Annie Besant - Esoteric Christianity

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ESOTERIC CHRISTIANITY or THE LESSER MYSTERIES by ANNIE BESANT (Third Impression) The Theosophical Publishing House Adyar, Chennai (Madras), India, Reprinted 1914 In proceeding to the contemplation of the mysteries of knowledge, we shall adhere to the celebrated and venerable rule of tradition, commencing from the origin of the universe, setting forth those points of physical contemplation which are necessary to be premised, and removing whatever can be an obstacle on the way;
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  ESOTERIC CHRISTIANITY   or   THE LESSER MYSTERIES   by ANNIE BESANT   (Third Impression)   The Theosophical Publishing House   Adyar, Chennai (Madras), India,   Reprinted 1914   In proceeding to the contemplation of the mysteries of knowledge, we shall adhere to the celebrated and venerable rule of tradition, commencing from the srcin of the universe, setting forth those points of physical contemplation which are necessary to be premised, and removin g whatever can be an obstacle on the way; so that the ear may be prepared for the reception of the tradition of the Gnosis, the ground being cleared of weeds and fitted for the planting of the vineyard; for there is a conflict before the conflict, and myst eries before the mysteries.  —  S.Clement of Alexandria.   Let the specimen suffice to those who have ears. For it is not required to unfold the mystery, but only to indicate what is sufficient.  — S. Clement of Alexandria.  He that hath ears to hear, let him he ar.  — S. Matthew.   FOREWORD   The object of this book is to suggest certain lines of thought as to the deep truths underlying Christianity, truths generally overlooked, and only too often denied. The generous wish to share with all what is precious, to spre ad broadcast priceless truths, to shut out none from the illumination of true knowledge, has resulted in a zeal without discretion that has vulgarised Christianity, and has presented its teachings in a form that often repels the heart and alienates the int ellect. The command to preach the Gospel to every creature [ S.Mark, xvi, 15] -  though admittedly of doubtful authenticity -  has been interpreted as forbidding the teaching of the Gnosis to a few, and has apparently erased the  less popular saying of the same Great Teacher: Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine . [S. Matt., vii,6] This spurious sentimentality  —  which refuses to recognise the obvious inequalities of intelligence and morality, and thereby re duces the teaching of the highly developed to the level attainable by the least evolved, sacrificing the higher to the lower in a way that injures both  —  had no place in the virile common sense of the early Christians. S. Clement of Alexandria says quite b luntly, after alluding to the Mysteries: Even now I fear, as it is said, 'to cast the pearls before swine, lest they tread them underfoot, and turn and rend us'. For it is difficult to exhibit the really pure and transparent words respecting the true Ligh t to swinish and untrained hearers . [Clarke's Ante - Nicene Christian Library, Vol. IV. Clement of Alexandria. Stromata  , bk. I, ch. xii. ]  If true knowledge, the Gnosis, is again to form a part of Christian teachings, it can only be under the old restricti ons, and the idea of levelling down to the capacities of the least developed must be definitely surrendered. Only by teaching above the grasp of the little evolved can the way be opened up for a restoration of arcane knowledge, and the study of the Lesser Mysteries must precede that of the Greater. The Greater will never be published through the printing - press; they can only be given by Teacher to pupil, from mouth to ear . But the Lesser Mysteries the partial unveiling of deep truths, can even now be restored, and such a volume as the present is intended to outline these, and to show the nature   of the teachings which have to be mastered. Where only hints are given, quiet meditation on the truths hinted at will cause their outlines to become visible, and t he clearer light obtained by continued meditation will gradually show them more fully. For meditation quiets the lower mind, ever engaged in thinking about external objects, and when the lower mind is tranquil then only can it be illuminated by the Spirit. Knowledge of spiritual truths must be thus obtained, from within and not from without, from the divine Spirit whose temple we are [I. Cor., iii., 16. ] and not from an external Teacher. These things are spiritually discerned by that divine indwelling Sp irit, that mind of Christ , whereof speaks the great Apostle [ Ibid  ., ii., 14, 16. ] and that inner light is shed upon the lower mind.   