The Levels of Christianity

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Levels of Christianity

I like Bill Harris’ answer to, “Are you a Christian Bill and do you believe in Jesus?” so I’m posting it below. I for one am actually blissfully happy just working on being the best person I can be, being of service to God, praying every minute of every day (if I could) and practicing, emanating and modeling how I think Jesus REALLY thought and acted. So, if you’re still with me, read on.

Levels of Christianity

So, What Do YOU Think About Jesus, Bill?

From Bill Harris of Holosync (from his Blog 10/25/07)

People often say that to avoid problems one should avoid discussing religion or politics, but I want to talk a bit about religion today anyway. I get letters from time to time asking what my religion is, or what I think about Jesus, or Christianity, or if I believe in this or that religious idea or point of view, and I’d like to address those sorts of questions today.

Now that I think about it, this actually does relate to what I said in my last post about stages of human development. You’ll remember that I discussed four broad stages of development–preconventional, conventional, postconventional, and transcendent (also sometimes called integral or unitive). The interesting thing about these levels of development is that no matter who you are, no matter what experience you have, no matter what idea you look at, you will view it from the perspective of your developmental level. Each developmental level sees things in a different way and from a different perspective. This includes religion (and, for that matter, politics).

So, if you are at the preconventional level of development, you will view religion from that perspective. The preconventional perspective is, in a cognitive sense, pre-rational. In other words, this level does not yet use rationality and logic to evaluate ideas, situations, and so forth. It is a level where magical thinking is the order of the day. A Christian at this level, then, would be likely to focus on and be attracted to the magicalness of Jesus and Christianity–Jesus’ miracles, the virgin birth, the resurrection, heaven, and anything else that conforms to the person’s magical view of reality.

The same would be true for any other religion, too–Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, or any other religion. A preconventional thinker will interpret that religion from a magical-thinking point of view. Hinduism, for instance, is full of “miracle stories”–things that don’t conform to the known laws of physics, but are believed to be true anyway, regardless of the lack of anything other than anecdotal evidence.

Someone at the next level, the conventional level of development, tends to see things in terms of black and white thinking. There is a Truth, we have it, and you don’t. You’re either with us, or you aren’t. We’re the in-group, and those in the out-group are in serious trouble, because they don’t have the Truth that we have. Thinking at this level is dogmatic, and so is religion. Rational thinking begins to be available at this level, and magical thinking fades, but the choices are very black and white.

From the conventional level, IF you were to choose which religion you wanted to follow (which is a big if, since in most cases, you’d probably just believe whatever your family, or your culture, believed), you’d probably look at the beliefs–the dogma–of each, and pick the one that either made the most sense to you, or made you feel the greatest amount of security or pleasure, or perhaps the one that had the social environment in which you felt most comfortable in.

The point is that you’d be looking at someone else’s idea of what the Truth is, and then deciding whether you liked it or wanted to believe it.

Thinking at this level is very much in-group/out/group thinking. Those who agree with our Truth are okay, while those who believe something else are in a heap of trouble. In Christianity, those who don’t accept the True Faith will burn in Hell for eternity. Islam has similar ideas about “infidels.” Buddhists and Hindus believe you will remain on the wheel of samsara for thousands of lifetimes. And so forth.

At the next level, postconventional, you’re past black and white thinking. You see that the world is complex, multi-dimensional, paradoxical, and that black and white thinking, while tempting in its simplicity, doesn’t even come close to accurately describing what’s really going on. You also see that rational thinking, while valuable, isn’t everything (a pathological version of postconventional sees all thinking and rationality as bad, and thinks that everything is or should be about feelings–we’ll address this in another post at another time). While healthy postconventional sees rationality as useful, it has also found other ways of “knowing” (intuition, for instance), and since life doesn’t happen all at once, linear thinking, which sequentially looks at one thing at a time, doesn’t capture reality very well.

Thinking is worldcentric at the postconventional stage, so the idea of us vs. others doesn’t work anymore. In terms of religion, you begin to see the commonalities, rather that the differences, between religions. The World Council of Churches is a postconventional idea.

At this level you’re no longer looking for a dogma to answer the questions of what is right, what’s it all about, and who you are. Instead, you’re starting to look inside yourself to find your own answers. You might say that at preconventional and conventional levels, the authority for what is comes from outside. At the postconventional and transcendent levels, the authority is you, not some outside authority.

