Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 17: The Religious Urge > Chapter 5: Comments On Specific Religions

Comments On Specific Religions


Ancient religions

1
In the Mithraic cult of the Middle East, the sun was united with the Earth, fertilizing it. We call Mithraism a religion of sun worship, but the hidden God behind it was the real object of worship. Yet the final end of all the solar activity--fertilization--was not forgotten. Spirt and Matter became one, daily life of the human being became his spiritual life. Then only did the results of this fertilization--the living crops--appear. Zen sahaja, natural samadhi--this is what they mean.

2
The sacred places where Druidic priests worshipped were chosen according to knowledge--geographic, astronomic, religious, ritualistic, symbolic, and magnetic.

3
It is something in history to ponder over that in the Alban hills, a few kilometres from Rome, there was once a Temple of Orpheus where, 3000 years ago, the Orphic mysteries were celebrated, where Orphic religion prevailed with its tenets of rebirth, fleshless diet, the quest, and inner reality. It is arguable whether the two other religions which followed it in that area have brought a better message.

4
The dualism of the Persian religions--Zoroastrianism and its kindred Mithraism--is ethical but the dualism of Indian religions is metaphysical. These are two quite different definitions. But in the case of the Christian Manichaeans, whose doctrine Saint Augustine followed for a time and later renounced as a heresy, there is a strange mixture of the ethical along with the metaphysical.


Bahaism

5
Granting the fact that an incarnation has been given a special mission by God which will affect millions of souls and that he must therefore be charged with special divine power, I am unable to see in what way he can be superior to other prophets who have come into close communion with God. It would seem that he would still come within the category of Muhammed's well-known statement, "I am only a man like you." Yet the status which the Bahai faith seems to assign to Baha'u'llah is nothing less than the divinity in the flesh. How can it be possible for even Baha'u'llah to have communed with the uncomprehensible, inconceivable Godhead directly if, as he says, that Godhead is beyond all human conception? Surely no man, however saintly he may be, can escape this limitation?

6
The criticism of the differences in my books from some of the teachings of Baha'u'llah and Bahaism are partly due to misunderstanding and partly to actual divergence. The latter arises, I believe, from the fact that in these days the Bahai faith stresses organization and institutionalism, whereas in the early days it was like primitive Christianity and primitive Islam, free from these later accretions. Although history shows that every religion has followed this course, I still consider the essence of religion to be mystical and not institutional.

7
To the extent that the Bahai faith has dropped the mystical side for the organizational, to that extent it has suffered inwardly however much it has expanded outwardly. In this it follows the history of most religions, which grow and spread their influence in the world at the cost of the purity and spirituality which should lie at their core.


Buddhism

8
Buddha, this godless yet godlike man, rejected most of the Gods in the Hindu pantheon, threw aside the sacrifices, rituals, prayers, and priestcraft current in his time. Buddha is worthy of every admiration because he showed men of rational temperament, men who find it difficult to believe in a God according to the common notion and who are not devotional by nature, how to attain the same spiritual heights as those do who believe and who are religious. He made room in heaven for the rationalist, the free-thinker, and the doubter of all things. Again, those whose familiarity with the Buddha is limited to his statues, with their characteristic attitude of contemplation, often form the wrong notion that he spent his life in inactivity and meditation. On the contrary, he lived strenuously, like Saint Paul, teaching and travelling incessantly, limiting his meditation to not more than an hour or two every day. If Buddha formulated the tragedy of existence, he did not permit his resultant pessimism to paralyse him into mere apathy.

9
That Buddha, like Jesus, wanted to reach the populace, there can be no doubt, except in the minds of the prejudiced. First, he went to extraordinary, most unusual lengths to repeat his teachings from different aspects, so as to make his meaning clearer. Second, he recommended his monks to use the ordinary dialects of simple people whenever they preached Doctrines which were both complex and subtle in themselves and needed simplification anyway.

10
If Buddha did not, like most of the other Indian teachers, affirm the existence of God, he did not deny it. But the reason for this position can be found in his environment, in the Indian scene--too much superstition masquerading as religion, too little respect for reason and fact.

11
The Buddhist can readily get rid of the charge of atheism by referring to the doctrine of Buddha concerning "Amitabha"--"the infinite light of revelation . . . the unbounded light, the source of wisdom and of virtue, of Buddhahood." It corresponds to the Christians' "Logos," the Word, "the true Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world."

12
It is not the prophet, not the seer, but the men who come later who found churches, establish organizations, and turn religion into a vested interest. Thus when Buddha was dying his attendant disciple, Ananda, was alarmed, according to the ancient records, and said: "The Master will not pass into Nirvana before he has arranged something about the Order?" The Buddha replied: "It would be one who would say, `I will lead the Order' or `The Order looks up to me' who would arrange something about it. But I did not think so. Why then should I make any arrangements about the Order?"

13
It is amusing irony that the very rites and ceremonies which the Brahmin priests tell the masses will advance their spiritual progress were denounced by Buddha because they hinder spiritual progress!

14
Although Zen was founded as a Buddhist sect, the Zen attitude toward humanity is far from the Buddha's, with his tender compassion. When I discussed the menace of another global war with a distinguished Japanese Zen leader, he coldly remarked that if it removed most of mankind it would be a good riddance of a nasty race! He felt no distress at the suffering involved. He seemed to look down at it as if the war were a little quarrel among little insects like destructive termites.

15
It is true that the Buddhist way is one of self-discipline and the Christian way one of discipleship, but this is so in appearance only and not in the highest schools of both ways, which are naturally esoteric; the latter approach each other much more closely. The Mahayana school, for instance, has many parallels with the Christian and has as much right to be regarded as authoritatively Buddhist as has the Southern School of Buddhism.


Christianity

16
If you want to learn what Christianity originally was, you must put together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, collecting them from the Protestant, the Roman Catholic, the Greek Orthodox, the Manichaean, and the Coptic Churches. Then you must add further pieces from the Alexandrian, the Russian, and the Syrian traditions.

