The Star of Bethlehem : A Mystic Fact
by Max Heindel
More than nineteen hundred years ago in Palestine there was born a little child. Children are born every day, every month, from one year's end to another, all over the face of the world, but this birth was something very, very different from any other. It was a birth that took place among and amid great spiritual manifestation. Angel choirs heralded this peacemaker, who was to give man the choicest of gifts--Peace on Earth and Good Will among men. How much it is needed!
The Wise Men came and worshiped, they brought gifts to the little child's cradle, and time passes on. The child grows, becomes a man, and says, "I came not to send peace, but a sword." A very different story that from the way he was heralded as a peacemaker; a very different career he pointed out for himself in the world than that which had been sung about by the angels on that Holy night. And history goes on to show that this prophecy was fulfilled. That Christian religion he came to found has been the bloodiest scourge the world has ever known, without any exception. The Mohammedan has been somewhat akin to the Christian religion and has been akin in that also, that it has been a religion of blood, of war, and of murder.
The gentle Nazarene spoke also of a time of love beyond, but those who came after him have fought like the Indian, they have outdistanced the Indian in cunning, in devising tortures for their victims, and yet they call themselves by his name--Jesuits. The Christian nations maintain and have maintained all along armies and navies. They pay inventors enormous prices for inventing machine guns and high explosives wherewith to destroy their fellow men. All over the Western World has gone the battle cry and nothing has equaled this religion in fierceness and destructiveness. The religion of Buddha has won its many hundred millions without the cost of a single life, but this religion of the Western World has cost rivers and rivers of blood; has brought untold sorrow and misery into this world. We see it gradually spreading its bloody trail as these Western nations go all over the world, carrying the sword of Christ, overcoming and subjecting the nations of the world.
Even when there is peace within the nations we have every day the war of competition. Every man's hand is against every other man's; there is no cooperation in this cruel struggle. We see on every hand the evidence of this in the growth of trust systems. All over there is a great strife and struggle. One must look this fact in the fact when he is a Christian at heart; he feels at heart that there is something wrong when he sees those things and is forced to ask himself, "Was it a lie that was sung by the angels on that Holy night? Was the star of hope that guided the Wise Men a mockery? Was this all a delusion we have heard about, and is it only a cruel religion that we have here in this Western World?"
I hope, friends, tonight to be able to show you that there is a reason for all of this; that there is a good, sound reason for every act of cruelty Christianity has brought in its wake, and that this trouble is only a necessary forerunner for something better, a state of peace, of joy, of love; that the star of hope was indeed a star of hope and is yet a star of hope for all who will seek it, and that the burden of the angel song is but deferred; that the present unhappy condition is just on the same order than when a person cleans house he puts a fairly orderly house in disorder, piling chairs on top of one another, taking up carpets, raising dust, etc. But that is all done with the ultimate idea in view of making the house cleaner, sweeter, better than before. Those historical facts in that past history of the Christian religion are of the same order; a present chaos out of which shall come the brotherhood of love and good will.
In order to understand we must go back in time. We know from the later lectures that man has not always been as he is; that he has lived in different state. We look upon everything in the cosmos not as it is now, but as it has evolved up to the present stage. Above all, we must cease to look at things in a materialistic manner. We must cease to regard ourselves and this Earth as mere forms. We must cease to regard the universe as a vast perpetual-motion machine, and realize that the stars are the organs of a great Being whom we call by the Holy name of God; that these stars are also the bodies of great Spirits and that their motion in the universe means something. When we see a man gesticulate we attach a meaning to it; when we see him hold out his hands with the palms towards us, we attach a meaning to it; he is telling us to go away. We know there is a different significance to it when his palms are turned towards himself; then he is beckoning to us to come to him. So with the stars. As they go around the zodiac year after year every one has a different position with regard to every other, until after countless ages they return to the first position. Every one of them is a feeling, living, thinking organism. The solstices have different meanings. The summer solstice brings about one certain change in the Earth; when the Sun goes to the winter solstice in December there is another influence upon the Earth. So with the vernal and fall equinox. They all mean something; they all have significance in the cosmos.
The Earth itself is a feeling, living organism. When we go out in the summer time and see the harvesters mowing the grain, let us not think there is no feeling about it; the Earth feels it. A cow that gives its life force to its offspring experiences joy and pleasure of having brought forth; it feels relieved when the calf takes the milk. It is so also with the Earth when the grain is taken off by the harvester. It is the same when we pluck flowers. On the other hand, when we pluck plants up by the roots it causes the Earth pain, just as it does us when we have our hair pulled. When we break a stone we give the Earth pleasure, for this Earth is the body of a Spirit, which has incarnated here in our dense Earth in order that we might have the material wherewith to build the dense bodies we function in just now. The Earth Spirit is longing for the day of redemption, when man shall have evolved so far that he shall cease to be under the necessity of having such a dense body and be able to function in a more ethereal vehicle. Then this instrument will have been spiritualized so that we may take the spiritual essence of it and discard the dense body. That is to be gained in a certain way by the initiation we shall hear about later in the lecture.
