These are some of my favorite subjects. They were the springboard for me cultivating an insatiable desire to KNOW. Enjoy!
From "Questions and Answers in Rosicrucian Philosophy Volume I" by Max Heindel:
QUESTION NO. 86
IS THE TREE OF LIFE SPOKEN OF IN THE BIBLE THE SAME AS THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE OF THE ALCHEMISTS?
ANSWER: Yes and no. To understand the matter it is necessary to go back in the history of mankind. There was a time when humanity was double sexed and capable of generating a body without the help of another. But when it became necessary to build the brain in order that the spirit might be able to CREATE BY THOUGHT as well as in the Physical World, one-half the sex force was retained to build an organ of thought. Then it became necessary for each to seek the cooperation of another who expressed the opposite pole of the creative force which he had available himself for sex purposes. Having no brain, and as "their eyes had not been opened," they were of course unconscious in the Physical World and unable to guide themselves. Therefore, the Angels herded them together at certain times of the year when the planetary forces were propitious to perform the generative act as a religious sacrifice, whereby they gave up part of their bodies for the generation of a vehicle for another spirit. In that close embrace, the spirit first pierced the veil of the flesh and Adam "KNEW" his wife. Later on, when the consciousness of humanity had become focused a little more upon the Physical World and a few among them had begun dimly to perceive the bodies of which we now are so thoroughly conscious, these pioneers began to preach the gospel of the body, telling the others that they possessed a physical body, for the majority were then unconscious of that instrument as we are now of having a stomach when in good health.
Then it was noticed that those bodies died, and the question arose among the pioneers as to how such a body could be replaced. The solution was given to man by a certain class of spirits who were stragglers from the evolution of the Angels, demi-gods, as we might say. These Lucifer Spirits, or light givers, enlightened nascent humanity regarding their powers of generating a body at any time. But these bodies were not perfect then--they are not perfect today--and of course generation without reference to the planetary conditions has produced even inferior bodies to what would have been otherwise generated, in addition to the painful parturition prophesied by the Angel.
Since then the generative function has been exercised unrestrictedly by the ignorant human race. But by the fact of death it has been possible for the Angels to teach humanity between death and a new birth how to build a gradually improving body. Had man learned in that far past how to renew his vital body, a he was taught to generate a dense vehicle at his own pleasure, then death would indeed have been an impossibility and man would have become immortal as the Gods. But he would then have immortalized his imperfections and made progress an impossibility. It is the renewal of this vital body which is expressed in the Bible as "eating of the Tree of Life." At the time of his enlightenment concerning generation man was a spiritual being whose eyes were not yet blinded by the material world, and he might have learned the secret of vitalizing his body at will, thus frustrating evolution. Thus we see that death, when it comes naturally, is not a curse but our greatest and best friend, for it frees us from an instrument from which we can learn no more; it takes us out of an environment which we have outgrown, that we may learn to build a better body in an environment of wider scope in which we can make more progress toward the goal of perfection.
In this pilgrimage there comes at last a time when man is fitted to have the powers of LIFE. The body which he has made for himself becomes pure and is of service for a much longer time than heretofore. Then he begins to seek after the philosopher's stone, the elixir vitae, or whatever name he may choose to employ. The alchemists aimed to manufacture this pure and holy vehicle, but not by a chemical process in a laboratory, as supposed by the ignorant multitude. Nomenclature which gave color to that idea was made necessary because they lived in an age when a dominant and apostate church could have brought them to death had the truth been known. When they spoke of transmuting base metals to gold, they spoke the truth not only from the material standpoint but also from the spiritual, for gold has ever been the symbol of spirit and these alchemists aimed to spiritualize their bodies, which are of baser mixture.
Everywhere the pure and beautiful symbol of transparency has been given to designate the power of purity. In the Old Testament we hear of the Temple of Solomon that was "built without sound of hammer." The most beautiful ornament there was THE MOLTEN SEA. Hiram Abiff, the master-workman, AS HIS FINAL ACHIEVEMENT, succeeded in smelting all the metals of the earth into an alloy as TRANSPARENT AS GLASS. In the New Testament we are told the last about a beautiful city having in its midst A SEA OF GLASS. In the East, the initiate aims to become the diamond-soul, pure and transparent. In the West the Philosopher's Stone is the symbol of the purified soul extracted from the bodies which have been transmuted and spiritualized. The soul that sinneth, it shall die, but the pure soul is immortalized by the elixir vitae, the "TREE OF LIFE," into a vital body that will last millenniums as a vehicle for the spirit.
