Friday 12 February 2016

Theosis is more like building a 'pattern' (e.g. a tree) than moving along a linear scale (e.g. up a narrow path)

Theosis is a term for the process of divinization, sanctification or spiritual progression which Men are meant to undergo during mortal life.

So the task of mortal life can be summarized as: attaining salvation (not damnation) and - on top of this - moving as far as possible towards the same level of being as God (alternatively, which means the same, of becoming more Christ-like).

I regard theosisconceptualizing degree of theosis : For instance person A has gone two feet up the path, person B, two hundred yards, Saint C a mile and a half...

This linear metaphor works well enough in those branches of Christianity when ascetic monasticism is seen as THE path to sanctification and each person can be measure by the progress along this path - and even Saints can be ranked: For example among Old English Saints, Cuthbert is judged to have ascended higher than the Venerable Bede (great Saints although both were).

But when theosis is not seen as a single path, when for example Marriage and Family life are seen as potentially a greater path to salvation than monasticism, there is the problem that each marriage and each family is unique in a way that each monk is not. We have moved from a model of theosis in which everyone attempts to conform to a single, perfect but not-fully attainable ideal to one in which each person is seen as intended to be unique.

That is, at any rate, how I understand these things: God wants us each to become more fully ourselves so that ultimately Heaven will be populated by a vast multiplicity of distinct persons; all spiritually advanced and still advancing - all relating to one another as peers or siblings: in essence, on a level of friendship.

Here in mortal life we have rules and constraints, which ultimately derive from the nature of reality, and which are for our Good: these include summaries such as the Ten Commandments, and other laws and regulations. Theosis must proceed within these boundaries; and when, as inevitably happens, we fail to live up to this ideal, we need to repent by acknowledging our failure and endorsing the revealed reality of the nature of things. 

But in the context of these rules, these constraints, our destiny is theosis - to advance spiritually; or rather, not so much to advance as to build our own pattern. So theosis can be seen as - for each of us - a destined pattern - or type of pattern, towards which we grow and which we increasingly elaborate.

But 'pattern' is too abstract, geometric, and simplified a word: we are organic beings. So perhaps a better metaphor is a tree - we are each a type of tree (an oak, beech, birch, blackthorn) and our destiny is to become a mature example of that tree - and, of course, all individual trees are different and in a sense meant to be different (due to their initial innate differences, differences in experiences, and in a sense different choices during maturation and growth).  

All metaphors break down if pushed, and this is no exception - but at a first level of analysis we might thing of our life on each as a period of growth, maturation, elaboration within proper bounds and towards something which is both characteristic and unique - like a particular oak tree.

And that God does not want all His trees to be oaks, nor does he want all his oaks to be identical - but for each to be the best of its kind and most fully developed of its nature.

In the end, the purpose of this post is simply to illustrate that our metaphors do constrain our thoughts, and that we need some more elaborate and personal metaphor to self-explain the (mostly unfamiliar) concept of theosis than the usual one of everybody progressing up along a path in single file.

Mortal life is, and is meant to be, complex and multi-faceted - and each person's life is both characteristic and distinctive - and our thinking ought to reflect that.


Anonymous said...

Theosis would be helped vastly if people were able to access mystical reality (things as they really are). I can’t do it, but I believe it is possible. More than that, I think it is probably natural and normal to be able to do so. I suspect that it is innate, rather like language learning (Chomsky’s universal grammar), and that babies and very young children access reality until the world exerts its inhibiting forces, and the facility to view reality directly is largely lost.

It seems to me that the adult who knows that accessing the mystical is possible, and that it is a good thing to do, will attempt to do so. There is more than enough information in books and on the net describing a definite process for accessing mystical reality. This information has been available for thousands of years – every religion knows about it, and the methods for achieving it seem to be largely similar. Think how wonderful it would be to read scripture with greater insight, and to view the world from a different and higher perspective.

There doesn’t seem to be any good reason for not re-learning what we lost as we grew in this modern world, nor does there seem to be any good reason why we would not want the young, our children and grandchildren, to learn (not forget) how to access the mystical. Adults could foster the mystical in their children, and purposely set out to follow long established method for helping them to keep what is natural to the human being. The child would have no barriers, no prejudice against the spiritual, and a healthy desire to believe. What child does not thrill to fairy stories, and tales of myth and legend? They would, and should, see it as a lovely game. I think it would be easy.

This sacred teaching, for that is what it is, would be a gift that, in this society, would never be taught in schools. This is a great pity. But parents/grandparents can supply the deficit. It is simply a matter of finding the method and then placing it within a religious framework, and then doing the method with the younger generation.


Anonymous said...

I've posted elsewhere on Dr Charlton's site asserting that science and spirit need not be in conflict. Here is one good example:

The 'God helmet', as some people refer to it, is purported to stimulate part of the brain that enables a human being to contact divine reality. 'Great', I thought, here may be an example of science hand in hand with mystical religion - both searching for the same thing, and converging delightfully, as it should be. But, some scientists, one in particular, dismisses it because it didn't work for him. For him, it was yet more proof that the divine is illusory. For me, it was proof that some minds deliberately shut themselves off from reality, denying the power of intuition, and ways of perceiving that do not use only reason as a tool. As a friend once said,

I stir my mind,
This barrel of tar,
With the paper spoon of reason.

Intellect is a tool to help us order the material world; it proves itself utterly inadequate as a means for entering the mystical (the higher reality).

This is why we need to re-learn how to 'do it'. I am going to try it using my own way derived from the many accounts I have read. I will try to reduce it to what seem to be the essentials. I expect for me it will be hard - all that fog that modern society has put in the way to clear out.

I want that helmet.


Anonymous said...

There were two trees in the garden. One of them died, and one day it will be thrown into the fire and burned. One tree is alive. There is only one living tree, and there will only ever be one. Many braches, but only one tree.

The root of the living tree is, of course, God. The One True God. To believe that you yourself can be the root of a new living tree... this is the original lie of the original liar.

As the Fathers put it: there is a kind of knowledge, a kind of light as it appears to us, that always turns to darkness.