In our current age there is a growing urgency to recover the ancient Wisdom that guided spiritual seekers of earlier times. This impelling drive is felt among those of all spiritual traditions who are looking beyond the narrow confines of creed and dogma to discover a “perennial wisdom” that lies at the core of all religious faiths. The Wisdom that we seek is a deeper “knowing” than the rational mind can provide or language can define. The path of Wisdom leads to an inner transformation that manifests throughout the whole person: body, heart, mind, soul, and spirit. Central to this transformation is a new way of perceiving reality, often described as “unitive seeing,” “nondual vision,” or “seeing with the Eye of the Heart.”
The Cross, the central symbol of Christianity, is an image that many Wisdom teachers use to express a deep truth about Reality. The horizontal line of the Cross represents the realm of time and space, while the vertical line represents the timeless and transcendent dimension. The horizontal and vertical lines converge in the center of the Cross – the nondual, infinite “Now” – which is also the crux of the Christian Mystery. During the holy season of Christmas we explore deeper meanings of this Mystery as we contemplate the birth of Jesus Christ. The Incarnation is the nondual event that is at the heart of Christmas, for it takes place at the center of the Cross where vertical and horizontal axes join. The event of Christ’s birth in history reveals this centerpoint where time and eternity meet, where the divine realm penetrates the earthly realm. As Bruno Barnhart writes in The Future of Wisdom:
“The two dimensions (Spirit and History) intersect as vertical and horizontal axes within the human person. They intersect ultimately, however, in Jesus Christ, in whom divine Spirit enters newly and decisively into the human person and into human history. The Christ-event – or Incarnation – thus becomes the center of history, impregnated with the unitive divine Reality.”
The sacred Christmas season is designed so that we who live in the world of space and time can experience at ever deeper levels the timeless, transcendent dimension of the Incarnation. The Mystery of Christmas unfolds as a process that is marked by three major events: Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. The nondual vision is the heart of each of these expressions of the one Mystery.
Advent is the time of preparation for the birth of the Christ, which manifests in three ways:
- The birth of the baby Jesus as the human embodiment of divine Word and Wisdom
- The inner, spiritual birth of the Christ within the human soul
- The Second Coming of Christ, resulting in a New Heaven and a New Earth
From the Wisdom perspective these are not actually three separate and independent events, but an expression of multiple layers of meaning of the Incarnation. The nondual vision unites the three “births.” The coming of Christ into historical time, the coming of Christ within the human heart, the coming of Christ at the end of time are all the same birth from the divine matrix that is both time and eternity.
As human beings in the world of time, we are given the four weeks of the Advent season to prepare inwardly for the birth of Christ; to open our hearts so that we may receive the gift of God. This inner birth, according to Bruno Barnhart, is “The key to a true Christian nonduality…nondual divinity descends into what we are and then opens us to its own fullness from within ourselves.” This “divine fullness” which opens within the prepared heart is the Kingdom of Heaven where we truly realize that “in your midst is the Holy One.” (Isaiah 12:6)
When the Heart of Humanity opens to the presence of the Kingdom of Heaven, the Wisdom of spiritual transformation, the Incarnation of Christ will be fulfilled. The Second Coming of Christ in historical time occurs when Christ is born within the human heart. It too is an ongoing process that will culminate in the creation of a New Heaven and a New Earth when the human race attains the realization that the divine and earthly realms are truly One.
With the preparations of Advent completed, we are ready on Christmas Day to experience, in the world of space and time, an event in history that points to the timeless, infinite Reality which is the one divine birth. The nondual vision of Wisdom perceives the Incarnation of Christ as a single process that begins with the historical birth of Jesus and continues in the soul of each person until humanity has completed the work of bringing forth the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.
During the “twelve days of Christmas” that follow and lead to Epiphany, we have the opportunity to assimilate the Christmas Mystery at deeper levels of our being. On Epiphany we celebrate the coming of the three Wise Men to pay homage to the baby Jesus. Although these are “wisdom masters,” they have not completed their journey; they continue to seek on the path of Wisdom until it brings them to a tiny infant in a lowly manger. The seekers find Wisdom in the newborn babe! This is the same Wisdom that Yeshua expresses in the Gospel of Thomas logion 4: “An individual of many days will not delay in asking an infant child, seven days old, about the source of life, and will live.” In the presence of the baby Jesus, the Wise Men experience the nondual vision of divine/human unity. They open to the “source of life” in the human child and experience this divine life within themselves, which is the essence of Wisdom.
The final gift of the Christmas season is symbolized by the gifts that the Wise Men gave to the baby Jesus. This is the gift of love that we offer to Wisdom when our searching is over. In the nondual vision there is only One Gift – that which we both receive and give. The gift of Epiphany, the fulfillment of the Christmas Mystery, is the Love and Wisdom that arises within the human heart and pours forth into the world.