Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The Hieratic Society and Original Participation

Our little local museum has a good section on Ancient Egypt, which I have visited a few times recently. As I stood there yesterday, I suddenly felt a sense of what it was like to live in that kind of society - in which the gods were near and one was immersed in Life, with little sense of being a separate individual.

It was a Hieratic society - a life of Temples, priests, mysteries, formality, glory, ritual, worship and therefore Original Participation - as Owen Barfield termed this type of consciousness.

Then I recognized this as being very similar - in terms of consciousness - to the Eastern Roman,  Byzantine Empire - how that type of Christian society was aimed at the same immersive, absorbed un-individualized participation. Life was laid-on - and the job of each person was to accept, participate, play his assigned part with joyful obedience.

Then I realized how this form of consciousness is past, irretrievable - and not intended to be the final shape of Christianity. Any society which primarily conceptualizes life in terms of obedience and immersive participation is inevitably a society which - to some significant extent - is failing to achieve that distinct individuality of responsibility and perspective which is surely part of the Christian ideal.

Christianity is about personal relationships - not immersive loss of the self; about spiritual development in unique and unprecedented ways, about personal responsibility and choices.

God wants us as friends, not as servants - and we want friends to be individuals not versions of ourself, nor identical 'clones'. The essence of Christ is not, after all, as our King (or Pantocrator - ruler of all) - but as one whose greatest wish is to enable us to rise to his own nature and level.

I do find myself drawn, perhaps nostalgically, towards a child-like immersion in life; but that is not the situation we find ourselves in in this world.

This is not a matter of salvation (there are many, many paths to salvation - Christ made salvation as easy as possible for us) - but of theosis - and a theosis aimed at becoming Sons and Daughters of God - which means (I understand) becoming more like friends than servants; more like adults than children.

God the Father will always be God and our Father, and we will not; however, Jesus Christ is our Brother - and the difference between us is truly vast - but not qualitative. We are of the same 'natural kind' and the ultimate goal of mature spirituality (when we have 'grown-up' and are no longer spiritually child-like) is to live as family and friends - not as Emperor and subjects.

So I think ultimately, in The New Jerusalem - and despite much of the monarchical symbolism of the Bible including Revelations, suitable to early stages of theosis - life will not therefore be Hieratic; but something more and better.