Should a Christian use some Zen Buddhist meditation techniques? Should Chinese Christians use Confucius as their teacher of social ethics? Should Christian pacifists learn from Gandhi’s methods? Should Jewish Christians celebrate the Jewish holidays? Such questions should be addressed with great care, for religion is the active, actual service of God, gods, spirits or demons.
Before Christians use a mantra from a Transcendental Meditation teacher, they should be sure it is not the name of a demon, camouflaged—because it usually is! Before opening up their spirit to meditation, they should be sure it opens up to God, not to nothingness—because in Zen there is no difference! Discernment is needed, on a case-by-case basis. Indiscriminate inclusion or indiscriminate exclusion are equally unthinking. On the one hand, we must remember that Eastern methods have been developed as means to non-Christian ends; and there is an organic connection between means and ends. The Eastern end is mysticism; sanctity is only a means. The Christian (and Jewish and Muslim) end is sanctity; mysticism is only a means to or a result of this higher end. For a Hindu or Buddhist, sanctity only purifies the individual soul so that it can see through itself as an illusion. For Christians, mysticism is only a reward of sanctity or a motor for more sanctity.
Christ tells us to love God; Hindus tell us we are God. Christ tells us to love our neighbour; Buddha tells us we are our neighbour. The Eastern goal is to see through the illusions of ego, soul, body, self, other, matter, space, time, world, good, evil, true, false, beautiful, ugly, this and that. The Christian goal is to know, love, please, serve, marry and enjoy God in this life and the next. On the other hand, while the Bible tells us a lot about the second half of its own command to “be still and know that I am God,” it tells us very little about how to do the first. In principle, some natural and neutral Eastern techniques might be separated from Eastern ends and enlisted in the service of that Christian end. It is the saints, not just the theologians, who will be our leaders in discernment here.
The most important issue in “comparative religions” is not the abstract and general issues above but the concrete and specific issue of the identity of Jesus. The field of “comparative religions” has given those who do not want to accept Jesus’ claim to be divine another detour off the road that leads to him. Perhaps Jesus is neither Lord nor liar nor lunatic nor myth but a guru. According to this theory, we should interpret his claim to divinity not in a Western, Jewish or Christian sense but in an Eastern, Hindu or Buddhist sense. Yes, Jesus was God, and knew it, and claimed it—but we are all gods they say. We unenlightened non-mystics just don’t realise it. Jesus was an enlightened mystic, a guru, who realised his own inner divinity. There are thousands of people today, as in the past, who claim to be God but are neither liars nor lunatics. They are gurus, yogis, roshis, “spiritual masters,” “enlightened” mystics. Why couldn’t Jesus fit into this well-established and well-populated class?
For one very simple reason: because he was a Jew. No guru was ever a Jew and no Jew was ever a guru. The differences— more, the contradictions—between the religious Judaism of Jesus and the teaching of all the gurus, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist or New Age, are so many, so great and so obvious. It is utterly unhistorical, uprooted and deracinated to see Jesus as a Hindu and not a Jew; as a kind of generic, universal type of “enlightened consciousness.” You cannot ignore his Jewishness. If Jesus was in fact a guru or mystic who transcended and contradicted his Jewishness, then he utterly failed to get any one of the gurus’ teachings across to anybody, ever, for almost two thousand years. He was the worst teacher in history if he misled all his followers on every one of the following essential points where Judaism and Eastern mysticism conflict.