Saturday, 20 January 2018

The nature and aim of Christianity, now (from Rudolf Steiner)

Edited from Life between Death and Rebirth - a lecture by Rudolf Steiner from 1913.

We will need to bring understanding to every human soul in its essential character. For this communion we can only prepare by gaining an understanding of all religious confessions.

Prior to the Mystery of Golgotha this was not necessary, because the experiences in the spiritual world were each different then. Now it has become essential, and the correct understanding of Christianity is a preparatory step toward it. 

We cannot encounter what constitutes the essential being of Christianity in other religious creeds. It is not correct to place Christianity next to other religious creeds. Indeed, perhaps certain Christian confessions are narrow-minded. Nevertheless, Christianity - rightly understood - bears within it the impulse to grasp all religious creeds and tendencies.

How has the Westerner grasped Christianity? Consider Hinduism. Only those belonging to the Hindu race can be adherents of it. If a racial religion were prevalent in Europe, for instance, we would still have a Wotan cult today that would be the equivalent of an occidental racial religion. 

But the West has accepted a confession that did not arise out of its own folk-substance. It came from the East. Something was accepted that could only work through its spiritual content. The Christ impulse cannot be sucked up into a racial or folk religion. 

(Actually, the folk among whom the Christ appeared did not acknowledge Him. That is the remarkable fact about Christianity. It contains the seed enabling it to become the universal religion.)

One need not take an intolerant attitude toward other religions. The mission of Christianity does not consist in bringing dogma to people. Naturally the Buddhist smiles at a confession that does not even contain the idea of reincarnation. Such a confession must appear to him as erroneous. 

Christianity rightly understood, however, presupposes that every man is a Christian in his inner being. If you go to a Hindu and say to him, “You are a Hindu and I am a Christian,” it will be seen that you have not understood Christianity. Christianity has been truly understood only if you say of the Hindu, “Inwardly this Hindu is as good a Christian as I am. He has as yet only had the opportunity to become acquainted with a preparatory confession. I must endeavor to show him where his religion and mine correspond.”  The best thing would be for Christians to teach Hinduism to the Hindus and then attempt to take Hinduism a stage further so that the Hindu could gain a point of contact with the general stream of evolution. 

We understand Christianity only if we look upon each individual as a Christian in the depth of his heart. Only then is Christianity the religion that transcends race, color and social position. That is Christianity.

We enter a new age. Christianity can no longer work in the way it did over the last centuries. It is the task of anthroposophy to bring about the new understanding of Christianity that is needed. In this connection the anthroposophical view of the world is an instrument of Christianity. 

Among the religions of the earth, Christianity has appeared last. New religions cannot be founded anymore. Such foundations belong to the past. They followed one another and brought forth Christianity as the last flower. 

Today the task is to form and apply the impulse of Christianity. That is why in our spiritual scientific movement we endeavour to consider all the religions of the world more consciously than heretofore, and in loving participation. In this way we also prepare ourselves for the period between death and rebirth when we experience loneliness if we cannot perceive and have no access to other souls within this realm.

This excerpt, and the lecture it comes from, is a representative sample of Steiner and encapsulates my attitude to him.

There seems to me great insight and wisdom here - necessary for the future of Albion and the West in general; and yet I am clear that there are aspects that I don't accept, and which I regard as mistaken. I don't accept Steiner's views on reincarnation - although I am not hostile to them (and they seem similar to the convictions of William Wildblood). There are many other things in the full lecture that seem just mistaken, or wrong-headed...

I am puzzled by his having not mentioned Islam - which came after Christianity and is now at least as large a religion and growing fast by natural increase and conquest. But at the time Steiner was writing, it did look to many Western people as if Islam was on the road to extinction - certainly it was at its lowest ebb around 1900.

Yet, ultimately, any Christian would have to agree with Steiner that Christianity is the 'last' religion, although its nature has developed considerably.

Some further sentences from this lecture are also inspiring to me - when extracted and edited from their accretions:

Since the Christ has united Himself with the earth, we have to gain an understanding on earth for the Christ. We have to bring a Christ understanding with us because otherwise the Christ cannot be found after death

That is the important factor — that the understanding of the Christ must be stimulated on the earth. Only then it also can be preserved in higher worlds.

The Christ impulse stands as a fulcrum at the center of earth evolution, the point from which the ascending curve begins. 

