By Yogi Ramacharaka
When Jesus reached his native land, after the years of travel in India, Persia and Egypt, he is believed by the occultists to have spent at least one year among the various lodges and retreats of the Essenes. By reference to the first lesson of this series you will see who and what was this great mystic organization—the Essenic Brotherhood. While resting and studying in their retreats His attention was diverted to the work of Johannen—John the Baptist—and He saw there an opening wedge for the great work that He felt called upon to do among His own people. Dreams of converting His own race—the Jews—to His conception of Truth and Life, crept over Him, and he determined to make this work His great life task.
The feeling of race is hard to overcome and eradicate, and Jesus felt that, after all, here He was at last, at home, among His own people, and the ties of blood and race reasserted themselves. He put aside His previous thoughts of a world-wandering life, and decided to plant the standard of the Truth in Israel, so that from the capital of the Chosen People the Light of the Spirit might shine forth to all the world. It was Jesus the man—Jesus the Jew—that made this choice. From the broader, higher point of view He had no race; no country; no people;--but His man nature was too strong, and in yielding to it he sowed the seeds for His final undoing.
Had he merely passed through Judea as a traveling missionary, as had done many others before Him, he would have escaped the punishment of the government. Although He would have aroused the hatred and opposition of the priests, He would have not laid Himself open to the charge of wishing to become the King of the Jews, or the Jewish Messiah, come to resume the throne of David, His forefather. But it avails us nought to indulge in speculations of this kind, for who knows what part Destiny or Fate plays in the Great Universal plan—who knows where Free-Will terminates and Destiny moves the pieces on the board, that the Great Game of Universal Life be played according to the plan?
While among the Essenes, as we have said, Jesus first heard of John, and determined to use the ministry of the latter as an opening wedge for His own great work. He communicated to the Essenic Fathers His determination to travel to John’s field of work later on, and the Fathers sent word of this to John. The legends have it that John did not know who was coming, being merely informed that a great Master from foreign parts would join him later on, and that he, John, should prepare the people for his coming.
And John followed these instructions from his superiors in the Essenic Brotherhood to the letter, as you will see by reference to our first lesson, and to the New Testament. He preached repentance; righteousness; the Essenic rite of Baptism; and above all the Coming of the Master. He bade his hearers repent—“repent ye! for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”!--“repent ye! for the Master cometh!” cried he in forceful tones.
And when his people gathered around him and asked whether he, John, were not indeed the Master, he answered them, saying, “Nay, I am not He whom thou seekest. After me there cometh one whose sandals I am not worthy to unloose. I baptize thee with water, but He shall baptize thee with the Fire of the Spirit that is within Him!” It was ever and always this exhortation toward fitness for the coming of the Master. John was a true Mystic, who sank his personality in the Work he was called on to do, and who was proud to be but the Forerunner of the Master, of whose coming he had been informed by the Brotherhood.
And, as we have told you in the first lesson, one day there came before him, a young man, of a dignified, calm appearance, gazing upon him with the expressive eyes of the true Mystic. The stranger asked to be baptized, but John, having perceived the occult rank of the stranger by means of the signs and symbols of the Brotherhood, rebelled at the Master receiving baptism at the hands of himself, one far below the occult rank of the stranger. But Jesus, the stranger, said to John, “Suffer it to be,” and stepped into the water to receive the mystic rite again, as a token to the people that He had come as one of them.
And then occurred that strange event, with which you are familiar, when a dove descended as if from Heaven and rested over the head of the stranger, and a soft voice, even as the sighing of the wind through the trees, was heard, whispering, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” And then the stranger, evidently awed by the strange message from the Beyond, passed away from the multitude, and bent his way toward the wilderness, as if in need of a retreat in which he could meditate over the events of the day, and regarding the work which He could now dimly see stretching its way before Him.
The average student of the New Testament passes over the event of Jesus in the Wilderness, with little or no emotion, regarding it as a mere incident in His early career. Not so with the mystic or occultist, who knows, from the teachings of his order, that in the Wilderness Jesus was subjected to a severe occult test, designed to develop His power, and test His endurance. In fact, as every advanced member of any of the great occult orders knows, the occult degree known as “The Ordeal of the Wilderness” is based upon this mystic experience of Jesus, and is intended to symbolize the tests to which He was subjected. Let us consider this event so fraught with meaning and importance to all true occultists.
