Monday 30 October 2017

Something changed in human consciousness... Now we must have metaphysical foundations for fundamental convictions

The basic understanding I derive from Owen Barfield is that human consciousness changed with the advent of the Romantic era (building-up from the middle of the 18th century) - and that this movement was uncompleted since its impulse was either denied or corrupted.

The proper direction of Romanticism was towards a new 'synthesis' of traditional and modern (of spirituality and science) - but this did not happen.

One aspect of this failure has been that the insights and lessons of Romanticism have Not been included in the modern world - indeed they are alien and utterly excluded. This is obvious when we consider the paradigms of modernity: the bureaucracy and the mass media - there is no integration at all, and in practice only the materialist is considered decisive.

What I conclude is that for the modern sensibility, we must have a metaphysical basis for that which is primary. The failure to resist even the grossest insanities of modernity is because we lack a solid metaphysical base.

In theory, we could be ruled by 'common sense' - in practice common sense has zero traction in modern conditions - we need to have rock-solid metaphysical reasons for anything that matters.

This applies in religion too - including Christianity (e.g the major litmus test issues of male priesthood, and the status of homosexuality implied by same-sex marriage). The weakness of Christianity in the face of the sexual revolution is partly, essentially, due to weaknesses in the traditional metaphysical basis of Christin understanding of the sexes and sexuality. Such weaknesses are being brought to the surface, exposed, for the first time in history.

The only way forward is on the basis of metaphysics - what is conscious cannot be made unconscious; cannot because it is God's will (Man's destiny) that Man become more and more conscious - en route to becoming divine. This is an essential aspect of theosis under modern conditions.

What used to be done on the basis that it was prudent, expedient, natural, spontaneous... such things must now be done on the basis of fundamental metaphysical conviction - or they will not be done at all.

Fixing metaphysics requires a certain honesty - because it entails acknowledging that we know what is right, but cannot explain it metaphysically - and this means admitting that the traditional metaphysical accounts are inadequate. Traditional, mainstream Christianity does not have-all-the-answers, even after two thousand years, because the problems of modernity are novel.

(Purposive Evil has learned through history, and has found a new and highly effective way of attack - as described in Screwtape Proposes a Toast, by CS Lewis.) 

If Christians won't admit this, then they will not be able to fix the problem.


Chiu ChunLing said...

I'm not inclined to believe that human consciousness changed. What changed was the forensic conventions which affected the career prospects of leading intellectuals in reaching positions of institutional influence.

And what changed that was the return of magic, in the form of modern technology.

The high priests of the secular religions of government and finance must be learned in the arguments surrounding scientism...not science itself, or anything science has discovered, but in what the practical efficacy of technology beyond the understanding of all but a relatively tiny minority of specialists implies about the fundamental nature and purpose of human life.

I believe that the Romantics were right insofar as they rebelled against the notion that the new magic proved anything of real spiritual significance. But they seem to have failed because they did not admit the legitimate secular implications of technology, and carefully distinguish those from the false claims being made by scientistic intellectuals.

Debunking the false claims of both intellectual and popular scientism requires a firm grounding in applied engineering, and yet the diversity of technological fields means that generalizing such grounding was only possible for the very top level intellects...until it became humanly impossible. If it does become possible again, it will only be by leveraging the inhuman capabilities of information technology...and this approach has dangers, such as are readily apparent in how control of the algorithms that drive search engines and social media can be used to obfuscate such true information as cannot be eliminated by simple censorship.

The failure of philosophy to carefully engage and debunk scientism when it was still humanly possible to do so reverberates down to our age, materialism per se is only one of the fruits, and no longer the most dangerous.

Sound metaphysics can be a line of defense for the philosophical mind, but it is not an effective attack on the entrenched and interconnected scientisms that hold sway over the bastions of political and financial power in the world today. I have found consistent nihilism to be more effective in undermining the confidence in the masters of the new magic (not the experts in applied technology, but those who claim authority derived from controlling education and employment in those fields). But nihilism is dangerous if you really let it loose.

To my view, the only way forward is to allow the inherent contradictions in scientism to bring down the institutions infected with it, even though this means allowing the collapse of the modern civilization they were established to support. The masterless mages who survive can be dissuaded from putting high priests over themselves again, indeed one can already instantly gauge the general ability of an engineer by the degree of contempt shown for the high priests over them. Good philosophy will help, but sincere religion will help more.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - In other words, you reject the entire edifice of demonstration and philosophical argument of this blog over the past 2-plus years!

