Providing a Balance
Life is the gift from God that we experience. Without life there is no speculation about God, eternity, or any comprehension of reality. If God gives life to us; then it follows, She intended for us to experience it as it unfolds.
While the myths tell us that we need to approach life responsibly and with self-control; ideals such as giving up sex, suppressing all desire, or total solitude and contemplation are extremist in their approach. While some of the mystical concepts about the Divine seem to make more rational sense in terms of God's nature than the literalists and orthodox; - they often seem to go too far.
On the other hand, orthodox Christianity and literalists have often anthropomorphized God to such an extent that She often seems egotistical, mean spirited, schizophrenic, or just a plain tyrant. In these cases we are told of the mercy of God, but such is limited to a very narrow interpretation of what they claim to be God's edicts, or require a blind faith in what often amounts to nonsense. God's mercy seems to apply only when we adhere to the teachings of the particular church which claims to know what God's mercy means.
While we need Images of God that we can relate to, we must be careful not to go to far. In psychological terms, the problems with many of our theological concepts are that they tend to lean to the extreme. We have theologies, which tend to feed the ego by portraying an Image of God that it has assigned too many human attributes, such as, vengeful, judgmental or punitive. They mold God into man's image as if She were some kind of a super- ego. Their doctrines that promise heaven, or play on our fears, or promise our redemption in Christ - are also geared at the ego. The psychological implication is that responsibility for some great reward lies outside our ability, that such can only be given when we profess the correct creed; so, the ego grabs hold of the creed as the easy way out in avoidance of one's own responsibilities.
How often do we hear clergyrnen, based on theology, claim God will heal us; or, God will take care of our problems. Or claim, God will forgive us, or, God will take care of our every whim - and all we have to do to earn such is ask Him, believing that She will answer? Modern Orthodox Christianity, and the literalists' movements are based upon a theology that feeds our egos. Projection of responsibility to God for all goodness, and the devil for all evil, are often the implications of these teachings. In a sense we justify our egos and their shortcomings by rationalizing that we are weak, are tempted, or are a product of the consequences of Adam's sin. On the other hand good people are often seen as special, anointed by God in some way such as the saints; or as in the case of Jesus, as God Himself.
The major problem with the ego driven theology is that it encourages and allows us to blame (projection) individuals who may differ in their beliefs from us for all the ills of the world. History is full of this often theologically justified projection. To cite an example, in referring to the inquisition under Pope Innocent VIII in the late 1400's, Karen Armstrong tells us:
We now know there were no witches but that the craze the Inquisition] represented a vast collective fantasy, shared by the learned Inquisitors and many of their victims, who had dreamed these things and were easily persuaded that they actually happened. The fantasy was linked with anti-Semitism and deep sexual fear. Satan had emerged as the 'shadow' of an impossibly good and powerful God. This had not happened in the other God religions...
As Norman Cohn has suggested in his book
(Karen Armstrong, HISTORY OF GOD, Ballantine Books, 1993, p275)
And Carl Jung also talks about our Western theologies that often feed projection to an external something or other: I
In an outward form of religion where all the emphasis is on the outward figure (hence we are dealing with more or less a projection), the archetype is identical with externalized ideas but remains unconscious as a psychic (inner) factor. When an unconscious content is replaced by a projected Image to that extent, it is cut off from all participation in, and influence of, the conscious mind...
It may very easily happen, therefore, that a Christian who believes in all the sacred figures is still underdeveloped and unchanged in his innermost soul because he has "all God outside" and does not experience him in the soul.
(C.G.Jung, PSYCHOLOGY AND ALCHEMY, Vol 12 Collected Works, tr. R.F.C. Bull, Princeton Press, 1968)
We will delve into these issues at much greater length as we articulate this work. What we are trying to establish here is the danger of extremism in theology. At the same time we are shifting responsibility back to the individual, theology needs to enhance the balance between the needs of the body with the needs of the spirit. Spiritual truth can not ignore physical reality for spiritual truths are actualized in reality.
Yet on the flip side of the coin, as we implied in our introduction to this section, we must be careful in our theological speculation not to sway to far to the other side. In Jung's works he is just as adamant in portraying the dangers of yielding too much to the unconscious forces, which can often be the consequences of mystical religious ideals. The mystical concept of God (that is, dwelling and communicating with each one of us) is profound and probably closer to the truth than many of our salvation doctrines that need a mediator between God and man such as the church.
But we cannot ignore or deny the physical realities of our existence. In fact, it is assumed here that revelation is designed to aid us in making the most of life, both at a personal, and, at a collective level. One may call such idealistic, but given the technology of our age, combined with an honest living of the symbolism expressed in revelation, there should not be a hungry person on the earth; nor, should anyone suffer total poverty or despair.
The problem lies not with our ability to overcome many of the human injustices of our world, but rather, with our will. A will which has been limited by projection, ego, and a magical thinking which postulates God has better to give than what is already given - that life is nothing but a test for something greater - that rewards come in the afterlife.
Now, in the mystical context, while there is greater concerns for the whole, people often end up so preoccupied with the self that reality itself becomes of little importance. Unnecessary suffering is often written off as an inner learning experience, or blamed upon the individual himself for his failure to suppress all desire. The extreme here becomes not so different from its counterpart; that is, a theological justification for so many atrocities which should not exist. At its worst, mystical concepts can be reduced to a form of self-denial that is in fact masochistic, non-productive, and delusional. While the literalists or orthodox stands in the danger of losing himself to the outside, the mystic often loses himself to himself.
