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Theodicy

Showdown Between Good and Evil by

Markus Aaron Brechbiel – Showdown Between Good and Evil via Flickr

Theodicy is a theological term describing attempts to uphold God‘s absolute goodness and power with the presence of evil in the world.

In Christian theology evil is often seen as a necessary part of God’s plan of salvation. Most Christians accept as an article of faith that God permits evil for some greater good, beyond the comprehension of mere mortals (see Isaiah 55:8-9).¹

One school of thought, stemming from Irenaeus and popularized by John Hick, argues that evil is permitted but not caused by God.

Why, one might ask, would a benevolent and all-powerful God permit evil?

For the Irenaean school the answer lies within the idea of “soul making.” A soul freely choosing to abstain from evil is of greater value than one automatically avoiding evil. The free and virtuous soul better glorifies God than would a sinless automaton.

Although evil may ravage, test and torment good souls living on earth, the true goal of our finite, earthly life is to be made worthy of eternal heaven.

According to this view, evil acts as a crucible. Souls not succumbing to but ultimately resisting evil are purified and strengthened towards the good. Evil, then, is necessary. It acts as a kind of “hammer” that pounds out the soul’s impurities.

Meanwhile, St. Thomas Aquinas, in keeping with the final winnowing of the Apocalypse (Luke 3:17, Matthew 3:12), writes

God permits some evils lest the good things should be obstructed.

The Prophet Jonah, as depicted by Michelangelo...

The Prophet Jonah, as depicted by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perhaps this means that God allows evil to grow with the good because trashing evil too soon could cause some collateral damage, which might be permitted in military ops but with God, must be kept to zero.

Another argument, influenced by Plato’s idea of the Forms, is given by St. Augustine. Augustine sees evil as a privatio boni—the absence of good. Because God is good, Augustine says, evil must be where God is not present. So God doesn’t create evil. It’s a choice.

Needless to say, not everyone is happy with this argument. Some, usually religious believers, see it as self-evident while others, often atheists, say it’s philosophically unsatisfying. And somewhere between these two extremes, Carl Jung believed that if God knew how we would choose, and created us in the first place, it’s a joke to say that we are responsible for evil.²

¹ Although in some Catholic homilies, I’ve heard variations of this belief. For example, one priest claimed, I think facilely, that God wants us to be happy all the time. In so doing, he seemed to overlook and trivialize another basic Christian belief—namely, that there is value in some forms of suffering. God may wish us to be happy all the time in heaven. But life on Earth is anything but heaven 24/7.

² I think a problem with Jung’s argument is that he’s viewing the issue from the perspective of linear time, which according to Einstein’s relativity theory, doesn’t really exist. This is a surprising error on the part of Jung, because he was aware of the latest scientific developments, well before the time of his death (1961). I think Jung also displays a dash of human arrogance. Perhaps with more humility he might have found more answers.

Related Posts » Fatalism, Felix culpa, Hick (John), Providence

On the Web:

  • A humorous video presenting the Irenaean theodicy:


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Tibetan Book of the Dead

The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on ...

The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Formally known as the Bardo Thodol (Tbtn: bardo = liminality + thodol = liberation), The Tibetan Book of the Dead is the popular name for a collection of Buddhist texts, coined by their first translator, W. Y. Evans-Wentz.

While some joke about the Book of the Dead as if it were a dark, brooding document, Buddhists would probably say this attitude comes through ignorance and projection.

Believers see it as a kind of spiritual guidebook, designed to direct souls at the point of death to the best possible reincarnation. A lama, friend or guide usually sits over the death bed and reads the book to the dying or recently dead person.

Contemporary readers will likely be struck by the Book of the Dead’s practicality. Deceptive spiritual lights, enticements and other misleading phenomena the departed soul will encounter are described as things to be avoided, not unlike a road map for a large, unfamiliar city or a trekking guide for a tricky mountain pass.

Interestingly, the Wikipedia entry on TBD completely dismisses Carl Jung’s psychological interpretation.

