Neo Jesus Where Are You?
What will it take to wretch humanity free from our perpetual cycle of crisis? Whether it’s climate catastrophe, pandemic, or the ultra-violence and racism embedded into law enforcement—we inhabit moments of profound struggle. We know problems and solutions, yet the oligarchs in control accelerate catastrophe in every direction. The predictable response is to burn it down, but what will rise from the ashes? Do we need a new messiah to show us the way, or do we already have too many, and they are simply not enough?
Neo Jesus is easily interchangeable with Neo Moses, Neo Mohammad, Neo Confucious, or Neo Buddha. Neo Jesus is also a genderless statement. Future prophecy is an opportunity available to all. The earthly descriptive of the enlightened soul matters less than its purpose and action. These were individuals seeing beyond the consciousness of an era, bringing new visions of humanity to desiring minds. If there were ever a time for divine intervention, now would be it.
Why do we need Neo Jesus, what’s wrong with classic Jesus? Well, for starters, we know the existing religions are not bringing an enlightened era to present-day humanity. There are many reasons this is true, but the best summary I’ve encountered comes from the philosopher Roberto Unger. He argues that the functions of religion within a society boil down to explaining three aspects of humanity: death, groundlessness, and insatiability.
Death because if anything follows this experience, it is unknown. Ambiguity frightens us. More than death, we fear the void—an eternity all alone in awareness of nothing. What we do know about death is sad, a personal extinction dooming the individual to inevitable obsolescence. Death is a primal fear we inherit from ancestors’ long past.
Monotheistic religions attempt to circumvent this understanding with a conditional eternal paradise. Others propose ideas such as reincarnation or consider the experience unavoidable and a fate to embrace. No option is entirely adequate for modern humanity because of the conditions of transcendence orbit actions and thoughts from an era long past.
Groundlessness is another way of saying life is pointless. A creeping nihilism that we all experience at times, impacting some groups more than others. In Race Matters, Cornel West talks about the increasing hopelessness growing in black communities after centuries of oppression, a statement given life with recent (and rightful) protests and riots. Even if you aren’t part of the oppressed class, you’re probably one of the majority working a bullshit job. It’s difficult to derive meaning from a life where our survival depends on doing tasks that slowly degrade our souls.
Confucianism has arguably the best approach to humanizing the world. The point of life is to serve one’s community, to come together for the greater good. It is the foundational tenant of the philosophy and a direct call to action for all who subscribe. Monotheist religions make service to God the point but provide methods of doing so that are difficult to merge with modern society.
Insatiability is our persistent desire for more. Wherever we are in life is never enough. Our institutions only exacerbate the problem; the legal arrangements that support capitalist societies take root in consumption. Perpetual growth directly requires increasing wants, the result being continued unhappiness and environmental crisis. Humanity will never lose its desire to progress, but we must decouple this aspect of ourselves from materialism.
Buddhism explains how our suffering comes from desire. To eliminate suffering is to let go of want. Of all the antiquity religions, it offers the most direct path for overcoming the world. Monotheist religions argue that this desire is rooted in sin, and we are all sinners. They suggest more profound piety and belief, a prescription that does nothing to cure the ills of modern desire.
Understanding the purposes religions serve illuminates what a new messiah must address. Now Neo Jesus confronts a paradox. Spiritual transcendence requires structural transformation, but reorganizing society begins with the evolving will of the people. Given the deepening divisions of our present moment, how will Neo Jesus even start?
To better explore this, we label all religions for what they are, spiritual technologies. Whether developed through careful intent or divine revelation, these ways of thinking and acting intend to bring us closer to descriptive visions of divinity. Like any technology, there are different kinds of the same thing, each with their own set of benefits as we’ve explored.
Technology is the driving force of humanity as we understand ourselves today. This is and has always been true. Each new technological and scientific advancement opens doors to many more, some more immediate than others. Everything we manipulate for our use is technology. Everything around us was brand new in a past moment. Roads, buildings, education, law, religion, all of it stems from our primary technology—language.
Today we observe chimpanzees using stone tools, existing in a stone age. For 3.5 million years of our existence, stoneworking was one of our best technologies, widely considered a transcendent era for humanity. Stone tool technology shapes consciousness. Just like smartphones, the only difference is the degree of change. It’s easy to forget that on a species scale, our technological acceleration is rapid and recent. Every innovation expands with it our ability to experience the world.
Now we find ourselves on a precipice. Implantable brain-altering technologies like Elon Musk’s Neuralink will fundamentally transform what it means to be human. Consider it a known future because it’s only a matter of time (Neuralink or otherwise). Those with access and will to use these devices will greatly magnify their intellectual capability and power. Some are looking forward to this moment; others will abstain. There will be divergence.
We’re talking about a split in humanity so significant in scale that it will fundamentally separate us from ourselves. We’re creating a modern Adam and Eve mythos, dividing those entering a higher plane of consciousness and those remaining. Just like eating that fruit, there is no turning back.
Mythologist Joseph Campbell lectured about how religion and science used to coincide. The mythos was used to explain the supernatural phenomenon—happenings that we classify and document now with science. As our understandings grew with time, they began to contradict the church, leading to a breaking of coexistence. Religious organizations chose to decry science in favor of the beliefs of a world frozen in time. With our image of the universe much changed, ethics and ethos of the past struggle to be relevant.
