Origen makes a categorical declaration of the esoteric sense when he says (Contra Celsum):
“The learned may penetrate into the significance of all oriental mysteries, but the vulgar can only see the exterior symbol. It is allowed by all who have any knowledge of the scriptures that everything is conveyed enigmatically.”
We turn to Philo and Josephus, both living about the time of the “historical” Jesus. There is a tradition that Philo was converted to Christianity by Peter. If it is credible it would put him in close touch with the very earliest Christian sentiment. His testimony should carry considerable weight in the argument. He writes (D.V.C.):
“Now the interpretation of the sacred scriptures is based upon the understanding in the allegorical narratives; for these men look upon the whole of their law-codes being like to a living thing, having for the body the spoken commands, and for the soul the unseen thought stored up in the words . . . unwrapping and unrobing of the symbols . . . and bringing to light the naked inner meanings, for those who are able with a little suggestion to arrive at the intuition of the hidden sense from the apparent meaning.”
Massey says that Philo “Platonizes the myths,” reading new ethical meanings into them. But Philo’s forthright declaration on the esoteric method is found in his terse assertion, when speaking of the rib of Adam: “The literal statement is a fabulous one; and it is in the mythical that we shall find the true.” For those who in spite of a mass of such testimony from eminent and godly men of the past continue to assert that there never was any genuine and sincere esoteric knowledge, it is desirable to quote another statement from Philo:
“Now I bid ye, initiated men, who are purified as to your ears, to receive these things as mysteries which are really sacred, in your inmost souls, and reveal them not to any one who is of the number of uninitiated, but guard them as a sacred treasure.”
“In the Mosaic writings,” says Josephus (Preface to Antiq.) “everything is adapted to the nature of the whole, whilst the lawgiver most adroitly suggests some things as in a riddle and represents some things with solemnity as in an allegory; those, however, who desire to dive into the cause of each of these things, will have to use much and deep philosophical speculation.”
He again (Ibid.) says that all the sacred writings have a reference to the nature of the universe; whilst the legislator, Moses, speaks some things wisely but enigmatically and others under a fitting allegory.
What authority from antiquity can be cited with more weight than the first historian, Herodotus? In dealing with the Mystery celebrations of the Egyptians held on a lake within the sacred precincts of the temple as Sais, dramatizing the birth, life, death and regeneration of Osiris, he says that he considers it impious to divulge the name of the god.
“On these matters,” he goes on, “though accurately acquainted with the particulars of them, I must observe a discreet silence. So, too, with regard to the Mysteries of Demeter (celebrated at Eleusis in Greece), which the Greeks term ‘The Thesmophoria,’ I know them, but I shall not mention them, except so far as may be done without impiety.”
One must ask why such direct testimony from credible men of the ancient world should be flouted by modern savants. The effort to discredit the existence of a real esoteric system in the ancient day makes liars of nearly all the outstanding philosophers of the early world.
H. Y. Evans-Wentz, in his work The Tibetan Book of the Dead, states that archaeological research has now proven that the Mysteries consisted of symbolical dramatic performances open only to the initiates and neophytes fit for initiation, illustrating the universally diffused esoteric teachings concerning death and resurrection; and that the doctrine of the transmigration of the soul into animal bodies was not intended to be taken, as it has been by the uninitiated, literally, but symbolically, as in Plato’s Republic. Herodotus (ii, 122) is cited as documentary support for the statement.
Alexander Wilder, previously quoted, in reference to the Bacchic Mysteries says that every act, rite and person engaged in them was symbolical; and the individual revealing them was put to death without mercy. So also, he adds, was any uninitiated person who happened to have heard them. Here is strong evidence that the ancients surely believed they had a secret supremely worth safeguarding from desecration.
The noted modern Egyptologist A. E. W. Budge, says that every act of the ceremonial dramas was symbolical in character and represented some ancient belief or tradition.
“And there was not the smallest action on the part of any member of the band who acted the Miracle Play of Osiris, and not a sentence in the Liturgy which did not possess importance or vital significance to the followers of Osiris.”
Again he says that it is this “emblemism,” spoken of by moderns as fetishism and idolatry, that has had a false construction put upon it, mainly by missionaries and travelers, although the Christian religion, he asserts, has been evolved from the same identical germ and on somewhat similar lines. Emblemism he explains as a merely external formula of an inner cult worship.
