Bruce Charlton had a thought-provoking post recently which struck a chord with me. His point is that the work of Christ was to lead men out of a world of sin and death, an entropic world in which nothing lasts, into a second creation, one without rust or decay or worm or canker in which the good can build on itself forever and is never brought low so that it has to be rebuilt only to fall again. As someone who has much love for Indian forms of religion but is nevertheless firmly a Christian I found this interesting. There is great wisdom and beauty in Hindu and Buddhist teachings and mystical practice but there is something more revealed by Christ which adds an extra dimension to the spiritual life.
The goal of Eastern religion is enlightenment which is aligning one's individual consciousness with universal being. Put simply, it is becoming one with the totality of life. Until the advent of Christ this was the highest spiritual path, and it is still a high path though one which few have taken and even fewer travelled to its conclusion despite numerous claims to the contrary. It entails escaping from the pull of the material and becoming completely spiritual. However, it is exclusive and something important is lost in the process. I know some will argue with me over this but I am talking about practice rather than theory. In effect, if you seek enlightenment you must renounce the material, in fact everything that is not pure spirit and that includes your individual self.
Christ brought a new understanding of the purpose of life. No longer was creation a condition to escape from. To be sure, it was sick and needed healing but it was fundamentally good and offered something which spirit alone did not provide. This was relationship, love, beauty, goodness, all things requiring duality and change. Christ says you do not have to reject creation. You must embrace it but not as it is in its fallen condition. This is what not being of the world means. For Christ it is not the world that is wicked but what it has become. Creation or Nature is good but only when seen in the light of God. Seen in its own light it is at best damaged but more often than not rotten. This, incidentally, is why the polytheistic pagan religions were rejected by early spiritual reformers such as Abraham and Moses. These religions were nature cults that celebrated nature in its fallen aspects which is why sexual licence and child sacrifice lay at their heart. We have seen these two things return over the last 60 years, along with other aspects of paganism, as they always will when the higher religion is dismissed or removed from the centre. Even feminism derives from the loss of proper religion as it comes about when the principle of transcendent spirit is rejected and consciousness brought down to the material level which includes the psychic plane, that being part of the material world. There is much more that could be said on this subject but it would take us away from the main point of the post.
Jesus brought a new Creation. The old creation had been damaged, possibly beyond repair though it may be that eventually it too will be salvaged by a fresh infusion of spirit. After all, anything is possible with God though maybe he cannot break his own laws. However, as things stood, the material world was the realm of Satan, the prince of this world. Jesus offered the redemption of matter and the individual self, both of which would be transformed in and through him and a new realm created which was Heaven. Heaven did not exist before Christ. Heavenly planes of being did but even they, as is said in Buddhist mythology, were not permanent. The denizens of these planes, including gods, could not remain there forever. Entropy operated even there. But in Heaven there is no sin, no darkness, no death. All is pure and holy and in that word is the key to all this. Before Christ there was the sacred which was the spiritual as something beyond the material. But after Christ there was the holy which involves the sanctification of the material, its raising up and incorporating into the spiritual.
Christ turned water into wine. He spiritualised matter. This is the difference between him and earlier spiritual masters. They showed a way to escape matter but he showed the way to transform it.