4.
The Sabian Procedures

The Steps in Solar Rehearsal

The biblical book of Matthew in its relationship to the other New Testament materials has a general place of pre-eminence very similar to that of Isaiah in the Hebrew scriptures, and the fact is reflected in the primary importance given this Gospel in the Sabian analyses of Christian insights. Thus the studies in Matthew's account of the life and teachings of Jesus constituted the first Bible lessons in the project, and their issue began less than three months before the inauguration of the Sabian pledges or the formal introduction of a Solar initiation in the framework of the group activity.

The special place of Matthew in the history of the Christian church has been due in largest measure to its completeness, both in a literary and a theological sense. The organization of the contents is a superb example of creative craftsmanship, and as a whole it is remarkable for the extent to which it not only rounds out exposition with definite and practical explanation but also emphasizes the details of spiritual instruction most needed by the seeking soul of any age and culture. Indeed, the book has been a source of unending awe to scholars from the days of the church fathers down through the rise of higher criticism and on into contemporary times with their increasingly unbiased approach to all sacred writings. The Sermon on the Mount as found in Matthew is virtually the magna carta of discipleship under a Solar dispensation that has been inaugurated in the name of the Christ, or dramatized in the mission of the Nazarene, and within the present generation it has been possible to see the direct outflowing of the inner power of this unmatched compendium of spiritual insights in the satyagraha or soul force developed and employed by Mahatma Gandhi under its particular inspiration.

Matthew is the cabalistic gospel, and the consequent use of numerical schemes by its unknown compiler has been noticed by the nonoccult commentator from the earliest days of Christianity. The general pattern of the materials can be described most simply as an alternation of sections of narrative with interlarded discourses. Using a twelvefold division there are on the one side the accounts of (1) the beginnings, (3) the great works in dramatization of the ministry, (5) the failure of the people to catch its import, (7) the enlargement of the vision to what then becomes the real creation of Christianity, (9) the journey to Jerusalem, (11) the final events with the crucifixion and (12) the resurrection, and on the other side (2) the Sermon on the Mount, (4) the discussion of discipleship, (6) the interpretation of the Kingdom of Heaven to the masses, (8) the pastoral instructions to the disciples and (10) the eschatological passages or analysis of the end of the age for the disciples' benefit. If number two of these sections of the text, or the immortal sermon, is the handbook of Christian discipleship, then number seven is the heart of Solar initiation as it is epitomized in the series of steps that Jesus took in his definite revelation of messianic stature. The ordeals these steps represent are made quite explicit and so can be seen to be in close parallel with the spiritual experience of the average aspirant of the present day.

Initiation in an occult or spiritual sense can be defined most simply as an expansion of consciousness. The meditative and healing procedures as consciousness-expanding agencies are most effectively a rehearsal of the higher experience essential to any genuine illumination, and in consequence the heightened experience of Jesus in advancing his mission at the crucial point of the particular incarnation can be made an effective basis for the opening and in many respects the most important part of the Sabian therapeutic ceremony. The evocation is of an external realization that in very true fashion is beyond the individual aspirant except as he continues to rehearse its potentials in advance, over and over again with every quickening insight of what might be involved for him when he actually achieves a conscious immortality. He must learn that he never stands in any one fixed place, as on one step or another, but always is making his way onward and upward. The expanded comprehension takes form behind him quite literally, for his sustainment, and the broadening anticipations reveal their formless promise ahead of him as encouragement in his unceasing effort to consummate them.

The refrain of the Evocation on the Steps is a summary of the whole of Matthew in its cabalistic depths. First there is this new law that will bind men as tightly as the old dispensation from Sinai, but with a binding that is of the inner aspiration and that is realized through a tireless outreaching for the wonders of the invisible fellowship. Then there is the spiritual rebirth or the inescapable molding of character through an unceasing quest for perfection, and this uncompromising self-regeneration in ultimate actuality becomes the immortal continuance. So much for the dedication within, or the way of the heart.

Then there is the mind, or the way of reason. And truly there are no threats to the seeking spirit half as serious as the twisted or half-formed ideas that seduce man in his very soul, and thereupon hold him not to the highest potentials he believes he is envisioning but instead to the self-sufficiency through which all ultimate growth is checked aborning. Hence Jesus in these chapters warns against the aimless persuasions of the word-quibblers on the one side, and on the other the shallow utopian notions of the professional busybodies all set to remake the world in the image of their own vanity. And finally there is the danger in the impatience of the mental or reasoning capacity that may betray man in the most shameless fashion of all. As superficially the conditioned creature, his growing inclination will be to cease effort in the face of the exacting requirements of any vision worthy of real pursuit, and to embrace instead the lesser values and easier rewards that cater to his weakness and give him his joy in witless dissipations.

