This is a series of lectures given by Mr. Edward Rabel, member of the faculty of S.M.R.S.
Winter semester 1976 - 2nd. Yr. Class. Part of Lecture 2 given on January 15, 1976
A Christmas Lesson. The Christmas story for many persons is the most appealing section of the Gospels. It is the one that children learn so early and it takes on sentimental connotations all through their life experience. It is a story that is treated with such reverence that we want to be careful about it, no matter how wide and how expanded our view of the Christmas meaning becomes, we must be careful that we never allow that expanded understanding of the metaphysical and cosmic meaning fo the story to interest us too much. Where we lose touch with the more simple, childlike aspect of it because that is where so many people are, people who will be in our churches.
So, the Christmas story, as you begin to grow in spiritual awareness and become interested in higher levels of meaning, does present a challenge. It raises questions in our minds. For instance, how much of it is biographical fact; how much is merely beautiful imagery or fanciful symbolism; was the person of Jesus really born of a virgin female in the conventional meaning of the word virgin, or was His birth one which was biologically "normal".
It is surprising among Unity ministers how very violent the opinions swinging both ways are. On the one hand, you have persons like myself who believe in the virgin birth without making any bones about it, simply because you cannot prove otherwise. It is a matter of choice, a matter of personal choice. I do not think it is a matter of "this is the truth about it", and here are people and some know that truth and some do not. I do not think that is the way it is at all. I think the truth about the Christmas story is in the people. I am sorry if it does not make sense, but it does to me. In other words, there is not such a thing as the Christmas story as an event which happened, whether or not anybody knows about it or cares about it; it is our knowing about and our caring about it which is its meaning, which is the truth about it. The biological state of Mary's body is not the thing; it is not the point; it might have been that, but that is not the point. O.K. Then we have the mysteries of the other symbols. What about that star. Was it really an actual star that behaved that way? Where did these angelic voices come from? Then there must be angels if there were voices, or, were they really voices? Or were there only reactions on the part of the participants that night, and so, we could go on and on but to what point? Nobody can prove or disprove any of it. What is the only thing a person can do in regard to it? Believe it or not. That is all, rather than dispute the historical facts or possibilities. It is better, I feel, that we give our attention merely to the metaphysical meaning of the key symbols as they are contained in the records we have in the Gospels, so we have the following symbols:
The Baby Jesus represents that point at which we realize, "I really have something called spiritual awareness. It has always been there but now it is born into my conscious knowing, my perceptive faculties, now I recognize it is born in me." And this birth, metaphysically speaking speaking, comes through a virgin.
Virgin Mary symbolizes spiritually quickened intuition and the feeling nature in a non-negative state, when the feeling nature is in this state, that is virginity. What are Mary's famous words when she learned she was to play the role of that symbol? "Behold the handmaiden of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy will." That is a complete non-negative, it is not really positive in the sense of doing-ness, it is letting-ness, a complete trust, a complete willingness and the absence of negative resistance, of negative rationalizing here that causes the soul to become in the only kind of purity possible to a human soul, that kind of purity is not so much virtuous as non-negative; and when one is non-negative and completely trusting in spiritual intuition, then the birth of personal, individual, spiritual awareness is literally born and it has come to stay.
Q. About Mary's attitude, was there perhaps a feeling of unworthiness derived from the cultural makeup?
A. Yes, that would be one of the initial responses to one's intuitional quickening rather than the actual birth of spiritual awareness. Once the intuitional quickening processes begins, that is where the initial resistance will show itself, even in the most willing soul, simply because it is an unfamiliar experience and you just kind of wonder what is going on, even now with our stage of unfoldment when some wonderful blessing occurs or some phenomenal answer to prayer comes with not a lot of effort or pain on our part, we often still have a shadow of that, "Why was I so fortunate, why should I be picked out to be blessed in such a way?" The Catholic church has a very popular hymn they sing over and over again. It is called "Oh Lord, I am not worthy, I am not worthy that thou shalt come to me but speak the word of comfort and my spirit healed shalt be." This is a hangover of that initial sense of wonder and slight feeling of unworthiness when we have been singled out for some divine favor, so to speak.
Joseph, who is not given the role of male begetter of Jesus, is still designated as the male parent of the already born Jesus. He becomes in a sense, the father of Jesus but only in the role of male parent in the family rather than the sexual begetter of the organism of Jesus. Metaphysically that holds up, because Joseph, the male parent of Jesus, stands for constructive, creative imagination and positive thinking. You see the further development of the other Joseph in the symbolic way. Creative and constructive imagination activity which is epitomized as positive right thinking does not actually beget spiritual awareness, but it is on the job to sort of see to it that spiritual awareness can happen. Joseph was the provider and protector of his family. Positive thinking and constructive imagination, while they do not actually beget spiritual awareness, it is on the job to see that the process of the birth of spiritual awareness through the feeling nature can go on. This is why we stress in Unity, especially to our beginners, the importance of the practice of positive thinking. We do not stress that aspect of our teachings very much for more advanced students, we kind of take that for granted after a while; but when you have an absolute beginner's class that is the first thing that a Unity teacher almost instinctively zeroes in on, positive thinking, change your thinking, affirm the good. That is the role of Joseph, not in giving birth to, but in protecting and nurturing that spiritual awareness once it has been given birth to. Most people have this birth of spiritual awareness the moment they begin seeking truth, and then they are guided to "your Unity church".