17
The close relation between new faiths and old ones can still be readily traced in Asia, where the vestiges of the latter continue to flourish by the side of the former among aboriginal tribes. It can be traced, too, in African Egypt and Ethiopia, in lands even more accessible to the Western student of theological archaeology, by anyone who cares to venture into the Coptic churches and to examine the Coptic tradition. He will find it in many of the externals and theoretic dogmas of the simple primitive cult of Coptic Christianity, a cult whose propitiations of burning incense, unimpressive mass, cymballed music, and priestly blessings are replete with characteristics that were familiar enough to the Pharoahs. Christianity, which arose in a region midway between the Orient and the Occident, significantly moved westward first and then spread across Egypt, where it silenced the superannuated sanctuaries more quickly than in any other land. In fact, although the worship of Jesus was so quickly triumphant in this colony of Rome, it did not officially supplant the worship of Isis or Jupiter until the reign of Constantine two and a half centuries later.

18
The fact that Jesus was born in the Near East and not the Far East gave the religion that bears his name a geographical advantage and a historical familiarity which help to explain why Buddhism and Hinduism spread in all other directions except Westward. And the fact that the European-American mind is much more outward bent and much more attached to the personality than the tropical-Asiatic mind explains why Christianity had much more affinity with and appeal to the first mind.

19
Christ spoke to the Roman world, and to some of those parts of the Near East which were then included in the Roman Empire. Buddha spoke to Asia. Saint Paul and Timothy felt themselves "forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the Word in Asia." In short, Christianity is for the West since its civilization grew out of the Roman one.

20
The spectacle of so many sects, hostile to one another, teaching dogmas that Jesus never taught, raised probing questions in the minds of many Orientals who spoke to me about the matter.

21
The Oriental ideas about the spiritual goal and methods of spiritual practice as they appear in most Buddhist and many Hindu sects are not likely to appeal to Occidental seekers. For they seek the dissolution of human personality, either through merging into an inconceivable Unity or through disappearance into an indescribable Nirvana. As a rolling wave dissolves in the sea, as a wisp of smoke vanishes in the air, so does the separated human life enter its ultimate state. Few Westerners are prepared to renounce their own identity, to sacrifice their inborn attachment to personality for the sake of such a vague goal--one moreover which seems too much like utter annihilation to be worth even lifting a finger for! To most Westerners it is unpleasant and terrifying to look forward to such an end. For who gains by this goal? The man himself certainly does not. The absolute Unity remains what it was before; so it does not gain either. If we enquire why the goal is acceptable to the East but objectionable to the West, the answer will be partly found in the latter's religious history.

By seeking to perpetuate for all eternity the same human personality in the spirit world, too many orthodox church interpreters of Christ's teaching have misinterpreted it. For Christ taught in several clear sentences the giving up of self, the denial of personality. These theologians reduced this preachment to the practice of charity and unselfishness but kept the ego as something precious, whereas Jesus asked not only for these moral virtues, but for the immeasurably more important metaphysical-mystical virtue of rooting out the ego itself. The moral improvement of character is thus substituted for the metaphysical destruction of ego.

22
A more sympathetic study of the other Oriental religions, especially the Indian ones, would help Christians to understand better, and interpret more correctly, their own religion.

23
Those who support the sending of missionaries to foreign countries do so in the belief that they are honouring Jesus' words, "to publish the gospel to all parts of the world." But the world in his time and speech is not the world of our own. This is shown clearly by Saint Luke's allusion to it: "In those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed." Here "world" stands for the empire of the Romans. It does not include the Chinese, for instance.

24
Those who are not yet ready for any other than a Christian path would not be helped by Hindu and Buddhist literature.

25
The gospel story is not a transcript from the Indian story of Krishna, as some of the critics suggest. A few of the similarities are certainly there but the explanation is a mystical one.

26
The British soldier and sailor all unwittingly prepared the way for the British dissemination of Bibles throughout the world. The British Empire has been one of the carriers of the Christian scriptures.

27
Those who know little about the origin, history, and development of religious opinions would receive a shock, or rather a series of shocks, if they were to inquire into the development of the principal Western faith and if they were able to lay hands on the necessary material. But let them be warned that they will not find such material in official sources. There was once a very voluminous literature which contained the true Christian teaching, but it was completely exterminated by the official church as soon as the latter's triumph over these so-called heresies was established. How ironical it is that reincarnation, the very doctrine which is today regarded as a heresy--that is, a perversion of true doctrine--was originally regarded as an authentic one!

28
A Christianity once existed which has long been condemned and forgotten but which is as much nearer the true teaching of Jesus as it is nearer him in time. We refer to the school of the Gnostics. Their defeat and disappearance does not lessen their truth. The Gnostic Christians of the third century accepted the pre-existence and earthly rebirths of man. With this doctrine there came naturally the law of recompense, which warns men to heed more carefully what they think and do, for the results will return equally and justly in time.

29
Gnosticism was banned as heresy by the Church Councils, its books destroyed, its teachers persecuted. The truth in it was banned indiscriminately along with the untruth. The differing sects in it were treated all alike. That during Rome's luxurious and decadent periods some sects said we should give to the spirit what is of the spirit and to the flesh what is of the flesh, and practised immorality, is true. But it is also true that other sects presented the struggle by good forces against the evil ones in most dramatic and forceful terms. Its recognition of the meaning, place, and importance of "Light" seen in meditation was a prominent and valuable feature of Gnosticism.

30
Those Christians who were closest to Jesus' time did not set up two categories--those in the world and those living withdrawn from it outwardly, with the second as superior. It was monks who later made this division.

31
In the third-century pagan world, hate and envy prevailed. The propertied classes were hated by the poor, the working classes hated the middle class, while the army was hated by all classes. Christianity preached love to neighbours, philanthropy towards strangers, as the Emperor Julian, though hostile, reluctantly admitted. It would bring these mutually antagonistic classes together, as the Emperor Constantine saw. Pagan religions and philosophies revealed this, too, but failed to practise it, had become cold. This is one of the reasons, apart from the alleged visionary experience of a cross in the sky, which persuaded Constantine to adopt Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire.

32
The early Christians who spoke of being "in Christ" were men whose intense faith, devotion, and sacrifice had lifted them into the Overself consciousness.

