A New-Ager Asks: “MUST I Know Jesus Before I Can Know God?”

In this morning’s post (The Holy Spirit = God = All You Need to Know), I referred to the question of what, if any, extent the spirit of God can or does dwell within the hearts of non-Christians. A devotee of New Age beliefs responded to that question by asking for further clarification; she asked whether or not I believed that a person must know Jesus Christ before they can know God.

It’s a question I’ve had to consider before. I once wrote something for a book to the effect that God is present in the hearts of all men. The theology vetters for the Christian publisher for whom I was writing the book asked me to excise that thought from it, since it suggested that people who didn’t believe in Jesus Christ could still experience or access God. They didn’t assert that people who don’t accept Christ can’t know God; they were simply unsure about the whole thing, and wanted the safety that came with dropping the question altogether.

And now here’s that question again! Namely, can someone who has rejected Christ and Christianity still know God?

Before giving my own answer, I thought I’d let my Christian readers share with our New Age friend their thoughts and ideas on the matter. Whatcha’ think, fellow Christians? When the New Age practitioner is deep in meditation, and feels what he experiences as nothing less than the full and absolute presence of God, is he simply and absolutely deluded about that?

[Update: the follow-up to this post---being my own answer to this question, doncha know---is here.]

Related post o’ mine: Jesus the Decider: Who Gets Into Heaven?

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John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • Carla

    I say yes! I thought God was Jesus and Jesus was God and I don't think I am splitting hairs on this. It impossible to know one and not know the other one.

  • http://differentfrequencies.blogspot.com Dan Smith

    If we take the New Testament as scripture (and I do), then the answer is no. You cannot know God without knowing Christ. See John 14:6 "Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." So even if you could know him, it wouldn't be possible to experience him, as the only way TO him is through Christ.

    For whatever reason, God chose to make the way to him through his Son. It is something we have to accept, unless one does not believe in the inherancy of scripture, in which case I have to ask, "Why are we even discussing this?"

    Now, the question might be asked of Julia: "Why are you hesitant to follow Christ?" That would be my question at least.

  • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.wordpress.com ~Julia~

    Well, this could be fun. :)

  • http://www.sisterfriends-together.org Anita

    Okay I'll bite. Afterall, I've already disqualified myself as a "real" Christian since I happen to be a lesbian (and not of the more acceptable self-loathing and desperately seeking to be straight variety) and then I went ahead and upped the ante by offering a less than orthodox view of the Trinity so at this point I've got nothing to lose.

    Can someone know God without knowing Christ? Not if you believe in the exclusivity of Christianity as the singular right path. The way that I have come to know God is indeed through Jesus Christ but then how lucky I am or specially chosen by God I am that I was born into a family that taught me about Jesus rather than raised me in any one of a thousand other faith traditions that worship and live lives devoted to God by that name or another.

    Listen. I will believe as I believe and as God has revealed himself to me through Christ and if someone asks me of my faith I will share it without hesitation with the name of Jeaus sprinkled liberally within my words BUT I will also honor the spiritual journey of anyone who hungers to know more of God. I'll share my faith with them and in listening with equal interest to their earnest wonderings and thoughts on God my own love and faith in the Creator will be
    enriched. King David didn't know Jesus and yet his songs of praise have accompanied me throughout my Christian walk. Though Moses worshipped the God of Israel and knew nothing of Cakvary somehow his devotion and obedience have been a testimony for me. I've sat at table with Jews and Muslims and people with no ties to any organized religion and been moved and encouraged by their love and awe of God and their deep desire to understand and know God more.

    So yes, all one needs to know God is a heart that is open to knowing God and then God can be trusted to come to that one hungering in the way that they can best hear and receive His divine love and call.

    Now I'll set aside so the Scripture quoting can begin.

