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It's been years since I've looked at the book but the Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels is IMO definitely something everyone who ascribes to scriptures of any kind should read. Interesting to see what might get left out & why.

If we can glean something from the paranormal, it's that odd powers seem to come to people without reason. It's more likely to me that Jesus + other deified mortals & prophets possibly had Psi abilities but, assuming the religious texts aren't largely edited versions of their words, slapped on a lot of cultural baggage into his understanding of the greater reality.

Or so we can only hope, since the deities of most religions seem rather controlling if not downright demonic/tyrannical in their influence/demands over this life. Some of their evil is only compounded by the promise of eternal torment in the next for those who refuse to worship such monsters.

So I have no problem thinking Jesus was real, or that he had a number of paranormal abilities. None of that would be a signal of divine authority for me, especially since ever since Plato we've known gods can't be direct authors of the Good.

I've seen the jesus/osiris/mithra stuff many times bandied around online. The idea that essentials details of the Jesus story are identical to earlier mythologies in many cultures, proving he too is a folkloric invention.

I often contribute by pointing out how far greater correlations can be found with other personalities who came AFTER Jesus. Last time, I realised Hitler can be added to the list. So here is my evidence that Adolf Hitler never really existed......

Jesus Christ/King Arthur/Robin Hood/Adolf Hitler was a young man of humble upbringing as a carpenter/page/woodsman/art student, raised by a man not really his father, but in reality was descended from King David/Uther Pendragon/The Earls of Huntingdon... He grew up to be a saviour for his people and surrounded himself with a loyal band of apostles/knights/merry men/brownshirts.
Together with his best friend Peter/Lancelot/Little John/Goering,
his female companion Mary Magdelene/ Guinevere/Maid Marion/Eva Braun
and his spiritual mentor John The Baptist/Merlin/Friar Tuck/Heinrich Himmler
he would gather around a table..a round table..for a last supper..before Stauffenberg put a bomb under it.
Betrayed in his moment of crisis by Judas/Mordred/Goering he died...but not really, because the tomb/bunker was empty and the King of Kings is the once and future king who is merely residing in Avalon/Argentina to return when needed to resurrect his Kingdom/Reich.

More? Mary Magdelene and Maid Marion..same initials! Eva Braun = Eve! As in Garden of Eden..or is that Berchtesgarden?..Avalon?..Getshamene?

I think you can see from this Adolf Hitler did not exist. Or if he did the key elements of his life we think we know are mere archetypes, lifted from other popular fairy tales. Really the evidence is overwhelming.

[And don't get me started on Elvis Presley the King whose grave is empty, is not really dead and is waiting to return to bring glory back to the legendary Camelot..er..Graceland. He's made up too. But that's for another day and the world just ain't ready for that revelation.]

There seems to be many problems in Ehrman's book:

http://www.bibleinterp.com/PDFs/Response.pdf

I believe Jesus was a highly articulate and intelligent little Jewish Rabbi who was crucified and that he "died" on the cross and had a very deep and profound near death experience. The Roman soldier stabbed him with his sword and perforated his pericardium which had become full of lymphatic fluid and it "flowed like blood and water."

They were in a hurry to get Jesus down off that cross before nightfall because in the Jewish religion it was considered a sin to leave a body hanging in a tree after the Sun went down. Because they were in a hurry when they cut him down they dropped him on the ground and the resulting "whomp" restarted his heart to slowly start beating and he was in a deep coma and was barely breathing.

The women washed his body and wrapped his wounds with linen and they laid him in that cool dark tomb where he lay for three days. On the third day he woke up from his coma and walked out and would tell anyone who was willing to listen about his trip to heaven and what he saw there.

The stories we are left with in the New Testament are parables about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. What is interesting to me is how they parallel the holographic universe theory and near death experiences.

So I basically believe that Christianity is basically a near death experience religion and that Jesus was a near death experiencer and that the New Testament is at it's very heart a highly embellished and out of sequence near death experience story and that if you read it closely it is fairly easy to separate the embellished parts from what really happened; but the stories that Jesus tells about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like? I believe those are real.

What that means is that the things we have loved on this Earth and been separated from? We get it all back. They all exist on the other side in that great holographic universe. We haven't lost anything, just been temporairly separated from it to teach us what it means and how it feels to be separate, something we can't learn in heaven because there is no separation in heaven. It is the place of oneness and connectedness.

Matthew 18:18
"I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

John 10:34
"Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are gods'?"

"If we can glean something from the paranormal, it's that odd powers seem to come to people without reason. It's more likely to me that Jesus + other deified mortals & prophets possibly had Psi abilities but, assuming the religious texts aren't largely edited versions of their words, slapped on a lot of cultural baggage into his understanding of the greater reality."

But that does not explain the resurrection of Jesus, something never imitated by a mere psychic in history.

"The women washed his body and wrapped his wounds with linen and they laid him in that cool dark tomb where he lay for three days. On the third day he woke up from his coma and walked out and would tell anyone who was willing to listen about his trip to heaven and what he saw there."

