Author Topic: Aion and the Problem (?) of Christianity  (Read 8195 times)

Matt Koeske

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Aion and the Problem (?) of Christianity
« on: March 07, 2007, 02:33:46 PM »
I was recently ranting to Sealchan about Jung's book, Aion (perhaps my least favorite of Jung's later works).

Last night I couldn't sleep (coughing non-stop due to a cold), so I dragged myself downstairs at 3 AM and started paging through Aion again in the hope of pinpointing some of the statements Jung made that rubbed me the wrong way.

I had remembered (sort of incorrectly) that Jung, after announcing the inadequacy of the privatio boni (no evil, only the privation of good) of Church dogma, went on to accept it as "metaphysically true" (or psychologically true) as a symbolic characteristic of the Christ-as-Self Image.  My quick scan last night seemed to prove my memory flawed (not an uncommon occurrence).

The actual passage I was remembering is quite a bit more vague.  It reads (emphases mine):
Quote from: C.G. Jung
From the scientific point of view the privatio boni . . . is founded on a petitio principii, where what invariably comes out at the end is what you put in at the beginning.  Arguments of this kind have no power of conviction.  But the fact that such arguments are not only used but are undoubtedly believed is something that cannot be disposed of so easily.  It proves there is a tendency, existing right from the start, to give priority to "good," and to do so with all the means in our power, whether suitable or unsuitable.  So if Christian metaphysics clings to the privatio boni, it is giving expression to the tendency always to increase the good and diminish the bad.  The privatio boni may therefore be a metaphysical truth.  I presume no judgment on this matter.  [p.54]

A few pages later, Jung elaborates:
Quote from: C.G. Jung
I have gone into the doctrine of the privatio boni at such length because it is in a sense responsible for a too optimistic conception of the evil of human nature and for a too pessimistic view of the human soul.  To offset this, early Christianity, with unerring logic, balanced Christ against an Antichrist. . . .  Only with Christ did a devil enter the world as the real counterpart of God . . . .

But there is still another reason why I must lay such critical stress on the privatio boni.  As early as Basil we meet with the tendency to attribute evil to the disposition [...] of the soul, and at the same time to give it a "non-existent" character. . . .  Psychological causation is something so elusive and seemingly unreal that everything reduced to it inevitably takes on the character of futility or of a purely accidental mistake and is thereby minimized to the utmost.  It is an open question how much of our modern undervaluation of the psyche stems from this prejudice.  This prejudice is all the more serious in that it causes the psyche to be suspected of being the birthplace of all evil. . . .  If this paramount power of evil is imputed to the soul, the result can only be a negative inflation -i.e., a daemonic claim to power on the part of the unconscious which makes it all the more formidable.  This unavoidable consequence is anticipated in the figure of the Antichrist and is reflected in the course of contemporary events, whose nature is in accord with the Christian aeon of the Fishes, now running to its end.  [p.61-62]

Here, Jung begins his segue into an astrological analysis of the "Christian aeon of the Fishes".

Now, in the passages quoted above, I find the analysis of the Christian approach to evil and the psyche astute.  To capsulize it: The Christian mindset devalues and then represses evil and the environment where evil is recognized, the psyche.  Jung's comment that this act actually leads to "negative inflation" is also insightful, in my opinion.

But this leads us into a incredibly important issue . . . namely, can this fundamentally Christian psychological act be addressed adequately with purely Christian means?  If not, then the Christian mindset must be considered psychologically pathological . . . or perhaps "neurotic".  But, in worst case scenarios, a moral failing such as the inability to recognize and value evil is a far graver illness than neurosis.  It could become a condition of psychopathic proportions.  One need only peruse the history of the Church from Constantine throughout the dark ages (and arguably, beyond) to observe innumerable episodes of such psychopathic behavior.

An appropriate answer to that might be, "Yes, but the Christians who perpetrated those inhuman acts were 'only a few bad apples' who didn't act in accord with 'true Christian virtue.'"  Yet, a closer examination of the acts and the perpetrators reveals (I believe) an unacceptable level of tolerance (and at times even encouragement) from Christian dogmas and even from scripture.  That is, Christian dogma offers the "disease", but does not offer the cure.

Which is really just a much more "belligerent", "feeling-toned", and straight-forward way of saying what Jung himself said in Aion.  But Jung does not (certainly not to my personal contentment) treat this "problem of Christianity" as a moral issue to be reckoned with through psychological analysis.  Instead, he detours off into astrology, and then into Gnosticism and alchemy.  In a scholarly examination of the Self symbols in these archaic and extinct fields, Jung finds and acknowledges a more functional Self symbol, one that is whole and not dualistic, split, or dissociated.

