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Our Search for Meaning and the Dangers of Possession

“There is no such thing as not worshipping,” wrote novelist David Foster Wallace. “Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.” G. Jung would have wholeheartedly agreed. He posited that psychic life is motivated by a religious instinct as fundamental as any other, and that this instinct causes us to seek meaning. “The decisive question for man is: Is he related to something infinite or not?” Jung wrote in his autobiography. “That is the telling question of his life.”1

There is empirical evidence that backs up Jung’s idea of a religious instinct. Researchers have found that the less religious people are, the more likely they are to believe in UFOs. “The Western world is, in theory, becoming increasingly secular — but the religious mind remains active,” writes psychology professor Clay Routledge, in The New York Times. He notes that belief in aliens and UFOs appears to be associated with a need to find meaning.

Jung felt that traditional religions could provide an adequate means of relating to the infinite where the believer still maintained a “vital participation” with her faith.2 David Foster Wallace agreed with Jung that traditional religions or value systems were a good place to look for meaning. He cautioned that worshipping the wrong thing can have dire consequences. “The compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship—be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles—is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.”

Traditional religions do have features that make them less likely to become devouring. They draw on ancient traditions that are often philosophically rich, and they are knitted into the social structure of our society. They provide deep, time-tested channels through which transpersonal energies can flow. But even in Jung’s time, such faith in traditional religious institutions was often lacking. Today in the West, of course, fewer and fewer people find a spiritual home in traditional faiths.

As Routledge notes, we may declare ourselves to have risen above the confining superstitions of the religions of our grandparents, but in many cases, we have merely replaced them with inferior proxies. “We are not absent the gods,” writes Jungian analyst James Hollis. “Quite the contrary. We have too many of them. Too many surrogates with which the ego seeks to resist the spiritual vacuum of modernism. Besieged by pseudo-deities such as Power, Wealth, Health, Pleasure, Progress, we grow more and more alienated from nature, from each other, and from ourselves.”3 Hollis and Wallace are both pointing out that the new deities that many of us unconsciously worship do not connect us with anything of abiding significance.

Psychological Inflation

Death of Semele (before 1640) by Peter Paul Rubens

Even if we manage to avoid worshipping the pseudo-deities that Hollis writes of, we aren’t out of the woods. For being in relationship to the infinite always carries with it the dangerous possibility of psychological possession, particularly when this contact is unmediated by the sturdy cultural buttresses of long-held tradition. Jung used the word “possession” to refer to a psychological state in which the conscious personality comes to identify with a powerful archetypal idea or image, becoming inflated and dangerously out balance. The Greeks knew that the personal ego cannot easily withstand direct contact with transpersonal energies – Zeus’s paramour Semele was incinerated when she was tricked by Hera into demanding that her lover show himself to her in his full divine glory.

In ancient Greece, psychological inflation was called hubris, and was considered a sin against the gods, for it meant that there had been a violation of the divinely ordained limits set for mortals. The Romans knew of inflation as superbia, and guarded against it in their rulers lest it brought divine disfavor. Robed in imperial purple, victorious generals were paraded through Rome amid cheering throngs. All the while, a slave stood in the chariot behind the general, whispering in his ear again and again, “remember you are mortal.”

The Greeks and Romans guarded against psychological inflation because they knew that it could imperil the entire collective enterprise. Jung used the term “godlikeness” to describe those in an inflated state. He noted the tendency for this attitude to give rise to groupthink, proselytizing, fanatical certainty, and a crusader mentality. Above all, such “godlikeness” is perhaps most characterized by a “pathological will to power.”4 Put another way, psychological inflation tends to give rise to extremism – personal and political.

Grizzly Man

There are countless ways to become possessed, innumerable crusades one can fight. In the 2005 film Grizzly Man, documentarian Werner Herzog profiles bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell, who spent more than a decade living among grizzlies in the Alaskan wilderness of Katmai National Park. Even watching the trailer, one can see that Treadwell worshipped the bears.

