UNITY OF VANCOUVER
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The Two Christianities – Part 2
Reverend Bernadette Voorhees
June 27, 2021
All Rights Reserved
I invite you to close your eyes and relax into this moment made Holy by your desire to know and express yourself as a Spiritual Being and beloved child of God. Rest in the awareness that Divine Mind is now flowing into your human mind and through it into your body until light and love radiates out from you into every area of your life. Silently Affirm: “I am a radiating center of divine light & love.”
Consent to being changed at depth by inviting your Higher Power, to dissolve any beliefs held in your human mind that your prosperity can be withheld from you by anyone or anything. Ask your indwelling Christ to dissolve any crystallized negativity that is manifesting as disease in your physical body or producing anything less than the good that God has in store for you. Ask your indwelling Christ to express through you so that you live a Sacred Life, a Life that expresses the Truth of who and what you really are and that expresses your eternal relationship of oneness with God and all life.
Now let us join in consciousness and ask that such error beliefs and crystallized negativity be dissolved in the minds, hearts, and bodies of all people everywhere by holding to the thought: “No person, thing, or event can keep the good from you which the universe has in store for you. We see vast improvements coming quickly in every phase of your life. Every day, in every way, things are getting better and better for you. We see you letting go of worn-out conditions and ways of living life that result in sickness, poverty, and war.
Let us pray: God, as your beloved child, I consent to a rich life and know that I am well and happy in every phase of my life right now. In my human mind, I accept that abundance is good and is to be used for good. I give thanks that I am beautifully and appropriately supplied, clothed, housed and transported with the rich substance of the universe now.”
For the law is as in mind so in manifestation. We pray believing in the power of God and our own indwelling Christ. Amen.
THE TWO CHRISTIANITIES – Part 2
In its early days, Christianity was a mystery religion and most of the people active in the origins of the Christian faith were mystics and it wasn’t composed of people all thinking alike and believing the same thing. It was a collection of very diverse and often arguing people. A large group of Christian mystics called themselves Gnostics. They believed in Gnosis. Gnosis is an intuitive form of knowing gained through direct personal experience of the divine rather than knowledge gained by using your intellect. In the Mediterranean mystery traditions, the goddess Sophia was seen as the vessel or vehicle through which Gnosis flows through us during Metanoia. Sophia later became the Holy Spirit. In the beginning there wasn’t a conflict between mysticism and Christianity because Jesus wasn’t yet understood as the way, the truth, and the light. He wasn’t yet understood in that limiting context but in the universal context of Dionysus, Attis and others who were symbols for what you and I can do. And what can we do? We can be born again, by changing our orientation toward life so that it has a more spiritual focus and by calling upon spiritual energies to be actively involved in that process.
Origen was an early Gnostic Christian who wrote about topics such as reincarnation. Reincarnation was a major tenet of early Christianity. Reincarnation is death and rebirth. It ties into the borrowed motif of Virgin Birth dating back to the prehistoric goddess societies. In our earliest spiritual conceptions, the goddess was the most important symbol for our spirituality. She is Mother Earth, eternally tied to the cycles of life and death on this planet. The heavens, the moon and the earth were all early symbols of the feminine nature. The moon was a feminine symbol because every 28 days the moon dies and is born again. Ultimately, the emphasis shifted from the moon to the sun in cultures like the Egyptian, Greek, and Hebrew; and the Son emerged as the primary symbol for our spirituality.
Anthropologists say this occurred for two primary reasons: 1. The evolution of culture from an agricultural to military empires built by masculine force. 2. The development of writing and written language which changed the way we related to each other. Before that time, everything was based on experience. I could share my experience with you through oral means. But when I learned to write it down, it sort of became eternal, didn’t it? Because then even after I’m dead, what I said, or thought would still be around to influence you and other people. Anthropologists believe this externalization of thought and experience had a huge impact on the way consciousness continued to develop from then on, on the planet.
Ideas evolve as consciousness evolves through time. Today, from modern biology, you and I understand babies come from intimate, unprotected interaction between a male and female. Future generations might understand it as interaction between a scientist in a lab and an egg in a test tube. But in the absence of scientific knowledge, our ancestors thought Human birth resulted from a woman’s intimate relationship with an invisible, divine being. It was a mystery, and every birth was seen as a divine birth. A woman was blessed by a God for her goodness, her worthiness. If barren she was cursed by God for being unworthy or evil. She could be put aside by her husband or even put to death.
