Wednesday, April 18, 2012

MIRACLE: THEN AND NOW? April 18, 2012... note to Edward Fudge

Hi Edward.  I appreciate what you say about the 'inconsistency' of some Christian teaching  regarding the  'world then and now' and whether miracles happen the same now as then. I think you agree the answer from our common heritage that  Biblical times were  the 'only time of miracles' is  unjustified  and arbitrary.  These are unacceptable and intellectually distorted approaches for an explanation of miracle stories and for the potential of 'miracle' in our own lives today. I've listened to some of the video. My personal reaction is, " If only people who crave miracle(And I think many do.) in order to have a more lively faith  and more meaning to our seemingly ordinary lives could hear what Jungian thought has to say, and even  prominent twentieth century protestant theologian Paul Tillich."  I believe life would be far richer spiritually and less split by such notions of 'its not now like it was then', as if Biblical times and ours are two different worlds with two different laws operating.
And The Red Sea Parted

If we could only 'see' that miracle is primarily an internal experience par excellence, a spiritual one and not, at least at first, a  physical  literal one in our outside world. I believe that 'signs and wonders' as Keener says did and can  'serve the  purpose of  directly generating belief'(my paraphrase). But, a crucial thing to note is that miracle is primarily a matter of inner world dynamics.  I realize that our culture has trained us well to respond, 'Well if miracles are not literal outside happenings then they are not miracles.'  Well, not in the way we have come to think of them  but we way underestimate the power of inner/spiritual dynamics when we fail to  consider just how our lives and our hearts are driven by what happens within our own psyche/soul.  I believe such inner ecstasies can have profound effects on  outer experience including  changes in ones physical health, but none of this requires  us to break with  essential intellectual  honesty. I think it is essential for postmodern people to maintain  the integrity of our actual intellectual experience. If something never happens, after awhile we are reasonable to conclude it likely does not happen, at least from an honest human perspective.  To claim that miracles which defy natural law happened in the past or  that we expect them to do so now is to regress to worlds of  superstition, magic and pre-science. And it is not necessary to entertain such a 'leave your intellect and personal experience at the door'  mindset in order to be  convinced that  life changing  'miracle' can and does happen today and that we can also begin to understand why in times past  the 'miracle' experience was  perceived in ways  not open to us now as intellectually honest people.

Some postmodern people have discovered and experienced that  miracle and ecstasy are  fully natural to human experience.  But to project  what happens within us  onto the outer world (which likely explains what many miracle experiences in the distant past have been) is to always return to superstition even if , as Dr. Keener says, it is only 'occasional.'  The capacity for greater ego-consciousness has increased over eras of time along with the learning  and experiences that  humans have had.  These experiences build over many centuries and our ego-consciousness becomes stronger and more able to differentiate inner from outer reality.  But this same necessary process can also cause us to be cut-off from our roots, from where the ego first emerged; that is from the Collective Unconscious.

The Collective Unconscious is a Jungian  concept of an original pool of the eternal  image structuring archetypes. These are the depth source from which  all that is potentially conscious and real  in  creation and history emerge. It accounts for how major symbols, myths, ideas and stories are found across all times and all cultures. It is a way of describing how all humans and all of creation share a common and deep source from where all that becomes conscious originated. In the Collective Unconscious all the 'opposites ' of life are merged and undifferentiated. A few of these are 'matter and spirit', 'male and female', 'inner and outer' etc.  When anything becomes conscious, at first it consists as opposites which are not  yet clearly  differentiated.  And the work of the ego is to gradually separate the pair into its clear opposites. For example it took a long process for 'inner and outer' experience to be fully recognized consciously as opposites.  Eventually, after the separating process is complete in human consciousness;  then the ego must find a way to reunite the opposites into one unity.  But  such a hard won union is  much more fully conscious, unlike when it was only dormant  in the Collective Unconscious. Such processes in cultures may take centuries or millennia but may sometimes happen  quickly in an individual's development processes, such as in classical religious conversion experience. Bible examples include Peter where his dream convinced  him that 'both Jew and Gentile' (which before the dream  Peter experienced as separated opposites of unequal value)are equally and mutually valued by God. And Saul (Apostle Paul) was taught the same lesson in an 'inner' disturbing vision of the Christ which blinded him but which no one with him could see. These two, from their miracle-like conversions, became the primary leaders of the early church.

