Would Christians be delighted?

 

At the end of the gypsy episode of Stuff You Should Know, the hosts reads a listener email asking them if you could go back in time, where and when would you go, and what would you bring?

One of the hosts said he would go back to the time and location of Jesus, and bring a video recorder. Both hosts seems to think that Christians today would be delighted by the footage.

I am not so sure, and the reasons seem obvious.

We don’t know if Jesus was a historical person. It’s quite possible he wasn’t, and it’s also possible he was. We just don’t know. We don’t have sufficient historical information. (The information we have is all from the Christian tradition, which isn’t an independent source.)

Even if he was a historical person, what he said and did may not be represented accurately in the New Testament. The NT stories were written down decades and centuries after he lived, and they were written by people with their own understandings and agendas. The “real” Jesus may have been quite different from how he was represented there.

What we do know is that all or nearly all of the vital elements of the Jesus story are found in a wide range of earlier religions and spiritual traditions around the Mediterranean. (See, for instance, The Jesus Mysteries by Peter Gandi and Tim Freke.)

It may be that Jesus is an invented figure, used to convey (valid and important) spiritual principles and pointers.

It’s also possible that he was a historical figure, and later followers added familiar stories from existing regional traditions, either to make the Jesus story more familiar and attractive, or to convey spiritual messages and pointers.

It’s even possible that Jesus was a historical figure, and his life just happened to fit into all these existing stories. This seems quite unlikely, although theoretically possible.

Even if the footage did show Jesus as (a) not an historical figure, or (b) quite different from how the NT portrays him, some Christians would still be delighted. And that’s the Christians who genuinely are OK with Jesus (a) not being a historical figure, and (b) not being accurately represented in the NT.

It’s fully possible to have a deep relationship with Jesus/Christ, and still be OK with these two things. The Jesus story is still full of important and helpful metaphors for our own spiritual path. Christ is still a powerful and transformative presence. In short, it’s fully possible to have a deep and alive relationship with Christ, and still be intellectually honest.

It’s also simpler because it is more honest, and it reveals the essence of Jesus/Christ more clearly. It reveals the important pointers and metaphors in the Jesus story. It reveals the importance of the alive presence of Christ. It strips away the peripheral things.

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Adyashanti: The spirit that Jesus embodies is not a safe spirit

 

The spirit that Jesus embodies is not a safe spirit; there’s no guarantee of how it will all play out in your life. There’s only one guarantee that Jesus gave: if you can receive and awaken and embody what he is speaking about, then your life will never be the same again. Then you will realize that you’re already living in the Kingdom of Heaven.

– Adyashanti, Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic

It’s not a safe spirit since what it wants with us and our life may be contrary to what we, as a human being, wants. Jesus is the best example of this, with his crucifixion. And that goes for any awakening, not just one that’s (explicitly) associated with Christ.

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Did Jesus exist?

 

Did Jesus exist?

The reality is that we don’t know. There are hardly any historical sources suggesting that he did exist, apart from Christian sources.

Looking at the data, it seems that it’s very possible that he didn’t exist.

And yet, most historians and theologians seem to gloss over this question. They don’t mention it, or perhaps say of course he existed, don’t be silly. (As one theologian did when I asked.)

Why this lack of intellectual honesty and courage? It’s perhaps because aspects of Christian theology, as it was created in the centuries after Jesus may have lived, depends on Jesus having existed as a historical person.

And yet, maybe there is another way. A way where we can be intellectually honest about the historical question, and still benefit as much if not more from the Jesus story, and Jesus’ teachings.

The Jesus story is, as many have realized and pointed out, a metaphor for the awakening process we all may go through. Adyashanti’s Resurrecting Jesus is a clear and insightful book on this topic.

Jesus’ teachings applies to us whatever label we put on ourselves – Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist or whatever else it may be. As any good wisdom teachings, they are pointers. Questions. Experiments.

