Friday 8 January 2016

Educating the group soul of The West

If we acknowledge that God is concerned not just with our individual souls, but also with the souls of peoples, nations and whole civilizations - with what we might term the 'group soul' - then we may interpret current trends in terms of the teaching, the education, the disciplining of the group soul in The West.

Whatever we may believe as individuals, and however we may behave, our time (and this era of some hundreds of year - exacerbated in recent decades) has been one of apostasy - of leaving the Christian religion, of actively rejecting Christianity.

We rejected God, then we came to believe that God is Dead, now that God had never been alive and the history of humankind was one of mass delusion. We believe that only modern Man has woken-up to realize his total freedom. Total freedom from all constraints, total freedom to do whatever he thinks is good - or evil.

This radical cutting-off from God, religion, the past - this is something, as a civilisation, we absolutely insist upon.

During this period of apostasy there has been (up until a generation ago, anyway) a great growth in prosperity, diversion, comfort, convenience - also, ever since the French Revolution there has also been wave upon wave of extermination, repression, torture and death. The twentieth century was one of the darkest in the history of the world.

It is clear, however, that there is no repentance in The West, no heed is paid to the writing on the wall. The culture has become ever more explicitly nihilistic - the major policies from the leaders of all Western Nations will have the effect of destroying the West with a very high degree of certainty.

The peace, prosperity, diversion, comfort and convenience are - pretty obviously - not meant to be 'an end in themselves'; but intended to be a means to some higher end. And everybody used to acknowledge that until the mid-20th century.

But, as a civilisation, all that 'higher' stuff has since been rejected. Yet, the leaders, the poets and artists and thinkers, the 'commentariat', are not even trying to safeguard the prosperity, comfort, convenience and radical freedom by which they justified apostasy.

Think of it: as a group soul we reject the past, and we reject all spiritual aims, and we reject defending that radical freedom which was supposed to be the justification of all the other rejections.

As a civilisation we aggressively refuse to think to learn, to perceive our true errors, to repent and change. It seems that even if all our worldly freedoms are to be lost - nonetheless we still want to be free from God at any price, at any cost, even if it causes us pain, misery, fear and an abject and cowardly death without honour.

Despite the ever-open doorway to repentance; it seems that our cultures, nations, and civilisation - the group soul of The West - insists upon playing this out to the very end.

It looks very much as if we have implicitly decided to insist upon bringing on ourselves the consequences of mass apostasy - in this world, and presumably the next.

As individuals we can, and should, opt-out of this act of civilisational suicide in the name of a 'freedom' we cannot even be bothered to defend, but instead take steps to annihilate. We should save our souls.

But the group soul? It cannot be saved if it is determined to be damned - and not damned in the end for any positive benefit, but simply from the negativism of what it does not want: it does not want God at any price; at any cost, it craves its own annihilation.


Observing said...

Yes. What's particularly jarring and unpleasant is if you're one of the people who wouldn't have allowed the current descent.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Observing - Unfortunately, for most of my life there is no doubt that I contributed to things getting worse - not least in some, or most, of my writings pre 2009. And indeed, I continually discover residual aspects of the modern metaphysics in myself. It is a continual process of repentance. The fact that I could be so wrong for so long, and that it took such a lot of effort to realize my wrongness and turn around - even part-way - is perhaps what makes me pessimistic that this will happen in The West. But maybe I was unusually stubborn in error.

Rich said...

Thanks for this, Bruce. Sometimes it is as if you're replying to my inner questions!

David said...

