exploring the story of Jesus as symbolic of the inner experi

Joseph Campbell believed that "...each of us has an individual myth that's driving us, which we may or may not know." This forum is for assistance and inspiration in the quest to find your own personal mythology.

Moderators: Clemsy, Martin_Weyers, Cindy B.

Locked
Guest

Post by Guest » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

This is my first post, so howdy...

I am not a Christian, but am familiar with the story and have spent most of my life ignoring Christianity...

But this last year or so I have begun to notice that I have undergone many miraculous births,
spent many years in the wilderness,
wrestled with many demons,
tried to teach the many varied parts of myself the truth,
betrayed myself,
crucified myself,
and over and over again somehow come back from the dead and ascend to heaven...

Has this topic been discussed here much?
User avatar
Clemsy
Working Associate
Posts: 10645
Joined: Thu Apr 04, 2002 6:00 am
Location: The forest... somewhere north of Albany
Contact:

Post by Clemsy » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hi Dragonfly and welcome to the JCF Forums. You know, I would say the topic of your question may very well have been discussed somewhere here, but your context appears fresh and worthy of discussion.

Don't be discouraged if you don't get too many responses in the next few days. Folks are busy with the holidays, so posting will be lean. (Actually, this is something of a drive-by on my part. I have to get back to prepping the house for tomorrow's festivities.)

Happy Holidays Dragonfly!

Cheers,
Clemsy

_________________
Just ask the Axis. (He knows everything.) ~Jimi

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Clemsy on 2006-12-23 19:07 ]</font>
tat tvam asi
Associate
Posts: 470
Joined: Sat Apr 29, 2006 11:49 am
Location: Eternity

Post by tat tvam asi » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hi dragonfly, I've gone through 'deaths and rebirths' myself. One of the high points of campbells lecture dvd's in my view is the strong emphasis on understanding how the christian metaphor applies to our own personal lives and how it mirrors the far older eastern metaphors that put us in accord with nature. This is certainly something to be found within. Great post!

northjetty/the cosmos
"Scholars conjecture that a sense of divinity in Nature co-evolved with the first emergence of human consciousness, perhaps 100,000 years ago. The earliest god was Nature."

As far back as we are able to look into the past, says historian Colin Wilson, "human beings seem to have worshipped nature, and connected it to a higher spiritual reality, which they called god or the divine."
User avatar
Vissi
Associate
Posts: 847
Joined: Thu Jan 09, 2003 3:16 pm
Location: Symbol City, Deep In the Heart of the Sonoran Desert
Contact:

Post by Vissi » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

dragonfly wrote:
This is my first post, so howdy...
Welcome, dragonfly, to these conversations. I hope you'll enjoy participating in the community expressed here.

dragonfly also wrote:
I am not a Christian, but am familiar with the story and have spent most of my life ignoring Christianity...

But this last year or so I have begun to notice that I have undergone many miraculous births,
spent many years in the wilderness,
wrestled with many demons,
tried to teach the many varied parts of myself the truth,
betrayed myself,
crucified myself,
and over and over again somehow come back from the dead and ascend to heaven...
Beautifully expressed, dragonfly! I admire the greatness of mind and heart required to be the symbol as well as see the symbol.

dragonfly also wrote:
Has this topic been discussed here much?
Never enough. To my way of thinking, the poetry of life is what loves us, claims us, and teaches us, finally, that we are works of wonder wandering the shores of the infinite. I will look forward to reading more of your thoughts on the journey.

Dixie
Guest

Post by Guest » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Well, this morning I was thinking about the hymn "Nothing but the Blood of Jesus"

In the story, somehow Jesus's sacrificial blood appeases some god or satan I think, and washes our "sin" and makes it possible for us to enter heaven...

So when I ask myself why that would have a relevence outside of the history of sacrifice and outside of the guilt of somebody dying for me it seems like...

We all have this miraculous blood flowing miraculously through our veins...

We are all trying to right the wrongs of our lives, we are all attempting to sacrifice our self interest for the benefit of all...

We all deeply know, somewhere, the interconnectedness of life and that on some level we are all responsible for each other and that our "sins" or actions not only prevent us from entering the "kingdom" but our collective way, our culture prevents us all from "peace"...

To try to bring this realization into the consciousness is to crucify oneself...

I think it is typical of Christians project these realizations onto Jesus, and it all stays literal and unreal that way...

User avatar
nandu
Associate
Posts: 3395
Joined: Fri May 31, 2002 12:45 am
Location: Kerala, the green country
Contact:

Post by nandu » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

The god who is killed and resurrected is a staple of the mythology of all planting cultures. Jesus' story is strikingly similar, but surprisingly not from a planting culture.

The seed goes into the ground to return as the plant: the whole plant is contained in the seed. So also our self: goes into the well of the unconscious to be reborn as the Universal Consciousness.

Nandu.
Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavanthu
User avatar
bodhibliss
Working Associate
Posts: 1659
Joined: Tue Oct 07, 2003 5:00 am

Post by bodhibliss » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

It’s difficult to engage the archetype of Christ without confronting the motif of sacrifice – which, like any mythic image, conjures a myriad of parallel and paradoxical memories, thoughts, images - vast complexes of associations.

