A Critical Review of "For Christ's Sake" by Glenville Whittaker
Whittaker attempts to show that the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in the canonical gospels and traditional Christianity is false and that organised Christianity and modern academics have mistaken the most important teachings and actions of Jesus but that he has discovered the true teachings and life of Jesus. Whittaker provides little evidence for his thesis, a thesis I believe he initiated because of his own devotee-initiate role with his Master, Prem Rawat (aka Maharaji aka Guru Maharaj Ji), and that he has gone on an intellectual fishing expedition, consciously or unconsciously, to try to find any evidence that a similar, if not identical, initiating-Master role can be attributed to Jesus. The book contains numerous errors of fact and interpretation and very little evidence of any serious research. He claims:
- that Jesus was a Master in a lineage of masters that required direct transmission of power from one Master to the next (though there is no in-depth presentation of this) though Buddha, Krishna and Guru Nanak are mentioned as Masters of the same ilk
- that Jesus initiated his close followers in a secret initiation ceremony that transformed them and opened them to an internal experience of God. 'God' is not defined closely though he is the non-violent creator of the world and a gentle, loving and caring 'abba'.
- that once Jesus (and other Masters) died the ability of their empowered close disciples to continue transmitting the power of these secret initiations successfully faded and within 2-300 years were lost completely
- that the most important part of this whole process, the raison d'etre and pinnacle of human experience was to adore and worship and be devoted and totally loyal to Jesus or his counterparts throughout history.
- that the words 'baptism' and 'heal' have to be redefined to mean this secret initiation for the truth about Jesus to be understood
- that for this initiation to be successful, initiates must have complete faith and loyalty to Jesus before the initiation
- that Jesus absolutely had no power to perform physical miracles or foretell the future
Whittaker appears to believe he is the first person to present such a thesis. He does not reference any of the pre-existing and often interminable work on this very topic usually written by followers of other gurus/Masters or those of a theosophical bent nor does he ever mention the many Mystery religions or non-Christian Gnostic cults that were current in the time of Jesus that conducted initiations. He also doesn't mention that he is a long-time close follower of and administrator for Prem Rawat aka Guru Maharaj Ji who he believes is the present Perfect Master and current holder of Jesus' power and that his thesis presents Jesus as being nearly identical in his teachings to Rawat. He also doesn't mention the far more exhaustive book, "In the Light ofKnowledge", by his good friend Mike Finch written in 1975. Whittaker, in his role as the United Kingdom Divine Light Mission General Secretary, provided the resources that allowed that book to be written.
There is nothing in the first points that haven't been put forward many times but Whittaker is unusual in claiming that this process has been ongoing despite a complete and total lack of any miraculous or divine power that others may think Jesus had and that the effect absolutely depends upon prior belief in the ability of the Master (or the initiator empowered by the Master) to perform this amazing transformation.
He states quite clearly that: "more can be said, a new perspective taken, revealing essential truths and positions not previously given weight or consideration." To demonstrate that you are revealing unique, essential truths about something as important as Jesus you require very strong evidence. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
He absolutely denies the possibility of miracles. The central theme of this book is that Jesus had no supernatural powers or abilities, that the notion of miracles has to be removed unequivocally from the equation He claims "the central theme of this book is that Jesus had no supernatural powers or abilities, … he possessed the ability to transport people who met his strict qualifications into an inner, and apparently real, experience where they were convinced they had been in the Kingdom of Heaven." He claims that Jesus conferred "the experience of God, the access to heaven, the visualization of the inner light, and the immortality" though exactly what this means is, understandably, unspecified though it is not metaphorical as "Jesus was able to draw people into a direct experience of God (my emphasis) by showing them 'the mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven'"
Yet, paradoxically, the only way that such a gift can be explained is if Jesus did have powers that are considered miraculous and that he was in some way divine and this is accepted as a given by virtually all commentators throughout the centuries who have believed that Jesus achieved something unusual. Whittaker must be aware of this.
This is a book in which the author, committed to the theory though he is, only has evidence that is contingent and speculative and this is obvious in the language he uses, especially when compared to the word useage of Reza Aslan in his recent controversial book, "Zealot".
There is no evidence for secret initations by Jesus in the canonical gospels and so Whittaker resorts to the so-called Secret Gospel of Mark by Morton Smith, possibly the most controversial book ever written about Jesus which claims that initations by Jesus included full homosexual intercourse, all night long!
Whittaker claims that the initiatee must have complete and total faith in the Master else the initation will not work. Early in his career, Prem Rawat blustered that his Knowledge and his Grace were so powerful that first you should "receive this Knowledge" and then you would believe only afterwards. Facts of life proved him wrong so with the benefit of hindsight he altered his message and provided both a way of trying to ensure aspirants were well and truly convinced beforehand - dare I use the word 'brain-washed' - and came up with a handy excuse for the majority of people initiated who lost their faith. Blame them! The initiation into Knowledge only worked if the person was sincere: "Don't you realize? You give it to somebody, if they're sincere it sticks, if they're not sincere, splat, they're gone, doesn't do anything." - Prem Rawat,17th July, 2000
A Tale Of Two Books
For Christ's Sake - Glenville Whittaker, 2014 — In the Light of Knowledge - Mike Finch, 1975
These two books have much more in common than appears on the surface. They were written by friends on the same topic and Whittaker had even provided some resources to allow Finch to compete his book. They were written for the same reason: to promote a positive view of Prem Rawat, who formerly called himself Guru Maharaj Ji, and his Knowledge. Certainly Finch's book was though Whittaker's book seems to be only an introduction to the possibility of knowledge about Prem Rawat and Jesus.
Finch's book was written at a time when Rawat was proclaimed the Lord of the Universe and when the organisation of which he was leader, Divine Light Mission, had finished a huge surge in new members and it was not yet apparent that the public success and growth phase of his career was over. Finch's book was written when Rawat, while still servicing his following seemed to have transferred much of his movement's direction towards promoting him as a respected worker for International peace.
During the intervening period Rawat had attempted to transform his public persona and public teachings while, it is claimed by ex-followers, keeping his image to his devoted followers unchanged as the Perfect Master and current incarnation of God.
Even a brief glance at both books shows that Finch conducted a lot of research and referenced many scriptures. Whittaker, well no actually.