Joseph Campbell says religious literalism sets Satan in the seat of God

In this very straight-forward lecture by Joseph Campbell, he explains the Eastern (Hindu, Buddhist) spiritual perception of “mythic identification” (seeing yourself, the world, and all beings as divine) in comparison to the Western (Jewish, Christian, Muslim) spiritual perception of “mythic dissociation” (seeing the divine as separate from yourself, life, and the world). He also points out that the Western religions each have a unique “fetish” as their focal point…

tree of life

Gods and Buddhas in the Orient are not final terms — like Yahweh, the Trinity, or Allah, in the West — but point beyond themselves to that ineffable being, consciousness, and rapture that is the All in all of us. And in their worship, the ultimate aim is to effect in the devotee a psychological transfiguration through a shift of his plane of vision from the passing to the enduring, through which he may come finally to realize in experience (not simply as an article of faith) that he is identical with that before which he bows. Their mythologies and associated rites, philosophies, sciences, and arts, are addressed, in the end, not to the honor of any god “out there” but to the recognition of divinity within.

But now, in irreconcilable contrast to this ancient, practically universal mode of experience of the world’s and one’s own dimension of divinity, which I have termed “mythic identification,” there is the order of beliefs derived from the biblical tradition, where Yahweh, as we know (arriving very late on the scene), cursed the serpent of the Garden, and with it the whole earth, which he seems to have thought he had created. Here God created the World and the two are not the same: Creator and Creature, ontologically distinct, and not to be identified with each other in any way.

In contrast to the Oriental (Buddhist and Vedantic) ways of interpreting the symbolism of the guarded gate and passage to the Tree of Life — as referring, namely, to an inward, psychological, barrier and crisis of transcendence — the authorized Christian reading has been of an actual, concrete, historic event of atonement with an angry god, who for centuries had withheld his boon of paradise from mankind, until strangely reconciled by this curious self-giving of his only son to a criminal’s death on the Cross. The fact of the crucifixion was read as the central fact of all history, and along with it certain other associated “facts” were accepted, such as in other mythological traditions would be interpreted psychologically (or, as theologians say, “spiritually”) as symbols; such as (1) the Virgin Birth, (2) the Resurrection, (3) the Ascension, (4) the existence of a heaven to which a physical body might ascend, and, of course, (5) the Fall in the garden of Eden, c. 4004 B.C., from the guilt of which the Crucifixion has redeemed us.

God in this system is a kind of fact somewhere, an actual personality to whom prayers can be addressed with expectation of a result. He is apart from and different from the world: in no sense identical with it, but related, as cause to effect. I call this kind of religious thinking “mythic dissociation,” The sense of an experience of the sacred is dissociated from life, from nature, from the world, and transferred or projected somewhere else — an imagined somewhere else — while man, mere man, is accursed.

The sacred is now not secular, of this world of mere dead dust, but canonical, supernaturally revealed and authoritatively preserved; that is to say: God, from “out there,” has condescended graciously to accord special revelations: (1) to the Hebrews, historically, on Sinai, via Moses; (2) to mankind, historically, via Jesus; but then also, apparently, (3) to mankind, once again, historically, in a cave near Mecca, via Mohammad. All, it will be noted, Semites! No other revelations of this desert god are admitted to exist, and Extra ecclesiam nulla salus (“outside the church there is no salvation”).

To the formula of mythic dissociation, there must now be added that of “social identification”: identification with Israel, with the Church as the Living Body of Christ, or with the Sunna of Islam — each body over-interpreted by its membership as the one and only holy thing in this world. And the focal center and source of all this holiness is concentrated in each case in a completely unique and special fetish — not a symbol, but a fetish: (1) the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple; (2) the Torah in the Synagogue; (3) the Bible of the Reformation; (5) the Koran, as well as (6) the Ka’aba, of Islam.

In India and the Far East such revered supports of the religious life would be known, finally, to point beyond themselves and their anthropomorphic god: beyond names, forms and all scriptural personification, to that immanent transcendent mystery of being which defies though, feeling, and figuration. For, whereas the attitide of focused piety is there recognized as appropriate for those not yet able to live in the realization of their own identity with “That” (tat tvam asi, “thou art that”), for anyone ready for an actual religious experience of his own, such canonized props are impediments. “Where is Self-knowledge for him whose knowledge depends on the object?” we read in a Vedantic text. “The wise do not see a this and a that, but the Self (atman) Immutable.” “You have your own treasure house,” said the eighth-century Chinese safe Ma-tsu; “why do you search outside?”

