Setting the foundation for an open-minded approach to Christianity

By Kim Michaels

 

Co-Creative Christianity—what it is, what it isn’t

What is Co-Creative Christianity? Let us begin by exploring what it is not.

Co-Creative Christianity is not an attempt to start a new religion. It is not an attempt to start a new church or sect within the Christian religion. It is not an attempt to invalidate, replace or compete with existing churches or sects. It is not a dogma or doctrine. It is not even an organization. Then, what is it?

Co-Creative Christianity is a universal approach to spirituality, specifically focused on Christian spirituality. It is an attempt to fully explore the message, teachings and example of Jesus and relate them to our lives in the modern world—in a way that has both profound and practical meaning to the individual. 

Co-Creative Christianity does not define an organization with conditions for membership. It does not define a dogma or doctrine that must be believed uncritically and accepted based on faith alone. It does not define a belief system that must be accepted as a whole – as an all-or-nothing package – but leaves it up to the individual what he or she will accept. 

Co-Creative Christianity is an effort to explore the deeper meaning of what Jesus taught and what it means for people in today’s complex world. It is an initiative to offer understanding, insight and perspective that can enrich your life and help you grow toward a more full life experience. As such, Co-Creative Christianity is not a complete or closed belief system. It is an open-ended approach that can and will change over time, as society evolves and as the spiritual needs of individuals and groups change. It is a buffet where you can eat what appeals to you and leave the rest, coming back for more as the desire arises.

Co-Creative Christianity can be explored by anyone—religious or non-religious, Christian or non-Christian. It can be explored by members of any Christian church or sect. The only “condition” is a curiosity about life and the desire for a greater understanding. The very basis for Co-Creative Christianity is the following:

  • We recognize and consciously acknowledge that we do not have the full understanding of God, life and the teachings of Jesus.
  • We acknowledge that there is more to understand than what we have received so far.
  • We acknowledge that we have been given ways to acquire this greater understanding.
  • We acknowledge our desire to attain this greater understanding, so that we can use it to enrich our life experience.
  • We acknowledge our willingness to seek this understanding, even if it prompts us to look beyond the world view or belief system in which we are currently comfortable (or not so comfortable).

 

We must be as open-minded as the early followers of Jesus

Co-Creative Christianity acknowledges that as human beings we have a tendency to look at life from a certain perspective, a certain vantage point, a certain mental box. We also tend to generalize and think that our particular perspective is universal, meaning that other people – even those in different locations in the space-time continuum – look at everything the same way we do (and if not, they should). It is easy to look back at the time of Jesus and think that his early followers looked at him as we have been conditioned to look at him in the modern world. This, of course, is not historically accurate.

The early followers of Jesus had a vastly different world view than we have today. They likely had a vastly different view on religion and spirituality than we have today. As one obvious difference, there was no Christianity at the time of Jesus. Christianity was not a clearly defined religion with doctrines, an organizational structure, cathedrals and churches. There was not even a Bible as we know it today. 

We have been conditioned to think of Jesus as a man who always had immaculate clothing and well-trimmed hair and beard. We might even have come to think that he had a halo around his head and thus was instantly recognizable. Yet the historical reality is that there was nothing about Jesus’ appearance that set him apart from other men. This is even demonstrated in the scriptures, as the soldiers who came to arrest Jesus needed Judas to point him out to them. 

Given that there was no Christianity at the time, it is also clear that Jesus had no outer claim to authority. In fact, Jesus was repeatedly denounced and challenged by the hierarchy of the established religion of his time. It seems fairly reasonable to conclude that representatives of the established religion played a key role in having Jesus condemned to death and crucified. It is also clear that the established religion did everything in its power to prevent people from following Jesus. Thus, it is clear that those who were obedient to the external religion would not have dared to follow Jesus.

