A Jesus Christ Series – Part 12: Who is Jesus Christ to Me
I have long noticed that tightness in my chest arises anytime the subject of Jesus Christ comes up. This fear or tightness is certainly less today than it was 20 or 50 years ago, but there is still some residual fear that arises in my child-self until my adult-self steps in and assures my child-self of his safety. For my child-self it’s as if I have to have an answer to whomever asks me who this Jesus Christ is, and my answer had better be the correct answer or I shall be humiliated or mocked or rejected or punished, or maybe even go to hell. There is no room for doubt, Mystery, or mistakes in my child-self.
These fears probably stem from my grade school Christian education experiences in a well-intended conservative Missouri Synod Lutheran church and school where being able to memorize scriptures and creeds and recite them in front of the class were the ways we took in the Christian “faith.” While my strict Lutheranism has waned significantly over the past 20 years, my reliance on external authority that was drilled into me as a child as the only reliable truth rather than my reliance on my own inner authority that I was told was sinful to the core and a playground for Satan has stuck. The result: pervasive existential anxiety, but thankfully a dissolving anxiety.
When I look out and see so many others in the world who seem not at all plagued by such childhood-based fears I feel shame. “Why am I so immature?” But in owning this fear I can work with it and over time dissolve it. I would say moving from external authority to inner authority, that is, entering my process of individuation, and thereby experiencing true freedom in being who I am from my Essential Self is one of the main reasons I am here on planet earth in this lifetime.
Friday morning (November 15) in meditation what arose in me was Pathwork Lecture 51 Importance of Forming Independent Opinions. I have read this lecture many times and find that it encourages me on my path. Of course “forming independent opinions” is the antithesis of relying on external authorities and becomes the hurdle over which each of us must jump if we are going to experience individuation from our early family, cultural, and religious roots. Of course we can come back to our roots after individuation, but in doing so after individuation the decision will be of our own free choice without any coercion from external authority. Our authority will come from within. And, with individuation, we shall Know our Truth and be free.
So in being with the theme of this lecture about the importance of having my own opinions, in my meditation I asked the question of myself, “Gary, so what are some of your opinions about Jesus Christ, who was he, and, if he exists for you now, who is he now, and what does this all mean to you?” I can feel my inner child’s familiar fear arise at the asking of such questions! But my fear is not overwhelming and does not keep my adult-self from asking myself these questions in the spirit of inquiry. And my inner adult-self, unlike the external authority over my early child-self, does not require me to have the correct answers or bear the consequences of punishment or humiliation if I do not. I smiled and continued in my meditation with my inquiry. So what are my opinions about Jesus Christ? The following answers arose from within, informed by my intuition, awakened in its resonance with the Pathwork Guide, the Bible, and other teachers with whom I sense alignment:
1] The realm of such a question, the identity of Jesus Christ, is Divine Mystery, beyond my mind’s comprehension, since on this earth I am merely and utterly human.
2] Christ is Divine Essence and as such has the qualities of God: Creativity, Love, Wisdom and the like. Christ is the Light of Truth, and Christ’s Light shines into the Darkness. Those aspects of my being that are in Darkness cringe at this Light of Christ while my Divine aspects long for this Light of Christ.
3] Christ incarnated fully in the man Jesus, and Jesus the man was utterly and merely human. In his humanness he was homeless, had no stature within the religious, economic, political or even family structures of his time. In his humanity, like me, he suffered, doubted, and ultimately died. He remained honest and in integrity to the end, sharing what he was experiencing in his incarnation, doubts and all (For example, confessing his doubt in his words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” that I have spoken about in previous blog entries).
4] Christ is Eternal Divine Presence and Light in the Universe.
5] Christ enters and enlivens all entities from within rather than from without.
6] Christ is me in my Essence – and is others in their Essences
7] Again, all of this is Mystery, beyond my comprehension. But my comprehension is growing and unfolding as I evolve. My evolving dissolves my fear about who Jesus Christ is, opening me to a Light, a Wisdom, a Knowing from within that brings me closer and closer to ultimate Truth, and from this Truth I experience freedom while yet in my limited state of being merely and utterly human.
I hold all of this as my opinion. And from here I can be adventurously curious about the opinions of others, inquiring sincerely about who Jesus Christ was and perhaps is for others, that is, who Jesus Christ is for them in their opinion.
