|Answer to Job
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|Author:||Robert Tulip [ Wed May 02, 2018 6:13 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Answer to Job|
In this amazing book, written in the early 1950s, the great analytical psychologist Carl Jung provides a psychoanalytical deconstruction of the Biblical theory of God. Rather than the conventional theory of God as a personal entity, Jung sees God as a psychological construction, an emergent function of the order of the universe, existing only through nature. This means that God only becomes conscious through the existence of mind, specifically through human thought.
Jung is immensely sympathetic to spirituality, as the core of human identity, but approaches the whole field of religion with an unrelenting rigorous philosophical focus, looking at how the theory of God evolved in relation to human consciousness.
There is a triple irony here, with layers of irony piled upon metaphor piled upon analysis. Firstly, Jung’s approach will be regarded by pious religious believers as atheist, grounded in empirical materialist philosophy. The irony is that Jung probably does a better job than anyone of showing how Biblical texts deserve respect. Secondly, the doyen of modern atheism, Richard Dawkins, showed himself clueless in The God Delusion about this whole topic of spiritual psychology by pronouncing Jung a religious extremist on the atheism-believer spectrum, although Jung completely rejects literal supernatural claims. The third irony is the twinkle in Jung’s eye when he told the TV interviewer that he knew God existed, which was the reason Dawkins mislabeled him. Jung was using ‘exist’ in a rather metaphorical constructed sense here, which seems to have escaped Dawkins’ narrowly scientifically trained reading.
An online copy of Answer to Job is at https://archive.org/stream/ThePortableJ ... g_djvu.txt I am presenting a talk about this book at the Canberra Jung Society in July, so will use this thread to help sort my thoughts, welcoming any discussion.
To open this discussion, I will respond to Harry Marks’ astute comments at the recent Evolution of God thread.
Jung’s starting point for his analysis of religion was his scientific training as a medical doctor, combined with his deeply intimate knowledge of the philosophy of the modern scientific enlightenment.
As philosophy developed in Europe, a key question of debate was the status and meaning of religion. One of the most important writers on this topic in the nineteenth century was Ludwig Feuerbach, who argued in The Essence of Christianity that God is a projection of human imagination, a fantasy created in man's image. While atheist secular philosophers such as Marx took Feuerbach’s analysis as an attack on religion, Jung used such ideas to transform religion to recognise spiritual construction as essential to human identity.
The “spirit between us” is the principle of connection that emerges in language and dialogue. And yet this connection is not only between people, but with nature itself. It is possible to conceive of God more broadly as the stable order of the cosmos, while also recognising that cosmic order is reflected in language, with scientific knowledge in its descriptions of natural order providing a primary site of the presence of divine energy in the world.
I am having trouble understanding exactly what you mean here. An example might help explain.
This sense of Jung as a modern prophet is very helpful, given that the concept of prophecy has such a bad reputation. Your point about learning to study on what God wanted is key. Where I think Jung has an advantage is his scientific philosophy, which gives a far stronger grounding in truth than any religious assumptions about supernatural entities actually existing. A ‘mythical force’ in this context is primarily psychological, the emotional and social power that any symbol gains through being believed or used. The prophetic dimension in Jung emerges in his analysis of zodiac ages, which provide an empirical framework for the structure of time, as I argue in my recent paper on The Precessional Structure of Time.
I agree. In my conversations with secular scholars, I have encountered an emotional repugnance toward religious practice and belief, a methodological view that anyone who participates in religion is thereby barred from commenting on religion. There is a view, in your terms, that ‘talking to the mystery’ through prayer and worship contaminates scholarship with bias. The root of that view is a proper rejection of fundamentalism, but the problem is that the secular rejection becomes a religion itself, when it involves unquestioned emotional belief that a life of prayer and worship excludes a person from objective scholarship.
The nub here is “more likely”. Jung’s Answer to Job is entirely talking about God and the social function of religion, and serves as an excellent guide into the mystery of life. However, Jung is not adopting the common methodology of psychological disdain for religion that is often seen in sociology and some other academic fields.
More worrying really. The 1960s predictions of resource depletion by the Club of Rome turned out not to be well based, and instead the primary world problem is that carbon emissions are cooking the planet. This process of growth through fossil fuels has induced a psychological complacency, even though the simple linear trend line of increase in emissions is spectacularly dangerous. The primary security risk for our planet is that we now add three parts per million of CO2 to the air every year, compared to just 0.4 ppm added in 1950, increasing the cooking rate like the proverbial frog in the pot.
My view is that climate change is fundamentally a religious problem, and that only with a transformation of religious consciousness, recognising our apocalyptic situation in the analytic way that Jung advocated, does humanity have a chance to escape collapse or extinction. Treating climate only in the terrains of politics and science and economics fails to engage the psychology of religion that produces the blindness to the problem.
|Author:||Robert Tulip [ Wed May 02, 2018 9:46 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
Redemption is a core theme in Jung’s Answer to Job. Understood as ‘deliverance from evil’, the plea for redemption is a key petition in The Lord’s Prayer. The concept of redemption opens the problems of the relation between good and evil in a stark way, asking how we can be saved.
To say ‘everyone needs redemption’ has traditionally been interpreted by church dogma as meaning that good believers will go to heaven for eternal life, while the evil and lost, who also need redemption in this way, will fail to obtain it and will instead be damned to eternal torment in hell.
This old myth of personal salvation or perdition does not cohere with scientific knowledge, indicating that the Biblical language should be analysed differently, as metaphorical symbol for something that does make sense. Psychologically, the emotional comfort of belief in personal afterlife has tended to take priority for believers. Against this, Christ in the Bible places more emphasis on saving the world than saving the individual, for example at John 3:17 “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him,” and at The Last Judgement in Matthew 25, where salvation is only obtained through works of mercy for others.
Job, you may recall, was a good and pious man whom God delivered to Satan to break his spirit. The religious problem is that we normally expect good people will have safe and peaceful and productive lives, and yet the example of Job illustrates how this expectation is routinely shattered. God seems absent, doing nothing in response to prayer.
And yet, even clean hands provide no great protection against unmerited suffering. That is the problem of evil, why bad things happen to good people, why a good and powerful God allows the innocent to suffer. That problem, known as theodicy, is what Jung is talking about in Answer to Job.
I suspect Peterson would reject that dichotomy, arguing instead that striving to do our best is actually a precondition for maximising love and humility. In his book on the antidote to chaos, Peterson points out that when incompetent people are mixed with competent people, the result tends to be that the whole group becomes less competent, not that the incompetent is improved. So a false sense of compassion and humility often ends up achieving the opposite of its goal, spreading mediocrity instead of productivity. And with less productivity, there are less resources and opportunities to share with the less fortunate, and everyone suffers more.
Jung discusses similar paradoxes in Answer to Job under the theme of the union of opposites, known as antinomies of reason, or the remarkable word ‘enantiodromia’. Examples include the relations between love and fear, and between light and dark. Analysing the saying in the Epistle of John that God is light, Jung points out that nature is full of darkness, so claiming that natural dark is entirely separate from God creates a serious psychological error with bad consequences. The ignored and denied darkness is repressed, but it returns through the unconscious, in a process called compensation.
I found this discussion of the psychology of John illuminating:
Here we see that religious dogma generates the psychological damage of failure to address its lack of balance. In this world we do not know perfection, so pretending that we do generates an unconscious compensation – "Irritability, bad moods, and outbursts of affect are the classic symptoms of chronic virtuousness."
|Author:||Robert Tulip [ Mon May 07, 2018 3:03 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
’Empty clamor’ is an excellent description of the hypocrisy of Christianity. Jung’s whole approach to depth psychology analyses what you call the ‘inner fragmentation’ that results from the superficiality of spiritual beliefs. Looking at the problem of wholeness, Jung argues that the conscious self-image of the ego routinely fails to recognise that it is only a fragmentary part of the whole, and so suffers from the malaise of spiritual emptiness.
Defragging the system of the psyche, so to speak, requires study of much that is unconscious. Analysis can bring the unconscious into consciousness, but this process is painful, and is generally rejected on emotional grounds by established social systems and belief structures that are built upon treating the appearance as the reality. In ‘solemn assemblies’, emotional comfort often rests on processes of unstated exclusion. This exclusion process uses supernatural ritual to prevent difficult discussion.
The gospels provide a good analysis of the empty clamour of solemnity, notably in the statement by Jesus Christ that traditional religious authorities are hypocrites, like whitewashed tombs that look good on the outside but are rotting inside.
The whole gospel problem of balancing opposites is where Jung finds a path to wholeness. Such balancing has a clear archetypal meaning in Christianity, resting upon integrating the negative of the cross with the positive of the resurrection. These passion stories should be understood as symbolic archetypal myths for all the natural processes of death and rebirth. ‘Solemn assemblies’ can sometimes live in an unbalanced Easter faith of the Risen Lord while deflecting any discussion of the pain of the cross, especially where that discussion opens difficult issues around the literal falsity of the myth.
The main metaphor about God, as I see it, is that the imagined supernatural entity stands as a primary symbol for how the orderly processes of nature govern human life. To increase God’s authority, and to lend authority to God’s representatives on earth, this imagined entity, the source of cosmic order and stability, is invested with human traits, including consciousness, intentions, will and morality. By constructing this metaphor, whose social power rests in the mythological assertion that it is not a metaphor, human visions of the conditions for life to flourish are given an imaginary absolute status, blessed by the spirit of truth.
