Religion Or . . .

“The god of economic growth has displaced the traditional Creator, in practice if not in mythology, along with the divinities of indigenous and predominant cultures across the world. The economic priesthood that dictates the worship of the god of growth can only be overthrown with the aid of science, which tells us that there cannot be infinite growth on a finite planet.
No god will fix the ecological mess we – all of us – are making. As Stephen Jay Gould wrote, ‘We are one among millions of species, stewards of nothing…Nature does not exist for us, had no idea we were coming, and doesn’t give a damn about us.’ That, in a nutshell, is the scientific view, which some may characterize as antagonistic to spirituality. But a scientific understanding of nature should not diminish an appreciation of it, nor fail to teach us the humble lesson that humans need to move from stewardship to ‘studentship’ to better learn the ways of the Earth. As biologist Neil K. Dawe observed, ‘It is not the planet or its ecosystems that need stewarding, it is us.’”
Tim Murray, Seeking an Ecological Rescue: Do We Need a Spiritual Awakening—or a Scientific Understanding?

“Religion amplifies the good and evil tendencies of individual souls. Religion will always remain a powerful force in the history of our species. To me, the meaning of progress in religion is simply this, that as we move from the past to the future the good works inspired by religion should more and more prevail over the evil.”
Freeman Dyson, The Progress of Religion

“They also said the children were given ‘very strict’ home-schooling and they had to memorise long passages of the Bible. Some of the children were aiming to learn it in its entirety, they said. Despite this, the school listed at their address is on public records as ‘non-religious’.”
BBC, Turpins: The ‘happy family’ at centre of torture allegations

“Where do you go when what you believe in lets you down? When the ‘One’ who will always be there, never shows up. When you are desperately waiting on a power, which will bring you out of the hell you are experiencing. When you come to the realization that you have been waiting so long for this type of encounter you feel like a stalker. . . The way I knew God was dangerous. The way I operated in church was crippling. The way I saw religion and what is required of me and others is suicidal. I Quit!
Losing religion and finding God has changed me and I am glad. I no longer fear where I will spend eternity; it just doesn’t matter to me anymore. I am no longer persuaded to do good because heaven is a dangling carrot in front of my face. Nor am I dissuaded from doing bad because hell is a cruel task master with a whip poised to strike my ass. I choose to do good because I am in love. Whether I am in heaven or hell, my God will be there. Even in the grave, my God will be there. Even if I am crazy enough to get back into church again, my God will be there.”
Van Roberts, Rescue Me: Confessions of an Ex-evangelical

“A year before Pearl Harbor, when I was nine years old, newsreels of the London Blitz impressed me with the incomprehensible cruelty of the Nazis. The demolition and burning of cities filled with people of all ages seemed to express their demonic character.”
Daniel Ellsberg, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.”
John 14.27

 

Ecology is the study of biological organisms in their non-biological environments. Humankind’s built up environments have taken on gigantic proportions in the modern world and we, the inhabitants and creators of it, have become Homo Colossus. To study ourselves in our environment we need to recognize we have become a new type of species than that which we had been for many hundreds of thousands of years. This giantism has been made possible by the confluence of numerous features in our social evolution. The ability of our mathematics to provide engineering with certainty in building is perhaps foremost intellectually. The use of the scientific method to investigate the biological and non-biological features of earth has provided the evidence based reasoning by which both the maths and the engineering laid for themselves firm foundations. This too is an intellectual achievement of the first order. We can rightly pride ourselves on the great mercies these skills have brought to the lives of billions of human beings.

However, this revolution in mankind’s relationship with the earth did not take place solely due to intellectual achievements. The ecological study of relationships between organisms and their environments points to another element, equally necessary. It is only because humankind harnessed the unique thermodynamic properties of oil that Homo Colossus came to be. Without this uniquely energy dense resource the world as we have come to know it over the last few centuries would simply not exist. Oil is relatively easily harvested, transformed, and transported. The design of machines capable of work using it are also relatively simple. After all, the complexity of the combustion engine is a number of degrees less than that of a tree seed or the erosion process of a river.

I want to whisper something. There is no such thing as religion. It is a modern conception that a particular set of behaviors and dispositions can be encircled and set aside from the rest of life, set aside as holy and virtuous, laudable but wholly impractical. The modern conception that we can have religion on Sunday and war on Monday is a profound misunderstanding of the interdependent truth of things. The psyche, your psyche, does not honor these arbitrary divisions.

Truth – this is what is now being spat upon in the public square. The manipulation of the public mind by those who know what is best for it started with the invention of public relations by Edward Bernays. He was the nephew of Sigmund Freud and was quick to apply his research into the dynamics of the unconscious mind to public persuasion, creating what we recognize today as PR. In the time of the previous World Wars it was not hard to hope that by using emotional manipulations to unconsciously trigger and guide people’s desires, a means would be found to keep the beast hiding in the heart of the masses under control. Democracy, people like Bernays thought, needed the guiding hand of the educated, better classes if it was to resits the temptations of totalitarian systems and populist revolutionaries. What began as a quest for social stability became the protection of the status quo at all costs. Along the way a new religion was born, the monotheism of money.

Today those who know what is best for us have become holy warriors. They have secrets about nuclear arsenals, secrets about listening in on every phone call, in fact there are secrets about so many things that it is hard to know where to draw the line. Once again we are confronted with knowledge characterized by ambiguity and unknowns where the best we can rationally hope for is some educated probabilities. There have always been state secrets, some of which were justified and others which were not. The very special inheritance given the United States in its constitution and the balance of powers has always been less than ideal in practice. In spite of the lauded freedom of the press, there have been times of corruption in the history of the world’s most celebrated melting pot that bring tears to the eyes of anyone who cares about human decency. The current conditions of our politics is not as strange as we might like to think. On the other hand, it is not within the bands of historical normal either. Long decades of the elites believing wealth bestows god’s grace, that because someone is rich they must also be wise, that status and dignity in one’s community only depends on the size of one’s bank account, all these changes to the traditional Christian mores have taken their toll. Today very few of my fellow citizens seem to recall that there could be a type of decency unrelated to money at all. One that depends on values other than ruthless competition in the marketplace and always getting the better of anyone you deal with. Though we give lip service to those motivated by charity, we do not allow such considerations to affect policy.

Frankly the leaders of the so-called free world, who have at their beck and call the most destructive forces ever amassed in the history of our species, are troublingly fundamentalist in their approach to the problems of the world. Discussions of human values outside of economic considerations is simply verboten. Though the link between climate change and oil use could not be clearer, it cannot be spoken aloud. Not its full implications anyway, those that would demand that we change our ways. Nor, under the new set of EPA directives, can the link between oil use and climate change be used as a guide to policy decisions. Indeed, large changes in regulation have opened ocean exploration and so much more. We will not talk seriously about it and we will not change our behavior. We have doubled down on our bet that all the ecologists must be mistaken. Welcome to the war between the economists and the ecologists. It is a war of ideas in the interpersonal space of our social lives, though it is a war of facts on the ground. Both parties cannot be right. It is a war for what is going to be understood as real and true by you and me and all of our neighbors. Note, I do not say it is a war for what will be real and true, only the hubris born of Homo Colossus makes that mistake. What is real is not ours to dictate.

If we call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have? Four, calling a tail a leg does not make it one.

