|The quantum-mechanical "Schrödinger's cat" paradox according to the many-worlds interpretation. In this interpretation, every event is a branch point. The cat is both alive and dead—regardless of whether the box is opened—but the "alive" and "dead" cats are in different branches of the universe that are equally real but cannot interact with each other. -Wikipedia|
The Schrodinger's cat paradox might be applied to religion with equally strange results. For example, according to Eusebius of Caesarea the Roman emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD built a temple dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite in order to bury the cave in which Jesus had been buried. The first Christian emperor, Constantine the Great ordered in about 325 that the temple be replaced by a church. During the building of the Church, Constantine's mother, Helena, is believed to have rediscovered the tomb. The tomb is now enclosed by the 18th-century shrine, called the Aedicule (Edicule). The church has been a major Christian pilgrimage destination since its creation in the fourth century, as the traditional site of the Resurrection of Christ, thus its original Greek name, Church of the Anastasis. The church also serves as the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, while control of the church itself is shared between several branches: Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox Roman Catholic, and Egyptian Copts, Syriacs and Ethiopians. The site is also recognized by Protestants and Anglicans.
As there is only historical evidence that the site was a temple to Aphrodite, not the tomb of Jesus, then, ipso facto, the cat is dead. But as the site is acknowledged as the tomb of Jesus by almost all branches of Christianity then we can conclude that the cat is alive. Moreover, the site has been made holy by the millions of pilgrims who have traveled there.
Arguments about the "truth" of the site and the resurrection continue to this day. Here is an attempt to reconcile the two truths:
We have evolved two ways of thinking, speaking, and acquiring knowledge, which might be labeled mythos and logos. They are complementary ways of arriving at different forms of truth. Mythos was primary before the age of science and is concerned with what is taken to be timeless and constant in our civilization. Myth looks back to the foundations of culture, and to the deeper levels of the human mind. Myth is not concerned with practical matters, but with meaning. Unless we find some significance in our lives, we are subject to despair. The mythos of a civilization provides people with a context that makes sense of our day-to-day lives; it directs our attention to the eternal and the universal, and is rooted in what we may call the unconscious mind. The various mythological stories, which were not intended to be taken literally, are forms of psychology. When people told stories about heroes who descended into the underworld, struggled through labyrinths, or fought with monsters, they were bringing to light the obscure regions of the subconscious realm, which is not accessible to purely rational investigation, but which has an effect upon their and our lives. Because of the dearth of myth in our modern society, we have had to evolve other venues; Hollywood and modern technology now provides a modern mythology through film and virtual reality.
Myth can not be demonstrated by rational proof; its insights are more intuitive, similar to those of art, music, poetry, or sculpture. Myth only becomes a reality or virtual reality when it is embodied in cult, rituals, and ceremonies which work aesthetically upon belivers, evoking within them a sense of sacred significance and enabling believers to apprehend deeper levels of life. Myth and cult were so inseparable that it is a matter of debate which came first: the mythical narrative or the rituals attached to it. Myth was also associated with mysticism, the descent into the psyche by means of structured disciplines of focus and concentration which have evolved in all cultures as a means of acquiring intuitive insight. Without a cult or mystical practice, the myths of religion make no sense. They would remain abstract and seem incredible, in rather the same way as a musical score remains opaque to most of us and needs to be performed instrumentally or vocally before it can be appreciated.
In the pre-modern world, people had a different view of history. They were less interested than we are in what actually happened, but more concerned with the meaning of an event. Historical incidents were not seen as unique occurrences, set in a far-off time, but were thought to be external manifestations of constant, timeless realities. Hence, history would tend to repeat itself, because there was nothing new. Historical narratives tried to bring out this eternal dimension. We do not know if Jesus was actually entombed in the site covered by Church of the Anastasis or not . One could say that unless a supposed historical event is mythologized in this way, and liberated from the past in an inspiring cult, it cannot be religious. To ask whether the tomb is there and to demand historical and scientific evidence to prove that it is factually true is to mistake the nature and purpose of the story. It is to confuse mythos with logos.
Logos is equally important. Logos is the rational, pragmatic, and scientific thought that enables us to function well in the world. We may have lost the sense of mythos in the West today, but we are very familiar with logos, which has become the basis of our society. Unlike myth, logos must relate exactly to facts and correspond to external realities to be effective. It must work efficiently in the mundane world. We use this logical, discursive reasoning when we have to make things happen and get something done: logos is sterile but practical. Unlike myth, which looks back to the beginnings and to the foundations, logos forges ahead and tries to find something new, achieve a greater control over our environment, discover something fresh, and invent something useful.
Eighteenth century Enlightenment thinking gave rise to deism
(the belief that God exists, but does not interact supernaturally with the
world) and to the belief that social progress was possible through science.
Gradually, Europeans and Americans began to think that logos was the only means to truth and
began to discount mythos as false and superstitious. This denial of mythos led
fundamentalists to turned their mythos into logos using the mindset of the
modern scientific age. The adoption of a literalist interpretation of
scripture took root in the US in the early 20th century with the
publication of "The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth". In
Islam, fundamentalism emerged only with modernization, first in Egypt with the
creation of the Muslim Brotherhood, then Sunni fundamentalism, and finally Shia
fundamentalism under Ayatollah Khomeini. How we can get that genii back in
the bottle is beyond me. But we can avoid or repair this bi-polar mistake
in the West if we can learn to think clearly.
The alive and dead cats are in different branches of the universe that are equally real but cannot interact with each other. However, the logos and mythos aspects of life can coexist if we learn to seek a balance between the two: science and religion, logos and mythos, are compatible. Christianity comes alive through ritual, religious practices, and art, while cultivating the intellectual aspect of civilization enriches our lives. I think this balance was achieved by J. S. Bach, whose music combines the spiritual and the intellectual in perfect balance, taking us as close to a resolution as humanly possible. This is a good example: The Crab Canon
Resurrection of Christ (right wing of the Isenheim Altarpiece)
|Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre|