By Yogi Ramacharaka
Resting for a short time before His formal entry into Jerusalem, the Master sought the seclusion of the sparsely settled districts near the wilderness. In and around the village of Ephraim, in Perea, in parts of Galilee, He wandered with the Twelve. But even there He continued His work of healing and teaching.
But even this temporary respite from the inevitable lasted but a short time. Jesus determined to march direct to the seat of the ecclesiastical and temporal authority which was arrayed against Him. And so, just before the coming of the Passover time, He gathered together the Twelve and set out on the final stage of the journey. The pilgrims journeying to the capital were burning with curiosity and excitement concerning this journey of the Master to the home of His foes. Rumors were circulated that He intended to gather His forces together and sweep the enemy from its seats of power. It was known that the Sanhedrin intended to attempt to punish Him, and the people asked why should He move on to face His foes unless He contemplated a fight to the finish?
This belief in His determination caused a revulsion of feeling of the people in His favor, and many who had deserted Him now again gathered around Him. They dreamt again of victory, and scented again an unfailing supply of loaves and fishes. They crowded around Him wishing to be among the victorious host. But He encouraged them not—neither spoke He a word to them. He knew them for the time-servers that they were.
The crowds of Jerusalem hearing of His approach, and moved by curiosity to witness His triumphant entry into the City, flocked around the suburbs through which He would approach. At last the cry went up, “Here He comes!” and to their amazement and disgust the crowd saw Him riding quietly info the City mounted on an ass, without display, pretense or pose. The crowd scattered, sneering and reviling Him. But the pilgrims were becoming more and more enthusiastic, and they strewed His way with palms, shouting, “Blessed be our Messiah! The King of Israel approacheth.”
The Master proceeded directly to the Temple and performed the customary rites. So amazed were the authorities by His fearless demeanor, that they deferred laying violent hands upon Him. They feared a trap, and moved cautiously. They even allowed Him to retire to Bethany and spend the night. The next morning He returned to the city and dwelt among His friends there. He attended the Temple regularly, and pursued His work of teaching and healing in its very shadows.
Meanwhile the clouds of the persecuting forces gathered closely around His head. One of the Twelve, Judas Iscariot, who was sorely disappointed at the Master having refused to take advantage of the support of the crowd to assist His claim as the Messiah and King of the Jews, and also fearing that he would become involved in His inevitable downfall, began a series of bargainings and dickerings with the authorities, which had for their object the betrayal of the Master into the hands of the authorities, the reward to be immunity from persecution for himself and a few pieces of silver for his pocket in addition.
And so the time passed on, the nights being spent at Bethany and the days at the Temple in the capital. Finally the priests made an important move. They confronted Him in their official capacity and demanded that He prove His ordination as a Jewish Rabbi and consequent right to preach to the orthodox members of the church. Jesus answered them by asking questions that they feared to answer. Then they began to question Him, hoping to involve Him in ecclesiastical heresies which would give them their excuse to arrest Him. But He evaded them skilfully. They sought also to compel Him to state opinions contrary to the Roman authority, but He likewise escaped this net.
Finally, however, they drew from Him a savage attack upon authority, and He cried out in indignation:
“Woe unto you, ye generation of vipers! Ye serpents! Ye hypocrites! Ye oppressors of the poor! Ye professed shepherds, who are but as wolves in disguise, seeking but to devour the sheep whom ye have in charge! Woe unto you, ye Scribes, Hypocrites, Pharisees!”
Then He left the Temple and returned to Bethany to spend the night, after foretelling the destruction of the Temple, when there should not be left one of its stones upon another.
That night he had a heart-to-heart talk with the Twelve. He told them that the end was in sight—that He was to die before many hours had passed—that they, the Twelve, were to become wanderers on the face of the earth—hunted and persecuted in His name and for His sake. A terrible revelation to some among them who had dreamt of earthly grandeur and high positions for themselves! And then Judas felt that the time to act had come, and he stole away to meet the High-priest and to close the frightful bargain with him which was to make his name the synonym for treachery throughout the ages.
