Saturday 2 January 2016

A recipe for Christian revival - God the Father and Extra-Sensory Communication

Christian revival has proved impossible for many decades. This is understandable since Christianity alone is not enough to answer the most urgent spiritual needs of modern man.

Christianity is true, purposive, meaningful - but it is, in general, alienated.

The Christian typically lives in a world not much different from his atheist neighbours, in the sense that he communicates by the same channels - the difference is that in God he has someone significant to communcate with (creator of the universe, and also specifically concerned with him as an individual, and loving of him as a child).

The modern Christian metaphysics has become located within the Positivist, materialist, scientistic framework that assumes the only valid sources of information are those known to physics and apprehended through the senses. Physical communications.

(All other claimed communications are framed, a priori, as psychopathic, psychotic or due to feeble mindedness.)

In modernity, physical communications boil down to The Mass Media (mostly) - and this is intrinsically anti-Christian as a medium, as well as anti-Christian in nearly all of its specific content.

Living almost exclusively in this secular world of communications, regarding all other communications as either unreal or spiritually-hazardous - modern Christians usually feels just as alienated as everybody else.

(Even their view of Heaven seems alienated - hence unconvincing as a heaven.)

Modern Christians are typically trapped by the same subjective versus objective dichotomy as everybody else. Their world lacks magic, enchantment, awe and wonder - their surroundings are as cut-off, remote, impersonal, dull, mundane, dead, purposeless and insentient as the world is perceived by everyone else.

And indeed the surrounding world may be experienced as deader for Christians than it is for New Agers, Neopagans, and those 'seekers' explicitly involved in spiritual and occult movements.

Therefore Christianity on its own does not seem like an answer to the despair of modern man.

Conversion is blocked.


What Christianity requires is first acknowledgement, then emphasis, then training in habitual attention to the reality of extra-sensory communcations.  

There needs to be a Christian discourse which focuses on, then eventually regards as common sensical, a life of frequent and significant communications with the invisible spiritual world (that world imperceptible to the usual senses, undetectable by physical instruments); there needs to be an expectation and reality of daily miracles, prophecies, synchronicities, messages and revelations from the divine.

Christians need to acknowledge the significance - and become more aware of the high frequency - of non-physical, extra-sensory channels of communication in the likes of personal revelations from the divine, healing, visions, dreams, spiritual impressions, telepathy, ghosts, dowsing, divination, 'speaking in tongues', near death phenomena, and many kinds of 'paranormal' and magical experiences.

Such communications, which affect primarily 'the imagination', with or without detectable external sensory input, ought to become the daily discourse, the way of thinking, of Christians (as they used to be in ancient times) - in contrast with and detachment from the dead, detached, despairing discourse adopted from secularism.

Thus Christianity will be not only true as an objective, but alive as an experience. Conversion will solve not just the lack of purpose and meaning of modern life - but also the alienation and spiritual deadness which is even more powerfully and urgently experienced.


Such Christianity will not merely be true as secularism defines truth, but also true in a direct, personal and experiential way. the Christian will not just be aiming in a new direction, but also immersed in a new discourse.  

This is not easy, because it goes against the ingrained habits of thought, inculcated and sustained by mainstream culture.

A bad ingrained habit can only be defeated by replacement with a good habit. And such habits can be attained by individual agency - indeed all such social changes must begin with the summation of individual changes.


What is stopping this? Christian suspicion (or hatred) of magical, occult, paranormal things (sometimes, a belief in the end of revelations) - which have (chicken or egg?) also long been anti-Christian.

So we (mostly) have on the one side Christians offering the true goal of religion but no new communications (religion but not subjective transformation), and on the other side spiritually-seeking New Agers offering the appropriate communications but no transcendent goal (the goal of personal transformation gets reduced to merely 'therapy') - each is ineffectual against the tsunami of secularism; and each at war with the other. 

But insofar as Christianity has Incorporated extra-sensory communications - such types of Christianity tend to have been the growth areas during the modern era  - Charismatic denominations, Pentecostal Churches, Mormonism - it is clear that the combination of Christianity and non-physical communications retains the power to convert and inspire even in the most modern and alienated societies.

On the other hand, Christians are also among the most zealous and vigorous of the anti-extra-sensory communications groups - as the campaign against the Harry Potter novels demonstrated to the world. This will not change unless Christians understand that their effectiveness in gaining conversions is being blocked by what is, in fact, residual secularism.

A Christianity which does not address the necessity for re-connecting modern Man with the invisible spiritual world via direct non-physical communications is going to be a merely a distorted and incomplete semi-religion: true, but only minimally so.

Therefore I recoemmend a two-pronged evangelical strategy - neithere minimal Christianity, nor godless New Ageism - but both, presented together, mutally reinforcing, mutually interdependent, synergistic.

Both true and enchanting.



William Zeitler said...

"What Christianity requires is ... training in habitual attention to the reality of extra-sensory communications." Any thoughts on how to develop this capability?

Freddy Martini said...

