Tuesday, October 30, 2012

DREAM: THE MIND OF GOD... January 14, 2010..edited Oct 30, 2012

These two dreams on successive nights present what I take as view of the present state or emphases of what Jung terms the 'Self.' This is the psychological equivalent of what humans through the ages have referred to as the Sacred or God or Godhead. Going further back than our Western religious traditions it can be seen to refer to The Great Mother or the sources of all that is or can be.  So I take these dreams to be a summary of what is most importantly  on the agenda of what we can call The Mind Of God.  Surely this is something worthy of my serious attention. These dreams came more than 2 1/2 years ago. And the state of our world would indicate that these are still interests and dynamics that are very much active. 
DREAM: January 14, 2010
1. This was a very encouraging dream lasting a big part of the night: I was observing first my own young children and then other families of children were added. I watched them as they played and interacted. Some typical problem would arise where one of more child was feeling neglected or ignored or some child was being a problem for the rest of the group. Typically in such I dream I would feel upset and responsible to correct or solve the problem by intervening. But in this dream I marveled at how the children managed time and again to find solutions within themselves to get past these obstacles and continue to play and interact in constructive ways. I felt extreme relief and delight as a parent to see my own children being able to make such adjustments to each other. I had the sense that finally, " I can see that they really are going to be O.K. in the world." That feeling was multiplied when I saw how the same kind of social and moral progress was possible when more children were added to the community.

Children Cooperating With Each Other
2. I was a religious teacher working with a family of three. This was in a poor foreign country. The people were dark skinned. I had an outdoor class-like time with the wife and young child while the husband attended a class with some other men. I was comfortable giving practical instructions to the woman and child. We were concerned that the man would not like his teaching situation and would be resentful of efforts to change him in some way. When he came out of his class he appeared to be engaged and paying close attention to his teachers. He came and joined us on the ground. He was quiet and gentle and said thoughtfully, 'this will take some time.' I admired that he was being so thoughtful and careful in how and what he learned. I was also having strong reservations , asking myself if we teachers really knew what we were doing. I wondered if the man's class was just another presentation of 'facts to believe' rather than helping this man to find his own genuine inner truth regarding spiritual and religious matters. I felt rather helpless at being able to protect him from being a victim of religious propaganda aiming to have him take on some group mentality. I knew I would do what I could to respect his own very personal
 search for truth.

3. I was with a black performing group. We were doing song numbers on a stage. I did not know what I was doing but they seemed to be glad to have me be a part. I don't recall ever actually singing but it was about preparing for when we would. The group kept moving from the stage back down to the floor . I was told where to stand several different times. Once they were talking about the history of black music. I mentioned a movie I had seen about parts of that history. One man rolled his eyes with approval , indicating that the movie told an important part of the story.


4. The image of a Vagina and an erect Penis side by side. There was nothing pornographic about this. Below the image was the inscription in all caps, 'HIM'. I felt in the dream that once I had known what this stood for but now I had forgotten. I'm so wired by my culture and religious heritage that I  too recoil at first at sexual imagery from the Unconscious. Most adults these days are objective enough to know there is nothing alarming about sexual genitalia biologically but  we are not so comfortable with the idea that these are also strong spiritual symbols and have been from the misty beginnings of  human history.  Adults who  pay much attention to their nightly  dreams usually  discover this quite early. We should expect that the two aspects of humanity -male and female- and their being the origin of physical life and survival of the species to never be far from the  spiritual messages from  the Collective Unconscious.  This is especially true of the the psychological/spiritual aspects  of human sexuality of which there is yet so much to discover. Recall the Christian story begins with an obvious  symbolic sexual encounter between the virgin Mary and the Sacred Holy Spirit. Why do many not see it even there where it is so plainly spoken?  This says worlds about our levels of unconsciousness and repression regarding such matters, unfortunately  not just  our modesty.

REFLECTION:  I've come to see these dreams as an expression of the consciousness now achieved by the psychological 'Self' or religiously of the 'Divine Mind'. In review, Jungian thought is that the ultimate Sacred , the source of all that is, presses its own contents , along with its undifferentiated opposites including Good and Evil, Body and Soul, Matter and Spirit; into the human ego consciousness. There, through suffering that the Sacred also experiences, those opposing opposites are gradually perceived and integrated or unified to produce spiritual meaning.  This task the ultimate Sacred Ground or God was not able to do within itself. Once done in the human consciousness this also becomes part of the consciousness of the Sacred. This process continues over and over in both the suffering individual and in the human collective suffering. Our culture is replete with the stories of such suffering as are our own human lives.

This dream series seems to me to be sort of a 'state of the Self' ; where the Sacred, the Self or God presently is in its own development. The progress, as can be seen in history, of this process has been much speeded up the past 200 years and even more so in the past 30 years. The conscious experience of Western wars, the persecution and discrimination of women and minorities are parts of recent sufferings that have given quantum like leaps to the consciousness raising process. Each dream image here reflects an area where both human and Sacred consciousness has progressed and gives a view of where the mutual consciousness of the Self and collective humanity is presently.

1.) This dream states that humans have a natural tendency to be able to accept each other and to behave fairly and justly within human societies. It is only the split opposites and one sided spiritual and psychological development that interferes with those natural processes. With some of the opposites more united that long kept humans living out a 'we-them' world and of the 'evil always being seen in the other', these natural processes of living in mutual acceptance and support are beginning to be set more free. The dream in essence is saying that 'God is pleased' to see humanity and God's Self reaching such a new level of awareness and consciousness. It shows God 'delights' to see than more and more of the human family can be learning to cooperate. As long as such a vision was not significantly alive in the Sacred than the energy of the collective unconscious was used to support humans living with a tribe mentality such as is often reflected as the nature of Yahweh in the O. T. for example. The time of God being that way is quickly diminishing as both the Sacred and human consciousness reap the hard won benefits of reconciling many of the kinds of opposites that once were unconsciously unreconciled in the Sacred itself. Jung points to the story of Job as an account of the human beginning to take into itself these unresolved warring opposites and to do the suffering work of reconciliation. The result of such work is then 'seen' and experienced in the Sacred and becomes a part of the raised consciousness of God as well as of the collective human. Jung cites the work and life of Jesus as being a central , if not game changing , example of such human effort and accomplishment. But he would deny that 'Jesus only' and Jesus alone accomplished the present progress or that the project was totally completed by him. It necessarily continues but the dream says that a huge amount of progress has now been made compared to pre Jesus days.

2.) This dream shows the same kind of consciousness raising 'teaching' and learning process happening. Surely formal teaching efforts can be tools for genuine consciousness raising. It may be at times one culture has gifts to teach another that help the process of resolving the opposites to move forward. It is easy for us Westerners to acknowledge that we have gifts of learning to share with the East. The dream acknowledges this also as it shows Westerners sharing their learning with Easterners. I'm confident the collective unconscious is just as ready to show how much learning has already happened and much more needed where it is the West being a student of the East. The past fifty years has shown an eager need of the West for religious sensitivities of the East as the Western dominant religious dogmas have lost more and more of their effective appeal. Jungian thought itself is steeped in Eastern ideas of reality, as were parts of the earliest Christianity. Jung was seeking always paths to heal the opposites involved in the East-West split. The dream highlights that the Eastern male is willing to risk learning from the West, but if the West only gives him orthodox sets of facts to believe the outcome will not be good. It says that God is now determined and conscious of the need to let individuals discover the God within them as contrasted to gods that have placed upon them from without, so typical of Western culture.
East And West Learning From Each Other.
3.) This dream is showing the heightened consciousness that is now present in the collective unconscious and thus in the 'mind of the Sacred.' regarding the opposites that are expressed regarding racial and ethnic difference. Color and ethnicity has been the instrument of much suffering in humanity from its very beginning. Until those divisions of 'otherness' are healed in the divine consciousness they cannot possibly be healed in the real human world. The dream encouragingly shows this is one of the important areas where such an increase of consciousness has already occurred in the source of all that is, that is God. The dream pictures a white person becoming more conscious of the contributions of black humans to world culture. It depicts a white person being guided and taught by blacks. It depicts the importance that minority groups receive feedback from the majority that their culture is being truly understood, valued and preserved. This now is what the Sacred expects also of humans in their relationships with each other. These dreams seem to be a picture for our day of the general 'will of God.' The dream implies that the 'mind of God' has only practiced with what the cooperation of ethnic groups might actually become in reality. That means that this area of human evolution and cooperation is only getting started. Our lifetimes have seen much progress in this area but as the daily news shows we still struggle with what it means to not be prejudiced and bigoted. We are learning it can't be legislated nor defined by political correctness what it means to to really 'sing the song' of ethnic equality and cooperation. Here we have a picture of the new Sacred priority regarding such matters.