Jung’s introduction betrays a misunderstanding of Tibetan Buddhism, using the text to discuss his own theory of the unconsciousness.¹

It seems that whoever wrote that was pretty defensive about their beliefs. Jung’s archetypes, after all, transcend space and time so a Jungian analysis of this type of phenomena doesn’t seem inappropriate.

In music, the Beatles were apparently influenced by The Psychedelic Experience, a manual based on TBD by Timothy Leary et. al. The line “it’s dying to take you away” from The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour was also based on a hippie mix of drugs and TBD.²

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bardo_Thodol

² Ibid.

Related Posts » Buddhism, Demons, Myth


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Transference

Freud - Exploring the unconscious mind by Enrico

Freud – Exploring the unconscious mind by Enrico

For Sigmund Freud transference is a psychological dynamic where mostly unconscious ideas and feelings associated with past figures or events are displaced onto current figures or events, thereby distorting current relationships.

Charles Rycroft notes that Freud initially saw transference as inappropriate and an unfortunate aspect of the psychoanalytic relationship. But Freud later recognized it as an unavoidable and, in fact, useful aspect of psychoanalytic therapy.¹

While the narrow definition of transference refers to distortions generated by the patient and thrust onto the figure of the analyst, counter-transference refers to distortions created by the analyst and falsely attributed to the patient, these also based on past experiences.

C. G. Jung‘s view of transference emerged from the Freudian school but includes the concept of the collective unconscious and extends to the borders of the metaphysical.

For Jung, transference is positive and negative, making it a significant interpersonal factor among friends, coworkers, lovers, family and marriage partners. On the plus side, transference is a special type of projection that may link human beings in an almost mystical bond of meaning.²

English: Group photo in front of Clark Univers...

Group photo in front of Clark University Sigmund Freud, G. Stanley Hall, Carl Jung; Back row: Abraham A. Brill, Ernest Jones, Sándor Ferenczi. Photo taken for Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts publication. (Wikipedia)

While at the extremes transference may exhilarate or enslave, according to Jung it is a natural dynamic in which the psyche strives for genuine individuality and wholeness. Jung calls this quest for individuality and wholeness the individuation process.

When projections are made conscious and stripped away, Jung believes individuals are faced with the task of relating in a more mature, realistic manner. This arguably is a never-ending process by virtue of our inherent human limitations.

In pop culture the idea of projection appears in Bruce Cockburn’s song “Tell the Universe” (2006):

You’ve been projecting your sh** at the world
Self-hatred tarted up as payback time
You can self destruct–that’s your right
But keep it to yourself if you don’t mind

Image via Tumblr

¹ A Critical Dictionary of Psychoanalysis, Harmondsworth: Penguin 1977, p. 168.

² Today it’s becoming increasingly common to talk about other people’s “energy.” Some believe this can transfer and linger, especially from intimate contact like sex (See, for instance: https://38.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mczlk8Accw1qer5v4o1_1280.jpg. But the term “energy” might be misleading. Sensitive people might perceive not so much energy, but rather, a spiritual environment (technically called numinosity).

Related Posts » Future of an Illusion, Lévi-Bruhl (Lucien), Participation Mystique, Psychoid,  Syntonic Counter-Transference, Unconscious

 

 


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Urban Legend

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Urban Legend is a kind of modern folk tale of dubious truth, but it’s usually told as if true.

Urban legends often involve horror themes that attempt to evoke strong emotions. They’re transmitted by word of mouth, through the print media, TV, radio or the internet. Ghost stories, vampires and the idea of creepy things in city sewers would be some examples.

Wikipedia puts it this way:

An urban legend, urban myth, urban tale, or contemporary legend, is a form of modern folklore consisting of stories that may or may not have been believed by their tellers to be true, and often possess horror implications that are believable to their audience.

Despite its name, an urban legend does not necessarily originate in an urban area. Rather, the term is used to differentiate modern legend from traditional folklore in pre-industrial times. For this reason, sociologists and folklorists prefer the term “contemporary legend”.¹

Image via Tumblr

The academic view may be more correct, technically. But the term “urban legend” has a cool ring to it that’s missing in the phrase “contemporary legend.” Maybe that’s partly why pulp fiction sells better than academic text books. The very term “urban legend” also plays into the mystique. And that’s probably what people seek when consuming this kind of stuff. A bit of excitement. Escape. Or as Carl Jung put it, an experience of the numinous.

