Saturday, 8 August 2015

The natural must be sustained by the supernatural - The biological and common sense illusions, and the absolute necessity of a spiritual perspective

It seems like no more than common sense that humans would function better in this mortal life by concentrating on this mortal life and ignoring spiritual speculations - but it is not true.

When humans started to believe that biology explained Man, they found themselves demotivated so profoundly that they have almost stopped reproducing - and have stopped even wanting to have children.

So biology thwarted biology.

It might have been thought that common sense would work better if unfettered and unconfused by 'theology' and 'religious mumbo jumbo' - yet we live in a society where the absence of common sense is so extreme, that experientially-obvious falsehood and frankly delusional psychosis is, more every year, enforced by the government, law, rulebook and media.

Clearly, if Man fails to consider his mortal life in the wider perspective of survival beyond death, then he becomes so confused and demoralized that he will lose even this mortal life.

When Man fails to interpret his function in a religious perspective, he will lose his grasp of even the bare concept of functionality.

It seems the natural must be sustained by the supernatural - and now we know this maxim is not just as a theory, nor a Chestertonian paradox; but we know it by direct personal and civilizational experience...

Except that the truth of the maxim is being daily confirmed by the very fact that we fail to see and comprehend those proofs which lie so abundantly scattered all around us, and inside our despairing souls.


David said...

Here, here. This confirms what I have felt intuitively for a long time Bruce . Unfortunately when I tell anyone else that I care about, bar a few exceptions, they don't believe me and think I'm a misty-eyed-wishful-thinker or frankly deluded. It's very frustrating that more people don't just "get" What you are saying here. If they did we might have enough leverage in society to start going somewhere of value and overturning a lot of nihilistic nonsense that is being successfully put about the human condition.

Incidentally, this raises the observation for me that in mental health services treating depressed or suicidal patients, including those who are elderly (and realistically approaching their autumn years), discussions of spirituality and what death might mean if it actually happened, which it ultimately must, are excluded de - facto from the conversation and I have never heard anyone talk about it professionally, which seems totally bizarre. We talk about suicide, measure the risk of it happening and try and prevent it at all costs to the point of extreme professional anxiety and 'back-covering.' Valid reasons for feeling that life is meaningless or potential antidotes, such as encouraging spiritual beliefs, are NEVER considered, except within an equality and diversity framework, in which case religious beliefs are a quaint set of comforting beliefs that happen to someone else, from a different culture that must be valued for its diversity, and yet the profound restorative powers of spiritual beliefs are NEVER extended as even a possibility to the indigenous population.

I sometimes long to ask the question "If you did commit suicide what would happen to you then?" or "What if life after death is real?" (After all most human beings in most periods of human history have believed this powerfully) but obviously I cannot without placing myself in complete opposition to the modern nihilistic zeitgeist; but, surely if you are to effectively have any chance of helping a soul in despair contemplating suicide, they must be reminded of the basic spiritual facts of reality including a deeper consideration of what is the essential soul or individual identity, what is implied by death and by comparison by precious life itself?! It seems to me that we have got it totally wrong and mental health services are just making it worse with the current approaches. We are helping spiritual suicide not stopping it!

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - The media, of course, make matters worse by depicting as exemplars people with terminal illness as cramming-in as much pleasure and as many 'cool' experiences as possible before the annihilation of death.

Those who contemplate suicide are supposed to refrain because they miss the chance of cramming in a few more pleasurable experiences.

All of which carries the implicit conviction that a life lacking current experience and future expectations of such pleasures and coolness really is worthless, and suicide really is the rational response to such a life; and reinforces the advocated lifestyle of hedonistic nihilism.

David said...

Indeed, which prompts me to distil another 'readers question' from this thread: What is the best way to support a suicidal person in the lost-soul-land that was once Eng-land? Or any other Western outpost of nihilism for that matter. My immediate hunch is to encourage them to reconsider the possibilities of God and meaningful purpose, the possibilities of how spiritual values can be transcendent and beautiful, the possibilities of life triumphing over death eternally, the possibilities that no matter what we are going through, how impenetrably hard and desperate it may seem at times of greatest challenge to the human spirit, that it can be overcome like the heroes and heroines of mythos, and transmuted into precious eternal joy; the possibilities that there is greater help available to achieve this than many imagine, and all we need to do is ask. The possibilities that were created when our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ came to show us a way out of darkness and a return to light and life...

Of course this perspective is likely to be rejected as alien and false by many in the mindset of suicide and despair. I really do wish I could bottle what I have found but I cannot. So instead, in the absence of being able to offer this, the best I can think to do in my limited (hands-tied-behind-my-back) professional capacity is pray, offer hope and extend the possibilities of a spiritually fulfilling reality, of re-enchantment and a rejection of the flawed metaphysical assumptions of modernity rather than behaving complicitly with them. Perhaps the project is best dividing into 1) Intensive spiritual care for the suicidal 2-x?) Several extended phases of spiritual recovery extending towards an informed choice of Christianity or at least a more robust, re enchanted sense of belonging in the universe (infinitely inferior to active faith of course but perhaps better than being lost in despair and alienation).

