Monday 30 March 2020

Romantic Christianity across three centuries - wrong choices, lost opportunities

My understanding of Romantic Christianity is that there were several periods since the Industrial Revolution began; where events were aligned (presumably under divine influences, because this was Man's destiny) such that issue became clearer in The West.

I mean times and places when there was a significant awareness of a choice between the path of continued modernisation (based on continual growth based on increased technology, specialisation, trade etc); and a very different kind of religion, spirituality, ideology, way-of-being - that was Christian and also Romantic.

In none of these eras was that choice made. There were a few individuals, a small following of Romantic Christians - but the powerful and influential people and a large majority of the Western 'masses' chose instead to follow the path of increasing atheism, secularism, materialism, scientism, positivism and bureaucracy.

A smaller proportion adhered (in dwindling numbers, with diminishing conviction) to some form of traditional - Church-driven and externally-orientated - Christianity; or else chose an anti-or un-Christian Romanticism of (either or both) utopian politics and the secular revolution.

The first such era was the beginning of Romanticism itself in the late 1700s and early 1800s, originating in Farnce, Germany and Britain. It dissipated into the characteristic combination of atheism, leftist politics and sexual license that we see in the circle of Byron and Shelley.

At this time, the world's population was at its agrarian/ medieval level about one billion - and from a materialist point-of-view there was no problem about switching to a different and more spiritual way of life. The extra productivity/ efficiency of the agrarian/ industrial could - in principle - have been directed to alleviating absolute poverty, then reducing the quantity of drudgery and labour; and freeing more time and energy for 'higher things'.

The next Romantic era came at the end of the 19th century; but this again was dissipated into sex and politics; and creativity went-into radical experiments in the arts. There was the establishment of a 'Bohemian' lifestyle for drop-outs from the aristocrats, upper and professional classes. World population was about one and a half billion - about a quart of which was of European descent.

The next significant Romantic revival was not until the middle 60s-70s; when world population had grown to about three and half billion; and had reached the point at which an adoption of the Romantic lifestyle would have caused a very significant reduction in the standard of living people had become used to.

Nonetheless; there was among some people a clearly articulated sense that that material production had reached the point of 'more than enough'; and that it would be valuable to scale back on industialisation, trade and labour in order to have a life that was more free and more spiritual.

But, instead there was an expansion of the Bohemian lifestyle - radical politics, sex, drugs, and rock & roll - beyond the young upper-crust and to include pretty much anyone who wanted it: at first the middle classes, later everybody. There was a brief burst of creativity in the populist arts (pop music, pop art, modern dance etc); but before long, all of these were channelled into varieties of consumerism and bureaucracy.

We got to the present situation where most people are some kind of manager working for a branch of the global bureaucracy, and deploying their leisure in doing, watching, day-dreaming about whatever hedonic activity is favoured.

Since the middle 1970s there has never been any serious or large-scale attempt to move towards the Romantic Christian idea; instead the genuine problem has been lost sight of in a world of increasing diversions, short-termism and dishonesty taken to a level of ingrained habit.

Thinking has never been at a lower ebb - with high status intellectuals unable to follow a couple of steps in reasoning and unable to recognise even simple explanatory patterns behind observations.

The above is (very approximately, painted with a very broad brush) how we in The West (or the developed world) now find ourselves where we currently are; at the end of that era which began in the 1700s with the agrarian then industrial revolutions; after a sequence of chances and failures and evasions.

This end was inevitable because the situation was unsustainable - for many, many reasons; but mainly because generation upon generation of spiritual evasion, dishonesty, and outright lying has reached a point where people have decided - en masse - that things must be brought to an end.

We are observing as vast act of rejection of Life, at all the levels in which Life is manifested in this world. By the revealed preferences of hundreds of millions of people; nothing (including radical politics, sex, and hedonism generally) is valued enough to risk anything for it - all has been unceremoniously dumped.

As Thoreau accurately commented more than 150 years ago, and the situation has increased several-fold since: The mass of Men lead lives of quiet desperation; and in the past few weeks desperation has (for most of the mass) turned to despair, and an end is sought.

And perhaps (as was prophesied by various people at various times) most of those who have apparently been among the most devout of self-identified Christians are - it turns-out - as bad as everybody else.

Naturally enough - in a Godless, Christ-rejecting and repentance-denying world - this colossal act of global suicide is being dishonestly self-denied. But that is what's afoot.

Yet, because God is the creator, our loving parents and we his children - for every person at every moment there is an 'instant' solution to this suicidal despair; and the promise of everlasting, Heavenly, resurrected life to come.

(Everybody is an unique individual, but) At some level, we all know (from our pre-mortal life as spirits) the nature of this promise and that this promise is real; but the mass of Men are now so deeply corrupted that such a basic act of acknowledgement is beyond them - or else they know, but choose otherwise - choose sin, or choose annihilation of The Self.

It is better to make such choices during this mortal life; because that is what this immortal life was designed-for; but even if the choice is evaded and denied there will come a point (maybe at the moment of death, manybe sometime after) when we will be confronted with this choice.

