Wednesday 28 October 2020

The State of Sin and the State of Grace

Sometimes a person who takes religion seriously and understands what it actually means in terms of belief and behaviour can be accused of being insensitive to the suffering of human beings in this world. But it is a spiritual trap that one can be diverted from a proper focus on God and the soul to an over-concern with mortal man and his preoccupations. That doesn't mean we should ignore mortal man but it is a question of priorities, and often to concentrate on what is good for mortal man means one does harm to him in his spiritual being because, while the two are certainly part of one whole, there is a hierarchical relationship between the different aspects of our nature, to ignore which is to sever communication between the higher and the lower.

Think of it like this. Human beings can exist in two states; the state of sin and the state of grace. The first can be compared to our normal earthly self. It is material man, that which we appear to be in an earthly context. Our everyday physical, emotional and intellectual self. We can continue in this state of a material being all our lives, and we will do unless we wake up to a deeper reality. Then we understand that our purpose is to become aware of and grow into the spiritual. What use is it doing everything we can, on an individual or political level, to make the material man happy and fulfilled (or seemingly happy and fulfilled) if he represents a false and fallen state? But this is what we do. Material man is not what we are, certainly not what we should be. In fact, all politics, all education, should be focussed on nurturing the spiritual, bringing that to the forefront of our consciousness and awakening us to the reality of our souls. This should not just be left to religion. It must encompass every aspect of our lives and be behind all else as it often was in traditional societies. That is something we have forgotten to our great detriment.

The trap I mentioned earlier is one that left-wing ideologues have fallen into and fallen deeply. Their belief system inevitably causes its partisans to regard human beings as material rather than spiritual beings, and this is why leftist ideas are invariably bad on a deeper level even when they may seem superficially or even naturally good. The spiritual harm that eventuates as that level is denied or reduced in import more than outweighs any putative material or humanitarian good. 

It might be countered that right wing ideas are also materialistic if they support and encourage greed and selfishness as certain forms of capitalism are said to do, and they are so in a worse way than those of the left which, at least, aim to eliminate material unfairness. This, at any rate, is a typical argument. It is perfectly true that the right without God is materialistic but the point is that the right with God sees man as a spiritual being above all while the left, even when it accepts some kind of spirituality, still puts its focus on the material and the worldly human. The spiritual is subsidiary to the material for the left, always. This may be denied but is actually the essence of leftism which is based on a levelling down and destruction of quality. A little drop of leftism will always contaminate anything else it is mixed with and reduce the whole, whatever other ingredients there might be, to materialism.

Is the task to make us happy in our state of sin, as material beings? Or is it to raise us up to the state of grace, enabling us to acquire full self-knowledge as spiritual beings? Don't ever interpret the spiritual in the light of the material as the left inevitably does. See it in its own light and see everything else in that light too.


Bruce Charlton said...

"Is the task to make us happy in our state of sin, as material beings? "

That statement hit home - it reminded me of many years in which I was on the wrong path, and expended great effort in trying to be happy despite this - which (fortunately) did not work. Unhappiness is sometimes (not always) what we most need.

edwin faust said...

Pre-Vatican II Catholics were taught that we are all individually either in state of grace or a state of sin. Unfortunately, these states were too often defined in an external and legalistic manner rather than in a deeper spiritual sense. But people had generally an overarching awareness of their orientation and the actions that led them toward a state of sin. Confess, repent, make resolutions to amend, start again was the formula. An examination of conscience was considered a good daily practice. Now, to the extent that sin is considered by the Catholic and other mainstream churches, it is defined in terms of political correctness. We have environmental sins, racist sins, mask-flouting sins, etc. I wonder from what source young people might learn what sin really means? Not from the pope, certainly, nor from the archbishop of Canterbury or the orthodox patriarchs or the mainline Protestant denominations. The traditional line of transmission of spiritual knowledge appears to have been irreparably broken. Those who still recognize the distinction between sin and grace are seldom able to communicate to anyone else, or, if we attempt to do so, risk being regarded as feeble-minded or lunatic or colorfully quaint. We seem to have more in common with the Desert Fathers than with the churches that once formed our culture.

JMSmith said...

Once basic needs are met, we should probably be indifferent to our own material conditions and those of others. I am probably giving the word spiritual a broader meaning than you are, but a man should begin to seek beauty and truth as soon as he has scraped together a very few shekels. The Bible commands concern for the absolutely poor--widows, orphans, cripples--not for every dumb ass who has no money. And it certainly doesn't command us to lend a hand in the greedy status striving of people in the lower classes. Most churches have forgotten that charity is like medicine. Beyond a certain low dosage, more is not better.

William Wildblood said...

Exactly so. This is the whole problem with modern idea of welfare, that what should be a medicine in a few extreme cases has become a daily diet for many people. Jesus didn't go around multiplying loaves and fishes every day.

David Earle said...

I really enjoyed the phrasing of your first sentence. I think it describes what modern people refer to as "really religious", a term which I despise. Oh, you're super religious? As in you actually believe in God and try to live a Christian life? How dare you take the Bible that literally!

William Wildblood said...

Yes, religion is fine as long as it doesn't take priority over anything.