  • http://www.sisterfriends-together.org Anita

    :::And now here’s that question again! Namely, can someone who has rejected Christ and Christianity still know God?:::

    okay, I'm reading and responding on my wee little iPhone screen and somehow managed to miss seeing the above statement. In light that this whole discussion is centered around a question raised by Julia, am I to correctly assume that the above statement represents her position? That rather than encountering God outside of Christ she rejects Christ altogether? If that's the case my concern isnt so much that she would reject Christianity since I think many people understandably confuse faith with it's followers and so if certain actions or attitudes of some followers of Christianity faith are an offense then Chrisitianity is rejected as an offense as well. What would more trouble me is that Julia would reject Christ outright because in doing so she would seem to be closing off a segment of her heart to all the possibilites for God to be revealed and known in the world. So if this is indeed reflective of Julias position then I would just encourge her to keep her heart fully to God and to the faith experience of those who have come to know God through Christ. As Julia already mentioned in another comment, genuine dialogue concerning God is only possible when all hearts are open to each other and to the understanding of God they bring to the table.

  • phil

    Its kind of hard to jump into these conversations and share my thoughts, and if I dare, my beliefs, without opening up scripture, the Holy Bible, the Book of the Law. I am inclined to do that because I believe that the Bible is the innerrant Word of God…2Ti 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness………..and also to share the beautiful words of the Psalm. Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

    The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

    You know folks, Im not proud to say it but I am a sinner! But at the same time I am thankful to say that God has a plan for me and my life.. Joh 3:16, 17 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him

    So I believe that God loves me, Jesus saved me through His dying on the cross for my sins. And God has given me the Holy Spirt and His Word… the Bible to guide me through this life. Thats what I believe. For me this is a very simple faith. What isn't simple is when the "splitting hairs" begins, or when all the posturing polarizes the Christians and the non-Christians.

    For me, I live in a mega city of 19 million in Southeast Asia. I am sharing the God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, of the Innerrant Word of God- The Bible.

  • phil

    continued……….

    Somehow I hit the wrong button……… with respect to people I am ministering to in my small corner of that 19 million. I am working in Sitio Lupang Arenda, a community of 100,000 people in Manila, Philippines. I am ministering the gospel of Jesus Christ…….proclaiming and teaching Gods Word and meeting the physical needs….medical, food, clothes, sustainable livelihood needs. Proverbs 29:18.. Where there is no vision (or where there is no restraint), people perish.

    I believe that Gods Vision for our community is found in Acts 2: 42-47.. And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved"

    I am not going to apologize for sharing Scripture. I wouldnt go out into the Northern Wilderness without a compass. I am not going to try to navigate this world and its problems without the guidance I find in Gods Word, and the Holy Spirit guiding me in my journey.. And I am thankful everyday for Jesus Christ laying down his life on the cross to save this sinner. God bless.

  • Sarah

    Phil, I appreciate your position. I also appreciate that, unlike many "christians" you provided your opinion from your own position of accepting scripture as inerrant, but didn't seem to expect the reader to accept the same.

    As a believer who no longer identifies with the christian theological machine, I've actually rejected that one word–inerrant. I have given up on certainty because it doesn't suit me, and my faith has grown immeasurably since. Like Anita, I feel fortunate to have been raised in a christian home in this country–I think our cultural christianity here makes that an easier road for me. But I am unwilling to make any claim against another person's belief or sincere search when that person wants nothing more than to be in the presence of God.

    Anita said "I will also honor the spiritual journey of anyone who hungers to know more of God." When I do that, I find spiritual siblings in every kind of faith path. I am able to love people in a bigger way–in a more Jesus-like way. And I honestly find more acceptance for my own continuing search among people who are not christians. As a group, my former faith community is severely intolerant of anything that smacks of doubt, no matter how much growth accompanies it.

    I do believe that people can come to know God in a deep and important way through Jesus. I also believe that God is going to be real to any seeker, no matter what path they are on. I fear that christians have forgotten that all human beings were created in God's image–whether they take it literally or metaphorically as I do. God in all, as the christian scriptures say.

    So my answer would be "Yes, Julia, there is a God available to you outside of a faith in Jesus." With Anita, I would beg that you not reject that worthy person's message of love, tolerance, and stewardship.

  • Lisa

    My simple thoughts on this are:

    * According to the bible..yes, you have to know Jesus Christ to know God.

    * And in my opinion….How ever you get to know One… you will eventually get to know the other.

