Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Jesus Christ and the Mysteries

It has often been remarked that key episodes in the life of Jesus can be taken as symbolising stages on the spiritual path for any true disciple. This goes along with the idea that Jesus's life was an externalisation or enactment of the ancient mysteries, those rituals that initiated the qualified candidate into the realities of the spiritual world, originally through the offices of sage-priests in touch with that world but in later, more degenerate times through drugs as the spiritual quality of both priest and candidate dropped and the materialisation of the environment reached the point at which the windows between the physical plane and higher ones became more opaque. I was once lucky enough to be left alone in the King's chamber of the Great Pyramid for a few minutes and it seemed obvious that this was meant as a place of ritual in which the neophyte would experience death and rebirth while lying in the stone sarcophagus that is the only object there. This was the core of the ancient mysteries. It was a dramatic ritual for the Egyptian initiate but performed literally by Christ as he revealed the hidden secret of life and made potentially accessible to everyone what had been open (and only partially open at that) to an elite few before. He did more than that, of course, but that was part of what he did.

The life of Christ can give us a deep understanding of the spiritual path that we too must tread before we are worthy to join him in his heavenly kingdom. I will examine seven major episodes from his life but there will certainly be more that can teach us new things about ourselves for it is a fact that a study of Christ's life can be endlessly revelatory.

Here are the seven episodes that I see as crucial stages to be passed by the aspiring disciple on his way to eternal life. There follows my interpretations of these stages but each one of them will richly reward further meditation which, of course, has long been known by Christians.

  • His Birth.
The obvious beginning. Christ must be born in our heart. This doesn't just mean becoming a Christian for that can be largely an external thing. It means that we acknowledge the reality of Christ as the truth in the light of which all other truths must be seen. We accept his reality as the foundation of everything and resolve at the deepest level of our being to coordinate our soul to that. This is clearly an aspiration. We are a long way off from realising it and will stumble and fall many times but a sincere start has been made. We have reoriented ourself from a focus on this world and its goals to the higher spiritual world. I don't say this has specifically to be directed at the historical figure of Jesus Christ himself but, if it is within the parameters of any other spiritual approach, it should be directed towards something that echoes and holds at least part of the reality of Christ. The highest form of spiritual reality, of truth, beauty and goodness, we can conceive of at the moment.

  • Preaching in the Temple.
This is a moment at which we have made some progress on the spiritual path and are able to share something of what we have learnt. It may not be at a very elevated stage. Jesus was only 12 after all! But it will still be better than the worldly wisdom of the "Doctors" who may represent the professionals of outer teaching.

  • Baptism.
At this point we are brought into closer contact with the soul or higher self. This is the part of us that exists on the spiritual level, above that of the everyday mind which we normally assume to be the centre of what we are, and which is the source of intuition. It is the real beginning of being guided by this spiritual sense and going beyond the threefold lower self associated with the physical, emotional and mental worlds. We now really know ourself as the soul, something that until this point we have had intimations of but not been able to fully centre ourself in. We still can't do that but a point has been reached at which the balance of power has definitely shifted and the baby Christ within us has reached some kind of maturity. Clearly many people might think they have reached this stage before they have because their intellectual understanding of the soul has outstripped their ability really to be it. This is one of the pitfalls to be negotiated by the disciple, both in respect of himself and in respect of others, outer teachers, to whom he might wish to give spiritual allegiance. By the way, I don't think this stage on the spiritual path has much to do with the religious ritual of baptism. That is a symbolic echo of it at an earlier point in the cycle.

  • Temptation in the Wilderness.
Once you have reached a certain stage of spiritual development you will be tested to see if you can maintain that in the face of appeals to egotism. Actually, tests and trials are an ongoing feature of the spiritual life but this is now serious stuff. You have attained a certain level of real knowledge. What effect does that have on you? Does it fuel pride? Is there a temptation to use it for your own ends? Or do you humbly accept the responsibility of it, seeing it not as your possession but as a gift from God, a gift that could be withdrawn should you react to it as your own? The significance of this stage should be obvious. It is perhaps the culmination of all the previous tests with the aim of giving you a clean bill of spiritual health. But it has echoes at many earlier stages of the spiritual path. Tests are one of the more important parts of the path and one to which we should be constantly alert. I say this as someone who has often fallen short where tests are concerned. But I suppose that's the point. We keep failing until we succeed. Failures are to be expected but we have to learn from them.

  • Transfiguration.
I interpret this as the moment we become fully aligned with the soul. We are now, as it were, the soul in embodiment. The spiritual self illuminates the whole being of the threefold lower self which become vehicles of expression rather than centres in their own right. Obviously this is a stage in theosis well beyond most of us at present but I think it can be seen in the lives of some of the saints. Our being is irradiated by spiritual light. The process that came into full view at the baptism reaches a culmination. Christ in us has reached full maturity.

  • Crucifixion
It is interesting that this last stage is not the conclusion of the path. We seem to have reached the pinnacle of spiritual achievement. What can there be left to do? But there is something more. We have to give it all up. All the hard-won spiritual success must be renounced for it is only by doing this that our motive can really be seen to be true. We give back to God all he has given to us, thereby showing that it is love of God that has driven us forward not the quest for some kind of personal reward. We are prepared to sacrifice all we have attained to prove our dedication to God. This is what Christ showed us in the Garden of Gethsemane. "Not my will but Thine be done". This is what it really all comes down to. The full renunciation of self. But please note this is not the seeing through of the illusion of self as in some forms of spirituality. Self is real. The crucifixion is agony. It is not some kind of peaceful transition to bliss. There is the sense of real and total sacrifice. There was for Christ and I expect there will be for us though it will probably be in the nature of an existential crisis rather than a physical one. For Jesus it was clearly both but that was because of the nature of his mission.

