What is true “Christ Consciousness”?
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of man except his own spirit within him? So too, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. And this is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.
The natural man does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God. For they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man judges all things, but he himself is not subject to anyone’s judgment. “For who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to instruct Him?”d But we have the mind of Christ.
1 Cor 2:10-16
Today I want to talk to you about Christ Consciousness. Before I was a Christian, I studied eastern mysticism. As an American, you find a lot of English translations of eastern writings – Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu, Sikh, etc. The translations are written by English-speaking westerners. They usually try to give you a few pointers about how to understand the spiritual language of these writings. These writings, they’re often technical descriptions of how to meditate, different levels of consciousness, or sometimes it’s poetry with cryptic, but specific, esoteric meanings.
Many of these translations were written, or at least prefaced and promoted, by people like Carl Gustav Jung, one of the forefathers of psychotherapy; or Madame Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophical Movement; or Rudolph Steiner, the founder of the anthroposophy movement; or sometimes Parahamsa Yogananda, who brought yoga to the West. If not them – their followers. These examples comprise the unofficial pillars of what we often call the New Age movement.
The reason I mention them is because they take all the spiritual traditions I mentioned, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Sikhism, etc, and they say that they are all different paths to the same destination. They are different because they developed in different cultures. Because they are writing an English translation for western readers, they all point out — Christianity is one of many paths, and it’s our western culture’s path. But unlike the paths of these other cultures, its esoteric or hidden meaning has been lost.
They say, “look at 1st Corinthians, where Paul says: Among the mature, however, we speak a message of wisdom—but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of the mysterious and hidden wisdom of God.”
There was a secret Christian teaching, they say, a hidden wisdom, that was lost – but it’s the same teaching that exists in all those other eastern religions, just in a different cultural form. The goal of this secret Christian teaching is “Christ Consciousness” — and so they say, if you study the teaching in its other cultural forms, in Buddhism, in Taoism, in Hinduism, in Sikhism, etc, then you can still gain Christ Consciousness that way.
Now I mention all this little background info because, while it might seem obscure, actually this idea of Christ Consciousness is very popular and almost an established dogma in American culture. When I was in college and to still this day, folks love to tell me about their experiences attaining Christ Consciousness – whether from meditation, prayer, or even from listening to live music, or – the most common one I hear — tripping on psychedelics.
As you can imagine, in my line of work, I hear about that one a lot.
So, what’s on tap for today is, what is Christ Consciousness, and how do you get it?
Well, first of all, you’re not going to find the words “Christ Consciousness” in the Bible. But in 1st Corinthians, we read about “the mind of Christ.” That sounds pretty close. What is the mind of Christ? I think Paul gives us a clue in Romans, when he says: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
So to have the mind of Christ is to have a renewed mind. It’s a mind that can test and approve what God’s will is – because it knows who He is, and what His will is for you. Connected to this statement, Paul says: “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”
So a renewed mind is one that views God’s mercy, sees it, and it is a mind that is devoted to worship, true and proper worship, of God through the offering of your body as a living sacrifice.
Do you catch the power of that? A renewed mind brings with it with an offered body.
And what kind of living sacrifice are you expected to make of your body? Paul says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world.”
Do not conform to the patterns of world. He’s echoing Jesus, when he said: “You are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth your father, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Christ.” (Mt. 23)
This is very important. If you should ever encounter the promise of Christ Consciousness outside of scripture, you will observe this pattern: every other path requires that you find a special teacher, an enlightened master, a guru, and that person becomes your master. Your MASTER! That’s the sacrifice, that is expected in the patterns of this world. And yes, these masters usually expect worship in some form.
When I was in New York City, I got an excited call to come to an all-night spiritual event happening in uptown Manhattan. It was almost 1 in the morning! But my friend was so excited, and said I couldn’t miss it, so I hopped on my bike and rode all the way from east Brooklyn to Uptown Manhattan on the riverside to a big convention hall.
Well, first, I had to pay money to get in. Inside were hundreds of people in bright festive clothing, people of all stars and stripes. There were tables selling merchandise and books, all by and about the same woman. People were doing yoga and singing. There was a famous guitar player sitting cross legged in the middle of the crowd, playing melodies. He was worshipping her – they were all there to worship this woman.
I was told, this woman is an incarnation of God. If I get in line, I’ll get a turn to hug her and get a special blessing.
Now, I don’t want to knock this lady. I waited in line and got a nice ole hug. She really seemed like a nice lady. It was a nice hug. But I just prayed, O Holy Spirit, if this is dangerous, you protect me from it – but otherwise, I really want to know what this hubbub is all about. I had friends who followed this woman, and said she had the power to give Christ Consciousness.
Well, please forgive me for my judgment – but I have to say, I didn’t see the fruits of Christ Consciousness in anyone there. My friends, they were just as confused as me, because they were all naive young twenty somethings like me trying to figure out what they wanted from life in the big apple.
Well, here’s why they’d say they’re not perfect. Christ Consciousness, they say in the new age movement, is God and it’s in everyone. God is everything, and everything is God. God is everyone, everyone is God! Well, that’s all well and good, but if everyone already has it, if everyone’s already God, then what’s the point in all this hubbub? Why does that require spiritual practice? Why does that require a guru?
