Sunday 16 September 2018

How to become a 'spiritual' (Direct) Christian...

Christian writers and teachers have generally been happy to focus their advice on what Christians do - and to assume that right-thinking will follow right-doing. CS Lewis is a good example of this - he has a tendency to favour action over thought; practical Christian living over the mystical or spiritual tradition.

But, while this works for some people some of the time, this is unsatisfactory for many reasons; the most important of which is that - ultimately - thinking is more important than action. I won't rehearse why, but this blog has argued the point over the past several years, from many angles.

Other problems are that modern Christians, even when they follow Christian rules, generally think in the same materialist leftist way as the mainstream secular world - and over time, the wrong-thinking subverts, erodes and overthrows the 'right' practical aspects - as we have seen in all the major Christian churches. So that the meaning of acts becomes, in many cases, reversed. We get churches who say the same old things, but means by them the opposite - Christian forms with materialist-atheist content.

However, there is a big problem for those (like me) who advocate that Christian living ought to be rooted in Christian thinking - which is the question: How to change thinking?

People know how to change for the better their behaviour, their actions, what they do; but have no idea how they might set-about changing their thinking. The answer to What should I do? is not obvious.

The usual, but unsatisfactory, answer involves some kind of training of thinking, usually by some kind of meditative or prayer practice. But this leads to a kind of 'bootstrap problem' of how to use thinking to change thinking. How can we get a purchase on unwanted thoughts, adopt one sort of thought over another?

Furthermore, it may well be that meditation or prayer is (in practice) just another type of change of behaviour, without change in the mode of thinking. Using words like God and Jesus, but in the same mundane way we would discuss politics, law or holidays.

Also, it generally doesn't work...

By contrast; the way I would advise setting-about changing thinking for the better is to examine you metaphysical assumptions; bring to conscious awareness the basic assumptions you make concerning the nature of reality and all fundamental matters... in particular those that are most important to you.

This is simply a matter of honestly and rigorously questioning yourself why you think something, and following the answers through until you reach something that is a basic assumption, without any further reason for it.

Then examine these basic assumptions

I have found that this leads to some assumptions that I regarded as wrong, false, or something I did not really believe; and that when these were revised that the whole of thinking - the superficial ideas and thoughts that had previously been supported by these wrong deep-basic assumptions, would begin to change.

So, conscious thinking is used to bring-out unconscious assumptions. And change in false or incoherent deep beliefs is used to reshape and re-order the great mass of surface thoughts.

The stream of thinking is not tackled directly, by trying (usually failing) to use one set of current thoughts against another. Instead, the focus is on bringing-to-conscious-awareness. The trigger for change is that what was unconscious and implicit, becomes conscious and explicit.

It is a matter of redigging the foundations, and then the old building will collapse and a new building will - spontaneously - become constructed upon the new foundations, simply in the course of everyday living and thinking, experiencing and learning.

And because the foundational assumptions are different in form, they are the basis of a different kind of thinking. If the new foundations include deeper depths and wider possibilities, then so will the new daily thoughts deriving from them.

And when we find these everyday thoughts have drifted back into mainstream materialism (as they will...); we can respond by reflecting consciously on our deep assumptions; and from them a new and better kind of thinking will emerge. 

Note added: It might very well, and quite reasonably, be argued that if the transformed thinking of Direct Christianity is indeed our task at this time, and if such Direct Christianity necessarily requires the kind of metaphysical reflection I recommend... then there are going to be very few people who will actually do what is really needed. I suspect that this is likely to be correct.


Tobias said...

Some questions that spring into my head after reading this.

You say that thought should (or just does) come before action. You have also said that God thought creation into being. So for God, thought came before action. Presumably, we should do the same - train our thinking, so that we know properly - the good stuff, sorted out and kept, and the bad stuff thrown away.

Do you also believe that if deep thinking is in alignment with God's wishes for creation, then those aligned thoughts start to help in the ongoing process of creation?

Do the thoughts begin to alter matter?

If many people thought in a God-aligned way, would God's 'evolution' continue at a faster pace?

