The Mystical Teachings of Christianity by Jim Lewis
“Have you been saved?” You may have been asked this question by a traditional, conservative Christian. I have been asked this many times, especially before I came into the Unity way of thinking. The people who ask this are no doubt sincere; they really believe their traditional religious concepts and are trying to be helpful.
But we might reply, “Saved from what?” He would no doubt say, “From the fires of hell, eternal punishment.” He has been taught that all persons born into this world are sinners and are going directly to hell unless they are saved. This goes for infants also. Part of the salvation process is to confess one’s sins, repent, and submit to water baptism. In the Protestant tradition, at least the one from which I came, it is believed that “once saved, always saved”. It makes no difference how much sinning a person does after his salvation, he nevertheless will be saved from eternal punishment. Of course if he is truly saved, he is not supposed to live an evil life, but there may be other factors which may cause him to go the evil way. Satan may get hold of him and cause him to do all kinds of things.
In the Catholic tradition, from which I also came, it is believed that even though one may be saved he must still live a good life. A good life is living first and foremost according to the laws of the Church. If he dies in a state of mortal sin, he goes to hell to suffer forever.
Although the Protestant and Catholic beliefs vary, they nevertheless are based on the same basic belief about salvation. This religious belief is not original with Christianity; it came through Judaism from the Persians and Greeks.
For example, in Greek mythology, Hades was the god of the underworld. He and his two brothers Zeus and Poseidon plotted to get control of the universe from their father, Cronus. They deposed him and then cast lots to see who would rule each of the three kingdoms: the heaven, the sea, and the infernal region.
Most of you know how it turned out: Hades got the underworld kingdom, Zeus the heavens, and Poseidon the sea. Hades, along with his queen Persephone, ruled over the dead and the infernal powers, and supervised the trial and punishment of the wicked. The actual administering of torture was the duty of the Furies.
If this sounds familiar we must remember that Paul was born in Tarsus. He boasts of its importance; its citizens enjoyed many cultural advantages. Paul was surely educated in the Greek mystery religions and Greek philosophy. Traditional Christianity, in theology, is basically the teachings of Paul. What Jesus actually taught is quite different from the theology of Paul.
Before the Babylonian Captivity, the Jews did not have a clearly defined notion about life after death. During the Captivity they came in contact with the Persians, from whom they learned about Zoroastrianism. This religion taught that an individual was judged at death. If he was good he was admitted to the abode of infinite light and was ushered into the presence of God, but if he was wicked he was hurled down into hell.
It is interesting to note that Paul was a Pharisee. There was a great controversy between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; the Pharisees believed in immortality and the Sadducees didn’t. Paul, coming from his Greek culture, was no doubt educated in the Greek mythological writings. The idea of immortality and the eventual overcoming of death was stressed in the Orphic writings. In these writings, it was taught that a soul would reincarnate many times in its efforts to become good. It became good by following the Orphic teachings, part of which included vegetarianism. Plato refers to ideas from the Orphic teachings in his writings.
Hanukkah is a Jewish celebration with which you are no doubt familiar. It celebrates the rededication of the Temple in 165 B.C. Through the efforts of the Maccabees the Jews became outwardly free of Greek influence, but inwardly it was still present in many of the people who were already indoctrinated.
So it was during the Graeco-Roman period of Jewish history that the concept of a fiery hell developed in Judaism. They called their hell Gehenna and Sheol. Gehenna is the Greek-Latin form for Valley of Hinnom, which was a ravine south of Jerusalem. During the period of the monarchy, a cult living in this valley passed children through fire as a part of its religious ritual.
By the time of Jesus, the Jews had adopted the belief that wicked souls are punished after death in Gehenna. The early Christian teachers, especially Paul and Peter, were well grounded in this concept. Paul spread it throughout Asia Minor and Greece. The fact that these people came from a tradition that already be lieved in these ideas was probably one of the reasons Christianity spread so rapidly throughout that part of the world. It has lasted to our present time.
Origen, one of the early Church Fathers who lived from 185 to 253 A.D. tried to get rid of this idea of eternal punishment. He taught that eventually all souls would be saved. He believed the soul would continue to incarnate many times until it achieved perfection and overcame death. He was called a heretic and was discredited; his ideas were suppressed by the Church.
So here we are today with Christianity still dominated by the negative concept of eternal punishment in hell for the wicked. It isn’t from the literal fires of a mythological hell that we must be saved. Hell is a myth: there is no such place. Believing there is a place will not produce one. God is a God of Love; He did not make a place where certain souls would suffer forever.
The concept that God would punish forever is abhorrent; only a naive mind could believe that. When it comes to knowing what is really true most of us are neophytes, but the light is beginning to shine through a little more. Our consciousness is softening; love is getting through to us. Christians aren’t nearly as bloodthirsty and vindictive as they once were. We should keep in mind that a true Christian is a follower of Jesus and His teachings, and He taught that we should express love to everyone, those who are classified as enemies and those who disagree with us in theology, philosophy, and religious practice.
