Thursday, 25 March 2021

The Symbolic, Mystical, Esoteric Meaning of the Resurrection, Part 1/2

(Anna Kingsford, The Perfect Way, Extracts from Lecture 8, 1882)

 7.Although Redemption, as a whole, is one, the process is manifold, and consists in a series of acts, spiritual and mental. Of this series, the part wherein the individual finally surrenders his own exterior will, with all its exclusively material desires and affections, is designated the Passion. And the particular act whereby this surrender is consummated and demonstrated is called the Crucifixion. This crucifixion means a complete, unreserving surrender, – to the death, if need be, – without opposition, even in desire, on the part of the natural man. Without these steps is no atonement. The man cannot become one with the Spirit within him, until by his “Passion” and “Crucifixion,” he has utterly vanquished the “Old Adam” of his former self. Through the atonement made by means of this self-sacrifice he becomes as one without sin, being no more liable to sin; and is qualified to enter, as his own high-priest, into the holy of holies of his own innermost. For thus he has become of those who, being pure in heart alone can face God. 

8. The “Passion” and “Crucifixion” have their immediate sequel in the Death and Burial of the Self thus renounced. And these are followed by the Resurrection and Ascension of the true immortal Man and new spiritual Adam, who by his Resurrection proves himself to be – like the Christ – “virgin-born,” – in that he is the offspring, not of the soul and her traffic with Matter and Sense, but of the soul become “immaculate,” and of her spouse, the Spirit. The Ascension with which the Drama terminates, is that of the whole Man, now regenerate, to his own celestial kingdom within himself, where – made one with the Spirit – he takes his seat for ever “at the right hand of the Father.” 

9. Although the Resurrection of the man regenerate has a twofold relation, in that it sometimes affects the body, the resurrection is not of the body in any sense ordinarily supposed, nor is the body in any way the object of the process. The Man, it is true, has risen from the dead. But it is from the condition of deadness in regard to things spiritual, and from among those who, being in that condition, are said to be “dead in trespasses and sins.” In these two respects, namely, as regards his own past self and the world generally, he has “risen from the dead”; and “death,” of this kind, “has no more dominion over him.” And even if he has redeemed also his body and made of it a risen body, this by no means implies the resuscitation of an actual corpse. In this sense there has been for him no death, and in this sense there is for him no resurrection. It was through misapprehension of the true doctrine, and the consequent expectation of the resurrection of the dead body, that the practice – originally symbolical and special – of embalming the corpse as a mummy, became common, and that interment was substituted for the classic and far more wholesome practice of cremation. In both cases, the object was the delusive one of facilitating a resuscitation at once impossible and undesirable, seeing that if reincarnation be needful, a soul can always obtain for itself a new body. 

10. That which constitutes the Great Work, is, not the resuscitation of the dead body, but the redemption of Spirit from Matter. Until man commits what, mystically, is called idolatry, he has no need of such redemption. So long as he prefers the inner to the outer, and consequently polarizes towards God, the will of his soul is as the Divine Will, and she has, in virtue thereof, power over his body, as God has over the universe. Committing idolatry, by reason of perverse will to the outer, – looking back, and down, that is, and preferring the form to the substance, the appearance to the reality, the phenomenon to the idea, the “city of the Plain” to the “mount of the Lord,” – she loses this power, and becomes, as already said, a “pillar of Salt,” fixed and material. Thus does Man become “naked,” for he has brought his soul to degradation and shame and profaned the temple of the Spirit. He has eaten of the “Forbidden Fruit” of  Sense; “Paradise” is his no longer; and only by “Redemption” can he regain it.  (Lecture 8 Part 1, 7-10)


Part 2 - 11. IN order to obtain an adequate conception of the vastness of the interval between the condition of man “fallen” and man “redeemed,” it will be necessary to speak yet more particularly of the Man perfected and having power. Thus contrasted the heights and depths of humanity will appear in their true extent. It is but a sketch, comparatively slight, which can here be given of what they must endure, who, for love of God, desire God, and who, by love of God, finally attain to and become God; and who, becoming God without ceasing to be man, become God-Man, – God manifest in the flesh, – at once God and Man. The course to this end is one and the same for all, whenever, wherever, and by whomsoever followed. For perfection is one, and all seekers after it must follow the same road. The reward and the means towards it, are also one. For “the Gift of God is eternal Life.” And it is by means of God, – the Divine Spirit working within him, to build him up in the Divine Image, – he, meanwhile co-operating with the Spirit, – that man achieves Divinity. In the familiar, but rarely understood terms, “Philosopher’s Stone,” “Elixir of Life,” “universal Medicine,” “Holy Grail,” and the like, is implied this supreme object of all quest. For these are but terms to denote pure Spirit, and its essential correlative, a Will absolutely firm and inaccessible alike to weakness from within and assault from without. Without measure of this Spirit is no understanding – and therefore no interpretation – of the Sacred Mysteries of existence. Spiritual themselves, they can be comprehended only by those who have, nay, rather, who are Spirit; for God is Spirit, and they who worship God must worship in the Spirit. 

