The Mystical Teachings of Christianity by Jim Lewis
Over the years I have had a number of argumentative encounters with some conservative Christians about various phases of Christianity. Much of their questioning was to try and determine whether or not we in Unity were Christians. It seems that they have certain test questions that will give them the answer and also tell them what we think and believe. One of these questions is this, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ, that He was divine?”
I could probably have avoided a lengthy discussion, one that grew warmer as it grew longer, if I had just said yes, I do believe in Jesus Christ, and I do believe that He was divine. However, this is a very general question and my belief in Jesus Christ would in no way be the same as theirs.
Saying that I believe Jesus is divine usually throws them off at first because they expect me to say just the opposite. So, I add to the statement something like this: yes, I believe that Jesus is divine, and I also believe that you and I and everyone else is just as divine as He was. That is when things begin to warm up as far as these conversations go. My explanation that the Bible tells us that we are all divine, created in the image of God, makes no difference. These people believe they are sinners, conceived in sin, born in sin. and living in it, and no one is going to change their thinking about themselves. They usually think it is very egotistical for me to think that I am divine. It may seem that way when a person with a negative selfimage, a sinner image, thinks about it but it is the truth, a truth that Jesus taught. I would rather believe what He said about me than what some well-meaning but misinformed traditionalist thinks about me.
Some people who reject the traditionalist views about Jesus have thrown Jesus out with the traditionalist views. I can’t see doing this, for Jesus was the greatest person who ever set foot on planet earth and there have been many great ones. His teaching is far superior to any other religious teaching I have encountered. In fact what He taught was so tremendous that many have not even fathomed what He was really saying, and this includes many who say they believe in Him. They don’t believe in Him; they believe things that they have been taught about Him. When they read the Scriptures this theological teaching about Jesus influences their thinking and they therefore do not comprehend the true and simple teachings of Jesus Christ. Yes, they are simple but tremendously challenging.
It would certainly be helpful if the Gospel writers had given us more biographical information about Jesus, but they didn’t. In fact, it is quite a challenge to read the Gospels and form a true conception of what Jesus was like. There are no physical descriptions, and much of what is said about Him is more interpretation than fact. The writers are seeking to prove that Jesus was the Messiah. The stories about His birth are a case in point. The virgin birth is supposed to prove that Jesus was divine and that He was the Messiah that they were looking for. I will discuss more fully the virgin birth in the next chapter but suffice it to say that for now the virgin birth does not prove the divinity of Jesus. He would have been great regardless of how He was born, but it is important for the traditionalist to believe that He was born of a virgin. He would have been great even if he had been illegitimate; and that was what was thought and believed about Him by many of the non-Christians in the early second century. They believed the miraculous birth story was a coverup fable to conceal the fact that an adulteress had been seduced by a soldier named Panthera and that she gave birth to Jesus.
When a great person comes along there will always be stories about that person. The stories demand a higher level of thinking and living than some people are prepared for. The contrast in their minds between the way they are living and the way they should be living is so great that it makes them feel uncomfortable and guilty. They react by criticizing the ideal in order to bring it down to their own sordid level instead of rising to the higher level in thought, belief, and action.
As I have indicated already, the facts about Jesus in the Bible are interpretative to a large degree, and they are conflicting. There could be no personality expressing all that He is supposed to have said and done. Albert Schweitzer tried to find the “historical Jesus” and felt He could not be found in the Gospels. Traditional teaching about Jesus is also conflicting and illogical. It would be very difficult to come up with a true perspective of Jesus just from listening to modern day sermons about Him and considering Him in the light of the theology about Him.
According to traditional teaching about Jesus, in today’s thinking, He is God. He is also the Son of God Who came to save us so that we could get back into favor with God. God, Jesus, paid the sacrificial price to placate God, Himself. Jesus is also thought to be the God Who created the universe and all that is in it. He is God, He is the Son of God, and son of Himself, but He is also human. He is flesh and blood. He suffers as humans suffer even though He is God and can do all things. He goes through all this to help Himself change His own mind about sinful humanity. He is the God that determines all experience, that causes all tragedies, and He does all this with a secret wisdom that we cannot understand. It is He that determines when life begins and when it ends even though in the Scriptures Jesus says He doesn’t know the time of the end. Only the Father knows and He is supposed to be equal with the Father for He is also the Father, God.
