Tuesday 30 October 2018

Why Do People Not Recognise Jesus?

That is, why do people not recognise Jesus for who he is? If he really is who he claims to be then surely that should be apparent? He should strike an echo in every human heart. But even during his lifetime there were plenty of people who saw and heard him but did not recognise him and so consequently rejected him. And now, though you might think he is plainly revealed in scripture, religion, tradition and art, there are many who do not recognise him.

I would say there are several answers to this but they each have to do with the failure of a particular human faculty: something that should be open, and would be in an unfallen world, is closed, either fully or partially.

These faculties are the intellect, the imagination and the will. If properly functioning, each one of these should be able to recognise Christ. If correctly orientated to the good, they would all see the truth of Christ and the person would respond accordingly. So, the fact that one does not recognise Jesus points to a defect in the individual concerned.

For those who have grown up in a non-Christian culture the situation is a little different. We are all influenced by our environment,  and what has developed in an alien environment may not sit comfortably with us for various reasons to do with habit, custom, loyalty and sense of tradition. But most people in Europe and America are the product of a Christian culture, even if that is now at one or two removes, so they do not have this excuse. And actually, even those who have been born into one of the other world religions might be able to see that Christ really is something more than anything in those religions. They all have aspects of him but not him revealed and in his fullness.

Let us take these human faculties that should be able to see Christ for who he is one by one. First, the intellect. I am using this word not only in the sense of reason (as opposed to faith) but also that in us which enables us to know and to understand. A more highly developed intellect should certainly be able to understand more of Christ but I believe that a properly functioning intellect at any level should be able to see the truth of Christ. If our mind is open to truth then we should know Christ. I am not disputing that, to such a mind, doubt and uncertainty might also be present, but these are only primary when the intellect has become clouded by worldliness.

The imagination is that in us which opens up the mind to what is beyond sensory perception. A correctly ordered imagination, one uncorrupted by egotism, demonic influence or unholy desire, would respond to the reality of Jesus. It would see the truth in a passage of scripture or a story from his life or even a great painting. It would see the truth in him and him as the truth. There would be something like an inner opening such as when the bud of a flower is touched by the sun.

When the will is directed to righteousness and truth then it can respond to Christ but if it is centred on itself and its own ends it may well fail to respond as it should. So, if we do not recognise Christ it could be because we do not want to, either because we do not want to behave in the way that would require or because we do not want what Christ promises.

I recognise that there are mitigating circumstances in all these cases, particularly for people living nowadays. Many people are not properly introduced to Christ. Either they do not meet him at all, knowing of him only at a distance, or else they are given a false image of him, one distorted by human beings, and they reject that as inadequate. But even these people have a responsibility to seek out the truth and not just be satisfied with secondhand knowledge. Somewhere inside us all we know that we have come to Earth for a spiritual reason and we should therefore seek a spiritual answer to the question posed by our existence in this world. If we don't, that is our failure, tough as it may be to accept that statement.

Many people now in the West who do seek a spiritual answer look elsewhere than Christ. This is partly because the churches have not been able to keep pace with the evolution in human consciousness, particularly over the last three centuries, either mistakenly adapting to secularisation, in which case they are perceived as beside the point, or else failing to respond to increased intellectual development and the need of modern men and women to know and not just believe. They have not emphasised the inner path of theosis as they should have done which leaves the field open to Eastern mysticism and a host of other esoteric practises. The fact that the grass is often perceived as greener on the other side of the fence while the familiar becomes stale also contributes to this.

However, spiritual approaches which do not have Christ at their centre  risk becoming focused on the human self. This may not matter so much at an early stage of the path but becomes very important later on for Christ is the true image of God and the only direct signpost to him. He is the gateway through which we all must pass to eternal life and we can only do this if he is stamped on our heart, showing that we have emptied ourselves of self and accepted him as the true form of God. Now, other religions may have pointers to Christ because he is present in them in their most spiritualised forms, but he is only fully present as himself and if we would become sons and daughters of God we need to recognise him as the true pattern and template. Only when we recognise Christ can we really rise above ourselves.


Chris said...

Hey William,

From the Perennialist perspective, there are different spiritual universes and different human psycho-spiritual receptacles. Consequently, there is a plurality of world religions which are forms or deployments of the formless Truth. On this view, the Logos manifests in different places and different times, like a Perennial flower, suiting the needs of its recipients. As I understand it, this point of view is basically saying that Christ is operative outside of the Person of Jesus of Nazareth.

Unknown said...

Chris -

Implicit in Christian assumptions is that it is 'imperialistic' and sees itself as the only correct religion. Islam and Judaism, from the same root, also see themselves this way.

It's a natural outgrowth of Christian metaphysics and belief in individuality and separation as ultimate truths and not Maya. (Although I believe there is another kind of Christianity which is different, and that Jesus life exemplified a different view of the world. But that is not mainstream)

If you see difference and separation as final and real, then you feel overwhelming existential insecurity, and the only way to deal with feelings of radical inadequacy is to 'grow', to 'become' complete - one deals with ego inadequacy by attempting to be 'more', 'superior', better than, etc.

Such ideas are inescapable if such is your metsphtsic. The Christian tries to complete himself by growing, which means by becoming better and superior, therefore he must assert that Christianity is superior and better than any other religion because of it wasn't, it wouldn't address his existential insecurity based on his metaphysics.

Other religions deal with existential insecurity differently, by uncovering the fact that we are already a part of everything and not separate, rendering notions of growth, superiority, or becoming better than, irrelevant as one is already fully complete if one just was able to perceive this.

Such religions are not evangelical because from their standpoint it does not matter HOW one achieves this insight into the nature of ourselves and the world.

But each religion is acting quite logically and consistently within its framework.

Moonsphere said...

As I understand it, this point of view is basically saying that Christ is operative outside of the Person of Jesus of Nazareth.

Hi Chris

When I first pondered that question, it came as a something of a surprise that it wasn't more widely discussed. If Jesus and Christ are not separate - then either Christ must be only 2,000 years old, or Jesus of Nazareth must have existed since eternity. Neither seems to be correct.

And so one begins to see Christ as a separate Divine being and Jesus of Nazareth as the most elevated of all human beings - the only human vessel capable of bearing a full incarnation of Christ.

Also of relevance is the statement from Rudolf Steiner that Jesus Christ came into being, not at birth but at the Baptism - where Christ descended into Jesus of Nazareth - and the 3 year mission commenced from that point forwards.

William Wildblood said...

The simple answer is I don't know, Chris. But my feeling is that yes, Christ does operate everywhere there is true spiritual sensibility and understanding and love but he operates most fully and most perfectly through the form of Jesus because that is who he is. Elsewhere his spiritual influence can manifest itself but never so directly and so completely as through Jesus. In other words he is universal but his universality is best known through his individuality.

Chris said...

It seems to me that the core of this issue can be traced back to what amounts to the highest or most profound spiritual experience- that of knowledge or love. The Vedantists have been arguing over this for centuries - is jnana or bhakti greater? Some make the case that they represent the opposite sides of the same coin, but I'm not sure if these views can actually be reconciled. At the end of the day, it's hard not to detect just a bit of a patronizing attitude coming from both sides in their claim that the other view is not wrong, but merely a lower step on the path to salvation/realization.

William Wildblood said...

Chris, it's not knowledge or love but knowledge and love. One, correctly understood, includes the other and if it doesn't then it's not real knowledge or real love. The jnana/bhakti division is not a real one except perhaps at an initial stage.