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JohnGospel of John

Lorin Friesen, May 2017

This essay is a verse-by-verse description of the Gospel of John. It examines the text in detail, looks at the original Greek, and discusses the underlying symbolism, using the same symbolism that was used to analyze the Revelation of John. This essay presents a cognitive theory of Christology, based upon the concept that Jesus is the Word made flesh, who descended from God.

Due to the length of this essay, I have split it up into four parts. This part looks at John 1-6. The second part examines John 7-12. The third part examines John 13-18. The fourth part examines John 18-21. I have also included a table of contents.

All scriptural references are taken from the NASB.

Table of Contents

1:1-5 Jesus and Mysticism

1:6-13 John and Incarnation

1:14-17 Word made Flesh

God’s plan Alexandria, science and incarnation

1:16-18 Jesus is greater than John

1:19-23 John the Baptist and Fundamentalism

Prophecy 70 Weeks of Daniel

1:24-28 Baptism of John and symbolism

1:29-34 John sees Jesus

1:35-42 Andrew, Peter, and Truth

1:43-51 Philip, Nathanael, Organization, and Jewishness

Generality Jacob’s Ladder

2:1-12 Water to Wine

2:13-17 Cleansing the Temple

2:18-22 Raising the Temple

2:23-25 Threatening the Status Quo

3:1-13 Nicodemus

3:14-21 Mystical Salvation

3:22-27 John and Herod

3:28-36 John and Theology

4:1-18 Woman at the Well

4:19-27 Absolute to Universal Truth

4:28-42 Righteousness

4:43-54 Famous at Home

5:1-9 Healing the Cripple

5:9-14 The Sabbath

5:15-18 Misunderstanding Righteousness

5:19-23 Scientific Righteousness

5:24-29 Coming Salvation

5:30-32 Two Viewpoints

5:33-36 Absolute Truth versus Exemplars

5:37-47 Academic Prestige versus Scriptural Content

Fence Laws Expounding upon Absolute Truth

Knowledge Real versus Symbolic Bread

6:1-9 The Source of Knowledge

6:10-15 Multiplying Knowledge

6:16-21 Walking on Water

6:22-24 Officially Sanctioned Learning

6:24-36 Teaching at Capernaum

Mind/Body Embodiment

MMNs Jesus as Imaginary Person

6:37-42 Personalizing Understanding

6:43-50 Attracted by Understanding

6:51-59 Core Mental Networks

Eucharist Transubstantiation

Authenticity Orthodox Christianity?

6:60-67 Response of Disciples

6:68-71 Judas and Peter

John 7-12

John 13-18

John 18-21


Christian doctrine states that Jesus is an incarnation who is both God and man. Most theologians use rational thought to discuss the nature of Jesus-the-man. However, every theologian that I have encountered so far states that the nature of Jesus-the-God is an incomprehensible mystery. One of the questions that is often discussed is how much Jesus-the-man knew about being God: How much divine knowledge and power did the second person of the Trinity set aside when becoming incarnate in human flesh?

I suggest that cognitive analysis makes it possible to comprehend the nature of Jesus-the-man. The relationship between Jesus-the-God and Jesus-the-man has been examined in previous essays, as well as in the book Natural Cognitive Theology. This essay will examine the Gospel of John from a cognitive perspective. We will be addressing primarily two questions: 1) What plan of God was Jesus carrying out during his ministry? 2) What cognitive development occurred within the mind of Jesus-the-man? My thesis is that the first 12 chapters of John form a single, connected, cognitive sequence. The other three Gospels probably describe another kind of sequence. That is because John contains extensive content that is not found in the other three synoptic Gospels, while omitting much of content of the synoptic Gospels.

Jesus states throughout the Gospel of John that God is his Father and that everything he does is guided by God the Father. Jesus already knew this when he was 12 years old, because when he stayed behind in Jerusalem and his parents returned to search for him, he explained “Why is it that you were looking for me? Did you not know that I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). A mental concept of God the Father is based in a general Teacher understanding that applies to personal identity. According to Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, a child becomes capable of forming such a concept of God when entering the formal operational stage at about the age of 12. Thus, the Gospels describe Jesus being consciously aware of being guided by God the Father at precisely the age at which the developing mind becomes capable of forming an adequate concept of God the Father.

The only description of Jesus before the age of 12 is in Luke 2: “The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him” (Luke 2:40). The word grow means to ‘become greater in size and maturity’, which tells us that there was both cognitive and physical growth, like a normal human child. However, ‘the grace of God was upon him’ indicates that Jesus already had a special relationship with God the Father, even as a child. The phrase ‘increasing in wisdom’ is more accurately ‘being filled with wisdom’, and filled means to ‘fill to individual capacity, to the extent it is appropriate’. In other words, Jesus always had a special connection with God the Father. But this connection grew as Jesus developed cognitively and physically. At every stage of growth, Jesus was fully filled with wisdom and grace from God to the extent that his mind and body could contain this wisdom and grace. Using an analogy, Jesus was like a cup that was always filled to the brim with God the Father. But as Jesus grew, this cup became larger. Finally, become strong means ‘to attain mastery, the upper hand’. Thus, not only did the cup become larger, it also became stronger.

Using religious language, Jesus always had a character that was inherently righteous, saying and doing what God the Father said and did. Jesus, as the Word made flesh, started his ministry by talking about righteousness. But when people did not listen, then Jesus had to embody his message about righteousness. Going the other way, Jesus always knew that he came from God the Father, but he publicly claimed to be the eternal God after he said and did everything possible to convey his message from God and was rejected.

Normal humans grow up with a mind that is based upon childish MMNs acquired from the physical body. That is because experiences of pain and pleasure from the physical body cause mental networks to form within Mercy thought before the rest of the mind has developed the structure that is needed to handle these experiences in a responsible manner. This does not mean that Mercy thought is inherently evil. This needs to be repeated, because one may gain the impression from this essay that Mercy thought and MMNs (Mercy mental networks) are evil. That is not the case. Instead, the problem lies with childish MMNs; core mental networks acquired directly from the physical environment in an idolatrous fashion. Hebrews 4 tells us that Jesus did not have this sort of childish nature: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Every human mind is driven by a set of core mental networks. It appears that these are essential for human existence. Unlike normal humans, Jesus was not driven inescapably by childish MMNs. Instead, Jesus was inescapably driven by the TMN of a concept of God: he had no choice but to say and do what he saw God the Father saying and doing. The intensity of this drive becomes apparent when one reads through the Gospel of John.

A mindset of mysticism will instinctively reject the idea of using cognitive mechanisms to explain the sinlessness of Jesus, because such an explanation adds content to an overgeneralized concept of God: ‘How dare you besmirch the concept of a holy God by trying to explain sinlessness in terms of human mechanisms?’ But when one describes Jesus as ‘sinless’, one is actually thinking in terms of sin, because one is saying that Jesus was not driven by childish MMNs. One is saying what Jesus was not, but not saying what Jesus was. In contrast, saying that Jesus was driven by the TMN of a concept of God to behave righteously is itself a righteous explanation, because one is using a universal theory of human behavior to explain how the mind of Jesus functioned; one is placing Server sequences of human behavior within a universal Teacher understanding.

Jesus and Mysticism 1:1-5

There is a thematic relationship between the Revelation of John and the Gospel of John. In simplest terms, both the Gospel of John and the Revelation of John describe the process by which incarnation is revealed to humanity. In the Gospel of John this process was only partially successful. The Revelation of John describes how God ultimately succeeds in accomplishing what was supposed to happen in the Gospel of John. I realize that this statement carries a number of theological implications, and we will attempt to address these implications in this essay.

The primary theme of the book of Revelation is replacing a mystical concept of God with a rational concept of God and incarnation. In brief, mysticism combines overgeneralization with identification. Overgeneralization comes up with a general theory in Teacher thought by ignoring facts in Perceiver thought, while identification pretends that I am someone else, also by ignoring facts in Perceiver thought. The ultimate overgeneralization is the mystical statement that ‘all is one’, because making such a statement requires ignoring all facts about reality. Similarly, the ultimate identification is that ‘I am God’, because this requires ignoring all the facts that distinguish finite personal identity from the universal being of God.

Mysticism, by its very nature, must remain at the level of vague generalities without adding specific details, because overgeneralization is based upon the suppression of facts. Mysticism can only coexist with knowledge and content by asserting that God is an incomprehensible, universal being who transcends all specific content. This means that mysticism is fundamentally incompatible with the concept of incarnation, because incarnation builds a bridge of content between the essence of God and the content of human existence. Therefore, if mysticism teaches the doctrine of incarnation, it will always add that incarnation is an incomprehensible mystery.

The Gospel of John begins by contradicting the fundamental assumptions of mysticism: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1). The word translated beginning means ‘what comes first and therefore is chief, .i.e. has the priority because ahead of the rest’. Mysticism states that the ultimate source transcends all specific content: a God of overgeneralization came before content and is more general than content. Thus, mysticism will always conclude that one ultimately can say nothing about God, because words imply content. John, in contrast, begins by saying that the ultimate source includes verbal content. Not only can one say something about the ultimate nature of God, but God and words are inseparably linked: ‘the Word was with God and the Word was God’.

Looking at John’s statement cognitively, two mental strategies cooperate to construct an adequate mental concept of God: Teacher thought and abstract technical thought. Teacher thought develops general theories by coming up with simple statements that apply to many specific situations. For instance, ‘vehicles are metal containers that drive on wheels’ is a simple verbal statement that applies to many objects that one sees on a street. A concept of God emerges when Teacher thought comes up with a sufficiently general theory that applies to personal identity. Abstract technical thought adds details to the general theories of Teacher thought by assigning precise definitions to words. Abstract technical thought cannot exist without precise definitions. This characteristic can be seen in the word logos, which means ‘a person sharing a message (discourse, communication-speech)’ and ‘is a broad term meaning reasoning expressed by words.’ John is saying that the Teacher generalization of a concept of God coexists—and has always coexisted—with the abstract technical thought of incarnation. As John says, “This was in the beginning with God” (1:2). (More precisely, every specialization in abstract technical thought is emotionally supported by some paradigm or general Teacher theory. Any Teacher theory that continues to be used will turn into a TMN, or Teacher mental network. A ‘logos’ is a TMN that drives some specialization in abstract technical thought.)

Mysticism says that God transcends all of the content of the created universe. John, in contrast, says that all of the content of the creation, without exception, came into existence from God through incarnation: “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (1:3).

One might think that I am overstating the idea that the content of creation was created by a rational God. However, John emphasizes this relationship in Revelation 10: “Then the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up his right hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there will be delay no longer, but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets” (Rev. 10:5-7). This is the only time that the word ‘swear’ is mentioned in the book of Revelation. The angel is swearing by the God who created all of the content of creation that the mystery of God ‘is complete and has reached the end’. This end to mystery does not involve the revelation of new content but rather understanding content that has already been revealed through the prophets. Thus, John states in the book of Revelation using the strongest possible language that God is a God of content and not a God of mysticism. And one can tell that humans are supposed to acquire a rational understanding of God because the angel who does the swearing gives a little book to the author John and tells him to digest the book.

Incarnation is both God and man. Similarly, there are two sides to technical thought. Abstract technical thought uses precise definitions to improve general theories in Teacher thought. Concrete technical thought uses a knowledge of cause-and-effect to improve subjective experiences in Mercy thought. A concept of incarnation emerges within the mind as abstract technical thought becomes integrated with concrete technical thought.

Returning to the book of John, verse 4 deals with the relationship between incarnation and subjective experiences in Mercy thought. The mind uses mental networks to represent living beings. (A mental network is a set of emotional memories in either Mercy thought or Teacher thought that function as an integrated unit.) But modern society limits technical thought primarily to the objective realm of knowledge and skills. When the rational content of technical thought remains separate from the mental networks that represent life, then irrational mystical thought is free to rule the subjective. John, in contrast, asserts that incarnation is the source of both life and subjective light: “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men” (1:4). Using cognitive language, the content of incarnation deals with the mental networks of life as well as providing the TMN of a general understanding that shines upon personal identity. Saying this in more detail, incarnation goes beyond specialized abstract technical thought by working with the TMN of a universal concept of God, and incarnation goes beyond objective concrete technical thought by working with MMNs of life.

This leads to a struggle between light and darkness: “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (1:5). The word translated comprehend means to ‘grasp something in a forceful manner’ or ‘apprehend or comprehend by making it one’s own’. Physically speaking, light is the absence of darkness. Therefore it does not make sense physically to think about darkness as a force that is trying to apprehend light. However, cognitively speaking, mysticism is a mental force, because the overgeneralization that ‘all is one’ will turn into a Teacher mental network (TMN) that will attempt to impose its structure upon the mind. And mysticism is a force of darkness because it actively suppresses any content that would shine the light of Teacher understanding upon the details of human existence. For instance, reformed Christian theology emphasizes the doctrine of covenant, which is a key biblical concept. But reformed theology teaches covenant as a vague overgeneralization and resists adding any specific details that would shine light on this doctrine by subdividing it into more specific aspects, downplaying even the fundamental distinction between the Jewish old covenant and the Christian new covenant. Therefore, reformed theology turns covenant into a force of darkness that uses the pressure of a TMN to eliminate the light of understanding.

I refer to the example of reformed Christian theology because one would not expect to find a force of theological darkness in a tome on systematic Christian theology. The theological darkness is much more intense and blatant when dealing with religious thought that is explicitly mystical, such as the philosophy of Martin Buber. For instance, consider the intense theological darkness in the following quote from I and Thou: “We have come near to God, but not nearer to unveiling being or solving its riddle. We have felt release, but not discovered a ‘solution’... This is the eternal revelation that is present here and now. I know of no revelation and believe in none whose primal phenomena is not precisely this. I do not believe in a self-naming of God, a self-definition of God before men” (p.112). In other words, Martin Buber the Jew is categorically rejecting the very concept of God revealing Himself to mankind through Torah.

Continuing with verse 5, mysticism, like all general Teacher theories, tries to ‘apprehend or comprehend by making it one’s own’. For instance, the theory of mental symmetry apprehends the practice of mysticism by explaining or comprehending it as an aspect of cognition: If a person programs the mind using the method of mysticism, then the mind is constructed in such a manner that it will generate the emotional results claimed by mysticism. Mysticism tries to apprehend rational thought by claiming that it is more general than rational thinking. John says that ‘the darkness did not comprehend’ the light. That is because mysticism is cognitively incapable of apprehending anything, including itself. Overgeneralization cannot handle any content, including the content that is acquired by analyzing overgeneralization. That is why mystics will continually emphasize that using too much rational thought to analyze mysticism will destroy mysticism.

John and Incarnation 1:6-13

John has discussed the nature of incarnation, and we have seen that this description is incompatible with mysticism. John then turns his attention to preparing the way for incarnation: “There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light” (1:6-8).

We have seen that the light of God has content. This is not just a theoretical statement, but one with deep practical and personal implications. In simple terms, it means that a person who has the wrong content will reject the light of God. That is why John the Baptist had to prepare the way for incarnation. John the Baptist taught content that is consistent with the light of God, making people more receptive to receiving the light of God. (I will use the full name ‘John the Baptist’ in order to distinguish from John the writer of the Gospel that we are examining.)

Saying this another way, one cannot jump directly from a God of mysticism to a God of understanding and incarnation, because a concept of God is naturally moral. The logic is as follows: The TMN of a concept of God, like all mental networks, will use emotional pressure to impose its structure upon the mind. A concept of God emerges when a general understanding applies to personal identity. Therefore, a concept of God will use emotional pressure to impose the character of God upon personal identity. A God of mysticism will be actively amoral, because the TMN of overgeneralization will try to impose the idea that there is no universal content. This is illustrated by current Western society, which seeks spirituality without content and is offended by the very concept of moral rules. In contrast, a rational God of content will be actively moral, exerting emotional pressure upon personal identity to conform to the character of God.

One also cannot jump directly from gods of idolatry to a God of understanding and incarnation. Idolatrous gods are constructed in the image of personal identity. As illustrated by the Greek and Roman gods, they are merely larger versions of fallible humans with their childish MMNs. A God of mysticism will promote amorality, while a God of idolatry will promote a low level of morality that matches how people are already behaving. In both cases, there is no moral pressure upon personal identity to change.

A person will only be able to handle the concept of a holy God if personal identity is already behaving in a somewhat moral fashion. The purpose of a John the Baptist is to encourage people to behave morally so that they are mentally capable of grasping the concept of a holy and righteous God. Using an analogy, literacy is a prerequisite for acquiring an education. Before one can learn from books, one must first learn how to read books.

Such a person is ‘a man sent from God’. On the one hand, what is being taught is not universal divine principles but rather human rules of morality. On the other hand, the rules that are being taught are consistent with universal principles of morality. For instance, this describes the fundamentalist Christian who teaches biblical principles as a set of rules. Such individuals probably do not understand why they are following these moral rules, but the fact that they are following these rules makes it mentally possible for them to gain an understanding of morality.

A John the Baptist is a personal witness, who witnesses personally about the light, in order to make it possible for people to believe in a God of rational content: “He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him” (1:7). But this moral preaching should not be confused with the light of a rational Teacher understanding of God: “He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light” (1:7).

In contrast, when a rational concept of God is revealed through incarnation, then this leads to a light of truth that brings the illumination of understanding to all personal experiences: “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man” (1:9).

Saying this another way, what is being described is a transition from absolute truth to universal truth. A John the Baptist teaches absolute truth. Absolute truth is based in MMNs of personal authority; a fact is believed to be true because it is spoken by an important person. Incarnation, in contrast, teaches universal truth. Universal truth is based in the TMN of a general understanding; a fact is believed to be true because it describes principles that occur everywhere.

Using the words of John, universal truth describes principles that are embedded into the very fabric of the universe: “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him” (1:10). However, “the world did not know Him” (1:10). The physical world is guided by inescapable universal laws of nature, which continue to function whether they are acknowledged by humans or not. When something functions automatically, then the natural tendency is to ignore this functioning and pretend that it does not exist. For instance, the average Western citizen has no clue about what is required to keep a modern economy going, because the system functions so smoothly behind the scenes.

Going further, “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him” (1:11). The coming of incarnation did not occur in a vacuum. Instead, a Jewish culture of observing Torah and following God through history first had to be prepared. Incarnation as an expression of God had to come to a culture that was itself in some way an expression of God. Notice that one is again dealing with a situation of doing the right thing for inadequate reasons. The average Jew did not (and still does not) view Torah as an expression of the universal character of God, but rather as practices which demonstrate that Jewish culture is superior to other cultures. Using cognitive language, Torah was not associated with a TMN of understanding the nature of God but rather with MMNs of Jewish culture and identity.

The transition from absolute truth to universal truth makes it possible to experience the benefits of God in new ways: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (1:12). If one receives incarnation as an expression of the TMN of God, then one can personally become an expression of the incarnation of God. That is because a concept of God who imposes moral content upon personal identity is also capable of transforming personal identity. In order to experience this personal transformation, one must view incarnation from a Teacher perspective as the embodiment of universal principles that apply to everyone. Using the language of John, one must ‘believe in his name’, and not just view Jesus as an important person who lived 2000 years ago.

This transformation involves being personally reborn from the right source: “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (1:13). Blood represents mental networks of identity. One cannot become reborn through personal MMNs. Paul uses the word flesh to refer to the childish nature that results from growing up in a physical body. The will of the flesh would describe natural self-effort. This is also an inadequate foundation for rebirth. The word translated man refers specifically to male humans and not to humanity in general. Interpreting this in terms of male and female thought, female thought naturally emphasizes mental networks, while male thought emphasizes facts and skills. Male thought is capable of fixing and improving, but it too is an insufficient basis for rebirth. Instead, the only adequate basis for rebirth is the TMN of a mental concept of God: ‘but of God’. (Mental wholeness for both men and women requires an internal ‘marriage’ between male and female thought. A woman naturally emphasizes female thought, while a man naturally emphasizes male thought.)

Word made Flesh 1:14-17

I mentioned earlier that a mental concept of incarnation combines abstract technical thought—which helps Teacher thought construct general theories by assigning precise definitions to words, with concrete technical thought—which helps personal identity by following concrete principles of cause-and-effect. Contributor thought is the part of the mind that controls technical thought. One can see from the diagram of mental symmetry that Contributor combines Perceiver facts with Server sequences. Abstract technical thought combines Server sequences of words with Perceiver facts that assign meanings to these words. Concrete technical thought combines Perceiver facts about objects and experiences with Server actions that lead from one object or experience to another.

A concept of incarnation as both God and man emerges when abstract technical thought becomes mentally integrated with concrete technical thought. There is both a Perceiver side and a Server side to this mental integration. The Perceiver side involves Platonic forms. Plato was a Greek philosopher, and Greek thought was starting to gain a glimpse of the Perceiver side of incarnation. This Perceiver side relates to Peter and the ‘keys of the kingdom of heaven’. Going further, a concept of the Holy Spirit emerges when Platonic forms combine to form what Plato called a ‘form of the Good’. The Perceiver side of integrating incarnation did not yet exist during the time of Christ, because “the Spirit was not yet given” (John 7:39).

The Server side involves exemplars. An exemplar is a Server action that embodies a general theory in Teacher thought. Using biblical language, an exemplar is ‘the word made flesh’. The gospel of John opens by describing incarnation as the word of God made flesh, and Jesus repeatedly states that he always acted in a way that expressed the words of God the Father. Thus, one could describe Jesus-the-man as an exemplar of God the Father. Looking at this historically, Judaism teaches that God revealed the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai in order to tell the Jews how they should act. This laid the foundation for Jesus to become incarnate as the exemplar of God—as the Word made flesh. The goal of Jesus-the-man was to extend incarnation from Server actions to Perceiver facts, from exemplar to Platonic form.

Verse 14 describes several characteristics of incarnation: 1) ‘the Word became flesh’. The direction is from abstract theory to practical application. The natural cognitive tendency is for people to come up with theories that rationalize their personal behavior. Personal and societal transformation will only occur if understanding is allowed to shape behavior. 2) ‘we saw His glory’. When theory is applied, then this leads to visible results that can be seen. These visible results have glory, because they express the elegance, simplicity, structure, beauty, and power of Teacher understanding. 3) ‘glory as of the only begotten’. There is only room for one universal theory in Teacher thought. Using religious language, there is only one monotheistic God. When this universal Teacher understanding is applied through incarnation, then this application will also be unified and integrated. Using religious language, Jesus is the ‘only begotten’. (A mother gives birth to a child; a father begets a child. Thus, ‘begotten’ means the child of a father.) 4) ‘full of grace and truth’. Grace means ‘leaning towards to share benefit’. Applying integrated understanding through incarnation leads to personal benefits. This is because incarnation is full of truth, which means ‘true to fact, synonymous for reality as the opposite of illusion’. In contrast, a mystical encounter with God is devoid of truth. Instead of embracing the facts of reality, mysticism disregards them as illusion. That is because mysticism is based in Teacher overgeneralization, which cannot handle Perceiver facts. A mystical encounter that rejects the facts of reality as illusion, is also incapable of being full of grace, because people live within a world of physical facts, and a concept of God that rejects physical facts is incapable of ‘leaning towards’ people in order to ‘share benefit’. 5) Both incarnation and God are referred to as masculine: ‘we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father’. Male thought emphasizes the rational contact of Perceiver facts and Server sequences. If both God and incarnation are referred to using the masculine gender, then this means that God himself is based in rational content, and God interacts with humanity through rational content. Again, this is the opposite of mysticism, which insists that God is not based in rational content, and strives to have an emotional encounter with God that transcends rational content.

It is important to point out the incompatibility between mysticism and John’s statements, because every religious system—and every religious scholar—that I have examined so far, is either fully committed to mysticism or else ultimately based upon a core of mysticism. Going further, every Christian theologian that I have read so far states that the concept of Jesus being the incarnation of God is an incomprehensible mystery. But John does not describe incarnation as ‘the unspeakable becoming flesh, from the transcendent, full of self-denial and mystery’, but rather as ‘the Word becoming flesh, from the Father, full of grace that benefits humanity and truth about reality’.

Math and Science

One can gain a better understanding of the word becoming flesh by looking at the relationship between math and science. We will take a few paragraphs to examine this parallel, because I suggest that there is a deep relationship between the Gospel of John and the structure of science. Paul Dirac, the famous physicist, stated it this way: “Pure mathematics and physics are becoming ever more closely connected, though their methods remain different. One may describe the situation by saying that the mathematician plays a game in which he himself invents the rules while the physicist plays a game in which the rules are provided by Nature, but as time goes on it becomes increasingly evident that the rules which the mathematician finds interesting are the same as those which Nature has chosen.” Saying this another way, science uses the words of mathematics to describe how the world behaves, guided by a fundamental belief that there is a deep correspondence between the theories of math and what the world does. A similar correspondence exists when learning science, because the student of science learns the theories of science primarily by the doing of solving one scientific problem after another.

The concept of the Word being made flesh becomes even more obvious when science is applied in technology. Science is based in the rational words of mathematics, which are made flesh through the actions of technology. Technology leads to visible results that reflect the elegance, structure, and beauty of science. Unlike mysticism, technology is not based in an emotional encounter of science but rather requires an intense knowledge of facts about reality. Technology does not always lead to personal benefits. However, I suggest that the problem does not lie with scientific thought, but rather with an incomplete expression of incarnation. First, science and technology focus upon the Server side of exemplars while downplaying the Perceiver side of Platonic forms. Second, science ignores the TMN of a concept of God by specializing, and it ignores MMNs of personal identity by remaining objective. The end result is that modern science and technology are vulnerable to becoming emotionally hijacked by MMNs of personal status and cultural domination.

Because I have studied both Christianity and scientific thought from a cognitive perspective, I find it obvious that there is a correspondence between John’s statement about the Word becoming flesh, and the relationship between math and natural process that one finds in science. However, if one googles the terms ‘word made flesh science’, one finds almost nothing describing this obvious parallel. For instance, one article entitled The Word Made Flesh from the Institute for Creation Research proclaims in mystical fashion that “We can never understand how the infinite God could become finite man, but where the intellect fails, faith prevails.” Another article, also entitled The word made flesh (this time written in lowercase), written by Richard Dawkins concludes that “the absolutist mind - one of the great scourges of humanity - has never been richly endowed with either intelligence or imagination. Unfortunately, the absolutist mind needs to see the word made flesh.” Unfortunately, it appears that neither the creationist nor the evolutionist has either the ‘intelligence or imagination’ to recognize that the concept of the Word becoming flesh is neither a mystery nor a scourge of the absolutist mind, but rather is reflected by the extensive interaction between mathematical equation and natural process that one finds in science.

God, Science, and Mysticism

Pulling together these two discussions about mysticism and science, I have become convinced that God’s original plan was for the Jews and Greeks to discover science in Alexandria before the time of Christ. (Alexandria is on the Egyptian coast, about 600 km west of Jerusalem.) However, instead of discovering science, Judaism chose to follow a combination of mysticism and nationalism. Christianity is currently in the process of making the same mistake, choosing to reject the concept of a rational God, in favor of either the mysticism of empty spirituality or else the nationalism of God-and-country. Now that science has emerged, Jews naturally excel at the practice of science, and Jews do have a concept of national righteousness, believing that the word of God is expressed through the flesh of the Jewish nation. But Kabbalah, the Jewish version of theology, continues to insist that mysticism and Jewish identity are more fundamental than personal righteousness.

The thesis of this essay is that John 1-12 makes sense as a single connected sequence if one views it as a description of Jesus the incarnation descending from God to man, similar to the manner in which science has descended from mathematical theory to a transformation of human society. As we go through the book of John, at each step in this sequence we will see the audience rejecting Jesus primarily because they are viewing God through the lens of mysticism rather than through a lens of scientific understanding. In contrast, if a scientific revolution had occurred in Alexandria, then the message of Jesus would have resonated—at least partially—with his audience.

I know that this interpretation raises major questions regarding the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. These questions are discussed in another essay. In brief, I suggest that human free will can postpone the plan of God and make the plan of God more painful, but it cannot ultimately thwart the sovereign plan of God. Thus, human society could thwart God’s primary plan of discovering science in Alexandria but not God’s backup plan of discovering science during the Renaissance.

Addressing this more specifically, what I am stating sounds like open theism, and I know that those who emphasize the sovereignty of God categorically reject as blasphemous the very concept that humans could alter the sovereign purpose of God. However, I have found that in practice it works the other way around. It sounds reverent to proclaim that the sovereign plan of God is beyond human comprehension, but this leaves one’s understanding of God at the mystical level of overgeneralization, devoid of content. But we live in a scientific world that demands theories with content, which looks down with disdain at theories that lack content. Therefore, Christian scholars will feel a need to add theoretical legitimacy to Christianity, which they will do adding theoretical content from non-biblical and non-Christian sources, because a mystical concept of God is—by definition—devoid of theoretical content. Ultimately, Christian scholars will end up disdaining in practice the very God that they verbally exalt. Unfortunately, I am not just talking theoretically, because this is currently happening in most Christian universities and seminaries.

I should emphasize that when I talk about the birth of science, I am referring to all of the discoveries made, and theories developed, during what we call the scientific revolution. I am not referring to some attempt to bridge religion and science through the theory of evolution. Looking at this cognitively, as Thomas Kuhn pointed out, the scientist cannot exist without a rational paradigm. Fundamentalism preaches blind faith instead of coming up with rational paradigms, while mysticism only works if one ‘transcends’ rational thought. Evolution, in contrast, attempts to provide a rational explanation for major questions, such as human meaning, the nature of God, and the purpose of the universe. I have come to the conclusion that the theory of mental symmetry provides a better rational explanation for such major questions than the theory of evolution. Saying this more simply, I suggest that the theory of evolution was not developed primarily to explain physical evidence, but rather to meet a psychological need, and the theory of mental symmetry meets this psychological need in a better way.