Would God be expressed at a 'next level'? (He's structured the mineral level into stars, planets, etc - the vegetable level, the animal level, the human level with its independent, rational mind, capable of moral discernment, and love). It may be argued that God thought the mineral level into a fit state, or host, for vegetation to grow, and the mineral level into the famous 'primordial soup' in which animal life could begin, and animal life into more and more complex, and favourable hosts, for God to live in. Until he thought into being hosts in which the obedient, thinking entities from outside creation could be slowly born into. But, that could only occur if the host consciously chose right thinking in alignment with love and beauty - God's way of creation.

Do we help with the 'next level'?

Presumably, this is why right thought is key.


Andrew said...

If Direct Christianity is the ultimate destiny God wants for us and His Creation then He will provide the help, the Grace, to bring it about. He won't let us flounder about aimlessly indefinitely. He won't let modernity go on and on and on acting as a meat-grinder for souls without providing a remnant with the ability to engage in what we're calling Direct Christianity who can help bring it to the world. He will intervene sovereignly if necessary. If we want His help, He will provide it.

-Andrew E.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Tobias - If thought is first, then what we call matter comes from it, like a concentration or condensation of it. This is, of course, what physics has been saying for about a century - 'matter' isn't 'solid'.

@Andrew - I agree, but in the past tense. The help is here, everywhere, already - but we must personally acknowledge its reality, turn to it, choose it.

In these end times, the means of salvation is simple and easy and direct - but people don't regard it as real or important, they don't want it - they want damnation; because they believe that evil is good.

We can do it, each for ourselves, but it seems that few want to.

I seem to see (even) *real* Christians in the main churches setting themselves up to reject salvation, by their refusal to deal with God directly; and their insistence on putting first some other secondary and indirect thing - church authority (which is now corrupt), tradition (which is now corrupt), scripture (which is now corrupted in many translations and many exegeses, and many 'systems' of understanding - such as equality of authority in all books of the Bible, or the equal and absolute truth of each verse - that have unexamined assumptions, or a modern materialist literalism of understanding), philosophy (whose unexamined assumptions are corrupt)...

Essentially, when interpretation and communication and everything worldly and indirect are corrupted; we must rely on direct knowledge; which is provided for us, but must be chosen.

Of course, we our-selves are also corrupt - but we can at least do something about that, whereas we cannot reform The World (as a prelude to obeying it), when The World does not want to be reformed.

Chiu ChunLing said...

In That Hideous Strength, C.S. Lewis has Rev. Straik preach that the true meaning of Christianity is to be accomplished by medical science reversing death. "The real resurrection is even now taking place. The real everlasting. Here in this world. You will see it."

I today heard a key member of my local church (who has been assigned a number of responsibilities for overseeing the teaching and practice of religion) preach this exact doctrine, though with less eloquence. That is to say, the real meaning of Christianity was to assist in Transhumanism and all allied 'progressive' causes that would sweep away traditional objections and indifference to the project of medical science being "freed" to reshape human destiny.

I was minded of that when you mentioned "We get churches who say the same old things, but means by them the opposite - Christian forms with materialist-atheist content."

And yet, I am convinced that the actual acts of supporting Transhumanism and the set of politically affiliated progressive causes are in fact identifiably different from actions celebrating Christ.

That is to say, I believe that our actions have more influence on our thoughts than not. Yes, our actions can be to some extent the result of thought, but the ingrained and repeated actions which become habit form and constrain thought.

If we do not see how the acts of those who are not truly Christian fail to conform to the example and doctrine of Christ, then I submit that no amount of thinking can make our own otherwise indistinguishable acts meaningfully Christian.

Lucinda said...

For me, a really damning assumption was that seeking to appear to do good, and seeking to actually do good were essentially compatible desires.

It was really holding me back. I have been able to build a more and more direct relationship with God. The thing is that the more I am able to do anything actually good, the more I am seen by those who value goodness (or even just pretend to value goodness) as being good, which returns the temptation afresh to pretend to goodness.

But insofar as I've stuck with challenging myself about wanting to appear good versus actually being good, there has been real progress.

There is a spontaneity which I've had to get accustomed to. It's hard to let go of the security of calculating how my actions will be perceived by 'important' people in my immediate vicinity. But it's been easier to interact with individuals in a genuine way, obviously. And that's been very satisfying.