Intersect 2-3-15

Tuning into the Christ frequency, here part 2
Over the millennia, medical much has been made of the search for the “historical” Jesus. For a while I too got caught up in this madness, but I have come to the conclusion that searching for the “historical” Jesus is a fool’s errand. Jesus was a very common name in the ancient world, and if there ever was a single person on whom the stories in the Second Testament are based, any actual facts about that person have been long lost to the conflation of imaginative historical fiction and biblical literalism. So, I have concluded that trying to prove whether or not Jesus “actually” existed sort of misses the point of the stories, which were likely meant to be spiritual parables.

Now, if we want to talk about Jesus as a rebel who spoke against the Roman Empire, the historical context is important—but it still doesn’t matter whether or not the rebellious Jesus written about in the Bible was a single historical person, an amalgamation of many people of the era (as many scholars believe), or an entirely fictional character (as many more scholars are starting to believe). For our spiritual growth, for the intentional raising of our conscious awareness of the something more of existence, all that matters is the meaning of the Jesus parables.

What matters is that the Jesus in the Second Testament stories reveals a higher state of being. One of the best examples of Jesus as an example of the higher state of consciousness we are all capable of attaining is in Matthew 25:1-13, often called “The Parable of the Ten Virgins”.  Eckhart Tolle was one of the first people I know of to hint at the idea revealed in this parable. Once you read this parable form the perspective of attaining enlightenment, you’ll start to look at the other parables this way, then eventually, at every one of the Jesus stories as parables meant to help us achieve higher consciousness. Our spiritual journey is ongoing and participatory. We are asked to live these stories, not to simply read them. This is what happens in “The Parable of the Ten Virgins”—the main characters exemplify the difference between living in the sensory world (and being trapped by it), and living in the higher state of awareness Christ represents.

If you recall, at the beginning of this parable Jesus says something along the lines of, “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.” Many people (too many people) interpret this to be about Jesus himself—he is the bridegroom the virgins are going to meet. But the bridegroom is not Jesus; it is a higher state of being, a higher level of the awareness of God within us all, all the time. When the virgins go out into the desert, they take oil lamps with them. Five of them only take their lamps. They are referred to as “foolish”. The other five also take jars of oil, and are called “wise”. It takes a long time for the bridegroom to arrive (raising our consciousness takes patience, practice, and yes, a long time!). When the bridegroom does finally appear, the oil in the lamps is running out.  Here, the oil represents our ability to be conscious of a higher state of being, and to have enough energy and patience to continue to strive to achieve a higher level of consciousness. Do we have enough “oil” to make it through this long journey to awareness? The five “foolish” virgins ask the others for some oil, but are refused and sent back into town. While the “foolish” virgins are away, the five “wise” virgins enter into the wedding banquet with the bridegroom—enter into the higher state of Christ consciousness that is inherently within us, and the others are shut out.

This is not a story about accepting Jesus Christ as your only Lord and Savior or being denied entry into Heaven. It is not about being “left behind” when Jesus returns to earth. This is a story about living into the higher state of being that is already within us all. The five “foolish” virgins represent the five senses, which too often keep us from accepting the idea there is more to living than what we can see, hear, taste, touch or smell. The five “wise” virgins represent humans who are constantly attentive to spiritual development. We work out our minds and we work out our bodies. Why are our spirits so neglected? I think at least partially because organized religion has told us we are not worthy. We can’t work on our spirituality, we can’t increase our consciousness, we can’t commune with God directly, because we are not Jesus, we are not special.

I think this parable proves that thinking wrong, and I think the authors of the Jesus represented in the Second Testament stories would be appalled at that thinking. Every single human on this planet is One with God. We are capable of so much more. We have the possibility to evolve spiritually, but it takes a conscious effort on our part, as shown in “The Parable of the Ten Virgins.” We have to participate in our spiritual wellness and the expansion of our consciousness. We must be attentive to the things of the spirit, as well as to the things of the world, because the two are intrinsically interwoven in ways we are only now beginning to understand. If we truly want to see the kingdom of heaven, the work begins, consciously, within ourselves.

Meditation: Make me conscious of my thoughts and actions, so that I have enough oil to get through this entire journey to Oneness with you, God who is my being, God who is all being. Amen.

