Faith Weds Folly

Chapter I

To the conscientious student who will give to the matter sufficient time and reflection it becomes a conviction that the most devastating cultural calamity that has befallen the human race in all its history was the degradation of the esoteric spiritual purport of ancient scripture into a debased literal and historical sense, entailing centuries of mental benightedness and spiritual thwarting, that took place at about the third century of the Christian era. And in this catastrophic conversion of cosmography, evolutionary pictography and racial history over into alleged factual occurrence, the single feature most signally fruitful of age-long fatuity was the transformation of the dramatic figure of the Christos, or divine essence of man’s nature, over into a historical person. It is not too much to say that the withering wind of this distorted doctrine spread its blight upon all sane comprehension of the sublime message of ancient sacred literature over all the sixteen centuries since that fatal epoch. Indeed the truth of the situation warrants the statement that the injection of a living man into the spiritual drama in the place of the personified divine Ego in man has held the rational mind of the Western world in the grip of the most arrant superstition to be found in the history of civilized humanity. This work will amass the data to support the sharp asseveration that this was the central item in the entire debacle of theological systematism which then ensued and which must be rated as the most tragic catastrophe in world history. The causes that led to the fatal transference of character from the dramatic personification of an element in human consciousness into an alleged man of historical entification will be the central theme of this essay. To what inadequate degree the iniquitous consequences of the blunder can be seen and delineated, these will be dealt with in the unfoldment. But the task involves little less than the penetrating analysis of all ancient sacred writ, and the amassing of a vast array of factual data and basic argument in support of the momentous conclusions adduced in the sequel.

The power of tradition, and more especially religious tradition indoctrinated in the childhood of many generations, is so overwhelming that the effort of this work to clarify the status of the great doctrine of divine Messiahship in ancient scripture will almost certainly be received with the cry of blasphemy from the shocked partisans of orthodoxy. All the obloquy that has been concentrated in the word "Anti-Christ" will be flung upon the undertaking. For this reason it is desirable to state at the outset that, on the contrary, the task is motivated by the highest possible reverence for the Christ ideal as the core of all religious culture. So far from being an attempt to devastate the benignant efficacy of the role of the Christ in religious practique, it is expressly the aim of the study to establish that efficacy upon its true psychological bases. This purpose entails the revelation of the true in place of the false grounds of the claim of the Christ ideal upon our reverence. Instead of being a vicious attack upon the sanctified name and function of Christhood, it is directly an effort to redeem that name and function from centuries of impious desecration that should have been seen all along as the real grounds for horrified indignation. When rightly viewed in relation to all the facts in the case, it must be conceded that the justification for resentment at a real sacrilege against the Sonship of God weighs heavily on the side of the book, and is not on the side of the inevitable hue and cry of violent condemnation that will greet it. In the face of this anticipated raucous chorus of vilification of the book’s aim and intent there is hurled the forthright declaration that this is an utterly sincere and consecrated attempt to rescue the sacred name of the Christ from an ignominy already heaped upon it over long centuries. There is abundant warrant for asserting the righteous character of the motive on the ground of its aim to redeem the conception of Christhood from the incredible error and falsification that have befouled it for ages. As Socrates and Plato so thoroughly demonstrated by a masterly dialectic, the only source of evil in connection with anything is the failure to grasp its true status and function in a perfect balance between excess and deficiency. Nothing is good, say these two profound thinkers, unless its basic raison d’être is clearly apprehended and its use fulfilled in exactly balanced proportion. The record of historical frightfulness that has emerged into actuality over many centuries because of the unbelievable miscarriage of the first true conception of the character and office of the Messiah is overwhelming justification of a sincere effort to remold the mistaken view to its original truth and beauty. In final curt statement the high intent of this work is to end the sway of an entirely false and stultifying idea of the nature of the Christ and inaugurate the dominance of the only conception that truly honors it. The thesis, then, is to demonstrate that the Christ was a grade of distinctly divine consciousness that is coming gradually into rulership in humanity, and being this, it was nothing else. It was not a man.