I should also emphasize that if science had emerged before the time of Jesus, then Jesus still would have had to die a sacrificial death and Jesus still would have been put to death by the existing religious and academic leaders. That is because Jesus goes beyond the technical specializations of science to include a unified concept of God, and he goes beyond the objective mindset of science to include personal identity. One can imagine what a scientific response to Jesus would have been like, by examining the reaction of modern science to the concept of Intelligent Design. ID makes statements about the nature of God based upon the order and structure of the universe, and is rejected in scathing terms by most modern scientists (For instance, Wikipedia is usually a fairly neutral source, but the Wikipedia article on Intelligent Design is dripping with ridicule.) This implies that the coming of Jesus as incarnation would have triggered similar—and probably stronger—feelings of antipathy, especially from academic and religious experts. However, my guess is that the current split between Christianity and Judaism could have been avoided, the dominant religious mindset of mysticism would have been given a death blow, and two millennia of bloodshed and suffering could have been avoided, both for the Jewish people and for the world at large.

I also need to address a theological concern, and I will deliberately use theological terminology to address this issue. The book of Hebrews emphasizes that the atonement of Jesus is more perfect and more complete than the animal sacrifices of previous times. Quoting from one passage: “It was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself” (Hebrew 7:26-27.)

At first glance, it may appear that I am questioning the completeness of the atoning work of Jesus, because I am suggesting that Jesus did not fully succeed in carrying out his plan of redemption. However, I suggest that a distinction needs to be made between justification, the aspect of atonement that deals with God’s view of human sin, and sanctification, the aspect of atonement that solves the problem of man’s sin. From the viewpoint of God in Teacher thought, Jesus carried out completely God’s plan of redemption, and the Gospel of John describes how God’s plan of redemption was completely carried out from God’s perspective. The human lack of scientific knowledge did not prevent Jesus from carrying out this plan. Thus, justification by God is complete. But from the viewpoint of humanity in Mercy thought, Jesus could not fully carry out God’s plan of redemption. Instead, the lack of scientific knowledge forced Jesus to perform many steps of God’s plan in a symbolic fashion, talking in parables to an audience that was incapable of fully grasping his message, and performing miracles that illustrated general principles. Thus, from the human viewpoint of sanctification, I suggest that God’s plan carried out through Jesus is still incomplete, and John’s book of Revelation describes how God will complete this plan. This is illustrated by the fact that most current Christian theologians have a fairly well developed concept of justification, while ignoring or misunderstanding the topic of sanctification. (One sees this imbalance, for instance, in the theology of NT Wright.)

Applying this to the Gospel of John, John 1-12 makes cognitive sense as a description of the perfect plan of God carried out from God’s perspective, with incarnation descending from God to man. John opens his gospel by describing Jesus as the Word made flesh and he emphasizes that Jesus does only what the Father does. It may be that the synoptic Gospels make cognitive sense as a description of the convoluted manner in which God is being forced to carry out his plan because the Jews did not discover science. I suggest this because the synoptic Gospels do not focus upon the righteousness of Jesus the way that John does. However, at this point my statement is purely conjecture because I have not examined the other Gospels in detail.

The very fact that I am trying to analyze God’s plan of redemption may lead to the feeling that the atonement of Jesus is inadequate. But I suggest that this feeling is an expression of Teacher overgeneralization. If one views atonement from a mystical perspective, then any attempt to analyze atonement will make atonement feel inadequate. For instance, Berkhof never talks about ‘having a personal relationship with Jesus’ or ‘asking Jesus into your heart’, but refers instead to ‘mystical union with Christ’. However, a plan that lacks substance is merely wishful thinking and not a plan. A divine plan of redemption that lacks substance turns easily into cheap grace, which smiles beatifically at every human infraction while uttering platitudes of unconditional love. Content must then be added by human religious experts, who will turn God’s salvation into submission to religious authority.

Greater than John the Baptist 1:16-18

Returning now to the Gospel of John, John the Baptist proclaims in verse 16 that “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” Similarly, the truth-based preaching of Christianity laid the foundation for scientific thought. However, a scientist does not create understanding but rather discovers general principles that have always functioned since long before the life of the scientist. Because the scientist is describing laws of nature that already exist, laws of nature have a higher rank than the personal opinions of the scientist because they existed before the scientist. For instance, objects have always fallen to the ground in exactly the same manner. But Isaac Newton was the first to mathematically describe how objects fall to the ground. However, Isaac Newton discovered the laws of gravity because Western civilization held to a Christian worldview.

This has led to an explosion of scientific understanding that has affected all of society. In the words of John, “for of his fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace” (1:16). The phrase translated ‘grace upon grace’ is literally ‘grace in exchange for, or as a substitute for grace’. Similarly, the growth of science and technology has resulted in a succession of graces, each one replacing the previous one. For instance, the watermill was replaced by the steam engine, the internal combustion engine replaced the steam engine, which itself is now starting to be replaced by solar power and electric vehicles. Each of these is an expression of the Teacher understanding of science, and each concrete expression of grace has been replaced by a new and improved expression of grace.

The two adjectives of grace and truth are repeated in verse 17: “grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ”. The word translated realized means to ‘come into being, used for God’s actions as emerging from eternity and showing themselves in physical space’. Here too we can look to science and technology as a partial illustration, because the laws of nature have existed since the beginning of the universe, but they have emerged from eternity to show themselves in physical space through the partial incarnation of science and technology.

In contrast, “the law was given through Moses” (1:17). Obviously, this refers to the Jewish laws revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. But I suggest there is also a related symbolic meaning. The name Moses means ‘drawn out’, which was given to Moses because he was rescued from the water: “She brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. And she named him Moses, and said, ‘because I drew him out of the water’” (Exodus 2:10). Water symbolizes the concrete realm of experiences. When one draws laws ‘out of the water’, then one is learning rules of common sense from the experiences of reality. Similarly, when one examines the mindset of the Israelites in the wilderness, one notices that God was trying to ‘draw them out’ of the ‘water’ of idolatry and physical experience. They did not want to follow an unseen God but rather wanted to worship visible objects that could be seen, and continually complained because their physical appetites were not being adequately satisfied.

John describes this in the next verse: “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (1:18). God is not based in visible experiences. God is not drawn out of the water. One does not gain an adequate concept of God either through common sense or through the miraculous experiences encountered by the Israelites in the wilderness. But God can be explained by incarnation, and the word explained is an accurate translation, because the Greek word is exegeomai, from which we get the English term exegesis, and Josephus used this word as ‘a technical term for the interpretation of the law as practiced by the rabbinate’. Notice the combination of rational thought and emotional attraction. Incarnation explains God, but incarnation is also in the bosom of the Father. Similarly, the laws of science are both rational structures that are expressed through technology and explained using technical thought, as well as universal laws that provide emotional pleasure to Teacher thought. In contrast, laws of common sense that are drawn from nature are not usually understood or explained. Understanding makes truth and grace possible. That is because Teacher thought looks for general laws that apply in many situations. Understanding builds truth, because truth describes facts that are true in many situations at many times. And understanding enables grace, because Teacher emotion motivates a person to apply universal law in more ways and more situations. For instance, common sense sees the law of gravity as ‘do not step off a cliff or you will fall to the bottom and die’. Understanding, in contrast, sees the law of gravity as a way of explaining how objects move through the air on earth as well as how planets orbit in the sky, making it possible to control the path of objects on earth as well as conceive of how one might travel to other planets.

I am not suggesting that science is right and religion is wrong. One can learn from science because science uses rational thinking to come up with universal principles, while mystical religious thought insists that universal principles are ultimately irrational. Thus, science uses the right kind of thinking. But one must also recognize that science is only a partial illustration of incarnation. That is because science only deals with physical reality, while ignoring the larger questions of personal and cosmic meaning which religion attempts to address. Over the decades, I have repeatedly found that the Bible makes sense when one applies the thinking of science to the topics of religion.

That brings us back to the idea that the Jews and Greeks were supposed to discover science in Alexandria. If science had emerged before the time of Christ, then Jesus could have taken the thinking of science and extended it to the topics of religion. Jesus still would have been killed by the authorities, because most scientists are unwilling to apply rational thought to the subjective, but Jesus would have become incarnate to a society that grasped the concept of incarnation, because science and technology are a partial illustration of incarnation. Instead, the Gospel of John continually describes Jesus colliding with a societal mindset that is incapable of grasping the very concept of incarnation.

Who is John the Baptist? 1:19-23

This inadequacy can be seen in the identity of John the Baptist. When John started his ministry, the religious authorities wanted to know how he fit into Jewish religion: “This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, ‘I am not the Christ.’ They asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ And he said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ And he answered, ‘No.’” (1:19-21).

Let us look at these three figures. One of the central claims of Christianity is that Jesus fulfilled the role of Jewish Messiah. If Jesus is the Messiah, then obviously John the Baptist was not. ‘The prophet’ was mentioned by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.” The general consensus among Christian scholars is that Jesus also fulfilled this role.

Looking further at Deuteronomy 18, the description of ‘the prophet’ sounds rather like ‘the Word made flesh’: “This is according to all that you asked of the Lord your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.’ The Lord said to me, ‘They have spoken well. I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him” (Deuteronomy 18:16-19). The Israelites did not want to hear words directly from Teacher thought because the emotional impact threatened personal identity in Mercy thought. God replied that this was a good desire. (Incidentally, this contradicts the Kabbalistic assertion that God secretly taught mysticism to Moses on Mount Sinai.) Instead, God will teach his words through a person who lives within the cultural context of Judaism. This prophet will faithfully transmit the words of God the Father, and these words will be enforced by God. In other words, God’s words will be revealed through the flesh of the prophet, but what the prophet says will be consistent with the word of God and will be backed up by the universal laws of God.

Moving on, the reference to Elijah comes from Malachi 4: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Malachi 4:5). The sun shines during the day, and a sun symbolizes the light of a universal understanding that shines on the entire earth of rational thought. Therefore, I suggest that the day of the Lord refers to a coming period of time when all of society will be enlightened by the universal understanding of a rational concept of God and incarnation, which will be ushered in by what I refer to as the theoretical return of Christ, described in Matthew 24 as well as the end of Revelation 11. Malachi 4 is consistent with this interpretation: “‘For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘That will leave them neither root nor branch. But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves. You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 4:1-3). Notice that the day of the Lord is explicitly referred to as ‘the rising of the Sun of righteousness’. Righteousness can be defined as Server action that is consistent with Teacher understanding—a personal version of the Word made flesh. Thus, a Sun of righteousness is a universal Teacher understanding that expresses itself in Server actions. Those who are emotionally motivated by the name of God in Teacher thought will find personal healing in this unveiling, while the proud who exalt Mercy mental networks (MMNs) of personal status, as well as those who act wickedly, will become emotionally ‘burned up’ by this Teacher understanding.

Summarizing, science grasps the concept of a Sun of righteousness, because science teaches that the behavior of the natural world can be analyzed using the words of mathematical equations, and science also teaches that one learns about science not just by hearing the words of mathematical equations but by doing experiments and by carrying out the steps of solving scientific problems. Most Christians do not grasp the concept of a Sun of righteousness, because they do not believe that the ways of God can be described, but instead believe that righteousness is something that is verbally given by God to Christians. Instead, I suggested earlier that one needs to distinguish between the verbal declaration of righteousness that occurs in justification and the character of righteousness that one acquires through the process of sanctification.

If there had been a scientific revolution in Alexandria, then it would have been possible for a Sun of righteousness to rise, leading to the dawn of the day of the Lord. But this did not happen. Therefore, the day of the Lord could not occur, and ‘Elijah the prophet’ could not come. Instead, God had to send someone like ‘Elijah the prophet’ to prepare the way for the coming of incarnation.

70 Weeks of Daniel

In addition, Daniel’s prophecies could not become fully fulfilled, but instead had to halt before ‘the 70th week of Daniel’. The 70 weeks are described in the book of Daniel: “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate” (Daniel 9 24:27). Notice what has and has not been fulfilled. Jesus the Messiah did ‘make atonement for iniquity’, but he did not ‘finish the transgression’, ‘make an end of sin’, or ‘bring in everlasting righteousness’. These last three traits can only be accomplished if a Sun of righteousness has arisen, and that can only happen if people understand the concept of righteousness, and that requires the birth of science. Similarly, the Messiah was cut off, and the city and the sanctuary of Jerusalem were destroyed. There have been wars and desolations. But we have not yet seen ‘a complete destruction… poured out on the one who makes desolate’. That happens during the second half of the book of Revelation, after the Sun of righteousness has arisen in Revelation 11.

Jesus’ description of John the Baptist is consistent with this interpretation. In Matthew 11, Jesus says “If you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Notice that Jesus specifically says that one should approach the identity of John the Baptist using Teacher thought: ‘he who has ears to hear, let him hear’. Jesus then complains that his Jewish audience is not ‘willing to accept it’: “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds. Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent” (Matt. 11:14-15,18-20). In other words, John could not fulfill the role of Elijah because the Jews were incapable of accepting the message of incarnation, no matter how it was presented. However, the general principle of righteousness will still prevail: ‘wisdom is made righteous by her deeds’. (The word translated vindicated is actually ‘made or declared righteous’.)

Jesus describes this rejection more clearly in Matthew 17: “His disciples asked Him, ‘Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’ And He answered and said, ‘Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist” (Matt. 17:10-13). In other words, incarnation was supposed to be proceeded by an ‘Elijah the prophet’ as described by Malachi. But something prevented Judaism from recognizing the role of either Elijah the prophet or incarnation. Because Elijah was not emotionally backed up by any TMN of scientific understanding, the Jews were able to impose their personal MMNs and ‘do to him whatever they wished’.

I need to repeat that I am not picking on the Jews, because Christianity also views incarnation as an incomprehensible mystery. For instance, the 1995 Catholic catechism entitled Life in Christ states on page 61 that “Of all the mysteries of our faith the Blessed Trinity is the deepest of mysteries.” Page 65 adds that “It is impossible to adequately describe this mystery. Even the great church father St. Augustine is reputed to have said that trying to understand the Trinity would be like trying to fit the ocean into a tiny hole in the sand.” And page 70 summarizes that “Fundamental to the Christian faith is the belief in the incarnation: the Son of God became human in order to save us. During the early centuries of its existence the Church struggled to understand how Jesus was fully human while remaining God. In time it came to use the language of Greek philosophy to describe this mystery.” In contrast, the apostle Paul says that incarnation was a mystery, but it has now been revealed: “I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:25-27). As I have mentioned, this unveiling of Jesus Christ as the incarnation of God appears to be the primary theme of John’s book of Revelation.

Returning now to Gospel of John, the religious experts then ask John the Baptist what he is: “Then they said to him, ‘Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?’ He said, ‘I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” as Isaiah the prophet said’” (1:22,23). John the Baptist is quoting from Isaiah 40: “A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley” (Isaiah 40:3-4).

I mentioned that one cannot separate understanding in Teacher thought from actions in Server thought. Either understanding will guide action, leading to righteousness, or else action will shape understanding. (This is different than the relationship between Perceiver thought and Mercy thought which makes it difficult to acknowledge Perceiver facts that make personal identity feel bad in Mercy thought.) If one is already behaving in some context in a manner that is consistent with rational understanding, then one can build upon this pragmatic foundation by telling people to think and behave in a manner that is like what they are already doing. This principle is described in John 3:21: “He who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” Thus, John the Baptist could have fulfilled the role of Elijah the prophet by telling his listeners, “You know what it means for the Word to become flesh because of science. Science studies the universe, which was created by God and is a reflection of the character of God. The Word becoming flesh is not just a theoretical concept. It describes the very nature of God the incarnation. Similarly, you know how important it is to apply words with actions when studying science. Applying theory and action is not just something you do when studying the physical world. It is also a general principle that you need to apply to your own personal life.” This is the kind of logic that I try to follow. Christian theology is not an incomprehensible mystery that one believes by placing blind faith in the Bible. Instead, one can understand what God is like by examining the structure of the natural universe.

But an understanding of science was not present. Therefore, all that John the Baptist could do was tell people to stop doing the crooked Server actions that were warping their understanding. He was a voice in the wilderness, telling people to make straight the way of the Lord. Instead of being able to tell his audience that incarnation was like the behavior that they were already following with science, John the Baptist could only tell his audience that incarnation was not like the behavior that they were doing. Instead of building a highway, John the Baptist could only clear away the obstacles. One can see this clearing of obstacles in Isaiah 40: ‘Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low’.

Baptism of John 1:24-28

The Pharisees then asked John the Baptist a further question: “Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, and said to him, ‘Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?’ John answered them saying, ‘I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie’” (1:24-27). In other words, if John the Baptist is only carrying out a backup plan, then why is he preaching a message of transformation and repentance? A similar question could be posed of Christianity. If Christianity does not understand what it preaches, and if Christianity is only a ‘wild olive branch’ that has been ‘grafted into the olive tree of Israel’ (Romans 11:17-24), then why should one listen to the Christian message of personal transformation and repentance? (I know that most Christians pose the opposite question, asking if God still has a place for the Jews. But in Romans 11, Paul clearly portrays Judaism as the tree and Christianity as the wild branch.) The answer is that cognitive principles apply whether one understands them or not. The path to personal and societal wholeness requires taking certain steps, whether one understands these steps or not. John the Baptist tells the Pharisees that they lack understanding: ‘among you stands One whom you do not know’, and the word translated know means ‘seeing that becomes knowing, a gateway to grasp spiritual truth from a physical plane’. Water represents the Mercy realm of concrete experiences. When one follows a personal path of transformation without understanding what one is doing, then this can symbolically be described as a baptism in water.

The location of John’s baptizing may also have symbolic significance: “These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing” (1:28). The name Bethany means ‘house of affliction’. Personal transformation can be motivated either by the ‘carrot’ of a general Teacher understanding, or by the ‘stick’ of personal pain. One can either be drawn to the new or kicked out of the old. When understanding is lacking, then the primary motivation for personal transformation will be trying to escape the suffering of living personally in some physical or metaphorical ‘house of affliction’.

Going further, mental symmetry suggests that the path of personal transformation goes through the three major stages of personal honesty, righteousness, and rebirth. The journey of the Israelites from Egypt to the promised land of Israel symbolizes these three stages. One starts by leaving Egypt, a symbol of immature, idolatrous thought. One then spends time in the wilderness, where one is supposed to find Teacher pleasure in learning about God, the way that Joshua did (Exodus 33:11), and not pine for the MMNs of Egypt that have been left behind, the way most Israelites did. One then goes over the Jordan in order to enter the promised land of a reborn personal identity. John’s baptism was on the east side of the Jordan River and not within the promised land of Israel, which implies that it was not a baptism of personal rebirth. (The east side of the Jordan River is mentioned again in John 3 and John 10, and the references there also support this symbolic interpretation.)

Before we continue, I should make a brief comment about symbolism. I think that it is dangerous to build a biblical interpretation solely upon the type of symbolism mentioned in the previous paragraph. That is because one can then build theology upon hidden meaning that contradicts what the text literally says. I suggest that this describes the Jewish thinking of Sod, which builds mysticism upon the biblical text by looking for hidden symbolism. However, I suggest that it is valid to study symbolism if the symbols reinforce the meaning of the literal text. For instance, I have suggested elsewhere that hair symbolizes intuitive thought. One can come up with a cognitive basis for this interpretation, but some readers might regard this as a bit of a stretch. However, in Luke 21, Jesus explicitly mentions hair in the context of intuitive thought: “Make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name. Yet not a hair of your head will perish” (Luke 21:14-18).

More generally, I have found that one can add technical rigor to symbolic interpretation by interpreting each symbol in a cognitively natural way that resonates with the structure of the mind and then applying the same meaning wherever that symbol appears. Cognitively speaking, this makes symbolic interpretation compatible with abstract technical thought, which requires precise and consistent definitions.

John sees Jesus 1:29-34

Returning to the Gospel of John, John the Baptist sees Jesus the next day: “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” (1:29).

We saw when looking at the 70 weeks of Daniel that the Messiah was supposed to accomplish four tasks: ‘make atonement for iniquity’, ‘finish the transgression’, ‘make an end of sin’, and ‘bring in everlasting righteousness’. I suggested that Jesus was able to accomplish the first task, but doing the other three would have required a society that understood science. Notice that John the Baptist describes the one task that Jesus the Messiah was able to accomplish: ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’.

John the Baptist then refers to the statement made earlier: “This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me’” (1:30). John’s statement regarding the status of Jesus does not make sense if one uses Mercy thought to determine personal status. On the one hand, John refers to Jesus as a lamb, which implies low personal status, but on the other hand John says that Jesus has a higher rank, which describes high personal status. The solution to this contradiction is to approach Jesus from a Teacher perspective, as is done in Philippians 2: God gave Jesus a name that is above every name because Jesus became flesh in order to perform the function of being the Lamb of God. That describes a mindset of righteousness. An individual gains personal status in Teacher thought by personally performing a groundbreaking, fundamental task. This concept is examined in more detail in 1 Corinthians 9, where the apostle Paul talks about what it means to be an apostle, and will also be discussed later in the essay when looking at the end of John 11.

In contrast, the best that a Mercy-based mindset can do is repent back to earlier sources. Such a mindset believes that a Perceiver fact is true because it comes from some source with great personal authority. If this fact turns out to be false, then this means that one can find the true absolute truth by searching for the original source, the ultimate authority who lies behind other secondary authorities. (The Perceiver person has a natural tendency to respond to error by turning to earlier authorities.) John the Baptist is using this logic by saying that Jesus is more important because he existed before John. As was mentioned earlier, the ultimate solution is to recognize that truth describes universal principles that are built into the fabric of the universe, and that human authorities are discovering principles that already exist.

But it appears that John the Baptist is using inadequate Mercy-based thinking, because he admits that he himself did not recognize Jesus: “I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water” (1:31). And the word translated recognize is the same verb used in verse 26 when John says that the Pharisees do not know the Messiah. In other words, John the Baptist is not just preparing the way for others to recognize the Messiah, he is also preparing the way for he himself to recognize the Messiah. John’s baptism in water was inadequate, but it did open people’s eyes so that they could recognize the coming of Messiah. Applying this to the Christian message of personal transformation, it appears to be incapable of comprehending incarnation, because it is based in blind faith and not understanding. (Current Christianity does have significant understanding. But core doctrines, such as incarnation, are still based in blind faith.) However, if one follows the path of Christian transformation, then this will make a person capable of recognizing incarnation. Applying this to the birth of science, Christianity may proclaim that incarnation is an incomprehensible mystery, but Christendom with its rituals and blind faith created the mindset that made it possible for the partial incarnation of science and technology to be born.

If John the Baptist was incapable of recognizing incarnation, then how could he know that Jesus was the Messiah? John the Baptist with his Mercy-based mindset recognized the indirect result that Teacher understanding has upon Mercy thought: “John testified saying, ‘I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him’” (1:32). John repeats that he did not recognize Messiah and had to be guided by an indirect sign: “I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit’” (1:33). And John recognizes that God is the ultimate source of this indirect sign: “I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God” (1:34).

This indirect sign has four characteristics: 1) spirit, 2) descending from heaven, 3) like a dove, 4) remaining. I mentioned earlier that spirit relates to Platonic forms. In brief, Teacher thought comes up with general theories by looking for the fundamental essence that summarizes or simplifies many specific elements. This Teacher understanding leads indirectly to the formation of imaginary images within Mercy thought that are more ideal, more perfect, more elegant, and more simple than anything that exists within real-life. As the Wikipedia article on Platonic forms explains, “Forms are the essences of various objects: they are that without which a thing would not be the kind of thing it is. For example, there are countless tables in the world but the Form of tableness is at the core; it is the essence of all of them. Plato’s Socrates held that the world of Forms is transcendent to our own world (the world of substances) and also is the essential basis of reality. Super-ordinate to matter, Forms are the most pure of all things. Furthermore, he believed that true knowledge/intelligence is the ability to grasp the world of Forms with one’s mind.” Specific objects change. Platonic forms, in contrast, remain the same. Quoting further from Wikipedia, “For Plato, forms, such as beauty, are more real than any object that imitate them. Though the forms are timeless and unchanging, physical things are in a constant change of existence. Where forms are unqualified perfection, physical things are qualified and conditioned.”

Notice how a Platonic form of the spirit naturally embodies the characteristics mentioned by John the Baptist. It descends from heaven, and it remains. Going further, a bird symbolically flies through the ‘air’ of Teacher thought. A dove is a weak bird, just as a lamb is a weak animal, and both doves and lambs were offered as sacrifices in the Temple of Jerusalem. A Mercy-based mindset bases truth in MMNs of personal status and importance. Thus, a Mercy-based mindset will naturally view incarnation as a strong animal, such as a lion, rather than as a weak lamb. In contrast, those who search for Teacher understanding will try to avoid personal status and personal force, because personal status is a mental stumbling block that prevents people from understanding how things really work. Thus, a Teacher-based mindset will see the benefit of being a lamb rather than a lion. For instance, I have found that graduate students are usually more teachable than professors, because the personal status of being a professor makes it more difficult to learn.

Most modern ‘moves of the spirit’ within the Christian church would fail these four characteristics. They do not remain, but rather are temporary expressions that eventually self-destruct. They are not from above, but instead are expressions of the surrounding secular culture. They are not innocent and weak like doves, but rather are driven by spiritual gurus with great personal charisma. And they are not ultimately based in the internal realm of the spirit but rather become manipulated through social pressure and crowd psychology. Looking at this more generally, I suggest that charismatic ‘speaking in tongues’ is a symptom of trying to follow God when one has an inadequate understanding of God. This is examined further in the discussion of 1 Corinthians 14.

Science, in contrast, descends from the heaven of mathematics through technology to produce transformation that remains. The transformation of technology may be limited to the physical realm, but it corresponds more to John the Baptist’s characteristics than the ‘flash in the pan’ of the typical Christian spiritual renewal. Because the Platonic forms of science and technology ignore the personal realm, technology is often marketed by loud-mouthed braggarts with inflated egos who steal their ideas from others and appeal to childish MMNs of status and culture, but the technological developments themselves are usually the result of humble thought behind the scenes, guided by an internal grasp of universal principles.

When John the Baptist experiences doubts about Jesus later on, Jesus responds by pointing out the lasting, personal changes that have occurred as a result of the heaven of the supernatural descending to the physical earth: “When John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me’” (Matt. 11:2-6). Notice that Jesus finishes by pointing out that John the Baptist is following an inadequate way of thinking.

Andrew, Peter, and Truth 1:35-42

The rest of John 1 describes in considerable detail a chain of events in which new disciples of Jesus tell others about Jesus, who then also become disciples. This description contains several strange details, and we will examine this sequence from a symbolic perspective. I mentioned earlier that a symbolic interpretation should line up with the literal meaning of the text, and we will find that this passage describes in symbolic language a version of the three stages of personal transformation mentioned earlier when looking at the Israelites leaving Egypt and traveling through the wilderness to the promised land.

One can tell that cognitive development is occurring because each succeeding disciple describes Jesus using terms that signify greater comprehension: rabbi (1:35), messiah (1:41), Him of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets wrote (1:45), Son of God and King of Israel (1:49).

The sequence begins with John the Baptist pointing Jesus out to two of his disciples, who respond by leaving John and following Jesus: “Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus” (1:35-37). As was mentioned before, ‘the Lamb of God’ describes the one function from Daniel 9 that the Messiah was able to achieve, given the absence of scientific thought, which is atoning for sin. The implication is that John’s baptism of water will focus upon this aspect of Messiah. Similarly, the focus of Christianity has historically been upon the death of Jesus as an atonement for sin. One sees this in the Catholic practice of the Eucharist as well as in the Protestant emphasis upon asking Jesus into your heart. This is essential, but it is also only the starting point. If one wishes to progress further, then one must leave John and follow Jesus.

Jesus’ response to these two disciples indicates that they are searching for something more: “And Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, ‘What do you seek?’” (1:38). The word translated seek means to ‘seek by inquiring, to investigate’. The disciples seek by placing Jesus within a context: “They said to Him, ‘Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’ So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour” (1:38,39). Many Christians view either the Eucharist or ‘asking Jesus into your heart’ as an isolated experience that is tacked on to normal life, something magical that is bolted on to secular existence. John’s disciples go beyond this: First, they refer to Jesus as Rabbi, which is the standard Jewish term for a religious teacher. In other words, they are viewing Jesus not just as a religious sacrifice, but as a source of learning. They may be viewing Jesus as merely one of many experts, but at least they are using normal abstract thought to think about religious matters. And the fact that the author John translates the Jewish word Rabbi into the secular language of Greek implies that the religious language being used to describe the atonement of Jesus is also being translated into secular language. Second, instead of fitting Jesus into their existing paradigms, they are placing Jesus within his own context: ‘Where are you staying?’ This type of investigation requires movement: ‘Come, and you will see. So they came and saw’. One must leave one’s current mental environment in order to explore something new. And it also requires time: ‘And they stayed with him that day’.