Historians have shown that at the time of Jesus, there was a certain upheaval in religious life, with many sects or individual preachers who offered an alternative to the established religion. The situation seems to have been somewhat similar to what can be observed today in what is often labeled the New Age movement and even to some degree within the Christian religion. Given that Jesus had no special outer appearance and no outer claim to authority, he would have appeared as simply one alternative preacher among many. So how did the early followers recognize Jesus as having something special to offer?

Co-Creative Christianity recognizes that the early followers of Jesus were not closed-minded followers of tradition. They were not conformists who blindly followed the established religion and its doctrines and hierarchy. They did not blindly follow the blind leaders. Instead, they were open-minded people who were willing to recognize that the established religion could not answer all of their questions about God and life. They had a natural, inherent curiosity, and when Jesus offered them teachings that answered their questions, they were willing to leave orthodoxy behind and follow him, even though Jesus’ lifestyle and teachings were very different from what was offered by the established religion. In short, the early followers of Jesus did not blindly obey an external authority but followed an internal authority, they were individual thinkers rather than group thinkers or non-thinkers.

Co-Creative Christianity acknowledges that if we – in the modern world – are to attain a deeper understanding of the message of Christ, we must be like the early followers of Jesus. We cannot be conformists. We cannot be blind followers of tradition. We cannot be respecter of persons in the form of a church hierarchy that claims an external authority. We must be willing to acknowledge when the established religion of our time cannot answer our questions about God, Jesus and life—or cannot meet other spiritual needs. 

We must not allow our programming – that seeks to make us conform – to shut off our inherent curiosity. Had the early followers done this, they would not have dared to follow Jesus. They would have stayed within the fold of orthodoxy, and Jesus would have been preaching to the empty hillsides. Christianity would have died in infancy. Thus, if we are to attain a deeper understanding of Christ, we must dare to acknowledge our questions. And if the established religion of our time – even if it calls itself Christianity and claims to represent Christ – cannot answer our questions, we must dare to seek beyond doctrines and dogmas. We must be willing to follow what we know deep within ourselves, we must be willing to think about spiritual matters and we must dare to be individual thinkers who look beyond group-think.

Co-Creative Christianity acknowledges that the message of Christ is complex and far more profound than what can be captured in doctrines and dogmas. It is a message that must be studied and internalized by using the means defined by Jesus himself, means that are beyond the human intellect and the rational, linear, analytical mind. Co-Creative Christianity acknowledges that capturing the inner message of Christ is no simple task. Yet it is a possible task—or Jesus would never have gathered any followers. Thus, we are willing to do what it takes to qualify ourselves and dedicate our mental faculties to the task of truly knowing Christ.

 

What is the Key of Knowledge?

What was the mechanism that allowed the early followers to recognize Jesus as having more to offer than the established religion? We know that Jesus encountered thousands – probably tens of thousands – of people during his ministry. We know that some followed him because of outer “signs,” such as healings or other abnormal events. Yet we also know that many people must have encountered Jesus without recognizing anything special in him. What happened in people’s minds when they met Jesus? What was the psychological mechanism that caused some to accept him and some to reject him?

Co-Creative Christianity acknowledges that there were no outer signs that would automatically get people to accept Jesus. Likewise, there are no outer signs today that will automatically give us a deeper understanding of Jesus’ message. The deciding factor is an inner factor, a mechanism in the psyche of the individual. Thus, we acknowledge that if we are to gain a deeper understanding of Jesus’ teachings, we must be willing to look at ourselves and investigate whether we have the state of mind that allows us to internalize the teachings of Christ or whether something in our psyches block our entry into the wedding feast.

We have said that the early followers of Jesus were more open-minded than people who clung to the established religion. Yet what exactly does that mean? Is it, perhaps, related to what our modern world explains as the difference in how the two halves of our brains process information? We know that the left side of the brain is the seat of analytical and linear thinking, whereas the right side is the seat of intuitive, spherical or holistic thinking—or rather experiencing. What is the difference?

