Mani’s Influence

I was just reading about an intriguing confluence of religions.  There is a continuum of influences from Gnosticism and Manichaeanism to Islam and Sufis and to Bogomils, Paulicians and Albigensians/Cathars… and then to the Reformation.  The confluence of this was in Arab countries that kept alive many Greek and Gnostic strains of belief.  Later on, Southern France became a second Alexandria where a confusion of heresies were spread across Europe.  Italy and Germany were also major centers of heresy.
Okay, let me begin at the beginning.  *deep breath*  🙂  I find all of this fascinating, and I hope I don’t bore anyone.
Mani was born in 216 in Mesopotamia which was a time when many religions were spreading.  This is right after the heresiologists were gaining power of Catholicism and the Gnostics were growing into large religions of their own.  
Mani’s mother was related to the ruling class that I presume was pagan of some sort and his father belonged to a Jewish-Christian baptismal religion.  He was particularly influenced by the tradition of Thomas visiting the East as he also visited the East.  He might’ve also been influenced by the first century Gnostic Mandaeans which were followers of John the Baptist and still exist today.  After various visions and after travelling widely, he formed a religion that combined Judaism, Christianity, Gnosticism, Zoroastrianism, and Buddhism.  He believed that all previous religions had pieces of the truth… talk about new age.
In his lifetime, he saw his religion spread across the whole known world and become a state religion after converting a Buddhist king.  Manichaeanism (or Manichaeism) which incorporated Christianity had become a larger religion than Christianity.  The religion split into Eastern and Western traditions.  It flourished between the third and seventh centuries, and survived in China until the fifteenth century.
Manichaeanism had three lines of influence on Christian Europe. 
First, Augustine was originally a Manichaean during a time when it was dangerous to be one.  His later Christian theology may have been influenced by his Manichaean education, and this is quite important considering Augustine is possibly the single most influential theologian within Christianity.
Second, Manichaean beliefs seem to have been incorporated into the Koran.  Also, the Shi’ites had many converts from other religions including Manichaeanism along with Christianity and Gnosticism.  It’s from the Shi’ites that we got both the Assasins and the Sufis.  Islamic scholarship (along with Greek, Gnostic, and Manichaean ideas) was reintroduced into Europe through Spain.
Third, some scholars detect a continuous tradition of Manichaeanism within Southern France.  From here, the rest of Europe was influenced. 
In Europe, the traditions that possibly had roots in Manichaeanism were the Bogomils, Paulicians, and the Cathars.  The Paulicians were the earliest and still survive today.  Paulicianism was synthesiszed (along with the tenth century Bulgarian Slavonic Church reform movement) into the Bogomil religion.  Identified with or closely connected with the Bogomils have been the following groups: the Cathars and Patarenes, the Waldenses, and the Anabaptists.  The Cathars in particular spread widely… often in places where Protestantism would later take hold.  Germany became a center for the Cathars and it’s where they got their name.  Many of these heretical belief systems created the groundwork for some Catholic mystic theology and also some later Reformation groups (e.g., Anabaptists).
Manichaeanism also influenced Christianity in another way.  Even though many of their own texts didn’t survive, they did keep many Christian apocyphal texts that would have othewise been lost.  There are many similarities between Manichaean scripture and that of Gnosticism, Christianity and Judaism.  One parallel that interests me is his division of people into three types along the lines of Valeninus’ theology.

Christianity’s Early Development

I’m fascinated by the beginnings of what would later be called Christianity… and how it became something entirely different.  Partly, I’m just curious to peer behind the facade of apologetic historicizing which was created through centuries of social oppression, fear-mongering, and occasional genocide.  Still today, New Testament scholarship is strongly influenced by Christian belief.  Even a mainstream project such as the Jesus Seminar started off with the assumption that Jesus historically existed.  Few Christians (or atheists for that matter) realize how complex and inconclusive most of the evidence is.

A good place to begin with my thoughts is the time period when civilization was first forming.  The earliest city-states developed the basic elements of mythology and theology, ritual and symbolism that would make the groundwork for all later religions.  As any educated person knows, the culture eventually known as Jedaism started off pagan and borrowed much from other pagan cultures.  Monotheism first arose in Egypt and most of the Old Testament stories can be found in cultures such as the Babylonians.  The Jews likely wouldn’t have been much of a culture if they hadn’t been influenced to such an extent.  Their kingdoms wer pretty small which would probably equate to the size of what we now call a village.  The Jewish tribes were constantly fighting and slaughtering eachother They weren’t a unified nation and wouldn’t have been different than all of the other warring tribal cultures.

The Jews were an oral culture for most of their history.   Their oral traditions weren’t fully written down and collected as canonical scripture until around 450 BCE.   At one point, they had destroyed all of their copies of their scriptures during their constant tribal warfare. They had to go to the Alexandrian Library because the only copy left in the world was kept there.  That must’ve been embarassing.  As a side note, Alexandria as the center of learning also eventually became a major center of Judaism with the Jews consisting of around half of the population.  These Alexandrian Jews were Hellenized to the extreme and helped to create many of the foundational ideas of Christianity.

Anyways, this period of Jewish history in the centuries prior to Christianity includes several important factors.  This was after the Babylonian Exile and Jewish culture was coming into its own.  The Jewish Reformation had just happened.  It was a time of great change.  There were many competing Jewish sects and many claims of Messiahs.  The earliest origins of Gnosticism and Christianity can be detected in the centuries prior to the common era: Jewish philosophers, the Qumran community, Neo-Platonism, Mystery religions such as Orphism, Cynics, etc.

To give some context, the era of Jewish Reformation coincided with the Axial Age.  Cultures across the world were experiencing major religious change.  All of the great world religions arose to prominence within the following few centuries.  The later blooming of the Axial Age followed after Rome’s annexation of the land of Israel.  Oddly (or not), Judaism gained great stability by being under Roman rule.  They benefitted greatly from the economic wealth and intellectual diversity of Roman culture.  Despite its imperialism, Rome was much more open to the religions of other cultures than the Jews were themselves.  So, Jewish culture was forced into contact with other religions… in particular the solar mythologies of the Middle East and the savior god-men of the Graeco-Roman culture.  Even Far Eastern religions (such as Hinduism and Buddhism) had found their way into the Roman Empire which might explain why some Gnostic scriptures seem somewhat Buddhist in flavor.

This brings us to the first century of the Common Era, the aftermath of the Alexandrian Age.  Religious cults were forming and mixing.  There was such a confusing mess of ideas that none of them could be fully disentangled.  For instance, commentators of the time couldn’t tell the difference between Cynics and Christians.  In fact, many Cynics became Christians and brought their teachings along with them… or was the Cynic tradition one of the various early forms of Christianity.  The hypothetical Q document that is common to Matthew and Luke has strong similarities to the sayings of the Cynics.  The so-called Christians likewise inherited ideas from Orphism.  Actually, there was no clearly distinguishable religion called Christianity in the first century.  There were many groups with many scriptures.  Part of the confusion is that these groups all used similar terminology.  Certain words (such as Jesus, Christ, Son of Man, and the Word) were all commonly used prior to and during the early formation of Christianity.  Many Jews were using foreign myths and ideas in their midrashic interpretations of the Torah.

Let me get down to specifics.  The earliest known Christian writings are those of Paul and/or the scribes writing in Paul’s name.  The earliest layer of Paul’s writings show elements of both Proto-Gnosticism and Proto-Christianity.  More significantly, Paul never mentions an historical Christ.  This makes sense for the idea of a spiritual savior was a common motif, and many Jews had at this point been initiated in various Mystery religions.  The Jews were oppressed and they’d been waiting a long time for the Messiah-King to arrive.  Some Jews gave up on such worldly hopes and turned to the saving grace of gnosis. 