The Manger in which the birth takes place, is the human consciousness; the ordinary, natural man, human consciousness, that is where it is really born. That is not where it comes from, that is where it goes to; where does it come from? What is its origin in the personal or individual consciousness? The Christ. But Christ is not it; Christ is what makes it possible. We have Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus.
The animals that are present simply refer to the natural processes which are part of the human consciousness.
The star is the symbol for inner guidance. Stars usually meant that in the Bible, but this star attracts and leads to the birthplace of the baby Jesus wise men from the East.
Wise men from the East is possibly the most esoterical of all the symbol in the Christmas story. You have to use your own judgment about whether you want to include this in your Christmas lessons. You look that up in the MBD under wise men and you find that it says that they represent the accumulated wisdom we have garnered through past life times, all of the knowledge, the talents, the insights, the skills, all that constitutes whatever goes into this realm that we call knowledge that we gained but which we do not retain on the conscious level of remembrance; and the very good reason is that we do not always need it all.
Q. How are we going to come across with people who do not believe in things like reincarnation in regard to the wise men representing the accumulation of past knowledge?
A. That does not change Unity's teachings on the meaning; so my feeling is, if you have such a person or persons in your class, I think you are going to have to explain to them that while belief in reincarnation is a matter of choice even among Unity students, since by far the great majority of Unity students do believe in it, I think you ought to also state your belief in it and say, "I believe in it so I teach according to that belief." If there are those who cannot accept that, then we have to face the fact that this explanation will not satisfy them; just face that situation but do not let that detour me from going ahead in giving this lesson. There is another very fine alternative; even if the person may not believe in linear, successive reincarnations, he may find it quite easy to believe in the race consciousness in general, that even if he rejects sequential reincarnation, he has to believe in incarnation. Since we are all reincarnated from the same basic source and we are all of the same human family, it is not unreasonable to assume that we have a sort of residue, a pool of wisdom and knowledge that each person has somehow contributed to and that certain events can enable a person to tune into, draw from. I still like Mr. Fillmore's idea that these wise men in the East are our own individual results of learning through all life times of experience, but this is not retained on the conscious memory level, because it would be too redundant; so much of it would be taking up space that should be taken up by more learning, of which we are doing. But it is still there, you do not lose it. Anything you have ever learned or gained by right of consciousness is yours, and it is not taken away from you but it can be consigned by you to levels within yourself which will not interfere with your forward moving evolution; and that is what the wise men are. But you see, since they are a part of a person and do have gifts to bestow, something important in us can cause a rising from out of the great unconscious of us if it is pertinent to the event; in this case, the event is the birth of spiritual awareness, then there are certain contributions that your accumulated soul wisdom can make to the current you when this event has occurred.
Our Christmas story names these three great contributions that your past earned wisdom and knowledge can give to your present state of development; gold, frankencense and myrrh. The dictionary explains: gold as the riches of spirit, frankencense as the beauty of spirit and myrrh as eternity of spirit. Now, these gifts bestow upon your currently spiritually-aware self from the past selfs of you which have worked and learned and struggled and done so much, can be summed up very briefly that the gold that they give would be a new dimension of understanding of prosperity based on all the former knowledge; but you get a new insight into what richness really is all about, a new sense of values, a new awareness of right priorities, a greater acknowledgement of the one Source, in other words, a new and more spiritually-oriented viewpoint toward richness or prosperity.
Then the same thing will hold true of the new dimension given to your sense of what constitutes beauty, the beauty of spirit. Up to a point, up to the point possibly where one becomes spiritually aware, most person's viewpoint toward beauty is very limited; it is usually a matter of symmetry of form and erotic appeal. Most persons who are not really yet spiritually aware, or aware of their spiritual awareness, usually reserve the word beauty only for that which pleases them sensually, visually, and somehow touches their sense of eroticism and most cases, it is male calling a female person beautiful, or vice-versa, or a work of art which appeals to the excitement and pleasure of the sense receptivity; but when spiritual awareness is really born in us, there is a new dimension added unto our perception of Truth. We begin to see beauty in things which hitherto we may have felt lacked beauty, and we know that there are different levels of beauty which one must seek for and find, that everything has its own type of beauty according to its own role in the grander purpose of things.