Though the charge would have far more fitness if made against the Christians after the third century, it was made even in the days of Grecian philosophy by Diodorus Siculus, who tells us that the Egyptians treated the Greeks as impostors because they reissued the Egyptian mythology as their own history. If the Greeks were guilty of converting myth into history, it merely indicates that that process of esoteric degeneration which inevitably set in in every occult religion had begun early and has continued ever since. Celsus, the learned Jew in debate with Origen, chuckles over the (literal) account of the Christian deluge with its ridiculous ark and impossible physical details, finding it a part of his own mythology literalized and amplified. Tom Paine, Voltaire and Ingersol chuckled in the same fashion later.
The Roman poet Sallust even classifies the fables as theology of the physical and animistic sort. He enlarges on the characteristics of each. He says the theological belongs to philosophers, the physical and spiritual to poets, but an intermediate mixture of both belongs to the initiatory rites (Greek: teletais), “since the intention of all mystic ceremonies is to conjoin us with the world of the gods.”
The Jewish Maimonides comes up with the declaration that Genesis, taken according to the letter, is absurd and extravagant. Whoever should find the true sense of it ought to take care not to divulge it. This, he says, is a maxim which all the sages repeat to us, respecting the exact meaning of the work of the six days. If anyone should discover the true meaning, he should be silent, or speak of it only obscurely and in an enigmatical manner.
An important statement is found in that venerated work on the first three centuries of Christian history, Baron Von Mosheim’s “History.”
“It is not, therefore, Origen who ought to be termed the parent of allegories amongst the Christians, but Philo . . . many of the Jews, and in particular the Pharisees and Essenes, had indulged much in allegories before the time of Philo, but of this there can be no doubt, that the praefects of the Alexandrian school caught the idea of interpreting Scripture upon philosophical principles, or of eliciting philosophical maxims from the sacred writers by means of allegory, and that by them it was gradually propagated amongst the Christians at large. It is also equally certain that by the writings and example of Philo the fondness for allegories was vastly augmented and confirmed throughout the whole Christian world; and it moreover appears that it was he who first inspired the Christians with that degree of temerity which led them not infrequently to violate the faith of history and wilfully to close their eyes against the obvious and proper sense of terms and words . . . particular instances of it . . . may be shown from Origen and others, who took him for their guide, and who, manifestly, considered a great part both of the Old and New Testaments as not exhibiting a representation of things that really occurred, but merely the images of moral actions.”
One can express with a sigh the wish that the discerning practice of Origen and Philo had persisted down the centuries!
The Schaff-Herzog dictionary of religious terms gives four meanings for such a name as “Jerusalem,” following the gradient of classification laid down by Philo. Literally the name means the city in Palestine; morally, the believing soul; allegorically, the Church; and anagogically the city of heavenly peace, located only of course in consciousness. While this scheme of interpretation permits it to mean the geo- graphical town, it by no means confines it to that rendering, which the historical view does.
In the Anti-Nicene Library (Vol. XXIV, p. 127) in the section of Selections from the Prophetic Scriptures we read:
“We must therefore search the Scriptures accurately, since they are admitted to be expressed in parables, and from the names hunt out the thoughts which the Holy Spirit . . . teaches by imprinting his mind, so to speak, on the expressions . . . that the names . . . may be explained and that which is hidden under many integuments may, being handled and learned, come to light and gleam forth.”
Jowett, Plato’s academically accredited interpreter (Thomas Taylor’s most discerning work being frowned upon) writes: “I am not one of those who believe Plato to have been a mystic or to have had hidden meanings,” – this in the face of evidence that is mountainous in height and weight.
It is now far over a century since C. F. Dupuis published his once-famous and still valuable work, L’Origine de Tous Les Cultes, in which he asserted that John the Baptist was a purely mythical personage, and identified his name with that of the Babylonian Fish-God, Ioannes, of the Berosan account.
We should not omit reference to a statement by Isaac Myer, the learned Kabalist scholar, in his work The Oldest Books in the World (VII):
“There was undoubtedly an extremely subtle and sublimated thought in existence among the learned of the ancient Egyptians which modern thinkers have not yet fully grasped and which busied itself mostly with endeavors to arrive at the bond uniting the unknown and the known or materially existing; this was more especially limited to a religious philosophy and in that mostly to the spiritual nature in man. The mural paintings on the walls in ancient Egyptian tombs are not for decoration; they are symbolical and mystic and the figures thereon are intended for a religious purpose.”
In the Gemara of the Jews, it is said that he who has learned the scripture and not the Mishna “is a blockhead.” The Bible, they say, is like water, the Mishna like wine, the Gemara liked spiced wine. The law is as salt, the Mishna as pepper, the Gemara as balmy spice. To study the Bible can scarcely be considered a virtue; to study the Mishna is a virtue that will be rewarded, but the study of the Gemara is a virtue never to be surpassed. Some of the Talmudists assert that to study the Bible is nothing but a waste of time. The Gemara embodied the anagogical or esoteric interpretation.
