THEOSOPHY, Vol. 18, No. 2, December, 1929
(Pages 64-68; Size: 16K)
(Number 2 of a 12-part series)
[Compiler's Note: This series is entirely
"Collated from the writings of H.P.B."]
JESUS: INITIATE AND TEACHER
THAT the apostles had received a "secret doctrine" from Jesus, and that he himself taught one, is evident from the following words of Jerome, who confessed it in an unguarded moment. Writing to the Bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus, he complains that "a difficult work is enjoined, since this translation has been commanded me by your Felicities, which St. Matthew himself, the Apostle and Evangelist, DID NOT WISH TO BE OPENLY WRITTEN. For if it had not been SECRET, he (Matthew) would have added to the evangel that which he gave forth was his; but he made up this book sealed up in Hebrew characters, which he put forth even in such a way that the book, written in Hebrew letters, and by the hand of himself, might be possessed by the men most religious, who also, in the course of time, received it from those who preceded them. But this very book they never gave to any one to be transcribed, and its text they related some one way and some another." And he adds further on the same page: "And it happened that this book, having been published by a disciple of Manichæus, named Seleucus, who also wrote falsely The Acts of the Apostles, exhibited matter not for edification, but for destruction; and that this book was approved in a synod which the ears of the Church properly refused to listen to."
He admits, himself, that the book which he authenticates as being written "by the hand of Matthew;" a book which, notwithstanding that he translated it twice, was nearly unintelligible to him, for it was arcane or a secret. Nevertheless, Jerome coolly sets down every commentary upon it, except his own, as heretical. More than that, Jerome knew that this original Gospel of Matthew was the expounder of the only true doctrine of Christ; and that it was the work of an evangelist who had been the friend and companion of Jesus. He knew that if of the two Gospels, the Hebrew in question and the Greek belonging to our present Scripture, one was spurious, hence heretical, it was not that of the Nazarenes; and yet, knowing all this, Jerome became more zealous than ever in his persecutions of the "Hæritics." Why? Because to accept it was equivalent to reading the death-sentence of the established Church. The Gospel according to the Hebrews was but too well known to have been the only one accepted for four centuries by the Jewish Christians, the Nazarenes, and the Ebionites. And neither of the latter accepted the divinity of Christ.
If the commentaries of Jerome on the Prophets, his famous Vulgate, and the numerous polemical treatises are all as trustworthy as this version of the Gospel according to Matthew, then we have a divine revelation indeed.
Why wonder at the unfathomable mysteries of the Christian religion, since it is perfectly human? Have we not a letter written by one of the most respected Fathers of the Church to this same Jerome, which shows better than whole volumes their traditionary policy? This is what Saint Gregory of Nazianzen wrote to his friend and confident Saint Jerome: "Nothing can impose better on a people than verbiage; the less they understand the more they admire. Our fathers and doctors have often said, not what they thought, but what circumstances and necessity forced them to."
This search after truth leads us, indeed, into devious ways. Many are the obstacles that ecclesiastical cunning has placed in the way of our finding the primal source of religious ideas. Christianity is on trial, and has been, ever since science felt strong enough to act as Public Prosecutor. A portion of the case we are drafting in this book. What of truth is there in this Theology? Through what sects has it been transmitted? Whence was it primarily derived? To answer, we must trace the history of the World Religion, alike through the secret Christian sects as through those of other great religious subdivisions of the race; for the Secret Doctrine is the Truth, and that religion is nearest divine that has contained it with least adulteration.
We can assert, with entire plausibility, that there is not one of these sects -- Kabalism, Judaism, and our present Christianity included -- but sprung from the two main branches of that one mother-trunk, the once universal religion, which antedated the Vedaic ages -- we speak of that prehistoric Buddhism which merged later into Brahmanism. The religion which the primitive teaching of the early few apostles most resembled -- a religion preached by Jesus himself -- is the elder of these two, Buddhism.
In the Nazarene or Bardesanian System, which may be termed the Kabala within the Kabala, the Ancient of Days -- Antiquus Altus, who is the Father of the Demiurgus of the universe, is called the Third Life, or Abatur; and he is the Father of Fetahil, who is the architect of the visible universe, which he calls into existence by the powers of his genii, at the order of the "Greatest;" the Abatur answering to the "Father" of Jesus in the later Christian theology. These two superior Lives, then, are the crown within which dwells the greatest Ferho. "Before any creature came into existence the Lord Ferho existed." (Codex Nazaraeus, 1., p. 145).
One by one the tide of time engulfed the sects of the early centuries, until of the whole number only one survived in its primitive integrity. That one still exists, still teaches the doctrine of its founder, still exemplifies its faith in works of power. The quicksands which swallowed up every other outgrowth of the religious agitation of the time of Jesus, with its records, relics, and traditions, proved firm ground for this. Driven from their native land, its members found refuge in Persia, and today the anxious traveller may converse with the direct descendants of the "Disciples of John," who listened, on the Jordan's shore, to the "man sent from God," and were baptized and believed. This curious people, numbering 30,000 or more, are miscalled "Christians of St. John," but in fact should be known by their old name of Nazareans, or their new one of Mendæans.
To term them Christians, is wholly unwarranted. They neither believe in Jesus as Christ, nor accept his atonement, nor adhere to his Church, nor revere its "Holy Scriptures." Neither do they worship the Jehovah-God of the Jews and Christians, a circumstance which of course proves that their founder, John the Baptist, did not worship him either. And if not, what right has he a place in the Bible, or in the portrait-gallery of Christian saints? Still further, if Ferho was his God, and he was a "man sent by God," he must have been sent by Lord Ferho, and in his name baptized and preached? Now, if Jesus was baptized by John, the inference is that he was baptized according to his own faith; therefore, Jesus too, was a believer in Ferho, or Faho, as they call him; a conclusion that seems the more warranted by his silence as to the name of his "Father." And why should the hypothesis that Faho is but one of the many corruptions of Fho or Fo, as the Thibetans and Chinese call Buddha, appear ridiculous? In the north of Nepaul, Buddha is more often called Fo than Buddha.
