[The fondness of spirits for anniversaries has led to
my receiving a number of special teachings on Church Festivals. As a specimen I
give the Easter Teachings for three consecutive years. It will be seen that the
words written in 1875, and signed by another name to those who have given other
teachings, breathes a different spirit, and is conceived from another
Easter --- 1874
[Easter Day, 1874. I referred to a communication given
on the corresponding day of the year previous from DOCTOR and PRUDENS.]
It may serve as a landmark for estimating progress, if you review your
feelings then, and contrast them with what you now know. You will see how much
you have both learned and unlearned on matters all- important. We taught you
then of the resurrection of the soul, in opposition to the resurrection of the
body. We explained the true theory of the rising of the spirit, not in a
far-distant hereafter, but at the moment of bodily dissolution. This was new to
you; it is not so now. You have now knowledge of what then seemed unintelligible
to your mind. We have told you too of the mission of Jesus, and of His present
work among you through His messengers. We have shown to you the true Divinity,
the real grandeur of the Lord whom you had ignorantly worshipped. We have shown
Him to you as He was, as He always described Himself, a man like yourselves,
only the noblest of the children of men, the likest God, the truest and purest
ideal of man's perfection. If we have taken from the Christ the halo which a
foolish and human creed had spread around Him, we have shown you the man Christ
Jesus in divinest form, the full realisation of human perfection on this earth.
His body has not indeed been raised, but He has never died, and in spirit He
manifested to His friends, walked with them, as we may one day walk with you,
and taught them of the truth.
What you are now witnessing are the signs and wonders that prelude the
opening of a new dispensation, the advent of the Lord, not as man has fancied
and as your teachers have vainly taught, in bodily presence to judge an arisen
humanity, but in His new mission (the fulness of the old), through us, His
messengers and ministers, in the declaration of a new evangel to your world. In
those events which even now transpire among you we bear our part. It is our
mission, under the sacred guidance of Him in whose name we speak, to tell to a
world only partly able to bear it a new Gospel which, in after ages, shall take
its place among the revelations of the Supreme to man, and shall be valued as
the outcome of the past.
We have lately been able to act more directly on you, because of your
increased passivity and more receptive frame of mind. We earnestly encourage you
to prayerfulness and steadfastness, together with patient watching. Be not
diverted from the purpose for which we labour. Meditate long and frequently on
the sacred message which God now sends to earth. Strive to throw aside obstacles
and bars to progress. We would not have you neglect your daily work. The time
will come when we shall be able to use you more frequently. That time is not yet
come. It is necessary that you go through this additional trial and preparation;
meantime, dear friend, remember that you need training, even as by fire...you
must endeavour to rise above the plane of earth to the higher spheres, where the
higher spirits dwell. This is our Easter message to you. Awake and arise from
the dead. Cast aside the gross cares of your lower world. Throw off the material
bonds that bind and clog your spirit. Rise from dead matter to living spirit;
from earthly care to spiritual love; from earth to heaven. Emancipate your
spirit from earthly cares which are earth-born and unspiritual. Cast aside the
material and the physical which have been the necessary aids to your progress,
and rise from engrossing interest in the worldly to a due appreciation of
Spiritual Truth. As the Master said to His friends, "Be in the world, but
not of the world." So shall those words of your Sacred Records be
fulfilled in you: "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and
Christ shall give thee light."
You speak as if I wasted time on worldly things.
No; we have said that it must needs be that your earthly work must be
accomplished even at the risk of preventing the education of your spirit. But we
would have you to devote your care to higher spiritual teaching, and to leave
the lower planes of objective evidence, which should no longer be required. We
would have you to progress. And what we say to you we say to all.
[After some further questions I suggested that
development might go on till one became quite unfit for work in the world; so
sensitive as fit only to be shut up in a glass case; so absorbed in spirit-land
as to be useless for a workaday world: that, indeed, being the perfection of
Doubtless it might be so with another type of spirit placed in other
circumstances and under no guardianship. We shall see to that. We have made our
choice with a view to it, and have preferred to risk delay rather than to choose
an instrument who would be ill-regulated in mind, and a prey to the fantasies of
every vagrant spirit. We have trusted that the fullness of time will lessen the
weight of doubt and difficulty, and that assured confidence being established,
and over- carefulness diminished, we may progress with speed and safety. We
cannot hasten that time; we would not if we could. But we shall not cease to
urge on all our friends the necessity for higher aspirations; nor to impress on
them that the physical foundation having been laid, it is time to raise the
[I repeated what I had before said, viz. that I would
go where I saw my way; but that I thought much that passed current for
Spiritualism to be unworthy and even mischievous; that mediumship was anything
but a unmixed blessing, and, when exercised in mixed circles, a very dangerous
thing. I added that faith was no doubt necessary, but that I had about as much
as I ever should have. And quite certainly no amount of physical proof beyond
what we had received would add one iota to it.]
