THE WAY OF THE HERO

Personal Development in the Reflection of Biblical Pictures

By Heribert Fischedick

[The following sections are translated from the German in “Der Weg des Helden”, 1992, Kosel Verlag, Munich. Heribert Fischedick, b. 1950, is a theologian and psychotherapist. The depth psychology interpretation of biblical texts for our daily life is important to him. In the “Way of the Hero,” basic models for every life, e.g. the abandoned, wanderer, warrior, martyr and magician are presented. Myths, fairy-tales and stories of the Bible give us maps for our own journey. From this perspective we can understand our life as a process, an advancing development and unfolding of our personality – in grappling with our own biography, influential persons, history and the cosmic order supporting us.]


THE WAY OF THE HERO by Heribert Fischedick, 1992, Kosel-Verlag Munich

Translated by Marc Batko

FOREWORD

From Max Weber comes the saying: science is “the demystification of the world.” Increased enlightenment and the experience of a loss are connected with that demystification. The number of people grows who seek something that touches and addresses them in their depths and gives meaning to their life without renouncing on the use of reason. To go behind the order of the total cosmic and human reality and grasp the meaning of existence in this context is a primal human longing. We all form our life according to a script that results from our perception of the world. The meaning of our own existence depends on whether we can develop forms of life and relations in which we are authentically ourselves and experience ourselves as inwardly rich and powerful.

The old myths that excite new interest today are stories that help us discover meaning in our own life. In their pictures, they speak of the inevitable themes and tasks of life and the possibilities of their mastery. For many years, I have worked with biblical myths in personal experience groups and seminars on personality development and am always surprised and stirred by their developing power and dynamic. Biblical myths are full of deep life experience and their pictures offer a wisdom that has nothing to do with the rigid complex of themes of faith and conduct characterizing our church world of faith. Rather they are stories of commissioning and transformation full of creative power that speak of our calling to abundant life, awaken delight in the journey and contain orientation assistance for the transforming way of personal development – the way of the hero.

On this background, this book outlines the lifelong journey of personal development by interpreting the archetypes of the hero’s way.

Even if these archetypes are presented in the masculine, they describe developmental tasks that are equally true for women and men. Along with gender-specific distinctions in dealing with these tasks, there is an essential commonality in the calling. In individual therapies and personal experience seminars, I have encountered many more “heroines,” women who were open and ready to discover their calling and set out on the transforming way of adventure and testing. With this book, I want to encourage both genders to be moved in the depths of their person, take the way of a healthy growth in personal life and not be closed to transcendent experiences. The more open we are for these deep pictures and their wisdom, the more we will grow and change the world and ourselves.


1.

STORIES FOR LIFE

In the middle of the 1970s, a book of the American child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim appeared with the title “Children Need Fairy Tales.” (1976) This was a time when fairy tales were not very popular because they were seen only as expressions of a repressive morality frightening children and adjusting them to a middle-class order. Instead enlightenment was emphasized.

The student movement at the end of the 1960s wanted to expel the “stench of 1000 years” and open universities for the modern world. False authorities and empty traditions were unmasked. A new degree of certainty and orientation was sought in empiricism, scientific research and experimental testing. Whatever did not correspond to the criteria of experimental empiricism was not real. One wanted children to be enlightened from the beginning about the real world beyond the feeling of being deceived and find a realm of freedom through this newly awakened critical consciousness. From early on, they should be able to see facts directly and become familiar with the real world and form it according to their needs through political engagement. “Smash what smashes you” was the slogan. The old folk tales did not satisfy these claims. Children’s books from that time were pedagogical, enlightening and instructive. They arose out of rational reflections, were directed to the reason and sought with their critical understanding to form rational persons who only trusted what they saw with their eyes, not unlike the biblical Doubter Thomas. In this way, they could understand in the truest sense of the word.

In contrast, Bettelheim battled for folk tales. As a Freudian psychoanalyst, he was convinced that the unconscious of a person has fundamental significance for his or her experience and organization of life. Comparable to dreams, he saw in folk tales coded descriptions of complex experiential processes that immediately affect the unconscious of children and offer “enlightenment” about life, its problems and their mastery in a more profound way than fairy tales and children’s stories. What is presented in fairy tales as an outward event corresponds in truth to the unconscious inner reality of the child.

The child could find assistance, stimulation, comfort and encouragement by identifying with the figures and events of fairy tales and adjusting to the themes and conflicts of life and the feelings bound with them. “For a story to captivate a child, it must entertain and arouse his or her curiosity. To enrich life, it must stimulate his or her imagination and help in developing intelligence and clarifying emotions. The story must be coordinated to his or her fears and longings, grapple with problems and offer solutions for these problems. In short, it must refer to all aspects of personality. Children’s distresses must not be minimized but taken seriously in their gravity. The child’s trust in him- or herself and his or her future must be promoted.” So Bettelheim wrote in another place. With the help of depth psychology methods of dream interpretation, he showed that popular fairy tales largely fulfill these prerequisites. They are stories in which life is depicted in compact symbolic form. These stories about life and for life are stories that can be converted in one’s life. Bettelheim’s plea was the beginning of an enormous body of literature on depth psychology interpretation of fairy tales.


A. THE LOSS OF THE CENTER

The fact that this literature appeals to many people points to the fact that adults also need stories like fairy tales. Our adult world is undeniably a world of the mind. “As the only living beings who develop a (self-) consciousness, we humans have concentrated mental perception more and more on the conscious. In the scientific civilization, this development has even been pushed to an extreme. What can be seen and identified through rational conclusions by scientific experiment is regarded as the only real development.” (Maria Kassel, The Eye in the Belly. Depth-Psychology Spirituality, 1986)

Gradually we see that “the demystification of the world” (Max Weber) through science is both a gain in enlightenment and consciousness and a loss. The loss is in immediate emotional solidarity to the world. In the scientific consciousness, everything ultimately falls into the distance and is objectified into a thing, an opposite number and a non-person. The scientific view of the world rigorously separates the observer and the observed. While for Indians for example the whole world could be a You to which he felt united, the western person experiences himself atomized and isolated today, separated from nature, separated from other persons and separated from him.

The distanced status of an observer constitutes our life reality. We have largely lost the ability to react to numinous symbols and ideas. The stones, plants and animals no longer speak to us. Natural phenomena have lost their symbolic content. They are simply without any more significance as the natural sciences explain them. When we describe something as “significant,” this is only because it is extraordinary, first-rate or demands respect. We no longer experience ourselves as part of a world in which everything is significant in the sense that it has a deeper importance and message to ourselves.

The demystification of the world also represents a loss in another regard. The one-sided reliance on the powers of intelligence led to the loss of the inner world. I often regret that our two daughters receive only an “objective” enlightenment about the world in school while their senses are no longer trained to see the “grace” of all phenomena. As elementary school students, they can explain the biochemical causes and effe4cts of the dying of the forest but no longer hear the echo evoked in their souls by the forest. They seldom experience fantasies about a mysterious world but “know” all this does not exist “in reality.” As parents, we feel challenged and often overstrained in preserving openness for our own inner worlds and for pictures against the enormous bombardment of outward impressions and rational explanations. It seems as though the step into the adult world requires abandonment of the soft cuddly toys of childhood and renunciation on the inner world of pictures and emotions to focus completely on the objectivized world outside us.

