The Christian Creed

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The Christian Creed

By C. W. Leadbeater

The Exposition Of The Creeds

THE Apostles' and the Nicene Creeds so closely resemble one another that it will be the most  convenient method for us to consider them together, taking for the present only occasional  illustrations from the Athanasian, and leaving the more important clauses of the latter to be  dealt with separately afterwards. It is evident that in these two shorter Creeds we have simply two different traditions of one original form­a form already including reminiscences of the documents which we have called (a) and (b), and already tinged considerably by the influence of tendency (c).

The date at which this original form became fairly crystallized as regards its main outlines cannot yet be fixed with certainty, but we should probably not be far wrong in assigning it to the middle of the second century of our era - always bearing in mind that that era has nothing to do with the real time of the birth of the teacher [64] called the Christ, and remembering also that in all likelihood no attempt was made to reduce the form to writing until a considerably later period. The two Creeds differ, as evidently the schools of thought which preserved them must have differed, the Nicene being always more meta­physical and less materialistic than the other, taking always a somewhat higher view, and therefore lending itself more readily to such an attempt to revive the original and only tenable interpretation as I wish to make.



"I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth." So runs the opening clause of the Apostles' Creed, referring evidently to the Logos of our solar system; the Nicaean symbol, taking an even wider range, is cast into a form equally applicable to the First Cause of all, and so it speaks of the one God, maker not only of heaven and earth, but "of all things visible and invisible." Well may the glorious title of "the Father" be given to That which is the first epiphany of the Infinite, for from Him all came, even the Second and Third Logoi them­selves, and into Him one day all that came forth must return. Not to lose consciousness, be it observed, for that would be to throw away the result of all these aeons of evolution; but rather [65] to become, in some way that to our finite minds is as yet unintelligible, a conscious part of that stupendous whole - a facet of that all - embracing Consciousness which is indeed the divine Father of all, "above all, and through all, and in you all." "Then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all."

The idea of "heaven and earth" seems to be a corruption of that more clearly expressed in the formula (a), in which the Christ indicates that the Logos called into existence "the scheme  or system" (evidently our solar system) "yea, our world and all things therein, whether seen or unseen." Great confusion has been caused in the minds of many worthy people by the unfortunate (though etymologically natural) use of this word "heaven" in two totally distinct senses - first, the purely physical idea of the sky, the clouds, the sun and the stars, and secondly, the non-physical conception of the glorified state of intense bliss, which is the portion of man after his astral life is over. Probably this confusion is largely responsible for the degradation of heaven in the popular mind from a condition of consciousness through  which all in turn must pass, into a physical location in space from which the majority of men are to be excluded. [66]

The heads of the Essene community had inherited the Chaldaean and Egyptian knowledge of astronomy, and they were undoubtedly aware of the difference between the planets of our system and the fixed stars which are the suns of other systems, and would therefore appreciate the exact meaning of the teaching of the Christ; but it is not difficult to see how  the ignorant section of the Church would blunder here, and include thousands of solar  systems under the control of one Logos without even knowing what they were doing. Later still the yet more uncomprehending modern theologian imports the concept of the post-mortem home of bliss, and so all knowledge of the original shade of meaning completely disappears.



"And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven." With the exception of the first few words the whole of this is omitted from the Apostles' Creed, as we might perhaps expect that it [67] would be in a form intended to apply to a somewhat less lofty level of the universe.

Here, in the insertion of the name Jesus Christ, we come upon the first trace of the materializing influence which we classified as (c), for the original formula (a) contains neither of these words. In the earliest copies written in Greek which have as yet been clairvoyantly seen by our investigators the words now rendered as IHΣOΥΝΧΡΙΣΤON and translated "Jesus Christ" appear either as IHTPONAPIΣTON, which would mean "the chiefest healer (or deliverer)," or as IEPONAPIΣTON, which seems to mean simply "the most holy one." It is, however, of little use for us to speak of these various readings until some explorer on the physical plane discovers a manuscript con­taining them, for then only will the world of scholars be disposed to listen to the suggestions which naturally follow from them.

In any case the Greek form of the formula (a) is but a translation from an original given in an older tongue, so that to us as students it is more interesting to see the meaning attached to these words in the minds of those who had heard them spoken by the great Teacher than to follow out the details of their rendering into the corrupt and Hellenistic dialect of the period.  Beyond all shadow of doubt that original [68] con­ception refers exclusively to the Second Aspect  of the Logos as manifesting Himself at different levels of the great descent into matter, and not in the slightest degree either to the Teacher or to any individual man at all.



The greater part of this poetic passage is an endeavour to make clear the position and functions of the Second Aspect of the Logos, and to guard so far as may be possible against various misconceptions of them. Great stress is laid upon the fact that naught else in the  universe comes into existence in the same way as does this Second Person, called into being as He is by the mere action of the will of the First, working without intermediary; so that the old translator spoke truly enough in intention, however unfortunate he was in his choice of  an expression, when he called Him "the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father  before all worlds, by whom all things were made"; since He is indeed the only direct  manifestation of the First, the Unmanifested, and undoubtedly "without Him was not anything made which was made"; for the monadic essence which He pours forth is the ensouling and energizing principle at the back of all organic life of which we know anything. [69]

The true meaning of the word μουογενης is very clearly stated by Mr. Mead in an article in The Theosophical Review, vol. xxi. p. 141, in which he remarks: "There is no longer any doubt that the term invariably translated ‘only-begotten’ means nothing of the kind, but ‘created alone,’ that is to say, created from one principle and not from a syzygy or pair."

It is obvious that this title is and can be truly given only to the Second Aspect of the Logos, for the manner in which He is emanated from the First must evidently differ from all other and later processes of generation, which are invariably the result of interaction.

It should also be borne in mind that "before all worlds," however true it may be as a statement referring to the emanation of the Christ, is a flagrant mistranslation of πρ? π?υτωυ τ?υ α??υωυ, which can signify nothing but "before all the aeons." To any one who is even superficially familiar with Gnostic nomenclature this bears its meaning on its face, and tells us simply that the Second Person of the Logos is the first in time, as He is the greatest, of all the aeons or emanations from the eternal Father.

It will be well for us to note exactly the true meaning and derivation of this word person. It is compounded of the two Latin words per [70] and sona, and therefore signifies "that through which the sound comes." On the Roman stage it seems that only the principal characters dressed for their parts as elaborately as actors do now. The supernumerary of the present day, who acts the part of a soldier in one scene, a policeman in another, and a countryman in a  third, had his counterpart in Rome, but there, instead of changing his whole costume, he wore  the ordinary dress of a peasant all the time, and changed only his mask and head-dress. He was provided with an assortment of these which indicated various minor parts, and that which he wore at a given moment showed the part he was then acting. This mask was called persona, because the sound of his voice came out through it. So we quite appropriately speak of the group of temporary lower vehicles which a soul assumes when he descends into incarnation as his "personality." Thus also these separate Aspects or manifestations of the One on different planes are rightly described as Persons.

Here also comes the emphatic and reiterated assertion that He is "of one substance with the Father," identical in every respect with Him from whom He came, save only that He has descended this one step further, and in thus becoming manifest has for the time limited the

[71] full expression of that which yet He is in essence, so that He has a dual aspect - "equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, yet inferior to the Father as touching His man­hood"; and yet through all rings the triumphant proclamation that the eternal unity is still maintained, "for although He be God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ," now as ever "God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God."

Few grander protests against the doctrine of eternal duality - the God and the not-God - ­have ever been penned by mortal man; and in the later and more detailed Athanasian Creed we have the very proof of the essential unity adduced, in the statement of the power to bear back into the Highest all the fruit of the descent into matter, for we are told that He is "one, not by the conversion of the God­head into flesh, but by the taking of the man­hood into God."



Most truly and most beautifully also is it written of Him that "for us men and for our salvation He came down from heaven"; for though indeed it is true that the immortal spirit of man is of the nature of the Father Himself, yet but for the sacrifice of the Son, [72] who poured forth of His substance as monadic essence into all the limitations of the lower kingdoms, the causal body could never have been, and without that as vehicle, as the vase to hold the elixir of life, heaven and earth could never have met together, nor this mortal have put on immortality. And so is the true Christ at once the creator and the saviour of man, for without Him the gap between spirit and matter could never be bridged over, and individuality could not be.



"And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary." Here there seems for a moment  to be a difficulty, for how can the birth of the Second Aspect of the Logos be due in any way  to the action of the Third, who Himself holds to Him the relation of child rather than of father? Yet if we follow the original lines of thought we shall not be misled by the apparent contradic­tion, for we shall realize that what we are dealing with is simply a further stage of the great sacrifice of the descent into matter.

The English translator, or perhaps still more his Latin predecessor, has unfortunately confused the meaning by an entirely unwarranted change in one of the prepositions - a very remarkable mistranslation, so obvious and so astonishing [73] that it could never have escaped the notice of scholars, were it not for the mist thrown round it by the initial misconception which blinded their eyes to the possibility of any but the grossest material interpretation of the whole sentence. Even in the latest Greek form there is but one preposition for the two nouns, and the phrase runs σαρκω?υτα ?κ πυε?ματος ?γ?ου κα? Μαρ?ας της παρθ?νου - "and was incarnate of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary." That is to say, the monadic essence, having already "come down from heaven," as mentioned in the previous clause, materializes itself by assuming a garment of the visible and tangible matter already prepared for its reception by the action of the Logos in His Third Aspect upon what without that action would have been virgin, or unproductive, matter.