Just as the conception of the Biblical Adam as man, generic, is a true envisagement of the meaning of the term and yields intelligible significance in exegesis of ancient scripts, but becomes both ridiculous and unintelligible when taken to mean "a man," so with the Christos. The conception of the Christ as man in his divine genius, or the God in man, opens at once the whole of scripture to lucid and consistent intelligibility. It is indeed the "key" to any true grasp of the whole sense of that revered body of primeval literature. But the instant the concept is shifted from man divine to a divine man in an historical personage, dire confusion, entanglement in contradiction, ridiculous inconsistency and the eeriest "historical" nonsense are thrust into the structure. The concept of the Christos as the godly higher Self in man meets the tangled riddle of the exegesis of the Bibles with complete satisfaction of every intellectual demand, and no other concept does so. The concept of Christ as a man immediately afflicts the entire exegetical situation with hopeless sabotage. Used as the "key," it jams the lock and opens nothing to the reasoning intelligence. But it does open something to the unreasoning psychic and emotional aptitudes of less intelligent folk: the hypnotic gullibility of religious piety and a pitiable slavery to religious superstition. And the quantity of the tragedy wrought in the world by the prevalence of these two psychological forces makes perhaps the most lugubrious chapter in human history.

The concept of the Christ as "a man," who ate, drank, slept, walked and spoke as any mortal, is beyond any possibility of refutation the most fatuous ideation that ever found a place in the effort to rationalize human religious experience. No less has it been at the same time the most baneful influence in blocking the cultural enterprise of grasping the central power and fullest unction of that experience. Here again the truth of the situation runs in a direction exactly counter to that commonly believed. Pious orthodox opinion is wholly aligned to the idea that the historical Jesus is the most positive assurance of the individual Christian’s salvation and the active agent of its realization. This work ventures, doubtless for the first time in religious discussion, to fly directly in the face of that presumption with the claim that it is this very idea of the Christ as a historical person that has stood as the most concrete obstacle in the way of that salvation! The whole essay must be taken as the evidence advanced in support of that amazing reversal of all accepted belief. The basis of this strong contention will be the undeniable fact that the thesis of the historical Jesus has taken the mind and aspiration of all devotees outside themselves to an alleged man of Galilee, when the whole effort at spiritual growth and cultivation of our divinity must be focused within the depths of our own consciousness. It is no rank untruth to say that the cult of the historical Jesus has stood squarely between men and their immanent God and tended to keep them apart from each other. It has thwarted the culture of their own divinity. It would seem as if St. Paul wrote with this cogent realization in mind when he fairly shrieks at us: "Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is within you?" He is not a man outside yourselves; he is the God whom you keep buried so deeply in your own hearts and minds that you do not know he is there. It is a notable thing that august ancient spiritual science rightly regarded it as a sinful aberrancy for one to worship a power outside one’s self, or a deity lodged elsewhere than in the inner shrine of one’s selfhood. Medieval and modern blindness has reversed this direction of aspiration, and with calamitous consequences. Some sixteen centuries of spiritual benightedness have produced for historical record the pitiful and demoralizing spectacle of millions of misguided votaries turning outside themselves for salvation and pleading with an alleged personal figure on the stage of remote history to enter their lives and transform them into loveliness, all the while neglecting the voice of the only real Christos that ever existed, their own instinct for goodness, truth and love. It was a turn that almost alone proved sufficient to effect the total abortion of the Western world’s religious endeavor for a millennium and a half. It alone holds the legitimate answer to the insistent question, propounded in every epoch when gross barbarism rises to crush the nobility of spiritual culture:--why has religion failed to avert humanitarian catastrophe? Failure in religion’s practical effort is certain to follow as long as a meaningless worship is paid out to the divinity alleged to be embodied in one single historical savior, while the principle of divine mind within the self is left totally uncultivated. Granting some psychological virtue to the adoration of a historical paragon, it is still admitted in all religious discussion that men can be saved in the end only by their own righteousness. No world savior was ever sent into the world to save men from the task of saving themselves. Ever memorable and oft quoted are the lines of Angelus Silesius, Medieval mystic:

Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born,

But not within thyself, thy soul shall be forlorn;

The cross on Golgotha thou lookest to in vain

Unless within thyself it be set up again.

