Have You Been Hurt by Christianity?

By Kim Michaels

Do you have inner conflicts about spiritual topics? Do you feel that certain outer doctrines cannot answer your questions? Does it seem like God doesn’t make sense? Is your relationship to God or a religious figure influenced by negative emotions, such as fear, guilt, shame, anger or just plain confusion?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then the real question becomes how to deal with the situation:

Do you want to continue living with the emotional pain?

Do you want to give up on religion?

OR do you want to look for a different approach that can heal your relationship to God?

This article will help you discover a new approach to spirituality. This approach can help you heal your wounds and make peace with God and your spiritual teachers. In this section, you will find teachings on how to start the process of spiritual healing. See below.

The Outer Approach to Religion, and the Inner Approach to Spirituality

You can take an outer or an inner approach to finding answers to your questions about the spiritual side of life.

Many people take the outer approach and seek to find answers from a source outside themselves, such as a formal religion, a doctrine or a belief system. There are numerous belief systems that claim to have the answers to spiritual questions. These answers are often presented as formal doctrines that are seen as complete, perhaps even infallible. The outer approach has a couple of limitations:

If you accept an outer doctrine as complete, how do you deal with questions that are not answered by the doctrine? Many people find that no outer doctrine can answer all of their questions about the spiritual side of life. This often leads to an inner conflict and a feeling that God simply doesn’t make sense.

If you accept an outer doctrine as infallible, then all different or conflicting doctrines must be false. This often leads to an outer conflict between groups of religious people. It is a sad, but undeniable, fact that religious conflict has caused more bloodshed than any other single factor.

If the outer approach is no longer working for you, perhaps it is time to look for a different approach?

The inner approach to spirituality

Many people are losing faith in a particular religion or even in all religion. This does not mean that such people no longer care about the spiritual side of life. On the contrary, people often become disappointed with formal religions because they are not getting answers to their questions. The questions demonstrate that such people do care about spirituality.

What if the real cause of this disappointment is the outer approach to religion? What if there really are plausible and sensible answers to your questions about spiritual topics? What if the key to finding such answers is to go beyond the outer approach to religion?

Instead of seeking standard answers from an outer doctrine, you can seek personal answers from a source inside yourself. This inner, mystical or spiritual approach has been practiced by people from every walk of life and from every religion. For example, Christianity has had its share of mystics. One might argue that Christianity was started by a person who did not accept the standard answers given by the Jewish religion.

A journey of discovery

Adopting the inner approach to spirituality does not mean that you have to abandon an outer religion. In every religious tradition you can find many people who practice the inner approach to spirituality within the context and culture of the outer religion. However, when you take the inner approach, you realize that the outer religion serves as a foundation, a stepping stone, for your personal quest for answers. The outer religion must never become a cage that prevents you from looking for answers outside a certain framework.

When you take the inner approach to spirituality, you realize that the spiritual side of life is a complex and vast topic. Most religions teach that God is beyond this world. This world is a finite world, and God might be infinite. How could a finite doctrine possibly give a complete description of an infinite God? So if you truly want to understand the spiritual side of life, is it wise to believe that one organization or doctrine can give you all the answers?

When you open your mind to the inner approach to spirituality, your life takes a new turn. You now realize that life is a journey of discovery, and the journey is ongoing. The purpose of the journey is to attain a higher understanding, but not an ultimate or absolute understanding.

After all, the central idea of all spirituality is that there is a spiritual realm beyond the material world. Perhaps it will never be possible to attain an ultimate understanding of the spiritual side of life while we are still here in the material world? Therefore, why argue over which outer doctrine is the only right one? Why not simply continue to seek for a higher understanding of life?

The need for a higher understanding

Today, humankind knows a lot more about the natural world than people did in the past. Therefore, we can now ask questions about atoms that no one would have thought about 2,000 years ago. One might say that humankind is engaged in a process of gradually increasing our understanding of every aspect of life. Consequently, we can now ask more questions about life, including the spiritual side of life, than in the past.

If we accept that humankind is engaged in a process of increasing our understanding of life, how can we expect that a religious teaching, formulated thousands of years ago, can answer all of the questions about spirituality we could ever ask?

It is a simple fact that the only constant in this world is constant change. If you look at the past, you will see that many religions have vanished, because they could not adapt to the changing needs of their followers. Why do so many religions tend to become rigid?

When you take the outer approach to religion, you see a particular religious doctrine as complete and infallible. If the doctrine is complete and infallible, how could it ever need to change? Therefore so many religions refuse to change and continue to claim that their doctrine can give you all the answers you need (or are allowed to have).

The result of the outer approach to religion is that more and more people realize that the religion in which they grew up can no longer meet their spiritual needs or answer their questions. How can you best deal with that situation?

Some people become angry and feel cheated or manipulated. Others become disappointed and they either give up on all religion or a particular religion. Some people reason that their questions must be wrong, and they stop thinking about spiritual topics. While such reactions are very understandable, they seldom lead to a true resolution of people’s inner conflicts about spirituality.

Is there an alternative? What if the real problem is not a particular religious organization or doctrine? What if the real problem is that the outer approach to religion prevents you from finding answers to your questions about spirituality? What if you could simply look beyond that outer approach? What if you could become a seeker of truth instead of a follower of doctrine?

Answers must come from within

What can you do to find personal answers to your questions about the spiritual side of life? You can begin by recognizing where such answers must come from.

The only way to resolve your inner conflicts about spirituality is through answers that come from a source inside yourself!

Millions of people have sought answers through outer doctrines. While such standard answers might suppress your inner conflicts, they can never resolve your conflicts. True resolution comes from internalizing outer knowledge so that it becomes personal, inner understanding. With all thy getting, get this inner understanding!

Obviously, many people have been conditioned against accepting the inner approach to spirituality. When you take the outer approach to religion, you must reason that only an outer authority can define a true doctrine. Only a particular religious figure, such as Jesus or a church hierarchy, can define a true religious doctrine. How could you possibly know what is true?

The answer is that every human being has an inherent ability to recognize truth. This is the open door which no human can shut.

 

Why Do I need to Change My Approach to Religion?

 

The obvious reason is that the outer approach is no longer working for you personally. It can no longer answer your questions, and it cannot heal your inner conflicts about spirituality. Giving up this approach frees your mind to look for a better approach. However, what if there is a universal reason to give up the outer approach?

If you step back from your personal situation, you might discover that you are not the only one who is disappointed with outer religion. In fact, one might consider that it is a sign of our time that more and more people lose faith in a traditional approach to religion. Why is this so?

Many people believe there are certain cycles of change that are occurring in the religious life of this planet. Is it possible that we are witnessing a planetary shift that causes so many people to lose faith in the outer approach to religion? To illustrate this point, consider the analogy of a steam locomotive.

Imagine that you suddenly find yourself in the engine room of an old steam locomotive. Unbeknownst to you, someone has stoked the fire burning under the kettle. As the pressure in the kettle rises, the locomotive begins to move forward. You panic and pull on the brake as hard as you can. The locomotive stops, but the pressure keeps rising. Unless you do something to change the situation, the kettle will explode!

Let us imagine that a new type of spiritual energy is being released from the spiritual realm. It causes the pressure to rise in the engine that drives spiritual change on Earth. The rising pressure creates the need for religious organizations to change. However, people who take the outer approach to religion are afraid of this change. Consequently, they pull on the brake and seek to prevent the locomotive from moving forward.

From an outer perspective, they might seem to be successful, but from an inner perspective, the pressure will simply continue to rise until the kettle explodes. Is this why so many traditional religions are losing members or going through outer challenges? One example of this process might be the exposure of sexual abuse by Catholic priests. Is this simply a sign that the old order is beginning to break down under the mounting pressure of spiritual change?

To change or suffer

If spiritual change really is occurring, how can you best deal with the situation? Imagine what might happen if you take the outer approach and go into complete denial of any need to change your approach to religion. Obviously, the pressure will keep building and if the kettle explodes, you might find yourself in a full-blows spiritual crisis.

An increasing number of people experience that a certain outer event triggers a breakdown that sends them into a personal crises of faith. This might be a personal event, such as the loss of a loved one, but it can also be an impersonal event.

For example, many Catholics have become so disappointed by the Church’s handling of the sexual abuse by priests that they have lost faith in the Church and feel like they have nothing left. Other people have lost faith in traditional Christianity, because Christian churches have refused any serious attempts to reconcile the Christian faith with the discoveries of science.

Blowing off steam

Is there a better approach? Let us return to the steam engine. We have seen that complete denial, meaning trying to prevent the train from moving forward, is not a good option. It will inevitably lead to an explosion. Another option is to look for the safety valve and let off some steam. Many religious people take this approach, which we might call the path of least resistance.

Such people might make minimal concessions to the changing times, but they are not seriously reconsidering their religious beliefs. Most importantly, they are not even considering changing their basic approach to spirituality. Such people are not committed to change; they are simply trying to prevent the kettle from blowing up.

The problem with this approach is that as long as the pressure keeps building, you will have to constantly let off steam. Some religious people are consumed by the need to defend their religious beliefs against change. For example, many Christians are consumed by defending certain Christian doctrines even though science clearly demonstrates that these doctrines cannot give us a complete understanding of how life was created.

Will trying to stave off change without reconsidering your basic approach to religion really get you where you want to go? Will it help you find peace of mind, or will it simply delay the inevitable crisis

Putting spiritual steam to good use

What if there was a more productive approach? After all, steam has the potential to be converted into work that can make the entire train move forward and reach a new destination, perhaps a better destination.

By looking at history, it is not difficult to see that human beings are creatures of habit and often resist change. For example, one of the major problems encountered by Jesus was that so many orthodox Jews, especially those in leadership positions, resisted his message that a new spiritual approach was needed.

Is it possible that God wants to see change in the spiritual life of this planet? Is it possible that spiritual energy is being released to assist us in embracing this change and making the most of it? What if we released the brake and allowed the locomotive to move forward? Is it possible that it might take us to a better destination?

Obviously, you don’t need to throw caution to the wind and allow your spiritual locomotive to run amok. Instead, it is far better to take a balanced approach and move forward safely. However, to remain balanced on your personal path, you need to adopt the inner approach to spirituality.

All or nothing

When you take the outer approach to religion, you accept a religious doctrine as complete and infallible. Therefore, you inevitably end up taking an all-or-nothing approach to your current beliefs. They must be completely right, so if one aspect is proven wrong, your faith is destroyed. That is why so many religious people resist any kind of change.

When you take the inner approach, you realize that your current beliefs are not complete and infallible. They simply represent the highest understanding that you have been able to grasp up to this point in time. In fact, you expect that as your understanding grows, you will naturally gain a deeper understanding of the spiritual side of life.

The main benefit of the inner approach to spirituality is that it removes the sense that your faith is threatened. Thereby, you can overcome the fear that your faith could be lost. Letting go of a particular religious belief is not a matter of losing your faith and being thrown into a personal crisis. Instead, your life is a continual journey towards a deeper understanding. You never lose a belief; you simply replace it with a better and more complete understanding.

Holding on to the outer approach forces you into the extremes, where you must hold on to existing beliefs out of fear of losing everything. Adopting the inner approach makes it possible to experience a balanced and gradual growth in your understanding of the spiritual side of life.

When you take the inner approach, you don’t throw away or question all of your existing beliefs. Instead, you gradually open your mind to a new understanding of some aspect of the spiritual side of life. You use your existing beliefs as a foundation for your journey. You never lose your bearings and feel like you are in a free fall. Your existing beliefs are a safety net instead of a dead weight that prevents you from climbing the ladder of spiritual understanding.

By adopting the inner approach to spirituality, you don’t run the risk of having your kettle blow up. You don’t have to spend all of your time letting off steam while getting nowhere. Instead, you can move forward in a balanced and controlled manner that allows your spiritual growth to stay on track.

