|Answer to Job
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|Author:||Harry Marks [ Sat Jun 02, 2018 8:52 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
I have no doubt your reading is more textually accurate, but God has already told Satan that there is none like Job and that Satan's original accusation was false. I think it is safe to say God was confident of the outcome.
I think Jung's perplexity is an ironic pose. This is the reversal of the Axial Age, caught on camera. From the Gods being an embodiment of enforcement to the Gods being an embodiment of caring, it was necessary to get to the theodicy issue and think about it more carefully than the prophets had.
Your reading is correct, but the prophets were wrong. Not only was the rise of empire quite independent of any wrongs in Israel's society, but the deservingness of collective guilt was mythical, not real. The prophets were tapping feelings of guilt about genuine problems, and looking for a recommitment to covenant. But it remained for the Wisdom literature, of which Job is a primary pillar, to examine the underlying, flawed theology in the prophetic reading.
The conception that emerges from the collision between these worldviews is that our faithfulness is right because of its rightness, not because of cosmic rewards or punishments. We should be faithful to the covenant, but like Job we have to also say, "we receive good from life, shall we not also receive harm?"
Job's accusing friends, arguing that he "must have" done something evil, are precisely the embodiment of the accusing prophets. And the book of Job refutes and rejects them.
Sorry, I could have been clearer. I only meant that Job's claim of complete righteousness was not plausible. As my next few sentences were meant to develop.
Well, no, I don't think I agree about conditionality of forgiveness. The father in the story of the Prodigal does not stand there quizzing the son about whether he is truly repentent. Sure, the son makes it pretty clear from the beginning, but the father has rushed out to meet him. And Jesus instructed us to forgive seventy times seven times, which is far beyond any credible interpretation of "repentance". Relationship is bigger than conditions and incentives. God forgives sin because God wants us to grow up, and put prodigality and other sinfulness behind us.
Next you'll be blaming the Jews for the Holocaust. Don't go there. It is stupid, and its stupidity should have been apparent from the beginning, as it is to us now. As some intelligent person put it, "the whole point of Job is that this magical moral framework does not work, that innocent suffering is common, but should not shake our faith in God."
Umm, sorry to be inconveniently direct, but it looks obvious to me that you are not seeing the contradiction between the two statements quoted here. Try to get your head around it: the prophets were wrong.
|Author:||Harry Marks [ Sat Jun 02, 2018 4:26 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
I have never been comfortable with Jung's analysis of masculine and feminine archetypes, even though his recognition of the submerged opposite (the anima or sensitive side of men, the animus or rational, courageous and desiring side of a woman) goes a long way toward tempering the stereotyping, patriarchal side of this stuff. Even so, I consider this paragraph (quoted) to be brilliant. Not for associating things "correctly" with masculine and feminine, which I will always consider slightly tainted, but for spelling out a very interesting antinomy (tension between opposites).
Perfection, he says, excludes completeness. Completeness (to be read as non-duality, if you don't mind stretching things a bit) lacks selection. Now, let's not get into the fact that pickiness about mates is established as a clear pattern derived from women's biological role (nurturing relatively few children well, without the option males have of "planting" a far larger number of children than they can actually invest time in the raising of - see Vince Vaughan in "Delivery Man"). It does make some sense that women train to be rather good at a wide variety of things, while men tend to choose one area of excellence.
All of these generalizations are tendencies at best, and many end up being explained by social pressures to solve particular problems of the "mode of production" better than by biology. In grad school I was fond of arguing that we economists have "good t-statistics but bad F-statistics", which is statistics talk for finding causal effects that are clearly present but with weak power to explain much of the variation we see. Getting into personality types that are a function of gender is a bit like that: the tendencies are real enough that young people can recognize when their biology has assigned them the "wrong" gender, based on what their brain perceives as inner tendencies. But the variation within genders tends to be much greater than the variation between your average man and your average woman, along most personality dimensions. So gender doesn't explain that much, even though it definitely creates differences on average.
So I propose that we just leave out asking which is masculine and which is feminine, and ask if it's a real antimony: does pursuit of excellence really interfere with pursuit of completeness, as the non-dualists would have it? Or, in a slightly altered version, does conceptualizing one's goals and identity in terms of excellence exclude empathy with those having other goals or lesser devotion?
I think Father Richard Rohr has an interesting take on it, perhaps derived from Eric Erikson's stage theory. Rohr talks about "first half of life" issues, about ascent, identity construction and finding one's place, and "second half of life" issues about integration, wisdom and acceptance of vulnerability and loss. It seems obvious to me that the first set matches up with Jung's "perfection" and the second set matches with Jung's "completeness". So maybe antinomy is an inadequate way of talking about this particular tension.
|Author:||Robert Tulip [ Mon Jun 04, 2018 1:00 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
The accidental chaos of life is a primary factor in what we could call the Job syndrome, that unexpected dangers can disrupt our placidity. If life proceeded according to our expectations then Job could be confident of continued prosperity and happiness. That is the basis of what is widely accepted and criticised as the prosperity gospel, with its ‘Matthew Principle’, to those who have will be given. But we all know that unlikely and unmerited risks do occur. Linking to the moral hazard issue we discussed above, this problem of unexplained suffering shows that even those who deserve happiness should be cautious and humble, since if we are certain nothing can possibly go wrong our attitudes are contaminated by arrogance, ignoring unforeseen hazards.
The book of Job is a study of psychological types. We have the stoic acceptance from Job, the certainty from his friends that he must deserve his problems, and the bitter despair from his wife. As well, there is the shrugging indifference of God and the scheming malevolence of Satan.
I know people who are like Job’s wife, whose faith has been shattered by unmerited suffering, people who see theodicy as clear simple logical evidence that God does not exist. It takes a sort of philosophical detachment, the legendary patience of Job, to rise above such attitudes.
The trouble though, Harry, is that these three stooges, omnipresence, omnipotence and omnibenevolence, (not to forget omniscience in the way Jung accuses God of doing) are major stumbling blocks for theology.
I don’t agree that these universal attributes are based just on Anselm’s ontological proof with its focus on God’s perfection. If instead we look at theology from an axiomatic natural perspective, as I presented earlier in this thread, defining God in ways such as the real hidden anthropic order of the cosmos, and the set of enabling conditions for human flourishing, it is fairly easy to move logically from these axiomatic premises to the inference that God is a universal reality, present everywhere and effective through the natural laws of physics.
Jung arguably makes a similar argument, saying that “God is Reality itself and therefore — last but not least— man. This realization is a millennial process.” Now it is again fairly easy to accept that Reality is omnipresent. Omnipotent is a bit harder, but if we define the laws of physics as the mechanism of omnipotence of Reality that hurdle can be jumped. The next two, omnibenevolence and omniscience, are far tougher. The story of Job indicates that God is not omnibenevolent, since Job suffers undeserved evil. That is why Jung rejects that attribute, saying that the assumption that God is good creates a psychological distortion in the nature of faith. If God is Reality, then God is present in evil as much as in good, in dark as much as in light. But we have to focus on the good in order to cultivate the aspects of God that benefit us in the long term.
