…by these we reach Divinity.” –John Donne
Yesterday, in addition to a number of anti-God/anti-religion threads on the message boards of websites I visit daily, NPR aired a “Science versus Faith” discussion program last night; I had the displeasure of hearing part of it while visiting a friend. In my experience, most programs of this sort barely scratch the surface of the subject, fail to address any level of complexity, and tend to miss the point entirely. It’s frustrating.
Yesterday, on Democratic Underground, a poster wrote the following:
“For my part I gave up my last imaginary friend when I was 15. It occurred to me that the whole Jesus thing didn’t make any sense on a whole lotta’ levels.
First he walks around being a troublemaker and a thorn in the side of rich people for 30 years. They finally have a belly full of him, so they kill him. He’s buried and gets up after a few days but then goes back to being dead. Is that a choice any intelligent person would make? Let’s see, I can stay down here and tell people about the miracle or I can vanish and let them wonder about it when they get the news second hand…”
Last year, on The Smirking Chimp, someone started a thread titled, “Was Jesus Real or Myth?” Lots of posts to that thread, including one which listed similar myths and figures spanning many traditions and cultures.
Whether Jesus was “real or myth” is completely irrelevant, and a list of similar myths and figures only proves that the Jesus of the Bible is an archetypal figure, and that his story incorporates cross-cultural ideas and perspectives.
Jesus personifies the struggle within us all–the internal struggle with the Self. The spiritual plane (or spirit, which includes intellect and emotion) is represented and referred to as the Divine, or God; the Earthly plane represented/referred to as “worldly”, “material”, “body/flesh”, etc.
Human Beings are both body and spirit (Earthly/Wordly and Divine), but while the spirit is limitless, the body is limited. The spirit is eternal; the body has a lifespan. The body limits the spirit from reaching its highest; in order for the spirit to truly reach the Divine, it cannot be “enclosed” within a body. Human Beings (as exemplified by mystics, or those who seek total spiritual enlightenment and fulfillment) are, in essence, “tortured souls”, as we strive to fully know, understand, feel, and experience all of Creation, yet are nonetheless limited by our bodies and lifespan.
However, without the body, the spirit cannot be expressed, or manifested. The beauty, glory, and essence of a Human Being cannot be known, understood, loved, or experienced if that Human Being’s spirit is without a body. The Earthly, worldly–the physical–is how we develop ourselves spiritually and connect with other Human Beings (or spirits, if you will). We evolve spiritually/intellectually/emotionally by reading or listening to language, either spoken or written by another. We discover visual beauty through the creations of other Human Beings—concrete/Earthly expressions of their own spirits (souls) made possible by virtue of having hands, eyes, etc. And so on.
Our soul evolves through the material, and via the channels of the body–but at the risk of bodily indulgence. Thinking, feeling, experiencing, reflecting—these are processes which require conscious effort. Mere physical/bodily pleasure from Earthly experiences requires neither thought nor introspection; growth and evolution at the spiritual/soul level does.
So how do we reconcile the body (Earthly, material) with the soul/spirit (Divine), when he two are interdependent yet also at odds with each other? Well, basically, you wrestle with it. This “wrestling act” is the Human Experience, and Jesus is a coach.
Jesus is the embodiment of spiritual transcendence, and of the interdependency and reconciliation of the Earthly (body) and Divine (soul/spirit). His story teaches that, on the grand scale, for the spirit/soul to be truly limitless, it must leave the body and the worldly behind, and that that very process of letting go of the worldly (and even literally one’s body) involves deep suffering. Said suffering is necessary in order for it to be mastered by the soul and transcended.
On a smaller scale, Jesus embodies the very process of change and growth—or “necessary losses”. For our soul (or Self) to grow/evolve, we must let go of (or sacrifice, like Jesus allowing his body to be sacrificed) that which is limiting us; such letting go is painful (involves an element of suffering, like when Jesus underwent crucifixion ). We surrender to and accept our new path, make peace with it, and “put our old ways behind” us (Jesus dying on the cross, burial). We then transcend those previous limitations, integrate the transformation experience into our “greater Self”, and create a “new and better life” for ourselves (Resurrection).
I could write dozens of pages more, including how Jesus’ crucifixion parallels the five stages of grief.
I am a Conservative Jew. Ready to talk about faith and science? 🙂