You are mistaken in supposing your faith to be as strong as it will be. When
enlarged and purified it will be a vastly different power from that cold,
calculating, nerveless assent which you now call Faith. The faith you now
possess would pale and fade away before real obstacles. It has no hold upon your
mind, is no factor in your life. In one way it would be strengthened by
opposition, but a severe spiritual attack from the adversaries would well-nigh
extinguish it. Faith to be real must be outside the limits of caution, and be
fired by something more potent and effective than calculating prudence, or
logical deduction, or judicial impartiality. It must be the fire that burns
within, the mainspring that regulates the life, the overmastering force that
will not be at rest. This is that faith that Jesus spoke of when He said of it
that it was able to move mountains. This is that which braves death and torture,
braces up the feeble knees for long and hard endurance, and conducts its
possessor safe at last through any perils that may assail him to the goal where
faith finds its reward in fruition.
Of this you know nothing. Yours is not Faith, but only logical assent; not
spontaneous living faith, but hard-wrung intellectual assent weighted always
with a mental reservation. That which you have would move no mountain, though it
might suffice to select a safe way round it. It would be powerless to animate
and stir the spirit, though it would be fitted to estimate evidence and weigh
possibilities. It would suffice for purposes of intellectual defence, but it is
not the faith that springs unceasing in the innermost soul, and becomes, by
virtue of its power, an overmastering leader, a mainspring of action, of high
and holy purpose, at which the world may sneer, and the wise may scoff, but
which is the central spring of all that is best and noblest in man's life.
Of this you know nothing. But, mark us, the time will come when you will
marvel how you could have ever dignified this calculating caution by the name of
faith, or have dreamed that to its hesitating knock can ever be unbarred the
portals of Divine truth. You must wait, and when the time comes you will not set
up that pale marble statue in place of what should be a living body, instinct
with conviction, and energised by the loftiest purpose. You have no faith.
You have a way of putting things, which, however
true, is slightly discomfiting. However, since "Faith is the gift of God," I
can't see how I am to blame. I am as I was made.
Nay, friend, but you are what you have made yourself through a life which has
been moulded both from within and from without. You are what external
circumstances, and internal predilections, and spirit-guidance have made you.
You misunderstand. We did but rebuke you for your vaunting that as faith which
has no claim to the name. Be content. You are on the road to higher knowledge of
a nobler truth. Withdraw (so far as may be) from the external, and cultivate the
interior and spiritual. Cease not to pray for faith, that what you well call
"the gift of God" may be poured into your spirit, and energise through it to a
higher knowledge. You retard us by your very anxiety.
Easter --- 1875
[Easter Day, 1875. I had been conscious of the presence
of a great number of spirits in the morning. After some reference to this, it
was written under an entirely new influence, though by the usual amanuensis:--]
We have told you that we always celebrate anniversaries, and Easter is with
us a festival as well as with you: though we celebrate it for other reasons, and
with a higher knowledge. Easter is to us the Festival of Resurrection, but not
of the body. To us it symbolises not Resurrection of matter, but
Resurrection from matter, the Resurrection of Spirit: and not this alone,
but Resurrection of Spirit from material beliefs and surroundings: the
emancipation of the soul from the earthly and material, even as the spirit rises
from the dead body with which it has done for ever.
You have learned that there is a spiritual significance in everything, even
as there is a spirit underlying every material object. So the dogma that
Christendom celebrates to-day is to us of special significance. Christians keep
festival in memory of the rescue of their Master, the Lord Jesus, from the grasp
of death: and though they erroneously believe that the material body was
revived, they do in ignorance celebrate the great spiritual truth that there is
no death. The festival to us is one of joy over the partial recognition of a
truth divinely seen by men: and of still greater rejoicing over the mighty work
consummated on this day. It is not that death was vanquished, as you say, but
that man began dimly to see a vision of eternal life.
[I inquired as to the character of Christ's human body,
and the spiritual significance of His life.]
It is sufficient to say that the Incarnation of an exalted spirit for the
purpose of regenerating mankind is not confined to a single instance. The
special salvation which mankind derives from these special Saviours is that of
which at the time it stands in need. These special Incarnations you will know
more of hereafter. For the present we say only that they are in degree different
from that of ordinary men, even as among men there is every grade of nationality
in the body: some gross and sensual, others refined and ethereal. The human body
of Jesus was of the most ethereal and perfect nature, and it was trained and
prepared during thirty years of seclusion for the three years of active work
that the spirit had to do.
You err in supposing [the thought had crossed my
mind, How disproportionate the preparation to the work!] that the
work done by an incarnated spirit is to be bounded by the span of earthly
existence. It is very frequently, as in the case of Jesus of Nazareth, the
after-effect of the life that is the truest part of the work. So, though the
work was begun during these three years, it has been carried on ever since.
It was the union of the majestic with the humble that was the note of His
life. Majesty and meanness combined. The majesty shone out at seasons--at His
birth, at His death, at intervals during His life, as at Jordan when the
attesting voice of spirit sanctified His mission. Men knew of Him, all his life
through, that He was not as other men: that His life was not bound by social or
domestic ties: though the harmony of the social circle was pleasant to Him. Men
knew this: and your Bible gives you, in this respect, a most imperfect idea of
the influence He exercised on all who came near Him. It dwells too little on the
moral effect His words and actions caused, and too much on the ignorant
misconceptions of the learned and respectable classes who then, as always, were
bitterest foes of new truth. The Scribes and Rulers, the Pharisees and
Sadducees, were the ignorant foes of the Christ, even as your learned men and
doctors, your theologians and men of science so- called, hate, and would
persecute, the mission that springs from Christ now.
