Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Humans are made to venerate someone or something which symbolizes our basic desires, successes and failures in the universal soul-making process. While the ancients mostly used gods and goddesses, many Americans use celebrities. Those of us who find the attention given to the exploits of these 'celebrated' ordinary human beings silly and pathetic are still a bit fascinated because of our common psycho-spiritual roots. Paris Hilton, like each of us, is graduating from being a self centered brat to a more expanded soul by her mistakes and consequences. She, like countless humans before her, has been designated as our archetypal blueprint for soul-making. Thank you Paris, for displaying the good, the bad and the ugly that is in each of us.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


I can no longer support the red states or the blue states. I am now a member of a purple state, a blending of the two colors. I see both the red and blue camps as having healthy aspects and 'sicko' aspects. Many on both sides are often entrenched ideologues spending far more time and energy attacking their 'opponents' than understanding them. Brainwashing and dogma are not reserved for a single color.

For a fascinatingly critical and balanced account of the war on terror, the Islamic Fundamentalist problem and the Bush solution, please take the time to read the Gay Liberal author Bruce Bawer's book, WHILE EUROPE SLEPT: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West. This book will at the very least inform you as to what is going on in Europe with regard to the growth of Islam and the calculated and successful erosion of democratic freedoms in the West.

U.S. born Bawer is no friend of Bush or right wing Conservatives. He has lambasted Christian Fundamentalism in his book STEALING JESUS: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity, and has been a very outspoken critic of Republicans in general as well as an advocate for Gay rights, writing Place at the Table: The Gay Individual in American Society.

He moved to Amsterdam in 1998 to marry his male partner, thinking he would escape the ignorance and violence of the backwards Reaganistic cowboy-American culture. What he found in Europe shocked, terrified and shook him from his slumber. He has shifted from being a brainwashed Progressive to what I call a thinking and informed 'Middler', respecting the so called Conservative assessment of Islam and world events. And please don't confuse the assessment with the solution. Too man people don't like an ideological solution and think they must ipso facto toss out the evaluation of the problem. This is faulty and potentially dangerous logic.

Far too many so called Progressives are operating without the facts, assuming that "religious tolerance" is at the heart of all religions, and that equal rights are fundamental to all of the world's religious systems. That is not ture. Few on the liberal side have taken the time to actually examine the Muslim religious ideology and the reasoning behind the so called war on terror. Few liberals even know that the Muslim ideology has no concept of 'equal rights'. Bawer finds it disturbing that liberals defend a religion which routinely violates human rights, or ignores those around them that do:

"One of the most disgraceful developments of our time is that many Western authors and intellectuals who pride themselves on being liberals have effectively aligned themselves with an outrageously illiberal movement that rejects equal rights for women, that believes that gays and Jews should be executed, that supports the coldblooded murder of one's own children in the name of honor, etc., etc." from Bruce Bawer, While Europe Slept

I would add to this that these same 'tolerant' liberals do not hesitate to vent bitter venom toward the narrow minded doctrines of the conservative Christians! Isn't this odd, and incredibly hypocritical? We call those who are critical of Islamic ideology racists, and those who are critical of Christian ideology enlightened.

It seems to me that if we can find the moral acrimony to openly critique the Christian Fundamentalists, we ought to be free to challenge the Muslim Fundamentalists. Add to this the documented fact that Christianity has six very small, known terrorist organizations compared to over forty large Islamic terrorist groups worldwide. Furthermore, Islam has millions of sympathizers who support these organizations financially and prayerfully.

Few Progressives, who pride themselves on being 'informed', know the radical and fundamental differences between the evolution of and interpretive stances within historical Judaism, Christianity and Islam. For example, Islam has no concept of an allegorical or metaphorical approach to their holy scriptures. One such group existed for a brief time in the early days of Islamic development, the Mutzalites, but they were quickly quashed. Muslims must take the Holy Qu'ran literally or suffer dire consequences, and many Qu'ranic texts repeatedly encourage and command war on infidels, as well as taxation and discrimination against Jews and Christians, and death to apostates, adulterers and homosexuals. These texts are not fuzzy, but incredibly explicit, and to be taken literally. They are sometimes conveniently ignored, but never allegorized or dismissed as 'old testament' laws replaced by 'new testament' grace. It is true that there are Qu'ranic texts which seem to soften these texts of terror, but they are always left open to interpretation as to who is 'just'.

Those few Muslims who do allegorize the Qu'ran, specifically the Sufi mystics, are tolerated, persecuted and sometimes executed in some Muslim countries. This small, persecuted minority is what most liberals chose to see as normative Islam. In spite of our jaded Western desire to idealize the world's religions, not all religions are equal, anymore than all political systems or business organizations are equal. Each organization has to be assessed by it's teachings, practices and results. Religions are not immune to reasonable questioning and critical evaluation. I remind the reader that we rightly and routinely apply needed critiques to the Christian religion, why not the others? Are they too exotic, or perhaps they provide the fairy tale foil with which we can compare the bad Christian religion, or maybe it's our polite tendency to give the benefit of the doubt to the stranger?

