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Joseph Campbell reacquaints Christians with the aura of meanings that hover about the religious incidents and stories of the New Testament.  As in treating Jewish history, it is in this aura – that is, in the connotations that by their nature blossom out of metaphors – that the deepest significance of the stories of Jesus’ life and work are to be found.

Many elements of the Bible seem lifeless and unbelievable because they have been regarded as historical facts instead of metaphorical representations of spiritual reality.

Robert Kennedy, Ph.D. in the Introduction to Thou Art That

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Census and almanacs, polls and quantification, ideologies and mere personal opinion or advocacy of one’s fetishes and fancies dominate dialogue today – that is, dialogue from radio, to the television, the internet, the college classroom, graduate schooling, to news print and newspaper editorial boards and political discourse (such as it is).

The point as to the above?  We know little and routinely misinform. Gibberish and nonsense pervades and too often prevails.  Chaos and decline follows – at enormous costs.

The problem is simply this – we understand nothing of depth in our ancient stories and the record of human history.  Hence, we live poorly, in a shallow way – in ignorance and without meaning.  Yet, we proceed unchecked, without pause as if all is well and what is said is true.  Yes, we drive with ears plugged and eyes closed.  Disaster tumbles out effortlessly – the byproduct is toxic … deadly.

Absent spiritual development – we are doomed to fail … and the absence of spiritual growth at high levels of authority produce greater problems than can be imagined.

Shalom.

 

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“Once we go down the path of abstraction we’re taking moral risks, psychological risks.  We become drunk on ourselves – full of ourselves.”

Walker Percy (as reported in Robert Coles, M.D.’s book The Secular Mind)

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” … becoming drunk on ourselves – full of ourselves.”  It sounds like an abstraction itself but what if it is descriptive of us, of who we are – and who our “leaders” think they are?  And worse yet, what if those leaders act on this drunken misconception?

Walker Percy (himself a Catholic convert, medical doctor and extraordinary novelist) went on to say this to Coles: “Thomas Aquinas … worked his mind hard so he could understand God’s intentions.  But today, even our theologians aren’t interested in God … ”

Percy continued “a lot of folks believe in their beliefs, they believe in their ideas, they believe in themselves, and maybe they believe in someone’s politics or some social cause … ”

Centered in the head (in abstraction) creates moral and psychological risk.

Ironically, we have come to see Percy’s observations rooted in all manner of people who know little of God, history, great literature, psychology, philosophy, or moral theology who careen thither and yon in the public square like characters from a Monty Python movie telling us: “a wall is immoral,” “suspend the ‘presumed innocence’ in all “he said, she said” allocations, infanticide – once murder – is now hunky-dory … etc.

Moral and psychological risk indeed … add risk of social chaos and a rise in instability, suicide, mental illness, random violence, addictions, idleness and overwhelming discontent.

Former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote of the concrete manifestation of the moral risk to which Percy referred in his presentation entitled “Mullahs of the West: Judges as Moral Arbiters” in which he was rightly highly critical of the present expectation that judges will act as “moral arbiters.”

Says the Justice: ” … there is no reason to believe that law-trained professionals can discern (the right answers to moral questions) more readily than, say medical doctors or engineers or ethicists or even the fabled Joe Six-Pack.” Yet, I add in concert with Justice Scalia this is precisely what activists judges and Leftist politicians and policy makers do today.

So this is where we are on many fronts – abortion pursuant to rape becomes “choice,” which becomes killing a child on the eve of or after the child’s birth.

Liberals have led us to the moral and psychological wasteland that Walker Percy and his colleague (Doctor, writer and psychiatrist) Robert Coles saw so clearly four or five decades ago.

Now that you might see, what will you do?

Shalom.

 

The more powerful and independent consciousness becomes, and with it conscious will, the more the unconscious is forced into the background.  When this happens … the conscious structure (is) detached from the unconscious images.

