Putting on the Mind of Christ: The Inner Work of Christian Spiritualityby Jim Marion
A former Catholic monk and modern mystic asserts that the path of Christian spirituality is difficult, and that individuals, not the Church, must do the work of preparing themselves for the Kingdom of Heaven. Marion believes the �Kingdom of Heaven� is actually a state of mind that nay practicing Christian � those doing the hard inner work of spirituality � may… See more details below
A former Catholic monk and modern mystic asserts that the path of Christian spirituality is difficult, and that individuals, not the Church, must do the work of preparing themselves for the Kingdom of Heaven. Marion believes the �Kingdom of Heaven� is actually a state of mind that nay practicing Christian � those doing the hard inner work of spirituality � may sustain. Marion uses his extensive knowledge of scripture to document his assertion that �putting on the mind of the Christ,� or achieving the same degree of spiritual illumination as the Christ, is the original and true goal of Christianity.
- A former Catholic monk shows how the road to the Kingdom of Heaven leads inward, not upward
- Navigates the narrow waters of religious structures and doctrine to discover true spiritual experience
- A new road map of spiritual evolution, accessible to all
- Supported by biblical documentation and quotes form psychologists, mystics, and other experts
- Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.
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- Product dimensions:
- 6.28(w) x 9.42(h) x 1.17(d)
Read an Excerpt
What Jesus Taught About
the Kingdom of Heaven
A proper understanding of what Jesus meant by "the Kingdom of Heaven" is essential to Christian spirituality. The Kingdom of Heaven was the central theme of Jesus' preaching ministry. By the "Kingdom of Heaven," Jesus meant a particular level of human consciousness, not a place to which Christians are destined after death. Unfortunately, most church officials and theologians today do not understand Jesus' concept of the Kingdom.
Using Mother Teresa and Jesus as examples, we can see that the two chief characteristics of the nondual consciousness of the Kingdom of Heaven are a lack of separation between God and humans and a lack of separation between human beings.
For any Christian serious about spirituality, a proper understanding of the Kingdom of Heaven is essential. In fact, the most critical spiritual mistake we Christians normally make is in failing to understand what Jesus meant by the phrases "the Kingdom of Heaven" and "the Kingdom of God." This mistake is so basic because, once made, it can throw our spirituality off on the wrong track for the rest of our lives, with unfortunate consequences that we may realize fully only after our deaths.
Most Christians believe that the Kingdom of Heaven is a place and that, if we lead virtuous lives, we will enter this Kingdom of Heaven after we die. Many Christians today find encouragement for this belief in the dozens of books that have appeared over the last twenty years telling of the "neardeathexperiences" (NDEs) of people who have almost died and then recovered. These documented experiences seem to clearly indicate that, after death, we will go to a place filled with love, light, peace, and joy, the place we Christians normally refer to as "heaven."
The vast majority of contemporary Christians, however, are not the least upset that astronomers have yet to locate a physical place called "heaven." That is because most of us do not believe that "heaven," our promised after-death home, is to be found anywhere in the dimension of space-time. Most of us believe that heaven, though a place, is somewhere in another, non-physical dimension.
There is nothing wrong with these beliefs. There is an after-death place of love, light, peace, and joy that is properly called heaven, and leading virtuous lives will certainly help us get there. I will return to a discussion of these aspects of heaven (and the Christian belief in the resurrection of the body) in part 5 of this book. Where we Christians have made a costly mistake, in terms of our own spiritual growth, is in thinking that this after-death "heaven" is the Kingdom of Heaven Jesus dedicated virtually all of his preaching ministry to tell us about. It is not. Though Jesus acknowledged that an after-death heaven existed, Jesus devoted his preaching, not to that heaven, but to a Kingdom of Heaven that he said was here and now, near, "at hand" (Mark 1:15).
The principal message that Jesus brought to us was the Gospel or "Good News" of the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew, the author of the earliest Gospel, begins his account of Jesus' public ministry with these words: "From that time Jesus began to preach his message, "Turn away from your mistaken thinking, because the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.'" (Matt. 4:17). By "at hand" Jesus meant "here," "right in front of our faces," "in our midst." A few verses later Matthew writes, "Jesus went all over Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the Good News of the Kingdom, and healing people from every kind of disease and sickness" (Matt. 4:23).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus described the type of people who inhabit the Kingdom of Heaven, namely the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers, and the pure in heart (Matt. 5:1-10). He told us that we should "seek first" the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 6:33), that is, that the realization of the Kingdom of Heaven should be the principal goal of every Christian's life. And he promised his immediate disciples that some of them would not die until they had actually seen the Kingdom (Matt. 16:28).
