Rosicrucian Writings Online

[H. Spencer Lewis]

[From The Rosicrucian Digest November 1933]
I WONDER if I may be perfectly frank, as I am expected to be in this particular department of our magazine, and express my personal opinion regarding something that is often analyzed in a serious manner by many thousands of our readers?
It is not my intention to discuss the relative merits of the different religions represented in a religious classification of our world-wide membership. Officially, throughout our organization, we do our utmost to avoid any attitude of sectarianism. We try to praise the good points of every religion, and say nothing about those minor points that may be controversial. But there is an attitude of intolerance often expressed by the followers of several religions, which attitude has been in the past and is today the basis of many unpleasant national and international situations. Religious intolerance has always been either a primary or secondary cause for many great wars, and for many sad events in the lives of the peoples of various nations.
The foregoing thoughts are the result of an incident which occurred here recently, and which is typical of similar incidents occurring in many places. We recently employed a man to assist in some special work on our lawns. He was hired as a laborer at his own terms and conditions, and was given a free hand to carry out his own ideas in connection with the work he was supposed to do. Very soon after becoming acquainted with our grounds and our different buildings here at Rosicrucian Park and contacting the various employees as they came to work in the mornings and moved about on the lawns at lunch time, or passed through the Park on the way home in the afternoon, he began to speak with them as though he had a long acquaintance. We found that in almost every case his first question to the employees and to members and others who visited the grounds was, "Are you saved?" In most cases the persons to whom he spoke were somewhat puzzled, and naturally asked, "Saved in what way?" The answer invariably was, "Have you been saved by the blood of Jesus, and have you taken up the cross?" At other times he would ask, "Are you a good Christian?"
To those who realized that the man was fairly intelligent and in no sense an extremist or fanatic, but merely an enthusiast, the foregoing questions provoked further discussion. Those who were not Christians such as Jews, Mohammedans, Buddhists, and others of oriental religions who visit our grounds practically every week in the year, would ask such a question as this: If I am not a Christian, am I eternally damned and are only Christians saved? Those who were not devoted members of any church, but doing their utmost to live according to the golden rule and to live a clean and noble life, would resent the man's further arguments that unless they went to some Christian Church and confessed all their sins and accepted Jesus as their personal savior, they were forever damned and in no sense saved to immortality or even a happy life.
We became quite concerned about the man's remarks, and had to dismiss him from our services. He was not attempting to carry on any special propaganda for his Christian denomination, and he could not be called a proselyting disciple in the usual sense, but he was most certainly of that type of superior, egotistical complex which believes that all who are not strictly orthodox Christians in the utmost sectarian meaning of the term are damned to eternal suffering. It cannot be argued that this man is an exception, or that his statements or ideas are unusual, or that I have selected an uncommon Christian type. Without meaning in any way to cast any reflections upon the Christian religion or doctrine, I must be frank in saying that we have met altogether too many Christians who hold the same attitude as is held by this man, and the fault does not lie with the individual, and therefore the individual should not be picked out as an extreme and individualistic exception to the general rule. Some Christian denominations are wholly to blame for the attitude of mind and beliefs held by such persons, and there would be many more of such persons in the world today were it not for the inherent tolerance, broad-mindedness, and intelligent reasoning of many who are sincere Christians.
Jesus himself in nowise promulgated such ideas despite the mass of arguments to the contrary that will probably be mailed to me as a result of this statement. I do not care how you quote passages from the Christian Bible, or how you attempt to take isolated, separated, and unusual sentences from the general writings in the Christian Bible, you cannot prove to me that Jesus intended to preach a doctrine that claimed that no matter how good you live, that no matter how you followed his teachings, his advice, his commandments, and his laws, unless you worshipped him individually, personally, and exclusively as a God, and as the only means of salvation, you were forever damned. It is true that you can quote from the writings of the disciples and the apostles and the fathers of the Christian Church that which supports the modern Christian idea expressed by this gardener, but in such cases you are not quoting what Jesus actually meant, but what the disciples and apostles believed he meant, or what was their personal opinion long years after Jesus had ceased his public preaching.
