Thursday, July 09, 2009

Give me that old time religion, it’s good enough for me . . . or is it?

by Mel Mathews

Perhaps that 'Old Time' religion has failed us, or at least the deeper meaning of symbols and metaphors have been lost to misinterpreted literalism and that 'old king,' religious fundamentalism. Blindly following old time beliefs and attitudes in their many forms and guises is following our forefathers right over the cliff and into a vast sea of disillusionment and meaninglessness. Will we repeat this by following along with a host of fundamentalist ideals, the endless pursuit of materialism at the expense of our ecology, and other forms of meaningless neurotic suffering, or we will be moved to willingly and consciously suffer the unknown, until these old time religious symbols become alive within and take on authentic meaning as opposed to being a useless, lifeless, hand-me-down relic?

Instead of completely running away from, or blindly following, perhaps we could begin to question these old religions and fundamentalisms, begin to confront and dialogue with these calcified God-Images, and find that lost nugget of gold - the transcendent. After all, like a reoccurring nightmare, these haunting literalized religious concepts and other 'old king' values will not go away until their embedded images are exposed and truly given their due.

Edward F. Edinger’s Transformation of the God-Image and Lawrence W. Jaffe’s Celebrating Soul are two fine publications that address such concerns.

Transformation of the God-Image
by Edward F. Edinger
with a foreword by Lawrence W. Jaffe

"Whoever knows God has an effect on him."
--C.G. Jung, Answer to Job.

From Lawrence W. Jaffe’s Foreword of Transformation of the God-Image:

Despite the Biblical imagery, this book is not concerned with traditional religion. Its subject, rather, is psychology, the scientific study of the soul. References are to Job, God and Christ because our deepest feelings still resonate to that imagery. Put another way, the reason for the Biblical references is because "Jungian psychology has the task of introducing to the world a new world view" (Edinger, Aion). The roots of this new world view lie in the Judeo-Christian myth.

If, as Edinger predicts, Jung's works are one day read as Scripture once was--for sustenance of our souls, for moving words that touch us to the heart, for reassurance, guidance and orientation--Answer to Job will surely occupy a unique place in the Jungian canon. The special status of Answer to Job as the most complete statement of Jung's essential message has long been acknowledged by Jungians, who have discussed it in countless seminars and conferences since its publication in 1952.

What has sparked all this interest is that the central theme of Answer to Job--the transformation of God through human consciousness--is the central theme, too, of Jungian psychology. Not long before his death Jung himself affirmed its importance, remarking that he would like to rewrite all of his books except Answer to Job, which he would leave just as it stands.

Answer to Job contains the kernel, the essence, of the Jungian myth, and Edinger's study of it, at once erudite and down-to-earth, thoughtful and heartfelt, evokes that essence with unequaled clarity and power.

Celebrating Soul by Lawrence W. Jaffe

"Man has a soul and there is a treasure buried in the field."
--C.G. Jung

People are beginning to bump up against the limits of materialism and rationalism, realizing that these fail to offer something essential, a purpose in life. Although a few turn back to institutional religion for orientation, many find that road barred to them by their reason and their skepticism. Whatever form the new religion takes it must leave a large place for reason. The new religion will therefore be the product of a marriage between reason and faith, science and religion.

We cannot do without meaning in our lives. Meaning cannot be established objectively; it arises only through a relationship with the inner, subjective world. But it is precisely that realm that has been discredited in our day by the misapplication of the scientific spirit. In compensation, this book describes and gives examples of the inner life in order to help the reader sense the reality of the soul. It explores the spiritual significance of Jungian psychology--its message of personal and cultural renewal for a civilization that has lost its sense of purpose.

