Jesus used the metaphor as his main vehicle for his message. Taking the idea further, one can argue from a psychological point of view that Jesus himself was a living metaphor and that his use of parables or metaphors is a mythological representation of life and the Universe. In other words, the dream-like nature of life itself is best described as a metaphor because of our inability to slice the physical world down to basic building blocks and grab hold of something substantial. For those who observe life very closely, all things appear to be symbols for something else; the world is not a collection of individual fragments or people but a matrix of patterns and relationships. And the essence of the metaphor is relationship. Carl Jung interpreted the figure of Christ as a symbol of the Self that integrated the totality of the psyche. A metaphor, then, is symbolic language that is filled with imagery and is used to evoke an experience of a message or idea. A metaphor is the attempt to use words to pitch one beyond words. A metaphor is pregnant with potentialities and inflection; it points past itself. It allows for imagination, creativity and subtle nuances to seep in and open up meanings and invite contemplation and new perception. Metaphors are fluid; they live in the primordial mist of possibilities, the same mist or primordial waters out of which all life and dreams are born. The opposite of a metaphor is a fact, which represents the past. It is crystallized, observed, finished, and can be filed away. Metaphors lead to insights that guide us dynamically to an experience or new perception as opposed to facts that lead us to intellectual analysis of what has been established in the past. Metaphors contain symbols that point to something dynamic; facts are reflections of preset and static laws, clear and concise and they point to themselves. When concretized or fossilized, metaphors can become facts. In the context of religion, fossilized metaphors become theology and dogma.
On one hand, the traditional Christian viewpoint interprets the Scriptures mainly in literal, factual or intellectual terms and relies on the faith of the masses as the cornerstone of devotion. This viewpoint accepts by faith that the events in the Bible are facts. At least this is the way the majority of Christians read the Scriptures. And even if they read them symbolically, they never venture out to pierce their reality and allow themselves to be perceived internally. On the other hand, a metaphorical viewpoint interprets the Scriptures through symbolic language and places personal experience, or intimate knowledge or perception, as the cornerstone of understanding. It requires that an existential, not a moral connection, be made in order to bring the Jesus story into the realm of experience. The orthodox viewpoint asks us to have faith in the symbol itself as the final goal of a quest and tries to define it for us in concise terms. Carl Jung writes: "The world – so far as it has not completely turned its back on tradition – has long ago stopped wanting to hear a 'message'; it would rather be told what the message means."4 That is to say, orthodox Christianity tells us to have faith in what God wants, what he thinks, and what we should do. The metaphorical viewpoint, on the other hand, asks us to trust in the symbol's ability to reveal a mystery or a truth, to point to a larger experience, to "a message" that we must decipher and that can only be understood in context with our own perception and impulse to life, much like an artist who leaves the understanding of his art for his audience. The fluidity of the symbol invites us to a communion with Life in such a way that orthodox Christianity forbids. It asks us to risk something of ourselves and to make a leap of authentic faith.
Interestingly enough, both the orthodox believer and the sage are staring through the same mirror. The viewpoints are like opposites sides of the same coin. They both share the story of Jesus as their source. They both use the same characters and the same Scriptures and the same words. One is a matter of accepted belief while the other is a matter of experience. One is a matter of specific, hard facts while the other is a matter of infinite possibilities. One is a matter of fear and desire while the other is a matter of innate wonder and revelation that pierces dualities. One is a matter of clinging while the other is of letting go. One is a matter of killing while the other is a matter of rejuvenating. One is a matter of rejecting the world and the other is a matter of enfolding and transcending it. Both the orthodox Christian – especially the fundamentalist type - and the sage are entranced, spellbound and gripped by a pattern or something greater than themselves, whether described through psychological or mystical terms. In fact, patterns and myths are inescapable; they define human life. We are all vehicles of the myths that we follow. But in the end, in our efforts to align ourselves with the one that we believe to hold the truth, we are led to higher ground. We are led to an affirmation of this yin and yang of a certain sublime beauty that affirms both of these dual viewpoints and the interplay and unity in these seemingly polarities. We must step back and step up into a new dimension and recognize the rhythmic beauty in the full range of human experience of clinging and letting go, of rejecting and embracing and so on. Every avenue, no matter how confining or liberating, is an exploration of yet another dimension of Life. This is the viewpoint of the sage. If one refuses to see the unity and beauty in opposites, then he chooses to continue playing the game and hides from the underlying message of Jesus. In the end we see that all of the sages of the various religions come to this realization through their quest.
4 Carl Gustav Jung - AION – The Self