It’s important to note that the earliest commentators on the “Christian” scriptures were all later deemed to be Gnostics.  Of course, not all supposed Gnostics identified themselves this way as many of them were followers of Christ.  To be honest, Gnosticism and Christianity as later determined by Catholic heresiologists didn’t yet exist.  There were no heretics in early Christianity.  There was no way even to split everyone into two simple categories. 

I’ve never come across information on how the Catholic Church formed.  I’d guess that it started as a loose coalition of diverse churches.  This makes sense when one considers the definition of the term ‘catholic’.  There was no official canon at this point and there was disagreement about the degree to which the Bishop of Rome (not yet titled Pope) had authority over the other Bishops.  It’s hard to know precisely what the common beliefs were, but it’s safe to assume that they involved Paul’s teachings.  Paul was revered by both Christians and Gnostics.

One of Paul’s earliest commentators was Valentinus who had converted to Christianity and was claimed to be in the direct lineage of Paul’s teachings.  In fact, he was a respected member of the Catholic Church who was highly praised by other prominent Christians.  He held a position of authority in the Church and almost became what today would be equivalent to the Pope.  It’s unclear what happened, but he didn’t become Bishop of Rome and left the Church around 154 CE.  He was at some point designated Gnostic, but he originally desired to bridge the growing gap between the Gnostics and Christians.  He saw them both as a part of the same religion: the Inner and Outer Mysteries.  If there ever was a single original Christianity, Valentinus might’ve been one of the last representatives of it.

Sadly, Catholicism was not destined to live up to its own name.  For reasons unknown, the heresiologists gained political power.  Thus begins the tyranny that continued for way too many centuries.  The heresiologists essentially invented the term Gnostic as we now use it.  For them, it was a blanket term meaning that you weren’t a respectable Christian.  Irenaeus was particularly influential and he condemned Valentinus as a heretic.  The method in determining Gnosticism seemed to be any person or tradition, scripture or version of scripture that a Catholic politico happened to personally dislike or for some reason perceived as “threatening”.  Lists of banned scriptures were announced and what quickly followed was the destruction of scriptures once considered holy even by Christians.

Some scriptures such as that of proto-Gnostic Paul and probably Gnostic John couldn’t be banned because they were so popular.  In these cases, they were heavily redacted and harmonized with the more respectable scriptures.  Scriptures now became official documents upholding official dogma.  Once someone was accused of heresy, they couldn’t use scripture to defend themselves.

(By the way, it was sometime in the following century or so that the Nag Hammadi library was buried… probably by Coptic Christians… just to let you know that there were still some moral Christians left in the world.  It’s because of the Nag Hammadi library that we are fortunate to be able to read for ourselves the teachings of such great Gnostic Christians as Valentinus and also to read the alternative versions of the canonical scriptures.)

Overall, the heresiologists helped to consolidate the power of the Catholic Church.  For example, Irenaeus defended the Papacy as founded upon Peter.  Of course, he wouldn’t have had to defend it if it had already been a concensus belief.  As the Pauline tradition was the oldest, some early Christians had originally seen him as the founder of Christianity.  Actually, there were many scriptures claiming many founders that were written in the first couple of centuries.

Let me make an important connection here.  It was because of this oppressive trend that Catholicism was so easily assimilated into the oppressive Roman Empire’s scheme to save it’s declining power.  Catholicism had become the perfect tool for imperialism of the likes the Roman people had never seen before.  My main point here is that the heresiologists had set themselves up for this.  If Catholicism had remained a loose coalition, then there wouldn’t have been a central power that could be easily taken over.  Still, this leads to a more fundamental question: what caused the shift in the latter part of the second century?  Catholicism was open and diverse, and then in a short period of time it was something entirely different.  What undermined Valentinus’ attempt to lessen the conflict between the factions? 

Everything about Jesus Christ was antithetical to what Catholicism became.  Jesus said to give unto Caesar what belonged to Caesar, and so his followers gave the whole damned religion to Caesar… a Pagan Caesar at that.  After the First Council of Nicaea, Constantine went home and murdered his family.  Having taken control of Christianity, he didn’t convert until his deathbed.  He did this so he could continue his bloody reign and then get divine “forgiveness” at the last possible moment.  It just blows my mind.  Couldn’t the Catholics see the irony of it all?

I guess it makes sense when you consider the heresiologists decided to make their claim on the Papacy through Peter.  Let us recall what Peter did after Jesus died.  Oh yeah, he denied him three times.  Thusly, Catholicism was built upon the denial of Christ and the wisdom of Christ was bashed on the Rock of Peter.

Okay, that is enough of ridiculing traditional Christianity for the moment.  I’m just genuinely bewildered about how the decisions of a few heresiologists sets the stage for the entire history of Christianity.  How does Europe go from the intellectual and scientiific burgeoning of the Axial Age to the ignorance and backwardness of the Dark Ages?

Of course, it’s unfair to blame it all on the heresiologists.  Something was shifting in the whole culture. 

Take as an example Augustine.  Like Valentinus who was one of the last great Christians of the early era, Augustine was one of the last great Pagan thinkers during the Decline of Rome.  Why did an intellectual like him convert to a religion that lacked intellectual respectability (compared to his Pagan education)?  Before Augustine, the Catholic Church had no clear theological claims to its own authority besides mentioning Peter.  Augustine lived during a time that included the Roman Empire falling apart beneath the rule of the Roman Catholic Church and along with this Hypatia’s notorious murder by his fellow Christians.  Hypatia was an even greater Pagan thinker than Augustine had been and with her died all that was good about Roman culture.  How could he remain in such a corrupt religion 15 years after Hypatia’s murder?  How could he continue to defend such religious corruption?  Augustine thought the Roman Catholic Church was a bright light in the darkness.  Why couldn’t he see that it was the rot at the core?

At any point, the Dark Ages might’ve been prevented.  Valentinus could’ve become the Bishop of Rome.  The heresiologists and politicos could’ve been run out of the Church.  Paul’s teachings (in un-redacted form)  could’ve created the foundation of a truly spiritual Christianity.  The Church leaders during Constantine’s rule could’ve chosen moral righteousness (even if it meant persecution) rather than assenting to immoral imperialism.  Constantine himself could’ve chosen to embrace Rome’s tradition of religious diversity and openness.  Augustine could’ve devoted himself to trying to save what was remaining of Graeco-Roman culture.  Christians could’ve chosen to not kill Hypatia and instead embrace or at least be tolerant of the Paganism that their own religion was built upon.

It was a slow accumulation of generations of choices made, and at the heart of it all was that moment in time in the middle of the second century.  The future of the Christianity hung in the balance.  We can only imagine what Christianity might’ve become.

Development of Christian Mysticism

Pre-Nicene New Testament by Robert M. Price
p. 335, note about The First Epistle to the Corinthians
“Valentinians were the first to write commentaries on the Pauline letters.  Thus, along with the Marcionites, Valentinians are the earliest Pauline Christians we know of.”

His Alexandrian followers said that Valentinus was a follower of Theudas and that Theudas in turn was a follower of St. Paul of Tarsus. Valentinus said that Theudas imparted to him the secret wisdom that Paul had taught privately to his inner circle, which Paul publicly referred to in connection with his visionary encounter with the risen Christ (Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7; 2 Corinthians 12:2-4; Acts 9:9-10), when he received the secret teaching from him. Such esoteric teachings were becoming downplayed in Rome after the mid-2nd century.