The concept of the transcendental is among the most difficult and ambiguous ideas there is. Jung says in Answer to Job that “religious statements are psychic confessions which in the last resort are based on unconscious, i.e., on transcendental, processes.” With this statement Jung is saying that the transcendental is everything that in principle exists outside our conscious awareness, and within our personal and collective unconscious.
The unconscious is the domain of symbolic and religious meaning, operating in ways that touch us emotionally and intuitively. To use your example of the orbits of Saturn and Jupiter, the fact that these have periods of about 30 and 12 years may well have some transcendent unconscious meaning in human life, considering that all life on earth has evolved within these stable periods over the last four billion years. Some have noted the significance of these ages in the Jesus story. But the mere physical distance alone cannot be called transcendental in this psychological sense.
Further on the transcendental, Jung says “We cannot tell whether God and the unconscious are two different entities. Both are border-line concepts for transcendental contents… There is in the unconscious an archetype of wholeness which manifests itself spontaneously in dreams, etc., and a tendency, independent of the conscious will, to relate other archetypes to this centre.” This theme of wholeness as the central goal of transcendental spirituality was Jung’s core idea in his book Aion, presented as an empirical scientific way to investigate the psychological meaning of the messianic call of Jesus Christ.
The concept of transcendental imagination was central to Kant’s philosophy, with his argument that necessary concepts of experience, including space, time and causality, are inherently transcendental constructions of human logic. Jung imbibed Kant with his mother’s milk, so this purely logical framework is important to see how he uses such language as the idea of transcendence.
This entanglement that Hofstadter describes involves interplay between the conscious and the unconscious. The transcendent dimension in art arises from its capacity to call to us from a place beyond our awareness, with a message that we can only partly explain. The transcendental meaning in music touches our emotions at unconscious levels. The greatness of religion includes what you call symbols of the human condition, which is entirely the explicit point of Bach’s great Passions of Matthew and John.
The Biblical character Job touches us with transcendent meaning because his innocent suffering speaks so deeply to the human condition. Jung’s objective is to analyse this unconscious meaning with rational psychology, asking questions such as why God would give Satan such tormenting power.
These trumping concepts are about ranks of primacy. Kierkegaard’s idea that faith trumps ethics and ethics trumps aesthetics strongly influenced the existential philosophy tradition with his central theme of the leap of faith. Trust inherently involves a risk of uncertainty, and an acceptance of primary grounding beliefs as matters of faith.
The core idea in Answer to Job is that Satan cannot destroy Job’s faith in God. Jung says this so embarrasses God, illustrating the moral power of faith and superiority of human faith over an unconscious God, that God has to incarnate in human form.
|Author:||Harry Marks [ Mon May 07, 2018 2:44 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
I have great admiration for Jung, but "rigorous philosophical focus" may be too strong. He is beginning to come into some of the criticisms made against Joseph Campbell, Mircea Eliade and Martin Heidegger that their conservative and authoritarian political leanings are related to a kind of "flight" from conscious social reform. I don't personally think that is a fair characterization, and I think each of them has his own particular reasons for ending up (mainly) identifying with the right. But it has certainly raised questions as to whether much is going on in the whole mythopoetic enterprise that cannot be accounted for by a simple idealistic conception of the soul and its relation to society.
It is remarkable to me what a tin ear Dawkins exhibits when it comes to any approach to spirituality that does not wave the flag of materialist philosophical grounding in a vigorous enough manner. Yet he has backed off of attacks on progressive Christianity, perhaps because he learned that we don't condemn or reject homosexuality and LGBTQI people in general. I wonder if he may have rethought some of his notions about Jung.
I probably won't be reading the Jung piece soon enough to contribute any useful responses, but you never know.
The folks who call themselves "Biblical Christians" mostly reject such arguments, believing that they get their conceptions of God directly from divine revelation through the Bible. There is considerable irony in this claim, since many of the images used are blatantly metaphorical, including seraphim, which are essentially Assyrian winged lions, the Ancient of Days on a throne high and lifted up, with smoke being generated around "him" night and day, and God riding in a chariot. So of course they claim to be able to tell "plainly" which are actually metaphors, but their bias is to literalism to an extreme degree.
Essentially, there is no creed about God which is not made up of human conceptualizations. It's okay to privilege the ones endorsed by centuries of faithful followers, but it's not okay to assume that somehow they got it exactly right. Good preachers make use of the metaphorical content all the time, generalizing from Peter being called out of the boat to walk on the waves or from Jacob wrestling with "a man" or from Job being allowed to be tested by Satan, but as modernity has advanced they have been under more and more pressure to address the "did that really happen?" question. They should resist. We have no way of knowing if it really happened, and the ability of an image to capture our imaginations about the spiritual and social issues is pretty much independent of whether it "really happened."
I like that way of putting it. We construct stories, possibly from imagination but often from the raw material of events, to capture the dynamic issues involved in our hopes, longings, resentments and other spiritual processes. Just as we know instinctively that there is something false about Hollywood's insistence on a happy ending, so we know that there is truth about the way life unfolds which we need to address and process. Good religion has ever engaged that aspiration, including in ancient epics such as Gilgamesh, the Ramayana and the Iliad.
I remain uncomfortable with identifying God with nature, perhaps because I think nature is morally neutral. I agree that there is a stable order to the cosmos, and that it seems to be prejudiced in favor of cooperation and therefore of morality, but I am still troubled by locating its essence in the nature that is also red in tooth and claw. Probably this view looks past the transitory violence to a Brahman/Atman identity, in which the human ability to be awed and to have submission evoked by reality is part of the basic "ground" of our experience of consciousness, and so the two perspectives (outward reality and inward consciousness) both capture the same spiritual relation.
Yet modern spirituality is also troubled by this view. Submission to the exigencies of reality does not provide the kind of nurturing intimacy that moderns have come to identify as the essential nature at the heart of our ultimate concern. Nature is stand-offish, while the spirit of caring comes to us and reassures us that we are valued and we embody that which properly should be the ultimate concern of humanity. When we have come to the "ground of being" in a meditation process, we are (supposedly: I cannot vouch for this personally) enfolded by the same nurturance that a child feels in the arms of a parent. That sense of safety is in turn a vital condition for approaching life in an I/Thou relationship. That is why the spirit of non-violence, able to confront even threats to one's life in an I/Thou relation, is a truly heroic, transcendently inspiring attainment.
Tillich had what he called a "method of correspondences." Once he had worked out that the deity is a symbol for the Ground of Being, and that being itself (including aspirations) is our ultimate concern, he was able to interpret much theological construction (salvation, grace, the relationship between judgment and forgiveness, etc.) in terms of this understanding. But normally there is a translation process, like trying to understand a statement that comes to us from a foreign language. (One of my favorites, "Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht andern." I think I got that right.) I do the same thing with my "system" conceptualizing God as the Spirit of Caring. It can be laborious, but it allows me to feel confident in rejecting spurious claims about God and endorsing those that make sense. It gives me, in the usual term, a hermeneutic (usually applied to the Bible, but can be applied to theological claims as well).
If you ever look into the "Death of God" theology of, for example, Thomas Altizer, you will find it makes claims directly about the sociological phenomenon of God, that the punitive, judgmental God of tradition had to die and that the death occurred at Calvary (so what took it so long to stop flopping around crushing people, I ask myself?) But the explanation of why this had to occur is in theological terms, generated by the demands of our ability to make sense of the truer sociological phenomenon of a loving, caring God. I have not read much Altizer, but it seemed to me when I did that he was speaking in a way that rhetorically posed as "direct" knowledge about God, but that in fact he was working with a translation system from a philosophical framework. "Saber" (formal knowledge about something) not "conocer" (experiential knowledge of something).
By contrast, the best mythopoetic work, of, say Tolstoy and perhaps Dostoevsky and Ursula LeGuin, operates out of experience with the forces being represented. There has to be enough "theory" to be able to convey the "right" experiences, but the theory is guiding a process that is not fundamentally translating from formal understanding to some less structured mythical method of representation.
Consider the stanza,
"Whose woods these are I think I know,
His house is in the village, though.
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow."
The relationship of an absent owner is meant (I believe) to be a comment about God, whose "house" is in the populated settlement. But the only personal experience being conveyed is alienation and distance. Robert Frost, the author, achieves poetry but not myth, because he is relating his doubts, not his faith.
I think Jung is doing the opposite: using a formal construction (though it use an ironic twinkle of the eye) to convey experience of that in which he can have faith. So when he says God was not conscious, he is saying something formal (addressing the sociological and depth psychological phenomenon we call God) in terms that not only claim direct knowledge (as if he had been there to check on it) but work out of direct knowledge (he knows, in other words, from his own experience how the process he is understanding as God actually works).
If I can do a little packing and unpacking, I believe he is saying that the inner representation of parental authority and nurturance which we consider responsible for social order was not in any form capable of learning and reflecting until humans became conscious. Neuroscience of a more recent vintage might take minor issue with that, but fundamentally it makes sense. There has to be a process of culture, passing ideas to the next generation and not just practices, before "inner parent" can do any reflecting. And I am claiming that Jung knew this more by knowing "inner parent" first hand than by a slightly laborious process of checking the formal properties of "inner parent." The average person could do the same, but Jung's understanding of his own experience has not only been made an accessible resource by his theory, but also has been shaped and given confidence by his direct acquaintance.