We can also compare experiences as to what informs us of our opinions (that is, our respective epistemologies). We can ask ourselves, “In our respective opinions to what extent are we in a state of wishful thinking of the child? Stubbornness or resistance of the rebellious child? Clinging to an outer authority for security and safety? Surrendering to a Knowing from deep within?” I find all of this fascinating, inspiring, enlivening, and exciting.
Beyond the historical Jesus
I see that my opinions do not say much about the historical Jesus – the events and stories about his life – the stories of his birth, baptism, teachings, death, and resurrection. Are these events and happenings not central? At some level, “Yes.” At another level, “No.” I have little energy for researching or debating the historical Jesus. Why do I not have energy for such research? I hold that there is great and inherent mystery about the historical Jesus. Yes, we have the New Testament, but these writings are so sketchy, a mere 300 pages in length in most bibles.
I hold that in actuality the reality of Jesus could not possibly be captured in words at all, let alone only 300 pages of words in the New Testament. I recall that John’s Gospel concludes with the same idea (John 21:25): Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. And this refers almost exclusively to only the last three years of his life. We have next to nothing in the gospels on the first 90% of his life.
Or I compare the 300 pages of the New Testament to the tens of thousands of pages, and in some cases perhaps millions of pages, written about modern political and religious figures. So in pursuing the historical Jesus we are left with little to go on, and I would say that this paucity of information about the historical Jesus speaks to how little importance is placed upon getting the facts exactly or even approximately right.
Beyond the words of Jesus
I am moved by the messages of Jesus, and the elaboration on these in the epistles that follow the gospels. But I find I agree with the Pathwork Guide that these messages – sermons and parables – while interesting, useful, and important, are not central to Jesus Christ’s beingness and were not the primary purpose in Christ’s incarnation 2000 years ago.
Having said this, I understand and respect the importance placed by so many scholars on getting the words of Jesus and other scriptures and their interpretation correct. I respect the effort and debate over even agreeing on what written and attributed to Jesus was actually spoken by him – both within the canonical New Testament or in the “other gospels” such as those by Thomas, Mary Magdalene, Peter, etc.
There is the emphasis by some theologians to go back to the “original” Greek to make sure we get the accurate meaning of Jesus’ words. And even here there is controversy as to whether or not the Aramaic, supposedly the language in which Jesus spoke, was or was not the original and should therefore be used as the root text instead of the Greek. For me, the various English versions give me enough to ponder – and I need to apply my time to understanding them and applying them to my life, rather than to going back and spend many hours learning New Testament Greek or Old Testament Hebrew or learn Aramaic. For me this is a matter of time stewardship.
Bible Study – the roots of my first 50 years
As an aside, I have long been a scholar of sorts of the bible. This is not in the sense of going to seminary or taking courses in exegesis, hermeneutics, or homiletics, but I consider myself a student of the bible nonetheless. I studied the bible regularly and devotionally and in connection with the many bible classes I led both within the church and outside the church. I listened to thousands of hours of taped messages from Chuck Swindol as well as from professors at Multnomah School of the Bible. All of these became part of my self-education — and I loved it!
I saved several bibles from my thirties, and back then, being intensely into the bible, each year I would pick a version and then read it through completely during the year. These versions included the King James of my childhood, The New American Standard of my twenties, The Amplified Bible (which I particularly enjoyed), the New Chain Reference Bible (which my uncle gave me when I was in my teens and which was for many years my study bible) and eventually the New International Version (published in 1978 when I was 36 and which became my standard translation from then on). I also had several versions on tape that I listened to regularly. The last bible I bought was in 1987 when I was 45. It was the Concordia Study Bible, New International Version.
In 1994, at age 52, my studies took me to a local Catholic Seminary where I studied spirituality, psychology, and consciousness. My first seminary course was The Spirituality and Psychology of Midlife. I took 7 or 8 courses over a 3-year period. This 3-year exploration at the Catholic Seminary was an awakening into new dimensions of spirituality. In 1997, at 55, I entered a Clinical Pastoral Education program at a local hospital. Three years later, at 58 in 2000, having left my Lutheran roots, my Seminary work, my work as a Chaplain Intern, and finally my work as a licensed massage therapist, I entered Pathwork.