When you come to write the story of our work, you would not seek for its
records among such classes of men; and the fault is, that those who have given
you the only record you have of the life of Jesus have insisted too much on His
persecution by learned ignorance, and too little on the moral dignity of His
life amongst those who lived with Him. They had not access to the original
recipients of His teaching, and borrowed at tenth hand stories that were rife.
It is as though, centuries hence, men should compile a history of these days
from the current stories of society. It is important to mark this.
The life of Christ, so far as it was public, was comprised within three years
and a few months. For that the previous thirty years had been a preparation.
During all that time He was receiving instruction from those exalted angels who
inspired Him with zeal and love for His mission. He was a constant communer with
the world of spirit; and was the more able to drink in their teachings that His
body was no bar to His spirit.
In the case of most incarnate spirits, who have descended to minister on
earth, the assumption of corporeity dims spiritual vision, and cuts it off from
remembrance of its previous existence. Not so with Him. So little did His
ethereal body blind the sense of spirit, that He could converse with the angels
as one of their own order, who was cognisant of their life, and remembered His
own part in it before incarnation. His remembrance of previous life was never
blunted, and a great part of His time was spent in disunion from the body and in
conscious communion with spirit. Long trances, as you call the interior state,
fitted Him for this, as you may see in some distorted passages of your
records--the supposed Temptation, for instance, or that which speaks of His
habit of meditating and praying alone on the mountain-top, or in the Garden
You may also detect by the light we now give you flashes of recollection of
His state before incarnation, even, as He is recorded to have said, in the glory
of the Father before the world began. There are many such.
His life, but little hampered by the body--which, indeed, was but a temporary
envelope to His spirit, assumed only when it was necessary for the spirit to
come in contact with material things,--was different in degree, though not in
kind, from the ordinary life of man--purer, simpler, nobler, more loving, and
more loved. Such a life could never be understood aright by those who were
contemporary with it. It is of necessity that such lives should be
misunderstood, misinterpreted, maligned, and mistaken. It is so in a degree with
all that step out from the ranks, but especially with Him.
Prematurely was that Divine Life cut short by human ignorance and malignity.
Little did men grasp the significance of the truth to which they carelessly give
utterance when they say that Christ came into the world to die for it. He did so
come: but in the sense of these enthusiasts, He came not. The drama of Calvary
was of man's not God's devising. It was not the eternal purpose of God that
Jesus should die when the work of the Christ was just commencing. That was man's
work, foul, evil, accursed.
Christ came to die for and to save man in the same, though in a higher, sense
that all regenerators of men have been their Saviours, and have yielded up
bodily existence in devotion to an overmastering idea. In this sense He came to
save and die for men: but in the sense that the scene on Calvary was
foreordained to occur when man consummated his foul deed, He came not. And this
is a mighty truth.
Had the full life of Jesus been completed on earth, what vast, what
incalculable blessings would men have reaped? But they were not fitted, and they
pushed aside the proffered blessings, having but just tasted them. They were not
prepared. So with all great lives. Men take from them only that which they can
grasp, and leave the rest for after-ages: or they push them impatiently aside,
and will have none of them: and after-ages worship and revere a spirit incarned
too soon. This too is a mighty truth.
It is not permitted us, nay, it is not in the counsels of the Supreme
Himself, to force on man a truth for which he is not ripe. There must be,
throughout God's universe, orderly progression and systematic development. So it
is now. Were men fitted to receive the truths we tell of, the world would be
blest with a revelation such as it has not had since last the angels shed on it
the beams of Divine Truth. But it is not prepared: and only the few who have
learned wisdom will receive now what future ages will drink in with gladness. In
this sense the Christ life was a failure during His existence on earth, and a
potent vivifying influence among men afterwards.
Guided by angel-influence, the Church, that bears His name, has gathered up
the germs of truth that that life typified, though now, alas! long custom has
familiarised men too much with the old ideas, and they have lost their chief
You know that the three branches of the Church of Christ are agreed in
celebrating certain festivals in memory of events in the life of Jesus. They
who, outside the Church, have refused to keep fast and festival are not wise.
They cut themselves off from a portion of the truth. But the Christian Church
keeps in memory of its Head, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension, and
Whitsuntide. Those are the landmarks in the Christ life, and each represents an
event in His life with a hidden spiritual significance.
The Christmas Festival of the Birth of the Spirit on the plane of Incarnation
typifies Love and Self-denial. The exalted spirit tabernacles in flesh,
abnegates Self, animated by Love. It is to us the Festival of Self-denial.
The Epiphany, the Festival of the manifestation of this new light to the
world, it is to us the Festival of Spiritual Enlightenment: the shining of the
True Light that lighteth everyone that is born into the world: not the carrying
of it to men, but the uplifting of the Light so that they who can see may come
The Fast of Lent typifies to us the struggles of Truth with darkness. It is
the Wrestling with the Adversaries. The recurring season shadows forth a
constantly recurring struggle. It is the Fast of Conflict: of wrestling with
evil: of the endeavour to overcome the world.
