Monday 7 November 2016

The way forward - spritually - is not to weaken nor to lose, but instead strengthen and expand the individual self

From a perspective of Owen Barfield's descriptions of the evolution of consciousness, given its properly Christian basis - a great deal about the failed spiritual awakenings of the past 200 plus years becomes apparent.

There is a lot of experimentation, twisting and turning, and seeking for pre-existing solutions - but while all have contained essential truths, none of been satisfactory and all have been self-sabotaging.

For example, CG Jung's idea of Individuation was a partial insight - but being lodged in a materialist and Godless world view it was useless except as a (feel better) therapy. Or; the attempt to restore the fullness and integrity of pre-modern religions addressed many of the problems of modernity - but failed to account for the weaknesses, immaturity and stultifying aspects that led them to be so comprehensively displaced by secular modernity - and in such a feeble and helpless fashion.

In sum, nothing that has been tried will suffice; and if we regard it as possible to have a future; then it can only be something unprecedented. 

One problem is that the theoretical discussions of such matters takes place in an over-complex fashion, which takes for granted that human analysis and understanding is capable of complex balancing acts... I see no evidence that this is true, and much to suggest that the actual operation of spirituality and religion is very clear and simple and resistant to nuance and complexification.

Indeed, trying to make things complex either fails altogether - with complex theory being unpacked into simple practise; or else merely weakens faith, as we see all around us.

So, I conclude that The Answer we need (and seek) must be both simple and unprecedented; and the fact that Life is 'an adventure full of failures' means that unprecedented does not mean some complex new synthesis of what went before - but some simple and new principle/s. 

Such things are easily misunderstood by the human propensity to deny the unprecedented, by reducing it to merely combinations, selections and extrapolations of familiar past things. Genuine creativity is seldom recognised nor acknowledged as such - perhaps because it is so individual and personal and unique (we only perceive the results, but the creativity comes from the process and is only indirectly known from the outcome).

The destined (that is, divinely hoped-for) future of Men is not through any return, but through taking the modern isolated self and not diminishing or subordinating it - but intensifying its self-awareness, its divine awareness, its individuality; while opening-out its perceptions, perspective and natural powers. 

As William Arkle understood; we need to live as God (our Heavenly parents) hope for us to live; which is ultimately not in terms of living in a psychological state of dependence, worship or perpetual thinking-about God but rather in terms of living how God wants us to live.

(We are God's children - and can understand that as a good parent He does not - ultimately - want His children always to be thinking about Him, nor modelling ourselves on Him as a template; but rather to live well as unique autonomous mature grown-ups - each of us to live an unique path, and from his or her unique nature to develop towards eer-more unique and unprecedented contributions to the whole loving and growing situation that is eternal Heavenly Life...)

And this living is to quarry-out, elaborate, our own unique destiny, in practise, with trials and errors, and not according to a standard pattern or mould; guided by an increased awareness of the loving divinity within, and the objective reality of God's creation without.

Modern Man cannot but regard a life subordinate to external guidance as passive, hence negative - and this is correct; such a life is merely a temporary expedient (albeit sometimes necessary, especially in a state of immaturity).

But, just as we should not pretend to children that they will always be children and living under authority; so we must recognise that our spiritually mature goal is a situation of extreme individual autonomy and agency, in increased knowlede-of and the maximum possible harmony-with the loving world of God's creation.

We must not be afraid; in particular we must not be afraid of Life - and indeed there is no reason why we should be afraid, given our exalted status and the safety-nets provided by Christ.

So, in confidence, but also the humility of knowing we will err and need to repent, we each of us should tackle Life, starting now and from here and without awaiting the go-ahead or permission from anybody else - not needing it; and with complete confidence that this will be effectual and significant, when viewed from that larger and spiritual scope of true-reality. 

Note: For more on the ideas of Barfield, you could start here:


Nathaniel said...

I am having trouble imagining this. Do you mean that literally there may be a miracle wherein people (in mass) overcome or exercise what I can only imagine as a genius-like individuality?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Nathaniel - I'm sorry, I don't understand the question!

Sean Cory said...

