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The Bible and the great renunciation
by Rev. Howard Ray Carey

''Why even think about the fourth initiation?'' someone may ask. ''It is so far ahead of us, isn't it a waste of time to give any consideration to this great, distant event?'' No, indeed. Such consideration, far from being futile, can be quite fruitful. For the little renunciations we make all along the way, if we make them willingly, are stepping stones in preparation for that major step that lies ahead ---- called by Christians the Crucifixion. So let us look at Jesus' life and teachings, as He prepared His disciples ---- as well as Himself ---- for this painful ordeal which might better be thought of as a glorious victory, for such it is.

As we look briefly at some of those preparatory steps, we see that immediately following the transfiguration experience (which symbolizes the third initiation) Jesus began discussing with His disciples His 'decease' which He was 'to accomplish at Jerusalem'. Though even His inner circle of 12 disciples was very slow to comprehend this unwanted teaching ---- so foreign to their way of thinking ---- it proved to be of great value to them later, after the event, as they struggled to grasp the significance of what had happened.

About this time also the great difficulties which are said to come in the life of one taking the fourth initiation began to pile up. In the sixth chapter of John we read that many of Jesus' followers began to defect when they heard teachings such as: ''It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.'' (verse 63)

We might well inquire whether these words are also a warning to us to consider the meaning and the cost of discipleship ---- whether our background is labeled Christian, Buddhist or whatever. A further indication that the tide was turning against Jesus as He prepared for the final testings in Jerusalem is found in the fact that now the priesthood of the time began to be hostile to Him. Earlier He had been invited to speak and teach in their synagogues. (See Luke 4:16 ff.)  But now, in His later ministry, the scribes and priests became jealous of His popularity and fearful for the future of the tight and profitable little system by which they monopolized their religion. So they accused Him of being possessed and of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub, prince of demons. Thus the opposition rolled up, and He found the doors of the synagogues closed against His teaching.

But it was the cleansing of the temple early in the last week of His ministry that effectively crystallized the opposition against Him. Why? Because He drove out those who sold sacrificial animals and pigeons at an exorbitant price, and overturned the tables of the money changers who had a high-priced monopoly on the only coins which were accepted for the purchase of the sacrificial animals. So the plot against Jesus thickened, and the Sadducees, the priestly party which controlled the profiteering business in the temple, found themselves in the fortunate position of quickly locating a member of Jesus' inner circle of 12 who was ready to betray his teacher and deliver Him into their hands. (Space does not permit discussion of Judas' possible motives for this act of treachery.)

At the 'Seder' supper or Passover meal ---- called by Christians the Last Supper, the basis for the later ritual of the Eucharist ---- Jesus sought to prepare His remaining 11 disciples for the tragic events that would occur later that night and the following day ---- known as Good Friday in the Christian church year. Why is that day so called? Because orthodox theologians make it the key to salvation ---- according to the substitutionary theory of the atonement. Take note of Jesus' long prayer of consecration uttered during the occasion of that supper and recorded in the 17th chapter of John. It was given for the benefit of the disciples of the time and for all disciples of all time.

After the meal Jesus and the 11 proceeded to the garden of Gethsemane, where He agonized over the well known prayer which concludes: ''Father, not my will but thine be done.'' From this point on I understand that Jesus was on His own ---- the three-year overshadowing by the Lord Christ being terminated because it was Jesus who needed to bear the brunt of these acute events which symbolize in the outer life the pivotal inner experience of the fourth initiation.

These events include the Gethsemane struggle; the arrest following the traitorous kiss by Judas; the illegal midnight trial be-fore the high priest and some members of the Sanhedrin ---- the high court of that time and place; the early morning trial before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor; the desertion by the remaining 11 disciples ---- including Simon Peter's triple denial that he knew Jesus; derision and abuse by the Roman soldiers; the scourgings; the derisive crown of thorns; the exhausting trek to Mount Calvary; and the crowning ignominy ---- crucifixion between two common criminals. If we need a graphic portrayal of the difficulties leading to and the sufferings experienced during the fourth initiation, here we have them spelled out for us in capital letters of love and pain.

And we must include Jesus' compassionate cry from that cross: ''Father forgive them for they know not what they do,'' and His agonized cry, ''my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'' Some theologians, lacking understanding, have asserted He was merely quoting a psalm, and thus have tried to deny the crucial nature of this cry. He was indeed quoting from the first sentence of what we have labeled Psalm 22. But in so doing, He was uttering the agonized cry of the fourth-degree initiate when, as we are told, all help ---- objective and subjective ---- is removed momentarily so that the initiate finds it necessary to come unaided through that crucial stage of utter loneliness. But because He came through it successfully, He was able also to speak those final victorious words from the cross: ''It is finished, '' and ''Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.'' Thus what was seen by the plotters against Jesus as the crowning ignominy turned out to be His crowning victory.

Two more aspects of the symbolism involved must be emphasized. One, already touched upon, is the prayer, ''Father, not my will but thine be done.'' We, aspirants and disciples who have not advanced that far along the path, may indeed utter this prayer with our lips and our intellects. But it reaches a true level of complete commitment to the divine will at this fourth initiation. Then it is fully effective, and so the secrets and the power of the Father's will (involving the Monad within) become truly operative. From this point on, the initiate effectively channels not only the light and love of God but also the will. Note that these are the three aspects of the higher life we are reaching for in the first three stanzas of the Great Invocation.

The other crucial symbol given us in the gospel account of the Great Renunciation was that at the time of the crucifixion, ''the veil of the temple was rent in twain, from top to bottom.'' What was this veil? In the temple at Jerusalem it was the partition that separated the outer part of the temple from the inner Holy of Holies, as it was called. Esoterically this is a most appropriate symbol. For during the experience of the Great Renunciation the veil of separation between the individual and the inner sanctuary of the Monad ---- the Father within ---- is removed.

So from that experience onward we will have access to the inner mysteries and powers of life to an amazing degree, such as we have not known before. For when we reach that summit the Waiting Ones know we will utilize these mysteries and powers, not only in completely unselfish ways but in such a manner that great benefit will accrue to humanity. It is hoped that, as we contemplate these tremendous happenings, we will be strengthened and encouraged to take our next steps on the path with love, joy and courage. As the Christ is saying to us through Benjamin Creme (Message No. 130):ëëMy Truth kindles a new Light in men.  My Aim is sure. My Spirit is blithe... Take My hand, My friends, and let Me lead you over the river.  Let Me guide you over the narrow bridge.  Let Me show you the beauty which rests on the other side.  That beauty, My friends, is your true Self.  Help Me, My friends, to help you, and together let us transform this world.''

This article is a chapter from The Joy of Christ's Coming This book by the late Rev. Howard Ray Carey was published by Share International Foundation in 1988. It is not currently available in hard copy form. Copyright © Share International Foundation.  Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard version unless otherwise indicated. 

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First published April 1999, Last modified: 15-Oct-2005