 

How to Know Truth

There are reasons why so many people take the outer approach to religion and refuse to change that approach. One reason is that the outer approach is an easy approach. If you allow a religious organization or authority figure to tell you what to believe, you don’t really have to think for yourself. When you let someone else tell you what is true, you don’t have to make personal decisions about what is true. This is not only easier; it can also seem a lot safer.

When you take the inner approach to spirituality, you cannot allow someone else to tell you what to believe. You have to think for yourself, and you have to decide what is true. At first, this can seem confusing and even unsafe. After all, how can you know what is really true?

In reality, the task is not as difficult or scary as it might seem. You already have the ability to know truth. This is an ability that is built into your being. It is a gift from God, and you cannot lose it completely. As every ability, it can atrophy from lack of use, but by making an effort, you can develop it to full capacity. The ability to know truth is commonly known as intuition. The teachings on this website might help you realize that intuition is far more than most people expect.

How do you decide what is true?

To begin overcoming your fear of deciding what is true, consider how you came to accept your current beliefs? No one can force you to accept an idea; you must make a decision before accepting any idea. You might not be consciously aware of making such a decision, but the decision was made nonetheless.

Therefore, before accepting your current beliefs, you made a decision. You might have been brought up in a culture that conditioned you to accept a particular religious doctrine as true and infallible. Yet, somewhere in your past you had to make a decision to accept that claim, and you must continually make decisions to uphold your acceptance of that claim.

You will find many religious people who will reject this idea. They claim that they follow the only true doctrine there is. This is not a matter of opinion or a personal decision; it is simply the only truth. If you think about this more closely, you will realize that there is no absolute and undeniable proof that a certain doctrine is true. Even a spiritual leader such as Jesus did not convert everyone, and the reason is that people have free will and that they make decisions based on their current level of consciousness.

Therefore, the acceptance of a certain doctrine is not a matter of an undeniable proof, it is a matter of a personal decision. That decision is inevitably affected by your current understanding (people often cling to what is familiar and makes them feel comfortable) and your current level of consciousness.

To grow or not to grow

If you take the outer approach, you accept a certain doctrine and declare it infallible. It follows that you will never come to accept any understanding that is beyond the doctrine. Therefore, you could never be part of a spiritual renewal. Imagine that everyone in ancient Israel had stuck to orthodox Jewish doctrines. The Jewish authorities rejected Jesus, so any orthodox Jew should have done the same. Consequently, Jesus would never have attracted any followers and Christianity would have died with him.

When you take the inner approach, you accept the fact that your current beliefs are not final, complete or infallible. You made a decision to accept your current beliefs, and that decision was based on your current understanding and level of consciousness. You also recognize that you are following a systematic path that leads you towards a deeper understanding and a higher level of consciousness. As you move forward on that path, it is only natural that you will receive a higher understanding, and this might cause you to go beyond your current beliefs.

The simple fact is that you are constantly making decisions about what you think is true, even if it is a decision not to question your existing beliefs. This is what is illustrated in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. Prince Hamlet was facing a difficult situation and did not want to take action. Yet, by not acting he brought about his own death. Therefore, not making a decision is still making a decision.

The essential point is that you cannot avoid making decisions, so you might as well make the best of it and learn how to make constructive decisions. You might fear making decisions about what is true, but all fear is a fear of the unknown. Once you understand what influences your decisions, you can quickly learn to consciously make the best possible decisions.

Fear and love

What causes you to accept a certain idea? There are two forces that influence your decisions about what is true, namely fear and love. When you take the outer approach, your decisions are based on fear. You are afraid that you cannot know truth on your own, so you allow an outer authority to tell you what to believe. You are afraid of making a mistake, so you want someone else to decide for you, but that is still making a decision.

When your decisions are based on fear, you are reluctant to open your mind to any ideas that seem to go beyond your existing belief system. Therefore, you tend to cling to your existing beliefs as if it was a matter of life and death. How can you escape the clutches of fear?

When you bring light into a room, the darkness disappears. When you bring love into your mind, the fear disappears. You might have heard the expression that “perfect love casts out all fear,” but where can this perfect love come from? What if it comes from a higher part of your own being?

A central theme on this website is that your mind, or being, has several levels, or layers. Some psychologists embrace this idea and talk about a lower mind that is the seat of the negative aspects of human nature, such as fear, and a higher mind that is the seat of the positive qualities, such as love. What if you have a higher part of your own being which is capable of telling you what is true?

If you were brought up in a traditional religious culture, this idea might be new to you, but was it new to the religious leader who inspired your culture?

Let the higher mind be in you

Is it possible that some of the religious leaders of the past were very familiar with the concept of a higher, more spiritual part of our beings? As an example, let us take a look at Jesus.

Jesus said, “He that believes on me, the works that I do shall he do also.” Saint Paul admonished people to “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Have you ever considered what these statements truly mean?

How could you possibly do the works of Jesus? How can you let Jesus’ mind be in you? Incidentally, what kind of mind was Paul talking about?

What if a part of Jesus’ mission (not his entire mission, but part of it) was to demonstrate a path that all people have the potential to follow? This path leads to a higher state of consciousness in which you have moved out of fear and embraced a higher spiritual understanding based on love. You have literally allowed a higher mind to be in you, as that higher mind was in Jesus.

If you look at the mission of Jesus, you might realize that he delivered a supreme example of a person who is applying the inner approach to spirituality. He did not claim to have outer authority, such as the scribes and the temple priests. Instead, he claimed that he received his teachings from a source inside himself.

In fact, Jesus was constantly opposed by those who took the outer approach to religion. They refused to let go of their existing beliefs, and therefore they rejected the higher understanding offered by Jesus. Would you reject a higher understanding coming from inside yourself? Why not open your heart and let that mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus? What do you have to lose but your fears? What do you have to gain but perfect love?

If you did not grow up in a Christian culture, do not despair. This website will demonstrate that virtually every religion contained teachings about the inner approach to religion and the possibility to attain a higher state of consciousness.

 

Copyright © 2009 by Kim Michaels

How can we grasp the true meaning of Jesus’ message?

By Kim Michaels

 

There is a tendency among Christians to see Jesus as being very remote, very far away. Some see him as a historical figure, and since mainstream Christianity says he stopped talking to us 2,000 years ago, it seems as if Jesus has no specific message for our time. Thus, many Christians seem to feel we have to interpret the scriptures that were given back then without any direct input from Jesus. Jesus was very involved with human affairs back then, but today we are on our own. 

Other Christians seem content with the view that Jesus is far away, for it allows them to interpret his teachings as they see fit. If you look at the amazing variety of Christian churches, you will see that some churches focus on specific aspects of Jesus’ message and have inflated the importance of one aspect to the point where it dominates their view of Jesus. For example, some churches have created an image of Jesus as a hellfire and brimstone preacher, whereas others portray him as a soft-spoken teacher who loved and included everybody. It is easy to find other interpretations that are mutually exclusive. 

One can also look at the ongoing battle between mainstream Christians and atheists or scientific materialists, a battle that has been renewed in recent years by a string of books that attack Christianity and all religion based on a materialistic interpretation of science. What drives this battle is  that both sides are using the reasoning mind to argue their case. Yet this battle has been going on for centuries and there is no end in sight. People on each side are using the rational mind to convince themselves that they are right and their opponents are wrong.

What we see is the reality that people can argue for just about any interpretation of Jesus in a way that seems convincing—to them. Since some of the views are mutually exclusive, one might reason that they cannot all be right, but how can we determine which are true to Jesus’ original message and which are not? How can we avoid becoming stuck in the intellectual argumentation that has been going on for centuries without providing any clear consensus? Once again, we face a choice:

  • Are you satisfied with the arguments presented by a particular church? Are you content with basing your view of Jesus on particular interpretations of scripture or on intellectual arguments and reasoning?
  • Are you ready to look for a better way, a new approach to determining the inner meaning of Jesus’ teachings?

Is there such a better way? Well, because Jesus is so often seen as being remote, it is easy to forget that he was a very wise teacher. He no doubt saw many of the same conditions at his time that we see today, namely different religious groups arguing based on the same scripture without finding any middle ground. Thus, it would not have been difficult for Jesus to foresee that the movement he started could indeed become split into many competing factions, arguing endlessly over this or that point in scripture. In the scriptures we find examples of how Jesus’ own disciples were arguing amongst themselves even while Jesus was still with them (Mark 9:34). Was it hard to predict that this could potentially become much worse one Jesus left?

Is it possible that Jesus foresaw what has happened to Christianity today? Is it possible that he gave us a tool for avoiding confusion by coming to a deeper understanding of his hidden message? If you have grown up in a mainstream Christian church, you might never have heard about such a unifying tool, for the simple reason that you were presented with your church’s doctrines as being infallible. You might have experienced that when you had questions that could not be explained by the official doctrines, you were discouraged from asking them in church. Yet let us take a look at a couple of Jesus’ own statements:

 16. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

 17. Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14)

25. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.

26. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14)

These are momentous statements that have the potential to take us beyond confusion and conflict. What Jesus is actually promising us here is a tool for knowing the fullness of his teachings, even the teachings that he had to hide from the public at the time. Why is this so significant?

We have seen that many Christians feel Jesus is very remote and that he hasn’t spoken to us for 2,000 years. Yet in these statements Jesus is promising to talk to us through the Comforter, who shall “abide with us forever.” Thus, we must reason that this Comforter is available to us today—if we will only make use of it. Denying this Comforter is denying that Jesus made the promise or that he has the power to fulfill it.

Furthermore, this Comforter can take us far beyond intellectual reasoning and literal interpretations of scripture. It can “teach us all things” and help us remember and understand everything Jesus wants to tell us. This would presumably apply to the inner teachings that he gave only to his close disciples, meaning that we have the potential to become direct disciples of Jesus, even today. 

We now see that if we are willing to make use of this gift, there is no reason for us to feel that we have been deserted by Jesus, that Jesus is a remote being or that Jesus has nothing to say to us in today’s age. The Comforter can – according to Jesus’ own statement – tell us everything we need to know about how to understand and apply Jesus’ inner teachings in this modern age.

We also see that this has the potential to help us overcome all conflict among Christians from various churches. There might still be different churches that focus on different aspects of Jesus’ vast message, yet if they all have the Comforter, there would presumably be mutual understanding and respect. There would be the recognition that Jesus’ true message is universal, meaning that it can be applied in different ways but that it is still the same message, thus promoting a deeper sense of unity among all people who see themselves as followers of Christ.

Is there any reason to put limitations on how far this Comforter can take us in terms of understanding Jesus’ message? Not according to Jesus, who said the Comforter can teach us “all things.” So we now face another choice:

  • Will you reject the Comforter and cling to a traditional interpretation of the scriptures, refusing to go beyond the “safe” boundaries defined by a particular church?
  • Will you be willing to take part of an exploration of what exactly this Comforter is and how we can make use of it to enrich our lives in the modern world?

In the rest of this book, we will explore what the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, can tell us about the hidden messages of Christ and how they apply to our situation as spiritual people in the modern world.

 

 

Copyright © 2009 Kim Michaels

Was Jesus a Biblical literalist?

By Kim Michaels

 

Obviously, we have to some degree answered this question already, because we have seen that Jesus was constantly attacked by the scribes and Pharisees. They were the religious fundamentalists of the time, and they obviously would not have attacked Jesus if he had not gone beyond their literal interpretations of the scriptures. Yet let us probe a bit deeper.

Imagine that at Jesus’ time there had been a group of people who said to Jesus: “Sorry Jesus, but we can’t accept your claim to be the Messiah. The Torah is clearly the infallible word of God, and thus it is complete and can tell us everything we need to know about God for all eternity. It simply isn’t possible that God would send you to tell us something that goes beyond what God has already told us in the Torah. Therefore, you must be a fraud. Have a nice day!”

If you see Jesus as the Son of God, as the Messiah or even if you see him as a genuine spiritual teacher, you would think such a claim to be ridiculous. Obviously, these people had turned the Torah into a closed box, and they were essentially saying to God that he could no longer talk to humankind and give us a progressive revelation of spiritual truth. 

