Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Jesus, Parables and Metanoia

The following sprang from an argument I had with this cat that is thinking about joining the priesthood:

As I experience it, Jesus’ parables are akin to thought experiments, similar to Zen koans. Instead of spoon-feeding the knowledge to his students/followers, Jesus chose to make them work for it. He could have just sat behind a lectern and pontificated upon the glories of the universe, but he chose to allow his adherents to suss it out for themselves. For the student of this type of thinking, one has to be willing to allow themselves to be in a state of confusion—if they do not immediately understand the teachings. It is sort of like being in kindergarten and you teacher asks you, ‘what has a face, arms and hands, but no legs or feet?’ You and your classmates are naming every single animal on earth, when that one super-smart kid in the class casually intones, “A clock.” After this intonation, the room is stunned into silence. And in a few minutes, the rest of the class breathes ‘clock’ in an awe-struck whisper. And from that day forward, it is very difficult to look at the world the same way again. Things are not just how they appear on the surface, and they cannot be taken as such any longer. We learn that even the most mundane of situations and objects can become something totally different, depending on where you are standing. As Heraclitus said, “You cannot step into the same river twice.” At this moment—when the most innocuous thing becomes a thing of depth—this is when the mystery starts. This is the doorway to wonder. And when you add the element of salvation to it, the world, as you once knew it, is no longer available to you. That is, if you continue on the path of attempting to find the meaning/s of the parables.

To unearth the meaning of parables, one has to accept the fact that what you may have gleaned from it may not be the same as the other travelers following the same path. There are no generally correct or incorrect answers; only what is right or wrong for the individual. This open ended interpretation is hard for many people to accept due to the fact that most people’s environments are ordered in such binary fashions: diurnal day cycles, beginnings and endings, impregnation and eventual birth; all these things serve as pretty concrete structures (restrictions) for an individual’s life. It is the ability to move beyond the finite and wrestle with the metaphors that blanket the world, that is the most beneficial aspect of parabolic teaching. One gains a since of a multi-faceted worldview, but loses direct communication. Sometimes the student has to do so much by his or herself that, they may try to conjure hidden meanings for things/situations that are as mundane as they appear:

“Why did you give me this apple? Did you want me reflect on Eve’s dilemma?”

“Um…no, you looked hungry, and I had an extra one.”

This solo-searching, this auto education has been lost as Christianity developed into the world power that it is today.

Now, Christianity is grown more concerned with God swooping in to save the day, at an appointed time: Apocalypse. This belief presents several problems; a few of these problems are listed below:

- Only those that believe a certain way will be saved when God returns to earth.

- It puts the spiritual development of a person into the hands of an unseen god, and leaves them at the mercy of the clergy who claim to speak for said god; utilizing their interpretation of their god’s word.

- It turns life on earth as more of a one-night-stand instead of an experience that deserves to be lived to the fullest.

If Christianity eschewed the concept of Apocalypse and went back to its roots of embracing self-change, metanoia, many of the problems that plague modern-day Christianity would be non-factors. Everyone would be allowed to spiritually develop at their own speed, without being weighed down by the fear that they would not be ready for God’s return. In the metanoia worldview, the entire world would be a lesson and one learns from it what they learn from it, and there is no right or wrong, as long as the individual is going through some sort of positive change that allows him or her to get closer to the source, the abyss, the godhead, or perfect union with all. If this idea came back, its motto could be:

My enlightenment is not your enlightenment.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

What ever happened to peace love and understanding? All I see is news on verizon cellular phone .

5:32 PM  
Blogger James Schuler said...

This is a great posting Shawn.

I really admire your sensible analysis of Jesus' teachings.

I have been dealing with the same issue on my own blog, attempting to reconcile the meaning of Jesus' words and the current actualization of them by self-proclaimed "Christians" here in America in the early 21st century.

I would really appreciate it if you could take a look at my blog and contribute a comment...I really value the intelligence you obviously possess and display. (

Thanks....James Schuler

9:20 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Salvation is always the ending of the minds fascinated identification with the dead and unchanging image of what it was. It is the complete reversal of the
"natural" order of things a METANOIA - the Greek word for repentance, meaning precisely a turning around of the mind, so that it no longer faces into the past, the land of the shadow of death, but into the Eternal Present.
So long as the mind is captivated by memory, and really feels itself to be that past image which is "I" it can do nothing to save itself; it's sacrifices are of no avail, and it's Law gives no life.
After years of therapy, I had a metamorphosis - I asked Jesus to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. He delivered me from my inequities. Praise the Lord!!
Peace Be With You

2:39 PM  

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