We are now in a second axial age. We are in the middle of the most dangerous, the most testing, the most precarious evolutionary transformation in our history. And it is essential, I believe, to understand exactly what this evolutionary transformation demands of us, so that we can survive the great global dark night and, through it and because of it, birth a wholly new level of embodied divine consciousness on this earth, and then act—act with passion, act with urgency, act with peace, act with wisdom, on every level and in every realm, very, very fast, because time is running out.
Humanity emerged from the long, glorious explosion of the universe in the big bang, and billions of years were needed for our life as human consciousness to begin, to begin to arise. We had the first, biggest breakthrough to the potential divinization that is now being offered to us, in the first axial age in which sages in China, sages in India, sages in Israel, all broke through to an overwhelming understanding and inner-standing of our divine transcendent origin. This burns in the words of the Upanishads. This radiates subtly through Lao Tzu. This speaks through the voice of the Buddha when he speaks of nirvana and emptiness and co-dependent origination.
This erupts in the great Sinai event in the Jewish Old Testament. It was such a shattering initiation that it blinded those who had it to certain essential truths that would have saved everything had they been able to be integrated. Because what happened through that great breakthrough was that human beings, in their religious and mystical systems, became addicted to transcendence—addicted to this astounding discovery that you and I and nature and the whole universe are actually emanations and manifestations of an immense, shattering, eternal light which is our essential divine consciousness.
So what happened through that first breakthrough is that a very subtle distinction was still made between Creator and creation; the divine Feminine, the embodied Godhead, was denigrated in favor of this eternal light and the consciousness of that eternal light; and this made possible the growth of all kinds of hierarchies, elites, and the tyranny of the boys’ club in all the religions, degrading the feminine, instituting all kinds of elitist standards, and preventing the kind of fusion of opposites of sacred masculine and sacred feminine, sacred light and sacred matter, that could really give birth to a wholly new level of humanity. So what you had for many, many centuries were brilliant, extraordinary, dedicated people leaving the world to go into monasteries, to cultivate this exalted, transcendent consciousness, leaving the world to its dereliction and desolation and distress, humiliating women, indulging in homophobia, and creating masculine-dominated hierarchies.
Five hundred years after the breakthrough of the axial age, erupted into humanity a man that we call Jesus. And Jesus’s immense realization began with the great breakthrough of the axial age, because Jesus knew and felt and understood at the very deepest level his and all of our origins in this eternal, divine consciousness. But Jesus also understood at a cellular level the tragic patriarchal imbalance of that first axial eruption. And so Jesus, in the very way he presented his teaching, which was never as a guru but as a brother and as a lover and as a friend, constantly, constantly deconstructing any kind of projections placed upon him, Jesus in his passionate embrace of the feminine in himself and in the women around him, most notably Mary Magdalene, Jesus in his emphasis not only on mystical realization but on the realization of that realization in acts of compassion and transforming justice that really did menace, challenge, and potentially explode the hierarchies and elites that had been set up by that first axial age, in all these ways Jesus erupted in human history as an evolutionary revolutionary, offering the next step of human evolution to us, which is nothing less than the step he, with infinite courage and terrible humility and wild passion, took.
And that was the step, not into going out into the transcendent alone, but in birthing the transcendent in the mind, in the heart, and in the body, because Jesus was as much a son, a child of the embodied Godhead, the Mother, as he was a son and a child of the transcendent Father, and he was bringing all the opposites together in his own being, in his own path, and his own huge manifestation of the sacred marriage of radiant embodiment.
What happened? Almost immediately the radical ferocity, purity, passion, wildness, gorgeousness, embrace of egalitarian ways of teaching and being, embrace of the sacred feminine, almost immediately that got destroyed. And instead of being seen as he made it clear he was to be seen—not as a unique son of God, not as someone separate from everyone else, but as the great secret waiting to be born in each of us of a divine presence that expresses itself in sacred action—that was destroyed by a boys’ club that, whether consciously or unconsciously,
used brilliantly a glorification of him as “son of God” to actually humiliate and degrade others and make impossible the spread of the revolution of his authentic message, which was never that “I am the unique son of God,” but that “I am living out the new relationship with the divine in a way to inspire you to live it also, so that you can claim this radiance and this passion and this dignity and this wildness and this radical hunger for compassion and justice, and that together, together you and I can birth a new human race and co-create with the divine a kingdom/queendom that will change forever all of the terms of life on earth.”
And what did this boys’ club do to this? It is very important that we see this evolutionary shift and very important that we understand just why it was done. When you begin to understand how dangerous Jesus is, how devastatingly radical, how demanding and how glorious the path that is offered to you by the Christ path, then you also understand, because you resist it internally, exactly why all the churches raised in his name were really constructed as tombs for the revelation.
To quote from my book, Teachings of the Christian Mystics: “At the moment when the patriarchy was beginning its long, dark triumph in the form of the Roman Empire, Christ revealed and enacted a way of being completely subversive to all of its beliefs and ‘truths.’ To a world obsessed by power he offered a vision of the radiance of powerlessness and the powerful vulnerability of love; to a culture riddled with authoritarianism, false pomp, and greed he gave a vision of the holiness of inner and outer poverty and a critique of the vanity and horror of all forms of worldly achievement so scalding that most of his own followers have contrived every means imaginable to ignore it. And to a society arranged at every level into oppressive hierarchies—sexual, religious, racial, and political—he presented in his own life a vision of an all-embracing and radical egalitarianism designed to end forever those dogmas and institutions that keep women enslaved, the poor starving, and the rich rotting in a prison of selfish luxury.
