The search for “the real Jesus” is as obsessive today as it has ever been. Our skepticism demands proof that a wandering rabbi actually preached in northern Galilee two thousand years ago.
In the absence of such proof, we need to confront the myth of the real Jesus head-on, not for the purpose of bursting a cherished fantasy, but to ensure that the Jesus we choose is closest to the Jesus that can fulfill his teachings.
A Jesus who teaches us how to reach God-consciousness lays claim to being more authentic than any other, for even the most basic facts to support the existence of Jesus as he was traditionally worshiped are nonexistent.
Facing this truth is difficult, for the search for the real Jesus has turned into an industry dedicated to feeding the hopes of the faithful. Obviously, this is a thorny issue. Options about it run the gamut.
The literal argument: The real Jesus is in the gospels. There is no need to look any further.
The rational argument: The facts about Jesus have vanished over time. The four gospels are unreliable as evidence about the actual person.
The mystical argument: The real Jesus was never physical – he is the Holy Spirit.
The skeptical argument: There was no real Jesus to begin with – he is a figment of theological imagination.
The consciousness argument: Jesus exists in our own awareness at the level of God-consciousness.
I am a firm believer in the last argument. I believe that Jesus was not only real, but perhaps the most significant person in Western history. Yet in the face of how confusing and contradictory he appears in the four gospels, we must delve deeper, creating a version that fulfills the essence of his teaching.
Adapted from The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2008).