“The most important Gospel you’ll ever read is the one that you write.” – Reverend Russell Heiland
Maybe it’s because Christmas is approaching or possibly because I’ve neglected this topic for too long — tip-toeing around the various masculine forms of spirituality — but today, I want to talk about Jesus.
What I don’t want to do is discuss his love life or his blood line. I don’t want to get into the metaphysics of the Trinity or the virgin birth, or his death and resurrection (we’ll save that for Easter), and I definitely don’t want to talk about original sin. That, we can leave checked at the door. Permanently.
I would, however, love to talk at length about what Jesus — this middle eastern man with a rebel spirit and pathological contempt for authority — was able to accomplish in his short life. But there’s one problem. And it’s a pretty big one. Jesus’ life may not have happened at all. At least, not the way we might think.
Did Jesus Exist?
There’s a curious 40-70 year span that occurs between Jesus’ death and the time that the apostles and their descendants were “inspired” to write the Gospels. That, combined with the fact that more than half of the Gospels weren’t even written by men alive during Jesus’ time, gives one cause for wonder. I, myself, wonder if I would trust the acquaintances of my friends (even if I considered them “disciples”) to correctly quote me two generations later about something as important as what I believed to be the “good news,” the living Word of God.
There’s also the ancient and familiar origins of the Jesus myth itself. The story of Jesus was not new to people at the time. In fact, Jesus’ life story has so many elements in common with other (and pre-existing) Mediterranean and Middle Eastern god-man hybrids — like the Persian story of Mithras (whose birth was attended by three shepherds), the Egyptian legend of Osiris (who was assassinated by conspirators, defeated death and returned to rule the afterlife), the Greek Dionysus (who celebrated a “last supper” with twelve trusted associates before his execution) and Zoroaster (also from Persia, who was “born of a virgin mother” and come to “crush the forces of evil”). Even the Hindu deity Krishna (thought to have lived anywhere from 3228 to 3rd Century BCE) is thought to be the inspiration for the Jesus myth (his father was a carpenter, his birth was marked by the appearance of a star, he healed the sick and the lame).
Any (or all) of these stories could prove to be the inspiration for the Jesus mythology, but not vice versa. In fact, St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE) wrote, “This, in our day, is the Christian religion, not as having been unknown in former times, but as having recently received that name.”
So, if Jesus’ life was simply a more effective re-telling of re-hashed pagan and Occident stories and legends, then why does he matter? And, if we could separate the mythology of Jesus — of which so much has been added to after his “death” — from the message or teachings of Jesus, what might distinguish him, philosophically, from the hordes of other virgin-born messiahs of the day?
Let’s start with Jesus’ ministry and his message of universal love (Agape), which is a different type of love than the world had seen to that point, and different even from the idea that God (the father) “so loved the world” that he sent his only Son to die.
Most of the so-called Axial sages (800 – 200 BCE) — from Socrates to Confucius to The Buddha — instructed their students and disciples in Oneness or non-duality, or to hold the entire world in their hearts. It was a spiritual (not to mention monotheistic) leap that was happening worldwide. A call to think beyond egocentrism (our selves and families), and ethnocentrism (our tribes and nations) — to attain a worldcentric perspective. This was a new paradigm that, to this day, few people attain. But, while The Buddha contemplated desires, and Judaism preached compassion for thy neighbor, and the Indians practiced ahimsa (non-violence), Jesus didn’t ask, he demanded Love from his followers. In fact, there are those that say a deep, sustained and unconditional Love is the central tenet of the Christian faith.
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
He also instructed us to reveal that love to the world, to wear it on the outside.
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works.”
This not-so-simple practice of love, compassion and Ultimate Concern (and a few armed Crusades here and there) got Christianity pretty far along in the world. It was even carried across the ocean to America, where it replaced the indigenous nature religions and today remains the largest religion on the planet, with Islam in second place and quickly closing the gap.
During the late 19th century, there arose entire movements in the United States around the ideas of faith healing. According to these schools of thought, not only was the Spirit of Christ in every fiber of our bodies, but the body and mind of Christ was also held up as the exemplar of perfect health and physical regeneration. A pure, energetic being made of light — with no disease, no attachment, free from karma and sin. A kind of ideal man, “full of grace and truth.” In fact, one of Osiris’ names (after his resurrection) was Wenennefer, which meant “the one who continues to be perfect.”
