From the book of Super-Human Men in History and Religion by Annie Wood Besant
MANIFESTATIONS OF SUPERHUMAN BEINGS IN OUR WORLD
LONDON, 1 st June 1913.
FRIENDS: I ought almost, I think, to begin with an apology for offering to you a very large subject in a most imperfect form. I had planned to place before you the whole question of Super-human Beings manifested in our world in a course of six lectures, so to some extent perhaps touching on the main points of the subject, and making intelligible possibly to you some of the obscurities of the past.
I have been compelled, not by my own will, to change the course of six lectures in London into two, and I can only try to place before you tonight something of the general forms of manifestations and of the great realities that lie behind those forms, and then, next Sunday evening, to point you to the future rather than to the past. Basing upon what has happened in the past the possibilities of the future, I shall try to indicate to you some of the greatest of those possibilities, the restoration to our world and to religion of those great Mysteries which have ever been the life of religion in the past, openly in its life during thousands and tens of thousands of years, existing still today, although withdrawn from the common knowledge of men, to come back to our world as soon as men are ready for and desire their restoration.
For ever the barrier between the spiritual and the physical does not lie in the spiritual world; it lies in the physical world, the habitation of mortal men; for the life of the Spirit, which exists in forth-giving, is ever striving to pour itself into our mortal world; but we erect barriers, we create obstacles, we hinder the free flow of that beneficent, that glorious life. Only as we build up in ourselves the spiritual vessels that are able to receive it, will the old stream of spiritual life pour forth again abundantly upon our world, not only on individuals who prepare themselves for its reception, but on the great masses of those who follow the religions of the world, on the great masses of all who seek to make their life serviceable to their generation, to the world in which they are.
But for this evening our eyes turn backwards to the past, seeking whether in that past we can find any guarantee of the hope which gleams in the future. Now, as we turn back the pages of history we find civilisation after civilisation succeeding each other. Students of ancient literature, students of those old books which have come down from a past which seems to us perchance hidden in the night of time, have found records of civilisations mighty and great, apparently permanent and secure, but which have so utterly passed away from ordinary human thought that in modern days men disbelieved in their existence, and thought the stories in the ancient books were but legends, fables created by national pride in order to glorify their own past, not records of historical facts, not pictures of civilisations that really existed on our earth. These ancient books, it is true, were corroborated now and again by what is called occult research. Men and women who had developed in themselves certain powers not yet general in our race have claimed that by the exercise of those powers they could read records of the past existing as pictures in matter subtler than the physical, as men with physical eyes can read the printed page.
But in a time like our own, when Occultism is only now beginning to make its way among men, an age in which Mysticism until lately was regarded, in the high opinion of the Times newspaper, as an “exploded superstition”, so that it marvelled that a man so eminent as the Dean of St Paul’s should think it worth while in the twentieth century to give lectures on such a superstition; in our age, when Occultism and Mysticism are again beginning to claim the attention of the thoughtful and the earnest, there is more probability as the years roll on that the records of the past, as read by the Occultist, will again take their place as subjects of study among men.
Until quite lately - nay, I hardly know whether I dare say until - those records have been scoffed at by the foolish, have been ignored by the learned; but, as you know, during the last half, and even more, of the nineteenth century, a new light came into the arena of human thought, and antiquarian research, spreading widely and digging deeply, began to unveil fragments whose existence could not be denied, fragments of ancient civilisations. And step by step as archaeology advanced, step by step as excavation succeeded excavation, it was found that physical research was confirming the legends of the ancient literature, was verifying many a statement made by occult research - stories of such a one as King Minos of Crete, stories of such a one as Menes of Egypt, stories running back into ancient Babylon.
Those were brought to the light of day, not in ways that could be challenged, not in forms that could be denied, but in matter solid enough to knock a man down with, so that a man could be sure that it existed - in libraries made of ancient tiles which had long outlived their makers, in fragments of ancient architecture from city after city buried one below the other, and each succeeding city shut off from its predecessors by ruins, by solid earth which intervened between each pair. In these ways, ever being confirmed by new investigations, by these physical methods which appeal to the physical mind of men, the existence of those old civilisations was proved, and none now ventures to deny that well-nigh endless past of civilised man. One thing came out strongly, a surprise to the thinkers of the last century. Quite naturally, the great doctrine of Evolution applied to human history resulted in a certain theoretical building up of the past which appealed to the human mind and seemed logical and even necessary.
