«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 Christmas message that is mutely but eloquently spoken by the holly sprig is indeed a moving sermon. It bespeaks the life, history and composition of the human soul, for it presents in dumb pantomime the growth of man natural as the green stem and its leaves, and then the generation out of these raw natural elements of man spiritual, as the fiery red product flowing at the summit. The colorful holly branch thus depicts man's potential divine spirit as the beautiful flower and fruit of a physical growth in the natural order.
Man can gaze upon the holly tree and see his own life-drama mirrored in outline and in miniature, or as the analogue of all natural process. His body is the growth and evolution of a rudimentary nucleus of life over a long period. It is his natural self, grown under the order of the world of nature and the operation of natural law. But in the fulness of time, it, too, bears its glorious fruit at the topmost reach of its "green" body, 27 which in the case of man is the head. And this fruit of the tree of life when fully ripened, were it visible to all human eyes, would be seen flashing out in the form of a radiant crown of ineffable spiritual beauty efflorescent in the purest of colors.
In both nature and in man the first or natural order of creation gives birth at its apex to the second or spiritual man. The physical creation, the "mother," labors to generate her son, the conscious creation, the Logos. As the spiritual body or bodies in which this spiritual consciousness is instrumentalized are constituted of the glowing radiance of solar light, the color of fire is the most apt earthly symbolic representation of their nature. The world of green nature bears on its top branch the bright red of the spirit. If one can imaginatively see all this in the holly, or the poinsettia, or the barberry, one will find these emblematic objects the mental goad to realizations of the most potent cathartic virtue. They unite the mental and the emotional through the subtle power of an aesthetic dynamism. They portray vividly the birth of the Christ in man as the burgeoning of red fire of spirit at the top of the green stem of the natural bodily life.
Here we have the basis of the old English legend of the blossoming of the thorntree at Glastonberry at Christmas. It is symbolism. The tree of nature, here the thornbush, is proclaimed to put forth its bloom at the winter solstice, as precisely at this point in the cycle where involution (the soul's descent) turns into evolution (the soul's reascent), the Christ-child of noetic consciousness is born. The thornbush was in all likelihood chosen as carrying on the Old Testament allegory of the thornbush of Exodus aflame with divine fire.
With the tree introduced as typograph of man's natural self, the elucidation comes to the Christmas pine
28 tree. And well may the German folksong carol its adoration of the firtree's perennial greenness!
O Tannenbaum! O Tannenbaum! (O fir-tree! O fir-tree!
Wie green sind deine Blaetter! How green are thy leaves!) For here nature is green, not only for the seasonal cycle of summer, but all the year round. The life of nature, preparatory as it always is to the birth of consciousness, is in its essence everlasting. Matter is indestructible, though its forms of manifestation may continually change.
The root essence of material substance is imperishable. It is always a potency, latent during the alternate periods of non-manifestation, active during the opposite cycles of spirit's waking existence.
Perhaps fancy will not stray too far afield into whimsicality when it likens the darker shades of the pine's winter green or former years' growth to the dullness of matter in the inactive or latent state, while seeing in the brighter shades of the green of the summer's new growth an emblem of the more radiant energization of matter when ensouled by bright spirit in the cycles of manifestation. In the temperate and frigid zones nature has provided a type of the eternality of life and matter in never-fading greenness of the northern pine. Symbol of the immortality of life, it brings into the Christmas ritual much the same significance as the green of the holly. It represents outdoor or wild nature, thus again typifying the first or natural man in the human constitution.
29 THE GOD DOMESTICATES THE ANIMAL
But for Yuletide ceremonialism the pine is cut down and brought in and set up in human habitations. What can this betoken other than the bringing of the natural man within the pale and the aura of the influence of the god-nature in the human being? In the life of the human when body is ensouled by the more potent dynamic of spiritual consciousness, the external bodily nature is in the full sense of the word being domesticated by the divine Self that is from above.
The implanted heavenly grade of mind, as it develops, takes the natural under its care and tutelage and labors patiently to transmute its norm of consciousness from crude animal instinct to intelligence and reason. The wild animal nature is being tamed and transformed by the impacts upon it of the influences of "the Lord from heaven," whose ruling motivations are those of benevolence and love-wisdom. In the Old Testament it was Esau, and in the New it was John the Baptist, both of whom stood as the type figure of the first or natural man, who lived in the wilds of external nature. Untamed wild brutish nature is to be tamed and gradually changed into the likeness of its spiritual tutor. In the transfer of a product of outdoor nature into the human dwelling there is signalized the bringing of the "wild beast" segment of man's dual composition under the influence of the divine-human grade of mind and subjecting it to the impact of the forces that will in time convert it from brute to human. Eventually superhuman glory awaits it.
But the semantic dramatism does not stop with the bringing of the green pine into the home.
When the outer man is brought within the radiation of the soul's more uplifting powers, it does not long remain bleak and 30 bare in its greenness. It becomes in the transforming process lighted up with divine glories. The crowning of the human-animal with supernal grandeur of bright spirit is dramatized by the decoration of the green branches of the tree with glittering objects. Not only is the product of raw nature introduced into the human domicile; it is bedizened with every sort of tinsel and gaudy brilliance. And atop its central bough is hung the great gold star!
If the mind of the ordinary householder who trims the Yule tree could have any full measure of the deeper significance of this bright decking of the Christmas pine as an evolutionary transaction within the range of his own nature, no ritual in all the year's round of festivals could possibly engender a more dynamic exaltation of his spirit than this task of the late hours of Christmas eve. For it poetizes with aesthetic beauty the drama of the inner life of man himself. It enacts in reality the living processes by which man's own bodily organism, itself a tree of natural growth, lights up within its own organic structure a series of glowing centers of glinting radiance, which the Hindus have called chakras, or "wheels." They are described as saucer-like in shape and of a coruscating brilliance, as they shine within the watery confines of the body.