We are presently in a time when most of what has been fully separated by our reasoning ego needs  to now become united and  transcend the divided states, ushering in higher levels of consciousness. One example we can see developing  in our day is that 'male and female'; having already  been fully recognized as opposites and different are now ever so gradually becoming equal, mutual and we can anticipate eventually becoming more fully united in love.

Our forebears of Biblical times  had not  yet  fully separated out the  difference in 'inner and outer' experience compared to postmodern persons. This is a matter of human psychological/spiritual development. We  have been as it were 'pushed' to make a stronger distinction between the two, but unfortunately we have also devalued inner reality compared to the outer reality of the physical world. For at least several hundred years we have been somewhat mesmerized by all that is 'outside' us with little interest in or understanding of the 'inner person and life.'  This situation definitely creates a 'split' in human experience and that split  now yearns for healing and unity at a more conscious level. The rise of depth psychology, especially Jung's work, has been an attempt to properly value the Human's  inner world of experience.  

Jesus Walked On Water
Jungian thought can be of such great help in these matters. This great difference we feel between 'then and now'  is primarily due to the change in Western consciousness ushered in by the Age Of Reason starting about 400 years ago.  Reports of  physical 'miracle stories' came commonly from  cultures then, and to some extent now, where inner and outer worlds are still  not as fully and consciously  separated. At such a point in human development  inner  'amazement and ecstasy' are still experienced as if they are instead quite fully  in  the outside world . The gods or God still remain projected unconsciously onto the outside world. Also the human inner living image of  an  'outside of us God'  who is constantly tweaking the outer natural world with 'moments' of super-naturalism, of miracles is a dominant state of mind.  If this were a completely accurate and appropriate interpretation of miracle for us today then surely most, if not all, of us in our day would have 'witnessed' Bible type miracles personally such as walking on water, raising the dead, stilling a tornado and immediate instantaneous healings of our worst diseases. It was not only the Jews and early Christians who had miracle experiences. It was a common interpretation of life and it  was also a great  emotional enliven-er of the sense  there is something very 'other' that is involved with what happens in life, a sense of the 'other world' and of  the Sacred.  To such people there simply was miracle with all the living emotion the word implies.

This simply is not the experience that postmodern sincere people, even the most devoutly religious, generally have; and we are surely not faithless for that being our reality. We have, for good or ill, a greater awareness of 'inner and outer' reality and do not have them normally bleed together as our forebears most surely did. And we are right to question the spiritual judgment of  one  making the claim, and setting up expectations, for the type of  physical 'miracle stories' in ancient texts to happen today. Regardless of what we may say this is how most of us  postmodern people actually think of  miracles. We may  'believe' they happened in outer reality against natural law then but we do not plan our lives around such  happening today. We do not usually  discuss at the dinner table what 'miracles' we saw or heard of today. Some of us may wish or think we should but our truth is we don't. It is not our perception of the  world as it once was in the remote past.

The 'miracle' experience was/is extremely real for  people when  an undifferentiated state of mind(individually and even in mass) regarding ' inner and outer' reality is in place. Our ancient forebears and in some primitive cultures today  simply do not, and likely cannot,   make the conscious distinction between 'outer and inner' reality.  So what is inner image and reality is projected and experienced as outer physical reality. This is how miracle happened naturally in the ancient past. One most likely way this  happened was  when  creative writers 30-50 years after Jesus died had  inner images of him doing miraculous works. These images were fed by the stories of  Old Testament  heroes and prophets who are pictured doing such miracles.  Such inner images is where the ecstatic experience of  miracle was actually  happening to them.  It was very 'natural' to project this onto the outside world and to write, as in the gospels,  those stories as literal physical happenings. This was not being deceptive, it was a natural psychological process of having an inner ecstatic 'miraculous' vision or dream and unconsciously projecting it onto the outside world. We can now understand and be  more conscious of such processes. That was not possible for most of  them at that time.

