Posted by: innerpilgrimage | September 5, 2012

Transference: A Power Greater than Myself

          I’ve started reading about world religions, and I admit fully that I have been confused deeply about the tales told me about many religions–especially the one of my indoctrination.

          Well, to make corrections? The book I’m reading places the death of Jesus around 30 CE and the death of Paul at 67 CE (at the same time the Jewish Revolt of 66-70 CE occurred, which led to the destruction of the Temple). So, Christ and Paul were purportedly relative contemporaries. From 46 CE to 62 CE, Paul is said to have traveled the Mediterranean world and wrote letters to the communities of the time. Around the same time of Paul’s death, the Dead Sea Scrolls were hidden and The Gospel according to Mark was written. Just after 100 CE, the first use of the word catholic (Greek, meaning “universal” or “in general”) in writing to describe Christianity was in a letter to Smyrna from Ignatius of Antioch, who wrote: “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ be, there is the Catholic Church.” The letter from Ignatius is firm documentation to me that by AD 100, Christianity had taken hold as a catholic religion.
          Irinaeus, around 185 CE, compiled the first canon–rejecting some gnostic gospels and texts as heresy and accepting others as truth. So, who wrote the Bible? Lots of people. The Bible just had human editors–Irinaeus being the first. Just before 300 CE, Anthony of Egypt, a Christian, was inspired by the story of Jesus’s 40 days and nights in the desert and traveled to the desert to live as a hermit. He did this for 20 years, when his gathered followers inspired him to encourage them to follow the first monastic rule: manual labor in service of God. Christianity took hold in Europe and Africa around this time, though Rome was not yet Christian. Just after 300 CE, a resurgence of Christian persecution by the Roman Empire began. And, in 312, Constantine I under the flag of Christianity defeated the last pagan emperor and became Emperor. In 313 CE, the edict of Milan stated Christianity was to be tolerated in the empire; in 325 CE, Christianity became the state faith of the Roman empire. A resurgence of paganism in the Roman empire mid-fourth century was quelled by the end of the fourth century. And in 405 CE, St. Jerome followed Irinaeus’s lead and completed the first Latin Bible. Interestingly, the splitting of the faith–Catholic, Coptic, and Eastern Orthodox, as well as other splitter factions–was part of this early time, too. Lots of Councils occured to determine doctrine and heresy (including the controversy over the emphasis of humanity over the divinity of Jesus), which caused many splits in the newly organized faith-based religion.
          So, there it is. I still have not heard of entirely plausible life-contemporary records of Jesus outside of gospel and gnostic Christian texts (one theory is that with the destruction of Jerusalem during the revolt of 66CE-70CE, the records were destroyed, as well). The apostle Paul’s existence is also in question for the same reasons–his life and times are pretty-much only recorded in the New Testament of the Bible, as well. Guy P. Harrison wrote in 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God something I definitely believe: “Reality is not a popularity contest. Reality is what it is, regardless of who knows it.” (50 Reasons, p. 251) So, in conclusion? This gets a resounding, “I don’t know and it’s okay not to know.” What I do know? Christianity exists today because I see churches, I have been in churches, I have read the Bible, I have purchased several and still own one somewhere, and I am very aware of many people who participate in one of the myriad subsects of the organized religion called Christianity.
          The erroneous statements I’ve made regarding the historical accounts have to do with texts written by apologists of other religions. No wonder it’s so confusing. Everyone thinks their truth is the simple truth given by a deity. The difficulty is that no one truth (and no one religion) exists–even within the overarching labels we put on faith-based religions today. However, I think it is responsible to put down the history as conceived and stop being so self-assured in my ignorance. And no, admitting I do not know is not ignorance. I consider making statements of opinion-as-fact because I’d rather have a comforting easy answer instead of being courageous enough to admit I do not know something is ignorance. When it is made evident as reality by the Sagan Standard (“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”) the reality will be as present as air and all can observe it and/or its effects through personal and group experience.
         
          So, uh, transference. My spouse and I were talking about the nature of Higher Powers in recovery. We spoke on transference, and we discussed it in terms of faith, religion (especially animism–where natural phenomena and physical objects are anthropomorphized by imparting them with human characteristics), and therapy. From dictionary.com:
         
          [As defined in] Psychoanalysis [: The] shift of emotions, especially those experienced in childhood, from one person or object to another, especially the transfer of feelings about a parent to an analyst.
         
