The epistemological cartoon that was my religious experience as a young boy never ceases to amuse and amaze me when I reflect back on my first exposure to the explanation of existence. Of all the places dealing with the nature of being that are chock-full of irony, hypocrisy, and sheer comedy, the pews of the Irish Catholic churches in Boston, Massachusetts must take first prize. The priest stood on the pulpit with his sad and depressed face and spoke to a congregation, partly hungover and whose consciousness was more focused on the football game that was soon to transpire in the family living room. He spoke openly of faith and freedom but only demonstrated what modern day slavery looked like. With its invisible chains, indebted to some mysterious God or State that persists in the consciousness of the individual, leading off every sentence with the same two words, “You should…”
The message was clear: Freedom is in another place. Authenticity is wrong. Action needs approval. Ethics is a playbook. I loved it. It played perfectly into my own childhood fears, my irresponsibility, my vulnerabilities concerning my own nature and relationship with God. I hated it. My desire for freedom, rebellion, and self directed inquiry into the mysteries of life were repulsed by the mechanistic nature of this organization I was slowly indoctrinated into.
The insights, the revelations, and the potential insights into our own existence were lost in translation. Oh yes, there were some surface, boring explanations neatly constructed so as to simultaneously not offend anyone or penetrate through certain structures of consciousness that had been systematically installed within the congregation. These explanations of life were more often than not projected into some some future time and location and its relevance was only partial. But never risky. Never worth remembering. Never worth exploring further. The sense of guilt, precisely instilled, persisted though. There was the occasional intuition, ‘I am so fucked when I come face to face with St. Peter.’ And there was of course the confusion about life that never left me.
The rebelliousness of Kiekergaard, the spiritual illumination of Marcel, the freedom of Tolstoy were not available in my initial introduction to Christian theology. There was only Father O’something and his projections and introjections, his sadness, his frustrations, his lack of integration. There was only the congregation that seemed more far more interested than life after death than death after life.
“I took my place in the midst of the world, and I appeared to them in the flesh. I found all of them intoxicated; I found none of them thirsty. And My soul became afflicted for the sons of men, because they are blind in their hearts and do not have sight; for empty they came into the world, and empty too they seek to leave the world. But for the moment they are intoxicated. When they shake off their wine, then they will repent.”
The ontological approach to Christ and his message as I see it now is the most compelling and liberating message I have ever studied. A message about the nature of being. The approach to existence. The road to freedom. The integration and emergence of the gestalt. The power of 1 person and a purpose greater than himself to effect dramatic change.
“If a blind man leads a blind man, they will both fall into a pit.”
“Do not be concerned from morning until evening and from evening until morning about what you will wear.”
It is the message of liberation and the illumination of the soul. It is the message of being an individual with no apologies in a world that is constantly attempting to crush you and make you part of its machinery. It is about being open to crucifixion so one’s own spiritual resurrection can occur.
“If two make peace with each other in this one house, they will say to the mountain, ‘Move Away,’ and it will move away.”
The wild misinterpretations, the modern day Pharisees and Pontious Pilates that are dominating the world religions, and the guardians of the message he proclaimed that have sold their soul for forty pieces of silver are everywhere. And we are suppose to simultaneously love them and call them out, according to him.
To meditate on Christ is not necessarily to meditate on the life of Jesus in it of itself. It is, more than anything, a practice in awareness. The awareness of those structures the individual must break free from, externally and internally. The awareness of the inner life rather than directing all attention into the phenomenological field of experience. By becoming aware of what is, the isness of life, rather than what should or could be. Christ saw things so clearly. His critique of the religious and social structures in place during his era were penetrating and exact and they are ever relevant to situation we find ourself in today and the social and political structures that are in dire need of reform.
“He who will drink from my mouth will become like me. I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden will become revealed to him.”
Merry Christmas to Waylon Lewis, Elephant Journal, the fantastic elephant community, and all the readers.
*All quotes are from the Gospel of Thomas