33
The most intellectual early Christians were those who abode in Alexandria, for it was the greatest Mediterranean centre of philosophical learning before Christianity appeared in it.

34
Chrysostom was born about 347 a.d., Tertullian about 150 a.d. The latter was the first of the Church's Latin Fathers, well educated, a brilliant scholar, with numerous friends among the learned, and a wide knowledge of the tenets teachings and customs of his time.

The Christian thought of Clement and Dionysius is close to the higher philosophic thought of the Indian Rishee-sages. And this is not surprising when we remember that they got their ideas in Alexandria, which was then having regular commerce with India.

Was not the most important council of all the Council of Nicaea, which finally settled Christian doctrines for a thousand years, but which foolishly dropped the tenet of metempsychosis as heresy after it had survived the first five centuries of anno domino; was not this great gathering composed of men who mostly could neither write nor read, who were stern extreme ascetics, fanatical in character and behaviour, narrow, intolerant?

When the Romans ruled there were few means of communication, and even these were slow and difficult. Nor were there newspapers and printed books. The message of Jesus spread along Roman highways but even so took a few hundred years to find its hearers.

In symbolism of the Trinity, God signifies the World-Mind, Christ the Overself, and the Holy Ghost the Kundalini.

"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire."--Matthew 3:11.

Water has been universally used in sacred literature as a symbol of the emotional nature of man. The fluidic character of both is the reason for the use of this symbol. What John called "baptism by water" means therefore such a cleansing of the dominance of his animal passions, desires, and appetites. Consider further that it is the tendency of water always to flow downwards in obedience to the law of gravity, and then note the striking contrast of the tendency of fire, whose sparks always soar upwards. "Baptism by fire" therefore refers to a process on an entirely higher level, not to a merely negative purification but to a positive illumination. Light is one of the effects of fire. The work of John the Baptist was concerned with clearing the way for Jesus, the light-bringer, a preparation that was not only outward and annunciatory but also inward and purificatory. John collected "followers" for Jesus; they were the masses who sought physical help and emotional comfort in their troubles and sicknesses. But Jesus, when he came in person, not only gathered all these followers but also collected "disciples"; they were those who had no necessity to seek such help and comfort, but were attracted by the Spirit itself as it shone through Jesus. They were the few who received the baptism of fire and by the Holy Ghost. Many people became followers but few became disciples.

There is, further, a difference between the baptism by the Holy Ghost and the baptism by fire. The baptism by the Holy Ghost arouses and awakens the potentialities of the dynamic Life-force, raising its voltage far above the ordinary. This process is usually accompanied by thrills, ecstasies, or mystical raptures. It represents the first awakening on the spiritual level as it filters through the partially cleansed emotional nature. Baptism by fire represents the next and highest stage after this event, when, the thrill of the new birth has subsided and when, in a calmer and steadier condition, the intelligence itself becomes illumined in addition to the feelings, thus balancing them.

In Love (for the highest) in Wisdom (of intuition and Intelligence) and Power (the creative energy of the Overself) we find the inner meaning of the Holy Trinity.

Christianity's most solemn ritual--the celebration of the Holy Eucharist--which symbolized membership by a common meal, was partly taken from the pagan Mysteries. This is the part that was brought in during a later century.

The public confession of sin, "sharing," as one cult calls it, is unnecessary and leads in the end to exhibitionism. The Roman Church, in the wisdom of many centuries, rightly has made the confessional a private affair, heard only by the priest, and even then the penitent only half-sees him through the gauze curtain in the booth.

It is a misunderstanding of the benefit of confession or sharing, which has value only if done with or before a superior person. With others it is futile or harmful.

Ought he not enter the confessional booth to denounce not only his sins but also his stupidities? Is it not a duty of human beings to display intelligence?

That the cross was a mystical symbol used in the ancient Mysteries was known to Plato. In the Republic he wrote: "The just man, having suffered all manner of evils, will be crucified."

Jesus did not construct any religious system or creed, Church or doctrine. Others did that when he was no longer there to say Yes or No. Christianity was therefore their creation, not his.

A reincarnated Jesus appearing in our century would not be able to recognize his original message in the orthodox sects of our time.

These three doctrines--now turned by the Church for its own motives into three dogmatic superstitions--were, and are, sacred truths before being corrupted. They are the Crucifixion, the Atonement, and the Trinity. Trinitarianism in its present form was never taught by Jesus. It came into Christian doctrine centuries after he lived.

Nowhere does Jesus in the publicly available sayings included in the New Testament order the formation of a clergy or preach the need of a church or lay down a ritual. Instead he gave clear precise instruction on how to pray: "Enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret." But Paul thought differently and founded what is now misnamed Christianity.

The Inspired Prophets did not themselves personally organize religion. What they did was to give inspiration to those individuals who could respond to it. It was their followers, men acting on external methods, men with limited capacity, who organized and eventually exploited institutions. Indeed these followers had no alternative but to use such methods, not possessing themselves the inner depth of the prophets. The truth is that nobody has ever really organized religion, for it is a private and personal affair between each individual and his God. It is men who have organized themselves for purposes derived from their religious feelings--which is not the same as organizing religion itself. All such organizations are man-made throughout, as is also the authority they claim. There is no record in the New Testament speeches of Jesus that he himself appointed apostles. Consequently we must believe that they appointed themselves after he was no longer present among them. The basic claim of certain Churches to be a continuation of this apostolate has no ground to support it in Jesus' own statements. It is because of this claim that the Catholic Church does not theoretically recognize the right to freedom of worship on the part of other religious organizations, although in actual practice it gradually found it expedient to grant that right on practical grounds. "My kingdom is not of this world," declared Jesus. We may easily identify to which world these institutions belong, which were later organized in his name, by noting the official status which they secure in "this world." This explains the historic opposition occurring at times between the true spirit of Jesus and the worldly behaviour of his Church. It is regrettable that most people confuse an institution with the man upon whose name it may be built. There is no indication that Jesus ever wanted an organized church, but there is every indication that it was his followers who wanted it and who made it. Unfortunately, the masses do not understand this but are easily deceived into thinking that they are in touch with Jesus through his Church when in reality they are not so at all. To find Jesus they must go deep into their own hearts. There is no other way.