This name "virgin" has frequently been applied to the atomic matter of the various planes, because when in this condition it does not of its own motion enter into any sort of combination, and so it remains, as it were, inert and unfruitful. But no sooner is it electrified by the outpouring of the Holy Ghost than it wakens into activity, combines into molecules, and rapidly generates the matter of the lower sub-planes, thus bringing into existence out of the atomic ether what chemists call the [74] elements; and of this matter, thus vivified by that first outpouring, are composed the mani­fold forms which are ensouled by the monadic essence.

When this second outpouring reaches the physical plane in the shape of what we have sometimes called the mineral monad, it gives to these various chemical elements a further power of combination, and thus the way is prepared for the other and higher manifestations of life which are to follow in the later kingdoms. The Second Aspect of the Logos, therefore, takes form not of the "virgin" matter alone, but of matter which is already instinct and pulsating with the life of the Third, so that both the life and the matter surround Him as a vesture, and thus in very truth He is "incarnate of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary."

Here again the materializing tendency has introduced a totally different idea by a very  trifling alteration - in fact, by the insertion of a single letter, for in the earliest form the name  was not Μαρ?α, but Mα?α, meaning simply mother. It would be tempting to speculate as to whether there could possibly be any tra­ditional connection between this strangely sug­gestive word and the Sanskrit Maya, which is so often used to express this same illusory veil of matter which the Logos draws round Him in [75] His descent; but all that can be said at present is that no such connection has yet been traced.

Much controversy has raged round the ques­tion of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception - the difficulties being of course caused solely by the degrading materialization of the original idea. Behind this mystery there lie in reality three meanings: (1) the birth or appearance or manifestation of the Logos in matter through His Second Aspect; (2) the birth of the human soul, the ego, the individuality; and (3) the birth of the Christ-principle within the man at a later stage of his development.

The birth of the Logos into matter has already been described, and also the birth of that individuality which is so wonderfully made in His image. In this latter case we may think of the causal body as the mother, itself immacu­lately conceived by the action of the Logos in His Second Aspect upon matter prepared by the Third Person of the Tri-unity. Thirdly (after  man has developed intellect), the Christ-principle, the intuitional Wisdom, is born in the soul, and when that buddhic consciousness is awakened,  the soul becomes again, as it were, a little child, born into that higher life of the initiated which is in truth the kingdom of heaven.

As soon as the Creed is translated into Latin we are confronted by the obvious possibility of [76] a play upon the word "Maria," and yet another suggestion of the true meaning of the descent into the "seas of virgin matter vivified by the Holy Ghost" is thrown in our way as though it were accidental.

"And was made man." The insertion of this clause is exceedingly significant, since it distinctly shows that the arrival of the monadic essence at the level of humanity was a stage separate from and later than the descent into matter, and that consequently the "taking flesh of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary" previ­ously mentioned did not and could not refer to a human birth. This clause is omitted from the Apostles' Creed, but duly appears in the draft made by the Council of Nicaea, where it is even more evidently intended to describe a later step in evolution, since the text runs "and was made flesh, and was made man," the assumption of the flesh clearly referring to the previous passage of the monadic essence through the animal kingdom. In the Apostles' Creed the influence of tendency (c) is predominant, for the whole process is described in the most grossly material­istic manner - "who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary."



"Suffered under Pontius Pilate." In this [77] clause we have quite the most remarkable in­stance on record of the degrading and narrowing influence of the tendency which we have called (c), for by the insertion of the tiniest letter of the Greek alphabet (the iota, corresponding to the »jot" spoken of in the gospel) the original meaning has been not merely obscured, but absolutely lost and forgotten. The alteration is so simple and easy to make, and yet its effects are so extraordinary and so colossal, that those who discovered it could for some time scarcely believe their eyes, and when they had grasped the situation, they were unable to comprehend how it had been possible so long to overlook anything so exceedingly obvious.

Instead of ΠΟΝΤΙΟΥΠΙΛΑΤΟΥ, the earliest Greek manuscripts which the clairvoyant investigators have yet been able to find all read ΠΟΝΤΟΥΠΙΛΗΤΟΥ. Now the interchange  of A and H is by no means infrequent in various Greek dialects, so that the only real alteration here is the insertion of the I, which changes π?ντος, meaning a sea, into Π?ντιος, which is a Roman proper name. I have no wish to suggest that this alteration, or either of the others which I have mentioned, was necessarily made with any deceitful object, or with intention to mis­lead; it may quite easily have been made under the impression that it was merely a correction [78] of the unimportant mistake of some earlier copyist.

It was obvious to the investigators that the Essene monk who first translated the formula into Greek was by no means perfectly acquainted with that tongue, and the result was consequently anything but classical. Men into whose hands the manuscript (or copies of it)  came at later periods amended here and there obvious errors in spelling or construction, and it  is quite possible that one who approached its con­sideration with a mind incapable of appreciating its true mystical signification, and filled with the anthropomorphic interpretation, might suppose  that in this case, for example, a letter must have been omitted by some ignorant scribe, and so might insert that letter without the least idea that he was thereby changing the entire meaning of the clause and introducing a conception absolutely foreign to the spirit of the whole document.

No doubt in ecclesiastical history there has been a large amount of direct, unblushing forgery, done "for the greater glory of God," which in the eyes of the monks simply meant the advancement of the interests of the Church; but we are fortunately not compelled to postulate dishonesty in this case, since we see that ignorance and prejudice may very easily [79] have done quite innocently the fatal work of the utter materialization of conceptions originally so grand and so luminous.

It was no doubt with the same laudable though mistaken idea of polishing the diction that the preposition ?π? was (much later) sub­stituted for the earlier ?π?, though after the theory of the proper name was once accepted the mischief was done, and this further alteration merely put the phrase into more elegant shape, and so lessened the probability of inquiry as to any other possible meaning than the apparent one. In the original translation the real inten­tion of the writer was made even clearer still by the use of the dative case, thus indicating that the expression referred to a place, not a person; but this was almost immediately changed to the more usual genitive, even before the unfortunate insertion of the iota.

The words π?ντος πιλητ?ς, then, simply mean a compressed or densified sea - by no means a bad description of the lower part of the astral plane, which is so constantly typified by water. The clause usually translated "suffered under Pontius Pilate" should be rendered "He endured the dense sea" - that is to say, for us men and for our salvation he allowed himself to be for the time limited by, and imprisoned in, astral matter. We should note the exact order of the clauses [80] here. Neither of the Creeds as they stand at present contains quite the whole of the original idea; for in the Apostles', though the order is accurate, several stages are omitted, and while the Nicene is fuller, there is a confusion in its arrangement. The first step mentioned is the assumption of the vesture of matter - "the incarnation"; then the taking of human form, though still in its higher principles only; then the "suffering under Pontius Pilate," or descent into the astral sea; and only after that the crucifixion on the cross of physical matter, in which he is graphically described as "dead and buried."



"Was crucified, dead and buried." Here again we are face to face with an almost universal misunderstanding whose proportions have been colossal and its results most disastrous. The astonishing evolution of a perfectly reason­able allegory into an absolutely impossible biography has had a very sad influence upon the entire Christian Church and upon the faith which it has taught, and the enormous amount of devotional sympathy which has been poured forth through the centuries in connection with a story of physical suffering that is wholly imaginary is perhaps the most extraordinary and lamentable waste of psychic energy in the history of the world. [81]

Once more we have to repeat that neither the Creed nor the gospels were originally intended to relate to the life-story of the great teacher Christ. But the gospel account as it stands now is so extraordinary a conglomerate, so inextricable an entanglement of the solar myth, the Christ-allegory of initiation common to almost all religions, and a tradition of the real story of part of the earth-life of Jesus, that it would be a task of no ordinary difficulty accurately to apportion its various incidents to their respective sources.

The crucifixion and the resurrection, however, clearly belong to the Christ-allegory; and that  they do so ought to be evident to all students from the very fact that the date of their commemoration by the Church is not a fixed one, as would be the anniversary of any actual event, but is movable and dependent upon astronomical calculation. A reference to the Prayer-book will show that Easter is celebrated on the Sunday following the date of the next full moon after the vernal equinox.

Now this method of fixing a date would be grotesque if supposed to apply to a historical anniversary, and is reasonably explicable only upon some modification of the solar myth theory. Undoubtedly there has been a tendency of late years to run that idea to death, and

[82] to see a solar myth in every fragment of pre­historic gossip which happens to have found a chronicler; but this must not blind us to the fact that there is a good deal of truth in the theory, especially when we recognize that the yearly course of the sun is itself used as an allegory to remind those who understand it of the great spiritual truths which it has so long been employed to symbolize.

