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Reply To: The Blessing of Spiritual Poverty,” with Mythologist Norland Téllez, Ph.D.”


So many places we could go, so little time (too many balls in the air for me at the moment to devote the time I would like to this discussion).

Bouncing back briefly to my initial post, I do appreciate Jung’s lifelong struggle to come to terms with Christianity – and it was lifelong, starting with his earliest years – not just recalling how much “I hated going to church” in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, but recounting a pivotal daydream on the cusp of adolescence, when he spent days trying to repress a fantasy image of God on his golden throne in heaven dropping a divine turd on the local cathedral below, shattering its roof, and triggering thoughts he was still working out in Aion, “Answer to Job,” and Mysterium Coniunctionis some sixty-odd years later.

I do agree that we are products of our culture, which has been shaped by our myths and our history. Even if we push back against that, reject it, we still have to take it into account, a point James Hillman makes in an interview with Italian psychologist and author Laura Pozzo

L.P.  We are not practicing Christians. . . . 

J.H.  Yes, we are, because we are behaving Christians, we behave Christianity––we suffer in a Christian way, we judge in a Christian way, we regard ourselves in a Christian way. We have to see this, or we remain unconscious, and that means our unconscious is primarily Christianity. Psychotherapy can’t move anything, anybody anywhere, until it sees this Christian unconsciousness and that is why Freud had to attack religion and Jung had to try to move Christianity. ” (Inter Views 78)

But our culture and its institutions are a product of Greek myth and culture as well. Our democracy has its origins in Athens, not Jerusalem – on Mars Hill rather than Golgotha. For generations, our children have learned about Greek myths and the Norse pantheon in school (reinforced by popular culture), rather than Hindu mythology or African tales (though those are finally appearing in education and media as well).

This too is our mytho-history.

Christianity’s core texts were originally written in Greek, drawing on prevailing mythological motifs (for instance, the resonance between the Apostle Paul and the imagery of the Greek mystery religions) . . . but Christianity literalized the myths (in the primary definition of the verb).

As Hillman notes,

“. . unlike Buddhism, say, or even Judaism, Christianism lives myths deliberately, insisting they are not myths, and this has dreadful paranoid consequences. We see it in the ego-self axis: this is a mythical fiction, but it is presented as empirical fact.” (Inter Views 84)

Why do I keep returning to the concept of mytho-history? Well, on the one hand, I believe mytho-history is a concept central to your understanding – and when readers understand what this is and why it’s a key concept, I believe it clears up much of the “obscurantism” you note has been laid at your door. However, it’s likely many who read your current essay might not have read others of yours referencing the same concept, and even fewer may have seen the COHO thread this winter where you discussed this, so it’s worth bringing up again, for I find yours a fresh, complex, and nuanced perspective worth sharing.

At the same time, what intrigues me about the concept of mytho-history is the path it offers believers out of an exclusively literal interpretation of the Judeo-Christian narrative. What I wonder is at work here – what is this image intending to convey? I mentioned in my previous post some relatively conservative theologians, like William Lane Craig, who are now open to mythologizing some aspects of Christian belief. Will this continue,  with mytho-history perhaps growing in acceptance, or at least being able to co-exist alongside a more fundamentalist theology – or will it fade away? No idea – but I do believe this embrace of mythologization is a plus (mythologizing going on all the time, in all of us and each of us and the collective culture as well, under the surface anyway).

Jung certainly mythologized the Christian message. I do love his work, but one of the reasons I embrace Hillman is that, like him, I see Jung’s idea of the Self as sharing a more-or-less monotheistic perspective with Christianity. The idea of a unitary Self is a useful tool, but that does not strike me as the goal of psyche;I embrace the plurality of the self, and the many Gods, not just One (not that I exclude the one who thinks He – or They – is the only One).

But that’s just my perspective. I am loving hearing your thoughts, and learning from you – which is the idea behind “conversations of a higher order” – we all have much to teach and learn from each other.