“The emotional confusion generated by… a major shift in values is only enhanced today by a profound lack of introspection. The “suprapersonal factors” embodied in religious images are intended to orient us inwardly; to center and protect us from being swept away by mass contagion. Our ideas of religion are changing, and there is no return to the old ways. Deep in the throes of unseen psychic forces, consciousness is being pushed in a new direction. The possibilities for further development hidden in the older ideas require a re-interpretation of the peculiar language of the depth from which they spring and the symbols it produces.” — A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations With The Unconscious
It seems undeniable to anyone raised in the religious atmosphere of a generation ago that cultural values are changing. Whether praised or lamented, the current transition was an integral part of Jung’s work; what he described were historical changes in consciousness.
Sunday morning religious services still fill the airways; but, as mega-churches replace smaller communities of worship, and populations become more mobile and anonymous, religious devotion takes on a similarly impersonal character.
The Bible remains the world’s best-seller, but does it reflect the personal values we espoused fifty years ago? Who doesn’t question the contradictions science has raised in its literal view of religious symbols?
Political correctness has tempered public conversation in the face of increased diversity, but don’t most still believe in their religion with the same intensity of a generation ago? Though once-traditional spiritual views continue to splinter into increasingly diverse factions, doesn’t that mean further differentiation, a more nuanced perspective? A new dawn on a centuries-old collective horizon?
Panderers, preachers, and pulpiteers fall from the heavens like little Lucifers as they yield to their more animal natures — but, hasn’t that always been so? Isn’t it just more publicized as we tear away the veils of fading idols? Isn’t it the same old inflated image revealing human vulnerabilities to the natural facts beneath our ideals? A new struggle on a new psychic frontier?
One man’s god is another man’s devil, but one fact still remains: an unknown deity drives us relentlessly forward — more compelling in the changes today than centuries of reflection have kept pace with. We may not choose it or even believe it, but isn’t that what history is? The slow coming to awareness of a psychic reality which defies comprehension beyond the rational knowledge of its parts?
So confusing is the symbolic nature of this mystery; so convincing our powers of rationalization, nothing seems certain to an honest mind but the false certainty of others. Objective knowledge has replaced subjective wisdom as the ultimate truth. Modern diversions only obscure the mystery further, hiding the dark face of inner reality.
On one side are the commercial mega-churches and their glitzy re-makes of the same old story, little changed. The personal relation to a deity seems only more impersonal through them. Is it a new improved product they sell or a diluted one — an unconscious image of belief, an indirect appeal to their own egos? Only another facade of certainty amid the unknown changes pushing from within?
Conversely, churches are driven to compete with a science that refutes the old truths with each new datum; it only gets more sophisticated. It’s no wonder they’re at odds; as ideologies, neither is aware of its own subjective bias. In the unconscious conflicts of one-sided ideals, they trade barbs like hostile brothers (or a stale-mated political process), neither bothered with the task of a greater good beyond its own partial concerns.
What they believe in is plain enough; not words, but an irrational zeal defines it. Where is the humble soul in search of a truth which acknowledges its own inner opposite? If today’s consumer mindset and its object-philosophy are what we’re looking to for solutions, we’re in trouble. The buying and selling of partial truths and the mass marketing designed to manipulate unconscious emotions is not the way to consciousness.
As ominous as the cultural changes have been in the last generation, we remain fixed on rational argument, cause and effect, and its literal view of events. Is the confusion beneath the facade a dim perception of a newer, darker deity? The unforeseen consequences, the off-spring of an irrational nature?
Jung laid the basis for a science of the psyche through the study of its history: religion, philosophy, and science; a real psychological inspection of ideas, their origins, development, purposes and effects. His method was empirical, though not strictly rational. His comparative approach was a new way of examining our subjective natures within the context of an objective reality. Many sense the contradictions, though none can explain them.
The relativity of values is a more difficult reality to locate than any material fact. The scientist’s model of the atom as an analogy of the unfathomable depth of the smallest unit hints at Jung’s discoveries: physics has revealed a strange quantum world beneath the surface, just as the universe of institutional religious ideals hides a subjective truth.
Jung’s symbolic view elaborated the nature of these opposed realities in terms of an unconscious opposite: thinking/feeling, rational science vs. the irrationality of a spiritual reality. Awareness of our dual natures signals neither the decline of religion nor the advance of science, but a new way of looking at both in which each becomes relative to the other.
For an interesting statistical look at the changing religious beliefs in America, see this link: http://religions.pewforum.org/reports.