Sunday, 30 July 2017

Suppose that both Leftist materialist modernity and traditional religion are impossible futures?

This is, indeed, the impossibility I confront: that modernity (secular Leftism) is the tool of evil, and orientated ultimately to destruction of The Good; yet traditional religion has become an impossibility at the mass social level, partly for reason of wrong choices (such as the sexual revolution); but not entirely so.

It is consistent with observation (but of course not evidentially-proven; that being impossible) that the grounds for mass religiousness in The West have simply, inexorably, dissolved-away over the past couple of centuries and the Christian churches are now either fundamentally-corrupt or else intrinsically-elite --- that is my interpretation.

That around 1800, in the industrialising nations, a new impulse came upon Men that we usually term Romanticism; which was (at its heart, and at its best) against both the unspirituality of traditional Christianity and also against the arising materialism and Leftism. Romanticism was supposed to be the spiritualisation of all life in context of Christianity; but unfortunately it split into (approximately) anti-spiritual Christianity as a form of social organisation on the one hand; versus an unChristian spirituality that ran in-parallel-to (unintegrated with) materialism in the political sphere and the gratification of non-spiritual emotions (the desire for prosperity, novelty, sex etc).

Romanticism is unfinished business. It was supposed (and by supposed I mean divinely-destined) to be the future of humanity; but that path of spiritual, 'magical' Christianity was refused.

Since then, Life has become compartmentalised; the great mass of people (rulers and ruled alike) have become ever more alienated, unrealistic, incoherent; distracting emotional escapism and pragmatic matter-of-fact despair have become the twin mainstream cultural expressions.

The only possible future is to finish the business of Romanticism. And, at this point n history, there is no group or institution doing this in The West; so if we want to do it - if we regard this as our divine destiny, then we must each do it solo.

And we cannot follow a path, because no path is laid down; we need to find our own path. We know where we want to be: that is living the Christian life in clear, coherent and continuous awareness of both the spiritual context of creation and creator; and within this the living, conscious nature of ourselves and the world around us: in a phrase animistic Christianity...

But we don't know how to get there - or even how to take the next step towards that goal. This situation is the cumulative consequence of two centuries of evasion and corruption; the consequence of living in a society of lies where any advice we take is almost certain to be wrong; any knowledge we acquire is almost certain to be wrong; and directions we are given almost certain to be pointing back down the same path on the down-conveyor belt, or into the abyss.

We may take clues from the insightful early romantics: Blake, Wordsworth and Coleridge; Goethe and his interpreter Rudolf Steiner - and Coleridge and Steiner's interpreter Owen Barfield... but they do not yield a blueprint or program.

It seems that part of the divine plan is that we each develop spiritual autonomy and Christianity both; that we do this for ourselves and from ourselves - and do so without any clear knowledge or assurances or examples of where we are going or how we might get there.

Instead of clear knowledge we have hints and lustres, and an awareness of our inner freedom or agency yielding direct conviction - which is not solid and insistent in the same way that social institutions are, due to their material power and simplistic inertia. To withstand these pressures, and do do so without fear and with faith, requires a very solid and strong trust in God and his love; and our capacity to know God's nature and motivations - and that can originate only from personal experience.

Cross posted at:


Chiu ChunLing said...

I'm inclined to be cautious about assuming that human nature has fundamentally changed for the better since the introduction of civilization. To me it seems like Romanticism is a tendency in all humans, one which is characteristically abandoned as the mature individual must reconcile a personal vision of how the world ought to be with how the world actually is. As a result of the advance of Western civilization at a certain point, it seemed plausible to some very insightful and intelligent people that unlimited human progress was possible, whereas in previous ages the potentially wise had always abandoned this idea as flatly incompatible with the available evidence.

Traditional religion is the heritage of those who saw that humans needn't depend on their own capacity but could partake of the divine potential which is evidenced through the beauty and majesty of creation. But I think that you are right to identify traditional religion as having largely failed to retain the inspiration of great thinkers and poets of the sort who once built on the foundations. There are still inspired leaders in religion, but they are struggling to maintain and repair an edifice with insufficient numbers, especially in the face of the opposition arrayed against them.

Humans are social creatures, the simple fact we have to confront is that problem-solving intellect is not general nor even average. The mental capacity necessary to identify a workable solution to a problem without resorting to trial and error corresponds roughly to an IQ of 130+, far above the average IQ. The emotional inclination to solve problems rather than cause them is more common, but as important as it is in applying solutions which are already known, it is far from sufficient to solve problems for which trial and error is not a suitable or feasible approach.

Romanticism tends to reject this, because the organization of society around 'rulers' and 'ruled' has manifestly been inadequate to civilized life. Once humans exist in organized communities larger than the size limit of natural social groups, the instincts which prevent those in need of leaders from following fakes and frauds who only pretend to have problem-solving intelligence and inclination are inadequate. In a natural social group, everyone in the community can really know almost everyone else. A psychopathic behavior pattern of facile dishonesty and malicious manipulation will be recognized by the community as a whole. But with civilization, the exact kind of people who should never be trusted as leaders can evade close scrutiny by most of the people accepting their authority, relying on a conspiracy with an inner circle which derives privileges and power by association with the leader whom they support.

When a civilization collapses as a result of generations of evil rulers, humans for a time must operate in natural social groups before rebuilding civilization enough to allow organized communities to expand much beyond the natural limits on human social cognition. This new civilization is initially led by those who proved their capability and benevolence in personal contact with those following them, and a few generations of leaders might be raised up through a selection process designed to ensure their quality. But sooner or later the unscrupulous social climbers who seek nothing beyond their own privilege and aggrandizement begin to rise.

Until the civilization collapses entirely under them, they are never the ones who bear the brunt of the consequences of their incompetent or malevolent exercise of power. And so generally the record of leadership in established civilization is quite bad.

But this doesn't mean that humans don't need leaders.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - Metaphysical frameworks (such as I am proposing here) are not, and cannot be, derived from 'evidence' - because they are prior to evidence, and define the nature of meaning of evidence. I am saying (following Barfield and Steiner) that there is a divine plan to the history of human consciousness; and describing how Romanticism (with a particular conceptualisation of the term - quite a specific one) fits into this.

It is misleading to talk about the collapse of civilisation and the personal consequences of decisions without including an eternal (post-mortal) perspective.

For a Christian; this life and this world are only a part of the Big Story; an important aspect for sure, but primarily in terms of consequences for eternal resurrected life beyond biological death of the body.

spiltteeth said...

I kind of think "completing Romanticism " is what Micheal Martin's project is about with his journal 'Jesus the imagination' :

Chiu ChunLing said...

It isn't that metaphysics can be derived from evidence, but they can fail to explain or admit evidence that is consistent and convincing. We are going to have experiences, whatever our metaphysics. If our metaphysics do not make sense of our experiences, then those metaphysics ultimately fail us.

The essential point of metaphysics is to find an understanding of our experiences which leads to prediction and ultimately control of our experiences by intelligent choices.

Within the context of shared human experience, we must talk of what is evident to the external senses which are common to different humans. When we talk of the personal and internal experiences of meaning and significance, these are necessarily particular to individuals and are not shared, thus can only be discussed by analogy.

This does not mean that we cannot assess the value of metaphysics in terms of how they make our internal experiences understandable and significantly directed by our own internal mental attitudes, just that we necessarily resort to comparisons to shared experiences.