THE RETURN PROJECT:
Who is the Wandering Galilean?
Here is my proposal: Jesus is a Galilean Shaman whose main work was and is to
return humans to the cycle of life.
Let’s see how I reached this hypothesis—contrary to the mainstream as it is– since it could have very important ramifications for planet Earth.
Nearly everyone in mainstream culture confronts this question on one scale or another: Who is Jesus, anyway? For me that question came early, just after I completed my first indigenous vision quest as an adolescent. Profound connections with the Sacred Web (what I would later explore as a system of eco-fields) occurred in that quest, and I moved for weeks in a sense of wonderment, of being loved, and accepted by the Circle of Life itself. Every aspect of the natural world around me seemed not only alive but animated and reaching out to impart quanta of information to me, some intelligence about where life itself was going like an arrow. And, most important to an adolescent, information about who was I as a person.
A boyhood friend at the time was Danny Solomon, and we talked far into soft summer nights about subjects testosterone laden males find interesting. When I hesitantly told him about my consciousness awakenings in the red slick rock canyons of Northwest Texas, he immediately suggested that I attend a small Methodist college in Abilene, Texas–where he was a student–and go deeper into the Jesus questions by studying theology. Danny believed that Jesus could help me in my nature-based spiritual path, though he himself had little connection with Nature. He didn’t mention if such would assist me in my issues with testosterone. These lively conversations launched me into a decade of serious effort in linking Jesus with spiritual resources arising out of the untamed in Nature.
Eventually, that search lead to a cul de sac, or, more accurately, a box canyon surrounded by high walls of orthodoxy.
Allow me to cut to the chase: the more thoroughly I searched in various religious institutions, the more obscure this unusual man, Jesus, became. You might say I went on an archeological journey where I dug through the layers of Western Civilization’s responses to the question. I found quickly that the “Jesus” taught in mainline Christianity was a creation of the organized church dating back to 325 C.E.when Constantine made Christianity the dominant religion of the Roman Empire at the Council of Nicea, known as the first ecumenical council.
The main thrust of this council raised the very question I address with you today—who was/is Jesus? My take on this council? It fabricated the Jesus of mainline Christianity three centuries after the Jesus who lived in Galilee died. The Jesus Christ presented to us as historic is—for good or, in my estimation, ill– actually a creation of this council.
Historians can’t agree on what happened at this tumultuous gathering of 300 or more followers of Jesus. But, as you might guess, I am not bashful about my take. Constantine, the emperor of the Roman Empire, was faced with a nation deeply split. In the midst of increasing rancor and chaos with the hoi polloi, he needed a unifying factor to hold together liberal and conservative factions, a condition we in the USA can currently appreciate. He concocted the cockamamie idea that a previously illegal and little known religion, the followers of Jesus, could be that unifying force and save the Empire from civil war. The trouble with that notion consisted in the fact that there were hundreds of different spiritual practices among these followers, and many of them sported their own narratives about the life of Jesus, or “gospels” as they came to be known. These tiny spiritual communities were vital, intensely intimate, full of life, highly idiosyncratic, and not given to a central authority.
What to do with this pluralism? Like many organized religious gatherings, the Council of Nicea began by throwing out the most troublesome perspectives. For example, they tossed onto the trash heap reincarnation, a spiritual perspective a vocal minority at the Council believed Jesus taught. The stories that portrayed Jesus as deeply embedded in ancient shamanism were not entirely edited as we shall see, but more explicit versions likely didn’t make the orthodox cut. The council likely obscured or minimized a tribal Jesus. We do not know how they decided on the four stories that came to be the synoptic gospels. One entertaining version of the selection process came to me through William R. Cannon,a prominent Church historian, in a graduate course I took at Emory University. According to Cannon the leaders of the council placed the finalists for the normative Jesus stories on a sacred table and asked the Holy Spirit to intervene by removing from the ceremonial table the accounts that were in error.
During the night the most conservative of the delegates sneaked in and removed all but four gospels they favored. When the 300 delegates gathered the next day, they entered the large hall to see that all the books but four had been removed from the table and scattered around the floor. The leaders proclaimed a miracle. Caught up in the fervor of the moment, the delegates ceremonially burned the scrolls that the “spirit” didn’t like. Whether this account is entirely historical or not, this burning of the opposition’s accounts became a consistent, historical practice of the institution that grew out of this congress.
But not to worry about the orthodox cause! Constantine had his four authoritative gospels that now constitute the opening and most important thrust of the New Testament. When I questioned Professor Cannon about the dubious and politically inspired nature of how we came to have holy cannon, he said he still believed in the basic authority of the gospels and the Nicean creed, the accepted orthodoxy of Christianity to this day. Shocked! I told him that the creed, while highly imaginative, seemed distant from the wandering Galilean. He smiled indulgently and told me I should go to these gospels in the original Greek if I really wanted to know who Jesus really was.
I wondered about Cannon’s advice since he had just told me the dubious way the standard stories about Jesus came to the mainline, but I harbored a deep and mostly intuitive sense that Jesus was a nature-based figure. Spurred by an abiding hunger for linkage between indigenous spirituality and cultural religion, I plunged into the accepted renditions of his life. I had concluded that the organized religion we call Christianity presents us with a Christ of creed, and I respect that presentation. It is meaningful to many, but the Christ created by the church is, in my view, disturbingly disconnected from the man, Jesus.
Could this disturbing disconnection from the tribal Jesus be at the heart of the upsetting unhinge from Nature and a primary source of our planet’s problems?
By now I was in a second graduate school and shifted my emphasis from theology to psychology and gave up on organized religion as a reliable source to address the question of Jesus.
But I had not given up on the quest for the Jesus link. What, I continued to query, did the first sources say about him? And were there any sources that survived the burning at Nicea? If so, what picture did they paint of him? That will be the direction of my next blog.