In this, our last chapter, I’m going to describe to you, in some detail, what human life according to Jesus’ teachings looks like. But before I do, I want you to understand that we’re not going to live this way pristinely, at least not for quite some time.
Just as the principles of Christendom didn’t prevent failures and evils, so living as I describe here will not eliminate all failures and evils. But as Christendom reduced errors (as compared to Rome) and inserted growth, so this way will reduce errors and induce growth, and a good deal more effectively.
The deep problem of a thousand years ago was the same as today’s essential problem, and that is that we’re still some distance from full growth. We are, to state it very simply, incomplete. And I don’t know any better passage to illustrate this concept than the one below, from Ben Hecht’s autobiography, A Child of The Century:
A simple fact entered my head one day and put an end to my revolt against the Deity. It occurred to me that God was not engaged in corrupting the mind of man but in creating it. This may sound like no fact at all, or like the most childish of quibbles. But whatever it is, it brought me a sigh of relief, a slightly bitter sigh. I was relieved because instead of beholding a man as a finished and obviously worthless product, unable to bring sanity into human affairs, I looked on him as a creature in the making. And lo, I was aware that… I am God’s incomplete child.
Many of us (my young self among them) have wanted… have demanded… a faster path to progress. Nonetheless, that’s not how humanity works; individuals can move ahead faster or slower, but large-scale progress takes time. And by demanding a quick fix, we’ve taken any number of bad paths, such as the “scientific socialism” that led to so many million deaths over the 20th century.
Whether we like it or not, the only path that really works is the organic process that Jesus specified: First the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And so a description of the Jesus way of life should begin by specifying that it is more organic than what we’ve been used to.
The fact is that we’ve learned to see the world, and life in general, in a very mechanical way. This view took hold in the Enlightenment period, especially following the spread of Isaac Newton’s mathematic model of the universe. This was a tremendous development, of course, but it also spawned a universal view that everything was basically mechanical and ought to be mechanical. This view is appropriate for science and machines, but it is a poor one for us.
Humans are not machines, we are organisms. We are not one system, but a plethora of interacting systems. We grow, we change, we adapt and evolve… and we should do all these things. And so a more organic view of life will help us to improve.
Another centerpiece of the Jesus model is what I call “the enthroning of consciousness.” We’ve already mentioned this, noting the fact that Jesus’ model of judging involved the dethroning of rules and edicts, pulling consciousness out from underneath them and placing it in the central position. That, by itself, will change our world from end to end. And sooner or later, it will happen; it is simply a better model and humans are not so blind as to miss it forever.
The core problem, underpinning a huge swath of human error, is a suppressed level of belief in ourselves. This is hardly a novel concept (“low self-esteem” appearing most everywhere in pop psychology), but our self-assessments have long been under assault, especially in the age of giant nation-states and mass communication.
To gain effective control over humans, it is essential that they be afraid to rely upon their own judgment. Large hierarchies of all types have learned this, and have learned how to exploit it.
What Jesus taught was more or less the opposite of that. His idea was that the self should be placed in the center position, and the world arranged around it. His model of right and wrong is absolutely built upon that concept.
Our Golden Rule, which embodies the same principle, is also built around it. So, we’ve been long familiar with this concept, though we’ve applied it only in part. The next step – the one Jesus specifies – is to place it as our central model, and to understand that placing other concepts above it breeds destruction.
Here, from G.K. Chesterton’s book, The Defendant, is a passage closely related to this:
Every one of the great revolutionists, from Isaiah to Shelly, have been optimists. They have been indignant, not about the badness of existence, but about the slowness of men in realizing its goodness.
This also describes Jesus, telling all who would hear that a far better way of life is upon us… that men and women should open their eyes to the goodness of life and change their ways to greet it.
And by living this new way – by holding the Golden Rule paramount – we gain something else of immense value: moral clarity. A great deal of the suffering on this planet rests upon the inability of people to be sure of what is or is not right, then being bullied into obedience.
Obedience to external rules, you understand, cannot impart a deep moral confidence. All rules are, by their very nature, exterior to us, not part of us. The best we can ever do with them is to know we followed something from the outside.
When we are true to a morality that is generated within us, however, we are clear and confident in a much more powerful and affecting way. More than likely you’ve felt this at some points of your life; the Jesus way makes it a normality.
Once people gain a clear sense of morality… a feeling of moral confidence… they do the right things nearly all the time. And once we can make our way through all the imposed demands of “it’s the law of the founders, elders,” or whomever – and get back to “do as you would have done to you,” we do gain moral clarity.
As repressed as it has been for the past century, I’ve seen moral clarity do remarkable things, and I have no doubt it will remain every bit as potent in a world that refuses to demote human consciousness.
On top of that, doing things the Jesus way is less work than trying to memorize a hundred thousand rules and carrying the perpetual fear of conscienceless enforcers. His way is easy, and his burden light.
Man As Primary, Not Derivative
By placing the self-referential human consciousness at the center of judgment, it follows that man (short for “men and women”) is the primary object in Jesus’ model of life, not a secondary object. That’s a crucial point for us, since most of us have been taught the opposite all our lives.
The collective, by all that is holy in the upper levels of hierarchies, is the primary, and individual humans are derivative entities.
But once we take individuals as fundamentals, systems become no more than things we’ve spawned. Systems then, no longer rule, but merely serve or are abandoned.
More than that, by living the Jesus way we’ll reverse the fundamental arrangement of human affairs.
Human affairs are presently designed around our fears. More or less everything governments do is justified by what will (or more commonly, what might) happen if they don’t do certain things. In other words, the present world is built according to our fears… it is fear incarnate.
