Jesus and the Resurrection

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GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness

GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe

SECRET MATTER,

GETTING LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE

PLAGUE: A NOVEL ABOUT HEALING.

 

 

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The Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate

Shame on the American People

 The cause of homosexuality

What Jesus said about Gay Rights

The purpose of homosexuality


Varieties of Gay Spirituality

Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality as Artistic Medium

"It's Always About You"

The myth of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara

You're Not A Wave


Curious Bodies

What Toby Johnson Believes

The Joseph Campbell Connection,

The Nature of Religion

Being Gay is a Blessing

Freedom of Religion

The Gay Agenda


 "The Evolution of Gay Identity"

"St. John of the Cross &
the Dark Night of the Soul."

Avalokiteshvara at the Baths.

 Eckhart's Eye 


Teenage Prostitution and the Nature of Evil

Allah Hu: "God is present here"
 
Adam and Steve

Gay retirement and the "freelance monastery"

Seeing with Different Eyes


The mystical experience at the Servites'  Castle in Riverside

The Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis


The Techniques Of The World Saviors

Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby
Part 2:
The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
Part 3:
Jesus and the Resurrection
Part 4:
A Course in Miracles


The Secret of the Clear Light

Understanding the Clear Light

Mobius Strip

Finding YourTiger Face

How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated

The D.A.F.O.D.I.L. Alliance

Toby's friend and nicknamesake Toby Marotta.

 

 

TECHNIQUES OF THE WORLD SAVIORS: Jesus and the Resurrection
by Toby Johnson


from The Myth of the Great Secret: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell (Celestial Arts, 1990)


This article has 4 parts. This is the third part
Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby
Part 2: The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
Part 3: Jesus and the Resurrection
Part 4: A Course in Miracles

Jesus--a world savior like the Buddha or the Bodhisattva and a battler with the world and its suffering like Brer Rabbit and Prince Five-weapons--discovered that the way to overcome the world and the flesh was to embrace it; the way to overcome death was to die. Jesus was nailed to a cross. The cross, extending in the four directions of the compass, represented the physical world. Jesus suffered five wounds by which his senses were crucified on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The fruit of that tree, when eaten by Adam, resulted in the vision of the polarities which trapped him and all his offspring in the world of suffering. Crucifixion on that tree resulted for Jesus in the vision beyond the polarities.

labyrinth with corssThe story of the confirmation to Thomas the Apostle, who said he would not believe in Jesus' return until he had placed his own hands in Jesus' wounds, is the only indication in Scripture that Jesus had been nailed to his cross. Elsewhere it is simply reported he was crucified. As almost every depiction of the scene shows of the two thieves, victims of crucifixion were ordinarily tied by the arms to a horizontal beam and left to die, usually of asphixiation when the weight of the hanging body caused the muscles in the chest and diaphragm to go into spasm.

But Jesus is said to have suffered five wounds: in the hands and feet, caused by nails with which he was affixed to the cross, and in the heart, caused by a spear with which he was stabbed by the Roman Centurion, who seems to have been a believer, to make certain he was dead (and, incidentally, to drain the blood from his body as required in the preparation of the Passover lamb). The crucifixion was cut short and the men killed because it was necessary to dispose of their bodies. The feast of Passover was beginning and Jews would be forbidden to prepare graves.

The five wounds were significant of the opening of the senses by which the vision of the Kingdom could be regained. Five "wounds" appear similarly on the body of Tara, the goddess of compassion, born of a tear of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. She bears openings in her hands and feet and in her forehead; from within Tara's wounds eyes look out to see the mystically transformed world.

On the cross, Jesus said, at least partially in the ritual language of Hebrew, words that have perplexed many Christians: Eli, eli, lema sabacthani. And (according to the two Gospels that record this story) he then gave up his spirit to God. These are the opening words of the Twenty-second Psalm, a prayer that is part of a cycle of texts that refer to the "suffering servant," the just man who, though innocent, takes upon himself the sins of the people, becoming the scapegoat to suffer for them, once for all. Jesus' intonation of the words, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" was not a sign of his despair. It was very truly his recitation of what in a different context we know as the Bodhisattva's vow.

