The Mathematics of Faith?

We took our 90-year old uncle Mark to the last church service in 2008 and afterward I asked him what he thought of the sermon. Mark is a strong believer in his pastor’s message and I expected his unconditional support, which he faithfully gave. What was unexpected, as we drove to Perkin’s for breakfast, was our 13-year old son’s comment that he did not accept what the pastor had preached. Of course, I knew where he was coming from and quickly stated the family’s spiritual orientation: having been raised a Methodist, educated a psychologist, living 16 years in China’s Daoist/Confucian culture, and married to a Buddhist, it is our family’s objective to keep the issue of spirituality open in order to craft individually unique paths.

That said and with Aaron a good math student, I asked him about the mathematical equation the pastor had presented. He said it was a simple equation and stated it for us:

Christ’s Unique Work + Our Obedience = Active Dependence

I asked everyone at breakfast what they thought of this equation. There were several comments and I agreed not only is it a simple equation, it is also passive and closed – dependent and obedient. This equation describes a pre-Copernican paradigm of faith, one promoting dependence and followership – the same paradigm that Martin Luther broke from the Catholic Church over. It is an equation that Fromm (1980) says promotes alienation, “experiencing the world and oneself passively, receptively, as the subject separated from the object” and it is also the equation at the center of Hitchens’ book God is not great: How religion spoils everything.

Instead of an alienating equation, we need an open and active equation, one embracing the Copernican-Newtonian-Einsteinian paradigm shifts – one that promotes not followership but unique individual leadership, one that views the subject and the object as one. An equation depicting this relationship I scribbled on a napkin for consideration:

Christ’s Unique Thought + Our Dialogue = Active Interdependence

We thought about this equation, as the eggs and sausage arrived, and then daughter Annah pointed out the equation did not have numbers. We thought about this and then wrote down Einstein’s equation, E = MC2 (we had been watching, which explains that Energy equals Mass times the Speed of Light Squared.

We knew that Einstein’s 1905 papers were full of numbered equations and we also knew that Einstein initial idea arose from his imaginative ride on a beam of light. We changed our equation to mirror Einstein’s where the speed of light squared (C2) plays a central role. Squaring the speed of light certainly requires a jump in imagination and stimulates this question, what is the jump required in squaring our dialogue (Od2)?

Active Interdependence = Christ’s Unique Thought x Our Dialogue2

Ai = CutOd2

To get at this we decided to ride one of Christ’s Unique Thoughts like Albert rode a light beam in discovering that as one approaches the speed of light, time slows. We began with a unique thought suggested as the fundamental teaching of Christ, Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye with never a thought for the great plank in your own eye? From this follows that in order to Love thy neighbor as thy self, one has to be able to first love thy Self – authentic not narcissistic self-love. Therefore, our first step is to remove the planks in our eye. Edinger in his interesting book, Ego and Archetype, suggests that this teaching clearly establishes Christ as the first depth psychologist nineteen hundred years before Freud systematically uncovered the unconscious side of the human psyche.

Understanding the plank in our eye, in Carl Jung’s thought, begins by understanding the shadow – the dark side of the human psyche. This means the shadow has to be acknowledged as an important partner with the ego. On the grand scheme of things, we need to understand how good and evil are partners – subduing or eliminating evil is not an option. And therefore, it is in squaring our dialogue (Od2) that we begin shadow work – expanding consciousness by comprehending active interdependences.

Understanding the plank in our eye, in Carl Jung’s thought, begins by understanding the shadow – the dark side of the human psyche. This means the shadow has to be acknowledged as an important partner with the ego. On the grand scheme of things, we need to understand how good and evil are partners – subduing or eliminating evil is not an option. And therefore, it is in squaring our dialogue (Od2) that we begin shadow work – expanding consciousness by comprehending active interdependences.

Squaring our dialogue begins with a simple step – examine what we say about another person and realizing that what we have said about this person is a projection of truth about ourselves onto this person. In Christ’s words – these are the planks in our eye. When I call my brother a greedy capitalist, which to some extent he probably is, it is I who must pause, reflect and journal on my own greediness. An example of this at the national level is President Reagan calling the USSR an evil empire and President Bush identifying the triad-of-evil countries. Our immediate response on hearing this should be to pause and reflect about the planks of evil in the US eye.

Therefore, OD2 begins by actively engaging the environment, reflecting on experiences, dialoguing with great thinkers, and journaling onto one’s individual path. Journaling is the squaring factor in this new equation – it focuses and magnifies our understanding, thus expanding conscious creative energy.

With this new and dynamic equation, we can substitute Christ’s thoughts with Laozi’s, Hegel’s, or Marx’s and begin discovering active interdependencies. In Christ’s thought it is realizing the co-equal importance of good and evil, in Jung’s it is the interdependence of the human psyche’s conscious and unconscious, and a question for consideration: “what is the active interdependence in Karl Marx’s thought? Given today’s global challenge, it seem appropriate to plug into our new equation Marx’s critique of political economy, square our dialogue, and observe the active interdependences that surface.

The stage is set: what Christ’s thought is to Christianity and Jung’s thought is to Depth Psychology, Marx’s thought is to Capitalism – thought to understand the planks, the shadow, the unconscious, hidden side of Capitalism. However, there is a real challenge ahead, in order to appreciate the relevance of Marx’s thought, we will have to remove the planks in our eyes that obscure a clear view of Marxism. Heilbroner in Marxism: For and Against says Marx is one of the greatest minds of 19th century thought, which most Americans have simply neglected out of fear and a reluctance to challenge its orthodoxies. It is increasingly obvious that the Mathematics of Faith needs to evolve in order to meet the challenges of the 21st Century and surprisingly the Mathematics of Marx shines a beam of light on the path ahead.

Besides being the first depth psychologist, Christ is the first communist. This is the point that Anourar Majid, author of A Call for Heresy, makes in an interview with Bill Moyers  about the thesis of Sam Harris’ book The End of Faith: “how could we in the 21st century still live by the precept of people who live more than– 2,000 years ago? I mean, it’s a very good question. And it’s an embarrassing question. Because, you know, we have tens of thousands of cultural institutions, universities and colleges. We have a body of knowledge that is absolutely astronomical. And yet, when it comes to our identity and our belief system, we rely on the people who didn’t have any of the assets we have today. And we have not been able somehow to create new spiritualities, new ways of understanding faith, new way to relate to each other based on our present circumstances and conditions.”

Bill Moyers Interviews Anouar Majid

Majid’s book in essence is a call to square our dialogues on the orthodoxies of both faith and economics. Depth psychology clearly creates new ways of understanding faith and Marxism clearly creates new ways of understanding capitalism – and together both bodies of knowledge squarely address our present circumstances – globalization. And so, somewhere ahead, Christ’s unique thought enhanced by Marx’s, Jung’s, and others will merge in an end of faith and the birth of man.

Kapitalism on the Couch…

Scherling, S.A. (2009, February 26). The mathematics of faith. High Plains Reader, 15 (23), p. 4,

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