4.) Other than the opposites of 'good and evil' the opposites of 'male and female' are surely at the heart of reality and their lack of unity is the cause of untold suffering in the human/Sacred connection. It is a cliche in Western culture to acknowledge the pain and unhappiness related to what is even called the 'battle of the sexes'. It should be unfathomable to all by now how long half of humanity has been second class in nearly all human cultures. Can we hardly believe that in our American democracy women have only been voters for less than eighty years? Marriage is a great chance that couples take with the evidence clear that there is a high risk of it failing, not only in the sense of lasting but of yielding a high level of intimate human joy. The importance of this whole theme has been grasped from the dawn of history in the Eastern image of the Yin and Yang--male and female equally integrated and equally dependent on each other. We've yet to see that reality in our outer world. We have much to look forward to. 

I will not go deeply again into the problem of how the 'anima' factor in males , to the extent 'she' is not conscious to him, is projected upon the women in his life.*  This means that at any time the woman he considers he 'knows' is likely to be as much his projection of her as she is her real self . This same dynamic is equally at work in how well a woman 'knows' her man. Of course all of this is unconscious in early adult life and sadly often remains that way to a high degree even until death. This is what gives rise to the notion , often expressed in comedy, that men know nothing about women. Sadly, it is more true than most imagine.
Yin And Yang, The Eastern Symbol Of Opposites United.

This surely is an opposite deeply seated in the source of all that is. The ancient sacred texts often fully support the devaluing of woman when interpreted as historically literal. This reflects the problem that has been alive in the Sacred with respect to man and woman. But the dream presents an image that indicates that the 'equality of the sexes' has become a very conscious reality in the 'mind of God.' The vagina and the penis, the most obvious physical differences of the sexes, are presented side by side. There is nothing to indicate that one should be able to dominate or be of more value than the other. This, the dream says, is the sound and settled will of God in our day.  And I think most observers would agree we have moved much in that direction in recent decades.  The Collective Unconscious in this dream series, and in uncountable other ways in all our experience, is clearing the path now for humans to incorporate the equality of the sexes with all of its implications. This image is parallel to the Genesis statement that 'God made them in God's image , God made them male and female.' This is actually a strong statement of equality unlike the 'second' Genesis description of man and woman that pictures woman as an after thought for the pleasure of the more cherished male. Human history shows graphically the suffering and injustice such a theology and anthropology creates in real human life.

Again the dream insists on the importance of the erotic aspect of human sexuality. For millennia the erotic aspect of sex has been considered as everything but Godly. It has been considered the curse for both women and men. It is implied in the Adam and Eve story that it was the erotic aspect of sexuality that is the heart of original sin and the most serious of sins since then. It is the erect penis that speaks to this aspect of sexuality. At first, even for the small audience that will read this, I nearly refused to say the penis was erect in the dream. This is a clear indication that I retain a tendency to repress the importance and naturalness of the penis in its erotic expression. That eroticism is more visible in the male but is just as much a part of female sexuality as it is of males. How important for our culture to come to understand that the erotic is not centered in the 'desire to do sex to another' but, as Tillich stressed, it is the longing, the yearning to unite that which has been separated. It's dynamic, when more fully conscious, is actually a deeply spiritual avenue for the highest level of spiritual Sacred encounter between humans. But where that longing is considered an unfortunate mistake at best and something totally ungodly at the worst , what is the chance of  Eros being a full participant in a balanced human attitude of life and love?
Union Of  Opposites--Male and Female

I take the emphasis in the dream  on the opposites of sexuality as having  to do with how partners of either sex are attracted and couple in experiencing the commitment and joy of sexual erotic love. The typical argument made to not be supportive of LGBT committed relationships is not supported by the higher Genesis statements  of equality of  'male and female'  or the Jesus Story accounts regarding sexuality  and certainly not by dreams like this.

So the dream is saying that the 'male and female' opposite pair is now consciously united in the collective unconscious. The sexes are equally valued and empowered and the Erotic aspects and desires of both sexes are to be made more fully conscious and more honored in daily human life.

DREAM: Jan 15, 2010
5. B. W., a childhood friend,  asked me to drive his nice boat down the waters I was familiar with as a teen. As we headed out I began to notice the water was becoming shallow. There was a lot of sludge and garbage. I realized the creek was very polluted and neglected. I was afraid we were stuck and the boat damaged. We managed to get out of the bad area and into deeper water. I was made sick by what I had seen.
Polluted Water Ways.

6. I was Cleaning and weeding a garden that belonged to someone else. I pulled a lot of very large weeds and vines out. Then came to an area where a lot of junk had been dumped in the garden. I began pulling out old clothes, garbafe and other kinds of trash.

7. L. G., a former  parishioner , asked me for church  papers. I told him I had never had them. He said he had for sure given them to me for safe keeping. He was very upset. I did not find the papers but found my clergy hand book which I use for liturgy prayers, readings , weddings etc. It was torn in half on the ground in the dirt. It was destroyed. I could hardly recognize it and felt a great loss.
The 'Gates of Hell' Will Not Prevail Against Sacred Intent.
8. I am standing at an old heavy iron fence needing to get to the other side. I notice it has a hole in it. At first it is way too small for me to pass through. I back away and notice the hole is larger now so that I can crawl through it. It is only later that I realize that this is the 'gates of hell.'

REFLECTION: This seems to be part two of the previous night's dream images. I take these also as reflecting the 'Sate of the Self' or of the Sacred, of the collective consciousness. Jung in numerous ways said that at least three things had been split off from the image of God by present day orthodoxy. In a sense Christianity 'had' to make these separations to serve the spiritual/psychological need of the times. Before opposites can be reunited they must be first clearly separated and seen and experienced as opposites. They will be experienced as such extreme opposites that the human mind will interpret them as having nothing in common with each other. One will be held in highest value and the other will be denigrated and considered as worthy only of extermination. This is the way opposites are viewed when fully differentiated. Such opposites are not differentiated in the Mother of All , the ultimate origin of all that is. The Mother Goddess is the source of the Trinity and other images of God. In the Christian Trinity the opposites are made clear. The Father and Son are opposing opposites there along with many other pairs. The three things that Christianity split off from the sacred that must be included for a present day whole and balanced understanding of reality are matter, the feminine and the demonic or Evil. The opposites of these that have been highly valued are Spirit, Male and Good. These three excluded dimensions have nothing in common except that they have been split off and are greatly undervalued. Because they are split off they have come to often be associated with each other. One result is that woman is considered evil. She is depicted in Eden as the temptress and also as materialistic desiring the forbidden fruit. In popular song she is a 'man eater' to not be trusted. This recent dream series is like a report saying that much progress has been made in bringing the opposites together and in bringing back to honored places the contents of life that have been split off.

5.) This image is declaring the high value now that the Sacred consciousness places on nature. God is fully aware and thus humans are also becoming fully aware of the damage that has already taken place to the water, soil, vegetation, creatures and air of the earth. The time has come for humans to take a very different approach to how they use the resources of the earth. Humans must cooperate with nature in recycling all matter that is used and discarded by humans. Ecosystems supporting the various life forms must be honored and protected. Professor E.O. Williams has made a strong appeal to religious conservatives in behalf of the stewardship of nature. His key book written to religious people is called The Creation. An Appeal To Save Life On Earth . There seems to be a genuine desire presently in the conservative religious movement to be earth's activists.

