Jesus: Wisdom Teacher
The Path of Descent
Friday, January 18, 2019
Guest writer and CAC faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault continues exploring Jesus as a wisdom teacher.
Jesus teaches the art of metanoia or “going into the larger mind.” Underlying all his teaching is a clarion call to a radical shift in consciousness: away from the alienation and polarization of the egoic operating system and into the unified field of divine abundance that can be perceived only through the heart.
But how does one make this shift in consciousness? It’s one thing to admire it from a distance, but quite another to create it within oneself. This is where spiritual praxis comes into play. “Praxis” means the path, the actual practice you follow to bring about the result that you’re yearning for. I think it’s fair to say that all of the great spiritual paths lead toward the same center—the larger, nondual mind as the seat of personal consciousness—but they get there by different routes.
While Jesus is typical of the wisdom tradition in his vision of what a whole and unified human being looks like, the route he lays out for getting there is very different from anything that had ever been seen on the planet up to that point. It is still radical in our own time and definitely the “road less traveled” among the various schools of human transformation. Many of the difficulties we run into trying to make our Christianity work stem from the fact that we haven’t realized how different Jesus’ approach really is. By trying to contain this new wine in old wineskins, we inadvertently missed its own distinct flavor. In Jesus, everything hangs together around a single center of gravity, and we need to know what this center is before we can sense the subtle and cohesive power of his path.
What name might we give to this center? The apostle Paul suggests the word kenosis. In Greek, the verb kenosein means “to let go,” or “to empty oneself,” and this is the word Paul chooses to describe “the mind of Christ.”
Here is what Paul has to say (Philippians 2:6-8):
Though his state was that of God,
yet he did not deem equality with God
something he should cling to.
Rather, he emptied himself,
and assuming the state of a slave,
he was born in human likeness.
He, being known as one of us,
humbled himself, obedient unto death,
even death on the cross.
In this beautiful hymn, Paul recognizes that Jesus had only one “operational mode.” Everything he did, he did by self-emptying. He emptied himself and descended into human form. And he emptied himself still further, “even unto death on the cross.” In every life circumstance, Jesus always responded with the same motion of self-emptying—or to put it another way, descent: taking the lower place, not the higher.
Adapted from Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind—A New Perspective on Christ and His Message (Shambhala: 2008), 62-66.