This article came via M from J, and it came at an incredibly serendipitous time. No accident this! I have colored in GREEN why I think so many people are ducking the issues on the table before us today. It perhaps is not denial, but comes from having some really bad information! This strikes me as a very, very important post. Read it for yourselves and see if you agree – or disagree. ~J
The problem of Jesus’ last name is a misunderstanding most Christians have about who Jesus was. Even Pope John Paul II’s book of private reflections, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, contains this metaphysical misunderstanding.
There is a metaphysical distinction between Jesus of Nazareth, the historical human personality, and the Christ as God’s “Only-Begotten Son” (Nicene Creed), the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Ordinarily, when we speak of Jesus, we talk as though Christ were Jesus’ last name.
We say, “as Jesus said to the woman at the well,” or we might say, “as Christ said to the woman at the well,” or again, “as Jesus Christ said to the woman at the well.” This ordinary usage is convenient but it can create a serious problem in understanding not only who Jesus was but also who we ourselves are.
Most Christians, of course, know that Christ was not the last name of Jesus of Nazareth but a title given to Jesus by the early Christians, meaning the “anointed one” or Messiah. Nevertheless, even though we know the origin and meaning of the title, Christ, we still ordinarily use the word Christ as if this were Jesus’ last name in the same way that Smith is used as a last name for persons whose ancestors were blacksmiths. Understanding the origin of the last name doesn’t alter the usage in either case.
What exactly is the problem? The problem comes when we try, in light of this familiar usage, to interpret the words of the Nicene Creed: “I believe in Jesus Christ, the Only-Begotten Son of God.” What we usually end up mistakenly thinking is that the Creed means Jesus of Nazareth is God’s Only-Begotten Son. That is, we mistakenly think that Jesus, and Jesus alone, was God’s Son, and that all other humans are therefore less than Jesus.
That is not what the Creed means. To think so is a serious metaphysical error. And this error is so grave that, unless corrected, it can actually prevent us from taking our place with Jesus in the Christ Consciousness, and later in the Kingdom of the Father. It is the Christ who is God’s Only-Begotten Son, not Jesus.
True, Jesus of Nazareth knew he was the Christ; that is, that he had the Christ Consciousness (and the higher nondual consciousness of oneness with the Father). He knew that, as Christ, he had been directly begotten by God from all eternity. But Jesus knew and preached that the same was also true for us.
We too, according to Jesus, are to become Christ by putting on the mind of Christ, that is, the awareness that we too are directly begotten by God. One of the reasons Jesus called himself the Son of Man was that he wanted us to realize that our reality and destiny are the same as his.
Most Christians make this theological mistake of thinking that Jesus of Nazareth, rather than the Christ, was God’s only-begotten Son. I made it myself, and it caused me a great deal of confusion when my consciousness was trying to realize Christ Consciousness. Even Pope John Paul II makes this exact mistake in his book of private reflections, Crossing the Threshold of Hope.
The Pope asks why Jesus, “this Jew condemned to death in an obscure province,” isn’t considered by Christians to be in the same category as Socrates, Buddha, or Muhammad. He answers himself by saying that:“Christ is absolutely original and absolutely unique …. He is the one mediator between God and humanity … Christ is unique!” (pp 109)
The Pope starts out by talking about the historical personality Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew from an obscure province who was condemned to death. So far, so good. Then, when he talks about the Second Person of the Trinity, the one and only, original and unique mediator between God the Father and humanity (and the rest of creation), he uses the word Christ. No problem here either.
But then he combines Jesus and Christ, just as if Christ were Jesus’ last name, and begins comparing Jesus Christ to the historical personalities Socrates, Buddha and Muhammad. Naturally, Socrates, Buddha and Muhammad come out second-best.
With all due respect, the Pope’s analysis is faulty. In comparing the divinity of Jesus to the humanity of Socrates, Buddha and Muhammad, he is comparing apples to oranges and seeing not only Socrates, Buddha and Muhammad, but Jesus himself, in a one-sided (though opposite-sided) fashion.
I don’t know about Socrates, but both Buddha and Muhammad, like Jesus, had at least the Christ Consciousness, although they called it something else. Both, in fact, had nondual consciousness, the level above Christ Consciousness. Both Buddha and Muhammad, therefore, are, like Jesus, what the Western Christian esoteric tradition calls ascended masters (as, for example, is the Jewish prophet Elijah, who was “taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot and whirlwind” (2 Kings 2:11).
Jesus, however, was born with the Christ Consciousness, while Buddha and Muhammed were not.
Jesus himself, according to the Scriptures, was careful to make the distinction between a great human being understood only as a human personality and any human being understood as a divinely Christed being.
