Thursday, 23 May 2019

You Are Not a Spiritual Person If You do Not Reject the World

You can substitute the words religious or Christian and it comes to the same thing. If you do not reject the world then you are not a spiritual person. I don't mean you need to become a monk or nun which is an outer rejection and suitable for some people as it is not for others. The rejection required is inner and is not of the world as God's creation and a place of beauty and many wonders but of the world's values and standards. I can't tell you the number of times I have read or heard someone say "I'm a very spiritual person..." and then proceed with the usual liberal clich├ęs and platitudes. What they don't realise is that they may have some kind of spiritual sensibility but their real religion is the religion of humanity, and the religion of humanity is the deadly enemy of spiritual truth. Why? Because it brings spiritual truth down to the level of humanity in and for itself and without reference to the transcendent God except as seen in the context of the earthly human being who is primary.

The crucial point is this. Are we made for this world or for a higher world with this one principally a means of preparing us for that? If we are made for a higher world then what we seem to be in this world is not what we really are. We are completely different sorts of beings. That's because a higher world is not just this world intensified but something qualitatively different. Therefore a form of spirituality that caters to us as we are in this world is actually an anti-spirituality. It is one that looks to improve rather than transform and so will probably make things worse since an improved version of what is wrong to start off with may be harder to transform than the original. 

Thus we can say that humanitarianism doesn't understand what a human being is, seeing it in strictly materialistic terms even when sometimes a vague and generalised spiritual component is thrown in. But even if it is, that is still more of an add-on than the fundamental reality. Human beings can only begin to understand what they are when they see themselves as something greater than what they appear to be. That is because our threefold mental, emotional, physical nature is just the part of us that functions in the material world. The spiritual self that holds together and animates these 'bodies' is of a different order altogether, and it is that spiritual self that is the reality of a human being.

This rejection of humanitarianism doesn't mean that a true spirituality is not dedicated to the well-being of the human. But it does mean that it is always theocentric not anthropocentric and so things that are important to materialistic humanitarianism such as political ideas of human rights, freedom and equality are seen in context of the reality of the soul and its nature, purpose and goal rather than their own context. This goal is not the happiness or alleviation of suffering of the worldly self but is focused in transcendence. For a true spirituality is always vertically orientated as opposed to the horizontal orientation of humanitarianism, and these two approaches are not equivalent since the one sees the human being as multi-dimensional while the other is limited to the familiar three-dimensional model.

The essence of humanitarianism is equality which derives from its horizontal, quantitative focus and its denial of transcendence. When transcendence and the vertical are introduced into the mix, as they should be, then you have something different and that is the idea of hierarchy. But note that the horizontal axis still remains. It is just that it is not all there is, and what this means is that human beings now relate to each other in two ways, one of which is equality but the other is hierarchical.

The multidimensional/transcendental nature of true spirituality is why religion requires sacrifice and renunciation, why it has a strong ascetic side, demands purity and how its object strikes awe, even fear, in the heart of the believer, an emotion totally alien to the humanitarian unless he steals it from religion because he is conscious of its absence in his own ideological system. Some people think that you should not fear God because he is loving and good, and fear is always bad. This is a worldly infection that has been picked up by superficial religious believers. The person who doesn't fear God is a fool. Not because God is not loving and good but because he is incomprehensible and so far beyond us that we are as nothing And yet we are made in his image and he dwells within us. Of such apparent paradoxes is true religion made.

When the tide of Christianity began to go out sometime, for the sake of argument, in the 18th century, it left something behind it on the sand. This was humanitarianism, all that remained of Christianity's spiritual vitality being a kind of worldly sediment. Many people then thought that the real essence of Christianity was what was left, a way for human beings to relate to each other in this world. Of course, the truth was exactly the opposite. What was left was the shadow as it fell on Earth. What had departed was the light. For the whole point of Christianity was its spiritual content in general and Christ himself in particular. Not Christ as a great teacher or even prophet but as the Son of God, born to save the world who died on the cross and rose from the dead three days later. To save the world from what? The usual answers are sin and ignorance which is correct, but I would add that it was also to save the world from the idea of goodness separate from God. For seeing goodness in the light of God transforms it from something that operates only on a worldly level to a cosmic universal that has the power not just to polish the base metal of humanity but to turn it into gold. And this is the difference between humanitarianism and true religion and why focus on one will destroy the other.


Bruce Charlton said...

William, I would put matters differently and without opposition between this and next world.

Something more like: this mortal life needs to be seen *in context of* the eternal and spiritual world (beyond biological death). We should not 'reject' this world, but should recognise that it is a temporary phase in contrast with eternity to come.

