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Jesus as Heretic


Today, as well as down through history, people were and still are complacent. In the 21st Century, the majority of people in the United States are more interested in money and consuming than they are in asking questions and delving into the workings of organized religion and the mysteries of self and life. They accept at face value, as faith and as truth, what their religious leaders tell them, especially Christians. I call it the lazy, sleep-walking religion. At least in Islam, you’re required to pray five times a day. And what about the historical Jesus, whose image and name they use for their corrupt religion? Christianity goes totally against his original teachings and message:


That Jesus gave the Pharisees and Sadducees a hard time cannot be denied, and that he probably gave the Essenes just as hard a time is only just beginning to be realized. This was a man of passionate belief, a man of action, a man who believed himself fully qualified and positioned to challenge the religious leaders of his time…. This was no half-baked revolutionary with a rabble behind him: it was an individual of clear mind and strong heart who wished to inaugurate a revolution on both the religious and social levels of his culture and time. This is what is so attractive about him – one sense the passion in him boiling away as he tries to make his often doltish disciples understand his insights and long-term plans. He is special, and he knows he is special. He can see only too clearly that his religious peers have become bogged down in narrow-minded, nit-picking practices, and as a Galilean with a deep sense of space and freedom he wants to reveal what he has personally found out about God – that He does not live in a box labeled Religion.[i]


The Church of Rome will look at the words on this website as heretical due to the fact that Jesus is viewed as teacher and messenger, the perfect (divine) and imperfect (human) man, not God or the Redeemer. And the Church would deem sacrilegious, Jesus’ belief in the divineness of the earth and all its creatures:


Monsignor Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, told a news conference the church has a positive view of many aspects of the New Age movement, such as the importance it places on protecting the environment.


But if one is brought to this by ascribing ‘divineness’ to the land, that’s another thing…[ii]


At this time in earth’s history, the Middle East feels eerily like a repeat of the Crusades, Christian against Muslin, West vs. East. As it has always been, the Roman Church’s dogmatic view of Jesus’ divinity is what separates Christian and Muslim. Ironically enough, Islam does not disavow Jesus but instead honors him as a great person:


Muslim mystical writers refer to Jesus as Isa bin Yusuf (Jesus son of Joseph) and think of him as Prophet, Teacher and Messenger. Rafael Lefort informs us so in his book The Teachers of Gurdjieff, and adds for good measure that he is given the rank of Isan Kamil – ‘Complete Man’. When tracking down Gurdjieff’s teachers on a journey through the Middle East which took him as far as Baghdad, Damascus, Jerusalem and Cairo, Lefort met disparate types of men all with one thing in common: they were part of a ‘school of learning’ which for centuries had taught the inner working of Islamic spirituality. And perhaps long before Islam itself appeared on the scene, for as any Muslim knows, Muhammad did not create a new religion, he simply reconnected the Arab mind to an ancient stream of lost spiritual knowledge. Near the end of his search for those who had schooled Gurdjieff, Lefort meets with a certain Sheikh Daud Yusuf, and is sent to Jerusalem with the directive to think about the traditions of Isa bin Yusuf.[iii]


There is also a belief that Jesus’ first followers viewed him, not as the risen God, but as prophet and teacher. And to the Sanhedrin, the council that defined Hebraic law, Jesus was in all likelihood viewed as a heretic. According to Douglas Lockhart in his excellent book, Jesus The Heretic:


Jesus is by definition a heretic. And this is not to do Jesus an injustice, for in the light of his non-conformist teachings and behaviour, he was without doubt a heretical figure in Jewish eyes. And if he returned today, he would, likewise, be a heretic in the eyes of the Christian Church.


…and I too am a heretic by classical definition. But I also claim to be a ‘natural’ heretic, and mean by this that I’ve always had a tendency to question things, whatever their origin or supposed status. I do not consider this tendency pathological. And neither do I consider my taking a stand against Christianity’s claims for Jesus a spiritual impertinence. In fact, I feel the opposite. I feel, deeply, that Jesus the Nazarene has been done a great disservice by many of those claiming to hold him in high esteem. All I see is a sad-eyed prisoner of the Christian imagination locked inside a paradigm he did not, and would not now, condone.[iv]


What beliefs would make Jesus such a heretic? Was it just his message of love and forgiveness? Or was it something more? Was it a message of one’s inner spiritual sun? And when it was combined with his sharp words and criticism of the prevailing religious thought and attitude, it caused such an up-roar and a discomfort within others as well as the religious and civil authorities that he was branded heretical and a danger to the ruling elite:


The question is, if Jesus himself was not the message, then what exactly was the message? Is it possible to identify what it may have been? Are there still traces of it around? As a sentiment ‘love one another’ may appear to be an important ingredient of the message, but as each of us knows only too well, love, like hate, cannot be conjured out of thin air – it has to spring up inside of us due to a profound connection between ‘self’ and ‘other’ [my italics]. We seldom hate for the same reason that we seldom love – lack of a profound connection.


I think Jesus understood the dynamics of ‘connectedness’, the meaning of love, and hate, but that what he had to tell us has been changed into an exercise in self-propaganda, a narcissism which we have each taken up in our own way.[v]  


I believe the key to Jesus’ message is the connection between self and other? It is a ‘new’ way to see one’s self and others, a perfection that is not only within but a perfection outside of us—an inner kingdom and an outer kingdom spread throughout the earth. This would change our attitude and treatment of fellow human beings and all other things such as the earth and all of its creatures. This would ‘awaken’ us to the divineness of others and ourselves as well as the humanness of life. When we have a knowing within our heart that we have star-light, a ‘spark of creation—a sun of God’ within us and a knowing that others do also, we are then able to truly ‘love our neighbor,’ to forgive and have compassion for others. This is the heart knowledge of the oneness of life and the heart knowledge of the humanness, the joy as well as the suffering of life. We understand our own self and we understand others. This is true empathy and compassion.


With this knowledge the need for any organized religion as ‘gatekeeper’ between God and us becomes non-existent and unnecessary:


… Jesus was the son of man, and the son of woman, and as such was not literally God in any shape or form. He was flesh and blood and bone and culture; he was taste and touch and emotion and feeling; he was hope and ambition and success and failure; and he was, above all, courage and faith and transformation. We are told that he survived his crucifixion and appeared to many; I believe that he did just that. But I do not believe that the up-there-somewhere God of Christian orthodoxy or fundamentalist imagination somehow broke the rules of creation and literally raised him from the dead. Such a God does not exist; there is no such being. The God of Jesus was not the Christian God of today, and neither was he Israel’s wilderness God re-imagined. He was neither. He was the God beyond such Gods, the God who feeds ravens, and human beings, from within.[vi]    


[i] Douglas Lockhart, Jesus The Heretic, p. 169


[ii] The Seattle Times News, ‘New Agers’ need Christ, Vatican says, p. A14.


[iii] Douglas Lockhart, Jesus The Heretic, p. 344.


[iv] Ibid, 9.


[v] Ibid, 12.


[vi] Ibid, 353.