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Posted: December 12th, 2007, 2:32 pm
This is something I posted reently on the "ChristianBoard.com" message boards. I just thought I'd share it here, because I think I was speaking mostly to myself, trying to clarify to msyself what I actually believe as opposed to what I have in the past thought I should believe... and I find that the responses I get here in ZF are amazingly helpful in that process. The debate on that board is over the necessity of "orthodoxy," of adhering to the pronouncements of the early church fathers, especialy the Council of Nicaea.
Anyway, here goes:
Asha Dan posted: "As your own analogy makes clear, growth from infancy to maturity does not produce a fundamentally different organism, but a larger and stronger version of the original."
My response: That was and is precisely the point I was trying to get across. There cannot be "a larger and stronger version of the original" if the Author of the original is barred from introducing factors that will increase the strength and/or size of it. Preventing the introduction of such is the purpose of the "machine."
I perceive "orthodox" Christianity from two perspectives. A certain standard must exist: I contend that it does, in the form of four very useful Gospels. Possibly five, if one includes the gospel of Thomas. Those give us access to the information we need about the teachings and purposes of our Master. However, those give us access to a person, and a person is a living being, not a set of principles.
The tendency in doctrinally-oriented Christianity is, simply, to affirm that "The Word became Book, and dwelt among us." He is on the other side of the book, and the book becomes a swamp through which we must trudge, assailed by hordes of "experts" calling out, "my orthodoxy is better than your orthodoxy" and "if you don't come via my orthodoxy you will end up in the wrong place and God will not like you." "Come unto me, all who are heavy laden," is an invitation lost in the clamor of "You gotta do it my way." "Orthodoxy" is a slippery word: it is defined by every denomination and cult as "our way of understanding things." It is used to separate and label, it is used to assign certain classes of people to Hell and others to Heaven, it is used to allow theologians to preen and posture to each other, it is used to justify atrocities such as the Inquisiton (Catholic orthodoxy) and the Salem murders (Protestant orthodoxy) ... and as a result, it rarely fails to obscure our view of the Master himself. If any "corection" is needed in this day and age to the state of Christianity, it would be the introduction of an awareness of the difference between the religion about Jesus and the religion of Jesus. Some voics are trying very hard to share that novel idea, and are meeting the expected entrenched resistance: "We has it down pat and we ain't gonna listen." It reminds me of Wodehouse's classic phrase , "Shut up, he explained." So the"orthodox" read Butterworth's Metamorality or any similar book and respond, not with thoughtful "could it be?" but with knee-jerk "Unorthodox! Unorthodox!" Why? Because it doesn't say what we want to hear, what we expect to hear ... and it doesn't use the familiar buzzwords and pat theological phrases that mark us as "orthodox."
It is precisely the nature of orthodoxy that results in what 4given1 observed: "The hairs being split in this thread over a single word are ridiculous." That's what theologians do: they split hairs, and then split the pieces that result, and then split the splits from the split. "Go into all the world, and split hairs, and drive wedges..." ?? I don't think that is quite what he said.
That is what Dostoevski was driving at in "The Grand Inquisitor." Yes, Brian, that is exactly what I think: if he returned now, he would be executed once again as a heretic and troublemaker -- by those who claim to be his heirs. He would be accused of being "New Age" and/or of being a witch. We don't execute new agers or witches nowadays ... but he would be so authoritative, so powerful, and so appealing to the masses that he could not be allowed to live. He would be the ultimate threat to the survival of Christianity.
I do not, as I said in an earlier post, expect agreement. I will be surprised if I am given an audience at all, inasmuch as I am a heretic! But I know some will at least weigh what is said here and, if nothing else, use it to clarify for themselves why they do not agree with it. I am to a great degree a pragmatist: I tend to set aside things that do not compute, that do not produce results, and I have found that "orthodoxy" has not produced the results I seek; it has produced contention and strife instead. I see no contentiousness, no separativeness, no classification of people, in the teachings and life of Jesus of Nazareth. His burden is easy, and his yoke is light, because it is not weighed down with the endless volumes of the Christian Mishnah that have been produced in the 2000 years since he taught here. In the end, it is not about Paul, or about Aquinas, or about Calvin, or about Luther, or about speaking in tongues, or about Judaic sacrifice theology projected onto Jesus ...in the end it is about Jesus, period. Jesus, a person, the Master, the Teacher, the only one who can save us from ourselves -- if we listen to him.