Maybe I misunderstand but insofar as this fallen, mortal life is concerned living in a "perpetual state of thinking-about God" is exactly what is needed. In fact living in such a state could be seen as the whole point of this life.

We come here blind and deaf to God and have to be taught that such a person actually exists by people who have either personally experienced his reality or have been taught by others who have had such experience and who, by demonstration of the example of true holiness, been able to convince others that what they have testified to is real. Once this teaching is received and accepted (which is far from a certainty) it then becomes a problem of confirming for ourselves that this Reality exists. It may be that some of us have managed to work in such a way as to accomplish this but I have never heard of such and scripture does not teach this as the way to God. Faith practiced and challenged and reaffirmed by prayer and meditation and trying as best we can to always think about God is the way we are saved. Works reflect the degree to which we have attained such faith (said faith stemming directly from the degree to which God is brought into our lives). It can be truly said, I think, that works such as living the virtues and demonstrating this in our daily activities are a tool which can be used to refocus us on God's reality. Brother Lawrence's is a prime example of this.

It looks to me that progression follows a distinct path and this mortal life is but one leg of the journey. We overcome the natural man here and this is done by dedicating ourselves to our Lord and His Father in an exercise of faith and humility and works done to the best of our ability in emulation of the Christ (who, when speaking of His Father, never fails to let us know that he does nothing that is not in complete conformity to the Father's will). But, to repeat, I may be misunderstanding what you wrote so please forgive my ignorance if this is the case.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Sean - I don't find this a coherent possibility for human life - and if it was the purpose of each human life, then we could only conclude that Men themselves and the world God created are both very poorly designed to achieve it.

I appreciate that an alternative explanation for this 'poor design' is original sin - that it is tha fault of Adam and Eve which we have 'inherited' - but that doctrine also seems incompatible with a Loving Omnipotent God.

(Some people also find The Fall to be a useful concept to explain imperfection, but I don't - it seems to me more time is spent trying to analyse and explain The Fall, than actually applying the concept usefully. The Fall seems redundant to me - from my Mormon theological perspective, although most Mormons seem to say they believe in it.)

But if this world is *well* designed for its purpose (by a loving God who is the creator), a purpose which cannot be achieved in any other way - and if we as already-existing individuals were placed in particular niches in it to learn and experience and develop; then the whole things makes sense.

But this would mean that we should rather be aware of the basic set-up - God's hopes, wishes and plans for us - rather than specifically attemptng always to be thinking *about* God, or always to be praying to him.

These things are necessary - but not for *most* (let alone *all*) of the time.

What we should each be doing most of the time will surely vary between individuals according to their needs and destiny - e.g. I am sure that what I am supposed to be doing (insofar as I can discern it - partly not fully) is very different indeed from what anybody else I have ever met or heard about is supposed to be doing. The same applies to those people I know well.

Sean Cory said...

I think this world is perfectly suited to its purpose. I do not believe that most of us are going to achieve a state of deity. I believe that hierarchy is the natural order with all that implies in terms of rankings within such a framework. I believe that we all will make the choice of how far we want to advance freely and be happy with the result (though many will first have to experience the full consequences of unrepented sin). Our Father will let us freely choose our own ultimate outcomes because he does love us and will not coerce any of us to follow a path that we have come to believe is truly best for us. He will offer counsel every step of the way and chastisement will come for wrong choices but at no time will he impose his will to force us to do anything.

The Fall is the step that took our ancestors from living in the presence of God to suddenly living in a world apparently empty of God while leaving in place a great emptiness that Father's presence once filled. Much of the struggle here is just how to fill that emptiness and we are presented with one way to do that successfully and myriad ways that are counterfeit. That one path includes remaining recollected to God as both a protection from failures that come as a consequence of our own blindness and as a boost along the path.

Again, I may be misunderstanding you but I regard it as very risky to set out on a path to build ourselves up spiritually and not have a continuous knowledge of our relationship to our Father fixed as firmly in our minds as we can manage. It seems to me that the building up and the recollectedness go hand-in-hand.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ Sean - I think I agree with pretty much everything you write here. But the mind has a foreground and a background.