The annual festival of Christmas is celebrated all over Christendom on the 25th of December. On this day, Jesus of Nazareth is said to have been born in Bethlehem, near Jerusalem. The four Gospels give each an account of his birth, his baptism, his preaching, his trial, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension to heaven. Yet, there are no historical records to authenticate the Gospel story of Jesus. Classical writers, historians and philosophers of the early centuries of the Christian era, who lived at the time when the Gospel account is said to have taken place, and some of whose works exist to this day, make no mention of Jesus. Owing to lack of historical evidence, modern biblical research, too, fails to throw any light on the vexed question.
Nevertheless, Theosophy shows that an Initiate, a great reformer and teacher called Jehoshua, did arise among the Jews between 103 B.C. to 76 B.C. He was the type from whom the evangelists created the "historical Jesus." He was initiated in Egypt and recognized no Jehovah of orthodox Jews except the "Father in Heaven" with whom he communed, as every Initiate communes with his Divine Self in Yogic contemplation. He was accused by the Jewish orthodoxy of stealing the Mysteries of their temple and teaching the multitude. He was tried, stoned and allowed to die on a cross.
Theosophy further shows that the first disciples and followers of Jesus were the Gnostics, particularly the sect called Marcionites, who preserved the true history and teachings of Jesus, and believed that the Gospel accounts were simply a carnalization of metaphysical allegories and symbolism (Glossary). This is the reason why no historical evidence exists to support the Gospel story of Jesus.
"The most movable of the Christian feast days, during the early centuries, Christmas was often confounded with the Epiphany, and celebrated in the months of April and May" (U.L.T. Pamphlet No. 23, p. 3). In the fourth century, Pope Julius I ordered a committee of bishops to investigate and fix the date of the nativity of Jesus. The bishops decided on the 25th of December. It is the day when the whole of the pagan world celebrated the birth of their Sun Gods—Egyptian Osiris, Greek Apollo and Bacchus, Chaldean Adonis, Persian Mithra—when the Zodiacal sign of Virgo rose on the horizon. Thus the ancient festival of the Winter Solstice, the pagan festival of the birth of the Sun, came to be adopted by the Christian Church as the nativity of Jesus, and was called Christmas.
Winter Solstice marks the limit of the southern journey of the Sun. As the sun moves away from the Northern Hemisphere, it is plunged into icy cold winter, making nights longer and days shorter, and nature seems to lapse into dormancy. It symbolized the descent of Spirit into Matter and the consequent loss of its radiance and potency, the overcoming of the light of Spirit by the darkness of ignorance. When man begins to hunger for truth and turns inward, the hitherto apparently conquered Sopirit of man begins to awaken in him. It is analogous to the commencement of the Sun's northern journey, causing the dawn of spring when the whole of Nature begins to awaken to new life and activity with renewed energy. The cosmic event was celebrated as the birthday of the Sun God by ancient nations, symbolizing the birth of Christ—Divine Principle—in man, ending the darkness of ignorance, and beginning the rebirth of man in spirit.
Christ is not the name of Jesus but a generic term meaning the Divine Principle or Christos residing in the heart of every man and woman. Krishna or Chris-na and Christos come from the same root. Kris in Sanskrit means the pure or the sacred, "the first emanation of the invisible Godhead, manifesting itself tangibly in spirit" (Isis Unveiled, II, 158), it is the Spiritual Ego (Buddhi-Manas). "I am the Ego seated in the hearts of all beings, O Arjuna," says Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita. "Within the body—the shrine of thy sensations—seek in the Impersonal for the 'Eternal Man'; and having sought him out, look inward: thou art Buddha," says The Voice of the Silence. The divinity in the heart of man was referred to by Jesus as his "Father in Heaven." He said that he and his Father in Heaven are one, which means he succeeded in uniting his consciousness with the Divine Conciousness within himself during Samadhi; and commended his followers to do the same. The Spiritual, Immortal, Higher Ego in every man is an emanation, like a ray, from the Central Spiritual Sun (Paramatman), of which the visible Sun is the direct manifestation on our physical plane and its visible symbol.
Though the Divine Principle is present in all, it does not shine forth equally in all. It only overshadows the mortal. In the distant past, when humanity in its in infancy was still pure, men were fully conscious of the Divine Presence within themselves and required no religion or blind faith, for they knew the truth. As physical evolution gained ascendancy, the light of Divinity in man grew dimmer with every cycle of his descent into matter, until human beings in general chose to serve their lower selfish interests at the expense of the Spiritual, thus crucifying the Christos within on the cross of the flesh. Spiritual ignorance or avidya enveloped humanity, giving rise to dark egotism and consequent vice and wickedness. Hence, man went from death to death. This is the fall of man, the eclipse of the Light of the Spiritual Sun by the dark egotism of the lower man. This is the true meaning of crucifixion. Each time we shut out the voice of conscience, ignore the behests of the Higher Self, and follow the impulses and passions of the lower personal self we are crucifying the Christ within.
It is the duty of man to raise the self by the Self. Neglect of this duty by man is what the Christians call sin against the Holy Ghost and the Hindus, Brahma Hatya. The Divine Ego within man, though pure and sinless, bears the sins of the lower man and suffers, so that, through repeated sacrifices, extending over innumerable incarnations determined by its own Karma, and through accumulations of essential experiences garnered from each incarnation and assimilating them to the Divine Spirit, it may at last rid the lower personality of the deceptions of Matter with the Light of Wisdom, and raise up the "thief" to heaven. Hence it is said that Christ suffered for the sins of man on the cross to save the world. The Christian belief of vicarious atonement has its origin in this Eternal Verity. The Gospel allegory is a later version of the ancient Vedic allegory of Viswakarman, the all-seeing Father-God, who sacrificed himself to himself to save the world. This sublime allegorical symbolism represents the Spiritual and physical evolution of humanity, the true story of Real Eternal Man—Manasa or ego—within the outer, physical, mortal man on earth. Spiritual Egos are the Manasaputras, Sons of the Universal Mind, who sacrificed themselves by incarnating in the senseless Astral Shadows at the beginning of the human cycle on earth. It was in order to make the mindless animal man self-conscious by endowing him with the principle of mind, and remaining within him as his "Saviour," his true self, a "beam of light immaculate within, a form of clay material" on the lower plane. This beam of light is man's life-guide, the watcher and the Silent Thinker, and is the voluntary victim of the lower self—the Crucified Christ.
Crucified Christ is said to have risen from the dead, or resurrected, which implies spiritual regeneration. Plato called unregenerate mortal life in the body a sepulchre, in which the Soul is buried. It is the spiritual death of man, though enjoying all the joys of the temporary evanescent earthly life. Man has to rise from the dead. Some brave ones resolutely live the higher life, conquer and crucify the lower passions and desires on the Cross of Life, and unite themselves with their Divine Ego. Buddha, Jesus, Krishna were among such great ones who permanently assimilated their selves with the Eternal Self. Spiritual regeneration from death to immortality in Spirit or from darkness to Light, cannot be conferred on man as a boon. It is to be striven after and won by one's own sacrifice, of the mutable to the permanent, of the personal self to Impersonal Self—the Self of all.