Sacrifice is, of course, an initiation, a death and rebirth – but three aspects in particular speak to me – that of “making sacred,” that of “God offered unto God,” and that of sacrifice as metaphor for the nature of existence. My musings might shed light on the Christ quest - and then again, maybe not ... but it's what the question triggers in my troubled psyche.

What is sacrifice?

Etymologically it is to “make sacred.”

What we sacrifice to - and for - is what we hold sacred.

If we sacrifice our comfort and leisure for the welfare of the children (perhaps working long hours, or foregoing that getaway weekend with the missus so we can put braces on their teeth and pay for their education), we are declaring by our actions, by the giving up of ourselves, that we hold our children sacred. It's what is expected, but noble nonetheless.

(Of course, on the other hand, i might sacrifice time and intimacy with my wife to late hours ogling porn in the blue light of the computer screen - which too would be a clue to which i hold more sacred - a window on personal values.)

That "giving up of oneself" seems very much a part of the process.

What was the sacrifice of Jesus? It wasn't just crucifixion – that was the climax of the act of sacrifice - but also, in the Greek, "kenosis," or "emptying." The apostle Paul tells us Jesus "emptied himself" - giving up his divinity - "and made himself a little lower than the angels."

Jesus emptied himself of his Godhood.

But sacrifice has been known to open the door to Godhood as well.

Sacrifice in the formal sense - as Lewis Hyde points out in Trickster Makes This World - is a ritual apportionment (again, a “making sacred”).

Turning to Greek myth, we find Hermes credited with inventing sacrifice. The bastard child of Zeus and the nymph Maia, Hermes is destined to be a minor deity at best - but that does not sit well with his nature. Hermes, Hyde tells us, "longed to eat meat" - born with a prodigious appetite - so within an hour of birth he steals the sacred herd of cattle that belongs to Apollo, the favored elder brother.

Hermes, however, does not eat the meat. He digs a ditch, lights a fire, kills two cows, and divides their meat into twelve portions - one for each of the eleven gods on Olympus.

But twelve does not go into eleven evenly!

Though overcome with hunger, by not eating the meat, not indulging his appetite, and sacrificing all twelve portions, Hermes carves his own place in the Olympic pantheon. Hermes eats the fruits of sacrifice and prayer, foregoing mortal appetite to make a sacred place for himself ...

Maybe it is the gods who are made sacred by the act of sacrifice.

When we tend to the gods - place flowers and candles and incense on their altars, set aside food, or time for prayer and devotions, etc. - we are honoring the gods, giving them sustenance, giving them life. The more sacrifice of this sort a god/dess receives, the more "real" s/he becomes, the more engaged s/he is in the world reality in which we live.

Notice what happens when we don't tend to the gods: they fade away ... Baldur, Pan, Cybele, Hestia, Mab, Anubis, Quetzlcoatl, the Erinyes, Enlil, Enki, Marduk, Lono - these deities and many others, stretching back past the dawn of history, were sacrificed to, worshipped, and called on by countless generations, and were experienced as playing an active role in human affairs

... but the sacrifices, for whatever reason, stopped, and these gods are forgotten, hidden away in footnotes to the written histories of mankind.

There's an argument to made - one novelist Tom Robbins suggests in Jitterbug Perfume - that sacrifice - "honoring the gods" – is what sustains them. When we stop listening, stop engaging the gods, they cease to be.

Not completely, perhaps.

Jung suggests the gods forgotten and ignored in contemporary society reassert themselves in the human psyche, and are often experienced today as "psychological factors"

(not that they are only that, but that's how those who deny the gods end up experiencing their power).

Ignore Mars/Ares, deny his influence, and he will live in one's shadow, in the unconscious, disguised perhaps in passive/aggressive behavior, or occasionally exploding forth in unseemly, out of character fits of rage

(indeed, i've often run into drivers channeling Mars in a stream of invectives and finger gestures - could the gods actually be a function of my poor driving skills? <IMG SRC="/forum/images/smiles/icon_wink.gif"> ).

Heinrich Zimmer suggests that psychology is a modern mythology that takes an oblique approach to honoring the gods by renaming them "archetypes," or "psychological factors" or "aspects of nature" (including of human nature), thus allowing "modern man in search of a soul" (to borrow Jung's phrase) to engage these forces or energies or patterns without personalizing them -

though depth psychology - particularly Jungian and Hillman's archetypal psychologies - has evolved in a way that leads right back to the deities of myth discarded in earlier ages.

Continuing to follow the through myth the thread of the sacrificial motif, we come to the Titan Prometheus, who in one tale fashions humans from clay.

Hyde tells the story:
In the Golden Age, humankind neither grew old quickly nor died in pain, but they were nonetheless mortal and perhaps Prometheus wished them immortality. In any event, he and Zeus got into dispute that focused on which parts of a slaughtered ox the gods would eat and which would be food for human mouths. Prometheus divided the ox into two portions, and because Zeus was to have first choice, he disguised them: the better part (the edible meat) he made unappealing by covering it with the ox's stomach (Greeks did not eat the belly, the tripe); the lesser part (the inedible bones) he covered with fat to make it look like rich meat.