No names were mentioned in the first stage, implying that one is dealing primarily with the Mercy realm of experiences. Names of disciples are now explicitly mentioned, suggesting that the process has entered the realm of Teacher thought with its words and verbal labels. We are told that one of the two disciples who followed Jesus was called Andrew, which means ‘manly’. I mentioned that female thought emphasizes mental networks and emotions, while male thought emphasizes facts and sequences. A Mercy-based mindset bases truth in mental networks of status, and views atonement as an emotional experience that implants an MMN within the mind, such as: ‘I know that I am a Christian because of the experience I had going forward at a revival meeting on the evening of June 15 in 1993’. If one wishes to place the atonement of Jesus within a context, then one must use male thought to look for patterns and sequences. Thus, I suggest that it is cognitively significant that the disciple who leaves John and follows Jesus has the name of ‘manly’. I am not suggesting that female thought is inferior to male thought, but rather that each of these forms of thought is appropriate at certain times and not appropriate at other times.

The passage explicitly indicates that names and their meanings are significant, because in the next stage the disciple Simon is given the new name of Peter, and the author John tells us the meaning of this new name: “One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which translated means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas’” (which is translated Peter)” (1:40-42). Several names are mentioned in these verses. Simon comes from the Hebrew word which means ‘to hear’, Peter is a Greek word that means ‘rock’, and Cephas is the Aramaic word for ‘rock’. John comes from a Hebrew name that means ‘to whom Jehovah is gracious’. Finally, Messiah is the Hebrew word, and Christos the Greek word, for ‘anointed one’.

Now that we know the meanings of the names, we can interpret what is occurring cognitively. This stage begins by telling us that Simon is the brother of Andrew. Looking at this cognitively, the first stage of personal transformation is that of personal honesty. The goal of atonement is not just to cause a person to feel that his sins have been forgiven by God, but rather this feeling of forgiveness makes it possible to practice personal honesty, which leads to an understanding of the nature of God. In other words, when one approaches atonement from the ‘manly’ viewpoint of facts and sequences, then one will start hearing—one will develop intellectual curiosity. Going further, Jesus will grow from being merely some teacher to being the anointed one—the ultimate source of absolute truth. Regarding Jesus as the source of truth can be seen in the new name that Jesus gives Simon: ‘You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas’. A rock represents solid facts. For instance, we talk about building upon something solid, or holding on to something that is solid. Jesus connects the name Peter with the meaning of rock and building upon a solid foundation in Matthew 16: “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matt. 16:18). (Peter and the keys of the church are discussed in another essay.) Simon is referred to as the son of John, which means that one is not just listening to objective facts, but rather one is listening in order to receive something desirable from God. Cognitively speaking, Mercy emotions of personal status are being replaced by Teacher emotions of general understanding. Notice that the title Messiah and the name Cephas are both given in Hebrew and then translated into Greek. Similarly, one will first view truth as absolute religious truth which has its basis in the religious status of Jesus. One will then translate religious truth and religious authority into secular language and realize that the authority of Jesus extends to the secular realm and absolute truth applies also to the secular realm.

Summarizing, childish identity does not want to acknowledge facts that make me feel bad. Atonement replaces these feelings of guilt with the feeling that God has forgiven my sins. One can bask emotionally in this feeling of being forgiven and go no further. Stated symbolically, one can remain at the level of John the Baptist’s baptism of water—an experience (water symbolizes experience) of feeling forgiven by God (John means ‘God is gracious’). Or one can pursue male thought (Andrew) and use the feeling of being forgiven by God as an opportunity to practice personal honesty. One will then start listening (Simon), one will recognize that Jesus is also the anointed source (Messiah) of solid, absolute truth (Peter), which will lead to a new facet of understanding what it means for God to be gracious (son of John). Teacher thought wants general theories to apply everywhere. Therefore, when one gains an understanding of God in Teacher thought, then one will be emotionally driven by Teacher emotion to extend this understanding beyond the religious realm by translating religious language into secular language.

Philip, Nathanael, Organization, and Jewishness 1:43-51

This movement beyond religious thought to secular thought is portrayed in the next verse: “The next day he purposed to go into Galilee, and he found Philip” (1:43). The verb translated purposed means ‘will, wish, or desire’, indicating a movement driven by emotions. Similarly, Teacher thought emotionally drives a person to apply general theories to more situations. The center of Jewish religion was in Jerusalem in the province of Judea. Therefore, desiring to go into Galilee indicates an emotional urge to leave the center of religious thought. (There is currently some debate over how secularized Galilee was during the time of Jesus, but it was definitely more secular than Jerusalem.)

The word Philip means ‘lover of horses’. During biblical times, the horse epitomized power, and horses are often used to describe military power. Breeding and maintaining horses requires organization and infrastructure. Thus, I suggest that horses represent the ‘reins of power’—institutional organized might. Going further, Philip would represent a mindset that is attracted to organizational power.

It is interesting that Philip is the only disciple in this sequence who is found by Jesus and explicitly asked by Jesus to follow Him: “The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and he found Philip. And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me’” (1:43). In all the other cases, the disciple either comes to Jesus or is invited by another disciple. This is consistent with the suggestion that something secular is being added to religious thought, something that would not seek Jesus of its own accord. Verse 44 says that “Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter”. Bethsaida means ‘house of fish’, and fish live within the waters of experience. Again we see the image of religious truth being expanded to include more experiences, because a mindset (city) of male content (Andrew) and solid truth (Peter) is being used to catch those who live within the water of experience. In Matthew 4, Jesus explicitly connects Peter and Andrew with being fishers of men: “He saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’” (Matt. 4:18,19).

The end result is a vastly expanded concept of Jesus: “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph’” (1:45). Jesus is no longer being viewed as merely an anointed one with great personal status in Mercy thought. Instead, Jesus is now being regarded as the central focus of the content of religion. This expansion is portrayed in the term son of Joseph, because the name Joseph comes from the Hebrew verb ‘to add or increase’.

Two religious viewpoints were compared in verse 17: “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” Verse 45 describes a stretching forward from the old viewpoint toward the new viewpoint. The focus is still upon the religious law and prophets. But the law of Moses as well as the prophecies are now described as writing about Jesus.

The movement so far has been in the direction of Teacher understanding, in order to gain a more complete concept of Jesus the incarnation. The final stage is to apply this understanding to personal life. This change in direction is illustrated by the name Nazareth, which probably comes from the Hebrew word that means ‘a sprout or shoot’. This movement from a concept of God can also be seen in the name of the final disciple mentioned. Nathanael comes from the Hebrew name that means ‘given of God’.

Six verses containing some rather strange references are devoted to the choosing of Nathanael. Nathanael’s initial response is one of ridicule: “Nathanael said to him, ‘Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?’” (1:46). In other words, the new sprout that is growing is not very impressive. Isaiah 53 also describes a message resulting in the growth of a tender shoot that does not appear very impressive: “Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him” (Isaiah 53:1,2). Philip responds by saying the same thing to Nathanael that Jesus said to the two disciples of John back in verse 39: ‘Come and see’. (The same Greek words for ‘come’ and ‘see’ are used in both cases.) In other words, in order to grasp what is happening, a paradigm shift is required in which one leaves the old way of thinking and views the new growth within its own context.

Jesus’ response to Nathanael seems strange, given Nathanael’s skepticism: “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!’” (1:47). However, I suggest that we can decipher the next verses by placing the three stages of personal transformation within a Jewish context. We have already discussed the first stage of personal honesty, in which atonement makes it possible to be honest about personal identity and build an understanding of the character of God. The second stage is one of righteousness, in which one allows the TMN of an understanding of God to guide Server actions. Using the language of John, one should allow the ‘word’ of an understanding of God to become the ‘flesh’ of personal application.

Science skips the first stage by ignoring personal identity. Instead, science practices honesty about objective facts in order to gain an understanding of how the natural world functions. As was mentioned before, this means that science understands the second stage of righteousness, but only as it applies to the natural world. Judaism also skips the first stage of personal honesty and jumps to the second stage of righteousness. The starting point for the typical Jew is not believing that God has forgiven his personal sins, but rather believing that God has chosen the Jewish people as a group. Judaism then views Jewish law from the viewpoint of righteousness: instructions revealed by God that tell the Jewish people how they should behave. This attitude can be seen in the Hebrew word for Jewish law, which is halacha. As the Wikipedia article explains, “Halakha guides not only religious practices and beliefs, but numerous aspects of day-to-day life. Halakha is often translated as ‘Jewish Law,’ although a more literal translation might be ‘the way to behave’ or ‘the way of walking.’ The word derives from the root that means ‘to behave’ (also ‘to go’ or ‘to walk’).” Thus, there is a deep structural similarity between Judaism and science, reinforcing the suggestion made earlier that it was God’s original purpose for the Jews to discover science.

We can now understand what is happening when the disciple Nathanael is being chosen and why righteousness is not explicitly mentioned. The typical Jew is already carrying out a form of righteousness by following halacha. But for the typical Jew the righteousness of halacha is not combined with Teacher understanding. The previous stage of Philip led to the realization that the law of Moses and the prophets write about Jesus. This will lead to a collision between the traditional Jewish practice of halacha, as prescribed in the Torah, and the new understanding of Jesus, as described in the law and the prophets. If a Jew is a true Israelite who is practicing halacha without deceit or guile, then the existing Server actions of halacha will resonate with the new Teacher understanding of Jesus. This is portrayed in verse 47: “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!’” One can tell that an understanding of Jesus is touching Nathanael’s personal identity because of Nathanael’s response: “Nathanael said to Him, ‘How do You know me?’” (1:48).

Jesus responds with another strange statement, “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you’” (1:48). The fig tree is the first tree mentioned by name in the Bible. This reference is in Genesis 3:7, when Adam and Eve sew fig leaves together in order to cover their feeling of personal nakedness: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings” (Gen. 3:7). Thus, fig leaves represent the various cultural mechanisms that we use to cover our personal inadequacies so that we do not feel naked in front of others. Judaism does not have an adequate method for dealing with personal guilt. Therefore, Jews have developed many psychological and cultural mechanisms for hiding feelings of personal inadequacy. Jesus tells Nathanael that he originally saw him when he was sitting under the fig tree before he encountered Philip. Translating the symbolism, Jesus knew Nathanael before he gained an understanding of Messiah, while he was still practicing all the various Jewish tricks of hiding personal inadequacy.

One can tell that Nathanael’s Jewish guts are being exposed, because he responds with both a strong religious statement and a strong cultural statement: “Nathanael answered Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel’” (1:49). Nathanael calls Jesus ‘the Son of God’, telling us that he now has a concept of incarnation as God. And Nathanael also calls Jesus ‘the King of Israel’, indicating that his concept of Jewish nationalism has been transformed. Mysticism and nationalism are two primary reasons why Jews did not discover science in Alexandria. Mysticism instinctively rejects the concept of incarnation because it insists that God transcends all rational content. As was mentioned, this is the primary teaching of Jewish Kabbalah. For instance, begins its description of Kabbalah by saying that “The Kabbalah is about understanding God. This brings us to a major paradox, because how can we—who are finite, understand God, who is Infinite. The Kabbalah describes God as Ein Sof, which in Hebrew means ‘without end.’ Colloquially, of course, we are accustomed to use ‘infinite’ whenever we refer to something ‘very, very big’ or ‘uncountable.’ But its real definition is ‘without borders’ or ‘without parameters.’… God is termed Bal Tachlis—He is not bound in any way. This doesn’t just mean that His powers are not limited in any way, but, more deeply, that we cannot contrast God with any experience known to humanity.” Jewish nationalism believes that the primary purpose of the Messiah should be to restore Israel as a politically independent nation. Jesus was rejected because his kingdom was ‘not of this world’, while bar Kokhba was followed by most Jews as the Messiah, because his primary purpose was to use armed force to create a politically independent nation of Israel.

Jesus, in contrast, promises Nathanael a kingdom that transcends the physical realm: “Jesus answered and said to him, “‘Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.’ And He said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man’” (1:50-51). In other words, Nathanael believed because Jesus saw through all of his Jewish personal compensation mechanisms, leading to a transformation in Nathanael’s concepts of God and Jewish nationalism. Jesus promises that this transformation will lead to a better kingdom in which the heavens are opened and the angels of God ascend and descend on the Son of Man.

Jacob’s Ladder

The original reference to angels ascending and descending on a ladder that reaches heaven is in Genesis 28, and this also occurs within the context of being promised a better kingdom that extends beyond tribal aspirations of nationalism: Jacob “had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 28:12-14). Looking at the larger context, we saw that the three stages of personal transformation are illustrated by the progression from Egypt through the wilderness to Israel. I suggest that one can also see these three stages in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (In Exodus 3:15-16, God describes himself twice to Moses as ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’.) Both Jacob and Nathanael represent the third stage of rebirth, in which following God leads to a transformed and reborn personal identity. Cognitively speaking, a concept of God in Teacher thought can only transform personal identity to the extent that a concept of God is permitted to judge personal identity. Thus, ‘seeing greater things than these’ has to be preceded by ‘being seen under the fig tree’.

That brings us to the image of angels ascending and descending a ladder. Many paintings have been drawn over the centuries portraying this in an anthropomorphic matter, in which human-looking figures with wings walk up and down a physical ladder. But angels do not think and function like humans. Humans emphasize concrete thought, because humans live in a concrete world composed of Mercy experiences that can be altered using Server actions. In contrast, descriptions of angels (and UFOs) make sense if one views them as beings who live within what we call abstract thought. One can gain an understanding of how angels function by looking at science, because science is also based in abstract thought. Whenever one uses mathematics to solve a problem in physics, one follows a similar general procedure. First, one moves up the ladder from specific to general, from the earth of reality to the heaven of mathematical theory. This is done by replacing every element in a problem with its Platonic form. For instance, a pulley may be represented as a frictionless, massless pulley. A surface may be represented as perfectly flat without any friction. An object may be represented by a perfect sphere, or by a point with all of the mass of the object concentrated at that point. Once all of the elements in a problem have been replaced by their Platonic forms, then it is possible to solve this idealized problem by using the equations of mathematics. The resulting mathematical solution then has to travel back down the ladder from general to specific. The engineer usually does this by adding a safety margin. For instance, the structural elements of a building are usually made twice as strong as they need to be according to mathematical calculations, in order to allow for the unpredictabilities of reality.

There are usually many rungs on the ladder that leads from specific experience to general theory. If one wishes to solve a physics problem more precisely, for instance, then one might include the mass of a pulley as well as the effects of friction. But these additional factors will still be represented in an idealistic manner. Equations used by engineers often have fudge factors, arbitrary numbers that are added to the equations to make them fit more closely with reality. Mathematicians, in contrast, prefer to step a few rungs higher on the ladder of generality. I learned from personal experience what this means when tutoring a student on linear algebra. I had taken an engineering course on linear algebra, and understood the concepts reasonably well. However the student was taking linear algebra from a mathematics perspective, which introduced me to a level of generalization that I had not yet encountered. I am not suggesting that the biblical image of angels climbing up and down the ladder refers only to science, because I think that there is an actual supernatural realm inhabited by real angels. But I do suggest that the supernatural realm functions in a way that is similar to the thinking of science. Thus, if one understands science, it is possible to understand what the supernatural realm is like. In contrast, if one does not understand science, then one has nothing to compare the supernatural to, and all that is left is extrapolating from human experience.

Water to Wine 2:1-12

Jesus warns in Luke 5 about the danger of putting new wine into old wineskins: “No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins” (Luke 5:37-38). In the essay on Revelation, I suggested that liquid represents experiences. More specifically, water represents normal experiences, grapes and wine represent MMNs of culture, while blood represents MMNs of personal identity. Consistent with this symbolism, Jesus mentions the parable of wineskins in Luke when asked why his disciples are not following cultural norms practiced by both Pharisees and the disciples of John. Thus, the symbolic meaning is consistent with the literal meaning. Jesus adds in Luke 5 that there is a natural tendency to preserve the cultural status quo: “No one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough’” (Luke 5:39). The word translated good enough means ‘useful, gentle, pleasant, kind”. Saying this cognitively, culture is emotionally reinforced by MMNs: the older the culture, the stronger the underlying MMNs.

The wedding at Cana is almost literally an example of putting new wine into old wineskins, because Jesus is creating new wine in old waterpots. This event is followed by Jesus cleansing the temple, which portrays what happens when new wine comes into contact with old wineskins.

The first two verses set the context: “On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding” (v.1-2). Both the English translation and the original Greek give the impression that the mother of Jesus is more important at this event than Jesus and his disciples. The mother of Jesus ‘was there’, while Jesus and his disciples ‘were invited’. Looking at this symbolically, female thought emphasizes emotions and mental networks. Thus, when incarnation first emerges, it will be viewed as an adjunct to existing MMNs of religious culture. Notice the multiple references to culture: a wedding is a major event in local culture, Jesus acquired his cultural MMNs primarily from his mother, while wine represents culture.

There is then a cultural crisis: “When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine’” (v.3). Looking at this symbolically, incarnation will naturally be viewed as a method of solving cultural problems, which can be used to restore the status quo. Jesus responds by pointing out that his thinking has nothing in common with a mindset rooted in MMNs of culture: “And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does that have to do with us?’” (v.4). As the NASB footnote points out, Jesus is actually using a Hebrew idiom: ‘What to me and to you, woman?’ This idiom is used when two people do not share common interests. (Mah li v’lo? ‘What do I have in common with him?) Jesus uses the generic term woman rather than the term mother used in verses 2 and 3, implying that he is not trying to distance himself from his mother, but rather stating more generically that he is not mentally guided by MMNs of culture. Instead, Jesus is guided by timing, a characteristic of Teacher thought and Server sequences: “My hour has not yet come” (v.4).

The mother of Jesus then deals with the situation the way that culture typically treats science and technology: “His mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever he says to you, do it’” (v.5). In other words, send in a technician and give him freedom to perform his amazing feats—behind the scenes.

Jesus turns his attention to six stone water jars: “Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each” (v.6). The name Jesus means ‘salvation’. Concrete technical thought naturally improves—or ‘saves’—objects and experiences. Incarnation extends technical thought to include MMNs of personal identity, leading to the salvation of people. If incarnation is to interact meaningfully with MMNs of culture, then incarnation must find MMNs that are related to personal change and personal salvation. This can be found in the elements of culture that deal with ‘cleansing, purifying, purification, ritual, ceremonial or moral’. I encountered something similar in my research. The theory of mental symmetry began as a study of cognitive styles and cognitive mechanisms. When I started to extend the theory to Christian doctrine, most of the topics that I initially examined were involved in some way with mental purification: truth, conscience, guilt, self-image, interpersonal conflict. This emphasis can be seen in a seminar booklet from 1994.

Notice that the water pots are made of stone. We saw when looking at the name Peter that stone represents truth. Thus, the focus of Jesus is not upon generating emotional religious experiences but rather upon filling solid religious truth with MMNs of new wine. Verse 6 says that there were six stone water pots. This may be significant because six is typically viewed as the number of human effort, which falls one short of the seven of divine perfection.

Perceiver thought tends to view truth as something static, like a stone pot. For concrete technical thought, truth is a starting point that sets a context for improving situations, which is done by adding Server actions to static truth. (Contributor combines Perceiver and Server.) One can see both of these elements in the miracle of Jesus. First, truth sets a context within which experiences are placed: “Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the waterpots with water.’ So they filled them up to the brim” (v.7). Second, action is added to truth: “And He said to them, ‘Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.’ So they took it to him” (v.8).

When incarnation is used to restore MMNs of culture, then those who have emotional status usually do not understand what is happening. Instead, it is the underlings who do the menial labor who gain the technical know-how. Similarly, when the water was turned to wine, then the servants knew what had happened but not the headwaiter: “When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew)” (v.9).

All the head waiter knows is that technical thought provides a better method of generating new-and-improved cultural experiences. Traditional culture is characterized by novelty followed by decay. New mental networks are the most exciting and the freshest, while old mental networks naturally become boring and mundane. In contrast, technical thought is capable of generating a continual stream of new-and-improved items and experiences: “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now” (v.10). Our modern consumer society has become accustomed to a continual appearance of improved gadgets, but historically speaking, this is not a normal chain of events. Instead, we are experiencing the new wine that results from the technical thinking of incarnation being partially applied to the natural world.

After this event, Jesus, his family, and his disciples stay for a few days at Capernaum, which means ‘village of consolation’ (v.12). Consolation implies that incarnation is bringing comfort to existing culture, as does the fact that Jesus is accompanied both by his disciples and by his natural family. The cognitive implication is that it is possible to bring consolation for ‘a few days’ by placing the new wine of incarnation within the old wineskins of existing MMNs of culture and religion.

Cleansing the Temple 2:13-17

But in the same way that science turned into a disruptive force that eventually overturned existing MMNs, so incarnation is ultimately a disruptive force that does not remain a servant of existing culture and religion. In the short term it will challenge the relationship between technical thought and MMNs. John describes the existing relationship: “The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables” (v.13-15). When religion is based in emotional MMNs, then religious fervor and religious belief will only remain intact if the MMNs that are mentally associated with God are regarded as far more important than MMNs of personal identity. In plain English, I must feel that I am nothing compared to God. It is possible to protect sacred MMNs from being corroded by everyday experiences by using mental and/or physical walls to separate the sacred from the profane. I have mentioned that incarnation combines abstract technical thought with concrete technical thought. Concrete technical thought is responsible for commerce, improving some financial bottom line by applying the cause-and-effect thinking of buying-and-selling. When sacred MMNs become separated from secular MMNs, then concrete technical thought will typically be used to move between these realms, turning the relationship between holy and secular into a form of business.

Jesus encounters a blatant version of religious business in the temple. Money changers are converting between secular coins and religious coins, while merchants are selling religious sacrifices. The Eucharist that is practiced by the Orthodox and Catholic churches provides a more subtle modern version of religious business. In crass terms, a priest is a spiritual ‘money changer’ who converts bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus. And a priest offers the sacrifice of the Eucharist on behalf of the laity, and dispenses this sacrifice to the laity. Physically speaking, there is no difference between a secular coin and a religious coin, or between normal bread and wine and transubstantiated bread and wine. However, there is a mental difference, because one is associated with secular MMNs while the other is associated with religious MMNs. Religion that is based in MMNs of holiness can only survive if these two are kept distinct.

Religious business is not necessarily evil, because the business thinking of concrete technical thought can be used to move between secular and religious MMNs while keeping these two distinct. (This is discussed in another essay.) However, it is an incomplete form of interaction between technical thought and religious MMNs that is incompatible with incarnation descending from God—it is an old wineskin. That is because religious business makes concrete technical thought the servant of religious MMNs, while downplaying or ignoring the relationship between abstract technical thought and Teacher understanding. Thus, one sees the same kind of cognitive relationship in Jerusalem and Cana. In both cases, technical thought is being used to maintain religious and cultural MMNs, guided by a leadership who does not understand what is happening.

Most modern pop psychology would also qualify as a form of religious business, in which concrete technical thought is used to bring restoration to personal MMNs. The primary goal is not to become transformed or to follow God in righteousness but rather to use a knowledge of cognitive principles to make personal identity feel better. For instance, Anthony Robbins has a surprisingly deep understanding of cognitive mechanisms. However, it is clear that he regards abstract technical thought and universal understanding as the servant of concrete technical thought and personal identity. Stated bluntly, he is treating God as the servant of man. And it appears that his mindset is typical of most motivational psychology.

Jesus makes it clear that such a relationship must be overturned: “And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, ‘Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business’” (v.15-17).

First, notice the motivation of Jesus. The word translated business is emporium, which means ‘an emporium, a marketplace for trading’. House of business implies a combination of a dwelling place for MMNs and an institution of commerce for concrete technical thought. Jesus states, in contrast, that the Temple should be his Father’s house. Instead of using concrete technical thought to maintain religious MMNs, abstract technical thought should be used to understand the TMN of a concept of God. Thus, one sees illustrated the fundamental difference between humanity and Jesus. Humans are ultimately based in childish MMNs, while Jesus starts from the TMN of a concept of God. What humans have turned into a house of business, Jesus wants to turn into a house of his Father. And the text makes it clear that Jesus is being emotionally driven by a TMN of God: “His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Your house will consume me’” (v.17). The word zeal means ‘burning emotion, inner feeling of boiling over, something very fervent’.

Second, Jesus does not mount a legal campaign, or try to imprison the businessmen, but rather makes the situation personally unpleasant for them. In other words, he influences them by altering their ultimate bottom line. I have mentioned that incarnation saves people and not just things and objects. Saying this another way, objective business follows a bottom line of money, or some other external standard that can be measured, while incarnation pursues a bottom line of personal identity and subjective emotion. Economic theory generally begins by saying that the real bottom line is subjective emotion, but it then proceeds to focus on money while ignoring subjective emotions, because money can be measured while emotions cannot. Jesus bypasses this economic doubletalk and affects religious business at its real bottom line by attacking the businessmen with a whip. He makes a whip out of ropes, which will inflict pain but not cause personal harm. This is quite different than the scourge ‘of leathern thongs with pieces of metal sewn up in them’ that was used to flog Jesus during his trial, which is designed to damage the physical body and not just inflict pain.

Third, Jesus does not steal or destroy any of the property of the businessmen. He overturns the money changing tables and pours out the coins. This money can be re-gathered and recounted. He drives out the sheep and the oxen, because these animals can also be collected again. But when it comes to the birds, then he tells the owners to take them away, because birds that are released will not return. As before, Jesus is making life personally unpleasant for the businessmen, but he is not doing anything irreversible.

Fourth, Jesus does not halt the business but rather stops it from being carried out in the temple. Using modern language, I suggest that there is a place for pop psychology, but it does not belong within the church, and it should not be confused with Christianity.

Putting this all together cognitively, abstract technical thought alters concrete technical thought by affecting the emotional bottom line that is pursued by concrete technical thought. Anthony Robbins describes this as the relationship between values and goals. Goals describe the emotional bottom lines that are pursued by concrete technical thought. Values, in contrast, are provided by the more lasting and long-term emotions that are associated with Platonic forms. A mind that is transformed will place temporal goals within a mental framework of lasting values. Saying this another way, the long-term feelings that are associated with values will alter the temporary feelings that are being generated by goals. Business still functions, but it is no longer the custodian of holiness but rather a means of turning values into reality. Using religious language, the visible organizational church with its holy items, holy rituals, and professional priests, turns into an invisible ideal Church of God that is expressed through specific visible churches.

Raising the Temple 2:18-22

Over the short term, abstract technical thought adjusts the emotional bottom line pursued by concrete technical thought. Over the long term, abstract technical thought transforms the entire structure of absolute truth that forms the basis for religious business. This change in basis becomes apparent when the Jews ask Jesus the basis for his actions: “The Jews then said to Him, ‘What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?’” (v.18). More literally, what ‘miraculous sign’ do you ‘demonstrate or make known’ to us that you do these things. Using cognitive language, they are looking for some special Mercy experience upon which to base the absolute truth of Jesus. Jesus responds that he will transform the entire structure of religious absolute truth: “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ But He was speaking of the temple of His body” (v.19-21).

The destruction of the Temple is described in more detail in the essay on Matthew 24. In brief, when the disciples remark how wonderful the Temple appears, indicating a focus upon Mercy status, Jesus responds, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down” (Mark 13:2). My thesis is that Jesus is not just predicting the physical destruction of the Temple but also describing the dismantling of all the stones of absolute religious truth, something that is occurring in present society.

John mentions that Jesus ‘was speaking of the temple of his body’, indicating that Jesus is not referring to a physical temple. However, we shall see several times throughout the Gospel of John that Jesus will state a universal principle and then apply this principle to himself personally. This jump from universal principle to personal identity makes cognitive sense, because Jesus, as the Word of God made flesh, is the embodiment of universal principles.

When Jesus is put on trial, then false witnesses claim that Jesus said that he would destroy the temple. But that is not what Jesus said. Instead, Jesus is implying that the Jews will destroy the temple. The word translated destroy actually means to ‘release or unbind so something no longer holds together’. Using cognitive language, when holiness is invaded by religious business, then this will naturally cause absolute truth to lose its integrity because the sacred is being treated in a commercial manner, causing people to lose respect for the sacred. The ones who will tend to lose respect for holiness the fastest will be the religious leaders who are performing the religious business. Thus, they will be responsible for destroying the temple, by causing it to lose its integrity. In other words, using concrete technical thought to move beween holy MMNs and secular MMNs will function as a medium-term strategy, but eventually the technical thinking will tend to belittle Mercy feelings of holiness.

The Jews say that it took 46 years to construct the Temple, indicating the manual labor that is used by concrete technical to construct objects. Jesus, in contrast, says that he will ‘wake, arouse, raise up’ the Temple in three days, a verb that is used to describe people rising up, or to refer to Jesus rising from the dead. For instance, this verb is used in verse 22: “So when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this”. Looking at this cognitively, I suggest that Jesus is talking about the living power of a mental network. They are constructing a temple through the works of self-effort, while Jesus is raising a temple through the living power of a TMN of God.

The disciples do not understand the words of Jesus until after Jesus is raised from the dead: “So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken” (v.22). This is an important point, because it portrays what happens mentally when the temple of absolute truth is dismantled and replaced by an understanding of God the Father and incarnation. Scripture does not change. Truth itself does not change. Instead, what changes is a person’s ability to understand truth and Scripture. I have found a similar cognitive effect with the theory of mental symmetry. This theory does not stop a person from studying the Bible. But it changes the way that a person studies the Bible. And instead of leading to less respect for Scripture, I keep finding that a cognitive analysis of the Bible causes difficult passages to make sense, as well as unifying what appears at first glance to be a set of disconnected narratives, leading to the conclusion that the Bible is a Very Special Book.