But that does not explain that Jesus could appear and disappear after his resurrection:

http://www.jw.org/en/bible-teachings/questions/jesus-body/

I understand these attempts to normalize Jesus, but remain impartial, the scriptures suggest otherwise.

Very clever, Lawrence!

And, Art, very clever too. But I think there's a lot more to what Jesus taught. Notice repeatedly how he says that things in the Afterlife will be turned upside-down. The meek will inherit the earth, the priests who fangle money out of widows will receive a severe condemnation, etc. What he's teaching is that not everyone will go back to Heaven and get the good times.

For myself, I think there's more than ample evidence that Jesus existed. It would have had to involve some massive fraud and conspiracy otherwise, and after 2,000 years I'd think we'd have figured that out.

Juan, did you see the word "embellish" I wrote in describing the New Testament? It means that the original story was most likely true but story tellers added to it and embellished the story - and more than likely told it out of sequence.

Storytellers like to embellish the stories they tell in order to enthrall the audience. A lot of Jesus original stories about what heaven was like are in the New Testament but over the years (and it doesn't take long) those stories were added onto with other myths that were common during the first century.

I believe Jesus was real and that he lived, that he died on the cross, was cut down, was in the tomb for three days, arose from the tomb, and then walked around and told people what the Kingdom of Heaven was like. A lot of the stories about Jesus though sound suspiciously like stories about other "gods" that were common to the first century.

The original character was a real man, and Jesus's stories about heaven match what I know about the holographic universe and what Talbot wrote about, but some of it also parallels stories about Horus and other religions of the day.

I go to a bible believing church, yep, the whole bit. I like Bart Ehrman and Elaine Pagels. Ehrman's "How Jesus became God" has some good stuff in it, stuff that can actually grow faith. Pagels "Beyond Belief" kind of gets there in my opinion. Listening to some of Pagels lectures is very informative for me. I guess my main problem with the church is it's calling the Bible objective truth and kind of damming anyone who takes another view. I tend to think the new testament is mostly a political document, meant to grow the church. But there is "something else"--it is hinted at and then denied. This "something else" ended in the first century according to my church. Its this "something else" that keeps my interest. That's why I visit sights like this one. I am beginning the think this "something else" didn't end.

Michael
I am happy to read that you think Jesus really existed. Yes I am of the same thinking, religion has become so wide and diverse in this age that some of the oldest bibles may be the one way to come to gripes with the language and style the authors and scholars, of Jesus living in that first century of recorded history AD. A lot of faith has to arrive along with human events in life to counter abject stubborn misbeliefs in our limited intellects, that would rest with a truth.. something to believe in. You know my meaning? one's own testimony of some mysterious event that happens to say eureka! my prayers has been answered or a higher consciousness or lifting to just know their has to be a Higher Power operating to make something so.
Science is about measuring and some physicist say that life is an illusion, that there is no real Time. Other physicist will argue that Time is real past, present and future. What I am of an opinion lately is that they are both right, its just that space can,t truly be measured because its potential for change and does. Spiritual aptitude is real and the past is real, froze but nevertheless creating into the future because of our minds that evolves into infinity. Jesus is the Son of God and also a Spirit.. so miracles and wonders are always in a potential. The Bible is the oldest source and even the Koran if one has the open mind and patience to study deeper into what the early writers were inspired to say. Thank you Michael for your open mind on this crucial matter of Jesus having lived really and I will put that on my list of books to read.

Ally

It is when you look at scholarly works that you are forced to accept that a historical Jesus did not exist. Try
http://jesusmyth.net/
http://jesusmyth.net/page2.html
http://jesusmyth.net/page8.html

That's a coincidence! I have recently been listening to Bart Ehrman's lectures on the New Testament for the Teaching Company's "Great Courses" series -
http://www.thegreatcourses.co.uk/courses/new-testament.html
Anyway, Prof Ehrman is very erudite and compelling, and I too am comfortable accepting the historicity of Jesus.

Maurice Barbanell's Silver Birch seems to confirm the existence of the "Nazarene" too, if testimony from other dimensions is allowable!

However, what was clear from Ehrman's lectures was that very little of the things written about Jesus could be relied upon with any degree of confidence, since our only sources are copies of copies of copies (etc).

I tend to accept the reality of a spiritual teacher who existed and engaged with the populus, but beyond that I don't think one can draw any solid conclusions (except that a humungously influential religion subsequently grew up around him!)

Oh Boy, I'm so glad you posted this, Michael. It's very timely.

There have been attempts made to claim that the first Christians expected Jesus' immanent return in their own lifetimes but this is not in the Bible and, furthermore, the Bible itself contradicts this view. For example, Jesus predicts the death of his own apostles. Also, St Paul talks about "the last days", when people in general would become less moral etc. That passage clearly denotes a time way ahead in the future, and so it constitutes prophecy.

As Juan pointed out above, psychics, mediums, gurus and other types of spiritualists do not have anywhere near the miracle abilities of Jesus. That is a clue to this whole thing.