That is the distinction Jesus was making when he said that John the Baptist, understood as a human personality, was the greatest man ever born of woman, but that the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven, i.e., with the Christ Consciousness, was greater than John (Matt. 11:11).
The same confusion surrounds the mythic doctrine of the Virgin Birth. The Scriptures are clear that, in accordance with the flesh, Jesus of Nazareth was born of Mary, that his father was Joseph (John 1:45), that his brothers were James, Joseph, Simon, and Jude (Matt. 13:55), and that he had sisters as well (Matt. 13:56).
But, as Jesus himself stated to Nicodemus, there is another way to be born — in accordance with the Spirit (John 3:3-7). In accordance with the Spirit, Jesus, as the Christ, was born directly (virginally) from the Father, through the Holy Spirit, and out of Mary (the Nicene Creed).
The same is true of anyone who consciously realizes the Christ Consciousness as John’s Gospel clearly states, “Some, however, did receive him and believe in him; so he gave them the right to become God’s children. They did not become God’s children by natural means, by being born as the children of a human father; God himself was their Father” (John 1:12-13).
Mary, the new Eve, in the doctrine of the Virgin Birth just described, and identically to the Buddha’s mother Maya, stands for woman. Archetypally and psychospiritually, woman stands for the womb, the watery baptismal abyss, human emotional depths, the human unconscious, and the belly of Jonah’s whale.
As Mother (and again identically to Eve and Maya) Mary represents matter (mother is mater in Greek and Latin and has an equivalent meaning in many other languages). She therefore represents the dualism of maya, the physical world, understood as separate and apart from God.
The Christed being is always “born again” directly (virginally) from the Father, and or through the Holy Spirit, out of this “Mary” (womb, matter, unconscious, maya, emotional depths) in the baptism of the Dark Night of the Soul. That is why, spiritually, Mary is the Mother of God not only in Jesus’ case but in the case of every person who is reborn into the Christ Consciousness.
This is the point the Gospel of John is making in having Jesus, on the Cross itself, say to Mary, “Woman, behold your son,” and then to John, “Here is your mother” (John 19:26-27).
I agree with the Pope that Jesus of Nazareth is unique. But his status as Christ is not what makes Jesus unique. Anyone who reaches the level of the causal, at which one understands the Trinity as a living cosmological reality in which that person (and all humanity and creation) participates, is a Christed being (John 1:12, Gal. 3:26).
Mary was a Christed being from the moment of her conception. All of the Apostles were Christed beings after they were finally baptized by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5) at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). So too were the other non-Apostle authors of the New Testament.
St. Paul and St. Teresa of Avila, invoking for herself the words of Paul, said, “For me to live is Christ” (Philip. 1:21). Paul also said, “I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me (Gal. 2:20).” Neither Paul nor Teresa said “Jesus” lives in me. Nor did they say “Jesus Christ” lives in me. They said Christlives in me.
The Christ, by definition, transcends any human personality identification, including that of the historical personality Jesus of Nazareth. When the Christian passes through the Dark Night of the Soul and enters the first level of divine identity, the causal, all of this becomes crystal clear.
Before that time, however, the meaning of Christ will normally seem murky to anyone without Christ Consciousness (that is, anyone who wrongly thinks his or her human personality is the “real me”).
By putting Jesus on an unreachable pedestal so that others such as Buddha and Muhammad can’t get near him (that is, by understanding Jesus only as divine and the others only as human), we also prevent ourselves from getting near Jesus. We set up a major obstacle to our realization of Christ Consciousness and our own entrance into the Kingdom.
According to Wilber, even St. Augustine couldn’t get himself past this incorrectly understood uniqueness of Jesus. This type of reasoning has also driven an unnecessary wedge between Christians and Muslims.
One reason Islam has traditionally insisted upon the oneness of Allah has been in reaction to the type of Christian trinitarian theology that seems to elevate a human being, Jesus of Nazareth, into a second God, fully co-equal with Allah. Muslims are very careful not to do that with Muhammad, and can be deeply offended when Christians call Islam Muhammadism.
When Christians treat Jesus as though Christ were Jesus’ last name, the Muslim criticism is right on the mark. While it is true that the whole of God was incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth (as the whole of God is also present in the Holy Communion and, for that matter, in every grain of sand), and while the nondual consciousness of Jesus of Nazareth was perfectly aware of his oneness with God, Jesus never claimed to be equal to God as transcendent, nor even to be the complete expression of the Christ, God’s Son.
When the passage of the Pope’s book cited above was recently brought to the attention of the Vietnamese Buddhist spiritual master, Thich Nhat Hanh, he reportedly said, “It appears the Pope does not understand the Trinity.”
Sadly, the Vietnamese master is correct. Nor, from what I can see, does the leadership of any other Christian denomination, none of them having first put on the “Mind which was in Christ Jesus” as we were instructed to do (Matt. 6:33, Philip 2:5).