The elder amongst you must remember how we read of the growth of civilisation, how we were told of families of savages who joined together into tribes, of tribes who linked themselves together into communities for mutual assistance and defence, of communities building themselves up into nations, and so on step by step, millennium after millennium, until from barbarism civilisation arose, just as in the corresponding domain of religion the ideas of the savage, the animistic ideas of the barbarians, were held to be the origin, the source, of all the religions of the world. But, however natural that view was, it was found not to square with facts. None had discovered in the excavations of the past those infant civilisations whose remnants might naturally have been looked for, building up step by step in successive excavations.
Savages have been found, cave men have been discovered, villages built on piles have been unveiled, but between those and the civilisations there is no steady advance or link which science has discovered. Savages exist today side by side with great civilisations; they existed also in the past; but between them no bridges have been found. On the contrary, it has been seen everywhere, as facts have been accumulated, that what Bunsen has said of Egypt only is true of all the great civilisations of the past. You may remember how he declared of the civilisation of Egypt that it had no origin which human wit could find, that it seemed to spring upon the stage of history complete as Minerva burst from the head of Jove. It was thought at first to be a marvel and a wonder, to be unique in the story of man, but every great civilisation shows the same marvellous characteristic, that it appears as a mighty civilisation.
Even though traces of a child-people can be found under the great Rulers and Teachers of the past, more and more through the twilight, in the dawning of history, great figures stand out grandiose and mighty, over-topping the contemporary people, the Rulers, the Teachers, and the Guides of men; They the founders of the mighty civilisations, They the architects of the marvellous buildings, They the teachers of the child-humanity, the Superhuman Beings who are the builders of civilisations and of religions in our world. Plenty of civilisations have been traced through the period of their decay - a significant fact; none has ever been traced through its building up from the savage state into the state of the highly organised and civilised nation.
As we look at these great civilisations and see how the masses of the people in them were as children intellectually and spiritually, but children ready to be taught, children willing to be guided, loving, not hating their superiors, and reverencing, not being jealous of those who knew more than themselves; as we see that unrolled in the story of the past, two great types appear: the Ruler and the Teacher in these most ancient States; Builders of races, Builders of sub-races, Builders of nations and polities; Teachers who give forms for the eternal truths of religion, shaping them in different forms according to the needs of those to whom they gave this ever-new presentation of ancient truth.
The Ruler, the typical Man, He is concerned with the building up of the outer civilisations, with the shaping of social policy, with the laying down of laws by which the people must develop, must evolve. He has to do not only with racial types, not only with national policies, but also with the great seismic changes which go side by side with evolution of new races.
Take as types of what the Theosophist means when he speaks of a Root Race, the two great types so familiar to you that we call the fourth and fifth; typical examples of the fourth in the Chinese and Japanese, typical examples of the fifth in the Indian and the European. If you put those two side by side you see at once what I mean by the fundamental difference of Races; difference in outer features, difference in nervous system, showing distinctions so deeply wrought into the physical frame that confusion between them is utterly impossible, and a child would distinguish between those I have mentioned, which we call the fourth and fifth of human Root Races.
Smaller differences, but yet clearly marked, until by intermarriages the characteristics have been more or less blended, you find in the sub-divisions, to which we give the name of sub-races. Now the great Ruler is connected with the racial type. His task to build out of a previous Race the new Race which is to succeed it in leading the evolution of humanity; His task to prepare for the new Race He has builded the continent on which that Race shall develop, to which in time it shall be led in order that its evolution may proceed.
And without delaying - for we have not time to delay upon it - on the interesting geological questions of the existence of a great physical continent to which the name of Lemuria has been given, or the great Atlantic continent known as Atlantis, only reminding you that these are subjects that are being discussed by scientists and not only by Theosophists, we find that the world as it is today is the world ruled by the later Race, by the various sub-races of the fifth, and we see in these distinct types the work of a great Builder, the Builder of the outer evolution as well as of nations, and of social organisms; and to Him the name has ever been given from which ‘man’ is derived, the word Manu - the man, the typical man, the thinker, inasmuch as thought is that which differentiates the human being from his lower brethren of the animal and vegetable kingdoms.