Especially interesting is the Catholic church and the mystics of it, in connection with all this. Many of the catholic saints and mystics supposedly had supernatural abilities like levitating, reading of minds, strange scent emanations, the stigmata, healings, etc. Interestingly, the Indian Guru Sai Baba has a parallel "miracle" to the catholic "miracle" of the bleeding statues - a kind of strange materialisation of ash over pictures of the guru in lots of different devotee's homes.

So, what about Catholicism? Ok, it's a big subject. The question, as with all psychic phenomena in general, is this: what is the source of these "supernatural" manifestations? According to some parapsychologists and scientists, the psychic or medium's abilities stem from either 1) their own subconscious or unconscious minds or 2) an actual spirit being. According to skeptics, they don't exist because they are tricks or hallucinations. According to Christians, their source is demonic. Since the medium themselves do not seem to know whether it is coming from their own mind somehow or whether it is a spirit being, it is fairly safe to conclude, based on the fact that the "powers" seem to almost always fail in the presence of skeptics, that the source of all of this stuff is demonic.

Let me give some evidence and sources to back up my assertions.

First, please go to Amazon and look up small booklet series by John Ankerberg and John Weldon. They can be downloaded very cheaply for kindle devices, and there are perhaps 20 volumes of roughly 50 pages each. They go into research on the New Age from a Biblical perspective. Don't be put off by that, but keep your mind open and read them.

In connection with this, you might want to purchase the 700 page book they made which preceded these series booklets, called An Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs. I was able to buy a copy of this book for only £3 and the wealth of information in it is very impressive.

Also, you can look up some debates on YouTube, especially some from the 1980s TV programme The John Ankerberg show. Especially interesting are debates involving Tal Brooke (who was a previous disciple of Sai Baba), Dave Hunt, and Johanna Michaelsen.

Another good resource to look into are debates by Walter Martin and one of his books about cults and the New Age.

Recently, in the last 2 years, a former close disciple of the Indian guru Amritanandamayi (or more commonly known as Amma) released a book called "Holy Hell" detailing her experience with the guru which reveals some very damaging details. I mention this because it relates to the concept of "possession" and how dangerous such a state is physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Let's take a look at the track record of the Hindu gurus in general.

Almost every single one of these gurus eventually turned out to be corrupt. The sexual allegations stand out the most but there are more disturbing things going on relating to "kundalini" energies. Almost every one, without exception: Sai Baba, Swami Muktananda, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Swami Rama, Osho (Rajneesh), Paramahansa Yogananda, Bikram Choudary, Yogi Amrit Desai, Swami Kriyananda (disciple of Yogananda), Yogi Bhagan, Nityananda, - the list goes on and on. And now Amma.

What is wrong with all these people? They are all possessed by demons.

And it doesn't stop there. What about Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon church? What about Christian Science? Where does hypnosis figure in here? Andrew Jackson Davis? What do all these groups have in common? They produce "inspired" literature that very rarely produce predictions that have short term applicability.

What happened to the Fox sisters? They died of alcoholism. And Margery the medium? Died of alcoholism. There are too many coincidences, too many similarities in the lives of all these kinds of people, to dismiss or explain away as having no connection.

Why did ALIENS appear at the Scole Experiment séances? You are probably thinking how there can be a connection between UFO's and aliens and mediumship? What do you suspect these alien beings might be?

Have you ever wondered why many mediums resort to using trickery? Why would a person that claims to have mediumistic or psychic abilities (like Uri Geller, for example) use magicians tricks? Could it be that the spirit(s) they claim to contact have nefarious motives? Could it be that when a "skeptic" shows up their ability disappears because the entity responsible for the spiritual manifestations itself is a trickster?

The Bible says that demonic entities are "lying and deceiving spirits".

Also look up a video on YouTube by a girl called purvigiggle: "From occult yoga to Jesus Christ"

Look up "Occult Invasion" by Dave Hunt - a book available on Kindle amazon. 700 pages.

What about channellers and automatic writing? Books like "a course in miracles" "conversations with God" "seth speaks" JZ knight and her "Ramtha" spirit guide. What do ALL of these things have in common? They ALL pervert the Bible.

Still not convinced? Ok, how about sleep paralysis? What is sleep paralysis? What happens in sleep paralysis? Typically, a person wakes up paralysed and unable to breathe while encountering a malevolent entity. What is this? Could it be a demon?

Sorry, I posted a lot there and I lost a lot too due to cut/paste issues.

Please let me just state that I am not here to preach. I was once into spiritual things but I had to get out of it because it was harmful in different and various ways.

Look up Laura Maxwell, ex-spiritualist. She has a YouTube channel and a website.

PLEASE PLEASE keep your mind open - don't sneer, don't hate, don't put down - investigate.

Cheers

Art:

"The stories we are left with in the New Testament are parables about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. What is interesting to me is how they parallel the holographic universe theory and near death experiences."

The theologian Cynthia Bourgeault, in her book 'The Wisdom Jesus', describes Yeshua ben-Yosef with a phrase that has resonated with me ever since:

"Jesus was a teacher of the transformation of consciousness".