These views are contradictory and do not make any practical sense, but we are supposed to believe them anyway. To accept them by faith means to put aside reason. To ask questions is to doubt and that is sacrilegious and dangerous.
I don’t believe them and I don’t think Jesus would advocate them either. In fact, they would be embarrassing to Him, if He could be embarrassed. There were many Christians in the second century and later who were embarrassed about the way Christianity was going. They wanted to influence the world but their views and their Scriptures were rather peculiar. These Christians roused more opposition than acceptance in the beginning. They boasted of a special relationship with God but the facts seemed that they had no relationship. According to Celsus they seemed more like slaves or, as he would say, “miserable vermin.”
Stories told in their Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, seemed ridiculous, raunchy, and often scandalous. In fact, a popular form of interpretation was developed because of the negative quality of these stories: it was an allegorical interpretation of the Scriptures. Today we call it metaphysical interpretation. The stories are still there but are either overlooked or explained or interpreted away. For a few examples, read about Adam and his drunken and morbid incidents with his daughters. David was no example of moral goodness in his dealings with Bathsheba and her husband. Solomon wise? That is questionable according to the stories in the Bible. Then we have the good prophet Elisha losing his temper and killing 42 children without any remorse. In the New Testament we have Peter causing the deaths of two people simply because they didn’t give all their possessions to the community. Yet he gets away with the denial of Jesus under pressure.
The God the Christians were offering to prospective converts was more of a tyrant than many of their kings had been. He was subject to human passion, including fits of anger in which He became very destructive. He got angry quite often and issued terrible threats. He wasn’t strong enough to assist His Son, really Himself, in His hour of suffering on the cross. He couldn’t avenge His death either. He couldn’t protect His followers from persecution.
The Christians were accused of being cannibals. It said in their Scriptures that they ate flesh and drank blood in the secret meetings they had. They had a practice at their services that was really eyebrow-raising to the non-Christians: they would go around kissing each other. It was called by them the “kiss of peace”. Outsiders saw it and interpreted it as something else; they accused the Christians of incest.
As for Jesus, His lowly origin and shameful death proved He wasn’t the Son of God. All the ridiculous stories of resurrection could not make Him something He wasn’t.
The actions and the things that many Christians say today about Jesus make Him seem just as ridiculous—the vicarious atonement, the virgin birth stories, and the treatment of non-Christians, especially Jews, holding them responsible for Jesus’ death. It was actually Romans that killed Him. Christians should rejoice and give thanks that someone killed Him instead of hating them for doing it. After all, according to their own theology Jesus had to die in order for them to be saved. What would be their fate if the Jews had asked for Jesus instead of Barabbas?
To discover the real Jesus you will have to put aside tradition and read the Scriptures with an open mind and heart. You will discover something wonderful. You will discover someone that is Real. It may be that the reason Schweitzer didn’t find Jesus in the Gospels is that he was looking only for the historical Jesus. That Jesus isn’t there but another Jesus is there.
When I read the Gospels I find a very wonderful, loving Jesus. He is non-resistant, powerful, kind, generous, wise, sharp, rich, healthy and much more. If all I knew about Jesus is what I read in the Bible about Him, I would probably wonder if He was for real. But that isn’t all that I know about Him. I wouldn’t be in this work, the ministry of Jesus Christ, if all I had to give was hearsay, conflicting opinions of others about Him, even if they were supposed to be close to Him. I am in this work because of experiences I have had that have convinced me that Jesus is a very real individual. The experiences were not for convincing anyone else so whether someone else believes they are genuine is immaterial. I had the experiences; they were real to me. My search for certainty may seem like skepticism, but it isn’t. If I’m going to stake all that I am on something, I want to be certain it is for real and that goes for Jesus and all that He taught. I know He is for Real. I only wish I knew more, could see more, could understand more, and could perform better than I have in the past or am doing in the present.