The keynote of Matthew is in the Hebrew name Immanuel applied to Jesus from Isaiah, or God-is-with-us in English. The refrain at the opening of the Sabian healing service sings this most precious of all realizations, or the fact of the presence. The song is of the true laya center of self as eternally established and strengthened. The seeker, for the actuality of his anchorage in all-being at core, may well indeed demand that on the literal side he be (1) bound to the immortal insight through his outreaching and (2) recreated in its image ever and ever more effectively through his search, and on the imaginative side that he be (3) held above all frivolous or empty concepts and (4) protected against even a most transient falling away from the highest activating vision.

The first step in Solar rehearsal was dramatized by Jesus when he fed the five thousand or more people who had followed him on foot out into the badlands. The incident is recorded in Matthew, 14: 13-21. The never-ending controversy over what miraculous elements may be involved is of no importance in any larger significance of the event. This was the point in spiritual history when the older conception of a prophetic oversight of specially chosen vessels, or of those who would live the eternal promise and thereby demonstrate it to the masses, was subordinated finally and irrevocably to the idea that the individual of and by himself could now be brought into a personal relationship with God. Man at last is to be treated as an adult, since the race can be said to have passed through its childhood. The dispensation of manna is succeeded by the dispensation of the Host. The process, however, must have its conscious recapitulation in the life of every seeker quickened to his opportunities and thereupon readied for his conscious immortality.

Here by the cabalistic correspondences of the arcane tradition is the Eucharist or sacrament of the token. In an alternative charting of Solar unfoldment (cf. Occult Philosophy, pp. 296 ff) the ceremonial giving of thanks enables the morsel to serve as the meal, and builds the consciousness of the full supply as this in its turn has every outer and literal manifestation in testimony to the laya center established and strengthened at the depths of the new selfhood. In the occult allocation of the sense specializations in the body the necessary first refinement of an eternal ongoing is through the eyes, or man's priceless gift of creative or spiritual visualization.

The second step in Solar rehearsal was dramatized by Jesus when he walked on the water in the night and in that manner rejoined the disciples he had sent ahead of him by boat. The incident is recorded in Matthew, 14: 22-33. Again the miraculous implications are beside the real point. It may be presumed that the multitudes responded to their experience of strangely gratifying satiety with an effort to preserve it in the literalized stagnations they were accustomed to confuse with reality. Thus they might well think to make the man of Galilee an earthly king, along the lines of their Messianic expectations and with little realization that they would only bind themselves anew to the older dispensation of a Moses and of manna. It is this obtuseness of the masses that demonstrates how little they may be touched to higher realization collectively or without an example life into which an individual aspiration could be brought to some initial focus. A mystical self-discovery encouraged by the saviour or the myth figure is needed to break the thralldom of bondage to an unquickened flesh, and in consequence it might be expected that these events of the still hours would be astral or of an invisible fellowship that often may be touched at the threshold of the dream state. Peter was quick to realize that this was something in which he should participate, but he was unable to frame it in anything but accustomed orientations and so he came to grief.

Here by the cabalistic correspondences of the arcane tradition is the sacrament of matrimony, or of the invisible fellowship. Nonoccultly it is a certification of the integrity of flesh as the life-sustaining and self-reproducing functioning of the organism, or a dramatization of its power of continuing in its own genius in terms of all the lower or higher vehicles of a conscious personality, and in the esoteric tradition it solemnizes the alchemical marriage or the stabilization of the transcendental capacities. In the occult allocation of the sense specializations of the body the necessary second refinement of an eternal ongoing is through the smell that is ever able to detect the real subtleties of existence, and that not only has long been a synonym for shrewdness and sagacity but that was employed in the Old Testament to describe the high sensitiveness of the godhead itself.

The third step in Solar rehearsal was dramatized by Jesus when he confounded the traditionalists who sought to trip him up on the matter of obedience to spiritual law. The incident is recorded in Matthew, 15: 1-20. In the cycle of Solar realization it had been demonstrated that the approach to men's hearts through a satisfaction of their appetites is fundamentally an attempt to purchase their allegiance and hence a proof of the ineffectiveness of an overliteralized social gospel. By the same token the display of inner wonders to those unable to assimilate them into a genuinely personal reality had been seen to do no more than unseat all inherent self-confidence and so prove the futility of the ill-advised miraclemongering characterizing so many of the holiness groups in age after age. Now the Galilean had faced the question whether a departure from the rigid boundaries of the sacerdotal law in which these people had long rested secure would not be as profitless a procedure. Yet he must have realized that men and women after all have to make their own decisions, and stand on their own feet as spiritual adults, if the great line of prophecy is to have fulfillment in any larger dimension. The call at the moment had been to examine the inner stirrings and the wholly personal insights from which any true illumination would have to spring. Obedience might need a new reference, but that still would have to be self-centered at the end.