Enthusiasm comes from the Greek meaning “possessed by God,” and Treadwell’s rapture as he describes grizzlies has a religious fervor. “I’m here with one of my favorite bears, it’s Mr. Chocolate,” Treadwell narrates. “Hi Mr. Chocolate! He’s been with me for over a decade and he’s been my good friend. Oh! He’s a big bear!” In 2003, Treadwell’s life ended tragically, if predictably, when he and his girlfriend were killed by one of the grizzlies he loved so much. Treadwell was eaten alive, making Wallace’s point quite literal.

Herzog shows us a clip of his interview with Alutiiq anthropologist Sven Haakanson, PhD.

[Treadwell] tried to be a bear… For us on the island, you don’t do that. You don’t invade their territory. For him to act like a bear the way he did… for me, it was the ultimate of disrespecting the bear and what the bear represents…. If I look at it from my culture, Timothy Treadwell crossed a boundary that we have lived with for 7,000 years.5

While Haakanson is speaking, Herzog cuts away to a scene of a grizzly swimming near the bank of a calm lake. A bare-chested Treadwell gets in the water with the bear, and we as viewers feel a bit breathless with awe. Treadwell swims right up to the bear, but the animal seems to barely notice him. One gets the impression that Treadwell may feel at one with the bear, but the bear certainly doesn’t feel at one with him. As the bear edges past him, Treadwell reaches out and touches the animal’s fur. The bear snaps its head around in irritation.

Treadwell developed a distorted sense of mission, believing that his presence in Katmai was necessary to protect the bears from poachers. Protecting bears was his “calling in life,” and he became convinced that he had been singled out to do this work. “I’m the only protection for these animals,” he states emphatically in the film. In fact, there is no evidence that the bears in Katmai were under any threat from poaching. Nevertheless, the sense of mission Treadwell felt in relation to the bears gave him a sense of a special destiny.

Bears carry an undeniably numinous energy and have forever been associated with the divine in various traditions. Treadwell had indeed made contact with the infinite. However, he lacked any structure to ground these experiences. He transgressed human limits, and like Semele, was destroyed.

The Fallen Goddess

Eva Tiamat Medusa

The transpersonal can be destructive if it is not mediated. Consider the case of Eva Tiamat Baphomet Medusa, the chosen name of a 58-year-old who is in the process of transforming into a dragon, and who prefers to be referred to as “it” or the Dragon Lady. Born Richard Hernandez to migrant farm workers, the Dragon Lady was abandoned by its mother and stepfather to be raised by its grandparents. Fascinated as a child by the diamondback rattlesnakes in the woods near its grandparents’ home, the Dragon Lady honors these reptiles as its “true” parents.

The Dragon Lady has spent 20 years modifying its body. It has a full body tattoo of reptilian scales, and has had numerous subdermal implants above the eyes. Horns have been implanted, the whites of its eyes have been dyed permanently green, and its tongue has been surgically split. Ears and nose have been removed. It describes these body modifications further in this news report.

Reptiles don’t have ears and my ears needed to go. I have had two procedures done on my nose. The first stage was to basically reshape the nose, remove all the cartilage in my nose, remove the nostrils and remove the septum completely, pulling the skin down and reattaching the skin to my upper lip. Now I have what I call is my dragon nose with a bigger nostril, which are basically slits right up on both sides of my nose and I can breathe so much easier now.

Though its chosen name invokes four different female goddesses or mythological entities, it prefers to go by Tiamat. “Tiamat is the Acadian five-headed dragon,” it explains, according to this interview, apparently referring to a character from Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game. (Another article about Tiamat attributed the name to a video game character.)

In fact, Tiamat is the great goddess of the salt sea in the Enuma Elish, the Babylonian creation epic. She is both the embodiment of the original abyss, and personification of primordial chaos, while also the creator goddess who brings forth the cosmos. Tiamat is an image of very powerful transpersonal energies related to creation and destruction.