To be as clear as possible I fear money’s true believers have become holy warriors and that the holy warriors have embraced the holy lie. The United States citizens, and the rest of the world that is affected by the decisions made in the worlds largest economy, are all being gaslighted by the abuser in chief. The president will speak an untruth, insist on it vehemently, and continue to repeat it as many times as he might wish with all the sincerity of a true believer. Keep this up day after day and the targets of these mental manipulations will soon begin to question their own sense of reality. How quickly these non-normal politics became normal will likely amaze historians, much like the ecological crisis that has seen climate disasters breaking previous records week after week quickly became the new normal. We simply are not well served by news departments turned into profit centers disseminating public relations for their corporate owners. The twisted thing about this gas-lighting mental incapacitation is that it is not recognized as such by those victimized by it. An uncomfortable feeling spreads, as if we were living in a dream or a cartoon, blanketing everything with a foggy sense that whatever craziness we find ourselves doing doesn’t really matter. You know you are infected when horrors no longer horrify and what was important last week gets lost in a wave of this week’s trivia. While in the United States the national conversation all too often devolves to a level of pleasure grunts and terror threats, very few individuals are able to withstand the torrent of language debasement. Language is the primary tool by which we are able to share our view of the world with one another. In that sharing we arrive, slowly but steadily, at a consensus around what is real and what is not. It is this concusses that reveals to us what seems to be very important and what does not. This is not something individuals decide for themselves alone, it requires feedback from the environment in which they find themselves and as social primates, for us humans, it is always the other people in our environments that matter most.

Historians of war are often lead to wonder how whole countries can be swept up into madness. The witnesses of debased atrocities taken as normal in the times of the World Wars never ceased to speak out against the madness they had endured. The neighbors we see around us today, how odd it is that under the right circumstances they can be made to do things to other people that are unspeakably horrifying. (Who taught the Turpins their religion?) How this descent into the demonic happens is related to this ability of leaders to create webs of deception in the public mind. Totalitarian manipulation of news and information is done to disseminate the lies the leaders need to be believed, lies always given to the populous for a higher cause, for their own good. The holy lie amounts to a means of creating temporary psychosis in the masses and a manipulation of their grasp on reality itself.

Today, I believe, our reality is defined by our ecological ignorance more than anything else. Nothing holds the threat to all that is good and decent in this world more than that of the ongoing destruction of earth’s habitats and inhabitants does. It is a science we are discussing, not a philosophy. It is based in mathematics and models, not ad campaigns and graphic arts. In ecology the old saw about “follow the money” is updated, today we need to “follow the oil.”

It is far later on our journey across the trends first pointed out in the Limits to Growth study than most of the people I talk with seem to realize. The truth our ecological researchers are investigating is one that deals with cycles and patterns that have now become identifiable trends. Where those trends lead is not really up for debate. It is not in the power of humankind to decide that since they do not like what these sciences have to say about the costs of our worship of economic growth, that we can simply ignore them so that they will not hurt us. We can decide to ignore them, as we are today with seemingly every new EPA ruling, but we cannot make the earth itself conform to our wishes. We cannot cause the harm not to fall on our heads. That is where dangerous magical thinking come in; ignoring bad news about reality does not change reality. Today, however, we have gone further. We have taken it upon ourselves to drown in our hubris, to reach beyond repression of the truth by denial. Today we succumb to the ever present temptation to dictate to reality what it must be. Following Goebbels’ lead we have decided that black is white, that increasing oil supplies and oil use is the answer to all earth’s problems with economic growth. We parade our new found faith as if it is the most liberating thing humankind has ever hit upon.

If instead of following the leader’s lies into cognitive dissonance individuals insist on thinking for themselves, they are able to withstand even the most horrendous historical injustices. By taking one’s seat, by knowing what is real and what is not for oneself to the best of one’s ability, it is possible to create a prophylactic shield against the social diseases we are discussing. It is my contention that ecology plays a central role in this process today. Ecology is where the Holy Spirit is moving in our times, to use the older way of talking. Ecological ethics is where the truth that is most existentially meaningful for people alive today is to be found, to use a more modern philosophic means of saying the same thing.

Understanding the role of oil in the modern world is absolutely critical for understanding the modern world at all. How else are we to comprehend that while we know burning fossil fuels is the cause of climate change, and that climate change brings risks that are unacceptably high, policy makers are powerless to slow its worldwide use? How else are we to understand why future generations, the immediate next generation or two, are so easily thrown under the bus? The size of our technology coupled with our money monotheism exceeds our capacity to control. Homo Colossus is incapable of dismantling itself because it entails a complete reversal of our religious belief, our unquestioned and unquestionable faith in greed. The revelation of emptiness, the revelation of silence from our gods, has never been an easy one for us to grasp.

Understanding the role of peak oil comes in second place as the most crucial ecological concept required to make any sense of our modern world. The finite resource on which most all human infrastructures rely is no longer at the beck and call of humankind. The inevitable turn to dirty oil sources is just the start of expected peak oil implications. The oil wars come next. A simple list of the countries with the largest proven oil reserves pretty much spells out what we can expect. The true believers in the monotheism of money first, money last, and money only as the real guide to all decision making and the real measure of all human dignity are blind leaders. Even those who claim some ecological concern are disingenuously infatuated with alternative fuels as the answer to all earth’s woes. Wind and wave, solar and hydrogen, fusion and fairy dust, these will not allow business as usual to continue. To insist they can is to behave as if the laws of thermodynamics were nothing more than suggestions. A factual grasp of thermodynamic limitations on efficiency conversions involved in getting work from these sources and the fact that all these alternatives rely on fossil fueled infrastructures (not to mention quickly peaking rare earth metals) are key to understanding that they will never allow humankind to continue with its existing arrangements. The prophets and priests of the neoliberal order will prove to be false prophets of the worst kind. When their promises of a future for you and I under their reign lies in tatters, there will be little comfort in “I told you so.” Even if decades from now people shoot the users of fossil fuels on sight and hang the lying leaders from the lampposts, it will do nothing to return to humankind the predictable weather patterns needed for predictable harvests. When the grey technologies have poisoned the green technologies beyond repair we will watch our children die.

The third most critical insight from the ecological sciences that is critical for understanding the modern world is the foundational concept of interdependence. This is an idea that had mostly been talked about in terms of religion and philosophy in the past. As the worship of money has no quarter for any of those old fashion sources of wisdom, this too has been dismissed as impractical, unreal, unworkable, and as the ultimate insult, mystical. Interdependence is the idea that everything is connected to everything else. Some of the connections are course, some are fine. Some of the connections are between things seen, many more are between things unseen. All these connections cause one thing to depend on other things – this is what interdependence means. It applies as a scientific concept across a wide range of scales from how members of a species interact with one another and other species, to how living things interact with the non-living environment. At the largest scale that should concern us it applies to the whole biosphere of earth, the whole planet with its biological and non-biological processes each inseparably inter-meshed with one another (including human beings and their use of oil). At the smallest scale that should concern us it applies to each and every economic interaction in which resources are taken from the water, ground, and sky and put to use producing wealth and enlarging Homo Colossus so that that wealth may continue to grow.

The role of oil, the implications of peak oil, and the science of interdependence – these are ecology’s most important scientific contributions to the store of human knowledge for our times. They were true in the past, are true now, and will remain true tomorrow morning when we wake up to yet another day in which our societies will deny they are heading headlong into a shit storm.

