Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Misinterpretations within Orthodox Christianity

Our society’s extreme faith in money is reinforced theologically by an interpretation of the Gospel story written exclusively to strengthen the hierarchical Roman imperial government. The Council of Nicaea 325 A.D., twelve years after Emperor Constantine’s conversion, decreed that Jesus is “both fully man and fully God.”* Theologically, this interpretation is expressed by the predominant faith in Christian churches in the historically inerrant Bible. The film Zeitgeist, despite its coming to the wrong conclusion among its other shortcomings, does a satisfactory job in deconstructing the doctrine of historical inerrancy.

As Carl Jung discovered in his analysis of psychic symbols, the idea that Jesus is “both fully man and fully God” misrepresents Jesus. The Gospels present Jesus as sinless and incorporate elements from Greek and Persian saviour myths, specifically regarding his birth and resurrection. The Jesus presented in the Gospels, according to Jung, is “more God than man.”*

The acceptance of the Nicaean interpretation leads to a one-sided attitude towards society, in which the existing political authorities or ideologies are given too much credence. If Jesus the historical man indeed singularly achieved full integration with God 2000 years ago, then what is left for our communities to achieve, other than to wait for the End of Days? Community life loses its direction. What’s the point of sustaining morality through the community? It is easier to impose morality either through strong central authorities or through the order imposed by market forces. Jesus and Jesus only can achieve integration with God, and any further attempt to try, by this view, is heretical spiritual arrogance.

Contrast this orientation with the one that follows from Jung’s interpretation of the Gospels that Jesus is “more God than man.” The story of Jesus, in Jung’s view, is a partial manifestation of the Christ archetype. Communities ought to figure out better ways to sustain morality, because an Incarnation experience more fully rooted in empirical history is achievable.

The Jesus of the Gospels is a merger of history with Persian and Greek religious stories. The Gospels are Holy because of their psychological relevance, which provide a well-refined, yet still partial, image of the pattern of Incarnation--the synthesis of human and Divine, conscious and unconscious. As a culture, we must try to improve our communities so they are more psychologically nurturing and so they promote the growth of moral, egalitarian relationships. The greed we witness in the economic arena is reinforced by our misunderstanding of our culture’s most impactful psychological symbol. We misinterpret the story of Jesus as the End Goal of spiritual life rather than as a pattern which can learn from, but also improve upon by seeking a manifestation of Christ more concretely rooted in empirical history than is the story of Jesus.

Archibald Robertson makes the same point in his excellent book The Origins of Christianity.

Orthodoxy accepts at their face value the books of the New Testament, despite their contradictions. It is thus committed to a creed according to which God, without ceasing to be God, became man in the person of Jesus Christ, suffered death under a Roman governor of Judaea in the first century, rose again, founded the Catholic Church, and will return hereafter to judge the living and the dead. ...

The more radical reject an historical founder and regard Jesus as a mystery-god pure and simple. ...The Pauline Epistles refer to a mystery cult among Greek-speaking Jews of the diaspora, whose Christ Jesus was no leader of flesh and blood but a god by whom its initiates were to be redeemed from this evil world, and which attracted rich as well as poor converts.
- from http://www.ditext.com/robertson/oc8.html#s11

Also, from Jerry Wright's article Christ, a Symbol of the Self:

This distinction between the historical and the symbolical is essential if the Christian symbols are to retain their power to touch the inner depths of the modern person...

The Jewish rabbi and reformer, Jesus, lived a personal, concrete, historical life. However, it was the archetypal image of a Redeemer slumbering, so to speak, in the collective unconscious, which became attached to that unique life. This powerful collective image made itself visible, so to speak, in the man Jesus, so that seeing him people glimpsed the greater personality which seeks conscious realization in each person...

