Friday, 30 December 2016

Religious *and* spiritual: Prejudicial hostility to non-normal states of consciousness, mysticism, magic, 'the occult' etc among (real) Christians

Many modern Christians, including real Christians, have a reflexive and inflexible hostility to 'Religious Experience' - that is, to anything like mysticism, magic or what they term the occult.

Such attitudes come-out, for example, in the visceral hostility to JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, and Harry Potter as being demonically-inspired and/ or tending to lead people into evil preoccupations and practices - such as conjuring spirits.

This particular mind set is associated with Low Church, Charismatic type Protestants (especially in the USA). Such people claim to be able to draw a sharp line between Religious Experience (such as speaking in tongues or faith healings: good) and Magic (bad), usually defined on the presence of key words or practices such as wizard, witch, divination and spells. 

Similar - albeit 'less extreme' attitudes are also prevalent in a mind-set to be found among Western and Eastern Catholics of a Traditionalist type, and the more traditionalist, scriptural Protestant churches.

What this amounts-to is the belief that normal everyday consciousness is the only 'safe' way to be - and any form of altered consciousness - such as is associated with mystical, magical and occult experiences or knowledge - is to be avoided, absolutely (or rejected if it happens) as being likely to be of demonic origin.

In a nutshell, such people are real Christians - and yet they are solidly against Religious Experiences, in the modern world; because these may be evil in origin or effect. 

Such traditionalists will acknowledge that in theory Religious and mystical experiences may also be of divine or angelic origin (as is amply attested in The Bible, the early church, among Christian Saints of the past etc.). This might be taken to imply a middle path - of approving mystical experience but with caution; and indeed that is my own view of things.

But in practice, Traditionalists are prejudiced against Religious Experiences - by which I mean they pre-judge all claims of mysticism to be fraudulent or deluded unless-proven-otherwise; and in practice there never-can-be objective, public proof otherwise.

Such people will never actually be convinced of any proof of or evidence for the validity of mystical experience - at least not when mystical claims are made by people or groups they dislike - which amounts to people outwith their own denomination +/- a shortlist of other approved churches.

(Part of this is that they typically have an unexamined assumption that true Religious Experiences only happen to those of exceptional sanctity; and such people are extremely rare, especially in the modern world. Where they get this assumption, given the vast number of Biblical and real-life counter-examples - and the fact that Jesus came, and Christianity was founded, explicity for sinners - I can't imagine: but they clearly do assume it.)   

I am sure that the Fundamentalist or Traditionalist prejudices against Religious Experience/ magic and mysticism is a very major error of modern Christianity; because Christianity is essentially a mystical religion, and if mystical aspects (whether they are labelled magic, occult or whatever) are excluded; then the faith is dead - becomes a mere matter of obedience to a bureaucracy or set or rules.

(Obedience to legitimate authority is a virtue - true; but I see not the slightest sign that Jesus regarded it as the primary virtue!)

Particularly damaging is that this prejudice against Religious Experiences implicitly consigns modern Christianity to operate within Modern Consciousness - which is of its nature materialist, reductionist and positivist. Indeed Modern Consciousness is a truly horrible thing; which drains contemporary life of felt meaning and purpose; so that the Christian who lives within it can have a faith only 'in theory' - because any validating mystical experiences will be rejected as demonic.

If ever there was a playing into Satan's hands, and doing just exactly what he wants: then this is it! - A Christianity which (from a secular perspective) has all the disadvantages of an absurdly magical foundation; yet vehemently rejects all possible experiential advantages of a magical consciousness!

So we get the weird spectacle of the adherents of a magical religion, with a magically validated organisation (i.e. a church), who spend their time reading and discussing magical events (in the Bible, lives of Saints etc), and performing magical rituals such as the Eucharist and Prayer... yet living within a distinctively modern and rootedly anti-magical discourse which expends great energy in distancing itself from any people who actually experience magic in the here and now and strive to live in a more expanded and sensitive consciousness than that of a modern bureaucracy!

In sum Christianity need to be spiritual as well as religious; and must not be squeamish or prejudiced against mysticism, magic, the occult.

Yes, this is a risk; but Life is a risk: intrinsically (Christianity takes a middle-way about pretty much everything except Love, Repentance and Forgiveness) - and the opposite risk of promoting a dry, legalistic, merely doctrinal Christianity is to advocate a mere corpse of Christianity.

Mysticism is, simply, a risk we have to take.