If any actual vicarious atonement or salvation were possible, the whole purpose for which souls from the celestial empyrean migrate to earth to further their evolution would be thwarted. Each soul must become the dynamo and citadel of its own strength, or there would be inequity and chaos in the counsels of evolution. Life grants nothing to any unit of being that it has not earned. To do so would be to introduce favoritism and particularity into the universal economy. The importance of this argument merits a fuller consideration, and additional treatment of it will enter the study later on.

The enormous fatuity of the concept of humanity’s Savior as a man must be examined in the light of a more candid scrutiny than any to which it has heretofore been subjected. Indeed one of the bases of quarrel with it is the very fact of its having been accepted without either psychological or historical critique of a thoroughgoing kind. The closer and more keenly one brings reason and data to bear upon the matter the more clearly it is seen that the very vogue and sway of the idea has been made possible only through the almost total default of the rational faculty and its displacement by sheer unction of faith. It is perhaps the most notable example and instance of the power of the psychological elements of mystical pietism to override and paralyze the rational elements in religion. For at any time in many centuries it needed only a half minute’s cool and steady facing of the realities of the situation to bring to view in the sharpest of outlines the utter irrationality of the presupposition that the power able to redeem human weakness to godlike status could be embodied and expressed, wielded and effectuated to its grand purpose, in the person of a man. The sheer thought that the savior of mankind from evolutionary undevelopment to perfection could be a man, or a power, no matter how divine, lodged in the body of a man in history, is such an anomaly, so out of line with all known natural process, that merely to pose the idea to the mind and hold it steadfastly there in the light of all its ancillary implications, is to see it for what it is--an utterly baseless creation of distorted religious fantasy. Merely to face the thought that the whole evolutionary advance of mankind across the gulf of undeveloped capacities from animal through human to divine nature was alleged to be effectuated and instrumentalized by the forces embodied in a single man at a given date in history, is to see the notion in all the glaring baldness of its inherent absurdity. The human mind can readily enough envisage as a modus consonant with reality the elevation of humanity from brute to philosopher, from savagery to Christhood, through the injection from without or the regeneration from within of a light and power to change base selfishness to divine charity, and thus redeem the race. But it can contemplate this process as operative only through the sweep of an influence which pervades the mass of mankind, animating all hearts and enlightening all minds, after the natural analogy of a little leaven raising the whole lump. That is a methodology which the human mind can grasp and accredit as harmonious with veritude. But that this vast regeneration of the race should be implemented by and dependent upon the birth and existence of a single historic individual, even through the inspiration of his resplendent example, is a concept that grows more weird, crass and chimerical the longer it is held in the focus of thought. It has in fact held its grip upon millions of minds solely by virtue of the total dearth of intellectual candor and the mental paralysis induced by rabid elements of emotional religiosity. It can not for a moment bear the light of reason. It can live only in the dim twilight of intellectual stultification wherein the clear outlines of the rational problem can not be distinctly discerned.

