43. Last Journey to Jerusalem -- Last Supper -- Death and Resurrection

"Hosanna to the son of David!" This cry rang out at Jesus' entrance through the East Gate into Jerusalem; branches of palms were strewn before his steps. Those who welcomed him with so much enthusiasm, hastening from all parts of the city for this ovation, were followers of the Galilean prophet. They greeted the liberator of Israel, who would soon be crowned king. The twelve Apostles who accompanied him still shared this illusion, despite Jesus' express denials. He alone, the proclaimed Messiah, knew that he was walking toward torture, that even his disciples would not penetrate the sanctuary of his thought until after his death. He was offering himself resolutely, with perfect consciousness and a free will. Hence his resignation, his gentle serenity. As he passed beneath the great portal carved in the dark fortress of Jerusalem, the clamor became intensified, pursuing him like the voice of Fate seizing its prey, "Hosanna to the son of David!"

With this solemn entry into Jerusalem Jesus publicly declared to the religious authorities among the Jews that he was assuming the role of Messiah, with all its consequences. The next day he appeared in the Temple, in the court of the Gentiles, and, going to the merchants and the money-changers whose usury and handling of coin profaned the sanctity of the holy place, he spoke these words from Isaiah, "It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, and you make it a den of thieves!" The merchants flee, carrying with them their tables and money sacks, intimidated by the prophet's partisans who surround him like a solid rampart, but still more by his fiery gaze and commanding gesture. The priests are astounded at his boldness and are terrified at his power.

A deputation from the Sanhedrin comes to him, demanding an explanation, "By what authority do you do these things?" At this cunning question, according to his custom Jesus answered with a no less difficult question for his adversaries, "The baptism of John, whence came it, from heaven or men?" If the Pharisees had answered, "It comes from heaven," Jesus would have said to them, "Then why did you not believe it?" If they had said, "It comes from men," they would have had cause to fear the people who considered John the Baptist a prophet. Therefore they answered, "We do not know." Jesus said, "Then neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things."

But now, having warded off the attack, he took the offensive and added, "Indeed I tell you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will precede you into the kingdom of God!" Then in a parable he compared them to the evil husbandman who kills the master's son in order to steal the inheritance of the vineyard, and he called himself "the cornerstone which will crush you."

By these deeds and by these sayings it can be seen that on this last journey into the capital of Israel, Jesus had ended his retreating. For a long time the authorities had held the two major points of accusation necessary to destroy him: his threats against the Temple and his affirmation that he was the Messiah. And now his latest attacks exasperated his enemies. From this moment his death, already decided upon by the rulers, was only a matter of time. From the moment of his arrival, the most influential members of the Sanhedrin, the Sadducees and Pharisees, having become reconciled in their hatred for Jesus, agreed among themselves to have "the seducer of the people" die. However they hesitated to seize him in public, because they feared a revolt of the people. Several times previously, soldiers whom they had sent to capture him had returned, converted by his sayings or frightened by his throngs of followers. Several times the Temple guards had seen him disappear out of their midst in an incomprehensible manner. In this same way the Emperor Domitian, fascinated, hypnotized by the Magus whom he wished to condemn, saw Apollonius of Tyana disappear from before his throne, surrounded by his guards!

Thus the struggle between Jesus and the priests continued from day to day with an increasing hatred on their part, and on his, with a vigor, impetuosity and intensity resulting from his certainty of the fatal outcome. It was Jesus' last attack against the powers of his time. He displayed tremendous energy and all that masculine force like armor covering his sublime tenderness, which can be called the Eternal Feminine of his soul. This great combat ended in terrible anathemas against the debasers of religion: "Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, who close the Kingdom of Heaven against those who wish to enter! You are fools and blind men, who pay the tithe but neglect justice, mercy and fidelity! You are like whitewashed tombs which appear lovely on the outside but inside are full of dead men's bones and all kinds of offal!"

Having thus branded religious hypocrisy and false priestly authority for centuries yet to come, Jesus considered his struggle ended. He left Jerusalem followed by his disciples, taking the road to the Mount of Olives. From its heights one looked down upon Herod's Temple in all its majesty, with its terraces and vast porticoes, its white marble finish inlaid with jasper and porphyry, its shining roof, overlaid with gold and silver. The disciples, discouraged and sensing a catastrophe, asked him to look at the splendor of the building, and there was a nuance of melancholy and regret in their tone. For they had hoped until the last moment to sit in that Temple like judges of Israel, grouped around the Messiah, crowned pontiff-king.

Jesus surveyed the Temple and said, "Do you see all that? Not one stone will remain upon another." He calculated the duration of the Temple of Jehovah by the moral worth of those who were attacking him. He understood that fanaticism, intolerance and hatred were not sufficient weapons against the battering-rams and battle-axes of the Roman Caesar. With his insight of an initiate becoming more penetrating through that spiritual perception which the approach of death gives, he saw the Judaic pride, the politics of the kings, all Jewish history ending in catastrophe. Victory was not there; it was in the thinking of the prophets, in that universal religion, in that invisible Temple of which he alone had full awareness at that hour. As for the ancient Citadel of Zion and the Temple of stone, he already saw the Angel of Destruction standing at its gates, torch in hand.

