Dominionism, Ego Reification, and the Spiritual Impulse

As the connections between Sarah Palin and the extreme fringe of the Religious Right make it into even the mainstream press, it might be a good idea to pull back a bit and look at the possible roots of this movement. Not the history of the movement, or the complex relationship between Post-Millenial and Pre-Millenial Dispensationalism that created today’s push to theocracy, but the deep impulses, urges, and deficiencies of modern society that allowed these perspectives to flourish.

In all quarters of Conservative Evangelicalism, not just the Religious Right and Far Right, it is often claimed that “America is Spiritually Dead.” This is a very difficult claim to refute, mainly because it is true. Not for the reasons the Conservative Evangelicals assert, not because we have lost the Word of God beneath the nihilistic veils of Secular Humanism, or have failed to adopt the proper theological perspective, but because at some point we flattened the Cosmos and made the human ego the sole arbiter of value, the satisfaction and reification of that ego the only worthwhile goal.

During the Enlightenment, three value spheres that were once undifferentiated got split. Morality, truth, and esthetic value were, in the past, the same thing. When we discovered that a moral system could be based on lies, and that the truth was sometimes ugly, this became untenable. The basic problem with modern and post modern society is that this “solve” or separation never got integrated, the “coagula” part of the alchemical formula. Differentiation became dissociation, and the result is seen in endless “debates” about “science and religion,” among other places.

With most people generally siding with “materialism” (meaning the view that only the material world is real) either deliberately or simply by social contagion, “morality” became difficult to defend. Morality came to be seen as having at best a tertiary relationship to “real life,” and “ideal” that everyday existence made difficult if not impossible. Staunch advocates of traditional morality, primates as they were, fell into territorial grunting about “higher things” rather than looking to science to bolster their claims.

(If they had done this, they would have noticed what evolutionary psychologists have: human beings are social animals. Morality is one way in which humans fulfill the genetic mandate to survive. If a moral system does not serve this function, it is not valid. The argument from there up to Spirit is not challenging.)

Thus, we were left with nothing to guide us but a logic that can only be rooted in current empirical consensus. This is fine for a good part of human activity, and actually does delegitimize several hundred atrocities that people once took for granted. But it also leaves the human ego, the fragile, frightened persona that can only look through one tiny window at a Universe full of galaxies it cannot see, in an uncomfortable position. It must manage all perception, decide on all truths, rather than the limited bandwidth it is expert at dealing with.

It is as if we have been asked to paint with a scalpel. All we can do in this situation is start carving into our own flesh and smear blood on the canvass. The product is sophisticated, daring, and designed to please. But we are still bleeding and screaming beneath the world’s thundering applause.

If this is an accurate picture, a competent autopsy for our Inner Murder, then Dominionism is not a resurrection, but more off gas.

The impulse to seek Spirit occurs, if it is genuine, when one realizes that the ego is not enough. It needs support from a higher source (or deeper if you prefer). This means that it must give up some control, release some of the functions it has been trying to fill. Not that there aren’t possible problems here, or that this is easy, but this is the basic idea. The ego must ask for help, and be ready to change.

Dominionism is one of those tricky approaches that appears to do this, but covertly aids in reification of the persona the person enters with. The typical conversion narrative is a surrender after a long tragedy. The “I give in” is superficially present, but at a deeper level one has simply taken the previous life and amplified its events into a Passion of the Christ. Read any “born again” story, and you will find a Gesthemane, a Golgotha, and the stone rolled away. Every failure becomes sanctified, every impulse control issue becomes a fiery encounter with the money changers in the temple. The “born again” Christian has become, in their minds, Jesus Christ.

What Dominionism does is create a space in which one is part of a very special spiritual elite. They are in danger, because the world hates them for being so close to God. And, what’s more, it is their job to bring about the Kingdom of God on Earth.

In other words, they haven’t truly reached out. It would be more surprising if they had. Modern society does not support the basic act of giving up the old self for a new one. It presents superficial transformations, the “ugly fat girl” loses weight and gets a makeover and so forth, but not actual personality shifts that include insight into the individual. That is either silly, archaic, or self abnegation. Because modern perception sees “self” and “ego” as synonyms.

Thus, Dominionism is nothing more or less than another way of reifying the ego and engaging in orgone parties. It presents to a Spiritually Dead world more ways of making Frankenstein’s monster dance.

Until we find a way to bring our egos back into a healthy relationship with the rest of our psyche, movements such as Dominionism will tend to have an appeal. They offer sexy ways to appear to go somewhere when you are in fact going nowhere. And in a flattened Cosmos, nowhere is all there really is.

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