Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Spirituality, freedom and consciousness

So much nonsense and wickedness has been advocated in the name of Freedom that it is easy to be put-off the concept, and stampeded into advocating some kind of repression in a good cause; but there is reason to believe that freedom - properly understood - is our destiny.

Christianity absolutely depends on freedom - because the Christian religion must be freely chosen. Or, in other words, Christians must be agent - that is autonomously able to create rather than simply being effects of some other, prior and external cause. This is captured by knowledge that we are sons and daughters of God, because only the divine is able to create and to be a primary cause.

In this sense we are, and ought to be, essentially free - free, that is, to be an origin of action... but the question is what is it that we are free to do (given that the world is so full of constraints, and we ourselves are constrained in multiple ways). The answer is to think - we are free to think; but again, there must be an immediate caution that not all of our thought is free - indeed for most people extremely little, Much of our thinking is unconsciously, or habit, or channelled by something external such as the conversation of other people, or the mass media, or simply (and frequently) bad habits of automatic and robotic 'thinking'.

Indeed, we are only free when we are aware; alert, conscious of our thoughts, when we are in purposive control of our thinking - precisely when it is not automatic or passively guided. We can assume that the fully-divine is wholly aware and alert and conscious, and thus wholly free - and this tells us clearly enough the direction in which we, personally, ought to be evolving/ changing/ developing. We ought to be tending towards a situation in which we are wholly free in our thinking, therefore aware of everything... eventually, even in dreams we would need to be conscious and purposive.

So, when it comes to wanting a more spiritual world, and a more spiritual Christianity - it is absolutely vital that this spirituality NOT be the kind of automatic, unconscious, dreamlike or altered-state semi-consciousness of much spirituality. It is not so much that this unconscious, instinctive kind of spirituality is bad - it isn't; but that it is immature, child-level, passive - and our destiny is to maturity, agency - towards a situation in which each man and each woman is fully divine.

Modern people are split between materialism in public life and some degree of passive and unconscious spirituality in private - in dreams, visions, altered states (perhaps intoxication or drugged states) and the passive and guided spiritual states of immersive experiences in arts and media... For all the potential benefits of good novels, plays, movies etc - the spirituality they induce is more-or-less passive and guided - during the actual experience there is not agency... the aim cannot be for people to be in a perpetual state of living by some externally-induced spiritual state (even if that spiritual state was induced by some divine, or divinely-inspired source).

What is needed is therefore quite clear - and the state aimed-at is one of clarity - it is a state of thinking from our true self(our soul, perhaps) with full agency, full freedom, full autonomy. And therefore that this kind of primary thinking is, must be, the aimed-at freedom. Ideas of freedom which are located in physical actions - doing and not doing - are missing the point badly and dangerously. Our freedom is in our thinking - and what happens in the physical world depends on many other factors and can never be a pure and complete expression of our thinking.

Reality - ultimate reality - is therefore something which is at the level of thinking. It is not, for example, at the level of perceptions (these depend on our sensory apparatus, and our ability to decode senses) - nor at the level of the material (although we often work via the material - the material expression is always constrained by time and space and therefore incomplete, and at any point in time or space it is distorted by these constraints).

Albion Awakening is therefore ultimately something which happens - or does not happen - in the realm of primary, pure, real thinking - and any other detection or measure of it will be secondary, and necessarily distorted. Does this mean that it is inaccessible? No - because for the above metaphysical scheme to make sense requires that real thinking takes places in a universally accessible 'realm' - which is therefore (potentially) objective - in terms of being in principle wholly available to anyone able to access it.

I keep asking myself whether there is an awakening in Albion - and at present I don't know. But I have to avoid assuming that any such awakening would only 'really' happen if something in the material world was to indicate it - because while an awakening of the nation (or some sizeable section of it) certainly would be apparent in the material world - I really couldn't say just how it would be apparent. Since what would 'count' as an awakening would be something new and unprecedented - then I don't know how it would work through into something detectable and measurable in the material world...

(And this would apply to the institutions of religion as well - Christian churches need to change, to become more spiritual, and that spirituality to become more conscious - but what exactly this would mean to the organisation of churches, or indeed whether it implies a loss of institutions after that consciousness has been attained - is unclear until after it has-happened. I don't see how we could possibly know this stuff until after the change in consciousness; and the idea that we could short-cut to material change before there is spiritual change is precisely the delusion that would prevent the consciousness and spiritual change...)

To detect it I would need to perceive in in thought, in the universal realm of thinking when I myself was in the state of real thinking from my real self. I have felt that I did indeed perceive exactly this, but of course when I lapsed out of this way of thinking, and returned to the usual passive, automatic, inculcated, robotic thinking in which I spend most of my time - then I can no longer perceive it; and worry that I was just fooling myself with wishful thinking.

This blog began after the Brexit vote - and with the hope (perhaps conviction) that that vote was in indicator of some deeper change in national consciousness of a positive kind - that inference itself being something which was intuitive and not any kind of logically-entailed thing. I still feel not much further on - except that there does seem to be a sense that there may be deeper forces at work which lead to otherwise-inexplicable patterns at the material level. However, for these to become what are needed; then this change in thinking (if it exists) must sooner-or-later become absolutely clear, conscious, and purposive.

Unconscious instincts are not going to save us, and they are not what we need. Each of us should strive to bring to light the nature of our truest, realest thinking.