Jesus knew that his hour was near, but since he did not wish to let himself be captured by the Sanhedrin, he withdrew to Bethany. Because he had a preference for the Mount of Olives, he went there almost every day to converse with his disciples. From this height there is a magnificent view, which includes the rugged mountains of Judea and Moab with their bluish and purple hues; in the distance is seen a bit of the Dead Sea, like a mirror of lead from which sulphurous vapors escape. Jerusalem spreads out at the foot of the mountain, dominated by the Temple and the Citadel of Zion. Even today when dusk descends into the gloomy gorges of Hinnom and Jehosaphat, the City of David and of the Christ, protected by the sons of Ishmael, rises in imposing majesty from these dreary valleys. Its cupolas and minarets retain the fading light of the sky, and seem always to be awaiting the Angels of Judgment. There Jesus gave his disciples his final instructions concerning the future of the religion he had come to establish, and regarding the future destinies of humanity. Thus he willed to them his earthly and divine promise, closely linked with his esoteric teaching.

It is evident that the compilers of the Synoptic Gospels have transmitted to us the apocalyptic discourses of Jesus only in a confused form, which makes them almost incomprehensible. Their meaning only begins to become intelligible in the Gospel of John. If Jesus had really believed in his return on the clouds a few years after his death, as naturalist exegesis believes, or yet if he imagined that the end of the world and the final judgment of men would take place in the form conceived by orthodox theology, he would have been merely a very mediocre visionary instead of the initiate sage, the sublime seer, as is proved by each word of his teaching, each deed of his life. It is evident that here, more than elsewhere, his words must be understood in the allegorical sense, according to the transcendent symbolism of the prophets. John's Gospel, of the four Gospels the one which has best transmitted to us the Master's esoteric teaching, imposes on us this interpretation when it reports the words of the Master: "I have yet many things to say to you, but they are beyond your understanding . . . I have told you these things in allegories, but the time comes when I shall no longer speak to you in allegories, but I shall speak to you openly of my Father."

Jesus' solemn promise to the Apostles points to four objects, four growing spheres: planetary and cosmic life; individual soul life; the national life of Israel; the whole human evolution. Let us consider each of these four objects of the promise, these four spheres where Christ's thought radiates before his martyrdom like a setting sun, filling all the earthly atmosphere with its glory, even to its zenith, before illumining other worlds.

1. The First Judgment means the ultimate destiny of the soul after death. It is determined by the soul's inner nature and by the acts of its life on earth. I have explained this above with reference to Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus. On the Mount of Olives, speaking on this subject, he says to his Apostles, "Watch that your hearts do not become heavy with cares and pleasures of this life so that this day takes you by surprise." Again he said, "Be ready, for the Son of Man will come at a time you know not!"

2. The Destruction of the Temple and the End of Israel. "Nation shall rise against nation ... You will be given up to the authorities to be tortured . . . Indeed I say to you that this generation shall not pass away until all these things happen!"

3. The Earthly End of Mankind, which is not fixed at a definite age, but which must be attained by a series of progressive and successive accomplishments. This goal is the coming of the social Christ, of the divine man on earth; that is, the organization of Truth, Justice and Love in human society, and subsequently the pacification of the peoples. Isaiah already had foretold this distant age in a magnificent vision which begins with the words: "Seeing their works and their thoughts, I come to gather all nations and all tongues together; they shall come and see my glory, and I shall put my sign upon them ..."

Completing this prophecy, Jesus explains to his disciples that this sign will be the complete unveiling of the Mysteries, of the coming of the Holy Spirit which he also calls the Comforter, "the Spirit of Truth which shall lead you into all truth." "And I shall pray my Father, who will give you another Comforter so that it may remain eternally with you, that you may know the Spirit of Truth which the world cannot receive because it does not see it at all; but you know it because it remains with you and because it will be in you." The Apostles will have this revelation in advance; mankind will experience it later in the course of the ages. But each time that it enters into a consciousness or a group of human beings, it strikes through from top to bottom. "For as the lightning comes out of the east and shines even in the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be." Thus, when the central, spiritual Truth lights up, it illumines all truths and all worlds.

4. The Last Judgment means the end of the cosmic evolution of humanity or its entry into a definitive spiritual condition. This is what Persian esoterism called the victory of Ormuzd over Ahriman, or of the Spirit over matter. Hindu esotericism called it the complete reabsorption of matter by the Spirit, or the end of a Day of Brahma. After thousands and millions of centuries a time must come when, having gone through series of births and rebirths, of incarnations and regenerations, the individuals who compose humanity will have definitively entered the spiritual state, or have been annihilated as conscious souls by evil, that is, by their own passions which the fire of Gehenna and the gnashing of teeth symbolize. "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky. The Son of Man will come on a cloud. He will send his Angels with a great sound of the trumpet, and he will gather together his chosen from the four winds." The Son of Man, a generic term, here means mankind in its perfect representatives, that is, the small number of those who have raised themselves to the rank of Sons of God. His Sign is the Lamb and the Cross, that is, Love and Eternal Life. The Cloud is the image of the Mysteries become translucent, as well as of subtle matter transfigured by the Spirit, of fluidic substance which is no longer a dense, obscure veil, but a light transparent garment of the soul; no longer a gross fetter but an expression of truth; no longer a deceiving appearance, but spiritual Truth itself, the inner world instantaneously and directly manifested. The Angels who gather the chosen are the glorified spirits who themselves have come from mankind. The Trumpet which they sound symbolizes the living Word of the Spirit, which reveals souls as they are and destroys all deceitful appearances of matter.

