By Robert V. Thompson, re-printed from The Examiner
Prior to the turn of this century, Ewert Cousins wrote a book called Christ of the 21st Century. In it we read these words, “For the first time since the appearance of human life on our planet, all of the tribes, all of the nations, all of the religions are beginning to share a common history. We can no longer think in terms of Christian history, or even Western history. When Christians raise questions about Christ, they must now ask: How is Christ related to Hindu history, to Buddhist history—to the common global history that religions are beginning to share?”
For most Christians, Christ and Jesus are synonymous—it is as if Christ is Jesus’ last name.
In one story in the synoptic Gospels, Jesus gathers his disciples about him and asks two questions. The first is an academic question, the second, a personal question.
First, who do others say I am?” The academic question asks, what does the research show? What do the polls say? To this question the disciples answer, “some say you are the reincarnation of Elijah, others say you are the reincarnation of John the Baptist.” This is a first century version of, “according to the latest CBS/New York Times poll, 53% say Jesus is…” The academic question always asks what other people think.
Then the story says, Jesus turned to Peter and asks a personal question. “Who do you say I am”? Peter answers, “You are the Christ”.
Christian dogma insists that Peter’s confession is the final word. But certain biblical texts insist that the Christ revealed in Jesus is not limited to a first century rabbi. For example, the Epistle to the Colossians begins with a bold proclamation that “In Christ all things hold together.” Here is the suggest ion that the word Christ is a metaphor that describes the divine pattern of connection that runs throughout the universe, also known as the Cosmic Christ.
In other words, Christ is not a person but a power. Christ is not so much a literal human being but rather the Divine energy that connects everything in the cosmos.
Christ is merely the Christian word for the divine stream of life connecting one to all and all to one. In Buddhism this power is called the Buddha. In Judaism it may be experienced as Shekinah. It is known by many names in Hinduism—some would say that Krishna Consciousness and Christ consciousness reveal the same truth.
Here is where Ewert Cousins becomes our teacher. Cousins says that we experience Christ, whenever we have the experience of a Power that includes and at the same time transcends personal identity. We experience this divine pattern of connection, Cousins says, when we see the world as others see it.
In Christ of the 21st Century, Ewert Cousins shares a personal experience of passing over into the culture, the experience, the consciousness of others who are different. For some time Cousins lived among Lakota Sioux in South Dakota. He writes,
“I remember the day, while I was talking to a group of Sioux, that I felt my consciousness, as it were, extend itself out of my body and passed over into their consciousness. From that moment I felt I could see things from their perspective and experience their values from within their world. Also I could look back at my own world and see its values in a clearer light–and its limitations! I became increasingly aware of human values that the Indians preserved and that we had lost: their love of the land, their organic harmony with nature, their sense of time as a flowing process…I perceived their awareness of Wakan tanka, or God, in nature and in their lives.”
For a brief moment, Ewert Cousins looked at the world through Lakota eyes. He saw the world not as a Roman Catholic white man but as the Lakota saw it. This experience not only changed Cousins self image, but the way he saw the world.
This is a powerful awakening.
The Christ power is the power to cross over into the consciousness of another. It is the power to understand without criticism, to perceive without passing judgment, to comprehend without analyzing. This challenge and possibility meets us in every moment, every encounter, every relationship, in every human being.
In whatever form, this cosmic Christ always manifests in the same way; humility, simplicity, trust, kindness, a forgiving and open heart–rooted in the profound awareness of universal connection. I do believe that the Christ appeared in the first century through Jesus of Nazareth.
But I also believe that if Christ is to appear in the 21st century, it will be through each and everyone of us.
So I ask. Have you ever had an experience like this? Have you ever experienced Christ consciousness? By what name do you know it?
It doesn’t really matter what you call it. What matters is to experience it.