“I have come as light into the world.” – Jesus in John 12:46
I am not a Christian. I was born and raised as a Christian, but became alienated from the church as a youth. This church, established in worship of Jesus, seemed hypocritical to me. I liked what I knew of Jesus. I liked his talk about forgiveness, peace, non-judgment, non-materialism, caring for the poor and the unfortunate. I just didn’t see much of this reflected in the church that carried his name, particularly those sects that emphasized sin, the crucifixion and resurrection; that believers were “washed in the blood of the Lamb”. I had difficulty with the idea that those with the “right” beliefs were destined for Heaven, while all non-believers were damned to Hell. I couldn’t even feel comfortable with the concept of Heaven and Hell as presented. None of this resonated with my instinct, my intuition, concerning God and the spiritual life. What I could identify with was the one instance of Jesus losing his temper, even getting violent, happening in a church against the “hypocrites” he found there.
In my lifetime, I have sadly watched a dramatic increase in dogmatic sin-based Christian theology. On the other hand, I have also seen a growing Christian theology of openness and acceptance, a searching for spiritual harmony and realization through a reexamination of original Christian teachings, sometimes in a reexamination of the Gospels in the original Aramaic language. I have seen a searching for a theology and practice much closer to the spirit of the teachings of Jesus, teachings not in conflict with other world religions, but actually harmonious. I am appreciative and hopeful for this development. Still, my own journey has taken me away from belonging to any church or religion since my personal breakaway many years ago.
I have, however, found a deep and abiding spirituality, first activated through exposure to the mystical teachings of Jewish theologian, Abraham Heschel, that belongs to no single religion, but which resonates with spiritual and mystical teachings from cultures around the world. Trained as a psychologist, I have gravitated to the most specifically psychological of religious traditions, Buddhism, as a particularly valuable source of guidance in understanding the human mind and the human instinct towards spirituality. I have found that the ancient Asian traditions of Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism bring forward with the most clarity a path for human salvation from the disaster of human conduct directed by the ego, the belief in separateness and form as the limit of our mortal experience. Still, I am not a Hindu, Taoist or Buddhist. I am a spiritual human being. All religions are creations and extensions of the human ego, expressed at a social/cultural level, and spirituality is specifically, that which is not the human ego.
The mystic/psychologist, Carl Jung, once gave as his definition of God, “simply a word for the non-ego.” I like that. He was saying that God is all that is, but human ego extracts itself from all that is. Of course human ego is, so then, even human ego is of God. But human ego is an abstract representation of self that does not know it is God. So it is separate in its own experience from God and must create religions to bridge the gap. Unfortunately, religions, being creations of the human ego, macro-egos, if you will, just like nations, tend to widen the gap.
Spirituality is the knowing that there is no gap. Spirituality is the knowing that this individual being experienced as self is an individuated aspect of the universal Being. This knowledge is the heart of Asian religion. I believe it is the heart of all religions, even those of the West, but the politics of Western religion banished this knowledge, losing it to all but the rare mystics always to be found on the fringes of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Only in the stillness of meditation, the deep looking within to the quiet recesses of consciousness, where the Soul whispers its truths, can this knowledge be found. This is why the institutional Western churches teach only prayer, which is the talking to God. Mystics know that meditation is the listening for God within the quiet stillness of consciousness and in finding God in direct contact with Nature. No separation.
Jesus was a mystic who knew no separation from God. This is what Jesus was teaching. The “Son of God” was a child of God that knew the illusion of form and separateness. He was God individuated into human form, just like everyone, except he knew it, and the civilized (that is ego-dominant) human condition is to not retain this knowing. He was an avatar, an awakened human, a Buddha. He knew that who we are at the depth of our being, is that which is before form, the consciousness of all that is, individuated into human form. He was “a light into this world,” bringing light into the darkness of a human world that has forgotten the truth of who we are. His name in Aramaic is Yeshua, which translates as “one who reveals or restores the original state”. This is identical to the “original mind” of Buddhism, the consciousness that reveals the truth of who we are.
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.” “Judge not that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged.” “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” “Do not lay up for yourself treasures on earth… for where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.” “Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life.” “Enter by the narrow gate.” “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go.” “Forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”
Quite similar words were passed down in the context of their own cultural traditions by Buddha, Lao Tzu, Krishna, Moses, Muhammad, Zoroaster and Bahá u’lláh. All these avatars were lights coming into the world, those who walked the earth in form, but knew the truth of who they and we are, from that which is beyond form. A new understanding of Jesus and the spirituality of all avatars is greatly needed. The Earth will be healed for humanity and all God’s creatures when we learn to walk in light, to carry the light, the wisdom that these great teachers discovered within the deepest level of their being and so, likewise resides in every human. This dark world needs it. A meaningful Christmas, Hanukkah and Winter Solstice to all.