Here by the cabalistic correspondences of the arcane tradition is the healing sacrament of unction, or the restructuring of all reality at the core of itself and thus its ultimate orientation through the continual re-establishment of its own eternal rhythm. The anointing of the self in the dedication of its potentials and its aspirations is no more than the thoroughness of rehearsal, or breadth of ritualistic symbolism, needed for any transcendental sustainment of an ever-broadening experience. In the occult allocation of the sense specializations of the body the necessary third refinement of an eternal ongoing is through the taste, and this is less a simple recognition of flavor or the like and more a discrimination in the approach to life on any or all levels. Articulate speech provides the principal measure of a man, once he begins to share his ultimate resources with his kind. The fellowship then is above the level of mutual appetites, or of licking tongues of either literal or figurative nature. The individual begins to become himself as the speaking and so thinking or reasoning animal, and to reveal what self-adequacy he may have developed.

The fourth step in Solar rehearsal was dramatized by Jesus when he retired to gentile territory to think through the problems met at the three preceding steps, and there encountered the woman who challenged him to a broader perspective as she sought healing for her daughter. The incident is recorded in Matthew, 15:21-28. If the law through which the Hebrew people had been sustained through long centuries was no longer to be held in the form of its effectiveness, through a reasonably literal adherence to its provisions, what then could be used to frame the broadening insights that the Nazarene would bring for a larger dimension of realization? Is anything ever fulfilled by breaking it down? It had become evident that if the goal was to be sought through an attempted purification of society at large, or by an effort to quicken an individual's inner and highly occult powers before he was ready for illumination, the average man was hardly placed on his own feet in terms of any spiritual adultship. After all was there any answer in the concept of a new law, and an educational program to establish it? Necessarily projected more or less in the pattern of the old, would it not in time slip back into the old? As the prophet from Galilee reflected on these things the Syrian woman made her appeal, and responded wittily to his reminder that his mission was to his own people and that an outlander could hardly speak for the higher potentials that in her case had sprung from another if similar culture. Then it was that he gained the vital insight. An increase of transcendental dimensions must be marked by an equivalent increase on practical levels. His message must have a setting in a universality that would have real meaning to all people everywhere.

Here by the cabalistic correspondences of the arcane tradition is the sacrament of confirmation, or of initiation itself at root. The progress in understanding of each aspirant must have its own continuing seal of approval from those with whom he rehearses it. For the building to the goal it is ever vital that he enlist the participation of all who are able to grasp the meaning of his effort at each successive stage of quickening, and the old must always become the new by an experienced transition. In the occult allocation of the sense specializations of the body the necessary fourth refinement of an eternal ongoing is through the ears, or the particular concentration of attention at the core of any genuine self-continuity. The seeker believes as he hears inwardly. And through the music of the spheres he achieves an ultimate ordering in the rhythms of the Eternal Wisdom.

The fifth step in Solar rehearsal was dramatized by Jesus when he fed some four thousand seekers who were with him in the hills and had been without food for three days. The incident is recorded in Matthew, 15: 29-39. Most biblical scholars hold to the theory that one original occasion led to the three versions of a miraculous feeding — taking John, 6: 1-14, as a third — but in the cabalistic Matthew the role of the repeated account is important as representing the necessary psychological echo or conforming to the age-old doctrine that all deeper teachings must be presented twice. The variations in the numbers of people, loaves, fishes and baskets is of detailed esoteric significance and shows the second event to be of the more generalized order. The supplying of the need is more definitely in orientation to the inner man, instead of his outer appetites.

Here by the cabalistic correspondences of the arcane tradition is the sacrament of ordination rather than Eucharist. It is the dedication of the individual to the task of exalting the understanding or realization of others, and of giving thanks for them in ceremonial fashion as he makes himself the myth figure or the incarnation of their hopes and expectations in one fashion or another. After passing the focal point in this rehearsal under the Solar Mysteries the aspirant must turn from the concern over himself as the individual with a private potentiality, and begin to see himself the eternal Servant precisely as the Nazarene has done before him. He learns that it is with the hands that man blesses as well as serves. In the occult allocation of the sense specializations of the body the necessary fifth refinement of an eternal ongoing is through touch or the actual and creative immediateness of a true spiritual ministry. The worker in the great vision assimilates himself continually to his fellows, and in doing so establishes himself in some one or another division of spiritual labor under the Solar Mysteries.