The Wilderness toward which Jesus diverted His steps, lay afar off from the river in which the rites of Baptism had been performed. Leaving behind him the fertile banks, and acres, of cultivated land, He approached the terrible Wilderness which even the natives of that part of the country regarded with superstitious horror. It was one of the weirdest and dreariest spots in even that weird and dreary portion of the country. The Jews called it “The Abode of Horror”; “The Desolate Place of Terror”; “The Appalling Region”; and other names suggestive of the superstitious dread which it inspired in their hearts. The Mystery of the Desert Places hung heavy over this place, and none but the stoutest hearts ventured within its precincts. Though akin to the desert, the place abounded in dreary and forbidding hills, crags, ridges and canyons. Those of our readers who have ever traveled across the American continent and have seen some of the desolate places of the American Desert, and who have read of the terrors of Death Valley, or the Alkali Lands, may form an idea of the nature of this Wilderness toward which the Master was traveling.
All normal vegetation gradually disappeared as He pressed further and further into this terrible place, until naught remained but the scraggy vegetation peculiar to these waste places—those forms of plant life that in their struggle for existence had managed to survive under such adverse conditions as to give the naturalist the impression that the very laws of natural plant life have been defied and overcome.
Little by little the teeming animal life of the lower lands disappeared, until at last no signs of such life remained, other than the soaring vultures overhead and the occasional serpent and crawling things under foot. The silence of the waste places was upon the traveler, brooding heavily over Him and all around the places upon which He set His foot, descending more heavily upon Him each moment of His advance.
Then came a momentary break in the frightful scene. He passed through the last inhabited spot in the approach to the heart of the Wilderness—the tiny village of Engedi, where were located the ancient limestone reservoirs of water which supplied the lower regions of the territory. The few inhabitants of this remote outpost of primitive civilization gazed in wonder and awe at the lonely figure passing them with unseeing eyes and with gaze seemingly able to pierce the forbidding hills which loomed up in the distance hiding lonely recesses into which the foot of man had never trodden, even the boldest of the desert people being deterred from a visit thereto by the weird tales of unholy creatures and unhallowed things, which made these places the scene of their uncanny meetings and diabolical orgies.
On, and on, pressed the Master, giving but slight heed to the desolate scene which now showed naught but gloomy hills, dark canyons, and bare rocks, relieved only by the occasional bunches of stringy desert grass and weird forms of cacti bristling with the protective spines which is their armor against their enemies.
At last the wanderer reached the summit of one of the higher foot-hills and gazed at the scene spreading itself before Him. And that scene was one that would have affrighted the heart of an ordinary man. Behind Him was the country through which He had passed, which though black and discouraging was as a paradise to the country which lay ahead of Him. There below and behind Him were the caves and rude dwellings of the outlaws and fugitives from justice who had sought the doubtful advantage of security from the laws of man. And far away in the distance were the scenes of John the Baptist’s ministry, where He could see in imagination the multitude discussing the advent of the strange Master, who had been vouched for by the Voice, but who had stolen swiftly away from the scene, and had fled the crowds who would have gladly worshipped Him as a Master and have obeyed His slightest command.
Then as the darkness of the succeeding nights fell upon Him, He would sleep on some wild mountain cliff, on the edge of some mighty precipice, the sides of which dropped down a thousand feet or more. But these things disturbed Him not. On and on He pressed at the appearance of each dawn. Without food He boldly moved forward to the Heart of the Hills, where the Spirit guided Him to the scene of some great spiritual struggle which he intuitively knew lay before Him.
The Words of the Voice haunted Him still, though He lacked a full understanding of them, for He had not yet unfolded the utmost recesses of His Spiritual Mind. “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”—what meant these words? And still, no answer came to that cry of His soul which sought in vain for a freeing of that riddle.
And still on and on He pressed, until at last He mounted the steep sides of the barren forbidding mountain of Quarantana, beyond which He felt that His struggle was to begin. No food was to be found—He must fight the battle unaided by the material sustenance that ordinary men find necessary for life and strength. And still He had not received the answer to the cry of His soul. The rocks beneath His feet—the blue sky above His head—the lofty peaks of Moab and Gilead in the distance—gave no answer to the fierce insistent desire for the answer to the Riddle of the Voice. The answer must come from Within, and from Himself only. And in the Heart of the Wilderness He must remain, without food, without shelter, without human companionship, until the Answer came. And as it was with the Master, so is it with the follower—all who attain the point of unfoldment at which the Answer is alone possible, must experience that awful feeling of “aloneness” and spiritual hunger, and frightful remoteness from all that the world values, before the Answer comes from Within—from the Holy of Holies of the Spirit.
