2016-06-30
Some of Jesus of Nazareth's contemporaries undoubtedly thought he was crazy--the son of a humble carpenter who insisted that he was the Jewish Messiah. But a Brazilian psychiatrist, Augusto Cury, has studied the gospels carefully and written a series of best-selling books that conclude something radically different: Jesus was uniquely in tune with his own conscious and unconscious mind and the minds of others. Jesus was able, in times of crisis, to simultaneously process information both rationally and emotionally. In exercising what Cury calls "multifocal intelligence," Jesus was a "master of masters" who broke every stereotype of how psychologists expect someone to react to situations that strain human endurance. Therefore, Cury argues, Jesus can teach others how to respond effectively to stress in their own lives. As an example, Cury cites Jesus' failure to rebuke the apostle Peter after Peter denied him three times following his arrest. "Jesus, in pain and bleeding, tells Peter, 'You reject me, but that is okay because I love you and I believe in you,'" Cury explained during a lunchtime interview at a Sao Paolo hotel. "When I read that, I thought: What kind of a man would react like this in his worst possible moment? It's impressive. Jesus changes the way Peter thinks. Peter doesn't feel rejected, even though he is rejecting Jesus. What happens as a result of this positive message overcoming negative emotions and reactions? Peter becomes one of the biggest promoters of Jesus' message and helps change the world, rather than forgetting he ever knew the man. What if Jesus screamed at him? We could say that Peter would have an easier time wishing the two had never met. "When we're stressed out or in pain, we close off our conscious mind and react without thinking. These thought processes didn't happen with Jesus," Cury told a crowd of businessmen and women in Sao Paulo recently while soft, New Age-y music played in the background. "Instead, love opened the windows of his memory and allowed him to process his thoughts before he took action. Never has anyone been able to balance the emotional world with the rational world the way Jesus had. In moments when men react on instinct, Jesus acted intelligently." During the interview, Cury provided additional insights into his provocative view of Jesus:

You were an atheist before you started seriously studying psychology.

That's right. Like Nietzsche. That kind of atheism. But when I started looking at how great leaders handled themselves in times of crisis, I inevitably came upon Jesus and realized that no one could have made this man up because he didn't act the way men act, emotionally speaking. What was so different about him, from a psychological point of view?

What catches our attention in the gospels is that Jesus goes beyond concepts of human behavior; [it's] his capacity to consider the pain of others, even when faced with his own pain. His ideas were so surprising as to be historically unprecedented, really. Jesus' alternative to anti-anxiety meds
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For example?

Imagine if, on Inauguration Day, the President of the United States asked his staff members to get him a small donkey to ride to the White House. He'd immediately be asked to go see his psychologist. But take Jesus. Hordes of Galileans knew of him at the time he arrived in Jerusalem. He was at the peak of his popularity. People were euphoric and called him the king of Israel. James and John wanted to be chosen as his top two aides once he rose to power, as they assumed he would. What happens instead? He had a few disciples get him a donkey to ride on--the most admired man in Galilee riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. His behavior was shocking. People didn't know what to make of him. That's why I say that although he is probably the most famous man to ever live, he is the least understood. They wanted to proclaim him king, but he wanted to show them that he didn't need political power. This was completely foreign to them, as it would be to us today. They wanted to exalt him, but he told his disciples that they could do greater things than he. You like to say that Jesus would "shake the foundations of modern psychiatry." What do you mean?

Jesus spoke eloquently about anxiety. Remember the Feast of the Tabernacles? He's there risking death because the Pharisees have a death warrant out on him. His best reaction would have been to not attend the feast, or hide. Instead, his courage is amazing, it's like fear is not part of his vocabulary. He speaks to the crowd on the final day, 'If any man is thirsty let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me as the scripture has said will never thirst and out of his belly will flow rivers of living water.' He had the courage to tell people that he could teach them how to have a continuous flow of emotional ecstasy that could solve existential anguish. Let's pretend we're at some international psychiatrist meeting, full of pharmaceutical companies talking about which drugs are best for depression. How would they react to a man saying, "Hey, come unto me and you don't need drugs"? It would be, today, a totally insane comment, right? Psychiatric drugs can treat depressive diseases, but we have little resources to prevent depression before it reaches the clinical phase. We treat the sick and depressed man, but we know very little on how to promote a healthy man. Jesus knew how to do that. You say that Jesus responded to disappointment and deception differently from anyone in the annals of psychological case studies. From the point of view of a professional psychiatrist, Jesus' behavior is pretty impressive. When Jesus faced a crowd of fanatics ready to stone a woman to death for committing adultery, most people would say that his first response was the line, "Let the person without sin cast the first stone."

Jesus and the adulteress
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But that was not his first response. Instead, he gave no response because he was not a slave to his emotions or to the crowd. Only the wise have learned to be silent under tense conflict situations. Later, he tells the crowd, "Kill her." Then he adds, "But change the basis of your judgment." In other words, "Those who are without fault..." The crowd dispersed because Jesus touched something in their psyches that said, "All of you have your faults and live with people who are imperfect." [Many] of his ideas, like "turn the other cheek," seem naïve. With those words, Jesus imploded the paradigms rooted in society that say violence must be combated with violence. He demonstrated that strength lies in tolerance and the ability to get others to look inward. Nothing is more disturbing to an aggressor than to have a complacent attitude towards his aggression, because he wants to tick you off. In the best- case scenario, you've surprised the person you 'turned the other cheek' towards. You put in their memory a notion that there are alternatives. [Jesus'] surprising gestures produced unforgettable imprints in the psyches of his followers, more effectively than if he had spoken to them for hours on end. Jesus never used his lessons to create repeaters of information or docile servants. He wanted to create revolutionary thinkers. Without doubt and questioning, there's no wisdom. He always asked, "Who do the people say I am?" He knew what they said about him, but it is constant questioning that stimulates people's capacity to think, rather than being told what to think.

Essentially, your thesis is that Jesus was more than just a good teacher or a good psychologist, but a great thinker who wanted to raise other great thinkers.


We all have the capacity to behave like Jesus--to act rather than react, to instruct rather than punish, accept the least among us rather than reject. You don't have to be God to do that. That's what Jesus would say.

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