Search all the words of Jesus and you will not find the word "religion" uttered once in reference to what he was teaching. It was a way of positive living, although men have turned it into a mere social convention.

The truth about Jesus and about his teaching is hard to find today. For it is buried under a man-built mountain of deliberate falsification and superstitious accretion.

Jesus is honoured in every Christian Church by name, by chanted hymn, and by carven figure. Why does it not also honour his tremendous teaching that the kingdom of heaven is within man himself, not within the church?

The great Galilean was put by God among very little men. What he told them was beyond their comprehension, so they emotionalized it, sentimentalized it, organized it, and produced an all-too-human and undivine thing.

The severe impact of Jesus' phrases, stripped of embellishment and free from rhetoric as they are, shows up the lengthy lucubrations of official religionists for what they are.

Nowhere in the parables, nowhere in the spoken words of Jesus is there any teaching showing that he wanted an ecclesiastical hierarchy established or that he instituted a system of sacraments.

The so-called Holy Inquisition was quite unholy and more akin to those who persecuted the early Christians than to Christianity itself.

When men become enslaved by their religious symbols to the extent that they are willing to murder other men for them, or even to imprison them, when this slavery blinds their better sight and renders them fanatically intolerant of all other views, Nature deems it time to liberate both--the first from their sin, the others from their suffering. When ecclesiastics become intolerant and forget the first virtue of all religion--which is goodwill towards other men--and when they begin to persecute good men who are unable to agree with them, they not only put others in danger but also themselves. Jesus is one authority for this statement, for he warned all mankind that they would reap the circumstances sown by their conduct. Another authority is the ever-open bloodstained book of history. A good deal of true Christianity burnt itself out in the medieval fires which its more ardent advocates lit for each other and for those unfortunate infidels who knew nothing more of Christ than his name.

When the earth was regarded as flat, it seemed plausible to believe that God was a super-Person somewhere out in the heights of space, separate from His universe and beyond its limits. The philosophers of Alexandria never accepted this view and were later persecuted by those who did--ignorant religious fanatics.

The figure of Jesus has been molded into fictions by credulous, imaginative, or professionally interested priests--fictions that were acceptable to the marvel-loving taste of posterity. But no marvel could be greater than what he taught--the entry into the kingdom of heaven, which is nothing else than a conscious return to the true nature of man. Thousands of theologians have scrutinized his personality and estimated the worth of his teachings, but most of them have deluded themselves because only those who have come within the orbit of a living sage can possibly understand him or his words, in their truest significance. Jesus made an impact on the spiritual life of the West, but that impact has never been properly evaluated because it cannot be perceived in the light of Church organization but somewhere else--in the hearts of men. Although he did not properly belong to our own planet, he gave us the emphatic assurance that we too might win his realization and attainment; we too might uncover our true selves and enter the Light. Professors come and write their academic footnotes to his work, but he must be viewed for what he was--not the organizer of a Church but the planter of living, unseen seeds that fertilized in their own special way in the nature of Western man. He owed and demanded allegiance to no particular sect or school, and he paid fealty to no earthly master. He stood out only under the auroral light of divinity which shone down upon his life. He descended like an angel to dwell in the tabernacle of flesh at a time when religious life was but a guttering candle.

Jesus emanated love, Jesus brought truth, and Jesus incarnated forgiveness.

Whether Jesus was merely human or really divine is a question which may worry others but which does not trouble me. He had something to communicate and did so. He had affirmation to make, a gospel to give which supported so many people for so many centuries. That men have demeaned his message, exploited his person, and twisted his words is regrettable but, men being what they are, expectable. It is good that he came, for clearly they needed him.

Whether we put Christ's telling Truths into hard syllogisms and heavy intellectual dogmas which enter the mind or simple but noble phrases which are felt in the heart, we must accept them.

Most Christian churches and sects have claimed a spiritual monopoly. The main foundation for this claim is the sixteenth verse of the third chapter of John where the Evangelist says that Jesus is "the only begotten son of God." But nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus himself make the same assertion. On the contrary, he went out of his way to tell men, "The works that I do shall ye do also," thus refusing to put himself in a unique separate and unattainable species, which would make it impossible for other men to imitate his example or hope to attain his understanding.

The belief that Jesus was specially created, as no one before or since has been, is unacceptable. The belief that Jesus was one among the other great souls invested with special power is both acceptable and reasonable.

"Why callest thou me good?" asked Jesus. "There is none good but one; that is God." If these words mean anything, they mean that he is still a human being, however close and harmonious is his relationship with God, and that he is not to be deified.

When Jesus declared that he was the Way, he spoke as the infinite Christ-self in every man, not as the finite person Jesus. He meant that whoever sought God, the Father, had to come through this higher self, could not find him by any other channel. This only was the Way.

The Sermon on the Mount is truly representative of Jesus' teaching. It holds first place in the literature of the world; it contains the essence of practical Christianity expressed as finely as is humanly possible.

Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is not merely a pretty speech. It is a discipline. Therefore, it is only for his disciples. The masses who seek benefits or follow convention, not being ready for the effort, cannot be called disciples.

When Jesus told his adult hearers that they had to become children before they could enter the kingdom, he made what must have sounded an astonishing assertion to them. What did he mean? How are we to interpret and apply his words? There are two ideas worth noting here. First, a child enjoys living. Second, a child thinks, feels, and acts spontaneously. Both these factors are combined in its direct awareness of life, untrammelled by hesitations or obstructions imposed from without and unfiltered by colourings or opinions imposed from within.

I had heard from different sources--Hindu, Buddhist, Nestorian and Indian Christian--of this legend which is current in the Western Himalaya region and in Chinese Turkestan, that Jesus came as a young man to India and spent several years there before returning to Palestine.

We hear much of Jesus' being the friend of sinners and outcasts. But the fact was that he was also the friend of good people and society's supporters. It is true to say that his mission was chiefly to the populace, the common people, but that did not mean that he was hostile to those classes whose grammar and diction were superior and whose possessions and status were higher.