And then the myrrh, which is the eternity of the spirit, means that you get a new understanding, a new depth perception of what eternity really is. Many persons are still laboring under the notion that eternity is a clock that goes on forever and ever and ever, tick ... tock ... and such a point of view toward eternity makes it sound like such a long-run obnoxious thing, so you go with your imagination and you jump forward 20 million years of conscious existence; and you have not even gotten started yet. If the mind goes too much in that direction, it frightens the person, so this new dimension of understanding of what eternity is, which is the spontaneous and exciting and refreshing and challenging and excitement and surprise, this is eternity; and it is a very stimulating and reassuring concept rather than the hopeless feeling of time stretched out forever.
Now, all is not roses. Jesus is born, the wisemen come and give their gift and, oh, everything is in a golden glow; but just down the road there is a little character called
King Herod. He, too,is part of the Christmas story, and he plays a very useful and important part by taking the villain role, so to speak. When a person has the birth of spiritual awareness in him and this great and beautiful expansion of consciousness, he still has to cope with certain things that are still within him. One of them is the King Herod; he was reigning at the time Jesus was born, and so he is involved in this. He represents the destructive and negative tendencies of selfish egotism; the person does not drop his selfish egotism, he does not abdicate just because Jesus or spiritual awareness is born. Jesus is born in one part of us, but in other parts of us, selfish egotism still holds sway in certain areas of our human nature and in our life. It feels this newly-born spiritual awareness to be a threat to its domination over the entity; it has become used to being the king, it likes to be the king, and everything, including elements of human nature, share an instinct, an instinct that all living things share in common, even living things that are just part of other living things. The different parts of your own complete entity still are living entities themselves, because we have given them birth. Every living entity shares a certain basic instinct: self-preservation, the instinct for survival. This is very much the case in the negative things, they want to survive beeeuse it is their instinct. They do not want to survive because they hate us, they want to survive because that is the nature of existence; and so even the dangerous and harmful attributes such as King Herod, who knows that this baby that has been born is greater than it, it knows it. Herod knew it, that Jesus was a greater one than he, but instead of reaction, like who reacted to knowing Jesus was greater and welcomed him, John the Baptist, Herod feels threatened by it and seeks to kill the baby. He tries to get the wisemen to betray the whereabouts of the baby, but they were not called wisemen for nothing, and they did not fall for it. God sent guidance to them, and they did not betray the baby. They went home back to the great reservoir of soul-wisdom. Now, King Herod, in the attempt to kill the baby Jesus, causes the slaughter of many, many other babies.
The slaughtered innocents symbolize the newly embodying potentials in us killed out by negative impulses. This is not a one-shot deal in history. In many persons,this is a daily occurrence; a new possibility, a new potential for something is there but Herod causes its slaughter.
Q. Does this happen with the birth of the Christ or the birth of spiritual awareness?
A. Get that straightened out folks, Christ is not born in anybody, Christ is what makes it possible for things to be born. Christ is the allness of you; it is not something in you. Christ is really the totality of your wholeness, of your perfection. Christ is the sum total of all that is real about you, all that is true, not an entity within you which would make you greater than the entity, greater than Christ. You are not greater than Christ, Christ is your greatness, your wholeness, the totality of you.
Q. I am having trouble trying to understand the difference between the above description of the Christ, and God as I understand Him to be.
A. Christ is your individual being in God, which is the image and likeness of that God in which you have your being. The only difference between God and Christ is that when you use the word Christ, you are referring specifically to individual human beings rather than the total cosmic principle of that isness. Christ relates to the human family part of God. Always equate Christ to human beings. It seems as though when you are making your greater gains (birth of spiritual awareness) is also, in many cases, the time when we are also creating many of the greatest challenges, and selfish egotism does not stop its activity as "I get more spiritual", at least not up to a certain point. Please remember Herod is not on the scene permanently. Its days are numbered. He knows it, but he is kicking up his heels at this particular time, and we have all gone through this, many things which we could have allowed to develop and flower through us were curtailed because of the alarm in our egotism. We thought we were going to lose but somehow through commitment to Truth, but slowly and surely we learned something: we do not lose out when we stick to our commitment to Truth and then King Herod will no longer be king. He will be a memory rather than an active threat to us.
The baby Jesus is saved indicates the rescuing and the preserving of our newly-born spiritual awareness from all the onslaughts of negativeness it has endured; once it is really born, it is here to stay and is the pathway that leads to something greater than even itself. We are in the midst of that pathway now, and our goal is Christ-consciousness, but to get to that goal, we are growing, learning, living, and journeying the pathway of spiritual awareness.
Q. Is spiritual awareness born in us many times?
A. Rather than saying that it is born again, it is better to say that it reaches greater levels of intensity and clarity and assumes a greater and greater place in our overall existence. I would say (this is just a reaction from the top of my head) that its actual birth is a one-time thing for each individual human being, that it is a plateau that is reached in each individual's evolution. It does not mean that once it is born we all have clear sight of it and awareness of it. We often will lose sight of it and awareness of it. We often will lose sight of it as it is going to happen in the narrative.
Text of the original transcript from paragraph 2 on page 8 through paragraph 1 on page 13.
Transcribed by Mark Hicks on August 8, 2013