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The Christian Mysteries
An Understanding of the Mystical Aspect
Essential to Christian Unity
By Rev. John Coulson Skottowe
No careful student of the New Testament can help being forcibly struck by certain very plain references concerning the mysteries in such passages as, "He spake publicly only in parables but expounded all things privately to his disciples," which are credited to the Master Jesus the Christ, and on several different occasions St. Paul refers to the mysteries, in fact on one occasion he stated that "he could not speak to those whom he addressed as spiritual but as carnal for as yet they were only babes in Christ and he had to feed them on milk and not on meat." The early Christian Fathers, especially St. Clement of Alexandria and Origen, refer to the mysteries. In Stromateis, Bk. 1, Ch. Xxviii, St. Clement makes use of these words, "But the Mysteries are delivered mystically, that which is spoken may be in the mouth of the speaker; rather not in his voice, but in his understanding. The writing of these memoranda of mine, I well know, is weak when compared with that spirit, full of grace, which I was privileged to hear. But it will be an image to recall the archetype to him who was struck by the Thyrsus." (The Gnostics and some other Christian sects undoubtedly taught certain mysteries to those whom they deemed ready and prepared for such instruction up to the eighth century, at which time all such teaching came under the ban of the Papal Edict, and from then on, if still taught, was under the greatest secrecy and those writing on such subjects did so under cipher or code only understood by the initiated and in such a way as to lead the masses and the Church authorities off the track).
There have undoubtedly been several attempts under the different forms and at various times to reinstate these mysteries for the benefit of mankind, and for those who were ready and prepared to have the knowledge imparted to them; we might mention the original intention of the Founders of the Rosicrucian and Masonic Fraternities. There is at the present time a growing tendency to cry "back to Christ," that is, to take the Historical Jesus the Christ as an example and guide to life, and to imply that dogma and doctrine are not of much value and importance providing that the principles of the Christ are put into daily practice in our relationships one with another.
This is all very well so far as it goes; no doubt the majority of us would like to be perfect masters of our complex human natures, with complete control over the carnal animal nature which we are endeavoring to outgrow, but the vital question is, what is the best method to be used in this unfoldment of the higher divine nature, so that we can be more truly Christ-like and so reach divine consciousness? That this ought to be our endeavor is admitted, but the method for accomplishing this in a scientific and common sense way is often entirely left out of the question. It is a good thing to see and recognize the necessity for a Christ-like life of service, and it is well that the old substitutionary ideas and dogmas of the Sacrifice on Calvary which are in reality only scapegoats and vile excuses for exempting their adherents for unfolding their divine nature, are going or gone, and that we recognize the necessity for every true follower of the Christ to deny himself, take up his cross and follow in the footsteps of the Master. Many religious teachers in the past and not by any means a small number at the present day have been and are far too anxious to force men and women into one common mould. We have for instance the Roman Catholic Mould, the Anglican Mould, the Presbyterian Mould, the Methodist Mould, the Baptist Mould and so on, ad infinitum, each one thinking his particular mould is suited to all the diverse religious temperaments and different stages of evolution that are present among us, whereas a True Catholic Church would be universal and have moulds for all different classes of humanity. The church ought to be modeled after intellectual institutions, primary classes for babes, high schools for older pupils, colleges, universities and post university courses for those who are advanced sufficiently for the higher mysteries now practically ignored. There are spiritual grades as well as moral and intellectual grades. One cannot force all into the same mould, it is absurd. True unselfish love should be the basis of unity and not intellectual and individual interpretation of dogmas and creeds. We must have freedom of intellect providing that whatever the individual holds, he honestly holds as helping him in the unfoldment of the Christ Spirit, and never as a substitute for that Spirit.
It is well to remember that the "Letter killeth but that the Spirit giveth Life." Now undoubtedly the Ancient Mysteries taught the initiate step by step, and until one step was fully grasped, understood, fully mastered and practiced, the next was not given, nor could it be, for only in the doing can the realization become possible. The same was undoubtedly true when the Ancient Mysteries were incorporated and modified by the sublime teaching of the Christ as manifested in the person of Jesus of Nazareth; who distinctly said that He came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fill them full of more spiritual meaning, stating that the "letter killeth, but the spirit within the letter giveth life"; and who furthermore expounded all things privately to his own intimate disciples to whom also he told that at that time they could not fully grasp and understand, but when the spirit of Truth descended upon them, it would guide them into all truth. These words, undoubtedly, imply progressive spiritual unfoldment.
The duty of the Church is to make a true and genuine effort to understand the Ancient Christian Mysteries which are simply a fuller revelation of all the Ancient Mysteries, which were instituted to lead man back to God by his becoming self-conscious of his Divinity and Divine Origin; to that God in whom we live and move, and have our being, and by leading him gradually, and step by step, as he is properly prepared to receive it, reveal the true nature of his being and a scientific process for Spiritual regeneration. We can never hope for a united Christianity and a wide acceptance and recognition of the One Universal Religion which has been in the World from the beginning of time until this duty is fulfilled. "As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen."
The Christian Mysteries were practically forbidden by the Church about the 8th century for political and ecclesiastical purposes from which time with many notable individual exceptions, the Church as an organization, both Catholic and Protestant, has become largely corrupted and materialized, and is very largely, at the present day, in many instances, not much more than a social, moral and material organization, with True Spirituality and the Science of True Spiritual Regeneration and Psychic and Spiritual Unfoldment crowded into the background. Many deeply thinking persons are now to some extent finding in Institutions such as Rosicrucianism, Masonry and Theosophy, the Spiritual food they are in need of and find lacking.
The Mysteries to some extent are understood with more or less clearness within the Greek, Anglican, Roman and other Catholic Bodies, but they have in many ways been so distorted, misused and abbreviated that their use is to a large extent nullified. What the Anglican Branch of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and the Protestant Bodies need today is a thorough research into these Ancient Mysteries especially the Christian Mysteries, with a view to reinstating them in their right and proper place.
Until this is accomplished the Church will not be the greatest dispenser of Scientific Spiritual Regeneration that she ought to be and which was the original intention of Her Divine Founder.
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