Posted: December 13th, 2007, 5:16 pm
an awareness of the difference between the religion about Jesus and the religion of Jesus
Excellent stuff, and as you undoubtedly expect, not to mention for whatever it may be worth, I agree with you.
A couple of comments, none of which will, for very understandable reasons, likely be welcome at the forum you mention. Having said that, we should remind ourselves that where that forum seems to be, we have all been. At a certain place along the way, it is perfectly normal and natural and appropriate to need the comfort and reassurance and underpinning of a group, of a “correct way” (which of course is what the Greek in “orthodox” means). Going off on our own is very scary, and in fact is a very bad idea for those not ready to do it.
Okay, while I know precisely what you meant, I would suggest that Jesus, like every other Self-Realized
Teacher, did not have a religion
, that there is no religion "of Jesus".
Self-Realized Teachers speak from the perspective of the One Itself about Itself which It knows is all there is. They are not spokesmen
of the One; they are the One. So, neither are they representatives of any existing religion or proponents of any new religion. They simply say to us, “This is what is. See it. Be it.”
Just so, “I am the way” does not mean, “follow behind this Galilean fellow”; it means seek your very self, and be it!
Now, when we hear someone say “I am the way” we naturally assume that he or she means he
is the way, just as we would if we were to say “I am the way”, and so we seek to walk as they did. Finding it difficult, even initially impossible, to do that, we fudge a little here and there (“What he actually meant was …”), but all the while we remain focused on the man or woman whom we heard speaking the words.
And from there, as Butterworth and others have said so well, we print texts, build cathedrals, crown authorities, and fall in line.
Until, like fruit ripening on a branch, we mature from the inside out, and we wonder. We begin to suspect that, as you say, it is not about Paul or Aquinas or Calvin or Luther, but about something else
, and we find ourselves wanting to know what that "else" is. We ask questions which none of our authorities can answer or even want to hear. We become seekers.
In the end, it is not about Paul, or about Aquinas, or about Calvin, or about Luther, or about speaking in tongues, or about Judaic sacrifice theology projected onto Jesus ... in the end it is about Jesus, period. Jesus, a person, the Master, the Teacher, the only one who can save us from ourselves -- if we listen to him.
Similarly, and I am sure you agree here, too, in the end, it is even really not about Jesus, and I suspect that no one would insist upon that more vociferously than he himself. After all, the "correct" answer to his question, "Who do you say I am?" had nothing to do with a man from Galilee. He knew who he is, and he wants to know if we do, too. Thus, that question is not asking for reassurance. He hopes the question itself, like a Zen koan, may trip our "rational" egoic mind, and open wide the window to Truth for just an instant. And sometimes it does.
So, he does not want followers. What would he do with them? No, he looks at us and sees HimSelf, and wants us to look at ourselves, and at him, and see likewise, see our Self, and know that it is the Self.
Up to a point, even as seekers we can – maybe even we must – follow the Teachings of Jesus, of Nisargadatta, of Rumi, and so on, but at some point we must, we will, step over them. We must eventually have the courage to break out, the courage to stand alone (in U. G. Krishnamurti
's words). Or, in the death-defying words
of Zen, "if you meet the Buddha along the road, kill him"!
Anyway, sounds like an interesting board.
Posted: December 14th, 2007, 1:02 pm
"I would suggest that Jesus, like every other Self-Realized Teacher, did not have a religion, that there is no religion "of Jesus".
Indeed, I can only agree ... were I to revise this sentence it would read "the difference between the religion abut Jesus and the revelation offered by Jesus." Or something like that. I was really not comfortable with the term "the religion of Jesus," but got sort of stuck to it because it is Butterworth's term and I am steeped in his writings. Which shows me how easily I can let an anti-authority become an authority for me! Have I moved from the "authority" of Nicaea to the "authority" of Butterworth? Eeek.