Rabbi Simeon Ben-Jochai, compiler of the Zohar, taught only the esoteric signification of doctrines, orally and to a limited few, holding that without the final instruction in the Mercavah the study of the Kabalah would be incomplete. The Kabalah itself says (iii-folio 1526, quoted in Myer’s Qabbalah, p. 102):
“Each word of the Torah contains an elevated meaning and a sublime mystery.”
“The recitals of the Torah are the vestments of the Torah. Woe to him who takes this garment for the Torah itself. The simple take notice only of the garments or recitals of the Torah, they know no other thing, they see not that which is concealed under the vestment. The more instructed men do not pay attention to the vestment but to the body which it envelops.”
Godbey, in his searching work, The Lost Tribes a Myth (p. 697), asserts that the Jews lost the origin and meaning of the term “Israel” more than two thousand years ago.
“There is no agreement in their ancient literature upon that point. All record and tradition of the old Peniel sanctuary where Jacob became ‘an Israel’ has been lost.”
But one of the most revealing intimations that the Christian movement early departed from the genius and spirit of the well-known esoteric methodology is found in a sensational passage quoted in Mead’s Orpheus from Origen in his work Contra Celsum:
“The story of Dionysus and the Titans is a dramatic history of the wanderings of the ‘Pilgrim-Soul.’ And curiously enough we find the story of the resurrection of Dionysus . . . compared by the most learned of the Christian Fathers with the resurrection of Christ. Thus Origen (Contra Celsum IV, 171, Spenc.), after making the comparison, remarks apologetically and somewhat bitterly: ‘Or, forsooth, are the Greeks to be allowed to use such words with regard to the soul, and speak in allegorical fashion (tropolegein), and we forbidden to do so?’ . . . thus clearly declaring that the resurrection was an allegory of the soul and not historical.” (Orpheus, pp. 185-6). It will be well to place alongside of Origen’s lament over the deterioration of splendid allegory into crass literalism the unguarded utterance of Synesius, a Bishop of Alexandria after Origen’s time: “In my capacity as Bishop of the Church I shall continue to disseminate the fables of our religion, but in my private capacity I shall remain a philosopher to the end.” By the “fables” he meant the mass of literalized legend which the Fathers purveyed to the ignorant laity, of which Celsus says that they were so outlandish that even a stupid child’s-nurse would be ashamed to tell them to children. And what he meant by remaining a “philosopher” would shock the churchmen who have for centuries decried the great Platonic and Neo-Platonic systems which, in spite of their protestations, have contributed so much to the foundations of Christianity. The unedifying spectacle of a Bishop fooling the populace with fables he knew were fictions, whilst he fed his own mind upon the deeper meanings of philosophy from pagan schools, goes far to support the claims made in this work and elsewhere as to the nature and causes of the terrible calamity that befell Christianity in the third century, ending in the conversion of allegory into a literalized Gospel and the befuddlement of the world.
From current reading we take a remark made by G. R. G. Mure, in his small work on Aristotle (p. 230), relative to the force of figurative or symbolic language:
“The eye for an effective metaphor is, in fact, a mark of genius and unteachable. And in devoting more space to illustrating that form of metaphor which depends upon analogy, – as when old age is described as ‘Life’s sunset,’ – Aristotle means, perhaps, to mark the manifestation within the poet’s imaginative world of that hierarchic order of analogous stages which pervades the whole Aristotelian universe. The last and least important element in tragedy is spectacle.”
From Esdras (XIV, 6, 26 and 45) we take the following passages:
“These words shalt thou declare, and these shalt thou hide. And when thou hast done, some things shalt thou publish and some things shalt thou show secretly to the Wise.”
“. . . . and Highest spake, saying, The first that thou hast written publish openly, that the worthy and the unworthy may read it: but keep the seventy last, that thou mayest deliver them only to such as be wise among the people. For in them is the spring of understanding, the fountain of wisdom.” It is Mosheim who in his famous history of the early Church (Vol. II, 167) discloses how the matter of esoteric writing and cryptic meaning became a nub of controversy between Origen and his opponents. It is well to quote Mosheim’s statements in full for the sake of their explicitness. He is referring to Origen when he says:
“Certainly he would have had no enemies if he had merely affirmed, what no one then called in question, that in addition to the sense which the words of Scripture convey, another sense latent in the things described is to be diligently sought for. This will be manifest if we consider who were the men that inveighed so bitterly against Origen’s allegories after he was dead. I refer to Eustatius, Epiphanius, Jerome, Augustine and many others. All these were themselves allegorists, if I may use that term; and would undoubtedly have commended any man, as a great errorist, who would have dared to impugn the arcane sense of Scripture. . . . There must, therefore, have been something new and unusual in Origen’s exigetics, which appeared to them pernicious and very dangerous.
