Science in Christian Perspective
On Being a Person in a Relative World
E. MANSELL PATTISON
Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior University of California, Irvine, and
Deputy Director, Training Orange County Department of Mental Health Santa Ana, California 92706
From: JASA 27 (September 1975): 112-118.
This paper is addressed to the issues involved in the establishment of a personal identity in our contemporary society, particularly to the role of religious values in the development of identity. At the outset 1 should like to clearly state the proposition that morality is central to identity and that identity is central to morality. To the degree that religion is concerned with morality, then religion is central to identity. These issues I have discussed previously.
However, here I should like to address the problem of moral relativity as it relates to the integrity of personal identity. As I shall elaborate, I do not believe that the concepts of moral telativity do violence to a life built upon religious faith, and particularly religious commitment. In fact, I propose just the opposite: namely, that a life built upon normative commitments is critical to the development and maintenance of a personal identity in a world of relativity.
This paper then takes up two themes: the development of a personal integrity in relation to psychological relativity, and the development of a personal integrity in relation to cultural relativity.
BEING A PERSON AS A MORAL ISSUE
World War II convulsed the world both physically and morally. In the aftermath came a determined attempt to assess a world moral order. The Nuremburg war crimes trials were the focus of this re-assessment in which two opposing moral positions were brought face-to-face. The defendants argued that they were implementing the laws of the land; the prosecution argued that certain basic human rights and responsibilities were self-evident and inviolable. The issue was clear: Were there universal norms of human morality or does each society construct its own relative system of morality?
The issue was not new. Philosophers had struggled with the issue until the turn of the twentieth century, only to give up the task and turn to analytic and process philosophy: to analyze how men make moral decisions. Social scientists, especially anthropologists, had brought in a multitude of competing social moral systems from other lands and peoples. Sigmund Freud and the pioneers in psychoanalysis had demonstrated the vagaries and inconsistencies of personal moral conduct. But all this work did not directly challenge the world and popular thought until the cataclysm of war, ghetto, and concentration camp made the moral confrontation inescapable.
The issue was made more pointed by the growing realization after World War II that the historic Christian church institutions had not sustained a viable morality for contemporary civilization. In their postwar studies on prejudice, Adorno et al discovered that the ideologies of the Christian church actively fostered anti-semitic hostility. This was confirmed and extended in the ensuing two decades of the 1950's and 1960's by a multitude of psychological and sociological studies that demonstrated that traditional Christian morality was not only inconsistent, but more tragically fostered bigotry, authoritarianism, dogmatism, and antihumanitarianism. It appeared that rather than contributing to the welfare of man, traditional Christian morality had a negative and dc-humanizing influence on Western man.
Not only was traditional morality bankrupt and found wanting in terms of the past. The world was in flux. New decisions had to he made. How were we to decide? Women no longer were dependent on men; divorce became socially feasible. The pill arrived and pregnancy was no longer a Sword of Damocles. The black man in America arose to claim his humanity and found himself barred from the doors of the community church. Children in an affluent age found that the selfratifying and self-congratulating pose of success in a God-blessed America had covered human misery of a corrupt and oppressive society that poorly tolerated dissent. The traditional moral answers of conventional religious institutions seemed only to perpetuate the status quo and provide no platform for reform and re-assessment.
It was in this context that theologians began the serious task of crafting a "new" morality, a reassessment of religious moral conventions and an analysis of the new ethical dilemmas posed by a changing society. Bishop John Robinson brought out Honest to God, soon to be followed in America by Joseph Fletcher's Situation Ethics. The debate was on! Robinson, Fletcher, and fellow-travelers were seen as agents of a moral anarchy soon to devastate the country. As theologians they had betrayed God, man and country. But perhaps the polemics were hasty as well as ill-advised. For the issues Robinson and Fletcher struggled over came closer to home with the polarization over the Viet Nam war and the civil rights struggle. The moral dilemma has invaded almost every significant area of contemporary life.
Personal versus Social Morality
Much of our thinking about morality has been formulated in personal terms. We are fond of quoting Martin Luther, "Here I stand, I can do no other." The individual conscience is pitted against the forces of a society. Yet this misconstrues the essential nature of morality which is simultaneously a personal and social concern.
