Christianity - a blessing or a crime against humanity?
Friedrich Nietzsche, a famous, but very often not well understood philosopher declared in his works that Christianity was a crime against humanity!
Many of us modern people would call that the wordsof a lunatic whose dreadful hatred towards Christian belief might have risen from his brains, injured by syphilis (if he had such a disease), or from his childhood in a vicarage - so, his ideas are not worthy of any further investigation!
By Christianity Nietzsche most probably meant the kind of ideas which the Christian Church traditionally considered the only true and allowed way of thinking - leading to salvation.
A little more biblical knowledge, however, is needed to understand the fact that there has always been a considerable gap between the real and authentic teachings of Jesus and the interpretations of later Christian generations - including the evangelists themselves - not to mention the final statements of creed. The Gospels were written 50 years and more after Jesus by completely different people than his first hand followers, the disciples. And while composing their texts on the basis of the pieces of traditions they also included much of the themes of the day - themes, that for example were intended to fortify the belief of the Christian communities in times of danger, and to lessen the pressure coming from the Roman side.
Much of the works and teachings of Jesus had already been forgotten, not to mention the details of his life, birth and childhood. Only the few years of public activities were noticed. So today most scholars admit that there is not much authentic knowledge of Jesus’s life - the only indisputable historical fact is that he was crucified during Pontius Pilate’s time - and on his orders.
The gospels depict Pilate as a person who is at least striving for truth and justice. This was just a way to soften the attitudes of Romans after the Jewish war, because of Pontius we know for sure that he was not a gentle man of honour - on the contrary - he was later dismissed of his duty for using far too brutal means. So, historians think that Pilate probably didn’t need any sleeping pills after condemning a Jew to death, had he not done that so many times before, even without a trial!
What Nietzsche, and very many intelligent men and women before and after him, really criticized so powerfully was not the activity of Jesus the Christ himself, but merely the views of the Catholic Church with all their later variations - in the sense that they did not well enough support the actual spiritual growth and mental development of the human race as a whole. Why? Because believing in an atonement through one special vicarious suffering sets aside the task of an individual human being in searching and struggling by himself to realize the fundamental meaning and aims of life, and finding the ways to become unfastened from identifying with the perishable phenomena of this world.
The idea of salvation by just believing can act as an excuse for neglecting one’s own mental possibilities as well as responsibilities.
From the first centuries there have been Christian sects - gnostics - or heretics, as the later winning branch saw necessary to call them, which draw quite different views from the same set of Christian traditions. A direct divine knowledge was their ultimate goal - a state of consciousness that does not need belief and assurances any more, for the ultimate sources of all are experienced on a level which professes only one unchangeable thing - the Truth itself!
In many of these branches people were equal, clergy and laymen, men and women. That was a horrible thing to men like Irenaeus, for the Church had adapted old Jewish traditions - in fact, there was harsh controversy on these matter already in the time of Paul. For women this subordinate state in church has lasted almost two thousand years - for laymen it may still take a further two thousand!
Some of these early religious interpretations and criticisms concerning the so called Catholic Church seem to be rather similar to Nietzsche’s views. But their ways were gradually pressed down by the "official belief" and its secular allies. The formerly persecuted Christian believers themselves turned in a few decades to persecutors of all those who had some different thoughts in religious affairs, especially in the matters of salvation and resurrection in flesh, the latter is today among scholars generally admitted as a clearly wrong interpretation of the texts - the texts in fact depict Jesus’s being after resurrection very "phantom-like", even difficult to recognize, but a few generations later it was modified to a much fleshlier mode - the mode, which was the most familiar to common uneducated people.
A clear hierarchic organisation combined with a common way of thinking, all cemented in simple confessions soon proved to be victorious, even embraceable by Roman emperors themselves as an effective means to strengthen their own rule.