QUESTION NO. 87
THE LORD HAD RESPECT UNTO ABEL AND HIS BLOODY OFFERING, BUT UNTO CAIN AND HIS SWEET AND CLEAN OFFERING, HE HAD NOT RESPECT. WHY?
ANSWER: The inquirer is under a misapprehension. The offering of Abel was not a BLOODY offering. It is nowhere stated that Abel killed an animal. The legend of the occult free masons, which we will give in part, tells the story:
Once upon a time, the Elohim created Eve; he united with her and she bore Cain; he left her before the birth of Cain and Cain was thus "the son of a widow." Then the Elohim Jehovah created Adam who united with Eve and she bore Abel. In time Cain and Abel brought their offerings to Jehovah. Abel brought of his flocks created by God while Cain brought THE WORK OF HIS OWN HANDS, the grain. And Jehovah received the gift which Abel had found ready to his hand, made by nature, but he despised the sacrifice which was the outcome of the creative ability of Cain. Then Cain slew Abel and was cursed. Adam again united with Eve, and she bore Seth.
From Cain and Seth came two classes of people. The descendants of Cain were Tubal-Cain and Hiram Abiff, cunning master workmen, who knew how to fashion things with their hands, HAVING WITHIN THEMSELVES THE DIVINE ABILITY OF CREATION, of making two blades of grass grow where there was only one before, and from them come all those who work with their hands and strive to conquer the earth and its resources.
From Seth descended the kings and the priests, WHO RECEIVED THEIR WISDOM READY MADE FROM THE GODS, AND TOOK THINGS AS THEY FOUND THEM. Among them was Solomon, the wisest of men, but he had not worked for his wisdom himself, HE RECEIVED IT AS A GIFT OF GOD. These two classes are still found upon earth today and are battling for supremacy. One is the progressive temporal Powers, the other the conservative Priest-craft.
The reason, then, why Jehovah accepted the offering of ABEL was because he had taken things as they were found created; HE WAS A SON OF A MAN, AND DID NOT ASPIRE TO DIVINE CREATORSHIP. But CAIN WAS OF A DIVINE NATURE; HE HAD WITHIN HIM THE CREATIVE INSTINCT; and that was not to the liking of the God.
QUESTION NO. 88
WHAT IS THE ESOTERIC SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ARK OF THE COVENANT?
ANSWER: We read in the earliest chapters of the Bible about the Fall in Eden, when man took the creative force into his own hands, used it ignorantly and thus sinned against the laws of nature. Propagation is a faculty of the vital body which is the shadow of the life spirit, the second aspect of the threefold spirit in man.
Cherubim are described as having been put on guard with a flaming sword when man was driven out from Eden, lest he eat of the Tree of Life and become immortal, for they are the great creative hierarchy which had charge over the earth in the Sun Period, when the vital body germinated and the life spirit was awakened.
Then commenced the long pilgrimage THROUGH THE WILDERNESS of matter, and the ark of the covenant was the symbol of man in this migratory phase of his existence. During the pilgrimage in the wilderness, the staves which were used to carry the ark were always left in their places to show that it had no abiding place, but when it came to the temple made without sound of hammer, the Temple of Solomon, its pilgrimage was ended, and the staves were removed.
In its character as a symbol of man the ark contained THE BOOK OF THE LAW, given to teach man right action. There was THE ROD OF AARON which budded, a wand of power, symbolizing the spiritual force latent in every man. This rod was a replica of the spear of Parsifal, which was an instrument of harm in the hands of Klingsor, the Black Magician, and likewise in the hands of the Roman soldier, but the pure and spiritual Parsifal used it to heal the wounds of Amfortas. The rod of Aaron had been used among the Egyptians to cause distress and sorrow, an was the HIDDEN WITHIN THE ARK, symbolical of the fact that man had at one time possessed and misused the spiritual power now hidden within.