It’s not possible to understand how enhanced humanity will observe the universe, although it’s likely to be different from our present trappings. How do these beings interact with one another? Will the enhanced interact with the abstainers, if so—how?
Our circumstances give us a clue. They will likely look upon unenhanced humanity with the same ambivalent curiosity that one observes a zoo chimpanzee. After all, as technology develops, the divisions in intellectual capacity will be staggering. Consider that any alien civilization with significantly advanced technologies would be indistinguishable from gods, is this the inevitable conclusion of divergence?
We can imagine the possibility of enhanced humans being benevolent. Here any enhanced individual or collective can become Neo Jesus. Perhaps they will solve many of our ecological, legal, and social problems with new technologies and thought, offering the benefits of their abilities to the collective to do good.
Fixing our systems is one thing, but how will enhanced humans think about death, groundlessness, and insatiability? With each individual’s ability to recall and communicate information greatly enhanced, there is no doubt that philosophy will take on new forms. Will enhanced humanity bestow transcendent knowledge onto itself and others? Yes, but we may not like the answer.
Would we even know Neo Jesus if we met?
There will be many differences between enhanced humanity and abstainers; most impactful will be the perception of time.
Every person alive today is bound to the same universal constraint, linear existence. Our experience of life is one of perpetual forward motion. Birth to death, rotations around the sun, fleeting moments of pleasure and pain—all of it only ever being real for a moment before fading into nothingness. Linear progress is why we find ourselves exactly where we are.
The enhanced individual transcends linear time. They are not immortal, at least not immediately. Perfect recall gives them the ability to immerse themselves in moments past, present, and possible futures. Think about it like opening a computer file. If you need information, you find it, and you have the exact content every time. Now imagine being able to immerse yourself back to any past moment completely. With this advancement comes the decay of the time-space that binds us presently.
Imagine being able to live two realities, side by side. The ability to experience events from simultaneous perspectives offers new insight currently not available to humanity. Many of us, myself included, struggle to focus on one task—what would it be like to have a perfect focus on multiple tasks at the same time? This reshaping of thought opens new possibilities for experience in nearly every direction.
Here the enhanced human becomes transcendent, overcoming previously insurmountable obstacles, grasping humanity’s greatest struggles now with vision and insight beyond any current individual capacity. Are these enhancements enough to produce Neo Jesus? If they did, would we even listen to them?
We can only guess what Neo Jesus might share with humanity, but it’s likely to be something we already know. Our experience of existing is confined to moments. Fleeting glimpses of now fluctuating between a past we can never revisit and nearly unlimited unknown futures. If Neo Jesus can transcend these limitations, they would likely come to the same conclusion we can within our boundaries—it is the moment that is divine.
The time experience is the human experience. There is no separating it. Time, as we understand it, is a localized phenomenon from our point of view. It encompasses the totality of our experience, all of it jammed into awareness. Yet it is so much more, a universal history of change that forces us to confront our static dogmas.
To grant time divinity is to recognize the power of moments. Divinity is not omnipotence or omniscience. It is radical transcendence—to become more than we are. We already know this to be true, our infinite imaginative capacity to shape the universe springs forth from decisions made in the eternal now. It is a philosophy that addresses Unger’s three aspects better than all present ideologies.
Giving divinity to the moment coincides with a profound understanding of death. We stop trying to provide answers for our expiration instead focusing on the enhancement of life. In doing so, we assign immense value to every life, beginning with the most disenfranchised. Collective progress giving genuine meaning and purpose to the participating individual. Societies divining time work tirelessly to ensure the social, economic, and legal institutions they operate within focus on the capacity maximization of the whole.
Groundlessness diminishes because we redefine the framework of purpose. We break the mythos that the desire for a greater life is a quest for power, a narrative persistently reinforced by the organization of present society. Historical religions place our ultimate reward—heaven—in the future, forever placing salvation outside of our grasp. Time divinity gives purpose to life through moments of transcendence, understanding full well that the most radical change emerges from small cumulative efforts now.
Our spiritual connection to time redirects our innate insatiability. We will never overcome the desire to be more, but why and how we do this is subject to change—recognizing the need for the ongoing pursuit of deep freedom, radical experimentalism of life and pursuits supported by a social, economic, and political organization. This systemic reform breaks us free from the grasp of money as a solution to our want for more, recognizing it as the weak social glue it is. As the cliche goes, the purpose lies within the journey. There is no better way to find meaning in effort than to embrace the moment fully.
The religious philosopher Alan Watts once asked the question, “What would you do if you were God?” He continued that after all of your debauchery, adventures, and exploration, you would eventually get bored. You would then introduce the element of randomness to your life, unknown futures ensuring a unique experience. Concluding that if you were God, you would be exactly where you are—in your case, reading.
The divinity of the moment isn’t a new or radical idea. It’s just one that we presently reject in favor of old dogmas. Neo Jesus would beg to differ, understanding that our limitations are also benefits if we are willing to grow beyond them. Reject transcendence as a mystical future, embrace it for what it is—decisions in the moment.
Would we even know Neo Jesus if we met them? The answer is no because we already have. Neo Jesus exists in all of us, manifesting in the self-actualized human who can view circumstances beyond ego and dogma. They work for a more transcendent living in the moment. Knowing that our value to ourselves and the universe lies in our understanding of our temporal power—efforts, and outcomes springing forth from our ultimate reality, the immediate present.