A Jesus Christ Series – Part 3
My July 11, 2013, Helper Session with Brian O’Donnell on the subject of Jesus Christ
Gary: I’m aware of my resistance against this pursuit of Jesus Christ. This resistance is based upon my images concerning Jesus Christ with which I came into this incarnation and which were further etched into my Soul Substance during my first 57 years of life as a faithful member in the conservative Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. My prayer is that I can stop battling against my battling against my relationship with Jesus Christ.
Brian: Beautiful. I welcome you Gary and all that you carry in this beautiful question, this beautiful inquiry. And I pray to create a safe place with you in which you can go anywhere, say anything, feel anything in regards to this beautiful question and wherever it takes us. And I give my best to this venture with you and I ask for both of us that we be graced and guided, inspired and loved by Jesus Christ in this beautiful and sacred conversation. Amen. Gary: Amen. Amen.
Gary: I’m not sure quite where to start. Brian: That’s a good place to start. Gary: Let me just speak and see what comes out… I was raised in a strong Bible-based Lutheran Christian church. All through my church years I was very very active in the church. I enjoyed bible classes and reading the bible. I read the bible through several times, enjoyed various versions, and was quite a student of the bible for years. For 20 years I led bible classes, both in the church and at the office where I worked. I enjoyed bible classes – being a student of the bible. I also held many leadership roles. I also expanded out into a more Fundamentalist Christianity – I was also exposed to and very much enjoyed Christian Evangelicals like Chuck Swindol and teachings of bible-schools like Multnomah School of the Bible in Oregon.
Well let me back up a bit. All through my teenage years I had a split in me between science and my Lutheranism. I would devour and be inspired by books on cosmology, astronomy, nuclear physics and chemistry on the one hand and be a faithful reader and student of the bible on the other. I enjoyed both. But I could not integrate these two disciplines, and I could find no support or mentor to guide me through this split allegiance. On the one hand I had a great fear if I found myself going against the teachings of the church when I read books on archeology and cosmology. On the other hand I loved astronomy. Somehow the bible and the church held the upper hand in my authority structure. I could not find anyone who could help me integrate my scientific interests with my church’s dogmatic stance on things like the inerrancy of the bible, etc. I remember once in my teenage years when I was wrestling with this split that my pastor dismissed my inquiry by saying simply that I thought too much.
By my mid twenties I was leading bible classes but, unbeknownst to the pastor, I would introduce historical critical methods of looking at the text. This would have been anathema to the pastor, but somehow I got away with it and was a bit rebellious in this way. Also I was drawn to works by Edgar Cayce, especially his Story of Jesus, which I found very fascinating. Earlier in high school, I had been drawn to works by Immanuel Velikovsky such as Worlds in Collision, which in an elegant way (at least elegant for a person in high school curious about such things) linked astronomy and the bible history laid out in the book of Exodus. In my twenties I was also intrigued by paranormal phenomena – but I could discuss such topics with no one I knew, or no one who held spirituality and science on equal levels of importance.
In a way I was individuating a bit in my twenties, but only a bit. I seemed to be in desperate need for a mentor, or what today I would call a spiritual director. I found I would never have trusted a psychotherapist in those days, believing that either he or she would be too church oriented to accommodate my scientific side or would be an atheist who would try to heal my spiritual side, considering it pathology.
But this venturing out from the church changed just before my thirtieth birthday. On September 23, 1972, both of my parents were killed in an auto accident. Influenced no small amount by a Fundamentalist Christian in our family who graciously supported my brother and me through the next several years, I dropped my somewhat “heretical” interests and focused on the bible for my truth. Through my thirties I was more of a Christian Fundamentalist than a Lutheran. I loved the bible, studied it, read it devotionally, listened to the bible on tape as well as many sermons and teachings on tape.
But in my mid forties, having been adequately successful in the business world, including being the head of a $40M engineering software company for nearly four years, I was becoming unsettled in my spiritual life and began searching for deeper spiritual roots. I would say that spiritually I was in a full midlife crisis during my mid to late forties. I tried many programs both inside and outside of the church, but nothing worked for me. Was I being stubborn? Was I being discerning and wise? Was I waking up?
