Sunday 16 April 2017


The Resurrection is the one thing that finally makes sense of the world. Without it everything tends to confusion and mystery but with it everything falls into place. It shows how evil is overcome and that good is ultimately real. It explains what we are, where we should go and what we have to do to get there.  It is the key to everything. I do not say that the religions that lack it are wrong, but they are incomplete. Of course, many people won't be able to accept this, for cultural reasons or because of some prejudice but once you see it it's just so obvious! Compared to all other spiritual approaches the Resurrection is like adding a third dimension to a two dimensional model, one that gives it a completely new appearance and makes you see it clearly and wholly for the first time.

So Christianity is true but what form of Christianity should we follow?  I don't mean what denomination. Some denominations are certainly better (in that they include more of spiritual truth) than others but, in the end, it does seem that they all belong to a form of human consciousness that is passing. I am not talking about some fantasy of an Aquarian Age, but human beings do evolve (as in unfold their divine pattern and grow into that), times change and the form our religion takes should reflect that. Or so I believe. Others will not but then the only valid form of Christianity for the West would be Catholicism and it does seem to me that, for all its glorious truths and beauties, it does somehow belong to the past. Catholicism is largely what has made Western civilisation but its spiritual, as opposed to religious, force is not what it was and I don't think it can inspire a civilisation any more as it once so magnificently did. I know many will disagree but I think religions pass through the same cycle of growth, maturity and decay as everything else and there is none now that is not in the latter part of that cycle. That is not to say the truth is not there but truth needs a body or form and the latter is not eternal.

Is that a depressing thought for Easter Sunday? I don't mean it to be. The revelation of Christ is for all eternity. The fact of the resurrection is too and we celebrate those today. But can Christianity ever be what it was? Can it universally supply spiritual needs in the way it once did? Or have we changed too much for that to happen?

My feeling is that we cannot go back. The West has largely rejected Christianity and that rejection appears to be decisive. Despite occasional revivals it really does seem that way. However we now have something considerably less than Christianity. If we cannot go back to Christianity as it once was then we need something more than Christianity as it was. That means a new form of Christianity. But just as Jesus came to fulfil the law and the prophets not to deny them so this new form must incorporate all the truth and virtue in Christianity as it was to make of them something that might be new in form but is the same in essence. We need Christianity but with a new dimension added to it, a dimension which was certainly contained in the old form for those who knew how to look but was often dormant or neglected.

You could call it the mystical element but that is a little vague. What it is is the inner truth of Christianity. The truth that we are all sons and daughters of God with the potential to become Christ-like ourselves. Christ is in us. We are not called to worship him so much as to become him and this requires a radically different view of our humanity, a realisation that we are neither sinners (or, at least, not only sinners) nor intelligent apes (though that is what we have made of ourselves) but spiritual beings already with the potential to become gods. I repeat, all this is present in past forms of Christianity, especially Catholicism, but whereas past forms focused mostly on the idea of salvation now we need to bring the deification or divinisation of man aspect out considerably more. We have become (partly, indeed, because of Christian teachings) much more aware of our individuality. We are more mentally orientated than ever before. These things need to be taken into account though we must see them as subordinate to the spiritual consciousness, as means for that to manifest not realities that exist in their own right and for their own self-expression as is the case now.

Christianity is true, now and always. The Resurrection is our guarantee of eternal life if we accept it. But it may be that a new form of Christianity is needed for human beings today that will be able to inspire them as the old forms did in the past, spiritually, morally and even artistically. For we cannot go back. And yet on one level this may be new but on another, more profound, it will not be new at all for everything is already fully present in Christianity as it is now.  The truth of Christianity will not change, it could not, but the form of the religion may have to be born again. I realise this is a controversial thing to say and I have no suggestions as to what that form might be, but I cannot see how Christianity as it has been will ever be as universally influential as it once was and we desperately need some form of Christianity or else we are lost.