Most people forget this soul-language through the rational “fall of sin” in puberty. It is felt to be embarrassing and reminiscent of the state of a weak childish naïve I- consciousness. Since adults are not usually occupied with soul-language, it is forgotten like every language not used any more. (Maria Kassel) In this way, the power of intuitive trust in one’s feelings atrophies. A distance to one’s experiences occurs. I am no longer what I experience but am simply an observer of the outer and inner world.

In this double loss, I see an impoverishment felt as inner poverty by more and more people. The great American myth researcher Joseph Campbell said: “One of our problems nowadays is that we are not familiar with the literature of the spirit. We are interested in the news of the day and the problems of the hour. Earlier the universities were once hermetically screened spheres in which the daily news did not get in the way of attention on the inner life and the glorious heritage of humanity in our great tradition – Plato, Confucius, Buddha, Goethe and others who spoke of eternal values and the inward power of our life.” (Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myths, 1989) This is not a romantic transfiguration of the past that locks science again in an ivory tower. Rather Campbell stresses that the modern development of a passionate attention to the world outside goes along with simultaneous avoidance of inner concentration. This extra-version has in fact led to the loss of the center, the real loss in which we suffer.

These developments cannot be cancelled. They are the starting points of further processes that can be corrected. Integration seeks the middle through the reconciliation of the one-sided world of rational consciousness with the world of pictures. Regression or retrogression to an early stage of development and consciousness is not envisioned. More and more people feel this loss and develop a deep longing for the middle. However they lack stimulation and support that could show ways and given them courage. To awaken the longing for the middle and joyfully set out on the search, we need a special language, the language of poetry. The scientific language of information and directions for use and conduct cannot satisfy this longing, only the language filled with archetypes.

For the sake of our existence in the world, the mastery of our life and the search for meaning, we need a language that can transport and release feelings. A novel, a film or a play can captivate us, touch us more deeply and activate more lasting processes in us than moral viewpoints or scientific information. Their pictures reach a plane in the person that cannot be encountered through the intellect, a plane on which something “concerns him unconditionally.” Therefore the religions of all peoples have developed myths, visual stories of gods, heroes and adventurers that condense their life experiences, pass them on from generation to generation and make them available to individuals. They are also stories for life that give information about life and can be converted in personal life.

The more fundamental is their theme, the more universal is the significance of a myth. The same pictures address everyone. Models of human existence fill world literature. “In the development of an appreciation for myth and mythology, one must understand that a person has pictures in himself, deeply ingrained conceptions that he experiences as belonging to him. A correspondence between the picture and the interior of the human being arises.” (Hermann Weidelener) These stories touch us in a unique way and move us in a salutary restlessness as the fairy tale hero receives information one day, news of a captured princess in a distant country and cannot find rest any more until he risks his life to seek and rescue this princess.

Familiar mythological stories and pictures are offered to view life situations from their perspective. They present a kind of pattern for interpreting the latest developments and classifying them in their significance. This was clear to me in therapeutic work with stories from the biblical exodus narrative. When I experienced the resistance of a patient in a therapy and heard complaints and reproaches (“Why did I begin all this? It isn’t much better for me; I have no joy any more, leave me alone”), I thought: My position is like Moses in the wilderness. If he leads the people to freedom, he will be attacked. Then I read this passage to the female patient:

“They set out from Elim and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt when we sat by the fleshpots and ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
Exodus 16, 1-3

For both of us, this story was a better key for understanding the present than theoretical information about resistance. Even more, the story brought on a series of dreams and revealed its own dynamic and effect that helped the patients. In the course of therapies, I often referred to correspondences to stations of the exodus narrative. I described these experiences in detail elsewhere. (Heribert Fischedick, Exodus and Learning Life. Faith and Personal Development, 1987)

For me, this was the beginning of a new understanding of myths including biblical myths. Since then, I see myths as reflections of possibilities in each of us. Myths include stories of our eternal search for meaning and truth, keys to our deeper possibilities of development. By immersing ourselves in their pictures, we bring back their powers in our life. The ancient Greeks saw a therapeutic function in the theater and in the performance of myths, a cleansing of the mind through execution on the stage. It is something different when we hear theoretically that our life can succeed when we adjust to its tasks and challenges or when we can carry out the adventurous way of the hero, his wrestling and failures, his growth and development, his restlessness and homelessness and his arrival in mythological stories and experience correspondences on a partly unconscious plane. Myths bring one’s own life into harmony with the wisdom of nature and the wisdom of ourselves. “Plato recognized what helps the human formation of personality more correctly than many of our contemporaries who only want to show their children `real’ persons and everyday events. He knew that intellectual experiences contribute to true human existence and recommend to future citizens of his ideal state beginning their literary education with the narration of myths and not with mere facts or so-called rational theories. Even Aristotle, the master of pure reason, said: “The friend of wisdom is also the friend of myth.”


MYTHS AND PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

The myth researcher Joseph Campbell was convinced that myths fulfill a mystical and pedagogical function. Firstly, myths impart the experience that the whole world, oneself and life are miracles and awaken awe for this mystery. Secondly, they show how one can lead a human life under all circumstances. Both functions correspond to our deficits. Given a nearly colonialist way of appropriating and subjugating the world, myths and mythological consciousness could mediate a new respect for what surrounds and encounters us. Given a coldness that often approaches the experience of meaninglessness, they can also engender a new respect for oneself and what is done is one’s life and in the lives of others.

“One learns how people are bound together as brothers and sisters since these pictures address everyone. One discovers unity with all things.” (Hermann Weidelener) Finally, with these pictures myths are joined with our central desire to be happy. Myths are essentially honest. No myth says one can live without suffering. Rather myths tell us how to deal, understand and utilize suffering. They know and do not hide that a death and a resurrection are necessary to grow out of mental slavery or incapacity to the courage of personal responsibility. Rebirth, transformation to a new way of being and development to personal existence is their real intent and desire.

Thus the theme of all myths is individuation, development of the individual from dependence to independence. Wherever one lives and at whatever time, everyone passes through the same stages: childhood, sexual maturity, change from dependence to responsibility and from solitary existence to partnership, decay of the body, loss of powers and finally death. The myths of people are basic themes of life grasped in pictures that give symbolic information how a person can find himself and what hinders him from being himself.

Myths come from the same source as dreams. A myth is a public dream while a dream is a private myth. In the dream, current events are connected every night with experiences of individual biographies and converted in symbolic pictures. In the myth, collective experiences, the experiences of large human groups with central themes of life, are described and developed into powerful symbolic stories. Depth psychologists see the symbolization capacity as the decisive possibility of people for registering, ordering and utilizing their experiences in and with the world. Dreams and myths are “symbolic experiences,” materializations of adventures, insights and experiences. While the dream gives information about our personal conflicts, themes and experiences, the myth offers insights about one side of our being that is not personal but universally human. These insights are reflected in the myths of Egypt’s, Greece’s and Rome’s high cultures and in the narratives of the knights of the round table, Indian stories, religious ideas of Asian cultures and the narratives of our Jewish-Christian Bible.

To understand a story mythologically “means no longer seeing a very definite course only historically and causally but in a universal authority.” (Hermann Wiedelener) Institutionally bound Christians are often frightened by the biblical stories. They customarily understand the depicted events as the reproduction of outward historical events that happen similarly and could have been recorded with the video camera if it had existed at that time. When they hear the biblical stories are myths, they imagine at the same time they are untrue. Their truth concept is strongly oriented in outward facts – corresponding entirely to natural science thinking. They seek security and certainty in reconstructing outward events. For example, they want to know with their eyes what Jesus did and to hear with their ears what Jesus said. In a mythological understanding of biblical texts, the historical events, what happened at that time, are not simply confused with what the texts literally declared. Rather these texts are understood as coded references to a much richer truth and reality that can only be reconstructed as an inner event.

