Pisces is the last sign of the zodiac, marking the end of the annual cycle. It is a sign of endings, death, redemption and transformation, and prepares us for the new life that comes in the following three festivals - Aries, Taurus and Gemini. These festivals are considered to be the highpoint of the spiritual year and the energies they release set the scene for the remainder of the year.
For the last 2000 years Pisces has been associated with thoughts of utmost sacrifice leading to pain and suffering symbolised by the death and Crucifixion of Jesus Christ on the Cross at Calvary so that humanity could be 'saved' from its sins. Accompanying the teachings surrounding this is the concept of a heartless God who somehow needed to be appeased because His creation had failed Him and this could only be achieved by the blood sacrifice of His only Son. After all, Paul in the bible proudly said that he preached 'Christ crucified' and that 'we are justified by Jesus' blood' and have therefore escaped God's 'wrath'. 1
Is it any wonder that this teaching has posed problems for thinking people who find the concept of blood sacrifice anathema and do not feel as if they need to be saved from a wrathful and remote God?
There are several ways of understanding the meaning of the Cross of salvation but I find it is helpful to consider its history in terms of the past four ages. Hopefully we will see that some of today's thinking with respect to sacrifice goes back thousands of years and is no longer relevant or helpful to today's situation.
The Age of Taurus the Bull (4000BC - 2000BC).2 This was an age of tribalism, polytheism, animalism and superstition. Most of the gods of this time personified forces of nature and were regarded with a mixture of awe and fear. Methods to appease them included blood sacrifice, including human blood sacrifice. Personal responsibility did not exist as the culture was tribal so that any sacrifice to the gods was seen as sufficient to obtain the good of all. When viewing the Crucifixion from this perspective, Jesus would have been seen as a sacrifice to appease an arbitrary and vengeful god on behalf of us all. Some of us recognise the desire, perhaps within ourselves, almost certainly in others, that someone will do everything for us, to serve as a buffer between us and God and to act as a stand in when we do not measure up.
The Age of Aries the Lamb (2000 BC until the time of Christ). During this age tribes were replaced by empires (amalgamations of tribes), monotheism and mythology. Human sacrifice was abandoned because people were starting to value human life and the nature gods were replaced by one Sky God who lived in the heavens and although separate from humanity, seemed to be interested in them nonetheless. Abraham intended to sacrifice his only begotten son, Isaac, to this God but was stopped by an angel who told him that human sacrifice was no longer necessary, and to sacrifice a ram instead. So sacrifice continued using animals but it was now largely symbolic, a relic of the preceding age. Later Moses introduced the 10 Commandments or laws which enabled individuals, for the first time, to take steps to ensure they met the requirements for a right relationship with God. No longer was the tribe the mediator between the person and God, and the individual was expected to secure his own worth in God's eyes. This God was far less arbitrary than the Taurean God. The God of the Age of Aries had rules, covenants, laws, and external rituals with exacting procedures; he was a God of Law and Order and if you obeyed He was pleased and if you did not, then watch out! Even today some people still see Jesus as the sacrificial lamb fulfilling the law of justice, laid down by His stern and legalistic Father, by dying for our sins.
The Age of Pisces the Fish (1 AD until recently). Jesus put a symbolic end to the requirement for animal sacrifice when he chased the moneychangers out of the Temple who were there for people who needed to buy animals for their temple sacrifices. He preached that God was Love and the only way we could please Him was by loving Him and others. Jesus came to free us from the law and from the sin and death that was inherent in it, and exemplified that by His own life and relationship with the Father a relationship in which we could share. He told us that God's Kingdom was within and all we had to do to discover it was to open our hearts to others through sacrificial service and take responsibility for our own salvation by learning to love. This was the "good news" that resulted in His being put to death on the Cross by fear-filled and jealous devotees of the Law of God because it deprived them of their external power over the people. While Jesus paid the ultimate price for giving us this revolutionary message, this did not happen because the Father needed to be appeased. Rather the Father wanted to show us how we could share in everything He had, and the work of the Christ was to teach us how to do that by putting to death our own selfish and separatist natures in order to serve all Creation.