It is hardly credible, to those who understand, that Jesus ascended quite literally and physically "to heaven." This assertion can be credible only to those who ignore Jesus' own statement that "the Kingdom of heaven is within you," those who look to the sky for its abode. For the same reasons, Jesus' second coming is also not to be taken literally, visibly, and physically, but inwardly as an experience in the heart.

Christ's supposed despairing exclamation on the cross, and also his last uttered words, "My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" have been wrongly translated, according to the Nestorian Christians, one of the oldest sects, whose Bible in the Aramaic language in which Jesus spoke gives the phrase as: "My God; For this was I kept," meaning, "This is my destiny."

It is one more of life's singular paradoxes that such a man as Jesus, who incarnated essential goodness, who would not wish to inflict the slightest hurt on any creature, who came here among men to be appreciated, even revered, so that they might draw the return back-flow of spiritual life-current to revive a materialistic world, met so much insensitivity. So many saw nothing superior in him but denigrated him, attacked him, vilified him, and sought his death.

It is utterly impossible to find in the first drawings, carvings, or pictures of Christ any reference to his suffering on the Cross.

The orthodox view of the Bible is untenable, according to philosophic tradition. It is really a collection of books written in different centuries by men on different levels of inspiration. It mixes half-history with myth, and legend with allegory and poetry. The tribal memories of the Hebrews are put on the same level--which is a mistake--as the inspired revelations of their seers and the Mystery teachings they learned in Egypt and Chaldea. The orthodox view of Jesus is equally dispelled by philosophic insight. The man Jehoshua, who was the real figure behind the legendary one, lived a hundred years before the supposed date. Although much of the teaching associated with his name in the New Testament is actually his own, not much of the life there given is actually historical. The narrative in its pages is partly an allegory depicting a disciple's mystical journey ending in the crucifixion of his ego and partly an excerpt from Jehoshua's biography. There was no violent death, no physical crucifixion in this biography.

We need not torture our reason to accept these parts of the New Testament which seem incredible. If we give some of them an allegorical meaning, as being taken from the mythology of a mystery cult, and reject the others as the results of deliberate tampering with the text, as obvious interpolations, we shall be able to justify all the more our faith in the credible parts. For with them is interwoven the genuine historical narrative of the real life of the man Jesus. The result is a mixed composition, where the Annunciation and Crucifixion are not to be taken literally, but Jesus' preaching and his disciples' apostolate are. The biographic Jesus must be separated from the symbolic Christ, for the one is an earthly figure and the other a mystical concept.

Consider how vain, how puffed-up these mortals be when they declare that nothing less than the One Infinite Power--the Absolute Itself--deliberately incarnated as man to help them. Surely if it had such intent it would act more in accord with its own laws of progressive development and send here another mortal but a more advanced one. Such a man could be found on a more advanced planet. And this is what happened. Jesus came here from a higher planet. There was no need for God to intervene directly.

Benedict de Spinoza's mathematical mind led him to put into apt mathematical symbol this same criticism: "The doctrine that God took upon Himself human nature I have expressly said I do not understand. In fact, to speak the truth, it seems to me no less absurd than would a statement that a circle had taken upon itself the nature of a square."

There are a number of alleged portraits of Jesus, some passed down traditionally and others made in our own time by psychic means. They are not in agreement with each other. But this contradiction is resolved when we understand that each is the fruit of the artist's own idea. They are imaginative conceptions.

Jesus was not an ordained minister, yet his preachments have outlived many centuries. He was only a layman, yet he brought more reverential feeling for the higher power to more people than thousands of clergymen combined.

Jesus said: "Except you eat the body of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." In the Aramaic idiomatic and colloquial language the phrase means: "endure suffering and work hard." Also, "Eloï, Eloï, lämä säbächthänï," could not possibly mean, in the case of a man so advanced as Jesus was, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" In the Aramaic common speech it becomes clear, for there it means, "My God, my God, for this (destiny) I was preserved."

There has been much miscomprehension of Jesus' proclamation that the kingdom of God was immanent. It did not refer to a future event but to a present fact; it was not prophetic but Vedantic. The kingdom is "at hand" always; immediacy is its correct attribute.

Not once in all his recorded sayings did Jesus ever refer to, or use the word, Hell.

Jesus is the Greek transcription of the Hebrew name Jehoshua. Christus is Latin, Khristos in the Greek, which is a title meaning "anointed," as Buddha, meaning "enlightened," is a title, and Gautama the name.

During the course of my studies I have been shown three portraits of Jesus which seemed to be immeasurably more authentic than the oversentimentalized, utterly unrealistic ones which the Western world self-deceptively takes so seriously. Yet all three were sufficiently different from each other for each to present a different aspect of his personality. The first was a drawing quickly made by Jacques Romans, a clairvoyant friend who died when he was nearly 100 years old. I do not know what became of this portrait. The second was an oil painting by another clairvoyant, Boyin Ra, which his widow showed me in their Swiss home. The third is a fresco in the Assembly Hall where Canons meet in Chapter of Monastery of St. Mark, Florence, by the Dominican monk and visionary Fra Angelico. In the drawing, the aspect shown was that of a man in absorbed communion with his Father. In the canvas it was a man confronting the world fully possessed by the strength of the Spirit. In the fresco it is the Christ of the Crucifixion, extraordinarily sad--for the human race. Thus the first typified Prayer in depth, the second, divine Power, and the third, mysterious melancholy, Pity. Yet they were of a real man, not a fanciful one.

In ancient Rome as in modern Europe, in Attica as in America there were, and are, humanists who reject religion as such but concede its usefulness in restraining the baser expressions of human character. If they cannot denigrate Jesus, they deride his spiritual message. They may accept him as a good man, as an ethical teacher, but not his revelation that God is and that man may commune with Him.

Jesus went to the length of denouncing as hypocrites those who were outwardly faithful in performing religious practices, but who were secretly sinning in thought.

Christ's mission was addressed to the common man with limited intellectual attainments. I have said so in my book A Search in Secret Egypt. That is why he did not publicly teach the metaphysical truths.