Human beings are very much herd animals, we follow the crowds, it seems to be hard-wired in our nature's. If the herd stampedes over a cliff most of us will follow. It takes a very rare person to swim up stream or deliberately get trampled on resisting the maddening crowds due to a stalwart individual epiphany. This being as it is I do have some sympathy for the plight of your average denizen of the western 'group soul' as you put it. How are they to know any better if from conception to adulthood they are thrust into an intoxicating mixture of media bombardment, propaganda and brain washing? Especially when their very personality, experiences and identity are forged in this almost hermetically sealed furnace. In addition, most people are not bright enough or spiritually intact enough, you may argue even too genetically damaged to be fit enough to figure out that everything they think is real and the right way to live is garbage (For example, if someone's sexual preferences are apparently disrupted by some kind or biological error or genetic mutations then how can you possibly hold such an individual as morally responsible for their actions if they are biologically inculcated and socio-culturally-legally reinforced as normative?). Based on this blog it would seem only about a handful of people in the west have even noticed that something is deeply wrong with our civilisation! If it takes a highly intelligent,unusually highly informed person such as yourself over 30-40 years to figure it out, what chance does your man in the street have, *especially* when the group/herd is going over the cliff?! I must say it doesn't look like very good odds at all. The only hope seems to be a shepherd whistling loud enough to stop the stampede in its tracks before the cliff edge is unavoidable. We all know who the shepherd is supposed to be so why hasn't he blown the whistle yet? We can come up with some good suppositions about that, all entirely speculative and none of which are changing the status quo we are in by one jot. It's like watching a hideous car crash in slow motion and not being able to get out of the vehicle.

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - It is part of being human that we have a group identity - with a group communication system using non-physical signals - and it isn't anything to be ashamed of!

This means that things work both ways - every individual has an effect, inevitably - for good as well as for ill.

Everyone who sorts himself out is a help.

The SHepherd whistles, again and again - but so far, the sheep can choose to ignore him.

William Wildblood said...

The shepherd's whistle is always sounding but it's one of those high-pitched dog whistles that can only be heard by those who attune their ears correctly and don't listen to all the other noise around them too much.

David said...

So why the 'read-between-the-lines' vagueness and ambiguity of the whole thing? If a Christian revival is desirable why not make it explicit to everyone what the choices are and what the basic set-up is? Why the veil of forgetfulness and having to spend a lifetime convincing yourself and everyone else what the nature of reality is and then even then most of the west don't get it. Why nit have everyone in the west wake up in the morning and they've all had the same dream...They have all had a moving nocturnal vision of God, heaven, the Angels and the whole shooting gallery then wake up in the morning like a thunderbolt has gone off in the night...I'm quite certain your average borderline agnostic or even the Richard Dawkins of this world would wake up with a very strong likelihood of repentance and a change of heart. Why not give every naysayer the road to damascus experience or its personal equivalent instead of leaving us wondering whether we are actually just talking to ourselves like misguided fools in our daily prayers. I have prayed for years now quite sincerely after an extended period of not hearing anything concrete back one begins to wonder if anyone is at the other end of the line. I like to think there is and can 'believe' it but am I not just fooling myself? Surely some low level Angel must have the time to go personally with me for a coffee to discuss these doubts? The fact that he had wings growing out of his back would go a long way to dispel these nagging doubts and allow me to move on :-)

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - I can't answer for all Christians, but I think things are done the way they are because nothing else would work. God works inside time, everything must be done as a process. We are eternal intelligences with agency, with free will, we cannot be forced to do anything. The veil of forgetfulness is a metaphor for the difference in consciousness between pre-and mortal consciousness - which is more like the difference between dreaming and the awake state - we can dream hours in a minutes, therefore was can't remember more than the vaguest details of our dreams.

It is nonsense to ask for more signs when we know that many saw Jesus and would not believe - signs are everywhere - as our ancestors clearly perceived - but we are determined not to see them, feel or touch them. More specifically, the signs are in our imaginations - but we will not take them seriously.

David said...

Yes, I know that for the majority of people it may be different but for me, on the contrary, I take even the slightest atypical or potentially spiritual experience very seriously indeed: my dreams, synchronous experiences, an extended contemplation of how beauty can exist in the mathematical preciseness of musical harmony without a deity that results in a dream (I can't manage this and therefore take it as evidence of a creator), etc. with the dearly hoped and prayed for aspiration that I can learn whatever I need to learn from the experiences.

