Jay Michaelson
How I Finally Learned to Accept Christ in my Heart, p.4

If Jesus was a fully realized being, then whether we translate his teachings one way or another is less important than coming to terms with Who He was to begin with. A fully realized being is God, knows S/He is God, knows that Everything else is also God. Of course, this being is also human too - so, if male, he is both man and God.

It may be useful to mythologize this Being in terms which people can easily understand - it may be useful to call him the "son of God." And so it will be easy to get carried away. But the core principle - that Jesus is both Man and God - is tenable, and reconcilable, and non-problematic for a truly believing contemplative Jew.

To be sure, there is plenty of "the Christians have it wrong" left in this reading of the Gospels. But at least they have it no more wrong than Jews do when they talk about being the chosen people, or Buddhists do when they offer sacrifices to Bodhisattvas, or Muslims do when they kill. In fact, amid all our diversity of myth, we've all got it wrong in basically the same way. We mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself.

There is a great wisdom in the particular myth of Jesus's incarnation. The cross, I've learned from a wise queer theologian friend, is often seen as a metaphor for uniting the immanent and the transcendent - much as is the six-pointed star. The horizontal line is the world of the finite, the human, the place of yearning and separation. The vertical line is the transcendent, the infinite, the Divine reality. (In Jewish symbolism, this is equivalent to the downward-pointing and upward-pointing triangles.) I've always seen Christ's movement as an upward one: realization proceeds from the individual to the All. This, after all, is the mystic path.

However, the incarnation myth has it better. God is becoming one with God. This is the second error, one might say, of paganism as seen from a monotheist's perspective: that praxis is a magnification of the individual. Two days ago, when I was standing atop an empty, tall mountain in the desert, holding my arms up in the wind, I felt power. It was easy to feel power-ful, as if it were my power, as if, to juxtapose the sublime and the ridiculous, I were "king of the world." That is the great error - to suppose that the power belongs to me. In fact, "I" belong to the Power. Practice does not aggrandize the self; it erases the self and discovers the One.

In this view, Christ is a myth of God's becoming. At this moment, six billion humans and countless billion other creatures are participating in the evolution of God. The myth of Christ thus invites, in a personal way for Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and everyone else in this beautiful, threatened universe, the question of ethics and humanism, and of human flowering itself: what is God becoming through you?

[1]       [2]       [3]       4
Image: Salvador Dali, Christ of St. John of the Cross

Jay Michaelson is teaching 'Kabbalah for Skeptics' this month at Makor.

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