Side by side with that we find the World Teacher, as we often call Him, the supreme Teacher concerned largely with the subdivisions of the great Race, concerned with the presentation I spoke of, of eternal truths in a new form fitted for the new sub-race which is gradually emerging out of its predecessors. One thing comes out strongly and clearly as we try to take a large and rational view of human history: that there is a Plan that underlies it, a Plan according to which humanity is builded, not suddenly, not by leaps and bounds, but in a definite order. Just as the architect plans a building, and then it rises, stage by stage according to the plan, so do we find in that great building of humanity stage after stage arising, quality after quality superadded, a definite building, not a sudden creation, and the plan of the building - Evolution.
Here again I can only point you to a few proofs of that; you can multiply them almost endlessly for yourselves. Take what has gone on within what you acknowledge as history, the gradual peopling of Europe; take the coming into Europe of that great race the descendants of which are called the Latin peoples today - we call them the fourth sub-race, or the Keltic, - entering into Greece, spreading over the whole of the south of Europe, travelling northwards then for a while into Scandinavia and across from Scandinavia by Scotland - by Britain, in fact - into Ireland, peopling every land, just as a wave sweeps over a beach, peopling the great continent of Europe with a race in which emotion predominated over intellect, and beauty was the expression that was sought, and art the heritage of the sub-race.
Think of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, with their splendid architecture and their magnificent sculpture; think of their successors in Italy, of the great schools of Italian painters, remembering that Art includes forms of every kind, not only in the outer shaping of wood or stone or brick, but in that subtler shaping of form to thought which we call art in literary expression, in poetry, in prose, in all the perfection of the literary excellence which is even today the pride of the Latin races.
Think of the Frenchmen, how the French thinker expresses himself, and how the French nation judges the thinker. You will never find a thought accepted by the mass of the French people, nor by its judges and critics, unless the form is as perfect as the thought is good; failure in thought is almost more pardonable than failure in form - for where thought always seeks to express itself in beauty, literary perfection is a necessary condition of the success of the thought expressed.
Compare that with the Teutonic, the sub-race that followed on the Keltic, where Science represents to that race what Art was to its forerunner. Realise that in the Teuton it is the mind that is seeking for full expression by knowledge rather than by form; contrast the expression of the German and the English with the French expression in science, and you will find that both in Germany and in England the thought, however strong, is often clumsy in expression, obscure in presentation; but the peoples of both countries look rather to the strength and the virility of the thought than to the perfection of its artistic expression in the form.
And just as you see there a fourth sub-race and a fifth sub-race, so a sixth sub-race is issuing, as I pointed out to you at length some years ago. There the quality to be developed, built on to the emotions, built on to the mind, is that higher quality, intuition, that is beginning to assert itself even in the philosophy of our time - that intuition which sees rather than reasons, which knows by direct vision rather than by following a chain of logical argument, that which is the power of the Spirit rather than the power of the mind or of the emotions.
That is the next quality to be builded, to be the characteristic quality of the sixth sub-race of humanity. And looking thus at it you find that religions follow a corresponding order; you find that each sub-race has its own religious note, which is as different as its note in emotional or mental expression. You see how in the first great sub-race that made India its habitation, the idea of mutual Duty of every member of the social organism was the keynote of the religion that was given by the great teachers to their people.
You see the survival of that in forms too rigid, and, therefore, mischievous, in what is known as the caste system of India; but while you may see that now it is doing much of harm to the progress of the people, you are bound, if you are rational, also to see that that keynote of the social order will have to return in a higher form, in a higher civilisation, and that the sense of mutual duty and mutual obligation is the one binding force by which the nation and the community can live. And then, if you trace the second sub-race which lived on the borders of the Mediterranean, you see that to which in these modern days we give the name of Magic, the use of the human body to influence the subtler worlds by finding out the correspondences between man, who is only the microcosm, with the mighty macrocosm in which he lives, and of which he is the reflection in miniature.