I sometimes get rather carried away and infer quite a bit from the experiences that suddenly impress themselves upon me as a holistic sense of 'meaningfulness' or communication with a 'greater narrative or story' in which I feel or *know* I have a significant role as a minor protagonist. The experience is of a deeper knowing and peacefulness that love is central to existence, that I can take things in my stride and that any anxiety represents a fundamental error in understanding what life is about. I often have accompanying flashes of insight that are hard to articulate but which are potent with meaning and interconnectedness. Even small details; like my tea smells richer on such mornings and the fragrant Bergamot essence of the Earl Grey has a sensual quality that even such a simple thing feels like the instant communication of a personal message like God whispering "I love you and I want you to enjoy the immersive richness of mortal life." In an instant, smelling the tea and looking at the morning sky through the windows fills me with profound gratitude for just existing at all. This is a very beguiling state of mind (no proof of Angels required at such times) can then evaporate suddenly or after several days of life like this be replaced by a 'post - peak experience' mindset in which the opposite holistic impressions occur. For example, it suddenly feels quite obvious that my former state of mind was deluded in some difficult to verbalise way and a 'common-sense' Joe mentality reasserts itself and my former flights of fancy seem incredible. I feel unduely anxious, listless, and a sorrowful sense of unfulfilled longing that arrives like an uninvited guest that leaves again only as it pleases a few days later. The sky is as grey and dead as cardboard, who cares about the Bergamot ? and conscious existence itself seems like some kind of tragic joke or accident. I rationalise at such times, having lived like this for many years, that it will pass and as surely as the world revolves on its axis, so the darkness of night will give way to breaking dawn. Then the question asserts itself is the grey sky mindset a delusional one or the blissful one? Or are they both equally real? Or if the question a bad one? Or am I just a bit mad?

David said...

But then I reason that if it is intuition that is my guide to perceiving higher things (assuming they exist and this is the way to interact with them) why is my sensory apparatus so unreliable? It did not come with a booklet of instructions nor is there a local retailer I can turn to to have it recalibrated. Or perhaps that is a function of prayer? But clearly I am prone to error, so how do I know when I am in error or have perceived truth? Peter faltered when asked to walk on water. He denied knowing Christ several times. If I heard God tell me that I can step off the edge of a building and fly? Would I be speaking to God or could I be more confident I was psychotic? Hoe can we varify the validity of personal revelation? The Egyptians had an elaborate mythology of creation and of post - death existence. You seem to suggest through you previous posts about Jeremy Naydler that their civilisation was more spiritually advanced than ours but surely a Christian must regard it's beliefs about the stars in the sky or of the dwat as false? I listened to a program yesterday about the history of South Africa in which it was recounted that during the early conflicts between the native black African tribes and the white settlers, the tribal shamans 'divined' that slaughtering all their cattle would help the tribes prevail over the white menace. It didn't help and thousands died of starvation. So much for a rarified form of spiritual intuition! So how can we trust it? There are countless other examples including those in the Aztec and South American ancient civilisations. Many such examples abound in the judeo Christian and Islamic traditions. One man's intuition standing or falling as truth based on the post-event analysis. If the result was desirable for the aforementioned group it was God's work, if not desirable some other explanation is manufactured to construct a meaningful explanation. In contrast, if an engineer uses mathematics to construct a bridge we can know with a high degree of certainty it will pass the reality test much more reliably than intuition. But yet the sense that intuition has intrinsic value is undeniable but it is such a capricious thing, such as is faith, that I can see why Peter would falter stepping onto water in a way we would never dream of when walking onto a new bridge constructed based on terms and knowledge entirely understandable to humans.

William Wildblood said...

I think it's because of our free will, David. If Jesus appeared in a cloud of glory right in front of us we might believe in him (though some hardened hearts might not, and explain it away as a mass hallucination), but that would be change imposed on us from outside, and change, to be spiritually effective, as in inwardly transformative, must come from within. God will sometimes reveal Himself in some way but that is probably because the beneficiary has earned that right through previous suffering and intense attempts to find the way. But for most of us faith is required because faith is inner acceptance of God and allowing things to be done His way rather than demanding them to be done in ours.

Almost anybody would believe in God given irrefutable proof, but there's no real merit in that. If we are to become like Him we must meet Him half way, and go at least some way towards Him rather than expect Him to come all the way towards us. This, I think, is why there's just enough evidence for God in the world to support the potential believer but not quite enough to convince the one who doesn't want to believe.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - I don't disagree, but would (following Arkle) frame it differently.