          Okay, so to find a Higher Power, it needs to be a perceived safe person, place, or situation to which I can transfer my desire to control everything uncontrollable in my life (which is pretty much everything except how I perceive the world and act on those perceptions). I’ve said before that Reality is my Higher Power, yet Reality seemed to succumb to the Creator concept (the Demiurge which created the world, versus the greater spiritual vastness which the gnostics sought and still seek to connect with). I think I need a human-observation level touchpoint with reality. Unfortunately, Reality is indifferent–which means it cannot have a will for me. I have no actual purpose or meaning (as I believe no person does, because that’s submitting to the safe illusion of naming and taming the unknowable). I exist for now, and I exist as a person who is sick and tired of being sick and tired.
          Uh, things I can observe. Well, I observe that I can easily worship with pomp-and circumstance ritual both food and “love” relationships (what society calls romantic love is not love; it’s lust and control and a bunch of nutty rules tossed in to sell magazines and other frivolous things to people who would be happy if they stopped listening to people and organizations who want to take others’ resources). The sin of overabundance and the saintlihood of martyrdom are still acting in my life today, reproducible in how I act out those addictions. I look to the negative memories I reference as proof, which has scientifically been shown to often be erroneous by the nature of how our brains store memories as a malleable product. Especially traumas.
          Now, this does not affect Step Four Inventories whatsoever, which is a hopeful relief as I turn toward the Steps for guidance out of the madness of addiction. It also does not affect Steps Five, Six, Seven, Eight, and Nine, for those steps are about–in my belief–rising above the fatalistic condemnation of nature by Charles Darwin of “the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low and horridly cruel works of nature.” We are, through evolution, self-aware and creative–as we have made every supernatural being in our image. I consider E.B. Tylor’s anthropological theory of the evolution of the stages of religion (animism, polytheism, then monotheism) as accurate enough, considering the observable historic record. I believe religion and society evolved side-by-side, based on the needs of the community. The needs of the community doesn’t prove God’s existence to me, just that an overarching desire to not be faced with the vast void of “I Don’t Know” is daunting to the average human mind. And the individual’s ability to opt out leads to thinkers like Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson, who look into the void and feel hope and gratitude and joy at that Gene Roddenberry vision of exploration beyond the edges of the known Universe. The horizon is The New World, not where there be monsters. Adventurers of the mind, these individuals spend their lives celebrating the collective wisdom and intellect resulting from millions of years of human evolution. As Richard Dawkins writes as the Devil’s Chaplain in “A Devil’s Chaplain”:
         
          “The shark may outswim you, the cheetah outrun you, the swift outfly you, the capuchin outclimb you, the elephant outpower you, the redwood outlast you. But you have the biggest gifts of all: the gift of understanding the ruthlessly cruel process that gave us all existence, the gift of revulsion against its implications; the gift of foresight–something utterly foreign to the blundering short-term ways of natural selection–and the gift of internalizing the very cosmos.
          We are blessed with brains which, if educated and allowed free reign, are capable of modelling the universe, with its physical laws in which the Darwinian algorithm is embedded.”

          (A Devil’s Chaplain,, p.12)
         
          For the record, I don’t bow down to these thoughts, treat them with religious reverence. I don’t agree with everything Dawkins writes, but I feel hope and peace when I read and consider these alternatives to the installed beliefs of my indoctrination. I consider it to be akin to being a computer which is sold with a bloatware Operating System. Formatting the drive doesn’t help if there is no alternative operating system waiting to make the computer useful. Upgrading and patching a bad operating system doesn’t fix the problem. However, it takes time and research to find the best operating system for one’s actual needs. What can be sacrificed? What benefits will that new operating system provide over the old one?
          Addiction is the non-working, old, broken, unpatchable mess I’ve worked with for decades. It’s like I haven’t left Windows 3.0 or the Mac System 6.0 (using them as general time contemporaries). Recovery is, well, like Android. It’s sharp, fast, tight, and does what I need. It connects me to the world. It’s mobile and simple, though I have to admit it requires a really sharp learning curve. But once it’s learned (like the 12 Steps), it’s indispensible.
          So, back to transference. I have a lot of options. I’ve come up with a few. Worry stones. Worry dolls. Writing–resentments, things I cannot change, and things I have trouble accepting to be released–on origami paper and folding them into paper cranes, using the animist transference of the symbolism of birds to let them be held until they can be released ritually by destroying the physical-world items. Or, perhaps even keeping them as a testament to hope, unfolding, writing the recovered solution, then re-folding the recovered solution within. There are many, many options to getting those things out of me. Surrendering them just to elsewhere. Letting go, something I can change. Something I must change in order to stop living in the fantasy of a past that is a semi-fictionalized account of my life (according to the memory studies).
          I just tripped over a WordPress blog quite similar to mine: Realistic Recovery. It actually is creepy-same to mine. Mike H., the 12-Stepper doing service in this way, both uses the same CSS page and started in 2009, eight months before I began A Forty-Something Fool’s Journey. So, Mike H. (whose most recent post was 14 August of this year)? Thank you for doing all of that work. I have no idea how I could have missed this for three flipping years. Seriously. I’ve done the search for Agnostic 12 Steps many, many times.
          No, it doesn’t prove God exists, that I had “a miracle”. I don’t know what happened to cause me to trip over to Mike H.’s web page. I’ll just chalk it up to “I Don’t Know” and just . . . start reading.
          I’m quite inspired by his 12 Steps of Realistic Recovery.
         
          My name is Jess. I am eating disordered–compulsive overeater and anorexic–and “love” disordered–toxic love addict and social/emotional anorexic. Together we get better, and for the first time in a very long time I feel the growth of a fellowship.

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Responses

  1. yes. The fun of intellectual evolution. You are making me think and define.

    • I look forward to reading what you discover on your journey of thought. 🙂


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