Threatening the Status Quo 2:23-25

In the short term, Jesus gains a substantial audience: “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing” (v.23). Many are attracted to this new way of using Teacher thought. In the language of John, ‘many believed in His name’ (v.23). However, Jesus knows that this initial attraction will fade as the implications set in and the new understanding comes into contact with core mental networks. Thus, Jesus “was not entrusting himself to them, for he knew all men” (v.22). Similarly, I have found that most people initially find the theory of mental symmetry fascinating, but then stop talking or thinking about the subject when the implications become apparent. Jesus did not need any empirical evidence to reach this conclusion, because he knew the kind of mental networks that drove people internally: “He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man” (v.25). Similarly, I have found that one can reliably predict how a person will respond if one knows that person’s core mental networks.

Mark 3 describes how quickly people are driven by core MMNs to reject Jesus. In Mark 3, the story of Jesus choosing his disciples is immediately followed by his village concluding that he has gone crazy: “And He came home, and the crowd gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal. When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses” (Mark 3:20). The word translated take custody means to ‘seize hold of, put under control’, and is used when talking about arresting someone or grabbing someone by force. Jesus responds by using Teacher thought to redefine MMNs of natural family: “Then His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him. A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, ‘Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.’ Answering them, He said, ‘Who are My mother and My brothers?’ Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, ‘Behold My mother and My brothers! ‘For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother’” (Mark 3:31-35).

I suggested earlier that incarnation was being regarded as the servant of cultural MMNs at the wedding in Cana. Mark’s description of Jesus’ family trying to control Jesus makes it clear that incarnation really is being viewed as the servant of cultural MMNs. However, when cultural MMNs attempt to stop incarnation from challenging the status quo, then Jesus redefines family in terms of righteousness.

Looking now at the big picture, if science had existed at that time, then Jesus could have placed his new wine into the new wineskins of scientific thought, because both incarnation and science add technical thought to the TMN of general understanding. But because science had not emerged, Jesus found himself butting against the old wineskins of cultural and religious MMNs. As a result, he knew that the people would eventually reject him, and the only alternative was for him to predict that the existing temple of absolute truth would have to be destroyed and regrown.

Nicodemus 3:1-13

In the previous chapter, we saw that technical thought is being treated as a servant of cultural MMNs, and that concrete technical thought has formed a symbiotic relationship with religious MMNs. The attention now turns to the intelligentsia of Jewish society. Of all the segments of society, one would think that Jewish academia would be the most likely to be using technical thought to build a Teacher understanding of God.

This encounter is described in Chapter 3, which talks about Jesus having a conversation with Nicodemus. Jesus has made a bold statement by cleansing the temple, and the academic leadership are now checking him out. Similarly, when I discuss mental symmetry with the average person, one common response is that if mental symmetry is such a good theory, then it needs to be shared with academia. The underlying assumption in both cases is that recognized experts are good at evaluating new theories.

John 3 describes what typically happens in such an encounter. Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night, telling us that he is willing to discuss new theories as long as this can be done anonymously without threatening his personal status. Coming by night also has a symbolic side, because night implies the absence of the light of a general Teacher understanding. Nicodemus begins by using the right language: “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher” (v.2). Thus, if one listens to what Nicodemus is saying, then one gains the impression that Nicodemus and his fellow experts recognize that Jesus descends from God in Teacher thought.

However, a different picture emerges if one looks under the surface. The name Nicodemus means ‘conqueror of the people’, which implies that MMNs of personal status are of primary importance, and that Nicodemus has worked hard to become an officially recognized expert. Nicodemus addresses Jesus as Rabbi and says that Jesus is ‘a teacher, an instructor acknowledged for their mastery in their field of learning’. But is Nicodemus saying this because he understands the message of Jesus, or is he using these titles is a form of professional courtesy, viewing Jesus as a fellow ‘conqueror of the people’?

Nicodemus answers this question with his next statement: “for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (v.2). In other words, only a person who is accompanied by God can do the miraculous signs that Jesus does. The focus is not upon being ruled by a Teacher understanding of the nature of God, but rather upon God being the servant of man, as demonstrated by confirming experiences in Mercy thought. Thus, even though Jesus and Nicodemus are both using abstract technical thought, their mental foundations are different. Jesus is coming down from the Father in Teacher thought, while Nicodemus is reaching up from MMNs of personal status.

Jesus responds to Nicodemus’ flowery language by pointing out that one must be reborn in Mercy thought to be able to grasp the concept of being ruled by Teacher thought: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (v.3). More literally, unless one is born from above, one does not have the power to see the kingdom of God. In other words, applying abstract understanding to personal thought is not primarily a question of intellectual ability, but rather one of personal power. Someone who is ultimately driven by MMNs of personal status lacks the power to grasp what it means to be ruled by the TMN of a concept of God. Using cognitive language, the real problem when studying the mind is not coming up with an answer but rather being able to live with the answer. This fundamental problem can be bypassed to some extent when studying the natural world, but it is impossible to avoid when studying the mind or when thinking about God, because a concept of God emerges when a general Teacher theory applies to personal identity.

Looking at this more extensively, one does not simply bolt Teacher theories and abstract technical thought onto existing childish thinking. For instance, theology uses abstract technical thought to come up with general theories, but I have found that most of this thinking is not about the nature of God and religion, but rather about the opinions of religious leaders and church fathers who have talked about God, and these religious experts acquired most of their theological concepts either through blind faith or mysticism. A similar problem can be found in many branches of academia. For instance, teaching religion is generally frowned upon as non-academic, but researching the history of religion and coming up with theories regarding various religious experts is regarded as academically rigorous, as is researching and theorizing about other forms of historical ignorance, idolatry, or personal domination.

Nicodemus replies by focusing upon MMNs: “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” (v.4). Using cognitive language, every person acquires a set of core mental networks from the experiences of growing up as a child. How can a person acquire a new set of childish MMNs after he has lived the experiences of life? Jesus explains that there are two different kinds of personal birth: a physical birth based upon the water of experiences, and a spiritual birth based upon Platonic forms. Both forms of birth are required if one wishes to be personally ruled by Teacher thought: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (v.5). That is because a person’s core mental networks will determine the structure of the rest of the mind: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (v.6). And one does not become born from above by having defining emotional experiences in Mercy thought: “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born [from above]’” (v.7). The word amazed means ‘astonished out of one’s senses; awestruck’, which implies that the mind is being overwhelmed by some transcendent Mercy experience. Jesus then explains that Platonic forms of the spirit can be talked about in Teacher thought, but they cannot be pinned down to any specific location or experience in Mercy thought: “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (v.8).

Nicodemus responds to all of this with incredulity: “How can these things be?” (v.9). More literally, how can these things have the power to come into being? In other words, Nicodemus may grasp these concepts theoretically, but he does not know how one can turn them into reality. Thus, Nicodemus is admitting that the real problem is one of core mental networks and motivation. Jesus then asks how Nicodemus can teach others as a religious expert if he does not personally grasp what it means to become a religious expert: “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?” (v.10). The word translated understand means ‘to know, especially through personal experience’. Stated simply, Nicodemus is regarded as the religious expert (‘the’ is in the original Greek), but he has not personally experienced what it means to become a religious expert. In contrast, the expertise of Jesus is based upon personal knowledge and experience, but Nicodemus does not accept this as valid: “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony” (v.11).

Jesus adds that if Nicodemus does not believe when Jesus talks about common sense and natural law, then how can Nicodemus expect to grasp Teacher thought and the supernatural realm? “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (v.12). (The word translated believe actually means ‘to be persuaded’, which describes being guided by rational thought.) Jesus explains that one cannot build an adequate understanding within Teacher thought if one starts with childish MMNs. Instead, one must start with Teacher thought and then descend through incarnation: “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man” (v.13).

Mystical Salvation 3:14-21

Now suppose that Nicodemus knew about scientific thought. Jesus then could have said something like: “You know that science requires a new form of thinking. One has to let go of common sense that is based in Mercy experiences and be guided instead by math in Teacher thought. Mathematical equations use words and are independent of time and place. You also know that using math to solve physical problems means moving up and down the ladder of generality. And you also know that science is based in evidence and not in personal status. Because you understand how earthly things behave, it is possible for me to tell you about heavenly things.”

But this scientific understanding did not exist. Therefore, Jesus predicts that people will treat him the way that the serpent was treated in the wilderness (v.14). Biblical references to snakes are examined in an earlier essay, which also discusses John 3. Stated briefly, a snake represents mysticism, and Jesus predicts that others will treat his death of atonement in a mystical manner: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (v.14). The word translated must means ‘it is necessary, inevitable’. We saw when looking at the 70 weeks of Daniel that Jesus was only able to fulfill the task of being an atonement for sin. John 3 explains why. Jesus is unable to fulfill the other three tasks because they require the presence of independent Teacher thought, which does not exist. However, Jesus is able to become an atonement for sin because atonement will work to some extent even when viewed from a mystical perspective. As Jesus points out, a mystical view of atonement will lead to lasting core MMNs: “whoever believes will in Him will have eternal life” (v.15).

This is followed by John 3:16, the most famous verse in the Bible. The fact that this is the most famous verse indicates that Jesus’ prediction has come true. It is interesting that neither verse 15 or 16 talk about the name of Jesus, but rather talk about believing in Him. Thus, the focus is upon a personal relationship and not upon Teacher understanding. In addition, the result is not personal transformation, but rather personal preservation: “Whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (v.16).

Cognitively speaking, a mystical view of atonement has three primary characteristics. First, it acquires implicit content from the standards of society. Sin against God implies that one is violating some standard set by God. But a mystical concept of God is incapable of setting any moral standard, because overgeneralization abhors all content, including moral content. However, suppose that one experiences painful consequences by violating the standards of society or by experiencing unpleasant physical consequences, and then turns to God in a mystical manner for salvation. Even though the concept of God lacks content, moral content has been implicitly added by societal standards and physical feedback. Using the language of John, Moses is lifting up the serpent, because Moses means ‘drawn from the water’, and water symbolizes experiences.

Second, new MMNs of lasting personal life are acquired from the experiences of mystical worship. Mysticism believes that God transcends all the content of normal human existence. A mystical view of atonement will believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus-the-man makes it possible for humans to transcend the content of normal human existence and become mystically united with God. Cognitively speaking, personal identity is acquiring something new and eternal within Mercy thought. However, personal identity cannot live with within these new MMNs because living assumes human content, while MMNs of mystical experience transcend human content. Thus, personal transformation must ultimately be viewed as a pie in the sky that occurs by and by in heaven when I die. Using the language of John, a serpent of mysticism is being lifted up.

Third, following God will be associated with denying human content. A mystical concept of God cannot handle content. Therefore, the only way that one can personally live within MMNs of mystical encounter is by turning one’s back upon the content of human existence. Using the language of John, the serpent is being lifted up in the wilderness, and wilderness means ‘uncultivated, unpopulated, a desolate area, a barren, solitary place that also provides needed quiet’, which ‘in the strictest sense expresses a lack of population’.

However, even though atonement is being viewed from a mystical perspective, the source of personal salvation is still a single integrated incarnation based in a Teacher understanding of God: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” (v.16). And God’s purpose is still for incarnation to descend from heaven to humanity in order to save humanity: “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (v.17). Personal belief in Jesus can avoid judgment from God: “he who believes in Him is not judged” (v.18). But the real judgment comes from not having a Teacher understanding of God and incarnation: “he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (v.18). Notice that ‘the name’ is now being mentioned.

This judgment is determined by a practical form of righteousness. People are rejecting the light of Teacher understanding because their Server actions are ‘pain ridden’: “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil” (v.19). A person who does Server actions that lead to painful results does not want the light of Teacher understanding, because he does not want his inadequate Server actions to be exposed: “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (v.20). In contrast, a person who acts on the basis of truth will be attracted to the light of Teacher understanding, because he wants to recognize that his Server actions have their source in a Teacher understanding of God: “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God” (v.21).

Notice that this is an indirect form of righteousness that functions when there is an inadequate Teacher understanding of the nature of God. Instead of understanding, there is the light of openness and transparency. Instead of choosing to be guided by the TMN of an understanding, one is practicing truth. And instead of rejecting the TMN of understanding, one is hiding personal behavior because of the painful results of acting in an unrighteous manner. I suggest that Christianity is currently guided by this type of indirect righteousness. The TMN of an integrated understanding of God and incarnation is not present, but there is a general recognition that God is associated with light, and how one behaves will motivate a person either to hide from the light or else come to the light.

John and Herod 3:22-27

Jesus talked in the previous passage about the need to be born again. John now uses symbolic language to tell us that the focus is upon rebirth: “After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He was spending time with them and baptizing” (v.22). Baptism is a picture of personal rebirth, and this baptism is occurring in the land of Judea, after one crosses the Jordan River ‘into the promised land’, telling us symbolically that the focus is upon rebirth (v.22).

I have suggested that John the Baptist represents the Mercy-based mindset of absolute truth. We have looked at the limited form of rebirth that happens when ‘Moses lifts up the serpent in the wilderness’. The fundamentalist thinking of John the Baptist can go further. While it is not capable of leading directly to rebirth, it can give birth to thinking that is capable of generating rebirth. The nature of John’s baptism is discussed in the next section: “John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there” (v.23). The phrase ‘John also was baptizing’ implies that fundamentalism is experiencing a spillover from incarnation. Historically speaking, this was the case, because the Protestant emphasis upon spiritual rebirth emerged as one aspect of the Renaissance, a term that literally means rebirth.

Going further, Aenon comes from the Aramaic word for ‘eye’, while Salim is related to the Hebrew word for ‘peace’. This implies that the primary purpose is to bring peace to the way that Perceiver thought looks at Mercy experiences. In other words, the emphasis is upon removing the feelings of guilt and failure. Verse 25 adds that “there arose a discussion on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew about purification”. The word translated discussion means ‘a meaningless question to investigate a specific practice’. This implies that the baptism of John is getting sidetracked into secondary religious arguments over rituals of forgiveness.

John mentions that “John had not yet been thrown into prison” (v.24). Mark 6 describes the complicated relationship between John the Baptist and King Herod: “Herod himself had sent and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death and could not do so; for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him” (Mark 6:20).

Both Herod and Herodias mean ‘son of a hero’, while we have already seen that Philip means ‘lover of horses’. Symbolically speaking, it appears that a male system of political power and organization is giving rise to an incestuous marriage between a system of hero worship and a culture of hero worship. This describes the typical royal court. A political system leads to the cultural and ritualistic trappings of a royal court, which then provides the environment for kings and nobles. Notice the three elements: First, there is the political organization of Philip. Second, this political organization gives rise to a culture of nobility, represented by the marriage of Philip to Herodias. Finally, the political organization is transformed into the structure of a royal court, within which the culture of nobility lives, represented by the marriage of Herodias to Herod. Versailles provides a good example of a royal court of nobility.

Religious self-denial plays a major role in a baptism of John. When thinking is based upon Mercy status, then following God implies denying myself, leading to a strong feeling that God does everything in rebirth and I do nothing. This attitude can be seen in the response of John the Baptist to the arguing over purification: “John answered and said, ‘A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven’” (v.27). Technically speaking, it is true that everything ultimately comes from God. But religious self-denial will tend to overemphasize this dependency, as illustrated by the original Greek text, which uses two ‘nothings’ and a ‘not’ in one sentence.

Such an attitude of religious self-denial will conflict strongly with a Herodian culture of hero worship. One thinks, for example, of monks in coarse robes practicing vows of poverty confronting kings in rich garments accompanied by courtiers in luxurious surroundings. The response of Herod to John the Baptist also typifies how secular power tends to treat a religious message of repentance that is based in Mercy status. The religious message will be quarantined because it condemns the practice of seeking personal status, and the culture of personal status will find such condemnation personally offensive. But it will also be protected because it is regarded as something special and holy within Mercy thought. And because religion is based in special Mercy experiences, society will find religion interesting but incomprehensible.

John and Theology 3:28-36

A baptism of Jesus, in contrast, focuses upon Teacher thought rather than Mercy thought. Instead of focusing upon Mercy experiences of purification and forgiveness, the emphasis will be upon using technical thought guided by Teacher theories. This contrast in focus is described by John the Baptist: “He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true” (3:31-33). Notice that the heavenly words of incarnation in Teacher thought are being contrasted with the earthly words of natural thought. Cognitively speaking, people at this stage are discovering abstract thought and recognizing that it is different than concrete thought. They are also realizing that ‘God is true’—that one can use Perceiver facts to think about God in Teacher thought. This is a major shift from mysticism, which insists that facts have nothing to do with God. And when one combines Perceiver facts with Teacher understanding, this leads to many Platonic forms of the spirit: “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure” (v.34). And it becomes possible to use abstract technical thought to think about God in Teacher thought: “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand” (v.35). This also is a major step forward from mysticism, because too much technical thinking will eliminate feelings of mysticism. The mystic always warns that over-analyzing the mystical experience will ruin mystical feelings of being one with God. Using the language of John, the Father does not love the Son and has only given some things into the hand of the Son. In contrast, when Perceiver facts are combined with Teacher understanding, then continuing to use abstract technical thought will increase the Teacher feelings generated by a concept of God. Finally, if the Perceiver facts of incarnation are applied to personal identity, then one will acquire personal mental networks that last: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life” (v.36). However, “he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (v.37). The word translated does not obey means ‘refusing to be persuaded’, again indicating the focus upon Perceiver facts.

Summarizing, I suggest that the absolute truth of John the Baptist is a transitional form of thought. It cannot lead directly to rebirth because it becomes sidetracked by arguments about purification and attitudes of self-denial. But it can lead to the discovery of Teacher understanding. Using educational language, rote learning is an intermediate form of knowledge that leads from the blind trust of the child to the critical thinking of the adult. This transitional role is described by John in verse 28: “You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him’” (v.28).

Saying this another way, fundamentalism is capable of creating internal Platonic forms of the spirit. Instead of insisting that God transcends content, as mysticism says, it believes that God has revealed content, and this revealed content will create internal images of perfection. Saying this more simply, people will believe that the Bible was written by God, study the Bible, and gain emotional comfort from biblical words about heaven and human perfection. But because internal visions of heaven come from special words from a special book, fundamentalism does not know how to translate heaven into reality. Heaven cannot descend down to earth. Verses 29-30 describe this limitation: “He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full.” Fundamentalism, by its very nature, is limited to being the friend of the bridegroom. Fundamentalism itself is incapable of having ‘the bride’ of a transformed society, because personal pleasure undermines the mental foundation for absolute truth by increasing the emotional importance of personal identity relative to the emotional status assigned to the source of truth. Stated simply, the fundamentalist Christian will think that it is sinful to have too much fun, because having fun causes people to forget about God and lose respect for absolute truth. But fundamentalism can experience the Teacher pleasure of studying the revealed words of the bridegroom, and fundamentalism can be the friend of incarnation, which is capable of transforming the ‘feminine’ mental networks of society.

In the long term, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (v.30). This is an important point, because the mind cannot exist without core mental networks. Fundamentalism plays the critical role of acting as a transition between childish MMNs and TMNs of understanding, because the Mercy joy of being ‘the friend of the bridegroom’ and the Teacher joy of hearing ‘the bridegroom’s voice’ will provide an emotional bridge that makes it possible to survive this transition. However, once Teacher understanding does emerge, it is important for the fundamentalism of John the Baptist to be gradually replaced by the rational thinking of incarnation.

The Woman at the Well 4:1-18

This section will interpret the story of the woman at the well from a symbolic perspective. The actual woman at the well was probably aware of some of the factors that we will be discussing. But I suggest that Jesus was functioning simultaneously at two different levels. On the surface, he was interacting with a woman drawing water from a well. However, I suggest that he was also following a deeper narrative—in order to carry out the perfect plan of God the Father. (Christians typically view the perfection of God’s plan from a Mercy perspective, treating the thoughts of God as incomprehensibly more perfect than those of sinful humans. We will be approaching the perfection of God from a Teacher perspective, assuming that God is carrying out a rational plan of guiding people and society to mental and spiritual wholeness. These two viewpoints are actually compatible, because a person who views God from a Mercy perspective will be incapable of understanding the plan of God.)

Absolute truth is based in the MMNs of some exalted source of truth, and is reinforced by the cultural MMNs of some special group of people. Teacher understanding, in contrast, leads naturally to cross-cultural thinking. That is because Teacher thought wants general theories to apply as widely as possible. This movement beyond religious thought and experience is described symbolically at the beginning of chapter 4. When the Pharisees realize that Jesus is baptizing more disciples than John, then Jesus leaves the religious center of Judea and goes to the religious periphery of Galilee (v.1).

This means that following Teacher thought will bring a person into contact with cultural MMNs with which one would not normally associate. Using the language of John 4:4, one will find that it is necessary to pass through Samaria. Verse 5 says that Jesus “came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; and Jacob’s well was there.” Samaria comes from the Hebrew word which means ‘to keep or guard’. Sychar comes from the Hebrew word meaning ‘intoxicating drink’. Joseph means ‘he increases’, while Jacob means ‘heel’ and symbolizes the third stage in the process of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Putting this together, people are preserving a limited understanding of God, trying to add to a fragment of rational understanding acquired in the past through rebirth. A person who is drunk focuses emotionally upon the immediate situation without thinking of implications or consequences. Thus, a well of religious tradition connected with a small plot of rational thought is being preserved in an emotional yet unthinking manner. This symbolism matches the actual religion of the Samaritans, who were holding on to a limited fragment of Jewish belief.

Jesus begins by attending a religious and/or cultural ceremony: “There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give Me a drink’” (v.7). A woman, representing female thought with its mental networks, is drawing the water of experience from the well of religious tradition, and Jesus asks the woman for a drink. The woman responds with shock: “Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, ‘How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?’ (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)” (v.9). Interpreting this cognitively, religion that is based in Mercy status views religion as being personally connected with the right religious sources in Mercy thought, while strictly avoiding becoming contaminated by connections with other religious sources. This leads, for instance, to the belief that a Christian should only attend Christian services in churches and never attend a Muslim service in a mosque. Notice that Jesus’ “disciples had gone away into the city to buy food” (v.8). The implication is that their interaction was limited to ‘the bread’ of knowledge acquired through the more cosmopolitan experiences of ‘the city’.

Jesus does not respond with condemnation, unconditional acceptance, averaging, or some form of religious syncretism. Instead, he compares the rigid MMNs of religious tradition with the ‘living water’ that comes through incarnation from a concept of God in Teacher thought: “Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, “Give Me a drink,” you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water’” (v.10). Using science as an illustration, the objects that one can create from applying the universal laws of science through technology are both better and more diverse than any objects that can be created by handing down specialized skills from one generation to the other.

The woman assumes that Jesus is talking about drawing deeply from the well of tradition: “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water?” (v.11). After all, Jesus cannot be claiming to be better than the ancient experts who acquired the valuable skills and rituals that are now being passed down: “You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?” (v.12).

Jesus then points out one of the essential differences between Mercy-based tradition and Teacher-based understanding. Mercy thought is based in specific experiences that can only provide limited enjoyment and excitement. Teacher thought, in contrast, is based in general laws that remain true, which can be continually applied in new and fresh ways: “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (v.13-14).

The woman is tired of both the effort and limited benefits of drawing from the well of tradition: “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw” (v.15). Jesus then asks the woman to explain the male content that lies behind the revered mental networks of religious and cultural tradition: “Go, call your husband and come here” (v.16). The woman responds by saying that there is no rational explanation for the religious tradition: “The woman answered and said, ‘I have no husband’” (v.17). Looking at this symbolically, Jesus points out that the mental networks of religious tradition have been supported by a succession of rational explanations, and that there is currently no coherent doctrine behind the religious tradition: “You have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly” (v.18).

Absolute to Universal Truth 4:19-26

The woman reacts by saying that Jesus is a prophet: ‘a person gifted in expositing divine truth’ (v.19). She then starts thinking in terms of systems of absolute truth, each with its own set of experts in Mercy thought: “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (v.20). Jesus points out that religion is about to make a transition from being based in Mercy sources to focusing upon an integrated understanding in Teacher thought: “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father” (v.21). Jesus adds that the Jews have accurate religious content: “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (v.22). But a transition is now happening in which people will follow a concept of God the Father in Teacher thought who is associated with truth in Perceiver thought as well as with Platonic forms of the spirit in Mercy thought: “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers” (v.23). Jesus then repeats that a concept of God is based in invisible mental networks, and that it is absolutely necessary to bow the knee to God through truth and Platonic forms: “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (v.24).

I should point out in passing that science does bow the knee to God in spirit and in truth—when dealing with the natural world. It submits to universal laws in Teacher thought, it idealizes all specific elements as Platonic forms when being guided by mathematics in Teacher thought, and it searches for truth by gathering facts in the most accurate manner possible.

The woman then turns for the first time from the past to the future and from the specific to the general: “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us” (v.25). Instead of talking about religious experts and traditions from the past, she refers to the coming Messiah. And instead of focusing upon specific experts, locations, and experiences, she says that Messiah will ‘declare all things’. Jesus responds to this by claiming the name of the eternal ‘I am’. Translated literally, verse 26 says, “Says to her Jesus: I am, who am speaking to you”. In other words, when she makes the transition from focusing upon specific experiences in the past to hoping for general understanding in the future, then she starts to grasp the concept of incarnation based in a universal concept of God. (We will see several examples in the Gospel of John of universal statements being followed by Jesus claiming identity with God.)

The disciples return at this point, implying that when a theory truly becomes universal, then it is capable of including many specific elements—such as the disciples. The response of the disciples is enlightening: “At this point his disciples came, and they were amazed that he had been speaking with a woman, yet no one said, ‘What do you seek? Or, ‘Why do you speak with her?’” (v.27). Looking at this cognitively, incarnation uses technical thought, and those who use male technical thought (especially men) usually try to avoid dealing with the mental networks of female thought. Saying this another way, science is naturally objective and it responds to emotional bias by trying to eliminate subjective emotions. However, the goal of incarnation is not to remain within male technical thought but rather to use technical thought to connect the TMN of a concept of God with MMNs of personal identity. The disciples’ lack of curiosity is also typical of technical thought, because raising the subject would trigger unwanted mental networks, and their goal is to avoid emotions rather than triggering them.

Righteousness 4:28-42

The focus of the previous chapter was upon absolute truth and belief. The focus now shifts to universal understanding and action. This means that one is starting to enter the second stage of personal transformation, which is the stage of righteousness. The story of the Samaritan woman illustrates a well-known cognitive principle: If one wishes to gain a better understanding of one’s own culture, then one should start by visiting other cultures. Cross-cultural encounters are an effective way of helping a person go beyond MMNs of culture and absolute truth to a TMN of general understanding.

The response of the woman is described first: “So the woman left her waterpot, and went into the city and said to the men, ‘Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?’” (v.28-29). She leaves her waterpot, implying that she is abandoning her quest for a traditional religious experience. (The only other time that this Greek word for waterpot is used is when referring in chapter 2 to the stone purification waterpots.) She goes into the city, suggesting that she is entering normal thought. She talks to the men, implying that the focus has changed from female mental networks to male content. She proclaims the concept of righteousness, saying that Jesus has used words in Teacher thought to describe all of her actions in Server thought. Finally, she hypothesizes that Jesus might be the Messiah, indicating the type of thinking that Teacher thought uses. Mercy thought thinks in terms of personal status: “What is your authority for making such a statement?” Teacher thought forms a theory by promoting some candidate and then seeing if it survives: “This statement is capable of explaining everything. Could this statement be a universal theory?” (This idea of Teacher thought promoting candidates will be discussed later on in John 11. This also describes the approach taken in these essays because we are using mental symmetry as a general theory and seeing if it can survive analyzing the New Testament.)

The response of Jesus also indicates a new focus upon righteousness: “Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, eat.’ But He said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples were saying to one another, ‘No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work’” (v.31-34). Cognitively speaking, the disciples are telling Jesus that they have gathered intellectual food for their instructor. Jesus responds by telling them that he has a source of food which they do not know anything about. They conclude that Jesus has found a different source of information. But he is talking about righteousness and not information: He is performing Server actions that express his Teacher understanding of God. He is thinking of God not just as an abstract theory in Teacher thought that one talks about but rather as an abstract plan that one implements using Server actions.

Thomas Kuhn suggests that this is the key distinction between philosophy and science. Philosophy views Server actions as something added to abstract understanding, while science views Server actions as inherent to understanding. The philosopher constructs theories, while the scientist proposes exemplars. Both are general structures within Teacher thought, but a theory is based in general statements while an exemplar is based in general actions. This may sound like a trivial distinction, but I know from both personal experience and observation that it represents a major shift in the functioning of Teacher thought.

One of the major changes is a transformation in how one views results. A verbal concept of God focuses upon words: How can I talk more about God? How can I talk to God more? How can I get more people to talk about God and to God? In contrast, a righteous concept of God focuses upon applying understanding: How can I apply my understanding of God in more ways? How can I increase my understanding of God by observing how others behave? A verbal faith spends much of its time looking forward to a future harvest, while a righteous faith realizes that the harvest can start now (v.35). This is because I can already extend my Teacher understanding of God by applying what I know. And I can already extend my understanding of God to others by analyzing their behavior (v.35).

Jesus describes righteousness in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:1-4). In brief, when Server actions are guided by the TMN of a concept of God and not by MMNs of personal approval, then one receives a reward from God. Cognitively speaking, this reward is a righteous character. A person will be naturally guided by the positive emotions of a TMN to behave in a way that reflects Teacher understanding. Righteousness is often easier to acquire in foreign cultures, in this case Samaria, where one cannot be motivated by MMNs of culture and social status. Jesus talks in verse 36 about both a lasting reward based in mental networks as well as a positive emotion: “Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together” (v.36).