But, as interesting and erudite as Jung's examinations of these arcana might be, he does not effectively couple them to the issues of practical history that most distinctly demarcate their relationship to Christianity.  That is, Gnosticism and alchemy were deemed heretical by the Church and the proponents of these ideologies were persecuted, destroyed, or bullied into exile or hiding.  The Church was responsible for destroying as many Gnostic and pagan intellectual and religious texts as it could get its hands on . . . and all of this was part of the "Christian aeon of the Fishes" . . . and not the latter part that Jung ascribes to the Antichrist (which he seems to associate with Enlightenment rationalism).

And this is my gripe with Aion.  Jung doesn't embrace the privatio boni directly.  Directly, he comes out guns ablaze for the "psychology['s] insist[ence] on the reality of evil" (p.53).  But he makes a vast psychological and moral blunder when he tries to divide Christianity into a temporal era of the Christ and complimentary era of the Antichrist.  This effectively exiles the Christian shadow (Antichrist) from the birth of Christianity up until (at least) the Renaissance.  Are we to take from Jung's speculative analysis of dogma, theology, and astrology that there was no Christian evil until the era of the Antichrist?  Is the historical movement of Christianity really best described as a "degeneration" form an initially pure state of existence?

Also implicit in Jung's argument is the idea that the Enlightenment rationalism that Jung sees as the onset of the Antichrist's era, is oppositional to what is often called "Christian morality".  But although the Enlightenment and its rationalism and science were distinctly oppositional to the Church as an institution of power, they were also responsible for introducing what we might call "humanistic morality".  For example, the idea of individual human rights and freedoms, the notion of equality in the valuation of human individuals.

It would be more accurate to say that the "Antichrist's era" introduced a cure for the disease of the "Christian (im)morality" of the dark ages (in which Christianity was decidedly a "kill or convert" colonialist practice).  And with this introduction of "corrective" humanistic ethos, the mythos of Christianity was also undermined.  It is this wound to the Christian mythos that Jung associates with the Antichrist and the opposition to Christian thinking.

Which leads us to question how we define Christianity.  Is it, is it's value as . . . an ethos or a mythos?  If (as the logical answer should be) we say "both", then the Jungian notion of Christian vs. Antichristian eras and ideologies loses its meaning.  We cannot, with Jung, decry Enlightenment rationalism as the destroyer of Christianity as a whole.  Enlightenment rationalism marked, in effect, an increase in the consciousness of the psychopathic abuse of power by the Church.  Enlightenment rationalism raised the Christian shadow . . . and it was the illumination of the (always present) Christian shadow that fractured the Christian mythos.  Consciousness was the culprit, not rationalism, per se.  And consciousness is what Jung, in general, was advocating.

I fear that, as intuitive and brilliant as Jung may have been, his thinking breaks down along the border between consciousness and mythos.  His treatment of Christianity is ultimately more theological than it is psychological (or scientific, as he frequently claims in the pages of Aion).  That is, he diagnoses, but then does not treat Christianity (with his analytical psychology).  He does not try to reconcile the dissociated Opposites of the Christian mindset . . . and in this inaction Jung takes a scholarly, detached (i.e., "thinking-type") approach to the "material" of Christian and quasi-Christian belief and history, instead of a humanistic one (which might here correlate with the feeling and sensation functions).

On the immediate level, this is no surprise, since Jung could probably have been characterized as an Intuitive-Thinking type.  But the reader of Aion is still left to evaluate Jung's arguments, potentially, with the assets of feeling and sensation.  Jung himself broaches the territory of morality when he begins his analysis of Christianity with the privatio boni and the problem of evil.  He claims that evil must imperatively be acknowledged as real by the scientific psychologist . . . and then he goes on to discuss the surrounding Christian mythos without an adequate sense that evil is real. 

That is, the acknowledgment that evil is real necessitates a moral position on that evil, necessitates a reaction to the problem of evil.  To merely say that evil is real and then to go about ignoring the implications of real evil in the subject being discussed is tantamount to stripping evil of its reality.  In this manner, Jung is in contradiction with himself throughout a good part of the writing of Aion.

The acceptance of the realness of good and evil is demonstrated in how we react to them.  Psychologizing them into the oblivion of abstract concepts is a rejection of their realness.  I'm not sure we can have it both ways.  The moral assessment of a subject necessitates a moral treatment of that subject.