But even at the time of crusades there were still cities and communities where people were trying hard to understand and apply in their every day lives the direct teachings of Jesus - just as they are found in the gospel texts. Not only in the four gospels familiar to us, but even in many other early interpretations of Christianity, many of which have come to our knowledge as late as 1945, when a hidden library of over 50 early writings was discovered near Nag Hammadi, Egypt. Among these "heretical groups" it was common to take most part of religious texts as allegories, tales that had to be interpreted by some people who had more advanced knowledge in these difficult affairs. All these people were called heretics by the Church, worthy of oppression and persecution. Even today there is not much revaluation of these events, even if almost all outstanding bible scholars and historians today agree that most of the holy texts in fact were from the very first meant to be taken as pure allegories with very little, or no historical reliability.
The fourth crusade could well be called a cruise of a gang of robbers for they chose to drop in Constantinopel, another Christian city - not to pay a visit, but to conquer and pillage it.
One of the so called crusades succeeded in putting a violent end to all diverse thinking (the Albigenzes) in Southern France. The pope gave to the king of France a "holy excuse" to strenghten his rule in those Southern territories.
But there is at least one positive consequence of all this stupid fanatism: the idea of chivalry was imported to Europe from the leader of the Muslim enemy, the Egyptian sultan Sala(ha)din!
Even in the "darkness of the Middle Ages" there occurred much profound religious and philosophic thinking - searching for the ultimate sources of truth. Meister (or Master) Eckhart, a famous and beloved Dominican teacher and preacher, was one of the finest examples of guides who - like Jesus himself - emphasized the need to be born again in spirit in the ultimate summit of soul (where Eckhart locates the very birth).
But - just as Jesus suggested - there are usually many obstacles to prevent a human being from experiencing this mystical birth.
Loving this world means hating god in the sense that being united with the only true undivided ultimate oneness demands its likeness - and a person who identifies himself in any way with things, whether good or bad, cannot turn his mind entirely towards something that he knows nothing about. A human mind is busy with all the things one has even a slightest interest in - conscious or unconscious - and that is why "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God". And we must certainly take richness here as a parable, denoting to all kinds of physical and mental temptations and desires, both coarse and refined, found in the human mind.
So, according to a very universal view religious life in general means dressing out of attachments to worldly affairs - finally even out of himself! Losing oneself, the limited sense of a separate individual ego, which is the root of all selfishness, is said to end in finding the only real self. This is the crucial point of Eckhart’s teaching - and not only his, but the same principle can easily be found almost in all the fundamental religious texts and traditions of the West and the East.
But in his time Tertullus claimed that there was nothing to be found, and nobody to open doors for any too eager seeker - everything was taken to the possession of the Catholic Church, clearly stated, truthfully understood - for only this very branch of Christian thinking was based on the apostolic ground, a direct suggession up to St. Peter himself! The leading idea here goes like this: It was Peter who recognized Jesus as Christ, the Son of the living God; it was Peter who at first met Jesus after his resurrection from the tomb (but the texts tell a different order) - and by all these virtues St. Peter was here on earth given the keys of heaven to let it to his successors, especially the bishop of Rome (for Peter is said to be crucified in Rome, but there is no real evidence of that)!
Being born again! We often think of it as a sudden overwhelming feeling which too many regard as a sure sign of final salvation - but not Eckhart, not the gnostics - because for them (and many others) a true salvation did not mean anything temporary, but a complete change from a limited way of perceiving to a constant experience of the ultimate, forever unchangeable source of all temporary things.
So, could a human being achieve this by his own efforts - against the Gospel texts? Not exactly, for a human being cannot by his own will get in touch with anything that he knows nothing about. And about God, or anything beyond the limits of time and space, people know nothing about, even if they have heard thousands of beautiful words and fairy-tales of all the wonders of heaven.
A heaven with you and me, even with us people and God Himself separately in it, should not be understood as an ultimate source of absolute life. Maybe there are lots of more or less temporary ideal places for tired souls to rest, but heaven, as it is found in Jesus’s words, must be understood as a complete unity where there are no bigger or smaller beings or things, no male or female, no sense of forms and other differences, no sense of time and space, nothing which establishes this world that we to some extent are able to understand.