When you quote to me that Jesus said, "I am the Way," or that unless you believed in him you would not find the path to the Kingdom of Heaven, you are not proving that Jesus meant that He as a unique savior of men, was to be individually worshipped and bowed down to as a god. When Jesus said that "I am the Way" he meant that the Christ spirit dwelling in Him, that the Christ Consciousness made manifest by Him was the light of the world leading men toward salvation. Jesus had no idea of building a religion that centered about Him personally. There is no such evidence anywhere in the original Christian writings that will absolutely prove that Jesus intended to establish a new religion or a new denomination, let alone a sect that would worship Him as an individual. I am not going to quote isolated passages from the Bible to support my argument, for as I have often said the Bible of all books known to man is one which lends itself through the extracted or isolated passages to support almost any kind of argument, and I could easily prove my argument or the very opposite of it, or possibly a third or fourth proposition by using such scattered quotations. But I would call your attention to one statement purported to be made by Jesus, and which I find is typical of his attitude on many occasions, and in connection with many demonstrations. It is the statement in which he rebuked his followers and others for calling him Great. He reminded those who did so that there was none great but God. The real esoteric and fundamental idea which Jesus attempted to instil in the minds of His closest followers was that he was a messenger sent by God, and that what He said and what He did was neither the personal opinion nor the result of a personal power, but that of the spirit of God working through Him. And all of his esoteric laws and principles for right living were based on the fundamental that by following his teachings and living the life he suggested, salvation might be assured or would be assured. Most certainly He did not say that the multitudes living rightly and according to their best light, and doing their utmost to love God and obey God's principles as revealed to them, would be eternally damned unless they also acknowledged Him, the Jesus of Palestine, as their personal Savior and personal God.
It is unthinkable that the God of the universe, the Father of all living beings, proclaimed by Jesus and all of the disciples to be merciful and just, kind and loving, would fail for centuries to reveal His special laws and ways of salvation to the millions of persons He had created and placed upon the earth, and then for the purpose of redeeming these millions upon millions send one messenger to a small section of the world to preach to but a fraction of the populace, and bring them the true light that they might be saved, while the rest remained in eternal damnation. It is true that Jesus argued that His message was to be carried to all points of the world, and that He believed that the new Way to salvation should be proclaimed to all living people, and we may assume that those who heard of the new Way and did not harken to it, or adjust their lives accordingly, or benefit by the Illumination were damned into eternal darkness and by their own willfulness closing one of the real portals to the Kingdom of Heaven. We may assume that attitude, if we wish, with considerable authority for doing so, but what are we to say to those millions who never were reached by the apostles and the disciples, and those living today who have never heard of Jesus the Christ or the Christ doctrines? Are all of these damned to eternal suffering and denied the benefits of immortality and the blessings of future development and spiritual blessing simply because God failed to provide them with the Light, or with the revelation of His laws?
In the first ten centuries following the life and preaching of Jesus, His disciples, apostles, and messengers, of the new dispensation reached only a small portion of the world. But making allowance for every written or verbal form of Christian message that may have wended its way to the most remote points, and to the understanding of every person who heard of these things, we still have to admit that the number of persons who received even a small degree of the Christian Light represented only a very small fraction of the population of the earth. Yet up to the end of those ten centuries millions of persons must have passed through transition into the future life. Were all of these persons damned to eternal punishment because they had failed to live in accordance with laws never known to them, and withheld from them, not by their own wilfulness, not by their own desires or choosing, but by Omnipotence?
Even man in his stupidity, ignorance, but glorious exaggeration of his great wisdom would not think of going from America to a South Sea Island and punishing the natives of that place for the infraction of an occidental or Western world moral law of which the natives could never have had any knowledge or suspicion. If the human mind would consider such procedure unfair and unjust certainly the God of all wisdom, the perfection of all understanding, the spirit of all mercy and love would not assume such an attitude.
Is it right, therefore, for the Christian, no matter how sincere and devout he may be, to assume that unless any and every human being accepts Jesus as his personal savior he is unsaved from eternal damnation, regardless of how good a life he may lead or how loving, merciful, brotherly, tolerant, and kindly he may conduct himself in his relations with his human kin, and how devotedly and sincerely he may love God in his heart, and seek to obey God's laws?
It may be argued that only the devout Christian who has pledged himself to follow strictly along the path pointed out by Jesus the Christ may attain the utmost of spiritual happiness or the highest degree of spiritual development, or the complete forgiveness of his sins. It may be argued that no matter how perfectly one may live and attempt to abide by God's laws, unless he follows the newer Light, the newer Way, he is imperfect to some degree. But this is not the attitude assumed by many Christians, and by most of the Christian denominations. If we assume, or believe, or even concede tentatively that Jesus was sent to the earth to point out a better Way that would lead to assured salvation, or a greater degree of salvation, or to give us a new and higher code of thinking and living, we cannot then argue that unless this new way is followed there is no degree of salvation for us. The enthusiasts of the Christian religion insist that it is not a matter of degrees, but a matter of absolute salvation. They will not admit that the person who has never heard of the Christian doctrines, and yet who worships God devoutly, and tries to live a Godly life may have some degree of salvation, and attain some degree of heavenly bliss, perhaps incomparable with that of a true Christian, but, nevertheless, far more satisfactory than that which will be the lot of those who wilfully live in sin and ignore God and his laws. The insistence is upon the point that those who have failed to make Jesus their personal Savior through ignorance of the Christian doctrines, or through a different interpretation of them, but who nevertheless live a Godly life, a noble, clean, wholesome life, are as eternally and completely damned as those who have wilfully and knowingly lived in the deepest sin.
