Have you ever seen a picture frame so elaborate and ornate that it was difficult to give attention to the picture?
In the very early years, most could remember their teacher, his words, and his light. But before very long the cult of Jesus followers was outlawed. The Jesus cult was sometimes in some places tolerated, but was more often in most places banned and followers persecuted.
Eventually something had to be done to make their Jesus-based religion acceptable.
During the centuries before and after Jesus, the Roman Empire ruled. Since the most widely venerated God throughout the Roman Empire was the imported Persian God, Mithra, who had been worshipped by the Roman Army any many other Roman citizens since at least 75 BC., why not make Christianity acceptable by identifying Jesus as Mithra? It would merely take a few embellishments to the Jesus story.
Mithra was a Persian savior. Worship of Mithra became common throughout the Roman Empire, particularly among the Roman civil service and military. Their god was believed to have been born on December 25. His birth was witnessed by shepherds and by gift-carrying Magi. This was celebrated as the "Dies Natalis Solic Invite," The "Birthday of the Unconquered Sun." Some followers believed that he was born of a virgin. During his life, he performed many miracles, cured many illnesses, and cast out devils. He celebrated a Last Supper with his 12 disciples. He ascended to heaven at the time of the spring equinox, about March 21. -B.G. Walker, "The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets," Harper & Row, (1983)
Incidentally, the New Testament provides no information regarding the date of the birth of Jesus. But long before missionary-minded Christians perceived the convenience of choosing December 25, converts from Judaism sought to calculate the date of Jesus' birth based on the idea that Old Testament prophets died either on an anniversary of their birth or their conception. January 6 was their favorite choice. Converts in Greek or Egyptian regions often chose other dates, April 19 and May 20 being among the most used dates. (With a slight stretch, a revelation by Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith could be interpreted to hint Jesus was born April 6.) But Mithra's birthday of December 25 certainly served best in the power and influence center of Rome.
In the Zoroastrian religion of ancient Persia, Mithra was called “the Heavenly Light.” He came to the earth to teach humanity His commandments and begin Mysteries and Rites which would help people remember His acts on the behalf of human beings. Because of His actions, we can choose only good, leaving evil with no power (although evil's influence can still seem powerful if we forget). Because of His teachings, we know that the purpose of human lives is service in the name of Mithra. The followers of Mithra refer to Him as the "Light of the World."
So Christianity framed itself well, but Jesus asks us to look at the picture within the frame. "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment." (John 7:24)
The mythologized surface appearance of Christianity is not where the truth is. Truth is true, and nothing else is true. The truth of Christianity is in the experience, long ago purposely set within an attractive ornate frame, but still available as the content within the frame. Christianity is not about worshipping Jesus or any God outside one's self. It's about worshipping our own divine nature, who we are really. Here are the words of Jesus Christ from his revelation for the 21st Century, A Course in Miracles:
There is nothing about me that you cannot attain. I have nothing that does not come from God. The main difference between us as yet is that I have NOTHING ELSE. This leaves me in a state of true holiness, which is only a POTENTIAL in you.
"No man cometh to the Father but by me" is among the most misunderstood statements in the Bible. It DOES NOT mean that I am in any way separate (or different) from you, EXCEPT IN TIME. Now, we know that time does not exist. Actually, the statement is much more meaningful if it is considered on a vertical rather than a horizontal axis. Regarded along the vertical, man stands below me, and I stand below God. In the process of "rising up", I AM higher. This is because without me the distance between God and man is too great for man to encompass. I bridge the distance as an Elder Brother to man, on the one hand, and a Son of God on the other. My devotion to my brothers has placed me in charge of the Sonship, which I can render complete only to the extent I can SHARE it.
Jesus tells us he has nothing that does not come from God. He insists we too can experience only God by wanting only God. In A Course in Miracles, Jesus tells us that the world we see offers us nothing we really want. He reminds us everything in our earthly world can only satisfy temporarily, to be lost once again. But the God experience is truly valuable, and the everlasting God experience lacking any temptation to earthly pleasure or pain is all we really, deep down, absolutely truly want. He tells us only the time we choose to lose or gain is voluntary.
A Course in Miracles reminds us that every instant can be experienced as a holy instant. This is the real picture inside the frame, whether it be taught by Mithra or Jesus Christ:
The Holy instant is a miniature of Heaven,
sent to you FROM Heaven.
It is a picture, too, set in a frame.
But if you accept THIS gift,
you will NOT see the frame at all,
because the gift can only BE accepted
through your willingness to focus ALL your attention
ON THE PICTURE.
"...nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21)
Click below for more information on A Course in Miracles Light Sessions:
Holy Instant Christian Fellowship in Salt Lake City