The way that we as Men are constituted is that we only value what we have personally worked for and gained by experience. This is a truism of education - and it is true of life generally. This is a constraint that must be worked-with, it cannot be circumvented.

There is no way we can passivley be 'given' what we need, any more than a child can be given' adult maturity - we simply must either get it for ourselves and by our own effort - or it will not be got at all.

God has no alternative but to set up the world the way that it is set up - given the nature of men and the extremely high aims that God has for us (and which, I would add, we have accepted pre-mortally).

Learning to make spiritual progress, to become more divine, is not easy, it is not meant to be easy, and it cannot be esay IF it is to work at all.

(Add to this that we enter the world with very different levels of spiritual maturity - some are very advanced and just need finishing-off, or just need incarnation and death - indeed a few individuals are already very advanced and return for the benefit of the rest of us, e.g. some of the great geniuses, prophets and saints; others come to mortality at a very basic and rudimentary level, or with a need for tough, basic lessons. Each person's entry-level and needs are unique; and each is 'placed' with this in mind.)

David said...

@ Bruce and William - I must be at times a dandelion in the wind because what you say resounds with a quiet truth that makes sense. I have recently aquired the philosophical attitude 'doubt your doubts first before you doubt your faith' after hearing a quote from Dieter Uchtdorf. I can sense this man is very wise and what he says is redolent with simple truth.

I think perhaps for me my lessons are a bit more beginners lessons at times but I find the vision of life as a spiritual progression enormously appealing and motivating. I really really want it to be true and it seems like it is the best and most likely explanation to all the evidence I have seen. Even if it wasn't real or true I'd want to believe it. The thought of gaining hard-earned wisdom in life only for it to be scattered into the sands of eternity at death, as the modern paradigm would have it, is horrifying! (But then I have been told by someone very close to me *that* is exactly why they think I have religious beliefs, yo shield myself from the horror of mortality.)

Living in the modern world is like trying to breath under water. Everything seems it is against progress of this kind. The media, work colleagues and even the family around me act and think in such secular terms it leaves one feeling like either a madman in a sane world or a rare sane man in an asylum when thinking or behaving, as I have described in my previous post, as a Christian who sees the world as alive and rich and vibrant with transcendent meaning. Try telling a work colleague that a glimpse of beauty in a flower transports you to an affirmation of God's craftsmanship or that you feel a loving affection towards them and all humans generally as 'brothers or sisters' and children of God, and you will soon find you are eating alone at lunch or that they are unfathomably uncomfortable in your very presence. Sometimes I can smile at a stranger and see an angel looking back at me or feel that sense of transcendental love for all loving things and existence that it nourishes me deeply. The world is not ready for the Kingdom mentality by which I would dearly like to live by, and openly so, and not covertly as I must do often for current expediency of remaining 'in' the world if not 'of' the world. In not sure if this makes me spiritually mature or still immature but I feel like a fish out of water trying to live in a world of people that is so out of keeping with the way I see things as really being. And that erosive effect of the world is my major source of doubt. To be honest, this is one of the few forums, if not the only one, that doesn't leave me feeling like I am alone in my way of thinking and to be free to discuss what seems most important to me but which seems totally irrelevant to most of the people I know in the 'real world,'whatever that is.

William Wildblood said...

Yes, I would agree with all of that. If Earth is a school for making gods, which it surely is, we have to earn our godhood. We can't just be given it.

William Wildblood said...

If you don't mind me saying so, David, (and if Bruce doesn't mind me using his blog to say so) that's a very touching and heartfelt comment. All I would say in response is that you should trust your intuition. This world is going through a dark time but your feelings are true. If there weren't a reality 'out there' able to satisfy your spiritual yearnings then you wouldn't have them. But there is and that is why you do have them. Your soul is awakening and you should tend it with prayer. Have faith and don't be put off by people who may mean well but are just like blind people denying light.

David said...

@ William - Thank you, that is very encouraging to hear :-)

John Fitzgerald said...

I had an epiphany on this topic last summer, when I saw a news website front page with two lead stories - the massacre in the Tunisian beach and the US Supreme Court giving its assent to same-sex marriage. The juxtaposition of the two brought home clearly and starkly to me the truly terrifying acceleration of Western decline.