There was the POT OF MANNA. This was not a food for the body as materialistically explained. The word manna is almost universal. In the Sanskrit we have "MANAS," THE THINKER. In German, the English, the Scandinavian languages, and in many others, we have the same word "MAN" to designate the thinker. The placing of the pot of manna within the ark commemorates the time when the Ego drew into the form it had built and became an INDWELLING individual spirit.
That was the "FALL" into material conditions, necessitating the generation of dense bodies. When man arrogated to himself the power to generate at any time, he was exiled from the Etheric Region lest he possess himself of the secret of vitalizing the imperfect bodies he generates and render evolution impossible.
It is stated in the first part of our answer, the Cherubim were the authors of our vital powers, so they must guard them until man is qualified to have control himself. Therefore they are said to have been placed at the garden of Eden with a Flaming Sword, and it is of the greatest significance that UPON THE DOORS to the Temple of Solomon there stood the Cherubim, holding in their hands no longer the Flaming Sword, but an open flower. The flower is the generative organ of the plant, which accomplishes the act of generation IN A PURE, PASSIONLESS MANNER, and when man has learned how to become pure and passionless so that each and every FORM is immaculately conceived, he can enter into the temple of God as the ark entered the Temple of Solomon, and he may REMAIN THERE, as signified by the removal of the staves, and as prophetically told in Revelation where the spirit said: "Him that overcometh, I will make a pillar in the House of God: THENCE HE SHALL NO MORE GO OUT."
QUESTION NO. 89
IS THERE AN OCCULT SIGNIFICANCE IN THE VARIOUS CHRISTIAN FEASTS OF THE YEAR?
ANSWER: Yes, the feasts of the year have the very deepest occult significance. From the material point of view, the planets are but so many masses of matter going about in their orbits in obedience to so-called blind laws, but to the occultists they appear as Great Spirits, moving about in space as we move in the world.
When a man is seen gesticulating, we attach a certain significance to his gestures. If he shakes his head, we know that he is negativing a certain proposition, but if he nods, we infer he agrees. If he beckons, having the palms of his hands turned toward him, we know that he is motioning for someone to come to him, but if he turns the palms outward, we understand that he is warning someone to stay away. In the case of the universe, we usually do not think that there is any significance to the altered position of the planets, but to the occultist there is the very deepest meaning in all the varied phenomena of the heavens. They correspond to the gestures of man.
Krishna means anointed, and anyone who had a special mission to perform was so anointed in olden times. When, in the winter time, the sun is below the equator at the nadir point of its travel, the spiritual impulses are the greatest in the world. For our material welfare, however, it is necessary that the sun should come again into the northern hemisphere, and so we speak of the time when the sun starts upon its journey northward as Christmas, the birthday of the Savior, anointed to save us from the famine and cold which would ensue if he were to stay at the nadir point always.
As the sun passes toward the equator, it goes through the sign Aquarius, the water-man, at that time the earth is deluged with rain, symbolizing the baptism of the Savior. Then comes the passage of the sun through the sign Pisces, the fishes, in the month of March. The stores of the past year have been all consumed, and the food of man is scant, hence we have the long fast of LENT, where the eating of fish symbolizes this feature of the solar journey. Then comes THE PASSOVER, when the sun PASSED OVER the equator. This is the time of EASTER, when the sun is at his EASTERN node, and this CROSSING of the equator is symbolized by the CROSSIFICATION OR CRUCIFIXION, so called, of the Savior; the sun then goes into the sign of Aries, the Ram, and becomes the Lamb of God, which is given for the salvation of the world at the time when the plants begin to sprout. In order that the sacrifice may be of benefit to man, however, he (the sun) must ascend into the heavens where his rays will have power to ripen the grape and the corn, and so we have the feast of the Ascension of the Savior to the Throne of the Father, which is at the summer solstice in June. There the sun remains for three days, when the saying "Thence he shall return" takes effect as the sun commences his passage toward the western node. At the time when he enters the sign Virgo, the Virgin, we have the feast of THE ASSUMPTION and later on, when he leaves the sign Virgo, THE NATIVITY of the virgin, who seems, as it were, to be born from the sun.