Good Friday typifies to us the consummation of the struggle, the end that
awaits all such conflicts in your world--Death: but Death in Life. It is the
Festival of Triumphant Self-sacrifice: the realisation and consummation of the
Christ life. It is to us no Fast, but a Festival of Triumphant Love.
Easter, the Festival of the Resurrection, typifies to us the perfected life,
the risen life, the glorified life. It is the Festival of Spirit, conquering and
to conquer: of the risen life, enfranchised and set free.
Whitsuntide, which Christendom associates with the baptism of the Spirit, is
to us a Festival of great import. It typifies the outpouring of a large measure
of spiritual truth on those who have accepted the Christ life. It is the
Festival which is the complement of Good Friday. As human ignorance slays the
truth that it cannot receive: so, as a consequence, from the higher realm of
spirit comes a blessing on those who have embraced what the world has crucified.
It is the Festival of the outpoured Spirit, of increased grace, of richer truth.
Ascension, lastly, is the Festival of the completed life, of the return of
the Spirit to its home, of the final sundering from matter. It is the end as
Christmas was the beginning: not of life but of earth life: not the end of
existence but of that span consecrated by love and self-denial to mankind. It is
the Festival of the completed work.
These are the spiritual ideas which underlie the Festivals of your Church. It
is not because she has not fully grasped their meaning that she has not done
well to celebrate them. And as the spirit who has charge of us and of our work
has broken down for you the wall of dogmatism and has shed light on the
superstitions of the Church, so it is permitted to us to show you that beneath
all lies enshrined the germ of truth: and when man's error is removed, God's
truth is more plainly seen.
We have desired to complement the teaching you have received. As it was
necessary to destroy, so is it to conserve. Even as He, the Lamb of God, the
Saviour of men, rescued Divine Truth from Jewish ignorance and superstition, so
do we rescue Divine Verities from the crushing weight of man's theology. As He,
the great Healer of the nations, unloosed the struggling souls, and released
them from the dominion of spiritual evil: so do we set free the spirit from the
bonds of human dogma, and bid the enfranchised Truth to soar so that men may see
it and know that it is of God.
Easter --- 1876
CRUCIFIXION AND RESURRECTION--SELF -SACRIFICE AND REGENERATION
An Easter Message, 1876
[I asked for further teaching on the subject of Death
and Life, especially in the symbolic aspects in which they present themselves in
In the question put by me, I alluded to the spiritual
symbolism between the Death and Resurrection, and suggested that it typified
death as the portal of life, and spiritual death as the road to spiritual
Refer to what we wrote for you on the last Festival of Easter. The symbolism
to which you allude was then explained: viz. Resurrection from matter,
not of matter. We explained the spiritual significance of the various
Festivals which the Christian Church has always kept. Refer.
[I referred to the message which immediately precedes
this; in the course of which the Church Festivals are symbolically explained:
Christmas, self-denial; Epiphany, spiritual enlightenment; Lent, spiritual
conflict; Good Friday, triumphant love; Easter, the risen life; Whitsuntide, the
outpoured spirit; Ascension, the completed work.]
So it is. The whole course of the typical life of the Pattern Man is
emblematic of the progressive development of the life begun on earth, completed
in heaven (so to use your terms), born of self-denial, and culminating in
spiritual ascension. In the Christ life, as in a story, man may read the tale of
the progress of spirit from incarnation to enfranchisement. Thirty years and
more of angelic preparation fitted the Christ for His mission: three short years
sufficed to discharge so much of it as man could bear. So man's spirit in its
development progresses through the course covered by the Festivals of the
Christian Church, from the birth of self-denial to the festival of the completed
life. Born in self-denial, progressing through self-sacrifice, developed by
perpetual struggles with the adversaries (the antagonistic principles which must
be conquered in daily life, in self, and in the foes), it dies at length to the
external, and rises on its Easter morn from the grave of matter, and lives
henceforth, baptized by the outpoured spirit of Pentecost, a new and risen life,
till it ascends to the place prepared for it by the tendency of its earth life.
This is spirit's progress, and it may be said to be a process of
regeneration, shortly typified by crucifixion and resurrection. The old man
dies, the new man rises from his grave. The old man, with his lusts, is
crucified; the new man is raised up to live a spiritual and holy life. It is
regeneration of spirit that is the culmination of bodily life, and the process
is crucifixion of self, a daily death, as Paul was wont to say. In the life of
spiritual progress there should be no stagnation, no paralysis. It should be a
growth and a daily adaptation of knowledge; a mortification of the earthly and
sensual, and a corresponding development of the spiritual and heavenly. In other
words, it is a growth in grace and in knowledge of the Christ; the purest type
of human life presented to your imitation. It is a clearing away of the
material, and a development of the spiritual--a purging as by fire, the fire of
a consuming zeal; of a lifelong struggle with self, and all that self includes;
of an ever-widening grasp of Divine truth.