6.)This image is parallel to the first one. The earth must be valued and nurtured and not used as dumping place for toxins. Things that the earth cannot recycle must be given special attention by humans and not just 'covered up.' Also food need to be grown in truly natural soil and not filled with chemicals that increase harvest but decrease the nutritional value. I am told that 'grain feeding' animals may have resulted in our meats contributing to a highly inflammatory diet for Westerners. I'm also convinced that sugar and Fructose Corn syrup so common in American processed foods is a strong contributor to poor health. Unhealthy ways of growing and processing food must be determined and discontinued the dream image implies.
Illegal Irresponsible Dumping By Individuals and Corporations

7.) My Presbyterian church man is counting on me to preserve and perpetuate outdated religious concepts. I find, in the dream, that I have unconsciously already gotten rid of religious materials, ideas and dogmas that no longer serve the real spiritual needs of people. The loss and destruction of my liturgy book further and strongly states that the Sacred has moved on to a higher state of consciousness than these once helpful and partial truths. The image of God and humanity and morality reflected in the orthodox liturgy, hymns and traditionally interpreted sacred writings are no longer able to serve the extended consciousness of God and human. They must also be returned 'to the soil' to be a part of the resource of a new , widened and more sympathetic consciousness. The extended consciousness now emerged sees how essential it is to unite the opposites that have prevailed and to include those parts of reality that have been split off and excluded. It is not like the new consciousness will forget these important stepping stones but will put them into perspective , as being time bound, not eternal. It hurts to let old things go but this is what Jesus means when he says, ' you cannot put new wine into old wine skins.'
Wineskin.....old or new?

8.) A statement attributed to Jesus is that 'the gates of hell will not prevail against truth'. The Battle Hymn Of The Republic heralds that the 'truth is marching on.' Both of these statements have been used to create the illusion that present truth is eternal truth. They actually mean the opposite. Truth marches on by being added to, corrected and by reaching new states of Sacred and human consciousness. And the 'gates of hell' which can be thought of as stagnant truth claiming to be eternal 'will not prevail' against the continual demand of the Sacred that new levels of consciousness must be forged. And so no 'gates of hell' or any self defending religious creed or political ism will be able to stop this natural spiritual/psychological force that drives the progression all creation, seen and unseen.
Gates Of Hell--William Blake

The dream shows the human at first not seeing any way through such barriers. They seem to him overwhelming. What is needing to pass through this hole is simply not able to fit, it always appears at first. But then comes a higher more enlightened view of the situation and the human ego is able to say(what God has always said), 'Yes, we can. All things are possible with God.' And it becomes true again that the 'gates of hell shall not prevail' against the onward march of the increased consciousness that comes from the mutual creative suffering together of the Sacred and the human.. This turns out to be a pair that , when united, are truly unstoppable. The total picture is truly a glorious one, one worthy of the human being's willingness to worship such a God. And no doubt a God who has often said to the human, ' Thank you. Thank you so much.' 

Jim H.
*  http://jhibbett.blogspot.com/2011/07/anima-dream-about-serving.html

Monday, October 29, 2012

DREAM: SEARCHING FOR THE GOOD LIFE...January 8, 2011

DREAM:
There was a continuous striving to set up some kind of retirement or severance pay for myself. Along side this were events and activities at  an upscale resort located by beautiful waters flowing right beside the facility. The river  and beautiful surrounding offered a beautiful lookout  scene for many of the most desired rooms of the resort. Several people , appearing to be in mid-life, who I knew were at the facility. Each of them seems to be looking for more of the 'good life.' There was gourmet food and expensive wines available to all. Four people seeking the experience of the resort were : 1. A childhood family acquaintance who became a successful  college  coach . 2. A member of the Presbyterian church I pastored for 20 years. 3. One of my brothers and  4. a mid-life female family member. One person was there seeking an extra marital encounter. Another was on a get-a-way due to his celebrity status. One was there exploring un-lived parts of his religiously restricted life. One was there seeking a physical environment that was  fully out of range for him to  financially afford. (As in nearly all dreams these people are not, in any way,  being personally presented as they actually are in real life or heart but are used as familiar images to me  to represent  here a wide range  of common  needs and longings.) These are a good  representation from  my family, hometown, culture and religious heritage. Some of these people seemed very out of their usual element. They were searching for something more,  something was missing for them, a need for life to be more alive ,exciting or challenging than their  routine appeared to afford. It seemed in the dream that their search did not prove very successful or fulfilling. Contentment  was hardly the expression on their faces. The conversation was not one of  depth but superficial. It was like they were searching in the wrong place.

REFLECTION: Setting up 'retirement or severance pay' and the  expensive Resort are both images very alive in our culture. They are often associated with 'The American Dream.' This dream seems to be a commentary on some of the social traps alive today for life seeking  typical Americans. Neither the resort or planning for retirement are inherently bad but when such things become where we search for foundational happiness and contentment they can become very empty and lonely in their actual result.

Here is a dream that fits what  is unfortunately often in harmony with  so-called conservative and liberal  success values or mis-values of morality, religion and politics. Conservative camps of religion and politics seem  as bound to such elevated materialistic values as the ones considered more liberal or progressive. These represent the materialistic traps of our entire culture. The striving that has been set in motion by  misguided notions of the American Dream of  Success. None of these persons showed any sign, in the dream, of having a highly active inner life much less being able to focus there for their  needed spiritual resources. Everything real and desired seems to be the them on the outside. Once again, a dream surprises me as something that my consciousness would not have selected to present, with so many perils to life, to give somber warning about. The Unconscious truly has an intent of its own that consistently surprises any ego consciousness willing to pay attention.  By the way  I Notice I am present with  this crowd also and am one of them. Jim



Monday, October 22, 2012

SERMON: LET ME RECEIVE MY SIGHT....Oct. 22, 2012

                                                               Mark 10: 46-52
Of all our physical senses many of us would place the highest value on the amazing experience of physical sight. So much of our communication with each other is about what we see or have seen. ----What a beautiful fall day. The baby looks so precious. Did you see those cards? Did you watch the election returns? As children we played 'blind man' to see how long we could endure the frustration and isolation of trying to be about our activities with our eyes closed. There are different ways to be blind. As a seven year old I used to sometimes play in another neighborhood with a good friend. His grandmother ran a tiny grocery store. My friend would pick up a soda and walk by the cash register and say 'charge it' to his grandma. I went right behind him carrying a soda and also yelled out, 'charge it.' I had no idea what the word meant but it worked. In my innocence I was very blind. Eventually my parents were informed and it was explained to me that we had no charge account there. Similar blindness in adult life can very harmful and destructive.

The gospels all contain stories of blindness being healed. John's gospel uses it as a central theme to describe the ministry of Jesus. Today is Mark's story of the man Bartimeus being blind. He is described also as a beggar which was the expected plight of being blind, unless you had a family that could help you survive. There was no medicaid or services for the blind. A blind beggar was nearly as low on the social scale as a person could be. Such a person would be seen as a 'taker' in society and not a 'maker' or 'producer'. There was 'no use' for him. This accounts for the fact that those around Jesus in the story were telling Bartimeus to 'be quiet.' They felt he was not important enough to have Jesus' attention. Jesus helped to awaken them all by stopping and calling the blind man to him.