For me, this description links into my favourite saying by Yeshua, in the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas:

< His disciples said to him: "On what day will the kingdom come?" Jesus said: "It will not come while people watch for it; they will not say: Look, here it is, or: Look, there it is; but the kingdom of the father is spread out over the earth, and men do not see it." >

I believe he was saying: "The Kingdom of God is not a place, and it's not an event in time - the Kingdom of God is a transformed state of consciousness. When you understand this, and when mankind attains this evolved state of awareness, you will be able to make the Earth into a paradise."

My guess is that Yeshua did indeed have a "cosmic consciousness" experience - possibly brought on during all that meditating and fasting in the wilderness. He spent the rest of his life trying to articulate his vision - but there were no words to describe it, hence the numerous parables: "the Kingdom of God is like unto ....." He was attempting to 'eff the ineffable', and he knew most of his listeners wouldn't understand. 'He who hath ears to hear, let him hear'.

I strongly recommend Bourgeault's book, and also John Davidson's immense and scholarly 'The Gospel of Jesus' which places Yeshua's teaching in the context of the esoteric wisdom of his age - many of the ideas of 1st century Jewish esotericism use almost the same words that Jesus employed in his sermons. An absolutely fascinating read.

Jesus appears in a large number of near-death experiences including those by Christians, Jews, Muslims and atheists. However, to me, it doesn't matter if Jesus was a real historical figure or not. It is the revolutionary social and spiritual teachings attributed to this "Jesus" which is most important. It is the message of demanding social justice in rejecting racism (talking with a Samaritan woman - John 4:1-30); showing compassion toward social outsiders (lepers - Luke 17:11-19); protesting gender inequality (women - Luke 10:38-42); advocating help for the poor, sick and imprisoned (Luke 14:12-14); confronting the spiritually arrogant (Pharisees - Luke 6:1-11); confronting the injustice of the politically powerful (Romans, religious leaders - Luke 18:25); challenging unjust cultural practices (not associating with prostitutes - Luke 7:36-50); dignifying people considered second-class citizens (parable of the Good Samaritan - Luke 10:25-37); challenging unjust prejudice (hatred for tax collectors - Matthew 9:9-13); having unconditional love for others (even your enemies - Matthew 5:44); and showing tolerance for people of other religions (the Roman centurion - Matthew 8:5-13). For these reasons, even if Jesus never existed, it took a "Jesus" to invent this "Jesus" to come up with this revolutionary message that changed the world forever for the better.

Fred, I don't know where you get that idea from that the kingdom of God is a state of consciousness. Jesus certainly never even mentioned consciousness or the mind in any way pertaining to God.

It is true that the KJV of the Bible says, "The kingdom of God is within you" but this seems to be a translation error because the original words for "within you" have different meanings, and in the passages where Jesus made that statement about God being a kingdom within people, it was in the context of a reply to the Pharisees, whom Jesus had contempt for.

So, I really don't understand this esoteric interpretation of God being within us that makes us God with contempt for any religious or mystical cult belief system.

\\"but the kingdom of the father is spread out over the earth, and men do not see it." - gospel of Thomas//

In holographic film all the information is spread throughout the entire piece of film, each piece contains all the information of the whole and everything is connected and everything interpenetrates every else.

Jesus was trying to convey the "oneness" of heaven to people who had no concept of the holographic principle. He was a very articulate and brilliant little Rabbi who was trying to explain to his followers what the Kingdom of Heaven was like and he also hoped that his followers could experience here some of the oneness and love He felt in Heaven. If you look and think deeply enough you can see the oneness and connectedness and love in Jesus stories. The prodigal son who comes home to his father and experiences love and acceptance, the vineyard owner that pays everyone the same thing regardless of when they started working in the vineyard, doing unto others as you would have them do to you, telling his disciples not to get to attached to this world because what awaits us is way better than what we got here. That is what Jesus was all about.

Separation is a "here" thing and connectedness and oneness is a "there" thing. We simply learn here the things we can't learn in heaven.

David, I think that, based on accounts and testimonies from NDE's and other spiritual sources, there are definitely negative entities in the spiritual world, and that they do want to harm us. But to say that every communication, NDE or otherwise, is coming from demons is going a bit too far. What matters is what messages are being brought through: Do they bear the fruits of the spirit? (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness) Do they tell us to focus on helping others and improving ourselves, or do they advocate getting power, wealth, and fame? Many agree with the Biblical message that love is the most important thing we can do (Luke 10:25-28); I believe that many of these channeled texts are meant for a certain type of people at a certain stage of spiritual development, and that once the lessons have been learned, those individuals move on to something better. I used to believe that the Conversations with God series really was dictated by God; I don't believe that now, but those books did help me on my own path and introduced new thoughts and ideas that helped me at that point in time.

What's important is that we don't rely on these texts and channeled beings to make our decisions for us, as we have to learn and grow as a result of our actions and free will. Because of that, I think the safest course of action is to ask only God/Spirit for guidance, and regard all spiritual material - religious, new-age, or otherwise - with a healthy dose of skepticism.

