Originally printed in the March - April 2001 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Williams, Jay G. "Christian Exclusiveness Theosophical Truth." Quest 89.2 (MARCH - APRIL 2001):
By Jay G. Williams
I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.
No one comes to the Father except through me. --John 14.6
Few sentences in any scripture have led to as much diabolical mischief as these words from the Gospel of John. They have been the basis for Christian claims to absolute truth and hence have been the inspiration for crusades and pogroms, for inquisitions and tyrannical oppression. They have led to the view that all outside the Christian Church are of darkened mind, pitiable heathens who canonly be saved through conversion to the truth. And, of course, since some Christians believe that many other Christians do not understand Jesus, the words have bred bewildering sectarianism and all those bloody struggles which, in the past, have wracked Christendom. It is no wonder that H. P. Blavatsky turned in sheer disgust from the Christianity around her.
How, we must ask, could a Gospel that purports to teach the supremacy of love have led to such terrible results. Did the Gospel writer really claim for the Christian religion such an exclusive grip upon truth, or is there some other, more theosophical way to understand these words? Clearly there is. Indeed, a careful reading of John reveals that Christian claims to absolute, exclusive truth are based upon a very bad misreading of these words.
The Gospel of John begins with a very dramatic and well-known prolog, which must be kept in mind throughout the whole Gospel, for it explains what John (and Jesus) are talking about. From God, says the Gospel, flows creative power which has produced and produces everything that is. This power John calls the Logos. It is the source of all reality, the manifestation of God in the world. In one sense, God the Father, is totally hidden and unknown, what the Kabbalah calls En-Sof. But this Logos, which proceeds from God, is God with us. It is the way through which humans can know the divine.
People in every culture and clime have had spiritual inclinations because this power is the light and life of every human being. We live in the light, and the light lives in us. It is the Way to God. Wherever people have found God, therefore, they have glimpsed the light. It is the root of all spirituality. The Logos, which is the life and light of all humanity, is the source of humanity. It is what we, in the center of our being, are. Transcending all boundaries of race, ethnicity, gender, and religion, the light is the power that binds us all together.
The problem is that, although the light is the very core of our being, we humans regularly forget who we are. We see the diversity and enmity, not theunity. We become enamored of worldly position and pleasure and are drawn away from our own true and eternal nature. As John says, we walk in darkness.Therefore, Jesus comes, not as an alien from outer space, but as a manifestation of the light to reveal to us what we all really are. He comes, transparent tothe light, to wake us up to our common humanity.
When he proclaims, â€œI am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,â€ he speaks, not as a historical character, but as the divine light, the light presumably known to all the wise sages of every age. From these sages have come many traditions. Thus, in Godâ€™s house there are many mansions. What John teaches, however, is that no one can find the Ultimate through human organizations or scriptures or philosophies alone. Every traditionis, by itself, a dry streambed, now lacking the water that formed it. To know the Truth one must find that living water, that ineffable light within and among us. All the rest--the stories, the doctrines, the rituals--are but fingers pointing to the source, to the esoteric, unspeakable Reality. That, it seems to me, is a very theosophical idea.
Jay G. Williams, PhD Columbia University, is Walcott-Bartlett Professor of Religious Studies at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. He is the author of two Quest Books, Judaism and Yeshua Buddha. This paper is the second in a series of reflections on matters considered by the November 2000 Christianity-Theosophy Conference.