The Mystical Teachings of Christianity
By Jim Lewis
The Atonement of Jesus Christ
Christianity has become bogged down in a negative interpretation of the life, teachings, and purpose of Jesus’ mission. Rituals and theological dogma have become more important than the pure mystical truths that Jesus taught. He came to show us and teach us how to get out of bondage. Instead of our getting busy and putting into practical application what He taught us, we have been led to believe that He was going to do everything for us.
The traditional teaching goes something like this: man is a sinner and the victim of his sins. His sinful nature has left him so depraved that it is impossible for him to free or save himself. Even if he died on the cross or in some other horrible manner, it would not be enough to pay the price necessary to redeem him from his sinful condition. Therefore, according to traditional interpretation, Jesus came to pay the price for our redemption. His death on the cross is the ultimate sacrifice to enable us to find our way back into God’s good grace; that is, if we will believe this.
The theory never explains why it is necessary for God to be appeased in such a terrible way, yet we are supposed to believe that this horrible sacrifice proves how much God loves us. He loved us so much that “He gave his only begotten son” to die for our sins. I might add it was for a sin committed not by us but by Adam and Eve.
This theory is referred to as the “vicarious atonement”. This simply means that we get the benefits without the suffering, in the same way that some parents live vicariously through their children. They experience joy, happiness, and the feeling of success through the accomplishments of their children; the children do the work and the parents feel successful.
Jesus did not teach such a philosophy; it came from His followers who did not always understand what he was trying to tell them. It also comes from the mystery religions that were popular at that time, as well as from Judaism, which was steeped in a religion of sacrificial animal offerings.
In the practice of Judaism, when a person broke the law—sinned—he would have to make a sin-offering. The type of sin he committed would determine what animal would be used in the sacrifice. He would go to the Temple, purchase the animal, and then the priest would kill the animal; thus, the animal would pay the price for his sins. It would have to be an animal classified as “clean”. The lamb was used quite often in this manner. The blood would be sprinkled in the temple, the skin would be burned, and the flesh would be roasted and usually consumed by the priest.
Jesus is often referred to as “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.” Very conservative Christians even use the expression “I am saved by the blood of the Lamb.” The sprinkling of blood on the individual would be abhorrent to the Hebrew, so this must have been a pagan adaptation. In pagan temples the penitent would be placed under a grill with the animal on top; the priest would kill the animal and let its blood flow onto the penitent below.
There was another important occasion where the lamb’s blood was used. This was during the time of Moses when he was selected to lead the Hebrew people out of their Egyptian bondage. You are familiar with the story of the ten plagues, the last one of which was that the angel of death was to come through the land and kill all firstborn children of the Egyptians. In order to help the angel distinguish between Egyptian and Hebrew firstborn, the Hebrews were to kill a lamb and sprinkle the blood of the lamb over the doorposts of their homes. This would protect their children from the angel of death.
The Passover meal is to celebrate this event. It is believed that Jesus was identifying Himself with this paschal lamb when He instituted the communion service at the Last Supper.
How did this unfortunate deviation from the teachings of Jesus take place? I believe there are two major reasons and influences. The first was the Apostle Paul. Most of the New Testament is based on the life experiences and writings of Paul, who stated that he was a “Hebrew of Hebrews”. By this he meant that he was very dedicated to applying the Mosaic law in his life. He was staunchly conservative; he tried to keep the letter of the law, but found it to be a frustrating experience. He and many other religious leaders believed that if all the people would just keep the law for one day, it would bring about the great event they were all expecting: the coming of the Messiah.
On the road to Damascus, Paul had an experience that was to change his life. He was seeking Christians, Jewish Christians, to bring them back from their sinful ways. While traveling to Damascus he was blinded by a bright light; he reportedly had an encounter with Jesus. Paul’s conversion experience did not free him completely from all his past religious beliefs and the influence of those beliefs. Conversion only opens the door for growth. Many people have these experiences and think they are free of their past, only to find that it constantly haunts them.
Peter did not get free of his past either. You will recall his dream in which a sheet of unclean animals was lowered in front of him and he was told to eat of these animals. Peter reminded the Lord that he did not eat unclean animals, but the Lord said, “Eat.” The vision disappeared and when he awoke, Cornelius, a gentile, stood at Peter’s door. The man wanted Peter to come and teach him and other gentiles about Jesus. The gentiles were the “unclean” with whom Peter was not supposed to associate. He did so on this occasion but when he was with his other Hebrew friends it was another story: his old religious beliefs exerted their influence on him.
