Chapter XXI: The Coming of the Christ
“By this time you will be in a position to understand how closely the school of prophets is allied to the spiritual side of life,” Rhamya continued; “and how widely divergent and absolutely irreconcilable is their system with that of the priests. The one operates from the future and above, reaching out and down to guide the race into the everunfolding truth; the other is of the past and below, using the energy and the influence of the ages that have gone to restrain the present from moving forward. The one is of life, the other of death; of hope opposed to fear; of emancipation versus bondage; of Heaven in succession of earth.
“When once the divine order for reaching and guiding man had been satisfactorily installed, and began to give clear and unmistakable evidence of being controlled and used by intelligences with power to read and interpret mysteries inscrutable to human eyes, it is not difficult to see how infinitely superior to their fellows became the position of all who chose to work in harmony with the conditions laid down by those who from their higher vantage-ground were proffering help to all who were still walking in darkness and the shadow of death. All the infinitude of God was made available for the benefit of men, the supply having no restriction but that of demand and the transmission without limit save the carrying capacity of the vehicle placed at the Divine disposal. The prophetic conduit taps the infinite ocean of the water of life, from which the supply and quality of the revelation will always be governed by the channels through which it flows. But, as I have already said, from the time when we see the spirit of the Lord falling upon the prophet and visibly changing his present identity—as you have seen in the case of our own psychic—a sense of satisfaction with results attained took possession of the prophets, further development was arrested, and the stream was allowed to run its own course.
“Now came the opportunity of the priests, who, allying themselves to the state, entered into violent opposition to the prophets, and used all the machinery of the temporal power to destroy the influence of the preachers of righteousness, by capturing the senses with ornate ritual and ceremonial.
“The kingdom of God, however, cometh not with observation, and the inflow of revelation being once clearly established, the river continued to rise, since the reservoir of supply lay in the everlasting hills far above any level of temporal opposition or human machinations. None of the endeavours of God are ever abandoned. Whatever truth begins will be carried to a finish. The greatest mistake we can make is to try to measure God’s eternity by the span of our mortal existence, and because He does not complete His plan within the clock-tick of our brief day, come to the conclusion that He has failed in and abandoned His project. No greater fallacy ever assailed the human mind. Consider the aeons of the earth’s existence in comparison with your own startled swallow’s flight across it. All through those immeasurable periods God has patiently waited for the earth to produce the man He commissioned it to bring forth—it was not long considering the magnitude of the result—and eternity is not yet a pulse-throb older than when the command was given; what then is the thousand years of the Jewish static spiritual age, when all the variations on the stream of prophecy were like ripples, caused by the breath of a passing enthusiasm? The stream was rising, though no one noticed it, and the quiet waters crept higher and higher towards the copingstone of the obstructing dam.”
“I wish you would answer a question that has just occurred to me,” I interposed.
“Certainly; for I am anxious to leave no doubt behind me. What would you ask?”
“If, as the records state, there had also been a direct interposition of angelic ministry at the time you are speaking of, how was it, when the prophets became negligent of their privileges, that angels did not take up the work and carry it forward?”
“Because they were unable to do so. There are many occasions where help must be rendered and other duties performed, for which no human agent is available, and in all such cases we are warranted in assuming a physical form and discharging the duty—a little longer experience will show you how often this is done beyond what you might now be inclined to suppose. But wherever the ministry has reference to a rule of life or conduct, the instruction must be given through an agent occupying the same position as the one to whom we speak. For instance, suppose a man to be heroically fighting a fierce temptation, to approach him with all the recognized accessories of an angelic form might excite his reverence and wonder, but it would signally fail where it was most needed—in the capacity of imparting strength. Where we would draw near to strengthen by our sympathy and assurance of success, we should only succeed, owing to men’s mistaken idea concerning angels, in provoking the inquiry, what could we—who had been created sinless, who had never felt the power of temptation, who had never experienced the weight of weakness associated with the flesh—know of the daily and hourly struggle a man is called upon to endure? And the result would be that the difference in the two conditions would form a gulf across which the assistance we would gladly render would appear more like a mockery than an encouragement. On the other hand, God has designed, in the prophetic gift, a natural scheme in which the human and angelic conditions may combine and interblend so harmoniously, that he who runs may read and find a certain refuge in every time of trouble.
“If you wish to trace the impotence of any ministry to man offered through a nature in any way differing from his own, you may find material for doing so in the dogma of the modern church, concerning the so-called procreation and birth of Christ. The monstrous postulate bristles with contradictions from the first thought of it, and when two thousand years of human intellect have been employed in an attempt to adapt it to the common need, nothing has been attained but a confusion worse confounded from which reason and intelligence turns away in weary disappointment.
“That is the reason why the direct ministry of angels has not taken the place of prophecy.”
“Tell me,” I exclaimed with eager impatience, since he had at length broken silence concerning that name, which is above every name, “tell me—for here lies the goal of all my inquiry—how would you read and interpret that one great mystery of the ages: the personality and the nature of the Christ? If angels in their nature stand so far apart from man, surely He must be immeasurable—unapproachably more so!”
“Let me first of all disabuse your mind of one idea you are in danger of confusing: there are no angels but those who have entered upon the estate through the portal of humanity. Jacob’s vision of the ladder gives the natural order in the generation of angels he saw them ‘ascending and descending’. Until they have reached the condition they cannot be employed in the ministry. When the earth grasps this fact, then direct angelic interposition will be more effective.
“But it is the idea of the loneliness and isolation of the Christ I am more particularly concerned with for the moment. That He has been forced into this false position I have already admitted, and the natural effect of it is the impotence of the religion called by His Omnipotent Name. But the Christ who consents to be thus disposed of is only an ecclesiastical lay figure, from which I would turn your eyes to a contemplation of the living Christ—the Christ of God.
“In Him we find no desire for separateness or isolation, but rather a Good Shepherd, living among or walking at the head of His flock, carefully considering all who are frail or weak, and nestling the young tenderly in His bosom. If one should by any inadvertence or temptation go astray, He will go after it until He find it, because, saith He, ‘this is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing.’ In the execution of this command He identifies Himself so closely with the members of His charge that to touch one of them is to touch Himself. Never was a closer or more ideal and farreaching union conceived than He contemplated. Hear Him as He supplicates Heaven in their behalf: ‘Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me. And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one: I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me.’ Is there any wish or thought of isolation here? I will grant that of necessity, for the time, He was the only begotten Son of the Father, but the position was only a temporary one, such as must naturally fall to the lot of ‘the first-born among many brethren’, all of whom are to be joint heirs in the common heritage.
“But enough of these disclaimers of error. Let us rather proceed to a consideration of what is true in relation to Him. And in order that we may not miss His direct descent from the line of prophets who had preceded Him, let me recall how far we had traced the development of the cult. Our last personal notice of it was where Samuel assured the newly-anointed king Saul that as he proceeded homewards, at a certain place the spirit of the Lord would come upon him and change him into another man, thus divinely initiating him into the school of the prophets. From this incident the stream of inspiration runs on with but slight variation for something like a thousand years before we find the majestic figure of John the Baptist, overshadowed and controlled by the spirit of Elijah, preaching in the wilderness and announcing the speedy coming of the Christ.”
“Was John a reincarnation of Elijah?” I inquired, glad to be able to receive some authoritative statement on this vexed and difficult problem.
“No! The theory of reincarnation is one of the devices invented by priests to terrify men and women into subjection; it could not possibly be introduced into the natural order of existence without reducing the whole system to chaos. Besides which it has neither use nor purpose; all that it is supposed to effect is far more orderly and expeditiously accomplished by a process more consistent with love and righteousness. John was a prophet upon whom the spirit of the Lord was able to descend, turning him another into man, and speaking the word of the Lord to the assembled thousands who were drawn by the strange magnetic attraction of the mysterious preacher, and the spirit who inspired the utterance was the aforetime prophet Elijah. Hence, the Christ in speaking of him said: ‘Elias has come already, and they knew him not’; but when John was asked, ‘Art thou Elias?’ he answered with equal truth, ‘I am not’. There is no contradiction here; Christ, speaking not so much of the man as of the mission, lost sight of the instrument in His exaltation of the power behind—forgot the flesh in His recognition of the divinely commissioned herald who overshadowed and controlled it, and therefore acknowledged the presence of the great Hebrew prophet. But John, when his preaching was over and the controlling spirit had withdrawn, being asked whether he was Elias, with equal truth answered, ‘I am not!’ The incident is full of pregnant suggestion when thus considered, but from every other point casts a shadow of reflection upon the veracity of one or other of the two great personalities. Again, John was the forerunner of the Christ, sent to prepare the way for Him, and the beautiful significance of the office is entirely lost unless this purely prophetic interpretation is admitted, as you will presently see before I have finished speaking of the greater than John.”
