In this space I will collect everything I have written about Jesus Christ and I will, over time, update and expand everything into a single, continuous work. For now here are the pieces that already have been written in a slightly updated order.
There are two towns named Bethlehem in the Holy Land.
Tradition places the site of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem near Jerusalem, which currently sits in the Palestinian territory. A journey here from Nazareth would have taken weeks; not the kind of trip for a woman about to give birth to take.
There is another town named Bethlehem right next to Nazareth, about two days journey to the Northwest. It is more likely that it was this Bethlehem, not the more famous one to the South, where Jesus was born.
This map was made in 2009 and shows some well known sites in the Holy Land.
Using paleoastronomy, historical documentation, and the Gospel accounts here is my best guess at a reasonable chronology of the life of Jesus. People have been debating this for over a thousand years so I can't say this is complete with any finality, but it works for me so maybe it will work for you too. Jesus' own words are rendered here in red, as is tradition.
17 April 6 BC - Birth
Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great ("Great" for all the stuff he built; he was actually a lousy man), which was from roughly 37 to 4 BC, so Jesus could not have been born in 1 BC as was traditionally thought when the new Gregorian calender was constructed. Herod's reign falls within the Roman Warm Period. During this time global temperatures (not just European temperatures, we have climate records from China and Siberia too) show the Earth was 1-2 degrees warmer than it is today. Many people say that it would be too cold during Winter for shepherds to be grazing their flocks at night, as the Gospels say, but a much warmer climate might have allowed for that. What seems to seal the deal for me is the double occultation of Jupiter (the "star" of kings) by the Moon in the constellation Aires (sign of the Jews) in 6 BC. The Magi were astrologers and would be looking for stuff like this. Astronomer Michael Molnar explains this event in much more detail. Yes, he addresses the objection raised by the other wiki about the occultation happening near the sun.
The Bethlehem Jesus was born at was probably the one near Nazareth rather than the one near Jerusalem, which was much farther away.
Before December 6 BC - Flight to Egypt
Herod learns of the prophecy of the Magi and decides to kill any potential infant rival. He initiates the Massacre of the Innocents, killing all the male children in Bethlehem under age two (fewer than 100 in all). Receiving a warning from an angel Jesus' parents take him to Egypt. In Egypt they visited many holy sites marked by the Coptic Church, possibly including the then abandoned Jewish Temple at Elephantine Island near the border with Nubia (this temple is where the Ark was held after it was taken away from Jerusalem during the Babylonian invasion).
4 BC - Return to Nazareth
After Herod dies Jesus, now near age two (Herod is believed to have died between March and April), and his family return to Nazareth from Egypt. Not much is said about Jesus' childhood other than he lived in Nazareth and had many brothers and sisters (both from Joseph's previous marriage and his current marriage with Mary - I'm not convinced they never consummated their marriage and Mary was a virgin her whole life).
7 AD - Jesus at the Temple
The holy family visits Jerusalem for Passover and Jesus, age 12, wanders off. His parents find him after some time on the steps of the Temple discussing the Law with learned men, and impressing them with his own knowledge. This is the last event recorded in the Gospels before his Baptism as an adult.
8 AD - 25 AD - The Lost Years
Nobody knows what happened! Some people say he worked as a carpenter with his dad building ploughs and tables and other stuff. I can't see Jesus having a holy childhood and a holy ministry later in his life and yet spend 18 whole years as a normal person. He's always causing trouble for the establishment, no way he just layed low for close to two decades. I'm convinced that Jesus went to India.
26 AD - Jesus Returns!
Jesus, now age 31, returns to the Holy Land from whereever he was. He's spent his time finding himself and now he's grown the beard (figuratively and literally*) and he's back to stir things up with the Romans and the Jewish elite. When he comes back Jesus hears about John the Baptist, goes to meet him at the Jordan River, and is baptised there. The sky opens up and the Lord proclaims Jesus is His Son and he is very pleased. It was after late March, right after Pontius Pilate became Prefect of Judaea and when John began his ministry. Shortly thereafter Jesus meets two of John's disciples who will later become two of his own, Andrew and another man who is not identified.
Jesus then goes into the desert for 40 days and does battle with Satan. Just what the point of all this was we will never know. Satan knows how the story will end - with his own defeat - so he had to know he couldn't get Jesus to sin. What then was the point of the temptation in the desert? Maybe he was actually doing Jesus a favour by helping Jesus come to a better understanding of what his role would be in the coming years. It could have been a test, where if Jesus could sharpen his skills with the ultimate adversary before going head to head with the establishment. Satan demands Jesus prove he is the Son of God by turning stones into bread to relieve the hunger of his fast, to which Jesus replies that no one can live by bread alone, they need every word that God has spoken. Satan then takes Jesus to the highest spot on the Tempel in Jerusalem and tells him to jump because scripture says angels will catch him and take him safely to the ground, to which Jesus replies that scripture also admonishes one not to test the Lord. Lastly Satan takes Jesus to a very high place (often a mountain) and shows him all the kingdoms of the world. Satan says that he will give Jesus dominion over all the world if Jesus will but kneel before him and worship him (a similar scene from the 2007 film 300 where a 9-foot-tall Xerxes says almost the same thing to Leonidas). Jesus demanded Satan leave him be and quoted scripture saying that God alone is to be worshiped and served.