By the merit of his act he became more than just a man trapped in space and time. He became, as he prayed in the priestly prayer in the Saint John Gospel, one with all humanity. And he was crowned, with a crown of thorns and briars, King of the Universe, Savior of the World.

To Dismas, the good thief, Jesus declared: "This day you are with me in Paradise." The word in Scripture is Paradise, not heaven; it was the word for the Garden in Genesis. Jesus seems to have been declaring not that Dismas would enter some ethereal afterlife, but that, because he had recognized he was responsible for his own acts and deserved crucifixion and, unlike the other thief, did not taunt Jesus to free him, Dismas' cross had also become the tree of life and to him also was restored the vision of the Garden.

Jesus in agonyJesus' words to Dismas that the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own acts restored one to Paradise, and Jesus' own willingness to go beyond that to accept responsibility for the acts of the whole world, reveal an essential meaning of the myth of the crucifixion. The Christian message, similar to yet differently inflected from the Buddhist, is at least on one level that, while the suffering of the world may not be escaped, it can be transcended. In the Gnostic Acts of John, leading the Apostles in a kind of mystic dance, Jesus instructed them: "Learn how to suffer and you shall be able not to suffer." And that is accomplished by taking responsibility for the world in all its manifestations, by embracing it in oneself and in others as the means by which the senses can be opened, by accepting things just as they are without resistance, by practicing compassion not condemnation. This is more consistent with Jesus' practical admonitions to forgive sinners and love even one's enemies than with the later tendency of Christians to judge righteously as sinful certain lifestyles and to persecute those who did not adhere to a rigid standard of orthodoxy.

Jesus, unlike many of his followers, saw what Brer Rabbit saw: different people live in different universes and one person's briar patch is another's home; one person's hell is another's heaven; and to be one with the Ultimate, to be one with God, one has to embrace all the heavens and all the hells equally. And so from his perspective as the Christ--the ultimate Self--he was willing to fling himself into the briars. For the road of adventure, the road back to the Garden, leads right into the middle of the briar patch. The briars of Brer Rabbit's escape and the briars of Jesus' crown are one and the same: the occasion to change the way we look at the world.

 

"In a twinkle we shall all be changed," said Saint Paul.

Not in a twinkle, but in the agony of three hours on the cross and the emptiness of three days in the tomb, Jesus Christ was changed from man to god. His body was transformed, the myth tells, from a body of flesh, which, trapped in individuality by the perspective of the senses, could suffer and die, to a body of light and glory, which, freed from the limitations of perspective, could pass through walls and cover distance in an instant.

The Resurrection is considered the central mystery of Christianity. In it are clues for how to live in the world and in the flesh. That is what the mystery is about. Too frequently, however, the Resurrection is presented not about life in the flesh, but about some sort of disembodied afterlife.

Just as the bodhisattva, in one version of the vow, offers himself as "the food and drink in the famine of the ages' end," so Jesus said his physical body would be meat and his blood drink for his followers so they could enter his Kingdom. He offered himelf as the lamb of the Passover sacrifice. The blood of this lamb, smeared on the doorposts, alerted the Angel of Death to pass over the homes of the chosen people; its flesh fed them during their pilgrimage to the Promised Land. And of his body that would be sacrificed, Jesus said, "If you destroy this temple, I shall build it up again in three days."

The disciples perhaps took his metaphor of reconstruction too literally--an error they made often. They consistently misunderstood his message, expecting in the Kingdom not mystical vision but political accession. And so it was that on the third day after Jesus' death, when they went to the place where his remains had been laid, to their dismay they found only an empty tomb, not a reconstituted Jesus. It must have seemed to them that their Lord had failed to rebuild the temple that had been destroyed or resurrect the victim who had been ritually sacrificed for the new Passover.

But then one by one they began to experience strange events. At unexpected times they felt Jesus' presence. In the gardener on Joseph Arimathea's land, Mary recognized him. In a stranger two of the disciples met on the way to the little town of Emmaus outside Jerusalem, when they sat down to eat together, they experienced him. In a shadowy figure cooking breakfast over a fire by the edge of the sea, to which as sailors they'd returned after Jesus' death, they recognized him. In the upper room in which they'd hidden in fear, the Apostles saw him in a mystical body.

