2016-06-30
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.

Judaism is interesting in that there is something there that I think you just can't understand if you're not a Jew - it moves into a realm of true mystery. I can't articulate the profundity of the religious/Jewish experience but I know in the core of my being that the argument that Christianity, or any religion for that matter, movers closer into the heart of God than does Judaism is absurd, preposterous. I believe all the great religious systems are doors, as Jesus said, "My Father's house has many rooms" or doors. I don't feel that I was born a Jew and was supposed to become a Christian. But I do feel I was born a Jew, I am a Jew, and I was meant to meet Jesus on my journey. It is, above all others, my most predestined relationship. I feel blessed to have met him as a Jew.

Jesus' religion?

Jesus was Jewish to the Core. I recently heard a Christian woman say Jesus was "no religion." That blew me away, that was such a blatant denial of Jesus and also an invalidation of Judaism and Christianity. I feel that my love and connection to Jesus is firmly rooted in my Judaism, but I'm fully aware that her remark would be offensive to both Jews and Christians.

But there are many people like myself these days - and there's no niche for us. Jews and perhaps others who embrace Christ with no particular embrace of the Christian religion feel that the shadow sides of the Christian religion are opposed to any Christ-centered sensibility.

The world would be a very beautiful thing if even just a fraction of the people who claim to be Christian began to live what many of us would see as a Christ-centered existence.

Was Jesus married?

I'm fascinated by the life and story of Mary Magdalene but I don't entertain ideas about whether Jesus was married or not.

Virgin birth?

I'm not sure I believe in the virgin birth, but anything is possible with God. If that would have been the best way to exercise God's plan and prepare a body to contain the impulses of total God consciousness - then it could have happened. For God it wouldn't have been any big deal because I believe in miracles.

Accuracy of the gospels?

I'm no expert on the gospels, but in A Course in Miracles it says, "Some bitter idols have been made of him who came only to be brother to the world."

Why didn't all Jews believe Jesus was the Messiah?

First of all, it is a historical inaccuracy to say the Jews rejected Jesus. Who were the early Christians? Almost all of them were Jews. But neither the Jews nor the Christians like to delve too deeply into the Judaism of Jesus. It's the one area where they insidiously conspire to not go! But some people, especially scholars, are above this conspiracy because they are looking at, and for, the truth and not doctrine.

Regarding a Messiah, the Jews were looking for a political Savior - aren't we still?! Jews were occupied by the Romans and had a very difficult time two thousand years ago (as people still do). Today, we realize that a healing of one's heart is the key to the healing of the world, and yet if someone showed up in American politics today and said, "Instead of building more nuclear bombs and spending billions of dollars more to destroy our enemies, we're going to throw out the whole defense budget and make our public policy that we love them!" That person would be laughed out of politics. Yet that's what Jesus taught - love your enemies, i.e., love the Romans. People don't buy that today, even though we live in a country that calls itself Christian. It's considered preposterous and too radical.

Jesus' lost years? Do you think he had to learn? Did he make mistakes?

I don't know where Jesus traveled, but he was in a lot of places. I don't know what he did, but I think he did a lot of things. Just because he had to learn things, doesn't make him less, it makes him more. But given the spiritual maturity of our species, it would be best for Jesus' private life to remain private.

I don't know if he made mistakes -- I know more about who Jesus is, than who he was.

Who do you think killed Jesus and why?

In A Course in Miracles, Jesus talks about how he was not betrayed. Everyone played the part they were meant to play in that drama. If there had been no crucifixion, there could not have been a resurrection. Had he not died, he could not have demonstrated that death does not exist. Had he not taken the worst the world could offer with love and defenselessness, he could not have demonstrated to us the righteous answer to evil.

Resurrection?

I believe in the resurrection and the kingdom to come - and it is perhaps closer than any of us realize. We all have the capacity to seek the light or life - even beyond the body.

People who see auras have the beginning of such spiritual sight. The day will come and I believe A Course in Miracles says this, when the physical body will appear as it is, a mere shadow in front of the greater life. A Course in Miracles says that birth is not a beginning but a continuation and death is not an end but a continuation. The whole point of the crucifixion is that he did not die when he died and he did not resurrect when he resurrected. The Spirit kept living when his body died. That's what I meant when I said I know more about who he is than who he was. His Spirit still is, it's an eternal happening - while his body was a historical happening. If and how he lived two thousand years ago - I don't know. But I know he lives now.

Jesus was his Spirit, and we are our Spirit. The Spirit doesn't die. Imagine how transformed our lives would be if we were not afraid of death. That would be the salvation of the planet. If we were to live as though there were no death, that would mean we would live without fear.