Saturday, January 13

Walking in the shadows of the Fisherman

Just for the sake of clarity, can I introduce Jesus as a stranger, (since I’m not at all  keen on the idea of a personal saviour ) just as I imagine he came to those fishermen so long ago. Also it seems to me, for the most part, so he remained to a large degree, even to his disciples.
So I think we can say in essence Jesus (as opposed to the crucified Christ) is only known to us by way of a collection of his remarkable sayings and principally the loose narrative of his brief ministry.
But how can one not be drawn to his words. For me they resemble explosive bullets which shatter the conscious minds status quo and invite a new form of enquiry. So I might posit at the outset, from my perspective, the higher self gets a high dose of adrenaline to shape that ongoing creation of which we are a part. At least I would like to think about it like that as one ponders the relevance to day of those ancient thoughts.   
Many passages come to mind but none more so than the parable of the “Good Samaritan”, etched as it is into everyday language. One can imagine then the shock of the audience as Jesus attributed the noble act to the much hated Samaritans. That would have been extraordinarily radical, given the deep seated tribal animosity ingrained in society then. Even today, don’t you agree how easy it is for racial prejudice to bubble up in conversations of fear expressed by otherwise remarkably fine people.  And so it was with many of his sayings and parables.
For the scriptures (NT) talks of an extraordinary teacher, one who does not indulge in abstract ideas, or engage intellectually but rather is focussed at a practical level on the expansion of good works and compassion in preparedness for the long awaited messianic kingdom. One can’t help but notice this thematic, in his exhortation to show compassion, in forgiveness and in not being judgmental. Notice the judgemental aspect only creeps into the narrative due to its unmistakable eschatological roots. This is evident in the warning bells prior to a soon to arise messianic kingdom. This new world order is defined in the Sermon on the Mount.  
But I think one must acknowledge this eschaton was never possible as we understand the cosmos today. However this does not detract from the wisdom and practicality of his teachings. Nor does it preclude us from proclaiming “the Christ” as in his divinity in death, to add another vital link to our spiritual self. Nor does it lessen in any way his impact on humanity as the guiding light out of darkness we attribute to “the Christ”.  
In fact I believe the opposite is true. As a fully human Jesus, this complements the divine risen Christ as a cosmic force for the greater good and a telos for ongoing creation.
But the ideas of the second coming and all that entails as in judgements needs to be jettisoned in my view from mainstream thinking. Surely the idea that GOD needs to return or indeed such event occurred in the first instance can be jettisoned. Such an event seems entirely unnecessary with what is visible and known in the Universe and how the divine or greater good can co- exist independent of supernatural events.  Of course I am not ridiculing such concepts, only questioning why we need to believe such things, and posit that their origins in my view arise from mistranslations.              
Hence over time I feel one can anticipate the dismantling of such unnecessary rituals and so called statements of faith such as reciting the current Creed, with its reference to such things as the 3rd day, right hand side, judgements and so forth. This idea of judgment, as I outlined previously (as a forewarning to the imminent messianic kingdom) has led, I believe, to many bad sermons.
So it is, that the Christ comes to us today as the lone stranger, executed with few around to lend any support, but continues on now for ever in divine cosmic memory as an extraordinary man. So I see that extension to the kingdom is now being realised and expressed as an extension in humanity’s higher self. So that his divinity, I posit, is after his death and not before. For my question is how could it be so essential that we must believe he was God on earth? One again I am not ridiculing those who do. But he talks about his Father and even at times his brothers and sisters. What I find puzzling is that we go to these extraordinary efforts to maintain credence to this idea, even though paradoxically in the first early Christian communities such diversity of views were common place.
So in summary I see room to relax dogmas with more emphasis on what you do. I think it means we can talk about Jesus, the extraordinary Man, who was not GOD on earth, but became the risen Christ. But a counter view to that is fine, so long as we don’t make that a prerequisite of calling oneself a Christian. I have deliberately refrained from mentioning the Trinity, but by now I think you would have gathered my views. The more we seek to complicate the wonderful legacy of Jesus the greater risk we have of failing to walk in his shoes as the great fisherman for humanity he remains.  


Tom said...

An interesting post, Lindsay. I would prefer to set aside God and the Trinity in my response, not out of disbelief but out of a possible lack of common ground. As to the idea of a personal saviour, that doesn't seem to be a necessary ingredient in my response. It seems to me that you are accepting the existence of an historical Jesus, and about that I am uncertain. About the existence of a Christ, whatever one calls that, I have no doubt.