Yet now consider that many modern Christians actually believe the Bible in its present form is the infallible word of God and can tell us everything we need to know about life. They say that Jesus came to bring the final revelation, and thus God’s revelation to humankind stopped 2,000 years ago. 

Even though society has changed so dramatically that it almost defies comprehension, God still does not have anything new to say to us. Even though modern people face a vastly different situation than people at Jesus’ time – and therefore have different spiritual needs – God has nothing new to offer us. Thus, we are left to interpret the existing scriptures. Yet we are not allowed to interpret these scriptures based on the expanded knowledge we have today. No, we are supposed to interpret them literally. Yet what exactly does that mean?

Here is the dictionary’s definition of the word literal:

1. in accordance with, involving, or being the primary or strict meaning of the word or words; not figurative or metaphorical: the literal meaning of a word.

2. following the words of the original very closely and exactly.

3. true to fact; not exaggerated; actual or factual: a literal description of conditions.

That seems clear enough, but here is the definition of interpretation:

1. the act of interpreting; elucidation; explication: The writer’s work needs interpretation.

2. an explanation of the meaning of another’s artistic or creative work; an elucidation: an interpretation of a poem.

Do you see that the word “literal” and the word “interpretation” are – literally – incompatible? Literal means that you do not go beyond the obvious meaning of the words, whereas interpretation means that you explain a hidden meaning. Thus, it makes no sense to talk about a literal interpretation. You can be literal about the Bible and you can interpret the Bible, but you cannot interpret the Bible literally—at least not if you want to be consistent.

Is this just a play on words? Well, consider the quote mentioned earlier:

But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples. (Mark 4:34)

Jesus is clearly teaching the multitudes in parables, but what is a parable? Here is the dictionary’s definition:

1. a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson.

2. a statement or comment that conveys a meaning indirectly by the use of comparison, analogy, or the like.

A parable is a story that seeks to convey a point indirectly—meaning that a parable is not meant to be interpreted literally. If you interpret a parable literally, you will miss the point. Consider the following parable:

 2. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.

 3. And he spake this parable unto them, saying,

 4. What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

 5. And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

 6. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. (Luke, 15)

If you insist on interpreting this parable literally, you must reason that Jesus is talking only about shepherds and sheep. Thus, those of us who don’t own a flock of sheep should ignore this parable. A literal interpretation will not allow you to say that Jesus is talking about sinners as the lost sheep. Yet that is clearly Jesus’ intention, as revealed in the following verse:

 7. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

Another obvious example is the following:

 31. Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:

 32. Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof. (Matthew 13)

Obviously, Jesus did not mean to say that the kingdom of God is like a seed or that its purpose is to provide a nesting place for the birds. Thus, how could one possibly understand the deeper meaning through a literal interpretation? It seems clear that Jesus’ disciples were not content with a literal interpretation:

Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. (Matthew 15:15)

It also seems clear that Jesus did not want his disciples to settle for a literal interpretation; he wanted them to find a deeper understanding:

 15. Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable.

 16. And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? (Matthew 15)

Another example is Jesus’ long parable about the sower (starting in Matthew 13:3) whose seeds fall on different types of ground. Jesus goes on to explain the parable (Matthew 13:18), and his explanation goes far beyond what one could have gleaned from a literal interpretation of the actual parable. Yet why does Jesus even use parables, why not simply give people a direct explanation of his point?

 10. And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?

 11. He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

 12. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.

 13. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.

 14. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:

 15. For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (Matthew 13)

Now compare this to what we have seen earlier, namely that Jesus challenged the scribes and Pharisees because they took a literal approach to interpreting the scriptures. Doesn’t it seem plausible that Jesus is deliberately using parables because so many people are trapped in the outer, literal approach to religion? He is using parables as a form of koan that is designed to confound the intellect, the linear mind that wants to interpret everything literally? In other words, Jesus is using parables that  must be interpreted as a tool to force people to go beyond a literal interpretation. 

Is it not obvious that Jesus wanted his own disciples to go beyond a literal approach to spirituality? Is it not obvious that Jesus was not a Biblical literalist, as demonstrated by the fact that the scribes and Pharisees sought to use a literal interpretation of the scriptures to get Jesus to incriminate himself? Is it not obvious that you simply cannot understand the fullness of Jesus’ message if you insist on taking a literal approach? In fact, by doing so you will place yourself in the same frame of mind as the people who rejected Jesus and had him condemned to death. Once again, we see the choice:

  • Are you satisfied with a literal interpretation of the Bible? Will you allow Biblical literalists to inflate your fear and get you to close your mind to a deeper understanding of the fullness of Jesus’ message?
  • Do you want more? Do you want a richer understanding of what Jesus was really trying to tell us? Do you want to be one of the people about whom Jesus said: “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven?”

We now see that in order to understand Jesus’ parables, we have to go beyond a literal interpretation. And if we want to grasp the deeper truth that he taught to his disciples, we have to go way beyond a literal interpretation. Yet how can we find a deeper interpretation that is valid? How can we interpret Jesus’ teachings in such a way that we hear what Jesus wants us to hear and not what we want to hear?

 

 

Copyright © 2009 Kim Michaels

How did Jesus teach?

By Kim Michaels

 

We have seen that Jesus did not approve of the approach to knowledge taken by the scribes and Pharisees. Thus, he could not have been teaching the same way they did—by passing on factual, intellectual knowledge, which to the scribes and Pharisees meant their fixed interpretation of the scriptures. This is underscored by the following remark:

And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. (Mark 1:22)

The scribes were constantly quoting scripture and their own tradition, much like today’s scientists quote other scientists. Thus, they were basing their teaching on a specific – outer, linear, intellectual, literal – interpretation of the existing scriptures. Jesus obviously used scripture, but he was also willing to go beyond and speak from a higher authority, an authority that is beyond the outer scriptures.

In fact, one might say that Jesus always sought to help people see beyond a literal interpretation of the scriptures, so they could see a deeper meaning. Here is but one example:

15. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. 

16. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 

17. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 

18. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 

19. To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 

20. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. 

21. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. 

How did Jesus want his students to approach scripture? We can find an important clue in the following remark, where he is – again – speaking to the scribes and Pharisees:

 7. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,

 8. This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

 9. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Matthew, 15)

What is Jesus actually saying here? The scribes and Pharisees were very knowledgeable of the law and the scriptures. So when they taught, they were constantly referring to the scriptures, using passages to defend their interpretations—or give them an aura of authority. Yet Jesus is saying that this mouthing of scripture quotes is not what he is looking for in his disciples. 

Jesus does not want his students to draw nigh unto him with their mouth or honor him with their lips. He wants something more profound—he wants them to draw near to him in their hearts. What does this mean? Take a look at this passage:

 17. Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?

 18. But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.

 19. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:

 20. These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man. (Matthew 15)

Jesus is not satisfied with those who can recite the scriptures based on intellectual knowledge alone. He wants a deeper internalization that changes your “heart,” which we in today’s world might describe as a transformation of your state of consciousness. Anyone can learn how to recite a religious scripture, but that is not the same as truly understanding it and allowing it to transform one’s outlook on life. 

To illustrate the difference, consider a dishonest politician who knows how to say what people want to hear, but who is ready to compromises his or her promises whenever it is expedient. Then consider the many people throughout history who have not been willing to compromise their principles. Some have been willing to die for their principles, as was Jesus himself. The reason is that the principles had become part of these people’s sense of identity, and it was unthinkable for them to degrade their sense of self in order to gain a temporary advantage.

***

When Jesus taught, he did not seek to pass on merely intellectual knowledge, not even an intellectual understanding of the law of God. He wanted people to go beyond intellectual knowledge and attain a deeper understanding. What are the conditions for attaining this?

The first one is the willingness to look beyond one’s current view of the world, one’s mental box. To understand why this is important, consider that many modern Christians seem to believe that if they had been around 2,000 years ago, they would have instantly recognized Jesus. Many have been brought up to picture Jesus as a man with neatly trimmed beard, clean clothing and a halo around his head, making him instantly recognizable. Yet consider the fact that most people at the time did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah. In other words, Jesus wasn’t mainstream, and in today’s vernacular, the leaders of mainstream religions would probably have labeled him a dangerous New Age cult leader.

Jesus had no recognition from the authorities, so in order to accept Jesus, one had to be willing to look beyond the mental box defined by mainstream religion. People who based their approach to religion on outer authority, and an intellectual interpretation of scripture, would have rejected Jesus. In order to be an early follower of Jesus, you simply could not be mainstream—you had to take an unorthodox approach to religion. Since a substantial portion of today’s Christians take the “outer” approach to religion, it is valid to ask how many of them would have rejected Jesus?

How did the early followers of Jesus recognize him as being different from the many other self-styled preachers who were roaming the hills and villages of ancient Israel? Again, many Christians see Jesus as the only preacher of his time, but in reality he was one among many. His early followers could not have recognized him through the intellect, so they must have been willing to follow their hearts. They must have sensed an inner resonance with his teachings or his Presence.

Again, this points to a choice. Today, Christianity has become mainstream and it has created a particular view of Jesus and his teachings, a particular mental box. Those who cling to that box obviously cannot discover an understanding of Jesus’ message that is beyond what is defined by the box. So in order to find such a deeper understanding, one has to be willing to look beyond the borders of one’s current mental box. Perhaps this is indeed one of the main purposes for why the Christ appears on Earth—to give people the opportunity to look beyond their mental boxes, and to challenge them to do so?

We see many examples in the scriptures of how Jesus deliberately challenged the mental box of the religious authorities by either doing something that was defined as unacceptable or by challenging their interpretations of the scriptures. Several have already been quoted, but here is one more: 

6. Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. 

7. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. 

11. How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? 

12. Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. (Matthew 16)

So how did Jesus teach? He challenged people to think beyond their traditional mental boxes, yet this could not be accomplished through intellectual analysis. Jesus was after a deeper experience, which can be better understood today than at his own time. 

We now know that after Jesus’ time, a distinct form of Buddhism developed, called Zen. One of the primary goals of Zen teachers is precisely to give the student an experience of reaching beyond his or her mental box. The goal is to produce what we today call an intuitive experience, a breakthrough experience or an Aha experience. This is an experience that is beyond the linear form of thinking characteristic of the intellect. It is more spherical and focused on the big picture. It is focused on seeing the forest rather than a few individual trees.

We also have a greater knowledge of human physiology, so we know that our brains have two halves. The left side of the brain is the seat of intellectual or linear thinking, whereas the right brain is associated with intuitive, non-linear thinking. It seems clear that Jesus was a forerunner for the Zen masters and already taught by seeking to give his students intuitive experiences. 

Zen masters are known to use koans, which are short, seemingly contradictory statements that are designed to confound the intellect and thus open the student’s mind to an intuitive experience. Yet Jesus was a master at using such statements, long before Zen Buddhism emerged. 

Consider how he neutralized an angry crowd that was ready to stone a woman caught in adultery. He did this by making one short statement: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). Yet there are numerous examples of “Jesus Koans,” and here is just one:

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 16:25)

How can the intellect possibly resolve the seeming contradiction that you have to lose something in order to find it? This leads to the recognition that Jesus taught primarily for the purpose of producing intuitive experiences. Such experiences help you internalize a concept, which is more profound than understanding it intellectually. Thus, it leads to a total transformation of consciousness.

As some modern psychologists have proven, one can have a good intellectual understanding of psychology without being able to control one’s own behavior. Yet as other psychologists have proven, when one intuitively understands how the psyche works, one can indeed achieve a more harmonious state of mind. It seems clear that Jesus wanted to produce an internalization that did not simply lead to a change in outer behavior but a foundational change in people’s state of mind. Again, the choice is clear: 

  • Are you satisfied with having outer, intellectual knowledge about Jesus based on mainstream interpretations of scripture? 
  • Or do you want more? If so, are you willing to reach for an inner experience? Why do you think Jesus so often talked about those who have eyes to see and ears to hear?