I quote this again because I think it is a doorway passage, where we moved into a better ability to work with the concepts. I don't have much to add except that I think "studying on what God wanted" which came to me at the time I was writing that passage, is a good description of how this prophetic process works. It helps that I had been thinking about the work of Walter Brueggemann, whose book "The Prophetic Imagination" is both landmark and spiritual doorway.
If you mean Jung was able to forecast the future because of his understanding of these ages and Precessional structures, I will defer to your greater knowledge of the matter. I am more interested in the "prophetic" ability to translate, say, the pessimistic times of Augustine and their influence on his rejection of his own elite, privileged background than I am in forecasting the future. A prophet might be able to tell what will become of Trumpism and the Tea Party movement if the Democratic party sweeps both houses of Congress, but if so it would be by sensing the inner workings of the way social aspirations interact with political processes. There is more than a little bit of spiritual aspect to that relationship.
In my experience there is also a certain sensibility that it is juvenile to take seriously one's longing for a better world. "There is only doing and not doing" in the words of Master Yoda. No trying. No repenting. No caring what other people care about, as one economist put it, (we are strongly infected by a libertarian spirit) and no waiting for people to make up their own minds, if you are from the Hard Left.
In my experience you can get a little sympathy if you approach these matters through mystical writings like those of Thomas Merton or through Eastern philosophies such as Taoism. But by and large I would agree that the only church truly acceptable to the academic types is Garrison Keillor's "Church of the Brunch."
Okay, now you have me wanting to read the piece.
In hindsight it was misplaced concern. Demographers already knew about the demographic transition, though few would have predicted with any confidence that it would lead to leveling off of population at a level as low as the current (? I think?) projection of 12 to 13 billion. But for many scientists it was a careful analysis of inevitable doom.
In the sense that we do not know where rescue may come from concerning climate change, you might be right that it is scarier. There are no scientists out there with an observation of a mechanism by which the process might right itself. On the other hand, it would seem that solutions are quite within our technical grasp. Europe, at least, has mustered the force of will to take it on.
Well, if we don't find some technical fix such as your idea bids to be, operating outside governmental social engineering, there is going to be a lot of repenting going on. The question is whether it will be too late by then. Quite possibly so. Very likely so, for biodiversity.
|Author:||Robert Tulip [ Mon May 07, 2018 11:49 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
This comment is on Kierkegaard's analysis of the relation between aesthetics, ethics and faith. Heidegger used Kierkegaard as his primary inspiration for his core idea that care is the meaning of being, that existential ontology requires a 'jump into the circle' of what science critiques as the circular reasoning of faith.
For Heidegger, this focus on care is a faith statement, like your most recent comment that your "system" conceptualizes God as the Spirit of Caring. Care is what Heidegger calls the basis for a ‘fundamental ontology’, a primary concern that grounds any thinking about ethics and beauty. Without such systematic logic, our moral and aesthetic ideas are bereft, drifting without anchor. The sense of wholeness achieved through care illustrates a shared goal between Heidegger and Jung. Both aimed for systematic reasoning, but ironically both have been celebrated by people who reject systematic reason. Heidegger and Jung are father-figures respectively for postmodern philosophy and the New Age movement, both of which are defiantly relativistic.
The philosophical point is to be systematic in our logic, to recognise that some ideas only make sense in the framework of other ideas. An example of unsystematic aesthetic philosophy is the fashion industry, where ideas of beauty emerge from unconscious sentiment, rather than from any rigorous framework of ethics and faith.
Kant’s ethical maxim, which equally influenced Jung and Heidegger as giants of twentieth century thought, was to treat other people as ends and never as means. Kant called this the categorical imperative, our highest duty. It is a rather fraught and messianic teaching, since worldly success is so thoroughly enmeshed with the conflicting ethical view that we should use other people as means to further our own interests. The spiritual rejection of worldly amorality creates a sort of enlightened detachment that gives less priority to traction and engagement, preferring instead to see things under the eye of eternity. The Gospels present this problem in terms of Jesus Christ returning from the mountain of transfiguration to the plain of worldly suffering, from divine contemplation to the confrontation of the cross.
Dr Google gives me these definitions of absolute:
“adjective 1. not qualified or diminished in any way; total. "absolute secrecy" synonyms: complete, total, utter, out-and-out, outright, entire, perfect, pure, decided; 2. viewed or existing independently and not in relation to other things; not relative or comparative. "absolute moral standards" synonyms: universal, fixed, independent, non-relative, non-variable, absolutist;
noun PHILOSOPHY 1. a value or principle which is regarded as universally valid or which may be viewed without relation to other things. "good and evil are presented as absolutes"
I think of the absolute in terms of fate, an inexorable causality. For example, the absolute fate of the sun is described by the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram of stellar evolution. Scaling down from that cosmic fate, similar absolute models can be developed for the earth, and then with decreasing certainty aligned with scale, for life on earth.
God can be defined as the absolute fate of the earth, in a way that opens Jung’s problem of how the Christian moral vision of a God of love can be reconciled with the old ideas of fear and wrath. If human civilization departs from a path of compatibility with the natural fate of the earth, then the absolute end result of this departure can be experienced as the wrath of God.
Calling modern psychology ‘Jesuitical’ (using dissembling, oversubtle, crafty or sly reasoning) may be old fashioned, but in this case, the existence and nature of moral absolutes, the deception is as bad on both sides.
Religious traditions justify moral absolutes by reference to an absolute God, while modern relativists deny absolutes for the opposite reason, that there is no God. Jung seeks to wade through this morass, exploring how the origin of the tradition in books such as Job may actually be quite different from how traditionalists portray it, even while the tradition responds to the unconscious meaning. There certainly are absolutes for the fate of the earth. In Answer to Job Jung uses the risks of nuclear and chemical warfare as examples. Today we could focus on climate change.
Acknowledging Saint Leonard of the Chelsea Hotel is a nice way to look at how faith transcends ethics. Cohen was an expert in finding meaning in fragmentation and pain. So often people prefer to pretend we can ignore and avoid brokenness, creating deluded and unbalanced ideologies such as all resurrection and no cross, all love and no fear, all light and no dark.
This is where Jung’s focus on the psychology of the apocalypse in Answer to Job is interesting. His sober recognition that the world does face apocalyptic risks, and that the ideas in the Bible can be helpful in addressing such risks, seems to me the best way to confront denial.
Religion is different from physics – the objective certainty of physical observations like the H-R star map is quantitative, whereas moral obligations and religious symbols are always qualitative, carrying a high level of uncertainty.
I prefer to argue that these technical definitions of God operate with abstract precision rather than mess. For Jung, his philosophical heritage combined a respect for the logical tradition from Spinoza that equated God with nature together with a psychological openness to mystery, seen in weird ideas like synchronicity, alchemy and cabala.
There is a slightly autistic aspect to a pure Spinozist faith, since the Deist logic of God as Nature lacks the personal qualities that are central to actual functioning mythology such as Christianity. The messiness comes in as we try to marry the logic with actual religion, as seen in the moral dilemmas arising from study of Job.
Jung’s hypothesis in Answer to Job that God only became conscious through humanity means the basic problem of God is explaining what features of reality match up with the desire for ongoing existence of human life. This means our concept of God is intrinsically relational, connected to human long term interests.
We might postulate a God who is indifferent to human existence, but from the human perspective, such a God lacks traction and purpose. From our point of view as a species living on earth, the ultimate question is what we must do to survive, based on understanding of what features of reality affect us. An indifferent universal God contains features that do make a difference for us, seen in the existence of our planet as a place that is providentially conducive to intelligence. The set of those features that make a difference to human life constitutes the conditions for flourishing.
It means a step back from the sense that our God is the ultimate creator of the universe, toward a view that our God is the aspects of the universe that are relevant to us. This helps to put care at the focus of faith.
My starting point for faith is to say we should aim only to have faith in things that are real and true. That engages with a big tradition in theology, the proof of the existence of God. That tradition has been badly corrupted by the church assumption that the God of the Bible is the creator of the universe.
Scaling back our ambition to see the Bible God as only those features of reality that are relevant to human flourishing seems a more productive agenda. Working again with my psychopomp, Immanuel Kant refuted the ontological proof of the existence of God, the idea from Anselm that an existing God is better than a fake one. I prefer to look at that problem in a more humble way, starting with what we know actually exists, asking what about existence is good from a human perspective, and defining that as God. Then the messy integration task starts of reconciling knowledge and logic with tradition and mythology, which is where Jung is such an invaluable guide to the perplexed.
|Author:||Harry Marks [ Tue May 08, 2018 6:02 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
Progressive Christianity has been reclaiming a long and distinguished tradition of seeing redemption as the destiny of the whole world, individually, societally and now environmentally. There was some merit in the focus on the individual, giving more scope for individual rejection of exploitative and oppressive social obsessions, for example through monastic withdrawal. The innovation of confession and absolution as ritual may have been one of humanity's greatest achievements. But there's really no way to get around the early Church faith in societal change. "Jesus is Lord" is a confession of faith about what truly matters in life.
First, please note that in the narrative God has faith in Job. "You will see" he tells Satan. The point is precisely not to break his spirit, but to show how strong his spirit is. One scholarly theory, widely accepted, holds that Job was written as a response to Jeremiah and the common prophetic interpretation that the conquest first of the northern kingdom (Ephraim) by Assyria and then of the southern kingdom (Judah) by Babylon were punishments for Israel's faithlessness in worshiping foreign idols.