And if you pass on from there to Persia, it is the note of Purity which rings out above all others. If from there you go to Greece, Beauty is the keynote, as in Rome Law is the highest note struck by the civilisation. And then you come on to the Christian faith with its cry of Self-sacrifice, and the Mussulman repeating the note of the earlier teaching of the Hindu, of God, the One without a second, that the ancient Hindus proclaimed. And if you have eyes to see, you realise that all these are notes that make up the perfect chord of the One Eternal Religion, which is the knowledge of God Himself, the realisation of God in the human Spirit, the knowledge of God because man is himself divine. And because the Theosophists, and above all the Occultists, see in all human religions but partial expressions of one great series of spiritual truths, therefore to every people they speak through their own religion, and not through a religion which is not theirs.
The Theosophist would no more think of teaching the Hindu through Christian forms than he would dream of teaching the Christian through Hindu forms; any more than he would try to speak to a French audience in English, or to an English audience in French. To every man according to his own tongue; to every man according to his own faith. There is but one religion with many facets; and the perfection of religion is to see the unity in diversity among them all, and that comes from this great teaching of Brotherhood - always one Teacher for all the world’s faiths through thousands and thousands of years. Now, the idea that such Superhuman Beings had much to do with the affairs of men is no new idea, no mere Theosophical fad. In Christian antiquity you find the thought put forward that over every nation there presided a great Angel. Read the way in which Origen speaks of the Angel Guardians of nations and of the world. The idea in the East was a little more complicated.
So far as I know - but there I may be wrong - I do not think that in Christian antiquity you can find the idea that Saints as well as Angels shared in the guidance of our mortal world; but in the East, whilst they recognised what here would be called “the ministry of Angels”, speaking of them as the Shining Ones - so often mistranslated ‘God’ -whilst they recognised their work in many grades as the older Christians recognised the ministry of the nine great Orders in the angelic host, they joined side by side with them the men who had attained perfection, those who had passed that great fifth Initiation of which I was speaking to you with the others last year, men who have finished the ordinary human life, who have passed beyond the cycle of births and deaths known as reincarnation, who have reached that point of overcoming of which the Apocalypse speaks when it declare of him that overcometh he “shall be a pillar in the temple of my God and go forth no more”.
Those who have overcome, not for Their own gain but for the helping of humanity, Those who are liberated Spirits, who have bound Themselves in the bonds of the flesh by love and not by compulsion, Those who are divine men, who have perfected the human cycle of evolution, it is They who share with the angelic host the guidance of evolution in the world in which we are. For this world is not lonely as it rolls through space, nor confined only to the men bound still to the wheel of births and deaths. The spiritual world interpenetrates the physical, as every religion has declared; Superhuman Beings move amongst us and take their part in the affairs of men.
If you care to read a record in written books, take some of the old Hindu books, and read how these perfected men visited the courts of kings in order to see that kingdoms were well governed and royal duties were honourably performed. You may read how such a mighty Sage and Saint, known as superhuman by the powers that He possessed, would visit the court of the King, question the King as to the condition of the people, ask him whether he is seeing that every grade of the people is supplied with all that it needs: whether the craftsman has materials ready to his hand; whether the agriculturist is well supplied with seed for the future harvest; whether the widows of his soldiers who have died in battle and the orphans left behind are carefully guarded by him; whether he is seeing to the education of his people, and taking care that all the grades of the nation are performing their appointed duties. You may read this in page after page, in story after story.
And, although no longer visible, They walk among men still; the work They are striving to do is more difficult today, for it is against the battling wills of men and the resistance of the developing mind. In those days, readily was Their guidance accepted, and, therefore, They walked openly among the people; but it was necessary for human evolution that the mind should develop with all its power of challenge, with all its demand for proof, with its resistance to authority, with its refusal to obey where it did not understand.
Do not be mistaken and think that this is evil; there is nothing evil which helps forward the evolution of man. The time came when the child-state had to end for a while, and the developing youth of the mind must have its way. So the Guardians drew back from sight but never from labour, and worked unseen and unhampered by the growing conditions of humanity, but with the same heart of love, the same brain of wisdom as in the elder days. It is They who pull down Empires and build them up, who bring about equilibrium between nations and do not allow a single set of national ideals so to triumph over the world that all others shall give way before them.