Zeus was not deceived, however; he could see beneath the surfaces of the Promethean shell game. And yet he didn't choose the "better" portion, he chose the bones. Hesiod writes: “Zeus, whose wisdom is everlasting, saw ... the trick, and in his heart he thought mischief against mortal men ... With both hands he took up the white fat ... And because of this the tribes of men burn white bones to the deathless gods upon fragrant altars”
In exchange for the prime cut, Zeus withholds immortality - and so man must die.

That is man, sacrificing to the gods.

But what about when God is the sacrifice?

In Norse mythology Odin sacrifices everything, hanging himself on Yggsdrasil, the World Tree - not for three days and three nights, but three times three days and nights (nine, the number of the goddess), thus offering god to God, himself to Himself.

The mythological motif of sacrifice is as deeply entwined with the mythology of Christ as it is with that of Odin - as well as with other saviors and dead-and-resurrected gods, reaching back through Mithra to Attis and Dionysus and Tammuz and Osiris

(who in Egypt dies and yet lives, as the seed dies - germinates - and from which is born the grain that feeds the people, from the body of this savior - there's that sacrifical motif, echoed thousands of years later in the communion mass, where the believer consumes the body of Christ)

and on into the dim reaches of the prehistoric imagination

(for example, the Animal Master - as with the Buffalo and the Lakota Sioux - sacrifices himself and his people for the humans, who then conduct a ritual dance that ensures the rebirth of those who have given their lives ...

and the Ainu, the Caucasian mountain dwellers indigenous to Japan, feed and raise a baby bear, worshipping it as the deity - the Animal Master, the chief food animal - and eventually, after a few years, sacrificing the sacred bear, and feast on its meat, with its head on the altar, where the God is offered a bowl of its own flesh – God offered to God

... and, as Campbell points out, in cave sanctuaries from the Neanderthal period in the high Alps, cave bear skulls have been arranged in ritual fashion, in some instances with the long bones of the arm positioned through the mouth of the central figure, much the same as the Ainu - representations, over 100,000 years old, of perhaps that same mythic motif as Odin - God, offered up to God?)

What would be a surprise is if the sacrificial motif were missing in Christian mythology - which is clearly not the case. But of course, there it is - God,in the form of the Son, offered to God, in the form of the Father - God, sacrificed to God ...

This is what we do when we make something sacred. When I carve time out of my busy day, take time away from my pursuits - from working or eating or sleeping or playing or relaxing or watching TV - and spend that time meditating in front of an altar, I am sacrificing myself to my Self - "self" to "Self" - thus allowing the eternal portion of my being (the "Olympian within", as Hermes might phrase it) to Live and Breathe and Be. This is true of prayer, or a walk in the woods, or time for reflection or journaling or participating in any ritual, personal or collective, that speaks to spirit.

At first, it certainly felt a sacrifice (in the popular sense of the word).

I noticed this when I first started meditating, or first started keeping a journal, or began recording my dreams. There were other things I could be, probably should be, doing with this time that I now fritter away on a task without obvious utilitarian value ... but over time I found I had no choice.

To skip meditation, fail to write, or not tend to dream seems a violation of my Being - it's no longer a chore, but who i am

... who "I Am" ... (hey - didn't Moses know a deity by that name?)

self sacrificed to Self, god sacrificed to God

... and so "I" am made sacred and enlarged, through a sacred re-apportionment - not the I, the ego ("aham-cara") of the little self, but an identification with the larger Self ("Atman/Brahman").

Just musing out loud, following this plume rising off the pyre as it unfolds, unfurls, and is reabsorbed into the atmosphere

... but as I follow the traces back to that larger Self, I meet a larger Truth:

Sacrifice is metaphor for the nature of the cosmos in which we live: transcendent eternity pouring into the field of time and space (which can be represented as a cross).

This Eternity (which is itself a metaphor) is thus immanent in all of creation – fragmented into the multitude of forms that comprise the material universe, with each of us one of those fragments containing our own little drop of Eternity.

Life lives off Life – the Deity sacrificing Him/Herself to feed us and give us life (again, god sacrificed to god - same chord, just a different octave). This is an image that recurs throughout the world, particularly in planting cultures.

Joseph Campbell offers one version of this underlying myth in "The Sacrifice" (from his Atlas of World Mythology, Vol II, Part 1, p. 37):
She was alone, the goddess Tlalteutli, walking on the primordial waters – a great and wonderful maiden, with eyes and jaws at every joint that could see and bite like animals. She was observed by the two great gods, Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent, and Tezcatlipoca, the Smoking Mirror. Deciding to fashion the world of her, they transformed themselves into serpents and came at her from either side. One seized her from the right hand to the left foot, the other from the left hand to the right foot, and together they ripped her asunder. From the parts they fashioned, not only the earth and heavens, but also all the gods. And then to comfort the maiden for what had happened to her, all those gods came down and, paying her obeisancy, commanded that there should come from her all the fruits men require for life. From her hair they made trees, flowers, and grass; from her eyes, springs, fountains, and little caves; from her mouth, rivers and the great caves; from her nose, valleys,; and from her shoulders, mountains. But the goddess wept all night, for she had a craving to consume human hearts. And she would not be quiet until they were brought to her. Nor would she bear fruit until she had been drenched with human blood.
Wow – indeed, as Aztec scholar Thelma Sullivan said, "to feed the gods was to feed man."