Then at age fifty I was introduced by a Catholic sister to the concept of spiritual direction and to spiritual seekers groups, neither concept being familiar to me in Lutheran circles. Working with this Catholic sister at first and later with a more liberal Lutheran pastor, I co-founded several such groups – based in many ways on 12-step principles. And by age fifty three or so I entered into spiritual direction with another Catholic sister and then later with a former priest who had left the priesthood and his role as Professor of Pastoral Counseling at a Catholic Seminary, had gotten married, and had become a Jungian therapist. This was a very helpful support network for where I was in my early to late fifties.
But I want to get back to the role in my life of the Catholic sister who introduced me to spiritual direction and helped me start groups. The energy I felt toward her during our five year relationship awoke in me a powerful Eros that I could not “put back in the box.” While this was not a mutual relationship it was for me nonetheless transformational to my spirituality and gave me the “permission,” strength and courage I needed to pull out of the rigidity of the conservative Lutheran church I had been in all my life. This was the beginning of my individuation from the religion of my childhood. I was now free to pursue a deeper spirituality that could speak to my Soul.
By my mid fifties I had also begun taking graduate-level courses in spirituality from a gifted teacher and author who taught at a local Catholic seminary. The names of her courses included titles such as: The Psychology and Spirituality of Midlife, Experiencing God, Walking with the Mystics, Prayer, etc. I was the token Lutheran in her class and drank in this material, which was so very different from bible classes I had taught and from other bible classes and sermons given at my Lutheran Church and by Fundamentalist preachers and teachers I had listened to for over a decade. I was in my fifties and finally waking up to my spiritual self.
This seminary work also led to my being a hospital chaplain intern in a Clinical Pastoral Education program for nine months. Not being a member of the clergy however I could not really continue on such a path, but the CPE work and work with patients broadened my spiritual worldview. My spirituality was sprouting its wings.
However huge shifts were taking place in my life. Because of my awakened Eros and newfound spirituality, my entire life became uprooted. By age fifty-eight I had retired from my 29-year satisfying career, had left the Lutheran Church, and had divorced my wife of 34 years. Needless to say, this latter step was painful and chaotic for my family, for my many friends and colleagues, and, though I was not aware of it, for me. Was this latter step necessary? Perhaps not, but based on everything I knew at the time and all the counseling I had been through, this seemed to me like a necessary step. At any rate, it was the step I took.
From this state of midlife chaos, in August of 2000, just before my 58th birthday, I was on a directed one-week retreat in which my director, a Barbara Brennan School of Healing faculty member, saw that, while I was obviously spiritually oriented, I “needed a lot of help,” as she put it. She sent me to Pathwork at Sevenoaks. While Sevenoaks was 470 miles from my home, it was the only place she thought was up to the capability required for me to handle what I needed for my spiritual development. So for the thirteen years since coming to Sevenoaks I have been very inspired by Pathwork on many levels.
However in all of this one key element has been perplexing to me and that is my relationship with Jesus Christ. All through my Lutheran and Fundamentalist phases of life I had an intellectual framework for Jesus Christ. It was all laid out in creeds written in the sixteenth Century, explained in the Lutheran Catechism written by Martin Luther, and taught weekly from the pulpit. But in truth I had no idea what people were talking about when they spoke of a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” I came to see that perhaps through much of my first 50 years, while so active in the church, I was at the same time on the inside a closet atheist, or at least an agnostic. Experientially and emotionally I just did not get the relational piece concerning Jesus Christ.
Later I would learn that my struggle with a relationship with Jesus Christ also relates to my attachment dysfunctions in general – “attachment avoidance disorder.” So here I stand in Pathwork with its elegant teachings about Jesus Christ to which I readily subscribe and that inspire me and feel so powerful and right, truly resonating with my Soul. Yet in all of this inspiration I would not say I have a “personal relationship” with the Christ. And in a way my early church training seemed to have inoculated me against developing a healthy felt sense relationship with Jesus Christ, and rather kept me stuck in dogma and away from experiential mysticism that I would later see was calling me in some way. And at that I am not too sure of what true mysticism is either and how it relates to my relationship with Jesus Christ.
