God as Intimate Soul (cont. II)
In my psychotherapeutic specialty in the depth treatment of religiously abused patients I have found that damaging the god image traumatizes the soul. Ardent Buddhist devotees have been seduced by ostensibly sincere roshis. Stories of Catholic children quietly ushered into a priest’s dimly lit quarters and sexually exploited run rampant in the media. Yogis cultivated followers and then plundered emotionally and physically those who seriously sought their wisdom and guidance. In instances such as these, the god image within the self is traumatized, often to the point of fracture and collapse. When the inner sanctum of soul holds trauma, intimacy with it, with god, becomes overwhelming and frightening.
The dark, destructive, side of religion intrudes on the natural psychic disposition toward intimacy with soul. Patients suffer the cruelty of religious impositions based on psychic manipulation. Archetypal energies turn destructive as survivors defensively cope with symptoms of anxiety, depression, suicidality, and psychosis. In the words of one ardent spiritual seeker and survivor of religious abuse, “When the priest got to me, it was God who got to me and nearly did me in.”
Many old religions depict an outer god inflicting judgment and wrath on the vulnerable soul. Inevitably, this construct is internalized and generates a psychic terrain replete with demons of guilt and fear, the dark side of archetypal numinosity unleashed. Oppressive and damaging demonic assaults charged with religious meaning hit the psyche at full speed for the sufferer of religious abuse. Onslaughts of self-loathing and shame cripple the psyche. As one psychoanalyst colleague remarked, “When our god is a tyrant we need another god.”
From the perspective of American depth psychology, vis- à-vis William James, a transformative spirituality cultivates intimacy with an inner sense of the sacred, numinous aspects of psyche. James (2006, p.25) noted, “The inner life of things must be substantially akin anyhow to the tenderer parts of man’s nature.” One of my most tender dreams ushered me to an inner sanctum, an angelic presence speaking, “Freud touched the face of God.” Upon awakening deeply moved, I felt touched by the sacred, intimate soul. As the result, I discovered that I, as Freud encouraged, was better attuned to painful feelings and memories of patients. Together, we more sensitively plumbed unconscious depths to healing, perhaps, touching the face of God.
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