Let me get back to my bible years. While in my thirties I tried memorizing passages from the New International Version, I notice today that when scripture verses float up in me they are mostly from the King James Version – the bible of my first 16 years. I notice and smile fondly at the note I penned onto the cover page of my leather-bound New American Standard New Testament. The note was dated 10/21/77 (I was 35, my parents had been dead 5 years, having been killed in an auto accident in 1972). My notation reads: “The purpose of Scripture is that we come to a knowledge, with the help of the Holy Spirit, of God, and through this knowledge come to love Him and trust upon Him with all our hearts and dedicate our lives to bringing Him Glory.” A few months later, on 2/19/78, I added, “Dear Lord, grant me this knowledge.” I am very grateful for and treasure my early passion about things spiritual and my grounding of this passion in bible study. I honor the bible student I was for over 50 years. And I honor the student I have been all my life in matters spiritual.
But all of this bible study was tethered to my church, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Here the bible, and to a lesser extent the early 16th Century creeds of the Lutheran Church, including Luther’s catechisms, were taken to be the one and only source of truth upon which one could build his or her life, and, most importantly, be assured of going to heaven when one died. In this tradition, each verse, and each word, of the bible was important. The bible was viewed as a “means of grace” through which, and only through which, the “Holy Spirit,” who “inspired” the biblical authors to write what they wrote in the first place, worked saving grace into the believer’s mind, heart, and soul.
Today I can see the rigidity, tightness, arbitrariness and artificiality of this overly dogmatic framework, and I dare to challenge it. In fact, I must challenge it. I ask, “How is this inspiration process (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.) different from the channeling of the Pathwork Guide, which has the very same stated purpose – helping us follow the Plan of Salvation? Why did all inspiration end 2000 years ago?
And I stand back from the emphasis of getting the translation of the bible correct. In my opinion, if it were all that important to get each word correct Jesus would have written his sermons out himself so that we could be sure we had them correct. He wrote nothing out! Why not, if the words of his sermons were so very important? Perhaps I would say it was the energy behind Jesus’ words and not the words themselves that was important — a transmission, if you please, to use a term reserved by Buddhists for their teachers.
Of course there is the church dogma that says that the Holy Spirit inspired (“dictated?” or…?) the true message to those who wrote it down. But really, does this make sense? Well it doesn’t make sense to me that the origin of the New Testament scriptures (or Old Testament scriptures as far as that goes) should be clouded in such mystery and left to our inherently personal subjective interpretations if in fact each word had to be so precisely chosen for us to get the message.
I would say that my extensive study of scriptures in my elementary school years and then again in my thirties and early forties did not suffer from not knowing Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic. The English translations gave me more than enough to work with for my spiritual growth, limited as it was. I can feel a bit of anger in my wording here, but it has been a long struggle to break away from my roots – to truly individuate and manifest my own life in a sense of freedom.
An Aside – working with the Pathwork Lectures
In a very real way my propensity for study of things spiritual has shifted from the bible in my thirties and forties to the Pathwork lectures in my sixties and seventies, with a number of other programs in between as mentioned above. Along the way I’ve been drawn to other writings as well – including the works of Ken Wilber, Parker Palmer, and many many more. But interesting as they are, they do not have the same impact on me as the Pathwork lectures. I sense that I do feel a transmission of sorts when I spend time reading, expanding, recording, or listening to the Pathwork lectures.
I have been exposed to other channels as well – A Course In Miracles, Emmanuel, and the like, but again they do not fit my particular “lock” as do the Pathwork lectures. I cannot explain why I feel this “transmission” with Pathwork, but I do not feel it with other writings and channeling, especially since these other authors and channels have been so meaningful to so many. But I keep coming back to Pathwork as my path, at least for now, and I am most grateful for it. This is especially true about what informs me about Jesus Christ. Something about Pathwork just rings true with my Soul, and I commit myself to follow what resonates with me.
As an aside, I want to speak to the two versions we have of the Pathwork Lectures. We have the 1996 edited version (edited by Judith and John Saly) and we have the unedited version, which was actually released after the edited one in 1996. The unedited lectures are intended to be closer to the “original,” however I noticed in making my recordings (I used the edited, but referred to the unedited if I had questions) that in some cases neither the edited nor the unedited agree with the recordings of the original transmission. Not in a changed a word or two, but entire paragraphs would be different. When I pursued the why of this I learned that Eva herself typed out the transcriptions from the tapes and, feeling she was still under the influence of the Guide, would freely edit them as she felt moved, so the first printed copies by Eva were, in fact, edited and different from the recordings.