Part of me simply does not relate to the teachings of conservative Christian Evangelicals and their formulated rigid dogmas about Jesus dying for the sins of the world so believers can go to heaven when they die while unbelievers go to hell. This simple formulaic theology does not fit where I am, and somehow I seem to associate a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” as one and the same with subscribing to this Christian Fundamentalist theological framework concerning Jesus dying for my sins so I can go to “heaven” and not “hell” when I die. Informed by many Pathwork Lectures on Jesus Christ as well as by many other writings, I intellectually know that subscribing to these Fundamentalist Christian dogmas is not the same as having an existential experience of Jesus Christ arising within one’s Soul, but emotionally or in some other way I seem hung up on this split, and my resistance to the former (fundamentalism, intellectual dogma formulations about Jesus Christ and his role in my life) seems to block me from growth in the latter (mysticism or some other form of relationship with Jesus Christ) to which I seem to be called. As a result, I am stuck and cannot seem to move forward toward a strong relationship with Jesus Christ that intellectually seems possible. So, Brian, this is where I seem to be.
As I describe this I can see I’ve had lots of help along my path. I am thankful for the Lutheran church that grounded me so well in the Scriptures, which I loved. But I could not go back to the conservative Lutheran teachers and pastors for help in moving toward what was becoming so alive in me as I took in deeper spirituality and psychology. These conservative pastors would discourage my venturing into such venues, and for some reason I was attached to the church and couldn’t seem to just leave. I certainly have been helped by my Jungian therapist, by the seminarian professor and her courses on spirituality, by another more liberal Lutheran pastor, and finally Pathwork and my Pathwork Helpers and Teachers, all of which seems to fit me perfectly.
But how do I let go of my old images of what a “relationship with Jesus Christ” is supposed to be – seemingly a “believing in Jesus Christ and trusting in his atonement for my sins so I get to go to heaven and then, in gratitude, spreading this ‘good news’ of the gospel to others so they will go to heaven rather than hell when they die.” I just do not know how to bridge the gap between 1) Fundamentalist Christian dogma that was etched upon my Soul Substance in my childhood and then again reinforced in my thirties and now 2) the teachings about Jesus Christ contained in the Pathwork Lectures and in so many other spiritual writings that invite me into a deeper but unknown intimacy and mystery. Is it just a matter of leaving the old behind as old wineskins and putting new wine in new wineskins and going forward in the NOW? But for some reason this is so hard for me to do. What traps me?
On some level I hold that my “tainted life” of sin – leaving my marriage, etc. – will never allow me to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Then projecting onto Jesus Christ requirements for celibacy and never experiencing the Eros of the Life Force, etc. There’s a lot of baggage in all of this. In the end all of this distortion and baggage blocks a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
In my blog these past several years I have included posts about my wrestling with Jesus Christ. I seem to keep coming back to this topic. This writing things out helps me clarify and integrate what’s up in me. But I just want to stay open on this question about who is Jesus Christ to me.
After setting this appointment up with you, Brian, several weeks ago, Spirit got things percolating, especially in the past day or two. Yesterday Pat’s and my couples’ session with Sage and Anthony led to my noticing the picture of the 12-year-old Jesus in the Temple that hung behind and between Sage and Anthony on Sage’s wall in her office. For ten minutes of our session we talked about that picture and what it meant to Sage. How synchronistic – that I saw it, recognized it, mentioned that I recognized it, and then to learn that it meant so much to Sage. Then I shared the fact that Heinrich Hofmann also painted Christ in Gethsemane. When I mentioned that to Sage in an email after our session she was amazed – she also has Christ in Gethsemane hanging on her wall but did not know it was by the same artist! Then Sage went on to say that in our intensive she had a moment where she recognized Christ within me – and had actually shared that with Anthony after the session. How to take that in – not in some prideful way, which I always fear in such matters, but as a mirroring of a truth I am to see and accept in myself.
