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Christian Gnosis

Christian Gnosis

by C W Leadbeater

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Then shall the candidate be bound upon the wooden cross . . . After the third day he shall be brought back from the dead and carried up to heaven to be on the right hand of Him from whom he came. Surprisingly, these lines are from an Egyptian initiation ritual thousands of years before the Christian drama. Linking the two is just one fascinating element in this


Then shall the candidate be bound upon the wooden cross . . . After the third day he shall be brought back from the dead and carried up to heaven to be on the right hand of Him from whom he came. Surprisingly, these lines are from an Egyptian initiation ritual thousands of years before the Christian drama. Linking the two is just one fascinating element in this profound introduction to esoteric Christianity, as timely today as when it was first published in 1920. Famed clairvoyant Charles Webster Leadbeater was a bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church, which preserves the sacraments while interpreting the scriptures with maximum freedom. He quotes St. Augustine himself saying that what we now call Christianity emerged at the very beginning of humanity as the one true religion. To access its transformative force, Leadbeater returns to original teachings and decodes its story symbolically as a guide for direct knowledge (Gr: gnosis) of the Divine. “As Christ had the Godhead behind Him, so have we the same power, although not yet unfolded as fully,” he says. “Nevertheless, it is only a question of development, and that development is certain.” With the authority of a scientist and a mystic, he addresses such topics as the birth of Christ in the heart; God’s utter love; divine grace; angelic help; the true meaning of salvation; and reincarnation and the evolution of the soul.

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Christian Gnosis

By Charles W. Leadbeater, Sten von Krusenstierna

Theosophical Publishing House

Copyright © 2011 St. Alban Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8356-3029-0



Because we are still comparatively unevolved, any god that we could fully understand would not be much of a god. We are better acquainted with things below—with animals, trees, and rocks. Now and again we meet a man whom, in an expansive moment, we might acknowledge to be greater than ourselves; but, as a general rule, we are rather inclined to think that we are as good as anyone else if not a great deal better.

There is a certain danger of being conceited when we compare ourselves with things "beneath" us. We are proud, for example, of our intellect. But those who have come to know something of the Masters realize, first of all, that their own boasted intellect is merely the first rudiments of one; in comparison with the Masters' it is as the slight lessening of the darkness which comes before the dawn. Further insight reveals that, in fact, we have nothing that we can truly call our own. Our intellect, together with our other good qualities, is but a dim reflection of the powers of the Logos shining through.

The Masters tell us that they themselves, with their wonderful powers which seem to us so godlike, are but as dust under the feet of still higher beings. We cannot fully appreciate these Great Ones; still less can we comprehend the Logos. As for Parabrahma, the Absolute, He is not personal in any way; He is not what we would call an existence.

Of the Absolute nothing whatever can be rightly said save He is not this, He is not that; He cannot be defined on any plane that we have ever imagined or thought. As the Buddha put it, "Look not for Brahm or the beginning there." However earnest the seeker, He can never be grasped. "Veil after veil may lift but there must be veil after veil behind." It is useless to speculate; Brahma can be understood only on His own level.

The Logos

When we speak of God we mean, for all practical purposes, the Logos of our solar system. The Logos is more comprehensible than the Absolute because He has risen by slow degrees from our own humanity. The physical matter in the sun and in the planets of our system forms His physical body; the astral matter within the limits of the system is His astral body; the mental matter is His mental body. Thus we are all part of Him. We are part, too, of the "seven Mighty Spirits before [His) throne" [Rev. 4:5] through whom He pours Himself out into His universe. That is to say, the astral matter which makes up our astral bodies is also astral matter of one or other of the Seven Spirits. The force which flows out from the Logos reaches us principally through one of those seven channels, and so it is said that we belong to the Ray of which that particular Spirit is the head.

All that we have been taught about God—all that is good and beautiful—is true of the Solar Logos. But we have also heard a great deal about God that is far from good. Men have said that He is capable of anger and jealousy, that He slaughtered thousands of people at different times because they did something of which He did not approve or failed to do something that He ordered. But the truth is that we all come from Him, we all belong to Him, and we are all on our way back to Him.

God is, and can only be, good. His laws are made for our evolution and our helping; He does not change His laws or outrage them, so if we break them certain effects are bound to follow. The suffering that results to ourselves is not inflicted by Him; it is the natural consequence of our own actions. On the other hand, the Great Ones, who have been men like ourselves and have risen from our humanity, assure us that by working according to the law (which is the law of evolution) we shall one day stand where they do now.

Our Solar Logos has a life of His own among His peers. Each of His worlds sends up to Him a stream of devotion, and He in turn pours back upon it a great flood of spiritual influence. That stream, flowing through space, caused initially by the devotion of His people, forms, as it were, the seven-stringed lyre of Apollo, which He plays upon as one plays upon a harp. This music of the spheres ascends to the Great Logos as the praise and glory which is due to Him.