As harsh as blindness is we have all known , or known of, blind persons who are fully functioning participators in life and blind people have been among the most intelligent and most high contributors to human progress. I recently revisited the birth place of Helen Keller. The home where she and her family lived is open for tourists in Tuscumbia, AL. Every summer the story of her early life is acted out in the back yard of the home through the play 'The Miracle Worker.' The home is named 'Ivy Green' and is just across the Tennessee River from my home town of Florence. Helen Keller was struck blind, deaf and mute as an infant. Against expectations and thanks to her and her 20 year old visually impaired teacher's perseverance she learned to speak and made enormous social contributions to her nation and the world. Her teacher Anne Sullivan continued as a companion and assistant for nearly 40 years. Keller is often called 'America's Heroine.' She is the first blind/deaf woman to earn a bachelor's degree. Helen Keller became world renowned as a speaker and author. She is known for her contributions to improving the opportunities of disabled persons. She was an activist for Womens right to vote and for womens access to birth control.  She died in 1968.
Helen Keller Appreciating A Flower

How as post modern people do we learn from this story? There is very good reason to think that the gospel writers themselves were not intending to tell stories of physical blindness being supernaturally instantly healed. But were using metaphor and religious story to help describe the extraordinary impact that the person of Jesus had made on their recent forbears. Many of course think that the miracle stories in the Bible were physical breaks with the laws of nature. And that such supernatural interpretation of the actions of Jesus is the only way those who knew him and also us today can come to believe in him. I personally think this is a mistake and misunderstanding. For one thing that view tends to make light of the fact that all through history the vast majority of blind people have never been cured instantly o but instead many of them have spiritually and courageously transcended their handicap to live filled and fulfilling lives. These are where I see the miracle work of God taking place.  I also believe these stories are primarily about the great need that all of us humans have(not just the physically blind), of being healed from our spiritual kinds of blindness. Thus the stories are universally applicable and potentially transforming. Jesus' ministry was about raising people's levels of perception or 'seeing', about increasing their moral consciousness, awareness and thus compassion. His instruction that we all need to 'repent' means that it is urgent that we come to 'see differently' (repent) those subtle realities that often lie just beneath our conscious awareness. A needed increase of moral consciousness  can be a sudden flash of insight following thoughtful  wrestling with a problem or state of prayer. Such was the case of John Newton, the slave ship captain. which resulted in his writing the words of the hymn 'Amazing Grace.' He says, " I once was blind but now I see." He suddenly realized that the slaves on his ship were as fully human as himself and were to  received equal dignity, respect and freedom.

As a person is healed of such blindness or is enlightened and  comes to more clearly 'see', sometimes gradually and sometimes in bursts of awareness, several areas of awareness typically increase: 1. That each and every human being is an object of God's love, a love that does not value any person less than another. 2. That each person has gifts from God to give to others and that each of us has a need to experience ourselves as contributors to the well being of others. We need to assist each other in discovering our gifts. Helen Keller had become isolated from family and community by her physical blindness and deafness. She was socially locked up and separated from others. Her learning to speak literally opened up her life and freed her gifts to come forth to bless others. Many would say  her words and actions are indicative of a person who became enlightened and transformed. She was' healed' of  the typical   spiritual blindness of her day.  Many of her words would qualify as 'timeless wisdom.' This is how we can look upon the potential of all our human brothers and sisters. Human persons are truly as Paul says  carriers of ' treasures in earthen vessels' waiting to be discovered for the benefit of others. To become aware of such things(and God only knows what others) is an example of how our blindness is healed just as miraculously as if Jesus had healed a physically blind person. 3. That God in the fullest meaning of that word is beyond any human capacity to adequately describe or fully comprehend. 4. That we humans by the very nature of the meaning of consciousness and its development can never be totally aware and conscious of what is deeply real and true. This means we are wise to live very humbly in our dealings with others...slow to judge or devalue the worth or belief of another person. For we never know just who it is that we may be dealing with and their important place in our lives. One N.T. Writer says we often 'entertain angels unawares'. Thus the warning, we are wiser and more enlightened if we treat with respect and care all of God's children. 
 A  Needed Flash Of Insight.

 So the story of Jesus healing a blind person is a lesson to remind us of our continual lack of complete conscious awareness and of the spiritual vision necessary to most fully live our human lives. And the good news is  we can receive continual renewals and needed increases in our developing consciousness. In this story and many other gospel stories the people around Jesus including his disciples are pictured as seriously blind to much of life and love and the meaning of what is happening in their very presence. We are still also such people. This is the Christian description of the human condition. We could say that the nature of Jesus' ministry is centrally about healing our human spiritual blindness. And we can rightfully still expect  higher levels of moral human consciousness, so much needed in our day, are a possible occurrence  for us as individuals, churches, communities, the nation and even the whole world.

Dear God. Let your Spirit breath your healing power on us according to our need. May your Spirit be continually healing us of our blind spots and increasing our moral consciousness. We do come asking that personally, collectively and for our nation, 'Let us receive our sight.'



Thursday, October 18, 2012

SINS AND ADDICTIONS...notes to Edward Fudge Dec 1, 2009...edited Oct 18, 2012

This is an essay regarding the topics of  'Sin' and 'Addiction.'  I am responding to my friend's effort to be of email help to a person who is experiencing being very trapped is some behavior that he cannot overcome. This essay touches on very sensitive areas of  personal life and religion. I suggest the reader first read the two statements of Edward fudge at the end of the blog before reading my responses. I know this is not an easy read but it is about something that effects all of us and our pursuit of happiness.

Edward, I know you have more to say but you begin by assuming the man has not done what you suggest. He seems to be telling you up front that he has. This very kind of  problem is faced by untold numbers, including sincere Christians. They need to be given something different than 'if you sincerely pray ENOUGH  it will go away?'  I wonder about the strategy of trying to help him without even knowing what specifically he is dealing with. To tell him he is not yet repentant enough is very likely inappropriate or he would not be consulting you. There is a very good chance, as a religious person, he may be experiencing a part of his humanity that is not actually sinful, but God made, but which his religion has misinterpreted. You know the chance is very high he is dealing with some sexual issue. Orthodox Christianity  has an absolutely horrible record in this area, even to the point that many are driven to suicide feeling such a failure at getting God's help.  I'd say the sexual experiences that  Christian influenced men suffer with most commonly are pornography, so called 'adultery of the heart' and homosexual thoughts or practice. These people need far more accurate psychological/spiritual information and  very different advice than agreement with their sinful self diagnosis. They do not need to be told  they need to try harder or pray longer.  Edward, the ship is in the harbor and some traditional Christian  teachings are at a total and  fearful loss I think. *

 I agree with  the appeal to God,  ' You must empower me for I cannot  alone take control of myself.' This is in line with Jesus suffering prayer of ,'Take this cup from me yet your will, not just mine, be done.' But the question is what exactly is the form and avenue of such power? And How does one actually best cooperate with it?

I nearly want to say 'How dare you?'  to this statement. “All you need to do is to bring the temptation to God and submit your will to his Holy Spirit with a prayer that he take control...When followed, it is always effective.” This potentially sets him up for unending repeated failure. Even an animal will quit pulling the chain that offers no food. It tends to be extremely condescending and I would think you would know this man may be far more spiritually sincere, honest and heroic than many who do not have his issues. But again my hunch is  that he needs to get a straightened out definition of exactly what is sin and what isn't in his own situation. That is the place to start with a person who has become this neurotic and desperate. Can the traditional church help him at all is the question he brings to you or any who hear him.

Please do not misunderstand me. I actually 'believe' that your instruction is true at a profoundly deep level. But as a formula it becomes a much too simplified instruction and likely of little help.( In many settings the surrender can be to some one else's religious belief which does not empower the person but adds another dependency. But such a spiritual surrender is potentially  the strongest statement of human independence and empowerment imaginable.) ** By making it a one size fits all  formula it oversimplifies what such a direction will entail for any given person. It may involve them outgrowing old beliefs that are keeping them guilt-bound but which they have felt before were 'God's law or God's judgment.' To be of help to some people the 'helper' will need to be willing to support them in such changes. Often 'helpers' must have a maturity that sets aside or is willing to question their own imperfect beliefs if they are to be an actual help to the person who is opening themselves up to a purposely 'indefinite' higher power. This 'undefined higher power' of Alcoholics Anonymous is a very important and intentional concept. When you suggest for a person to 'submit to the Holy Spirit' it opens up the possibility that one will discover in their healing process a quite different definition of God and of interpretations of scripture etc. than was, unconscious to them, supporting their addiction. Any such change requires significant courage and it requires coaurge of any one who would 'help' them as well. It very likely may lead the person to some kind of professional counseling support and possibly the monitored use of some medications. Surely the Holy Spirit has a an unlimited repertoire of tools for the trusting person to discover. If the path is truly successful it will likely involve their learning much more about their inner life and finding some meaning as to why they were prone to falling into some destructive addictive behavior. I'm convinced that many addictions are only the symptom  of some who are destined to greater spiritual growth than ordinary. Growth that others who never get disenchanted with life enough to be pushed to find deeper levels of spiritual awareness. So neither condemnation or sympathy is  what the addicted person needs. H/she may be far ahead of the rest of us in ways we may have not  imagined. We should be ready to be humbled if we are going to know well the world of an addict.