To maintain that Christ can appear repeatedly on earth is like saying that the beam of a balance must be supported at two points. But with such scales one cannot weigh. A conviction of this sort is as senseless in relation to the physical world as the statement made by certain occultists that Christ goes through repeated earth lives. 

One has gained an understanding of the Christ impulse only if one is able to grasp that the Christ is the only god who has gone through death, and hence first had to descend to the earth.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

The English Radical Tradition - discrimination by Christian motivation

I am currently reading a very interesting book by Geoffrey Ashe - The Offbeat Radicals: the British tradition of alternative dissent. As always with this author, this is full of insights; yet it lacks the necessary Christian framework.

I accept that - quite often - the radical critique was at least partially-valid, often it was mostly-valid; yet if we consider the motivation of radicals, then it becomes clear that most of them were materialists.

Ashe includes William Blake, and he has many excellent things to say about Blake; but he makes the error (at time) of 'bracketing' Blake with Shelley, as if they were both the same kind of thinker and writer. But; although both Blake and Shelley were extremely critical of Established Christianity - their fundamental motivations were opposite.


When considering radical ('romantic') critique of The Establishment in general, and the Christian Church/ Priests in particular, it is vital to distinguish by motivation.

In particular whether - like Blake  - the author is critical of The Establishment because its Christianity is too feeble, restricted, impersonal, insufficient - or whether - like Shelley or Byron - the Establishment criticism is because Christianity is too oppressive, too restrictive of liberty and license.

Blake wanted Christianity to be a total perspective and medium of the whole of life - he wanted Christ and spirituality to dominate the inner life of everyman; however, Shelley and Byron wanted to be rid of Christian restrictions, to clear space for them to do what they personally very much wanted to do - which was often sexual: sex with people forbidden by Christianity.

It would be foolish to neglect the revolutionary sexual impulse behind radicalism - sex may even be the primary albeit covert motivation for radicalism, for which politics was only an excuse.

Certainly that would seem plausible from here-and-now; when mainstream-Left political 'radicalism' (and anti-Christian propaganda and coercion) is almost-wholly focused on the sexual revolution. And almost all of the anti-Christian radicals listed by Geoffrey Ashe lived-by and advocated one (or many) aspects of the sexual revolution.


My attitude to the post 1780-ish romantic-radicalism is that something indeed needed to be done; but the proper question is what?

Radicals were objectively-wrong to suggest that poverty was the main problem and economics ought to be the focus of reform.

This was an error; based on the fact that after the industrial revolution the poor would survive in poverty rather than simply dying.

From about 1800, the poor raised large (poor) families such that several children reached adulthood; instead of (pre-1800) typically failing to raise any children at all - they would have died in infancy or childhood. In other words, from 1800-ish there was a lot more poverty - but only because there was less mortality; evidence for which is that the British population grew very rapidly, and mostly among the poor.

(An analogous situation can be seen in recent Africa - In the past the child mortality rates were colossal such that the African population was stable and low. But Western medicine nowadays enables most African children to survive, in extreme poverty. Mass African poverty is therefore a product of Westernisation/ the industrial revolution; much as mass 19th century British poverty was a product of economic and technological progress, and a rise in standards of living.)


So radicalism can be divided into the worldly-hedonic on the one side (e.g. Shelley and Byron) - the typical Leftist radicalism which seeks as the primary (and only) goal to enhance short-medium term happiness in mortal life, and/or alleviate suffering in mortal life. Mortal life is an end-in-itself; and indeed the only end.

The contrast is with the radical religious motivation (e.g. Blake and Coleridge) - which is to enhance motivation, energy, purpose, spiritual depth, morality, beauty and truth - by orientating mortal life to its ultimate and eternal goals. To a significant extent, this entails regarding mortal life as a means to eternal ends - certainly not as an end in-and-of itself.


For example; the Leftist-atheist radical is typically against priests, and wants there to be no priests at all (or else feeble and ineffectual and optional priests: priesthood as a 'job') - because for them priests represent oppression and limitation. Whereas a Christian radical may be against priests on the grounds that every Man should be his own priest. So the contrast is between no priests, and everyone a priest.

With respect to authority; a Leftist radical want no authority and multiple truths, each having his own, and authority must not constrain this. Whereas a Christian radical sees it as a matter of each Man being his own best authority (because no external authority can be trusted with my soul - unless I personally choose so to trust), with every sincere Christian over time freely and spontaneously-converging on the single truth.

