"Was Jesus a Freak?" (excerpt p.147) CLOUD HIDDEN WHEREABOUTS UNKNOWN (1971) by Alan Watts
---“Abstract Jesus” by Jason Beck
A few days ago (1971) I gave a ride to a rather pleasant hippie couple who seemed to have no particular destination. I asked, "What trip are you on?" He said, "Like spiritual trip?" I said, "Yes." He said, "We’re on the Jesus trip." "Whose Jesus?" I asked, "Billy Graham’s or mine?" "Well, it’s all sort of the same, isn’t it?" It is not. For Billy Graham follows a long tradition, both Catholic and Protestant, wherein the gospel (or "good news" of Jesus has been eclipsed and perverted by pedestalization, by kicking him upstairs so as to get him out of the way, and by following a religion about Jesus instead of the religion of Jesus. Obviously, Jesus was not the man he was as a result of making Jesus Christ his personal savior. The religion of Jesus was that he knew he was a son of God, and the phrase "son of" means "of the nature of," so that a son of God is an individual who realizes that he is, and always has been, one with God. "I and the Father are one."
When Jesus spoke those words the crowd took up stones to stone him. He said, "I have shown you many good works from the Father, and for which of them do you stone me?" They answered, "We’re not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God." And he replied, Isn’t it written in your Law that ‘I have said: you are gods’? If he addressed those to whom he gave his words as gods (and you can’t contradict the Scriptures), how can you say that I blaspheme because I said ‘I am a son of God;?" But the self-styled Christians, and especially the fundamentalist bibliolaters, always insist that Jesus was the only son of a woman who was also the son of God, and thus call upon all the rest of us to follow the example of the one human freak who had the unique advantage of being the Boss’s son.
This is not a gospel: it is a chronic hang-up, a self-frustrating guilt trip. It isolates the career of Jesus as an exhibit in a glass case – for worship but not for use.
It is obvious to any informed student of the history and psychology of religion that Jesus was one, of many, who had an intense experience of cosmic consciousness – of the vivid realization that oneself is a manifestation of the eternal energy of the universe, the basic "I am."
But it is very hard to express this experience when the only religious imagery at your disposal conceives that "I am" as an all-knowing and all-powerful monarch, autocrat, and beneficent tyrant enthroned in a court of adoring subjects. In such a cultural context, you cannot say "I am God" without being accused of subversion,
insubordination, megalomania, arrogance, and blasphemy. Yet that was why Jesus was crucified. In India people would have laughed and rejoiced with him, because Hindus know that we are all God in disguise-playing hide-and-seek with himself.
Their model of the universe is not based on the political states of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Persians, whose awesome dictatorships still hold sway through the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religions, even in the Republic of the United States. In Hinduism the whole universe is like the Holy Trinity – one as many, and many as one. (And, of course, the Hindus are the despised of the earth, having been reduced to utter poverty by Muslims and Christians.)
But Jesus had to speak through a public address system, the only one available, which distorted his words, so that they came forth as the bombastic claim to be the one and only appearance of the Christ, of the incarnation of God as man. This is not good news.
The good news is that if Jesus could realize his identity with God, you can also – but this God does not have to be idolized as an imperious monarch with a royal court of angels and ministers. God, as "the love which moves the sun and other stars," is something much more inward, intimate, and mysterious – in the sense of being too close to be seen as an object. So it turns out, alas, that our new breed of Jesus freaks are following the old non-gospel of the freaky Jesus – of the bizarre man who was unnaturally born and whose corpse was weirdly reanimated for a space trip into heaven. (One can, of course, interpret these ancient images in a more profound an nonliteral way, as I tried to show in my book Beyond Theology.)
But to identify Jesus the man as the one and only historical incarnation of a divinity considered as the royal, imperial, and militant Jehovah, is only to reinforce the pestiferous arrogance of "white" Christianity – with all the cruel self-righteousness of its missionary zeal. They may perhaps be forgiven for their ignorance, but today, when we are exposed to all the riches of Earth’s varying cultures and religions, there is no further excuse for the parochial fanaticism of spiritual in-groups. Jesus freaks are still in a state of enthusiastic innocence, as yet unaware of the frightful implications of their claims. But they must realize that Christianity would seem ever so much more valid if it would stop insisting on being an oddity.
Christianity has universality, or catholicity, only in recognizing that Jesus is one particular instance and expression of a wisdom which was also, if differently, realized in the Buddha, in Lao-tzu, and in such modern avatars as Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna, and, perhaps, Aurobindo and Inayat Khan. (I could make a very long list.)
This wisdom is that none of us are brief island existences, but forms and expressions of one and the same eternal "I am" waving in different ways, such that, whenever this is realized to be the case, we wave more harmoniously with other waves.
Christians, who so often affect prickly and astringent attitudes, may cluck and pishtush that this all very imprecise, vague, woolly, and sentimental. But in the harsh clacking of their disciplined voices, their accurate distinctions, and precise calculations, I hear the rattle of rifle bolts and clicking of heels. "Like a mighty army moves, But this is no way for a gentleman".
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