Candle in a Dark Room: A reappraisal of the Psychology of Religion by Edwin Ezlin
A review by Shirley Dixon of Porirua
Edwin Ezlin - the pen-name of Brian Lilburn, a longterm member of Sea of Faith — sent a copy of this booklet to the Newsletter Editor. He wrote in a covering letter: "The approach to Christianity in the booklet is esoteric, more along the line of the Gnostics, and 'God' hardly comes into it — the Christ, yes, in a way, but not the man Jesus".
Ezlin sees the 21“ century as a struggle between people who hold progressive / secular / science based values, and those who hold regressive / conservative values. This leads him to set out to answer the question: How are we to define a positive side to religion?
Ezlin has a declamatory rather than persuasive writing style, and many statements, which are undoubtedly based on his experience and research and honestly held by him, are stated as facts without backing evidence being provided. This is not necessarily a negative thing as such evidence would not only hold up his narrative, but require a book-length publication rather than a booklet.
This booklet is a deliberation and a reflection on ideas about: the continuation of superstitious, supernaturalist beliefs alongside 'modern', scientific ideas; the power of the unconscious mind; the relationship between our conscious and unconscious mind; the use and interpretation of symbols in the development of a positive power of religion. And, in the final of the five sections of his booklet, Ezlin asks: Can a greater understanding of (religious) symbols help us to exorcise the demons that are causing havoc by taking root in the unconscious of many?
The author presents a personal interpretation of some traditional religious symbols, including the Buddhist wheel of life, the Chinese yin and yang, and the Christian cross. To give some idea of the originality of his ideas, I quote from his booklet:
"The charms of religious symbolism empower [the light of] our candle-flame to set fire to the demons and burn them up if they cannot be re-formed as harmless sprites or protectors of our purist aspirations toward making the best of ourselves."
And: "Because the star is a symbol of teaching, it is natural enough to link it to the sun, as a star, to Muhammad as the teacher of 'messages' from the godlike Sun in its supremacy over earthly time and space."
And, having mentioned the Hindu 'trinity of Heavenly Powers' (Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver Shiva the Destroyer) Ezlin continues: "Compare them to the three-headed god of orthodox Christianity, almost certainly inspired by the Hindu trinity".
Many of Ezlin's interpretations were, for this reviewer, completely new. However, when working out one's own ideas, being confronted with different understandings makes one re-think, re-consider and reanalyse. And that is always worthwhile.
If you are interested in obtaining a copy of this booklet, contact the author at: firstname.lastname@example.org