You appear, and my apologies if this offends, to have adopted a stance that is somewhere between that of a Fundamentalist and that of a Gnostic. [Some might think that is where Humanism comes in, but I find that stance without spiritual or mystical body/substance.]

I suppose what drew me to respond was the question of what is a Christian? From one perspective it is a cover-all based on a belief in a literal belief in an historical Jesus, his execution and resurrection. On the other hand, and it is an alternative that I prefer, a Christian is one who has experienced at firsthand, the presence of the Christ. From there, dogma falls into a theological waste bin. Good works based on morality have no basis, because that kind of Christian operates out of love.

Of course my response only scratches the surface of what your post opens up. But it was good to read and respond again, even if my involvement here is a comparative rarity.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Tom,
Thanks for your interest and of course in no way would I ever feel offended with your idea that the post is reflective of a position between that of the fundamentalist and gnostic. However I like your idea of a definition of Christians as denoting those who have experienced it firsthand, the presence of the Christ.
It was good to hear from you again, especially as you might be surprised to learn, over the past week I went back and read about a dozen of your last posts and my responses to them.
I should explain this post arose by way of a response to friend asking a question. The question arose from a prior discussion on how past ancient memories influence current consciousness. The discussion then changed along the way so he ended up asking this question shown in italics. The post was my attempt at an answer, although I must say I also have no definitive answers but was willing to take a stab at it. The post had just a few very minor changes to suit general publication as I thought it may be of interest. Accordingly it would be great if you can add something further but please don’t feel any pressure or obligation to do so. Imagine it’s your turn and you have our attention.

Here is the question.
My thinking is slightly different from yours, although I agree with many things you say. I still believe in a creator, and do not believe in the ‘big bang theory’ as such. He created living people with all the restraints and obstacles we have in life. As such, indeed, good things we do, are often random. But, I believe that Christ gave us an alternative, another option. I don’t believe or accept that he created the Catholic Church as we know it today. To me that is a human invention with all the faults and miseries it produced, but also with all the beautifulness it produced. (I am sure you agree with me here). So, we have to go back, as you and I often discussed with you, to the principles of his teaching. Now, they were espoused in an era completely different for us today. Now we have to take into account what we know about the universe. I have no answer to that. I accept some of your ideas in this respect, but I not sure at this stage.

Tom said...

Without being certain, or able, to define what God is, I can make no claim as to whether or not He is 'The Creator', or whether he created living people - exclusively or as part of creation in general. Instinctively, however, I do believe in God. I do accept the principle and process of creativity, without which I wouldn't be writing this comment. I also agree with your friend about the so-called "Big Bang Theory." It is an hypothesis, not a theory: it also smacks too much of the strange Biblical Genesis ideas. Fine for fundamentalists/literalists, but not for me.

The question of Christianity and the Catholic Church is a vexed one. [I assume here that we are considering the Western, Latin Church and not the Eastern Orthodox Church.] There is much that is beautiful, and much that is very ugly about outer/external Christianity. But that aspect of this religion is only a starting point towards an inner experience, most of which is denied adherents of Christianity because the Church has striven to expunge mystical Christianity from its teachings. Thus any experience of the Christ is hidden behind the knowledge, but not the spirit, of the Word.

If we seek Truth [yet another indefinable!] we must always take into account what we know, or think we know, about the universe. Theory and theology must always come after experience, whether it be of the material universe or the spiritual/mystical universe. The key requirement in our searchings must be discrimination and, I believe, consistency.

Of course in writing my thoughts here, I must acknowledge the possibility that I am entirely wrong in my opinions. I wish you both good hunting and sound seeking.

Halle said...

Any time I read of some acknowledgement that one's experience of the Christ is a personal one, independent of religions, it gives me a tingle. Thank you for this post.

I do not tell anyone that I am a Christian. To me, religions are not a force for good in themselves. To the extent they preserve the wisdom of those who inspired them, they are good. That their writings also preserve terrible and exclusionary writings is a unavoidable, by the very definition of religion.

I'd rather others think me a heathen, than one who would advocate a we/they dichotomy. If one asks me what has inspired me to be who I am, I will always include the New Testament gospels.

Wisdom and beauty and most importantly, the love of the Christ is freely available to those who seek it. It needn't become a club; it is much too personal for that.

See what you have done Lindsay... you have me rambling.

