Monday 17 April 2023

Embrace the simple-clear positive; eschew the complex double-negative

Christians do themselves, as well their cause, long-term harm by their habitual (addictive?) use of double-negative theology. Indeed there is a very influential branch of theology and Christian practice that has elaborated this into a vast systematic edifice (the negative path, or via negativa) - plus, this is the basis of much 'eastern' religious philosophy in Buddhism, Hinduism (and Sufism).  

I think we can see the collapse of double-negative thinking in the 21st century; because its lack of simplicity and clarity render it incapable of dealing with the protean and pervasive challenges to faith of this era, as emanating from globalist totalitarianism with its linked-bureaucracies of governance and mass media. 

Negative motivations are counter-productive, because when all is illusion then individuals are (in practice) rendered passively obedient to that which is dominant. And, anyway, the number and strength - and fluidity - of deceptions are now too great to be individually discerned, diagnosed and rejected. 

In a world where (for many or most people) it is a case of me-against-the-world: - my Christianity against a world of demonic- materialist ideology - it seems we must be clear in our own minds; if we are not to be confused and bamboozled, and simply worn-down to impotent exhaustion by the relentless and increasing weight of error and evil.

For us, it is a case of motivation, motivation, motivation! 

Thus, we cannot anymore be motivated by such double-negatives as the avoidance of sin - most Christians who imagine this is possible are simply denying their own vast scale of sinning in domains such as dishonesty, resentment, and fear. Avoidance of sin is now effective (hence valid) only when there is a primary positive impulse towards Good. 

But most people's idea of The Good is some notion of altruism/ unselfishness/ helping-others - which is another negative value. In a world based on utilitarian hedonism, where 'other people' live materialistically - 'altruism' reduces to me trying to 'make' people happy, which is impossible; so it ends-up with the negative goal of diminishing suffering. 

(In practice, altruism at the political level entails a small class of super-powerful/ super-privileged/ super-rich individuals pretending to administer the world on behalf of the 'oppressed' by monopolizing and confiscating all resources - supposedly because this globalist-establishment are the 'agents' of 'social justice.)   

We cannot (if ever Men could) be motivated by a desire for 'freedom' - because freedom is a negative value that only gains motivating-power for Good, when there is some existing positive motivation towards Good that is being thwarted. 

We cannot, if we intend to accomplish Good, be motivated primarily by obedience to any external authority or institution; because all such are so corrupted that in practice Goodness can only be discerned and practiced by the independent thinking of individual persons, and their autonomy of thinking. 

And that returns us to the primary of personal motivation. 

In other words; it is now imperative for Christian Good both that individuals are motivated to think for themselves and do-so, and that they operate from baseline assumptions that are positively-motivating - which means simple and clear enough to be effective. 

In practice; each must discover these for himself. They are not available off-the-peg and will not be the values that get-inculcated-into the passively obedient or non-conscious, routine-thinker. 

Since the problem is insufficient motivation, we need to begin from whatever positive and good motivations we already have; and follow these motivations through, with honesty and diligence to... wherever they will lead. 

The Big Problem is that so few people seem to have the motivation even to recognize a problem with The World Now. 

This could - in theory - be because the world is now so pervasively and persuasively evil that Modern men are helpless against its temptations... But that would be to assume God has failed to give Men a reasonable chance of salvation...

Alternatively, it may be that Modern men are of innately poorer quality than Men of the past; that a mass of Men (especially in The West) are innately more dominated by evil, more prone to evil - and feebler in their strength of Good motivations than before. 

I regard this 'worse Men' as the most probable explanation for a world full of Men who do not even want to be Good; but who instead legislate and enforce inverted-true values, such that great evil is now called great good - and praised, rewarded and accorded the highest status. 

In other words: I assume that God is as Good as ever, as powerful a creator as ever; but the 'quality' of pre-mortal souls available for incarnation into this mortal life is lower than in the past. A lot of incarnated souls nowadays are less naturally-good/ more heavily disposed-towards evil, compared with the past. 

And therefore (here-and-now) all the major (large/ powerful/ wealthy/ high-status) human institutions of The Hegemonic West (including churches) are net-corrupted; are overall affiliated to the side of evil in the spiritual war of this world. 

Quite likely - you and I are similarly misaligned and enfeebled compared with Men of the past - although I would not be writing, you would not be reading, this - unless there we had at least some motivation to be motivated for Good... 

However... What worked for our ancestors may not work for us: since we are worse, and so is The World. 

We need things to be simpler, clearer and easier than They did; if we are to be able to develop and strengthen our embryonic Good-motivations into something positive by-which we can navigate our path against the current of a hostile evil-world of apparently overwhelming strength and scope. 



Avro G said...

Is it that we’re so much dumber than in the past or that we have so much greater scope to manifest our stupidity that our follies are amplified and in the aggregate amount to a critical mass of evil heretofore not possible?

Bruce Charlton said...

@AG - Dumbness is not relevant - intelligence is not related to goodness. Nor is scope for evil.

It is the basic disposition that is at fault: people do not know and do not want good - because good has no positive meaning for them, because life has no positive purpose.

mr. smarty pants said...

I disagree. Intelligent people can be evil, but they can also be good in a, say, totalitarian regimes, as they think for themselves, while low and middle intelligent people will just go on with the state ideology. Also, dumb people are unable to have high-level reasoning, so they base their political views on combination of dull conclusions and primordial instincts, and then support short-sighted policies which lead the country to nowhere. Also, dumbness means gross nervous system, so when this "going to nowhere" happens, they most likely will feel nothing about it, and even become more confident

Bruce Charlton said...

@msp - I spent my career working with some of the most intelligent (and conscientious) members of the population in medicine and science; and (on the whole) they are among the most thoroughly corrupted people - especially those who also have managerial roles - because they lack even common sense and basic instinct.

Of course, I have no idea whether you, like me, are judging the goodness of people by Christian and spiritual criteria. You may merely be evaluating social compliance; which high IQ people tend to do better, especially when they are conscientious.

(I was an IQ psychologist, so I am familiar with the data on this - )

But either way; the higher and lower intelligence groups in the west are both net-corrupt (actively evil-affiliated), and extremely evil (to the point of inversion) by world-historical standards.

The differences in goodness wrt IQ stratum are minor and insignificant by comparison.

Sasha Melnik said...

I don't think we're worse or better than our predecessors, per se.

But I do feel God's hoping for us to overcome a state of profound, socialised, normalised and enforced _confusion_ - a state that didn't exist to this degree for previous generations.

Previous generations weren't as confused but probably had to try harder to survive.

The double negative... it became the lexicon, in a middle class sense of covering up appearances.

The next stage is well documented in the sense of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9

Which makes its appearances beautifully in That Hideous Strength.

I've experienced this myself, at least once. The language I was speaking could no longer be understood by others.

William Wright (WW) said...

What gives me some hope is the vision that Nephi had from an angel at the beginning of the Book of Mormon, in where he saw the devil's kingdom in the latter days and that it "had dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people".

But, there were the Saints and covenant people also scattered (though their numbers were apparently very few, perhaps for the reasons you cite), and at the time when the devil's victory seemed almost absolute, power from 'the Lamb of God' descended from heaven on these people and they "were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory".

I think at least part of this power will be found in the restoration of stories that will get to exactly what you are calling for, Bruce - simplicity and easily understandable truths. And with these stories, we each will hopefully find that good motivation again - something that resonates in a unique way to each of us, and the tide of the battle starts to turn.