  • RogerC

    The idea that anyone can know or define God however they choose is frightening.

    David Koresh, Charles Manson, and Tony Alamo are all examples of people finding their own direction spiritually and forming beliefs based on their own experiences. Is their journey as legitimate as any other? Do/did these men really have God's presence in them?

    Are there not any teachings that are completely true?

    If I jump off the Empire State Building because I believe gravity is an archaic, narrow minded, exclusive thought that doesn't apply to me, will I still die?

    Questions, questions, questions…

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

    can someone who has rejected Christ and Christianity still know God?

    Paul of Tarsus? I guess if God wants someone to know him, he's is not going to let that person's current views of society's current views of him stand in his way.

    Then there's the whole issue of "knowing God," which might mean everything from knowing OF God to understanding God.

    All this said, since being knocked down, it is impossible for me to imagine God without Jesus. (not the Jesus I've heard of from others but rather, the Jesus I read about in Mark.)

  • http://heckledtrio.wordpress.com HK

    I'll start with Dan's comment, in which he brought up this part of Scripture: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me". My take on it is this: I agree, but where does it say that you have to be ALIVE when you come to God through Jesus? I believe that when we die we will meet our maker– in the form of Jesus.

    And lest this leads to a line of thinking whereby it sounds as if you can do whatever you want with your life, so long as you repent at death… well, I think the kind of heart that would actively turn away from God and godly things is also the kind of heart that would still reject Jesus in spite of meeting him in the afterlife. C.S. Lewis's "The Great Divorce" illustrates this beautifully.

    It's also why I firmly believe that people (such as inhabitants of remote, developing countries) who have never come in contact with a Christian or seen a Bible can still know and embrace God, even though they've never heard of Jesus.

    But for those who do have the opportunity to learn about and embrace Christ? I do not know. I would ask the same question Dan posed: why not Christ? Why not at least check it out, learn more?

    –Helly

  • DGollahon

    What do you mean by "know God"?

    God meets people where they are. Everyone is in various stages of their spiritual journey. Some are "atheists" and claim there is no god. Some are agnostic and claim he exists but doesn't have much to do with us anymore, or just that he might exist but we can't know for sure. Then the stages go on from there all the way up to claiming knowing Him personally thru Christ.

    God works with a person at each stage of their journey, even before they are "born again". John Wesley called this "prevenient grace", the grace that goes before acceptance of Christ as Savior. The scriptures say that "no one comes to the Father except thru Me (Christ)" but it also says "No one comes to me unless the Father draws him." God "woos" people to Himself. Yes, a person can and will have experiences with God before they are saved whether they realize it or not.

    But to know Him personally as your heavenly Father requires acceptance of Christ, the Son of God, first. Until you realize your need of Christ as the sacrifice for your sin then you are not really listening to Him. You have not accepted what he has told you about the significance of your sin, that it requires the shedding of blood and death. If you refuse to listen to someone how on earth can you develop a relationship with them? And to refuse to listen to God and His truth about you personally, and about how much He loves you even to the point of giving his Son to die for you is to reject the only way of becoming "right" with Him.

    Julia, there is much that you have done that separates you from God. The Bible calls this sin. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. You, me, and everyone else reading this. But where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more! I'm not surprised that there is only one way back to Him. I'm surprised that He provided ANY way back to Him! God loves you enough to provide that way. Because Christ suffered the penalty for sin for you, He can now rightfully and justly accept you as His own. All that is required is for you to accept this gift of his grace, by faith. I will be praying for you to take the next step in your journey toward Him.

  • Diana

    Okay. So I just read this post and the post previous to it and the various comments about both posts and now I'm going to feel free to ignore them as I have enough trouble coming up with a coherent response to this question without trying to consider all these other viewpoints.

    Do I believe that a person must know Jesus before s/he can know God. No. I believe it helps and I will explain my view point on that shortly, but my basic answer is no.

    God, from where I stand (and this is not necessarily a Christian viewpoint–this is just the conclusion I've come to over the years) is ruthless in his/her love for us. Ruthless probably seems like a shocking adjective, and yet, this has been my experience.