And, it seems, we can connect with the Christ energy whether or not we know if Jesus existed as a historical person. The Christ presence responds, as it seems to have done for centuries or millennia, to prayer and Christ meditation. (I experience it quite strongly, and know that many others do too.)

Note: Was Jesus a Pagan God, by Freke and Gandi, is an interesting exploration on this topic.

Note 2: Some say that the mutual disagreements between the texts in the New Testament is an indication that Jesus didn’t exist, but that seems a weak argument. Disagreement between historical sources is expected and inevitable, even if they refer to something that did happen.

Also, some point to the striking similarities between the Jesus story and stories from religions and mythologies in the middle east prior to Christianity. It almost seems that someone did a cut & paste job when they created they Jesus story. Again, that doesn’t seem that this is a good argument for the non-historical Jesus.

Finally, there is the Shroud of Turin. From what we know about it today, it’s possible that it’s real. Science can only determine if it’s a fake, and haven’t been able to conclusively do so yet. In any case, it’s an interesting question.

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Images of God

 

Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God.

Justin Welby tells BBC radio interviewer there are moments when he doubts – but he is certain about the existence of Jesus.

– from a The Guardian article

I am sometimes puzzled that people who make God their business sometimes seem to have a quite naive and immature way of looking at it. (Of course, there are many exceptions.)

In this case, as I have mentioned before, it’s all about our image of God. If I see God as equal to reality, what is as it is, then the whole question of belief falls away. God equals reality and is something I can explore through science, and also in immediate experience. Also, if I see God as consciousness itself, then I can find it through a simple inquiry here and now – for instance through the Big Mind process, the headless experiments, or the Living Inquiries.

Similarly with Jesus. It’s all about how I see Jesus and/or Christ.

If I see the Jesus story as a teaching story, it doesn’t matter whether Jesus – as a historical person – lived or not. The Jesus story reflects me and my own process.

And if I see Christ as a particular flavor of Big Mind/Heart, then again it doesn’t matter whether Jesus lived or not. It’s something I can access here and now, allow work on me, and live from.

It allows me to be more honest about the historical question of Jesus, and admit that there is hardly any convincing data suggesting that he did live as a historical person. It doesn’t matter because the Jesus story is still a very important teaching story, and Christ is alive here and now.

Note: See Resurrecting Jesus by Adyashanti, and The Jesus Mysteries by Tim Freke and Peter Gandy, among other books, on this topic. Also, when it comes to our views of the divine, I am aware that these tend to reflect phases of adult development, as outlined by f.ex. Fowler.

Peter, Judas, Anakin and me

 

In Resurrecting Jesus, Adyashanti talks about the Jesus story as a story of each of our awakening process.

For instance, Peter is the one who loved Jesus, promised he would never forsake him, and yet denied knowing him three times. He was enthusiastic, got scared, and (temporarily) left the divine.

Judas is one who also deeply loved Jesus and the divine, was deeply wounded, and sought to destroy what he loved the most, and what could have given him the love and understanding the craved and needed the most.

Since I just rewatched the Star Wars movies, I want to add Anakin Skywalker here. He also deeply loved, was deeply wounded, and destroyed or tried to destroy the ones he loved the most (his lover and teacher), the ones who loved him the most, and the ones who could have given him the love and understanding he so deeply wanted and needed.

I can find each of these in myself.

I sometimes deny and abandon the divine, out of fear. When I got married in my twenties, I left my guidance and moved to a place that felt deeply wrong for me, and I did it out of unexamined fears and shoulds. (Or, at least, they were not thoroughly examined and seen through.)

I also see the part of me that deeply loves, is deeply wounded, and lashes out at or tries to destroy what and who he loves the most, and can give him the love and understanding he needs.

As very small, I had seeming flashbacks about how it was before incarnation. It was what I now would call a heavenly realm, with a sense of infinite love and an infinite sense of being home. I sometimes had a deep longing in the mornings that couldn’t be satisfied the usual ways (strawberry jam sandwich, Donald Duck comics, adventure books, friends, parents), and it was probably for this.