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To realize the nature of the spiritual struggle that awaited Jesus in the Wilderness—that struggle that would bring Him face to face with His own soul, we must understand the Jewish longing and expectation of the Messiah. The Messianic traditions had taken a strong hold upon the minds of the Jewish people, and it needed but the spark of a strong personality to set all Israel into a blaze which would burn fiercely and destroy the foreign influences which have smothered the national spirit. The idea of a Messiah springing from the loins of David, and coming to take His rightful place as the King of the Jews, was imbedded in the heart of every Jew worthy of the name. Israel was oppressed by its conquerors, and made subject to a foreign yoke, but when the Messiah would come to deliver Israel, every Jew would arise to drive out the foreign invaders and conquerors—the yoke of Rome would be thrown off, and Israel would once more take its place among the nations of the earth.
Jesus knew full well the fact of this national hope. It had been installed into His mind from childhood. He had pondered over it often during the time of His wanderings and sojourn in foreign lands. The occult legends, however, make no mention of His having ever thought of Himself as the Messiah until he was about to re-enter His own land after His years of foreign study and ministry. It is thought that the idea of His being the long expected Messiah was first suggested by some of the Essenic teachers, when He rested with them for awhile before appearing before John the Baptist. It was pointed out to Him that the marvelous events surrounding His birth indicated that He was a marked individual destined to play an important part in the history of the World. Then why was it not reasonable to believe that that role was to be that of the Messiah come to sit on the throne of His father David, and destined to bring Israel from her now obscure position to once more shine as a bright star in the firmament of nations? Why was it not reasonable that He was to lead the Chosen People to their own?
Jesus began to ponder over these things. He had absolutely no material ambitions for Himself and all His impulses and inclinations were for the life of an occult ascetic. But the idea of a redeemed and regenerated Israel was one calculated to fire the blood of any Jew, even though the element of personal ambition might be lacking in him.
He had always realized that in some way He was different from other men, and that some great work lay ahead of Him, but He had never understood His own nature, nor the work He was to do. And it is not to be wondered that the talk among the Essenes caused Him to ponder carefully over the idea expressed by them. And then the wonderful event of the dove, and the Voice, upon the occasion of His baptism, seemed almost to verify the idea of the Essenes. Was He indeed the long-expected Deliverer of Israel? Surely He must find this out—He must wring the answer from the inmost recesses of His soul. And so, He sought refuge in the Wilderness, intuitively feeling that there amidst the solitude and desolation, He would fight His fight and receive His answer.
He felt that He had come to a most important phase of His life’s work, and the question of “What Am I?” must be settled, once and for all,--then and there. And so He left behind Him the admiring and worshipful crowds of John’s following, and sought the solitude of the waste places of the Wilderness, in which He felt He would come face to face with His own soul, and demand and receive its answer.
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And up in the inmost recesses of the Heart of the Wilderness, Jesus wrestled in spirit with Himself for many days, without food or nourishment, and without shelter. And the struggle was terrific—worthy of such a great soul. First the body’s insistent needs were to be fought and mastered. It is related that the climax of the physical struggle came one day when the Instinctive Mind, which attends to the physical functions, made a desperate and final demand upon Him. It cried aloud for bread with all the force of its nature. It tempted Him with the fact that by His own occult powers He was able to convert the very stones into bread, and it demanded that He work the miracle for His own physical needs—a practice deemed most unworthy by all true occultists and mystics. “Turn this stone into bread, and eat” cried the voice of the Tempter. But Jesus resisted the temptation although He knew that by the power of His concentrated thought He had but first to mentally picture the stone as bread and then will that it be so materialized. The miraculous power which afterward turned water into wine, and which was again used to feed the multitude with the loaves and the fishes, was available to Him at that moment in order to satisfy the cravings of His body, and to break His fast.
None but the advanced occultist who has known what it was to be tempted to use his mysterious powers to satisfy his personal wants, can appreciate the nature of the struggle through which Jesus passed, and from which He emerged victorious. And like the occult Master that He was, He summoned His Inner Forces and beat off the Tempter.
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But a still greater temptation than this arose to try Him to the utmost. He found Himself brought face to face with the idea of Messiahship, and Kingship of the Jews, of which we spoke. Was He the Messiah? And if so, what must be His course of life and action? Was He destined to throw aside the robe and staff of the ascetic, and to don the royal purple and the sceptre? Was He to forsake the role of the spiritual guide and teacher, and to become the King and Ruler over the people of Israel? These were the questions He asked His soul, and for which He demanded an answer.
