||[Apr. 18th, 2010|04:14 pm]
At this point in my life I really think that the essence of maturity, of growing up, of becoming a complete, or even an enlightened, person, can be generalized by the word "acceptance." If you've experienced something you know to be true, or if your rational mind or conscience is uncomfortable with what you're doing on an analytical or moral level, the necessary step is to investigate not what you would prefer to believe, or what best fits with your previous assumptions about the world, but what, objectively, you find to be true. Abraham Maslow called this kind of impartial state of mind "Being-Cognition," and revealed that this state is the foundation not only for an unfiltered experience of reality as it truly is (as opposed to the reality we see most of the time as a gigantic mass of things that may or may not fill our needs/wants) but for genuine and true love as well. He used another term for this state that I thought was really apt; "desireless awareness."|
The problems we have with spirituality and religion in the West, I feel, have to do with a lack of Being Cognition. To reject all religion, to reject spirituality entirely, is to reject a facet of the human experience that is essential to growth. It's one of the three great taboo subjects of conversation or thought in Western Culture: God, Sex and Death.
I'm going to outline my personal experience of acceptance here, but I think it's something many many Americans struggle with as well. It has to do, more or less, with Christ. My impression is that talking about Christ makes people really uncomfortable, moreso even than talking about God. The reason, I think, has to do with the idea of the Jungian Shadow, and the prone-ness individuals have to being swallowed by it. Whenever you hear of a die-hard atheist suddenly becoming an evangelical Christian out of nowhere, or a literalist Christian abandoning all his beliefs to be an atheist, or any very drastic and sudden exchange of beliefs like this, I think the Shadow has a large role. The Shadow is an archetype (a resonant image present in every human being's unconscious mind) representing, easily enough, the opposite of who you are; the inverse of your ego or persona, holding all those points of view and opinions that you're so uncomfortable with that you may repress (unconsciously ignoring) or suppress (consciously ignoring). When we repress or suppress a feeling, attitude or idea, because it makes us uncomfortable (possibly because if it were true it would disrupt one's worldview, or even ego in totality) we feed the Shadow. This is especially true if one represses ideas one feels may have something to them. So thereby the lifelong die-hard atheist is in a specific danger of becoming an evangelical literalist Christian, the Christian in danger of abandoning all the dogma of a hierarchical religious system based on an exclusivist theology in change for something less rigid, like Buddhism, the life-long Buddhist in danger of accepting Islam for its more organized, disciplined structure, etc. This is what happens when we don't face or acknowledge our Shadow; it will swallow us whole. The atheist feels uncomfortable because he may intimate that there is something real being expressed in Christianity, so when the Shadow becomes too powerful for him to control, he'll flip to the polar opposite of his belief system, evangelical Christianity. He feels that the parts of religion that resonate unconsciously with him may have to be necessarily accepted within a larger framework. In short, the Shadow is everything we're not. Because the atheist suppresses one or two things he may feel have some truth to them, in the Shadow they become part of a framework for everything else he feels he is not. Therefore, instead of the healthy method of simply allowing one's self to be open to new points of view, regardless of how they conflict with one's worldview (this would be Being-Cognition) and making real objective TRUTH the criteria for what one holds as true, rather than comfort, the Shadow that's grown more and more powerful with each second truths are repressed, swallows him. Since he previously denied Christianity completely, he now has been claimed by Christianity,not a Christianity of truth, but a Christianity defined solely on what he was not. It's obviously not the best solution to trade one's entire belief system for its inverse, but it happens when one sees a few points of truth in a conflicting philosophy. When we don't at least acknowledge them, we run the risk of having our lives radically polarized just because our original worldview lacked something. I really hope I'm getting this point across clearly, here.
I feel many Americans are terrified to admit to the metaphysical reality of Christ they may have experienced because they feel that if they accept it, they're going to lose control of themselves and be sucked into a life of fagbashing Creationist TV-preacher Bible-thumping. Therefore, I think many feel that one must deny religion in totality, just on principle, because many aspects of it are faulty, repulsive, or just incredibly uncomfortable. The problem with this stance, however, is that it has nothing at all to do with what is objectively TRUE. I think anyone who has attended church on a regular basis at any point in their lives cannot deny that they felt something real there. To make this admission more comfortable, the atheist or secularist may rationalize that it was endorphins or childish naivete or the positive emotional energy of the congregation around them that caused such spiritual insight/inspiration. But the truth is, people go to church to experience a mystical state. Even the televangelists, as repulsive as their religious framework may be, are inspired by this state, that being a genuine experience of God, or Christ (although I don't think the literalists let this experience truly guide them, substituting its authority for a set of dogmas and the theology of a Bible stripped down to dead letters.)
So, my point: I personally was repressing the metaphysical reality of Christ ever since I stopped going to church as a kid. I would be okay with saying Jesus was an enlightened teacher, but Jesus is actually not all of what Christ is. What I mean to say is that I think I see the true meaning of the story of Christ. Because, regardless of what really happened historically, what we know about Jesus Christ is just a story now, but the story is still important (if not taken too literally.) Since reading about Quakerism, I feel I can more easily accept and see what is called the Eternal Christ. This is an experience of the Divine filtered through the archetype of man in union with God. The blood of Christ so central to the Atonement means the awareness of the Eternal we can see as human beings. The story of Jesus Christ we have now in the gospels is a reflection of this spiritual concept. Solely by the grace of God are we saved, through Christ. Even now, typing the previous statement makes me a little uncomfortable, because I know it to be true in a sense that I don't think most people see it. This has nothing to do with the idolatry of bowing to a rigid theology with a personal, Zeus-like god at its center. What it's saying is that the awareness we can cultivate in order to experience mystical contact with the True God (this would be Being-Cognition as well) is central to any sort of spiritual growth, and therefore human growth. We are all dependent on an ultimate reality here, and when we accept the archetype of the man in perfect communion with this Divine state, we work towards that ourselves. This all leads up to the torture and sacrifice Jesus suffers on the cross; the breakdown and eventual complete annihilation of the ego, a process that is extremely difficult and painful, but one that will bring us closer to God.
People reject Christ because they feel that if they accepted Christ, they'd have to take all these symbols literally, which would be absurd.
Anyway, my point is, Christ is real, but I feel many Americans are really uncomfortable with it because of the way Christ is presented so often in the more literalist forms of Christianity.I think it's an incredibly important topic to speak about because it is such an uncomfortable topic for so many. If an awareness of what our symbols really mean was brought to America, we may even be able to achieve a religious reform that would counter, or even destroy, this tendency toward literalism we see advancing so rapidly; this poisoned well that is keeping America in a state of spiritual stagnation.
It's also funny how I don't think many people have as much of a problem accepting Buddha or Krishna or the Tao as real and true here in America. Those concepts have less bearing on us, culturally, and their religions aren't as rigidly defined or literalist, so they're safer in many ways to accept than Christ might be. I think Christ is America's blind-spot; this is something we need to address in the light of full consciousness in order to move on spiritually, as a culture, and to rescue the truth from those who would distort and corrupt it.