THE JEWISH FEAST OF TABERNACLES occurred at the time when the sun was crossing the equator on its passage into the winter months, and this feast was accompanied by the weighing in of the corn and the harvest of the wine, which were the gifts of the solar God to his human worshipers.
Thus all the feasts of the year are connected with the motions of the stars through space.
QUESTION NO. 90
I UNDERSTAND YOU TO SAY THAT THE CHRIST HAS BEEN INCARNATED ONLY ONCE IN JESUS; WAS HE NOT PREVIOUSLY INCARNATED IN GAUTAMA BUDDHA AND STILL EARLIER IN KRISHNA?
ANSWER: No. Jesus Himself was a spirit belonging to our human evolution, and so was Gautama Buddha. The writer has no information concerning Krishna, but is inclined to believe that he was also a spirit belonging to the human race, because the Indian stories concerning him tell of how he entered heaven and what took place there. The Christ spirit which entered the body of Jesus when Jesus himself vacated it, was a ray from the cosmic Christ. We may follow Jesus back in his previous incarnations, and we can trace his growth to the present day. The Christ spirit, on the contrary, is not to be found among our human spirits at all.
We may say that before the coming of Christ, He worked upon the earth from the outside, much as the group spirit works with the animals from without, guiding and helping them, until they become sufficiently individualized to be the abode of an individual spirit. There was no indwelling spirit in the earth prior to the coming of Christ, but at the time when the sacrifice upon Golgotha had been consummated and the Christ spirit was liberated from the body of Jesus, it drew into the earth and is now the indwelling Earth Spirit, which Paul says "is groaning and travailing, waiting for the day of liberation," for, contrary to the accepted opinion, the sacrifice upon Golgotha was not completed with the death of the body of Jesus; in fact, that event may be said to be only the beginning; the sacrifice will continue until such time as we shall have evolved the altruism and love that will liberate the Earth Spirit from the cramping conditions of material existence, when the necessity for guiding us shall have passed away.
QUESTION NO. 91
WE ARE TOLD THAT "GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, THAT WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM SHOULD NOT DIE BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE." HOW CAN WE RECONCILE THAT IDEA WITH THE WORDS OF CHRIST, "I CAME NOT TO BRING PEACE BUT A SWORD"?
ANSWER: It is said that the "law and the prophets were until Christ," and there are four steps whereby man lifts himself to God. At first, when he awakens to a consciousness in the Physical World and is in the savage state, he finds himself surrounded by other men, who by the very stress of circumstances are forced to fight for life, men among whom "might is right"; here he learns to rely upon his own strength to save him from the onslaughts of wild animals and other men. But he perceives around him the nature powers, and of them he is afraid, for he knows their ability to kill and his own impotence to cope with them. He therefore begins to worship, seeking to PROPITIATE THE GOD HE FEARS by bloody sacrifices.
Then comes the time when he begins to look to GOD AS THE GIVER OF THINGS, who will reward him here and now for obedience to his law and punish him instantly for disobedience. A mighty ally against his enemies but a powerful enemy, and therefore, much to be feared also. And so, he worships and SACRIFICES ANIMALS THROUGH FEAR AND AVARICE.
Then comes the stage when he is taught to worship A GOD OF LOVE and TO SACRIFICE HIMSELF from day to day, through his whole life, for a reward in a future state which he is to believe in by faith and which is not even clearly outlined.
Finally man will reach a stage when he will recognize his divinity and DO RIGHT BECAUSE IT IS RIGHT without thought of fear or bribe.
The Jews had reached the second of these stages and were under the law. The Christian religion is gradually working through the third stage, though not yet freed from the second. All of us are yet under laws made by God and by man in order to curb our desire bodies BY FEAR, but to advance us spiritually from now on we must sensitize our vital body which is amenable to love while not at all cognizant of law which governs the desire nature.
In order to prepare this coming state the priests, who were more advanced than the ordinary people, kept separate and apart from them. We hear in the East that only a certain caste, the Brahmins, were allowed to enter the temples and perform the temple services. Among the Jews, only the Levites were allowed to approach the holy place, and among other nations it was the same. The priests were always a distinct class, who were not allowed to marry among the ordinary people. They were separate and apart in every respect.
