Thursday, 23 September 2021

Secular Spirituality

 One of the problems of living at the present time is that not only is it a time of materialism and atheism but that when individuals do turn to the spiritual they often take large chunks of the materialistic, atheistic culture in which they grew up with them. They retain inbuilt assumptions of the secular world.  Nowadays this is usually (though not always) in the form of leftist ideology which most people don't realise is formed from a rejection of God and religion and an attempt to supplement these spiritual realities with an earthly simulacrum of them with the earthly human being at the centre. This means that their version of spirituality is a post-Enlightenment, post-French Revolution version, both of which were actively anti-spiritual. Such people are left with a form of spirituality which is focussed on humanity rather than God which gives them a kind of cognitive dissonance. As I said in a previous post, we need to see the spiritual in its own terms and from its own perspective not in our worldly, human terms. And yet this latter is precisely what so many people now do. They see the spiritual as something that should operate to benefit the human being as the human being is here and now in its fallen state. This effectively means you can have spirituality without repentance which is a sad distortion of the truth.

I have heard people claim that spiritual feelings are natural human feelings and that you can pursue spiritual values and believe in transcendence, love, peace, wisdom etc without worrying about God or Christ or the afterlife or anything religious. They are mistaken. Your feelings are not truth. They might be based on truth (they might be based on a lot of other things too) but they are still just your personal feelings. You must  go beyond them to their real source. And their real source, if they are authentic and not just wishy-washy indulgences, is God. You cannot separate the fruit from the tree and if you do so the fruit will quickly rot. That is the problem. Unless you root your spiritual feelings in their source they will remain shallow and then decay and become caricatures of themselves, pale copies of reality, things that you feel you feel but don't really feel. 

Modern forms of spirituality are often just forms of psychological therapy and ignore the spiritual fundamentals of repentance and belief in God. You are not a child of God now simply by believing yourself to be so. The bridge to that state remains narrow, the sacrifice demanded remains extreme for it is that of your worldly self. That self as it is cannot be spiritualised which is a common error made by those whose idea of spirituality is their feelings. It must be given to God. Not as a theory but in reality, and for this to be real demands complete acceptance of God as a real being not just some vague, amorphous abstraction that you keep at a safe distance.

You might think you can have spirituality without God but that is a trick of the devil. The only valid approach that has ever tried that is the Buddhist one which is why Buddhism is popular among the spiritually deracinated these days. But two things need to be understood. Firstly, Buddhism was traditionally always a monastic religion, and I emphasise both words. Buddhism may not have been theistic but it still demanded an intense religious approach not a secular one. And two, for all the later attempts to compensate for this, Buddhism is essentially a creation-rejecting spirituality which denies the goodness of the self. But God had a purpose in creation. His aim was not to return to the unformed state but to bring the beauty of matter into harmony with the truth of spirit and make something new.

But anyway, contemporary secular spirituality often owes more to Jung than the Buddha, and while Jung is praised for bringing the spiritual to the psychological you could equally well say he did the opposite and brought the spiritual down to the psychological level thereby secularising it and robbing it of its spiritual truth.


Colin said...

Dear William

Over the last couple of years there has been an extraordinary growth on social media (Instagram and YouTube) of people supporting each other, teaching, exploring, learning about and trying to heal from what I can best describe as a vast array of different forms of dis-regulation of human living. From bodily health, trauma, abuse, addictions, relational dynamics, neuroception, nervous system responsibility, neurodivergence etc etc

There is much earnestness, sincerity, and learning going on (and much else), at the life level of body/thought/nervous system/emotion and the relationship between them. There is much help and wisdom there and I have much to be grateful for.

But, it is striking that it is 99% free of even mention of the spiritual. It seems that the requirement of a few years ago that such things need to be couched in spiritual terms or at least mention spirit has been dropped. You don’t have to call on spirit or give it up to a Higher Power (that you can make up if you want) any more. Now it seems to have become - You can do it, you can heal yourself, you’ve got this, with the help of others.

More like learning to drive.

Trouble is that whilst learning to drive is useful and you might enjoy it, the whole thing doesn’t make too much sense if you don’t know where you are, where you are driving to or why.