The next day, Wednesday, He rested in Bethany the whole twenty-four hours, evidently gathering together his reserve forces to meet the ordeal which He now knew was before Him. He kept apart from even His disciples and spent the time in meditation. And likewise was passed the early part of the following day, Thursday. But when the even time had come, He sent for the Twelve and gathered them around Him for the Paschal Supper, one of the rites of the Passover time.
Even this last solemn occasion was marred by a petty squabble among the disciples regarding the order of precedence to be observed in their seats at the table. Judas succeeded in gaining the seat of honor next to the Master. Jesus startled the company by insisting upon washing the feet of the Twelve, an act which placed them on a pedestal above Him. This occult ceremony, which was not comprehended by the Twelve, apparently was one which the Hierophants of the Occult Brotherhoods performed for their associates when the latter had been chosen to carry out some important office or mission, or when a successor was about to take the place of one of them. And Jesus evidently so intended it. Then He bade them wash one another’s feet, in token of the recognition of each of the high mission of the others.
Then Jesus, overcome by the knowledge of the morrow, burst out in anguished tones, saying: “And even one of you, my chosen ones, shall betray me!” And several asked Him in turn, in a tone of reproach, “Is it I?” And Jesus shook His head at each question. But Judas asked not, but overcome with confusion he reached over and took a portion of bread from the plate before the Master. Then Jesus took a bit of bread and, moistening it from His plate, handed it to Judas, saying to him firmly, “Judas, do thy work without loss of time.” And Judas, abashed, slunk away from the table.
Then began that remarkable conversation of the Last Supper, as recorded in the Gospels. Then also was performed that first celebration of the Holy Communion, the Mystic significance of which shall be explained in a later lesson. Then Jesus chanted the Passover hymn.
Then shortly after, the company left the room and walked into the streets, and over the meadows near by. Then under the trees of the Garden of Gethsemane, apart from His disciples, now reduced to Eleven, He gave Himself up to prayer and meditation. He called aloud to The Father to give Him strength for the final ordeal. Struggling with His doubts and fears and misgivings—conquering His physical inclination and impulses—He gave utterance to that supreme cry: “O Father, Thy will, not mine, be done!” and in so saying He cast behind Him forever His right of choice to stay the awful course of events which was pressing upon Him. Resigning His mighty occult power of defense, He laid Himself upon the altar of sacrifice even as the Paschal Lamb.
Leaving behind Him the Garden in which He had just performed this greatest miracle of all—the miracle of Renunciation—He stepped out among His disciples, saying, “The hour has come—the betrayer is here to do his work.”
Then were heard sounds of clanking arms, and martial tread, and in a moment the military guard appeared on the scene, accompanied by a delegation of ecclesiastics, and with them, walking in advance, was Judas Iscariot. Judas, walking as one in a trance, approached the Master and, saluting Him with a kiss, cried, “Hail, Master,” which was the signal to the guard, arranged between Judas and the High Priest. Then cried Jesus, “Ah, with a kiss—thou, Judas, betrayeth the Son of Man with a kiss! Oh!” And in that moment it seemed that the Master’s grief had reached its utmost limit. Then the guard closed around Him and carried Him away.
But He resisted them not. As they approached Him He called out, “Whom seek ye?” And the leader answered, “We seek him whom men call Jesus of Nazareth.” Then answered the Master, “I am He whom thou seeketh!” But the disciples resisted the arrest, and Peter cut off the ear of one of the party, a servant of the High-priest. But Jesus bade His followers desist, and, approaching the wounded man, placed his severed ear in place and healed it instantly. Then He rebuked His disciples, telling them that, had He so desired, the whole of the legions of heaven would have come to His assistance. Then He bade the leader conduct Him from the place. But alas! as He left, He turned to bid farewell to His disciples, and lo! to a man they had fled and deserted Him, leaving Him alone in His hour of trial—yea! as every humble soul must be alone in its moments of supreme struggle—alone with its Creator.