The mystical union of the masculine and feminine nature is a repetitive theme in all cultures. It’s the nature of things to have an active and passive nature, a nature of consciousness and a nature of unconsciousness. These two natures are complementary and not competing energies. The Chinese have recognized this for thousands of years, calling it the yin and the yang.
In the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan, the God Zeus assumed the form of a bird and had intercourse with Leda. In Greek mythology, birds in the heavens are a masculine symbol. Leda brings forth fruit but it’s a Virgin Birth because the Father isn’t human. In the Greek mystery religions, Ayon the God of the Year was born from the Virgin Goddess Corre also known as Persephone, the Corn maiden. Persephone was worshiped until the fifth century.
The Corn Maiden motif is also found in many Native American spiritual traditions. The Corn Maiden is always untouched; a virgin because she has the capacity to bring forth from herself, the corn. This metaphor is a pre-science understanding of birth and pollination. Virgin Birth represents an ancient Spiritual conception of the birthing process- mating with an invisible divinity. We have written records of great theological debates and fights that took place in the early days of Christianity over such things as: Was Jesus a real person, a God, or just a myth? Did he literally arise from the grave and ascend bodily into heaven? In the early days, this wasn’t something people took literally. Today many do. This is actually a reversal of evolution.
The Dictionary Of Scripture and Myth says, “A virgin bringeth forth a child” is symbolic of the purified emotional nature giving birth to the purified Christ soul or Christos. The process by which the animal nature whether you are male, or female gives birth to the new being, which is that presence of the higher consciousness within you.
Charles Fillmore co-founder of Unity said, “A spiritual quickening is required for the evolution of anything God-like in our mundane sphere. It is a virgin birth. Lower acting upon lower can never produce a higher. Material forces, material consciousness acting on material consciousness cannot produce higher consciousness.” Who was the Virgin Mary’s, progenitor?
God didn’t come down and have physical intercourse. The Holy Spirit touched her. When you go through the process of metanoia, go through the cleansing of your attachments to material reality, then your consciousness opens and turns toward the transcendent and Gnosis happens, the Holy Spirit moves through you. This was symbolized by the chalice or Holy Grail.
Meister Eckhart said, “Mary is blessed not because she bore Christ bodily, but because she bore him spiritually and in this everyone can become like her.” We’ve all been born of our physical mother. She gave us the bodily existence from which we will create our spiritual selves. We are all Virgin Mary’s because we all have the capacity in our own life to give birth to a new being whose orientation is toward spiritual reality, spiritual things. This is the mystery element in the Greek Ellusynian Mysteries and initiations were held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. They are the most famous of the secret religious rites of ancient Greece, the Isis mysteries of Egypt and early Gnostic Christianity.
In the 4th and 5th century, the church opted for a masculine, hierarchical form of organization. At this time women were prohibited from becoming leaders in the church. This new institution excluded anything feminine. Gnosis or intuitive knowledge gained through Sophia was forbidden and declared a heresy. The Roman church turned the full force of its army, the Roman army on the Gnostics. Thousands, perhaps millions were put to death. Very few Ellusynian, Isis or Gnostic artifacts escaped destruction. They were regarded to be ‘Satanic’ or evil because they weren’t the one true way – weren’t Catholic. But some were buried in caves to protect them, and others found their way to other portions of the world, like southern France where centuries later, Gnostics, now calling themselves Alberginians and Cathri thrived, until the 11th century and the Inquisition when leaders in the church again tried to obliterate the Gnostic, feminine influence. Over 11 million people were murdered, and their property seized by the church. The push to eliminate the feminine was so inclusive it was extended in the 11th century to include the rule that Priests must be celibate and of course ‘celibate priests’ would leave all their worldly property to the church.
The emphasis on the Virgin Mary is a much later development which many historians believe was an attempt to pacify divisions in the church and compensate for the out of balance energies created by excluding the feminine presence.
The traditional Christmas story merges stories from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, tosses in a few Hebrew scriptural prophecies and blends it into an orderly narrative. The problem is that the individual Gospel stories don't agree and only Matthew and Luke contain information about the “miraculous births” of Jesus and John. The Gospel of Luke opens with the story of the miraculous birth of John the Baptist carrying on a long tradition of Biblical barren women whose children are predicted by Angelic Messengers. In Hebrew scriptures, the other women are Sara, Rebekah, Rachel, the mother of Samson and& Hannah, the mother of the Prophet Samuel.