"Similarly, and I am sure you agree here, too, in the end, it is even really not about Jesus"
True: but if I posted that on the ChristianBoard, I would have no audience whatever. I hoped by stating it that way to encourage the freer thinkers among them to let the "church" and the "religion" relax its grip on them. Once that happens, they will find their way to the distinction beween "Jesus" and "Christ" just by following the light. I know from my own experience, as do many of us, how extremely frightening it can be to let go of the "safety net" of the creeds, doctrines and rituals of the religion about Jesus. And it is not my intention on that board to rattle anyone's cage or try to undermine the hope and faith upon which they rely as heavily as I once did.
Anyhow ... it's quite a ride on that board, but I am weary of it. Too much exposure to religion is very wearying. And I cannot blame the religion or the religionists: if I continue to wage war on that batlefield, I am simply wearying myself and can stop doing so any time.
Posted: December 14th, 2007, 3:02 pm
if I posted that on the ChristianBoard, I would have no audience whatever
Don’t be so sure. Here’s what I know from what TZF visitors have told us over the years: There are a lot of people who come here frequently, but only to read. For any number of reasons, all of them valid, they are not ready to say out loud perhaps even to themselves, that the stuff they find here is speaking to who they are increasingly coming to believe they are.
In time, they may make themselves known, but alternatively they may never do so. Instead, the “seeds” they stumble across here may lie in the ground of their consciousness for years; on the other hand, something they read here or at another similar site, may prompt them to pick up a book by or about Butterworth, Watts, Rumi, Suzuki, etc., and from there, who knows.
So, if you enjoy posting there, and don’t mind taking an occasional beating (if that’s what happens), I would continue doing so, without worrying about who is reading it or why they are doing so. Don't wage war (to use your expression); instead just be who you are, and let the petals fall where they may. As I know you are doing, just continue to be reasonable, considerate, and polite, with lots of “this is the way I see it” rather than “this is the way it is”. That openness alone may provide all the contrast that is necessary to help someone somewhere whom you may never meet, peck at the shell which they have built around themselves, just – by the Grace of God – each of us has done.
Speaking of this is the way I see it …
To my earlier points in this thread, here it is as I see it, grossly oversimplified …
Religion tells us what we should and should not do in order to achieve personal, individual, separative goals (“Following the precepts of my religion will enable me, Stefan, to be saved as Stefan and to go to heaven as Stefan”). Religion gives me peace of mind in my life as Stefan.
Self-realized Teachers do not tell us what we should and should not do, and they have no interest whatsoever in me as Stefan, because they know
there is no such thing. They tell us what we are, who we are, in Truth. It is not about me, Stefan, and so it is not about Stefan’s goals or Stefan’s eternal life or anything to do with Stefan as a separate, unique, person. It is about What Is, and nothing more, there being nothing more. Truth may or may not give me peace of mind in my life as Stefan; Truth frees me from my life as Stefan.
God being Infinite and therefore all there is, both are Divine, each in its own way in its own place. As always, the key for each of us is to know when to walk on.
Posted: December 28th, 2007, 3:10 am
This is what I've decided it is like trying to talk to many Christians. BTW, I'm really glad for the Sand Box, 'cause I need the freedom to say it like I see it. I wish I could remember what show or what book it was from my childhood, but I am not sure. The closest I can come to is that it was an episode from Star Trek. The very faint memory of this show continally is triggered when I attempt to understand what in the world some Christians are thinking. (I hope I'm not being too blunt here) The show went something like this. A group landed on a planet and a book was left, but only part of the book. The society took this book and made it their Bible. Because they only had part of the book, the society was completely and totally cockeyed, didn't make a lick of sense, just plain stupid!
Well, I think it was 'ole Kirk that comes and recognizes these people living out a period from Earth's history. He can barely recognize it and tries to convince these people that they didn't quite get the whole book and they are down right NUTS!!! But to no avail, these people had there 'Bible' and that was the end of the story.
This is the only description that fits how I see the distortion of spirituality that is running rampant in our world right now. Sorry if I'm sounding judgemental. But whew, I sure feel better now.
Posted: December 28th, 2007, 1:04 pm
I know what you mean. I am (read: I was) trying to get through on another board to an individual of exactly the description you give. Unfortunately, the only sound he can hear is that of his own voice. In such cases, one simply lets it go: in the context of infinity it doesn't make a whit of difference.
