22.02.2014 Spirituality

The Real Jesus

Understanding Jesus inspires us to transform ourselves at a deep level, suggests Jeremy Ball

I grew up in a very nonreligious environment. In London in the 1980s, people were leaving the church like rats a sinking ship. My greatest childhood influence, my mother, was an agnostic going on atheist, I think in part as a reaction to her mother being excommunicated from the Catholic Church for marrying someone from the Church of England.

I did, however, feel the palpable presence of Jesus in my life. And so it was, early on, in troubled times that I spontaneously turned to prayer, which really was the straightforward communication of a troubled man to an unseen force. That man was me and that force was Jesus.

The Jesus whom I felt responding to me was a tangibly real human quite different from the divine child and martyr portrayed by most religious versions. This conflict between the knowing of Jesus I held in my heart and that portrayed by churches, nations and mass media led me on a search to know the true historical Christ and the true meaning of his life.

My search took me to churches and holy places around the world. This search also took me to sit in the presence of holy people from other traditions to try and match the feeling I had from Jesus within, to find a flesh incarnate surrogate.

The closest I have come is the Dalai Lama with his incredible joy of life, loving personality and ordinariness. His often used phrase, "I am just a simple human being like you" echoed in my heart the highly misinterpreted "Son of Man" teaching of Jesus.

For a long period, I read much channelled material on Jesus as having come from the highly spiritual Essene sect and even tried emulating their ways. But what I have come to accept as the closest catalogue of who Jesus was and what he taught has been gleaned from three books.

The first is Zealot by Reza Aslan, a man born into a Muslim family who had a childhood experience of Jesus and converted to Christianity, making his life's mission a scholarly search for the historical Jesus. Reza's book is immaculately researched and written with little discernable bias. Through his research he cuts through the thicket of dogma, mistranslation, fantasy and obfuscation that our English language New Testament represents as the life of Jesus. It is clear Jesus was not conceived through "immaculate conception", was born near Nazareth and not Bethlehem and grew among and also became an itinerant worker with little discernable connection to the ascetic Essenes.

The second book is a slim volume entitled Prayers of the Cosmos by Neil Douglas-Klotz, who has worked tirelessly and with great inspiration to translate some of the known confirmable words of Jesus taken from the Dead Sea Scrolls hidden by Jews fleeing the Romans and discovered in caves at Qumran between 1946 and 1956. These scrolls were written shortly after Jesus' crucifixion, most likely by people who knew him closely, and are not the distorted tales of the Gospels, written many decades after Jesus was alive by committees seeking to establish a religion.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are texts written in the Aramaic language that Jesus spoke, a very lyrical tongue and the forefather of Arabic, with many layers of meaning. To read these prayers is to approximate the presence of Jesus. For example, what has been translated as "lead us not into temptation" becomes "don't let surface things delude us but free us from what holds us back". "Be you perfect" becomes "be you all embracing."

It is a much more flowing, emotional and feminine expression rather than that which has been handed down to us through the practical, concrete and dissecting Latin and Greek. The Lord's Prayer becomes a wholly different transcript reverberating with feeling and passionate expressions. I will share just the opening line; forget about "Our Father who Art in heaven"; in its place "O Birther! Father-Mother of the Cosmos, you create all that moves in light." Now we're rocking!

But if I had to take one book with me to my desert island and contemplate the real Jesus and the true message of the Christ, there is no contest. It has to be what I consider the single most important book on Jesus and therefore the most important spiritual book for European people - important because it can untangle the huge misunderstanding that has been created and the pain this has caused the individual, the family and society. The book is entitled Son of Man: The Mystical Path to Christ and was written by Andrew Harvey, a professor at Oxford University who left academia deeply disillusioned and in search of his own spiritual core.

It was a journey that was to see him study deeply in all of the world's major traditions, through heartache and heartbreak and back, to discover the treasures of his own childhood spiritual tradition. The insights revealed in this book are essential first to undo the harm and release the captive from the cage of misunderstanding. Then, if the seeker is ready, to reclaim the truth of Jesus' life and message so that they can achieve the deepest personal connection to the divine within and live it out in the world.

Andrew takes the modern historical depiction of Jesus and adds to this the juice of his spiritual intent and example. He writes: "The Jesus that is emerging in the finest modern portraits of him is that most dangerous and exciting of beings - an awakened, empowered mystic and healer with immense personal powers and revolutionary vision of how the Spirit translated itself in society and history, someone who wants, in the name of divine love and the Kingdom of God, a revisioning and rehaul of the whole of society of his time; and, by implication, all of time."

Andrew continues: "The spiritual reasoning behind Jesus' radicalism is clear. If the kingdom is the essential reality, the truth of truths, and if all human beings are - as Jesus' great awakening made him aware they are - innately gifted with direct access to the all-transforming power of the Spirit, then the entire meaning of human life lies in living and enacting the laws of the Kingdom so that its birth into reality, into the structures of human society and politics and religion, into every area of human life, in fact, can be ever clearer, and more complete."

One of the saddest things that has happened to the true message of Jesus is the masculinisation of his teaching and the way he lived his life. Jesus was a radical feminist in his time, treating women very much as equals in a very sexist society. It is clear from his actions that he venerated the divine feminine at least as much as the Father God with whom we have been taught to associate Christianity and therefore Jesus.

What Andrew has made clear in his book is that Jesus as a human was put through incredible trial and suffering for his uncompromising attitude to the truth and integrity of his message and mission. He was not doing this to clear our sins but rather to scorch an indelible example into the collective psyche as a blueprint for a divine or Christed being. He knew this to be the destiny of all of his brothers and sisters to follow who were brave and dedicated enough to put this passionate love into action.

Amid all the turmoil and global calamity, now is the time and possibility for this fulfillment, for those brave and mad enough to be part of a global second coming. More and more people are daring to see the truth of the terrible lifeless systems we have created and the stench of our own inner narcissism. But it demands far more than gathering a few times on a beach holding hands in a circle and chanting Om. The Christing process, as Andrew calls it, is nothing less than an incredible and overwhelming inner transformation.

Jeremy Ball

At 26, following a “shamanic intervention”, Jeremy closed his business and left London to visit sacred sites and elders, later creating Transformational Tours and SacredFire.

When not roaming mother earth, you will find Jeremy at home in Byron Bay's hinterland, playing with his children and planning the next adventure. jeremy@transformationaltours.com.au