Clyde Kluckhohn, the late famed Harvard anthropologist summed lip the issue well;
There is the need for a moral order. Human life is necessarily a
moral life precisely
because it is a social life, and in the case of the human animal the
for the predictability of social behavior that will insure some stability and
continuity are not taken care of automatically by biologically
as with the bees and the ants. Hence there must be generally accepted standards
of conduct, and these values are more compelling if they are invested
authority and continually symbolized in rites that appeal to the senses.1
No society can function without a specific morality. Morality is not a question of merely prohibitions or musts, but rather the values and definitions of appropriate behavior by which man governs his behavior, and protests against social mores and injustice.
For too long, however, we have seen the morality of a society in static terms. Morality must he a process, for society is always in process of change and new moral decisions for human relations must be negotiated. This ongoing process of moral decision-making is highlighted by sociologist Philip Rieff:
To speak of a moral culture would be redundant. Every culture has two main functions: (1) to organize the moral demands men make upon themselves into a system
Morality is not a question of merely prohibitions or musts, but rather the values and definitions of appropriate behavior by which man governs his behavior, and protests against social mores and injustice.
of symbols that make men intelligible and trustworthy; (2) to organize the impressive remissions by which men release themselves in some degree from the strain of conforming to the controlling symbolic, internalized variant readings of culture that constitute individual character. The process by which a culture changes at its profoundest levels may he traced in the shifting balance of controls and releases which constitute a system of moral demands.2
This view of process morality is an explicit recognition that a social morality not only can, but must change with time and culture. To some this might appear as if all values and morality are relative. In part this is so, but it may be more accurate to say that all morality must he relevant. Hence, we must look at different categories of values and moral decisions to see how a process view of morality must take into account both absolute and relative concepts of morality. First, we can arrange "values" along a continuum from the most relative to the most absolute in the following hierarchy:
1. Idiosyncratic values-held only by one person in the group under consideration, i.e., personal preferences.
2. Group values-which are distinctive of some plurality of individuals, whether this be family, clique, associaation, tribe, nation, or civilization.
3. Personal values-private form of group values.
4. Operational absolutes-values held by members of a group to be absolute in their application of them.
5. Tentative absolutes-those operational absolutes found to exist in all societies.
6. Permanent absolutes-assumptions that may be asserted but unknowable in any scientific sense.
Now anthropologists no longer hold to the radical cultural relativism of a quarter century ago. Rather, there is a growing consensus that tentative absolutes do exist-a rough parallel to the Mosaic Decalogue. This is not at all at odds with the emphasis of the new morality as the ethic of love, for the Ten Commandments are negative definitions of love. That is, the Decalogue spells out some, but not all, conditions of non-love.
Thus we can affirm an ethic of absoluteness, whether from a scientific base that affirms a certain uniformity of morality, or from a Judaeo-Christian base of affirmation of man's relationships to God. But this affirmation of absolute moral norms involves broad general principles. Specific interpersonal pieces of behavior are not self-evident, but vary with time, place and culture.
Let us look at a few examples. Stealing is violation of human relationship. The use of a neighbor's car, without his knowledge, in a farming community may not be defined as stealing, whereas it probably will be defined as stealing in the city. In certain South Sea Islands, people leave their coats outside their huts in ease a passerby needs a coat, but one would be upset if a stranger took one's coat from the cloakroom at the opera. To shoot a horse-thief was appropriate moral behavior in the Old West, but not the New.
In other words, we are faced with the task of defining what the conditions shall be of love or the Decalogue in our time, in our place, in our society. And how we define our morals will have to assume a sense of moral authority for our behavior until such a time as we re-evaluate our moral stance.
Absolute Norms Relative to Present Issues
Let me put it in brief theoretical terms. We have to apply our absolute moral norms in a manner relative to the society at hand. However, that relative definition must he treated as an absolute standard.