We are simply too conscious as postmodern people for that to be how we can normally and honestly  perceive  the world now. And as we become more open to our inner experiences and more highly value them we can have 'miraculous' experience within ourselves and keep it there, and not project it outside ourselves believing the basic laws of nature are being changed. We can potentially have the same powerful ecstasy of miracle as they did but hopefully we now do something different with it.

Please believe that I  retain a strong humility about such things for I do not know the kinds of limits, or if there are any eventually, on how more fully individuated human  minds and hearts can/do effect the outer world, the world of  physical matter. Also science continues to discover  previously unknown natural law by which to explain what before had no natural explanation. Jung believed that psychic energy and matter are likely two sides of the same coin which means that  psychic energy and matter can transform into each other or effect each other directly. This of course is a matter of scientific fact  observed in the reality of  nuclear energy;  when tiny amounts of matter are transformed into huge amounts of  physical energy.  150 years ago that would have been described as an  un-natural event and not possibly a natural happening but now we know, even though it still holds much mystery, is  thoroughly natural. So natural it has become a major threat to human survival.

Another way to  describe miracle today is assisted with the concept of  'synchronicity', a Jungian term. These are those moments in present human lives when  seemingly unrelated  happenings occur and our rational 'cause and effect' premises of natural law  are not adequate explanations for un-caused yet very meaningful  coincidences in either our outer or inner worlds. When such  'just so',unrelated causally, happenings  become conscious to us  it is possible for us to have  an experience that has the same internal effect on consciousness that  reported ancient miracle experiences had on people then. Most all of us have exclaimed at such moments of consciousness, " My God I cannot believe this has happened this way."  This is an ecstatic expression of miracle just as meaningful spiritually/psychologically as  a person writing the the gospel erupting  with, " My God Jesus fed 5000 people with a few loaves and fishes."

An important note: Today our arbitrarily 'believing' such ancient miracle stories as physical fact  in no way  generates the same profound miracle emotional experience as those who actually had the original experiences. Believing a 'miracle story' because we are told we should has no resemblance to what the ones experiencing the 'miracle' must have had. In believing supposedly historical reports of super-natural miracle stories our experience is at strongest only a hoped for experience through 'wishful belief.' So if we do not expect and eventually experience  'inner' miracle as I'm describing we simply will never have a miracle experience. I fear that is where many  religious people, who refuse to 'believe' what is opposed to intellect and experience,  find themselves at this time. They should not be embarrassed for simply being honest. But my strong hope is the time is nearer when experiencing such ecstatic miracle will be a far more common event for many people.

Jesus Raised Jarius' Daughter From The Dead
I am suggesting that when miracle is understood today as inner experience it can be just as strong emotionally and viscerally as the experience which  Bible miracle stories  had on our ancient forebears. I, supported by Jungian thought and my own experience*, am suggesting  postmodern people can have precisely the same internal level of 'miracle' experience as  people  then. And that it is as fully 'natural' now as what happened then surely was also.

 So we are not comparing two different worlds where natural laws are different. But we do experience the world in a more conscious way than was generally possible then, because of 2000 years of accelerated psychological/spiritual development, which  meaningfully has happened without any conscious human plan or intent. This astonishing situation may give us a synchronicity experience that for the consciousness of  some may be 'miracle.'  Our potential experience of miracle is understood differently now but the effect of 'miracle' is potentially no less now than then.  I realize that as a culture we are not commonly experiencing miracle in the way we potentially can. We are more likely to have such conscious experience when we have the psychological understanding of its possibility. That  understanding is what I have been attempting to share in this letter.

I'm convinced that I personally was moved in my total being by such 'happenings.' I'm comfortable calling  them 'signs, wonders and especially visions.'  They created as strong an experience of direct Sacred activity as one would have if he saw a dead person literally raised from the dead or the parting of a large body of natural water. So I do believe we humans are designed to experience 'miracle and ecstasy';  but I think it is a return to superstition to desire 'to prove' that  the 'miracle stories' of ancient texts were primarily physical/historical rather than  the amazing natural activity of the Sacred/Human psyche as  I  believe they were. 