By no other means can spirit be purified. The furnace is one of self-
sacrifice: the process the same for all. Only in some souls, wherein the Divine
flame burns more brightly, the process is rapid and concentrated; while in
duller natures the fires smoulder, and vast cycles of purgation are required.
Blessed are they who can crush out the earthly, and welcome the fiery trial
which shall purge away the dross. To such, progress is rapid and purification
Yes; the struggle is severe, and one hardly knows
what to fight against.
Begin within. The ancients were wise in their description of the enemies. A
spirit has three foes--itself; the external world around it; and the spiritual
foes that beset the upward path. These are described as the World, the Flesh,
and the Devil.
Begin with self--the Flesh. Conquer it, so that you are no longer slave to
appetite, to passion, to ambition: so that self can be abnegated, and the spirit
can come forth from its hermit-cell, and live and breathe and act in the free
scope of the universal brotherhood. This is the first step. Self must be
crucified, and from the grave where it lies buried will rise the enfranchised
spirit untrammelled, free from material clogs.
This done, the soul will have no difficulty in despising the things which are
seen, and in aspiring to the eternal verities. It will have learned that truth
is to be found in them alone; and, seeing this, it will maintain a deathless
struggle with all external and material forms, as being only adumbrations of the
true, too often deceptive and unsatisfying. Matter will be regarded as the husk
to be stripped off before the kernel of truth can be got at. Matter will be the
deceptive, fleeting phantasm behind which is veiled the truth on which none but
the purged eye may gaze. Such a soul, so taught, will not need to be told to
avoid the external in all things, and to penetrate through the husk to the truth
that lies below. It will have learned that the surface-meanings of things are
for the babes in spiritual knowledge, and that beneath an obvious fact lurks a
spirit symbolic truth. Such a soul will see the correspondence of matter and
spirit, and will recognise in the external only the rude signs by which is
conveyed to the child so much of spiritual truth as its finite mind can grasp.
To it, in veriest truth, to die has been gain. The life that it leads is
a life of the spirit; for flesh has been conquered, and the world has ceased to
But in proportion as the spiritual perceptions are quickened, so do the
spiritual foes come into more prominent view. The adversaries, who are the sworn
enemies of spiritual progress and enlightenment, will beset the aspirant's path,
and remain for him a ceaseless cause of conflict throughout his career of
probation. By degrees they will be vanquished by the faithful soul that presses
on, but conflict with them will never wholly cease during the probation-life,
for it is the means whereby the higher faculties are developed, and the steps by
which entrance is won to the higher spheres of bliss.
This, briefly, is the life of the progressive spirit--self-sacrifice, whereby
self is crucified; self-denial, whereby the world is vanquished; and spiritual
conflict, whereby the adversaries are beaten back. In it is no stagnation; even
no rest; no finality. It is a daily death, out of which springs the risen
life. It is a constant fight, out of which is won perpetual progress. It is
the quenchless struggle of the light that is within to shine out more and more
into the radiance of the perfect day. And thus only it is that what you call
heaven is won.
Sic itur ad astra. That is very much the central
idea of Christianity, and also of Buddhism, as well as of the Occultists.
Christ's sayings teem with the notion which animated His own life. The great
difficulty is to carry out such an abstract system into operation in the world.
Therein is the struggle, as He Himself said, to be in the world, but
not of the world. The high ideal is well-nigh impossible for those who
have upon them the care of daily toil. Hence it is that we have striven to
withdraw you, so far as we can, from the objective side of spirit-intercourse,
foreseeing that it would be hurtful to you. You must strive to rise above the
material, and to leave it behind. Such intercourse is fitted only for those who
can be secluded from the cares of daily life.
I said long ago that I believed mediumship, if
carried out, to be incompatible with daily work in the world. The very
development of sensitiveness, which grows so rapidly, is quite enough to unfit
the medium for rude contact with the world: or, at any rate, to encourage in him
moods, and draw round him influences, which make him unfit for work.
To a great extent it is so: and, therefore, we have withdrawn the more
material side of mediumship from you, and that should develop the spiritual, in
which no such danger lurks. At any rate, you may trust us to do what is wise.
The danger is when they who guide are unfit for the work. It is then that risk
becomes serious. Be content; your course is clear. Only remember that now is the
hour and power of darkness. Be patient.
Easter --- 1877
[Easter Day, 1877.]
May the blessing of the Supreme and All-good be on you! We have somewhat to
say to you, as our habit is at this season, of resurrection and renewal of life.
We will leave the plain symbolism of the Christian festival, of which we have
before discoursed. We have told you of conflict followed by victory. You have
learned how the life of the Man of Christ Jesus was a symbolic representation of
the progress of spirit. It may be well that we remind you here of this
Descending from His spiritual life in the spheres of bliss, the Anointed One
came to your earth to fulfil His Divine mission. Veiling in human form the
radiance of His pure spirit, He took a body in the manger of Bethlehem, and
became man, with all the imperfections and frailties of humanity, subject to the
sorrows, the temptations, the discipline through which alone progress is gained.
