The life and deeds of the man Jesus triggered off the immense Christian religion nearly two millennia ago, but his most sublime and profound teachings were either largely disregarded or strongly reshaped by the practical needs of the early Christian Church.
This old religious package, which still survives today, no longer satisfies the current wave of practicing Christians and others seekers who are searching for clear answers to their pressing spiritual questions: What is the purpose of my life, and of all life? Where did I come from? What will happen to me after I die? Who am I? Why is there such suffering in the world, and why doesn’t “God” do something about it? And so on.
Only a small collection of mystics and saints over the ages since have touched this deeper wisdom through their individual devotional and intuitive efforts. It’s time now to release these original teachings of Jesus from their doctrinal, legendary and religious package.
Let it not be misunderstood: the Christian religion which emerged from the early Church has been a unique and unquestionably powerful, effective and worthy social factor in Western man’s evolutionary development over the last two thousand years. Just like other major world religions it has spawned valuable scholarship, unified social values and laws and generated a huge legacy of architecture, literature, music and art. It drew people together into cooperative and collective enterprises more than had ever occurred before in human history.
While its political policies varied from benevolence to treachery, it insisted that every human, even a heavy sinner, is worthy and loved. It provided hope in the form of an idyllic heaven, immortality and forgiveness for sins. It gave Western man a set of metaphors and positive symbols to sustain him through his miseries, even though they were embodied in a questionable legend. But this is what legends are for: to hold symbolically in the form of beliefs whatever of value cannot be maintained over time in the form of literal history, principles, customs and social laws.
Despite its shortcomings and terrible misuses the Christian religion has driven and nourished the spiritual lives of hundreds of millions of people. It has inspired the thought and work of countless contributors to society in many lands and callings. Highly successful in overall human terms, it is today the most salient religious influence in the lives of more than a billion people, and a strong underlying force in modern secular society throughout the planet.
Our position here is not to tear down Christianity but rather to encourage its enhancement and enrichment through a better understanding of what Jesus was actually teaching. In this way its adherents can choose to apply this deeper understanding in their individuaI lives, group endeavors and large-scale societal activities.
This is not unlike the process we follow when we raise a child. We do not continually criticize and judge it for being immature, or discard it for its frequent learning mistakes. Rather, we value it, nurture il and support it as it maliures. We take pleasure in participating in its creative growth so it may someday become responsible, self-fulfilled and a positive force in the world.
This is the same charge before each one of us as he tries to work out his personal relationship with the behemoth of Christianity, and find his peace with it whether he be Christian or not.
Many saints, prophets and devoted practitioners over the ages have experienced the Christian life very deeply. Their contemplative devotions generated insightful interpretations, novel insights and the resolution of some of the shortcomings in the Biblical account of Jesus.
A few of these practitioners found “hidden” truths within the Gospels and were able to write about them for later generations. The Christian contribution to the Perennial Philosophy arose in just this way…. Thanks in large part to this small minority of
Christian explorers we are better enabled today to experience for ourselves Jesus’ finer teachings and his grander vision. They have given us a head start, so to speak. We may dig even more deeply on our own now by building upon this background.
Perhaps most important, we may come to accept Jesus’ master-claim that God is not to be found external to man — which has been tacitly assumed by most Christians for one hundred generations — but lies rather within every one of us. While he said this very clearly, this central message has been largely disregarded, obscured or ritualized in Christianity.
To reclaim it one need only recognize this grand presence within himself, relate to it and then draw upon it. Could there be a simpler path to greater compassion, higher wisdom and a new awakening? ….
What is hardest to understand is why so little has been done in the long evolution of Christianity to correct the large divergence between it and the central principles Jesus taught. Apparently the same human needs have persisted for a symbolic, dogmatized and ritualized religious institution, a personified God-man as figurehead, a personalized savior from sin and a lingering hope for salvation in an indefinite future. Indeed, these needs are still widespread in the Christian world today. They are even built into the Christian creed.
Individuals who no longer find this Church offering supportive tend to step out of Christianity and seek their own way in another religion, or as agnostics or atheists entirely outside of the domain of organized religion. Many have followed a solitary spiritual path and discovered all by themselves their inner God-nature and all it has to reveal to them.
We may conclude that Christianity has only partially followed the track Jesus originally offered. Its base of knowledge and practice is only weakly related to Jesus’ teachings. As an organized religious institution it is rooted instead on a manufactured and persuasive legend, not on the reliable historic facts and the central teachings of the man for whom it is named.
Even though the Jesus movement grew obliquely out of Jesus’ exemplary life and sayings twenty centuries ago, Christianity is not the only, and not necessarily the preferred and universal gateway to a deeper understanding of the deeper message Jesus taught. It is this deeper understanding that we seek in this book (and E-pistle).
~ From: A New Jesus: Rediscovering His Deeper Teachings Through Intuitive Inquiry pp 14-16, by William Kautz, iUniverse 2011. ISBN: 978-1-4502-6344-3 (pbk)