So the set-up is a good man, who remains true to God ("Though he slay me, yet will I trust him") and yet is tormented by misfortune. This is a representation of the Exile. The long passages in Job in which the "friends" argue that he must have done something bad to deserve this, and Job maintains his righteousness, are not entirely plausible. As the evangelicals love to observe, we have pretty much all done stuff that could be interpreted as deserving punishment.
And yet neither is it plausible that world-historical events such as the Exile were caused by the wrath of a deity as punishment for bad treatment of the poor (as Amos would have it) or for dalliance with the fertility gods (Hosea, Ezekiel, Jeremiah). The author of Job puts the case plainly: even the best suffer.
I am not sure where the counter-proposition ever came from. I mean, there is a certain plausibility to the idea that those who work hard, save their money, commit to one life-long relationship and avoid unnecessary conflict will prosper. People might be forgiven for drawing conclusions about divine intervention, but the connection is pretty plain, really. The problem is that what happens "on average" doesn't describe the trajectory of every person's life or even of all times within that life. A jewel of a cousin of my wife just had his second son die of leukemia. We probably all know someone who deserved a long and wonderful life who instead died of cancer before their time.
And we knew before we set out on life that no one gets out alive. We all face death. So what's up with all the sturm und drang about the unfairness of it all? Job's affirmation of faith in life and in meaning is, to my mind, fairly normal. It is his wife, with her "curse God and die" line that I find abnormal.
Once you get past theology in Platonic "omni-s", based on the notion that whatever is superlative must be God's nature, theodicy loses its interest. It was a mistake for Christians ever to buy into them. Jesus puts some interesting propositions, such as that God sees even a sparrow fall, but it doesn't take much experience or reflection to recognize that this is not a characterization of universal experience. There are lepers, there are cripples, there are people with mental illness and people killed when a building falls on them. And everyone dies. So the admonition to let go of anxiety and leave things in the hands of God is more about us than about how life works. Today we would say, "Don't ruin all the times when nothing bad is happening by stressing over the bad things that might happen soon."
I'm sure there is more to Peterson than what David Brooks has to say about him, which is pretty much all I know. But if we are striving to do our best because we conceive of life as fundamentally zero-sum, and we are just trying to avoid being also-ran nobodies, then even success will disappoint, and no love or humility is likely to emerge. Most people get over that stage in their life, where they see themselves as threatened by ordinariness, and then they strive to do their best out of simple common sense.
I'm kind of curious what evidence he cites, because in the classroom that is not the result. When we structure productive group work, with roles for everyone and some mutual responsibility, the evidence says all students do better on average and the "good students" actually gain the most, because explaining something is one of the best ways to learn it.
I can imagine situations where failure to stratify people by ability causes loss of competence, but why would anyone propagate such situations? And when it comes to competence at facing life, as opposed to accomplishing a particular task, stratification and resulting isolation is probably a net drag on competence. You end up with very skilled people who cannot imagine anything more rewarding in life than the thrill of a bungee jump, and less competent people who give up on anything enriching to life because they can't face the self-consciousness of comparing themselves to others. Both need to have some sense of the engagement with life that makes it really rewarding, and seeing the lives of people in different situations has great potential for presenting that to them.
In Europe they have a more relaxed approach to productivity. They recognize that in most jobs it is the job, not the worker, which is responsible for the bulk of the productivity. That doesn't mean Europeans care less than Americans or Japanese about doing a good job. On the contrary, by being less hyper about appearances they are able to concentrate on doing what they know to be a good job.
Modern non-dualists urge us to cultivate the ability to accept our weaknesses, vulnerabilities and failures. I think that is sound advice. On the other hand, Jung's critique ignores the truth behind John's theme of light. People who are doing evil deeds hide their deeds. They don't want others to know about it. Why? Because they know the things they are doing are wrong. Most people don't hide their achievements and their virtues.
In my country we now have a president who spends half his time denying stuff, and changing his stories about the things that he didn't do and he would never do. It's so pathetic a person has trouble looking away, like somebody on a high ledge threatening to jump. This is a person who is in denial about light and its cleansing power.
I think there is a lot to this. I, for one, can hardly read either John's gospel or the Epistles from the same community without being struck by the exaggerated claims and the strange purity consciousness at work. Yet he also has some insights and approaches that, for me, make it worth putting up with the drivel. Life more abundant. Vine and branches. Washing feet. Jesus wept. The Word became flesh.
The phrase "chronic virtuousness" needs a little attention. We are not talking about the Aristotelian virtues anymore, of courage, patience, wisdom and the like. Rather this is the "reversal virtue" of St. Francis of Assisi that Nietzsche analyzed, in which strength is seen as dangerous temptation to oppress others, and achievement as vanity. And yet St. Francis was not caught up in irritability or outbursts of affect. I suspect that when properly unpacked, the insight Jung had (probably from observing patients) will turn out to be that people who are "faking it" to please others and to pretend to self-mastery will have the same symptoms even if the pretense is a matter of, say, dieting or exercising or having enough money to afford fashion. Look at the eating disorder literature and see if it isn't frequently the same disorder as pretending to be humble or to be honest or to be self-giving.
The vitriol of John against "the Jews", as well as one or more heresies of his time, is notable. And I suspect it is fed partly by this exaggerated sense of mistreatment of Christians despite their supposed blamelessness. The "wrathful Lamb" however, from the book of Revelation, may have little or no relation to the judgmental pontificator of the long speeches in the second half of the Gospel of John.
Revelation borrows heavily from the Daniel literature, which was aimed at imperial imposition of religion, probably during the Maccabean period of independence from the Hellenistic Antiochenes. It is a cry for justice against those who would deny freedom of religion, (in theory denied because religion resists the supposed rule of Hellenist reason brought by Alexander). The NT Book of Revelation has much of the same sensibility of the persecuted, and its enemy is brutal military force, not Jewish legalistic defenders of the Torah. Thus the wrathful Lamb is meant to be about justice as it is commonly understood, not about domination or oppression of others (or even a repressed wish to dominate others). Yes, there may be something sinister about an avenger and judge, but the creepy, shadowy, vicious side of that character is a reaction against the creepy, vicious side of the conqueror and oppressor.
I think Jung's "shadow side" analysis here basically fails. We need something closer to the anthropology of Rene Girard, in which Jesus' heroic role transcends the viciousness by accepting suffering, not as his due, but as his burden to willingly shoulder as a way to peace. I don't want to know who started it, as we say to the kids, I want to know who is going to finish it by letting it go.
|Author:||Harry Marks [ Wed May 09, 2018 10:12 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
Spirituality is as deep or as superficial as we let it be. What matters, in my opinion, is the social practices that we turn our spirituality into. Our nervous system is heavily shaped by habit, and our habits are the platform from which the explorations are launched toward healing some of our fragmentation.
Monastic retreat has long stood as a witness to the possibilities of simple communal life organized around worship of God. There is no question that they have at times been superficial, adding to the fragmentation of the lives engaged there. By avoiding the world's striving they almost guarantee a certain fragmentation of outlook. Yet the resulting spiritual gaps are likely to be much less, and much less of a hindrance, than those which go with immersion in commercial life.
I think the rejection of scientific evidence by fundamentalists might usefully be compared to monastic community. They are driven by a forlorn hope that personal transformation can be achieved by elevating religion to a position of dominance, making our tough decisions for us and steering us safely away from the temptations that beset life in the world, where status-consciousness shapes most institutional structures.
Incomplete, clearly, and hopelessly fractured. Jung would have no trouble making that point, I'm sure. Yet to the extent that their eccentric choices reflect social fragmentation (rather than some random personal pathology), I think it would be wise of us to apply Jung's insights to ourselves first and ask what we might be elevating to the status of saving talismans, forlornly hoping that our fractured world might be healed by simply focusing on our focus and trusting what we trust.
Exclusion of particular groups of people, and, more fundamentally, exclusion of aspects of our inner turmoil. Yes, I think this is valid. After all, the whole business of the unconscious, which I have identified with the "fast thinking" processes that Daniel Kahnemann analyzed, rests on the limited bandwidth of attention, so that we must exclude parts of our lives from attention by making them "second nature" so that we can focus on the issues that require decisions.
Essentially this exclusion process threatens to become pathological when it is based on social taboos, in which high anxiety behavior is the inevitable response to raising topics fraught with hidden danger, rather than on confident moving on from what has to be carefully learned but then can be taken for granted. These suppressions are not easily overridden by urgency, and can even generate their own resistance to overriding. (On the other hand, breaking taboos creates a thrill which is part of their normal functioning.)
Jung seems to be after a gentler, less dangerous unconscious dynamic. What we leave in the shadow may not be due to taboos but rather due to unflattering implications about our self. The positive process of responding to our ideals and goals may cause us to deliberately ignore evidence of weakness and vulnerability. "Healing" in this case looks different from the really pathological neuroses. Getting past exclusion seems to be mainly a matter of gaining confidence in a holistic acceptance of our weaknesses. We don't have to stop working on them, but we can do it in a light-hearted way that accepts them and focuses on avoiding serious consequences.
There is an interesting "pagan" approach to therapy which takes the tensions between principles represented by mythological figures (Apollo vs. Dionysus is the classic tension) and letting the person work with the one that makes them anxious.
