As a sociologist, I do not always feel comfortable talking about spirituality, especially when my audience is other sociologists. The reason is hostility. Sociologists usually focus on the institutional element of human spirituality and leave out any consideration of actual religious experience. We talk about churches, sects, and sometimes cults, and we are generally very critical about them. We range in opinion from suggesting that religion is an opiated delusion (Karl Marx) to it’s an ideological tool of the elites (Max Weber) to a gentler notion that it provides social solidarity and community (Durkheim). Beyond this institutional focus, we don’t take spirituality and religion very seriously at all. In fact, we expect it to die out. Auguste Comte (1798 – 1857), one of the heavy weight fathers of sociology, said societies passed through three stages, a theological stage where humans rely on supernatural explanations, a metaphysical stage where humans replace superstitions with abstract forces governing human behavior, and a final positive stage where humans replaced their superstitions with logical, positive thought.  For Comte, and for many sociologists, these stages represent an evolution from a dark and primitive past to a future of bright scientific light filled rationality. The message is clear: as we evolve, religion dies away. Sociologists even formalized their expectations into secularization theory (Berger, 1968; Bruce, 2002; Chaves, 1994; Dobbelaere, 2002). Secularization theory states clearly the sociological prediction that religion and human spirituality will eventually be replaced by secular, rational, “positive,” thought.

For a long time I, a sociologist (and a critical one at that), bought the party line. I dismissed religion and spirituality as something unimportant, conservative, reactionary, delusional, and primitive. I didn’t talk about it much and when I did, it was to laugh and ridicule the people who believed. Then, one day I had what I later came to understand as a mystical experience. This mystical experience caused me to question what, as a sociologist, I had before merely assumed. I won’t go into details about the experience here, but it was profound, and it had a major impact. I can best convey the impact by saying that my materialist conceptions had been smashed by an asteroid of higher Consciousness. After the experience, my perspective on spirituality, my perspective on life, and my research interests, did a 180 degree flip. I put aside my interest in technology and began a research program that would dive deep into the reality and nature of mystical experience. What I have found in the fifteen or so years of exploration is amazing, at least to me. Of course, regarding religion, I have to confirm what sociologists have long said, that religion, by which I mean the elite organized institutional elements, like the Catholic Church, is merely a tool used by the elite to control the masses. I see this quite clearly in my own work (Sosteric, 2014, 2017);  but, there is more to human spirituality than that which is represented by traditional organized religions, or the more modern New Age corporate varieties. This something “more” I call authentic spirituality. This authentic spirituality, this authentic mystical connection, is the authentic core/intrinsic root of human spirituality. It is fascinating and edifying to behold and it is this that sociologists, and others, should be focusing their attention on.[1]

Recovering Catholics, staunch atheists, and sociologists of all degrees may experience symptoms of indigestion at this point. I understand that to suggest that authentic mystical connection experiences are the authentic core/intrinsic root of human spirituality, and that we should be focusing more of our attention on these, will sound outrageous to some. Unfortunately, the indigestion is only going to get worse. Nauseating as this will seem to polemicists like Dawkins, it has been long that people who have mystical experiences tend to be healthier, happier, and better adjusted than people who do not (Maslow, 1968, 1969). Worse still, mystical experiences tend to have healing capacity (Geels, 2003). If you are not retching at this point, the final “stake through the heart” is what I call the “turn to the left” (Sosteric, 2016). To be as blunt as possible, people who have authentic mystical experiences tend to become socialist, or at least move in that direction. Put another way, authentic mystical experience is a potential cure for conservativism everywhere. As demonstrated by the case of Spanish Conquistador Las Casas (Sosteric, 2016), even elite members of society are not immune to “conversion”


What does this have to do with the historical figure, Jesus Christ?