With regards to Jesus, I think the evidence is very strong that he did exist, but whether or not all the supernatural things attributed to him really happened is unclear. I've often wondered if Jesus really was very spiritually advanced, yet, because he was in a physical body, was still capable of making mistakes: he seemed to have believed that the end of the world was right around the corner (Luke 21:32 seems pretty straight forward to me), yet we're still here. I doubt we'll ever truly know exactly what he said or did, but it seems a safe bet that he was sent by God/spirit to inspire a faith that would guide countless people towards the spiritual, much like other spiritual leaders throughout history.

I think Atheist historian Tim O'Neill completely refutes the mythers- http://armariummagnus.blogspot.com/2014/01/did-jesus-exist-jesus-myth-theory-again.html

I've been rereading Ehrman's signature book, "Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium," which I'm finding much more persuasive this time around. His central point is that Jesus expected his contemporary historical era, an age of evil dominated by demonic forces, to come to a climax in a cataclysm that would destroy Jerusalem. Then God would rise up, destroy the forces of darkness, and usher in a new age of goodness, the Kingdom of Heaven (which was not an other-dimensional afterlife, but paradise on earth). Jesus' ethical teachings, Ehrman argues, must be seen in this context; they make sense only because of the expectation of an imminent apocalypse.

Thus, Jesus taught that people should give away everything they owned, abandon their families, not worry about earning a living, submit to Roman oppression without protest, let criminals steal whatever they want, etc. None of this would be practical if he were concerned about maintaining a stable and just society. But from his perspective, society was about to be radically transformed, so personal possessions, family attachments, jobs, political problems, and human justice were all soon to be irrelevant. God would take care of everything.

This would explain why Jesus advocated a system of ethics and social behavior that is, for the most part, not workable in the real world. He and his followers fully expected the Kingdom to arrive within weeks or months. It didn't happen, and his teachings have had to be adjusted and recalibrated to be more practical in everyday life.

The Lord's Prayer preserves the essential teachings of Jesus very neatly:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, [i.e., let the Kingdom of Heaven arrive]
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven. [the Kingdom will be earthly]
Give us today our daily bread. [in the short run, God will provide]
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us. [human justice is irrelevant now]
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil. [rescue us from the cataclysm that will precede the Kingdom]

@Juan:

So Jesus rose from the dead? Assuming that actually happened, not sure why this has to be proof of divinity.

Wolverine rose from the dead hundreds of times in the X-men comics, but none of the other X-men decided he was the sole son of God.

@David R:

"ALL of these things have in common? They ALL pervert the Bible."

Just about everything you listed was poor sampling. You'd need to provide much more extensive data to even show a pattern let along prove demonic possession is involved.

Of course one can just turn to the Bible to see Yaweh is a monstrous demon itself, so I hardly see why anyone would want to worship such a horror if we took that text literally.

David,

It is true that Jesus nowhere mentions 'consciousness' - but the concept of the conscious and unconscious mind (let alone 'cosmic consciousness' as described by Bucke in his classic text) simply did not exist in the 1st century. It would be like expecting Jesus to have spoken about apps for his smartphone! Hence his attempts to describe the indescribable in the language of his day.

I recommend the book 'The Gospel of Jesus' by Davidson, as mentioned above. Davidson takes all the major sayings of Jesus and compares them with the writings of the mystics and esotericists living in or around Judea at the time of Jesus' ministry. The similarity of the language is quite striking; there are phrases used by Jesus which appear almost word-for-word in the esoteric texts. It is clear that the esoteric groups were talking about personal transformation, and Davidson infers, by the close similarity of language and phrases, that Jesus had the same objective.

Of course, we can never know for sure. For some people, Jesus was God incarnate, for others he was a political revolutionary, for yet others he was a Wisdom Teacher (which is my personal view), and for still others - as per Michael's original essay) - he didn't even exist.

And ALL these interpretations can be (and have been) promoted and defended by scholarship; whatever we want Jesus to be, we can find the evidence to convince us that we're right and everyone else is wrong!

"Since the medium themselves do not seem to know whether it is coming from their own mind somehow or whether it is a spirit being, it is fairly safe to conclude, based on the fact that the "powers" seem to almost always fail in the presence of skeptics, that the source of all of this stuff is demonic."

That's ridiculous, because some psychic researchers began being skeptics and became believers in the existence of an afterlife and mediumship.

In addition I have two arguments: first, there have been cases where during a session personality, memories and motives of a deceased human showed: if it behaves like X, then most likely be X. Only further evidence strong, there is not, it leads us to conclude that these beings are demons instead of deceased human beings.

And second, that some mediums come into contact with deceased humans fits better with the rest of their abilities, such as Eileen Garrett, who claimed to see auras around animals and that these light bodies continued their lives after the death of these living beings.

"Jesus' ethical teachings, Ehrman argues, must be seen in this context; they make sense only because of the expectation of an imminent apocalypse. "

Very interesting. That had never occurred to me, but it really makes sense. Thanks, Michael.