Yes, death and resurrection are archetypal poles within the transformational process. Many people treat the death as all too real and the resurrection as a fantasy, but progressive Christianity has learned, mainly in the last 50 years, to recognize them in the kenosis (self-emptying) process of ego-death followed by the reconstitution of a self that does not try to rely on invulnerabilities and individualism.
(I say progressive Christianity, but there is a very interesting process by which the principles discovered among the progressives gradually make their way into the consciousness of the reactionaries. Kenosis and rebirth as holism is a storyline that seems to be getting some traction among evangelicals who regularly have to deal with addiction problems and other fragmentation evidence.)
The relation to natural death and rebirth is a challenging one to integrate. Springtime and fertility return is mostly resonant with nurturing the next generation. While I think there is something powerfully healing about raising children, that is a lower level of process than transformation. Furthermore, the annual cycle will strike most people as an issue for instrumental, not sacred, interaction. When to plant, what to watch for in the skies, how often the El Nino pattern recurs, etc. There is a certain humbling brought about by reliance on nature's patterns, and that humbling can be very healthy in raising children. It is a good antidote to the smug pretense of transformation that you refer to in the solemn assemblies. But I am left feeling it is inadequate to capture the mythic dimensions of crucifixion and resurrection.
Looking backward with the help of anthropology, we can see that spiritual matters and metaphorical language mix naturally and once were simply a single process, in terms of how people dealt with it. Religion relied on ecstatic practices such as consuming mind-altering substances or working oneself into altered states by meditation or physical exertion, because the "other world" could only be reliably accessed through the mind. The interpretations offered about the other world were therefore pretty much guaranteed to be metaphor (including "other world") and I don't think people had any trouble with that.
But once technology began to be a source of reliable progress and religion a means of social control, then some people wanted their metaphors to be taken literally (so, no burying suicides in hallowed ground, no eucharist for those not old enough for self-examination, no icons in worship spaces, etc.) because they wanted the sacred to be given the status of a technology. With complex inner workings and one-for-one outcomes of choices.
But control was never a worthy objective. What God wanted, I would argue, was shown more by the process of covenant than by any enforcement mechanisms claimed to be associated with it. When we seek to understand what the quest for meaning asks of us, control (especially of others) is easily seen to be at best a distraction and more likely a source of fragmentation. Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor scene may be the most insightful representation of that problem.
What does God ask of us? Not only just treatment of others, but also the human touch of mercy and the humility to be open about our own vulnerability. Process issues, not do-and-don't commands.
Well, I can see how this is central. We used to talk about the Providence of God, and it was seen as essentially boundless and profligate. That was never very accurate, but priests could get a certain status by being the ones to mediate negotiations over what was causing a drought or a hard winter and seeing to the remedy.
These days we are coming to recognize just how much we have been taking for granted about nature's providence. I don't doubt that there needs to be a realignment, as we learn to thank the deer for giving up its life for us, the hunters. The orderly processes of nature are certainly an external source that we may not try to go without.
But I have trouble interacting with God's Providence, and have for a long time. It still seems like it operates as a loose theory, rather than an affirmation of faith. A God of the Gaps, if you like. It isn't just the anti-scientific approach involved in, say, praying for rain, or the selfishness of asking that God provide for my needs when I know many others are not being looked after.
More deeply it's the whole simulated technology involved. The reason for thanking the deer is not that it will help me not to abuse the process by over-hunting, although it will probably help. Studying on what God wants will certainly generate some revelations about how to interact with nature. The better reason to thank the deer has to do with a certain harmony to be found in my own life, (and therefore in society) in which I reject the thirst for more, and more, and better than what others have, and the need for the good things to be mine. By making God into something instrumental, rather than making the instruments subject to God, I think I confuse deep issues needed for a healthy relationship to life.
Yes, the illusion of control again, operating through supposedly revealed mechanism. Once again the claims for authority reveal a lack of engagement with reality, and more deeply a false goal of control animating the grasping after authority.
Well, I can see how the "other world" is transcendental and also how it draws both power and inner workings from the unconscious. But I think it is worth asking whether this is transcendental as a matter of description or of seeking right relation. Is it primarily transcendental, (I think that means), by virtue of unknowability (in the formal sense of knowing) or by virtue of importance that we can only sense and not make an externally enforced case for? I rather think that Jung meant the former, but was expressing the latter by his mythopoetic connection.
Okay, now that's interesting. Space, time and causality are instinctive. We operate on their quantitative aspects without ever being able to question or see below their qualitative structure. In that sense they make a pretty good example of structures within Kahnemann's "Fast Thinking" or "System One." It's essential nature, remember, is that it seems to operate as part of perception, not of reasoning about perception.
I don't think I could accept an equivalent status for Jungian archetypes such as the feminine and the masculine, although Wikipedia informs me that he only argued for innate structural tendencies (like the cleaving planes in crystal) which accumulate experience toward specific archetypal images such as the mother or the trickster or the craftsman. In that sense they might be compared to the neural structures which generate perceptual pathways that accumulate to "straight lines" or "corners". Thinking about it that way, the whole sense of transcendence might itself be considered archetypal.
Now consider that "primary grounding beliefs" are things like "my parents will take care of me," or "food won't poison me." And of course those sometimes fail in particular instances. Does that mean they are mistaken? As System 1 perceptual guidance, they are not only true but indispensable. As scientific propositions, they are not sufficiently well specified. Yet they remain at the base of our ability to operate with other people, and people who have been damaged by having primary grounding beliefs betrayed repeatedly by reality are usually very difficult to get along with.
In that sense, Job's faithfulness is no less than a pillar of human society. "No matter what the damned Assyrians do, I am going to face life with a sense of trust."
Nevertheless, I have trouble connecting this to the embarrassment of God (who is in the unconscious? then what is up with the transaction with Satan?) and the resulting necessity of incarnation. Maybe I will have to read the essay.
|Author:||Robert Tulip [ Thu May 10, 2018 5:55 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
The epistemology of faith is a tricky problem. My view is that all faith is inherently religious, grounded in unprovable processes of trust, belief and loyalty. That includes seemingly scientific axioms such as the assumption that the universe obeys coherent laws of nature, as well as the social processes of loyalty and trust.
Rather than restrict the concept of religion to traditional dogmas, the psychological problem is to recognise religious psychology in all intuitions of hidden order, based on the view that the word religion means ‘rebinding’ (from the Latin religare) or reconnecting. That would mean religious faith is a reasonable description of all beliefs that are not empirically provable, including all values and myths.
DWill was not using the term ‘suitable’ as a general endorsement, since many unprovable and indeed untrue beliefs are widely used to support bad religion.
That shows the range of meanings of suitable, between the general ‘in the set of’ and the more specific ‘recommended for’.
Selfishness is certainly a type of faith, but not a good one. The higher value in good religion is that it accords with statements of principle, which the cult of selfishness fails on, despite the efforts of its acolytes like Ayn Rand.
Again Kant can help us out here with his central principle that good moral ideas must be universalizable, that we must be able to wish everyone applied them. A world of extreme Randian selfishness would collapse into conflict, due to the absence of strategic vision and coordination. But explaining the distinction between good and bad faith is complex, as seen by the level of support for Rand’s objectivism. People can advocate a theory if they would like society to move in that direction, even if they can see the theory would not be fully viable.
In Answer to Job, Jung wrestles with the problem of how people believe in values and ideas that give comfort, while ignoring those that do not, making truth secondary. Jung’s main example of this problem is the relation between love and fear. He notes a pervasive trend in religion to describe God in ways that we find comfortable, as a God of love rather than wrath. Yet if we consider this trend against the higher values of truth, coherence and survival, he sees an idolatry in the rejection of fear of God, a retreat to a soothing fantasy faith where all is forgiven.
Jung’s idea that God only became conscious through human thought opens a path to a new vision of the meaning and purpose of life. The only place in our universe where conceptual reflection has evolved, as far as we know, is in the human brains on our planet. This gives the Biblical view that man is made in the image of God a profound significance.
The image of God involves a sense that human destiny is to create the physical presence of the divine, a reflection of the whole, recognising such presence might not exist anywhere else. The possibility of an ultimate and absolute purpose beckons with the possibility that human brains are the only location of linguistic concepts in the universe.
The importance of human flourishing thereby takes on a divine quality, a sense that we can rise above our physical limits to become creatures of pure spirit. We now stand at an evolutionary threshold, held back by our physical instincts but with the potential future of a constructed world where we become the intelligent designers of evolution (as the book Sapiens discusses).
On this ‘image of God’ question, Jung says Christians accept “the burden of being marked out by God. In this way alone can the imago Dei realize itself in him, and God become man.” Further, “One can therefore understand what is meant by the remark "you are gods." The deifying effect of the Holy Ghost is naturally assisted by the imago Dei stamped on the elect. God, in the shape of the Holy Ghost, puts up his tent in man, for he is obviously minded to realize himself continually ... in an indefinitely large number of believers, and possibly in mankind as a whole. Symptomatic of this is the significant fact that Barnabas and Paul were identified in Lystra with Zeus and Hermes: "The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men [Acts 14:11]."”
I would say analysis deepens rather than cheapens. The purpose of analysis is coherence and consistency. Without analysis, we remain in a quagmire of incoherence, ignoring the problem of how to make intuitive religious concepts - grace, salvation, atonement, etc - consistent with experience. ‘Feeling whole’ can be deceptive when it lacks analytical foundations.