In this way, sensing that he was nearing his death, Jesus opened to the astonished Apostles those great perspectives which from most ancient times had been a part of the doctrine of the Mysteries, and to which each religious founder has always given a personal form and color. To engrave these truths upon their minds, to facilitate their propagation he summed them up in images of extreme boldness and incisive energy. The revelatory picture, the speaking symbol was the universal language of the ancient initiates. Such a symbol possesses a communicative power, a power of concentration and duration which is lacking in the abstract term. In using it, Jesus simply followed the example of Moses and the prophets. He knew that his ideas would not be understood at once, but he wanted to imprint them in letters of fire in the simple souls of his friends, leaving to later centuries the task of generating the powers contained in his speech.

Jesus felt at one with all the prophets of earth who had gone before him and who like himself were messengers of Life and of the eternal Word. In this feeling of oneness and firmness in changeless Truth, before these limitless horizons of heavenly radiance which are seen only from the zenith of First Causes, he dared speak the proud words to his sorrowing disciples: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall not pass away!"

Thus the mornings and evenings slipped by on the Mount of Olives. One day, in one of those gestures of sympathy so native to his ardent and impressionable nature, which made him return abruptly from the most sublime heights to earth's sufferings, which he felt as his own, he shed tears over Jerusalem, over the Holy City, and over his people whose terrible destiny he sensed.

Meanwhile, his own destiny was approaching with giant steps. Already the Sanhedrin had deliberated over his fate and had decided upon his death; already Judas Iscariot had promised to surrender his Master. This sinister betrayal was not the fruit of sordid greed but of ambition and wounded vanity. Judas, an individual of cold egotism and absolute positivism, incapable of the least idealism, had become a disciple of Christ only because of worldly speculation. He counted on the immediate earthly triumph of the prophet, and on the benefit which would come to him from it. He had understood nothing of that profound saying of the Master, "Those who would like to gain their life shall lose it, and those who will lose it will gain it."

In his boundless charity Jesus had admitted Judas to the circle of his friends in the hope of changing Judas' nature. When the latter saw that things were turning out badly, that Jesus was lost, his disciples threatened and himself disappointed in all his hopes, his deception turned to rage. The wretched man denounced the one who in his eyes was only a false Messiah, and by whom he considered himself deceived.

With his penetrating insight, Jesus understood what was taking place within the unfaithful Apostle. He resolved to avoid destiny no longer, for he felt its net tightening around him with each passing day. It was the eve of Passover. He ordered his disciples to prepare the meal in the city at a friend's house. He sensed that this would be his last meal, hence he wanted to give it unusual solemnity.

We have reached the final act of the Messianic drama. In order to grasp the soul and work of Jesus at their source it was necessary to describe from within the first two acts of his life, to show his initiation and his public career. The inner drama of his consciousness paralleled the latter. The last act of his life, the drama of the Passion, was the logical consequence of all that had gone before. Since it is known to all, it is self-explanatory, for the nature of the sublime is to be simple, broad and clear.

The drama of the Passion has contributed powerfully to establishing Christianity. It has drawn tears from all men who have hearts, and has converted millions of souls. In describing all these scenes the Gospels manifest an incomparable beauty. John himself descends from his spiritual heights, and his circumstantial account bears the poignant truth of an eye-witness. Each one can relive in himself the divine drama, but no one can recreate it. Nevertheless, in order to complete my task, I must focus the rays of esoteric tradition upon the three principal events by which the life of the divine Master ended: The Holy Supper, the Trial of the Messiah and the Resurrection. If light is shed upon these three it will illuminate all of the Christ's previous career and will cast its radiance over the entire history of Christianity following the Resurrection.

The Twelve, forming thirteen with the Master, had assembled in the upper room of a house in Jerusalem. The unknown friend, Jesus' host, had decorated the room with a rich carpet. According to the oriental custom, the disciples and Master reclined three by three on four large divans in the form of a triclinia arranged around the table. When the Passover Lamb had been brought, the cups filled with wine, along with the precious golden chalice, loaned by the unknown friend, Jesus, placed between John and Peter, says, "I have ardently desired to eat this Passover with you, for I say to you that I shall eat no more of it until it is accomplished in the Kingdom of Heaven." After these words, faces grew sad, the air became heavy. "The disciple whom Jesus loved," and who alone guessed everything, inclined his head in silence toward the Master's heart. According to the custom of the Jews at the Passover meal, they ate the bitter herbs, the haroseth, without speaking. Then Jesus took the bread and, having given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you; this do in remembrance of me." In the same way he gave them the cup after supper, saying to them, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you."