Omnibenevolence presents the core paradox of theodicy, that a good powerful God would not allow innocent suffering, so God must not be all good. Continuing Jung’s theme of God as Reality, it is obvious that reality has many bad features, from the human point of view. But perhaps if we stand back, as Job invites us with his visions of the heavens, we can imagine that the negative cycles that we deplore are part of an upward spiral toward what Dante called the love that rules the stars.
It seems cruel to consider the current suffering of the world, with Paul, against a big picture of building endurance, character and hope. And yet, seeing the scientific reality that the universe has provided our planet as a four billion year anthropic cocoon for the emergence of consciousness, we might see the possible ultimate good of that evolutionary path as justifying a definition of God as the conditions for human flourishing.
Finally, on omniscience, with its paradox of foreknowledge and freedom, Jung presents the following highly ironic analysis in Answer to Job.
It is absurd for an all-knowing deity to be surprised by events that turn out differently from expected. The uncertainty principle in quantum theory suggests that divine omniscience, accepting for a moment that reality is personal and alive, can only be about the past and present, not the future, which has an unavoidable character of free randomness at the micro level, even while major trends are deterministic.
I prefer to say the test of Job is a mythological illustration of the arbitrary chaos of the fall from grace, and that is its purpose. The collapse into pitiless cruelty is a way of saying God has retreated from the world, giving secular power to Satan. Jung’s line about God taking counsel with his own omniscience is a memorable irony, since God obviously knew about Job’s moral character.
This pitiless abyss is a perfect description of the fall. The suffering of the faithful innocent is inflicted by the God of Reality, whom Jung suggests deserves our adoration, whereas Christianity has largely shifted its faith to the God of Imagination, trusting in blind comfort rather than logic and evidence.
Attributing motives to God is an exercise in anthropomorphisation, contrary to the unconscious power of fate that Jung suggests characterises the divine unleashing of the attack on Job. But as long as we remember this personification is an exercise in archetypal myth, the question Jung asks retains its power. As I explained in detail in my recent essay on The Precessional Structure of Time, the earth has slow cycles of light and dark, and the last ten thousand years have been a period of increasing darkness in cultural terms, matching directly to this myth that Jung discusses of God yielding to Satan.
This is a remarkable piece of speculation on Jung’s part, that human self-reflection brings consciousness into the world for the first time, and that God actually learns from Job the meaning of presence in a fallen world, later incarnated in the person of Jesus Christ, reflecting the mind of God in nature. That mythological structure applies just as well to a real as to a mythical Jesus.
Here we see the revolution wrought by human consciousness, with our unprecedented capacity to use symbolic images to reflect the nature of reality in words and pictures. The absence of such capacity hitherto meant God had never encountered an obstacle forcing self-reflection. Now, even removing the personal attributes of God, man is exactly such an obstacle.
|Author:||Harry Marks [ Mon Jun 04, 2018 7:46 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
Well, it's all very well to take a pragmatic attitude, and that's certainly my stance. But I am after a sorting out of philosophical problems, as well. The question is how our beliefs about risk, danger, unpredictability mesh with our stories to make sense of life.
I think our ability to take on some philosophical detachment depends heavily on how it all has been explained to us in the past. "Evidence that God does not exist" needs to be unpacked: if we have been told that God is a great big helper who takes an interest in seeing that we go down the road of prosperity rather than the road of ruin, nudging us with little rewards for faithfulness and little slaps for prodigality, then it is easy for that picture to fall apart with serious unmerited suffering.
Likewise if we have been told that God is a cosmic judge who will roast the bad guys when they die, it is easy for us to either scoff or interpret it as opiate put forward by the bad guys who were made king. Which, of course, it is to some extent.
When I conceptualize God as spirit of caring, what I get is that the dangers which we should not get complacent about are just random shocks and God is interested in helping us maintain a sense of meaning despite them. Rather than thinking of how an omnipotent God might have saved me this pain, I see that God wants to be with me and by my side, and being empathetic, feels my pain.
And of course, the experience of comfort of other people is more important even than the meaning structures we have been told about. A God of caring helps to animate a people of caring, which in turn makes caring both more rational and more likely to feel right.
Oh, but doesn't that mean that God will not stop an earthquake from killing 50,000 people? And that God will not stop a madman from leading an execution of 12 million people? The spirit of caring is not about omnipotence. It is about helping people stay out of those fits of madness and keep from brutal treatment of others. We don't start with the notion that God is a secret power who "could have" stopped these things. We focus on the catastrophe that happens when people endorse brutality and plunge into it. A catastrophe for themselves and the people around them, not just for the victims.
There is a marvelous essay in today's New York Times, apparently too new to have a link on Google.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/03/opin ... type=Blogs
Stephen Asma looks at religion, as I have been, through the lens of neuropsychology. He sees atheism as a creature of the (relatively recent, in evolutionary terms) neocortex, while religion and its emotional bonding are creatures of the limbic system (older, more fundamental, more proven). He makes a strong case that it is foolish to throw away the emotional support of other people for the sake of our skeptical impulses.
But of course that doesn't mean we have to buy into the dichotomy. We can conceptualize the matters at issue in a way that doesn't cause our skeptical neocortex to revolt, without letting go of the emotional bonding and support that comes from good practices and incarnational aspirations.
And I take it further than Asma in another way. Religion is not just a system of practices to help each other, even if it is that most fundamentally. It is also a philosophy to make the connections that animate meaning. Why does it make sense to adopt a child? Why is it a meaningful act to shed some money for a cause, even if you cannot be sure the money will be well spent? Why do we vote for justice for other people even though they might not do the same if they were in power?
We create a series of answers to such questions, and a good conceptual framework is one in which the answers are internally consistent with one another. First it has to uphold the practices of aspiration and mutual support, but ultimately it also has to make sense of life even when the chaos threatens to shatter our sense that our caring matters. Crucially, we have to give up on absoluteness of support for caring, because that is how relationship works. We do not automatically insist on any idea or principle that better supports caring, as William Jennings Bryan insisted on creationism out of disgust with the social lessons being drawn by Clarence Darrow and other Social Darwinists. Rather we try to perceive the weave, by which the emotions and the interpretations create strength of purpose.
Well, we know what to do with stumbling blocks: life our feet up and step over them.
No, of course not. Jung has the right idea: they are based on projections of power and longing for justice. As a result the relation to such a God is self-blinding, as the power claimants refuse to look at their own less-than-just choices and God's vicar burns other people at the stake. Because second-guessing one's commitment to justice is not "how power behaves." It would undermine its own methodology and sense of identity.
But Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids, as Sir Elton pointed out in Rocket Man. In fact it's cold as Hell. Either the Mars of warfare, grasping the reins of power because this life is all we have, or the Mars of Science, exploring Truth with a capital T and going wherever our questions seem to lead us (or the Mars of Rocket Man, who doesn't understand the science and responds to complicated life by getting high).
