«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 ...»
It is time the endless prattle of ages against what early Christian doctrinism called "the malignancy of matter" be silenced by the fuller understanding of the eternal role of benignant purpose which matter plays in the cosmic evolutionary economy. God produced his material creation, sun, moon, stars, earth, animals, vegetation, man; and pronounced it good. Only erring half-taught religionists have pronounced it evil. The religion that has implanted the universal idea that man was born in sin because the soul came to share the life of the flesh has projected a most baleful influence into the stream of human ideology. Man's life would rise many grades in the scale of dignity and happiness if he would cease to despise his body. Of a surety his flesh is not to dominate him. But it is to be honored for the indispensable and noble service which it performs together with the soul. A sound philosophy will not heap contumely on the flesh, the handmaid of the soul.
The star of Bethlehem and the three Magi it guided across the Arabian desert! Are they to be taken as historical actualities? Hardly. Many Christian writers no longer view them in this light.
They are classed as legend and poetry. They constitute another of those splendid allegories of the ascent of bright spirit from out the region of material night to regain celestial glory. "We have seen his star in the east and are come to worship him." So spake the three "Wise Men" from the East at the birth of Christos.
The Messiah comes not as a single unit of consciousness, but as a threefold power. It is SpiritSoul-Mind; three in one, yet one in three. He comes, so to say, and his advent brings his three aspects to manifestation; or he comes as these three. Spirit, as manifest in the flesh, is ever a trinity of faculties. Its lowest facet, the only one that comes immediately into the brain consciousness, is Mind. Above that stands Soul, and still higher is Spirit. As these three rays of his power may be said to constitute his coming in three forms, they are said to accompany him to earth. And as their combined development is what in reality brings him here, they are said to come to pay homage to him. They combine to consummate his greatness and completeness. In the Gospel allegory this relation to him came out as "worship."
As to the star--what is it? Can it be taken astronomically? Again and most emphatically, no!
Even staid astronomers, deluded by the commonly assumed historicity of the Gospel story, have childishly gone on record as affirming that "somewhere near" the time of Jesus' birth there was an exceptional and rare conjunction of five of the planets. Only a few years ago we 45 witnessed the interesting spectacle of five of the planets closely bunched in the western sky of evening. The phenomenon brought no birth of divinity, with the most savage of all wars going on at the time. The guileless astronomers had overlooked the statement in Matthew's Gospel that made their guessing weird and preposterous. "Now the star came and stood over the place where the young child was." Let us picture Jupiter--itself some hundred times larger than the earth,-Saturn, Mars, Neptune and Uranus, all crowding in the heavens directly above the tiny stable in Bethlehem village! It is not to be overlooked that such irrationality is only one instance of the havoc that religious infatuation and hypnotization can work in otherwise capable minds.
The Star of Bethlehem is the bright radiance of the divine soul shining in the innermost recesses of evolving human minds, and rising with man as he emerges, symbolically on the east, from out the dark night of his immersion in matter and body. As it grows to its adult state the soul becomes a shining star of bright ray in the human head. When it shines forth there arises the gleam of its manifestations as the three "spiritual magicians." The bursting out of the light of this triple star upon infant humanity, as the race begins to incorporate Christly principle in its action, is naturally pictured as bringing the three Mages or Sages of wisdom to the earthly cradle where, all meanly wrapped in swaddling clothes of earthly flesh, he lies pictured as the infant at the beginning of his career to redeem animal man to divinity. Their offering of gifts of incense, sweet myrrh and gold betokened their contribution to his unified completeness. Gold emblems
the highest life of spirit; incense is the sweet odor of balsam treated with fire, the symbol of nature transmuted by soul; and myrrh is 46 the sweet-savored vegetable that typifies the natural contribution to the life of spirit.
Somewhat akin in significance to the red holly berry and the poinsettia was the red rose of Christmas symbolism. Pictured on the cross at the junction of the two arms, it emblemed the Christ-birth as the product of spirit and matter "crossed" in the life of man. Like the Glastonbury thornbush it, too, was legendarily asserted to bloom at midnight of Christmas Eve. As the "tree" of the cross on which the Christ was crucified was dramatized as the far-descended branch of the tree of life in the Garden of Eden, so the Christmas rose on the cross was supposed to have blossomed forth in December as a stem from Jesse's ancient rod of divinity. As a sixteenth
century German carol puts it:
I know a rose-tree spring Forth from an ancient root, As men of old were singing.
From Jesse came the shoot That bore a blossom bright Amid the cold of winter, When half-spent was the night.
By ancient symbolic reckoning the solstitial period in December marked the half-way point in the "night" of the soul's incarnation. And it was precisely at this point, also by symbolic connotations, that the Christ principle ended its sleep of "death" in matter and was quickened to a new birth. The Christ was the red rose flowering at midnight in the solstice of "winter." As Jesse was the father of David this Christ-rose was in the other tradition of Jewry to be the Messiah "born of David's line" in the city of "Bethlehem."
47 "CAROL, BROTHERS, CAROL" The carols of Christmas must have their due place in the exposition. These musical ballads that thousands of throats send throbbing in sincere joyousness up to the rafters of churches embody man's most blithesome expression of his Christmas spirit. Many are magnificent beyond words.
If all those who sing could catch the faintest true conception of the awesome burden of the profounder esoteric significance of the sonorous phrases chorused at the Yuletide, their hearts
and minds would fairly palpitate with the overmastering realization of the grandeur of the human-divine epic hidden in these majestic runes.
