When “God” Is Locked Above Life

… Every church nods to doubt but has little to say to despair. Churches speak of joy but make no room for its expression… Despair is Christ on the cross. Joy is the Holy Spirit, disfiguring every form that purports to know God.
The Christian Century, June 12, 2013, “A Pastor and a Poet Talk About God”, p. 26

Pastor Ericsson – Listen to me. You know my wife died 3 years ago. I loved her. Life was over. I am not afraid of death. I had no reason to go on living. But I did. Not for my own sake but to be of use.
–I had big dreams when I was young [Here Gunnar Bjonstrand playing Pastor Ericsson, touches his hair (as if, the pastor is unconsciously trying to order it) in order to emphasize the narcissistic flavor of having big dreams in young age].
–I was ambitious.
–I knew nothing of evil or cruelty. I was like a child when I was ordained. –Then everything happened at once.
–I was made sailors’ chaplain in Lisbon during the Spanish civil war. –I refused to see. I refused to accept reality. I and my god lived in a special world where everything fitted in [That is exactly Jonas Persson’s (whom Pastor Ericsson is desperately trying to reach) condition – as soon as the Chinese with their atheism and atomic bomb don’t fit in his world, he cannot continue to live].
–You must see, I have believed in an absurd private god who did love people but me most of all. Do you see my ghastly mistake? Do you see what a bad pastor I have made – selfish, spoied, fearful?
-Can you imagine my prayers? To an echo-god who gave benevolent answers and comforting blessings [That’s what majority of believers want from god – guarantee of securing “social order” and spiritual comforts].
–Every time I confronted god with the reality I saw he turned ugly, hideous, a spider-god, a monster.
–That’s why I shielded him from life and light. I pressed him to me in lonely darkness.

(Pastor Tomas Ericsson to Jonas Persson in “Winter Light”)

Algot Frovik – When I told you I couldn’t sleep at night for the pain, you suggested some reading to distract my mind. I started on the Gospels. They were as good as sleeping pills. I have got as far as Christ’s passion. And it made me think. I must talk this one with pastor, I said to myself.
–Christ’s passion, pastor. But surely it’s wrong to talk of his suffering. We dwell too much on the actual torture. But it cannot be so bad. Oh, I know, it sounds presumptuous but in my small way I think that physically I have suffered just as much as Christ. Besides, his agony was fairly short. Four hours or so?
-I fancied I saw much greater suffering behind the physical. Perhaps, I am wrong. But think of Gethsemane. All the disciples slept. They hadn’t understood a thing, not the last supper, nothing. And then the soldiers came, they fled. And Peter, who denied him! For three years Jesus had lived and talked with these disciples. And they hadn’t understood a word he said. They all deserted him and he was left alone. How he must have suffered then! To know that nobody understands. To be deserted just when you need someone! Terrible suffering! Yet that wasn’t the worst.
–When Jesus was nailed to the cross and hung there in agony, he cried out: “My god, my god, why have you forsaken me?” He cried out as loud as he could. He thought his father in heaven had deserted him.
–He thought his whole teaching was a lie. Jesus was struck by a horrible doubt just before he died. Surely that must have been when he suffered most? I mean god’s silence.

(Algot Frovik to pastor Ericsson in “Winter Light”)

The sacrificial concept that focuses on saving the blood of Jesus that somehow washes me clean, so popular in evangelical and fundamentalist circles, is…repugnant… To see human life as fallen from a pristine and good creation necessitating a divine rescue by the God-man is not to understand… our evolutionary history. To view human life as deprived or as victimized by original sin is to literalize a pre-modern anthropology and a pre-modern psychology.
John Shelby Spong, “Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism [A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture]”, Harper, 1991, p. 234