It does not need to be this way. It is possible to speak the truth, talk about these things honestly and refuse the greedy warmongering leading us to disaster. It is, in fact, fairly easy to align one’s own heart and soul to the meaning of these things and from there watch your own life become an adventure. You and I are not responsible for what the rich and powerful choose to do or not do. We are responsible for how we will react to the times we find ourselves in. We can live as men and women with dignity, recognizing that the good in this world is worth fighting for. Or we can join the fog of foolishness, hoping against hope that some magic will save us in the end from the results of our own craziness. This later approach never works out well. That is what all the initiates of all the ages have been at pains to try and communicate since the wise first started putting teachings together. On one hand is reality, on the other hand is delusion. Sometimes the moral choices we need to make really are that simple. Choose your god carefully.

Nailing Miracles, part two

The altar is where human beings present things to god. The altar is related to the mystery of food, where life feeds off of life, where life must kill to live. The Eucharistic meal is a civilizing force, a feast not of meat but of bread. It is a chance to “lift our hearts to the Lord,” and walk above the fear of death and our daily participation in it. It is the meal of the lamb, that of peace found when our hearts truly understand the gentleness of our creation far exceeds its terror.

Knives, and metal implements generally, are needed and used with hardly a thought to carve the tender flesh of the animals we eat. Yet, at some level of our own awareness, I propose, this terrifies us. The history of torture devices make clear the way metal applied to flesh can cause pain. Metal on naked flesh is the fear the crucifixion captures in the nails forcibly introduced into the body of the Christ. It is also the fear that is captured in the moment of panic in the Christ story when the initiate, wearing only a flimsy white robe, is suddenly surrounded by soldiers in full armor and armed with weapons. As Mk. 14.51,2 states, this initiatory panic causes the disciple to flee in terror. (As said earlier, once the spirit is driven by fear out of the body, that’s it, it is not possible to push a tortured being further.) It is the divine grace that allows the Christ alone to stay with the terror of those nails, to allow them to keep him held in place, fixed in pain, and not panic. Hence, by his blood, it is said, we are saved once we have aligned ourselves with the Christ. After the rooster crow of the bloody dawn, after our three betrayals in seeking the all-powerful Christ of the religious temptations, we too are called to take up our cross, the sliver of the divinity-task that is ours to bear within the mystery of human love, suffering, and redemption. The next time we see the white robe it is in the empty tomb, Mk. 16.5. Seeking god as an answer to death one finds “he is not here.” This which we are dealing with is the god of life. Through the panic, through the encounter with the teacher’s healing exorcism, the initiate has learned we shall not die the death in life that is a life burdened by superstitious fear and meaninglessness, but live even as the Christ did. Though we may bear the marks of our wounds, the flesh as grave was unable to hold us, we have found liberation from the evil that was done to us and that we have done.

Mark’s Gospel is particularly telling in how this resurrection promise is worked out using its shorter ending. The resurrection promise is that by which human hope in goodness is kept alive (some may recall our conversations about Santa and Easter Bunnies). There are no resurrection scenes in Mark, only the word to the ladies. “On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, ‘Do not be amazed!’” I emphasize where I think the rich symbolic vein is to be found, one related, in part, to the difference between being child-like and childish. The first words spoken in the empty tomb, ‘Do not be amazed!,’ these are serious. This part of the mystery story is related to the John Barelycorn sacrifices and is not the central point. It’s miraculous reality should not amaze us, that is, it should not enchant us and bewitch us. We should not let the unknowns around death become a wedge by which liars manipulate us through our fears. The seed must die for the crop to arise, but it is not the farmer that makes it grow. The Christ story is not one about the mystery of creation, but of the mystery of redemption within that creation. Those who make a big deal of the ancient phallic-cross and womb-tomb associations are missing it.

The short ending goes on, “But go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.’ Then they went out and fled from the tomb, seized with trembling and bewilderment. They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” They were just told not to be amazed and here they are, bewildered. What to do, where can we find Jesus on the road to Galilee and learn to properly be a disciple? Back at the start of the Gospel, just after the prologue. “It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. . .” The terrifying and bloody death of the Crucifixion, when the Shepard was slain and the sheep scattered, this story asks us if this is really the end, are we ultimately left alone to suffer in painful, deluded confusion? Only you as a reader can answer that for yourself. What does your heart tell you? Does it quicken when you hear His words? It is not the end of the story if you take up re-reading it again, and in doing so again and again throughout a long life, encounter there the living one. He is not found among the dead. He has established a feast to which the poor and vulnerable are invited. For those called to this supper, their lives, however long or short they may be, will have seemed in the end to have been good and meaningful lives. What is offered are lives so full of wonder that it is as if they had lasted a thousand years, bringing us the fullness of time. The healed enjoy lives filled with peace and crowned with rest. This is “as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.”

What has the initiate learned with his encounter with their guardian angel, where the corrupting metal nails have pierced their own flesh? The Book of Revelation gives the inside view, the spiritual view, of the battle on the cross and the resurrected life. Rev. 19.14 “The armies of heaven followed him, mounted on white horses and wearing white linen.” From chapter 20: “Then I saw an angel come down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the abyss and a heavy chain. He seized the dragon, the ancient serpent, which is the Devil or Satan, and tied it up for a thousand years and threw it into the abyss, which he locked over it and sealed, so that it could no longer lead the nations astray until the thousand years are completed. After this, it is to be released for a short time.” How short? “Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” Christian initiates live their lives abundantly, refusing to bow down in fear and serve the one who rules us no more. We do not fear an hour of judgment from abba, for we have learned to pray to god “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Christians have seen through the lies of the accuser, the destroyer that would set itself up as god.

We human beings are all trauma survivors. Wounded people wounding others is a part of our fate. Through long efforts at therapeutic work, our soulful contemplation and prayer, we can cast out the burdens injected into our bodies and psyches by the evil done to us and the terror it evokes. These burdens are often imagined as metallic invaders planted in, or living in, our flesh during, for example, Parts Work with PTSD persons. Other times the burdens are voices or images more personalized, as if alien intelligence were involved. This is particularly the case when the traumatized are bordering on psychosis or schizophrenia. Satanic nails and devilish demons, these things populate the human-world soul and seek to destroy personalities, whole nations at a time if they can. It is not superstition to admit these factors exist. They are inherent to our “psychological” experience when that experience tends towards the extreme. For example, intravenous drug users refer to their syringe as a nail, murders nail people, and when we succeed against a tough challenge we say we nailed it, as if we had banished something once and for all by, as we say, nailing the bastard to the wall. The war zones we create outside ourselves are, mercifully, small reflections of the ones within us, the ones which are created when we abuse one another. Peace on earth, in fact, starts within us as individuals. It can start nowhere else.

It is a real shame to let religious ideas steal the possibility of an abundant life from a human being. They do so by feeding the fear of death inherent in our mammalian physiology and inferential reasoning. The Christ story is designed to be a corrective to that misunderstanding of what religion and religious imagery is for. The poets had to write, the message of redemption is too important not to pass on. They had to pass it on even as they had received it from those who had passed it on to them. In their wisdom they knew the dangers involved in misunderstanding what they were teaching, and they prepared for that. In their compassion they were inspired to teach us of the new heaven and the new earth that awaits those who are healed by the Christ. This is the story of what the true creator of the universe would look like if he / she / it / X were to look as a man. The point is not the miracles, all wiz-bang and powerful. The point is the care and concern for the people Jesus meets and how he meets them as an individual. What has moved countless millions of faithful believers for centuries is the love this sacred heart displays.