The mythological understanding starts from an historical core. A universal and timeless significance comes to individual historical events that can only be further communicated in the language of inner psychical pictures. “The hero is the person whether man or woman who was able to struggle beyond personal and local-historical limits to the universally valid human forms. The hero’s visions, ideas and inspirations come uncorrupted from the original sources of human life and thought.” (Joseph Campbell, The Hero in a Thousand Forms, 1953)

Applied to New Testament texts, this means that fundamental and timeless truths of human existence (before God) are revealed and experienced in the life event of Jesus. These experiences could not be elaborated and made useful for future generations other than in symbolic ways. The symbol is the language of religion (Paul Tillich) when and as long as there are experiences in religion. Experiences are mediated through symbols. Symbols are capacities of the soul that make events into experiences.

What takes place first in an outward event is understood in its inner significance, condensed in a symbol and ultimately developed in an interpreted narrative or myth. What is really worth remembering and communicating is not the outward circumstance of an event but its substantial meaning, the experiences bound with it. The mythological question is not “What happened at that time at a certain moment in what way” but “what fundamental experience of humanity is depicted in this picture?” If the experiences of a religion are understood this way as pictures instead of facts in an outward sense, they become messages for inner experience and life.

Our encounter with biblical myths is similar to that of the Samaritan woman in the conversation with Jesus at Jacob’s well (John 4,1-42):


CONVERSATION ABOUT WATER AND DRINKING

So he came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her: “Give me a drink.” For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, `Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?” Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, `I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.”

This conversation takes place at a well… Many fairy tales and myths occur at wells. On one hand, they are natural junctures at the foundation of all life, water, and on the other hand, holes in the ground opening up access to the depths. In this depth, there are baneful beings and forces that can prevent or poison the flow of the well as well as good, redeeming beings and forces that change the fate of people. In the fairy tale “The Frog King”, the frog from the well becomes a salutary disturbance that forces confrontation with an ignored or neglected part of one’s personality and encourages the redeeming integration, the holy wedding. In the fairy tale “Frau Hell,” the well becomes a place of rebirth. Whoever falls in the well arrives at another world from which he is cleansed by obeying the instruction in life heard there. He is revived, brought back to life and changed for true life. Finally, the “fountain of youth” giving new vitality to the old man becomes a place where one is accepted in the eternal cycle of becoming and passing away, dying and being born. The water itself represents life and vigor and the deep dimension of the unconscious in the person where sinister and redeeming powers are hidden that can change the fate of a person to the good or bad. The dialogue that becomes revelation takes place at this “mythological place” of our longing for life, at the connection to the world of life-creating depth.

However Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman was also like a dreadful speaking past one another, a classic example of disturbed communication. The Samaritan woman spoke the language of this world. She seemed rooted in her native soil, practical and intense in her persistent questioning. Jesus, on the other hand, speaks a “nebulous language”; he appears unrealistic, elevated and set apart. Although both use the same terms, worlds separate them and make understanding nearly impossible.

When water and thirst are discussed, the Samaritan woman thinks concretely of the real events of everyday life and its troublesomeness. She embodies the outer-directed view of objective-historical perception that sees the parched tongue in thirst and H2O in water and asks what use is the fountain of eternal life when one is thirsty here and now or must cook and nourish persons and animals. In contrast, Jesus embodies the inner-oriented mythological view. With thirst, he senses neediness and longing generally and with water the vitality of one’s depths. For him, constant creating and originating is the picture of human existence in its unfulfilled effort at stilling the deep longing for happiness.

Thus while the Samaritan woman mirrors our rational way of perception, Jesus personifies the pictorial or figurative language of the soul. Every first encounter of these two worlds must be as incomprehensible as this conversation. The answers, questions and declarations of the myth are not revealed straightaway to the rational consciousness. No dictionary helps here, not even a dictionary of symbols. For that reason, many people give up the biblical narratives as incomprehensible and unusable or reduce them to what can stand the test before critical intelligence: a few moral rules of conduct.

However the Samaritan woman persisted in dialogue with the myth until the truth of her life until the truth of her life was revealed to her. The leap from the outer to the inner, from the marginal to the fundamental and from the rational to the symbolic occurs with the apparent change of themes from drawing water to her relations with men. She did not only listen but learned this in a deep sense as the truth of her life, her unquenched need for an absolute love, when she had to confess “I have no one.” All her “attempts at drawing water” were unsuccessful and could not quench her “thirst.” She praised the myth as prophetic – as something that could make the truth of her own life understandable.

This is the purpose and power of myth. When theology makes prose out of the poetry of myth by creating a collection of theological works and codes, it eliminates this plane of transcendent experience. Thus Carl Gustav Jung once said, religion is resistance against the experience of God. In fact, more and more people suffer in religion’s lack of experience in that the experiences of their lives do not occur in religion and religious experiences are not possible in their lives. However religion is essentially experience. Religion’s innermost task is communicating immediateness. Only graphic stories have this power, not theological statements detached from stories…


THE MAGICIAN

What initially is experienced as a bloody tension should be united. When a person turns too much to the earthly material side of existence and neglects the other side, he loses the middle or center. The one-sided orientation becomes a shortage of the essential. This is a dominant problem today since many people ignore the spiritual dimension of their life and feel themselves inwardly empty and unfulfilled despite all “rationality” and material abundance. Under some circumstances, it could take decades before they are aware of this atrophy.

Often losses of necessities of life like the partner, health, possessions, tasks, positions and convictions lead to a deep crisis of meaning when the neglected part is recalled. The cry for help of a young man reached me recently. As a banker he was wholly oriented in the world of numbers and economic strategies and then his marriage crashed. His past life structure collapsed in this personal crisis. However despite all his sorrows, he discovered in himself what he never held possible, the intuitive grasp of hidden connections instead of practical and superficial analysis, openness for coincidences, revealing feelings and missing supportive spiritual examples. When a person turns too much to the intellectual-spiritual side and neglects the earthly, he loses the middle and lacks the essential. That is the problem of many “philosophers” innocent of the world and of life who lose themselves in pompous speculations and insights but cannot cope with life and people. With them, it can also take a long time until an experience finally leads to the fall when the neglected side of their existence is harshly recalled. Thus the heavenly, intellectual and spiritual must be brought down to earth and the earthly-material spiritualized. In this project, we encounter the archetype of the magician in us.


THE RETURN TO THE MIDDLE

The magician outfitted with the gifts of the universe stands on his own feet on the ground of this world. He knows the eternal laws of becoming and passing away, the order of creation and realizes on earth what he has discovered. Conversely he gives a concrete form to the ideal reality in his life. “According to complementary interpretations, the clown or magician represents the person who finds the balance in himself and therefore stands effortlessly in the middle of his world (at the market or on the mountain). The left and right halves of his clothing are opposites as to color and decoration but this does not worry him. As the eight in his magic hat shows, the magician recognizes the divine unity of the world, the good in (or behind) all the forces seemingly opposed and fighting each other.” (Sergius Golowin, Symbols of Tarot, 1989).