From what are we to be saved? We must be saved from the false beliefs, prejudices, and habits that we have picked up through our time of living. We must be saved from the negative consequences of these beliefs and habits. We must be saved from sickness, poverty, violent emotions and the misery produced by them.
Many people have discovered a hell right here. They don’t have to wait to get to one; they are living in it right now. Not only is their outer life a mess, but so is their inner one. They are miserable in mind, and can’t think clearly. They do not have peace of mind. They live in fear and have many apprehensions.
Hell is a state of unfulfillment. It is unfulfillment in consciousness in not knowing and realizing all the truth. There is much about this universe that we do not know. If we really knew all the Truth that Jesus was seeking to communicate to us and could live by it, it would transform our lives so radically that we would not recognize ourselves as we are now. It is a hell to have and to know that we have a great potential and yet be unable to express it.
There is another very serious misconception from which we must be saved. It is the one that offers the false hope of going to heaven after death. There are so many people who are just sitting around waiting for this event, an event that will never happen. The reason it will not happen is because there is no such place. The concept of heaven will be explained more fully in a later chapter, but suffice it to say now that it is a state of consciousness in which we have realized our potential as a son of God as Jesus realized His potential as a Divine Son of God.
We must also be saved from the belief that this life has to be one of suffering and limitation. This has been another negative aspect of Christian teaching. This can be a beautiful experience when we know and understand why we are here. It will be challenging, but that is what growing is all about. Remember, self-mastery comes with growth; it never comes with a static existence. Even before the time of Jesus some of the Greek philosophers taught that the body and this life are limited and undesirable and that the greatest thing that could happen to us is to escape from this existence. Socrates made no effort to avoid drinking the hemlock; he was ready to go after seventy years of this place. The people of his time believed as many believe today after more than 2,000 years, that a good person would go to heaven and enjoy with the gods or God a happy existence without suffering.
The newborn Christian of the New Age will be free of this false hope and expectation. Christianity is experiencing a new birth today and the Church will come to realize and teach the great, freeing, and dynamic teachings of Jesus Christ.
The truth is we cannot die and go to heaven; we have to live to get there. As I have already said, there is no place like that to go to. When one dies he goes into a level of existence referred to as the psychic realm. It is a disembodied state but yet the person still has soul personality and identity. It is no more blissful there than it is or can be here. There are no fires to worry about and no need to worry about it lasting forever. However, one can suffer there as well as he can suffer here. Suffering is not a totally physical experience; it is more mental or psychological than we have come to realize.
Existence in the psychic realm can be an especially trying and challenging experience for one strongly in bondage to sense habits and cravings. This is why it is important to become as free as we possibly can while in this physical body.
The psychic level can also be pleasant and free from suffering in the same way that life in the physical can be a pleasant one. We do not have to be sick and suffer physically. However, if we want to avoid many physical pains we will have to live according to the rules by which the body is sustained. It may seem to be a relief from this world of experience for one to enter the psychic realm through death. Some have caught visions just before passing of how great it can be, but they will find that the relief they feel on arriving there will be only temporary. One day the soul will be quickened to the realization of a need for further growth. That growth will begin while the soul is still in the psychic realm, where there are schools of education much the same as those here.
However, if you can accept it, your greatest opportunity is right here in your present body experience. This is true no matter what condition your body may be in. We should not give up. We should keep alive our great expectations of overcoming and keep making the effort through prayer and study to grow in spiritual understanding.
There is another plane of consciousness, another level of existence that we must come to realize so that we may enter it and really live. It is the ascended realm of consciousness and experience. Jesus called it the kingdom of heaven. It is the consciousness and experience of self-mastery and self-control that comes through a full realization of oneness with God within us.
Once we realize this great mystical truth, we come to understand that we must also be saved from death. Traditional Christianity has only stressed saving the soul; we must save the body as well. The body is the Temple of God. It is important in the mystical teaching about salvation.
We begin the salvation process when we confess our sins about the body. This means letting go of our negative, pessimistic attitudes, beliefs, and feelings about the body. The body is more than flesh and blood. It is the pure substance of God in expression and manifestation. It may seem to be physically limited but that is only due to our limited beliefs about it and the many other negative beliefs that are working out in karmic limitation because of past negative experiences.
The body can be quickened to a higher vibration of living experience. We must come to respect it and treat it right. We must obey the laws by which it is sustained right now. These are not necessarily eternal laws but mental laws of good physical expression. The body has been and is for many yet today the scapegoat of many of our negative thoughts and emotions. A person may get angry and then take his anger out on his body through the ingestion of liquids and foods that it does not need and finds it difficult to handle and release.
Salvation is a much deeper mystical teaching than we have been taught generally. The teaching has been there in the writings of great teachers of the past in all civilizations and cultures. It is a challenging teaching, but when practiced it brings far greater rewards of peace of mind, confidence, joy and happiness than the pessimistic teaching wc have had.
We are truly saved when we develop the Jesus Christ consciousness. It was Jesus Who said, “Follow me in the regeneration.” Let us take up the challenge. We have Him and God within us to help us meet it.
© 1981, Dr. James C. Lewis
All rights reserved by the author.
Reprinted with permission.