The contention is equivalent to saying this is the only way to any degree or any condition of salvation from eternal damnation, and this is the only way to win back the love and mercy of God which He never has made manifest to those who do not go this way; and all who do not follow this path which we point out, the only and exclusive way to the Kingdom of Heaven, are eternally damned! Does not such a statement or proclamation smack of human personal opinion, human vanity, and human injustice? Is it not equivalent to and typical of the many similar attitudes assumed by man in regard to many human matters, and human relationships? Is it not typical of the attitude assumed by some so-called heathen tribes who contended in their ancient days, and contend even today that unless certain beads are worn or certain grotesque marks painted on the human body, the god that they proclaim as supreme will manifest his wrath and destroy them.
Does it not sound like the proclamation of those potentates who said that unless tribute was paid to them as the supreme rulers of the universe or the great light of men, or the most powerful and magnificent rulers of men, they would be beheaded or imprisoned? Does it not sound like the many decrees in the past that led to the destruction of temples, the murdering of innocent men and women and children, the destroying of homes, and the burning of cities? Does it not sound like some of the strange human pronouncements of persons who have said that they had found the true God, the only God, the unique path to human blessing, and unless mankind allowed his hair to grow, lived unkempt in primitive colonies on mountaintops or desolate valleys, disease and famine would overtake them, and slow death would be visited upon them. Most certainly such an attitude expressed by even the most sincere Christian is not typical of the almost universal idea of God's mercifulness, love, and justice.
Some may argue that I am unfair in selecting the statements of only the Christian enthusiast in this regard, and that the enthusiasts of other religions hold the same ideas regarding their religion and their Way. I will admit that I may find among the Jews, the Mohammedans, and Buddhists, those who will say that only their Way leads to the true and perfect salvation, but I must also admit that I have never heard such statements made by even those very enthusiastic representatives of these other religions who often preach and talk over the radio, or to large public assemblies. Nor have I heard them make such statements in private conversation. But even if the enthusiasts of other religions would have a similar attitude, I would still argue that it is most objectionable, and most inconsistent on the part of Christians inasmuch as they in their devotion represent themselves to be followers of Jesus the Christ, and as such they misrepresent the very spirit of brotherly love and good will toward all beings which was more beautifully taught, more humanly exemplified, and more idealistically demonstrated by his traditional martyrdom than by any messenger of God or avatar of the spiritual world.
There is no particular moral to my discussion this month. I do not hope that my remarks will be the foundation for any change in the attitude of enthusiastic Christians. My sole purpose in making these remarks is to cause many thousands of persons to stop and think for a moment. Whatever their conclusions may be they will have benefited individually by the brief period of thinking. If I were asked, however, to express my opinion in any one of the many forums that are being held in the various parts of the world by Christian leaders in an attempt to answer the question, "What is wrong with the Christian Church today?" I would say that the lack of understanding of the esoteric principles which Jesus taught and which are the very fundamentals of the Way he revealed to man, is the cause for the unrest in the Christian religion. Ever since that period in the progress of Christianity when human beings began to apply reasoning and logic to the understanding and interpretation of the Christian doctrines there has been a confusion in the minds of many who were willing to adopt the beautiful spirit of Christianity, but could not accept many points of its limited, inconsistent creeds. Throughout the world today the thinking minds of men and women apply reasoning and a higher degree of spiritual understanding to the examination of all religious doctrines, and only those which appeal to them as being compatible with an increasing understanding and faith in the universal love, mercy, and justice of God are acceptable. It is for this reason that thousands of persons have changed from one religion to another, from one leader to another. The restlessness in religion is universal, and if I may venture to make a prediction at this time I will say that if and when a great leader appears among the thinking civilized nations of the world presenting a tolerant comprehension and understandable religion in harmony with the illuminating consciousness in man which the Cosmic is developing for this very purpose, we will discover that mankind generally is more ready and more anxious to be the follower of a new light with more sincerity and real sacrifice than he was in the days when Christianity presented itself as a new star in the heavens, and a new Light on the Path.
Alcove For November
Among the ancient mystics the month of November was known as the alcove of the philanthropists and teachers. Among the eminent persons associated with this alcove were Socrates, St. Elizabeth, Florence Nightingale, Jane Addams, Peter Cooper, Carnegie, Horace Mann, Hark Hopkins, Charles W. Elliott, and others.

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