Influenced by the magician, we gain insight in the connections of the world and learn to integrate the microcosm of our own earthly existence in the macrocosm of the eternal order. As magicians we learn to live in harmony with the basic order and reality of this world and our human existence. “The ultimate intention of the myth is…to scatter ignorance about life in a reconciliation of individual consciousness with the world. This is reached through the discovery of the true relation of transitory temporal phenomena to the intransitory life that lives and dies in all things.” (Joseph Campbell, The Hero)

The biblical author, the so-called “Yahwist”, compiled a “prehistory” around 900 B.C. out of the material handed down to him (Genesis 2,11) that represented the person as a being who acts against his innermost call and therefore falls into an increasing estrangement from himself, from his fellow human beings and from the nature surrounding him. At the beginning of his prehistory, he set the story of the lost paradise to remind people of the original order to which they must find their way back.


THE ORIGINAL ORDER

And on the seventh day God finished his work, which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work, which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work, which he had done in creation. These are the generations of the heaven and the earth when they were created. In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up-for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground-then the Lord God himself formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one which flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good; delium and onyx are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one, which flows around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is Hiddekel, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

Genesis 2,4-17

This narrative does not answer the natural science questions about the genesis of the world. As a story about the origin of the world and humankind, it is a picture of what the person and the world originally were in their innermost order and innermost core. As a result, paradise does not describe a geographical place or an historical time in the outward superficial sense but a state of basic existence. Therefore paradise is a symbol for the original determination of the person from which he has become estranged.

The narrative begins with a negative delimitation, “before plants were in the earth” (v.5) and explains the following order as a necessity on the background of chaos. Order is creation, life and development while dis-order represents non-being, death and destruction. In order, life is gained back from chaos and the uncivilized. Thus a creative process occurs even in individuation. Disorder should be transformed into order and the uncivilized should discover life and give form to themselves. “The archetype of the magician teaches us something about creation, abut our ability to bring into being what never existed, about the claim of our role as co-creators of the universe.” (Carol S. Pearson) This role is inverted into its opposite in estrangement from the original order. From the supposed contribution to the creation comes a contribution to the destruction of the universe as our relation with nature shows more and more.

Collaboration in creation presupposes becoming aware and affirming the universal order. To many persons, this sounds too mystical and inconsistent with a rational and scientifically oriented interpretation of the world. The research of modern nuclear physics is a becoming aware of the given facts and laws that are only found and not created by people.

Like the magician card of tarot, the biblical narrative also describes the person as a being of double nature consisting of earthly material and divine breath of life. Without this divine spiritual part, a person is only dust marked by accident and death and must decay if he or she forgets this part. In the connection of the two natures, a person first becomes a living being towering over the rest of creation. The form of the person first arises out of shapeless amorphous dust in connection with the dust of the divine. Therefore every development would be incomplete and futile if the spiritual dimension is not considered and developed in which the basic questions of our existence are raised.

In his spirituality, a person surpasses (transcends) the narrow framework of his individual history and personhood to find connection to time and the realities of the cosmos, heaven and earth arching over the individual. This means joining mysticism and reason as two ways of knowledge. No one less than the physicist and Nobel Prize winner Albert Einstein saw there a very natural foundation of true science. “The deepest and most sublime feeling of which we are capable is the experience of the mystical. True science germinates from the mystical alone. Whoever is alien to this sense and can no longer be astonished and lost in awe is already psychically dead. The knowledge that the unsearchable really exists and reveals the highest truth and most radiant beauty about which we only have a dull suspicion – this knowledge and this suspicion are the core of all true religiosity.” (Albert Einstein, My Worldview, 1957)

As the enlightenment was necessary in granting freedom for thought and research in passionate attention to the earthly material side of our existence, we need today reconciliation with the other side of our reality. “The separation of the two realities cannot be maintained in and by people..” (Hubertus Mynarek, Mysticism and Reason, 1991). In the 20th century, great pioneers of natural science understood the necessity of connecting rationality and mysticism as two different ways of apprehending reality and being open and astonished over the hidden order behind all things. The astro-physicist Sir Fred Hoyle is convinced that the development of life in a complex order is the result of an accident or coincidence mutation. Much that is puzzling encountering us in nature is never an expression of illogic or disorder but a reference to an astonishing and extremely sensible basic order.

The biblical narrative describes this basic order in the picture of the garden created in the East as living space for people (v.8)… The person is set in this garden so he recognizes it as his home to till and cultivate (v.8.15). That “the person enters a pre-given order that he did not create or design but should preserve is a typical characteristic of paradise-garden narratives.” (Wolfgang Teichert) Our association with the world is largely anthropocentric. From this vantage point, the person understands himself as the center of the world and feels authorized and called to use this world and subject it to his own ideas. In contrast, the ancient garden stories were more humble. In them, the task of the person is to recognize that mysterious order and adapt to it by observing and fulfilling its immanent commission. A tree, not a person, is in the middle of the garden (v.9). This is the tree of the worlds, the axis of the world around which everything turns. Heaven and earth, the celestial world and the underworld, divine and human and the conscious and unconscious are bound together. Therefore the tree of the worlds is a symbol of the center and of the order united from a center. Thus a stream starts from the middle that irrigates the whole garden (offering the foundation of life) and then flows in four rivers to the world..

The magician’s task is to bring his existence in harmony with the cosmic order… There is much more in this wisdom than protecting people from bitter experience. Living in harmony with the order, he should not have to experience what it means to fall in contradiction with it… The further prehistory depicts the breach with the order and as a result life as increasing deformation under the influence of the fear of being unhappy. If the world previously seemed like a garden full of possibilities, it appeared after the “fall” as a thorny field where a little harvest only arose amid pains. “As abandoned, wanderers, martyrs and warriors, we find our identity in confrontation with a world seen as hostile and dangerous. As magicians, we view the universe as our home, as a friendly inviting place and thus return to innocence.” (Carol S. Pearson)


ORDER AND ORDERING

In every line and every picture, we are reminded that the world and our own existence are expressions and elements of a fundamental cosmic order. All our longing for happiness, all the powers and activities applied to that end, our whole courage and intelligence do not help us further in the final analysis if they fall in contradiction and do not flow with the order of the universe. The task of recognizing this order and adapting to it in our way of life and development is raised in the archetype of the magician.

Magicians understand that a new kind of discipline is necessary, namely clarity and will-power, to always act in agreement with the deepest wisest self.” (Carol S. Pearson) This assumes a new experience of humility and obedience. People intent on freeing themselves from a self-mutilating way of the Christian religion react allergically to both terms. Humility easily sounds like humiliation, being made shamefully small, suffering without a murmur and a petty-bourgeois modesty. The virtue of obedience and self-abandonment are equated with a voluntary or forced submission under foreign determination to the authorities.

Whoever has such experiences and tests must search for his own identity as a wanderer, stand up for his own interests as a warrior and learn love without self-loss as a martyr before he or she can live humility and obedience as self-expressions. In the influence of the magician, humility gains another quality and meaning. This is expressed in correct ordering. Magicians know they are not the navels of the world. They are important and their actions help shape the universe but they are only one contribution. Therefore their way of thinking, feeling and acting is not the only right and possible way. Rather magicians recognize and affirm diversity as an expression of abundance. Their own contribution consists in surrendering by simply being themselves and letting others be themselves, not in refusing life. The mastery of the other archetypal learning tasks is the prerequisite for experiencing and living humility this way. The abandoned always see in magic a remedy promising fast solutions and rescue without their own contribution.