Jung's reply to the dissociative dogma of the privatio boni is the Gnostic/alchemical notion of the Self/God Image as whole, containing both light and dark, but Christianity defined itself oppositionally to Gnosticism on this issue.  So it is perhaps more accurate to say that the Christian God image and the Gnostic God image are (in this historical and theological paradigm) representative of the two Opposites . . . the Opposites which together compose the whole Self.  Historically-speaking, these portrayals of the Opposites coexisted even in the earliest manifestations of Christianity.  What we see in the unfolding of the "Christian era" is one of these Opposites overpowering and subduing the other.

But I don't think these Opposites are best characterized by monikers like "Christian" and "Antichristian".  That is a specific language, a language that, in this case, narrows the actual value of these Opposites to the brink of meaninglessness.  Instead, a broader perspective on these Opposites would seem to demonstrate that they are actually closer to "moral unconsciousness" and "moral consciousness".  In the perspective of Christian dogma, the devaluation of evil can be achieved without the devaluation of good.  But in Jung's perspective (and here I agree with him) good and evil cannot truly be split this way.  To throw one away is to throw both away.  So when we diminish evil to the point of non-existence, we are effectively diminishing morality itself . . . which is the ability to consciously differentiate between good and evil.

From this perspective, the Christian era would be an era or moral unconsciousness or amorality, because the Christian individual has relinquished the consciousness to define and differentiate good and evil.  And, as stated above, the official acts in the name of the Church (especially in the dark ages) clearly demonstrate this amorality.  The battle of the early Church with Gnosticism was a battle to repress the Christian shadow.  In winning this battle, the Church effectively empowered the Christian shadow (i.e., the Antichrist) unconsciously . . . granting it impunity to act on every immoral, unconscious desire.  This (arguably) led not only to the murder of millions of innocent people, but to an ideologically-driven destruction of pagan culture (which was notably more rationalistic, scientific, and technologically advanced than the Christian culture that replaced it).  Christianization also effectively dismantled the middle class, which was the economic strength behind the Roman Empire in the pre-Christian era, leading to radically increased disparity between the (often priestly) nobility and a subjugated peasant class.

What was under attack here at the dawn of the dark ages was not "evil", but consciousness (and by implication, the value of the individual) itself.  If anything is "the devil's work", it is this.  That is, the first Christian era, although it saw the empowerment and globalization of Christianity as a religion, is a better candidate for the era of the Antichrist than the following age of Enlightenment rationalism.  That was no golden age for Christianity.

Alternatively, we would have to consider the Antichrist to be the harbinger of true Christian morality . . . the "more genuine" emanation of the Christ.  The book of Revelations could be scene as a horror-fantasy of this emanation with the number of "true Christians" reduced to a minuscule proportion, the "Christ-as-we-know-him" (as the Church) ultimately vanquished by the Christ as grotesque force of the unconscious.

In any event, Aion never becomes a book about the Christian shadow . . . and even steers so far away from the Christian shadow as to read, in a roundabout way, as a pro-Christian text.  A work of Christian theology.  Jung's advocacy of the Gnostic/alchemical "whole" Self is less significant a statement than the unwritten statement that the Christian shadow (not the rationalistic, scientific shadow, but the Christian shadow that was with the religion from the get go) can continue to be ignored . . . not only by theologians, but also by psychologists (who should be diametrically opposed to such a repression).

To which one might reply, "But Aion isn't intended to be a book about the Christian shadow; it's supposed to be a book about the Self archetype in the Christian era."  Maybe.  But one thing Aion is clearly meant to be is a book about the psychology of Self archetype in the Christian era . . . the psychology of the Christian Self.  It therefore has the obligation to look at this Christian Self from the whole psyche's perspective, not the perspective of a particular religious ideology.  And the psychic perspective includes the moral perspective.  Psychology is not theology or philosophy.  It is, by its nature, practical in the sense that it seeks to center its arguments in the observation of "things-as-they-are".  It is beholden to seeking the "truth" (ideally).  It is not meant to "explain away" inconsistencies and conundrums with linguistic manipulations.  It is the servant of data, of that which is . . . not of theory or ideology.  It's theories must bend to the data, to the real . . . unlike philosophy, which has no obligation to the real.