12. The attainment in himself of a pure and Divine Spirit, is, therefore the first object and last achievement of him who seeks to realize the loftiest ideal of which humanity is capable. He who does this, is not an “Adept” merely. The “Adept” covets power in order to save himself only; and knowledge is him thing apart from love. Love saves others as well as oneself. And it is love that distinguishes the Christ; – a truth implied, among other ways, in the name and character assigned in mystic legends, to the favourite disciple of the Christs. To Krishna, his Arjun; to Buddha, his Ananda; to Jesus, his John; – all terms identical in meaning, and denoting the feminine and tender moiety of the Divine Nature. He therefore, and he alone who possesses this spirit in quality and quantity without measure, has, and is, “Christ.” He is God’s anointed, suffused and brimming with the Spirit, and having in virtue thereof the power of the “Dissolvent” and of “Transmutation,” in respect of the whole man. Herein lay the grand secret of that philosophy which made “Hermes” to be accounted the “trainer of the Christs.” Known as the Kabalistic philosophy, it was a philosophy – or rather a science – based upon the recognition in Nature of an universal Substance, which man can find and “effect,” and in virtue of which he contains within himself the seed of his own regeneration, a seed of which – duly cultured – the fruit is God, because the seed itself also is God. Wherefore the “Hermetic science” is the science of God. 

13. “Christ,” then, is, primarily, not a person, but a process, a doctrine, a system of life and thought, by the observance of which man becomes purified from Matter, and transmuted into Spirit. And he is Christ who, in virtue of his observance of this process to its utmost extent while yet in the body, constitutes a full manifestation of the qualities of Spirit. Thus manifested, he is said to “destroy the works of the devil,” for he destroys that which gives pre-eminence to Matter, and so re-establishes the kingdom of Spirit, that is, of God.  

14. This, the interior part of the process of the Christ is the essential part. Whether first or last, the spiritual being must be perfected. Without this interior perfection, nothing that is done in the body, or exterior man only is of any avail, save, in so far as it may minister to the essential end. The body is but an instrument, existing for the use and sake of the soul and not for itself. And it is for the soul, and not for itself, that it must be perfected. Being but an instrument, the body cannot be an end. That which makes the body an end, ends with the body and the end of the body is corruption. Whatever is given to the body is taken from the Spirit. From this it will be seen what is the true value of Asceticism. Divested of its rational and spiritual motive, self-denial is worthless. Rather is it worse than worthless; it is materialistic and idolatrous; and, being in this aspect a churlish refusal of God’s good gifts it impugns the bounteousness of the Divine nature. The aim of all endeavor should be to bring the body into subjection to, and harmony with, the spirit, by refining and subliming it, and so heightening its powers as to make it sensitive and responsive to all the motions of the Spirit. This it can be only when, deriving its sustenance from substances the purest and most highly solarized, such as the vegetable kingdom alone affords, it suffers all its molecules to become polarized in one and the same direction, and this the direction of the central Will of the system, the “Lord God of Hosts” of the Microcosmic Man – Whose mystic name is Adonai.  

15. The reason of this becomes obvious when it is understood that the Christs are, above all things, Media. But this not as ordinarily supposed, even by many who are devoted students of spiritual science. For, so far from suffering his own vivifying spirit to step aside in order that another may enter, the Christ is one who so develops, purifies, and in every way perfects his spirit, as to assimilate and make it one with the universal Spirit, the God of the Macrocosm, so that the God without and the God within may freely combine and mingle, making the universal the individual, the individual the universal. Thus inspired and filled with God, the soul kindles into flame; and God, identified with the man, speaks through him, making the man utter himself in the name of God. 

16. It is in his office and character as Christ, and not in his own human individuality, that the Man Regenerate proclaims himself “the way, the truth, and the life,” “the door,” and the like. For, in being, as has been said, the connecting link between the creature and God, the Christ truly represents the door or gate through which all ascending souls must pass to union with the Divine; and save through which “no man cometh unto the Father.” It is not, therefore, in virtue of an extraneous, obsessing spirit that the Christ can be termed a “Medium,” but in virtue of the spirit itself of the man, become Divine by means of that inward purification by the life or “blood” of God, which is the secret of the Christs, and “doubled” by union with the parent Spirit of all, – the “Father” of all spirits. This Spirit it is Whom the typical Regenerate Man of the Gospels is represented as calling the “Father.” It is the Unmanifest God, of Whom the Christ is the full manifestation. 

17. Hence he disavows for himself the authorship of his utterances, and says, “The words which I speak unto you I speak not of myself. The Father which dwelleth in me, He doeth the works.” The Christ is, thus, a clear glass through which the divine glory shines. As it is written of Jesus, “And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Now, this “Only Begotten” is not mortal man at all, but He Who from all eternity has been in the bosom of the Father, namely, the Word or Logos, the Speaker, the Maker, the Manifestor, He Whose mystic name, as already said, is Adonai, and of whom Christ is the counterpart. 