Without the warrior lesson, humility can be mistaken for capitulation and without the martyr lesson refection can be confused with self-abandonment. While the abandoned want to be saved from the experience of powerlessness, isolation, fear and pain, the warrior fights for redemption from these experiences, the martyr voluntarily seeks them, the magician accepts them as part of life and opens himself for the lessons they bring. The developed form of obedience involves in the first place a careful listening…Obedience consists in attentiveness for these communications and readiness to follow their messages.

On this background, the expression “thy will be done” is not the resigned submission under the power of an inscrutable fate but trust in a kindly power greater than us and trustful consent to tasks, commissions or directions in the messages from within and without. In this understanding, “my will” and “thy will” are not opposing powers fighting for victory or defeat. Rather “your will” is an expression of the primal divine power concerned for our integrity and “my will” the expression of my free decision to live in harmony with the natural and supernatural worlds and adapt to the basic order. “To the common mind, magicians are fools. They are actually fools in the most classical sense since the wise fool is our connecting link to the numinous powers.” (Carol S. Pearson) Here we encounter a very ancient paradoxical experience developed in many archetypal pictures, the fool who turns out to be the true wise one or the blind that is the seeing one. These pictures reflect attitudes and insights that appear as nonsense or deep truth according to our perspective. The magician succeeds in changing perspectives. He is able to see the mysterious behind the superficial and the order behind the coincidental and pointless. This motif occurs repeatedly in the biblical stories.


HEALING OF A BLIND

Having eyes do you not see; and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember…And they came to Bethesda. And some people brought to him a blind man, and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the village; and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands upon him, he asked him, do you see anything? And he looked up and said, I see men but they look like trees, walking. Then again he laid his hands upon his eyes and he looked intently and was restored, and saw everything clearly. And he sent him away to his home, saying, Do not even enter the village.


Mark 8,18.22-26

Jesus’ sigh over his disciple with seeing eyes who saw nothing that immediately precedes the healing narrative indicates that the physical functioning of the eyes is not central here but a special capability of seeing that involves comprehending. What is obviously central is that mystery paraphrased by “The Little Prince.” “Here is my mystery. It is very simply that one only sees with the heart. What is essential is invisible for the eyes.” (Antoine de-Saint-Exupery. The Little Prince, 1956). Our conventional reason-oriented way of seeing can make us blind for grasping what is important. The scientific perspective is like a voluntary limitation to the world of the factual and empirically verifiable, that is to a limited way of seeing.

The nuclear physicist Hans-Peter Durr described this reduction in an address: “Natural science does not focus on the actual reality of original world experience, only on a definite projection of this reality. One can filter out reality through good observation according tot the standard of detailed instructions in experimental handbooks… Usually we do not observe nature directly but use ever more complicated equipment. This equipment works like an extended pole allowing us to touch what is remote, to go back a bit and – on account of its great length – move between us and nature so that the instinct for grasping reality as a whole is lost. The more differentiated the methods of natural science, the weaker becomes the reality content. The poles become longer and longer.” (Hans-Peter Durr, Natural Science and Reality, quoted according to J. Sudbrack, Mystik, 1988).

I often sensed this in discussion with school medicine and specialists… We analyze and dissect everything in ever-smaller elements and lose sight of the experience of the whole. Healing from this kind of blindness that cannot see what is essential amid sheer details or sheer objectivization and alienation is central to the magician and this biblical story…
The classical thinkers of antiquity saw the beginning of all genuine reflection abou9t reality in astonishment and inner contact. Therefore the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer lamented that only a few persons let themselves be seriously moved by the puzzles of existence. “As the animal lives without looking around for anything but his needs and isn’t astonished about the world as it is, so people of trifling aptitude are without noticeable astonishment about the world. They find everything natural or obvious. Some extraordinary phenomenon surprises them and makes them eager to find out its cause but are unaware of the marvelous quality of their own existence.” (Arthur Schopenhauer, Introduction in Philosophy)

Jesus takes the blind by the hand and leads him out of the village, his familiar surroundings (v.23). Today we speak of “persons who never go beyond the edge of their village” to indicate that the field of vision and experiential horizon of these persons are considerably limited. Thus Jesus with this border crossing on one hand expands the horizon of the blind and on the other hand frees this horizon from collective models. The real healing first happens outside in the world of individualization. Jesus spit in the eyes of the blind and extended his hand (v.23)…Perhaps a border crossing must occur so the distance of the observer can be overcome to open up another dimension of experience, the dimension of shock.

The blind of our narrative is capable of seeing himself (v.24). In the symbolism of the magician card of tarot, this means he now sees the above, the heavenly, the spiritual dimension. To the question what he sees, he replies: “I see men walking like trees” (v.24)… The ambiguity of the wise fool is reflected in this ambiguity. What he sees sounds mad or crazy and yet expresses something important…

If we recall that Jesus is the incarnate personification of the self-determined person, then we understand this narrative as an illustration of a healing task concerning everyone offered to us by the archetype magician in us or by persons like Jesus who embody and live it. Its goal is a change of perspective as appears above all in the Sermon on the Mount. Again and again, the Sermon on the Mount is misunderstood as a collection of high ethical demands that no one can ultimately fulfill or live. The Sermon on the Mount cannot be lived as an ethic of instruction for conduct because it presupposes the perspective of the magician. It describes how the world appears from the vantage point of the magician, from the view of those who wander, integrate the warrior and the martyr and in the influence of the magician find a new security.


THE NEW VIEW OF THE WORLD

Why we are anxious and should not be anxious

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin: yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying what shall we eat? Or what shall we drink? Or what shall we wear?


Matthew 6,25-31


To a superficial contemplation of world reality, this address must seem like sheer cynicism. Not unjustly, many people worry about their daily life and survival and the survival of those entrusted to their care. Not unjustly, people worry about the survival of humanity generally. I often experienced that listeners reacted with shock and resentment to this text and asked whether they should not “irresponsibly” abandon their calling and concern for their family or their political engagement and simply live in the day. Whoever as an abandoned one sees mainly the imperfection of the world and feels helplessly delivered up to the exactions or demands of onerous life, this speech sounds like mockery. To the warrior who fights for a better world with all his or her strength, it must sound like ridicule or scorn. The martyr also hears an exaction on his thinking and feeling. As a “summons” to carelessness, this address must be disconcerting to everyone.

What is central here is a way of looking at things that can only result from a certain state of being, not an attitude that ignores existential experience. “As it is inward, so it should be outward.” We all certainly know the experience that the world can be represented differently according to one’s mood and state of being. Everything appears dreary or gloomy to one who feels sick, weak and oppressed. The outside seems friendly to one who feels powerful with a sense of well-being. One who is inwardly torn and filled with opposing impulses and sensations sees the outside mainly as full of differences and experiences them as inconsistent hostile opposites. On the other hand, whoever has integrated his or her polarities experiences outside opposites as a complementing and enriching abundance.

Whoever values his own nature, the world of his unconscious and his drives as raw and wild parts that must be suppressed, restrained and controlled will also experience the nature outside as a hostile wilderness that must be tamed and dominated. On the other hand, whoever affirms one's own nature and lives in harmony with it will also thankfully respect, use and preserve the nature outside.