    To me, the life and death of Jesus demonstrates the lengths to which God is willing to go to reunite us with him/her. (The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates that Jesus was/is God in flesh.) This is why I follow Jesus (at least, attempt to follow Jesus. I will make no statement as to how successful that particular effort is.) Whenever I need to know what God is like, I look at Jesus and there I have my answer.

    And yet, I don't believe that God slams the door in the faces of those who, for whatever reason, do not accept Jesus as God in flesh. On the contrary, a God who would die for us (and who, indeed, has died for us, according to the Christian belief system) is a God who is not going to let much of anything stand between him/her and those s/he loves–namely everybody.

    So, if a person does not know Jesus (either because of not having been introduced or because s/he is actively running from Jesus/God/Christianity/whatever), God will find other ways to reach that person. God does not give up. God will do whatever it takes to bring about reconciliation between him/herself and us.

    And in the end, those who know God will know Jesus just as those who know Jesus know God, because Jesus and God are one with each other and the Holy Spirit.

    I hope this helps.

  • stephanie

    I believe Christ is an excellent way to know God, but not the only way. If that were the case, then we must be willing to say that Moses, Elijah, Elisha and all others in the old testament did not know God because they did not know Jesus.

    Who are we to say who knows God and who doesn't?

  • Branden

    Romans 1:20 states that God's invisible qualities have been clearly seen, so that men are without excuse, but just because you can see his qualities does not mean you can fully know Him, it just means you believe he exists.

    James 2:19 says that even the demons believe that and shudder (or tremble).

    But John 14:6 says: Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."… See More

    So my answer is yes, she must know Christ before she can truly know God.

  • Bruce

    2Ti 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…

    THis may not be the time or place, but WHO decided that this applies anything other than the OT? I'm pretty sure that is all this scripture, in context, refers to.

  • Jeanine Petty

    Yes. But He must first draw you. And I saw someone's comment..on fb…about what about the Old Testament folks…David, Elijah, Elisha, Moses…they were called prophets because they prophesied His coming and knew that He was God. This people not only had knowledge that prophecy beginning all the way back in Genesis pointed directly to their Messiah, but because of God's personal revalation to them, they knew Him!

    And…GOD knows who knows Him and who doesn't.

  • onemansbeliefs

    Good question and I will add my two cents…

    I believe there are two ways to know the God of the Bible. One is through revelation of His Son Jesus the Christ and the other is a relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. There are many ways that God can make Himself known to an individual, but these are the only ways that one can have a relationship with our creator.

    Now, regarding the question of whether the Spirit of God can or does dwell within the heart of a non-Christian. My limited understanding would respond with God can and I am not sure if he does. However, as created beings, I believe we have an inherent desire to be at one with our creator. The problems start when we decide how this relationship should occur instead of accepting the outline which God has set before us.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Wow. A lot of terrific stuff here.

  • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.wordpress.com ~Julia~

    John, just out of curiosity; why did you lable me as a 'new-ager'?

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Because everything you've ever written here about what you believe—and you've written a great deal about it—plus everything I've seen on your blog puts you squarely in the New Age camp. But if I've got that wrong, or you'd like to modify or clarify that assessment, please do.

  • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.wordpress.com ~Julia~

    Just wondering why you settled on "New-Ager" rather than just plain ol' "Non-Christian"….

  • Shaw

    I don't think that idolotry of any kind should get in the way of one's understanding of God. I mean, factually, worshiping any man as a God, or any image of God as God, is against the original Hebrew Commandments. However, it appears that when people actually believe that their idol is God then they are inclined to gloss over that commandment…. this won't offend people at all, obviously.

    Even if you assume that Jesus is the son of God, none of you have personally met him or talked to him. But you've all seen God at work, all the time, in every single moment of your waking and sleeping life. To not know Jesus is to say that well, perhaps this guy taught some good stuff and maybe it got blown out of proportion and mistranslated and maybe not, but who can ever guess?