“Yes! I am anxious to hear what you will say of Him,” I cried with eager impatience.
“There are many questions I feel prompted to discuss by way of introduction to this pre-eminently unique figure in the world’s history,” he began with slow and calm deliberation, strangely in contrast to my own excitement. “But I will pass by the whole of them, lest I should draw your mind from the central and all-important issue for the moment. Collateral questions may be afterwards considered, but for the present we shall find enough to occupy all our attention in finding out the true relationship of Jesus the Christ to humanity and to God. This I now propose to do. And perhaps the most favourable moment for us to make the acquaintance of the Nazarene will be to find Him among the multitude hanging upon the discourse of John, who acknowledged that he saw Jesus but knew Him not.”
“Was not that very strange?” I inquired.
“No, and I will show you why. The explanation will be of personal service to yourself before you have proceeded very far in your own ministry. God has wisely ordained that all actively engaged in any mission may not be able to see what its final result will be. While we are at work our certainty of success must be of faith springing from God’s blessing resting upon our wholehearted endeavour. If we could already see onward to the result of our labour it might tend to negligence, and the Father will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able to bear, hence He drops the veil, and leaves us to feel that the responsibility of success rests upon our own shoulders. Had John recognized Jesus as the Messiah he might have relaxed his efforts before he had finished his work, therefore his eyes were holden until the hour had arrived for the revelation to be made.”
“But the two were cousins, and the circumstances of the birth and early life of Jesus, with the angelic announcement of who and what He was, must have been familiar to John.”
“Your conclusion is a perfectly natural one from the aspect in which you regard it, and makes John’s failure to recognize his cousin to be a mystery calling for some satisfactory explanation. But I do not desire to follow our inquiry along ecclesiastical lines, but by a more excellent way—recurring again to the declaration of Isaiah—where ‘the wayfaring man, though a fool, may not err therein.’ If you will accept my assurance and follow where I will lead, leaving all your old difficulties unanswered for the time, you will presently see that the whole of them are only spectres and creatures of the imagination haunting by-paths into which you have illegitimately wandered, at which you will laugh when you reach the light of truth.”
“Your forbearance makes me ashamed of my interruptions, but I will accept your advice and try to listen to your instructions without further question.”
“We must necessarily move with caution, that you may clearly grasp my meaning, and your inquiries are only to be expected. I have travelled this way too frequently not to know that these questions will arise, and for that reason I determined to avoid everything tending to multiply them.
“In taking our next step perhaps it will be well to remind ourselves of the mission and aim of prophecy in order that we may have a clear conception of the issue. Its simple object is to prepare mankind for entrance upon the next phase of existence on the most advantageous terms. Much of this, of course, has now been made perfectly clear to you, and you will understand how impossible it would be for earth, without some guidance, to reason its way into the truth, hence the just necessity for the prophetic provision. From the dawn of reason and inquiry man has been face to face with the problem as to whether the hope within of a continuity of existence had any basis of justification. But how was the doubt to be resolved? Who by searching could find it out? The heart yearned for it with a yearning that could not be subdued. The hope had risen spontaneously; was it only a mocking illusion? If in the black beyond there existed a God, why not also a life? So the inquiry gained courage and strength until it rose with the fervour of a helpless race appealing for assistance. In reply to this God threw open a door of revelation in the corridor of sleep and gave free access to the gift of prophecy, with its almost infinite possibilities. If men only understood the true nature and value of this divine response to human need they would stand appalled at the awful magnificence of the forces here placed at their disposal. But the thoughtlessness of man is proverbial: ‘The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.’ Think of the value of a bestowal which enables the imprisoned Joseph to interpret the dream of the butler and baker, then throws open the prison doors and leads the young Hebrew to perform the same office for the king, who raises the slave to be only second to himself in consequence; or of the power by which Elisha in Dothan heard the strategic plans of the distant king of Syria, and was thus able to save his country from the invading foe; or the ease with which Daniel is enabled to make an incursion into the realm of sleep and recover the forgotten dream of Babylon’s monarch! Who among the sons of men have attached the suggestive importance to these matters they legitimately demand? To what extent may this endowment be developed with systematic study and improvement of the conditions by which it operates? It is to this question I am anxious to give you a reply in leading you to the Christ.