27 AD - The Ministry Begins
Sometime in late 26, early 27, Jesus begins his own ministry. The Synoptic Gospels mention only one Passover (the Last Supper) but John mentions three, so Jesus' ministry lasted at least three years. In my chronology it lasts a total of six years. Jesus collects the twelve Apostles, feeds a lot of people, and gives the Sermon on the Mount, which was probably a Reader's Digest compilation of sayings from many sermons Jesus gave throughout his ministry (imagining anyone, let alone a huge group of people would sit through a very quick paced delivery of a whole lot of really heady stuff with no further explanation is unbelievable to me. Each of the beatitudes could be the topic of a discourse in itself. No one would have been able to understand it all at once.).
33 AD - Bringing It All Together
The last year of Jesus' time on Earth, now age 39, contains most of the important events in his life, beginning with the Transfiguration. Jesus and three apostles go to a mountain where Jesus rises up into the air. He glows brilliantly and Moses and Elijah appear beside him. Jesus is once again proclaimed to be Son of God (like the baptism) and the apostles are told to listen to him.
2 April 33 AD - The Last Supper
Thursday. Jesus and the apostles are gathered together to celebrate the Passover meal. It is here that he announces that one of them will betray him and that Peter will disown him three times that night. He begins the practice of the Eucharist. Jesus blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to his apostles telling them eat, this is my body. Then he blessed the wine and gave it to them saying drink, this is my blood of the new covenant. Here he is reversing the traditional Passover order where whine is blessed before bread and he is instituting a new covenant, to replace the one with Abraham and Moses (which is why Gentiles can now become followers of Christ and not just Jews).
3 April 33 AD - The Crucifixion
Friday. Jesus is betrayed by Judas. He asks the Lord in a moment of weakness if it is not possible that he does not have to go through witht he crucifixion but then accepts his fate, saying Thy will be done, not my will be done. The Sanhedrin sets up a mock trial and convicts him. Pontius Pilate sends him to King Herod, son of the dead king also named Herod, who mocks Jesus and sends him back. Pilate has a tough time finding reason to condemn Jesus to death, giving him a savage beating at first, but gives in to the Sanhedrin's demands**. During this time we get the wonderful Latin anagram of Pilate's question "Quid est veritas?" (what is truth?), which becomes "Est vir qui adest" (it is the man who is here). Jesus and Pilate probably spoke Greek at the trial, not Latin.
Jesus is brought up to Golgotha in the morning after being beaten, where he is crucified. Above his head is a placard depicted with the inscription INRI, an acronym for the Latin "Jesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum," meaning "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" - his charge in the trial. He is being executed with two criminals. On the cross Jesus cries out Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do, expressing his forgiveness of the people who crucified him. One of the criminals mocks Jesus but the other one pleads with him "Remember me when you come into your kingdom," to which Jesus replies truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise. By Noon Jesus is exhausted. He asks aloud My God, why have you forsaken me? Three hours later, Feeling a great pain in his chest he groans, it is done. Jesus cries out one last time before the crowd Father, into your hands I commit my spirit, and dies. A Roman soldier pierces his side with a spear. Blood and clear fluid, identified as water at the time, come out (the pericardium - the sac containing the heart - is filled with light-coloured fluid to cushion the heart. Great physical trauma can cause too much fluid to fill the pericardium and crush the heart. When this happens you know it, and you know you're moments away from death.) and drip into the soldier's eyes, curing his poor vision. The body is taken down, anointed and dressed quickly before the sabbath, and left in the unused tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.
5 April 33 AD - The Resurrection
Sunday. Jesus conquers death. The guards at the tomb entrance are gone, the stone is rolled back, and the tomb is empty. The two Marys (Mary Jesus' mother and Mary Magdalene) go to do a proper job preparing Jesus' body and they're shocked to find it's gone! They then meet a man whom they do not recognise at first (it's Jesus) who tells them about the resurrection. They go back and tell the grieving apostles. This is important! The testimony of a woman was worthless in first century Judaea. To have the first witnesses to the resurrection be women is evidence for the event's historicity. If the resurrection were made up the Gospel writers would have put a man as the first witness, not two women. In time Jesus would appear before his apostles several times over the next 40 days, including before very large groups of people.
15 May 33 AD - The Ascension
Jesus rises up into Heaven before his apostles after telling them to go out and spread the Gospel. Jesus promises to return one day.
*"...the male beard communicates an heroic image of the independent, sturdy, and resourceful pioneer, ready, willing and able to do manly things."
You can buy a Jesus: Beard of Beards t-shirt for around $30 if you are an enthusiast of both Jesus and beards.
