Note for TBF:
I have had a love/hate relationship with this being named Jesus for a very long time. And I've been threatening to write a "book" about the evolution of the deity and consciousness for a long time, It is articles like this one that inspire me and cause me to challenge myself to "get a move on" - do something, write something, start down that new path. I do believe it's time for me - for all of us - to "get a move on."
What do we know?
We’ve always known well enough.
We know enough about politics to know when an idea’s time has come. We know enough about the principles that move and motivate people. They are the same today as they were 2,000 years ago. They are those universal principles found in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: fear, safety, community, belonging, status, esteem and actualization (another word for “becoming” or, possibly, “salvation”).
Ideas are played out by the people who live them. Empires are built around ideas. People resist, rise up and rebel against ideas that don’t fit their worldview. New ways of governance (or idea-generation) are born. We have been transcending ideas for as long as we’ve had the ability to communicate. These ideas, social forces and methods of leadership either work or they don’t work. It’s that simple. It’s people who birth and bear these ideas out and have to live together inside them.
We call this politics, but we’ve known how to move and stir people since the dawn of storytelling and the first human migration.
We know enough about archaeology to understand that what the Bible says about Noah’s fantastic ark and the great flood is not empirically “true.” While a localized flood may have taken place, the story about the ark (and the fable woven around it) is a myth we’ve been given in order to find a deeper, more personal, meaning. It’s a story about creatures in relationship to Creation – their importance to the planet and to one another. Perhaps most importantly, for the writers or re-tellers of that myth, the story is about our relationship to those creatures and about our sense of dominion or responsibility for creation. From the Inuit tribe (North America) to the Shatapatha Brahmana (India, 700–300 BCE), the warning of floodwaters sent by a god (or gods) to cleanse or punish – and the human command to gather plants and animals in a boat, elevating our species as preserver and protector of life – is quite common.
It is the first baptism, a world submerged and reborn. The appearance of this myth around the world doesn’t mean it was a historic event that happened on a global scale. It means the archetype of submersion (death) and rebirth (resurrection) – and the duality of human powerlessness in the face of the Creator and power over all of creation – is a global idea.
We know enough about earth science and cosmology to know that if things are happening on the surface of the world today, they most likely happened the same way 3,000 years ago. The earth’s basic components (elements and minerals) do not respond differently today to radiation or pressure. The tectonic plates shift as they have always shifted. Volcanoes don’t sleep or awaken differently now than they did 2,000 years ago. Ice doesn’t melt differently than it did 5,000 years ago. Stars are born (and die) the same as they did a billion years ago. In fact, some of that light, or what we perceive as a star, is just now reaching us billions of years later. There’s a consistency to the way the planet, and our world, works. That’s why we call them “laws” of nature.
We know enough about human psychology to know that when Jesus was casting out demons and cleansing people of evil spirits, he was dealing with sick or highly traumatized and potentially psychotic people. Healing them – and the families that surrounded and supported them – through touch, faith or the power of positive thinking is no less miraculous today. But metaphysics doesn’t require the supernatural. It doesn’t require any outside influence, it simply requires that all things are fundamentally connected. This kind of healing requires that we reconcile the inner with the outer and the individual with the community.
We know enough about matter and time and the nature of the Cosmos to know that it hasn’t changed since the origin of the Universe (or what we call the Big Bang). Molecules, quarks and electrons didn’t recently learn how to behave. We have just recently learned how to observe them – and learned the limitations of our own observation.
Though we might be hurtling toward the singularity, “Omega Point” (de Chardin) or the “achronon” (Jean Gebser) where time ceases to be linear, our perception (understanding) of time remains infinitely different than the nature of time, or the way it has always worked.
Which brings us to the idea that in the first century – a mere 2,000 years ago in the vast 13 billion year timeline since the Big Bang (or the 3.5 billion years that life has existed on Earth) – something happened in which the finite and infinite were mashed together and one person on earth (for roughly 30 years) channeled the God-like powers of the Universe to give life and resurrect the dead, to heal the sick and psychotic with a word or touch, to give sight to the blind, to cure conditions like schizophrenia and diseases like leprosy. This idea – that one person’s birth and death meant salvation (or actualization) for the entire human species, or that there was a single generation (at least in one ZIP Code) responsible for killing this person – is unimaginable. Think of the power and responsibility. Think of the generational guilt. Think of the drama.
The idea that the moral and existential stakes were somehow higher for all beings 2,000 years ago than they are today is unthinkable. With the advent of nuclear fission and widespread environmental destruction and continued war and violence, the stakes are just as high (if not higher) today.
We know enough now to say this idea is far-fetched. Or, rather, it’s unbelievable.
THE JESUS MUTATION
If matter, time, mind and soul function the same way now as they did 2,000 years ago — and if Jesus was what some would have us believe (God-made-flesh, the first alien superhero) — then we would have seen an accelerated rate of mutation after Jesus’s appearance on Earth.
