Wednesday 25 March 2020

The invisible world, in which we swim

If we are to try to 'remember to self-remember' - that is, to come awake from our usual semi-consciousness into the awareness of the present: Me! Here! Now! - then (to be genuinely valuable) this needs to be continued on to a consciousness of our situation in the world.

In different words: self-remembering can (and I think should) continue into an awareness of the invisible world that surrounds us. 

This can be imagined in three 'layers' - pagan, theistic and Christian. I see these as increasing levels, each built upon what went before so.

So we can (very swiftly, in a matter of seconds I mean) transform our awareness through the pagan, theistic and Christian by becoming aware of these in turn - finishing with Jesus Christ.

Something like:

1. Awareness of nature, in the form of nature spirits

The first step is recovering that 'animistic' awareness that all is alive and sentient, that the world is a world-of-Beings.

So there are nature spirits around us, constituting both anything that is alive (plant or animal) and also the supposedly-not-alive - sky, clouds, stars, water; and including the artefacts made by men. I don't mean 'imagining' that some specific 'thing' (like a chair, house, or computer) is a disrete nature spirit - but having the awareness of being surrounded by living and conscious beings. (These may be benign or hostile - happy Beings or in despair.)

Wherever we are; Everything is a Being or part-of a Being - and as such is aware of us, and in-communication to some degree - even if only very simply and slowly so. 

2. Awareness of God's creation

Moving swiftly to this level; we might remember (or notice) that we live in God's creation; that this is a creation in which we live.

That there is purpose to everything, meaning to everything. That all the Beings around us (and our-selves) are part of this divine creation. And that divine creation is accomplished by God who is our loving parent/s, who regards us each as a beloved child.

We are not 'lost in space' - we are instead 'at home in the universe'!

This comes-through as a sense somewhat-like being held safely in the arms of an invisible, benign and loving person that surrounds us; a sense that all is ultimately well, if we choose it so ("...all manner of things shall be well"). 

3.  The presence of Jesus

And then we may move on to become aware of the actual presence of Jesus Christ (that is, the Holy Ghost*), here-and-now, in the room with us; and in direct contact with our hearts and minds - present in the thoughts of our real and true selves.

Jesus as someone we can ask (if our questions are validly framed), and who will answer truthfully and relevantly.

(If, that is, answering is expedient to us... Remembering that the default in mortal life is that we ought to work think out for our-selves, by trial and error if necessary: that being the best way to learn. So, inexpedient questions are not answered: and that is the answer.)

*By my understanding of the Fourth Gospel; we have been told (and intuitive experience confirms it for me) that the Holy Ghost is the person of Jesus, present in this mortal world, as spirit.

It might be asserted (often is asserted) that Christians could-and-should go straight to an awareness of Jesus - should in particular ignore or shun the pagan awareness. There's nothing necessarily wrong with this idea - except that it misses-out most of this mortal world, making for a thin and demotivating understanding of reality; and also (for people like myself) it just doesn't work very well.

What I am suggesting can be regarded as a rapid recapitulation of the historical development of Christianity - from pagan, through Jewish monotheism, to Jesus Christ. It can also be taken to represent a development that - in the past - will have been followed by many Christians as they grow-up and mature.

And it represents the track of some ex-atheist adult converts to Christianity - such as CS Lewis and myself: beginning with a love of pagan myth and legend, passing through a philosophical theism, finally into an awareness of the essential role of the person of Jesus.

At any rate, this is something that might be tried, practised a few times, and evaluated as to its effect (good or ill - because anything which is strong enough medicine to do good to one Man, may harm another) - by those who seek more depth and breadth in their lives; by those who seek the friendship and guidance of the Holy Ghost.


Sonny Robinson said...

There's a saying by Goethe, or at least attributed to him: "Das Ur-Bild ist das Bild und die Spiegelung." In English, "The original image is the image and the reflection." For me, because I believe God is unknowable, all of this spiritual taxonomy you lay out, while fascinating, is just a byproduct of our ability to think, which is certainly God-given, but can't really unriddle the various strata at which God operates or approach an understanding of him. He is in the animist, in the pagan, present there if only in some proto/UR form, but still there.

Jacob Gittes said...

Thanks for this, and your other methods and ideas for approaching and thinking about God. As one whose path was also very idiosyncratic, it really is wonderful to be able to collaborate with someone as smart and insightful as you.

I am somewhat ironically calling what I am doing collaboration, but I think there is also some truth to that, because you seem to genuinely value your readers and commenters and lurkers.
At least, I seem to feel that.
Blessings to all.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SR - I can see how deists (e.g. Platonists and neo-Platonists) and monotheists would regard God as unknowable; but not Christians.

The reality of Jesus means that God is knowable. Indeed he even said so himself, in a very explicit fashion (assuming one accepts the validity of the Fourth Gospel, and these verses in particular) - especially verses 8&9 but I give the surrounding verses for context and to demonstrate that it means what it says:

John 14: 4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?

6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.

8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.

9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?

10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.

11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.

12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

Bruce Charlton said...

@J - Actually - I am famously irritable, and treat my commenters very badly.

a_probst said...

@J & BC:

Except the ones on whose comments you perform a mercy killing by not posting them at all!

We are spared the trolls.

Anonymous said...

'I am famously irritable'

Are you? Why?


Bruce Charlton said...

@B - Why? Irritability is a personality trait. Personality traits have something between 50-80% heritability - the left-over variance currently remains unexplained, although it may have something to do with peer groups during adolescence.