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The Human Evasion by Celia Green

Chapter 12 : Christ

Sane human beings are not interested in reality. This is clearly shown by the attitudes of both Christians and sceptics towards the origins of Christianity. Both factions are primarily concerned to attribute "human" emotions to its founder—nice modest fair-minded ones or nasty perverted abnormal ones according to taste. Neither side pauses to consider whether the available documents are remotely adequate to support their interpretations.

Now in fact the historical evidence is of such a kind that the question may reasonably be asked whether Jesus lived at all. None of the gospels can be dated much earlier than A.D. 57, and probably all the four synoptic gospels were written around the latter half of the first century A.D. There is every reason to suppose that the tradition had already been subject to many influences, some identifiable, some debatable. There is no reason to suppose that the writers of the Gospels were any more interested in facts than most sane people are. In fact the internal evidence clearly suggests that they had no inhibitions about modifying their text when they wished to make it support a particular point.

It is difficult to base any conclusions whatever on documents of this kind.

It is certainly impossible to see how they can be made to support statements of the kind sometimes made by Christians—that they derive from the Gospels an overwhelming sense of the personality of Christ. Or, indeed, a statement such as this made by an intellectual Christian in a University environment:

The discrepancy between the depth and sanity and (let me add) shrewdness of His moral teaching and the rampant megalomania which must lie behind His theological teaching unless He is indeed God, has never been satisfactorily got over.[1]

In fact. there is very little "moral teaching" in the Gospels, and what there is is not shrewd. It simply makes unreasonable demands, of the utmost generality, of a kind that any purveyor of mental health would recommend his patients to disregard.

As for the theological teaching of Jesus, we do not know what it was. There is quite insufficient evidence for supposing that he claimed to be God, though we know that Christians from the fourth century onwards liked to make this claim on his behalf.

Probably more credit should be given to St. Paul. He was clearly a sane person—aware of the need to make a good impression on the neighbours. It may well be that the true reason for the survival of Christianity lies in his having adapted it into a form admirably compatible with sane psychology. Much confusion has been created by reading the Epistles of Paul as if they shed light on the interpretation of the Gospels.

Consider the doctrine of the Fatherhood of God. This is supposed to have been central to the thought of Jesus. In fact, by all accounts, he had a positive obsession about it. Christians claim that it shows him to have been a warm, family-centred man and no cold metaphysician. Non-Christians claim that it shows him to have a father-fixation, combined with homosexual tendencies which he sought to gratify by his dubious relationship with his disciples.

Now, on grounds of textual criticism, it can be shown that there is little evidence that Christ himself had any particular interest in the Father concept—even as a symbol—still less in the Father-Son combination which is so important to later claims of the divinity of Christ. Although Jesus is credited with using the term Father frequently in Matthew and John, this is not the case in Mark, the earliest of the Gospels.

In Mark, God is only spoken of as Father in the absolute sense, without qualification, in two passages, both of which are believed to be either editorial interpolations or editorially modified.... Moreover, the expression my Father is never found in Mark, and your Father is found only in xi. 25-26.[2]

In fact, it is virtually impossible to reach any firm conclusions about what Jesus understood by "God". Attempts have been made to reconstruct his idea of God from the Jewish tradition of the time, but there is no knowing what influence this actually had on his thought. Modern man may like to believe himself the child of his environment, and his ideas the inevitable consequence of sociological influence. However, a few people have been known to think, and we cannot be sure that Jesus was not one of them. (The fact that the religion originated by him became widely accepted is not, of course, evidence for this supposition, but against it. If, that is, he did in any sense originate the religion which became accepted.)

If he was, he would probably have been capable of using the current terminology and sayings of his time in a sense of his own. There is no need to suppose him moronically unintelligent. The use of parables would seem to imply that he understood the use of metaphor.

We are not, I think, justified in concluding anything about the attitudes or opinions of Jesus from the areas of omission in the Gospels. Obviously we have only a handful of his sayings. The tradition had had plenty of time, before A.D. 57, to select those sayings which were reasonably compatible with the developing tradition of the Church, and to suppress the rest. The fact that we have only metaphor rather than description or definition to help us decide what he meant by "God" or "The Kingdom of Heaven" may not mean that he was a simple, emotional person who never defined his terms. It may only mean that his metaphors were all of his thought that could survive the transition into the world-view of the early Church.

Having said what cannot be inferred from the existing records, we may settle down to speculation.

There is an interesting possibility that Christ was not only not paranoid, but that he was not sane at all, and that the expression "the Kingdom of Heaven" refers to a state of mind not likely to be had by sane people. Let us discuss some of his utterances in the light of this possibility.

Matthew 13: 45-46

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls; who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

Mark 8: 36-37

What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and loose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

To suggest that one single thing could be worth more than everything else put together is, I feel sure, an immature attitude.