All of this is in my history, the moth and the flame experience — and I notice that as strong as I get pulled in by the Light of Christ (the flame) I have the “PUSH AWAY, PUSH AWAY, PUSH AWAY” energy, screaming that I want no part of this – terror that the “Light of Christ” will burn me up! Yesterday morning I went back to read the Jesus Christ Lecture (Pathwork Lecture 19). In there the Guide speaks about the Light that Christ is, and states that the entities who are still in darkness cringe at the Light that Christ is. This Lecture 19 was the Guide’s first Christmas message, given on December 20, 1957. And the Guide spoke of Christmas as a time where the Light of Christ goes throughout the cosmos. And the spirits of darkness cringe at this Light. Yet, the Guide says in this lecture, if you could be in touch with the Light that is within you, which is of the same substance as the Light of Christ, that Light would protect you from the evil forces. Yes, the Light of Christ is a part of me, a part of my Essence, my Higher Self, or “The Holy Ghost,” as Pathwork Lecture 20 God: The Creation ¶19 says: “The Holy Ghost is not one being, nor is it part of a threefold God in the sense it is often interpreted: it is simply the divine substance that every living creature possesses to some degree whether freed to some extent of other substances or still covered up by them. So you can see that the idea of the Trinity has been often misunderstood; yet there is also a great amount of truth within the misunderstanding.” Lecture 19 Jesus Christ closes (¶19) with Christ being your best friend and your strongest helper. I am sitting with all of this, as well as the pushing away of not only the Love of Christ from within me but also the Love toward and from people, the love toward and from Sage, the love toward and from Pat, the love toward and from Anthony, et al. I can feel that push-away energy toward Love itself! I feel like the Apostle Paul before his conversion on the road to Damascus – facing the terror that I’m going to get struck down on my donkey and have a conversion experience.
I realize that I’ve manifested entrapment on all sides, and I can’t get out of this. It’s as if I set this up before my incarnation to play out in this incarnation. Brian: So that there is no escape. Gary: Yes, there is no escape. I am at this point where I either give up or die. And yet the resistance is so strong.
So, Brian, when you introduce Jesus Christ faithfully all the time, that registers with me, with my Soul. “I’ve got to involve you in my process about this issue of Jesus Christ.” Brian: I am part of your pre-arranged “NO ESCAPE” plan! I’m another sentinel, which you arranged so there would be no escape.
Gary: I don’t know where to go with all of this. Brian: Yes you do. You are doing it. You are setting things up. You arranged this call with me. You noticed the Christ in the Temple picture with Sage and Anthony and named it. You just told me that a part of you seems to be arranging these situations so that you would have to have a deep encounter with and no escape from this Light of Christ, which is within you and around you. So trust the line that’s moving here – the line that would have Sage and Anthony sitting on either side of Christ in the Temple. That would have me come into your life these recent weeks. There’s a momentum happening. Trust it. Maybe there is nothing you have to do other than trust that and keep allowing it, keep allowing yourself to say whatever is coming to your mind, coming to your heart, coming to your Spirit.
Gary: What I’m reminded of is the passage Philippians 1:6 – “Being confident of this very thing, that he who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” This passage just rings in me at this moment. And the day of Jesus Christ for me is NOW. It’s all here NOW. Brian: It’s arrived. He’s arrived. He has risen! Jesus Christ has risen within you. …
Gary: And yet, amazingly to part of me, in all of this, in this very moment, there is FEAR in another part of me. I think part of the fear, in my Ego that wants to be separate, is “What will Jesus Christ, even the Jesus Christ that is within me, the Jesus Christ that IS me, ask of me?”
Brian: What might Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, your Higher Self, your Real Self, ask of you that would be frightening? Gary: That I would have to go back to my Lutheran Church and say “You were right, I was bad for leaving the church.” Brian: Crawling back on your hands and knees. Gary: And yet the Jesus Christ of the Lutheran Church, which was so impressed upon my Soul substance growing up is not the True Christ, there are all kinds of images about the Christ contained in the dogma of the Lutheran Church and the dogma of Christian Fundamentalism that do not feel real or True to my higher intuitive sense of Knowing.
Brian: Of course. These images constitute a field, an energetic field that you are going to have to penetrate here, this energetic field that constitutes your image of Jesus Christ. But you believe something may be asked of you and that belief may come from this energetic field, but it may also be a deep intuition behind this energetic field of images, a deep intuition that you are going to be asked to do something, to give something. Your deep intuition comes through the field of your images and can get distorted – leading to conclusions that you are going to be humiliated, or emasculated, or castrated, that you’ll have to be celibate, that you won’t be able to have pleasure, or whatever is in that field of images.
But there is also some truth that the Christ might ask something of you that may feel like a sacrifice. But the Pathwork Guide always says that whatever we consider a sacrifice once we get past it it always will feel like a great liberation, and we only think we have to sacrifice when reality it was only a burden. But on this side the sacrifice feels like, “Oh God, don’t ask that of me!” But once on the other side we say, “Oh, thank God.”
