Eric Butterworth Unity Podcast #48
Early in this talk, Eric Butterworth says “I freely confess a deep love for the man Jesus. Over 50 years, I’ve been on a personal quest to know what he was about.” Here is what Eric Butterworth believed about the life and message of Jesus. This Sunday sermon, about the life and message of Jesus, is the first in a series of three talks (“The Gospel Truth”). Subsequent talks discuss how the church responded to the life and message of Jesus.
We provide two different ways to listen to the audio because different Internet browsers have different requirements for playing audio. One of them should work for you. If neither one works, download the MP3 to your computer and use the audio player on your computer.
There are great moments in the history of the world, when a prophet or a savior appears with a great cosmic insight, and he’s able to impart it to people with a persuasive power and beauty. And there are great moments in the lives of individuals when they come face-to-face with such a cosmic insight, when it becomes clear and convincing to them. Such an insight and truth must not only be uttered, but to have authority, it must be lived by the person who utters it. It must become a transforming power in the daily lives of people who work with it.
Just such a figure is the man we call Jesus. The transcendent message he brought to the world is what I call the new insight in truth. This is the first lesson today of a trilogy which we’re calling The Gospel Truth. Basically, we’re going to answer a host of questions that have come to me over the years about Jesus and the religion in the church that would be called in his name.
First of all, I would like to ask you some questions, challenging questions, maybe even a little shocking. Hopefully, we can accept them with a kind of whimsy. First of all, was Jesus a Christian? Did Jesus accept Jesus Christ as his personal savior? If Jesus was seated at the table with a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Muhammadan, a Jew, a Zoroasterian, and a Shintoist, do you think he would turn to them and say, “You must all forsake your pagan beliefs and accept Christianity?”
To push it a little further, is God a Christian? You see, there was no Christianity when Jesus walked the earth. What he taught was a universal truth, which followers later made into the Christian religion. I have to believe that if Jesus were here today, he would be a leader in bringing religion without ritual, spirituality without ecclesiasticism. He might well view the Christian churches with all their dogma and form and ceremony and ritual as strange, to say the least. That’s shocking.
Right at the outset, let me try to analyze the person, the character, the origin of Jesus. It’s difficult to approach the subject without coming smack up against the name that has been deified, words that have been codified, and pictures that have been made haloed and unreachable.
I freely confess a deep love for the man Jesus. Over 50 years, I’ve been on a personal quest to know what he was about. But as much as I am committed to the absolutes of metaphysical truth, I feel a strong need for the loving compassion engendered by Jesus. I’m very much aware of the hazard of sailing up a watercourse that is absolutely cluttered with cliches, emotional attachments, and a confused dogma of formulas, rituals, and relics.
How do you study the life and consciousness of Jesus? You might say in the Good Book, of course. But that’s an extreme oversimplification. For one thing, there are no firsthand written accounts of Jesus’ life from which a verbal or a visual report could be fashioned. Oh, there were eyewitnesses to the public ministry, obviously. But it’s highly unlikely that any of them can be identified with the authors of the four Gospels, which scholars now tell us were written 40 to 60 years after Jesus’ death.
During the intervening years, there evolved an oral tradition of the happenings, the inevitable process of glorifying the figure of Jesus. So what emerged in the Gospel accounts that we read is a virgin-born, God-ordained, miracle-working, divine creature beyond any possible human frame of reference.
I’ve always felt that too much attention is given to Jesus’ divinity, not enough to his humanity. This again is somewhat shocking to some to think of it in this way. This is not to question his divinity, because I believe that he discovered the divine depth within himself, but he discovered it as a depth within all persons.
We insist that he was a person like you and me. So in the gospel story, you’re not witnessing God acting as a man for a while, but you’re seeing a man on the quest, a man who ate and drank and had friends, yes, and enemies, a man who slept out of doors, was extremely dark of skin, and a man who never ate with a knife and fork in his life. So today, I want you to think of a Jesus as a real live person.
I speculate on this particular image that I’d like you to hold in your conscious for a while, let us zoom in like a TV camera on a scene in the hills of Galilee about 2,000 years ago. We see a young lad of about 12 laying back in the grass, looking lazily at the clouds, wondering like the psalmists of old 1,000 years before, what is man? What is life? What am I? Why am I like I am?
