THEOSOPHY, Vol. 18, No. 3, January, 1930
(Pages 117-120; Size: 13K)
(Number 3 of a 12-part series)
[Compiler's Note: This series is entirely
"Collated from the writings of H.P.B."]
JESUS: INITIATE AND TEACHER
DROP out from Christianity the personality of Jesus, so sublime, because of its unparalleled simplicity, and what remains? History and comparative theology echo back the melancholy answer, "A crumbling skeleton formed of the oldest Pagan myths!"
While the mythical birth and life of Jesus are a faithful copy of those of the Brahmanical Christna, his historical character of a religious reformer in Palestine is the true type of Buddha in India. In more than one respect their great resemblance in philanthropic and spiritual aspirations, as well as external circumstances is truly striking. Though the son of a king, while Jesus was but a carpenter, Buddha was not of the high Brahmanical caste by birth. Like Jesus, he felt dissatisfied with the dogmatic spirit of the religion of his country, the intolerance and hypocrisy of the priesthood, their outward show of devotion, and their useless ceremonials and prayers. As Buddha broke violently through the traditional laws and rules of the Brahmans, so did Jesus declare war against the Pharisees, and the proud Sadducees. What the Nazarene did as a consequence of his humble birth and position, Buddha did as a voluntary penance. He travelled about as a beggar; and -- again like Jesus -- later in life he sought by preference the companionship of publicans and sinners. Each aimed at a social as well as at a religious reform; and giving a death-blow to the old religions of his countries, each became the founder of a new one.
"The reform of Buddha," says Max Müller, "had originally much more of a social than of a religious character. The most important element of Buddhist reform has always been its social and moral code, not its metaphysical theories. That moral code is one of the most perfect which the world has ever known ... and he whose meditations had been how to deliver the soul of man from misery and the fear of death, had delivered the people of India from a degrading thraldom and from priestly tyranny." Further, the lecturer adds that were it otherwise, "Buddha might have taught whatever philosophy he pleased, and we should hardly have heard his name. The people would not have minded him, and his system would only have been a drop in the ocean of philosophic speculation by which India was deluged at all times."
The same with Jesus. While Philo, whom Renan calls Jesus' elder brother, Hillel, Shammai, and Gamaliel, are hardly mentioned -- Jesus has become a God! And still, pure and divine as was the moral code taught by Christ, it could never have borne comparison with that of Buddha, but for the tragedy of Calvary. That which helped forward the deification of Jesus was his dramatic death, the voluntary sacrifice of his life, alleged to have been made for the sake of mankind, and the later convenient dogma of the atonement, invented by the Christians. In India, where life is valued as of no account, the crucifixion would have produced little effect, if any.
We see that the Golden Rule was not original with Jesus; that its birth-place was India. Do what we may, we cannot deny Sakya-Muni Buddha a less remote antiquity than several centuries before the birth of Jesus. In seeking a model for his system of ethics why should Jesus have gone to the foot of the Himalayas rather than to the foot of Sinai, but that the doctrines of Manu and Gautama harmonized exactly with his own philosophy, while those of Jehovah were to him abhorrent and terrifying? The Hindus taught to return good for evil, but the Jehovistic command was: "An eye for an eye" and "a tooth for a tooth."
If the Mosaic "Lord God" was the only living God, and Jesus His only Son, how account for the rebellious language of the latter? Without hesitation or qualification he sweeps away the Jewish lex talionis and substitutes for it the law of charity and self-denial. If the Old Testament is a divine revelation, how can the New Testament be? Are we required to believe and worship a Deity who contradicts himself every few hundred years? Was Moses inspired, or was Jesus not the son of God? This is a dilemma from which the theologians are bound to rescue us. It is from this very dilemma that the Gnostics endeavored to snatch the budding Christianity.
Justice has been waiting nineteen centuries for intelligent commentators to appreciate this difference between the orthodox Tertullian and the Gnostic Marcion.
We are quite ready to show the "Lord God" of Israel the same respect as we do to Brahma, Zeus, or any other secondary deity. But we decline, most emphatically, to recognise in him either the Deity worshipped by Moses, or the "Father" of Jesus, or yet the "Ineffable Name" of the kabalists. Jehovah is, perhaps, one of the Elohim, who was concerned in the formation (which is not creation) of the universe, one of the architects who built from pre-existing matter, but he never was the "Unknowable" Cause that created "bara", in the night of Eternity.