In this circumstance, the reality of the Christian psyche displays a distinct moral unconsciousness that has had a recognizable (and profound) effect on material reality and history (to the extent that it has been licensed by political empowerment).  If Christianity was a patient it would not be enough to tell him that his moral attitude necessitated the coming of an oppositional moral attitude.  The analyst would be obligated to help him see that his moral attitude has already had numerous, real effects . . . and then to devise a way to become conscious of/accept responsibility for these unconscious actions, the eventual goal being the attainment of moral consciousness and "right action".

If we imagine that a psychopathic patient can be cured, then the analyst is obligated to assist in the cure.  Refusal of such a duty is itself irresponsible and immoral.

-Matt
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Sealchan

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Re: Aion and the Problem (?) of Christianity
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2007, 06:16:03 PM »
From the sin of Adam and Eve to the pure goodness of Jesus, to the tribulation period of Revelations where if you do accept/choose the mark of the beast you will be exiled from Heaven, a choice between good and evil and the lack of strong barriers to choosing evil seems to be a central threat of the Bible.

What if the choice, when initially confronted with it, is not clear as to what is evil and what is not?  What if one is insufficiently conscious to know the proper, the good choice?  Then is a religion or mythology which focuses entirely on how one is to consciously approach this decision when one is fundamentally ignorant of the consequences (morality-wise) the true value of Christianity?  In other words, is the best value of Christianity cultivating a way of knowing what to do when you do not want to commit evil and don't know whether your choice will amount to evil or not?

This is not to say that it isn't also true that all acts are both good and evil in their results.  (-)yinyang(-)  But this view suggests, perhaps, a resignation to fate rather than a personal responsibility for it.  And part of the Judeo-Christian legacy is the foundation of an individual as responsible for his/her own actions.

Of course the simplest of Christians will tend to fall to the simplistic understandings of moralilty because of this personal emphasis and the guilt associated with seeing oneself as participating in the "dark side" will make it hard to handle the great burden this implies.  And Christianity, being such a heavily advertised religion (why can't the product sell itself?), has probably emphasized the simplest aspects of its visions. 

Is advertising = evil?   ???

Just some thoughts...haven't read Aion yet...but I have a dream...  ;D

Matt Koeske

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Re: Aion and the Problem (?) of Christianity
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2007, 01:15:30 PM »
What if the choice, when initially confronted with it, is not clear as to what is evil and what is not?

Yes, I think this is the kicker, here

Quote from: Sealchan
What if one is insufficiently conscious to know the proper, the good choice?  Then is a religion or mythology which focuses entirely on how one is to consciously approach this decision when one is fundamentally ignorant of the consequences (morality-wise) the true value of Christianity?  In other words, is the best value of Christianity cultivating a way of knowing what to do when you do not want to commit evil and don't know whether your choice will amount to evil or not?

I'm not 100% sure I understand what you mean . . . but the issue of morality's relation to Christianity is a sticky one, I think.  On the one hand, we have the Jesus of the Gospels.  He demonstrates some impressive moral values: tremendous tolerance of others and an open-mindedness about "totemic" laws (i.e., cultural laws that are arbitrary beyond the reinforcement of a cultural identity), for instance.  But there are "hidden politics" in this, too.  For instance, Christianity as it existed pre-Church (end of the 1st, beginning of the second century, when the Gospels were written), was a religio-political movement that grew up in the social context of horrendous wars between the Romans and the Jews.

In this era, Judaism was drastically different than it is today.  To the best of our knowledge, there were dozens of formulations of Judaism in the 1st century.  Some of these sects were very radical and very political.  Not only did they agitate Rome, they also agitated Jews who were sympathetic to Roman values, "Hellenized Jews".  In fact, these Hellenized Jews (who were often of the upper classes) were easier targets than the Roman gentiles . . . and bore the brunt of the attacks from the radical Jewish sects.  One of these radical sects was known as (or included) a group of political assassins called the Siccari.  The Siccari didn't murder Roman officials . . . they murdered other Jews from rival sects (that were probably more sympathetic to Rome).

Iscariot is thought to derive from this term Siccari.  So we might consider that the figure of Judas Iscariot (real or fictional) was linked or meant to be linked to one of the radical anti-Roman, anti-Hellenized Jew, zealot groups.  And here is the great betrayer of the Christian story: a Jew (even his name, Judas, means Jew) who hated Rome.