I am sympathetic to the reinvigoration of Christianity. What bothers me is whether or not this will open Pandora’s Box to all the craziness often seen among less educated types with the spreading of fear-based preaching, hell fire and brimstone sermons with the threat to “follow my doctrine or burn in Hell!” style approaches often seen here in the U.S. So, I suppose that I am bothered by the probability of the spread of Fear with these powers in the hands of people with less than noble intentions. I think your post on William Arkle was along the same lines that gifts can be dangerous. In my experience the combination of Fundamentalism and Holiness along with the addition of ESP produce a lot of fear-based hell-fire preaching, and a lot of turning inward, isolation, and eventually a type of Despair - this bothers me. Perhaps we can imagine an invigorated Christianity with the additions of ESP, but somehow purged of residual secularism, and somehow managing the dangers of Fundamentalism and Holiness, which I think will inject strains of Fear from some American-style evangelicals. Thanks for these posts, by the way - I have personally been trying to reconcile these things in my own mind for over a decade, and you are the most lucid writer on this subject. Keep up the good work.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WZ - No doubt I shall be blogging more on this topic! You could also try reading Owen Barfield and Jeremy Naydler.

@FM - No doubt to some small extent - but this has been a stunningly un-successful strategy for evangelizing the modern West - so I can't see it as a major problem.

The *opposite* is indeed more likely - a Christianity that is so positive, idealistic and subjectively satisfying as to lack the toughness, muscle and resilianece needed to survive.

But there is no such thing as a hazard free approach. For example, after the religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, England developed an aversion to 'enthusiasm' - but this led to a very complete collapse of Church of England Christianity in just one generation, through to the mid 1700s and the emergence of Nonconformism which won huge numbers of converts - and also the Evangelical movements in the C of E.

Christianity is a middle way - but there is no 'safe' recipe to guarantee the optimal path between fanaticism and apostasy.

Freddy Martini said...

Yes, you reminded me of the book on the subject called Enthusiasm by Ronald Knox. Interesting historical perspective you bring up: suppression of enthusiasm drove it to express itself elsewhere.

Thinking out loud here, I see a path to a future devotional practice akin to your description of scientific breakthrough. A genius, or in some cases a brilliant, scientist looks at the facts, and becomes immersed in the subject for days, weeks, and even months or years, then suddenly in the flash of light, the answer appears in an instant in an intuition moment or Divine Revelation. Of course, you and I know that after these revelations, it may take some time to tease out the theory into something to communicate to others, but once the revelation happens, the path forward is clear to the genius.

I see something akin to this process perhaps being taught in some way as a practice in the area of a future religious revival.

Anonymous said...

There are certainly many models of extra-sensory experience available for the diligent Christian to observe. The Catholic tradition is rich with accounts of supernatural manifestations and approaches to mysticism, like The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. The Eastern Church has mainly similar resources, such as the work of St. Seraphim. Mormons have the temple, patriarchal blessings, and of course the spiritual example of living prophets. These groups have only to appreciate what has been provided for them.

And Protestants just have to.... be more eclectic I guess.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Anon (please use a pseudonym!) - Indeed.

But here I was mostly talking about evangelism and conversion and what gets highlighted and emphasized to non-believers.

David said...

Wrt to extra sensory perception, reconnection with an animistic sense of a purposeful and alive cosmos in which sentient beings are inextricably connected; I wonder if it is possible to re-establish this kind of communication using ancient pagan or shamanic practices. Of course the problem for the Christian, attempting this, may be that at face value this kind of 'magic' is immediately regarded with suspicious hostility such as the Harry Potter books were unfairly demonised. But what if the 'good bits' can be reclaimed for practical purposes but with a different intention and metaphysical framework to underpin the 'intent of practice'?

I say the above with your interest in Jeremy Naydler firmly in mind ie a shift from an experience of the world as a dead secular spiritual wilderness, into a world of the divine, God (s) and the sensed presence of other spiritual and conscious entities.

I had been reading a historical fiction recently about ancient Rome by a former Veterinary Surgeon, Manda Scott, and was intrigued to read on her website that she apparently writes her books as an extension of her shamanic practices, which enable to communicate with that realm of the imagination from which Authors are (I believe) actually revealing or bringing into written form a communication with other *realities* that provide the story to our world, rather like an archaeologist digs up an ancient world; I like to think that in some important or real sense, the author is an archeologist of imaginary realms and not strictly the creator (perhaps a co-creator).

Anyway, perhaps of interest:

Wondering said...

While I am supremely pleased with your post for personal reasons and reading of the Bible, I was just speaking to Jehovah's Witnesses recently and Deuteronomy 18 came up. This will be your most obvious objection among Christians. How would you respond?

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - Yes, I certainly think this is a possibility (I wrote a few essays on animism and shamanism about a decade ago) - although now I am more inclined to believe that the future type of meditation ought to be more fully alert and purposive than the usual trance states of shamanism (this is the contention of Owen Barfield 'final participation', and Rudolf Steiner's descriptions of meditation/ clairvoyance). The aimed at situation is one in which the invisible world is a significant (perhaps continuous) part of everyday consciousness.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Wondering -
1. I am talking about the talk of making many, many new Christian converts, not about the minority (like JWs) who are already Christians.

2. I don't accept that proof texting is a vlaid way of understanding the Bible. The Bible as a whole is aboslutely *saturated* in what modern secualr people call magic - so specific prhibitions of certain types of magic of that time and place are not really significant.

3. Many (including CS Lewis, and John Granger with reference to Harry Potter) have already written about the different types of magic, and their different motivations, to clarify which are compatible with Christianity (and, in a sense, intrinsic to it) - and which are opposed to Christianity. But the subject is too complex to deal with here, and I don't know a suitable web link.