Either the hidden anthropic order of Things or the enabling conditions for human flourishing are noble symbols of a distant providence which takes some casual interest in us and has our best interests somewhere in its cold, cold heart. Until we dare to discern them actually come to life in human choices, Acts of the Body of Christ, if you like, they provide only a tepid source of bonding.
I haven't gotten far enough in my reading to catch Jung in the act of rejecting God's goodness. But Job, in insisting that there is justice in the universe and meaning despite the cruelties, has "co-created" a sense of how meaning works that does not locate it in the Creator of such a potentially monstrous Reality.
Jung wants us to look at life whole, to see both the good and the bad, and that is Job's first reaction as well. But to then take a next step and assert that therefore we "must have" done something bad if bad things happen to us, in order for justice to have meaning, is to fake meaning. We have to locate it where it is, in Job's faithfulness to meaning and Job's willingness to accept suffering and maintain his commitment.
I think the truth is that Jung was much more interested in God as a description and a theory than in God as a real, living presence in people's lives. I will refrain from commenting on the nature of Swiss culture, which I am surrounded by.
I fear I consider this to be a mistaken set of connections. Yes, man is potentially cruel like Reality, but our ultimate concern impels us to live above that potential, and reach toward the light. Survival for its own sake is a nihilistic choice in denial of meaning. Life has purpose, because we choose to live it that way.
And so we do not discern man incarnating God at Auschwitz or Nineveh. That is incarnating a bestial projection of power. Better to back off from the power claims and refrain from anthropomorphising reality.
Or we could relax the omnipotence constraint. The God who is a living presence in our life did not make a painless or essentially just universe because that was not within God's powers. Reality is what it is. We may affirm visions of order and reliability within nature, but those will always include spasms of indifferent ferocity. Why ask this "God" character to pretend to omnipotence?
Once you see the cruelty of nature in its indifference, you cannot escape the conclusion that life's trials build character. The mistake is to conclude that they are deliberately sent to us for that purpose.
Out in space again. The incarnated Spirit of Caring also does not know the future, though it may have intuitions about it. This omniscient character was a Boojum.
Fr. Richard Rohr says, in today's meditation,
And why should we seek to be like that God?
The just king, who is the archetype that the Medieval God of Providence and Judgement was meant to represent to us, would certainly not try to fix every spat between neighbors. But neither would he turn his territory over to the brigands, to contemplate the beauty of goodness up in his tower of ivory.
I think the story of the Fall is a kind of progress, because in it the Gods are not just absentee makers of nature cataclysms who try to make sure people don't get too uppity. God cares about something in human life, obedience, which can be connected to the covenant relation of the Hebrew religion. But as a story of why life is full of suffering and trouble it is as clumsy as Pandora with her box, and it works much better as a story of lost innocence when children attain sexuality and have to start being responsible. We all know what a headache that is.
But when it works right, which is actually a lot of the time, the comfort isn't blind and has arms and tears to respond when the suffering is seen. It is tents and rations from the Red Cross, and a lifeline of hope to human rights advocates. It is a casserole carried to the door of the sick.
Jung is at pains to have us see our shadow side, and not engage in denial. It says something important about our whole civilization that the cataclysms of the 20th century arose out of denial and projection of negativity, anger, fear and aggression. But the denial process was precisely not one of thinking suffering was deserved or reality is just. It was instead the one of pretended omnipotence refusing to be held accountable for just behavior.
The God of imagination, who loves us unconditionally, is a conceptualization of something quite real, who satisfies every test logic and evidence throws at it.
It is power of a type that would not be allowed to speak aloud until the last century, unless you count heavily abstracted symbolism like Voltaire's Candide. Does power resent accountability? Does white privilege resent political correctness? Is there really any question to be answered, except how to make a world in which such questions are safe to ask?
I think this slow cycle analysis is too slow to be of any use as mythology. Offer it to the pre-millenialists. They seem to be fascinated by this sort of thing.
Humanity must be mindful of our vulnerability, yes. Jesus saw that God is vulnerable, too. To care about another is to be vulnerable. In the market, others are just ways to get one's own satisfaction. We are now in a situation in which we need to learn how to add the salt and leaven of caring, even about people not of our tribe, into the meal of self-interest.
Did God learn faithfulness (or presence, as you put it) from Job? Perhaps. At least the people writing about God did, which may be all we can really assess. I agree with you that either a real Jesus or a story-Jesus who acts like the Jesus in those stories can, with approximately equal effectiveness, convey the possibility of meaning in the face of cataclysm, (or, if you like, in the face of loss and vulnerability).
|Author:||Harry Marks [ Thu Jun 07, 2018 3:13 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
This would not be my reading of the transformational process of the Yahwist religion. But Jung has considerable authority behind his reading, because it matches to a great extent the record of reflection that the post-Exilic Jews left behind. In terms of how the culture chose to understand God, as much as we can reconstruct it from our time, this is actually a pretty good reading.
The Jews would have been outraged at the idea that they were recapitulating the Egyptian "generation and regeneration" mythology, practically imposed on Egypt by the flooding cycle of the Nile, or that the earlier violent, authoritarian God was a recapitulation of the violent mythology of domination from Mesopotamian culture. But those were the motifs at work in the world of ideas at the time: the Egyptian sense of eternally renewing order, and in the Semitic/Indo-European tensions over law and light as a check on human aggression in the settled life of the farmers.
Order appears in the wisdom literature as a close attendant to wisdom. The alternative seems to be the casual brigandage of the desert dwellers and other nomadic raiders. God's Law, Torah, is the structure that resists this kind of "grab what you can" disorderly life.
One strand of distinctive Hebrew thought, covenant theology, is identifiable more with desert mysticism and the emotion of awe, grafted onto the cultural melting pot that was Canaanite culture. Trusting each other because of abstract justice and their mutual commitment to it, rather than because of kinship ties. But as the prophets had noted, Hebrew culture had also absorbed other ways of transacting with the unseen forces, most especially the fertility cults. The prophets were infused with the jealous monotheism built on Elijah's efforts to purify the culture, and this is the harsh, punitive side of Yahweh that Jung picks up on.
Even in Jeremiah, the one with the most punitive theology, God is beginning to re-imagine the relationship. " I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jer 31:33)" is the clearest expression in the prophetic literature of God looking toward a rebirth of the covenant. (Isaiah, much of which was written with the benefit of experiencing Cyrus' benevolent Persian rule, has a much gentler and more hopeful vision in mind. Lion lying down with lamb.)
I think Jung is correct in seeing this as an intrusion of gentleness by Wisdom. God has seen that relationship transcends power transactions, like a punitive father realizing that his son is a real person, struggling with the same issues of self that the father did when younger.
Casting this transformation as a matter of God choosing to be born as a man is more than a bit weird, but my unpacking of that depth psychology is that the power side of Jewish religion, the self-understanding by the leadership, had returned to the machinations that defined their role, and the people therefore rejected them and turned to Messianic hope. When John the Baptist's purist, ascetic approach brought one Yeshua to see himself as the Messiah, he also saw himself incarnating God's Kingdom as one of gentleness, in which Torah is written on people's hearts.