 

 

Copyright © 2009 Kim Michaels

What kind of teacher was Jesus?

By Kim Michaels

 

There is no shortage of opinions about who Jesus was and why he came to Earth. Yet as we have seen, part of his purpose was to teach, to give us the truth that will set us free.

Already, this demonstrates why it is no straightforward matter to decode the hidden message of Christ. For what does it really mean to teach? Surely, we have a greater knowledge today than people had 2,000 years ago, and this gives us an opportunity to uncover a deeper meaning behind Jesus’ message. Yet we cannot uncover the hidden meaning if we uncritically impose modern concepts upon Jesus’ words. We need to be alert to the possibility that the way we define words and concepts today might actually obscure the hidden meaning in Jesus’ teachings.

In this modern age, most people have been brought up with a specific concept of what teaching is and how it should be done. It is often seen as a highly intellectual activity, where a teacher is passing on knowledge to a group of students. Teaching often means passing on factual knowledge, information that applies to practical aspects of life or a specific field of academic study. The modern definition of teaching seems based on the paradigm that the student’s mind is a container, and the teacher’s role is to pour factual information into that container, until it is sufficiently full for the student to pass an exam and perform specific tasks in the world. The basic assumption seems to be that factual information can teach us everything we need to know.

Yet did Jesus teach like today’s college professors or did he have a very different definition of teaching? Did Jesus aim to pour factual knowledge into the container of the student’s mind? Or did he perhaps aim to expand the container beyond what most people  – even today – think is possible? Did Jesus aim to fill people’s minds with finite knowledge, or did he seek to open their minds to something infinite?

Let us look at the historical situation in which Jesus appeared. Israel had a well-established teaching tradition, namely the religious establishment, mentioned in the New Testament as scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, the Sanhedrin and the lawyers. Although these people clearly taught in a religious context, their approach to teaching was quite similar to the approach found in many modern institutions of learning. The religious teachers based their teaching on the Torah (what Christians know as the Old Testament), and they had defined very specific interpretations of it. This is quite similar to how modern teachers have a specific curriculum, often defined by a central authority. 

Certainly, the information taught by ancient institutions was different from what is taught in modern universities, but the method is largely the same. The learning institution fulfills its goal by giving people concrete information. The ancient teachers passed on what they defined as factual knowledge to their students—they taught according to a pre-defined curriculum. Thus, they took the approach that a person’s mind is a container that needs to be filled with the right kind of knowledge.

Since Jesus came to teach, one might expect that he should have fit into the existing teaching environment, even that he would have been welcomed by its members. In reality, Jesus was in constant conflict with the established teachers. They obviously saw him as a threat to their power over the people—even such a severe a threat that it needed to be eliminated by all means available. And Jesus didn’t go out of his way to ingratiate himself to the establishment. Here is just two among many examples of how he challenged the establishment:

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. (Matthew 23:13)

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. (Matthew 23:27)

One might conclude from this that Jesus did not approve of the teaching methods used by the educational establishment of his time. Yet what exactly was Jesus’ main objection? Let us look at another quote:

Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered. (Luke 11:52)

Here is a clear sign of a hidden message in Jesus’ words, for what is this mysterious “key of knowledge?” Is it simply specific, factual knowledge—perhaps a secret formula for salvation? Or could it be an approach to knowledge that empowers you to go beyond outer, factual knowledge and gain a deeper understanding of the spiritual side of life? 

It seems clear that Jesus wanted his followers to have this key of knowledge—otherwise, why blame the lawyers for having removed it? In coming chapters we will explore what the key of knowledge might be, but let us first take a closer look at Jesus’ approach to knowledge.

Jesus is clearly saying that the key of knowledge is needed in order to enter into something, but what might that something be? What is the real source of the conflict between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees? Jesus is repeatedly declaring that the scribes and Pharisees are hypocrites because they present themselves as the shepherds of the people, but according to Jesus they are not living up to their responsibility. To understand this, let us take a look at one of Jesus’ most amazing statements, but let us first consider the context in which it was given.

The society of Jesus’ time had a very rigid view of life. The goal of life was to be saved, which meant gaining access to the kingdom of God. The scribes and Pharisees were firmly convinced that they had already secured their access to the kingdom and that they were qualified to tell everyone else how to get there. They based this on their knowledge of the outer law and their zeal in following all of the outer rules defined by their interpretation of the scriptures. Most people at the time thought only righteous people gained access to the kingdom, and many were convinced that they were righteous—based on the outer definition of righteousness established by the religious leaders. Thus, many people probably felt greatly provoked when Jesus said:

For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20)

This would be equivalent to the reaction that modern protestants would have if Luther was proven to be a fraud. Or imagine the reaction from scientists if it was definitively proven that Darwin was wrong when developing the theory of evolution.

Yet the deeper message in Jesus’ words is that one cannot enter the kingdom of heaven by taking the same approach as the scribes and Pharisees. Since the lawyers were a specialized group of Pharisees, this would include taking the same approach to knowledge as the lawyers. 

Thus, the “key of knowledge” that the lawyers had taken away was a specific approach to acquiring knowledge. When one adopts this hidden approach, one can enter the kingdom of God; when one does not, one cannot enter. And this approach to knowledge clearly is not the outer, factual, intellectual approach taken by the lawyers. 

It is something deeper, something that those who take the outer approach to knowledge are refusing to use. Yet such people are not content with keeping themselves outside the kingdom—according to Jesus they are also seeking to keep everyone else from finding and applying the key of knowledge. This leads to one of the choices that spring from the Presence of Christ in this world: 

  • Will you cling to your present approach to religion and spirituality, even cling to your present image of Christ? 
  • Or are you willing to look beyond your current mental box and reach for the key of knowledge?

As one more reason to adopt the inner approach, consider the following remark:

But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples. (Mark 4:34)

This statement makes it clear that Jesus taught at two distinct levels. He had a general teaching that was aimed at the multitudes, and it was expressed in parables. He then had a more sophisticated teaching that was aimed at those who were more advanced, more spiritually mature. This is similar to how many spiritual teachers throughout the ages have taught, and even in modern education we have different levels of teaching in elementary school, high school and college.

Is it possible that at Jesus’ time most people were not able to grasp the fullness of his message, which is why his public teachings were veiled in parables? Is it possible that we now have a deeper understanding of life and that this makes it possible for many more people to grasp the fullness of Jesus’ message? Again we see a choice: 

  • Are you satisfied with mainstream Christianity, which is based on the public teachings, the teaching in parables? 
  • Or are you willing to read between the lines in order to decode the hidden message reserved for the true disciples of Christ? Would you like to become a direct disciple of Christ?

 

 

Copyright © 2009 Kim Michaels

Did Jesus want people to follow him out of fear?

By Kim Michaels

 

If one takes a look down the long corridors of history, it is difficult to deny that there has always been a clear element of fear in religion. Even in today’s rational age, there are many Christians whose initial reaction to the title and premise of this book will be based on fear. They have been brought up in an environment dominated by the belief that only the people who believe in a particular interpretation of the Bible – as defined by their church – will go to heaven, and that all others will go to hell. Thus, their gut reaction to this book will be a fear that letting their minds wander beyond the safe boundaries defined by their church might open them up to ideas that will lead them straight to hell.

In today’s world we have a far greater knowledge of human psychology than what was available at Jesus’ time. Thus, we know that the primary effect of fear is a form of mental and emotional paralysis. Fear tends to make people cling to what is familiar, to what seems safe. The practical effect is that people tend to stay in the religion in which they were brought up and never go beyond its safe boundaries. Which inevitably leads us to question how Jesus ever gathered any followers? In other words, if all people at the time had taken the same fear-based approach to religion as we see in many modern Christians, how did the early Christian movement ever get off the ground?

The situation is obvious. In today’s age, Christianity is clearly a mainstream religion with elaborate cathedrals, intricate rituals and clearly defined doctrines. Yet at Jesus’ time, there was none of that—only a man wandering the dusty roads of ancient Israel with no recognition from any authority figure or institution. 

The people Jesus encountered were mostly Jews, and they had been brought up with much the same approach to religion as seen in many Christians today. They thought that if they followed all the prescripts of the Jewish religion – the mainstream religion in their homeland – they were guaranteed to be saved. Yet if they strayed beyond it, they were guaranteed to go to hell. Thus, following an unorthodox preacher, such as Jesus, carried the ultimate penalty.

This leads to an inescapable conclusion. If all of the people Jesus encountered had been paralyzed by the fear-based approach to religion, then Jesus would have gathered no followers and Christianity would have died in infancy. End of story. 

Since that clearly did not happen, we can conclude that there were at least some people who were willing to let Jesus take them beyond the “safe” boundaries of the mainstream religion of his time. In order to follow Jesus, one had to be willing to boldly go where no Jew had gone before. Thus, in order to find a deeper understanding of Jesus’ teachings than what is offered by mainstream Christianity today, one has to be willing to boldly go where few Christians have gone before. Yet in order to do this, one must find a personal balance between two opposing forces in human psychology. 

Consider how people lived in previous times, such as in the stone age. Then consider how people live in the modern Western world and acknowledge the incredible difference. What is the one factor that can explain this immense progress, what is the main difference between modern people and stone-age people? It is that modern people know so much more than people did in the past. Thus, the one factor that drives human progress is an expansion of knowledge.

Yet we have just seen that one of the most powerful forces in human psychology is fear, which causes people to close their minds to new knowledge. So how could this incredible expansion of knowledge have taken place? The answer must be that there is another force in human psychology, a force that does not simply counterbalance fear but can actually – to use Jesus’ own words – make us free from fear. Take another look at this quote:

31. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;

32. And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John, 8)

It seems clear from this quote alone that Jesus wanted to give his followers a truth that could expand their knowledge and set them free from fear. Why is this important? Because modern psychology has clearly shown that fear is based on a lack of knowledge. You fear the unknown, meaning that when you have full knowledge, you often see that your fear is irrational, which makes it dissipate. 

We now see that fear can become a closed mental box, a kind of psychological or spiritual catch-22. You fear something because you have a lack of knowledge, but the fear has the paralyzing effect of making you afraid to look for knowledge beyond what you already know. So once the fear has entered your psyche, it prevents you from finding the knowledge that can set you free from the fear—the fear feeds on itself. Consider how children fear the dark, but as they get older, their rational minds can see that there is nothing to fear in the dark, and the fear dissipates. Consider how medieval people feared many things that we today consider non-existent and thus no longer fear.

Yet how do people overcome fear? They must be willing to look at it, to confront their fears and seek a greater knowledge that empowers them to see the irrationality of the fear. As an American president said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself!”

 It now seems clear that Jesus wanted his followers to expand their personal knowledge and even be part of the ongoing quest to expand the total knowledge of humankind. Yet what does it take to overcome the fear of looking at your fear? It takes a force in the human psyche that is the anti-thesis of fear, a force that extinguishes fear—as turning on the light extinguishes the darkness in a room. The Bible has an incredibly beautiful description of this force:

16. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

17. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.

18. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

19. We love him, because he first loved us. (1John, Chapter 4)

Consider the deeper meaning of these words, “perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” They are in complete alignment with many modern psychologists, who also say that love is the anti-thesis of fear. In fact, some even say that we have two basic emotions, namely love and fear. Jesus himself seems to have been well aware of this, for he often told his followers not to fear. Here is one obvious example:

Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)

Many modern Christians have grown up in a church that is heavily focused on the potential for “burning forever in hell.” Such a church is based on an image of God as an angry being in the sky who is constantly watching us for the slightest transgression. In other words, such a religion is using fear as the primary factor for motivating people to obey the religious rules and believe in the doctrines.

Yet is this angry God the same God as the one portrayed by Jesus in the above quote? How could an angry God take “good pleasure” in giving us his kingdom? Some modern Christian churches portray a God who seems eager to see us go to Hell, whereas Jesus portrays a God who is eager to see us inherit his kingdom. 