The orthodox explanation of the arrangement of the commemoration of Easter is stated to be that a great point in the Jewish controversy turned on the crucifixion having taken place at the period of the Passover, and so being emphasized as the true Paschal sacrifice; and that since the Passover day moved with the moon, the celebration of Easter had to do so also. This is  quite probable, but it in no way invalidates my contention that the mere fact that they are  movable shows that neither the Passover nor the Easter festival can be intended to commemorate a definite historical event at all, other­wise they would be celebrated on a definite anniversary. On the contrary, it does very clearly show that the festival so fixed is an astronomical one, connected in some way with the worship of the heavenly bodies upon whose motion it depends.

As a matter of fact, the part of the Creed [83] which we are now considering is simply quoted from the rubric of the old Egyptian initiation, which is in turn intended to illustrate the later stages of the descent of the monadic essence into matter. Let us consider first how this descent came to be symbolized as a crucifixion, and then how it was represented before the eyes of the neophytes in ancient Khem.



To understand this clearly we must first endeavour to ascertain what was the meaning attached to the emblem of the cross in the sacred mysteries of antiquity. Most of us were brought up in the belief that the cross was an exclusively Christian symbol, and it may be that there are still some people left who hold to that view. If so, it is of course simply because it has never occurred to them to investigate the question; for if they took up the matter and examined the evidence they could not fail to be struck with the remarkable universality of the use of this sign.

An exhaustive catalogue of the places in which the cross occurs before the Christian era would make a respectable book in itself, but in glancing over some of the modern works on the subject I see that evidence is adduced of its use in one or other of its forms in ancient Egypt, at Nineveh, [84] among the Phoenicians at Gozzo, among the  Etruscans and the prehistoric race who inhabited Italy before the Etruscans arrived, upon the pottery of the primitive lake-dwellers, amid the  ruins of Palenque, in the earliest remains yet discovered of ancient Peru, India, China, Japan, Korea, Tibet, Babylonia, Assyria, Chaldaea, Persia,  Phoenicia, Armenia, Algeria, Ashanti, Cyprus, Rhodes, and among the prehistoric inhabitants  of Britain, France, Germany and America - a list which, partial and incomplete as it is, might  well astonish the advocates of the exclusively Christian theory of the cross which prevailed in  the days of our youth.

The only form of this symbol which is generally associated with Egypt is the crux ansata, or handled cross, but it is quite a mistake to suppose that the ancient inhabitants of Khem were unacquainted with the other varieties, for both Greek, Latin and Maltese crosses, as well as representations of the svastika, are to be found among the relics that they have left to us. I had the pleasure in 1884 of going over the museum of Egyptian antiquities at Boulak in the company of Madame Blavatsky and under the guidance of its learned curator, M. Maspero, and I well remember the interest with which I noticed among the contents of a case of  trinkets attributed to one of the very earliest [85] dynasties several beautifully cut cornelian representations of the cross rising out of the heart, exactly similar to the little charms of that shape which may be bought at a Catholic shop in London in the twentieth century.

The most widely spread of the derivatives of the simple cross is perhaps the svastika, which is to be found, I believe, in every one of the countries mentioned above. It has been generally supposed to be identical with the hammer of Thor, but there seems some reason to believe that the latter sign was originally made simply in the shape of the letter T. At any rate, it is certain that when, as King Olaf was keeping Christmas at Drontheim,

O'er his drinking-horn the sign

He made of the cross divine

As he drank, and muttered his prayers,

But the Berserks evermore

Made the sign of the hammer of Thor

Over theirs­-

they were in reality using symbols practically identical. The svastika also appears occasionally in later Christian symbology; for example, it may be seen ornamenting the hem of the chasuble of a mediaeval bishop in a fine full-length figure sculptured upon one of the tombs in Winchester Cathedral.

The theosophical student should take care to  avoid the mistake so often made by the more [86] superficial observer, of confusing the meaning of  all these various forms of the cross symbol. Each of them - the Greek, the Latin, the Maltese, the Tau, the Svastika - has its own particular signification, and is by no means to be confounded with any other, as will presently be seen.



There is one particularly gross delusion, unhappily widely prevalent in connection with this subject, from which we ought definitely to clear our minds before we can hope to con­sider it with profit - and that is the delusion of phallicism. Many writers appear to be absolutely  obsessed by this unclean idea, and can see nothing but phallic emblems in all the holiest  symbols of antiquity; whether it be the cross, the triangle, the circle, the pyramid, the obelisk,  the dagoba, or the lotus, to their prurient imagination it can have but one obscene signification.

Happily occult investigation assures us (as indeed common-sense would naturally suggest even without such aid) that this unpleasant theory of the origin of all religion is absolutely devoid of foundation. In every case yet examined it has been found that in the earlier and purer stages of any faith none but the spiritual mean­ing was ever thought of in connection with its [87] various symbols, and that where creation was suggested it was always the creation of ideas by the divine mind. Whenever, on the other hand, phallic emblems and ceremonies of an indecent nature are found to be associated with a religion, it may be taken as a sure sign of the degeneracy of that religion - an indication that, at any rate in the country where such emblems and practices may be seen, the pristine purity of the faith has been lost and its spiritual power is rapidly passing away.

Never under any circumstances are the phallicism and the indecency a part of the original conception of a great religion, and the modern theory - that all symbols had primarily some obscene meaning in the minds of the savages who invented them, and that, as in the course of ages a nation evolved to a higher level, it became ashamed of these cruder ideas and invented far-fetched spiritual interpretations to veil their immodesty - is exactly the reverse of the truth. The great spiritual truth always comes first, and it is only after long years, when that has been forgotten, that a degenerate race endeavours to attach a grosser signification to its  symbols.



Putting aside, then, all later misrepresentations, what meaning was originally conveyed by the

[88] world-wide symbol of the cross? Part, at any rate, of the answer is given to us by Madame  Blavatsky herself in the proem to The Secret Doctrine, when she describes the signs impressed upon the successive leaves of a certain archaic manuscript. It will be remembered that first of all there is the plain white circle which is understood to typify the Absolute; in that appears the central spot, the sign that the First Logos has entered upon a cycle of activity; the spot broadens into a line dividing the circle into two parts, thus symbolizing the dual aspect of the Second Logos as male-female, God-man, spirit-matter; and then, to show the next stage, this dividing line is crossed by another, and we have the hieroglyph of the Third Logos - God the Holy Ghost, the Lord, the Life-giver.

But all these symbols, be it noted, are still within the circle, and so are emblems of different  stages in the unfolding of the Triple Logos - not as yet of His manifestation. When in the fulness of time He prepares for this further descent, the symbol changes, usually in one or other of two ways. Sometimes the circle falls away altogether, and we have then the even-armed Greek cross as the sign of the Third Aspect of the Logos at the commencement of a great cycle, with His creative power held in readiness for exercise, but not as yet exercised. [89]

Along this line of symbolism the next step is the svastika, which always implies motion - the creative power in activity; for the lines added at right angles to the arms of the cross are supposed to represent flames streaming back­wards as the cross whirls round, and thus they doubly indicate the eternal activity of the Universal Life, first by the ceaseless outpouring of the fire from the centre through the arms, and secondly by the rotation of the cross itself.  Another method of expressing the same idea is seen in the Maltese cross, in which the arms, ever widening out as they recede from the centre, once more typify the divine energy spreading itself forth in every direction of space.

Sometimes, instead of dropping the circle altogether, the cross simply extends itself outside it. Then we get the equal-armed cross with the small circle in the midst of it, and in the next stage that circle blossoms forth into the rose - another well-known life-emblem - and so we have the familiar symbol from which the Rosicrucians take their name. Again, the cross not only bears the mystic rose in its centre, but itself becomes rosy in colour, showing that that which is poured out from it and through it is ever the fire of the divine love.

Naturally the great occult rule, "As above, so below," holds good in this connection also, and

[90] with very slight variation these symbols may be, and sometimes are, employed to indicate much lower stages of evolution; hence Madame Blavatsky's reference to the various races of men in her explanation of them. One can easily see how, out of a misunderstanding of this lower interpretation, and its association at one stage with the separation of the sexes, the unsavoury ideas of phallicism would take their rise. Indeed, the knowledge of the true meaning of the Greek cross seems to have been lost to public view at a very early period; its connection with the Third Aspect of the Logos has remained for ages known to occultists only, and superficial students have almost invariably confused it with the Latin cross of the Second Person, the deriva­tion of which in reality is entirely different.



In tracing the symbolism of this 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, [91] 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 that descent we may come into being.

A sacrifice, truly (at least from our point of view), yet with no thought of suffering, but only of transcendent joy. For that is the essence of the law of sacrifice - the law which moves the worlds even down here. So long as any thought of pain is connected with it, the sacrifice is not perfect; so long as a man is forcing himself to do that which he would rather not do, he is but on the way towards the fulfilling of the great law. But when he gives himself fully and freely because, having once seen the glory and the beauty of the Great Sacrifice, there is for him no other course possible in the three worlds but to join himself with it, however far away, however feebly and imper­fectly; when he gives himself without ever thinking of pain or trouble - indeed, without any thought of himself at all, but only of that for which he is working; then, and then only, is his [92] sacrifice perfect, for it is of the same nature as the sacrifice of the Logos, and partakes of the essence of that law of love which alone is the law  of life eternal.