The Leftist radical sees the main problem as physical-material oppression with physical-material solutions; whereas (in stark contrast) the Christian radical sees the main problem as oppression by material-ism: that mental oppression that regards Man as essentially an animal... In other words exactly what Blake most railed-against.


Thus the Leftist and Christian romantic-radicals have opposite motivations, and Blake and Shelley ought not to be bracketed together!

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

The Best Image of Christ by an English Painter?

(Note: This post is something in the way of a companion to the previous one).

William Holman Hunt painted more than one version of his famous painting The Light of the World. The original, painted in 1853, is at Keble College, Oxford, and there is a second one at Manchester City Art Gallery. But my favourite is the one below in St Paul's Cathedral. 

This was painted fifty years after the first in collaboration with Edward Robert Hughes, and is thought to represent Holman Hunt's last word on the subject. It's my favourite because of Christ's face. It's in shade in the reproduction above but here it is close up.

The painting shows Christ knocking at the door of the human soul, and is based on the text from Revelation."Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice and open the door I will come in to him, and will sup with him  and he with me". It is rich in symbolism. The door is covered with overgrown weeds indicating that the spiritual life of the individual concerned, who is Everyman, has been neglected. It has no handle, showing that it cannot be opened from the outside. We have to make the move to invite Christ into our heart. The night sky with a bat flying at top left above the midpoint between Christ's hand and head (obscured here unfortunately but you will see it if you zoom in) shows that the hour is late, and the fallen apples by his feet refer back to the Garden of Eden and our fall from divine grace.

The painting is called The Light of the World referring to the passage from St John in which Jesus says I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." There are two lights depicted. The first is that of Christ himself, his halo, and the second is the lantern he carries which is what shows us the way to eternal life, and maybe eventually is passed to us so that we too may have the light within ourselves. Spiritual truth and reality is best understood in terms of light, and Christ is spiritual light personified. I don't mean this as a metaphor. I think it is literally true.

This painting became extraordinarily popular in the early 20th century. It was described as a sermon in a frame, which indeed it is, and it even went on a world tour, visiting many towns in Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and supposedly being seen by millions of people in the process. Reproductions hung in church halls, schools and nurseries. I venture to say it might have inspired many with a greater love for Jesus Christ than countless more conventional sermons achieved at the time. Such is the power of the  true artist.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Christ is the Doorway to Eternal Life

Everyone comes to spirituality from a slightly different perspective, reflecting their life conditions, personal inclinations, experiences, upbringing, culture etc. So we will all have a slightly different take on it. That's only to be expected and more of a good thing than a bad since it prevents petrification of truth and keeps multiple expressions of it open, advantageous because no one expression can capture all of it. Nor can multiple expressions for that matter but they can incorporate different sides.

But the fact of these various spiritual perspectives and expressions cannot be taken too far. Truth is truth. There is only one truth even if it can take different forms. Moreover all truth for us human beings is centred on Christ who embodies it, who actually is it.

That is why an image that came into my head seems a viable one. It is this. 

Ignore the colour. That's not relevant. But what I thought was that human beings come at spirituality from many directions but ultimately these must all converge on Christ who is at the centre of this symbol. So the lines on the left of the X represent human beings in this world. The image only includes the outermost lines. You have to imagine multiple lines between these two representing the great variety of different people. But they all have, or should have if they are to conform to the real, a common focus which is Christ at the centre. He is the doorway through which we all must pass to gain entry to the kingdom of heaven which is on the right of the X symbol. Once through that door we may all find diverse expressions of our realisation but these all are coloured by and centred on the reality of Christ. Going through that doorway in the centre indelibly marks the soul with its quality.

You might say that, according to this symbol, Christ is not actually in heaven himself but it's only meant to be a representation of how human beings approach truth and of their access to it. It only shows Christ in his aspect of doorway to reality. And the fact that it looks a bit like the cross of St George turned to one side is coincidence. At least, I think it is.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Redditor Lucis Aeternae

I am currently reading The Anathemata by David Jones, a book-length poem, published in 1952, exploring the cultural and spiritual history of Britain. Here is a brief extract. The speaker is 'The Lady of the Pool', a kind of Medieval tutelary spirit of London:

    And then, as if he perceived a body - coming
as if he hails a personage
                          where was but insentience
and baulk of stone
                          he sings out and clear:
These, captain, were his precisive words - what sentiments I
can't construe - but at which, captain, I cried: Enough!
                          Let's to terrestrial flesh, or
bid good-night, I thought.