Here is the story that comes to me:

It was conveyed to me that it was time for me to incarnate again, for my own sake and for the sake of humanity and the Earth. I said yes, partly because I knew it too. And yet, a part of me loved the divine so deeply, and didn’t want to leave. I didn’t acknowledge or speak up for this part. I wanted to be a good soul, a good soldier. This part felt deeply wounded, deeply unseen, deeply unloved, and deeply angry. And this pattern has replayed itself through my life.

I am on the threshold of something that feels deeply right, lose it, and go into deep regret and pain. Sometimes, I can even see how a part of me sets it up. It sets up circumstances so what I deeply love will fall away from me. And this part seems to be the part described above. It feels deeply wounded, deeply unseen, deeply unloved.

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Love your enemies – as medicine

 

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. – Matthew 5:44.

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. – Luke 6:27.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. – Luke 6:35.

Love your enemies. It sounds like a should, but it’s really medicine. It’s a prescription for finding wholeness and well being of myself, which in turn benefits those around me.

Who or what are my enemies? It’s anything in my world I don’t like. Anything I see as undesirable, bad, that shouldn’t be there. It can be an emotion, pain, discomfort, a person, an illness, war, delusion, a political party, noise, or anything else.

How do I find love for it? I have found these helpful:

I wish you love. I wish you ease. (Loving Kindness, Metta).

Tonglen. Ho’oponopono.

Holding satsang with what’s here. (You are welcome here. Thank you  for protecting me. Thank you for your love for me. What would satisfy you forever? What are you really?)

All-inclusive gratitude practice. I am grateful for…. (Anything in my life, including and especially that which I don’t at first like.)

Placing myself in the heart flame. (When it’s something in me I perceive as an enemy.)

Christ meditation. Visualizing Christ at the seven points (in my heart, above and below me, in front and back of me, either side of me.) I sometimes also do this for others, and the Earth.

Inquiry into anything – any stories, perceptions, assumptions – that I use to close down my love for myself and others. Any stories of enemies. Any stories of love not being here. Any fearful stories about love.

What’s the effect of finding love for my enemies? For me, it’s a sense of wholeness and love for myself and others. A sense of coming home, and of deep well being and nurturing.

Why does this work? If life is love already, and we are life and love, then this is a way for us to come home to ourselves.

In a very real sense, love may be the medicine we are all looking for. If we had a choice, would chose to be free of a particular situation or illness, or find deep and genuine love for it? Perhaps a healing of our relationship to ourselves and the world is the healing we really wish for. (It’s not one or the other. We can find deep love for an illness, and still go to the doctor and follow her prescriptions. We can find deep love for a person, and still not allow him to hurt others if we can help it.)

Finding deep and genuine love for what’s here may even open up for our natural fearless wisdom and intelligence, allowing us to act with more kindness and clarity in the world.

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The Wild

 

As Adyashanti points out in Resurrecting Jesus, the Jesus story is a teaching story. It reflect the universal awakening process, which is the awakening process for each of us. In the Jesus story, the actions of each person reflects a dynamic in us, and each event reflect a signpost in our own journey.

When Jesus goes to John the Baptist, it can be seen as Jesus seeking out the wild.

He has, most likely, learned the conventional spiritual traditions well, and has reached a point in his own journey where he needs to go outside of conventions. It doesn’t necessarily mean rejecting traditions, but it does mean receptivity to learning outside of the conventional.

Also, as or more importantly, it means receptivity to go outside of what’s familiar to ourselves. As we grow and mature, and as life recognizes new facets of itself, we – by definition – go beyond what’s familiar to us. We enter what to us is the wild, the uncharted.

The wild, the unbounded, always works on us. And at some point, there is the invitation to recognize this, and allow it in a more conscious way.

And yes, Jesus may have sought out the wild in both of these ways long before he met John the Baptist. This encounter is just a reminder of the role of the wild in an awakening process.