What determines which God you accept? Could it be the balance between fear and love in your psyche? If people have more fear and less love, the image of an angry God seems more attractive to them. Yet once people begin to overcome fear, they tend see God as a loving God. Obviously, we must conclude that Jesus himself had overcome all fear, so one might reason that his view of God is the higher one. Take a look at another statement:

If ye love me, keep my commandments. (John 14:15)

Many Christians have heard or read this statement without considering the stunning implications of it. Consider that Jesus appeared in an environment that was also highly focused on the fear of going to hell. The leaders of the Jewish religion were as skilled as some modern Christian preachers in “encouraging” their followers to obey them by playing on the fear of burning in hell. Jesus clearly set himself apart from the religious establishment by taking an approach that is not based on fear. 

Consider what Jesus did not say. He did not say, “If you fear me, keep my commandments.” So it seems clear that Jesus did not seek to motivate his followers through fear. He did not want people to follow him out of fear; he wanted them to raise their motivation to one based on love. It seems clear that Jesus was not seeking to appeal to the people who were dominated by fear. Just imagine how easily he could have used the fear of hell and judgment to attract followers. Instead, Jesus seems to have sought out the people who had started to overcome fear and move into love.

Did Jesus perhaps understand that people who were still trapped in fear would cling to the Jewish religion and thus close their minds to his message? Did he realize that only those who had tilted the fear-love balance toward love would be open to his new teachings? Consider how often Jesus told his disciples not to have fear:

And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. (Matthew 8:26)

Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. (Matthew 10:26)

Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:31)

But when Jesus heard it, he answered him, saying, Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole. (Luke 8:50)

Isn’t it clear that Jesus did not want his followers to be motivated by fear but that he wanted them to be “made perfect in love?” Based on the concepts we have looked at in this chapter, one might conclude that religious people can be divided into three groups:

  • Those who are dominated by fear.
  • Those who are free of fear and dominated by love.
  • Those who have started to move out of fear but have not yet been “made perfect in love.”

It is not the intention of this book to criticize anyone. People have a right to adopt any approach to religion they choose. Nevertheless, it is predictable that those who are still dominated by fear probably will not be open to this book, and those who are set free in love have little need of this book. Thus, the book’s primary audience is those who are somewhere in between.

The reaction people have to this book will likely be determined by the balance between love and fear in their psyches. It might thus be helpful to consider that fear paralyzes us only to the extent that we are afraid to take a look at what we fear. The only key to overcoming fear is to open our minds to greater knowledge, for it is only the truth that will set us free from fear. 

Consider monitoring your responses to the ideas in this book by evaluating whether your response is based on love or fear. If you discover a response based on fear, then consider that the only way to escape fear is through an expansion of knowledge. You must love the truth more than the limited view of reality that has created your present fear. You must love the truth so much that you will no longer allow your fear to prevent you from finding that truth.

The entire purpose of this book is to present an expanded understanding of Jesus’ teachings. Thus, if you allow your fears to cause you to stop reading, you will cut off any chance of attaining the knowledge that can set you free from fear. Whereas if you keep reading, you might just find the key ideas that will help you see the irrationality of your present fears, thus empowering you to move beyond them. 

Remember that at Jesus’ own time only those who had more love than fear could follow Jesus. Today, only those who have more love than fear can follow the way toward a deeper understanding of Jesus’ teachings.

Based on this discussion, we can draw another important conclusion. Some modern Christian churches seem to say that Jesus was primarily interested in saving us, which is portrayed as a state we enter after this world. Yet we have now seen that Jesus clearly wanted to give people the truth that can set them free from fear. This leads to two observations:

  • Perhaps Jesus was not only interested in what happens to us after this world, since he clearly wanted to change people’s state of mind while they are still in this world?
  • Perhaps changing our state of mind – from fear to love – is one of the conditions we must fulfill in order to qualify for the salvation Jesus came to offer us?

The overall conclusion is that part of Jesus’ purpose for coming to Earth was to give us truth, to teach us. So we will now move on to consider what kind of teacher Jesus was. But let us first clarify the choice presented by this chapter:

  • Will you respond to this book with fear and close your mind to anything beyond the “safe” doctrines of your existing belief system?
  • Will you respond with love and open your mind to a deeper understanding that can “cast out” all of your fears? 

 

Copyright © 2009 Kim Michaels

What is Christ?

By Kim Michaels

 

One possible definition is that Christ is a principle or Presence that faces us with the necessity to make a choice.

  • Do we reject Christ and stay where we are comfortable? 
  • Do we accept Christ and allow Christ’s Presence to take us higher, even to take us beyond where we thought it possible for us to go?

When we read the scriptures, it is clear that Jesus had an uncanny ability to force people to accept or reject him. Some people revered him as the coming Messiah, while others denounced him as a tool of the devil. If one takes a look at our own time, one can see that this ability has not diminished after 20 centuries. Some people see Jesus as the only son of God, while others deny that he existed at all. Some spend a lifetime seeking to convert everyone to Christianity, while others spend a lifetime seeking to destroy people’s faith in Christianity. In between we find a wide range of reactions, which demonstrates that when people actually take a look at Christ, it is difficult to remain indifferent. 

It is as if Jesus still has a mysterious Presence in the world, a Presence that confronts people with the necessity to accept Christ or to deny Christ. Yet what does it mean to accept Christ? Is it simply a matter of joining an outer organization, or did Jesus himself have a far more profound and multi-facetted understanding of what he wanted from his disciples?

Throughout history, many people have attempted to define who Christ is and what he stands for, but based on the fact that – after 20 centuries – there is still no consensus in sight, one must conclude that this is no straightforward matter. It seems as if Christ has another uncanny ability, namely an unwillingness to be defined, a resistance toward being put into any man-made mental boxes. Thus, we have already arrived at one example of how Christ forces us to make a choice:

  • Will you take the approach that it is easy to define Christ? You can do this by accepting a particular church and its doctrines, but you can also do it by accepting a secular or scientific view that denounces the historicity of Jesus or the validity of his teachings (and all religion). 
  • Will you open your mind to the realization that it is no simple matter to define Christ? Are you willing to search for a deeper understanding of Jesus’ message than what you have now? Will you consider that perhaps it is not even possible to define Christ because Christ is like a stream – a stream of consciousness – that is meant to flow continually? You can dam up the stream, but the inevitable result is that the water becomes stale, and you cut yourself off from the River of Life.

The net effect of the first approach is that you accept a particular image of Christ as complete and infallible, and thus you inevitably close your mind to anything beyond that view. When you take the second approach, you open your mind to new ideas about Christ, meaning your life becomes an ongoing process of increasing your understanding—a journey of discovery. The first approach will prevent you from going beyond the image of Christ you have now, whereas the second approach opens the possibility that you might discover ideas that will help you live a richer and more complete life—what Jesus talked about when he said:

I am come that all might have life and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

This statement is a typical example of the choice between a simple or a more nuanced interpretation. For Jesus was clearly talking to the living, so why did he say that he had come to give life to those who were already alive—at least physically? Did Jesus have a deeper definition of what it means to be truly alive? More on this later in the book.

This book is not an attempt to create a new mental box, put Christ into it and then argue that this box is better than all of the other boxes out there. It is an attempt to probe the mysteries, the enigma, that the Presence of Christ presented – and is still presenting – to the world. It is an attempt to look beyond traditional mental boxes and reach for the ever-flowing stream of consciousness that Jesus called “Life.” And it will not seek to force any final or infallible conclusion upon the reader.

***

How do we even begin to probe the deeper mysteries of Christ? 

Consider the fact that 500 years ago most people in the so-called civilized world believed the Earth was flat and that it was the center of a very small universe. These beliefs formed a mental box that served as people’s foundation for how they looked at everything, including themselves, God and the world. Obviously, we know today that medieval people based their world view on erroneous beliefs, so we can see how this limited them in many ways. 

Now consider that we today also have a mental box that forms a filter for how we look at everything. Surely, we have a much greater knowledge about many aspects of life than people had 500 years ago, but has this simply created another mental box? And although the box is clearly larger,  does it still limit our understanding of God, the world and our relationship with both? 

Is it possible that Jesus came to set us free from all man-made mental boxes and give us a higher truth:

31. If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 

32. And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

Is it possible that Jesus offers us a way to escape all limiting beliefs and instead find a higher world view, one that is not based on human opinions but is based on a recognition of what is real and what is unreal? Is it possible that Jesus left us a trail of clues hidden in hid own words, a trail that leads us to the truth he came to impart to us?

This book is based on the premise that there are deeper mysteries to be unlocked – or decoded – by looking beyond a traditional interpretation of Jesus’ words. The basic premise is that humankind’s knowledge has been expanded tremendously since Jesus’ words were spoken—and that this gives us an opportunity to find a deeper meaning than what could be uncovered in the past. After all, Jesus himself said:

I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. (John 16:12)

Did Jesus recognize that because of humankind’s limited knowledge, the people of his own time could not understand the fullness of his message? Did he foresee that there would come a time when knowledge had advanced to the point where people could unlock the deeper understanding? And did he possibly encode hidden messages in his words, messages that are meant to cross the span of centuries and unlock a higher understanding in the minds of today’s people?

This, then, is our quest: To decode the timeless messages hidden in the words of Christ. To investigate whether Jesus has a message that is relevant and useful for today’s spiritual people. A message that could not be decoded in previous ages, but is now has the potential to open the minds of those who are willing to see Christ as the ever-flowing stream of consciousness.

Again, let it be made clear that it is not the purpose of this book to create a closed mental box. This book will not seek to get all readers to agree with a particular view of Christ but will leave many things open to individual interpretations. Yet given the incredible variety of beliefs about Jesus that are present in the world, it is obvious that it simply is not possible to write a book that will be acceptable to everyone. Jesus is clearly one of the most controversial topics in the modern world.

In recognition of the diversity in people’s existing beliefs about Jesus – and out of respect for the reader’s right to determine his or her personal viewpoint – this book will take an upfront approach. Instead of seeking to gradually draw people into the book’s viewpoints, it will be very open about the choices upon which the book is based. That way, the reader can quickly determine if he or she agrees with the premises of the book and make a decision about whether to stop reading or go on. 

Let it be made clear then that this book is based on the decision to seek for a deeper understanding of Christ than what is offered by mainstream Christian churches. Thus, the entire purpose of the book is to probe beyond the mental boxes defined by mainstream Christianity. It is easy to predict that for some readers this approach will elicit mixed reactions, namely reactions with a clear ingredient of fear. Thus, we see that the book must start with an open discussion about the role of fear in religion.

 

 

Copyright © 2009 Kim Michaels

How did Jesus teach his disciples?

Was Jesus a conventional, mainstream or orthodox spiritual teacher? Clearly not, since the conventional, mainstream and orthodox people of his time persecuted, condemned and crucified him. So does it make sense that we can understand the fullness of Jesus’ message by taking a conventional, mainstream or orthodox approach today?

Jesus himself told us to approach the mysteries of Spirit with the open mind of a child, and he said: “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” Is it possible that Jesus encoded hidden messages in his words, messages that can be decoded today because of the advancement in human knowledge?

The articles in this section will take you on a journey into the hidden mysteries of Christ, mysteries that have been covered over by the patina of history and by dogmatism. Yet these mysteries can be uncovered by using the “secret” tools given by Jesus and by using modern knowledge from such diverse fields as quantum physics and psychology.

Note that these articles were the beginning chapters of a book that has not been finished.

 

What is Christ? 

 

Did Jesus want people to follow him out of fear?

 

What kind of teacher was Jesus?

 

How did Jesus teach?

 

Was Jesus a Biblical literalist?

 

How can we grasp the true meaning of Jesus’ message?

Did Jesus come to start a fear-based religion?

By Kim Michaels

 

Was Jesus a hellfire and brimstone preacher?

It is the Christian religion that has given rise to the concept of a “hellfire and brimstone preacher.” It is thus relevant to ask whether Jesus himself was such a preacher? For some the obvious answer will be a ”No,” but let us take a closer look.