Analytical thinking is based on comparing a new idea to a mental “database” of what is already known and considered reliable, perhaps even “true.” Analytical thinking is based on rational, linear arguments for or against a particular concept. Thus, people who use the intellect can often present very intricate arguments for both sides of an issue. In fact, the intellect is often so good at coming up with arguments that it is impossible to determine which argument is the better one—based on the intellect alone. Which is why is is often impossible to reach a decisive decision based on intellectual arguments alone.

So what breaks the stalemate and prevents us from being paralyzed by intellectual arguments that never lead to a decision? In many cases, it is a fear-based mechanism that we will explore more fully later, where people have already decided what they want to be true. Thus, they consider only the intellectual arguments that support their belief while ignoring or belittling arguments that speak against it. All too often, an issue is decided based on the emotion of fear, and if both sides are driven by fear, conflict is the all-too-common result. Yet might there be an alternative, and might Jesus himself have spoken about it?

The following short passage describes an often overlooked concept that was obviously important to Jesus:

Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered. (Luke, 11:52)

First, it should be noted that the term “lawyer” does not refer to practitioners of secular law, as it does today. It refers to a group of religious scholars or experts who were interpreters of Mosaic law. These people would typically use their left brains to present intellectual arguments for or against a certain interpretation of the Law. Yet the real point of interest here is the term “the Key of Knowledge.” What could it possibly mean, and why is it generally overlooked by Christian preachers?

It is obvious that the concept must have been important to Jesus, but the fact that it is used almost casually indicates that it was a concept that was familiar to and commonly used by Jesus and his disciples. What meaning did Jesus and his disciples see in this concept, what mystery is hidden behind this seemingly insignificant expression?

The concept is contrasted with the intellectual, analytical approach taken by the lawyers. Jesus makes it clear that the lawyers have actually prevented the people from using the Key of Knowledge, and is it possible that they have done so by claiming the intellectual approach as being superior? This would be very familiar to us in the modern world, where we also see a glorification of the human intellect and its rational, linear reasoning. For example, many scientists have raised the intellect to a position of not only superiority but even exclusivity. It is as if they see the intellect as the only way to process information and determine what is true. Even the religious world has many examples of intellectual interpretation of scriptures, filled with hair-splitting but ultimately inconsequential arguments. Certainly, Christianity has not escaped this intellectualization. Yet is it possible to fully appreciate Jesus’ message through the human intellect alone?

Certainly, this is not to say that the intellect is useless or inferior. However, even modern science has shown that the human brain has two halves that are the seats of two distinct ways of processing information. Science has also shown that both sides have advantages and disadvantages, meaning that only by using both forms of thinking can we get a complete and balanced view of an issue. Yet science – and common sense – demonstrate that in the modern Western world, the intellect has been glorified and the intuitive approach has been ignored or even suppressed.

Obviously, Jesus could not at the time have talked about the two halves of the brain, as no one would have understood him. Yet is it possible that Jesus was well aware of the intuitive faculties and their importance? Is it possible that it was precisely these faculties that empowered Jesus’ disciples and other followers to recognize that there was something unique about Jesus and his teachings? Is it possible that Jesus knew that only people with a well-developed intuition – people who had the Key of Knowledge – were able to recognize him and his teachings?

Co-Creative Christianity asserts that it is impossible to appreciate the deeper meaning behind Jesus’ words through the intellect alone. Attempting to do so is precisely what has split Christianity into numerous churches and sects, many based on a very specific intellectual interpretation of the existing scriptures—the letter of the law rather than the Spirit. This is what has caused numerous people to overlook the Spirit of Jesus’ teachings, becoming so lost in detail that they cannot see the bigger picture—they cannot see the forest for the trees.