On this basis we could in principle make such a conclusion that a person cannot guarantee his final salvation by any human means. His tak lies just in getting loose of temporary things by experiencing, understanding, getting bored and tired - and then just waiting without expecting anything. Just waiting, because expecting a reward would certainly mean that one is loving God still in a selfish way.
Putting all ones hope on the one person, raised above all in Christianity, would according to Eckhart be foolish - for "what good does it do to me if I had a perfect brother if I myself were a fool!"
But his clear reasoning doesn’t suit everybody’s ears. People are not ready to think by themselves in these fundamental religious affairs which they have just adapted in their childhood.
The idea of vicarious suffering is just a huge extention from a very old Jewish tradition found in the books of Moses - the trespass! Of course it is based on even older traditions and found in some form almost everywhere.
One thing is sure, people want to be saved - as easily as possible! But can it happen so easily? That is a question of fate to many. Jesus said: "Streight is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it". The Church has taken the authority to widen the gate and way, so as to take all her true, literal believers in. It seems as if Jesus himself had exaggerated the requirements - or he had not been fully aware of the coming changes in them a few centuries after his death on a cross!
To gather as many people as possible to confess a set of ideas usually preconceives that the ideas somehow serve the interests of the audience and fit their level of understanding. This has always been well taken into account among politicians, as well as among those in the church who have taken seriously the doubtful command in the Gospel of Matthew: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations..."
Promising much and demanding little forms an universal basis for popularity among great numbers, and that is the point in which vicarious suffering has always played an important role. A great number of the people in the Roman Empire who during the first and second century were converted to Christianity came from the lowest social classes - even from slaves. Their living had never been easy, so any kind of promise for a better life would have been welcome - even a promise for a better life after death!
When we look at the persecution of Christians and martyrdom, there were some astonishing features in the thinking of the so called fathers of the Church: Tertullus among many others suggested that people should change their flesh to eternal life by suffering a martyr’s death! Yes, that is an unquestionable fact which reminds us right away of the events in the Middle East of today: from where have the Muslims taken their ideas concerning martyrdom? Evidently from us Christians!
Of course it is very understandable in a human sense that leaders were trying to convince their parishioners about the benefits of standing horrible persecution, even when it led to tortures and execution. But were their convictions really based on true philosofical grounds, such as we can find in the New Testament? The gnostics said no! Anybody could make a verbal confession and become a martyr. The gnostics said that it wasn’t as simple as that with eternal affairs. One should be internally ready and free of temporary things before leaving or passing in one way or another this world of ours. For an immature person this world was the only chance to grow into spiritual understanding and life by learning from a suitable guidance and personal experience.
But the gnostics certainly set clear conditions - one should look for direct spiritual knowledge - verbal convictions and confessions didn’t bring a spiritual enlightment, not to mention final blessedness. And these conditions, increased with hostile aggressions from the side of their opponents, the "orthodoxes", the only true church, sealed their defeat in the battle for popularity. It is very clear that the gnostics were no politicians!
Ever since the first Chistian centuries it has been very difficult or even dangerous to propose religious interpretations which differed much from creed. We must come until Martin Luther who forced through the kind of views in which pure faith in atonement plays an even more prominent role than ever before. Of course many of the issues Luther criticized were worth attention, but much exaggerated and generalized in later Lutheran circles. But one could also get an impression of the Lutheran belief that it does not really aim at any increasing understanding, but contents itself with a simple outside purity and obstinate literal believing in the texts of the Bible.
For example in Finland, which is maybe one of the most Lutheran nations in the world, the church has lost its touch in people’s minds, and stands as a formal institution for weddings and funerals. Priests are reading the same worn-out texts to almost empty churches followed by their literal interpretations which do not feed the intellectual hunger of any mentally directed person. People rather gather to hear some popular philosopher (there are not many) or just watch their TV. The church is trying to sharpen its social profile, but that, not to talk about combining service and jogging, cannot in any case fill the obvious spiritual emptyness and ignorance of their message.