Again, it is easy to see the contrast between Jesus and those who represented the established religion of his time. If Jesus had been like them, there would have been no conflict between them. The very fact that the established religion saw Jesus – among many other preachers of alternative forms of spirituality – as one who had to be silenced with all means demonstrates that Jesus was seen as a threat. Why was Jesus a threat to a well-established religion that even had the military backing of the Roman empire? Might it be because the established religion was based on fear, whereas Jesus preached a message based on love?

Fear is an emotion, a mental condition, meaning that it is something that takes place inside the psyche of individual human beings. As modern psychology has demonstrated, fear is closely linked to control. The greater the fear, the greater the need to control one’s environment, including other people, in order to alleviate the fear. And those who are driven to control others out of fear will often use fear in their attempts to control others.

A brief look at history will demonstrate a basic dynamic, namely a power struggle between the general population and a small elite seeking to control the population in order to secure and maintain special privileges for themselves. The members of the elite are afraid of loosing their power over the people, and although they often have physical power, they know it is not enough. As various revolutions have shown, once the people refuse to comply, the elite will always lose. Thus, members of a power elite also seek to control the population through fear. The historian Arnold Toynbe talked about a creative minority seeking to free the population from the control of a dominant minority. 

The basic dynamic is that the dominant minority can have great military power, but they are so vastly outnumbered that they cannot control the population through force alone. Thus, they must seek to suppress the population’s desire for freedom, and the most effective way to do this is through fear that makes the people feel powerless. An honest look at history will demonstrate that one of the most effective ways to induce fear into a population is indeed religion. History has several examples of a dictatorial state apparatus working in close cooperation with a religious apparatus, thus attaining the elusive goal of being able to control people’s outer actions through force while at the same time controlling their minds through fear. Unfortunately, Christianity became one of these examples, as we will discuss in more detail later.

In Jesus’ society, the dominant minority was made up of the Jewish religion and its hierarchy, which was in close cooperation with the Jewish king who was in alliance with Rome. As a result, the population was divided into the “haves” and the “have-nots” with no middle class, and the majority of the people clearly felt suppressed and powerless. This leaves a simple conclusion. Either Jesus was part of the dominant minority or he was part of a creative minority seeking to set the population free from the power elite. It is rather difficult to see Jesus as part of the dominant minority or as loyal to its control of the people. Rather it is much easier to see Jesus as a kind of spiritual revolutionary who aimed to set the people free from the control of the dominant minority. This is, of course, underscored by the fact that the dominant minority had Jesus killed because they saw him as a threat to their power over the people. Yet how could the teachings of Jesus seem like a threat to an elite that was backed by the Roman empire’s inexhaustible military power? How could a sandal-clad, unarmed man walking around in Galilee possibly seem threatening to those in power? Might it be that Jesus attacked the very foundation of their power over the people?

What must a fear-based religion do in order to control the minds of the people? It must define a problem so severe that it induces fear, giving people the urgency to seek for a solution. It must then present itself as the exclusive way for people to solve the problem and alleviate their fears. In terms of the Jewish religion, it had done the following:

  • It had defined God as a remote being in the sky, a judgmental being who was constantly evaluating people based on their actions, judging them as being in accord with his commandments or being sins.
  • Those who acted according to the commandments would be rewarded by a future life in heaven, whereas those who sinned would be punished by a future existence in hell.
  • The key to entering heaven was to have the sins – that all human beings had committed – absolved.
  • The absolution of sin was the exclusive privilege of the priests of the Jewish religion, who had a monopoly on performing animal sacrifices in the temple.

For those who accepted this belief system as giving an accurate rendition of reality, it was clear that the key to one’s future existence was to be on the good graces of the priesthood of the outer religion. And depending on the individuals’ propensity toward fear, the priests could indeed have total control over a person. If you believe that whether you go into God’s kingdom or end up in a fiery hell depends on the external religion and its priests, then that institution has almost absolute power over you. And this seems to have been the beliefs of most people at Jesus’ time. The conclusion is clear. The Jewish religion of the time was a fear-based religion in which the religious leaders had considerable control over the minds of the people through fear.

Enter Jesus. Did he preach a fear-based message and directly compete with the established religion? If so, he would have had only one option, namely to preach a true hellfire and brimstone message and seek to make the people more afraid of him than they were of the religious establishment. Clearly, this was not Jesus’ approach. In fact, he seems to have done the exact opposite. He seems to have directly challenged the establishment’s claim to exclusivity by preaching a love-based message and by disobeying some of the basic pillars of the established belief system.

 

Jesus’ message of love

It can be somewhat difficult for a person who has grown up in a modern Christian religion to see Jesus’ message as a love-based message. The reason is, of course, that after Jesus’ time, the Christian religion was indeed turned into a fear-based religion. It is an undeniable historical fact that the Catholic Church of the middle ages was indeed an institution that sought to control people’s minds through fear. It was also closely aligned with the kings and noble class of the feudal society, likely extending the life of that elitist system for centuries. And, of course, this fear-based element is still clearly visible in some contemporary Christian churches with their hellfire and brimstone preachers. Thus, it may take a mental retooling, a new perspective, to see how truly love-based Jesus teachings are. This can be accomplished by looking beyond one’s own situation and trying to imagine how Jesus must have seemed to the people of his time, people who had clearly grown up in a fear-based belief system.

One of the pillars of a fear-based religion is that it presents God as a remote being who is beyond the reach of most people. The people of Jesus’ time clearly believed that their God could not be reached by them individually, which is why they needed the external religion and its priests to mediate between themselves and God. So how did these people look at the following statement from Jesus:

20And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:

21Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke, Chapter 17)

In these short statements Jesus is attacking two of the pillars of a fear-based religion. The people of his time obviously believed that the key to entering the kingdom was to faithfully observe the tenets, the rituals and the rules of the external religion. If you did so, you were pretty much guaranteed to enter the kingdom, which they obviously saw as a location far away from themselves. Yet Jesus is clearly saying that observing an external religion is not enough to get you to the kingdom. And in the second part Jesus is basically saying that we will never find the kingdom of God as long as we are looking for it outside ourselves. This was revolutionary stuff to the people of Jesus’ time.

As modern Christians we now have two basic options. We can either reason that Jesus was wrong and didn’t know the first thing about how to enter the kingdom of God. Or we can use our intuitive faculties to seek a deeper understanding of what is hidden behind these outer words. What was Jesus really trying to tell us here? 

Remember, that the basic claim of a fear-based religion is that you cannot enter the kingdom of God by your own, inherent powers. You are somehow fundamentally deficient, and thus you can enter the kingdom only through the external religion. It is only through this belief in your own powerlessness that fear of an external authority comes into the picture. If you believe that you have the powers within yourself to secure your entry into the kingdom, why would you fear other people or an earthly institution? You might still fear that you would not qualify to enter the kingdom, but you would not fear that external forces could keep you out of it.

Now let us look at another basic pillar of a fear-based belief system, namely the idea that God is a judgmental God. Imagine how people who firmly believed in the Old Testament God would have reacted to the following statement by Jesus:

 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son. (John 5:22)

It seems Jesus is directly challenging the Old Testament image of the angry and judgmental God in the sky, the God who visited plagues upon Pharaoh, who told the Israelites to massacre the men, women and children of their conquered enemies and who threatened to smite people with this or that if they did not obey him. In fact, the angry God of the Old Testament could very well be seen as a being who is seeking to control people through fear. Or perhaps this God is the invention of an institution who is seeking to control people through fear. Yet can one love such a God?

Some modern psychologists say that there are only two basic emotions, namely love and fear and that we cannot truly love something if we also fear it. It is clear that the established religion of Jesus’ time wanted people to fear God, as that fear would naturally be transferred to the institution that had placed itself as the only mediator between the people and their angry God. Yet it is equally clear that Jesus did not want people to fear God. If he did why would he have made the following statement:

35Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,

36Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38This is the first and great commandment. (Matthew, Chapter 22)

Can you really love the Old Testament God with all your heart, soul and mind? Yet Jesus clearly do want his followers to love God this way, and thus Jesus’ God cannot be the remote, angry being in the sky. Also, if Jesus had preached a fear-based message, why wouldn’t he have said, “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind?”

Jesus also seems to have wanted people to understand that God’s love for us is not a conditional love but an unconditional one. Otherwise, why would Jesus make the following statement:

Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12: 32)

Imagine how revolutionary this statement must have seemed to a person brought up with the Old Testament image of the angry and judgmental God in the sky. What is Jesus actually saying here? Is he not saying that receiving God’s kingdom is not a matter of observing the external, fear-based religion, a religion whose main means for reconciliation with God was animal sacrifices? Instead, of all these external observances, Jesus seems to be saying that God truly wants to give us his kingdom, which means that the only condition we need to fulfill is that we must be able and willing to receive it. Yet this is not an external but an internal condition.

Again, imagine how this must have seemed to the leaders of the established religion of Jesus’ time. If the people had started believing what Jesus was saying, their fear of the external religion would have evaporated as the morning dew under a rising sun. Is it any wonder they started seeing Jesus as a direct threat to their power over the people, a power clearly based on fear?

 

Jesus’ wanted people to think

What is one of the main effects of a fear-based religion? It is precisely that it causes people to stop thinking about spiritual matters. Why so? Because a fear-based religion sets up a culture in which people are scared into following the interpretations, doctrines and dogmas presented by the leaders of the established religion. This is clearly seen in the scriptures, of how the scribes and Pharisees continually sought to trap Jesus into going against their interpretations so that they could accuse him of various offenses, especially the capital offense of blasphemy.

We human beings tend to have more questions about life than any doctrine can answer. In a fear-based religion, such questions are discouraged or even actively suppressed. The general attitude is that the official doctrines tell you everything you need to know about God, life and salvation. If you have questions that the doctrines cannot answer, then there is something wrong with those questions. If you will not be satisfied with doctrine, then there is something wrong with you. Yet if all people had accepted this approach, Jesus could never have attracted any followers, as they would have stayed within the fold defined by the dominant religion. They would have been afraid to think about what Jesus said.

How do they leaders of a fear-based religion arrive at their interpretations and doctrines? Obviously, they can do this only by using the intellect and by resolving matters based on fear. Those who seek to control others through fear must themselves be trapped in fear—otherwise why the need for control? The leaders of a fear-based belief system clearly do not want people to think, because that might cause them to see the inconsistencies or contradictions in official doctrines. Yet was Jesus such a leader?

Again, if he had been, why would he have been such a threat to the established religion. But we can find many clues in Jesus’ words and actions that clearly show that Jesus wanted people to think. Yet beyond thinking, Jesus also wanted people to use their intuitive faculties. We have already mentioned that Jesus denounced the lawyers for having caused the people to lose the Key of Knowledge. And through modern psychology it has become clear that fear is one of the primary psychological factors that causes people to either shut off or doubt their intuitive faculties. Fear causes people to cling to what is known, and the intellect is far more predictable than intuition. 

Yet it is clear that Jesus wanted people to go beyond intellectual interpretations and use their intuitive faculties—he wanted people to think outside the box. As an example, take the following parable:

31Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:

32Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof. (Matthew, Chapter 13)

Obviously, this parable is hard to understand even for modern people, but think about how it must have sounded to people in an ancient agricultural culture. The mustard plant is a weed that often grows wild in grain fields. It is big and bushy and can quickly crowd out valuable crops, and when there were no pesticides to control it, it was clearly seen as a threat. Why would Jesus compare the kingdom of God to a despised weed? Is it not plausible that Jesus wanted people to think outside the box? The real message here is not that the kingdom looks like a plant, but that the kingdom is so far outside of the orthodox, fear-based mental box that people cannot see the kingdom or cannot see it as something of value. Thus, until people are willing to look outside their mental box, they will never discover the real kingdom.

