Monday 4 February 2019

Romanticism is knowledge by experience (the essence and necessity of Romantic Christianity)

I describe myself as a Romantic Christian - and in this usage 'Romanticism' has a precise meaning of 'knowing by direct personal experience'.

My contention is that the era of Romanticism in The West (beginning in the middle 1700s) is that we need to know By Personal Experience. That must be the foundation of our lives.

Other forms of knowing  - e.g. from authority, by tradition, from philosophy or science, or from any external source, may be helpful, but these cannot be the basis of life.

Romanticism is a development of human consciousness; it is ordained by God as part of the development of each Man and of Mankind. It does not apply to all eras, nor to all Men, nor to all cultures - but when it does apply it is unavoidable.

It applies to me, and almost certainly it applies to you. We must seek knowledge in our personal experience - else we will not really believe it, will not be sufficiently motivated by it, will not be engaged by Life, will not be part of Reality: and we will lapse into nihilism and despair (indeed, most people are already in that state).

Since Christianity is true - the implication is that modern Western Christians will nearly always need to know by their personal experience; and will ultimately need to do so. Other sources of knowledge will not suffice (although they may help). 

This is Romantic Christianity: the recognition that modern Western Christians (nearly always) need to have faith by their direct, personal experience of the grounds for faith.

It is not that church, scripture, tradition, philosophy &c. are obsolete - but that they cannot be the basis of Christianity any more, for you and me. And cannot means cannot - we must seek direct experience if we are to be sufficiently real Christians in this time and place.


Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

The usual terms for knowing spiritual truth by direct personal experience are "mysticism" and "gnosis." Do you think those labels are appropriate for what you're talking about?

Bruce Charlton said...

@William. No!

Mysticism is understood to mean vague, 'misty', imprecise, and happening in a clouded state of consciousness (trance, dream etc).

Gnosis... well, who knows what that means; because it is just just anyhow. And it is foreign.

Direct seems like a very helpful word - because it captures the idea (the almost logical necessity) that there *must* be some way of knowing that does Not depend upon any 'chain of communications'.

It is the method of knowing that needs naming - and no already-existing term captures it as well as 'direct'.

William Zeitler said...

“Christian mysticism” properly understood sounds very much like what you’re describing. Bernard McGinn (U of Chicago and a devout Catholic) is the authority on this —check out his ouevre!