Intersect 2-2-15

Tuning into the Christ frequency, recipe part 1
In our church, we begin each service with a period I call “Tuning.” This is a couple of minutes for us to quiet our minds and center our thoughts on actively tuning into the ever-present energy of God that permeates the universe (because God is the universe). It is a time for us to consciously experience our Oneness with God. It sets the tone and stage for our entire experience, which we call “Connecting with the Infinite “ rather than “Worship”. I don’t think God needs to be worshipped. That’s an idea from a time when people thought every disaster and every blessing was directly caused by a superbeing living on a mountain or floating on a throne in heaven.

Our task as spiritual beings is not to worship a superbeing—it’s to connect with the essence of the universe, God. That connection is transformative for both us and the reality in which we find ourselves. That transformation happens by consciously tuning into God, who doesn’t judge and doesn’t cause disasters, but rather, simply and patiently sends out love and invites us to connect. We are built to resonate with the love of the universe, the way a tuning fork is built to resonate at a certain frequency.

Tuning forks work by resonating at a constant pitch after they are set vibrating. It turns out that everything that appears solid to us is also vibrating at a certain frequency. The furniture you’re sitting on while reading this seems solid, but it is actually full of atomic particles vibrating at frequencies so high we cannot perceive them physically. The furniture is held together by a principle known as “intermolecular forces,” which is why your chair doesn’t suddenly melt into an oozing pool of goo. That’s also why we don’t melt into an oozing pool of goo, by the way. It’s also why we are capable of tuning into different frequencies. We are the physical construct of the frequency of God.

Humans are giant tuning forks. We have the ability to tune into the music of the universe, the voice of God, the being of God. Like everything else that exists, we are a mass of submolecular vibrating particles. Unlike many other things that exist though, we have the ability to consciously affect the frequencies at which we vibrate. There are many ways to change our vibrational frequency: food, alcohol, drugs. These are all temporary affecters of our tuning, though (and they all have the potential to be disastrously harmful, even kill us). There are better, more permanent ways to change our frequency and stay more tuned into the higher vibrations of the universe—the Christ frequency. Prayer and meditation are the obvious, traditional methods of tuning, which is why we begin church this way. Reading things that inspire us (and inspirational texts might be history and science as much as spiritual works), and perhaps most importantly, by serving brothers and sisters in need, are also powerful and permanent tuning techniques.

In seminary, I have run into resistance to the idea that humans can (and in fact are meant to) tune into the Christ frequency—you know, the way Jesus did. It puts some of the onus for spiritual development on us, and I am told that, ”Scripture makes it clear we are helpless and hopeless. Only God can do the work of leading us out of sin.” I think that is old-fashioned malarkey that misses the analogies the authors of the Jesus stories were attempting to convey. No. We are not helpless. That’s a copout. We are powerful, creative beings, and the Jesus stories show us just how powerful we can be when we are tuned into God, into the frequency that brings out and lifts us into our Christ consciousness. We’re so powerful, in fact, that we can topple abusive and oppressive institutions. We’re so powerful we can end hunger and homelessness. We’re so powerful we can completely change the world. And truthfully, all it takes, quite literally, is changing our minds. Yes, God does the heavy lifting, because it is God we’re tuning into. But we have to change the channel first, and tune into the ever-present broadcast of God’s love.

Meditation: I tune into your higher consciousness, asking for nothing other than to know I am connected, for it is through connecting that we change the world. Amen.

Intersect 1-28-15

The Nature of Jesus, cialis sale part 2: The Jesus Stories
Professor Larry Hurtado, troche an extremely well-respected historian and New testament language scholar, see has referred to the Gospels as “Jesus Books.” This is a great name for the stories written by Mark, Matthew, Luke and John, because it immediately puts them in their proper context: stories. Stories don’t have to be true. They often use fictional characters for dramatic effect or to create meaning. Stories often have a moral attached to them. Stories are parables, and the Gospels are indeed parables explaining a wide range of theological and moral ideas. The gospels even move into the realm of deep spiritual mysticism. All of them are firmly rooted in Jewish theology, culture, and their socioeconomic position within Roman society. The writing style of the Gospels is typical of the Roman biographical style of the era (which rarely had anything to do with actual historical events), and the Jewish practice of recording the teachings of great Rabbis.