We started this with Nietzsche, a very bold philosopher who honestly tried to create a new view to the most important issues of life - not entirely new, for there has been deviant ways of thinking ever since the first Christian communities, as we have just seen. The church has in modern times evaded all serious discussions on these "heretical" questions, and it has had almost a monopoly to form public opinion during centuries, for all actual knowledge was edited in ecclestiastical circles, and almost all divergent material was burned - if such sometimes came out.
But today we have the opportunity to see the original texts of many gnostic branches, and to find out, what they in turn thought about the dominating Christian ways of thinking.
The same applies to Eckhart: His activities were forgotten for centuries, maybe because some of his writings were declared "heretical" a few years after his death, probably for some political reasons concerning the battle between the two organisations, the Dominicans and the Franciscans. But now a collection of about a hundred authentic sermons and a study have been published in many languages.
In his sermons we can find examples of the most refined interpretations of biblical texts - what for example did the purifying of the Temple really mean? It meant purifying one’s own soul - making it empty of all temporary things - so that God (or Jesus Christ as a representant of the divine nature) could enter it and be there all alone: "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment." This kind of mental purity, a state beyond all desires and human weaknesses, was the ideal and goal of Eckhart’s teachings. To reach a state where "the birth again" may happen - and basically that is the idea which is found almost in every deep and serious teaching of all religions and philosophies throughout the world.
So, one could say that the organisations of the later followers are responsible for most part of the differences in religious matters - these are much more common in the original ideas if they are purged from later tendencies and pieces of composition. In fact it would be much more fruitful to look for similarities in religious issues than to emphasize small literal differences. The latter way has often led or given support to oppression and wars, even among Christians!
It makes many of us sad, and should make us ashamed to see how Christians in Northern Ireland today communicate with one another - deliberately picking a quarrel! Here one could take an exract from the New Testament - "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit", and use that to confirm Nietzsche’s words - "Christianity is a crime!"
But in a coin there are always two sides, and we must have patience to look at both of them.
Somehow Nietzsche himself just proposes a different view to Christian tradition - his hard words might in fact be aimed at breaking common fear and excessive reverence towards scriptures and creed. All scriptures were certainly written by men of more or less weaknesses and ignorance - the words of god are something quite different - wordless, beyond all scriptures. For wasn’t it a very big lack for the utmost perfection and source of all to use tools as clumsy and limited in nature as words in the sense we know them!
Maybe it would have been wiser if men like Paul had never mentioned about their (lower or higher, temporary or permanent - who can tell) spiritual experiences, for accounts are just allusions, not meant to be taken literally, drawn down to look like a common discussion between two persons.
Oh yes, in churches we are asked to raise our hearts towards God, but very seldom we are taught what that really means! At least in Lutheran churches people are asked to stand up on their feet to hear the word of God - and the effect is in direct contradiction!
To raise one’s mind or understanding above all ordinary things, towards the only pure ground of all temporary life - that is the most probable meaning of these literal words: Why not to teach how it will be carried out? Of course there are some serious attempts to that direction, but far too many sermons remain on a literal surface. Swimming in deep waters demands a good art of swimming. A good theory doesn’t help much if one has no experience in that art!
And so it is with many theologians - Jesus would certainly have defined many of them as pharisees who were well educated in all the formal traditions of Jewish religion (some of them, among others Hillel, even had a very deep understanding in spiritual affairs). And if we for example look at the 17th century "orthodox Lutheranism", we could figure that it probably consisted more of old Jewish tradition, and in a much ruder mode than in the times of Jesus himself. For the Jews had at least some idea and tradition how to interprete and evaluate their own writings - the Christians 16 centuries later took it all as words of God Himself (as many of them unfortunately still do)!
Very few have taken seriously the statement of Origen in which he, a very well educated man, says that only a fool believes in Adam and Eve - that is to say in them as the first human beings made by God Himself ! For stories like that should be taken symbolically. Origen even said that many of the stories in the Old Testament included very odd features for just the reason that people would have to make some personal effort in order to catch their real meanings. In this respect Origen’s views are very close to the results of modern biblical research - and to the ideas of many who were slaughted or burnt as heretics by the Christian Church which accepted only the literal interpretations of texts.