I am increasingly guided by a concept from Ruby Nelson's The Door of Everything -- here it is, from pages 117-118;
All are really perfect because I am the Light of each one's Life. Whatever imperfection your brother or sister may be demonstrating in his actions is caused by his own false sense of being a lonely human who has to get along as best he can without me. Realizing this, you can forgive him for all of his actions, for he knows not what he does.
This does not give you any right, however, to decide he needs converting and to try forcing his adoption of your opinions. Nor does it oblige you to listen to his opinions or change your ways to conform to what he expects from you.
It does leave you both free to go your own directions, to seek me by your own methods, or not to seek me at all.
Posted: January 25th, 2009, 3:26 am
hello ,have not done this in a long while , am 63 and a long time seeker , semi literate welder . and run in to those that would save my with there 'Orthodoxy' which , I have tried to deal with with , anger , gentleness , logic , submission etc. It always ended the same they went there way and I went mine .
Posted: January 25th, 2009, 10:22 pm
"Orthodoxy" can be deadly, admittedly.
Lately I have been gaining a great deal in the way of new perspectives form two books: One is a collection of essays entitled The Emerging Christian Way, especially the first chapter by Marcus Borg; the other is This Hebrew Lord by Bishop John Shelby Spong. Both men are participants in what is called The Jesus Seminar, a "think tank" of scholars hoping to find the real Jesus among the rubble and confusion of fragmented Christianity.
Borg suggests that there are two "Christianities," virtually unrelated to each other. The one, the "orthodox" version, is "belief centered." "Salvation" is seen to be a reward for proper belief, and is regarded as a future thing in a heaven "by and by."
The other is "transormation centered," and in this version "salvation is viewed as a current thing, a "now" condition; "faith," rather than "adhering to proper doctrine," is defined as "trust and loyalty" -- as, indeed, was the original meaning of the word when it was lifted out of Hebrew and into Greek, where it got Hellenized.
I am not proselyting for the Christian religion, by the way: just pointing to a couple of books that are quite helpful whether one is a Christian or not.
Posted: January 29th, 2009, 7:36 pm
A few comments:
The word “orthodox” always makes me nervous. The Greek root means right or correct opinion or belief. In other words, some self-appointed authority figure says to me, “My organization and I believe that God has spoken to us, and only to us, and it is our opinion that He has appointed us to interpret His Will”, and I’m supposed to fall in line behind them.
Reading the other day, I came across the following,
It has been common in recent years for scholars of comparative religion to characterize religions as either “orthodox” or “orthopraxy”. Those two terms derive from Green compound expressions of ortho (“correct”) plus dox (“opinion”) or praxis (“practice”). All religions, of course, are concerned with both teachings and practices: matters of doctrine, such as concepts, symbols, creeds, and theologies, and matters of action, such as ritual, law, and devotional life. So when we describe a religion as either orthodox or othoprax, we are describing its particular emphasis.
The next paragraph went on to suggest that Judaism and Islam are particularly orthoprax religions “to the extent that each places fundamental emphasis on law and the regulation of community life, the Jews according to the Torah, the Muslims according to Sharia. … Chritianity, in contrast, is orthodox because it has traditionally placed greater emphasis on belief and its intellectual structuring in creeds, catechisms, and theologies.”
Anvil writes of dealing with orthodoxy with “anger, gentleness, logic, submission etc. It always ended the same: they went their way and I went mine“. Ain't it the truth.
W4 writes, “orthodoxy can be deadly”. You can say that again.
My experience has been that it makes no sense to argue with someone who is at a place along the path where, in order for their position to be correct, everyone else’s position must be wrong. It is part of the herd thing which Anna and others have talked about in other threads. There, it is important to us that others share and support our view, otherwise we feel alone and uncomfortable and vulnerable. Eventually, we grow sufficiently certain in our understanding and awareness that it no longer matters whether others see it the same way or not.
W4, the distinction between “belief centered” and “transformation centered” makes a lot of sense.