Allow me to explain with a little story about myself. I was raised Catholic, but I gave up Catholicism at an early age because of the hypocrisy of the people involved. As a child I was being taught that you were supposed to be loving, forgiving, meek, and gentle. Jesus Christ was help up as the model for that. According to my weekly lessons, Jesus was a gentle man, a herder of sheep, who said love each other, forgive each other, and turn the other cheek. But even as a child I could see, parents and priests, were not acting like Jesus at all. They said they were Christian, but they were mean, violent, hateful, and homophobic. Even as a small child I could see the hypocrisy, and I couldn’t accept the contradiction. I rejected the Church as an abomination, and Jesus along with it. But then, after my own mystical experiences, and after writing an article on the “turn to the left” that can accompany mystical connection, I got to thinking. Maybe there was more to it than I had originally thought.

Curiosity piqued, I went and started reading, for the first time ever, the bible. I was, I have to say, surprised by what I found.  Upon exegesis, I immediately learned, according to his apostle John, that Jesus was a grass roots kind of guy. He was modest and egalitarian (John 15: 12-15), hung out with adulterers, prostitutes, sinners (Mark 2: 15), and (lowest of the low) tax collectors (Mathew: 9: 10-12). He showed respect to societies detritus by humbly washing their feet (John 13: 4-8), said we should love each other (Mathew 22: 34-40), and otherwise treated most of the people around him as equals, and with respect. More than all that, more than the fact that he was a “grass roots guy,” he was arguably a feminist. He treated women as his equals (John 4: 27) and even suggested that women should not be treated as property. In one remarkable Bible scene, Sadducees asked Jesus which of seven brothers a women, who had been married to them all, would really belong to “in heaven,” after they were all dead. In a statement two thousand years ahead of its time, Jesus tells them they are wrong and says you can’t treat anybody like property! “You are in error because…at the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage” (Mathew 22: 23-30)

Was Jesus really a grass-roots feminist? I think he might have been,  and I think he might have been more than even that. I continued to read and as I continued, the established boundaries of my sociological imagination blew up into tattered smithereens. To make a longer story short, the New Testament, and in particular the Gospels and the Acts, paint a picture of Jesus as an anti-elite, anti-authoritarian, political revolutionary who was impatient with people’s ignorance and who got himself in serious trouble with the ruling class of his day because he was undermining their power and privilege, and threatening a socialist revolution.


He ignored the rules and authority of the ruling class by repeatedly working (Mathew 12: 1-2) and (Mathew 12: 9-12) healing on the Sabbath, even after he was told not to do so (John 5: 16-17).

He aggressively and violently kicked people out of the sacred spaces (i.e. temples) for what he considered blasphemous commercial activity (John 2:13-17).

When the elites and higher level authority figures questioned him about his activities, he told them to f-off because they had no authority over him (John 5: 16-27). If that wasn’t bad enough, he made fun of the rich and powerful, calling into question their inability to connect, and comparing them, derisively, to camels and needles (Mark 10: 25).  He called the “priests and lawmakers” hypocrites to their faces (Mathew 23: 1-7), made them look like fools (John 8:1-11), said “tax collectors and…prostitutes” where better than them (Mathew 21: 28-31),  called them blind and guilty of sin (John 9: 38-41),[2] and put them and their teachings to public shame! In one particularly exciting scene, after calling the Pharisees and the Sadducees[3] hypocrites to their faces, he gathers a crowd of followers around him (Mathew 15: 10) and says, pointing directly at the Pharisees, they are defiled and defiling.

“Listen and understand,” he says, “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them… what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” (Mathew 15: 10-11).  This is exciting. It is telling that Jesus used food as an example to put down the elites. In cultures that have a lot to say about what foods you can eat (Kosher/Halal) and what foods will defile you, telling the people that it was the words of the elite that were defiling and not the food we put into our mouths must have been felt, by the elite Pharisees and Sadducees, like a very brutal, and very public, slap in the face. But he doesn’t stop there.

“Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees,” he says.

“Guard against … the teaching[s] of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Mathew 16: 5-12) because they are liars and fools who don’t even deserve entrance into the Kingdom (Mathew 22: 1-10).  And it just goes on and on. Read Mathew 21-23. After returning to Jerusalem as a-list spiritual/political celeb, he is confronted by the “teachers of the law and the Pharisees.” They try and entrap him, but  he lays into them like an abusive parent laying into an unwanted child. He calls them blind liars and deceivers—snakes and vipers (Mathew 23: 33-34). He says they are shallow hypocrites, pretty on the outside but diseased and rotten within (Mathew 23: 23-26). He accuses them of pompous and self-aggrandizing displays (Mathew 23: 5-7). He says they don’t practice what they preach (Mathew 23: 2). He says that prevent people from connecting (Mathew 23: 13), they’ve never connected for themselves (Mathew 23: 13), that they undermine people’s spirituality, and that they twist and corrupt whomever they touch (Mathew 23: 15).

