Myth Averse

We tend to romanticize some destructive ideas. I was thinking about Cuba and Hongkong as I read an article in humanprogress.org. Both countries were shaped economically by two avid economists – Che Guevara, who took lessons from Karl Marx, and Sir John Cowperthwaite, who looked to economist Adam Smith. Well, you could say there is an apparent economic disparity between the two countries. But who on earth remembers or even knows about Sir John Cowperthwaite? But I don’t think we will ever encounter such ignorance when it comes to Che Guevara. Even today, we have people idolizing Stalin, Mao, Hitler who put to death their own countrymen in the millions -more than 60 million, is the general approximation. Even more, people look up to and study thoroughly the ideology of Marx, which may have influenced so much destruction in the 20th century alone.

As a counselor and a psychology student, I have been very interested in understanding human values – how these values are born, progress and manifest. Although I live in a very religious country where the outward forms of worship are pronounced, I find that many people I meet daily who are educated and successful in their careers are atheists or non-practicing.

I also find a growing aversion to religious views, whether Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, or Islam (the four main religions practiced in Sri Lanka). I suppose the internet has brought about an awareness of science to our community that was not there just a few decades ago. Now it seems we are gung-ho about everything in life being evidence-based. The religious views are ridiculed, and myths are busted with various types and forms of logic. In the minds of many young people, religion is on its way to becoming obsolete.

Why are people romancing rationality and logic so much when history has shown that one man’s logic is another man’s religion? Marx sounded rational enough. But to the millions that died,  Marxism was a religion of oppression. A belief so beautiful and utopian on paper, yet a dangerous weapon in the hands of its preachers.  

And then we wonder why there is such opposition to religion—poetic on paper, dangerous in the hands of its preachers. The awkward outer rituals have overpowered the deeper meanings in some cases, and the aggressiveness with which it is delivered is also probably a good reason. Whatever the reason may be, the unfortunate result is that we are leaving powerful stories behind.

There is no argument that some interpretations of the stories have been a tremendous source of destruction. Due to dogmatic interpretations of religion, we discriminate against certain sections of our community and sometimes, even those who wish to follow a scientific field of study!

We see in this dogmatism yet another romanticization of the destructive. We are so passionate about picking out the negative and enforcing the rules of engagement rather than focusing on the positive aspects of religion. There are many positive messages in the Bible that I have never heard preached in church. Positivity is quickly negated even if it is preached by setting boundaries arising out of pettiness(?) and the need for control thoroughly supported by a dozen or more verses. Nevertheless,  as a counselor, I find that this book has a limitless amount of wisdom relevant to our lives today. In the Bible and in other scriptures, we see an embodiment of values and concepts that should be studied without fear of being disloyal to one’s own beliefs.

Once, I attended a talk given by an Indian lady – Sunandaji of Vedanta World – an exposition of a section of the Bhagavad Gita. She spoke about an impending battle and how the warrior Arjuna was deeply distressed. About to go into battle, his cousin Krishna teaches him the philosophy of life. It was not some lofty philosophical understanding, but Krishna explains clear-cut techniques for implementing spiritual precepts for everyday life. Sunandaji spoke about how this conversation between Krishna and Arjuna describes our battle with life – why we see certain events and people as our enemy and how we prepare to fight. What do we gain when we win? It was one of the most insightful talks I had ever had the privilege to attend.

There is power in myths and ancient stories that transcend generations. Many believe in their literality, however absurd, illogical, and unrealistic it may sound. Yet, there is power. And that power to prevail is in their emulation of goodness and not in their romanticization of evil. The Bible itself preaches against our simplistic literal understanding with the story of Jacob. Jacob wrestled with God – and won. He did end up with a broken hip, but he won. Although many will disagree with me, I have come to understand one thing from this fantastic story. It is that we are to keep wrestling with our idea of God. We will be shaken and broken, but we never lose sight of the fact that we are deeply flawed (as was Jacob) and yet have the capability to win over the tremendous strength of traditional understanding and move forward. Jacob knew himself – what a terrible trickster he was. Yet, he had faith in a God who saw beyond human failings. His God saw the future prosperity. His God was not petty. I think it was this understanding that made Jacob fearless in his fight. He feared his very human brother – but not God.

Brilliant men have argued passionately and sometimes violently against religion as mere myths. One thing I have always noticed is how they go back to history to look up religious atrocities. The negative is the driving force. The positive – which gives the power to propel religions forward, is ignored. If you listen closely, you can see a common thread among those who are myth-averse. The romanticization of the rational. Is rationalism destructive? Rationalism and logic are not harmful, per se. But what is dangerous is the idea or the assumption that the human psyche is disconnected from the irrational. Human beings live and die, thrive and wither on rationality and irrationality. Carl Jung talked about this concept. In his foreword to Jung’s Psychological Types, John Beebe puts it this way: “What has still not become obvious to the world, however, is the extraordinary reliance Jung places in how we orient ourselves psychologically through irrational functions of the conscious mind.” What are these irrational functions? These are the perceiving functions of sensing and intuition.  On the other hand, Jung described rational functions as judging functions, which are thinking and feeling.  

We need not fear the myths but strive to see beyond the words and feel the presence of hope and expansion that is so much a part of old stories.

 

Our mania for rational explanations obviously has its roots in our fear of metaphysics, for the two were always hostile brothers. Hence, anything unexpected that approaches us from the dark realm is regarded either as coming from outside and, therefore, as real, or else as a hallucination and, therefore, not true. The idea that anything could be real or true which does not come from outside has hardly begun to dawn on contemporary man. – Carl Jung

Here is one of my favorite videos about belief in God. Maybe not so much relevant to this particular post, but I am not a pro writer. So nothing to lose. 

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