The early Christians… were bound by the limits and subjectivity of their own language, their own history and their own way of life… The Christian revelation was… stamped with first century bias, and it continues to be operative in our day in the religious circles… The essence of Christ was confused with the form in which that essence was communicated… The question is never, who is Christ? As if there is some pure objective human capacity to capture truth for all time. The question is, who is Christ for us? … Ecclesiastical claims to possess infallibility in any formulated version of Scripture and creed or in the articulations of any council, synod or hierarchical figure are… manifestations of idolatry… The church must embrace the subjective and relative character of everything it says and does. If the church provides security, it cannot provide truth. This is the choice that faces Christians today… I vote for insecurity and the pursuit of truth.
John Shelby Spong, ibid, p. 227 – 229


Ingmar Bergman’s film “Winter Light” (1962)


Marta Lundberg’s “video-letter” to Pastor Ericsson


Can “tough frankness” be another side of genuine love?


When psychotherapy is “too strong” tool to be effective

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Bergman and Ingrid Thulin are relaxing in between scenes while shooting “Winter Light”.

Pastor Tomas Ericsson (Gunnar Bjornstrand) and his parish

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This shot represents Bergman’s idea of how Christianity is perceived today by so many people – like an assembly of wooden toys transferring the human suffering (because of shame of being human) to the new generations. Pastor Ericsson’s personal debt to Christ for His humiliation, torture and a violent death for the sake of humankind, was what ultimately, inspired pastor’s faith and his service to people.

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This shot shows us a moment in the ritual of Eucharist represented in the film in its wholeness. In terms of the symbolic position of the figures in space, Algot Frovik (farthest to the right of the group) is located by the director as similar with and opposite to Marta Lundberg (symmetrically the last to the left). Frovik has given his existence to the reverential identification with Christ’s suffering, while Marta is giving hers to help another human being – Pastor Ericsson. Next to Frovik is the old widow who agreed to lose what will be taken away by her destiny. She is located in a symmetrical position with Karin Persson on the other side who is ready to bear any deprivation that can strike her family and go through any ordeal, in the best way she can. In the middle, as if separating the two groups is Jonas Persson. His absolutist and stubborn disappointment either in god’s posture vis-à-vis the human world or in god’s impotence makes him close to pastor who is obsessed with god’s intentions and with “god’s silence” (Bergman shows their two figures, as if, juxtaposed). The important difference in their relations with god is that Tomas Ericsson doesn’t have “demands” to god while Jonas refuses to accept god’s non-interference into the world. Frovik and old widow are self-sacrificially dedicated to Christ, but Marta and Karin – to other people (Marta to Tomas and Karin to her husband and their children). While Pastor transcends his religious doubts into holy duty, Frovik reaches position of a metaphysical compassion, and the old widow – metaphysical obedience. But if the Pastor is a person of deeds, and Frovik is existential metaphysician, Jonas is a kind of a philosopher of religious dogma. The difference between transcendent religiosity (Frovik, old widow, Jonas and Pastor) and immanent religiosity (Marta Lundberg and Karin Persson, and to a substantial degree but latently, Pastor Ericsson) is inside the problematic of religious belief. People like Marta and Karin are not atheists – they are believers outside dogma.

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Fredrik Blom, organist, is the only character in the film, that can be considered “atheist”. Philistinism is a condition of many people inside and outside of the church (religious philistines just use god to settle comfortably in life, as Blom settles in flat commonsense.

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The girl in this shot, present in the church during the ritual of Eucharist didn’t accumulate enough guilt and hasn’t formed enough of a bad conscience to be a believer.

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As it is the case with many people, Tomas’s belief in Christ is too emotionally rooted, not mentally focused enough. It concentrates on Crucified, murdered and resurrected Christ, on Christ-the wooden statue we see in this shot, and Christ in glory, on Christ whose glory and godly power is triumphing over his mortality. Not enough passionate attention is paid to Christ’s dream in relation to human beings, to the fallen human condition, to Christ’s belief in human spiritual potential.

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Whatever happens with Pastor’s personal beliefs and doubts, he will always serve Christ’s authority and people’s needs.