**Pilate had no compunction in killing Jews and was very successful in putting down revolts, so it doesn't matter how many Jews demanded Jesus be killed - if they started a riot Pilate would just slaughter them. Anyway, it was not the Jews who wanted Jesus killed, because Jesus was a Jew, his followers were Jews, and most of the people who benefited from his miracles were Jews. The Sanhedrin wanted Jesus killed probably for political reasons and used the religious crime of blasphemy as a cover, but saying the acts of the Sanhedrin condemns the Jews for Jesus' death is like saying the acts of Congress condemns all Americans for invading Iraq or Libya or insert negative event here. Why Pilate consented to the execution we will probably never know, but he may have had political reasons as well.
Friday, 3 April AD 33. Jesus is tried by the Sanhedrin and sent to Pontius Pilate who asks him some questions and has Jesus beaten. The Sanhedrin does not relent. They demand Pilate execute Jesus. Pilate points to the Passover tradition of pardoning a criminal and lets the mob decide Jesus' fate and they choose to let Barabbas go free instead. Pilate washes his hands of the decision and the mob cries out that Jesus' blood will be on their hands and the hands of their descendants.
That's the story from the Gospels, but is it true? Is there really a conspiracy to kill Jesus and blame it on the Jews? The Gospel story has been used to justify antisemitism for over a thousand years, but is there a problem with the story?
To be sure the Sanhedrin wants Jesus dead. Jesus is challenging their claim to authority. The Sanhedrin wants people to believe that they are the only source of God's authority, the only mouthpiece for the Lord. They also want the vast sums of money worshipers spend at the Temple performing sacrifices and they like the cushy life they have in Rome's favour. However, as previously stated, just because the Sanhedrin wants Jesus dead does not mean the Jews want him dead. The people who benefited most from Jesus were the Jews, who had their hopes pinned to the coming Messiah. The Jews didn't like the status quo with Rome and the Sanhedrin, Rome's lapdog, keeping them under thumb.
What of Pilate? He cannot find fault in Jesus, right? Well, Pilate was a ruthless man who would find an excuse to kill Jesus if he wanted to. Pilate had no compunction killing Jews and Jesus was a Jew among many for Pilate. Worse still Jesus was a religious agitator. It didn't matter to Pilate if he was Messiah or not, as long as people believed he was that could lead to a rebellion and a rebellion would give Pilate a hard time. Pilate worked really hard rising the ranks to become prefect and he did everything he could to keep his job. Is it any wonder so many Messiah claimants ended up dead?
Didn't Pilate wash his hands of Jesus' death? Actually, no. That was a Jewish practice, not a pagan Roman practice. Pilate would not have washed his hands just like he would not have been circumcised just like he would not abstain from eating oysters (which Romans loved).
And the Passover pardon? Actually, there is no history of such a tradition outside the Gospels. Yes, a prefect did have the authority to pardon prisoners and there are sporadic examples of prefects who had pardoned prisoners, during Passover and other times throughout the year, but we have no evidence of a Passover tradition of pardoning someone. It appears nowhere in the Old Testament (so it wasn't a Jewish tradition), and it appears nowhere in Roman records, so it wasn't a Roman tradition. It's not in Josephus, or the Talmud, or in Philo. The idea of the pardon appears first in the Gospels associated with Pilate, and if we take into consideration Pilate's character we can doubt that a bloodthirsty man such as him would even consider pardoning a Jew at Passover. Remember, Pilate's job as prefect was to keep order, and part of keeping order is not to give in to the will of the mob. When there's a mob the prefect puts it down, he does not aquiesce to their demands. Pilate was recalled to Rome because of his brutality, not because he caved to the will of his subjects too often.
So Pontius Pilate does not free Barabbas and he does not wash his hands of the blood guilt, and it's not the Jews who hate Jesus but just the Sanhedrin. What in the world is going on?
We have to take two things into account, namely the time the Gospels were being written and the mindset of the Gospel writers. Mark, the first written canonical Gospel, was written in around AD 70, around the time of the Jewish revolt and the destruction of the Second Temple. Up until that time there was little difference between Jewish Christians and Christian Jews. The Gospel writers wanted to distance themselves from the Jews because the Jews were being systematically destroyed by the Romans at the time. There were far more Jews than Christians, so, as a matter of survival, the Gospel writers had to make the Jews look like the enemy and the good Roman Pontius Pilate look like he was reluctant to kill the Messiah. Jewish guilt was not created out of malice, but fear. Jesus' disciples hid and Peter in particular denied him three times out of fear of the Romans, and it was only witnessing the Resurrection that made them become fearless evangelists. The Gospel writers, living more than a generation after the Resurrection, had no such miracles to boost their confidence. Out of sheer pragmatism they tweeked the story of the trial of Jesus to try to keep Rome from lumping them in with the Jews.