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Adyashanti: The stages of awakening as lived out by Jesus

 

In Resurrecting Jesus, Adyashanti talks about the typical stages of a spiritual awakening process. Here is a brief outline:

Calling. The calling can take many forms, including as a curiosity of or a draw to Spirit, love or truth. For me, this may have happened in early childhood when I had memories of how it was before incarnation. (A golden light, sense of infinite belonging, wisdom, love, home, aka “heaven”.)

The awakening. The initial awakening, life awakening to itself as all there is. A transcendence of the ego. In my case, this happened “out of the blue” following a year of (what I now see as) a dark night of the senses. I was consciously a hardcore atheist at the time.

Trials and tribulations. Our new realization is put to the test. We find ourselves in situations that require us to act from our realization, from our deepest nature we have awakened to. Also, what in us not aligned with love and clarity surfaces to realign. This is a purification of our human self. This is what I am still in, it seems. (Jesus in the desert. Dark night of the soul.)

Abiding tranquility. An deep equanimity in the face of whatever content of experience happens to be. An inner unification. (Equanimity.)

Transfiguration. A further deepening of realization. Infused with radiance, vitality, becoming the radiance. This may include a clearer sense of one’s life purpose and path.

Relinquishment. Death of the ego. Feeling abandoned by God just before and as this happens.  (Crucifixion.)

Transmutation. What relinquishment makes possible. Being truly selfless, in the sense of no self. What’s left is to be a benevolent presence in the world. Out of death springs a new life, a new orientation. (Resurrection.)

I assume some of these may happen simultaneously? And also that there may be previews of each of these.

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Jesus: The Son of Man has no place to lay his head

 

Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.

– Jesus, The New Testament, Matthew 8:20, Luke 9:58.

Again, this describes an immediate experience and (nearly) as directly as is possible.

We may seek nests and dens through identifications with images and stories, and it does give the appearance of a home, somewhere secure. And yet, it’s not really secure, and it’s not really working. We all know these identifications are as ephemeral as mirages. They are temporal. They can be shot down by a single word from someone else, a single of our own thoughts, any shift in our circumstances (no longer supporting our identification). There is no image or thought we can make into a solid and lasting nest for ourselves.

For myself, I notice that seeing this – in concrete and specific situations and with concrete and specific images and thoughts – may bring up some temporary fear, and it also brings a huge relief. I don’t need to try to find a den in images or thoughts, because they don’t really work. There is another security in this, a sense of coming home in a different and more real way.

Another way to describe this, again as close to experience as possible, is as a free fall. The astronauts in Earth orbit are in a constant free fall (zero g) and yet they never land (as long as they are in orbit!). And that’s a quite fitting image of this experience.

 

Jesus: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle

 

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.

– Matthew 19:24, The New Testament (NIV)

As with all quotes, this one can be understood in many different ways, and each one may have value as a pointer.

The most obvious way for me to understand this is in terms of – not surprisingly! – identifications.

If my mind is rich in identifications – images and stories taken as true, beliefs – it’s not easy for me to enter the kingdom of God. It’s not easy for me to see it’s already here, that what’s here is already the kingdom of God.

As these identifications are either suspended for a while, or seen through in a more thorough way (both grace), the kingdom of God is revealed. In a sense, the kingdom of God reveals itself to itself. Awakeness notices itself as awakeness, and all experience as itself. We can also say that love notices itself as all there is. And that presence notices itself as all there is. (A though may say these reflect respectively the head center, the love/heart facet, and the soul facet.)

At first, this noticing (recognition, realizing) may be associated (by thoughts) with the side effects of this noticing, such as a quiet joy, a sense of ease and flow, a sense of guidance, a felt sense of love etc. Then, as it matures, this noticing may happen within any particular content of experience. A though may label an experience joy, and awakeness/love/presence notices itself as that. A though may label an experience fear, and awakeness/love/presence notices itself as that. A though may label an experience physical pain, and awakeness/love/presence notices itself as that, as it happens. In a very real sense, the joy, fear and pain notices itself as awakeness/love/presence, and awakeness/love/presence notices itself as joy, fear and pain.

