Thursday 24 December 2020

Christmas Light

 If there was ever a time when we awaited light to be born in darkness, it is surely now. The darkness is all the more intense because most people don't recognise it for what it is. But those who do recognise it perceive that we live in a time of very great darkness.

For darkness read spiritual ignorance which results in spiritual evil. It would surprise many people to be told that now is a time of great evil. Are we not more enlightened than ever with our progressive attitudes of empathy and equality? Do we not care for others more? Have we not largely overcome cruelty and become more compassionate than our ancestors? This is all quite true. We do have more sympathy with the other than we used to, externally, at least, but ask yourself why this is. Could it be we have more feeling for material suffering because we are more materialistic?  Nicolai Berdyaev seemed to imply this when he wrote as follows in his work The Destiny of Man from 1931.

"Modern civilised man cannot stand cruelty, suffering or pain, and he is more pitying than men of earlier times, not because he stands above them morally and spiritually. He has come to be more afraid of pain and suffering, has become softer and less courageous and fearless: he has less endurance. He has weakened, spiritually. This is the reverse side of the increase in sympathy and pity, the lessening of cruelty."

In other words, have we become more compassionate not because of an increase in spiritual understanding but a decrease? Have we so lost focus on the spiritual plane that all our attention is transferred to the material so that what seems as an advance is actually a grave loss? I would suggest that much of our modern empathy comes from our disconnect from higher levels of being. When our entire being is materially focused that sphere becomes the centre of our attention. It seems we are more compassionate but our compassion is really only directed towards the earthly man. Christmas is there to remind us of the spiritual man and to tell us that this little limited earthly self is by no means all there is to us. In fact, it is merely the projection of the soul in 3 dimensional space. It is not even our real self. It is part of the totality of our being and so of course it should not be neglected or denied. Its suffering should certainly be relieved as much as possible within the bounds of spiritual good. But Christ did not come to remove suffering. He came to sanctify it so that it could be the means of redemption, the way whereby the soul could be liberated from identification with the earthly self. The birth of spiritual light in material darkness, which is what Christmas is, should point us towards that deep truth. The light comes from beyond this world. There is nothing in this world that can save us or liberate us from the pain and suffering to be found here. It is only by following that spiritual light from beyond the darkness of matter that we can really find both ourselves and our freedom from suffering.

This is a time of great evil but we don't see it because we don't acknowledge spirit. We know and recognise material evil but we don't see how we have fallen into spiritual evil. Evil is what damages good. We see what damages material or earthly good while at the same time perpetuating the attitudes that damage spiritual good. We are guilty of great spiritual evil, perhaps more than any previous generation. The light in darkness that is Christmas should awaken us to that and bring us back to our spiritual senses.


Bruce Charlton said...

Even worse - Sympathy, pity and compassion have now become very abstract - very detached from personal experience.

We get massive empathic outpourings about people of whom we know nothing except what the media tells us; and who are often fake (crisis actors, faked photos and videos, or celebrities generally - like Princess Di).

For example - from 50 seconds in, there is an example of a fake staged to manipulate the public, which caused massive empathic outpourings - you may recall the incident. But this kind of thing goes on all the time.

Meanwhile, the misery of actual people, neighbours and family - is treated with callous indifference; indeed I am aware of several really shocking examples of within-family neglect and shunning, going on in this birdemic (e.g. refusing to meet close members of family, for months, even beyond the daily-chaging, self-contradicting official 'rules' - which need to be broken anyway when actual people are in need - which is A Lot) - by those who simultaneously publicly affect to be wholly concerned with the well-being of others, and who respond to media depictions with uncontained emotionality.

For instance, a very old person in 'care' who was not seen by the family for nine months, supposedly for fear of passing on infection, and who died alone (surrounded by masked anonymous figures).

The point is not to empathise over this person - whom neither of us know - but to note the cruel hypocrisy of those approve of consigning their own family members and friends to solitary misery in order to... to do what exactly? 'Flatten a curve'?, 'save the NHS' from investing in more facilities?

And what kind of moral monster would approve of a system which did this... forever; so long as some official tells us that it 'reduces cases' (cases = 'positive' test results). (Which it does not do, anyway).

As so often happens with a false morality, pretty soon it ceases even to achieve the very limited goals it claims to be pursuing. Making subjective feelings of empathy the primary moral drive, is a recipe for actual cruelty.

Francis Berger said...

"But Christ did not come to remove suffering. He came to sanctify it so that it could be the means of redemption, the way whereby the soul could be liberated from identification with the earthly self. The birth of spiritual light in material darkness, which is what Christmas is, should point us towards that deep truth. The light comes from beyond this world."

Very well put! You and I appear to be on the same wavelength this Christmas. I've spent the last couple of days thinking about the above in connection to Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" and Jacob Marley's lament that "Mankind was my business! The common welfare was my business . . ."

Dickens was an unconventional Christian, and I feel his Christianity was often too focused on what you have termed "earthly man" - all the same, I believe he understood that mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were only true and real if they emanated from the light of Christ. (Marley was, after all, a damned soul and the crux of the novel is Scrooge's spiritual redemption). Moderns no longer seem to recognize this vital aspect of the story and tend to regard Scrooge as that highest of all possible human manifestations - the secular, altruistic philanthropist! I've been slugging away at a blog post about all of this for a day or two, but I'm having a difficult time pulling it altogether. You, on the other hand, have done a great job expressing many of the same thoughts I have been mulling over this Christmas.

edwin faust said...

The sanctification of suffering is understood in different ways. I had a close friend who was a fervent Catholic. While he was dying of cancer, he often refused medication to alleviate his pains and instead offered his suffering to God for the conversion of sinners. This was noble of him, but his suppositions seemed to me highly questionable. He thought of suffering as a kind of spiritual currency and that he could deposit grace in the accounts of other people by converting his suffering into a diffusive grace. You say that suffering is sanctified when it helps to liberate us from identification with the earthly self. This is, broadly speaking, a concept common to both Eastern and Western religious/philosophical traditions. To the extent that we think we are mainly the body, its fortunes will determine our happiness and our focus will be on the material circumstances of life. But Christianity views sanctified suffering as reparation- a view closer to my late friend's - and and does not so much regard it as the result of bodily identification so much as a punishment for sin, both inherited (original) and actual. I am often perplexed by the whole question, but I appreciate your perspective and tend to share it.

S.K. Orr said...

This was an excellent post, and very helpful to me personally. The number of things that could be considered "suffering" have increased in my life in recent months to the point where I find myself amazed sometimes. Attempting to find meaning in the suffering AND trying to stay focused on the reality of my spiritual self is a challenge.

Re: Bruce's observations on abstract emotional outpourings, I agree completely. I've noticed something that repels and angers (males?) seem incapable of talking without choking up or spilling tears when a microphone and camera are thrust into their faces. I suppose it would be one thing if the interviewee were being asked about his mother who died in a house fire or his cat who was killed by sadistic teenagers. But it's usually something like:
Reporter: "Mr. Jones, your favorite fast food sandwich is the McRib, is it not?"
Mr. Jones: "Yes, it is, and....[catch in throat, sob, tears welling up]..and it's not always available. It just seems unfair..."

The main reason this post was helpful for me is that it helps me stay vigilant while observing myself. "Am I going down that path?" Many thanks, William, for posting this.

William Wildblood said...

I know what you mean about men expressing their emotions in public aka failing to control them. Encouraging men to behave like this is more to do with the current trend of emasculating manhood than getting people to be more in touch with their feelings.