For the lover of that jealous god in the Bible, there is no allowance for the following of one’s own light: the leadership and guidance of one’s own expanding, deepening, enriched experience of the nature of the world and oneself. All life, all thought, all meditation, is to be governed by the authority of the shepherds of the group [the Church]; and there can be no doubt, from what we know of the history of this tradition, that this authority was imposed and maintained by force.

But any religious symbol, so interpreted that it refers not to a thought-transcending mystery but to a thought-enveloping social order, misappropriates to the lower principle the values of the higher and so (to use a theological turn of phrase) sets Satan in the seat of God.

[from Flight of the Wild Gander: Explorations in the Mythological Dimension: Select Essays, 1944-1968 by Joseph Campbell]

banished from paradise
banished from paradise

Karen Armstrong lectures and interviews

Here are 14 wonderful, in-depth talks, lectures and interviews featuring brilliant religious scholar Karen Armstrong. Watch below and save for your archive.

“Karen Armstrong is considered one of the world’s most thought-provoking and original public thinkers on the role of religion in historical and contemporary life. Her poignant writing and captivating talks have sparked worldwide debate and respectful dialogue.”

ka-case ka-battle ka-history

2004-03 [mp4]
Karen Armstrong hopes for compassion in religion

2008-02 [mp4]
Karen Armstrong’s TED Prize Talk – Charter for Compassion

2009-09-27 [mp4]
Vancouver Peace Summit – Karen’s Charter for Compassion

2010-04-27 [mp4]
Karen Armstrong at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine

2010-06-17 [mp4]
An Evening with Karen Armstrong at UC Santa Barbara

2011-03-10 [mp4]
Karen Armstrong on InnerVIEWS with Ernie Manouse

2011-03-13 [mp4]
Karen Armstrong CIRS Distinguished Lecture

2011-04-28 [mp4]
Compassion: Nice idea or Urgent Global Imperative

2011-08-06 [mp4]
One on One with Karen Armstrong

2012-03-20 [mp4]
Karen Armstrong in Vancouver – Jack P. Blaney Award

2012-03-22 [mp4]
Karen Armstrong in Vancouver – What is Religion

2012-03-27 [mp4]
Karen Armstrong in Vancouver – Compassion in Action

2012-04-23 [mp4]
Karen Armstrong – Big Think interview

2012-10-16 [mp4]
Karen Armstrong at St. Paul’s Cathedral

The Story of God

The Story of God is another excellent scholarly documentary that explores the origins of religion. Professor Robert Winston made the film in 2005 to be broadcast in three parts on TV soon after the release of his book, The Story of God.

from wikipedia:

Part 1: “Life, the Universe and Everything” – focuses on the origins of ancient animistic beliefs and the eastern religions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism.

Part 2: “No God but God” – focuses on the three great monotheistic Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Part 3: “God of the Gaps” – considers how the idea of God has been challenged by modern ideas, especially scientific theories and discoveries.

(This is no longer available on youtube, so save the mp4 version for your archive.)

Love your neighbor as your self

Christianity: “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Matthew 7:12

Islam: “None of you truly believes, until he desires for his brother what he desires for himself.” – Prophet, Muhammad

Hinduism: “Do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.” – Mahabharata 5:1517

Buddhism: “Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” – Udana-Vargas 5.18

Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Torah. All the rest is commentary.” – Talmud, Shabbat 21a

Deepak Chopra talks about Muhammad

Deepak Chopra’s latest book is a novel about the life of Muhammad. This is the third book in his “Story of Enlightenment” series (the first two were about Buddha and Jesus). Here are two new interviews (from Q TV and New Realities) with Deepak about Muhammad.




Alan Watts says we are in chaos!

Now reading a wonderful book — Myth & Religion by Alan Watts. In the opening quote, he says that the current Western religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) do not help people realize that we are all God, and we are all one God, connected to everything that exists. What an overlook! This book is good stuff.

“Western civilization is in a state of chaos. It has lost effective knowledge of man’s true nature and destiny. Neither philosophy nor religion as they are known today do much to give man the consciousness that the deepest center or ‘ground’ of his being is to be found in that eternal reality which is in the West called God.”
– Alan Watts