Thursday 29 December 2022

Many of the bad trends of the modern era are evil twists then wrong choices, made from developments of consciousness that were intended (by God) for our benefit

One of the malign aspects of the secular socio-political divide between left and right; is that the evils of leftism tend to be opposed both 'root and branch' by the right - whereas the 'root' of the change is often either potentially good, or at least necessary, and it is actually the 'branch' that is evil.  

I think this applies very generally, across many of the 'isms' that get used to justify the major strategies ad policies since the 1700s - abolition of slavery, pacifism, the various socialisms, feminism, antiracism etc. 

What needs to be kept in mind is that it is the motivation behind actions which ultimately counts in terms of values; not actions themselves. 

It is the intent and spirit which matters primarily in values, not the systematic application of 'the letter' of laws, regulations, principles etc.  

If we consider 'socialism' in its various manifestations; there seems little doubt that in the early decades, much of it (although probably Not Marx and Engels) was well-motivated; by people who (mistakenly, overall) believed that the Industrial Revolution (I.R.) had impoverished the poorest classes - as evidenced by the increasing numbers of the poor, especially in cities. 

This was, objectively, an error of causal attribution - because what was really happening was that the poorest classes had their condition raised such that after the industrial revolution the poorest classes survived in increasing numbers but in extreme poverty; instead of, as in earlier centuries, dying of poverty. 

Furthermore, the extreme poverty was concentrated in cities - where the intellectual class could not help but observe it - rather than being invisibly spread across many, but scattered, cottages and hovels of the countryside. 

The increasing urban poverty that the socialists were observing was actually a result of increasing, not reducing, standards of living. However, if the socialists causal inferences had been correct, then the adoption of socialism was not, at the time, unreasonable - and was (often) motivated by genuinely humanitarian impulses. 

In other words; there was a real problem (increasing urban poverty); but the proposed answers - e.g. coercive redistribution of wealth by an all-powerful central government in the direction of equality - was based on false understanding; and (when attempted) created other, larger and more long-term destructive problems (including spiritual corruption) that were then ignored or denied.  

My point is that socialism was a response to a real problem; but was the wrong response to a misunderstanding of the causes of the problem.

And furthermore, socialism was operating from a materialist perspective that at first placed 'the physical' as more urgently important than 'the spiritual'; then, because of the nature of this perspective and the effect of habit, soon evolved-into denying the reality of the spiritual altogether; and eventually (nowadays) both asserting, and behaving-on-the-basis-that, the physical and material world is everything

Looking back from where we now are - i.e. the most evil, because most value-inverted, system in history; it is tempting to assume that socialism was wholly evil; and that therefore the answer would be to roll-back history to restore the situation before socialism... 

But my understanding is that the problems that led to socialism were real, and new, problems. They derived from the Industrial Revolution - and therefore the proper response to I.R. problems would need to have a true understanding of the deep causes of the I.R. 

In seeking the causes of the I.R. we need to consider material causes (the sort of thing that economic historians consider); but Christians also need to consider what God may have been aiming-at in enabling the Industrial Revolution to happen.  

And Christians will want to regard the spiritual causes as, ultimately, deeper and more significant than the material ones. 

We may agree that the outcomes of the I.R. have been net-evil; yet God does not intend evil; but rather He works by providing us with opportunities. 

If Men (en masse) made wrong and evil choices when confronted by the many new possibilities of the I.R., then that was the responsibility of Men - but is not proof of God's intent and hopes.

I understand God to be working to allow Men to develop their consciousness towards a more divine level (i.e. to enable theosis). This can also be understood as involving the increase of freedom/ agency. 

And it can also be understood as God encouraging Men (through history and also as individuals, which processes are related) to grow-up from the passivity and unconsciousness of spiritual childhood, through spiritual adolescence, to a spiritual maturity where choices are active and consciousness.

From this perspective, we could interpret the Industrial Revolution as a consequence of changes in Men's consciousness, in Men's relationships to 'the world' - including other Men. 

The I.R therefore presented Men with challenges which, if the right (good) choices had been made, would have led to spiritual learning and greater spiritual maturity. 

But these opportunities came with the risk that wrong choices would instead be made, these opportunities would be lost; and - because Men were more free and had greater individual agency - the outcome could potentially be worse than was possible at early phases of human consciousness. 

So, the I.R. was an event that brought with it high potential rewards in terms of Man's spiritual agency; but also the possibility that this increased agency would be used to reject the spiritual and result in worse Men in a worse world. 

And it turned-out that most Men made the wrong choices, and got the worse world. 

We could see something similar for several of the more specialized aspects of post-I.R. society and psychology. 

For instance, Feminism can be understood as rooted in a change of the actuality of the spiritual relationship between men and women; which emerged as part of that 'modern' change of consciousness that led-up-to the I.R.  

This new relationship between men and women was a new fact, and was the 'problem' which Mankind had to face; and face it from the perspective of newly-increased free agency. 

Clearly (from a Christian perspective) Feminism as-is represents the outcome of wrong choices in face of these problems; and Feminism is responsible for great corruption and evil - including official and coerced moral inversions. 

Nonetheless; there was a real 'problem' to which Feminism was the wrong solution; and there was (and still is, to some extent) the possibility of better choices in face of this problem. 

