Scientism and ‘the man above’: spare me the separatism

In Ireland, people often refer to ‘God’, flippantly or otherwise, as ‘the man above’. This is emblematic of the common view of a separate, person-like God – a kind of great humanoid in the sky, or a chief executive who can be taken to task for allowing bad things to happen. In my opinion, this is facile and illusory. Worse, the churches reinforce it by insisting on a separate, omnipotent ‘God’ to whose vagaries we are prey.

Recently I compiled an index for a book on influences on Carl Jung’s psychology, which I found inspiring (I won’t give details for the moment as it hasn’t been published yet). As the author sees it, monotheism and atheism are both based on a misconception: the existence/non-existence of a transcendent God (two sides of a worthless coin). In fact divinity is not separate from us – we are a contributing part of it. Divinity inheres in humanity (and in everything).

Mystical religious/philosophical traditions through the ages have embraced and developed this knowledge, but the institutional churches have played it down by way of a power grab, and hence have surrendered any spiritual vitality they might have possessed. Meanwhile reductionist scientism posits the idea of the isolated skull-encased mind, and of consciousness as merely an artefact of the brain. In this view, subjective experience is meaningless, and belief without scientific ‘evidence’ is risible. Nothing can be known except by the action of reason on data. Connection is denied – the doctrine of essential separateness espoused by both ‘factual’ scientism and ‘spiritual’ religion engenders angst and alienation.

In the Jungian/mystical view, (true) belief is experience arising unmediated from the soul, but ‘The ancient conception of the Logos as the mind’s participation in the divine … ceded in modernity to … its reduction to reason in interplay with the senses’ (and their measurable yield).

Jung raises the possibility of uniting the power of scientific reason with the subjective experience of the depths of the human psyche, in a synthesis affirming the truth and relative autonomy of both. The world and our scope as humans are bigger than the science and religion we are offered, and we know this intuitively.

There is more. We are more. Remember?

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4 Comments

Filed under Ireland, Philosophy of life, Psychology, Religion, Science

4 responses to “Scientism and ‘the man above’: spare me the separatism

  1. Shermeen

    Hello Brendan. I see much that I agree with in what you refer to as Jung’s psychology. But of course I am a believer in an Omnipotent God. I wonder to what source Jung attributed the marvel of human psyche, depth of human experience and boundlessness of human spirit/soul?

  2. Hello Shermeen – thanks for this. The ‘marvel of human psyche, depth of human experience and boundlessness of human spirit/soul’ are very much part of the Jungian worldview, which, as I understand it (I am no expert) includes a Godhead (or totality, or All, or Ground, or first principle) that is evolving and in which human consciousness plays a part – people are not passive and powerless, but participants. The psyche is profound and largely unconscious, and keyed in to the Godhead. The divine is in the depths of the psyche, and is part of what we are. This does not mean that it is not real, or is not ‘out there’ – the microcosm reflects the macrocosm.

    The various Gods of the monotheisms are mediated through doctrine and conflicting political/power interests, and don’t represent ‘reality’ as such. For example, the feminine principle – the Goddess – is grossly underrepresented, and the dark side of life is split off and demonized (very explicitly in Christianity). In fact the multiple gods/goddesses of paganism were a better representation of multifaceted psychic reality.

    The point is that God is within as well as above, below and all around. God is not separate. And life does have meaning and purpose.

  3. Shermeen

    Thanks, Brendan. The human psyche is certainly keyed into what you call ‘the Godhead’, no doubt about that. I think you have explained a complex concept very well for someone like me to understand. God has numerous attributes, so I suppose that would be His ‘multifaceted’ quality. People are not passive in this, no, because God still speaks to them. And yes, He is all around. He is closer to man than his jugular.

    Thanks again.

  4. Thank you, Shermeen. I think you have a true sense of religion; certainly there is nothing you can learn from me.

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