We can’t know for certain whether the Dragon Lady is aware of Tiamat’s mythological significance, although it seems that it has only become aware of the goddess through the cheapened, third-hand sources of video and role-playing games. Even in such a diluted form, the archetypal power carried by the Babylonian goddess and her rattlesnake kin grips, inspiring the Dragon Lady to undertake a complete metamorphosis.

Like Treadwell, Tiamat appears to have become possessed by these powerful energies. It experiences itself as having been singled out for a unique destiny, vowing to “defy and stand alone against the world.” “I am what I am,” it says. “I am my own special creation.” This powerful belief has driven The Dragon Lady to spend decades denying its human biology in an effort to become Tiamat.

Archetypal contents that have fallen from ancient pantheons – bears, dragons, snakes – into the unconscious represent one kind of threat in their own right, but such energies can also feed a fascination with ideologies that promise utopian renewal. These can grip not just individuals, but groups, and even whole nations. When this happens, such inflations feed mass movements that can be destructive on a larger scale.

Ideological Possession

Ideologies and isms make for easy objects of worship, substituting handily for religions of old. “Our fearsome gods have only changed their names,” Jung wrote. “They now rhyme with -ism.”6 Political or social ideologies are appealing because they tend to confer de facto special status upon adherents, and offer a clear path to transformation. They therefore set us upon a quest toward a better life or a better society, and so provide compelling structures that dictate meaning and purpose.

“Anyone who falls down from the roof or ceiling of the Christian cathedral falls into himself,” Jung wrote.7 By this, Jung meant that, when conventional structures of meaning and value cease to have validity, one is thrown back on oneself to form such judgments. These days, falling into ourselves often means falling into the internet, which is proving to be a powerful tool for the dissemination of ideologies.

A white supremacist march in Charlottesville U.S., 12 August 2017

Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof was one example of someone recruited into an ideology via the internet. Roof worshipped the darkest of gods – the most philosophically disingenuous, morally bankrupt, and ugliest, as well. According to a profile of Roof in GQ, he suffered from a profound lack of meaning in his life. “I don’t like it when people try to read into things, or try to find, or create meaning that isn’t there,” Roof wrote in his journal while awaiting trial. “For example, I stated before I never used drugs to ‘drown the pain,’ or ‘self-medicate.’ I used drugs because they get you high. There is no deeper meaning behind this. There is no deeper meaning behind any of my behavior.”

Psychological inflation can manifest as a sense of feeling different and special from everyone else in a positive way, but it can also be characterized by a feeling of being singled out in a negative way. In a negative inflation, we are special by virtue of our great suffering and victimhood. When Roof found white supremacy websites, his special status as a victim of African American oppression and crime became clear to him. In his prison manifesto, Roof states that he googled “black on white crime.” “I have never been the same since that day…There were pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders. I was in disbelief. At this moment, I realized that something was very wrong.”

White supremacism gave Roof meaning, and impelled him to hate and brutality. “Even if my life is worth less than a speck of dirt,” Roof wrote, quoting a movie, “I want to use it for the good of society.” At his trial for the murder of nine African Americans, Roof said of his deed, “I felt like I had to do it, and I still feel like I had to do it.”

In January, 2017, Roof was sentenced to death by lethal injection.

“Everything is Problematic”

Fervent certainty such as that evidenced by Roof may be the surest indication that we have fallen into an archetypal inflation. This kind of certainty is seen in activism along the political spectrum. Such certainty brooks no disagreement, holds space for no nuance, and cannot tolerate any doubt.

Former campus activist Trent Eady wrote about his experience of ideological possession in a remarkable personal essay from 2014. The experience did indeed nearly eat him alive. What began as a passionate desire to make a change for the better evolved into a consuming orthodoxy that became “the darkest chapter in [his] life.” This kind of activism begins, writes Eady, with “good intentions and noble causes, but metastasizes into a nightmare. In general, the activists involved are the nicest, most conscientious people you could hope to know. But at some point, they took a wrong turn, and their devotion to social justice led them down a dark path.”