Is the endorsement of that vision by a movement the embodiment of God choosing relationship over sovereignty? Maybe. I have some trouble with that reading, but in an odd way it brings in the strong motif of forgiveness that seems to have been central to the Jesus movement. In Jung's reading, God has seen that Job's commitment to justice as a value is a result and crowning glory of our humble position, our lack of omnipotence and our vulnerability. And of course one can even put an evolutionary spin on that claim, as Yuval Noah Harari does to some extent, arguing that our need for other people created the conceptual structures of mind which allowed us to combine in vast enterprise and to regulate our aggression.
The punitive God of enforcing justice, which the early Christians saw as resisting the forgiveness offered by Jesus, must face the vulnerability of actually caring about people's choices and wanting their vision of the cosmos to be big enough to make sense of God's ordering vision. This actual caring is clearly a feminine side, and its (Egyptian?) regeneration of the covenant relation requires, above all, forgiveness.
If there is an Egyptian sense of the renewing waters coming to replenish the exhausted soil of trying to produce lawful order, it certainly evokes the motherly way of embracing after a fight and refusing to let the contest of wills define the relationship. I'm willing to see that as the punitive God accepting the vulnerability of relationship, at least to see where Jung is going with this connection to Job.
|Author:||Robert Tulip [ Sat Jun 09, 2018 3:22 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
Sunlight is the best disinfectant. But I think Jung is highlighting a problem of the routine extension of associations, such as that light is good while dark is bad, based on your simple metaphor of the open and the hidden. We can extend that metaphor, badly, to say being awake is good while being asleep is bad, neglecting the need for a balance of light and dark in life, since lack of sleep sends us crazy or sick. That seems to be the sort of extreme literalism that Jung is observing in John.
Part of Jung’s interest in eastern spirituality included how the duality of light and dark in the yang and yin cycle of interpenetration of opposites reflects a very different way of thinking from the dominant linear logic of western philosophy. Saying we should get rid of all dark and only strive for light is a recipe for madness.
Mr Trump and his voters provide considerable material for psychoanalysis, how a framework of dangerous mistakes, false beliefs and wilful blindness can be spun from the combination of true and false ideas.
The metaphysics of Johannine theology contains some intense powerful images, especially in the apocalypse. I like the holy city, the tree of life, the queen of heaven, and who could forget those memorable four horsemen or the lake of fire.
It is fascinating in Answer to Job how Jung dances around the problem that by objective standards there is no external evidence for the historical existence of Jesus Christ, only literary claims. Jung describes Jesus as primarily a psychic reality for believers rather than an actual man, especially once we add in the incredible claims about him.
But the John tradition will have none of that; the epistles say straight up that anyone who denies that Jesus Christ came in the flesh is the Antichrist. Such black and white, dark and light, bad and good polarities cover over the symbolic ambiguity that is undoubtedly central to the original intentions of the Jesus movement. So it is hardly surprising that the heresiologists were enamoured of John, giving such clarity for persecution.
Plato defined the four cardinal virtues as wisdom, courage, discipline and justice, while Paul saw the three main virtues as faith, hope and love. Putting these traditions together, the church saw seven virtues as explained at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_virtues
Nietzsche saw Christianity as a religion of resentment, a sort of proto-Communist unity of the poor against the rich. Ayn Rand built upon that analysis by condemning the ethic of sacrifice, the Franciscan monkish mentality. Jung does not go down that path, except that this irritable chronic condition he describes loses the self in charity, something that the Platonic virtues do not suggest.
Well he was a saint. Jung's point about irritability is that for normal people to sacrifice their personal interests in order to serve others tends to create personal resentment at lost opportunities.
The key theme in these cases tends to be personal control, mind over matter, an extension of the virtue of discipline or temperance.
I find that surprising, since anorexia seems so narcissistic, unlike self-giving.
As Jung points out, an innocent lamb becoming enraged is an unusual symbol. I find it a powerful myth, in the sense that the lamb represents the earth goddess Gaia, the passive fecundity of nature in a state of peaceful grace, but the problem of the world is that humanity has lost its sense of connection to nature, drifting away into an unmoored ideological construction.
We can extend that metaphor of lamb as nature, with its meek lack of active power. The judgement of wrath, the sense of justice at a global level, arises from the disconnect between ideology and reality, from a prophetic intuition that the passive power of nature to cease its provision of nurture for the economy, a process equivalent to divine wrath, could overcome all active human striving.
I tend to agree, but I am not sure if our reasons are the same.
Jung’s analysis seems to be that the angry Christ of the Apocalypse emerges psychologically as a compensation for the lack of balance in John’s theology, without intrinsic continuity to the Jesus of the Gospels. So we have the conscious Christ of the Gospels, full of light and goodness and love and compassion, balanced by the unconscious Christ of the apocalypse, the shadow, whose character is all about darkness and wrath and fear.
Jung says “This apocalyptic "Christ" behaves rather like a bad-tempered, power-conscious "boss" who very much resembles the "shadow" of a love-preaching bishop.” The bishop in this example puts on a distorted public persona. Jung’s psychology suggests that when we deliberately put on a show, the parts of our personality that we hide will emerge in our private conduct. I don’t think this compensation psychology makes much sense in explaining apocalyptic myths, especially considering that apocalyptic pervades the Gospels.
Jung says “In all this I see less a metaphysical mystery than the outburst of long pent-up negative feelings such as can frequently be observed in people who strive for perfection.” This effort to explain mythology in terms of psychology essentially says that the underlying prophetic claim, that the world is heading toward a catastrophic crunch, is secondary to how such seemingly febrile language makes its proponents feel emotionally.
Jung’s key statement about the shadow is that “this [apocalyptic] Christ-figure may… have more of the human John in it, with his compensating shadow, than of the divine saviour who, as the light of lights, contains "no darkness."… seen in the light of the gospel of love, the avenger and judge remains a most sinister figure.” That may seem hard to square with Jung’s earlier equation of God with Reality.
Christians find it comforting to think the God of Reality is Love, and that God will therefore forgive sin. Yet this story of an implacable judge also stands as an object of fear, with Jung saying, like Kierkegaard, “One can submit to such a God only with fear and trembling.”
Jung’s shadow theory of religion sees faith as “a collective, archetypal process”, whereby “the imitation of Christ creates a corresponding shadow in the unconscious.” This shadow takes the form of visions arising from “an unusual tension between conscious and unconscious.”
|Author:||Harry Marks [ Sun Jun 10, 2018 2:49 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
I guess I see Jung's analysis focusing more on the extreme refusal to see the darkness, without caring much about the tension behind it. He does not give us reason to credit the dark, to see its value and contributions, as you did sleep. Maybe he has done that elsewhere, and simply expected his audience to be familiar already with the dangers of repression.