Saying Pontius Pilate had much more to do with the death of Jesus and exhonorating the Jews does not mean what many people think it might mean. Saying the Gospel writers altered the true events of Jesus' life go without saying. Gospel means "good news" not "raw fact". There's no way the Gospel writers could have known what was said between Jesus and Pilate, the Sermon on the Mount is way too densely packed to have been delivered as a single sermon, and John even says at the end that he had to condense the material because Jesus did so much he couldn't fit it all. Saying that the Gospel writers were human and acted out of human motivation does not mean Jesus was fake and the Resurrection never happened - there is enough to say that the Gospels do point toward the truth, but a finger pointing toward the moon is not the moon. It also does not mean that the Gospel writers were acting sinisterly. They were making the story of the life of Jesus more accessible to a wider audience, and part of that includes maintaining the survival of the nascent movement that was Christianity in the First Century.
It is a double-edged sword. We can use the Gospels as a launching pad to grow in a relationship with Christ or we can use them to justify antisemitism. The choice, ultimately is up to us, and with the knowledge of history there is hope we can unravel the story of Jewish blood guilt and fix a wound that has festered for close to two thousand years. Then, at last, we can put this conspiracy to kill Jesus to rest.
Today is Easter, the day commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the demonstration of his conquest of death. How exactly did this event occur? What led to the rolling away of the stone and the discovery of the empty tomb? Where did the body of Jesus go? There are a few ideas people have put out over the years. I present a few that I know of below with my commentary.
1. Jesus didn't really die, he was given a drug that put him into a comatose state and was later revived by his disciples inside the tomb and the whole story of the resurrection was a hoax. This is the so called "swoon" theory, which is the absolute least likely of them all. It is truly laughable. Anyone who knows anything about the Romans knows that they, perhaps more than any other culture in history, were experts at killint people. Killing people was what they did better than anyone else. If the Romans said Jesus was dead on the cross, he was dead, period. There is no way someone can survive a Roman scourging (120 individual lashes counted on the Shroud of Turin from a flagrum, when some people have been reported having died after five or ten lashes from a normal whip during modern attempts at capital punishment), carrying a heavy cross, being crucified, and then pierced in the heart with a spear. No drug can save someone from all that, and I defy anyone to reproduce the passion and survive as per the "swoon" theory.
2. Jesus really died, but the disciples stole the body then made up the story of the resurrection. This doesn't account for how they got passed the guards stationed at the tomb or how hundreds of people witnessed the risen Christ who were not among the disciples. Besides, where would the put the body and why would the disciples, who all turned away from Jesus when he was being captured, interrogated, and crucified, suddenly decide to preach the resurrection of their teacher at the expense of their own lives (all but one was killed for evangelizing)?
3. Jesus' soul temporarily left his body then returned to it while it lay in the tomb. He would still have to dematerialize his body to get out of the shroud, which was tightly wrapped around his body. This dematerialization might have created the image on the shroud, as speculated by a documentary I saw a few days ago The Real Face of Jesus. I was greatly surprised by this documentary and would classify it as one of the few "documentaries that don't dissapoint on every page." It presented a genuine scientific investigation of the Shroud of Turin that included no snarky quips from debunkers, treated Christianity and belief in the resurrection with respect, and concluded with a computer reconstruction of Jesus' face from the image on the shroud. It is suggested that the dematerialization of Jesus' body may have produced the image in some way; an image that contains no paint, pigment, burn marks, chemicals, or any indication that human hands produced it at all. The shroud is not a photograph, painting, or artwork of any kind. The scientists who worked on it, and were interviewed for the program, made very clear that they did not discover how the image was created, but were able to rule out any conventional or nonconventional means (such as photography being used 400 years before it was invented).
4. Jesus returned to his disciples as a form of after-death communication. Frequently people will report a full-body apparition of a newly deceased loved one that appears for a brief time to let them know that they are alright. Some have suggested that Jesus did not have a bodily resurrection but a spiritual resurrection. This still doesn't explain where the body went.
5. Jesus materialized a new body for himself using ectoplasm like the materialization mediums of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I just thought this one up a few days ago, but it seems less likely now. I thought that if mediums could materialize spirits using ectoplasm, a substance created in part from the medium's own body (which is why mediums' weights decreased greatly while they materialized spirits and why if something went wrong with the ectoplasmic form the medium could be greatly hurt), then why couldn't a sufficiently advanced spirit create their own solid form out of ectoplasm? The obvious problem is, where will the spirit get the material needed to create the ectoplasmic form if most of it comes from the medium's own body? In the case of Jesus he could have used material from his own, dead, body. This would explain the empty tomb and all the other features of his new body, such as its ability to appear and disappear and yet seem solid to anyone who would touch it (Thomas, who wasn't satisfied just looking at his teacher; though I suspect if I encountered a materialized loved one I would have to touch them too, for my own human frailty). Of course, if Jesus could create a new ectoplasmic body out of the material from his old body then wouldn't it be assuming less to just say that he dematerialized his old body and rematerialized it as in case three? It is kind of a meaningless exercise to argue whether Jesus could dematerialize his old body and rematerialize it or whether he made an ectoplasmic body out of the material from his old body. There really seems no difference.