Carl Jung, M.D., in Collected Works, 13 Alchemical Studies 3.

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What Carl Jung is telling us in these words is that we are less whole and more prone to function poorly and erroneously when our conscious mind and the will that flows from it is a mighty (although incomplete) power that stirs us (unbalanced though we are) in what is likely a wrong and injurious direction.

Making this plain in normal terms, if one is divorced from their unconscious realm they will operate at far less than an optimum level.  I hazard to say that it appears that many a political person, professional and even pastors and others function in precisely this way.

Think about it.  How many people do you know who impress you as being in their acts, discourse, thinking and disposition as possessing a whole and complete development and the stability that flows from that wholeness?  My guess is: not many.

Jung comes to this from having taken a very serious look at Richard Whilhelm’s excellent book on Chinese Taoism entitled The Secret of the Golden Flower published in 1933 from which Jung began to see in a comprehensive way the form of psychic wholeness.

In short, what Whilhelm did with this discussion of Taoism is provide many of the same symbols Jung encountered in working with the dreams and fantasies of his patients.  He saw in this the symbols in the psyche’s process that led to human wholeness.  A most significant development!

Where does this leave us today?

Probably here: we do little to equip ourselves to understand the nature of human existence and the quest for human wholeness … and as a result in daily personal life and in the world of mass communication we are left to encounter a whole lot of people who are far from healthy development and stability.  Indeed, we counter all sorts of people who push their ideas and desires without themselves possessing anything close to a wholeness that might give them modest “authority” to claim being heard and much less followed.

The moral of story: you are made for full development – and stay away from those who are far from that destination unless you want chaos, confusion and calamity.

Shalom.

Boys and girls, lads and lassies – it all comes down to the search for the Divine which requires you to come to know fully who you are … in that task you find God.  Remember Christ said: pick up your Cross (the life you have been given) and follow me.

Postscript – For those with interest, I recommend Curtis D. Smith’s Jung’s Quest for Wholeness: A Religious and Historical Perspective.

Our culture has lost any clearly defined spiritual standards and aims, and our cultural values have become impoverished.

Christopher Dawson, in The Judgment of the Nations

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Dawson wrote this in a book published in 1942, when World War II was in full bloom. Three years earlier T. S. Eliot took the view that we faced the choice between a Christian culture or a pagan culture.

The question of culture and our well-being has been with us for eight or nine decades.  Yet, isn’t it odd that those occupying space in the public square speak with no particular appreciation for what Dawson and Eliot and many others (to wit: Reinhold Niebuhr, Jean Danielou, Romano Guardini, Nicholas Berdyaev, Paul Tillich, et al) saw as the problem we faced in the West – namely, the disintegration of our culture.

I write about faith and culture and by necessity must address the words, thoughts, actions and inertia of those who command places in the public square.  Yes, I see a mix of theology, culture, history, religion, public policy, law, psychology, philosophy and literature as required to understand who we are today, what risk we run, what wrong turns we have made, and are making, what is lost, derided, discarded and abused by those who have our attention.

The ignorance of those in the public square is monstrous and embarrassing.  Political people alleging that a border wall is immoral while abortion is not as but one example.  Astonishing.  Simply, astonishing.  So many who speak with “certainty” minus doubt or evidence of serious inquiry.

What is my bottom line?

Throughout the centuries we have understood that faith grounds observation. 

No less a man than Albert Einstein offered this to validate the place of faith in intellectual inquiry and life – “God does not play dice” – i.e., mathematicians might say “Both God and the Pythagorean theorem … are believed to exist independent of the physical world; and both give it meaning.”

Faith is a necessary ingredient in human life, community, culture, peaceful existence, civility, full human development, human progress, knowledge, contentment, health, prosperity, intellectual growth and wisdom … and it is the absence of faith that generates the bulk of discord, abhorrent behavior, destruction, division, disorder, violence and hostility in our culture and that of the West today.