The Zen Master Bankei put it bluntly in one of his incendiary public sermons – and I paraphrase, but he said, everyone here is already enlightened by nature, so stop meditating, don’t listen to all these other Zen masters and quit giving them all your money!
So much for Christ Consciousness, at least as defined by the “patterns of the world.”
So what about “the mind of Christ”? Paul was speaking to a church just like us. He said, “we have the mind of Christ.” Surely there must be fruit to show for it? Surely, having the mind of Christ changes Christians in a way that having “Christ consciousness” was unable to change all those new age folk?
Well, yes. If you’re looking through spiritual eyes. But worldly eyes? Not so much. And here’s why.
The mind of Christ is knowing the heart of God – that’s going to fill you with knowledge of his love. We are urged, in view of this love, to worship – by offering our bodies as a living sacrifice. He’s talking about the works of mercy. Hear what Jesus has to say about the works of mercy:
“Be careful not to perform your righteous acts before men to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Mt. 6:1
Do you know what this means? Folks who have the mind of Christ are not going to be easy to identify! They’re not going to, say, hold a massive convention in uptown Manhattan so that people can worship them. Read up on the lives of the saints – no one suspected them of being saints in their own lifetime! Folks who have the mind of Christ do their righteous works in secret – they are not conformed to the patterns of the world! They don’t have a guru, and they’re not going to be your guru, either!
They don’t do what they do because God is forcing them to do it, either – they do it because God loved them. Freely they receive, so freely they give. And they don’t tell you what to do, either. That means no one’s going to tell you how to do it. You’re on your own! That’s God’s love, you might as well call it tough love!
Now. The Bible doesn’t say “no teachers” period. The Bible says that God put 5 offices in his church: Prophet, Apostle, Evangelist, Pastor, and…Teacher! But this all pertains to the same thing: the testimony of Jesus Christ. That’s all I’m doing up here. The name of Jesus is a fountain of blessing – I don’t need to teach you how to be spiritual, I only need to preach Jesus from scripture, and spirit will well up within you. That’s the miracle of the Holy Spirit and what the Bible calls “the foolishness of preaching” the message – compared to the elaborate spiritual teachings out there, some of which are very expensive, preaching the Gospel is so simple it’s silly – as the saying goes, it’s just so stupid, it just might work! That’s the kind of “teaching” the Bible talks about…
…So what Jesus means, when he says, “call no one your teacher, and don’t call yourself one either” – he’s saying, don’t put anyone between you and me. I am the one who will show you all things. Look at me, and you’ll know God’s love – then you’ll have the mind of God.
That’s true Christ Consciousness.
I know the deep longing to know God. When I was a seeker, I wanted to be one with God. I wanted mystical union. I wanted spiritual ecstasy. I wanted to be enlightened. Then I met Jesus, and everything changed. Those things didn’t matter as much.
Don’t get me wrong. The Christian life of prayer offers all those things and more. But they’re just experiences. Read about the lives of the saints, and you will see what kind of mystical and spiritual things they experienced in their life of prayer. I could go on about my own experiences. But this is not the point at all. This is not why Jesus Christ died and was raised. The point is to know Jesus, and to know why he died and was raised: because God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but have eternal life. This is why he, and not the hugs of an Indian saint, or the elaborate meditation instructions of a Japanese Zen Master, is called the Rock of our Faith.
Pretty much everyone spiritual, Christian or not, believes that there is something of God in them, that’s what they call Christ Consciousness – and that’s a certain type of faith, but it has no rock, no proof. The teaching of the Church is that Jesus Christ is the living proof and the rock of this faith. And in Jesus, we don’t just have confirmation about Christ Consciousness – but we learn what its purpose is, what the will of God for us is.
In all the other paths teaching Christ Consciousness – we learn that we are our own greatest hindrances to spiritual realization. To Christ Consciousness. Our bodies are not who we truly are – it is gross matter, irredeemable. The mind is more important than the body.
But that is not true. Our bodies are a sacred instrument of life, and the means by which we worship God. Christ revealed that God’s will is that you be saved, redeemed – your body is just as important as your mind. He wants you to have the mind of Christ, and he also wants you to be the body of Christ.
The mind of Christ brings with it an offered body.
God’s plan for you is not that you seek out some disembodied universal consciousness to melt into; instead, He wants you rise up out of the dust of the ground with His breath of life in you, and live the embodied life that He intended you to live – to be the one-of-a-kind instrument that he fashioned only you to be. With God’s love in view, He wants you to offer who you are – in all of your miraculous uniqueness, body, heart, soul, and mind – as a living sacrifice of love.
The many spiritualities of the world are a rich collection of the wisdom man. They do what they can to put into words what they think about God. It would be unwise to reject out of hand any nuggets of wisdom from another religious tradition, just because it isn’t Christian – after all, every day we accept and rely on all sorts of wisdom from all over, whether it be medical advice, dietary advice, etc.
But God did not reveal himself to men’s minds in the form of ideas, of philosophies, of systems of meditation and prayer. He didn’t reveal himself in a religion. He revealed himself in a man, a single man, named Jesus Christ of Nazareth. It wasn’t even in teaching of this man that God revealed himself, but in the life and Passion of Christ. This is why we say, He is the image of the invisible God, who is Love.
To know this is to have the mind of Christ. That’s true Christ Consciousness.