Early (Pauline) Christianity was very specific about rejecting Jewish customs (circumcision, dietary laws, etc.) . . . and we also see Jesus defying some of these customs in the gospels (e.e., healing on the Sabbath) . . . and dissuading Jews from active rebellion against Rome.  He even befriended tax collectors (tax money went directly or indirectly, to Rome).  Which is to say, Jesus is portrayed as non-antagonistic to Roman rule ("render unto Cesar what is Cesar's").  His gripe is primarily with other Jews who have lost their way (this is the "eternal" Jewish gripe of all the prophets, of course).  Also, the Gospel stories do backflips to make sure that the only Roman involved in Jesus's death (Pilate) is absolved.  This absolution of Pilate is enhanced with each Gospel . . . which might lead us to the theory that Christianity in 100-150 CE was becoming increasingly friendly with the Romans, was even meant to appeal specifically to Romans.  And the mythos of the Christian story, although it uses Jewish names and a Jewish setting, is entirely pagan (i.e., vegetal/solar godman, death and rebirth, etc.)

Which is all to say that the "open-mindedness" and tolerance that Jesus demonstrates in the Gospels is primarily directed at Hellenized Jews and gentiles.

But he also espouses the Golden Rule (in "love thy neighbor . . .").  We just have to be careful not to attribute the "invention" of the Golden Rule to Jesus.  It was part of the philosophies of many cultures, including the Jewish and the Roman.

But we don't see a moral philosophy spelled out in the Gospels.  Many other religions and belief systems of the time had elaborate moral philosophies . . . but Christianity has always been more about the story than the philosophy.

It is really not terribly surprising that the Church itself seemed to rarely if ever practice so-called "Christian morality".  It did not extend tolerance to others, did not forsake worldly power and wealth, and it carried out or condoned brutality for centuries (arguably millennia).

The first "moral philosophy" of Christianity comes from Paul . . . and here we see a lot of arbitrary, "totemic" laws again.  Paul seemed to be quite interested in his followers obedience and in their various forms of abstinence.  Behavioral prescriptions are not the same as moral philosophies.  And Paul, it is clear, was something of a segregationist.  That is, he was arguing against other formulations of Judaism and proto-Christianity.  We don't see the all-embracing ethos of Jesus in Paul's epistles.

The first great philosopher of the Church (the Church, not Christianity itself) is Augustine, who gives us the notion (or at least sanctifies it) that "faith alone" is the road to salvation and the goal of the Christian.  "Good works" are not necessary.  This is perhaps the main root of Christian amorality.  It strips the power to do and understand good from the individual.  And this is why the power structure of the Church loved the idea more than anything else.  It was wonderful for the empowerment of the elite.

The first millennium (at least) of Christianity (and Christian ideology specifically) was marked by internal conflicts regarding good works vs. faith alone.  Some of the monasticists advocated good works and performed good works for the community . . . but the Church unfailingly did not condone this . . . and sometimes even destroyed monastic orders that engaged in social morality.

There's a very simple reason for this.  Christianization created an enormous peasant class, people who suffered in extreme poverty.  All the wealth was in the Church and the residual Christian nobility.  The Church, as an institution of power, wanted to hold on to its wealth and power . . . and it required the destitution of the peasantry in order to do so.  Good works monasticism brought attention to the suffering of the poor . . . and the position of the Church was that suffering was good for the poor.  It was supposed to be essential to Christian humility.  The poor were NOT, under any condition, to complain.  And the good works monks effectively threw a wrench into this arrangement of power by treating physical suffering as though it were real.

The Church was always happier to embrace the more ascetic orders of monks who rejected as many worldly needs as possible.  They made great models for the poor.  And the Church was happy to take tax money from the poor to support such ascetic monastic orders.  It was, after all, "good business" . . . a kind of PR budget.

These examples are only the tip of the tip of the iceberg of the history of Christian amorality.  But what this history amounts to is this: interpretations of Christian morality are largely personal . . . which is to say, they are not Christian at all.  "Christian morality" is really just human morality with the name of Christ slapped onto it.  That is, the Christian is forced to personally construct a morality of his or her own . . . which is why so many immoral and horrific things have been done in the name of Christ.

By leaving the formulation of morality to the individual, Christianity effectively leaves it to the unconscious.  The dogma of Christianity (humility and obedience) is pro-unconsciousness.  Consciousness is never reinforced by Christian dogma.  And consciousness is morality.  The Christian individual is forced to break from the institutional Christian dogmas in order to construct a moral consciousness.