Although I am not sure, I suspect the dark night of the senses leads to and clarifies the first phase of this noticing, and the dark night of the soul may lead to and clarify the second. And how that looks will probably vary a great deal from person to person.

Jesus: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

 

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

– Matthew 5:43-48, The New Testament (NIV).

This came to me again following some recent events in the media.

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’

This is what most of us have learned from our family, friends and culture. We have taken it on as a habit.

As I shift into intending to find love for my enemies, and as I pray for those who persecute me, I may notice the more of particulars of what I have learned and taken on. I may notice the fears that come up if I don’t hate my enemies. I have an opportunity to identify and inquire into beliefs of why I should hate my enemies, what will happen if I don’t, that someone is or can be my enemy, and labels such as hate, enemy and persecution.

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

This is what happens naturally when there is more clarity, and a living more from the heart. It’s also a medicine or antidote to our habitual pattern of seeing something or someone as an enemy. It’s an invitation for exploration, to see what happens when I try it on. And it’s an invitation to see if it’s already this way for me, and that I just haven’t noticed.

As I try this as medicine, exploration, or inquiry, there is a closer alignment with what I really am. It’s easier to notice that I am a “child” of “my father” which is clarity, love, presence, and that we are not two.

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 

God’s presence and love is there for all of us, and it is who we really are.

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  

Again, an invitation to go beyond what’s familiar to us. What happens if I find love for the person who is here – in my life, in my mind – no matter what my thoughts tell me about that person? What happens if I find love for what’s here – whether it’s a situation, an emotion, an image, pain, identification – no matter what thoughts tell me about it?

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

And again, an invitation to notice what I really am. What’s here when there is more clarity on my thoughts about the other person? Is it true love is not here? Is it true it’s other than what I am?

In the world, not of it

 

Be in the world, not of it. 

There is no quote by Jesus just like that in the New Testament, but there are a few similar ones.

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.
– 1 John 2:15

When I appear to love the world, I really “love” some of my thoughts. I think that I need something in the world (money, house, status etc.), take the thought as true, and live as if it’s true.  The world if filtered through these beliefs, and it temporarily covers up awareness of what’s already here – all as Spirit, all as love. Said another way, the love for Spirit (the father) is not here, or at least it appears to not be here.

Be in the world, not of it.
– unknown author

What do I find when I look at this way of putting it?

Some examples of how I am in the world: As this human self, I am in the world. To others, I am in the world. I am in the world because this human self lives and functions in the world. I am also in the world because I use thoughts and images as practical guides for my life.

And some ways I am not of the world: I am not of the world when what I am – awareness, capacity – notices itself. I am not of the world, when I notice that the world – my world of experiences and images – happens within and as what I am. I find myself as not of the world when I question my beliefs, including the most basic ones of me and I.

So the statement is an invitation to notice the ways I am in the world, as this human self, and also to take care of that life, to live it the best way I can. And it’s an invitation to  notice the ways I am not of the world, to familiarize myself with what I am, to inquire into the thoughts that prevent me from seeing it.

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Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:43-48

I listened to the BBC Sporting Witness episode on Eric Liddell, the Flying Scotsman. As a missionary in China, he was placed in a Japanese prison camp, started a Bible study group, and encouraged the participants to pray for the Japanese.

I notice for myself how powerful it is to pray for the health and well-being of myself and others, and especially those who trigger beliefs in me. As I pray, an image often comes up of them living in health and happiness, of love flowing from their heart center and filling them and their surroundings, and of them as light and love (as they and all of us and everything already are).

As one of the participants in the Bible group says, this shifts how I relate to the ones I pray for. Love and sincere well-wishing replaces whatever resentment and fear may be there. It’s as if love takes up the space where fear otherwise would be.