One day, it happened. Into the consciousness of this thoughtful lad came an idea so great that he probably didn’t catch its full implications at first. It was the concept leading to the full realization of his unity with God. The philosopher Fichte once said, “Insight into the absolute unity of man with the divine is the profoundest knowledge that a person can obtain.” This was the true beginning of the age of Christ as I see it.
Up to this time, man had existed in the thought of separation from God. He may have prayed to God, he may have talked to God, he may have received guidance from God, but God had always been somehow up there and man down here, with a great separation between them. Now Jesus knew what the psalmist has implied when he said, “Be still and know that I am God.” Now he knew that the kingdom of God, the wealth of the universe, was the depth of potential within him and within all persons.
We cannot know how long the process required to fulfilling consciousness that which had so dramatically dawned in his mind, but we can know and we should realize that it was a progressive growth process that continued right up to the final experience in Gethsemane. But we totally misread Jesus’ life and teachings. We fail to realize that he was first a student on the quest, working to achieve in consciousness the fullness of the Christ. Remember, he said, “I have overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil,” which you see indicates that he had something to overcome. That’s a shock to some folks, who like to think of Jesus as the very God.
Paul says he was tested in all points such as we, but without sin. The temptation of the human and the flesh was real, but he was always able to say to the temptation of human consciousness, “Get thee hence, Satan.” We’re going to be talking about Satan and evil in the third lecture of the trilogy, so we’ll pass over that for now.
It’s important to remember, as I point out often, that Jesus was a Jew. He undoubtedly had the same education in the synagogue of his hometown of Nazareth as all the other boys of the town. He was well aware of the Old Testament prophecy of a coming Messiah. Christian tradition holds that this prophecy of the Messiah is the promise of the coming of Jesus, and it is this that caused much of the confusion among the Jews over accepting Jesus, because clearly he said he was the Messiah, which to them was blasphemy.
When Isaiah wrote, “For unto us a child is born, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” he was putting into poetic form the hidden longing of all persons, the urge to be more, to do more, to have more. The prophets of old had an intuitive awareness of the principle of the divinity of man, that Jesus held and demonstrated, and they inadvertently created what I call a mantle, that was forever held up for someone to claim and wear and live up to in the life of self-mastery and world leadership.
It is obvious that Jesus had become intrigued by the idea of this mantle of the Messiah. It was the preoccupation of many of his meditations. It evolved into a determination to wear the mantle himself, to accept the challenge to become that Messiah.
So on that fateful day when he returned home to Nazareth, he went into the synagogue, turned to the Scriptures, and read from the book of Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor, he has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and the recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” These were not his words. He was reading from a Scripture. It says he closed the book and said, “This day is the Scripture fulfilled in your ears.”
Now Christian theology has insisted this was the prophecy of the coming of Jesus, that it was fulfilled in him, that Jesus is the hope of mankind, that we must believe on Jesus to be saved. I say the prophecy was not fulfilled in Jesus, but was revealed through him, that the hope of mankind is the Christ Spirit, the principle of sonship that Jesus discovered revealed and pointed to within all of us. So when Jesus read Isaiah’s prophecy, he was saying, “I will be the one. I will become the Messiah.” But it was a conscious choice, and that’s important. It was a conscious choice.
So Jesus was not predestined to be the Messiah. It was predestined that the discovery of the divinity of man would ultimately be made, much in the same way as it was once predestined that electricity would be harnessed. However, it was not predestined that it be by Edison. Edison did have a strong predisposition to be the wizard of electricity, and Jesus was predisposed in consciousness to achieve mastery and become the Christ. In other words, he had the readiness and the potential in consciousness, but it was his decision to make and he could have failed. That’s shocking, isn’t it? He could have failed. If he had been predestined to be the Messiah, why the struggle in the wilderness? That he rejected the temptations of Satan is proof of the commitment to press on, but it certainly does not indicate a predestined life.
What of the person struggling in the Garden of Gethsemane? I see a man, greater in faith and dedication than any man before or since, but still a man, coming close to his goal of mastery, but in the last gasp of human resistance, tempted to go off and live a normal life. Remember he said, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” But he won the struggle and he said, “Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” But again, he could have failed. That he did not does not prove that he could not, but that he would not. That’s an important distinction.
So this was not very God, but a man like you and and me who had caught the vision of infinite possibilities within him, struggling up the mount of overcoming toward the goal of resurrection of mastery. I love especially the time Jesus whipped the money changers from the temple. It’s a scene that is fixed very importantly in my consciousness, because for a moment Jesus became violently angry and his actions are usually rationalized by calling them righteous indignation. He had a right to do this. They had no right to be in the temple doing business, but you see we’re dealing with the law not caprice.