But so much of the dogma seems to contradict rational thought. Faith’s cords of dogma are the poets means of speaking. It is a language at once of reason and emotion when both are touched by the visionary spirit. Dogma is meant to protect the inner coherence of the symbol system it attends. It is a faith that in the inspiration of our poets and prophets, there is a true element of the divine. The assumed authorial authority spoke of earlier, will at times seem to take on an authority beyond what the poet would claim for themselves. It is the most profound mystery of the creative inspiration, the power of the muse, the guardian angel. Over the years it has lead to the building of our so-called Holy Books. The fire of god speaks, darkly but insistently, as tongues of flame touching the heads of those in the upper room.

The Gospel story teaches that the creator is a loving father-architect. It asserts a faith that things are what they seem: that the universe in all its vast mystery, was formed to allow life and consciousness to arise. Not as a pantheistic ocean of awareness, but always and everywhere only through individuals. This is the Christ light. It is the loving creator concept taken beyond concept, to where it matters to you personally. Here is the mystery of the true god = true man. It is your death, your life, your conscience that is being talked about. This Christ light is not owned by any church, though the Catholic rites, both East and West, have protected the coherence of the symbolism through the poetics of dogma. The teaching of abba is a gift to show the Way to the lost, the Light to the blind, and the Truth to the confused.

He Who Was Without Sin

We are all blind until we see
That in the human plan,
Nothing is worth the making,
If it does not make the man.

Why build these cities glorious,
If man unbuilded goes?
In vain we build the world, unless,
The builder also grows.
-Edwin Markham
Quoted in Bruce Watson’s
The Man who Changed How Boys and Toys were Made

The collective actions of the global consumer culture have grown suicidal. This is a simple scientific observation. We need to be clear about this. If existing trends continue, specifically if we continue burning fossil fuels, a massive die-off of human beings and animals is the most probable outcome. We know this as certainly as we know any scientific fact in this class of probabilistic knowledge – and we do not care enough to stop. This is because we are hurt, we are not right in our hearts. If we loved life sufficiently we would insist the madness stop, evidently we do not. The only other logic possibility is that human beings are up against something so much more powerful than themselves, that they are helpless to improve these ecological and sociological errors.What humans create they can choose not to create, and since fossil fuel use is certainly something humans created that second possible explanation seems weak.

That leaves us with we don’t care, or at least, care enough. I think this is our modern Gnosticism, a pervasive life-sucks philosophy disguised as something else. The commercial culture looks to be one of happy faces. On the outside the American dream is an endless party in a cornucopia of the best goods the earth has to offer. Inside the culture, things are not so happy. The life advertising celebrates, with all the tricks of light and makeup, is a sham. It is not the life filled with babies and grandparents, graveyards and weddings, bills, pimples, and hugs which is our actual fate. This is our Gnostic denial of what actually is, in favor of a fantasy. To the degree that this commercial culture celebrates youth above all other stages of life, to exactly that degree it denies human life is meaningful and has value. Hence, to escape the pain of a meaningless existence, we are on this downward trajectory towards simplified lifestyles without the hope that such a future is anything but too dismal to talk about. If we can’t shop at Walmart every Black Friday this century, well, then screw the whole planet, right?

If we are to understand the meaning of the Western Christian story for us today, in our time of ecological and social collapse, we need to grant our ancestors the benefit of the doubt and by using reason and our own experience of what is real and true about being human and being a part of a larger society, try to understand what it is they are communicating poetically to us. I am arguing the Western spiritual tradition has been perverted, yet remains a source of strength for people of goodwill if we are able to be clear that this is the situation. There is a whole lot going down in the name of Jesus that is actually anti-Jesus. It is meant to be this way. That is the exact trap built into the myth. Did you really think the whole of the ancient world was persuaded by a mystery religion that had no mystery, that the initiations grew quite because Christianity itself did not have an initiation able to replace them? The preachers of the non-compassionate, hardhearted, kill-joy Christ are nothing new, nor is their Gnostic heresy.

Those who would make you feel bad about being a human being, typically using religious mumbo-jumbo in the process, are not speaking with the spirit of the creator’s wisdom but the lying spirit we have been discussing. True god and true man, that is what this means. The true god with which we have to deal is the one that created us, and created us the way we are. Whatever mysteries we may be involved in concerning gods, angels, and demons, the primary reality always and everywhere, for us, remains the human one. Those “supernatural” things should serve human needs, humanity should not be torn apart trying to serve their needs. From tip to toe we as created imperfect creatures are blessed, loved, unique, created in the image of god, children of god, the apple of his eye; how many more ways could the Church Fathers find to say it? From the lust in our crotch to the reasoning in our minds, there is nothing to fear here. It is as it should be. A vast cosmos is interdependently generating the human species, sustaining us moment by moment, creating the complex weave of each brain’s enchanted loom as the most intricate structure of molecules in the whole of known existence. We when are awake to this, which is reality, we are aware of our nobility. This is what we are currently putting at risk with our short-sighted cowardice before the fossil fuel conundrum. If we are older we are the kings and queens, or if younger the princes and princesses, of the whole. By properly using our reason and emotions we are able to build (small ‘k’) kingdoms of peace where love flourishes. We are the artists of our own lives, free to will as we will. The Gospel is a teaching about the wisdom of an authentic human life well lived, one that is lived with passion and respect for oneself, others, and the earth. The Gospel is also a teaching about the dangers to human beings of hubris and pride, particularly the pride involved in thinking you are religiously righteous. The fevered dreams of those who would be gods create demonic evil in their ignorant striving to be too good, too blissful, too rich, and too powerful.

By having Jesus be the one human being who was also god, we are given an image that clarifies our own creature-hood by asserting a contrast. True god manifest while remaining true man is also the most powerful expression possible of the non-Gnostic point of view. It guides our speculations towards examining the exact relationship between the rational human psyche, the visionary spirit, and the flesh. The speculations have remained fruitful for millennia now and show no signs of stopping.

“He was like us in all things but sin.” Whenever I had heard that my immediate thought was, well, than he was not very much like us at all. I have since come to understand this differently. Throughout the essays dealing with abuse I have been sharing the Jungian teaching that the shadow archetype is considered, in practice, to be 90% gold. What therapists have found is that the seemingly bad habits, character traits and emotional problems people have are often protecting important inner aspects of their personalities. There is an assertion of identity by the life force itself, sweeping the ego along. If this shadowy protection had not been there, the client would have lost their personal integrity along the way. The example I used was how an adolescent starting to smoke might be defending their identity separated from their parents and others who are forcing their will on the young person due to their own psychological problems.

These shadowy aspects of our characters are born, in part, from reactions we have had to the evil others have done to us. Attacks upon the integrity of the person bring forth these shadow powered protectors. Becoming reacquainted with our own souls involves dealing with these aspects of our life experience, which up until now we have had to repress full awareness of due to their painful implications. In my experience, what is hard for the psyche is to admit certain truths about other people if those truth are attended by extremely painful implications for the relationship in the here and now. Too many abusive families never talk about the abuse each member of the family is aware of, because to do so would be to upset the whole emotional dynamic on which existing relationships are based. Relationships involve issues of love, hate, power and powerlessness. These parts of our “insides” are among the most powerful human experiences there are. It takes something larger than ego to break out of the cages abuses create. This is where the shadow comes in. Living the lie can only go on so long, something has to give. (This is a lesson each of us alive today are learning concerning ecological problems right now). If the light of reason is denied the ability to express what it knows, the unconscious elements from the dreaming life will, at times, overwhelm the waking life. Desires without the will to resist them will arise.

