The Other Meaning of Christmas
By Judith and Riley Hansard Crabb
The literal minded person believes that Jesus was born just about the way it is described in the Christmas story and this satisfies him. The questioning, thinking person may very well wonder if there isn't any deeper significance hidden behind or within the veil of words. There is good reason to suspect this because it is said the Disciples received special information in the Upper Room while the multitudes were taught in parables.
The purpose of all so-called sacred writings is to convey a higher or deeper meaning than the literal story used by the teacher. Commonplace words and events must be used to attract the attention but they can also convey esoteric ideas which can be grasped only by the awakened understanding of a student of metaphysics. "Let thine eye be single", say the Scriptures; however, if a Spiritual or psychological opening of that "eye" has not taken place, the reader of the Gospel stories will only see their literal meaning. Nevertheless, if the higher meaning we speak of is to be understood, ordinary words and knowledge must be used as a starting point.
The object of the parables given by Jesus was to instruct thinking men and women in the higher or sacred wisdom. A parable has a meaning beyond its literal sense; it is designed to work toward lifting the mind above the ordinary level to something higher. It might be said that it transforms thought.
We can take an example from the Ten Commandments. The 7th one says, "Thou shalt not commit adultery". The literal meaning of this is obvious enough but the psychological or spiritual meaning is quite something else to the awakened mind. It warns the student not to adulterate one set of doctrine or teachings with those of another School.
Let us take another Commandment, "Thou shalt not steal". The literal meaning of this is obvious but what of the psychological or Spiritual meaning? To the student it contains the admonition not to delude himself with his own self-importance. This 8th Commandment refers to an attitude of blind independence all too common to mankind. The rugged individualist, the man of the world, thinks that he does everything from himself, by his own power, giving no credit to God, This is stealing in a psychological sense. It is doubtful if the ordinary man would understand this if it were told to him directly. He would think it ridiculous, or turn the meaning to suit his own ends. This is why sacred teachings must be concealed by an outer wrapping.  There is no deliberate intention by Jesus and other advanced teachers to mislead people. They just want to make sure their teaching doesn't fall in the wrong place.
Inner Evolution Starts with Christmas
The development of understanding is a long slow process and it must come from within. This the central idea of the Gospels. They are concerned mainly with this inner evolution which begins with the Christmas story. This is the significance of the literal story of the birth of the infant Jesus. Its higher meaning is the constant re-birth of Higher Consciousness in every person by degrees.
Man is a seed capable of infinite growth. This is what the Gospel stories are concerned with. The outer side of our lives is pretty well organized according to our position and capacity. It is the inner side which can be awakened, stimulated and developed by contact with the Higher meaning of the Sacred Scriptures. They give us an idea, an understanding of what we must do, feel, and think to forward our most important inner evolution. Now, with a single eye, let us consider the Christmas Story in greater detail.
It symbolizes an initiation. The Nativity of the Christ represents the beginning of a new cycle. The new cycle could be the beginning of a universe, the beginning of a Solar system, the beginning of a new civilization, birth into the physical world for a human being or, of prime interest to us right now, the dawn of a Spiritual awakening in the human heart. Christmas really is the festival of a Spiritual birth. True, it happened 2000 years ago to Jesus, but somewhere in the world it happens every day to men and women. There is a Christmas of the soul.
The Gospel story, historically accurate or not, reveals the final Way of Holiness which lies before every man and woman. To the religious or mystic type the goal is sainthood. To the intellectual or hermetic type the goal is adeptship; so, the Gospel story is a mighty parable. Jesus himself explains it in Luke 8:4-15:
"4, And when a great multitude came together; and they of every city resorted unto him, he spake by a parable: 5, The sower went forth to sow his seeds and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden under foot, and the birds of the heaven devoured it. 6, And other fell on the rock; and as soon as it grew, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7, And other fell amidst the thorns; and the thorns grew with it, and choked it. 8, And other fell into the good ground, and grew, and brought forth fruit a hundredfold. As he said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
"9, And his disciples asked him what this parable might be. 10, And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God; but to the rest in parables; that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand. 11, Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12, And those by the way side are they that have heard; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the Word from their heart, that they may not believe and be saved. 13, And those on the rock are they who, when they have heard, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who for awhile believe, I and in time of temptation fall away. 14, And that which fell among the thorns, these are they that heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. 15, And that in the good ground, these are such as in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, hold it fast, and bring forth fruit with patience."