Jesus clearly said himself, “Resist not that which is evil, but overcome evil with good.” Much as we may not want to face it, for the moment Jesus lost his cool. This means a lot to me, because if he could have a lapse in the high conscious that he was in, there’s hope for you and me.
Christianity has lost sight of this aspect of Jesus through the worship of the man. Interestingly, many truth students make the same mistake. To emotionally hold Jesus to your breast, to visualize his face when you meditate, to adorn your walls with his pictures, may well be to lose your way.
Jesus obviously did not believe in guru worship. A man once knelt down before Jesus and said, “Good master.” Jesus abruptly cut him off in the middle of his sentence, and said, “None is good, save God.” He would not even allow himself to be looked upon as a guru.
It’s important to be straight on one point. We often talk about Jesus divine powers. He never once attributed anything to himself that he did not clearly indicate as possible to all persons. “All that I do, you can do, too, if you have faith.”
There’s a story that I’ve told so often, it’s apropos so I’ll tell it again. A young man that I used to talk with in casual conversations when he was going to college, we argued about religion and he was always the agnostic and I was the proponent of spiritual ways. He went off into the Army in the Korean War, and when he came home, he came back to see me, and this time strangely I was surprised. He had a minister’s garb on. He was an Episcopalian priest.
We had a lunch together for old times’ sake, but the interesting thing was now he was the advocate of the spiritual way and I was the agnostic, punching holes in his theology. So as a part of the conversation, I stressed this point that Jesus said, “All that I do, you can do, too, if you have faith.” He got very still and he said, “Yeah, I just wish Jesus had never said that.”
There’s a lot of confusion in religion about Jesus, which I clearly distinguish from the religion of Jesus. We’ll talk more about that in a later talk of this series. The key to this confusion is in the usage of the word Jesus and Christ. The words are usually used interchangeably. If you’re going to really catch the message of Jesus [inaudible 00:14:58] teaching, you must resolve this conflict. The preachers often say Christ did this and Christ did that, Christ walked and Christ healed, but I say Christ did nothing. Jesus was the teacher. He taught from the Christ consciousness. Christ is not a person.
One woman often said after hearing me make this point in a talk many years ago, “Oh my, I always thought Jesus was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Christ.” But Christ is not a last name. It’s not a name at all. It is Jesus who trod the shores of Galilee and who taught eternal truths, not Christ.
Get this clear and make a correction in your own mind when you hear or read that Christ said this and Christ said that. Christ is not Jesus. Jesus demonstrated the divine process in his perfect expression of life, but he made it very clear that it is a principle and a process within everyone, within you and me. Christ in you is your own unique pattern of perfection, along with the divine power to fulfill it.
One way you can get this clear in mind is to think of a possession. Jesus apostrophe s Christ, Jesus’s Christ. And to carry it further, Eric’s Christ, August’s Christ, your Christ, the Christ in you which is your own depth, your personal relationship with the divine flow, which is always you at the heart of your being. This Christ idea of God in man, which has so long been identified as Jesus, is also the God-man principle in [inaudible 00:16:37], in Confucius, in Buddha, in Krishna, in Zoroaster, in Muhammad, in Moses, in Plato, in Emerson, and in you and me. Can you get that point? It’s so important.
So the difference between Jesus and each of us is not one of inherent spiritual capacity, but a difference in the demonstration of it. We’re not saying that we’re all equal with Jesus because he was so far advanced and achieved his overcoming, which we all look forward to, but the possibility for that overcoming exists eternally within each one of us. Pontius Pilate and Jesus were one as regards being, but they were poles apart as regards manifestation.
So every person is a spiritual being. Every person is innately good. Every person is a potential Christ. Only a very few know this, and even a fewer number succeed in expressing any marked degree of perfection of the Christ indwelling. So certainly we all have a long way to go. Let’s don’t fool ourselves about this, but we have the goal which is believable and achievable. There’s that in you and me which is perfectible. More than this, the Christ demonstration is repeatable. Jesus said, “Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” You won’t hear that very many time, but it’s a very important realization.
But the exciting thing is that wherever you may be along the way, no matter what the problems or challenges you may face, there’s always more in you, the mystery of God in you, the Christ in you, which means your potential for healing, for overcoming, for prosperity, for succeeding, and there’s no limit.