So when I ask you the question, “What might be asked of you?” you said “I might have to crawl back on my hands and knees and say “I am so sorry, you were right, your dogmas and creeds about Jesus Christ were right all along, I’ve been so bad, I’ve been such an awful sinner, …” Which is true, perhaps – you will have to figure that out yourself, but also consider the possibility that maybe that is distorted and seen through the field of the images.
Gary: Another piece of that field of images has to do with growing up in the Lutheran Church and having the confession every Sunday that would go something like, “I, a poor miserable sinner, confess unto Thee that I am by nature sinful and have sinned against Thee in thought, word, and deed and indeed deserve nothing but temporal and eternal punishment.” I would go through this every Sunday, but there is another part of me that wants to go, “Fuck it! Just fuck it! I am not going to sign up for that. Brian: Good.
Gary: Then the other piece of my resistance is against the fundamental message of the Christian Church, in the entire redemption story that says “You are a poor miserable sinner, and therefore Christ, in his suffering and death on the cross, bore the punishment you deserved and paid the price for your sins so that you can go to heaven when you die, and without redemptive act you’re nothing and are deserving God’s wrath and punishment, but if you believe in this redemptive work of Christ then you are clothed in the righteousness of Christ but, again, without that you’re nothing.” I have Lutheran friends who are still very active – and despite my waywardness some of us remain very close friends and we talk about our differences freely – these conversations are rich and a huge blessing – but at the same time where we really do not see Jesus Christ in the same light. I am constantly butting up against these differences – some truly believe that, that is, this Fundamentalist Christian interpretation of the Christ message resonates with their deep sense of what is true for them as informed by Scriptures and their own sense of truth. It is obvious to them and they confess, “I am nothing but a worthless sinner. The only good that happens is Christ working through me.”
Now I will even say that at some level that confession is TRUE, but why not identify with the Christ within rather than making the Christ within other than you? Calling yourself God, that is, Christ, in your Essence, in your Essential Nature, is anathema to them; Some of them say, “Oneness with God is being so arrogant, how could you call yourself God or Divine?” To which I say, “Yes, and what is the problem with this?” Is this not really “Good News” of the Gospel and central to Jesus’ teachings? And so we get to a stuck point there.
But it is a point where I feel the Truth of my Higher Self Divinity, what the Guide calls “The Holy Ghost” from the Trinitarian dogma of the Christian Church. If I am not God in my Essence, then neither is Christ God in his Essence. Yes, the Guide says the Christ has the majority of God’s Essence, but that does not matter. We are all Divine at our Core. If I were, in my essence, a decrepit nothing of a being, there would be no purpose to life on earth. This feels so illogical to me to think, “Well you come to this earth, you discover that you are a shit, you trust Christ and now you can go to heaven.” And why should God let you into heaven – and Brian I would go on evangelism calls from the Lutheran Church where we used the two questions of Kennedy Evangelism Program – where the answer to why God should let you into heaven was, “Because Jesus Christ died for my sins.” This doesn’t ring at all true to me, it grates across my sensibilities.
Brian: But it sounds like this message still rings true with some place in you or you wouldn’t be so worked up about it. Gary: Thank you! Yes in me I am split in two. Part of me are these “Scribes and Pharisees” standing around the child Christ with their rigid dualistic good/bad, right/wrong dogmas while another part of me is the child Christ speaking things they may not understand. And we know that in the end they did not accept him as the Light that he is, and their ignorance cost Jesus his life, his Egoic existence. That is the battle that rages within me. These two sides at war.
So the impossible task that Christ might give me is to witness back to my Lutheran Church brethren, not in a sense of condemnation but just an exploring, “What is the reality of Jesus Christ, of being created in the image of God, of Christ’s resurrection and his return in the person of our very essences, and all the beautiful ways the Guide lays out those truths and the Plan of Salvation in its metaphysics. Let’s explore!” These Pathwork teachings about the Plan of Salvation resonate with me deeply and I would love exploring them with my Lutheran friends, but another part of me is terrified to do this. Brian: It may be true that you will be asked to witness to them, AND it also may be true that you’ll let go of it all. Consider the possibility that you won’t be asked to convince them, or witness to them. That may be true as well. And could you live with that? Gary: Wow! I never considered that as a possibility.