Going further, using righteousness to spread an understanding of God takes advantage of the efforts of others. John talked in the previous chapter about people ‘coming to the light so that their deeds would be manifested as having been wrought in God’ (3:21). Other people are performing the labor of allowing truth to guide their actions. When one shares a Teacher understanding of the nature of God with such people, then they respond by coming to the light. In the words of Jesus, “I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor” (v.38). This is a general principle that most missionaries have only recently learned: An effective way to preach Christianity is to search a culture for behavior that is consistent with truth and then use the Christian message to shed light upon this behavior. This method is described in the classic book Peace Child by Don Richardson. Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit missionary, followed a similar methodology in the late 16th century, learning the Chinese language, studying Chinese language and customs, and eventually becoming an advisor to the Imperial Chinese court, where he converted a number of individuals to Christianity.

This method of righteousness can then act as a starting point for gaining further understanding. Initially, the Samaritans believed because Jesus explained their religious and cultural rituals: “From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all the things that I have done’” (v.39). This Teacher understanding created a desire to learn more: “So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days” (v.40). This led to a broader understanding: “They were saying to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world’” (v.42). Notice that Jesus is being described as ‘the Savior of the world’. John described Jesus as the Savior of the world in verse 17 of the previous chapter. Now the Samaritans are referring to Jesus as the Savior of the world. This is an important statement because it combines abstract technical thought with concrete technical thought. Abstract technical thought deals with universal Teacher theories. Hence, ‘the world’. Concrete technical thought uses Server actions to improve personal Mercy experiences. Hence, ‘a savior’. ‘Savior of the world’ combines these two aspects of incarnation.

Famous at Home 4:43-54

After spending two days in Samaria, Jesus returns home to Galilee, where he is ‘received in a welcoming way’. But Jesus comments “that a prophet has no honor in his own country” (v.44). The word translated own country means ‘Fatherland or one’s native place’. Cognitively speaking, this refers to the mental networks of one’s childhood culture, where people naturally view Jesus through the lens of shared childish MMNs. It is interesting to see how the people of Jesus’ hometown change their opinion of him over time. First, he is enlisted by his mother to rescue important cultural rituals at the wedding of Cana. Thus, incarnation is viewed as the servant of core MMNs, who is expected to preserve existing culture. This attitude changes when Jesus becomes too popular: “And He came home, and the crowd gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal. When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, ‘He has lost His senses’” (Mark 3:20). As was mentioned earlier, his hometown responds by sending his family to try to shut him down (Mark 3:31). Thus, incarnation is expected to rescue core MMNs when they fail but will not be permitted to overshadow core MMNs.

However, when Jesus becomes famous in Jerusalem, then he is once again accepted with open arms by his hometown: “So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things that He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves also went to the feast” (v.45). Looking at this cognitively, when religious authorities with Mercy status recognize Jesus, then his hometown is willing to give him status as well. After all, he is a local boy who has become famous in the big city. In each case, the response is being driven by Mercy status and not by Teacher understanding. Jesus says that a prophet has no honor in his own country, and the word translated honor means ‘perceived value, worth, literally price’. Cognitively speaking, status is not the same as honor, even though both involve assigning an emotional label to people or items within Mercy thought. One can see the difference between these two when shopping. On the one hand, buying can be motivated by packaging, endorsement, advertising, and status. Items will be purchased because of the MMNs that they trigger within Mercy thought, leading to impulse buying. On the other hand, buying can also be motivated by value, in which one uses rational thought to compare various items in order to find which one provides the best combination of benefits. Value is a core aspect of concrete technical thought, and Jesus is complaining that his hometown is incapable of responding to him in terms of value.

Compare this with the response of the Samaritans. They were willing to question their religious traditions while his hometown expected him to submit to existing religious traditions. They welcomed him when he became popular, while his hometown tried to control him. They were willing to go beyond thinking in terms of religious experts, while his hometown only received him when he was accepted by religious experts. They were willing to think in terms of value, while his hometown was blinded by status.

This propping up of existing religious authorities can be seen again when Jesus returns to Cana: “Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death” (v.46-47). Previously, Jesus was asked by his mother in Cana to rescue core MMNs at the wedding in Cana. Now he is being asked in Cana to revive core MMNs of social status (the word translated royal official means ‘connected with a king, royal, regal’). Jesus responds by complaining that they can only think in terms of MMNs: “So Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe” (v.48).

The way that Jesus performs the healing is cognitively interesting. The royal official wants Jesus to descend down to his level: “he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down and heal his son” (v.47). The word translated come down literally means “come down, either from the sky or from higher land”. And the same verb is repeated in verse 49: “The royal official said to Him, ‘Sir, come down before my child dies.’” Notice that the royal official refers to Jesus using the title sir, which means ‘lord, master, sir’, again indicating a focus upon Mercy status. (Physically speaking, the conversation probably occurred on a height of land while the official lived in the valley. However, the specific language that is used also has cognitive significance.) Instead of descending down to the level of the official, Jesus remains at the level of Teacher thought, giving the official a verbal command to go: “Jesus said to him, “Go; your son lives” (v.50). The official changes his focus from Mercy thought to Teacher thought and believes the word that Jesus has spoken to him, allowing this to guide his Server actions: “The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off” (v.50). As he is descending from Teacher thought he discovers that his son has been cured: “As he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living” (v.51). The official then thinks about timing and sequence: “So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, ‘Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him’” (v.52). And the correspondence between Jesus’ words in Teacher thought and the timing of events in Server thought causes him to believe: “So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, ‘Your son lives’; and he himself believed and his whole household” (v.53).

This may seem like a trivial distinction, but one of the key breakthroughs of the scientific revolution was comparing one sequence with another. For instance, Aristotle, guided by Mercy-based thinking, taught that heavier objects fall faster than lighter objects. Galileo disproved this by dropping a small ball and a large ball off the tower of Pisa in order to compare the timing of the two balls. (Galileo himself may not have actually performed this experiment, but it was physically performed in the 16th century in the Netherlands.) Applying this to the thesis of this essay, one sees again that Jesus would have had a more receptive audience if people had known about science. Jesus could have turned to his audience and pointed out, as I have just done, that one of the key principles of scientific thought is that one can discover universal laws of nature by comparing the timing of one natural process with another. This contrast between heavenly timing and human need will be seen in the miracle mentioned at the beginning of chapter 5.

Healing the Cripple 5:1-9

Chapter 5 begins by telling us that Jesus returns to Jerusalem (v.1). Here, he heals a man who has been sick for 38 years (v.5). Similarly, I have found several times that when one encounters an intractable problem in religious thought, then a solution will become apparent if one leaves the religious context for a while in order to focus upon the more secular thinking of Samaria and Galilee. Jesus returns to Jerusalem during a feast of the Jews (v.1), telling us that his goal is not to overturn existing religious content. Similarly, one focuses upon secular thinking for a while not in order to attack or replace religious content, but rather to gain the perspective and understanding that is required to look beyond MMNs of religious and personal status.

For instance, when I started the mental symmetry website in 2010, I deliberately avoided talking about the Bible, because I wanted to build upon cognitive principles and not quote from the Bible in a fundamentalist manner. I am now finding that it is possible to analyze the Bible in far greater depth than I could before I took a detour through secular thought. But this analysis often feels as if I am pushing aside centuries of religious cobwebs in order to view the actual biblical text itself.

John describes the human context for the miracle: “Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters” (v.2-3). Bethesda means ‘house of mercy’. The word translated sheep gate is literally ‘pertaining to sheep’. Symbolically, ‘water’, ‘house of mercy’, and ‘sheep’ describe an experiential realm of Christianity that deals with personal need and atonement.

Looking at this cognitively, feelings of religious self-denial will naturally cause Christianity to focus upon helping the down-and-out, and the individual who is ‘saved from a life of sin’ knows from personal experience what it means to be forgiven by God. This mindset was described in chapter 3 when discussing ‘Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness’.

A ministry to the down-and-out is most effective when the water of human experience is being ruffled. Imagine, for instance, a smelly street person walking into the typical church service with its well-coiffed participants. Such individuals will probably only find a friendly reception if the waters of experience are already being agitated.

Verse 4 describes the angelic perspective behind this stirring the waters. (This verse is not contained in many of the oldest manuscripts but most of what it says is repeated in the surrounding verses. Therefore, we will include it in the analysis.) “For an angel [of the Lord] went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted” (v.4). The verb went down is the same verb used at the end of the previous chapter when the official asks Jesus to come down. (As the KJV correctly translates, the phrase ‘of the Lord’ is not in the original Greek.) Notice the difference between the human and the angelic perspective. What humans experience as a stirring of the waters of experience, angels view as sequence and timing. I suggested earlier that angels live within what humans call abstract thought. Thus, if one wishes to understand abstract thought and the angelic realm, then one must think in terms of Server sequences. Going further, when one changes one’s focus from Server sequences and timing to the significant Mercy experiences of troubled waters, then one is ‘coming down, either from the sky or from higher land’.

Jesus approaches the situation by looking for an invalid who has been there for a long time: “When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition” (v.6). Jesus then asks this person, “Do you wish to get well?” The word translated wish means ‘to desire’, indicating an emotional drive. It may appear initially as if Jesus is asking a rhetorical question, but that is not the case if one understands the nature of mental networks. Suppose that a MMN is composed of unpleasant experiences, as was the case with this crippled man. The experiences themselves are unpleasant, but the mental network as a whole is familiar. Therefore, the natural tendency is to hold on to what is familiar, even if it feels bad, similar to the way that an abused spouse often returns to an abusive situation after leaving—because it is familiar. Using cognitive language, Jesus is asking the crippled man if he wants to let go of his familiar MMNs.

The crippled man answers, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me” (v.7). Notice that the man is thinking in terms of Mercy experiences and people. First, he addresses Jesus as sir or Lord. Second, he associates healing with the physical location of the pool. Third, he assumes that he needs physical help from some person. Fourth, he focuses upon the experience of water being stirred up. Fifth, he views supernatural healing as something that can only happen to one specific person in Mercy thought, rather than as a general principle that applies to many individuals. Jesus disregards all of this and focuses upon personal action: “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk” (v.8). Jesus’ command causes the man to become whole, making it possible for him to get up and walk (v.9).

The Sabbath 5:9-14

The next sentence informs us that this healing occurred on the Sabbath, and the Jews respond by telling the man that he is breaking a Sabbath taboo by carrying his pallet: “Now it was the Sabbath on that day. So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, ‘It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet’” (v.9-10). There is an entire category of Jewish rabbinic law that focuses upon what may or may not be carried on the Sabbath, and Jewish communities expend considerable time and money building and maintaining ceremonial enclosures to create ‘private domains’ within which some carrying is permitted upon the Sabbath.

One might think that Jesus is trying to pick a fight with the Jewish leaders, but I suggest that this is not the case. Instead, one is dealing with a fundamental characteristic of righteousness. Righteousness is Server action that is guided by the TMN of an understanding of God. Righteousness requires human action, but this action is not being motivated by MMNs of personal status or personal reward.

The fourth commandment talks about keeping the Sabbath: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work” (Exodus 20:8-10). Notice that this defines holiness in terms of time and not place. One is supposed to stop human activity once a week in order to focus upon God.

But what does it mean to focus upon God and what are the results of focusing upon God? Mysticism insists that God transcends all human thought and activity. Therefore, mysticism will conclude that focusing on God means doing nothing. But it is physically impossible for humans to do nothing. Therefore, Jewish thought has carefully worked out precisely how much one can do on the Sabbath before action crosses the line and turns into work. Carrying one’s pallet crosses this line. Going further, if God transcends all human existence, then this means that one will never encounter God within the realm of human existence, and the idea of God working will be viewed as an oxymoron—a contradiction in terms. Going further, the idea of associating God working with human action will be viewed as blasphemous, because mysticism insists that God utterly transcends human activity.

In contrast, one of the fundamental principles of science is that one discovers universal laws by observing how the physical universe behaves. Using religious language, one can gain a general understanding in Teacher thought of the character of God by observing what the physical universe does. Going further, if one wishes to understand the laws of science, then one must combine theoretical learning with physical action; one must solve problems of physics. Going still further, if one wishes to apply an understanding of God to physical reality, then one must act in a way that is consistent with universal law. For instance, the difference between technology and normal action is that technology performs actions that are guided by a deep understanding of how the universe behaves, whereas normal action pursues concrete goals within Mercy thought guided (usually) by common sense.

With this in mind, let us return to John 5. When the healed man is told that he is violating a Sabbath taboo, he points out the connection between supernatural power and physical action: “He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk’” (v.11). Adding more detail, healing can occur when angels in abstract thought reach out to humans in concrete thought. But this interaction is based in righteousness: abstract words must be combined with concrete actions. That is how science in abstract thought reaches down through technology to transform concrete existence. (Saying this another way, the arrow of time needs to be added to the mathematical laws of physics.)

But instead of focusing upon Teacher understanding, the Jews focus upon the person in Mercy thought: “They asked him, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Pick up your pallet and walk”’” (v.12). Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3 that the spirit cannot be pinned down to specific locations. Similarly, the man does not know who healed him because Jesus has slipped into the crowd (v.13). Cognitively speaking, general laws in Teacher thought always apply to a ‘crowd’ of experiences in Mercy thought.

Later on, Jesus finds him in the temple and gives him a moral message: “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you’” (v.14). Cognitively speaking, this illustrates one primary distinction between Christianity and science. Christianity applies the abstract laws of science to personal identity. That is because a concept of God emerges when a general theory Teacher thought applies to personal identity. Science discovers universal laws of nature. Christianity adds conscience by saying, “A similar set of laws apply to you as a person”.

Misunderstanding Righteousness 5:15-18

In John 5, Jesus warns the man not to sin any more, while in John 9 Jesus explicitly states that the man who was born blind has not sinned. Symbolically speaking, I suggest that these two stories describe different mental foundations. The starting point for the man in this chapter is MMNs of religious thought, which are inherently inadequate. In contrast, the man in Chapter 9 is using an incomplete version of Teacher thought, which is inherently the right starting point.

Unfortunately, the man in chapter 5 misses this message and focuses upon people in Mercy thought, telling important people which person healed him: “The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well” (v.15). Similarly, the Jews persecute Jesus because he is violating their Sabbath taboo: “For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath” (v.16).

Jesus responds by pointing out the principle of righteousness mentioned at the beginning of the section: God works and humans must also work: “But He answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working’” (v.17). The Jews interpret Jesus’ answer from the perspective of Mercy status: “For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (v.18). When one views God from a Mercy perspective as a Very Important Person, then one will naturally conclude that God does everything and humans can do nothing. Suggesting that humans can do something questions the feeling in Mercy thought that God is far more important than humans. Thus, when Jesus says that the Father works and he works, all the Jews hear is that Jesus is taking some attribute, in this case work, and applying it to both him and God. (The word translated equal means ‘having the same level or value, equivalent, equal in substance or quality’.) Cognitively speaking, Jesus is using Perceiver facts and Server sequences to build connections between him and God. But the fundamental assumption of mysticism is that God transcends all human content. Similarly, the fundamental assumption of a Mercy view of God is that God must be placed within a bubble of holiness, which must not come into contact with mundane human existence. One can see this in the walls and taboos that are used to preserve the sanctity of religious shrines and idols.

Again, I should emphasize that when John talks about ‘the Jews’, one should not view this as a form of antisemitism, because Jesus is not focusing upon any specific group in Mercy thought. Instead, what is being described is a general principle that applies to any group that approaches God from an attitude of Mercy status and/or mysticism. Christianity has practiced—and continues to practice—these same cognitive errors throughout much of its history.

Scientific Righteousness 5:19-23

Jesus responds to the Mercy-based thinking of the Jews by describing the principle of righteousness more clearly. This description can be divided into two parts. Verses 19-23 can be explained using scientific thought, while verses 24-29 go beyond scientific thought to describe incarnation.

Jesus begins by saying: “Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner’” (v.19). This describes the relationship between the Teacher understanding of God the Father and the technical thinking of incarnation. Going the one way, all of the technical thinking of incarnation is guided by Teacher understanding: ‘the Son does not have power to do anything of himself unless it is something he sees the Father doing’. Looking at this cognitively, the TMN of a paradigm provides the motivation for abstract technical thought. This motivation provides an essential role, because the Contributor person without a goal can become quite lazy. Looking at this scientifically, the technical thinking of science is held together by the Teacher theories of mathematical equations. Going the other way, Teacher theory can be applied in Server action. Looking at this cognitively, Teacher understanding is not just based in words, but rather is intimately connected with Server actions. We saw this when comparing philosophy with science. Looking at this scientifically, several times throughout the history of science, mathematicians have come up with some new abstract form of math, and then several decades later scientists have made discoveries about the natural world that required the use of this new form of abstract math.

Jesus then points out the power of following Teacher thought: “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel” (v.20). This describes what happens when a TMN of general understanding in Teacher thought is combined with the technical thinking of incarnation in Contributor thought. Technical thought is naturally limited to some specialization. Teacher thought, in contrast, looks for general theories that apply to many specializations. Therefore, the TMN of a general understanding makes it possible for technical thought to expand beyond some specialization: ‘The Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing’. This expansion of technical thought is guided by the emotion of a Teacher understanding. Thus, the Father loves the Son. Going further, this expansion of Teacher understanding makes it possible for technical thought to perform new and marvelous activities.

Using an example of science, Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion describe how objects move on the earth. But these three laws can also be used to describe how heavenly bodies, such as planets, move through space. And these laws describe the movement of all objects on earth as well as all objects in space. Understanding how objects move through space makes it possible to construct the modern marvel of rockets that travel through space.

One can see in these verses how the statements of Jesus would only make sense to an audience that is capable of using scientific thought. If science had been discovered, then Jesus could have used scientific language to describe these principles. But science did not yet exist, and so Jesus found himself in the situation of trying to explain physics to a group of primary school students. Even today, the general consensus is that Jesus is making spiritual comments that have nothing to do with scientific thought.

The next statements of Jesus add mental networks to the technical thinking of science: “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes” (v.21). The TMN of a general understanding provides an alternative form of core mental network to the MMNs of personal identity. The childish mind is driven by immature MMNs. But it is possible for a person to become mentally driven by TMNs of understanding. Similarly, technical thought that is driven by the TMN of a paradigm can also provide a new source of motivation. Notice the subtle distinction between these two. Teacher thought is guided by emotion to come up with general theories. Abstract technical thought that works within some specialization is also guided by Teacher emotion to improve the order, structure, and understanding of that specialization. Using the language of Thomas Kuhn, both the ‘revolutionary science’ of coming up with new paradigms and the ‘normal science’ of working within a paradigm are driven by Teacher emotion.

The end result is that technical thought will become viewed as the path to abstract understanding: “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (v.22-23). One can understand these statements by looking at how science with its technical thinking has developed over the last few centuries. In brief, technical thought has become regarded as the only valid method of building Teacher understanding. If one wishes to come up with general theories, then one must become academically trained and perform research within an academic setting, which means learning how to use technical thought within an environment of technical thought. Using the language of Revelation 5, since the birth of science, incarnation has been regarded as the only one who is worthy of opening the book of knowledge. In the words of one author, “Reason is viewed in modern thought as a faculty not used by most people, most of the time. Rather, to be rational is reserved to those who have mastered the activities of the mind through the application of methods of inquiry that are rational. This seems like a specialized task that philosophers should take up. This is precisely what has happened in modern thought, and is behind the central role played by epistemology and logic in modern philosophy. Epistemology and logic in modern thought are largely driven by the task of mastering the activities of the mind through the creation, critique and refinement of rational methods of inquiry… One could thus be forgiven for thinking that, until one has learned rational methods of inquiry from the philosophers, one is not using reason in his everyday life or is using it only by accident every once in a while.”

The theory of mental symmetry does not use technical thought. Instead, it uses normal thought to build bridges between various technical specializations and mental networks, using Perceiver and Server thought to look for common patterns. One common response that I get from individuals who are academically trained is that I am using the wrong kind of thinking. Thus, Jesus’ statements have come true. All judgment has been given to the Son—of technical thought. All honor the Son as they honor the Father: using technical thought in scientific manner is equated with discovering universal theories in Teacher thought. And whoever does not honor the Son also does not honor the Father: Those who reject technical thought also tend to reject the concept of a rational theory in Teacher thought. (This is not the end of the story. As was mentioned before, another book is unveiled in Revelation 10 that integrates objective and subjective, while 1 Corinthians 15 talks about the Son handing everything back to the Father. However, that happens after Revelation 5.)

Coming Salvation 5:24-29

Jesus then makes what appears to be several grandiose statements, which can be deciphered by turning to John’s book of Revelation. These statements go beyond scientific thought to include God and incarnation. First, whoever hears and believes the words of Jesus has eternal life: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (v.24). Jesus is describing what the evangelical Christian refers to as being born again. One is hearing words about Jesus and believing that Jesus came from God. The result is freedom from judgment, as well as the birth of something new that will survive. Notice that Jesus refers to eternal life as something which one has, implying that it has not reached the level of what one is. I suggest that this describes the concept of personal salvation that exists during Revelation 6-9, after the lamb has opened the book and before the little book is given by the strong angel.

The second statement is longer than the first. Whoever hears the voice of the son of God will live: “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man” (v.25-27). In the first statement, Jesus talked about hearing and believing ‘my word’. Here Jesus describes something that is both more personal and more universal. On the personal side, one is not just hearing ‘my word’ in some objective manner, but rather hearing the voice of a person. Similarly, one is alive and does not just have eternal life. Jesus emphasizes this idea of being alive in verse 26: ‘The Father has life in Himself’ and ‘the Son has life in Himself’. On the universal side, what is alive is not just some finite person but rather God the Father as well as the Son of God. Cognitively speaking, something universal has become alive and personal. I suggest that this describes the return of Jesus that occurs at the end of Revelation 11, which is also described at the end of Matthew 24.

I refer to this as the theoretical return of Christ. That is because everything in this return of Christ occurs within the ‘air’ of Teacher thought, and this has an emotional (and possibly supernatural) impact upon humans. What happens is that a rational concept of God becomes widely known, together with a concept of Jesus-as-God. This has not yet happened. Christian theology discusses Jesus-as-man extensively, but declares Jesus-as-God to be an incomprehensible mystery. Science understands the basic nature of Jesus-as-God, but refuses to refer to this as God. In the theoretical return of Christ, both the Father and the Son acquire life in themselves. Using science as an illustration, TMNs of scientific understanding have now become self-perpetuating, acquiring a social life of their own. Similarly, scientific technical thought has also become self-perpetuating, driven by TMNs of specialized understanding. I suggest that the theoretical return of Christ will expand TMNs of scientific understanding to form a self-perpetuating, rational concept of God, expressed through a concept of incarnation. When this transition occurs, then it will no longer be possible for society to ignore God and incarnation, just as science and technology have now become so pervasive that they are almost impossible to ignore. I suggest that the seven bowls of wrath describe the process by which a rational, integrated concept of God and incarnation spreads to all of society, overcoming the mindset of the beast.

The third statement describes what happens in Revelation 19-20, after the concrete return of Jesus Christ in Revelation 19: “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment” (v.28-29). The phrase ‘do not marvel’ implies that, unlike the theoretical return of Christ, many will be ‘awestruck, astonished out of one’s senses’. ‘All who are in the tombs’ could be interpreted both physically and symbolically. Physically, Revelation 20:13 talks about ‘the sea, death, and Hades giving up their dead’. Symbolically, mental networks of culture and worldview become entombed when they stop being practiced and become laid to rest as bygone facts of history. This would correspond to the Great Supper of God, in Revelation 19:17-18, in which all societal mental networks are placed within an integrated understanding of God. Finally, Revelation 20 describes a resurrection of life as well as a resurrection of judgment, both guided by a person’s deeds.

Two Viewpoints 5:30-32

Jesus talks about the first stage without mentioning time, he says ‘an hour is coming and now is’ when mentioning the second stage, while only saying ‘an hour is coming’ when talking about the third stage. These comments make sense if one remembers that Jesus is not carrying out his own plan, but rather applying what God the Father is doing in Teacher thought. Jesus explicitly states this principle in verse 30: “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” The plan of God the Father is for incarnation to descend from God to humanity, and we can see this plan being implemented step-by-step as we go through the book of John. If science had been discovered in Alexandria, then Jesus could have built upon scientific understanding, resulting in some sort of theoretical return. Thus, from the viewpoint of Teacher thought, the second stage ‘now is’. But that did not happen, and so we are still waiting for the theoretical return of Jesus described in Revelation 11. Thus, from the vantage point of human history, the second stage ‘is coming’. In contrast, the third stage of the final judgment would still have been in the future even if scientific understanding had existed. Thus, it ‘is coming’, both from a human and a divine viewpoint.

A similar logic would apply to John 4. In verse 21, Jesus said that “An hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father”. However, in verse 23, Jesus says that “An hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers”. Verse 23 talks about building a concept of God in Teacher thought guided by Perceiver truth and Mercy Platonic forms, which corresponds to the step in the divine plan that is being symbolically carried out in John 4. Thus, from the divine vantage point, it ‘now is’. However, given the lack of scientific understanding, this stage will historically happen in the future. Hence, it ‘is coming’. Verse 21 goes one step further, describing a time when the understanding of God in Teacher thought has become developed to the point where people have let go of religious MMNs. As of John 4, this stage has not yet been reached, both in the divine plan and in human history.

Returning to John 5, Jesus reinforces this idea of a dual viewpoint in the next two verses: “If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. There is another who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true” (v.31-32).

Looking at this cognitively, one major result of adding Server actions to Teacher theory is that this provides two independent methods of determining truth. One can use Teacher theory in abstract thought to predict what should happen, and one can also use technical thought to analyze behavior in order to understand what is happening. As was mentioned earlier, one of the basic principles of science is that one can come to the same results either by working with mathematical equations or by performing physical experiments. Similarly, I have found but one can gain further understanding about human behavior either by using the theory of mental symmetry to predict how people behave or by observing and analyzing human behavior.

Jesus says in verses 31 and 32 that observation by itself is not enough: “If I alone testify about myself, my testimony is not true”. However, one can trust observation if it is backed up by theory: “There is another who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true”. Unfortunately, Jesus is finding that there is a discrepancy between the plan of the Father and what he is observing. People should be responding but they are not. Despite this, Jesus is allowing his personal plan to be guided by the plan of the Father.

Looking at the big picture, John 4 emphasized the need to construct a concept of God in Teacher thought, while John 5 has focused upon adding Server actions to a Teacher understanding of God. Abstract theories in Teacher thought are independent of time. (Similarly, the mathematical laws of physics are based in sequences, but these sequences are not time-oriented.) However, when Server actions are added to abstract understanding, then theories acquire a sense of time. Saying this more simply, theories turn into plans with steps that are carried out in time. Thus, it makes cognitive sense for Jesus to follow his statement in verse 19 that he does what he sees the Father doing with an overview of the Father’s plan in verses 20-29.

Similarly, my research began back in the 1980s as an abstract study of how the mind functions. But when I realized that understanding must be applied in action, then my research expanded to include studying the steps that must be taken to reach mental wholeness. In a similar manner, righteousness as a general principle became clear to me in 2012, when I was writing God, Theology & Cognitive Modules. Since then, much of my work has focused upon trying to understand God’s plan of history, as we are doing in this essay on the Gospel of John.

Absolute Truth versus Exemplars 5:33-36

When one combines a general understanding in Teacher thought with using technical thought to observe how things behave, then one will start to observe how understanding interacts with behavior in other ways of thinking. Jesus does this in the rest of chapter 5 by examining the thinking of John and the thinking of the Pharisees.

Jesus begins by discussing the baptism of John. The content that John taught was accurate: “You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth” (v.33). Jesus differs from John the Baptist in several major ways: First, Jesus does not preach absolute truth that is based in MMNs of personal status: “but the testimony which I received is not from man” (v.34). Second, the goal of incarnation is to use words in Teacher thought to improve experiences in Mercy thought: “but I say these things so that you may be saved” (v.34). This is not a trivial distinction. Absolute truth talks about truth and love, but it tends to get sidetracked by issues such as personal authority, taboos, holiness, appearance, and self-denial, because it is ultimately based in MMNs, and thus gets twisted by feelings generated by MMNs. Concrete technical thought, in contrast, is driven by a desire to improve some bottom line—bringing salvation to the situation. Third, absolute truth provides limited illumination: “He was the lamp that was burning and was shining” (v.35). The word translated lamp means ‘an oil-fed portable lamp, usually set on a stand’. The illumination is limited because MMNs that define specific cultures and specific religious groups take precedence over TMNs of general understanding. Thus, universal statements regarding the character of God tend to get limited in practice to specific cultures and religious groups. We saw this described in John 4 when Jesus said that a time is coming when the worship of God will not be limited to some specific location or group. Fourth, absolute truth only lasts for a while: “you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light” (v.35). That is because applying absolute truth eats up absolute truth. A person will only believe absolute truth if the MMN that is the source of this truth has an emotional status that is much greater than the MMNs of personal identity. In other words, I must feel that I am nothing compared to God. But if I apply absolute truth, then I am forming a personal identity that is something and not nothing. Eventually, I will come to the conclusion that I do not need to submit to absolute truth, but rather can think and act on my own, similar to the way that a growing teenager becomes independent of parents. Jesus describes this as rejoicing for a while, and the word translated rejoicing means ‘getting so glad one jumps in celebration, because so experientially joyful’. (Jumping implies temporarily leaving the ‘earth’ of human thought to enter the ‘air’ of Teacher thought.) Thus, the underlying problem is not that absolute truth becomes disproven, but rather that one stops focusing emotionally upon the source of truth and focuses instead upon pursuing experiences of personal pleasure and fulfillment. Saying this cognitively, If MMNs of personal identity rise sufficiently in emotional status relative to the MMNs that are the source of absolute truth, then one will automatically start doubting absolute truth.