Not just any old desires but exactly those that the shadowy reasoning has worked out might bring the personalities the nourishment of truth, love, or light they need but are not getting. A simple example is ubiquitous high-powered business man who drinks themselves to sleep each night. The drunk, to put it simply, may be a better person overall because they take their indulgence as a way to relax. Perhaps without the drink they would be beating their wife and children but because they have their little buzz, they make their peace with life. Over the years their drinking will bother them and become more and more of a problem until they are lead into the therapists’ office, or circumstances within their own lives perform the same waking up service. That is a sketch of a the way these things very often go. It is why those who deal directly with the fallout of evil on human personalities, our psychologists, talk about the shadow being 90% gold. The older was of talking among those who deal directly with the fallout of evil on human personalities was to say that these things are the power of sin. They are reverberations. They can be healed.

Our ancestors, in their wisdom, talked about the differences between personal sin and the more serious mortal or deadly sins.

There is a distinction being made here between the sinful reverberations of being tortured by abuse, and the evil of the abuse itself. The violence and cruelty that attends the act of evil itself is the shadow’s remaining 10%. Most people on earth now, and throughout the many generations extending back into our misty past, have not participated in the kind of actions that make up the 10%. Most people do not commit acts of incest, murder, rape, or torture. These are not the sins of the shadowy 90% but the ones that put your soul at “risk of eternal damnation,” that is, the mortal sins. Those are words designed to provoke panic. There is a reason for this. Can you see it now that it is placed in the context of the 10% of events where evil has its hour? This is the scream from the silence in Abraham’s ear – do not kill your son! Do so, and nothing you do in the rest of your life will blot out from your own understanding what it is you have done. Since we are mortal creatures with only one life to live, this is the equivalent of entering hell for the rest of your days. But this, too, is not the whole story.

The Christ came to save the lost. The 10% can find deliverance, it is what their victims pray for: that they and the evil they sew be stopped in their tracks.

“He was like us in all things but sin.” Maybe a modern way to understand this is that Jesus had the 90% shadow in common with all of us, what he did not do was one of the acts driven by the 10% of the dark side that has passed from ignorance and mistakes into that which is truly evil. With the power of creation in his hand, the Christ said “No” to some of it, the old lesson from Eden. He committed no mortal sin, that is he did not partake of some parts of the human experience – those which are dominated by the demonic. He did not ignore these events, just the opposite. As god he chose to know these experiences as the victim, not the perpetrator. What Jesus Christ teaches is that as the victim he sees the truth of the human heart, exposing the liar that would darken it. On the cross he exposes it once and for all time. There is nothing to fear in natural death, that is not the gateway to hell, evil is. There is nothing to fear in the natural way of the dance and the drunk, the marriage and the tears. Our creator created us mortals, creatures meant to be passionate and moved by love. There is something to fear in the use of our rational powers of consciousness when we choose to use them to increase violence and cruelty. Then humankind brings something forth that does not exist in nature: it creates pain for its own sake, not in service of a higher good. In this bloody mess there is something for us to fear. Humans can feel it in the air when torture is occurring and long ago labeled it demonic. To fear trespassing against a personality the way those who abuse others do, this fear is said to be the fear of the Lord, the fear said to be the beginning of wisdom.

Those whose lives are drawn to enact the evil of the 10% are in turn reacting to powers not normally a part of general human experience. Serial killers, Hitlers, et. al., the whole bunch are dealing with much more than just personal shadows. They have a contract of sorts to work out with the Christ light. They have acted against another being’s personality, the spark of divinity they did not create, cannot extinguish, and have no right to abuse. Since they too are a personality, there is a complicated situation here. It is one that we cannot fully understand, the mystery of iniquity. “Judge not that ye be not judged” for though some will carry the cross and some will carry the sin, both are invited to the marriage taking place on that old wooden cross. Jesus is the trap for the demons, liberator of the children, and the one who binds the devil, the strong man. He unites true god and true man, catching out the conscience of us all – the one family of humankind.

We have been at this for tens of thousands of years. There is, in the end, only human beings and what they do to one another. This is both the kingdom come, and the condemnation. Evolution designed us to learn by making mistakes. Only when we are free to make mistakes do we stand any chance of ever arriving at wisdom. There needs to be a limit on where the mistakes are allowed to lead, if we are not going to find ourselves involved in more than we can handle. The 10% evil in the shadow is that which should remain out of bounds. When those bounds are trespassed, the mistakes enter taboo territory and they ring hell’s bells.

The contract worked out with Jesus is one built on “I am sorry.” It is signed in blood, that is, the next day the person must act differently. The power of the Christ is the power to choose to do good, from this day forward. What is past is gone, it is done and cannot be changed. Whatever causes and effects that are rippling along from those things a person has done but now regrets are not going to be altered by gnashing teeth and wailing. They might be, might be, by the actions a person takes for the rest of their remaining lives, however long or short that might be. This is repentance, the first coming of the Lord in terror. Here is the big secret – Jesus is the most powerful monster of them all. The key point of baptism is saying out loud “I renounce the devil,” unafraid of the 10% and willing to evoke their wrath. When people get into religious arguments, basically my invisible friend can beat up your invisible friend, this is the teaching they are misunderstanding.

Once the blood contract is signed in the flesh of a person they become people of the day. Those changed by their searing encounter with their conscience now reach for the new dawn, looking forward to the tomorrows of their lives. It happens once someone knows in their bones that the so-called second coming of Jesus, when we pass through the door of death and return to the ground of our being, is the Word coming in love to claim his creature, child of the cosmos, precious and unique throughout all time. The simple innocence of life which we once knew in our childhood was born of ignorance. That carefree innocence can be ours again as we age and increase in our understanding, if we learn to embrace, even rejoice in, our very creature-hood. Yes, scars remain in the resurrected life, that is in the story too. We are not going to pretend that evil does not exist, but we do insist it is limited. Faith is the conviction lived that life can be fun, we can be happy, and our lives given away to those we love in the labor of building our little ‘k’ kingdoms can be made both beautiful and meaningful. This is the good news.

The Dark Child

This is what we need to address from the Dear God song mentioned last week. “Dear God, don’t know if you noticed but, your name in on a lot of quotes in this book. Us crazy humans wrote it, you should take a look.” As mentioned last week, there is an error in the use of Holy Books we human beings are prone to due to the assumed authority of the authorial voice. When the Holy Book in question is filled with “God says” and “The Lord commands” and “Thus saith the Lord,” well, the temptation to speak for god comes with the territory. I think this is a major part of the real lesson Western religion is seeking to teach each generation that receives it, but for the most part we no longer hear it. We no longer understand that some of the examples being held up as what people did, while thinking they were righteous, have been passed down so that we will see that they were anything but. We are too easily satisfied with the surface meanings we find, which not surprisingly supports genocide, capitalism, democracy, the republican party, and wealth as the true sign of being loved by god. A preferential option for the poor, an ethic of non-violence, and finding the face of the Christ in a suffering human being instead of the Emperor does not sell as well.

