Thursday, February 01, 2007

Alan Watts' Skepticism and Mine

I've just posted a four-part series of Alan Watts quotes from his essay Was Jesus a Freak? This is how I understand his essential message:

Those familiar with the history and psychology of religion know that Jesus was one of many who have experienced oneness with Ultimate Reality. Unfortunately, when he talked about this experience, his fellow Jews misinterpreted him to say that he was the only son of the Jewish God as Cosmic Creator-King, and some powerful Jews saw this as blasphemous and used it as an excuse to turn him over to the Romans for execution. After his death, some Jews saw him as the prophesized Messiah as well as God incarnate crucified and resurrected to redeem humankind from its sins. But in understanding Jesus as the one and only God-man who was literally resurrected from the dead, they and the "Christians" who came after them have missed the essential point that they too are just as much "sons"--i.e., of the nature--of God as was Jesus, and in worshiping Jesus as a freak of the supernatural, they have all but denied themselves the opportunity to experience "Christ consciousness" that could kill their false and constricting sense of self and resurrect them to a new and transfiguring sense of their all-encompassing, true Self. They are also inclined to arrogantly see worship of this freaky Jesus as the only truly valid form of religion and the only viable way to salvation envisioned as posthumous eternal bliss in heaven. On the other hand, if they understood Jesus for who he really was and his experience for what it really was, they would understand that Christianity has universal appeal only when it presents Jesus as one of many profound sages cognizant of the identity with Ultimate Reality that we all share, and that those who realize this not only know experientially that the true heaven is right here and now, but they also live more harmoniously with others in this world.

I believe that Alan Watts is right on target with his critique of conventional, institutional Christianity, and I have great difficulty seeing a viable alternative to worshiping the freaky Jesus that would qualify as Christian. For instance, here is the Apostle's Creed:


I believe in God, the Father Almighty,

the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:


Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.


He descended into hell.


The third day He arose again from the dead.


He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.


I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy *catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.


Amen.


This creed, which, as I understand it, is officially endorsed or implicitly accepted by most Christian churches in the West, appears to make belief in the literally freaky Jesus paramount. You simply can't be Christian unless you believe that Jesus was a freak of the supernatural.


Now some commentators have suggested to me that Christianity has the potential to grow out of this constricting literalism and its resulting exclusivity that removes it from the living stream of universal, transformative wisdom, and that this growth must come from within Christianity itself, spurred by the great mystics and other realizers of Christianity's higher wisdom and potential for universality. However, I share Watt's skepticism that this can and will ever happen. It seems to me that Christianity is so flawed to the core that it might be better to abandon it than to try to transform it from either within or without.


Soon, I'd like to share with you excerpts from Alan Watts' letter of resignation from the Episcopal priesthood that expresses, with greater eloquence than I could ever hope to muster, his skepticism and mine about Christianity's potential to evolve.

2 comments:

Matt Kukowski said...

Can I get a copy of Alan Watts's Was Jesus a Freak? maybe in email?

I am a Watts fan.

Thank You

Steve said...

Hi Matt. There is a Facebook page that contains the entire essay. You can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=20060126336&topic=4266