“As it is inward, so it should be outward.” This sentence paraphrases the truth that our way of perceiving reality and experiencing existence are essentially determined by our own inner state of being. What we affirm here and there in changing moods is also true in a much more fundamental sense. This is nowhere as clear as in the change of the magician’s perspective. If the abandoned, wanderer, warrior and martyr experience the world differently, the world appears as a hostile counterpart that they refuse, flee, struggle with or want to subjugate. In contrast, the magician experiences the world as a friendly house, a garden full of possibilities in which all people can have what they need because there is enough. He can experience the world this way because he is at home in himself and experiences himself full of possibilities. Inwardly rich, he also sees wealth outside…

The worldview before and after the “fall” could be compared in detail: Before nakedness was good (Genesis 2,25), afterwards it was shameful (3,7); before difference of the genders was an enriching complement (2,23f), after it was occasion for enmity (3,16); before the earth was a garden to be tilled and cultivated (2,15), after field work was “harsh toil” (3,17); before the earth yielded all kinds of fruits (2,9), after it brought thorns and thistles (3,18); before the person was of the dust of the earth and God’s breath of life (2,7), after he was only dust unto death (3,20). Where an original order ruled before in unity with the center in which everyone could live in harmony with each other out of the abundance, after we were severed from the center.

The person was estranged from himself, estranged from others and estranged from the nature surrounding him and lived in chaotic conditions marked by death and destruction. “In the spell of fear, the world appears to people as alien and hostile. They begin to be ashamed before one another and as Eve’s expelled banished children had to work against death as the last reality, toiling their missed existence between dust and dust up to exhaustion – a God-cursed life that one could only curse…If people could live out of trust from their actual origin, they would oppose the egocentrism of fear. Expressed symbolically, there is a tree `in the middle of the garden,’ that in other words the world has a pre-given center that joins the earth with the center and from which the world is ordered in the four directions.” (Eugen Drewermann, Psychoanalysis and Moral Theology, 1982).

“As inward, so outward” is also the central threat in the stories of the gospels. Again and again the healing stories focus on the problematic how the estrangement process can be cancelled when people find their way from an experience of existence and life from the perspective of fear to a perspective of trust.

“As it is inward, so it should be outward” – this truth also pervades the biblical stories. For example, the biblical prehistory shows how the whole world and experience of existence changed for the worse under the influence of fear (cf. Eugen Drewermann, Structures of Evil. The Jahwist Prehistory from Exegetical, Psychoanalytical and Philosophical Perspectives, 1981). In one’s inner world, everything must change so the world outside can appear in a new light. “Magicians do not attempt to force social change because they recognize people must make their journeys to live in a humane and peaceful world.” (Carol S. Pearson) Whoever reads the stories of the gospels as stories will hardly make a revolutionary leader or social reformer out of Jesus but will discover in him again and again the magician who relies on healing of the heart for change from within and lives this attitude in such a sovereign way that personal growth processes regularly occur in encounter with him and through original ideas – or in anxiety fomenting hatred. Jesus’ recommendation to seek first God’s regency and everything else will be added (v.33) is an alternative to the anxious worried way of life of the nations.

Seeking God’s regency is synonymous with the personal wandering quest and its learning tasks up to the “magical” experience of being completely ruled and filled by God, by God’s maternal-merciful love and thus seeing oneself, others and the world totally differently. The invitation to learn from the birds of the air and the lilies of the field (v.26.28-30) is an expression of “magical certainty,” Jesus’ optimism. It is not a logically compelling proof but an expression of his “overview.” “One can view the same lilies with the gloomy eye of the dissatisfied pessimist. Then the shadow of death lies over them and darkens everything. Even though they blossom gloriously, they must die. In contrast, Jesus sees: Although they must die, they blossom gloriously clothed by an extravagant Giver. Who is right?” (Karl Herbst, What Did Jesus Want?, 1981) This is not a question of better arguments but of one’s inner state of being – “as it is inside, so it should be outside!”

In synchronicity, we also hear the invitation to see the order behind the accidents. In it, in an even more mysterious way, we meet the experience that the inner life influences the world outside. We “create” the events that we need. Asking ourselves in all things: What should I learn? What can I develop? is most important.



INITIATION AND TRANSFORMATION

Jesus on a Mountain as Transformer

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves, and he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses and they were talking to Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah. For he did not know what to say, for they were exceedingly afraid. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, this is my beloved Son, listen to him. And suddenly looking around they no longer saw any one with them but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of man should have risen from the dead.

Mark 9,2-9

This narrative is full of archaic symbolism as found in myths and rituals of other cultures… The mountain on which the event of “transfiguration” was localized in the tradition is called Tabor from the Hebrew “Tabbur” or “navel”… Seven is the number of perfection, abundance and happiness. One possibility of its composition is the combination of the spiritual three (conscious, unconscious and the center integrating the two) and the earthly four (the material created out of the four elements). Three is a basic experience of our existence (father-mother-child; beginning-middle-end; land-water-air; thought-feeling-will etc)… The experience of the center is obviously only possible as a consequence of the arduous development in which the personality is joined together into a whole and a new perspective is opened up – from the height of a mountain – that ultimately becomes the translucence of the divine in and around us…

Through intensity and quality, the transcendent experience made by a person often seems indescribable. Nevertheless a feeling of greater clarity and increased understanding is connected with that experience. One sees things in a more comprehensive framework… the American psychologist A. Maslow speaks of plateau experience; one sees things more clearly from a certain plateau and a certain distance. The peak experience brings about a relativization of the pretentious character of basic needs, primary desires and drives. Thus the person experiencing the transcendent is no longer subject to the distorting influence of anxieties. He or she can see things as they are in themselves. The person whose doors of perception are not blocked by anything any more is completely realized.”

In the myths and initiation rites, the summit experience is often represented in the story of encounter with the father whom the hero comes to know, with whom he is recognized or by whom he is confirmed as son and initiated in the cosmic truth… Thus the world for him is no longer a vale of tears and misery as for the abandoned but a blessed constant revelation of the eternal Father. For Jesus, encounter with the Father is also an ecstatically happy experience of absolute acceptance through which he experiences life and his own identity in their immortality (v.7.9). Strengthened and confirmed by this experience, he can ultimately abandon life and trust in the primal ground supporting him through death.

The biblical picture of Jesus’ “transformation” on the “navel-mountain” mirrors Jesus’ self-experience in his personal summit experience and what persons learning from him grasp in experiences with him. As a development of the magician archetype, it speaks of a truth that has central importance for all of us. This picture says that it is possible for people to go beyond everything oppressive, narrowing and superficial that is only a threshold, perceive the eternal, absolute and supportive as an illumination of the whole cosmos and understand others from this one reality. The experience “as inside, so outside” is expanded here in the experience “as above, so below” into the definitive magical existence of the connection, solidarity and unity of all things.

Thus Jesus can say “Thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee that they also may be one. that they also may be in us” (John 17,21) If the distress of the abandoned consists in the experience of separation, disunion, differentiation and individuation, the experience of the magician consists in a solidarity surpassing all differentiation. The splitting dualisms like subject and object, above and below, inside and outside, past and future, space and time and life and death are overcome and abolished in the cosmic consciousness. “Taoism, Vedanta, Sufism, the higher schools of Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism as well as different forms of Christian mysticism have long known of this stage of consciousness in the ground of being to which the fully awakened person presses and becomes one with all being…

The discovery that the whole is contained in the smallest detail (e.g. holography) has influenced the scientific interpretation of the development of the universe and the brain…


THE MESSAGE OF UNIVERSAL LOVE

You have heard that it was said, you should love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


Matthew 5,43-48


This message cannot be lived as an ethical-moral demand any more than carelessness. Love of the enemy as an emotional attitude of good will cannot be forced even with the logical conclusion that God ultimately loves all people… The Sermon on the Mount – rightly described as the center of Jesus’ proclamation – does not design a new ethos but is the stirring vision of a magician. For him, God’s universal love is not a theological working model developed out of dogmas, treatises and biblical quotations and taught from writing desks but the personally experienced awareness of the divine being sung in hymns…

Magicians are not masochists. As they do not see the world as an adversary, they do not consider other persons as opponents. As they see the superficial phenomena of the world in their profound meaning, they also see the superficial being and actions of people on the profound dynamic of self-estrangement and self-development.