It is They who gradually build up a great Empire and give to some sub-race the ruling of the world; it is They who are giving to England today the possibility of the mighty part that she may play in the advancing humanity of the time, of World-Empire mightier than any Empire of the past, to be based not on the submission of conquered peoples, but on the freewill allegiance of self-governing but united communities.
That is done today, not by direct order from the mouth of the recognised Superior, but by the subtler working on the ambitions and the passions and the thoughts of men. The opportunity is given, and if rejected passes away to someone else who is able to grasp, is able to utilise it. And it is because of that that many of us feel today that the fate of the future lies in the balance, whether this fifth sub-race of ours will rise to the sense of its responsibility, will know that power means duty and not oppression, and so will make a mightier rule than has ever been known in the stories of the past. But it is these greater Ones behind who really pull the strings to which our statesmen and our rulers dance obediently, and, in the pulling, educate the people, and so help forward the general evolution of the race.
Now suppose for a moment that that Theosophical idea commended itself to you as throwing light on history - which on many points of the rising and falling of Empires is obscure and unintelligible; if you can take that thought that behind all the powers that rule there is a mighty divine Will working through human imperfection with the help of Superhuman Agents, then you can look on all the troubles of the time as evidently working out to a foreseen end; you can see in the unrest and the distress not the breaking up of a civilisation, but the instability that belongs to growth and that is to be guided to progress; and you will begin to realise that if some outer forms decay, it is because the living Spirit within them is growing too large for the garments that clothed it in the past, and that we may feel secure that, as a nation does its duty, new forms will evolve fitted for its greater manifestation, and so the building up of the human race will continue as it has continued through so many changes in the past.
Let us ask now what are the special methods of the manifestation of Superhuman Men. That you may clearly follow this, I must trouble you for a moment with one or two details as to the constitution of man. You must realise that every one of you is a living and spiritual Intelligence, that you show out the Spirit in three chief ways, the aspects of the Spirit - by Will or Power, Wisdom, and the creative activity of Intellect. Those are yourself, your innermost nature. But then you clothe yourself in matter, in order that these may develop in this lower world.
The aspect of the Intellect embodies itself as mind; the aspect of Wisdom embodies itself as emotion; the aspect of Will embodies itself as self-determination in our lower world, the precedent of action. All kinds of matter are utilised by these spiritual forces in order that they may express themselves in the various worlds in which we live; but those material garments are not you; they are but the clothes you wear; and you may learn, if you will, and care to take the trouble, to separate one garment from another and to utilise them freely, as you utilise that fleshly garment which, for some of you, is the only body that you know.
For the moment, take that as hypothesis, study it at your leisure; but without understanding that it is a spiritual Intelligence working in various kinds of matter, as we know matter here, which is meant, you will not be able to understand those methods of manifestation which I have called Inspiration, Overshadowing, and Incarnation. Think, then, of the matter that you use, as a garment that can be put off and on; think of yourself as the living spiritual Intelligence with the three aspects I have mentioned; and realise that, with every change of consciousness, every mood of mind, there is a vibration in the matter in which the consciousness is clothed, which answers to the change in consciousness, changelessly as to method, each mood having its own expression in the vibrations by which matter responds.
I. - INSPIRATION
Now, there is nothing save in degree different in these forms of manifestation of Superhuman Beings from the ways in which you influence each other. There is an enormous difference in degree, there is no difference of kind; every one of us, all the time, is influencing all with whom we come into contact, some more than others according to the force of consciousness which is able to have stronger vibrations of matter correlated with itself, but the way in which one consciousness influences another in the physical is by means of these vibrations of matter, which cause similar vibrations in other bodies with which they come into contact. That is the special point that I want you theoretically for the moment to accept. Have you sometimes found in studying science that you understand a thing better when a brilliant teacher explains it, than when you read it in a book?
What is the difference? It is not in the thought; the thought may be the same on the printed page and in the spoken words; but it is that the matter correlated to the changing thought of the teacher, vibrating under his greater knowledge and more highly developed powers of mind, sets vibrating the mental matter in your own body, and so enables your consciousness to answer as the vibrations again are responded to by the changing mood of thought. He transmits his thought to you through the matter that clothes you, and he raises you to a higher point of comprehension than you could win by your own unaided power.