Eady’s world became divided into what he calls “the righteous and the wrong-teous.” There were those chosen and special – and everyone else. Ingroup status could be maintained only by strict adherence to the special truths. “When I was part of groups like this, everyone was on exactly the same page about a suspiciously large range of issues. Internal disagreement was rare. The insular community served as an incubator of extreme, irrational views.”

Eady gives his own cogent definition of a crusader mentality: “an extreme self-righteousness based on the conviction that they are doing the secular equivalent of God’s work.” He continues with a warning:

The danger of the crusader mentality is that it turns the world in a battle between good and evil. Actions that would otherwise seem extreme and crazy become natural and expected. I didn’t think twice about doing a lot of things I would never do today.

Trent found that when he laid down the yoke of ideology, “a world that seemed grey and hopeless filled with colour…. Losing my political ideology was extremely liberating. I became a happier person. I also believe that I became a better person.”

The Religious Function of the Psyche

How do we worship without being eaten alive? A genuinely religious attitude in the psychological sense is an antidote to inflation. The word religion may come from the Latin religare, which means to bind fast, or place an obligation on. In contrast to puffed-up inflation, a religious attitude binds us to something larger, and puts upon us a sacred obligation to the infinite.

An awareness of our dependence upon that which is larger breeds the humility without which wisdom is not possible. It reminds us that our ego is just a small part of us, and is dependent upon – and easily influenced by – irrational, unconscious forces that are beyond our full understanding. We must be humble before the destructive capacity that exists within each one of us, and like the Roman slave, we must remind ourselves occasionally, that we are merely ordinary.

 

Lisa Marchiano is a clinical social worker and Jungian analyst in private practice in Philadelphia, PA. Her writing on parenting issues can be found at motherhoodtransformation.com. Follow her on Twitter @lisamarchiano

 

References

1 Jung, C. G., & Jaffe, A. (1989). Memories, dreams, reflections. New York: Vintage Books, p. 325.
2 Ibid, p. 140.
3 Hollis, J. (2004). Mythologems: incarnations of the invisible world. Toronto: Inner City Books, p. 98.
4 Jung, C. G. (1966). Collected works of C.G. Jung volume 7: two essays on analytical psychology. Princeton: Princeton University Press, para. 235.
5 Herzog, W. (Director). (2005). Grizzly Man [Motion picture]. United States: Lions Gate Films.
6 Jung, C. G. (1966). Collected works of C.G. Jung volume 7: two essays on analytical psychology. Princeton: Princeton University Press, para. 326.
7 Jung, C. G. (2015). Letters of C. G. Jung, vol. 2. Routledge, p. 569.

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42 Comments

  1. I quite enjoyed this article and how you come at the same issue using several examples.

    I think many people now, religious but having lost some aspect of their faith, agnostic, or atheist, are trying to rediscover what core of our ancient religions hold real meaning and what that is. I gradually became an atheist as a rejection of the dogma and ideology in religion, but have this ever-increasing sense that humanity is in danger of throwing the baby out with the bath water so to speak. Surely some connection to self-transcending meaning, our collective soul perhaps, is needed to ground us in a world that increasingly escapes our ability to comprehend it as small, fragile, and limited beings.

    Part of this recent growth in extreme ideology seems to be in conjunction: 1) a strong desire to have the right answer and meaning and purpose in life, 2) the unconscious knowledge that we are too limited and can’t figure it all out alone, 3) our pride and need to feel ownership in it, like it’s “ours”, which an explicated/articulated ideology can give because it puts it fully in our grasp, 4) recourse to simplistic sets of ideas (which all ideas, being finite, ultimately are) while imbuing them with transcendent meaning and value.

    I must say, in various ways, but fortunately all relatively small, I feel I’ve fallen repeatedly into this trap and with some luck crawled back out each time. Whatever part of myself saved me again and again, some voice of my soul or a deep-down impulse to transcend that current self, has earned increasing humility from me. Perhaps the inflation you’re speaking of would be like identifying myself as that transcendence and associating it with some limited ideological totem—and the right path instead is just to have some humility in the face of one’s ineffable nature.

