The Rule of Archetypal Law
Laws are rules established by authority to govern various aspects of reality. These rules include the natural laws that God ordained to assure the existence, continuity and order of both nonlife and life in the universe. Rules also involve human laws (in the realm of the political or the citizen) which God allows mankind to enact for the order of human community. Finally, rules embrace the supernatural laws that God is believed to issue to assure mankind’s moral integrity and eternal destiny. Since natural and supernatural laws are assumed to be self-existent, they operate apart from the free and responsible consent of the individuals governed.
Of course, before conscious awareness, man (male and female) was not concerned with law. But when God granted the gift of human consciousness, mankind emerged from the instinctual animal existence which Eliade has termed the “paradise of animality.”1 This new conscious awareness came as a shock. Now man was confronted with the uncertainty of history and the created order. Now there was a terrorizing sense of the absence and separate “otherness” of a God who seemed immovable, unapproachable and impassible. Now man was assaulted by the awful realization that, by himself, he was incapable of achieving desired freedom and responsibility, unrestricted relationships, and unending life. Thus, with the emergence of human consciousness, mankind concluded that all Creation had “fallen” under divine disapproval.
Upon conscious reflection man decided that his existence could not be based on the natural laws of a fallen world. He also concluded that his existence could not depend on a God who had retreated into his own uncompromising Being, nor could it depend upon mankind’s own limited will and actions. In mankind’s view the only remaining possibility for existence was the power of supernatural models of reality which God had supposedly laid up in heaven. It was believed that these uncreated models or “archetypal” laws alone could assure conscious created existence.
The Era of Transcendent Archetypal Law
Archaic Age. Confronted with the terror associated with emerging conscious awareness, mankind sought to find certainty and security by appropriating archetypal laws through religious rituals and the mystical trances of witch doctors, shamans and others who possessed hallucinations of “heaven.” By grasping heavenly or archetypal laws, man was determined to escape the natural laws of a “fallen” world and the uncertainties of history and the created order. He was determined to overcome the perceived absence of God and the limitations of life and will.
Thus, archaic man, whose existence had initially been limited to hunting-gathering, became increasingly preoccupied with rituals and trances and dependent on the “visions” of a few “charismatic” individuals. This eventually doomed the attempt to successfully manage emerging conscious existence through the direct recovery of transcendent archetypal law.
The Era of Mediated Archetypal Law
Imperial Age. At the dawn of the imperial age and the emergence of Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilization, mankind concluded that the archetypal patterns required for conscious existence emanated downward from heaven in the form of paired male and female gods. These generative laws and receptive souls found their abode in emperors, kings and pharaohs, who became the existing power structures. These imperial persons, in turn, mediated the rule of uncreated, divine law through the formulation and enforcement of human (or political) law. Through this imagined exercise of archetypal law, imperial civilizations were able to bring order, civility and even benevolence to the communities of mankind. There were enormous advances in language, literature, art, technology, science and other cultural endeavors. The rule of law hastened the domestication of plants and animals together with the elements and forces of nature. The rule of law therefore had power, and this power was regarded as the manifestation of truth. In the absence of freedom and responsibility, submission to supposedly archetypal law and its power had great advantages for mankind.
Nevertheless, the sovereign exercise of law did not remedy the perceived absence of God. Rather, God soon became the projected fantasy of the power structures themselves. Furthermore, the rule of law did not actually restrain history and the created order, nor did it convey free will to mankind. In fact, despite certain advantages, the power of law brought the domestication of man in the form of politically inspired violence, injustice, servitude and imposed death.
