Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Giving Jesus the Third Degree

The following text, written by Deepak Chopra in December 2005 as a blog posting on the Huffington Post, seems a good synopsis and was likely the creative seed for his latest book, entitled The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore, which hit bookstands this week. Little wonder his Antichrist Google ratings have gone up in recent weeks.

Taking the Bible literally makes no sense to moderate and liberal Christians, and one of the most urgent tenets of literalism, that Jesus will soon return to Earth to render judgment and save the righteous, seems like a fantasy. Secular society has no need for Jesus to return. It leaves each citizen to privately choose a religion, or to not choose one, and all other matters fall outside the realm of faith.

So it came as a shock to secular society when millions of people couldn't take their minds off the return of Jesus, so much so that Judgment Day colors everything else they think about--family, relationships, morals, business, politics. Speaking for myself, I came to terms with this issue in the following way: We are indeed waiting for the return of Jesus, and in this "we" I include those non-Christians who want to live in a tolerant, compassionate relationship with everyone. But if Jesus returns, there are three choices of who he will be.

The first Jesus was historical, a rabbi living in first-century Palestine whose life profoundly changed religious belief in the West. The second Jesus is the core of a religion, which has its particular dogmas, rituals, priests, churches, and scriptures. These two Jesuses are undeniably real, but the second one--the Jesus of organized religion--has been subject to human whim and change. Right now, if you are not a fundamentalist, he seems to have been hijacked in the service of intolerance, bigotry, and war. A religion that began in the name of love has reached almost its exact opposite--not for the first time, of course.

The third Jesus is not rigidly sectarian. He falls into the world tradition of spirituality. This Jesus speaks for peace and love; his morality includes all peoples; his Father is a universal deity. I was well acquainted with the third Jesus as a child in India. I could love and revere him. It never occurred to me that he would ever become an enemy. This Jesus doesn't speak of non-Christians as pagans. He raises human nature to its highest ideal, along with the saints and sages who have guided humanity for centuries.

I don't think that well-intentioned fundamentalists mean to pervert the third Jesus; I suspect they've never heard of him. He has one great disadvantage, however. You can't own him. You can't say "he's all mine and nobody else's." The third Jesus won't work if you need to justify a war, if you need evil enemies, or you want to brand "them" as godless.

Sadly, many fundamentalists need Jesus for all these purposes. So the third Jesus might not return to them, but if Christianity is to survive among moderate and liberal believers, who used to be the mainstream of the religion, won't it take the return of the third Jesus? The first one is long deceased, the second has fallen prey to politics and narrow-mindedness. What alternative is there? Loss of faith and a slide into deeper and deeper meaninglessness. that would be a terrible fate for all of us, not just the Christians.

Hmmm.....what would Jesus think of all this fuss and debate?


Mike B. said...

In the New Testament, Jesus spoke in many parables and metaphors, with hidden truths in them.

Oh and I believe Jesus HAS returned. And recently too. The REAL One. The One BEFORE any church ever existed. The One who's spirit and love is manifest in every one of us.

Interestingly, your title regarding the "Third Degree" is quite proper and fitting as regards Jesus. In the Master Mason (Third) degree of Freemasonry, the mythology of the Master Builder, Hiram Abiff, tells a tell of how he is a accosted by three ruffians (craftsman of King Solomon's temple seeking the secrets of a Master Mason), are also said to represent Ignorance, Superstition, and Fear. He is killed by the last and buried. In the ceremony, the representative candidate is RAISED, signifying a spiritual and personal death and rebirth, thus triumphing by staying true to his word and honour, and being THE example and story extending beyond the grave.

Sound familiar? Well it is. In around 1725-1730 when the third degree of Freemasonry was added to the existing two degrees, it has been claimed that the authors of such ritual were neoplatonists with hermetic and kabbalistic views. These views held the belief that anyone had the ability to achieve a spiritual connection with the Divine who exists in all things and created all things.

Using Jesus a la "The Greatest Story Ever Told" as a metaphor in this ceremony would have been certain blasphemy.

So how do you still portray it?

Hiram Abiff as mentioned above (not Hiram King of Tyre) was chosen as the main character of this powerful story as he is briefly mentioned in the Old Testament (Kings).

The difference in this third degree not making it religious here is that salvation after your real death is not rewarded or mentioned, but that in order to truly change yourself for the better throughout your life, you need to kill the old self that was causing you problems by connecting to the true goodness, the true Divine within. "The Kingdom of God is within you!"

Hmmm. Who said that?

If you know and believe it, then yes, most certainly, Jesus has returned!


Jungle Mama said...

This actually makes a lot of sense . . . so why the antichrist google? Just curious. Thanks for sharing. I'd like to get the book, but I'm not sure if I'd like to read it ;)

Holy Thought of the Week

"To live fully is to let go and die with each passing moment, and to be reborn in each new one."

~ Jack Kornfield ~