American Christianity has often come across as puffed up triumphalism. Instead of seeing the face of Christ in the suffering poor, it rubs shoulders with wealth and power. It is always asking for money. The TV preachers with super-star sized egos are best known for dictating death and hell for gays, communists, democrats, Catholics, and the whole “secular” world. They have left a very bad taste in the mouth of most thinking people who value compassion. These preaching people seem to have a problem separating the tongue of the Lord from the tongue of their own desires. This is the old, very old, narcissistic magic that makes the mortal put on the airs of a god. There is always some human being in the loop on those “Thus saith the Lord” assertions. There is something about religion, the Western tradition in particular, that breeds the temptation to lord it over others in the name of god. “God must like me, I am rich and powerful,” runs the ancient ethic, one from at least the time of the Pharaohs which the Good Book was supposed to help us escape. We do not talk so blatantly but we act as if it were so when we give subservient deference to those who are destroying the earth for quarterly profits just as if they were divine beings.

He-whose-shit-does-not-stink sits on a golden toilet seat while the outcast and discarded die of malnutrition and cluster bombs. If we are in fact, as biology and ecology teach us, one interdependent family of humankind, then treating some of our brothers and sisters with such contempt, and others with such deference, is bound to not turn out well.

The modern world has been left with the husks of our mythologies and cannot seem to find their true nourishment. The problem of evil will not be lightly cast aside. As ecological collapse continues, particularly if it is made worse by nuclear war as seems to be likely now, we can expect this “theological” problem to become ever more acute. Will people be able to find the comfort of meaningful existence in their traditions? Or will the loss of soul be devastatingly alienating from what we have learned as a species over our hundreds of thousands of years?

Here is a quick thought experiment, one of thousands available. An amateur German study found there has been a decrease in winged insects over the last 30 years in Europe; they are down 75%. Since fossil fueled industrialized civilization is not changing its ways, in fact it is accelerating all the forces that likely caused this, we can rationally assume the next 30 years to be more of the same, or worse. Another 75% loss from the 25% left? And in another 30 years? Hello, is anyone awake? Some headlines are more important than others. This type of thing, for example. Though chosen as a small drop in the bucket of headlines about the ongoing ecological collapse it is, in my way of thinking, more important than the talk dominating our headlines around the tweeting of twinkle texts.

Theology is the talk of god(s). When it is not being used to justifying the status quo and hand out social status it is also the realm of philosophical and existential questions. As mentioned when we looked at Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, the human being needs to know their own life is valuable and finds it is when it is devoted to a cause larger than itself alone. We are born to serve our communities and our land. It is our sacred stories which help us to place our lives in this larger context where our individual joys and sorrows can become profoundly meaningful. They even become, if we dare say it, cosmically meaningful – for us.

The first night, the first day: these are the foundations of mythic consciousness. A consciousness, we should remember, whose roots are found inside every one of us. They tell the tales inherent in our flesh and blood. The universe seems to have had an origin, as do we. We most certainly have an end, the universe might. The moment we were born was our creation into the light of consciousness as we became a unique way in which the universe would come to experience itself. The universe was created for us at that moment. The moment we die that universe will come crashing down. When we die we will return to that from which the spark of consciousness came. Death is not what it seems to be when seen in the light of deep time evolution and modern biological understanding of DNA’s deathlessness which is of necessity coupled to algorithmic cell death. That life only and everywhere manifests itself in individuals is a fact, the interdependent truth of what it actually is. We are all of one family, literally.

The Christian teaching myth drew the proper, rational implications from this long ago: we are to call god father and are called to serve the needs of the poor and suffering among our brothers and sisters. It holds out the hope of a kingdom where peace on earth reigns. Peace gains the upper hand in history when, to put it bluntly, men have worked out their father issues and have learned to walk with integrity and nobility. That kingdom comes when the cycle of physical, sexual, and spiritual abuse of children which is handed down through the generations is cut. That happens, when it happens, one couple at a time. By this way of reading the human experience the most important aspects of history are taking place in our homes, not in the palaces of the Emperors. This is where the real levers of history reside, the ones that shape the psyches that shape events. The real lever of history, by this way of looking at things, is found in what our forefathers and foremothers called faith.

In the older view, as we reconstruct it, the whole world could be seen as in the hands of caring providence. The good people would be rewarded and the bad people would be punished. In this way the moral order we find in our conscience would have some applicability in the larger universe. We love to watch the bad guy get their comeuppance, that way we feel there is justice and fairness in the end. As the darkness of the death camps and nuclear bombs made clear, this is not the way good and evil play out in the real world. Whatever “providence” might be involved in the human journey through history it is not, evidently, of this magical type. It does not seem to have the power to stop evil, at least not as we would will it. I wish more people were willing to set aside that magical thinking. What is the global ecological crisis and the accompanying saber rattling among the various true believers but this, our latest manifestation of the institutional dark heart? Does it not seem that we are powerless to stop our descent into the darkening future most every thinking person has been warning us about for decades now?

Traumatizing the earth, traumatizing ourselves, the dark child has become our teacher.

That which we recognize as alive is aware of the environment – living things form an inseparable unit of contained and container. For the traumatized the container is threatening, even when the cause of their trauma, the very real threat that once was experienced, is now long gone. The body remembers. The depth of our fight, flight and freeze responses are such that experiences in this area carve our characters for life, for better and for worse.

It is not the abused person’s fault human evil was turned on them. But it was. It does no good to pretend they were not sent to hell. They were. It is that simple. They are right to ask, ‘if this is a good universe where was my Holy Guardian Angel when the torture occurred?’ The universe that is ruled by the terror-bringers is a lie but it can so easily befuddle the human mind. To deal with it first we call a spade a spade, nothing less is going to do. We need to have some ammunition for casting out the demons. Alien components have been introduced into the human psyche of the traumatized. Call them dark archetypes if you will but whatever label we use, we need to recognize that they are death bringers for the ego, for the personality and person trying to make it through their days. In the works of the shadow the personality is trying to cast the foreigners out but the shadow is only able to do so much. It cannot take the final step, for the final step is to lay itself and the ego down. This only happens in an untwisted way when something greater than the person sweeps them up into the arms of divine unconditional love.

It is the universal testimony of the wise ones that this can happen. It is not an exclusively “Christian” event, though often clothed in Christian symbolism for those raised in the West. This experience of being caught up “in the hands of the living god,” if it indeed can happen, would move the person from the evil universe or atheist position towards faith. The ultimate move in this direction is the attainment which all true initiations are trying to bring about. To place it in Christian terms we could say that the hatchet is buried at the foot of the cross – and left there. Why? Because Jesus on the cross is representing fallen human flesh. We cannot love the one who was abused without also hating the one that did the abuse. It is one thing. Pure evil, however, cannot be located in persons. Our hate must mature and face the tragic truth. The tragic truth is that those abusing others were once abused themselves. There is no legitimate target for this righteous anger among mortals. Deny the divine one on the cross and you are left with an emotional need to project pure evil onto people. The result is inevitably torn and bleeding mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters – and the cycles of violence proceed unhindered.

We are going to take this one step at a time over the next few essays. Theology on the street level is one that talks to the prostitutes, junkies, runaways, and all the rest of the refuse we create in our dark ways of projecting evil into one another. If it doesn’t speak to them it fails the sniff test: “I came to find the lost.” If our theology can help them to sing, in whatever lives they are capable of having, then it is real. If it is just going to make them feel worse, just darken the universe made by monsters they are already living in, we would be better off teaching nothing at all. I am not at all kidding about this. We are hazing demons here, there is no room for pulling punches. There is more sanity in a refreshingly thorough atheistic view of the universe than there is in the monster haunted one the traumatized mind has been taught is real.