The "easiest" way to do this is to model oneself after the Jesus of the Gospels (the only demonstration of moral consciousness in the scriptures).  But that really isn't so easy at all, because the example of Jesus is so extreme as to be impossible to follow perfectly.  In fact (applying Jungian theory here), we understand the the human psyche compensates for such extreme views . . . so if the ego tries to be as morally "perfect" as Jesus, it will generate an incredibly wicked unconscious shadow.  This actually empowers the shadow . . . and giving that much power to the shadow, runs the risk of granting it autonomy to act out "evilly".  Most commonly, we see this in selective or "tribal" morality: the Christian loves his Christian neighbors . . . but those deemed "other" are met with hate and intolerance.  They are "sinners" after all.

I would argue that the only way for the individual (Christian or otherwise) to form a true moral consciousness is to focus on the shadow, listen to what the shadow is saying . . . but step back from it.  Don't act out the shadow feelings unconsciously.  The moral perfection of Jesus comes in handy here, because it can be used as an abstract guide.  That is, we look at our shadow reaction to something or someone.  We recognize that the moral position we are taking is not as perfect as Jesus's.  Then we ask ourselves why . . . and hopefully this leads to a deeper understanding of the moral complexities of the issue while also allowing us to overcome our prejudice.

But to use Jesus as an exact model won't work, because morality is more complex in reality than it is depicted in the Gospel Jesus.  Many moral choices are about the "lesser of evils".  We rarely get to choose between the Good and the Bad.  Real moral choices have sprawling implications.  That is the nature of morality: moral choices can affect many other people in many different ways.  Morality is not contained within oneself like a belief is. 

In this sense, belief and morality are oppositional to one another . . . and should never be conflated (although, of course, in many religious systems, they are).  Conscious morality (in my opinion) is a matter of recognizing and weighing all of the potential effects of a moral decision . . . and then accepting the responsibility for the consequences of the decision.  Sometimes a moral act will also necessitate an act of repentance, because doing the "greater good" can also hurt some others.

This is why totemic or tribal moral laws (unconscious morality or morality by belief) are flawed.  These moral systems allow for certain others to be hurt by "moral actions" . . . but it is always the same others (those outside the tribe).  There is no situational evaluation of the moral "fallout".  This fallout is sanctioned by the law . . . and automatically absolved or erased.  The Hebrew scapegoat ritual is an actual acting out of this erasure of moral fallout . . . but today, we do this automatically and unconsciously most of the time.

Quote from: Sealchan
This is not to say that it isn't also true that all acts are both good and evil in their results.  (-)yinyang(-)  But this view suggests, perhaps, a resignation to fate rather than a personal responsibility for it.

I personally prefer the Eastern notion of karma in these circumstances.  That is, we don't surrender to fate and abnegate our moral responsibility on "gray" issues.  I think, even when we make the "most ethical" choice, we still bear responsibility for the fallout of that choice.  It is un-absolvable.  We carry it with us.  It becomes a part of us.  It is a kind of karmic debt.  We may never be able to make up for it.  But such is life.  We are, in some sense, made up of all of our choices and the effects of those choices.  Some things can't even be forgiven . . . they are merely borne.

The Catholic notion of forgiveness through confession/absolution is a ritual that undermines consciousness.  "God" may forgive us . . . but we still go through life as a product of the choices we make.  We are still changed by these choices . . . even when we recognize that God still loves us. In this sense, God has the power to forgive us, but not to alleviate the effects/karma of our choices.

Quote from: Sealchan
And Christianity, being such a heavily advertised religion (why can't the product sell itself?), has probably emphasized the simplest aspects of its visions. 

Is advertising = evil?   ???

I think manipulation is "evil" . . . and the current notion of advertising in our culture is manipulative and deceitful.  I think it's likely that the popularity of a system of belief has a strong relation to the ease of adoption of that belief.  So the forms of Christianity that offer great rewards at little cost are always going to be the most popular.  The notion that we can be "saved" by belief/faith alone and not through some kind of work or moral struggle has the stink of cash all over it.  And it's a ploy that Christianity has used ever since its genesis.

It's also the same ploy of the New Age, self-help market.  The dream of the win-win.  People will pay out of their noses for beliefs that reinforce  everything they already are and do.  Placebo beliefs.

In the "Christianity" of the Gospels, Jesus is very specific about the enormous sacrifices one must make to follow him and to "belong to God".  I'm not saying I agree with all of that, but it's curious how this sense of sacrifice is absent from the high-profit mega-church style of evangelical Christianity.

Institutional Christianity has always been a business.  It is a very effective business model.  Zero production costs, a captive market, the product ("free salvation and protection") sells itself.  I mean, hey, "free salvation", now that's something worth paying for! (-)cbdfs(-)

It's just like all those other "free" offers we get in the mail every day.