Paul challenges us to stir up the gift of God that is within you. He seems to mean that we can awaken the sleeping giant of our God-self at any time and find the power adequate to meet any need. That’s the tremendous insight that comes from the Christian teachings, if we can deal with the religion of Jesus and not get involved with the religion about Jesus.
It was Paul, too, who said in his letter to the Colossians, “Even the mystery which has been hid from ages and generations, but now is made manifest, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Charles [Fenmore 00:18:44] called this the greatest statement of the Bible, but oh how this statement has been misunderstood. In the evolution of what is called Christology, this has become a major foundation. Jesus was the mystery hid for generations, Jesus in you, the hope of glory. It certainly confuses the issue.
Another theological confusion of Christology concerns the opening verses of the book of John, which goes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It has been erroneously assumed that John was referring to Jesus as the Word. From there, it is but a short step to the concept that Jesus is God and that Jesus created the world in the beginning. If you’ve never heard that, listen to some of the fundamentalists on radio or television. You’ll hear it over and over.
Actually, the term word comes from the Greek logos, which most scholars today agree should never have been translated because there’s no adequate definition for it. It means the fundamental creative principle of the universe. It is the I am force. When we go back to the word beginning, we see that it does not refer to a point in time, sometime back there in the beginning, but a foundation on which to build, the beginning of your own personal growth. You see, now it becomes your story, that the foundation of your being within is the creative logos. Now the rest of the John statement makes sense. “All things were made by this logos. Without it was not made anything that was made. In this logos was life, and the life was the light of men, the same light that lighten every man coming into the world.”
So you see a very simple statement of universal truth is perverted into a statement of anthropomorphism, and the great truth of oneness is emasculated. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord God is one.” Oneness, unity, wholeness. So in the Colossians statement, Christ in you the hope of glory, he’s not referring to Jesus. Again, Christ is not a person. It’s the great idea, the potential and process of the divinity of man, this divine principle, this process of fulfillment in you is your hope of achievement and overcoming.
Jesus discovered this as a depth potential within. He certainly discovered it in himself, but if we stop there, we set him up as the redeemer of all persons who believed in him. But he didn’t see himself in that way. Again, he said, “None is good, save God.” That’s so important.
Interesting enough, Jesus never used the word Christ. His term was Father. The Father knows what things you have need of. It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Talking about the Father within, your very own flow of the creative logos. Important law of life, what God has done, God can do. What Jesus has done, you can do. He said, “All that I have done, you can do also, and greater things than these shall you do.”
Now how did Jesus come to know this universal principle? In the same way that all discoveries are made, by personal revelation, followed by discipline and practice. Unfortunately, tradition is to glorify Jesus, thinking of him under a special dispensation. But you’ll note that the Gospel writers refer many times to Jesus going out into the wilderness on a mountain to pray, to meditate. Why would he do this if he was very God? He was not God become man. He was man becoming God, and the meditations of his life were the growth processes, were his own discipline, his own practice of the presence, a record of becoming, purifying his vision of life, giving focus to the indwelling Christ.
Emerson caught the vision of Jesus in the great revealer of Christ. He says, “Alone in all history, he estimated the greatness of man. One man was true to what is in you and me.” He saw that God incarnates himself in man and evermore goes forth anew to take possession of his world. He said in his jubilee of sublime emotion, “I am divine. Through me, God acts. Through me, God speaks. Would you see God? See me. Or see thee when thou thinkest as I think.” Then he goes on to say what a distortion did his doctrine and memory suffer in the same, in the next, and the following ages.
The fundamentalists plaster signs all over saying Jesus saves. I’m sure you’ve seen it dozens of times. I’m sure I would be condemned of blasphemy when I say Jesus doesn’t save. He points the way by which the person can be transformed by the renewing of his mind. Salvation comes from the inward flow of the Christ process. Jesus is the teacher, the example, proving that there is a possibility within us. It is not something that is done for us.
In my book, Discover the Power Within You, I use an illustration that many people tell me has been helpful. I point out that Jesus figuratively created a window in the cosmic shell of race beliefs, a great picture window that opened out into a beautiful panorama of the spiritual dimension of life. So when he said, “Come unto me,” he is urging us to sit with him so we could know where he was coming from, his finger pointing out the window. Remember, the Orientals have an expression, the teacher points to the truth, the student worships the pointer.
