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Dane Rudhyar's Fire Out of the Stone. Image Copyright 2007 by Michael R. Meyer.

A Reformulation of the
Basic Images of the
Judeo-Christian Tradition

by Dane Rudhyar, 1962

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This title was first published by Sevire, 1963.

Cover for the online edition copyright © 2008
by Michael R. Meyer.

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"Thy God is a cosumming fire."
Duet. 4:25

"He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."
Matthew 3:11

"I am come to send fire on the earth."
Luke 12:49

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"For the letter killeth, but the spirit quickeneth".
II Corinthians 3 : 6

"For the letter killeth, but the spirit quickeneth".
John 4:24

In any great religion two basic factors can be distinguished: what the Founder taught, and the results of the impact which his life and personality made upon his disciples.

The teaching of the Founder may or may not have been accurately or completely recorded, and various types of misinterpretation may have altered these teachings. This indeed produces much uncertainty as to what the God-illumined personage meant and wanted to convey to his often unprepared and not too steady disciples and followers. But if this factor often leads to misunderstanding, the second factor is even more likely to introduce deviations from the spiritual impulse which the divine Exemplar set in motion.

The disciple has to make the personality and the life-events of his Master vividly real to those who come after the latter's passing. Especially where the teachings are not easily accepted because of their moral and spiritual elevation or their mental profundity, the need for a dramatization of the Master's personality and life becomes imperative. Only this dramatization, this appeal to the collective imagination and sense of wonder of the people at large, can arouse the emotional fervor and the dynamics of faith required to send thousands of followers into the rugged or even tragic paths of apostolicism. Only this can make people feel that the new religion meets their human needs. This dramatization is thus a necessary part of the great spiritual impulse which is at the root of the religion, seen as a historical fact; yet between it and the simpler, more direct, more essentially and timelessly true message of the divine Teacher a very deep tension, and often a radical conflict, always tend to develop.

In the case of Christianity these two factors are particularly distinct from each other; and this condition has had far-reaching results. It developed from the fact that the recorded teachings of Jesus are few and the period of his personal impact upon his generation was very brief. Above all, the dramatic and spectacular character of his life and death together with the puzzling, yet stirring, vistas which this life opened up to those who believed were such as to make some very definite kind of interpretation necessary. Jesus' ethical teachings were simple, but required a complete re-orientation of the disciple's consciousness and emotional life. They alone would presumably not have been enough of a driving force to conquer the world; they would not have seemed to be convincing or sufficient answers to the crucial problems confronting the heterogeneous, uprooted and confused population of the Roman Empire.

Yet Christianity won and spread over the Mediterranean world. It won largely, no doubt, through the dramatic power of the presentation which the Apostles, and especially Paul, produced out of the immediacy and poignant intensity of their own experience. Christianity triumphed as a new Mystery-religion based upon the events of the life of Christ Jesus — events transformed into the substance of a mythos of singular beauty and power, and interpreted as a symbol of universal significance, but also of immediate validity as possible solutions to the psychological conflicts of a disintegrating society.

The great religious movement represented by the many distinct, yet basically related "Mystery-cults" of pre-Christian centuries had made familiar to the East-Mediterranean peoples the figure of a dying savior, of a god torn or quartered by his enemies and mysteriously resuscitated after a descent into the underworld. The drama of the death and resurrection of an incarnate god had assuredly very ancient roots — historical roots reaching at least down to the often called "vitalistic ages" when agricultural civilizations spread out along the banks of great rivers, whether the Yellow River in China, the Indus in India, the Euphrates in Mesopotamia or the Nile in Egypt. The power of these roots flowed through early Christianity, and no one can understand the full meaning of Christianity without realizing what this vast movement of the Mystery-religions sprang from, what it accomplished and the way in which historical Christianity added to it, transformed it and finally absorbed it.