    However, to not know God is to turn a blind eye to everything that surrounds us and everything that is us. In previous blog posts, I know that some people mentioned that one funamdental thing that people believe is that we are outside of the God that created us, while I philosophically disagree because I think that we are intrinsic to it. Among the different parts of the Christian faith I believe that there progressives and Universalists and whatnot who say that your connection to God is a personal experience and definition.

    Based on what I've read in historical documents aimed at finding out the truth about these things, I believe that Jesus Christ was a forward-thinking Rabbi in a religiously zealous Jewish sect of non-Roman decent who taught universally agreeable principals of peace in life and pacifism against the Roman occupiers that led to them murdering him and, in an ironic turn of historical events, adopting the religion created by his followers / based on his teachings around the time of, say , 331 A.D., following Constantine's victories in the power struggle for Rome. Along with the Roman adoption of Christianity we see old life-based religious symbols of early Christians, such as the fish, generally replaced by more fire-and-brimstone symbols, like the cross.

    I really like the ideas of Christianity, the mythology and symbolism, the parables, etc., and I think that some of the things that have come out of Christianity, such as abolitionism, the promotion of literary and scientific studies (this seems backwards now, but it was monks who passed on most of our ancient books via transcribing, and monks who first discovered things like genetic traits passed on from generation to generation, and the Vatican promotes a great deal of science, especially astronomy).

    I think, however, that bowing before any man as my God is denying my God.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Julia: I referred to you as a New-Ager rather than a non-Christian because "New-Ager" is soooo much more narrow a category; it's so very much more specific. If you say someone is a non-Christian, you're saying almost nothing about them. You say they're a New-Ager, and you've said a great deal about them. You have a belief system, of which you are a proud (and I might even say tireless) proponent. And in the context of this conversation, your belief system is a particularly salient fact about you. So … that's why.

  • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.wordpress.com ~Julia~

    Thnx, John.

  • RogerC

    Shaw: I believe it was C.S. Lewis who discussed the different opinions about Christ. It is not possible that Jesus was just a good teacher or prophet. He claimed to be the only begotten Son of God. He claimed that no one could know the Father except through Him. He taught that if a person is not born of the spirit just as they are born of the flesh, they will not make it to heaven. He taught hell to be a real place, where some persons will spend eternity in torment!

    I agree with C.S. Lewis: Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or the Son of God.

  • Sarah

    Well, I guess it depends on which translation you use (especially if you are a literalist–thanks, John, for the wonderful post on the evangelical and non-believer having this very discussion). I was raised on a translation that literally said one could not "come to the father" except through him–not that one could not KNOW the father. Which translation do you take "literally" and which translation will someone else who Julie meets take "literally?" And how confusing will that be for a non-believer of any sort?

    As for the question of whether or not Manson et al had God's presence in them–wow, I am shocked that this kind of question is ever asked. Of course they did! Don't you believe they were born into this world as perfectly innocent babies? EVERYONE and EVERY THING has God's presence–if we believe our own scripture then we must believe that.

  • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.wordpress.com ~Julia~

    So many responses, so little time…..

    To all who replied I thank you. Great thoughts all. I do intend to post more and address some points some have made in time. Work calls however and I must dash. It may be tomorrow before I have time and enough coffee *(and sleep) to post.

    Til then, to all a Happy and Safe New Year!

    ~julia

  • textjunkie

    Oh John, you knew you'd get responses with this one. :)

    ::Can someone who has rejected Christ and Christianity still know God? ::

    I'm going to say yes on that one, for a couple of reasons:

    1) We can't say for sure who knows God and who doesn't; therefore, since we will err, it is best to err on the side of compassion.

    2) All the verses about the uniqueness of Christ are true. "No man comes to the Father except through me" I am quite happy to say is true. What that means, though, and how "through" actually works, is not limited to saying the sinner's prayer and signing up as a Christian. That's a great way to accept Christ and start to know God, but it is not the only way. Rejecting Christianity as an institution and cultural force, and rejecting the portrayal of Christ found there, does not a priori rule out knowing God. Christ works in many mysterious ways, as I'm sure you're about to point out in what you have to say about the Holy Spirit…

  • stephanie

    @Jeanine

    That was me who made the comment on FB about the OT folks.

