The Eclectic Church

ON: Inspiration and the Bible

  

"MY OWN MIND IS MY OWN CHURCH." (Thomas Paine, AGE OF REASON, 1796)

 

We will begin this tract with two quotes from the acclaimed psychiatrist Carl Jung.

I have to admit the fact that the unconscious mind is capable at times of assuming an Intelligence and purposiveness which are superior to actual conscious insight. (C.G. Jung, PSYCHOLOGY AND ALCHEMY, 1938, P49)

And:

My psychological experience has shown time and again that certain contents issue from the psyche more complete than consciousness. They often contain a superior analysis, or insight, or knowledge, which consciousness has not been able to produce. (Ibid. P45)

 

While Jung was careful to keep religion out of his scientific approach, his life's work almost cries out for religion to consider his theories, and perhaps expand upon them. If any scientific work can be applied to theological thinking it is the observations of this man.

A great many thinkers have helped us formulate what follows, and we need to acknowledge that up front. But the work of Jung, while it does not prove any of these theological hypothesizes, they do support with direct observations and research many of the assumptions that follow. Too often, religious ideals are expressed with total disregard of science and reality; proclaiming supernatural truths. We believe God's creation is part of the supernatural order, therefore, the creation itself reveals the nature of the Creator.

______________________________________________________________________________

 

What is Inspiration?

This is really a question for which no one can produce a factual answer. Yet, if one examines human history, one would almost have to conclude that the evolution of our knowledge is often influenced by a source that seems to be beyond the intellectual capacity of our age. People like DaVinci, Galileo, and Einstein are a few striking examples of individuals who really perceived things beyond their scope. And great inventors, such as Edison, claim that many of their concepts came as an inspiration, sometimes even in a daydreaming state.

The religious world is no stranger to the concept of inspiration. Many religious thinkers claim inspiration from God as the Source of their concepts, writings and ideals. The first problem we often face with religious inspiration is the validity of its content.

Dr. Carl Jung, a brilliant psychiatrist who lived in the first half of the twentieth century and was a one time pupil of Freud --- has given scientific credibility to this area of inspiration. While his research could stand to be further investigated, religion would do well to consider his many observations, his empirical evidence, and theoretical conjectures. His work is supported with much more fact than any of the religions which claim Divine Inspiration. While the Eclectic Church does not agree with Jung on everything, his ideals had a strong input on how we have come to view inspiration.

Basically, Dr. Jung theorized that the whole of the human personality is divided into two parts. The physical he termed "consciousness" which is the intellectual, emotional, and thinking aspect of our human minds that we are aware of. The "I" or "Me", if you will. But like Freud, he seen something that transcended consciousness and its inputs, another side to our mind's makeup, almost an imperceptive force --- something he termed the "collective unconscious". And when one studies the volumes of Jung's works, it becomes clear that what he termed the "collective unconscious" could in a religious sense be evidence for the existence of the soul made in the Image of God, or even more profoundly, the Essence of the Divine that is within every one of us.

Continuing with the first quote from the introduction to this theme, Dr. Jung goes on to say:

"There is hardly a doubt that this fact is a RELIGIOUS PHENOMENON, which is observed here in a case whose conscious mental make-up was certainly unlikely to produce religious phenomena. I have not infrequently made similar observations in other cases, and I must confess, I am unable to formulate the data in any other way.

I have often met with objections that the thoughts which the "Voice" represents are no more than the thoughts of the individual himself. That may be: but I would call a thought my own when I have earned or acquired it in a conscious or legitimate way. If somebody gives me money as a present, then I certainly do not say to my benefactor: 'Thank you for my own money'. With the "Voice" I am in a similar situation. The "Voice" gives me certain contents, exactly as a friend would inform me of his ideas. It would be neither decent or true to suggest that what he says are my own ideas."

(Ibid. P46)

This voice Dr. Jung refers to is what we in the Eclectic Ideal believe to be personal inspiration. The late Joseph Campbell. A scholar in mythology, referred to it as "the guiding hands". Plato compared it to an inner light. Even Freud recognized its existence, but because we often misinterpret its guidance, he seen it as dark and primordial. His work emphasized that much of our instinctive survival inclination with its violent tendencies, our sexual drives that are sometimes out of control, were rooted in our unconscious; failing to see the positive force this unconscious mind can have.

In the religions of the East, the Voice is often called enlightenment. Western theology has a variety of ways of describing it: Grace, The Holy Spirit, or Divine Inspiration, although their dogmatic interpretations serve to limit this concept to a chosen few (something we do not agree with).