-Matt
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Sealchan

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Re: Aion and the Problem (?) of Christianity
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2007, 02:18:05 PM »
Quote
What if one is insufficiently conscious to know the proper, the good choice?  Then is a religion or mythology which focuses entirely on how one is to consciously approach this decision when one is fundamentally ignorant of the consequences (morality-wise) the true value of Christianity?  In other words, is the best value of Christianity cultivating a way of knowing what to do when you do not want to commit evil and don't know whether your choice will amount to evil or not?

I wasn't entirely pleased with how I said this in retrospect.

But I see Christianity as about how to make the good choice.  But the great irony is that I think Jesus, who avoided setting up new laws, did so because the old Jewish law was fine, it was just the human heart that had become corrupted by the power structures that developed around the letter of that law to the exclusion of the feeling function.  Jesus taught us to re-feel the situation and not stop with the moral laws, even though they are God's laws.  Still what has happened starting with Paul and going onward?  More, new laws.

Of course, my radical, even heretical view is that Jesus is Christianity, not the Church and maybe not even large chunks of the Bible.  The formula for me is "Nothing should intervene between one's soul and a relationship with God."  The Bible is the premier guide but is not infallible.

So what I was trying to say was that Christianity, in comparison with other spiritual practices, is about bringing good into the world, enacting God's plan, and realizing that one's worth is inseparable from God's son having died on the cross.  How do we turn and face in the "good" direction no matter how far we feel we may have sunk in sin?  How do we hold to the good course no matter how much we are set upon to do that which we know is wrong?  The errors of Christians, then, are to wish to see themselves surrounded only by the light.  They overreact to the darkness within them thinking that if they see it, contemplate it, admit it, they are in league with that darkness.  They fear to willingly enter the darkness thinking that this, in and of itself, is a sin.  But they don't see the darkness, they are blind, and they already stand in it. 

I think you have to turn to some of the best of the Arthurian legends (Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival) to understand this dimension better but these stories court an argumentative response to God which the average Christian balks at.

Science, in a way, also allows us to approach the dark side without feeling like we are intentionally courting evil.  Or at least the line between good and evil is nicely blurred so that we can have good scientists created weapons of mass destruction....


Matt Koeske

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Re: Aion and the Problem (?) of Christianity
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2007, 03:52:11 PM »
But I see Christianity as about how to make the good choice.  But the great irony is that I think Jesus, who avoided setting up new laws, did so because the old Jewish law was fine, it was just the human heart that had become corrupted by the power structures that developed around the letter of that law to the exclusion of the feeling function.  Jesus taught us to re-feel the situation and not stop with the moral laws, even though they are God's laws.  Still what has happened starting with Paul and going onward?  More, new laws.

Of course, my radical, even heretical view is that Jesus is Christianity, not the Church and maybe not even large chunks of the Bible.  The formula for me is "Nothing should intervene between one's soul and a relationship with God."  The Bible is the premier guide but is not infallible.

So what I was trying to say was that Christianity, in comparison with other spiritual practices, is about bringing good into the world, enacting God's plan, and realizing that one's worth is inseparable from God's son having died on the cross.  How do we turn and face in the "good" direction no matter how far we feel we may have sunk in sin?  How do we hold to the good course no matter how much we are set upon to do that which we know is wrong?  The errors of Christians, then, are to wish to see themselves surrounded only by the light.  They overreact to the darkness within them thinking that if they see it, contemplate it, admit it, they are in league with that darkness.  They fear to willingly enter the darkness thinking that this, in and of itself, is a sin.  But they don't see the darkness, they are blind, and they already stand in it. 

I think you have to turn to some of the best of the Arthurian legends (Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival) to understand this dimension better but these stories court an argumentative response to God which the average Christian balks at.

Science, in a way, also allows us to approach the dark side without feeling like we are intentionally courting evil.  Or at least the line between good and evil is nicely blurred so that we can have good scientists created weapons of mass destruction....

I like the way you vision Christianity.  I have often felt much the same as you . . . even if I never really saw myself as "within" Christianity.

But, perhaps because I never was within Christianity, when I started reading about Christian history I felt I had to make a choice: was Christianity (and, by extension, Jesus) mine or did the mythos and archetype belong to others (and to the Church) to define and use for their own interests?

I eventually made the decision that Jesus and the Christ mythos did not belong to me, the heretic.  It belonged to those who used it very differently than I did.  But this was in many ways an arbitrary decision.  I certainly don't prescribe this decision . . . nor do I wish to present my anti-Christian arguments to you, personally, as an evangel of any kind.

