Traditions in societies and cultures as well as religions suggest that deep in man is imprinted an image of the ideal man. That image is subject to cultural change. Yet, one wonders where it came from? What characteristic has the image of present-day man? In some traditions the archetype of the ideal man is represented as an image of a child which in its purity inherits the Kingdom of Heaven.
In these pages I propose to explore some facets.
"The New Man" is the title of a book by Maurice Nicoll. He refers to chapter 3 of St.John' gospel. Jezus' mission was to show that man should be born again. But then in the spirit."Except a man be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Such people would puzzle others: "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit."
"The characteristic of a new-born Christian is given as: "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter therein. (Mark 18:17). Blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek and the pure in heart, Jesus says in the sermon on the mount. It is puzzling that Christians should have adopted the image of a dying man on the Cross instead of the ideal preached by him. That of the Lamb (Agnus Dei)comes nearer, but has associations with animal sacrifice. The image of a child, pure at heart, seems most appropriate.
However, the innocence of a young person is not attained by an act of free will. For a grown-up person laying aside all of his his accomplishments would mean a sacrifice in order to meet his inner divine nature in all humbleness and humility. Having put away all the attributes of his personality he has become like a child, pure to receive something that is far beyond his capabilities. In receiving grace from God he is nourished and given a quality of power that can transcend all common human conditions - he has become a mystic but not necessarily in the traditional sense of a recluse.
The above should not been seen as a plight for born-again Christians. In fact I wish to draw attention to the compelling search for the image of the ideal man in various cultures. These men/women would have advanced characteristics and stand out from his fellowman.
In "primitive" cultures men of magical power are known as shamans .
Eliade writes of them: "The acquisition of shamanic gifts indeed presupposes the resolution of the psychic crisis brought on by the first signs of his vocation. The initiation is manifested by - among other things - a new psychic integration...Shamans are, from the intellectual point of view, evidently superior to those around them." .
In short the shaman "has to have the experience of mystical death and resurrection". Eliade sees also in shamanism a nostalgia for Paradise, the desire for the state of man before the Fall from Heaven. Primordial man is attributed with qualities of beatitude, spontaneity, freedom. All the characteristics seen in a child, are reminiscent of the state of man before the Fall.
Updated 13 December 1997
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