I think it’s very important to maintain a distinction between institutional religion and personal religion. Organized religion is not inherently a bad idea, but it has often been corrupted into the service of non-spiritual purposes having to do with power, politics, wealth and control.
Recent polls are showing that an increasing segment of the population is turning away from institutional religion and prefers to think of itself as “spiritual but not religious.” I would count myself in this group, as far as the institutional meaning of the word “religious” is concerned, but at the same time, I am not willing to entirely surrender the concept of “religion,” especially as it pertains to personal faith and the search for unifying principles and higher perspectives.
Just as we’ve seen with 9/11 and other major deceptions, our biggest battle sometimes is over memetic engineering and the control of the meanings that are associated with our limited supply of words. While “spirituality” may in some ways be synonymous with “personal religion,” the concept of religion (in its best and truest sense) embraces one’s highest-held values and loyalties with a focus that is sometimes missing from “spirituality.”
Both have to do (ideally) with the reach for spiritual values, but religion (in its highest meaning) also brings in the idea of an inner personal relationship with the true and universal Source of our cosmic existence.
I have found that this God/Source is experienceable in three phases — immanent, transcendent and associative — and each of these is discoverable as a personal presence. This, I think, is the true meaning of the “Trinity” concept.
We experience the Mother as divine immanence (we live and develop within her, so to speak, just as a fetus grows within the body of a human mother), we discover the Father as a transcendent presence (his spirit lives within us, but we have to reach for it, in the same way that an infant reaches for its human father, while held safely in a symbiotic bond with its mother), while the nature and character of God is revealed to us via associative relationship with divine Sons and Daughters, just as we get to know each other through human association.
Jesus presents all the characteristics of a divine Son, which is why I think his teachings are so important. I should explain that my interest in Jesus, as he is portrayed in the gospels, is mainly based on a small, obscure book that I came across in the 1980’s called The Forgotten Teachings of Jesus. The author, Stephen Finlan, went through all the statements in the New Testament that are attributed to Jesus, and selected only those that he felt were of equally high spiritual quality and consistency of meaning, leaving everything else behind.
This, combined with an enlightened commentary, revealed to me a level of spiritual value in Jesus’ teachings that I had not previously recognized, or found from any other source. But it’s difficult to see this from a straight reading of the New Testament. The gems are surrounded by so much that is of lesser significance and questionable origin.
It appears to me that many of the unfortunate aspects of Christianity are the result of deliberate efforts to suppress and discredit the spiritual truths that Jesus offered. I’ve never considered myself to be a “Christian,” in the usual sense of the word, but I am very interested in Jesus and his spiritual teachings.
When Jesus says that “God is spirit” (Mark 3:35, Luke 8:21, Matthew 12:50), “knock and the door will be opened for you” (Matthew 7:7, Luke 11:9), and the “kingdom of God is within you,” (Luke 17:20-21) he is saying that our highest personal loyalty must always be to the spirit of God that is discoverable within ourselves. All that is true, beautiful and good follows from this simple principle!
No priests, rituals, Caesars or other human devices are necessary or desirable. This is a declaration of personal spiritual freedom that was politically revolutionary at the time (and still is), especially in the face of the corrupt authority of the Jewish priesthood and the worship demands of the Roman Caesars, who were claiming for themselves the status of divinity.
I see Jesus’ teachings as our most potent weapon against false usurpation of power. When he said that “the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32, Matthew 17:26) he was speaking about the discovery of an inner spiritual freedom that can withstand all external attempts at oppression and manipulation.
This is why the people loved him so much and why the “religious” authorities of the day were so determined to put him to death, just as they had the earlier prophets of the Old Testament who had also insisted upon a spiritual God, in opposition to the blood rituals of the Levite priesthood, as demanded by their demon-god, Jehovah.
Jesus’ teachings are just as potent today as they were then, which is why Christianity (as the only carrier of his message) has been subjected to continuous attacks (both internal and external) over the last 2,000 years. The “Abrahamic” religions have been targeted for good reason! At their core, when all the dogma, distortion and mythology are stripped away, they offer spiritual truths about God that are the greatest threat to all forms of tyranny.
“In reality Christianity is our only real enemy… Christianity, controlling the individual, is capable of annulling the revolutionary projection of the neutral Soviet or atheistic State by choking it and, as we see it in Russia… this obstacle has not yet been removed during twenty years of Marxism.” – Rakovsky
“it is indispensable for us to undermine all faith, to tear out of the minds of the goyim the very principle of Godhead and the spirit, and to put in its place arithmetical calculations and material needs.” (Protocol #4)
“We have long past taken care to discredit the priesthood of the goyim, and thereby to ruin their mission on earth which in these days might still be a great hindrance to us. Day by day its influence on the peoples of the world is falling lower. …so that now only years divide us from the moment of the complete wrecking of that Christian religion, as to other religions we shall have still less difficulty in dealing with them…” (Protocol #17)
In Zeitgeist and Caesar’s Messiah, two contemporary films that attempt to prove that Jesus didn’t exist, we find consistent misrepresentations of his teaching about overcoming evil with good. This is a favorite tactic of those who seek to discredit Jesus with the claim that he was an invention (or an agent) of Jewish or Roman power.
There are three ways to respond to evil:
1) Fight evil with evil — this is the revenge and retaliation method, which adds to the quantity of evil in the world and typically leads to escalation.
2) Suffer passively, without resistance or complaint, which allows the evil to continue and grow.
3) Overcome evil with good — use the power of conscious decision to do something good (or true or beautiful) in the face of evil, thereby redefining and mastering the situation through the assertion of a higher spiritual principle (not unlike Aikido). This is not easy. It requires courage, skill, creativity and force of will, but it is the only way to nullify evil while increasing the quantity of good in the world.
Jesus taught the third option, but the authors of these films insist that he was teaching the second option. This tells me that they are either incapable of comprehending option #3, or they are deliberately distorting Jesus’ teaching.
My view of Jesus — as distinct from Christianity (which was created by his followers, after his death) — is very similar to what we find in the memoirs of Otto Wagener, who was a close associate and personal confidant of Adolf Hitler from 1929 – 1933.
I’ve posted a few excerpts from Wagener’s memoirs at the following link, along with a brief introduction. Hitler’s comments about Christianity and Jesus are very interesting and surprising, I think, as are his thoughts on a few other subjects! This is not the Hitler of WWII propaganda, or the relentlessly demonized figure that we find in contemporary media.