Several examples may clarify the principle. In my town today, we must define what behavior shall constitute stealing. Raving agreed on a definition, we all most live by it until we redefine what shall constitute stealing. Another example is the action of the Supreme Court. To it are brought moral dilemmas. The court makes a ruling as to the most appropriate moral resolution in the light of available evidence. We are then incumbent to act according to that ruling until the same dilemma is brought to the court for another evaluation and moral ruling. It is recognized that the Supreme Court is not handing down a "final" decision, but rather the best decision that men can make at this time. In terms of school segregation, the "separate but equal" doctrine of the 1860's was the best moral decision that could be achieved in that context, but a hundred years later in the 1960's, a re-evaluation of school segregation produced a new moral doctrine to be followed. We can expect that the whole issue will be re-evaluated in the decades to follow. It is important to note here that the Supreme Court still follows a set of moral absolutes-the Constitution. The moral dilemma is not one of absolutes, but how they apply absolutes of the Constitution within the framework of the society at hand.
Stages in Moral Development
The relationship between personal and social morals can also be looked at in terms of moral development. The child first learns morality as a very personal, idiosyncratic set of behavior, and only later begins to develop a more generalizable and universal set of values. Lawrence Kohlberg has constructed a scale of moral development that consists of 6 stages:3
Stage 1: Obedience and punishment orientation. Egocentric deference to superior power or prestige, or a trouble-avoiding set.
Stage 2: Naively egoistic orientation. Right action is that instrumentally satisfying the self's needs and occasionally others'.
Stage 3: Good-boy orientation. Orientation to approval and to pleasing and helping others.
Stage 4 Authority and social-order maintaining orientation. Orientation to "doing duty" and to showing respect for authority and maintaining the given social order for its own sake.
Stage 5: Contractual legalistic orientation. Duty defined in terms of contract, general avoidance of violation of the will or rights of others, and majority will and welfare.
Stage 6: Conscience or principle orientation. Orientation not only to actually ordained social rules but to principles of choice involving appeal to logical universality and consistency.
It has been shown by Kohlberg and his colleagues that the majority of people sampled in the United States consistently operate in terms of the first few stages of morality. This produces much confusion because our great social institutions such as the courts and our fundamental ethical theology are written in terms of stage 6 morality.
Put in another way, much of the everyday Christian morality has been framed in terms of the lowest levels of morality-avoidance for fear of punishment, rather than in terms of the highest levels of morality-commitment to responsible application of principle.
Much of the everyday Christian morality has been framed in terms of the lowest levels of morality - avoidance for fear of punishment, rather than in terms of the highest levels of morality - commitment to responsible application of principle.
Milton Rokeach, one of the foremost psychologists in the area of values, comments on this dilemma:
If religious institutions taken as a whole are indeed, at best, irrelevant and, at worst, training centers for hypocrisy, indifference, and callousness, it is unlikely that those who are part of the Religious Establishment will voluntarily initiate the program of radical change that seems called for . . . . If a way can he found to reverse the emphasis between proscriptive arid prescriptive learning, children can be taught that salvation is a reward for obeying the "thou shalts" of the Sermon on the Mount, rather than the "thou shalt nots' of the Ten Commandments. Such a simple shift of focus, however, would probably require a profound reorganization of the total social structure of organized Christian religions. And if such a reorganization turns out to be too difficult to bring about because of rigidity, dogmatism, or vested interest, the data presented here lead me to propose that man's relations to his fellowman will probably thrive at least a bit more if he altogether forgets or unlearns or ignores what organized religion has tried to teach about values and what values are for.4
Such a pessimistic evaluation is based on the fact that expression and acting out of Christian ideals is itself a culture-bound phenomenon. The social institution of the Christian church is a time and place phenomenon-yet one which readily becomes encrusted with a sense of permanence and "rightness." Thus the church and its morality readily becomes a defense of the status quo. One of the traditional roles of the church has been that of definer, sustainer, and enforcer of moral values. In primitive societies religious institutions represent the major social embodiment of the morality of the culture. The same was true for much of the history of Christianity in relation to Western society. But the fact that the churches of America have come to be bastions for defense of the status quo is cause for dismay. Overlooked is the need for challenge and change in morals, not merely the maintenance of morals. The church in Western society has become primarily an agent for the maintenance of outmoded moralities and has lost its function as a creator of new moralities. Thus it has lost half of its relevance as a moral agent. The "new morality" movement then can be seen as a renaissance attempt at reclaiming the role of moral innovator in society.