Jesus has a better basis than absolute truth: “But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John” (v.36). Jesus is not saying that John is wrong, but rather that he has a better ‘witness, evidence, testimony’ than John. The testimony of Jesus is based in Server actions: “The works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me” (v.36). Using the language of science, the technology that comes from the Teacher understanding of science performs functions which make it obvious that they are based in a deep understanding of how the natural world works. Think, for instance, of all the functions that a smart phone can perform. Going the other way, the functions of technology are backed up by the Teacher theories of science: “and the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me” (v.37).

Academic Prestige versus Scriptural Content 5:37-47

Jesus then turns to the thinking of the Jews. In John 3, Jesus emphasized the need for being born again when talking to the academic expert Nicodemus. If one is not born again, then core MMNs of status and culture will remain intact, and technical thought will be added as a veneer. Jesus describes this kind of thinking in the next few verses. He begins by making some harsh statements: “You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form” (v.37). They have never heard the voice of God nor seen his ‘outward appearance or shape’. I suggest that Jesus is describing what Thomas Kuhn referred to as incommensurability. Kuhn suggested that people with different paradigms literally view the world with different eyes and ears. That is because a paradigm causes information to be organized in a certain manner, and it also directs the focus of attention. For instance, the average person looks at a computer motherboard and sees little black squares and colored rectangles. In contrast, the computer tech looks at the same motherboard and sees a CPU, BIOS, sound chip, Southbridge, RAM slots, and expansion slots. That is because the tech is placing what is being seen into different mental categories. The role played by attention can be seen when one is trying to mail a letter. Normally, one does not see mailboxes. They may be physically present, but they are not the focus of attention. But when one is trying to mail a letter, then suddenly mailboxes become visible. Jesus points out the underlying problem in the next verse: “You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent” (v.38). They have the wrong paradigm in Teacher thought: ‘You do not have His word abiding in you’. (Word is actually logos, which refers to a Teacher paradigm which guides abstract technical thought.) Without the TMN of some paradigm, they are unable to ‘be persuaded’ by rational technical thought: ‘You do not believe him whom He sent’. (A concept of incarnation is based in technical thought. Abstract technical thought begins by assigning a precise definitions to words and is emotionally driven by the TMN of a paradigm.)

Jesus then explains the problem in more detail. There is substantial intellectual activity: “You search the Scriptures” (v.39). Search means to ‘search diligently, examine’. Using cognitive language, scholars are using abstract technical thought to study words and theories. However, this research is being motivated by the ‘personal perspective’ that the Bible is itself a source of eternal life: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life” (v.39). Using cognitive language, Mercy status is being given to the holy book, leading to the personal perspective that the holy book has inherent emotional value.

For instance, the holy book of Sikhism is literally treated as an important person: “Anyone who wishes to take responsibility for the care and handling of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib should bathe, wash their hair, and dress in clean clothing. No tobacco or alcohol may be on their person. Before touching or moving the Guru Granth, the attending person must cover their head, remove their shoes, and wash their hands and feet. The attendant should stand facing the Guru Granth with their palms pressed together. The formal prayer of Ardas must be recited. The attendant must take care that the Guru Granth never touches the ground.” Like a person, the Sikh holy book is put to bed at night: “After hours, or if no attendant is present during the day, the Guru Granth is ceremonially closed. A prayer is said and the Guru Granth is put into sukhasan, or peaceful repose. A soft light is kept on in the presence of the Guru Granth all night. In a gurdwara, the Sikh place of worship, the Guru Granth is wrapped and kept beneath blankets or coverings, on a canopied bed in a separate room.”

But assigning Mercy status to the holy book is preventing scholars from examining the content of the holy book. And the content of the Bible talks about incarnation: “It is these that testify about Me” (v.39). However, the religious scholars do not have a desire to find life, by following what the book says instead of giving emotional status to the book: “You are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.

The thinking of Jesus does not seek MMNs of personal status: “I do not receive glory from men” (v.41). The word translated receive means ‘to lay hold by aggressively accepting what is available’. In other words, the religious scholar is being motivated by a search for personal approval. Intellectual thought is being pursued in order to receive honor and status. It is not being emotionally guided by the TMN of a general understanding: “But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves” (v.42). Saying this more simply, Jesus is motivated by the TMN of a concept of God, while the religious experts are motivated by MMNs of personal status. Notice how the intellectual activity is a veneer that has been added to childish MMNs. Religious scholars are not being motivated by a love of learning. Instead, they view intellectual activity as a more dignified way of seeking personal approval. Someone who is motivated by Teacher understanding is being rejected: “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me” (v.43). In contrast, people with official titles are being received: “If another comes in his own name, you will receive him” (v.43).

For instance, one would think that it is easy to discuss the theory of mental symmetry with academic experts. However, I have found that content is seldom discussed. Instead, the discussion invariably seems to turn to a focus upon personal status (Why don’t you have a PhD?), academic experts (What do the experts in the field think of this?), or methodology (You need to learn how to quote the experts properly and use technical thought in an approved manner.). Very seldom do I find a desire to discuss what the Bible actually says, or how the mind actually works. I am not suggesting that religious experts have no content. A lot of good research is being done, and one can learn a lot from the official experts. But this research is invariably being done within an assumed framework of the MMNs of academia and academic status. Any research which questions these assumed MMNs will be instinctively rejected and/or ignored. Putting this another way, I suggest that modern academic thought tends to be locally rational. It is highly rational within its field of specialization, while being driven by emotions at a deeper level. This is a long-term result of doing centuries of research without starting by being born again.

Jesus summarizes, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (v.44). Stated bluntly, religious experts are incapable of being guided by the TMN of a concept of God because they are so busy seeking MMNs of approval from colleagues.

I should emphasize that this is not totally the case with modern research. Most research is locally rational; it is being guided by the TMN of a paradigm within some technical specialization. That is because scientists ultimately know that a scientific theory is true because it is an accurate description of how things work. Using the language of John, scientists no longer think that a scientific textbook has inherent value. Instead, a textbook is given value to the extent that it accurately describes natural processes. Again we see that Jesus would have had a much more receptive audience if the scholars of his day had known scientific thought. But at its core, most modern academic thought is still driven primarily by MMNs of personal status. And rational thought often turns into emotional response when extending beyond the walls of some specialization.

Mysticism exacerbates this problem. I have mentioned that mysticism is based in Teacher overgeneralization, and that overgeneralization is threatened by facts. In practice, this means that a discussion about the nature of God or the plan of God will of necessity remain at the level of sweeping statements. Analyzing a book by its very nature organizes the content of that book into categories. But mysticism cannot handle categories because overgeneralization is threatened by any details. This principle became clear to me when analyzing Berkhof’s 833 page tome on Reformed Christian theology. I was expecting to find a dense analysis of the history and doctrine of the Bible, but that is not what I encountered. Instead, the entire will of God was collapsed into a single eternal moment—without adding details. Reformed theology focuses upon the covenant between God and man, which is an important concept. But Berkhof insisted that there was no essential difference between God’s covenant with the Jews and God’s covenant with the church. Thus, even at the most basic level of distinguishing between Judaism and Christianity, mysticism prevented content from being analyzed. However, Berkhof did compare in considerable technical detail the competing viewpoints of various denominations, which illustrates that mysticism coexists well with Mercy status and cultural MMNs. Summarizing, mysticism ensures that God never affects the human world of content, because a theory that abhors content cannot affect content. This leaves MMNs of status and tribe in charge of human content.

Jesus concludes by pointing out that religious experts are actually violating their own ultimate religious expert: “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope” (v.45). The Jews revere Moses in Mercy thought as the ultimate expert. But Moses wrote much of the content of the Jewish Bible. Therefore, ignoring the content of the Bible is actually rebellion from Moses, the ultimate religious expert. Translating this into Christian language, the ultimate Christian experts are not the church fathers or the Pope, but rather the writers of the New Testament, such as Jesus, Paul, and John.

Jesus says that if the Jewish religious experts really were basing their beliefs in MMNs of personal status, then they would listen to Jesus, because the ultimate Jewish expert talked about Jesus: “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me” (v.46). Translating this into Christian language, when the theory of mental symmetry can be used to analyze entire books of the New Testament, going through these books verse by verse, guided by the original Greek, then one can state with considerable certainty that the theory of mental symmetry is consistent with the content of the Christian Bible. (And I am not aware of any other theory which can make this claim.) If the theory of mental symmetry is consistent with the content of Christianity, then ignoring mental symmetry is actually rebellion from the ultimate experts who wrote the New Testament. (This does not make other theories wrong, because that is a Mercy perspective, but it implies that other theories can be viewed as subsets or translations of mental symmetry, which describes how science interprets alternate theories.)

Expounding upon Absolute Truth

We saw when looking at the cleansing of the temple in John 3 that the religious leaders were destroying the temple of absolute truth by losing emotional respect for the source of absolute truth. The temple, with its MMNs of holiness, had become reduced to an emporium for seeking financial profit. Similarly, the passage that we just examined describes religious scholars destroying the temple of absolute truth by losing respect for the source of absolute truth. The written Scriptures, with their MMNs of holiness, have become reduced to an intellectual arena for seeking personal status. What scholars say about the words of Moses has become more important than what Moses actually said.

This is still true today, because Jewish religious scholars have surrounded biblical law with a massive collection of ‘fence laws’ designed to prevent a person from inadvertently violating biblical law. ‘Fence laws’ make sense if breaking the law leads to some bad Mercy consequence that needs to be avoided, similar to the way that one builds physical fences to prevent people from experiencing the bad Mercy consequences of falling off physical cliffs. But fence laws are fatal from a Teacher perspective because they alter the shape and structure of biblical law, clouding the character of God.

Cognitively speaking, fence laws result from a combination of mysticism and MMNs of personal status. We saw this earlier when discussing the Sabbath. First, mysticism believes that a strict wall needs to be maintained between normal human activity and the transcendent God. Sabbath laws maintain a strict wall between ‘normal human activity during the week’ and ‘focusing upon the transcendent God during the Sabbath’. Similarly, fence laws maintain a strict wall between normal human motivation and following the law of God, by adding an additional layer of laws to the Torah of God. Second, religious experts with Mercy status provide the content that a mystical God is incapable of providing. Thus, Jewish rabbis use technical thought to debate what may or may not be done on the Sabbath, as well as using technical thought more generally to construct a system of fence laws.

It is inevitable and necessary that technical thought will be used to expand the laws of a holy book, because a book contains a finite number of words that are incapable of addressing all situations. Therefore, even if the Bible contains the very words of God, human technical thought must be used to expand these words. But what type of emotion will guide this human thought? Jewish religious technical thought is guided primarily by MMNs of personal status combined with the TMN of a mystical concept of God. Modern science is also driven by mixed motives, because it is guided primarily by MMNs of personal status combined with TMNs of specialized understanding. Jesus, in contrast, was driven entirely by the TMN of a concept of God.

In chapter 3, concrete technical thought was belittling religious MMNs, while in chapter 5, abstract technical thought is belittling religious MMNs. Jesus concludes that if the religious experts are more concerned about seeking personal status than they are about following the words of Moses, the ultimate Jewish religious expert, then obviously they will also be more concerned about seeking personal status than listening to the words of Jesus, an academic outsider: “But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (v.47).

This belittling of religious fervor will naturally and inevitably occur whenever human experts use technical thought. But when MMNs of holiness are belittled, then what will be the replacement? In John 5, respect for Moses and the absolute truth of the Torah had been replaced by MMNs of personal status. However, if absolute truth accurately describes how the mind and the world function, then MMNs of respect for Scripture will be replaced by a TMN of understanding the character of God as revealed in the mind, the world, and Scripture.

Going further, if the Bible describes a TMN of general understanding, then Scripture will not make sense to those who pursue MMNs of personal status, just as a book that is written in English will not make sense to those who speak French. Jesus said that the Scriptures speak of him. Similarly, I have found that one must speak the language of incarnation in order to adequately understand the Bible. One must start with the TMN of a concept of God and then use rational thought to extend and apply this to MMNs of personal identity. Saying this more personally, I have come to the conclusion that the theory of mental symmetry is consistent with the Bible not because I am more clever or more important than accepted scholars, but rather because I have been following the dual perspective of rational understanding and personal transformation. When I analyze Scripture, my fundamental assumptions are that 1) The ultimate author is a Very Intelligent Person who is describing in careful detail what happens within the human heart and mind, and 2) One must always personally apply whatever one discovers.

Saying this cognitively, the typical religious (or academic) scholar is being motivated by MMNs of personal status to use abstract technical thought to come up with clever TMNs of analysis and theory. In contrast, I am being guided by the TMN of a general theory to come up with a rational understanding that is capable of transforming MMNs of personal identity. Quoting from Thomas Kuhn, “The scientific enterprise as a whole does from time to time prove useful, open up new territory, display order, and test long-accepted belief. Nevertheless, the individual engaged on a normal research problem is almost never doing any one of these things. Once engaged, his motivation is of a rather different sort. What then challenges him is the conviction that, if only he is skilful enough, he will succeed in solving a puzzle that no one before has solved or solved so well” (Structure of Scientific Revolutions, p.38).

Saying this more personally, there is always a personal cost to studying theology, and I have had to pay a heavy personal cost over the decades. As a result, when I read the Gospel of John, or John’s book of Revelation, I don’t just find that it makes sense. Instead, I find that it resonates with my personal experience, and this personal resonance makes it possible for me to understand what is being written. Summarizing, when Jesus told Nicodemus the religious scholar that he needed to be born again, he was not just stating some religious platitude. Instead, he was describing a deep cognitive principle.

Real versus Symbolic Bread

At first glance, there appears to be a discrepancy in chapter 6 between the literal meaning and the symbolic meaning. The literal meaning is fairly clear: Jesus provides a crowd of people with free food, they want to make him king, he runs away, and when they come and find him, he does his best to get their minds off of physical food on to spiritual food. That is how I analyzed John 6 in Natural Cognitive Theology. But if one looks at the symbolic meaning, then one comes up with a somewhat different interpretation. The primary message of chapter 6 appears to be the benefits of abstract thought, the dangers of misusing abstract thought, and how an atmosphere of misusing abstract thought forces some individuals to go to the next step of personally applying the message that they are preaching.

There is an obvious reason for this apparent discrepancy. Stated bluntly, how does one teach about the benefits and limitations of abstract thought to an audience that is incapable of abstract thought? How does one teach the proper practice of science to a society that doesn’t know that science exists? The solution is to state the deeper lesson using symbolism. I suggested earlier that the symbolic meaning should never contradict the surface text. There is no fundamental contradiction between the literal and symbolic meaning in John 6 because both the surface and the symbolic meanings teach the same moral lessons. The primary lesson of the feeding of the 5000 is that when someone provides either physical or intellectual food, one should not respond by giving that individual exalted status in Mercy thought. The primary lesson of Jesus being the bread of life is that when people do not respond to a message from God, either because they don’t like the implications or because they do not know how to think, one should respond to this rejection by personally embodying the message that one is preaching.

John 6 talks a lot about bread. Therefore, interpreting this chapter symbolically means figuring out what bread represents. When I use symbolism to interpret the Bible, I try to follow two principles: 1) The same symbolic meaning must be used everywhere in the Bible. For instance, if bread means something in the book of Revelation, then it should mean the same thing in the Gospel of John. 2) Symbolic meaning should be cognitively natural. For instance, Mercy thought lives in a ‘sea of experiences’. Therefore, there is a cognitive resonance between water and Mercy thought.

Expanding upon what was said earlier when discussing the name Peter, my hypothesis is that anything liquid refers to some aspect of Mercy thought, anything related to air refers to Teacher thought, anything solid refers to Perceiver facts, and any sort of path refers to Server sequences. Earth is a large solid region that is interconnected by paths. Therefore, earth represents an interconnected network of facts and sequences. A rock is a solid, immovable, and inflexible object. Therefore, a rock refers to Perceiver beliefs. Using this logic, bread is solid but it is also somewhat flexible and it is filled with pockets of air. Thus, I suggest that bread represents a package of knowledge, containing Perceiver facts, Server sequences, and Teacher understanding, somewhat like a school lesson or the curriculum of a course. A loaf of bread cannot be eaten whole but instead has to be broken up into bite-size chunks, chewed, and digested. The fact that we use this symbolism to describe the process of acquiring knowledge tells us that one is dealing with cognitively natural symbolism, because the mind naturally associates one with another. For instance, Our Daily Bread is a well-known Christian devotional book that started publishing in 1938, which provides a daily bite-sized morsel of Christian knowledge.

The first half of John 6 describes two well-known miracles: The feeding of the 5000 and Jesus walking on water. We will be using the idea that bread symbolizes packages of knowledge to come up with a new interpretation of these two miracles. These interpretations may be novel but they are not strange. Instead, I suggest that these two miracles portray two primary signs or hallmarks that appear when Server actions are added to Teacher understanding.

The Source of Knowledge 6:1-9

With this in mind, let us now turn our attention to the biblical text. Verse 1 says, “After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias).” Jesus just finished saying that his way of thinking was superior to both the fundamentalism of John and the surface professionalism of the Jews. Thus, ‘after these things’ implies that chapter 6 will continue with this topic. Galilee comes from the Hebrew word meaning meaning ‘to roll’, while Tiberias was named after the Roman Emperor Tiberius, and comes from the river Tiber. Symbolically speaking, a river is a flow of water. Thus, a river represents the flow of society. The original Greek text literally says ‘Sea of Galilee of Tiberius’. Translated into symbolic language, this refers to the cycles through which society flows.

Jesus is followed by a large crowd who is attracted to his ‘authenticating signs’: “A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick” (v.2). Putting this into the larger context, the method of Jesus is not just superior for some theoretical reason, but it also leads to the practical benefits of being able to heal the sicknesses of society. Putting this into scientific language, science with its combination of theory and practice is not just a better way of understanding the world. It also leads to technology which is capable of solving the problems of society. Science is popular today, not because people want scientific thought, but because people enjoy the personal benefits that science makes possible through technology.

One would think that all these miraculous signs of healing would be the main topic of this chapter. But sickness is not mentioned again in the chapter. Instead, the focus is upon bread. Verse 3 describes the change in focus: “Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples.” In other words, Jesus turns his attention away from the wonders of technology to teaching on a mountain. A mountain is a place of high ground from which one can gain a larger perspective. Symbolically speaking, a mountain represents a rational worldview, a more pragmatic and limited version of a sun of understanding.

This private teaching is interrupted by a large crowd going to celebrate Passover: “Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him” (v.4-5). Passover is a Jewish feast of atonement, and Jesus was crucified during Passover. This implies that people will be most willing to learn about God and incarnation when they are dealing with sin, failure, and forgiveness. Stated more bluntly, when a rational understanding of God is lacking, then people will think that God has nothing to do with normal life. Therefore, they will not be interested in listening to a message about following God when everything is going fine. We saw this connection earlier when looking at the stonepots of Jewish purification.

Jesus responds by asking Philip a leading question: “Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?’ This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do” (v.5-6). The reasoning behind this question first became clear to me when analyzing Thomas Kuhn’s book on paradigm shifts. I suggested earlier that Philip represents organizational structure. Science started with isolated individuals, but it turned very quickly into a group effort, as many scientists cooperated in order to add to the body of knowledge. This leads inevitably to a basic question. Is science primarily a discovery of the order and structure of the universe or is science primarily a description of the order and structure that guides a group of scientists? Obviously, science only exists because the natural universe contains order and structure that can be discovered. That is what distinguishes a group of scientists from any other organized group of people: Science is studying the inherent organization of the universe. But in the appendix to his book, Thomas Kuhn appears to redefine science to be how a group of scientists behave: “A paradigm governs, in the first instance, not a subject matter but rather a group of practitioners. Any study of paradigm directed or paradigm shattering research must begin by locating the responsible group or groups” (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, p.180). Saying this another way, when people start to doubt truth, then what survives is methodology. ‘How things work’ becomes replaced by ‘how we do things’. Why would intelligent thinkers make such an obvious error? Because if the universe contains inherent structure and order, then this implies the presence of Intelligent Thought, and it is emotionally disconcerting to believe that my thinking and my behaving is being guided by some intelligent being. It is less threatening emotionally to regard the structure of the universe as a product of chance, which is what the theory of evolution does. (For instance, Thomas Kuhn mentions evolution in the last three pages of his original book—contradicting what he has written earlier.) If one can regard ‘how the universe behaves’ as mere chance, then all that remains is ‘how we behave’.

Returning to John 6, Philip expresses the meaning of his name by answering the question of Jesus in terms of human resources, or ‘how we behave’: “Philip answered Him, ‘Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little’” (v.7). However, Jesus already has a plan, and he is simply testing Philip: “This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do” (v.6).

Andrew, in contrast, comes up with a small package of information: “One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, ‘There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?’” ‘A lad’ implies that male thought is being used to handle information in a childlike manner. This interpretation is reinforced by the fact that Andrew means manly, and Andrew is referred to as the brother of Simon, which means listening, while Peter means rock. Thus, male thought is being used to deal with verbal truth.

There may be some significance to the five barley loaves and two fish. Barley bread was eaten by common people, while fish obviously come from the sea. There are seven cognitive modules: two use abstract thought (Teacher and Perceiver), two use concrete thought (Mercy and Server), and three cooperate to drive thought and behavior (Exhorter, Contributor and Facilitator). We have already seen that bread relates to abstract thought and fish to concrete thought. Five loaves and two fishes implies that mental processing is being guided by abstract thought without ignoring concrete thought. Symbolically speaking, this interpretation may be somewhat of a stretch, but I know that this interpretation describes an important cognitive principle. Most modern research is two loaves and five fishes. Empirical evidence is required, and if there is no empirical evidence then there will be no thinking. Abstract theory is then added as an afterthought or additional benefit. In contrast, the starting point for my research is the abstract theory of mental symmetry, which guides my thinking. Empirical evidence is then used to check the results for accuracy. This is not a trivial distinction, because I have found that most modern scientists will refuse to even listen to a theory that does not start with empirical evidence. However, when teaching existing scientific knowledge to students, then one usually finds five loaves and two fishes. The student is first taught general theories, then given a number of practice problems, and a few experiments may then be thrown in to add empirical confirmation. The essence of Jesus’ message in the gospel of John is that the technical thinking of incarnation must start with a Teacher understanding of God and not from human experience.

Multiplying Knowledge 6:10-15

Jesus then proceeds to organize the crowd: “Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand” (v.10). The implication is that human organization is fine as long as it does not take priority. Jesus then distributes the existing limited resources and manages somehow to feed everyone: “Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted” (v.11). Notice that Jesus first gives thanks, officially recognizing that his starting point is God in Teacher thought.

This multiplying of existing intellectual resources is a fundamental characteristic of scientific thought. As was mentioned previously, science is taught through the use of exemplars, or characteristic illustrative problems. This means, for instance, that when one has solved one problem involving a projectile traveling through the air, one has actually learned how to solve an entire range of similar problems involving objects thrown through the air. But this multiplying of knowledge will only occur if one approaches a problem with the right attitude. First, one must ‘give thanks’ by mentally recognizing that this specific problem is an expression of a general process in Teacher thought. Second, one must think factually and submissively, as symbolized by a little boy: What are the facts of the problem and how can one learn from similar problems? Third, one must use a combination of five loaves and two fishes, allowing theory to guide thinking more than physical evidence. Finally, one should gather information about normal life—‘barley loaves’. (Compare this with most popular news today, which is about rich, famous, and important people.)

The assembly line provides a visible illustration of the multiplying effect that becomes possible when Server actions are added to Teacher understanding. Objects that are handcrafted by artisans are all unique, with each one being slightly different than the other. Philip replied to Jesus using the thinking of the artisan: Feeding 5000 would take at least 200 days of work. The uniqueness of each handmade object can be seen vividly in the Jesus boat, a small fishing boat from the first century A.D. that was recently discovered on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. This boat was built out of ten different types of wood, with each piece of wood in the boat having a unique shape. The idea of an assembly line driven by machines naturally emerges when one realizes that the Server actions of making an object can be organized into a general Teacher plan. Before one can set up an assembly line, one must first work out a process of making the object. An assembly line then automates these Server steps. Using the feeding of the 5000 as an example, the artisan feeds one person at a time by making one unique lunch at a time. The assembly line feeds 5000 people by analyzing how one lunch is made, and then using this understanding to set up a process that makes 5000 lunches. Historically speaking, one can find examples of assembly-line production from Roman times, such as the production of triremes during the First Punic War, but the machine-driven assembly line became widespread during the Industrial Revolution, when people started to apply the abstract theories of science.

Continuing with John 6, Teacher thought wants a general theory to apply to all situations without exception. Similarly, “When they were filled, He said to His disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost’” (v.12). The text mentions gathering fragments from the five barley loaves, but not the two fishes. Literally speaking, fish fragments cannot be gathered because they will spoil quickly. Symbolically speaking, the focus appears to be on integrating all the fragments of intellectual knowledge, a natural byproduct of being driven by Teacher understanding. Modern society shows what happens when knowledge is allowed to multiply and the fragments are not gathered up. The result is infoglut, a deluge of unrelated facts. When there is a constant stream of new information, then facts will tend to get lost, and important facts will tend to get buried by trivia.

The people respond by thinking that Jesus is the prophet promised by Moses: “Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world’” (v.14). Similarly, when some academic expert comes up with a new way of applying theory to situations, then the typical response is to call him a genius and put him on a pedestal of Mercy status.

The people are determined to place Jesus upon a pedestal of Mercy status: “So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king” (v.15). Psychologically speaking, this is a rather curious statement. On the surface, Jesus is being exalted, because the people want to give him Mercy status and crown him king. Under the surface, Jesus is being belittled, because the people are suppressing his personal foundation of Teacher understanding by attempting to impose Mercy status upon him. In response, Jesus “withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone” (v.15). Cognitively speaking, Jesus protects his personal foundation by withdrawing from people with their MMNs and retreating to the TMN of a ‘mountain’ of understanding.

Summarizing, I know that this is a novel interpretation of the feeding of the 5000. However, it is supported by several factors: First, it matches the context. Jesus has just compared his way of thinking with that of John and the religious experts, and in a few verses he will talk about bread from heaven in a manner that obviously goes beyond the purely physical. Second, if bread represents abstract thought, then one must interpret this miracle in terms of abstract thought. Third, the cognitive principles that one pulls out from this symbolic interpretation are both accurate and significant. Fourth, Jesus is dealing with a crowd that is incapable of abstract thought. Therefore, the only way that Jesus can talk about abstract thought is by doing so symbolically and allegorically. Fifth, if God the Father is a God of order and structure, and if Jesus is doing only what he sees the Father doing, then there must be a deeper meaning to all of the miracles of Jesus. Sixth, the miracle of Jesus walking on the water makes symbolic sense as a natural follow-on to the feeding of the 5000. Finally, the multiplication of knowledge is not just some minor effect, but rather a hallmark of a scientific society.

Jesus Walking on Water 6:16-21

I mentioned that the assembly line is a practical illustration of the multiplying that one sees in the feeding of the 5000. I suggest that the miracle of Jesus walking on the water portrays in symbolic form what this feels like to the average person.

The story begins with his disciples getting into a boat: “Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them” (v.17). Capernaum means ‘village of consolation’. Interpreting this symbolically, the disciples are in the dark, without the light of an understanding. They go down to the sea of concrete experience in order to reach some goal that will provide consolation. They are not aware of how incarnation relates to their current situation.

The situation then gets troublesome: “The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing” (v.18). In verse 5 of the previous chapter, the water became agitated when an angel of the Lord descended. Here something similar, but more widespread, is happening. Instead of an angel stirring up the water, a strong wind is waking up and arousing the sea. Stated symbolically, new Teacher theories are in the air, and this is causing the normally calm sea of Mercy experiences to become alive with new possibilities.

After they have rowed for a while, Jesus shows up, walking on the water, which terrifies them: “Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened” (v.19). Looking at this cognitively, when Server action becomes guided by Teacher understanding, then this will lead to actions that look to the uneducated mind as if one is walking on water. The instinctive result will be terror. Modern Western society has become accustomed to continual technological change, but when modern technology first started appearing, it was often regarded with fear as an instrument of the devil.

For instance, imagine what it would have felt like in 1803 to have encountered the world’s first steam propelled road carriage, a two ton monstrosity with an eight passenger stagecoach cabin, driven by a pair of eight-foot diameter wheels. This mechanical behemoth was driven once for 10 miles through the streets of London, after the roads had been closed to other vehicles. After crashing into some house railings the next evening, the vehicle was scrapped. Looking at this more generally, I am sure that the average person living during the Industrial Revolution felt as if his world of experiences had become alive with new mechanical marvels, driven by the winds of new scientific thinking. Everywhere a person looked, the understanding of science was becoming incarnate through technology, and new technology was performing actions that looked like walking on water. For example, how can a horseless carriage move without horses?

