The following was originally written for use on The Feast of the Epiphany (January 2016) and is being made available here for a wider audience.
Today is Three Kings’ Day, or the Feast of the Epiphany, which celebrates spiritual discernment or discrimination. Discrimination is the virtue of Malkuth on the Tree of Life and of the Neophyte and Zelator grades of several esoteric orders. As Dion Fortune points out in her book, Mystical Meditations on the Collects, the Wise Men saw a newborn and its mother, just like any other baby, but they also saw the Christ Child. That is, what would have appeared common to others was uncommon to them. They saw, and they KNEW, through the gift of clear vision or illumination. Fortune states, “Epiphany means the viewing. Let us pray that we may come to the sacraments with the seeing eyes of the Wise Men, discerning the spirit that animates them; and not with the unheeding eyes of the hurrying servants, seeing nothing but the outer form.” Seeing the Light, Life, and Love that resides within the sacramental rituals of Church, Order, or Fraternity is the first step to developing the clear and awakened mind and, with it, the ‘magical worldview’ that allows us to see first the uncommon among the common, and then the animating spirit everywhere – the Prima Materia of the alchemists. Herein lies the nature of the Kingdom of God on Earth or, as some call it, Building the Mandala, or Enlightened World.
On the Outer or Exoteric Level, the Feast of the Epiphany marks the historical birth of Jesus and the events surrounding it including the visitation of the Three Wise Men, the proclamation to the shepherds, and even the eventual flight into Egypt and the “Massacre of the Innocents” by King Herod, an event illustrated in the alchemical writings of Nicholas Flamel. Here we see a child whom three men saw as the future savior of humanity, and whom one saw as a threat to his power, who was willing to murder all the male children of the land from two years old and younger to keep his temporal throne just a little longer. Since the Massacre of the Innocents appears only in the Gospel of Matthew, and its historical veracity is in doubt, it may refer to Herod’s murdering three of his sons and numerous other misdeeds. Holy Innocents’ Day, or Childermas, falls after Christmas, usually on December 28th, but varies according to tradition. Its celebration is connected to the Feast of the Epiphany. The origin of the Kings is uncertain, as they “come from the East” which is often attributed to Persia. However, Armenian legend has Balthazar coming from Arabia, Melchior from Persia, and Caspar (or Casper or Gaspar) from India.
On the Religious Mystical Level, or the first of the esoteric levels, the visitation of the Wise Men is the awakening of wisdom and sacrifice in each of us. Just as they traveled great distances and gave gifts of great value to the mother and child, so too must we cover the deserts of our own inner being, of our own life, to find that realization of what the scriptures call the Christ Within, that is, our own personal relationship to both the historical Jesus and the ever-living spiritual force of Christ, the Inner Light, Life, and Love such a life expresses.
On the Initiatic Level, or the second of the esoteric levels, the Three Kings (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar) coming from three directions, East (Asia), North (Europe), and South (Africa), are the three aspects of our being that when in harmony, or are indistinguishable from one another as they are a unity, recognize the inner light. This light is still but young and fragile and must be protected, hence the ‘flight to Egypt’ or a kind of ‘hermetic isolation or retreat’ if you will. These are the Three Essentials of the Philosopher’s Stone. They are the three inner psychic channels, the three primary psychic centers of head, heart, and solar plexus (as shown in the Three Mother Letters of the Hebrew alphabet), the Holy Trinity of the microcosm. The Kings are often depicted as being of Persian origin hinting at a deeper connection to Oriental mysticism, particularly astrology, which was inseparable from the other arts of magic. The Armenian tradition has deep significance in linking the Three Kings to the later traditions of Prester John and his “Christian Kingdom” sometimes associated with the Tibetan Buddhist doctrine of Shambhala and, at the very least, the deep interconnection of esoteric and spiritual traditions along the Silk Road linking Greece (and the rest of Europe) with China.
On the Secret or Supreme Level, the Three Kings are our Thought, Word, and Deed and ultimately the Rosicrucian Trinity of Light, Life, and Love.
Unfolding the Rose – Illumination and Western Esotericism
The Inner Way – The Power of Prayer and Belief in Spiritual Practice