Further, there ended up being several (perhaps many – in some cases 20 or more I’m told) versions of some of the lectures. And Eva did not seem to care too much about this variety and, to my knowledge, endorsed what John and Judith Saly were beginning to do and what would later (17 years after Eva’s death) be released as the 1996 Edited Version.
Finally, I have found my recording process itself very helpful to my own ingestion of the lectures and have not found my challenges of living the lectures or being inspired by the lectures affected by a “wrongly edited” edition. Often I felt the Guide in me during my recording process (perhaps a transmission?), and some Pathworkers have suggested to me that both Eva and the Guide were guiding me in this process. In the end the time, a six-year project in total, was time so well spent.
For perspective, the 258 Pathwork Lectures taken as a whole are 30% longer than the entire bible (Old and New Testaments) and my recording time (just over 200 hours) is three times longer than most recordings of the bible, reflecting the slower pace of my reading, a pace that fit me best. Because of this experience I have not been overly concerned that I have recorded the edited version rather than the unedited version, and though some will not use the recordings because they are the edited version, most listeners (including myself) say listening to the recordings helps them. My sense is that transmission of Truth of some sort happens when the soul is ready.
Back to the subject: Jesus Christ
A few weeks ago a Pathworker friend of mine from Pittsburg noticed that I was writing about Jesus Christ in my recent blogs. While confessing that he did not read my previous blogs on Jesus Christ, he commented to me that I might be interested in a recording series on Jesus Christ by the spiritual teacher Adyashanti, a 51-year-old popular spiritual teacher and author who was born in Cupertino, California, as Steven Gray and who lives in California today under the name Adyashanti.
The Pittsburg Pathworker referring me to Adayashanti was with me in Helper Training at Sevenoaks in the class of 2008, and my experience of him was troublesome to me. It seemed to me that he was always bringing up the importance of Jesus Christ in Pathwork, and I felt he was proselytizing me. But at the time I was still recovering from my Jesus Christ images I took on in the Lutheran Church and of course any proselytizing brought up my defenses. But I noticed in his comment to me a few weeks ago inviting me to explore Adyashanti’s teachings on Jesus Christ that I felt a different energy from him. He was inviting me, not proselytizing me. Did he change or did I change? Probably both, but now I could hear his suggestion and consider it, something to which I might not have been open a few years ago. I see this openness in me as growth, and I appreciate that my Pittsburg friend contacted me.
However there was another problem: Following suggestions from other Pathwork teachers who are quite inspired by Adyashanti, I have listened to some of Adyashanti’s audio and video recordings over the past several years and have not been drawn to him. I have been frustrated that so many spiritual seekers, even Pathwork helpers and leaders, see him as “enlightened,” and put him on some kind of pedestal, raving about his wisdom and openness and enlightenment. Somehow to me he seems arrogant and dismissive of other paths; and while I recognize this arrogance as a likely projection of my own arrogance and dismissiveness of paths other than Pathwork, Adyashanti himself was a barrier I had to overcome if I were to listen to his Jesus Christ material.
I investigated. While Adyashanti’s path has been mostly Zen-based, it turns out, to my surprise, that he gave a seven-day retreat on Jesus Christ in April 2013, and these sessions are now available in audio recordings in mp3 format or CD – totaling 24 hours of material in all! He is also publishing a book on these Jesus Christ sessions (Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic) that will be out next April. I even like the title of this book and sense in it its alignment with Pathwork. I contacted my Pittsburg friend to see if this was the Adyashanti material that he was referencing, and he assured me it was. So I downloaded it onto my iPhone so I could listen to it during my travels, walks, etc. I smiled that, in my delay in getting the material, I even got a $20 Christmas discount. Sorry, but I see such things as Spirit working to meet me in my process. There is humor in the Cosmos!
I listened to only the first half hour of the 24 hours and was surprised that I was struck so positively by what Adyashanti had to say. He himself grew up in a Christian home, but was not drawn to how Christianity was presented to him as a child attending Sunday school. So he stopped going. But he related to his grandfather who seemed to him to embody the Christ energy he was hearing about in Sunday school, and yet his grandfather did not preach at him about what he had to believe to be a Christian.