    And all this from an avowed atheist. 😉

    Your article is nice food for thought.

  2. He notes that belief in aliens and UFOs appears to be associated with a need to find meaning.

    Much as a belief in Jung does in the age of neuroscience.

    • Much as a belief in neuroscience does in the age of naturalism.

        • Rob says

          Good try. Is it that you’re obsessed with the politics of meaning? How ’bout, “Nature is all there is, was, or ever will be.” (Same meaning as Carl Sagan’s cosmos statement, but I took it from the Berenstain Bears’ Nature Guide, where it was supposedly science rather than philosophy.) That would make everything we say a natural event, and one can hardly judge natural events right or wrong. They kind of just are/happen, eh? But getting back to neuroscience, it was Francis Crick who, in an interview in Scientific American in the ’90s, said something to the effect that all we are is what neuroscience boils us down to be. His perspective/philosophy there was naturalism. Crazily, he said in the same interview that young-earth creationists should be jailed, as if they could somehow be held responsible, rationally, for their natural-event ideas about cosmic & human origins. (I hope you understand, by this point, that I see naturalism as self-defeating philosophy.)

  3. DiscoveredJoys says

    I would argue that the religious instinct and consequential search for meaning suggested here is a back-to-front explanation.

    The ‘religious instinct’ is not fundamental. Human brains work by predictive processing, deriving ‘meaning’ from confusing inputs. As a consequence human brains are motivated to find meaning because it is rewarding at a neurological level. That religion or UFOs or bears become ‘rewarding’ is an effect, not a cause.

    The examples in the article propose that the ‘religious instinct’ is sometimes diverted into other beliefs – it’s more parsimonious to argue that the instinct to search for meaning often shows in behaviours that can be observed as ‘religious beliefs’ or ‘conspiracy theorist beliefs’ or extensive body modification.

  4. Dr. Jordan B. Peterson explained this theory beautifully in his book, Maps of Meaning.

  5. Jochen Becker says

    I fully agree with the author on her description and analysis of worship and possession.
    But I’d like to criticize her on her blind spot in regard of worship and possession. She sets as an axiom: “that psychic life is motivated by a religious instinct as fundamental as any other, and that this instinct causes us to seek meaning.” Surely the human condition is strongly connected to our troglodyte instincts and characteristics. But evolution has not ceased, it even accelerates with cultural coevolution. Therefore we are not strictly limited by our genetic heritage, we can claim a certain agency to change our condition. Firstly there is a (maybe even genetic) variance in the urge for connection to the infinite. That opens a possibility to repel the dark instincts of religiosity. Humans have overcome other instincts, more or less, e.g. the fear of darkness, with the technical acquisition of artificial light.
    Secondly there are cultural developments. Europe has a more profound culture in secularization than the US. Partly because the US absorbed much of the religious genetic material and therefore established a deeply religious culture. US society promotes this self-reinforcing loop by an ideology of the search for meaning and spirituality.
    Thus I feel the effort of the author to fence in the danger of being eaten alive is too unambitious. We have to accept that there is no “sacred obligation to the infinite”, by just admitting that there is no infinite in human life. The ‘infinite’ is a malicious invention of the beneficiaries and exploiters of the religious instinct. There is no “religious function of the psyche” , but a psychological function of religion.

    • We can find a connection the infinite without religion. Mathematics is a good example. Study abstract mathematics and you will find something absolutely perfect, eternal, universal and true. People devote their lives to it because they are awed by its infinite divine perfection.

      Nobody tricks them into it; there’s no malice, and in fact all of physics, engineering, technology and modern science are available to us only because some people who looked strange to others felt a connection to something perfect, infinite, and invisible.

      Justice is another. There is no perfect justice, no perfect elimination of injustice. That’s an infinite ideal that we will never reach, but conceiving of it, being awed by it, yearning for it and consciously deciding to strive for it, knowing we will fail, has made our society and human life better over time.