Such is the institution of the Supper in all its simplicity. It has a much deeper content than is generally known or described. Not only is this symbolic and mystical act the conclusion and summary of all of Christ's teachings, but it is also the consecration and rejuvenation of a very ancient symbol of initiation. Among the initiates of Egypt and Chaldea, as well as among the prophets and Essenes, the fraternal agape marked the first step of initiation. Communion in the form of sharing of the bread, the fruit of the wheat, signified knowledge of the Mysteries of earthly life as well as a partaking of the goods of earth and finally a perfect union of the intimately associated brothers. On the higher level, communion in the sharing of wine, the blood of the vine penetrated by the sun, meant a partaking of heavenly goods, the sharing in spiritual Mysteries and divine science. In giving these symbols to the Apostles, Jesus amplified them. For through them, he extends fraternity and initiation, once limited to the few, to all mankind. To these symbols he adds the deepest of Mysteries, the greatest of forces: his Deed of Sacrifice, making of it a chain of invisible but inviolable love between himself and his own. This will give his glorified soul a divine power over their hearts and over the hearts of all men. The cup of Truth coming from the depths of prophetic ages, that golden chalice of initiation which the Essene had offered him in the rapture of his ecstasy as The Son of God -- that cup in which he now sees his own blood glow, that cup he now extends to his beloved disciples with the ineffable tenderness of a last farewell.

Do the Apostles understand this? Do they recognize this redemptive thought which embraces the worlds? It shines in the deep, painful look of the Master as he looks from the Beloved Disciple to the one who is about to betray him. No, they do not yet understand. They sigh painfully, as though in a bad dream; a heavy red vapor seems to float in the air and they ask each other whence comes that strange radiance around the head of the Christ. When at last Jesus declares that he will spend the night in prayer in the garden on the Mount of Olives and rises, saying, "Let us go there! " -- they do not doubt what will follow. .

Jesus has experienced the anguish of Gethsemane. With frightening clarity he has seen the infernal circle about, him growing steadily tighter. In face of the terror of this situation, in the dreadful waiting, knowing he is about to be seized by his enemies, he trembles; for an instant his soul shrinks before the tortures awaiting him; a sweat of blood forms itself in drops upon his forehead. Then prayer strengthens him.

Now come sounds of confused voices, lights of torches under the dark olive trees, the clash of arms. It is the soldiers sent by the Sanhedrin. Judas who leads them, kisses his Master so they may recognize the prophet. Jesus returns his kiss with ineffable pity, saying, "My friend, what do you want here?" The effect of this gentleness, of this fraternal kiss, given in exchange for the darkest betrayal, will make such an impression on this hard soul that shortly afterward, seized with remorse and horror at his deed, Judas will commit suicide.

With rough hands the soldiers have seized the Galilean Rabbi. After a brief resistance the frightened disciples flee like a handful of seed scattered by the wind. Only John and Peter remain nearby in order to follow the Master to the tribunal. Their hearts are broken, their souls intent upon his destiny, but Jesus has regained his calm. From this moment on, not a word of protest or complaint will come from his mouth.

The Sanhedrin has assembled hastily for a plenary session. Jesus is led there in the middle of the night, for the tribunal wishes to put a quick end to this dangerous prophet. The sacrificers, the priests in deep red, yellow and purple tunics with turbans on their heads, are solemnly seated in a semicircle. In their midst on a more elevated seat, sits Caiaphas the high priest, wearing the migbah. At each end of the semicircle on two small platforms stand the two recorders, one for acquittal, the other for condemnation, advocatus Dei, advocatus Diaboli. Dressed in his white Essene robe, Jesus is standing impassively in the center. Surrounding him, bare-armed, fists on hips and with evil expressions, are officers of justice, armed with thongs and ropes. Only witnesses for the prosecution are present, none for the defense. The high priest as supreme judge is the main accuser; the so-called trial is a measure of public safety against the crime of religious treason. In reality however, it is the preventive vengeance of a worried priesthood which feels its power threatened.

Caiaphas rises and accuses Jesus of being a seducer of the people, a mesit. A few witnesses taken at random from the crowd, make their deposition, but they contradict one another. Finally, one of them reports the saying, considered blasphemous, which the Nazarene more than once had thrown in the faces of the Pharisees in the porch of Solomon, "I can destroy the Temple and raise it again in three days." Jesus is silent. "You do not answer," says the high priest. Knowing that he will be condemned, not wishing to waste his words, Jesus remains silent. But this saying, even if it were proven, would not justify capital punishment. A more serious confession is needed. In order to draw one from the accused, Caiaphas, the clever Sadducee, asks him a question of honor, the vital question of his mission. Caiaphas well knows that the greatest cleverness often consists in going directly to the essential point. "If you are the Messiah, tell us so!"

At first Jesus answers evasively, showing clearly that he is not fooled by the strategy: "If I tell you, you will not believe me; but if I ask you, you will not answer me." Having failed in his role of examining magistrate, Caiaphas exercises his prerogative as high priest, beginning again with solemnity, "I command you, by the living God, to tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God!"
Thus challenged, summoned to retract or to affirm his mission before the highest representative of the religion of Israel, Jesus hesitates no longer. He calmly answers, "You have said it; but I tell you that from now on you will see the Son of God sitting at the right hand of Power and coming on clouds from heaven." By thus expressing himself in the prophetic language of Daniel and the Book of Enoch, the Essene initiate Jehoshoua is not speaking to Caiaphas as an individual. He knows that the agnostic Sadducee is incapable of understanding him. He addresses all future pontiffs, all the priesthoods of the earth, saying, "After my mission, sealed with my death, the reign of religious law without explanation is ended in principle and in fact. The Mysteries will be revealed, and through the human, man will see the Divine. Religions and cults which do not fertilize one another, will be without authority." According to the esoterism of the prophets and Essenes this is the meaning of "the Son sitting at the right hand of the Father." Thus understood, Jesus' answer to the high priest of Jerusalem contains the intellectual and scientific testament of the Christ to the religious authorities of the earth, just as the institution of the Supper contains his testament of love and initiation to the Apostles and to all humanity.