In The World But On The Path
Once the true purpose of the Gospel stories is understood the thinking person realizes it is ridiculous to insist on the literal interpretation of the birth of Jesus, or to claim that it is historically accurate. The Spiritual leaders of the time altered history to suit the needs of the Spiritual truths they wished to impart.
To the student of metaphysics Christmas is more important as a symbol of awakening self-consciousness. For him the Nativity means the opening up of intuitive vision. Naturally, this brings knowledge of the Oneness of life.
The result of this is or should be that he gives himself to service to the Light. Those who have responded to this Light, or to the call of the Spirit if you will, are determined to mold their life according to the Principles enunciated by the Savior.
They may still be in the world but are on the Path. The Christ is the Spiritual exemplar for all in the Western World regardless of whether they look up to Him or not. But those who are awakened and determined to change find themselves living the Gospel story as an interior experience even if they do not go through the actual physical incidents as Jesus did.
The awakened person who studies deeply the Gospel Story is going to become aware of initiations as definite steps or milestones on the Path. The word "initiation" is derived from the Latin "initia". This simply means First Principles. Initiation into a Special group or order is an idea as ancient as mankind. For thousands of years the term initiate has been applied specifically to a person who has had revealed to him the Secrets of occult science. This Ancient Wisdom is taught in Mystery Schools. The Greek name for such teachers is Hierophant,  literally this means "one who explains things" but the name was generally given to the chief initiate of a Mystery School.
In modern times, unawakened people are likely to believe that Mystery Schools, initiates and ceremonial magic are all things of the ancient past; but the awakened know that the Mystery Teachings are alive today; and that initiations are still being given to the worthy in the Lodges.
The Christmas Initiation
The Christmas initiation then is the birth of Christ consciousness in the heart. This is the first of the Great Initiations, so-called. There are five which lead to complete mastery of the flesh and therefore freedom from the wheel of re-birth. The other four initiations in order of their taking are: Baptism (Matthew 3:13), Transfiguration (Matthew 17:2), Crucifixion (Matthew 27-35), and Ascension (The Acts 1-9) to the stature of the fullness of the Christ. So the student of metaphysics must realize that the Christmas story and the Gospels have two meanings:
|1.||The passage of Jesus through these initiations.|
|2.||The indication of the five great steps or stages along the Path which lie ahead of every sincere student and man of good will.|
The Four Gospels then are really a skillful blend of history and fiction designed to instruct and inspire those who seek Truth in the Western World. As the Teacher says in John 18:37 "every one that is of the Truth, heareth my voice."
The sequence of these five initiations is a natural growth-cycle in life and repeated in lesser degree in every one's life in many different growth situations. These are rehearsals for the Great Initiations by which every human being eventually winds up his human existence. As Geoffrey Hodson says, "We all have nativity, conversion, baptism of sorrow, transfiguration or upliftment, betrayals and crucifixions, and our recoveries and ascensions."
All of these elements are woven together in the Gospel stories. There is the story of life of Jesus as a man entering on the Path of Initiation and moving on to adepthood through the five Great Initiations; but this is also occult instruction to the awakened man. In the Gospels he is given information on natural law which he can apply to the universe, to the solar system, to the human race and to individuals like himself.
As man experiences this five-fold cycle over and over and  over again in many lives his Soul grows. Through the material losses and the spiritual gains from all of the outside influences upon him, he experiences natural evolution; but he need not wait for the mass of mankind as it moves painfully slowly along the circular path of return to the Father's house.
The True Annunciation
Once an individual has developed enough intelligence to glimpse the goal of evolution and to understand it, he can undertake the self-quickening process, as distinct from natural evolution. It is the quickening power of his own Divine Self, the I AM, which stirs the Divine discontent within him. This is the true Annunciation. It is also the Voice of conscience. The symbol of that from the Christ story is John the Baptist. The call issued by Jesus in the Gospel story is to awaken men and women to enter the narrow path, through the straight gate.