However, while this teaching was clearly a huge leap forward, Christian love was often understood by putting a rationalised overlay on top of the Taurean and Arien theologies of sacrifice so that love was equated with suffering. As a result, a cult of suffering arose within Christianity and with it a belief that to be like Christ we had to deliberately seek out suffering which was frequently regarded as good in itself. As part of this, poverty was often seen as a positive value to be cultivated and this mindset has contributed to the problems of financing the work of restoration and preparing for the Externalisation of the Hierarchy and reappearance of the Christ.
The Age of Aquarius the Water Carrier (from the present onwards for 2000 years). As we begin the Age of Aquarius, the concept of the Cross is taking on a deeper meaning so that it is seen as symbolic of the inner death we must undergo in order to achieve Christ consciousness. It requires the acknowledgement that no one is going to save us but ourselves and what is more, the work of salvation cannot be achieved unless it includes everyone.
So disciples move from being initiates in Capricorn, world servers in Aquarius to world saviours in Pisces, consciously invoking the Law of Sacrifice into their lives to complete the cycle that was started when they first began their life in form.
During the Aquarian age, there will be an increasing recognition of the fact that the Law of Sacrifice underlies our solar system, and Atonement will be understood as a mechanism that enables evolved people to realise their oneness with humanity and to become, in deed and truth, the saviours of Humanity.
All religions assert that the earth began with sacrifice. In the Christian religion we are told that Christ is "the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world" 3 indicating creation was based on an act of sacrifice willingly made by the Creator to limit Himself in order to become manifest. The Theosophist, W. Williamson said that "the Law of Sacrifice might perhaps more truly be called the Law of Manifestation, or the Law of Love and of Life, for throughout the universe, from the highest to the lowest, it is the cause of manifestation and life". 4 This dynamic permeates all life, which is a continual sequence of sacrifices from the lowest lifeform to the highest, with the ultimate mark of progress being when the sacrifice moves from one that is involuntary and imposed, to that which is voluntary and self-chosen. So the pinnacle of achievement and perfection in so far as human beings are concerned is when they consciously choose to sacrifice themselves for the good of the whole, just as the creator did when He limited Himself so that we might have life.
As this takes place, the true symbolism of the Cross will be understood. In her book Esoteric Christianity, Annie Besant describes a study of the origin of the Cross, "In tracing the symbolism of the Latin cross, or rather of the crucifix, back into the night of time, the investigators had expected to find the figure disappear, leaving behind what they supposed to be the earlier cross-emblem. As a matter of fact exactly the reverse took place, and they were startled to find that eventually the cross drops away, leaving only the figure with uplifted arms. No longer is there any thought of pain or sorrow connected with that figure, though still it tells of sacrifice; rather is it now the symbol of the purest joy the world can hold the joy of freely giving for it typifies the Divine Man standing in space with arms upraised in blessing, casting abroad His gifts to all humanity, pouring forth freely of Himself in all directions, descending into that 'dense sea' of matter, to be cribbed, cabined, and confined therein, in order that through descent we may come into being". 5
Our spiritual history has created the belief that the work of salvation must involve pain and suffering but Aquarian saviours will know that is not the case. The hint is in the meaning of the word "sacrifice". The first part of the word, sacri, comes from the Latin root word sacrare meaning, "to make sacred or holy". The second part of the word, fice, means "to make" or "to offer". So the task of the world saviour is to freely give oneself to make holy all creation, not to suffer as we understand it.
In fact, the thoughtform of suffering is actually harmful to the manifestation of the kingdom of God on earth. Apart from the fact that it is just another ego issue we have to deal with,6 it is erroneous to believe that to pick up one's cross and follow Christ automatically means we are obliged to follow a path of suffering. Apart from the fact that energy follows thought and we would therefore create the circumstances to manifest the suffering we dread, it is inefficient, if only because suffering distracts us from the work at hand bringing God's kingdom to earth and makes us less effective servers. Christ came to give us abundant life and said "my yoke is easy and my burden is light." 7 Yet so often we do not believe Him and we falter under the weight of our suffering. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that we have forgotten about, or set aside, the Law of Grace without which the work of salvation is impossible.
The general spiritual definition of grace is the free and unmerited favour or beneficence of God. This can cause problems for spiritual people who believe in the Law of Karma how can one receive something they apparently do not deserve? Would that not upset the order of things?
