Spiritual pilgrim and psychotherapist Bill Elliott travelled the country in a motor home, interviewing believers about what Jesus means to them. The result is "A Place at the Table," a new book of 24 interviews with scholars, evangelists, and mystics. One of his most arresting conversations was with New Age guru Marianne Williamson, author of "A Return to Love," which is based on the teachings of A Course in Miracles.

Who was/is Jesus?

Jesus was a human being who while on earth completely self-actualized and fulfilled in all ways the potential glory that lies within us all. He became one with the Essence and Christ Spirit that is in all of us. In that sense, he is our evolutionary elder brother. He demonstrated our destiny. He displayed for all to see the destination of this journey that we are on. The only thing lacking in any situation is our own awareness of love, and Jesus realized and taught that.

Jesus is a personal symbol of the Holy Spirit. Having been totally healed by the Holy Spirit, Jesus became one with him. Every thought, action, and deed of Jesus was guided by the Holy Spirit instead of ego. He's not the only face the Holy Spirit takes on - he is a face. To think about Jesus is to think about and bring forth the perfect love inside us. Jesus actualized the Christ mind, and was then given the power to help the rest of us reach that place within ourselves.

He was sent down by God - as we all are. We are all extensions of the mind of God. We all contain nuggets of glory. Recently, I was interviewed on a television program about miracles and they talked about what constituted a miracle. They said the birth of a child was not a miracle. A miracle they asserted was this or that, and was an extraordinary occurrence, but the birth of a child was not. My nine-year-old daughter was very bothered by that statement, and for the right reasons. The issue here is not that a miracle is something more extraordinary that the birth of a child. The issue here is that the birth of a child is a miracle - and that we are surrounded by the miraculous, but we don't have miracle-minded perception.

The point of Jesus' existence wasn't to lessen or diminish our appreciation of each other, but to expand our appreciation of each other by reminding us what lies within all of us, because Jesus was an example of the pinnacle of human evolution.

Was Jesus the only Son of God?

Hogwash! First of all, I believe we are all Sons of God, and it is our destiny to be as Jesus. He said whoever does what he has been doing "will do even greater things than these." The difference is he was a Son of God who fully remembered that he was a Son of God and he displayed that understanding.Second, there is only one soul. To say there is "only one begotten son" doesn't mean that someone else was it, and we're not. It means we're all it. There's only one of us here.

There are two issues here. One is what he taught, and few people of any religion would deny that he taught very good things indeed. The other is that, having taught them, he then became the teaching incarnate. He didn't just teach the atonement, he became at-one-ment - in a Course in Miracles, he says "I am the atonement." In A Course in Miracles it says "that to say the name `Jesus' in any language is to be automatically reminded of the relationship between the Father and the Son" because even his name "Jesus" embodies reactions. The relationship between the father and the son is one of shared power. So to even think the name "Jesus" is to be reminded of one's essential nature and one's essential power. The Course does not teach, nor do I believe, that the word "Jesus" is the only word that can remind us.

A Course in Miracles also says "you do not have to personally invite Jesus into your thought system to aid you in your journey." But Jesus can do more for you if you did.

Remember I'm not a Christian, I am a Jew. My conversion to Christ, and to me conversion means "a conversion in thought-forms and a belief system" has in no way, ever, at any point in my journey, included even a serious consideration of a conversion to Christianity.

I'm not enough of a scholar to know if everything Jesus taught was already found in the Judaism of his time. I do believe that he brought into the potentialities of human consciousness something that had not been there - at least for non-Jews. As far as his relationship to the Jews, his dialogue with the Jews, his constant conversation with the Jews, it continues to this day. It is deeper and more complicated than language can even approach. All of Jesus' disciples were Jews. Not only is the story laced with the drama of the male Jews who surrounded him, and who were his people, but it is similarly laced with the drama of the female Jews who were around him. Now I think linear time is itself an illusion and I don't believe in reincarnation in a particularly linear sense, but to the extent which one can speak of reincarnation in any meaningful way, I feel that perhaps I was one of the women who followed him, who adored him, who lived for him, because I feel that I'm that now. And once again, those women were not Christian! Hello! I understand that such an unadulterated relationship with Jesus is a threat to some proponents of Christian doctrine, but Christian doctrine is not what concerns me. Jesus Christ is what concerns me.