Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
(Note: this blog posting was originally written for the integrallife.com site, which is focused on what is known as "integral life practice" a synthesis of Eastern and Western mystical traditions. I am something of an outlier there as I am here, being a nontheist in the midst of theists. However, the threads there drew me into reflection on the story of Jesus and what transcendent meanings might be present in the gospel stories. I realize that I spend a lot of time on "unQuakerly" notions like the Trinity and the Incarnation, but that's my weakness as a former aspiring theologian.)
Can an Integral Christianity operate with a mythicist stance, in other words can one believe Jesus was wholly a myth, yet still have some form of faith in Jesus as a savior? This question is posed by this blog entry. One way to approach this would be to take an Hegelian view that the Jesus myth was a synthesis of Judaism and Greek religious ideas which paved the way for a new cultural epoch. The Jesus Myth could be viewed as the narrativized personification of the evolutionary shift that took place in this historical period, not the factual account of a literal person.
This Jewish/Greek synthesis is centered in the doctrines of the trinity, incarnation, atonement, and resurrection. In the trinity, the Jewish idea that God is ONE without any other gods is synthesized with the mystical Greek idea that all gods are emanations from the impersonal One behind all being. The godhead is a mystery that cannot be rationalized because it is a nondual reality that transcends linearity and separateness. Mystical union with the divine plurality that is actually nondual is a mystical gift that can be known briefly through a state of exalted experience, but only integrated into one's permanent enlightened awareness through patient practice.
In the Incarnation, the divine nondual Oneness paradoxically revealed/hidden in plurality, is revealed to also be one with all manifest existence, including finite humanity. This union of the nondual with the manifest is symbolized in the hypostatic union doctrine as two natures in one person. In the story of Jesus, the divine plan is focused in the life of one teacher who appeared with a message of perfect love in a suffering world.
It is not that Jesus is God more than he is human, or human more than he is God, but that the nonduality of human and divine is encapsulated in his life, even if mythically. This incarnation didn't only occur in the historical womb of a young Jewish bride, but it occurs and is always occurring in the deep eternal past, in all history, in our present, and forward into the distant future, timelessly, within the eternal source of the divine and manifest cosmos. The flesh of the body of Jesus is human flesh, born from the stardust. This stardust was always already united with the divine.
In the atonement, the pathological failures of our evolutionary descent/ascent are healed vicariously in the perfect life, love, and sacrifice of Jesus. His death is caused by humanity's failure to grasp its divinity, but it also heals us from that failure by divine forgiveness and propitiation of the strict moral judgment of that failure. We are shown mercy, not punished, even in our darkest hours. We are invited to graciously experience restoration with our divine source, not by appeasing the wrath of God, but by the Love within the divine embracing even our most unlovely maliciousness.
This divine forgiveness is an emotional, rational, and ethical invitation to limitless healing, love, and compassion. As the triune divinity is Parent, Child, and Spirit, the work of Spirit is an experiential empowerment to be dynamically transformed into a being of love, into a divine person that finds her divinity within all beings. A community of loving beings is the vehicle for divine salvation. Manifesting the communion of children of the Light in this world is the sign of the Apocalypse, the End of this Age as we have known it in our pathological bondage to self and separateness.
The divine flesh, body, heart, and soul of Jesus and of each of us is crucified, death overtakes the power of love and does its worst. Pain, torture, blood, and misery propel the living beating heart of divine human incarnate into hell itself. We all must die, and in that death we fear we will be lost forever. We will be lost forever, as love is taken into hell. There is no escape from this fate, we must embrace it and pass through its overwhelming fearsomeness.
The resurrection is not the reanimation of the body and life that has been crucified, as if a zombie could be a savior! The resurrection is a vision, an unparalleled imaginary utopia of immortality. It comes true from within death, not against death. The cosmos will fall into darkness and all stars will perish. However, timelessly, all that has ever been still lives in the nondual divine source. Death and Life are one and immortality and finitude are illusions. Everything has eternal life through the eternal Death. Jesus is always already a dead myth, may his love live forever!