Jesus does not seem to have been a linear, analytical preacher. He was in constant opposition to the scribes, the Pharisees and the lawyers—all people who did take an analytical, linear approach. Thus, Jesus seems to have been a creative thinker, an intuitive thinker, a holistic thinker. How can we hope to fully understand his message unless we are willing to do what his early followers did—acknowledge and develop the intuitive faculties? Perhaps by doing so, we will come to see subtle nuances that have been overlooked by 2,000 years of intellectual thinkers? Perhaps we can even develop an entirely new perspective that will empower us to relate Jesus’ teachings directly to the life experience we have in the modern world? For Co-Creative Christianity this is an opportunity that is too good to pass up. Thus, we must take a new look at the teachings of Jesus through our intuitive faculties. We must be willing to activate the Key of Knowledge.

 

A higher way to know

Although our modern world offers us a greater understanding of our intuitive faculties than what was available at Jesus’ time, much of the understanding is indeed intellectual. In other words, although left-brain thinkers have acknowledged the existence and value of right-brain thinking, they are still attempting to analyze intuition through the intellect. Yet how can the left brain fully understand the right, how can the left hand know what the right hand is doing?

Perhaps we need to consider that intuition is more than we generally recognize today. Perhaps Jesus was well aware of the higher potential of our intuitive faculties, having learned to use them himself and teaching it to his disciples. Take for example the following passage from Matthew, Chapter 16:

13When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

14And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

15He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

16And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

18And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Traditionally, Christians – and especially Catholics – tend to focus on the person of Peter as the central topic in these passages. But what if the central topic truly is the following sentence: “for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven?” What exactly is Jesus trying to tell us with this sentence?

The overall issue here is how we can recognize Christ, how people could recognize Jesus as having something special to offer. Jesus makes it clear that nothing of the earth could enable anyone to recognize Christ, but only “something” from a higher realm. Yet what exactly might this mean? Might it be that we cannot recognize Christ through the outer mind and the intellect alone? For example, one can readily find people in today’s world who use the findings of science to present intellectual arguments against religion in general and Christianity in particular. Yet each of these arguments can be countered with another intellectual argument. Thus, you find people who are completely convinced that God exists and people who are equally convinced that science has proven that God does not exist. And you rarely see intellectual arguments convincing anyone to change opinion.

The point is that what Jesus might be attempting to tell us – by using Peter as an example – is that we cannot recognize Christ and the truth of Christ through the intellect, the left brain, alone. We need to make use of the right brain, our intuitive faculties, in order to reach beyond where the intellect can go. The intellect works by comparing a new concept to a database of what is already known. But what if Christ is so beyond what we normally encounter on earth that Christ truth has no comparison? The intellect would then have only one way to deal with Christ truth, namely to distort it in order to pull it into the realm that the intellect can deal with. Yet the moment Christ truth is distorted and pulled down to the level of the intellect, we have lost its essence. We have taken a thing that be of God and turned it into a thing that be of men. And when we have done that, the reality of Christ has become just another concept that the intellect can argue for or against endlessly.

Christ truth might indeed be beyond the relative, analyzable knowledge that we have been taught in school and Sunday school. It might be something we can grasp only with the higher faculties of the intuitive mind. Jesus himself actually supports this view in the following statement:

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)

Again, could the expression to “worship him in spirit” be a reference to the higher intuitive faculties? The context of the quote is that Jesus was talking to a woman at a well and told her that she did not clearly know what she was worshiping. Was he saying that you cannot truly worship or know God through the outer mind or the intellect, but that you must make use of the mind’s ability to look at the big picture, to reach beyond the earthly realm and contact a higher realm? 

As we will see later, the existence of such a realm can in today’s scientific world be explained as a realm of higher energy frequencies. In other words, the intellect might function only in the energy frequencies of the material realm. It can reason about what a higher or spiritual realm might be like, but it can only treat such a realm as a theoretical concept. Yet our mind has another faculty that allows us to go beyond treating the spiritual as a remote object that we study and speculate about. Instead, the intuitive faculties can give us a direct knowing, even a direct experience of something beyond what our physical senses and the intellect can detect.