This is the way of the Divine Wisdom, the true THEOSOPHY . It is not, as some think, a diluted version of Hinduism, or Bu ddhism, or Taoism, or of any special religion. It is Esoteric Christianity as truly as it is Esoteric Buddhism, and belongs equally to all religions, exclusively to none. This is the source of the suggestions made in this little volume, for the helping of those who seek the Light  —  that true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world , [ S.John, 1,9] though most have not yet opened their eyes to it. It does not bring the Light. It only says:  Behold the Light! For thus have we heard. It app eals only to the few who hunger for more than the exoteric teachings give them. For those who are fully satisfied with the exoteric teachings, it is not intended; for why should bread be forced on those who are not hungry ? For those who hunger, may it pro ve bread, and not a stone.   CONTENTS   PageForewordChapter -1- The hidden side of Religions  1 Chapter -2- The hidden side of Christianity 31 Chapter -3- The hidden side of Christianity (concluded) 59 Chapter -4- The historical Christ 103 Chapter -5- The mythic Christ 125 Chapter -6- The mythic Christ (concluded) 147 Chapter -7- The Atonement 166 Chapter -8- Resurrection and Ascension 199 Chapter -9- The Trinity 218Chapter - 10 - Prayer238Chapter - 11 - The forgiveness of sins 259Chapter - 12 - Sacraments 279Chapter - 13 - Sacraments (continued) 298Chapter - 14 - Revelation 318 Afterword 333 Index 335 CHAPTER 1  THE HIDDEN SIDE OF RELIGIONS  [Page 1] MANY, perhaps most, who see the title of this book will at once traverse it, and will deny that there is anything valuable which can be rightly described as Esoteric Christianity . There is a wide - spread, and withal a popular, idea that there is no such thing as an occult teaching in connection with Christianity, and that The Mysteries , whether Lesser or Greater, were a purely Pagan institution. The very name of The Mysteries of J esus , so familiar in the ears of the Christians of the first centuries, would come with a shock of surprise on those of their modern successors, and, if spoken as denoting a special and definite  institution in the Early [Page 2]  Church, would cause a smil e of incredulity. It has actually been made a matter of boast that Christianity has no secrets, that whatever it has to say it says to all, and whatever it has to teach it teaches to all. Its truths are supposed to be so simple, that a way - faring man, tho ugh a fool, may not err therein , and the simple Gospel has become a stock phrase.   It is necessary, therefore, to prove clearly that in the Early Church, at least, Christianity was no whit behind other great religions in possessing a hidden side, and th at it guarded, as a priceless treasure, the secrets revealed only to a select few in its Mysteries. But ere doing this it will be well to consider the whole question of this hidden side of religions, and to see why such a side must exist if a religion is t o be strong and stable; for thus its existence in Christianity will appear as a foregone conclusion, and the references to it in the writings of the Christian Fathers will appear simple and natural instead of surprising and unintelligible. As a historical fact, the existence of this esotericism is demonstrable; but it may also be shown that intellectually it is a necessity.   The first question we have to answer is: What is the object of religions? They are given to [Page 3]  the world by men wiser than the m asses of the people on whom they are bestowed, and are intended to quicken human evolution. In order to do this effectively they must reach individuals and influence them. Now all men are not at the same level of evolution, but evolution might be figured as a rising gradient, with men stationed on it at every point. The most highly evolved are far above the least evolved, both in intelligence and character; the capacity alike to understand and to act varies at every stage. It is, therefore, useless to give to all the same religious teaching; that which would help the intellectual man would be entirely unintelligible to the stupid, while that which would throw the saint into ecstasy would leave the criminal untouched. If, on the other hand, the teaching be su itable to help the unintelligent, it is intolerably crude and jejune to the philosopher, while that which redeems the criminal is utterly useless to the saint. Yet all the types need religion, so that each may reach upward to a life higher than that which he is leading, and no type or grade should be sacrificed to any other. Religion must be as graduated as evolution, else it fails in its object.   Next comes the question: In what way do religions seek to quicken human evolution? [Page 4]  Religions seek to e volve the moral and intellectual natures, and to aid the spiritual nature to unfold itself. Regarding man as a complex being, they seek to meet him at every point of his constitution, and therefore to bring messages suitable for each, teachings adequate to  the most diverse human needs. Teachings must therefore be adapted to each mind and heart to which they are addressed. If a religion does not reach and master the intelligence, if it does not purify and inspire the emotions, it has failed in its object, so  far as the person addressed is concerned.   Not only does it thus direct itself to the intelligence and the emotions, but it seeks, as said, to stimulate the unfoldment of the spiritual nature. It answers to
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