The word “gospel” itself simply means “good message.” It wasn’t until nearly 1000 years after Jesus that the word came to be almost exclusively related to the stories in the Second Testament. If you check an American dictionary, you’ll see that the first two entries for “gospel” are about Jesus. The third is about gospel music—which is largely about Jesus. British dictionaries do a better job of properly defining the word.

The gospel stories say many things about Jesus. Much of the Greco-Roman mythology that pervades the stories was used for political purposes (although much of it has unfortunately become creedal for many Christians). Once we get past the supernatural and superstitious aspects of the stories though, we find an important thread that weaves through all of them: Jesus is the supreme theological and spiritual authority. This idea represents a significant change in attitude for his Jewish followers.

For thousands of years, it had been the Jewish tradition to record, and record debates about, the teachings of their religious leaders. This midrash and mishnah was encouraged and expected. Some of the stories about Jesus’ early life (debating other scholars, studying and interpreting scripture) closely resemble stories about famous Rabbis like Hillel or Gamaliel, and certainly developed from within the traditional Jewish storytelling framework. The major difference in the Jesus stories is that his interpretations of scripture, his actions, and his descriptions about human relationship with God, are seen as the final and supremely authoritative word. As far as I can tell, Moses was the last Jewish figure to be exalted in such a manner.

Again, when we understand that the early followers of Jesus were recovering from a deep personal and psychological loss, this exaltation makes sense. In addition, some followers of Jesus believed he was the long-awaited Messiah, while others did not. To make matters even more difficult, people like Saul of Tarsus were evangelizing Jesus to Gentiles. Attracted to his message of God’s forgiveness, this once exclusively Jewish movement now found itself in the midst of a pagan invasion.

Originally, the followers of Jesus worshipped in the synagogues and Temple, just as did the followers of any other Rabbi. While there was disagreement about the nature of Jesus and whether he was or wasn’t the Messiah, the debates were between Jews—people very much used to this sort of discussion. Now though, Gentiles were in their midst, and generally, Gentiles were not allowed in the synagogue unless they first converted to Judaism. This one radical event—the evangelism of Christ to the Gentiles, caused a rift that would, in essence, create a new religion—Christianity, and forever change the way people viewed Jesus. And not necessarily for the better.

Meditation: Make your presence known to me, God who is ever-present. Give me insight and wisdom to see beyond the obvious. Open my mind, my heart, and my very being to Oneness with you, now and always. Amen.

Intersect 1-27-15

The Nature of Jesus, try part 1
One of the great debates within Christianity is the nature of Jesus Christ. Was he a human? Was he God incarnate? Was he both? Does it make any difference? Is it a question anyone cares about? Followers of and believers in Jesus have wracked their brains with these questions for thousands of years.

Shortly after the Romans murdered Jesus, his followers began thinking of him as more than human. It’s important to recognize just how devastating Jesus’ death was to his followers. Many of them (not all of them) believed Jesus was the promised Messiah of their Bible—the Hebrew Bible, the only Bible in existence at the time. How could the Messiah be killed, and by human hands no less? The psychological trauma caused by Jesus’ crucifixion cannot be underestimated. The disciples’ worldview was shattered. Could the reports of Jesus appearing after death, the empty tomb, all the mythological trappings of his story, have been psychosomatic?

How you answer that question says a lot about your Christology (the nature of Jesus). There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus was a human being, and that the stories of the resurrection and his appearances after death are stories intended to convey a powerful message about humanity in general, not Jesus specifically. They are not historical facts. They are parables. I believe God was intensely present in the person of Jesus, but I also think Jesus was trying to tell us that God is just as intensely present in every single one of us. So in a way, Christ was God in the flesh, but God in the flesh just like you and me.

This idea became heresy a couple hundred years after Jesus’ death (and even today progressives like I take flack for it), when the organizing church came up with the idea of the Trinity to explain that Jesus was fully human, fully divine, and also an ethereal, indefinable spirit. We can still use the idea of the Trinity to convey different aspects of God, but I think we have better language to use in our postmodern, scientifically enlightened world.