The Christmas story, then, is a call to enter upon the Way. This happens when Christ is born, in the Mystical sense, in the heart center, Tiphareth on the Tree of Life. This includes the solar plexus. Let us see how the story of the Nativity describes His birth as an interior experience. Here are the four clues by which you read the Christmas story with the eye of the Spirit. "Let thine eye be single."
|1.||The story happens within;|
|2.||It dramatizes the soul's experience;|
|3.||The historical people in the Nativity are personifications of principles, or the lack of them, in man;|
|4.||All objects in the story have symbolical meaning.|
If the Gospel story is an interior experience and people are personifications of principles, what of John the Baptist?
He is the voice of the Higher Self manifesting in the personality as conscience. The voice of our conscience is the call from on high reminding us of the Continual choices between right and wrong in any given situation. In the Old Testament this same idea is portrayed by one of the prophets when he shouts from his wilderness retreat, "Repent ye for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." This is just another way or reminding a student that Divinity is within him always, exerting a subtle but steady pressure toward self-improvement.
The Angel of the Annunciation
In the Christmas story the Voice of the High Self is symbolized by the Angels who appeared to the Shepherds and announced the coming birth. Remember, this describes the inner experience of the descent of the Holy Power from a world of eternal Light into the heart and solar plexus of the personality. This Birth is a profound psychological awakening, a development of new power from within the soul. There is a physiological awakening in the body to accompany the psychological awakening. This is the Immaculate Conception.
The Physiological Awakening
Dr. George W. Carey tells us what happens in the physical body when the Immaculate Conception takes place. On either side of the thalamus in the head is a gland. The one in back is the pineal; the one in front is the pituitary. The pineal is cone-shaped and secretes a yellow fluid. The pituitary body opposite it is ellipsoid in shape and contains a whitish secretion, like milk.
The fluids that are found in both of these bodies came from the same source, the claustrum, which means barrier or cloister. It is referred to as a cloister for the very good reason that a precious and holy thing is secreted there. Saint Claus or Santa Claus is another term for this precious fluid, which indeed is a holy gift in the body of each one of us.
Electric Sun and Magnetic Moon
The precious fluid which flees down from the claustrum separates, part going into the pineal gland and part to the pituitary body. These, being special laboratories in the head, differentiate the fluid from the claustrum and it takes on the colors above mentioned. In the pineal gland it becomes yellow and has electric properties. The milk-like fluid in the pituitary has magnetic properties.
These two glands are male and female, the Joseph and Mary of the physical body. They are the parents of the Spiritual Son born in the solar plexus of each human being commencing at about the age of 12. The yellow and white material is the milk and honey referred to in the Bible. The Children of Israel were given the promise of a return to this land flowing with milk and honey. The yellow and white fluids reach the solar plexus via the semi-lunar ganglia (pneumogastric nerve). The plexus is the Bethlehem of the physical body. In Hebrew, Bethlehem means House (both) of Bread (lehem). "I am the bread of life", said the allegorical Jesus (seed).
In the solar plexus is a thimble-shaped depression, a cave or manger: and in this is deposited the psycho-physical seed, or holy child, born of this Immaculate Conception. This psycho-physical seed is also called the fish; as it has the odor of fish and is formed in the midst of the waters, the pure water. St. Augustine wrote: "Jesus is a fish in the midst of the waters."
Before birth the human foetus floats like a fish in the fluids by which it is surrounded. And as it is with the child formed on the generative plane, so it is with the Spiritual child born in the solar plexus, Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary, by furnishing the material for the Spiritual child, which was to redeem the child or body-form in generation, paid the symbolical redemption money. The breath, descending the pneumo-gatric nerve into the solar center, enter the manger where Joseph and Mary are, and where Jesus the seed is "literally conceived by the Holy Ghost".
Occult Observation by Augusta Foss Heindel
"Let us observe a subject, a woman in Spiritual meditation, one who has been living a pure and chaste life with high aspirations, and whose food for years has consisted of  fruit, vegetables and cereals. The pituitary body, through which these aspirations are first registered, is much enlarged. The posterior lobe is turned backward with its funnel shaped neck enlarged with a mouth opening at the end. From this open mouth exudes gas of a soft rose color, slightly intermingled with yellow and blue of pale shades.