I agree Michael. The transformation into something more practical and universal came with Paul after his 'Road to Damascus' moment, which can be interpreted as an NDE (containing recognisable features including the being of light, transmission of information).

Pauline Christianity is really what most of us think of as Christianity. It's not really got much to do with what Jesus originally may have said or done.

It's hard to see it as anything other than the 'other side' taking the opportunity to inject this spiritual revolution into the world as the conditions were just right.

The spiritual Christ figure Paul perceives seems quite different from the human Jesus. Perhaps it is the Higher Self of Jesus, but I'm more inclined to think that this was the spirit world taking the initiative and from the bare bones of the Jesus story, a whole spiritual revolution is set in motion.
Maybe that was the idea all along?

I'm convinced something genuinely transcendent happened to Paul, and this set the whole train of what would become Christianity in motion.

HI Ian, I agree with what you wrote. I don't consider myself a Christian in any traditional sense and I certainly don't go to any church or adopt any Christian theological position. In fact, I really like the writings of Paramahansa Yogananda on Christ. He wrote a 2000 page commentary on the Gospels which is very revealing.

I used to be into those conversations with God books by Neale Donald Walsch but I found them silly in the end. Something just doesn't feel right to me about those books.

I agree that not all entities could be bad ones. It seems pretty obvious. However, I do believe that the vast majority of them ARE evil beings because they clearly seem stuck to this earth realm (for what reason, I have no clue). Also, it is difficult for me to believe that an old simple lady could pass into the afterlife and suddenly have the IQ of a profound genius!!

I also believe that aliens and UFO phenomena are bad entities.

Yogananda's take on all this is quite interesting. I would like to attach a small PDF file here with his insights on this. Is that possible, Michael?

Thanks

"I would like to attach a small PDF file here with his insights on this. Is that possible, Michael?"

There's no way to attach it that I know of. You can link to it, if it's online, or link to a public Dropbox folder.

"Very interesting. That had never occurred to me, but it really makes sense."

Yes, rereading Ehrman, I suddenly felt that his explanation was more coherent than Wright's, even though I had been a supporter of Wright's non-apocalyptic theory until now.

"It is clear that the esoteric groups were talking about personal transformation, and Davidson infers, by the close similarity of language and phrases, that Jesus had the same objective."

Personally I find this unlikely. Perhaps the Gnostics were interested in personal transformation, but they came later. The leading esoteric group among Palestinian Jews in Jesus' day was the Essenes, who were focused on the vindication of the Jewish people as a whole; this would require a final, bloody battle with the Romans, who personified the forces of darkness. The most influential book of prophecy at the time was Daniel, which (again) was all about the historical vindication of Yahweh and the triumph of his chosen people.

I don't think there was much interest in personal psychology or spiritual growth in that age, at least in Palestine. The sophisticates of Rome and Athens were a different story, but I doubt Jesus ever had any contact with their ideas. He seems to have been interested in God working out his divine plan via the Jewish people; individuals mattered only insofar as they could advance (or resist) this plan. That's my take on it, anyway.

While I certainly am not a Biblical scholar, I always thought that Jesus spent his formative years in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, both under the rule of the Roman Emperor and Kings,. Rome secured those cities and surrounding areas with Roman soldiers and their attending slaves, wives and concubines. It seems to me that an intelligent young Jesus , somewhat subjugated by Roman rules and exposed to Roman culture and behaviors throughout his lifetime would have had ample opportunity to pick up some ideas of the sophisticates of Rome. - AOD

John 18:36 "Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."

John 8:23 "But he continued, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world."

Jesus followers originally thought that the Messiah was going to lead a rebellion against Rome and establish an earthly kingdom. He came right out and told them his was a spiritual ministry but they either didn't understand or didn't want to believe him. I don't think they even began to have a glimmer of what he was talking about until he got up and walked out of that tomb after laying there for three days.

Jesus wanted his followers to experience the oneness and connectedness that he had felt during his NDE and he prayed to God that this would happen. We know of course that isn't what happened and that duality and separation seem to be inherent and inescapable properties of this Universe.

Here you go {smile}

I Don't Want to Get Adjusted to This World - Iris Dement

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7jYzS7zB98

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I don't want to get adjusted to this world"

"And I don't want to get adjusted to this world, to this world
I've got a home so much better
and I'm gonna go there sooner or later
And I don't want to get adjusted to this world, to this world"

AOD, Jesus probably grew up in Nazareth, a remote and desperately impoverished village. The Bethlehem birth narrative seems to have been invented to fulfill a purported prophecy from the Hebrew Bible.

In any event, for the most part the Romans were a fairly minor presence in Judea. They allowed their subjects a high degree of self-governance, insisting only that taxes be collected and order maintained. Their presence was felt in Jerusalem during Passover, where they massed their troops to stifle any possible rebellion, but otherwise they tended to stay on the margins of Judean life. The prefect and his troops probably spent most of the year in Caesarea Maritima on the seashore.

Some scholars have speculated that Jesus might have visited the very Hellenized town of Sepphoris and picked up a smattering of Greek (the universal language of the day); there's no evidence one way or the other. One theory holds that Jesus was influenced by the Cynic school of Greek philosophy; again, there's no real evidence.