My greatest fear is that you are unintentionally  teaching him about a very 'works', self-will, rational , religious approach to the most real and irrational spiritual issues of his life. He is at a cross roads. You and I both believe  God's grace is the only answer. And I do believe it is available.  But in our desire to help with problems that are beyond our actual understandings we are  always at risk  of resorting to a  'works' program.  I do not question for a moment your loving desire to help answer this man's question. It is a daunting one for anyone to approach.

I follow your intent, appreciate it  and actually agree with it but in a more indirect way. I  have had times when circumstances intervened to keep me from breaking a moral law and even make it easy for me to do the right thing and I attribute that to the Spirit's guidance. But that is not always the case with any of us. There are some observations I would add.  I used to work with alcoholics and problem drinkers in a DUI  program.  We all agreed that we did not want them to continue to suffer the downside of  alcohol abuse.  Some were able in  a very rational way to decide on their own will that it was in their best interest to  simply never take a drink. And then they began to find ways to cope when that urge or temptation appeared. But for many a more spiritually based approach is needed to overcome an addiction. And for them they are likely to begin the spiritual quest of their lifetime. I personally experienced  a combination of self will and a surprising  unaccountable, to me, success at not smoking  a first whole day  on my way to  becoming a non smoker. I also used the knowledge and technology of  nicotine patches.  But what was most important I did not do any of it with the idea that  as a smoker or non smoker I was more accepted by God.  It all came down to a kind of self interest  and desire to not have the down side  effects of smoking and a confidence that I would be 'helped from within'  to stop the destructive habit .  I was dealing with the facts, the biological facts regarding smoking, what it did and didn't do and the theological facts( as I understood them) regarding the security of my standing with the ultimate Sacred.  This way if I failed it was not the end of who I was or of my integrity before God.

In matters of 'sexuality and love' it becomes far more complicated. In fact many who become addicted to drugs or food  or work etc. are dealing at a deeper level with love, intimacy and sexuality issues. Here the Real Facts are totally essential or one stays lost. That is why I've said that often times  our religious interpretations have played a terrible trick on us by our not being clear about the facts. One needs to know what in their thought and behavior is actually sinful (harmful to self or others) and what they have simply been falsely educated to believe is sinful. I find that many things have been interpreted as sinful that simply are not.  An example is the forbidding of young people to dance. I would have been a much healthier youth if I had been taught and encouraged to dance, dance dance. 

 Basically where I have come to  regarding the sexual  and love issues is  that 1. No sexual fantasy is sinful. In fact to play life honestly one needs to clearly  know and own his/her sexual fantasies with nothing forbidden, enter into them and know that all such thoughts and images are very naturally human, thus have come from the ultimate God. If such fantasies acted out would bring harm to  oneself or to others than such fantasies need special attention but not to be denied or condemned.  A common addiction today involves obsessively  viewing pornography. One common scenario is that a man has been taught so strongly that inner sexual fantasy and imagination is sin in itself. Carrying that erroneous belief unchallenged his interest in pornography becomes compulsive and obsessive. That is when his actual problem began. Now he has lost all sense of inner freedom and autonomy for his life. He was trying to deny as sinful  something that is a natural harmless human experience at the start.  For him a serious objective  look at the meaning of natural, and not in themselves sinful, fantasies can release him from such obsessive behavior.  2. One has to be willing to run the risk of breaking  conventional moral law. Pauls 'living by faith not by sight or flesh alone'  requires such a drastic and courageous disposition. Fear of doing wrong is not a good enough reason or emotion to embrace if we are to  actually use our 'issues' as stepping stones to spiritual growth. Martin Luther once quipped , “ Pray and sin on bravely.' We need to have the courageous attitude that  if being labeled a 'sinner' or heretic is what is required of me than such a sinner or heretic I will humbly be.  Jesus is depicted on numerous occasions breaking the conventional religious rules of his community. We speak of Jesus being 'sin for us.' Sometimes we need to realize that we may have to take on the consequences of  personal 'sin' if we are to in the end be whole  and complete. Please understand, never should breaking any social or religious code be taken lightly or without a willingness to bear the consequences. This is perhaps the heaviest of all genuinely religious conversations for it has to do with the meaning of spiritual freedom and responsibility**  that Jesus said he 'indeed' wanted for people to experience. This is truly an adult conversation.

What I've said in the above paragraph sometimes comes across as somewhat heretical to the typical religious person who is so protective of his/her own moral state that they are unwilling , if necessary, to have the stain of sin on their own hands. This easily results in a dishonest evaluation of oneself and a superior attitude toward ones who are considered 'real' sinners. I know of persons who having taken on the willingness of being 'sinner' if required and who claimed such responsible 'freedom from rule' regarding complicated issues of love and sexuality. They have reported instances of being  'rescued' by circumstances  from  destructive sinful behavior  by an unexpected path simply  opening up. This was when they honestly and courageous followed life, not by moral effort  or loyalty to arbitrary law, but from genuine personal meaning and responsible honesty. So if they had not been willing to be 'marked as a sinner' they would never have experienced such amazing grace.  Now you can see that such an approach to the personal sin problem is very hard to teach  and is open to much misunderstanding in the typical religious/social environment.(This is the kind of misunderstanding Paul speaks of when he says he knows he will be accused of  saying , 'Let us sin that grace may abound.' Such ground regarding personal  moral issues must be tread if the teaching is to be adequate and effective.) I strongly believe that such spiritual attitudes urgently need to be taught in the post- modern church and culture. I would be prepared to offer such thought to your  questioner, if I sensed he was at that stage of spiritual need and preparation to responsibly consider such 'radical' freedom, which I understand to be at the heart of gospel 'good news.'**

Does this make any sense to you? It is simply what  I understand  as the practical path to what you are saying about the overcoming of sin and how God helps the mortal with that process. Without genuine risk there is no genuine growth is how I might say it.   Spirituality is not about being safe , it is about being  honest, and whole or as Jesus said in King James language 'perfect.'   Blessings, Jim

On Tue, 1 Dec 2009 19:40:57 -0600 "Edward Fudge" <Edward@EdwardFudge.com> writes:
I think honesty is very important.  I don’t know any way to think that committing sin (whatever it  might  be, but something clearly such) is a good thing.
Edward


Thanks  Edward for the response. I fully agree. Sin is not a good thing. It is bad. But evil is so intrinsically a part of  ALL of creation that simply being against sin is not sufficient, not in our day.  We can't get by with only 'safe', and what easily become dishonest, ways of approaching it. It just seems to me that Good is not able to show itself without its contrast to evil. So good is in a sense dependent on the reality of evil in order to be recognized, just as darkness gives all meaning to light.  This all implies that being fully and keenly  aware of real evil turns out to be more important than the battle to defeat it. This reality needs to be a part of our strategy, of Christian strategy, for overcoming evil with good. We simply do not get to have 'clean hands' while letting only others be the 'real sinners' in this world.  My words before are my effort to explain what the practical meaning of that looks like in human life.  That view is not , on the surface, pleasant or pleasing or clear.  But it is more whole and complete than the typical dualism in which Western people have learned to live. It is simply not as simple, as dualistic, as Christian theology has generally presented  it. The Christian mystics, even Origen who I think escaped church persecution,   through the centuries have tried to give a more  honest view of these matters and often were persecuted for heresy.  Another way of looking at this is that we are likely  more sinful than we are aware, yet some  good comes from us. I'm only suggesting that we truly be more aware of our own sin and how we do not escape it more than others and then a more high and  healthy good will come from us by God's grace.  The Eastern idea of  full 'mindfulness' is the spiritual discipline that I am stressing, honest mindfulness.  Mindfulness embraces more fully the inconsistencies and  imperfections and sin that is a part of life, not denying anything is its goal. This simply has not been stressed in Christian orthodoxy.  Denial of evil  and a 'split view' of reality have often been the standard and norm.  I think the emphasis I'm suggesting  is contained in the Biblical Christ story. But it has not yet been fully seen and realized. The time has come for a more complete view of who we are as individuals and as a nation or culture. If the Spirit of Jesus is living, which I as a Christian believe, he is always becoming something more and different than what we have seen so far. Religion, like science but in matters of faith, is  primarily about seeking seeking truth not defending it.   Blessings, Jim