These New Thought movements (Christian Science, Unity) claimed that “Infinite Intelligence or God is the sole reality” and that “we are children of God, and therefore do not inherit sickness.” Sickness, therefore, might be the failure to realize this truth, and healing accomplished (partly) by the “affirmation of oneness with the Infinite Intelligence or God.” The image of Jesus as a divine healer was fully embraced. After all, Jesus had cured all forms of ailment (from blindness to leprosy), raised the dead, and performed all manner of medical miracles.
Unity founders, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore were so taken up by the healing power of prayer through the Christ Mind — that after ridding themselves of illness (a bad hip and tuberculosis, respectively), they began to host nightly prayer sessions and opened their home to all kinds of afflicted. This prayer service — a kind of guided meditation — which began as a small group gathering at the same time every night, continues on today in the form of a fully staffed 24-hour call center in Kansas City, MO.
Unity also began teaching a system known as the “Twelve Powers,” which identifies energy centers in the body (similar to chakras), which correspond not only to the Twelve Apostles but also to spiritual and psychological functions like “Will,” “Imagination,” “Power,” and “Love.”
Faith healing is, of course, not exclusive to Christians, and if we consider recent discoveries in quantum mechanics and the controversial field of zero point energy, then factor in Jung’s collective unconscious as it pertains to the science of mind, it’s possible that “faith healing” isn’t based on faith at all. When Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in the midst of them,” the statement could be more true than he intended. For, it’s quite possible that a healing intention holds real power no matter whose name you’re healing in the name of.
Jesus was also the way-shower for the three faces of God (1st, 2nd and 3rd-person perspectives of Spirit), demonstrating at once that communicating about God, to God, and as God are not separate functions or faculties.
Lynne McTaggart wrote in her groundbreaking book The Field, “We are quantum beings. All living things are connected by an invisible web. The brain perceives the world through quantum frequencies. Everything is indivisible and living consciousness is not isolated. In effect, there’s nothing that is not part of this field. There’s nothing that is not God.”
If our continually-expanding consciousness, the ability to take more and more perspectives — not to mention the primordial drive toward increasing biological complexity — is directly related to the unfolding of the entire cosmos, then we — our interiors and exteriors — are all part of that whole. It is one action. It is, in fact, Spirit-in-Action.
Our mind, then, acts as a kind of compass, lens or prism, refracting and re-broadcasting this consciousness throughout our entire body (gross, subtle and causal) and the bodies of others, the way a transmitter carries information. And in our various attempts to improve, focus or attenuate our minds — through study, contemplation, prayer or meditation — we hold in place an ideal, a mind that is unclouded, that is both crystal-clear and ever-unfolding. A mind that is a reflection of the Cosmos itself. This is the mind of Christ, this is Christ Consciousness. And by any other name, it is the perfection always within you, “the part that is unchanging, and indestructible.”
You Are The Christ
In The Life and Morals of Jesus, also known as “The Jefferson Bible,” (a project finally completed by Thomas Jefferson in 1820) Jesus’ words are stripped of all other narrative, presenting his teachings in one place, and revealing them for what they are — a passionate form of spiritual wisdom the likes of which the world had never seen. In this context, the Sermon on the Mount begins to resemble something more like the Dhammapada or the Tao Te Ching — a sometimes poetic collection of universal insights into the human condition, with the power to effect real change in people and the world.
If we can never fully know who Jesus was, maybe we can find a real and deep understanding of what Jesus means to the world. After all, the Buddha was a prince whose lineage can be verified using any manner of genealogical sources, but we don’t need to see a certificate of birth to understand the message of The Enlightened One — that attachment to objects or desires leads down a painful path of inner conflict.
Jesus said, “When you see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower, and so it is. And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass. Ye hypocrites! Ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it, that ye do not discern this time?” Was he asking us to turn the scientific principles we would apply outwardly to geology and cosmology (principles that didn’t yet exist) onto the inner workings of our own minds? Was he suggesting they were one and the same?
Just as Jesus is popularly depicted parting his robes to reveal his glowing chest — open and vulnerable — we must peel away the layers of the myth to get to the pure heart and intention of Jesus, the man. Regardless of his origin, is it possible that Jesus was a rabbi, and a teacher, and a healer that was misunderstood, misquoted and possibly deified after his death? Is it possible that Jesus was more “enlightened” or smarter than his peers? Did Jesus’ brain contain a higher level of neuroplasticity than those that existed at the time, allowing him to access and retain higher states of consciousness? Was Jesus the Son of Man? the Son of God? All of the above?
Is it possible that the answers to these questions are already within your own heart?