By Yogi Ramacharaka
Leaving Capernaum behind Him, with its crowds of invalids seeking healing, and fighting off the demands that would have rendered Him a professional healer instead of a Teacher and preacher of the Message of Truth, Jesus passed on to other parts of the land, taking with Him the band of disciples and faithful followers who now traveled with Him.
But He did not altogether relinquish His healing work. He merely made it an incident of His ministry, and did not allow it to interfere with His preaching and teaching. The Gospel narratives show a number of remarkable cures made by Him at this time, and the few recorded cases are, of course, merely occasional incidents that stand out in the minds of the people among hundreds of less noticeable cases.
The cure of the leper is one of such remarkable cases. Leprosy was a foul disease much dreaded by the people of Oriental countries. And the unfortunate person afflicted by it became an outcast and pariah from whom all others fled as from an unclean and impure thing.
There was a leper in the part of the country in which Jesus was traveling and teaching. He heard of the wonderful gift of healing accredited to the young preacher, and he determined to get into His presence and beg His aid. How the leper managed to get through the crowds and into the presence of Jesus is not known, but it must have required great strategy on his part, for such people were not permitted to pass in and among crowds of other people. But in some way the leper contrived to come face to face with Jesus as the latter walked alone in meditation, away from his followers.
The loathsome creature raised its repulsive form, the picture of human misery and woe, and confronting the Master, demanded from Him the exercise of the Gift of Healing. No doubt of His power was in the leper’s mind—his face shone with faith and expectation. Jesus gazed earnestly into the distorted features that shone with the fire of a fervent faith such as is rarely seen on the face of man, and touched with this testimony to His power and motives, He moved toward the leper, defying the laws of the country, which forbade the same. Not only this, but He even laid His hands upon the unclean flesh, defying all the laws of reason in so doing, and fearlessly passed His hand over the leper’s face, crying aloud, “Be thou clean!”
The leper felt a strange thrill running through his veins and over his nerves, and every atom of his body seemed to be tingling with a peculiar burning and smarting sensation. Even as he looked he saw the color of his flesh changing and taking on the hue of the flesh of the healthy person. The numbness departed from the affected portion of his body, and he could actually feel the thrill and tingle of the life currents that were at work with incredible speed building up new cells, tissue and muscle. And still Jesus held His hands against the flesh of the leper, allowing the life current of highly vitalized prana to pour from His organism into that of the leper, just as a storage battery of great power replenishes and recharges an electrical appliance. And back of it all was the most potent, trained Will of the Master Occultist directing the work.
And then He bade the healed man depart and comply with the laws regarding purification and change of garments, including the appearance before the priests to receive a certificate of cleanliness. And He also bade him that nothing should be said regarding the nature or particulars of the cure. For some good reason He wished to escape the notoriety or fame that the report of such a wonderful cure would be sure to excite.
But alas! this was asking too much of human nature, and the healed leper, running with great leaps and bounds, began shouting and crying aloud the glad tidings of his marvelous cure, that all men might know what a great blessing had come to him. In spite of the injunction laid upon him, he began to sing aloud the praises of the Master who had manifested such an unheard-of power over the foul disease that had held him in its grasp until a few hours before. With wild gestures and gleaming eyes he told the story again and again, and it was taken up and repeated from person to person, until the whole town and countryside were familiar with the great news. Imagine such an event occurring in a small country town in our own land today, and you will realize what an excitement must have been occasioned in that home place of the leper.
And then occurred that which Jesus had doubtless seen when He forbade the leper to repeat the news of the cure. The whole region became excited and immense crowds gathered around Him and His disciples, crying aloud for new wonders and miracles. The curious sensation-seekers were there in full force, crowding out those whom He wished to reach by His teachings. And more than this, great numbers of sick and crippled people crowded around Him crying for aid and cure. The scenes of Capernaum were repeated. Even the lepers began flocking in, in defiance of law and custom, and the authorities were beside themselves with anger and annoyance. Not only the temporal authorities and the priests were arrayed against Him, as of old, but now He managed to arouse the opposition of the physicians of those days, who saw their practice ruined by this man whom they called a charlatan and deceiver threatening and destroying the health of the people, whose physical welfare was safe only in their (the physicians’) hands and keeping.
