One thought that it would be impossible to confuse mankind even further about the Mission of Christ on earth, but this film manages to do just that. The plot perhaps can best be described, using a musical designation: a free improvisation on the theme of Christ. Here we have Christ as a carpenter making crucifixes for other condemned Jews, we have God beleaguering His Son with excruciating headaches and bullying Him into accepting the role of a Messiah, we have Judas lecturing Jesus on steadfastness and the real meaning of His Mission, we have Jesus struggling with lust for Mary Magdalene and eventually succumbing to the temptation to settle down with her and have a family - only to have a change of heart later and crawl back to that moment in time, when He was hanging on the cross, so that He could still fulfill that special role assigned to Him by mankind of being a laundry basket for all of their dirty laundry! Bells ring out jubilantly at the end.
So what can be salvaged of this film, which was made by a genuine artist (Martin Scorsese) at a time of a great personal crisis in his life and, once again, at a great personal cost? If one looks at it from the point of view of finding any revelations regarding the inner life of Christ, nothing of the film can be salvaged. But if we view the main character as simply a human being, who is engaged in "the incessant, merciless battle between the spirit and the flesh" (Nikos Kazantzakis from the book "The Last Temptation of Christ"), then a lot of the film can be salvaged. It would then have a definite value as a personal record of that struggle, with which every human being is acquainted to a greater or lesser extent. But then, of course, the film would not have caused such a sensation, when it came out. So if we are to view the main character as a possible representation of Christ (as the film unfortunately insists), then the whole thing becomes laughable (not really offensive, because it is just too ludicrous to be offensive).
As a justification for his point of view, Mr. Scorsese at the beginning of the film quotes from the book, on which the film is based: "The dual substance of Christ - the yearning, so human, so superhuman of man to attain God...has always been a deep, inscrutable mystery to me." (Nikos Kazantzakis) Unfortunately, the so-called dual nature of Christ (God/man) is one of those sad inventions of dogma. In reality, it is utterly impossible for a Divine Envoy to become a man, for a simple reason that He can never cross the barrier of the difference of species. Man belongs to a Spiritual species, while the Son of God is of a Divine species. One can never become the other. The Eternal Laws, which have issued from God the Father, prevent the merging of the species. We can observe the material manifestations of this Law here on earth as well: it is no more possible for the Son of God to become a man than it is for a dog to become a cat. As so often happens, man is confused in this matter by outward appearances: it is true that a Divine Envoy is obliged to wear a physical body while on earth, but that does not suffice to make Him part-man. His inner core always remains Divine and so He perceives all things from a Divine perspective, never from the point of view of a human being - even when He has to undergo hardships and struggles for the sake of mankind (a true prince always remains a prince, even in pauper's clothes). It flatters man to think that the Son of God would perceive on the same level as human beings, but that is simply not the case. (It is equally impossible, by the way, for man to become Divine. Here again, the barrier of a different species prevents him from this. Originating from a Spiritual species, man can and must eventually achieve perfect Spirituality, but never Divinity.)
This film can be described as one continuous, almost three-hour-long debate on the life and Mission of Christ. It is an intellectual's paradise, where the intellect reigns supreme, spinning out an endless yearn of probabilities, one more fantastic than the other, basking in the glow of its intellectual splendor. Whenever the intellect is allowed to run unchecked like this, it will never stop speculating: the characters of Christ and Judas are having endless debates throughout the film, later when Christ meets John the Baptist, they too strike up a debate, passionately arguing on the subject of Love vs. Justice. What lends a slightly comical touch to this scene in particular is the fact that both John the Baptist and Jesus possessed the Knowledge of the Spiritual Laws of Creation and therefore knew and experienced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Love and Justice are ONE. They cannot be separated, so They are always present in every event, great or small. It is this Knowledge of Creation that Christ wished to impart to humanity, and it is for this reason alone that He came down to earth, since salvation for mankind lies only in the voluntary adjustment to these Laws and nothing else.
There exists a philosophical notion that the truth is born through debates. But is this really so? There was a time in our history, when men debated whether the earth was flat or round, also whether or not the earth was at the center of our galaxy. Such debates were possible only during the phase of confusion. Once the truth was discovered, the debates ceased. It is no different in spiritual matters. The very fact that we are still carrying on debates about the Mission of Christ clearly illustrates that we are not in the possession of the Spiritual Knowledge that He brought to us. We have It in the book of the Bible (though with some definitely faulty transmissions and recollections), yet we do not know how to decipher and apply It to our complicated, modern life. The more honest among us admit this openly, such as Leonard Cohen in one of his songs:
When they said: "Repent!
I wonder what they meant.
The intellect will never be at a loss to supply us with a hundred different interpretations of the concept of repentance. And only the spirit will admit in quiet despair: "I wonder what they meant." Whenever one chooses the road of purely intellectual speculation (as this film has done), one should heed the warning: "Abandon all hope ye who enter here." This is because the intellect is not interested in finding the Truth; it is only interested in perpetuating the search for It. It senses that, once the Truth is found, it (the intellect) would then have to serve, instead of playing master of ceremonies. It would have to get down to its real purpose for existence: implementing the Knowledge of Creation into everyday life. That would be hard work; it would involve the redress of many misconceptions, the redefining of art and a general upswing to a new standard of human spirituality. But the intellect does not wish to be upstaged by the spirit; that is why it delights in creating an intricate labyrinth of ideas and probabilities, in which the spirit loses itself, finally dying of exhaustion before finding a way out.
