Jesus and "Mystic Christianity"
Every time I try to walk again through the door of mainstream Catholicism, trying to get past simplistic childhood beliefs, I always stumble over the carefully constructed doctrinal language. Doing "God's will" or carrying out "God's plan for me" only reinforces the grade-school image of the bearded old man pulling strings from his heavenly throne. And they persist with the "Father-Son-Holy Spirit" metaphor for the Trinity.
So... I walk on the wild side. Mystics and heretics have often struggled with these same issues. Sometimes they help me think in a fresh way.
Back in the early 20th century, William Walker Atkinson elaborated on the gospel stories of Jesus. He argued that Jesus was way more than a local Jewish phenomenon -- that he was early recognized as a Master in the Essenes, a Hebrew occult brotherhood, and that, in those silent years between ages 12-30, Jesus was traveling in Asia, teaching and developing his skills as a mystic healer of bodies and souls. His subsequent "miracles" were not events out of the blue, but the masterful application of what we'd now call "energy healing."
The virgin birth was not a physical event. How could Jesus be of the House of David if he wasn't Joseph's biological child? Instead, Atkinson argues, Jesus' soul was begotten "virginally," without prior incarnations and without the burden of karma. (You can see the Eastern influence on his thinking.) During Jesus' days in the Wilderness, Jesus decided he couldn't help human beings without fully being one, so he assumed the World-Karma burden (the accumulation of all our bad behavior) and accepted the consequences.
The resurrection, Atkinson continues, was not the reanimation of his physical body, but the appearance of his "astral body," neither pure spirit nor flesh, which was able to simply fade off at the end of his 40 days with the Apostles (aka the Ascension).
Atkinson was one of the luminaries of New Thought, a 19th-century movement that 'promotes the ideas that "Infinite Intelligence" or "God" is ubiquitous, spirit is the totality of real things, true human selfhood is divine, divine thought is a force for good, sickness originates in the mind, and "right thinking" has a healing effect"' [wikipedia]. Several denominations continue into this day. They consider themselves the "religion of healthy-mindedness." New Thought reveals the struggles of intelligent minds to give reasonable explanations based on age-old wisdom, yet without trying to debunk science.
What's interesting to me is that Atkinson tries to provide a "religious-science" framework for the Christian story and gives Jesus a much larger stage. He lets me go deeper.