It is often said that the Christians brought civilization to many pagan people. But what is a pagan? A person who has a wrong god or gods - an idolator, who has not heard about the Christian ways of belief - or cannot adopt these views. That is a Christian definition which unfortunately has taken a Jewish stand (found clearly in the Old Testament) in handling religious differences: pagans could be treated with no respect, even with utmost cruelty! Jesus’s words have always fallen on deaf ears in this respect (as well as in many others). Instead of promoting a brilliant civilization the fanatic preachers accompanied by greedy robbers have destroyed many fine human cultures - giving in turn diseases and strange new names for holy things.
But the Christians may of course defend their doings by saying that it was all meant for the salvation of those poor people - for salvation, at least according to the Christian belief, demands believing in Jesus the Christ, and exactly the way which is defined in creed!
But was Jesus the Christ really the only Christ ever seen here on earth? The Christians certainly think he was, but many in gnostic and Eastern circles are also talking about divine expressions, people who have internally become sons of God, that is to say - born from above to unit with God, the only God! To idols! A Christian answers, but mayby he does not dare to look carefully enough at his own texts, e.g. the Gospel of John, where there are clear messages of the ultimate aim for people once to become one with God, the Father. Even if the Buddhists are talking about reaching a state of the "Nirvana", there are no real differences between their views and the Christian accounts of the kingdom of heaven or god.
Maybe it is so that most disputes among Christians and other religions are due to an inordinate emphasis of words, probably coming from the unfortunate translation of the original Greek expression, "Logos" to Latin "Verbum" (a Word). Logos means a lot more than only a word. If we read the beginning of that gospel carefully, we certainly shall see that it is not talking about words in their literal sense, but about a foundation or a completely spiritual source of all that has come or will ever come into existense through some declining reflections in time and space. It could be described as a perfect image of all in eternity, in "principle" (basic idea), which is translated "beginning" in most languages. Philosopher Plato is also talking about "principles", original unchangeable modes on which all phenomena are based. These modes might just be those, included always in Logos, in the "Word".
We Christians have got from the Old Testament the idea that it was God himself who created the universe, including us people. Perhaps that view lies also on a base of a much too literal interpretation of Genesis.
According to most gnostic sources God himself did not create anything at all here in time and space. Meister Eckhart says the same, claiming that God created all into the highest angels, the Serafes, which in turn reflected these principles into lower levels. There it all was scattered into pieces, into separate forms and identities - into the world or "Sin"!
According to a common allegoric interpretation of Genesis people in principle are all from a divine origin, coming from the same eternal source, or as Jesus put it - "Ye are gods". Eckhart says that it was not the outer human expression that was made according to God’s image, but the soul at her purest nature ("... and man became a living soul, Gen.2:7") . "The kingdom of God is within you", says Luke in his gospel, but that account is not often heard in sermons (at least in Lutheran ones), for it denotes to a possibility and need to find the divine by individual human means without any mediation of outside saviours, not to mention the sacraments.
Of course this does not cancel the value of any divine masters ever found on earth - leading people towards the true saviour or Christ inside every human soul - towards rebirth in spirit.
That is how many men and women, religious thinkers, philosophers, writers and others will often take and have taken ever since the beginning of Christianity the great meaning of Jesus’s life and activities.
And that is how the majority of the Nikaia council (325 A.D.) took him, the supporters of Areios. But the Athanasius’s side won this battle by the powerful intervention of emperor Constantine (or the theologist of his court, Eusebius).
Of course we have no right to conclude that Areios’s views represented the original true Christianity for so many interpretations had already occurred long before that meeting, and the ultimate truth itself will never be a matter of political conclusions - however democratic or dictated they might be.
Anyway - this very event gives us a picture how most of our "divine" dogmas and selecting of appropriate scriptures were actually made: by political decisions which later on were strengthened with a sort of "divine guidance".
Overestimating of human thoughts often hinders personal considerations too much. All the more so, if it is labelled as dangerous for salvation. Nietzsche and many other daring thinkers have criticized any kind of setting blocks to free thinking, for it doesn’t do any good to the development of individual humanity, not to talk about real creative efforts in making ones own ways in all matters of life.