Over and beyond Caiaphas, Jesus has spoken to the world, but the Sadducee, who has obtained what he wanted, no longer listens to him. Tearing his fine linen robe he cries out, "He has blasphemed! What need have we of witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy! What do you think?" A unanimous, ominous murmur arises from the Sanhedrin, "He has merited death!" Immediately vile insults and brutal behavior by inferiors answer the condemnation from above. The soldiers spit on him, strike him in the face, shouting, "Prophet! -- Guess who struck you!" Under this outpouring of fierce hatred, the sublime, pale face of the great sufferer again assumes its calm, visionary fixedness. It has been said that there are statues which weep. There are also sorrows without tears, and the silent prayers of victims which terrify executioners and pursue them for the rest of their lives.

But all is not finished. The Sanhedrin can pronounce the death penalty, but in order to carry it out, the secular power and approval of the Roman authority are necessary. The interview with Pilate, reported in detail by John, is no less remarkable than the one with Caiaphas. This strange dialogue between Christ and the Roman Governor, in which the violent interjections of the Jewish priests and the cries of a fanatic mob play the role of the chorus in an ancient tragedy, has the persuasiveness of great dramatic truth, for it reveals the soul of a people, and shows the struggle among three powers: Roman Caesarism, strict Judaism and the universal religion of the Spirit, represented by the Christ.

Pilate is entirely indifferent to this religious quarrel, but is very much annoyed with the affair because he fears that Jesus' death will stir up a revolution among the people. Therefore he questions Jesus with care, extending to him a means of escape, hoping he will take advantage of it. "Are you the king of the Jews?" "My kingdom is not of this world." "Then are you a king?" "Yes, I was born for that, and I came into the world to bear witness to the Truth." Pilate no more understands this affirmation of Jesus' spiritual royalty than Caiaphas understood his religious testament. "What is Truth?" asks Pilate, shrugging his shoulders. And this answer of the cavalier Roman skeptic reveals the attitude of pagan society of that time and of all society in decadence. Nevertheless, seeing in the accused only an innocent dreamer, Pilate says, "I find no fault in him." And he proposes to the Jews that he release him, but the mob, prompted by the priests, shouts, "Release Barrabas to us!" Then Pilate, who detests the Jews, gives himself the ironic pleasure of having their so-called king flogged. He believes this will be sufficient for these fanatics, but they become all the more furious, screaming in rage, "Crucify him!"

Despite this manifestation of mob passion, Pilate still resists. He is weary of being cruel. Through his entire life he has seen so much blood flow, he has sent so many rebels to be tortured, he has heard so many groans and curses without being disturbed in the least. But the silent, stoic suffering of this Galilean prophet under the scarlet cloak and crown of thorns arouses a strange fear in him. In a curious, fleeting inner vision, without measuring their significance, he utters the words, "Ecce homo! Behold Man!"

The stern Roman is almost moved; he is about to pronounce the acquittal. But the priests of the Sanhedrin, watching him with eager eyes, have seen this emotion and are frightened by it; they feel their prey escaping them. Craftily they confer among themselves. Then, in a single voice they cry out, extending their right hands and averting their heads in a gesture of hypocritical horror: "He has made himself the Son of God!"

John reports that when Pilate heard these words, "he became even more afraid." Afraid of what? What could this expression do to the unbelieving Roman, who with all his heart hated the Jews and their religion, and believed only in the political religion of Rome and of Caesar? Nevertheless, there was a real cause for this fear.

Although it has been given different meanings, the name Son of God was quite widely used in ancient esoterism, and Pilate, though a skeptic, had his share of superstition. At Rome, in all the lesser Mysteries of Mithras, into which the Roman officers had themselves initiated, he had heard it said that a Son of God was a kind of interpreter of divinity, and that whatever his nation or his religion, to make an attempt on his life was a great crime. Pilate hardly believed these Persian dreamings, but the saying disturbed him nevertheless, and increased his distress.

Observing him carefully, the priests now throw at the Proconsul the supreme accusation: "If you free this man, you are not the friend of Caesar; for whoever makes himself king, declares himself against Caesar . . . we have no other king than Caesar!" This argument is irresistible. To deny God is very little; to kill is nothing, but to conspire against Caesar is indeed the crime of crimes! Pilate is forced to pronounce the condemnation upon Jesus. Thus at the end of his public career Jesus finds himself again facing the master of the world whom he has fought indirectly as a secret adversary throughout his entire life. The shadow of Caesar sends him to the cross. Thus the profound logic of things: the Jews captured him, but it is the Roman specter that kills him, merely by extending its hand. Rome kills the body, but it is he, the Christ glorified, who by his martyrdom will forever take away from Caesar the usurped crown, the divine apotheosis, the infernal blasphemy of absolute power.

Having washed his hands of the blood of the innocent, Pilate utters the terrible words, Condemnor ibis in crucem. --  Already the impatient crowd is pressing toward Golgotha. . . .