Tertullian wrote that Valentinus was a candidate for the office of bishop of Rome and that he lost the election by a rather narrow margin. This same failed orthodox church father (Tertullian himself joined the heresy of Montanism) alleges that Valentinus fell into apostasy around 175 A.D. There is much evidence indicating, however, that he was never universally condemned as a heretic in his lifetime and that he was a respected member of the Christian community until his death. He was almost certainly a priest in the mainstream church and may even have been a bishop.

It is certainly a question of some interest what the course of Christian theology might have been had Valentinus been elected to the office of bishop of Rome. His hermeneutic vision combined with his superb sense of the mythical would have probably resulted in a general flowering of the Gnosis within the very fabric of the Church of Rome, and might have created an authoritative paradigm of Gnostic Christianity that could not have been easily exorcised for centuries, if at all.
Like many of the greatest Gnostic teachers, Valentinus claimed to have been instructed by a direct disciple of one of Jesus’ apostles, an “apostolic man” by the name of Theodas. Tertullian also stated that Valentinus was personally acquainted with Origen, and one may speculate with some justification that his influence on this orthodox church father was considerable. The overall character of his contribution has been accurately summarized by Mead in the following manner:

The Gnosis in his hands is trying to … embrace everything, even the most dogmatic formulation of the traditions of the Master. The great popular movement and its incomprehensibilities were recognized by Valentinus as an integral part of the mighty outpouring; he laboured to weave all together, external and internal, into one piece, devoted his life to the task, and doubtless only at his death perceived that for that age he was attempting the impossible. None but the very few could ever appreciate the ideal of the man, much less understand it. (Fragments of a Faith Forgotten, p. 297)

Valentinus, the Gnostic who almost became pope, was thus the only man who could have succeeded in gaining a form of permanent positive recognition for the Gnostic approach to the message of Christ.
The distinction between faith (pistis) and knowledge (gnosis) is a very important one in Valentinianism. Pistis, the Greek word for faith denotes intellectual and emotional acceptance of a proposition. To the Valentinians, faith is primarily intellectual/emotional in character and consists accepting a body of teaching as true.
Knowledge (gnosis) is a somewhat more complex concept. Here is the definition of gnosis given by Elaine Pagels in her book The Gnostic Gospels: “…gnosis is not primarily rational knowledge. The Greek language distinguishes between scientific or reflective knowledge (‘He knows mathematics’) and knowing through observation or experience (‘He knows me’). As the gnostics use the term, we could translate it as ‘insight’, for gnosis involves an intuitive process of knowing oneself… Yet to know oneself, at the deepest level is to know God; this is the secret of gnosis.”(The Gnostic Gospels, p xviii-xix) Bentley Layton provides a similar definition in The Gnostic Scriptures: “The ancient Greek language could easily differentiate between two kinds of knowledge… One kind is propositional knowing – the knowledge that something is the case (‘I know Athens is in Greece’). Greek has several words for this kind of knowing-for example, eidenai. The other kind of knowing is personal aquaintance with an object, often a person. (‘I know Athens well’; ‘I have known Susan for many years’). In Greek the word for this is gignoskein…The corresponding Greek noun is gnosis. If for example two people have been introduced to one another, each can claim to have gnosis or aquaintance of one another. If one is introduced to God, one has gnosis of God. The ancient gnostics described salvation as a kind of gnosis or aquaintance, and the ultimate object of that aquaintance was nothing less than God” (The Gnostic Scriptures, p 9).
Faith corresponds to the intellectual/emotional aspect of religion while gnosis corresponds to the spiritual/experiential aspect. Valentinians linked the distinction between pistis and gnosis to the distinction they made between psyche and pneuma. The psyche (soul) was identified by them with cognitive/emotional aspect of the personality (the ego consciousness). The pneuma (spirit) was identified by them with the intuitive/unconscious level. The pyche was seen as consubstantial with the Demiurge while the pneuma was consubstantial with Sophia (and hence with God). Both the psyche and pneuma were capable of salvation. Psyche was saved through pistis while pneuma was saved through gnosis. Hence they distinguished two levels of salvation: psychic and pneumatic.
The psychic level of salvation was characterized by conversion (metanoia) and faith (pistis). This corresponds to receiving oral and written teachings since the psyche “requires perceptible intruction”. (Irenaeus Against Heresies 1:6:1). Herakleon describes the psychic level of salvation as “believing from human testimony” (Herakleon Fragment 39). Through pistis and psychic salvation, one attained to the level of the Demiurge. In order to be saved the person had to freely chose to believe and to do good works (Irenaeus Against Heresies 1:6:2). The psychic level of salvation was decisive in that it opened the person to the possibility of attaining the pneumatic level. Receiving the Valentinian tradition was only a first step towards the goal of gnosis.
The superior pneumatic level of salvation depends on the person having already attained to the psychic level. As the Gospel of Philip says, “No one can receive without faith” (GPhil 61:35-36) Elsewhere in the same work, the author uses an agricultural metaphor to describe this process: “Our earth in which we take root is faith. The water by which we are nourished is hope. The air by which we grow is love. And the light is aquaintance (gnosis), by which we ripen to maturity” (GPhil 79:25-32)
At the pneumatic level the person was reborn through spiritual resurrection and directly experienced the divine Truth through gnosis. Herakleon described this as follows: “At first men believe in the Savior because they are lead to that point by men, but when they encounter his word they no longer believe because of human testimony alone, but from the Truth itself” (Herakleon Fragment 39). Through gnosis one could participate in and experience the divine realm. Thats what the Gnostic doctrine of the resurrection refers to: spiritual rebirth through mystical experience (gnosis). One attained gnosis through the grace of God, not by choice. Psychic salvation was by choice while pneumatic salvation was by election.
If Elaine Pagels is correct, then the Valentinians believed that those who only attained psychic salvation would ultimately attain pneumatic salvation at the end of the world. After they died, those who had only attained psychic redemption waited with the Demiurge until the end. Then they joined those who had pneumatic redemption for the “wedding feast of all the saved” and they “all become equal and mutually recognize one another” (Excerpts of Theodotus 63:2). Then they entered the Pleroma to be joined to an angel.
If this is correct then the only difference between psychic salvation and pneumatic salvation is a matter of timing. One could attain pneumatic salvation now by becoming a Valentinian or wait until the end to attain it. Despite its lower value than gnosis, pistis was decisive for salvation!
In orthodox Christianity, pistis is an end in itself. The object of pistis is pistis itself. This easily leads to a rigid dogmatism. Salvation comes to be seen as acceptance of a specific body of dogma to the exclusion of all others. In Valentinianism and other forms of “Gnostic” Christianity, the object of pistis is gnosis. The teachings are seen as a series of metaphors that point to the higher reality of gnosis.
In many Gnostic systems (and heresiologies), God is known as the Monad, the One, The Absolute, Aion teleos (The Perfect Æon), Bythos (Depth or Profundity, Βυθος), Proarkhe (Before the Beginning, προαρχη), and E Arkhe (The Beginning, η αρχη). God is the high source of the pleroma, the region of light. The various emanations of God are called æons.
Within certain variations of Gnosticism, especially those inspired by Monoimus, the Monad was the highest God which created lesser gods, or elements (similar to æons).
According to Hippolytus, this view was inspired by the Pythagoreans, who called the first thing that came into existence the Monad, which begat the dyad, which begat the numbers, which begat the point, begetting lines, etc. This was also clarified in the writings of Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus. This teaching being largely Neopythagorean via Numenius as well.
This Monad is the spiritual source of everything which emanates the pleroma, and could be contrasted to the dark Demiurge (Yaldabaoth) that controls matter.
The Sethian cosmogony as most famously contained in the Apocryphon (‘Secret book’) of John describes an unknown God, very similar to the orthodox apophatic theology, although very different from the orthodox credal teachings that there is one such god who is identified also as creator of heaven and earth. In describing the nature of a creator god associated with Biblical texts, orthodox theologians often attempt to define God through a series of explicit positive statements, themselves universal but in the divine taken to their superlative degrees: he is omniscient, omnipotent and truly benevolent. The Sethian conception of the most hidden transcendent God is, by contrast, defined through negative theology: he is immovable, invisible, intangible, ineffable; commonly, ‘he’ is seen as being hermaphroditic, a potent symbol for being, as it were, ‘all-containing’. In the Apocryphon of John, this god is good in that it bestows goodness. After the apophatic statements, the process of the Divine in action are used to describe the effect of such a god.
An apophatic approach to discussing the Divine is found throughout gnosticism, Vedanta, and Platonic and Aristotelian theology as well. It is also found in some Judaic sources.
Eckhart’s philosophy, psychology and pneumatology are original and seminal. He distinguished between the psyche and the spiritual element in human beings, as did such early Gnostics as Valentinus. Valentinian spiritual seed can be compared to Eckhart’s fuenklein, scintilla animae, ground of the soul or soul-spark, which he identifies with “Imago Dei” from the Bible. This indestructible and divine element in the human being is for Eckhart (and for the major Christian mystical theology, including the concept of “synteresis” in the Eastern Orthodox tradition) only a potentiality, a latent function that needs to be nourished by virtuous living and spiritual vigilance in order to grow and expand. This differs from perfect Buddha nature in Mahayana Buddhism or Atman in the Hindu Vedanta. The “Imago Dei” is sometimes compared to the fallen Adam, exiled from Paradise, and the new Adam, potentially the final destination of soul-spark if, through classic Christian spiritual stages of purificative, contemplative and illuminative life, it comes to the unitive life where soul-spark is self-transformed into Logos.

