Myth and Reality

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

"What flows into you from the myth is not truth but reality (truth is always about something,
but reality is that about which truth is)" ¬ CS Lewis


I remember when I first came upon CS Lewis's writing.  I had perhaps read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a child, but it was as a young adult who was considering the whole Jesus question where I first fell in love with his mind.  He had such a great ability to bring his beautiful abstract ideas down into lands that I could walk about in, and that delightful way of his extended into his Christianity as well, something I was starving for.  At that time in my life, I felt that I had apprehended something - or someone - true.  I had begun to believe that maybe this Jesus was who he claimed to be.  But I was confused.  Surrounding what I perceived as wonderful (and scary, but liberating in some way I could barely comprehend) were giant cesspools of the most tedious variety - religion, small-mindedness, control-freaked, half-living, fearful people.  I found it so difficult to reconcile what it was that I felt I had experienced on a mystical level with of this giant mound of bullshit that existed out in the world as apparently some sort of expression of that.

If Jesus was an amazing story-made-flesh, Christianity was a control-freak Dan Brown, who had taken the story and squashed it down into something formulaic, bland, feeble, and badly written to boot, and turned it all into a fable.

These days I have swung back the other way when it comes to Jesus.  I'm not at all convinced any more that he existed as the historical person that he has been cemented into by Christianity (and even if he was, I'm not so sure modern evangelical Christianity could ever hope to approach a high enough plateau where he becomes a beautiful thirst crusher, seeing the terrain on the way to that plateau involves metaphor, not-knowingness, and a worldview far closer to Buddhist and Hindu thought than Western thought - which of course to an evangelical Christian could be equated to selling your soul to the devil, being the sole owners of the truth as Western evangelical Christians apparently are.

I am not entirely happy with this swing of mine.  It's been quite difficult.  Because I really did once hold quite firm convictions that this Jesus not only existed, but that he existed now and was available to consort with those who wished to consort with him.  I sensed regularly and often that I was doing this consorting.  And the thing is, I still believe that this type of thing happens.  My swing has not been on the grounds of inability to tolerate metaphysics.  All of the main world religions (I'm including Buddhism in here) sit quite comfortably with some variation of the idea that those who have gone before and ascended in some manner are available to assist those living on the earth.  It is a bizarre and childish concept to the scientifically minded postmodernist ... which in turn is fascinating when you consider that modern physics has identified that realms in fact exist that are not apparent to the general senses of the average human being. 

So my crisis of faith in the truth of the Jesus I once thought I knew is not so much on worldview grounds as it is on historical ones.  There is simply not enough evidence there for me to be comfortable with putting all my eggs in that particular truth basket.

(When I read back on blog posts I have written here in previous years, a part of me that I'm not particularly proud of is uncomfortable.  It wants to take the posts off here that sound so sure of Jesus, of his place in the world as redemptor, and revert them back to draft form for my own eyes only). 

On the level of myth*, however, Jesus is a whole other story.  The reality that Jesus has always pointed to is still completely and utterly there for me.  The feeling of what he represents, as if he is someone I've known in the past.  Simply an archetype, perhaps.  Or - who knows? - perhaps it is I who have walked off into the bushes and the Christians are right (oh, how dreadful that they would be right), and he is true.  But even if he is not truth, I still think he is reality.  And this is where I fall silent.  The words attributed to this Jesus, whether spoken by him, or by a conglomerate, are still so profound that they never fail to have the same impact they have always had.  Maybe even more.  Now that I'm well and truly sitting on the outskirts of Christianity, covered in sores the dogs are licking, spat on by passing literal Christians,  I can see his words even better than before.  Out here in the darkness, their light shines just as brightly as it always has.  They are freer than ever.  They have always been free.

¬¬¬¬

Myth is not a dirty word.  It is beautiful.  Clive Staples Lewis knew this.  So do people when they are free and unconstrained by the straitjacket that Christianity tries to slam "truth" into.  Myth is not truth, but myth is real, perhaps more real in the end than the version of truth that Christianity  tries to peddle.  Now, wouldn't that be ironic.