This same symbolism can be found in Psalm 8. The Psalm begins and ends by saying, “Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth” (Psalm 8:1). Similarly, the name of God as expressed by the laws of nature became regarded as majestic in all the earth during the Industrial Revolution. Verse 3 describes the starting point of understanding the laws of nature: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained.” Verse 5 talks about God bringing benefits to humanity: “You have made him a little lower than God, and you crowned with glory and majesty.” Verse 6 then explains that this involves gaining mastery over how things work: “You make him to rule over the works of your hands.” Verse 8 then describes paths through the water, the same thing that Jesus was illustrating by walking upon the water: “Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.”

Returning to John 6, when the disciples see Jesus walking on the water, he responds: “‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ So they were willing to receive Him into the boat” (v.20-21). Looking at this cognitively, the scenario begins with the disciples performing some normal Server action within concrete thought to reach some desired goal. But new thinking is in the air, leading to brand-new experiences. And then technical thought shows up with some new way of performing an action that makes no common sense—like a carriage moving by itself without horses, or a person walking on water. The strangeness of this leads to terror, until the disciples recognize that this newfangled action is also an aspect of incarnation, a different way of applying the same general Teacher understanding through technical thought.

And when the disciples adopt this new form of action, then they find progress happens much more quickly: “And immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going” (v.21). Similarly, new scientific processes and gadgets replaced traditional methods largely because the new ways were capable of accomplishing tasks in a much shorter time with much less human effort.

As with the feeding of the 5000, the proliferation of newfangled processes and gadgets is not some obscure factor, but rather a fundamental sign that Teacher understanding is being applied with Server actions. The period in history when this occurred is known as the The Industrial Revolution. The Wikipedia article begins by explaining that “The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in the period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840. This transition included going from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, improved efficiency of water power, the increasing use of steam power, the development of machine tools and the rise of the factory system.”

It may seem like science fiction to compare the miracles of Jesus with steam engines. But the first steam engine was actually invented during the time of Jesus by Hero of Alexandria. (Yes, that Alexandria.) I am not suggesting, or even vaguely implying, that Jesus was some sort of space alien who was trying to teach humans new technology. That type of viewpoint brings Jesus down to the level of facts and gadgets, and completely ignores deeper dimensions of personal transformation. Instead, we will see exactly the opposite happening during the rest of this chapter. Because his audience either cannot or will not grasp his message, Jesus is forced to state his message in increasingly personal terms, turning an abstract message about intellectual bread into a personal call for transformation.

If science had developed in Alexandria, then it is quite possible that Hero, or someone like Hero, would have invented a steam carriage, which would have terrified the citizens of Alexandria and would been a topic of conversation in nearby Jerusalem and Galilee, giving Jesus a more effective way of conveying his message, without having to veil his words in parables, symbols, and allegories.

Saying this more generally, I suggest that the way that new technology impacts society can help us to understand what it is like when incarnation descending from heaven begins to affect earth. That, I suggest, is the lesson of the feeding of the 5000: If one learns how things work in one context, then one can multiply understanding by applying this knowledge to other contexts that function in a similar manner. If one learns how technology impacts society, then one can multiply this understanding by applying it to incarnation descending from heaven. I have used this principle for years to extend the theory of mental symmetry, so I know from personal experience that it works. And that, I suggest, is the lesson that needs to be learned from the rest of chapter 6. For decades I have been struggling to answer questions about the mind and the Bible that very few other people are asking. And when I find answers, I discover that very few people want to know these answers. However, if one keeps going, then I have found that abstract understanding of cognition and theology will gradually—and painfully—turn into personal transformation. Personal transformation is always a painful process, but the pain is much less when one is motivated by the ‘carrot’ of understanding rather than the ‘stick’ of suffering.

The problem behind the problem is that we have been conditioned to think that God and incarnation have no real connection with science and technology. Therefore, when one brings these two together, as I am attempting to do in this essay, then the implicit assumption tends to be that one is either talking about intelligent space aliens or else spiritualizing science in a non-rigorous, hand-waving manner. Here too, I am speaking from personal experience, because I find it gut-wrenching to write essays like this one on the Gospel of John. On the one hand, my Mennonite side shudders at the thought of making statements about God and Jesus that are insufficiently reverential, while on the other hand, my engineering side cringes at the thought of making statements about science and technology that are insufficiently rigorous. I am doing my best to walk the narrow path of applying the theory of mental symmetry in a manner that is simultaneously reverential and rigorous. Stated simply, I propose the radical—but biblical—concept that the Trinitarian God is an intelligent and rational Being who created the physical universe with its natural laws. The average Christian may claim to believe this, but proclaiming that something is true is quite different than thinking or acting as if it is true.

Officially Sanctioned Learning 6:22-24

Returning to John 6, the next few verses contain an unusually specific description of the crowds searching for Jesus, which is actually longer than the description of the miracle itself. I suggest that the key to interpreting this description lies in Jesus’ response in verse 26: “Jesus answered them and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.’” Interpreting this literally, they were only interested in getting free food and did not want to think about anything deeper. Interpreting it symbolically, they were only interested in acquiring information and did not want to think about anything deeper. Looking at this cognitively, how can one hide from the TMN of a concept of God that applies to all aspects of personal identity? One hides from God by focusing upon the details. For instance, this is how Adam and Eve hid from God in the Garden of Eden: “The man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8). In other words, ‘not being able to see the forest for the trees’ is an effective cognitive escape mechanism that allows a person to think about the structure of the universe while ignoring the concept of a universal, intelligent God. Using the language of Jesus, the people only want the bread of information, they are not interested in viewing this as a sign of something bigger.

First, the crowd examines the concrete situation and concludes that there is nothing interesting there: “The next day the crowd that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone” (v.22). ‘The next day’ implies that there is now a light of understanding. The crowd sees ‘no other small boat’, implying a specific situation with no general implications. ‘Jesus had not entered’ suggests that that the technical thinking of incarnation is not present. And ‘his disciples had gone away alone’ across the lake implies some normal situation in concrete thought. This summarizes the typical historical response of academia to normal existence: It is not interesting and has nothing to do with technical thought.

Second, academic research becomes an officially accepted aspect of society: “There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks” (v.23). Tiberius refers to the river Tiber which runs through the city of Rome. If a river represents the flow of society, then the river running through the capital city of the Roman empire would represent the official, government sanctioned, flow of society. Thus, ‘small boats from Tiberius’ suggests that the officially sanctioned flow of society is being affected. These boats travel to the location where the bread of knowledge was multiplied by giving thanks to God in Teacher thought. Putting this together, using Teacher thought to multiply knowledge becomes part of the flow of society. Scientific research becomes socially and officially accepted; studying at a university becomes an accepted and accredited stage in the flow of life. This describes current society, because everyone is both expected and required to get an education before starting adult life. This combination of scientific research and official acceptance implies that MMNs of societal approval are motivating people to use scientific thought.

Officially sanctioned scientific thought makes it possible for people to hide mentally from God. Within specializations, rational technical thought will be used, guided emotionally by the TMNs of paradigms and general theories. However, at a more general level, motivation will tend to come from MMNs of societal approval, reinforced by government edict. One will attend university primarily because it is the accepted thing to do, or because one must attend university in order to be permitted to perform certain jobs.

Giving too much societal and official support to academic thought tends to be counterproductive, because it changes the emotional bottom line from Teacher understanding to Mercy approval. For instance, many research projects today are determined by what will get official funding, rather than what is of theoretical interest. This can be seen in the next verse: “So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus” (v.24). When the crowds from Tiberius arrived at the place where the bread of knowledge was multiplied, they found that Jesus and his disciples were not there. Stated cognitively, if one tries to make scientific thought part of the official stream of society, then this will tend to damage scientific thought, because people will be doing the right thing for inadequate reasons. They will be taking the class in order to get a degree so that they can get a job, rather than taking the class in order to gain an understanding of how things work. Saying this another way, when deciphering ‘how the universe works’ becomes an aspect of ‘how society works’—backed up by government legislation, then ‘how society works’ will naturally become more important than ‘how the universe works’. Methodology will overshadow research, and research will tend to get disconnected from reality. This does not mean that all useful research will end, but the idea of incarnation descending from heaven will have departed.

Teaching at Capernaum 6:24-36

Where is Jesus and his disciples? In Capernaum. Capernaum means ‘village of consolation’, which implies searching for something pleasant or comforting in Mercy thought. In other words, the focus of research will change from multiplying knowledge to solving practical problems. This new focus can be seen by comparing the Industrial Revolution in Britain with the Industrial Revolution in France. As this BBC video documentary explains, in Britain, there was a free exchange of ideas during the second half of the 18th century, and scientists met with industrialists in places like coffee shops to share observations, unleashing a wave of creativity in which scientific principles were used to solve practical problems. Speaking symbolically, incarnation had left the place of multiplying bread and had moved to Capernaum. In contrast, scientific innovation was centralized by the monarchy in France through an official Academy of Science and new ideas had to be presented to and approved by this Academy, causing scientific progress to be stifled by bureaucracy. As a result, the Industrial Revolution was much more limited in France than it was in Britain. Speaking symbolically, boats from Tiberius were looking for Jesus at the place where the bread had been multiplied and were not finding him.

When the crowds find Jesus at Capernaum, they are confused: “When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, ‘Rabbi, when did You get here?’” (v.25). Looking at this cognitively, if one believes that science is a study of how the world works, then one will expect to find incarnation at work in the ‘village of consolation’, using a knowledge of how the world works to make life a better place. But if one thinks that science is nothing more than how a group of scientists work, or if one pursues education because it is socially accepted or officially mandated, then one will be surprised to find Jesus in such pragmatic surroundings.

Jesus responds by pointing out the inadequate thinking of the crowd: “Jesus answered them and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled’” (v26). If loaves represent packages of knowledge, then Jesus is telling the crowd that they only want the technical thinking of incarnation so that they can acquire more knowledge. They are not interested in using knowledge to transform personal experience.

Verse 59 tells us that the rest of the chapter happens at the synagogue in Capernaum: “These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.” Interpreting this symbolically, the next section will focus upon the relationship between God and personal consolation, and the main topic will be bread and food. The primary principle being discussed is mentioned by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: “You cannot serve God and wealth. For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matt.6:24-25). Jesus is contrasting two value systems: God and wealth. And he is comparing the peripheral needs of food, drink, and clothing with the more central needs of life and body. Similarly, in John 6 Jesus compares food that perishes with food that leads to eternal life: “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal” (v.27). Interpreting this cognitively, one should search for intellectual food that will last: 1) Lasting intellectual food has God’s seal of ownership, which means that it describes general principles in Teacher thought. 2) Lasting intellectual food comes from Teacher thought through incarnation. It is not just some vague generalization, but rather a general principle that has been clarified using technical thought.

Jesus has been talking about righteousness, and the crowd has just experienced the benefits of righteousness. They are now asking how righteousness works: “Therefore they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?’” Notice the focus on doing and work, and how the people are trying to connect concrete Server actions with an abstract concept of God in Teacher thought. Jesus responds by telling them that one connects concrete actions with a concept of God through incarnation by belief: “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent’” (v.29). This is a significant cognitive principle, which is discussed at some length in Natural Cognitive Theology. In brief, righteousness does not occur automatically. Words in Teacher thought are not naturally connected with actions in Server thought. Instead, the default is for ‘what I say’ to be different than ‘what I do’. In order to tie these two together (and stop being a hypocrite who says one thing and does another), one must use Perceiver thought to look for common meanings and similar processes (the Perceiver person is very sensitive to hypocrisy). But one will only think in terms of meanings and processing if technical thought is functioning. Saying this in more detail, abstract technical thought requires precise definitions, while concrete technical thought is based upon processes such as cause-and-effect, or sowing-and-reaping. Perceiver thought integrates the various fragments of technical thought by looking for common meanings and similar processes. The interaction between Contributor-controlled technical thought and Perceiver connections can be seen in Jesus giving ‘the keys of the kingdom of heaven’ to Peter in Matthew 16.

The crowd responds by equating Perceiver belief with absolute truth: “So they said to Him, ‘What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.”’” (v.30-31). As I mentioned before, absolute truth is based in Mercy status. The emotional importance of some source of truth overwhelms Perceiver thought into believing that what this source says is true. For instance, ‘It is true because it is in the Bible, and the Bible was written by God, who is an Important Person’. The crowd is asking Jesus for some awesome experience in Mercy thought that will mesmerize Perceiver thought into believing absolute truth. Absolute truth believes that truth was originally revealed in a special manner to ancient experts who lived apart from the experiences of normal life. Using symbolic language, it is manna eaten by the fathers in the wilderness. In typical fundamentalist fashion, the crowd backs up their request by quoting from the Bible: ‘as it is written’.

Jesus tells them that they are thinking of truth in the wrong way. Instead of thinking of absolute truth that is based in MMNs of personal status, they should think of universal truth that is based in the TMN of a concept of God: “Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven” (v.32). In other words, Moses the Important Person is not the source of ‘bread from heaven’. Instead, God the universal Person is the true source of bread from heaven. This sounds like a simple point that anyone would be able to grasp. However, experiments done by the cognitive science of religion have shown repeatedly that people implicitly treat God as if He is an important person in Mercy thought even while explicitly stating in theologically correct terms that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.

Jesus reiterates the universal extent and continuous application of bread that comes from the universal Being of God: “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world” (v.33). The bread of God was not just revealed in the past to special people in special circumstances. Instead, it is coming out of heaven. It does not impose MMNs upon the mind but rather gives life to personal MMNs. And it is not just absolute truth that was given to the ancestors of some chosen people, but rather it is a bread of God in Teacher thought that gives life to the cosmos—the ‘ordered system of the universe, the inhabitants of the world’.

The crowd respond by viewing Jesus as a source of truth in Mercy thought: “Then they said to Him, ‘Lord, always give us this bread’” (v.34). Jesus explains that they do not grasp what it means to be a source of truth. One has to embody truth: “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst’” (v.35). The term embodiment is used a lot in academic circles these days, but I suggest that is being used in a backwards manner, and I suggest that transubstantiation, which will come up in a few verses, is an example of using embodiment in a backwards manner.


Embodiment recognizes that one cannot disconnect internal thought from physical sensation; thinking is heavily influenced by inhabiting a physical body within a physical universe. This is a significant principle, related to the whole idea of righteousness. But embodiment actually affects thought in two totally opposite directions. Going the one way, physical input provides the starting point for thought. But going the other way, if a researcher comes up with a theory of embodiment, then this theory will turn into a TMN, which will use emotional pressure to impose its structure upon the mind, affecting even the way that a person views physical reality. Saying this from a neurological perspective, the brain processes input from the physical world using a combination of bottom-up and top-down thinking. For instance, suppose that I see something moving in the middle of the night, think that it is a burglar, take a closer look, and realize that it is only a branch moving in the wind. Top-down processing, guided by mental networks, is jumping to the conclusion that a burglar is present. This top-down conclusion is then being checked by the bottom-up processing of looking more carefully, which then reveals the true nature of the moving object.

Incarnation descending from God is probably the ultimate example of top-down processing, because it starts from a concept of God in Teacher thought and descends all the way down to physical sensation in Mercy thought. Jesus is saying that he embodies bread: ‘I am the bread of life’. Religious thinking listens to this statement, looks at a piece of bread, and concludes that it is Jesus. But what is causing the mind to come up with such a conclusion? Pure bottom-up processing sees only physical objects. In order to conclude that the roundish object that one sees is a loaf of bread, one must add some top-down processing. One must know what bread is and how it fits into the scheme of life. Going further, pure bottom-up processing would never conclude that a piece of bread is Jesus. Reaching such a non-intuitive conclusion requires massive top-down help from internal mental networks, because one must look at the bread and conclude that it is Jesus—despite all the sensory evidence to the contrary.

What type of mental network would drive a person to ignore all physical evidence and believe that some specific object is God? A mental network of mysticism, because the fundamental conclusion of pure mysticism is that ‘I—a specific human being—am God’. Teacher generalization comes up with the theory that ‘all is one’, while Mercy identification identifies with this oneness to conclude that ‘I am God’. Mysticism protects Teacher overgeneralization either by saying that the physical world is ultimately illusion, or by saying that God transcends all facts about physical reality. The person who observes a loaf of bread, agrees that it looks like a loaf of bread, and then concludes that it is actually God, is following the same chain of reasoning. Saying this cognitively, mysticism has turned into a TMN that is emotionally imposing its structure upon the mind. But we saw earlier that mysticism is fundamentally opposed to the very concept of incarnation, because mysticism cannot connect the rational content of incarnation with an overgeneralized concept of God. Thus, I suggest that a doctrine of transubstantiation ultimately deconstructs itself.

But there is also a form of embodiment that is an extension of righteousness. Righteousness insists that understanding Teacher thought has to be applied in Server thought. Embodiment goes one step further by saying that understanding in Teacher thought has to be embodied in Mercy thought. Performing acts of righteousness is not enough. Instead, one needs to become the type of person who naturally thinks and behaves in a way that is consistent with the character of God. This transition from doing to being will occur naturally if one continues to apply understanding in emotional situations, because a mental network is formed out of similar, emotional memories. Using religious language, one will gradually change from doing righteousness to being a righteous person.

However, this process can be short-circuited. Suppose that one does righteous acts because of social or government expectations. One is no longer being motivated by the TMN of a concept of God, but rather by MMNs of society and approval. The end result is not righteousness but rather social conformity. That is why Jesus warns in Matthew 6, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 6:1). This provides a cognitive—and spiritual—reason why righteousness should not become officially approved by ‘the boats from Tiberius’.

Jesus as an Imaginary Person

Embodying understanding is a major step in personal transformation. But Jesus is saying something even more personal. Jesus is saying that he embodies the bread of life. In order to understand this statement, one has to examine the difference between an imaginary person and a real person. The Christian talks about ‘asking Jesus in your heart’. What is the difference between that and ‘Asking Santa Claus for Christmas presents?’ Is there any difference?

This essay has talked numerous times about MMNs of personal status. Cognitively speaking, the emotional experiences that I have with some person will form a mental network within Mercy thought, and when I encounter that person, then this MMN will be triggered, which will then predict how that person will respond, by emotionally imposing its content upon the mind. This effect is usually most potent with family members, because of the extensive emotional interaction that occurs between members of a family. For instance, if I misbehave, then a single glance from mother is sufficient to convey a wealth of emotional information. That is because this information is already stored within my mind in the form of a mental network, and the glance from mother triggered this mental network. This same cognitive mechanism makes it possible for the mind to form mental images of imaginary people who do not physically exist, such as Santa Claus, Uncle Sam, Superman—or Jesus.

Thus, as far as mental networks are concerned, there is no essential difference between an imaginary person and a real person. But there is a physical difference. An imaginary person does not correspond to anything that is independent of human thought. It is possible for many people to have an MMN of the same person, as is the case with Santa Claus. But this does not make Santa Claus real. It is also possible for people to create experiences that make it look like some imaginary person exists, as is done with all the movies about Superman. But a real person lives in a physical body that functions independently of people’s thinking. My father’s body, for instance, does not disappear when I stop thinking about him. A person’s physical body also does not disappear when that person goes to sleep, gets drunk, or develops dementia. Like Santa Claus, the imaginary person of Jesus is an MMN that is shared by many people. And for many individuals, I suggest that Jesus has no more substance than Santa Claus. But this essay has talked extensively about a concept of incarnation developing within the mind. And a concept of incarnation is more than just an imaginary person, because it is based in the structure of the mind, which is independent of human thought.

Summarizing, if one treats the process of incarnation descending from heaven to earth, not just as an abstract doctrine, but as a personal path of mental transformation, then this will cause a concept of God and incarnation to form within the mind, and these mental concepts will be more than just imaginary persons because they are based in the wiring of the mind. Thus, one could refer to ‘Jesus in my heart’ as a cognitively natural imaginary person.

An internal concept of incarnation will naturally form if one personalizes the process of learning science. When one learns science, one learns that the natural world is ruled by universal laws in Teacher thought. One also learns that these universal laws can transform physical reality through the technical thinking of science and technology. Personalizing this message turns it into the words of Jesus in verse 35: “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” This personalization of a concept of incarnation occurs naturally within science, and modern science does its best to pretend that it is not happening. Scientists are continually talking about ‘Nature’ doing this or that, and the attributes that are ascribed to Nature can only be described as godlike. However, few scientists will actually admit that Nature is being treated as a God. If scientific understanding had existed in Jesus time, then Jesus could have tapped into this natural tendency to regard Nature as deity.

But no comprehension of science existed during Jesus’ time. Therefore, there was no internal concept of incarnation for people to personalize. Even when people did have an internal concept of Jesus-the-man, they still did not believe: “But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe” (v.36). (The word translated see often means ‘to see with the mind’.) A similar problem exists today in Christianity. Many people have an internal concept of Jesus-the-man and talk about ‘having a personal relationship with Jesus’, telling us that a cognitively natural concept of incarnation has developed—to some extent. But Paul talks in Ephesians about a concept of incarnation that extends far beyond ‘Jesus as my imaginary friend’: “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children...” (Eph. 4:13-14). ‘Knowledge of the Son of God’ refers to incarnation as an expression of universal understanding in Teacher thought and not just specific experiences in Mercy thought.

Summarizing, current science has an implicit internal concept of incarnation as God, called Nature, but it refuses to explicitly acknowledge this concept as an invisible person. Current Christianity explicitly refers to the internal concept of incarnation as man, called Jesus-in-your-heart, but it insists that Jesus-as-God is an incomprehensible mystery. The solution is to bring these two forms of thought together.

Personalizing Understanding 6:37-42

Personalizing understanding raises some important issues which may at first glance appear to be dry theological questions but are actually matters of personal survival. In crass terms, what will happen to me if I become personally committed to the plan of God? Will I survive personally, or will I become destroyed by the system, the way that millions of soldiers were meaninglessly sacrificed in World War I? I mention this war because it was the first ‘modern war’ that was driven by TMNs of science and technology, and the human results were horrific.

The first aspect of this involves the relationship between a concept of God in Teacher thought and a concept of incarnation. Can these two coexist? A mystical concept of God sidesteps this issue by stating in an overgeneralized manner that the members of the Trinity are always in perfect harmony. But if one goes beyond overgeneralization to construct a mental concept of God the Father and a mental concept of God the Son, then these two mental concepts will interact with one another. When two universal mental networks come into contact, the normal situation is for them to fight to the death for control of the mind. One can see this illustrated by the current struggle between secular science and religious belief. Even if Nature and Jesus-in-my-heart are only cognitively natural imaginary persons based in mental networks, mental networks scream when they are torn apart, just like people do when they are dismembered.

Jesus addresses the relationship between God the Father and incarnation in verse 37: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” The first word translated come means ‘to reach the end-destination’. Cognitively speaking, every aspect of a concept of God in Teacher thought will be able to reach the end destination of being part of the technical thinking of incarnation. Going the other way, anything that comes to technical thought will not be rejected by technical thought.

For instance, whenever I use the theory of mental symmetry to analyze something like the Gospel of John, my concept of God in Teacher thought is motivating me to use technical thought to analyze the book. My analysis of the first 12 chapters of John went through two stages: First, I looked at the text in a general way in order to see whether my Teacher theory made sense: Is it a description of incarnation descending from God to man? Second, I went over the text again in order to see whether I could use technical thought to add details to this general analysis. (I am using normal thought to look for patterns, but when I find patterns, then I am using technical thought to add details to these patterns.) When doing this sort of analysis, I occasionally get stuck for a day or two, and this is emotionally disconcerting. However, I have consistently found that if I bash my head against the proverbial wall for a day or two, then the wall eventually moves and my head survives. Jesus is saying that it is possible to move from a concept of God in Teacher thought to technical thinking in Contributor thought. For the average person, this means nothing. But when one develops a concept of God and incarnation, and they turn into powerful mental networks, then it becomes very important emotionally for these to be able to interact without destroying each other.

When one is using a combination of Teacher understanding and technical thought, then it is important to keep priorities straight. As Jesus says in verse 38, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” In other words, the technical thinking of incarnation must remain submitted to an integrated Teacher concept of God. Modern science has done precisely the opposite, fragmenting into technical specializations that ignore the existence of an integrated Teacher understanding. Using the language of Thomas Kuhn, most science is composed of ‘normal science’ which uses technical thought to solve intellectual puzzles within some specialized domain. If technical thought does not remain submitted to the TMN of an integrated concept of God, then it will become hijacked by MMNs of culture, tribalism, and demagoguery. The result will not be personal salvation but rather amplified, childish stupidity, in which men are merely boys with bigger toys and sharper sticks.

We now come to the coexistence between a concept of God and personal identity. What will happen to me in Mercy thought if I follow God and incarnation? When I grew up, the common preconception was that if you gave your life to God, then God would probably ask you to become a missionary in some godforsaken, uncivilized, jungle village. A concept of God that is based in Mercy status will lead naturally to this conclusion, because following God implies denying self.

Jesus says something more nuanced: “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day” (v.39). The word translated lose actually means ‘to destroy or cut off entirely’. Stated bluntly, there is no cannon fodder in the plan of God the Father. Peter says something similar in his second epistle: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). And the word translated perish in 2 Peter is the same Greek word meaning ‘to destroy entirely’. But Jesus says that the personal benefits do not start immediately. Instead, there is a raising up on ‘the last day’. Similarly, the verse in 2 Peter also emphasizes that there is a delay before the personal benefits occur.

We discussed the day of the Lord when looking at John the Baptist, and I suggested that it refers to a future period of time when the ‘sun of righteousness’ has arisen and is shining on the earth. Saying this cognitively, a rational concept of God and incarnation has become revealed (during the theoretical return of Christ), and it is extending its rule over all of society.

‘The last day’ opens with the theoretical return of Christ, described at the end of Revelation 11: “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name” (Rev. 11:17-18). God has begun to reign, and the time for both judgment and reward has arrived. Similarly, 1 Corinthians 10 talks about those ‘upon whom the ends of the ages have come’.

Unfortunately, the crowd does not comprehend the concept of embodying righteousness: “Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven’” (v.41). The crowd does not understand how Jesus could have descended from heaven because they know his earthly parents: “They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, “I have come down out of heaven”?’” (v.42). Looking at this literally, the meaning is fairly obvious: ‘We know where this guy grew up. Who is he pretending to be?’ Looking at this cognitively, behavior will not become mentally connected with the TMN of a concept of God if it is already mentally connected with existing MMNs of culture and identity. Applying this to the passage, the crowd rejects Jesus’ claim to be connected with the mental network of God because they know the cultural and family mental networks to which he is connected.

One comes up with a similar meaning if one interprets bread as knowledge. Joseph means ‘he shall increase’. In other words, scientific research will gradually turn into adding to the body of knowledge, with an established and well-known ‘female’ academic culture and ‘male’ collection of facts and procedures. The idea of science being guided by general understanding and Teacher thought will become submerged. Using language of Thomas Kuhn, science will turn into normal science, with its specialized problem solving. And normal science will become an obstacle to the very concept of incarnation descending from the heaven of integrated Teacher understanding.

Attracted by Understanding 6:43-50

Jesus responds by realizing that he cannot make people believe in him unless they are drawn by Teacher understanding: “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day’” (v.43-44). In other words, Jesus is applying his understanding to his own situation. He has been saying that bread from heaven is needed. He is now recognizing that bread from heaven is needed even to recognize that one needs bread from heaven. For instance, I have often wished that I could open up people’s heads and dump in an understanding of the mind, the way that one installs a new operating system on a computer. But those who lack understanding usually also lack the ability to understand that they lack understanding. Psychology refers to this as illusory superiority, or the Lake Wobegon effect.

Jesus also applies Teacher understanding to absolute truth: “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God’” (v.45). In other words, if one goes beyond emotional status and examines what the Bible actually says, it is predicting that people will be guided and taught by Teacher understanding. Notice that Jesus says that all will be taught by God. Jesus is not saying that religious experts are taught by God while average people acquire truth about God indirectly through these experts. Instead, everyone, regardless of personal status, will be taught by the TMN of a concept of God.

This means that the critical factor appears to be whether or not one learns from Teacher thought: “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me” (v.45). For instance, when I studied engineering, I remember being told that an engineer does not know everything, but an engineer does know how to search for knowledge. Similarly, a person who follows Teacher thought may have inadequate content, but such a person has learned how to search for understanding.

And in order to truly grasp Teacher thought, one has to come from God: “Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father” (v.46). At the physical level, this means that Teacher thought has to be seeded by a real incarnation from a real God. Someone had to come from God to tell humans what it means to be from God. But it also means cognitively that one will only fully grasp the nature of Teacher thought if one starts with a concept of God in Teacher thought. My personal experience backs this up. One would think that the concept of Teacher thought and Teacher emotion is fairly easy to grasp, and that it would be obvious that one must use Teacher thought to think about a God who is omnipotent, omnipotent, and omniscient, and yet I have found that this concept is almost impossible to get across. The primary reason that I understand Teacher thought is because I began my research by assisting my older brother, who is a Teacher person. Years of interacting with him brought me face-to-face with how Teacher thought functions.

The end result is a Catch-22: Teacher thought is needed to get Teacher thought to function properly. But Teacher thought will only function properly if one has the right theory in Teacher thought. As I mentioned before, I have often wished that I could open up someone’s head and dump in the theory of mental symmetry. If others could only see the elegance and usefulness of this theory, then they would want to learn it, but they have not learned it, and therefore cannot see that it is elegant and useful.