      It’s not that the infinite was an invention of those who lead people astray. People feel an awe when their mind encounters the eternal and profound, such as the concept of the first moment of time, or the entirety of space. If you can introduce people to these ideas for the first time, you have a power over them that can be abused.

    • You my friend forget the basic law of energy, in that energy cannot be destroyed but only changes form. We all have the infinite within us, what you call it depends on your own personal development, whether religious or not. We are all, and I mean plant animal or chemically connected to the cosmos.

    • We have not overcome our fear of the dark through technological advancements in artificial lighting. What we have done is insulate ourselves from having to face our fear of the dark and, thereby, we have inadvertently heightened it.

      Similarly, advancements in disciplines of human wisdom in social, scientific, and political arenas (while beneficial, perhaps, on the physical plane) apply layers through which we need not desire to peer down to the division of body, spirit, and soul. We insulate ourselves from the eternal within us because we desire to escape it’s accompanying fear. The more and thicker the layers, the easier to avoid thought about that which terrifies us.

      Eternity is written in our hearts. Jung, Joseph Campbell, so many others (all of us?) notice it, skirt it, point at it, shy back away from it, and ultimately either deny it or are drawn to it again. Moths on temporal wings drawn, terrified to an eternal flame.

      Hence the growing popularity of materialism, naturalism, atheism, etc. We claim these ‘isms’ to be the logical result of our discoveries but they are merely the assumptions of a privileged life. Visit any 3rd world environment where death, suffering, and poverty loom large and, though you will likely find a vast array of supernatural beliefs, you will be hard pressed to discover an atheist, materialist, or naturalist.

      Are we so much smarter than they because we have light bulbs, vaccines, and indoor plumbing? What we have is layer upon layer of insulation. We deny the supernatural (who needs it…I’ve got a computer!) and then apply logic and reason to whatever remains. It is dishonest, though, to then relabel our assumptions as conclusions.

      This whole article and all these replies dance around the real issue, at best, and completely avoid it in the largest part.

      If anything like GOD exists then that being must be singular. If you acknowledge more than one your gods are too small to really be, but at least you are dancing around the flame. If there is no such being then all talk of moral anything is absolutely ludicrous without devaluing morals to the level of favorite ice cream flavor. Either GOD is true or whoever has the gold makes the rules. Pick an assumption from that list and build a consistent world view.

  6. Kusum Dhar Prabhu says

    Thank you Lisa for the powerful examples you choose to illustrate Jung’s writings on inflation and the religious instinct.
    Really enjoyed the article.

  7. David Turnbull says

    The pursuit of ‘Power, Wealth, Health, Pleasure” is not modernism and has always co-existed with religion. To call it worship is to improperly extend the meaning of the word.

  8. An excellent Jungian analysis. If only spirituality were something taught to our children.

    A thought experiment: this analysis can be used to explained why the Romans crucified Jesus. He was a man possessed by God, which was not acceptable.

    • Barry Lyons says

      “If only spirituality were something taught to our children.” How about atheist spirituality? You could start with “The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality” by Andre Comte-Sponville and “Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion” by Sam Harris.

    • The last thing this world needs is more “spirituality” – it’s already the basis of 99% of the carnage that continues to go on in the world. It starts with the primitive sky-god beliefs and continues on in a more subtle way in “modern” societies that fall for all sorts of unscientific nonsense (including psychoanalysis by the way).

  9. Caroline Charlese Scott says

    From my experiences with the transgender and gender studies community, the search for meaning has been replaced by a search for identity. They are not the same.

    • Charles B. Obrin MD says

      From my experiences with today’s average human-beings this is the case; especially younger people they tend to beat themselves up over not knowing who they are yet. Once these younger folks find their meaning placeholder which is easy now because of the theory of evolution, they struggle with their own personality which is also easily dealt with these days: Once someone online or on television tells them who they are- well lets just say, it often becomes depression then a search for some kind of substance abuse.

