Wednesday, August 10, 2011


This essay was written ten days before Beverly Hibbett, former wife of  thirty eight years and best friend, died. I think that difficult time brought into clear focus this  theme that had been at work in me for more than twenty five years. *

Something is seeking expression  in me regarding God, meaning and life. I'm sure this has come to focus as a result of the suffering that I see Bev experiencing along with my family and me. These ideas were first stirred in me during the 'vision like' experiences I had beginning in August of 1985. I have recently become more aware that there has been a dialogue regarding these ideas from early Christian writers and especially later ones including Meister Eckhart(1260- 1327) and Jacob Boehme(1575-1624). Such topics have been kept alive in the part of Christianity always called mysticism. Paul Tillich once explained for modern readers this does not refer to some 'foggy idea of God' but to the concept of God being an immediate, immanent and natural experience of the human mind and spirit.

 It has to do with  a very ancient  idea  and myth that there is a flaw, a very real personality and moral  problem within the eternal God Self. And creation was motivated in part  because of a barely  God-conscious awareness  that  the problem within God  could not be solved within God's Self outside of time. The solution of it could only be in the life,  mind and psyche of created human beings. There was something imperfect,  immoral in God  that could only become  conscious first in  the human and then in God , providing a way to eventually bring a solution  to the original problem. So only through the genuine and legitimate  cooperative  suffering of  humans and God in creation can the  needed solution be worked out. Jesus is a myth(in that word's rich classical and ancient  meaning)  and symbol of such conscious human suffering happening and a  prediction of  what was going  to and must  happen on a broad human scale. Present conscious psychological and physical suffering is   the  continued  actual working out of that solution. Many humans have and are  experiencing that suffering quite consciously in many ways. The nature of such psychological suffering can rightly be described as the 'suffering of opposites' and involves consistently holding in one's mind the value of  both sides of  opposite issues and situations rather than  casting one aside in an attempt to relieve the suffering of maintaining both.   Such real experience maintained in the human conscious mind generates a deep  and barely bearable 'suffering of  opposites'.  This is  supremely depicted in the consciously accepted suffering of  Christ, the cross being the primary symbol we have inherited. Every human  experiences this  in various and significant ways in life, usually  regarding family, companionship, health, work and community life and religion. The more personal and close and love based the  relationships involved are the more legitimate and conscious and redeeming, for both human and God,  such suffering is. Each human is called upon to experience such suffering. Collectively, human war is the ultimate reflection of this suffering of both God and Human.  But such suffering is experienced in a multitude of ways both individually and collectively.  

The Collective Unconscious,  which is essentially the source of the expression  of God to human beings,  becoming manifested in the human psyche  is what causes the  personal religious  experience  and any  group or community religion to happen in history.  This is a universal experience in all human beings. Humans have remained,  for the most part , unconscious  of  an understanding of  this  kind of source of their strong religious and religious-like convictions. It is likely functioning when we have very strong ultimate beliefs of 'how things are' about any part of life and conscious reality. In this sense I believe every human is religious and it comes from the same source for us all. The cruel  flaw of such conviction of heart  happening is that each religion, and often each individual,  is 'possessed' by the deep belief that his/hers is the only  true revelation and voice of God. Of course it is not.  Each such  religious experience is  one of many but each often comes, or is later interpreted, as a 'one and only' conviction. This is a key and dangerous  feature of how  humans come to suffer the  problem that  was originally in Divinity from before creation. 