Then down toward the city they led Him—the Master of All Power, an humble captive, non-resistant and awaiting the course of The Will. They took Him to the palace of the Jewish High-priest, where the Sanhedrin was assembled in secret session awaiting His coming. And there He stood erect before these ecclesiastical tyrants to be judged—bound with the cord as a common criminal. He, whose single effort of His will would have shattered the whole palace to pieces and have destroyed every human being within its walls!
And this was but the beginning. During the next eight hours He was subjected to six separate trials, if indeed such mock proceedings might be so designated. Subjected to blows, and all manner of low insults, the Master remained a Master. Perjured witnesses testified, and all manner of crimes and heresies were charged against Him. Then Caiaphas asked Him the all-important question, “Art thou the Christ?” and Jesus broke His silence to answer positively, “I am!” Then the High-priest cried out vehemently, rending His sacred robes in his pious indignation, “He has blasphemed!”
From that moment there was no possible chance of escape for the Master. He had virtually condemned Himself by His own words. There was no retreat or reprieve. He was roughly pushed from the hall and like a common criminal was turned over to the taunts and revilings of the mob, which availed itself of its privileges to the full in this case. Insults, curses, revilings, taunts, and even blows, came fast and furiously upon Him. But He stood it all without a murmur. Already His thoughts had left earthly things behind, and dwelt on planes of being far above the wildest dreams of men. With His mind firmly fixed on the Real, the Unreal vanished from His consciousness.
In the early part of the day following the night of His arrest, Jesus was taken before Pontius Pilate, the Roman official, for His trial by the civil authorities. Pilate, in his heart, was not disposed to condemn Jesus, for he believed that the whole trouble consisted in theological and ecclesiastical differences with which the civil law should not concern itself. His wife had warned him against becoming involved in the dispute, for she had a secret sympathy for the Master, for some reason. But he found arrayed against him the solid influence of the Jewish priesthood, whose power must not be opposed lightly, according to the policy of Rome. Then the priests had made out a civil case against Jesus, claiming that He had sought to incite a rebellion and proclaim Himself King of the Jews; that He had created public disorder; that He had urged the people to refuse to pay taxes to Rome. The case against Him was weak, and Pilate was at a loss what to do. Then some one of the priests suggested that as Jesus was a Galilean, He be turned over for trial to Herod, in whose territory the principal crimes were committed, and Pilate gladly availed himself of this technical excuse to rid himself of responsibility in the matter. And so the case was transferred to Herod, who happened to be in Jerusalem at that time on a visit. To Herod’s palace the captive was taken, and after suffering indignities and humiliation at the hand of the tyrant, He was remanded back to Pilate for trial, under Herod’s orders.
Back to Pilate’s court, followed by the crowd, went Jesus. Pilate was greatly annoyed that Herod should have shifted the responsibility once more upon his (Pilate’s) court. Then he bethought himself of an expedient. He took advantage of the Jewish custom, observed by the Roman rulers, which led to the pardoning of a notorious criminal on the occasion of the Passover. And so he announced that he would pardon Jesus according to custom. But from the Jewish authorities came back the answer that they would not accept Jesus as the subject of the pardon, but demanded that Barabbas, a celebrated criminal, be pardoned instead of the Nazarene. Pilate found himself unable to escape the designs of the Jewish priesthood, and so, yielding in disgust, he pardoned Barabbas, and condemned Jesus to death. The cries of the mob, incited by the priests, sounded around the court. “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate appeared before the priests and the populace, and, washing his hands in a basin, according to the Oriental custom, he cried to the Jews, “I wash my hands of this man’s blood—upon you be it!” And the crowd responded with a great shout, “Upon us and our children be his blood!”
Jesus, in the meantime, had been cruelly scourged by the barbarous instruments of torture of the time. His body was lacerated and bleeding, and He was faint from the torture and loss of blood. Upon His head had been thrust, in ghastly mockery, a crown of thorns which pressed deep into His flesh. He was refused the usual respite of several days before sentence and execution—He was to die that very day.