Jesus does not view people with the eyes of the judge who condemns but with the eyes of the physician who wants to understand and heal… Thus Jesus does not demand perfection from his disciples but promises them that they will be perfect, that is persons who correspond to the end goal as the heavenly Father brings lover to its immanent end goal (v.48). However all people cannot understand him since he speaks as a magician from another experience of being. “The language is so different that misunderstanding is unavoidable. Jesus of Nazareth continuously starts from the creative and formative while his partners are fixated on the law, the past and tradition. The person only understands when he can take the step to the other shore… Then he first understands the words that are spoken and fusion and unity occur… The becoming is constantly a reproach to being that wants to remain in its being.” (Hermann Weidelener)…

What we see as solid material is in reality circling energy… This knowledge must be experienced and not simply taught…

Thus we recognize the culminating point of the hero’s way with its classic three step of exodus-initiation-return in appropriating the experiences of the magician archetype. The return, descending from the heights of the summit experience to the “lowlands” of earthly reality is part of the end of the way. The two worlds of the heavenly and earthly or the divine and human can only be described in opposites although in truth they are one. The problem for the hero is preserving the new perspective in the daily routine of earthly life in order to join heaven and earth in his own existence…

“The first problem of the hero returning home after experiencing the vision of fulfillment is accepting the transitory joys and sufferings, banalities and noisy vulgarities of life as real…” (Joseph Campbell, The Hero)… What he has to say from his wandering between the worlds remains a challenge. “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart. Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach, to save those who believe.” (1 Cor 1,20f)

THE RELIGION OF THE MAGICIAN

In this chapter on the magician, it was almost impossible to distinguish between generally human and specifically religious aspects of this archetype since the magician in him- or herself is deeply religious. The only special characteristic of his religion is tolerance as a result of his penetration to the essential. The magician in the best sense is a supra-confessional, worldwide ecumenicist who is no longer chained by the superficial and conflicting in the religions but has found the profound and common…

The confessions with their different truths and themes are also superficial phenomena of the profound essential. As long as these forms and formulas are more important than the way, the differences will be felt as incompatible oppositions kindling conflict, mutual demonization and even holy war. Such refractory ones are like persons at the edge of the bathing pond and dividing hairs about the right step with the help of architectural drawings (their theologies and dogmas) without entering the pool. Whoever climbs one of the steps is interested in coming in contact with the water. This experience is solely important to him, not a theological discussion about the composition of the water and the height of the steps. “Every effort at making a philosophy, mythology or ritual valid for all would not only be an error but would be in complete contradiction to the law of creation. Taking the way from outward phenomena to the essential underlying all phenomena is vital.” (Hans Endres, The Spiritual Person and Realization in Everyday Life, 1988)

Every confession can be nothing but a starting point for the way of personal experience offering a step in its stories and rituals for the traveler. A faith in the sense of “holding as true” cannot replace personal experience. The more deeply persons advance on this way, the more they can leave behind their starting point. Therefore every confession seeks unification with the divine, that is “re-ligio,” the reconnection with the primal ground in the center. A starting point that regards itself as more important than the goal ultimately prevents formative experience. “Religion lies behind the religions,” Friedrich Schiller said.

In the biblical myth, the “hero” Jesus returning from the initiation of death left an important legacy to his disciples who became his companions.


THE SENDING

And he said to them, Go into the entire world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.

Mark 16,15-18


The message of salvation or the mystery of salvation is: He who believes and is baptized will be saved! That is the quintessence of the way of salvation. Another formulation declares: Whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life will save it” (Mark 8,35par).

God’s universal love as the consequence of a process that can only be described as dying and resurrecting, as a baptism unto death, was central in Jesus’ experience, way of life and proclamation. Through this “bath of rebirth,” the personally executed and endured way of the hero – the person gains the magical perspective that takes effect in his or her life. In reconnection with the center, everything that usually seemed demonic and terrifying (v.17) loses significance. In reconnection with the center, we find a new language, a language of pictures and poetry that can communicate the essential (v.17). Then we can grapple with the sinister, threatening and mysterious problems of our existence. Even if we accept something poisonous in messages and impressions, it cannot harm us any more (v.18). Magicians can be kindly healing persons. “They identify and promote the places where growth is possible for individuals, institutions and social groups. Whether or not they now guide a special political, religious or intellectual movement, they act as rainmakers. When they are there, growth happens.” (Carol S. Pearson)

THE WAY OF THE HERO AND SPIRITUALITY

See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. If yo9u obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you this day that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land, which you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day; that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days, that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.

Deuteronomy 30,15-20


In the way of the hero through the different archetypes, we have stopped at stations of the way that lead out of the original experience of abandonment in view of an imperfect world and personality in the search for one’s identity. We learn strength and love in view of the abundance of the world and personality. These archetypes are models of experience that influence our thought, feeling and conduct and present certain themes, problems and learning tasks with which the people of all times and cultures have grappled. When we understand with Joseph Campbell heroes as persons who struggled in the generally accepted forms of human existence through the personal and historical themes of their biography, we may profit from their experiences in grappling with our own biographical and existential themes. In the myths, heroic ways are offered to us in the form of vivid symbolic stories as maps for our own journey. From their perspective, we can understand our own life as a process, as an advancing development of our personality in and through confrontation with the local, historical and personal themes of our life and with the fundamental and general themes implied by the cosmic order and or form of existence as persons.


GROWTH AND THE MEANING OF LIFE

I am often asked where I see the meaning of life. The older I become, the more cautious I am with my answers. With Victor Frankl, I am convinced that meaning can only be found, not decreed. I tend more and more to understand the basic meaning of human life in the “journey.” The meaning of the life of an individual person is influenced by so many particular events in particular situations and so many individual decisions that it ultimately represents the sum of all meaningful particular situations in life. However the individual person and the respective situation challenging to fulfillment of meaning are unique. No situation is repeated in an identical way, as a person is only identical with him or herself…

The calling to the journey seems to me the basic theme of our human existence. Readiness to journey and openness for the tasks, demands and learning possibilities of the journey would be the appropriate attitudes. The basic theme itself allows countless variants of its concrete mastery. The question what is planted in my concrete individuality as a task and developmental possibility occurs in every moment of my life. Life is the answer to the world and existence that I experience as a question and challenge.

From the perspective of myths, all problems and difficulties can be understood as learning tasks of the heroic way and thus part of our development instead of as evidence of our incapability. Whoever has read this book will certainly recognize himself in many experiences and discover many tasks that await him. Many persons tend to devalue themselves by regarding the span between present reality and conceived possibility as inadequacy. “I am not adequate” (to my own demands and foreign demands). Ultimately they only mobilize feelings of failure and abandon the journey because they don’t trust themselves for reaching the “goal.” In no time, they adopt the perspective of the abandoned. They feel themselves powerless and helpless in a life that is hard for them. On the other hand, if we understand all forms of our experience as part of the reality of our existence, we can also experience that span as an incentive to development.