Even Paul who was all for bringing the gentiles into the Christian fold had his moments. On one occasion it almost cost him his life. He had come to Jerusalem to bring an offering from the churches in Asia Minor. Some of his friends suggested that he perform with them in the temple one of their traditions which including shaving his head. They were only trying to catch him violating the law so they would have an opportunity to kill him. They almost succeeded but Paul was saved by the Romans.
Paul’s conversion did not free him from his Hebrew heritage, it only gave it a new twist. He saw Jesus’ death as the only sacrifice needed for salvation or redemption from sin. No longer would the Jewish law and its requirements be necessary for they could not fully redeem anyway. Many of the people being converted to Christianity were gentiles. The traditionalists, the Judaizers, felt that one should first become a Jew and fulfill the requirements of the Mosaic law before he could become a full-fledged follower of Jesus. Paul believed this was unnecessary.
It was because of this controversy that the first ecumenical council was called. James, the brother of Jesus, was very influential in the Jerusalem church. After listening to testimony from Peter, Paul, and others on the pros and cons of the issue, James, Jesus’ brother, decided in favor of Paul and the gentiles. The decision brought about a split in the church. Up to now Christianity had been a sect of Judaism; now it was on its own and Paul was free to carry the message to the gentiles.
Paul accomplished a great deal considering the challenge before him. He had spent fourteen years after his conversion thinking about and meditating on what had happened to him and about the teachings of Jesus. When we read his writings in the New Testament, we find a mixture of beautiful statements of truth and we find some very negative concepts that are not necessarily truth, such as his attitudes about slavery, women, and the end of the world. True, in his day he was a liberal in his attitude about women, but today he would be considered ultra-conservative.
His influence on Christianity, however, is unmistakable. What we have today in the traditional church are basically the ideas of Paul mixed in with some beautiful ideas of truth. There are times when Paul says in his letters, “It is I, Paul, speaking to you.” There are other times when he lets the Spirit through and he comes up with beautiful ideas such as “Christ in you, your hope of glory,” and “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may prove what is the good, the acceptable, and perfect will of God.” Also we have his beautiful poem on love contained in the 13th chapter of I Corinthians.
The second great influence on developing Christianity came from the most popular mystery religion in the Roman Empire. It was the religion known as Mithraism. This was Christianity’s greatest competitor; it was already well-established and accepted throughout the Empire. In carrying the message of Jesus Christ to the world, Paul and the other early teachers had to deal with many believers in Mithraism.
When a group is seeking to grow by attracting new converts there is always a willingness to lower the standards and accept people on their own level. To make it easier to convert these people, the early Christians adopted many of their beliefs and practices. In fact, the two became so similar that only names and a few concepts separated them.
For example, Mithra, the Sun God, was born of a virgin, was crucified and resurrected. His followers practiced the rites of baptism for repentance and the communion service of bread and wine to remind them of their oneness with the Sun God. His birthday was December 25 and he was worshipped weekly on Sunday.
Why did Christianity win out over Mithraism? There probably are a number of reasons, but one of the major ones is in its attitude toward women. In Mithraism women could not be saved. Christianity opened the door to women—not a full liberation, but a crack in the door. Any group that rejects women is doomed to failure. The church today is struggling with this problem: women want to become ministers, but the church wants to keep them out of this position.
Unity has always accepted women as part of the ministry. In fact some of the most influential teachers in Unity and the New Thought movement have been women. It was really Myrtle Fillmore who started what eventually led to the Unity movement. It wasn’t until Charles, her husband, saw what was happening in her life and in the lives of those she helped that he became interested.
Emilie Cady has had and is still having a profound influence through her writings. And there have been many other women who have had a great influence, such as Emma Curtis Hopkins, Mary Baker Eddy, May Rowland, Sue Sikking, Dana Gatlin, Annie Rix Militz, Elizabeth Towne, and others.
What Jesus gave to the world could not find fulfillment in Christianity as it was. After almost 2,000 years it became necessary for a major break in the negative teachings of the church to take place; it came just before the turn of the century. Now, you can accept what you are about to read or you can reject it.
The break came in the return of Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ. He came to begin a great transformation in Christianity. He had grown much and had become free of the negative influence of His past religious training. What he did before as Paul was great and needed, but what he would do this time would be even greater.
The people during his first time as Paul were not ready for the pure metaphysical and mystical teachings of Jesus; Jesus said as much. When He was asked why He taught in parables, he stated that it was because the people could hear but not understand.
After 2,000 years there were enough prepared to give a new foothold to the mystical teachings of Jesus. Many who have come forth with an interest in truth are only carriers and do not understand the essential teachings; however, they are helping in their way to carry forward the teaching. Many of these are very influential teachers, some remaining in the orthodox fold and teaching truth principles.