If a scholar have not faith, how shall he take a firm hold of things.

Mencius, 371-288 B.C.

The same can be said of citizens and those who claim to lead.

Shalom.

Living in a world of secular time … the older awareness of higher time has receded … the best way to try to grasp the change in time experience is in terms of alternations in our understanding of order …

Charles Taylor, in A Secular Age

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Taylor is making a vital point that is often overlooked and it is this – when cultures change the nature of human experience also changes and, mind you, those changes cannot be considered as always beneficial to humans and their experience as humans.  Indeed, those changes might well accrue to the individual and collective detriment of the human person, their life and community.

To make his point as to secular time and its distinction with time as previously considered he notes that once the idea of a King’s Two Bodies (divine and mortal) was easily accepted and conveyed in some sense as an eternal reality.  Now, Taylor notes, this idea in a secular age is considered odd.

Likewise, he recalls that there was a time in Europe where each year in small villages one day a year the villagers would change titles, duties, attire, roles and authority.  This was Carnival and its disposition implicitly looked at time and order and status differently than we do today.  His point?  Order and time were once seen in ways we do not see either now.  Carnival was a reminder that we are sacred beings in a sacred order.

Well, so what?

Taylor goes on to make the point that today “nations, states and churches” are not seen in the same regard as they once were.  These entities no longer provide the meaning and identity that they once did and no longer connect us to a “Great Chain of Being.”

When cultures change (not always for the better, for sure) ideas like the value of a nation and its citizenship can be changed to a degree that neither borders nor nations or the documents or authorities that provide legal protection to the individual are any longer valued or protected.  This may help explain the seeming insanity of many who discount the worth of America, the nation state, religion, borders, and the privilege of being an American citizen or part of Western Civilization.  Make no mistake the West is in a pickle with elites choosing to honor global organizations and rule over national autonomy.

What to conclude?  Listen carefully to those who purpose “change” for none of those who I have seen have any intellectual, social or psychology depth to suggest that they can improve on what we have.  Rather they seem destined to create chaos on the way to total destruction.  

If you doubt how quickly things can “go South” just look at Venezuela where national poverty and social, economic and spiritual deconstruction have ushered in a dark and dangerous time in a once wealthy and educated society.

When those who advocate change drive with their eyes closed.  Death and damage ensue.

Shalom.

Postscript – When a culture entertains ideas like “one need not have borders” or “aborting a child is a ‘choice” the culture has already changed radically and not for the best. When language has changed so radically that fundamental concepts are challenged in ways that deviate from long standing norms – one has to beware of the cultural deconstruction that is underway.  Yes, we can see the culture and the nation decompose.

In the Celtic tradition many stories tell of the warrior or hero who goes off to battle but, before leaving, begets a son.  The hero dies and so the son is born with no father and this is regarded as a Virgin Birth.

Joseph Campbell, in Thou Art That

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In the history of human story over the Ages, the idea of a Virgin Birth is rather common and it linkage is with the quest of the child (often a male child) who must seek his identity as a man and find his spiritual father.

James Joyce in Ulysses has Stephen Dedalus in search to find his spiritual father – the one who gives him his character.

Seeking one’s father is so common a literary event, is it not odd that this presents itself almost not at all in a secular culture whereby many children, and many male children, are born without a father in residence, even born to an unknown or absent father?

I, of course, ask this to point out that we are ignorant of a common human motif and the very critical quest that is presented to a boy who does not know his father.  Likewise, I add this – we talk of Virgin Birth as largely a scientific non-starter … something that cannot be reasoned … as if reason is the source of all truth and understanding.  Odd isn’t it.  This the narrow scope of those who received an “education” such as it limits present.

A boy without a father faces a significant hurdle.  I was such a boy.  My father walked by me when I was a small child and never said “hi.”  He played no greater part in my life.  From him I learned that those who do not love you, do not love you … and that I was largely on my own, left (as I did) to protect my mother and learn from life and the good men and women around me – what it is to be a man.