 

In Eclecticism, this personal "Voice" or guidance is the foundation of one of our basic premises. That is, God is part of the creation, and thus a part of man, therefore, we as individuals can have an active and personal relationship with the Creative Force, which Jesus told us was our Father. One of the principle elements of this relationship is communication with the Creative Force, and that becomes not just us talking to God, but includes God communicating with us. For those that it may matter to, there is Biblical support for this premise.

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image" (Genesis 1:26)

"If you love me you will obey my commands; and I will ask the Father and He will send you another to be your Advocate, WHO WILL BE WITH YOU FOREVER - The Spirit of Truth. The world cannot receive him, because the world neither sees or knows him; but you know him, BECAUSE HE DWELLS WITH YOU AND IS IN YOU. (John 14:15-17)

"I Live, you to will live: then you will know that I AM IN MY FATHER, and YOU IN ME, and I IN YOU." (John 14:20)

We do not accept that it is necessary to instruct people in dogmatic interpretations, nor do we feel it is necessary to declare God's will --- for ultimately every human being is capable of receiving God's inspiration within themselves, but they need to be willing to listen with an open mind to the message he may deliver. Again from the thoughts of Jung:

If the theologians (or church) really believes in the almighty power of God on the one hand, and in the validity of its dogma on the other; WHY THEN DOES IT NOT TRUST GOD TO SPEAK IN THE SOUL? (C.G. Jung, PSYCHOLOGY AND ALCHEMY, P17)

This communication does involve effort on the part of the individual, an effort which can be helped by many of the psychological processes which Jung went on to explore and develop. The individual must be willing to question and be open-minded enough to accept answers even if they differ from what we perceive. And, it is absolutely essential that we strive to be objective; willing to accept ourselves for who and what we are. In facing this inner self, both in the conscious, and what we discover from our unconscious, we can take control of our lives and contribute to the reality of our world. God will always lead us toward a sense of harmony that brings inner peace and fulfillment to the individual while strengthening our connection to the whole.

The conclusion here is that God speaks to all that will listen. But, we must add a word of caution here, so this ideal isn't blown out of proportion by people who might cite this concept for selfish, or less than honorable reasons. God inspires at the individual level in personal matters according to one's ability to understand such. GOD DOES NOT DICTATE PERSONAL MANDATES FOR US TO DELIVER TO OTHERS. In other words, if someone walks up to you and says: 'God told me to tell you that you should correct this or that in your life; this person is sadly missing the concepts involved here. God's inspiration on this personal level is designed to help the individual, it is not meant to be used to control another, as so often happens with claimed Divine inspirations. In fact Collective Inspiration, which we shall discuss later, is not designed to be used as a weapon to get people to conform to our ideals or faith.

While this concept of personal inspiration could take up volumes, our intent here is to give you an impression of what we are trying to express; which is in short that God will respond to the individual who seeks His/Her truth. We feel we do not need other people to tell us what God's Will is for us. We feel there is a danger in placing absolute faith in the inspirations which are declared by other men. In the end, a true faith should be placed in the Divine inspiration to us --- these inspirations are made the truth by our actions because of those inspirations.

Let us clarify one more important point here before moving on. Just because God inspires men, this does not mean that the Inspiration is the infallible word of God, or, that we cannot misunderstand what the inspiration is saying, or, we cannot confuse our ability to rationalize some otherwise irrational acts. The true inspiration of God helps us move forward with our lives, helps us to relate better to our fellow human beings; and helps us to grow in our ability to love one another. We reiterate, the inspiration is not truth itself, our actions because of the inspiration are what becomes truth. This applies to the concept of faith as well.

With that being said, let's move on to another observation about inspiration that Jung has done much to give credence to. This is the area of collective inspirations or ideals that are expressed in the myths and symbols of mankind which have accumulated from the day we attained consciousness. Much of the Bible would fall into this category.

It is important that we point out our definition of myth here. We are not talking about myth as a falsehood or a fable. Myth, here, is defined as the collection of inspired concepts that manifest themselves in the sacred stories of all peoples.

It would seem from Jung's observations, and the work of people like Joseph Campbell, one could speculate that whatever this unknown force is which is effecting our lives, it seems to be trying to convey universal ideals to all peoples. Ideals like the 'golden rule' which expresses itself in numerous ways in philosophy, religion, and human thought of all ages. The concept of a Creator itself can be seen as one of these basic and universal ideals.

