Chapter 11: Compassion and Crucifixion

Down the Rabbit HoleThe orthodox Christian view of the Crucifixion claims that Jesus died for our sins as ordered by God so that we may be cleansed or saved. We are to believe that God, the proclaimed Almighty Creator, Rule-Maker, Judge and Author created a caveat that needed to be fulfilled. He couldn't bypass it or make an exception for His own rules or to simply fix the problem before it began. He required the bloody sacrifice of his only Son. If this interpretation reveals anything, it is the neurotic, violent and convoluted mental disposition that has infected a good portion of humanity. This is not to mention the philosophical acrobatics one must perform to gloss over the problem of the Creator not being responsible for His creation. Most Christians defend this view by claiming that God gave humans free will to do as they please. But they stray away from the widely accepted fact that any defects or faults found in a creation is a reflection on its creator.

A more plausible view of the Crucifixion is a symbolic one. Jesus hanging on a cross is a symbol of one taking responsibility for his world as it is. He does not put the blame on others or try to escape. He also does not claim to be a victim. Rather, he accepts the life he is living as the life he intends or was meant to have. He redirects all of his judgments or bias back onto himself. In other words he realizes that his judgments are a reflection of a lack of understanding on his part. Jesus told us not to judge because it is simply impractical to do so and a waste of energy, not because it is immoral or unethical. Existentially, judging others is short-sighted and extremely limits our ability to experience the whole spectrum of life. Through this unconditional acceptance of his life as it is, he embraces something that is intangible but that transforms his world. That intangible element is that Landscape where the Father lives.

Another plausible view is that Jesus did not endure his suffering and crucifixion in order to pay for our sins but to awaken the perception to that Landscape in us, to connect our experience with his by invoking compassion, the greatest human existential force. Through compassion, we awaken and gather ourselves into the present moment that shuts out reality as a concept. In reading the Gospels, especially the one according to Mark, one is struck by the grim quality and existential angst in the story of Jesus. This is a quality with which we are quite familiar as human beings. The 12th century theologian, Peter Abelard, believed that Jesus' death is intended to move us, to inspire us with God's love for us. Jesus died, then, not to pay for our sins, as we traditionally think about sins, but to evoke within us love and compassion, to awaken us from our slumber and existential malaise through the human compassion and suffering that we feel with him. Present emotions overpower concepts and thus, it is through pain that we awaken. We certainly can use orthodox language and proclaim that Jesus died to relieve us of sin only if we understand what we mean by sin. In context, it is forsaking the present moment, or life as it happens, for life as we think should happen or is happening as a concept. It is ignoring the present, hence ignorance. The Son of God, hanging on a cross half-naked and bleeding, evokes meaningful or conscious suffering within us and awakens in us sorrow, love and compassion now in this moment. Conscious suffering then can be viewed as suffering which brings people and events together into an intimate union and reveals depths reflecting the unity of all life. Suffering is a type of passion; and in that respect it is the Savior. Suffering can take us to the brink of annihilation and death, strip from us that which we are not, and leave behind that which is deathless within us. Through compassion in our relationships, Christ is always present. As Jesus claims in Matthew 18:20: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." There is a mysterious sense of healing among those who suffer together and share their suffering. Perhaps the roots of the phrase "misery loves company" are found in this idea. Like a great alchemist, Jesus transforms that which is already within us, that disquiet and anxiety of life that result from living through concepts, into an ever-present vitality that rejuvenates life. This is what saviors do. They resurrect the dead.

There is perhaps another reason, a dual reason that Jesus had to die. It is a bit subtle but more compelling. Along with many other mystics and sages, Meister Eckhart acknowledges that "man's last and highest parting occurs when, for God's sake, he takes leave of God." From this perspective, Jesus had to die for us as well as for himself. He had to die in order that our static or crystallized idea or concept of God or the Savior should die. In other words, God is Life. God is dynamic, multidimensional and beyond any concept or word or feeling. He cannot be pinned down. He who thinks has found God in fact can be very dangerous and neurotic. If Jesus had not died, first and foremost as a symbol, he would have become a static, institutionalized idol and we would have found ourselves back in the times of the Pharisees and Sadducees who wandered the streets in a state of sleep, adorned in robes of spiritual righteousness, spewing tired words that bind and judge. It seems that Jesus’ story is not without divine irony because indeed, Jesus has become an idol for many today that call themselves Christians. But Jesus winks from his cross at those who recognize this irony, along with Meister Eckhart, and his glory is infinitely magnified among them. Jesus had to transcend his own being and therefore had to extinguish the idea of himself, for his own sake as well. Here is the supreme Artist at work. Artists often speak of “disappearing” and blending in with the creative Flow in their most creative and luminous moments. Likewise, Jesus disappeared into the tapestry that is Life and became one with God; therefore, he can never be pinned down. He is the All. The thrust of the whole matter is that the mark of a true sage is no mark at all. And perhaps this is the psychological key to the reported fact that there is no reliable or verifiable historical record for the existence of Jesus. The ultimate sage walks through the world in paradox. He is at once undetectable and yet he shines with divine Luminescence. He saves the world as a result of his having taken responsibility for his life and having helped himself.

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