There is something in me that says, “I ought to witness back to them. Take this on!” Brian: You ought to sacrifice yourself? Gary: (Laughing) I get it, part of, “Cast your pearls before swine!” Brian: Maybe, but who knows what you’re going to be asked? It may be that you’ll be asked to let that battle go. They can feel what they want. They can believe what they want. You don’t have to change their minds, or convince them, or get them to believe that you are correct in your understanding. Or, for your own peace, have to reconcile yourself with them. That “letting go” of the Lutheran Church may be asked of you as well. Didn’t Christ say that you have to leave your parents and your family if you really want to follow me? Gary: I may have to leave everything that I’ve given my life for thus far and follow Jesus Christ, the Jesus Christ within, my Divine Essence. Brian: So there you go. This may be equally asked of you, to finally walk away from Lutheranism and away from having to convince anybody of your “rightness.”
Gary: I think that relates primarily internally – to stop having to witness to that part of me that is still, on some level, wedded to Lutheranism or Christian Fundamentalism. To stop beating up on that part of me who, out of fear, still holds Lutheranism and its formal dogma to be totally true. Rather, just to accept as part of me that part of me that still holds onto Lutheranism for its sense of safety. “Yes, Lutheranism lives in me, it very naturally came to me because I was in that Christian environment for fifty years of my life.” At first when I got away from it I was angry with what the Lutheran Church had “done to me,” I was rebellious against the Lutheran Church. Now those rebellious days are gone. I am no longer angry at the Lutheran Church.
In fact I see the strong conservative Lutheran Church as a blessing on two counts. First it grounded me in the Bible, which resonated with me and which I learned to love. And secondly, it was so rigid that I had to break out of it or die. If I would have been raised in a more liberal Christianity I might never have felt the pain. Brian: You might not have been freed from formal Christianity. Gary: Right, I may have just gone along my merry way in a lukewarm spirituality, be a social member of the church simply as one dimensions of my life. So I see the Lutheran Church as a real gift. It revealed how seriously I take my spirituality.
Brian: So you said that the two things Jesus Christ could ask of you that you fear and would not want are 1) to have to crawl back on my hands and knees and confess, “Oh my God, I have been a sinner in leaving the Lutheran Church,” and 2) the other thing that spontaneously came up was this memory of being in church and professing your wretchedness, and the only way you could not be wretched was to accept what Jesus Christ did for you.
These are powerful images in this field, images about what Jesus Christ is. So from that place you do not have a direct and clear perception or opening to the True Jesus Christ who is behind this field of images that was so deeply conditioned in you. Gary: Right. And Brian, what I intuit in you is that you have a different relationship with Jesus Christ, a relationship for which I don’t experientially have the foundation. I don’t have the experience of a clear vision that is the basis of your relationship with Jesus Christ. This peaks my curiosity – what would a clear direct relationship with Jesus Christ be like if the images and distortions from all sorts of places, including the church, were removed?
One of the things that comes up is inviting me to let go of the “I, a poor miserable sinner” motif. Can I just let that go? Can I say, “I understand that it was all there in my youth, that it is all a central part of today’s Lutheran Church, and then to individuate out of that? But there is something in me that still isn’t individuated from my parent’s church. I do not have the free truth of my own spirituality. Brian: Individuation. That’s a great word. That’s from your Jungian background I’m sure.
Gary: I still define myself by how I am with all these dogmatics. I am either in rebellion against them or conforming to them. Those are my only two options it seems, rather than just letting them go. I don’t have to fight them. And I don’t have to agree with them. Brian: You don’t have to submit to them or fight them. Gary: Right, any more than I would with, say, Hinduism, or Islam, or … Brian: or “zooloism.” Gary: I long not to have to have my life so dogmatically defined in black and white in an external structure. Brian: Beautiful. Beautiful.