There is indeed a natural revolt in the character of all normal men and women against the thought of their accepting salvation purchased for them by another, the more so if the price of the ransom is for the vicar pain and suffering. What person of wholesome instincts wants to be saved by the sacrifice and oblation of another free being? Who that has the slightest iota of moral integrity would wish to live under the obligation of indebtedness for his evolutionary redemption to the sacrifice of another? Mankind cherishes a natural sense of the moral turpitude of taking what one has not won. It introduces whim into the normal order wherein man looks confidently for the reign of law. It is repugnant to man’s inherent sense of right. Vicarious salvation was one of the items of theology that led Nietzsche to cry out his bitter denunciation of Christianity as "slave morality." Not merely the superman, but any man worthy of the name wants to face life and nature on their own terms and with his own resources, and will hold in contempt the man or faith that accepts the boon of salvation in the spirit of a craven. The purchase of man’s redemption by the "shed blood of Christ," in the literal sense in which it stands as a doctrine of Christianity, is indeed one of the heaviest marks of Christianity’s doctrinal degradation. (Happily it can be made rationally acceptable, as can all other doctrines, through a restoration of the true esoteric significance.) The learned Celsus in the third century tells us that Christianity appealed to and welcomed only the slaves of Roman tyranny, men and women of the most abject position. It was held in the lowest contempt by Pliny, Seneca, Tacitus, Suetonius and the more intelligent groups generally. It was rejected by all who were genuine enough to despise the self-confessed ignominy of letting a historical scapegoat bear the burden of achieving their karmic immunity. The gross teaching of an ersatz salvation of man, the race’s restoration to its lost Paradise by way of the nailing of a quivering body of human flesh on a wooden cross on a given day, has been an insuperable obstacle to the swallowing of the Christian epos by thinking people down the ages. Vicariousness on any grounds is an unnatural and bizarre methodology; but the vicarious salvation of the human race through the sacrifice of a person in history transcends in fatuity the crassest fetishism of any wild children of forest and sea isle. Nature nowhere authenticates such a procedure to rational comprehension. It has stood as the weirdest anomaly in rational effort, defying all plausible explanation or fitness, thwarting all sincere search for true light, and taxing even the blindest of pious faiths to accept it as an inscrutable mystery.

All this irrational thesis was held for centuries in spite of the total dearth of any logical answer to the difficulties involved in the practical problem as to how the divinity historically embodied in one person could become and remain effectual for the evolutionary divinization of all the other children of humanity. Jesus might be in himself a mighty reservoir of divine essence, a veritable dynamo of godly unction. But how it was to be made available for all other men, how transferred from him to a distribution amongst all others, by what transmission wires or channels it was to pass from him into the lives of those "believing on him," on what conditions it was to be received by some and denied to others, or what pleas, prayers, sacrifices or cajolery were necessary to draw it forth from him,--all these elements of the practical or factual operation of Jesus’ saving grace to deify all men have never had an answer. And they can never have a rational answer. The groundplan and framework of Christian theology has ever had an artificiality that has rendered it a weird and fantastic thing in all conscientious effort at rationale. The spectacle of an omnipotent creator of all the worlds setting a trap to catch his own creatures by tempting them to sin, then condemning them to eternal misery in consequence of their inevitable "fall," and afterwards negotiating with them to appease his wrath on condition that his own Son, only begotten, consent to die in their stead, has stood for sixteen centuries as the rock foundation of that religion which shouts down all others with its vociferous claims to all-highest excellence among the faiths of earth. Through the force of the wholly unaccountable magnanimity of the man Christ in sacrificing himself to save a reprobate humanity, the minds of the countless millions of Christian devotees over the centuries since his "death" may have been, as the hymn sings,

Lost in wonder, love and praise.

But it is even more certain that they have been hopelessly lost in total incomprehension. Forced to swallow it by the overwhelming combination of ecclesiastical authority and unreasoning faith, they have yet been nearly choked by its unpalatability.

It is probably the opinion of millions of votaries of the atoning blood of Christ the man, that his saving grace has been made accessible to them, distributed to them, by his still-living active presence and his personal attention to their lives individually. Granting the continued existence of his individual personality after these two thousand years on some "spiritual" plane of being assumedly in touch with earthly affairs, there must be faced the infinitely complex problem of explaining how the consciousness of one man is able to give attention to the multitudinous details in the lives of millions of mortals at every moment of every day without cessation; how he is able to read the conscious content of innumerable minds and hearts with particularity and accuracy and adopt appropriate measures of spiritual strategy to answer the spoken and unbroken prayers of all these; how, in short, he is able to be a very present help in trouble in millions of complex situations all the time, and act in relation to all of them with impeccable accuracy and unfailing justice. Blind zealotry blots out this problem from the uncritical minds of the masses and priestcraft is warily content to let the dangerous dog lie asleep. It is not made the subject of debate. But if occasionally a hint of the dilemma is ventured, such a minor obstacle to piety is swept lightly aside with the ever-handy reminder to such intellectual temerity that with God all things are possible, and with the only-begotten Son of God no less. Surely the almighty hand of Supreme Deity could manage a trifling difficulty of the sort, and at any rate

