The main respect in which this could be said of Jesus is that he incarnated the Light of the world. When he said, “I am the Light of the world,” (1) he was referring to the Light of the immortal Self, known as the Atman to Hindus, as our original face to Buddhists. To Hindus, this Light is Brahman-within-the-individual or God-within-the-person. To Christians, it is the only-begotten Son.
This Light is the the Prince of Peace, the Messiah, the Savior of humanity and all life.
Jesus talked about this mystical Light throughout his ministry, calling it the Pearl of great price, the Treasure buried in a field, the mustard seed that grows into a great tree, the measure of meal that leavens the whole loaf.
His parables were discussions of how, once we saw the Son of God in meditation, we would sell all other desires, meditate on it, and buy the whole field. That is, concentrating on it alone, the Christ Light became the Light of the Father, transcending all of creation and bestowing on us eternal life.
To the spiritual seeker, it would prove to be the Good Shepherd, the only door to the Kingdom of Heaven, the eye of the needle.
Jesus embodied it. He was it while others have only seen it. But even merely seeing it changes one’s whole life, as Jan Ruusbroec, the 14th-century mystic, tells us:
“In the abyss of this darkness in which the loving spirit has died to itself, God’s revelation and eternal life have their origin, for in this darkness an incomprehensible light is born and shines forth; this is the Son of God, in whom a person becomes able to see and to contemplate eternal life.” (2)
Ruusbroec sells all that he has – all his other desires – and retains only the desire to contemplate this Light, until it becomes for him the Light of the Father, as he reveals here:
“It is Christ, the light of truth, who says, ‘See,’ and it is through him that we are able to see, for he is the light of the Father, without which there is no light in heaven or on earth.” (3)
Richard Rolle, Ruusbroec’s contemporary, depicts the fate of the mystic who has become “perfectly converted to Christ”; i.e., has followed the Light of the Christ to the Light of the Father.
“When a man is perfectly converted to Christ, he will hold in contempt all things that are transient, but keep a tight hold on his longing for his Maker – as far as is given to mortals, who have to allow for the corruption of the flesh. And then, not surprisingly because of this vigorous effort, he sees with the inward eye heaven open, as it were, and all the inhabitants there.
“Then it is that he feels that warmth most sweet, burning like a fire. He is filled with wonderful sweetness, and glories in jubilant song. Here indeed is charity perfected, and no one can know what it is like unless he lays hold of it; and he who does never loses it. But lives in sweetness and dies in safety.” (4)
The sixth-century mystic Pseudodionysius also knew this consummation and described it in similarly glowing terms.
“In time to come, when we are incorruptible and immortal, when we have come at last to the blessed inheritance of being like Christ, then, as scripture says, ‘we shall always be with the Lord.’ In most holy contemplation we shall be ever filled with the sight of God shining gloriously around us as once it shone for the disciples at the divine transfiguration.
“And there we shall be, our minds away from passion and from earth, and we shall have a conceptual gift of light from him and, somehow, in a way we cannot know, we shall be united with him and, our understanding carried away, blessedly happy, we shall be struck by his blazing light. Marvellously, our minds will be like those in the heavens above. We shall be ‘equal to angels and sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”” (5)
To guide us to this blessed consummation is the reason why Jesus chose to be born.
The Light of the Christ is the Light of the world, the Light of the Son, one with the Light of the Father. This is what Jesus meant when he said “I and the Father are one.” (6)
The Light of the Father is greater than the Light of the Son, as Jesus said: “My Father is greater than I.” (7) The Light of the Father resides in our heart and we reside in the Father since God is everything, which is what Jesus was pointing to when he said: “The Father is in me, and I in him.” (8)
Jesus also said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (9) Meditating on the Light is the way to God. The Light of the Father is the truth of life. And knowing that truth deeply, in the experience of sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi (10) – that is the state of enlightenment that is sahaja or permanent – frees us from the need to be born into physical matter again, the sense in which its bestows “eternal life.” (11) Thus the Light of the world is the way, the truth, and the life,
Jesus knew that the masses would not understand him or his disciples and might turn on them and rend them by misinterpreting what they said. Therefore he advised his disciples not to cast their pearls before swine.
He himself could not even find among the elders of Israel people who understood the mystical truths he taught, asking Nicodemus, “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” (12)
On another occasion, he spoke a parable to his disciples, who thought they knew what he said, but they showed by their response that they did not.
“I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.
His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb.” (13)
But Jesus has spoken a proverb, which had several layers of meaning, as all his proverbs did. Besides the obvious one which the disciples apprehend is another in which Jesus is declaring that he is an Incarnation of God, a descender to Earth and not an ascender like the disciples. A third level of meaning is that all life comes from the Father into the world and then leaves it, upon final enlightenment, and returns to and merges with the Father again. This is not at all the plain speaking the disciples thought it was.