When Jesus asked if you love only those who love you, what reward will you get? I find for myself that my reward is to stay in resentment and fear. As I instead include in my sincere prayer and well-wishing the ones I tell myself disturb me, the reward is love – a love that is all encompassing and all inclusive of myself and others. This is the perfect love that already is here, that we all already are and everything already is, and which I prevent myself from seeing, feeling and living when I am caught in resentment, fear and beliefs.

When I pray for others, I often pray for those close to me and myself, include the wider circles (family, friends, city, country, all humans, all beings, the Earth, all beings in the universe), and also the ones I sometimes have beliefs about. Sometimes, I start with the latter group, and include myself and those close to me. And sometimes, I go back in time in my own life, praying for myself and others in situations that triggered beliefs and fears in me. I may also pray for groups of people, all humans, or all beings, in the present, past and future.

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Simon Peter said to him

 

(114) Simon Peter said to him, “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.”
Jesus said, “I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Gospel of Thomas

It’s of course possible to find a theological or metaphorical explanation for this. For instance, female may refer to the human self and male may refer to Spirit, so Jesus is talking about the human self aligning with Spirit or reality.

And it’s also possible that Jesus, as I sometimes do, responded with sarcasm to an obviously narrow minded statement.

A Single Eye

 

If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
– Matthew 6:22

This is one of the sayings (pointers) that makes immediate sense if it fits our experience, and – I imagine – can be very puzzling if it doesn’t.

I experience a “single eye” in the sense that anything in experience – what we often label as the wider world and myself as this human being – happens within/as what I am. Put a bit clumsily, as it often is, it all happens within/as awareness. It’s experienced as one. (Although since there is some identification with/as an I, that one is sometimes not recognized as part of that field.)

This single eye is of course what’s already here, whether it’s noticed or not. And we can notice it through headless experiments, the Big Mind process, or other forms of pointers and inquiry.

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The Wisdom Jesus

 

I am reading The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind – a New Perspective on Christ and His Message by Cynthia Bourgeault, an Episcopalian minister.

Her approach is grounded partly in current research, and partly in a view of Jesus as an awakened – and tantric – wisdom teacher. No wonder I enjoy it! Highly recommended.

The Wisdom Jesus is also available as an audio book from Sounds True.

Whoever drinks from my mouth will become as I am

 

Whoever drinks from my mouth will become as I am; I myself shall become that person, and the hidden things will be revealed to him.
Gospel of Thomas, saying 108.

Whoever drinks from my mouth will become as I am

Big mind/heart/belly recognizes itself.

I myself shall become that person

Big mind/heart/belly is recognized as all there is, including anything human as is.

and the hidden things will be revealed

All is revealed as big mind/heart/belly.

Each of these lines are variations on the same theme: all is revealed as the play of the divine – including anything human and any experience as it is.

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Honesty and the historical Jesus

 

Do we know whether Jesus was a historical person? If we are honest, we would have to say that we don’t know. We cannot know. The historical data is far too sparse. There is hardly any mention of Jesus as a historical person outside of the Christian sources, and whatever support is found within these Christian sources is indirect at best.

There is also  a plethora of earlier non-Christian mythologies that are closely aligned with the Jesus story. So the Jesus story may be just another in a line of similar mythological stories, all reflecting important inner truths. Or if such a person as Jesus existed, it is likely that the version we have now is highly mythologized and influenced by these earlier stories.

The evidence for Jesus as a historical person would not hold up in a court of law, nor would it be close to convincing in the “hard” sciences.

Yet, most Christians, theologians and historians seem to assume that Jesus was a historical person. Few bring it up even as a topic. Why is it so? Why does it seem to be almost a taboo? A non-topic? Why do some even try to brush it away by calling the possibility of Jesus as a non-historical person a “thoroughly dead thesis” when the historical data is so sparse?

Are they concerned about the implications for Christianity? Are they concerned about questioning assumptions that are shaky in the first place? If so, the solution seems a simple one: Develop – or find – an approach to Christianity that does not depend on Jesus being a historical person. The Jesus story is a powerful story in itself, as a basis for religion, a source for ethical guidelines, and a reflection of an inner process we each may go through in different ways. None of that is dependent on a historical Jesus.

