The Symbolic Meaning of Christmas

The Symbolic Meaning of Christmas2018-11-14T13:41:27+00:00

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This article is an extract taken from the book The Path of the Spiritual Sun.

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The birth of Jesus by Giotto Scrovegni

There is a profound symbolic meaning to the birth of Jesus at Christmas, which goes further than the religion of Christianity itself. Many see Christmas as a celebration of the actual birth of Jesus based on the Gospels, while others see it as little more than a time of shopping, pleasure, and leisure. What most people don’t realize is that the nativity of Jesus is a profoundly significant spiritual teaching in itself, rich with symbolism and containing a timeless spiritual message that was hidden by design so it could survive and reach far into the future.

How to Understand the Meanings

To understand its symbolic meaning, you have to look at Christmas in esoteric terms, where events have symbolic as well as literal meanings. To deeply understand the symbolic meanings requires access to the source of the symbols, which is not to be found in the physical world, but in the world beyond the physical body. That is their source, as it is the source of all symbolism, spiritual myths, and legends. To access the source requires experience beyond the body, by having out-of-body experiences, astral projecting, and to a degree through objective dreams.

Even if you can do that, you won’t be able to get the deeper meanings of most symbols if you are not at the personal level of inner spiritual development that can access them. In other words, to get to the hidden meanings you have to be doing the actual work of self-realization that is described in the sacred teachings of the past.

So when we discuss the symbolic meaning of Christmas, you should be aware that it is discussing it in the terms of its source, in a like manner as the ancient peoples themselves, with a common shared esoteric experience and knowledge. This may make it difficult to understand in places, but it’s better to give it a fuller description that takes a little extra study to understand, than it is to give a watered down version that everyone can understand right away. The meanings found in Christmas have been watered down so much throughout history that their deeper meanings have mostly been lost, so I felt that it’s better to give a more esoteric version, for the sake of completeness and for a more comprehensive understanding.

The Universal Message of Christmas

There is more to Christmas than the birth of a historical person, or the birth of a tremendous spiritual figure. Esoterically speaking, it is about the birth of the Christ, the cosmic Son that is born within a human—the incredible manifestation of the spiritual within.

Christmas is at the third day of the sun seemingly standing still after the winter solstice. It symbolizes the birth of the Christ within a person, whereas the winter solstice symbolizes the birth of the Christ at the beginning of creation.

Through the movement of the sun at the winter solstice, the journey from the universal Christ to the individual Christ is shown.

Christmas day is a celebration of the birth of Jesus for many people, but it is also the time of birth for many spiritual figures in different cultures, and the time of the process of the winter solstice and solstice celebrations.

Although seen as part of different and diverse traditions, they are all related to the same process.

The events of the life of Jesus are echoed in those of other great spiritual teachers and deities from different times and cultures, such as Osiris, Mithras, Krishna, and Quetzalcoatl. Teachings could be understood in a dual way—both in what they said, and also through the events of their lives. Each taught awakening, enlightenment, immortality, self-realization, salvation, etc. in what they said, and each showed the process to reach this awakening in the events of their lives. This is why the lives of these deities (and many others) share remarkable similarities.

The sun has a physical and spiritual aspect, and in each it is the giver of light and life. This is why the Christ is referred to as the light of the world.

Ancient sun worship at its root is the worship of the spiritual aspect of the sun, rather than purely the physical one, as for the ancient sun worshippers, the physical sun was a symbol of its spiritual counterpart.

In Christianity the spiritual aspect of the sun has been given the name the Christ. It is not simply a name of Jesus. It is the neutral spiritual force that gave rise to creation—a universal divine fire symbolized by the sun, the divine creative light. Christmas celebrates the birth of the Christ within a person.

The Symbols of Christmas

Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds by Govert Flinck

The angel of the Lord announcing the birth of Christ to the shepherds

The symbols of the nativity in an esoteric sense relate specifically to the birth of the Christ within an individual, and its preparation.

He was born in a cave where animals were because there was no room for him elsewhere in the city. He wasn’t born amidst even everyday circumstances, but in the lowest place of the city, which shows humility. Those who are concerned with worldly causes overlook him.

He is born as a baby, and helpless, because the Christ when incarnated is small and needs to grow to maturity.

He was born in a cave where animals were kept, which represents the Christ’s birth in an individual amongst their animal egos. The Christ comes into a person in who the animal egos live. He works within to destroy those egos. The cave represents the womb of creation. In the multi-dimensional nature of a person, the cave is at the center of the inferior regions of the inner earth.

He is wrapped in basic clothes, meaning that the inner bodies which hold him are in a basic state. They will later be developed, from solar to golden. He is placed in an animal’s feeding trough—where the egos feed, in the sexual waters through the layers of the earth within man, in the energies of sex.

