The truth is, it is not Jesus as historically known,
but Jesus as spiritually arisen within men,
that is significant for our time, and can help it.
Albert Schweitzer, 1906
"Come in, sit down. I have something to tell you." Ludwig greeted Lovejoy. "You want a cup of tea or something. Say what are you doing here tonight? I thought you were going to Boston to plan your life's new direction."
"I think I just got rerouted today. That's what I wanted to talk about."
"Well, if you're confused now wait till I tell you what I've discovered about your religion."
"My religion? Why is it mine? I thought you were Christian too."
"I believe in what Christ taught. I'm not sure that makes me a modern day Christian. Maybe 'Christist" would be a better term. But come in, sit down."
Lovejoy did just that. He knew that Ludwig was prone to brainstorms that seemed to step on the toes of large groups of people. Such a digression could be just what he needed.
"Have I ever told you the story of Jesus in India?"
"Well, it's an old one actually. Jesus went to India searching for a righteous way of life, and fell in with a group of Hindu ascetics."
"Jesus went to India?"
"Yes, right after he was in the Egyptian priesthood. But that's another story. Anyway, for six years he tried asceticism but ultimately felt they were just as consumed with thinking about the body as those who loved sensual pleasures. So he up and left, going northward into the mountains to study Buddhism. Here he flourished as a star student but gradually came to realize his life's calling. As he achieved inner realization, he felt it necessary to bring his understanding home to his people in the west. He was sent off by the Buddhist monks with great expectations and hopes for his success."
"Where did you hear this?"
"In all these books." he gestured. "According to one they called him 'St. Issa'. He went back to his homeland to teach the way to enlightenment. The rest they say is history."
"Sorry, I don't know if I buy that."
"Wait, there's more. What did religions preach before?"
"You mean in Judaism?"
"In the Egyptian priesthood, in Israel, in China's Confucianism, everywhere. 'Live right, or go to Hell.'"
"I thought Hell was a Christian notion."
"It's more ancient than that, but Hell isn't the point. My point is that you had to live by a certain code of good behavior or you'd never gain a pleasant afterlife. These codes of behavior became so complex and arduous that no one could live up to them. People despaired of ever achieving heaven or enlightenment. Some become cynical about such a possibility, and no longer hesitated to turn to criminal behavior. And certain priests further aggravated the situation by aggrandizing their roles and themselves in a hypocritical fashion.
"So what's a village elder to do?" Ludwig continued. "We need order. Our social structure needs people to follow the rules. If we make the goal too difficult, people react adversely. But we can't just say, 'Don't bother trying.'"
"I don't know. You tell me."
"Well, about the time Jesus supposedly went west, Buddhism was six hundred years old. Six centuries is a long time. Long enough for religious bureaucracies and administrative hierarchies to build. Long enough for the same type of neurosis about being perfect in right thinking, right action, and so forth to develop. Around this time, a new religious movement developed within Buddhism. It was centered around 'Amitahba Buddha'. The idea was, if during your life you constantly focused your attention upon this Amitahba Buddha, then when you died, even if you weren't fully enlightened, you wouldn't have to be reborn. You could go to what was called a "New Land", sort of a holding place on the way to nirvana. Here you would rest peacefully, like a lily pad on the surface of a pond, surrounded with angelic chants encouraging you towards a perfect state of mind. Eventually full enlightenment would suffuse your consciousness and lift you into other realms."
"Ok. So what does this have to do with Jesus?"
"This is very similar to the salvation tale that Jesus brings to the Jews, and eventually others. 'You don't have to be perfect, just focus on me, as the earthly representative of God, and I will lift you up when you die.' Of course the business about reincarnation was not as universal back in the Near East.
"But the redemption of imperfect souls merely by focusing on a specific teacher, be it Christ or Amitahba, occurs simultaneously in both Buddhism and the Jewish cult of Christianity. Let somebody else do the work for you. I'll achieve Nirvana for you, I'll die for your sins. You just focus upon me. It solves the Elders' riddle. This theology takes the impossible expectations away and still keeps the people out of trouble."
"Right, we are saved by grace and not works."
"Jesus stole the idea from the newest Buddhist trend at that time and took it to his homeland."
"Maybe he gave it to the Buddhists."
"Great! Either way these two religions are connected at that point."
"That's sort of what I'm here to talk to you about."
"Go on. I've said my piece."
"Well, I talked to God earlier today."
"And He talked back."
"He? God is a He?"
"Well, whatever. It's more like a voice in my mind."
"Are you sure you're Ok?"
