Some years ago, I met a Hindu guru who informed me that he was writing a commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. At the time, this sounded peculiar – as peculiar as my writing a book on Eastern Meditation. However, since then, I have found that this endeavor is almost a rite-of-passage for mystics and Eastern thinkers.
Why should they devote themselves to this task? To demonstrate that all true religion and religious experience are one! Why one? To prove that reality is monistic, and that we all partake of one universal consciousness – the God- or Christ-consciousness!
This is also the task of James Marion in Putting on the Mind of Christ: the Inner Work of Christian Spirituality. He claims that the Kingdom of Heaven is “a particular level of human consciousness” according to Jesus:
- What then is this Kingdom of Heaven, the vision of this world that the mind (consciousness) of Jesus “saw”? First of all and most importantly, The Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus saw so well is a vision of this world that sees no separation (duality) between God and humans.
The goal of mystics and gurus is a change of consciousness through the use of various methods to see beyond the “illusory dualism” of this physical world. Normally, we use our senses to perceive the distinct external physical world. There is me – the observer – and the external world (what we observe). Ironically, this maligned distinction (me vs. the rest of the world) is actually the basis of science, all learning and scholarship, work, and even relationships – everything that we value about this world. For example, when I married, it wasn’t a monistic marriage. I didn’t marry myself (monism) but a distinct human being (dualism) who I vowed to cherish above all others for the rest of my limited life.
In contrast to this, the monist disdains such distinctions in favor of the idea that we are all one – part of one universal consciousness. Meanwhile, Christian dualism maintains many critical distinctions. The Creator and His creation are two distinct entities. Yes, they are closely related, but they aren’t the same. However, Marion attempts to eliminate this distinction:
- Not only did Jesus see this truth for himself, but he saw that this essential non-separation from God was also true for the rest of us. And he actually had the courage to go about the land of Israel telling everyone that this was the case. He asked us, “Do you not know that you are gods?” (John 10:34-35).
According to Marion, Jesus not only taught that there is no distinction between Him and God, but also that there is no distinction between all of us human beings and God. (He doesn’t seem to include parasites, the bubonic plague or other living things in his monistic equation, as other monists do.) In support of this claim that contradicts all of our experience, senses, and reason, he illegitimately appeals to Jesus’ words – “you are gods” - in the Gospel of John.
In this context, Jesus argued against His opponents – the Pharisees – who had understandably charged Him with equating Himself with God (John 10:33). Rather than correcting their estimation of His teachings, Jesus used a rhetorical device, insisting that, according to Scripture, all judges are, in a sense, as “gods,” rendering judgments in the place of God (Psalm 82:6). It is not possible to construe Jesus’ words as implying that he thought that the Pharisees were gods! They certainly didn’t construe His words this way. Instead, they correctly understood His words as provocative and therefore tried to stone Him (John 10:33, 39).
Instead, Jesus maintained an absolute distinction between Him and others:
- “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:23-24)
- Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”… Jesus replied, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad… before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:53-58)
- “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. (John 5:21-23)
In fact, even though He called His disciples “brothers,” everything that Jesus taught indicated that He regarded Himself as the unique Son of God. He and only He would die for the sins of the world:
- Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matt. 26:27-28)
Marion’s claim that we are no different than God is entirely without biblical merit. Consistent with this claim is his claim that Jesus taught that there “was no separation between human beings”:
- The Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus saw so well is a vision of this world that sees no separation (duality) between human beings. Jesus saw there was no separation between himself and any other person, again despite all physical appearances of separation to the contrary. He saw every other person as himself (Luke 6:31). In fact, Jesus did not see other persons as “others” at all. He saw all human beings (and indeed the whole created universe) as part of himself.
Marion cites Luke 6:31 in support of his position:
- Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. (Luke 6:31-33)
Rather than supporting Marion’s case, these verses contradict it. Jesus uses the words “others” and “sinners,” thereby acknowledging distinctions among people, not oneness! And He did this consistently. Right afterwards, Jesus drew a fast line between the good and the evil man:
- “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:45)
Jesus then distinguished between the obedient whose deeds would stand and the disobedient, whose deeds would collapse (Luke 6:46-49). He also sharply distinguished between the children of the light and children of the darkness:
- Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” (John 12:35-36)
Jesus also drew a sharp distinction between the saved and unsaved:
- “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matt. 7:21-23)
Monism is insanity. It forbids any concrete statements of fact. Consequently, Marion argues:
- Jesus did not say, “The Kingdom of Heaven is this” because “this” automatically excludes its opposite “that.” Nor did he say, “The Kingdom of Heaven is that” because “that” automatically excludes its opposite “this.” He did not say “The Kingdom is here” because “here” excludes its opposite “there.” Likewise, he did not say “The Kingdom is “there” because “there” excludes its logical opposite “here.” So Jesus ended up saying that the Kingdom was “not here and not there” (Luke 17:21).
Marion’s monism rules against making any sharp distinctions. Consequently, he cannot logically make a sharp distinction between monism and dualism as he always does.
Besides, are Jesus’ words of Luke 17:21 anti-dualistic or an affirmation of dualism? Instead, of supporting Marion’s position, this verse asserts that He is the Kingdom of God and not any Tom, Dick, or mystic. Here is the broader context:
- Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, [VERSE 21]: nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. (Luke 17:20-25)
Clearly, according to Jesus, the Kingdom of God is in our midst when Jesus is in our midst. It is not a matter of ridding ourselves of dualistic thinking but of embracing dualism – that Jesus is our Savior, and that without Him, we non-saviors can do nothing (John 15:4-5)! However, according to Marion, we too can be Jesus by simply seeing a nondual reality as Jesus allegedly did:
- Jesus, of course, did have one huge advantage over the rest of us. He was born with the inner ability to clearly see the nondual vision of the Kingdom of Heaven. Like all humans he probably had to go through the earlier levels of consciousness as a child, but, according to the Gospel, his everyday consciousness “saw” the nondual vision of the Kingdom… If we want to follow Jesus, we have no choice but to go deep within ourselves and, putting on the same mind that Jesus had, come into the nondual, no-separation vision of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Instead, according to the Gospel, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8), even “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (Heb. 1:3).
Monism contains its own deadly poison – a rejection of reality, an embrace of darkness in which the believer will fall. Consequently, every monistic culture has faltered.
To believe that there is no distinction between us and God is also to deify all of our thinking and doing. There is no longer good nor evil, justice and injustice, beauty and ugly, guilt and innocence. Everything is the same and there is nothing to change or learn. In order to live in this world, the monist must accept inconsistency, confusion, and incoherence – the price we need not pay.
Although monism is an attempt to see the other as ourself, ultimately, it provides a lonely landscape which turns the monist inward in a vain quest to see reality as it isn’t. In contrast, the Christian can look outside of himself to a Savior who has guaranteed that He will love and protect us eternally.