Matthew 7: 13-14

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

This is scarcely democratic and I do not see what a modern Christian can make of it. But it is a realistic assessment of the number of people likely to take up single-mindedness at all seriously.

Matthew 22: 37-38

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.

Matthew 7: 7

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

Sane people are obviously not likely to qualify for anything on these terms.

They cannot want anything very much, or try to get anything very hard. They accept the first compensation that comes their way.

Luke 6: 24-26

But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.

Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.

Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.

Does this really sound as though he was in favour of the jolly, well-compensated man-in-society?

Matthew 19: 21-23

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

Then Jesus said unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

A rather more interesting reading becomes possible if it is supposed that "riches" means "compensations".

Matthew 6: 31-33

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Modern Christians hold that the thing to do is "obviously" to feed everybody in the world, and until we have done that, we needn't ask what anyone is to do with their life, anyway. The question is whether Christ would have agreed.

Luke 18: 16-17

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.

Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.

It has been suggested that what Christ found attractive about children was what sane people like about them—their uncritical trust in the superior wisdom of adults, their plasticity, submissiveness, suggestibility, and vulnerability. However, children have other characteristics besides these.

They are excitable and like excitement. They are in a hurry; it seems to them that to do a thing now may be altogether different from doing it tomorrow.

They are easily bored. They ask questions. They want to grow up to be the first Emperor of Space.

In short, they seek intensity of experience. They do not have much experience of life and they may seek it clumsily. As they grow older and saner they learn not to seek it at all.

Matthew 12:25

Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.

Modern enlightenment suggests that Christ was talking about the integration of the personality. The modern idea of integrating the personality is to accept all the bits of yourself on their own terms—enjoy all your pleasures without imposing upon them any rigid formalism. But this may not have been exactly what Christ had in mind. For one thing, modern people regard integration as a function of maturity—but Christ seemed to think children in some way eligible.

Matthew 6: 22-23

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, the whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

This makes it tolerably clear that if he was talking about the integration of the personality, it was a single-minded sort of integration.

Matthew 6: 24

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

It has been suggested that "mammon" means crude, ambitious, materialistic commercialism. Perhaps it just means "society", or even "other people".

Matthew 15: 9

But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

John 5: 44

How can ye believe, which receive honour from one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?

Would Jesus really have liked the idea that Christianity meant social conformity and lots of welfare work?

Matthew 10: 35

For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.

Not-sane people need not expect sane people to see eye to eye with them.

Luke 8: 19-21

Then came to him his mother and his brethren, and could not come at him for the press. And it was told him by certain which said, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee. And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.


Matthew 9: 16-17

No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.

Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.

Perhaps this means "You cannot be sane and not-sane at the same time." But even supposing a sane person had a moment's excitement, would he not try to weld it into his ordinary world-view—to "integrate" it, as he would say?

John 12: 25

He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

Luke 12: 25-26

And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?

Does this sound like settling down happily within your finiteness?

Luke 1: 37

For with God nothing shall be impossible.

This could be a statement about the total uncertainty. For its philosophical status, see Chapter 9.

John 10: 34

Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?

A most unpopular piece of Christianity. Sane people do not want to be gods; they want to be ordinary-members-of-society-like-anybody-else.

Mark 11: 25

For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.

No sane person doubts the impossibility of moving mountains by will-power.

Philosophically, however, it cannot be shown to be impossible.

Matthew 13: 35

I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.

This may sound megalomaniac. But there is no great difficulty in keeping secrets from sane people. The incredibility of the fact of existence retains the status of a closely-guarded secret in spite of its accessibility to inspection.

Mark 13: 35-37

Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.

And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.

Whatever this may mean, it certainly demands a psychological attitude which is improbable in the sane. Live as though you expected the unexpected? As though something might happen?

However, if Christ was trying to talk people out of their adherence to sanity, he made one fatal mistake. He said "Love your neighbour as yourself." No one who understands the human evasion could fail to realize that any statement which could be interpreted as an exhortation to pay attention to other people, even if among a great many injunctions to single-mindedness and unconditional desire, would be the only one remembered.

In fact, everyone does love their neighbour as themselves. They desire that he shall accept the second-best as they have done; that he, too, shall be made to realize his limitations and "come to terms with himself".

The other aspect of Christ's thought that has seized upon the popular imagination is, of course, the use of the Father-symbol. If Christ was not sane, he may have meant something peculiar by "Father", and not necessarily something very human. He may even have meant something like "the Outside" or "the origin of existence".

[1] C.S. Lewis, Miracles, Collins Fontana Paperback, 1947, p.113. [2] Charles Guignebert, Jesus, University Books, 1956, p.360.
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