Even today there are many quarters in Christianity which do not favour any biblical research that one way or another goes beyond the narrow limits of creed. If they cannot prevent it, they try to keep silent of the results, and throw some shadows of doubts on them.
Of course they think that their intention is good, but does it really do any good? Many say no - for too many serious religious thinkers ever since Jesus himself have experienced persecution or pressure on behalf of the so called "good people" for their (even slightly) differing ways of thinking.
Nietzsche warned about these kind of "good people", for they cannot stand any creative thinking that would threaten their final and fixed foundations of life - and maybe show them that their standards regarding personal blessedness were not yet high enough.
For a Christian humanity it has ever since the first centuries been very difficult to accept any great men or women in spiritual and religious matters, or even in more common fields of life. We want to be so equal that we will try to pull down anyone who in one or another respect seems better than others. A truly good person serves just as a too clear mirrov which nobody wants to look at. Unfortunately there are always some good people to demand that this kind of mirrov should be broken down for its "infernal brightness"!
Fixed simple ideas, planted deep to multitude, serve easily as a means to knock down every single individual thought and thinker that openly comes forward.
Maybe it is important that there are obstacles in the way of those few that are mature enough to exceed the common limits, but it is not a wrong statement to say that in Christianity these limits have appeared in the way at far too early stages. Not everybody is a great spiritual heroe, but there are probabaly millions that could make good progress in opening up their understanding, if they were allowed to do it without fear, and given some proper guidance.
The Christian church of course gives its own guidance in religious matters, but somehow, and in many corners it seems even much more elementary than the education that was handed down in the dark Middle Ages. In those days people could get very advanced instruction even in the difficult matters of mysticism, as we can see through the sermons and writings of Meister Eckhart and many others.
From the very beginning of Christianity there have been disputes about the matter of who would be worthy of acting as a guide for others? Even Jesus himself is said to mention about the blind guides that’ll lead their followers into the ditch. What did he mean by blindness? That is an important question. Almost all leaders of the church have always claimed that formal theological studies and the ordination really fulfil all the requirements.
What if Jesus meant that a guide should himself have personally experienced all the things he is talking about? If he were talking about God, he should know what it really means to be in God or in Christ! How else could he give proper guidance? Many people have said and will say that they are in God or at least in Christ, for they might have got some kind of unusual mental experience.
But what is the real quality of each individual mystic experience? It is very difficult to find proper answers to questions like this.
But once again we could fall back upon the famous statement in the gospel of Matthew: "By their fruits ye shall know them". If a mystic experience is really fundamental in nature, there should occur a fundamental change in the consciousness of the person in question. Coming in touch with something divine may in most cases be a matter of a temporary feeling with very little changes in the ways of perceiving. In these, the most common cases it should be taken as a signpost showing that there lies a spiritual dimension to be found on the ground of all.
But being born again must be something totally different. It is said to change one’s whole consciousness into an eternal level where everything has its unchangeable nature without time and space.
There is just one, one unity behind all universe - " that they may be one, as we are". There is but one oneness in which all universe eternally has its ultimate roots, and in which all true saints have their communion, their common source of consciousness.
Every person who has permanently got in touch with this divine source, will be a saint for ever, and needs no kind of official declaration any more. Appointing someone to a saint is in principle quite stupid, but serves of course some human needs for a paragon of virtue. Most appointments of saints certainly were not worth the trouble of seeking the formal evidence, because separate formal activities can never testify for the inner perfection of any person: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father", says the gospel, but in almost all cases it is too hard for us people to free our minds from all temporary things - and besides get ready for something permanent.
The story of clearing the Temple of God in Jerusalem should also be taken, at least according to men like Origen and Eckhart, as a parable of clearing one’s own mind of all earthly bandages, of desires and selfishness. But people want to get more and more out of life - and of God - for they love God as if He were a cow: because of her milk (Eckhart’s parable)! And the more one gets the more one has in the long run to get rid of. That is why it is so hard for a "rich man" to enter the kingdom of God.