We cannot go back in time and undo the crimes against souls that occur. This might be the most bitter truth of all. There is a special love among the dark and broken children when they find each other. They were cast out of houses that were never homes and hunger for love. Those who fall in love with people who were abused have dragons in their imaginations, dragons they feed as their love-inspired empathy tries to understand just how their beloved was hurt. Those who suffered the abuse have the dragons in their bodies; they are the dark side of the Tibetan Wind Horses that ride our nervous systems. What then, is love powerless? Yes, as a matter of fact it is. This is related to the impotency of “I’m sorry” (even when sorry is the hardest word). It cannot undo what has been done. It is the same lesson we as a species are learning about carbon emissions. Lovers can offer each other companionship and compassion but that is not enough. Traumatized people are drinking themselves to death, and worse, every day in-spite of love being in their lives. These dragons are not trifles. That crucifixion thing, what is the lesson? Love dies. It is not the final word, it is not all there is to say, but that is a real part of life. There has never been a human alive who did not have to say goodbye to those they love. The dark child just had to say it earlier than most and while the shells of who they once loved were still walking around threateningly. For everyone else the day of doubt comes with funerals and graveyards. The human heart cries out, ‘does the universe care at all about me and the ones I love?’ It does no good to pretend cartoons greet us on the other side of the grave ala Egyptian mummies and pyramids. Your own body is not so easily fooled.

In our time of ecological collapse and threatened nuclear war, on the other hand, it might do some good if we can come to understand that grave dirt is not evil in itself. Christianity, when not corrupted from within, is the teaching that natural life is good. Sex is not evil. Sex is part divine. This whole universe is a manifestation of a loving god which humans experience through their personalities. As if the whole universe were made just for us and those we love, which, in a very quantum mechanical way, perhaps it was. The Christian teaching around death is that there is a beatific vision waiting the ego of each of us when we die, that death is a rest in peace untouched by the sorrows and torments living entails. Our awareness remains in eternity, how could it not since it has participated in time? It is our spark in timelessness, like a star that never goes out. Death crowns a life well lived with the attainment of our heart’s innermost dream. The ground of being, emptiness, the impersonal, first greets us with a personalized face. Our homecoming in the bosom of the impersonal, we experience as the human child held in the protective arms of a human father. We return to the source the way we came forth from the source. This is why the child plays such an important role in these things, it is not the foo-foo inner-child of New Age thought being talked about here. It is the core of that which became the personality, the raw biological jelly as it were, created pure, unblemished by any foreign thing.

The problem is that our hyper-violent, hyper-industrialized societies have, shall we say, father issues. Our homes are fatherless or filled with monsters masquerading as men. Our societies have no place for protectors, kind loving and compassionate fathers of courage, to actually protect what they care most deeply about. They cannot keep their sons from the war machines nor their daughters from the sexual exploitations the internet teaches and celebrates. They cannot keep their schools from being cut for funds or attacked by shooters. They cannot remove the guns or drugs from the capitalist on the street corner. They cannot keep the predatory priest away from them at church. Fathers, in short, have been emasculated. To try and be providers and fail in the ways that matter most is a hard road to walk. Because they fail, the disappointed wife and children spew meanness on the male who was unable to deliver the protective home he promised in the midst of his courting and romance. There are just not that many happy marriages in America. These dynamics are, best I can make out, a large part of why.

As mentioned before the mother archetype says yes and the father says no. The father’s “no” was not supposed to remain the private, thundering law giver of patriarchy written into the stars: no speaking back or speaking out, no questioning my authority! It was meant to be turned on other men, not the women and children. Men were supposed to have the courage to tell other men, when what they are doing is evil, to stop it. That is the power of “No.” Our cultural fall has been so far from the vision of the Good Book that we can only imagine such power in its most crude form; out of the barrel of a gun or its equivalent. That is not where this power of “No” really lives. Violence only sews more violence. The power of kindness backed by rational persuasion – that is the power that stands against the waves of centuries throwing pharaohs, kings, and emperors against it. There have been some seriously dark hours but they haven’t killed hope yet.

The No we have need to somehow find the right way to say to the existing powers that be is not a mystery. It is as clear as the dawn for every human heart. It is wrong to bomb the poorest people on earth with ordinance that cost more than the food they needed. It is wrong to rate the wants of a few hundred hyper-wealthy families above the needs of the majority of humankind alive today and those yet to come. Somehow we need to say NO to this. How, then, might we bind the strong man?

A Pound of Flesh

“Throughout his life, Trump has been obsessed with nukes. In 1984, he claimed that he could single-handedly force Russia to accept a nuclear truce, telling a reporter: “It would take an hour and a half to learn everything there is to learn about missiles … I think I know most of it anyway.” In 1990, he told Playboy: “I’ve always thought about the issue of nuclear war; it’s a very important element in my thought process,” adding that the assumptions behind the US’s long tradition of non-use were ‘bullshit’.”
Paul Mason, For Trump and the US right, breaking the nuclear taboo has always been thinkable

“…the deepest human fear is to face the anarchies of personal madness or civil breakdown. That is why the urge for lawful order stands at the bifurcation leading either to imposed tyrannous rules, or to harmonies of inquiry, self-knowledge, and compassionate identification.
In tyranny, a fundamental despair over the possibility of lawful order in the universe leads to an attempt to master it, to become the law, to dispense fate, to externalize pain rather than be subject to it. But when lawful order matures, the laws of the living organism of the universe are understood and counted on to extend through every boundary, to reach everywhere; or to originate everywhere. The same unfolding rules regulate my heart and the stars. There is only one place. There is no person-like being who sees everything with a giant eye; but each event billows upward out of nonbeing with a sovereignty that marks out the paths of electrons as well as the orbits of galaxies. The simple comfort of a law-giving father can be relinquished, when lawful order brings awareness and comprehensibility to an otherwise improbable and pell-mell world. Dispassionate, accurate observation of reality reveals an infinitely layered and exponentially complex order everywhere. The sense of lawful order is the sense that there is something behind it all, that there is something to it all. “An invisible and subtle essence is the Spirit of the whole universe. That is reality. That is the truth. THOU ART THAT.”
Paul R. Fleischman, The Healing Zone: Religious Issues in Psychotherapy

“He is not the God of the dead but of the living. You are greatly mislead.”
Mark 12.27 NAB, italics added

 

This post continues our discussion of religious child abuse. It also touches on the horrors of nuclear war. It may not be suitable for all readers.

Dr. Fleischman’s point about tyranny as a lack of faith in law and order is crucial, as is the point about there being a bifurcation exactly here, a choice to be made. This ability to believe in a universe of law and order is what is destroyed in victims of religious child abuse. Those who have been religiously terrorized as children form an evidence based belief that the cosmos does not contain a core of dependable law and order. They have experienced deceit in those society holds reverently as its main truth tellers, they have experienced the death of morality at the hands of those society holds as the pinnacle of ethics. Justice in the courts and fairness in social relations never come to these kids. The powerful remain powerful, almost untouchable as the 2015 Best Picture Spotlight made clear. As a result the hurt now live in a world where human facades fail to fool their broken hearts. The preacher going on and on about how god is love might just as well be from another universe entirely. The preacher going on about the god of love on Sunday and raping them on Monday is a monster that calls into question the existence of meaning in existence itself. Just imagine, if you will, seeing the universe from their eyes. The Western idea of an all knowing, all loving god who is all powerful but chose not to intervene does not answer their needs. So many of these victims die on our streets unacknowledged: overdosed with needles in their arms, hunted down by the diseases of prostitution, driven to suicide, murder or madness by the “saints.” It is in their name I offer these speculations.