“The first and chief was, that he pronounced a great part of the sacred books to be void of meaning if taken literally, and that only the things indicated by the words were the signs and emblems of higher objects. The Christians who had previously followed after mystic interpretation let the truth of the sacred narratives and the proper sense of the divine laws and precepts remain in full force; but he turned much of the sacred history into moral fables, and no small part of the divine precepts into mere allegories.
“Nearly allied to this first fault was another; namely, that he lauded immoderately the recondite and mystical sense of Scripture, and unreasonably depreciated the grammatical or historical sense. The latter he compared to earth, mud, the body and other things of little value; but the former he compared to the soul, heaven, gold and the most precious objects. By such representations he induced the expositors of Scripture to think little about the literal sense of passages and to run enthusiastically after the sublimer interpretations.”
All this is so directly valuable a contribution to the inner story of the great catastrophe that overtook early Christianity that the long quotations can be forgiven. Here we see the most learned of the Christian Fathers, Origen, clinging tenaciously to what he knew was the true method of esoteric interpretation, but already beset by the subversive and crippling insistence on the literal and historical rendering which spelled devastation for the true meaning of scripture. This was the beginning of the tragedy that has engulfed all spiritual exegesis of holy writ ever since. Origen was the last champion of a true Christianity going down to defeat under the swelling tide of Philistine crudity of mind.
A good part of the reason why the literalists feared Origen’s method escapes in a naïve paragraph from Mosheim, who says that it appears strange that a man of so much discernment as Origen was should not have seen that his use of allegories and denial of the historicity of scripture would place directly into the hands of the Gnostics and others whom he sought to persuade to Christianity “the very means of overthrowing the entire history of the life and death of Christ.” Unquestionably this strikes close to the heart of the whole matter. Once having committed itself to the personal and historical resolution of the Christos figure, the ecclesiastical power could not give countenance to the allegorical interpretation. The validation of the latter would present an immediate and constant menace to the whole historical structure of Christianity. Ever since early times it has had to battle with the implications of comparative religion study to avoid the general acceptance of conclusions massively obvious on the side of allegorism. With Egypt’s evidence now available, the day of reckoning can no longer be held off.
Mosheim sets forth Origen’s stated view that, as “the philosophical grounds of Christian doctrine are wrapt up in figures, images and facts in the sacred volume,” if “we adhere to the literal meaning, that harmony between religion and philosophy can not be found.” Mosheim admits that “in the objections of the enemies of Christianity, there are not a few things which can in no way be fully cleared up and confuted, unless we abandon the grammatical and historical sense and resort to allegories.” This goes far forward strengthening Origen’s (and this work’s) general position, and is recommended to the close attention of all modern literalists and fundamentalists.
So extended an array of data has been necessary to establish the existence and influence of the esoteric method in the whole of ancient literature. It must be kept in mind that, lengthened as it is to the point of prolixity, it is only a tiny segment of what could be adduced. The significant fact in reference to it is that in spite of the mass of authentic evidence the effort has persisted in academic circles to maintain a denial of both the employment of such a distinctive method and its obvious and momentous involvements. It is by no means an unwarranted assertion to hint that the hostile attitude toward esotericism has been an item in the policy of a great conspiracy, operative ever since the third century, to diminish the influence of the pagan teachings. Evidence to support such a forthright statement is not wanting, although, as Sir Gilbert Murray has noted, most of the evidence supporting the pagan side has been destroyed by the Christians. Whatever the motive actuating a resort to the method of violence to negate an important fact in religious history, it must be held in any case a hazardous enterprise to flout the truth. It argues something less than full intellectual integrity, something sinister and disquieting. The world is still waiting for a good and adequate explanation of the harsh measure that prompted the closing of schools that purveyed such lofty wisdom and sage philosophy as the Platonic Academies of sapient Greece in the fifth century. According to von Mosheim, Origen “introduced the whole of the Academy into Christian theology.” Bishop Synesius preferred “philosophy” to lying legend. Neo-Platonism brought to the modern Dean Inge his highest illumination in religion. It will call for a good case indeed to defend the suppression of truth and light of this sort.