The Christian institutions of our culture have participated in this culturally
clouded process of moralizing. Thus, it has appeared that moral decisions had
some intrinsic sense of rightness and self-evident validity about them.
But now we face a new world in which cultural innocence has been lost. We can no longer plead ignorant of the fact that moral decisions are not selfevident and that as a culture, as church institutions, as individuals, we ourselves, we humans have constructed our day-by-day moral codes.
The reaction to this awareness in the first half of our century was to proclaim a universal relativism. No man might lay moral claim to any other man's behavior. However, no society has or could exist in such moral anarchy.
Crafting Our Moral Decisions
We now face a profound opportunity to accept the freedom to craft moral decisions for our time and place. To craft moral decisions that do justice to universal and absolute norms of human integrity. Yet with the realization that the moral decisions that we make today will be outmoded tomorrow and that we shall have to again reconsider our moral decisions. We shall have to craft moral decisions today as the best possible means of implementing universal norms, yet with the humility that as we learn and grow, our knowledge tomorrow may force us to reconsider.
Finally, we shall face our moral decisions with integrity. If the consequences of our moral decisions turn out to be undesirable, we shall deal with those consequences, and not punish ourselves for not having been wiser. We cannot forecast accurately the consequences of our moral decisions, but we can commit ourselves to deal with the consequences with the same integrity with which we made the decision.
What has been outlined here is a revised concept of morality that is not static but processual. Morality becomes a question of how we make moral decisions, apply our decisions, and deal with the consequences. It is a morality that takes into account both the absolute and relative nature of morality. It is a morality that takes into account that moral decisions are both personal and social.,", 6,7
The new morality is not a new permissiveness, moral anarchy, untutored relativism or an attempt to escape from responsibility or integrity.
It should be clear that the new morality is not a new permissiveness, nor is it moral anarchy, nor is it untutored relativism. The new morality is not an attempt to escape from responsibility or integrity. However, it should be noted that these are all perversions that can be observed in our contemporary society.
BEING A PERSON AS A CULTURAL ISSUE
Most of us are children of our times, products and reflections of the modern world of scientific thought. Although we may descry more than one world in which we exist, those of us who are academicians, professionals, intellectuals participate and work in a world view infused by the notions of logic, reason, thought, objective and observable data confirmed as true by the published data of others. We live within this western technological, scientific world, and we cannot deny that we are part of it. But let us stop for a moment and look back at the context of now almost three-fourths of the twentieth century. Let us look at the way we have lived and thought and felt. And we may see that the way we have lived, thought, felt, and existed is no more. The age of "cultural innocence" is lost.
A Mono-Valued Culture
Let us look at America at the turn of the century. At that time the majority of the population lived in small towns, or if they lived in urban areas, the ethnic neighborhood community functioned effectively as a small town. People grew up where they were born, married in the place where they were raised, bore children and raised them in the same place, followed a vocation most likely in one's parents pattern, grew aged as grandparents to observe one's grandchildren follow the same pattern and died and were buried in the place where they were born.
This was a mono-valued culture. Everyone lived the same way, felt the same way, thought the same way, and existed the same way. Although these small cultures changed, they changed slowly, imperceptibly, naturally, as if it were meant to be that way.
Born into such a small culture, one grew up with an experience of the world about that was consistent and uniform. Without awareness, the values, styles, morals, the patterns of beingness were taken in by the child, laid down and cemented into this ego-structuring of the world. So that like an arrow shot from a sure bow, the child grew the way he should become and he became a "good" person.
As a result, the person growing up in this "world" acquired an ego structure of reality that was firm and sure. There was an intrinsic sense of rightness and truth. One knew what was right and wrong, acceptable and vile, desirable and loathesome. When decisions were to be made, you did not appeal to logic, to evidence, to experimentation. No, you looked inside yourself, to your feelings, to your own internal sense of "knownness" which cannot be gainsaid by all external new ideas. How can anything convert the reality that is part of yourself?