“So I say that the aristocrat is one who derives his being, his life, and his happiness from God alone, with God and in God and not at all from his knowledge, perception, or love of God, or any such thing….This much is certain: when a man is happy, happy to the core and root of beatitude, he is no longer conscious of himself or anything else. He is conscious only of God…To be conscious of knowing God is to know about God and self. As I have just been explaining, the agent of the soul which enables one to see is one thing and the agent by which one knows that he sees is another. [2]

Here Eckhart foreshadows the phenomenological understanding (i.e. Merleau-Ponty) that our lived world is lived in a pre-reflective manner (what Husserl called the “natural attitude”). And this pre-reflective or implicit understanding is different from the “knowing” which is reflective understanding. For Eckhart, these two modes of engagement with the world are mutually exclusive.[2] 

p. 37: Of all the proposed “foreign” influences upon early Christianity and monasticism, it is perhaps gnosticism which has the strongest case.
This was a Christianized version of the asceticism that had been developed by the Jewish sects of the Essenes in Palestine and the Therapeutae in Egypt. Pachomius pioneered Christian communal cenobitic monastic living, and, within a very short time the intensely ascetic, renunciate form of desert Christianity burgeoned, so much so that it was estimated that more people were living out in the monasteries than in the cities. It should also be known that the Desert Fathers of Christianity were, as Palladius observed, outnumbered by their female colleagues, the Desert Mothers, by a factor of two-to-one: 20,000 females, he estimated, lived in the monasteries and hermitages of the desert regions, compared to 10,000 males. (Along this line, we do well to know that women abbesses, evidently with virtual episcopal power, flourished in certain circles of Christianity until late Renaissance times; moreover, there is evidence of women bishops and priests from a very early period of Christianity, who hosted the churches and celebrated the Eucharistic sacrament.)
Monastic Christianity was developed further by such leading lights in the East as Gregory of Nyssa (330-95), his brother Basil (330-79) and their sister, Macrina the Younger (actual founder of Eastern monasticism), and, in the West, Martin of Tours (315-97; bishop, missionary, wonderworker, and father of monasticism in France), John Cassian (360-435), and Benedict of Nursia (480-547; the moderate, mystical father of monasticism in Italy).
The monasteries yielded some of the finest fruit of Christendom. Benedictine abbeys became the grand centers for learning and culture during Europe’s Dark Ages. Many saintly abbots/abbesses headed these institutions over the centuries. Most significant was the Cistercian reform led by Bernard (1090-1153), et al. (Bernard also was the main promoter of the cult of Mother Mary in the West).
A strong tradition of via negativa or apophatic mysticism, realizing God/Spirit prior to all images, forms and concepts, took off with pseudo-Dionysius (Denys) Areopagite, an unknown monk (likely Syrian) who, circa 500 CE, wrote seminal works of mystical theology and transcendental metaphysics synthesizing Christianity and Neoplatonism (Plotinus, Proclus, et al.) (see Dionysius’ Divine Names, Mystical Theology, and epistles; he also wrote some via positiva works: Celestial Hierarchy, Ecclesiastical Hierarchy). The next great proponent of mysticism—combining the apophatic via negativa with a very positive sense of the final “cloud-like,” “sightless” beatitude in/as the Divine was John Scotus Eriugena (c.800-c.877), “the greatest Christian mind of the early middle ages,” a towering theologian long neglected by most of Christianity. Retrieving the best ideas of the Greek Fathers, Eriugena gave European Christianity a profoundly nondual and quite rich theology of panentheism (no mere pantheism or limited theism) and the beautiful emphasis on apocatastasis, or, as Eriugena terms it, the reditus or return of all beings into/as God—even though this profound theology was appreciated by only a few great Christian mystics of the middle ages, like Meister Eckhart.
Eckhart’s importance rests, however, on his German works, for it was his striving to impart “the innermost and truest truth” not as the privilege of an exclusive circle, but for all the people. It was especially in “simple piety” but that he felt himself understood, and so, as Windelband says, he “transposed the most delicate formulations of concepts into a German form with linguistic forcefulness of a genius.” Thereby Eckhart burst the narrow bonds of medieval scholasticism and through his stress on the new birth he becomes the forerunner of a new understanding of Christianity. Not only Luther and the other reformers profited from it, but also the extra-church circles, especially the Anabaptists.
Eckhart became the representative of a specifically German theology, the head and center of a numerous circle of disciples, and as Ludwig Keller (p. 163) correctly says, the “originator of impulses, from which all the parties that in later centuries grew out of the Waldenses, have been more or less touched.”
It is very probable that Hubmaier, Haetzer, and especially Hans Denck, at least indirectly, were strongly influenced by Eckhart and German mysticism in general. This is seen in their doctrine of the freedom of the will, in their slight interest in the dogma of the Trinity, and, especially in the case of Denck, in his teaching on regeneration. There is a conspicuous relationship between Eckhart and Denck in style of writing and the entire complex of ideas. Where Eckhart speaks of “the impoverishment of the creature” and of “poverty of the soul” as a condition for entry into God, Denck uses very similar expressions when he says that we “must therefore become so spiritually poor that we feel we must of ourselves perish.” Similarity is again seen in the expressions with which on the one hand Eckhart describes the divine birth in the depths of the soul and on the other hand Denck describes the new birth of the elect of God.
But however related in language, style, and manner of expression, Eckhart and Denck may be, their agreement is of a merely formal nature. Factually there are very deep differences. In Eckhart the concept of God is philosophically abstract and mixed with pantheistic mysticism; in Denck it is real and concrete. In Eckhart Christ appears essentially only as the Logos, and, in so far as he reflects on the Incarnation at all, it is only as an example (Loofs, 629); in Denck Christ is the “Lord and Prince” of salvation. In Eckhart the new birth is an act of deification, almost in a Neo-Platonic ascetic sense; in Denck the new birth is preceded by a moral collapse, a “sitting in the abyss of hell”; it is the needle’s eye “through which immense camels must slip and yet cannot do it,” until God helps them, and the eye of the needle becomes for them a narrow door to life. In Eckhart moral obligations of a practical nature retreat quietistically; in Denck they are developed into full activity in the service of God for the world. In Eckhart, all is in its essence asceticism, ecstasy, mysticism; in Denck it becomes discipleship of Christ and a listening to the revelation of God in Christ, which finds its resolution in the ”inner word,” which, to be sure, has a counterpart in Eckhart’s “divine spark.”