These ideals are expressed through what Jung called 'universal archetypes', which are in the symbols of various philosophical, mythical and religious writings. These symbols reoccur in all cultures and societies, regardless of the ability or inability of the people to communicate with each other. Examples would be stories of virgin births, god men, saviors, resurrections, to name just a few that are part of the Christian world --- but it must be emphasized, these metaphors are not unique to the Christian world! In fact, many of these motifs predate the concept of one God. It becomes clear to the objective mind, that if this is true, then, these motifs must mean something beyond a literal interpretation for things like virgin births do not happen in our real world (at least, not as a common occurrence).

Again, it would take volumes to go into the various psychological meanings which are expressed in the various motifs of the unconscious, and Jung has the volumes to prove it as well as other scholars.

The point we are trying to communicate to you here is that inspiration can be universal and is communicated in a variety of ways to a society as a whole. The problem with most religions and societies is that they tend to try to interpret the inspiration in terms of literal truth, instead of, seeing it as a symbolic communication between the Creative force and man. These symbols must also be carefully looked at through the eyes of the people to whom this ideal was given; for we truly feel God reveals His/Herself to us in a way we can comprehend. This by nature would imply diversity for we are all diverse.

Jung's explanation for this is both logical and plausible. The supernatural (we define it as that which lies beyond the knowledge of mankind, rather than a state beyond the natural). The supernatural and the natural are one, the natural the way we are experiencing the supernatural in the now). If God, or any force beyond us, were trying to communicate with us from a plane beyond human comprehension, it would make perfect sense that its information would be communicated in symbols we can relate to and understand. After all, don't we apply this same concept to teach our children values and morals in a way that they can understand them. Fairy tales; children's stories; cartoon characters such as talking rabbits, bears and the like; all can be used to bring home a point that children might not otherwise understand. As the child begins to grow he or she puts aside the literal interpretation of the fable and realizes the message it was meant to convey.

We believe the same is true of many of the religious tales which exist. God tried to convey an ideal, a moral principle, or an abstract truth through a symbol the people of the tine could understand. Again, one could cite Jesus' method of preaching to drive home this point; for is it not a fact that he conveyed numerous messages to us by the use of parables? Other teachers and sages have been known to use the same technique throughout history.

Our problem then becomes when we try to interpret the symbol as literal truth, an actual historical event or as a factual statement. While it may be true that our ancient ancestors needed to interpret some stories literally in order to relate to then, we today have transcended much of that need. To interpret the story of Genesis, for an example, as an actual event, the way people in the time of Moses might have (some scholars argue that even they seen the story as more metaphor than literal truth); is like an adult trying to interpret the legend of Santa Clause as a literal person in his adulthood.

Jung tells us, " It is the role of religious symbolism to give meaning to the life of a man"; and this is what the Eclectic Church is hoping to do. To hold onto the archaic interpretations of these symbols in light of our knowledge today is in effect - NOT TO GROW UP! To throw then away as having no merit, is an even greater mistake. What we need to do is reexamine much of what is written, seeing it from the period it was written in --- striving to interpret it from the perspective of those people in unity with the reality we now know and understand. We need to rescue the beauty of the ideals and revelations these stories contain; but not have them, in contradiction to the truths we have now discovered.

The Bible offers much inspiration, and in that inspiration there are truths about life, ideals, and evolutionary potential. But these things are in the messages conveyed by its symbolism's, not in literal interpretations.

The first mistake we make with this book is in declaring it the "written" or "infallible word of God". This becomes our first obstruction to using this inspiration wisely, and can often lead to a self centered interpretation. The fact of the matter is: NOT ONE WORD OF THE SCRIPTURE WE DECLARE THE 'WORD OF GOD' WAS WRITTEN BY THE HAND OF GOD. If someone writes a description of Michelangelo's Last Judgment painting, we would hardly call it the work of Michelangelo; yet, we do this with God. Even the most perfect copy isn't his work.

The Eclectic position is that men are inspired by the Divine, but they remain men --- men who are capable of error, misunderstanding, self serving delusions, and even of conscious deceit for selfish motivations. We perceive it to be a foolish premise that God would take away one's free will in the process of inspiration. We also feel that man does not have the ability, nor would God give him the right to speak with absolute authority of Divine Will.

WE WILL LOOK TO THE BIBLE FOR INSPIRATION AND GUIDANCE, NOT DOGMA or to declare God's Will. We seek what will enable us to grow spiritually, as well as intellectually; not that which will stagnate and enslave the membership with blind faith. We feel the true inspiration of God should serve to unite us in actions that will effect our world in a positive manner, for all people; instead of, dividing us in our faith.