Tomas and Marta (Ingrid Thulin)

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In comparison with “serving Christ” and service to people, Tomas’ relations with Marta are perceived by him as a “fallen affair”, opposite to what he had with his wife who passed away years ago. For him personal love, as if, was ruled by the pagan law of spontaneous admiration, and that‘s what he had with his wife, and then even his activities as a Pastor were colored by this love that, in its turn, was redeemed by his religious dedication.

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Marta is dedicated to Tomas, but he doesn’t understand that it is possible to be an unconscious believer but, like Marta – an atheist by worldview. Probably, Tomas cannot believe that for Marta love for him is not like his love for his wife was, that for Marta this love is really Christian emotion.

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Marta’s compassion for Tomas is “saintly” in spite of the fact that it is libidinously charged. It is the miracle of Ingrid Thulin’s acting that while depicting Marta’s passion for Tomas she combines, marries Eros and Agape as a specifically Christian type of personal love.

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The more Tomas needs Marta the more he rebels against their love. He is forgetting that he is not only a servant of the church, but a human being tormented by the contradictions and exhausted by his duties.

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It is only Marta who can help him. But it is humiliating for him to accept this help – it sounds to him as calculation on his part, not love.

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He considers Marta’s consolation, especially in a situation of his doubts in his faith, as inappropriate, as if, she is witnessing his weakness.

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In the scene referred to by this shot, Tomas cannot help not to use Marta as a scapegoat for his emotional difficulties. She is too helpless in front of him to resist his outburst of emotional aggressiveness.

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Tomas is severe, and only with one person in the world – Marta with whom he can allow himself to be so unjust.

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Is it part of love – to catharsize like this with the person we are tied with by unique ties?

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In her confessional letter to Tomas (that Bergman made visual) Marta reminds Tomas about the moment when she started to pray to god asking to grant her wish/dream for success of their love.

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Tomas was confused about the desire of an atheist to pray to god. And he was frightened by Marta’s intensity. Marta’s passion was at the same time libidinous and ascetic.

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Knowing how difficult Tomas’ inner life is, Marta took his verbal outburst without resistance.

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After their mutual catharsis Tomas and Marta are going to symbolically appeal to god for mercy. They are together and they are separate, taking individual responsibility for what’s happened and appealing to each other in the silent presence of Christ.

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Can this mystical moment of metaphysical alienation be a prerequisite of a future unity between them?

Marta

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Marta is a secular martyr in her mature and not sentimental love for Tomas. Her humility and wisdom are “saintly”. Is her persistence also?

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The emotional resources with which Marta concentrates on what she can do for Tomas are inexhaustible. That’s, probably, how it is when Agape is intertwined with Eros.

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Marta is appealing to Tomas and to Christ. Isn’t it how it should be in a modern democratic world where the will of human being shares responsibility with the will of god?

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Marta’s letter to Tomas is an example of – human modesty, super-human daring and Christian humility.

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Marta is determined to pursuit her goal as a healer can pursuit those who need healing, as a giver can pursuit the hungry and the ashamed.

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Marta’s gaze of hope that Tomas loves her, that he is just afraid to start a new life that will demand new decisions

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Marta’s gaze of hope and of belief – even in the crater of darkness

Tomas and Jonas Persson (Max Von Sydow)

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Resistant, even iconoclastic streak hardens the soul of Jonas Persson, this “organic”, “instinctive” believer. He cannot accept that god is not intervening in cruelty and destructiveness in order to help people to resist lies and evil.

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Jonas believes in un-contradictory nature of religious ideals. He can’t see why god is not putting to use all the power of good at his disposal to help us to subdue the evil.

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By invoking the suffering Christ the pastor addresses Jonas’s complains. But when Jonas looks straight at his eyes, all the reasons and explanations get stuck in Tomas’ throat because he feels in Jonas the presence of that primordial naked belief in Christ’s overpowering wisdom.

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Jonas’ gaze is that of an unconditional belief. With our religious tradition it is impossible to question it. We are used to believing that this type of belief is the ultimate wisdom, that there is no place for rational thinking in the matters of faith.