In our longer view it becomes ever more patent that in the ignorant policy by the Church the world witnessed the triumph of irrational piety and fanatical zealotry over rational religion. The mystical and the rational sides of the religious motive, expressed in general by two quite diverse types of human beings – the one the feeling, the other the thinking – have always been at variance and often in conflict in the movement, and the resurgent sweep of one or the other has marked the epic of religious history. Hardly any event in the annals of mankind has wrought more serious consequences than that sudden and overwhelming change of character in early Christianity from a philosophical religion to one of devotion and feeling, so fateful for later times. The Christian world is still enthralled by the iniquitous influences to which this portentous event gave birth. It is with the design of breaking the deadening spell of much of this irrational enchantment still operative today that the great massing of data in this work is undertaken.
WISDOM HAUNTS THE COUNTRYSIDE
It might be presumed that the authentic status of myth and religious allegory had been sufficiently demonstrated. But it should further greatly strengthen the whole case and prove of vital worth on its own account to assemble additional data that will reveal an even closer tie between the myths and the basic genius of all religion. This research will enable us to establish a connection between myths and another ancient mode of religious expression, a link which is little known or suspected by modern students. Indeed it will answer in large part the great question as to the origin of the myths. The conclusion reached by the investigation will again almost certainly be warmly disputed. A shorter chapter will suffice to present what must surely be considered an important body of evidence.
The collated data point to an origin of the myths in a place which itself vastly enhances their innate and fundamental kinship with religion. Lacking more accurate knowledge about them, we have been disposed to think that the myths were an independent and whimsical creation of the free fancy and childish imagination of peoples whom we have insisted on dubbing “primitive.” That they were not thus an arbitrary product, unrelated to the profoundest philosophical wisdom and the highest spiritual insight of the ancient world, is evidenced by the material here collected. The evidence almost indisputably indicates their origin from an older religious institution or expression – the ritual drama. The myths find their basic character and their unity at last in the features of a great universal dramatic rite, the importance of which has been too stubbornly belittled and neglected through the force of Christian prejudice, even where its very existence has been granted.
First spokesman is no less an authority than Sir James Frazer, author of The Golden Bough. From his lectures (p. 374) we take his item: “We shall probably not err in assuming that many myths, which we now know only as myths, had once their counterpart in magic; in other words, that they used to be acted as a means of producing in fact the events which they described in figurative language. Ceremonies often die out while myths survive, and thus we are left to infer the dead ceremony from the living myth.”
Corroboration is added by H. J. Rose (Folk-Lore, p. 104): “The legend has pretty certainly grown out of the rite, as usually happens.” Says Miss J. E. Harrison in her Themis (p. 328): “A mythos of the Greeks was primarily just a thing spoken, uttered by the mouth. Its antithesis or rather correlative is the thing done, enacted.”
Significant is the sentence from Prof. A. B. Cook (quoted in Lord Raglan’s work, The Hero): “Behind the myth (of the Minotaur), as is so often the case, we may detect a ritual performance.” J. A. K. Thomson, in Studies in the Odyssey (p. 54) states that not only is the myth the explanation of the rite; it is at the same time the explanation of the god, – the central character in the rite. Forthright is the testimony of A. M. Hocart in The Progress of Man (p. 223):
“If we turn to the living myth, that is, the myth that is believed in, we find that it has no existence apart from the ritual. The ritual is always derived from some one and its validity must be established from its derivation. . . . Knowledge of the myth is essential to the ritual, because it has to be recited at the ritual.”
Prof. Malmouski (Notes and Queries in Anthropology) writes:
“Psychologists like Wundt, sociologists like Durkheim, Herbert and Mause, anthropologists like Crawley, classical scholars like Miss Jane Harrison, have all understood the ultimate association between myth and ritual, between sacred tradition and the norms of social structure. . . . Myth as it exists in a savage community, that is, in its living primitive form, is not merely a story told but a reality lived. It is not of the nature of fiction such as we read today in a novel, but it is a living reality, believed to have once happened in primeval times and continuing ever since to influence the world and human destinies.”
It must be pointed out that lack of keen discernment is shown in claiming that an intelligent view of the myths ever accepted them as having actually occurred, or that they were not known to be pure fiction in their outward form. Error and confusion at once enter the moment we attribute to them any other than typical reality. The whole miscarriage of ancient meaning sprang from the incorrigible tendency to assert that the ancient intelligent people believed their myths. There is the great chasm of difference between saying they believed them and saying they believed in them, and the chasm is that between truth and error. Never did intelligent people believe them; they believed what they represented, typified, adumbrated. The whole issue of right and wrong appraisal and judgment of them and the ancient hangs on this distinction. This work for the first time insists that this distinction is the critical point in the evaluation of all ancient literature. The first blows in the wreckage of archaic spiritual systems fell when the shadow of this misconception crept in upon the mind of the early Christian following.
