Thursday, May 20, 2010

Prototypes of Christ

I often say that every school of theology should require the works of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. They explain the origin of religious beliefs. No, they’re the first to say no one can really explain the depths of the human psyche, but they come as close as anyone.

When I was trying to be an atheist—it was after I realized that Christian mythology resembles pagan mythology—I did what I see my atheist friends do. I chucked it all, all that crap in the Bible and in corrupt churches. And then I found Jung. And then I was given the gift of my Higher Power. And it all fell into place. I can’t remember the sequence of revelations but Joseph Campbell is certainly in there. Oh, and finding my way back to the monastery that had helped to mother me.

With all this forming me, I now say “Amen” to both religious and atheist proclamations. I do this by translating religious language to a degree of symbolism deeper than most Christians can handle. The symbol of Christ, for instance.

Jung teaches us that Christ is a symbol of the inner self in every human person. It is
not peculiar to Christianity alone (although in Christianity [the image has] undergone a development and intensification of meaning not to be found in any other religion).
Psychology and Religion
Among the prototypes of Christ that Jung mentions are Asian Indian and Persian figures. Native Americans examples abound, and anthropologists can cite examples in indigenous cultures around the world. Joseph Campbell has found thousands in the myths of the world. Atheists can cite dozens of pagan Christ-like gods and goddesses.

Right in the Bible are prototypes of Christ.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus claims,
Before Abraham came to be I am.
The father loved me before the foundation of the world.
The father sent me.
I am the way and the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the father but through me.
In Proverbs 8 Sophia declares,
The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, . . .
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth. . . .
Happy are those who keep my ways. . . .
Whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord.
Many other Bible passages have Sophia sayings that were the model for Jesus Christ declarations in the Gospel of John.
We need to understand that Sophia and Jesus Christ symbolize a reality in each of us. I can name many dyings and risings in my life and one huge dying/rising experience that lasted many years and transformed me into a person I can love.
What happens in the life of Christ happens always and everywhere. . . . Christ always dies, and always he is born [in the psychic life of every human person].
C.G. Jung
For greater spiritual depth, we have to take the focus off worshipping an external god, a certain image of God named Jesus, and instead facilitate awareness of every person’s Higher Power, whatever that person likes to call it—the Force, the Holy Spirit, the Buddhist observer, the Hindu Atman, the humanist center of integrity, the inner Christ, the self, the soul . . . It is the wisdom that knows better than our surface thinker. It is our link to the Source of All.

Here is where, I’m afraid, I lose atheists who deny all spiritual reality. I can’t bridge the divide with them, but I hope to bridge with those who scoff at belief in Christian myth but also accept the existence of a spiritual dimension in the universe. They share common ground with thoughtful Christians who have graduated from literal belief to realizing that no religion can define spiritual reality.

We have to realize that all religious language must be understood figuratively, that is, non-literally. Fierce literalism now holds sway among Christians, which, I warn, signals the impending death of Christianity as the prevailing spiritual paradigm.

To us in this period of transition is given the task of preserving the tradition’s spiritual treasures—they are many—by heeding promptings from the Deep, whatever our name for it. We cannot reverse the evolution of human consciousness. Change happens.


This comment speaks for itself:
Jeanette: It seems I am again having problems with blogspot.com recognizing my password. So will respond to you this way for now. I think your statement is right on.

I have read most of Campbell’s works and some of Jung’s. All religions seem to be an attempt to describe mystic experiences. Along the way as the given religion develops a lot of dogma and none related but cultural and historical belief get mixed into the faith and the religion evolves. Each religion takes on the color of its history and ends up being more about itself than about spiritual existence.

It’s is so easy to get lost and distracted by all the noise generated by the different issues associated with religion that one loses sight of meaning. I too tried to be an atheist and failed, for I have seen the impossible and that makes the logic based arguments seem hollow. For logic to work the universe has to follow logic, it doesn’t. We are no more than a nit on a flea, and to stand up and declare there is no god is akin to the nit saying there is no dog.
David

2 comments:

Green Gnostic said...

Beautifully put and Amen!

Jack said...

I agree with Green Gnostic, very well put, Jeanette. I also think it is good of you too admit that you were previously trying to be an atheist, but ultimately that did not work for you.

I do believe you are a rational "believer" and I wish you continued success in your work.