The Pokey Finger of God

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Lost and Found

October 1st, 2004 · No Comments · christianity, history, media

I picked up Needleman’s book Lost Christianity about a week ago, and I’m just about finished with it now. I had a strong feeling of having gone full circle, without any remaining desire to either consider myself ‘Christian’ or to style myself thusly.

Christianity, as I was raised with it, is an exoteric social event. The mythos and diluted logic used to explain the theology and dogma have become their own justification through ancient use. I originally left the church because I couldn’t understand how any rational person would gain any benefit from it. I have learned over the succeeding years that there is good material within Christianity, but that one would have to work as hard to find and use it as they would to simply utilize Buddhist or Taoist practices.

After years of study in the esoteric worlds of both modern and ancient vintage, I returned several times to re-examine the faith of my childhood to wonder if I had ever figured it all out. One important realization that I made was that the Christianity as we know it today is more a cultural and political force than a religious one, and that as such, it is the final active remnant of the Roman Empire. After much study and contemplation, I came to the final conclusion that one who seeks personal spiritual development could do little worse than join a Christian church.

Picking up Lost Christianity from this perspective, I had anticipated that I would learn about the practices of the pre-Christian Jews or the various Gnostic cults. Instead, what I found was the perceptions of a Christian [“Father Sylvan”] who had chosen to apply Gnostic and Hermetic methods to his faith and discovered a whole subtext within the teachings of the Church. While I had been familiar with Gnostic readings of the gospels showing Jesus as a mystic teaching an esoteric path, the idea that this esoteric teaching was, in fact, the bedrock of Christian teaching was simultaneously exciting and unbelievable.

As a quick test, I considered the central icon of the Western Church — the crucifixion. Street evangelists will say that this icon is the core of the faith, as it represents the sacrifice made by the Christ. Some will go on to personalize the message, implying that the listener is obligated to follow the Christ because this sacrifice was made “for you”. I’ve always rejected the crucifixion as neither a meaningful sacrifice nor as a personal gift. Needless to say, I’ve also always held the resurrection to be only slightly less believable than the tooth fairy.

However, the words of “Father Sylvan” coalesced together with other esoteric material I had read such that I was able to see the crucifixion as being a powerful symbol of a moment in the life of a man. It was at this moment of utter physical exhaustion after an extended period of bodily torment that the Christ achieved a moment of unity with deity. The language used to speak of this experience might include words and phrases like ‘enlightenment’ or ‘knowledge and coversation’, and there are certainly many other (less troublesome) ways to achieve this end, but all require extensive effort and discipline to achieve.

The symbol of the crucifixion, then, is a reminder to seek a unity with deity as pure as the one held by the Christ at just that moment. With this understanding of the symbol of the crucifixion, it is no longer important whether the Christ died or if he “returned”. It’s also clear that we shouldn’t expect to get anything from the Christ other than an example of how to seek that unity with the divine.

Only by understanding the crucifixion from this context can I comprehend how it became the central icon of Christianity. Without this, the crucifixion is self-mockery, a demonstration of utter failure and a warning against those who might follow. From all the words and deeds attributed to the Christ, that this would become the central image of worship had always confounded me. Finally, I can fathom an underlying philosophy from which the crucifixion truly is the central symbol. It is with complete sincerity that I can say that I feel I have found something redeeming in the faith of the redeemer.

Of course, none of this is even slightly applicable to 98% of those who consider themselves Christian. For these, it is simply another “mystery of the faith” which they dutifully parrot without comprehension.

Another element from this book that I found to be particularly keen reinforcement is the recognition that “Christian” is about as precise a term to describe a culture as is “Western”. “Christian”, “Catholic”, and “Universal” are nearly all as interchangeable as they are meaningless. It was nice to see another point out that Christian morality has very little which is particularly novel, and Christianity itself is simply the storehouse of common language which we use to describe religion and faith. The author actually goes to great pains several times within the book to point out that the morality espoused by modern religious leaders is indicative of a failure to fully develop a spiritual understanding of the universe.The main point I got out of Lost Christianity was that much of the mystical and esoteric methodology I received from far more accessible sources also exists at some level within Christianity, further reinforcing the notion that all faiths lead towards the truth, but each person must take that journey as far as they will on their own.

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