«YULE AND NOEL: THE SAGA OF CHRISTMAS Yule and Noel: The Saga of Christmas By Alvin Boyd Kuhn, Ph.D. Get any book for free on: Get any ...»
The distinction between the commemorative values of the two dates is to be found in the allegorical picturing of the Christ's development at the two emblematic seasons. On December twenty-fifth the Christ is born as an infant. Not having been here before, he then makes his first appearance in the life of animal humanity, or has his first awakening in the womb of body. As a new-born power he is yet the undeveloped potential of Christliness, the babe in swaddling clothes, the princeling, the king-to-be. He is germinally, seminally, the King of Glory.
But in March he has become a full-grown deity, the king on his throne wielding all the fulness of his divine prerogative in the life of man. The Christ-child has matured into fulness of the stature of the nature of God, the infant deity has deployed into expression the total possibility of his deific genius. To summarize it tersely, he is in December the Christ awakened in the womb of matter; in March he is the Christ awakened out of the womb of matter. In one he is the babe; in the other the man-Christ, exercising complete lordship over the physical life of his body.
Indeed, in the true sense of a birth, Christmas is less the birth-time than it is the time of what was called the "quickening." St. Paul in particular uses this word to intimate the rise in consciousness of the dynamic potencies of the Christ nature. This was a natural form of typism drawn from the
structure of zodiacal symbology that was universally used in the esoteric science of the ancient day. Likening the descent of the soul into matter to the falling direction and decreasing power of the sun from June to December, the symbologists of old 11 figured the birth of the divine sun-of-soul at the December solstice, following upon its conception in the cosmic mind at the June solstice. Descending from the June point of generation in God-mind, it entered into matter at the September equinox, which would signalize its physical conception in Mother Nature's womb. From September 21 on to March it endured its embodiment in matter, its period of incubation or gestation preparatory to its ultimate birth at Easter. But from September on down to December it plunged deeper and deeper into the darkness of bodily "imprisonment." It lost daily to the powers of matter, growing more inert, the spiritual awareness sinking into a sleep or coma as it was progressively submerged under the dominance of the flesh. In this its deepest immersion in matter all ancient allegorism depicted the Christos as lying inert in "death." From this aeonial "death" its resurrection would come at Easter, its preliminary quickening at Christmas.
The significant item of this dramatism is that at the December solstice the sun-of-soul halts its descent and stands for a time balanced and equilibrated with the powers of matter. The inertia of matter, offering resistance to the energies of spirit, brings the downward movement of soul into matter to a full stop, and for the period of the solstice holds it immovable in its embrace. It is at this point and in this stabilized condition that the soul of the spiritual energy which has gone "dead" in matter is suddenly "quickened" out of its torpid state and feels the first touch of its awakening to birth for a new cycle of growth. Having "descended into hell," (as the creed has it) he now awakes to an incipient awareness of his position and the consciousness of his new-born strength. That which lay buried in the tomb of "death" is now quickened in its womb of new birth. And as a mother-to-be suddenly feels the stirring of the 12 embryonic babe within her, so Mother Matter feels the same stirring of new-born mind and the Christly impulse within her domain. As St. Paul so strikingly puts it, "All the creation groans and travails in pain until now, waiting for the manifestation of the Sons of God."
Christmas at the winter solstice then memorializes this quickening of the foetal Christ within the heart, mind and soul of humanity. It stages a festival of rejoicing at the knowledge that in the circuit of alternate involution and evolution, the deific solar power of Christliness, making its round of descent into the body and return, has ended the long period of its lifeless insensibility as mere seed of divinity in the soil of mortal body, is now quickened out of its spell of "death" and awakened to the glorious conquest of life in a new cycle of growth. The season thus commemorates the birth to activity of the Christ-mind in the nature and body of mankind. It is to be remembered always that it is only the birth of that Christ-mind, the deific power in its infancy, in its first unsure reachings and gropings amidst the strong elemental surges of the irrational and passional nature of the flesh. But it is no longer lifeless, inert, speechless, dumb and blind, as ancient symbolism pictured it in this condition. It is awakened to catch the sense of
events and the significance of experience. It is ready to respond in ever increasing intelligence to the impacts of environment and sensuous life, and drain out of them their moral value for its perfection.
This delineation is of crucial importance for general comprehension and for its psychological beneficence, because a very faulty conception of the "birth of Christ" and the "coming of Messiah" has widely ingrained the bland assumption that by the alleged historical event of Bethlehem birth the Christ influence has indeed been injected into the body and soul of human life. All 13 ancient presupposition that centered upon the Messianic fulfilment contemplated the immediate spiritualization and transfiguration of the world's elan and morale upon this postulated advent of the only-born Son of God. This opinion has altered but little in the succeeding time to the present. Vague Christian belief credits this "birth of Christ" with bringing the first true light to shine in heathen darkness, and credulously propagates the legend that the world has been elevated to higher level of righteousness and spirituality as a result of this event of two thousand years ago.
14 THE ADVENT AT THE SOLSTICE
A more competent envisagement of the symbolic intimations, however, accentuates the thesis that what is celebrated at Christmas is but the first awakening of that Christ power that slept within the confines of the mortal nature until the turn of the cycle at the solstitial point of evolution. In the first chapter of I Samuel it is said of Hannah, who, like Sarah and Elizabeth, was to bear the Christ-child in her old age, that "at the turn of the year she bore her son." Mother Nature gives birth to the Messianic consciousness at the turn of the cycle of the aeonial "year," where involution comes to a halt and after the period of solstitial motionlessness swings around as on a pivot and takes initial new direction upward toward evolution. But human fancy has not been sharp enough to preserve the subtle distinction between the occult sense of the soul's "quickening" out of its antecedent "death" and its "birth" as an active power in the world. What might be called a confusion of tropes has come in to befuddle common understanding. There are several senses in which the "quickening" may be conceived as the Christ's "birth." It is by no means inappropriate to think of the cosmic event signalized by the Christmas allegorism as the birth of the Christ, if one is schooled to moderate the conception with the knowledge that the Christ motivation is under Yuletide symbolism conceived as only at the inception of its objective kingship in history, and that only the lives of humans individually and collectively will set the Prince of Peace on the throne of human life in the world.