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Tomas tries to explain that Christ doesn’t want to use (authoritarian) power because evil is part of humanity, that the reason he sacrificed himself is not to command obedience to good but to influence human nature, that Christ’s task is to stimulate people’s goodness, not to command them to be good. But Jonas wants the unconditional victory of good on the earth.

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What Tomas can explain is not what Jonas wants to hear. He doesn’t need “explanations” why moral improvement of earthly life is such a difficult task – he needs god’s saving action, or “why to live at all?”

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Jonas’ point is that “what is so worthy about human life if it is not life according to god and Christ?”

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Pastor again and again tries to explain that the goal of Christ is to win participation of human beings in fight against evil.

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Tomas is too scholastic for Jonas who is fixated on the letter of the religious texts and cannot swallow that these written words are not strong enough.

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That’s how people like Jonas look at the real, not ideal world – with suspicion, indignation and… hate, but Jonas is too good of a person to accept hate. He prefers to disappear. He is ready to sacrifice himself.

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Jonas Persson took his own life after talking with the pastor who did his best to help him without succumbing to cheap lies, sentimental persuasions and logical tricks.

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The incredible Karin Persson (wife of Jonas) will try to manage caring after their children alone, without her husband, as soon as it’s god’s will and to bare her ordeal is her destiny.

Algot Frovic, sexton (Allan Ekdall)

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Look, how reverentially, self-meltingly Algot Frovik touches the Chalice containing “Christ’s blood” (as if, he is kissing it).

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Frovik lives by Christ’s suffering – his life doesn’t exist outside Christ’s ordeals. Christ for Frovik is a permanent reference and a permanent presence (not god, or Church authorities acting through power).

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Frovik shares with the Pastor his observations about Christ’s three final ordeals which reflect the existential situation of human beings with god’s gift of spiritual sensitivity.

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According to Frovik, Christ’s physical suffering is the less tormenting for Him than not having been understood by His Disciples. But the most unbearable suffering for Him must have been the silence of god in response to His appeal.

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The human ordeals of Christ according to Frovik overwhelm the Pastor who with sexton’s existentialization of Christ’s experiences, got the feeling that he received the most profound lesson of his life – a push to move away from metaphysization of Christ toward existential Christianity.

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The film is, simultaneously, meta-historical and historical – it’s not only pointing out the psychology of religious belief “in general” but analyses its parameters that is peculiar to our epoch. The main character Pastor Tomas Ericsson’s Christian faith questions the unconditionality of traditionalist beliefs in a way that is more symptomatic for today’s life. He has a rare gift for a believer – the ability to criticize his own faith not because he “found a better way to believe and rushing to proclaim it in front of the world”, but because he found problems with how he, not “other believers”, believes, and wants to make his faith deeper and more genuine, to perceive spiritual realities less dogmatically. Self-criticism gave him the ability for spiritual growth within his faith. “We are certain only as long as we look at the content of our certainty and not at the rational or irrational experiences in which we have receive it. Looking at ourselves and our certainty as ours, we discover its weakness and contradictions in the emotional side of our religious life, its oscillation between ecstatic confidence and despairing doubt.” (Paul Tillich, “The New Being”, Charles Scribner’s, 1955, p. 77)

“Faith and doubt have been contrasted… But in those who rest on their unshakable faith, pharisaism and fanaticism are the unmistakable symptoms of doubt which has been repressed. Doubt is overcome not by repression but by courage. Courage does not deny that there is doubt… Courage does not need the safety of an unquestionable conviction. It includes the risk without which no creative life is possible.” (Paul Tillich, “Dynamics of Faith”, Harper Colophon, 1958, p. 101) Pastor Ericsson has the courage to risk with a doubt. Does it tell us about weakness of his belief in God or reflect the spirit of democracy with its tolerance towards otherness, when pluralism of beliefs in god takes place of the traditional (pre-democratic) religious fight for the throne of the only genuine – our own belief? It is presence of doubt in belief makes it democratic, subjectivizes the experience of believing, makes it less dogmatic and intolerant and more individually responsible.