To set the stage for this series of teachings on Jesus Christ Adyashanti said he wanted his audience to know where he was coming from. First, he was not interested in the story about the historical Jesus. Second, he was not even interested in the teachings of Jesus Christ. What he was interested in was the Presence of Jesus Christ, and that is what he would be sharing.
As an aside, he sees many distortions in the many Christian denominations and suggests that the Power of the Presence of Christ seems pretty amazing and is testified to when those in the pew can grow up and emulate the Christ energy despite the many distortions surrounding Jesus Christ coming at them in teachings and sermons of the churches they attend.
I was amazed at how drawn I was to his teaching and how much I agreed with his opening comments. Yes, in the first half hour I agreed with my Pittsburg Pathwork friend: Adyashanti and Pathwork – and I would add, my intuitive Self – seem to be on the same page regarding Jesus Christ. Pat and I plan to listen to this Adyashanti material as we travel over the Thanksgiving holidays. We are both looking forward to this exploration.
A second event was the following. A Pathwork helper in Brazil who has been working Pathwork as long as I have (13 years) responded with delight to my later blog entries in my Jesus Christ series. In one of her emails to me she shared a Pathwork quote that particularly appealed to her and that she has been meditating on. It is from Pathwork Additional Material #9 and goes as follows:
Now, as you do this my friends, you become ready to allow the presence of the universal spirit of the Christ that permeates all being to speak through you and out of you, and become one with you. And only in that degree can you assume the full leadership of your task. A key is necessary for this, and that key is, your wanting to give of your best faculties of the God-Self that you are, for the greater cause. Then you can truly be the leader you are needed to be; that the Great Plan needs in many different manifestations.
I was truly drawn to these words from the Pathwork Guide and appreciated her sharing.
In parallel with all of this, I have been encouraging people to attend the Pathwork Graduate Program being led by Erena Bramos coming up at Sevenoaks in December, and used the above quote with its heavy references to Christ in my announcement encouraging others to attend. Several recipients were appreciative, but one veteran Pathworker was really triggered by my referencing Christ. He said this mention of Christ alone would prevent him from participating.
I was curious about a word he used in reference to my use of Christ. He said that invoking Christ in such a situation was inappropriate, calling my use of this quote with Christ in it a “nostrum that is not needed.” I had to look up nostrum to get his meaning (nostrum: a medicine sold with false or exaggerated claims and with no demonstrable value; quack medicine). I could understand his position – for it has long been my own to the extent that nostrum relates to the majority of Christian denominations that use Jesus Christ as a substitute for doing our own work on our path – the message that Jesus Christ paid the price and bore the punishment we deserve for our sins so we can go to heaven. But I no longer see Jesus Christ in this Christian fundamentalist light, as my previous blog entries in this series on Jesus Christ have borne out. So for me my freely using Christ is not as “an opiate” to salve my guilt and anxiety in life, not as a ticket to some heaven after death, not as “wishful thinking,” or, to use my friends work, not as a nostrum. None of this language is present in my own statements about who Jesus Christ is to me that opens this blog entry. Perhaps my friend would still see my use of this Christ quote as inappropriate, but I do not feel in anyway threatened or challenged by his words. He, like me, is free to have his own opinions. Perhaps someday he and I shall discuss the Jesus Christ topic.
Afterwards I dropped a note to my brother Paul. Paul and I talk regularly (weekly when we can) and deeply about matters spiritual in general and about Jesus Christ in particular. He remains a solid member of a local Lutheran church and he is deeply engaged in his own bible study. I respect both his faithfulness to his own understandings and opinions as well as his openness to explore these topics with me. And he takes the time to try to explain my position on Jesus Christ to his (and my) church friends and relatives. I told him I found it very interesting that regarding Jesus Christ I now seem to be standing in opposition to some folks in both camps: to some in the Christian Church who would say I am a heretic in danger of hellfire and to some in Pathwork who would say I am still a stogy conservative Christian needlessly hanging on to Jesus Christ as a nostrum. I further note the ease with which I take this stand, embracing the Mystery of the Light of Christ with Christians and Pathworkers alike.
Shared in love, Gary