From Superhero to Superorganism
The Rise of the Universal Superhero
Our recent Mystic Heart Wisdom School retreat was on the grounds of the Oblate Renewal Center in San Antonio. Being All Saints Day the campus was alive with activity. During one of our breaks we went to visit the studio of iconographer Fr. Clyde Rausch. The icon that captured our attention was his representation of the Resurrection. What was striking was the way the Christ figure was not ascending from the grave alone. Instead, Christ clasped the hands of Mary and Joseph, taking them with him.
Often in similar iconography Christ is grasping the hands of Eve and Adam who represent all of humankind.
The Universal Resurrection
Whether or not you are Christian this symbolism is significant because, if you are reading this, especially if you live in the Western hemisphere, you are more influenced by the various icons and symbols of the Christianity than you may realize.
What is significant about this icon?
Typically, when we see a representation of the Resurrection, it features Christ alone, triumphantly ascending. See the striking differences between the image below and the one above.
It wasn’t always like this
In the 11th century the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Churches split with the Western Church, abandoning the concept of the Universal Resurrection for the individual resurrection we are accustomed to seeing in the West. This contrast is covered in detail in the book Resurrecting Easter: How the West Lost and the East Kept the Original Easter Vision (public library) by John Dominic Crossan & Sarah Sexton Crossan. Below is an excerpt:
Unlike the Western image of a solitary Jesus rising from an empty tomb that he viewed across Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, the Crossans saw images of the resurrection depicting a Jesus grasping the hands of figures around him, or lifting Adam and Eve to heaven from Hades or hell, or carrying the old and sick to the afterlife. They discovered that the standard image for the Resurrection in Eastern Christianity is communal and collective, something unique from the solitary depiction of the resurrection in Western Christianity.
What does this have to do with me?
As a society we are shaped and influenced by our symbols. The individual resurrection has shaped the way we think and, according to the Crossans, has influenced the myth of the superhero. Below look at the similarity of the image above alongside the iconic image of Superman.
‘I Alone Can Fix It’
Each figure in this imagery influences the way that we think about both spirituality and the concept of heroism. Is the death and resurrection that we experience symbolically throughout our lives something we do alone, or in community? When we hit rock bottom and are able to rise again do we bring others up with us? When we attempt something heroic and succeed, do we succeed alone or do we succeed with the support of our friends and loved ones?
The solitary images above exalts, and I would argue isolates, one individual above all others. The figures float majestically above the crowds as if to say, “I alone can fix it.” Unfortunately, those of us who have attempted this type of solitary heroism know what happens when we attempt to fix things alone. Either we fail in isolation or we succeed but are blind to the support offered by our community and those who precede us.
The Evolution of Symbols
There is hope for those of us who ascribe to the universal version of the Resurrection. I believe that our consciousness is shifting away from the Individual Resurrection in favor of the Universal. Just compare the image of Superman above with this poster for Avengers: Infinity War.
This is not the exception either. Superhero movies with an ever increasing number of heroes featured has become the norm. Though the shift to this universal thinking can be found in other superhero films. For example, the big idea embedded in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was that the individual hero was no match for the forces of evil. The role of superhero was passed on to an unwitting teenager. But even he alone could not prevail and was first aided by other variations of Spider-Man from other dimensions. In the end the entire city, and even the viewer, is called upon to join in the heroic journey. We are all part of the Spider-Verse, we are all called to be heroes.
The Interspiritual Age
One of the larger themes of our Mystic Heart Wisdom School is the recognition of the Interspiritual Age in which we find ourselves. In the Interspiritual Age, we seek out the universal wisdom found within all religions instead of basing our identity solely on our differences. In the Interspiritual Age, we celebrate the mystery of what is unknowable rather than resting on what we know.
The Conditions for the Miraculous
We believe that the future of spirituality lies in the mystical rather than the dualistic or dogmatic. I invite you to join me in recognizing the Interspiritual Age that is already at hand. When we create space within ourselves, our relationships, our communities and our society for welcoming the mysterious, we create the conditions for the miraculous.
Evolution is happening all around us, but evolution does not always happen in the desired direction. We have the opportunity to actively steer society in the direction of co-operation, co-creation and positive evolution. We do this by beginning with our own intention and action. Do we create space within ourselves for silence, self-compassion, forgiveness, non-judgment and altruism? When we create this space we then become aware of the need to bring these actions into our one-on-one relationships. These naturally flow up to the level of teams and small groups. Co-creative teams and groups create positive evolution at the societal level. Co-creative societies seek to co-create on a level that is Universal.
From Superhero to Superorganism
You will be tempted on a daily basis to glorify the symbol of the Individual Superhero in others and within your own life. If we can allow our imagination to transcend beyond the limitations of the Individual Superhero, we will find a more fulfilling and mutually beneficial symbol in the Universal Superhero. This moves us from the selfish and isolated individual to the powerful and globally-beneficial superorganism. I will admit it is a bit of a leap for one individual but a very simple and natural mechanism for many individuals working together as one. We can do it.