Jung has a highly provocative discussion about the Blessed Virgin Mary that relates well to this problem of the secular derision of emotional comfort provided by religion. Firstly, we should be clear that Jung is aiming for a scientific perspective in his psychoanalysis of the Mary cult. And yet, he finds that the secular derision completely ignores the unconscious meaning of the myth.
When Jung wrote Answer to Job, the Pope had recently announced the infallible dogma of the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven. Moderns considered this a medieval throwback, but Jung describes it as having an ignored powerful motive: “namely, the popular movement and the psychological need behind it, brewing in the collective unconscious, a deep longing for a [feminine] intercessor.”
He calls arguments based on historical criticism ‘lamentably wide of the mark.’ “The tremendous archetypal happenings in the psyche of the individual and the masses… are intended to compensate the truly apocalyptic world situation today.”
This sense that popular culture resonates with unconscious responses to apocalyptic currents seems to me a particularly important theme in the psychology of religion, especially as a way to link together the Christian myth of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ with the apocalyptic risks of climate change.
|Author:||Harry Marks [ Thu May 10, 2018 8:59 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
A lot of misleading commentary has been generated around Kierkegaard's famous "leap of faith." Heidegger put things more accessibly, abstract though his writing may have been. Kierkegaard was a master ironist, and I can't help thinking that his choice of "leap" (or the Danish equivalent) was irony. It is a leap in the sense that Achilles catching the tortoise is a leap, or perhaps Alexander's cutting of the Gordian knot. It is a natural step, made to seem unnatural only by some bizarre side considerations raised by the difficulties of formal philosophy.
Modern interpretations have made it sound as though Kierkegaard advocated belief in a supernatural deity as a blindfolded step out into an abyss, like Indiana Jones trusting that an invisible bridge will hold him up. Not at all his idea of faith. Only if you take a Cartesian (or Hume-ian) approach of trying to radically doubt everything you cannot prove does faith take on any problematic aspect. From a Cartesian standpoint, we have no reason to care about anything, much less about that which most evokes our caring.
But once you see that caring is a fundamental ontology, like motion (which Zeno found so divertingly perplexing), the problems are considerably simplified. Kierkegaard was refuting Anselm's argument that an existing deity was better than a non-existing one so God's perfection required God's existence (or, perhaps more relevantly, he was refuting Berkeley). This insight was formalized in Sartre's dictum that existence precedes essence. One might generalize in a more Heideggerian vocabulary by arguing that caring precedes right caring.
It has only just now occurred to me, thinking through these matters, that the "fundamental ontology" recognized by Heidegger could be the real referent to Tillich's idea of the "ground of Being." That is, I had been thinking that Tillich was working out of a philosophical concept of the fundamental status of being itself, and so he may have been, but one could as well find the ground of Being in caring. Hmm. I will give it more thought.
Kant's formulation certainly rules out unethical behavior nicely. However, it does not have to make ethics incompatible with worldly success. In the simplified way you have stated it here, perhaps so, because commerce always entails relating to other people as a means to our ends. But that statement neglects the weighty matter of common goals, or as the sociologists say, common projects.
Adam Smith (whose main other book was "The Theory of Moral Sentiments") famously argued that we owe the exertions of the baker not to the baker's concern for us but to the effects of self-interest, mediated by the Invisible Hand of the market. This sounds like treating others as an end is foolhardy and quixotic, impossibly separated from the relevant processes of work and earning. But now consider that in a typical household the exertions of each are consciously part of a system with goals such as raising children or providing mutual companionship. It is easy to see that meeting material needs is part of achieving these common goals, and for many households, perhaps most, that is how things actually work.
In a similar way the baker may see his exertions as part of a system which achieves common goals, such as meeting people's material needs so that they may be more effective at democracy. The market merely provides information about which needs are most exigent. The baker taking such a view would not be treating others as a means simply to his own private goals, and indeed would be treating them as ends, as part of common goals. Such a baker, in fact, would have every reason to resist a temptation to cheat others even if he thought he could get away with it. The well-being of others has become part of his goals and the subsidiary matter of what to devote his time to is a matter of bringing that common project down to earth as a practical process.
The Invisible Hand is morally neutral - it is an observation about information, and perhaps about how motivation works - but it does not exclude people treating others as both end and means in the same way that we treat our bodies as both end and means.
Preferring to see things under the eye of eternity is, spiritually speaking, equivalent to preferring to breathe. There is no alternative. When we are young we are properly focused on our own ability to formulate and pursue goals, and that is normal. But in a healthy system we are able to move on to begin recognizing the vision of the eye of eternity. By the time we are in a position of explaining life to the young, we should be able to give some account of life in terms of common goals and systems to achieve them.
The return to the world of suffering is a constant movement from contemplation of ideals to the tasks of implementation. I will give a simple (or not) example which has been on my mind lately.
The rich, meaning the people with high six figure incomes, prefer to engage in partnerships with other rich people, or with those who understand and agree with the goals of money-making. This is understandable, as a defensive reaction against the distractions and competing goals which a person might be subject to, such as personal recognition or sympathy to workers. A person with such divided loyalties cannot be trusted to make a joint venture go the way that will make the most money. I have seen a similar dynamic in Africa, where the elite and the cosmopolitan hang around mainly with others who are elite or cosmopolitan, mainly as a way of avoiding the unbearable pressure of educated young people seeking productive work. The piranha bites of the job-seekers eventually force insiders to avoid them.
How is the Christ of mountaintop exaltation of peace to deal with such a system, pernicious yet fundamentally innocent? Well, I don't know, but avoiding the problem is not the way of peace. Of that I'm sure. Design a better system? Craft doorways and doorkeepers who have some more complex algorithm for dealing with the matter? I don't know. But the declarations for peace in the solemn assemblies count for far less than any practical steps for dealing with such fragmentation.
Well, my thanks to Dr. Google for a more careful definition. I think "not subject to qualifications" is what I was essentially trying to get at with my idea of "than which one cannot go beyond." "Not relative" is certainly at the heart of the matter, and so one would say "not conditional on relation to other things" is the essential meaning, at least in the context of Kierkegaard's issues around transcendence.
Yet the average person has very little interest in or acquaintance with such inexorable fates in material terms. Maybe that accounts for their dismal response to the information about global warming.
Maybe, but as a rhetorical strategy this suffers from the subjectivity of claims about the wrath of God. I prefer a neutral argument based on evidence, with perhaps a little self-consciously metaphorical comparison to give it pungency and traction.
Yes, I agree that both sides are deceiving themselves, mainly in an attempt to manipulate others. In the modern world it is much easier to see the deception at the heart of the Absolutist Religious Authoritarian approach. Not so easy to see the nihilism in operation in the contrasting effort to pursue "adjustment" by avoiding moral obligation. In the context of a patient who is struggling with neurotic inner fragmentation, that way may be easier than to explain a more forgiving moral framework than the one bedeviling them. But when it is willfully taken up as one's map and compass for life, the result is people who have lost their way. The fundamental ontology at the core of meaning is no longer accessible to them, and they are at the mercy of whatever system of self-deception comes down the road.
There's a blaze of light in every word, and it doesn't matter which you heard, the holy, or the broken, "Alleluia".
I think I am coming around to agreeing with this. I have seen, over and over in my life, practical considerations trumping idealistic ones. To some extent that is as it should be, and an "Ought" presumes a "Can." (But Brueggemann's "The Prophetic Imagination" argues, essentially, "take another look at that claim of what is impossible. And then take still another look.")
In the apocalyptic case we have to get past our sense that individual effort is helpless before the inexorable will of the crowd or operation of the system, because the results of the blind crowd or the uncurtailed system are too devastating to be accepted. In a strange kind of reversal, what was seen as idealistic becomes the dominant aspect of reality.
The moral obligations that engage our attention tend to be the ones that have some ambiguity in them, like Haidt's Trolley. But the ones we have well integrated and understand through and through are no less important.
But I am not invested in arguing absoluteness of moral rules, but rather in arguing the importance of a structure of meaning which is flexible enough to accept that some types of moral ambiguity are part of the way values work. The Cohen/Jung recognition of shadows and cracks is a vantage point from which to see the operation of the ambiguity, but it would be a mistake to give up on maps of meaning just because they have to work with shadows and cracks. That is the same fallacy as that of refusing forgiveness because only God can forgive.
It is critical that we recognize the different operation of concepts in what Popper called "World Three", where the concept refers to something entirely created by human thought.
It isn't just epistemology that works differently for such topics: different questions matter.
There is a very, very different quality in the question "Which is truly more democratic?" than in the question, "Which is more truly a tree?" The second is about words, the first is about the constructions that can be created using words. Agreeing on the meaning of "democratic" is, in part, an agreement about what we will value.
As a result, the longing for abstract precision in defining the content of our "Ultimate Concern" (or even agreeing on whether such a thing as ultimate concern exists) is misplaced. It may not be as misguided as the fundamentalist's longing for absolute supernatural authority for their beliefs, but there is a kinship. The "slightly autistic" lack of personal qualities is a distraction: it is not hard to get a fundamentalist to agree that our conceptualizations of God are all inadequate. Try it sometime and you will see.
I see the Jungian (and New Age) openness to weirdness "within nature" as basically a set of ways to access our relationship to our archetypal psychological structures. Tarot cards and astrology basically work with projection, where our fears and other shadowy emotional forces are given a chance to emerge despite our efforts to repress them. Any psychologist working with personalities will find the same thing in Rohrschach methodology and Thematic apperception tests, for example.