His cross was tied to His back and He was compelled to carry it, fainting though He was from fatigue and torture. He staggered along and fell, unable to bear His heavy burden. Finally Golgotha, the place of the crucifixion, was reached, and the Man of Sorrows was nailed to the cross and raised aloft to die a lingering and painful death. On either side was a criminal—two thieves—His companions in suffering.
He refused to partake of the drug which was granted to criminals to relieve their intense suffering. He preferred to die in full possession of His faculties. Above His head was a tablet bearing the inscription, “The King of the Jews,” which had been placed there by Pilate in a spirit of ironical mockery of the Jews who had forced him to place this man on the cross.
As the cross was raised into position the Master cried aloud, “O Father, forgive them—they know not what they do.”
Taunted by the crowds, He hung and suffered the terrible agonies of the cross. Even one of the crucified criminals reviled Him, asking Him why He did not save Himself and them? The crowd asked Him why He who saved others could not save Himself? But He, who could have brought forces to bear which would have wrought the miracle they demanded, answered not, but awaited the end.
Then set in the delirium of death in which He cried aloud to the Father, asking if He had been forsaken in His misery. But the end was near.
There arose a strange storm—darkness fell over the place—weird electrical disturbances manifested themselves. The winds abated and a strange quiet fell over all the scene, which was lighted by a ghastly glow. And then came the earthquake, with strange groanings and moanings of the earth; with frightful stenches of sulphur and gas. And the very foundations of Jerusalem quaked and shivered. The rocks before the tombs flew off, and the dead bodies were exposed to view. In the Temple, the veil before the Holy of Holies was rent in twain.
The cries of the people as they rushed to and fro in mortal terror took the attention of all from the cross. Then the Roman officer in charge of the execution, glancing upward, saw that all was over, and, falling before the cross, he cried out, “Verily, this man was a god!”
Jesus the Master had passed out from the body which had served as His tenement for thirty-three years. His body was borne away for burial, in a secret place. Embalmed by loving friends, it was carried to a place of last earthly rest.
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And now we come to a portion of the narrative in which the occult traditions and teachings diverge from the account stated in the Gospels. We should have said apparently diverge, for the two accounts vary only because of the varying points of view and different degrees of understanding of the teachers.
We allude to the events of the Resurrection.
It must be remembered that Jesus had informed His disciples that in three days He would “rise from the dead” and appear once more among them. To the ordinary understanding these events seem to indicate that the Master would once more occupy His physical body, and that His reappearance was to be so understood. And the Gospel narrative certainly seems to verify this idea, and was undoubtedly so stated that it might be more readily understood by the popular mind.
But the occult traditions hold otherwise. They hold that Jesus really appeared to His disciples three days after His death, and abode with them for a time teaching and instructing them in the deeper mysteries and secret doctrines. But the mystics have always held and taught that His reappearance was in the Astral Body, and not in the discarded physical form.
To the popular mind the physical body was almost everything, as we have shown in one of the earlier lessons of this series. So much was this so that the mass of the people expected that all mankind would arise from the dead at the Last Day clad in their former physical forms. And so, any other teaching would have been unintelligible to them.
But to the occultists and mystics who understood the truth about the more ethereal vehicles of the soul, such an idea appeared crude and unscientific, and they readily grasped the Inner Teachings regarding the Resurrection, and understood the reason why Jesus would use the Astral Body as the vehicle of His reappearance.
The Gospel narrative informs us that a guard was placed around the tomb to prevent the body being stolen and a consequent assertion of the Resurrection which the priests well knew to be expected. It further states that the tomb was sealed and guarded by a squad of Roman soldiers, but that notwithstanding these precautions the body of the Master actually came to life and emerged from the tomb, and that His followers were disturbed by the evidences that His body had been stolen.