Building this way, however, carries a deep assumption, that individuals are fundamentally inadequate. Here’s how Buckminster Fuller described the situation:
There’s a built-in resistance to letting humanity be a success. Each one claims that their system is the best one for coping with inadequacy.
The Jesus model presumes that we can be and will be, as Fuller describes it, a success. We can, then, build our world around our abilities rather than our fears.
Jesus would have us believe that all the things we need can grow out of us. And if we look at the past through that lens, we easily see that this is exactly what has happened.
Ancient religions featured an endless stream of desperate humans appealing to the gods for decent harvests, so their families wouldn’t suffer. That, however, is no longer a serious issue; we have the ability to grow far more food than there are people to eat it. And how did that happen? By the ideas, strategies, experiments, tests and practices that grew out of us! We have, in fact, solved starvation upon Earth.
And the same can be said of a great many things. The progress of the race grows in us and emerges from us. And this is Jesus’ model. What we must do is to take it seriously, not as an alternative, or something to be taken up “when the present emergency is over”… which means never.
Is Not Life More Than Raiment?
Life, whatever it is at its core, is far more important than clothing, or food, or anything else we may need. Life, in fact, is what causes all the things we need. And here’s how:
Non-living things are entropic. That is, eventually they all wind down and wear out.
Living things reverse entropy. A fruit tree, for example, takes in gasses from our atmosphere, light from the sun, minerals and water from the ground. Then it organizes, concentrates, and harmonizes them… and produces fruit.
Plants and animals reverse entropy in defined channels. Each is able to reverse entropy in certain pre-programmed ways, but not in others.
Humans can reverse entropy willfully. We choose how we will reverse entropy, and we do so almost infinitely. Or, we can evade such choices.
Humans, then, are inherently creative beings. We cannot create matter out of nothing, but we can mold it to an infinite number of uses. We are the fountains of new and beneficial action in the universe.
What the Jesus way brings us, is a complete view of how we should do this: willfully, confidently, and joyously. Take some time to imagine living that way and I think you’ll agree that “the way of the higher realms” might not be an unfair description.
And if this is the case, then human life is a cardinal value, making the restraint of human life a cardinal offense.
Life itself is more than any material thing… it generates material things.
And if this is true, then two lines from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel are also true:
The things which pass through our daily life should be valued according to whether or not they enrich the inner cistern.
The essence of man is not in what he is, but in what he is able to be.
Of course, difficulties. As we noted at the outset, we are not yet fully developed. But we’ll solve those difficulties precisely as described above, not by servicing hierarchies.
Some two percent of humans have a profound lack of empathy and are thus inherently dangerous. That’s a problem, and one we need to fix. We seem to be getting close via genetic engineering, but time will tell, and it will certainly be a longish process.
And, empathy or not, there are a certain number of humans who are simply hazards: they destroy repeatedly, and not as mere accidents. And so, as sad as it may be, we need to stop them from hurting other people. This has been an intractable problem under hierarchies, and so our willful creativity will have to address this problem.
Whether or not these prove to be short-term problems, we can solve them.
Letting Our Lights Shine
There are questions that rise in response to mentioning a new way of life, such as “How will we organize ourselves?” But all of them, simply by being asked, stand opposite to Jesus’ new way of life. They have the order backwards.
This new way doesn’t involve agonizing over problems, but rather putting our creativity into full operation. This is “letting our lights shine” in actuality, and in the first position.
Our problems are solved by the inherent creativity of humanity. That is the “fixing machine” for everything. Why waste time with fear, debate and in-fighting if the problem will only be resolved by starting up this machine once we’re done?
Again, this is about shining our lights first, and as our primary focus. If we get serious about that, most of our problems will simply evaporate; some slower, some faster.
More than that, the shining of our light would organize everything else around it. A noted biophysicist named Harold Morowitz described the operation of organisms this way:
The flow of energy through a system acts to organize that system.
That’s the way organic systems work, and that’s the way that will work for us: We let our lights shine in the world and that energy will organize whatever systems we need. That’s an almost infinitely better model than building rigid systems and trying to force our energies through them.
Natural energy flows should dictate the operation of our systems. Letting our light shine… letting our creative energies flow profligately and with absolute freedom… that will become our primary concern.
Beyond this, we will do things, not because they are required, but because doing otherwise would be stupid. We’ll recognize that integrity is health, and prefer to be healthy. Realizing that rigidity restricts the flow of energy through our organism, we’ll relax, bend, and enjoy the increased flow.
If we find self-conflicts and developmental voids in ourselves, we’ll laugh at their absurdities and go about to fix them.
We will, at least over time, let go of the roles we play in life and simply become creatures of our own energies and flows. We will, to put it as best I can, clarify our identities, no longer tying them to externals. We will re-name ourselves, so to speak, not according to expectations, but according to what we fundamentally are.
Soon enough we will see – and rightly – much of the old world as damage. Then we’ll simply route around it, as an old Internet adage advised.
Shining our light, in simple terms, means simply to use the abilities we already possess, and to do so profligately: To be, without apology and without restraint.
I know of no better way to close this chapter than with a short passage from an early 20th century philosopher and theologian named Nikolai Berdyaev:
In every creative conception there is an element of primeval freedom, fathomless, undetermined by anything, not proceeding from God, but ascending toward God.
I will suggest to you that there is something very important in this concept, and that it is intimately tied in with Jesus’ new way of living… the way of the higher realms.
I will add only this: If we truly want to know God (as opposed to merely knowing about God), this is the necessary way to do it. This is the gateway, and Jesus went through everything he did to bring us to it.
The time is has come and the way of the higher realm has come to you. Change your mind and believe this good news.
Whosoever has ears to hear…