Friday 16 December 2022

The developmental-evolution of consciousness, and the function of the Mass

From Philip K Dick

The cyclic repetition which takes place in the Mass governs also the concept of why the Mass is spoken and what it is about. 

Our God died, and was buried (gone), but then He returned. 

So saying, the priest therewith becomes Christ, proving the authenticity, the rightness, of the whole religion and the whole service...

It is as if each time the Mass (or Last Supper, 'in remembrance of Me') was secretly celebrated by the early Christians, they got to unfold their miracle, about Jesus, for their own eyes alone, invisible to the (Roman-secular) world...

I can imagine the impact in the early days of the 'fish' Christians when they gathered in stealth to perform the feast of agape

New people who had never known Jesus, could be brought in one by one, and this shown to them. 

Suddenly he would be there! Only not as a mortal but in his Transformed state... 

He would be all through them, the celebrants. "Time would be abnegated". 

Excerpted and edited from 5:127 of Exegesis (2011) by Philip K Dick. 

The above is Philip K Dick's imagined account of the effect of the Mass among the earliest church Christians. 

I find it broadly very plausible as an account of how Men of that era - with the consciousness of that era - would have experienced this ritual-ceremony: i.e. as an overwhelmingly powerful re-living of the events being re-enacted.

If so, it is easy to see how the 'institutional church' emerged and grew among the 'secret Christians' (with their Ichthys symbol of the 'fish' of Christ). 

If then we imagine the Mass in the era of the late Middle Ages, when Men's consciousness had developed further in the direction of self-awareness, individualism, and alienation from the group and the world. 

I think we can intuit that the ceremony of the Mass must, by about 1500, have lost a great deal of its original effect. Because if it had not lost effect, then the Reformation questioning, and then denying, of the Christ-role of the priest, and the presence of Christ in the bread and wine, could not plausibly have been challenged

Wind-ahead another half-millennium to this modern era; when Men have become almost wholly cut-off from God, the divine, creation, in denial of the soul - and have become sometimes wholly-materialistic and this-worldly; and we can see that the Mass has lost all objective force.

The Mass no longer overwhelms the celebrants, it no longer imposes the experience of being in another time and place - but the ritual now requires active and purposive engagement from the participants. 

Time is - for most people, most of the time - no longer 'abnegated'; but instead the Mass takes place within the time and concerns of the mainstream secular world. 

Consequently the Mass is felt as no longer separate-from, nor higher-than, worldly church affairs - but has become highly assimilated to mundane attitudes and thinking.

Therefore, it was natural to the consciousness of modern Man that when an alleged global pandemic was reported; even (especially?) Catholics believed that all the churches of the world ought to be closed-down - until such a time as the secular authorities declared it 'safe'. 

This is an example of how a metaphysical assumption of the development of human consciousness through history may help us to understand the changes in Christian perceptions, attitudes, beliefs and practices since the time of Jesus; and may also help us to understand how we might positively respond to such changes. 


william arthurs said...

Two historical book recommendations about this timeline, both books from the 50s.

(1) Norman Cohn's The Pursuit of the Millennium. Sporadic millenarian break-away movements from the church, led by firebrand renegade priests or monks, started some hundreds of years before the Reformation and gradually gained more and more traction.

(2) Fr Louis Bouyer's The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism. The Reformation could not have happened before the metaphysical groundwork for it was laid in late mediaeval times, but once that had happened, the Reformation was inevitable and the Church institutions could not defeat the challenges that were posed. The people involved in these arguments at the time were too close to them to spot the philosophical changes underlying, but we can now see it. Reading this book today is an experience heavy with irony because Bouyer, a former Protestant minister, went on to a central role in Catholic liturgical reforms following Vatican II in the late 60s which their opponents now (2022) argue undermined belief in the Real Presence.

Alexeyprofi said...

I have read Italian psychotherapists (Luigi Anepeta, Nicola Gezzani, Bruno Cancelieri). They say that man has a need to belong to a group and a need to individuate. For most of history, the need for belonging has dominated, and the need for individuation became expressed around the time of the French Revolution

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ap - The question is why? What drives this change? The Steiner/ Barfield understanding (which I share) is that this change is divinely driven, part of God's plan.

william arthurs said...

Another book reference. Michael Oakeshott's On Human Conduct has a go (pp 234 ff) at tracing the disposition of individuality back to the Renaissance and its mediaeval antecedents. It was codified at the French revolution and in the US Declaration of Independence but that is a different matter -- they were describing an existing disposition of character.