Judge Not… It’s the Best Way to Learn Something New.

30 Mar

It’s the Easter weekend and after having been raised as a Catholic (although without great fervor) I have come to the conclusion that most of what is written in the Bible is metaphorical… in the sense that it exists and was compiled in an effort to teach us about the trials and tribulations inherent in any life lived among others and to hopefully express ways for us to learn how to treat each other with kindness, love and respect.

Of course I could be wrong… but that’s my point. So could everyone else.

Our world has become filled with a myriad of different beliefs and rituals and followings and followers and there appears to be no reason to believe that a consensus on the subject of religious beliefs is anywhere in sight. In the 2,013 years since the first Easter, Christianity has grown from a few followers to over 2 billion and yet that still represents only about 30% of the world’s population.  Some might say that that is quite an accomplishment but at that rate we should all be Christian in the year…never.

Unless of course every seriously devout Christian’s belief comes true and God returns and kills everyone else…and wouldn’t that be nice? That espoused and widely held belief alone has been enough to help me decide that the answers must lie elsewhere.

So here is what I believe is most likely to be true about god and about ourselves (not that you asked) Joseph Campbell says it best for me in this excerpt from an interview that he did with Bill Moyers.

 

CAMPBELL: The reference of the metaphor in religious traditions is to something transcendent that is not literally any thing. If you think that the metaphor is itself the reference, it would be like going to a restaurant, asking for the menu, seeing beefsteak written there, and starting to eat the menu.

For example, Jesus ascended to heaven. The denotation would seem to be that somebody ascended to the sky. That’s literally what is being said. But if that were really the meaning of the message, then we have to throw it away, because there would have been no such place for Jesus literally to go. We know that Jesus could not have ascended to heaven because there is no physical heaven anywhere in the universe. Even ascending at the speed of light, Jesus would still be in the galaxy, Astronomy and physics have simply eliminated that as a literal, physical possibility, But if you read “Jesus ascended to heaven” in terms of its metaphoric connotation, you see that he has gone inward – not into outer space but into inward space, to the place from which all being comes, into the consciousness that is the source of all things, the kingdom of heaven within. The images are outward, but their reflection is inward. The point is that we should ascend with him by going inward. It is a metaphor of returning to the source, alpha and omega, of leaving the fixation on the body behind and going to the body’s dynamic source.

MOYERS: Aren’t you undermining one of the great traditional doctrines of the classic Christian faith – that the burial and the resurrection of Jesus prefigures our own?

CAMPBELL: That would be a mistake in the reading of the symbol. That is reading the words in terms of prose instead of in terms of poetry, reading the metaphor in terms of the denotation instead of the connotation.

MOYERS: And poetry gets to the unseen reality.

CAMPBELL: That which is beyond even the concept of reality, that which transcends all thought. The myth puts you there all the time, gives you a line to connect with that mystery which you are.

Shakespeare said that art is a mirror held up to nature. And that’s what it is. The nature is your nature, and all of these wonderful poetic images of mythology are referring to something in you. When your mind is simply trapped by the image out there so that you never make the reference to yourself, you have misread the image.

The inner world is the world of your requirements and your energies and your structure and your possibilities that meets the outer world. And the outer world is the field of your incarnation. That’s where you are. You’ve got to keep both going. As Novalis said, “The seat of the soul is there where the inner and outer worlds meet.”

 

Happy Holidays to those who observe them and peace and safe journey to all!

 

 

9 Responses to “Judge Not… It’s the Best Way to Learn Something New.”

  1. Wild Heart Scribe March 30, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    I have found all of your Easter-related posts quite intriguing. Being raised a Catholic, who later became a Christian (I see differences in the two) I do accept a literal understanding of the Bible, in as much as I can. Of course, there are metaphors throughout and I recognize that. As the Bible says, His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and I tend to believe that a lot of the answers to questions such as where did Jesus ascend to are over our heads, so to speak. In the last year, I have come to the necessary conclusion that I don’t have it all figured out. Ha…it’s still funny to me that I once thought I did. I, at one point, became very judgmental and pretty damn legalistic until, over time, my son made me realize that we are all just trying figure out infinite things with finite minds and thought processes, believe what you believe and don’t judge others for doing the same. So, yes I believe in Jesus. I believe He lived a sinless life and died for my sins and the sins of those who accept His sacrifice. I believe He ascended (somewhere :)) and I believe that He intercedes for me. Where my problem has developed is in that everyone else is totally wrong and we are totally right. So, I will hold my beliefs and pray that we all “make it” one day. God is both Justice and Grace, far larger than my scope of understanding, and so I will no longer pretend that I have Him all figured out because I don’t. Happy Easter!