The effects of Eckhart’s mysticism are later to be found in Jakob Böhme (1575-1624), G. W. Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), and Schleiermacher (1768-1834). Also in Gerhard Tersteegen’s (1697-1769) hymns there are echoes of Eckhart, without, however, the danger of falling prey to pantheism, which is inherent in Eckhart’s system.

In locating the authority within the individual rather than church, the mystics attempted to loose themselves from ecclesiastical power.  The seat of authority was in the individual, rather than church hierarchy.  For medieval mystics like Meister Eckhart and Johannes Tauler, salvation was “the discovery of the final power and authority of the Self within one’s own self.”

Ontological union of divinity and humanity is key to the mystical understanding of revelation.  It is impossible for humanity to know the Deity without sharing the same being.  Eckart remarked, “As the masters say, to be and to have knowledge of are one and the same thing.”  For the human to know the divine being in a saving way, implied humanity on the part of the Deity and Deity on the part of humanity. 

The mystics assert that his divinity is present in humans, after the Fall, in the form of an inner spark.  It is through this remaining spark of divinity that humans are able to receive direct revelation from God.  The Anabaptists, building on the foundation laid by the mystics, believed that this divine spark also gave them inspired understanding of the written Word.  Their ontology opened the door to their epistemology.  Hans Denck, close friend of Han’s Hut, clarified:

As I now progress at the hand of the inner and outer Word, I reach the understanding that the inner voice in me is a spark of the divine spirit.  But this divine spark is darkened in many hearts.  Only he can understand the Scriptures correctly who is himself illuminated by the light of the divine Spirit.

The external divine being speaks through the divine spark within a person and provides either new revelation or illumination of the Bible. 

Hut believed that humans receive more than just a divine spark.  He stated that the divine Word, himself, must become incarnate within the individual:

The Word must be received in him with a true heart through the Holy Spirit and become flesh in us.  That happens through great terror and trembling as with Mary when she heard the will of God from the angel.  The Word must be born in us too.  That can happen only through pain, poverty, and distress inside and out, etc.  And where the Word has been born and become flesh in us so that we praise God for such a favour, our heart has found peace and we become Christ’s mothers, brother, and sister.

Jung and Typology, Gnosticism and Christianity

The following are excerpts that I thought were related.  I specifically was considering Jung and his views on various ideas.  These excerpts give an interesting context to how Jung came to his understanding about the structure and development of the individual.  In particular, I found fascinating the connection between trinity as representing hierarchy (including hierarchy as development) and quaternity as representing non-hierarchical structure.  By this, it can be shown how the tripartite division of Platonism and Gnosticism relates to Jung’s typology.  I was also thinking about Jung’s consideration of Catholic ideas in terms of his relationship with Father Victor White.  Jung felt the Trinity was incomplete and conjectured that Catholicism was denying a fourth element in its theological conception of evil.


Quodlibet Journal: Volume 4 Number 2-3, Summer 2002
Carl Jung and the Trinitarian Self
Michael J Brabazon

As the alchemists discovered, the spirit Mercurius can be a good friend (as in the Liverpool dream) or the “dark tricephalus”[f], the tempter, deceiver and adversary of the universal hero.  By overcoming the chthonic trinity the saviour not only becomes a demi-god but, in bringing the fruits of his victory to the tribe, ensures the spiritual and physical well-being of mankind. One of the stories from Hindu mythology seems to prefigure the struggles of Buddha and Christ with the Evil One.  In the case of Hinduism the Christ-like person is the son of a Brahman, Tvashiri, who is eventually killed by the god Indra.  Tvashiri, in a bid to outdo Indra, created a three-headed son who possessed wondrous spiritual power which grew at such a rate it promised to absorb the universe.  The three heads had the separate functions of reading the Vedas, feeding himself, and observing all that existed:  a combination of intellectual, physical and divine sustenance – the totality of life.  As in the accounts of the temptations of Christ and the trials of Gautama, the tricephalus Brahman is attacked three times: firstly through seduction by Heavenly maidens; secondly by a thunderbolt thrown by Indra which kills the hero; and lastly by a triple decapitation.  The final onslaught, ordered by Indra because the body continued to glow with the light of spirituality, released a great flight of doves and other birds, symbolising the resurrection of the perfected spirit and is analogous to the enlightenment of Buddha and the defeat of Satan in the wilderness.  The attacks on Gautama by Mara are variations on the same ideas of seduction, attack by the actual god and attack by the god’s henchman.  The Buddha now becomes an enlightened being, losing his old material desires, and brings salvation to mankind.

In the Middle East there existed other notorious examples of the triple heroic test, and cannot be unconnected with the  temptations of Christ.  In ancient Egypt one of the stories of Se-Osiris (reputedly the greatest Egyptian magician) from the 13th century BC show him in psychic battle with the Ethiopian the Son of Tnahsit who is the agent of Apophis, the Egyptian Devil.  As in the other stories, Se-Osiris has to overcome his satanic adversary three times in order to prove himself and gain total victory.  Firstly, the Ethiopian manifests a huge serpent in front of the Pharoah, but Se-Osiris picks up this giant cobra, turns it into a small white worm and throws it out of the window.  Next the evil protagonist summons a large black cloud which resembles the darkness of the tomb or the dark cloud of smoke from burning bodies.  Again, the hero easily decreases the threat to an infinitesimal size and throws it out of the window.  The final threat is in the shape of a sheet of flame moving towards Pharaoh, but the good magician reverses its movement back in the direction of his adversary, who is subsequently engulfed and totally defeated.

Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, writes of the triple life force released by the universal hero upon completion of his struggle with the internal monster; the bestowing of the secret treasure, the Holy Grail:

The effect of the successful adventure of the hero is the unlocking and release again of the flow of life into the body of the world.  The miracle of this flow may be represented in physical terms as a circulation of food substance, dynamically as a stream of energy, or spiritually as a manifestation of Grace.  Such varieties of image alternate easily, representing three degrees of condensation of the one life force.[37]

The hero’s encounters infer a triality of character, with ramifications for typological classification.  Tripartite man is a theme as old as that of the trinity, the two being inextricably linked in the relationship of micro and macrocosmic.  The origin of much of the tripartite formulations is to be found in the works of Plato, originator of the archetype theory of Form or Idea.  Plato’s own threefold division of the soul is into spirit, reason and desire.  It is from these three segments that the layers of society in the utopian Republic are derived: the Guardians, the Auxiliaries and the Plebs.  Broadly, the philosophers, the spiritually enlightened, rule over and guide society, the military types carry out the directives of the elite, applying the rules to the governorship of the materialistic majority.  This hierarchical view of tripartness is counter-balanced by an egalitarian formulation allegorised in the Phaedrus by a charioteer and two horses.  One horse is an expression of honour and modesty whilst the other stands for man’s animal desires, with their unity in the hands of the charioteer, the middle conjoining factor.  The Gnostics use this platonic schema in their soteriological explanations – the saved spiritual type, the pneumatic, the damned materialists, the hylic, and those with the possibility of  choice, the psychic – described in the Jung codex of the Nag Hammadi library.

