Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Yes, but what should we DO?

It is a question asked by reactionaries, and is intended to get people to move beyond analysis and to 'organize' - but, for a Christian, it is a version of the Marxian claim to have moved beyond interpreting the world to changing it (as if these were the only alternatives).

Marx was, of course, a materialist, a positivist - a denier of the reality of any reality except the sense-perceptual. For such a person there is nothing but what can be perceived with the senses (including the senses amplified by technologies) - and there isn't any point in talking about what is perceived except to change it. That which is perceived is regarded as independent of the person doing the 'interpreting', and the act of interpreting of itself does nothing - unless it is communicated, and has an effect on many other people.

From this perspective Christianity is a delusion and prayer is talking to yourself; any church is just a bureaucracy, and Christianity a has-been political party on the way-out.

But if you personally believe that it is true that there is more to reality than that which is perceived by the senses, understood by science and manipulated by technology; more than the utilitarian calculus of pleasure versus suffering - then you implicitly believe in an unseen, not-directly perceptible, but real and true aspect of the world - and if you are Christian you believe that we may (and indeed inevitably do) participate in this supersensible world.

(I must acknowledge that quite a lot of self-identified Christians seem to think this way too - they are much, much more avid about the positivist/ material/ reductionist/ worldly side of Christianity than about the... um... Christian bit.)

This supersensible world is denied by, unknown by, ignored by the overwhelmingly-dominant mainstream secular Leftist public discourse of the West - and this ideology is engaged in seeking-out and eliminating all dissent, while on the other hand continually changing to create new dissenters: this is the vast activity of perceptual communication of the mass media, official communications, governments and NGOs, education, law, science, the prestigious arts...

So what should we do, as Christians? Should we, like Marxists, organize (organize, that is, all handful-of-percent of us! - and this micro-minority of real Christians riven by theological and other disagreements and mutual accusations of heresy!) to roll-back the vast edifice of secular Leftism by... well, I can't honestly imagine how this might even conceivably be done; unless it is assumed that the mass of people, and especially powerful people are 'really' wanting a Christian revival - but are convincingly hiding the fact (even from themselves).

Or should we be working in that domain we claim to believe is real - that imperceptible, supersensible 'unseen' realm of reality that is mocked, rejected, and ignored by the mainstream. If that world is, indeed, real - then we have it 'all to ourselves'.

So yes, we can 'change the world' - but change aspects of the world the reality of which is denied, using communications the reality of which is denied, to work towards goals the reality of which is denied.

And in this activity we have a free hand; and indeed no force on earth can stop us doing it - except our own decision not to do it.

14 comments:

alexi de sadesky said...

Bruce,

YES! Could not agree more. The spiritual world is vastly stronger than the physical and we should be focused on using its momentum rather than fighting against the tide of materialism.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Unknown - Hmmm... seems like a solipsistic metaphysic of nihilism. Why would anyone voluntarily, and given the alternatives, choose to adopt such assumptions? But, either way, not something I would encourage. Something to cure rather than propagate, yes?

Seeker said...

This post reminded me of a Dennis Wheatley story - Strange Conflict. The Duke de Richlea and his pals discover who is helping the Nazis to find merchant ships in the Atlantic by "using communications, the reality of which is denied". They access the astral plane, go out into the Atlantic and overlook the black magician who is spying for the Nazis. The magicin is present on the astral when the Captain of the ship opens the secret orders telling him which route to take. He zips back to Berlin on the astral and gives the information to the Nazis who are then able to send their ships to destroy the British merchant fleet. All terribly exciting stuff, and I couldn't put it down as a boy. And this is the bit that strikes me hard now. The reason I couldn't put it down was because it had a feeling of truth about it. Not necessarily astral travel, but it was the idea of something beyond the everyday - an extended world - a reality unknown, but to be found that felt true. That is why all fairy stories/supernatural stories with a quest as central are so popular - people instinctively feel a sense of wonder heavily underscored by a knowing that they are being told something important and true.

Seeker

Seeker

Bruce Charlton said...

@Seeker - This is why metaphysical, basic assumptions are so vital - if your assumptions exclude something which is real and active, then you are pretty much helpless and may be making matters much worse.

Nathaniel said...

I'm certainly a victim of this mentality. Even knowing the reality of how Christ's birth and resurrection ultimately refute all these issues, I keep reverting to a materialistic/organizational perspective (e.g. "If only I was wealth enough, I could support better schools..." etc.)

I think it is perhaps confusing in that we seem to be called to take physical action in the world by carrying out our belief system, and se we expand this too far, while the Biblical example shows our total dependency on following and participating in God's plan and not relying on our own calculations to save the world.

Certainly you have this right, and thank you for opening my eyes to this. We can't achieve a miraculous goal like "saving the West" by changes in secular policy, but only by first returning to Christ and the good that will result from that. An unfortunate deception among some is that we need Christianity as tool for its secular results, and thus they don't really believe or love God, while the good secular results and culture are more a "side effect" of truly loving God.

So you could say, in response to "what must I do", that we have had the answer for over 2000 years:

"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind."

Bruce Charlton said...

Two general comments

1. One short blog post cannot cover everything - the purpose of this post is to highlight something very important, but extremely neglected.

