THE RELIGIOUS IMAGINATION AND THE RULES OF TRADITIONAL THEOLOGY

The problem for and the function of religion in this age is to awaken the heart.  When the clergy do not or cannot awaken the heart, that tells us that they are unable to interpret the symbols through which they are supposed to enlighten and spiritually nourish their people.  When, instead, the clergy talk of ethical and political problems, that constitutes a betrayal of the human race.  This substitution of social work, or heavy involvement in regulating the intimate decisions of family life, has nothing to do with the real calling of the clergy to open to their people the dimensions of the meaning of the Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus.  These later constitute a system of symbols that works perfectly.  TAT 33

(Latin mass)  Missing that simple orientation, the Roman Catholic Church, for example, has translated its Latin liturgy into local languages, thereby diluting or removing its essential mystery.  When Catholics go to Mass in Latin, the priest is addressing the infinite in a language that has no domestic associations; the people attending are thereby elevated into transcendence.  TAT 33

  But when the liturgy is recited in a person’s own local language, and the altar is turned around, the priest resembles less an intermediary of mystery than he does Julia Child, the televisions cook.  The very possibility of transcendent experience is destroyed.  A person may have a nice comfortable feeling, but that is not difficult to achieve and people do not go to church just to have such feelings.  TAT 34

   The religious symbols were, therefore, short-circuited by this process that church authorities mistakenly thought of as progress.  It is an example of the prime religious problem of the day:  Symbols are chronically misread.  Metaphors, the essential structures of religious language, as we have observed before and will recall yet again, are rad in terms of their concrete referents, or denotations, with the result that one people is pited against another people, when, in truth, the whole sense of metaphor is to transcend separation and duality.  TAT 34

… Martin Luther King Jr., and his brave words shortly before his assassination (were), “I know that in pressing on for this justice and this cause I am challenging death.”  That is the secret cause.

    The secret cause of your death is your destiny.  Every life has a limitation, and in challenging the limit you are bringing the limit closer to you, and the heroes are the ones who initiate their actions no matter what destiny may result.  What happens is, therefore, a function of what the person does.  This is true of life all the way through.  Here is revealed the secret cause: your own life course is the secret cause of your death.  TAT 35

This also causes the accident that this rather than another event becomes the occasion of one’s death.  The accident that you die this way in stead of in a different time and a different place is a fulfillment of your destiny: All these deaths are secondary.  What must be manifested through the event is the majesty of the life that has been lived and of which it is a part.  In art you don't say “No.” You say “Yes.”  When we say, “Would that I too should die in this manner,” we mean that we wish we could die with this fulfillment.  Death, in this view, is understood as a fulfillment of our life’s direction and purpose.  TAT 35

This death (of) Martin Luther King, Jr., is a counterpart of the death of Christ on the Cross, of Jesus who came voluntarily down knowing that the cross was going to be his death.  We must all, as it were, enter life this way, and say “Yes” not “No” to it. 

    When you say “No,” you line yourself up with the problems of morality and justice, and all such categories.  That is not, however, our subject here.  That is one step down the pyramid where we encounter the pairs of opposites.  In that with which we are concerned there are no pairs of opposites, no desire of fear. 

    The perspective of “Yes” to life, with its cross, and with its crucifixion, allows the foreground of the event to open up to radiance.  TAT 36

All religions are ethical in their foreground.  But there exists a metaphysical ground beyond good and evil, beyond I and Thou, beyond life and death.  When the symbol is opened, that background is what shines through and flows forth. TAT 36

The Promised Land is any environment that has been metaphorically spiritualized.  An elegant example of this universal experience is found in the mythology of the Navaho.  Living in a desert, the Navaho have given every detail of that desert a mythological function and value so that wherever persons are in that environment, they are in meditation on the transcendent energy and glory that is the support of the world.  The Promised Land is no a place to be conquered by armies and solidified by displacing other people.  The Promised Land is a corner in the heart, or it is any environment that has been mythologically spiritualized. 

So whatever your life commitment is as of now, it involves certain daemonic relationships – that is, the one you forge with the deity residing in you.  One of the big problems in the Christian  tradition arises from the interpretation of supernatural grace, which says, in effect, that salvation does not come from you, but from outside yourself through some kind of ritual experience.  But the function of the sacrament of Baptism, for example, is not to pour anything into you but to pull something out of you.  The sacraments are an evocation, not an indoctrination.  TAT 37

Carl Jung has suggested, as a means for fathoming one’s own creative depths, a technique that he calls “active imagination.”  One way to activate the imagination is to propose to I a mythic image for contemplation and free development.  Mythic images – from the Christian tradition, or from any other, for that matter, since they are all actually related – speak to very deep centres of the psyche.  They came forth from the psyche originally and speak back to it.  TAT 38

When you have a theology (of the sort of) the Greeks and Romans, Hindus and Chinese, one can turn from one tradition to another and recognize that the power here called Zeus is over there called Indra; and there is no essential conflict.  In the sixth book of Caesar’s Gallic Wars, for instance, where he describes the mythologies, rites, and religions of the Celtic tribes, it is difficult to know just which of the Celtic gods he is talking about, since he always applies to them the corresponding Latin names.  The Celts, he found, worshiped Mercury and Apollo, Mars, Jupiter, and Minerva; concerning these, he observed that they held much the same opinions as other nations.  TAT 40

What a pleasure it was to live for a season in Japan where no one had ever heard of the Fall in the Garden!  The whole sense of the Fall is that nature is corrupt.  As a result, when you are young and full of wonder of nature every single thing that YOU spontaneously wish to do is condemned as sinful.  TAT 40

All of our religious ideas are metaphorical of a mystery. 

You are probably familiar with one of my favourite quotations from Heinrich Zimmer, who used to say, “The best things can’t be told, the second best are misunderstood.”  Why are the second best misunderstood?  Because they are metaphors that, as we only seem to repreat too often, are misread for their denotation rather than their connotation. 

Joseph Campbell