Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

Genesis. Lectures 9 and 10

1964 - 1966

We have until now listened to given points of view which are that commonly expounded in the Orthodox Church. But ever since the Scriptures were written it has been claimed that they had a meaning not only for those who from a certain angle, technically, were called the believers, but also for anyone, because they contain meaning which is human, which is universal, which has significance for every person. And this can be shown perhaps best in modern times, because the Bible has been rediscovered in the last century, let us say, increasingly in new ways by the psychologists, on a level which indeed belongs to all men. And this is what we are going to face now. Anne Dutton is a social psychologist. She lectures in the University of London, and she will speak to us on the same part of Genesis which we have been considering, from a point of view which we have not ever touched. I have asked her, taking into account the quantity of matter there is, and the importance of the subject, not to make any attempt at putting into one talk all she can say, but rather if necessary to break it up into two talks so that we can discuss thoroughly and as usefully as we can for ourselves what she has to say to us today and perhaps next time.

Anne Dutton (summarized):

Difference of vocabulary separates psychology and theology when they are saying practically the same thing sometimes, and people don’t recognise it. Psychological statements are much more closely tied to a concrete situation and are filled out with much more descriptive detail. In contrast, the religious language is much more direct and has much greater poetical impact. In order to bridge the gulf, each should learn to appreciate the significance of the language used by the other.

I think myths are the result of an attempt to express an inner intuition. Garden of Eden, e.g. The Chinese have a story of a mysterious garden where a tree grows, bearing apples of immortality, guarded by a dragon, and this dragon is the symbol of infinite intelligence keeping guard over the tree of knowledge. The Greeks too have the legend of the multiheaded serpent guard­ing the apple-bearing tree in the garden of Hesperides. It was one of the labours of Hercules to kill the serpent and bring back the apples.

The serpent stands for masculinity, masculine sexuality, also wisdom and wealth, it is associated with the ocean because of its wave-like movements, and is credited with possessing secrets of healing and of renewing life which are denied to mankind. Serpents (= dragons) in eastern myths are usually seen as purely good in their use of power, in the West they are seen as evil in their power (St George, e.g.). Truth has from time immemorial been represented by a naked girl. Eve and Mary, the second Eve have names linguistically related to the ocean. Both names, and the ocean in most legends, typify the Great Mother of all creation (Babylon, e.g. has this). The Virgin Mary’s name recalls the creative depth of the unfathomable ocean, but she herself typifies truth in her virginal purity, and in Latin she is referred to as Stella Maris, star of the sea. The Gospel story recalls that she became spouse of the Supreme Creator and so allowed life to transform chaos and hell.

If the sin of Adam and Eve was to attempt to live outside the circle of love, their fear is very understandable. The attempt of self-concealment as a defense against the anxiety caused by the loss of love is a very well known phenomenon. Anna Freud, the great Freud’s daughter, wrote a book called `The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense’ on this. The modern defenses are as ineffective as the fig leaves were. The apple is a well-recognised female sex symbol. The theme of seeking knowledge beyond what is reasonable, leading to destruction, has been explored in various versions of the Faust legend. There is no implication in the story of the fall that Adam and Eve are to be distinguished in the type of temptation to which they succumbed. In the fall they have lost their power and the woman has got to struggle with matter in the form of her own body and creating children, and the man with matter in the form of the soil from which he must scratch a living for them all. Due to their biological seperateness the fall means that they have separate tasks to some extent and these tasks must be performed as a prerequisite for them to regain the spiritual freedom they have lost. Nothing implies that spiritual freedom is not the same thing for both of them, and the way to regain the spiritual freedom in each case is by creating a harmony between the male and female elements within themselves, which they have inherited from the dual personality of our first parents. As Jung sees the matter, the task of each sex is to come to terms with the anima, animus. It takes a life-time. The social environment plays a great role, can help or hinder.

The central event in the Christian faith is the way in which the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. It is generally accepted that this Word, Logos, is a masculine principle. But mankind is not redeemed by a logical principle. It was a woman, Mary, the second Eve, who was the bearer of redemption. Christ, the man, was not only the Son of God but the Son of Mary too. If this is accepted it throws still more light on the meaning of the story of man’s temptation and fall. It is possible that Eve, in succumbing to the cold wisdom of the serpent, was grasping greedily for abstract knowledge at the cost of sacrificing her own lovely creative feminine nature. Adam too grasped at knowledge without love and so fell prey to the lure of the feminine and lost his masculine integrity. It is easy to understand how in terms of Jung’s psychology such attitudes result in personal disintegration, obsession and domination by anima or animus..

If we accept the interpretation of the stories, it is unfortunately clear that historically their significance has been very imperfectly appreciated by the Church. Rather simple persons have chosen to give them a literal physical meaning. Eve is seen as being merely a lascivious hussy deflecting man from his manly work. Since Mary was apparently submissive to God, it is concluded that woman must be submissive to man. Finally, since Christ was apparently poor and did not marry, many earnest young men have been inspired to renounce marriage and subject themselves to poverty, too much for this reason.