The occult traditions, however, state that the close friends of Jesus, aided by a prominent Jew who was a secret believer, obtained from the willing Pilate a secret order which enabled them to deposit the body in a safe and secret resting place where it gradually resolved itself into the dust to which all that is mortal must return. These men knew that the Resurrection of the Master had naught to do with mortal fleshly form or body. They knew that the immaterial soul of the Master still lived and would reappear to them clad in the more ethereal body made manifest to their mortal senses. Every occultist will understand this without further comment. To others we advise that they read the occult teachings concerning the Astral Body and its characteristics. This is no place in which to again describe at length the phenomena of the Astral Body of Man.
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The first to see the Master in His Astral Form was Mary of Magdala, a woman admirer and follower of her Lord. She was weeping beside the empty tomb, when looking up she saw a form approaching. The Astral Form was indistinct and unfamiliar, and at first she did not recognize it. Then a voice called her name, and looking up she saw the form growing more distinct and familiar, and she recognized the features of her Master.
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More than this, the occult legends assert the truth of some of the traditions of the early Christian Church, namely, that in the three days succeeding the scene of Calvary there appeared in and around Jerusalem the disembodied forms of many persons who had died a short time previously. It is said that the Astral Bodies of many dead Jews revisited the scenes of their former life, and were witnessed by friends and relatives.
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Then Jesus appeared in His Astral Body to the disciples. The traditions have it that two of the eleven met Him on the afternoon of the day when He first appeared to Mary—Easter Sunday. Strange to say, they did not at first recognize Him, although they walked the road with Him and afterward ate at the same table. This failure to recognize the Master is wholly beyond ordinary explanation and the churches make no real attempt to make it understandable. But the occult traditions say that Jesus had not wholly materialized His Astral Body at first, for reason of prudence, and that consequently His features were not distinctly and clearly marked; then at the meal He caused His features to be fully materialized so that the disciples might readily recognize Him. All occultists who have witnessed the materialization of an Astral Body will readily understand this statement. The orthodox theory of Jesus having reappeared in His physical body wholly fails to explain this nonrecognition by His disciples, who had been His everyday companions before His death. The slightest consideration should show which statement is nearer the bounds of reasonable probability.
Jesus remained visible to the chosen few for forty days. The testimony of several hundred people attested the fact. There are a number of mystic legends about some of His appearances, which are not mentioned in the Gospel narratives. One of these states that He appeared before Pontius Pilate and forgave him for the part he had played in the tragedy. Another that Herod witnessed His form in his bedchamber. Another that He confronted the High-priests in the Temple and brought them to their knees in terror. Another that He came one night to the Eleven, who sat behind bolted doors in hiding, and saying to them, “Peace be unto you, my beloved,” vanished from sight.
The Gospels record another appearance before the Eleven, upon which occasion Thomas, the doubter, satisfied himself of the identity of the Astral Body by placing his fingers in the wounds, which, of course, were reproduced in the Astral Form according to the well known laws regarding the same.
This coming and going of Jesus—these sudden appearances and disappearances—these manifestations of His form only to those whom He wished to see Him, and His concealment from those whom He desired to remain in ignorance of His return, all show conclusively to every occultist the nature of the vehicle which He used for manifestation upon His return. It would seem incredible that there could be any general doubt on the subject were the public informed on the laws concerning the Astral World phenomena.
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The Gospel narrative shows that the disciples recognized that Jesus was not a “spirit” in the sense of being an airy, unsubstantial form. They felt His body, and saw Him eat—but what of that? The laws of materialization of Astral forms make it possible, under certain conditions, that the Astral Form become so thoroughly materialized that it may not only be seen but actually felt. Even the records of the English Society for Psychical Research prove this fact, leaving out of account the phenomena with which all advanced occultists are familiar.
Then, one day He appeared to the disciples, and they accompanied Him to the hills, Jesus talking to them regarding their future work on earth. He then bade them farewell, and began to fade away from their sight. The common account pictures Him as ascending into the air until out of sight, but the mystic account informs us that His astral form began to slowly dematerialize and He gradually faded away from the sight of His beloved followers, who stood gazing in wistful longing at His form which, each moment, grew more and more ethereal in structure, until finally the dematerialization was complete and His soul had cast off all material form, shape and substance, and so passed on to the higher planes of being.
