Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love: The Way of Christian Contemplation. New York: Continuum, 1995. 151 pages
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Chapter 5. Mythic Membership Consciousness
Overidentification and unquestioning loyalty to a group characterizes mythic membership consciousness. We obtain feelings of security, pleasure, and power by belonging to something important. Loyalty in itself is not bad, but this is exaggerated by our emotional programs. The groups include family and peer groups and the conformity patterns we accept. This is the level at which most societies and individuals operate, even as adults. The spiritual journey requires that we move beyond it. This is what Jesus meant when he said we must father, mother, brother, and sister to follow him.
The superego is an emotional judgment of what is right and wrong or what we "should" do, instilled in us by childhood do's and don'ts and enforced by guilt feelings. "Much of the spiritual journey consists in getting rid of the effects of the superego." It is not the same as conscience because it is based on earlier learning and experience. In fact, it is composed "preconceived ideas and prepackaged value systems" which are obstacles to grace.
We can tell the difference by the persistence of guilt. "As soon as you regret your fault and say, 'My God, forgive me,' you should forget it. Guilt feelings that last longer than half a minute are neurotic. Passive, prolonged, and paralyzing guilt are the result of the superego at work. It is an emotional judgment about right and wrong, not a true judgment of conscience."
Loyalty to family, country, and religion is not an absolute value but one that needs to be enlightened by mental egoic consciousness. Monarchical, dictatorial, and authoritarian forms of government are informed by mythic membership consciousness while participatory politics are more inclined to mental egoic consciousness.
One of the motivators of mythic membership consciousness is fear that the relationship with the group will be severed. The Bible speaks of the fear of God. But this really means having the right relationship with God., which involves "reverence and awe for God's transcendence and immanence as well as trust in his goodness and compassion," a sense of wonder rather than fright. This is "the God of Jesus Christ, whom he called 'Abba,' the God of infinite concern for everyone, ever present to us and enfolding us in his infinite love.