The Mystery of Golgotha we spoke of the other night, where we heard of this great Christ Spirit going into the Earth. That is only the beginning of the sacrifice. It was not just the death of the body of Jesus, that was over in a moment, but it was the continued incarceration of that Christ, who emanated from the cosmic Christ principle and is now the indwelling Earth Spirit, confined here till He has accomplished the redemption of man.
We remember that at one time we dwelt upon the sun; that is to say, that even in this Earth Period, when we came here to live the last time, we were in that central fire-mist, and we were there up to the time spoken of as the Hyperborean Epoch. There we crystallized until we could not respond to the high vibrations the other solar beings responded to; those who are now the archangels. They could progress in solar vibrations, we could not; therefore we crystallized a part of that fire-mist to shield ourselves, and in consequence we had to be thrown off. Then when we had gone the proper distance away from the Sun we could crystallize again, and later we threw off that part which is now known as the Moon. Those beings who are now on the Moon were too far crystallized; they were behind us; therefore we had to throw them off. From these two sources come two sets of vibrations; spiritual vibrations from the Sun, and hardening tendencies from the Moon. It is the balance between these two sets of vibrations that enables us to hold our bodies together.
At that time man was perfectly unconscious. His eyes had not been opened. He only used his force to build organs INSIDE. Then gradually the Earth crystallized more and more, until in the middle part of Atlantis the Ego had at last drawn into humanity and man had become possessed of all the vehicles that he has now. Then he became conscious of the world, but he was in a far, far different state than now. When consciousness is awakened it begins to work as a leaven in matter. Since we were in Atlantis and had our eyes fully opened, since the atmosphere cleared and we first saw things about us clearly--since then we have worked in the Earth in the materials of our bodies as a leaven works in the loaf and raises it. So we have lightened conditions and are continually lightening them.
In Lemuria man had the three lower bodies--the desire body, the vital body, and the dense body. Outside hovered the Spirit. At that time the Earth was in a condition of fire. There were masses of crust and around them seething, boiling water, and volcanic outbursts were very, very frequent. Man had at that time lungs that were like tubes. He had a bladder like the fishes have now, wherewith he could lift himself and leap great chasms. As the Earth condensed more and more that fire fog atmosphere of Lemuria condensed into a very dense fog in the early part of Atlantis. There those tubes had changed to gill-clefts, and he was breathing more as the fish do. This can be seen now in embryological development, where man goes through the same stages he went through at that time. the embryo lies in the amniotic fluid and has these gill-clefts, such as man had in the early part of Atlantis. He breathed in that manner in the dense watery atmosphere of Atlantis, but gradually that settled more and more, and man began to breathe as we do now.
In the early third of Atlantis there was a brotherhood; separation into nations had not begun. Mankind was a universal brotherhood, and when performing the rite of baptism, which makes us a member of a holy brotherhood, such as the church should be, a community that should be the nucleus for great universal brotherhood, that rite of consecration by water is in remembrance of that time, when man was truly innocent and truly lovable, had no evil in him--the time when he lived in the dense watery atmosphere of early Atlantis.
In the middle third of Atlantis all that is changed. He begins to separate into communities, for the watery atmosphere is clearing somewhat and he is beginning to breathe by the means of lungs. The human Ego was very weak, and had to get help from someone else. Therefore Jehovah, the highest Initiate of the Moon Period, the ruler over the angels and archangels that work with men, breathes into man's nostrils, gives him lungs, and gives him the Race Spirit in the air that is to curb the hardening tendencies of the desire body and help him to get it under control. The desire body has control of the voluntary muscles, every movement we make is caused by desire, and every exertion breaks down tissue, and hardens more and more every particle of our tissue. Therefore Jehovah aimed to help mankind out of their dense condition, by means of law.
The race religions are all based upon law. "I am a jealous God, and if you fulfill my commandments I will bless you abundantly and make your seed as multitudinous as the sands upon the seashore," says the Race God, "but if you do not obey I will send your enemies upon you and they shall gain the victory over you." Jehovah is the ruler of all the races and all the religions. He gave to each of these races an archangel to be their ruler, to be their special Prince. In Daniel 12:1, it is said that Michael is Prince over the Jews, and in the tenth chapter another race spirit says: "I am going to fight with the Prince of Persia, and the Prince of Persia shall come."