In this read a type of the descent of spirit into matter as its sole means of
progress. Spirit, existent in the ages past having won for itself the requisite
development, descends to incarnation, so that by conflict and by discipline it
may be purified and made fit for the progress it cannot otherwise gain.
Born thus into the sphere of humanity, the Anointed One became subject at
once to persecution and assault from a Prince of the world. The powers of the
sphere into which He came were arrayed against Him, and sought to try and prove
Him. The word went forth to slay the Anointed One because His royal claims were
thought to be in conflict with the pretensions of the earthly monarch.
A type this of the conflict that besets the incarnate spirit from the moment
of its entrance into the sphere of earth.
At the threshold of every new sphere of development stand, as we have told
you, the guardians from whom the benefits to be gained by entering it are won
only after wrestling and agony [i.e. as afterwards
explained, conflict]. These blessings are not to be gathered idly and
dreamily, without risk and strenuous labour. Were it so, the benefit would cease
to be. It is in the conflict that the blessing lies, in overcoming the foes, in
victory after the battle is over. Lay it to your account that this is so, and
that for the incarnate spirit there is always a persecutor who seeks to slay.
Threatened by these enemies, the young child was withdrawn to Egypt, where He
was safe, and where from a full storehouse He gathered in a rich store of
knowledge. Egypt had been, since earliest days, the receptacle of mystic
knowledge, and there was derived much of that mystic knowledge that the Anointed
One displayed in after years.
You will not need to seek far for the significance of this type. Where shall
the spirit, beset and threatened by the foes that throng around it, find its
sanctuary at once and its armoury more surely than in the mystic lore stored up
for it by those who have preceded it in trial, and have left for it records of
their experience? In the Egypt of esoteric lore is that armoury whence the
militant spirit may find power to overcome, thoroughly furnished and equipped
for the conflict, instructed and edified by what it has learned. For, be it
known to you, the withdrawal to Egypt has a double significance. It is not only
a retreat to a place of safety, but a sojourning in a school of instruction. The
spirit that seeks to withdraw into the esoteric sphere of instruction, so as to
be edified there, draws from the edification its spiritual weapons of conflict,
the while it rests and refreshes itself in an atmosphere of comparative peace.
Meditation, edification, growth to the full stature of the warrior--even as the
Anointed One grew from puny childhood to the vigour of youth, and was edified in
mind by the knowledge He acquired in proportion as His body increased in
strength. He increased, as it is said, in wisdom and stature.
This closes a typical epoch in the symbolic life of the Anointed One. The
seed-time closes with the commencement of the public life. The spirit that has
nerved itself for the life of progress and for development during the time of
incarnation beyond what is sought by the mass of its fellows is permitted to
pass through a process of preparation, during which it receives so much of truth
as it can assimilate, prior to the second period, as we may call it, of its life
on earth. You do not need to be told that it is an essential condition of
spiritual progress that selfishness in all its forms be crushed out, that no
gift be kept for private and isolated use, but that in all things the precept be
obeyed, Freely ye have received, freely give.
So that which has been given must be shared with those who seek to partake of
it. The truth, in its exoteric form at least, must be proffered to the world;
while the inner and diviner secrets must be cherished and kept pure, so that the
soul may refresh itself in the intervals of conflict, as the Anointed One
retired to the solitudes of the mountain-top, that He might commune with Himself
in lonely meditation, and be refreshed by association with those who were not of
earth. For Him no companionship then. His spirit soared too high, His associates
were too exalted for the gaze even of His nearest friends, save one, who on many
occasions was privileged to see the glories that surrounded the chosen Messenger
of the Most High in His moments of chiefest exaltation.
[This was afterwards explained as referring to Saint
John, who, on many occasions not specifically named, enjoyed a near view of the
glory of his Master.]
Blessed in this respect are they who can journey with a kindred soul, and
derive mutual support and joy from an earthly as well as a heavenly communion.
The esoteric truth loses no bloom by such handling. The lamp shed no less light,
and that light no less pure, because another eye beholds it, if only the eye be
single and the sympathy sincere and perfect. But it is rare that two can walk
thus, even if they be agreed, and there must always be, for those who aspire,
the mountain-top of silent reverence and prayer, to which they resort alone,
knowing that for each there is the peculiar path which it is necessary for his
feet to tread.
The life of instruction, complemented by the life of aspiration, prepares for
the public life of ministration.
When the Anointed One came forth from the seclusion of His preparatory
training, instructed in the wisdom of Egypt, and nurtured in silent meditation,
clothed in purity, animated by charity, instinct with zeal, He went forth to His
people to preach the gospel He had learned. There glowed within Him a holy
boldness for the truth, but He was no iconoclast. Not to destroy, but to fulfil,
was His aim. Not to lay desolate and to waste, but to plough, and to till, and
to sow the seed, so that the crop might spring up, and the desert and the waste
place might blossom and be glad. The materials ready at hand were used, the
dross was purged away, and the lifeless ceremony, touched by the magic of His
word of truth, was transmuted into the symbolism of a living verity. The dry
bones lived, the spirit returned to the corpse, the dead arose and stood upon
In all this, be it observed by the faithful watcher, there was no rude
severance, no harsh closing of an epoch, no gulf between the present and the
past. All was transition and gradual awakening, just as it is in Nature now.