Mesoamerica, yes, and a particularly violent culture that gorged on human sacrifice – but nevertheless with echoes of themes that emerged half a world away in Mesopotamia millennia earlier (including the twin serpent motif associated with the goddess)

... and I can't help but think of the Dragon Goddess Tiamat, slain by the Babylonian Marduk, who rips her apart and fashions the world and all that's in it from her sundered corpse – a myth that sweeps everywhere planting rather than hunting/herding provided the primary source of food.

As i recall, Mesopotamia could be fairly bloody (although not on the scale practiced in Mayan and Aztec cultures), given the ritual regicide, the sacrifice of the king of each city-state every eight years (or twelve, depending on the orbits of the planets) … entire courts have been dug up, hundreds of people buried alive at one time ...

Campbell discusses this in detail, especially in relation to the tropics, in The Masks of God, Vol.I: Primitive Mythology, in the chapter entitled "The Ritual Love-Death" (an avid Campbell reader might notice a parallel chapter, "The Love-Death," in Creative Mythology, the fourth and final volume in the same series, where he brings this image into relationship with the individual creative life).

Continuing on from the passage above in his own words, Campbell expands on the concept of sacrifice as the constant underlying all life:
Throughout the ranges, not only of the early planting cultures, but also of all those high archaic civilizations whose mythologies were inspired by the idea of the earth and its biosphere as a self-sustained living entity, two complementary themes are outstanding. One is of death as the generator of life; the other, of self-offering as the way to self-validation. In the symbolism of the sacrifice both are comprehended, and in this Aztec image of Tlatleutli, they are represented as together fundamental to the constitution of temporality. For here, not only has the immortal been sacrificed to produce the living temporal world, but this world's life now exacts an unceasing immolation of temporal lives: life lives on lives. This image is metaphoric of the first condition of phenomenality. Its proper reference, therefore, is not to an event in the mythological past, once upon a time, “in illo tempore,” (“in the Beginning”) but metaphorically, through that imagined form, to an actuality that is of now and forever, as are the connotations of all myth.
I'm reminded of something Nandu wrote in the "mything Campbell" thread - that myth in Indian culture unfolds not in the dim and distant prehistoric past, but now.

Indeed, the myth refers to our experience "in the now" – for life does live off life, and out of death comes new life. We live this myth every day of our lives, partake of the holy communion, eat the divine flesh every time we sit at table and sup – a sacred act.

The mistake of so many cultures, such as the Aztecs and the Mayans (particularly Mel Gibson’s cinematic tribe in Apocalypto ) is a literal rendering of the myth … which creates a bloody mess.

Campbell continues:
The reference, that is to say, is transcendent of the illustrations. Mythological space and time being transtemporal and universal, the mythological moment is now. Its dwelling, moreover, is here, as an implicit dimension of this world as known. So that when any mythologized figure either is represented in a work of art or becomes personified in a rite, the intended reference, again, is to an immediate here and now. The mind of the beholder is carried to the metaphorically connoted insight. Time collapses, past and present are one, the mythic Immortal and its local representation are in connotation the same; so that in worship the two are to be experienced as identical: "This is my body ... This is the chalice of my blood." Those words of consecration of the Roman Catholic mass ... are to be understood as transubstantiating the bread and the wine of the sacrament of the altar literally into the body and blood of Christ Jesus; so that in one sacred space and time of the sacrifice of the holy mass, past and present are undifferentiated, and the two sacrifices, of the altar and of Calvary, are the same.
Campbell then contrasts a "gentled humanization" of this archetype in the mass with "the stark Mesoamerican symbolization of the creative ferocity of the will in nature ...":
The Aztec event is situated in a mythological age antecedent to the beginning of time, which is yet to be understood as enduring behind the veil of time as the creative ground of phenomenal life. Rites of physical blood sacrifice replicating the original incident are required to bring the social order to accord and thereby to refresh, according to this elementary philosophy, the force of the play throughout the social body of the energies of the tide of life.
In the Mythos lectures Campbell follows this theme to India, where,
Again, you are killing and eating life. Both the animal and the plant are like the river Ganges, pouring into the world for your sustenance, and so they are revered. They become the revered powers and symbols to which man must relate himself.
This is done through festivals, and through sacrifice – which, Campbell points out, are not meant to control nature, but to put the participant "in accord with nature, and when you are in accord with nature, nature will yield its bounty." By participating in rituals that place us in harmony with the world around us, we uncover the bounty that has been there all along (the bottomless cornucopia – the horn of plenty – or the inexhaustible Grail, perhaps).

However in India, as elsewhere, the priests – the Brahmans – eventually came to believe that their sacrifices influenced the gods. Again, from Mythos,
The Brahman controls the gods through sacrifice, which he plays almost like the console of a great organ. There sits the Brahman and he is manipulating the keys and the whole world sings according to his play. What is the nature of the sacrifice, that it does this? The nature of the sacrifice is that you are pouring an offering into a fire.