At the time of his birth there were shepherds watching their flock. They represent the walkers of the path who are also teachers; their flock is the public. An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the lord shone around them and announced the birth of Jesus. A heavenly host appeared with the angel saying peace to the people he favors. This represents the incarnation of Atman, the divine spirit within a person, which is a necessary step prior to the incarnation of the Christ. The people whom he favors are the initiates who are prepared inwardly (by incarnating Atman) to receive him. They visit him just after his birth, meaning that they reach to the birth of the Christ within themselves.

The star that shone over him represents the self-realized man, one who has reached divinity.

The wise men visit Jesus

The wise men visit Jesus

The wise men, who visit him later once he is in a house, represent those who are on the path to awaken who have the Christ within them. They came from the East, or more literally translated from the rising (of the sun). The rising sun symbolizes the birth of the Christ. They worship the baby Jesus, showing that they recognize the Christ. Through the sacrifice of their journey they brought gifts of gold, representing the spirit and divinity, frankincense representing sexual alchemy, and myrrh representing the inner death of the egos. So through sacrifices, by dying to one’s egos, and transforming the energies in alchemy, the gold of the spirit is born.

When you put the nativity and what it symbolizes into an overall context of the meaning of the winter solstice and the following days, you discover an extremely profound teaching, describing the process of creation of the universe and at a personal level within an individual.

The Connection to the Winter Solstice

Christmas is celebrated on the 25th of December (Jesus is born at midnight on December 24th), which is three days following the winter solstice. The winter solstice is central to spiritual celebrations throughout the world and has been since ancient times, and there is a reason why Christmas, and the birth of so many solar deities, is connected with it.

The winter solstice is the time of year where the sun has reached its most southerly point on the horizon, and is at its weakest. Thus, it is the darkest time of the year. At the winter solstice, it is as if the sun is “born” from out of this darkness, beginning to grow, strengthen, and bring light to the world. But the solstice is not just about a natural phenomenon which makes the crops grow, etc. It is a deeply spiritual time which represents the first day of creation and the birth of the Christ: the solstice relating to the birth of the Christ in creation, and Christmas the birth of the Christ within a person.

The three days when the sun seems to “stand still” after the solstice represent the three steps the Christ takes in order to enter an individual. He only enters a person who has advanced enough in their self-realization and has created within themselves the spiritual bodies and has the twin souls and the spirit within.

Most of the symbolism relating to the birth of Jesus can be understood by knowing the meaning of the winter solstice. In fact, to really understand it you need to look into the meaning of the solstice and the process of creation.

For an in depth look at the meaning of the winter solstice see our book The Path of the Spiritual Sun, and on creation, see our book Return to Source.

The Public Teaching and the Esoteric Teaching

Jesus taught on two levels—one, on an exoteric level, which is a public and more basic teaching, and the other was on an esoteric level, which was a highly advanced spiritual teaching for people who were prepared for it.

On an exoteric level, Jesus was understood as a divine savior who taught us to be better people and died for people’s sins so they might believe and be saved. On an esoteric level, Jesus taught how to transform oneself spiritually, to overcome sins, become a “son of God,” and attain salvation. Many of the parables, events, and teachings of the Gospels have different levels of meaning that were often symbolic. They can also be found in many of the texts that were kept out of the Bible, such as the Nag Hammadi Library, Pistis Sophia, Gospel of Judas, and Gospel of Mary.

It is obvious that the teaching Jesus gave faced a lot of opposition, both from the government and religious authorities of the time. The esoteric side of the teaching, which was seen as more “heretical,” was hidden to protect it from complete destruction (thus Jesus said not to throw pearls before swine, less they turn and tear you to pieces, and that he taught the public in parables). Instead the exoteric side was taken up by the masses and became a religion that passed on the esoteric symbols encoded in the texts it chose to venerate and take around the world, albeit unwittingly.

Despite attempts to protect it, much of the original esoteric literature of Christianity would have been destroyed, and thus we are left with texts which are probably impossible to decipher the actual practical work of spiritual awakening from in and of themselves. Only select texts that were seen as fit some three hundred years after Jesus’ death made it into the Bible, at a time when the Church and the Roman state merged, while everything else was ordered to be destroyed since the Church now had the power to enforce its will. Not only were texts destroyed en masse (only a few copies of which have been discovered over the last hundred years, as they had been hidden in order to save them), but people who had the knowledge of what the texts meant were intensively persecuted as well.

Copyright © Belsebuub 2011

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This is an excerpt from the chapter The Spiritual Meaning of the Winter Solstice. Keep reading in the book The Path of the Spiritual Sun.

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