Occhigrosso, Peter 1996 The Joy of Sects,
Doubleday, NY ISBN 0-385-42565-1

526 The New Age


Since the New Age draws on the entire vocabulary of psychospiritual experience and scientific and technological developments, one never knows from what realm or in which configuration new emanations of ancient or modern wisdom will appear. The connections are seemingly boundless, as a perusal of almost any New Age catalog of books, tapes, or workshops will readily reveal: "Shamanism, Suffering, and Social Action,"

"Addiction as Spiritual Emergency," "Work as a Spiritual Path," "The Tao of Voice," "The Wisdom of Your Other Hand." The past decade has seen the publication of a number of influential books based on the insights of the seminal Swiss psychiatrist and scholar Carl Gustav jung (1875-1961). While still a medical student, jung was fascinated by spiritualistic phenomena, including what appeared to be poltergeist activity occurring in his own home, and later made a study of some elements of the occult. In the early 1900s, jung became a prot6g6 of Sigmund Freud, who announced he was adopting Jung, 19 years his junior, "as an eldest son." They later collided over Freud's rejection of occultism and parapsychology and broke, according to jung, because he 41 could not accept Freud's placing authority above truth." From observations of his patients plus expansive readings in mythology and a familiarity with Eastern religious texts as well as with alchemy*, Gnosticism, and other suprarational systems, jung developed theories that assigned a far larger role to ancient myths and Eastern spiritual insights than Freud's system. Freud, influenced by the work of Mesmer, Charcot, and others, had developed his notion of the unconscious, a hidden layer of the mind formed from earliest childhood by repressing or otherwise disguising unacceptable wishes, drives, and impulses. jung believed that, in addition to the personal unconscious acquired during each individual's lifetime, humanity shares what he called a collective unconscious, the contents of which are present in each individual from birth. Through this unconscious flows a stream of stock characters and images common to all humans, which he called archetypes. These terms, along with others like synchronicity (by which jung referred to '4the occurrence of meaningful coincidences which, in themselves, are chance happenings, but are so improbable that we must assume them to be based on some kind of principle, or on some property of the empirical world") and the shadow (repressed or "dark aspects of the personality"), have become part of the common currency of modern speech. But the reasons for jung's increasing prominence-at least at the hands of an expanding number of popularizers-are more apparent in his concept of the "four functions of consciousness." jung posited that people primarily use either Thinking or Feeling as a guide to 'udgment, just as they experience the world chiefly through Sensation or Intuition. One of the four functions becomes predominant in an individual's life and is backed up by one from the other pairing. He observed that in the West, some combination of Thinking and Sensation generally seemed to dominate, leaving Feeling and Intuition underdeveloped or repressed. In some ways, the entire thrust of the New Age could almost be said to be an attempt to give Feeling and Intuition their due and, in so doing, integrate them with Thinking and Sensation. (To some observers, of course, the New Age has gone too far in the direction of Feeling and Intuition, leaving it deficient in logical thought and empirical information, but that is a matter of opinion.) jung spoke further of integrating the opposite aspects of personality, such as ego and the shadow, light and dark, male and female-a process he referred to as individuation. When in balance, these aspects produce an integrative principle called Self; this balance of opposites has its counterpart in Eastern philosophy, especially the yin-yang of China, the Shiva-Shakti of India, and the yab-yum" of Tibetan Buddhism. As the principle of transcendent integration of the personality, Self is experienced as divine Being in any number of images drawn from the world's religious iconography, from the Holy Grail and Christ and Buddha figures to the wise old man and wise old woman. A major critique of the principle of Self was developed by James Hillman, who broke with the Jungian movement in the 1970s. Hillman attacked Jung's idea of Self as another variant of Western monotheism, challenging the implicitly Christian underpinnings of Jung's system and arguing for a pluralism of gods, myths, and archetypes. As he expressed it in his influential book Re-visioning Psychology, Hillman believes the psyche does not have a central unifying principle-a philosophy very similar to the core teaching of Buddhism known as anatman. His school of thought has come to be called archetypal psychology. As so often happens with revivals, the original has not been nearly so successful as the disciples and popularizers. The resurgence of interest in Jungian teachings does not always extend to jung himself, whose writings are often rather erudite and abstruse. The major catalyst for the current fascination with jung's ideas was probably the surprise success of a series of television interviews with the mythologist Joseph Campbell (1904-87) that took place very near the end of a long and productive life spent out of the spotlight. Shown on public television in the U.S., the interviews revealed Campbell as a living storehouse of archetypal myths and legends who could masterfully weave together material from Indian, Chinese, Egyptian, Christian, Native American, African, or Australian sources into coherent and beguiling segments built around a variety of themes. Chief among these legends was the Jungian archetype of the hero, who is called to embark on an adventure that may require doing battle with a dragon or fellow human and may even result in dismemberment or death. The hero, according to Campbell, journeys through a strange world of severe trials, "undergoes a supreme ordeal and gains his reward." He then returns from the kingdom of his journey, and the reward that he carries back with him restores the world. The broad appeal of Campbell's storytelling came as no surprise to readers of his many books, including filmmaker George Lucas, whose Star Wars trilogy was inspired in part by Campbell's 1949 classic The Hero with a Thousand Faces. In fact, it was Lucas who lent his Skywalker Studio facilities to Campbell and interviewer Bill Moyers after PBS initially declined to fund the pro'ect, citing a low potential for viewer interest in a series of interviews about non-Christian religion. The huge success of the series and of videoand audiotapes and books based on it and other Campbell interviews helped create a market for Jungian-inspired teachers. jung believed that folktales are the collective dreams of certain peoples and that when one ad'usts for the cultural or ethnic biases inherent in them, what remains are fairly pure archetypal stories-about the hero, the goddess, the witch as the dark mother, and others. Jung's study of fairy tales was developed and elaborated by Marie-Louise von Franz (b. 1915), one of his closest disciples, in a series of books based on lectures exploring the feminine principle in fairy tales. Von Franz's work has been taken up today by at least two familiar figures on the New Age book-and-lecture circuit, Robert Bly and Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Robert Bly, a poet and mythologist (a "Feeling" rather than a "Thinking" type), is a successful popularizer of jung's ideas and approaches who frequently teaches and lectures in tandem with Marion Woodman, a Jungian analyst.