"The Spinal column is filled with a pale blue ether, intermingled with soft pink and yellow. After this gas leaves the medulla oblongata and enters the pineal gland, it is of a wonderful blue color such as one seas clinging to the mountains after sundown. The pineal gland is enlarged with the point of the cone leaning forward toward the pituitary body. The tiny appendage of skin at the end of the former . . . is elongated and emits a small flame similar to the blue flame of a gas jet. These two organs vibrate at a most rapid rate and lean toward each other over the third ventricle. This Ventricle is an oblong cavity lying between the optic thalami. When the life of the aspirant has been pure, the ventricle appears to the occultist like a tiny furnace with a golden glow.
"The pineal gland, as already stated, has the appearance of a tiny male organ, while the pituitary body with its open mouth is similar to the female organ. So we may see that science, which is trying to prove that these organs are directly connected with the functions of the brain and the generative organs, is right. They have direct influence upon man from the two ends of the spinal cord, for does not the sex pervert in time become a degenerate? Conservation of the vital fluids and a chaste life strengthen the brain, and these two ductless glands become enlarged, but in the sensualist they atrophy . . ."
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
Occult science teaches that a personality is made up of a lower trinity of physical body, emotions and mind. Even the man of the world will admit to these three. The awakened man, on the other hand, becomes aware of his triple soul or higher bodies. It is the latent power of these that begin to come into play when Christ is born in the human heart-solar plexus.
Traditionally, the Archangel Gabriel is supposed to have announced to Mary that she was most fortunate of Women. But in this interior experience of which we speak, Gabriel represents or is the messenger of the High Self, the I Am, in lighting the Divine flame in the heart.
What does Mary symbolize as the personification of a Divine Principle? She represents the soul, the Higher Self. The infant Jesus represents love and intuition. Intuition gives a person the power to apprehend truth directly; so he cannot be deceived. Love guides him to an intelligent use of his new Power and Wisdom. Joseph represents the illumined concrete mind in the Christmas story. Because this is an  immaculate conception, between the Higher Self and the Lower Self or personality and not between man and Woman, Joseph is the foster-father of intuition.
Animals and Creeping Things
Another interesting symbol in the manger scene in the Christmas story is the animals. Some artists depict only domestic animals as one would expect to find in the stable of an inn: horses and cows, dogs and cats. But artists whose inspiration comes from a deeper source will include reptiles and creeping things. These represent the elemental forces of the interior of the earth, uncivilized, untamed. The-domestic animals represent purified emotions, under civilized control.
The manger itself is a symbol of nourishment, a source of life. In the whole man this is the heart-solar plexus, also the etheric double. The next larger structure in this Christmas picture is the stable. This is the physical body. The inn nearby or outside the stable is the outside world with all of its cross currents, confusion and normal worldly life.
The Higher Trinity
In the Western Mystery Tradition the three-fold powers of the Cosmic Man, the Highest Self or I Am, are termed Power, Wisdom and Love. Sometimes these three are referred to as Omnipotence, Omniscience and Omnipresence.
The Angels represent Omnipotence, the Divine Will which descends into Mary, the Higher Self as an act of creation. This is the immaculate conception on a higher level. When this Spiritual Will is developed in a person he has Omnipotence. As we said, Joseph represents the concrete mind of the personality. He cannot "father" the child to be because Spiritual qualities cannot be generated by the intellect. Intelligence is a combination of knowledge and experience wisely directed by the soul. When this higher mental power, abstract mind or intuition, is developed it gives a person Omniscience.
Love, or Omnipresence, is the result of the union of the previous two. Spiritual power, Mary, fructifies the lower mind and the result is the birth of Divine perception and the realization of the Oneness of all life. Omnipresence is universal love.
Everyone knows that virgin birth is ridiculous or impossible under normal circumstances. What else can the writers of the Christmas story intend than to shock the reader? They want the searching person to realize that this is not a historical event but an allegory! This is the story of the interior Spiritual awakening. The story itself is a blind which turns  the worldly person away from a Great Mystery for which he is not yet ready. For the union of Power and Wisdom within the awakening man or woman is indeed an Immaculate Conception. The product of that union is Divine Love.