We stand on the barren height, the ground strewn with human bones, overlooking Jerusalem. This place is called Gilgal, Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, a sinister spot, for centuries dedicated to horrible punishments. The mountain is without trees: only gallows grow here. It is here that a Jewish king, Alexander Janneus and his harem had attended the execution of hundreds of prisoners; here Varus had had two thousand rebels crucified; here the gentle Messiah, foretold by the prophets, was to undergo the frightful punishment invented by the atrocious genius of the Phoenicians and adopted by the implacable law of Rome.

The cohort of legionaries has formed a large circle at the top of the hill; with their spears the soldiers scatter the last of the faithful who have followed the condemned one hither. These are the Galilean women; silent, in complete despair, they throw themselves down, their faces to the earth. For Jesus the supreme hour has come. The defender of the poor, the weak and oppressed must complete his work in that condition of abject martyrdom reserved for slaves and thieves. The prophet, consecrated by the Essenes, must let himself be nailed to the cross he had accepted in the vision of Engaddi; the Son of God must drink of the Chalice partly seen in the Transfiguration; he must descend to the depths of hell and of earthly horror.

Jesus has refused the traditional drink prepared by the devout women of Jerusalem, intended to dull the senses of the condemned. In full consciousness he will suffer these agonies. While he is being bound to the infamous gibbet, as rough soldiers with heavy hammer blows sink the nails into those feet adored by the oppressed, into those hands which know only how to bless, a black cloud of heart-rending suffering closes his eyes, stops his throat. But from the depth of these convulsions of infernal suffering, the consciousness of the still living Saviour has but one word for his tormentors: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!"

The bottom of the Chalice now appears; the hours of agony last from noon to sunset. The moral torture increases, and is even greater than the physical torture. The initiate has surrendered his powers, the Son of God is about to be eclipsed; only a suffering man remains. For a few hours he will lose his view of Heaven, in order to experience the abyss of human suffering. The cross stands there with its victim and its inscription, a last touch of irony by the Proconsul, "This is the king of the Jews!"
Now the crucified one sees Jerusalem through a cloud of anguish, the Holy City he wished to glorify, and which had hurled anathemas at him. Where are his disciples? They have disappeared. He hears only the insults of the members of the Sanhedrin, who, thinking that the prophet is no longer to be feared, glory in his agony. "He saved others," they exult, "and cannot save himself!" Beyond these blasphemies, beyond this perversity, in a terrifying vision of the future, Jesus sees all the crimes which unjust rulers, and fanatical priests will commit in his name. They will use his Sign in order to curse! They will crucify with his cross! It is not the dark silence of the heavens veiled from his sight, but the light lost for humanity, which wrings from him the cry of despair, "My Father, why have you forsaken me?" Then the consciousness of the Messiah, the will of his entire life, springs forth again in a final ray of light, and from his soul comes the cry, "Everything is accomplished!"

O Sublime Nazarene, O divine Son of Man, already you are no longer here! With but a single movement of your wings, in radiant light, your soul has again found your Heaven of Engaddi, your Sky of Mount Tabor! You have seen your Word soaring victorious through all the ages, and you have desired no other glory than the uplifted hands and eyes of those you have healed and comforted.... But your last cry, misunderstood by your torturers, caused a tremor to pass over them. Astonished, your executioners, the Roman soldiers beholding the strange radiance left by your spirit upon the calm face of this corpse, look at one another and ask, "Could he have been a god?"

Is the drama really finished? Is the severe though silent struggle between divine Love and death, which beat upon him with help of the ruling powers of earth, ended? Where is the conqueror? Are the victors these priests descending from Calvary, satisfied with themselves, pleased with their deed since they have seen the prophet die, or is the pale, crucified one the victor after all? For these faithful women whom the Roman legionaries have allowed to come near, and who sob at the foot of the cross, for the terrified disciples, who took refuge in a grotto in the Valley of Jehosaphat, all is finished. The Messiah who was to sit on the throne of Jerusalem has perished miserably under the infamous punishment of the cross. The Master has disappeared, and with him hope, the Gospel, the Kingdom of Heaven have vanished. A mournful silence, a deep despair hangs heavily over the little community. Even Peter and John are dismayed. Around them all is dark; not a ray of light shines in their soul. Nevertheless, just as a blinding light followed the intense darkness in the Mysteries of Eleusis, so in the Gospels, this deep despair is followed by a sudden, instantaneous, overwhelming joy. It radiates, it bursts forth like the light of sunrise, and the joyful cry is carried into all Judea: "He is risen!"

First it was Mary Magdalene, wandering near the tomb in the throes of her grief, who saw the Master, recognizing him by his voice as he called her by her name, "Mary!" Overcome with joy, she threw herself at his feet. She saw Jesus look at her, make a gesture as if to forbid her to touch him, and then the appearance vanished suddenly, leaving the Magdalene surrounded by the warmth and comfort of a real presence. Then the Holy Women met the Lord, and heard him say, "Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and that they will see me there."

The same evening the Eleven had assembled and the doors were closed. Then they saw Jesus enter, take his place in the midst of them and gently reproach them for their unbelief. Afterward he directed them, "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every human creature!" It was strange that as they were listening to him, all of them were as though in a dream; they had completely forgotten his death; they thought him alive, and were convinced that the Master would leave them no more. But just as they were about to speak, they had seen him disappear like a vanishing light. The echo of his voice still rang in their ears. The astonished Apostles went to the place where he had been; a dim light floated there. Suddenly it went out.