But the single most important thing that Jesus taught about the Kingdom of Heaven was that "The Kingdom of God is within" (Luke 17:21). The Kingdom of God or Heaven that Jesus preached up and down the land of Israel, day in and day out, throughout his entire ministry, is a Kingdom that you and I can find and see only by going deep within ourselves. There is no other way except by going within to get to the Kingdom Jesus preached. No other way. In the Lord's Prayer, the only prayer Jesus personally instructed us to say, he taught us that it was our responsibility to pray every single day that the inner Kingdom of Heaven he preached about would come into existence for all of us right here on this Earth (Matt. 6:10).
Jesus told many parables about what this Kingdom of Heaven was like, a Kingdom of Heaven he himself saw, and lived in, every day of his public ministry. And he promised that those of us who truly sought this Kingdom within ourselves, forsaking all else to do so, would surely realize the same vision, not after death but in this life.
For Jesus, therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven was something that could be realized by each and every one of us right here on Earth. It was a Kingdom that could actually be "seen," not with our physical eyes, of course, but with the inner eye of understanding. The goal of the spiritual life, Jesus taught, was to "seek first" this inner vision of this world. Once we, while here on Earth, have realized within ourselves the vision of the Kingdom, he said, "all else will be added," including, of course, admittance to the heaven after death (Matt. 6:33). But first, he taught, before there is any question about entering the after-death heaven, the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth has to be realized by going deep within ourselves. The goal of Christian spirituality, the spirituality that Jesus himself preached, is for each and every one of us to personally be able to see the Kingdom of Heaven within, that Jesus saw. It is for us to go deep enough within our own psyches to find out for ourselves that what Jesus preached was true.
The Church (and by "Church" I mean virtually all of the Christian churches and communities, Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox) has never sufficiently emphasized the importance of Jesus' words about the Kingdom of Heaven being within ourselves. Instead, for centuries, the Church has emphasized our responsibility to lead virtuous lives so that we will be allowed to enter, not the Kingdom of Heaven about which Jesus actually preached, but the non-physical heaven after death.
What we Christians hear most when we attend church, therefore, are sermons about morality: the thoughts, words, or deeds that the particular Christian denomination or preacher believes (based on the Bible or the reasoning of "moral theology") that we should or shouldn't think, say, or do. Secondly, we usually hear pleas to attend church, join the choir, tithe, undertake charitable or social justice activities, and otherwise participate in the external observances, rituals and activities of the local church. In other words, we Christians hear much the same things that the religious Jews of Jesus' day heard in the village synagogues from the Pharisees (the lay preachers) and in the Temple in Jerusalem from the Sadducees (the priests). We normally hear very little, however, about the inner Kingdom of Heaven Jesus wanted us to see and experience for ourselves.
Though some Christians may disagree with the preacher, minister, priest, bishop, or pope about this or that moral teaching or interpretation, there is nothing inherently wrong with the preaching of morality in church. In Western societies, after all, religion (after the input of parents and the assistance of the schools) has traditionally been assigned, and has itself taken on, the role of teaching and preaching the cultural and moral values of the society, especially to our children. It should be no surprise, therefore, that our clergy spend a great deal of their time and energy explaining and defending (and often criticizing) societal values and the societal institutions that incorporate and enforce those values.
But very little of this moral preaching and teaching is of any significant help to us in personally realizing the inner Kingdom of Heaven. None of it helps us to transcend this world and its values (no matter what those values happen to be) so as to enter, with Jesus and within ourselves, the inner spiritual experience of that Kingdom.
Jesus wept over Jerusalem because the leaders of his own religion had not understood or accepted his message about the inner Kingdom of Heaven (Luke 13:34). Instead, the blind leading the blind (Matt. 15:14), they continued to emphasize external observances (like fasting and the washing of hands) and moral rules and regulations over the inner spiritual core of religion. Rather than follow the narrow path within that Jesus pointed out, they insisted on following the wide path of moral rectitude that their society honored, one that afforded them the first place in the synagogue, access to political leaders, and an assumed right to the allegiance and donations of the people (Matt. 7:13-14).
But their wide path of external law and observance, though crowded and fully approved by society (the Pharisees, at least, were much respected by the Jewish people), led nowhere in terms of inner spiritual growth because the narrow path to the inner Kingdom of Heaven was sorely neglected. So much so that, as Jesus observed, very few of the people who followed these leaders were even able to find the true inner path. The same is true of Christianity today.
