1 Corinthians 2:14-16
14 Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. (NRSV) 16 Incredible as it may sound, we who are spiritual have the very thoughts of Christ! (JB Phillips)
[Scripture quotationS from: New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. and J. B. Phillips, “The New Testament in Modern English”, 1962 edition by HarperCollins.)
Rational literalism does us no favors when it comes to understanding matters of religion, spirituality, and faith. The literalism of fundamentalistic theists and evangelistic atheists alike serve as a bottleneck to learning and understanding.
Unless we engage the language of symbolism, metaphor, poetry, story, and myth we will not understand our religious (spiritual) experiences. And, yes, even atheists have spiritual experiences (awe encountering a sunset or holding a newborn baby), though the atheist would likely provide a naturalistical understanding of the experience. And that’s O.K.
Religious experiences arise out of the collective unconscious, drawing upon mythic stories (Jung calls them archetypes*) to help us understand. The truth is, we never fully understand. The best I can do is to own those inner experiences and add them to my mythic story. Richard Rohr writes, “After radical conversion, after you have once fallen through the ego and into the collective unconscious, the whole world starts becoming symbolic.”
We are dependent upon myth as we engage the experiences of the inner self. Walter Wink has suggested that within Christianity “two [mythic] stories survive, like one painting painted over another.” [The Human Being, p. 143] The first layer of the painting (the story underneath) is the myth of the human Yeshua* exploring total immersion into God. The top layer (the story superimposed upon the first) is that of the divine Jesus, Son of God, Savior. Both are myths; but too large a portion of Christianity assumes that the overlaid story is historical and factual. That assumption tends to rob the story’s mythic nature of its power to take root in the inner recesses of human experience. Instead of being transformed inwardly, believers await something coming from the outside to transform them. That something is usually projected (in the popular mind) onto a heavenly after-life existence.
The basic truth is that each of us is free to choose the myth, (the story) by which we will live. Yeshua* was right (Mark 10:25 and its parallels) that when we build up comfort and ease in our lives (symbolically, being rich), it is far more difficult to engage inner truth (go through the eye of the needle) than when we connect our story with the story of the truly Human Being (Son of Man). Symbolically, to live one’s life without the props of religious, political, social, or financial domination* systems is to be poor. Such poverty is the door that opens one to the mythic story that is beneath the overlay of the church’s domination* system.