A Jesus Christ Series – Part 13: My Unexpected Resonance with Adyashanti
I have now listened to 7 hours, or 30% of Adyashanti’s 24-hour series on Jesus Christ. He titled this series Jesus – The Teachings of a Revolutionary Mystic. It was recorded during a weeklong retreat on Jesus Christ that he gave in April of 2013. (Click here to link to this 22-CD audio recording available from Adyashanti’s Open Gate Sangha Bookstore)
In listening to this series by Adyashanti I find myself more often than not saying, “Yes! Yes! Yes! This is it; this is the truth about Jesus Christ!” In addition, I find so much of Adyashanti’s message relates to my own troubling and challenging journey to find my own truth about Jesus Christ. In this sense I find encouragement from this series. Of course so far I have listened to only the first 30% of his 24-hour message, but I doubt that I shall feel any less enthusiastic when I complete my listening. And this does not mean that I agree with all he says but rather that listening to Adyashanti has helped free me so that I can more enthusiastically dare to have my own opinion about Jesus Christ, unencumbered by Church dogma.
In reflection I also see the perfection of my journey and how it has been and continues to be my job in this incarnation to slug my way through my relationship with Jesus Christ. I can see the broad steps that have shaped my lifelong journey. First was the solid grounding in the bible during my first 50 years both in the Lutheran Church and also from various Fundamentalist Christian Churches to which I was exposed. I was a bible and spiritual scholar, not formally, but in my own way.
I am so glad I did not pursue my innate interests in spirituality by becoming a Lutheran pastor, a path I considered in midlife when I was 44 and stepping down from my CEO role at SDRC. Why was this “not becoming a Lutheran pastor” right for me? Because in hindsight had I gone to a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod seminary (as I was considering then) and gone on to take a pastoral role I would have been tied to a career where I felt trapped in the dogma of the Lutheran Church that paid my way – dogma from which I would later need to break out. Further, I am not cut out to be a pastor, as was pointed out by psychological tests I took at the time. Scholar? “Yes,” but pastor (and I would say teacher)? “No” – I did not have the extrovert personality and social skills required to handle the broad range of responsibilities of an effective local pastor or teacher.
While I did not pursue becoming a pastor, I am thankful for my biblically based early life, my first 50 years, that had solidly grounded me. However, this Lutheran spirituality in the end did not fit me. To go on in my journey this old foundation built on Lutheran and Christian Fundamentalist dogma and associated cultural norms had to be deconstructed. This deconstructing process was confusing and painful both to me and to so many around me, including in particular my wife, family, and many church friends who saw me as a solid citizen and family man, a man in strong leadership and teaching roles in the church. When I left these roles my wife, family, and church friends were confused about who I was and were dismayed by what was going on with me that I would so radically change directions in all areas of my life – family, career, and religion. But change I did.
My path from age 50 to 65 or so included several painful and ultimately failing affairs that tore me open emotionally. I have remorse for these. My path also included exposure to and emersion in broader and more liberal theologies and psychologies as I took on with vigor courses at a local Catholic Seminary, participated in a Clinical Pastoral Education program at a local hospital, entered massage school where one of the instructors was an ex-priest and very grounded in his spirituality, completed training as a life-coach, and was led to a Barbara Brennan teacher who, in turn, led me to my deep immersion into Pathwork, my spiritual “home” since 2000. My diligence and intensity that had characterized my first 50 years of searching continued into this midlife phase — always the curious student of life.
During this 15-year midlife transition time I was quite confused by the question, “Who is Jesus Christ?” In my thirties I “knew” who Jesus Christ was, but in my 50s and 60s I did not. Since my early 50s I have been somehow at once drawn toward and repulsed against discovering who this Jesus Christ was and is. Since leaving the church (formally at age 57, but in effect years earlier) I worked hard to individuate away from my fundamentalist and Lutheran Christian roots. These particular earlier teachings regarding Jesus Christ simply did not fit in my life any longer. Yet on the other hand it was, for whatever reason, impossible for me to walk away entirely from Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was to remain somehow central to my life, but I could not see how. During this 15-20-year transition period the tension between walking away from the Churches’ many dogmas regarding Jesus Christ while and at the same time being somehow drawn to the being and Presence of Jesus Christ became unbearable. From time to time during this long transition period I would dive into this subject, but the time did not yet seem right and the “Who” of Jesus Christ remained an enigma.