John Dominic Crossan, a Biblical theologian under whom I studied as a Servite in Chicago, argued that the notable differences between the narratives in the four Gospels suggest that the simple physical resuscitation of Jesus was not the real sense of the Resurrection intended by the Evangelists. If, as so many have maintained afterwards, the historicity of such a resuscitation were the central fact of Christianity upon which all else rises or falls, Crossan argued, the accounts should agree in their report of the historical events. After all, the essence of historicity is consistency among witnesses' accounts. But the accounts are not consistent: the Evangelists treated the Resurrection just as they did other events in Jesus' life--not as historical facts--but as symbolic carriers of spiritual and mystical meaning. What the Gospels do agree on is that on the third day the tomb was empty and soon afterwards the disciples experienced mystical phenomena that are variously depicted as apparitions of Jesus, their ability to work wonders, and the descent of the Holy Spirit.

What actually happened to Jesus' body remains a mystery. Perhaps the corpse was reanimated, as most Christians believe. Perhaps it was stolen, as suggested in the Matthew Gospel, by entrepreneurs, hoping it might still possess some healing power or at least bring a small fee from pilgrims. Perhaps it simply disappeared.*

* The bodies of yogis have occasionally bcen reported to dissolve into light or flame at their deaths. Scientific analysis of the mysterious shroud of Turin suggested that the image of the body was formed by some form of scorching radiation. The shroud was believed to have been the burial cloth of Jesus and the radiation would have occurred at the time his body was transformed to light. Further analysis, however, has questioned this explanation because the fibers of the shroud do not appear to date back to Jesus’ time. Still, there is no viable explanation of how the image was formed. The shroud of Turin is a curiosity of religious history. Could it be that what formed the image was the belief of all those who came to see it and worship at its shrine? Which is to ask, I suppose, can hoaxes become “real” if they’re believed long enough? The scientific answer, of course, is “no.” The mystical answer, on the other hand, seems to be “of course.” That’s where all the myths come from, after all.


Or perhaps the disciples literally consumed the body of Jesus. After all, at the Last Supper Jesus had taken bread and blessed it and given it to his disciples, showing them "This is my body" and instructing them "take and eat." And he had taken a cup of wine and blessed it and given it to them, showing them also "This is the cup of my blood, take and drink." Thus he would be physically present in the disciples' own bodies.

What the Resurrection seems to indicate is that Christ has remained mystically, yet also physically, present. This is, of course, what is meant by the sacrament of the Eucharist. For two millennia the Roman Church has insisted that the eucharistic bread and wine are not merely symbols but are in fact, transsubstantially, the body and blood of Jesus. The revulsion we feel when we consider the cannibalism inherent in this image or in Jesus' rather straightforward instructions at the Last Supper only reveals how little we appreciate sacramentality or understand the meaning of the historicity of the Incarnation. For the historicity of Christianity is itself mythological. The myth of historicity means that spiritual reality is embodied in time and in the flesh. The historical events do not need to have "actually" happened for the notion of their historicity to be meaningful.

 

In the ancient Roman liturgy of the Easter Vigil, grains of incense were enfixed with stylized wax nails into the five cardinal points of a cross inscribed on the Paschal Candle. The candle represented Christ as the "light of the world." The grains of incense represented the sweetness of the wounds by which the world was transformed. To the right and left of the cross were inscribed the numerals for the current year; above and below, the Greek letters alpha and omega: the cross, which is the acceptance of things just as they are, is formed by the intersection of the temporal and the eternal.

With consciously sexual symbolism recognized by the Church, the priest who prepared the Paschal Candle then plunged it three times, each time deeper, into a pool of water. As he did this, he prayed that the Spirit descend into the water--which, representing the material world transformed, would be used throughout the coming year for baptism--making it fruitful for regeneration so that those who partook of its sacrament would be "born again new children in true innocence."

This ceremony manifests the tradition that Jesus' death fecundated a new earth. This image, in turn, manifests the even older tradition of the slaughtered king or corn god, who sacrificed himself at the end of his reign in order to bring life to the soil upon which his people depended for food.