Since God has given us this world, he must have a reason to have 'made it that way' - and it must be at least potentially for our benefit; for our benefit if we live life properly.

And since we are also this-worldly in our spontaneous orientation, we were presumably also (to some extent) 'made that way' (by God); and there must surely be something to learn from that - and not simply that everything worldly be rejected as being without value.

In sum, I don't think taht we should conclude that this world, and our spontaneous nature to cling to it, is *nothing-but* temptation to be overcome. And I also don't think that a perfection of worldly rejection is even possible for us in this world, and if it is impossible for us, then surely God cannot have intended it as mandatory?

I think there is a way to take this world seriously, lovingly, creatively etc; and learn from it - while repenting our primary-worldliness, and striving to attain and maintain an other-worldly-context for everyday-living in face of the multitude of temptations to do otherwise.

As usual, it is a matter of striving, failing, repenting, and striving - and, throughout, learning the lessons God intends and we need. .

William Wildblood said...

I am using the phrase "the world" in this sense, Bruce.

If the world hates you, understand that it hated me first. If you were of the world, the world would love his own: but because you are not of the world, I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:18-19.

You adulterers and adulteresses, know you not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. James 4:4

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15

It is not the world as God's creation that should be rejected but the world as in the human world, created by man out of his own corruption. In this sense your blog is al about rejecting the world.

edwin said...

A seeming contradiction in Christianity arises from the declaration that the world came to be through the Logos/Christ and that God saw that the world was good, and the repeated characterization of the world as being in opposition to the good. Obviously, we must discriminate between two meanings, or rather, two ways of looking at the world. An interesting observation by Rudolph Steiner regarding maya is that it is not, as strict Vedantins and some buddhists claim, illusory in itself. The world is real, but we can look at the world in a way that misses its essential reality, which is spiritual, and sees it only superficially, as self-generated and self-contained matter. The latter viewpoint is maya, which equates to the term "world" as it is used in Christianity. Two people can perform the self-same act with entirely different motives and with entirely different results as far as the doer is concerned. A humanitarian may help another because his ideology prescribes it, but his action will lack a spiritual dimension. It dissipates into nothingness as a result. It becomes maya. One who acts out of the spirit, out of the Logos/Christ, raises his soul to the transcendent through his earth-bound action and brings the world and spirit together, or rather acknowledges that they are not separate, except under the illusion of maya. The malaise that appears to have settled over the West is due to its having sunk into maya. We feel the futility of our way of life, of the perishing nature of all that we do, and rightly so. For one who does not see the spiritual dimension of matter, matter loses its value. To reject the world can only mean, in a Christian sense, to see the world as an expression of the spirit.

Eric said...

Yes, I believe all humanitarian arguments can be refuted based on these axioms. We cannot compromise. I think this is why aristocrats and peasants traditionally did not mingle, because the peasants were practical work ants who were not evolved for contemplating the higher worlds except through scripture and prayer. They could simply contemplate Jesus and gain access to immortality.

The priests however were aware that succumbing to the 'crowdist'-mind would only obscure communication with the gods. Since we don't have Kings anymore, and replaced organic rule with complete bureaucracy, the materialistic middle-manager crowdist mind has expanded like a bubble. No wonder humanitarianism follows from that.

In Sweden, it is worse, because we have mostly bred out our lower castes (as the rest of western Europe) and were never a strictly feudal society. Now we have castrated our Monarchy, and have simply become an 'automated' mass of collective minded conformist-individualists, for better or worse. The purpose of this was high trust, which now has become high trust or complacency toward Evil.

You are right that 'what' a human being is has been obscured. For example, material objects are defined by what they are made 'out of', because thats what they are. Humans however have inner selves, but I'm afraid our current rulers are trying to alienate us from our-selves so that we become emptied objects with an externally hooked mind. This also "happens" to coincide with modern "spirituality", trying to make us into vegetables. And the political radicals, on both the left and right, are indeed their useful idiots. Both sides are nihilistic, anti-human, obsessed xenophiles and xenophobes respectively. The one has an antipathy for nature, and wants to reject it, the other has a 'fetish' for nature, and want to absorb us into it.

Eric said...

At least our peasants had courage and spirit-derived commonsense, I should add to that! Indeed, they were the vanguard of the nation, the 'middle-class' mentality is not!

William Wildblood said...

Just to confirm that when I say reject the world I am not saying reject the reality of creation (though it is a subsidiary reality) but refer to priorities based on the world as it appears without being rooted in spirit. Thus, worldly wisdom and good opinion, the world as understood in the phrase 'the world the flesh and the devil'.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - I misunderstood your 'worldliness' (bad) to mean 'this mortal world' (mixed).

