Preface

The goal of this book is to present the story of Jesus not as a historical or factual account but as a living, metaphorical story of the archetypal human journey to freedom of the mind. This includes freedom from the gods and demons that have been pressed upon us over the ages but most importantly, freedom from fear. This significant state of mind dormant in all human beings can only be expressed through symbols and metaphors. They hold the ability to empower, imbue meaning, and provide insight, while their literal or orthodox acceptance renders them impotent. Symbols and metaphors have the ability to freely open connections and tap into the creative imagination; they arise from the same realm as art. The interpretation of a rich symbol is often a function of each individual's unique perspective, experience, or story; therefore, it is impossible to pin down a symbol to only one valid interpretation that is applicable for an entire group or community. Doing so is a grave mistake that leads into the trap of an ideology or a frozen image and renders the symbol impotent for the entire community. A symbol is like a glass prism. In the case of Christianity, orthodox believers have sequestered it, kept it in the dark and interpreted it literally that the light of imagination cannot penetrate it to reveal the magnificent array of insight and treasure. The significance of the Jesus story has nothing to do with fixed ideologies, religions or systems of belief as we generally know them; rather, it transcends religious figures, cultural conditioning, philosophies, words, concepts and even time and space. Paradoxically however, it is in the simplest terms practical and very human.

One of the many important ideas in this book revolves around the distinction between the interpretation of a story through symbols and metaphors, and their use as a way to express the unspeakable power of a profound and transformative experience or insight. Both are present in this book. One is an attempt from the outside, through metaphors and symbols, to get a glimpse or gain insight into the power and wisdom that underlie the basic, “factual” story. The other is a way for those who, like Jesus in the Gospels, have crossed that threshhold to that awakened or "liberated" state of mind to evoke or communicate a sense of that perspective. Therefore, one is an attempt to look in from the outside while the other is an outer expression of a profound, inner state. At the crossroads, we find metaphors and symbols as vehicles. And if embraced and meditated upon consistently and openly, they can be a bridge between the inner and the outer. Some of the greatest and best known figures who illustrate this idea are Jesus and the Buddha. Their miraculous or heroic lives are not necessarily factual but, first and forermost, symbolic of their profound, transformative wisdom and insight. As Joseph Campbell (1972) writes in Myths to Live By: “Nor does it matter from the standpoint of a comparative study of symbolic forms whether Christ or the Buddha ever actually lived and performed the miracles associated with their teachings. The religious literatures of the world abound in counterparts of those two great lives. And what one may learn from them all, finally, is that the savior, the hero, the redeemed one, is the one who has learned to penetrate the protective wall of those fears within, which exclude the rest of us, generally, in our daylight and even our dreamnight thoughts, from all experience of our own and the world’s divine ground. The mythologized biographies of such saviors communicate the messages of their world-transcending wisdom in world-transcending symbols [emphasis added] - which, ironically, are then generally translated back into such verbalized thoughts as built the interior walls in the first place.”

For thousands of years now, we have chased after morality and tried to cultivate love and compassion for our fellow human beings while filled with violence, competition and discord. Ironically, our continual attempt to eradicate these things through orthodox religion has been a major source of our suffering and inhumanity toward each other. The world continues to be torn apart by religious discrimination, abuse, hunger, wars and genocide. The Jesus that has been taught in most churches is an impostor and mainstream religion, with its jealous gods and angry demons, has played a significant role in suppressing the real message. Jesus is not the only son of God. He is not God at all. In fact, the Jesus of the Gospels would see his deification as sheer idolatry and as a way for human beings to continue justifying and imposing an oppressive, hierarchical paradigm over each other based on a relationship of master to slave. For millenia we have lived under a paradigm with a pharaoh, emperor, king, dictator, or president seated at the throne of power. It is no surprise that the gods of our mainstream religions mirror this structure.

Jesus is presented here, not as a distant religious figure who requires our obedience from the heights of his throne for the salvation of our life beyond the grave, but as a symbol for the fully liberated human being in all of us who has the courage to look in the mirror, accepts life as is with all of its challenges, and sees through the veil of social conditioning to the freedom at the core of the human being. With that vision comes a sense of deep mystery and acceptance of one's humanity and dissipation of existential anxiety. Psychological suffering can be a doorway into the unconscious patterns behind one's own life and can lead to a more profound and liberated vision of the world. Metaphorically, this is the Kingdom of Heaven mentioned in the Gospels, but it has nothing to do with a divine controller of the universe who lives beyond the reach of the human world. This vision is an ever-present dimension that lives among us but that is ignored daily by most of us. The transformative power of that vision infinitely surpasses any sense of security or joy professed by adherents of orthodoxy; but it requires the courage to release the crutches which we have been tensely grasping. And so it is written in Matthew 16:25, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”

