Such is Human Progress
By: Julia Tyack
The evidence does appear to show that HJ did make some unique new breakthroughs and took the general outlook on unconditional to new heights of clarity. In retrospect, considering human progress, we feel we ought to know better, just as future generations will know even better than us.
Nolan’s book, “Jesus before Christianity” majored on the advantage of historical perspective in a modern age. It seems that no viable insight in any area of knowledge comes from a single stream. I liken such perspectives to a mighty river that is fed by rivulets or creeks. If we follow the rivulets from the source to the river we learn where the water comes from.
R1 The voice of inspiration in human history. For example, writings by Stephen Mitchell and many others . “The Gospel According to Jesus” points to the broader enlightenment throughout history. Stephen, being an expert on Eastern studies opens up core sayings of Jesus to the analysis of other spiritual masters’ teachings. Through this method of employing ancient Eastern spiritual literature, social norms and beliefs, Stephen is able to draw out meaning with greater clarity. This enables him to draw parallels in sayings of Jesus as well as highlighting differences, such as Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness. “Stephen Mitchell restores the fiery, utterly brave and unique voice of Jesus to us – and the result is a real gift, and a moment of grace.” (Robert Coles Commonveal.) Other authors such as Funk, Crossan, Borg and Brice C Smith add to such knowledge.
R2 Natural revelation. Animal behavior or dark nature V supreme Good; payback V love without conditions; retaliation V forgiveness that does not first ask for change. Such acceptance of the other is something quite un-natural to man by nature. This superior to nature manifestation in the human arena is played out in pre-modern and post-modern history by human parables, the most recent being Mandela.
R3 Fruits of Jesus – In Mandela’s and Gandhi’s lives, there is a twist; a sting in the tail, a weapon that seems like weak, foolish tolerance of humans behaving badly. However, history has demonstrated that there is power hidden in this apparent weakness, and unexpected change in the un-natural.
In the remembrances at Mandela’s funeral, reference was made to the fact that he was stubbornly insistent about various things related to the freedom of blacks; about honor and respect (i.e. refusing the guard’s instruction to walk fast when first admitted to prison). He demanded respect from his captors and enemies. But then he would seek compromise with others to find some common solution for larger situations. Through it all there was his strong unconditional bent- to include all, to forgive and move on. His basic principle of right and inclusion and forgiveness was not mushy at all in facing down evil.
Jesus’ life was such a parable, whether fictional or actual. He taught that life was a story without ending, and that love eventually overcomes all disaster in the here and now.
R4 Historical research and observable evidence. Bob wrote of one aspect of observable history – “The original, dull Jewish believers didn’t have a clue how to turn “the story” into a global faith – but Paul did it brilliantly.. He forged the most compelling myth in human history. According to Paul it fulfilled Jewish Scripture. Not only that, it fulfilled all the ancient myths of Osiris; Tammuz; the dying and rising divinities aplenty; the mystery religions of Dionysus and Mithra, and the apocalyptic tradition going right back to Zoroaster. Paul brought it all together as a faith, to break down all the old religious walls between Judaism and the rest.” Historical research has given a clearer picture of early non mythical teachings and the later religious phenomena.
In this aspect, the writers mentioned in “The voice of inspiration in human history” above, bring us insights like the picture of snow-flakes that turns into a picture of Jesus for the trained eye. Once you’ve seen the image, it is thereafter always clear to you. This aspect is endemic in the writings of the New Testament. Statements and verses are so at variance, that to the enlightened eye it is like black and white. Sayings that are so contradicting, they could not possibly come from the same source.
Then there is a common law aspect in “guilty beyond reasonable doubt.” Ehrman is an author that works this to the bone in his book, “The Truth Worth Dying for is the Truth Worth Lying for.” Ehrman’s first chapter outlines many reasons for forgeries, such as; political, monetary, military, self-preservation, and religious. In later chapters he unravels some of these forgeries in a brilliant detective style.
R5 Self evident truth. Jesus spoke with authority. He did not rely on external authority for his teachings. There is such a thing as self- evident truth. Self-consciousness resonates with a humane expression of unconditional. Masses of people resonated with Mandela’s example and teachings. The human heart is gifted with the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. This light connects with and acknowledges that which is Supreme Good.
R6 Personal revelations – Whether in the body or out of the body, human beings are experiencing and telling their stories of an experience in unconditional love and acceptance that changes their lives forever. Others like Bob confirm they have experienced this through normal life processes. This mindset enables life to be lived in a conscious mode of love and acceptance that overcomes to a large extent the fear of death.
R7 The New Grand Narrative – Science and the new universal story tell of the awesomeness of being human in a universe of abundance and generosity. This story is told through science, commerce, trade, education and every avenue of human endeavour. This new narrative is also played out within the maturing of and gifting of human consciousness from birth to death, person to person and generation to generation.
I suspect, that somewhat like Paul, we have clarity on some things and yet continue to hold contradictory thoughts at the same time. The actual historical Jesus was, no doubt, also subject to such imperfection of perspective. But the evidence does appear to show that HJ did make some unique new breakthroughs and took the general outlook on unconditional to new heights of clarity.
Not wanting to be too hard on Paul and his religion, he did make some interesting (perhaps partial) breakthroughs on inclusive universalism, such as freedom from law scripture.