Paramahansa Yogananda also addressed this problem of Jesus’ last name, one he called the problem of Jesusism versus Christianity. He wrote:
“I am glad that Christianity was not called Jesusism, because Christianity is a much broader word. There is a difference of meaning between Jesus and Christ. Jesus is the name of a little human body [personality] in which the vast Christ Consciousness was born. Although the Christ Consciousness manifested in the body of Jesus, it cannot be limited to one human form. It would be a metaphysical error to say that the omnipresent Christ Consciousness is circumscribed by the body of any one human being.”
Let us set aside the comments of Buddhist and Hindu spiritual masters, however, and look at what the Scriptures and Jesus himself say. Directly contrary to the idea that Jesus was uniquely the Christ, St. Paul states flatly in his first letter to the Corinthians: “Christ is like a single body, which has many parts; it is still one body even though it is made up of different parts. In the same way, all of us, Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free men, have been baptized into the one body by the same Spirit, and we have all been given the one Spirit to drink …. All of you, then, are Christ’s body, and each one is a part of it.” [1 Cor. 12:12-13,27].
You couldn’t get much clearer than that. Note too that Paul is talking about baptism by the Holy Spirit, the baptism by spiritual “fire” (energy), not baptism by water.
Jesus, quoting the psalmist, asked us, “Do you not know that you are gods?” (John 10:34-35; Ps. 82:6). What sense would Jesus’ question make if we too could not claim our own divine heritage?
How, for instance, can we be “joint heirs with Jesus of the Kingdom”(Rom. 8:17) if we are not divine by “participation” (to use John of the Cross’ word) in the same divine Christhood in which Jesus participated?
What is the use of being “baptized with Jesus into his death” (Rom. 6:3) if we cannot fully share, as the “friends” he called us at the Last Supper (John 15:15), in the full glory of his Resurrection, which, for us, is the realization of our Christhood (Rom. 8:17)?
Jesus also said, “Whoever believes in me will do the works I do, and even greater ones” (John 14:12). How can we expect to be able to do such things, and even greater things, if we are not ourselves divine in the same sense that he, the carpenter of Nazareth, realized he was?
And again, Jesus prayed to the Father that we may be one just as the Father and he were one (John 17:11), and that we might live in God just as Jesus lived in the Father and the Father in him (John 17:21). Was Jesus praying in vain? Was he mistaken in what he was asking? Of course not. Jesus knew exactly what he was saying and what he was praying for.
From these, and from a host of other Scriptures throughout the New Testament, it is abundantly clear not only that we are every bit as divine as Jesus was, but that our entire Christian spiritual quest consists of consciously claiming our divinity just as Jesus did.
Meister Eckhart, having realized the nondual vision of the Kingdom of Heaven, exulted: “Everything good that all the saints have possessed, and Mary the mother of God, and Christ in his humanity [i.e., Jesus], all that is my own in this human nature. Now you could ask me: ‘Since in this nature I have everything that Christ according to his humanity [Jesus] can attain, how is it that we exult and honor Christ [in his humanity, i.e., Jesus] as our Lord and our God?”
That’s because he became a messenger from God to us and brought us our blessedness. The blessedness that he brought us was our own.
The “good news” of the Gospel is that we, none of us, are mere human beings. We are now, and have always been, divine. All of the doctrinal statements of the early Christian Councils, in which the Church’s understanding of Jesus as the Christ was hammered out, are statements about us. They tell us who we are.
We are, here and now today, all the things the early Councils said Jesus was. All we need to do to be “saved” is to consciously realize who we have been all along. We need to realize our divinity, own it, take up the responsibility of it, and live it.
There is another reason why many Christians prefer to keep Jesus, seen only as divine, up on a pedestal, why they’d almost prefer to forget that the carpenter from Nazareth was a human being like ourselves. Many Christians like the idea that Jesus did all the work of salvation for them (he being divine after all, and they only human).
They find solace in the theory of “vicarious redemption,” that, by his sufferings and death, Jesus somehow made up for and appeased God for all of our sins. Such Christians often place heavy emphasis on the “Lamb who was slain for us” (Rev. 5:12), even in the hymns that are sung every Sunday in church.
But, while it is true that Jesus, by his suffering, took upon himself and transmuted a great deal of our negativity (just as does any Christian, to a lesser extent, who takes the Crucifixion Initiation), Jesus did not do everything. Nor can Jesus do what is ours to do (Col. 1:24). God for our own ultimate good would not allow it.
It is our responsibility to grow up into our own divinity, paying whatever price we need to in the process. Neither Jesus, nor anyone else, can do the work of individuating our own souls into Christ Conscious wholeness for us. When we all become conscious Christs then, and only then, will all the world’s sin be forgiven (1 John 2:2).