Judaism and Christianity once literalized war, thankfully that happened in an era without nuclear and biological weapons which could obliterate entire cities. But these two religions have drastically changed over time. Islam has not. Its goal is world domination, and has been since it's inception. In a March 1997 interview, Peter Arnett records Osama bin laden who says "the goal of jihad is to exalt God's word [the Quran] to the heights, in other words, until the message of his Holy Book goes around the world." While millions of Muslims reject bin Laden, millions see him as the next Islamic leader or Caliphate to replace the Ottoman Empire which ended in 1922. Imagine what might have happened if the Old Testament Hebrew invasion of Canaan or Spanish Inquisition had happened when weapons of mass destruction were available. What a horrific image - now imagine what might happen if an Islamic state like Pakistan, Iran or Saudi Arabia had nuclear capabilities.

To the uninformed liberal, this will sound like shrill over-reactive fanaticism. That is how the gay, Progressive Bruce Bawer once heard such comments, until he lived in countires where he has observed the Islamic Fundamentalists successfully at work. This is not a misguided fanatic blowing up an abortion clinic. This is a burgeoning group of international networks, albeit some at odds with one another, based on a 1,400 year old mandate to conquer the earth for God.

I am no fan of GW Bush, but neither can I support the naive idealism and uninformed liberalism that has no clue as to what is actually said in the Qu'ran. Too many of us 'liberals' are just simply intellectually unaware of the teachings, size of and influence of Islamic Fundamentalism. I once fit that description, but took the challenge to read the Qu'ran for myself, and read it as the literal, non-allegorized, perfect, absolute Word of God. I wanted to find peace, a reason to call Islam 'just another religion', justification for criticizing the Republican war mongers - instead I found some sympathy for their concerns. Damn!

Bawer's book will shake you to your core and cause you to question your 'let there be peace on earth' assumptions. Even if we disagree with his interpretations, we need to let him reveal a modern situation that most liberals likely know little or nothing about.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Introduction to WATCHING GOD GROW UP: Reading the Bible as Stages of Growth
copyright by Michael Bogar M.Div., Th.M


1. THE BIBLE AS THEOLOGY: The Pat Robertson Approach

At this level, the Bible is a book filled with true facts about God and His literal, historical involvement with the world. This is the theological approach used by many Catholics, Evangelicals, some Jews and many other Christian spin-off groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons. Of course there is the major problem of whose ‘literal’ interpretation is correct, but that aside, the approach is to use the Bible as a book of dogmatic truth propositions about God, humans, sin, salvation and a host of other issues ranging from morality to how the world is going to end.

2. THE BIBLE AS JOURNALISM: The Mr. Spock Approach

Most moderns try to read the Bible logically, much as we as would a modern newspaper article. They look at facts, dates and historical details. It is a perfectly legitimate and profitable to read the biblical documents at this contemporary critical level This has been done for the past two hundred years by scholars and professional academics. There is much to be gained by reconstructing the history, geography, philosophies and even the psyche of the Hebrew people.

This is reading the Bible from the objective or rationalistic point of view. For most of us educated in America, this is the only way we know to read. Anything short of an empirical and objective classroom approach attended by critical reflection is less than intellectually honest. Many students come to my classes with their journalistic goggles on, reading the Bible as though they were reading the history of Europe or a New York Times news article. They scan the biblical text for details, not even aware that such a tactic was not used by the original Hebrew authors. We factually minded moderns get caught up in the many scientific errors, historical contradictions, and are chagrinned by the outdated morality of those ignorant ancients and their cranky deity. However, there is another way.

3. THE BIBLE AS POETRY: The Bruce Springsteen Approach

“I can find my biography in every fable.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is another way to read the Bible. This way is sometimes called the psychological or poetic approach. It is time to realize that the Bible can be read as subjective poetry rather than objective dogma or journalism. As Jungian analyst James Hillman says of twenty-first century readers, “Most read literally rather than literarily.” In order to illustrate the different approaches, I have written the following poem:


A precocious little boy sat in class
listening in school one day.
His teacher told the story of The Three Little Pigs,
of one swine who went searching for hay.

The pig found a man with a load of straw:
"Excuse me", said the concerned piglet,
"I must build a shelter to save my kin,
you have hay, might I have just a bit of it?"

Adjusting his glasses the teacher looked up,
"Children, what do you suppose that man did?"
The precocious lad stood and said,
"He ran away screaming, 'Holy shit! A talking pig!'"


It comes as no shock to most of us that pigs don’t talk, or that the foregoing fable was never meant to convey that they do. This kind of story goes far beyond factual statements about pigs. A critical discussion about what dialect of Pig-Latin was spoken, or what sort of cart the man was pushing, or what breed of pig was involved would have nothing to do with the point of this story.

Mark Twain once wrote, “Fiction allows me to indulge my imagination. Fact doesn’t.” Facts are very limited little things. They can tell us only so much. Saint Exupery, author of The Little Prince said, “Pure logic is the ruin of the spirit.” Pure logic and pedestrian facts are fascinating, but can take us only so far in understanding reality.

That is why Aristotle wrote his observations about the factual world of nature and called it Physics (Nature), and then followed with his imaginal observations about the soul, values and immortality, calling those Metaphysics (Beyond Nature). What can be observed by the five senses and understood by the logical brain is wonderful, yet incredibly limited. That which animates Nature cannot be found in facts. The archetypal Invisibles or Original Energies Who preceded Nature cannot be caught in the net of empirical observation or filtered through the reducing valve called the human brain. The ancients, including the Hebrews, understood this far better than we moderns and our infatuation with fact gathering.