The seven characters in the film represent the different types of Christian belief. If the pastor represents mature belief which has overcame symbiosis with god (when the believer psychologically just consumes god’s protection in exchange for unconditional loyalty), Jonas Persson is personification of infantile and demanding belief in the god’s world without contradiction, like one giant piece of white marble, and in god’s love as an absolute protection. Outside of these miraculous expectations Jonas Persson is a very attractive person full of humility and modesty. Like a stubborn child he tightens up his lips when accepting from the pastor the Chalice with “Christ’s blood”. Algot Frovic, on the other hand, drinks the Eucharist wine with a trembling reverie of the one who worshipfully appreciates the purifying experience of sublime suffering. Frovic’s faith is based on identification with meaningful suffering – spirituality of existential presence. Marta Lundberg’s faith is based on her dream to receive Christ’s agreement with her care for a person she is in love with. Her love for Tomas Ericsson is not in any way self-indulgent – it’s completely self-less and oriented on helping him in his existential crisis. Karin Persson, wife of Jonas Persson, is the only individual at Eucharist who meets the gaze of the pastor when he puts the Chalice to her lips. Her faith is completely immanent – incarnated in her behavior, and sublime wholeness of her personality is simultaneously her grace and her inability to help her husband. And finally, the old widow who relies on Christ while going through her bereavement and aloneness and expectation of coming death.

The faith of all the three men, whom we observe as taking part in the ritual of Eucharist, transcends the existential realm and, simultaneously serves it (their faith that is so different is not the goal in itself). Their faith corresponds to their humility of being part of human life, like god becomes human in Christianity. Tomas Ericsson is the “knight” of spiritual duty, Jonas Persson is like a logician of theological guarantees, a “positivist” philosopher of faith intolerant of contradictions, and Algot Frovik is a semanticist of the existential meaning of Christ’s co-suffering with people. He is a handicapped sexton – he is going through his destiny with grace and without any pride. Frovik’s “classification” of Christ’s three kinds of suffering during his final earthly ordeals is understood by him as characteristics of human condition when doubt is accepted as a phenomenon not outside belief but as belonging to its essence. Frovik’s faith, according to Bergman, is the next step in comparison with dogmatic belief keeping the experiences of the faith outside the realm of living (locked inside of cognition and doctrine).

On the other hand, the three women (participating in the Eucharist are more immediately (and at the same time more consciously) immanent in their belief. The old widow entrusts to Christ her life and death. Karin Persson is able to take any blow to her and her family with a nobility of an existentially strong person. And Marta Lundberg wants to be used by god for the benefit of other person (Tomas Ericsson). If Frovik offers compassion and empathy, pastor – care and dedication, and Jonas – refuses life with a defect in meaning, women’s faith is inside existence (the old widow is ready to lose life, Marta is fighting for meaning of hers, and Karin is life itself, a personification of Heidegger’s un-concealment).

Winter light is a light without maternal warmth and paternal vitality. It is a metaphor of the transcendent, separated, distant, an almost abstract love and care. It is de-transcendentalization of the transcendent what will transform the winter light into that of the spring. But the lessons of the transcendent (the essence of the transcendent as a metaphor) is the issue of otherness of other humans, of nature and the world itself. It is this neglect of otherness – the naïve projection of our interests into it, the treatment of the world symbiotically, like baby treats mother’s breast, is the basis of our inability to believe maturely and responsibly – to existentialize our relationships with the sacred (without losing the ability to feel sacredness).

People are unable to accept another human beings as others, not to perceive them as a projection of our own interests and identities, as it happens in personal love and in group solidarity and friendship (based on similarity and intra-group identification. Instead of going through the ordeal of learning how to love without the unconscious attempts of eliminating otherness in the object of our love, friendship and collaboration, people just dream to be loved by god (like baby dreams to be loved by mother). For many maturation of their very manner of loving and believing never takes place. They continue to be little children in relation to their god. For them to believe means believing that they are loved by god as soon as they are trying to stimulate god’s love by their pleasing god behavior. This kind of tricky attempts to influence god’s love to win immortality is not the object of Bergman’s film. He is interested in analyzing the attempts of serious faith even when he cannot endorse all the types of faith he describes.

