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Book Review

by Toni Berry Norwich Local Meeting

Wisdom Jesus (2008) by Cynthia Bourgeault and Putting on the Mind of Christ (2000)

by Jim Marion

Many of us find it difficult to put into words just what Quakers mean when

we are asked what we believe and we reply that there is that of God within

each one of us. Perhaps it is difficult to explain because this is not an

intellectual belief, which can be argued rationally, so much as a deeply held

intuition, shared by our Quaker forbears as far back as the 17th century.

Perhaps something held on an intuitive, feeling level is more difficult to

convey in words.

Two books I have read recently, however, have done this magnificently and

I whole-heartedly recommend them: Cynthia Bourgeault’s ‘The Wisdom

Jesus’ and Jim Marion’s ‘Putting on the Mind of Christ’ both rescue Jesus

from the Western, orthodox tradition, where he is seen as a Saviour come

to save us from our sins etc; in favour of the more mystical, Wisdom

tradition of the East, where he is hailed as a Life-giver.

Here is an excerpt from Marion’s book, quoted by Bourgeault, where he

explores Jesus’ claim that ‘My kingdom is not of this world’:

’Where is it then? JM’s wonderfully insightful and contemporary suggestion
is that the Kingdom of Heaven is a state of consciousness; it is not a place
you go to, but a place you come from. It is a whole new way of looking at
the world, a transformed awareness that literally turns this world into a
different place...a way of describing a state we would nowadays call a ’non-
dual consciousness’ or ‘unitive consciousness. The hallmark of this
awareness is that it sees no separation – not between God and humans,
not between humans and other humans.’

What I find interesting about both these writers is that, throughout their

work, they suggest that Jesus’ teachings show clear areas of overlap with

other spiritual traditions like Buddhism and Sufism, both of which have

thrown up their own Wisdom teachers. Knowing this need not detract from

the Christian tradition. For me, it enhances it and suggests a truth at the

heart of all of them.

Toni Berry

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