And the mystic legends tell us that His Spirit answered by showing Him two sets of mental pictures, with the assurance that _He could choose either, at will, and cause it to become realized_.
The first picture showed Him true to His spiritual instincts, and loyal to His mission, but which rendered Him indeed the “Man of Sorrows.” He saw himself continuing to sow the seeds of Truth, which would, centuries after, spring up, blossom and bear fruit to nourish the world, but which would now bring down upon His head the hatred and persecution of those in power and authority. And He saw each successive step, each showing the approach of the end, until at last He saw Himself crowned with thorns and meeting the death of a criminal on the cross, between two base criminals of the lowest classes of men. All this He saw and even His brave heart felt a deadly sickness at the ignominious end of it all—the apparent failure of His earthly mission. But it is related that some of the mighty intelligences which dwell upon the higher planes of existence, gathered around Him, and gave Him words of encouragement and hope and resolve. He found Himself literally in the midst of the Heavenly Host, and receiving the inspiration of its presence.
Then this picture—and the Host of Invisible Helpers—faded away, and the second picture began to appear before the vision of the lonely dweller of the Wilderness. He saw the picture of Himself descending the mountain, and announcing Himself as the Messiah—the King of the Jews—who had come to lead His Chosen People to victory and deliverance. He saw Himself acclaimed as the Promised One of Israel, and the multitude flocking to His banners. He saw Himself at the head of a great conquering army, marching toward Jerusalem. He saw Himself making use of His highly developed occult powers to read the minds of the enemy and thus know their every movement and intention, and the means to overcome them. He saw Himself miraculously arming and feeding His hosts of battle. He saw Himself smiting the enemy with His occult powers and forces. He saw the yoke of Rome being cast off, and its phalanxes fleeing across the borders in terror and disgraceful defeat. He saw Himself mounting the throne of David, His forefather. He saw Himself instituting a reign of the highest type, which would make of Israel the leading nation of the world. He saw Israel’s sphere of influence extending in all directions, until Persia, Egypt, Greece and even the once-feared Rome, become tributary nations. He saw Himself in the triumphant chariot on some great feast day of victory, with Caesar himself tied to the tail of His chariot—a slave to Israel’s King. He saw His royal court outrivaling that of Solomon, and becoming the center of the world. He saw Jerusalem as the capital of the world, and He, Jesus of Nazareth, son of David the King, as its Ruler, its hero, its demi-god. The very apotheosis of human success showed in the picture of Himself and His Beloved Israel in the picture.
And then the Temple was seen to be the Center of the Religious thought of the World. The Religion of the Jews, as modified by His own advanced views, would be the religion of all men. And he would be the favored mouthpiece of the God of Israel. All the dreams of the Hebrew Fathers would be realized in Him, the Messiah of the New Israel whose capital would be Jerusalem, the Queen of the World.
And all this by simply the exercise of his occult powers under the direction of HIS WILL. It is related that accompanying this second picture and attracted by its mighty power, came all the great thought-waves of the world which had been thought by men of all times who thought and acted out the Dreams of Power. These clouds settled down upon Him like a heavy fog, and their vibrations were almost overpowering. And also came the hosts of the disembodied souls of those who while living had sought or gained power. And each strove to beat into His brain the Desire of Power. Never in the history of man have the Powers of Darkness so gathered together for attack upon the mind of a mortal man. Would it have been any wonder had even such a man as Jesus succumbed?
But He did not succumb. Rallying His Inner Force to His rescue He beat back the attacking horde, and by an effort of His Will, He swept both picture and tempters away into oblivion, crying indignantly “Thou darest to tempt even me, thy Lord and Master. Get thee behind me thou Fiends of Darkness”!
And so the Temptation of the Wilderness failed, and Jesus received His answer from His soul, and He descended the mountains, back to the haunts of men—back to the scene of His three years’ labors and suffering, and back to His Death. And He knew full well all that awaited Him there, for had He not seen the First Picture?
Jesus had chosen His career.
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The Master descended from the mountains and forsook the Wilderness for the place in which John and his followers were gathered. Resting for a time, and refreshing Himself with food and drink, He gathered together His energies for His great work.
The followers of John gathered around Him, filled with the idea that He was the Messiah come to lead them to victory and triumph. But He disappointed them by His calm, simple manner, and His disavowal of royal claims. “What seek ye of me?” he asked them, and many, abashed, left His circle and returned to the crowd. But a few humble souls remained and around these few gathered a few more, until at last a little band of faithful students was formed—the first band of Christian disciples. This band was composed almost entirely of fishermen and men of similar humble occupations. There was an absence of people of rank or social position. His people were of the “plain people” which have furnished the recruits for every great religion.
