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Third Jesus: WWDD?
on February 24, 2008
I could not possibly recommend this book enough. Firstly, it was easy and enjoyable to read which considering the subject and the potential political fallout (see scathing reviews), I'm sure was no simple task. Lesser authors could of easily fallen prey to the temptations of self-defense with pages of endless details or by reverting to emotionalism but to his credit, Dr. Chopra does neither. Instead, he keeps a steady hand as he navigates us through unexplored waters. And just in time I might add. The `one size fits all' Jesus, fed to us by right wing extremists, has been stretched beyond recognition, being used to justify all sorts of atrocities these days. Jesus needs to be extracted from those who have quite wittingly and intentionally kidnapped him for their own motives. - Lest history look back and find that Jesus' poor and sufferable death was the least of his troubles.
The Third Jesus enlightens its readers in several ways. It helps bring our feet back to the earth by reminding us of historical fact - "Historically, 390 AD is early for a surviving scripture, which allows the Nag Hammadi scrolls to lay claim to as much authenticity as various versions of the four gospels; the scrolls are an esoteric jumble." Dr. Chopra's point here not being that the world should unquestionably accept the Nag Hammadi or other Gnostic Gospels but that their historical legitimacy sheds light on how much evidence or lack thereof exists for the traditionally accepted four gospels. It's not a matter of discrediting them; it's a matter of putting them into perspective.
The book of Revelation, perhaps the single most often referenced book, to justify exclusionary interpretations of Jesus' words and world model, has never been historically connected to John. - "We do not know who wrote this book; it is traditionally credited to the same John who wrote the Gospel of John, supposedly when exiled for his beliefs to the Greek island of Patmos. But no real proof of that exists." Again Chopra's point is not intended to be inflammatory but to shed light on the actual historical relevancy of ideas that have been handed down as dogma for centuries.
While examining the concept of heaven in a Jewish culture, which is where Jesus came from and lived, history and an understanding of the Jewish faith prove revealing - "Let's ask the most basic question first. Where is the Kingdom of God located? Jesus's listeners were Jewish, and traditionally an afterlife wasn't part of their religion, much less Heaven where rewards are meted out to the righteous." Personally, I was particularly happy to read this section since a number of Jewish friends have politely pointed out the same to me during conversation. I found it odd as a young adult that Christianity high jacked Judaism while at the same time declaring it proof of it's own relevancy - not very good manners. Of course, Deepak Chopra's intention here is to show there is very good reason found in the New Testament for the view that Heaven is found within ourselves just as Christ told us.
This is the point where The Third Jesus begins to take shape. If Dr. Chopra's book simply stopped at being another critical analysis of the gospels his contribution would be limited but thankfully he knows his forte. He attempts to show his readers that Jesus is perfectly accessible to anyone, no matter their background, religion, ethnicity, worldview or politics and then expands on both the experiential and philosophical possibilities of such an assumption and the methods and insights that would assist in the process. It's hard to imagine that Jesus would want to be seen in any other light but he has many followers dedicated to just such a proposition.
One of Dr. Chopra's premises is found in his quote, "Reality changes in different states of consciousness, and the same holds true of love." This idea didn't originate with Deepak of course but it can be found in his heritage in the form of Vedic literature, a thousand years prior to Christianity. In many ways this is the kernel of his message and the key to connecting with The Third Jesus. We perceive reality, including God, according to the level of our own consciousness - "For those who have ears to hear let them hear," as Jesus put it. The idea that consciousness is paramount, primary and evolves is not some kind of New Age thing but dates back to the first writings of humankind. I would like to add here that this is exactly why Dr. Chopra is one of the only authors that could've written this book. He has three unique qualifications: Personal and cultural integrity, education and personal experience.
Personal and cultural integrity is particularly important to a book like The Third Jesus because it helps move the cause and scope of the book out of the New Age and Consciousness categories and squarely places it where it belongs, in the religious section. Dr. Chopra comes from a culture where religion was the epicenter of every facet of life and where as I stated earlier, the oldest scriptures in the world originate. We can see this in his life, which has been dedicated to exploring, understanding, and living a sacred existence. Education is also important to a task such as this, because after all, Dr. Chopra is an accomplished physician, who is educated and experienced in both Western models and Ayurveda. That makes him more familiar with researching facts and understanding history. He has also been a student of meditation and a disciple, so he has gained personal experience and is not just shouting from the halls of academia.
This is a fantastic book, and if you're anything like me, you'll probably read it numerous times because it's a tool for renewal and contemplation. Of course there are many people who won't get it. That's one of the reasons it had to be written.