Today’s blog explores Jesus and his teachings as a mode of psychological and spiritual development through which we are empowered to become self-actualized and through which we are able to be freed of the obstacles which prevent us from reaching our full potential as human beings. (isn’t this the goal of psychology afterall?)
We’ve killed Jesus a second time.
It saddens me that in our quest for intellectualism and individuation, Christianity has somehow become irrelevant and Jesus seems to have been thrown out with the bath water. Because, when we look past the sins of the Institutions (sexual abuse, sexism, discrimination, power and control) and pierce through the veil of dogma, what lies behind it all is an example, as well as a model for psychological and spiritual development that can be beneficial to every man, woman and child. Instead, Jesus lays dead at our feet while Buddhism, Yoga, Kabbalah and Paganism become the fashionable and intelligent paths to enlightenment. While I acknowledge all these paths as holy and sacred and as valid means through which we can develop and grow as human beings, I contend that we are missing a HUGE opportunity by ignoring or worse yet, demonizing, Jesus and the gifts that he brings.
Jesus as the model
When we read scripture without the threads of dogma obscuring our view, what we see in Jesus is a man who came to understand the fullness of his human potential and who lived that out as freely as was possible. In fact, he lived his actualized self so well that he got killed for it. Examining Jesus’ life through the lens of psychological and spiritual development, what we see is:
- a man committed to his spiritual practice.
- who came to develop a deeply intimate and personal relationship with that which he called “Abwoon” (God).
- who found healing, comfort, restoration, inspiration and guidance through this connection with his higher self.
- who, through a process of formation and discernment came to understand his unique giftedness and how he was called to live that out.
- who overcame the inner obstacles, temptations and fears which might either prevent him from living this path with humility
- who learned and practiced the gift of spiritual obedience.
- who learned to surrender to and trust the Source that was guiding him.
- who was able to stand freely and without compromise in his truth, even to the point of death.
- who was a force for change and a voice for justice – ministering to and speaking out on behalf of those who had been ostracized by society.
- who challenged the laws that provided priviledge to some while infringing on the rights of others.
From the psychological model, Jesus was a man who became self-actualized, who reached the fullness of his human potential and who left behind a collection of example, stories and teachings which show us how to do the same.
Jesus as the teacher
Jesus did not go up on a mountain, become fully actualized, then stay there in silence communing with God and playing with invisibility and levitation. Instead, Jesus lived his potential in the midst of the human race and taught others how to reach the fullness of their own potential. Jesus accomplished this through his example, and also through his teachings. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to those writers who attempted to capture Jesus’ model and message in the scriptures that have been handed down to us, as well as those that did not quite make the cut (many for obvious political reasons!). Again, looking past the Insitutitons’ attempt to doctrinize Jesus’ model of psychological and spiritual formation, these are some of the tools Jesus left behind to help us in our own journey toward self-actualization:
- practices of meditation and prayer which help us to quiet our minds so that we can be open to the higher intelligence that speaks to us in the silence, that guides us, moves us, inspires us, comforts us, heals us.
- stories which teach us about the call to justice, that speak to us of the importance of compassion and forgiveness, that heal us from our own fears and woundedness, that remind us of our own unique giftedness and the call to share those gifts in the world.
- The beatitudes – pithy statements that demonstrate for us the natural results of our potential – as we grow toward our human potential, we are naturally poor in spirit, merciful, working for justice, etc.
- stories that remind us that first and foremost….we are loved….more than that….we ARE love and that the purpose of the human journey is to remember that love.
Raising Jesus from the dead.
In honor of Holy Week, I am extending a challenge. I am inviting us to set aside the wounds we may have experienced at the hands of religious institutions (special emphasis for my Recovering Catholic brothers and sisters.), to look beyond the veil of dogma and to restore Jesus to his rightful place as psychologist, spiritual director, healer, teacher and guru. As we celebrate the miracle of Easter, the day that Jesus was first raised form the dead, let us allow for ourselves the Second Coming of Christ and give ourselves permission to know Jesus anew and to look at his example and teachings through new eyes. And my prayer is that through the light of Christ, we might see the truth beyond the words.