16 comments

  1. There's quite a lot here, Sue. Thanks.

    CSL was a great fave of mine too for a while - I read most of his books - and I think he began the 'reminding' of my true nature at a time when I was flailing about in a fog. It wasn't until the last 10 years or so, though, that the fog of ideas, concepts, beliefs etc. started to lift for real, and the utter simplicity and infinite potential of reality started shining on through. Jesus? He just knew all this intuitively, but the thought-world of the time was so opposed to such a 'knowing' that there was only one possible result. Jesus was so extraordinarily real, and coming up against extreme anti-reality caused fireworks compared to which the LHC is a sparkler. We interpreted and conceptualised him to suit our egoic agendas of power, material wealth etc, but even through this the 'child in the manger' shines through to our day, and the true message is not lost if we know how to look; that is, with the heart, the essence, not the mind.

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  2. I love this post!  Those who have it figured out are farther off point than you or I.  He came to confuse the organized and organize the confused. Mystery is the key and when we think we are getting close to figuring it out, we are "colder" than we have ever been.   Keep your earlier posts.  They are pictures along the way.  They are part of who you are today.  Forge on, my friend!

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  3. The way you write makes me almost want to be a Christian again...I especially LOVE your last two sentences. 

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  4. Beautiful post, Sue, and pretty much says what I'm thinking right now x

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  5. "Now that I'm well and truly sitting on the outskirts of Christianity,
    covered in sores the dogs are licking, spat on by passing literal
    Christians,  I can see his words even better than before.  Out here in
    the darkness, their light shines just as brightly as it always has. 
    They are freer than ever.  They have always been free."

    This is so well put, Sue. This marginal place you describe is the place that Jesus inhabited. That is the delicious irony of Christianity; it has rejected everything Christ-like in it for the single reason that it needs the story to be fact. Christianity can't deal with myth, which points to a reality and a truth that can't be put into words or a conceptual frame. As soon as that is attempted, any connection to a "real" experience is lost. The mythology of Jesus is terrific, not because it's literally true, but because it points to a really unpleasant awareness: our failures are our only hopes. If Jesus had not been a colossal failure and been crucified, where would this religion be? Gathering dust along with countless other mythologies of dying and reviving gods.

    Your writing has a new and vigorous muscularity in addition to all the old poetic sensibility.
    It's a pleasure to read,
    Brad

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  6.  It's so bizarre, isn't it Brad, looking at Christianity and what it's fostered 2000 years down the track, compared to what its essence was?  The complete opposite.  It's so BIZARRE!!!!!!  I love what you say here about the workings of mythology.  It's sorta cool, in our consumerist consumptive world that the very best of it lies just out of reach of our being able to touch it - beauty, mystery, the beauty of failure.  I'm very grateful that it is just out of the reach of our grubby hands.  Some things need to be :)

    Thanks so much for your comment.  It's interesting that you can see "a new and vigorous muscularity."  I have been fighting adrenal fatigue and old demons over the past year.  I never would have believed it if it hadn't have happened to me (several times now) how a physical gland can exert so much influence on feeling tiny, vulnerable beyond compare, anxious, fit to break, jumpy and fearful as if a dinosaur is about to come round the corner and I'm a Neanderthal.  I totally fell into limbic brain territory.  I think it happens a lot in our society-that-we-don't-fit-properly, and only after months of adrenal support are they working properly again and I am feeling myself again (whatever that means ;)  So yes, definitely much more muscular and stable.  How funny that you noticed!  :)

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  7.  Thanks so much, Andi.  And that is lovely to hear that we are tracking in this way.  I really think there is so much that is worth taking from Christianity (and so much crap that's well worth leaving behind, as you so well know ;) 

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  8. Do you mean the two last sentences about myth, or the two last sentences before that?

    I pondered after reading this comment how big that "almost" space must be - bigger 'n Texas?  :D  But thanks, Erin.  I think there is beauty there that we can take that belongs to us and has nothing at all to do with religion.