Jonas, for example, can regain the taste for life only by a powerful dogmatic reassurance, by a pompous authoritarian intervention. It is to the honor of the pastor that he refuses to do this. But the price of courage of truthfulness (“…the capacity for frank speech (parrhesia) even in the most inappropriate situations was always attributed to saints and religious reformers” [Lawrence Cunningham, “The Meaning of Saints”, Harper and Row, 1980, p. 169]) is tremendous responsibility. The very fact that the pastor wasn’t able to save Jonas Persson, pushed Tomas into a new spiritual crisis. He had outgrown the dogmatic style of believing. The very process of his “doubts”, his grief in connection with “god’s silence” is the psychological dynamics fruitful for religious faith. Not harmful for it. “He who has faith is separated from the object of his faith. Otherwise he would possess it. It would be a matter of immediate certainty and not of faith.” (Paul Tillich, “Dynamics…” Ibid, p. 100) Many believers don’t differentiate between ‘the object” of their belief and believing as a function, when psychological borders between belief as an object and believer as a subject don’t exist, and instead we have a narcissistic desire to aggrandize yourself by symbiosis with belief as a fetish. Such religious beliefs produce Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggard, Jerry Fallwell and other repressive social activists who are aggressively frustrated in front of the otherness of the world. They symbiotically identify with their beliefs instead of having faith. “Doubt cannot be eliminated from man as man… Courage takes the doubt into itself as an expression of its own finitude and affirms the content of an ultimate concern.” (Paul Tillich, Ibid, p. 101)

If Tomas Ericsson is not alien to a petrified, inert aspect of church’s position towards the world, its dedication to rituals instead of trying to make human life more spiritual, he as a personality represents the courageous aspect of faith as “passion, anxiety, despair, ecstasy” (Paul Tillich, Ibid, p. 103) as a heroic struggle to keep and develop his faith in front of the horrors and deceptions of the factual world. Algot Frovik’s faith is of a type that “saints” have – “…the serenity of life in faith” (Paul Tillich, Ibid, p. 101) Bergman’s description of “saint” as an existential person who interprets religious matters not from a dogmatic posture but in a context of life, corresponds to some historical evidence about even traditional saints. “Much of the tradition about saints is intermingled with folk tales, popular beliefs, homely iconography, and striking leaps of the imagination… In the welter of this material, there are echoes of a religiosity that is more substantial though little noticed in the ‘official’ concerns of the hierarchy… It is from these “extremists” that change, reform, and new ways of incarnating the Gospel derive. New forms of life come from unexpected places.” (Lawrence Cunningham, Ibid, p. 150 – 151, 172)

“Algot Frovik’s reflections on forlornness makes Tomas believe for a brief moment that Christ and he have suffered the same pain: ‘God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’… For a few seconds Tomas grasps the bizarre camaraderie felt through suffering. Everything is burned clear, and personal growth now becomes a possibility. For the first time in his life, Pastor Ericsson makes his own decision. He goes through with his service for no other reason than that Marta Lundberg is present. If one has religious faith, one would say that God has spoken to him. If one does not believe in God, one might prefer to say that Marta Lundberg and Algot Frovik are two people who help raise a fellow human being who has fallen and is digging his own grave. At that point it doesn’t matter if God is silent or if he is speaking.” [Ingmar Bergman, “Images (My Life in Film)”, Arcade, 1990, p. 270 – 271] According to Bergman himself, Frovik’s overwhelming analogy through the abyss between immanent and transcendent realities, and Marta’s heroic ability to transcend Tomas’ emotional abuse and support his faith made God speak to him, become the equivalent of God’s speech.