Laying aside the theological disputes of Christianity which try to blend together the Jewish Creator of the first chapter of Genesis with the "Father" of the New Testament, Jesus states repeatedly of his Father that "He is in secret." Surely he would not have so termed the ever-present "Lord God" of the Mosaic books, who showed Himself to Moses and the Patriarchs, and finally allowed all the elders of Israel to look on Himself. (Exodus xxiv. 9, 10). When Jesus is made to speak of the temple at Jerusalem as of his "Father's house," he does not mean the physical building, which he maintains he can destroy and then again rebuild in three days, but of the temple of Solomon; the wise kabalist, who indicates in his Proverbs that every man is the temple of God, or of his own divine spirit. This term of the "Father who is in secret," we find used as much in the Kabala as in the Codex Nazaraeus, and elsewhere. No one has ever seen the wisdom concealed in the "Cranium," and no one has beheld the "Depth" (Bythos). Simon, the Magician, preached "one Father unknown to all."
Plato considered the divine nature under a three-fold modification of the First Cause, the reason or Logos, and the soul or spirit of the universe. "The three archial or original principles," says Gibbon, "were represented in the Platonic system as three gods, united with each other by a mysterious and ineffable generation." (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire). Blending this transcendental idea with the more hypostatic figure of the Logos of Philo, whose doctrine was that of the oldest Kabala, and who viewed the King Messiah, as the metatron, or "the angel of the Lord," the Legatus descended in flesh, but not the Ancient of Days Himself; the Christians clothed with this mythical representation of the Mediator for the fallen race of Adam, Jesus, the son of Mary. Under this unexpected garb his personality was all but lost. In the modern Jesus of the Christian Church, we find the ideal of the imaginative Irenaeus, not the adept of the Essenes, the obscure reformer from Galilee. We see him under the disfigured Plato-Philonean mask, not as the disciples heard him on the mount.
If we now recall the fact that a portion of the Mysteries of the "Pagans" consisted of the ... aporrheta, or secret discourses; that the secret Logia or discourses of Jesus contained in the original Gospel according to Matthew, the meaning and interpretation of which St. Jerome confessed to be "a difficult task" for him to achieve, were of the same nature; and if we remember, further, that to some of the interior or final Mysteries only a very select few were admitted; and that finally it was from the number of the latter that were taken all the ministers of the holy "Pagan" rites, we will then clearly understand this expression of Jesus quoted by Peter: Guard the Mysteries for me and the sons of my house," i.e., of my doctrine. And, if we understand it rightly, we cannot avoid thinking that this "secret" doctrine of Jesus, even the technical expressions of which are but so many duplications of the Gnostic and Neo-platonic mystic phraseology -- that this doctrine, we say, was based on the same transcendental philosophy of Oriental Gnosis as the rest of the religions of those and earliest days. That none of the later Christian sects, despite their boasting, were the inheritors of it, is evident from the contradictions, blunders, and clumsy repatching of the mistakes of every preceding century by the discoveries of the succeeding one.
The ascetic observance of the Christian Sabbath by Protestants is pure religious tyranny, and does more harm, we fear, than good. It really dates only from the enactment (in 1678) of the 29th of Charles II, which prohibited any "tradesman, artificer, workman, laborer, or other person," to "do or exercise any worldly labor, etc., etc., upon the Lord's day." The Puritans carried this thing to extremes, apparently to mark their hatred of Catholicism, both Roman and Episcopal. That it was no part of the plan of Jesus that such a day should be set apart, is evident not only from his words but acts. It was not observed by the early Christians.
When Trypho, the Jew, reproached the Christians for not having a Sabbath, what does the martyr answer him? "The new law will have you keep a perpetual Sabbath. You, when you have passed a day in idleness, think you are religious. The Lord is not pleased with such things as these. If any be guilty of perjury or fraud, let him reform; if he be an adulterer, let him repent; and he will then have kept the kind of Sabbath truly pleasing to God ... The elements are never idle, and keep no Sabbath. There was no need of the observance of Sabbaths before Moses, neither now is there any need of them after Jesus Christ."
From the birth of the solemn and majestic conception of the unrevealed Deity of the ancient adepts to such caricatured descriptions of him who died on the Cross for his philanthropic devotion to humanity, long centuries have intervened, and their heavy tread seems to have almost entirely obliterated all sense of a spiritual religion from the hearts of his professed followers.
(Collated from the writings of H.P.B.)
(To be continued)
JESUS: INITIATE AND TEACHER
(Part 4 of a 12-part series)
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