I say by Nut, the brilliant, the great: This is my son, my first born, opener of my womb; this is my beloved, with whom I have been satisfied. – 2400-2300 BC Ancient Pyramid Texts, Hymn 1
The life of Jesus is one of the most debated, celebrated and argued subjects of all time. What can be said about someone who changed the face of the world by his presence? At times, Jesus showed supreme compassion and love, at other times he claimed to be God himself. I’d like to discuss some aspects of his life and existence that seem to be little talked about. If you have followed so far, you will not need this chapter to definitively tell you whether or not Jesus was the Son of God, sacrificed to save your soul, but this book would be incomplete without direct attention given to Jesus. No matter what you believe about him, his life was full of mystery and magic and life lessons that we can all benefit from without necessarily believing him to be God incarnate in the fashion that the New Testament paints him.
Very little time is really spent giving detail to the beginnings and upbringing of Jesus. We are almost expected to gloss over it without a thought, but this era is full of mystery and amazing possibility and should be examined with a little more thought in order to ascertain how Jesus became the ageless figure we know him as today. Let’s start from the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew (NIV)
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
The story is well known, but the first thing that we notice is the presence of the Magi. Who were these Magi from the east? Since the Bible puts them front and center, they must have had special significance, because they are the first point of validation of the kingship of Jesus, or his extremely special nature. Since the fourth century BC, the Magi were generally considered adepts of the great Persian alchemist and magician, Zoroaster. This singular detail brings up a question of spiritual authority, which we covered earlier;
By whose power do these people operate, by God or by Satan? If by God, then does this validate the use of magic in the Zoroastrian tradition? And if by the devil, then why would their presence be allowed to stain the pages of the Holy Bible?
This is an important question for Christians to ask because the Magi are absolutely foundational in the initial validation of Jesus as the Christ. According to Old Testament law, witchcraft, divination and alchemy are all forbidden and yet we have the adepts of Zoroaster front and center in the life of little baby Jesus.
Let’s look at this from a philosophical standpoint and imagine what it would be like to be the Magi searching for this newborn king. The Magi were of enough renown to have audience with King Herod and were obviously very advanced in their knowledge of astrology. If the Magi stopped everything they were doing to follow a star and find this new king, would they not possibly bring gifts that instilled their vast and ancient magical knowledge? Doesn’t it seem unlikely that they would only bring fine oils, incense and treasures to a world-changing king? It seems highly plausible that these Magi would bring magical texts for the young king that would educate him in their ways. When we later see the miracles that Jesus performs, it makes sense. He demonstrated a vast understanding of, not just the world as the Jews of that time saw it, but of eastern and Egyptian thought. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the next pivotal event in the life of young Jesus;
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
From this point on, Jesus is raised in Egypt, the home of the very first monotheistic religion in the world. If you look at the quote from the Pyramid text at the beginning of this chapter, you see a familiar concept, “this is my son…in whom I am well pleased” The Egyptian theology is a keystone of the life of Jesus. Concepts of being reborn and being a singular son of a monotheistic God were traditions of Egyptian thought long before Jesus was born. Any short study into the life of Pharaohs will reveal this fact. Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten who ruled around 1340 BC claimed to be the Son of Aten, the God of Gods. When you look at the parallel between Osiris and Jesus, the similarities in concepts of rebirth, victory over the grave and being Lord of the afterlife are quite compelling. So now Jesus is perfectly placed in the presence of the ancient Magi and is now living in Egypt, the ancient home of religion. Jesus lived in Egypt until the age of twelve, returning to Israel after King Herod died.
Now imagine this for a moment, you are Jesus. You’ve been told the story of your birth and the visitation of the Magi and being of the Hebrew faith, you’ve been read the prophecies about the messiah. You’ve likely received ancient and special knowledge from the Magi. They would have equipped you to the best of their understanding.
Let’s think about this seriously for a moment. If you were told you were going to be the savior of the world, wouldn’t you do everything you could to learn the great teachings of the east and Egypt, especially if those teachings were placed in your lap? With these details in hand, it seems to point to Jesus having access to Egyptian and Persian teachings in the area of magic. Jesus’ life and times were important astrological events that both Persian and Egyptian astrologers would undoubtedly recognize as very important. Many aspects of Jesus’ life were beyond his control. He could not, for instance, choose where he was born, or by whom he was born of. In traditional Christian teaching, we’ve glossed over some very important aspects of his life and have built a belief system out of it.
