THEOSOPHY, Vol. 57, No. 12, October, 1969
(Pages 367-372; Size: 18K)
(Number 24 of a 36-part series)
THE CHRISTIAN SCHEME(1)
JESUS: Was He Unique?
THERE was but one apostle of Jesus worthy of that name, and that was Paul. However disfigured were his Epistles by dogmatic hands before being admitted into the Canon, his conception of the great and divine figure of the philosopher who died for his idea can still be traced in his addresses to the various Gentile nations. Only, he who would understand him better yet must study the Philonean Logos reflecting now and then the Hindu Sabda (logos) of the Mimansa school.
As to the other apostles -- those whose names are prefixed to the Gospels -- we cannot well believe in their veracity when we find them attributing to their Master miracles surrounded by circumstances, recorded, if not in the oldest books of India, at least in such as antedated Christianity, and in the very phraseology of the traditions. Who, in his days of simple and blind credulity, but marvelled at the touching narrative given in the Gospels according to Mark and Luke of the resurrection of the daughter of Jairus? Who has ever doubted its originality? And yet the story is copied entirely from the Hari-Purana, and is recorded among the miracles attributed to Christna. We translate it from the French version:The King Angashuna caused the betrothal of his daughter, the beautiful Kalavatti, with the young son of Vamadeva, the powerful King of Antarvédi, named Govinda, to be celebrated with great pomp.All such parables are enforced upon Christians, with the addition of dogmas which, in their extraordinary character, leave far behind them the wildest conceptions of heathenism. The Christians, in order to believe in a Deity, have found it necessary to kill their God, that they themselves should live!
But as Kalavatti was amusing herself in the groves with her companions, she was stung by a serpent and died. Angashuna tore his clothes, covered himself with ashes, and cursed the day when he was born.
Suddenly, a great rumor spread through the palace, and the following cries were heard, a thousand times repeated: "Pacya pitaram; pacya gurum!" "The Father, the Master!" Then Christna approached, smiling, leaning on the arm of Ardjuna.... "Master!" cried Angashuna, casting himself at his feet, and sprinkling them with his tears, "See my poor daughter!" and he showed him the body of Kalavatti, stretched upon a mat....
"Why do you weep?" replied Christna, in a gentle voice. "Do you not see that she is sleeping? Listen to the sound of her breathing, like the sigh of the night wind which rustles the leaves of the trees. See, her cheeks resuming their color, her eyes, whose lids tremble as if they were about to open; her lips quiver as if about to speak; she is sleeping, I tell you; and hold! I see, she moves, Kalavatti! Rise and walk!"
Hardly had Christna spoken, when the breathing, warmth, movement, and life returned little by little, into the corpse, and the young girl, obeying the injunction of the demi-god, rose from her couch and rejoined her companions. But the crowd marvelled and cried out: "This is a god, since death is no more for him than sleep?"
And now, the Supreme, unknown one, the Father of grace and mercy, and his celestial hierarchy are managed by the Church as though they were so many theatrical stars and supernumeraries under salary! Six centuries before the Christian era, Xenophanes had disposed of such anthropomorphism by an immortal satire, recorded and preserved by Clement of Alexandria:There is one God Supreme........And hear Vyasa -- the poet-pantheist of India, who, for all the scientists can prove, may have lived, as Jacolliot has it, some fifteen thousand years ago -- discoursing on Maya, the illusion of the senses: "All religious dogmas only serve to obscure the intelligence of man.... Worship of divinities, under the allegories of which is hidden respect for natural laws, drives away truth to the profit of the basest superstitions" (Vyasa Maya).
Whose form is not like unto man's, and as
unlike his nature;
But vain mortals imagine that gods like
themselves are begotten
With human sensations, and voice, and
So if oxen or lions had hands and could work
in man's fashion
And trace out with chisel or brush their
conception of Godhead
Then would horses depict gods like horses,
and oxen like oxen,
Each kind the Divine with its own form
and nature endowing.