432 Shia and the Apocalypse

Shiites or Shia insist on the importance of descent from Muhammad's family and feel that the role of the Prophet's successor ought to have gone to Ali. The key figures in their theology are the Prophet, Fatima, All, and their sons, Hasan and Hussein. Since the last three were all assassinated, Shlism carries a strong subtext of sacrifice, suffering, and martyrdom. It is the dominant religious community in modern Iran, Lebanon, and Bahrain but accounts for less than 15 percent of all Muslims. Although relegated to the southern part of Iraq and often persecuted by the government under Saddam Hussein, Shiltes constitute roughly half the population of Iraq.

Shiites hold the same basic theological convictions as the Sunnis apart from slight variations in ritual and doctrine. For instance, Shiites do not accept the concept of ij'ma (consensus) but favor ijtihad, or individual interpretation of the law by scholars. They reject the hadiths that came through Aisha because of her adversarial position toward Ali, and add to the shahada, or declaration of Muslim faith, "And Ali is the Friend of God." They don't consider public worship mandatory and may substitute pilgrimage to the sacred shrine of Ali in Najaf or to that of Hussein in Karbala for the traditional hajj. Of much greater importance, though, is their disagreement over the succession of the caliphs, whom they prefer to call Imams. This dispute more than any other has fueled the modern antagonism between Iraq, controlled by the Sunnis, and Iran, where Shlite beliefs have formed the official religion since the 16th century. To the Shiites, the Imam is a spiritual leader directly descended from Ali and a completely holy figure, infallible and without sin, who plays a more powerful spiritual role than the Sunni caliph. His decree, or fatwa, takes on the import of a divine command. (The Shiite use of the title Imam should not be confused with the more common imam, a spiritual guide who, among other things, leads the regular prayers at a mosque and delivers the Friday sermon.) Sunnis also honor Ali but do not venerate their imams as divine intercessors. A major difference in custom is the Shia practice of muta, or temporary marriage. An ingenious expedient created by Shiites to resolve the tension of momentary lust without resorting to either dishonor or sexual repression, muta may last only a few hours, but it legitimizes any offspring of the union. Sunnis disavow such a concept, even though their treatment of women is considerably less generous than that of the Shiites when it comes to family inheritance and participation in religious ritual. Because Shiites' minority status leaves them open to frequent persecution, they are allowed to feign belief in Sunnism when necessary, a practice called taqiyya ("dissimulation"). Shia hierarchy includes the mullah (preacher), mujtahid (one allowed to render independent legal and theological opinions), Ayatollah or Ayatullah ("Sign of God"), and Ayatollah al-Uzma, or Supreme Ayatollah-the rank held by Ruhollah Khomeini (1902-89). The last two are somewhat questionable 20th-century titles accorded by a combination of popular sentiment and the approval of high-ranking Iranian theologians and legists. In fact, there may be more than one Ayatollah al-Uzma at a given time, but generally only one is considered the spiritual leader of Iran. Khomeini assumed this role following the Iranian revolution of 1979, which overthrew the Shah and drew Khomeini from relative obscurity in France to Time's "Man of the Year" within a span of 12 months. In 765, the Shiltes split into two sects, the Seveners and the Twelvers (Ithna Asharis or Imami). The moderate Twelvers supported All and his 1 1 directly hereditary successors, imputing to them doctrinal infallibility and freedom from sin. Today they embrace the concept of the 12th Imam, based on the historical figure known as Muhammad al-Muntazar ("the Expected"). He disappeared as a boy, and Twelvers believe he remains hidden somewhere, ready to return amid the evils of the world at the Last Day as the Mahdi. According to this eschatology, the Mahdi will reign for 7 years and return the earth to a state of right and Justice, followed by the appearance of the Antichrist. The Antichrist will lead the forces of corruption but will be opposed by Jesus the Son of Mary, who will wage war on the Antichrist and will die again. His body will be buried in a tomb that is kept empty beside that of the Prophet in Medina before rising to conquer in God's name and rule the earth for 1,000 years. According to one hadith, Muhammad said, "There is no Mahdi save Jesus son of Mary." The Prophet also proclaimed that one sign of this impending end of days is the excessive height of buildings that humanity would construct, as in the biblical story of the Tower of Babel. By the 16th century, Twelver doctrine became the state religion of Persia, and under the Safavids (1502-1736), two horses were kept saddled and ready at all times, pending the return of the Mahdi and Jesus.