A Science of Religion or a Religion of Technology?

Centuries of spiritual idealism which sought to develop the soul have instead convinced us that we have only to believe in it to achieve it – for those who can still believe. For those who can’t, a new ideal of material progress now discards the too-taxing task of looking inward as not worth the effort.

Media-driven thing-obsession and near compulsive consumption divert vital energies… advanced technologies draw us further outside ourselves and into devices. Instant access and constant exposure to the subliminal effects of marketing and advertising cultivate unconscious emotions so paradoxical that what is meant to emancipate and connect also finds us dependent and alienated — our most personal and intimate needs indistinguishable from carefully instilled, pre-packed desires.

A struggling clergy, unable to translate the older values into contemporary terms, cannot defend its views in the face of rational argument. Literally interpreted, religious symbols not only don’t make sense to a science based on observable facts, they appear ridiculous and even silly. Worn half-truths and a declining relevance find modern mega-churches resorting to the same impersonal strategies driving business and political interests: mass commercial appeal. Science and religion have become adversaries competing for consumers; the individual, an insignificant statistic buried under the anonymity of target groups, market niches, and sales pitches.” — A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations With The Unconscious.

In a previous post, I quoted Jung’s definitions of rational and irrational. One of his most important contributions was the empirical picture he sketched of the symbolic (irrational) reality behind the mythic flight of Western religious history.

It finds us still chasing an inner paradox — but with the same literal perspective of centuries ago. So anxious is consciousness for certainty, the deepest mysteries of existence are now the arid artifacts of intellect. The open contradictions in the former view have been replaced by more obscure ones.

The new contradictions, however, remain the same unconscious compensations which violently reject the half-truths of conscious reality, and our long history of ideological conflict attests the fact still today.

As rationally as we may see the world (and ourselves), deeper contradictions than stone idols and material objectivity define us. You may sense the paradox in our space-age illusions: gods no longer record and reflect human deeds. Conscience (individual accountability to a higher power) is replaced by the watchful eye of satellites: a distant, artificial perspective which has dissolved the old deities and now takes their place. Such are the mysteries of psychic reality…

In a reference to Christianity, Joseph Campbell once remarked that its hostility to nature was unique in world mythology. Identification with the intellect evokes the negative side of repressed emotions, and this bi-polarity will find us always in profound conflict. Until we become aware of our inner natures such that we can question our own sanity, the greatest threat to humanity will be in the projected conflicts of collective ideologies.

Jung wrote that the Western emphasis on the exclusive power of thought may hold some peculiar divine plan in the gradual unfolding of our natures; that we might discover something about it if we could connect with the higher purposes behind our symbolic fascination with the material world and the devil’s banquet we’ve made of it. 

The Pandora’s box of scientific object-ivity may eventually lead us to a closer, more realistic examination of our subject-ivity — though what it makes of our souls in the meanwhile is frightening to those who sense it.

I was born into the aftermath of WWII, and those dire conditions resulted in much thought on the circumstances which produced them — by a few for a while. As a child, I watched a panic-stricken nation construct bomb-shelters. Even the scientists were startled by what they’d unleashed, though few admitted that the destruction existed in themselves as reactions to the projected fear of their own unconscious conditions.

The civil rights movement exploded; a confused and off-balance culture began to perceive its conflicts on two levels. The shadow-image before seen outside now appeared inside, and the clash of changing values suddenly burst through the tension. The ugly ego-hypocrisy of race relations and a divisive war formed the tipping point of a deeper problem which captured young people world-wide.

The hippie movement that followed — an instinctive attempt to re-connect with nature — was the unconscious response of a generation saturated with the deep-seated religious hostilities it had inherited. A rigid Establishment with no ability to examine itself was so threatened by it that the young idealists’ radical notions of being “natural” were branded as products of drug-induced fantasy. Mind you, these were adult responses to children. The ideas were repressed for further absorption, even as a pharmaceutical drug culture was subliminally incorporated by it for the very same reasons…

Since that time, psychology has snatched a few crumbs of objectivity from the plate of science — from the otherworldly fare of the gods it was called upon by its own nature to digest. Its rational conceptions, however, seem not to have allayed psychic conflict but only increased it (to its own benefit). Religious symbolism, the objective foundation of consciousness, is now conceived objectively as useless fantasy…

And science only fancies the more that it can extricate us from the threats of its inventions by even more novel creations to divert us with (mainly for profit); though its fealty to the material world creates psychic consequences which are the more threatening the more objectively its solutions are conceived. That the technological age could be a by-product of our Christian hostility to nature, few consider in the blinding glare of material progress.

The dark, earthly shadows lurking in the background go right on generating the same old compensations — only the times and circumstances change to reflect ever more sophisticated repressions. Psychology tags along behind an objective science, assuming it can discover the depth of nature’s spirit, not by experiencing its mystery, but by soaring above it with the same certainty the preachers use to avoid it.

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