It was given to Christianity to paint us God Almighty after the model of the kabalistic abstraction of the "Ancient of Days." From old frescos on cathedral ceilings, Catholic missals, and other icons and images, we now find him depicted by the poetic brush of Gustave Doré. The awful, unknown majesty of Him, whom no "heathen" dared to reproduce in concrete form, is figuring in our own century in Doré's Illustrated Bible. Treading upon clouds that float in mid-air, darkness and chaos behind him and the world beneath his feet, a majestic old man stands, his left hand gathering his flowing robes about him, and his right raised in the gesture of command. He has spoken the Word, and from his towering person streams an effulgence of Light -- the Shekinah. As a poetic conception, the composition does honor to the artist, but does it honor God? Better, the chaos behind Him, than the figure itself; for there, at least, we have a solemn mystery. For our part, we prefer the silence of the ancient heathens. With such a gross, anthropomorphic, and, as we conceive, blasphemous representation of the First Cause, who can feel surprised at any iconographic extravagance in the representation of the Christian Christ, the apostles, and the putative Saints? With the Catholics St. Peter becomes quite naturally the janitor of Heaven, and sits at the door of the celestial kingdom -- a ticket-taker to the Trinity!
In a religious disturbance which recently occurred in one of the Spanish-American provinces, there were found upon the bodies of some of the killed, passports signed by the Bishop of the Diocese and addressed to St. Peter; bidding him "admit the bearer as a true son of the Church." It was subsequently ascertained that these unique documents were issued by the Catholic prelate just before his deluded parishioners went into the fight at the instigation of their priests.
Unluckily for those who would have been glad to render justice to the ancient and modern religious philosophies of the Orient, a fair opportunity has hardly ever been given to them. Of late there has been a touching accord between philologists holding high official positions, and missionaries from heathen lands. Prudence before truth when the latter endangers our sinecures! Besides, how easy to compromise with conscience. A State religion is a prop of government; all State religions are "exploded humbugs"; therefore, since one is as good, or rather as bad, as another, the State religion may as well be supported. Such is the diplomacy of official science.
Grote in his History of Greece, assimilates the Pythagoreans to the Jesuits, and sees in their Brotherhood but an ably-disguised object to acquire political ascendancy. On the loose testimony of Herakleitus and some other writers, who accused Pythagoras of craft, and described him as a man "of extensive research ... but artful for mischief and destitute of sound judgment," some historical biographers hastened to present him to posterity in such a character.
How then if they must accept the Pythagoras painted by the satirical Timon, "a juggler of solemn speech engaged in fishing for men," can they avoid judging of Jesus from the sketch that Celsus has embalmed in his satire? Historical impartiality has nought to do with creeds and personal beliefs, and exacts as much of posterity for one as for the other. The life and doings of Jesus are far less attested than those of Pythagoras, if, indeed, we can say that they are attested at all by any historical proof. For assuredly no one will gainsay that as a real personage Celsus has the advantage as regards the credibility of his testimony over Matthew, or Mark, or Luke, or John, who never wrote a line of the Gospels attributed to them respectively. Withal Celsus is at least as good a witness as Herakleitus. He was known as a scholar and a Neo-platonist to some of the Fathers; whereas the very existence of the four Apostles must be taken on blind faith. If Timon regarded the sublime Samian as "a juggler," so did Celsus hold Jesus, or rather those who made all the pretenses for him. In his famous work, addressing the Nazarene, he says: "Let us grant that the wonders were performed by you ... but are they not common with those who have been taught by the Egyptians to perform in the middle of the forum for a few oboli." And we know, on the authority of the Gospel According to Matthew, that the Galilean prophet was also a man of solemn speech, and that he called himself and offered to make his disciples "fishers of men."
Let it not be imagined that we bring this reproach to any who revere Jesus as God. Whatever the faith, if the worshipper be but sincere, it should be respected in his presence. If we do not accept Jesus as God, we revere him as a man. Such a feeling honors him more than ifwe were to attribute to him the powers and personality of the Supreme, and credit him at the same time with having played a useless comedy with mankind, as, after all, his mission proves scarcely less than a complete failure; 2,000 years have passed, and Christians do not reckon one-fifth part of the population of the globe, nor is Christianity likely to progress any better in the future. No, we aim but at strict justice, leaving all personality aside. We question those who, adoring neither Jesus, Pythagoras, nor Apollonius, yet recite the idle gossip of their contemporaries; those who in their books either maintain a prudent silence, or speak of "our Saviour" and "our Lord," as though they believed any more in the made-up theological Christ, than in the fabulous Fo of China.
