Tuesday 20 January 2015

Christianity is the capstone of a full spirituality (the capstone; not the whole thing)


Having spent most of my life not a Christian, I am aware of how much can be provided spirituality by other 'religions' - as well as being aware that it is not enough. 


My first religion was that of Higher Consciousness, of what Bernard Shaw called Creative Evolution. The idea that our human future was a matter of making our rare and best states of mind into our normal states of mind - and continuing in that same direction. This view was mine from the mid teens, and was amplified by Colin Wilson from about twenty.

The view was optimistic (compared with secular culture) but was difficult/ impossible to accomplish fully (more of an aspiration than a plan) - and left all the big things unchanged. Life might become happier, more fulfilling... but there was still age, decay, disease, bereavement, and our own deaths.


The higher consciousness view makes everything depend on the mind, will, concentration active striving - and leaves out a great deal of unconscious life.

It was exhausting, and I could never stay inside the mindset, and always needed to take refreshment in more earthy and hearty activities and aspirations - folk music, dancing, vulgarity, feasting and carousing.

As well as wanting to become a being of higher consciousness -I wanted to be absorbed into the web of life, un-conscious like a happy animal. I wanted to live in the moment, and in dreams.

This was the other religion of animism - although I didn't find a name or theory for it until I was middle aged.

For animism life was and is and always will be. Everything significant is alive, and in communication. People die only to return - we ourselves are simply returned from previous lives. Life circulates: there is transformation but no real change.

There is no meaning to this - it just is; there is no purpose to this - it just happens.


Thus animism. When in the state, briefly, all problems dissolved. But it was just like - exactly like - a pleasant dream. It did not link up with anything else. While a real animistic society is in fact full of explicit rules and purposes and explanations that are simply accepted as true - to be a solo animist in the modern West is not the same thing at all - it is to extract a part of a greater whole, and to try and deny everything except that part - an impossibility except as a brief 'holiday' from mundane life.


So... Christianity. Meaning. Purpose.

But then, I found - I continue to find, mainstream public normal Christianity is incomplete. It lacks the necessary components of Higher Consciousness and of Animism. I needed - I still need - to incorporate the wisdom and sustenance of these into Christianity.

Christianity is the capstone of a full spirituality - it is not the whole thing, nor was it meant to be.

Or rather, it was the whole thing - but because Christianity was a capstone when Christ made it: it was an addition to what went before, to what existed - Christianity was a completion of what went before - it required much of Judaism and much else that was spiritually generic to early men.

That is worth bearing in mind - because trying to live by Christianity alone (as so often urged - often with the best motivations) can be to make something black and white, thin and hard, crude and cold, thin and unsatisfying fare (mere gruel) - whereas to regard Christianity as a capstone of much else can be to feel and follow Christ's teaching as a wholly-joyous and whole-some thing.



ted said...

I recall some quote, I think it was Chesterton, where he alludes to the fact that Christianity has not been realized yet. So while New Agers attempt to create new religions because they believe the old one is lacking, are unaware of how rich tradition is in itself.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ted - True enough, although its kind-of the inverse of what I was saying here. But if people had put half the effort into Christianity that has been put into neo-Paganism/ New Age (or jogging, for that matter) what might not have been achieved?

tgj said...

Christ is the capstone to the story of redemption. He is the re-opening of the (one and only) path to God that we shut on ourselves. Genuine Christianity is not a capstone to anything else, and certainly not a capstone to any of the various religions that developed after we fell away from God and became progressively more and more confused about who we are and why we are here. It contains the whole story of our existence. It doesn't leave anything important out. There is nothing more to develop in that sense, and those who say there there is more to develop are talking about something else. "Normal" Christianity perhaps, which is entirely meaningless.

The Orthodox tradition is the tradition of people who have remembered God from the very beginning, through the time of Christ, until today. God is it. God is the entire reason for our existence. The timeless beginning and the endless end. Not "higher consciousness," not animism, not any other invented religion, not some invented god, not humanism, which invents and discards all the false gods made in our own image. There is a path to God that we lost; now we have it again. The only thing left is to walk it. That is real Christianity. The reason why "normal" Christianity is not satisfying is because it is not real Christianity. It is just another invented humanism. It doesn't have its end in God, not in practice, not in reality, and less and less even in theory.

I take it that you do not accept the basic Christian story about reality, because it answers the question of why it claims to be the whole answer, exclusive of the others. I don't see the attraction of "normal" Christianity. Never have. If Christ is not the transcendent creator God, the author and the end of reality, then just be a humanist. It is better to just think and do whatever appeals to oneself and not pretend that this has anything to do with ultimate reality. But if you want the ultimate reality, the real truth... there is no way it is not going to be total. You have to accept it fully, or not at all. As soon as you want something else, as soon as you justify something else, as soon as you start making a life and a religion out of incorporating something else... you have decided against reality. You have set yourself up as the measure, and yourself is as far as you'll get.

Reality is hard to obtain; this is the way God has made it... but it is one thing to move towards it and stumble and get up and keep trying, and another thing altogether to say "I don't see it, I don't believe it, I'm not pursuing it because I want what I want."

Bruce Charlton said...

@tg- I agree that Eastern Orthodoxy sometimes got close to a fullness in Byzantium and Holy Russia - when Christianity was interwoven with life - however that is no longer the case, it never has been the case for most of the world; and that fullness is not available anywhere since 1917, and never again will be because the tradition has been broken.