Monday, 3 November 2008


"I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not; for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world." - John 12:46-47

Before we move on, a quick word about this idea of Christ as the Cosmic Man. Ever since I can remember, this has pretty much been the whole point of the Christ Mystery for me, although it is of course inherent in all cultures. I remember standing in a bookshop once in Oxford in front of an image on a poster of a Byzantine icon of Christ Pantokrator (Christ the Creator of All) and being taken into a sudden meditative state of being. It was as if by looking at the picture I was taken somewhere else. The sensation was of falling through Time and Space into the Cosmos. Not bad for an afternoon's shopping in Blackwell's! Since then - and of course there was a little more to it than a poster in a bookshop - any contact I have had with most mainstream Christianity has been one of bafflement. Their's was not an experience I recognised.

As I have mentioned before, every culture has its idea of the Cosmic Man. In Kabbalah it is Adam Kadmon. In Hinduism it is Purusha. The idea is of all humanity held together in one great human form, the World Soul if you like, also known as the 'Atman' in Hinduism or the 'Anima Mundi' in the West. In Christianity it is both Adam and Christ, Adam being the 'Old Cosmic Man', bound by Time and Space, Christ being the 'New Cosmic Man' restored to Wholeness and Unity with the Father and transcending Time and Space. As Paul puts it, we are all both:

"And so it is written, the first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit... The first man is of the earth, earthy, the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly... Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." - Corinthians 16:45-51

The ideas is found first in the Upanishads, which draw no distinction between Purusha, the Atman and Brahman, the Spirit Supreme:

"Beyond the Spirit in man is the Spirit of the universe, and beyond is Purusha, the Spirit Supreme. Nothing is beyond Purusha: he is the End of the path. The light of the Atman, the Spirit is invisible, concealed in all beings. It is seen by the seer of the subtle, when the vision is keen and is clear... the knowing self in the Spirit of the universe, and the Spirit of the universe in the Spirit of peace." - Katha Upanishad

Similarly in Kabbalah, Adam Kadmon is so at one with God that it is almost impossible to distinguish them. The spiritual progression is from our own Spirit to the Cosmic Man, from which, or in which, we experience the Atman and, consequently Brahman. This, perhaps, is what Christ means when he says "I am the way and the truth and the life; no man cometh to the Father except through me" (John 14:6) and when he describes himself as 'the true vine' (another reference to Dionysus) in which we must 'abide'. Thus Christ as the embodiment of the Cosmic Man is the means, or the Path, if you will, whereby we in the West may achieve perfect union with the Father:

"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe in me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast seen me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one even as we are one. I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one." - John 17:20-23

Words which in themselves echo another embodiment of the Cosmic Man, Krishna in the Bagavad Gita:

"I am the same to all beings, and my love is ever the same; but those who worship me with devotion, they are in me and I in them." - Bagavad Gita 9:29

Thus Christ is expressing a Upanishadic vision of the Cosmos and our relationship with God. What is interesting is that in our part of the world, as opposed to that of the East, we have needed the figure of Christ to mediate the way. Dion Fortune said that each region of the world evolves spiritually in different ways according to the karmic challenge that region represents. She argued that we in the West are the most susceptible to Matter. We feel it more intensely than other cultures and seek to overcome it, hence the immense materialism of the West and its specific development of a scientific view aimed at conquering and harnessing it. Thus while in the East the vision of the Divine was universal - Brahman, the Dao - we in the West needed the image of the Incarnation, an overt image of God dwelling in Man, to break open our awareness of the Cosmos and its presence in us. Thus while other cultures had other kinds of Incarnations - Krishna, Osiris, Dionysus, Siva etc - the knowledge was given us through the image of one who was unmistakably human. Thus Christ is one of many expressions or avatars of the One, but holds a unique place in being the means by which this Mystery of was revealed to us in the West. While Krishna and the others were more Gods with human form, Christ was clearly both a man and a God as this was the only way in which this truth would be received:

"He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest though then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father and the Father in me?" - John 14:9

The key thing with the Gospels, and the Last Supper of John in particular, is that Christ hasn't quite got there yet. In the history of Christianity there have been endless centuries of debate about the true nature of Christ. Was he just a man or wholly God? The Arians, Docetists and Cathars all thought he was purely Divine or made of Spirit, others, some Gnostics believed he was a man, Jesus, who became Divine as Christ. Others still, the Unitarians, believed he was purely human and doing God's will. For the Catholics he is God become Man, for the Greek Orthodox he is wholly human and wholly Divine and so on. In John, the true nature of Christ is at its most complex. We know from the outset that he is 'the Word made Flesh' who 'dwelt among us', that is, the Logos which is the prime creative energy of God. But he also speaks repeatedly of his role solely as the agent of the Father's will and not as an independent being:

"The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me." - John 14:10

But we have seen how a prime connection has opened up at the moment of Glorification, moving him much closer to God. Perhaps it is most close to the truth to say that, while Incarnate, Christ is the Word subject to Time and Space. In other words, God existing as a human, subject to weariness, emotion and danger until the moment of the Resurrection and later Ascension, when he is able to return to the Father and, henceforward, exist outside Time and Space, in other words, in his capacity as the Cosmic Man:

"I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." - John 14: 18-21

Fascinatingly, all esoteric doctrines speak of a similar process for all the human race - the Soul's descent from the spiritual realms into the realms of Matter, incarnation into this world for as long as the moment when it recognises its Divine Nature and then begins the journey back (or forward, depending on your perspective) to the Source, the All. Thus Christ is an image of the fully realised man whose Divine Nature has been revealed to him and become his Soul Life. In this sense he is 'the Way' - ie the one who shows the way for the whole human race back to God. Thus, as the Gnostic Gospel of Phillip puts it, the receiving of the 'Chrism' (from the Greek Kharis, meaning 'Gift' from which we get the word 'Grace) makes one 'not a Christian but a Christ'. Should this feel shockingly heretical, it should be remembered that the opening verses of John's Gospel tell us that the Word is come to give us all "the power to become the Sons of God" (John 1:12). Likewise he tells us in the First Epistle that "we shall be like Him" (1st John 3:2). And should there be any doubt, Christ himself tells the Apostles in the Last Supper:

"Verily, verily I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father." - John 14:12

Not insignificantly, these were the words that German Mystic Meister Eckhardt used in his defence when he was brought up against the Inquisition for heresy. With great indignation he accused his accusers of going against Holy Writ in denying the promise given by Christ of the Divinisation of the human race. For the Church at the time any suggestion of humanity coming close to the Christ-nature was anathema (it is still not uncontroversial). Nevertheless it remains central to the view of many Christian Mystics from St Augustine to Julian of Norwich, Marguerite Porete, Johannes Tauler, John of Ruysbroek, St Teresa of Avila and many others. In the East, on the other hand, among the Orthodox of Greece, Russia and others, the notion is integral to their vision of Christianity. It is known as Theosis and is the ultimate end of the drama of Christianity - the Divinisation of everyone, a perfect Union with God for the whole human race...


Pegasus said...

Here is Eckhardt in defense of his teachings before the Inquisition:

"The articles that follow are contained in a lost that shown me after I had responded the articles given above. Know that these articles follow, just like the earlier ones, are always or almost always false and erroneous in the sense in which my opponents take them, but reasonably and devoutly understood they contain excellent and useful truths or faith and moral teaching. They demonstrate the mental weakness and spite of my adversaries, and even their open blasphemy and heresy, if they obstinately defend the following points which are against the teaching of Christ, the Evangelist, the saints and the doctors.

First, when they say that man cannot be united to God. Second, when they say that the creature is not nothing by itself, but is some kind of slight existence, as we say a drop of salt water is a slight by the sea. Third, when they say God created the world in another now than in the now of eternity, although every action of God is his substance, which is eternal. They do not understand what Augustine in the first book of the CONFESSIONS says to God: 'All tomorrows and beyond them, and all yesterdays and what is behind them, you are making today and have made today. What is to me if someone does not understand this?' Augustine's words in CONFESSIONS say: 'Their heart up to now casts about in vain between the motions of things past and to come... Who shall hold it fast so that it may grasp the beauty of unchanging eternity?' Fourth, when they say that the exterior act adds something to the moral good of the interior act. Finally, fifth, when they think that the Holy Spirit and his grace are given to a man who is not God's son, although the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son: 'Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts' (GALATIANS 4:6) Why give more? It is just about the same with all the objections they make, such as when they wrongly think it false to say God is existence."


"They oppose some things as false and heretical [and thus imply] that man cannot be united with God, which is against the teaching of Christ and the Evangelist: 'That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee.' (JOHN 17:21)... They say that a creature or the world is nothing in itself apart from God, which is against the Gospel text: 'All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.' (JOHN 1:3). Further, to say that the world is nothing in itself and from itself, but is some slight of existence is open blasphemy. If that were so, God would not be the First Cause of all things and the creature would not be created by God in possessing existence from him... They attack the idea that the godlike man can perform God's works, against the teaching of Christ and the Evangelist: 'He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do.' (JOHN 14:12) Again, they also deny the godlike man by means of charity receives the things made in charity that are nothing outside charity, contrary to what the Apostle said in the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. That is enough for now."

Pegasus said...

And here is more of Krishna sounding like Christ:

"I am the Father of the universe, and even the Source of the Father. I am the Mother of the universe, and the Creator of all. I am the Highest to be known, the Path of purification, the holy Word OM, the Three Vedas.

I am the Way, and the Master who watches in silence, thy friend and thy shelter and thy abode of peace. I am the beginning and the middle and the end of all things: their seed of Eternity, their Treasure supreme... those who adore me with a pure oneness of soul, to those who are ever in harmony, I increase what they have and I give them what they have not...

He who offers to me with devotion only a leaf, or a flower, or a fruit or even a little water, this I accept from that yearning soul, because with a pure heart it was offered with love.

Whatever you do, or eat, or give, or offer in adoration, let it be an offering to me; and whatever you suffer, suffer it for me...

...for even if the greatest sinner worships me with all his soul, he must be considered righteous, because of his righteous will.

And he shall soon become pure and reach everlasting peace. For this is my word of promise, that he who loves me shall not perish."

- Bagavad Gita 10:17-31