A Christmas Eve service in an Episcopalian Church attended by the present writer in 1953 opened with the tenor solo sung before the processional. The program announced that it was considered to be the oldest known Christmas carol, dating away back of the fifth century. It was sung in Latin and simply hailed the Christ, son of the Virgin Mary. But the first four words suddenly struck the mind with the most acute realization of their profounder significance. They were as follows: "A solis natus carine..." Referring to the Christ, these words said that he was "born on the hinge of the sun." The astonishing circumstance here was that if this was truly a Christian carol, it could be interpreted in clear meaning only by Pagan formulas! For Christianity knows nothing of the symbolism of the Christmas dating in relation to the winter solstice, or the fact that this dating allocates the divine birth to the conditions of the balance between soul and body, when soul, having reached the nadir of its descent into matter, slowly turns and pivots, as it were, on the hinge of the solstice to begin its 48 upward path of return to heaven. The December solstice is the hinge on which descending soul swings around at the nadir; the June solstice is likewise the hinge of the sun at its upper turn. But the Christ is born in the "winter."
What is perhaps the most salient feature accentuated in the carols generally has been little noted.
It is the oft-repeated linking of heaven and earth together in the jubilee, to stress mightily the fact that both hemispheres of life were beneficiaries of the great gift of Christhood to the world of
men. The first verse of the fine old hymn, Joy to the World, well exemplifies this feature:
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her king!
Let every heart prepare him room And heaven and nature sing!
Heaven and earth are exhorted to sing together. We must ask why heaven is to join in rejoicing over the advent of divinity to this planet. Here we come back to the holly, the pine tree and the Yule log. Both nature on the one side and consciousness on the other were to be blessed by the descent of Messiah to earth. Nature, in the form and person of her top-most product, man physical, was to receive as her honored guest the spark of celestial fire, which under her tutelage would eventually elevate the natural man to the order and rank of divine intelligence. Nature was to have the germinal potential of soul implanted in her bosom, and only this tie gave it the chance to rise in the scale of developing being. It was indeed the great aeonial occasion for nature's rejoicing. She was to be elevated from blind instinct to mind.
As to heaven, it was the grand cosmic opportunity for those citizens of heaven, those deific mind-born Sons of God, to link their potential capabilities with the generative powers of matter and nature in human bodies, and thus achieve a new birth and further growth in the eternal advance. For both heaven's sons and nature's creation it was equally the grand event of all the ages. Well indeed might man and nature unite to celebrate the high festival.
It meant a nearer approach to godhood for both, and full apotheosization for those already at the threshold of divinity. It was God's gift to them of a new reach and range of life that would in the event lift each to a higher kingdom of being, an expanded dimension of consciousness. If this is not the due occasion for both heaven and nature to rejoice, then creation furnishes no adequate ground for jubilation.
This analysis underlies the reason why the Christ's advent was proclaimed from heaven to men on earth. It rang from the skies. "Heaven's arches rang" with the exultant shouts of the celestial hosts, and "earth gave back the sound" from its plains below. Earth sent back to heaven the echo of its joyous halleluiahs, resounding throughout the empyrean. The hosts of the twelve legions of angels, sons of the God-Mind, who were preparing to migrate downward to our planet, would in the round of the aeon return rejoicing, victors over "death," having burst asunder the bars and gates of this lower "hell." It was the festal day of all the earth and no less the gala day for the angelic hosts above. The festival would lack its true import unless both men and angels alike realized its meaning in both spheres of being. For the event meant a new heaven for spirits of light and a new earth brightened with heavenly glory for men.
So angels in the clouds of heaven announced the coming to shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. As the Messiah coming in this era of the zodiacal cycle was to come in the sign of Aries, the Ram, when he was to be heralded as the 50 Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world, inevitably the drama personified these humans who were to domesticate and care for this tender Lamb in its infancy as "shepherds." So the annunciation was made to shepherds in the fields, in the night and winter of incarnation. It is said that no sheep are ever watched out in the fields of Palestine or Syria at night later than October of each year. Hence the allegorical character of the story is confirmed by its obvious non-historicity.
The pageantry of snowy winter attending the Messiah's birth is of course altogether Northern and astrological symbolism. It depicts the winter solstice and the Northern winter with its snow and all its poetic incitements. But the true sense of all this has been lost. The iciness of the season is the outward arctic symbol of the cold deadness of the soul when it has gone to its torpid sleep of inertness, its "hibernation" under nature's chilling spell and lies wrapped in unconsciousness, like the wheat grains in winter's soil, until awakened to new life and regeneration by April's strengthening sun.
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YULE AND NOEL: THE SAGA OF CHRISTMASAt the solstice the sun stands still for a period of about ten days, neither losing nor gaining in its light. Here is the astrological symbol of spirit's equalized relation with matter, when it is weighed in the scales of the exact balance or equilibration between the forces of soul and body. Humanity at its present state stands at precisely this point of stabilization between the powers of soul and those of sense. In this close relation the opportunity is afforded to both these elements to consummate their interlocking and their "marriage" and produce the Christ-child as their offspring. Thus the solstice of winter is the zodiacal portraiture of every aspect of the relation of soul to body, out of which the Christos is to have its new generation.
Like the sun of late December, the unit of soul-mind 51 has gone as far down the scale into matter's depths as it can go. There it stands, held fast by the equilibrated powers of matter. The two conflict and war with each other until their reconciliation is effected through the intermediary offices of the Christ as its power evolves. And the final atone-ment is achieved as the two learn to synchronize their natures. With the harmony thus established comes the peace on earth and good-will among men that the angels announced to the shepherds.