The Bible can be a book with a doubled edged sword. Although we feel much of it contains the inspiration of God, we must never forget it was WRITTEN BY THE HANDS OF MEN. Men who are capable of error, misunderstanding, and even deceit.

This collection of some of the most profound insight of humanity can be cited for its wisdom and the love it contains, but least we never forget that it has also been cited to feed bigotry and intolerance. The book can encourage us to move forward seeking knowledge and God's truth, but it has also been used to persecute and enslave the minds that would dare try to move us forward.

Among its pages there are pearls of wisdom, but also some worthless stones. In its content, the truth is mixed with fiction, hope is nixed with despair, beauty is nixed with horror and there is peace and war. This makes sense in light of the paradox of religion, which is another subject.

We must never forget that while the Bible has inspired men to heights of love and great accomplishments; it has also served well those who would control, persecute and enslave. There is a danger lurking in the Bible, as is proved by the Crusades, the Inquisition, holy wars, and the slaughter of Native American peoples - all justified with the Bible, or the Sign of the Cross contained within its pages.

The Inspiration from the Divine that is within its pages is in a fog of the words of men. Any responsible religious person must realistically face the fact that men not only wrote this work, but it was assembled by men who declared what was sacred and what was not --- very often for less than sacred reasons. There are also problems of translation, with disagreement among language scholars and the purity of the surviving text. In short the Bible is a long way from being the inspired material it may have once been. And it is very far from being the 'written word of God'.

This is not to say that it should be scrapped is some might suggest. What it means is we must be careful. When the Bible. or any other ancient manuscript for that matter, moves us toward love and brotherhood; inspires us to acts of kindness and generosity --- When the words lead us to compassion, justice. equality, dignity for all men --- When its message sparks the human heart to feed children, open ourselves to the elderly, encourages us to be forgiving and tolerant --- When the Bible inspires as to search for truth, helps us to cope with the realities of this life, helps as to better understand each other and God --- ONLY THEN, HAVE WE TAPPED THE INSPIRATION OF GOD contained in its pages!

The Bible is a profound collection of books, but we need to be skeptical of any man who tells you it is the revelation of God's will. People even need to be more skeptical when those same men claim theirs as the only possible interpretation. History should teach us that whenever we proclaim a man's right to speak for God, we place ourselves in danger. Kings, popes, clergymen, political causes; all have used this book to justify atrocities of every kind. This is not God's doing; but our doing, for our faith belongs in God not is the declarations of men about God.

What we fail to realize is the inspiration of God is still within us. His/her Voice is there for any individual who will take the time to listen. We believe God will guide any man who sincerely seeks His/her guidance. Too often, human beings are drowning out the Voice of God by their own blind faith.

It is our position that no inspiration written by the hands of men: SHOULD EVER BE DECLARED the 'word of God'. No inspiration should EVER BECOME DOGMATIC, or should IT EVER BE DECLARED GOD'S ETERNAL WILL! God needs no help in making His/Her will known, for the Divine Will is declared in the very creation which exists.

Eclecticism sees God's inspiration to mankind in the same way an inspiration moves an artist to paint a painting. The true inspiration of God will move us to paint a picture in the reality of our actions. The inspiration of God should turn us inward, leading us to the things we can do to better ourselves and our world. The inspiration of God is about this world, not a world to come. The inspiration of God will make us responsible, and should not cause us to project our responsibility for human misery unto God.

God may inspire, but it is we who ultimately choose what we are going to do with the inspiration. We can use the inspiration to escape reality; or, grab hold of it and use it to improve reality. We can have a faith that helps us to grow --- helps us to better life for one and for all --- helps us to move forward is truth, wisdom and knowledge; or, we can have a faith that enslaves us to the assumptions of another man. It is we who choose.

We of the Eclectic church feel inspiration and faith should be moving us forward, helping us to learn, and encouraging us to make positive changes in our problem filled world. Inspiration is about REALIZING that we have free will, and, ACCEPTING the RESPONSIBILITY which goes with it.

