Sunday 22 October 2017

Transcending the sophisticated cynic: How modern Man needs to enter alienated consciousness and emerge from the other-side

This is continuing from earlier posts on the developmentally-necessary adolescent phase of the 'sophisticated cynic' - and the requirement to pass-beyond it (not to retreat-from it) My ideas here are mostly-derived from, and partly-developed from, page 160 of A Geography of Consciousness by William Arkle (1974).

Part of our spiritual growth from passive, obedient, group-dominated 'childhood' is to enter the 'adolescent' phase of the sophisticated cynic. This is a very dangerous phase, because it is the 'dead-centre' of consciousness - and it is possible to become paralysed and rendered-incapable by radical self-doubt; as has happened to almost every non-grown-up 'adult' in the Modern West. However, nonetheless, this phase is developmentally-necessary in the same way that adolescence is necessary: it is the only possible route from childhood to maturity.

The necessity arises from the requirement that we learn by experience knowledge that is vital for attaining spiritual adulthood.  This is the sequence:

1. Going-into the sophisticated cynical state we left-behind 'the pack' or 'the masses' - and overcame our passive, un-responsible subordination to those un-chosen groups that asserted their ultimate authority over our being. We left this behind, and thereby attained a freedom and we reconised the primacy of cosnciousness (since it was to develop consciousness that we entered the dead-centre state). 

2. Yet we discovered that life cannot be lived alone in existential alienation; we discovered that such a life is utterly demotivated; and that without real-relationships there is absolutely-nothing we can or may do that is of value to anybody. We discovered absolute and unsolvable despair.

3. In the dead-centre we experience the horror of total self-conscious self-determinism: the psychological feeling is that we are not a part of anything. This is existential alienation or nihilism; the experience that nothing is really-real. Especially that there are no real relationships, groups are delusions, we are individually isolated: on-our-own.  

4. We discover, in sum, that the single, alone consciousness is a self-contradiction. In attaining absolute supremacy, the single consciousness by-that-act destroys its possibility-of-knowing and its own reason-for-being. By experiencing this, we recognise the necessity of relationships.  We discover we simply must have real relationships.

5. Since this position is incoherent and intolerable both; and since we know from experience that our previous state was immature and unfree; we ought-to (but may not) infer that the only way-out is forward into new relationships on a different basis: relationships that are active, chosen and real rather than passive, contingent and delusional. (Many people try and fail to go-back-to a state of passive, obedient, dependence on some established group, institution, ideology or religion. It can at most only half-work; thus modern Man oscillates between child-ish un-conscious and adolescent self-conscious states.)

6. On the basis of a new set of basic, metaphysical assumptions affirming the (potential) reality of relationships; we then seek a new group in a state of full consciousness, and explicitly. Recognising that all sensory-based communications are intrinsically-uncertain; we must work to build from a basis of directly-known, intuited, metaphysically-assumed, real-relationships. This is the task. 

7. The three stages can be summarised: We begin as immature little-children of God; in spiritual adolescence we solipsistically assert ourselves to be the one-real-God in a universe made-up by our-selves; in maturity we recognise that we are products-of and inhabitants-of the framework of God's creation; destined to become a multiplicity of gods; destined to become God's grown-up children and loving companions both of each other and of the deity.

And this is the basis of new, real, permanent relationship.


Lucinda said...

I really like this post. It reminds me of Bonhoeffer, beginning with "The call of Jesus teaches us that our relation to the world has been built on an illusion," and ending with "However loving and sympathetic we try to be, however sound our psychology, however frank and open our behavior, we cannot penetrate the incognito of the other man, for there are no direct relationships, not even between soul and soul. Christ stands between us, and we can only get into touch with our neighbors through him."

Still I do think there is ultimately room for those who want to "go-back" in some sense, because I believe in degrees of heavenly glory. Mormonism explicitly states that full glory is for those who want to have eternal increase, meaning progeny, for instance. So while an individual may experience the ability to procreate on earth, it is not like they have necessarily embraced the full implications of such an idea. People may get married, but that doesn't mean they actually want to live eternal marriage.

So I think there is room for going back to being passive despite having essential affinity for goodness. That is to say that the one-way destined maturation of our spirit can be thwarted by agency. Adolescence can result in childhood. That this is not the case in mortality seems to me a temporary necessity designed to push us to progress further and gain more informative experience than we would if we could always just go back to being a child in mortality.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Lucinda - I think you are right - certainly in principle.

However, the time and place we live-in is making it more and more difficult actually to do this. What used to be a viable way of being Christian has been subverted. We are being forced into a corner.

A new convert of simple faith can, and probably should, become spiritually a child - but this very quickly becomes unsustainable under modern conditions (often from self-styled Christian leaders - I don't include the CJCLDS leaders who are uncorrupt; but certainly in many other denominations many or most of the senior clergy are strategically evil).

The simple Christian is under continual seige; and the choice is either to start growing towards maturity and spiritual autonomy, or ceasing to be truly Christian, and often being turned against it.

Lucinda said...

Yes, I agree. I foresee that most of those who are simple/not-valiant will just betray Christ and real Christians, and I'm coming to accept that, and I'm trying to learn to love anyway. But it has been a real difficulty for me to get past.

It's easier to accept that those who hate God and goodness will reject truth and undermine faith. It's been less easy to find that those who actually love God and goodness will reject truth and undermine faith, rather than stand up to an increasingly ominous and pervasive evil. Somehow the difficulty for me is mitigated by remembering that they are at least not choosing evil for evil's sake, but just because they don't really like having to actively choose at all, kinda like children rather than decided cowards.

Well, anyway, that's why I like reading this blog. It helps me keep perspective.

Chiu ChunLing said...

I have to question whether sophisticated cynicism is really necessary. Cannot a humble skepticism lead to the other side? I have never been other than skeptical of sophistry or cynicism even taking each alone, let alone combined.

Then, perhaps I mistake. I do not consider it sophistical or cynical to know, as Socrates, that we really know nothing at all, and approach the world by honestly trying to see if anyone else knows more. But I don't know exactly what you mean.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - It isn't necessary to be a sophisticated cynic, but to go-through the phase for which sophisticated cynic is my term. In some people it is a numb, inarticulate despair, for example.