James, the brother of Jesus and an Apostle, was a vegetarian. But the theologians and historians ignore this fact which was testified to by the Judeo-Christian Hegesippus, who lived in the century following and had contact with the Palestinian circles of the Apostolic time. Moreover Hegesippus asserts that James had been brought up in this way since childhood. Does this imply that the family circle was vegetarian?

The first need for Christian theology is to separate the teaching of Jesus from that of the unfortunately canonized Paul, who never even met him and who began to organize a Church, spread a doctrine, and formulate an asceticism of his own. This gained power and prevailed far too long, being the chief contribution to keeping people from the true Christianity.

If Paul had not busied himself with turning Jesus' inspiring message "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you!"--meaning it is within you NOW--into an ascetic message of long-drawn war against the carnal body; if he had listened better and learned more from that flash which lighted his road to Damascus, instead of returning to the bias and prejudice of his innate nature, he might have given history a higher, less Judaic, version of Christianity.

Some of the statements of Saint Paul are on a religious level and are very questionable; others, on a mystical level, are representative of his own but not of general experience; while still others, on the philosophical level, as in his remark to the Greeks about the Unknown God, are quite confused. But he was used to spread Christianity despite this, because of his fervent missionary temperament; and so his preachments were mainly effective and serviceable to the cause, even though they led in the end to a vast organization which was never mentioned, desired, or suggested even once by Jesus.

It must be said, and said quite plainly, that the Western and Near Eastern worlds would have had a better history, and Christianity would have had a stronger foundation, because truer, if Saint Paul had never been converted but had remained a Jew. For the vision on the road to Damascus, although a genuine one, was totally misinterpreted. It was a command (to stop persecuting Christians) of a solely personal nature; but he went much farther and not only began the construction of a new world-religion but shifted its emphasis from where Jesus had put it (the kingdom of heaven within men) to Jesus himself, from faith in the Christ-consciousness to faith in a crucified corpse.

The apostle Bartholomew preached in India--this is stated by the Early Church Father Jerome, and by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History. Others add that he also taught in Persia and Egypt.

Quote from Saint Paul: "In Him we live and move and have our being." In Mind we have God, man, and the universe. All are of Mind, pure Being, pure Consciousness, so in Mind we humans live, move, and have our being. Is not this a mentalistic statement equivalent to the religious statement of Saint Paul? The fact that the saint arrives at it through his own personal experience and that the mentalist arrives at it either through his own deep reflection or personal revelatory experience does not alter the identity of the basic idea.

Pantaenus, who went as a missionary to India in the very early Christian times, was not an ordinary missionary: he was a Gnostic, a Christian mystic.

When pure religion descends upon the earth and makes its way among men, two things will happen. It will dissolve the false belief of the populace that they already possess it, and it will receive the opposition of religious institutions with pretensions to represent it. It was Saint Paul who started Christianity on the road which turned it into Churchianity. But he derived his Christian knowledge at second hand. He knew less about the work which Jesus sought to do on this earth than about the work which he himself sought to do. He is the true founder of the Christian Church, its first great propagator, but he is not the truest interpreter of Jesus' message. It is the Church's personal self-interest, however unconsciously present, which has made the apostle Paul the most praised Christian teacher and the most frequently mentioned one in all the sermons and writing of the clergy. Never having met Jesus, he should not be blamed for never having fully understood Jesus' teaching. The grave consequences of this misunderstanding appeared later in the form of obstacles which interposed themselves between Jesus and his true work, and which succeeded in diverting and distorting it. They were organization, dogma, hierarchy, and literalness. Where Jesus tried to create Christian individuals, Saint Paul tried to create Christian groups. This opened the door to hypocrisy, externalism, materialism, ritualism, priestcraft, persecution, and deterioration. The realizable kingdom of heaven within man had to give way to an unrealizable kingdom of God on earth. The way back to true religion must therefore lie through making a fresh start with new ideas and a fresh approach through individual self-development.

Without Paul, Christianity could never have had any future in Europe and would have remained and died in obscurity. Paul brought it to Greece and Rome and put it into formulations that reached the non-Asiatic mind.

That Saint Peter was the proper successor of Christ, with all that this assertion entails for church and bishop, is at least debatable.

Saint Paul had passed through the initiatory revelation given by the Greek Mystery schools, and the results show in his writings.

The Catholic Church is nearer to philosophy than most Protestant sects. Its mystical meditations, ascetical disciplines, metaphysical activity, and secret doctrine are some points of contact, despite its ritualism and antimentalistic theology.

Reverend C.O. Rhodes: "Protestantism makes no provision for the contemplatives and loses much as a result."

The contrast between the Catholic and Protestant missionary in Asia is striking. The latter has divided his allegiance, part to wife and family, part to mission. The former is free and fully devoted. The Protestant carries the double burden--family welfare and mission welfare.

What is your attitude towards the Pope? This is a question I am sometimes asked. My answer is: I have much respect for him as an individual. I believe he is a man who lives in prayerful fellowship with spiritual forces. I might even be willing to accept the claim that, historically and legally, he is the successor of Saint Peter, but I have not studied this point. Unfortunately, I am unable to respect His Holiness as an institution, for I am unable to accept the claim that he is the Vicar of Christ on earth. Christ's true church is not built with hands and his representative is to be found by each man in his own heart alone. [We are uncertain to which pope this para refers.--Ed.]

I am equally unable to accept the Roman Catholic doctrine that true saints have existed only within the Roman church and that all others are impostors, lunatics, or self-deceived.

Although I personally do not belong to this or any religious organization, I sympathize with Quaker ideals, respect the Quaker ethos, and admire the Quaker individual. But although the Quaker form of worship is quite lofty from the religious standpoint, it is not lofty enough from the mystical one. Its silent meditation is good, but its congregational meditation cannot attain the profound depth possible in private and solitary meditation. Moreover, its expression in uttered speech of what "the holy spirit moves us to say," although helpful from a religious standpoint, is a hindrance from the mystical one. For it disturbs the individual concentration.