Why has this happened? Why has the Kingdom of Heaven within ourselves that Jesus preached been so sorely neglected and even ignored? It has happened for one simple and obvious reason: the vast majority of our Christian elders, ministers, priests, bishops, popes, and other teachers, just like the religious leaders of Jesus' time, have themselves not yet grown enough spiritually to "see" the Kingdom Jesus saw. They do not yet experience this world the way Jesus experienced it. They have not yet themselves put on the mind which was in Christ Jesus (Philip. 2:5). They cannot preach about the Kingdom of Heaven to others because, though they may have dedicated many years to the spiritual path, they do not yet see or understand it themselves.
These leaders include those who, without their own inner realization of the Kingdom, have allowed themselves to be looked upon by the world as spiritual authorities. Like the Sadducees and the Pharisees of Jesus' own religion, these leaders emphasize what they can see: the external aspects of religion and morality, the worldly aspects. Some are even primarily concerned with religion's grossest material aspects, the numbers baptized or converted, the dollars contributed, even the size of the congregation, church building, or denomination. Others mistakenly think and preach that the essence of what Jesus taught was political and social reform (though some suppose the reforms should be of the political left and some of the right). But none of this has anything to do with the inner Kingdom within our psyche that Jesus died to tell us about.
In making these observations, which are largely those that Jesus himself made about the religious authorities of his own Jewish religion, I am not implying that Gospel-based principles (to the extent understood) should not be applied to the affairs of this world. In fact the glory of Christianity, unequaled by any other religion, has been the gradual historical unfoldment of such principles throughout first Western society and now the entire planet. It is in large part from Christianity and its Gospel-based principles that have eventually come freedom from slavery, universal education, liberal democracy, the free market economy, social welfare programs, the movement for universal health care, and labor protection laws and unions. It is a tremendous achievement. But these advances are nothing compared to what could have been accomplished in the last two thousand years if the message of Jesus about the inner Kingdom of Heaven had been understood and heeded.
What then is this Kingdom of Heaven, the vision of this world that the mind (consciousness) of Jesus "saw"? First of all and most importantly, The Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus saw so well is a vision of this world that sees no separation (duality) between God and humans.
Jesus of Nazareth, a human being like ourselves, a lowly carpenter from a nondescript town, nevertheless managed to realize and "see" that he and the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac, were one. He "saw" with his everyday mind (consciousness) that he was completely united to the God that everyone else merely thought they should worship. "The Father and I are one" (John 10:30), said Jesus. And he also said "He who sees me sees the Father" (John 14:9). He saw his own complete union with God despite all physical and other appearances of "separateness" to the contrary, and despite all the Pharisees' and Sadducees' theological theories to the contrary.
Not only did Jesus see this truth for himself, but he saw that this essential non-separation from God was also true for the rest of us. And he actually had the courage to go about the land of Israel telling everyone that this was the case. He asked us, "Do you not know that you are gods?" (John 10:34-35). In fact, it was because he had the nerve to "make himself equal to God" that the religious authorities, threatened that their own authority with the people was being undermined, handed him over to the Romans to be killed (Luke 22:71).
With his inner vision of the Kingdom of Heaven Jesus saw this unity of himself with God so clearly that he was able to create as God creates, by simply speaking his word. By speaking his word he healed the sick, multiplied fish and loaves of bread, and even raised the dead. Because he saw and lived in the Kingdom of Heaven while on this Earth, Jesus was fully aware of the fact that, though he was a human being just like us, he was also a divine being, the image and likeness of God in the fullest and deepest sense.
In Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, the phrase "Kingdom of Heaven" or "Kingdom of God" means "God's sovereign presence." Just like Adam and Eve before the Fall, Jesus walked always in God's sovereign presence. He wanted us to do the same.
Second, The Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus saw so well is a vision of this world that sees no separation (duality) between human beings.
Jesus saw there was no separation between himself and any other person, again despite all physical appearances of separation to the contrary. He saw every other person as himself (Luke 6:31). In fact, Jesus did not see other persons as "others" at all. He saw all human beings (and indeed the whole created universe) as part of himself. And this applied to all human beings, not just those of his own Jewish religion, and not just people who were considered, according to the norms of his society, as morally good.
Unlike the Pharisees (the name "pharisee" means a "separated one") Jesus constantly went out of his way to emphasize this all-inclusiveness, this universal (or "catholic" in the non-sectarian sense of the Christian creed) aspect of his no-separation vision. He deliberately praised the faith of the pagan Roman centurion as superior to many in his own religion (Luke 7:9). He did the same in the case of the pagan Canaanite woman (Matt. 15:21-28). Jesus deliberately spoke at length with the Samaritan woman even though, in his culture, men almost never discussed serious matters with women, and even though Samaritans were considered heretics and therefore shunned by orthodox Jews (John 4:7-26). He deliberately told the story of the good Samaritan who, unlike the priest and the other Jewish religious officials, showed himself the true neighbor to the man robbed and beaten along the road (Luke 10:30-37). And, to the constant scandal of the morally separatist and righteous, Jesus made a habit of associating with people, such as tax-collectors and even prostitutes, whom his society considered sinners (e.g., Matt. 9:10).