In order to examine the anima behind the cosmos and the human psyche, we resort to poetry, myth, metaphor and fiction, or what many call Imagination. Mythical truth and poetic fiction are more interesting than factual truth. Factual truth orients us to the day to day world of the five senses; mythical truth takes us into universal themes beyond sensory reality by using these symbols and metaphors. The stories of the Bible are quite often attempting to convey experiences that cannot be communicateed or contained by the five senses and literal language. These ancient stories cannot be transmitted by mere historical facts through the amazing, yet very tiny human brain which is fed by five small tributaries called sensory organs.


"Soul-making means releasing events from their literal understanding into mythical appreciation. So the question of soul-making is this, ‘what does this event move in my soul?” James Hillman

For this class, such a mythical and metaphorical reading involves the internal psychological interaction and experience of the reader with the written material. Some Depth Psychologists call this Soul-making. Soul-making literally is psycho-poesis, or soul poeticizing. If it sounds nebulous and slippery, that is because language and facts will never contain or explain what goes on at the soul level. The 6th century Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote, “Soul is deep, who can know it?”

This is critical to our approach. This kind of interaction between the dynamic psyche of the student and the written biblical material takes place when the text brings up an often troubling idea or distasteful feeling in you. As you read, pay attention to what is evoked or stirred up in you. Pay attention to your mental and visceral responses. In this course, negative emotions are good emotions. Anger, confusion, fear, sadness and such responses are very likely psychic earthquakes and soulful tsunamis rearranging the landscape of your internal consciousness. We often hear about those mystical experiences that cause goose bumps and feelings of bliss, and they are quite lovely, but seldom do we hear about those normal and necessary preparatory mystical cataclysms that are required for deep psychic shifts. The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas has Jesus telling his followers, “Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel…” (Saying #2).

Unfortunately, many moderns see this subjective approach as inferior to the objective theological and journalistic approaches. The Swiss Doctor Carl Jung spent a good part of his life arguing that this kind of psycho-textual interaction had sort of ‘objectivity’ of its own. Jung argued that legitimate scientific psychology could be about more than rats in mazes and monkeys stacking boxes to get bananas. He contended that the observance of worldwide mythical patterns and universal internal human psychic archetypes was itself a science.

It is possible to discover universal psychic truths which cannot be verified by the physical senses. Humans have had the same basic brain/psyche for millennia. That means that at the psychological level, those who lived centuries ago experienced soul not all that differently than we moderns. If the biblical stories came from human experiences filtered through human brains mediating eternal archetypal energies, then we are in familiar company. Author Heinrich Zimmer said it this way, “When (mythical stories are) brooded upon, their significant episodes are capable of revealing various shades of meaning, according to the experiences and life-needs of the individual.” Pay attention to these biblical episodes as they intersect with your life and psyche.


The Bible and other sacred-poetic texts must be read psychologically if there is to be any truly deep appreciation for and from them. The Bible in and of itself, especially when read literally, is actually pretty boring. That is why many moderns simply do not read the Bible.

Certain objects of beauty are generally recognized as inherently aesthetic, while certain other objects are beautiful only 'in the eye of the beholder’. For example, the works of Shakespeare, Lao Tze, Emily Dickinson or Michelangelo are most often recognized as beautiful works of art just as they stand. The Taj Mahal and Egyptian pyramids appeal to a universal, cross-cultural aesthetic.

On the other hand, like many newborn babies, other objects are beautiful only to those who have had a positive experience with them. The Bible falls into that category, as does the Qu’ran or Book of Mormon. These objects are like lovers or children, often very average, ordinary or even homely to those who do not love them. Yet to the one who is ‘in love’, the beloved object has been experienced as exquisite, beautiful and nearly perfect in the eye of the lover. The Bible is actually quite vulgar or ugly to many if not most of those who encounter it. But those who adore these holy texts study them endlessly, underline special verses, memorize them and bind them in expensive leather and gilded edges.

Is there anything we can do to raise the appreciation level for those of us who see only a boring, vulgar and rather ugly Bible? Is there a way to help those of us who see only mediocre, or even hideous stories about prejudice, discrimination, elitism, war and violence? Can we ever gain anything from this story about an antiquated people who committed atrocious deeds in the name of a vindictive deity? I believe we can.


“When (mythical stories are) brooded upon, their significant episodes
are capable of revealing various shades of meaning,
according to the experiences and life-needs of the individual.”
Heinrich Zimmer

Let's return to the psychological or soul-making way of reading a sacred text or poem. You probably have not had a mystical experience through the Bible and fallen in love with it. However, there is a way to read these stories so that you can increase your chances for some kind of positive experience with the text.

Read the bible as if you are the story. If Jung is correct, and there are universal archetypes or psychic organs which reside in each human mind, then the biblical stories and characters have corresponding counterparts in every human psyche. Each person and situation in the bible originally emerged from a human being immersed in the same Sea of Soul in which we all swim.

Jung said that just as every physical body has common organs, so the psychic body has common psychic organs. For example, within each of us resides a creation story. We all have our own internal Adam, Eve and Serpent in the Garden of Eden. Each of us has had some kind of experience like the troubling call of Abraham and Sarah to sacrifice a precious child, or to leave one place in order to move to another. Each of us has an internal Jacob struggling alone with God on a dark night. Each human contains a psyche that is virginal, like Mary, untainted by past conditioning, suddenly ‘overshadowed’ and impregnated with Divine with Infinite infant potential.