The multiplication of tripartite theories has produced an overwhelmingly extensive list of variations on the same theme, including Freud and beyond, but I think it worthy of note to mention that it was part of Carl Gustav Carus’ thinking.  I say this because he was one of the old-school of psychologists much admired by Jung.  Interestingly, Dostoyevsky was also a great fan and one wonders if the three Karamazov brothers, Dmitri, Ivan and Alyosha, characterising respectively blind social obedience, the human intellect and mystical-propheticism, were not Carus-inspired. 

In Toynbee-like fashion, it does not seem unreasonable to look for the external organisations and trends associated with the different types.  I had initially made a deduction from studies on the history of religious thought that a threefold division could be made along the lines of fundamentalist, developmentalist and prophetic, when I read with interest the post-Jungian division of schools made by Andrew Samuels in Jung and the Post-Jungians[38]: Classical, Developmentalists and Archetypal.  Perhaps a trinitarian view could be taken of the foundation of modern psychology employing the God, Man, Nature schema (or as C S Hall and G Lindzey would have it in Theories of Personality: primordial thought patterns; social interest; and sex) for Jung, Adler and Freud?  Jung certainly had no qualms about such a unity; he could be both Adlerian and Freudian as the need arose (see Memories, Dreams, Reflections).

The fourfold typology posited by Jung was an update of the ancient Greek formulation based on the humours of the body, which makes perfect sense seen from an homeostatic point of view.  However, just as valid is the Vedic counterpart using three humours which also describe three character types, namely kapha, vata and pitta, and restated by the god Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita when he tells Arjuna, “Each has the duty, ordained by his nature, born of the gunas [the threefold, hierarchical hypostases of prakriti]”.  Again, both are inherently logical – and apparently complete – systems, but the latter schema is hierarchical and the former egalitarian.

A real hierosgamos would be if tripartite typologies could be synthesised with the four Jungian types with a resulting twelvefold system[g] satisfying both viewpoints and giving a psychological raison d’etre to the zodiacal system, much beloved by Jung.  He himself hints at a desire to unite his quaternity with the astrological method:

Since the earliest times, attempts have repeatedly been made to classify individuals according to types and thus to bring order into what was confusion.  The oldest attempt of this sort known to us was made by Oriental astrologers who devised the so-called trigons [sets of three star signs] of the four elements, air, water, earth and fire.[39]


James Hillman


A closer look at the way Jung speaks of the types, however, suggests that they too are archetypal.  For what determines type?  Here the a priori element enters: Jung speaks of a “numinal accent” falling on one type or another (§982).  This selective factor determining type is unaccounted for it is simply given.  A numinal accent selects our bias toward what becomes our superior function which drives the others into the background (§984).  We begin to see that the four types are more than mere manners of functioning.  There is something more at work in them, something numinal – and “numinal” means “divine”.  And surely when in the grips of our typical set, as we cannot help but be when we imagine ourselves typologically, the structuring power of the type is like that of an archetype or mythologem.  Especially the experience of the inferior function, also referred to as numinous, brings with it a radical shift of perspective, as if there has been an ontological shift, an initiation into a new cosmos or archetypal seinsweise.

An archetypal background for the four functions has already been intimated by Jung himself.  He speaks of a philosophical typology in Gnosticism or Hellenistic syncretism (§§14, 964) by means of which human beings could be called hylikoi, psychikol, or pneumatikoi.  Jung does not document this typology but Professor Sambursky considers that these terms were applied less to actual persons than to the imaginal persons of Neoplatonism, especially by Plotinus.  These imaginal regions and their beings might thus be the archetypal imagination at work in the functions, giving to them each its nominal accent and each its ontological significance as structuring ground of consciousness.

Then hylikoi, or physis, with its attendant ideas of matter, body, actual physical reality would be the archetypal principle in what Jung called sensation; psychikoi, or soul, with its attendant Jungian description of love, value, experience, relatedness, woman, salt, colour would be the archetype within and behind what Jung called feeling; pneumatikoi, or spirit, with its attendant descriptions in terms of light, vision, swiftness, invisibilities, timelessness, would be what Jung called intuition; and finally, not expressly distinguished in this Hellenistic triad, nous, logos, or intellectus, with its capacity for order and cogni-


tive intelligence, would be the archetypal principle that Jung called the thinking function.  (Jung himself identifies thinking with pneumatikoi, §14.)

This archetypal background gives a deeper sense to what Jung says about the four functions.  For instance, if sensation so often brings with it an uncomfortable inferiority, and intuition, superiority, the reason is not functional, but archetypal – the one being hylitic and bearing all the aspersions put upon physis in our tradition, the other, pneumatic, windy with the idealizations of the spirit. 28  Or, it is hardly a feeling function, as an ego-disposable mode of adaptation through evaluations, which can support such redemptive features that Jung claims for “feeling” (cf. CW 14, §§328-34; CW 16, §488-91; CW 13, §222, and also CW 8, §§668-69 where his discussion of evidence for soul turns on “feelings”), unless we realize that “feeling” has become a secular psychologism for soul. 29

Furthermore, we now can grasp better that connection which Jung makes between the four functions and the wholeness of the “total personality” (CW 14, §261), or Adam (ibid. §§555-57).  For now we would be dealing with the root archetypal structures or cosmoi of Western human being, our four “natures” as Jung calls them (CW 14, §§261, 265; cf. CW 11, §§184-85) which as he says there in Mysterium Coniunctionis, are an archetypal prefiguration of “what we today call the schema of functions”.  The four types are thus not mere empirical

28. Practitioners’ descriptions of the puer psychology of young men often call them “intuitive” and airy, needing “sensation” and earth.  The older language of elemental natures has been unwittingly associated with that of functional types.  Actually, the practitioner is discerning young pneumatikoi whose archetypal basis in spirit cannot be reduced to an over-developed empirical ego-function of intuition.

29. Willeford, “The Primacy of Feeling”, J. Analyt. Psychol.. 21, 1976, pp. 115-133 argues for a special place for the feeling function beyond Jung’s polar equalities.  Because Willeford takes feeling to be the function of the “subjective sphere” (an idea which brings us again to Jung’s early identification of feeling with introversion) he is suggesting that its relation with soul is different and more important than that of the other functions.


functions.  They are the physical, spiritual, noetic, and psychic cosmoi in which man moves and imagines. 30

The ancients placed these cosmoi one on top of the other and fantasied the ideal man moving through them from below to above.  Jung too imagines the individuating person moving through the functions, not ascensionally in his model, yet still redemptively from one-sidedness to four-foldedness.  Although these archetypal powers of the ancients present themselves conceptually, they are nonetheless archetypal persons of the imaginal to begin with.

By this I do not mean to replace intuition with spirit, and feeling with psyche, etc., or to equate them or reduce them.  Rather I am maintaining that the functions have been carrying archetypal projections which gives them, and typology, a numinal accent.  Types conceal archetypes.  The contemporary cult of feeling, for instance, is a disguised psychologistic substitution for cult of soul.  The frequent attack on intellect (metaphysics and theology) through Jung’s writings and letters has resulted in poor critical thinking in the Jungian school because the archetypal principle within thinking has been devalued.  Unless we recognize the imaginal persons in our personal modes of functioning these modes lose their numinal accent.  Only an archetypal appreciation of the functions can take them out of the hands of the ego.   Unless the great root principles of Western man’s orientation are seen for what they are, as the modes in which the imaginal operates (functions) in all realms of being, they, and we, are condemned to psychological jargon without numinal accent.  Thus we must cling to the types for orientation since they do conceal the archetypal natures of our Western compass.


