The Mutation of European Consciousness and Spirituality: From the Mythical to the Modern

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From the early 1970s, Willy Obrist worked on the neglected theory of C.G. Jung's depth psychology, incorporating it into modern knowledge about living organisms, and reflecting on the consequences of Jung's discovery for our worldview and religion. What is new about the present study is that Obrist approaches the religious metamorphosis from the perspective of the evolution of consciousness itself.The result of his exploration made the author realize that the development of European consciousness was not just an accidental historical process but a true evolutionary step: a "mega mutation" of consciousness. In this process, the basic parameter of the mythical understanding of our world was overcome and replaced by a completely new worldview which - after the discovery of the unconsious by Freud and Jung - was founded on scientific results empirically proved. This enables humanity to transcend the dilemma between knowledge and faith and to find a new understanding of both matter and mind that is adequate to today's knowledge of nature. From this point of view, a radically new access to spirituality and ethics becomes possible.

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CHAPTER ONE Initial situation

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CHAPTER TITLE

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CHAPTER ONE

Initial situation

he term “theory of evolution” is used for two different processes: one, to describe the empirically proved fact that a constant increase of the complexity of spatio–temporal systems has taken place, and two, to describe the models which try to explain the reasons for this evolution.

At the beginning, I shall deal with the first meaning of evolution, which means a description of how this process has developed. The question of what might have caused the evolution will be answered at the end in the context of the discussion of the new conception of the pair of terms, matter–mind. Then it will become obvious that the materialistic theory of evolution as promoted by Darwin and his pupils has been supplanted by the second step of the mutation. This new view is by no means a regression into the archaic creationism of the kind that is still taught in some parts of the USA today.

A discussion of the evolution of human mind had taken place many years before Darwin proved the evolution of animal beings. The process concerning the human mind was still called cultural evolution, though. Hence, it was quite understandable that mainly scholars of human sciences or of philosophy presented models about cultural development and evolution. These theories were rejected vehemently

 

Chapter One: Initial Situation

ePub

The term “theory of evolution” is used for two different processes: one, to describe the empirically proved fact that a constant increase of the complexity of spatio–temporal systems has taken place, and two, to describe the models which try to explain the reasons for this evolution.

At the beginning, I shall deal with the first meaning of evolution, which means a description of how this process has developed. The question of what might have caused the evolution will be answered at the end in the context of the discussion of the new conception of the pair of terms, matter–mind. Then it will become obvious that the materialistic theory of evolution as promoted by Darwin and his pupils has been supplanted by the second step of the mutation. This new view is by no means a regression into the archaic creationism of the kind that is still taught in some parts of the USA today.

A discussion of the evolution of human mind had taken place many years before Darwin proved the evolution of animal beings. The process concerning the human mind was still called cultural evolution, though. Hence, it was quite understandable that mainly scholars of human sciences or of philosophy presented models about cultural development and evolution. These theories were rejected vehemently by people who were intensely annoyed at the idea of cultural evolution. Theologians, especially, attacked this view of human history because they seemed to realise subconsciously that, from this new point of view, the branch they were sitting on would be sawn off.

 

CHAPTER TWO The first step in the mutation of consciousness

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CHAPTER TWO

The first step in the mutation of consciousness

ince the Renaissance, intellectually open-minded people have become more and more interested in this world here and now.

Efforts to explore nature and history developed into a completely new type of science which was categorically different from theology. While theology understood itself as a hermeneutic science that interpreted something that had been “revealed”, the new type of science explored nature and culture empirically.

S

The preparatory work of scholasticism

It was about 300 years before the scholarly equipment for empirical exploration was adequately developed, but this development had already started—more or less unnoticed—before the Renaissance, when the scholastic theologians and philosophers had already done significant preparatory work, but still with a view directed towards heaven. Their work contained three important studies: the practice of logical thinking, the accomplishment of the “dispute of universalia”, and the attempt—which, however, failed—to integrate Aristotle’s nature study into theology. With these three projects, the scholastic

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Chapter Two: The First Step in the Mutation of Consciousness

ePub

Since the Renaissance, intellectually open-minded people have become more and more interested in this world here and now. Efforts to explore nature and history developed into a completely new type of science which was categorically different from theology. While theology understood itself as a hermeneutic science that interpreted something that had been “revealed”, the new type of science explored nature and culture empirically.

The preparatory work of scholasticism

It was about 300 years before the scholarly equipment for empirical exploration was adequately developed, but this development had already started—more or less unnoticed—before the Renaissance, when the scholastic theologians and philosophers had already done significant preparatory work, but still with a view directed towards heaven. Their work contained three important studies: the practice of logical thinking, the accomplishment of the “dispute of universalia”, and the attempt—which, however, failed—to integrate Aristotle's nature study into theology. With these three projects, the scholastic faction created the absolutely necessary condition for the future development of scholarly equipment, which enabled natural scientists to make this new, empirical type of science so extraordinarily successful.