(Let us pause for a psychoanalytic parenthesis. What I am describing is not just the internalized superego or ego ideal structure. Rather, I am talking about the nature of the so-called autonomous ego structures-the way in which the ego constructs a view of external reality, paints a picture for oneself to portray the world, so that the person can go about the business of living life. One must have an "ego-picture" of the world in order to live, to act, to decide, to derive satisfaction and meaning in one's style of being-in-the-world.)
To return to our person of 1900. Being born, growing up, and living out one's life in a mono-valued culture provided certainty, security, and meaning. When the stranger came to town, when the politician or speculator arrived, he might be greeted with curiosity, but not incorporation. Here was a person from the "outside world", "another world", but certainly not "my world". And the newcomer either became a part of the mono-valued world or was extruded. For two worlds did not exist within the same ego. Sinclair Lewis catches the flavor of cultural constraint in his preface to Main Street, where he remarks: "God made the country and Man made the city, but the Devil must have surely made the small town". In other words, the newcomer, representing a different world of existence, brought cognitive dissonance to the lives of our people of 1900. And the ego does not well tolerate cognitive dissonance (at least if not trained to do so.) So that there is constraint to conformity to reduce cognitive dissonance.
To be sure changes were brewing. Young men and women left the small town, and left their urban ghettos and boroughs. They got educated-got smart. They learned that the world view of their upbringing was chauvinistic, was provincial, was naive, was religious. They learned a new world view. They learned a world view of rationalism, empiricism, scientism. Forsaking the faith of their elders, they followed the faith of the new prophets. And so we arrive at the world view of the scientific professional man. This man of the twentieth century was not beholden to the myths, fantasies, superstitious of his religions forbears. He was free. And he traded the mono-valued culture of the small town for the mono-valued culture of cosmopolitan science.
But something else was happening. After 1940 the social structure of American began to move at a quickening pace. In a scant quarter-century the established patterns of cultural change accelerated. Children now grow up in a place where they were not born. One out of seven American families moves every year. The typical family will now live in four different houses as a family unit. Children do not follow the vocations of their fathers. It is predicted that technological change will require that workers change vocations every ten years. Your children will move away and you will not see your grandchildren. You will retire someplace different from where you worked. And you will die among strangers.
The majority of Americans now live in the handful of large megalopolises. People who came from different mono-valued cultures find themselves living, working, existing, side-by-side with people who are different from themselves. People whom they do not understand, people whom they do not agree with, people who do not live like they do. And the next-door-neighbor calls into question the very essence of my existence.
"Cultural Cloudedness of Consciousness"
How do I reconcile my cognitive dissonance? How do I make sense out of the fact that other people around me live according to different values, different styles, different morals? What is happening to the world? Is everyone going crazy? Or am I?
So we look for answers, for guidance, for reinforcement, that our way of living life is right, is true, is valuable, is meaningful. And we look to our friends, we look to our church, we look to our psychotherapist.
And we have to decide how to raise our children. But it is a bewildering affair. We can demand that they follow precisely in our footsteps. But that is gauche. So we say make up your own mind, we cannot guide you. The new children grow up sans parental commitment to a style of life, with a carte blanche, laissez-faire opportunity to choose their own life. And our children are lost, bewildered, and confused. They look for a way to be. They reach out grasping for a way of being-in-the-world that will give them direction, certainty, satisfaction and meaning. They join the ecology movement, they support the latest political white hope, the Jesus-freaks, the Hare Krishnas, the organic food club. Or they eschew the freakish, and commit themselves to becoming teachers, engineers, scientists, or psychotherapists.
In all of this, we engage in a style of bewildered behavior, that I call the "cultural cloudeduess of consciouness". Most of us, at least of my generation, grew tip knowing of only one way of being. And now are confronted with many ways of being. It is now clear that the scientific way of being is but the election of one way of being. But this way is not necessarily better or worse than other ways of being. The scientific-academic way is one way. We are no happier, no more fulfilled, nor better adjusted, nor successful, than the aborigine. Different? Yes, Better? No.