Gary: The question that comes up when I set the Lutheran Christ images drop is, “Will the real Jesus Christ please stand up!” And it’s interesting to me, Brian, … (pause, tears) … that Jesus Christ comes as the child Christ, the twelve-year-old Christ, standing in the midst of the old Temple Scribes and Pharisees. Brian: And what is it about that twelve-year-old Christ that comes to you? Gary: There’s a beauty, an innocence, a lack of intimidation in the presence of the elders – the bearded ones steeped in all their dogma, there’s the certainty of his inner conviction that, “I must be about my Father’s business,” he leaves his parents and is with the scholars – that there was a certain mental aspect and curiosity in him that also lives in me. I was confirmed into the Lutheran Church when I was thirteen, and the catechism I used was special – having blank pages for note taking between each printed page. And in this catechism there was also a picture of Jesus in the Temple as a twelve-year-old – different from the Hofmann picture that Sage has, but the same idea. There is something in all of this. I was a student. Can I start with that, being a student? Can I start with the Child Christ? And I remember what came afterwards with the child Christ, and I have curiosity about this – I ask “What did Jesus Christ do between ages 12 and 30?” That’s eighteen years of his life of which we are told nothing. Then at age 30 Jesus shows up fully formed. Am I entering the stage of those blank eighteen years? Note that during those years while he may have left his family he did not choose to stay with the elders in the synagogue – they, too, were not his mentors. Who were Jesus’ teachers?
Is an invitation to me one of, “Gary, just go back to be the child Jesus and begin this 18 years of inner development.”? You don’t have to be the one arguing with the Scribes and Pharisees about dogma. You don’t have to be the adult Jesus driving the moneychangers out of the Temple. Perhaps this is an invitation to embody my youngness spiritually speaking. Just slow down. You do not have to be any more than the young Jesus prior to his formal ministry. Brian: To be your innocence again. Gary: Yes, to follow my curiosity. To admit my wrestling with matters spiritual, the ideas of God, cosmology, metaphysics, and so on – playing with all these different spiritual matters. Admit that I enjoy this wrestling with big ideas. To say, “Yes, be your innocent child-self.” Maybe you’ll come back more fully formed in 18 years, or in 18 incarnations from now. But right now enjoy being a child, at least spiritually. Perhaps God is not asking more of me than that. And I recognize that being a child is quite a challenge for me. Another part of me doesn’t want to be the acorn but rather the oak!
Speaking of acorns and oaks, at the last module of Erena’s graduate program in June an image came to me that I am an acorn, I am not yet “a mighty oak.” Especially when I come to my emotional, physical, spiritual, and sexual development. And I find myself in our Mid-Atlantic Pathwork community in the midst of oak trees when it comes to leadership. And I’m not an oak, yet too often I pretend to be or think I ought to be. I am not grounded organically in my oakness, and so I get in trouble in my emotional, spiritual, and physical capacities when I am among oaks. Feeling threatened, I resort to my intellectual and logical side, which comes off distorted and defensively and is off-putting to others.
From this weak place I can easily be bullied or intimidated by others who seem to be very comfortable and authentic in their oakness. So can I back off from how hard it has been being on the unstructured playground of Sevenoaks. Please invite me into the classroom where I know we are supposed to be learning something. I needed the external structure of the classroom or the church or the business to be safe. Brian: There is safety in structure. Gary: Right, and there was terror on the playground where all there was was me. Ditto with my spirituality outside the structure of the church. So I feel this need to go back and be the acorn, the child-phase of my spiritual development. And let my emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects grow into adulthood organically. They can grow more slowly over the next 18 years , or not. And just let that all happen.
Brian: You’ve showed me the picture of the 12-year-old Christ in the Temple, and I am hearing you, but I’m a little confused because on the one hand it’s “This is the way I can relate to Christ in this moment, not to be the adult Christ in the Temple chasing out the money changers or on the cross, but being the curious and studious Christ as the child Jesus was engaging the Pharisees at the age of twelve.” But then I hear you say that maybe it is even a younger Christ than that, saying, “I don’t want to have to argue with the Pharasees, I just want to be more innocent than that.” Gary: Yes, I guess that’s true, a Jesus younger than the twelve-year-old Jesus, until all of me is grounded enough that I could hold my own in that engaged role with the Pharisees. So parts of me are not even twelve yet, at least not a healthy twelve. This part, an emotional and spiritual part, is still very insecure, not knowing how to be in the world – more in kindergarten.