I don't think the problem has much to do with class - and certainly not the peasant - aristocrat divide. Significantly, the English medieval writier William Langland (of lowly birth - and perhaps the greatest epic poet-Christian we have had; if Milton was the greatest epic Christian-poet...) had a peasant 'Piers Plowman' as his hero of faith; and Chaucer depicted devout peasants - eg. in the poor widow in The Nun's Priest's Tale.;view=fulltext

There is something rather complicated going-on about the expansion of the middle class that probably does go with the decline of traditional religion - albeit that the early, devout, Nonconformists were generally more devout than the aristocrats and pleasants of the 17th-19th century in England.

But I think that traditional religion was destined/ doomed to decline - the problem is that Romantic Christianity did not (in some way) grow to take its place.

Unknown said...

I think active renunciation is probably the wrong path - what you want is a 'letting go', a kind of passivity that lets God in.

I sometimes marvel at the fact that all our problems are caused by our own efforts. All we have to do is quiet ourselves, and God rushes in to fill the empty space.

But we, especially in the modern world, have such a hard time doing that. We really think our own will can save us - which only builds our ego and separation from God.

You know the old saying, where is God? Where you let him in. God cannot be where our self fills up all the space.

I sometimes ask myself, what must we do to end the horror of modernity? And then I realize, we have to do less. It is precisely that we rely too much on our own efforts that characterizes modernity.

A few years ago I would have thought that accepting my dependence on God was childish, and I would have been embarrassed by it. But that is because I did not understand what a human being is.

For religion to return, we don't have to do anything special, we simply have to cease doing our own will. And for many of us, there is a subtle temptation to do our own will under the guise of religion.

But I am greatly heartened. There are signs that traditional religion is returning as more and more people realize their helplessness and inability to save themselves, and that the only true path is to rely on God, like a child relies on his father (such a horrifying self-image for moderns!).

Recently, atheist pick-up artist RooshV has converted to Orthodox Christianity, the religion of his ancestors, after having acknowledged that the path of self effort leads to a dead end. He found God after accepting his powerlessness. Previously he preached masculine self effort and self saving, like all moderns.

And its precisely the people who struggle so hard to save themselves that eventually realize their own powerlessness and their need for God.

I believe the modern world is on the cusp of acknowledging its own powerlessness in the face of life, and a return to God will ensue.

We will see more RooshVs.

Faculty X said...

"In the world but not of it"

Christ was a radical who often spoke of the need to withdraw from the world, which is said to be under the dominion of the evil one. So did Paul. The world of governments, taxes, wars, material gain, marriage - they are to be endured and accepted as necessary parts of life if they are, but they are not the highest spiritual life.

Christ said you have to hate your own life (and father and mother and much else) to be his disciple.

He said we would be free of marriage and be like angels in Heaven after resurrection.

He said his kingdom was no part of this world.

Now that is the real deal on rejecting the world. Uncompromising.

JMSmith said...

Your first response to BC largely answers my question. "World" is a tricky word, and it's easy to get tangled up in equivocation. I do think the word "creation" serves as an antonym, the "world" being a sort of human re-creation of the original creation. Postmodern theorists seem to like the word "representation," and I think it would be fair to say that the New Testament uses the word "world" to mean the tissue of human re-creations or representations of the primary creation. And it tells us this "world" is false (or at least highly distorting). It is significant, I think, that postmodern theory tells us the "world" of representation is all that there is--nothing exists but a network of signifiers that refer to one another, and there is no signified. In other words, there is no creation, and hence no creator.

I find that contemplation of material things takes me out of "the world" in the New Testament sense. Running water, stones, the shape of the land. I try to simply behold these things until the chatter of humanity that we call "the world" fades a bit. I understand that to overcome the world may ultimately mean to transcend the material, but I'm a very long way from any ultimate overcoming, and for now seem to make progress by beholding creation.

William Wildblood said...

That's a useful distinction, thanks. To reject creation would be to reject God who made it and saw that it was good. But to put creation before the Creator is also a mistake. I don't know what Greek word is used in the NT that is translated as 'world' in English but the meaning is clear. It is creation not seen as creation but something standing in its own right independent of a Creator and under the sway of the prince of this world as Faculty X says above. So we must distinguish between the world as creation = good and the world as corruption = bad. The world seen apart from God is the latter.

I believe that God has given us the things you mention as pointers towards him if we see them aright. And do we need to transcend the material or just the idea of the material as a thing in itself? When Jesus ascended he took his body with him, sanctifying the flesh, which tells us that the material is not so much to be transcended as fully submitted to the spiritual to which it will, when that is done, impart its own quality. For me this is what sets Christianity apart from (and above) all other religions.