Fall Waxing Autumn Moon
Spiritual Resources for Humanists. Been thinking about this from an odd perspective. Humanism is often characterized as anti- or post-Christian. It is, of course, easy to see why this should be so in such Christian marinated cultures as those of the United States and Europe. Easy, yes. But accurate?
Think about it this way. If there were no monotheism, no polytheism, no reaching out beyond the natural world to a supernatural (anti-natural?) realm, then raising a Christian theology would be seen as anti-Humanist or, maybe, post-Humanist.
If you, like me, find the idea of a God out there, beyond us and our world, no longer viable, then we have to consider that there has not been a God out there right along. That means, further, that Christianity, Islam and Judaism, among many others, have never had their metaphysics right. In other worlds there was no God in Israel, Ephesus, Corinth or Rome.
In that case, humanism is counterpoised not to a deity, but to a story, rather stories, about deities; narratives that, like kudzu in the south, overgrew everything, changing their shapes and appearance until all that could be seen was a green, viny realm.
These are narratives with a great deal of power, narratives that inspire devotion, sacrifice, even war, yet, for all that, narratives not substantially different from the very best fiction. The difficult part to keep in focus here is the difference between the narrative as fiction and the history of the narrative’s power.
In other words, even though the Biblical material, from this perspective, has the same metaphysical punch as Hesiod and Ovid, compilations of Greek myth and legend, the historical actions of those who imbibed this narrative from their birth and acted on it in complete confidence of its veracity is nonetheless real, just as are the actions of Periclean Athens, Sparta and Corinth.
The historical depth and reach of Christians cannot be dismissed as fiction and reveals, in it all its vitality, the true force of myth and legend. A story like the passion of Jesus, because it includes compassion, sacrifice, redemption and the defeat of death, resonates energetically with daily life, in particular the daily life of those on the wrong side of history.
Nietzsche recognized this and called Christian morality slave morality, a morality meant to bring down the strong and the good, a morality meant to turn on its head the way to power. ***
We do not have to give up the mythic power of the Christian story as humanists. No, we can reach into the Biblical material and read these narratives with the same keen eye and open heart that Christians do. We don’t have to buy the notion of Olympus to be inspired by the story of Hercules, saddened by the story of Orpheus and add depth to our understanding of fall and spring through the story of Persephone.