Brian: It sounds like your indoctrination in Lutheranism was very early. Gary: Yes. I went to a Lutheran grade school through eighth grade, my parents both came out of German Lutheran backgrounds, my mother’s dad was a Lutheran schoolteacher and organist at our Lutheran church, and his dad was a professor at a Lutheran teachers college. Brian: A long lineage of Lutheranism. Gary: And my mother was the valedictorian of her 400-member high school class, so she was very bright in addition to being Lutheran. But we didn’t have any conversation about Jesus Christ or spirituality outside the church. Rather, you just go to church and Sunday school every Sunday, go to the Lutheran grade school, attend the Lutheran youth group, and as a family, after dinner, read a standard short “Portals of Prayer” devotional from the Lutheran church – but never discuss the real deep issues of spirituality that I held interest in in an open and free way.
I didn’t have an emotional connection with Mom. So I also wrestle with attachment disorder issues – specifically, attachment avoidance disorder – asking myself, “What does a loving relationship with another actually feel like in my body?” This is a huge development point in my relationship with Pat, and certainly plays a role in any felt sense of a relationship with Jesus Christ. If I don’t know what an emotional relationship is, how would I even know what a healthy, secure, and mature emotional relationship with Jesus Christ would feel like? Whatever relationship with Jesus Christ existed for me as a child, it was an intellectual construct – Jesus Christ as the second person of the Holy Trinity. But where was the True Jesus Christ whom Pathwork Lecture 19 calls your best friend and your strongest helper? What does that even mean? It certainly more than a theological concept! It is an intimate relationship of some kind.
Brian: So to allow this young one in you to have his own curious, open, exploring relationship with Christ, without having to battle or fight or persuade or defend or throw out the money changers – there is someplace in you that really wants to take this relationship with Jesus Christ way back to a young Gary. And just be in that beautiful, young, innocent curiosity about Jesus Christ. Of course you’ll also have to go through the layers, but you are doing both at the same time here it sounds like.
On the one hand you’re identifying with me from your adult. From here you are asking, “What are the constituent elements of the image field that I have been so indoctrinated in me and conditioned in me?” But, at the same time, you are saying. “Emotionally I want access to and to be open to and trust this young beautiful part of me that is innocent and curious.” And let him move wherever he wants to move. For him to be open and to ask questions, to begin to touch the real Christ. Gary: Right, and the word you said that most resonates with me there is “Trust!” – Trust that part in me that longs to connect from my emotional center to Christ’s emotional center. I think for so long I have just not trusted that young, innocent, curious, spontaneous part of me.
So I had to have a lot of buttressing support from my intellect in order to be safe and OK in the world, and to be safe and OK with Jesus Christ. This voice in me is asking me to go back to the earliest times of my formation, to just begin at the beginning of my spiritual development and relationship with Jesus Christ. “If you are going to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, Gary, it needs to begin by having a relationship with others. And a relationship with yourself. You do not know anything about relationships yet. Just let this all happen. Just be curious about what relationship even means.”
Brian: I want to challenge what might be overstatements. I think you do know about relationship. And of course there is a lot more to learn. But you strike me as a man who knows something about relationship. And also, I see you as an oak. And maybe there are ways that you are a sapling in some areas, but when I got the report you wrote up recently, that came from an oak. I just want to reflect that to you. I don’t know many other helpers that could have written that statement with the wisdom and balance and integrity that you brought to that. So you’re both: acorn and oak. Gary: So what I am hearing is, “Gary, avoid the extremes.” I guess this would be avoiding duality – the BLACK OR WHITE, the STRONG OR WEAK. Back to both/and in our human condition.
And when I am in the extremes, I need to recognize it and know there is likely distortion present merely because there are extremes. Brian: Yes, you are young AND you are also wise; or from a Jungian perspective, you’re a puer – young, curious, developing and innocent, AND you are also a senex (basis of word senate) – the wise one, the mature one, the balanced one. (In writing this out I notice that I can relate to my being, in part, a Puer aeternus — Latin for eternal boy, used in mythology to designate a child-god who is forever young; psychologically it is an older man whose emotional life has remained at an adolescent level. The puer typically leads a provisional life, due to the fear of being caught in a situation from which it might not be possible to escape. He covets independence and freedom, chafes at boundaries and limits, and tends to find any restriction intolerable. – At times this would describe me, but only at times! Again, it is a BOTH/AND)
Brian: So you have the puer in you who is very curious about Christ, and you also have the senex in you, that knows deeply about the ways of the world.
Gary: Our time is at an end. My sense is to let me integrate some of this and then in about a month circle around again and explore more. Brian: Beautiful
Shared in love, Gary