It is for this reason that a New Message has been given to us, which guides us into understanding of Christ's Message in a form more suitable for our time and dealing directly with all the complicated contemporary issues. It is "IN THE LIGHT OF TRUTH: THE GRAIL MESSAGE" by Abd-ru-shin (original in German). Describing and explaining all the Spiritual Laws of this Creation, which Christ tried in vain to demonstrate to us through parables, the Grail Message unfolds before our eyes a breathtaking vista of the entire structure of Creation with all Its incorruptible activity. "At a time of deepest psychic Darkness, when countless human beings will have nothing more to do with God, when even numberless Christians say that God is dead, that God withdraws from humanity...God reveals Himself more powerfully than ever through His Word. That this Word is contained in a Message from the Grail is the great New that is approaching humanity, of which they have hitherto heard only in myths and legends. This new knowledge is part of the New Covenant with God, after the dissolution of the Old Covenant through the happening on Golgotha." (Herbert Vollmann, "The New Covenant", to read the entire chapter click here.) If we don't help ourselves to this New Knowledge, we reduce our existence to a pathetic, intellectual groping in the dark.
And speaking of groping in the dark, "The Last Temptation of Christ" underlines more emphatically than ever that the crucifixion was part of God's plan. "With regard to such a plan of redemption, how is it possible for God to demand that men should murder His own Son, whereby He would transgress His own Commandment? ["Thou Shalt not Kill."] And where in this connection is the free will of man, that was laid with him in the cradle of his spirit?...Hence this plan, with its complete lack of logic, can have been conceived only by men. God did not send His Son to earth in order to let Him die for the sins of others....Jesus, being innocent, cannot take upon Himself the guilt of others, because He has not sown the seed for it...For Jesus Himself death on the cross had only one meaning: confirmation of the Truth of the Word brought by Him, Its continuation and the spreading of It. Had He yielded in the face of His enemies, and renounced His Origin and Teaching, His entire Mission would have failed." (Herbert Vollmann, "The Guilt of Golgotha", for a complete chapter click here.)
In the film, as a result of the twisting of the meaning of crucifixion into an act Willed by God, a particular confusion is brought to the character of Judas. He is made into a figure more worthy of praise than Jesus Himself. Such laughable "revelations" are almost inevitable, though, wherever the Knowledge of the Spiritual Laws is lacking. Another scene, which is simply a source of embarrassment for all who took part in it (from an artistic as well as from the spiritual point of view) is the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. The distorted concepts abound in this film: for instance, Love is equated with pity. (For more, read "The Distorted Concepts" by Herbert Vollmann.)
At a superficial glance, this film might appear to be a provocative, "free-thinking" look at the story of Christ. In reality, despite the best intentions, it is simply a perfect example of our distorted human intellect at work. We say "our", because all of us are afflicted with the twisted, intellectual view of the world, regardless of our religious affiliations. And only the Grail Message with its explanations of the naturalness of the Spiritual Laws can help us untie the intellectual knots we have knotted for ourselves. One valuable lesson can be learned from this film: man can never think up the Truth from out of himself. He needs a great deal of help in figuring out how Creation is put together. Precisely for this purpose, God has always sent His Messengers at different times in our history to different nations of the world. They revealed a part of the complete Knowledge of Creation to the people, because no nation was ever so mature (spiritually) as to be able to absorb the Whole Knowledge. Thus the eastern people received the knowledge of reincarnation (which they have not kept pure, however, by inventing such impossibilities as humans incarnating as animals, plants or stones, which the Natural Law of separation of the species prevents); the Greeks and the Romans (along with numerous other nations) received and experienced the knowledge of the Elemental and Animistic beings, who are active everywhere in Nature (but they have made idols, gods out of them, instead of simply regarding them as the perfect examples and servants of God); the western people received the knowledge of the existence and purpose of the Grail (which has degenerated into legends over time) and so it went on and on for thousands of years with the faithful Guidance from the Light gradually trying to bring humanity up to their spiritual potential through the Knowledge of Creation. But humans have always added intellectual embellishments to these pure Teachings out of the Light and eventually formed rigid religions out of them, which resulted in separation and hostility among the people, with each group feeling superior to the other, even though not one of them possessed the complete Truth and whatever part of the Truth they did possess was often very badly distorted. (For more on this subject, read "Teachers of Mankind" by Herbert Vollmann.)
When the Son of God came to earth, He quite naturally brought the whole Truth with Him, since He was One with It. But He found mankind so woefully immature in their spiritual development that He could not give It all to them. Frequently He lamented this fact to His disciples: "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now" (John 16). Among the things that He judged them to be incapable of "bearing" (absorbing or assimilating) was the knowledge of reincarnation and the knowledge of the Grail. He knew, however, that Another was coming after Him and He consoled His disciples by saying: "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said onto you" (John 14, 20). Here we have Jesus' assurance that the Comforter is uniquely qualified to correctly interpret His Message and to set right all of the numerous distortions that have arisen since that time. For further illumination on this subject read "The Son of Man" by Abd-ru-shin and after that, "The Two Sons of God!" by Charles S. Brown.
On this auspicious note we'll close our examination of "The Last Temptation of Christ". In the aftermath of the film, the horrendous extent of our human confusion becomes more evident than ever. Yet just at the peak of this greatest confusion in our history, the greatest help is also given to us in the Grail Message of Abd-ru-shin.