Urban legend, especially regarding urban tales, differs from mythology. Traditionally, myths are said to carry some kind of supernatural connotation. Myths also are understood by modern people to be factually untrue. But with urban legend, the listener doesn’t know if the story is true or not. And urban legends do not necessarily have a supernatural element.

Urban legend is also said to differ from myth in that urban legends linger in the imagination as if they may be true, however exaggerated they might become through repeated telling.²

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_legend

² This distinction seems debatable. Consider Hindus who believe that the story of Krishna is not myth but reality. Also, many Christians take aspects of the Bible literally, no matter how fantastic or limiting some Bible tales may be. And yet many see the Bible as just another myth. Alternately, many see it as a combination of myth, politics, prejudice, distant history and spirituality.

Related Posts » Ticket

 


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UFO

English: Grainy B&W image of supposed UFO, Pas...

B&W image of supposed UFO, Passaic, New Jersey Edited version of Image:PurportedUFO NewJersey 1952 07 31.gif. By Bach01. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

UFO means “unidentified flying object.” Because UFOs are unidentified objects, this leaves the door open for all kinds of possibilities. UFOs are usually taken as extraterrestrial spacecraft but they could be an energy or spirit field (or possibly being), like the many orbs that have been observed through camera and the naked eye.

Alleged UFO sightings have been reported throughout history. Since the 1950’s UFOs and aliens have been popularized by the news and entertainment media. Some authors like George Adamski and, more recently, Rael and Whitley Streiber claim to have encountered aliens.

Alien sightings and abduction accounts have increased in the media, especially on sci-fi TV networks and radio shows like Coast to Coast AM.

Also making the news was an apparent U.S. military cover-up of a crashed flying disc and its inhabitants at Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. The Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) quickly modified an earlier announcement about a crashed flying disc, saying later in the same day that the disc was attached to a weather balloon. The Air Force has responded to charges of “controlling public information” by stating that there was “no evidence” of UFO air traffic over Roswell and the case has been officially closed.

Public figures like Dan Akroyd, however, continue to explore the possibility of a government cover-up.

Not everyone sees UFOs through the lens of conspiracy theories. Raelians believe that mankind was created by wise, loving aliens. And some contemporary writers believe that mankind is gradually being acclimatized to the reality of ETs through the media. Conversely, some Christian fundamentalists believe that aliens, and anything associated with them, are demonic.

Others take a middle path, believing that aliens may be benevolent or malevolent. Just as human history is a complicated mix of good and bad, it seems to reason that interstellar realities would be much the same.

Alien Possession Theory (APT) is the idea that some ET’s, embodied or disembodied, try to manipulate individuals through the use of psi.

Some UFO theories are quite bizarre. Hollow Earth theorists, for instance, believe that UFOs originate from the bowels of the planet, where an advanced civilization apparently resides.¹

Adamski's photograph, which is said to be of a...

Adamski’s photograph, which is said to be of a UFO, taken on December 13, 1952. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The depth psychologist Carl Jung (1875–1961) said that the disc shaped UFOs of the 1950s and early 60s could be real but he also viewed them as archetypal images of the self. For Jung, UFOs were a modern mandala. Meanwhile the respected author Jacques Vallée likens UFO lore to fairy tales and mysterious trickster beings.²

Since Vatican Council II (1962-65) was inaugurated by Pope John Paul II, the Catholic Church has endorsed inquiry into the possibility of ETs and UFOs. This makes the Catholic position on UFOs and ETs quite different from that of many Christian fundamentalists.

¹ See related entries in The Encyclopedia of Myths and Legends (London: Headline, 1993) and The Paranormal: An Illustrated Encyclopedia (London: Headline, 1992) by Stuart Gordon.

² Ibid.

