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!