All the best.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Tom,
Many thanks for those additional helpful thoughts.
The question of Christianity and the Catholic Church is indeed a vexed one. We are considering the Western, Latin Church and I concur with your idea that there is much which is beautiful, but we do have the very ugly outer/external Christianity. In that respect I think our present Pope Francis wants to reintroduce the idea of inner experience and appeals to a pastoral care and love to be the sole criteria for future appointments. This is quite a radical departure from the past where matters of doctrine and correct interpretative stances were the key drivers. Hence the best catalysis for change in our view is the actions of our present Pope and hopefully another like him, to follow, to push the reformative boat along.
For Pope Francis struggles in vain against the powerful ingrained Vatican conservatism, who quote outdated Canon law back to him. I guess if you have studied Canon Law for most of your life and adhered to its authority, maybe it’s hard to change. But even so, in my mind, humans adapt and grow hopefully in spiritual maturity along the way. So there must be some hope in the future as a groundswell of lay support must eventually carry us forward to reform.

Hence his vision is to make the church a global one, based on pastoral care and love where all are welcome. Not a westernized version chained to conservative cloth. In this respect Bishops have sought to avoid the responsibility he asserts of them to concentrate on the inner self, whose outward thrust must be one of pastoral care and affection. He caused an uproar in welcoming the gay community with open arms to the Lord – who am I to judge he said.
Repeatedly however this vision is rejected as Bishops refuse their invited new found freedom and instead reference back such measures to the same anti change conservative forces the present Pope seeks to reform. Little wonder the status quo largely remains. In extreme cases paradoxically we have rogue elements suggesting his ideas may be blasphemy, demanding he re consider and provide scriptural authority. Such is the deep seated conservatism rooted in outdated ideas. Please feel free to add anything further to the discussion.
Best wishes

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Halle
I am so glad you made this comment. It goes to the heart of the matter as to how much the church must change to be more of a welcoming pastoral carer than its present role. As you would have gathered from my previous reply to Tom, I am quite certain, if by chance our present Pope Fancies was to meet you and hear your story he would give you a mighty welcoming hug and together talk of the gospels redeeming love. That would apply, of course, at any time during your life just as I feel he would do for all of us. What a travesty that I gather the imposition of religion could separate us from fellowship and community over such mistranslations and emphatic dogma, or obscure passages belonging to another era.
Best wishes.

Tom said...

Hi to Both,

I fear the psycho-spiritual sickness of conservative-fundamentalist-literalism is one which raises its head in all walks of human life, at all times in the history of man/woman-kind. It will I suppose last as long as one's Ego is allowed to dominate.

I have to say, from a non-catholic point of view, that I do admire your Pope, although I fear he is on a hiding-to-nothing from his detractors. Much the same existed in the Church of England under the administrative care of the ex-Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, particularly when the question of the ordination of women arose.

I loved your [Halle] comment on your love of the New Testament gospels. The more I study them, the more I have to treat them as a mythological system telling of the Christ, and how its life was led through Jesus. Whether or not Jesus was an historical person is largely irrelevant for me.

One final point, Lindsay, if you can post anything that gets Halle "rambling", bring it on. She's good to read.

susan said...

In a book of his collected works Jung said, “The individual ego is the stable in which the Christ-child is born.”

It's true there were a large number of potential messiahs inhabiting the Middle East during that period. Even brief overviews of comparative mythology show there are parallels between the Jesus story and those told of other god-men. The fact there is so little conclusive proof of his existence makes the question of whether or not Jesus of Nazareth was an historical person one that will never be answered. But that really isn't the point, is it, as I'm sure you'll agree. There is a deep need in us for the transcendent, a feeling or a longing if you will, that goes beyond words. While ritual is a good thing dogmas create division.

My own heart opened to the sublime when I was very young. Having experienced my own tastes of life's sadness and disappointments it's become a habit of mine to look for extra evidence in all sorts of places. It's there to be found in every genuine spiritual practice.

This is one of my favourite statements:

"I tell you the truth. You must change and become like little children. If you don't do this, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. The greatest person in the kingdom of heaven is the person that makes himself humble like this child."
Matthew 18

All the best

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Thanks Susan for joining the discussions and for your interesting input. Indeed as far as I could ascertain as well the Jewish Messianic anticipation was a feature before and after the historical Jesus of the NT.
But whatever the historical context, as you both you, Tom, and Halle, I think, are saying it does no impact the wonderful spiritual experience and comfort you draw from the gospel narrative and from one of your favourite quotes as above.
Best wishes

Tom said...