But this life evidently must have some meaning - and one should get rich enough in experience for once becoming "a last Adam, a quickening spirit" - for what could such a person create who had no personal experience in life at all?
Life is very likely meant for learning in one way or another, for understanding its temporary nature and its hidden wisdom as well. We cannot charge life properly according to the qualities of experience just as they are, for they may merely serve as a basis for future life. The only things that matter are the changes in ones consciousness, caused by events in life.
Jesus himself warned about judging, for people do not entirely know what in every separate case should be considered good and bad . Many events and doings look bad even if their future consequences proved favourable.
In almost every religion or even common tradition we can find the idea that some day or another, in one form or another, a person must meet the consequences of his own doings - maybe in a form, somewhat similar to the original.
This is an essential point especially in the philosophies of the East, but it is easily found in our bibles, too - even if the church has tried to cover it with the shadow of a cross, which has made it a relative law. One can break the law if one truly believes in salvation through Jesus’s death. But it is often taken as an absolute law of Nature among those pagans and heretics "which have no hope", as Paul says in a letter (1 thess. 4:13)!
Words like these are very hard and insulting if we should believe that every human being has the same origin and has got hidden in his soul the same ultimate possibilities to turn back into this eternal source. This kind of excluding hardness might have its roots in a very old Jewish tradition adopted by later generations in the leadership of the church, in the sources which Jesus himself so heavily criticized.
Back to the other side of the coin! The christian way of life has certainly given good opportunities for outer development, technical research and improvements, and for many kinds of social experiments. And these are certainly signs of practicing talents and creativity, even if the results do not in short term seem to be very admirable.
People have also to see the negative outcomings of their activities in order to grow slowly towards real wisdom. In the East people seem to concentrate merely on inner life, neglecting their concrete activities which in their understanding have no other meaning than creating unneccessary "Karma" for the days to come.
But there is still much to be developed in human the mind or understanding. And forever changing forms of life will force people to use their brains. Of cource the outcome of their thinking can very seldom be called wisdom. Usually it is but higher or lower human intelligence, which is useful only for temporary purposes of life. However, it can serve as an introduction towards better understanding and advanced creativity, and so in time also the outer expressions should not seem as threatening as they are today.
All that will take time, and time is the element that many Christians feel they have all too little of. For they have just one short lifetime to make themselves acceptable to their merciful God! It is no wonder that they have had a need to construct a detour to heaven through just one perfected representant of mankind.
It is considered heretical to think that an ultimate perfection might, however, be a long progressive process which is actually happening somewhere in a hidden inside nature of every human being.
Maybe an individual human being might be something much more than just a person who plays a short role here in these limited circumstances of earthly life. Maybe a person is just a vessel for a real human being, meant to get some more experience - "lay up for themselves treasures in heaven" - spiritual qualities to some spiritual level, endurable from "the first Adam to the last"!
According to Paul they all still looked like the first Adam in Paul’s own times - so it must take a lot of time for the whole of mankind to reach the highest stage of humanity.
It has never been very difficult to realize how slowly mankind will become ennobled. So it is no wonder that a need for mercy has arisen among people who think that one must get ready for God in just a lifetime. But what in fact is a lifetime? Just a short appearance in a limited physical body with limited senses, in a limited environment - that is how most of us Christians think!
But nothing in Nature comes from nothing - and not a single thing will totally disappear. "Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men." Return! Where to return? Back to God, or back to life to learn more about the fundamental things that life in a human form can give - until one can oneself utter the famous words of Jesus: "It is finished". What is finished? All that life can give or take has done its work in a human mind and made it free of all human weaknesses, that is to say - of sin!
Really, a lot of mercy is needed before one can reach an adequate stage of purity. And very much faith, "Pistis", aiming at some target (but not always hitting the mark).