Autumn 1988, Vol.40 No. 3, pp. 249-261.
James Arraj:
      Jungian Spirituality:
           The Question of Victor White


The first level is the simple discovery of our psychological type and its application in the ways just described as an instrument for understanding human differences within the field of spirituality. Of great value, this is the level at which a significant amount of the present encounter between Jung’s psychology and spirituality is taking place.

The second level can emerge from this acquaintance with typology. We begin to perceive that typology is not only interpersonal, a way we relate to those around us, but also an intrapsychic process that is no different from the process of individuation itself. We begin to feel the pull of the outgoing tide that leads to the fascinating and terrible night sea-journey of psychic transformation. It is only by means of such a journey that we truly begin to grasp what typology really meant to Jung and what are the psychic contents that exist under the names of the shadow, anima, animus, and self. It is this experience that will sensitize us to the psychological dimension that exists and must exist in the whole of the spiritual life. There is literally no place for the spiritual life to take place but in the psyche, and we row grasp this psyche in all its immediacy and in all the continual process which strives for wholeness. Here, too, there can be no objection to the employment of Jungian psychology in the spiritual life, but rather only a sense of gratitude that we can finally deal with the psychological dimension that exists in all our spiritual activities.

There is a third level where this encounter will more and more take place and has taken place in certain individuals like Victor White. The process of individuation as it is found in Jung and many of his followers is wrapped in an epistemological fabric which resists a Catholic understanding of faith. It is abundantly evident. Jung himself comments, for example,

For lack of empirical data I have neither knowledge nor understanding of such forms of being which are commonly called spiritual. From the point of view of science it is immaterial what I may believe on that score, and I must accept my ignorance . . . . All comprehension and all that is comprehended is in itself psychic, and to that extent we are hopelessly cooped up in an exclusively psychic world.(6)
Similarly, he indicates that he sees individuation as a more evolved stage of consciousness to which Christianity stands as a deficient stage. If in being guided by Jung to the experience of individuation, we unconsciously imbibe this presentation of it, we will find ourselves in the state in which Victor White found himself — torn on one hand by a living awareness of the reality of the individuation that Jung describes, but sensing that the way it was presented conflicted with his faith.

MBTI Types and Conventional Religion

This started out as just a post about INFJs, but I have some further thoughts about other types as well. My bias, stated upfront, is that of an INFP. The two types, despite both being introverted idealists (INF), are in many ways complete opposites: dominant introverted intuition with auxiliary extraverted feeling vs dominant introverted feeling with auxiliary extraverted intuition. That said, I can’t say I’ve ever felt direct conflict with INFJs.

I was just visiting Typology Central (an all type MBTI discussion board). I was looking at threads about religion. I noticed an INFJ in some of those threads who I know from Global Chatter (an INFP discussion board). He is an interesting guy, but it reminded me of an aspect of INFJs that can annoy me at times.

I discussed this in a post titled Darn Apologists! of mine from my Gaia blog. I’m attracted to INFJs because their Ni gives them a unique (idiosyncratic even) perspective and they can be very independent-minded especially if they’re strongly Introverted. However, their Fe can also make them very conventional. Unlinke INFPs, I’ve noticed that many INFJs belong to more traditional forms of forms of religion. They have a love/hate relationship with social groups. However, their desire to feel like they belong to something larger than themselves is surprisingly strong for an Introverted type.

To say the least, my INFP nature balks at this. INFJs can have these crazy ideas but somehow it often leads back to such conventional worldviews. Maybe its because their ideas are so abstract (Ni) that they seek to ground them through a tradition (Fe). At least, INFJs tend to be extremely nice people. An INTJ is much more of a straightforward in their logic, but I’ll take the INFJs conventionalism over an immature INTJ’s snarkiness. Its interesting that INTJs are very opposite of conventional in that they’re the prototypical conspiracy theorist. Still, maybe that is that same Extraverted Judging function (Fe and Te) being focused with the prevailing social order just in a different way.

I should add that my criticisms of INFJs comes from my fondness for them. I seem very attracted to them as I keep befriending INFJs online and my closest friend is an INFJ. Its possible that I am attracted to the very thing I’m criticizing. They’re thinking is more grounded than my own, and it can feel to me to be a bit narrow and plodding. However, this groundedness can also lead to a depth of insight and great knowledge about a particular subject. Overall, INFPs and INFJs have enough similarities to make communication easy while having enough differences to make discussion interesting.

I was again at Typology Central.  I’ve been having a private discussion with an INTP Christian.  INTPs as a whole are generally very unreligious even anit-religious.  INTPs are clear thinkers though and so its interesting to talk to this guy.

He claims that he has never had an experience of God.  God is an idea to him, but an idea that he has been convinced of.  He seems to be an Evangelical Christian which is very strange because Evangelism idealizes direct experience.  His wife is a more an experiential type.  Maybe he trusts the experiences of those close to him.

The reason I bring this up is because its extremely intriguing that an INTP would be attracted to conventional religion.  However, it makes more sense now.  An INTP has three likely ways of relating to religion.  They can outright deny it as irrational.  They can accept it as a philosophy and analyze it.  Or they can accept the experience of others which might include the collective experience of a tradition.

INFPs swim in subjective experience, but INTPs don’t.  An INTP can’t rely on their own experience.  Even if they had a potentially spiritual experience, they’d be reluctant to trust it.  This would be true of NTs in general.

This relates to my dad who is an ENTJ.  His father was a minister and he grew up observing the hypocritical difference between his father at church and his father at home.  He became agnostic and stayed that way for much of his life.  As he grew older, he was attracted to conventional Christianity because it appealed to his dominant Extraverted Thinking which desires principles of social order.

As he became more involved in his 50s, he had some experiences that felt spiritual to him.  He didn’t seem to want to call them God and so defined them as being of the Holy Spirit.  I suspect (based on Beebe’s archetype model) this is his aspirational Introverted Feeling finally manifesting.  Still, my dad submits his experience to the conventional interpretation.  The experience is nice but secondary to him.  What he really likes about church is being around people and having an important leadership role to play.

All of this is somewhat of a new insight for me.  Typically, conventional religion is described as being mainly attractive to SJ types.  My mom is an ISTJ and she definitely isn’t the questioning type and is content to follow an external authority.  However, I’m now beginning to realize there are reasons why other types would also be attracted to conventional religion.

INFPs might be one of the types that is least attracted to conventional religion, but I’m not sure.  INFPs are more attracted to religon than NTs in general.  However, INFPs are extremely independent-minded and extremely self-certain… which could describe INTPs as well.

An INFP has their own direct experience and so they don’t have to rely on other’s experience.  An INFP has a solid Introverted Feeling that doesn’t need the external grounding that Introverted Intuition needs.  An INFP finds annoying the Extraverted Feeling tendencies of many religious groups.  An INFP is unwilling to follow like sheep as SJs like to do.

The only thing that would bring an INFP to conventional religion would be their Introverted Feeling.  If their inner experience corresponded with a particular tradition, an INFP could become quite the zealous believer.  Nonetheless, even then such an INFP would still tend to keep their religious experience as a personal matter.  I doubt INFPs would make good prosyletyzers.  An INFP prosyletyzer would probably just annoy people.  I’m partly basing this on the one INFP fundamentalist I know who can be very annoying when talking about his beliefs… a total lack of objectivity and logic… pure emotion and defensiveness.

Political Party, Morality, Personality, Gender

Here is a very insightful article: What makes People vote Republican? (written by Professor Jonathan Haidt and annotated from a Spiral Dynamics perspective by Dr Bruce L Gibb)

The author explores why Liberals don’t understand the human motivation behind moral behavior. The specific morals aren’t important nor even their inherent ‘goodness’. Rather, morality is about the social order it helps create. Or at least that is what morality is about on the level of group behavior. This might be where it is helpful to differentiate ethics from morality.

