Once again Christmas is upon us and busy people are complaining about how it seems like only "yesterday" since last Christmas. Yet despite complaints, thoughts are turning to Christmas carols, sprigs of mistletoe, wreaths of holly, bountiful food, parties and colourfully wrapped gifts around Christmas trees, all shared with those we love. Even if one is not a Christian there can be no denying that Christmas is a Christian festival of love and goodwill, tidings of joy and the birth of hope and goodness, symbolised by one central image – that of a baby in a manger.
But Christmas is not just about the birth of a helpless baby. It is also about the birth of Christ consciousness, the ever pure reflection of the Spirit of God, in the heart and mind of humanity. This same consciousness is called the Buddha Mind in Buddhism and Kutastha Chaitanya (Krishna Consciousness) in Hindu. So at Christmas we don't just remember the life of the baby who went on to become Jesus Christ but we remember and experience anew the gift He brought us – the infinite Christ consciousness that is born in the cave of our hearts and which unites us all as One Life and empowers us to become world servers and messengers of Light.
The birth of a world saviour at the time of the Winter Solstice is a common enough story. Ann Baring and Jules Cashford said in their book, The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image,
"All over the world for countless millennia, people have participated in a religious ritual at the winter solstice, when the sun's downward course is arrested and it turns back, as it seems, to earth. This change of state in the bleak mid-winter of the year was experienced as the rebirth of the sun and commemorated as the birthday of the sun god, the luminous divine child. Like the heavenly sun arising from the depths of the darkness, these divine sons were born at midnight, hidden in the depths of the earth, in a cow-byre, in the reeds, in a cave, out of a rock, in a manger. The cry, "The Virgin has brought forth! The light is waxing" would have echoed in various tongues across the centuries. In Mesopotamia he was called Tammuz and Dumuzi; in Egypt he was called Osiris and Horus, and, later, Aion; in Greece, Dionysos, Helios and Orpheus; in Persia and Rome, Mithras." 1
These occurrences were accompanied by similar symbols – heavenly signs, virgin births in humble beginnings (often a cave or similar shelter), shepherds in a field, adoration by heavenly beings, danger and flights to safety and a hero who dies only to be resurrected. All these events can be found in the Christmas story and life of Jesus. Furthermore, few, if any, scholars believe that Jesus was born on 25 December and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the date was selected for mythological and political, rather than historical, reasons.
So is there anything in the story that is of use to us? Certainly it would be reasonable to agree with the seventeenth century German mystic, Angelus Silesius, when he wrote,
"Of what use, Gabriel, your message to Marie,
Unless you now can bring the same message to me!" 2
And the Christmas story does bring the same message – to Silesius as he undoubtedly discovered, and to everyone who "has ears to hear".
Alice Bailey tells us in that in Capricorn matter reaches its densest and most concrete expression. So it is a symbol of materialism, personal ambition, the old order, the satisfaction of material desires of the baser sort, and the fact that it takes place at the winter solstice (in the Northern Hemisphere), the time of greatest darkness, emphasises this point. In Esoteric Astrology she says, "the very worst type of man [is born in Capricorn] – hard, materialistic, cruel, proud, selfishly ambitious and egotistic"; 3 in short, Capricorn symbolises the life of an average person before God starts stirring in his or her heart. Yet, all the world saviours and Sun Gods – the Lights of the World – were also born in Capricorn. When Jesus was born, the darkness of materialism was epitomised by Caesar who was at the apex of power at the time. Corinne Heline in her book The New Age Bible Interpretation said that during this time, "selfishness, egotism and animalism reigned supreme……..the life of average humanity was so evil that human evolution had almost come to a standstill" 4 It was under such conditions that Jesus Christ, the light of the world, chose to descend into the very depths of matter (represented by the cave in which he was born and the surrounding animals) to redeem it; a helpless baby hunted by the symbol of the darkness (Caesar) against seemingly impossible odds. Yet Caesar's empire collapsed and the kingdom of the Christ grew, symbolised by the growing light after the darkness of the solstice. Life and light always win over death and darkness, and that is what the Christ came to tell us through his sacrificial life. He showed us that the self-seeking ego with its individual power and pride, within which are the seeds of dissatisfaction, despair and death, can find a way out of its desperate unhappiness by surrendering itself to a greater consciousness which is its true Self. He showed us that the very seeds of death that we carry have within them the hope of transformation by being born again to a new life; by becoming a new creation. 5
The birth of Jesus on the day when the sun started to increase spoke of this process. Joseph Campbell said, "The sun is our second symbol of rebirth, evoking the idea of not coming back at all, of not being reborn here but passing beyond the spheres of rebirth to a transcendent light. The typical image for this is the sun. The moon carries darkness within it, but wherever the sun goes there is no darkness. There are only the shadows of those forces that do not open themselves to its light. The image of the sun-door speaks of yet another kind of rebirth, that of the return of the lost one – that is, the one who is lost in the spheres and shadows of time, who returns to the eternal root which is his own great root. …That which you are was never born and will never die; that is the insight rendered in terms of the solar mystery, the solar light." 6 This is the pre-existing eternal light of God.
The coming of Christ heralded the coming of the Kingdom of God, a stark contrast to the kingdom of men, (at the time represented by the evil empire of Caesar), and all other earthly kingdoms that came afterwards.
The "kingdom" meant not so much a goal to be attained or a place – though those meanings are by no means excluded from Christ's teachings. But it was more a state of mind that involved a conscious alignment between the soul, the Christ within, and personality that, if achieved, would reveal the kingdom within one's own heart ("the Kingdom of God is within you") and once achieved it would create a new order, both internally and externally.