This is not just a theoretical problem, because a Teacher theory is actually a mental home. If I have a general theory, then I will view life through this theory, and I will become emotionally trapped by this theory. We saw this when discussing embodiment. This will be good or bad, depending on the quality of the general theory within which I have become emotionally trapped. Jesus makes this transition from understanding to mental home in the next verse: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life” (v.47-48). This is a more personal version of verse 35, where Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” Hunger and thirst has to do with understanding and experience. But as Jesus asked in the Sermon on the Mount, “Is not life more than food?”

Embodying righteousness is not just needed to gain understanding. It extends far deeper than this. Understanding does not just enable or inhibit understanding, it enables or inhibits mental life itself. Using an analogy, it is as if one is playing a computer game, and then realizes that this game is actually part of reality. Looking at this personally, my research began by attempting to understand how the mind functions. I was studying the mind. But I am a mind. Thus, when one learns how the mind functions, one is actually learning the nature of the prison within which every person, including me, is inescapably trapped.

We saw earlier that absolute truth is a temporary method of believing in truth. But it extends more personally than that. Absolute truth is actually a temporary basis for personal existence: “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died” (v.49). (‘Manna in the wilderness from the fathers’ portrays absolute truth because it is special bread that comes from special people in the past who did not live in normal circumstances.) This principle is obvious in today’s world, because we live in a post-Christian society in which the very concept of absolute truth is dying, and those who built their minds upon absolute truth are experiencing confusion and mental angst, and are responding primarily by either retreating to enclaves of past thinking or by lashing out at the world at large. (Matthew 24 describes this transition.)

If one wishes to escape the temporary foundation of absolute truth, then one must eat a different kind of bread of knowledge: “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die” (v.50). The bread that comes from heaven has to descend from Teacher thought through the technical thinking of incarnation: “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (v.51). One can understand what this means by looking at science and technology. Understanding the laws of nature makes it possible to escape many of the hardships of life. But merely understanding natural law is not enough. Instead, one must use abstract technical thought to work out the implications, and then one must use concrete technical thought to translate abstract understanding into physical processes: science must turn into technology.

Core Mental Networks 6:51-59

Jesus then goes one step further: “The bread also which I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (v.51). Previously he said that ‘I am the bread of life’. Here he is making the statement both more universal and more personal. On the universal side, the bread is for ‘the life of the world’. On the personal side, the bread is ‘my flesh’.

A similar transition happened in my research, when I realized the significance of mental networks. (This realization was partially prompted by the concept of the agency detector from the cognitive science of religion. In simple terms, the agency detector describes the natural human tendency to interpret situations in personal terms. For instance, if one hears a noise in the night, then one jumps to the conclusion that it must be a burglar.) What hit me is the realization that mental networks are not merely used by the mind to perform peripheral tasks such as detecting burglars. Instead, the mind is driven at its essence by core mental networks. If my core mental networks fall apart, then the very fabric of my mind will unravel. If I wish to become truly transformed, then my core mental networks must change. This is a universal principle because all societies are driven ultimately by core mental networks of culture. And it is also a personal principle, because everyone grows up with the ‘flesh’ of a childish identity based upon mental networks acquired from growing up in a physical body. (Paul uses the word flesh to describe the ‘carnal nature’.)

Jesus’ comments make no sense to the crowd: “Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, ‘How can this man give us His flesh to eat?’” (v.52). The original audience may have thought that Jesus was referring to some form of cannibalism, which implies that they were incapable of going beyond concrete thought. But one can also look at this from the viewpoint of food as knowledge. How can one individual learn from the personal experiences of another? Much of the process of science is designed to eliminate personal experience and subjective bias. Therefore, it makes no sense to the scientific mind to try to gain knowledge from personal experience.

This is not a trivial distinction. When one is studying the mind, one must include personal experience, because the mind is both being studied and doing the studying. This means chewing on that which objective science spits out. But objective science spits out the MMNs of personal experience for a reason, because subjective bias will naturally stop a person from thinking rationally. If one includes MMNs of personal experience, then one will only remain rational if one is guided by the TMN of a concept of God that descends through the technical thinking of incarnation.

Jesus then starts talking fully in terms of mental networks: “So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves’” (v.53). The mind uses mental networks to represent living beings. Flesh represents mental networks acquired from the physical body. Blood represents mental networks of personal identity. So far, the discussion has been about bread. This is the first time that blood is being mentioned.

Jesus is making the transition from eating intellectual bread in abstract thought to personal transformation in concrete thought. One is no longer merely eating bread. One is also eating the flesh of incarnation as well as drinking the blood. The end result is ‘life in yourselves’. In other words, embodiment is not just an abstract principle that one discusses theoretically. Instead, one must embody the mindset of incarnation in order to experience personal transformation.

A similar principle applies to the theory of mental symmetry. I began developing this theory in order to understand how the mind functions. I then realized that one can only understand the mind if one includes personal experience and allows personal experience to be guided by understanding. But this turns studying the mind into personal transformation. One is simultaneously trying to perform the abstract task of attempting to understand the mind and the concrete task of following a path of transforming personal identity.

Previously, Jesus talked about carrying out God’s plan to ‘raise others up on the last day’. This plan is now rephrased using mental networks: “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (v.54). Looking at this cognitively, the path of personal transformation has become embodied through incarnation. And Jesus emphasizes that this embodied path of transformation is true and will not lead astray: “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink” (v.55). That is because there is an internal relationship between MMNs of identity and a mental concept of incarnation: “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him” (v.56). And the relationship between incarnation and MMNs of personal identity is not some sort of mystical experience, but rather follows the same pattern as the relationship between incarnation and the TMN of God: “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me” (v.57). This is an important principle, because it describes the type of embodiment that is needed. On the one hand, one does not have to remain within abstract theory and avoid concrete experiences. Religious ritual is not inherently evil. But on the other hand, concrete experiences need to be a picture of the relationship between God in Teacher thought and incarnation. Saying this cognitively, Teacher thought appreciates order-within-complexity. When concrete thought functions in a way that is similar to the way that abstract thought functions, then this increases Teacher order-within-complexity. The general theory becomes more general.

Summarizing, ‘bread from heaven’ is not absolute truth based in religious authority but rather concrete thought functioning in a way that is similar to abstract thought: “This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever” (v.58).

This concept will naturally make sense to a scientific mindset. Science is based in a general understanding of how the natural world functions. Jesus is extending this mindset by saying that Jesus-in-your-heart functions like the scientific relationship between Teacher understanding and technical thought. However, for a mystical mindset, what Jesus is saying is pure nonsense, because a God of mysticism in Teacher thought cannot interact with the technical thinking of incarnation. Martin Buber illustrates what happens when one attempts to apply Jesus’ words from a mystical perspective. Buber says that a personal encounter with another individual can provide a glimpse of the eternal God; concrete experience can become like the character of God. But this will only happen if one focuses so fully upon the immediate social interaction that one becomes mentally unaware of the context. Stated crudely, God is a shapeless blob with personal feelings. One can become aware of God by mentally regarding the personal feelings of social interaction as a shapeless blob.


These verses provide the primary basis for the doctrine of transubstantiation, so we will take some time to examine what is happening within the mind, and then apply this to the doctrine of transubstantiation.

Cognitively speaking, every mind is driven by core mental networks. But these mental networks usually function implicitly and automatically, outside of conscious awareness. A person is simply behaving in a ‘normal manner’, the way that everyone ‘should behave’. In order to become consciously aware of core mental networks, one must be exposed to another set of different mental networks. This happens, for instance, when spending time in another culture, or becoming fluent in another language. When a situation triggers two incompatible mental networks, then each mental network will attempt to impose its structure, pulling the mind simultaneously in two different directions. This internal conflict will make it consciously obvious that one is being driven by mental networks. And this internal conflict will also enable free will. That is because a person can choose to suppress a small mental network but cannot choose to suppress a core mental network. However, a person can choose between alternate core mental networks.

We spoke earlier about ‘Jesus in your heart’ being a cognitively natural imaginary person. The internal concept of Jesus is not backed up by a physical person, but it is backed up by the structure of the mind. Righteousness adds Server actions to Teacher understanding. As one continues to follow a path of righteousness, this will form a concept of incarnation within the mind, which will turn into a mental network. Stated crudely, I will feel as if Jesus Christ is living in my head. This mental concept of Jesus Christ will have power, because it is emotionally backed up by the TMN of a concept of God, and it will also have stability and structure, because it is being reinforced by ‘how the mind works’. I will gradually realize that ‘Jesus Christ in my mind’ is no normal imaginary person. If I want to grow in understanding, then I must submit to this imaginary person, because it is based upon how my mind works. If I wish to become free of my various mental prisons, then I must follow a path of submitting to the imaginary person of Jesus Christ.

Explaining this further, it is not possible to escape mental prisons, because the mind will always be driven by core mental networks. But one can exchange one mental prison for another; one can replace one set of core mental networks by another. The mental prison which gives me the most freedom is the one that is compatible with the structure of the mind and the structure of the universe, because I will be emotionally driven to think and behave in a way that avoids unpleasant consequences from the world and painful consequences from my mind. One can see this illustrated by technology. Technology does not use magic to escape the laws of the universe, but rather uses an understanding of natural law to transform the way that gadgets function. Similarly, the imaginary person of Jesus Christ does not use magic to escape human nature, but rather uses an understanding of the mind to transform the way that humans function.

A concept of incarnation is based in technical thought, and technical thought is not emotional. But as one continues to use technical thought, then it will become backed up by mental networks. Thus, the scientist is driven by the TMN (or logos) of a general theory to develop and preserve his current paradigm. Going further, incarnation is based in the TMN of a concept of God, and a concept of God emerges when a general theory applies to personal identity. Thus, the businessman uses technical thought to save things while incarnation uses technical thought to save people. Cognitively speaking, the imaginary person of Jesus Christ will invade personal space, turning the process of personal transformation into a relationship between me and the imaginary person of Jesus Christ. One is no longer simply learning theology. Instead, one is eating the flesh of the Son of Man. One is not just experiencing personal change. Instead, one is drinking the blood of Jesus Christ. And it will become increasingly obvious that abstract thought and concrete thought function in a similar manner. Both involve an interaction between technical thought and mental networks: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also would live because of Me” (v.57).

I have stated several times that incarnation goes beyond technical thought to include the TMN of a concept of God as well as MMNs of personal identity. This is not just a theological statement, but will affect the way that a person internally views incarnation. As incarnation continues to interact with a TMN of God, it will acquire its own TMN of universal understanding within Teacher thought. Similarly, as incarnation continues to interact with MMNs of personal identity, it will acquire its own MMN of personal identity within Mercy thought. The doctrine of Jesus being God and man will go beyond mere dogma to become a personal relationship backed up by internal mental networks.

Conflict plays an essential role in bringing this process to conscious awareness. Internally, the conflict between ‘Christ in you’ and ‘the flesh’ helps to give internal substance to the concept of incarnation. Externally, the conflict between ‘trying to preach a message’ and ‘an audience that refuses to listen’ helps to transform this message into internal substance. Notice how Jesus is responding to the rejection of his audience by stating his message in increasingly personal terms. Similarly, if one talks about God and Jesus to a receptive audience, then it is easy for talking about being transformed by Jesus to substitute for actually being transformed by Jesus. One often sees this in the Exhorter person, who will learn important life lessons and then become a public speaker who tells audiences about the need to learn important lessons from life—while himself avoiding learning further from life. It is when words do not work that one is forced to go beyond words to personal application. If this personal application continues, it will eventually extend all the way down to the childish mental networks of ‘the flesh’.

Summarizing, the key principle of embodiment is that God and righteousness cannot be separated from personal application. Talk is cheap. Cheap talk will not change anyone. Talk becomes valuable when it is applied in righteousness and embodied in identity. Valuable talk can change people.

Now let us apply this to the doctrine of transubstantiation. Transubstantiation says that the bread and the wine have inherent power to bring grace from God. These objects are not merely symbols that represent the process of transformation, but rather are sacraments that in and of themselves have the power of transformation. Looking at this in more detail, bread and wine turn into the body and blood of Christ when they are consecrated and they remain the body and blood of Christ: “During the celebration of the Eucharist, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, and this they remain. They cannot turn back into bread and wine, for they are no longer bread and wine at all. There is thus no reason for them to change back to their ‘normal’ state after the special circumstances of the Mass are past.” While consecrated bread and wine have inherent power, faith is needed to derive spiritual benefit from consuming them: “A lack of faith on the part of the person eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ cannot change what these are, but it does prevent the person from obtaining the spiritual benefit, which is communion with Christ.” Notice how the doctrine of transubstantiation heads in the opposite direction to what we have been discussing. Transubstantiation heads from the outside in. It says that the physical objects of bread and wine are literally part of incarnate God. It then mentions that these physical objects need to be consumed with an attitude of faith. Personal transformation, in contrast, heads from the inside out. It starts with a concept of God and incarnation within the mind. It then discovers that internal understanding needs to be applied in righteousness and embodied in real life.

Going further, when one starts with physical objects and experiences and adds mental networks, then one is following the childish mindset of the flesh, because the flesh is composed of the mental networks that were acquired by living in a physical body among physical objects. Stated bluntly, transubstantiation implictly equates incarnation with the sinful nature, which violates the basic Christian doctrine that Jesus never sinned. Childish MMNs are not sinful because they come from the physical body, but because they come from the physical body in an isolated manner that ignores the larger context. For instance, hunger is a legitimate physical desire that is cognitively reinforced by MMNs related to eating. Gluttony emerges when MMNs of hunger become disconnected from the rest of the mind, driving a person to eat without regard for health, physical need, or long-term consequences. Hunger is not a sin. Gluttony is a sin. The sin comes from the lack of mental wholeness and integration. When MMNs of physical desire exist within the larger context of mental wholeness, then the mind rules over the body. But when MMNs of physical desire exist as isolated addictions, then the mind is the slave of the body. Similarly, the problem with transubstantiation is that it regards bread and wine as sources of the grace of God in and of themselves, outside of any larger context of mental wholeness or the character of God. In contrast, Jesus lived in the flesh, but he was born from above. His mental networks of personal identity were always subject to the TMN of an integrated concept of God. In the words of John, Jesus only did what he saw the Father doing.

Orthodox Christianity?

The Orthodox Christian church claims to be the true legitimate church because it faithfully preserves the teachings and practices of the original church. In the words of one Orthodox website, “The Orthodox Church is the original Christian Church, the Church founded by the Lord Jesus Christ and described in the pages of the New Testament. Her history can be traced in unbroken continuity all the way back to Christ and His Twelve Apostles. Incredible as it seems, for over twenty centuries she has continued in her undiminished and unaltered faith and practice. Today her apostolic doctrine, worship, and structure remain intact. The Orthodox Church maintains that the Church is the living Body of Jesus Christ.” That is a strong claim, which one can examine in the light of the Gospel of John. (Orthodox Christianity is analyzed more thoroughly in another essay.)

Historical authenticity and transubstantiation are inextricably linked, both for Orthodox and Catholic Christianity. Quoting from one Catholic website: “We Catholics believe that Christ ordained his twelve apostles as the first bishops, and they in turn ordained other men as bishops over the following years. Those bishops then consecrated other bishops, who consecrated other bishops, and so on, up until the present day. All Catholic bishops alive today are the successors to the successors to the successors, etc. of the Apostles… In the eyes of the Catholic Church, therefore, the Orthodox have valid sacraments, because they have maintained apostolic succession and therefore still have validly ordained clergy. And that’s why the Orthodox Liturgy still constitutes a real Mass, with a real consecration that effects the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ on the altar… But Anglican and Episcopal liturgical services (and those of all other non-Catholic protestant groups that formed during/after the protestant reformation) don’t fall under Canon 844.2, and so a Catholic cannot receive communion at them. That’s because the Catholic Church holds that they do not have a valid clergy, so they do not celebrate a valid Mass, and thus do not consecrate the Eucharist into the Body and Blood of Christ.” (Notice that the term ‘protestant’ is not capitalized, indicating a lower level of legitimacy.)

Jesus addressed the concept of apostolic succession in verse 42. The crowds were unable to believe that Jesus came from God precisely because they knew his human ancestry. This strongly suggests that a doctrine of apostolic succession is actually a hindrance to learning about God and incarnation. Looking at this cognitively, emphasizing the cultural and historical continuity of the Orthodox (or Catholic) Church indicates a mindset that is driven by MMNs of culture rather than by the TMN of an understanding of God.

The doctrine of transubstantiation plays a major role in Orthodox Church practice. In a 2008 survey of the American Orthodox Church, 90% said that the most valuable aspects of the church are liturgy and sharing in the Eucharist, while only one third valued sermons and homilies. Similarly, 93% of Orthodox Christians felt that the primary duty of the priest is to lead worship and administer sacraments. Finally, 97% thought that a belief in transubstantiation is a requirement for being a good Orthodox Christian.

However, we have just seen that transubstantiation uses fleshly childish thinking, because it builds MMNs of religious experience upon the physical objects of bread and wine and the physical actions of the Eucharist. If the Orthodox Church ‘is the living body of Jesus Christ’, then God is actually being equated with the childish nature of the flesh. This childish mindset of starting with physical objects and adding internal content is not limited to the Eucharist but is also reflected in the Orthodox veneration of icons. Orthodox Christianity emphasizes that icons reveal the internal character of saints, but the direction is still from the outside in. Physical pictures are the starting point and internal content is then added to these physical images. Using the language of John 6, I suggest that Orthodox Christianity has taken Jesus by force and made him king.

As we saw earlier, a doctrine of transubstantiation is not cognitively natural. It does not make sense to look at a piece of bread and declare that it is a piece of God. The mind will only believe that the finite object of a breadcrumb is the infinite God—despite all physical evidence to the contrary—if it is driven by a core mental network to make such a statement. Mysticism provides such a core mental network, because mysticism believes that the finite object of me is the infinite God, despite all physical evidence to the contrary.

Orthodox Christianity defines incarnation and theology in terms of mysticism. The Orthodox doctrine of Theosis states that God became man in order that man could become a god by achieving union with God. Quoting from the Wikipedia article on Theosis, “The primacy of theosis in Orthodox theology is directly related to the fact that Orthodox theology (as historically conceived by its principal exponents) is based to a greater extent than Western Catholic Latin theology on the direct spiritual insights of the saints or mystics of the church rather than the apparently more rational-deductive tradition of the West. Eastern Orthodox consider that ‘no one who does not follow the path of union with God can be a theologian’. Theology in Eastern Orthodoxy is not treated as an academic pursuit, instead it is based on revelation, meaning that Orthodox theology and its theologians are validated by ascetic pursuits, rather than academic degrees.”

Orthodox Christianity also defines atonement in terms of mysticism, rather than in terms of guilt and justification: “Orthodox and Evangelicals do not use the word saved in the same sense. This means we are talking about different things. In the evangelical understanding the satisfaction theory of atonement is assumed. It presupposes that the difference between the saved and the damned is the attitude of God toward them, not any inherent quality of their own. It also presupposes that our state of being guilty can be changed in an instant. For an evangelical, to be saved means to be declared ‘not guilty’ by God… For Orthodox salvation means that we attain to a god-like state through which we attain a real union with God.”

Looking at this more generally, the Orthodox Church says that it is impossible to acquire the TMN of an understanding of God. Instead, one can only know about God through direct mystical encounter: “An important element in the Eastern Christian understanding of God is the notion that God, in his essence, is totally transcendent and unknowable and that, strictly speaking, God can only be designated by negative attributes: it is possible to say what God is not, but it is impossible to say what he is. A purely negative, or ‘apophatic’ theology—the only one applicable to the essence of God in the Orthodox view—does not lead to agnosticism, however, because God reveals himself personally—as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—and also in his acts, or ‘energies.’ Thus, true knowledge of God always includes three elements: religious awe; personal encounter; and participation in the acts, or energies, which God freely bestows on creation.” This Orthodox blog describes it more succinctly: “The theologian is swallowed up and dumbfounded by the ecstasy of the experience, and recognizes that nothing in all of creation is truly worthy to be compared to this mystery. Lacking any references which are fitting for positive comparison, the theologian grasps for terminology which at least points in the direction of what he has just experienced. ‘It is not this . . . it is not that . . . it is better than this . . . it is far superior to that …’ In no case can the theologian ever find human words able to convey the experience to those who have never likewise experienced it. He can only ultimately tell his readers that union with God is like nothing they have ever experienced.” I suggest that this is an accurate statement. Cognitively speaking, one can see that the practice of mysticism would lead to the formation of deep mental networks. But mysticism can only deliver the feeling of being united with God, while God descending through incarnation can actually save humankind. I want God to save me and not just give me good feelings while I remain trapped in sin, suffering, and stupidity.

Finally, Orthodox Christianity places a great emphasis upon ‘manna eaten by the fathers in the wilderness’. Quoting from one sermon entitled Reading the Fathers, “The voice of the Fathers rings out everywhere in our Faith. It is to the voice of the Fathers that we turn to confirm, in living form, the Faith which we preserve in our confessions, our statements of Faith, and our theological traditions. The core of an inner understanding of the Orthodox Faith lies always in our grasp of the consensual theology—that golden chain of common thought and spiritual experience—that binds the Fathers together, so that they speak with one mouth and with one heart… we must read the Fathers with awe. They are not, as some silly observers have put it, ‘just like us.’ The Fathers have always striven to stand in the place of those who healed the sick, conversed with Angels, and even raised the dead.”

I have mentioned several times in this essay that the Jews rejected Jesus because they chose to follow mysticism rather than discover science. This is not just a theoretical statement. If the Orthodox Church accurately preserves the beliefs and practices of the original Christian church, then one can conclude that the original church also chose to pursue mysticism rather than a rational God revealed through incarnation. And if the Jews thwarted the plan of God by choosing mysticism over science, then Orthodox Christianity is also thwarting the plan of God by choosing mysticism over rational Western thought.

I have now gone through enough biblical books in enough detail to conclude with considerable confidence that the Bible makes sense when one uses Teacher thought to comprehend the nature of God and technical thought to analyze the nature of incarnation. In contrast, Orthodox Christianity insists that “God is beyond all limits. We shall never define God, nor shall we gain entry into God’s essence. Yet out of love for His world, God the Second Person of the Holy Trinity became Man. We celebrate that awesome mystery without being able to solve it.” If incarnation is an incomprehensible mystery to those who follow a mindset of mysticism, while making sense when one gains an understanding of how the mind works, then this strongly implies that mysticism is the wrong method for analyzing Christianity. Using an analogy, if one set of glasses makes everything look blurry, while another set of glasses makes everything appear clear, then one can conclude that one should use the second set of glasses and not the first.

This is not a trivial statement, because clarity of vision is one of the primary methods by which one tests the validity of a general theory (or paradigm). As Thomas Kuhn pointed out, one cannot use the rules of one paradigm to check the validity of another paradigm, because each paradigm has its own rules of technical thought. That would be like evaluating the correctness of an English sentence by using French rules of grammar. However, one can test a paradigm by mentally putting it on like a pair of glasses and then evaluating how much one can see with clarity. When Orthodox Christianity declares that the character of God is an incomprehensible mystery, then this indicates that Orthodox Christianity is a rotten paradigm, because it is declaring that nothing can be seen with clarity.

If Orthodox Christianity accurately reflects the thinking of early Christians, then one can also conclude with considerable confidence that the Bible was not written by religious experts and that Jesus really did descend from above. That is because the Bible and incarnation make rational sense, while Orthodox Christianity declares rational analysis of the Bible to be unspiritual and insists that incarnation is incomprehensible. (I should emphasize that we are looking here at the big picture. Orthodox Christianity makes many meaningful statements about many details of Christianity. And it also focuses upon encountering God in a deeply emotional manner, while much of Protestant Christianity has degraded into a religious version of the consumer society.)

The Response of the Disciples 6:60-67

We have examined how Orthodox Christianity treats the words of Jesus. Returning now to John 6, many who were listening to Jesus also found his words hard to swallow: “Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, ‘This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?’” (v.60). More literally, ‘This word is unyieldingly harsh and won’t budge, who has the power to listen to it?’ Using cognitive language, the words are backed up by an inflexible, unyielding mental network. I have mentioned that one should follow a Teacher understanding of ‘how things work’. This type of mental network is unyieldingly harsh and won’t budge. For instance, it is impossible to argue or bargain with the law of gravity, because the law of gravity is based in how the natural world works. A mindset that thinks in terms of Mercy status will find this inflexibility offensive: “Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, ‘Does this cause you to stumble?’” (v.61). However, one should think in terms of general laws and not specific rules: “What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?” (v.62).

Jesus adds that life comes from Platonic forms and not from the specific mental networks of the flesh: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life” (v.63). This is a significant statement and needs to be expanded further. I mentioned that the flesh is composed of childish MMNs that come from physical objects and experiences. One of the characteristics of childish networks is that they are quite specific: I want cherry pie; I miss Saskatoon; I am scared of needles. Platonic forms, in contrast, are far more general: I want pastry; I miss the prairies; Avoid sharp objects. Thus, mental networks that are based in ‘how things work’ may be hard and unyielding, but they can also be satisfied in many different ways. In contrast, childish mental networks must usually be satisfied in very specific ways, and the only way to bring flexibility is through negotiation. For instance, the law of gravity is utterly inflexible, but one can satisfy the law of gravity by holding an object, putting it on a table, setting it on a shelf, throwing it through the air, etc. In each case, the law of gravity is still being satisfied.

Saying this more generally, one must descend to the level of embodying understanding, but one does not remain at this level of specific action because it is not profitable. Instead, one can find life and freedom by ascending back to the level of generality.

Judas and Peter 6:68-71

The topic of betrayal is now mentioned for the first time in the book of John. Jesus mentions that some do not believe: “‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him” (v.64). And Jesus adds that he specifically chose a disciple that he knew would betray him: “Jesus answered them, ‘Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?’ Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him” (v.70-71).

Two questions immediately come to mind. Why did Jesus choose Judas, and did Judas have free will? Free will is discussed in another essay. In brief, I suggest that God does not decide to make people evil. However, I suggest that God does occasionally confirm the decisions of people who have chosen to become evil. For instance, God chose Pharaoh to oppress the Jewish people. But Pharaoh had already shown that he was an evil person by enslaving the Jews and killing Jewish male babies. Similarly, Jesus does not say that he gave Judas a slanderous nature. (The word devil means ‘slanderous’.) Instead, Jesus said that he chose someone who is a devil. The name Judas the son of Simon Iscariot provides a possible clue about why Judas was a devil. Judas means praise, Simon means hearing, and Iscariot probably means ‘man of the city’. Putting this together, the focus is upon abstract words, thought is limited to the impersonal thinking of the city, while personal status is being praised. This combination describes the inadequate thinking that we have encountered symbolically in John 6. And this same kind of thinking is described in 1 Corinthians 11, the other primary passage about communion. In both cases, incarnation is being betrayed by those who follow inadequate technical thought. This thinking is inadequate because 1) It does not apply words in righteousness but instead remains at the level of abstract words; 2) It does not embody understanding personally but rather pursues technical thought in an objective fashion; 3) It does not allow understanding to transform personal identity but rather focuses upon personal status. (Judas and Peter are discussed further in John 13.)

I mentioned earlier that those who reject the message of incarnation will force those who preach a message of incarnation to apply the words that they preach. We see now more clearly who it is that betrays incarnation. In brief, the betrayer of Jesus sounds a lot like today’s typical academic expert. Why would Jesus choose a disciple that he knew would betray him? Because incarnation has to go through rebirth, and that will only happen if the message of incarnation is rejected and the person of incarnation is betrayed.

Peter, in contrast, responds in a positive manner: “Jesus said to the twelve, ‘You do not want to go away also, do you?’ Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God’” (v.67-69). The word translated know means ‘to know, especially through personal experience’. We saw earlier that Jesus eventually reaches the level of mental networks. Peter’s answer is also at the level of mental networks. Jesus is not just a source of truth, but has words of eternal life. And Peter has gone beyond factual belief to experiential knowledge.

I would like to finish this chapter by making some comments about mental networks. It is impossible to avoid mental networks, because the mind is built upon core mental networks and requires mental networks to survive emotionally. However, one must not be ruled by childish mental networks or by the simplistic mental networks of mysticism. Instead, one should use the TMN of a concept of God, translated into reality by the technical thinking of incarnation, to transform childish MMNs. This process of transformation is rational and can be described using rational language, but it does not remain at the level of facts and sequences but rather extends to the emotional realm of mental networks.

Orthodox Christianity correctly recognizes that a relationship with God needs to go beyond technical thought to mental networks. Belief and doctrine are not enough. Relationship is required. The problem is that mysticism pursues mental networks by suppressing factual content. However, factual content will be implicitly added by the standards of society if mysticism is used to help the poor, the sick, and the weak to return to normal functioning. Orthodox Christianity views the church as a hospital: “A fundamental teaching of the Holy Fathers is that the Church is a ‘Hospital’ which cures the wounded man. In many passages of Holy Scripture such language is used. One such passage is that of the parable of the Good Samaritan… In this parable, the Samaritan represents Christ who cured the wounded man and led him to the Inn, that is to the ‘Hospital’ which is the Church. It is evident here that Christ is presented as the Healer, the physician who cures man’s maladies; and the Church as the true Hospital.” This type of Christianity is capable of healing the sick—even if Orthodox Christianity practices mysticism and teaches inadequate doctrine. However, mystical Christianity is only capable of restoring the status quo, because moral and factual content has to be added to the mysticism by some other source. In contrast, Peter’s confession of faith is capable of propelling a person beyond the status quo because it combines a rational understanding of God with the living power of mental networks.

John 7-12 is analyzed in part two of this essay.