Concepts simply fail to capture or express this dynamic and liberated state of mind. Symbols, metaphors, and mythic imagery are the only viable instruments for gaining insight into it or for expressing it through language. This state is characterized by a continuous movement toward understanding or a growing awareness and reconciliation of previously unrecognized inner conflicts, largely based in fear. The goal of this movement is always consistent and uniform and can be depicted by a certain psychological process; it is universal and present in virtually all cultures, religions, and mythological tales. Some psychologists refer to this as the individuation process or self-actualization. In the Christian tradition, the culmination of that process is symbolized in the figure of Christ. The Gospels depict Jesus as a man who was eventually recognized as the Christ, the "annointed one", by his followers. Only as a result of a profound transformation - this Christ mindset or consciousness - can real love and compassion be born. Its essence is freedom of the mind and without it, real love cannot be present. Such virtues cannot be teased out through practice or exhortation. They cannot be chased or acquired or cultivated or worn as decorative accessories for our egos; rather they are symptoms of the Christ mindset, of passing through that transformational journey toward freedom. Orthodox believers are fundamentally practicing hypocricy because their ultimate motives, born out of fear, have to do with saving their souls from damnation. Psychologically speaking, the ego wishes to save itself, but ultimately the ego has no reality. To comply out of fear leaves no room whatsoever for love; but love is also required by the god of orthodoxy for salvation of the human soul. The result? A jubmled, neurotic, metaphysical mess! And since we have built the modern (western) world on the foundations of such mindsets and paradigms, we should not be surprised by the current state of affairs. As Jesus spoke in John 18:36, "My kingdom is not of this world; if it were, My servants would fight to prevent My arrest by the Jews. But now, My kingdom is not of this realm."

It is important to note that there is no intellectual formula or path to acquire or instigate this Christ mindset. Any attempt to grasp at it, whether through prayer, piety, good works, or self-denial is in the end only self-serving. That is all the work of the ego, which has its own proper function in the world but often overreaches to the detriment of our own humaninty and the environment. Rather, this transformation is usually instigated through certain stresses or crises within the deepest part of the mind and results in the acceptance of the failure and complete surrender of a false image of oneself and the world. It is a breakdown of the ego shell. There is meaning in that surrender which cannot be expressed through words; rather, it is experienced as a tremendous release of energy that reverberates throughout every dimension of one's life. Having gone through this crisis, such individuals - we can call them mystics or sages -  no longer care to impose a limited vision of themselves and their environment upon the world, which requires an enormous amount of energy. They simply give up the charade which allows all that energy to be redirected to creative uses. Consequently, that is the fundamental meaning and message of Islam as well, namely to surrender. In Christianity, the Crucifixion is the symbol for this surrender and reveals Jesus as a man who took responsibility for his own life as it is. The seeds for the Christ are embedded in the full acceptance of his humanity. Jesus dared to look squarely at what is and confront himself, rather than cover up his life with lofty morality like that of the Pharisees and Sadducees. He did not put the blame for human conflicts on society or his parents or the government or his captors but recognized his life to be in part the culmination of all of these players and of previous generations. He understood the connections and realized that any perceived conflicts or “sins” of the world - as well as any sublime insights and glorious wonders - are reflections of his own mind. He is a microcosm of the world, as we all are. In accepting responsibility for his life as it is, he turns all of his own judgments, perceived as the “sins” of mankind, unto himself. He takes responsibility for them. And so, freedom and responsibility cannot exist without each other. It is for this reason that he is revered as the Savior. In understanding that these judgments are projections of his own insecurities and fears, he is no longer bound by their gravity. He becomes light as a feather and is able to walk on water, symbolically speaking of course.

In accepting life as is, unconditionally, a certain spell is broken. Unlike the majority of humans who live and die by ideologies and conditioning and are constantly haunted by the past and worry about their future, the Jesus of the Gospels lived in the present. Because of his uniqueness, he was, is, and will always be the abiding symbol for the living, liberated human being. He is not an automaton whose life is an unquestioned, repeated pattern, inherited and passed on for generations. Hence he is not a re-production; he was not born of generational flesh and blood, metaphorically speaking. He wasn’t simply a vehicle for inherited patterns that are unconsicously passed on from one generation to another. Rather, his life is lived from his own center and not from the center of the biological or social order or ideology or dogma of his time. This phenomenon is beautifully represented by the Virgin Birth. He lived through the unique impulse of his own life, not through someone else’s life or some external authority. It is that same inner impulse or energy that brings forth everything in the Universe. That energy is metaphorically speaking the source, the Father mentioned in the gospels. It is the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is in this context that we can understand the orthodox believer’s notion of Jesus as the unique Son of God.

Certainly, this viewpoint that I am about to present is not new to the world of ideas; however, my hope is to bring a new perspective, a creative insight to such a fascinating and important topic, to reveal new connections and relationships among these ideas, and to express them in more familiar ways. But I also hope to give some relief or a sense of liberation at best to those who, like me, were raised in fear under the authority of a vengeful and autocratic, omnipotent diety. Certainly this book is not an effort to explain in the ordinary sense but to entice and suggest to the reader a different door of perception. It is not a confinement to a specific intellectual or theological corner. Rather, I wish to free the reader, to roam under the boundless sky of imagination and feeling, and to explore the dynamic Jesus story in symbolic terms and as transparent to the mystery that interconnects all the elements of human life. Here now is a tour of Jesus's life and words, presented through the vehicles of symbols and metaphors for the living human journey that lies dormant in all of us. It is my sincere hope that the language of the orthodox Christian and that of the mystic or sage, the one who pierces through the veil, can be reconciled and understood in their own contexts.

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