Chapter 35: Is the Earth a Circle or a Square?

Down the Rabbit HoleIt was not long ago when the Catholic Church condemned Galileo for claiming that the earth was not the center of the universe. Many such archaic and false beliefs persist today. For example, there are many respected and highly educated Christians among us who believe that we literally were expelled from a secret, blissful garden somewhere on earth. In fact, according to polls, the majority of Americans reject scientific evidence that the human body is a result of natural evolution. They believe that human beings were created by some higher intelligence. On the other hand, we have others who claim that the human being is nothing more than a process of complex chemical reactions and these philosophers would structure our society based on this reductionist view. I suspect that the mystery of the human being is far more profound and complex than either of these opposing views and lies beyond the farthest reaches of space or the minutest of elements. Having said that, we stand today at a metaphysical vista point that is comparable to that of the old view of the earth; it is flat and static. And when we ask the question “is there or is there not a god?” it is like asking whether the earth is a circle or a square. As we all know, it is neither. Because of our limited vision of life, we have created a lot of misery in the world. But that same impulse to those qualities has also been the source for undying passion for discovery and growth, and therein hope can also be found that may help us to transcend to another dimension. The light and the darkness in humankind cannot live apart.

Naturally, we are a race that is constantly concerned with its physical existence, its materiality, as the basis for reality; therefore, it is only natural to deduce that the reality of our inner life and many of our religions, traditional or orthodox Christianity in this case, are rooted in material reality, in literalism. The cloud of fear and ignorance that drifted above the heads of the Church Fathers still hangs above ours. Constantine’s Christianity has always perceived reality through the material eye. When we look at it from a sober standpoint, when we stand apart from our childhood indoctrination, we realize that its tenets, as presented to us through orthodox instruction and interpretation, are quite absurd, even sadomasochistic. Carl Jung writes: "A factor that no one has reckoned with, however, is the fatality inherent in the Christian disposition itself which leads inevitably to a reversal of its spirit – not through the obscure workings of chance but in accordance with psychological law. The ideal of spirituality striving for the heights was doomed to clash with the materialistic earth-bound passion to conquer matter and master the world."14 Because Christianity's teachings have been interpreted from a reference point of a material (or literal) existence, we have inherited a strange and perverted sense of self, of the world, and of God. Many Christians, for example, expect Jesus' second coming to be in physical form, or at least in a way with which they are familiar, because their spirituality is based on the material world and the physical body. Their interpretation of the return of Jesus as coming physically "in the clouds with great power and glory" is derived from the material bias of their spirituality. Jesus' entire ministry is viewed perhaps unconsciously, by orthodox Christians, from a reference point of a material existence that points to some spiritual world the structure and concepts of which are similar to this one. For Christians, following Jesus is largely about the salvation of their souls, their eternal life, through morality, the proper treatment of others and of course acceptance of Jesus as their savior. They are concerned with the world outside of themselves, with abstaining from sin, giving to the poor and so forth. These are all socially good and noble things; however, they do not inherently bring about a transformation of the individual and his consciousness. Also, proclaiming Jesus as Savior or attending church daily does not bring about eternal salvation. There is a marked difference between the development of the inner life, which leads to transformation and which, I believe, Jesus represents, and the destiny of the soul as it is sought after by most Christians. On the one hand, the inner life calls for a revolution of consciousness, for a transformative experience. On the other hand, the destiny of the soul, as seen by orthodox Christian, has to do with the metaphysical resting place of the individual's spirit after death, largely determined by faith, behavior and the fear of God, and derived from or related to the spatial perspective of the physical body. Most Christians hope that this resting place is in heaven with God and the angels rather than in the fiery pits of hell, to which again they can only relate from a physical perspective. It is not difficult, then, to see the reason behind the material outlook of spirituality in Orthodox Christianity, especially when we consider the tenuous origin of the Christian faith and the consequent power struggle, among the early Christians, that resulted in its current form. That alone is an entirely separate topic.

The fallout from the notion that the Son of God is one unique individual in history has been catastrophic for the planet, at least in the West. That is to say, through Christianity’s christening of Jesus as the only Son of God – he and no one else – we have created a certain hierarchy and division of existence and thinking that pervades the world today. And so, we turn to him who is greater than and separate from us. We do so in church, at home and at work. This has led to a di-vision of the world and the planet. You and I are different, separate and disconnected (i.e. alienated) from each other. Out of this mindset comes competition and corruption perhaps because of a desire to strive to be exclusively “the one”, or at least at the top, in an individualistic, separate sense from all else. This thinking also leads to the destruction of nature, which is felt to be separate and apart from the individual.

Taking this mindset into account, the language of the mystic or the sage always troubles orthodox believers. And when sages speak of becoming one with God, most believers naturally interpret this to be a form of self-exaltation and arrogance. Many orthodox Christians associate godhood with power and authority and manipulation… and rightly so! The Old Testament, as read from the orthodox perspective, speaks volumes of Jehovah's acts arising out of jealousy, authority, control and a better-than-you attitude. Even the religious leaders in the first century rebuked Jesus for making himself to be a god. Certainly this is a concern of the literalist, one whose vision of the divine is rooted in the physical world and in authority and control. Anyone today who thinks of himself as a god, as having magical or superhuman earthly powers and able to control others according to his will, is of course a delusional megalomaniac. From the sage's perspective, a god is one who has broken the spell of conceptualization. He lives in the real world. He is metaphorically seated at the center of his heart, unmoved yet summoned by Reality, who has gone past dualities and has the ability to see the beauty and rhythm in all of life, even within all of the madness, the chaos and the suffering in the world, and who nods his head in affirmation of life before all that is under the sky of creation and blends effortlessly within it. He is able to see the beginning and the end as one entire movement, without time. How did he arrive at this point? By being crucified and dying repeatedly in small ways. A god then is one who has traveled far and wide, whose heart has been hollowed out by profound engagement with or deep suffering in the world, and who has ultimately arrived at the center of his soul through surrender. He is one who has gone past the familiar forms and who recognizes the mystery and wonder in the tragedies, the joys, sorrows and dualities of life and sees them as transparent to a higher order or truth. A god is one who gives up his reality and melts into a greater One. He is like a cloud, drifting unabashedly in the heavens; he is one who does not impede his own path. In other words, a god is true freedom itself.

14 Carl Gustav Jung - AION: Christ the Symbol of the Self

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