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Life Arts    H4'ed 2/16/13

BOOK REVIEW: Why Garry Wills Does Not Understand Catholic Priests

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) February 16, 2013: With all due respect for the learned and estimable Garry Wills, the historical Jesus was arguably a shaman -- indeed, a very effective shaman.

 

Once we understand the historical Jesus was a shaman, it would seem to follow that all of Jesus' self-described followers should also be shamans, or should at least aspire to be shamans, as Roman Catholic priests do.

 

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I know, I know, the world's top scholar of the historical Jesus, John Dominic Crossan, who is himself a laicized Catholic priest, thinks that the historical Jesus was a prophet concerned about social justice, not a shaman concerned about a spiritual revolution among the people he was called to serve. But with all due respect for the learned and estimable Crossan, I think he is simply wrong about this. I don't think that Jesus was especially concerned about social justice. Instead, I think that the biblical scholar Marcus J. Borg came closer to the mark (than Crossan does) when he (Borg) describes the historical Jesus as a spiritual revolutionary -- in short, a shaman -- in his book MEETING JESUS AGAIN FOR THE FIRST TIME (1994). Nevertheless, Borg clings to certain Christian conceptual constructs about Jesus, as do both Crossan and Wills. For example, all three cling to the conceptual construct about the supposed "resurrection" of Jesus from the dead. But the claims about Jesus' appearances after his death are best understood as reports about hallucinations that certain grief-stricken followers had after his death.

 

Hallucinations involve apparitions, appearances that seem real enough to the people who have them. Apparitions and hallucinations involve the same psychological structure that is involved when we have dreams when we are asleep.

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According to Jungian theorist Robert Moore of Chicago Theological Seminary, all men and all women have the shaman archetype in the archetypal level of their psyches. Moore refers to the archetype that shamans cultivate as the magician archetype. Thus all men and all women have the potentiality for being shamans.

 

Nevertheless, the world today does not appear to be in danger of having an over-supply of shamans as effective as the historical Jesus evidently was, not even among his self-described followers. Why not? Evidently, many are called to cultivate their shaman potentialities but few are chosen to be shamans as effective as the historical Jesus evidently was.

 

Even so, the few among us who are chosen to be shamans are not likely to be as effective as shamans as the historical Jesus evidently was. For example, psychotherapists of all stripes and spiritual directors in all traditions are called to be shamans, but they do not appear to be as effective as the historical Jesus evidently was.

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Among people in the Roman Catholic Church, the few who are chosen to be shamans include ordained priests, the target of Wills' learned new book WHY PRIESTS? A FAILED TRADITION. (Viking/Penguin, 2013), and other Catholics who serve as Catholic spiritual directors.

 

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)
 

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