Happy New Year! I thought I’d start off 2020 discussing with you how Christ might apply to us today in a mystical sense. The first time I heard “Christ consciousness” I thought it was quite New Age woo-woo. But now I think I have a much deeper understanding and experience of it, and I do suggest it is genuinely mystical, pertaining to the deepest spirituality that can be realized in life.
When I talk of Christ now, it is usually not in reference to the historical Jewish man named Jesus. Jesus knew the Christ, he expressed the Christ, he realized the Christ, he embodied the Christ (at least as it is conveyed to us in the New Testament), but he was not synonymous with the Christ. We tend to think of “Christ” as his last name, and I think that is an error (Richard Rohr has said the same). Christ is more like a title, a descriptor, a category, a quality, not a particular human being.
The Christ is a state of pure consciousness, a state of holistic being, a state of unitive perception. Some have described it as nondual unitive consciousness, and I think that gets at it pretty well. Labeling it exclusively “Christ” is also a bit of a misnomer, for it could also be called Krishna consciousness, Buddha consciousness, the Atman, the al-Insān al-Kāmil, the Messiah, the true Self, and many other names. There is nothing special about the linguistic term “Christ.”
I like this quote from Alan Watts:
From the beginning, institutional Christianity has hardly contemplated the possibility that the consciousness of Jesus might be the consciousness of the Christian, that the whole point of the Gospel is that everyone may experience union with God in the same way . . . as Jesus himself.-Alan Watts
But what about everything we traditionally think of when we hear the word “Christ,” such as salvation, redemption, crucifixion, atonement, forgiveness, resurrection, second coming, etc.? How do these apply to something that is a state of consciousness and being and not a person? How does Christ consciousness “save” us? I will attempt to describe how I think they apply, and how the Jesus mythology exemplifies those archetypal qualities in a particular case.
What is it about Christ consciousness that saves us? We might start with what does it mean to be saved? Traditionally this has tended to refer to being saved from the consequences of one’s sins, misdeeds, errors, being out of harmony with God, our offenses to God. But as Richard Rohr has wisely pointed out, what we think of as “sin” usually has more to do with the symptoms of sin rather than their root cause. We think of “sins” in the plural, referring to particular acts that are considered “wrong.” But what is the root cause? What is the “original sin”?
I think that “sin” is a symbol referring to being alienated from God, thinking we are separate from God. It is a psychological state of thinking we are dualistic beings, the subject of mind being who we are, and everything else being the objective world “out there.” This is where the alienation starts. We think we are separate from Reality. This split of subject and object in the psyche is where it begins, it seems to me. In our childhood the sense of self grows stronger and more alienated as we add to it the many experiences of life. Everything we do is in reference to this “self” we think we are, the construction of the ego. When this ego tries to protect itself, aggrandize itself, then it can harm itself and/or others, and “sin” is the result of that initial sense of separation.
When we realize Christ consciousness, the sense of ego falls away from consciousness. It is not there. Consciousness is empty and pure. It is clean. It is devoid of any sense of “me,” “mine,” “I,” in the traditional sense. Thus, all sense of guilt, pain, sin, error, misdeeds, which are attached to our sense of ego, they also fall away. We are cleansed of all “sins” in the traditional sense, and we also transcend the original sin of separation. There is no more separate self in consciousness, and thus we are brought back to the One, the Presence of God. Christ consciousness saves us from our ego-self.
Jesus realized this state of consciousness, and helped others also to realize it. In that state, we could say he was “the Christ,” but so is any other person who realizes it.
This is very much related to salvation, and is often used interchangeably with it. Redemption usually means some kind of deliverance, or liberation, from the punishment of sin. As long as we are entrenched in our ego, our sense of separate self, we will suffer. We will feel alienated from reality, from others, from God. The thoughts of our mind are themselves the alienation, and we often suffer because of those thoughts. The ego’s thoughts can be very critical, judgmental, harsh, unloving, etc., or they can be narcissistic, selfish, greedy, prideful, etc.
When we realize Christ consciousness, we are delivered from those thoughts, and from the punishment and suffering that those thoughts cause us. Those thoughts often bind us, frustrate us, limit us, alienate us, make us depressed, etc. So when those thoughts are silenced, and consciousness becomes still, we are delivered from them. We are liberated from our own ego-mind. We are freed from the prison of the “self.”
Joseph Smith, the prophet-mystic of Mormonism, once said this:
A sinner has his own mind and his own mind damns him. He is damned by mortification and is his own condemner and tormenter. Hence the saying: They will go into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. I have no fear of hell fire, that doesn’t exist, but the torment and disappointment of the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone—so is the torment of man.-Joseph Smith, King Follett Discourse
Again, I think Jesus realized this redemption from his thoughts, and helped others to also be so redeemed, by realizing Christ consciousness, by seeing through the thoughts of the ego-mind, and knowing pure consciousness.
Surely crucifixion refers to the crucifixion of Jesus, right? How could that refer to a state of consciousness? Well, in the Christian tradition, it did so, very early on.
Paul said, notably:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.-Galatians 2:20
Clearly Paul hadn’t literally been crucified as Jesus might have been, but rather it was a psychospiritual “crucifixion.” What was being crucified? I think it was the ego-self, the ego-mind, the thoughts that belong to that self-aware being of the finite body-mind. That “self” that we think we are is crucified from our mind, and we realize Christ consciousness. Consciousness is purified.
I think Jesus realized this crucifixion first not at his biological death, but at his baptism. I think his dualistic ego-self mind fell away, and he realized oneness in God. That “crucifixion” of mind preceded what may have been a literal crucified physical death. But the idea of crucifixion became symbolic in Christianity to refer to the death of this selfish part of ourselves, that which sees itself as separate from others, which alienates us from each other, which does not see our oneness. Paul often referred to the early Christians as those who had “died” (Col. 2:20, 3:3; Romans 6:11).
The crucifixion of the ego-self in our mind precedes our own biological death. We “die before we die” so that we may know God or Ultimate Reality, the One, while we live.
Jesus is often thought of as carrying out an Atonement, which is better thought of as at-one-ment. It was an action of bringing us back into oneness with God. We think he did this for us, taking upon him our sins and suffering for them so we could return to God’s Presence. We were alienated from God through the Fall of humanity, and Jesus’ Atonement brings us back to God.
Christ consciousness does this. As long as we identify with our dualistic ego-self and ego-mind we are cut off from God or Ultimate Reality. We are dual beings, or so we think so. Fr. Thomas Keating once remarkably said:
The chief thing that separates us from God is the thought that we are separated from God.-Thomas Keating
Think about that 😉. What separates us is not some kind of ontological distance between us and Reality, it is a barrier that is present within our very own minds! This is profound. As Richard Rohr has similarly said:
We cannot attain the presence of God because we’re already in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness.-Richard Rohr
We don’t think our way into the Presence of God, but rather, we drop all thought and become purely aware of what already is, here and now. We realize pure consciousness, Christ consciousness. When the dualistic thoughts of the mind are let go of, when we become detached from them, then our identity drops to a much lower level, a foundational level, a fundamental, a Rock, the basis of all Reality.
When there is no more dualistic subject-object in the mind, then there is a nondualistic consciousness. We are One. We have at-oned with God or Reality once again. We have realized ourselves not as some thing separate from Reality, but as a manifestation of Reality. We are the Divine manifesting itself.
Jesus realized this at-one-ment, and he helped others to also realize it. The Christ consciousness in us could be said to take upon itself all our sins of separation, it bears them, until we put off the “natural man,” until we transcend this veil of ego-self that we think we are, until we become fully aware of the Present moment of Reality and realize it is God. This Present is God’s Presence. It is the Parousia.
This is related to the previous points. When we realize Christ consciousness, we also realize perfect forgiveness of sins. We have no more “sin” of separation. We have no more ego-self that could sin. God can no longer remember our sins, because there are no thoughts at all in pure consciousness, just pure Being, pure awareness, pure consciousness, pure Presence. And when we realize this purity of being, we realize it as the foundation of all people and beings everywhere. It is our very own same Self. And when we realize this, we also forgive all others their trespasses, because we know it is not their true Self, but the false self, the ego-self, the “natural man” who does them. They do not know their real Self, their foundation, Christ consciousness itself, but are rather acting from a delusion, in error. God forgives them, because they know not what they do.
Jesus realized this kind of forgiveness. Because he was so intimately in touch with Christ consciousness, he could forgive all, even his enemies, and he taught others to also so forgive. For when we judge others, it is the ego-mind that so judges, and it is actually judging its own Self. Judge not that ye be not judged!