In the context of this quest – I acquired considerable understandings – many subtle and nuanced – but all trans-generational and trans-cultural truths … In this context I was all eyes – watching and learning.  In this context I learned how to defend myself and others and be aggressive when I needed to be … I saw more clearly the fit between men and women and our indispensable need for one another, and the unique and heroic nature of both men and women.  I learned that two are stronger than one … and that we all have a Spiritual Father.

Shame on us for not seeing the common search of one’s father and the cost imposed by a father who flees his responsibilities, and for damage done by women who make “men” the cause of all that they feel has been wrongly done to them.  Shame on us for not seeing that the violence of fatherless children has a great deal to do with our ignorance as to one’s desire to know who he is and to have a rite of passage to adulthood and an honorable fatherhood.

Is not Christ’s birth one such as our’s and given to us as a guide, a gift, a necessity?

Shalom.

 

What binds together … world religions, as opposed to … ethnic religions, is that they are religions of confession and credo.  (Emphasis added.)

Joseph Campbell, in Thou Art That

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Christianity is a credo religion.  It depends on belief and the profession of belief.

When a culture fails to sustain an environment of belief – religion fades and we are lesser human beings for that failure.  Why do I say that?

A credo religion conveys its believe system through story, through signs and symbols which signify something far more truthful than their apparent message.  That is to say, a miracle is more then the convenance of a supernatural act – indeed, the event establishes a truth about something greater: mortal life, the depth of character available to each of us, a lesson of value, of being itself, of hope – faith, divine reality and such.

Illustratively, when Jesus rubs a mixture of dirt and saliva on a blind man’s eyes and the man can now see – we are not being told of a miracle but rather of a truth statement that a belief in Christ the Savior allows all to see clearly in this world.

Plainly stated, “The biography of a … savior is itself an image statement of the … doctrine” – a manner by which we are presented with a larger truth that applies to us all.

The acts of Christ are signs and symbols of doctrine and truth that we can count on, hold as belief and greater understanding of what it is to be a human in this life and hereafter.

In this season and in other important parts of the Christian calendar – we see truth as the blind man saw the reality that surrounded him.

Shalom.

We pass through the present with our eyes blindfolded.  We are permitted merely to sense and guess at what we are actually experiencing.  Only later when the cloth is untied can we glance at the past and find out what we have experienced and what meaning it has.

Milan Kundera, in Laughable Loves

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I often say to people that life happens to us more than we happen to life.

What do I mean?  We are not the architect of our existence.  Things happen that we cannot control and cannot anticipate.  More to the point: our life, if we just live it as it comes to us, has a coherence, a continuity that overtime becomes clear to us.

I will soon be 73 years old.  This seems to have triggered in me thoughts of yesterdays, all my yesterdays – the people, places, things, events and experiences of yesterdays.

Yes, the blindfold have been lifted.  I can see the coherence of my life, the purpose of it, its theme and its meaning.

I give you an illustration.  Having suffered losses from my most early years I have come to know what being alone is like and, having accepted that reality, I have come to know how to be alone and to find meaning in relationship with God and others.  Indeed I have grown in strength, faith and wisdom because I have lost and been both deceived and betrayed.

Likewise, I often wondered why I was a “real world” guy – why I always insisted on seeing all that was before me including the harsh reality that posed a wound or injury.  I was, too, always willing to stand up and speak up even if I was the only one willing to do so.

Additionally, I was always willing to fight – to respond to injustice, insult, injury, threat or challenge.  I wondered how that was such a part of my being.  The answer – I was made to be that person who stood firm when travail, threat and injury loomed.

Just a Kundera says – I have come to a point where I have a retrospective that affirms who I am and was made to be.  I have an identity – a divinely given meaning, purpose and identity.  Those who knew me as a 12-year-old, a 20-year-old or a 40-year-old know the same man today as they knew then.