Aaron said...

Purpose, autonomy, and agency - but to what end, Bruce?

If our best choice is to choose God's will and divine plan over our own self-will, then doesn't this involve a limitation of our personal autonomy and agency as much as an exercise of it? Isn't religion precisely a self-imposed limitation on human agency and autonomy, as contrasted with modernity which sees human autonomy as having no limit?

I am struggling to understand your celebration of human autonomy, freedom, and agency - I am sure you cannot mean it in the modern sense, as elevation of the human will over the divine will. Do you mean we must constantly be aware of those forces pulling us away towards self-will and rebellion against God and must exercise agency and choice in refusing to give in to these forces?

By purpose, do you mean we must constantly keep in mind the fulfilling of God's purpose rather than merely let ourselves drift into aimless indulgence of random impulse?

If so, then it seems that human freedom and purpose, while hugely important, are merely part of the story - that submission and limitation of human self-will (limitation of freedom), are just as important.

As for your condemnation of receptivity and passivity, I struggle to understand this as well. Surely passive receptivity has its place. For instance, God's grace is something we must humbly receive, even though choosing to accept it is an act of agency and autonomy. Passivity and receptivity need to be balanced with purpose and will, indeed one is receptive within a framework of purpose - one is passive in order to receive God, not in the face of passing whims and impulses.

As for altered-states, surely the process of divinization involves achieving a kind of self-transformation that means a new state of mind? What can becoming a New Man mean? What is wrong with achieving an altered - higher and better - state? Why is the ordinary state of mankind - which many find dull and unsatisfactory - the best?

You appear to be emphasizing human power, and to you humans growing more godlike seems to involve extending human power - human agency, autonomy, and purposiveness. Human potency. Yet didn't God come down to earth and voluntarily become weak and small? Didn't Christ continually submit to the Father? It seems that the path to divinization is not through power and personal agency, but through love, submission to the divine pattern, and self-limitation.

Your idea of theosis does not seem to involve self-limitation but an emphasis on self-power. To be frank, it does sound somewhat Nietzschean, and modern.

Do you see personal human power as the end goal, or connecting with something higher than human, which means relinquishing personal power, or at least limiting it, as the goal? Self-emphasis or self-limitation?

Your ideas appear to fly in the face of centuries of tradition, rather than deepen or extend their insights. Do you really think that centuries of spiritual insight and thought around the world simply got it wrong completely about the need for self-limitation, and we now know that the real task is self-emphasis? While I would agree that traditional spirituality can have been incomplete or in need of development, I find it hard to see it as just wrong and in need of a 180 degree u-turn.

Mostly, since your post is so abstract, I am in search of clarification as your thoughts on spirituality do seem puzzling to me. Maybe I am badly misunderstanding you. If not, at least I will know where you stand.

Bruce Charlton said...


I'm afraid I can't answer so many questions in a comment - they are indeed the main subject of my blog at https://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk. But you have indeed misunderstood me - as you suspect - perhaps because I am a believer in Mormon Christian theology; which is not at all well known or understood: http://theoreticalmormon.blogspot.co.uk.

William Wildblood said...

If I understand your basic point, Aaron, you are saying that human will must submit to or align itself with divine will if we are to become proper spiritual beings. And this is perfectly true.

However that might be only the first stage. It is like an acceptance of the reality of God and the seeing of ourselves in that light. Once this is done then and only then we can become real individuals, free in a spiritual sense not a personal one, and finally live with the true flow of life instead of against it as now.

So I don’t think there is necessarily a contradiction between what you are saying and what Bruce says here. It’s different ways of looking at the self. One as it is and one as it should be when healed of the split in its consciousness. We must step out of our little isolated selves, where we are all stuck at the moment, into a wider sense of self. We are identified with the fallen ego, the separate self, and we must break that false identification in order to know our true selves. When that is done then we are free and can truly be active in the way Bruce describes. God wants free individuals but to get to that point does mean, as you say, breaking the grip of the ego. It is the ego that prevents true freedom and true individuality. The ego must die for the true self to be born and that true self is a free individual in the sense that ‘in his service is perfect freedom’. The spiritually free individual does not pursue his own selfish or ignorant agenda but expresses the reality of God in the context of his own unique individuality.

That’s if I have understood you both properly!

William Wildblood said...

Here's another thought that occurred to me as I was out walking on a sunny afternoon in London.

Who is the freest, most individual person who ever lived? Clearly it is Christ. At the same time, who is the person with the last sense of self or ego who ever lived? Also, clearly it is Christ.

Bruce Charlton said...

It was Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy of Freedom that convinced me that Freedom/ Agency/ Consciousness is Man;s spiritual destiny - although this book does not mention deity, nor does it comeplete the argument I give above.

Too many Christians neglect that real free will/ agency is integral to Christianity - so is the promise that we will become fully divine (at some point).

The big 'open question' for Christians is in regard to theosis - how much progress can or should we be striving to make during earthly mortality. Ultimately, I think this will vary individually, between 'almost none' (e.g. for those who die in the womb) to 'a great deal' (as achieved by some Saints).

But the Christian life is about far more than Salvation - which is 'easy' in the sense that it can happen in an instant of assent - despite that many Westerners reject, indeed despise, Salvation... perhaps sometimes because is it often put forth as the only thing?