Paul said in Colossians 3:11, “Christ is all and in all.” On its face, this is a rather esoteric concept. But what does it mean Christ is All and in All?
Consider this passage from Richard Rohr’s book Universal Christ:
“Paul merely took incarnationalism to its universal and logical conclusions. We see that in his bold exclamation, “there is only Christ, he is everything and he is in everything.” (Colossians 3:11)
If I were to write that today, people would call me a pantheist: the universe is God. Whereas I am really a panentheist: God lies within in all things but also transcends them, exactly like Jesus and Paul.
In Christo. Paul summarizes his corporate message of salvation with us shorthand phrase “In Christo,” using it more than any other phrase than all his letters, using it a total of 164 times. In Christo seems to be Paul’s codeword for the gracious participatory experience of salvation, the path that he so urgently wanted to share with world.
Succinctly put, this identity means humanity has never been separate from God, unless and except by its own negative choice. All of us, without exception, are living inside of a cosmic identity, already in place that is driving and guiding us forward. We are living in Christo, willing or unwilling, happily or unhappily, consciously or unconsciously…Only the whole could carry such a cosmic mystery of constantly loss and renewal.” (Richard Rohr, Universal Christ, audiobook)
First off, I have recently found “Christ is all and in all!” is a good meditative mantra in the vain of transcendental meditation. It is a little practice that goes like this:
Breathe in: Christ in me.
Breathe out: Christ in All.
It doesn’t get any more simple than that. I’ve found this to me more amenable to a contemplative mood than the traditional “Jesus Prayer”: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.
But what power! Christ is All and in All. A universal message, what Richard Rohr calls the Universal Christ or Cosmic Christ.
Interestingly, Hermeticists also call their God The All, which is similar to the Neoplatonic concept of The One. I do not think this is a coincidence. Hermeticism, Christianity, and Neoplatonism were all being syncretically developed in a similar area of the world in a similar historical period. I think this is an example of convergent spiritual wisdom traditions, recognizing the principle that if God is anything at all, She is everything.
What does it mean Christ is not just everything but also inside everything?
What does it mean to have an “inside”?
Interestingly, Rohr identifies the cosmic identity of being in Christ, what he calls the incarnational Christ mystery, to be the same phenomenon as what Jung calls the collective unconscious.
While Jung had a more technical definition, it does connect to two central animating concepts within Jung’s system: the Psychoid or Objective Pysche and the Unus Mundus or One World, the ancient philosophical principle that states plainly everything is connected, and not just connected via a simple mechanism of mechanical causation and atoms bouncing off each other.
According to the causal principles of the Unus Mundus, the connection of everything is “spooky” in the same vein that Einstein was described quantum mechanical entanglement as “spooky action at a distance” because the entanglement cannot be explained in terms of direct, mechanical causation.
What does that remind you of?
According to the statement by Paul, Christ is also connected to everything and thus it is through Christ that we can be connected to everything else.
Christ is objective because He transcends us all. But he is psychological insofar as he is a part of our archetypal framework, operating in the background as a blueprint for the development and salvation of a Soul.
This is what Christians call The Word. Logos. It is a deeply Greek idea, developed most prominently in the most “theological” of all Gospels: the Gospel of John: In the beginning was Christ-the-blueprint, and Christ-the-blueprint was with God, and Christ-the-blueprint was God.
What is a blueprint? Well, it’s a design spec. But what is a design? Designs have what philosophers call intentionality. They are “about” something. They have what’s called mental “content” that reaches out across itself to point towards something beyond itself. A blueprint has a goal or purpose built straight into it, baked into its wholistic identity.
This purpose is what Greek’s called Nous. Nous is the highest and first emanation of The All, The One, The Monad, God. When I was an atheist I might have called this the Laws of Nature or simply Nature itself.
For the Greeks, Nous is a principle of intelligibility: it is the operating principle that makes the Cosmos unfold in a way that can be understood in a principled way by lesser minds.
The hard-nosed physicalist might insist that principles of intelligibility, what is sometimes called “teleosemantics,” arise spontaneously through mechanisms like natural selection.
I don’t aim to deny this. I believe that kind of naturalism is a viable and cogent worldview.
But the reason I am not an naturalist and atheist anymore is because I’ve come to realize that there is a mystery in Nature that cannot be solved (to my satisfaction) by means of Nature. Nature, considered as a whole, points to a Logic transcendental with respect to itself.