The rigid and merciless side of lawfulness is explored in Les Miserables. Inspector Javert sees himself as an agent of the light, but his inability to accept plain evidence of Valjean having reformed and become a benefactor of the community shows that his concept of the light has much darkness in it. Jung seems to have something like this in mind when taking the vengeful lamb in Revelation to be the shadow side of the extremely pure and perfect Jesus of the fourth Gospel.
But I have trouble with that on several grounds. First, scholars now tend to see the Revelation as emerging more from the Jewish Christian community of Asia Minor who had more in common with the Jews that John treated as the enemy, perhaps Ebionites or Paul's "Judaizers," than with the "God is Love" Johannine community. Not only is there no theology of Grace present, but the deliberate use of late-post-Exilic apocalyptic literature is an approach not taken in the fourth Gospel and the Johannine epistles, who seem to build their cosmology and theology from the ground up, so to speak.
Second, there is plenty of conflictual material already in John's Gospel, without needing to turn to the heavy artillery of the Revelation. John builds the story of the crucifixion around a healing on the Sabbath, taken as an offense by rigid, legalistic Judaism, and then the raising of Lazarus, which makes Jesus irresistibly powerful in the eyes of the common people. Probably the power shown by Lazarus' resurrection is meant to be a symbol of the power the movement gained from its preaching of Jesus' resurrection, which seems to have been regarded in the early church as an indication that they would all be "caught up in the air" soon. But all of this is triumphalism, rather than being particularly vindictive or violent. Jesus is consistently portrayed in John as powerful, with superhuman knowledge, superhuman self-control, superhuman humility and superhuman connection to God. His condescension to Pilate is remarkable.
Well, that's fair enough and I think the point in general should be well taken. Long before Christianity was an official religion with power to purge, cast down and punish, it was creating a certain amount of self-blindness with a narrative of new creation that had little room for people's human side. Paul's letters exemplify this nicely, with exalted rhetoric contrasting with mundane issues like whether eating meat sacrificed to idols would antagonize overly scrupulous brethren, and even cause them to stumble. I think the absolute nature of the rhetoric is scary enough without needing any lambs that put people to the sword.
Again, note that the Revelation may be, and probably is, from a different tradition. The imagery is much different, between those I cited and those you cited - the first being person-centered, with a strong relationship component in most cases, rather than institutional with nature as ancient base symbol. John is noted for the most human stories of encounter with Jesus within the gospels, especially the Woman at the Well and the Wedding at Cana, though the story of Zacchaeus is perhaps a rival.
He may simply have been picking his battles - with no special point to make about the factuality of the Jesus stories, he may have been happy to avoid unnecessary confrontation.
Certainly valid points. My understanding, from long ago, was that the Johannine community was confronted by early Donatists and proto-gnostics, and saw those approaches as disturbingly separatist and riddled with a pretense to superior insight. How different might things have been if the gnostics had been happy to teach that the less spiritualized version and their preferred version were "saying the same thing." Or indeed if they had taken stronger aim at the elitist sociology of their movement rather than claiming some superior insight about the true nature of things.
People pretend to discipline, faith and love. They may wear out their self-control with this pretense. Hard to imagine the same for wisdom, courage, justice or hope. Essentially I am arguing that Jung's observation applies to discipline, though perhaps it applies also to lesser claims to virtue such as humility and generosity.
There's a marvelous line of analysis in Maggie Scarf's "Intimate Partners" that draws on clinical practice. When a couple is locked in a repeating dysfunctional pattern, such as accuse-withdraw or cling-reject or offend-relent, the best approach to breaking it seems to be to choose actions as "work" or "therapy" simply because they please the other person. By restoring the person's orientation to what they found attractive about the partner in the first place, and by stepping out of a pattern created by the interaction of their fears, the person following this reconstructs autonomy and the ability to make choices.
In much the same way, I think if we are willing to choose virtue as an exercise, because of something we are drawn toward, we are likely to find ourselves pulled out of the orbit of weakness and chaos and into the orbit of "normal" virtue, not heroic but goal-oriented. Whereas if they are primarily acting because they are fearful of "appearing" weak (or, to be more exact, of people realizing they are weak) then the "chronic virtue" actors will find themselves irritable, erratic and filled with a sense of artificiality about their own virtuous behavior.
Had to laugh. Good point.
There is still plenty of room for society to be transformed based on win-win opportunities to pursue self-interest. Choosing the path of self-emptying is for those who have recognized the problems with the other ways.
I agree, as said above, that people try to fake discipline. But obviously lots of us have met the truly temperate and they are not given to eruptions of irritability. These days head-on aspirational transformation is not regarded as a very wise goal, and even in religious circles the 12-step advice to let go is seen as more hopeful.
I'm not sure we yet have a strong idea how to go step-by-step to the transformational path of letting go, but there seems to be a strong component of letting go of a need to "seem" virtuous. Since that is a flip side of low self-esteem, this should not be too surprising. The relationship to a "Higher Power" is not mainly about giving control to the Higher Power so much as perceiving our value in terms of the caring relationship by the Higher Power. We acknowledge being valued, before we concern ourselves with who is boss.
I'm not an expert, but my understanding is that anorexia and bulimia are very much about asserting self in the face of controlling parents. But the person is hiding the facts of the situation from her- or himself as well, and creating the false self-image out of a need to have something to exercise self-control over. I rather suspect there is very little of what the clinical people call narcissism in it, and a lot of overlap with Jung's issue. I see that related issue as a need to see oneself as insufficiently giving or virtuous so as to have something to be opposed to within one's sphere of influence.
In my first Original Oratory, in high school, I borrowed from the old margarine commercial saying "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature" and changed it to "It's not nice to rape Mother Nature." My teacher was not very amused.
Well, given that the apocalyptic issues he saw were conflict over domination and mutual accusation of abuse of people [edit for clarity: mutual "demonization" was what I had in mind - accusation of capitalist exploitation, on one hand, and totalitarian repression, on the other] in the rival system, I would say people's emotions were vitally important. Less so in terms of today's inability to come to grips with climate issues, but still the [working class] feeling of being ignored and being held in contempt is a vital part of the politics, if not exactly the decisive part.
The quote Kierkegaard was working from was admonishment to "work out your own salvation in fear and trembling." This from the same Paul who advised us that salvation was by grace through faith, and that nothing could separate us from the love of God. Please note that the rest of the Pauline admonition is "for it is God who is at work in you."