Re the Jesus Seminar, as I have written elsewhere, I like their book, The Complete Gospels
. My only argument with their search for the “authentic words” of Jesus is that they did not seem to consider that the Teacher would have been speaking from the position of one who is Self-Realized. Some of what they reject as inauthentic in their book “The Five Gospels” would – in my opinion – have passed the “Self-Realization” test. That is, if it sounds like something Nisargadatta or Rumi or Ibn ‘Arabi or Ramana might have said, then it might very well have been something that the Gospels Teacher might have said. The Jesus Seminar did not seem to consider that measure. I suppose the reason they did not is that they are not familiar with the concept of “Self-Realization”. Most or all of them are Christian scholars, where that idea is not really taught. They needed to have a couple of Hindus or Buddhists or Sufis among their number.
I have read that the Jesus Seminar is currently considering the deeds and actions reported in the Gospels in an attempt to determine how many of those are likely “authentic Jesus”.
There are, of course, those who believe that the “Jesus” reported in the Gospels probably, even almost certainly, never existed, at least not as described in the Gospels. As I have said somewhere here, it doesn’t really matter to me whether the “facts” reported in the Gospels are true or not, because the Teaching is what has worked for me.
In other words, someone said “Call no man father” and “Consider the lilies” and “This I command you, to love one another”, and who he or she was, seems to me to be of little interest, particularly for a seeker who is “transformation centered”. Thus, is Nisargadatta’s Teaching less potent if we learn that he was the invention of Maurice Frydman (who translated and transcribed the Teacher’s words), and that all of the Wisdom and Power in the book “I Am That” emanated from him? I can’t see how.
As for Jesus specifically, it does seem unusual that none of the Gospels writes about the so-called “missing” thirty years. And that Paul didn’t either. (Was Paul not curious about the Teacher's life? Didn't he ask others, those who knew him, about him?) We have met quite a few disciples of gurus, some who knew and lived with the guru, some who came to know of him or her only after the teacher’s death, and the tendency among them is to talk endlessly about the teacher’s life and activities, likes and dislikes, experiences, and so on. After all, they love the teacher with all their heart and soul, and so of course, that’s all they want to talk about. Except for the “infancy” stories (which many scholars make a pretty good case were likely written to “fulfill” Jewish scriptural prophecies), and the three years before the crucifixion, there strikes me as being too little of that kind of “I want to talk about my guru” talk as to make me wonder whether the Gospels writers didn't really know the fellow they purport to be writing about or anyone who did know him. I guess what I mean is that too many of the reported events sound like they are being told in order to make a point, and not so much like a personal, breathless expression of "I'll never forget when guru ..."
But again, that’s got nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the Power of the Words in the Gospels ... as Rajneesh described them, “words like fire”!
To go back to the Jesus Seminar for a moment. One of my favorite lines in the Gospels is Matthew 18:20: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I will be there among them”. The Seminar rejected that line, arguing that it has “rabbinic parallels and was probably a standard feature of Judean piety etc.". Well, yes, maybe, but if you consider that the Gospels Teacher was clearly Self-Realized, it is definitely something he might have said. “Where two or three love one another as I love them, miracles occur.”
Posted: January 31st, 2009, 10:41 pm
i'm with anvil. just walk away.
Posted: February 2nd, 2009, 3:12 pm
Jut recently I discovered, in a dialog I was/am having with a Roman Catholic on another board, another hole in the fabric called "orthodoxy." I noticed that both of us were arguing that "I am right and you are not," and each of us seemingly unable to understand why the other could not see "my" point of view.
Finally, though It came through to me that we both had started from entirely different places. We were actually not communicating at all. We were like ships passing on the sea, able to see each other but not within hailing distance, trying to convey latitudes and longitudes and bearing with some form of semaphore.
She, being RC, started from Aristotle's living room, arguing from a Hellenistic (Aristotelian) dualistic point of view; I started from a place somewhere in the Middle Eastern desert, arguing from a Hebrew/non-dualistic orientation. So to her, it seems necessary that Jesus be born of a "pure virgin," one in fact having herself been born free of sin, so that neither she nor he would be made "impure' by touching "sin." To the Jew (i.e., any New Testament writer) that idea would seem absurd, since they did not se a separation of "flesh/matter" from "spirit" as implying "impure" vs. "pure." They just thought, "Oy, God made the flesh, and called it good, so what's with trying to separate 'spirit' out of it like separating an egg?"