When we witness the amazing works that modern magicians can perform, we know that they are not God, even though their deeds are often otherworldly. We know that there are healers in every religious tradition in every corner of the world, from witch doctors in Africa, to psychic surgeons in Mexico and even faith healers in Christian traditions. In this day and age, we have a mixture of all of the things that Christ did, even resurrection from the grave. When we consider the experiences that Jesus went through during his 40 days in the desert, we see a common theme in the transformative process of any great spiritual leader. As I have described before, shamans and medicine men go through a harrowing wilderness experience in which they are carted into a spirit world and exposed to all forms of torture at the hands of strange beings. In the fourth chapter of The Gospel of Matthew we see Jesus going through this experience;
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
At the very beginning of this chapter, we see that Jesus is led by the spirit to be tempted by the devil. This denotes a pre-meditated plan to go through his vetting process as a spiritual leader. The fact that he fasted for 40 days also is of great importance. As I said before, one of the ways in which a shaman comes to a great spiritual state is through austerity. Through starvation and absolute submission to the spirit world, a leader shows his reverence for the realm beyond and is submitted to whatever torture is set before them. This is not a coincidence, but is a tradition that Jesus would have known of from his understanding of Persian and Egyptian wisdom in the realm of magic. In this state he is brought face to face with the great tempter and must get through these tests before fully coming to his own as a spiritual master. Roughly 500 years prior to the arrival of Jesus, another great spiritual leader went through this same universal process that many spiritual greats go through.
In the story of the Buddha, Siddhartha refused to leave the base of the bodhi tree under which he was meditating until he had reached enlightenment. Here in this state of self-refusal and deep meditation, Siddhartha was also confronted with the pleasures of the world, offered the kingdoms of the world, but Siddhartha refused it all, knowing that all of these offers were illusory. The devil of East Indian culture, Mara displayed all of these temptations before Buddha. Only after Siddhartha was forced to look at and deny his very ego was he able to reach enlightenment. So here, these world-changing spiritual leaders are led along a parallel path before truly beginning their spiritual work. In each case, the leader is capable of many glorious miracles and healings and supernatural power of every sort. There is a primary difference between Siddhartha and Jesus though; only Jesus claimed to be God. In John 8:53-59 we see this claim with clarity;
(The Pharisees said) Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”
Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
“You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
The significance comes when he says, “before Abraham was born, I AM”. This is because he says the word for God, a word that was unlawful to say directly. He directly said that he was God. From my perspective, it’s easy to understand how Jesus came to believe this. His life was started with the appearance of the greatest wise men of the age worshipping him; he was raised with this knowledge and an otherworldly gift to accomplish great deeds and miracles and everywhere he went, people gathered behind him.
In short, I believe that Jesus really thought he was God, but what he really meant upon this proclamation was not fully clear at the time of his crucifixion. Another valuable thought in this discussion is the idea that Jesus simply knew that we were all God in the sense that we were an extension of the sensory portion of the ethereal God and he was to be our patriarch of this realization. Like drops of water in the ocean, Jesus understood that he was both a drop of water in the ocean of God and as a drop in the ocean was also the ocean itself.
This dual message is very Gnostic in nature and was way too advanced for its time in the west, though accepted broadly in other cultures of the east. Robert Bauval & Graham Hancock had this to say about the Gnostics in their book, The Master Game:
In 1945 a great hoard of hitherto unknown Gnostic texts from the early centuries of the Christian era was found at Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt. Since the translation and eventual publication of these texts in 1977 it has become apparent that Christianity’s relationship with Gnosticism goes back to the very beginnings of the Christian cult in the first century AD. Likewise, it is now obvious, and widely accepted, that, ‘Christian Gnosticism’ was not some offshoot from the mainstream of Christianity. On the contrary it was part of the mainstream-perhaps even the major part. If Gnosticism was part of the mainstream of Christianity, why don’t we know about them or incorporate their thoughts in modern Christian doctrine? Robert Bauval and Graham Hancock continue:
And then something happened. From the beginning of the fourth century AD, as it acquired state power, the Church undertook a radical change in direction. The freethinking and sometimes anarchical approach of Gnostics began to be frowned upon, their allegorical interpretations of the scriptures were dropped in favor of literal ones, and persecutions for heresy began almost immediately. A little history shows us that the side of Christianity that we see today is the side that won out by literally killing off the other side. The victor writes history and so it has been even in Christendom. By 325 AD, the Council of Nicea had put together the Bible the way they wanted it to be and excluded Gnostic theology and teachings; teachings that painted Jesus in a much more eastern light. What did the Gnostics believe that was so different? The Gnostics believed that the God of the Old Testament was an evil demigod and not the true God of spirit. They believed that the physical world was a literal hell and that the flesh was doomed to pull the real you into perdition forever. They practiced extreme austerities and denied themselves any sort of pleasure, knowing that it would lead them towards more fleshly desires. In essence, they were devout believers that Jesus came to show us an example of how to live this life; that he was a phantasm of the true God of creation.
They believe that his death and resurrection were to simply show us his power and might as an illustration of God’s victory over the fleshly world. The Gnostics were against violence and were therefore easy to kill and persecute once the Christian church had the spears of Rome at its disposal.