Related Posts » George Adamski, Aliens and Extraterrestrials (ETs), “ET’s, UFO’s and the Psychology of Belief,” Foo Fighers, Moses and Monotheism, Possession, Michael Talbot, Neil Young


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Unconscious

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Black’s Medical Dictionary (39th edition) defines the unconscious as “a description of mental activities of which an individual is unaware” (p. 567).

In the West, the idea of the unconscious has an interesting history. It’s found in the ancient Greek literature of Sophocles, with related ideas like hubris, and in Shakespeare and more recent luminaries like James Joyce.

Philosophical debates about its character flourished in the 18th century among thinkers like John Locke and David Hume. In the 20th century, Freud, Pierre Janet, Alfred Adler, Carl Jung and many others presented their unique theories about the unconscious.

Arthur Koestler believes the idea of the unconscious was already known before the actual word was coined. Koestler cites several examples where the notion of the unconscious is implied in the arts and philosophy (e.g. Dante, Kepler and Kant). Koestler also says that consciousness and unconsciousness are not discrete states but exist along a continuum.¹

From Koestler it seems reasonable to suggest that the range and character of this experiential continuum varies among individuals. In other words, some people access different types of thoughts and emotions than others.

Arthur Koestler with Mamaine Paget, Robie Maca...

Arthur Koestler with Mamaine Paget, Robie Macauley and Flannery O’Connor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But we should remember that the unconscious is just a concept. All too often it’s reified. Reification means ideas are assumed to represent some real entity or thing–for instance, the sociological idea of “the state.” Reified concepts may even point to detailed legal entities.²

A common misunderstanding among contemporary writers is to say that Freud sees the unconscious as uniquely personal while his former protege Carl Jung sees it as collective.³ In fact, both theorist recognize personal and collective aspects within their respective theories of the unconscious.

¹ Koestler, Arthur. The Act of Creation. New York: Penguin [Arkana], 1989: 147-177.

² Reification is also a concept. So the question remains as to whether the thing written or talked about actually exists as described.

³ See shadow, archetypes


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Vulcan

Vulcan Defending Red Mountain

Vulcan Defending Red Mountain (Photo credit: curtis palmer)

Vulcan in ancient myth

In earliest Roman mythology, Vulcan is the god of destructive fire, especially volcano fire.

His temple was usually at the outskirts of a city, officiated by a priest (flamen). And his festival, Volcanalia, was celebrated on August 23.

When the Volcanalia also paid homage to the Nymphs and other deities, live fish were thrown into a fire as a sacrificial offering to Vulcan.

In the classical Greece Vulcan became Hephaestus, the master blacksmith. In his giant forge at Mount Olympus he fashioned the armor and shield of Achilles, as well as Cupid‘s arrows and Jupiter‘s thunderbolts.

He was depicted lame and his offspring were often ugly.

Vulcan (Star Trek)

Vulcan (Star Trek) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vulcan in modern myth

In the American TV and film Star Trek franchise, Vulcan is the alien race and home planet to which the ever-popular character, Mr. Spock belongs. Other notable Vulcans include Sarek (Spock’s father), T’Pol (Star Trek: Enterprise) and Tuvok (Star Trek: Voyager).

Originally a savage and barbaric race, Vulcans almost destroyed themselves in their ancient past. They overcame global disaster by repressing all emotion in favor of highly developed logic.

Star Trek Vulcans possess supra-human strength and intellect but are less adept at creative, intuitive problem solving.

Deutsch: Carl Gustav Jung

Carl Gustav Jung (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In keeping with the Swiss psychotherapist Carl Jung, mythic symbols are said to evoke the numinous, spiritual aspects of the unconscious mind. So it seems that Star Trek’s creators chose the mythic name of Vulcan, hoping it would resonate with the archetypal images that Western viewers are familiar with.

In this greater sense, then, Mr. Spock and his people may be taken as a continuation of the original Roman myth.

More recently, “Vulcan” was a popular favorite for the name of one of two new moons discovered around Pluto.¹  Astronomical officials, however, decided on the names Kerberos and Styx.

¹ http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-21588327

Related Posts » Romulans, Star Trek: The Original Series

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