Monday, August 7, 2017

Do I Really Always Need Healing?

Do I Really Always Need Healing?

"Healing" seems to be the primary or even solitary spiritual metaphor these days. Sermons, book titles, seminars, YouTube talks, etc. are fixated on spiritual and psychological healing:

  • How to Heal Your Soul
  • Ten Steps to a Healthy Relationship
  • How to Cure Depression
  • Spiritual Healing
  • How to Heal P.T.S.D.

The implication is that I am sick, broken and fundamentally defective.
First off, let me acknowledge that healing is a legitimate metaphor when referring to psycho-spiritual traumas, but it is not the only symbol for approaching emotional distress--nor perhaps even the best. When the healing metaphor fails, I am stuck without alternative ways of seeing my trauma. There is another metaphor found in Carl Jung's autobiography:

"It has always seemed to me that I had to answer questions which  Fate had posed to my forefathers and which had not yet been answered, or as if I had to  complete, or perhaps  continue, things which previous ages had left  unfinished." (Jung,  Memories, Dreams and Reflections)
Here Jung sees his psycho-spiritual problems, not as inherited family illnesses, but as congenital "questions posed by Fate" to his ancestors. In this view, my ancestral connection has passed along the assignment to for me to take up. Here Jung uses a developmental metaphor in order to emphasize the soul's ongoing process of continuation and completion rather than that of inflexible sickness and brokenness. In a developmental metaphor, trauma is more like an algebra assignment. I am not broken and don't need to heal anything, but am allowed to continue working on and completing the Fateful family assignments.
Jesus and the Apostle Paul frequently use developmental agricultural images to symbolize the spiritual life:

  • Jesus: "The kingdom of God is like a seed that grows over time." (Mark 4:26-29)
  • Paul: "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase." (I Cor. 3:6)

Many early Christian theologians viewed Adam and Eve--planted like human seeds in the Garden of Eden--as a parable for human development. The so-called "fall" denotes the moment the embryonic human is cast into the soil of life in order that each of us might move from the raw image of God into the completed likeness of God. In this view, I don't need healing, but rather maturation through ongoing life experiences--negative and positive.
But when healing is my sole symol for spiritual and psychological traumas, I assume
the only alternatives are to get well or remain sick. If I don't "get well," then I have failed and remain sick and broken. But the educational and agricultural developmental metaphors allow for progress through the ancestral journey. I am merely one student in a family endeavor. I am not defective, but merely incomplete until the assignment is finished--likely many generations from now.
When it comes to psycho-spiritual traumas, let's utilize our metaphorical imaginations. Life is more than a disease to be healed, much more than the mere cessation of all suffering. It is a vital journey through many stages and modes of being and living. Perhaps instead of R.I.P. ( Rest in Peace ) on our gravestones, we ought to etch the letters T.B.C. ( To Be Continued ).


Why We Need the Fundamentalists

Why We Need Fundamentalists

"It is a psychological rule that the brighter the light, the darker the shadow..." 
C. G. Jung

These days we hear a lot about Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, and Buddhist fundamentalisms. What these groups most often have in common is a radical and forceful return to the religious "fundaments" or foundational beliefs and practices of their various cultural traditions. One derisive comedian said a fundamentalist might be defined as "a person who hates fundamns everyone else, and has lost his mentalreasoning abilities!" Many of us sympathize with this critique and have nothing but disdain for anything related to fundamentalism

However, from a soul-making perspective, every "fundamentalism" is an archetypal rejoinder to a potentially dangerous personal and/or cultural pattern of consciousness. You see, fundamentalisms have not only dangerous aspects, but healthy aspects as well. They are always compensatory, archetypal responses to personal and cultural imbalances. Not understanding this psychological axiom keeps us from seeing the important insights embedded within a particular
fundamentalism. Fundamentalists act as modern sibyls proclaiming the loss of mystery while rigorously championing cosmic and psychological enchantment. In his bestselling book, The Soul's Code, James Hillman has praise for fundamentalism:

"Fundamentalism attempts, literally and dogmatically, to recover the invisible foundations of culture. Its strength lies in what is seeks; its menace is in how it proceeds..." 

With his usual mercurial dexterity Hillman captures the light and shadow of fundamentalism in a single sentence. In 1948 theologian Nels Ferre--while recognizing the dangers of radical religionists--said every religious fundamentalism is also a:

"...defender of supernaturalism, has...a genuine heritage and profound truth to preserve.... We shall some day thank our fundamentalist friends for having held the main fortress while countless leaders went over to the foe of limited scientism and a shallow naturalism."

Hillman and Ferre both recognize a fundamentalist as a person who is not afraid to stick their finger in the eye of the messianic political sophists, the pretentious secular media and the reductionist academies. These annoying radicals rightly criticize modern culture for leaving no room for mystery. And of course the methods of the often pretentious and even murderous fundamentalists may be menacing, but their deeper archetypal mission is to restore the invisibles to their rightful places in a frenetic world reduced to statistical facts and socio-political ambiguities. One may disagree with their theologies, revelations and menacing methodologies while remaining prescient enough to let them remind us to take the imaginal realm seriously in a world reduced to anthropic scientism and materialist absurdities. They may literalize and dogmatize their myths, but at least they fight for the essential reality of mythic truth while many of us remain silent, or try to impress others by bloviating about esoteric metaphysics, or waxing scholarly about arcane mythic trivialities. Archetypal reality is fundamental to every thought, feeling, dream and action. If we lose these fundaments, our personal, relational and cultural lives will perish. In the words of Hillman: "The great task of a life-sustaining to keep the invisibles attached..."