And so we see that there was more than one perspective on the Old Testament, a Gnostic Christian perspective that in my mind more closely reflects what our sensible humanitarian natures are agreeable to. One perspective says that the God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament. This is the traditional view based on what has been passed down, first in Catholicism and now to Protestantism. The other view is just as relevant if you wish to be a purist about who Christians really were in the first 3 centuries of its existence. This is the view that the God of the Old Testament was indeed a blood soaked monster who wished to enslave humanity in subservience and reverence to him. This makes sense when you see words like ‘Jealous’ repeated in Old Testament prophecy and scripture. These traits seem all too human to be truly divine.
However we believe it, Jesus' claim was in a context that was unacceptable to the powers that were, and this was the reason why they eventually sent him to the cross. After this statement, Jesus knew that he would die as a martyr, but did he perhaps still have the upper hand? Was he, as the greatest real magician of all time capable of performing the ultimate act by surviving the crucifixion?
I know that this may be a hard idea to swallow, but if you look today at the works of street magicians, you can see feats similar to these. Popular magicians like Criss Angel can perform amazing feats that are astonishingly Christ-like in potency. You can see him walk on water with people all around him. You can even see him get run over by a steamroller while lying on a bed of broken glass. Imagine now that a person of this skill level could do all of these things in reality. If you look at the nature of his beginnings, I think that you can understand how this is possible.
Imagine that Jesus was a true healer in the shamanic respect and a Magi in his understanding of himself in the timing and placement within the universal order. Imagine all of those traits all held in one man who truly thought that he was God in a sense that was completely foreign at the time, even to his own disciples. If this were really the case, then what seems impossible, the survival of a Roman crucifixion is possible and in his case, probable.
After his greatest feat, his disciples who learned many of his ways and understanding were able to perform similar miracles and deeds by the same understanding. This was all a proof to them that Jesus was truly that he said he was. They believed in him so strongly that many became martyrs for this belief. Though many often associate it with the most pious of ways to die, we must understand that martyrdom is not proof of truth. If that were the case, then extreme Islamic suicide bombings would be proving their beliefs to be true.
I believe that the very best guess about the source of Jesus’ power was ancient magic from Persian and Egyptian sources, or that he was as the Gnostics said. It is my strong opinion that Jesus could have easily been an adept of the magic and teachings of the Magi and a learned and naturally skilled shaman, evidentially the greatest that ever lived. This is how he accomplished everything he did. This also meshes very well with Gnostic concept that Jesus was actually a far advanced incorporeal being that materialized in order to perfect his process of becoming one with God fully as the creative force and best example of our own eventual journey to oneness.
Salvation in the traditional western Christian view is necessary because we are guilty criminals in the court of God. The crucifixion represents the suffering and death that Jesus underwent to acquit us of our condemnation. To the Gnostic, the crucifixion was a gory horror that should not have been flaunted as by their competitors of the early church. The waving of the cross, to them was a new form of idolatry that held people firmly in the evil demigod’s world of fleshly distraction, worrying about the tearing and destruction of the body and not the message of freedom.
To the Gnostics the crucifixion was the final representation of what we can accomplish if we follow Christ’s lead. In other words, the real God that Jesus represents in the Gnostic mind is one who wants peers, while the traditional western Christian God wants groveling supplicants and slaves. In a moment that often is overlooked, Jesus himself tells us which he prefers in John 15:15 (NIV): I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
In this passage, Jesus relates us as equals, not as slaves or underlings. I’ve already explained the difference between what it means to be a part of God, therefore to be God, yet not be God in the entire sense. This mindset brings encouragement, reverence and motivation to me while freeing my mind from the burden of fear brought on by the evil demi-god of the Old Testament. If you can follow that thought, then you can understand how Jesus Christ relates to us with world changing power without the greatest guilt trip ever laid on humanity by the western Christian version of the story.
In the Far East, there are great masters, who even after they have lived and died still provide guidance to spiritual seekers today. Jesus is considered to be one of the greatest masters of all time in this spiritual respect and appears to people of every religion around the world. There are many other ways in which we can speculate about how Jesus did what he did, but the stars did not lie when they guided the Magi. We know this assuredly because we are still talking about him today. People still worship him as God, but with a misunderstanding of the nature of God and our place with God. Indeed, there is much to be learned from the life of Jesus, but it does not necessarily mean that he was the Son of God in the way the New Testament claims.
Finally, you only need Jesus to be the Son of God, sacrificed for your sins if you buy into the rest of the biblical text being the inerrant word of God. I have already presented the evidence, both empirically and philosophically to bring serious doubt to the concept biblical concept of sin, salvation and hell. But when you see his deeds and his great teachings, they should be appreciated and applied as your heart guides you along your own spiritual path. Jesus might have been like a stone thrown into still water, causing ripples in every direction. His disciples being close to him rode the wave of his power and eventually losing His essence as the years made the ripples smaller and smaller, ran with their version of his story until the water again became stagnant in the mire of human error and the collection of earthly power.