    I threw out a few popular names of the OT when I made that comment. We know there are many others in the OT who were reported to know God, have a relationship with God or be considered Godly men without Jesus being involved. Prophets were not the only ones in the OT that knew God.

    "….but because of God’s personal revalation to them, they knew Him!"

    Exactly. Not because they knew Jesus first.

    How do we know who God has revealed himself to? We don't. We only know of our own personal experiences or what others have shared about their experience.

  • Sarah

    Oops…sorry *Julia*–I hate misspelling someone's name. I've been reading this without my glasses!

  • Diana

    "'….but because of God’s personal revelation to them, they knew Him!'

    Exactly. Not because they knew Jesus first. "

    Of course, it could be argued, that when God made his personal appearances to these Old Testament people, that it was in the form/character of Jesus and they just didn't use that name.

    Not that I'm actually arguing this, of course. I'm just saying….

  • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.wordpress.com ~Julia~

    Okay, y'all. Ieft a lenglhy reply over on John's answer post. See y'all there…. ;)

  • Sarah Malone

    no–I didn't know Christ before God–the other way around.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Peregrinu: Okay, who ARE you? I saw how quickly you banged out this astoundingly informed little dissertation. So … well, who are you? Cuz man, you're good.

  • Peregrinu

    First, I’d like to follow up on something Sarah said a few days ago:

    “Everyone is born into the world as perfectly innocent babies.” – No, there is this thing we all were born with called Original Sin. If Charles Manson was baptized (I’m not an expert on his biography), then this was wiped away, but the efffects of sin remained. Of course, God is still present in him, as God is present in everyone and everything. (Or, as St. Thomas Aquinas points out, instead of saying that God is in us, it would be more accurate to say that we are in God – and this is more accurate according to the Upanisads and the Bhagavad Gita as well.)

    Secondly, my own answer to the question posed:

    Yes, whenever we come to know God it is always through Jesus, consciously or unconsciously. Many of the non-Christian mystics had a sense that their knowledge of God was through some sort of cosmic man/God, though they didn’t know how. Hence, in al-Arabi and a number of the other Sufi saints you will see discussion of the “al-insan al-kamil” or Perfect Man through whom one must go to be divinized; they thought of this Perfect Man usually in terms of Platonic archetypes, but the point is it was a Man (with a capital M) who is identified with God.

    The Taoists had the same concept, though I cannot recall the Chinese term for it off the top of my head. Toshihiko Izutsu argued this thesis in his book “Sufism and Taoism”, which is what I’ll have to resort to giving as a reference.

    The Hindu equivalent is, of course, Purusa. If your emphasis in Hinduism is more Vedantine than Samkhya, as it is with most Westerners, then instead of Purusa you will probably speak instead of the immediate presence of divine grace in the soul – Atman, which is both God (atman is Brahman) and intimitely commensurate with human nature, so much so that Svetaketu was told “tat tvam asi” – “that thou art”.

    But atman is NOT the individual self. There are two words which have been translated “self” in Sanskrit. “Hamsa” means the individual “you” – what is meant by “self” in every European language. There is no real word for “atman” in English. It most closely corresponds to Meister Eckhart’s “grund” or ground of being of the soul, or St. Augustine’s recognition that “Thou art closer to me than I am myself” (I may be conflating the exact words of St. Augustine with the saying in the Koran [or a hadith? Dunno] “Thou art closer to man than his jugular vein”.) The Atman is called the “Self” because it is the very being, ground, and life of the soul (there is no clear distinction between the natural soul and the divinized soul as there is in Christianity), but is clearly distinct from it. The Munduk-Upanisad speaks of the hamsa and atman as “two birds in one tree”, the tree being the body.

    My argument is as follows: Atman is both God and Man, since it is more Man (the human Self) than man himself. (Atman is our true Self, much more so than ourselves [our hamsa] – and it is the truest answer to the question “Who am I” and the truest subject of the pronoun “aham” ["I"].) It is also universal – there is only one Atman. We are saved then by coming into union with a divine, universal Man who is the life of our souls.

    That man was Jesus Christ, and He created His Church – the Catholic Church – to be His mystical body through which grace flows.


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