Biblical literalism is very much related to what I see as a cultural literalism in my country. Many conservative people, especially in Alabama at present moment, are seeing their world in such literal terms that they are oblivious to the long-term consequences of what they are doing. Just as they approach Holy Writ only on the surface level, so they approach their daily life and the life of their community and nation only on a surface level. They do not grasp the nuances of life and therefore the nuanced dimensions of life, unbeknownst to them, are grasping them firmly. One might say their individual, as well as the collective unconscious exerts inordinate influence on them.
Our need to conceptualize our experience with God parallels are experience of having been conceptualized ourselves. We first lived as an awareness, an amorphous Presence ready to soak up this substantial world and thus form an ego identity. This state of “awareness” was what the Buddhists call the “world of 10,000 things” which is a metaphor for “a world of everything,” of undifferentiated wholeness. The Biblical fall is the experience of being reduced to the conceptual…a thing among other things…which then reduced our Creator Him/Herself to a concept, a thing.
Spiritual teachings of all stripe are intended to facilitate an escape from bondage to this “letter of the law.” But gaining this freedom…or even tippy-toeing near its periphery…requires an awareness of the predicament which is a profoundly existential phenomenon. This awareness is not cognitive, though cognition is involved…somewhat…and is greatly influenced by the experience. This experience takes place deep in the heart, in the unconscious, that, “foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.”
Understanding this phenomenon can be transformative. One could even say it can be, “being born again.” Grasping this dimension of life changes our relationship with our self, with others, and with our world. We begin to see and understand ourselves as related to all “things”, to be part and parcel of this cosmos, even part of what some describe as, “the Cosmic Christ.” But this experience is inherently threatening to the rugged individualism of our culture which instills within us the notion, “I am the captain of my ship, the master of my soul
Yes, we are individuals but our individuality has value only in the context of our unity with all things. This experience of the Great Round often comes to us first as the feeling of an impending threat to our sense of being a separate and distinct individual. This threat is that of impending doom, of fragmentation or dissolution of the ego, which is actually merely the ego having its tyranny loosened and learning to live in harmony with the body and the rest of the world.