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In view of this explanation, does not the commonly accepted version seem childish and crude? Can any one at all familiar with the laws and phenomena of the land Behind the Veil, suppose that a physical body could or would pass on to the planes in which the ordinary forms of matter do not exist? Such ideas are fit only for minds which find it necessary to think of the “resurrection of the body” of all departed souls, in order to conceive of Immortality. To the occultist, the physical body is merely a temporary vehicle for the soul which the latter discards at the proper time. It has nothing to do with the real being of the soul. It is merely the shell which is discarded by the soul, as the chrysalis shell is discarded by the butterfly when it spreads its wings for its aerial flight into a new world.
All these ideas about the immortality of the mortal body are the product of materialistic minds unused to thinking of the higher planes of life, and unable to grasp even the mental concept regarding the same. Of the earth, earthly, are these conceptions and ideas. And the sooner that Christianity sheds them as discarded shells the sooner will the church experience that revival of true spirituality that devout souls see the need of, and for which they are so earnestly praying.
The churches are so wedded to materialistic thought that a preacher does not even hint at the existence of phases of life above the physical lest he be termed “a spiritualist” or accused of being “spooky.” In the name of Truth, is the teaching, that _man is a spiritual being_, inconsistent with the teachings of Christ and the records of the Scripture? Must one forego all such beliefs, in favor of a heathenish creed of “physical body” resurrection of the dead—an immortality in the worn-out mortal body long since discarded? Which is the true spiritual teaching? Can there be any doubt regarding the same in a mind willing to think for itself? It seems sad that the orthodox churches do not see this, and cease forcing out of their congregations all thinkers who dare assert the existence of a soul independent of the physical body.
What is the use of a soul, if the physical bodies of the dead are to be resurrected in order that their owners may enjoy immortality? And where are the souls of these dead bodies now residing and abiding pending the coming of the Last Day? Are the souls of the dead with their bodies? If not, then they must be living a life independent of the physical body—and if such be the case, why should they afterward be required to take on their worn-out physical bodies which they have managed so well without during their disembodied life? What becomes of those who had diseased, deformed or frail bodies during their mortal life—will they be compelled to inhabit these bodies through all eternity? Will the owners of aged, worn out bodies be compelled to re-assume them at the Last Day? If not, why the necessity of a physical body at all, in the future life? Do the angels have physical bodies? If not, why should souls require them on higher planes? Think over these questions and then realize how materialistic is the current Christian conception, when compared with that of Mystic Christianity, which teaches spiritual evolution from lower to higher planes of being, and on to planes of being beyond even the faintest conception of men of the present day.
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The occult traditions teach that during the forty days of Jesus’ appearance in the Astral Body, He imparted many of the Higher Truths to His disciples. They state that He even took some of them out of their bodies and showed them the higher Astral Planes of Being. He also informed them regarding the real nature of His mission which He now clearly saw with His spiritual mind, the cloud of His mortal mind being now removed.
He told them that the real work of His followers was the sowing of the seed of the Truth, without regard to immediate results. He told them that the real fruition would not come for many centuries—yea, not until the passing of over two thousand years or more. He told them that the passage of the centuries would be like the preparing of the soil for the great work of the Truth, and that afar in the distance would be the real fruit season.
He taught them regarding the Second Coming of Christ, when the real Truth of His teachings should become apparent to mankind and the true Life of the Spirit should be lived by the race. He taught them that their work was to keep alight the Flame of the Spirit and to pass it on to worthy followers.
This and many other things He told them, before He passed on.
And the mystics teach that He still lives in the world, diffused among all the living souls on earth, striving ever to lead them to a recognition of the Real Self—the Spirit Within. He is with us ever as an Abiding Spirit, a Comforter, a Helper, an Elder Brother.
He is not gone from us! He is here with us now and forever, in Actual Spirit Communion!
The Lord hath indeed Risen—Risen from Mortal Form to Immortal Spiritual Existence!
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