And after a time, Jesus moved away from the place, followed by His band of disciples, which drew new members from each place of gathering. Some stayed but for a short time, while others replaced the faint hearted ones of little faith. But the band steadily grew, until it began to attract the attention of the authorities and the public. Jesus constantly disclaimed being the Messiah, but the report that such indeed He was, began to spread and the authorities began that system of spying and watching which followed His footsteps for three years, and which finally resulted in His death on the Cross. And this suspicion was encouraged by the Jewish priesthood which began to hate the young teacher whose opposition to their tyranny and formalism was quite marked.
The band one day came to a small village in Galilee, and Jesus began His usual meetings and teaching. Near where they gathered was a house at which preparations were being made for a wedding feast. The wedding ceremony has always been an important occasion among the Jews. The most elaborate preparations consistent with the size of the purse of the girl’s parents are indulged in. Relatives from far and near gather to the feast. Jesus happened to be a distant kinsman of the bride, and according to custom He was bidden to the feast.
The guests began to gather, each depositing his sandals in the outer court, and entering the guest chamber barefooted, after carefully bathing his feet and ankles after the custom still prevailing in Oriental countries. Jesus was accompanied by a few of His faithful followers. His mother, and His several brothers were also among the blood-relations present at the feast.
His appearance caused much interest and comment among the other guests. To some He was simply a traveling religious teacher, not uncommon in that land, to others He was an inspired prophet, bringing a wonderful Message to the Jewish people, as He had to the Persians, Egyptians and Hindus; to others he was more than this, and whispers of “He is the Messiah”; “The King of Israel,” etc., began to circulate among those present, causing interest, uneasiness or disgust, according to the views of the hearers. But whenever He moved, He attracted attention by His manner, attitude and expression. All felt that here indeed was an Individual. Strange stories of His wanderings in strange lands added additional interest to His presence.
A feeling that something unusual was about to happen began to creep over the crowd, as is the case often preceding such events. Mary, His mother, watched her son with longing eyes, for she saw that some strange change had come over Him, that was beyond her comprehension.
Toward the end of the feast, it began to be whispered around among the near relatives that the supply of wine was about exhausted, the attendance having been much greater than had been expected. This, to a Jewish family, was akin to a family disgrace, and anxious looks began to be exchanged among the members of the immediate family.
Tradition has it that Jesus was besought for aid by His mother and other female kinswoman. Just what they expected Him to do is not clear, but it is probable that they unconsciously recognized His greatness, and accorded Him the place of the natural Head of the Family, as being the most prominent member. At any rate, they asked His aid. What arguments they used, or what reasons they urged, we do not know, but whatever they were, they succeeded in winning Him to their side, and gaining from Him a promise of aid and assistance. But not until after He had remonstrated that these things were of no concern of His—that His powers were not to be trifled away in this manner. But His love for His mother, and His desire to reward her devotion and faith in Him, prevailed over the natural disinclination of the mystic to be a “wonder worker” and to exhibit his occult powers to grace a wedding-feast. He had long since learned the necessary but comparatively simple occult feat from His old Masters in far off India, that land of wonder-working. He knew that even the humbler Yogis of that land would smile at the working of such a simple miracle. And so the matter seemed to Him to be of but slight moment, and not as a prostitution of some of the higher occult powers. And feeling thus, He yielded to their requests for aid.
Then moving toward the court in which were stored a number of great jars of water, he fixed a keen, burning glance upon them, one by one, passing His hand rapidly over them, in a quick succession, He made the Mental Image that precedes all such manifestations of occult power, and then manifesting His power by using His Will in the manner known to all advanced occultists, He rapidly materialized the elements of the wine in the water, within the jars, and lo! the “miracle” had been wrought.
A wave of excitement passed over the crowded house. The guests flocked around the jars to taste of the wine that had been produced by occult power. The priests frowned their displeasure, and the authorities sneered and whispered “charlatan”; “fraud”; “shameful imposture”; and other expressions that always follow an occurrence of this kind.
Jesus turned away, in grief and sorrow. Among the Hindus such a simple occult occurrence would have caused but little comment, while here among His own people it was considered to be a wonderful miracle by some, while others regarded it as a trick of a traveling conjurer and charlatan.
What manner of people were these to whom He had decided to deliver the Message of Life? And, sighing deeply, He passed from the house, and returned to His camp.