That is a constant experience; you find it with the orator as well as with the scientific teacher. A thing which is plain to you while the orator is speaking, which you grasp, which you realise, which you are sure you know, is half lost on the following day, and you find you cannot repeat it perfectly left to your unaided powers. What, then, has the speaker done? What effect has the teacher wrought on you? He has made you answer to himself; lie has inspired you by means of the contact which you have experienced from his word and from his thought.
Now carry that on further, and you will find what Inspiration means. Where a higher being is inspiring an ordinary man or woman, the effect of that Inspiration is a stimulation of the faculties that the man or woman already possesses, because the matter in which he is clothed is compelled to vibrate in unison at a higher rate of vibration than he is able to initiate for himself. That is what Inspiration means. It functions or flowers, as it were, on our material garments - the vibrations of one whose body works at a higher vibration than does ours, and so the inner God is able to shine out more completely, the faculties that exist in us are stimulated under the abnormal action, and what we call Inspiration is nothing more than stimulation from a higher to a lower, imposing on the lower for the time that higher vibration, and so enabling the faculties the man already possesses to open out into flower where they only existed as bud. You may have Inspiration in art, in poetry, in literature, but its nature is ever the same, the stimulation of faculties you possess, the opening out of the hidden God through the higher vibrations imposed upon you from without.
So at once you realise there are many degrees of Inspiration, according to the power of response of the one on whom this force is exercised, his power to reproduce that which the Superhuman Being is striving to use for his stimulation, for lifting him to a higher plane of thought. And so you begin to realise that if you yourself would be inspired by higher and Superhuman Beings you must purify your vehicles in order that the finer matter in them may be able freely to respond. You must purify your physical body and brain by abstaining from all unclean and gross forms of food; you must purify your emotional nature by casting aside the animal and rising into the human emotions; you must purify your mental nature by thinking nobly, purely, grandly, by casting out of the mind, the moment it enters, any thought that is low or base or foul.
For Inspiration can only work where the vehicles are made pure, and the limit of our Inspiration is the limit of receptivity which we have made by the training of the lower nature. But it is open to all of you to have that Inspiration more or less perfectly according as you become pure and noble and selfless, to each according to his measure. The thimble or the vast tank can be filled alike from an ever-flowing stream; but the size of the receptacle determines the amount of water which can flow into it, and it is ours to make the receptacle in order that the Inspiration may lead us to greater usefulness to men.
II. – OVERSHADOWING
What, then, is Overshadowing? As Inspiration is stimulation by higher vibrations, Overshadowing is the dominating of consciousness for a time by the Superhuman Helper. The consciousness of the man is dominated, not stimulated. The idea dominates his thought, and becomes to him apparently his own. Many a one is overshadowed by a Higher Being who is not conscious of the source of the thoughts that come into his mind; thoughts of desire for service, thoughts of aspirations for the helping of men, these are breathed out from a higher consciousness to a lower, and they dominate the lower and become its ideal.
Ideals, those fixed ideas that guide and control conduct, constantly come from the overshadowing power of a higher than ourselves, lifting up a picture so beautiful that we needs must love it, and, in loving it, try to reproduce its beauty in ourselves. And this, again, may be in different stages. The Overshadowing may be of the brain, so that some great thought dominates the brain; it may be of the subtle mind, so that from that flow downwards to the brain these thoughts that uplift and help. Or it may be from the very Spirit itself in its subtlest garments of finer matter, so that the material, dominated for the time by the more highly opened Spirit, receives from it these great ideals which then come down to be slowly translated into life.
And here again, if you would ever have that grace of Overshadowing from a higher, you must try to keep your consciousness under the control of the higher, and not of the lower. The lower is good as a servant, it is fatal as a master; the lower is useful as an instrument, it is harmful when it strives to direct. The man who would receive the Overshadowing of the higher must have the consciousness ready to respond to all that comes from above, to nothing that comes from below. For the life of a man must flow either upwards or downwards, either outwards or inwards; and those only can be overshadowed who are trying to turn to the Gods within them, and not surrendering themselves to the bodies without them, those who are trying to make love and wisdom the characteristic and natural expression of their consciousness. On them may come down that power of the higher which for the time shall dominate them and make them more than men.
