The unknown writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews offers this warning “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb.10:31) The psychoanalyst Mike Eigen comments “It is a worse thing not to fall into the hands of the living God.” He has a point! I’ve been musing about Eigen’s comment for a while.
The idea which most struck me was that the god into whose hands it is fearful to fall is a living god. One sees and hears much about those whose god seems dead .Or seems to be linked to Freud’s Death Instinct (Thanatos) rather than his Life Instinct (Eros). One only needs to see or hear the News to see the working of these drives in numerous groups.Religion is the most conspicuous example where Eros and Thanatos are clearly in evidence. At a micro level go to any school playground and watch the results of these drives. My point is a broader one that just Freudian theory. It is about our god being a living one. I’m aware that this piece could so easily morph into a “Thought for the Day” wannabe. Bear with me. That is not my intention. I have no plans to launch a religious polemic of any kind. My intention is to think about our relationship with that which we call “God” Paul Tillich and others talk about God as “the ground of our Being” which seems a broad enough definition to give plenty of room.He also talks about God as that which is left when everything else has collapsed. Which gives a good few options. Friends, family, hobbies, career. The point being that these should be alive and generate life in us -Eros not Thanatos. The living god.
In clinical practice I meet many people who are stuck in a dead relationship with themselves and those around them. (Frequently stemming from childhoods that did not give them the right kind of care and support-for a variety of reasons.) My patients will complain that nothing is ever quite as they want it to be. their marriage doesn’t quite fit. They don’t feel fully at home in their work. Friendships never seem to last. They are caught in the hands of a dead god rather than in a relationship with something that nourishes and nurtures them – and which they in turn can nourish and sustain. Thanatos not Eros. Death not Life. That is one of the hoped for outcomes of counselling. that my patients who are in thrall to Thanatos can change. They can develop a relationship with a living god. It takes time but it is a pleasure to watch when it happens.