A Christian at this level would, for instance, see Jesus as an example of the kind of consciousness all humans can attain, whereas the conventional Christian sees Jesus as the great exception–he’s IT, and you’re not. On a similar note, conventional Christians see humans as sinners needing saving, whereas postconventional Christians tend to believe that people are basically good, with unlimited potential, that God wants you to be happy, and so forth. These Christians tend to say things like, “God wants you to be prosperous.”

Examples of postconventional Christians would include Joel Goldsmith (I particularly love his books), Emmett Fox, Mary Baker Eddy (founder of Christian Science), and Ernest Holmes (founder of the Church of Religious Science).

One more thing about postconventional religion. Though postconventional sees the commonalities in all religions, they still do not like conventional religion. They may see the truths in all religions, but they see the religious point of view of prior stages as wrong and harmful. You see this in the attitude the American left has about the conventional Christianity of the religious right.

Finally, there is the view of religion from the transcendent level. This is where things like enlightenment come in, where you’re looking at the reality behind all the other realities–the Ground of Being, the Void, the Field of All Possibilities, the One, Unity Consciousness, Christ Consciousness, and so forth. Meister Eckhart, or Father Thomas Keating (of Contemplative Prayer fame), would be examples of Christians at this level. From this perspective, you certainly are no longer dogmatic, because the whole idea at this level is to BE it, not to believe in something about it. At the transcendent level you do the internal investigation and the spiritual practice to find out for yourself what it’s all about.

And, from this perspective, instead of seeing the point of view of the other stages from a critical point of view, you see that magical, conventional, and postconventional approaches to religion are all exactly what you would expect from someone at that level. Though someone at the transcendent level may see the limitations of these other views, they don’t make them wrong, which would be like making a child, or a teenager wrong for not being able to see the world from an adult perspective.

So, if I make what sounds like a critical remark about Christianity (which I’m actually not sure I’ve ever done), I’m speaking of conventional and preconventional Christianity, not ALL Christianity. And, more to the point, when I use examples from Buddhism, Hinduism, or Taoism to describe certain spiritual ideas, or put forth a point of view from one of these religions, it doesn’t mean I’m trying to get Christians to become Buddhists, Hindus, or Taoists. It just means that these groups have done a lot of internal investigation into spiritual states and stages, that I happen to be familiar with their investigations (both intellectually and in terms of my own experience) and these groups have some pretty good metaphors to describe them. Actually, transcendent level Christians say the same things about reality, why we’re here, what’s it all about, and so forth, as do transcendent level Buddhists, Taoists, Hindus, or Jews.

All religions definitely have their dogmas, which are adopted and clung to by those at that level of development. But the mystical wings of the Eastern religions tend to be much more developed than those of Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, in the sense that many more people have gone inside, investigated that realm, and shared their experiences and their instructions for doing such an exploration with the world. I wish it weren’t so, but I would say that fewer Christians have reached the postconventional and transcendent levels of development.

If a conventional Christian hears me talk about Buddhism, then, they naturally assume that I’m advocating a Buddhist dogma, since that’s how they look at religion–as a choice between this or that theory, this or that dogma, as offered by an outside authority.

But I’m not advocating a certain dogma. I’m not interested in dogmas, and I don’t get my information from outside authorities. I get it from my own internal investigation (though I do appreciate the “how to find out” instructions of those who have gone before me).

What I’m really saying is: don’t just believe what someone else has told you regarding who you are and what it’s all about (including me). Established churches, whether Christian, Islamic, Jewish, or anything else, tend to be at the conventional or preconvention level, and have a doctrine ready-made for you. They have their idea of who you are, what it means to be human, what the important issues are, how you should behave, how you should relate to God, what constitutes right and wrong, and a lot more. And, they have a perceived “institutional power.” They must know what they are talking about, because they’ve been around for centuries, or even millennia, and they have zillions of followers.

Perhaps you think that your favorite religion does have it figured out. And, maybe they do. I’m not saying that everything taught in a dogmatic religion is wrong. But to just accept that they do and what they believe with no personal investigation is, I think, a mistake–or, at the very least, a type of spiritual laziness. Dogmatic religions discourage you, in fact, from doing any personal investigation.