  10. Ben Johns says

    Enjoyed the article Lisa, so well constructed.

    Appreciate the link between hubris and the religious instinct. I experienced this spiritual possession/psychological inflation as a senior manager at RSPCA. I was responsible for protecting every animal in our state; this type of hypomanic crusader hubris. Led to my fall; straight forward Icarus story from top to bottom.

  11. Reality Bites says

    As an individual we have no purpose other than which that we give our self.
    There is no purpose to man or mankind, no purpose to the universe.
    Any perceived purpose is simply an illusion of the observer.

    We live by chance in a nondescript corner of the universe, at the mercy of the swirling cosmos, within the bounds of a single planet.
    Tomorrow a unknown asteroid/Meteor could hit earth & vaporize billions of years of evolution in a second…..
    The meaning of life only exists in our head, its a personal question and journey.

    • Lotti Krieger says

      How about presenting this as your own personal opinion? I certainly disagree with you on every single point. I believe that not only does everything have meaning, it even leads to layers of deeper meaning. A depth that’s just waiting to be discovered. Your worldview is polar opposite to mine.

  12. Your humble obedient servant says

    I think Bob Dylan put it very well:

    You may be an ambassador to England or France
    You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
    You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
    You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

    But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
    You’re gonna have to serve somebody
    Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
    But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

    You might be a rock ’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage
    You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage
    You may be a businessman or some high-degree thief
    They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief

    But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
    You’re gonna have to serve somebody
    Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
    But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

  13. Observing one says

    The ancient Jews realized if you did not worship the Lord you would worship Baal, Mamon, Satan, a golden calf or some other substitute:

    The 10 Commandments List in Exodus 20:2-17

    “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.
    “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

    • James Lawson says

      The article describes what I see happening with youth today. There is a search for meaning within their own minds but believing that there is someone or a power greater than themselves, outside of their own mind is rare. This mindset causes them to search for meaning in things inferior to themselves, turning to psychological substitutes instead of accepting the reality of spirituality and the place humans hold in that reality. Thus our cultures are filled a lack of moral and ethical guidelines and restraints that would restrict the destruction of self and others caused by the inflated mind. Humans have a tendency to worship the creation rather than the creator desiring to be all powerful themselves. This is my opinion from my experiences as a youth counselor and theological studies.

  14. I see no evidence that any external agency has now or has ever influenced events on earth. Everything that has happened here has been a result of natural forces or intervention by living beings.That would obviously argue against the validity of most religions.

    Saying that, I also recognize that there are strong emotional and rational arguments to say that there is something beyond what we currently understand.

    On the rational side, Tony above mentioned mathematics. There have been many articles written about the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics. The most obscure advances in mathematics end up describing some part of our universe. Much of quantum theory seems completely counter intuitive, but evidence continues to build that it is, at least partially, accurately portraying things. Is this feature of our universe a result of a random event or a coincidence?

    On the emotional side, to me there is no question that human nature requires the presence of something bigger than self in order to live a satisfying life. That could be just a result of natural selection, but it seems this attribute has emerged across all cultures, all time. Does that argue that there is perhaps something more fundamental going on?

    A discouraging thought is that there are answers but human evolvement has not yet reached the point where we would understand them. Why should we believe that we are even capable of evolving sufficiently to understand them?

  15. Alex DeLarge says

    There’s no meaning whatsoever. Humans need to get over themselves. As Bill Hick’s said, “We’re just a virus with shoes.”