As usual, with the comments which seem extreme, Kierkegaard was working out of irony. Faith is the antidote to fear and trembling, for Kierkegaard, but he confesses to lacking faith himself. ("If I had had faith, I would have married Regina," he is reputed to have said.) It seems the fear we are to have is not of God or divine wrath, but of fear ("angst" = despair or anxiety) itself. If we are confident that we are known and forgiven, we gain the power of choice about our own behavior, which we lack if we are, for example, trying to prove something or trying to fake something or even just trying to excel in righteousness. "Works righteousness," aimed at earning self-esteem, steals our ability to truly choose.
|Author:||Harry Marks [ Sun Jun 10, 2018 1:37 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
This fits with everything we know about predestination. Jung had presumably read Max Weber's "Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism", the second great pillar of 19th C. sociology (besides Marx.) The doctrine exalts the sovereignty of God, and gave lawyers like Calvin a place to stand in resisting the growing strength of nationalism and its Divine Right of Kings. Most especially it helped capitalist masters to feel that their riches were signs of God's approval, and thus that they were correct in concluding that workers should not be taking so many holy feast days off of work. Though technically they could not know if they were in the elect, the signs were obvious for all to see.
I am intrigued by Jung's assertion that the status of one who is elect would give them a sense of being a meaningful person. While in one sense this is no more significant than being a winner on X Factor (or America's Got Talent, or whatever Simon Cowell is calling this stuff these days), on the other hand it does tap into the sense that one is diligent and sober and reverent as a result of God's favor. "Life is on my side," might be the motto of the elect, if they would open themselves to their shadow side.
This is part way between the hyper-masculine godliness of punitive, judgmental omnipotence and the feminine godliness of wisdom and vulnerable caring. It is perfectly happy to cast most people into the lake of fire, with a sense that they deserve it in their fecklessness. It has the strength to stand up to kings, but lacks the mercy that makes an effective king great.
As an aside, Calvinist culture led to a blossoming of educated society. The Scottish Enlightenment, featuring Hume, Gibbon (of the Roman Empire's Decline and Fall), Adam Smith and James Watt, grew out of the Calvinist near-obsession with education. Does anyone doubt that the highly educated mainly see themselves as the elect, endowed by the cosmos with a right to pronounce just and righteous verdicts upon the lesser people who perish in their ignorance?
Perhaps it's time for universities to take seriously their mission for public service, and learn to temper the justice of their superior intellect with the mercy of concern for humanity.
|Author:||Robert Tulip [ Mon Jun 11, 2018 7:45 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
Picking up on Jung’s theme of religious statements as psychic facts, discussed again below, your comment here show how a theology of the cross can be transposed into an inadequate secular vision, accepting the death of Christ but not the rising. The scientific impossibility of the resurrection makes it easy to assume the return from death is pure myth, while the initial plausibility of the death story retains a historical quality. But this belief that the death of Christ was primarily a historical event rather than a symbolic archetype ignores the essential message and meaning of the story.
The mimetic continuity with the age-old myths of dying and rising saviours (using Girard’s term for imitation) illustrates the real intent, while the numerous anomalies in the gospel accounts give reason to see the historical event as dubious. But these anomalies do not touch on the real intent.
As you point out in the approach of progressive Christianity, finding the real meaning of the story, what it can mean for us today, sets the cross and resurrection as equally symbolic and equally powerful. Stories like the seed that must die in order to create new life illustrate that for faith the return to life is the key theme, the victory of life over death, with the inability of death to overcome life. Creativity, symbolised by spiritual rebirth, is the reward for self-emptying, symbolised by the death on the cross.
Jung makes an excellent comment on this theme of real meaning in story: “The spirit and meaning of Christ are present and perceptible to us even without the aid of miracles. Miracles appeal only to the understanding of those who cannot perceive the meaning. They are mere substitutes for the not understood reality of the spirit.”
The meaning is purely spiritual, not historical. An emphasis on signs and wonders represents a degraded consciousness, as Christ himself explained in discussing his miraculous feeding of the four thousand at Mark 8:12. Like the resurrection, the meaning of even this remarkable miracle is not a physical sign from heaven, but something we must seek in a deeper spiritual meaning.
The symbolic meaning of rebirth is an unconscious archetype that is only partly reflected in conscious awareness. The goal of holism, integration with reality, is reflected in a range of stories about becoming at one with God that underpin the concept of atonement. These stories are reflected across the whole range of processes of healing and restoration, as well as in all the natural cycles of earth such as the day, month and year.
If the original intent was to celebrate such universal processes of life, then we could expect any but the most damaged of fundamentalists to see the parable of cyclic return, restoration, recovery, restitution, regeneration, recurrence, rebirth, redemption, etc.
I think you are neglecting the centrality of the annual cycle of the seasons for ancient subsistence agriculture, as the framework of time. The timing of Christmas and Easter is essentially determined to celebrate when the day starts to get longer and when the day becomes longer than the night each year.
The time to sow and the time to reap become deeply symbolic rituals of annual recurrence of the same events. This solar symbolism appears throughout the Gospels, presenting Jesus as a human image of the sun, illustrating how natural processes of the day and year had a deep sanctity in ancient myth, even while that natural substrate does not exhaust the full spiritual and cultural meaning.
I agree, the theology of the cross, with its myth of the triumphant victory of the despised and rejected, tells a historical story of human psychology that is far deeper than the order of nature alone.
The construction of spiritual myth has an autonomy from nature, a sense of cultural transcendence, that cannot be reduced in some Marxist fashion like an epiphenomenon of an economic base. I don’t think we can explain the Christian mythos by reduction to solar allegory, but nor should we ignore that meaning, with its strong connection to such central solar archetypes as order, stability, glory, power, light, life and rebirth.
|Author:||Robert Tulip [ Tue Jun 12, 2018 10:52 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
You may have read my review of The Memory Code, where I look at the anthropology of memory to show that the ancient mixing of spiritual and symbolic language was highly complex, linked to processes of knowledge and initiation.
Your phrase ‘simply a single process’ needs to recognise the range of social, political, psychological and economic agendas involved in the mixing of spirit and metaphor in myth. The importance of this connection between spirit and metaphor is that the later Christian insistence on literal dogma, seeing spirits as entities, involved a corrupted degradation of the original intent of spiritual language, which was intended more to construct a working myth than to insist on an objective supernatural truth that excluded other interpretations.
The trouble with metaphor, in my reading, emerged with the use of Christianity by the Roman Empire as a universal faith, with its aim of banning spiritual dissent, placing religion in service to military security. The psychology of dogmatism now has a deep hold in religious practice, to the point that adherents reject the description of their beliefs as one myth alongside others, but instead claim a privileged objective status for their claims.
The ecstatic traditions that you describe tend to be mystical and shamanistic, linked in to far more ancient cultural practices, especially the veneration of knowledge as a source of social power, as described in The Memory Code.
To give the sacred the status of technology means the capacity to use beliefs and rituals as means to an end, as instruments for social purposes, generally linked to sustaining hierarchical control by the alliance of throne and altar, kings and priests. That pervasive historical practice involves a corruption of the meaning of the sacred away from an openness to mystery toward a validation of shared dogma.
The church focus on control destroys freedom, and that is precisely the argument of the Inquisitor against Christ, that Christ emphasised freedom in a way that destroys the alleged redeeming power of imperial stability. A covenant has come to mean a legal agreement backed by state powers of enforcement. And yet the new covenant presented by Jesus Christ in the Bible is as you say, more about a sense of meaning than a system of control. Again, these problems illustrate the dialectic between messianic transformation and stable order in religion. Order is like what SJ Gould calls equilibrium in evolution, whereas transformation punctuates the stability. So normal time values order, but the redemptive vision always points toward an uneasy sense that our order is only provisional, and in need of messianic change.