And lest you think otherwise, there was no ambiguity about what Jesus was doing here. The elites knew he was talking about them, and they didn’t like. They immediately wanted to have him arrested (Mathew 21: 45-46). The apostles knew he was threatening the status quo as well. After Jesus called out the Pharisees as hypocrites, they worried that he was offending the elites. They try to warn him: “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard [the things you said]?” they say (Mathew 15: 12). But Jesus, scoffs at their concern, derisively dismissing the Pharisees by saying “Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind led the blind, both will fall into a pit” (Mathew 15: 14).

I am sure the reader will agree, this is not the picture of Jesus that most people get. He’s got strong opinions, he’s got enough hutzpah to publically shame authority figures, and he’s unconcerned (at he seems unconcerned, at least at this point) about the possible consequences of his defiance. He’s also a bit of an arrogant shit, impatient with dull ignorance and stupidity. When Peter, his own discipline, asks him to “Explain the parable” (i.e. explain what me means when he says that “what comes out of your mouth defiles you, he snaps back at him and wonders out loud “Are you still so dull?” (Mathew 15: 16), after which he “patiently” explains again.

Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them” Mathew 15: 17-20

Jesus displayed similar impatience with ignorance when he tried to teach Nicodemus, who was a member of the Israeli elite, a Pharisee, and teacher of the people. At one point, Nicodemus could not understand what Jesus was saying, at which point Jesus expresses surprise that this man could not understand even the basic truth.

“You,” scoffs Jesus, “are Israel’s teacher…and [yet you do not] understand these things?” (John 3: 8-10).


At this point I have to reiterate, reading the bible for the first time, I was surprised. I had been taught that Jesus was this passive shepherd of sheeple, gentle, forgiving, and (if the pictures where any indication) good with children; but that was clearly not true, or at least not the whole story. And it wasn’t just that Jesus was an antiauthoritarian who thought himself wiser, smarter, and better connected (to God) than the ruling elites of his time; he was, as I already said, an actual dyed in the whole socialist revolutionary. In his own words, he had come to set the prisoners free, free the oppressed, and bring “good news” to poor. The “good news” was presumably the end of their poverty and oppression, for what could be better news than that to a poor person? In his own words, or as close to his own words as we have left,[4] Jesus said…

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind[folded], to set the oppressed free…. John 4: 18:20.

In the above passage, Jesus claims to be a revolutionary working for the spiritual, political, and economic emancipation of the people. These were no idle claims. The people of the time knew it, believed it, accepted it, and praised him for it. At a certain point, the proles were even rolling out their version of the red carpet (palm leaves and their own cloaks (Mathew 21: 8) and calling him king and messiah (Mathew 21: 1-11)! By the end of it all he had a massive following of people ready to declare him king and savior (John 12: 12-15). In a symbolic act totally befitting the proletarian revolutionary that he was, Jesus took it all in while riding a donkey (John, 12: 14), the lowest form of pack animal there ever was.

As you can imagine, Jesus’s pro-proletariat, anti-bourgeoisie revolutionary position didn’t sit with well the ruling class of his day. Jesus was poking the belly of the beast (the authority of the elites), undermining them in front of the masses, and they didn’t like that one bit. Jesus was, in fact, a clear threat to their status quo. People were “amazed” (Mathew 22: 22) and “astonished” (Mathew 22: 33) by what he said. Even Roman Centurions (Mathew 8: 5-13) and members of the ruling elites themselves were converting to the cause, or at least holding sympathy in their hearts.

Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God. (John 12: 42-43).