Our sun is a sun of the fourth order; therefore our Logos is a Logos of the Fourth Order. Just as our planets depends upon their sun and derive from it the life which sustains them, so does our Solar Logos (and perhaps millions of others like Him) depend upon a Solar Logos of the Third Order. And the thousands of Logoi of the Third Order depend upon a Logos of the Second Order; He, in His turn, "circles around" one of the First Order, and those of the First Order depend upon Parabrahm. We have been told these things, but in reality they can have very little meaning for us since they are so far beyond the world of our present experience.

It is good to remind ourselves that, in fact, even the things we think we understand are a very long way from our comprehension. Take the most ordinary things around us; we do not know how a tree grows, for instance. We know that it absorbs certain elements from the earth, but how it turns these into bark and leaves nobody really understands. We think we know things, and if we can name them and stick a label on them we are then quite sure that we have mastered them. But, as a matter of fact, there are very few things which we understand completely.

The Solar System

The solar system may be likened to a lotus flower. By raising one's consciousness to a higher level one may see that the planets—those spheres of fire—circling round the sun are like the tips of the lotus petals, or like the tips of the fingers of a hand. Most of the petals grow under the water—only the tips emerge, and where they break the surface they appear to be separate. The sun, floating in space, might represent the pistil among the stamens. Or it might be seen as the center floating overhead, a reflection of that which is the heart of the flower down below. The planets are linked together, not only fundamentally but subordinately. They are all, as it were, part of one great calyx.

When the Logos begins to form a system, His first step is to delimit the sphere of His activities, which extends far outside the orbit of the outermost planet of the system-to-be. Having made His limit, it is said that He then thinks the whole of His system into existence on what, to Him, corresponds to our mental plane. He determines the number of planets and satellites that He will bring into being, and the stage of development that shall be reached on each set of worlds. He makes, in fact, a gigantic and detailed thought-form of the complete system.

In Greek philosophy, the thought-form is built up in the intelligible world. This thought-plan is not exactly a mold into which matter is poured; it is rather an existence on that high plane which is brought down, bit by bit, to the lower planes as the great Beings who are working under the Logos require it as a pattern.

It is in reference to the intelligible world that we say everything exists in the beginning. The physical world does not exist at that stage, but its plan in the mind of the Logos has existed from the time when He resolved to form this system. Each part, as has been said, is brought down into manifestation as it is needed.

The Logos builds His system out of matter. The one thing which penetrates everywhere, as far as we know, is what the scientists call the ether of space. Theosophists call it koilon. What we call matter is built out of bubbles blown in this substance. In The Secret Doctrine there is the statement that "Fohat digs holes in space." When I first read that many years ago, I thought of each "hole in space" as a solar system. When I came to know a little more, I concluded that the "holes" which Fohat "dug" are these tiny bubbles of infinitesimal smallness.

There are some 14,000 millions of these bubbles in an ultimate physical atom. Eighteen of those atoms make up a chemical atom of hydrogen, the lightest of our elements.

To us, the bubbles may seem to be absolutely empty, but the breath of God is within them, and no power that we know can alter them in any way. An ancient Indian writing tells us that the Logos (not the Logos of our solar system) breathed into these bubbles and that thus it is His breath out of which everything is built. If He were to choose to draw in His breath, at that instant everything would fall into nothingness because the bubbles would have disappeared. St. Augustine declares that "If God were to cease from speaking the Word even for a moment, heaven and earth would vanish."



The Trinity

We must now try to understand something about the nature of the Deity and His manifestation in matter, which, as far as we are concerned, means the making of our solar system. All religions put forth some kind of theory to explain the origin of man and of the worlds, and most agree in describing the manifestation of the Deity as threefold. The Absolute (of whom we can know nothing except that He is) is the supreme God who rules over millions of universes. It is said that the process of cosmic evolution is similar to that of our solar system and that even in the absolute Logos or Deity there is the same threefold manifestation. We cannot actually know that, because the Absolute is so far above anything that we can see or touch; we can only infer that it must be so from what we see at lower levels.

In the case of our own solar system it is certain that we have this threefold manifestation because it is possible to look back and to see what has happened in the past. It is possible to see how the forces are flowing now, and from that we can deduce that there must be three centers of activity—three such aspects through which the force flows; three Persons, as it is stated, in one God.

It would be well, first, to define the word "person." It is derived from two Latin words, per, "through," and sona, "a sound." It therefore signifies "that through which the sound comes." The name was first given in Rome to the mask which was worn by a minor actor or supernumerary who played several parts. He would, for instance, play the part of a soldier in one act, a man in the crowd in another, a policeman in a third. Only the principal actors dressed their part fully. The supernumerary wore an ordinary peasant's dress and changed only his headdress and his mask, which indicated the particular part he was playing at the time. If, for example, he were acting the part of a soldier, he would wear an appropriate mask and a soldier's helmet.

The mask was the persona because the sound of the actor's voice came out through it. The three Persons of the Blessed Trinity are in reality three manifestations or aspects of the One God. Even that is not quite correct because they are more than mere aspects—a theory long ago condemned by the Church as heresy.