All that said, I do not know how the resurrection was accomplished, only that I am glad that it did occur. Contemplation on the mystery of the resurrection seemed to be an appropriate usage of time for Easter, after all. Enjoy the rest of the day while it's still here.
UPDATE: Integral Christ is now available in PDF format complete with additional pictures and about three errors corrected.
If the crucifixion took place in 33 AD then the day was today, 3 April. The last time Holy Week took place at the same time as the first Holy Week was 1942. The next time it will happen again is 2026. If my calculations are correct Jesus was killed 2 weeks before his 39th birthday.
On such an auspicious occasion, the first in the lives of probably most people who have ever visited The Urban Mystic (though I love my septuagenarian readers just as much, probably more), I will take this time to write a very special piece about the most famous man who ever lived.
Who was Jesus Christ? I've already written about his birth, about his life, the conspiracy to kill him, the resurrection, and the possibility that he visited India during those missing 18 years. What is left to write about?
How about the ways in which we interpret Jesus.
I listened to an audio program from Integral Life that was little more than a 45 minute commercial, but it got me thinking about the way people at different developmental levels interpret Jesus and what part of his life and teaching they may focus on.
We hear about magic stage Christianity focuses on Jesus as personal savior who can miraculously alter the world. A child's view of Jesus as a superhero who is there to save you. The miraculous is the focus at this stage; it is what convinces the believer.
Mythic Christianity would focus on Jesus as the Way the Truth and the Life. Jesus prescribes behavior and you have to obey, you have to accept Jesus as your personal savior or you'll go to Hell forever. This is the Christianity of the Crusaders and most of medieval Europe and even going into the Reformation. The difference between the old Catholic church and Luther's church was the interpretation of whether Jesus' Law included belief only or if acts of charity were needed to cement one's place in Heaven.
Rational Christianity, the Christianity of Thomas Jefferson, John Locke, Rene Descartes, and Isaac Newton. We have a God who is grand designer of the universe, and while Jesus is fully divine he is also fully human. Jesus is a wisdom teacher.
There's a pluralistic Christianity would deconstruct Jesus. It would be seen as unchristlike to say Jesus is the only way to God. Belief no longer needs to have any connection with truth, if truth even exists; belief is my own feeling about something and everyone has different, equally valid beliefs.
But what is integral Christianity? Who is the integral Jesus? This question may be too large even for this massive essay. To scale it back I'll focus on a much smaller scale.
The dialogue did ask four interesting questions about what would be included in an integral version of Christianity: Do you need the virgin birth? Do you need miracles? Do you need Jesus dying on the cross? and Do you need the resurrection?
Remember, the key feature of second tier is supposed to be to integrate all of first tier. We're supposed to look at everything that has come before and work it all together. Ken Wilber's working hypothesis is that no one is entirely wrong. Every level is right about some aspect of reality in some way. What I try to do is find what works at each level and put it all together, bridging the gaps, to create a unified whole. What the people over at Integral Life seem to do is talk about the lower levels and then take whatever Green-Post Modern says and declare it the truth of everything. There seems to be a very strong Green bias in the supposedly second tier integral community. But that's a topic for a different discussion. Right now what I will attempt to do is integrate all of first tier into a second tier version of Christianity. I will start by answering the four questions presented in the dialogue.
Now, I have absolutely no idea if Mary was a virgin or not prior to Jesus' birth. Mentioned in Matthew and Luke, the virgin birth went relatively unquestioned for most of the history of Christianity. Matthew makes reference to a prophecy from Isaiah that the messiah would be born of a virgin and he sees Jesus as fulfilling that prophecy. Why did Matthew and Luke tell different versions of the same story, and why did Mark and John not mention the virgin birth at all? We can excuse Paul because his central focus was the resurrection as the singular event in history in which sin and death were overcome, but is the silence from Mark and John any indication of anything?
It is not impossible for such an event as a virgin birth to occur. It has never been observed in mammals in the wild, but scientists have been able to tinker around with mice and rabbits, and in 2007 human embryos were created this way for use in stem cell research. God can do anything that a human can do, so technically God could turn the reptilian gene on and make a fatherless Jesus as a demonstration of sovereignty over nature. The biggest problem is that the offspring of such an event is always female. Again, however, it is possible to tinker with an X chromosome in the lab and create a Y chromosome from it, since they have homologous genes. It is technically possible for a scientist today to create a male embryo from the cells of just the mother, but no one has ever done this before and it doesn't happen in nature, which really would make it a miracle par excellence.
Did it happen? We can't say. Are we required to believe it happened? Well, if we follow what Paul says then technically no. A virgin birth is not a requirement for an integral Christianity.
Do we need miracles? Surprisingly they seem to agree that events that might be considered miraculous actually do happen. There are healers who use methods such as laying on hands and other energetic methods, and not only do they produce statistically significant results, but these alternative methods are sometimes even covered by insurance, so energy healing is not something on the fringe, it is acceptable medicine. Phenomena such as ESP and psychokinesis have been demonstrated to exist with greater scrutiny than any other field of science ever. Double-blind protocol was invented to study psychic phenomena, starting with Mesmerism (a form of hypnotism). Just as ancient people would consider an airplane magic if it were somehow transported back in time, it is safe to say that they would have considered psychic powers to be a form of magic or miracles.