And so Jesus was compelled to close His ministry at this place and move on to another village.
Another case which attracted much attention was that which occurred in Galilee when He was preaching in a house. In the midst of His discourse both He and His audience were startled by the sight of a figure on a bed being lowered down among the crowd of listeners from the roof surrounding the open court in the center of the house. It was a poor paralyzed man whom friends had contrived to hoist up and then lower down before Jesus in such a manner as could not escape the attention of the Master. It is related that the piteous appeal of the sufferer, and the faith which had inspired such great energy on the part of his friends, attracted the interest and sympathy of Jesus, and He paused in His discourse and made another of those instantaneous cures which are possible only to the most advanced adepts in the science of spiritual healing.
Then came the scene of the Wells of Bethesda—a region abounding in “healing waters” to which the sick and afflicted came to regain their health. The crowds of sick were being carried to the springs by friends or paid attendants, who pushed aside the weaker ones and fought their way to the wells. Jesus walked among the crowds, and at last His attention was attracted toward a poor fellow who lay upon his cot away off from the waters. He had no friends to carry him nearer, nor money for paid attendants. And he had not strength enough to crawl there himself. He filled the air with his moans and cries and bewailings of his unfortunate lot. Jesus walked up to him, and holding his attention by a firm look of authority and power, cried to him suddenly in a voice that demanded obedience, “Take up thy bed and walk!” The man, startled into obedience, did as directed, and much to his surprise, and that of the crowd gathered around, found that he was able to move about freely—a well man.
This cure also aroused not only the greatest interest but also the antagonism of the ecclesiastical authorities. It appears that the cure had been made on the Sabbath day, and that it was against the ecclesiastical law to heal the sick in any way upon that day; and also that the patient had performed manual work on the Sabbath in carrying his bed upon the orders of the Healer. And the good pious folk, urged on by the priests, began to abuse and condemn the Healer and patient, after the manner of the formal pietists of all lands and times, even of our own. Clinging to the letter of the law, these people overlook its spirit—bound by the forms, they fail to see the meaning lying back of all forms and ceremonies.
Braving the storm that was arising around Him, Jesus boldly walked to the Temple. He was plunged in a sea of conflicting opinions and voices. On the one hand was the healed man and those who sympathized with him, in earnest argument concerning the righteousness of the deed. But arrayed against these few were the good folk of the place who loudly denounced the Sabbath-breaker and demanded His punishment. Were the ancient laws of Moses to be thus defied by this presumptuous Nazarene, whose religious ideas were sadly lacking in orthodoxy? Surely not! Punish the upstart! And again Jesus was in actual peril of bodily hurt, or perhaps even death, owing to the religious bigotry of the orthodox people.
Jesus was ever a foe to the stupid formalism and ignorant fanaticism regarding “holy days,” which is ever a characteristic of certain classes of mind among people. On the above occasion, as well as upon other occasions, and notably upon the occasion of the Sabbath when He directed His hungry disciples to pick corn to satisfy their hunger, Jesus opposed the strict, ironclad law of Sabbath observance. He was ever filled with the idea that the “Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” There was nothing Puritanical about the Master, and in view of His attitude regarding this matter it is surprising to witness the attitude of some in our own time who, wearing His livery, oppose these teachings of His in theory and practice.
And so, driven out once more by the intolerance and bigotry of the public, Jesus returned again to Galilee, His land of retreat and rest, and the scene of much of His best work. Galilee was filled with His many followers and admirers, and He was less in danger of disturbance and persecution there than in the neighborhood of Jerusalem. Large congregations attended His ministry there, and His converts were numbered by the thousand. The village contained many persons healed by His power, and His name was a household word.
And upon His return He entered into a new stage of His work. He had decided to divide His ministry among His twelve most advanced disciples, as it had now reached proportions beyond His ability to personally control. And, as was customary to Him upon all great occasions, He sought the solitudes for meditation and spiritual strength before finally investing His twelve Apostles with the high authority of their mission. He spent the night on one of the hills near Capernaum, from which He descended the following morning, wearied in body from want of rest, but strong in soul and spirit.
Then He gathered the Twelve around Him, and in a secret meeting divulged to them certain deep truths and secrets, adding certain instructions regarding healing work, and calling upon them for the highest allegiance to Him and His work.