 

CHAPTER THREE The second step in the mutation of consciousness

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CHAPTER THREE

The second step in the mutation of consciousness

Transcending the dilemma of knowledge and faith in two branches of research t the beginning of the twentieth century, the dilemma between knowledge and faith was transcended, even though only de facto. This meant that the decisive second step of the mutation of consciousness had been initiated. Transcending had, de facto, been caused by empirically founded discoveries, as I said before. These discoveries had been achieved in two separate branches of research independently of each other: first, in the branch that has led to today’s group of the sciences of cognition, and second, in the branch of the traditional natural sciences. First, the breakthrough occurred in the branch of the cognitive strand when the unconscious was empirically proved. The main effect of this proof was a new view of man. Later, a new view of the world emerged through new discoveries in physics and biology. However, these processes only happened de facto, for the time being, and the fact that materialism had been overcome through these new discoveries would be realised only later.

 

CHAPTER FOUR The impact on our conception of God

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CHAPTER FOUR

The impact on our conception of God

eligious sciences distinguish between gods as creators and as deities close to man. On a primitive level, all great deities embodied both divine qualities. The slow but steady process of the moving apart of these two conceptions can be observed historically in the Ancient Egyptian Empire in the so-called Shabaka inscription of the theological scriptures of Memphis. In that early phase of the Egyptian Empire—after 3000 BC—“the pushing up of heaven” was realised to such an extent that the creator of the world—Ptati the Very

Great—was considered to be transcendent. That meant that the theologians were faced with the problem of explaining to the people how this god, who was so far away, transcending everything that could be comprehended by man, could hear people’s prayers and smell the smoke of their offerings.

The problem was solved by the paradox of the essentially equal divine son, whose essence is the same as the one of his father, and who is, at the same time, close to the people. Then the Egyptians “recognised” God’s son in the sun as a solar being. About 2000 years later, the father–son theologem was integrated into the Christian idea of

 

Chapter Three: The Second Step in the Mutation of Consciousness

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Transcending the dilemma of knowledge and faith in two branches of research

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the dilemma between knowledge and faith was transcended, even though only de facto. This meant that the decisive second step of the mutation of consciousness had been initiated. Transcending had, de facto, been caused by empirically founded discoveries, as I said before. These discoveries had been achieved in two separate branches of research independently of each other: first, in the branch that has led to today's group of the sciences of cognition, and second, in the branch of the traditional natural sciences. First, the breakthrough occurred in the branch of the cognitive strand when the unconscious was empirically proved. The main effect of this proof was a new view of man. Later, a new view of the world emerged through new discoveries in physics and biology. However, these processes only happened de facto, for the time being, and the fact that materialism had been overcome through these new discoveries would be realised only later.

 

Chapter Four: The Impact on Our Conception of God

ePub

Religious sciences distinguish between gods as creators and as deities close to man. On a primitive level, all great deities embodied both divine qualities. The slow but steady process of the moving apart of these two conceptions can be observed historically in the Ancient Egyptian Empire in the so-called Shabaka inscription of the theological scriptures of Memphis. In that early phase of the Egyptian Empire—after 3000 BC—“the pushing up of heaven” was realised to such an extent that the creator of the world—Ptati the Very Great—was considered to be transcendent. That meant that the theologians were faced with the problem of explaining to the people how this god, who was so far away, transcending everything that could be comprehended by man, could hear people's prayers and smell the smoke of their offerings.

The problem was solved by the paradox of the essentially equal divine son, whose essence is the same as the one of his father, and who is, at the same time, close to the people. Then the Egyptians “recognised” God's son in the sun as a solar being. About 2000 years later, the father–son theologem was integrated into the Christian idea of God as Trinity.

 

CHAPTER FIVE New spirituality and ethics

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CHAPTER FIVE

New spirituality and ethics

pirituality” is a very vague term. If I use it here, I intend to describe the attitude that I called “religiousness” in the chapter about individuation. In Christian tradition, one usually used the term “faith” (Latin: fides) instead of religiousness, but this term must not be used uncritically.

It must be considered that theology has distinguished between

“faith in something/someone” and “certainty of faith”: in technical terms, between: fides quae creditur and fides qua creditor—faith in something, some truth that is believed in on the one hand, and the faith through which one believes, the act of believing, on the other hand.

Uncritical ideas of supernatural beings and naïve trust in Christian doctrines of salvation, for example, have been overcome by the mutation of consciousness. It has been replaced by empirically founded knowledge about the forces of the human psyche and their impact on the ego.

The importance of the certainty of faith, the act of believing, however, has not been questioned by this new consciousness. Just the opposite, it has been recognised as absolutely necessary for psychic maturation. So, in processes of individuation, for example, one can again and again observe how this process suddenly gets started and

 

Chapter Five: New Spirituality and Ethics

ePub

“Spirituality” is a very vague term. If I use it here, I intend to describe the attitude that I called “religiousness” in the chapter about individuation. In Christian tradition, one usually used the term “faith” (Latin: fides) instead of religiousness, but this term must not be used uncritically.