Now, when you take food to your mouth you are pouring an offering into a fire. As the Hindus say, the heat of the body cooks the food. The digestive system cooks the food and turns it into body. This is what happens when we pour an offering into a fire. The world is an ever-burning fire of sacrifice into which an inexhaustible sacrifice is being poured. That's the nature of life. We are all an offering being poured into the consuming fire.
While recognizing the spiritual truth and power of this image, Campbell nevertheless has trouble with its literal enactment:
Now the whole idea of sacrifice, that you've killed some little animal and gained a benefit from it, is really awfully hard to take. I remember going to the Kalighat at the time of the Durga Puja, and they were going to behead buffaloes and little goats and things like that. I really chickened out. A dear little goat was being prepared. The people just loved that goat and they were putting flowers on its head and making it very happy, and that head was going to be taken off. But this is by magic, you are doing what the world does, and so you are going with it. You know the rule: If you are falling, dive. Do the thing that has to be done. So there is passion in the sacrifice.

There's an earlier idea of sacrifice that's connected also with jungle people and with agriculturists generally, but not in the sophisticated way of the Indian. In the jungle you see rotten trees and out of them come fresh green sprouts; life comes out of death. So create death and you'll create life. That's the frightful, really horrendous demiurgic approach to things. And with the Indian idea this was accented.
Then the Upanishads, in the first millennium BCE, take the mythic image of sacrifice to a higher level, abstracting the metaphorical truth from its literal enactment. Campbell continues:
The teacher says, “So when you take food to your mouth, this is a sacrifice.” The fire within you is Agni, the fire of the sacrificial flame.

Why go to the Brahmans? You've got it in yourself. Turn in. All those gods that you are invited to worship through the public sacrifice are projections of the fire of your own energy. There's that wonderful passage from the Chandogya, “Worship this god, worship that god, one god after another; those who follow the law do not know. The source of the gods is in your own heart. Follow the footsteps to that center and know that you are that of which the gods are born.” That's an idea that has already occurred in Egypt. It's the basic idea of the perennial philosophy.

Deities are symbolic personifications of the very energies that are of yourself. These energies that are of yourself are the energies of the universe. And so the god out there is the god in here. The kingdom of heaven is within you, but it's also everywhere ...
Notice, Campbell doesn't say there are no gods, or that we make them up; he relates them to the energies that form the universe and fuel each one of us as well.

The Buddha arrives at a parallel realization, but advises an opposite course of action in his famous Fire Sermon. Campbell summarizes the Fire Sermon and contrasts these two approaches:
The lust of the senses is a burning fire. The hearing of the ears is a burning fire. The sight of the eyes is a burning fire. Quench that fire. The sense of the other tradition is to feed that fire. Now these are the two attitudes towards the mystery that life is. Life lives on life. Look at the birds. Look at the animals grazing. All they are ever doing is eating. They are killing things, and that's taking on gas. They wouldn't function otherwise. Life is an ever-burning fire. Feed that fire.
Seems that Campbell favors the life-affirming over life-negating approach (though with the emergence of the Mahayana in the third century after the Buddha, Buddhism returned to a life-affirming path in the image of the Bodhisattva, who practices "joyful participation in the suffering of the world.").

So, what form does sacrifice take today? We needn't act it out in the literal fashion of millennia past – instead, we participate in this act whenever we recognize the transcendent pouring into the world of phenomenal forms. In Joe’s words:
So with that we come to the business of finding the fire in yourself. It's a psychological act of discrimination; discriminating between the physical, transforming aspect of your entity and that enduring flame of which youth and age, birth and death are but the inflections.
Every act we do with intention and ritual – "making sacred" – achieves the same end. Gathering with friends and eating a meal is then experienced as a communion – indeed, every act becomes sacred with proper attention ...

But I do go on, and it's getting late

- and it's against my belief to sacrifice any more sleep than absolutely necessary ...

namaste
bodhibliss

_________________

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Bodhi_Bliss on 2006-12-29 23:48 ]</font>
Guest

Post by Guest » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Wow! thanks for writing...

Thanks especially for the quote at the end about the deities being representations of our own energies...

In Buddhism we have birth being caused by karma, and in each life we have the chance to save all sentient beings...

In the Christian myth, we have Jesus agreeing to come into the world as a sacrifice to wash away our sin. Our belief in him is our salvation...

One detail in the "literal" version of the Jesus story I never understood was this; Why would God need to make a sacrifice to Satan? I mean the story my parents raised me on was that Satan was god of this world and he had control over humans souls and so god made a deal and had his son crucified as ransom...

I understand metaphorically I think, but I never did get how that story would work in a literal way, any bible scholars out there who can explain?...

I'd also like to thank you for writing about the urge to pray, meditate, journal and how you struggled with thoughts of needing to be more pragmatic...

That is sort of how I think of the poetry of Jesus teaching his disciples, we have this inner light and we have to make room for it in our lives. We have these 12 hats we wear and each one is nurtured and guided by this light. When the $#!^ hits the fan we sometimes deny and betray, we sometimes have great faith or integrity.

I guess there is no end to the allegory, it can be as true as the depth I am willing to go...

