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Terreson Profile
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Christianity a pseudo-morphology


A week or so ago a Face Book friend posted a link on her timeline. It's to a BBC news article covering that Britain has become a post-Christian country. Here's a link to the article, which piece needs to be read in order to better get the direction of my thoughts. Please note that the observation is one made by a former Archbishop to the Church of England.

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In his 4 volume, "The Masks of God", Joseph Campbell treated with the European conversion to Christianity, what with historical acuracy could be called a forced conversion essentially made at sword point. Culturally speaking he called the conversion a pseudo-morphology. Now to explain the terminology.

In his views on the subject Campbell drew from, leaned on the theoretical writings of the German historian and philosopher of history, Oswald Spengler. Specifically drawing on his great work, "The Decline of the West". Spengler's framework was this: that civilizations are the (organic) products of, what he called, cultural morphology. By their nature, and again viewed culturally, civilizations are born, they ripen, reach to maturation, fall in to decline, go decadent, and they finally die off, which last point is marked by cultural sterility. It's been several decades since I read Spengler, but I think I have the nut of his notions right. In effect, all civilizations are bound to these morphological rules of change, from birth to death. Pseudo-morphology is a phenomenon that occurs when an idea, a cultural expression, gets imported but that is antithetical to the ethos of the importer. I think of it as a graft between two species that does not take. So for Campbell, the introduction of Christianity into Europe, coming out of the Levant, and really more in keeping with Levantine cultural expressions, all of which have both the Abrahamic and Zorasterian idioms closer in the gut, amounted to a pseudo-morph, a graft that never actually took. I think Campbell was right, or that for a little over a thousand years Christianity was an overlay in the West, at best an applique. That it never actually resonated in the European soul. Next time you visit a Gothic cathedral wonder about this: building modelled after an atavistic memory of the primeval forests that once dominated in all of Europe, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains. You don't find a desert Yahweh or His Son there. You find Cernunnos, the Green Man.

Second tine to my thoughts. Seems to be little understood that the generation that would have grown up on the writings of Nietzsche threw off the yolk of Christianity immediately and, frankly, with far less pain than with a sense of liberation. This was the 1890s and for the following 3 decades. When he said "God is dead" a huge burden was taken off the shoulders of a large part of Europe. That particular aphorism made for good and bad. It not only forced people to think beyond accepted, conventonal distinctions between good and evil, but it was pure liberation to the European especially. For that generation saying God is dead kind of translated this way: so I can find my own way now?

Guess my point is this. Europe has been post-Christian for about a hundred years now. Almost forgot. Campbell was writing down his thoughts in the 1960s, drawing on Spengler's from the 1920s.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, May/9/2014, 7:46 pm
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Christine98 Profile
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Re: Christianity a pseudo-morphology


Hi Tere,

Thanks for your thoughts and link to the article. First response: Cameron's a schmuck.
I'm glad a number of people, including the former archbishop, took issue with him.

It's too early in the morning to respond to Campbell--I'll be back,

Chris
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Terreson Profile
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Re: Christianity a pseudo-morphology


Glad you enjoyed, Chris. Fun stuff to think on.

Tere
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Re: Christianity a pseudo-morphology


It seems to me that rather than the metaphor of birth-maturation-death (perhaps overly anthropomorphic?), cultures morph. They, we (cultures are people), move in popular waves, but not out of the pool.
Christianity, yet another theory in all our glorious rational being theorization, does not become imbued in us as a distinct genome. We live as we do out of habit and imitation of those we want to impress as like them. We develop cultural ideations, symbols, languages of various sortings; but these are about community, about belonging.
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Terreson Profile
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Re: Christianity a pseudo-morphology


Hi, Libra. Good to read your thoughts. Guess I don't see the idea as anthropormorphic, rather, as something organic. I look around and it seems to me that everything living, certainly biologically speaking, is bound by these rules of morphology. How a seed, for example, can have in itself the makings of a full grown flowering plant. How a honey bee larva can have in itself everything needed to, first, pupate, then emerge a fully developed adult. As in biology perhaps the same is true of cultural development. But I admit to a bias. I'm rather drawn to the notion that culture, and civilization, is bound by rules or laws determining of everything organic. Just makes sense to me. Thanks for your input.

Tere
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Terr, I agree that Europe has been moving that way for a hundred years or more but across the pond in the states the distention is still moving thru the country like slow lava, from the coastal plains inward. The iron core christians have fortifications on the inner plains. It's happening tho, the change, the ala-cart beliefs, the ancient aliens and crypto-zoologists holding mirrors up to faces. Crazyness.
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Terreson Profile
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Re: Christianity a pseudo-morphology


I'm chuckling at your comment, JR. Especially at the term, crypto-zoologist. Not sure what such a creature is but it makes me giggle.

Of course, you're right. Christianity alive and well in America. Only. I'm not so sure it bears any resemblance to, I'll call it classical, Christianity. Mormonism an American product. Pentecostalism may have started in Scotland during the so-called Great Awakening of the early 19th C, but it has become peculiarly American. Rapturists, Charismatics, the snake handlers of Tennessee, and, my favorite, the Gospel of Prosperity, what persuades the faithful to make their evengelical preachers wealthy. Pretty crazy stuff. But that's all material for a different thread.

Tere
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Zakzzz5 Profile
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Re: Christianity a pseudo-morphology


Read the material above and the replies. Focused on a comment that the Gothic churches resemble, reflect, the forests rather than anything from the Middle East. That may be true, but the earliest civilizations in the Middle East built their high edifices to resemble the mountains they also came from (some of them). Also, the sacred groves of the Druids which the Romans cut down after killing the Druids -- weren't they a path, an avenue, for worshiping God (or gods)? I don't think that the Hibernians or the Celts were atheists, or even agnostics. I believe they worshipped God (or gods) in their own way.

However, it is true that Christianity originated in the Middle East. It was dramatically influenced by the religions extant in Rome, in the sense that the saints sort of replaced the gods and demigods. Many of the religions have had both persuasion and the sword involved during conversions.

Good to find this thread, having just finished a biography of Joseph Campbell. Zak

Last edited by Zakzzz5, Mar/18/2015, 5:39 pm
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