Some years ago I wandered into the chapel of the Catholic ministry at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Behind the altar hung a huge mural of the crucifixion in stark black and white, like a photo collage. I was stunned by it. The corpus was surrounded by chromosomal and genetic structures on one side and interplanetary and galactic images on the other. Jesus' body was formed of vascular and striated muscle tissue. It stood before and grew into a cross that was a stylization of the female reproductive organs. The arms of the cross were like fallopian tubes. Within an ovarian form on the left crossarm, a skeletal fetus reached out its hand to insert its fingers into the print of the nail in the savior's palm. Above Jesus' face, bowed in life-bestowing death, the spectral hands of the Father blessing his Son formed the head of the phallus by which the Christ was fructifying the material organic world. The painting, by Michael Dvortcsak, was titled in Teilhardian fashion: Christ Invests Himself Organically with the Very Majesty of His Universe.

Christ Invests Himself Organically


The sacrifice of the incarnated Self accepting biological and mortal manifestation engenders new life in foetal humankind who reach out, like twin brother Thomas to test the validity of the Resurrection. (In Gnostic Christianity, such as that presented in the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas, the image of the twin signified mystical identity with Jesus the Christ. The confirmation to Thomas signified the Apostle's realization that Jesus was flesh, and not a ghost, in Thomas' own body.) The blessed belief even of those who have not yet seen, but who have believed, transforms the nature of organic existence. Christ died not to enter into a new life by which he could escape the world, but to give us new life by which to experience that world, in the very flesh in which the Christ Self remains forever incarnate.

 

lotus blossom

In promising to "master the immeasurable dharmas," the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara identified himself with all beings. In realizing the radical oneness of all consciousness, he became the one being incarnated in all, the one able to perceive the world from all possible perspectives, the one "divine spark," as Eckhart called it, and the Holy Ghost, as mainstream Christians call it, by which the Godhead is present in every being. Hence Avalokitesvara became savior of the world because he is the only being in the world and he has saved himself, and everyone else, by his realization that none are saved till all are saved, and by his choice to save himself by saving all of us--the ultimate act of enlightened, radical self-interest.

Joseph Campbell wrote of the Bodhisattva:

"Peace is at the heart of all because Avalokitesvara- Kwannon, the mighty Bodhisattva, Boundless Love, includes, regards, and dwells within (without exception) every sentient being. The perfection of the delicate wings of an insect, broken in the passage of time, he regards--and he himself is both their perfection and their disintegration. The perennial agony of man, self-torturing, deluded, tangled in the net of his own tenuous delirium, frustrated, yet having within himself, undiscovered, absolutely unutilized, the secret of release: this too he regards--and is. Serene above man, the angels; below man, the demons and unhappy dead: these all are drawn to the Bodhisattva by the rays of his jewel hands, and they are he, as he is they. The bounded, shackled centers of consciousness, myriadfold, on every plane of existence (not only in this present universe, limited by the Milky Way, but beyond, into the reaches of space), galaxy beyond galaxy, world beyond world of universes, coming into being out of the timeless pool of the void, bursting into life, and like a bubble therewith vanishing: time and time again: lives by the multitude: all suffering: each bounded in the tenuous, tight circle of itself--lashing, killing, hating, and desiring peace beyond victory: these are all the children, the mad figures of the transitory yet inexhaustible, long world dream of the All-Regarding, whose essence is the essence of Emptiness: "The Lord Looking Down in Pity."

But the name means also: "The Lord Who is Seen Within." We are all reflexes of the image of the Bodhisattva. The sufferer within us is that divine being. We and that protecting father are one. This is the redeeming insight. And so it must be known that, though this ignorant, limited, self-defending, suffering body may regard itself as threatened by some other--the enemy--that one too is the God. . . we live not in this physique only, but in all bodies, all physiques of the world, as the Bodhisattva." (Hero, pp 160-62)

 

That is why all Mahayanists ritually recite the vows. For the vows are clues to one's own truest identity and to the ultimate redeeming insight.