It must be considered that theology has distinguished between “faith in something/someone” and “certainty of faith”: in technical terms, between: fides quae creditur and fides qua creditor—faith in something, some truth that is believed in on the one hand, and the faith through which one believes, the act of believing, on the other hand. Uncritical ideas of supernatural beings and naïve trust in Christian doctrines of salvation, for example, have been overcome by the mutation of consciousness. It has been replaced by empirically founded knowledge about the forces of the human psyche and their impact on the ego.

The importance of the certainty of faith, the act of believing, however, has not been questioned by this new consciousness. Just the opposite, it has been recognised as absolutely necessary for psychic maturation. So, in processes of individuation, for example, one can again and again observe how this process suddenly gets started and turns to becoming more than just theorising ideas: exactly the moment when the analysand feels the certainty that he can trust the hints or the advice coming from the unconscious, and that one should follow the instructions of the self, even if these instructions seem to be diametrically opposed to one's conscious intentions.

 

CHAPTER SIX At the threshold of a fundamentally new age

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CHAPTER SIX

At the threshold of a fundamentally new age

n the whole, there was a linear development from the Stone

Age until the end of the Middle Ages. A long row of small evolutionary steps led to increasingly differentiated worldviews, but in all of them the myth was seen concretely. Then, however, there was a radical cut made to this line of development when the concrete idea of the myth was abandoned, and that led to the internalisation of the metaphysical world.

O

The impact of the first step of the mutation of consciousness

First, there was the decline of Christian–Occidental culture. Characteristic elements of this culture were the omnipresent influence of the

Christian churches on private and public life, the Christian–humanistic education system, with its emphasis on ancient culture and occidental classic culture, and the idea of the divine right of the ruler granted by God that legitimised the governmental structure of the state and the system of the nobility.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN Autobiographical notes concerning my work

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CHAPTER SEVEN

Autobiographical notes concerning my work

t might very well be that the reader of this short book, which is only a brief summary of my complete work, is interested in the way that my work has developed. The following hints might help to understand my background and my motivation better.

Even if I have often been told that, through my books, I broke something like the sound barrier, I must admit there was very little conscious planning on my side. Rather, I have had the impression that the “self” has guided me clearly so that I could do the work which life seems to have meant me to do.

It seems to me that an important step towards my later development was taken at senior high school, when a teacher of mine, whom

I held in high esteem, advised me to enter the religious order of the

Jesuits in order to gain access to excellent conditions for a wide education and better training than could be obtained elsewhere. It was felt that would suit my deep and passionate interest in human culture and my social questioning. When I applied to enter the order of the Jesuits,

 

Chapter Six: At the Threshold of a Fundamentally New Age

ePub

On the whole, there was a linear development from the Stone Age until the end of the Middle Ages. A long row of small evolutionary steps led to increasingly differentiated worldviews, but in all of them the myth was seen concretely. Then, however, there was a radical cut made to this line of development when the concrete idea of the myth was abandoned, and that led to the internalisation of the metaphysical world.

The impact of the first step of the mutation of consciousness

First, there was the decline of Christian–Occidental culture. Characteristic elements of this culture were the omnipresent influence of the Christian churches on private and public life, the Christian–humanistic education system, with its emphasis on ancient culture and occidental classic culture, and the idea of the divine right of the ruler granted by God that legitimised the governmental structure of the state and the system of the nobility.

In the twentieth century, the rule of the state by divine right as well as the religiously justified power of the nobility was replaced by democracy, which means a state based on the sovereignty of the people. Together with that political development, a colourful civil society emerged outside of the sphere of influence of the churches, less and less shaped by Christianity. In addition, the humanistic concept of education was replaced by the scientific point of view of natural sciences, technology, and economics.

 

Chapter Seven: Autobiographical Notes Concerning My Work

ePub

It might very well be that the reader of this short book, which is only a brief summary of my complete work, is interested in the way that my work has developed. The following hints might help to understand my background and my motivation better.

Even if I have often been told that, through my books, I broke something like the sound barrier, I must admit there was very little conscious planning on my side. Rather, I have had the impression that the “self” has guided me clearly so that I could do the work which life seems to have meant me to do.

It seems to me that an important step towards my later development was taken at senior high school, when a teacher of mine, whom I held in high esteem, advised me to enter the religious order of the Jesuits in order to gain access to excellent conditions for a wide education and better training than could be obtained elsewhere. It was felt that would suit my deep and passionate interest in human culture and my social questioning. When I applied to enter the order of the Jesuits, I was asked what my aim in life was, and I answered that I would like to write about the deep-seated reasons for the mental and spiritual crises of the present age. The Provincial, the head of the Jesuits in Switzerland, answered that quite a few people had tried to do so, but in vain. Nevertheless, if I felt this to be my task, the order would offer me the chance to become well trained to tackle it.

 

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