And then take the following quote:

7Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

8For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Matthew, Chapter 7)

It is clear that Jesus wants us to seek, and what could this mean? Does he perhaps want us to seek for something beyond the mental box created by a fear-based belief system that is dominated by an elite who seeks to use fear to control the population? And is it not clear, based on what we have discussed, that Jesus want us to seek with more than the intellect, namely our intuition? Is it not also clear that Jesus believes that when we do seek in this way, we will indeed find answers? How could Jesus be so sure? Was it because Jesus believed in his own promise?

 

Jesus’ promise of the Comforter

How could Jesus be so sure that if we are willing to look beyond a fear-based mental box and seek truth with our intuitive faculties, we will indeed receive an answer? He seems to have based this on a mechanism that he himself created, a mechanism that would be able to give us answers to any questions we have. Consider the following quotes:

16And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

17Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John, Chapter 14)

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26)

 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: (John 15:26)

Is it not rather peculiar that the Christian institution has largely ignored the Comforter, even though Jesus clearly considered it extremely important? Why would an institution that claims to represent Christ ignore or downplay a mechanism created by Christ? Could it be because that institution has become the exact same kind of fear-based religion as the one that had Jesus killed?

Look at the Catholic Church of the dark ages. Jesus clearly created the mechanism of the Comforter in order to give us a way to understand his teachings. That is why he said, “he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” Yet can you see a person go before the Spanish inquisitors and say that the Comforter had told him something that contradicted Catholic doctrine? The person would have ended up burning at the stake.

The stark historical reality is that for centuries the official Christian institution was a fear-based religion that sought to control what people thought about Christ through doctrines that were enforced by the threat of death. People were not allowed to think, and they were not allowed to seek any understanding of Jesus’ message outside the official doctrines. Can you see that this can be based only on a desire to control people’s minds? Doctrines are predictable because they are defined by an earthly institution. The Comforter is unpredictable because it cannot be controlled by an earthly institution.

We will later take a closer look at what exactly the Comforter might be, but for now the point to be made is that Jesus would never have talked about a Comforter if he had wanted to create a fear-based religion. He would have given us clearly defined doctrines instead of something that might give us unpredictable answers.

 

Did Jesus want to start a religion like the one that had him killed?

It is obvious that it was the leaders of a fear-based religion who had Jesus killed. This is obvious because only fear causes people to feel so threatened that they think they have to kill someone. Given that Jesus so often challenged the leaders of the established religion, it seems obvious that he must have known that it was not a true form of religion. It is therefore obvious that Jesus did not intend to start another fear-based religion. Which means he must have intended to start an entirely different kind of spiritual movement.

It is  historical fact that for a large part of its existence, the Christian religion has been a fear-based religion. Given that this clearly cannot be in alignment with Jesus’ intent, we who are Co-Creative Christians are determined to develop an approach to spirituality that is not based on fear but based on a deeper understanding of Jesus’ message and intentions. 

We are also determined to understand why Christianity became a fear-based religion and how we can help bring it back in alignment with Jesus’ intentions. We are not thereby seeking to condemn those who may prefer or have a need for a fear-based religion. We are simply seeking to make it clear that there is an alternative.

As Co-Creative Christians we recognize a basic dynamic of life. The basis for progress – the very reason why we are not still living like cave dwellers – is that we ask questions and expand our understanding of life. If a society stops asking questions, that society will stop its progress. And history clearly demonstrated that this will led to the downfall of that society, as was clearly seen in the Dark Ages and with other civilizations.

We hold that religion or spirituality to be a force for good, which means it must encourage people to ask questions and seek to help them find answers. This is clearly what Jesus intended when he told us to seek and when he gave us the Comforter. Thus, it is not in accordance with Jesus’ intent that Christianity became a tool for hindering progress by suppressing knowledge and stopping people from asking the kind of questions that lead to progress. 

What kind of questions lead to progress? Questions that go beyond what is already known and thus cause people to think “outside the box.” As Co-Creative Christians we are determined to leave behind Christianity’s legacy of hindering progress. We believe that Jesus’ inner teachings are so profound and timeless that they can survive any kind of questioning. We believe that it is only by asking any and all questions that we will be able to rise above Christianity’s fear-based past and turn Christianity into the kind of love-based religion that will have relevance to people in the modern world.

Thus, we are committed to considering any and all questions with an open mind. We will not ignore the difficult questions, we will not brush aside questions by thinking “It’s a mystery” or that we are not supposed to know certain things about God or Jesus. We live in the modern age, the information age, and it has taught us that knowledge is not dangerous and that progress cannot be stopped We believe in the saying that “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” and thus we are committed to attaining greater knowledge. With all our getting, we are willing to get understanding.

We are supposed to know and we can know—by using our intuitive faculties, the Key of Knowledge and Jesus’ own Comforter. Yet it all begins with our willingness to ask questions—even if other Christians will not ask those questions. What is that to us—we will follow Jesus into the kingdom of knowledge.

 

 

Copyright © 2010 Kim Michaels

Setting the foundation for an open-minded approach to Christianity

By Kim Michaels

 

Co-Creative Christianity—what it is, what it isn’t

What is Co-Creative Christianity? Let us begin by exploring what it is not.

Co-Creative Christianity is not an attempt to start a new religion. It is not an attempt to start a new church or sect within the Christian religion. It is not an attempt to invalidate, replace or compete with existing churches or sects. It is not a dogma or doctrine. It is not even an organization. Then, what is it?

Co-Creative Christianity is a universal approach to spirituality, specifically focused on Christian spirituality. It is an attempt to fully explore the message, teachings and example of Jesus and relate them to our lives in the modern world—in a way that has both profound and practical meaning to the individual. 

Co-Creative Christianity does not define an organization with conditions for membership. It does not define a dogma or doctrine that must be believed uncritically and accepted based on faith alone. It does not define a belief system that must be accepted as a whole – as an all-or-nothing package – but leaves it up to the individual what he or she will accept. 

Co-Creative Christianity is an effort to explore the deeper meaning of what Jesus taught and what it means for people in today’s complex world. It is an initiative to offer understanding, insight and perspective that can enrich your life and help you grow toward a more full life experience. As such, Co-Creative Christianity is not a complete or closed belief system. It is an open-ended approach that can and will change over time, as society evolves and as the spiritual needs of individuals and groups change. It is a buffet where you can eat what appeals to you and leave the rest, coming back for more as the desire arises.

Co-Creative Christianity can be explored by anyone—religious or non-religious, Christian or non-Christian. It can be explored by members of any Christian church or sect. The only “condition” is a curiosity about life and the desire for a greater understanding. The very basis for Co-Creative Christianity is the following:

  • We recognize and consciously acknowledge that we do not have the full understanding of God, life and the teachings of Jesus.
  • We acknowledge that there is more to understand than what we have received so far.
  • We acknowledge that we have been given ways to acquire this greater understanding.
  • We acknowledge our desire to attain this greater understanding, so that we can use it to enrich our life experience.
  • We acknowledge our willingness to seek this understanding, even if it prompts us to look beyond the world view or belief system in which we are currently comfortable (or not so comfortable).

 

We must be as open-minded as the early followers of Jesus

Co-Creative Christianity acknowledges that as human beings we have a tendency to look at life from a certain perspective, a certain vantage point, a certain mental box. We also tend to generalize and think that our particular perspective is universal, meaning that other people – even those in different locations in the space-time continuum – look at everything the same way we do (and if not, they should). It is easy to look back at the time of Jesus and think that his early followers looked at him as we have been conditioned to look at him in the modern world. This, of course, is not historically accurate.

The early followers of Jesus had a vastly different world view than we have today. They likely had a vastly different view on religion and spirituality than we have today. As one obvious difference, there was no Christianity at the time of Jesus. Christianity was not a clearly defined religion with doctrines, an organizational structure, cathedrals and churches. There was not even a Bible as we know it today. 

We have been conditioned to think of Jesus as a man who always had immaculate clothing and well-trimmed hair and beard. We might even have come to think that he had a halo around his head and thus was instantly recognizable. Yet the historical reality is that there was nothing about Jesus’ appearance that set him apart from other men. This is even demonstrated in the scriptures, as the soldiers who came to arrest Jesus needed Judas to point him out to them. 

Given that there was no Christianity at the time, it is also clear that Jesus had no outer claim to authority. In fact, Jesus was repeatedly denounced and challenged by the hierarchy of the established religion of his time. It seems fairly reasonable to conclude that representatives of the established religion played a key role in having Jesus condemned to death and crucified. It is also clear that the established religion did everything in its power to prevent people from following Jesus. Thus, it is clear that those who were obedient to the external religion would not have dared to follow Jesus.

Historians have shown that at the time of Jesus, there was a certain upheaval in religious life, with many sects or individual preachers who offered an alternative to the established religion. The situation seems to have been somewhat similar to what can be observed today in what is often labeled the New Age movement and even to some degree within the Christian religion. Given that Jesus had no special outer appearance and no outer claim to authority, he would have appeared as simply one alternative preacher among many. So how did the early followers recognize Jesus as having something special to offer?

Co-Creative Christianity recognizes that the early followers of Jesus were not closed-minded followers of tradition. They were not conformists who blindly followed the established religion and its doctrines and hierarchy. They did not blindly follow the blind leaders. Instead, they were open-minded people who were willing to recognize that the established religion could not answer all of their questions about God and life. They had a natural, inherent curiosity, and when Jesus offered them teachings that answered their questions, they were willing to leave orthodoxy behind and follow him, even though Jesus’ lifestyle and teachings were very different from what was offered by the established religion. In short, the early followers of Jesus did not blindly obey an external authority but followed an internal authority, they were individual thinkers rather than group thinkers or non-thinkers.

Co-Creative Christianity acknowledges that if we – in the modern world – are to attain a deeper understanding of the message of Christ, we must be like the early followers of Jesus. We cannot be conformists. We cannot be blind followers of tradition. We cannot be respecter of persons in the form of a church hierarchy that claims an external authority. We must be willing to acknowledge when the established religion of our time cannot answer our questions about God, Jesus and life—or cannot meet other spiritual needs. 

We must not allow our programming – that seeks to make us conform – to shut off our inherent curiosity. Had the early followers done this, they would not have dared to follow Jesus. They would have stayed within the fold of orthodoxy, and Jesus would have been preaching to the empty hillsides. Christianity would have died in infancy. Thus, if we are to attain a deeper understanding of Christ, we must dare to acknowledge our questions. And if the established religion of our time – even if it calls itself Christianity and claims to represent Christ – cannot answer our questions, we must dare to seek beyond doctrines and dogmas. We must be willing to follow what we know deep within ourselves, we must be willing to think about spiritual matters and we must dare to be individual thinkers who look beyond group-think.

Co-Creative Christianity acknowledges that the message of Christ is complex and far more profound than what can be captured in doctrines and dogmas. It is a message that must be studied and internalized by using the means defined by Jesus himself, means that are beyond the human intellect and the rational, linear, analytical mind. Co-Creative Christianity acknowledges that capturing the inner message of Christ is no simple task. Yet it is a possible task—or Jesus would never have gathered any followers. Thus, we are willing to do what it takes to qualify ourselves and dedicate our mental faculties to the task of truly knowing Christ.

 

What is the Key of Knowledge?

What was the mechanism that allowed the early followers to recognize Jesus as having more to offer than the established religion? We know that Jesus encountered thousands – probably tens of thousands – of people during his ministry. We know that some followed him because of outer “signs,” such as healings or other abnormal events. Yet we also know that many people must have encountered Jesus without recognizing anything special in him. What happened in people’s minds when they met Jesus? What was the psychological mechanism that caused some to accept him and some to reject him?

Co-Creative Christianity acknowledges that there were no outer signs that would automatically get people to accept Jesus. Likewise, there are no outer signs today that will automatically give us a deeper understanding of Jesus’ message. The deciding factor is an inner factor, a mechanism in the psyche of the individual. Thus, we acknowledge that if we are to gain a deeper understanding of Jesus’ teachings, we must be willing to look at ourselves and investigate whether we have the state of mind that allows us to internalize the teachings of Christ or whether something in our psyches block our entry into the wedding feast.