A Closer Look at the Stable
Why must this virgin birth take place in a stable? And why should this manifestation from on high come as an infant? Here is a hint of the greatest Spiritual Truth for mankind in the flesh. "Life is fulfilled by renunciation." This golden thread runs through the whole of the Gospel story.
The renunciation of worldly possessions, power and privilege are symbolized in this humble birth amid poverty. Jesus attained his kingship by renouncing the world. This idea was born out later when he matured and entered his ministry. He was despised and rejected of men.
This is a course of behavior which one hesitates to offer to the public; for it is the opposite of the principles which move most men to action. The story of the Nativity offers a code of ethics so high that it can be spoken of only with an apology. It poses a problem in behavior beyond all the bounds of logic. Does the renewal of life depend upon death? So it seems; for He said, "He that loseth his life for my sake shall gain it unto life eternal."
What is there to be renounced if we would receive the Kingdom of Heaven? It is really a state of mind, a personal attitude toward personal possessions, higher position, the love and esteem of our friends. If there is to be a birth of Christ Light in our hearts there must be detachment, disinterestedness. This is the preparation for the Nativity. Remember, it is more an interior change of attitude than an exterior getting rid of worldly possessions. If a person has worldly responsibilities he must have the means to fulfill these responsibilities.
The difference is between possessions for their own sake or for the means to get the essential work done. On the other hand, too many religious fanatics have taken the preparation for the Nativity too literally and have thrown common sense and wisdom to the winds -- along with worldly goods which were necessary to carry on the Great Work. If power and possessions are held, they are for service. If friendship is given, it is without possessiveness, and the same is true of love.
Want Nothing and Have Everything
In the highest sense, that which is renounced is retained forevermore, once the spirit of hoarding is outgrown. He who wants for nothing has everything, obviously; for it was during the renunciation in the manger that the kings and the Magi came to lay their worldly treasures at the feet of the Babe.
This philosophical concept is beyond the understanding of the worldly man or woman, who anyhow would despise the stable of an inn as a resting place; but only here could a Mystic Birth occur; for the would-be initiate must be rejected by worldly men if he is to be accepted by Spiritual men!
There is an august assembly of Adepts on the inner planes at the birth of Christ. They represent a power which the disciple covets but which appears as nothing in the eyes of men. For the gentleness which is demanded of a student on the Path is despised as weakness in the world outside. The great Chinese Sage, Lao Tse, said, "When Heaven would preserve a man it enfolds him in gentleness."
The Star of Bethlehem
One important symbol in the Manger scene is the star which shines forth at the time. This is a symbol of initiation. It indicates the increase of Spiritual power in the initiates. It is also a symbol of the one Initiator for the race of mankind on this earth; for it is by His power that all initiations are conferred. It is when His Spiritual rod of power touches the soul of the student on the Path that the Christ-child is born in the Bethlehem of the heart-solar plexus center.
Now in 1967 we are in a great world-wide crisis at the end of this Piscean Age. The Rod of Initiation is touching mankind as a whole. A racial Nativity is taking place. The Spirit of Brotherhood, a larger, more impersonal love is being born in the hearts of those humans ready to receive it.
In this world-wide conflict the resistance of conservatives to change and the crystallization of old and honored Piscean institutions are represented in the Christmas story by Herod. This Hebrew King represents materialism, selfishness, self-indulgence and pride. He truly recognizes that the New Light of the New Age dawning threatens the end of all that he considers important; so he must attack and destroy.
In the Christmas story, Joseph, Mary and the Babe flee to Egypt, the home of the Western Mystery Tradition. This represents, symbolically, the place of Light, a land where there is progress.
The Last of the Hebrew Prophets
The voice crying in the wilderness, the voice of John the Baptist, is symbolically the Higher Self calling to the Lower, trying to awaken the worldly man to his own Divinity. The voice in the wilderness is also the conscience calling to the Lower Self to renounce its Worldly ways, to repent over-indulgence and willful wrong doing. Thus the Higher Self constantly pleads with the Lower to purify itself in the quest for perfection. Here again, in the Gospel story, the  historical figure of the Baptist symbolizes an interior experience. The voice crying in the wilderness is an insistent demand to which every man and woman must respond some day.
