Rosicrucian Writings Online
What Is Christ Consciousness?By Ralph M. Lewis, F.R.C.
[From The Rosicrucian Digest July 1948]
WHAT are some of the pristine teachings of Christ whereby the integrated consciousness, or the Christ Consciousness, may be attained? What are these teachings as distinct from theological dialectics and dogmas, and as free of ecclesiastic definitions? In character, Jesus was simple: he was simple in dress, simple in his speech, simple in his manner. He did not display any of the ostentation of the rabbinical prophets of his time or prior thereto. He did not adopt a sophisticated attitude, as did some of the learned men of his period. He exhibited a simple piety. He resorted to no abstract explanations as to the content or nature of goodness. He did, however, manifest charity to all, regardless of their level in society. He was unselfish in his acts, both to those who were friends and those who were foes. Concomitantly, he demonstrated the principles which he proclaimed. While he spoke of spiritual things and exhorted the people to follow spiritual precepts, in his personal conduct and life, he himself lived them. His words were also his deeds. The lack of hypocrisy is always distinguished by the exemplification of what one professes. Certainly no man is a hypocrite who does as he says; that is, remains true to himself. "By their fruits ye shall know them."
Christ's habiliment, the robes he wore, the long hair, the sandals, were not adapted to impress his followers, to distinguish him in physical appearance; but they were the custom and habiliment of his time. We can presume from the historical character of Jesus that if he lived today, unlike those who profess to represent him and his teachings, he would not distinguish himself in his dress or objective appearance from that of the people of our time. If a summation of all of Jesus' teachings was to be made, the triune elements of piety, morality, and charity would include all of them.
These three elements were not original with Jesus. Piety, morality, and charity were expounded in Judaism centuries before the time of Jesus, and formed the basis of philosophical and mystical teaching in the mystery schools for centuries prior to his time. But Jesus distinguished his teaching by deviating from a punctilious adherence to external rites. He did not impose a certain kind of formality or ritualism by which these things could only be known or practiced. He did not stylize them in philosophical terms. Rather, we can say that he humanized the values of piety, morality, and charity; he used common experiences in explaining them (metaphors related to the lives of the people of his day, their trades and occupations), thus bringing his philosophy close to daily living.
The most common source of knowledge with respect to the deeds and words of Jesus is what is known as the Synoptic Gospels--Matthew, Mark, and Luke. These three gospels are called Synoptic, because the exegetists were of the opinion that these books constituted a more exact synopsis of the teachings of Jesus. They seemed to be less flavored by what had transpired in the writings of the earlier philosophies and in Judaism. The Gospel of John, in the opinion of the exegetists, or Biblical authorities, was more influenced by Judaistic apocrypha. It seems to them that the style of John is a copy of the rabbinical prophecies before the time of Jesus.
Meaning of Piety
The first element of these triune teachings is, as we have stated, piety; it is characterized by a profound reverence for God. Jesus recognized God as being ubiquitous, just as Judaism did. This ubiquity, however, was not pantheism. He did not conceive of God as pervading all things, animate and inanimate, but rather that God was not localized; his spirit manifested throughout the whole universe. To Jesus, as to the Jews, God was a sovereign whose rule men denied on earth. The unfulfilled ideal of Jesus was the
If piety, according to Jesus, is a reverence for God, and this reverence shall be manifested as a spiritual law by which society shall be governed, how is this spiritual law to be introduced into the affairs of men? How shall it be construed to meet the myriad situations of a mundane world? How can it be put in workable form? According to Jesus, wrongful, or sinful conduct is manifest as unbridled desires and appetites--the giving of oneself over to the corporeal being; such leads to idolatry, Jesus tells us, and to profanity, murder, adultery, and the general corruption of the human character. Conversely, the spiritual life, Jesus points out, constitutes in effect, humbleness, mercy and the love of people.
Men have the ideals of morality, that is, right and wrong conduct; in fact, they had these ideals for centuries before the time of Jesus. We can trace the concept of right and wrong, or moral discrimination, back to the very dawn of civilization. Thirty-five hundred years before Christ, the moral sense was so well developed, from the conceptional point of view, that it brought forth the word Maat. This word stood for man's comprehension of what constitutes truth and justice. The ancient Egyptians who devised this word symbolized its meaning by a feather.
In Jesus' time, the problem was not so much in defining what is right and wrong conduct as it was to make men choose the right way. In other words, it was declared that the Godward life shall reign supreme and that right and wrong conduct shall not have merely intellectual values. In John 3:3 the key to how this is to be accomplished, the key to circumventing the outer self and to mastering the corporeal existence, is given. We are told in that verse that "except a man be born again, he cannot see the
If one is to be born again, in spirit, obviously, he must first pass through transition. But this transition, or death, if you will, is not of the body; it is a transition of the consciousness. The consciousness is separated from its old order of thinking, from the world to which it has been chained fast. It is freed from enslaving ideas and from fears and superstitions. It soars forth into a new and higher realm. During this transition, the consciousness casts aside its dissolute, moral body, its wrong values of living. Man is reborn in understanding. The new life to which Jesus referred, is a spiritual one, but it is a life here and now, not in some remote place, or time. For example, when we pass from a dark room into one which is fully lighted, our vision is "reborn"; in the dark room the world of form had disappeared, but when we stepped forth into the light again we saw many things. With our sight comes understanding. When we step across a threshold into a lighted chamber, our body has not changed; we are the same in appearance as when we were in the unlighted room. It is just that our vision has been reborn. None of us is spiritually born until we become aware of the various sublime states of consciousness of which we are capable. The first birth of every incarnation is physical; it is when the soul enters the body. The second birth is when we realize the higher levels of our consciousness--when we experience Cosmic Consciousness.