Well, I think the question of what makes life worthwhile is even more fundamental. But the two questions will line up remarkably well, since one cannot do species survival as a game against other human beings.
Or we could just put the questions of care at the focus of faith. Of course that is essentially what you do when you ask for "the aspects of the universe that are relevant to us."
Dealing with world three objects, "real" and "true" are ambiguous issues.
That tradition is motivated by a corrupt question: how to manipulate people into living a caring life by threats from the other world.
Yes, the question of what about existence is good is a proper starting place for integrating knowledge with values. But given that Jung and others, like the entire profession of anthropology, has shown that the mythological represents to us the complexity of our relationship to life, it takes a lot of faith in human reason to suppose that we can construct a great society without reference to the forces shown by mythology.
|Author:||Harry Marks [ Fri May 11, 2018 4:45 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
Sorry, but I am not clear on why "unprovable" equates to "hidden." Not empirically provable is a philosopher's problem. Values are not empirically provable but they are powerful sources of binding within a community. I don't see why we are supposed to think of our consensus on values as operating through the "hidden".
In my Cambridge (Mass) days I heard a really smart guy, now a full professor of history, arguing that a particular revision of church liturgy was unsatisfactory because it "was written by someone not yet dead." He wanted to argue that the sense of mystery we get from hallowed figures of the past was a key element of religious binding. Well, I'm not buying it. I have seen too much of church revision, mostly for the better, and I think (as you put it in another context) that understanding what you are doing "deepens, not cheapens" the process.
My objection is not to some implied endorsement of anything unprovable, but to using unprovability as the line of demarcation for what "religion" operates on. I don't buy the argument that Satanism can call itself a religion as long as it is about mysterious otherworldly processes. Nor human sacrifice, nor devotion to preparation for the arrival of aliens. If it isn't concerned with what is good, what should be our ultimate concern, it isn't religion. If people are not happy with that use of the word, let's find another word, because that's what religious freedom is about.
Penelope put it better, saying that if you see life as fundamentally conflictual, it will be. It isn't just the absence of a value on strategic vision and coordination that is the problem, with conflict as a default, it is the devaluing of coordination, which is needed to achieve anything of worth. The libertarians argue that if coordination is needed, private enterprise will achieve it (roughly the same as the anarchist argument), but private enterprise has shown over and over that it is incapable of hearing appeals to higher visions about what life is about. It deliberately excludes them because they distract from the social process of making money. If there is anything positive that has resulted from the challenge of dealing with climate change it is the opening of the eyes of Davos Man to the reality of non-monetary values.
Progressive Christianity is particularly subject to this folly. I worry more about its projection of all evil onto "structures", in an anarchist assertion that if we get our structures right, nobody will do anything mean or hurtful anymore. I am all for better structures, but just as democracy did not magically eliminate exclusion and domination systems, nor create government of the people, by the people and for the people, so socialism does not magically get our material needs met without conflict.
But I like to think that in our endorsement of God as love, we do not either eliminate judgment from the picture nor deny the importance of rules. We just need to remember that the Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath. That is, if we bear in mind the reason for judgment and the appropriate time for wrath, they arrive within a context of love. Reason provides some protection, oddly enough, against opting just for mythology that comforts.
I like the recognition of deep purpose, here. But again, that purpose is given for our flourishing, not for requiring that we submit to it. If Hariri is going to argue that we have some obligation to go gently into that good night so we can be replaced by augmented humanity, I am going to have some pointed questions about whom he imagines gets to be augmented.
When asked how he imagined God, Luther said, "as a man hanging on a tree." Theosis is a high calling, but it is a calling to be lowly. Not because of whatever recognition one might get for self-sacrifice, but because we find our truest self in our common destiny.
I am in favor of understanding what we are doing. I am not so in awe of the mysteries of life as to elevate them to some primacy over reason. What I have trouble with is limiting our reasons for our choice of values to those that can be reduced to analytic statements, to be evidenced and proved.
I was pretty good with this until I got to "the perverse intentions that lurk in the dark Son of God." Not quite clear whether he is concerned about some original sin of seeking to dominate or some original sin of seeking to procreate, but exaltation of the B.V.M. probably has more to do with the perverse intentions of the hierarchical church than with the Son of God. Because the church sought to dominate people into good behavior (and not incidentally, into submission to their oppressive rulers), it had to double down on a compassionate side of its imagery. Their Mary may pat us on the head and even hold us tight, but she is fundamentally ineffectual and they have helped make it that way. Jung's analysis of her role in the mythology of resurrection is exactly the one-sided approach to crucifixion and resurrection that you objected to earlier.
Incidentally, his use of the term "omniscience" is much better than the Platonic claims about it. If we think of omniscience as awareness of the dark places and repressed motivations, then we are in much better shape to relate to God than if we think of it as having scoped out the future in infinite detail (and then withholding that knowledge except from the privileged few).
Yeah, except that they are like sheep without a shepherd. The flailing of devastated communities in the U.S. despite understanding of processes that could address their devastation, the panicked scapegoating of refugees in Europe when climate-change-induced drought is at the root of their distress, the denial of fact that every day confirms a rejection of life, these are symptoms of disease too deeply rooted to be addressed by facile manipulation of symbols.
|Author:||Robert Tulip [ Fri May 11, 2018 6:04 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
This problem, that atheists see no need for religion, well illustrates the absence of serious dialogue. Religious believers are mired in unconscious signals which both they and atheists quite reasonably consider as literal and honest, so the failure to discuss real objectives means the two sides talk past each other. Jung’s example of the Catholic Dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a great case in point for such symbolic thinking in religion, as I quoted above.
Naturally, all rational people should be able to see that this ‘virginolatry’ is an exercise in pure myth-making, in the construction of comforting memes that resonate in popular piety. But such psychological deconstruction is an intellectual exercise, and should not be a statement of contempt for its adherents, since the question of whether the myth is good is separate from whether it is literally true.
Only the pious react with fury at this psychoanalysis, but as Jung argues, the pious are in the grip of unconscious sentiments, as atheists are too. Claims about Gospel Truth have social functions whose merits and failings are both conscious and unconscious. Analysis can try to separate out these elements. Just saying that religion is pernicious, as the new atheists have done, is a superficial argument.
As I have said before in relation to Dawkism, to imply that people should obtain a doctorate in biology or equivalent as an alternative to mass religion is not realistic. Far better to reform religion so that it provides rational messages, mixed in with comforting myths and rituals, in ways that engage at a popular level.
Even the Scandinavian model of a secularised Christian society has major concealed problems, trading on the social capital built up over the centuries of Christendom. The atheist idea that societies can sustain social ideals and moral values without local processes of community meeting, as provided by churches, is fraught with risk.
The collapse of religion is a primary cause of the modern epidemic of loneliness and mental illness. This paper explains how regular church attendance protects against depression.
The problem is that the public debate on religion tends to occur through a lens of contempt. By contrast, Jung’s attitude in Answer to Job is highly respectful to both atheists and believers, while arguing that they have not entered proper dialogue about their real objectives, and that both have legitimate complementary aims.
Here we are nearly a century later and still the problem of mutual incomprehension is still the same. As in the debate on God that prompted these discussions, the two sides act as though they are talking about the same thing when in fact they are not. They present a polarised attitude that seeks to convert people to or from religion.
By contrast, Jung recognises that religion operates at the level of unconscious symbol and that this can be good and therapeutic. This approach would produce a far more sophisticated and productive intellectual conversation if it were more widely explored.
One might hope for a reconciliation between rationality and spirituality, recognising that is a slow process. I did not understand your point about contest for status, which has more to do with the rationalisation of irrational claims and would seem to have little to do with rationality. For example in science and philosophy, the pure rational ideal is a search for truth where status is irrelevant, although this is obviously broadly corrupted by instinctive attitudes of ego.
The sense that ‘feeling at home’ involves rationality is again more a process of the rationalisation of myths. We feel at home in situations of trust, loyalty, belonging and faith, where a story gives us a meaningful sense of place. Rationality in a pure sense is an abstract form of logic that tends to bring these myth-based tribal instincts of comfort into question, as for example in Jung’s exploration of how we can use reason to assess the apocalyptic problems of the world.
|Author:||Harry Marks [ Sat May 12, 2018 5:30 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
There are layers of irony in your use of "literal and honest." Is self-deception more honest than intentional deception? Maybe, but maybe not, too. If academic atheists deceive themselves into thinking there is nothing sacred about values that really matter, is their literalism "honest"? I have my doubts.
I understand that it isn't easy to see through supernatural imagery to the social role it plays. Yet academics who pride themselves on being able to see through it to the cynical side, such as manipulation by the rich to sedate the poor, will steadfastly refuse to consider the possibility of an idealistic function for religion. I maintain that the educated are in much better position to conduct an honest dialogue, meaning one about substance, despite the choice of vocabulary and derivation of authority-claims, than the uneducated are. So the burden is on them to get out of the echo-chambers and engage.
These are well said. I would add that a criterion of honesty is more important to use on motivations for rhetorical strategy than on the claims of literal truth for obviously unverifiable claims about the supernatural. Dialogue is for hearing, not just for telling. Dialogue that is all about appearing to listen is not dialogue.
I never quite grasped before that one can observe "atheist piety." But I have.
Or they could read Stephen Jay Gould's popular books. Opening their eyes does not really require a doctorate in biology.