Earlier this year I was once again led to wrestle with the subject of Jesus Christ. My A Jesus Christ Series, which I began in July of this year and, with this entry, totals 13 lengthy blog entries, is my most recent dive into this central issue in my life. I am sure this writing goes well over 100 pages so far. And somehow things seem to be coming together a little more clearly this time. I was helped in part by the two books by Peter Rollins (Insurrection: To Believe is Human, To Doubt Divine and The Idolatry of God: Breaking Our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction) that, while I do not ascribe to all of the material presented, helped to concretize my deconstruction process in a way that was helpful for me to see.
And certainly before this year my long study of Ken Wilber’s and others’ works related to Integral Consciousness, as well as authors such as Karen Armstrong, Cynthia Bourgeault, Richard Rohr, and others played a role. Another book, on the surface seemingly unrelated but which helped crystalize where civilization would be without deeper levels of consciousness and spirituality, is Five Billion Years of Solitude by Lee Billings. These writings, plus my recent sessions on Jesus Christ with Pathwork Helpers Brian O’Donnell and Moira Shaw and allusions to Jesus Christ by Pathwork Helper Sage Walker, Pat’s and my couples’ counselor, seem to have moved the Jesus Christ ball down the field for me since July. Now, just at a time when I could take it in, Adyashanti’s series on Jesus Christ shows up in my life and, amazingly, feels like a “perfect stone” at a “perfect time” in my search for an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ.
The perfection of my journey includes the seriousness with which I have pursued the subject – so much intensity with bible study during my first 45 years, then broadening into other dimensions of spirituality, again with intensity, and then my intensity with Pathwork without which I’m sure I would not at all be ready for Adyashanti. And I notice that finding my Pathwork Helper Team (Moira Shaw, Brian O’Donnell, Sage Walker, and Erena Bramos) has occurred only in the past several years, and that the latest Rollins works referred to above as well as Billings’ book and now the Adyashanti recordings on Jesus did not even exist until 2013! How could I not think I was being somehow guided, especially when I consider how these materials and people have come into my life? And of course Pat (whose background includes a year in a Catholic convent and many years in the Catholic Church) and Jenny Zia, my Pathwork “buddy,” (whose background includes being born into a Christian missionary family in Africa and theology degrees in college and also years of practice as a psychotherapist and Pathwork student/teacher) also play their roles here. Yes, I am very well supported, and the journey has been perfect, though at times confusing and painful both to myself as well as to others!
Some of the teachings of Adyashanti that resonate with me so far include:
1] The unique offering of Christianity is that Spirit, outside of time and space, (Christ) incarnated inside time and space (in the person of Jesus). No other religion offers this perspective – most deal with man searching for the divine (heaven, Nirvana, etc.), not the divine radiance entering the world of human consciousness as one of us.
2] The virgin birth (given only in Matthew and Luke), Jesus’ baptism (recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), and the grand prologue of the Gospel of John all speak to the same topic: God-Spirit was incarnated into human form, and this process of incarnation was not related to Jesus being born as a baby through Mary and Joseph. The literal “virgin birth” is not necessary for the profound message that Spirit (God) became man in the person of Jesus Christ. The gospel authors were simply not aware of other ways of adequately explaining this phenomenon.
3] We, too, are incarnated, that is Spirit (God – our Divine Essence, our Radiance) became human in our beingness as explained in John 3:3 – being born again by water and by the Spirit – in the same way that Jesus was born of Spirit. Not directly noted by Adyashanti, but in the session he did read the prologue to John’s Gospel where the gospel says, “[Jesus] gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” In being children of God we are of the same nature as Christ being born as the “human” Jesus. We are the radiance of God in our Essences, and we recognize that radiance in others and especially in Jesus Christ.
4] Adyashanti, as does Moira Shaw in her Pathwork, distinguishes purification from transformation – the former being what we can do and the latter being what God does in us. John the Baptist says (Matthew 3:11), “I baptize you with water for repentance, but after me will come one who is more powerful than I, … he [Jesus] will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Adyashanti points out that repentance means to turn around – stop looking outside, rather start looking inside, something we can do on our own. I would add that the baptism by the Holy Spirit and fire is the transformation of the lower self – transforming its negative intentionality into positive intentionality. We need all of ourselves, but align with how we use all parts of ourselves with our Divine nature. Note that Matthew continues (verse 12), “His [Jesus’] winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” While church convention speaks of this as Jesus judging and sending lost souls to hell while saved souls go to heaven, I would say it refers to transforming the lower selves of individuals – burning up negative intentionality of individual souls and freeing the positive intentionality of these same souls to radiate forth into the world.