That even the early Christian Church had some tradition of all this seems to be shown by the fact that in the paintings in the catacombs at Rome we frequently find just such a figure as the one described, with arms uplifted in the peculiar manner indicated, standing in the midst of the twelve apostles, exactly where the figure of the Christ would naturally be expected. This is generally spoken of as the "orante" or pray­ing figure: it has sometimes been supposed to be feminine, and has given rise, I believe, to considerable speculation among ecclesiastical archaeologists, but the most natural explanation of it appears to me to be that which I have suggested above.

We see, then, that the cross has been used from very early periods as the symbol of matter and manifestation - of the material world. It was therefore by no means unnatural that the  further descent of the Divine Man into matter should be symbolized by the binding of the body to the cross, which also signified accurately enough the extreme limitation of the action of the Logos by such descent - the extent to which His expression of Himself was curtailed on this [93] physical plane. Of course the nails, the blood, the wounds and all the ghastly horrors of the modern misrepresentation, are simply accretions due to the diseased imagination of the material-minded mediaeval monk, who had neither the intellect nor the education which could enable him to appreciate the beautiful meaning con­veyed by the original allegory.



This much, at least, of the truth is now begin­ning to be understood by even the Christian  investigators, for in an article by H. Marucchi, the well-known Catholic archeologist, in the  new dictionary of the Abbe Vigoroux, the writer refers to the fifth-century gate of Santa  Sabina at Rome and to an ivory of the same date in the British Museum as the oldest known  examples of the crucifix, and says, "It is to be remarked that the Christ is here represented as  still living, with the eyes open and without any mark of physical suffering."

He goes on to say that in the sixth century the crucifix is more frequent, but still the figure is always living and clothed in a long tunic, and that it is only in the twelfth century that "they cease to represent the Christ as living and triumphant on the cross." He seems to think that the new school of painting of Cimabue and [94] Giotto is to a large extent responsible for the change. The gradual alteration is clearly shown in the examples of successive paintings of the crucifixion exhibited in the Uffizi Gallery at Florence.

We are not without other testimony which shows that there have been many who have to some extent comprehended the true signification of the cross. The description given in the Acts of Judas Thomas of the Christ standing in glory above the cross which separated the lower world from the higher, and that of the splendid vision of the cross of light, by looking into and through which all the manifested worlds were to be seen, while yet the aura of the Heavenly Man included all, interpenetrated all, and was the life of all these are sufficient to evidence that truth was not left entirely without its witnesses in the earlier ages of our era, and that its light was absolutely hidden only when the dense fog of Christian superstition descended with all its weight upon Europe and stifled the whole of its intellectual life for close upon a thousand years.

It may be that there are some who will feel this wider presentation of the true meaning of the cross to be vaguer and colder than the very concrete form in which it had previously shaped itself to them - will feel that with the [95] emancipation of their minds from the image of that nightmare tale of appalling physical suffering they have lost also some familiar sentimental associations which they can hardly help regret­ting.

If there be any such among my readers let me remind them that while we cannot but recoil  with horror from all the terrible and indeed blasphemous ideas associated by the orthodox  with the thought of crucifixion, we may yet gratefully recognize in the sign of the cross a  constant reminder of the ineffable self-sacrifice of the Logos - of the enormous patience with  which His almighty power bears with all limi­tations, in order that in the slow progress of  their development these manifold forms which He takes may be gradually expanded and yet  may not too soon be broken, so that each of them may be servicable to the uttermost.

It may serve to remind us also that man him­self is thus crucified, if he did but know it; and that if he knows it not, it is because the living soul, the true Christ within him, is still blindly identifying himself with the cross of matter to which he is bound. It may help us to realize  that our bodies, whether physical, astral or mental, are not ourselves, and that whenever we find, as it were, two selves warring within us, we have to remember that we are in truth the [96] higher, and not the lower - the Christ, and not the cross.

And indeed this symbol of the cross may be to us as a touch-stone to distinguish the good from the evil in many of the difficulties of life. "Only those actions through which shines the light of the cross are worthy of the life of the disciple," says one of the verses in a book of occult maxims; and it is interpreted to mean that all that the aspirant does should be prompted by the fervour of self-sacrificing love. The same thought appears in a later verse: "When one enters the path, he lays his heart upon the cross; when the cross and the heart have become one, then hath he reached the goal." So, perchance, we may measure our progress by watching whether selfishness or self-sacrifice is dominant in our lives.

It should tell us, too, that all true sacrifice must be like that of the Logos - a willing sacrifice; that only when we give ourselves absolutely, fully and freely, can our sacrifice be one with His; then, and then only, have we truly signed ourselves with the sign of the cross of the eternal Christ.



Now this great sacrifice-the descent of the Second Aspect of the Logos into matter in the

[97] form of monadic essence - was somewhat elaborately set forth in symbol in the ritual of the Egyptian form of that first of the great initiations which is called by the Buddhists the Sohan or Sotapatti; and, as before stated, the Christ had frequently used a description of the exoteric side of its ceremonies to illustrate and emphasize his teaching on the subject. He probably even recited to them the exact wording of the rubric, or direction given to the officiating  hierophant, for this and the following passages of the Creed are curiously reminiscent of its  form; indeed, almost the only change is that of mood, which of course was necessary to adapt  the phrases to their new setting. The formula, handed down to the Egyptians from the exponents of Atlantean magic in far-distant ages, ran thus: ­

"Then shall the candidate be bound upon the wooden cross, he shall die, he shall be buried, and shall descend into the underworld; after the third day he shall be brought back from the dead, and shall be carried up into heaven to be the right hand of Him from Whom he came, having learnt to guide (or rule) the living and the dead."

The hall of initiation was often underground in an Egyptian temple - probably chiefly for the sake of convenience in keeping its situation [98] secret, though the arrangement may also have been intended as part of the symbolism of the descent into matter which played so prominent a part in all these ancient mysteries. There may have been such a hall in or beneath the great Pyramid, for but a very small portion of its immense bulk has yet been investigated, or is ever likely to be.

In such a hall the ceremonies connected with this initiation used to take place. Putting aside the wearisome length of the earlier part, with which we have no concern at present, we come to the culmination where the candidate voluntarily laid himself down upon a huge wooden cross which was hollowed so as to receive and support the human figure. To this his arms were lightly bound, the end of the cord being carefully left loose in order to typify the entirely voluntary nature of the bondage.

The candidate then passed into a deep trance or, in other words, he left the physical body and for the time functioned entirely in the astral. While in this condition his body was borne away into a vault still lower down, beneath the floor of the hall of initiation, and was laid in an immense sarcophagus - a process which, as far as the physical body is concerned, was not at all inaptly symbolized as death and burial. [99]



"He descended into hell." But meantime, while the mere outer husk of the man was thus "dead and buried," he himself was fully alive and conscious elsewhere. Many and strange  were the lessons which he had to learn, the experiences which he had to undergo, the tests  through which he had to pass during his sojourn in that astral world; but they were all carefully calculated to familiarize him with this new sphere of action in which he found himself, to enable him to understand it, to give him confidence and self-reliance - in fact, so to train him that he could safely face all its perils, could use its powers with calmness and discretion, and could thus become a fitting instrument upon that plane in the hands of those who help the world.

This was the descent into the underworld - not, of course, into the hell of the gross Christian  conception, but into Hades, the world of the departed, where it was undoubtedly the work of  the initiate (among many other duties) to "preach to the spirits in prison," as the Christian tradition puts it - not, however, as that tradition ignorantly supposes, to the spirits of those who, having had the misfortune to live in times long past, could attain salvation only by thus after [100] death hearing and accepting this particular form of faith - not to them, but to the spirits of those recently departed from this life, and still im­prisoned and held down upon the astral plane by desires unexhausted and passions unsubdued.

To endeavour to help this vast army of unfortunates, by pointing out to them the true course of their evolution and the best method of hastening it, was one of the duties of the initiate then, as it is one of the duties of the Masters' pupils now; and therefore at this solemn ceremony, by which he was formally put into relation with the Great Brotherhood, he received his first lesson in what would thereafter form no inconsiderable portion of his work.

During this same "descent into hell" it was that, according to the Egyptian rite, the candi­date had to pass through what used to be called "the tests of earth, water, air and fire" - unless indeed he had already experienced them at an earlier stage of his development. In other words, he had to learn with that absolute certainty that comes not by theory but by practical experience, that in his astral body none of these elements could by any possibility be hurtful to him - none could oppose any obstacle in the way of the work which he had to do.

When functioning in the physical body we are thoroughly convinced that fire will burn us, that [101] water will drown us, that the solid rock forms an impassable barrier to our progress, that we cannot with safety launch ourselves unsupported into the ambient air. So deeply is this con­viction ingrained in us that it costs most men a good deal of effort to overcome the instinctive action which follows from it, and to realize that in the astral body the densest rock offers no impediment to their freedom of motion, that they may leap with impunity from the highest cliff, and plunge with the most absolute confidence into the heart of the raging volcano or the deepest abysses of the fathomless ocean.