Best be prepared. 


participant said...

I have been enjoying your articles. As an ex-LDS I reject your bias ("pre-mortal life...") but otherwise find your writings to be validating and informative. Sorry but I am having difficulty understanding the concept of "Romantic Christianity" versus....what? Traditional Christianity? Scriptural Christianity? Perhaps you would consider an article clarifying this concept?

Bruce Charlton said...

@p - " Perhaps you would consider an article clarifying this concept? " I suggest that you follow the link, and the links from that; and maybe word search 'direct knowing' and 'intuition'? There are dozens of posts on the theme. As a detailed worked example, you could look at the Lazarus Writes mini-book which is linked on the sidebar.

"I reject your bias" It is an *assumption* (specifically a metaphysical assumption; validated for me - only for me - by intuition), not a 'bias'.

edwin faust said...

"...rejection of the Self..." Your use of uppercase "Self" raises the question of what your intended meaning may be, as most Hindu scriptures and teachings use the same designation to mean the awareness/being that never changes as opposed to the shifting identifications of the ego with external circumstances or desired objects (including feelings and thoughts). What is the definition of "Self" in the romantic Christianity as you understand it? I suppose I am coming back to something that always puzzles me in your writing as well as in William Wildblood's - what is the essence of individuality? What demarcates one person from another? If it is the physical body, that would end with death of the physical body? Resurrection of the body would seem to restore it, but the nature of the resurrected body is not explained (St. Paul calls it "spiritual" and incorruptible" and says it will not resemble the physical body as the seed does not resemble the plant that that springs from it.)

Anonymous said...

"God is the creator, our loving parents"

I wonder if you would be interested in this little booklet (link below) about the Lord's Prayer where Abba is referred to as 'Father-Mother' -

'ABBAUN The Authentic Aramaic Meaning of the Lord's Prayer', by Lewis S Keizer.

His translation is interesting to me -


Translated and Paraphrased for Meaning Lewis Keizer, M.Div., Ph.D.

Our eternal Abba, Father-Mother of all,
Who art within and beyond our understanding;
May thy Way be hallowed in every heart,
And thine interior guidance be known in every soul, And may thy spiritual sovereignty become fully realized, In us and on Earth, as it is in the heavens,
As above, so below; as within, so without; as in spirit, so in flesh.
Grant us this day our bread of the morrow;
And release us from the consequences of our sins, and of all sin, As we forgive those who sin against us;
And do not abandon us unto our tests,
But deliver us from all evil, within and without.
For thine is the eternal sovereignty,
And the power, and the glory, always and ever.
Amen, Amen, Amen


Bruce Charlton said...

@Barry - That's not my understanding, I don't think; as far as I can make it out. The author seems to be arguing either that God is not incarnated (whereas I believe God has a body) and that God is either hermaphrodite or androgynous - of neither/ both sexes simultaneously, in one person - whereas I regard God as actual Heavenly Parents -

Bruce Charlton said...

@edwin - My understanding of our True Self (which is also that in us which is divine) comes mainly from Arkle in Geography of Consciousness - you could look at the following:

Anonymous said...

"whereas I believe God has a body"

Some questions that sprang up in my head

It cannot be like ours - it must be indestructible?

Can it be a body on earth, or on some other plane?

Is it matter as we know it? (But how can it be, or it would be subject to corruption like our bodies).

I am used to thinking of 'spirit' and 'matter' as distinct. But are they?

Could God have a body that is a sort of refined matter inhabited by spirit?

Is there another substance as well as spirit and matter?

Or is a spiritual body, just that - spirit that can take form as a body?

Will our bodies be made of the same stuff as God's body when we are resurrected?


Anonymous said...

Smart phones were released when I was in high school, and that was the first time I remember thinking that technology had become overdeveloped beyond its purpose. All the bells and whistles seemed unnecessary, and to this day I find very few phone apps actually useful. Also, I didn’t like the idea of sharing every detail of my life on social media, which ended up making me an outcast of sorts among my generation. The world seemed to take a dark turn after everyone became addicted to their smart phones, and now I have an automatic negative reaction to “smart” anything (kind of like the phrase “global warming” has become very annoying).

Bruce Charlton said...


Bruce Charlton said...

@EDF - Yes, but they were, at the time, just an incremental extension of a long established trend that perhaps began with portable transitor radios, back in the 1960s. They amplified - very powerfully - things that started going wrong long before.

You would be amazed to read the utopian stuff which was written - in huge volumes - in the late 1990s about the benefits of the internet and connectivity!

Anonymous said...

This suggests there is meant to be one body as temple for a particular spirit for all time (sudden image of Solomon's Temple rebuilt). If you are correct, then using body parts for transplant is wrong, and by extension, perhaps blood transfusions too as the Jehovah's Witnesses claim. I haven't thought about it thoroughly yet, but it does go some way (I think) to explain why the Frankenstein story is so horrific, and why, when I first heard of heart transplants as a child, I was revolted and tearful.