Saturday, November 24, 2012


What I wish Christians could escape, and I realize it is hard to do, is the strongly held belief that  'they' are necessarily superior in  any way whatsoever in their offerings to others as others are to them. This is in regard to friendship, fellowship, knowledge, example of godly living,  behavior and the potential of  shared learning from each other. Such superiority is a very subtle  but deadly spiritual  reality that  'believers'  frequently carry in their heart of hearts, even if denied when questioned.  I can recount the very  situations where I have seen this clearly in myself.   I am  sensitive to it and repelled  and saddened by it in myself or others.  This  common subtlety is  primarily unconscious  and sadly prevents a person from  experiencing and practicing the kind of love they desire to feel and  act with toward others.  I have experienced such in my own attitudes and behaviors and of such judgment coming  at me from numerous  Christians. I also see a constant public parade of it that does not involve me personally.

And yet no religious person, which I believe is every human, can ever escape this ever present spiritual danger.  Jesus identified the deeply religious pharisees as carriers of such a superior attitude yet are pictured as totally unconscious of their spiritual poverty. (There were surely some pharisees who were not this way but, because of their social/religious position and  belief  that morality was primarily about outward social/ritual  behavior, easily fell into it.  The gospel writers are likely engaging in some serious stereotyping regarding the pharisees but their point of such a reality is not debatable.)  Surely the very same reality exists today at the center of  religious claims of certainty and morally superior ground.
Jesus Interacts With The Scrupulous Self -Righteous  Pharisees.

 Most Christians are ostensibly opposed to hypocrisy but what is not personally  clear to many  is that they are easily  hypocrites themselves. Certainly until  we have genuinely discovered these formerly unknown (unconscious) realities in our own personal lives. This can be negative judgments and bigotries toward broad groups of other people. It is also often directed towards oneself causing strong self inflicted guilt. It is hard for anyone in our culture to really believe, in spite of Freud and Jung, that what is 'unconscious' is truly 'unconscious'--we do not know it's active features are there.  Many simply live with no real conviction that anything is unconscious to them.  They identify their present consciousness with  near total self knowledge when it is only the tip of the iceberg. A true religious attitude today demands we be very aware of the reality of the 'unconscious' but much of today's religion is ignorant of the concept and likely  think it un-Christian to take it seriously.
Jesus Taught To 'Clean The Inside Of The Cup.'

I know of few things  that bring in this kind self knowledge about ourselves as directly as some kind of  intentional individual or group psychotherapy. The teachings of  Jesus certainly point to this central spiritual reality and no doubt it has been a part of Christian training through the centuries. Jesus charged the religiously zealous to 'first clean the inside of the cup then the outside will take care of itself.' (my paraphrase) That was strongly  my experience beginning about  thirty years ago.  Teaching that is  'head and  reasoning'  based, so central to Western sensibilities, does not usually touch a person at such deep inner levels. Moments of worship and sacrament certainly can potentially  raise such  a higher consciousness as well as can moments of  unexpected personal  honest sharing in human conversation.

This darker aspect of personal life  is the area that is known in  depth psychology as ones  'shadow' and assumes , I think very correctly, that we all have this as  part of our personality.  Much of  the ancient religious literature including scripture was  originally inspired to point  people to the inner  knowledge of that part of themselves; thus the emphasis upon 'repentance'-especially meaning to 'see others and world  differently than we did  before'  and 'confession' as a natural product of such spiritual awareness. Such unpleasantness discovered in oneself is heart rending and not easily forgotten. It does not make one think they are necessarily  'bad' in comparison to others thus lowering healthy self esteem. It simply  makes them more fully join the human race and they see clearly that what they judge and doubt in others is most often very present in themselves. Thus they no longer put anyone on a pedestal, have few if any human heroes, for they know that the shadow they have detected in themselves is present in all others as well, whether conscious or not.  Such awakenings  bring a personal spiritual transformation. 
Artistic Portrayal Image Of The Negative Shadow Side.

This is a kind of transformation that would set one free from the illusion of one's moral superiority over others. I wish I believed that such self knowledge was still common in typical Christian communities. I don't think it is. I think we are taught so much to identify ourselves with all things positive that we are genuinely blind to our very real negatives and doubts. I don't think leaders of Christian communities in general are seeking to  help others, or themselves, have such experience. It is more common that people are taught that  "Jesus paid it all' and that whatever unknown sin we have is taken care of without any effort on our part for such digging around in the gutter. But where it is not experienced  and unburied there  simply has to be very strong and living judgment and superiority, acknowledged or not,  toward others; especially ones who are 'different' in some way. In other words, the personal shadow that one is not conscious of he will always 'throw or project'(unconsciously) onto others. This is the meaning of scapegoating which the Hebrew Bible reminds us of in the ancient ritual by that name.  Thus are explained the atrocities, both personal and collective toward each other,  that still characterize  post-modern humankind.

 Jungian thought explains to us that the shadow, though truly menacing, is also essential for fuller spiritual development. Rather than to be cast out, which is impossible, it needs to be more consciously accepted and integrated. Important aspects of life can only be experienced by means of ones shadow. Only when  unconsciousness of the shadow  is understood as the only underlying truly deadly sin  can humankind  expect  to be lifted  up individually and collectively  by our  religious experiences and practices.   Jim H.

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