To read a Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy book is to tease your intellect with the idea that all the literal religious history and dogma you have learned, believed and followed may be…well, how do I say this politely…does “a pile of mythological hooey” sound too harsh?
Their latest work, The Gospel of the Second Coming, “the fourth book in their trilogy,” is an intelligent, self-deprecating and decidedly post-modern poke at the idea of a literal, physical return of Jesus Christ. This (fictional) gospel takes the form of a Socratic dialogue between Jesus, Mary Magdalene and Peter who represent self-realization (or enlightenment), the human soul (ever torn between the physical and the spiritual) and the externally-fixated mind, respectively.
If my description sounds a bit dry, the reader need fear not for, as the subtitle foreshadows, “Jesus is back…and this time he’s funny.” And funny He is, since the King of Kings found within these pages is total mystical Monty Python, the antithesis to any pious Savior in the Mel Gibson “Thank you, Sir, may I have another?” sense.
These British authors, experts on world mysticism, are not members of the current zeitgeist of in-your-face atheism, however; they are Gnostics through and through. Their vernacular and humor are modern, but their spiritual perspective dates back to the birth of Christianity itself. They believe, like the original Gnostic Christians, that the New Testament is a metaphysical (inner) roadmap to enlightenment or gnosis (the Greek word for “deep knowledge gained via experience”). We can all become like Jesus the Christ, they say. In fact, it is our spiritual destiny for the kingdom of heaven/God is within (Luke 17:21).
True to form, Freke and Gandy do push buttons racing across such a religious minefield, but the book ultimately comes off as a playful, good-natured spiritual exercise, probably shocking only to those who have never heard of the parallels between the more fantastical elements of the life of Jesus of Nazareth and those of the surrounding Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Persian gods of the time.
Is the book blasphemous? That depends on if you seek God in the literal heavens above or if you know of His existence via the quiet whispers of your own heart. To this more subtle, omnipresent version of God found within…to the poetic notion that “God is the perfection which absorbs” from the wonderful Beliefnet interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, Freke and Gandy would agree. (Look at me speaking on their behalf!) Everything else, to them, is historical embellishment and mythological Oesterizing.
As for religious heresy in general, they, and all mystics, seem to ask, “Why buy into any sacred cow when the metaphysical milk is free?”
To be clear, Freke and Gandy are preaching to the choir with me. I have had my own experiences with gnosis which revealed to me a God too great to be confined by words…and a God to which we all belong. Therefore, “God” can’t be upset because God is all there is.
My only critique of the book is that some of the jokes flew over my noggin since I wasn’t raised with any formal Christian indoctrination outside of Christmas carols and what I’ve read and picked up from the culture at large.
In terms of the ideas these authors espouse, you can find a more academic, footnoted turn in their bestselling The Jesus Mysteries: Was the “Original Jesus” a Pagan God? or explore similar ideas in Freke’s über-compact Lucid Living and, my personal favorite, In the Light of Death.
–written by Todd Havens