This is one reason why conventional religions emphasize faith. If you actually investigate something for yourself, you don’t need faith. If you’ve never been there, and I tell you what it’s like in Bolivia, you have to take what I say on faith. But if you go there yourself, you don’t need faith. (As a matter of fact, I’ve never been to Bolivia, but I’ll bet I could convince a lot of people that I knew what it was like, and the people who are telling conventional level people the nature of reality haven’t been there either!)

I’m suggesting that you do your own investigation to find out who you really are–instead of accepting on faith someone else’s ideas about this. And, there’s a lot of evidence that meditation is the most potent way to do this type of investigation. And, as you know, my personal favorite is Holosync meditation, though that’s certainly not the only way to do it.

Of course, if a person wants to accept the dogma of a certain religion, and that’s as far as they want to go, that’s a personal decision, and I’m not suggesting that anyone has to do anything different.

Though they do have their own forms of dogmatism, in most of the Eastern religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism, for instance) this type of inner investigation is standard practice. Buddhism, for instance, is essentially a dialog with a teacher designed to help you discover who you really are, and over the centuries Buddhism has evolved sophisticated and repeatable methods for doing this. Nearly all religions have a sub-group that has similar methodologies for looking within. These sub-groups are generally referred to as ”mystical” but you could read this as “investigative” rather than as something woo-woo and metaphysical. There are mystical Christians, mystical Muslims (Sufis), mystical Jews (Kabbalists), and so forth.

The connecting link between these mystics is that they follow a certain recipe, a certain injunction, that how been found to be effective in revealing the secrets of what it’s all about–”do this, and you’ll get this result, have this experience, gain this insight”–and, it is repeatable in the sense that if you do it, you’ll get the same results. And, in each case, regardless of the cultural context, you find those who follow the injunction (”meditate in this way”, “pray in this way”, “contemplate in this way”) describing the same basic experience, the same insights, the same realizations, regardless of their culture or religion.

So, when people ask me what I think of Jesus, or what my religion is, or some similar question, or when people see me using examples from Eastern religions, it definitely is not because I want you to become a Buddhist, or that I want to destroy your faith in Jesus, or anything remotely along those lines. It’s because I want to take you beyond the stage of blindly following a dogma (if you are), and get you to look inside, where I know from experience that the real answers can be found. There’s a price to pay to find them, but it’s very much worth it.

Those who have done this tell me that their faith is strengthened, not diminished. If they are a Christian, they become more solidly Christian. They end up saying, “Ah-ha. NOW I now what Christianity is really all about.”

So don’t take my word (or anyone else’s) for anything. I’m not asking you to. I am, though, saying that if you want a certain result, here is the method for getting it. Try it for yourself and find out.

A few recommendations:

***Amazing transformational female poetess Zayra Yves will cause your toes to curl. Every woman I know who has heard her stuff is blown away. Guys, too. Check her out at www.zayrayves.com.

***Genpo Roshi is a Zen Master, with the largest lineage outside of Japan. Genpo has a process, which you can experience live, or by watching one of his DVDs, called Big Mind/Big Heart. This process (I swear this is true) takes you into states of unity consciousness in less than 3 hours. If you want a taste of what this is like, this is the way to do it. I did this process at the last meeting of the Transformational Leadership Council, and everyone was blissed out for days. Really. Visit www.bigmind.org. Genpo is the real deal, a real enlightened master, but also a real, normal human being.

Reference: http://www.centerpointe.com/blog/?p=7#comment-754

“There is a big mix out there, and there are lots of different things going on, and there is not one way that was intended to be the right way. Just like there’s not one color or one flower or one vegetable or one fingerprint. There is not one that is to be the right one over all others. The variety is what fosters the creativity. And so you say, ‘Okay, I accept that there’s lots of variety, but I don’t like to eat cucumbers.’ Don’t eat cucumbers. But don’t ask them to be eliminated and don’t condemn those who eat them. Don’t stand on corners waving signs trying to outlaw the things that you don’t like. Don’t ruin your life by pushing against. Instead, say, I choose this instead. This does please me.”

Excerpted from a workshop in Rye, NY on Sunday, October 12th, 1997 www.Abraham-Hicks.com