What if Paul, as Psalm 90, was talking about a development of millions of years? A horrible idea to many of us Christians, but the most natural view to very many. Was a human being the only thing that was created ready from the first beginning - "in the image of God" - or does this refer only to the Word, the perfect image of man in the depths of the soul? So that an outer human expression is to fulfil this image by degrees in time and space, working as a co-creator to god himself here on earth! And of course this applies to all creatures as well. They are all transferring some divine ideas (the word!) into temporary phenomena - and learning by experiencing the results of their doings, successes as well as failures.
If we are to take the bible seriously, we should notice that it points out the need of change inside one’s own mind, and in that change life itself plays the role of a teacher. But one must try to listen and understand it’s lessons, for if they fall on deaf ears, life must use other means - often by giving rise to suffering and sorrow.
Of course we should understand that reasons for suffering are always very complex. A mercy included in life might even bring these unpleasant things to be faced after a person is internally ready to carry them. If they were debts of the past, we should consider, which one is happier: a person who gets into debt, or a person who has a fine opportunity to pay at least some of his debts back. Of course this kind of thinking does not do justice to the real meaning of suffering: Unpleasant affairs gradually help us in detaching our minds from the ties of this temporary life.
If we always had only a good time, we would never even think of anything other than enjoying our every day life, staying here as the "prodigal sons" forever - never intending to turn "back home". This is why Jacob says: "Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; the trying of your faith worketh patience...let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
O’ yes, Jakob expresses in short the state of mind one must achieve: Not wanting anything! For if a person truly loves god he should also internally resign himself to his fate, because it is just the life which is meant for him - or even made by himself!
This does not, however, mean sinking into inactivity, as it is understood in some of the Eastern traditions, but trying to do one’s best, accusing nobody and nothing - not to talk about getting bitter. Eckhart says that people often pray for God’s will to happen - and when it happens - they are very annoyed!
We are inclined to think that all good comes from heaven and ourselves, and that all bad is from hell and other people - that is how our minds usually work to keep us in balance - the central points of the whole universe!
Psychology talks about projecting when we see all bad things coming from the outside world - so that we have nothing to do with them. But we are weaved into the life of our environment and humanity as a whole - and in order to understand and surpass this limited state of mind we should really try to "deny ourselves, and take our own crosses, and follow him (or the way he and many others have shown us)."
This does not mean that we should look for death, but we should rather look for a completely different attitude towards life - an attitude that takes everything as equal, whether good or bad, familiar or strange, me or you: for basically it is all but one that has fallen into pieces in our minds - in Sin!
Impossible! Certainly it is impossible for a human being as long as he sticks to his own limits. But in time the limits are expanding and the events, as pure events, are losing their significance. For many in the East all events are nothing, but we should seriously try to understand their real nature - how they are trying to refine our mind and detach it from its conditionings to all temporary phenomena, this world of ours.
Let’s shortly return to the advantages of Christian culture. Communication is the word of today. All people can easily get in touch with one another by using mobile telephones or internet connections. Some people are even talking about a world of knowledge, but what is real knowledge?
Knowledge is said to represent power. But what kind of power, and what kind of knowledge is power? These are essential questions if we try to evaluate our way of life. What does a human life today aim at? To gather more and more information of all outer things, and to exchange more and more insignificant messages with one another?
Communion of saints was not based on mobile telephones or internet, but on one single net without a net! One single undivided divine consciousness of all! Who can really understand he is very near his target!
Real knowledge should not be taken as a sum of all thinkable affairs, for thinking always splits things into fragments, and that kind of a process will become endless.
Real knowledge is said to be something undivided - the essence of all in one. It is not a sum but a unity which is impossible to be caught by any thinking process. For thinking is not a sign of being really alive, but a sign of not being able to realize all in one. It is a good sign of mere human understanding - not of a divine knowledge!
The last time to the original question - a blessing or a crime? There will be no final answer to be given. For everything here on earth is all the time going towards temporary stages of development. The Christian faith is just one of many trails to travel a short while.
But if there are some symptoms of diseases to be seen in any human beliefs, we should certainly try to find a proper medicine for them. And medicine for all illnesses is found in Nature, if not in human nature, so at least and last in a divine one.
The importance of searching for ever is clearly expressed in Luke’s gospel: "Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you."
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