Over the last few posts I’ve been proposing that the Emerging Church needs to be aware of the dangers of ‘Neophilia’ – being in love with newness for newness’ sake. Neophilia is a revolutionary mode. It tries to effect quick change, but fails to settle on sustainable, deep-rooted solutions as it flits from one ‘saviour’ to the next.
The process by which this happens Booker calls a fantasy cycle: from anticipation, into the dream stage where nothing can go wrong, to the frustration stage where things get more difficult, to the nightmare stage where nothing goes right, to the death-wish stage where things implode.
My concern is that in the new movement of the Emerging Church we need to be aware of the dangers of getting caught in such fantasy cycles if this newness we are looking to bring is to be anything more than a fad that people latch on to, fall in love with, get tired of and begin to destroy.
Jason and Damnflanderz make pose some important points. Firstly that such fantasy-cycles are an integral part of our lives. Fantasy is very closely linked to dreams and aspirations, and can thus be said to energise us change our reality. But we need to be careful that they don’t function to escape us from reality. So, secondly, is there anything Booker suggests we can do to escape the destructive elements of fantasy cycles?
Two levels to deal with, personal and corporate. On the personal level first:
Booker’s thesis, a social history of British culture, suddenly takes an interesting turn when he writes:
“In fact, what I have been describing as fantasy […] is what was known to former ages as evil. […] In man (sic) there has arisen a kind of separation, even a potential conflict between the two instincts. (The ‘life’ instinct – to survive, grow, innovate, mate, create and the ‘orderly’ instinct – to relate, to nest, to form community) His life instincts remain as intact and unthinking of those of the other animals. But the controlling mechanism of his ‘orderly’ instincts has in some way broken adrift. It is in this separation that the unique element of instability in man’s nature is to be found.”
What Booker is suggesting is that the fantasy-cycles we involve ourselves in are constantly creating projections of ourselves and others and God that are unhelpful. By entering another ‘dream stage’ we ignore the reality of situations, idealise them and project a utopian goodness on to things, desperate that THIS WILL BE IT; that finally we’ve found what we’re looking for. We project fantasy images of ourselves, rather than being open and honest about our failings and gifts. And as such, we are projecting an unreal Self, a mask, a graven image, a false ego that is not true. This, Booker suggests, is what sin is. He goes on:
“The word religion comes from the Latin religare, meaning ‘to bind’. Its function is to provide the means by whereby man (sic) can bind himself, his life and order instincts together [and] enable him to counter the dis-ease which is his lot, and find a sense of wholeness, or ‘holiness’, a sense of ‘at-one-ment’ with the inner moving of all creation.
No man can be at unity with himself unless he is in harmony with the entire unity outside himself. He composes himself to unity by shutting out as far as possible the operations of his fantasy-self, in the state which we call prayer.”
What can we best do to avoid the sinusoidal pain of the fantasy cycle and try to bring true, sustainable newness to fruition? We need to start by trying to overcome our fantasy self. Can we ever finally succeed? No. But the attempt to do so is the journey towards maturity and wisdom. “Ultimately,” as he continues, “to overcome the fantasy self is the one supreme contribution that we can make to mankind.”
We thus enter the realm of that most profound archetypes: that of the King who must die in order that a new King may reign. I’ll end with Booker’s extraordinary closing words:
“Jesus came into the world symbolising the eternal renewal of life in one sense – in the image of the mother and child which has inspired so much great art in all societies. In the wilderness, since he was a man, he was tempted, and to become a full man, had to wrestle with and overcome his fantasy self.
What transformed Christianity into a myth of such unique power was the fact that this perfect man, took on himself as a model the pattern and consequences of evil. In the events of Passion Week we see the portrayal of the fantasy cycle, moving from the Dream Stage of the entry into Jerusalem, through the frustration stage of Gethsemane, to the Nightmare Stage of the betrayal… And so to the Death Wish Stage of the crucifixion. Yet, on Easter morning comes the resurrection, completing the full cycle of the perfect man; who had acted out the pattern of the world’s sins, and yet was reborn.
The re-birth of Christ coincides, of course, with Spring – the rebirth of the year. But it is also a rebirth which can coincide with the inmost experience of every man who goes through the same pattern: of dying in his fantasy self, in order to live in his real self – the real self which, because it is part of God, goes on for ever and ever.
I’ll try to deal with the significance for us corporately soon.
Sorry it was such a long one.
Well done anyone who got to here ;p