Alan Watts- Jesus and His Religion (The Good News) Pt 7


Now, obviously, it is a matter of temperament. You could be loyal to Jesus just as you’re
loyal to your own country, but you are not serving your country if you think that it’s
necessarily the best of all possible countries. That is doing a disservice to your country. It is refusing to be critical where criticism
is proper. So, of religion. Every religion should be self-critical. Otherwise, it soon degenerates into a self-righteous
hypocrisy. If then we can see this, that Jesus speaks
not from the situation of a historical deus-ex-machina – a kind of a weird, extraordinary event
– but he is a voice which joins with other voices that have said in every place and time
“Wake up, Man. Wake up and realize who you are.” Now, I don’t think, you see, until churches
get with that that they’re going to have very much relevance. You see, popular Protestantism and popular
Catholicism will tell you nothing about mystical religion. The message of the preacher, fifty-two Sundays
a year, is “Dear people, be good.” We’ve heard it ad-nauseam! Or: “Believe in this.” He may occasionally give us a sermon on what
happens after death or the nature of God, but basically, the sermon is “Be good.” But how? As Saint Paul said, “To will is present
with me, but how to do that which is good I find not; for the good that I would I do
not, and the evil that I would not, that I do.” How are we going to be changed? Obviously, there cannot be a vitality of religion
without vital religious experience. And that’s something much more than emoting
over singing “Onward Christian Soldiers.” But you see what happens in our ecclesiastical
goings-on is that we run a talking shop. We pray. We tell God what to do, or give advice as
if He didn’t know. We read the scriptures, and remember: talking
of the Bible Jesus said: “You search the scriptures daily, for in them you think you
have life.” Saint Paul made some rather funny references
about the spirit which giveth life and the letter which kills. I think the Bible should be ceremoniously
and reverently burned every Easter. We need it no more because the Spirit is with
us. It’s a dangerous book. And to worship it is, of course, a far more
dangerous idolatry than bowing down to images of wood and stone. Because you can –– nobody with his senses
can confuse a wooden image with God, but you can very easily confuse a set of ideas with
God, because concepts are more rarified and abstract. So with this endless talking in church we
can preach, but by-and-large preaching does nothing but excite a sense of anxiety and
guilt. And you can’t love out of that. No scolding, no rational demonstration of
the right way to behave is going to inspire people with love. Something else must happen. But we will say “What are you going to do
about it?” Do about it? You have no faith? Be quiet. Even Quakers aren’t quiet. They sit in meeting and think. At least some of them do. But supposing we get really quiet; we don’t
think; be absolutely silent through-and-through? We say “Well, you’ll just fall into a
blank.” Oh? Ever tried? I feel then, you see, that it’s enormously
important that churches stop being talking shops, they become centres of contemplation. What is contemplation? Con-templum: It’s what you do in the temple. You don’t come to the temple to chatter,
but to be still and know that “I am God.” And this is why if the Christian religion
– if the Gospel of Christ – is to mean anything at all instead of just being one
of the forgotten religions along with Osiris and Mithra we must see Christ as the Great
Mystic. In the proper sense of the word “mystic,”
not someone who has all sorts of magical powers and understands spirits and so on. A mystic – strictly speaking – is one
who realizes union with God, by whatever name. This seems to me the crux and message of the
Gospel, summed up in the prayer of Jesus which Saint John records as he speaks over his disciples
praying that “they may be one even as you, Father, and I are one.” That they may be all one. All realize this divine son-ship, all oneness,
basic identity with the eternal energy of the universe and the love that moves the Sun
and other stars.

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