Have you ever seen a picture of Jesus laughing? Probably not, because we have inherited a distorted form of Christianity created by the Roman Church in the fourth century, which focuses exclusively on Jesus the "man of sorrows." The image that has dominated our culture is that of a man being tortured to death on a cross. But the original Christians didn't see Jesus as an historical man who "suffered for our sins." They viewed Jesus as the mythical hero of a symbolic teaching story, which represents the spiritual journey leading to the experience of awakening they called "gnosis," or "knowing."If you've never seen such a picture before (I've seen others, as well), now you've seen this one. The picture above has nothing to do with this book, except that it's the reason I picked up the book in the first place. I own a copy of this laughing Jesus, framed and everything. So when I saw a book entitled The Laughing Jesus, of course I had to buy it. My next confession is that the paragraph above is not the first in the book, but the second paragraph, following this quote from the Nag Hammadi Codex (*** as noted at the bottom of this post).
Wake up! Rouse yourself from the collective coma you mistake for "real life." See through the illusion of separateness and recognize that we are all essentially one. Although we appear to be isolated individuals, in reality there is one awareness dreaming itself to be everyone and everything. This is our shared essential nature. The simple secret to enjoying this dream we call "life" is to wake up to oneness. Because, knowing you are one with all, you will find yourself in love with all. You will fall in love with living. This is the message of the original Christians, who symbolised this awakened state with the enigmatic figure of "the laughing Jesus."
What if the Old Testament is a work of fiction, Jesus never existed, and Muhammad was a mobster? What if the Bible and the Qur'an are works of political propaganda created by Taliban-like fundamentalists to justify the sort of religious violence we are witnessing in the world today? What if there is a big idea that could free us from the us-versus-them world created by religion and make it possible for us to truly love our neighbors — and even our enemies? What if it is possible to awaken to a profound state of oneness and love, which the Gnostic Christians symbolized by the enigmatic figure of the laughing Jesus?Maybe this book will help me discover for myself why the gnostic Jesus laughs.
*** See The Apocalypse of Peter, NHC (The Nag Hammadi Codex), The Second Treatise of the Great Seth, NHC, Robinson J. M., The Nag Hammadi Library (HarperCollins paperback 1978), 377, 365.
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