Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Christianity and the re-enchantment of the world

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The modern world, the world of modernity, is dis-enchanted - which is that it lacks unity, depth, meaning and purpose; we have no relationship with it: we are alienated.

I regard alienation as the primary self-perceived psychopathology of modernity (modern people are unaware of sin).

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And Christianity re-enchants the world.

Indeed only Christianity truly (hence robustly) re-enchants the modern world.

But for Christianity to re-enchant the world entails the fullness of Christianity.

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Much of Christianity is indeed dis-enchanted because much of Christianity is legalistic rule-following and is almost purely virtue-based.

For much of Christianity, pursuit of The Good is all-but equated-with and limited-to the Morally-Good - Virtue conceptualized as moral laws - and only somewhat underpinned by a belief in the objectivity of Truth; and hardly-at-all concerned by Beauty or hostile to it.

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Even more narrowly, much of Christianity perceives Virtue in legal terms; a Virtue in which the Laws, the rules, are primary and comprehensive.

Christianity, then, merely as Virtue: Christian Virtue conceptualized as primarily rule-knowing and rule-following...

Such a Christianity will not re-enchant the world.

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But this is a partial and incomplete vision of The Good (the Christian Good); and insufficient for human needs. Such a Christianity may be salvific - hence of infinite value yet alienating. 

Such a Christianity will not (in this world) heal those afflicted by alienation, except in so far as it displaces that pathology.

People may do it, it may be enough; but it does not attract, it does not inspire.

The human spirit finds abstract purely-moral legalism repulsive, even when it is correct.

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The fullness of Christianity ought (surely?) to conceptualize The Good as a unity - aspects of which are (non-comprehensively) summarized by the Virtuous, the True and the Beautiful.

In The Good, VT&B cannot be dissociated nor opposed.

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The fullness of Christianity perceives the world as alive, purposive, where all has meaning (if we could but discern it, which we mostly cannot), and where reality is an unimaginably intricate web of relations and influences.

We move-through this hidden world of meanings - observing, understanding, choosing, doing or not-doing; pursuing our path as best we can.

This is a world of mingled virtue and vice, truth and lies, beauty and ugliness, horror and wonder - a world (in these respects) like the best and most convincing depictions of fairyland.

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To attain this perspective and experience the world in this way is a recovery . It is a recovery from the shallow and ill-considered, nihilistic and intrinsically-alienating world view of modernity.

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It is a world, therefore, where free will and true reason and accurate experience are all possible; and where benign forces of Good are active and available;

but also a world in which - as well as errors and incompleteness - there are powerful, deliberate evil manipulations, influences on emotions, pernicious images - influencing us, influencing other people, animals, plants, landscape and things.

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A world where we need to discern between virtue and vice, also truth and dishonesty, also beauty and and ugliness - and (above these) between unity and fragmentation.

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It is in many respects a terrifying world. But whatever else this re-enchanted world is, it is not a world where real alienation is the nature of things. Existence is significant in all and every respect: a heavy and dense world to which we are attached, and in which we are rooted, and through which our branches ramify.

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Revised 20 July 2011.

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1 comment:

  1. That was an ambitious effort, Bruce, and about as good as it's possible to get, using words. Which are what we must use, to communicate that which words can not communicate.
    I fear I didn't understand much of it, though I did understand the intent.
    Christianity falls into the predictable trap: it becomes about the words used to describe it, and the words come to be seen as the message, not the shallow carriers of the message, that they actually are.

    Philosophers are the prime example of this failing: their pristine ideas become incomprehensibly mired in words that have no real chance of conveying the ideas.

    This, for me, and a handful of others, is the amusingly simple beauty of the tao te ching: there are almost no words. Less, in this case, is definitely more. Although few can see that.

    Words encourage the mind to strive for understanding, whereas the mind is the last thing that should be engaged for spiritual understanding.
    A paradox. How to understand something without describing it, or having it described?

    Yet such a thing is possible.

    I see religions failing precisely because of their habit of naming the Divine. Whatever name is used, means something different to anyone using it.

    There is a compelling reason I moved away from Christianity: its myriad words led me nowhere. Whereas casting away all words, all things, all concepts and all thoughts, led me to joining together with the Divine.
    In such a state, one is unable to take seriously any claim, by others, that one is "doing it wrong".

    But, sadly, there are no words.
    The most sacred path is the one taken alone.
    None may direct, assist, or accompany the one who takes it.

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