Each of these biblical characters with their stories, their plights, journeys and processes represent ever-present aspects in each of our complicated internal and subsequently external soulful lives. Each of us can find them if we see the need, take the time and have the courage to look within. In this class, the task of the reader is to take the time and look, to reflect. Whether or not you see the need is up to you. I am asking you to translate these biblical experiences into your own living language. Your watchful and reflective mind is the key to turning the Bible from a boring account into a dynamic psychological thriller with you as the central character. I know from experience that initially this is hard work, and each of us will be tempted on every page to objectify the stories - to see something stupid, impossible, offensive and ridiculous. Please make an effort to let those experiences come and go, ultimately asking, “Can I find this story anywhere in me?”

If we read the Bible as a book to be inspected for errors, contradictions, anomalies and theological absurdities, we miss our own internal story. The fact is that most of you will easily find errors, contradictions, anomalies and theological absurdities. But by focusing on the external problems within the textual narratives, you will miss the rich internal narrative called your life. The sad fact is that most humans prefer to focus on the external text in order to avoid the inner exploration. For both the biblical critic and the Bible lover, it is much easier to focus on ludicrous errors or beloved theological doctrines than on one’s own soul-making process.


Sacred literature is symbolic literature. Understanding this point is absolutely crucial for reading the Bible psychologically. The word symbol is made up of two Greek words:

• Sym = together
• Bolein = to throw

Literally, the word symbol was used in ancient Greece of a friendship necklace. It spoke of two halves placed together, side by side. A friendship bracelet or necklace was complete only when the two pieces were ‘thrown together’. By themselves, the parts were incomplete and nonsensical. These bracelets were called symboleins.

The same is true of poetry, myth and sacred writings. Until a story or character is connected with the other half, which is your internal psychic piece, the story is as meaningless and incomplete as one half of a friendship necklace. You carry the other half of the biblical story internally.

It has been said that reading the Bible can be as confusing as reading someone else's mail. Until the stories correspond to some aspect within in the reader, it is only someone else's mail. You must make it your mail and your symbol by matching the persons, situations or places with some personal parallel in your own life.

Heinrich Zimmer has written, “…in dealing with symbols and myths from far away we are really conversing somehow with ourselves – with a part of ourselves, however, which is as unfamiliar to our conscious being as the interior of the earth to the students of geology. Hence the mythical tradition provides us with a sort of map for exploring and ascertaining contents of our own inner being to which we consciously feel only scantily related.”


“Stop reading about the characters in the Bible and begin reading about the biblical characters in you.”

A woman in one of my Bible classes read the biblical story of Joshua. She studied the story of Israel entering the Promised Land which was occupied by foreign Canaanites. Joshua and the Hebrews marched around the infamous walls of Jericho; the walls ‘came tumbling down’ and the Canaanite inhabitants were slaughtered by the Israelites as they took possession of the land.

After reading the narrative, the woman came to me very offended by the evil Patriarchy and their militaristic tactics. She told me that the account of Israel destroying Jericho and massacring all of the inhabitants, including women and children, made her sick. To make matters worse, God had ordered His people to carry it out!

She was a little shocked when I agreed that the literal story made me sick as well. I think she thought the Bible teacher would try to make some defense in behalf of the Holy Book. I asked her if she believed in the mythology of Warrior Archetypes. She said she did. I reminded her that Mohatma Ghandi and Ralph Waldo Emerson, both peace loving men, read the horrific Hindu war story called the Bhagavad-Gita every day to gain soulful insights. Every great epic of every great civilization is about war, from Homer’s Iliad to George Lucas’s Star Wars. The real war begins in the mind and soul, and that is how the story must be read if we want to make deep souls. Then I gently suggested that she revisit the story and see if she could find any of these troubling events taking place in her own mind and life, which is where war begins. I asked her to carefully look for any corresponding personal psychological archetypes or current situations in her life that resembled the Joshua story.

A week later the same woman came back and said, "It dawned on me that my own promised land of abundance (Canaan) was inhabited and overrun by foreigners (Canaanites). The names of the foreigners in my promised land were from the tribes of Fear, Anxiety, Depression Grief, Doubt and chronic feelings of Worthlessness. These inhabitants were keeping me from a life of purpose and happiness. These foreigners have been dwelling in me since as far back as I can recall.”

She went even further with her internal discoveries, “I then saw that there has always been a powerful Joshua figure in me that could drive these foreigners out and take possession of the land of abundance, and a Higher Power in me that keeps reminding me that I can enter the new land any time I want. I just had not allowed my Joshua archetype to do her work of removing the foreigners. I began to visualize my own Jericho which was walled by those negative emotions and beliefs. I claimed my abundance and marched around and around my fears with prayer, by making amends, by creating new intentions and by examining my own internal demons. Like Israel, I sought community support and decided I would march around and around these walls in me until they came tumbling down. I am ready for the foreigners to leave and I am taking what has been mine all along!”

This woman shifted from reading the Bible as a factual story about horrible people following the directives of a dreadful God, to seeing that her own internal negativity and lack of claiming her Good was the true horror. She began to see that she had a Hebrew-like God inside her mind instructing her to eradicate all of the negativity, and to take possession of her promised land. She began to see that she was the story.

These mythical stories are going on inside of each one of us right here and now. I suggest you try a new approach. Stop reading about the characters in the Bible and begin reading about the biblical characters in you. All good stories begin with, "Once upon a time in a magical land.” As you read the Bible or any sacred text, remember that you are the once upon a time and the magical land.