What I am suggesting here is necessary - but I never said it was sufficient, and indeed it obviously is NOT sufficient.

2. A reminder that I don't publish anonymous comments - as it says in the blog descriptor.

Seeker said...


"2. A reminder that I don't publish anonymous comments - as it says in the blog descriptor."

You do. I'm not really named Seeker you know.

Seeker

Bruce Charlton said...

Seeker = Pseudonym --- Anonymous = Anonymous.

(Plus, I do sometimes break my own rules.)

Imnobody said...

So what should we do, as Christians? Should we, like Marxists, organize to roll-back the vast edifice of secular Leftism by...

Or should we be working in that domain we claim to believe is real - that imperceptible, supersensible 'unseen' realm of reality that is mocked, rejected, and ignored by the mainstream. If that world is, indeed, real - then we have it 'all to ourselves'.


I think it's both. Marxists are only materialist so, for them, organizing is the only method. Buddhists are only idealist so, for them, all solution must be "spiritual"(meditation, detachment, etc).

But Christians are dualist. Not a dualism like Plato's (in which matter and spirit are separate and the body is the cage of the soul) but the dualism of the Bible (in which matter and spirit are intertwined). The incarnation means that the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. And the Resurrection is resurrection of body and soul, both for Jesus and us.

So organizing and praying are two aspects of the same thing. "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition". Of course, rolling back Leftism is unthinkable by natural means but organizing is a good idea, to spread the Word, to fight Leftism, to attract more people to our side in order to save their souls. To make a structure that endures the decline and lasts way beyond Leftism's demise.

When the Roman empire was collapsing, a Roman man of a noble family moved to a monastery near Rome. He developed an organization method to manage a monastery in a rational and devout way. The monasteries that were founded on this method were a center of devotion, culture, study and economic capital for the next thousand years. Especially during the Dark Ages that followed the Fall of the Roman empire, these monasteries were oases of faith and civilization in a world full of war, poverty and death.

The name of this organization method was the Benedictine rule. And the name of the Roman man was St. Benedict. His motto was "Ora et labora" so I don't think both things are incompatible but both are necessary. You shouldn't pray without organizing and you shouldn't organize without praying.

In many miracles of the New Testament, Jesus asks something from other people before performing a miracle. So, at the wedding at Cana, he told the people to fill the jars first. And he required some bread and some fish in order to multiply them (instead of creating them ex nihilo). God helps us but He wants that we do something on our own first. So "ora et labora" seems good to me.

I think you already know that, because you say

One short blog post cannot cover everything - the purpose of this post is to highlight something very important, but extremely neglected.

But it's good to repeat it, anyway.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Imn - The difference is that the spiritual renewal is necessary - but organizing may not be; more exactly, organizing is impossible (in the UK and Europe) for Christians - because organized Christianity is minuscule and collapsing - so there is no 'we' to organize.

Spiritual renewal must come first and organizing must await this (if we tried to organize the Christians we have - which is a microscopic percentage and a very small absolute number - and furthermore spread across a variety of mutually suspicious/ hostile denominations and churches - whose numbers are, furthermore, artificially and probably transiently boosted by recent migrants) then we would merely end-up with another flavour of Left-secularism. Christians in the West need to be clear on this.

If there is no spiritual renewal then there will be nothing - so this must be our urgent and major focus. And we must work by the channels that are available and effective - which means essentially by spiritual/ supersensible channels.

David Balfour said...

"If there is no spiritual renewal then there will be nothing - so this must be our urgent and major focus. And we must work by the channels that are available and effective - which means essentially by spiritual/ supersensible channels."

Let us pray that the phoenix from the flames will not be too much longer. I look forward earnestly to the second coming of Christ that is prophesied. I look forward to an end of tears and suffering and of evil doing and to an era in which man can finally attain the joy that the Lord has set his heart upon raising us up towards. But we must set our hearts on this great (undeserved) gift, and strive for it in our hearts and minds. We must strive to show our brothers and sisters that there is a spiritual path outside of secular politics or blinkered nihilism and oblivion at death, there is a plan for salvation put in place before the created order which will allow us to progress to a fullness of joy and a final participation in the creators goal of Zion. I pray as many of his children as possible will join this exultant scheme. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - See latest post - You are in your situation for your own good: *your* task is to lead *your* life, here and now - as best you can. (This comes from Arkle.)

David Balfour said...

Yes. I say the above with proviso of what you say in mind. I should be he here now and do my best to make the opportunity of the present. This is the only place that I will learn and that we can all learn as souls. To qualify what I said before, I mean it in the sense of what I understand the LDS church talk of at conference by "hastening the work." The work is necessarily here and now but *within* the dearly hoped for context of the plan for salvation which extends into eternity.

David Balfour said...

I for one feel that we should be *doing* something like the following:

https://www.lds.org/blog/how-to-pray-in-a-way-god-can-answer?cid=HP_TH_14-4-2016_dOCS_fBLOG_xLIDyL2-2_&lang=eng

As usual the LDS website offers some clear, wholesome insights into living the Christian spiritual life and what we should *do* to develop within the microcosm of our own spiritual lives.