However, it is as near as we can come to representing this mystery to ourselves to say that in these three parts which the Deity plays He is represented by three Persons. We may employ analogies, but we must do so with care; they may help a little but it is well not to push them too far. To take a very simple analogy, we can imagine one man as the mayor of a city, the manager of a bank and, at the same time, the colonel of the local militia. In these three parts he would wear three different sets of clothing and, though he would act whatever part he was representing at a given moment, still he would always be one and the same man. Now the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity are very much more than that, but They may be thought of as God acting in different directions or in different capacities. This is indeed only a small part of the truth; the whole truth cannot be grasped at our present stage.

Our Solar System

It is difficult for us to imagine anything antecedent to our solar system.

One theory concerning the origins of our system is that two suns came into collision, striking one another, not head on, but glancingly, and thus set the planets in motion round the sun in their present orbits. That may or may not be true, but the reality goes a great deal further than that. Each solar system, as we learn from occult study, is the physical body, the expression of a Deity or Logos, and it may be that, in some cases, He indeed gathered the material for His physical body by means of such a collision. At any rate, in the case of our own solar system, occult investigation has shown that the Logos first decided upon a point where He could make His system, and then set up a great vortex into which He drew matter out of surrounding space and proceeded gradually to ensoul it. We do not know much about the original condition of that matter, but it appears that at a certain stage in the proceedings there is only atomic matter; that is to say, the atoms lie far apart and equidistant and are not in any way aggregated to make forms of any sort whatever. We do not know it as a definite fact, but they may be thought of as floating in empty space as motes float in a sunbeam. They are, however, indescribably smaller than any motes we can see with our physical eye. Ancient philosophy sometimes called this primordial matter "virgin matter," meaning that it was not yet interpenetrated or affected by the stream of life from the Logos.

The Planes of Matter

Occult investigation has further shown that in our solar system there are seven great planes or levels of matter and that man possesses bodies corresponding to, and by which he is able to contact, each one of them. There is the physical world, which we know, to a certain extent, as far as its lower subdivisions are concerned; the astral plane, which is the world in which feelings are expressed; the mental plane, which is built of the matter set in motion by our thought; the intuitional plane; the spiritual plane, where the triple spirit of man manifests itself; the monadic plane, where the Monad, the divine spark in man, resides; and finally the divine plane, on which is the triple manifestation of the Logos.

Each of these planes is divided into seven subplanes. They must not be imagined as lying one above the other like the shelves of a bookcase; rather must we think of them as filling the same space and interpenetrating one another just as air and water in a bottle of aerated water take up the same space, because the air "crowds in" between the molecules of the water. If we pour sugar into the aerated water, we have solid particles floating among the liquid and the gaseous matter; air, water and solids now interpenetrate each other and occupy the same space. In like manner, the different types of the matter of the solar system interpenetrate one another. When spirit ensouls matter, it comes into the finer matter first and gradually energizes matter of increasing density. We call this a "descent" because it is coming nearer to the physical-plane matter.

When the Deity of the solar system manifests Himself in these planes, He appears as threefold upon that highest division which we call the divine plane. It is obviously impossible to picture this divine manifestation in any way, for it is entirely beyond our power either of representation or comprehension. In our limited consciousness we imagine the Three Persons as separate, yet They are really one. The first manifestation, which in Christian terminology is called God the Father, remains always at that highest level; the second—God the Son—descends one level and manifests Himself on the sixth or monadic plane. The Third—God the Holy Ghost—descends yet further to the higher part of the spiritual plane. The Holy Trinity is often spoken of as manifesting as Power, Wisdom, and Intelligence. The Father is said to be the Creator, and yet He creates through the Son; that is to say, Power is exercised through Wisdom, and both Father and Son, as Power-Wisdom, work through Intelligence. Another definition of the three Persons is Will, Wisdom, and Activity, and in that case we may think of the Holy Ghost as the "Arm of the Lord" outstretched to do His work.

Now we find the same arrangement in the soul of man on the lower part of the spiritual plane. On the plane below—the intuitional—two principles manifest, giving rise to the intuitive nature. On the higher mental, there appears only one, manifesting as the intelligence. These three principles in man (which we call spirit, intuition, and intelligence) not only represent or reflect the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, but in some way that as yet we cannot fully comprehend they are that Blessed Trinity. God is in every man, and every man is a manifestation of Him, even to the extent of mirroring in his soul that mysterious arrangement of three who yet are one. Here, then, we have the true meaning of the saying that God created man in His own image—not the physical body of man, but the constitution of his soul reproducing with marvelous exactitude the method of divine manifestation.


Excerpted from Christian Gnosis by Charles W. Leadbeater, Sten von Krusenstierna. Copyright © 2011 St. Alban Press. Excerpted by permission of Theosophical Publishing House.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Charles Webster Leadbeater (1847-1934) was a Church of England clergyman until he joined the Theosophical Society in 1883. He spent some years in Sri Lanka working for the revival of Buddhism, and later became the Presiding Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church, which seeks to combine the preservation of the Catholic sacraments with the widest measure of freedom of thought and interpretation of the scriptures. He was the author of many books, some written in collaboration with Annie Besant, second President of the Theosophical Society.

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