The God of the Old Testament always troubled me. Even in seminary, when we Evangelical ministerial students were supposed to be studying about a loving, compassionate deity, I found myself thinking that God was petty, vindictive, territorial, selfish and cruel. I didn’t much care for him, but like a good religious codependent, I found myself spending inordinate amounts of time and energy trying to excuse, explain and rationalize God’s behaviors and values. I was told that this was the ‘just’ side of God. I could grasp justice, but couldn’t see how ordering soldiers to slaughter children was remotely just.

Westerners have been programmed to read the Bible as though it were a literal biography of the Eternal God, an absolute theology never to be questioned. The irony is that this is true not only of the biblical literalists, but of those who are skeptical toward the Bible. Even the critics and atheists find themselves reading the Bible and thinking, “How could God do that?!”, or, “Why would God command that?!” It is quite easy in this culture to fall into the trap of reading the Bible literally as God’s resume’.

The God being presented in the Bible reflects the nascent human ego. These stories arise from the experiences of those who lived in a particular era and age. The Bible covers at least four thousand years of historical development. This book is a mythical account of the history of Israel. As you move from Genesis into Exodus, forward through the lives of the Hebrew kings, into the Jewish poetry and finally through the prophets and into the time of Jesus, you will see God grow up.

Does God grow up? Not likely, at least not literally. Actually, we grow in our spiritual awareness regarding who and what God is. Please entertain the possibility that the Bible presents an evolution of awareness or consciousness about who or what God is. What changes is the awareness of the people having experiences of their image of God. Jung called the biblical God, the ‘God-Image’ in order to convey that humans carry certain images or caricatures of divinity at various times in their personal and cultural history.

When I was four, someone told me that I’d eventually like kissing girls. I made the usual four year old facial contortion, showing disgust, and went back to playing with my toy soldiers. I said, “Girls are icky!” At sixteen, I threw away my soldiers, bought a car and became very interested in kissing girls. Had girls changed? Nope. What changed? My internal awareness and experience of girls shifted radically, which subsequently altered my external expression around the softer gender. My awareness had evolved. The same thing happens with our experience of divinity, God grows up or evolves in us.


Let’s look at one of many biblical examples where the awareness of what God shifts drastically. The early Hebrews were very exclusive and strict about who could enter into God’s presence. Their God-Image would not allow eunuchs, bastards or foreigners to enter His assembly:

“No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the LORD . No one born of a forbidden marriage nor any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even down to the tenth generation. No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD , even down to the tenth generation.” Deuteronomy 23:1-3

However, several centuries later, the humanitarian prophet Isaiah had evolved beyond this narrow perception of God and declared that the deity allowed the eunuch and foreigners to enter God’s holy place:

“Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say, "The LORD will surely exclude me from his people." And let not any eunuch complain, "I am only a dry tree." For this is what the LORD says: "To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant - to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off. And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant- these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer.” Isaiah 56:1-7
So you see a radical shift of perception in the God-Image. By the time of Jesus, 700 years after Isaiah, the shift went even further. In fact, some think that Jesus embodied all of these originally despicable traits!

First, Jesus was seen to be descended from a foreign Moabite woman named Ruth (Matthew 1:5). Second, Jesus was likely a eunuch, or at least a voluntary celibate. (Matthew 19) Third, and the most controversial, Jesus’ paternity was abnormal. Conservative Christians accept a literal virgin birth while more liberal Christians think the virgin birth story was concocted to cover up Jesus’ illegitimate origin and demonstrate his divine derivation. No matter which position you take, Jesus did not have a normal, pure human Jewish lineage. His genealogy was suspect.
The point is that Jesus, whom Christians regarded as God in the flesh, was a Moabite, a eunuch and of questionable birth. Thus we see that Deuteronomy, Isaiah and Matthew clearly demonstrate that the God-Image evolved over time. Originally, certain people were forbidden to enter God’s assembly. These same pariahs were then allowed to enter the assembly in Isaiah’s era. Finally, Matthew stated that God Himself had become one these rejected worshippers! This clearly demonstrates the developmental aspect of God consciousness in the Bible.
The Bible reveals a developing awareness of God’s love as the story moves over the centuries. It begins in Genesis with a group of people holding a very ego-centric notion of the deity loving only the called people. As the story moves into the prophets, the Hebrew perception of God expands so that He loves the despised Assyrians enough to send Jonah to preach to them. Eventually, King Cyrus, the conquering monarch of Persia is called God’s anointed or messiah because he allows the Jews to return to Jerusalem. By Jesus’ day, the Gospel of John declares that God loved the whole world.
I find this view of the Bible much more inspired and inspiring than the traditional Evangelical view that tries to reconcile the wrathful God of the Old Testament with the forgiving God of Jesus. The stories are not about God, but about human awareness of God. The notion of this story recognizing the growing quality of human awareness of the Divine does not dishonor or undervalue the Bible. It actually gives it more value since it recognizes that humans grow into a deeper and deeper experience and understanding of God.


As you read the Bible in this class, look for your own personal evolution with regard to your understanding of the Divine. Remember, the Bible is not a fixed theology. It is not an absolute declaration of the nature of God for all time. At the most basic and obvious level, it is an anthology of the experiences of various men and women as they encountered God and wrote about it. To read these biblical stories as an absolute treatise on the fixed nature of God is very problematical. It’s like a parent looking at a family photo album and regretting that their child has grown up.