Of course this blog covers a lot of the above in various ways and in various posts, but do you have any other gems of wisdom to offer in relation to the above, especially as a former psychiatrist? Perhaps, in particular, the effective management of the acutely suicidal? Or the following stages of recovery/support.

David said...

Just found this:

Just goes to show media is a tool. It can be used to powerful and positive effective. I found this one highly inspirational. This kind of thing seems like a powerful 'spiritual injection' or antidote to the alienation and despair encountered in suicidal patients, for those who are receptive to the message at least...

Right time to mow the lawn in the beautiful sunshine and do some chores. That's enough blogging for now :-)

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - The only point I feel worth making is to listen openly and carefully before jumping in with advice.

Plus, be aware that a *lot* of suicides (and attempted suicides) are drug or drug-withdrawal induced - not only recreational drugs, but notably including prescribed psychiatric/ psychoactive drugs - especially antidepressants, mood stabilizers and antipsychotics.

Nicholas Fulford said...

The experience of pleasure is only bad when it is a goal in life rather than a collateral benefit. As a goal it is an extremely hollow one, and in the aftermath of pleasure's satiation comes the despair of, "Now what; is that it?"

And yet it is or becomes a cyclical pattern, a form of bipolar disorder, and one which only highlights the despair that lurks in the shadows but is seldom discussed. It is not unlike how books are treated in Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451", except it is the pleasure-satiation-existential despair (PSE) cycle that is the norm, and any alternative that considers a spiritual, religious or philosophical frame that is not discussed and is discouraged. What is truly absurd is the oddity of American society where the PSE cycle and religion have formed this peculiar amalgam. It is as though someone has found a way to bind things which are inherently inimical into a disturbingly corrupt compound. How did the pursuit of happiness and money become the functional hedonistic philosophy and then bind itself to religion?

All are corrupted and made so when pleasure becomes the highest good in their lives. Then aging is a curse, and everyone is an addict until death - most feared but almost never regarded seriously - ends a near pointless existence. And that is a profound sadness. Life requires more effort, and grants its hidden beauty - not mere pleasure - to those who court with longing its essential kernel. Be not corrupted by small bobbles, tinsels and nostrums, but pursue with authentic and insatiable longing something which is neither sated or unworthy. But end this pathos of a once noble species - who had the capacity to bear suffering but did not despair of the journey.

David said...

@ Bruce - "The only point I feel worth making is to listen openly and carefully before jumping in with advice."

Yes of course, there is nothing worse nor less likely to succeed than jumping in with ones personal insights or opinions onto another person - even when well intentioned. I have learned that much at least through life experience and things not working out in ways I had hoped when trying to help. I suppose we all have to learn, change and progress in our own time and way, and when we are ready to do so. Certainly listening non-judgemenentally and being receptive/open to another person's story and experiences, to truely validate it first before assisting the process of positive change, has a great healing power in of itself.

@N.F - V. Interesting points and eloquently expressed. Of course, it often takes many cycles or even a lifetime of being caught up in the PSE cycle before one realises there are meaningful and more rewarding alternatives, and even then the occasional reminder is needed when we lapse into the familiar and alluring habit of seeking too much after pure pleasure again at the expense of what we need most from life.

stephen c said...

Another common cycle is envy and laziness. Imagine you lived down the street from Joseph and Mary's family, in the type of sinful home most of us were raised in. While your older siblings and parents were having a grand old time, as they used to say, and paying no real attention to you in their generally happy state (a state that you later realized that you had joined in on and that was was accompanied by a naive and stupefied and comfortable view of life, in which, until faced with the pains of advanced age, nobody ever spends more than a rare stray moment paying any attention to anything like a pleasure-satiation-existential despair cycle), you observed the real and effective love that your neighbor the young Jesus was surrounded by in his enviably saintly family. Decades later, you heard he had died a relatively quick death, and you realized that the lucky kid who had so many advantages you didn't have (a loving family, an open invitation to a decent career as a middle class carpenter, loving friends of almost every kind) has gotten (despite his unfortunate death, but doesn't everybody die anyway?) every compliment anyone can ever desire, plus people said he was in Heaven and is, without reasonable doubt, the Lord. Even a relatively decent person might feel envy, and when not feeling envy,if they were lucky enough not to be very poor or very sick, a certain level of self-satisfied disappointed laziness. Close enough to Jesus to understand the usual deceptions of pleasure, not close enough to despise envy and laziness (absent the conviction of the Holy Spirit, as Paul and the Evangelists explained, or absent an event similar to the conviction of the Holy Spirit explained in the Bible).