As said, all expectation of Messiah's coming in the ancient world envisaged the immediate transfiguration of humanity by divine grace and the near beatification of world history by the cosmic event. How egregiously 15
fallacious and irrational this high anticipation has been can now be seen in historical retrospect from the present. Not only did the proclaimed birth of Christ by the Christian movement not make the slightest appreciable change in the tone and character of mundane history at the time (indeed it seems not even to have been heard of for close to two hundred years after its declared incidence), but the record of history for the two thousand years since the great divine oblation, and more particularly as manifested in and among the nations blessed with the message of that Redeemer, is one whose blackness and shocking inhumanity exceeds anything of the kind in all world annals of the past. History in effect enforces the conclusion that the coming of Messiah in the form of a historical birth, so far from inaugurating in the world an epoch of light, peace and charity among nations, has been followed by the long night of what the historians have seen fit to designate the "Dark Ages." If Messiah had truly come in the Bethlehem event and come in the commonly accepted sense, as having brought by his personal presence the benison of divine grace, light and truth to the world, his long-heralded, breathlessly-awaited and celestiallyproclaimed advent has culminated as the world's supreme disappointment.
The Christian thesis of the Savior's historical birth in Judea assumedly in the year 1 A.D. is challenged and jeopardized by several considerations that are glaring enough to be crucial for the whole future of the faith of the West. When the Church Fathers settled upon the date of the Bethlehem birth as the year 1 of a new dispensation, and inaugurated a new calendar reckoning with that year, they were without benefit of certain historical data that have come to light from authentic historical record since that time.
Two facts stand out as proving the fixed date to be erroneous,--assuming that there was the birth of a divine personage about whose life the Gospels were elaborated. One is the discovered date of the death of Herod, Tetrarch of Galilee, in the year 4 B.C. The other is the recorded time of the rulership of "Cyrenius," governor in Syria when the Roman tax was levied which took Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, so that the divine birth, heralded in Scripture, might occur at that village to fulfil ancient prophecy. This time is found, on certified governmental record of Syrian history, to have been between the years 13 and 11 B.C. Herod and Cyrenius (found to be written Quirinus in the Roman records) were both mentioned (by Matthew) as reigning when Jesus was born. The date set for the birth is therefore found to be at least four years too late to have included Herod's effort to destroy the infant Christ by the (now generally admitted unhistorical) "Slaughter of the Innocents," and some twelve or thirteen years too late to have transpired "when Cyrenius was governor in Syria." It is notable that even a Catholic publicist, in an article in the Sunday American Weekly magazine early in 1947, conceded that the Bethlehem birth must be placed at least as early as 7 or 8 B.C.
With these two enforced corrections a host of other minor, though still important, conclusions and speculations that have become officially accepted as Christian history must perforce be thrown out, being confused by the two known dates. Indeed some of the disclaimers reach beyond minor items and put in jeopardy some of the basic claims on which the entire fabric of Christian historization rests. The frankness of Church leadership in facing the implications of
these emendations has not been open and sincere. It is deemed best to let the disclosures pass with as little publicity as possible.
Having engrafted so much Pagan usage upon its own tree, it is little wonder that Christianity has evolved and preserved so little of the meaning of these extraneous 17 and exotic customs which most of the northern countries of Europe, and their descendant populations in the Americas, have persisted in featuring in the celebration of Christmas. It has felt that it can condescendingly tolerate the admixture of Pagan "foibles" that cling like barnacles to its Nativity commemoration, without imperiling the fundamental strength and hold of the festival on its own communicants. It can afford to remain unconcerned about expounding the recondite significance underrunning the Pagan accoutrements that have been superimposed on the occasion, as to do so in any notable manner would be to lend gratuitous importance and enhancement to Pagan formulations.
And this covert apprehension and subterfuge is by no means groundless. Indeed the revelation of the true esoteric magnificence of the spiritual and theological conceptions adumbrated and allegorized by the Nordic-Teutonic-Celtic-Saxon festival usages will be seen to present a definite challenge to the whole authenticity of the Christian system, not so much as presenting the light and beauty of a rival or opponent religion, as in lending to the Christian revelation the representations of the meanings of its own celebratory elements, which it has lost or never known and published. In fact the startling asseveration can be made that the medley of Pagan ritual forms connected with Christmas carries a truer and more illuminating message of the inner significance of the gala day than do the distinctly Christian elucidations. This line of pursuit indeed runs so deep into the context of Christmas dramatism and symbolism as to come close to demonstrating that there is nothing in the celebration that is exclusively Christian at all, every single item being traceable to Pagan origins. Such a flat and drastic statement will be severely challenged. The present essay will stand as an answer to that challenge.
18 THE ANCIENT LINEAGE OF CHRISTMAS
The fundamental theses underlying the solstitial festival of deific rebirth trace back primarily to ancient Judaism, and back of that to the archaic Egyptian theurgical science. Ubiquitous in Egypt's religious systematism was the theme of the coming of Messiah. Horus, the central Christ figure in the texts, was described as "he who ever comes," "he who comes regularly and continuously," or who comes periodically. In some of the hymns he is hailed as "The Comer!
The Comer!" Isis, the goddess mother and queen of heaven, entreats him to come and lift her out of her desolation.