Thus these Race Spirits work with man, punishing him by means of other people, and giving him rewards or punishments for his good or bad deeds. The fear of God and the desire for material reward was pitted against the desires of the flesh and therefore these race religions under Jehovah are such as to build up the national spirit. They subjected, or rather they neglected, the individual for the sake of the nation. The interests of the individual are always made subservient to the interests of the nation. The Jew never thought of himself as Solomon Levi; first and foremost he thought of himself as being of the seed of Abraham. What he wanted most to emphasize was that he was a Jew. If he thought of his status any farther than that he would identify himself with his tribe, but last and least only would he think of himself as an individual.
The Race Spirit took a special care of certain sets of people, for example, the Levites among the Jews, who were destined specially for priesthood and they were herded around the temples and were specially bred to be the forerunners and teachers of their brethren. Their system of mating and regulation of the sex life of these special protégés produced a more lax connection between the vital body and the dense body which was necessary in order that initiation might take place and help man to advance. As long as the Race Spirit works with us we are under the law, we are only overcoming the influence of the desire body; therefore Paul says well that the law was until Christ--not until Christ came 2,000 years ago, but "UNTIL CHRIST BE FORMED IN YOU." When we release ourselves from the toils of the desire body and live up to the vibrations of the vital body, we become imbued by the Christ Spirit. Then and only then do we rise out of the national, the separating principle. Then do we become capable of being brothers to men.
Now we see why Christ said so emphatically, "Before Abraham was, I am." The Ego was before the nation and must be exalted over the nation. To that end Christ came, because as long as there were nations, there could not be brotherhood. If we have a number of houses, and they built of bricks, they are unavailable for building one building until torn down. When all the bricks have been separated we may begin building. When all nations have been chopped into individuals we may begin to build the grand Universal Brotherhood of man.
That is why the race religions failed, they separate men into antagonistic groups. So the race religions must be abrogated. We cannot do away with nations except we separate the individual. Therefore, we have wars, therefore we have had revolutions, where men have rebelled against kings and rulers, and have instituted republics. But they are not enough. We want to be free individually. We want to be every man a law unto himself--and this is where a great, great danger lies. We cannot be laws unto ourselves- -WE CANNOT BE FREE, UNTIL WE HAVE LEARNED TO RESPECT EVERYBODY ELSE'S RIGHTS.
So then, under the race religion, men grew by obedience to the law. Under the Christ regime that is to come in, man is to rise above law, and to be a law unto himself. As Goethe says--
From every power that holds the world in chains, Man frees himself, when self-control he gains.
That is the goal, SELF-MASTERY, which every one must gain, before he is fit to be a law unto himself--to be above the law--for no one except the very undisciplined man, who calls himself an anarchist, will think to improve matters by having the power to shoot down people. By that means he will make conditions far, far worse than they were. The true anarchist, the one who truly seeks to abolish law, is the one who is living the true life, and the clean life. By obeying every law, he rises above all law. We, for example, have risen above the law against theft. It is not necessary for us to have that law, but some people have not risen so far as that, and they must still have that law. We do not wish to steal, and hence, do not need the law that says, "Thou shalt not steal." By and by, man will rise above the need of all law. Then and only then can he be a law unto himself. In the Christ regime, man will be impelled and guided by love, and "perfect love casteth out fear." The race religions compel man to do right by means of FEAR, but the Christ religion will impel man through LOVE. Then he cannot do otherwise than right.
All race religions--every one of them, without exception, are looking for someone to come. The Egyptian religion looked forward to Osiris the bright Sun-Spirit; the Persian looked to Mithras; and the Babylonian to Tammuz. All looked for someone to come, to free the Earth. We find the same thing, even in the Norse mythology. We find that the old Norsemen looked for the "Twilight of the Gods," when the present regime must perish, and then out of the South from Muspelheim, the region of heat, should come that bright Sun-Spirit, Sutar, and he should set us A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH. Such we hear of in all religions, and even in the Christian religion we find them looking forward to a Sun-Spirit. At one time, in the ritual of the Catholic church, they used the phrase, "Our Lord of the Sun." It is from the visible Sun that every particle of physical energy comes. And it is from the spiritual invisible Sun that all of the spiritual energy comes.