The reader may  be interested in the blog posts:
*Whatever Happened To Sin:    http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=6867130980866241997#editor/target=post;postID=8185071423540450018
**Responsible Human Freedom:   http://jhibbett.blogspot.com/2011/11/responsible-human-freedom-september-13.html



> OUR STRUGGLE WITH SIN (2) 
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>
> When we stumble in our struggle against sin, it is frustrating,
> demoralizing and  ineffective for someone to tell us to "try
> harder." Our problem is not lack of effort but lack of will. It is
> easy to say No to something we do not desire. God is able to change
> our will, to make us want to do what pleases him (Jer. 31:31-34;
> Psalm 110:3; Phil. 2:13).
>
> When we want to do what is wrong, our best course of resistance is
> not to grit our teeth, tighten our muscles and try harder. It is to
> surrender our will to God, asking him to make us want to do, at
> that moment, what pleases him. As we do that, God fulfills in us the
> righteous demands of his law -- not through our own resolve and
> effort but through his Spirit (Rom. 8:3-4).
>
> The prayer in the previous gracEmail is one way of surrendering our
> will to God when we are tempted. It is not a magic formula, and its
> precise wording is not important. It is merely a device to help us
> put solid biblical principles into actual practice.

On Sun, 29 Nov 2009 05:06:01 -0500 "Edward Fudge" <Edward@EdwardFudge.com> writes:
> (gracEmail list) our struggle with sin (1)
> Edward Fudge
>
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> OUR STRUGGLE WITH SIN (1)
> A  minister writes that he has struggled many years to overcome a
> particular sin. "I have read, prayed, confessed, wept bitterly, and
> even shared it with a close brother," he writes  -- "all to no
> avail." Finally, he resigned his pulpit and found other employment.
> Can I offer any encouragement?
>
> *          *         *
>
> Jesus died for sinners. I am very thankful for that, because I am
> one of those sinners. Jesus died, not only to forgive us, but also
> to liberate us from sin's power and to deliver us from its
> practice. Yet I have found it impossible to resist sin by my own strength.
> Like quicksand, sin seems to increase its grip the more I struggle.
> But God can do what I cannot do. All I need to do is to bring the
> temptation to God and submit my will to his Holy Spirit with a
> prayer that he take control. Such a prayer goes something like
> this, on a repeated basis, as often as needed.
>
> "Lord, I have this struggle against [name the sin involved]. I
> cannot resist it in my own power. No matter how I determine in
> advance, when the moment comes, I find myself wanting to do the
> forbidden thing. I cannot desire to do the right thing myself.
> Lord, I honestly do WISH to DESIRE to do the right thing. I am WILLING to
> desire to do the right thing. But you must empower me to have a
> godly desire when temptation comes. I yield my WILL to you. At this
> moment, please give me the desire to do what pleases you."
>
> This approach involves trusting, not trying -- and, when followed,
> it is always effective. This request expresses God's will for his
> children, and he will always respond to this request with
> supernatural strength and grace. For "though the body is dead
> because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness."
> And since "the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells
> in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to
> your mortal body through his Spirit who indwells you" (Rom.
> 8:10-11).


The reader may  be interested in the blog posts:
*Whatever Happened To Sin:    http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=6867130980866241997#editor/target=post;postID=8185071423540450018
**Responsible Human Freedom:   http://jhibbett.blogspot.com/2011/11/responsible-human-freedom-september-13.html

______________________
 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

WOULD-BE PRESIDENT CHARACTER FLAW....Oct. 17, 2012

I generally  avoid expressing political opinion on Facebook and have rejected posting many a cute half-truth political poster. For I am very aware that many of my Facebook friends do not share my political leanings. But this election is very important to all of us and to the future well being and integrity of our country.   So I am going to make an exception.  Here I go.....






A key moment  in Tuesday's Presidential debate was when  Governor Romney went in for the kill so sure he had nailed the president. He  raised his eyebrows in  confident victory.  And then awkwardly and  literally stumbled in body and speech at his own mistaken judgment.  Much of the audience knew he was wrong before he did.  How embarrassing. Yet he never admitted, even in gesture,  that his  extremely disrespectful, but to him once delicious, accusation was dead wrong.

I struggle to see  how anyone can see that kind of misplaced venom, made clear in both body and word, and  still feel un-bothered about the inner character it comes from.  Sometimes we don't really 'watch a debate' to learn something. Yet many Obama supporters, and I'm sure Obama as well,  did actually 'watch  and weep'  as they confessed defeat in the first debate. But I'm not yet hearing if many really watched  and saw what Mitt  Romney did in those key moments of unscripted real life.

It is these unplanned moments  that historically Americans have  learned something important  from debates about the character and maturity of the debaters. The rest is all preplanned, canned talking points. In debates we all for sure tend to see what we want to see. But shouldn't we strongly attempt  to be objective  when so much is being laid out in the open about a serious  character flaw in the president-seeking  debater?

Monday, October 15, 2012

HOW IS HEAVEN REAL? Letter to friend.. Oct 15, 2012

A friend called my attention to a much publicized report of a near-death experience as described by neurosurgeon  Dr. Eben Alexander. This kind of imagery which I describe as an upsurge of content from the Collective Unconscious is of interest to me. Below is my note to my friend of my initial thoughts of the report.   http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/10/07/proof-of-heaven-a-doctor-s-experience-with-the-afterlife.print.html
  Oct. 14, 2012
Hello friend . Thanks for the article. Some initial thoughts: I have no doubt about the legitimacy of  Dr. Eben Alexander's experience. From a Jungian, and my own personal experience, perspective this can be described as an upsurge of archetypal material from the Collective Unconscious. Jung postulated , as Dr. Alexander stresses, that at the ultimate level all things are 'one' or connected and interdependent. This is in much opposition to how we Western people have learned to think and believe about everyday reality.. Jung hypothesized that this 'unity' is also the case of the 'matter-energy' opposites. That they have a connection. Under precise circumstances Energy can become and change matter and visa-verse. So the brain's ego functioning shutting down and yet images being received, to later be recalled  by the conscious ego, would be considered possible. It may also be that our present instruments say the brain is completely shut down when it really isn't. After all he did not die. (I was hopeful that my brother Gene might 'awake' with a special story to tell us. If he did I would suspect it would be similar to this one and we would have been similarly astounded.)

