Somewhere between fifteen and twenty years ago I was praying to God, or I was having a conversation with myself, or rather I can’t say exactly what I was doing as the whole ordeal was a bit confusing, and yet a bit of enlightenment came in the midst of the chaos.
The conversation arose out of a moment of intense introspection. I was examining myself, over turning every stone of motivation, and desire, looking for signs of grace in my soul, and feeling rather depressed, fearful, and angry. I was crying out to God, asking for inner transformation to match my outward amendment of life, trying to figure out why in my depths I had been so little touched by grace, and in the midst of this it seemed that God said, “F*** you, you little sh**!” And I thought, “Hold on, what was that? ” Something doesn’t seem right. Sure, God might confront me, point out my sins, he may very well judge me, but “F*** you, you little sh**,” seemed too much like Axl Rose, and not very much like God.
I once heard a theory of the atonement that went something like this:
Jesus, became human to offer himself to the Devil on behalf of mankind, and the Devil, full of pride and blind in his egoism, took Jesus’ self offering, and in doing so overstepped his boundaries. Thus, once Jesus was in the depths of hell he, being God, broke free and led the captives (us sinners) to freedom. Consequently the Devil lost his reign over hell and the human condition.
So, here I am thinking, “F*** you, you little sh**!?” which led me to ask, “Who am I talking to?” because it seemed like some boundary somewhere had been overstepped, that much like the Devil egoistically over extending himself, the voice in my head that was playing God over extended itself. I mean, I couldn’t imagine that God, even in his most wrathful moments, would say, “You little sh**,” particularly when prefaced by “F*** you!”
So now I felt a sense of peace knowing that my troubled soul was the result of some kind of circular conversation I was having with myself, in which the Super Ego had occupied the place of God in my consciousness, and was criticizing, cursing, and persecuting the hell out of me (or into me) for not being the little god it wanted and expected me to be. At that moment Freud came to mind, and I imagined him stroking his beard and saying something like “veerrry interesteen” while looking at me with pity and a kind of bemusement reserved for fools. I also thought about Feuerbach and the mirror of infinity, wherein religion is said to have its origin in self-consciousness, the very thing that separates humans from animals. Religion, or particularly God, is the product of projecting this self consciousness onto eternity. Drawing upon another source, I have heard it put this way, “God created man in his image, and man has returned the favor.” Of course, Feuerbach denied the first part of this equation.
Anyways, at that moment it became clear to me that we are indeed complex creatures: a composite of a unique psychological disposition, social forces, and spiritual realities that come together and get tangled in a neural skein called consciousness. As a result of all this, I have learned the importance of discernment, and related to this, I have learned to pray with C.S. Lewis, what he called the prayer preceding all prayers:
May it be the real I who speaks.
May it be the real Thou that I speak to.