I am an agnostic whose neurons occasionally kick up the image of a god somewhere in the deep layers of my consciousness. The image is invariably of Jesus and mostly of the Jesus who stood silently before Pontius Pilate with a helpless smile on his weary lips. “What is truth?” Pilate had asked. Jesus stood silent. What would Pilate understand if Jesus said: I am the truth. You are the truth. Each one of us is the truth. But the truth is hidden beneath a lot of falsities and illusions.
Jesus was a Jew. He did not found any religion. Nor did he seek to, perhaps. Christianity came into being after Jesus’ death due to various circumstances. In its origins, Christianity was not entirely separate from Judaism. The so-called Christians were actually Jews who continued to worship in the synagogues. But soon there were persecutions unleashed against them. So they went underground, so to say. Christianity became a separate religion. Paul added a totally new dimension to it with his admirable knowledge of Jewish theology and Greek philosophy.
Jesus was a Jew who wished to reform that religion, to liberate it from the cruel, despotic and jealous Yahweh. Jesus wanted to liberate the Jews from the clutches of inhuman legalism. He wanted to make them a free people. The freedom he envisaged was not political freedom from the oppressive Roman empire. It was the freedom of the spirit, the freedom of the individual, freedom from falsities and delusions.
People were advised to rise above the law, above the need for the law. When goodness follows naturally from your heart, laws are not required. Jesus wanted the human spirit to rise to that level of consciousness where goodness will be a natural way of being.
But Jesus was also aware of the possible pitfalls of such innocence. That’s why he exhorted people to be both innocent as the doves and cunning as the serpents.
But the cunning is meant as a self-defence for the innocent of heart, not a means to attack others. Hate has no place in this vision. Love is the height of the individual’s achievement, according to Jesus’ vision. The person whose soul stands naked, stripped of all falsities and illusions, is the real Christian. Goodness comes naturally to him. Love follows naturally too.
An individual who reaches that level of being is ‘the truth.’ Would Pilate understand that? Would anyone?
I don’t think of Jesus as god though the scripts written and re-written in the palimpsest of my childhood by various agencies varying from my parents to numerous priests still electrify my neurons into producing Jesus’ image in a divine aura somewhere in the deepest recesses of my consciousness.
I think of Jesus as the eldest son of Mary. Joseph was not his biological father. Then who was Jesus’ father? I don’t know. I’d rather agree with some researchers that it must have been an influential person from the community of Essenes. The Essenes were a community of scholarly people who, according to the writings of Flavius Josephus (37 – c.100 CE, a Romano-Jewish historian), were well versed in the books of the Old Testament and the teachings of the prophets. They were also trained in the arts of divination and healing of the sick. They lived a monastic kind of life without any significant social interaction. Was the angel who appeared to Joseph exhorting him to accept Mary without any doubt on her character an Essene? Was he the real father of Jesus? This is just a conjecture; but a strong possibility for me. I also think that Jesus was trained by the Essenes.
Jesus was a mahatma, a great soul who tried to teach the secret of the joy of living to the people whom he loved. But his teaching was very radical and hence it threatened many social structures such as organised religion. Hence the Jewish priests turned against him. They demanded his crucifixion. The Roman Empire was only happy to get rid of another potential trouble-maker.
Would Jesus make sense in today’s world if he were to come this Christmas? What sense will he make, for example, to a family of three that lives in a 31-storey building with a hundred servants to cater to their whims and fancies? What sense will he make to a man who hides in some cave of Pakistan or Afghanistan planning to murder thousands of people for the sake of his religion? What sense will he make to millions of hapless people whose dreams are trodden underfoot by miners, construction mafias, bullies, murderers…?
Happy Christmas to you!