According to Matthew and Mark, Jesus reappeared soon afterward on a mountain before five hundred of the brethren who had been called together by the Apostles. He appeared once more to the Eleven. Then the appearances ceased. But the Faith had been created, the Impetus was given, Christianity was alive. The Apostles, filled with the sacred fire, healed the sick and preached the Gospel of their Master.

Three years afterward, a young Pharisee by the name of Saul, violently hating the new religion and persecuting the Christians with all the vigor of youth, was traveling to Damascus with several companions. On the way, he was suddenly surrounded by a light so blinding that he fell to the ground. Trembling from head to foot, he cried out, "Who are you?" And he heard a voice say to him, "I am Jesus, whom you persecute. It is hard for you to kick against the pricks!" His companions, as frightened as he, lifted him up again. They had heard the voice without seeing anything. Blinded by the light, the young man recovered his sight only after three days. . . .

He became converted to the faith of Christ, and is known as Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles. It is universally agreed that without this conversion, Christianity would have remained confined to Judea and would never have conquered the West.

These facts are reported by the New Testament. However one may minimize them and whatever religious idea or philosophy one may attach to them, it is impossible to regard them as legend or to deny that they are authentic in all essentials. For eighteen centuries the waves of doubt and negation have attacked the rock of this testimony; for the last hundred years, criticism has beaten upon it with all its instruments and weapons. The attack may have succeeded at certain points, but the basic tenets have remained firm.

What is behind the visions of the Apostles? -- From the point of view of the conscientious historian, that is, from the authenticity of these facts as spiritual facts, there is no doubt that the Apostles saw these appearances and that their faith in the Resurrection of Christ was unshakeable. If one rejects the account of John because it is said to have been compiled nearly one hundred years after Jesus' death, and considers that of Luke in regard to the appearance at Emmaus as mere poetry, then there remain the simple, positive affirmations of Mark and Matthew, which are the very root of tradition and Christian religion. However, there yet remains something more solid and even more undeniable: the testimony of Paul.

In attempting to explain to the Corinthians the reason for his faith and the basis of the Gospel which he preaches, he enumerates in order the six successive appearances of the Risen Christ: to Peter, to the Eleven, to the five hundred, "the majority of whom," he says, "are still living," to James, to the assembled Apostles, and finally, his own vision on the road to Damascus. Now these facts were communicated to Paul by Peter and by James three years after Jesus' death, and shortly after Paul's conversion on the occasion of his first journey to Jerusalem. Of all these visions, the most unquestionable is not the least extraordinary. I refer to the experience of Paul himself. In his Epistles he constantly returns to it as the source of his faith. Considering Paul's previous psychological condition and the nature of his vision, the latter came to him from the outside, not from within; it is entirely unexpected and electrifying; it changes his entire being. Like a baptism of fire, it penetrates him from head to foot, arrays him in an impenetrable armor, making him the invincible knight of Christ in the eyes of the world.

Thus the testimony of Paul has a double authority, in that it affirms his own vision and corroborates those of others. If one wishes to doubt the sincerity of such affirmations, it would be necessary to reject all historical evidence. With Celsus, Strauss and Renan, one can refuse objective value to the Resurrection, considering it a phenomenon resulting from pure hallucination. But in this case one is forced to attribute the greatest religious revolution of mankind to an aberration of the senses and to a delusion of the mind! Now there is no denying that faith in the Resurrection is the basis of historical Christianity. Without this confirmation of the teaching of Jesus by a radiant Deed, his religion would not even have begun.

This Deed brought about a radical change in the Apostles' souls. From being Judaic, their whole mental outlook became Christian. For the glorious Christ is living, he spoke to them, Heaven opened, the Beyond entered the earth below, the aurora of immortality touched their foreheads, embracing their souls in a fire which never can be extinguished. Above the crumbling earthly kingdom of Israel they have seen the heavenly universal Kingdom in all its splendor. Hence their eagerness for battle, their joy in martyrdom. From Christ's Resurrection comes that overwhelming impulse, that boundless hope which carries the Gospel to all peoples, and eventually to the uttermost parts of the earth. In order for Christianity to succeed, two things were indispensable, as Fabre d'Olivet said: that Jesus was willing to die, and that he had the power to rise again.

In order to grasp the fact of the Resurrection and to understand its religious and philosophical significance, it is necessary to consider only the successive appearances of the Risen Christ, putting aside the idea of the bodily resurrection, one of the greatest stumbling blocks of Christian dogma which, on this point is completely elementary and childish. The disappearance of Jesus' physical body can be explained by natural causes, and it is to be noted that the corpses of several great adepts have disappeared without a trace in as completely mysterious a manner. Among others the corpses of Moses, of Pythagoras and of Apollonius of Tyana disappeared without anyone having been able to discover what became of them. It is possible that the brothers destroyed the Master's remains with fire in order to remove them from the profanations of his enemies. Be that as it may, however, the scientific aspect and the spiritual grandeur of the Resurrection appear only if one understands the latter in the esoteric sense.