  2. freddiejay March 30, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    Wild heart said it better then I ever could

  3. hbw March 30, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    Hmmm… Difficult to see how you can interpret the resurrection and ascension as purely metaphorical – the fundamental (if you’ll pardon the expression) claim of the Gospels seems to be that they are true i.e. Jesus lived, taught, died, was buried, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven in the ordinary historical sense.

    You can argue about whether the evidence supports these claims or not, but you can’t ascribe a metaphorical meaning (or indeed any meaning) to the resurrection or ascension Christ if they didn’t happen in the first place. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead etc., then he wasn’t and isn’t Christ. You can’t have your cake and eat it.

    This is pretty much the argument of 1 Cor. 15 vv12-19 (it’s a bit of a chunky passage, so I won’t clog up your blog with it).

    Have a happy Easter, however you choose to spend it.:)

  4. drshyamalavatsa March 30, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    ‘The myth puts you there all the time, gives you a line to connect with that mystery which you are’ is what religion is about, regardless of which avatar of God each of us chooses to receive this message from.

  5. mvschulze March 30, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    According to Websters’s New World Dictionary, a Metaphor is “a figure of speech, containing an implied comparison, in which a word or a phrase ordinarily and primarily used of one thing is applied to another.” This seems to indicate that in some cases there are no words to describe to other thing, or perhaps it is deemed beyond our average comprehension to understand that other thing. (How presumptuous!) On the other hand, our common acceptance and understanding of the physical universe, perhaps equally mysterious to most of us, seems to have been adequately described by a relatively few gifted thinkers, albeit utilizing specific languages, like mathematics. Experiments underscore it’s validity. Development of the everyday items, like the I-Phone further supports the postulations.
    But why is religious framework so different. Why do we need to support our beliefs on un-substanciated, unproven metaphors. Are most believers correct in taking a pass on this and continue to “have Faith” …to concede that there are some things we cannot, as humans, understand?
    Personally…I really don’t know. Although I would like to have had the gratification that the acceptance of religious doctrine promotes a better humanity…. but then there’s war!

  6. Val March 30, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

    If the Bible is merely metaphorical then it has always been rubbish and half the people inthe Bible (and many to follow) should have been committed. No, there is much tgat is much, much, much deeper than mere metaphor. People don’t stand up to die for metaphors.

  7. brucethomasw March 30, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

    Thanks for this post – reminding me of the truths of metaphor through the deep spirituality of Joseph Campbell. In an earlier blog that I read this morning from a devout gay Christian man, I learned of a new term he spoke of – post evengalical. He described it as being a movement of openness, dialogue, respect and love. I believe that was core to Jesus’ message.

    For me, the problem with the literal translation of the bible I have heard demonstrated like this: which story of creation will I believe, the first of the second? They are completely different stories, so which one is the ‘correct’ version. If i say one is correct, then isn’t the other incorrect.

    For generations, theologians have delved into scriptural exegesis i.e – “careful investigation of the original meaning of texts in their historical and literary contexts.” The answers come through the power of the stories themselves, through the metaphor – in looking beneath the words, to a much deeper and more powerful message. To me this is timeless.

    In an abridged reply, to ‘judge not – it’s the best way to learn something’ – Amen to that!

  8. godanalytics March 31, 2013 at 2:58 am #

    The power of the resurrection is much more moving in a dramatic rendition of the synthesized moment, not in the actual reality of watching someone you know die or someone else close to you cry. It’s more fun to imagine what it must have been like when Mary stood close to the tomb mourning her friend’s loss only to hear his voice behind her. Not so fun to lose someone you love and know without a shadow of a doubt, you will never hear their voice again.

    I feel God in the song. I feel the power of his resurrection in the words I sing. But when the music stops and we all go home, and I’m sitting with my family alone, I feel the pressure of life, the overwhelming tendency toward strife and I wonder what resurrection really means.

  9. elroyjones April 4, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

    Thanks for this post and the Campbell interview. It articulates what I’ve always believed, what is essential lies within.

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