There is no rude severance between the death and the resurrection of the year.
You hardly know what power has rolled away the stone from the sepulchre in which
the year lay buried. One day all is cold, lifeless, cheerless, and you mourn
over the glories that seem to be past and gone for ever, replaced by abiding
gloom. But, by- and-by, the change comes, not by might, nor by power, as man
sees, but by the potent spirit. The sun shines forth, and his rays unlock the
prison-house in which the dead year has lain, and buds begin to peep, and
flowers to lift their heads shyly and half in fear, and the emerald carpet grows
beneath your feet, and the mantle of tender green is spread around, and behold!
The dry bones live. The season of resurrection has burst upon you, or rather has
grown upon you silently, a development of the dead past. It is Nature's yearly
parable of regeneration.
Read the lesson in the life of the Anointed One. When He came forth to teach
His people wisdom, the whole of the spiritual life of the Jewish nation was cold
and bare as the leafless tree in winter. The sap had ceased, it seemed, to flow.
The branches were bare and gaunt, devoid of their seemly covering of leaves. The
weary traveller should look in vain for fruit, or seek a stray flower to gladden
his eyes. The death-plague was on all. He came, the Anointed Messenger of God,
the chosen Messiah, on His missionary labours, the Sun of Righteousness and
Truth--the Son who was also the Sun, for there was no difference there--shed His
beams of enlightenment and warmth on those dead, dry, naked branches, and see
the change! Empty formalism glowed again with spiritual truth, cold precepts
were vivified again into exuberant life. What had been said by them of old time
gained a new and extended significance. Social life was elevated, reformed,
ennobled. Religion was raised to a pitch of spirituality it had never reached
before. In place of selfishness there was taught charity; in place of formalism,
spirituality; in place of ostentatious ritual, silent, secret prayer; in place
of open parade of religion--the seeking to be seen of men--the seclusion of the
secret chamber, the lonely communing between self and God. In a word, vulgar,
empty, proud, unreal externalism was abolished and replaced by the meek,
spiritual, aspiring life of the soul, the truest exemplification of which was
not in the market-place, but in the silent chamber; not in the Pharisee, but in
the Publican; not in the eyes of men, but before the searching scrutiny of the
The parable of Nature and of the Pattern Life runs through the life of spirit
too. Duly prepared, educated, edified with such knowledge as it has been able to
acquire it, the spirit that has passed its probation goes forth on its journey
in the new life. The dead past of formalism, of externalism, it transmuted by
the touch of spirit, and a new life opens. The veriest physical fact gains a new
significance as the spiritual meaning that underlies it becomes plainer to the
purged eye of faith. The bare boughs are clothed with the living green: the dry
bones of externalism that lay apparently dead arise under the quickening touch
of spirit, and live a new life. It is not that the old is abolished; it is that
it is transmuted. It is not that the duties of life are neglected: rather are
they discharged with a quickened zeal and a more loving care. It is not that the
weary round of toil is shortened: it is that its lengthened path is cheered and
dignified by the spiritual significance of even the meanest act.
Those dry and sapless forms of devotion that seemed so cold and dead that the
soul has often cried in despair, "O Lord! can these dry bones live?" are found
to be touched with life, and warmth, and reality, as the resurrection spirit
quickens them. The old forms that have served their purpose are regenerated into
a life more suited to the new conditions. They live again with more than the old
vitality, with a loveliness more spiritual than that of the past. They have
renewed their youth, and it is seen by the spiritually-enlightened that no atom
of truth can perish, but is renewed and re-combined as there is need of it in
the laboratory of the Master.
And so the spirit shares in the general resurrection that surrounds it. It
renews its life, soars to higher planes of knowledge, to teach to others the
Divine methods of enlightenment, development, and growth. Not as man sees does
it see: not as man acts does it act. Beneath the most unpromising exterior it
sees Divine possibilities. The veriest cumberer it would not cut down, save in
so far as pruning may facilitate growth, and the lopping off of dead wood may
allow the young and living branches to find place. Side by side with this public
work is the unceasing esoteric life of growth in spirit, a life of aspiration
and development, of communing with the spirit of truth, of rising more and more
above the material and the earthly, to the measure of the stature of the fulness
of the Anointed One.
Silent spiritual growth is the source of public spiritual teaching.
The closing scenes of the earth life of the Anointed One carry their symbolic
meaning too. It is the lot of a teacher who combats the prejudices of an age to
incur the enmity, the scorn, the persecution, that is the world's requital for
unwelcome truth. You, who regard these records of the Pattern Life as matter of
history, can see now how impossible it was that teaching such as His should meet
with other fate than it did. That prosperous shams should have been laid bare
without those who made gain by them being arrayed against the daring
innovator--that pompous and pretentious Pharisaism should have been denounced in
terms more vigorous than were bestowed on the Magdalene and the Publican without
setting the Pharisee in outraged wrath against his accuser--that the national
religion, with its cheap ceremonialism, and its easy path for those who could
pave it with gold, should be reformed, and the path made easier for Publicans
and harlots than for Scribes and Pharisees, without bringing down the wrath of
those in place and power on the despised Nazarene, who dared to lay His impious
hand on God's own ark--this you can see to be impossible.