And here is a footnote provided by the poet to illuminate the Latin phrase:

REDDITOR LUCIS AETERNAE - 'Restorer of the Eternal Light'; this is inscribed on a gold medallion found at Beauvains near Arras, struck to commemorate the relief of London in AD 296 by  the Emperor, Constantius Chlorus, the husband of St. Helena (and father of Constantine the Great). He is mounted and with a lance, his horse stepping down from the gang-plank of a boat at a turreted gateway inscribed LON, where a female figure kneels with welcoming arms. The words, 'Redditor, etc.' are inscribed above the figure of the Emperor. Although this may but commemorate a chance victory in a war of rival generals, none the less Constantius, at that moment, was the outward sign of something and was himself the implement of what he signified, namely: in the domain of accidental fact, the saving of London from immediate sack; in the domain of contemporary politics, the restoration of Britain to unity with the West, and in the domain of perennial ideas, the return to Britain of the light of civilisation. (p.134)

In AD 296, the Roman naval commander, Carausius, usurped control of Britain and northern Gaul and declared himself joint-Emperor. The Imperial government found him a difficult opponent and Britain remained under localised, independent rule until Constantius' expedition ten years later. The episode (known as the Carausian Revolt) is superbly dramatised in Rosemary Sutcliff's 1957 novel, The Silver Branch. Here, Carausius sets out his stall before the two young soldiers, Justin and Flavius:

'The Wolves gather,' Carausius said. 'Always, everywhere, the Wolves gather on the frontiers, waiting. It needs only that a man should lower his eye for a moment, and they will be in to strip the bones. Rome is failing, my children.'

Justin looked at him warily, but Flavius never moved; it was as though he had known what Carausius would say.

'Oh, she is not finished yet. I shall not see her fall. My Purple will last my life-time - and nor, I think, will you. Nevertheless, Rome is hollow rotten at the heart, and one day she will come crashing down. a hundred years ago, it must have seemed that all this was for ever; a hundred years hence - only the gods know ... If I can make this one province strong - strong enough to stand alone when Rome goes down, then something may be saved from the darkness. If not, then Dubris light and Limanis light and Rutupiae light will go out. The lights will go out everywhere.' 

He stepped back, dragging aside the hanging folds of the curtains, and stood framed in their darkness against the firelight and the lamplight behind him, his head yet turned to the scudding grey and silver of the stormy night. 'If I can steer clear of a knife in my back until the work is done, I will make Britain strong enough to stand alone,' he said. 'It is as simple as that.' (pp.36-37)

Unfortunately for Carausius, and perhaps for the country, he did not escape a knife in the back. He was assassinated in AD 293 by his finance minister, Allectus, who clung onto power until the Roman reconquest. 

The Carausian revolt erupted just a decade after the end of the so-called 'Gallic Empire', where, between AD 260 and 274, the usurper, Postumus, had assumed control of Britain and Gaul in an almost identical manner. It surprises me greatly that none of this history, so far as I can tell, has been referred to in the endless media commentary surrounding Brexit. Carausius, in many ways, can be seen as the first Euro-sceptic. His revolt shows that in some sense Britain is indeed 'set apart', as William Wildblood cogently argued in his post 'Albion Set Apart' on 18th November 2017. 

Britain, on this view, is temperamentally unsuited to life as one cog among many in a giant European power-bloc. Geographically, the UK stands at one remove from the continent and that needs to be reflected in the way the country is governed. Britain, as Carausius intuited, is a nation that needs to find her own way in the world. She is independent by nature and it would be going against the grain  to corral her into compliance with a supra-national, overseas authority, especially one perceived to be 'hollow rotten at the heart.'

