The New Birth

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The Alternative Christian Series

Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3).

We’ve all heard of the born-again Christian. We may think of this new birth, as one mainstream Christian writer puts it, as occurring in one who “turns from sin and with his or her whole heart trusts in Christ as personal Savior and Lord.” But the context of this well-known encounter between Nicodemus and Jesus gives no indication that this is what Jesus meant. He explains to Nicodemus that “flesh gives birth to flesh, but Spirit gives birth to spirit.” The new birth is a transition from that which is born of the flesh to that which is born of the Spirit. One cannot see the kingdom of God, he says, unless they experience this shift, this new birth. Interestingly, we see this same idea expressed in the Hindu Upanishads: “Thou canst not behold Me with thy two outer eyes, I have given thee an eye divine.

That in us which is born of the flesh is our body-based self-image, the core identity most of us use to navigate through life. We can refer to this surface self in many ways including the personality, the ego, or as Paul’s “mind of the flesh” (Romans 8:6). The physical body is the central component of the self-image. In contrast, that which is born of the Spirit is, of course, our spiritual essence, the image and likeness of God we know as the soul. We come to know the soul, not through “thy two outer eyes,” but through our intuitive faculty, the eye divine. “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6). To go into your room and close the door is a way of saying, Turn away from the senses, listen and learn to feel the innermost promptings of the Spirit. This is not an intellectual pursuit but an intuitive activity in which we attune to the quiet radiance emanating from our spiritual center.

This new birth occurs in most as a gradual awakening. It may begin as unrest accompanied by questions about life’s purpose. This evolves into a new way of thinking. We eventually lay down the books and actively pursue a first-hand experience with God. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).

When the door is opened, God is immediately transformed from speculative theory to concrete reality. Our new birth opens our eye divine to see this otherwise invisible spiritual realm, this kingdom that, as the Gospel of Thomas states, “… is spread out upon the earth, and people do not see it” (Saying 113). This is not simply a shift in ideas. It’s a consciousness transforming renewal of the mind, a new birth. The soul is brought into our field of awareness, not as a conceptual abstraction, but as the living energy we know as the true basis of our identity.

 

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