We have grown up with the assumption that there was one way to be. And many of us traded off a religiously defined way-to-be for a scientifically defined way-to-he. We have been unawareour consciousness has been clouded-that there are many ways of being-in-the-world.
But. In order to exist, in order to function, in order to derive satisfaction and meaning from life, we cannot exist in a relativistic ennui. We must be able to construct an ego-picture of the world. We must be able to frame a weltanschauung-a world view. And here we face a new task, a new ego-coping skill, a new style of existence. We must learn how to become "multi-cultural". By this I mean, the ability to commit oneself to a style of life, with the conscious recognition that it is not the style of life.
Heretofore, in the history of the human race, ego development and the ego sense of reality has been based upon a normative view of the world. Now we are faced with the plurality of human existence. There are many ways to be-in-the-world. But I must choose one way to he. And that way must be normative for me, although it may not be normative for others.
How do we decide to live out our lives? How do we pick our way through the jungled maze of existence? How do we make a path through the forest?
In the earliest times, in the primary societies of man, in the major cultures of society, the way to live out life was spelled out in terms of religion. Religion was the overarching superstructure that contained the embodiment of how man should live. Within this context, we can observe that religious frames of reference have served to structure human existence from the earliest times to the present.
However, with the advent of the scientific age, religion was seen as superfluous, constricting, destructive. Science would replace religion. Freud viewed religion as a destructive force in society. Morality was viewed as synonymous with religious. Culture was oppressive. Morality was a negativistic quality of life. Psychotherapy was an amoral enterprise. Psychotherapy made no demands, held no standards, conducted no judgments. But while psychotherapy, as a science of human behavior, was promoting a non-normative view of human behavior, it was thereby undercutting the very basis of human existence.
To twentieth-century scientific professional men, the idea of religion was atavistic. Religion was a structure that spelled out the way in which people should live. Psychotherapy was a method that did not spell out how people should live. However, that turns out to be a false conclusion. Psychotherapy is merely an alternative methodology. It is the contemporary faith of the scientific man. In a recent philosophical study, Joseph Margolis concludes: "Psychotherapy, then, is primarily concerned with a technical goal, the preservation and restoration of mental health; nevertheless, its own development leads it, inevitably, to take up the role of moral legislator".8
Research on psychotherapy indicates that therapists are not amoral. Psychotherapists do transmit their values to their patients. That is not at question. Rather, the issues are: (1) How does this influence the course of therapy? (2) What are the values a therapist holds and transmits? (3) How does the therapist influence the values of his patient?
Psychotherapy: Religious System of Modem Man
Psychotherapy, then, is the religions system of contemporary modern man. It defines how one should be, how one should live one's life. But is contemporary psychotherapy applicable beyond the pale of scientific twentieth century men? Contemporary studies of nonwestern cultures suggest that scientific psychotherapy is not necessarily the most useful way to respond to problems of the human condition. Psychotherapy is part of a world view. It is useful within that world view. Outside that world view other modes of human guidance may be more appropriate.
In the traditional religious systems of the world, sin is sickness, and sickness is sin. The priest is the physician, and the physician is the priest. Religious systems define the nature of man, how he should live, and how to restore a man to function. Religious systems are systems of human guidance. Psychotherapy is a system of human guidance.
Heretofore discussions on psychiatry and religion have been framed in terms of mono-valued worlds of existence. Representatives from both sides put forth their interpretations of human beings as the more adequate. Or one group would interpret all the perspectives of the other group as merely variants of their own view-we're doing the same thing but use different language. Or both groups would propose ways to collaborate. But the basic problem remained: a man was seen, interpreted, experienced within a mono-valued sphere of being.
This era has come to an end. The various religions systems of human guidance offered man a certainty of life and a security of truth. The modem age of science, with psychotherapy as its handmaiden, offered a new certainty and a new truth. Yet the progress of the scientific study of man reveals that we are inverted
In order to live life, to decide and act, to extract satisfaction and meaning, I must paint a picture of man. I must commit myself to a way of life. But I cannot and will not confuse a way with the way.
upon ourselves. Our science tells us that we cannot know truth. And the psychotherapeutic way is as arbitrary as the religious way.