The way we think about the nature of Jesus affects the way we think about our relationship to God. For too long, Christians have exalted Jesus to the right hand of God. This is idolatry, and it gets in the way of us truly connecting with the divine in the manner portrayed by the Jesus stories. By exalting Jesus, we have destroyed the power of his stories. Exalting Jesus above humanity and equating him with God makes it impossible for us regular folk to connect with God directly. The exalted Jesus of a high Christology means only Jesus is, was, or ever will be God in the flesh.

So now, Christians pray through Jesus, we pray to Jesus, and we place all the burdens and sins of our world on Jesus’ shoulders. He is, in every way, our scapegoat. We are conveniently absolved of any sort of responsibility for our own spiritual progress, because Jesus has done all the work and taken all the blame, once and for all. Worse, we have been led to believe that we cannot have a direct relationship with God. This high Christological view has stunted our spiritual growth, and I believe is completely disingenuous to the real power and intent of the Jesus stories—stories intended to make us more responsible, caring, loving, Christ-centered, God-connected human beings.

Meditation: Give me the courage to take responsibility for my own actions, to apologize to those I have wronged, to forgive those who have wronged me, and to take the steps necessary to ensure I always act from a place of love and compassion—just like Jesus. Amen.

Intersect 1-23-15

On Consciousness
What is Consciousness and why does it exist? This question is what scientists and philosophers refer to as “The Hard Problem.”

Humans have been pondering what it means “to be” seemingly since we developed written language—which means we likely started asking the question long before. Does consciousness set us apart from other animals? From plants? A famous question posed by David Chalmers, sovaldi sale one of the leaders in the field of neuroscience is, sickness “Why are we aware that we are aware?” In other words, why did we evolve into conscious beings, rather than robots or mindless zombies? Why do we consider what it means to be human, rather than simply going about our business eating and procreating, the way other animals do? And importantly, if we are more than automatons—fleshy machines, can a machine become conscious? Humans have certainly evolved consciousness, yet we too were once simply self-replicating machines.

Rene Descartes
Rene Descartes

Modern philosophers began seriously chewing on this question in the 1600s, when Rene Descartes concluded that humans are undeniably conscious. Yet, this fact is different from other scientific facts, which rely on physical proofs. Consciousness is not physical, yet we are indeed conscious. This led Descartes to the dualistic conclusion that our minds, where he decided consciousness resides, must be made of something other than physical matter. Therefore, consciousness for Descartes was a gift from God. The mistake Descartes made, and that many philosophers continue to make, is separating physicality from consciousness. Although scientists disagree (for now), I believe that consciousness is the creative force of all physicality. Consciousness is our postmodern, post-religious name for God.

There are subtle differences between the ancient idea of a meddling God and our modern idea of consciousness. Yet, the idea that there is a universal force of awareness that somehow creates the physical world aligns with ideas we find everywhere from the oldest books of the Bible, through ancient Greek philosophy (before it became completely dualistic in nature), and to the most modern work of neuroscientists. If God is consciousness, and consciousness is the underlying ground of all physical reality, then we too are consciousness. Humans aren’t simply conscious—the question of why we are conscious when nothing else seemingly is might be the wrong question. The deeper issue is what it means to be if in fact everything that is, is consciousness—is God.

The inevitable conclusion we are being drawn to is that our physical world, and all the laws we attribute to it, is substantially more intricate than our science is capable of describing at this time. While gravity, magnetism, electricity, planetary movement and biological evolution are undeniable; they ignore the question about what is actually driving those physical laws. Einstein nearly drove himself crazy looking for a unified theory that would tie all the laws of physics together. Modern quantum physicists are having the same issue. I suggest that the missing link is consciousness, which is the universal force, the glue, the God that simply is all physical reality.

Our worldview needs to change, and that will only happen as we begin to become consciously aware of consciousness not only as a force in the universe, but as the force in the universe. It is not something physical, yet it is everything physical. It is an awareness, an awakening to a higher level of being clearly represented by Jesus, even though the people around him—and Jesus himself, really had no way to clearly express this.