Richard Rose, an iconoclastic physicist and engineer as well as a mystic, certainly accepted what he called "magic," which appears to include psychic phenomena. Looking at Ken Wilber's classification of the developmental levels it is possible that Richard Rose would have been considered third tier, meaning permanently ensconced in states of transpersonal awareness. Rose would almost certainly have been considered integrally developed, and he not only accepted the existence of psychic phenomena, but also demonic possession.
A lot of miracles in the New Testament definitely could be explained through psychic phenomena, albeit at a larger scale than what is seen in a laboratory setting. Miracles can indeed be a part of integral Christianity, and if we're using the word "miracle" as a pre-scientific term to mean "psychic phenomena" then the existence of miracles is already an established fact.
What about the crucifixion? Does integral Christianity need a crucifixion? Well, what exactly is the alternative? The dialogue brings up the swoon hypothesis. They say that people in the Gospels acted like Jesus was still alive. They say he was taken off after only six hours, his body was put in a tomb instead of left on the cross to rot like typically happens with criminals, that the herbs used to anoint the body were typically used to revive people and not to anoint the dead. People are acting like he isn't dead? Really? Only John mentions anything put on Jesus' body, and he says myrrh, aloe, and unnamed spices. Aloe is certainly used in medicine, and so is myrrh, but myrrh is also used in embalming the dead. But what about the swoon hypothesis? I have to say it is the most ridiculous alternative to crucifixion anyone has come up with. People have suggested it was a double who was crucified, some people say that the whole story was made up, some people even say that God replaced Jesus' body on the cross with Judas, but anyone who believes in the swoon hypothesis knows absolutely nothing about medicine.
Let us look at the Shroud of Turin, an object that realistically depicts what is mentioned in the Gospels. Jesus was scourged by a Roman flagrum. The man on the shroud has 120 such marks on his body. There have been people who have died from a few lashes from a regular whip back when capital punishment was legal in the West, in the British navy for example. A flagrum is about 50 times worse than a whip. A flagrum is like a whip with three strips of leather with iron barbells, nails, or broken glass tied to it, wielded by a professional killer. He had a crown of thorns placed on his head. His eye is swollen shut from the beating he received, his nose is broken. His shoulders were dislocated when he was crucified. The nails used in the crucifixion would have rendered his hands nonfunctional, not to mention the excruciating pain from putting pressure on the median nerve in the wrist. After six hours on the cross Jesus' heart would have been beating over 140 beats per minute, he would be near suffocating, dehydrated, exhausted, between 10-20% of his blood would have been lost. Then the Roman centurion thrust a spear through Jesus' side and "blood and water" poured out of the wound. This is a very telling remark from John. The heart is surrounded by a cushion of clear fluid. When the spear pierced Jesus' heart that clear fluid came out with the blood. It is doubtful that even professional executioners in the first century would have known about the existence of pericardial fluid. The fact that John mentions this is strong indication that he witnessed an actual event.
In order to complete the swoon hypothesis the Apostles would have needed to fool professional executioners that Jesus was dead. In the tomb they would have needed to treat wounds that would probably have been fatal even with modern emergency surgery. Jesus would have needed an emergency heart transplant, a blood transfusion, his shoulders would have had to been put back in place and his nose would have had to have been set. 36 hours later Jesus would have needed to roll an enormous stone away using his nonfunctional hands, overpower the guards standing outside the tomb, walk seven miles from outside Jerusalem to Emmaus, sneak into a locked room with no evidence of forced entry, and fool people including his Apostles and his own mother that he was resurrected and had conquered death and not a bloody and beaten mess who had barely escaped death. He would have had to convince people so thoroughly that 11 of the 12 Apostles would overcome their fear of the Romans and go to their death as martyrs to preach a Gospel they knew was a lie.
The swoon hypothesis is absolutely impossible. One thing is certain, the Romans were experts at killing people. If they said Jesus was dead then he was dead. He wasn't in a coma, he wasn't faking, he was absolutely dead.
The dialogue also mentions a supposed lack of documentary evidence of the crucifixion. Lack of documentary evidence? Josephus and Tacitus both say that a man named Jesus was crucified by the Romans. What do you want, a CNN video from 33 AD actually showing the nails going in?
The crucifixion is as close to an historical fact as we can get. We know from historical sources that a man named Jesus preached in Judea in the first century and he was crucified by the Romans. That is fact. If the crucifixion isn't part of integral Christianity that's just plain denying fact. That would be like integral chemistry denying the existence of atoms.
Now we come to the big one. Does integral Christianity need the resurrection? The men in the dialogue dodge produce yet another flippant response. They say something like "Well I don't care, 'he died for my sins', that doesn't mean anything to me." Not only did they dodge the question, I also suspect they enjoy sinning. I mean sinning is fun, at the time, but I suspect they don't repent afterward.