St Paul speaks as a man of his time, I think, rather than as a saint, in the tone of his remarks about women. The attitude sometimes leads to the persecution of women and to the damage of men as well as women.

This time I want to begin by referring to the more detailed account given by Freud of the stages through which the young child passes before reaching this level of maturity, together with his discovery of the pitfalls on the way. I shall try to show how the Church as a social institution has reflected, and unfortunately to some extent perpetuated, what Freud would regard as the immaturities of some of its members. After discussing the implication of Freudian theory I shall go on to talk about the relevance of Melanie Klein’s work as an aid to a psychological understanding of Church ritual and organ­isation. She was a psychoanalyst who developed some of Freud’s ideas.

(stages of child)

The Church has been used as a refuge against the anxiety resulting from an unsatisfactory resolution of the Oedipus complex. Men faced with the split between what I may call for convenience the emotional and intellectual aspects of their natures established in early life have tended to assume that they must sacrifice either the one side or the other. Many early churchmen, particularly, assumed that they could not develop unless they sacrificed the emotional side, which meant avoiding women like the plague.

People who dam their libidinal drives mutilate themselves because these drives are the energy source for all constructive growth. So they feel guilt, as fear of death resulting from this self-destructiveness – according to Freud. Similarly with morbid sense of sin in the church and frantic attempts at self-discipline and self-mortification.

Necessity of reevaluating the viewpoints taken from parents when young. Piaget ‘s book on development of moral concepts in children. Role of Church in this moral development; Freud saw Church as aiming to perpetuate childish unquestioning dependence in adults. True of R§C. for instance. What is dangerous, it seems to me, is to confuse God with the Church authorities or with any human authority because that can quickly lead to abdication from personal responsibility in the unique concrete existential situations we encounter.

Freud helped people express their mind in a safe atmosphere and thus detach themselves enough to face up to their problems and master the crippling anxiety. Melanie Klein gave toys for children to use instead of words. Love and hate in baby. Can’t distinguish between objects in own mind and external objects. Piaget says the continuing process of projection and introjection is the way in which mental life and self-awareness are built up. Not only the object but the enaction attached to it is introjected. At about 6 months baby comes to see that the object hated is the same object as the object loved. (Breast, etc., at different moments) This realisation is accompanied by a dawning awareness of the danger of subjecting what is loved to destructive hatred, together with guilt and sorrow for the harm done. The only way out of this depressive position is to try to make reparation by mobilising love impulses. Such ambivalence goes on in our life.We may adopt defensive means to avoid facing the truth. Self-deception is characteristic. An important aspect of M. Klein’s view is that it is impossible to establish clear boundaries between the external object and the same object internalised. In order to have an internal experience of goodness we must have experienced goodness from an object external to ourselves, but the experience is only registered as good as far as it evokes for us our own emotion of love. Similarly we can see something external to us as hateful, but only by projecting the emotion of anxiety evoked in us by per­ceived danger. Freud showed that the first object around which these emotions play are those closely connected with the child’s bodily state.

It is evident if you accept M. Klein’s point of view that all human beings are engaged in this life and death struggle, trying to control the anxiety and fear of death which their hatred creates in them – through fear of retaliation from the object on which it is projected. They try to do this by making reparation, asserting the power of love within them. This involves a constant search for reinforcement from good external objects, which will be connected with the earliest good object, the mother’s breast. Communion bread & wine. Confession before it as an attempt to help people drop their defenses, with help of verbal symbols. Reparation will be expressed outwardly. `By their fruits..’

People put a bit of themselves into outer reality and receive a reflection of themselves from the objects they are projecting into, together with what you might call a response from the object given according to its nature. If you are one who believes that God shines through all natural forms you can think of this response as God-given inasmuch as it is possible to see the reality behind the form. However if a person has projected their evil impulses on the world they will see evil reflected back from these objects. Thus we make objects into symbols. This growth through symbol creation is a universal feature of human nature but is carried on at different levels of sophistication. Most of us in our symbol life are nearer the child than the artist’s level. Much of the work of the Church is carried on by providing symbols. Through understanding these by the process of identification people will arrive at understanding themselves better.

Some church members enjoy being rocked in the arms of Mother Church as in a cradle, throwing off not only their anxiety but also their responsibility, living in a phantom world. Psychologically the situation is difficult: the Church has to reinforce the grasp of its member on their good objects and in Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy in particular they do this by a powerful emotional appeal to the primitive image of goodness. The danger is that these teachings work almost too effectively and the members become not only child-like but childish in their outlook on life. On the other hand if you try to avoid this danger as the Protestants do – you run the risk of never reaching the primitive depth where the power resides at all. They tend to deny the genuinely childlike vulnerability which is common at some level to all human beings and which it is false to deny.

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