[Reprinted from THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT, December 1959.]
In these days when all that is known of Jesus of Nazareth is what is taught in the various churches of the many Christian sects and is so fragmentary, it is well for us to look at this great man from the Theosophical point of view. If this short article makes but a few read again the Gospel story and The Acts of the Apostles, to relive with Paul his journeyings among the few who struggled to keep alive the "theosophic" teachings of that century, to sense the wonder of that day when Jesus sat on the Mount and delivered his great Sermon to the multitude, then one more link will have been made with the chain of leaders, workers and guides in the great work of helping Humanity.
H.P.B. predicted that
But on the other hand she said that "the grand figure of the philosopher and moral reformer [Jesus] instead of growing paler will become with every century more pronounced and more clearly defined"; also that what the world needs is a less exalted but more faithful view of him. It is, therefore, interesting to study just what Theosophy has to say about the personality of this man whom it reveres as a grand philosopher and moral reformer. "The name Jesus," according to The Theosophical Glossary, "is rather a title of honour than a name—the true name of the Soter of Christianity being Emmanuel, or God with us (Matt., i, 23)."
When was he born? In the Glossary, under "Ebionites," we read that there is proof "that Iassou or Jeshu lived during the reign of Alexander Jannaeus [103-76 B.C.] at Lyd (or Lud)." According to the Talmudic Sepher Toldos Jeshu, he was the son of Joseph Pandira and was put to death at Lyd, also called Lydda. This man Iassou, who lived a century earlier than the era called Christian, we are further told, was the "adept ascetic around whom the legend of Christ was formed." We read in The Secret Doctrine (I, 577-78) that "genealogies and prophecies notwithstanding, Jesus the initiate (or Jehoshua)—the type from whom the 'historical' Jesus was copied—was not of pure Jewish blood."
According to the Gospel stories, Jesus was taken into Egypt when very young by his father and mother to escape the slaughter of the "Innocents" (infant boys). The correct interpretation of this "infant massacre" has been given in Isis Unveiled (II, 199-201). During the Herodian reign, Wise Men and Initiates, nicknamed the "Innocents" and the "Babes" on account of their holiness, were being persecuted. According to the Sepher Toldos Jeshu, Jesus, or Jehoshua, had been entrusted by Mary, his mother, to Rabbi Elhanan. Rabbi Jehoshua, who continued the boy's education after Elhanan, "initiated him in secret knowledge." When Alexander Jannaeus ordered the slaying of all Initiates, the Rabbi fled to Egypt, taking the boy with him.
Every tradition shows that Jesus was educated in Egypt and passed his infancy and youth with the Brotherhood of the Essenes and other mystic communities. The Essenes were the descendants of the Egyptian hierophants in whose country they had been settled for several centuries before they were converted to Buddhist monasticism by the missionaries of King Asoka, and amalgamated later with the earliest Christians. It was among them that Jesus was initiated into the Mysteries. Later, however, he preferred the "free and independent life of a wandering Nazaria," separating or "inazarenizing" himself from the Essenes and thus "becoming a travelling Therapeute, a Nazaria, a healer" (Isis Unveiled, II, 144), for he found himself disagreeing with the Essenes "on several questions of formal observance." (Ibid., II, 132)
There is food for thought in the word "Nazaraios," for we learn that "Jesus was called Nazaraios, in reference to his humble and mean external condition; 'for Nazaraios means separation, alienation from other men' " (Isis, II, 128). He is pictured as having long hair and it is recorded that
They were a class of Chaeldan theurgists. The long white garment which Jesus is always represented as wearing was the dress adopted by the Nazarene Priests and the Pythagorean and Buddhist Essenes, as described by Josephus.
The oldest Nazarenes, who were the descendants of the scripture Nazars and whose last prominent leader was John the Baptist, though never very orthodox in the sight of the scribes and Pharisees of Jerusalem, were, nevertheless, respected and left unmolested. But the new sect to which the followers of Jesus evidently adhered became a thorn in the side of the scribes and Pharisees because they showed themselves "reformers and innovators."
H.P.B. remarks: "How little Jesus had impressed his personality upon his own century, is calculated to astound the inquirer" (Isis, II, 335), even though "the civilized portion of the Pagans who knew of Jesus honoured him as a philosopher, an adept whom they placed on the same level with Pythagoras and Apollonius" (Isis, II, 150). His mission was short: "...he died because he could not help it, and only when betrayed....When, finally he saw that his time had come, he succumbed to the inevitable" (Isis, II, 545). As for the manner of his death, the Talmudists say that he
Regarding his character, we learn from a footnote in The Theosophist:
Two further quotations teach us more:
Tender and perfect in his nature, "the meek Judean philosopher" was a glorious example, for,
What was his Mission? In Isis Unveiled we read:
His motive was "to benefit humanity at large by producing a religious reform which should give it a religion of pure ethics; the true knowledge of God and nature having remained until then solely in the hands of the esoteric sects, and their adepts" (Isis, II, 133). This is brought out in the following extracts:
This shows clearly that he "recognized no Jehova" (S.D., I, 578). His commandments were simple. When asked what a man should do to have eternal life, he replied: "Keep the commandments." When asked which ones, he answered:
We can see, as Ammonius Saccas saw, that
A comparison of his teachings with those of Pythagoras and of the Buddha shows the truth of H.P.B.'s statement that
Saddening but true is the following from Isis Unveiled:
Perhaps these extracts will help us to see in the true light the "Prophet of Nazareth, by whose mouth the spirit of truth spake loudly to humanity." May the day hasten when the grand figure and ethics of this "philosopher and moral reformer...will reign supreme and universal"! We are told that this will only be "on that day when the whole of humanity recognizes but one father—the UNKNOWN ONE above—and one brother—the whole of mankind below." (Isis, II, 150-51)