That was because the leaders of humanity could only use the strain where there existed a certain laxity between the vital body and the dense body. And so they bred these priests and herded them around the temples, regulating their life, sexually and otherwise, in every respect. But at the time when Christ was liberated from the body of Jesus and diffused His Being throughout the whole earth, the veil was rent, as a symbol of the fact, that the need for any special condition had passed away. From that time on the ether has been changing in the earth. An increasingly higher rate of vibration allows for the expression of altruistic qualities. It was the starting of that enormous vibration which caused the darkness said to have attended crucifixion. That was not darkness at all, but an intense light which blinded people for the time being until the vibrations slowed down by immersion in the dense, physical earth. A few hours later the radiant Christ Spirit had drawn into the earth sufficiently to restore normal conditions. But gradually that power from within is gaining the ascendancy, and the etheric vibrations are being accelerated, increasing altruism and spiritual growth. Thus the conditions are now such that no special or privileged class need exist, but EACH AND EVERY ONE MAY ASPIRE TO ENTER THE PATH OF INITIATION.
Old conditions die hard, however; under the regime of Jehovah, the Spirit of the Moon, humanity had been broken up into nations, and in order that He might guide them it was necessary that He should at times use one nation to punish another, for humanity was not then amenable to love--it would only obey under the lash of fear. Before the great Universal Brotherhood of Love can be inaugurated it is necessary to break up these nations on the same principle that if we have a number of buildings, composed of bricks and we wish to build them into one grand structure, it is necessary first to break them to pieces so that the individual bricks will be available for use in the larger building. Therefore the Christ said, "I come not to bring peace, but a sword."
We must OUTGROW PATRIOTISM and learn to say as that great soul, Thomas Paine, "The world is my country, and to do good is my religion." Until that time, the wars must go on and the more the better, for thereby the sooner will the horror become sufficiently appalling to compel peace.
On the holy night when the Christ child was born, the angels sang a song, "Peace on Earth and Good Will among Men." Later the child grew up and said, "I came not to bring peace, but a sword," and the Christian religion has been the bloodiest of all religions of humanity. It has carried desolation and sorrow with it wherever it has gone, but out of all that travail there will yet come the day when the song of? the Angels will become a fact and the words of the Christ uttered at other times concerning love to one's neighbor will be lived. When the sword has done its work it will be beaten into plow shares, and there will be no more war, for there will be no more nations.
QUESTION NO. 92
WHAT IS MEANT BY EVERLASTING SALVATION AND DAMNATION?
ANSWER: The orthodox religions say that those who have done well in this life are saved, that is to say, they will go to a heaven not very clearly defined, and those who fail to reach this salvation are plunged into a hell of which not very much is known save that it is a place of misery. The good and the bad stay in their respective places, once they have been judged; there is no redemption for the lost souls, and no danger of a fall for those once saved.
Such an interpretation is radically wrong, if the Greek dictionary is taken as authority, for obviously the meaning hinges upon the word translated "EVERLASTING." That word is AIONIAN, and in the dictionary it is translated to mean "an age, an indefinite period, a lifetime," etc. What, then, is the true meaning of the passage quoted we may ask ourselves, and in order to find that meaning it will be necessary to take a comprehensive view of life.
In the beginning of manifestation, God, a great flame, differentiates a vast number of incipient flames or sparks WITHIN Himself, not FROM Himself, for it is an actual fact that "IN Him we live and move and have our being." NOTHING CAN EXIST OUTSIDE GOD. So within Himself, God differentiates these countless souls. Each of them is POTENTIALLY divine, each enfolds all His powers as the seed enfolds the plant, but as the seed must be buried in the ground to bring forth the plant, so it is necessary that these divine sparks should be immersed in material vehicles in order that they may learn lessons that can be mastered only in such a separative existence as there is in the world.
