“It is only through mystery and madness that the soul is revealed”
― Thomas Moore
If there is even a grain of truth in this nugget of wisdom, then the religious institutions of our time must re-examine the dogmatic tenets of their various faiths with respect to how they regard, interpret, "treat" and heal those whose lives have touched the outer limits of both mystery and madness.
First, the soul's revelation, and the ensuing life that emerges from such 'birthing' can only be seen as appropriate and fulfilling to a culture that is open to such epic risk. And it can only be through entry into a faith in the unknown, the ultimate mystery, otherwise expressed as a "relationship with God", that such risk can even be entertained, contemplated and ventured. Margaret Atwood reminds us that we find ourselves only by losing ourselves, a similar, if secular, and nuanced version of a similar view. In the parables, we find a similar upside-down view of winners and losers....and yet...
Our churches persist in maintaining a veneer of perfection, casting aside, rejecting, alienating and even despising those whose lives thwart the institution's rules, regulations, demands, expectations and interpretations of the mind and will of God. And we all live in a culture founded and maintained by such a paradox that cannot but be tilted overboard, replete with unrest, psychic disease, anxiety, and negative stress given the human capacity to both seek and to risk the ultimate test, to cross the boundaries established as sacred and "uncrossable," for the simple reason that they are there and that 'we can'....
If our religious nurture and formation consists almost exclusively of "fitting in" to the norms of the chosen faith and our human nature, at its core, is tied inextricably to a search for self-awareness, self-understanding and self-release into those mysteries, then it is the institutions and their "binding" of their adherents that must let go, or be released from our need to belong.
"Political correctness" and strict compliance with any church's definition of the rule and mind of God is precisely what can lead only to a rupture between the human unconscious and the social conventions imposed by that institution. The more we move into the "conformity" expected by the institution, subsume our selves into the vast cavern of the whale's consuming appetite (for it is nothing short of a monstrous appetite for control that drives the religious institutions of our time) and mistakenly conceive, believe and accept that such conformity is moving closer to the "holy" or to God, that our unconscious will thrust itself out from the bottom of our inner self, raging and writhing like a beached dolphin left to die in the sands of the desert, screaming and cavorting in dramas of excruciating pain, or delirium or ecstasy or upward currents of imagination that make tornadoes and hurricanes seems like halcyon breezes.
There is a reason that nature is so uncontrollable and so unpredictable and that human beings are such an intimate component of that nature. We too are unpredictable, uncontrollable resisting all those ties that bind our spirits, even in the name of God, or should we say especially in the name and service of God. No God ever intended such bindings, except perhaps for the "mummies" of the ancient world following a human death. We have so linked, even equated holiness with purity of action, purity of thought, purity of mind heart that we have expunged our very natures from their life-source....and in so doing, we have inflicted mountains of self-flagellation, self-rejection and self-loathing on so many millions of religious followers, because we can and must all acknowledge our own indiscretions, misdeeds, misdemeanors, and even outright betrayals of those we most love and trust...and, except for the occasional 'confessions' and penitential cleansings, based on a trust in the death and resurrection of a saviour, we are left with the guilt of those "sins" as the defining features of our lives.
It is madness, first to declare our human natures as sinful and then to prosecute that nature through the instrument established to worship a deity whose traces of insight and wisdom have been filtered to us through the minds, spoken and written words of our fellow humans of distant times and places.
Unless and until the church opens its collective arms, hearts, minds and spirits to the fullness of the truth that our lives inevitably lead to the soul's full revelation and disclosure, only through unplanned, unpredictable, yet inevitable journeys through mysteries and madnesses which neither can nor will be expunged from our natures, no matter how compelling the case for conformity and chastity and self-control that is so much a part of the spiritual formation of our religious "leaders"....most of whom have no experience with either mystery or madness, and thereby are restricted from even a glimpse of the fuller truth and the fuller risk of such exposures that they cannot mentor those in their "flock" whose lives venture forth into the darkness.
We have created, and generations of people have fallen into line of acceptance, institutions of human judgement, repression and fault-finding, complete with a social network of vehement and viscious condemnation in the name of God, a legacy that no God would either welcome or endorse. And the cost to our individual lives, not to mention the costs to the health care systems, the insurance costs, the family break-ups, and the rebellious 'crossing those sacred lines' just as our forebears did in Genesis, continue to climb exponentially as we continue to enact this drama. We have fully drunk the belief that we are fundamentally and inexorably horrible, sinful and irredeemable without God and the institutions that "propagate His word," without seeing through the human darkness that both clouds our psyches and our vision of a free, full and open to risk life...open especially to the greatest risks of both mystery and madness through the teachings of the ecclesiastical institution which is paradoxically incapable of the very compassion, tolerance, acceptance and even alignment with those undergoing such voyages into our deepest unknowns that we/they could provide, if only we/they could accept as normal what the churches in their wisdom have deemed "evil"....