  16. Michael Demers says

    It’s really much more simple than “that”… It is the pure-ness of truth. And in that truth, at any given moment there arises desire. What the article displays is that anything we put our name on is ego-centric, hence we will succumb to it. In fashion, we call it tragic or suffering.
    Facing the truth; living in honesty, is the weave of existence’s integrity. The power of desire, a force that compels us, propels us, contemplates us and ultimately births us into life.
    Though, just as there is a beginning, there is an end… Regardless of desire, or thought or action; the simple truth is, we are bound by pure truth. There comes the finality of existence.
    Life is the process “bear-ing/bare-ing ” all that comes with it. The Pure Truth demands our release of any and all attachment, therefore, life’s eternal-end.
    This release, a variation of birth into finality is the ultimate fear… Which in-turn, is the ultimate truth. Desire consumes itself.
    The ultimate power that be… Truth, consumes and therefore becomes power-less of itself… making what may have been conceived in pure thought in the very beginning; Peace.
    A great article, thank you. You give stimulus for deeper integration of the impetus that sets us into this creation, life and it’s end into peace.. With that, The Eternal Mother. Peace.

  17. Dave Yarnell says

    Has it occurred to anyone that the “instinct to connect to the infinite” was actually instilled in us by the infinite itself, or as the Bible says, we are created in his image. Man has come up with a million ways to connect to the infinite and every last one of them is useless. God manifested himself in the person of Jesus Christ, who said of himself, I am the way, the truth and the life. Many religions and non-religious folk have said of Christ that he was a good man, perhaps a prophet, but a good man does not claim to be God if he is not God. He was either a maniac with a God complex, a liar that simply enjoyed a cult following 2000 years ago, or he was everything he claimed to be. Is that dogmatic and “exclusive”? Absolutely. There is either absolute truth or there isn’t, and if the latter is true, we are all hopelessly lost and life has no meaning whatsoever.

  18. Mick Alter says

    I noticed you didn’t credit Jordan Peterson anywhere even though you obviously got most of this from him.

  19. What do people like me have to do to convince those who practice the religion of “psychology” and “psychoanalysis” hogwash that I really really don’t worship anything or anybody? That I don’t search for “meaning” where there simply can’t be any?

    • MRDDC says

      What can “People like you have to do”….. give pause… realize “you don’t have to do anything”; you can’t and won’t convince anyone, only your-self and then you would only be chasing your own thoughts and in the end there you are. The answer to your question; Be-silent.

  20. I think that trying to go back to some coherent religious past is now impossible, the advances made by scientific research has made any claim of physical truth by religions impossible to keep alive.
    Today paranormal religions have been substituted by political theories based on the desires of only demographic group, all of this under the hope to find some secular moral values that are absolute and can be applied to all societies and peoples. I think one thing that could be done is to investigate the biological causes behind religion and understand that since the mind trick itself into believing in god we shouldn’t resign to mere believing or leave the need to form a cohesive and productive identity. One big problem is that demographics and the (false)assumptions that we have free will might dictate the rules to find the solutions needed.
    (Apologies for the bad grammar and spelling errors)

  21. As I read the comments, I couldn’t help but find that they almost universally fit the precepts of the article. Hubris, extreme, etc. Funny as heck.

  22. I’d noticed these phenomenon before (people coming up with substitute beliefs for God, becoming taken over by your own ideology) but hadn’t thought to link them in this way. Very interesting argument.

  23. From De Toqueville in Democracy in America:

    “Dogmatic beliefs are more or less numerous according to the times. They are born in different manners and can change form and object; but one cannot make it so that there are no dogmatic beliefs, that is, opinions men receive on trust without discussing them. If each undertook himself to form all his opinions and to pursue the truth in isolation down paths cleared by him alone, it is not probable that a great number of men would ever unite in any common belief. Now it is easy to see that there is no society that can prosper without such beliefs, or rather there is none that could survive this way; for without common ideas there is no common action, and without common action men still exist, but a social body does not. Thus in order that there be society, and all the more, that this society prosper, it is necessary that all the minds of the citizens always be brought and held together by some principal ideas; and that cannot happen unless each of them sometimes comes to draw his opinions from one and the same source and unless each consents to receive a certain number of ready-made beliefs.”

    We all are going to domatically believe in something, whether religion, science, ideology or any ism. It’s just a matter of what it will be. Hopefully we can have a consensus of reality itself so we can get stuff done.

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