Chrestos: Theosophical Glossary on the Gnostic form of Christ

Chréstos (Gr.) The early Gnostic form of Christ. It was used in the fifth century B.C. by Æschylus, Herodotus, and others. The Manteumata pythochresta, or the “oracles delivered by a Pythian god” “through a pythoness, are mentioned by the former (Choeph.901). Chréstian is not only “the seat of an oracle”, but an offering to, or for, the oracle.

Chréstés is one who explains oracles, “a prophet and soothsayer”, and Chrésterios one who serves an oracle or a god. The earliest Christian writer, Justin Martyr, in his first Apology calls his co-religionists Chréstians. It is only through ignorance that men call themselves Christians instead of Chréstians,” says Lactantius (lib. iv., cap. vii.). The terms Christ and Christians, spelt originally Chrést and Chréstians, were borrowed from the Temple vocabulary of the Pagans. Chréstos meant in that vocabulary a disciple on probation, a candidate for hierophantship. When he had attained to this through initiation, long trials, and suffering, and had been ‘‘anointed’’ (i.e., “rubbed with oil”, as were Initiates and even idols of the gods, as the last touch of ritualistic observance), his name was changed into Christos, the “purified”, in esoteric or mystery language. In mystic symbology, indeed, Christés, or Christos, meant that the “Way”, the Path, was already trodden and the goal reached ; when the fruits of the arduous labour, uniting the personality of evanescent clay with the indestructible INDIVIDUALITY, transformed it thereby into the immortal EGO. “At the end of the Way stands the Chréstes”, the Purifier, and the union once accomplished, the Chrestos, the “man of sorrow”, became Christos himself. Paul, the Initiate, knew this, and meant this precisely, when he is made to say, in bad translation: ‘‘I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Gal. iv.19), the true rendering of which is . . . ‘‘until ye form the Christos within yourselves” But the profane who knew only that Chréstés was in some way connected with priest and prophet, and knew nothing about the hidden meaning of Christos, insisted, as did Lactantius and Justin Martyr, on being called Chréstians instead of Christians. Every good individual, therefore, may find Christ in his “inner man” as Paul expresses it (Ephes. iii. 16,17), whether he be Jew, Mussulman, Hindu, or Christian. Kenneth Mackenzie seemed to think that the word Chréstos was a synonym of Soter, “an appellation assigned to deities, great kings and heroes,” indicating ‘‘Saviour,’’—and he was right. For, as he adds: “It has been applied redundantly to Jesus Christ, whose name Jesus or Joshua bears the same interpretation. The name Jesus, in fact, is rather a title of honour than a name—the true name of the Soter of Christianity being Emmanuel, or God with us (Matt.i, 23.).Great divinities among all nations, who are represented as expiatory or self-sacrificing, have been designated by the same title.’’ (R. M. Cyclop.) The Asklepios (or Æsculapius) of the Greeks had the title of Soter.” (Helena Blavatsky, Theosophical Glossary, 1892)

17 Terms and Types of Practitioners Modern Theosophians Should Know


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