Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Spirituality With Gods

That's gods with a small g. My previous post here was about forms of spirituality that dispensed with the reality of God as Creator and Lord of your being. Essentially forms that make an idol of consciousness and try to deify human beings without reference to the true God. Here I will look at the opposite temptation for the modern mind reacting against materialism and that is paganism or, to put it more accurately, since there cannot now be a natural paganism such as existed before Christ, neo-paganism. This is basically the attempt to revert to modes of spirituality appropriate to pre-conscious man but out of date from the perspective of real spiritual evolution, except perhaps as something to reassimilate before moving on to higher and better things.

I see this approach to spirituality as the worship or attempt to enter into communion with or propitiate or manipulate for personal gain of some kind, material or spiritual, the inner powers of nature. It is, therefore, directed towards some aspect of creation rather than the Creator. In other words it is directed to effects rather than cause or transcendent source, and because of that misdirection of focus is liable to fall into one of the many possible snares for the spiritual seeker. These range from idolatry, giving primary reality to something with dependent reality, to pantheism, with its over-emphasis on immanence, to subjectivity and moral relativism. The fact that there is little difference between the morality of neo-paganism and contemporary liberal morality tells us much. Specifically it tells us that neo-paganism is a form of humanism in that it doesn't acknowledge the reality and supremacy of a transcendent Creator in the light of whose existence our own existence must be seen. A Creator who has certain intrinsic qualities of being which means that there is a real objective morality not determined by human thought or opinion and that goes beyond what we see and experience in the natural world. There is fundamental right and wrong or good and evil. These ideas do not come from Man but from God and they must be seen in the context of the absolute reality of God and how he expresses himself.

Neo-paganism is polytheistic even if it recognises an underlying unity. For this unity is not God, certainly not the personal God or Father of Creation. It is simply an impersonal life force that can be tapped when you know how or manifest itself in a variety of ways. It has no will of its own, no purpose, no demands. As famously described by CS Lewis it is just there, always present but passive and available to be used and channelled according to your will like a constantly flowing energy source which has no expectations of you and to which you owe no obligations. The many gods of polytheistic paganism might be presented as the many aspects of the One God but this One God has no living, transcendent, personal reality, often existing as little more than a unifying principle. It is really just a backdrop. It has no face

But still what's wrong with polytheism, you might ask? Why can we not lead a spiritual life based on reverence for the life force as manifested through particular deities? Up to a point you certainly can but the problem is that it will not result in connection to the true divine centre. You will remain on the outside of spiritual reality with any contact to it restricted to the inner aspects of the created world rather than the Creator. Focussing on the gods you will go no further than created things because the gods are created things. Therefore you will not go beyond the limitations of your own psyche or encounter the higher realities of spiritual truth which lie above that. You will remain in the relative world.

That's not all. What an essentially humanistic religion, such 
as neo-paganism is, profoundly lacks is the sense that we are all sinners. This is not just a matter of being out of harmony with the natural and spiritual rhythms of the universe, something that could be put right with the appropriate means and knowledge. The reality is much more serious. Nature is fallen and we are fallen too.We are moral reprobates and this is not merely a matter of ignorance but of a faulty will, a will directed towards wrong and perverse ends to do with the satisfaction of the self rather than its transcendence in service to God. Paganism takes nature as it is and does not see its essential corruption. That doesn't mean that Nature is bad. It is God's creation and so good but it has been corrupted as have we and the only healing is through repentance and a return to God, probably, I would say, through Christ though I should add my belief that Christ does not just operate in the obvious way through Jesus but can be present elsewhere too. Clearly though the obvious way is the best way as it is the one in which he is most fully and completely present.

So modern neo-paganism, which, incidentally, can be seen as part of the contemporary feminine revolt against the masculine*, falls down in three main ways.

It lacks a proper sense of the transcendent because it puts its focus on the creation rather than the Creator. This means it tends to see religion in terms of its benefits in this life and for the person you now are. And that means it is unable to take you out of what you now are.

It lacks an objective morality because of its essentially pluralistic nature. Since it acknowledges (potentially, at least) many gods and goddesses it has no over-riding absolute truth to which everything else is subject and must incline. Moreover, in contradistinction to the old paganism, its real god is the human being so everything becomes subjective and relative. 

Finally it lacks Christ. It is one thing not to know Christ because you have not encountered him. It is quite another to have encountered him and then replace him with something else.

*Indicated by the presence of goddess forms based on antiquated modes of consciousness, the focus on immanence with a corresponding lack of awareness of the absolute and by its emphasis on nature and the natural. For neo-paganism the spiritual is basically the natural writ large.


Chris said...

Hi William,

Would you say that the Second Person of the Trinity can or has manifested in someone/thing other than Jesus of Nazareth?

William Wildblood said...

Hello Chris
For the past I would say certainly not fully but maybe partially and in a limited sense though that's just speculation. For the future who knows? There is the Second Coming but that is still manifesting through Jesus presumably.