At the present time we cannot bear to look directly at the Sun. It would blind us. But we can look at the reflected sunlight that comes from the Moon. In the same way, man cannot stand the direct spiritual impulse that comes from the Sun, and therefore, it had to be sent by way of the Moon, through the hands, and through the mediumship of Jehovah, the Regent of the Moon. That is the origin of the race religions. Later came the time when man could take the spiritual impulse more directly, and Christ, the present Earth Spirit, came to prepare this. The difference between the Christ of the Earth and the Cosmic Christ is best seen by an illustration. Imagine a lamp in the center of a hollow sphere of polished metal. The lamp will send out rays from itself to all points of the sphere, and will reflect lamps in all different places. So the Cosmic Christ--the highest Initiate of the Sun Period--sends out rays. He is in the spiritual Sun. The Sun is threefold. We see the outside--the physical Sun. Behind that, or hiding in that, is the spiritual Sun whence comes the impulse of the Cosmic Christ spirit. Outside the two others is something we call Vulcan--that can be seen only as a half-globe. In occultism, we say that is the body of the Father. There we have the Father, then, the spirit in Vulcan. We have the Christ, the Spirit in the Sun; and we have Jehovah, the Spirit in the Moon, that sends the reflected light both physical and spiritual.
Before the advent of Christ all spiritual impulses came to man by way of the Moon as race religions. Only by initiation was it possible to get into direct touch with the spiritual solar impulse. A veil hung before the temple.
When the time arrived that the Christ Spirit could be entertained on the Earth--when we had risen so far--then a ray from the Cosmic Christ came here, and incarnated here in the body of our Elder Brother Jesus. After the sacrifice on Golgotha had been completed, after the death of that body that he had occupied, he drew himself into the Earth. Take his own words for this. In no other way can we account for that saying, "This is my body." He showed the bread, it is the Earth Spirit that brings forth that bread. "This is my blood." The juices that are in the plant make the wine. It was not said, This symbolizes my body or blood; he said unequivocally, "This IS my blood."
In John 13:18, in our New Testament, it says: "He that eats my bread hath lifted up his heel against me." Luther, who translated it in Germany, and was not tied by any of the restrictions of the translators of the King James Bible, put it, "He that eats my bread trampled upon me." We do trample, at every step we take, upon the Earth Spirit, and that Spirit's body and blood is consumed among us, and that Spirit waiting for the day of redemption, when we shall be lifted so far from our material conditions that it shall be possible for the Earth Spirit to become liberated from its present cramped and dense existence.
The Christ Spirit, then, is the first incoming of a direct spiritual impulse. We spoke to you of the different motions of the planets, and their various influences at different times of the year. We know that at the time when the Sun's Spirit is in the northern regions--when we have the sun away up here at the summer solstice, then we have all the physical impacts upon the Earth. We get all the good there is in the Sun along PHYSICAL lines; that is the time when the grain and the grape are ripening, and when everything is bringing forth in the Physical World. The spiritual impulse is abrogated for the time being; but when, on the other hand, the Sun goes into the winter solstice, in December, the spiritual impulse is strongest. Also, we have the spiritual impulse stronger in the night than in the daytime. There were times when the churches were open all night, but closed in the middle of the day, for that was known to be the time of greatest darkness, so far as spiritual influences were concerned. However, when we remember these things we can see that at the time when the days are the shortest and the nights are the longest, on that Holy Night that we speak of, when the Christ was born as a Sun who was to lighten our darkness--the spiritual influence is then strongest, and can be reached easiest. It was this great truth that is at the bottom of the Star in the Holy night, illuminating the longest and darkest night in the year.
When Parsifal started to go with Gurnemanz to the castle of the Grail, he asked Gurnemanz: "Who is the Grail?"
"That tell we not, but if thou hast of him been bidden, From thee the truth will not stay hidden. The search but severs from him wider When he himself is not its guider."
That means that in the olden times, in the time before Christ came, only a chosen few could follow the path of initiation. Nobody could seek that path--nobody could get beyond the point where the rest of humanity were--save a few chosen ones, such as were the priests and the Levites. These were brought to the temples, and there herded together. They were married to one another in a certain way; certain people were mated with a definite end in view, namely, that they might develop the proper laxity between the vital body and the dense body that is necessary to initiation. A separation has to take place in order that we may lift the two ethers out, and leave the other two. That could not be done with the ordinary humanity. They were yet much in bondage to the desire body. They must wait until a later time.
Even with those people who were around those temples, it was very dangerous work to free them. It could be done best at certain times, and this longest night was one of those times. When the greatest spiritual impulse is here, they had a better chance to get in touch with it, than at any other time of the year. So on the Holy Night, which we call Christmas, it was usual for the Wise Men--those who were beyond the ordinary humanity--to take the ones who were also becoming wise, and therefore entitled to initiation, into the temples. Certain ceremonies were performed and the candidates were entranced. They could not at that time be given an initiation in their full waking state, it had to be done in trance. When the spiritual perception was awakened in them, they could look through the Earth--not seeing any detail, but the Earth became transparent, as it were--and they saw the Star at midnight, the spiritual sun.