As Dr. Alexander says atomic/nuclear physics has been reaching such similar conclusions for many decades. Jung and world renowned physicist Wolfgang Pauli( remember the Pauli Exclusion Principle?) had many documented conversations concerning these matters. Many a hard-nose scientific materialist has had another story to tell after an experience like this of Collective Unconscious contents breaking through to his conscious ego. And in our day even the most formally uneducated among us are generally hard-nose materialists. That is why they often turn religious images into physical realities and insist that Bible nature miracle stories are material history. The common concept of natural vs supernatural is unnecessary according to such images as Dr. Alexander had. Nothing is mutually exclusive but all is part of a unity. The 'laws of nature' to the extent we know them were operating in Bible times the same as they are now(contrary to the 'age of miracle theory  we were both taught.) An experience of the the type he describes here is obviously not material yet it can drastically alter ones world view like nothing else. Why some have such experience and others do not is a mystery. I do know erruptions of images from the Collective Unconscious can be very dangerous and can occur to people on the full range of intelligence  and of a capacity to deal with it constructively. 
Bright Light Image Of Heaven


Dr. Alexander also says this does not mean pitching out  objective reasoning skills that have been so hard won the past four centuries. This is always a danger when anyone discovers there is 'more to reality' than what has been discovered via the common senses and rational reasoning. Because then people's imaginations run wild with all kinds of speculations and they can believe whatever they wish because 'science is not anymore right than my subjective thoughts' about anything . That is a big danger in our day and heard in the Halls of highest places. Our best objective discipline must be held in tension with material that goes beyond science and material reality. They are not mutually exclusive but, as with all things according to Dr. A's vision, are mutually interdependent. He suggests that what will be discovered and understood about the 'other world' will be built on past scientific efforts as well as make meaningful the religious stories that we are heir to. I appreciate this emphasis when he says, “This(emerging) view of reality is scientific and spiritual in equal measure and will value what the greatest scientists of history themselves always valued above all: TRUTH” It is a much larger challenge than most realize to let ourselves actually be 'truth seekers'  as opposed to 'tradition and status-quo defenders' in order to enter these opening realms. We must learn to keep what is valid and also be willing to let loose of inappropriate but long loved uses of religious texts and what have become only 'wished for' religious and cultural beliefs.

I appreciate him saying he has much work to do both in understanding what has happened to him and in how to make of it any real value and acceptance by other people. Jung said, 'Any fool can have a vision , it is what one does with it and whether he can eventually communicate it meaningfully to his peers that determines whether it becomes of any value to the species.'

Painting of Hell @ 16th Century ?

For a long time I have not been concerned about the deceased or with whether or not there is any personal consciousness we experience after death. (Dr. Alexander is not bringing this vision back from death but only 'near death.' )That just does not capture my interest anymore for I don't think it is our real human  spiritual  problem needing  to be addressed.  It has become more of a curiosity to many. I do suspect that whatever progress any of us makes in raised consciousness in this life is not lost but will continue to bring benefits to humanity even if not in our present life. My attitude of not being so concerned with the afterlife is becoming somewhat more common in America as the public loses its long fear and belief in a Hell where individuals are punished eternally. This belief is being rejected and the Biblical material considered symbolic even in Evangelistic Christian circles. Modern Bible scholarship rejected such a notion of an eternal  hell many decades ago. There is a movie coming out now about my Church of Christ friend Edward Fudge, based on his experience and book, that reaches this basic conclusion about Hell. The movie is 'Hell And Mr. Fudge' and the book is 'The Fire That Consumes.' I think that the notion we can dispense with such a powerful eternal archetype as Hell or think we humans can escape its myriad ways of being experienced is absurd, but to finally reject it as a literal place where the condemned are punished forever is way past due.

What I consider a highest importance such experiences can serve is to make us aware of how and where 'religious ideas and images' have actually originated. Dr. Alexander suggests this as he sits in a beautiful church with the sensory stimulation that is there. How it meant nothing to him before but how now it reminds him of his 'vision' like experience at near death. If like me he would likely be bored terribly by the 'creed' (taken literally) of the church or with rationalistic interpretations of the Bible like most sermons today. Archetypal experience as he indicates is far more than can ever be expressed in human words and logical deductions. It is the experience of 'direct knowledge.' I like how he attempts to describe that.

The other important implication and responsibility is that such experience can help us  humans to find how to relate the key messages of such visions to how we operate socially(communal human living and contributing) and politically(communal decision making and power distribution) in this very real world, the only one we know. These are central in Jesus' words eg. the prayer that it 'be on earth as it is in heaven' and his central emphasis of justice for the weak and marginalized.
Jesus Feeding Five Thousand

If the primary use of such archetypal material is only to give us comfort and a looking forward to after death I think it has missed its real target. I hope this dawns on Dr Alexander and perhaps it already has but not necessarily. Just as much religious teaching is not genuinely applied to making life on earth far more as it is in 'heaven' religion often does the opposite... makes people devalue the potentials of this life and people/ideas that are experienced as 'other.' This leads to an escape of our human responsibilities(especially our social ones) here in a rush to get to 'one's personal eternal reward.' Most Christians see such a mistake in suicide bombers looking forward to their heavenly virgins. Christians can make the same kind of mistake with our sacred texts as well.

I hope this makes sense. These kinds  visions I think have authoritative social (communal human living and contributing/producing)implications for humanity.... that 'we are all one'... that 'we are all similarly connected to each other and to God.' And that each person is far more complicated than we have thought and  has much greater potential to experience giving and receiving love than we have thus far experienced. And that each one has  gifts from God to share that are much needed by others. The implication is this can move us to responsibly create earthly social , economic and health  configurations and care of the environment that are far more consistent with and in harmony with such visions... which like he says are visions that have been documented for ages, from all kinds of people from all over the world and in all major religions. So I take renewed hope any time someone has such a story to tell. The question is when will there be enough collective mass and will to put these visions to productive application in our real present spiritually desperate world.?

Dr. Alexander. does mention an image of the strange 'darkness of God'. He does not give much testimony(so likely did not experience it) to the powerful and often disturbing impact of such darkness which I would say is an image of :  from where all that is or ever will be comes... both the good he so emphasizes and evil which is just as real. So I would take it that his vision touches more on only one of the 'opposites' that are crying out for some kind uniting in today's split world. But even without this I am very glad to see the kind of report he is bringing and hope it will receive  much public attention. There is a lot of movement in the collective consciousness of people going on in our day. Change is surely in the air. We can only hope that such change can take place with minimal human suffering and reach goals that are in harmony with the archetypes seeking active responsible expression in our day.

I hope  Dr. Alexander is not rushing to ride a  newly formed wave of  public fame at the expense  of doing the necessary, private and hard work of internalizing and assimilating these vision intrusions appropriately into his ego consciousness. You can sense that he is experiencing nearly being 'swept away'  with the wonder of it all. This is another danger. Such things are far more than personal stories to tell. They should not be thought of as 'mine.' They reflect collective needs, challenges and aspirations. I only reluctantly began some writing publicly  about my experience with the archetypes less than two years ago. Even then nearly hoping no one reads it for I know how unreal it must sound to most people. I have done much work with this material privately and with trusted objective persons. I had the initial 'vision' experiences twenty seven years ago. These are not warm fuzzy tales to be told to the grandchildren but can tear a person right out of his world and from his grandchildren and everyone else  if not tended to carefully. This is more especially true if they also contain the darker aspects of the unconscious which I think near-death experiences usually do not. He alludes to the darkness but not with any of the emotional impact it is surely capable of  bringing.  We should not forget that a  simple  'mushroom cloud' image was used  by a president to frighten the nation  enough to start a war. Even Martin Luther speaks of the 'dark side of God.' The Biblical apocalyptic material such as The Revelation Of John and Ezekiel and Daniel along with the whole book of Job have more than a serving of these kinds of powerful images. These too, in ways beyond our present rational capacities,  are part of the ultimate 'unity of all that is' which the Dr.'s vision touches on. And such material needs to be handled with kids gloves and a  large portion of humble human responsibility.

Oh, and how glad I am that Dr. Alexander reports such strong 'anima'-- the inner feminine structure of the male psyche---experience. 'She' has been a central reality in all my experiences of the Collective Unconscious and sometimes very similar to how he describe her. My blog is filled with such imges. She is indeed the connecting link between the male ego and the contents of the Collective Unconscious very much as Dr. Alexander. describes here, a guide 'par excellence.'


I do not get the impression that Dr. Alexander has yet digested much Jungian thought if he has even heard of it. But I would be very surprised if, as he continues his search, he will not come to that rich and incomparable resource for such matters. I can think of nothing that would give more meaning to what he has experienced. It has helped me as I have written these few things in response to Dr. Alexander's story.


Jung too had a near death experience which he describes in the first chapter of 'Dreams, Memories and Reflections.' As I recall parts of it are  not unlike what the Dr. describes.