“I must not forget, however, that the Jews failed to recognize Him because of their mistaken conceptions as to the position He would occupy. To save you from this mistake let us remind ourselves what we may reasonably expect to find when we see Him, and what it will be His mission to accomplish.
“He will be ‘God manifest in the flesh.’ But I would here caution you to be careful against applying theological or dogmatic interpretation to this or any other quotation I may now use. Christ is not God, but He is all the power of God necessary for the occasion made manifest through the flesh. He is the ambassador of the King speaking through the interpreter necessary to bring monarch and subject into intelligent communication. He is a commissioned servant, and always places himself personally on the level of the servant, assuming union with God only by virtue of His official capacity, where He is always careful to draw the distinction between ‘My Father and I,’ for ‘My Father is greater than I’ We have not in Jesus an example of God emptying Himself in order to assume a lower nature, but rather a prophet of an advanced type offering a body prepared for the in-dwelling of the Christ who is the highest manifestation of the divine the flesh can receive. The real phenomenon, therefore, is the elevation of humanity into the region of divinity as an example of the possibility of spiritual evolution; it is the intersphering of the two conditions of adjacent life, where, like a rising tide, the flood reaches further and further inland until it lifts and floats the stranded craft and silently woos it away and carries it out to sea.
“This indispensable development had from the first been seen and understood by us from the spiritual side, who through the prophets had pointed to its coming.
“Then Jesus was born. The child of a holy woman’s prayers, accepted from the first conscious probability of His advent as a gift from God to be sacredly set aside for the service of that God, and through the months of His tarrying saturated and psychologized with the holy aspirations of her who was giving him life and predisposition of character. He stands yet as the highest type of what a mother may produce in her offspring. A man may boast of his intellectual power, but it is a woman only that has ability to build a living temple in which God may incarnate a holy spirit. Heaven indeed sang songs of welcome when it beheld Him come, and joining efforts with the mother hedged Him round about in preparation for the work He was destined to perform.
“He was born a prophet. Throughout childhood and youth the inspiration of the spiritual life played visibly upon Him, as when in Jerusalem the Rabbis and teachers marvelled at His knowledge and wisdom. No wonder that all His sympathies rushed towards the Baptist when His wonderful mission commenced. No wonder He hung spellbound upon the preacher’s words. How His heart as stirred as He listened to the appeal to righteousness of life and self-surrender to a diviner service than the ceremonial observance of the Temple, until the contemplation passed to open vision, in the glory of which He trembled while He gazed with speechless awe. He saw His race hopelessly fighting against the powers of the darkness which filled the valley of the shadow of death, heard the multitudinous and agonized cry for help where there was none to save; from the underworld the cry of the slain came like a thunderous peal shaking earth and Heaven: ‘Send, send!’ Turning His eyes Heavenward, He saw its hosts stand ready but helpless for lack of a prophet who might be clothed upon and become a leader mighty to save. Prostrate before the blinding glory that enveloped the throne He beheld the type of a redeemed humanity pleading for aid ‘with groanings which cannot be uttered,’ and from the invisible He heard the troubled inquiry, ‘Whom shall I send?’
“Then the soul of the Nazarene leaped upward towards its God, and in a courageous holy consecration flung itself beside the supplicant and cried, ‘Here am I, send Me—send Me! and in and through Me, at whatever cost, let Thy will be done on earth as it is done in Heaven.’
“We know what followed. When that consecration was ratified in presence of earth, hell and Heaven at His baptism, ‘the heavens opened unto Him, and He saw the spirit of God descending like a dove, and resting upon Him; and lo, a voice from Heaven saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!’
“Such was the order of that first second-birth to which the Christ afterwards called the world—a birth in which Jesus the prophet of Nazareth became Jesus the Christ of God.”
“Why have I not known it in this light before?” I asked, as soon as my astonishment would allow me to speak.
“Because, as I have told you, like all the children of men, you have been following the footsteps of blind dogmatic guides, who have missed the path and fallen into the ditch.”