Essays















The Son

At one point of my life, when I was in great despair and adolescent, I believed I was Jesus come back to earth. James Joyce says the same about his adolescence. There are many people with this delusion, no doubt. But it contains something of the truth, which only maturity can discover.

If we obey the commandments, and try to lead a good life; if we incline toward being open to other people’s suffering and their concerns; and then cultivate our intellect, and focus it on the world of science and ultimately on our own imperfections; and, finally, if we meditate on our own nothingness in the grand scheme of the pointlessness of everything, the starry heavens, the billions of years; then after reaching proper maturity in spiritual and intellectual things, we might also seek for the absolute perfection of God, and meditate on that, too.

Such a person ends up joining a Church; and then his meditation turns into praying. When he prays, he will find that God comes and converses back to him.

In Orthodox Christianity, that is, real Christianity, based on theology, the most refined and ancient and the most pure form of the teaching on our conversations with God, we find that it is the Holy Spirit which comes near. And, we talk with the Father. The Father sends his energy for us, and we receive grace, and approach the heavenly Kingdom. But, it is never the case that Jesus takes us by the hand. Why?

Over many years, it has become more troubling to me that in St Paul’s letters, and in the ascetics, and in my own approaches to the other world beyond this one, I have never seen Christ. In fact, I have read that it is not advised to try to envision Christ (The Art of Prayer). Nor has it ever crossed my mind that I was speaking with Christ in my prayer. My intuition has in fact been that this is impossible, and even wrong.

This has been troubling to me for a couple of reasons. First, it makes me think that God qua God, does not want a Son, and may not have one. Yes, I can easily conceive of and love God. But what if there is no Christ, or, what if God did not have a Son? It has made me think that perhaps, in truth, Christ is not the Son of God. That is a terrible conclusion for a Christian to come to.

Further, and secondly, why would God’s human aspect not be the first to speak with me? Why can’t we ‘get in touch’ with the man who was born, lived, and died? Surely that is natural, that the human aspect of God would be in constant communication with us?

I think that this has a very simple and utterly crushing solution. It is not that Christ is not God, or that he refuses to speak with us. Rather, it is that the human aspect of God died, then left behind something worse: the empty tomb.

There is a limitless, boundless shock contained in this puzzle. The truth is quite shocking, and I am afraid that it only makes sense to somebody who has been engaged on this path for so long. It is like the Mysteries of the Greek religion: this truth should be guarded, because if misunderstood, then it is dangerous.

Here is the answer, perhaps, in simple terms: you don’t get to speak to Christ because it is your place to struggle to become Christ. And there was and is only one Son of God, in human aspect, and you are that.

This is the active, spiritual, and eternally struggling dimension of our life. We must become godlike, in theosis.

This is not a matter of actually imitating Christ in individual matters. It does not mean that you should go about hoping to perform miracles, or to spend forty days in the wilderness, or to face a trial and execution for claiming to be this, or, that you should collect twelve followers. This is not the implication. That is exactly why this truth is dangerous and why it is not part of the sermons or the common apologetics of Christianity. No, what this truth means is that, by purification and prayer, and that humility which leads to the complete loss of your own sense of self, you will find a new self. Namely, you will become the Son of God. At a moment of history this man died, and then ascended into heaven; and when he did so ‘for me’, he did so in the form not of staying around and asking me to join him and be his friend; but, rather, he left the empty place, demanding that I fill it with my own life.

Let us remember that we receive the body and blood of Christ; to this extent, we are invited to become Him.

St Paul says this:

‘I no longer live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live… I live through faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me’ (Galatians, 2: 20).

Kierkegaard, in a text which long ago wrote my autobiography for me, in his ‘The Sickness Unto Death’, says that, an uneasiness and sickness with your own self is despair; but ‘the formula for that state in which there is no despair at all [is as follows]: in relating itself to itself and in wanting to be itself, the self is grounded transparently in the power which established it.’

I consider this to mean that, when you relate yourself properly to yourself, then there are two of you. The temporal and dislocated, wandering and despairing self, on the one hand; and, on the other, Christ. Faith is relating to yourself as if you were the Son of God.

Hegel put it somewhat differently, saying that Christianity is the highest religion, the perfection of religion, because here, God is dead, and God gives his spirit to mankind and to the individual, so that the human philosopher will take up the torch of divinity. (But, let us not talk about Christianity as a religion. It is more than that).

But that you shall become the Son of God is not a fitting subject for a blog post. Whatever remains of life should be devoted to this theme, that you must take up the place in the tomb which Christ left empty behind him; and that you should let this unfold in you right to the end.

And if it were not that I know that nobody reads this, I would not have written this at all! It is so deep and delicate and intrinsic to what we are.

For Sceptics

It would be right to point out that Christ is also the Lord of the Universe, and will be present at the Judgement, and so on. And it will be pointed out that you can’t expect us, or me, to do these things Godlike things, too. I remark that it is possible that, at the Judgement, you will know what you have done, and you will be there to judge yourself. And Christ is now the ruler of the world; but in what respect are you, reader, not also the origin and end of the universe which is before you and around you? Imagine having the responsibility of knowing that there is no distraction and no escape from the things you did in life! At the moment, I can evade what I have done with my life by, for instance, going to sleep or taking a walk in the countryside. But these evasions are only permitted while I have arms and legs, and the bed, and so on. I won’t always have these, and when these distractions are gone, then I will also be in a state of continual judgement on myself. But these are mysteries for another time.



Design Jason Powell, 2020.

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