Sunday, November 08, 2009

A fourth Jesus

I was browsing Deepak Chopra's latest offering on the new book shelf of the college library -- The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore.

Chopra, of course, is the fabulously successful New Age/Eastern guru who offers in books and motivational seminars "physical wellness", "emotional wellbeing" and "spiritual awakening", along with massage oils and ayurvedic sinus support. Not to mention quantum healing, "Love Poems from God," and a CD called "Drum Sex", whatever that is.

Not to be too snarky. Chopra is a positive force for mutual tolerance and global peace, and lord knows we need more of that. His new book is filled with lots of good sense, so more power to him. But needless to say, his brand of mystico-transcendentalism is not for me.

Who is this "Third Jesus"?

Chopra's first Jesus is the historical person who lived in Galilee two thousand years ago, about whom we know almost nothing that can be called historically reliable. We know nothing that meets the standard of scientific evidence.

The second Jesus is the divinity of the institutional churches, constructed over the centuries by theologians, reformers and self-appointed prophets. This is the Jesus who was born of a virgin, rose from the dead, sits at the right hand of the Father, and who will come again, etc. "He became the foundation of a religion that has proliferated into some twenty thousand sects," says Chopra. "[Sects that] argue endlessly over every thread in the garments of a ghost."

The third Jesus, now on offer, is the mystical guru who taught his followers God-consciousness, and who "spent his brief adult life describing it, teaching it, and passing it on to future generations." That is to say, Chopra's third Jesus looks a lot like Deepak Chopra. Which again is fair enough; presumably, the founder of every one of those twenty thousand sects proffered a Jesus who looked pretty much like himself/herself.

So I will too. Here is my Jesus, the boy in the painting below, Georges de la Tour's Saint Joseph, the Carpenter, c. 1640s (click to enlarge). The Jesus of the painting is a creature of the artist's imagination, and he exists only in our imaginations too. A lad helping his father in the workshop. What the boy understands of his future life work, we have no idea. Maybe he has no idea either.

What do we see? Not Truth. Not God-consciousness. Not a Vatican staffed with men in Renaissance garb waited on by nuns. Not Lourdes holy water or ayurvedic sinus support. What we see is a child's simplicity, love, work, family, craft. And if that auger in Joseph's hands anticipates the cross, well, death comes to us all.

"I am the light" Jesus is supposed to have said: A candle flame hidden by a child's translucent fingers.