But the answer to the question is an unequivocal yes. You don't need to believe in the resurrection to practice Jesus' teachings, you don't need to believe to accept the existence of an historical Jesus, but to be a Christian the central tenant is belief in the resurrection. That is nonnegotiable. Paul says that there can be no Christianity without the resurrection and that if the resurrection did not happen we should immediately through Christianity out because it is false:
But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. (1 Cor 15:13-17)
Who am I going to believe, Paul, the inventor of Christianity, as the man who took a small following of an obscure Jewish teacher and made it a world religion everyone can belong to, or some guy in 2015 who doesn't even care about the concept of sin?
Here's what Richard Rose has to say:
"Evidently Jesus was able to come back and get his body, since the body disappeared from the grave, and later reappeared on the road to Emmaus. This does not prove that Jesus escaped physically from the grave, but could imply that the spirit of Jesus was able to simulate a body and to discard the mask at will.
"To say that a personality has found a means to travel from one dimension to another and to be seen in both is not unreasonable, although it implies a special talent. The SRF (Self Realization Fellowship) movement claims that some of its masters were avatars who had the ability to come and go between the spiritual planes and they were also reputed to have extensive creative ability. This brings us to the word illusion, for many believe this world to be one of illusion and that some liberated spirits are able to evoke the illusion at will." (The Albigen Papers, p. 84)
Rose is speaking of chapter 43 from Autobiography of a Yogi. Yogananda's guru Yukteswar Giri had died and his body was buried and then a few days later he reappeared in physical form before Yogananda to console him and teach a valuable lesson about life and death:
"Angelic guru," I said, "your body looks exactly as it did when last I wept over it in the Puri ashram."
"O yes, my new body is a perfect copy of the old one. I materialize or dematerialize this form any time at will, much more frequently than I did while on earth. By quick dematerialization, I now travel instantly by light express from planet to planet or, indeed, from astral to causal or to physical cosmos." My divine guru smiled. "Though you move about so fast these days, I had no difficulty in finding you at Bombay!" (Quote taken from the original public domain version, which I have as a text file, so I unfortunately can't say what page it came from.)
What about A Course in Miracles? If we look at the unpublished "Special Messages" section the Voice (identified as Jesus Christ) says the following about the resurrection:
My body disappeared because I had no illusion about it. The last one had gone. It was laid in the tomb, but there was nothing left to bury. It did not disintegrate because the unreal cannot die. It merely became what it always was. And that is what “rolling the stone away” means. The body disappears, and no longer hides what lies beyond. It merely ceases to interfere with vision. To roll the stone away is to see beyond the tomb, beyond death, and to understand the body’s nothingness. What is understood as nothing must disappear.
I did assume a human form with human attributes afterwards, to speak to those who were to prove the body’s worthlessness to the world. This has been much misunderstood. I came to tell them that death is illusion, and the mind that made the body can make another since form itself is an illusion. They did not understand. But now I talk to you and give you the same message. The death of an illusion means nothing. It disappears when you awaken and decide to dream no more. And you still do have the power to make this decision as I did.
Is resurrection even possible? Resurrection, not mere revival of the body. Both Richard Rose and Paramhansa Yogananda seem to think so. And you may think to yourself, sure Rose and Yogananda may, may, have had a center of gravity in third tier, but Yogananda could still have been cognitively at amber and Rose at orange, or whatever. You might say that the Course was written by Hellen Schucman subconsciously, and she might have been at orange or maybe green, who knows.
Someone with a cognitive level of teal or turquoise, even someone at green, would see this is all a myth, it's impossible, the resurrection is a holdover from a mythic consciousness and it's really symbolic of our spiritual resurrection within Christ consciousness. The death of the separate self sense and the resurrection into nondual spirit as such. This also achieves the conquest of sin, because from a nondual perspective there is no sin. Nonduality transcends good and evil (unfortunately most people today misinterpret the nondual traditions and instead of transcending anything just act egotistically and think they are transcending good and evil). Sin is entirely a product of the separate self, so when we die to the separate self we are eliminating sin. And that's fine. I don't disagree with that interpretation. It is lovely symbolism and capable of producing profound spiritual experiences.
But my question is is it possible for an integral Christianity to include a bodily resurrection of Jesus? I've presented eye-witness testimony of resurrection and spiritual communication. Now let's take another look at the Shroud of Turin. I keep bringing up the Shroud because I think it is strong evidence in favor of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If we are able to overcome the speculation that it is a forgery then we are left with what appears to me to be two possibilities: that the Shroud was formed through some unknown natural process related to the decomposition of a body that has never been seen before or since, or that the Shroud is a relic of a miracle, a physical testimony to the the ultimate event in history.
The evidence that the shroud is not a forgery is very strong. The first piece of evidence is the dating. One sample from the Shroud of Turin was taken and dated. First off, testing one sample proves nothing. Second, the sample was taken from a corner where a repair was made. The radio carbon date of the sample is off because it did not come from an original part of the cloth.
Next we have an illumination from a Hungarian manuscript the Pray Codex.