"That's part of the point. We talked about it. How can I tell it is God? He, She..."
"Humor me. Use 'She' for awhile."
"Ok. She said that it's impossible to tell whether I'm talking to God or whether I'm dealing with a deeper part of my psyche."
"I call it the 'Equivalency Principle'."
"What you just said. Anything that can be put in the standard religious terms of Gods, angels, demons, even destiny, karma and afterlife, can be equivalently phrased in terms of psychological structures."
"So... Why should that be?"
"It's an epistemological argument really. We come into this world as babes and have to organize the chaos of our sensory input. To a certain extent it's all arbitrary, nevertheless we develop different systems of explanation. Each system has its strengths and weaknesses. No one system can be perfectly complete. That would be like a tree explaining the forest of which it is a part. So no one system is more true in any absolute sense than another."
"But each system tries to have an explanation for everything."
"Right. And psychology is science's section dedicated to emotions, drives, imaginations and thinking."
"Can't you devise an experiment to decide between the two systems?"
"Experiments are done within a system. Any experiment done within one system or another is biased from the start. Each system is grown and shaped by the info that is already out there. If a new type of information becomes available, each system molds and reshapes itself to incorporate the information within its own viewpoint. The last thing a paradigm says when confronted with new information is, 'Let's drop the whole world view.'"
"God said it didn't matter whether I thought it was really God or my own unconscious talking to me. Ultimately I was responsible for what I do."
"How refreshing. So what did God tell you to do?"
"Save the universe."
"How unrefreshing. Isn't that idea a bit pass'?"
"I said that I was lucky if I could save myself."
"Even if God did give you some fabulous words of wisdom, the days of people blindly following a leader are over. Besides it didn't work very well. The first few generations after Christ were OK but check in later during the Middle Ages when each new heretical group had its town burned down. Or look at the Crusades wherein thousands of self righteous people go to wipe out the Arabs who actually held the crucible of western civilization while Europe was in the Dark Ages."
"Why do you pick on the Christians? As far as I can tell most of the world's religions had their gory days."
"My point exactly. The teacher's words become twisted posthumously for political purposes. I hope you're not going to start a new religion. Does She want you to become a guru?"
"Not after what I've just been through with the Ring. I'm beginning to form a notion that becoming a guru is one of the traps along the spiritual path. Think about it. A guru sets him or herself up as the one to tell you about God or the spiritual world. That creates a mini-hierarchy with the guru in-between you and God. How can you get to know God when you have to work through this intermediary? Even if the guru had something truthful to say, you wouldn't understand it fully until it was part of your experience. This is even more true in the spiritual world, which is so subjective, than in day-to-day living.
"And the guru, well, they stop learning and start repeating what they have taught." Lovejoy continued. "Sooner or later the student surpasses the teacher. There's a blow to the ego. Being a spiritual teacher is very seductive as an ego trip. Who wants to give that up? The more inside histories I learn about today's gurus, the more I realize we never got the full story on yesterday's spiritual leaders."
"But for the sake of argument, doesn't every other field of learning have teachers. I mean we learn math from a math teacher, right?" Ludwig asked.
"Spirituality is more than math. It consumes every bit of who you are. If you accept a teacher for that, then you lose who you are and become like the teacher, if that were possible. Even if you had a perfect teacher, it would be you following someone else's spiritual path. Unless you think that two people can be identical in the deepest portions of themselves."
"We're back to being responsible for ourselves."
"What's the point of me even listening to this God?" Lovejoy asked.
"It may be a part of you that you need to hear. So what else did She say?"
"Something about vehicles. Like our body was a vehicle."
"That's not difficult. The physical body is seen as a vehicle for the consciousness. The idea is that the consciousness temporarily gets into the vehicle, the physical body, for awhile. Some say, beings who were once like the Gods, entered into physical bodies so they could enjoy sensual pleasures. Then they got trapped and couldn't get back to their previous ethereal forms. That was 'the Fall'. Some say consciousness uses the body for certain purposes, such as learning lessons in this three dimensional world."
"She also talked about ideas. Ideas were more important than single humans. Ideas have an evolution all their own, faster than that of humans."
"Fine, but what ideas are we talking about?"
"She's concerned about the world, or humans, or both, not lasting long enough to succeed. Succeed at developing this vehicle. I'm not sure what idea will help though. How can I tell whether the ideas are really worthwhile or even safe?"
"Jesus said it. 'By their fruits ye shall know them.'"
Soltrey@humanmind.net is copyrighted July 2000. All rights reserved B.T. Brian Brown.