Our advantage is our scientific worldview, because we have new language with which to describe and relate to God. Yet our disadvantage is also our scientific worldview. It’s demand that all things are physical holds us back from imagining more. Science has cemented our dual mindset and forced us into a world of illusory conscious thought. We are sidetracked with figuring out why we think, when the question we should really be asking is, can thinking change the world?

Prayer: I think, therefore I AM. Amen.

Intersect 1-22-15

Becoming One, sovaldi sale part 1

In Jesus’ time, people separated God, in the heavenly realms (such as Mt. Olympus or the more general “heaven”), and humans, down here on earth. For them, God (or the gods) was an extraterrestrial superbeing who blessed or punished us, depending on which side of the bed God awoke any given day. This ancient and limited view of God is still pervasive today. God, the alien scientist, is represented in pop movies like “Prometheus” or the upcoming “Jupiter Ascending.” These and other films riff on the Frankenstein mythos. Now, it’s entirely possible, I suppose, our planet was seeded by an alien civilization, but to me that has nothing to do with the nature of God, which transcends any sort of physical reality—alien or otherwise. Thinking of God as an alien scientist—or any being outside our very own being, is a mistake of the dual mind.
 
Becoming One With The InfiniteJesus, like other mystics before him, saw past this dual mindset. It is not that God is a superbeing, and we are something else. For Jesus, the substance of God and the substance of matter are inextricably bound together as one. A couple of hundred years after he taught, this so confused his followers that they came up with the Doctrine of the Trinity to try to explain him. Needless to say, they missed the point. The Trinity separates us from God even more. It’s not three in one, it is simply one. All there is, is God.
 
There is no “God” and “Humans,” so there can be no “us” and “God.” This was the dualistic mindset of the ancient world. This is the mindset warned against in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil story (Genesis 3:22). This is the wrestling with our inner sense of self we do on the banks of the river (Genesis 32:22-32), the Jihad we wage against our own spiritual angst in the Qur’an. Duality is our battle against Mara sitting under the Bodhi tree with the Buddha. Duality is always defeated when we transcend the “us” and “God” mentality and realize ultimate Oneness with all creation. We are One, God is within, and sensing that truth changes everything. There is no enemy when we sense all is One with God.
 
Jesus taught this by showing how differently being human looks when we stop thinking of ourselves as beings controlled by the whims of very human-like gods. For Jesus, and many mystics long before him, God is an intimate part of our very being. So, Jesus would have never proclaimed himself the only son of God because his view was that we are all sons and daughters of God. He did not mean this in the mythological, demigod like way the idea has been applied to him. Jesus was attempting to teach an eternal mystical truth: We are one with God, and the realization of this changes us at our core. Once awakened to this truth, we cannot pick up arms, we cannot fight, or kill, or judge. “We are One” changes the world. It topples empires and dethrones despots, all without every throwing a spear or firing a shot. “We are One” never sacrifices others before we sacrifice ourselves and always puts the needs of the many above the wants of the few.
 
This was Jesus’ great revelation, and it got him crucified. This is the message not only Christians, but all seekers of a deeper, transcendent truth, need to reclaim and proclaim loudly, over and against the artificial “religions” that espouse war and preach hellfire and damnation to heathens. There are no heathens. A follower of Christ or Buddha, or Mohammed, is non-violent, always. A practitioner on the truly mystical path ultimately comes to realize that we are all connected by the very ground of our being, that perhaps impossible-to-define essence we continue to call God. This realization turns us into messengers of peace and love, not soldiers of violence for the empires of hate and fear.

Prayer: I pray not to ask for wishes to be granted, but simply to sense the presence of the Eternal flowing through my soul, and I meditate for that sensation simply so I might be a useful presence of love and peace in a world torn apart by the myth of separation. Amen.

Intersect 1-21-15

Follow the leader, no rx part 3
Now that we understand the human propensity to deify great people, rx and we understand the context of Jesus’ ministry within a civilization in which the Emperor was called a son of God (which is the way people referred to the Caesars), we can see how Jesus went from being an enlightened, mystical Rabbi preaching connectedness, to the one and only literal Son of God. I do not think his earliest followers believed this the way many Christians do today, just as most citizens of the Roman Empire didn’t think Julius or Augustus were literally descendants of Venus. But proclaiming Jesus Son of God over and about the Roman Emperor? That would have been an incredible act of courage—and sedition.