" I have found consistent nihilism to be more effective in undermining the confidence in the masters of the new magic"

Nihilism is just about the worst strategy that anybody could propose - talk about doing exactrly what the enemy wants... See Nihilism by Eugene Rose (Fr Seraphim Rose) for an account of how Nihilism has been the primary weapon of the anti-Christian Left over centuries.

We need to understand what the enemy is trying to do, and why. We are not primarily concerned about civilization - this is a spiritual war.

Chiu ChunLing said...

I think it is safer to say that I reject your proposed foundation rather than the entire edifice. Something I have learned from more than one construction project, sometimes what seems a very firm footing of a structure turns out to be suspended over nothing by its attachment to what is above it, rather than being a support at all. I've yet to see a building fall just because the main supports turned out to be other than what first appeared to be so...though I've seen some fall from having the true supports pulled out while relying on the false. So I should admit that while I see adequate foundations for your philosophy in other places than the places you find crucial, it is for you to test the ground yourself.

The enemy uses inconsistent nihilism, appealing to the meaninglessness of things one moment and then turning about and taking refuge in some assumption or consequence of faith the next. When you demand that they deal with the consequences of through application of the nihilism they assert at the first, you knock them flat. And yes, I mean even Satan fears to know the final implications of his rejection of God's authority.

It is when you force them to face what they must really argue if they are to avoid directly contradicting their protestation against the meaningful significance of one aspect of God's law that you take the wind out of them.

But I do admit, the result isn't always good, and it is wrong indeed to resort to nihilism against those who do not first invoke it themselves. A person taking a pose of existential angst may be flung away from their farce by being confronted with the real implications...but occasionally you'll find someone taken from the affectation to genuine despair. It should not be done to anyone "for their own good", but only when they attempt to cloak the dagger of their nihilism behind grandiose assertions of significance to destroy the faith of others.

Of course, it may be claimed that consistency is not any essential part of nihilism, and I think I can allow this readily enough. But the very caprice in which nihilism excels makes it grand for knocking down something that is half based on nihilism already.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL _ while some individuals may come to God via nihilism; if this was a generally-useful strategy, then it would have worked already. On the other hand, we must go-through nihilism and out the other side. Most modern people have come to nihilism then pulled-back from it, rather than pushing-through it.

David Balfour said...

I have noticed that several high profile celebrities are rejectinf materialism for an *apparently* partially genuine spiritual perspective, albeit misguided in my estimation, as they principally seem to centre on a total rejection of the self in an Eastern religious way such as buddhism, combined with abstractions of a higher power and physics like references to frequencies, energies and so forth. I am curious to hear your perspectives on this, as it seems unusual that these people should be behaving the way they are doing and deliberately exposing and decrying the cult of celebrity and materialism of the modern world. I watched a few of these you tube clips on my lunch break and at one point Russel Brand appears to actually admit that God exists and we are ideally created to have a loving relationship with the higher reality. Of course Russell Brand is well known for being full of BS so its also quitw likely this is just another Brand (forgive the pun) of unrepentant new age spirituality tinged leftism, but the fact that he is publically sermonising on it and also Jim Carey, etc. seems to suggest an attempted spiritual awakening is happening among the wealthy elite that have become sickened with the excesses and general phoniness of materialism and have become disillusioned with the status quo. In Jim Careys case, he seems to have experienced some kind of existential crisis following some very significant personal bereavements, but I wonder, God willing, could they be en-route to Christianity? Or will their resting place be somewhere else? Who knows, but it peaked my interest and perhaps of interest to you also. Links to aforementioned you tube clips to follow:

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - I'll skip the links; but IF there is to be a spiritual awakening - among the wealthy elites, or anywhere - this is presumably how it would happen: i.e. one at a time by personal decision.

My personal evaluation as to the genuineness of an awakening; is firstly whether there is repentance; and second, whether what gets repented is the right (i.e. unpopular) kind of thing (for celebrities - what needs to be repented is nearly-always some or most aspects of the agenda of the sexual revolution).

Chiu ChunLing said...

I don't hesitate to suggest that there is also room for influencing the degree of spiritual awakening found within a given influential and powerful class in society by being selective about who we choose to support in attaining or retaining membership in that class.

That room is narrow, I do not suggest that it is our place to destroy the chosen livelihoods (nor their lives either) of people "for their own good". But we may and ought to work to deprive those with obviously evil designs opportunities to shape the cultural landscape on which our wives and children rely for instruction in what is best in life.

It is an uncertain thing to punish people "for their own good." Not that no person deprived of the chance to profit from wickedness will thus be brought to repentance, but there are good reasons for it to be unlawful for us to justify our adverse acts thus.