Because the Bible plays such an active role in the beliefs about God in our society, we have paid close attention to this book with particular emphasis on the four Gospels in our studies of inspiration. However, Eclecticism accepts the premise that there is inspiration in ALL RELIGIONS, and also in the COLLECTIVE KNOWLEDGE Of MANKIND such as philosophy, science, art and literature. While admittedly the founders are limited in their understanding of all these areas, it is our hope as the religion expands we will come to draw on the universal ideals that surface in these areas. While the Eclectic Church's priority is faith put into action; 'SEEKING' truth and inspiration that cam motivate us in those actions, could be considered a secondary objective. We feel this 'seeking' should go beyond just the declared inspirations, to the minds and thoughts of all peoples, drawing from the wonderful diversity of mind which God has given to mankind. While the inspiration of individuals like Moses, Jesus Confucius, Mohammed may be obvious; the subtle inspiration of poets, writers, philosophers, and scientist should not be overlooked. Plato, Goethe, Emerson. Gandhi, Einstein, Jung; are just but a few examples of individuals who had keen insight into the possible realities of our spiritual and physical existence - these are men who offer vision which could help improve our world.

A major problem with human thought is that too often we tend to draw only upon one source for our information. All of us could be accused of being extremists of sorts because there is often little balance in most of our ideologies. We tend to be liberals or conservatives politically; capitalist or socialist economically; pro choice or pro life morally: but what we sometimes fail to see is that there are good points and bad points on both sides of any position. For an example, we paint a picture of America as being the shining example of democracy around the world, often being critical of other governments, especially those that differ in basic ideologies. But the truth is: we have some terrible problems in America and it is far from a Utopian society for all. The reality is, we just may learn something from another country if we were a little more open minded. It wouldn't hurt to admit we are far from perfect and capable of mistakes, and that includes faith. Maybe we could learn lessons from other countries in the things which work for them, and then adapt them to use here in America.

This is the way we view all inspiration. We can learn from looking at a variety of thoughts and inspirations. Perhaps in doing such we can avoid some of the pitfalls of our forefathers in trying to interpret the inspiration so it does not lead to persecution and suffering. It is not God who has anything to fear from an open and questioning mind, but there are many men with agendas that do.

NO SINGLE INDIVIDUAL - NO SINGLE BOOK OR COLLECTION OF BOOKS - NO SINGLE PHILOSOPHY: COULD CONTAIN THE INTELLECT OF GOD. Only by working together with open and inquiring minds can we move forward to right the many wrongs which exist in our world. As science requires many minds and a variety of input in order to understand the universe; religion, if it is to be constructive, must look beyond its own declared truths. God is not a possession of any religion but a universal Force contained in all reality.

Finally, we do not share the view of so many religions: that inspiration is about the world beyond. We do not doubt that God has made it clear that life continues beyond what we comprehend, and this is comforting to know. But, the reality seems to be that this "life in the beyond" can only be conveyed in symbolism because there would not be any way to physically describe that which we do not experience. Can we really be expected to accept that God would be as impressed with gold or jewels as is often our description of heaven. This seems to be man's idea of beauty; it would seem, God's idea of beauty would be expressed in the cosmos He/She created.

We believe inspiration should be applied to making the most of this life, for it is clear in all inspiration that living this life in the best way we can prepares us in sow way for whatever lies beyond. In our concepts we consider it to be a negative quality to live one's life in preparation for some eternal reward. We should be living life in a manner that demonstrates how much we appreciate this great and wonderful blessing (life itself) --- the reward God has already seen fit to bestow upon us.

The questions for the Eclectic become --- How can we be worthy of a paradise to come; when we abuse, forsake and mistreat the paradise earth that God has already placed us in? --- What right do we have to ask God for a new heaven and a new Earth: when we are so lax in our concern for this one? --- What right can we cite that allows us to proclaim God's rewards and punishments? --- Is it necessary for God to promise anything more, anything beyond what He/She has already given, to earn our love and respect? --- It we sincerely love God, do we need the promise of anything to live in that love?

Religion needs to change its direction and emphasize responsibility to the here and now. We need to stop asking God to solve the problems that He/She has given us the ability to solve for ourselves. We need to search the inspiration of God to all of us, seeking those things which help us to make the real world a better place; rather than, placing our hopes in what God has yet to give. We need to begin expressing our love of the Creator in the creation that He/She is a part of, which is this glorious world and all those who dwell in it. Above all, inspiration must become more than just words in some book, or words that are quoted chapter and verse, or words that are shouted by some preacher, or mere words of some proclaimed faith or creed. INSPIRATION SHOULD BE A CATALYST FOR ACTIONS WHICH CAN HELP TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF THE LIFE OF ALL CREATURES GOD HAS SEEN FIT TO PLACE IN THIS EDEN WE DWELL UPON.

I will work out the Divinity that is busy in my own mind, and tend with the means that are mine!

(Pindar, ODES. 5th century BC)

 

 

 

 

 

Please email us with your thoughts

Express your opinions on our Message Board

Sign our Guest Book