In relation to the Christ idea, John represents that soul about to enter upon the Path. On the larger scene of the human race today, John the Baptist represents the highly civilized men of East or West who are pushing the idea of brotherhood through the United Nations. But before the ideal of world-wide peace through cooperation can be achieved individual nations must give up their desire for power and possessions. To come back to the individual man represented by John, he must be free from personal desire.
Salome and Why She Danced
In the Gospel story the selfish human passions are represented by the dancer, Salome. You remember what happened, John rejected her seductive advances, his head was out off, and the lower man died to the higher.
John's refusal to give way to the passions represented by Salome symbolizes the austerities to which the student must subject himself. He must bring his animal passions under control and free himself from the sceptical, critical, limiting concrete mind. The beheading symbolizes the soul's freedom from the lower mind!
We could say that Salome represents the personal or Lower Self and John represents the soul or Higher Self, in this story. Her personal ambitions danced upon the passions and aroused desire and arrogance. This in turn created Spiritual blindness and cruelty. But the very act of demanding John's head is an act of grace; for this "death" is really a victory over the defeated Lower Self. To take the symbology further, the prison is John's body and beheading frees him from it. To consciously rise above limitations, desire must be transmuted into Will. The lower mind must be slain before this can happen. The lower mind foretells or prophesies the coming of the Higher and dies when the Higher is born. Thus did John the Baptist foretell the coming of the Christ. John's life ended when Christ began His mission. Thus does the lower die to the Higher.
Three Signs of the First Great Initiation
This is the interior experience of the soul as it prepares for the first of the Great Initiations, the birth of the Babe in the heart. There are three signs that precede it:
|1.||The prophecy of the coming Messiah.|
|3.||The ministry of John the Baptist.|
These three really tell of the awakening of the conscience and of the increasing pressure of the Higher Self on the personality toward repentance and a definite change in the way of life.
The Continual Re-Writing of the Ancient Wisdom
In recounting the allegories of the Gospel story we must keep in mind that the sacred literature of every race is written by men and women who know the Ancient Wisdom. Civilizations and nations must come and go but the Lodges of the Masters on the Inner Planes, and the Sages and Saints who compose their memberships, endure from age to age. It is their duty to preserve the Divine or Ancient Wisdom and to re-issue it through new channels -- Students, initiates and Adapts in the flesh -- as man and nation are ready to receive it.
Every generation of mankind requires a re-writing of the Mysteries if the Ancient Wisdom is to appeal to the modern minds of the day. The followers of an Adept teacher tend to turn his liberal ideas into conservative dogma. Priesthoods then combine the material into an organized religion. Like all man-made institutions, organized religions outlive their usefulness and must come to an end. There is an ensuing dark age and then nations rise again. Again Adept teachers come to enunciate a portion of the Ancient Wisdom, partially revealed but again partially concealed from the eyes of the profane.
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- Lecture Notes, The School of the Wisdom, by Geoffrey Hodson
Theosophical Press, Wheaten, Illinois <http://amzn.to/1yJtV00>
- The New Man, by Maurice Nicoll
Vincent Stuart Pub., London <http://amzn.to/1FNehEd>
- Astrology and the Ductless Glands, by Augusta Foss Heindel
The Rosicrucian Fellowship, Oceanside, Calif. <http://amzn.to/1yeJxLa>
- God-Man the Word Made Flesh, by Dr. George W. Carey
Health Research, Mokelumne Hill, California <http://amzn.to/12s7wtg>
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For the sake of variety in the December Journal, we leave the "Other Meaning of Christmas" story here, to go on to other material. There is much more to it, however, and for those of you who want to pursue the deeper meaning of Christmas beyond what has been given here, we've put it all together into an 8½×11 mimeo brochure to keep handy for study and practice. 41 pages.
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Please contact us directly via email or +1 (707) 497-6911 if you wish to uncover more information about the Crabbs' mimeograph "The Other Meaning of Christmas" or the possibility of acquiring a copy for study.