O virgin Mother, daughter of thy Son. (Dante, Paradiso)
Many people today have rejected the symbols of Christianity along with the religion itself because they no longer find inspiration there. This is understandable, although such people are depriving themselves of a rich heritage of symbolism. The Christian Church took over much of the symbolic heritage of the ancient world and degraded it by turning these symbols into signs denoting historical events. To take the ancient and rich symbol of the cross, for example, and make it refer simply to a place to hang their dying savior on destroys centuries of accrued wealth of symbolism. As Plato had said centuries earlier,
The Creator stretched the soul of the world onto the body of the world in the form of a cross. The duty of mankind is the release of that crucified soul.
If the cross is simply the place to hang the dying Christ, what meaning would Plato’s statement have? Hence, to reject the symbols which the Church has degraded is, as you see, a rather foolish act. By undoing today what the Church has been doing for centuries, we are being heretical and even diabolical in the eyes of Christian fundamentalists. We are here relativizing the Scriptures and denying the uniqueness of the Christian message. Jung put it rather forcefully:
The insistence on the uniqueness of Christianity, which doesn’t even allow it a mythological status conditioned by history, renders the gospel unreal; all possible points of contact with human understanding are abolished, and it is made thoroughly implausible and unworthy of belief, and empties the churches. It is very convenient because then the clergyman doesn’t have to bother about whether the congregation understand the gospel or not but can comfortably go on preaching to them as before. Educated people would be much more readily convinced of the meaning of the gospel if it were shown them that the myth was always there to a greater or lesser degree, and moreover is actually present in archetypal form in every individual. Then people would understand where, in spite of its having been artificially screened off by the theologians, the gospel really touches them. Without this link the Jesus legend remains a mere wonder story, and is understood as little more than a fairy tale that merely serves to entertain.
A religious tradition severed from its archetypal roots, its mythologic grounding, becomes a set of signs or rituals without depth. Rather than rest everything on the uniqueness of a religion, one might better argue for the ways in which it taps the same mythic sources that undergird every other religion. This is the best antidote to bigotry.
The beginnings of Christianity are not to be found in the life and teachings of a single founder such as a historical Christ. But everything impossible as history is not only possible as myth, but can be the creative cause of the history! Only the mythical origins can explain the birth of the child that was begotten without the father; the virginity of the mother being the natural status of the most ancient genetrix in mythology, who was far earlier than God the father. The virgin mother is nothing if not divine, and being a divinity she cannot become humanly historical. The most ancient, gold-encrusted Byzantine pictures of the virgin and child represent the mother as Isis, not a human Mary. Only the mythical origins can explain why there are two Marys, both of whom are described as being the mother of Jesus. Only the mythical origins can explain why Jesus was rebegotten as the anointed son at 30 years of age, the time of full adulthood according to Egyptian reckoning. Only the mythical origins can explain why there is no history furnished from the time when the child was about 12 years of age to that of adulthood of 30 years. Only the mythical origins can show how the Word, as Manifester, could be made flesh. The dogmas of the incarnation, baptismal regeneration, transfiguration, transubstantiation, resurrection, and ascension were all Egyptian mysteries. These included the mystery of the ever-virgin mother as well as the mystery of a boy of 12 transforming suddenly into an adult of 30 and then becoming one with the father, just as it had been earlier in the mysteries of totemism.
There was the mystery in which the dead body of Osiris is transubstantiated into the living Horus by descent of the holy spirit; the mystery of a divine being in three persons, one of whom takes flesh on earth as the human Horus, to become a mummy as Osiris in Amenta, and to rise up from the dead as spirit as Ra in heaven. Amenta corresponds to the Christian Purgatory, and was the source for the Christian doctrine of Purgatory. All of these, and other miracles of the Christian religion, were already part of the Egyptian mysteries. But the Egyptians did not pervert the meaning by literalizing them since there was no fall of man to deal with, so there was no need for a redeemer. Horus was the justifier of the righteous, not of the wicked. He did not come to save sinners from taking the trouble to save themselves. He was an exemplar, a model of divine sonship — but his followers must conform to his example — and do in life as he had done — before they could claim any fellowship with him in death. Read the rest of this post »