Anybody know if there is book out specifically about this topic?

User avatar
bodhibliss
Working Associate
Posts: 1659
Joined: Tue Oct 07, 2003 5:00 am

Post by bodhibliss » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2006-12-30 09:39, dragonfly wrote:

In the Christian myth, we have Jesus agreeing to come into the world as a sacrifice to wash away our sin. Our belief in him is our salvation...

One detail in the "literal" version of the Jesus story I never understood was this; Why would God need to make a sacrifice to Satan? I mean the story my parents raised me on was that Satan was god of this world and he had control over humans souls and so god made a deal and had his son crucified as ransom...

I understand metaphorically I think, but I never did get how that story would work in a literal way, any bible scholars out there who can explain?...
I'll take a crack at it, Dragonfly.

Despite the popular perception, traditional Christianity doesn’t claim Jesus is a sacrifice God makes to Satan.

Of course, Christian theology can be as complex and richly varied as the many schools of Buddhist metaphysics (though that often elegant discourse is sometimes boiled down to a few rigid principles and easily remembered catch-phrases as it passes through the pulpit); hence there have been several interpretations of Christ's sacrifice over the centuries.

For example, the apostle Paul borrows the economic concepts of the marketplace when addressing the merchants of Corinth and Rome, using metaphors and terms they would understand - which is how this sense of profit and loss, debt and repayment, imprints itself on Christianity's collective psyche. Campbell, however, points to noted Christian theologians, such as Abelard, who developed far different metaphors that carried weight at one time but are no longer current, or held by but a fraction of the faithful.

In the prevailing paradigm (that advanced by St. Paul), Christ is indeed a ransom for all - but it is God (the Father), not Satan, who requires Christ's sacrifice.

Paul points out that "All have sinned and come short ..." (Romans 3:23), and that "Sin is the transgression of the Law." We have all broken God’s law (the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic code laid out in the Torah); further, in Romans 6:23, he reminds us that "the wages of sin is death."

It’s a fairly simple formula to follow.

We have all committed capital offenses, and so all are condemned to death - and, by extension, to hell, which is where Satan comes in, since that is his domain – but he’s not driving this paradigm; Satan isn’t the one making up the rules, nor the one who pronounces the penalty. It’s not like the Devil got one over God on a technicality (though I guess that wouldn’t be surprising, since he does have all the lawyers ... <IMG SRC="/forum/images/smiles/icon_wink.gif"> ).

God in the Old Testament is firm and unyielding when he lays down the penalties for violating the Law. There is no appeal.

However, after a makeover, the merciful God of the New Testament finds that He has painted Himself into a corner. Though "not willing that any should perish," He is also bound to uphold His own Law. The rules of the game do not allow Him to arbitrarily change His mind. The penalty has to be paid for each of us, with no way around that legal requirement

That’s where the concept of ransom enters the picture.

On one level, it makes sense.

Say Amos has violated a local ordinance, and the village headman fines him ten shekels. If Amos doesn’t pay the penalty, bad things will happen – which is a problem if Amos doesn’t have the ten shekels ... but then his neighbor, Obadiah, steps forward and pays the shekels Amos owes. Amos is then allowed to go free, for the penalty has been paid – even if he didn’t pay the penalty himself.

Obadiah has paid a ransom for Amos.

This was a practice not uncommon to the period, whether in Asia, India, or the Mediterranean world. And it worked beyond simple fines ...

For example, the Greeks illustrate the power of love and loyalty with their tale of Damon and Pythias:
The king sentences Pythias (or maybe it’s Damon – darn that short term memory loss!) to death for some crime – but Pythias asks for time to visit his distant family and bid them farewell. The king, of course, won’t release on his own recognizance a man sentenced to die – but Damon steps forward and offers to take his best friend’s place. The king agrees, and Pythias is free to travel home – with the understanding, however, that if he does not return by the appointed day, Damon will be executed in his stead.

Time passes, and no word from Pythias. The day sentence is to be carried out, Damon is marched to the execution ground – where, with the blade at Damon’s throat, a breathless Pythias, having overcome seemingly insurmountable delays, bursts upon the scene to demand that his friend be freed and he be executed instead, as originally planned. Damon, however, insists the process not be interrupted and that he die so that his friend might remain free. The king, witnessing this scene, is so moved by the love these two friends have for each other that he frees both men.

Damon serves as ransom for his friend – had Pythias arrived too late, he would have remained free, for Damon would have already have paid Pythias’ penalty – with his life.
Paul of Tarsus draws on the same concept.

For example, I am guilty of breaking God’s law (no specifics – but let’s assume I once lusted after a Playboy centerfold in my heart), so I am under a sentence of death – but if I can find someone of equal (or greater) value willing to take my place, I will be saved.

The problem with that is twofold – well, actually threefold, since I can’t think of anyone jumping at the chance to go to the gallows in my place - but let’s pretend I can. However, no matter who I choose there is no acceptable substitute, for that person will be a criminal as well, under her/his own sentence of death ("all have sinned").

And even if there were one mortal who has never sinned – say Mother Teresa is even more a saint than she appears – and I convince that person to take my place, everyone else is still up shit creek.

