Last week we began to look at Jesus from our secular point of view. We saw how John, for the first time in human history, opens the door to understanding God in a truly universal context, and Jesus as the ‘personization’ of that concept. As we saw last week, Jesus is the point in human history in which the key agent of evolution begins to be understood as ‘love’. This week we will continue to look at Jesus from this perspective.
Jesus and the Axis of Evolution
Addressing Jesus from a secular point of view is not unlike the approach we took in addressing God. We saw God as the sum total of the universal agents of evolution, in which the thread of evolution can be seen in the increase in consciousness that leads to increased awareness of consciousness.
At the same time, we have proposed a simple basis for the continued thread of evolution as it rises through the human person. We have suggested that the key aspect of human evolution is manifested in the increasing skill of using the neo-cortex brain to modulate the instinctual stimuli of the reptilian and limbic brains.
The thinkers of the ‘Axial Age’ were the first to offer practical tactics which would contribute to this skill. One of the earliest was Confucious, with these insights:
“..You needed other people to elicit your full humanity; self-cultivation was a reciprocal process.”
“In order to establish oneself, one should try to establish others. In order to enlarge oneself, one should try to enlarge others”
And finally, the first expression of the Golden Rule
“Never do to others what you would not like them to do to you”
If we parse this simple adage in terms of our definition above, we can see that it summarizes a simple tactic for employing the increased human capacity for thought to modulate our instinctual reactions. Using the Golden Rule requires us to consider how another’s aggressive action affects us, and strategize how to respond if we were to forego replying in kind in favor of replying in a way that mirrors our own desire to be treated fairly.
In general, the appearance of the Golden Rule in history is an example of understanding that human interactions can be channeled in a way that supports the stability of society. We have also seen how the Roman Empire leveraged the new Christian religion’s universal acceptance of all (even those outside the near and familiar) and insistence on fairness in law, to support its continued expansion into new and less civilized parts of the world.
What Jesus brings to this evolution of human behavior is a new, more fundamental understanding of human nature and human relationships. Not only does he bring a clearer and deeper understanding of the tactics of developing the skill modulating our instincts, he articulates the kinds of behavior that strengthen this skill.
Examples of such tactics can be seen in Jesus’s teachings (the Sermon on the Mount, for example) and in Paul’s expansion on Jesus’ teachings on love. We can see the articulation of this tactic in this expansion:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no account of wrongs”
In this passage, Paul is going well beyond the insights of Confucious, some five hundred years earlier. He is building on Confuscious’ insights on behavior, such as the divesting of ego and identifying additional tactics necessary to our personal growth.
As we have seen, these tactics, while contributing to the stability of society, are also those that are essential to our personal evolution. They are not performed to appease God or merit salvation, they are the tactics that guide our neo-cortex brain in choosing to override our many instincts and hence contribute to our personal growth.
So, just as we saw God as the basis for existence and the continuation of the thread of evolution that emerges as ‘persons aware of their consciousness’, and how meditation can be seen as a search for this spark of life within us, we can now see how Jesus represents the action that must be taken if we are to cooperate with this spark. It’s not enough to be aware of its existence within us, we must also develop tactics for cooperation with it if we are to continue our personal evolution.
As Richard Rohr puts it:
“It is not that Jesus is working some magic in the sky that “saves the world from sin and death.” Jesus is redefining the common pattern of human history. Jesus is not changing God’s mind about us because it does not need changing (as in various “atonement theories”); he is changing our mind about what is real and what is not.”
The Next Post
This week we saw how Jesus can be seen from the secular perspective as the basis for development of the human neocortex brain’s skill of modulating the lower brains: the basis for our continued evolution at both the personal and cultural level. Next week we will look at how this secular perspective can be seen to offer insights into the concept of Jesus as God, and how these insights inform religion’s traditional treatment of Jesus.