The agricultural societies which drew their life-blood from the above-mentioned rivers were predominantly occupied with the raising of crops and cattle — thus, with the process of multiplication of life, with the yearly cycle of seed-reproduction, with the return of the seasons and the periodical rise and fall of the great streams which accentuated and gave substance to the earthly rhythm of fertility. This basic preoccupation led to the need for the establishment of the calendar; thus, for the study of the movements of the sun and the moon, which became the celestial symbols of the male and female polarities of the one Life-force. Constellations of stars through which the sun, oscillating northward then southward in the sky, sped in its yearly journey, became the cosmic bodies of Creative Hierarchies of celestial Beings, beneficent or inimical according to the seasons during which the sun traveled through them. Eclipses became portents of evil. The regular cycles of recurrence of the conjunctions between the larger planets, Jupiter and Saturn, became associated with the growth of empires and with the success or failure of the enterprises of kings. Thus archaic man discovered his ability to ascertain the best conditions possible in which seeds might be sown, cattle bred, and tribes increased by means of war.

In time these practical and realistic preoccupations were raised to a higher level, a religious and mystical level. What in earlier periods, during the third millennium B. C., had presumably been a purely concrete problem of physical group-preservation, was now translated at a higher, earth-transcending and psychological level. The yearly pageant of sun, moon and stars was thus interpreted as a complex and dramatic symbol of psycho-spiritual events and processes which could occur within human souls.

These inner processes could, yet needed not, occur. Just as the gardens of Mesopotamia and Egypt were dependent for their existence upon irrigation, so the growth and blossoming forth of the human soul depended upon a spiritual kind of watering and cultivation. The soul needed a Gardener for its unfoldment from the state of seed-potentiality to that of plant-actuality. This spiritual Gardener had to canalize the Waters of the great River into the potential Garden of the personality. Then the Desert of the earthly human being would become green with life; Birds and Bees would be attracted to it; the mystic Lotus of the spirit-revealing soul would open; and the Seed of Immortality would be formed, insuring Life Eternal.

Anyone familiar with the mystical writings of Eastern peoples, ancient or modern, will recall the constant use of the allegories to which I am referring. Anyone even superficially familiar with the religions of Egypt, Crete and the Mystery-cults of Greece, must have some remembrance of the Osiris and the Dionysos mythos, of the "Solar Myth" which nineteenth century ethnologists and historians repeatedly stressed, of the twelve Labors of Hercules (and their association with the twelve Constellations), etc. These mythos not only made an indelible impression upon the Egyptian, Cretan and Babylonian mind, but constituted the inner religion — the mystic life — of rationalistic Greece. The Orphic Mysteries, the Eleusinian Mysteries, the cults of Cybele, Persophone and Dionysos, were basic factors in the religious life of the Hellenic world which extended from Persia to Spain. And the "Christ mythos" is a direct descendant of the spiritual lineage of the ancient Mysteries.

Indeed the "pagan" festivals which marked the important moments of the cycle of the year in all "vitalistic" religions have their remarkably close equivalents at a new level in the yearly festivals of Christianity, especially of course in the more ritualistic Churches. A mass of documents, particularly treatises written by Syrian Christians during the age of the Crusades, shows the direct relationship between the ancient traditions of the Mystery-religions, Pythagoreanism, Eastern and Egyptian Alchemy, and much of the Catholic ritual.

In this sense Christianity can be, and has often been called a new synthesis and revitalization of the Mystery-religions of the East-Mediterranean world. But what made it a "revitalization" of this ancient tradition? What made it supplant, while absorbing, these archaic Hellenistic cults? One great new fact: A man, Jesus, had actually embodied in his personal life, the mythos of the birth, death and resurrection of the god.

A man! A living actuality — and not merely a symbolic drama, an allegory based upon the cyclic motions of the sun and created by the visionary minds of a few priests and initiaties! It is true that at Eleusis and elsewhere the participants in the Mystery came to identify themselves, in inner excitement and emotional ecstasy, with the dying and resurrecting god or goddess. Yet it is doubtful whether they actually believed that the god had lived, concretely and physically, as a purely human person, striving and suffering in human ways. The Apostles, however, testified to the humanity of Jesus. And it is the humanity of Jesus, perhaps more than the divinity of Christ, which stirred the imagination and the fervor of the Mediterranean peoples, confused by so many gods and their crumbling cults.