Correcting the apparently slight, but really formidable misconception, it is necessary next to repudiate utterly this same writer’s views on the myths, as thus expressed:
“We can certainly discard all explanatory as well as all symbolical ex-interpretations of these myths of origins. The personages and beings which we find are what they appear to be on the surface, and not symbols of hidden realities. As to any explanatory function of these myths, there is no problem which they cover, no curiosity which they satisfy, no theory which they contain.”
This opinion needs refutation because it will be seconded by many readers who are instant in opposition to anything that extols the religion of “paganism.” How any scholar acquainted with the facts of the ancient ritualism, and possessed of ordinary reasoning power, could asseverate that the ceremonies were entirely meaningless, is beyond comprehension. This is to accuse Plato, Euripides, Sophocles, Aeschylus and a long list of antiquity’s most celebrated men of perpetrating a performance, presented annually before thousands of people, that was in the end nothing but gibberish. The actions and speeches in the drama reenacted the experience of mankind in its evolutionary cycle; yet this critic asserts that there was no problem or construction bearing relation to reality in the mythic representation. Criticism of this sort is farcical, and represents a total failure to grasp meanings which, however faintly apprehended by the unschooled, can still be discerned by any intelligent mind. So gross a misjudgment of a great form of an- cient culture is inexcusable. From a stupendous amount of such biased incompetence in assessing the value of early formulations in religion and philosophy the world has suffered incredibly.
While putting forth the questionable conjecture that the myth had nothing to do with speculation or exegesis, any more than with historical data, the next witness, Lord Raglan, English author of a most valuable work, The Hero: A Study in Tradition, Myth and Drama, contributes to the discussion a body of data, comment and cited material that goes far to make the case impregnable. His work stands as one of the first open-minded approaches to the investigation of the world’s hero-legends, folk lore and Märchen, and adduces evidence which negates the historical view of the hero stories. He is perhaps the first modern to clarify the distinction between legend and real history.
He classifies the myth roughly as little else than the form of words which accompanies the performance of a rite. Citing the incongruity of the content and form of the myth with the ordinary products of the folk (to whom all previous consensus had assigned their origin), he states the highly important conclusion that the literature of the folk is not their own production, but comes down to them from a source above them. The author here brings out in clear and irrefutable fashion the discernment that it has been a great error to attribute the creation of folk lore to the folk themselves. The myths were made for the folk, but not by the folk. They were constructed with a view to catch the popular fancy and be retained easily in the folk memory. To claim that they were originated by the folk is to argue that the products of the highest cleverness and genius came from the ranks of the untutored and ignorant. The tales and ballads lived amongst the folk, but they were not their creation.
But to the modern student Raglan’s statement that, since they were not an indigenous folk production, they must have come down to them from above, is mystifying. This is due to the failure of modern thought to envisage properly the ancient prevalence of esoteric spirit and methodology. There should be no more skepticism about the realities of esoteric truth and teaching than about the situation in any college, where faculty, representing the acquired wisdom and maturity of an older generation, presides over and instructs the members of a younger generation, its pupils. The from above in Raglan’s pronounce- ment hints at nothing more weird and exceptional than the fact that more enlightened sages from time to time since remote days have contrived to issue for the benefit of the general mass of uninstructed humanity bodies of truth encased in the amber of popular legend, ballad, castle-tale and household fable. From above here signifies no super-intelligence achieved by the spiritually illumined aspirants, whether in ancient days or since.
The myths came down through the ages from a distant source in a mountain-spring of attained wisdom. Raglan presents this view and strengthens his conviction regarding it by a citation from Budge, the Egyptologist, who says (From Fetish to God in Ancient Egypt, p. 156):
“It would be wrong to say that the Egyptians borrowed from the Sumerians, or the Sumerians from the Egyptians, but it may be submitted that the literati of both peoples borrowed their theological systems from some common but exceedingly ancient source.”
Budge here spoke more truly than he has done at other times. His words are indeed the truth on this matter, so largely missed otherwise. Raglan declares that a dozen learned writers show that the religious systems of many countries possessed many fundamental characteristics in common. They were obviously systems designed for the good of the community by the proper performance of the given ritual. This possession of a common religious denominator by many nations looms as vitally important, since it becomes the backbone of the argument that all the myths had one common origin in a primal construction wherein all the ingredients were at hand from the beginning.