What the actual Baptists, el-Mogtasila, or Nazareans, do believe, is fully set forth in other places, for they are the very Nazarenes of whom we have spoken so much, and from whose Codex we have quoted. Persecuted and threatened with annihilation, they took refuge in the Nestorian body, and so allowed themselves to be arbitrarily classed as Christians, but as soon as opportunity offered, they separated, and now, for several centuries have not even nominally deserved the appellation.
But where else can science find so good a field for biblical research as among this too neglected people? No doubt of their inheritance of the Baptist's doctrine; their traditions are without a break. What they teach now, their forefathers taught at every epoch where they appear in history. They are the disciples of that John who is said to have foretold the advent of Jesus, baptized him, and declared that the latchet of his shoe he (John) was not worthy to unloose. As they two -- the Messenger and the Messiah -- stood in the Jordan, and the elder was consecrating the younger -- his own cousin, too, humanly speaking -- the heavens opened and God Himself, in the shape of a dove, descended in a glory upon his "Beloved Son!" How then, if this tale be true, can we account for the strange infidelity which we find among these surviving Nazareans? So far from believing Jesus the Only Begotten Son of God, they actually told the Persian missionaries, who, in the seventeenth century, first discovered them to Europeans, that the Christ of the New Testament was "a false teacher," and that the Jewish system, as well as that of Jesus (?), came from the realm of darkness! Who knows better than they? Where can more competent living witnesses be found? Christian ecclesiastics would force upon us an anointed Saviour heralded by John, and the disciples of this very Baptist, from the earliest centuries, have stigmatized this ideal personage as an imposter, and his putative Father, Jehovah, "a spurious God," the Ilda-Baoth of the Ophites! Unlucky for Christianity will be the day when some fearless and honest scholar shall persuade their elders to let him translate the contents of their secret books and compile their hoary traditions! It is a strange delusion that makes some writers think that the Nazareans have no other sacred literature, no other literary relics than four doctrinal works, and that curious volume full of astrology and magic which they are bound to peruse at the sunset hour, on every Sol's day (Sunday).
Both Pagan philosophy and Christianity, however, owe their elevated ideas on the soul and spirit of man and the unknown Deity to Buddhism and the Hindu Manu. No wonder that the Manicheans maintained that Jesus was a permutation of Gautama; that Buddha, Christ, and Mani were one and the same person, for the teachings of the former two were identical. It was the doctrine of old India that Jesus held to when preaching the complete renunciation of the world and its vanities in order to reach the kingdom of Heaven, Nirvana, where "men neither marry nor are given in marriage, but live like the angels."
Gautama-Buddha is mirrored in the precepts of Christ. In the sacred Jaïna books, of Patuna, the dying Gautama-Buddha is thus addressed: "Arise into Nirvi (Nirvana) from this decrepit body into which thou hast been sent. Ascend into thy former abode, O blessed Avatar!" This seems to us the very opposite of Nihilism.
If Gautama is invited to re-ascend into his "former abode," and this abode is Nirvana, then it is incontestable that Buddhistic philosophy does not teach final annihilation. As Jesus is alleged to have appeared to his disciples after death, so to the present day is Gautama believed to descend from Nirvana. And if he has an existence there, then this state cannot be a synonym for annihilation.
If both, aware of the great danger of furnishing an uncultivated populace with the double-edged weapon of knowledge which gives power, left the innermost corner of the sanctuary in the profoundest shade, who, that is acquainted with human nature, can blame them for it? But while one was actuated by prudence, the other was forced into such a course. Gautama left the esoteric and most dangerous portion of the "secret knowledge" untouched, and lived to the ripe old age of eighty, with the certainty of having taught the essential truths, and having converted to them one-third of the world; Jesus promised his disciples the knowledge which confers upon man the power of producing far greater miracles than he ever did himself, and he died, leaving but a few faithful men, only half way to knowledge, to struggle with the world to which they could impart but what they half-knew themselves. Later, their followers disfigured truth still more than they themselves had done.
There never was a great religious reform that was not pure at the beginning. The first followers of Buddha, as well as the disciples of Jesus, were all men of the highest morality. The aversion felt by the reformers of all ages to vice under any shape, is proved in the cases of Sâkya-muni, Pythagoras, Plato, Jesus, St. Paul, Ammonius Sakkus.
(Collated from the writings of H.P.B.)
(To be continued)
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
Mere reticence is not a sign of Wisdom. It is one of Wisdom's tools, no more -- so is volubility upon occasion, or a smile, a laugh -- or any other expression, mode, means or method. Wisdom itself is no means; it uses all means. Wisdom is distilled knowledge, high operative intelligence; and since every human being represents his own peculiar combination of qualities -- changing each moment with every expression and impression -- Wisdom utilizes the proper tool for the particular moment, operating under principle and with design, but using means concordant with the end in view. Thus to judge the Wisdom of anybody whatever from a superficial point of view is to make a mistake. The Wise often mask their Wisdom with an unalloyed simplicity.
JESUS: INITIATE AND TEACHER
(Part 3 of a 12-part series)
Back to the
"JESUS: INITIATE AND TEACHER"
series complete list of articles.
Back to the full listing containing all of the
"Additional Categories of Articles".