We have said that the early followers of Jesus were more open-minded than people who clung to the established religion. Yet what exactly does that mean? Is it, perhaps, related to what our modern world explains as the difference in how the two halves of our brains process information? We know that the left side of the brain is the seat of analytical and linear thinking, whereas the right side is the seat of intuitive, spherical or holistic thinking—or rather experiencing. What is the difference?

Analytical thinking is based on comparing a new idea to a mental “database” of what is already known and considered reliable, perhaps even “true.” Analytical thinking is based on rational, linear arguments for or against a particular concept. Thus, people who use the intellect can often present very intricate arguments for both sides of an issue. In fact, the intellect is often so good at coming up with arguments that it is impossible to determine which argument is the better one—based on the intellect alone. Which is why is is often impossible to reach a decisive decision based on intellectual arguments alone.

So what breaks the stalemate and prevents us from being paralyzed by intellectual arguments that never lead to a decision? In many cases, it is a fear-based mechanism that we will explore more fully later, where people have already decided what they want to be true. Thus, they consider only the intellectual arguments that support their belief while ignoring or belittling arguments that speak against it. All too often, an issue is decided based on the emotion of fear, and if both sides are driven by fear, conflict is the all-too-common result. Yet might there be an alternative, and might Jesus himself have spoken about it?

The following short passage describes an often overlooked concept that was obviously important to Jesus:

Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered. (Luke, 11:52)

First, it should be noted that the term “lawyer” does not refer to practitioners of secular law, as it does today. It refers to a group of religious scholars or experts who were interpreters of Mosaic law. These people would typically use their left brains to present intellectual arguments for or against a certain interpretation of the Law. Yet the real point of interest here is the term “the Key of Knowledge.” What could it possibly mean, and why is it generally overlooked by Christian preachers?

It is obvious that the concept must have been important to Jesus, but the fact that it is used almost casually indicates that it was a concept that was familiar to and commonly used by Jesus and his disciples. What meaning did Jesus and his disciples see in this concept, what mystery is hidden behind this seemingly insignificant expression?

The concept is contrasted with the intellectual, analytical approach taken by the lawyers. Jesus makes it clear that the lawyers have actually prevented the people from using the Key of Knowledge, and is it possible that they have done so by claiming the intellectual approach as being superior? This would be very familiar to us in the modern world, where we also see a glorification of the human intellect and its rational, linear reasoning. For example, many scientists have raised the intellect to a position of not only superiority but even exclusivity. It is as if they see the intellect as the only way to process information and determine what is true. Even the religious world has many examples of intellectual interpretation of scriptures, filled with hair-splitting but ultimately inconsequential arguments. Certainly, Christianity has not escaped this intellectualization. Yet is it possible to fully appreciate Jesus’ message through the human intellect alone?

Certainly, this is not to say that the intellect is useless or inferior. However, even modern science has shown that the human brain has two halves that are the seats of two distinct ways of processing information. Science has also shown that both sides have advantages and disadvantages, meaning that only by using both forms of thinking can we get a complete and balanced view of an issue. Yet science – and common sense – demonstrate that in the modern Western world, the intellect has been glorified and the intuitive approach has been ignored or even suppressed.

Obviously, Jesus could not at the time have talked about the two halves of the brain, as no one would have understood him. Yet is it possible that Jesus was well aware of the intuitive faculties and their importance? Is it possible that it was precisely these faculties that empowered Jesus’ disciples and other followers to recognize that there was something unique about Jesus and his teachings? Is it possible that Jesus knew that only people with a well-developed intuition – people who had the Key of Knowledge – were able to recognize him and his teachings?

Co-Creative Christianity asserts that it is impossible to appreciate the deeper meaning behind Jesus’ words through the intellect alone. Attempting to do so is precisely what has split Christianity into numerous churches and sects, many based on a very specific intellectual interpretation of the existing scriptures—the letter of the law rather than the Spirit. This is what has caused numerous people to overlook the Spirit of Jesus’ teachings, becoming so lost in detail that they cannot see the bigger picture—they cannot see the forest for the trees.

Jesus does not seem to have been a linear, analytical preacher. He was in constant opposition to the scribes, the Pharisees and the lawyers—all people who did take an analytical, linear approach. Thus, Jesus seems to have been a creative thinker, an intuitive thinker, a holistic thinker. How can we hope to fully understand his message unless we are willing to do what his early followers did—acknowledge and develop the intuitive faculties? Perhaps by doing so, we will come to see subtle nuances that have been overlooked by 2,000 years of intellectual thinkers? Perhaps we can even develop an entirely new perspective that will empower us to relate Jesus’ teachings directly to the life experience we have in the modern world? For Co-Creative Christianity this is an opportunity that is too good to pass up. Thus, we must take a new look at the teachings of Jesus through our intuitive faculties. We must be willing to activate the Key of Knowledge.

 

A higher way to know

Although our modern world offers us a greater understanding of our intuitive faculties than what was available at Jesus’ time, much of the understanding is indeed intellectual. In other words, although left-brain thinkers have acknowledged the existence and value of right-brain thinking, they are still attempting to analyze intuition through the intellect. Yet how can the left brain fully understand the right, how can the left hand know what the right hand is doing?

Perhaps we need to consider that intuition is more than we generally recognize today. Perhaps Jesus was well aware of the higher potential of our intuitive faculties, having learned to use them himself and teaching it to his disciples. Take for example the following passage from Matthew, Chapter 16:

13When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

14And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

15He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

16And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

18And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Traditionally, Christians – and especially Catholics – tend to focus on the person of Peter as the central topic in these passages. But what if the central topic truly is the following sentence: “for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven?” What exactly is Jesus trying to tell us with this sentence?

The overall issue here is how we can recognize Christ, how people could recognize Jesus as having something special to offer. Jesus makes it clear that nothing of the earth could enable anyone to recognize Christ, but only “something” from a higher realm. Yet what exactly might this mean? Might it be that we cannot recognize Christ through the outer mind and the intellect alone? For example, one can readily find people in today’s world who use the findings of science to present intellectual arguments against religion in general and Christianity in particular. Yet each of these arguments can be countered with another intellectual argument. Thus, you find people who are completely convinced that God exists and people who are equally convinced that science has proven that God does not exist. And you rarely see intellectual arguments convincing anyone to change opinion.

The point is that what Jesus might be attempting to tell us – by using Peter as an example – is that we cannot recognize Christ and the truth of Christ through the intellect, the left brain, alone. We need to make use of the right brain, our intuitive faculties, in order to reach beyond where the intellect can go. The intellect works by comparing a new concept to a database of what is already known. But what if Christ is so beyond what we normally encounter on earth that Christ truth has no comparison? The intellect would then have only one way to deal with Christ truth, namely to distort it in order to pull it into the realm that the intellect can deal with. Yet the moment Christ truth is distorted and pulled down to the level of the intellect, we have lost its essence. We have taken a thing that be of God and turned it into a thing that be of men. And when we have done that, the reality of Christ has become just another concept that the intellect can argue for or against endlessly.

Christ truth might indeed be beyond the relative, analyzable knowledge that we have been taught in school and Sunday school. It might be something we can grasp only with the higher faculties of the intuitive mind. Jesus himself actually supports this view in the following statement:

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)

Again, could the expression to “worship him in spirit” be a reference to the higher intuitive faculties? The context of the quote is that Jesus was talking to a woman at a well and told her that she did not clearly know what she was worshiping. Was he saying that you cannot truly worship or know God through the outer mind or the intellect, but that you must make use of the mind’s ability to look at the big picture, to reach beyond the earthly realm and contact a higher realm? 

As we will see later, the existence of such a realm can in today’s scientific world be explained as a realm of higher energy frequencies. In other words, the intellect might function only in the energy frequencies of the material realm. It can reason about what a higher or spiritual realm might be like, but it can only treat such a realm as a theoretical concept. Yet our mind has another faculty that allows us to go beyond treating the spiritual as a remote object that we study and speculate about. Instead, the intuitive faculties can give us a direct knowing, even a direct experience of something beyond what our physical senses and the intellect can detect.

Let us take this concept and apply it to the passage that follows the previous one with Peter—a passage often “overlooked” by Christian preachers:

21From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

22Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.

23But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

This is certainly a passage that it can be difficult to understand if we take it literally. In the passage just before, Jesus has said that Peter is the rock upon which he will build his church, yet now he is saying that the same Peter is Satan himself. How do we make sense of this?

One way is to take the focus off the outer person and look for a deeper meaning. As we saw above, the first passage might have been meant to show that we can know Christ only by reaching beyond the earthly way of knowing things, namely the physical senses and the intellect. Peter has demonstrated that he is capable of doing so, which is why he recognized Jesus as Christ and became his disciple. In other words, Peter clearly does know how to use his intuitive faculties.

Yet what if this second passage is meant to demonstrate something all of us do, namely use the analytical mind to override or color the insights we have received through intuition? For example, consider the saying that “First impressions are always accurate.” You can meet a person that you know nothing about, and upon seeing him, you get an inner sense that he cannot be trusted. Yet you then find out that he is a member of your church, that he knows so and so, that he has done so and so, and you then use the analytical mind to override your intuitive flash. So you do trust the person with your money, only to find out later that he indeed was not trustworthy. 

What we see is that Peter did indeed use his intuitive faculties to recognize Jesus as the Christ. Yet he then used the analytical mind to impose a human expectation upon Jesus, an expectation that Jesus was like a king who should never be humiliated and killed by any humans. Peter had, so to speak, used the analytical mind to build a mental box for what the Christ should be like, and he was now seeking to make Jesus conform to this human expectation. He was seeking to force Jesus into his mental box. Jesus recognizes what is going on in Peter’s mind and instantly rebukes him in the strongest way possible. Obviously, it is important for Jesus to make it clear that the Christ will never conform to our human expectations – “the things that be of men” – but will always act based on “the things that be of God.” Is Jesus actually seeking to tell us that if we use the intellect alone, we will never be able to appreciate the fulness of his message? Only by using the Key of Knowledge will we be able to decode the true meaning.

This passage is potentially game-changing in that it opens up for an entirely new approach to Jesus and the true meaning of his teachings. We have seen that we can recognize Christ and Christ truth only  by using the higher intuitive faculties. Yet we have also seen how easy it is for us to let an expectation or belief in the outer mind color or even override our intuitive insights. 

The deeper meaning might indeed be that Christ comes to show us a reality that is beyond what the intellect can fathom. This might indeed mean that Christ is beyond what can be captured and described with words, including the words of a religious scripture. That is why Jesus so vehemently opposed the scribes and Pharisees and their attempt to make him conform to the scriptures of the past and their – intellectual – interpretations of them. 

We now see that if we want to know Christ, we must activate and develop our intuitive faculties. And we must constantly be alert to the danger of superimposing the beliefs and expectations of the outer, human mind upon what we receive as a non-linear (beyond words) insight from a higher realm. In other words, one of the purposes for Christ coming to earth may be to challenge our mental boxes that have become prisons for our minds. If we cling to those mental boxes and seek to “force” Christ to fit into them, then we will miss the central purpose of Jesus’ message. And thus we will be left in our mental prisons, for Christ will never conform to them.

We now have to consider what kind of religion we want to follow. Do we want a religion that gives us an outer doctrine and tells us to believe it based on faith alone? Or do we want a religion that seeks to help us use our intuitive faculties to gain an inner confirmation of the reality of Christ, a confirmation that is beyond words and beyond the intellect? We also see that no matter who we are and how we were brought up, it is very difficult to avoid creating a mental box about Jesus and his teachings. Thus, as Co-Creative Christians we recognize that it is our responsibility to continually seek to expand our mental box, so that we do not try to fit Christ into a box based on “the things that be of men.” This might indeed be a life-long endeavor, yet ultimately a rewarding one.

However, before we can truly begin this process, we need to deal with the uncomfortable topic of fear.

 

 

Copyright © 2010 Kim Michaels