In the effort to domesticate mankind, Lipit-Ishtar, a 20th-century BCE king of the Mesopotamian city of Eshunna, was the first monarch known to codify supposedly archetypal law. In the prologue to his code — which preceded the Code of Hammurabi by two centuries — Lipit-Ishtar claimed that law had been “imparted by . . . deity so that the monarchs might establish justice in their lands. Such law codes thus had the authority of divine command.”2 Mendenhall contends:
Since Lipit-Ishtar . . . the function of the political state has been the same: the exercise of divinely delegated force through war externally and through law internally — from the point of view of ancient thought war and law are the same thing — and the control of the national economy. It is absurd to think that political states make or create peace: it is war not peace that is the job of political systems, and the weightier matters of love, justice, and compassion are irrelevant to political institutions. As an anonymous source in an American law school campus newspaper observed some years ago, “Justice is a subject for meditation in a monastery.”3
In this cultural setting “political organization reigned supreme as god.”4 Baal (master or possessor), for example, was the “metaphysical, mythical symbolization of the existing body politic.”5 This body politic constituted “socially organized coercive force, which is Baal.”6
Axial Age. By the beginning of the axial age (800 BCE), a global revolt had begun over the imposition of archetypal law by imperial power. Grecian philosophers like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle rejected this perceived intrusion of the gods. These philosophers contended that the emanation of heavenly archetypes must not be limited to nobility but extended to all educated and prosperous males. Grecian philosophy thus gave birth to “democracy” (demos = people), and this, in turn, led to notable advances in culture and civilization. Again, however, while some could impose law on others, most had to submit to law. These included all females together with the uneducated, the uncultured, the poverty-stricken, and those in bondage.
By the end of the axial age (200 BCE), even Judaism had begun to integrate the myth of the emanation of the soul and law into its own religio-political structure. Thus, the Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria (ca. 30 BCE - 45 CE), who was contemporary with Jesus and the apostles, contended that “the divine powers . . . descend, at the bidding of their Father, with laws and ordinances from heaven and sow in virtue-loving souls the nature of happiness.”7 Soon Judaism fully concluded that soul and law were mediated through the religious power structure. If the Chosen People remained faithful to Yahweh and to his Torah (archetypal law), Judaism believed that God would bring both history and the created order to an apocalyptic end.
Christian Age. It was in this setting of the “fulness of time” (Gal. 4:4) that the Christ event occurred. Thus, it should not be surprising that, from the time of the apostles and the early church fathers, the Christian church contended that Jesus Christ was the ultimate Mediator of archetypal law. The followers of Jesus contended that he had come to fulfill the demands of transcendent law in his earthly life, to suffer the consequences of transgression as mankind’s representative and substitute, to impute and impart the benefits of his obedience to law through his gracious mediation, and finally to inaugurate the cosmic and sovereign reign of law at his return to earth at the Parousia (Second Coming). The most basic presupposition of Christianity has been that Christ is committed to the full vindication, universal imposition and eternal submission of mankind to the rule of archetypal law manifested as “spirit.”
The Christian church further believed that it was commissioned as Christ’s body to be the earthly mediating structure to bring the benefits of Christ’s universal rule of law to fruition. Thus, through union with the state, the church thought to impose not only law but also virtue upon mankind. With the state, the Christian church claimed the divine right to domesticate all mankind to absolute obedience — if necessary through edict, war, violence, bondage and even genocide. These power structures would thus suppress history and the created order. They would also assure the ultimate divinization or deification of obedient mankind at death.8
After nearly 1500 years of this authoritarian rule of mediated archetypes, mankind again began to reel against the religious and political power structures. The Protestant Reformation, for example, contended that the religious hierarchy did not alone possess the right to impose law. Rather, the Reformers contended for the “priesthood of all believers.” All believers had access to archetypal law through grace, through faith, and through the Scriptures. Thus, the principle of domination and submission to law was maintained and extended. Nevertheless, it was clear that mankind’s submission to law had failed to domesticate history, to bring free will, to engender freely chosen relationships, or to avert inevitable death.
The Era of Immanent and Unmediated Archetypal law
Age of Humanism. Thus, not long after the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, a further revolt began over the mediation of archetypal law. Known as humanism or the Enlightenment, this revolt contended for the natural emanation of uncreated soul, of archetypal law and, indeed, of the divine spirit. This indwelling spirit was believed to be synonymous with natural law or manifested through natural law. Man, therefore, became an autonomous self, girded with the immediacy of all will, knowledge, power, necessary relationships and life.