Micah 6:8 is a famous and concise summary, “The LORD God has told us what is right and what he demands: "See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God."
That is ambiguous. The attitude of faith is seen as the process that delivers salvation by grace, inspiring good works, but also validated in divine instructions such as the ten commandments.
The theology of providence has never been as prominent in Australia as in the USA. My interpretation is somewhat Marxist, reflecting an economic analysis of base and superstructure, that the seemingly endless frontier inspired the American myths of boundless providence, until the modern observation of the wreckage caused by imagining nature as infinite placed a check on providence theology. By contrast, the arid centre of Australia supported a much more sceptical social mythology.
And when nature does prove providential, it provides the resources and incentives to expand discretionary activities of worship. The natural abundance that inspired thanksgiving as a secularised religious festival in the USA helps to explain why America remains so much more religious than other western countries.
Climate change is the wrecking ball for providence. The shift from an infinite to a finite view of the world is associated with a change of religious mythology from supernatural dogma to natural metaphor. The stubborn persistence of infinite mentalities is best illustrated in the denial of climate change, with the assumption that we can shit in our nests as much as we like with no worry about repercussions. The modern sense of providence is grounded in the false belief that fossil fuels are infinite. Your mention of giving thanks to nature reflects an indigenous value system of shared identity and existential recognition of finitude.
Anyone who respects evidence and logic as the highest values should feel uneasy about how providence functions in the popular religious ideation of prosperity theology with its assumption that wealth is proof of divine blessing. The story of Job suggests a far more circumspect attitude toward the presence of grace, recognising that our world is fallen into corruption and that we should more carefully analyse the attitudes and practices that could support a path of redemption. Belief in providence promotes a complacent attitude toward nature, suggesting that the all-forgiving love of God will solve any problems. The reality is that the risk of collapse can only be averted through rigorous empirical analysis, not by supernatural prayer.
The harmony in life that comes from respect for nature involves a quasi-mystical sense of oneness, quite different from what you describe as the instrumental God. I have long found it ironic that the Christian doctrine of the atonement provide by Christ on the cross reflects a deeper meaning that atoning means becoming at one, achieving the sense of respectful harmony you describe. The conversion of this atoning respect into a mechanistic doctrine of salvation through belief is among the deepest flaws in conventional Christian mythology.
Your mention of the shamanistic practice of gratitude to the spirit of a killed animal puts me in mind of Carlos Castaneda, whose philosophy centrally emphasises the critique of illusory control, with the Yacqui Sorceror Don Juan Matus explaining that modern American society suffers from a delusional theory of reason, failing to embed the cognitive desire for control in a humble sense of an encompassing mysterious reality.
Here is a story about giving thanks to a deer, emphasising the ability of such respectful practices to confront the alienation of modern butchery, with meat understood as a product of Styrofoam wrap rather than a living animal. https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/connec ... ts-0402135
|Author:||Robert Tulip [ Wed Jun 13, 2018 5:25 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
All this discussion is immensely helpful for my planned talk at the Canberra Jung Society in July (abstract of talk is here). One theme I particularly wish to explore is how psychology engages with economic determinism, looking at the story of Job against the physical framework of long term climate change, in terms of the Marxist theory that the material base of society causes the cultural superstructure.
Marx postulated the essentials of the base–superstructure concept in his preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859), where he said “The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political, and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.”
My analysis of climate determinism provides a physical context for social existence and cultural evolution. The fascinating observation is that the primary long term climate marker, the precession of the perihelion, directly causes ice age cycles, and these cycles directly correlate with aspects of culture and myth. The old myth of descent from a golden age into an iron age matches exactly to the precession of the perihelion from northern summer at the dawn of the Holocene to northern winter today. I discuss this in my recent essay on The Precessional Structure of Time.
Job sits midway along this path of descent, during the height of the fall, both from warmth and from grace. This context of fall provides the economic base upon which humanity has unconsciously constructed its mythological superstructure. The willingness of God to deliver Job into the hands of Satan encodes the real problem that the evolution of agricultural and metal technology that underpinned writing and civilization also increased the risk and scale of arbitrary suffering. Job was the greatest man of the east, demonstrating his power and wealth through ostentatious feasting, but lost his livestock to thieves and meteorites, his slaves to the marauding edge of the sword, his ten children to a house roof collapse, his health to loathsome sore boils, and the support of his wife to despair and cursing of God. Yet Job maintains his faith and integrity through these misfortunes.
Civilization, the shift of human society from nomadic hunting and gathering to settled agriculture and industry, enabled steady growth of wealth and stability, but the growing scale of population and armies destroyed the peaceful security that had enabled earlier smaller human societies to live in freedom and isolation, respecting wisdom as the source of social power, and respecting the autonomy of both male and female identity and tradition. Agriculture made food more abundant and reliable, but of lower quality, and produced surpluses that funded kings and priests who established systems of hierarchical control.
|Author:||Robert Tulip [ Thu Jun 14, 2018 7:44 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
The story of Job sits in the middle of the fall period produced by this analysis, indicating the cultural dislocation produced by the question of how God could empower Satan. The answer to this question is that when climate is improving, Satan is chained, and when climate is worsening, Satan is released.
This myth of Satan is allegory for the natural cycle between times of grace, the cosmic summer, and times of corruption, the cosmic winter, marked by the date of the perihelion, the primary cause of the insolation shift shown in the diagram. At the annual scale, the comparable model is that the Satanic forces of difficulty and struggle emerge in the fall, and are then confined again in the spring.
The current relevance is that the dominant paradigm still has continuity with the assumed worsening from the Holocene period of fall, and needs a fundamental mythological shift to enable an optimistic trajectory of cultural ascent. That is a model that provides a scientific framework to explain the Christian theory of fall and redemption.
It means the redemption side of the equation requires scientific psychological analysis of the economy of orbital mechanics as the underlying driver of mythological ideation, seeing the myth of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ as the catalyst for a scientific paradigm shift.
|Author:||Harry Marks [ Thu Jun 14, 2018 8:39 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
I hadn't, except for the barest of look-ins, but thanks for bringing it up again. It does indeed sound fascinating.
Well, I was going only on third-hand discussions which made it sound as though healing, in a shamanistic context, was the only social and psychological agenda in the animistic, primordial systems before Druids and rival gods and city states and empires. In the Native American animism, there are also initiations and attempts to influence nature (e.g. rain dances) but these seem to be embedded in a system in which "right relation" is the guiding concept and healing, in the largest possible sense, is the purpose of involvement with spiritual things.