Hi All, I don't wish to hog the discussion, but would like to comment on Susan's remarks. I like the Jung quote very much. In one of my meditations [I wrote about this on Gwynt] the place of birth of the Christ, the manger was also a stone sarcophagus. It took me quite some time to realise that birthing and dying are the same process, viewed from different standpoints.

As to the historical existence of Jesus, I am uncertain as I have indicated previously. When meditating, I find it very useful to adopt the position that, "It is as if....." And this use of analogy usually bears some remarkable fruit.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Tom,
In relation to your idea birthing and dying are the same process, viewed from different standpoints, I would agree and furthermore feel that often applies to how we perceive everyday life and death experiences.
For instance watching my dad take those last few breaths (he died prematurely from lingering war related injuries at aged only 57) was a similar experience to a few years later watching my daughters birth and observing her first few breaths. Both felt like sacred transitions.

And it was only a few months ago I was talking to friend whose Mon had died in another city but he had managed to be at her bedside when she passed away- I hesitantly said to him it was good that he was able to be there and shared in that sacred moment. To my surprise, not being one to appear interested in such things, he reacted so positively it caught me completely by surprise.
Lets know what you think.
Best wishes

Tom said...

Hello Again; I take your point about one's first and last breaths as been sacred moments. Not, perhaps, that all one's breaths are otherwise.

I remember that, many moons ago, Halle and I were talking about life after death - an odd phrase really. We agreed at that time that neither of us knew whether such a state existed, only that knowledge of whether life-after-death existed would not change the way we had chosen to live out our lives. Since that time, I have asked myself a number of questions [too many to go into here] about spiritual states. As a result I find it incomprehensible that life ends at death. In short, death is not a state - at least for the 'soul' - but an event leading to some form of continuation.

From that future continuation's point of view, the birth it witnesses will correspond to the death "I" would witness in this life. From the soul's point of view, I would suggest there would be nothing to distinguish the process of the event of death from that of life. The soul would see it all as a continual living experience.

Having said all that, I again wonder whether it has any real value to thus philosophise. In the end I will continue to struggle and seek, and try to become more open to my Spirit rather than the driving force of my Intellect; to 'talk' less up in my head, and 'listen' more to my intuitive spirit.

Halle said...

In my own investigations, it has seemed to me that our connection to the infinite is as a traveller along one branch of an infinitely large tree. In my blog, in discussions with an entity named Aadi, it was clear that every decision made by any one of us, influenced by seemingly random factors in the world, creates new branches of that tree.

Our birth as a human begins our interaction, so through our lifetime we have a chance to be co-creators. At our death, we can no longer be a part of that creation process. The creation process doesn't stop, and if, as I suspect, we are all connected in death as in life with the creation itself, then our existence is never truly ended.

Halle said...

The point is, to limit the "I AM" to the perspective of a human is to miss an opportunity to appreciate how it can be that God doesn't intervene in "events" that we see as tragic. God sees all possible outcomes, while we see only one.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Halle & Tom
Thanks for returning to the discussion and clarifying some of your thoughts. If we believe in an infinite number of universes, could not that co-creation continue on in some form or other as an eternal recurrence in another place? In other words the continuum of the soul at death to re birth into that wider dimension, free from what binds our prior earthly existence. An extension, if you like, to new braches to the eternal tree of life.

I have often imagined this lying in bed at night. That is the revelation of the things to come to which we are not privy. And to that extent I like to think of it a continuum of that we have gleaned from our prior existence in this present day reality, which then forms one essential eternal building strand in that enlarged reality. A place (if I can call it that) in time and space which emerges at death.
I know this is me raving on a bit trying to side with the cosmologist’s theory on such poetic themes as the multiverses and so on, but is has always fascinated me.
Best wishes

Tom said...

And what of the idea that death in an illusion because it takes place in Time; and Time is an illusion?

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Thanks for returning and asking that question because it was an idea that floated into my head intuitively a long time ago and made me feel very uneasy . I couldn't ralionalise why I felt like that and so I let it pass because my head felt as if it was spinning. Then of course the idea of space time I read about made more sense. But of course it doesn't explain time itself as you would know. In the end I arrived at the conclusion time is just an illusion. The reality of time is so deeply ingrained into our daly life it's hard to accept ithat it is just another of the earthly concepts we have found so necessary to adopt.One of those conundrums where you can measure something but you can't say what it is. I think you can say it does fit in to my way of thinking reasonably with the general theory of relativity if in the end we are all joined in the spiritual sense to that infinite although we can't quite say what it is. .