The world may be regarded as a training school for the evolving spirits. Some of them started early and applied themselves diligently to the task before them; consequently they progressed rapidly. Others started later and are laggards. They are therefore left behind in the race; but all will ultimately attain the goal of perfection. In consequence of the foregoing fact there are a number of classes of these pilgrim spirits, and before one set, or class, of spirits can be moved up another step in evolution it is necessary that they should have attained a certain standard of proficiency. They are SAVED from a lower condition which they have outgrown. Once this measure of efficiency has been acquired, they are promoted into another race, another epoch. But among a large number there are always laggards, and these are CONDEMNED to stay in the class where they are until they have arrived at the stage of growth required for advancement. The plan is similar to the method in which children in a school are promoted into the next higher class AT THE YEARLY EXAMINATIONS if they have attained a certain standard of knowledge; if not, they are CONDEMNED to stay behind--NOT FOREVER, BUT ONLY UNTIL ANOTHER YEAR'S EXAMINATION PROVES THAT THEY HAVE QUALIFIED.
The foregoing is not a distorted or a wrong representation of the meaning of the word aionian. It has been used other places in the Bible in a manner which bears out our contention. For instance, in Paul's letter to Philemon, where he returns to him the slave Onesimus with the words, "Perhaps it was well that you should lose him for a time that he might be given back to you FOREVER." The word "forever" is the same word aionian which is translated EVERLASTING in connection with damnation and salvation, and it will be readily seen that in this case it can only mean a part of a lifetime, for neither Paul or Philemon, as such, would live forever.
QUESTION NO. 93
WHAT IS THE TEACHING OF THE ROSICRUCIANS CONCERNING THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION?
ANSWER: The Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is, perhaps, one of the most sublime mysteries of the Christian religion, and perhaps for that reason it has suffered more from being dragged down into materiality than any of the other mysteries. It has suffered alike from the interpretation of its clumsy supporters and the sneers of the skeptics. When, for instance, we see in churches a picture of God as an old man sitting up in the skies with a blow-pipe in his mouth in the act of blowing the infant Jesus into the side of Mary, it is more than ridiculous, it is pathetic!
The popular, but erroneous, idea is that about 2000 years ago an individual named Jesus Christ was born of a mother without the cooperation of an earthly father, and THIS INCIDENT IS REGARDED AS UNIQUE IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. In reality, it is not unparalleled; the immaculate conception has taken place many times in the history of the world and will become universal in the future.
The anticipated history of man is written in the stars--man being the little world as the stars are great worlds. There the ideal, the prototype of the Immaculate Conception is dramatically presented from year to year. The sun is the LIFE GIVER of the world; it is THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD also. And as the more advanced beings who are saviors of mankind appear when the greatest spiritual darkness is upon earth, so the sun is born anew at the winter solstice and starts its journey toward the equator on the darkest night of the year, the night between the 24th and the 25th of December. At that time, the zodiacal sign Virgo rises upon the eastern horizon in all northern latitudes, which are the most populous parts of the earth.
Thus, the light of the world is each year immaculately conceived by the celestial virgin mother and starts upon his journey northward to give his life for humanity as he ripens the corn and the grape. By analogy the spiritual teachers are born at time when spiritual darkness is greatest, and they give to man the bread of life which feeds the soul.
Men do not gather grapes of thorns, but like always begets like; an entity that is vile must be born of a mother who is vile, and before a savior can be born a pure virgin mother must be found. But when we say "virgin," we do not mean virgin in a physical sense. We all possess physical virginity in the early years of our lives, but virginity of the spirit is a quality of soul acquired by lives of pure thought and lofty aspirations. It is not dependent upon the state of the body. A true virgin may bear several children and remain "virgin."
Whether a child is conceived in sin or immaculately conceived is thus dependent upon its own inherent soul quality, for if the Ego to be born is pure and chaste it will naturally be born to a mother who is also of the same pure and beautiful nature. And the physical act, which in the case of most people is dictated by passion and desire for sensual gratification, is performed by the pure and the chaste of soul in a spirit of prayer as a sacrifice. Thus the child is begotten without the sin of passion; it is immaculately conceived.
Such a one is never an accidental child. His coming has been heralded and looked forward to with anticipation of pleasure and joy, and there are many cases at the present day where people come very close to an imitation of the Immaculate Conception; cases where both the parents are pure and chaste; where they perform the generative act in the spirit of pure love; where the mother is unmolested during the gestatory period and the child is born in almost as pure a manner as foreshadowed in the symbolical immaculate conceptions. In time, when humanity grows more and more altruistic, passion will be superseded by pure love and all men will be immaculately begotten.