[From a social media post and conversation]
I hope the title of this post can be read in the spirit of a "light touch." I am fascinated with the role of correction in spirituality - on the individual level, and how institutions handle corruption or mistakes with correction. This need not be about Christianity exclusively. All religious movements, at some point, face the matter of corruption of the way and correcting a movement's aim back to the way.
Do you feel your spirituality or worldview has given you a clear and valuable process to help you self-correct? Or in other terms, can you change your mind even in those moments you feel super-righteous? How comfortable are you with being corrected or accepting new information?
In his lecture series, Jordan Peterson discussed the story of Abraham and Isaac. In the end, I was disappointed that he seemed to just repeat the standard interpretation of that story - loyalty to an ideal, commitment to a conviction, reward for making a big sacrifice like your child.
I think another valid interpretation of the story is more useful for today, and it's about correction, or self-correction, when new information (a messenger, or angel) presents itself to you.
Abraham, for example, can be read as feeling super-righteous. He also can be read in that moment as not walking before God, but just following orders. And yet, when the messenger came with something new, Abraham had some strength of character to change his mind, even in that last second of righteous conviction and commitment.
Could you do that? Could you change your mind in the red-hot moment before slashing your child's throat? Now that is a true test from your God! Abraham showed that he could. Cain showed he would not change his mind. Hmm...
According to the lecture transcript, Peterson ends with something like:
"The more willing you are to face death, for example, the less likely it is that you’re going to have to face it, at least in an ignoble manner." (source)
The next great spiritual questions may not be about facing death. That's important and we have stories helping us sort that out. But what about facing Corruption and Correction?
The person willing to act on correction, especially before doing something corrupt or emotional or mistaken, shows a humble nobility compared to the person (or institution!) fixed in certainty and righteousness. The person willing to take correction voluntarily asks questions and responds to questions, rather than declares righteous statements. So, the more you are willing to face correction, for example, the less likely it is that you're going to have to face it, at least in an ignoble manner.
Or maybe correction is a kind of death to some of us?
Cheers. What are your thoughts?
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A Response Comment (from J.R.):
I don't blame Peterson for that interpretation mind you, as we both know he's somewhat obsessed with the notion of sacrifice and bargaining with the future and framing that story in this manner fits a larger narrative he's working with.. but I've always liked the ability of a good story to have several working, plausible interpretations... especially if they aren't contradictory but can actually work together, like in this case.
Personally I have no issues changing my mind, I'm very open minded, what concerns me is that I'd never have the strength of conviction to try to slit my sons throat in the first place.. so to speak. I used to be more that way when I was younger but even then I think my bigger issue was not being sure, being too open, and not settling myself in any way that would facilitate setting up a decent life for myself. I dilly dallied for many years.. still do. So I can change my mind easily because I'm not married to any idea strong enough to have conviction in the first place. That's why I've been able to vote Green, NDP, PPC, Reform, Work Less, Rhinoceros.. that's the voting record of an absolute flake!!
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And a reply:
Yes, I really appreciate you bringing up how a good story can have several working, plausible interpretations. My post is not meant to replace or exclude the standard interpretations, of course, but instead only frame, unframe, reframe, so to speak. Wisdom brings us to awareness of choice - the right interpretation for the present situation we find ourselves in, and not absolutes or exclusive hard lines.
Your comment does open the door to a connection between personality and spiritual interpretations - the open-creative person often has to work on recognizing when to be more conscientious-committed, where the conscientious-committed often has to work on recognizing when to be open. Hmm. Cheers.
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A response and question (From A. L.):
What kind of god would ask a person to kill their child.....certainly not a good god
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And a reply:
Great question. I think that tough puzzle is part of why these strange stories have endured for so long. They don't resolve in super-tidy, super-righteous ways each time.
A great comparison in the Bible is the story of Jephthah. Like Abraham, he felt convinced he had to sacrifice his child. Nothing changed his mind, and he went through with it. Interestingly enough, he ended up a broken man, falling apart with his own legacy, really.
So, that's another example of the role of how this strange god may be testing characters on their ability to take correction, especially in those hot-tempered, murderous moments.
I've been looking at the Book of Job lately too, and that same question comes up for me again and again. Yahweh is certainly not a good god in much of the older tradition, the Old Testament, etc. But he is great, in the sense of being powerful and masterful and creative.
Jung spent a lot of time on this conjunction of opposites, how a wrathful god could also be good, all-at-once. Jung suggests that the Book of Job "prompts" this god, in a sense, to go through a correction himself... which leads to the correcting elements of the gospels.
But everyone's mileage may vary on those religious themes and values.
It is worth asking though, of course, if the god you are worshipping is actually worthy and ideal...
Then my father built an altar He looked once behind his shoulder He knew I would not hide
You who build these altars now To sacrifice these children You must not do it anymore
A scheme is not a vision And you never have been tempted By a demon or a god
You, who stand above them now Your hatchets blunt and bloody You were not there before
When I lay upon a mountain And my father's hand was trembling With the beauty of the word