A community which has always been told by its rules that the corporate form of worship is the primary and necessary one cannot leap suddenly into the blinding glare of full truth. It has to travel first from the quarter-truth to the half-truth, and so on. The Quaker method of group meditation is such an advance. It represents a loftier view of the meaning of worship because it shifts the emphasis from outward sacrament to inward holiness, from swallowed creed to quiet "waiting on the Lord." But from the true mystical standpoint, this group form is only a concession to traditional human habit and gregarious human weakness. Nevertheless, if anyone feels that membership of a religious body is essential to him, then I would recommend him to join the Society of Friends, or Quakers, as they are more popularly called. Not that I am satisfied with all their doctrines and methods, but that I consider there is more honesty and more safety amongst them, less exploitation and less insincerity than amongst any other religious denomination I know. That there is no paid class of professional clergy in the Society of Friends is undoubtedly one of the factors which contribute to this purity.

When Pope John announced his project for a convocation, it was a history-making piece of news. His prophetic vision showed him the need for his Church to rethink, renew, reactivate, and reinspire inside itself, not only its own body but also outside in its relations with the other Churches. The Vatican Councils which followed the Ecumenical movement are signs of the times.

The Eastern Orthodox Church allows the lower ranks of priest to marry, but not the higher ones. This is because the fathers considered celibacy a prerequisite to enlightenment. "Acquire chastity," enjoined Saint Ephraim, the Syrian, "that the Holy Spirit may come to dwell in thee." (The latter's writings are much read in the Mount Athos monasteries, which helps to explain why women are forbidden to visit them.)

What the Methodist finds at his church through group singing is not quite the same as what the Quaker finds at his Meeting-house through group silence. The one method is purely emotional, the other is passively intuitional. Both Methodist and Quaker are uplifted but there is a difference in the quality of the result.

Luther carried out the work for which he incarnated--the purifying of a once great religion from the selfishness and sinfulness and commercialism which had made it a hindrance that spoiled its helpfulness.

If men like Cardinal Newman, T.S. Eliot, G.K. Chesterton, and Graham Greene turned away from Protestantism to Catholicism despite their brilliant minds, it was not in quest of the truth but to escape from truth. They were poets at heart and in the Holy Church found satisfaction for their feelings. The beauty of its ritual, the mystery of its dogma, and the music of its chants appealed where intellect resigned itself to incapacity.

Whereas the Greek Orthodox Church gives its liturgy the primary importance, the Protestant Churches give it to the Bible.

The younger Luther learned much from German mystics, but the mature Luther rejected them. What he eagerly absorbed at one time he completely discarded at another time. What was truth earlier, he called "vain fantasy" later.

The Calvinist's stubborn ascription of salvation wholly to grace is as extreme and one-sided as the yogi's ascription of it to self-labour. It is not less extreme than the Calvinist view of fate, with its iron hardness.

Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is within us: he did not say that the Church is within us.

Christianity in its beginnings was a mystical religion. Its only hope of recovery from the ailments which afflict it now is to return to the road it has deserted.

They need not look beyond Christ and Christianity for these verities but they must learn to understand Christ and interpret his message on a deeper level than the professional hierarchies have been able to do.

The only way in which the individual can find Jesus today is to seek for him within his own heart by the means of constant prayer and study, together with the faithful carrying out of his teachings in all daily life.

The initiated early Christians understood well enough that the Christ was no other than their own higher self, the Overself. This was true then; it is true now. The Christ-Babe must come to birth in a man's own heart before he can become a real Christian. The true Christian, as distinct from the merely nominal one, feels this force which enters his heart, but it is something very different from, and much superior to, mere emotion.

The woman of deep Christian piety who has striven to follow this path knows well that in the Christ-Self within her heart she has her greatest treasure. Its Presence is the God she is to worship. She will have learned in the past the mysterious value of tears--tears of spiritual yearning, as well as tears of worldly grief.

The Church that Jesus actually founded was not an ecclesiastical organization, complete with its credos, liturgies, rituals, robed prelates, and imposing buildings of its own, but a deeper awareness of being and a better outlook on life. It was therefore an unseen Church, laical rather than clerical.

The message of Jesus, which was so largely a call to repentant deeds and changed thoughts, is needed today by us all much more than it was needed by the Jews of his time.

The noble life of Jesus inspires sensitive men as few lives have done. The benign sayings of Jesus afford them matter for heartfelt ethical reflection during the peace of eventide. The terrible sufferings of Jesus have taught his weaker kindred how to bear their own personal misfortunes with strength, courage, and dignity. The true followers of Jesus have spent great sums and given much food, clothing, shelter, and education through varied praiseworthy charitable enterprises.

There are several matters which are not dealt with by the personal teaching of Jesus. Is it not proper therefore to regard them within the general spirit of his teaching? And where there is only a single uncertain mention of such a matter, is it not safer again to interpret it within the light of that same internal spirit rather than within the letter of mere external logic? If we do this, we will find it impossible to give to the word "church" the meaning which the materialistic mind historically gives to it. The true Christian church was an invisible one.

When religionists realize that Jesus' simple and eloquent sayings are more important to them than Jesus' unhistorical and less significant doings, and when they begin to look into the inward mystical experience which found expression in those sayings, they and their cause will gain much, while the dissensions and schisms, the rivalry and dispute among their churches will grow less.

Is it not heresy to the orthodox to proclaim that potentially every man can know, and unite with, the Christ-consciousness, and thus in effect is the Christ-self?

If the teachings of Jesus, for example, were correctly interpreted, if the teachings of the churches which use his name were freed from the ignorant accretions and veiled materialisms which he never taught, the Western people would then be so effectively helped by their religion that it would undergo an intellectual rebirth.


Hinduism

If the Roman Catholic faith teaches that Salvation is the highest and most desirable aim in human life, the Hindu faith teaches that freedom from rebirth is such an aim.

Religion teaches mythology as historical fact. The Hindu holy book Vishnu Purana tells of a king who massacred the male children in his country in a vain search for the divine Krishna, whose fortunes, it was predicted, would menace his own. The Jewish scriptural tale of the infant Moses and the Egyptian scriptural tale of the infant Osiris escaping from exactly the same danger are significant. We have here versions, different in time and altered by time, of one and the same event, whose original is lost in the prehistory of Central Asia. Or, alternatively, we have an equally ancient myth whose inner meaning needs to be fathomed.