Previous to the coming of Christ, the Earth was worked upon from without, as the Group Spirit works upon the animals. Christ came to work from within. Before that, when neophytes were to be brought in touch with him, they could see, in that Holy Night, the Star of the Christ, just as the Immaculate Virgin was on the Eastern horizon, and the little Sun-child of the coming year was starting towards the Northern hemisphere, to save us from the darkness, hunger and want that would result without him. Then these Wise Men could see the Star, in the Holy Night, which is the spiritual hope of man as the physical sun then born is his material savior.
Do not think it shone only at that time; it is easier now than then to see it, for when Christ came he altered the vibrations of the Earth and is changing them all the time since. He "rent the temple veil"--He made the Holy of Holies--the place of initiation--open to "whosoever will!" From that time on, there is no more trance needed--no more subjective states in order to go through initiation. There is a conscious going forth into the Temple, by every one who wills to come.
And in time that religion that He brought to us will drive away all the sorrows; will dry the tears from all eyes. Where there has been war, there will be peace, and sure, as sure as he came to bring that sword that shall liberate man from the national spirit and make him an individual that is capable of being a brother to every man, so surely as He came to do this work, so surely as the first part of His prophecy has been fulfilled--so will that other grand and glorious prophecy be fulfilled, that men shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks.
We have one more thing to consider, and that is the gifts that these Wise Men brought--the gifts that were to be laid at the feet of the Savior, as we hear of in the old legend. This legend tells us that one brought gold, one brought myrrh, and the third brought frankincense. The gold we always hear spoken of in symbology as the emblem of the Spirit. That Spirit is symbolized thus in the Niebelungen Ring, for instance. There in the opening scene, we see the Rheingold. The river Rhein is taken as the emblem of the water, and there the gold is seen shining on the rock, symbolizing the universal spirit in its perfect purity. Later it is stolen and MADE INTO A RING by Alberich, representing mankind in the middle of Atlantis, when the Spirit had drawn into them. Then the gold became debased, was lost, and was the cause of all sorrow in the earth. Later still we hear of the alchemists who tried to transmute base metal into gold; that is the spiritual way of saying that they wanted to purify this dense body, to refine it and extract the spiritual essence.
Therefore, the gift of one wise man is the Spirit. The next one brings myrrh. Myrrh is the extract of an aromatic plant that grows in Arabia, a very rare plant, very rare indeed. Therefore, it symbolizes the thing that man extracts when he cleanses himself. When he has cleansed his blood of passion he becomes plantlike, chaste and pure. He became the inverted plant before he became the pure plant, symbolized by the Rosy Cross, symbolized by the Diamond Soul, and so forth, then his body is an aromatic essence. It is an actual fact--we are not speaking in similes--when we say that there are Holy men, who are so Holy that they emit an aroma from them. It is thus said of some Catholic saints, and it is true. Therefore, the myrrh stands for that soul essence that is drawn out of the experience of the body. It is the soul.
The third gift was incense. Incense is a physical substance of a very light character, that is often used in religious services; it serves as an embodiment for the ministering unseen influences. An illustration of the properties of incense is also found in the story of the Serbian regicides. The Minister of the Interior has issued his Memoirs, and he mentions as a curious circumstance that every time they used a certain kind of incense to get others into the conspiracy, they succeeded: but at times when they used no incense, they failed. It shows--he had on certain occasions, unconsciously, of course, furnished an embodiment for certain spirits who wanted to and did aid the conspirators.
There is the key to the three gifts that were offered up by the Wise Men--the Spirit, the soul, and the body. As Christ said, "If you want to follow me, you must sell all you have. YOU ARE NOT TO KEEP ANYTHING FOR YOURSELF." You are to give up body, soul, and Spirit, everything, for the higher life, everything for the Christ. Not to an exterior Christ, but to the Christ within. The three Wise Men are said in the legend to be yellow, black, and white, representatives of the three races that we have on Earth, the Mongolian, the Negro, and the White man. Therefore, we see that it is very well shown in the legend that eventually they will all come into this beneficent Christ religion. "To him every knee shall bow." Each one will in time be led by the star to the Christ. But let us emphasize that very strongly--not to an exterior Christ, but to the Christ that is within. As Angelus Silesius says:
Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born, And not within thyself, thy soul will be forlorn. The cross on Golgotha thou lookest to in vain, Unless within thyself it be set up again.