I cannot “prove” this. I do not care about proof. As I explained in my “coming out as Christian” post, I could not care less about trying to convince others of the Truth of my worldview. My worldview is of interest only to me. It is my own personal spiritual journey. I am only sharing it here because my calling is to be a writer and I must write my story. But please trust me that I have zero interest in convincing you that I am right and atheists are wrong.
I once was an atheist. A very strong and committed atheist. And I love who I was. I was happy as an atheist. I was a good person. It’s just that now I find myself evolving in new directions. That’s it. So I have the utmost love and respect for atheists. I do not think they are misguided or deluded or deep down truly hankering for Christianity or any such bullshit. But my story somehow kept evolving and now I find myself deep within the archetypal frameworks of Christian symbolism, and it’s been deeply meaningful and beautiful to me.
I used to think that this transcendental function of Logos or Nous was essentially a hallucination contained in the mind of mortal humans. But then I discovered Jung, who gave me the freedom to explore how the transcendent function operates outside of my personal ego, and thus takes on the role of the Given, the always-already nature of my experience.
Jung freed me to extend the scope of the Soul beyond the limited confines of my skull and into the collective unconsciousness, that which is beyond any individual consciousness.
It is this collectivity of psychic processes that Rohr refers to as the Cosmic Christ.
But it is not merely the collective unconscious of a particular branch of the animal kingdom called homo sapiens. It is all life. All entities. All processes. It is the rivers. It is the oceans. It is the forests. It is the tiniest pebble on the loneliest planet. It is everything in all its buzzing blooming beauty.
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)
Christ being in all things only makes sense if “all things” are the type of things that are appropriate for the Word, a living, conscious blueprint, to be “in.”
What kinds of things can contain such a blueprint within themselves? Souls.
And since we know Christ is all and in everything, it follows therefore that everything has a Soul. A mote of dust. A pool of blood. The Moon Herself. All ensouled!
This understanding of the physical incarnation of Christ in all things provides a dialectical bridge between the ancient religion of animism with the message of a Universal Christ.
For the ancient animists understood instinctively that everything is sacred. Especially the planet. Mother Earth. Our Home. Of course She is sacred!
The “dirt” we walk upon is not just dust; it is the very living breathing soil from which we consume and sustain ourselves!
So everything is sacred. Everything is holy. Everything is a living person. A living Soul.
This is the animist world, in a nutshell.
The simplicity of such statements tricks one into thinking that we conceptually understand what it means for everything to have a Soul when in reality understanding the Truth of such a message can only be known in moments of brief experiential gnosis.
It is a kind of knowledge that one must enact, like riding a bicycle. It is knowledge one must do. It shows up when you stop to smell the sacred beauty of sweetgrass. It shows up when you stop and thank a spider friend. It shows up when you thank Mother Earth for her bounty.
For the past 2000 years, those who have called themselves Christians have done an awful job of being Christ-like.
Self-proclaimed “Christians” have brought death, destruction, torture, brutality, slavery, cruelty, intolerance, colonization, imperialism, pollution, and many other horrors into the world.
And they themselves have suffered unspeakable horrors through martyrdom.
The human race still has a long way to go before we are worthy of calling ourselves preachers of the Cosmic Christ.
But what I’ve come to discover is that some Christians have also brought great beauty and joy and love into the world. Beautiful architecture and ritual; beautiful song and writing. And above all, they have brought a message of universal scope.
It is not the only message. It is a message. Available to anyone who so finds called to it.
It is not a “replacement” for every other religion and every other path of wisdom and enlightenment. But it is a good message. It is good news. It is not the only news. But news it is, and it is good.
I think it has been unfortunate that Christians throughout history have considered the Gospels the Good News, as in “the only game of town.” And then they convinced themselves they alone had conceptualized God properly and all others are lost in darkness.
For me, and I think also for Catholics like Rohr and Merton, the true Universal Catholic Church does not need to debase the power of its own message by simply and reductionist claims of being the only conceptual framework for understanding the message of Christ.
For the Christ message, the incarnation of Logos in all things is a condition of being beyond all concepts. It is just as available to the Zen master who has foregone reference to systems and theology in favor of meditative experience as it is to the atheist who simply stands in awe at the beauty and power of the objective Cosmos.
This is not the same as saying “everyone is secretly a Christian” or “Christianity is the one and only super-religion that supersedes all other religions.”
Because what I think Rohr would agree with is that the Christ-Symbol symbolizes something that goes beyond the arbitrary all too humanness of this thing we call “organized religion.” One cannot gather gnosis into a container to store in a museum of theological concepts.
It is a living breathing Truth that must be known and experienced in each moment, in each breath.