There are some who are teachers in metaphysical movements and are helping people in their own way. Some use the truth for very personal benefits and material gain. They do not understand the mystical teaching of Jesus for if they did they would not put so much emphasis on the materialism to be gained from a study of truth. True, material benefits do accrue for one does gain power, mastery, and dominion over all areas of his life. But I think Charles and Myrtle Fillmore had the positive idea when they stated in their covenant that they expected all their needs to be provided for without making the seeking of material things the object of their existence.
You are no doubt wondering who this Paul was that has returned. Well, if you can accept it, here it is: he was none other than Charles Fillmore. As you read Charles Fillmore’s writings you will find that he refers quite often to the writings of Paul. I believe that he returned to correct the mistakes he made when he was here as Paul. In his writings he has stated that traditional Christianity is basically the result of Paul’s work.
George Hunt Williamson, archeologist and historian of ancient civilizations, states this in his book, The Secret Places of the Lion. In the back of this book he has a “Who’s Who” in previous reincarnations. In this list he states that the founder of Unity is a reincarnation of Paul.
Charles Fillmore believed this about himself. I did not know him myself, but one person who knew him very well told me that Charles believed this about himself. He came back again and started a movement that will ultimately bring about marvelous and great changes in Christianity. The influence of this teaching goes far beyond the Unity Churches, some 300, that are established. Many ministers in traditional Christian churches are teaching their people the Jesus Christ mystical truths as given by Unity.
Was Jesus then our Savior? Yes, but not a vicarious one. He came and broke the negative consciousness of limited thinking. He gave us a new awareness of who and what we are as children of God: we are loved by God, and have access to unlimited potential for good. He overcame the belief in death and said that if we kept His word and followed Him in the regeneration, we too would have the same oneness with the Father that He had and that we would be able to do the things He did. He revealed the will of God to us as health, joy, supply for our needs and true self-fulfillment.
The negative consciousness of the race believed in impossibilities. Jesus taught us to believe that all good things are possible through faith. Many are still living in the bondage of this negative consciousness today, but Jesus has shown us how to be free. Paul has returned to dissolve the negative theological consciousness that has been strangling the church for almost 2,000 years.
To help make my reference clear, let me use a more contemporary example, Martin Luther King. It was his mission and purpose to break the barrier in consciousness dealing with racial prejudice, the concept that certain people are inferior because of the color of their skin. This barrier has been broken in ways that will be more far-reaching than we can even begin to imagine at this time. The gradual disappearance oi racial prejudice in consciousness will lead to the elimination of other negative concepts such as religious, social, cultural, political, and economic prejudices and injustices.
Almost one hundred years ago, Jules Verne wrote a book about man traveling to the moon. This was a denial of the negative belief at that time that going to the moon or any other planet would be impossible. It took almost one hundred years to do it, but it has been done. It could never have been accomplished if the negative belief in consciousness had not been challenged.
Before Roger Bannister broke the four minute mile barrier in a race, he had to break it in consciousness by believing that it was possible. Many at that time believed that it was impossible to run a mile in less than four minutes.
There have been others who have helped mankind break mental barriers that have held us in bondage, and many more will come. They will come forth because of the great work done by Jesus Christ who broke more barriers than we have even realized at this moment in time.
Jesus broke not only the death barrier, but the sickness syndrome, the poverty and lack barrier, and the negative belief that we have to live in misery and hardship. He broke the barrier of alienation from God. Although we have always been one with God, we have not known this and neither have we felt His Presence with us. We have felt alone and helpless.
The Atonement of Jesus Christ was to teach us how to reestablish a conscious feeling of oneness with the Father within us. Jesus said, “Turn to your Father who is within you,” “Follow me in the regeneration,” “The works I do, ye shall do also,” and “Be ye therefore perfect as your Father is perfect.” These are not vicarious statements. We each have to have the experience of oneness; no one can do this for us. Jesus would be the first to tell us this if he were here in the physical to do so. He has already said this and it is our business to accept and believe it.
Jesus also said, “Lo, I am with you always.” He is present here today to help us, but not to do everything for us. He helped Paul, and He has helped many along the way. He has helped me.
Many are wasting their time waiting for and longing for a future time of salvation in a life after this one. Others are on side trips of egotism and materiality, using their knowledge of truth for personal enhancement and gratification.
If you want to make the greatest progress, use your knowledge of truth to glorify the God within you. As Jesus expressed it, “Let your light shine by your good works. Then you will know the joy of living and knowing your oneness with God.
© 1981, Dr. James C. Lewis
All rights reserved by the author.
Reprinted with permission.