The Gospel narratives have but very little to say regarding Jesus’ work in the instruction of the Twelve for their future mission. And the average student of the narratives goes on without thinking of the marvelous mental and spiritual development that must have been manifested by the Apostles during their transition from humble fishermen, and men of similar vocations, to highly developed teachers of advanced spiritual truths. To the occultist especially this ordinary view seems astounding, for he realizes the many arduous steps necessary to be trodden by the feet of the Neophyte before he becomes an Initiate, and the higher steps awaiting the Initiate before he may become a Master. And such a one realizes the mighty task that Jesus performed in developing and unfolding the spiritual natures of such a body of men until they become worthy to be His chosen representatives and teachers. The occult traditions have it that Jesus had pursued a systematic course of instruction of His chosen disciples, bringing them up rapidly through degree after degree of mystic attainment and occult knowledge, until finally they were ready for the finishing touches at His hands. And the occasion that we are now considering was the time when the final degrees were imparted to them.
It must be remembered that the Apostles were endowed with the mastery of the occult forces of nature which enabled them to perform the “miracles” of healing similar to those of Jesus. And it must not be supposed for a moment that an occult Master of so high a degree of attainment as that reached by Jesus would have allowed His disciples to use such mighty power without also instructing them fully in the nature of the forces they were using, and of the best methods of employing the same. And such knowledge could not be imparted without the fundamental truths of nature being understood by them, which understanding was possible only to those who had grasped the great Basic Truths of the Science of Being.
In short, the traditions are that the Twelve Apostles were gradually initiated into the great degrees of the Occult Brotherhoods of which and in which Jesus was a Master. He gathered together a great store of occult information and mystic lore, and condensing the same into a plain, practical, simple system, He imparted it fully and thoroughly to those whom He had elected to be His chief co-workers and His successors after His death, which He knew full well was not far off.
These facts must be fully understood by the student of Mystic Christianity who wishes to grasp the secret of the early Christian Church after the death of Christ. The wonderful headway manifested by the movement could not have been given by mere followers and believers in the Master. It usually follows that when the great head of an organization dies the movement disintegrates or loses power unless he has been able to “communicate his spirit” to some chosen followers. And this Jesus did. And it was only to men who thoroughly grasped the fundamental truths and principles of His teachings that such “spirit” could have been imparted.
There was an exoteric teaching for the multitude, and an esoteric teaching for the Twelve. There are many Scriptural passages which go to show this fact, which was well known to the early Fathers of the Church. And upon the occasion which we have mentioned the last great Basic Truths were explained to the Twelve, and from that time henceforward they were regarded and treated as Masters by Jesus, and not as mere students, as had been the case before that time. And arising from that final instruction came the Sermon of the Mount.
The Sermon of the Mount, that most wonderful and complete of any of the public utterances of Jesus, was delivered almost immediately after the Choosing of the Twelve Apostles. And it was intended even more for them than for the multitudes gathered around to hear His preaching. He knew that the Twelve could interpret it by reason of the Inner Teachings that they had received from Him. And almost forgetting the congregation gathered around and about Him, He elucidated the Inner teachings for the benefit of the Chosen Few.
The Sermon of the Mount can be understood only by means of the Master Key of the Inner Teachings, which opens the door of the mind to an understanding of the hard sayings and veiled mystic import of many of His precepts. We shall devote considerable space in one of our later lessons of this series to a consideration of the Inner Meaning of this great sermon and teaching, and therefore shall not go into details regarding it in the present lesson, deeming it better to proceed with the story of the Master’s Work.
A few days after the delivery of the Sermon of the Mount, the Master left Capernaum and traveled from town to town visiting His various centers of teaching, as was His custom. On the journey Jesus performed a feat of occult power that proved Him to be one of the Highest Adepts of the Occult Brotherhoods, for to none other would such a manifestation have been possible. Even some of the highest Oriental Masters would have refused to undertake the task that He set before Himself to do.
The company was leisurely proceeding on its way, when nearing a small town they met a funeral procession coming in their direction. Preceded by the band of women chanting the mournful dirges according to the Galilean custom, the cortege slowly wended its way. The etiquette of the land required strangers to join in the mourning when they came in contact with a funeral procession, and the company assumed a mournful and respectful demeanor, and many joined in the dirge which was being chanted by the procession.
