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"Christ Consciousness" by Gordon Peerman, D.Min.
Submitted by Gordon Peerman D.Min on April 1, 2011 - 3:16pm
Christ consciousness sees all other human beings as the Christ and treats them accordingly.
No One Comes To the Father But By Me Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:1-9)
This passage, from the Farewell Discourse of the Fourth Gospel, is a passage I have read at funerals so very many times. I remember reading it over the tiny coffin of a newborn baby boy, at the funeral of little girl who died of leukemia, and most recently for a Viet Nam veteran who, decades after the war, ended his life by suicide.
“In my Father’s house are many dwelling places.” I hear “many dwelling places” as “many states of consciousness.” When Jesus began his teaching, he pointed to the already-here but not-yet-fully-realized presence of the kingdom of heaven. As Jim Marion, a Christian mystic, observes, by kingdom of heaven Jesus meant “not a place to which Christians are destined after death, but a particular state of consciousness.”
“This level of consciousness, that Jesus called the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God ... is the level of consciousness at which we no longer identify with our human personality as our ‘I’ but identify with Christ (Spirit) as our true essence.” (Jim Marion, The Death of the Mythic God, 146) St. Paul put it this way: “I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me.”
When Jesus says to Phillip, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me,” he is speaking from this consciousness. When we realize that we are in the Father and that the Father is in us, that as Jesus says, “I and the Father are one,” we realize that this is true of everyone, everyone is one with the Father. But not everyone realizes who they are. This realization, this movement into causal and non-dual stages of consciousness, is a direct experience of the “many dwelling places” in the Father’s house.
Thomas, whom we knowing as “doubting” but who is, in fact, the skeptically honest disciple, says to Jesus, “We don’t know where you are going, we don’t know the way.” And Jesus says, in one of the more memorable, and more problematic sayings of the New Testament, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”
Jesus is saying to Phillip, when you see me, you are seeing God, the great I AM. And by inference, when you truly see yourself, you will see that you and I, and God, and everyone and everything is this one divine Spirit.
Then Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father but by me.” My friend and colleague, Professor John Thatamanil of Union Theological Seminary, has a brilliant exploration of this subject, which you can read here.
What I understand Jesus to be saying is that the consciousness which he has realized, and which his disciples can realize, is the way to the Divine. This Christ consciousness, “I and the Father are one,” is the way, the truth, and the life. As Craig Koester says, Jesus is the way by going the way of the cross, the way of dying to the egoic, separate self.
I do not understand him to be saying that you have to be a card carrying Christian to come to the Father. As John Thatamanil puts it, “There are followers of the way who are not Christian, and there are Christians who are not followers of the way.” Jesus in this passage is not talking about Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, or anyone else. This is not an answer to the question: Will people from other religions be saved?
This is, as John Thathamanil points out, a word addressed to a community in trauma, a Christian community that has been put out of the synagogue because of their allegiance to the Jesus way. “No one comes to the Father but by me” is a statement about consciousness; it’s not a statement about religious affiliation or who “gets in heaven.” All with this consciousness “come to the Father.” Although they would not language it this way, both the Buddha and Mohammed, with realized non-dual consciousness, are what the Christian esoteric tradition calls “ascended masters,” as was the Jewish prophet Elijah. (Jim Marion, Putting On the Mind of Christ, 221) And Jesus himself, as Cynthia Bourgeault puts it, was the first non-dual master in the West.
So just what is this consciousness, this “coming to the Father,” about which I’m speaking? Jim Marion has an excellent exposition of this evolution of consciousness in Putting On the Mind of Christ. This consciousness, this saving knowledge, is an inner realization, a lessening of and eventual dying to self-centeredness, and a rebirth into a vision that sees no separation.
Jim Marion writes of the process of this dying, “We no longer identify with the rational mind. Instead we identify with the witness that observes body, emotions, and mind,” a witness beyond spacetime. Eventually we are no longer identified with our personality. The personality continues to ride along, as it were, but it is no longer in the driver’s seat.
I came across a wonderful communal realization of this vision of non-separation in Ajahn Sucitto’s Kamma and the End of Kamma. A British field worker was observing a game played by a tribe living in the Amazon basin, a game, which he could not at first understand. Two teams of unequal numbers and unequal strength would each grab a large log, hoist it onto their shoulders, and run toward a point some hundred meters or so ahead. Whichever team was ahead, a member of that team would peel off and join the losing team. With the rest of the tribe cheering as the two teams came toward the finish line, it became apparent to the field worker that the point of the game was to have both teams cross the finish line at the same time! The overriding benevolent intent was to arrive at a place with no winners or losers! (123) The vision of no separation not only sees all of us in this together—it sees us all as one.
Christ consciousness sees all other human beings as the Christ and treats them accordingly. Mother Theresa saw the poor and dying of Calcutta as “Christ in all his distressing disguises.” And you and I, all those we love, and all those who challenge us are yet another “Christ in disguise.”
How we come to see this clearly is the purpose of contemplative practice. We’re like a windowpane that has years, lifetimes of accumulated grime and grit so that we can hardly see through it. Like Thomas, we can’t see the way, like Phillip we can’t see the Father meeting us in the events of our lives. We don’t see that, as Paula D’Arcy puts it: “God is disguised as your life.” So we give ourselves to meditation and contemplative practice to purify our sight. When we see clearly, we will see and know that we are the Beloved, we are the Christ, and so is everyone else. If we do not see this, then there is more window washing to do.
I have a reproduction of a fresco of St. Clair of Assisi in my office. She loved to advise her sisters to “place yourself before the mirror, let the Light mirror you, look upon the mirror of perfect love each day.” Here’s a practice Ajahn Succito recommends toward this end. Every day, he says, explore the felt sense of who you take yourself to be: your moods, your energies, your thought processes. And looking in the mirror, say to that one in the mirror, “May he be well. May she be well.” (87) This is a very good way to look upon the mirror of perfect love each day, and cultivate this consciousness that is in Christ. This consciousness isalready here—we who are not yet fully realized practice so that it may come into fullness.