Raglan’s outline of the pervasive features of the ritual is a valuable summary. He says in effect that the basic pattern consisted of a dramatic ritual in which the death and resurrection of the king, who was also the god, performed by priests and members of the royal family, were the central events. There was also a sacred combat, in which the victory of the god over his enemies was won, and a triumphal procession, participated in by the neighboring gods, also an enthronement, with a ceremony by which the destinies of the state for the year ahead were determined, and finally a sacred marriage. Somewhere in the drama was interjected the recitation of the story whose outlines were enacted in the ritual. This was the myth, and its repetition engendered a strong psychic potency equal to that of the ritual itself. From the start the words and the actions were inseparably united, although in the course of time they became separated and each gave rise to its own literary, artistic and religious forms.
He states a little farther on (p. 154) that while the separation of Greek myth from its accompanying ritual may be due in part to the ancient philosophers, who composed allegories which seemed to tear the myth apart from the ritual, the divorcement of the two is chiefly due to modern classical scholars who have failed to recognize the close connection between Greek poetry and Greek religion and who have likewise missed the fact that the Greek descriptive writers such as Herodotus and Pausanius never cite a myth apart from a reference to some rite or to some sacred locality.
If at any time the sages composed myths that had no connection with the ritual, it could only have been that there was no structural or organic linkage with it. It is hardly possible to conceive how they could have composed myths unrelated to the ritual, for all the myths were picturizations of the same elements of meaning which the ritual portrayed. Perhaps not distinctly related in form, but related in meaning, to the ritual they must have been.
Raglan says that Miss Jennie Weston (From Ritual to Romance, p. 176), after dealing with a large group of Grail stories, concludes that these stories “repose eventually not upon a poet’s imagination, but upon the ruins of an august and ancient ritual, a ritual which once claimed to be the accredited guardian of the deepest secrets of life.” But so strong is the inveterate tendency to assume that history must somehow be interwoven in ancient constructions that Miss Weston supposes that certain historical outlines have crept into these narratives. Nothing but later ignorance and exoteric degeneracy ever compromised with the pure myth to the extent of insinuating historical reference into it.
A penetrating judgment is pronounced by Raglan (p. 225) when he definitely asserts that the myth took its rise from the dramatic features of the ritual, and that all traditional narratives show, by both form and content, that they derive neither from historical fact nor from imaginative fiction, but from acted ritual. There can be little doubt, he states, that all drama is the product of ritual drama. The dramatis personae, even when they are given historical names, are not individuals but types.
The Homeric poems, he says, have the form of dramas. The drama, he insists, was originally a religious ceremony, and the whole community shared in it. (The Hero, p. 240.)
Mr. MacCulloch, in alluding to the Algonquin stories, says: “All form part of a mythological cycle dealing with the life of the hero-divinity, Manabush.” Raglan subjoins that the Homeric poems are all mythological cycles dealing with the lives of hero-divinities; but, he ventures, nothing so arouses the fury of scholars as the suggestion that these cycles are based on ritual, or sprang from it. He says they take the Tale of Troy as sober record of historical fact, woven together from scraps of romantic fiction. As there is nothing in the Bible that can not be found in antecedent literature, so, Raglan contends, there is nothing in “Homer” that can not be found elsewhere. Who was Homer? – he asks. And he answers with the pronouncement of Prof. J. A. K. Thomson, that “Homer” was the title given to the victor in the minstrelsy contest held at the festival of Apollo at Delos. He was the eponymous-hero of the hymn-singers and sacred dancers, and was a personification of the Delian Apollo.
“The hymn,” says Prof. Thomson, “has given birth to the heroic-epos. For these ‘men and women’ are the old local Daimones, – Achilles, Helen and the rest. Their legends have combined to form one great legend recited at the Delian festival in honor of Apollo, the father-god of all the Ionians. . . . The hymn gradually added to itself more and more of the inherited or borrowed legends of the Ionian race until it grew into the proportions of all ‘Homer.’ And as Homer was the traditional author of the original hymn, so he remained the traditional author of all the rest.”
Mr. W. F. J. Wright is cited as saying that the name of Troy is widely associated with mazes and labyrinths, and that various instances in the Iliad correspond with known features of a once widespread maze ritual. And Prof. Hocart is drawn on as authority for the datum that there are twenty-six common features which characterize the installation of kings in all parts of the world; and the inference is that these common features stem from a common source, the ancient spiritual drama.
