To Know OR Not to Know?

Perhaps my most sustained effort to date to point to the living Reality that IS Christ-in-you– and to do so in conjunction with a close reading of scripture —is found in this essay:  The Divine Presence ‘I Am’  (Summer 2013).  About the time that essay was published, it was suggested to me by a number of people, in a variety contexts,  that this is gnosticism.

Since the Summer of 2012, I have attempted to articulate a unitive (or nondual) Christian vision which sidesteps questions about the veracity of the Judeo-Christian scriptures insofar as they are alleged by some NOT just to be inspired or to contain profound spiritual wisdom, but also to be a collection of substantially accurate historical narratives which happen to include miraculous knowledge about nature and eschatology, as well–knowledge that is thought to have a bearing not only on our spiritual life, but also on more practical questions as to whether or not we are to accept established science (with regard to evolution, for example) OR how we should expect the future of the world to unfold politically (as we endeavor to stay on the right side of history, under God).

Such an understanding of scripture might seem reasonable enough if you grow up in an conservative Evangelical or fundamentalist echo chamber where– living in immortal fear of hell-fire –any significant degree of honest critical reflection tends to be carefully avoided.  But such a view just doesn’t fly among those with a less sectarian, more cosmopolitan point of view (e.g. most mature adults with a university education).  Indeed, when it comes to the Bible, it seems to me that rather than worrying too much about history, per se– or, for that matter, how the end of the world may unfold –we would do better to attend to insights such as these from C.G. Jung and Joseph Campbell who write:

“Myth is the primordial language natural to . . . psychic processes, and no intellectual formulation comes anywhere near the richness and expressiveness of mythical imagery.”
~ C.G. Jung

“Myth is much more important and true than history.  History is just journalism and you know how reliable that is.”
~ Joseph Campbell

How reliable, indeed!   So, it was with these and similar insights in mind that I decidedin the context of the Yeshua21 Blog, to bracket questions of historicity in deference to the living Reality that is with us always–the Reality which (following the record left by the early church) I  have variously designated as the light of the world, the Way of Truth and Life, the Mind of Christ and the Power of the Spirit — etc. — all of which are expressions that I use to refer to the One Life Divine that is with us always: Christ-in-you–the hope of glory!   Moreover, in that context, I argue that

“…we would do well to look for the inner truth of scripture and to keep an open mind with regard to what may or may not be true as far as the externals are concerned.  The written word points to the living Word. And when it comes to the living Word, the proof of the pudding is in the eating” (The Written Word of God).

This is not necessarily to say that the basic historicity of scriptural narratives should be rejected out of hand– much less that we should absurdly imagine the Bible is of no historical value whatsoever –but only that the heart, mind, and Spirit of Christ (if HE  indeed LIVES) must be in some way accessible to us here and now, regardless of what we are inclined to believe about the Bible and the historical Jesus.  All that is needed– or all that should be needed –is honesty and sincerity in search of truth.  If it can be imagined that Abraham saw his day prior to Jesus’ birth (as any fundamentalist will grant), I see no reason why contemporary seekers should not also see the day of the LordNOWregardless of what happened (or what they think may have happened) 2000 years ago.

Nor, on the other hand, is this to say that the historical narratives ought not be taught (my skeptical sympathies notwithstanding).  Even if they are not (or may not, strictly speaking, be) factual (like journalism, at its best, is supposed to be), it may still be the case that sometimes a myth is a story that is true on the inside whether or not it is true on the outside.  As such, to appropriately ground our lives and the lives of our children in the tradition may be understood as simultaneously giving us roots, while at the same time preparing our hearts and minds for certain moral and spiritual insights– certain shoots, if you please –that can only blossom later, if at all, but which will be more apt to blossom if the ground is appropriately prepared in advance.  Alas, this is more of an art than a science and there is many a slip betwixt the cup and the lip–but I digress…

The main point is– that rather than looking for Christ in the events of antiquity or in anticipation of some future turn of events –the sincere skeptic and honest critic should be encouraged to seek Him first and foremost NOW –which, after all, is the only place he is ever ultimately to be found in any event:

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel‘ ” (Mark 1:14- 15).

The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24).

Now is the accepted time . . . now is the day of salvation!”
(II Corinthians 6:2).

Whosoever will may come and drink of the water of life freely! (Revelation 22:17; cf. John 7:37-38).