Briefly stated, at an early stage Jesus became the collective figure whom the unconscious of his contemporaries expected to appear and Jesus took on those projections. In this way, Jesus’ life exemplifies the archetype of the Christ, or in Jung’s psychological language, the Self, which is a more inclusive word for the inner image of god, the imago Dei, which resides in every person.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Zeitgeist: The Movie -- the good and the bad

Zeitgeist: The Movie starts out with a well-placed psychological analysis of the connection between war and religion, and with an impactful video of missile-launchers playing the sound of the drums in the orchestra. There is a lot to like about the analysis and style of the film especially in Part I, but unfortunately the film goes downhill from there, and Part III's analysis has fundamental problems.

The movie correctly emphasizes that the Gospel story of Jesus Christ is heavily influenced by earlier religious myths of Egypt, Greece, and Persia [see here ]. The film states that the Bible is an "astrotheological literary hybrid," and explains Christianity as starting as an astrological cult that borrowed heavily from the Greek myths of Attis and Dionysis and the Persian myth of Mithras. The idea that the story of Christ is psychological more than historical agrees precisely with Jung's claims that Christ is "more God than man."

Jung, however, would claim that the astrological story and the story of Christ are both images of the same universal archetype. Christianity has certainly been used extensively to further the purposes of the existing power structures, but power will use anything that is politically expedient. Part of the reason that Christianity has remained relevant for so long, Jung would argue, is that the story of Christ's life provides the most refined image of the archetype of the Incarnation--the synthesis of human and Divine, conscious and unconscious--so far, at least within Western culture. Remember, however, that Jung believes the Christ of the Gospels to be more God than man. Jung believes that a greater psychological impact is attainable by an Incarnation experience more fully rooted in empirical history than is the Christ myth.

From here, the film goes downhill for me. Al Franken's book The Truth (with jokes) convincingly tells about all the warnings the Bush administration had about the possibility of suicide bombers using commercial planes [here's a blog post making the same point]. For all the scientists who claim that the planes "could not possibly" have caused that kind of building damages, the fact is that most of scientific truth is established through experiments, and very few experiments have been performed involving the demolition of 100 story buildings, let alone crashing planes into them! The Bush administration certainly lied again and again to use the event to further their military goals--the point the movie makes about terrorism providing an "enemy image that unites a society" is pure gold--but for me the evidence points against the probability that the US government was involved in the destruction of buildings.

The way in which the third part of the film equates the Federal interest rate to slavery is fundamentally flawed. This article says it well, "Instead of offering critical perspectives on the structures within society that cause oppression and poverty, the general view [of the film] is society as it stands is benevolent and this benevolence is subverted by problems in the sphere of circulation." Concentrations of influence and capital are increasingly being accumulated within financial institutions at this time, and so concern about them is appropriate. However, change is achievable only by confronting social relationships as a whole. Eliminating interest rates would only stagnate the economy, would result in more suffering for the poorer half of the population, and would not move toward a solution. As Huxley wrote, "life is a whole and that desirable changes in one department will not produce the results anticipated from them, unless they are accompanied by desirable changes in all other departments."

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Good essay here!

Googled the words "ungendered" "marx" and "jung" and this essay came up!

The readiness to accept the phallic God in our society is positively related to the existential anxiety that the society is experiencing due to its having a brutal heritage, total lack of security, the inadequacy or absence of the welfare social system, the widespread corruption and unemployment, as well as to political programs of limited informational content and alternative visions. This need for a Phallic God is operating unconsciously to a major extent, and it represents the need of defending oneself against annihilation. Such a need can hardly be changed by the words of the linear logic of the conscious mind, since this need and its satisfaction are operating to a great extent in the unconscious level. To effect a change in the unconscious level of mentation, a person needs, as any psychiatrist or psychotherapist knows, to develop an emotional insight into one’s needs and conflicts. I cite a simple though a relevant example. We know that the vast majority of smokers know (they have the intellectual insight) that smoking is a risk factor in causing lung cancer. However, they would continue smoking nevertheless and would use all the words they have at their disposal to rationalise away their smoking addiction. What they need in order to stop smoking is rather a totally different insight which is the emotional insight The emotional insight is achieved though working through the unconscious defence mechanisms, hence it is much harder, and needs a longer time, to achieve.

Right on! Written about Iraq, but many elements are applicable to the US.