Yet until a man knows this - knows it suffi­ciently to act upon his knowledge instinctively and confidently - he is comparatively useless for astral work, since in emergencies that are constantly arising he would be perpetually paralyzed by imaginary disabilities. For this reason the candidate had to pass the tests of earth, water, air and fire thousands of years ago - for this reason he has to pass them to-day. For the same reason he has to go through many a strange experience - to meet face to face with calm courage the most terrifying apparitions  amid the most loathsome surroundings - to show, in fact, that he can be trusted under any and all of the varied groups of circumstances in which he may at any moment find himself. This, then, [102] is one among the many uses of the old rite of the "descent into hell."



"The third day he rose again from the dead." It must surely have struck any thoughtful student of the received gospel narrative that to describe the interval between Friday evening and very early on Sunday morning as three complete days involves a certain amount of poetical license. It might be contended that such an interval was not inconsistent with the statement of the Creed that he rose again "on the third day"; but the person offering this somewhat disingenuous argument would have entirely to ignore the quite definite assertion attributed to Jesus that "the Son of Man shall remain three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."

The real explanation of these apparently bewildering discrepancies is clear enough when the true interpretation is adopted. In the later and degenerate days of the Mysteries, when attempts were made to minimize all requirements and to make entrance easy for less worthy candidates who were unable to pass into the trance, it was soon found that to spend in rigid seclusion upon the physical plane the seventy-seven hours originally so well occupied upon

[103] the astral was to certain types of mind insuffer­ably tedious; so the sycophantic hierophants of that later time conveniently discovered that seventy-seven was merely a clerical error for twenty-seven, and that the original form of the rubric "after the third day" really meant nothing more than "on the third day" - thus saving their noble patrons fully two days of what was practically solitary confinement.

This later and degraded form is accurately enough represented by the symbolism used in the gospels; but it could never have been adopted until the real meaning of the original ritual had been forgotten. Only after three clear days and nights and part of a fourth had passed was the still entranced candidate of more ancient days raised from the sarcophagus in which he had lain, and borne into the outer air at the eastern side of the pyramid or temple, so that the first rays of the rising sun might fall upon his face and awaken him from his long sleep. And when we remember that the whole of this ritual typifies the descent of the second great out­pouring into matter, it will not be difficult for us to see why this particular period of time was chosen.

For three long journeys round our planetary chain and part of a fourth the monadic essence sinks deeper and ever deeper into the slough of [104] dense matter, and only when in the fourth round the sun arises - when the Lords of the Flame appear upon earth - does that essence rise from the dead, and begin at last to enter upon that mighty sweep of its upward arc which in the end shall set it at the right hand of the Father.



"He ascended into heaven." It needs no explanation to show the meaning of this phrase with reference to the upward progress of the human soul; but the place which it fills in the old Egyptian ritual is worthy of our notice. For the lessons which the candidate had to learn at his initiation were not concluded with his experiences on the astral plane; it was necessary for him at this stage of his evolution to be brought into contact with something far higher and wider even than this. Those who have studied that section of Theosophical literature which treats of the Path of Holiness will re­member that the Sotapanna, "the man who has entered upon the stream," receives as part of his initiation the first touch of awakening conscious­ness upon the buddhic plane.

This was of course the case in the Egyptian rite also, and it was this transcendent experience, changing as it did the man's entire conception of life and of evolution, which was spoken of as [105] the ascent into heaven. By it the man for the first time realized in experience that great doctrine which is so familiar to us all as a theory - the spiritual brotherhood of man and the unity of all that lives. Yet so different is the holding of this merely as a theory from the knowing it absolutely as a fact in nature that, as has been said, this experience changes the man's whole life and attitude, so that never thereafter can he look upon anything in the world as he did before. Keen though his sympathy with suffering must be, yet his sorrow can never again be hopeless, for he knows that the sufferer also is a part of the one great life, and that therefore all must at last be well.

Sometimes also, along another line of symbol­ism, the ascent into heaven is taken to typify the attainment of the asekha level of initiation, when the Christ that has been born within the man becomes once more one with the Father. We may remember how the Christ prays for his disciples that they may all become one with him, even as he also is one with the Father.




"And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father almighty, from whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead." Here it will be seen that for the first time we come to a definite [106] divergence of meaning between the wording of the Creed as we have it now and that of the Egyptian rubric. In the latter this clause is simply an extension of the former, and puts before us very clearly and beautifully the object of the whole vast course of evolution: "he shall be carried up into heaven to be the right hand of Him from Whom he came, having learnt to  guide the living and the dead."

One trace at least which is accessible to ordinary scholarship is left to us to confirm the idea that this may have been the original read­ing, for in the Regula of Apelles, the disciple of  Marcion, this clause runs, "the right hand of  the Father, whence he hath come to rule the  living and the dead." Thus all reference to the expected second advent of Christ is removed, and we have an important statement which not only emphasizes the great fact that the life which is poured forth returns in fullest measure to Him from whom it came, but also declares that the whole vast process was undertaken in order that mankind so returning should be the right hand of that Father almighty in His work of guiding the living and the dead. The great truth that all power which is gained is but held in trust, to be used as a means of helping others, has rarely been more clearly and more grandly set forth. [107]

Not only has much misunderstanding been caused by the confusion which has been here introduced into the Creed, but this misunder­standing has been further accentuated by the use of the expression "to judge." Evidence is not wanting to show that in the English of the  period when these documents were translated the significance of this word was a wider one  than that usually assigned to it now, as we may see from such remarks as "Deborah judged  Israel at that time" (Judges iv. 4), and "After him arose Jair, a Gileadite, and judged Israel  twenty and two years " (Judges x. 3), etc., where it is obvious that to judge is simply synonymous with to rule - a meaning which brings us much nearer to the conception of guiding and helping conveyed in the Egyptian formula. Well may it be said, in the words added in the Nicaean symbol, of this magnificent conception of a ruler whose only object is to guide and to help: »His kingdom shall have no end."



"I believe in the Holy Ghost." In this clause - the final one of the original Creed drawn up by the Council of Nicaea - we return once more to the formula as given by the Christ. It has already been explained in the earlier part of this volume that the Holy Ghost corresponds to [108] the Third Person of the Logos - the "Spirit of God which broods over the face of the waters"  of space, and so brings into existence matter as we know it to-day. To His energy are due all the primary combinations of the ultimate atoms of our planes, so that the "atoms" with which modern chemistry deals are monuments of His work. His action brought them into existence in a certain definite order - an order which, so far as investigation into this subject has yet been carried, appears to correspond with that of their atomic weights, so that substances having high atomic weights, such as lead, gold or platinum, are of much later formation than elements of low atomic weight, such as hydrogen, helium or lithium.

At the Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D. the bare statement of the existence of the Holy Ghost, which was all that was contained either in the Apostles' Creed or in the original form of that of Nicaea, was considerably amplified, and the beautiful title of "the Life-giver" was then for the first time reinserted. The English version unfortunately lends itself here to a very common misunderstanding, and most people as they recite  the Lord and Giver of Life'' probably suppose it to mean - if they ever think of its meaning at all - the Lord of Life and the Giver of Life. A reference to the original Greek at once shows that [109] such a construction is entirely unwarranted, and that the proper translation is simply "the Lord, the Life-giver."

Well might such a title be assigned to Him, not only because of the mighty work which He did when the solar system came into existence, not only because from Him comes all life of which we know anything (for the omnipresent vital fluid is but the manifestation of His activity upon these lower planes), but because of the equally stupendous work which He is doing even now. Whether the effect of that first great outpouring of energy is now complete, or whether chemical elements of a still more elaborate kind are still in process of production, we know not, though there is much to suggest that the latter hypothesis is the true one; but it is at least certain that all around us an evolution is going on upon a scale so vast in its totality, yet so infinitely minute in its method, that we live in the midst of it, yet in the most absolute  unconsciousness of it.

Not the spiritual evolution of the immortal soul in man, for that is the work of our Logos in His First Aspect; not the evolution which science recognizes as ever in progress in the  animal and vegetable kingdoms - the develop­ment of intelligence and faculty by means of repeated experiences, and the correspondential [110] modification in outer forms which is the result  of this; not even the evolution of the power of combination in the mineral kingdom, so that  ever more and more complex chemical com­pounds are gradually coming into being - for all  these are part of the wonderful activity of the Second Person of the Trinity; but within and  behind all these is the evolution of the atom itself.



To explain the method of this evolution would take far more space than can be devoted to it here, and would also be somewhat outside the immediate scope of a treatise on the Creed; but an indication of the direction in which it works may readily be given to those who have read Mrs. Besant's article on "Occult Chemistry" in Lucifer for November, 1895, or have studied the information which she gives on this subject in The Ancient Wisdom. It will be remembered that, in the illustrations there given, the atom was shown as composed of a series of spiral tubes arranged in a certain order, and it was explained that these tubes themselves were in turn com­posed of finer tubes spirally coiled, and these finer tubes in turn of others still finer, and so on. These finer tubes have been called spirillae of the first, second and third orders respectively; and it is found that before we get back to the [111] straight filament or line of astral atoms (for the physical atom is ultimately formed by the con­volutions of ten such lines) we have to unwind seven series of the spirillae, each of which is wound at right angles to the one preceding it.