Problem of Good and Evil
As already stated, the second of the triune elements of Jesus' teachings is morality. To Jesus, the spiritual rebirth led to true morality. The moral values of Jesus are not complicated philosophical abstractions. They are quite simple. According to Jesus, all men are inherently good. In essence they are divine because they are children of God; they are of the spiritual father-sovereign. But men do not know the nature of the spiritual conduct. They are not fully aware of the spiritual essence of their being; they are blind to it because they have not looked in that direction. From Jesus' teachings we determine that, in his opinion, men act evil not because they want to be evil, but because "evil" seems to be the best to them. When people choose anything, their reason is that it seems to have the best value and although something else may be better, if they choose the worst, it is only because the better is not known to them. According to Jesus, once man discovers the true spiritual values arising from his own divine nature, he will then of his own volition cast aside evil because of its lesser value; the erroneous values of evil will be apparent to him.
Here is an important philosophical point: Men will discard evil not on doctrinal compulsion, not because they are exhorted to do so by priests and sages, but only when they fully realize the content of the spiritual. To live the moral life, according to Jesus, meant to live in the
The third element of the teachings of Jesus is charity. It is only in the New Testament that the word charity is used. In the revised edition of the New Testament the word charity is translated as love. In fact, charity is made synonymous with an impersonal love. We can understand how this comes about. According to the authentic conceptions of Judaism and of Christ, all things which are created are the product of God, the sovereign. God found them excellent in the fulfilling of his concepts. In Genesis we are told that after the creation of all temporal things, God looked out upon them and "saw that they were good," meaning, again, that they were excellent in fulfilling His purpose. Since things are of God, are of his benevolent being, participating in his grace, he would naturally have a love for them; they would be manifestations of his ideal, or rather, of his nature. It is psychologically known that that which we love, we serve and sacrifice for. In this way Jesus unites love with charity. According to Jesus, God loves man, since man is of His nature, and thus God serves the interests of humanity. Now man, if he loves God, must likewise be charitable, for he would then serve God, serve the interests of the divine and all the creatures of the divine creation. We see this expressed in John 15:12: "This is my commandment, That ye love one another, even as I have loved you."
In this dictate of charity by Jesus is expressed the essence of universal brotherhood. If men are charitable to each other, if each would serve another as he would be served, then men would respect each other, admire and love each other, because each would be bound by the higher power, the divine part of our being, to that of every other being. If you love the Cosmic, if you are in attunement with the divine, you cannot help loving humanity because you are then close to humanity. When you are spiritually attuned you do not see men as mortals, as individuals, but as souls, as divine substances.
Christ enlarged upon these three elements of his teachings by which we are able to ascend to the Christ Consciousness. To the masses, to the simple people of his time, he explained piety, morality and charity by homely parables, using little stories patterned after their daily experiences, and referring to their fishing and farming, their simple trades and arts. To his secret council, however, Jesus explained his teachings quite differently. To them he taught the technique of initiation. He explained the method whereby the individual may attain that integrated consciousness which constitutes Cosmic Consciousness. This technique, however, was not a short-cut, but rather it was a more direct application of his teachings for those who had been first prepared. It was for those who had a familiarity with the mystical terms and phrases and who had been initiated in the mystery schools as was Jesus himself.
Dr. H. Spencer Lewis points out in his book, The Secret Doctrines of Jesus, that the secret council of Jesus numbered more than a dozen disciples; in fact, there were about one hundred twenty members in this council--both men and women. These persons were members of the different mystery schools and were conversant with the mystical teachings. They had passwords, signs, and symbols. To them Jesus revealed the interpretations of his inner consciousness. He disclosed to them the illumination that came from the integration of his consciousness, the result of the so-called Holy Ghost descending upon him. But it was not through parables that these teachings were expressed in the secret council meetings. Parables were used only for those who could understand homely terms and who came from varied backgrounds. To this council who had been prepared, Jesus presented his teachings as unilateral doctrines; doctrines from which only one meaning could be had. Dr. Lewis also points out that the New Testament has numerous references to the mysteries which Jesus taught, indicating that there are two systems of instruction. One is for the masses and one is for those who are more prepared.
One impressive example of these New Testament references to the mysteries is found in Matthew 13:11 wherein it states: "Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the
In conclusion, we wish to reiterate that Christ Consciousness was not a state of consciousness which was unique to Jesus. It is a level of personal consciousness which is obtainable by everyone who will strive for it. It is the consciousness of the Cosmic. This mystical, or ecstatical consciousness may be obtained through other means than the application of the Christian teachings, although, perhaps, the Christian teachings were one of the simpler forms for the masses at large. The attainment of this illumination is known to the Buddhists who experience this higher level of consciousness as absolute nirvana. To the Brahmans this Christ Consciousness is known as absorption into the atman--atman being the equivalent of Self. In Zoroastrianism, Christ Consciousness has its equivalent in having the Soul dwell in Ahura Mazda, which means that the Soul of man can come to reside in purity and the illumination of the greater light which Ahura Mazda represents.
The way to the highest, then, is within you. It is a personal experience! All of the avatars, including Jesus the Christ, are but preceptors; they are great, but are teachers of mankind. The teachings of the avatars are but means by which we awaken ourselves. Through the act of awakening is our greatest personal gratification.
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