The major characteristic of members of this Kingdom was to be their Christ consciousness expressed through their love for one another and all creation. As Alice Bailey says, the kingdom is "a vast and integrated group of soul-infused persons, radiating love and spiritual intention, motivated by goodwill, and rooted in the human kingdom, as the kingdom of men is rooted in and is a break-away from the animal kingdom". 7 Once established in the heart of humanity, this kingdom would then be able to manifest physically on earth. It is this manifestation that the Christ made possible and which the Christ shares with all who heed His message. 8 It is this kingdom for which humanity prepares and waits.
The Kingdom of God also speaks of the Spiritual Hierarchy, variously referred to as the Great White Brotherhood, the Teachers of Humanity, the Masters of Wisdom, or Elder Brothers. They are the "just men made perfect" who are custodians of the Plan of God and who, in Christian terminology, are the saints who will accompany the Christ when He reappears on the earth. This is referred to as the Externalisation of the Hierarchy.
One does not have to believe in the importance of an historical Jesus to partake in the benefits of Christ. Francia La Rue speaking of the misperceptions people have about the man Jesus, said in her book Teachings of the Temple, "Would it be difficult to exchange such an image for a conscious, omnipotent, life-manifesting Light, emanating from the hidden source of all Life, creeping slowly, silently out and over a world of shadows, illuminating every hidden corner, every dark place, penetrating to the heart of every living thing and flooding it with beauty; teaching by its very presence the glory of sacrifice as it surrenders its own substance that all living things should have life more abundantly; touching and arousing to action every human impulse for good, as well as every divine impulse toward the source of its own emanation; the same creative power which poured through and illuminated the blessed Master Jesus and made of Him the Saviour, the healer, the hope of the degraded and outcast, as it shone through other great Souls before His time, and shines now through still others, and will always continue to shine when given opportunity, even through you and me?" 9
This is made easier when one considers that the term "Christ" has several levels of meaning, including:
- the historical Christ who lived and suffered as a man, overcame human limitations and showed us the way of return to the Father
- the inner (or mystical) Christ which refers to the human soul which perfects itself through many lifetimes until it becomes a world server, like the historical Christ
- the Cosmic or mystic Christ which is the second aspect of the Trinity, the Divine Son or consciousness/love aspect; the Word of God through whom all things are created and who drives all manifested life toward the perfection that reveals the Father (first) aspect
- the Office of Christ, the Head of the Spiritual Hierarchy
- the archetypal man or the perfect image of God; Adam Qadmon in the Kabbalah. In the bible, Christ was portrayed as the second Adam who by his achievement and example enabled the first Adam to achieve this perfection.
As we have spent the last 2000 years searching for and debating, evidence of the historical Christ, the concept of the Cosmic Christ has also been rediscovered and developed by scholars, such as Teilhard de Chardin and Matthew Fox. This Christ is the mover and shaker behind all creation, the pattern that connects all life in a unity of relationship and love, the Cosmic Son (second aspect of Divinity) who restores the union between the Mother (third aspect) and the Father (first aspect). The nature of this Christ was revealed by Jesus Christ and having seen Him, we can be like Him. This is the Incarnation – the birth of Christ in our hearts, the penetration of the Divine into our human nature so that a new life is born. De Chardin says in The Future of Man,
"the Incarnation is a making new, a restoration of all the universe's forces and powers; Christ is the centre, the End, of the whole of animate and material creation; through Him everything is created, sanctified and vivified……..since the days when the first breath of individualisation passed over the expanse of the Supreme Centre here below so that in it could be seen the ripple of the smile of the original monads, all things were moving towards the Child born of Woman. And since Christ was born and ceased to grow…...everything has continued in motion because He has not yet attained the fullness of His form. He has not yet gathered about Him the last folds of the garment of flesh woven for Him by His faithful. The mystical Christ has not yet reached the peak of His growth ……………..and it is in the continuation of this engendering that there lies the ultimate driving force behind all created activity………." 10
So it is not only the historical Christ who is the "author and perfector of our faith" 11 but the Cosmic Christ whom He came to reveal. And if that is not miracle enough, this same Christ lives in our hearts and continues to reveal Himself to us as we seek him. Yet none of these great events, that are at once of cosmic proportions and yet intimately personal, would have happened without the birth of a baby in the town of Bethlehem 2000 years ago.
The truth of the cosmic love which Jesus Christ embodied is the glad tidings brought by the angel to the shepherds on the night He was born,
"I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people …
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men." 12
The glory of God relates to the Father aspect, in particular, and this is what the Christ reveals to us - as a baby in Bethlehem, as the Christ in our hearts, as the Head of the Spiritual Hierarchy, and as the cosmic Christ who unites all creation. Only as we understand and apply the revelation of that glory will we experience goodwill towards all and Peace on Earth. But in the meantime, as we work towards that, we can experience the peace of the Christ in our hearts as we embrace the "glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory". 13
This is our joy; this is our triumph; this is the meaning of Christmas.
Perhaps with these thoughts in mind, you will join with people all over the world to recite the beautiful Mantram of Unification during the festive season. One can imagine the son of God reciting it as He turned away from the Light Supernal, the celestial light of the Father, in order to identify with, and serve Humanity so that all may come to experience the same light. And as you do, may the blessings of the Christ abound in your heart and overflow to your loved ones, and all humanity, and may you be refreshed by the indwelling Christ as the 'hope of glory' uplifts and strengthens you for the new year ahead.
The sons of men are one and I am one with them.
I seek to love, not hate;
I seek to serve and not exact due service;
I seek to heal, not hurt.
Let pain bring due reward of light and love.
Let the soul control the outer form, and life and all events,
And bring to light the love that underlies the happenings of the time.
Let vision come and insight.
Let the future stand revealed.
Let inner union demonstrate and outer cleavages be gone.
Let love prevail.
Let all men love. 14