A blessed life is one of consistency … of identity that does not falter and is not denied.  Yes, I have had the grace of consistency … of living as I was called into being.

Now I see and I am – and my soul is at peace.  I wish the same for you.  By living what God gave me I have come to know who I am and why I have been here.

This long journey is not over and it continues in the whole.  What a grace it is.

Shalom.

 

 

 

… behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife: for the child that has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”

Matt 1: 20

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Some ask, why is it that the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph separately from Mary?

In religious narrative there are always common, good lessons to be learned – many, in fact.  Here we see that God wishes a commitment from each of us individually.  Yes, God desires that each of us grow in faith and in relationship to Him so that we might be fully grown and have stability and certainty amid life’s chaos, confusion and corruption.

What was true then is no less true now.

Think about the cost imposed when we neglect the Truth of religious narrative.  In doing so, it is really quite shocking that in the present day when there are many in the West who wish to destroy the gift of civilization that we possess –few public figures have the intellect to discuss the precious value that is in Western civilization and the disaster that would be its deconstruction.  Nor, I add are there competent discussions about the rise of China as the global power to replace the United States and its allies as the source of global strength and stability.

Suffice it to say – that lacking faith and quality education, we have ignorance and chaos – leaving us without the personage capable of leadership when we most need it.

Indeed, the election of a non-politician as President reflects the poverty of the “educated elites” and the raw fact that the average citizen sees the problems of the day when the privileged do not.

Could it be that those closer to faith are closer to wisdom and courage?

Shalom.

Dismal Elites – The idiotic statement by Chief Justice John “Short Pants” Roberts just confirms again the foolishness of the privileged “elites.”  The notion that there are not Judges with political portfolios and disposition (nay, bias) is a ridiculous claim for the Justice to make … then again he “thought” that the unconstitutional Obama “Care” mandate was a “tax.”

Lesson to be learned – the elites like to remain part of their herd … ridiculous things are said on behalf of preserving one’s place at the top of the pyramid.  Well, la-di-da!

 

Back from an unexpected day without a post.  It was a leisurely drive back from family and friends – a long road in beautiful country and heavenly quiet.

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The version of eros that Jane Austen’s novels study … is hardly animalistic.  It is ethicalthat is, it is concerned with the education of the will to the end of good character, and indeed is precisely about coming to know someone’s character.

Deirdre N. McCloskey, in The Bourgeois Virtues

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Who among us acts as if love is intended to deliver us to good character

To the best of my knowledge I give you my answer – not very many.  And I add we are a sick culture – more animal than human.  Grunts in heat – far short of character … the kind of people you’d be best to avoid.

McCloskey’s book is excellent and particularly good in discussing love and its relationship with our character.

Only through McCloskey can I see clearly the distinction between my wife who died childless of cancer at 29 (one month short of our 4th anniversary) and a subsequent wife who left a child, a husband and a marriage after 22 years for no particular reason but her desire to do so.

In McCloskey’s work I see so clearly one spouse aligned love and character and one did not.  I add, indeed, that unbeknownst to me in dedicating my life to the care of my seriously ill and dying wife – I had enkindled in me the relationship between love and character.

I add thankfully that by the grace of God I lived and loved in a manner that both life and love was joined to the quest for good character – who I am, who I have been made at birth to be.

Recognizing this allows me to see so clearly the blessings of that first love and the triumph that my life has been – all because of the grace of God.  Likewise, I see the ugly character of so many in our culture who make no such linkage between love and character.

It is hideous how the affluent and so-called “elites” and public figures, celebrities and the self-proclaimed wisdom figures and endless talking heads show absolutely nothing to distinguish them nor merit any of our attention.  Yea, their personal lives often a mess –  a series of failed marriages – seemingly without a touch of honor.

The fault lines are now between the urban and suburban elites and those who are not them.  Oddly, the fault lines might just be between those who show that love is connected with character and those that do not.

Shalom.

 

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