Friday 24 May 2024

Why are Men and The World so badly designed for a successful mystical/ spiritual life?

Whenever I read any kind of plan, scheme, method, or even ideal about how to lead a qualitatively better spiritual or religious life - and this could range from reading the principles and practices of monasticism, works on how-to-do meditation, descriptions (as in The Way of a Pilgrim) of how prayer can transform life... Or even the structures of recommended mainstream church observances for laity - concerning attendances, meetings, and practices. 

When I consider such schemes, sooner or later I am thrown back by the tough question of why such elaborate, tough and prolonged procedures - with little or no guarantee of success - are (apparently) necessary for human beings to live The Good Life?

Surely (I think) the asserted need for such complicated and sustained procedures in order to live in accordance with God's will, is evidence that Men themselves, and The World in general, are very badly designed?   

Why should God the Creator have designed things so badly that difficult and long-term disciplines and training are, apparently, needed? 

And if an answer is put forward concerning Man's fallen state, the propensity to sin; or the interventions of demons - then that just kicks the can; because God created these beings and situations too.  

Another version of this question is to ask why God created a world in which it was so extremely difficult to do the right thing, so much easier to do the wrong? 

There are many aspects to this question, and I have written extensively about it elsewhere on this blog; but here I just want to focus on how strange it is that Christianity ever became identified so deeply with plans, schemes, methods and ideals of living a qualitatively better life

My understanding is that "Christianity" is (properly) about following Jesus Christ to resurrected eternal Heavenly life - it is essentially about our living after this mortal life and world.

It seems to me clear that this post-mortal goal of Christianity does not have any necessary, close, or specifically-mapped-out relationship to the quality of life in this temporary mortal life. 

Of course there is a profound relationship between this mortal life and the eternal life to come - in that both are lived by "us", both lived by "our-selves". 

But it seems almost obvious that when mortal life is temporary, and when we ourselves and the world in general are so... imperfect - that this mortal life must surely be mainly a preparation for resurrected life everlasting? 

When mortal life is understood as a preparatory experience, conducted by extremely varied mortal Men, in an extremely mixed and diversified world - then the idea seems very bizarre that there would be some special prescribed form of Christian Life, that would be expected positively and qualitatively to transform this inevitably insufficient and time-limited existence... 

Such considerations fill me with a deep puzzlement at the direction the main-stream of Christianity took after the death of Jesus.

Because (in apparently most times and places, and still) the emphasis of Christianity is nearly-always on attempting a qualitative improvement in this mortal life. 

And, by contrast with the detailed prescriptions and strong instructions of how to live here-and-now; the primary goal of resurrected eternal life is presented as a very uncertain proposition... Uncertain in terms of whether we can actually attain it, and uncertain in its actual nature if we do.   

To me; this is very strange, and my awareness of its strangeness continually increases. 


Evan Pangburn said...

Apologies, I believe the point may have gone over my head, but I don't see anything bizarre about these things.

I would believe that the point of prayer and other rituals is to keep the mind, heart and soul focused on God, Christ, and the eternal, as opposed to getting caught up in the world and the ones own worldly personality as opposed to ones eternal soul.

Not absolutely necessary to salvation, of course, but helpful. Some men are called to be totally transfixed on God and eternity, while most need "reminders" for lack of a better way to put it.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Evan - In theory what you are saying is perfectly reasonable - and how it ought to be.

But I'm saying it usually hasn't been like that in practice! The secondary and optional mostly became primary and mandatory.

I could be challenged with the double negative motivation of fear of eternal torment in hell becoming the primary motivator, by arguing that fear of hell is "the same thing" (in practice) as desire for Heaven - but by my understanding that is a fundamental misunderstanding.

Evan Pangburn said...

Ah I see now, the whole "10 step regimen to becoming a spiritual alpha male" mentality.

"Practice these 4 holy exercises and salvation is guaranteed."

"I've been doing cold water baptisms and the results have been phenomenal!"

Sorry, can't help myself.