I once drew meaning from the notion that Christianity (as institution) could be redeemed . . . if only it could accept and embrace Jesus!  But I chose to relinquish (somewhat grievously) that notion . . . which is effectively the notion that the Christian heretic is the "true" Christian.  Ultimately, I didn't need my personal Jesus in order to go own living a meaningful and ethical life.  I came to believe that my desire to possess and define this archetypal Jesus in the heretical way I did only served me and my personal belief system.

So I questioned my own right to define Jesus . . . to define him in my own Self-image.  I decided neither I nor anyone else really had that right . . . but of course, every Christian and Christianized person takes this right, regardless.  We all take Jesus like a lump of clay and make him into the Self figure that we need.  And inevitably, we end up thinking this is the Self figure that everyone else needs, too.  It is hard for us to keep our Jesuses to ourselves.

So I decided to turn away from this.  Not because it is wrong.  This is just the way it is.  But I turned instead to the ahistoricity argument, because it allowed me to relinquish my personal designs on Jesus.  It became a part of my movement to differentiate my ego from the Self.  Jesus was a temptation for me, one might say.  A temptation to use this famous doctrine and inherited symbol system to project my ego onto the Self.

For me personally, without Jesus coloring the Self, I was able to distinguish it a little bit better, see it a little more distinctly.

And, oddly enough, there is a sense in which this could be seen as what the symbol of Jesus is ultimately for.  That is, as the Son of God, the godman, the incarnation of god in human form, Jesus represents the union between Man and God, the point at which the two are indistinguishable.

We can (without too much of a stretch) interpret the Gospel story (and the Passion in particular) as a dramatization of the consequence of "Man becoming God".  That consequence is the punishment of the crucifixion, the defiance of a taboo (the self-deification taboo) that divides the individual from the collective.  The godman is an impossible being, which is why he is fixed on the cross, why he is like the torn host.  Self-deification is not an empowerment, but a movement into non-being, a death.  And even in that moment of death, "God has forsaken" the godman.

And that might be the kernel.  One learns, in the pursuit of the union with God, that somehow God doesn't show up for the union . . . not in the way we imagined.  And we are forced to see that, somehow, God is more in the knowing division between ego-self and Other than in the merging.  At the kernel of the union is stasis . . . and the love of God is interaction, Eros, the sense of polarities and the constant flux of equilibrium.  That is how nature works, with this perpetual ebb and flow.

I think this is also what the alchemists saw, and why they portrayed the coniunctio as followed by death, by the corpse of the divine hermaphrodite.  The union of ego and Self is more a beginning than an end.  It is not just the seizure of God, the feeling of God within oneself that is involved in this act.  It is also the much more terrifying departure from God, the "giving up" of God in order to be two separate beings.

But this is all inherent in the Christian mythos and in its mysticism.  It is not unlike the Gnostic notion of Christ . . . a notion which has been obscured (very intentionally, I think) by the Church.  Christianity as a religion is a battle of a dogma against its own mysticism.  At the core of the Christian mythos is the very thing the religion is systematically designed to conceal.

We bring God down to earth and kill him inside ourselves . . . maybe so that he can then be reborn without the gravity of our desire tugging on him.  It is not God who "commands" Jesus, but Jesus who commands God to act through him.  Jesus compels God to become him with his great faith and holiness.  With his being and his actions he evokes God.  And then Jesus learns through the Passion he creates of this evocation that he should not command and does not need to command God.  The relationship with God is no longer filled with desire for God . . . and this allows Man and God to coexist.  It allows each to truly exist as they are.

You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Sealchan

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Re: Aion and the Problem (?) of Christianity
« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2007, 05:21:01 PM »
Quote
I once drew meaning from the notion that Christianity (as institution) could be redeemed . . . if only it could accept and embrace Jesus!  But I chose to relinquish (somewhat grievously) that notion . . . which is effectively the notion that the Christian heretic is the "true" Christian.  Ultimately, I didn't need my personal Jesus in order to go own living a meaningful and ethical life.  I came to believe that my desire to possess and define this archetypal Jesus in the heretical way I did only served me and my personal belief system.

I wonder if in my Choosing Evil dream I am being presented with a similar choice.  Our conversation in this threat I am sure will prove instructive for my final interpretation of that dream.  I also think I should tell the tale of my waking word converstaion with God, how it brought me out of a depression and how my secret name is tied in with a previous dream where I had to make a very significant choice...