Sunday, February 22, 2015
Part Two: Integration of Psychology and Religion in Pop Culture, and How God is inherent in the Psychology of People
‘Omnipotence’ is the image of the creator in the child, because the creator is omnipotent. This is a psychological way of perceiving the spiritual truth that the Lord is intrinsic in the human soul. This psychological condition parallels the fact that freedom is the Lord’s nature, and the freedom we enjoy is entirely a gift from the creator. Omnipotence is the only form freedom can be expressed in an infant.
In this light the mission of life can be seen as working through the paradox of, on the one side, learning personal skill and competence; and on the other, returning fallacious omnipotent power to where it belongs – God.
The value of this principle is not so much theoretical and abstract, but it helps interpret what is always closest to us – our inner life. What could be more important? Our internal life eventually determines our eternal life.
In adults we see all the time that the less one has inner self-knowledge the more they claim omnipotence (self-centeredness). In the adult the extreme of feeling that he or she is omnipotent is a form of insanity. Swedenborg writes of witnessing that the deepest hell is for those who believe they are God himslef. This is the ultimate example of an unresolved omnipotent fantasy. He says the spirits there completely believe that they are God and all others are subjects.
As adults when we regress, it is because we inwardly feel powerless and distressed, so we reflexively return back to the feelings of omnipotence for protection. These feelings are unresourced. Childhood omnipotence in the adult is by nature blind to others, and driven by survival. It is an ‘automatic’ default setting inside for the sake of self-survival. We may or may not have sophisticated ways of justifying it, but the quality and import of it is self-serving.
There is in regression, also, if we remain self aware, an opportunity. Regression points to the wounds within us that need development. If we react the same as in the past then there is no movement, but if we act with some measure of composure, we can change the phantasy within our self to a good one, or a better one. Regression is also an opportunity because beneath the feelings of childhood omnipotence are remains, the stored feelings of innocence and love. These feelings are often felt as a sense of personal ‘specialness’, because deep down we want and feel a core of good about our selves that is seeking expression; these are in potential and need development. If felt and opened, remains can be transmuted into a footing for submitting to God as the true source of ‘specialness’. And in yielding to Him we feel joy, more our self. This provides the inner security to care for others as much or more than our selves (which is the cornerstone of society and religion). Remains are in potential and need to be spiritually mined and thus incorporated into our will. This is spiritual remembering. God provides that remains are inside everyone, as a means of connecting with His will for life. Every time we regress there is an opportunity to renew the unresolved issue in our self that cries out for attention and healing.
Advertisers use the motivating energy of our need to sort out our omnipotent phantasies, and to believe in the good father and mother, all the time. A good advertising campaign attempts to tap the primal spot where we live inside; this way they influence us to image satisfying our deepest drives with their product. Where advertisers put their money is a good litmus test of something’s veracity: by study and process of elimination they do what produces. They are acting from very practical motivation - the bottom line, maximum results, making money.
One of the psychological means Advertisers use is to portray animals and objects talking and acting like humans. There is certain magic and delight kindled within us in seeing these absurd and exaggerated images. There are hundreds of examples of this on TV commercials and kids shows. We see talking animals, sponges, fruit, vegetables, and trees, constantly, and it never ceases to be funny! Recently, there has been a commercial of a humorous, straight-talking cow that tells the mom of a family what everyone is thinking when the mother shows up asking about her goofy clothes. The family is too afraid to say anything about it, but the sassy cow tells her like it is. It is hilarious for many reasons. It images for us a way that we can feel safe to hear and express what is underneath and real. The cow represents the phantastic mother being real, good, and refreshingly truthful to us; teaching us it is ok to express our most keen perceptions. The modeling of truth-speaking helps us move through a barrier of anxiety, which is a deeply satisfying inner (if minor) acheivement. This is joyful to us because it develops inner skill, and growth movement. We move from being subject-to our anxieties, to a creative agent.
In addition, psychologists (and Swedenborg) write that all children up to a certain age believe that their play animals and dolls are alive. Experiencing this as children is part of our original experience of the mystery of spirit. Robert Kegan refers to it as embodied childhood spirituality. Biddle calls it a developmental precursor to belief in the spiritual world and God. Swedenborg calls it remains, or the experience of love and innocence married into our soul. In a humorous way the commercial reminds us that as children we believed that magic is real. The act of remembering this kind of thing as adults is part of the process of integrating the forgotten remains of childhood. We are all engaged in the continuous activity of building a good image of the phantastic father and mother. We need the good father and mother because it helps us feel safe in the world, that we have a positive agency toward life and others.
An example in pop culture of transferring omnipotence to God that appealed to millions of people was Tebowmania. The symbol of Tebowmania is the pose he strikes at important moments. After a great play, or after winning, or after losing, Tebow kneels on the ground with his head down, his knuckles to his forehead, closes his eyes, and prays. This is a potent image of transferring omnipotence to the good father. In this pose, after the mighty struggle to achieve, he submits to God, and thanks God. The act of kneeling itself is a bold, demonstrative act of humility and honor. It is like the knights of old who kneeled before the King.
In Swedenborgian Spiritual psychology Tebow is also an example of another principle that intergrates psychology and religion, that is, the son with ‘good proprium’: Hiesman trophy winner, physique of a Greek god, good disposition, good Christian. Some people dislike him for these qualities. Proprium refers to the part of the soul that is inherited, and comes from self-will, not God’s will – and that has iinheretid moslty good qualities. Swedenborg warns that good proprium is at least as much a danger as bad proprium, because there is not much in the soul to overcome, and as a result the fighting spirit for good is not developed. Jesus often teaches that the person who is forgiven much and overcomes much is closer to heaven. Victor Frankl similarly says that it is the fighting spirit in the soul, no-matter how bad the circumstances, that makes the man or woman. In Frankl this comes from good authority, because he survived Auschwitz, where he led people to fight to live, and to keep their identity and faith. Conversely, the person with good proprium is often complacent, which corresponds to being lukewarm. But Tebow, with his image of good proprium and upbringing, demonstrates tremendous fighting spirit, and care for others.
We need good role models to help us perceive ways of incorporating the phantastic good parents in the world and our life; that magic and reality can come together, that we can achieve and transfer power to God. Sometimes we feel jealousy of these figures also, which is no doubt why the the crowds seek to take down and find dirt on popular figures. But jealousy can also be a powerful motivator for acheivement.
One of the central values of Christianity is to walk the narrow path; to not retaliate in the face of unfairness and conflict; to feel anger and not become it, but use it; to be steadfast in winning or losing. Anytime we see someone do this no matter how small, we recognize it as honorable.