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  9.  I love this comment :)  Thanks, Jo, and you're so right.  It's so weird that Christianity could have ever bred what it bred, isn't it, considering the crux of it is about mystery, about death, about our dustness, about oneness?  It boggles and beggers my belief :)

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  10. CSL is very good at that "reminding" of our true nature, isn't he?  I think that's exactly what I loved about him.  It made me feel that those extra fields I imagined surrounded me - bigger than the small thing I felt I was being told I was by the society - really did exist :)

    Hooray for that fog being blown away and the utter simplicity remaining, Harry :)  It's quite amazing how the whole process goes, isn't it?  Here's to everybody walking in the spaces that enables the blowing away of that fog.  The world would be a totally different place if that happened, wouldn't it.

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  11. "
    Myth is not truth, but myth is real, perhaps more real in the end than the version of truth that Christianity  tries to peddle.  Now, wouldn't that be ironic."

    That part.

    I haven't fully discounted the words attributed to Jesus. I think someone said them at some time, and they are profound enough to be valuable, even if Jesus wasn't real, even if the bible were entirely a work of fiction. Someone had to think up those words and someone had to write them down. Maybe even the same person, but does that make them any less true? The ones about kindness and love? 

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  12. No, that's the thing about Christianity that I loathe - the emphasis on exclusivity.  Oh, really?  So Jesus was the only one who could "get this"?  A Godman had to get it?  How about Buddha?  He got it too, and before Jesus ever did.  But does that diminish the words or the concepts of Jesus, or the work to be done by every single person to let go of what they need to let go of to see it for themselves?  Not to me.  It makes it more accessible, closer than ever.  Which, if Jesus existed as Jesus, Joseph and Mary's son, I'm sure he would have been entirely on board with the idea of that sort of reality being available to every single person on the planet.  Because he didn't seem to be all that keen on being crowned a king in the first place, so ...

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  13. Sometimes I like the idea that "Jesus" trained with Buddhist monks in those missing years. Because yes, most of those concepts had been around for a very long time before this Jesus dude was quoted. But they are broad wisdom, most of those words. 


    And I want to clarify that I do not mean to offend any of your friends who may well believe in the bible. I completely respect that.

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  14. I like that idea too.  I don't know how much there is to it.  I read that it was India he went to and he learned under the Hindu system ... but then Buddhism sprouted from Hinduism so it doesn't really matter what ism it was anyway.  I LOVE that idea. 

    I hope nobody here takes offence to anything that's said.  None is meant. 

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  15. I love the word archetype. Thank you for bringing it into the conversation. I was reading Ernest Holmes yesterday, and he said this, "An inquiry into truth is an inquiry into the cause of things as the human race sees and experiences them." 
    I like that, because if we see religion as an explanation of how we see things, as an illustration of our understanding, then it becomes wisdom. Then our religion can evolve as our understanding evolves. Then it becomes a repository of the human experience through the ages; and therefore, it helps us understand ourselves.

    Years ago, I tried New Thought (Science of Mind, Unity) and dismissed it. Why? Because when you go to their churches you find out that the parishioners don't understand anything and just believe it and parrot it in a traditional religious manner. (Who can blame them, to understand Ernest Homes and Charles Fillmore one has to smoke something)

    I threw the baby out with the bath water, thinking there was no baby, but I've started to think that there was. Some of us are mystics and need "something," which New Thought does offer, by explaining the Bible and other sacred books as mythology and metaphors. 

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  16. Hey Lorena,

    Yeah, archetype is the coolest word.  I've never heard of Ernest Holmes before but I love that description as it relates to religion.  Yes and yes.  I think *that* is a sort of religion that we need ... like, in a cultural sense.  A repository for our stories about ourselves, how cool would THAT be??

    I have never heard of New Thought before and yeah, that parishional parrotting would have put me off too.  But then I guess every spiritual group will have those who are not sure (at least on that day) and so who parrot to fit in.

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