This brings us to the balance a responsible theology needs to bridge. It must recognize that man himself is a paradox in the sense that he is mortal and immortal at the same time and we cannot appease either at the expense of the other. The body is every bit as important as the soul, and the symbolism behind the resurrection can be used to support this concept.; Life is that aspect of immortality that we are experiencing now within the limitations of the physical laws which govern it. Religion loses its ability to contribute constructively to life when its theology promotes extremes. In such cases, the religion, risks the danger of becoming a mere "projection" or a "self consuming" obsession once a balance is lost. Once theology becomes absolute and dogmatic it loses the potential to grow and meet the needs of future generations. Religions that operate under such theologies stand the chance of becoming fanatical, irrational and ultimately do more to hurt the Image of God than they do in helping to bring Her into the realm of everyday realities.
The other paradox a responsible theology must clearly see is that God is both transcendent of our reality; yet, the essence of our reality at the same time. Reality, as it exists, is the work of the Intellect which created it - therefore, such is His actualization in our perception of the here and now. (We will discuss God as the eternal paradox in our dealings with God)
What the acceptance of these two paradoxes do, is, allow us to provide a balance which is essential if religion is to succeed as a productive tool into the next century.
For millennia, theology has had the job of explaining the "how" things work as well as the "why" they work. Fear, ignorance, and superstition required that religion fill, in the blanks of the observable unknown. Such was the responsibility of theology at the time, for alleviating man's anxiety is part of good spiritual health.
But Science has come along to take the need for the "how" from theology. This leaves theology the ability to concentrate its efforts on the "why" things work the way they do. Or better put: Why did God do it that way? For example, the ''s' of creation are now in the hands of science; no ancient revelation can literally address the facts as we are coming to understand them. In fact, literal interpretations require us to close our eyes to reality. This does not mean that the ancient revelations are now useless; but rather, that we must look for the deeper meaning behind the mythological event. In other words, looking for the moral of the story rather than splitting hairs over the content.
Religion also needs to utilize the information that science offers. It needs to apply what is relevant to its major role, which is, the 'Why?' - and what that Why means in relationship to the Creative Force and ourselves? Theology cannot be responsible if it ignores reality to support its opinions.
If we are to give answers about God in a
constructive and productive manner, the answers must be harmonious with the
"how" things work. This means that theology can no longer ignore the
physical presence of God in reality in favor of magical approaches. It means, revelation must be viewed for its application to the
essence of God in the here and now, which is the true gift and miracle that God
has given to us. It means that theology has a responsibility to balance the
equation between its spiritual speculation and the relationship to the whole of
reality. Theology needs to be refined to help people to find God in a manner
which they can relate to in the here and now. It must balance the spiritual
ethics, which God has planted with the realities of the God given physical
drives and egos that make up our consciousness. It needs to be practical in
terms of helping to eliminate stress for individuals; in helping a society
fight social and economic injustice; in being a catalyst which helps
individuals as well a societies better their quality
of life. It needs to encourage religion to emphasize responsibility on the part
of the individual, without justifying becoming intolerant, or, granting the
ability to decree God's edicts. A responsible theology will strive to open our
eyes so we may see what is presented in the Gospel of Thomas: "The
Responsible theology needs to move away from concepts such as: an ongoing war between body and spirit, a war between God and the devil in which we are the pawns, a war of religious truths and secular lies. We need to face the fact that human sexuality is a gift from God and part of the natural order, offering a balance which allows us to be responsible and caring but at the same time takes into consideration the realities of human sexuality. We need to face the facts that we cannot assert what is Good or Evil, realizing that such is not black and white, but rather a large gray area in which the individual action makes the determination of the outcome.
We need to see God in terms of the metaphor that is so often used to describe Her. Inspired men, thinkers and prophets have seen God as light for as long as we have been pondering Him. If we think about it: the light of the sun appears as white light, but when reflected, or broken down through the prism, it can be separated into the diversity of its colors. But only when the balance of the spectrum in harmony can we perceive the totality of the light, which is the perception nature intended for us. If God represents the spectrum, She becomes a diversity of color with extremes that are not even visible to us (extremes comparable to ultraviolet or infrared). If our theology tries to split God up through a prism of doctrine they are going to get the colors, but never see the white light through their perceptions. Very often they lock on so strongly to one color, that is all they see!
While man has the deep ultraviolet of spirit, and a tinge of the infrared that we may not understand, he is also composed of the reds, greens, and blues which are also a part of God in that She created them. For far too long in religion, we have leaned toward the idea that spiritual truth and reality are in some way superior to physical truth and reality. If we are to provide for balance we need to acknowledge that physical reality is not secondary to spiritual reality; but rather, the part of spiritual reality we are experiencing. It is the visible light of the spectrum. Thus, spiritual values and truth need to have a contributory affect on reality, otherwise, they become little more than superstitions.
As this work unfolds, it is hoped that in providing a balance for examining theology; we need not necessarily throw out the image, but rather, find a better way of viewing the spectrum so we can see the white light necessary to make life fuller and richer for all. Our polarized perceptions often blind us to the simple truth: reality "is" because of balance and harmony! This simple truth is applicable to all aspects of human endeavors, and religion is certainly not exempt. We need to apply balance between the physical and the spiritual, between the individual and the whole, between life and immortality, between the eternal God and the mortal man!
With such a harmony of perception, we can illuminate the human heart with the light that the Almighty has already given.
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