Luke tells us the Angel Gabriel tells a priest named Zechariah that his old and childless wife, Elizabeth, will bear a son who like Samson and Samuel before him, is pledged to God. John’s job is to get the people ready for the coming of Jesus. Six months later, Gabriel appears to Elizabeth’s cousin Mary, who’s engaged to be married. The Angel tells Mary a baby will result from the “Holy Spirit” coming upon her. (All the others were conceived by the old-fashioned method.) Gabriel’s visit to Mary is called the Annunciation: the announcement foretelling the birth of Jesus. The Feast of the Annunciation is March 25, which is also the birth date for Jesus calculated by the Greek monk Dionysus; add 9 months to that and you get December 25th!
The Gospels actually say very little about Mary and even less about Joseph. Virgin Birth (meaning Mary conceived without sex) isn’t mentioned in the Gospels of Mark or John. Paul states in a single letter that Jesus was ‘born of woman.’ Which isn’t surprising since Mary’s virginity wasn’t an issue for early Jewish Christians. However, establishing Jesus’ divinity was essential to win over Gentile converts and so they had to address the question of how a flesh and blood man could also be a divine being. The idea of a God having sex with a human female was commonplace in pagan traditions. Zeus assumed the form of a swan to mate with Leda. In the myth of Dionysus, Zeus came as an invisible presence, a Spirit; the ‘Holy Spirit’ as the agent of conception.
Virgin Birth is another case of mistranslation. The author of Matthew used the Greek translation of Isaiah, which says “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call him Immanuel (isa. &:14KJV); while the Hebrew translation is “Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son and shall call him Immanuel.”
Even though the “Cult of Mary” has almost no biblical foundation, the veneration of Mary grew quickly. The title ‘Mother of God” was used as early as the second century and in the fourth century, there were huge debates among church leaders over the divinity of Jesus and the status of Mary. A monk named Nestorious insisted that Mary was the mother of Jesus, not God. Condemning his teachings, in 431 the Council of Ephesus said Mary was to be called Theotokos, or “Mother of God.” This evolved into the belief that Mary was ‘ever-virgin,’ though there are frequent mentions of Jesus’ brothers and sisters in the Gospels.
Traditionalists explain these as references to Jesus’ cousins, relatives, or children of Joseph by a previous marriage, interpretations with no biblical foundation. The Gospel of Matthew states that Joseph had ‘no marital relations with Mary until she’d borne a son, leaving open the possibility that Joseph and Mary had ‘marital relations’ afterward and other children. Later church leaders, expanded this idea saying that Mary had been conceived without ‘original sin.’ “Original sin,” is a Christian theological idea also not found in the Bible that attributes the universal sinfulness of the human race to the first sin committed by Adam.
St. Augustine later said the taint of human sin is transmitted from one generation to the next by the act of procreation. From this came the idea of Immaculate conception, which is often confused with Virgin Birth. The idea of Immaculate conception developed during the Middle Ages to explain that Mary not only hadn’t had sex in conceiving Jesus, but she was also born free from Original Sin. This belief began early in Christian history and was officially accepted as doctrine essential to Roman Catholic (Universal) beliefs by Pope Pius IX in 1854.
Mary’s popularity grew during the Middle Ages, among the Gnostics and particularly during the inquisition and period of the “black Death.” As plague created piles of dead, many Europeans thought the world was coming to an end and the Judgment Day was upon them. At this time Jesus was viewed as a supreme, universal judge not as the merciful, forgiving, “Lamb of God.” As fear of death and the ‘Last Judgment’ grew, Mary came to be viewed as the merciful mediator whose intercession would temper the terrible justice of her son. The rosary, a devotion originally consisting of 150 Hail Mary’s, one for each Psalm came into use at this time. Ten ‘Hail Mary’s’ are said for each ‘Our Father’. “Hail Mary full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
The Apocryphal Gospel of James found at Nag Hamadi says the angel Gabriel first spoke to Miriam by the well. The suggestion that Jesus’ childhood may have been dogged by the accusation of bastardy is implied in his townspeople’s question in Mark 6, “Isn’t this Mary’s son?” To be called one’s mother’s son, as opposed to one’s father’s, was an implication of bastardy and sign that one’s paternity was unknown, whether divine or not. Early opponents to the concept of virgin birth, suggested that Miriam had conceived Jesus with a Roman soldier, named Panthera. It has also been suggested that since Mary’s uncle Zachariah was a chief priest at the temple, that Mary was raised as a temple virgin. In this capacity, she could have participated in ritual sex with a temple priest and any child resulting from such an act, was ‘a child of God.” Like all matters of the Bible, it is ultimately a matter of individual faith. In a similar way, Jesus taught that the whole universe is a great womb. We are born into it, and we live inside of it. It nourishes us like the blood of our mothers nourished us. We take our nourishment from the earth and are given everything we need.
In the 1950’s a Pope said that Mary’s body didn’t rot in the ground but like Jesus’ was assumed physically into Heaven and the Feast of the Assumption, the idea that Mary was bodily taken into Heaven and reunited with her soul became part of the liturgical year. Assumption is not founded on any Biblical event, but exactly what happened to Dionysus’ mother Semele in Greek Myth. The Assumption was defined as an article of Roman Catholic Faith by Pope Pius XII in 1950. Protestant denominations depart from Roman Catholics regarding the Virgin Mary on the concepts of Immaculate Conception and Assumption.
But many thought: What happened to her body before then? What about all those believers who in the 4th, 5th, 12th centuries had thought Mary was Jesus’ mother and perhaps a wonderful person, but she had died and was buried and that was the end of it? Now suddenly in the 20th century, it’s revealed by the church that she didn’t. This is an excellent example of political motivations. An example of what happens when you try to go back and legislate history.
As we have explored in this series, we all have the capacity to view things objectively, which we called the Traditionalist viewpoint; and we all have the capacity to view things subjectively, which we called the Gnostic viewpoint. Either of these becomes exclusive when taken to its extreme. The task of the spiritual journey is to reconcile these two viewpoints into one. Both are necessary for wholeness and coexisted until the transformation brought on by the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.
The Gnostics honored Jesus as the embodiment of the Christ consciousness, but Traditionalists in writing the Nicene Creed called Jesus the only Son of God. They objectified him and set him apart from the rest of humanity. Until the Council of Nicaea, there’d never been ‘a state religion’. With their collective resources and militant power, the Roman government and Church soon almost stamped out Gnosticism. Many Gnostic scriptures were eliminated. Some of these are now being re-discovered through such findings as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the 53 books found at Nag Hammadi including ‘The Gospel of Thomas’.
The Gospel of Thomas was a great loss because of all the gospels; it tried to close the gap between the objective and subjective approaches. It makes overt metaphysical statements like, ‘The lamp of the body is the mind.” And Jesus is quoted as saying, “He who will drink of my mouth will become as I am. I myself will become him. So that things that are hidden will be revealed to him.” Implying that when one is in the Christ consciousness that one would be the Christ, thus doing away with the uniqueness of Jesus. Thomas quoted Jesus as saying, “The kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you.” (both subjective and objective) And Thomas said, “When the disciple achieves enlightenment, Jesus will no longer serve as his master because the two will become equal, even identical.”
Though Gnosticism was stamped out during the 3rd century, nothing in consciousness can be lost or destroyed; it just goes ‘underground’ for a while. The basic subjective approach and concept of self-realization kept reappearing over the years. In medieval times, we see the Grail Myth and ideal of Courtly Love as the cloak for Gnosticism. In the 13th century Meister Eckhart said, “I pray God rid me of God because conditionless being is above God and above distinction.” Eckhart was labeled a heretic and those who believed in his teachings became victims of the Inquisition in the 15th century, anyone who claimed oneness with God was burned at the stake.
The basic Gnostic approach has reappeared as the metaphysical movement or New Thought Movement and even more recently in the discoveries of Quantum Physics. Practitioners of Quantum Mechanics have departed from logic and dissolved our ordinary understanding of time and space. They proved scientifically that by observing something here, you could affect something there. Consciousness transmutes form. When Quantum Mechanics came up with the belief that something had to be ‘observed’ in order to be present, they showed us in Gnostic fashion how our observations or perceptions create our reality.