So far, so straightforward. But there is more going on here. Jones talks about the 'restoration of Britain to unity with the West' and the 'return of Britain to the light of civilisation.' For him (and the designer of the Beauvains coin), the restoration of direct Roman rule is clearly a good thing. But that is because Constantius openly declares himself the representative and restorer of a higher principle - the 'eternal light' of civilisation, heaven and the gods. The contrast with the European Union, jumping to contemporary times, couldn't be more stark. One of the great misjudgements of the Remain campaign, in my view, was to conflate Europe with the EU. Europe is a civilisation - at least 3000 years old - and a vast physical space, stretching from the Mayo coastline to the Ural Mountains. The EU is an institution, no different in essence from any other institution - Barclays Bank, for instance, or Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. It exists to maintain and perpetuate itself. It is grey, bureaucratic and faceless, with little of the romance, glamour and rebel-chic some Remainers project onto it. It has no links with any higher principle, as symbolised by the EU flag, twelve yellow stars in a circle on a blue background with absolutely nothing in the centre. You would get extremely long odds on a functionary like Jean-Claude Juncker styling himself Redditor Lucis Aeternae. Juncker himself would be appalled at the thought, and that says everything, to my mind, about where his institution stands spiritually and philosophically. Nowhere at all, in brief.

The EU's big problem is that it has no spiritual dimension whatsoever. It doesn't know how to connect with people on the level of spirit and imagination. It has no spark, no fire, and has, in recent years, become increasingly hostile to the Gospel despite the religious faith of its founders and its roots in post-war Christian Democracy. More sobering than the EU's shortcomings, however, is the sad fact that were a Restorer of the Eternal Light to turn up at a British port tomorrow he would most likely be deported straightaway. It is someone or something on this level, I believe, that 52% of the British people were, perhaps unconsciously, voting for in the 2016 referendum. Something essentially spiritual. But this has been not been understood, acknowledged or reflected in all the debate that has gone on since in Westminster and the media. Pro-Leave circles are perhaps the worst. A paper like The Daily Telegraph, for instance, views Brexit exclusively in terms of its potential for economic growth and increased global trade. It doesn't see it as an opportunity for spiritual and cultural renewal. It doesn't even go there, and this, I feel, is emblematic of a stunning lack of imagination and independent thought running right through the UK establishment.

The Brexiteers would be better advised to start forging links with the EU's Central and Eastern European members, particularly the 'Visegrad Four' of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. These countries have displayed a fierce national pride and a feisty independence of spirit in their recent dealings with Brussels. Decades of communist tyranny havre taught them the value of their own national patrimony and also the preciousness and precariousness of European civilisation as a whole. They are also (with the possible exception of the Czech Republic) profoundly Christian in outlook and orientation. In November 2016, for example, the Polish government officially placed the nation under the patronage of Christ the King, while Hungary's President, Viktor Orban, recently said this:

'Ever more frequently nowadays I hear that sixty years ago the European Union's founding fathers marked out the route. Europe, as Robert Schuman said, will be Christian or it will be nothing. The year 2017 has presented European countries with a historic task. A new task has been given to the free nations of Europe and the national governments elected by free citizens. We must protect Christian culture. We must do this not to oppose others, but to defend ourselves, our families, our nation, our countries and Europe, "the homeland of homelands,"'

Now, I'm not naive enough to think that the V4 don't have challenges and temptations of their own, but they are at least facing in the right direction, which is probably more than can be said for the UK at this moment. The only thing that can reorient us, I believe, is something that will never happen because the world today is so addicted to restlessness and ceaseless change. Britain needs to step off the wheel, in short. She needs to take a break and gather her thoughts, pressing the pause button for as long as it takes, so her inhabitants can start to feel their way into the essence and soul of the country, beginning to think seriously about what British identity is and what kind of relationships we would like to have, first of all between the UK's four constituent parts, then towards Europe, and finally to the world beyond.

Such a space for quiet recollection will never be officially sanctioned, as I say, but there's nothing to stop us engaging in it ourselves as individuals or groups. We could read John Michell's The Traveller's Key to Sacred England, maybe, and visit some of the sites he mentions. For more on this, please see Bruce Charlton's post of 4th January 2018. Or, as Bruce also suggests, we could read Geoffrey of Monmouth's, History of the Kings of Britain, or immerse ourselves in any of the titles discussed in William's Albion Awakening Booklist post of 17th December 2017.

