Friday 6 August 2010

What is to be done? - first steps from Fr. Seraphim Rose

"We must remember that Christ expects from us not missionary fervor, but a changed life and a warm heart.

"The missionary fervor is on a secondary level, on the external side.

"We see numerous examples of people with great missionary fervor who did not place first the internal side of changing themselves, warming their hearts and raising their minds to a higher level, as Kireyevsky describes. These people became "burnt out" and fruitless, and some of them even left the Church.


"The need to be "right" is again on the external side of Chritianity. It is important, but not of primary importance. The first priority is the heart, which must be soft and warm.

"If we do not have this warm heart, we must ask God to give it, trying ourselves to do those things by which we can acquire it.

"Most of all, we have to see that we have not got it—that we are cold. We will thereby not trust our reason and the conclusions of our logical mind, with regard to which we must be somewhat "loose"."

From Fr. Seraphim Rose - Raising the Mind, Warming the Heart



There is a tendency on for those the political right to have a hard, cold 'heart'.

Perhaps it is part of the psychology of becoming independent of the prevailing leftist ideology, perhaps hard-hearted people are attracted to the right in order to rationalize their disposition?

The political left is wrong - incoherent, dishonest, self-hating and smug; but often the political right is correct but harsh, selfish.

However, hard-heartedness and coldness are not acceptable. They are something that needs to be acknowledged, repented and worked-on *before* considering a program of action.

Even if the politics is correct, even when a person is right in theory; then all this will lead to harm if pursued in the wrong spirit.

A hard-hearted, cold-hearted spirit will always corrupt and subvert any 'system' - no matter how correct it may be.


Bill said...

The left is mushy, wrong and dishonest; but often the political right is correct but harsh, selfish.

The above is a leftist trope. It is inconsistent with considerable evidence (conservatives and especially religious conservatives give more time and more money to charity, for e.g.) and wildly inconsistent with everyday experience. Accountants are nice; government clerks are not. Corporate middle managers are, on balance, much nicer than, say, college professors. Prisons are not packed with rightists. Cities are full of nasty people. Suburbs are full of nice people. Leftists are incredibly judgmental and unforgiving. Rightists tolerant and forgiving. The bug-eyed, hate-spewing, name-calling freaks in the political arena are overwhelmingly on the left.

There is one limited sense in which the trope is true. Rightists whom you find in very heavily leftist places (like, say, universities) usually have strange personalities. This is because it takes an odd duck to put up with being around nasty people who hate you all day.

The very last thing the right needs is to be even more tolerant than they are presently.

dearieme said...

Can someone who puts the interests of his family above that of strangers be legitimately described as "selfish"? If he cares only for his own interests, yes. But for his family's?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Bill - while I agree with most of what you say, the faults are not all on one side; and I think it is undeniable that *many* who are most active and public in their pronouncements in the right-wing blogosphere are (apparently) hard-hearted, un-empathic types - who exhibit at best indifference and at worse a kind of sadism in their attitudes towards their enemies.

I agree that more 'tolerance' on the right is not the answer; because in practice 'tolerance' (like 'freedom') is selective and usually misplaced.

But Fr. Seraphim Rose is making a vital point here: the good ruler (say a monarch, a Pope or President) must be empathic and merciful as well as being tough and decisive in pursuit of that which is right - and the soft warm heart must come *first* because otherwise it will never come at all.

Justin said...

Good advice, but how do we judge someone else's heart? In our political climate, merely expressing a traditional opinion gets one accused of "hate".

In the attempt to prove they are good people/non-racist/compassionate/etc., conservatives always seem to back down and kowtow to liberal sensibilities.

It is the odd result of the psychology of public criticism: the act of criticism tends to bring the accused into line, as well as affect the audience towards sympathy for the accuser.

I tend to agree with Bill above, it is a leftist trope. While holding to standards of behavior may seem harsh, tough love is often the most compassionate option, as every parent knows.

Or is justice to be divorced from love?

Bruce Charlton said...


I presume you have registered that the argument is a religious one - and it is therefore not a matter of trying to prove to other people that you are a good person, or avoiding accusations of hatred, or reaching a final judgment about what is in the hearts of others.

Looking back over the centuries, Christians never used to have any problem about functioning effectively: Christians were not paralyzed by moral scruples or guilt or self-hatred.

On the contrary, devout Christians in the past drew strength, confidence, motivation, identity, community and meaning from their faith.

They were made capable of astonishing courage, heroism and endurance in holding and pursuing their principles.

But this is quite different from the cold, hard, prideful, psychopathic selfishness that I seem to detect in some people on the secular right.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect (and I mean that) I'm afraid that I simply cannot go along with this. I know plenty of people with "soft, warm" hearts, on both the left and right, and their public policy prescriptions have generally been disasterous. Given that almost all of the leftist policies adopted in the last 50 years have been based on emotion, I'm afraid that I can't accept a philosophy that tells us to value emotion and "feelings" over reason.

Western Christianity has traditionally emphasized that emotion and reason must work together, and I suppose that's where I'm at. I'm sure that Fr. Rose was a good and holy man, and I'm glad that his writings have led you back to the Faith, but I'm afraid that Aquinas, De Vitoria and More speak more to me. To each his own, I guess...