— by Nick Morrice —

I suppose I am not particularly interested in the historical Jesus. This Jesus has been interpreted by so many artists over the years, from the makers of altarpieces and stained glass windows, to the makers of Hollywood films, and in that process to me, the essence of Jesus has been lost in great waves of emotion and sentiment.

I am still less interested in the Jesus who was appropriated by Christianity and created by the church to fulfil its agenda. This is the Jesus built up over 2000 years by theologians and other scholars: the source of sacraments and prayers that were unknown to him when he walked the earth. This Jesus is the ‘Prince of Peace’ over whom bloody wars have been fought, and the foundation of a religion that has proliferated into some 20,000 sects. Would he have argued with learned divines over the meaning of the Eucharist? Would he have espoused a doctrine declaring that babies are damned until they are baptised? How can any authority, however exalted, really inform us about what Jesus would have thought? Isn’t it a direct contradiction to hold that Jesus was a unique creation – the one and only Son of God – while at the same time claiming to be able to read his mind on current events? Yet in his name Christianity pronounces on homosexuality, birth control, abortions and wars.

But there does remains a third way of viewing Jesus, which is precious to me; and this is the Jesus who taught his followers how to reach Christ-consciousness. For me he embodies the highest level of enlightenment. He spent his brief adult life describing it, teaching it and passing it on to future generations. In place of lost history and complex theology, this Jesus offers a direct relationship that is personal and practical.

Now it seems clear that Jesus did not want to keep the mystery of God consciousness to himself. He constantly held out his vision to others. This Universal Christ consciousness is not unique to Jesus. In India it is called Krishna consciousness, because the consciousness of the great Lord Shri Krishna, like that of Jesus, was in tune with the Christ consciousness in everything. Buddha as well and possibly others – these great ones had discovered that the One life behind everything in creation, is the one reflection of God, the Christ or Krishna consciousness as it is called.

‘Enlightenment’ and ‘consciousness-raising’ are considered Eastern concepts, not Christian ones. So how does one develop ‘Christ consciousness’? Here is one short paragraph on this subject, by Paramahansa Yogananda:

“The purpose of religion is to expand the human consciousness until it unites, becomes one with the universal Christ consciousness, even as Jesus and Krishna did. How can we do this? One way is by endeavouring to love everything that is. We tend to love only our family, friends, those people and creatures with which we are familiar. But to extend and expand our love to take in others outside our little circle is to evolve towards Christ consciousness… By uniting ourselves first with that all-pervading consciousness of God in creation, we automatically feel and realise our oneness with all the rest of his creatures; and we easily love them, recognising them as all being individual expressions of Himself. We know that we, and they too, our part of His One being”

In Unitarian services we sometimes sing the following:

Spirit of Life come unto me,
Stir in my heart all the feelings of compassion,
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice,
Roots hold me close, wings set me free;
Spirit of life come to me, come to me. (by Carolyn McDade)

And at such times, what I personally am singing and attuning to, is this Universal consciousness which unites us all.