III. – INCARNATION
But when you come to the last of the three words I took, Incarnation, you are coming to a different method; no longer stimulation, as in Inspiration; no longer domination, as in Overshadowing; but substitution; a Higher Being who, desiring to work through some physical instrument for some great purpose, chooses a physical instrument which he can use for the purpose on which his mind and heart are set. We find such cases in the history of the past, most especially in the case of the Founders of great religions. One thing characterises most of these; it is that distinction familiar in the ancient Christian Church, held by those who were called the Gnostics or Knowers.
You may remember how in the early Church there was much controversy as to the nature of Jesus Christ; how some regarded Him as God Himself, others considered that the human body was the body of a chosen disciple trained and prepared through many years of pure and noble living and devoted aspiration, in order that when you come to the time marked in the Gospel as the baptism, the Spirit of God, the Christ Himself, might descend and abide upon him.
And so those early Christian Knowers declared that the disciple Jesus and the Christ were two distinct individuals, never to be confused, and that all the disciple gave to the Christ was the outer physical body that He wore; that the inner subtler bodies were those of the Christ Himself, far higher - nay, no comparison is possible between those spiritual bodies of the Christ and anything that can be worn by mortal man on earth, - and that when He, the great Teacher, deigned to come, He took but the outer shell of His devoted disciple, and that shell, surrendered to the greater One, left the disciple himself clothed in his subtle bodies of lower evolution, while through the body of flesh the divine man was manifest; and so men saw in the face of the Christ the very vision of Divinity Himself.
That was the older, wiser teaching of the Christian Church, cast out later as knowledge grew less and confusion took the place of vision. And so in every great divine Incarnation of earlier days, the same method appears to have been followed, of a body specially prepared and trained for many years and then surrendered in loving sacrifice, in order that it might be the vehicle of a mightier Being to work out for man what none but He might do. That is called Incarnation, where the body of flesh is taken but where the Being is the supreme Teacher of the world. And even that, if you think, is nothing so abnormal, nothing so strange; for what is each one of you but a divine Incarnation?
Although the divinity in you is not unfolded as it was in Him to whom the West has given the name of the Christ, all of you are truly divine Incarnations; but the Divinity in you is but as a germ and seed, not yet unfolded into leaf and flower. But one reason why the passionate love of man has gone out to these supreme Teachers more than to any other Child of Man is not only that the beauty of Divinity is revealed in man, so that man becomes what he essentially is - divine, but because every such Teacher is the promise of the future; because you and I in aeons, in ages to come, shall also unfold the Divinity which in Him was made manifest, because, as your own Testament tells you, Christ is but the first-born among many brethren, and in every one of His brethren the beauty of the Godhead is ultimately to be unveiled, to be manifested. And so the heart of humanity goes out to Them as to the promise of the future, as well as the splendour of the past, not only the manifestation of God triumphant in one human form, but the promise of God manifest in every human form.
That every Child of Man shall be a manifested Child of God - that is the glory of Their attraction. And never forget, you who belong to the Christian faith, that the great teacher S. Paul was not satisfied with the mere acceptance of Christian doctrines, that he was not satisfied with Baptism and Communion, the two universally recognised Sacraments of the Christian Church; he declared that they were but little children who knew but those outer elements, and that he travailed for his converts, until, as he said, “Christ be born in you”; for of what avail is Christ to you as an outer ideal unless He is born within you to reproduce the life which is His? Every great religion has its ideal, its divine mission under different names; but names are nothing where the life is one.
The Buddhist thinks of the Lord Buddha, and, looking inward, he declares: “Thou art Buddha”. The Hindu thinks of the divine manifestations spoken of in his own faith, and declares himself to be one with the manifestations in whom he believes. And if you give the name of Christ to that supreme Teacher who, some two thousand years ago, came to give to the West its own religion, remember that His value to you is not only that of a mighty example - though great indeed is the value of that example of perfection shown to men, - but far more that you should reproduce Him in yourself, far more that the infant Christ should be born in the cave of your heart; that in you He should develop to boyhood, to youth, to manhood, until you have grown “to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”. It is not a Christ outside you who saves; it is not a Christ outside you who redeems; it is the Christ within, who transforms the man into His own image, and makes him realise that as the Father in Heaven is perfect, so is perfection the inevitable goal of man.
From the book of Super-Human Men in History and Religion by Annie Wood Besant