Monday 24 May 2021

The Total Christian Society - gone forever, but not forgotten

When I first became a Christian, I was focused on the demotivation and incoherence of The West; and thus very much drawn to the idea of what might be termed the Total Christian Society. A society in which every aspect of life (and thought) was not just permeated with Christianity - but was actually based-upon it. 

In a crude sense - this ideal is to create the closest possible approximation to Heaven on Earth (as Heaven was then understood). 

Probably the closest approach to a Total Christian Society happened at the high-points of the Eastern Roman Empire centred upon the New Rome of Constantinople - which existed from 324 to 1453. This was ruled by an Emperor who was regarded (by himself, and the populace) as having the status of an Apostle. Their ideal was an integrated society of maximum harmony between the monarch and the church - and all institutions and individuals. 

After the fall of Constantinople; this model of Total Christianity was then transferred to the Third Rome - Moscow - with the first Tsar Ivan IV ('the 'terrible') - who was grandson of Sophie Paleiologina -the last Emperor of Constantinople's niece. This was Holy Russia, and it endured to 1917 and the Russian Revolution - after which the long lineage of Total Christianity died-out - apparently forever.

Other approximations to a Total Christian Society include various periods of the Medieval Western Roman Catholic nations - where there was nonetheless an ideal of separation between a national monarch and the international Pope of Rome. 

Or John Calvin's Republic of Geneva; or Brigham Young's Mormon republic of Deseret. 

My understanding is that there was a period in the history of Man's spiritual development when the Christian ideal was to subordinate oneself to legitimate external spiritual authority (thus obedience was the primary virtue). Therefore Christianity aimed at complete immersion of each individual - from cradle to grave - in a particular Christian way of life.

But from continued reading and reflection I became convinced first that this was now impossible, then that it was also undesirable. 

It was impossible because I believed that it would need primarily to be based on 'tradition' - as the eastern Orthodox assert; yet my primary modern guide to Orthodoxy - Father Seraphim Rose - was explicit that the tradition had been broken in 1917 with the Bolshevik revolution. And the thing about tradition is that when it is broken it cannot be restored. This was why Fr Seraphim asserted that we had entered the End Times, where decline was inevitable and irreversible. 

This meant that the Total Christian Society of the Byzantine type was gone forever - even according to its own reasoning. What remained of Eastern Orthodoxy was merely a variant of the 'going to church in a non-Christian society' - the type of religion that I knew already from the Church of England, or any other modern denomination.  

A few years later I also became convinced by the ideas of Owen Barfield and his mentor Rudolf Steiner that Man was divinely destined to develop through stages of consciousness; and that the medieval consciousness - which sustained the Total Christian Society - had dwindled, all-but disappeared, and would never return. 

If we did try consciously to return to the earlier phase; this would indeed be harmful - much as consciously trying to re-adopt the life of a child or an adolescent would be harmful for a mature adult - spiritually harmful as well as physically impossible.

The events of 2020 have emphasized that any return to traditional, immersive, Total Christianity is not going to happen - since the large and (supposedly!) powerful Christian denominations have all willingly subordinated themselves to a wholly materialist and secular ideology; and to the dictates of a leftist (hence anti-Christian) globalist bureaucracy and media. 

We both need and should instead try to move forward to a different and unprecedented kind of Christianity. The alternative is to continue on our current path to chosen self-damnation for ever-more of the world. 

So, in the space of a decade, I have gone from being one whose primary hope and intent was to restore a Total Christian Society; to one who regards this goal as impossible and undesirable. 

A pretty big change of heart!


A said...

Your older article on the contrast between Roman & Orthodox ideals is very interested. I was attracted to the ideal of Catholicism integrated wholly into society where the Holy-days were celebrated regularly (all of them!), regular processions, etc.

You pointed out that *even that* might be a thinness or partiality of something even greater realized under Orthodoxy, which in contrast to how far we've fallen is really incomprehensible to me - I can't possibly know or experience it in this life!

A lot of food for thought.

Thank you for leading us to the only solution we have: in fully realizing that everyday in our own lives, voluntarily and purposefully. We can not outsource our faith to a system or our souls will be lost. God no longer permits that option.

Francis Berger said...

Excellent post.

Loyalty to the past and to tradition deserves a certain degree of respect - as do yearnings for a return to some total Christian society, but those who remain adamant about the absolute necessity of such things for the continuation of Christianity rarely pause to consider that the fading out of tradition and total Christian society may in fact be positive factor in the continued development of Christianity - that the future of Christianity resides beyond its accepted traditions and conventions.

Contrary to the fears of many Christians, such thinking does not disparage tradition, convention, or prior total Christian societies.

Christian traditions and total Christian societies are like our childhood. Our current state is akin to adolescence. We need to become adults. A big part of that requires the understanding that adulthood is the fulfillment of childhood and adolescence - that childhood and adolescence exist to make adulthood possible. Without adulthood, both childhood and adolescence lose their real purpose and meaning.

Becoming an adult is not a betrayal of childhood and adolescence, but a fulfillment of these stages.

Instead of thinking that we are betraying our Christian past, we should begin to consider that all past Christianity was essentially building up to the potential of the unprecedented Christianity you refer to in this post.

Our refusal or inability to create this unprecedented form of Christianity might very well end up being the real betrayal of Christian tradition, convention, and history.