Saturday 13 April 2024

The understanding imperative: Denial is not ignorance - and, anyway, ignorance is not innocence

Something that is hard to grasp and keep-hold-of, is that one vital action we should take is to become conscious of the spiritual war - the war between Good and evil.

(Or God and evil - in which evil is defined by that which opposes God, Good, Divine Creation.) 


At this stage in human development, we need to become conscious of much that was unconscious in earlier states of human development; and with consciousness comes choice

This is very important. Modern Western Man is grown to spiritual adolescence, and does not inhabit that ancient world of spiritual childhood in which the unconscious and spontaneous are dominant; and in which Goodness comes from obedience to legitimate authority. 

That is gone and irrecoverable; just as our own childhood is gone. 

Us, Now, must become conscious, must understand - and we do choose.


We choose, and have-chosen - and to deny this does not wash; because to suppress and deny knowledge of our choices is not to be ignorant; and even if we were genuinely ignorant, as of here-and-now ignorance is no defence against evil.

(Our world is ruled by evil, so that we must know it, and resist it, for and from ourselves - not by obedience to the authorities of our world, which are all net-corrupted - and anyway how can we choose which authority is good except from our-selves?)

(Anyone capable of describing or arguing that ignorance is a defence against evil, is already in-denial, is therefore not ignorant, nor innocent; and has therefore already-chosen - one way or the other.)


However, making an inner choice between Good and evil does Not enable us to transform ourselves positively in this mortal life

This was apparent even as long ago as St Paul - who said (e.g. in Romans) that knowing what is right does not mean we can do it - indeed, to be blunt, we cannot actually do what we want to do - no matter how much we want it.

Paul (as an ancient, in an earlier stage of development) saw Goodness externally, as The Law - and was clear that we could not live in accordance with The Law; no matter how much we desired it, no matter how much we strove. 

And since we cannot live by The Law we would all without exception be condemned by The Law - if not for some other supervening cause - which is Jesus Christ; who has exploded as false, the previously-assumed connection between Good Living and Salvation. 


In simple words; our task in life is not to become better people nor to improve society. 

Betterment and improvement is irrelevant to the fundamental reality of this mortal life.

This is mostly because there is evil in each and all of us; as well as all sorts of other interference to our behaviours coming from (e.g.) sickness, circumstances, ageing, and death.


But while this means we cannot make either our mortal-selves better, or this world a better place - even when we know how to do it; nonetheless, knowing and choosing is exactly what we need to do in terms of the resurrected life after death - it is what causes us to accept Christ's offer of salvation - and we carry the consequences of such choices into resurrected eternal life.  

As I said; it seems terribly difficult not to fall into the recurrent error of assuming that we can fundamentally, significantly, improve our-selves and this-world - terribly difficult to give-up on this futile - and indeed counter-productive - quest. 

As so often, we can find inspiration in Jesus of the Fourth Gospel, and what he expects of the people around him. He really doesn't seem to be trying to improve people's behaviour much, at least in terms of their actual outer-behaviours; Jesus seems to accept people that people will-be pretty much as they are... 

Yet Jesus does make tremendous efforts to help other people understand their ultimate and real spiritual situation. 

With this goal he performs symbolic miracles, and explains them both as parables and explicitly. He aggressively attacks falsehood and delusion, and sets out an alternative vision of a life that is Not Of This World; indicates by poetry and symbol what this eternal resurrected is like, and how to get there - and how to get there is very much about love.


And with respect to love, Jesus's approach is very much about the understanding that love is the essential. Jesus knows that love cannot be manufactured to order, and that we can't become more loving than we are; but we can and should recognize and affirm that love is primary and essential (because that is the commitment we must make if we are to follow Jesus to Heaven). 

And it seems very important to Jesus that all this be explicitly known... 

Jesus is saying, I believe, that the saving act is to understand and to make the right inner choice and determination - and, implicitly, to know that this is what we are doing


One thing I draw from this is that anyone who claims not to know about evil, who claims ignorance of who and what is evil - and hopes thereby to be regarded as innocent and not responsible - is actually lying.

Probably lying to our-selves - the evil aspects of our-self lying, and we have chosen to believe these lies - and then denying our knowledge that these are lies.

And lying is a sin that goes against God and creation; therefore must be repented - but when we are denying that we lie, then we are not repenting. 


The place I am going with this is to address the question of what we ought to do - here-and-now, 2024, in The West - to Fight Evil and Do Good?

We are prone to do many wrong things instead... To look for some external authority to whom we can pretend to hand-over ultimate responsibility. To seek a gang for support and defence and better attack. Or perhaps to make excuses for why we do not do better in reforming our-selves and the world. 

All the time missing the point, and failing to do what we must. 


And perhaps even arguing that doing what is demanded of us is secondary, unimportant, a merely "private" matter (something merely going on inside our heads...) - and that instead we ought to be fighting to reform the world in the socio-political arena. 

This being not just futile, but actively harmful - unless a consequence of understanding explicitly who to fight, why and how. 

Because, as with "resist not evil", merely to fight evil is to compound evil by double-negation - unless done in pursuit of positive Good.

The task of understanding what is going on at the level of the spiritual war of this world and in our-selves is endless, and very difficult - it is, indeed, a lifetime's work and cannot be completed. 

Yet understanding is possible, positive, and cumulative; and is indeed what is really intended by Doing Good - but not Good for our temporary mortal selves in this temporarily-inhabited, temporary world.  

Whatever the way we currently explain this process to ourselves, however we explain why it is needful, understanding is the primary Good we ought to be doing - the fight we ought to be fighting. 

And given the multitude of false ideas and wrong advice that circulates; this task is worthy.


As a reminder; we can think about what Jesus did for his disciples; which was mostly to help them understand. 

Presumably understanding is exactly what the Holy Ghost does for us now - if we ask Him. 

To ask is to be answered - so long as we ask the right question properly; and that is what we most need to be working-on. 


agraves said...

Yes, knowing what we must do and doing it are very different things. As an example let's take the current craze of online pornography and all that goes with it. Many people realize this is damaging on many levels but try as they may they cannot stop from using it. They seem almost powerless to stop for more than a brief time. I think that there are spiritual entities involved with the porno culture that attach themselves to people and prod them on when they want that energy. The entities are quite influential. This applies to all areas of our culture, many see what is wrong and yet are compelled to continue destructive behavior. Since people are generally unaware of the presence of negative spirits influencing them they seek psychiatric help to overcome these attachments. The effectiveness of these therapies is quite limited, in fact leading people to think abhorrent behavior is normal. In short negative spirits are strongly affecting our society and I am not sure there is a solution, we may not go back to find what was lost.

Epimetheus said...

Well, if it is negative spirits, the solution would be to cast them out using supernatural power & authority. The New Testament has a great deal to say about this, all of it embarrassing to the modern mind, but perhaps it should be taken far more seriously. The institutions that produced and certified shamans and priest have fallen, and the existing real ones are so few in number, that people would need to become self-made exorcists, casting out their own demons. I've been experimenting with this myself.

Perhaps this is not in Dr. Charlton's wheelhouse, but it's of a piece with do-it-yourself theology.