According to the New Testament Jesus was taken to Egypt as a baby because of Herod's order to kill male infants. They waited till after Herod died to move back to Israel - which would have put Jesus somewhere between 2 and 4 years old. They moved back to where their families resided in Nazareth because of a prophecy "he would be called a Nazarene". Nazareth is in Galilee. (Matthew 2:13-20) As to how much of this is real or embellished to make for a good story I do not know? I do believe that Jesus was a real person but I do not believe that every single word in the Old and New Testament is completely true. I suspicion that some of it is embellished and told out of sequence. I do not trust the storytellers who told and retold the story, nor do I trust the scribes and monks who copied and recopied the original texts. It would be too tempting to add their own take on the stories as they recopied them.

Michael,
Thanks for the clarification. -AOD

The talk of demonic entities got me thinking about an old theory relating to channeled entities - could immaterial beings who feed on human misery have authored the world's religions?

While some aspects of the Bible, Koran, Hindu texts and so on do seem to inspire human evil through religious delusion I think it would be too much in line with the anti-religious sentiments of the materialist cults. Religion, for all its faults, is not wholly evil nor has it only inspired evil.

But perhaps the mistake lies in assuming scripture is unified in authorship/inspiration from the spiritual world. Assuming they exist it seems to me it's entirely possible both benevolent and evil entities have co-opted scripture to push humans in one direction or another. So some pages of say the Bible might be inspired by beings who wish us to evolve on a positive path while others were the whispers of demons that want us to forever exist in a state of ignorance and bigotry.

This would seem to potentially align with Eric Weiss' idea that some of our very thoughts are nudged by different beings in the subtle worlds. It might also help understand how God (or gods) can be so contradictory + hypocritical in varied religious texts.

OTOH, while religious orthodoxies imply differentiation that leads to intolerance, there does seem to be some greater unity among mystics? So perhaps, sometimes, we do touch something beyond petty spirits trying to inflict harm through scripture?

Michael,

Great post! And there have been many interesting comments as well.

I guess the only thing I take issue with is your first sentence:

||There aren't too many areas where some New Agers and some dedicated atheists find common ground, but one of them is the question of the historical reality – or unreality – of Jesus Christ.||

I guess there will always be "some," but in my readings and experiences, New Agers tend to validate Jesus and this overall gist of his teachings and often coopt him into their own philosophies (e.g., Jesus was an "ascended master"). I have encountered few to zero New Agers who simply said they thought he never existed. I wouldn't call it a general trend in New Age thought.

As for my own beliefs, I think the New Testament was "drug delivery system" so to speak of true altruism to our planet. The parable of the Good Samaritan is probably the perfect expression of ethics. But this beneficial medicine was delivered in far from a pure form, so we got a certain jerkwad named Paul's version of Christianity. Or rather, we got Christianity, the worship of the teacher, instead of just the teachings.

It seems to be of secondary importance whether Jesus really existed or not, but yes, he probably did. As to what he actually said and did, we don't know.

"such as Eileen Garrett, who claimed to see auras around animals and that these light bodies continued their lives after the death of these living beings."

I don't know if this is true but what I do know is that Eileen Garrett did not believe in life after death or spirits. She suffered from dissociative identity disorder. In her autobiography she admits there is no afterlife and in a personal communication to Peter Underwood admitted "In all my years' professional mediumship I have had no "sign", "test" or slightest evidence to make me believe I have contacted another world."

As for auras there is not a shred of scientific evidence they exist. Here is a good article on this:

http://www.csicop.org/si/show/the_aura_a_brief_review/

In response to David, there is no evidence aliens were involved in the scole experiment. You can easily contact Alan Gauld by email and he will happily tell you Scole was most likely the result of fraud.

"According to the New Testament Jesus was taken to Egypt as a baby because of Herod's order to kill male infants."

The birth narratives in Matthew and Luke, which tell very different stories, appear to have been wholly invented. There's no record of any "massacre of the innocents" by Herod, nor is there any record of a Roman taxation policy that would require people to return to their ancestral homes (the reason given for Jesus' birth in Bethlehem). It's also interesting to note how the birth narratives are contradicted by later developments in Jesus' life. We are told that his mother and brothers rejected his ministry and even feared that he had gone mad, but it is hardly likely this would have been the case if Mary had known she was bearing a supernatural child.

"I have encountered few to zero New Agers who simply said they thought he never existed. I wouldn't call it a general trend in New Age thought."

It may not be a general trend in either New Age or atheist thought, but to the extent that mythicism has a following, it seems to be found in those two parts of the ideological spectrum. Joseph Campbell, for instance, still has quite a New Age following, and his theories certainly lend themselves to the "Christ myth" idea.

About Garrett and aura:

http://dreamhawk.com/interesting-people/eileen-garrett-psychic-superminds/

"I don't know if this is true but what I do know is that Eileen Garrett did not believe in life after death or spirits."

That's bullshit. Garrett had doubts about the source of her psi abilities, and she did not know what happened during her sessions but that is not the same as believing that there is no afterlife.