There were no Atheists in those days of old; no disbelievers or materialists, in the modern sense of the word, as there were no bigoted detractors. He who judges the ancient philosophies by their external phraseology, and quotes from ancient writings sentences seemingly atheistical, is unfit to be trusted as a critic, for he is unable to penetrate into the inner sense of their metaphysics. The views of Pyrrho, whose rationalism has become proverbial, can be interpreted only by the light of the oldest Hindu philosophy. From Manu down to the latest Swâbhâvika, its leading metaphysical feature ever was to proclaim the reality and supremacy of spirit, with a vehemence proportionate to the denial of the objective existence of our material world -- passing phantom of temporary forms and beings. The numerous schools begotten by Kapila, reflect his philosophy no clearer than the doctrines left as a legacy to thinkers by Timon, Pyrrho's "Prophet," as Sextus Empiricus calls him. His views on the divine repose of the soul, his proud indifference to the opinion of his fellow men, his contempt for sophistry, reflect in an equal degree stray beams of the self-contemplation of the Gymnosophists and of the Buddhist Vaibhâshika. Notwithstanding that he and his followers are termed, from their state of constant suspense, "skeptics," "doubters," inquirers, and ephectics, only because they postponed their final judgment on dilemmas, with which our modern philosophers prefer dealing, Alexander-like, by cutting the Gordian knot, and then declaring the dilemma a superstition, such men as Pyrrho cannot be pronounced atheists. No more can Kapila, or Giordano Bruno, or again Spinoza, who were also treated as atheists; nor yet, the great Hindu poet, philosopher, and dialectician, Veda-Vyasa, whose principle that all is illusion -- save the Great Unknown and His direct essence -- Pyrrho has adopted in full.
These philosophical beliefs extended like a net-work over the whole pre-Christian world; and, surviving persecution and misrepresentations, form the corner-stone of every now existing religion outside Christianity.
Comparative theology is a two-edged weapon, and has so proved itself. But the Christian advocates, unabashed by evidence, force comparison in the serenest way; Christian legends and dogmas, they say, do somewhat resemble the heathen, it is true; but see, while the one teaches us the existence, powers, and attributes of an all-wise, all-good Father-God, Brahmanism gives us a multitude of minor gods, and Buddhism none whatever; one is fetishism and polytheism, the other bald atheism. Jehovah is one true God, and the Pope and Martin Luther are His prophets! This is one edge of the sword, and this the other: Despite missions, despite armies, despite commercial intercourse, the "heathen" find nothing in the teachings of Jesus -- sublime though some are -- that Christna and Gautama had not taught them before. And so, to gain over any new converts, and keep the few already won by centuries of cunning, the Christians give the "heathen" dogmas more absurd than their own, and cheat them by adopting the habit of their native priests, and practicing the very "idolatry and fetishism" which they so disparage in the "heathens." Comparative theology works both ways.
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:
THE LIVING EARTH
How wise were the ancients who never lost sight of the religious significance of the earth! They used the land to the full, draining, ploughing, and manuring every inch, but their use was not an attack on its nature, nor was the ancient motherhood of earth ever forgotten in the breaking and preparing of the soil.
They knew, as all honest people know in their bones, that in any true sense there is no such thing as ownership of the earth and that the shadow of any man is but for a time cast upon the grass of any field. What remains is the earth, the mother of life as the ancients personified the mystery, the ancient mother in her robes of green or harvest gold and the sickle in her hand.
When farming becomes purely utilitarian, something perishes. Sometimes it is the earth life which dies under this "stand and deliver" policy; sometimes it is the human beings who practice this economy, and oftenest of all it is a destruction of both land and man. If we are to live and have something to live for, let us remember, all of us, that we are the servants as well as the masters of our fields.
--HENRY BESTON: Northern Farm
THE CHRISTIAN SCHEME
JESUS: Buddha, Jesus, Apollonius
(Part 25 of a 36-part series)
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ONE (1) FOOTNOTE LISTED BELOW:
(1) NOTE.--"The Christian Scheme," begun in November, 1967, is collated from the works of H. P. Blavatsky. It recounts the historical background and early development of Christianity.
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