This all is made practical to me by  Jung, near the end of life,  being asked , 'Do you believe in God?' He humbly hesitated and finally said, ' I do not believe, I know.'  That is an expected outcome of the quality of religion with its potential miracle experiences that is possible in our day. And which I greatly desire a growing number of  people are moving toward a   consciousness of and foundation for.  My concern with the approach of  Dr. Keener is that it seems, no matter how humbly, intellectually or genuinely pursued, an effort to make faith a matter of physicality and in our day a return to superstition, to magic. It seems motivated primarily by the desire to affirm one's long trusted religious system than it is to, with no certain outcome, discover more of  the truth of the 'experience of miracle' both then and now.

I remain most interested in this topic and will attempt to hear this writer out more thoroughly. Obviously he has  a  lot to say about the subject.  I find it very significant that he much credits his changed attitude to his experiences in a more primitive non-Western culture where I suspect  the opposites of  'inner and outer' are not so separated as they are in most of ours.  To their  great value that means that such people have a more truly and balanced 'religious life' than many of us, but it is not a psychological/spiritual  life that we can now return to if we are to continue to progress in human consciousness and in our truth of the Spirit. If I were near where Dr. Keener  was lecturing I can assure you I would want to attend in person.

Jung was a great learner of the nature of the Spirit and of the 'inner world'. He used every available far-reaching resource including his strong Biblical interests and a willingness to go deeply into his own psyche, a trip  of much danger. He risked his professional career and his personal sanity to make such a trip.  I think it can be said to an astonishing degree—something that persons who write about such things would like to hear said of their own efforts---- ' This person really did his homework.' He did and we are just beginning to appreciate what he re-discovered and how it can greatly add to our present day understanding of things Spiritual. I think the best place to be introduced to Jung's thought is his very late autobiography, Dreams, Memories And Reflections.

On Wed, 18 Apr 2012 03:59:00 -0400 "Edward Fudge" <> writes:

Edward Fudge

Do miracles really happen--the kind we read about in the New Testament? If they did, do they happen today? If we say "yes" to the first question but "no" to the second, how can we excuse the inconsistent answers?
Many people deny, on scientific and/or on antisupernaturalist principles, that the miracles reported in the New Testament Gospels and Acts really occurred. Many others affirm faith in "New Testament" miracles -- so long as they remain long ago and far away. God might act today, they say, but certainly not like he did 2,000 years ago. But not so fast, says New Testament scholar Craig Keener, a professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary and a recognized expert in first-century thought and culture. Keener once was less than keen about miracles today. Then he married a wife from the Congo in Africa (who also has a PhD), and he began to move and listen and observe life from within a culture very different from his own native culture. Well, one thing led to another, and pretty soon Keener had written a book on miracles that named the 2011 Book of the Year, and that Keener's fellow-theologian at Asbury, Ben Witherington III, considers the best book ever written on the subject. In his Introduction, Professor Keener tells the reader exactly where he is coming from, as the following brief excerpt illustrates.
"I acknowledge up front that my personal interest in writing this book includes challenging the prejudice of Western antisupernaturalist readings of the Gospels and Acts. I believe that antisupernaturalism has reigned as an inflexible Western academic premise long enough and that significant evidence now exists to challenge it. When many Western intellectuals still claim that miracles or any events most readily explained by supernatural causation cannot happen, simply as an unexamined premise, whereas hundreds of millions of people around the world claim to have witnessed just such events, some in indisputably dramatic ways, I believe that genuinely open-minded academicians should reexamine our presuppositions with an open mind. Although claims do not by themselves constitute proof, the world is different from when the views informing our presuppositions against all miracle claims formed."
Read all about it here, or browse in it here. Or, to learn more about Keener and his other interests and activities, click here. And finally, for about a dozen video lectures by (or about) Dr. Keener, have a look at a series on line here.

No comments: