The early Christians lived under the impression that the world would soon end, so much so that Saint Paul advised them to avoid marriage if at all possible. They were so wrapped up in the conventional thinking of their times that they couldn’t even begin to comprehend the dynamic new psychological developments for humanity made possible by Jesus Christ.
It is all very Zen-ish, but the Western world was not prepared for that, and as a result Christian theology never developed a philosophy of the future or a theology of the workings of the Holy Spirit. That is why Christianity must now take into account the psychological dimension of Jesus’ sayings.
“Even as Jesus became a complete person,” John Sanford says, “so our calling is to imitate him, not by mimicking what we suppose to have been his virtues, but by approximating completeness ourselves as much as possible. In this way, we manifest Christ within us.”
If Christians, in general, were aware of this it would make Christianity the most psychological of all religions because of the emphasis it places on the inner development of the individual and the important role that it assigns to the ego as the bearer of consciousness, he says.
What prevents this from becoming a basically selfish concern is the fact that becoming self-actualized requires one to participate in the lives and needs of others.
“For completeness to develop in the life of an individual,” Sanford says, “that individual must be involved in the totality of life.”
In other words, becoming a person who is completely individuated is a matter of psychological development, but not of psychologizing. Totality arrives when life is lived completely and when the demands of both the inner and outer realities are met consciously.
“No one can hope to find his or her salvation without being deeply concerned with the salvation of other,” he says, “for human beings are complete in relationship and not as islands standing alone.”
The kingdom of God is a personal and psychologically real experience, yet it is not a purely personal experience. It has a transcendental as well as immediate character. The kingdom doesn’t belong to us. We belong to the kingdom.
“What the kingdom is in itself can never be contained by rational consciousness,” he says, “but can be expressed only in symbols.”
It cannot be thought but can only be embraced, even if only for a moment, in a mystical experience, for it far transcends personal consciousness and the limitations of the ego’s thinking.
“In its transcendence,” Sanford says, “the kingdom is a call into the future. In grounding our lives upon the kingdom within, we become a part of the evolving of human consciousness, which means being part of God’s intention.”
Here, in the evolution of consciousness, taking place through individuals but always transcending the individual in its significance, is the Christianity of the future, he concludes.