The impulse “I’d like to learn this and that” has another quality than self-devaluation. The more respect we develop for our individual journeys, and ourselves the more we will discover the adventurous, cheerful dimension of our life making us curious and positive. Myths are humane stories that do not overstrain us with any morality but speak of the possibility of choosing life instead of death (Deuteronomy 30,15ff). Therefore they can promote respect for our journey.

With the help of myths and the concretions of their experiences, I can locate and recognize my present “state of being,” where I am at the moment in my journey. The archetypes are misused in sticking oneself or others in certain drawers. They are used rightly in self-interrogation. What produces the strongest echo in me at the moment? What is active in me? What must I be conscious of at the moment? What should I learn and what can I now develop? No ranking sequence appears that would only seduce to valuation and devaluation (“O I am abandoned right at the start!”) Rather with their themes and learning fields we move all our life with our personality and our life reality. “At the end of the journey, the hero feels at home in the world and is at home in it. The end of the journey does not represent the end of problems or liberate us from life.” (Carol S. Pearson) We must wrestle all life long with the challenge of life.

The more consciously we live the journey, the richer becomes the spectrum of our personality. In the journey, the possibilities of our thinking, acting and feeling grow; the spectrum of the world expands. Every concrete learning experience becomes a mosaic stone that helps compose our personality and our picture of reality. “Transformation never ends but leads from upheaval to upheaval. The more consciously we allow transformation in ourselves, the more clearly the meaning of the whole comes true even in sorrowful setbacks. Resoluteness for ever new transitions comes out of the confusion of enthralled to and fro existence.” (Silvia Ostertag)

SPIRITUALITY AND GROWTH

What is clear in the basic structures of our life is also true for our spiritual-religious development. Our development is essentially a journey in the form of a spiral movement bringing us in contact with the same archetypal themes again and again in different intensity and quality. There were years when I seemed like an abandoned person in the Roman Catholic church, disappointed, victimized, suffering, helpless, furious and in pain in it and in myself. There were times when I was underway as a warrior, ready to struggle with all the conservative dragons and fight on the side of the oppressed for a just world, times when I was engage3d for peace policy in favor of the third world without leaving out day-to-day politics. There were times when I sought spiritual experiences and turned to meditation and introversion as a wanderer. There were times when I believed I always had to be ready to be socially engaged even as a martyr. I did all that because I was convinced this was the right conclusion from my religious convictions. Therefore there were also times when influenced by the archetype of the abandoned I proclaimed the comforting, motherly-merciful Father God, times in which moved by the warrior archetype I called to rebellion and political engagement, times when stirred by the martyr archetype I proclaimed unconditional love as God’s desire, times when activated by the wanderer archetype I proclaimed the Exodus-God as an invitation to self-development. For me, the time came when I had to revoke any exclusiveness with which I initially defended the different archetypes. These different accents of my proclamation and life are not expressions of maneuverability in the winds of trends and opinions. Rather I see here a continuous movement through the themes and perspectives of archetypes. The differences prove to be complements from the perspective of the journey. The myths encourage us to greater tolerance and a life of mutuality. On the religio-spiritual plane, the call to the journey proves itself as the basic theme of our existence that allows countless variants of concrete ways. I believe the “truth” is effective in a dynamic experience, not in a static result of intellectual battles of words. I presently feel a great inner composure and freedom, above all the curiosity of the wanderer who rejoices about further – correctable – discoveries and the composure of the magician who hopes to integrate everything.

In our Jewish-Christian tradition of spirituality, Abraham is regarded as the model of faithful existence. However his model faith did not consist in a certain conviction (in the sense of a confession or dogmatic truth) but in a certain attitude to life. This can be described as an answer to a call described in biblical pictures: “Go (in your own interest) from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12,1) Thus leaving everything familiar, customary, guaranteeing security, home and the status quo and making a journey are central in the spiritual call. All we need is the courage to go beyond everything, leave everything behind and move toward a goal that first becomes visible on the way. The biblical witness repeats and complements the call to Abraham when he was 99 years old. Just before a hundred, that is still in the incomplete state, Abraham was invited to “Walk before me and be blameless.” (Genesis 17,1) Faithful existence is realized in setting out and becoming completely you. Every religion only fulfills its purpose when it joyfully sets out on its way and discovers resources and paths for this journey that brings him or her into contact with the center and heals him or her from the center.

Therefore many people today turn to eastern religious ways of salvation and esoteric movements. A heightened need for personal experiences also exists in the transcendent realm. The established Christian churches have lost trust because they have neglected to keep open access to transcendence… Much nonsense and much that is harmful is “sold” under the label esotericism. Still the boom points to an unquenched longing for experiencing transcendence and meaning that remains unsatisfied in our official churches. A glance at the history of Christian churches shows that direct experiences of transcendent reality have receded more and more behind doctrine in organizing the Christian faith and building the church.

Whoever takes the inner way to experience truth instead of holding outwardly for example to the authority of the pope has great problems. The reproach of gnosis and self-redemption is still leveled today as a stigma of heretical convictions to adjust or exclude these persons. When Jesus was asked about the coming of the kingdom of God, he replied: “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, `Lo, here it is! Or `There!’ for behold the kingdom of God is in the midst of you (or within you).” (Luke 17,20f) This is the classic spiritual self-awareness in the depth of the person. However the official church deeply mistrusts this. A praxis avoiding experience produces that one-sidedly intellectual relation to faith that constituters the reality of church-oriented religiosity. C. G. Jung said: “What one customarily and generally calls `religion’ is a substitute. I earnestly ask myself whether this kind of religion that could be described as confession does not have an important function in human society. It has the obvious purpose of replacing immediate experience through a selection of symbols clothed in a firmly organized dogma and ritual.” (C.G. Jung, Psychology and Religion, 1971).

In this way, religion no longer does justice to the task of striving for mystical experiences. Consequently its priests are no longer seekers and mediators of experience whose authority is grounded in their personal psychic experience but functionaries whose authority derives from a social ordination. (J. Campbell)

On the way of the hero, we described the step to the magician’s perspective as the opening of spiritual experience. This step amounts to a fundamental change of location in the sense of a qualitative leap that the religions in their language describe as “initiation.” “Initiating experience means an event that brings a person in a realm of experience and discovery that in its quality and effect is essentially different than the new that one usually gains in an experience. Every new experience burst the horizon of past experience and opens new dimensions… the new dimension to which the initiating experience leads is a secret space. It is not only secret because it is closed. The new that meets us is not surveyable and understandable when we experience it. Rather something opens up that remains hidden. An impression comes that is unequivocal, unmistakable and simultaneously eludes rational understanding. That is the crucial difference to all other experience that the new dimension into which we enter does not fall into our control although it is and always was our innermost experience.” (Silvia Ostertag)

Spirituality aims essentially at this change that imparts to us a completely new view of the world. It is an unrest accompanying all the stages of the hero’s way that seeks for an ultimate meaning that is not argued with the intellect but experienced with all the fibers of the person. What is involved here is a total holistic grasp and fulfillment by what concerns us unconditionally. Then what we leave is ultimately all the same. That we have set out is alone decisive. Crossing that threshold and entering the realm of the divine dimension can be sudden and abrupt or gradual and step-by-step. Thus the organized churches will exist for a long time and fulfill an important function as a starting point for individual journeys. But I’d like to encourage going beyond this and understanding yourselves as seekers oriented in experience in a worldwide ecumene on the way to becoming one with the supreme reality.