To repeat, the living Reality that is sought is with us always, here & now.  As such, let us acknowledge that whosoever will may comeregardless of who they are and what they are inclined to believe about the Bible and the historical Jesus (assuming only that they are approaching these questions with honesty and sincerity which is, indeed, prerequisite).  Once the light is seen, there will be time enough to revisit historical narratives and to decide how best to understand them.

As indicated in the opening epigraph, perhaps my most sustained effort to date (in conjunction with a close reading of scripture) to point to this living Reality– the Reality that is Christ-in-you –is to found in this (rather long) article which I published at Yeshua21.Com in the Summer of 2013:

The Divine Presence ‘I Am’

And, as also indicated above, it was about that same time that it was suggested to me in variety of contexts that this is a form of “gnosticism.”  This was suggested to me not only online and via email, but once in a very public setting, as well, when (as I have reason to believe) the message articulated at Yeshua21.Com was the primary inspiration behind a very vocal warning from the pulpit as these verses from the first chapter of Galatians were loudly proclaimed to a larger congregation:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!

Needless to say, I was quite taken aback by all this.  I had never delved very deeply into gnosticism, but  had always heard that Gnostics believed that:

  • the creator God of Genesis was evil;
  • that the serpent offered Adam and Eve the path to true wisdom;
  • that matter is evil; and…
  • that the goal of gnosticism is to escape this world and our bodily existence all together.

Since none of those bulleted items remotely describes me or my beliefs–on what grounds, I wondered, did my would-be critics feel justified in directing accusations of gnosticism at me!?  While it is true that I have never (as a mature adult) presumed that the stories in Genesis  1 – 11 contain much actual history– and while I am also somewhat skeptical of the gospel narratives insofar as they are alleged to offer a reliable history of the life and ministry of Jesus –I continue to find all these stories meaningful insofar as they reflect (at the very minimum) a number of profound insights into the human condition, for example:

1) the innocence of infancy and early childhood (cf. “the garden of God”).
2) the formation of the egoic mind, our perception of duality, and our growing sense of alienation (cf. “eating the forbidden fruit”)
3) our egoistic pursuit of happiness and/or security in some combination of:

  • sensual indulgence
  • material prosperity
  • social recognition
  • legalistic (and/or ascetic) ideals

4) the possibility of a moment of clarity that reveals the emptiness and/or futility of # 3 (cf. “the prodigal son” waking up and remembering his Father’s house)
5) the possibility of recognizing the light of the world– aka the Way, the Truth, and the Life –through which we are reconciled to God (by way of the cross)
6) the possibility of finding perfect peace and rest in “aware presence” and “alert stillness” (cf. the peace of Jesus)
7) the possibility of participating fully in the flow of life, here and now (one life, transcendent and immanent…  A new creation that is at once holy human and wholly Divine). [see Christian Vision]

Moreover, without in any way disparaging our bodies or our spatiotemporal existence, the kind of seeing and knowing that I am attempting to share– far from being a means of escape –serves, quite to the contrary, to reconcile us to God, to nature, and to one another simultaneously.  In short, far from escaping life, it is my contention that we are called to take up our cross and enter into the life of the Trinity– which, as I see it, is One Life Divine, hidden in plain sighthere & now.

I can only speculate that my sympathy with certain skeptical points of view, together with my insistence on the possibility of really seeing the light of the world and really knowing the living Christ NOW, sounds generally esoteric or obscure enough– i.e. threatening enough to this or that particular brand of orthodoxy –to provoke accusations of gnosticism despite the historical incongruities.  Nevertheless– despite my appeal to these incongruities and my sincere desire for meaningful, rational conversation –I still encounter these accusations of gnosticism from time to time.  Apparently, in conservative theological circles, the epithet of gnostic or gnosticism is employed somewhat like that of Nazi or Nazism in some political debates–i.e. as a way of dismissing ones opponent and cutting short any and all rational discussion of the issues at stake (cf. Godwin’s law).   In any event, I have– in the wake of these experiences –made it a point to learn a little more about gnosticism over the last couple of years and have attempted to share some of what I have learned in another essay (to be published concurrently) entitled:  Gnosticism:  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

good bad ugly 3It is my hope, that by reading that essay, my occasional critics will arrive at a more nuanced understanding of gnosticism (including the many, many elements of historical gnostic thought and culture that are incongruous with what I have to share) and that after all is said and done, we might sincerely encourage one another to apprehend that for which we are apprehended of Christ and to be filled with all the fullness of God:

Ephesians 1:17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

Ephesians 3:16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

–>  Gnosticism: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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