The truth is that grace is built into the karmic principle. As far back as the 13 century, St Thomas Aquinas said in Summa Theologiae "grace does not take away from nature but perfects it". 8 The German writer Thorwald Dethlefsen adds that "grace only comes to the person who asks for it .... karma works to promote insight in a human being, and once this has been achieved he is ripe for grace. 9
What does that mean for a disciple in Pisces who has left the Father's house to save? Pisces is the culmination of the path we have followed through countless lifetimes to reach the point of obtaining a glimpse of God's Plan for the earth and participating in its manifestation. Once this happens it is as if the evolutionary process speeds up and the disciple's consciousness expands at ever increasing rates. Karma is quickly resolved, outer affairs are balanced and it seems as if many lifetimes are packed into one life. Lucille Cedercrans sums it up in Nature of the Soul,
"Intelligent activity then speeds up the entire process of growth and development, so a man may sense a goal or ideal, expand his consciousness to embody that ideal, and realize its manifestation within his life and affairs in one, short lifetime. Here is that Divine Activity of the Plan which, once realized and accepted, becomes analogous to the Law of Grace ………." 10
So when disciples begin to identify as a soul ie to take on the Mind of Christ and begin to serve intelligently, they are able to adjust those karmic causes within their lives without going through the long and painful outer process of action and reaction. To quote Cedercrans again,
"[the disciple] adjusts the karmic necessity within himself to the Divine Plan as he ideates the Plan, and invokes the Law of Grace or Mercy.
"This has always been a subject of interest to probationers, for once a man becomes aware of the law of karma, it is difficult to see how something which has been set into motion can be offset or superseded. Yet, the Law of Love teaches a Law of Grace or Mercy." 11
Cedercrans gives us an example of this dynamic,
"Let us look at a probationer who [has a] tendency to criticize, along with other companion qualities of a negative nature. Obviously he has engendered quite an overlay of personal karma, as he has expressed these qualities in the past. Yet, now he is applying for initiation, seeks to serve the Plan, and is gradually overcoming the negativity within himself. Must he spend years or even incarnations reaping the effects of seeds sown in the past before he is free to be of service?
"No, it is not necessary that he do so, for once he overcomes the karmic cause of such effects within himself, the Law of Grace begins to operate. The overlay of personal karma created in the past by these karmic causes is transmuted as he takes up his service in the three worlds.
"Please note: this is possible only as the man overcomes the cause within himself, and not before.
"Even then there is a short cycle of manifesting negativity as the law already in motion fulfills itself, but if the probationer maintains his equilibrium (manifests compassion in the face of an experience which would have in the past evoked an expression of criticism) through the completion of the cycle, it will not reappear as another obstacle to service."
Once disciples decide to serve the Plan of God and begin to overcome the negativity within themselves, they do not need to spend years reaping the effects of seeds sown in the past before they can be free for service.
The other point to consider is that karma is a law based on activity (action > reaction) whereas Grace is based on being at one with God. This awareness opens up new vistas of possibilities beyond simple cause and effect. There are laws, and there are laws that supersede those laws. The law of Grace is one of them if the right conditions are met conditions that presuppose life is reunited with Life and self is reconciled with Self, so that grace is nothing but the outward expression of an inner harmony of the soul.
Furthermore, once disciples begin to serve they become the Custodians of Grace.
"His heart is filled to overflowing with the love Christ knows for humankind; and as it spills out into the world, it brings healing, life and restoration to an ailing humanity. Such a one becomes the custodian of the Law of Grace, wielding that law with an exactitude which surpasses even the exacting nature of karma. He is a giver of peace in the midst of conflict; he is food for the hungry, pure water for the thirsty, and ease for every pain. He is all of these because he has become them himself. He no longer hungers, or thirsts, or cries out in the bitterness of pain. His gift is of himself, therefore it is one of Peace. 12
If we want to save the world we have to dare to say "No" to our suffering not always an easy task as we have weaved a dark cloak of suffering out of our attachments and desires over countless lifetimes and we fear that by discarding it we will be naked. But in its place we are given a garment of grace which is the very Body of Christ. This grace is a catalytic agent that liberates all life and assists us join with the Christ to save the world by making all things "holy". We discover that there is no condition or state of being that we, as representatives of the Christ, cannot redeem and we join with Him in sacrificial service to raise up Humanity into a state of divine Light and Life. This is the path of all world saviours and it is our path as well. It is the path of grace.
As we take up this divine task it seems appropriate to end with a common greeting/farewell from the days of early Christianity: The grace of the Lord Christ be with you all.