Keepers of rules

by on March 4th, 2010

Fundamentalist Christians had by the 1950s become more defined by a particular set of do’s and don’ts than by answering the “what’s” and “whys” of their beliefs. Their world was neatly divided into “the black hats” and “the white hats,” the good folks and the bad. The anti-intellectual faith of the fundamentalist Christian community had reduced its practical distinctive into a set of dress and behavioral codes. “The rules” stated clearly that Christian men must have short hair—women must always wear dresses. No one could listen to music with a “jungle beat” or go to movies. And of course, no good Christian would “drink, smoke or chew or date girls that do.” These issues are primarily external and represent a very sub-cultural Americanized form of Christianity. The biblical teaching that a Christian should be salt and light in a dark world had largely been eroded from the faith. While fundamentalists attempted to remain in and reinforce their culture from intellectuals, neo-evangelicals and Roman Catholics, the fledgling intellectual conservative movement found a lightning rod in a young Roman Catholic and Yale graduate, one William F. Buckley who fired a shot directly over the bow of the university he graduated from and called into question what his and by extension, many of the universities were teaching, in his 1951 book, God and Man at Yale. Even though some of the intellectual conservatives viewed Christianity as possibly helpful, Buckley viewed it as true:

I shall insert here what may seem obvious: I consider this battle of educational theory important and worth time and thought even in the context of a world-situation that seems to render totally irrelevant any fight except the power struggle against Communism. I myself believe that the duel is between Christianity and atheism is the most important in the world. (William F. Buckley, Jr., God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of “Academic Freedom>/em>,” (with a new introduction by the author), Regnery Gateway (Washington, D.C.; 1992) lx)

This work sparked quite a controversy as he brought into the light of day the worldviews which were being communicated at Yale. He was quite clear that if Yale’s alumni were in favor of knowingly and intentionally financing an institution which had become largely one of atheism and collectivism, that was fine. However, he was convinced that the alumni were unaware of Yale’s educational theory at the time. Buckley was quite correct that the most important “duel is between Christianity and atheism” and this duel extended into educational theory and the university.

Even as the ink was drying on Buckley’s book, Abraham Maslow was recruited in 1951 by the founders of Brandeis University to develop a psychologies study for their new institution. This new position gave him a great deal of credibility and the opportunity to effectively train a large priesthood for his new religion:

The prestige and intellectual cachet of his new position gave Maslow a degree of professional visibility he had never enjoyed during his years at Brooklyn, and the appearance in 1954 of Motivation and Personality, a compilation of his articles on self-actualization, was a career-making event. Maslow’s view of motivation had immense appeal for students of education, social work, management and other branches of applied psychology. It released them from the burden of having to defend traditional moral codes that they personally considered outdated or overly harsh and imbued them with a sense of mission. An army of counselors, therapists, trainers, and enlightened teachers would be needed to satisfy the deficiency of America’s young and not-so-young, lifting them to the level at which they would be able to take charge of their own personal growth. (Joyce Milton, The Road to Malpsychia: Humanistic Psychology and our Discontents, Encounter Books (San, Francisco, CA; 2002) 54)

In his book, Motivation and Personality he began introducing his readers to the idea of “peak experiences.” It is very likely that he was influenced in his thinking in this area by the 1901 book by Richard Bucke, Cosmic Consciousness. In that book, Bucke:

…argued that about six hundred thousand years ago the human race made a giant evolutionary leap from simple animal consciousness to self-consciousness. According to Bucke, Homo Sapiens are on the brink of another such transformation, a giant leap forward to the stage of “cosmic consciousness.” Since such important evolutionary changes don’t take place all at once, a few exceptional individuals has already moved to the next level, among them Jesus Christ, Buddha, St. Paul and Mohammed. In all cases, added Bucke, their transformations were associated with a life-changing mystical experience that occurred around the age of thirty. (Joyce Milton, The Road to Malpsychia: Humanistic Psychology and our Discontents, Encounter Books (San, Francisco, CA; 2002) 55)

The idea of psychology and psychotherapy as a religion which freed oneself form the moral and social constraints afforded s superior godlike being originated early in the century by Carl Jung . The idea of a form of “self actualization” also began with Jung who called it “self-deification” or “individuation”:

Analysis became an initiatory process, a descent into the unconscious mind in order to spark a process of individual transformation through a direct encounter with the transcendental realm of the gods. Just as the Last Supper became the central event upon which the mystery of Communion in the Roman Catholic Mass was based, Jungian analysis became a ritualized reenactment of Jung’s own inner drama, a story of heroic confrontation with the gods that is enshrined as the sacred myth of analytical psychology. For those who survived an encounter with the god or gods within, Jung promised rebirth as a true “individual,” free from all the repressive mechanisms of conventional beliefs about family, society, and deity. The successful survivors of such pagan regeneration became reborn, spiritually superior “individuated” beings. (Richard Noll, The Aryan Christ: The Secret Life of Carl Jung, Random House, (New York, 1997,) 141)

Harold McCormick (the McCormick’s were one of America’s three wealthiest families) and his wife Edith Rockefeller McCormick (the Rockefellers were also one of the three America’s three wealthiest families) were very involved with Jung.

Rather than always have one foot in and one foot out of the magically unreal community of spiritual seekers around Jung, he now felt part of their mission. As others in analysis in Zurich found, the war [1st World War] seemed to heighten the social cohesiveness and group identity of the Jungians. Harold finally saw the need for spiritual rebirth of the world and was certain that Jung was the man to bring it about. His conversion was complete. (Richard Noll, The Aryan Christ: The Secret Life of Carl Jung, Random House, (New York, 1997,) 214)

Although this didn’t happen in Jung’s lifetime, now Maslow, his new religion and army of priests which were being trained would have a significant impact not only on the next decade, but through the balance of the 20th Century, both in culture and in the church. Some of his friends and associates, Abbott Hoffman, Timothy Leary and Carl Rogers would serve to advance the cause of psychology, hierarchy of needs and peak experiences very successfully in the years to come. At the same time, some of the concerns fundamentalists had voiced about neo-evangelicals would begin manifesting themselves and seemingly vindicate their whole position, including introducing this new religion into the core of the church. John Dewey’s idea of changing culture through the educational system was in full swing and Marxism/Socialism was gaining momentum through this vehicle. Many of these tributaries will begin converging and restructuring the thinking and behavior of culture and the church in the next decade.

One response to “Keepers of rules ”

  1. Sunny O'Neal says:

    For readers interested in how evangelicals are influencing our culture, not by being keepers of the rules, as described in this article, but by rising in influence as leaders in areas of government, academia, entertainment, and business, I’d like to recommend: Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite, by D. Michael Lindsay, Oxford University Press, 2007. I heard Dr. Lindsay speak at a Veritas Forum, and found his study and conclusions captivating.

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