God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform.

To minds submerged in the aura of miracle and overborne by pious authority and sacerdotal glamor, all things in a mysterious theology were made palatable. Jesus’ pronouncement that "thy faith hath made thee whole" and his assurance that by faith we can move mountains into the sea had paved the way for the triumphant march of religious gullibility and the obscuration of reason. It is granted that we must have faith where we do not yet have knowledge. What else can a dependent mortal creature do but have faith in the beneficence of the universe? But a universal Power that is itself an all-embracing intelligence would not ask its creatures, who are destined to embody all degrees of that same intelligence, to hold to any specific formulations of faith the substance of which contravenes our reason and the regular courses of natural law. Our faith must rest upon and be supported by the inviolability of law and not take its stand upon any fantastic scheme that flouts what we do know and sets at odds all our reasoning faculties. With either flaming zealotry or stolid indifference holding the critical faculty of the masses in abeyance, and occasional outbreak of rational inquiry smitten down with vengeful violence, the problem of how the man Jesus, dead ages ago, could still be the divine guest in billions of human hearts all at once and all the time, was held in leash.

Again, it is undoubtedly the thought of hosts of minds adjusted to miraculous possibilities of many sorts that Jesus’ still-potent spirit was detached from the limitations of his personality or even his earthly mind and, continuing to float about in some form of a ubiquitous presence like a permeating atmosphere, functions with a sort of automatism like air rushing in, wherever there is a spiritual vacuum or spiritual pressure. It is conceived that somehow that mind which St. Paul adjures us to let "be in" us as it was also in Christ Jesus pervades the world like a stratosphere and is there for us to register and lay hold of after the fashion of tuning in spiritually with the proper wave-length. But how the efficacy of such a vibrational force could be linked with and still dependent upon the personal Jesus of history, is in no way apparent or explainable. There is no necessary or factual connection. Divine consciousness or grades or rates of it may indeed conceivably be about us, bathing us in the universal aura of their supernal vibrations. But that any of them should have derived their origin and their present presence and operation from a man in history is again a matter that asks for our acceptance of a wholly irrational theological dictum.