Whatever we choose to do, it is less opinion and debate that is required and more thought and reflection. We have become fixated, to a degree, on political procedures and solutions. But there is a pre-political level of myth and intuition which drives the direction a society takes at a more fundamental level. It's all about the kind of stories we tell ourselves and the stories we believe to be true or false. We need to return for a while to the primal, archetypal level of things, then tune back in to the land we have become alienated from, and listen to the story it's telling us. Where does it want to go? What does it want us to do? Then we can step forward into the future in confidence and clarity of mind.

Maybe what emerges from our time in the wilderness will appear strange and unsettling. The Russian Orthodox priest, Fr. Andrew Phillips, has proposed on his blog ( the dissolution of the UK and its replacement by another acronym, IONA - The Isles of the Northern Sea. He wants Westminster to become the site of a devolved English Parliament and for central government to relocate to the Isle of Man, an island rich in British mythological lore and within sight, as it were, of all four countries.

It could well be that such a radical reimagining of who we are is exactly what is needed to propel us out of the current impasse. But nothing authentic or original will come to the surface without contemplation and stillness. We have to get beyond the head level - into the heart, the imagination and the guts. Argument and counter argument will get us precisely nowhere. We'll be stuck at the level of cliché forever, more and more dependent on the market and the state (and increasingly technology) to provide us with answers to problems we don't have the imaginative capacity to deal with any more. 

Silence is the key. As Cardinal Robert Sarah points out in his recent book, The Power of Silence:

Mankind must join in a sort of resistance movement. What will become of our world if it does not look for intervals of silence? Interior rest and harmony can flow only from silence. Without it, life does not exist. The greatest mysteries of the world are born and unfold in silence. How does nature develop? In the greatest silence. A tree grows in silence, and springs of water flow at first in the silence of the ground. The sun that rises over the earth in its splendour and grandeur warms us in silence. What is extraordinary is always silent. (p.34)

The still small voice that Elijah heard on Mount Horeb is there for nations just as much as it is for individuals. And it is that still small voice - more than any Emperor, military commander or  referendum result - which is the true Redditor Lucis Aeternae.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Who was the real Merlin? From Geoffrey Ashe

From Merlin the prophet and his history, by Geoffrey Ashe, 2006.

(Ruthlessly edited from the Epilogue - pages 218-221.)


Merlin stands alone, and there is nobody like him.

The Britons had a paramount god who was comparable to Apollo - who was, among other things, a god of inspiration and prophecy. Britain was his 'precinct' or temenos, and he was Britain's tutelary deity.

This god has a special association with Moridenum (Carmarthen, Wales); and thus acquired the sobriquet Myrddin, which applied both to himself and to those inspired by him. Ambrosius and Lailoken were Myrddin-men, or simply Myrddins.

Geoffrey of Monmouth picked up the sobriquet and made the change from Myrddin to Merlin.

There were thus several Merlins, perhaps many. But if we want a Merlin par excellence, the original of the main legend, the place to look is Dina Emrys. Here the Merlin who speaks the prophecies is localised at a place which is known to have been occupied at the right time by someone who could be identical with him. Here story joins hands with archaeology.

As for Merlin's final fate, preference is a matter of taste... Legend traces him in several directions, to several eventual ends, after his triumphant years as royal adviser and magician. He dies at Marlborough and is buried under an inordinately big mound. Or he passes into suspended animation in Cornwall or Brittany.

Or, Merlin is alive and well, and living on Bardsey Island. His dwelling is an invisible house of glass. Some say he is asleep, but he may not be. If awake and active, he is not alone: he has nine companions.

Merlin is the guardian of the Thirteen Treasures of the Island of Britain - things of power that embody Britain's ancestral magic. Among them are the Chessboard of Gweddolau, the Chariot of Morgan the Wealthy, the sword of Rhydderch the Generous, a cloak of invisibility that once belonged to Arthur, the red coat of Padern, horns of plenty and talismanic objects that test valour and virtue.

No one knows what the Treasures look like, and they may have the same shape-shifting qualities as their custodian.

Finally, Merlin also has the true throne of Britain, and will enthrone Arthur when the king returns...

Who else, indeed, would have that right?

Sunday, 7 January 2018

False Awakening

In a recent post on his blog Bruce Charlton made the following point. The original post is here.

Bruce wrote, "If we challenge only one aspect of the falsehood, while continuing to accept another falsehood, then we are still living in falsehood. Only when all of the foundational falsehoods are challenged simultaneously can we escape the Matrix." 