Jesus' mystical vision had shown him that his individuality too was evanescent. He had seen that in the destruction of his body, sacrificed and devoured, surrendering form back into emptiness--as ego consciousness surrenders to unconsciousness--he would be transformed: he would dissolve back into the collective. In being subsumed he would become one with his followers, incorporated into them, seeing through their eyes, hearing with their ears, touching them with their hands--free of individual perspective.

In entering death, proclaiming the bodhisattva-savior's vow to suffer for us all, Jesus is reborn in each person. He has become one with the consciousness that perceives all experience and founds all existence. Each of us is Jesus reborn--not so much, of course, in our bodies of matter (born of mother) which exist in different places in space and time from the body of Jesus--but in our pure awareness (born of virgin) of life simply as it is in the present moment. In Christ (that is, in the pure awareness that is the consciousness in each of us) we all rise from the dead, for we are reborn in children over and over again, not necessarily as reincarnating individuals but as the life itself that causes our children to grow into adults and then to die to make space for more children and more life.

The myth of the Resurrection gives physical reality to Jesus' spiritual discovery of life beyond death--not simply of continuous living, but of an abundant, transpersonal vitality beyond space and time. The Resurrection reveals how rooted is the temporal in the eternal, the individual in the collective, and the physical in the spiritual.

The myth of the resurrection of the body (Jesus' in history and ours at the Second Coming) signifies that life keeps coming back in the flesh. To see that is to see that death need not be feared, that embodied life is good, that we are all manifestations of the same life. To see that is to be born again of the water (of the ocean out of which life first grew and of the amniotic water of our birth) and of the spirit (which is the breath respiring through all of us, and which, as William James saw, is modulated into consciousness in each of us). It is to see that we are all risen from the dead because of God's act of creation of space and time.

In time the creative will is our experience of tense. For the future into which we are being born is always being created in time out of the past from which we have been reborn. Indeed, being reborn means seeing that we are that creative will knowing itself and choosing out of infinite compassion and interest to be all beings.

In space that will is seen as light. For all life grows up from the earth driven by the power pouring down from the sun. In his resurrection Jesus became light, one with the sun. Thus the bread and the wine really are the body and blood of Jesus because the wheat growing out of rich soil, nourished by the deterioration of organic matter in the dark humus, is the embodiment of the light, and the wine, pressed from the grapes, invigorated by the propagation of yeasts in the rich red juices, is the blood of the sun.

The point of sacrament is to give physical reality to spiritual truth. Jesus' conquest of death is his presence in the flesh of his followers. And the point of transforming our vision is to find in the flesh, with all its sexual immediacy, the sacrament of our experience of God. True innocence, Christ invested organically, a new way to see the world, vision transformed, the fecundation of a new heaven and a new earth--this is what the spiritual teachings promise. Such vision will, in fact, transform the world of history.

Joseph Campbell frequently quoted a line from the Thomas Gospel: In answer to the disciples' question: When will the kingdom come? Jesus said: The kingdom will not come by expectation. The kingdom of the Father is spread over the earth and men do not see it. "In other words," Joe said, "bring it about in your hearts. And that is precisely the sense of Nirvanic realization. This is it. All you have to do is see it." (Open Life, p. 57.)

That is what the Second Coming refers to: when our sights have all changed we will see that Christ comes again because, of course, he's never left. Like Avalokitesvara he has remained in our bodies as us.

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This article has 4 parts. This is the third part
Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby
Part 2: The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
Part 3: Jesus and the Resurrection
Part 4: A Course in Miracles

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Toby Johnson, PhD is author of eight books: three non-fiction books that apply the wisdom of his teacher and "wise old man," Joseph Campbell to modern-day social and religious problems, three gay genre novels that dramatize spiritual issues at the heart of gay identity, and two books on gay men's spiritualities and the mystical experience of homosexuality. In addition to the novels featured elsewhere in this web site, Johnson is author of IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD and THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET (Revised edition): AN APPRECIATION OF JOSEPH CAMPBELL.

Johnson's Lammy Award winning book GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness was published in 2000.

His Lammy-nominated book  GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe was published by Alyson in 2003.

 

 

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