When the ancient Sages speak of the soul's coming to earth to "kindle a flame within the tomb of the body;" and the Egyptian books announce its coming to generate "a burning within the sea," they are not indulging in extravagant flings of fancy, but are pictorializing actual processes that ensue upon the spirit's transfiguring operation within the physical body.
In fact it is to be understood that deity enters the stable of the animal-human body at its birth, and as its latent powers of divinity unfold their capabilities into 31 activity and work their magical effect upon the physical organism, it succeeds finally in lighting up twelve lamps of a radiance never seen on land or sea, which shine within the orbit of the branches of the tree of man's life. In a word, one may say that the physical tree of man's body is lighted up with the fires of divinity at the extremity of the twelve branches of his development.
In the Kabalistic literature of the Hebrews there is the great Sephirothal Tree, with the three higher and the seven lower lights enkindled upon its ten distinct branches of radiation. And this cosmical tree is but the macrocosmic replica of what is repeated in miniature in the human microcosm. The mighty work of great Deity is to cause light to shine out of the abysmal darkness. If that Power can generate in fish living in deep-sea darkness a light that makes their world clear to vision, so it can cause the lights of spiritual intelligence to glow within the divinized body of man. Humanity is to generate twelve divine lights upon the branches of its tree of life. This is set forth with explicit exactness in the last chapter in the Christian Bible, Revelation 22, where it is said that the tree of life shall bear twelve manner of fruits upon its branches, and its leaves shall be for the healing of the nations.
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YULE AND NOEL: THE SAGA OF CHRISTMASAgain a striking passage from the Bible, in the language of St. Paul, says that "God who hath caused the light to shine out of darkness hath shined in our hearts; but we have this treasure in earthen vessels." We hold it in these physical bodies of ours. The bright ornaments on the Christmas fir-tree do indeed symbolize our possession of the twelve "treasures of light," which are deity's immortal gift to animal man within the scope of the Christmas ritualism.
32 And the power that will cause these twelve lights to glow upon the branches of the organic human tree is just that spirit of good-will, love and fellowship that is denominated the "Christmas spirit." As the transfiguring grace of the lower power lights up the human countenance, so in positive physical reality will the rule of brotherhood and charity in the conscious life of mankind generate these twelve beacons of the divine love-light in evolving human nature. The birth of the Christos in the consciousness of humanity will cause the collective tree of human nature to be miraculously trimmed with lights that will illumine the pathway of world history ever more brilliantly unto the day of man's deification. "I will clothe thee with light as with a garment," says the God of the Old Testament. He might have paraphrased it: "I will trim the twelve branches of your nature tree with the lights of the Christborn radiance of love. "For 'Christmas' means 'Christ-birth.'" The mas is from the Egyptian mes "to be born." Mess-iah means the "(new) born Iah" (Jah), or Jehovah,--God.
And God might have added: "I will crown your tree of brilliance with the super-bright Star atop the central branch." Yes; for the twelve branch lights are the lesser lights, and the great light of the Christ consciousness glows in supreme glory in the center of all. On the Mount of Transfiguration, as recounted in the early Gnostic-Christian work, the Pistis Sophia, Jesus, seated in the midst of the twelve disciples, is transfigured with supernal brightness in their center. St.
Paul says that we are all members of one spiritual body, of which Christ is the head. The divine splendor shines out in full power in the head, where the spark and fire of godlike intelligence glows like a living flame. The end and consummation of man's growth comes with this deific glorification in his head. A living flame bursts forth in 33 form like the petals of a fiery lotus, so that the ancients called it "the thousand-petaled lotus in the head" of divinized man. This is the pure beauteous flame of divine love and compassion which has its glorious birth in the head of man the human, and is the bright Bethlehem star whose rise in the east heralds indeed the birth of the savior of the world. If this bright star of the morning is not brought to shining in human hearts the Christ is not born in the world. Where can the Christ-mind be given birth if not in the human minds and hearts? Could ten thousand Christs of Nazareth implement Christliness in the world if its gracious spirit did not govern the lives of mortals? Not until all Christendom makes that which the Bethlehem birth beautifully symbolizes a living reality in the daily run of its world-life will the Christmas tree of humanity be decked with its twelve lights and its topmost Star in anything but empty form.
Instead of the gold star on the topmost limb, ancient ingenuity also devised the figure of the one branch of the tree that put forth golden leaves--the Golden Bough. This was used to symbolize
the Christos nature, whose golden light of spiritual splendor become the glorious end product of the whole natural creation, which, St. Paul says, groans and travails in the pains of parturition until it manifests the Sons of God, or the Christ. It is a most significant fact that in many tongues the word for "gold" is the same as the word for "light." In the Hebrew "light" is aor, in French "gold" is or, in Latin aurum, giving us the English ore. The Egyptian Hor-us is the golden light of the divine Christ grade of brilliance. That his name for centuries was Iusa before it was Horus, bespeaks again the direct source of the later name, Jesus.
34 Greek and Roman mythologies made the golden bough the passport in the hands of the heroes who would adventure into the dark depths of the Stygian "underworld," whose mislocation by the scholars for centuries has thrown all exegetical effort sadly awry of true comprehension and interpretation. Not only was it the hero's passport of entry into the nether world of Sheol, Amenta, Hades and hell, but it was his necessary exit-permit from those same umbrageous grots and caverns where the shades of the "dead" flitted about in the darksome recesses of semi-night.