Using that thought, in order to understand how our two Christianities came to differ, it’s important to understand what part Paul of Tarsus played. Paul was Jewish, but he was raised as a Greek and also a citizen of the Rome. He was not Jesus and had never known Jesus or even heard his teachings. So, Paul objectified Jesus. He created his own perception of who Jesus was and for 2000+ years, Christianity has mainly reflected Paul’s perception of the ministry of Jesus and has been a religion ‘about Jesus’, and not a practice of his teachings. Paul said his authority wasn’t from what he’d learned in personal contact with Jesus or from those who experienced Jesus. He said “I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me.”
Neither James, the brother of Jesus who took over leadership of the Jerusalem Church nor Peter and the other disciples could stop Paul from preaching his message ‘about Jesus.’ They tried and failed. Paul’s approach was more ‘objective’ than ‘subjective.’
Historically, the objective personal facts outlined in Paul’s accounting about Jesus were accurate enough, but his interpreting Jesus’ esoteric message in terms of laws of conduct and moral judgments resulted in the Traditional church’s personalizing the man Jesus rather than emphasizing his transcendental consciousness and message. This is the attitude of mind that resulted in Jesus eventually being portrayed as a blond blue-eyed European, rather than a dark oriental who as far as we know never put his foot on the continent of Europe. While Paul hinted at the ‘secret teachings’ of the Gnostics, he apparently thought the masses weren’t able to understand the mystical nature of the message and needed specific laws that they could follow.
The primary difference between Jesus and Paul was how they viewed themselves. Paul saw himself objectively as primarily a material human being. Rather than seeing himself as a divine being with a body, he saw himself as a body with a divine potential. He made statements such as “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I wish, I do not: and that which I hate, I do.”
Throughout his ministry, Jesus demonstrated that he was an embodied spiritual being. He sometimes referred to his objective self, saying, “I of my own self can do nothing.” But remained aware of his subjective or true nature in spirit, “It is the Father within that does the works; I and my father are one.” Or “He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father”. Like Jesus, we must combine the Gnostic and Traditionalist approaches and understand that the physical body, is just one side of our nature, we are made in the image of God, spirit. We are embodied spiritual beings. When we think of ourselves only objectively as material beings, we create a gap between God and ourselves by looking at ourselves as effect apart from God or cause. This viewpoint is what makes sin, shortcomings and limits possible in our lives.
Augustine was the responsible for fully establishing the Church’s legal approach. He discounted the possibility of living purely by Grace, or by subjective inner guidance and established a dogmatic set of laws that continue to dictate human conduct. Even though Jesus himself did not judge sexual behavior one way or the other and told us not to judge, Augustine took Paul’s attitude, his personal frustrations about his own sexuality and the excessive sexual conduct of the Romans at that time and blew them up into the central doctrines and moral code of the church. He set Christianity on the course, which made a natural and vital part of life a cause for guilt and self-loathing for many. Before Augustine dominated the church’s theology, sexuality was just one among many possible stumbling blocks, but he established laws for sexual conduct and created the concept of Original sin. Augustine’s insistence on the importance of the virginal birth; the “Immaculate conception” or conception without sexual encounter, a concept the Gnostic’s did not accept, also contributed to the belief that sexual relations were somehow other than spiritual. He didn’t judge sex ‘subjectively” in terms of the spirit in which the act was performed, ‘ritual union of the masculine objective and feminine subjective. But judged sex objectively, as something that was purely physical and of animal nature. He condemned having sex for pleasure and set it aside exclusively for one objective purpose, the procreation of the species, which in turn increased the church’s membership and power.
In closing this brief overview, remember, neither approach is right or wrong. The point is, any one approach falls short and if taken to its extreme, it becomes exclusive. Instead of closing the gap between ourselves and God, it creates more of a gap as we begin to think of ourselves as ‘the chosen ones, having ‘the truth’ or ‘doing it ‘the right way.” Unity is 1st Century Christianity. We go back to the 2-commandment message of Jesus. In giving us 2 commandments instead of 10 Jesus revealed the way we can unite the legacy of the two Christianities that we have inherited and become the way of life he demonstrated. The subjective and the objective viewpoints, when inclusive and properly understood subjectively are the Christ consciousness, when lived objectively are the Christed life. We are not just a body with a divine potential; we are embodied Spiritual beings.
What do you think?
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