And then the logical" extension of that awareness was, for me, "What if ... both "philosophical points of view" are nothing more than manifestations of the limitation within which we currently perceive ourselves to be functioning?" Once we transcend this limitation, by ceasing to perceive it, will we find that "philosophical points of view" have no more meaning than the babbling of a demented monkey?
It puts me in mind of a currently popular Christian song called I Can Only Imagine."
Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence,
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing Halelluja,
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine...
And of course, the obvious conclusion to all of that is that the discussion about the status of Jesus with regard to the flesh, or to "sin," or to anything else, is irrelevant, because the message He embodied is not subject to amendment by its momentary confinement in flesh. That is no doubt why John describes Jesus, in the very first chapter of his Gospel, as "The Word made flesh." It is to the Word we listen and from the Word that we learn, and the vessel in which that Word is conveyed to us does not affect the integrity of the Word at all. The Word can, and in all likelihood has, become flesh many times in many places, without becoming a different Word in any way.
Posted: February 6th, 2009, 6:01 pm
At this point in this thread, the topic split a little to include a discussion of prayer. That part of it seemed to me to be of general interest, not requiring the "protection" provided by The Sand Box, and so I have split the prayer-related posts to a thread labeled "Prayer" in the General Discussion area, where I hope it will live long and prosper. Here is a link to it
I continue to find the consideration of orthodoxy in this thread to be interesting, and so do others. Therefore, it remains here, and active.
Posted: February 9th, 2009, 9:00 pm
So to her, it seems necessary that Jesus be born of a "pure virgin," one in fact having herself been born free of sin, so that neither she nor he would be made "impure’ by touching "sin." To the Jew (i.e., any New Testament writer) that idea would seem absurd, since they did not see a separation of "flesh/matter" from "spirit" as implying "impure" vs. "pure." They just thought, "Oy, God made the flesh, and called it good, so what's with trying to separate 'spirit' out of it like separating an egg?"
Here’s the way I see the virgin birth issue: It’s a metaphor (come to that, what in this life isn’t?).
Many, perhaps even all, traditions include the idea of a seeker being reborn – “born again in the Spirit" – meaning in effect that the spiritual process includes or leads to or culminates in the creation or reawakening or enlightening of our True Identity which is always either above or beyond (or both) the physical identity (“I am me born of him and her, and you aren’t”).
This True Identity is “Virgin Born” in the sense that it is not the product of a physical father and physical mother. And it is not something we can choose to have or to be. It is Something that happens on its own or, at least, by means beyond anything we can control. It is clean of human involvement. To be sure, the spiritual process (practices, postures, diets, etc.) may, probably do, contribute to our readiness, but for all I know they are not even necessary. Here as elsewhere, I put no limits on God, no pre-conditions or prerequisites that need to be met before His Will can prevail.
So, was the man Jesus born of a virgin woman? It's possible, of course, but I can't imagine why. Was the Christ (Self-Realization) Virgin Born? Undoubtedly.
Does that explain the "missing" thirty years? I sometimes think so. That is, what difference does it make where he was or what he did before the Virgin Birth? He wandered around tripping over himself just like the rest of us do. But at the Appearance of Christ Consciousness, then, yes, we want to know everything done, everything said, because that speaks to our reach. The rest is just gossip.
And then the “logical" extension of that awareness was, for me, "What if ... both philosophical points of view" are nothing more than manifestations of the limitation within which we currently perceive ourselves to be functioning?" Once we transcend this limitation, by ceasing to perceive it, will we find that "philosophical points of view" have no more meaning than the babbling of a demented monkey?
I agree absolutely. As I have written here before, the further along this path I tread, the more apparent does it become to me that all spiritual traditions, all the world’s religions, all philosophies, are identical. The differences we perceive among and between them are a direct and inevitable reflection of the differences we perceive among and between ourselves.
Why are they all identical? Because they are all a representation/reflection/manifestation/expression of the One, the Very One Than Which There Is No Other. How could they not be the Same?
So it seems to me.