5] Religions, with their rigid dogma, reinforce the ego’s propensity to find safety and security in static structures and belief systems. Truth, however, is alive and not static. Tying things down to fixed dogma is dead. Living Truth (e.g., an insight) applies to the moment. Truth for the next moment will be the Truth for that next moment. To write the Truth of one moment down as if it is permanent is a trick of the ego, the ego that wants to find security in fixedness. Each moment has its own Truth. Such is the nature of Truth. Fixed dogma is the antithesis of the living Truth of the Spirit.
There’s much more, but this gives the flavor of Adyashanti’s teachings and how they landed with me. What arises as I write this last point 5] is that these insights from Adyashanti with which my intuitive self resonates is that, once awakened into their truth within me, must be released.
I began this blog entry with my response to Adyashanti in this Jesus series as, “Yes! Yes! Yes! This is it; this is the truth about Jesus Christ!” But there are two caveats here. First, is my freedom to be grounded in my own truth, not that of Adyashanti. He himself says he is but a midwife to our own radiance – that the radiance that emerges from us as insights, truth, love, and joy is ours and , I would say, of our Real Self, of our Christedness. So in this sense the “this” in, “Yes! Yes! Yes! This is it; this is the truth about Jesus Christ!” refers to my opinion and is not my clinging to the words of Adyashanti. He would never want me to cling to his truths! Nor would the Pathwork Guide.
Second, Adyashanti’s teachings, like Pathwork, and other teachings that have informed my life, are not to become a new rigid foundation upon which my ego builds my life and makes my life secure going forward. No, the true foundation of my life underpins these insights; my true foundation is lively and fluid and is beneath my conventional idea of a solid and fixed foundation. My foundation is of the void and unmanifest, not of the manifest; my foundation is the formless rather than form, outside time and space rather than in time and space. And being fluid, my foundation changes moment to moment.
This awareness is freeing. And yes, it is also scary at times. Further, it suggests that although all of my efforting to understand Jesus Christ has been my path, this level of efforting is not required by others who have their own paths. With this realization I can consider relaxing my own investigative curiosity. I can certainly also relax my need to be somehow “right” and be comfortable instead with my being “perhaps somewhat right.” This involves fully accepting my limitations of being human on planet Earth. In knowing that it is impossible to be right, perhaps I can enter life with less intensity. Perhaps, but I also recognize that my intensity has served me well. It has also been a source of joy and excitement. In other words my boundless curiosity emanates from my Essence and as such is not a means to an end but an end in and of itself. On the other hand, a compulsion would be a means to an end and not come from my Essence. This makes intensity, when it shows up, part of my uniqueness and as such leads to intensity being part of my “perfect” path. So intense or not intense going forward, I can trust that whatever shows up is a continuation of my perfect path.
Shared in love, Gary
Epilogue – Some Things to Think about — Short articles of interest from the Sunday New York Times, books of possible interest
1) Millennial Searchers – young people are not seeking happiness but rather are seeking meaning in life, and meaning comes not from selfish interests but from serving something greater than the self. Encouraging article.
2) Book of interest: Just Babies: The Origin of Good and Evil by Paul Bloom
3) On Dying After Your Time – can we come to accept death as an experience of life rather than fighting it as the enemy with everything modern medicine can throw at it? Was written by an 83-year-old who, in fact, has been sustained by modern medicine – as have I. Sobering to consider.
4) The Other Arab Awakening This article speaks of the evolutionary awakenings going on in Saudi Arabia vs. the revolutionary awakenings going on in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Tunisia, Syria, etc. Saudi Arabia offers a very encouraging model for change.
5) The Pope and the Right Interesting perspective by Ross Douthat, a conservative Catholic. Now that the Pope appears more “liberal” than his predecessors, can conservatives who might oppose him set a better example of integrating rather than opposing the words of the Pope, as has been too often the case formerly when liberal Catholics opposed conservative Popes.
6) Book of interest: My Promised Land – the Triumph and Tragedy of Israel by Ari Shavit. I bought this book because of the importance of Israel in my life from many perspectives. Written by a Jewish scholar, as one recommendation reads, “This is the epic history that Israel deserves – beautifully written, dramatically rendered, full of moral complexity.” I am eager to read it.