From Spiritual Economics by Eric Butterworth: "We miss the whole meaning of Jesus' life unless we see it as a growth process, and that before he achieved Christ mastery, he was Jesus, the pensive lad who wondered and dreamed on the hillsides of Galilee."
From Talks on Truth by Charles Fillmore ( updated slightly by me!)
" Our normal condition is one of opened inner communion, such as was enjoyed by Jesus, a condition in which we can say of every thought and word: 'the word which you hear is not mine, but the One from whence I came.'"
The following essay was published in Progressing Spirit on June 27, 2019. Dr. Forrester uses the story of Jesus in the Gospel of John, particularly his actions in the last week, to illustrate the genesis of a new kind of spiritual path arising in Judaism – a revolutionary mystical path that offers homo sapiens a chance for our survival instinct not to be destroyed (which is impossible), but to be transformed by being incorporated into a larger Reality (John 17:21, “that all may be one”). Put on your Unity thinking cap and dig deep.....
"If your life were ending and you were given the chance to write a few words to encapsulate its essence, what would you say? The story wouldn’t have to be historical, or literally true, but it would need to offer an authentic window into your soul and the heart of your heart.
I ask this because I am amazed with the story presented in John’s gospel to offer us the essence of Rabbi Jesus. This is the only gospel in which, as Jesus’ death approaches, he is depicted as caring for his friends by touching their bodies – no meal, a few words, and the washing of feet. Of all the possible stories John could have created to convey his convictions – a stunning miracle or a captivating oration – the gospel author simply has Jesus essentially engaging in tender and intimate touch. Inviting his friends to do the same (which is so much more than learning to imitate.)
As his prospect for survival fades and the death of his bodily self approaches, Jesus does not retreat, nor does he attack. He surprisingly reaches out. He loves – not abstractly, not theoretically. Jesus teaches his spiritual path through embodiment. The depth of his own realization manifests in the utter simplicity of his action. Being is Loving, even in the face of apparent annihilation. In Jesus, the human survival instinct, where we are driven at almost all costs to preserve our bodily self, is not destroyed. The instinct is transformed as it is subsumed into a larger seamless Reality – within John’s brief account we are offered a vision of a spiritual path for humanity that is one of a revolutionary mystic.
I recently finished reading Yuval Noah Harari’s magnificent and provocative book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Harari pierces the bubble of the pervasive myth that homo sapiens reign triumphant at the summit of evolution after a rather peaceful, solitary and linear development. On the contrary, he chronicles how the dawn of homo sapiens is marred by our genocide of at least two other human species with whom we shared this earth – Denisovans and Neanderthals. Initially retreating back to east Africa after feeling their survival threatened, our ancient forebears reemerged, attacked and destroyed. Although there was some interbreeding among the various human species, detectable today in our own DNA, this was minimal. But, not only did our ancestors annihilate other humans, they were then responsible for the decimation of the majority of large mammals in Australia and the Americas (once thought to have been due to precipitous climate change).
This violent dawn of the history of homo sapiens was a harbinger of countless tragedies to come over the following millennia. Often religion, as a cultural force that binds groups together, reinforced and offered justification for the destruction of others whose presence was perceived as threatening one’s own, and one’s tribe’s survival. Touch was neither tender nor intimate – it was terrifyingly terminal.
Harari’s book is a sobering testament: Our species kills, and we destroy the lives of others readily and easily. When we fear for the survival of our bodily self, we feel compelled to retreat to find safety, or we ruthlessly attack: think Christ Church, New Zealand, or Sri Lanka, to name two recent atrocities. Our nervous system feels overwhelmed and we react out of desperation.
Apart from Harari’s historical perspective, what I’m describing is not new. But the information does highlight the significance of John’s story about Jesus. Jesus is a wisdom figure in that vein of Axial spiritual teachers (chronicled in such illustrative detail by Karen Armstrong in The Great Transformation) who has realized that another human path is not only possible, such a path is absolutely necessary. Otherwise, our species will likely not survive, and neither will so many of the other magnificent and irreplaceable creatures with whom we share this sphere.
John’s story of Jesus is the genesis of a new kind of spiritual path arising in Judaism – a revolutionary mystical path that offers homo sapiens a chance for our survival instinct not to be destroyed (which is impossible), but to be transformed by being incorporated into a larger Reality (John 17:21, “that all may be one”).
If this path is to be fruitful, then Christianity will need to discover how to form faith-communities that are sources of instinctual transformation, rather than belief-clubs that reinforce the fear and prejudice and destruction deeply rooted in our species. This is complex, and my focus is simply one questioning thread within evolution’s tapestry: why do we exist as a Christian community? Even more fundamentally, what is it that is utterly unique about spiritualcommunities? What do they have to offer humanity that is absolutely necessary? The answer, as far as I can tell, has to do with realizing that our love of life needs to mature into the love of Being, which includes, yet transcends, the love of our bodily self.
I believe that the one gift that a spiritual community can offer that is utterly unique, is that of being an experiential school providing an effective path for a soul to realize her true nature as a manifestation of Being. My sense is that this describes John’s community (as well as that of Thomas). John’s gospel has its own language to express this realization – Jesus comes to know himself as the Word become flesh. In John’s experience, when God speaks, the Logos manifests, and in history Jesus comes to be as the Logos. (Remember, this is poetry, not prose.)
As I unpack the poetic insight of John, the Deep resounds and the song that is life sings. Each creature is a note of the Deep’s voice. There is no gap between the Deep and the Singing. Breath is expressed in sound and sound is shaped as word. Creatures are the sounding Words of God. A spirituality of Being is a radical and revolutionary mysticism in which all gaps disappear.
Radical means rooted. Each and every creature is rooted in and as Being. We are each word uniquely shaping the exhalation (the creating flowing forth) of Being. This means that spiritual communities essentially exist that we might realize this truth of our nature, and in this realization become enraptured with the song of creating. Spiritual communities exist to invite us to fall in love with the moist breath of Being arising from our own depths – a Deep Source that never dies.
In his captivating book, Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic, Adyashanti writes in the spirit of John. He recognizes that “religion’s primary function is not about conveying ethical and moral codes”; it is “not about politics and power and hierarchy.” No, religion’s “primary function is to awaken within us the experience of the sublime and to connect us with the mystery of existence. As soon as religion forgets about its roots in the eternal, it fails in its central task.” And with that failing we are reduced to bestial destruction, with spirituality becoming a hollow shell of strident moral righteousness justifying the ego’s fears and desires to perpetuate the existence of our bodily self at all costs.
If we, as homo sapiens, do not awaken to the sublime and realize our connection with the Holy Mystery of existence, which is Being, we will not know how to touch each other, and the creatures of creation, tenderly. Without our connection with the Holy Mystery of existence, we will continue our history of the destruction of life. But, with our direct realization that the mystery of Being is our true nature, then it becomes possible for us to mature, like Jesus, into revolutionary mystics. We become no longer preoccupied with the defensive protection of our small bodily self. We develop the capacity to be open to touch and healing in the face of threat. We become – not imitators of Jesus – but living, creative, Christs, where Word touches Word, and bodily death is incapable of harming or destroying Being."