Look for the different faces of God. These different faces of God encountered in the Bible reside within each of us. We are always shifting in every relationship; this is true of our connection to the Divine. Each individual human and every culture has a growing and changing understanding of the Transcendent. At one time in a person’s life, there may be a need for a strict disciplinarian God. We see this in Israel’s story with the parental God of Mosaic rules and stern consequences. It is likely that at some point in your life, such a deity appealed to you as being quite plausible and necessary. There are people today in other cultures and in other religious traditions that need this law and order awareness of God.

At another time, the universally loving father of Jesus will reflect your spiritual experience. At this stage, the focus will be more on humane principles and compassionate equality over law and order. This personal advancement with regard to our understanding of God is ongoing. While it may appear that the biblical God changes from age to age, it is more accurate to say that human experiences and perceptions of God are always changing.


The Dalai Lama was once asked why there were so many different schools of thought within Buddhism. He replied succinctly, "Stages and dispositions." He recognized that each of us is at a different stage of spiritual development in our perception of the Infinite. Any sacred text that has become a classic presents various images and aspects of the Divine. That is one of the main reasons these books, including the Bible, have been so popular over the ages. It literally has something for every reader.

All of life is dynamic. If you read a story in the Bible which portrays a perception of God that repulses you, attempt to recall a time when you may have held a similar notion, or recognize that others need that kind of God now. Then keep reading, because the experience and face of the biblical God will change, possibly more to your current understanding of the Divine. And try to be tolerant enough to recognize that not everyone is in the same place as you spiritually. There is a perception of God for everyone in the Bible. Each of us must begin somewhere in our ascent toward knowing God.


When reading the Bible, it is also important to remember that we have all of the aspects of the Divine in our psyche. The Bible teaches that humans are made in God’s exact likeness. In other words, all that God is and does exists in each of us on a smaller scale. That does not mean ‘we are God’. But it does mean that we contain all that God contains. So it is possible to find how each of us is ‘a little god’ to others. We have God-like powers to effect people around us. We have influence and authority over our children, partners, employees, friends, etc.
This is important to remember as we are reading the Bible and offended or repulsed by something a particular version of God does or says. Rather than reading the Bible as some theological abstract about God 'out there', try asking: "Can I find in me the behavior of the God I am reacting to”? Turn the offense around and see if you can find it in you.
For example, many find the action of God at the Tower of Babel reprehensible. The story tells us that humans began to build a tower into the sky in order to reach their elusive deity. God became concerned and scattered the people by confusing their languages. He did this in order to keep them from reaching him.
Now, rather than assuming an attitude of enlightened superiority while shaking your head at that archaic God, try to internalize the Tower of Babel story. Do you have people around you that are trying to get closer. Are you afraid to allow them to get too close? Have you become like this God, inaccessible and distant? Is your wife, husband, child, friend, employee trying to reach get closer to you? What might you be doing to sabotage those who are attempting to reach you? Do you allow them to build a tower to reach you, or do you confuse them and scatter them to keep them away?

Each story about God that disturbs us must be turned around and internalized. The more disturbing the story, the more likely it is that our reaction is being filtered through an emotional net that has caught the annoying part of God that is in us. It is very profitable to do some self inquiry and ask, “Do I find this quality or behavior abhorrent because it is in me?” Often, the aspects of God that upset us most are oozing from some wounded fissure in our own psyche. It is much more rewarding to see what these stories teach us about our own emerging consciousness than to make them about some ancient deity up in the heavens.

I once had a female student in a Bible class who vociferously took pride in her gay, feminist stance. She once blurted out in class that the God of the Bible was a vindictive, patriarchal pig that used fear and power to legitimize discrimination and oppression against women and minorities. After a few weeks of class, she wrote a paper confessing that after some serious and painful introspection, she had found this same God in her! She uncovered a vindictive, angry matriarchal feminist deity that used fear, intimidation and power to legitimate her position and make the male enemy wrong. Of course she said that it was alright for her to behave that way because she was obviously “right”. She had a sense of humor.


We have three choices as we read the Bible. One, we can read the Bible as absolute religious fact, as an accurate story about the nature and character of the One true God and His involvement with humans on earth. Two, we can go to the other extreme and read the Bible as delusional fiction concocted by ignorant primitives. This approach tends to see the Bible filled with errors, contradictions and antiquated morality, not to mention a God that is no longer tenable for a modern pluralistic world.

Three, or we can begin reading the stories at an internal and personal level. When we do this, we are following the intent of inscription over the entrance to the ancient Greek oracle of Delphi, "Know thyself.” This fosters psycho-spiritual development toward maturity.

We can focus on the Bible stories as external history or absolute theology and spend our energies either trying to critically dissect or sympathetically defend a book filled with moral idiosyncrasies and theological problems. When we choose to defend doctrines or expose blunders, we conveniently turn aside any beneficial introspection that may further our personal spiritual development. It is far easier to scrutinize the Bible than to allow the Bible to scrutinize my current psycho-spiritual condition.


I have a friend who is a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. Often, when he meets someone with a problem, he tells them that his A.A. Big Book contains the secret to all of their troubles. When the person asks him for the secret, my friend opens his Big Book and holds it directly in front of the curious onlooker. Glued on the inside of the front cover is a thin mirror. The observer sees only his/her own reflection. My friend then says, “There is your problem, and there is your solution.”

C.S. Lewis wrote a brilliant exposition of Christian theology called, Mere Christianity. My friend’s book might be titled, Mirror Christianity. That might also be a subtitle for the Bible. It may be read as a book that reflects back to each reader the source of the problem, and the solution. I am asking you to look into the Bible as a mirror. Let it reflect those unconscious potentials that will cause your soul to expand. That is where the work must be done. I close with a verse from the New Testament that suggests how the early Christians thought the Bible ought to be encountered.