For God (again, not Satan, but God) to let everyone off the hook, a replacement must be found who not only has never sinned, but whose existence outweighs the existence of all humanity. But where can One find a Personage of worth equal to or greater than all mankind?

Only God – the Creator of humanity and all that exists – fits that bill.

So God "emptied himself" (Gr.: kenosis) of his divinity and "made himself a little lower than the angels," incarnating on earth in the person of Jesus, the Christ. Herein lies the mystery of the triune God – for God descends to earth (God the Son), but at the same time remains on His throne in Heaven (God the Father), yet comes to dwell in every Believer (God the Holy Spirit).

That’s how we know we’re in the mythic realm, for only in myth and fairy tale (and dream) can something be one thing and another - both "A" and "not-A" - at the same time. In mythic and dream realms a frog can be a prince, a hovel conceals a palace, and God can be Father and Son, in Heaven and on Earth, at the same time.

(I’ll admit it boggles my mind when some term the same dynamic in other mythologies – say, the trinities of Brahma/Vishnu/Shiva, or Maiden/Mother/Crone - pagan polytheism, while the Christian pantheon of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is somehow monotheism. Takes a few somersaults to get there, theologically speaking, but is an astounding dance to observe, in case anyone is drawn to Christian apologetics. Frankly the theology fascinates me; what I have trouble with are the realworld implications when taken literally ... )

From the Pauline perspective, Jesus, as the Christ, outweighs every human who has ever lived or ever will live. He takes on flesh but does not sin – something no other mortal can do – and He is God, Creator of the Universe and All That Is. So only His Death, voluntary and willing, can substitute for the totality our own.

This sacrifice is made to God, not Satan (Christ prays to God in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion, asking, "Father, if Thou be willing, take this Cup away from me" - clue to the Grail there - "nevertheless not my will, but Thine, be done").

Christianity contains elements of the dead-and-resurrected god through whom one counters the Mystery in esoteric polytheistic cults influential throughout the Mediterranean world (whether the sacred rites of Orpheus, or Dionysus, or those of Demeter & Persephone at Eleusis, of Cybele, of Isis & Osiris, and so on), grafted onto the nomadic mythology that dropped roots in Palestine and morphed into a monotheistic tradition defined by divinely ordained Law.

This is the nut Paul cracks in the book of Romans, reconciling the experience of the mystery of god-incarnate with the demands of Judaic Law. It’s a delicate dance he does – a heady performance well worth the read.

(Sometimes Christian mythology is ignored by Campbell aficionados – or maybe not ignored so much as gracefully tiptoed around. That’s understandable, considering even non-Christians and atheists carry culturally accumulated baggage that can’t help but color one’s perspective, however slight – and then there are those who are fully vested in this belief system and sometimes, understandably, have difficulty stepping outside their tradition to explore the mythic dynamics of their faith. That, as much as politics, can lead to heated discussions …)

I hope my excess verbosity clarifies more than it confuses – but if you’re interested in Joseph Campbell’s thoughts on Christianity, a place to start might be his Thou Art That, a posthumous volume, edited by Eugene Kennedy, that focuses on the metaphors and symbolism of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Thanks for asking intriguing questions, Dragonfly. I do believe your allegorical approach is a healthy one – and, as you point out, there is no end to the allegory. That’s one reason I am drawn to Christian theology – and, for that matter, to Buddhist theology – for the deeper one goes, the more one moves past parochial limitations to burst upon the Infinite.

The Mystery can be found in every tradition.

As Jerry Garcia sings in “Scarlet Begonias,”
Once in a while you get shown the Light
In the strangest of places, if you look at it right.
Keep on Truckin’
bodhibliss

_________________


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Bodhi_Bliss on 2006-12-30 16:02 ]</font>
Raphael
Associate
Posts: 724
Joined: Thu Sep 29, 2005 12:44 pm
Location: SPACETIME

Post by Raphael » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2006-12-23 20:49, tat tvam asi wrote:
Hi dragonfly, I've gone through 'deaths and rebirths' myself. One of the high points of campbells lecture dvd's in my view is the strong emphasis on understanding how the christian metaphor applies to our own personal lives and how it mirrors the far older eastern metaphors that put us in accord with nature. This is certainly something to be found within. Great post!

northjetty/the cosmos
Ah yes...

Death and rebirth...the ups and downs of life.

Life is a roller coaster.

With peaks and valleys.
With Amplitude and Frequency.
Life is a beam of light that eventually fades.

Jesus' power derived from 'ever and ready' batteries.
Keeps going and going.
Can you see him in a pink suit with floppy ears, keeping the beat?

namaste

Raphael

_________________
ENERGY = GOD ... Share Him is the Message...
God can be neither created nor destroyed; he can only be transformed into other forms of God. However there is a penalty for committing sin, for transforming God and it is called Entropy.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Raphael on 2007-02-08 05:34 ]</font>
tat tvam asi
Associate
Posts: 470
Joined: Sat Apr 29, 2006 11:49 am
Location: Eternity

Post by tat tvam asi » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

North jetty here! I appear to have neglected my "tat tvam asi" signature in that quote. Mr. "The western idea of a God" here, just so happened to get into a very direct confrontation with a baptist minister this week. I found myself drawing on a wall, in a construction site, revealing the tetragrammaton as written top to bottom. God is man, Man is God, as it suggests in it's very form. I pointed out that the Christ, told the religious leaders that He and the Father are one, so blasphemy is at the very heart of the christian movement. I informed the man on every little pagan and pantheistic detail that I have found to be at the very base of everything that he has faith in. The virgin birth, being first pagan influence that I mentioned. followed by the life of miracles, and a death and resurrection. This guy had been an atheist for most of his life, then had a religious conversion.