But Jesus invaded the privacy of the procession in a manner shocking to those who held closely to the familiar forms and customs. Stepping up to the bier, He stood in front of it and bade the carriers halt and set it down. A murmur of indignation ran through the ranks of the mourners, and some strode forward to rebuke the presumptuous stranger who dared to violate the dignity of the funeral in this way. But something in His face held them back. Then a strange feeling passed over the crowd. Jesus was known to a number of the mourners, and some of those who had witnessed some of His wonder-workings began to whisper that strange things were about to happen, and the ranks were broken as the people flocked around the Master at the bier.
The corpse was that of a young man, and his widowed mother stood beside the pale figure stretched upon the bier, and spreading her arms in front of it, she seemed to ward off the profaning touch of the strange man who confronted it. But the stranger looked upon her with a look of transcendent love, and in a voice vibrant with the tenderest feeling said unto her, “Mother, weep not—cease thy mourning.” Amazed, but impressed, she turned an appealing gaze to Him who had thus bidden her. Her mother love and instinct caught a new expression in His eyes, and her heart bounded with a wonderful hope of something, she knew not what. What did the Nazarene mean? Her boy was dead, and even God Himself never disturbed the slumber of the body from which the spirit had flown. But still what meant that expression—why that leap and throbbing of her heart?
Then with a gesture of authority the Master caused the crowd to draw back from the bier, until at last there remained only the corpse, the mother and Himself in a cleared space in the center. Then a strange and wonderful scene began. With His gaze fixed upon the face of the corpse, and in an attitude that indicated a supreme effort of His will, the Master was seen to be making some mighty effort which called into play the highest forces at His command. The Apostles, having been instructed by Him in Occult power, recognized the nature of the manifestation, and their faces paled, for they knew that He was not only pouring out His vital force into the body in order to recharge it with prana, but that He was also essaying one of the highest and most difficult of occult feats—that of summoning back from the Astral Plane the higher vehicles and the Astral Body—the very soul of the youth—and forcing it once more into its mortal frame, which He had recharged with vital energy and strength. They knew that He, by the mightiest effort of His will, was reversing the process of death. And with a full appreciation of the real nature of the wonder that was being worked before them, their limbs trembled beneath them and their breath came from them in gasps.
Then cried the people, “What saith this man to the corpse?” “Arise, youth! Open thine eyes! Breathe freely! Arise, I say unto thee—arise!” Did this stranger dare to defy God’s own decree?
The corpse opened its eyes and stared around in wild amaze, the glare not fully faded away! Its chest heaved in great agonizing gasps as if fighting again for life! Then its arms were lifted up—then its legs began to move—now it raised itself upright and began to babble meaningless words—now the look of recognition came into its eyes, and its arms clasped themselves around the mother’s neck, while sob after sob broke from its lips! The dead lived—the corpse had come to life.
The people fell back overcome with the awful terror of the sight, and the funeral procession scattered in all directions, until only the sobbing mother and the youth remained, weeping in their mutual love and joy, and forgetting even the Master and His followers in their great flood of affection.
And, leaving them thus, Jesus and His followers passed away on their pilgrimage. But the fame of the miracle spread from town to town, even up to the great capital, Jerusalem. And men wondered or doubted, according to their natures, while the temporal and ecclesiastical authorities began to again ask themselves and each other whether this man were not a dangerous person and an enemy to established custom and order.
In one of His journeys Jesus found Himself invited to the house of a leading citizen of the town in which He was preaching. This citizen was one of the class known as Pharisees, whose characteristics were an extreme devotion and adherence to forms and ceremonies and a bigoted insistence upon the observance of the letter of the law. The Pharisees were the ultra-orthodox center of an orthodox people. They were the straight-laced brethren who walked so erect that they leaned backward. They were the people who thanked God that they were not like unto other men. They were the “uncommonly good” members of church and society. The very name stands even unto this day as a synonym for “pious sham.”
Just why this Pharisee had invited the Master to dine with him is not easily understood. It is likely that it was a combination of curiosity and a desire to entrap his guest into statements and admissions that might be used against him. At any rate, the invitation was given and accepted.