Jesus tried to teach people to take the focus off externals, i.e., the "law." Instead, he wanted everyone to look deep within themselves to where, in the inner Kingdom of Heaven, all humans are one.
It was from this great vision of no-separation (or nonduality) between God and humans, and between and among all human beings, that Jesus, following other great teachers of his religion, formulated his two greatest commandments, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind," and "You must love your fellow humans as yourself" (Matt. 22:37-39).
The last thing Jesus did before he freely went to the death and rebirth that would demonstrate for us the way to the inner Kingdom of Heaven, was to leave us, at the Last Supper, the Holy Communion of his body and blood (Matt. 26:27-28) as his legacy. He left us the Holy Communion both as a sign of, and as a way of actually bringing about by inner death and rebirth in union with him, this inner realization of our oneness, our non-separation from God and each other.
At that Last Supper he also gave us his "new commandment" that we love one another just as he loved us (John 13:34). How, then, did he love us? His love for us was based on this same no-separation (nondual) vision of our inner substantial union with God and each other. Jesus' new commandment, therefore, requires us to come into the same level of consciousness (awareness) of the Kingdom of Heaven, and that same kind of love, that he himself displayed.
In recent years the world has witnessed the life and passing of a great Christian saint, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Mother Teresa too saw everyone nondually. She saw everyone as the same Christ, whether they were Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, of whatever religion, or of no religion. Representatives of all these religions, and perhaps other religions I have omitted, gathered to pay tribute to her universal love and compassion at her state funeral in India in 1997. Mother Teresa, like other great saints, not only saw, but also strove to act out in her own life, the no-separation or nondual vision of Jesus.
For Jesus and Mother Teresa the nondual vision of this world was not a matter of make-believe. They did not pretend that there was no separation between themselves and God or between themselves and others. They did not see and treat others as if they were themselves. Not at all. Rather, their inner nondual vision of the Kingdom of Heaven was such that they actually saw this lack of separation. They actually saw all persons as one with God. They actually saw all persons as themselves. In fact, it was impossible for them to see otherwise. That is because once a person's everyday inner vision (consciousness) sees this world in its nondual reality, once a person actually and habitually sees the same Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth that Jesus saw, it is an irreversible change in their everyday consciousness from which there is no going back.
If you are like me, you have heard preachers urge us to treat and see each other as Christ. And perhaps, like me, you have resolved that, starting today or tomorrow, you will see and treat other people this way. And perhaps you have discovered, as I did, that it is easier said than done. In fact, it cannot be done in an habitual everyday way unless a person has first realized nondual consciousness within himself or herself. After our own consciousness becomes nondual, we need no effort at all to see people as Christ. It is impossible to see them any other way.
In summary then, the Kingdom of Heaven, as seen and preached by Jesus, is a nondual consciousness which sees no separation between God and humans, or between humans ourselves. To put on the mind of Christ, therefore, is to experience this nondual consciousness (awareness) for ourselves. And, once we do put on the mind of Christ, we, like Jesus, will see the Kingdom of Heaven all around us here and now. We see ourselves and everyone else, no matter who they are, as divine. And we will be living in the Kingdom of Heaven right here on Earth.
Jesus, of course, did have one huge advantage over the rest of us. He was born with the inner ability to clearly see the nondual vision of the Kingdom of Heaven. Like all humans he probably had to go through the earlier levels of consciousness as a child, but, according to the Gospel, his everyday consciousness "saw" the nondual vision of the Kingdom by the time he finished his desert retreat, or perhaps even by the time he was an adolescent discussing religious matters with the elders in the temple (Luke 2:46-50). By adolescence Jesus had also begun to see his life's mission, as given him by the Father who guided him from within. That work was to show us the way to this same inner kingdom by word and example, especially by his death and resurrection (Matt. 20:17-19). He was to become for us, as he said, "the Way" to the inner Kingdom of Heaven (John 14:6).
If we want to follow Jesus, we have no choice but to go deep within ourselves and, putting on the same mind that Jesus had, come into the nondual, no-separation vision of the Kingdom of Heaven. I hope the rest of this book will assist in the conscious realization of that vision.
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