Our fellow psychoanalytic colleague, Allen Wheelis concludes his recent observations on the nature of man thusly:
At the beginning of the Modern Age science did, indeed, promise certainty. It does no longer. Where we now retain the conviction of certainty we do so on our own presumption, while the advancing edge of science warns that absolute truth is a fiction, is a longing of the heart, and not to be had by man . . . . Our designations of evil are as fallible now as they were ten thousand years ago; we simply are better armed now to act on our fallible vision.9
Where does that leave us? We can no longer pretend. The cultural
been blown away. We see clearly in our consciousness that we stand naked in the
world. Nietzsche is said to have run in the streets, crying, "Fall on your
knees and weep, for God is dead." After him the preeminent philosopher of
our tmes, Jean Paul Sartre, looked out on the streets of science. And
that science too was dead. After it all, man is alone, desolate,
forlorn. He has
no where to turn to find out how to be.
What shall we do? Shall we turn out the clergy, depose the scientists, shun the psychotherapist?
Nihilism and pessimism, ennui and despair are one answer. Frantic and frenetic activity to drown out consciousness is another. Or can we go on with our myths of religion and our myths of science, playing a game with our consciousness that we really don't know what we know.
Still another way exists, or is it ways? Paul Tillich called it The Courage to Be. It is the willingness to look at man in full consciousness. It is learning to become a "multi-cultural" man. It is the acquisition of new egocoping skills not dependent on certainty and truth. It is the recognition that there are many ways to paint a picture of man, and many ways to live in accord with the picture I paint.
In order to live life, to decide and act, to extract satisfaction and meaning, I must paint a picture of man. I must commit myself to a way of life. But I cannot and will not confuse a way with the way. To walk through the dim lit forest of life I must hack out a path, while others hack out theirs.
This then leads us to the focus of this discussion. Man does not exist unto himself. We fall in the forest and we are stymied by the thickets. Human societies are bands of wanderers who aid each other. There are various bands of humans, each band describes its path, and guidance and assistance is. provided by each hand, by one member to another.
In the modern age the human helping profession of psychotherapy has developed within the moral religious world of science and technology. It would be tempting to view the psychotherapeutic structure of helping as normative. But it is not. There are many human systems of guidance. Sometimes these systems involve large hands of wanderers - those who live within the world views of the great religions. Sometimes the hand of wanderers are small - and their systems of guidance seem esoteric because they are unfamiliar.
One final question confronts us. To what extent are we bound within the system to which we are committed? How far can we stray from our path through the forest, how far can we stray from our own band of wanderers? How effectively can we help a member of another band struggling along in his way that is not my way?
It is tempting to achieve some definition of which way is best. If our religious system is failing, inept, inadequate, or filled with faults, it is tempting to look with envy and naive admiration at the helpers, gurus, prophets and priests, going along tracks in the forest according to other systems. But is it justifiable to presume that our religious track through the forest is the best or truest? Who shall be the judge? And how shall he judge?
It is tempting to discard the religious ways for the scientific tracks through the forest. But as we now see, that is just another alternative track.
I keep wanting to draw conclusions and make interpretations from my spot in the forest. Yes, I know that misses the point. We need to do things our way, we need to believe in what we are doing, we need to be committed to our path in the forest and to our band of wanderers.
No man can wander successfully through the jungled maze alone. Hence the need to belong and to be committed to a fellow band of wanderers. The Apostles' Creed describes this as "the communion of saints". Further, we must be committed to our way, we must follow our track. This is the essence of the Christological call to "faithful commitment". Here we are tempted to confuse faith with science. Through science we should like to experimentally assess each track in the forest with logical rigor. But science cannot tell us whether one path or another leads to the ultimate goal in the forest. Indeed faith is the commitment to and the willingness to follow our track.
So let us look at ourselves, at our track, at our band of faithful wanderers, with clear consciousness as we trudge through the forest.
lKluckhohn, C. Introduction. In: W. A. Lesss and E. Z. Vogt (eds.) Reader in Comparative Religion: An Anthropological Approach, 2nd ed. New York: Harper and Row, 1966.
2Rieff, P. The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud. New York: Harper and Row, 1966.
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