I tail ended this conversation with a strong emphasis on the christian living in terms of the "Christ within you". The emphasis on Jesus Christ as symbolic of inner experience as this thread suggests. I got into this mans head, believe it or not? He had felt a sense of God while almost loosing his life. This had changed him, and he had then decided to preach, and was ordained and indoctrinated. He had started off certain that the bible must be read literally, or not at all! He wasn't sure enough of himself to continue, so he went off to consider it for a while. I gave him the name of the book " Thou art that: tranforming religious metaphor ", to research and tell me what his evaluation of it is? I think that he'll have a transforming experience. I told him that God had sent him to me, and me to him. I informed him that this is the next step in knowing his relationship to God.

tat tvam asi/the cosmos



_________________


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: tat tvam asi on 2007-02-09 23:22 ]</font>

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: tat tvam asi on 2007-02-10 09:36 ]</font>
User avatar
bodhibliss
Working Associate
Posts: 1659
Joined: Tue Oct 07, 2003 5:00 am

Post by bodhibliss » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2007-02-09 23:11, tat tvam asi wrote:

He had started off certain that the bible must be read literally, or not at all! He wasn't sure enough of himself to continue, so he went off to consider it for a while. I gave him the name of the book " Thou art that: tranforming religious metaphor ", to research and tell me what his evaluation of it is? I think that he'll have a transforming experience.
Whew - that can be a delicate dance, tat, discussing matters of substance with a true believer. My hat's off to you - and to your preacher friend, for not just bludgeoning you with the Bible but for actually hearing you and being willing to re-examine his own thoughts.

It's not easy helping a literalist look past the sparse outer structure of a symbol to see the magnificence within - like Dr. Who's Call Box, symbols are so much larger inside than outside. Usually in such conversations the true believer clings to the literal belief all the harder - so you must have said something that struck a chord. (Often, instead of drawing on a concrete wall, it's more like talking to a brick wall! <IMG SRC="/forum/images/smiles/icon_razz.gif"> )

The parallels you brought up between the Christian myth and it's cousins (all those virgin births and resurrections and such in other myths) do prove powerful - hard to explain away historical facts without falling back on further mythological constructs (my favorite is that Satan created all those other mythologies as counterfeits - before the fact - of Jesus Christ ... sort of like the theory that God created the world 6,000 years ago, but designed it to look like its hundreds of millions of years old - lot of deviousness in the minds of mythic beings, i notice ... ).

What may even have been more effective in giving your acquaintance pause, however, might have been your own sincerity, and the fact you weren't arguing against Christianity so much as pointing to the magnificent spiritual mysteries it contains and can open out onto; when that clicks for a literalist, then the traditional story unfolds in greater depth and richness, so that it is like stepping in to the same old tract home and finding it's the doorway to the Taj Majal.

Sounds like you really enjoyed the conversation, tat, and that your acquaintance took something away from it as well. Even if his personal views don't change, he at least has realized there is depth and sincerity behind beliefs he might have caricatured in the past.
_________________

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Bodhi_Bliss on 2007-02-10 10:47 ]</font>
User avatar
nandu
Associate
Posts: 3395
Joined: Fri May 31, 2002 12:45 am
Location: Kerala, the green country
Contact:

Post by nandu » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I think this thread just crossed paths with the "Resurrect the myth" thread.

By the way, tat, why don't we see you in that thread? Your insights could prove valuable, I am sure.

Nandu.
Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavanthu
tat tvam asi
Associate
Posts: 470
Joined: Sat Apr 29, 2006 11:49 am
Location: Eternity

Post by tat tvam asi » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hi Nandu, I hadn't seen the 'resurrect the myth' thread. I'll be sure to read it and respond.

I think that the reason the minister was willing to listen to me was because I told him that God had giving me all of this information.He felt that God had took him from atheism and made a believer out him. I told him that there is a 'next step' in understanding God. I prayed for knowledge, and wisdom, and understanding, and as a result I came across the works of Joseph Campbell. The answers to many question that I've had became more and more apparent the more I learned about symbolism, metaphor, and spiritual rebirth. The 'next step' is realizing that God is transcendent of knowledge, naming, and literal concretizing for that matter.

As a former atheist, he has somewhat of an open mind for a minister. Plus, I am an ordained reverend myself, and like him, I hold no degree in theology, just an ordination from a church group! Him, a conservative group, Me, a liberal group. So there was that factor at play as well.

Anyone can be a minister!
http://www.themonastery.org

Reverend Tat Tvam Asi/the cosmos

_________________


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: tat tvam asi on 2007-02-11 09:24 ]</font>
Locked