Let's know what you think.
Best wishes

Halle said...

From that (exalted) perspective, where one can see all the possible outcomes; where all of them actually occurred, time doesn't mean the same thing it does for us. That is the revelation we are given when we are no longer in the body. It is likely for the best that while alive we are convinced (by the apparent passage of time) that our choices are of great importance.

While we maintain our perspective of an individual living a particular lifetime, we must perceive time as linear. Contemplating a timeless state while we are forced to live in the continuum of time can certainly make one's head spin.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Halle
Thanks for returning to the discussion.
My question to you is this. Instead of saying, time doesn't mean the same thing in that exalted position, can we opt to suspend the very idea of time altogether ? .

Rather is it ok to posit after death there is a continuum outside of this illusion of time?
Of course I agree it is necessary for us to continue to reference the concept of linear time, as human “constructs” for us to exist as we do.

However, although we talk about time and space as in space--time relativity, one can also observe some rather weird characteristics or unresolved mysteries.
Accepting those observations on face value leads us to conclude maybe there is no space or time as we currently understand it?
But that only seems true for those particles observable, but the process of the observer influences the particles behaviour of that it’s twin, simultaneously, even when unimaginable distances apart.
Inescapably, that implies, at every level, their is process of effect so that our decisions are always important.
Let’s know what you think.
Tom, you might like to join in.
Best wishes

Halle said...

In my metaphor of the tree, time becomes a location along a branch. Therefore time cannot be dispensed with.

If we believe a divinity is part of this afterlife, it seems to me that consciousness must be able to move freely along any branch. From God's perspective, time isn't meaningless, but instead, is no more meaningful than any other dimension.

Halle said...

As to the "but the process of the observer influences the particles behaviour of that it’s twin, simultaneously, even when unimaginable distances apart" question, I cannot avoid wondering how far my metaphor might correspond with the observation of the physicist.
Perhaps in my next life I will have enough time in the day to study such things.

All the Best.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Halle,
Just a thought but can you imagine our ancestors and you and I on bodily death spiritually not going to any place because that soulful part is already there, so to speak- a continuum. But for the time being our consciousness, by necessity, adopts the relative perspective of that of the enquirer. So it is only natural for us to think in terms of your beautiful metaphor as in the tree of life, with relative ideas of past, present and location. I agree that where words are inadequate than the use of metaphors is indeed the best way to express our thoughts about such things.
So I agree that the tree of life is already there and we are already very much part of it, as co-creators I think you mentioned before. Just as is the case of our ancestors. I think we can agree on that, but where I differ is in the idea we actually go anywhere (as in time) after death. To reiterate my view is, from our soul’s perspective, we don’t go anywhere because it continues on in the reality that is now. What we see in our bodily state can be largely illusory, on death reality.
As far as how that relates to a divinity or GOD is a matter of what we believe and I would think we have similar views on that. Once again thank you for your insightful views. Perhaps you can persuade me to change my views as expressed above with further exchanges. If not, to feel that is enough for the time being, best wishes for now.

Halle said...

In my view, at death one stops being part of a time-based consciousness. The great revelation after death is that all of those decisions we thought were so important were part of a learning experience.

It seems life is a set of tests or lessons we (our soul if you like) impose upon ourselves and part of the condition of the test is that we believe in time passing, even though our soul understands only too well that time is an illusion.

Reality therefore is not a place or a time; it isn't now. Speculation on what reality is falls into the category of something we have no frame of reference to discuss.

Beginning to feel like an attempt to count the number of angels on the head of a pin, isn't it?

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Halle
Like trying to pin a map on a sunset. Thanks for expanding on your views and I think we’re now singing from the same hymnal.
Best wishes

Halle said...

All the best Lindsay, and thank you for this stimulating post.

susan said...

I just read this conversation, Lindsay, and feel quite sorry about having missed participating. The ideas and thoughtful articulation was a treat - as was seeing the ultimate agreement that there are some concepts that deny rational logic (like your pinning a map on a sunset).

That we continue in the afterlife as individual consciousnesses aware of our place in all seems like the culmination of one's heart's desire.

All the best

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan
Thanks for dropping by and a very nice way to put it as in our hearts desire. Please also feel free to add in something else you might like to elaborate on now. Its always good to have discussions and even better when we can conclude we are all essentially singing from the same hym book with differing beautiful tunes.
Best wishes