Now in the perfected physical atom, as it will be at the end of the seventh round, all of these orders of spirillae will be fully vitalized and active, each with a different order of force flowing through it; and thus this particular part of the work of the Holy Ghost will be accomplished. At present we are in the fourth round, and only four of these orders of spirillae; are as yet in activity, so that even the very physical matter in which we have to work is very far from having unfolded its full capacities. This mighty process of atomic evolution, which interpenetrates all else and yet moves on its way absolutely independent of all conditions, is ever being carried steadily on by the wonderful impulse of that first outpouring from the Third Aspect of the Logos.



It seems clear that all this marvellous activity is and has ever been steadily tending towards differentiation - individualization, as it were; while it is equally evident that the action of the second great outpouring gives all sorts of [112] new powers of combination which appear to be tending back again towards a kind of higher unity, so that we have here what looks at first sight like an opposition between the working of these two mighty forces.

Now, as I have said before, it is obvious that with such exceedingly fragmentary knowledge  of all these wonderful operations as we at present possess, and with the further disadvantage of looking at them all from so low a plane-examining all their action, as it were, from below  instead of from above - any ideas which even the wisest of us may form as to the real working of the great scheme must necessarily be so incomplete that they may well be hopelessly misleading, and unless put forward with due reservation and modesty they would be only too likely to be blasphemous as well. Yet it seems to me that, even in such examination as is possible for us of this marvellous complexity of evolution, we do get here and there glimpses of a part of its plan - hints which we can test by applying them to different levels of this process of development.

Here, for example, we seem to see clearly in action the broad principle of first of all generating a certain set of elements, and endowing them with so much of stability, and, as it were, individuality, that under all ordinary conditions [113] of temperature and pressure they maintain their position as separate entities; while, as a later and distinctly higher stage of their evolution, there is developed within them the capability of and the desire for union. It is impossible not to be reminded, by this rough outline of evolu­tion in the mineral kingdom, of the statement that the Logos Himself has become manifest only in order that from Him might emanate an immense multitude of individuals who, when they have become sufficiently separated to be each a living and powerful centre, shall rise again towards perfect union and realize their oneness in Him.

Even when we turn to examine the individual development of man, we may still see the same principle working. After man as an individual with a causal body has definitely come into existence, the whole force of his environment seems to be directed to the evolution in him of mind, the discriminative and separative faculty, which in him as the microcosm dis­tinctly corresponds with Mahat, the universal Mind or the Holy Spirit in the macrocosm. Much later comes the development of the intuitional wisdom, the faculty of combining and unifying, which may be taken as in many ways corresponding with the Second Aspect of the Logos in the wider world. [114]

For the old text which tells us that man is made in the image of God is wonderfully and beautifully true, as may be seen by comparing in Diagram I. the triad of the human soul with the Trinity in manifestation above it. It will be found that the one reproduces the other with marvellous exactness. Just as Three Aspects of the Divine are seen upon the seventh plane, so the Divine Spark of the spirit in man is seen to be triple in its appearance on plane five. In both cases the Second Aspect is able to descend one plane lower and to clothe itself in the matter of that plane; in both cases the Third Aspect is able to descend two planes and repeat the process. So in both cases there is a Trinity in Unity, separate in its manifestations, yet one in the reality behind.

Indeed, incomprehensible though the state­ment may be, hopeless as would be any effort to explain it, it is in reality true that the principles in man which we call spirit, intuition, intellect, are not merely correspondences, not merely even reflections or rays of the Three Great Persons of the Logos, but are somehow in very truth themselves those glorious entities, uncreate, incomprehensible, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

In the stages of world-evolution also we find the same general law holding good. In it also

[115] so far the action has been chiefly creative and separative, chiefly concerned with the development of intellect, and we have scarcely as yet even the dawn of the unfolding of the intuitional wisdom, the great unifying power which is truly the Christ in man.

Here and there we see, one man who shows a little of its influence - here and there faint indications of what is to come may be discerned by those who know how to read the signs of the times. Nay, it may even be that some of the most terrible features of our social condition,  evil though they are in their results, evil in their organization because so hopelessly marred  by the selfishness and ignorance (and blind hatred of every one wiser and better than  themselves) which are always shown by their promoters, may yet in all their iniquity have  this much dim reflection of a hope behind them, that they may perchance be the first manifesta­tion that there is a force pressing behind - the first blundering, misdirected gropings of the uninstructed after the true unity that is one day to come, though by means the very opposite to those which are now employed.

We must remember that after all we have but just passed the turning-point of the whole system of evolution - but just entered upon the mighty upward sweep which is to end in divinity. [116] We are still in the fourth journey round the planetary chain - the round, properly speaking, devoted to the development of the astral body and the fact that we find ourselves possessed of intellect at all at this stage of the proceedings is due almost entirely to the help and stimulation given to our humanity by the advent of the great Lords of the Flame at a period which is after all comparatively recent. The full develop­ment of intellect even is not due until the next round, so that surely the merest foretaste of the stupendous power of the intuitional wisdom is all that we can expect for a very long time yet.

Still, nature is slowly moving forward towards that stage, and the future is with those who even now will recognize that fact and work for it - who will strive in every possible way to help forward the unifying principle, to break down the barriers of distrust and hatred which un­fortunately so often exist between class, and class, between nation and nation. That indeed is truly Theosophical work - the work of our Masters - work in which it is the greatest of privileges to be allowed to join, to however small an extent, in however humble a capacity.



"Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son." It was nominally with reference to this

[117] doctrine of the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son as well as from the Father that  there occurred the greatest schism which has yet rent the Christian Church - the division  between the Eastern and Western (or as we now call them, the Greek and the Roman)  Churches, which took place in the eleventh century. It is, however, probable that this question was merely a pretext, since the Greek Church did not discover the heinousness of this heresy for more than four hundred years. The progressive centralization of the Western Church under the see of Rome was becoming exceedingly inconvenient to the Oriental patriarchs, and strained relations had been existing for some time; while the final determining cause of the secession seems to have been the transfer of their allegiance by the Bulgarians from the patriarchs to the popes. Still its use even as a pretext in so important an event in Church history has invested this "filioque" clause with an interest which is perhaps greater than its intrinsic importance would warrant.

The question at issue was whether the Third Person of the Trinity came forth from the First alone, or from the First and the Second. Look­ing as we are doing at the esoteric meaning of the symbol, we see that the Western Church in no way added to or corrupted the original [118] doctrine by inserting its celebrated "filioque" clause, but only expressed in words what must have been obvious from the first to any one who read behind the mere letter of the formula; and yet there was a very real meaning in the pro­test of the Eastern Church.

If we turn to Diagram I. we shall readily grasp the point of contention, and we shall be able to see that in a very real sense both the disputants were right. Since the manifestation of the eternal Father takes place on the seventh plane, and that of the Holy Ghost on the fifth, it is clear that, if the latter comes forth from the former, it can do so only by passing through the intermediate level of the sixth plane, upon which is the manifestation of the Son. Resting itself upon that obvious fact, the Roman Church inserted its "filioque." The Greek Church, how­ever, misunderstood this apparently harmless addition, and supposed it to indicate a confusion of the functions and manifestation of the separate Persons or Aspects. To use the symbolism of our diagram, they feared that an attempt was being made to draw through the First, Second and Third Manifestations just such a diagonal line as is drawn in the lower or human Trinity, connecting Spirit, Intuition, and Intelligence; and they quite rightly protested against any such theory of the procession as that would [119] typify. It was certainly not from the mani­fested Person of the Father through the mani­fested Person of the Son that the Holy Ghost came forth. The dotted line on the right of the diagram, showing how the Third Aspect descends from the seventh plane through the sixth, and finally manifests on the fifth, is the key to the true line of procession, and the absolute harmony of the two conflicting ideas. It is clear that if the disputants had honestly desired to reach an agreement, and if they had had such a grasp of the truth behind the symbols as Theosophy gives to its students, there need have been no schism at all.

Of all the suggested renderings the nearest to the truth is that of St. John Damascene: "Who proceedeth from the Father through the Son" (De Hymno Trisag., n. 28); yet it seems as though it would have been better still if in the original document the words used to express the coming forth of the Second and Third Aspects had been interchanged - if it had been written that the Son proceeded from the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was begotten of the Son. It has been already explained that the real meaning of μονογεν?ς is "coming forth from one alone," and not from the interaction of a pair. Everything else in nature of which we know is produced by the interaction of two [120] factors, whether these factors are separate entities, as they usually are, or merely two poles included within the same organism, as in the case of the parthenogenetic reproduction of the alternate generations of aphides.

What is commonly called the procession of the Holy Ghost is in no sense an exception to this rule, for the duality of the Second Person of the Trinity has always been clearly recognized,  and although in the modern Christian system the two poles or aspects are expressed only as  divinity and humanity, in older faiths and even in the Gnostic traditions they were often considered as male and female respectively, and the Second Person was frequently spoken of as containing within Himself the characteristics of both the sexes, and was even called "The Father-Mother."

"Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified." This simply means  that the Three Aspects of the Logos are to be regarded as equally worthy of the deepest  reverence, as equally standing apart from all else within the system to which they have given  birth - that "in this Trinity none is afore or after other, none is greater or less than another, but the whole three persons are coeternal together and coequal," as far at any rate as this aeon is concerned - all equally to be glorified [121] by man, since his debt of gratitude, for the labour and stupendous sacrifice involved in his evolution, is due to all three alike.



"Who spake by the prophets." This clause, which is one of those first incorporated in the Creed at the Council of Constantinople, embodies a very early misconception for which it is not difficult to account, and though it does not directly refer to the story of Jesus, it must none the less be attributed to the tendency which we have called (c). The meaning of the original  expression which it represents can perhaps be best rendered into English as "Who manifesteth  through His angels"; and when we remember that in Greek the words "angel" and "messenger" are identical, we shall easily see how in the mind of a Jewish translator eagerly anxious to emphasize the continuity of the newer teaching with that of his own religion, what to him would seem an obscure passage referring to "manifesta­tion through His messengers," came to be interpreted as indicating the inspiration of the Hebrew prophets.

The Jewish faith, corrupt and grossly material as it was, had still some tradition of the messengers through whom the Logos manifested Himself in matter - the seven great archangels, [122] later called "the seven spirits before the throne of God" - the seven lesser Logoi (lesser only in comparison with the ineffable splendour of the Trinity) who are the first emanation of the God­head. But it was manifestly impossible that the reference to them in the passage under considera­tion should be understood by a mind already obsessed with the idea that all that was said of the Second Person of the Trinity was to be taken as descriptive only of a human teacher. If the Second Person were but a man, and the Third a vague influence proceeding from him, then the messengers through whom that influence had previously manifested must obviously be men also, and it was quite natural that the supposed inspiration of his own prophets should at once occur to the mind of an Israelite. The grandeur of the true conception was far above out of his sight; he had already coarsened and degraded it beyond the power of words to express, and so he saw nothing incongruous in regarding the itiner­ant preachers of his own petty tribe as directly controlled by the influence of the Supreme.

That this "manifestation through the angels" is a vivid reality every student of occultism knows. On every plane he finds the seven great types, not only of matter, but of life or energy. On the astral plane, for example, he finds that all the multitudinous varieties of the elemental [123] essence may be grouped under seven great classes - not those which energize the matter of the seven sub-planes, but another division quite apart from that, and crossing it at right angles, as it were. He finds that through all astral matter these great divisions run - that the energy ensouling every astral element belongs to one or other of these classes. Out of these seven, therefore, is every astral form built, even the astral body of the plant, of the animal, or of the man; and according to the preponderance of one or other of these types of essence in their astral bodies, men may be classified into temperaments - the sanguine, the lymphatic, etc. - or arranged under planets, as is done by the astrologer, who speaks constantly of a Venus man or a Mars man, a Jupiter man, and so on.

The student of occultism, seeking for the reason that lies behind all this, finds it in the fact that the Divine Life came forth in seven mighty parallel streams through seven great living Channels, which, though assuredly separate entities, are nevertheless in a very real sense  centres of energy in the Logos himself. Each of these great Channels has left its ineffaceable mark on all that has passed through it, and has impressed an individual character on the life-stream as it poured it forth into the lower planes. Furthermore, he realizes that each of these great [124] Channels or specializers is a glorious living Spirit, and that the life poured out through each remains his life, a very part of him. Therefore, again it follows that man's astral body, which he has thought to be his own, in reality belongs also to these Great Ones, since the life of each one of them is ever pulsating through it. Thus verily and thus vividly is the Divine Life ever manifesting not only without us, but within us, yet always »through His angels," those wondrous living lights which yet are centres in that still greater, Light which knows no setting, but shines for evermore.



"The holy catholic Church." This clause appears in the Nicene Creed as the "one catholic and apostolic Church," and has always been understood to signify the body of faithful believers all over the world - the word catholic simply meaning universal. This is in effect a statement of the brotherhood of man, for it proclaims how community of interest in spiritual things draws together men out of every nation, "without distinction of race, creed, caste, sex or colour," as the first object of the Theosophical Society puts it. If we will but put aside the  misinterpretations which later sectarianism has [125] accumulated round these words, and think what they really mean, we shall see at once how beautifully expressive they are.

The Church is the ?κκλησ?α - the body of those who are "called out" of the ordinary worldly life of misdirected energy by the common knowledge which they possess of the great facts underlying nature - the men who, because they know the relative importance of each, have "set their affection on things above, and not on things of the earth," no matter to what nation they may belong, nor by what name they may choose to call their faith in spiritual things.

That by no means all of them yet recognize their brotherhood, that many of them distrust and misunderstand one another, sad though it is, in no way alters the great fact that because they  regard things spiritual rather than things temporal, because they have definitely ranged  themselves on the side of good instead of evil, of evolution instead of retardation, they have a  bond between them of community of aim which is stronger far than any of the external divisions that separate them - stronger because it is spiritual, and belongs to a higher plane than this.

This is the true Church of the Christ, and it is catholic because among its numbers there are  men of every race and creed under heaven­ - [126] "of all nations and kindred and peoples and tongues"; it is holy, because its members are striving to make their lives holier and better; it is apostolic, for in very truth all its members are apostles - "men sent forth" (though many of them know it not) by the great Power who is guiding all, that they may be His expression in the earth - His emissaries to help their more ignorant brethren, by precept and example, to  learn the all-important lesson which they have already made part of their own lives. And  whatever its outward divisions may be, this Church is fundamentally one - "elect from every  nation, yet one o'er all the earth" - one in essence, though it may be many a century yet  before all its members realize their spiritual unity.

For the truth is that there are only two classes of men in the whole world - the few who have already realized the mighty Divine scheme, and the vast mass who as yet know it not. The latter live for themselves, and are largely the slaves of their passions; the former live for God and for the evolution which is His will, whether they call themselves Buddhist or Hindu,  Moslem or Christian, Freethinker or Jew. And these men are the salt of the earth, the holy Church throughout all the world which always acknowledges its Head, though it may call Him [127] by many names and image Him under many forms.



"The communion of saints." This is inter­preted in two ways by modern orthodoxy. The first takes it merely as an extension of the previous clause, "the holy catholic Church (which is) the communion of the saints." That is to say that the Church consists of the fellow­ship of the holy ones in every land, very much as has just been explained - except that of course in the orthodox system none but the Christians of every nation are recognized as brothers! The other method of interpretation gives a somewhat more mystical sense to the word communion, and explains the clause as pointing out the intimate association between Christians on earth and those who have passed away - the blessed dead, more especially those of transcendent virtue, who are usually called the saints.

As is so often the case, the truth includes both hypotheses, and yet is grander far than either of them, for the true meaning of the expression of belief in the communion of the saints is the recognition of the existence and the functions of the Great Brotherhood of Adepts which is in charge of so much of the evolution [128] of mankind. Thus it is truly an extension of the idea of the brotherhood of man implied in the belief in the holy catholic Church; yet it also involves the closest possible association and even communication with the noblest of those who have gone before us. But it is much more than all this; for to those who really grasp it and begin even dimly to understand what it means, it gives a sense of absolute peace and security which passes all understanding - which can never be shaken or lost through any of the changes and chances of this mortal life.

When once this is realized by any man, how­ever keen may be his sympathy with the manifold sufferings of humanity - however he may fail to understand much of what he sees in the world around him - the element of hopelessness, which before made it all so terrible, is gone, and gone for ever. For though he feels that dread mysteries, as yet but partially explained, under­lie many an act in the great drama of the world's history - though questions may sometimes arise within him to which man can give no answer, and to which the higher powers have given none thus far, yet he knows, with the absolute certainty born of experience, that the power, the wisdom, and the love which guide the evolution of which he is part, are far more than strong enough to carry it through to a glorious end. [129] He knows that no human sympathy can be as great as theirs who stand behind; none can love man as they do - they who are sacrificing them­selves for man. Yet they know all, from the beginning to the end; and they are satisfied.



"The forgiveness of sins "; or, as the Greek may be more literally rendered, "the emancipa­tion from sins." For the more mystical side of the idea symbolized in the ecclesiastical doctrine of the so-called forgiveness of sins, the reader may be referred to Mrs. Besant's article in The  Theosophical Review for November 1891, or to the chapter on the subject in Esoteric  Christianity. Here, however, we have to deal, not with the later developments of dogma, but rather with the meaning attached to this clause in the original formula, which was a comparatively simple one.

No idea even remotely resembling that suggested by the modern word "forgiveness" was in any way connected with it; it was a straightforward declaration that the candidate acknowledged the necessity of setting himself free from the dominion of all his sins before attempting to enter upon the path of occult progress, and its spirit would be far more accurately rendered by an expression of belief [130] in the demission of sins rather than their remission. It was primarily intended to be a definite reminder of the principle which requires moral development as an absolute pre-requisite to advancement, and a warning against the danger of the method of the darker magical schools which did not exact morality as a necessary qualification for mem­bership.