This general notion receives some support from Jesus’ own assurance that when he left earth he would send the Paraclete, the Comforter, who would guide us into all truth and be the ever-solicitous monitor at our elbow. But all that this does is simply to rename the ubiquitous influence. It transfers the generative power from the personal Jesus to an impersonal principle. The new divine comforter must distribute his consciousness over as much ground as the personal mind of the risen Jesus would have to cover. Strangely enough one of the very phrases which the Greek theologians of the ancient philosophical religion used to picture the pervasive scope and functioning of a divine element in humanity was that "the gods distribute divinity." But this was in reference to the distribution of a seed fragment of God’s infinite and universal mind to every creature according to its rank in evolution. The presence of potential divinity distributively in all levels of life is not a crotchety but a quite reasonable and natural procedure. It is indeed one of the great features in the early philosophies that gave form to basic Christianity. It is readily conceivable that a type or degree of supernal mind or consciousness does pervade the universe, an ethereal essence, so to say, of which evolving entities such as man can partake through the development of a receptive capacity in their own brain and nerve mechanism. To make God’s infinite largesse available to man some such method of impartation on the one hand and appropriation on the other must be conceived as provided by the Oversoul of the world. But this is not the problem that is crucial to the tenability of the idea of a historical Jesus carrying out the part assigned to him in theology. He is there alleged to fulfill the function of saving millions of souls through his individual agency both during his life and for thousands of years after his death. If to substantiate the still operative power of Jesus Christ when he is no longer living, recourse must be had to the hypostatization of his personal mind as a universally pervasive cosmic atmosphere, the entire force of the method of explanation goes to weaken still further the claim for his historic personal existence and to strengthen that for his purely spiritual nature. It is not conceivable that the mind of one personal human being could reach and save billions of mortals. Therefore, to postulate a conceivable method by which such a mind could administer salvation to myriads in all ages, that mind must be released from any attachment to personality and characterized anew as a cosmic mental emanation or diffusion of mental substance. This deduction from the premises at once erases the personal Jesus from the picture of theology, if not in his life, then certainly from the moment of his death. If to render his mind operable for salvation its connection with his personality must be severed, then its connection with any personality is seen to be a clearly unnecessary, indeed impossible requirement. And this brings us face to face with the final outcome of this argument, which is that that mind which was in Christ Jesus would have existed, has existed and does exist, entirely independently of the fact or the question of any man’s historical presence on earth. For no more did Jesus originate that mind than does the radio mechanism originate the sonata that it renders in your room. Any man can catch it, as does the radio, from an omnipresent universal vibration, register it and give it expression on this plane of being. The vibration-wave of the sonata is in your room whether there is a radio present to reproduce it on the plane of your senses or not. The Christ consciousness was present as a cosmic outflow of divine thought energization, whether or not any man of requisite organic sensitivity lived to become its tubes and amplifier. The best that can be done for Jesus’ uniqueness in this purview is to assume that perhaps he was the first man in history (if he lived) who was equal to making that register and that expression. But such a claim is bizarre from the first instant. It would have to rest on pure conjecture and assumption. And against it would be arrayed a host of vital considerations, such as that research now discloses that all the highest and truest sermons he allegedly preached to found a saving religion had been uttered by sage men centuries before him. If his message was the first release of the wisdom of supernal divine mind to humanity, it should have towered in grandeur and beauty to immeasurable height above anything taught antecedently. Organized ecclesiasticism has been bold enough for centuries to flaunt this legend before its following. But the discovery of the Rosetta Stone and the Behistun Rock has put an entirely new complexion on the study of comparative religion, opening up whole vast areas of ancient literature from which it is seen that Christianity itself drew the body of its material. The disconcerting result of all this for the Christian position is that it definitely refutes the claims as to Jesus’ founding the first true religion and, far to the contrary, thrusts upon the apologists for these claims the difficult task of defending this sole emissary of deity to earth against the charge of wholesale literary plagiarism! If when he came to uplift humanity with a shining spirituality never before dreamed of, the best he could do was to repeat the sagas of early Greek, Chaldean, Persian, Hindu, Chinese and especially Egyptian wisdom, on what does the claim for his supreme uniqueness and matchless exaltation rest?

Then, of course, there is that other predicament arising from the egregious claims of the Christian party, which, had it ever been frankly faced by ecclesiasticism, would have left the Occidental world in better situation. It is the matter of God’s leaving the world prior to the year thirty-three or thereabouts without any chance to be saved by appropriating the mind of Christ. That the mere opportunity for the operation in humanity’s evolution of the saving principle of God’s grace should have been held off until the birth of a babe in Bethlehem at a given year in history, and not have been freely accessible to righteous men antecedently, needs nothing more than its clear statement to advertise its preposterousnss. It would be to say that the normal course of human evolution was held in abeyance, estopped, until the man Jesus arrived. One of our Christmas hymns sings

Late in time behold him come,

Offspring of the Virgin’s womb.

It is of course an absurd idea that the road to human elevation was not opened until the man-Christ, Jesus, landed on the planet at a late epoch in the race’s career. This is one of many twists and quirks which Christian dogma has asked its votaries to accept, to the dislocation of their rational mentality.