I am not sure why I have been drawn to this seemingly technical and esoteric spiritual topic, but for whatever reason it doesn’t seem to want to leave me until I write it down. If you are in any way drawn to such matters you are invited to read on and explore with me.
Early in Christian Church history there were many debates on the nature of Jesus Christ’s beingness. Was he human? Was he divine? Was he human in the beginning but became divine? How did his beingness differ from our beingness, if in fact it did? These questions were certainly central to my Lutheran upbringing, for which I am thankful.
The issue is an old one in the Christian tradition and I’m sure is still debated. A definitive doctrine regarding the beingness of Jesus Christ came into place at the Council of Chalcedon held between October 8 and November 1 in the year 451AD. The doctrine related to Jesus Christ’s beingness drawn up by this Council was called the hypostatic union.
For the definition of hypostatic union I quote from Wikipedia, “the Council [of Chalcedon] declared that in Christ there are two natures; each retaining its own properties, and together united in one subsistence and in one single person. … As the precise nature of this union is held to defy finite human comprehension, the hypostatic union is also referred to by the alternative term ‘mystical union.’”
So this is the hypostatic union used to describe the nature of Jesus Christ by much the Christian Church: Jesus Christ had two natures, He was true God and true Man in one person. It was, in the end, a mystery. And the definition was applied uniquely to Jesus Christ — the Christian Church certainly would not apply hypostatic union to the beingness nature of you and me.
But I am moved to explore hypostatic union as applied not only exclusively to Jesus Christ but also applied to you and me. In this consideration I’ll use a number of sources and my interpretation of them.
First, I look at my own spiritual path, Pathwork. As I interpret Pathwork (and indeed I can humbly offer only my own interpretation here), which deals not only with the two natures of Jesus Christ, but also two natures of man – divine and human, I am led to be invited to consider the hypostatic union as applying not only to Jesus Christ but also to all of us humans.
According to Pathwork teachings, one of the tasks in our incarnation as humans is to bring our Divine Essence into our human material expression in the world. Other tasks, again according to Pathwork teachings, include purification of our lower self natures (our human side) through a process of honest and deep inquiry as to the origins of our pride, self-will, and fear. Purification happens as we let go of our human illusions, misconceptions and images and open to truth about ourselves, our patterns, and about life.
According to Pathwork teachings, a second task in life is transformation. In transformation we surrender to God and allow our deeply rooted negative intentionality to be transformed into positive intentionality. In the teachings of Pathwork (teachings whose truths are never forced upon the student, but rather only Known to be true in the arising from within of a divine faith based upon a personal divine Knowing accessed through a channel of divine intuition) purification and transformation of the Soul happen over numerous incarnations.
If I understand Moira Shaw’s 50/50 Work© from Pathwork correctly, to me her model relates to our being both Spiritual and “merely and utterly human.” We are not God, and we are not not-God, we are 50/50. Would this not be captured by the concept of hypostatic union of our two natures in one being?
I would further offer for consideration the heretical notion that Adam (as represented in places in the bible) had this divine-and-human nature in hypostatic union, but that his divine nature was smothered by human attributes of pride, self-will, and fear.
This “smotheredness” has been captured by some Christian churches in the concept of “original sin.” The concept of original sin states that from our birth there is nothing divine in us humans (The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9). But even from the bible I see, rather than “original sin,” the “divine-and-human nature in hypostatic union” as a viable model applicable to our human beingness. But why do I say this when the Christian churches I am familiar with consider such a view heretical?
For the first man, or first Adam, we are told in Genesis 2:7: “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” To me this suggests that man, as a living being, contains aspects that are both divine (from the divine breath of God breathed into the man whom God had formed of the dust of the earth) and human (the material form — out of dust –whom God had made before breathing into him the breath of life).
Put the Apostle Paul does not seem to see it this way when he says in 1 Corinthians 15:45-49: So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam [referring to Jesus Christ], a life-giving spirit.The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.
But does not “breath” used in Genesis mean “spirit,” or here, “Spirit”? So I would think Genesis is telling us that the first Adam indeed was not only of the “dust of the earth” but rather the first Adam was both Spirit (Divinity breathed into by God) and what Paul calls “natural.” I would see the first Adam this way (divine and natural) rather than only “natural.”
I would look further to the time after the Fall when Adam and Eve were thrown out of the garden. In Genesis 3:19 God says to Adam: “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Now when God says here, “for dust you are” does he mean the “breath of life” given to him at his creation was taken away from him after the Fall? Well certainly the dust in “to dust you will return” is NOT the same as the dust in the living man. So I would say that while humans live their lives on earth they are both “dust” and “Spirit.”
From Genesis I would suggest, then, that Adam, like Jesus Christ, could be described as a being whose divine and human natures were in hypostatic union. Yes, this is not St. Paul’s view as expressed in Corinthians, but I am not drawn to St. Paul’s argument as expressed there.
Christian Mystic Meister Eckhart
In this consideration of the hypostatic union as applied to us humans, I am reminded of the words of the Christian mystic Meister Eckhart when he says: “The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.”
So for you, does hypostatic union apply to us humankind? Does it apply to Jesus Christ? To Jesus Christ only?
We each must discern our own truth in such matters, perhaps going to our most reliable theologians or references (the bible and elsewhere) for guidance for sure, but in the end it is our inner Knowing, by whatever means, that counts, and it is important in this matter (and many others of this type) not to get too hung up in trying to be precise in describing something that is, after all, beyond our comprehension anyway.
It seems useful to return to the Wikipedia entry, which says: “As the precise nature of this union is held to defy finite human comprehension, the hypostatic union is also referred to by the alternative term ‘mystical union.’” Certainly the words “defy finite human comprehension” as well as “mystical union” could be applied to us humans in any case when we look at our beingness and its nature, and in this human application we can leave out the more sophisticated term “hypostatic union” altogether.
For your wrestling and exploration, but only as the spirit moves you, shared in love, Gary