If religion is about truth and honesty, this seems to be one of the first places we need to be honest and truthful.

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Whoever among you becomes a child

 

But I have said that whoever among you becomes a child will recognize the kingdom and will become greater than John.
Gospel of Thomas, Verse 48

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Mark 18:2-4

What does it mean to become like a child?

It can mean a certain orientation of receptivity, curiosity and sincerity in our relationship with God, ourselves and practice, all within a context of don’t know. Shifting into this, and then noticing that these are already here, they are a natural expression of what we are. (When not clouded over by beliefs in images and stories.)

It can also mean to ask questions that seem silly and naive, to leave no stone unturned, to question that which seems most obviously a given and true – and especially those stories I at first don’t even recognize as a story.

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Whoever has found a corpse

 

Whoever has come to understand the world has found (only) a corpse, and whoever has found a corpse is superior to the world.
– Gospel of Thomas, verse 56.

If all I know about is the world, content of experience, I have only found a corpse. It is already dead. Transient. Born and dies. (The world itself, and my knowledge about it.)

If I recognize it as a corpse, I have moved beyond it just a little. There is a chance of relating to it in a more realistic way. To get my priorities straigthened out. Also, if the world – including this body and all content of experience including the doer and observer – is all transient, am I that which comes and goes? What is it that does not come and go? What is it that content of experience happens within and as?

When he becomes troubled, he will be astonished

 

Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds. When he finds, he will become troubled. When he becomes troubled, he will be astonished, and he will rule over the All.
– Gospel of Thomas, verse 2.

First, we seek God or truth in whatever way we go about it. Prayer. Inquiry. Service.

Then, we get troubled. Especially if we realize that the inevitable outcome of the process – if its runs its full course – is the death of (identification with) everything we thought we were, and can think we are.

Then, astonished. Astonished of what is revealed. How simple it is. Obvious. Never not here.

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Give Caesar what belongs to Caesar

 

They showed Jesus a gold coin and said to Him, “Caesar’s men demand taxes from us.” He said to them, “Give Caesar what belongs to Caesar, give God what belongs to God, and give Me what is Mine.”
– Gospel of Thomas, verse 100, and the New Testament in Matthew 22:15-22, Mark 12:13-17, Luke 20:20-26.

This famous verse can be taken in a relatively straight-forward way.

Take care of your life in the world as a human being. Live an ordinary life and take care of the obligations that comes with the roles you are playing. Give Caesar what belongs to Caesar.

And at the same time, know what you really are. Give god what belongs to God.

Don’t neglect one in favor of the other.

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He who made the inside

 

Do you not realize that he who made the inside is the same one who made the outside?
– Gospel of Thomas, verse 89.

The inside and outside of anything all happens within and as what we are.

Boundaries with insides and outsides are only found as an imagined overlay, and this too happens within and as what we are.

It all has the same creator, which is what we are. No thing appearing as something.

The solitary

 

Many are standing at the door, but it is the solitary who will enter the bridal chamber.
– Gospel of Thomas, verse 75.

What we are noticing itself, and our human self living from it, is a solitary process. We may have teachers and friends, and the process may follow shared patterns, but it is also solitary. It happens here and no-one can do it for us. It is unique since it is the unravelling of our unique knots. It is solitary since it is an awakening out of beliefs, including those that almost all in our culture take as true and self-evident. And it brings in the recognition that there is only God, not many beings and individuals as it previously appeared.

Split a piece of wood

 

It is I who am the light which is above them all. It is I who am the All. From Me did the All come forth, and unto Me did the All extend. Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find Me there.
– Gospel of Thomas, verse 77.

What we are and everything is, is that which all happens within and as. When I explore anything through the sense fields, I find that the way it appears in each sense field is as ephemeral and insubstantial, as no thing appearing as something, as awakeness itself. A stone = sight, sensations, an overlay of images, and each of these are no thing appearing as something, awakeness itself.