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” New Testament, Hebrews 4:12


If you are a more traditional Christian, I know you will likely be disturbed at my suggestion that the solution is in us. I understand. I have been in your shoes. The suggestion originally caused me to feel very uneasy. Perhaps I can make it more theologically palatable by suggesting that the solution is in God, which is the Holy Spirit dwelling in you, and that the Bible is inspired to evoke and awaken your higher spiritual self.

If you have read this and have focused on theological correctness and doctrinal orthodoxy, you are most likely more interested in external doctrinal purity than internal spiritual development. I know that mind all too well. I lived it for years. I was more concerned about being theologically correct than about knowing the expanding awareness of the Divine in my soul.

If you are a critical agnostic, cynic or atheist, I am sure you have found problems with this essay, probably even all of the typos and incorrect grammar. Fine. I have been in your shoes as well. Perhaps I can make it more philosophically palatable by asking you to look at your current serenity and satisfaction with life. If you have more discontent and psychic pain than peace and joy, consider giving this approach a try. I know your mind all too well. I lived it for years and still occasionally venture back into it. Cynicism and intellectual superiority are just as distracting and addictive as dogmatic theological fundamentalism. Both attitudes often foster self righteous misery, smug bitterness and a loathsome dis-ease when we place our heads on the pillow before sleep. Soul is deep, are we willing to enter into it via the various mirrors provided for us?

Monday, June 11, 2007


“All neuroses are substitutes for legitimate and necessary suffering.” Carl Jung


Sometimes ‘spirituality’ becomes our worst enemy. The chronic desire coupled with unsuccessful attempts to be cured, healed or saved is painful. The person in such a state is anxious, fearful and stressed about finding the right technique, seminar, savior or teacher to ‘stop the pain’ they are experiencing. It isn’t long until the original pain isn’t as bad as the secondary pain caused by trying to fix the original pain!

This compulsion to fix all ‘negative’ experiences seems logical in a society that sees all suffering as unnecessary. When you operate on the assumption that all pain is bad, you set yourself up for even worse pain.

Personal Example: Divorce

When my ex wife came to me and asked for a separation, I was devastated. My whole world fell apart. I was asked to leave my home, my three children and a routine that had become predictable even if not ideal. I was devastated.


The word comes from Latin, devastare "to lay waste completely” (related to the word, waste). I was wasted, trashed, left on the garbage heap of life. Everything that seemed good and useful in my life suddenly turned to waste. ‘Waste’ is a conscious and fitting metaphor when the biblical character Job, after losing his wealth, family and health ended up prostrate on a trash heap scraping his oozing boils with a jagged piece of discarded pottery. Sometimes life devastates us, or lays us to waste.

The Hebrew author of Job indicates that such events are somehow connected directly, and not just incidentally, to God. In other words, such garbage heap experiences are normal and necessary. These devastating events are built into the Universe just like our need for oxygen, water, food and companionship.

This is where we must begin our inquiry, “Is devastation a foreign intruder in this earthly existence, or is devastation divinely normal and necessary for making souls?” If it is normal, then such moments have plunged me into the perfect spiritual arena for the work that needs to be done at the soul level. In other words, uncontrollable moments of rejection, betrayal, abuse, offense and life altering distress arrive as necessary and needed sculptors of soulful character. These moments and events are not aberrations, diseases, disorders or dysfunctional in the sense of somehow not being part of normal earthly, psychological existence. James Hillman goes so far as to say that “psyche, or soul, autonomously produces such experiences.” In other words, a more inclusive psychology views the psyche as an ally that actually produces these psychic storms just as the physical universe produces forest fires and earthquakes, naturally.

But when we do not see or know that “God” shows up ‘as’ these experiences, we immediately look for ways to escape, deny or fix them. We often call it the need for a cure, for ‘wholeness’ or healing. We are obsessed with healing. As a result of being so compulsive about getting rid of all pain, we create substitute problems or smoke screens, often disguised as ‘cures’, treatments and solutions. And some of these substitute solutions are quite helpful, initially. Like aspirin, they stop the pain, temporarily. But then they become nightmares which we carry like wounded birds to therapy or church to be healed of or saved from. Therapy or religion then becomes a means to solve a neuroses or emotional pain that has been created to avoid the initial pain. Often, we spend our time treating the pain we have created rather than paying attention to the activating painful event which is our ally in soul making.

After my wife rejected me as her husband and asked me to leave the house, I walked away humiliated, emotionally bereft, rejected, lonely, terrified, confused, angry, resentful and deeply sad. So I turned to alcohol, female companionship and other substitutes to mask the legitimate pain that had arrived to develop some much needed character in my nascent soul. It wasn’t long before the alcohol and the ‘need’ for female companionship became self inflicted forms of suffering. Jung called these ‘self inflictedforms of suffering’ illegitimate because they were being used to avoid and mask the earlier and necessary soul making experiences which arrived through the pain brought on by my wife’s request for a separation and eventual divorce.


There is a phenomenon today called ‘cutting', frequently practiced by teenage girls. They use sharp knives or razor blades to cut their skin, often to the wrist area or arm, to release pleasure-causing endorphins into the brain. These girls are in emotional distress, anxious over their less than perfect bodies, the loss of a relationship or some other stressful experience life brings to each of us.