The overemphasis on Jesus’ divinity has resulted in centuries of enormous practical harm to Christians in their search for God. Countless Christians have not taken to the spiritual path because they’ve felt either that the divine Jesus did everything for them, or because, since they saw themselves as merely human, and Jesus only as divine, they thought the path impossible.
This thinking has resulted in a huge chasm between the human and the divine, and between the ordinary Christian and Jesus. What this thinking does is to actually nullify in one swift stroke the essential “good news” of the New Testament, that we are divine and free from sin and death. It throws us back upon salvation by the law, by doing good and avoiding evil, which is no route to salvation at all but a recipe for continued slavery to duality.
Who was Jesus of Nazareth? Where did he come from? This question has puzzled Christians for the last two thousand years. To say Jesus was the Son of God does not help much to answer the question because we too are sons and daughters of God in the same sense. To say that he was divine, and shared the substance and nature of God, is another way of saying the same thing. To say he was the Christ, the only-begotten of God, also does not help, for we too are members of the Christ.
To say Jesus was the Messiah of the Jews does distinguish him as unique. But it is the Christ Consciousness, not Jesus as a human personality or even as an individual soul, that is the Messiah, the liberator, and the redeemer from all sin (1 John 2:2).
To say that Jesus was conceived and born with the Christ Consciousness, that is, without sin, distinguishes Jesus from the vast majority of us humans (and from the Buddha and Muhammad), but not from other avatars, the Hindu word for liberated souls who are allowed or requested by God to reincarnate here on Earth to help the rest of us. Nor would it distinguish him from Mary, who was also conceived and born without sin.
Some Christians believe that Jesus is distinguishable from the avatars in that he never had a past life on this planet nor has he ever incarnated since. Jesus of Nazareth, they believe, was the one time only incarnation of the fullness of the Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, on Earth.
The personal view of Pope John Paul II, cited above, seems to be the same. I suppose this may be a possibility, for “with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26), but there are problems with this understanding.
First, there is Paramahansa Yogananda’s objection that the vastness of the Christ Consciousness couldn’t possibly be contained in, or expressed by, one human personality. Second, how could we, as St. Paul says, “fill up what was lacking in Jesus Christ” (Col. 1:24) if, as the fullness of Christ, he lacked nothing? Or how could we, as Jesus promised, “do greater things than” Jesus (John 14:12) if, as the fullness of Christ, Jesus by definition could never be surpassed?
Finally, this understanding edges in the direction of the view that Jesus, though he had a human body, did not have a human soul. The early Church councils repeatedly rejected one form or another of this view; for example, the view that Jesus had a human body and human emotions but not a human mind, the view that Jesus had a divine will but not a human will, and the view that Jesus had a divine nature but not a human one.
The councils insisted that Jesus was fully human as well as fully divine. (cf. Heb. 2:17 “This means he had to become like his brothers in every way.”)
So, if Jesus had a human soul, and not only that but a perfectly developed human soul, with perfected emotions, fully developed intelligence, psychic powers, will, etc., how did Jesus get such a soul? Did the Christ, wholly apart from the normal, divinely ordained human evolutionary process bypass this in Jesus’ case and create, all at once, a perfect human vehicle? It may be possible but I don’t think it at all likely.
What would be the point? It would make Jesus, not like us in every way (Heb. 2:17), but a human anomaly. He would certainly be unique, but this uniqueness would estrange him from the rest of us and from human history and evolution. He would hardly be the “new Adam” (1 Cor. 15:22, 45) if he had no connection to the first Adam (except for his body) and no connection to human consciousness evolution.
How could he be understood as the Lord of History if his birth was some kind of special, miraculous divine interventionism into our history?
At least one Western esoteric tradition suggests that the individual soul that incarnated as Jesus was the first consciousness evolved entirely on this planet that had been able to realize the Christ Consciousness. That tradition suggests that prior souls who had realized the causal level of consciousness (Krishna, Buddha, Lao-Tse, and Plato) originated elsewhere.
Because of this colossal achievement, God commissioned Jesus to enact with his life, from birth to Ascension, the entire map of human consciousness evolution, the Way, the Truth, and the Light. In other words, Jesus was the “new Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45) the founder of a new race of Christed beings. That seems a more grounded and realistic possibility.
I have tried to set out in this book, in as contemporary a way as possible, the path to the Kingdom of Heaven, the Way Jesus showed to us by his life, particularly by his Death and Resurrection. But the Kingdom of Heaven is only the end of the earthly journey into God, not the entire journey.
There is, in fact, no end at all to the journey just as there is no end to God. And I suspect that, however far we journey into God, Jesus, whoever he may really be, will always be there lighting the road ahead.