The sixth step in Solar rehearsal was dramatized by Jesus when he confounded the legalists a second time and then rebuked his disciples for failing to distinguish between the superficial reality of everyday life and the true bread of the spirit. The parallel is with the rebuke for lack of faith when Peter attempted to walk on the water, and the incident is recorded in Matthew, 16: 1-12. The orthodox critics of the Galilean's ministry made their attack in the first instance on the ground that the disciples did not pay proper attention to the ceremonial ablutions, and now or in the spiritual echo they had sought to trap him with their guileless request for a sign from heaven. After exhibiting their shallowness again in the context of their own choosing, he proceeded to give them the sign of Jonah. The na´ve and unquestionably fictional prophet who had no liking for his assignment to Ninevah had discovered the simple truth that he and God could never get very far away from each other, and that he moreover could never be himself very adequately except as he was God-manifest-within-himself. In other words he had to become in his own person the idealized Emmanuel that the man of Nazareth was born to be, and that all men indeed may become once they are willing to enter fully into the Christian salvation. The leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees to be avoided was the infectious rationalization that refers all responsibility in experience to exterior and alien factors.

Here by the cabalistic correspondences of the arcane tradition is the sacrament of baptism rather than unction, and so the turn from healing as merely the reordering of things-as-they-are to the complete rebirth from new source and new realization. Selfhood is quickened and requickened into its immortal potentiality here and now. As seeking souls baptize and are baptized continually in their invisible fellowship, or in a transcendence of time and space, they create the frame of Eternal Wisdom in which the new hope of the race has more than adequate foundation. In the occult allocation of the sense specializations of the body the necessary sixth refinement of an eternal ongoing is through the mind, or what Aristotle identified as the common sense and what ultimately is the fullness of an individual's intuitive powers. The aspirant through reflection or his continual rehearsing of his insights is able to understand and so consummate his own true destiny in a dimension far larger than mere selfhood.

The seventh step in Solar rehearsal was dramatized by Jesus when in response to the mysterious identification given him by Peter he declared the key to illumination to be the immortal binding which is made the basis of the refrain for the Evocation on the Steps. The spiritual echo is of the primary emphasis placed on what comes out of a man's mouth rather than what is put in it, and the incident is recorded in Matthew, 16: 13-20. What comes to a head here is profoundly esoteric. Superficially Peter merely repeated what from the narratives would seem to be a common acceptance. It is obvious that more is implied than the acknowledgment of the messiahship when the Nazarene turned to his irrepressible disciple and addressed him as the son of Jonah. Occultists often make the interchange a mutual recognition of prior incarnations, or of Jesus revealed as David somewhat obliquely through the form of address and Peter revealed as the bumbling prophet sent to the Assyrian capital. The discussion as a whole would certainly seem to be in terms of reincarnation, and there is no reason to suppose the doctrine of personality rebirth was unfamiliar to any even half-literate Palestinian. However, the reference more probably was to Jonah as a sign, and to Peter's realization that what the Nazarene might be said to be after all was what he was busy in being. The question that was being asked around, as to who he was, would then be added to the foolishness already characterized as the leaven of the contemporary emptiness of thinking. The affirmation can then be seen to be to the effect that the chance for initiation or personal immortality was being brought to all.

Here by the cabalistic correspondences of the arcane tradition is the sacrament of penance, or the full of self-responsibility brought back in ageless repetition to the laya center of selfhood or to the continual restructuring of each individual's personal ministry to his fellows. In separation from God the seeker is lost to his destiny, and for his enduring fellowship with those of like mind with himself he must return to the first step and in the eternal Eucharist make a new start on the way. In the occult allocation of the sense specializations of the body the necessary seventh refinement of an eternal ongoing is through man's reason, or what in modern days might be identified more specifically as his universalizing capacity. In the biblical psychology it is the thinking said to be seated in the heart. His inclination to be this and that, or thus and so, is the true determinant of his being. Let this ego or will of his be exalted, and he is incarnate in every vision of the race. Thereupon he becomes a custodian of healing power for every individual hope of his fellows.

In actual experience of course the steps are taken more or less concurrently, and with every variety of succession or overlapping in view of the temperamental needs of each aspirant. The ordering through the life of an avatar, or in the schematism of a Bible or a textbook, is necessary for understanding and reflection only. The approach may be made with possible advantage from more than one point of view. Thus Occult Philosophy makes use of the somewhat different strand of the occult tradition, in dealing with the sacraments, but in no respects offers either contradiction or negation of insights.



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