Cutting is an illustration of illegitimate suffering used to avoid necessary and normal soul making pain. True therapy and effective spirituality help people cure the so called 'cure'. In other words, these girls need to see that the cutting is not their original problem. Of course the cutting problem needs to be addressed and brought under control, but then the original soul-making issues of life must be tended, or attended to. Because the self image and relationship issues are part of the universal archetypal patterns found in every culture and in all mythologies as soul-making experiences, or as Joseph Campbell has renamed ‘the heroes journey’.

Most of us are not literal ‘cutters’, but we do other things like cutting to avoid our necessary and normal pain. We eat, drink, worry, gamble, meditate, form love relationships, seek sex, buy things, work incessantly and involve ourselves in any number of situations that begin harmlessly, but turn into problems. We put on weight, obsess about love or sex, drink or drug too much, spend money we don’t have, go to doctors, become addicted to serving in a church or work until we drop. We develop self inflicted secondary sufferings, which we actually think are solutions, in order to avoid the necessary pains of normal life. Eventually these 'cures' become the problems we think need to healed!

How many Americans overeat because they feel lonely, underappreciated, trapped in a job or bored with mundane existence? This pandemic love affair with food then becomes a ‘diet problem’, a nutritional problem or an exercise problem. This food related suffering seems to be the problem, but is really a symptom of the inability to see and embrace the original activating suffering as something to be attended to rather than avoided, fixed or cured.

How many Americans are running up enormous credit card debts to have that moment of bliss that arrives from touching that brand new object of our desires?

The point here is not to induce guilt, or to shame ourselves if we have created these neurotic diversions, although some of us prefer to turn this sort of discussion into self-shaming because it just gives us another layer of illegitimate suffering! We get in a habit of doing anything we can to avoid getting back to that activating event which arrived in Jobian fashion to make soul. Some of us would rather feel guilty and shameful, which allows us to continue eating or spending, rather than go back and sit in the original suffering.

The solution is to wake up, return to the source of our original pain and do as Job did, talk to the Universal Intelligence(s) that seems to be torturing us, and ignoring our ‘right’ to have a happy, stress free, ‘normal’ life. You might call this Source God, Spirit, Goddess or whatever – but this is where it begins. Something larger than me is at work. It is not always light and love. But rather than make souls by wrestling with God, or just caring for our selves while in the original pain, we pretend it is all good, that prosperity and healing is just around the corner, that the pain will vanish if I just do enough affirmations and read the right books.


I’m not advocating spiritual masochism or suggesting that we view God as only, or even primarily as darkness and pain. I am suggesting that many of us who think we are seeking spiritual solutions are really using pseudo-spirituality to avoid spiritual solutions. Our spirituality becomes a chronic source of depression, even while we are wearing the inane positive smile. Some of us have had the experience of being in our spiritual communities, saying the right words, affirming God as Light and Love – only to go home and consume a bottle of wine or a carton of ice cream.


Some of us use the so called Law of Attraction as a substitute for the normal and necessary legitimate suffering of soul making. Rather than allowing ourselves to be forced into the depths by our painful activating experiences, we try to ‘positive think’ our way out of them.

It is possible that if I am not making as much money as I would like, and there aren’t many of us that wouldn’t like to make more money no matter what our current income is, I have entered into the financial difficulties to make soul in a way that financial abundance could not. If that experience is not realized and tended to, the self inflicted pain of 'poverty is bad' becomes the neuroses, and we live in the anxious experience of incessantly looking for ways to make or ‘attract’ more money. My problem may not be lack of money, but a lack of legitimate and necessary suffering by paying attention to the archetypal presence of poverty, or what the Greeks called Penia (poverty).

I may think ‘the cure’ for Penia is to read and practice The Secret, to speak the word of faith, or to go to some Law of Attraction seminars to learn how to manipulate the universe into giving me more money and success. I may spend years anxiously entangled in compulsive, neurotic ‘spiritual systems', learning the increasingly frustrating pursuit of techniques and imploring gods who will make me wealthy, yet never do. We often ignore Jesus’ statement in Luke’s gospel when he said, “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” We prefer the version in Matthew which says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” Luke’s version suggests that poverty may actually bring one closer to the kingdom than wealth, that soul’s often go deeper and character made finer by having less money rather than more.


The blunt and simple solution may be to pay attention to the original emotional issues and to stop diverting the pain from the real activating events. Perhaps we need to cease participating in a spiritual masquerade that promises light and healing while delivering frustration, failure and disappointment year after year. Perhaps the problem is not a lack of faith or inability to ‘use’ the Law of Attraction, but rather a lack of faith in the Universe as being intelligent enough to allow me to experience a painful divorce.

Since my divorce, I have had to go back and sit in the middle of the devastation as Job did. I have and still am arguing with God, looking at my neediness, experiencing my limitations and a host of other soul making situations. The secondary self caused sufferings are gradually being put aside as I cure 'the cures'.

The blunt solution may be to face our loneliness, to sit in that unfulfilling job and ask it what it has to teach us, to listen to that 'bad' relationship or boring routine we are in. Effective therapy and spiritual work addresses these areas of legitimate suffering as soul-making, rather than forcing immediate solutions or forcing ourselves to practice those ‘be happy’ antics we can put on like Halloween masks when we're around our spiritual peers. Real soul work often takes time, reflection and deep contemplation - individually and communally, and both are critical! This approach is not to fix, cure or heal – but to experience the event, to ask the simple question over and over and over, “What would you have me learn”

And listen....