Another factor of great significance made of Christianity a new kind of Mystery-religion: it was no longer a secret religion, presumably reserved for a relatively small elite. It sounded an open, universal call for the allegiance of every man and woman everywhere, without any distinction as to racial, social or religious background. It did so at least as it was proclaimed by Paul through the Roman Empire, and it seems clear that Jesus had indeed meant the teaching of the gospel to be universal and for all peoples and nations of the earth.

That Jesus, a man, lived the fullness of the Mystery-drama and actually reached the divine condition of immortality in a "risen" body; and that, as a result, the Mystery had henceforth become altogether concrete as a potentiality open to all, as a "seed"-potentiality which could grow into a "full-grown-tree" — these were the two world-stirring facts with which Christianity challenged the Greco-Latin society.

The third and inescapable fact was that if the seed-potentiality was within every individual ("the Kingdom of Heaven is within you . . . is like to a grain of mustard seed . . ."), then no man, who understood or felt in the least the tremendous and revolutionary implications of this revelation, could afford not to do something about it. Jesus not only revealed the existence of the "seed" but he also taught, as the perfect Gardener, how the seed could and should be cultivated if it was to produce abundant fruit.

His teachings, in this respect, constitute the ethical part of his message — the doctrine of love, goodwill, peace — the Golden Rule. The major formulation of it is found in the Sermon on the Mount. Live fully the teachings in this Sermon and you will reach the other mount, the Mount of Transfiguration, on the summit of which the divine Christ and the human Jesus are not only understood to be one, but are seen by the disciple as one for a brief moment of revelation. This is the keystone of the new Mystery, the central fact of Christianity. The Crucifixion and the Resurrection derive from it. The Transfiguration made the Crucifixion inevitable, considering the nature of the society of those times. It made the Resurrection possible.

To say these things, however, is not to follow the traditional presentation which the Churches have made of the Christian Mystery. From the point of view of these Churches and of official Christian theology, I have failed to include the most characteristic and probably most important element. This element is the doctrine of the Redemption of Sin through the power of Christ's Vicarious Atonement. It is this doctrine which has given to historical Christianity its most popular and most emphasized feature.

Did Jesus teach such a doctrine? There is no evidence that he did during his public ministry. How could he have done so publicly before the event of Calvary upon which it rests!

At most what he could have done was to say the words which the Gospel of Matthew attributes to him at the close of the Last Supper scene: "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." However, the italicized words are not in the Gospel of Mark, which otherwise repeats Matthew's version; and the sentence in Luke's version: "This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you", has quite a different meaning, while John does not mention the matter at all in his beautiful description of the passover meal. It is therefore highly probable that the words "for the remission of sins" were a later addition made to back up a doctrine which some of the Apostles, and Paul even more, had evolved out of their own personal response to the startling and dramatic events of the Crucifixion and the reappearance of Christ in His "risen body".

Back of the idea of the "remission of sins" through the blood of a sacrificial victim can be seen clearly the Jewish heritage of the Apostles. The Hebrew religion had indeed stressed the concept — and even more the feeling — of guilt and original sin. It had resounded with the vehement accusations and pleas of the Prophets of the Lord to a people that repeatedly had transgressed the divine Law and fallen into the "worship of strange gods". Hebrew history is a story of division, defeat and subjugation, with only a brief period of glory. The yearning for a return of this glory stirred Jewish imagination, and the expectation for a Messiah who would be Avenger, Redeemer and Savior as well as King in a new Messianic Kingdom was an intense feature of the collective mind of the Apostles.

It is easy to understand psychologically how such a deep-rooted psychic Image and collective yearning came to be incorporated into the narrative of the Last Supper. This scene was obviously the only time and place at which Jesus could conceivably have suggested to his followers that his death, which was to follow immediately, would have the meaning of a sacrifice. The disciples naturally interpreted the statement, and later spoke of it, as an atonement, in the Hebrew traditional sense of the sacrifice of a lamb at the spring equinox celebration, when the sun enters the zodiacal sign of the Ram.

This edition copyright © 2008 by Michael R. Meyer
All Rights Reserved.

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