"As for auras there is not a shred of scientific evidence they exist. Here is a good article on this"

And? Garrett's case is evidence that auras exist.


I see Bill is back to do missionary work for the materialist cults.

For those interested in legitimate skepticism I'd suggest looking into these cults own questionable behavior and propaganda:

http://www.skepticalaboutskeptics.org/

As such links to Psi-cop, which *might* have some useful information, need to be taken with a grain of salt. Definitely not the final authority by any means given their bigotry and clinging to religious faith in materialism, which in fact outruns what we can know via scientific empiricism:

http://www.academia.edu/15598837/A_MORE_RADICAL_CRITIQUE_OF_MATERIALISM._A_dialogue_with_Bas_Van_Fraassen_about_matter_empiricism_and_transcendentalism

"Bill", forgive me for going against you in the following manner, but the idea that the scole experiment is fraud does not come from the people and the evidence that witnessed it but from second, third or fourth hand internet debunkers, so I cannot take your conclusion seriously enough. Not only this, but the idea that some kind of alien appeared in the recorded technological camera equipment is the complete opposite of your "skeptical" assertions - since if the "spiritualists" involved were attempting to bamboozle people about an afterlife they would have no reason to put any alien in it to begin with.

Sorry, "Bill" but you need to dig deeper.

Bill said:

“I don't know if this is true but what I do know is that Eileen Garrett did not believe in life after death or spirits. She suffered from dissociative identity disorder. In her autobiography she admits there is no afterlife and in a personal communication to Peter Underwood admitted "In all my years' professional mediumship I have had no "sign", "test" or slightest evidence to make me believe I have contacted another world."

I find your certainty in all matters tiresome. Since Garrett’s book is called "Many Voices: The Autobiography of a Medium," her views were obviously more nuanced than you care to admit.

Here’s a quote from Charles Tart. In talking about Garrett, he has a distinct advantage over you—he knew her.

“She was a successful businesswoman, publisher, and laboratory tested psychic (with many significant results) who, in spite of being declared the best spiritualist medium in the world by many, still kept an open mind and burning curiosity as to what was really going on. As her granddaughter once explained to me, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, she felt the psychologists who had studied her were right, her "spirit guides" were aspects of her own unconscious, impersonating the deceased, but showing psychic abilities. On Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays she felt the spiritualists were right, she really did contact the spirits of the dead. On Sundays she tried not to think about it….”

Though you take pleasure in dismissing her as someone who “suffered from dissociative identity disorder,” in contrast to you, she wasn’t afraid of ambiguity.

I hear that’s one of the sure signs of maturity.

I should have added to my last comment that Garrett's remark to Peter Underwood was obviously made on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday. :)

Perhaps one could think of The Bible as the Wikipedia of the Age of Christianity. A lot of people have contributed to it and in the beginning it was transmitted orally by ancient storytellers who may or may not have remembered all of the details. When it finally was written down, there were many who edited it, censored it, lost portions of it, deleted some of it and added to it. Translations were made of translations of the original writings and religious and cultural agendas were incorporated into it when thought necessary by a privileged few.

Somewhere along my way I had to ask myself if I thought The Bible was the inerrant infallible word of God and my answer was ,"No, I didn't think so." Well then did I think it was an accurate account of history of 2000 years ago and again, I had to answer, "Probably not!." - AOD

Bruce wrote, "I find your certainty in all matters tiresome."

At least I'm not the only one! :-)

"The Bethlehem birth narrative seems to have been invented to fulfill a purported prophecy from the Hebrew Bible."

The Edgar Cayce psychic readings suggest that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

TEXT OF READING 587-6 F 45 October 18, 1935, New York City

21. (Q) When and where in Palestine was Jesus born?
(A) "In Bethlehem of Judea, in that grotto not marked in the present but called a stable; rather in the den where shelter was had did the ENTITY, to be sure, look upon the child Jesus."

EC: The'ENTITY' is the woman receiving the reading. Cayce is saying that she was present (during a previous incarnation) at Jesus' birth.

Source: edgarcayce.org


"Bruce wrote, "I find your certainty in all matters tiresome."

At least I'm not the only one! :-)"

How could you *possibly* imagine you're the only one when I've been banging on at you for weeks here, Michael? :)

AOD said:

"Perhaps one could think of The Bible as the Wikipedia of the Age of Christianity."

Right. Representatives for both keep asking for donations.

Bill said:

"what I do know is that Eileen Garrett did not believe in life after death or spirits."

This got me thinking about Matt's fallacy of the glancing blow.

Bill, if you put the least effort into discovering the complexity of Garrett's actual views, you would understand that your comment is absurd. The name of her book, "Many Voices: The Autobiography of a Medium," is all you need to know to realize that the quote you included tells only part of the story.

Why do you come here with tidbits like that when anyone even slightly familiar with the territory should suspect it's hopelessly one-sided?

Does that sort of "dialogue" satisfy you?

Ouch, body slam by Bruce!

And I think there was a pile driver in there too...

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