Is Jesus divine? He certainly is. Is He the Son of God? Yes, He is. Is He God? Absolutely. But let us not stop here. Sure, it is a big dose for our human consciousness to try and contemplate and comprehend. But everything that is true about Jesus is also true about you, me and everyone else in this universe. Jesus says that we are all divine, we are sons of God, and that we are Gods—”Know ye not that ye are gods?”
Jesus did such fantastic things when He was here, such as the many miracles of healing, the walking on water, the changing of water into wine, and the feeding of the multitudes, that some felt then and some feel today that Jesus was not an actual person—He was a myth or some other type of non-physical entity. But He is real. He was then in the flesh and He still lives today. What He was trying to tell us was so advanced it may take another several thousand years before we as a race of humans even begin to let go some of our superstitious beliefs so that we can begin to comprehend what He was saying. Jesus said, “The works that I do ye shall do also and greater works than these shall ye do.” Not many Christians today would believe that possible even though Jesus Himself said it was possible.
Instead of rejecting outright a truth or a set of facts we find difficult to accept, we should pray for the ability to understand; instead of denying the facts totally as myth or fable, we should pray for the ability to perform them ourselves. There is no doubt that some things said about Jesus are legendary. But when we pray for understanding we will learn to separate truth from legend, fact from fiction, actual event from interpretation of that event.
After Jesus left or ascended He returned several times and appeared as a flesh and blood human being to quite a few different individuals. Sometimes the appearances were before groups and sometimes before one or two people. These were not subjective visions; they were actual appearances. Thomas the doubter was satisfied when he was able to touch Jesus’ wounds. We think we would welcome some appearances of Jesus today that would settle once and for all the many conflicting beliefs about Him. But, who would believe He was Jesus if He came here claiming that? I used to think it would solve many of Christianity’s problems but I don’t think it would; it would create many more. When the time comes and we are ready to grow out of our limited beliefs, wc won’t need any outer proof or evidence. We will discover that the Great Teacher within will guide us and lead us along the true path of self-discovery. Not a discovery of the human, limited self but the unlimited, unselfish, true spiritual Self, the God Presence within us.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” This doesn’t mean a blind type of faith or a naive hope. It is a faith based upon a true spiritual encounter with the Jesus Christ consciousness. Did He not say, “Lo, I am with you always”? The human thinking finds this hard to comprehend. Our three-dimensional framework of thought is so limited that fourth-dimensional ideas seem preposterous to us. In spiritual consciousness, the Jesus Christ consciousness, the fourth-dimensional realm of experience, there is no time or space. There is only omnipresence. There is no yesterday or tomorrow, there is only now. He is here this moment. But, you say, “I don’t see Him.” That doesn’t mean He is not here; it only means that you cannot see Him. In other words we are admitting our blindness in consciousness when we say we do not see Him. When you tell a blind person there is a tree before him, he believes you. He cannot see the tree but he believes that you can. Suppose the tree is in such a location that you cannot lead the blind person to touch it to verify it sensibly. Nevertheless he will still believe you because you say you can see the tree.
We might think of the presence of Jesus in the same manner. He is here. He is not here to make us more dependent. He is here to help us become more independent or, rather, He is here to help us become more dependent upon the Christ within us, God, and less dependent upon personalities outside of us. When we can handle our spiritual dependence and our outer independence then we will understand more fully why Jesus does not make an appearance here. Wise parents know there is a time when their offspring must learn to stand on their own two feet, so to speak. They may find this dependence upon the inner resource develops more quickly when they, the parents, are not around.
When we develop this inner dependence we will discover much more within us and around us that we did not know existed. This isn’t to imply that we will “see” things or people who are invisible. It simply means that we will have a comprehension of life that is comforting and meaningful. Visionary experiences may offer some people a false sense of comfort and reassurance but that is nothing compared to the reassurance of the Christ, the Presence of God within us.
Developing this inner dependence is essential for one who is preparing for a healthy existence in the New Age. It will take great spiritual strength to live in this glorious time. It will not be enough to know that Jesus was divine, which He was. It will be imperative that we know our own divinity as well. For it is dependence upon the Divine Presence within us that will assure us of success.
© 1981, Dr. James C. Lewis
All rights reserved by the author.
Reprinted with permission.