You make it sound like just putting together a collage. Maybe some juxtaposition is sufficient, but I know for my own case that I was unsatisfied about the discrepancy until I had an account of the process that both honored facts and honored the goodness I had experienced in a community of faith.
This is an important issue in the epistemology of social mythology. Rorty argues that we replace outdated "vocabularies" with more functional ones by virtue of moving on to better questions. What he (intentionally?) neglects is the need to harmonize a new paradigm with the facts motivating the questions of the old paradigm. In social mythology, unlike scientific paradigms, one can argue that the old questions were misplaced, and served some wrong function. But if you don't address the old issues, some people will not move on to the new ones.
It's also possible that the lens of contempt is created by loneliness and mental illness. The "online community" tends to bring out that sort of thing. Furthermore, to state the obvious, some of the motivation of the New Atheism is outrage over the treatment by traditional religion of homosexuality, and for that matter of women. Community meeting that accepts scapegoating as one of its methods also creates its share of mental illness.
The sociology of membership demonstrates a lot of what is going on in a group's shadow motivations. Fundamentalism has always made use of a sociology of "the elect." They don't try to arrive at a complete, integrated understanding of the world in part because membership in the group is premised on rejecting the world and, at least in a formal sense, its claims on us. Or at least that's the ideology. In practice there is a certain process of claiming superior insight and inside knowledge, and many people join in large part because they like thinking of themselves as insiders who understand things better than the world does.
There's an interesting discussion getting going on-line about whether "apologetics" actually persuades anyone. It seems to operate a lot like the Creation Institute, providing a simulation of intellectual honesty to give cover for this sense of superior insight.
What is awkward is the way anti-theism sometimes gets involved in the same sort of social processes. So, for example, once a meme takes its place in the canon of atheist apologetics it cannot be challenged in a simple fair-minded questioning (despite all the hoo-haw about the importance of critical thinking) but must be accepted without question or the questioning person attacked. This was on display in Dennett's book with his treatment of "spandrels" which was mostly about dissing the concept and very little about a fair assessment of the over-arching (sorry) issue of whether all the details of all the variation we see actually represent the result of adaptive pressure.
This deserves to be as widely understood as the process of motivated reasoning. It may not be a good way to arrive at understanding, but like awareness of motivated reasoning it can stop people from being sure of things that ain't so.
Well, with Jordan Peterson on my mind, I made reference to the process by which status markers can create a "rational" order, i.e. one that functions in an orderly and reliable manner, that is basically understood by the participants.
Peter Berger argued (maybe based on the work of others) that interpretations of the beauty of women's body image has changed value assignments over the centuries depending on whether fat women or skinny women serve as a better symbol of the status of the man marrying them. Where food scarcity is a problem only for the poor, fat ladies (think of Rubens' paintings) show affluence. When food is so abundant that the poor can get fat, the "self-control" and time on the tennis court of the skinny ladies becomes a better marker of status. None of those takes into account the whole question of whether valuing people on the basis of their status, (much less their body image,) helps us to feel at home in the world.
I would like to think that rationality in science is a given, and status is irrelevant, although in social sciences that functions very imperfectly. But system rationality is a different kettle of fish for most social systems. Like democratic governance.
At the risk of being reductionistic, I think one can see this process as equivalent to System One thinking (in Daniel Kahneman's usage) versus System Two thinking. Applying the acid of reason and doubt to an issue is a System Two process, which is and should be laborious and patient. The goal is to generate processes which enable efficient System One (e.g. unreflective) decision-making.
The position of scientism is that the scientific method is the best way to apply reason to all human understandings. If it doesn't pass the scientific method test, it can be assumed to be worthless. But as Michael Shermer's tiger in the forest example shows, this is patently untrue. Sometimes error is part of the way System One is going to work, and so System Two needs to apply criteria that are broader than "but has it been rigorously shown to be correct?" So we have, for example, the (undoubtedly sometimes abused) "Precautionary Principle", which is actually a good principle.
Taking into account the functionings of pre-rational processes, as Jung argues we should, is a variety of this kind of "broader than just the scientific method" set of evaluation approaches.
|Author:||Robert Tulip [ Sat May 12, 2018 5:22 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
Now looking into Harry’s comments in this thread.
It is clear that Jung, like the other scholars you mention, was strongly anti-communist. These issues are discussed in The Politics of Myth by Robert Ellwood.
The monolithic academic politics of critical progressivism tends to impugn anyone like Jung with complex or mystical views who are seen as supportive of European heritage. “Conscious social reform” is a contestable political objective, with some risk of imposing a fashionable collective group-think mentality that assesses scholarship on the basis of political tribalism rather than intrinsic merit.
All these scholars also had close links to atheism, while presenting their own sophisticated religious and philosophical critiques of atheism and materialist political philosophy, which naturally led to them receiving harsh criticism from the political left.
Scientism, in its cruder forms, explains moral progress in terms of the view that spirituality is false consciousness. As a theory of human psychology that materialistic rejection of spirituality is superficial and damaging. As an abstract logic, it is true to argue that reality consists of matter in motion, but reconciling that with the operation of culture rapidly breaks down, since the chain of causality between mind and brain is far too complex. We have to view mind as autonomous from matter in order to explain ethical values, which makes materialism inadequate.
One of Jung’s key themes is that the role of imaginative sentiment in the construction of stories is heavily influenced by unconscious factors. Such intangibles as taste, tone, fashion and style emerge from a psychological resonance with an unconscious causal process.
‘Dynamic issues’ are often difficult to put into words, but our stories and symbols and art more generally can capture an inchoate dimension of meaning. There is suggestion that the happy ending of the Book of Job was a later addition, since readers could not cope with the bleak prospect of divine indifference to innocent suffering.
Nature is morally engaged through the idea that flourishing and complexity are good. Therefore, natural processes that are conducive to complexity are good, while those which produce barren simplicity are evil.
That old Kiplingesqe idea of Social Darwinism gives undue priority to competition over cooperation as the framework of nature. Evolution produces systems of stable equilibrium that produce gradually increasing complexity. While there is competition in evolutionary arms races, these natural processes also contain a deeply moral purpose, blessing emergent systems that are compatible with material causality, and damning to extinction those that are not.
The Bible has a great take on this balance between competition and cooperation in nature, seeing the competitive reward for talent as enabling cooperative works of mercy (Matt 25). This emerges in economics with the idea that market competition enables the creation of wealth that can then be shared cooperatively.
The basic problem of socialism is that it destroys the competitive incentive to create wealth.
Answer To Job picks up this Atman theme ‘thou art that’ from Vedanta that Jung recognised as a central claim in psychology. Our conscious ego is only a small part of our real self. Enlightened vision sees the soul as in union with God as a spark of the divine, like how every dew drop on a spider’s web reflects the entire universe.
Most of this reflection is unconscious. Spiritual work consists in bringing the unconscious into consciousness, to achieve a higher vision of the natural reality of God.
|Author:||Harry Marks [ Mon May 14, 2018 5:40 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
So I have actually begun to read this work, which goes on a bit at length. I'm afraid Jung has gotten off on the wrong foot with me.
With reference to the Virgin Birth, which is not verifiable (or for that matter falsifiable), Jung says:
You might well take a guess which part I object to. If you have any familiarity with my arguments, it should be clear why I am quite happy with the whole first paragraph. "Other kinds of truth", including the existence of bizarre beliefs, are clues (in the original sense of Ariadne's thread - spools of thread which may be unraveled on the way into the labyrinth, allowing one to retrace the way back out) to what leads at least some people to choose particular beliefs, beyond the scientific criteria of evidence and logic.
But then he says "Religious statements are of this type." Without exception, he then declares. The problem with this statement, which I have lived 30 years in contradiction to, and experienced many others like me nomadically sojourning in the wilderness between the barrenness of the provable and the crossing into supernatural, is that it takes the authoritarian business of claiming supernatural sanction to stand for the content and method of all of religion. That is, it buys into the fundamentalist's definition of religion, as surely as Richard Dawkins does.
Given the temper of the times, and Jung's confessed fear of the reactions he would arouse, he probably saw no point in considering any alternative version of religion. But that makes his whole set of formulations suspect - he engages only the authoritarian version (which admittedly was 99.9 % of what people thought of as religion in those days) and has nothing to say about the many good people (5% of the faithful?) who quietly accepted the creeds even though they thought them false or misleading, and who practiced their religion with private reference to an entirely different map of meaning.
Lest you think I exaggerate the significance of these people, check out the birth of Unitarian Universalism, whose branches date from 1825 and 1793, respectively.
These were intellectually descended from the Puritans who founded Harvard College, and the Congregationalists who split because they were not quite ready to join in the "Jesus was not divine" of the Unitarians in 1825 became the core of the UCC, the most liberal church in the US that actually calls itself Christian. Non-authoritarian religion was not confined to the Quakers, in other words, nor born from critical scholarship.
I am quite ready to listen to Jung with the proviso in the back of my mind that the religion he is talking about is not "cutting edge" or "thinking and deciding" religion, but the "fallback" religion used to raise children within the bounds of traditional authority. It is spanking religion, not "take a time out on the thinking step" religion.
|Author:||Harry Marks [ Tue May 15, 2018 5:43 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
From the same paragraph as the passage I complained about:
If you want to think properly and clearly about religion, ponder that passage until you completely understand it. It is the key that unlocks all of it.
He goes on to say, almost the very next thing:
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