So Jesus was saying, “Don’t look at me, look to the truth as I do. See yourself in the light of Christ within as I have seen myself in that light. Believe on me and the demonstrations that have come through me. Understand what it means that you too can do all these things when you make the discovery in yourself that I have made in myself.” Never forget this window, because it is, as Emerson says, your inlet that may become an outlet to all there is in God. But the window is something to be seen through, not just looked at.
The disciples carried on the good news of the gospel of Jesus. At first, they didn’t understand, but in time they saw the picture and they went about urging people to come to the window, to use the illustration. Generations passed, the contagious influence of Jesus faded, all the people still came to the window, but most of them simply stared at the window in all its austerity.
Years passed, and in time the window became dusty and opaque. Eventually no one saw through the window at all. It became the object instead of the medium. Gradually, but relentlessly, it was adorned with gold and gems with the crucifix and the challis and candles, and it became the altar of worship. Through the ages, countless millions have come and knelt before the altar.
Only here and there, a clear minded thinker has cleaned the darkened glass to see through the window. It is still there, as relevant to the life of every person as it was 2,000 years ago. Any person may wipe away the dusty concepts and have a firsthand and immediate experience of God.
As I point out in my Discover the Power Within You, there are many non-Christian students on the quest. To these I say don’t fight the story of Jesus and the words Jesus and Christ. The reference you often hear is Jesus said this and that, it’s the idea, the personal revelation that counts. You can lay hold of the true fundamental dynamic that Jesus is dealing with even if you substitute the words force, genius, potential, inner power, divinity for the words Christ.
Actually, one may hug Jesus to his breast and emotion forever and still miss the dynamic that Jesus revealed. Another person may deny Jesus and still catch the essence of his concept of universal truth, and that’s the key. As for me, I accept Jesus as my friend and teacher, for it gives me a very real example in the caring help of an older brother. But not as my redeemer because I’m convinced that no one can do it for me. But I see him rather as the revealer of the way, that I with the inside of truth can lift myself unto.
Jesus’ message for our time is something like this. Dare to think the unthinkable, that as I discover the Christ in myself, you can make this discovery of the divine depth within you. Dare to believe that the same mind that is in me is in you, that as I have tapped the super mind resource, you can express the limitlessness of your own mind. Dare to follow me in the overcoming, not worshiping me, but getting the sense of personal worthship that I have about myself, and going forward to discover the kingdom of God possibilities in you as I’ve discovered them within me.
Let’s be still for just a moment.
Paul talked about seeing in a mirror darkly, and he stresses that when the consciousness of our oneness comes, then we see face-to-face. For a moment, let’s get this vision, a vision to the window, and the need to make the window open and clear, cleansing away the dusty concepts, eliminating the opaqueness that causes you to just see the window, so that you see through the deeper dimensions of life, the deeper dimensions of ourselves.
Let me hear those words of Jesus, “Come unto me. Come and sit where I sit and see as I see.” Realize that in you which is true of the depth within all persons. Make a commitment to act from the depth and the God-self in you and the divine potential. Affirm for yourself that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God, that Christ in you is your hope of glory. But remember, we’re not talking about Jesus. We’re talking about that which Jesus discovered, which he achieved.
Christ in you is the divine in you, your very own God-potential, your very own sonship. So through the Christ in you, you can do all things. And make the commitment in your exposure to various philosophies and teachings to keep very much aware of this purity of the Christ idea. See, not identify it as any person, only that the person may be giving expression to his own potential.
We catch this realization, that we’re on the way to an awareness of a universal principle so that in our experience, if you know going on into the world proselytizing creeds, but rather an insistence on practicing principles, not trying to encourage other folks to accept and endorse our particular bulk of cliches, but to make our lives a living example of the releasement of this divine potential.
As Jesus said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me.” As I became aware of this divine depth and give expression to it, a greater degree of my own potentiality in all that I do, to become more loving, more forgiving, more cooperative, that I become an example. It is in this sense that we fulfill Jesus’ words, “Go ye into the world and preach the gospel.”
John [Schumer 00:31:26] stresses this in a symbolic word that means go ye into the world of your own consciousness, into the far reaches of your human experience and your thoughts and feelings. Preach the gospel in lifting yourself to an awareness of the divine potential within you. Let your light shine, and men will see your light and glorify your Father who art in heaven.
Praise God for the truth that makes us free, amen.