These discussions are going to turn their focus towards Western religious traditions. The Biblical influence on the development of arts and letters in the cultures of the West is pervasive and remains so. It is not possible to understand the ecological crisis we are in without also understanding the psychology of people that allowed it to develop this far and are allowing it to proceed at its ever accelerating pace. Each culture will need to examine its roots as the maturation of the psyche under the tutelage of crisis continues. I absorbed Christianity with my mother’s milk, I am sure others are making similar investigations into their religious traditions in the same way. The silent abused child is silent no more the world over.

These comments around religious abuse and the misuse of Christian symbolism are offered in the spirit of compassionate speculation. Many of my acquaintances are people who, like myself, were hurt very badly in their childhood by the misuse of Christianity or more broadly, the mytho-poetic symbolism of Western religiosity. For those who were tortured and terrified by the followers of a perverted form of Jesus Christ, clarification from the psychologists’ position are going to be offered to aid healing by, hopefully, increasing understanding. This is valuable in itself. There is, however, a larger relevance to these speculations for the culture at large as well.

The issues brought to a head in this type of child abuse are the same issues that are driving formerly Christian countries crazy. These countries are becoming less and less able to bring wisdom to bear on the real problems and challenges they confront. They turn towards fantasy, seduced by magical thinking. Everywhere we see these formerly Christian cultures giving up on the ideals of Christian charity when it comes to public discussion and policy making. Even hypocritical lip service to these ideals is becoming rare among their leaders as they flirt with the older ideals of the strong man where might makes right and woman and children and members of other races are no more than slaves, trophies and property. Religion, in these countries, has become a nice-to-have but hardly necessary component of societies that seek to increase their economic might above all else. The old fashion Christian ideals of helping the poorest of the poor, orphans, and widows has been placed on life support.

Against this tide of secularism defined as neo-liberal values and consumer capitalism, a backlash of Christian fundamentalism has risen and taken positions of power. Christianity is being redefined as unquestioning obedience to male authority by those who “know” it is the “only true religion.” Satan, by this narrative, is everywhere and everywhere winning. The only thing to do is bring back the days of Puritan Law and Order, Christian Reconstructionism along Old Testament lines. This is highly unlikely under current circumstances so racial and class differences are being used to divide and conquer the population, shattering the social contracts. This social and psychological fragmentation serves the interests of fascism – government run by corporations instead of citizens. Populations confused about the wisdom in their own inherited religious traditions are cut off from their cultural roots. They are easily persuaded they have found a new purpose when they are united by their leaders against a common enemy. They can drown painful anomie in patriotism. When the hot wars start, all the painful social inequalities are set aside in the rally around the flag.

Let’s make these speculations a bit more concrete. A few days ago the official spokesman for the United States military used a very carefully crafted phrase to state that the US “is not looking to the total annihilation” of North Korea, but “we have many options to do so.” This is fear mongering. As hypnotists know, the unconscious mind does not deal in negative propositions. (‘Don’t think of an elephant’ doesn’t work in dream land.) When that phrase was planted in our minds the little word “not” was stripped off. At some semi-conscious level images of a whole population consumed in flames took place in every educated mind that heard that phrase. It might even be that the night after hearing these words most Americans dreamed a shaman dream, one full of BBQ’d flesh and beastly Eucharistic meals. Dreams most people would not be likely to remember on waking. Why would we do this? Because warriors become great again by eating the flesh of their enemies, one of the oldest ideas in the history of ideas, one still very much alive in the unconscious mind. Because we are a democracy we share in the responsibility for the actions of our leaders. As citizens we understand this on a very fundamental level and can be expected to process it in our dreams. Because this is how the human mind works, trying out various scenarios in our imagination to aid our ability to make good choices in our waking life. This nuclear scenario as a possible future was rather forcefully implanted in our minds by the use of that phrase “total annihilation.” This proposed act has such large potential ramifications on the probability of the United States future survival, that it became impossible to ignore by the mind’s scenario spinner that lives within each of its citizens.

However that may be, it is important to recognize how disproportionate the threatened response was to the provocation. This is a classic sign of psychopathology. Granted we said we don’t want to do it, just like any bully convinced of their own self-righteousness might say “don’t make me hit you.” This is all very dangerous. We need to be damn sure we are not goaded into flippantly using nuclear weapons in response to hurt pride and little else. The rest of the world could then make a strong argument that we are too dangerous to not be placed in some sort of quarantine. We would stand accused as the only country to have used these terrible weapons.

Parts of the unconscious mind are rather primitive in their ideas of justice. Purely illustrative, lets indulge for a moment in the bizarre world of fully distributive justice. But first a word or two for why, to set the context. I think there is an element of real evil in the escalation of threats around using nuclear weapons that is taking place on the world’s stage just now. I think that cause and effect, karma if you like, might somehow really matter in the ongoing effort to avoid World War III, which all people of goodwill have been involved in, at least in their hearts, since 1945. It is something I hope every reader will spend some time seriously contemplating. What if, just for example, nuclear weapons are going to be used again on earth six months from now. If you knew this was going to happen, would it change anything about how you live today? Might it change your contemplations and prayers? Would it change what you have the courage to talk about with your friends? Might it make the easy, flippant answers we normally give about the satanic majesty of our arsenals ring a bit hollow?

Here, presented more in the spirit of poetry, dark and dismal, than in the spirit of prose, is a back of the envelope version of distributive justice. The scenario is that the president of the United States presses the red button in a few months and brings “total annihilation” to North Korea. We avoid all the real world complications in an effort to get to exactly what was implied in the fear mongering phrase used. Because citizens of the United States live in a democracy it must be said that our fingers would also be on that button, at least in some ethical sense. But how much guilt should each of us rightly be assigned? This is the kind of question the human mind goes to work on, and it can become obsessive. Just ask any concentration camp survivor. Distributive justice is a first attempt at finding some rational answer that will satisfy the mind. That it is wholly inadequate to satisfy the heart will become obvious.

The existing population of North Korea is 25.37 million people. The average body weight in Asia is 127.2 lbs. Multiply these together and you find the pounds of Asian flesh being targeted. There are 323.1 million citizens of the United States. Divide the total US population into the total pounds of Asian flesh to find the distributed justice allocation for each of us. It works out to be just about 10 lbs of BBQ’d human flesh for each.

I present these ideas about the death of charity and this admittedly bizarre calculation as evidence that the meaning of the Western Christian tradition has been sorely misused and misunderstood. I believe, like all legitimate traditions of all peoples, that there is an element of inescapable truth about the human condition within Christianity  – and a trap for those who would misuse it. It is what we are going to be exploring by contrasting that life affirming aspect of Christian religious thought with this other tradition, this one of Rambo Jesus born from those who would flip the crucified one upside down and turn the cross of Christ into the sword of Damocles, the sword of nuclear wrath.