There is power in understanding Jesus as Son of God, but it is not the power that has now become “traditional” in the United States. Originally, this was a political statement. It’s quite probable, based on both biblical and extra-biblical sources, that Jesus resisted this label. He may have known it would bring the wrath of the Empire crashing down on him, crushing his fledgling peace movement. The Romans provided tremendous resources to their conquered territories. However, the price for this progress was undying, unwavering, unquestioning loyalty to Rome. For Jesus, and most of his Jewish brothers and sisters, this was an impossible, even reprehensible request. To show loyalty to anyone other than God was to negate the entire Jewish religion.

Jesus’ understanding of humans and their relationship to each other was based on the extremely ancient Judaic idea that everything belongs to God—especially us. Since we have no intrinsic right to any of the planet’s resources, then our duty as people of faith is to be equitable to one another—to be good people, the way God is good to us. An empire in control of the world’s resources, that traded in human beings and kept peace through threat of violence was an affront to Jesus’ core values.

Since he was a peaceful activist, Jesus resisted the call of many people to start an armed resistance movement. These factions already existed all around Judea. Jesus was likely smart enough to realize an armed revolt against the Roman Empire never worked. So instead, he reminded his people—and continues to remind us, that our duty is only to God, who is not on a golden throne in heaven, but is actively part of our very being. Jesus as the son of God reminds us that it is our duty to resist the systemic evils of empire in all its forms. More importantly though, Jesus as the son of God is the example for all of us of our awakened, enlightened state. Jesus, son of God shows us what true humanity looks like when we get over ourselves and remember what we are truly made of—the very stuff of God, lying dormant within, just waiting to be sparked back to life.

Prayer: Show me the world through new eyes. Awaken my inner Christ, so that, like Jesus, I too will become an instrument of love and peace in this tortured world of sleeping souls. Amen.

Intersect 1-20-15

diagnosis verdana, rx segoe, sans-serif;”>Follow the leader, part 2
Humans have a way of deifying leaders. In the oldest cultures for which we have archaeological records; kings and their families were direct descendants of gods. These ancient gods took many forms, yet within their “heavenly” families we read stories about the sort of issues that face any powerful family—and the struggles facing any growing civilization. How do governments and citizens share responsibility? What is the responsibility of leaders to their constituencies? What are the rights of the people in a society? How do we define ourselves as a society? These are questions we continue to struggle with today.

As time wore on, the idea that leaders were somehow related to gods took firm hold in human imaginations. Pharaohs, then later Roman Emperors, were said to be descendants of gods. Today, we hear this idea and think the people of those eras took the concept of humans descended from gods literally. We read stories about Hercules and Achilles, even about Julius Caesar, and the stories imply that people of the time truly understood their leaders to be somehow divine. However, it’s highly likely that the Egyptians understood this relationship between leaders and gods to be allegorical. The Romans definitely saw the relationships of their leaders to their gods this way.

These humans weren’t literally the offspring of a god mating with a human. The stories were meant to convey power and give them an authority higher than that allowed by their human counterparts. A divine lineage allowed Emperors to make decisions without bureaucratic entanglements. When a Julius or Augustus Caesar was leading society, this system worked rather well. Augustus in particular was deeply concerned about the welfare of his people, and transformed Rome’s social services much the way FDR did for the depression era United States.
 
Unfortunately, our human habit of deifying people has carried over into our spiritual and mystical leaders. I find this particularly detrimental to their messages. You can pick any great spiritual mystic you like—Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, and see that over time, these messengers of cosmic connection, these teachers of light, become exalted to the point that they are now nearly untouchable. This process makes their important message about transcendental humanity more difficult to comprehend, because they have become not examples to follow but exceptions. We can’t ever be like them because they were descendants of gods–and the only ones. So we miss the point of the stories of their lives and the lessons they taught their pupils, about how we are all more connected with the divine–and more literally, than we have dared to dream.
 
Prayer: God of light, help me see I am your child. Help me see I AM. Amen.