What for Jonas Persson is a proof of the existence of a fatal hole in god’s universe, for Tomas Ericsson is challenge for farther development. “Something which, for a thinker, is brought into question is, for a non-thinker, almost bound to become pure negation. “ (Gabriel Marcel, “Man Against Mass Society”, Gateway Ed., 1962, p. 258) At the end of the film pastor is on the verge of a new and radical decisions in his life. But will he be able to make these creative steps? “When destiny leads one to the frontier of his being, it makes him personally conscious that he stands before the decision either to fall back upon that which he already is or else to transcend himself… Limitedness was his security, and now it is threatened. The anxiety of the potential…” (Paul Tillich, “The Future of Religions”, Harper and Row, 1966, p. 53 – 54) Put before life by Frovik and Marta, Tomas faces what church today stands in front of – the necessity to internalize, to de-ritualize, de-idolize and de-aggrandize (to drown the hubris of association with heavenliness into humility of the earthly lake) the experience of communion with Transcendent. “Courage is that element in faith which is related to the risk of faith. One cannot replace faith by courage, but neither one can describe faith without courage. In mystical literature the ‘vision of God’ is described as a stage which transcends the state of faith…” (Paul Tillich, “Dynamics…”, Ibid, p. 103)

Who is responsible for the death of Jonas Persson? How to express the feeling of existential monstrosity and perversity of leaving a wife and three children because your god is either not omnipotent or not kind enough to provide us with not a flawless and a perfect universe? Fixating people on perfectionism of absolutist expectations makes them unable to look at the eyes of the reality and dooms them either to retreat and isolate themselves from life or become frustrated and hateful towards other people. Frovik accepted his physical infirmity and physical pains with grace. And if “Jesus is the love of God that opens us and makes us vulnerable” (John Shelby Spong, Ibid, p. 239), Marta is, indeed, a person with a great religious sensitivity in spite of her purely theoretical atheism. She teaches Tomas vulnerability by showing him how it is possible to be vulnerable. “It was love that put human life before religious rites (The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath). It was love that transcended the religious definitions of what was thought to be clean and unclean… No barriers could be erected around that love of God that was seen in the life of Jesus. It was love that rendered our religious security systems no longer operative. Such a love called for profound changes in the human psyche… Human life was, in the first century, quite unwilling to be made so vulnerable. Human life still is unwilling to be so vulnerable. Every assault on human and religious prejudice today elicits anew that incredible human anger of an insecure creature… For years we convinced ourselves of the subhuman status of black people, women, left-handed people, and homosexual people. We reacted to persons with AIDS as our ancestors had reacted to the lepers. We build churches to house the righteous while relegating the sinners to the rank of the rejected as our pharisaic forebears did so many years ago.” (John Shelby Spong, Ibid, p. 238)

“The religious life is so often exploited and distorted by psychological and social forces which succeed in fulfilling themselves in the totalitarizing of God… I must break this rock…that part of me which was being fulfilled in this totalitarization and which was protected by its totalitarianism.” (Jacques Pohier, God – in Fragments”, Crossroad, 1986, p. 312 – 313) “I know men religious who do not believe that God feels threatened or wounded when human beings express their sexuality, their autonomy and their interest in other things, that they have to make their sacrifices to him by amputating what is the gift of God, a gift without repentance, like all the gifts of God… A God reduced to everything is a reduction.” (Jacques Pohier, Ibid, p. 282, 287) Algot Frovik, Marta Lundberg and Pastor Tomas Ericsson made substantial steps in liberating themselves from the absolute security of metaphysical projection/introjection, from a god of their liking for everybody’s use, from the megalomaniacal and totalitarian feeling that they are god’s guards with guts and guns, with bucks and kicks. They achieved bereavement, vulnerability and de-symbiotic relationship with God. “Winter Light” leads these characters to the point when they may be able to return to each other inside a common world without vulgar and predatory dehumanization of human otherness, with grace, humility and sensitivity for the sacred, which they learned from their relationship with the Transcendent.

Posted on 7 Oct 2014 –   “Winter Light” (1962) by Ingmar Bergman  by Acting-Out Politics