Thanks again  for remembering me with such stories. You have stirred my mind on an otherwise typical but beautiful day. I hope your health continues to be good. My very best for you and yours always. Would enjoy visiting sometime. Your friend, . Jim

Sunday, October 14, 2012

SERMON: 'COUNT ME IN' Mark 10:35-45 Oct. 14, 2012

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
39 “We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

  1. When my parents and older brothers started getting out the camping equipment in mid summer. Just the smell of canvass meant we were headed to the cool fresh air and cold clear creeks of the Great Smoky Mountains- to camp out for a week. I may not have said it but no one had to ask me, 'Jimmy do you want to go?' My body language said a thousand ways... “ Count Me In.”  And I was equally eager to 'Jump into the cold mountain water' anytime I was invited.

  2. I see the childlike eagerness of James and John in this gospel scene. Before we tear into them can we at least acknowledge they wanted to be players in the game of life and in their understanding of the Kingdom of God? At least they were saying with enthusiasm, “ Put me in coach, I'm ready to play.” Even if they were in fact not ready at all.
    3. My son does many things to improve the pleasantness of our living space. He recently made us a good size pond with fish and all. Imagine if I brought a fish to the pond in my hand. That fish would be flopping and jumping and if it could speak would say, 'For God's sake Put Me In. The water is my element. Where I belong. That is where I can do what fish are meant to do.'

    I. We see this very healthy and natural instinct being expressed by James and John. Obviously I can't do this sermon without pointing out their immaturity and lack of insight and wisdom and all that. But that is so easy to do. But you will see I am not taking delight in criticizing them this morning. Unless I also acknowledge they are being necessarily human, perhaps even acting out one aspect of the 'image of God' in them. For are not many descriptions of God showing God's self involvement , self interest and even desire for control of His space and seeking to be at the center? Look at Jehovah as portrayed in Job. Why he parades unendingly his great accomplishments and how he is the Greatest. So James and John, who must have had something going for Jesus to have been drawn to them and to see their potential, are presenting to each of us a picture of ourselves and how, at one level, we actually are. At least I hope we have their attitude of 'Count me In. I'm ready for life.' They just don't know that no one is really ready for life are we? You may be 15, 35 or 80 but do you take any assurance you are ready, actually prepared, for tomorrow and the challenge it will bring? Its good if you have a kind of confidence that, in spite of your imperfections and partial consciousness, you still chose to 'jump into tomorrow' and see what happens. So let's get clear that James and John are showing an attitude , however self interested, is necessary for living as a human being. It is not something to get rid of but one that  needs to be balanced by its opposite which Jesus describes as being a servant to others. Without the opposites of life being balanced either side becomes distasteful. Self-seeking can result in a person becoming a tyrant and aggrandized total servant-hood risks making Jack a very dull boy or a robot personality. Balance or as Jesus says 'wholeness' is always the goal of healthy person-hood. The healthiest relationships are invariably mutual relationships. 

    II. We Westerners, ever since the beginning of the Age of Reason began some 400 years ago, have become experts at separating things out from each other. This was a new psychological experience for humans to see so clearly and objectively with no fuzziness or gray areas the 'opposites'. 'this and that', 'here and there', 'hot and cold', 'up and down', 'good and bad', 'spirit and flesh.' So when we read a gospel story, or seek to understand most anything, we are quick to identify what we call 'good and bad' behaviors and attitudes . And then we try to identify ourselves with the good and to see ourselves as having none of the bad. So the lesson becomes simple for us... James and John are selfish and greedy but Jesus points this out and tells them they need to not be concerned about being first or greatest but to become only interested in being of service to others. So we conclude that we need to as a matter of will power also decide to not be interested in place or rank but only to set our mind on being the servant of others. The lesson is clear, clean and we feel we are done with that. And who can argue with it? This has become for us conventional and expected wisdom. Because we have said something we think we have somehow mastered it. Yet it seems that in the world and the church where such moralizing has been common is as self serving and position grabbing as ever. Why do such objective , obviously true lessons of 'right and wrong' not seem to get applied very often? They truly do not sink in. I think if it were a simple matter of will power than most of us would master the desired goals far more frequently. But its never that simple. My fear is that if we take such stories as simple contrasts of good and bad that it teaches us how to be better judges. Thus assuring we will contribute our full share of judgmental-ism to the world, a central thing that Jesus so strongly warns us about.

    III. We might find entering into gospel stories more stirring and challenging if we took them as 'one whole image' and determined that we truly see in ourselves both that which we call 'bad' and the parts that we desire to develop toward which we call the 'good.' If we totally disparage what we see in James and John we fail to see that some 'self interest' is absolutely necessary in our steps toward greater service to others. Without instinctual self interest the impetus for 'jumping into life' is totally lost. So we might give ourselves permission to see how necessary some of the James and John quality is. Do you really think that the others who were chastising James and John were all that less craving the top places or did they just more easily see that mote in the two instead of the beam within themselves?               

    IV. The story makes clear that James and John simply 'did not know', were not conscious of what they were getting into or the meaning of what they asked. They likely did embarrass themselves by being naively presumptuous. Did any of us have much of a clue when we were youngsters or even young adults what a life of 60 or 80 years would include? And even if we are now 80 do we really think we have 'seen and experienced it all?' I do not like the rather cocky expression 'been there done that.' No place or time or event is exactly like any other unless that is all we let ourselves see. When we said 'count me in' did we know what all we were saying yes to. … the disappointments, the hurts, illnesses, seeing loved ones- maybe even our children- die in ways that seem so unfair and unjust? Jesus says to that 'count me in' part of us all ' You will be baptized with such grief and tears if you live long enough.' This is all part of what it means to jump into the pond of life. It's humbling to be reminded that 'we just don't really know' but even so we are given permission and freedom to say. 'Count me in.' And that fish, when it enters the water we can expect it to be very much taking care of itself cant we?, establishing its own corner of the pond and seeking out food for itself and not likely sharing it with another fish. Or maybe fish and other animals do show a form of service to others occasionally?

    V. But surely Jesus must have believed and I suspect you and I do also, that it is possible , it is within the human made in the 'image of God' to make great strides and have times and moments of being very concerned about the whole pond and about all the fish and creatures seeking to live from it. That there are times that we can expect our often self serving aspects to be transcended by something that is a part of us and we find ourselves truly fulfilling why we wanted to 'jump in' in the first place. That we are motivated at a deeper level than just self interest to say, 'count me in.' That we find that part of ourself which actually does want to make a difference for good, not just for myself but for others as well.

    Yes, it is correct to engage our will in choosing desired behaviors but to also know that we can rely on something stronger than our will power to balance our ever present self interest. Occasionally one of us, makes no difference who, may find oneself mounting unexpected courageous action for the benefit of many- not just a few, even 'giving oneself as a ransom for many.' Such developments can even be world changing. But they will be something that 'comes' like God's Kingdom , not the product of clever plan or will power alone .
    When Is Anyone His Greatest?

    VI. My guess is we never lose the capacity and self interest of sitting at some kind of higher place but I think we can become more aware that that is not the very best part of us, not the part that brings us the greatest sense of life and living and of what is the higher meaning of being in the pond. And we can more naturally look for and carry a hope and a prayer that we will more and more experience that higher part of ourselves that might connect to some others as, " come on in, the water is fine. Maybe I can show you around and be of some support to you as you find you find your way around here.” Maybe we can sometimes see that it happens in us, first here then there ,that being first or being in competition with my fellows is not what I am about after all. That there is a grander reason for being in the pond and I can expect and trust it to make itself known and expressed. Cooperative service to others is also part of my natural made in 'the image of God' self.

    Perhaps if we approach the story in this way, of seeing that the story is giving us a 'whole picture of ourselves', as we really are and as we can expect by God's grace to become, the story will have transforming power in us. Deciding that each of us is seen in the 'whole story', like it or not, can serve to create mutual humility and provide faith that we will be increasingly inclined to enjoy being the server and not so much the grasper. And that we can, by God's grace, help make the pond a better place for everyone. 

    May God grant us a measure of the Spirit that thrives on being of service to others, each in his/her own very unique way. Amen