We traditionally think that when Jesus died, he was buried in the tomb for three days, and then God resurrected him back to life. This is all symbolic of what happens in Christ consciousness, and could be many different aspects of that experience. It does not mean that people who die will literally come back to life some day. We must move beyond this literalism which is actually far less glorious than the true Reality.
Resurrection I think is what happens when we disidentify with our ego-self and ego-mind, the thoughts that identify themselves with this particular finite body-mind, and we realize Christ consciousness, pure consciousness of Being. We realize oneness in God again, in the Presence of God. We realize we are Divine beings, manifestations of God. It is God consciousness. We are “resurrected” or “reborn” from the spiritually dead ego-self into a new awareness of being, into a new identity that is at-one in God. It is “Christ.” We are resurrected while we live, while the body lives. The ego-self-mind has died, has been “crucified” as I noted above, but the body still lives, and the life within it does not belong to any particular self, but rather is the Life of the One its Self, the “Holy One of Israel.” We are resurrected into an identity that is absolutely Christ. It is not merely like Christ, it is Christ. And we realize that all life is the resurrection of Christ. It is the Divine Life as it has been incarnated into the world. All of it. Every. Single. One.
Jesus realized this resurrection first, not after his biological death, but at his baptism, I suggest. He “died” to his ego-self, and was reborn in Spirit, as the Spirit, as the Divine One, as God, as the Incarnation of God, the Son of God, the expression of the Divine, the manifestation of the Kosmos. He realized that the Father is in him, and he is in the Father. The Father manifested its Self as him in the world, and in all flesh, the Word became all flesh, and continually re-incarnates as all flesh eternally.
Jesus helped others resurrect into this Christ consciousness themselves, realizing the One in them, realizing oneness in him and in the Father, that they are all part of the same One, the same Divine Reality. This is why Paul also referred to the early Christians as those who had been “raised” with Christ (Col. 2:12, 3:1; Romans 6:5). They had been resurrected while they lived, realizing they were Life itself. The “appearances” of Christ after Jesus’ death I suggest were the realization of Christ consciousness in the early Christians, just like Paul (Gal. 2:20).
Christians traditionally think that Jesus will literally return one day, will appear in the heavens and come down in a cloud. I don’t think that is possible, plausible, rational, real, or true. I recently wrote about this. If Christianity is to be taken seriously in the 21st century, we must transcend this literal pseudoscience, realizing the deeper meaning in the mythology.
When we realize Christ consciousness, we realize the Second Coming. We realize Christ. We are at-one in Christ. We see and know Christ. We see and know perfect Love. We are the One. Christ has “returned,” and we have known ourselves as that One, as it refers to several times in the scriptures (1 John 3:2-3; Moroni 7:48).
When we realize this Christ consciousness in ourselves, as the foundation of our being, as the essence of our existence, then we begin to manifest what we traditionally consider to be Christ-like actions in the world. Jesus realized the Second Coming in himself before he could manifest it in the world. It was because he realized Christ consciousness in himself that he could manifest it in the world. And he taught others how to realize this Christ consciousness, so they too could become Christs in the world.
This is how the “Christ” returns to the world, by each and all realizing Christ consciousness in themselves, that it is the very essence of their consciousness, the field of awareness, the foundation of life itself. We realize Christ in ourselves, and are then able to manifest Christ in the world, making it on Earth as it is in heaven. As above, so below. And all the qualities of the Second Coming pertain to this messianic consciousness.
The influential 20th century Roman Catholic theologian and German Jesuit Karl Rahner once remarkably said,
The Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist at all.-Karl Rahner
Why would he say something like that? I think it is because if we do not make Christianity a true mystical Christianity as I have tried to demonstrate in this post, and cling to old conventional literalistic ideas of Christian mythology, then Christianity will slowly die. It cannot survive the 21st century. Literalism is not sustainable in the modern scientific worldview. It will die. And I think it is meant to die. We are meant to realize God in us, not in a distant realm. We are meant to realize the Divine here and now, not after our physical bodies die.
The traditional forms and ideas of Christianity must themselves be crucified if the true Christ is to be reborn, resurrected into new Life, and it will be through us that it realizes that Life. It is our Life right now, even if we don’t know it. When we know ourselves, deeply, we will know the One that we are, and we will be that in the world.
How do you think the traditional mythology of Christianity pertains to Christ consciousness? How can we transcend the literalism of conventional Christianity to know the One here and now? Please share your thoughts and experience.