18. To attain to the perfection of the Christ, – to polarize, that is, the Divine Spirit without measure, and to  become a “Man of Power” and a Medium for the Highest, – though open potentially to all, – is, actually and in the present, open, if to any, but to few. And these are, necessarily, they only who, having passed through many transmigrations and advanced far on their way towards maturity, have sedulously turned their lives to the best account by means of the steadfast development of all the higher faculties and qualities of man; and who, while not declining the experiences of the body, have made the spirit, and not the body, their object and aim. Aspiring to the redemption in himself of each plane of man’s fourfold nature, the candidate for Christhood submits himself to discipline and training the most severe, at one physical, intellectual, moral, and spiritual, and rejects as valueless or pernicious whatever would fail to minister to his one end, deeming no task too onerous, no sacrifice too painful, so that he be spiritually advanced thereby. And how varied soever the means, there is one rule to which he remains constant throughout, the rule, namely, of love. The Christ he seeks is the pathway to God; and to fail, in the least degree in respect of love, would be to put himself back in his journey. The sacrifices, therefore, in the incense of which his soul ascends, are those of his own lower nature to his own higher, and of himself for others. And life itself, it seems to him, would be too dearly bought, if purchased at the expense of another, however little or mean, – unless, indeed, of a kind irremediably noxious, whose extinction would benefit the world. For, – be it remembered, – though always Saviour, the Christ is sometimes also Purifier, as were all his types, the Heroes, – or Men Regenerate, – of classic story. Enacting, thus, when necessary the executioner’s part, he slays for no self-gratification, but “in the name of the Lord.” 

19. They who have trod this path of old have been many, and their deeds have formed the theme of mystical legends innumerable. Epitomizing these, we find that the chief qualifications are as follows: – In order to gain “Power and the Resurrection,” a man must, first of all, be a Hierarch. This is to say, he must have attained the magical age of thirty-three years, having been, in the mystic sense of the terms, immaculately conceived, and born of a king’s daughter; baptized with water and with fire; tempted in the wilderness, crucified and buried, having borne five wounds on the cross. He must, moreover, have answered the riddle of the Sphinx. To attain the requisite age, he must have accomplished the Twelve Labors symbolized in those of Heracles, and in the signs of the Zodiac; passed within the Twelve Gates of Holy City of his own regenerate nature; overcome the five Senses; and obtained dominion over the Four Elements. Achieving all that is implied in these terms, “his warfare is accomplished,” he is free of Matter, and will never again have a phenomenal body. 

20. He who shall attain to this perfection must be one who is without fear and without desire, save towards God; who has courage to be absolutely poor and absolutely chaste; to whom it is all one whether he have money or whether he have none, whether he have house and lands or whether he be homeless, whether he have worldly reputation or whether he be an outcast. Thus is he voluntarily poor, and of the spirit of those of whom it is said that they inherit the kingdom of heaven. It is not necessary that he has nothing; it is necessary only that he care for nothing. Against attacks and influences of whatever kind, and coming from whatever quarter without his own soul’s kingdom, he must impregnably steel himself. If misfortune be his, he must make it his fortune; if poverty, he must make it his riches; if loss, his gain; if sickness, his health; if pain, his pleasure. Evil report must be to him good report; and he must be able to rejoice when all men speak ill of him. Even death itself he must account as life. Only when he has attained this equilibrium is he “Free.” Meanwhile he makes Abstinence, Prayer, Meditation, Watchfulness and Self-restraint to be the decades of his Rosary. And knowing that nothing is gained without toil, or won without suffering, he acts ever on the principle that to labor is to pray, to ask is to receive, to knock is to have the door open, and so strives accordingly.  

21. To gain power over Death, there must be self-denial and governance. Such is the “Excellent Way,” though it be the Via Dolorosa. He only can follow it who accounts the Resurrection worth the Passion, the Kingdom worth the Obedience, the Power worth the Suffering. And he, and he only, does not hesitate, whose time has come. 

22. The last of the “Twelve Labors of Heracles “ is the conquest of the three-headed dog, Cerberus. For by this is denoted the final victory over the body with its three (true) senses. When this is accomplished, the process of ordeal is no longer necessary. The Initiate is under a vow. The Hierarch is free. He has undergone all his ordeals, and has freed his will. For the object of the Trial and the Vow is Polarization. When the Fixed is Volatilized, the Magian is Free. Before this, he is “subject.” 

23. The man who seeks to be a Hierarch must not dwell in cities. He may begin his initiation in a city, but he cannot complete it there. For he must not breathe dead and burnt air, – air, that is, the vitality of which is quenched. He must be a wanderer, a dweller in the plain and the garden and the mountains. He must commune with the starry heavens, and maintain direct contact with the great electric currents of living air and with the unpaved grass and earth of the planet, going barefoot and oft bathing his feet. It is in unfrequented places, in lands such as are mystically called the “East,” where the abominations of “Babylon” are unknown, and where the magnetic chain between earth and heaven is strong, that the man who seeks Power, and who would achieve the “Great Work,” must accomplish his initiation. (8, 2, 11-23)

Part 2

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