This psychopathic delusion has now dominated the thinking of 12 generations of mankind. Continuing tragedies of history and the created order, however, have clearly shown that man is not God. As St. Augustine (354-430 CE) long ago observed, “the self is an abyss.”9 “By denying the limits of the self, one is cast into an unfathomable narcissism [self-love], blind to the power of the natural world of Creation and severing the capacity for vulnerability and human connection.”10 Man is not a self-endowed soul or law. Man by himself does not possess the capacity for free will, for free and responsible relationships, or for satisfactory meaning, purpose and value. And mankind certainly does not possess immortality.
Humanism [therefore has] failed because man is not the centre of creation, in the sense of being creature and creator in one. The “I am” is subordinate, not preeminent, and honour on its own is not enough. There is no free-will in any important sense of the term, and human reason is powerful only on a narrow front within strict limits. What is of nearly infinite capacity in man is his imagination, his fancy. It was here that humanism flourished, with its fantasy of freedom and reason, that I can become what I will. It was this fantasy . . . that emasculated the existing real cultures . . . This fantasy set the demonic free, in its modern form. . . . What will come next we do not know. We are in a transition period.11
Having attempted the rule of archetypal law through the eras of transcendency, then mediation, and finally of natural immanency, mankind has now come to global judgment. Despite the acknowledged benefits of the rule of law, the truth is that history and the created order remain filled with terror. God is still silent. Mankind’s freedom and responsibility are still restricted. And death remains inevitable. We therefore affirm that —
1. The rule of law is ineffective in assuring free and responsible human existence — either here or hereafter.
2. This ineffectiveness applies to naturally instinctual, politically enacted, or “divinely” immanent law.
3. At the same time, with his inherent limitations in living freely and responsibly apart from and beyond law, man must exist in the tension of living under natural, human and moral law throughout life in this present world.
4. If man is ever to experience his “human” destiny of a fully free and responsible existence, the Creator himself must further intervene. The God who instituted law must now lead mankind beyond the reign of law. God alone can create a new and ethical order.
In this context, therefore, our purpose is to explore the “good news” that God has already acted in history and in the created order. He has, indeed, submitted himself to law. He has fulfilled law. He has accepted the consequences of a broken law. He does impute and impart the benefits of his obedience to law. But God has gone far beyond that! He has already inaugurated human existence beyond the submission to “archetypal” law. He has already incorporated the full freedom and responsibility of free will, compassionate relationality and unending life into his own “adamic” personhood. This historic disclosure of the future for humanity is now a matter for our earnest consideration.
- Mircea Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return, or Cosmos and History (Princeton, NJ:Princeton University Press, 1954), p. 91. (go back)
- Art. “Hebraic Law,” Britannica Online, at www.britannica.com/topic/Hebraic-law. (go back)
- George Mendenhall, “The Suzerainty Treaty Structure: Thirty Years Later,” in Edwin B. Firmage, Bernard G. Weiss and John W. Welch, eds., Religion and Law: Biblical-Judaic and Islamic Perspectives (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990), pp. 99, 100. (go back)
- Ibid., p. 87. (go back)
- Ibid., p. 90. (go back)
- Ibid., p. 91. (go back)
- Quoted in Henry Austryn Wolfson, Philo: Foundations of Religious Philosophy in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1947), 2:198. (go back)
- See Georgios I. Manatzaridis, The Deification of Man (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984); Panayiotis Nellas, Deification in Christ (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997). (go back)
- Quoted in Eighth Day Books catalog (Wichita, KS, 1998), p. 6. (go back)
- Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1991). (go back)
- John Carroll, Humanism: The Wreck of Western Culture (London: HarperCollins Publishers, 1993), p. 228. (go back)