“An egalitarian path that welcomed and celebrated women was turned into a hierarchical and misogynistic church; a vision that criticized all power was conscripted to sustain first imperial and then papal ambitions; a force of love that wanted to end all division and separation became a force of fanaticism and fundamentalism that derided other religions and created one more prison of exclusion. A force of Wholeness, of body-heart-mind-soul presence blazing in the love and wisdom of the divine, that force—Christ was never an ascetic and never denigrated the body or sexuality—[that force] became a force of alienation separating body from soul, man from woman, humanity from nature, and privileging renunciation and celibacy as the surest way to God”—in the name of a man who was almost certainly married and almost certainly, from modern research, having a glorious and life-transforming tantric relationship with a holy woman.
So where are we now? And why is this the second axial age? The reason is that through our abandonment of the sacred, through our addiction to power, through our passion to dominate nature, through our total disregard of the marriage of opposites that was given to us by our evolutionary brother—not the son of God, but something so much more important: someone who came to show us the next step of what we could become as human beings, the next step on the adventure—through our abandonment of all of these truths, we have engendered for ourselves a global dark night, which now threatens all of us and the possibility of nature continuing at all in anything but the most degraded and bedraggled way.
This dark night has driven those, over the last fifty years, conscious that extinction faced us, into a total revolution of all of the concepts that they have inherited—social, sexual, economic, political, and religious. Matthew has been such a wonderful path leader in this, and I have tried to do my best. And what I have been obsessed by is the need to reclaim the full wholeness, passion, majesty, challenge, and radical demand of the Christ path, not because I’m a Christian, because I’m not a Christian—I don’t belong to any church. I don’t want to be controlled by any theology; I don’t want to be told that as a gay man I am a third-rate citizen or ripe for hell; I don’t want to belong to a church that still degrades and humiliates women and will not elect them to bishops; and most of all, I don’t want to belong to any of the churches that I know who are not rising up in a splendor of love in action to meet this horrific crisis with the full passion of the Cosmic Christ. So I am not a Christian, but I am on the Christ path.
And I believe that part of what is essential now in this axial age is the marriage of the deepest wisdom of the East with the deepest wisdom of the West. What the East has kept alive for us is an undying vision of divine identity—of the identity of our divine consciousness with the divine consciousness. The Buddhists would say, as the Dalai Lama said to me when we were writing The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying for the Buddhists, he said, “The Buddha’s nature is as good as your Buddha nature; your Buddha nature is as good as the Buddha’s Buddha nature.” That has consoled me many times, I can tell you that!
That is the great Eastern achievement. But let’s get absolutely real: Both Buddhism and Hinduism are still very patriarchal religions who put women down, who in certain ways have fallen prey to the shadow of denigrating the glory of the creation and of becoming addicts of transcendence. These tremendous systems have at their core the same imbalance that characterized the axial age. They do not embrace the fullness of the divine feminine; they do not honor the sacred truth and authority of women; they’re both deeply homophobic; they have created male-dominated hierarchies, largely celibate and renunciate, which guard the transmission of the truth. And wonderful though their achievement of preserving divine identity is, they have also, with their cyclical vision of history, either as cycles that repeat themselves or as an illusionary game of the Divine, have prevented the force of mystical realization becoming active in the historical process and actually giving birth to new forms of compassion and justice. That’s the shadow of the Eastern traditions.
The achievement of the Western tradition has been its growing awareness of the sanctity and holiness of the individual, and of the absolute sacred importance of honoring each manifestation of life and the rights of that manifestation, and in its vision of history as a midwife of evolutionary progress. The shadow of the West is obvious: it got obsessed with the individual and became terminally narcissistic, and then went on a long orgy of exploitation and domination which is now threatening the planet.
But the wonderful news, the news that appeared for the first time as an evolutionary possibility in the body, heart, mind, soul, and message of Jesus, the news that you could have both the depth of the realization of the East of divine identity with an awareness of the absolute holiness of the creation, the absolute sanctity of the individual, and the absolute necessity to put love and compassion into just action to transform society—those two realizations are now coming together in the birth of a new global mysticism and a new global soul. And one of the highest and deepest, for me, the greatest of the beings who is bringing in this fusion of opposites at this moment is the being who brought it in the first time, and is a being who can help us as we go through this vast, difficult period, trying in the middle of it to birth a new divine humanity.
And that being is Jesus Christ.
To learn more about the upcoming Christ Path Seminar weekend being offered online and on-site in Pittsburgh, PA, 6/28/30, see http://www.christpathseminar.org/ai1ec_event/cosmic-christ-and-the-historical-jesus/?instance_id=123
To order the complete 12-DVD set of recordings from the first Christ Path Seminar weekend – including Andrew Harvey’s delivery of the full talk from which this post is clipped, see http://www.christpathseminar.org/participate-by-dvd/