This is a perennial problem in the world of spirituality and religion. We may break out of the prison of materialism and atheism, and adopt a spiritual world view of some sort but this may well be based on illusion. Just because something is called spiritual does not mean it is true. There are many people propagating half truths these days,  partially true but incomplete spiritual speculations emanating from the lower mind. I expect that's always been the case but the problem is greater now because there are so many people who take their spirituality from multiple sources, including not just revealed religion but personal experience and conjecture too, and mix them together to form a subjective version of what passes with them for truth. I admit I do that to an extent myself because there is no one thing that incorporates the full truth in this world, but I would also maintain that there is a big difference between someone who does this under the guidance of an awakened intuition and someone (to be honest, the majority) who does this from the more limited and less spiritually objective position of their own mind and personal preferences.

False awakening is different to partial awakening. However in one sense all awakening is partial but there is that which is partial but sufficient for our current stage of development, and then there is that which is incomplete even for where we are now. Usually the latter is still dominated by what Bruce has called residual positivism in which the individual adopts a spiritual position but fits that into his pre-existing worldly, materialistic assumptions, whether these be inspired by leftism, Darwinism, feminism or any one of a number of currently fashionable ideologies. Of course, the correct procedure is exactly the opposite to this. Spiritual awakening requires one to reassess all one's previous assumptions and to see them from above. If it is cut down so that it accords with already existing beliefs, it is fairly useless. That is because the point of a spiritual awakening is to orientate us towards the soul, the spiritual component of our being. If this soul is seen in the light of the worldly self then it is not seen at all. The soul is not an extension of the earthly being but the true spiritual self that exists beyond that and above that, and which is our connection to God. The fallen earthly self is always wrong and must be renounced. Any spirituality emanating from this fallen self is a false spirituality.

False awakening is similar to this. It is basically adopting a spiritual perspective on life but within the framework of a false metaphysics. I believe it was Chesterton who said that a thing stands straight at only one angle but will fall at many. There are indeed many approaches to spiritual truth that do not coincide with reality but are outgrowths of human experience and mental formulations. Again, you might say that no one has a completely true metaphysics, but there are those that do correspond more closely to truth and then there are those that deviate from it. Whether these originate from human error or demonic manipulation is not my concern here (actually, they originate from both) but the fact is that a false metaphysics will lead to a false or inadequate spiritual practice.

False metaphysics tend to come from one of two misconceptions which are an insufficient understanding of transcendence and an insufficient understanding of immanence. Modern Christianity suffers from the latter, New Age religion and neo-paganism from the former.  A rounded metaphysics includes both transcendence and immanence but, and this is important, it puts transcendence ahead of immanence, that is, it recognises that God within is an expression of the Creator who is the source of all and must come first. Put another way, you could say that those who teach immanence as primary (many Eastern religions do this) do not understand transcendence properly but those who put transcendence first also acknowledge immanence. Or should do. They may not if they lack imagination but they do at least have things the right way round. For the two are complementary but not equal. God out there is the cause of God in here not vice versa. The transcendent God is the source of God immanent. 

So, a full and proper spiritual awakening requires at least two things. One, the recognition of God as Creator, and two, the understanding that he is present within us as the source of our being. Our task is to increase awareness of both of these perceptions. It is to see God as present in ourselves, in the world (nature) but, pre-eminently, as the Creator responsible for all this. Much more could be said but this, I believe, is a bare minimum for true awakening.

False awakening can usually be identified because it materialises spirituality. It fits into the modernist ethos without too much discomfort and does not demand radical transformation. And there is one other easy way to identify it. It is motivated not by love of God and wanting to do his will but by spiritual desire. That is, the individual seeks to get more than to give. His spirituality is a search for personal benefit and not a means to express his love of truth and God. I believe that it is dedication to Christ that safeguards us from spiritual selfishness. I dare say that for us in the West there is no true and complete spiritual awakening that does not have Christ at its core. Any awakening without Christ is at best partial because he is the summation of all spirituality. I know a lot of people will resist that idea, probably in reaction to the huge influence of Christianity in the past, but it would be a pity if they rejected truth because of human failings in seeking to express it. Of course, there are other valid forms of spirituality in the world but they are all incomplete without Christ at their centre. In effect, they all need baptism like the paganism of old, though I would say this is now an inner thing and does not mean that they should all be absorbed into Christianity as it currently exists externally.