Pause for a moment and consider this: whatever Jesus was saying was so convincing and so powerful that he was converting even the elites. You can imagine how threatening that must have been to the status quo. The fastest way to end systems of privilege is to end it in the minds of the elite themselves. If enough of the elites suddenly change their ways, the game would be over, because there would be no one left to play. If enough elites suddenly started to believe (in connection), get connected, give up their power and privilege, and end their resistance, the center would not hold and the System would quickly crumble.

Clearly, Jesus was a problem. He saw himself as a political and spiritual revolutionary, and others agreed. Not surprisingly, the elites of the day realized this as well, and they didn’t take the threat lying down. They tried to entrap him, for example, by getting him to admit to tax evasion (Mathew 22: 15-22) and healing on the Sabbath (Mathew 12: 9-10)). They painted him as a sinner and demon, and called him Beelzebul behind his back (Mathew 12: 24). They accused him of “being his own witness” (i.e. bragging about his qualification) (John 8: 12-14), questioned his youth and inexperience (John 8: 57), shamed him for coming from the ‘hood that was Galilee, (John 7: 52), and got themselves so riled up that at times they were ready to stone him on the spot (John 8: 59). Trying to prevent his word from spreading, they excommunicated those who acknowledged him as Messiah (John 9: 22) and tried to get people to rat him out.

Unfortunately, none of that worked for them. Jesus, in displays of spiritual, psychological, and pedagogical mastery, just threw it back in their faces. In one particularly electrifying incident, the elites brought an adulterous women to Jesus whom, according to the laws of the land, should be brutally stoned to death. Testing Jesus to see if he’d follow the law, they said “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” Brilliantly, disrespectfully, and with insolent disregard, Jesus put his head down, drew circles in the dirt, and ignored them. Refusing to be put off, the elites keep badgering. Finally, perhaps knowing they wouldn’t leave him alone until he said something, Jesus looks up and, with the perfunctory grace that only a master can affect, fires off an earth shacking meme that rattles the collective consciousness of this planet even down to this day! Looking up from his doodles, Christ simply says “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone”, after which he looked back down and ignored them once again (John 8: 1-9).


Jaw dropping.


These are all words we could use to describe Jesus’s masterful handling of the situation. What could the local elites and “teachers of the law” say after that? In a single perfunctory retort, Jesus exposed them as hypocrites and strips them of their power. The elites had tried to entrap him, but he left them with nothing but their own shame; so, they turned around and walk away.

That’s not the only example where Jesus displays his spiritual/pedagogical brilliance. Another example gleaned from the Gospel of John has the Pharisees questioning a blind man whom Jesus had allegedly healed. They badger the formerly-blind man and his parents, trying to get them to say something, anything, that would incriminate Jesus, but the man simply says that Jesus “is a prophet” (John 9: 17). The Pharisees do not accept that. They question the blind man himself, suggesting that maybe he wasn’t blind after all, and that he is trying to do something fishy; but his parents confirm that he was blind (John 9: 20-21). Getting no traction, they admonish the man to “tell the truth” because they all know that Jesus “is a sinner” (John 9: 24). The blind man says, I don’t know anything about that, all I know is that “I was blind but now I see!” (John 9: 25).

Frustrated, the Pharisees angrily ask, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

The man replies, in a fashion that further angers the priests, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?” (John 9: 27).

Upon hearing that, the Pharisees freak out. They get so angry with the blind man that they break down and hurl insults (John 9: 28). “We are disciples of Moses,” they sputter, arrogantly proclaiming their authority. “We don’t even know where he comes from,” they say, throwing shade on Christ’s lineage and genetics. But that just makes it worse, because upon hearing that the Pharisees have no clue about who Jesus is or where he comes from, the blind man says, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes.”

At that point it gets bad because the blind man, probably a peasant, scolds and schools the Pharisees!

“We know that God does not listen to sinners,” says the blind man, “He [only] listens to the godly person who does his will” (John 9: 31).

“Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind,” he says.

“If this man were not from God,” he explains to the Pharisees, “he could do nothing” (John 9: 32-33).

Well, I tell you, having to put up with this blind peasant teaching them, the Pharisees lose it. Unable to make any progress, and looking increasingly stupid and misinformed, they throw a petty tantrum.

