Spirit of Consciousness, Part 3: Church and State

church-state-stopI want to start with a couple of quotes:

“They have cut man in two, setting one half against the other. They have taught him that his body and his consciousness are two enemies engaged in deadly conflict, two antagonists of opposite natures, contradictory claims, incompatible needs, that to benefit one is to injure the other, that his soul belongs to a supernatural realm, but his body is an evil prison holding it in bondage to this earth—and that the good is to defeat his body, to undermine it by years of patient struggle, digging his way to that glorious jail-break which leads into the freedom of the grave.

They have taught man that he is a hopeless misfit made of two elements, both symbols of death. A body without a soul is a corpse, a soul without a body is a ghost—yet such is their image of man’s nature: the battleground of a struggle between a corpse and a ghost, a corpse endowed with some evil volition of its own and a ghost endowed with the knowledge that everything known to man is non-existent, that only the unknowable exists.

Do you observe what human faculty that doctrine was designed to ignore? It was man’s mind that had to be negated in order to make him fall apart. Once he surrendered reason, he was left at the mercy of two monsters whom he could not fathom or control: of a body moved by unaccountable instincts and of a soul moved by mystic revelations—he was left as the passively ravaged victim of a battle between a robot and a dictaphone.”   -John Galt

The second quote was published the same year:

The churches stand for traditional and collective convictions which in the case of many of their adherents are no longer based on their inner experience but on unreflecting belief, which is notoriously apt to disappear as soon as one begins thinking about it.  The content of belief then comes into collision with knowledge, and it often turns out that the irrationality of the former is no match for the ratiocinations of the latter.  Belief is no adequate subsitute for inner experience, and where this is absent even a strong faith which came miraculously as a gift of grace may depart equally miraculously.  -Carl Jung

Both of these were published in 1957, which was a perilous time for the world. The Cold War was reaching terrifying new heights, the Soviet Empire was in bloody, merciless expansion in Europe, Asia, and Latin America with the volatile Nikita Khrushchev at the helm.  President Eisenhower was warning Americans to build nuclear fallout shelters and prepare for the worst, and our children were watching for flashes in the sky and practicing duck and cover in grade-school classrooms.   The two countries were fully capable of nuking each other into oblivion, and were playing a game of brinksmanship that would have erased all the gains of the Enlightenment and set Western Civilization back hundreds of years if either side had blinked.

Despite the economic prosperity the U.S. was enjoying at that time as the world’s primary post-World War II manufacturing base, this immensely dangerous situation had the U.S. and Europe in a deep, existential and soul-searching debate.  The world had two competing social and economic philosophies, and at the root of each philosophy was how to make the best use of the minds of mankind.  One granted rights and liberties to the individual, counting on the natural instincts of individual minds to self-organize into mutually beneficial groups that would form the foundation of the nation’s economy; the other distrusted the individual mind and reserved rights and power for the state, believing that a few minds at the top were better able to centrally plan and manage not only a national economy, but the lives and lifestyles of everyone within it.

It was also a time when Freudianism was the only Psychology that most people knew.  Psychiatrists were teaching people that the unconscious or “subconscious” mind was a verily dangerous place, full of animal drives, killer instincts and twisted sexual urges that both horrified and titillated European and American popular imagination from the early 1900s up through today.  Don’t go digging around in there without the help of a trained psychiatrist, for who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.

Over this same period of time Darwinism was gaining more and more acceptance, and of course most religious institutions treated it as their own existential threat, to the extent that it became almost impossible to accept the concepts of evolution and still maintain a spirituality that had the official sanction of any mainstream church.

Caught in the middle, many people felt stuck.  Many were alienated from religion over their churches’ stance on science and evolution, but if they turned to science and psychology to understand the nature of their souls, and for guidance on what was good and right for their lives, they were told that their personalities and their deepest thoughts and motives were rooted in a dark and dangerous animal psyche that they dare not awaken if they wished to maintain their fragile sanity.

The opening quotes were small contributions to this raw and widespread debate, but they bring up issues that are important to my perspective.  The first, from Ayn Rand‘s idealized character John Galt, reminds that the mind is the fulcrum and the focal point between who we are as complete spiritual beings and the flesh and blood expression of these beings on the physical plane.  The mind is capable of perceiving the spiritual as well as the physical.  It is capable of comprehending the internally-consistent patterns of logic inherent to both physical and spiritual reality.  Without the mind’s intelligent and purposeful management of our spiritual and physical lives, it is easy to become trapped in endlessly self-referencing mandlebrot dimensions of spiritual speculation and mystical navel-gazing that is doomed to be abandoned entirely if it does not bear fruit.

The second quote, from Carl Jung‘s excellent essay The Undiscovered Self, underscores the prime principle of any and every religious teaching: that there must be inner spiritual experience for faith to be meaningful.  Without such experience there is no anchor, no reference point, for the rational mind focused on physical reality to make sense of spiritual teachings.  The mind is the only part of us that is capable of looking into other dimensions of reality, but it needs a place to stand in order to do so.

Inner spiritual experience, which Christians refer to as “the fruit of the Spirit”, is an experience of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galations 5:22-23).  That is a description of a fruitful, and dare I say psychologically healthy life by any standard.

Psychologically healthy people are good to one another.  Left to themselves they instinctively cooperate, self-organize and prosper, and think nothing of giving help or lending a hand with no thought of reward.  But nothing destroys the goodwill of the collective psyche faster than coming under the control of a powerful, micromanaging State or a punitive, intrusive Church.  When either of these get big enough, the collective interests of the people can become corrupted to mean the collective interests of those in charge.

The two most basic aspects of human existence are body and spirit, and thus government and religion are the two institutions with the greatest power over individual lives at the most fundamental level.  And as C.S. Lewis famously said, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”

In The Undiscovered Self Jung was comparing top-heavy and demanding organized religions to top-heavy, demanding corrupt governments. His central point was that both of these impede upon the individual conscious mind and its ability to make its own rational social and spiritual decisions. Guidance and leadership are necessary and good, but in the end we are individually responsible for both our spiritual lives and our social interactions.

The act of will that we call “belief” opens the doors of perception that connect us to the much broader, far more expansive spiritual reality in which conciousness thrives independent of the physical body.  By connecting your spirit to God’s Spirit you are not submitting to yet another dictator, that’s earthly physical-existence nonsense.  Rather, you are plugging your individual spirit into a source of power and purpose, enlightenment and joy that will expand your conscious mind and energize and strengthen all experience.  Including those described by Paul in that quote above from his letter to the church in Galatia.

Once that connection is established, once the relationship between you and Spirit begins to solidify and expand the initial belief, that belief is transformed into inner experience where it transcends belief to become knowledge.

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