Among the Egyptians, the Persians of the Mazdan religion of Zoroaster before as well as after the time of Jesus, in Israel and among the Christians of the first two centuries, the Resurrection has been understood in two ways: the one materialistic, the other spiritual. The first is the popular concept finally adopted by the Church after the repression of Gnosticism; the second is the profound idea of the initiates. In the first sense, Resurrection means the return to life of the material body, in a word, the reconstruction of the decomposed or scattered corpse, which one imagined must occur at the coming of the Messiah or at the Last Judgment. It is hardly necessary to point out the gross materialism and absurdity of this idea.

For the initiate, Resurrection has a very different meaning. It is linked with the doctrine of the threefold constitution of man. It means the purification and regeneration of the sidereal, ethereal and fluidic body, which is the very organ of the soul and, to some extent, the vessel of the spirit. This purification can begin in this life through the inner work of the soul and a certain way of existence, but for the majority of men it is fulfilled only after death, and then only for those who in one way or another have aspired to righteousness and truth. In the other world, hypocrisy is impossible. There, souls appear as they are in reality; they manifest themselves in the form and color of their essence: dark and ugly if they are evil, radiant and beautiful if they are good. This doctrine is expounded by Paul in the Epistle to the Corinthians. He says, "There is a natural body and a spiritual body." Jesus speaks of it symbolically, but with more depth, in the secret conversation with Nicodemus. Now the more spiritual a soul is, the further it will be from earthly atmosphere, the higher the cosmic region which attracts it by the law of affinity, the more difficult its manifestation to men.

As a result, higher souls hardly manifest themselves to men at all except during a condition of deep sleep or ecstasy. Then, the physical eyes being closed, the soul, half detached from the body, sometimes sees souls. Nevertheless it does occur that a very great prophet, a true Son of God appears to his brothers in the waking state in order to convince them by appealing to their senses and imagination. In a similar sense, the excarnated soul succeeds momentarily in giving its spiritual body a visible, even a tangible appearance by means of a specific dynamic which spirit exercises over matter.

Apparently this is what happened in the case of Jesus. The appearances reported in the New Testament belong to either of these categories: spiritual vision or perceptible appearance. It is certain that for the Apostles they were supremely real. The Eleven would rather have doubted the existence of the sky and earth than their living communion with the Risen Christ, for these visions of their Lord were the most radiant thing in their lives, the most profound experiences of which they were conscious.

The Resurrection, understood in its esoteric sense, was both the necessary conclusion to Jesus' life and the indispensable preface to the historical evolution of Christianity. The conclusion was indeed necessary, for Jesus had announced it many times to his disciples. That he was able to appear to them in triumphant splendor after his death was due to the purity, the innate power of his soul multiplied a hundred times by the grandeur of his effort and his fulfilled mission.

Viewed exoterically and from the purely earthly point of view, the Messianic drama ends on the cross. Sublime in itself perhaps, nevertheless this lacks the fulfillment of the promise. Seen esoterically, from the depths of Jesus' consciousness and from the heavenly point of view, there are three high points in the divine Drama: the Temptation, the Transfiguration and the Resurrection. These three represent the Initiation of Christ, the Total Revelation and the Crowning of the Work. They correspond to what the Apostles and Christian initiates of the first centuries called The Mysteries of the Son, of the Father and of the Holy Spirit.

This is the necessary crowning, as I have said, of the life of Christ, and the indispensable preface to the historical evolution of Christianity. The boat built on the beach needed to be launched upon the ocean. The Resurrection was a great light thrown upon the entire esoteric background of Jesus. It is therefore not surprising that the first Christians were so overwhelmed and blinded by this extraordinary event that they often took the Master's teaching literally, misunderstanding the meaning of his words. But today, now that the human spirit has traveled through ages, religions and sciences, we surmise what a Saint Paul, a Saint John, what Jesus himself meant by the Mysteries of the Father and of the Spirit. We recognize that they contain the highest and truest that the science of the spirit has known. We also see the power of the new amplification the Christ gave to ancient, eternal Truth by the greatness of his love and the strength of his will. Finally, we perceive both the metaphysical and practical side of Christianity, the essence of its power and vitality.

The Brahmins of old found the key to the past and future life by formulating the organic law of reincarnation and the alternation of lives. But because they plunged themselves into the Beyond and into the contemplation of Eternity, they forgot earthly fulfillment: the tasks of individual and social life. Greece, originally initiated into the same truths under veiled and more anthropomorphic forms, by its own genius attached itself to the natural, earthly life. This enabled Greece to reveal the immortal laws of the Beautiful by example, and to formulate the principles of the sciences by observation. But, meanwhile, its concept of the Beyond narrowed and gradually darkened. By his broadness and universality, Jesus embraces the two sides of life.

In the Lord's Prayer, summing up his teaching, Jesus says, "Thy kingdom come, on earth as in heaven." And this divine reign on earth means the fulfillment of the moral and social law in all its richness, in all the radiance of the Beautiful, the Good and the True. Thus the magic of his teaching and his power of development -- in a certain sense unlimited -- reside in the unity of his ethics and his metaphysics, in his ardent faith in eternal life and in his need to begin the latter here on earth by his Deed and his active Love. To the soul overburdened with all the heaviness of earth, the Christ says, "Arise, for your home is in Heaven! -- But in order to believe in Heaven and in order to reach Heaven, prove Heaven here on earth in your work and in your love!"



The Great Initiates