Tuesday, 5 December 2017

More on the reality of being in a minority of one as the modern condition

There was a time, as a youth and young man, when I supposed that my interests would be, or would become, general interests - but the opposite has been the case. That which I now regard as best and most significant for myself, and for the world, is that which is known by a minuscule number of people (and - in proportion to the population) immeasurably small as a percentage.

My most significant intellectual influences over the past several years have been William Arkle, who is about as obscure as it is possible to be; Owen Barfield, who has reasonable name-recognition and some good secondary literature - but about-whom I have been able to obtain zero substantive personal discourse; and Rudolf Steiner...

My fascination with Steiner is extremely selective, to the point that (as far as I can judge) the entirety of the global Anthroposophical movement is fundamentally-wrong about him - so wrong as to have missed the main point completely and instead be doing much more harm than good!

(In a nutshell, Steiner's ouvre needed a massive degree of critical discrimination that it never got; and more obviously his official legacy has become wholly-absorbed-within the priorities and principles of mainstream Secular Leftism.)

There are about 15 million Mormons, but perhaps nobody else than myself who lives by an understanding of Mormon theology without being a church member - which is my path. And there appear to be just two people who are as deeply-engaged as myself by the deep-implications of Mormon theology - but for very different reasons than me; and I do not have any interaction with either of these two.

Then there is Tolkien. He is the main thing I have in common with large numbers of people - although I have to discount 'fandom' - which is merely a branch of mass media addiction; and I also have to discount nearly the entirety of academic interest in Tolkien - which is either mainstream Left-assimilated, or else interprets Tolkien within the frame of traditional Roman Catholicism...

But even with respect to Tolkien, my person fascination with the Notion Club Papers as a work of great implications has been met with solid indifference - almost nobody has read it, and even fewer more than once. And I have had no substantive discourse on the aspects of the NCPs that I regard as core and vital.

In sum, nobody-else in interested in Tolkien for the same reasons as I am! Or, if they are, then (for whatever reason) there has been no interaction on the subject.

My point here is that the fact of the situation is-that that which I regard as most important in Life, in The World, is de facto unshared.

And this, I believe, is not just typical, but intrinsic to the modern condition: My situation, in microcosm, is the situation of the world.

This situation is that with a part of us we crave to be deeply a part of a like-minded group; but in practice the choice is between being part-of-a-group at the price of corruption - of giving-up that which our hearts hold most significant; or else maintaining personal integrity at the cost of total isolation - of being in a minority-of-one about those things that really matter to our souls.

This just-is The Situation; and the spiritual-Christian philosophers best exemplified by Steiner, Barfield and Arkle, are those who have best explained this situation to me; and explained why it is in fact a necessary transition, and a necessary place-to-be, here-and-now.

...Including why being in a world-minority of one is neither a lonely, nor an ineffectual, place-to-be; since it is only via exactly this situation and its conscious recognition, that we can get true metaphysical-clarity of life, and about everything.


William Wildblood said...

God is also a minority of one and, without sounding blasphemous, that may be why we have to be if we would truly become candidates for eventual theosis.

Kirk Forlatt said...

Yes, yes, and yes, Dr.Charlton!

I was musing to myself yesterday that I live my faith in exile, because it is a faith that no one else (of whom I am aware) shares, and that my isolation, my exile might end if I could blind myself to certain things and burn a pinch of incense for the sake of unity. But at this point, I cannot, and so I am very spiritually lonely.

For the record, it grieves me to see you pour so much of yourself into what you publish on your blogs while learning that so few even read -- much less truly appreciate -- your work. For me, I simply don't have the intellectual muscles to grasp much of it; I am uneducated and at my age, it is progressively difficult to absorb new material quickly.

But I do believe that sometimes a life can be changed by one thing a man writes. And if one person's life is changed because of something you post on one of your blogs....wouldn't that be marvelous?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Kirk - Thank you. Indeed, over the years I have had quite a few notes (some as private e-mails) that are encouraging in the way that this comment of yours is - certainly enough to make it worthwhile to continue blogging.

Of course I am sometimes spiritually 'loneley', but a major lesson of the past four-or-so years has been that this emotion does not implying going-back to a self-obliterating, communitarian (Original Participation) perspective... the isolation is meant to encourage us forwards to something higher, better, more sustaining and sustainable that does not *depend-on* persistence of the social-structures of an increasingly-corrupt, increasingly inverted world.

To be honest, I do blog mostly for my own benefit - however! In the sense that it is a part of my main 'devotional' practice that involves a slow and focused meditative note-taking, reading, and this blogging - the outcome of which has been a satisfying clarification, focusing and strengthening.

But, more importantly, the outcome has been an understanding which gets closer to the essence of what Life is supposed/ intended/ divinely-destined to be about - or rather, one of its main aims - and how this is supposed to be achieved.

And this is the main theme of this blog, as it is of my best times of thinking and being.

But, if the blogging has to stop, or is stopped (perhaps as a casualty of the totalitarian progression); then there are other possibilities that could take its place. The blogging is useful to me, but far from essential - and this is as it should be, I think.

Bruce Charlton said...

Chiu ChunLing comments:

"I'm irresistably reminded of Ann Barnhardt's recent post.

"Leaving aside the overt theological implications, to be really and uncompromisingly oneself is to be distinct from others. It is a non-trivial observation because society proclaims just the opposite, that if we were "true to ourselves" we'd all be the same, and nothing is further from the truth.

"Indeed, for those who really are true to themselves, there is a greater appreciation of the wonderful unique quality and character of everyone else who is true to themselves. "

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - Sorry to hear you are irresistibly reminded of AB! - since I find her unreadable and unlistenable-to and wrongly-motivated...

Chiu ChunLing said...

Well, she's a Catholic, and increasingly shrill about it (inevitable during a period when the problems of Catholicism cease to be 'historical' and become entirely contemporary).

I find her perspective invaluable, however. One of the great dangers is allowing ourselves to categorize people as "like us" (thus likable) and "unlike us" (thus unlikable). It is precisely this (very human and instinctive) tendency that makes it almost impossible to accept and pursue our own individuality while valuing the differences between ourselves and others.

I want little contact with people I regard as being wrong on every point, they simply have nothing useful to say to me and I have no chance of learning anything from them. And while it would certainly be more felicitous to find a "kindred spirit", it also seems like there is a chance of uncritical acceptance of everything they say because it always reinforces our own predilections.

For me (and, I think, for more of her audience than she realizes), Barnhardt serves to bridge that gap, to remind us that we may disagree entirely (and rightly) with a person on some points but also learn from them valid insights we should not come to ourselves otherwise. Ironically, this is not something she seems to value much herself, but then there is an inevitable problem with being someone that sparks a certain amount of controversy simply to "keep the audience on their toes", what one says for that purpose comes with a wink, innate signals that it is okay to question it.

It is best for the critical faculty to exercise it without such props. We need people who passionately believe both things we need to accept and things that we need to reject, based on careful logical consideration. Otherwise we'll be tempted to rely too much on easier ways of distinguishing what is true from what is nonsense.

And those easier ways are always less reliable in the end.