He was too pure and good to escape envy, too uncompromising and earnest not
to provoke jealousy. His doctrines were too searching to be popular; His life
precepts too spiritual to suit an age of luxury and ease. And so the age that
could not receive the advanced truth crucified Him who taught it. The age of
hollowness and impurity revenged itself on the pure and holy Son of Truth by
hanging Him on the tree of shame between the representatives of crime.
So it was. So in many cases it is still in intent, if not in deed. There have
been reformers who have meted out to an age, over which a wave of Divine
enthusiasm has just passed, that aspect of truth which commends itself to them,
and so have found acceptance for their message, and have won honour and renown
in its preaching. There have been others, too, who have had more of the world's
wisdom and discretion, and so have been of higher service. But these are rare.
To most, as to the Anointed One, death comes with contumely and open shame as
the reward of truth. Death to the teacher, but resurrection and new life to His
teaching. It is not till the instrument is lost sight of that the value of the
message is realised. We need not draw out the parable at length.
Hanging on the cross, the friends of the Christ were few indeed--a few women
whose readier instincts and affections were true and firm in the hour of deepest
darkness; and two of those who should have been nearest at hand, Joseph and
Nicodemus, the two, be it known, who had made least open profession, and had
even seemed most cowardly. All the rest were fled. The Teacher of new truth, the
preacher of a new dispensation, where was He? Dead. And where was His gospel?
Dead, too, to all appearance. None rememberd, none heeded it or Him. But men
judge hastily. None knew who rolled that stone from the tomb's mouth, save that
it was done by that might of Spirit wherewith ever and anon your world is
regenerated, and death turned into new life. An angel did it; and the same power
that opened that tomb and stirred its occupant whom men thought dead and buried
out of sight availed to vivify His message, and to nurture it through evil and
good report, until it dominated the nations, and became in its age a mighty
engine of spiritual truth.
Turn now to the individual soul. Its lot is much the same. Whether its
message of what to it is Divine truth is one that makes its impress on the age
or not: whether, if it do, it be received as the needful word in season, or as
the impertinence of a meddling innovator, it will, almost surely, have to make
its way through conflict to acceptance. Such is the Divine method of sifting.
And in proportion to the severity of that conflict will be the vigour with which
it will be found to have taken hold of men. The roots will be all the deeper and
firmer fixed in proportion as the ground above has been trampled down by
contending feet. Whether the life of conflict end as did the life we
contemplate, or whether feebler zeal or larger discretion preserve the teacher
from the same fate, matters little. The word of truth must pass through the
conflict to final victory, even as the soul in its solicitude and isolation must
contend with tempters and with foes till it becomes perfect through suffering,
and wins the crown by the cross.
The life of the Christ during such time as He remained on earth after His
resurrection was symbolic of the change that passes on the risen life of spirit.
In the world, but not of it: moving in it as a visitor who conforms
to but does not belong to it. He was animated by that most potent law of spirit
which you may trace in all the ways of spirit-influence--the law of love.
Whenever He appeared, whatever He did, this was the motive. The records left to
you, both meagre and erroneous as they are, are yet sufficiently full to show
this. He fulfilled the law of love, and then ascended to His own proper sphere:
no longer seen, but felt: no longer a personal presence, but an effluence and
influence of grace.
So the souls who voluntarily linger around your earth are those whose
motive-spring is love, or they whose mission is animated by the same master
principle. Personal affection or universal love are the motives that draw the
higher spirits down to you. And when the duty is discharged they too will ascend
to the common Father and the Universal God.
Be of good hope! You are too apt to fancy that truth is dead. When the cold
dark days of winter are with you, you are chilled. You forget the spring that
has dawned on many a winter past. You forget that death leads to resurrection,
and on to regenerated life--life in a wider sphere, with extended usefulness,
with nobler aims, with truer purpose. You forget that death must precede such
life--that what you call death, so far as it can affect Divine Truth, is but the
dying of the grain of seed which is the condition of abundant increase. Death in
life is the spiritual motto. Death culminating in a higher life. Victory in the
grave, and through death. In dealing with spiritual truth do not forget this.
In times of brightness and calm you may fear. When the air is stagnant and
the heat scorching, when the moisture is dried up, and the fierce sun beats down
with untempered splendour, the tender plant may wither and fade. And so in days
of ease and smoothness, when all goes swimmingly, when all men seem to speak
well of the Word of Truth, you may with good reason fear lest it fade, and its
outlines be blurred, and its tone assimilated to the conventional fashion of the
world. You may settle with yourselves that if all accept unquestioned the truth
presented to them, then that phase of truth needs changing, and some stronger
form is requisite. But when it is born in conflict, be of good cheer, for by
such birth-pangs man-children are brought forth, whose vigour and energy shall
suffice to resist attack, and to carry on the Divine standard to a further
It was in some such sort that the life of the Anointed One began and ran its
course to the final consummation. It is a parable for all time.