In Celebrating Soul, Lawrence Jaffe helps to expose what has been lost in literal translations and brings us into deeper relationship with the symbolic and metaphoric value of concerns such as:
* The New Religion
* The Jungian Myth
* Jungian Spirituality
* What Is Our Purpose in Life?
* The Hymn of the Pearl
* Breaking the Chain of Suffering
* The Golden Rule and the Iron Rule
* The Wounded Inner Child in the Bible
* The Lesson of Job
* The Meaning of Suffering
* Holding the Opposites As Service to God
* Wrestling with the Angel
* The Redemptive Value of Consciousness
* A New Form of Worship
* The Healing of Childhood Wounds
* Success Versus Consciousness
* Jung on the Life of Christ
* Studying Torah and Studying Jung
* Redemption Through Shadow Work
* A Psychological View of the First Commandment
* Testimony to the Holocaust
* Death and Resurrection
* Being "Born Again"
* Individuation and the Bible
* Jung and the Bible on Love
* New Life in Late Life
* A Psychological Gloss on a Benediction
* The Problem of Prayer
* Christ As a Model for Individuation
* Reason and Statistics
* Self-Knowledge Gives Meaning to Life
* The Answer Lies Within
* Psychotherapy As Sabbath

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

An Authentic 21st Century Man

Article by Mel Mathews 

Not long ago while listening to a NPR broadcast concerning Masculinity in the 21st Century, I was caught up by an interview of a woman journalist who had written about 'what it means to be a man in the 21st century.' The concept of a woman reporting on and defining, or attempting to define, masculinity was a bit off-putting. We tread on thin ice when a woman, or women define manhood and/or masculinity, just as we do when a man, or men attempt to define women and femininity. Sure, we all carry these contra-sexual aspects within, but that doesn’t make Man an authority on femininity, nor Woman an authority on masculinity, anymore than it makes a lefty an authority on a righty. The interview soon shifted away from a woman’s definition of masculinity to pop-cultural definitions of manhood. Perhaps I was still ruffled by this lefty-righty thing, but I also considered it quite shallow to have masculinity or femininity defined by fleeting fashions of pop-culture, for as naturally as DNA defines genetics, archetypal patterns define the psychological and spiritual makeup of masculinity and femininity—not passing trends.

Now, speaking as a man about masculinity, I can say that many 21st century men have been raised by women—without a masculine role model—and what they've learned about being a man has been defined by the media, the women’s movement, and many other distorted social norms. Often, such men discover that they are no longer able or willing to carry these externally imposed values and instead seek alternative definitions of masculinity and lifestyles. Some would call these periods of change a crisis; others would consider this a step in the direction of mental health. Regardless of how we label this time of soul-searching, it ultimately calls for a willingness to suffer the unknown. The rewards for such courage often prove quite beneficial. For those willing to take on the task of becoming an 'authentic' man, one can expect to gain a more defined sense of self who is moved by his own internal values, and in turn experience a more meaningful and fulfilling life.

However, all the compensatory posturing, chest-pounding or drum-beating in the world won't revive this great masculine spirit. This can only be accomplished by developing a deeper relationship to soul, to the archetypal patterns or energies that comprise the core aspects of our beings. The mental landscape of metaphors—dreams, stories, myths, fairy tales—deal with the eternal truths of human nature and are the language of soul. In the recently published book Resurrecting the Unicorn: Masculinity in the 21st Century, Bud Harris masterfully guides readers deep into the realm of metaphors where we can examine the evolution and development of human consciousness and reclaim discarded, yet much needed, integral aspects of our masculine natures.

"True masculinity—not the macho type—is needed for men to be strong enough to meet the feminine in themselves. For this they must find their own masculine face—not a face defined by women," suggests Bud Harris in Resurrecting the Unicorn. Harris then delves into the fairy tale, "Fyrtoiet," better known as "The Tinder Box" by Hans Christian Andersen, where an "Elemental Blueprint for Developing Masculinity" is extracted from the symbolic metaphors of this wise old tale.

Perhaps it’s time to pick up where Robert Bly's Iron John and Sam Keen's Fire in the Belly left off in the last part of the 20th century. If you're ready to explore and claim an 'authentic' masculinity from a place that calls for a great deal of courage, where truth, values, and integrity are defined from within, not by antiquated beliefs or pop-culture, then Bud Harris' Resurrecting the Unicorn is certainly worthy of your time and attention. Makes for a great gift to a husband, father, brother, and particularly for women who are raising boys.

Mel Mathews' articles and book reviews have appeared in many syndicated publications. He is the author of a series of novels that portray a man’s struggles as he goes against the grains of his upbringings and emerges as a renewed man who is guided by his own inner truth and hard-won wisdom. Learn more about this reviewer and his publications at: or

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