  • Resurrection

After the supreme sacrifice comes glory. The risen Christ. The soul loses everything, or apparently does. But it must give up everything, and this is not done with one eye on the prize. It really seems to be spiritual abandonment and darkness. But after death there is rebirth. The soul is remade as a completely spiritualised being, an individualisation of God himself. It is the entry into the fifth kingdom of life, that of immortal souls. For immortality up to this point has been conditional. Now it has been completely won and there is no return. The resurrection of Christ marks the fulfillment of life and the return of the soul to its Creator but this time with full knowledge. The circle is complete.

These are the mysteries of Jesus Christ, demonstrated in his life which also, I believe, actually made them possible of achievement for human beings. He was the trailblazer who through his life and death connected the physical world to the spiritual, bringing them both together and opening up a channel between the two. He created a path that now anyone following after may walk if they so wish - and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifice for just because it is possible does not mean it is easy. But it is possible and we can do it with Christ as our guide.


John Fitzgerald said...

Outstanding depth, William. Thank you. What I'd give to hear a sermon this at my local church - or any church for that matter!

William Wildblood said...

Thank you, John. I really appreciate your comment. A final stage would presumably be the Ascension when the physical body itself is transformed into light but this must lie far in the future for human beings.

Tobias said...

"For immortality up to this point has been conditional. Now it has been completely won and there is no return. The resurrection of Christ marks the fulfillment of life and the return of the soul to its Creator but this time with full knowledge. The circle is complete."

You put this right at the end, which worries me rather (but I worry easily about spiritual matters). I thought accepting Christ as saviour, and that he died and was resurrected was enough to gain God's grace, and personal immortality. Most people will not get to the end stage in one life. Does this mean that immortality is not guaranteed for those who admit Christ as saviour, unless they complete the rest of what you describe here?


William Wildblood said...

Sorry, Tobias, I didn't mean to sound alarming. I could have expressed myself better. What I meant was real spiritual immortality, as in full acceptance as a completed son or daughter of God, rather than mere continued existence. Does that make sense? I see salvation as almost a preliminary thing with the real goal being theosis. Otherwise what is the point of sainthood?

Tobias said...

Yes, I see. Thank you.


Tobias said...

'What I meant was real spiritual immortality, as in full acceptance as a completed son or daughter of God, rather than mere continued existence.'

Does 'mere continued existence' post-salvation mean life after death, but not in communion with Christ, or only partially? If a person is saved by God's grace, but has not gone far with theosis, how 'connected' are they to God? Does it mean post-mortal work to 'get there', or more of God's grace, or does it mean reincarnation to learn more in another life? Perhaps it means that such a person is ranked as less than a saint for eternity, and that is OK in a heavenly hierarchy? Perhaps the Masters had something to say about this.

Grateful for, and interested in, your thoughts.


William Wildblood said...

First of all, Tobias, I can claim no authority in this but this is what I think.

I do believe in reincarnation and that the soul, generally speaking, comes back to this world to develop further in conditions that cannot be met so fully elsewhere. Whether all souls progress in this way, I cannot say, but many, I think, do.

So even faithful believers are not in full communion with Christ after death for they usually have much work still to do to become spiritually perfect. That is not to say that they do not experience some kind of heavenly conditions but there are many degrees of spiritual awareness and we will each experience what is appropriate for us or what we have earned by our endeavours while on Earth.

The Masters told me they looked forward to me joining them after my work here was done but they did not say in what capacity. I'm sure they were just being polite anyway! But I imagine spiritual hierarchies exist in the heavenly worlds though we do still have the opportunity to progress. Heaven is not some place of static immobility. Life is constantly creative and always adding to itself. I firmly believe that all of us, if we accept the opportunity, can become as the Masters are. Christ himself said as much when he told his disciples that "whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these".

So I would say that the more we develop in this life, the more we will be able to take in and experience of the heavenly worlds. Progress is endless if we accept the reality of God with our whole being and if we don't we are given the chance to learn to do so though that may require suffering to bring us to our senses.

On the other hand there will be some recalcitrant souls who reject God entirely and they will experience the results of that rejection whether that be in worlds of constricted consciousness such as described in CS Lewis's book The Great Divorce or some other form.

The main thing to remember is that god wants all his children to come back to him and will give them every chance to dos so. Go towards him a bit and he will com towards you a lot though that doesn't mean it will be easy. But he will be there is catch you if you fall and life you up when you stumble. I really do believe that.

William Wildblood said...

Sorry, that last paragraph is full of typos. I was going too fast!. Here's what it should say.

The main thing to remember is that God wants all his children to come back to him and will give them every chance to do so. Go towards him a bit and he will come towards you a lot though that doesn't mean it will be easy. But he will be there is catch you if you fall and lift you up when you stumble. I really do believe that.

Tobias said...

Thank you. I find your words here very comforting. To know that imperfect rubbish like me will have chances, and that those millions who do bad and ignorant things will too, is a relief, and it gives me some peace.


William Wildblood said...

You are certainly not imperfect rubbish! You are just, like us all, something that is in the process of being carved and polished until you resemble in reality the idea that God had in his mind when he created you. But he could not create you already perfect because then you would not be you but just a part of him with no will of its own.