The illumination depicts a crucified man who looks like the man in the Shroud with his thumbs retracted (because the nails damaged the nerve) – medical knowledge a medieval monk would not have known. The picture also depicts the man on a cloth with a similar weave as the Shroud, and an L-shaped series of burn marks in the same place as on the Shroud. Crucially, this manuscript was made almost a century prior to the earliest date attested to by the carbon 14 testing of the Shroud. This is strong evidence against the Shroud being a medieval forgery.
Then comes the list of high improbabilities; things that no medieval artist should know or would even think about.
● The blood stains – which have been tested and are real human blood – have no image underneath them. That means the blood was placed on the cloth first and the image created afterward. The forger would need to know exactly where to place the blood, correctly depicting the flow of gravity around a three dimensional body, both when held vertical during the crucifixion, and then later when the body was horizontal within the tomb, and then paint over it.
● The forger would need to know what an authentic Roman scourging looked like to produce an accurate representation.
● The forger would need to know what an authentic Roman crucifixion looked like, including putting the nails in the wrists and not the palms, as was the tradition during the middle ages. The forger would have needed to know that the thumbs would retract from the injury.
● The forger would need to put Jerusalem pollen on the cloth to fool 20th century scientists who would conduct microchemistry on the Shroud.
● The forger would need to paint using an unknown medium (no paint, no dye, no pigment of any kind was ever discovered on the cloth, there are no indication of brush strokes or any application of any material) in perfect negative of an image that is almost invisible up close and does not become visible until many 40 feet away, in order to produce a positive image only after the invention of photography many centuries later.
● The forger would need to encode 3D information within the image so that 20th century computers could extract a full 3D life-sized image of a man.
If the Shroud is a forgery then the forger would need to be the greatest artist who has ever lived and will likely ever live, and yet the forger would have to have produced absolutely no other work during his lifetime.
Now that the idea that the Shroud is a forgery has been refuted it is up to you to decide whether the Shroud of Turin is the natural byproduct of an unknown process of decomposition that has never before or since been observed, or a genuine miracle.
Integral Christianity certainly can include a bodily resurrection. We certainly can have room for interpretation and experiences. It is possible to have visions of Christ, just like deathbed visions of relatives. I'll say this for the first time, I have had a vision of Christ. He reached through my body, touched my spine, and instantly healed a childhood injury that had filled most of my life up to that point with constant pain. No hallucination can do that, that was a genuine miracle. (Unfortunately, six years later I re-injured my back at work. I don't expect Jesus to come back and heal me every time I get hurt, that was a one off event with spiritual ramifications.) Could the Apostles have had such a vision? I certainly think Paul did. But a mere vision does not explain the empty tomb. Remember, people at different levels can interpret the empty tomb and the resurrection differently, but when reading the Gospels we must take into account the writer's original intent. We can read interpretations into the Gospels that the writers could never have imagined, about Christ consciousness and symbolism of this and that, but to know what they were talking about we must take into account their own level of development. First and second century Jews would not have a clue what you're talking about if you start speaking in postmodern terminology.
When Paul was writing his letter to the Corinthians he was not talking about some experience you can have and gee isn't that swell, but other people can interpret things their own way. The Gospel writers were not using the empty tomb as a metaphor for anything. They do not paint themselves as particularly bright within their own Gospels. Jesus has to constantly explain himself in ever more details before the Apostles finally get it in John at the Last Supper. The Gospel writers depict events that would have been embarrassing for a first century Jew. If they were writing metaphor they would not have put so many inconvenient details within the text, they would have presented Jesus as Superman. These people were writing what they thought was the true account of real events. If Paul says that Christianity cannot exist without the resurrection, he's not talking about an experience he had on the road to Damascus, he's not using the empty tomb to talk about shunyata, they really found a tomb with no body and they explain it by saying Jesus physically rose from the dead. Without that, without the resurrection, there can be no Christianity.
So where does that leave integral Christianity? Well, I've certainly demonstrated that miracles exist, whether we use the word "miracle" or "psychic phenomena," I've shown that the crucifixion was a real historical event, and, most controversially, I have presented evidence in favor of the resurrection, and have argued that our own interpretation, while important, should not be read into the minds of the Gospel writers.
You can certainly love Jesus at any level. You can practice Jesus' teaching in the manner interpreted at any level and have that practice be appropriate for that level. However interpretations should not trump facts. Postmodernism deconstructed the world, and integralism is supposed to reconstruct it, taking what works at every level and synthesizing it into a seamless whole. It is not enough to say every level has its own interpretations, its own value structures, and just leave it at that. While true, that is not the whole picture. Our own interpretation must go hand-in-hand with the interpretations of the Gospel writers and with the facts of Jesus' life in order to complete the picture and create a truly integral Christianity. We must live the teachings of Jesus body, mind, and spirit, exercising our charity and compassion, our rationality, and our prayer and contemplation so that we too may "die daily" to our separate self as Paul did 2000 years ago.
It is Easter Sunday. Rejoice! Christ is risen!