In conclusion; I believe that Christians need to be able to see more deeply into the problems and issues of our times than a falsely dichotomous choice between either accepting the evil mass majority ideology; or an attempted roll-back towards the attitudes, motivations, and behaviours of pre-modern times - and a pre-modern consciousness which no longer exists! 

The first (modernist-assimilation) is straightforwardly evil, although deriving from real problems that might have led to good - if Men had made better choices. 

The other (roll-back) is based on a denial of real problems and real changes, and is therefore impossible to accomplish - and will lead, indirectly, to evil if it is attempted. 

What we need instead to do is recognize that the problems of modern Man are not identical with those of ancient Men; and this is part of God's plan of creation. 

Therefore, we should start from where we actually-are, and this time use our new-powers of agency and free autonomy of consciousness, to make the right choices, from good motivations. 


Francis Berger said...

This is a good counter to those who decry modernism in all its forms and demand a return to some earlier, simpler form of Christendom. Many delude themselves into thinking they would be answering God's call by becoming peasants in some neo-feudal Christian system. Moreover, they delude themselves into thinking they could actually "do it" if the possibility presented itself!

I sense that developments after 1700 (or perhaps a bit earlier) created opportunities for greater freedom "for" God but these were never fully explored and instead ended up creating greater freedom "from" God via the overemphasis on physical/material concerns. As you note, this does not make the opportunities bad in and of themselves. However, the choices made were another matter entirely.

Concerning the last sentences in this point, it strikes me that the current, full-on totalitarian onslaught against our new-powers of agency and free autonomy of consciousness are intentionally designed to hinder and obstruct right choices made from good motivations. I suspect that if push came to shove, the forces of evil could go as far as to switch modes and attempt to hinder agency and free autonomy of consciousness by introducing some "Christian-flavored" form of totalitarianism (a lá the Grand Inquisitor). Anything to derail freedom and consciousness once and for all.

However, such a reversion would be harmful even if it were initiated by "good" rather than evil. Christians would once again fail to fulfill God's intents and hopes for man.

Mia said...

Perhaps you will find it encouraging that since about 2014 I have frequently seen this perspective among Millennials who might previously have been classified as conservative or libertarian. Solutions are not obvious, but for instance it is well understood that the problems were real and that ignoring or dismissing them the way older generations tend to is not only cruel but unacceptable and ineffective. I see a lot more self-study with Millennials who for instance will have anti-feminist views but go out of their way to read foundational feminist books, which leads to better understanding of the problems feminism tried to solve and why we can't simply go back.

ben said...

I think the wrong answers are more like people using their historically-unusual internal freedom - for perversity, rather than people genuinely misunderstanding. The answers to the questions are inverse and this implies they're created by people striving for perversity. The leftist narratives would be motivated in basically the same way as the pseudo-sex, antisex behaviours.

An analogy would be spicy food; people used to find modern kinds of wrongness too unpleasant to entertain - now people find those same things wrong to a lesser degree, meaning they can tolerate them and even seek them for their (now) mild unpleasantness for 'entertainment'. At the same time, Good is also more weakly felt. Good would be like sweet food, continuing the analogy.

It's like realising you can fly and, instead of taking off, flying down into the abyss to explore the evil there. I suppose it's easier to explore the destruction of Good, than to create Good. But there's a sky to fill up there! And the pit can be exited, the same way it was entered.

In the end, as long as resurrection is chosen, this can all be growing-pains in hindsight.

William Wildblood said...

An important essay. The changes starting, for the sake of argument, around the time of the Renaissance and gathering pace at the Enlightenment, that have led to modernism were evolutionarily positive and were the result of spiritual influences on human consciousness that had matured to the point at it could potentially take advantage of these influences. Unfortunately, the process was hijacked by forces antithetical to spiritual development and diverted into the wrong channels, mostly to do with materialistic responses rather than spiritual ones. We have been a bit like the sorcerer's apprentice, unable to manage powerful forces properly.

But proper motivation could turn all this round and we could still use these forces in a spiritually creative rather than destructive way. Many individuals do that already but the greater society and culture most certainly do not

No Longer Reading said...

Good post.

This is one of those issues that is hard to communicate to people that aren't already interested in it. Since politics is frequently simple and binary, it's often a matter of for or against the modern world.

But it's still valuable to understand. Over the years, there have been many noticeable breaks. At the beginning, claiming that a particular change was a continuation of what came before was often used as a Trojan Horse to gain power and influence. But it became clear over time that it really was a shift.

It's not enough to just point out the inflection points. You have to do a more complete analysis and say why that change rather than another one. Furthermore, why didn't the state of affairs from before continue?

Lady Mermaid said...

Excellent post! This is why I really dislike the "reactionary" label despite having sympathy for much of their viewpoints. I believe it was Francis Berger who coined the term "creationary" instead. We need to be for something rather than simply being defensive against the tides.

While we have definitely been heading in the wrong direction since the 18th century, it's not possible to simply revert to an earlier time. This was tried w/ the Bourbon restorations after the French Revolution, Franco's post WWII Spain, and the post independence Republic of Ireland. We are as Frodo at the end of Lord of the Rings. He was unable to revert to the comfortable existence of the Shire after his journey and ultimately had to leave Middle Earth.