But it had also another and an inner meaning, referring to a higher stage in man's development, and this is more clearly brought out in the form assumed by this clause in the Nicaean symbol, "I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins." Again, of course, we must substitute the idea of emancipation for that of forgiveness, and remembering that baptism has always been the symbol of initiation, we have before us a con­ception which might be expressed in the Buddhist phraseology with which students of Theosophical  literature are more familiar: "I acknowledge, one initiation for the casting-off of the fetters."  The candidate proclaims by this statement that he has definitely set before him as his goal the initiation which sets his foot upon the Path of Holiness - one initiation, given only by the one Brotherhood in the name of the Great Initiator - in and through which he gains power entirely to cast off the three fetters of doubt, superstition, [131] and the delusion of self. (See Invisible Helpers, chapter xvi.)



He gains power, I say advisedly, for however clear his intellectual convictions on these points may have been previously, he does not attain the certainty which comes from definite knowledge until he has experienced that touch of buddhic consciousness which is part of the ritual of that first initiation - the portal of the Path of Holiness. And in that touch, momentary  though it may be, not only does he obtain this vast increase of knowledge which puts a new  face for him upon the whole of nature, but he also enters for the moment into a relation with  his Master far more intimate than anything he has ever before comprehended. And in that  flash of contact he receives a very real baptism, for there pours into his soul such a rush of  power, of wisdom, and of love, that he is at once strengthened for effort which before would have seemed inconceivable to him. Not that the Master's feeling or attitude has in any way  changed, but that by the development of this new faculty the pupil has become capable of  seeing more of what He is, and so of receiving more from Him.

In a very true sense, then, is this first great [132] initiation "a baptism for the emancipation from sins," and the baptism administered to infants soon after their birth was but a symbol and a prophecy of this - a ceremony intended as a kind of dedication of the young life to the effort to enter upon the Path. Very soon after the materializing tendency set in the true meaning of all this was obscured, and then it became necessary to invent some reason for the baptismal ceremony. Some tradition of its connection with the putting away of sins still survived, and  as it was obvious, even to a Church father, that a baby could hardly have committed any serious offences, the extraordinary doctrine of "original sin" was invented, and did much harm in the world.



"The resurrection of the body." Here again is a case similar to the last - a case where a  doctrine, perfectly simple and reasonable in itself, falls gradually into oblivion and misconstruction among the ignorant, until a monstrous and absurd dogma is erected to take the place of the forgotten truth. What numbers of books have been written and sermons preached in defence of this scientifically impossible teaching of the resur­rection of the physical body - the "agenrisyng of fleish," as it is called in an English Creed of about the date 1400 - when all the time the [133] clause meant nothing more nor less than an affirmation of the doctrine of reincarnation!

This, which in more enlightened times was a universal belief, had gradually dropped out of  popular knowledge in later Egypt and in classical Greece and Rome, though of course it was never lost sight of in the teaching of the Mysteries. It was quite plainly mentioned in the original formula given by the Christ to his disciples, where a reference occurs to "the wheel of birth  and death"; and it was only the gross ignorance of later days which perverted the simple ex­planation, that after death man would again appear upon the earth in bodily form, into a  theory that he would at some future time collect the very particles of which his physical vehicle had been constructed at the moment of death, and once more build up that corpse into the semblance which it then wore.

In the Nicene Creed the clause now appears in the more comprehensible form, "I look for the resurrection of the dead," though in some of its earlier variants it also speaks of the resurrection of the flesh. Yet the simple idea that what was meant was resurrection in a body, not resurrection of that same body, was not suggested by any of these renderings. Looking at the subject impartially, it certainly seems that nothing else could satisfy the requirements of [134] the teaching given. Reason leads us to suppose that the corruptible body cannot rise again; therefore that which rises must be the incorrupt­ible soul. Since this soul is to rise in a body, it must rise in a fresh body - that is, in the body of an infant.

Evidence also is not wanting even on this physical plane in support of the theory (which we from other sources know to be true) that this belief in reincarnation was held by many at the alleged time of Christ, and was also held and taught by him. A metempsychosis of souls was a distinctive feature of the Jewish Kabala, and we have the testimony of Josephus that the Pharisees believed in the return to earth of the souls of the just in other bodies.

Jerome and Lactantius both bear witness to the fact that a belief in metempsychosis existed in the early Church. Origen not only expressed his belief in it, but was careful to state that his ideas on the subject were not drawn from Plato, but that he was instructed by Clemens of Alexandria, who had studied under Pantaenus, a disciple of apostolic men. Indeed, it seems by no means improbable that this doctrine of re­incarnation formed one of the "mysteries" of the early Church, taught fully only to those who were found worthy to hear.

But few references to it now remain in the [135] canon of scripture as at present accepted, but there are some which are unmistakable. One of these occurs in the story of the man who was born blind, and was brought to the Christ to be cured. The disciples inquired, "Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" This question clearly implies belief in a large proportion of the Theosophical doctrine in the minds of those who asked it. We note that they definitely understood the idea of cause and effect, and of Divine justice. Here was the case of a man born blind - a terrible affliction, of course, both for the child himself and the parents. The disciples realized that this must be the result of some sin or folly; and their question is as to whose sin it was that had brought about this deplorable result. Was it that the father had been so wicked that he deserved to have the sorrow of a blind son? Or was it that in some previous state of existence the man himself had sinned, and so brought upon himself this pitiable fate? Obviously if the latter were the true solution, the sins which deserved this punishment must have been com­mitted before he was born - that is to say, in a previous life; so that in fact both the great fundamentals of Theosophical teaching are clearly implied in this one question. The answer of the Christ is very noteworthy. We know [136] that on other occasions he was by no means backward in commenting vigorously upon inaccurate doctrine or practice; he spoke very strongly on many occasions to the Scribes and Pharisees and others. If, therefore, reincar­nation and the idea of Divine justice were false and foolish beliefs, we should certainly expect to find him taking this opportunity to rebuke his disciples for holding them; yet we notice that he does nothing of the kind. He simply accepts their suggestions as entirely matters of course; he does not rebuke them in any way, but simply explains that neither of the hypotheses which they suggest is the true cause of the affliction in this particular case: "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him."

There is one clear definite statement by Christ himself, which of course must settle the question once for all for anyone who believes in the gospel history and in the inspiration of the scriptures. When he has been speaking of John the Baptist, and inquiring what opinions were generally held about him, he terminates the con­versation by the emphatic pronouncement, "If ye will receive it, this is Elias which was for to come." I am quite aware that the orthodox theologian thinks that Christ did not mean what he said in this case, and wishes us to [137] believe that he was endeavouring to explain that Elias had been a type of John the Baptist. But in reply to such a disingenuous plea it will be sufficient to ask what would be thought of any­one who in ordinary life tried to explain away a statement in so clumsy a fashion. Christ knew perfectly well what was the popular opinion with reference to such matters; he knew quite well that he himself was supposed by the common people to be a reincarnation, sometimes of Elijah, sometimes of Jeremiah, and sometimes of some of the other prophets; and he was well aware that the return of Elijah had been prophesied, and that all the common people were in constant expectation of his advent. Con­sequently, in making a direct statement such as this, he must have known perfectly well how all his hearers would understand him. "If you will receive it" - that is to say, if you can believe it - "this is the very Elijah whom you are expecting." That is an absolutely unequivocal statement, and to suppose that when Christ said that, he did not mean it, but instead intended to express something vague and symbolical, is simply to accuse him of wilfully misleading the people by giving to them a direct statement which he must have known perfectly well that they could take only in one way. Either Christ said this, or he did not say it; if he did not say it, [138] what becomes of the inspiration of the gospel? If he did say it, then reincarnation is a fact. The passage will be found in Matthew xi. 14.

Another and much higher meaning is some­times attached to this phrase, "the resurrection of the dead," as is evidenced by the fact that in the third chapter of his epistle to the Philippians  we find St Paul describing himself as "striving if by any means he might attain unto the  resurrection of the dead." What can this resurrection have been to which he, the great Apostle, found it necessary to strive in order that he might attain? Clearly it could not be what is ordinarily understood by that term, for the rising again from the dead at the last day is to happen to all people, good and bad alike; there could be no necessity to strive in order to gain that. What he is striving to attain is undoubtedly that initiation which liberates the man from life and death alike, which raises him above the necessity of further incarnation upon  earth. We shall notice that a few verses further on he urges "as many as be perfect" to strive as he is striving; he does not give this advice to the ordinary member of the church, because he knows that for him this is not yet possible.

To rise from the dead, then, is sometimes merely to reincarnate, sometimes to take the first great initiation according to the Egyptian [139] rite, and sometimes to take that far higher one which permits the man to escape altogether from the wheel of birth and death - the samsara, as the Buddhistcalls it.

"And the life everlasting." The semi-poetical form into which our translators have thrown this clause has led the orthodox to see in it a reference to eternal life in heaven, but in reality it bears no such signification; it is merely a straightforward statement of the immortality of the human soul. In the Celtic Creed the form is simpler still, "I believe in life after death," while the Nicaean symbol expresses it as "the life of the world to come," or, to translate more accurately, "the life of the coming age." [140]



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