“You were steeped in sin at birth,” sputter the Pharisees to the blind man.

“How dare you lecture us!” they angrily proclaim as they violently throw him (John 9: 34).


As you can see…

For the elites of the day, it was a very bad scene. What’s worse, Jesus was making believers fast, even outside his on Jewish grouping (John 4: 39-41). Indeed, he became so popular so fast that they even had trouble arresting him; not only did they risk a riot if they tried to take him (Mathew 26: 3-5), but their own guards refused to do it! When the “chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him,” they refused to bring him in because they were gobsmacked by him. “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards said (John 7: 45-46). You can imagine how the ruling elites would have taken that. Flabbergasted at the fact that their own police would not follow orders, they cry out, “You mean he has deceived you also?”

For the “lawmakers and the Pharisees” it was bad, bad, bad. They were losing ground, fast. They were losing the struggle, and they knew it. “…the whole world has gone after him” (John 12: 19), they exclaimed.

So what happened? What did they do? As we all know, they didn’t let it go. Like all revolutionaries who stand in close proximity to success, he was dealt with in the usual way, which is to say, he was assassinated. To get rid of Christ, local elites had Roman soldiers arrest him (because theirs local guard would not), degrade him, shame him in public, and kill him. Presumably they hoped that by degrading him in public, assassinating his character and teachings, and killing him brutally alongside common thieves, they’d stop his spread and erase his message, whatever that was. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for them as planned. As we’ll see in part two of this article series, killing Christ made him a martyr and made his message, whatever that was, spread even faster.




Berger, P. (1968). A Bleak Outlook is Seen for Religion (Vol. April 25): The New York Times.

Bruce, S. (2002). God is Dead: Secularization in the West. Oxford: Blackwell.

Chaves, M. (1994). Secularization as Declining Religious Authority. Social Forces, 72(3), 749-774.

Dobbelaere, K. (2002). Secularization: An Analysis at Three Levels. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.

Geels, A. (2003). Transforming Moments: A Psychological Perspective on Religious Visions: Contemporary and Historical Cases. In J. A. Belzen & A. Geels (Eds.), Mysticism: A Variety of Psychological Perspectives (pp. 235-261). New York: Rodopi.

Hermanns, W. (1983). Einstein and the Poet. Boston: Branden Books.

James, W. (1982). The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study of Human Nature. New York: Penguin.

Maslow, A. H. (1968). Towards a Psychology of Being (2nd Edition). New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company.

Maslow, A. H. (1969). The farther reaches of human nature. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 1(1), 1-9.

Maslow, A. H. (2012). The “Core-Religious” or “Transcendent” Experience. In J. White (Ed.), The Highest State of Consciousness (pp. 339-350). New York: Doubleday.

Sosteric, M. (2014). A Sociology of Tarot. Canadian Journal of Sociology, 39(3).

Sosteric, M. (2016). Dangerous Memories: Slavery, Mysticism, and Transformation. [Unpublished Manuscript].

Sosteric, M. (2017). From Zoroaster to Star Wars, Jesus to Marx: God, Judgment, Justice, and the End of the Bleeding World. Socjourn.  Retrieved from

Stace, W. T. (1960a). Mysticism and Philosophy. London: Macmillan.

Stace, W. T. (1960b). The Teachings of the Mystics. New York: Mentor.

[1] Of course, I’m not the first person to say there is something fascinating and edifying in mystical experience. William James had a lot of respect for authentic religious experiences (James, 1982, p. 6), as did American psychologist Abraham Maslow (Maslow, 2012, p. 339), William State (Stace, 1960a, 1960b), even some sociologists (Edward Carpenter and Edward Hermanns (1983) as well.

[2] Mathew 21 through 22, is one parable after another (the Parable of the Two Sons, the Parable of the Tenants, and the Parable of the Wedding Banquet) slamming and shaming the elite.

[3] The Pharisees and Sadducees were two groups that constituted the ruling class of Israel.

[4] We always have to use a grain of salt when reading things in the bible. As we’ll see in part two of this article, the Bible is a heavily edited version of a limited subset of writings and teachings about Jesus Christ.

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