Let us take this concept and apply it to the passage that follows the previous one with Peter—a passage often “overlooked” by Christian preachers:

21From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

22Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.

23But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

This is certainly a passage that it can be difficult to understand if we take it literally. In the passage just before, Jesus has said that Peter is the rock upon which he will build his church, yet now he is saying that the same Peter is Satan himself. How do we make sense of this?

One way is to take the focus off the outer person and look for a deeper meaning. As we saw above, the first passage might have been meant to show that we can know Christ only by reaching beyond the earthly way of knowing things, namely the physical senses and the intellect. Peter has demonstrated that he is capable of doing so, which is why he recognized Jesus as Christ and became his disciple. In other words, Peter clearly does know how to use his intuitive faculties.

Yet what if this second passage is meant to demonstrate something all of us do, namely use the analytical mind to override or color the insights we have received through intuition? For example, consider the saying that “First impressions are always accurate.” You can meet a person that you know nothing about, and upon seeing him, you get an inner sense that he cannot be trusted. Yet you then find out that he is a member of your church, that he knows so and so, that he has done so and so, and you then use the analytical mind to override your intuitive flash. So you do trust the person with your money, only to find out later that he indeed was not trustworthy. 

What we see is that Peter did indeed use his intuitive faculties to recognize Jesus as the Christ. Yet he then used the analytical mind to impose a human expectation upon Jesus, an expectation that Jesus was like a king who should never be humiliated and killed by any humans. Peter had, so to speak, used the analytical mind to build a mental box for what the Christ should be like, and he was now seeking to make Jesus conform to this human expectation. He was seeking to force Jesus into his mental box. Jesus recognizes what is going on in Peter’s mind and instantly rebukes him in the strongest way possible. Obviously, it is important for Jesus to make it clear that the Christ will never conform to our human expectations – “the things that be of men” – but will always act based on “the things that be of God.” Is Jesus actually seeking to tell us that if we use the intellect alone, we will never be able to appreciate the fulness of his message? Only by using the Key of Knowledge will we be able to decode the true meaning.

This passage is potentially game-changing in that it opens up for an entirely new approach to Jesus and the true meaning of his teachings. We have seen that we can recognize Christ and Christ truth only  by using the higher intuitive faculties. Yet we have also seen how easy it is for us to let an expectation or belief in the outer mind color or even override our intuitive insights. 

The deeper meaning might indeed be that Christ comes to show us a reality that is beyond what the intellect can fathom. This might indeed mean that Christ is beyond what can be captured and described with words, including the words of a religious scripture. That is why Jesus so vehemently opposed the scribes and Pharisees and their attempt to make him conform to the scriptures of the past and their – intellectual – interpretations of them. 

We now see that if we want to know Christ, we must activate and develop our intuitive faculties. And we must constantly be alert to the danger of superimposing the beliefs and expectations of the outer, human mind upon what we receive as a non-linear (beyond words) insight from a higher realm. In other words, one of the purposes for Christ coming to earth may be to challenge our mental boxes that have become prisons for our minds. If we cling to those mental boxes and seek to “force” Christ to fit into them, then we will miss the central purpose of Jesus’ message. And thus we will be left in our mental prisons, for Christ will never conform to them.

We now have to consider what kind of religion we want to follow. Do we want a religion that gives us an outer doctrine and tells us to believe it based on faith alone? Or do we want a religion that seeks to help us use our intuitive faculties to gain an inner confirmation of the reality of Christ, a confirmation that is beyond words and beyond the intellect? We also see that no matter who we are and how we were brought up, it is very difficult to avoid creating a mental box about Jesus and his teachings. Thus, as Co-Creative Christians we recognize that it is our responsibility to continually seek to expand our mental box, so that we do not try to fit Christ into a box based on “the things that be of men.” This might indeed be a life-long endeavor, yet ultimately a rewarding one.

However, before we can truly begin this process, we need to deal with the uncomfortable topic of fear.

 

 

Copyright © 2010 Kim Michaels

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