I am open to more complexity in the Paleolithic cultures. The whole idea of mnemonic Songlines sounds like it brings in the possibility of status and economic issues in the cultivation of healing knowledge. In fact one of the most appealing aspects of the "Memory Code" thesis of transformation, to me, was the idea that status was already present as a social dynamic before military domination began to be practiced. I would have guessed that the earlier template for achieving status was economic, based on something like control of key trading land or control of mines and other high value places. But in the context of nomadic-based hunter-gatherer cultures, knowledge preservation sounds at least as likely. Control of key territory may have been the bridge between the two systems.
I'm not sure you have pinned down the point of degradation well. The stories around Elijah, who sought to establish monotheism against the empires around Israel and Judah, are heavily infused with literalism. Sadly, the strand of covenant theology that served to bring together disparate ethnicities, symbolized by the linked stories of Ruth and David, seems to have had approximately zero influence within the Elijah community (with the possible exception of his interaction with foreigners such as Naaman and the widow of Zarephath). No sense of overcoming boundaries with common covenant - only by hearkening to Yahweh. Elijah seems to have been both literalist and exclusivist, and to have linked the two together purposely.
Although in the 2d and 3d century there were dogmatists, including some decidedly odd ones, it's true that Constantine's desire for a single, settled set of precepts seems to have empowered that brand of leadership. There were also skilled analysts of metaphor, including Paul himself IMO, outside of that mode's true home in gnosticism. But just as Paul treated his vision of the risen Christ to him as "an appearance" on a par with the other appearances of the Risen Christ, (long after the supposed Ascension, of which he seems to show no awareness), the serious players in defining Christianity's future seemed to have shifted easily between metaphor and quasi-history as modes of understanding spiritual truth.
It was also used in struggles between throne and altar, perhaps most poignantly portrayed for the "Walk of Canossa" of Emperor Henry IV, in the Investiture Controversy.
A case can be made for this kind of spiritual authority on earth, but in the end, it turns out that power corrupts. In my view, faith in a crucified Messiah insists that openness to mystery is a more ultimate power than violence - the one can organize the other effectively, but not vice versa.
Political freedom derives from spiritual freedom, which is a fact, not a principle to be proposed and agreed on. In the end, the one who knows what makes life meaningful is in a position to instruct the powers of violence in what they should do with them, relying only on the ability to persuade.
That's a very interesting set of propositions. Order and normality are deeply spiritual, in my view, but sometimes we recognize a need for transformation. It happens in political structures, but also in family systems and inner spirituality. The famous alternative of chronos vs. kairos, sequential time vs. the right moment, is expressing much the same thing. I think I need to give more thought to identifying the transformative moment with messianic intervention, but at first blush it sounds right. Provisionality of the stable order is key, but what a challenging prospect to take on!
I guess I am not clear what the problem is. We can't just approach the commandments with a compliance mentality, "Okay, I did that, can I get into Heaven now?" but it would take some pretty strange circumstances to justify throwing them out. If a person really has faith that shalom is meaningful, that it gives life meaning to work for a just order of things, how would they not endorse the basic principles of law?
When I said "not do-and-don't commands" I was trying to insist on seeing beneath them, not proposing to throw them out. I think the ordering principle involved may be the same one as "provisionality of the stable order of things."
That's really interesting. I am surely quintessentially American in my boundless capacity to see whatever I grew up with as the natural state of everything everywhere.
There is an interesting process going on in Progressive Christian churches (in America, and to some extent Europe, I hasten to add, not knowing about the situation outside those.) We are trying to see ourselves more embedded in nature, and caretaking as more central to shalom and to the transformation of human society. As with the acceptance of feminism, I think the result is turning out to be far more revealing and instructive than originally expected. Arrogance easily hides itself as "the natural order of things."
We are learning to see the gift of finitude, and the shared social identity created by our shared situation of dependence on nature. You can only eat so much cake and ice cream without risking diabetes. If you only get a sense of meaning from having stuff other people don't, you have doomed yourself to meaninglessness.
Prosperity gospel is deeply confused, it's true. But so is the gospel of renunciation it reacts against. "Eat your peas - the children in China are starving." Jesus had far more to say about wealth than about sexuality, but Christianity turned into a religion about sexual self-control rather than one about abundance and the empowerment of the community.
I think you would have been pleased with my church's recent exploration of "theories of atonement." It began with this observation that atonement is about re-unification and harmonization, and consistently evaluated the traditional theories on that basis. More and more it is making sense to people that kenosis is a critical step in seeking harmony with creation and our fellow humans. And that the surprise of resurrection is the (metaphorical) content of salvation.
|Author:||Harry Marks [ Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:00 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
I think it is unfortunate that we need stories of sorcery and experiences out of the body to appreciate the mystery of the reality we all live within. I have heard a number of people who insist on the literal truth of Don Juan's exploits, not being able to take them seriously otherwise.
The best image for this mystery, to me, came in a sermon illustration. Most of us have heard it, in one form or another. A virtuoso musician, whom people by the thousands pay to listen to in concert, is induced to play on the street corner as a busker. The busy people of the city rush by in their hundreds, ignoring the magnificent music. But a mother cannot pull her child away from it, as he tries to get her to listen. He's the only one who hears the music.
Life is like that. Heaven is other people.
Thanks for that. I loved the beauty of the deer. To come close to a wild thing in the wild is a staggering experience. We interact mainly with small animals or domesticated animals or animals in the zoo. None of those really conveys the mystery of life.
|Author:||Harry Marks [ Thu Jun 14, 2018 10:01 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Answer to Job|
Fair dinkum, mate. There is no way to disentangle the meaning from the story, which is possibly a way of defining what makes a story mythical.
Either the story as conceived by early Christianity, or the story as created by Jesus himself, has roots in the myths of reborn community in the Jewish prophetic literature. The dry bones coming together. The healing by the stripes of the suffering servant. The peaceable kingdom. The transcendent value of what God really wants over the forms and ceremonies of the cult. The mission of Israel to the nations.
I don't have a big problem with that stuff drawing on other rebirth stories from outside the Hebrew tradition. But it is bigger, deeper, richer and more powerful than the rebirth stories I have read from other mythologies.
This is far beyond anything I had dared to say to myself before, but I think it is profound and, once you see it, inescapable.
Please note that, as Tillich observed, a symbol is not arbitrary but participates in the thing symbolized. A woman nursing an infant is an obvious symbol of nurturance. The experience of speaking in tongues is a symbol of the power of the Holy Spirit. The probable hallucination of Jesus restored is a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus as the body of Christ, and the victory of life over death.
If someone had told stories of Jesus trouncing Roman legions, people would not have believed it. Not just because there was no historical record of such an event, but also because that is not what "Jesus is Lord" means. It may be sad that a degraded consciousness sifted out of the cultural success of Christianity, but I believe in every age there have been people who saw the meaning as clearly as the disciples did.
If we see the version from nature as an unconscious pattern, with resonance only partly conscious, then I think these two patterns integrate reasonably well. I am not even sure it would be a good idea to try to lay out their relationship in complete and gory detail, losing some of the mystery in the process. Lose the mystery, lose the music.
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