The Master noted that certain little ceremonies usually extended by the Hebrews to a guest of equal standing were omitted by His host. His head was not anointed with the ceremonial oil, as was the custom in houses of this character when the guest was honored as an equal or desirable addition to the family gathering. Clearly He was regarded as a curiosity or “freak” rather than as a friend, and had been invited in such a spirit. But He said nothing, and passed over the slight. And the meal passed along smoothly up to a certain point.
The host and his guests were reclining easily, after the Oriental fashion, discussing various topics, when a woman pressed her way into the banquet hall. Her dress proclaimed her to be one of the women of easy virtue abounding in all Oriental towns. She was clad in showy apparel and her hair fell loosely over her shoulders after the custom of the women of her kind in that land. She fixed her eyes upon the Master and moved slowly toward him, much to the annoyance of the host, who feared a scene, for the Master would most likely administer a rebuke to the woman for presuming to intrude upon the presence of Him, a spiritual teacher.
But the woman still pressed forward toward Him, and at last, bending down low, her head touching His feet, she burst into tears. She had heard the Master preach some time before, and the seeds of His teaching had taken root and had now blossomed within her heart; and she had come to acknowledge her allegiance and to render an offering to Him whom she revered. The coming into His presence was her token of a spiritual regeneration and a desire to begin a new life. Her tears flowed over His feet, and she dried them off with her long hair. Then she kissed His feet, as a token of her allegiance and worship.
From her neck hung a chain holding a little box filled with precious perfumed oil, which she esteemed highly, as did all the people of her race. The oil was of the nature of attar of roses and was the essential oil extracted from fragrant blossoms. She broke the seal and poured the fragrant oil over the hands and feet of the Master, who rebuked her not, but who accepted the tribute even from such a source. The host began to indulge in thoughts not flattering to the intelligence of his guest, and a scarcely concealed sneer appeared on his lips.
Then Jesus turned to His host and with a smile said to him: “Simon, in thy mind thou thinkest these words: ‘If this man be indeed a prophet, would he not know what manner of woman this be who toucheth him, and would he not rebuke her and drive her from him?’” And the Pharisee was sorely confused, for the Master had read his thought word for word by the method known to occultists as telepathy. And then in gentle raillery the Master called his host’s attention to the fact that the woman had performed the service which he, the host, had neglected to observe. Had she not bathed and dried His feet, as the Pharisee would have done had his guest been deemed worthy of honor? Had she not anointed Him with precious oil, as the host would have anointed an honored guest? Had she not impressed upon even His feet the kiss that etiquette required the host to impress upon the cheek of the esteemed visitor to his house? And as for the character of the woman, it had been fully recognized and forgiven. “Much hath been forgiven her, for she hath loved greatly.” And, turning to the woman, He added, “Go in peace, for thy sins are forgiven thee.” And the woman departed with a new expression on her face and a firm resolve in her heart, for the Master had forgiven and blessed her.
But by this act Jesus brought upon His head the hatred of the Pharisee and his friends. He had dared rebuke the host in his own palace, and had moreover arrogated to Himself the sacred rite to pronounce remission of sins, a right vested solely in the high-priest of the Temple, upon the performance of certain ceremonies and sacrifices upon the altar. He had flung defiance at vested ecclesiastical right and functions, even in the house of one of the stanchest adherents of formalism and authority—a Pharisee.
In this incident was shown not only the broadness of Jesus’ views and the universality of His love, as well as His courage in defying the hated formalism, even in the palace of its stanchest advocates, but also His attitude toward women. The Jews as a race held women in but scant esteem. They were not deemed worthy to sit with the men in the synagogue. It was deemed unworthy of a man to mention his female relations in general company. They were regarded as inferior in every way to men, and were treated as almost unclean in their most sacred natural functions.
Toward fallen women especially Jesus was ever considerate. He saw their temptation and the social cruelty of their position. He resented “the double standard” of virtue which allowed a man to commit certain offenses and still be respected, while the woman who committed the same offense was damned socially, reviled and treated as a shameful outcast. He was ever ready to voice a defense for women of this kind, and seemed to be ever actuated by the sense of injustice in the attitude of men toward them, which finally voiced itself on a notable occasion when called upon to pass judgment upon the woman taken in adultery: “Let him among ye who is without sin cast the first stone.” No wonder that the outcast woman kissed His feet and poured out the precious ointment upon Him. He was the Friend to such as she.
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