It could be said that right from the very beginning there were two forms of Christianity, that of St Peter and that of St John. The former provided an ideal foundation for a public religion with a good, solid structure for orientating believers towards spiritual truth. It gave a framework for belief in the human and divine figure of Christ, moral instruction and ethical guidance that would lead souls towards salvation which is the regeneration of the soul in the afterlife. This approach emphasised faith and works which together form the two pillars of the doorway that marks the entry to the higher spiritual world. However, following this path still leaves the believer looking for spiritual authority outside himself. He is dependent on externals and remains a follower.
The spiritual approach exemplified by St John is different. This is the inner approach. Christ remains Christ but he is no longer simply the Son of God who came down from Heaven. He is also within ourselves, within our hearts, and he can be known. More, not only can he be known but we can start to become like him by opening our hearts to his light and truth which will then illuminate our souls and transform them. We will not be human believers in God or followers of Christ but become transformed into spiritual beings ourselves. It might be countered that we are always spiritual beings and it is true that we were created as such. But we are spiritual beings in embryo only until we develop properly. We are seeds and seeds must bloom and flower to fulfil their purpose.
These two approaches are not mutually exclusive but they are somewhat like body and soul, and just as in our day there are many people who are aware of themselves as minds and bodies but few who are conscious of themselves as souls, so it is with these approaches. Historically, one can say that the Petrine approach has only occasionally flowered into the Johannine but humans have evolved to the point at which Christianity can only remain relevant if the Johannine approach becomes known as the direction in which the soul should proceed. It takes the external truths of Christianity and applies them internally.
I am not talking here about the difference between exoteric and esoteric or hidden teachings revealed only to the initiated. Clearly, there are many things about God and the universe we do not know but what really matters from the spiritual point of view is the proper orientation of the heart to the good, the beautiful and the true, and the spiritually perceptive know these are summed up and embodied in Jesus Christ. But there is the Christ 'out there' and the Christ within and while John includes Peter, Peter does not necessarily include John.
Over the last several centuries humanity has entered into the fullness of self-consciousness. This has resulted in two major problems. Because we have developed a much stronger sense of ourselves we have lost a proper relationship with what is below the self and what is above it. I refer to the two worlds of nature and spirit which can be thought of as our mother and our father. The first we exploit and disrespect and the second we reject and deny. Consequently, we are in total disharmony with the universe and this is the root cause of all our problems.
The self has freed itself from that in which it was embedded. This is not a bad thing because only by doing this can it really begin to know itself, but it becomes a bad thing when the process goes too far and, as it were, solidifies. Then barriers are put up against the rest of life, both natural and spiritual. To seek to return to a union with nature, as many do seek to do, is wrong because it is a return to immature childhood. We must go on to a union of the self with spirit and then a proper relationship with the natural will be included but from the higher perspective not on its own terms. But even this approach to spirit must be the right one. At the time of the decline of the Roman Empire there was great fascination with decayed forms of the ancient mysteries. This was a kind of spiritual sensationalism indicative of a jaded palate and desire for new experience. The same phenomenon occurs today with many modern versions of mysticism and occultism which are viewed as ways to excite and expand the self but this is not where true spirituality is to be found. For us in the West that remains where it has been for the last 2,000 years, firmly centred in the reality of Christ only now our approach must be that of John more than of his brother disciple Peter.