We are now on to Chapter 3, titled “Man’s Archaic Heritage.” Beginning with this chapter and continuing through chapter 5, Preston Harold takes us back to the ‘”beginning” in exploring the origins of humanity, how we come to be where we are today, and the role of Jesus’ message as applied to our genesis, for He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
In 1859 it was Charles Darwin who lead much of mankind to recognize it’s “origin” in the animal kingdom and thereby strike a major challenge and blow to orthodox Christian theology. Twenty five years later Sigmund Freud began to publish his works, which also turned humanity to view it’s savage past:
…there probably exists in the mental life of the individual not only what he has experienced himself, but also what he brought with him at birth, fragments of a phylogenetic origin, an archaic heritage…though different in extent and character [it] corresponds to the instincts of animals.
This theory also dealt a major blow to Christianity for Freud expounded on it to say that all religions are delusions containing a piece of forgotten, but historical, truth and thus imbued with psychotic symptoms. Most religious origins revolve around themes of murder, patricide, infanticide, castration and cannibalism. This takes us into the realm of myth and the hero’s journey which we briefly looked at earlier here. In his “Moses and Monotheism,” Freud reconstructs the average myth:
The hero is the son of parents of the highest station, most often the son of a king. His conception is impeded by difficulties… During his mother’s pregnancy or earlier an oracle or a dream warns the father of the child’s birth as containing grave danger for his safety. In consequence the father (or a person representing him) gives orders for the new-born babe to be killed or exposed to extreme danger; in most cases the babe is placed in a casket and delivered to the waves. The child is then saved by animals or poor people, such as shepherds, and suckled by a female animal or woman of humble birth. When full grown he rediscovers his noble parents after many strange adventures, wreaks vengeance on his father, and, recognized by his people, attains fame and greatness.
The actual historical background for this mythic structure is where the “psychotic symptoms” come into play:
The story is told in a very condensed way, as if what in reality took centuries to achieve, and during that long time was repeated innumerably, had happened only once. The strong male was the master and father of the whole horde, unlimited in his power, which he used brutally. All females were his property… The fate of the sons was a hard one; if they excited the father’s jealousy they were killed or castrated or driven out….the brothers who had been driven out and lived together in community clubbed together, overcame the father, and – according to the custom of those times – all partook of his body. This cannibalism need not shock us, it survived into far later times. The essential point is, however, that we attribute to those primeval people the same feelings and emotions that we have elucidated in the primitives of our own times, our children, by psycho-analytic research….they not merely hated and feared their father, but also honored him as an example to follow; in fact, each son wanted to place himself in his father’s position. The cannibalistic act thus becomes comprehensible as an attempt to assure one’s identification with the father by incorporating a part of him.
“My father will come home and see what I did… He’ll have to deal with me. I’m just tired of being afraid.”
If this is indeed how the religions of man began, it certainly seems to paint a bleak picture. There is no revelation from any type of God on high, no striving to become a better human being, no selfless giving involved. Where is the hope, the faith, the love? There is only striving for dominance and power. To be at the top of the food chain is the ultimate goal. How can this goal be transformed into something better for all of humanity? This is what we will continue to explore, and in our next post will we begin to look at the role the Apostle Paul plays in his interpretation of the message of Jesus to affect this transformation. Until then, peace…