I learned about this aspect of morality from my morally conservative parents. They argue for abstinence. I’ve mentioned to them such things as the fact that research shows abstinence programs lead to more pregnancies (and I suspect more venereal diseases as well) and that kids develop sexually about 4 years earlier than when my parents were kids (maybe because hormone in food and estrogen-like compounds in bottles). But these facts didn’t matter to my parents sense of morality. Right is right. This could be interpreted as the embracing of ignorance, but my parents are smart and they’re able to rationally argue their views (especially my dad).

This seemingly strange thought process is explained by this paper. The purpose of condemning sexuality isn’t about whether people are actually able to follow the rules perfectly. The rules are there to create conformity through guilt and punishment. And they work. They suppress the individual for the sake of social order. The moral rules are red herrings that distract away from the fundamental issue. Maybe that is part of the power of such morality. People obsess over the surface details and the underlying motivating force can work unconsciously.

The article also discusses Spiral Dynamics which is also helpful. In a sense, many liberal elites are more highly developed morally, but only in certain ways. People have the tendency to deny previous vmemes (approxamately equivalent to levels). So, the rational ability to not be controlled by one’s emotions is great in being objective and can lead to great understanding. The problem is that isn’t where most of society is morally centered. In developing one’s morality, one needs to stay grounded in the fundamental moral sense that remains true for all humans. Development transcends and includes. If liberals try to exclude what they deem as irrational, then they won’t sway many voters.

Obama probably won because he knew how to rhetorically touch upon the emotional core of an argument. If the Democratic party is smart, it will take heed and learn the lesson well.

I want to bring up one other aspect to all of this that is only briefly mentioned in the article:

“But now that we can map the brains, genes, and unconscious attitudes of conservatives, we have refined our diagnosis: conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death. People vote Republican because Republicans offer ‘moral clarity’ – a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate.”

These traits correlate with MBTI. In particular, Intuition and Sensation correlate with liberalism and conservativism. Relevant to this article are the percentages of the population. I’ve seen research that shows that Sensation is more common, but I’ve also seen research that shows that women have a tendency towards Intuition.

This brings to my mind the percentages also of the Judging functions. Thinking and Feeling also show bias respectively to men and women, but I was just reading another statistic that showed that men were fairly split between the two even while women tended strongly toward Feeling. That is interesting as Thinking (specifically Extraverted – TJ) also seem correlated to moral conservativism, and definitely seems like a personality factor that would be favored by the blue vmeme (hierarchical social order). The reason that is interesting is because morally conservative cultures also tend to be patriarchal.

One other personality division I’d bring up is Hartmann’s boundary types. Thin boundary types lean towards the liberal, and thick boundary types lean towards the conservative. This may because thin boundary types tend to have a strong sense of empathy meaning that they experience people as individuals rather than as mere social entities. Also, these boundary types correlate to MBTI and most specifically with the Perceiving functions of Inution and Sensation.

For the record, my parents are both TJ types and my mom is an STJ. I, on the other hand, am a liberal NFP raised with a heavy dose of green vmeme (despite my parents conservativism).

G.I.s and Millennials

In the theory of Strauss and Howe, the Millennial generation is the same archetype in the cycle as were the G.I. generation.

They are supposedly similar in that they’re both optimistic and civic-oriented generations, and similar in that they both have high expectations of society and themselves. The other similarity is that they both dealt with a major war (started by an attack on American soil) and financial crisis early in their lives.

However, the world is very different now. For the G.I.s, the Depression came before the war and so they returned to a country that was better off than when they left. The G.I.s were given tons of opportunities by society: cheap education, cheap housing, plentiful job openings, high wages, etc. Society actually lived up to their high expectations. Quite differently, the Millennials are fighting a war that can’t be won and they’re not treated as heroes on their return. What they get offered is expensive education, expensive housing, fewer job openings, and lower wages. To say the least, society isn’t living up to their high expectations.

Twenge claim that the Millennials are narcissistic and unrealistically demanding. As I see it, they may or may not be narcissistic in some ways, but certainly not in others. They are actually a very group-oriented generation, not that narcissism can’t include a focus on others because research has shown that it can. Strauss and Howe have written that Twenge was only looking at research that used self-reports. As such, Millennials speak in terms that sound narcissistic, but that is because they’re simply parroting back what they were taught by Boomers. However, Strauss and Howe claim that other evidence shows that their actual behavior is the opposite of narcissistic. For example, they volunteer more than the generations that came right before them.

Anyways, my point is that they’re no more narcissistic than the Great Generation of the G.I.s. The G.I.s were just as demanding of society and just as much wanted a good life right away. The G.I.s came back from the war and they felt they deserved a good life and not that they had to “earn” it. They wanted a good job, a nice house, and a perfect family; and they wanted it immediately. They got what they wanted, but we blame Millennials for the same expectation. The Millennials have also fought for America’s freedom. Why don’t they also deserve the good life that the G.I.s received? Why don’t they deserve to be treated as heroes for all of their sacrifices? Why do many people glorify the G.I.s who represent our past all the while criticizing the Millennials that represent our future?

According to the theory, Millennials have the potential to become another Great Generation. The Boomers, for good or ill, have dominated society for the last half century. When we speak of the present American culture we are speaking of Boomer culture. Boomers are at the start of the cycle. They disturbed the previous order and jumpstarted the digital age, but they’ve also been a brake on continued progress. They haven’t embraced technology and instead they’ve become known for their Neo-conservativism as represented by Bush Jr.

Interestingly, the G.I. generation is known for its many great presidents. But, despite their size, Boomers have had only two presidents (neither of which will probably be remembered as great… certainly not as inspiring speakers) before the smaller in number Gen Xers managed to get a president in. That is even more interesting because Boomers are known for their dominance of mainstream culture and Gen Xers have mostly played a lesser role in the background.

The generations following have been very different from the Boomers Neo-conservativism,. Gen Xers (because of?) their alternative tendencies and certainly because of their small numbers have been more conservative (in the traditional Libertarian sense). Millennials are supposedly more Progressive. As the theory goes, we are hitting the crises point of the Fourth Turning. Gen Xers role is to be the realist leaders that guide the civic-minded Millennials, and thus create a new social order. However, credit must really be given to the Millennials because it will only be their numbers that can counteract the numbers of the Boomers (and other previous generations).

Not to put the Boomers down, but I think America is ready for some real change. I know I’m excited to see where the world will go. Strauss and Howe predicted that if the Silent generation (the one following the G.I. generation) McCain was elected it would slow down the change that is happening and if the Gen Xer Obama was elected it would speed it up. They’ve been right about their predictions of the last couple of decades (e.g. school dress codes and school security in the ’90s, and major crises in the first decade of the new century) and so I hope they’re right about this one. However, they also predict that the following 20 years will be challenging and I wouldn’t mind them being wrong about that.

As a cynical Gen Xer, I’m not always the most optimistic about society. Gen Xers grew up as latchkey kids and because of this have some issues with abandonment and need for security. Gen Xers are actually more stable and family-oriented than the Boomers who had lives that revolved around their careers.

So, I’m cynical about the groupthink conformity of Millennials and their bland mainstream pop culture. I do fear that since they’ve grown up in schools that resemble something out of a police state that they might go too far in their acceptance of letting their civic rights be taken away for “the greater good”. To them, walking through metal detectors and having cameras watch them is normal. They’re used to having no privacy and so they don’t value it.

On the other hand, they have the potential of creating social institutions that actually benefit society as a whole. They will revolutionize society and I look forward in particular to the massive technological shift that will most likely happen in the near future. The world they will create will be a very connected culture. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more change in the next few decades than we’ve seen in a century or two.