The Hindu religion does not have congregational worship. Its temples are for the individual devotee. Its priests serve him alone, not a group of devotees.

Coconut is a sacred fruit, used in many or most Hindu religious ceremonies. It represents the human head, hence bloodless sacrifice. It is believed to be the only fruit without seed.

The study of comparative religion shows that Hinduism's "Divine Mother" is simply the Creative Energy of the universe. The name and form are merely symbolic, but have been taught to the simple masses of a pre-scientific age, being better within their grasp.


Islam

Sheikh Al-Alawi: "The acts of worship were prescribed for the sake of establishing remembrance of God." Here a Sufi teacher puts in a short pithy sentence the chief service of most religions.

Non-Islamic people react with horror and contempt when they learn from history that those who rejected the Islamic religion when proffered to them by invading armies were then given an ultimatum: "Die by the sword or become a slave for life!" But the background to these incidents needs to be seen. The Arabia of Muhammed's time was inhabited by semi-savage tribes: Islam was originally an attempt to lift them forcibly to a higher, more civilized life, and a higher view of religion. That Muhammed's followers later tried to impose Islam on more developed peoples, especially Christian and Hindu people, was wrong.

During the minutes of prayer, Muhammedans the world over turn concentrically in the direction of Mecca. The physical unity which they thus achieve is a fit emblem of the spiritual unity which all men will one day achieve--for all must eventually turn toward the Overself.

Christian Europeans who came into contact with the Saracens and learned some Sufi truths and practices started the Rosicrucian movement. The rose was a Sufi metaphor for the mystic exercise (meditation in some form). The Cross was added by these Europeans.


Jainism

Jain meditation is for self-contemplation or for purifying ideas and emotions or for loving and reverencing an ideal still beyond us, an ideal embodied in some historical sage but which is realized for the time being through mental union within oneself.


Judaism

Christ came as an obscure prophet, teacher, avatar (call him what you wish) and did not attain sufficient fame to be written about in any of the contemporary Roman imperial histories. Yet this obscure man's teachings became known throughout the world. And yet he was repulsed by the Jews, who in turn were repulsed by the people with whom they lived. Why did the Jews turn away from him? Was it not because of their failure to recognize the stronger light which he had brought them? And was his failure not due to their excessive nostalgia in looking back to the times when they were a free nation? Was it not due to their excessive fidelity to their ancient religion, to their lack of flexibility?

The synagogue at Nazareth which expelled Jesus and the synagogue at Amsterdam which expelled Spinoza--are these not symbols of the failure of official religion to raise itself above its own selfishness and take up its true mission? Are they not reminders of its inner bankruptcy?

The Jews, whose original prophet-seers must have comprehended the meaning of pure Spirit, who were forbidden to make any graven images for themselves, have made several in the form of the spirit-suffocating letter of their Torah, their Talmud, their Old Testament, their traditions and customs. All this, intended to uplift and purify, not only failed to do so but prevented them from recognizing Jesus for what he was.

An unpublished paper on the history and solution of the Jewish problem by P.B. gives the spiritual meaning of the mission to humanity of the Jewish people, their opportunities and failures in the past, why they were persecuted, and the great opportunity which will come to them to close their whole tragic history and enter a new, happy phase--if they will follow the advice given to them. Had they accepted Jesus two thousand years ago as a prophet from their own line, they would have saved themselves much misery. Now it is a mockery that Jesus is not followed even by so-called Christian nations. It is too late (and no longer timely) for the Jews to accept Jesus. Where, then, are they to look? The problem is stated and a solution attempted in this paper. This is the only one that would be successful as well as the only solution that is divinely commanded. [To date, this paper has not been located.--Ed.]

Both Buddha and Solomon were not stupefied by their royal luxury: each noted the sad side of life. "The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth," bemoaned the Israelite.

It is interesting to note that the philosophic ideas of the French eighteenth-century Enlightenment writers got their basic thought from Spinoza's critiques of the Hebrew Bible, despite their personal dislike of the Jews themselves. Voltaire was decidedly anti-Semitic.

YHWH, in Exodus 3, was the name given, to Moses, by that Presence which spoke to him out of the bush, and its derivation followed--the Hebrew root for being! That it became the narrowed concept of a tribal anthropomorphic god--Jahweh--is the inevitable historical consequence; that is what the tribe could take and be satisfied with.

Once I wandered into the prewar Ghetto of Venice--a small and uninviting quarter where the Jews were formerly made to live by law, and where a few still resided because they were too poor to live in a better place. I thought of this dark race, its long and painful history, and the words of Charles Lamb rose in my memory: "The Jew is a piece of stubborn antiquity compared to which Stonehenge was in its nonage." I saw the Wandering Jew shambling through the centuries. I pondered on his meaning. And these were my thoughts:

They could not altogether escape their strange destiny, which took them out of their native land and forced them to wander though half the world. It was their own stubborn conservatism which brought them among strange peoples, still clutching tightly to their own worn-out creed and not as missionaries of Jesus' loftier development of it. Thus instead of bringing light as they might have done, had they responded to the sacred call, they brought merely physical goods, for their cosmopolitanism found its full scope in creating and financing the import and export trade of many countries.

In a curiously distorted and obviously inferior manner, the Jews have played a historic role which is an indirect reflection of the higher role they could have played as the first wholly Christian nation. They carried earthly goods to the different nations when they might have carried unearthly ideas.

The legendary story of the Wandering Jew has a profound esoteric significance. Even the Jewish claim of being a chosen race also possesses a similar significance, albeit it is one which the Jews themselves have failed to grasp. If they are no longer a chosen race, it is for them to reflect why this is so.

The more cultured among the early Christians understood that the Overself--whom they called Christ--was the real object of their worship, the ultimate goal of their mystical endeavour, and that the man Jesus was but its Voice--like those other voices with which the Word periodically breaks its silence for the guidance of bewildered mankind.



The Notebooks are copyright © 1984-1989, The Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.