Before 1954, something as simple as running a mile in less than four minutes was thought to be an “unattainable goal.” Yet, on the morning of Thursday, May 6, 1954 (after working a shift at the local hospital and catching a train to Oxford University) Roger Bannister ran a mile in just 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds. Just 46 days later, someone broke Bannister’s record. Today there are high-school students who can do it.
Inevitably, the Jesus “mutation” would lead to other “mutations.” Today, YouTube would be full of people healing themselves and each other in the streets. We would see people walking on water. People would be coming back from the dead. People would be multiplying food stores in order to solve the problem of world hunger. Miracles would be all around us. And while we do see “miraculous“ things happening every day — “superhuman” feats of strength and agility, the healing of bodies, the large-scale manufacturing of food, restoration of sight (both literally and figuratively) — they are largely explainable by science. We simply do not see unexplainable “miracles” (or inexplicable magic) happening today.
Occam’s Razor states that “all things being equal, the simplest explanation must be true.” If this is so, the stories we tell and have been told about Jesus are a vital part of our mythology that don’t always need to be grounded in science or fact.
He was no doubt a prophet, healer, metaphysician and rabbi — a man who led an uprising and a rebellion.
Was he able to perform magic? Did he have supernatural, God-like powers? Probably not. It was a mutation on another fundamentally interior dimension – a mutation of consciousness. Or, better yet, Jesus’s teaching was not a mutation at all, but a virus of the mind.
We know enough about sociology to know that one charismatic leader can influence the masses and potentially shift the hearts and minds of an entire nation. One person with the power of presence, patience, empathy, vision and the ability to tell stories can change the world.
One Gandhi. One Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Mutations are a leap forward. If we’re not seeing mutants running through the streets – if we’re not seeing “real” magic – then what was the evolutionary leap that happened at year zero, the threshold “Before Christ” and “Anno Domini?”
First, it was something that was aching to spring from the collective unconscious of the first century – a leap in theology from a monotheism that implied Caesar (like emperors before him) was Zeus, and that he, as Lord, held the world in his hands. This is clearly depicted in the statue of Caesar (“Augustus as Jupiter”) and its similarities to the statue at Olympia. With the birth of Christ, this avatar-based monotheism was being rejected. You didn’t need a ruler or Caesar or priest to connect with God. The Divine was in us all. You could have a relationship with Abba (the father) or Creator right here and now with no need for a rabbi. In Arabic, the word is a’bwoon (meaning father/mother, divine parent, birther of the Cosmos). That was the radical evolutionary leap in theology that Christ represents.
As John Dominic Crossan points out, the titles “Lord,” “Savior of the World,” “Redeemer from Sin,” “Divine,” “Son of God,” were all names given to “Caesar the Augustus” and transferred by his followers to “Jesus the Christ” in his time. This is what was at the heart of the political conflict of Jesus‘s day and what is so important to the vision represented by his resurrection. It was a conflict between two versions of the world.
“On one hand,” Crossan says, “religion leads us to war, then to victory and finally to peace. On the other hand, religion leads us to non-violence, then to justice, then peace. Peace through victory or peace through justice.”
This is the real battle for the vision and fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. A world where the crown rests on the head of a man sitting on a throne who claims to be God or a world where we give the celestial crown to the creator of the cosmos – a Holy Spirit that moves in us all.
Another leap that the masses were ready for was the breaking of chains – a transcendence of the political power systems of the enslaved and oppressed. Jesus encouraged all of us to make that radical leap and “see” ourselves as freed.
As Bob Marley sang the words of Marcus Garvey, “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.”
It’s this journey from slavery to freedom that we continue to celebrate during Passover.
Yet a third “superhuman” shift in paradigm brought by Jesus is that you can heal yourself with the power of the mind, human touch and connection. You can reconnect directly with God (Source) through prayer and meditation. You can heal your mind (and sometimes your body) simply by affirming that in your DNA, at your core, you are an inseparable part of this beautiful Creation – the greenest shoot at the tip of the spiral fractal that is unfolding through space and time. Music and cosmology and biology, light and sound, history and mythology – they are all connected through sound and vibration, harmony and refraction, movement and process.
This evolutionary leap was theological, political and metaphysical. There are no superheroes running around the streets of New York City, though we continue to tell stories and write books about them. There are no God-man mutations post-Jesus (unless we consider prophets such as Muhammad and Baha’u’llah), but his work – his movement, his attempt to liberate – lives on.
Joran Slane Oppelt is an international speaker, author, interfaith minister and award-winning producer and singer/songwriter. He is the owner and founder of the Metta Center of St. Petersburg and Integral Church – an interfaith and interspiritual organization in Tampa Bay. Joran is the author of Integral Church: A Handbook for New Spiritual Communities, Sentences, The Mountain and the Snow and co-author of Order of the Sacred Earth (with Matthew Fox) and Transform Your Life: Expert Advice, Practical Tools, and Personal Stories. He currently serves on the board of Creation Spirituality Communities and has spoken around the world about spirituality and the innovation of religion.