William Wildblood said...

You're right Colin. There is I would say a deliberate attempt to create a pseudo spirituality with its roots in our humanness. But this substitutes base metal for gold and will ultimately only take us further into illusion and ego.

Colin said...

Yes whilst there may be healing happening it is equally matched by vast unchecked ego. We are all going to heal ourselves and then um … it’s all going to be brill! Or at least loads better than it has been and we might just get to the end a bit more comfortably.

I notice a complete absence of any sense of Grace. Healing is achieved and owned by the individual. Illusion and ego as you say.

Mary said...

Isn’t it called “humanism?” Also the self-help people call it a “higher power; the God of YOUR understanding!” Since there is only ONE “higher power,” Jesus Christ, there are also “lower powers.” God is the highest power. Satan and demons are all lower powers, so if we call on the God of OUR understanding, we are calling on Satan and demons. There is only one true God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Colin said...

Yes absolutely Mary. And what I notice over the last couple of years is that the need to call on any one has been significantly dropped. You just do it yourself now.

Sean Fowler said...

Slightly off topic. My knowledge of the French Revolution is embarrassingly limited. Standard superficial, mainstream historical narrative about cake and guilletines, downtrodden masses being liberated from oppression from decadent tyrants etc. Have only encountered faint whispers of the whole movement having been orchestrated by the usual suspects, a precursor to communism and directly anti-spiritual and anti- Christian.

Would be interested to hear more. Could you William, or any of your readers recommend any good literature on the subject? Preferably concise and to the point, in the form of an article or essay and not a book that’s 700 pages long?

William Wildblood said...

Sorry Sean, my knowledge of the French Revolution is either form school or from when I was living in France at the bicentennialof the storming of the Bastille in 1989. The only two things I can think of offhand are Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke and for a fictional treatment The Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

But the point is that it was heralded as a bright new day for humanity and is still viewed like that by many on the left but soon turned into a bloodbath. It was the celebration of atheism really and the seed bed of a lot of the things wrong with the world today.

Anonymous said...

This Mises article also mentions Burke;

Some notes on the three estates, social contract, and summary of history during those years; (this one is a bit basic) - "Un-natural associations" were eliminated without mercy. A law of 1791 banned the merchant and craftsmen's guilds. A few months later this ban was followed by a ban on any similar grouping. The law text said: "There is no longer any association inside the state, there is nothing else than the individuals' interests and the General Will."

Charitable associations were also forbidden. "It is a duty for the civil servants on the behalf of the nation to provide employment to those who need and help the needy."

Thats where you could argue things were taking a wrong turn. Its a complex topic, easily a lifetime subject for the devoted historian and alot of sources might be a bit sanitized/ warped at this point. I realized i need half a days reading to further in depth to an extent i would be really satisfied but i digress for now;

I dont think this is the only reason we took a wrong turn. All this 'co-incided' with the upcoming industrial revolution, financial systems moving to the forefront of the world, urbanisation, development of 'modern political systems' and the arguable 'tyranny of the 51%' not to even mention the exploitability argument in that same breath, as well as a long list of other later problems. Napoleon in the process of 'course-correcting' the economical mess left behind by the revolution setting a host of precedents for governmental powers, and then further down the 19th century a string of scientific developments leading further down the path of materialism and into reductionism, most notably by Darwin of course. It wouldnt be difficult to write several dozen books about this but thats already been done, leaving it here for now ;)

William Wildblood said...

Thanks for the comment with lots of interesting detail. The core problem though was the rejection of God and the enthronement of Man. I suspect our current obsession with bureaucracy also started at that time. The metric system is a good example of that and the move from qualitative thinking to the quantitative in which everything must be measured and controlled.

a_probst said...

@William & Colin

I'm assuming there's nothing wrong with seeking therapy but not at the cost of one's allegiance to God. There is a tendency on the part of the patient and many therapists not to distinguish the religion from the people who may have cruelly imparted it to him.

My father was cursed with depression as was his mother before him. (His experiences in WWII didn't help either.) He needed a low-dose medication for the last thirty years of his life.