Raglan says the conclusion is inevitable that such characters as the ogre, giant, devil, dragon, troll, cannibal and sorcerer are nothing but titles for a personage acting in a liturgy, representing the terrifying demon of the initiations. There is much indeed to support the expressed view of Raglan (p. 220) that the character known as the Horned Man was taken from the ritual and became invested with real life, gaining a status in popular belief far more real than that of any historical character. Perhaps Jesus is more real as mythical hero than as a once-living person. Anent this Raglan expresses his astonishment that Sir James Ridgeway should have been misled into taking the stock figures of myth for actual people.
The principal characters in the ritual are two, a hero and a buffoon who meet with various adventures together and live on terms of the greatest familiarity – naturally, since they represent the god and the animal nature of man, who live together in the same body! And this accounts for the special privilege accorded the fool to jest at the expense of the castle baron, and for the horse-play and buffoonery permitted at the Saturnalia and the autumn equinoctial festivals (surviving in the rough mischief of our Hallowe’en), when higher and lower, god and irresponsible joker in man, were placed on the same level of existence. Fools were considered sacred on the seventh day, symbolizing the raising of the animal man to his human-divine dignity on the Sabbath, the seventh and last “day” of the cycle.
The incarnation of the divine soul in man’s animal body is the basis of all the legends of the sorcerers’ turning the hero or his men into animals, or their disguising themselves as animals. The Hallowe’en animal mask is the survival and replica of the same thing, for the masks were originally the hides of animals! The prominence given this phase of the drama’s meaning is attested by what Raglan writes (p. 261). He says that a prominent feature of every type of traditional narrative is the man in animal form, or the animal that can speak. Persons disguised as animals are so universal a feature of ritual and drama as not to need demonstration, he avers. And the answer to the query why ancient Egyptian ritual was performed largely by people in animal masks, and why Greek gods and goddesses were so often represented as animals or birds, holds in its symbolic purport one of the central items of the drama of human life. For the religion of these early peoples throbbed with an innate sense of kinship with nature and religious ideas were sympathetically adumbrated and reflected by nature’s phe- nomena. Participants in the Mithraic Mysteries wore animal masks. Obviously the masks typified the outer personality of man, for the Latin word for “mask” is persona, and man’s personality is an animal body!
It is quite worth a moment’s digression from data to exegesis to say that the world’s failure over many centuries to read the simple explication of this animal typism, as dramatically depicting the incarnation of the soul in the human-animal, and not the beast-animal, body, has buried the trap to catch untold millions of religiously simple-minded people in its disguised subtlety. Had the esoteric implications of the drama been kept in ken, all that mass of lucubrated assertion by numberless writers that the ancients endorsed the belief in transmigration of the once-human soul into the bodies of animals at death, would not have disgraced the pages of literature. Scholars, historians and sociologists can now be told that they have been shooting, not at an authentic poacher in the garden, but at a scarecrow.
Raglan cites that the Council of Trent believed that people can take the form of animals! The ancients, as we have seen, are accused of “believing” their myths. It was only the later Christians that believed them, with both humorous and tragic results.
Greek drama, like Egyptian, is predominantly tragic, because what moderns term “happiness” was not the one supreme motif of the human experience, as envisaged by Greek philosophy. By etymology “tragedy” means “goat-song.” The goat was of course the zodiacal Capricorn, coming at the winter solstice, when the sun, typifying the soul in the dead “winter” of its incarnation, was in the throes of “death” as the scapegoat to carry the onus of man’s redemption. For obviously man’s only possible redeemer – from benightedness, nescience, animal carnality – is his own soul. If it can not make the grade into charity, love and compassion, what else can uplift him? Let the Church which has gulled its childish millions by substituting a historical for an immanent scapegoat, answer.
This concludes the limited assemblage of data to demonstrate that the myth came from the pristine ritual drama. If it is not enough to prove the point, there is doubtless much more material of perhaps greater strength that could be found and presented. The fact, if considered sufficiently demonstrated, might seem to be remote from any bearing on the question of the Jesus historicity. It is indeed not remote. If it can be shown that the Christ of the Gospels was a myth- ical character, we could then confidently look for agreement of all aspects of this mythical figure with the central character-personage in the ancient religious ritual, out of which the myths grew. Comparative religion study has already demonstrated this close relationship of the two figures, the Christ of the mythos and the Sun-God of the ritual. Some material in the present work may further strengthen that identity. If the ritual and the myth are shown to be in point of fact practically identical, and the features to match closely the characterizations of the Gospel Jesus, a strong presumptive case has already been established in support of the conclusion that the Gospel hero was but another of the many mythical type-figures, and not a Galilean peasant.