When people say they “see” Christ, a Christophany, known in Mormonism popularly as the “Second Comforter,” this can mean many things.
In the most mystical nondualistic state of consciousness and its interpretation, it perhaps means that one has realized the Christ-nature themselves, in themselves, the oneness of Reality, of the Uni-Verse (One Song), and that they are an indelible part or manifestation of this Ultimate Reality which is also called “God.” This has also been referred to as “Christ consciousness.” It is that “Kingdom” within, the “Comforter” which Jesus promised his disciples would “come” to them (John 14:16, 16:7; Matt. 24:23; Luke 17:20-23; note how he, Jesus, was already with them, so he could not have been talking literally about himself).
I perceive that this is synonymous with transcendent states of awareness as articulated through the lens of many other religions and spiritualities, such as Buddha-nature, or Atman, or al-Insān al-Kāmil, or Tirthankara, or Messiah, or Love, or the One, or the Tao. People are not reaching wholly different transcendent states of being in all of these religions, it seems to me, but the very same Transcendent, the same Absolute, the same Reality, which they then describe or interpret in different ways and with different words.
Truth is One, the wise call it by many names.-Rig Veda
In more dualistic states of consciousness and the interpretation of those states, one may not be “merged” completely in God, or “at-oned,” and the Christ may be projected by the mind as a visionary object “out there,” perhaps in bodily form, an angel of some kind, a guardian angel, a higher Self, a divinity, a deity, a dakini, Gabriel, Michael, Moroni, seraphim, cherubim, archangels, etc. This is perhaps the egoic dualistic mind still maintaining a subtle separateness from the Divine, seeing it as something still external and “other” to it, and shaping it in the mind as an external form in order to be able to “perceive” it as some objective “thing” for its subjective awareness to behold.
In Christians, this form might take the shape of a man with robe, long brown hair and a beard, as if it were the common depictions of the historical Jewish man Jesus, as that is the cultural conditioning that we have in our minds surrounding this symbol of “Christ,” so that is the image that our minds paint in order to try and “see” it, to know it as an object “out there.” But this is still dualistic, apart from the perceiver, alienated from our being, and not yet fully at-One in us. It may also be necessary to interpret the unitive state in these kinds of dualistic objective ways because of the inherent dualism of language and thought.
I don’t think that “Christ” is Jesus himself, exclusively, the real historical man who lived 2000 years ago in Palestine, who has come back from the dead to meet us. That, I think, is supernatural, magical, mythical, pseudoscientific, and is not the case. It’s not the truth that I see, and if it is not the truth, it is not God. It is not the reality, the actuality of what is going on, and I think the longer we perpetuate this myth, the more damage it does. We must let go of these fables and get to the reality (1 Tim. 1:4).
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Why? Because it is largely unbelievable, no, it is impossible in our modern understanding of the way the world works. We need a much better explanation, a better philosophy, a better theology, a better mythology, a better mysticism than that. The at-one-ment of Christ is total, it is an absolute embrace, wherein there is no more separation whatsoever between us. We are redeemed entirely from the Fall, and know ourselves in God’s Presence, even at-one in God. It becomes us, it is unveiled as what we ourselves are! (see Alma 5:14, 19, 38).
I suggest that Jesus was a human male, a Homo sapiens sapiens just like we are, but also a radical mystic, who attained Christ consciousness, who became Self-realized, someone in whom the “Christ” was awakened and known (personally and by others), it was embodied, actualized, was expressed to a great degree, and was captured for all history in the tradition we know as Christianity (thanks to Paul). But an “Anointed One” dates back far beyond Christianity, and similar ideas are found in all cultures throughout history, and I suggest they were and are not talking about the man Jesus, exclusively. It was not Jesus that they were all referring to, pre-mortally, or cross-culturally, but the “Christ,” this transcendental state of oneness or nonduality in consciousness and being, in Ultimate Reality.
The Christ extends far beyond the man Jesus, and is even found in you and me. It is perhaps in a sense our very consciousness itself, the living awareness or spiritual “breath” that exists in each and every one of us which makes us living creatures, our essential being, which in its purest state is identical in each and every one of us. In itself it is devoid of all ego, all independence, the “natural man,” all separateness, all subject-object distinctions and dualism are not there, it is perhaps the Platonic form of the human (thanks Shaw, for this idea), it is sinless, blameless, stainless, it is pure Peace, pure Being, and because it knows no distinctions between itself and any ‘other’ being, it is One, and thus it is also pure Love. “If you do it unto any of these ‘others,’ you do it unto me” (Matt. 25:40). Or as the Indian sage Ramana Maharshi put it, “There are no others.”
It is the true Self of each and all, what Christian mystic and Franciscan Richard Rohr calls the “Universal Christ,” embodied in the entire “incarnation” or physicality/materiality of the cosmos as a whole, and especially in living beings. But it is even beyond that particular English word we use: “Christ.” That is also merely a symbol we use to refer to it. Rohr also recognizes this, and says we may call it whatever we like if “Christ” doesn’t work for us. We must also transcend this word. The particular word is not what is important, but rather the reality that it points us to, the referent that it refers to. The word is never the thing. The map is not the territory. The menu is not the meal. Christianity has no corner on this truth, this reality, this deepest part of our nature, our reality. It is a means of pointing to it, of guiding us toward it. At some point we have to transcend all means to know it as it is in itself.
Jesus was not “the Christ,” as if that man alone were the one and only; rather I suggest he was a Christ, an expression of the Christ, as are you, and me, if we will realize who/what we really are, when we see ourselves in the utter nakedness of Truth, in Light, in Reality, in Love, transcending all the veils of egocentricity, the psychological separate “self” of our psyche. When that separate “self” of mind falls away from consciousness as it does in contemplative practices (is “crucified” as Jesus and Paul, Gal. 2:20), then that veil is pierced and we see and know the true divine Self, and it is at-one with all and in all. It is the All in All. It really is the Light-energy-matter of the whole entire Kosmos (John 8:12), including ourselves (Matt. 5:14). As Carl Sagan intuited, we are the cosmos knowing itself. Our “Christ” is far too small if we think it is only the man Jesus. In many instances we have created an idol of that man, something which I think he never wanted (John 4:23).
When we see Christ not only in our Self, but in every “other” being as well, then we will see the Christ as Christ really is (1 John 3:2). Then we will know the Christ, because we will be the Christ, all of us, in that singular infinite Love, Peace, Bliss, Perfection, Truth, Light, Being, Name, Identity, Wisdom, Oneness, Spirit. That is why it is the “Comforter.” And it is not a “Second,” but the First, the Firstborn of all the cosmos, and we are That (see D&C 93:21-25, 76:53-59).