Hi magical friends!
I’ve been wanting for a while to do some exploring here about Jesus. Some of you know that I spent more than 20 years as a very black-n-white Christian, but thankfully also in a mystical Christian setting. Unfortunately, I thought we had the only truth and the only way to God. (If you want to hear more of my story, I have an article in Elephant Journal called, ‘How I Used To Be a Missionary with All the Answers: It’s Complicated.’)
I’ve been wanting for a while to write a blog/Facebook post/email that will probably be of most interest to those of you who have spent time in the world of the Christian church. I’ve been reading an author who is really making me wrinkle my brow and ponder…and rethink who Jesus is in our magical world, and what he meant when he said that we could do greater things than he did. I left the church more than a decade ago, but I still love Jesus, although the version of Jesus I connect with has changed over the years. So what the heck does he think about all these ideas that we are magical creators of our lives and stuff?
This author I’ve been reading is named Cynthia Bourgeault, and she’s an Episcopal priest who has also been deeply immersed in the Catholic contemplative movement. She’s a teacher of a Christian meditation technique called Centering Prayer, which I’ve been using lately and find very powerful. I love her book, ‘The Heart of Centering Prayer: Nondual Christianity in Theory and Practice,’ and another one about Mary Magdalene. If you come from of the Christian world and want to read something that will blow your mind, there’s ‘Love is Stronger than Death: The Mystical Union of Two Souls,’ which tells the story of her soulmate-connection with a celibate Trappist monk, a relationship which they both believed was destined to continue beyond his death.
Right now I’m working my way through, for the third time, Cynthia Bourgeault’s book called, ‘The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind–A New Perspective on Christ and His Message.’ I want to type out a bunch of quotes from the book that have totally struck me. Hopefully they’ll make sense out of context.
The first concept I’ve been chewing on is that Jesus came to transform human consciousness.
Jesus first and foremost as a wisdom teacher, a person who (for the moment setting aside the whole issue of his divine parentage) clearly emerges out of and works within an ancient tradition called “wisdom,” sometimes known as sophia perennis, which is in fact at the headwaters of all the great religious traditions of the world today. It’s concerned with the transformation of the whole human being….from a judgmental and dualistic worldview into a nondual acceptingness.
Jesus came first and foremost as a teacher of the path of inner transformation….His message was not one of repentance and return to the covenant. Rather, he stayed close to the perennial ground of wisdom: the transformation of human consciousness….What we are actually supposed to be doing on this path [is]: not just admiring Jesus, but acquiring his consciousness.
The second concept from her book that I’ve been pondering is that the world of Western Christianity focuses on Jesus as Savior, and a person’s salvation through having right belief. On the other hand, she says, Eastern Christianity and the early Christianity that’s come to light through the Nag Hammadi texts like the Gospel of Thomas, is focused on Jesus as wisdom, Jesus as an enlightened being, a fully divinized human, a master of consciousness, and a model for us to learn from. Here’s a really long bunch of quotes:
It’s the primary way that we approach our teacher, through what we believe about him.
The main difference between the Christianity we’re familiar with through our Western filter and the Christianity coming to us from these new sources [the mysticism of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and the early, non-canonical texts from Nag Hammadi] can be captured in two words which are not nearly as formidable as they first sound: the difference is between a soteriology and a sophiology. What do these two words mean? “Soteriology” comes from the Greek word soter, which means “savior.” The Christianity of the West has always been savior-oriented.
The Christianity of the East saw things radically differently. Theirs was not a soteriology, but a sophiology. The word “sophiology” has as its root the word “wisdom.” (Sophia is the Greek word for wisdom.) Christianity was supremely a wisdom path. For the earliest Christians, Jesus was not the Savior but the Life-Giver.
Jesus’s disciples saw in him a master of consciousness, offering a path through which they, too, could become ihidaya, enlightened ones. A sophiological Christianity focuses on the path. It emphasizes how Jesus is like us, how what he did in himself is something we are also called to do in ourselves. By contrast, soteriology tends to emphasize how Jesus is different from us—“begotten, not made,” belonging to a higher order of being—and hence uniquely positioned as our mediator.
Along with the overt requirement here (to learn what these beliefs are and agree with them) comes also a subliminal message: that the appropriate way to relate to Jesus is through a series of beliefs. In fundamentalist Christianity this message tends to get even more accentuated, to the point where faith essentially appears to be a matter of signing on the dotted lines to a series of creedal statements.
And finally, a third cluster of concepts that are, well, blowing my mind. Cynthia Bourgeault writes:
…the Kingdom of Heaven is really a metaphor for a state of consciousness…the Kingdom of Heaven is Jesus’s own favorite way of describing a state we would nowadays call a “nondual consciousness” or “unitive consciousness.” The hallmark of this awareness is that it sees no separation—not between God and humans, not between humans and other humans.
When Jesus talks about this Oneness, he is not speaking in an Eastern sense about an equivalency of being, such that I am in and of myself divine. What he more has in mind is a complete, mutual indwelling: I am in God, God is in you, you are in God, we are in each other.
“Love your neighbor as yourself”—as a continuation of your very own being. It’s a complete seeing that your neighbor is you. There are not two individuals out there, one seeking to better herself at the price of the other, or to extend charity to the other; there are simply two cells of the one great Life.
Wow, there’s so much amazing stuff here that I’m just starting to wrap my head around. When I first experienced reiki, I was like, holy shit, Jesus is the most amazing reiki master ever!!! When I bent a spoon, I thought, holy shit, no wonder Jesus could walk on water – he just rearranged a few bits of energy to make the water solid – just the opposite of me rearranging a few bits of energy to make the metal soft. And when I read the New Testament now with the idea that the kingdom of heaven is a metaphor for non-dual consciousness, to me it all falls into place.
But I wonder what YOU think! I’d love to hear your thoughts – to discuss, to disagree, to be blown away.
For those of you who are reading this on my blog, I’m purposely turning off the comments, because I’m also posting this on my Facebook group, ‘How to Create a Magical Life.’ I want to create lots of discussion, but for my sanity, I need it to be all in one place. So hop over to my group and respond – we need your voice! Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CreateYourMagicalLife/