Job And Overwhelming Yahweh ... William Blake 1804
 So in some way what needs to happen in human life for its spiritual evolution is for each person  and each religion to come to question  and doubt the part of their religious conviction that 'believes' they or their group or party  or clan  or hero or prophet is the only legitimate voice of truth and of God. This has been  called 'God  standing against God' or 'God saving us from God.' Such a conscious  awareness in human experience is the 'higher morality' that is gradually working out the problem that God  originally had before all creation. This higher morality, pictured so clearly in O.T. Story of Job(Job is shown to be more morally developed in character than is his God.),  was a potential  part of God all along but God was not  fully conscious of it. So God created humanity in order for God's Self to be pushed to become conscious and fully moral in God's own self. God in this way is morally evolving through the conscious suffering of humanity. Job is pictured in his dawning conscious awareness of the dark side of God, and the unjust suffering it brought, as simply 'putting his hand over his mouth.' Most Bible scholars agree that the last part of the book Job was later added to  give a happy comforting ending. This happy  ending  distorts the very purpose of the story as I'm describing here. It rightly ends with the question of the 'dark side of God' up in the air and Human consciousness of it. Carl Jung felt that this was a turning point in the Biblical story, showing that God's character flaw could only be worked through with the help of his Human creation. God would have to become Human to gain a higher moral consciousness. We all know how the New Testament shows that need and plan unfold in Jesus.

So God is the source of the  problem and the necessary  responsible beginning of the solution.  God and humans through cooperative suffering in time  is the nature and fabric of the solution.  God is having to stand against God and does it through humans which is the experience of redemptive conscious suffering for both. This understanding makes much sense of personal/ collective physical and psychological suffering. To become more deeply religious  then  means becoming through suffering, in a sense,  less religious. To become more like God is to become less like God, or God as we initially understood God to be. 

 And so I suffer. And so you suffer.  And so our children suffer.  And so the world suffers. God and humanity suffer together. The 'creation groans' as Paul wrote. This is how I understand the suffering I see and do in my work as chaplain and in my personal  life. ( I and my family are strongly experiencing such suffering now  in Bev's dying experience.) Only if enough humans become conscious of such psychological realities, religious myths about God and God's expressions in each of us, is there a  significantly humane future for humanity. Without this moral consciousness  the religious impulse in humans  will become the cause of humanity  unconsciously destroying itself according to such myths as the Christian   Armageddon.  Another present and practical implication regards our national situation. This same corrupted  religious force described above attaches itself to strong collective political realities, to 'isms' and 'parties.' It has the same effect there but is not seen as a religious factor anymore, which makes it all the more dangerous. Just as each religion at first sees itself as the only true one and sees as its primary duty to change  the others or  destroy them, so now there is a significant part of the American political psyche that is very willing to use  military power to  change the world to its view or else destroy dissenters. This can be seen working  out before our very eyes.  Will the kind of religious and political consciousness described above arrive in time with enough support?

The God borne capacity to occasionally  transcend  such redeeming suffering while experiencing it  has always been and can only be the experience of human/divine  love. Such a love is not only the unconditional valuing of the 'other' but it also includes en-joying , liking and delighting in the unique reality of the other as a welcomed part of creation. It is only love realized in the human psyche that leads one to be capable of  realizing  heart felt compassion and empathy for us all. This  alone disengages the dangerous trigger of religious impulse.  And only such love can lead one to being  truly compassionate and empathic toward God as well...and to being  proud of us all and to being  proud of God, from which all has come. Each of us is  indebted to all humans who have consciously suffered and to the God who became also willing to suffer and to humble Itself to redeem and to be redeemed by and with  its own marvelous human creation. Such love, I see,  is the reality that  God has truly wrought as my highest experience of suffering, and sometimes transcendence of suffering, in order to redeem myself and  to redeem God.  And for God  to redeem God and for God to redeem me.  It is  love that in the end is the meaning of the grace of God.  We can hope to simply at some significant level, by Sacred grace, become conscious of this  ultimate Sacred mythic truth. I suspect it is a kind of truth that can be universally  experienced by humans. I think it  holds out a potentially  good  future for humankind.  I can imagine no other way that  assures more.  Beverly is one precious blessing  and  amazing expression of God in my life.   May God's blessings be with us all.  Jim

*Acknowledgment: I have been directly and immensely helped in finding the language for this essay by John P. Dourley's book Paul Tillich, Carl Jung and the Recovery of Religion.

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