And so we come back, as we always must, to the idea of and the need for resurrection. 


Aaron said...

Very interesting, thank you for posting this.

I have always felt the essence of Christianity is to follow the precepts of Jesus, like the Sermon on the Mount, and thus to live a Christ-like life. In this sense, Christianity is basically not different from Buddhism or Taoism but rather, just completes those religions with the addition of a personal God. Christianity may be more complete, and certainly more suited to Westerners, but the message, which in its essentials exists in the East as well, can surely find a new vehicle as long as the message remains pure.

If the essence of Christianity is love and non-ego, then anyone living this kind of life, is essentially a Christian. The vehicle can change, perhaps almost beyond recognition, as long as the message gets through. The message is of the essence.

It seems to me that human life can only flourish based on this philosophy of self-negation and love, and historically, its striking that the best civilizations in Western Europe, China, and India, were based on this philosophy of self-naughting and not on some selfish self-aggrandizing, as you'd expect perhaps to be a far better basis for a mighty civilization.

Humans cannot truly live until they learn to negate their self - true life begins on the other side of self. This seems proven by history, and is a theme of Christianity and other religions.

Interesting that you say we are now more individual. It seems to me that mass culture now produces more uniformity and less individuality than ever before, and that indeed science and Enlightenment ideas tend towards abstraction - uniformity, conformity, and loss of concrete individuality. It seems to me that, in hindsight, the West has been tending towards uniformity and conformity since the late 18th century. Technology, clearly, accelerates this. The dying out of eccentrics in England, once known for its cultivation of eccentrics, is a sad and tragic, but inescapable, fact.

Paradoxically, when everyone sets their gaze on a transcendent Good that is eternal and unchanging, temporal individuality, precisely because unimportant, can sometimes flourish, because what really matters is the same for everyone. That is why, I believe, traditional societies were so much more hospitable to genuine eccentricity - because in what really mattered, spiritually, everyone agreed and strove to be the same, so great lattitude to indulge whims was granted in other areas.

William Wildblood said...

Just a brief remark. You could well be right that in many respects we are less truly individual nowadays (what with advertising, marketing, media propaganda etc) but I think we probably consciously seek and aspire to individuality more than people traditionally did. I would say we are more egotistic too.

Chris said...

I came back to the religion of my childhood, Catholicism, by way of the Perennialist writers. But, as I immersed myself in the Catholic faith, I slowly had to accept the fact that the nondual metaphysic of the (essentially Advaitan )Perennialst perspective may not be compatible with Christian theism. Nevertheless, I agree that Christianity's "inner" or esoteric core is desperately needed. Unfortunately, when I speak to my fellow Catholics and other traditional Christians, it is not long before the name calling begins- "Emerging Church nonsense"; "mystic mongering"; "modern mutant Gnosticism"; "New-Age heretic"; "creeping Pantheism" etc. The ironic thing is that there are folks out there who actually deserve those labels. It seems to me that the Perennialists are largley correct that the "rubber"of spirituality cannot effectively gain traction on the pavement without the vehicle of Tradition, capital T.

William Wildblood said...

I agree that Christian theism is not compatible with advaita and I would say that it’s advaita that’s the metaphysical error because it denies the value and meaning and reality of creation and restricts God to his ummanifest essence. Truth is not just the One but the One and the Many together which is a teaching only fully supported by the idea of the Trinity, though it’s also contained in the doctrine that Christ was both God and Man.

Nevertheless I do think Christianity can take something from advaita, namely the idea that we, or part of us, are fully one with God. There is an aspect of our being which is uncreated and we are called upon to discover that.

Chris said...

I think the big question is how one is to understand maya. I think a case could be made that illusion could suggest something like the schoolmen's "contingency"- the created order is not "real" in the sense that it doesn't have being of its own.

"There is an aspect of our being which is uncreated...."

That is something I used to say when I had more of a Perennialist point of view. But, as I understand it, the classical theist sees the fundamental metaphysical distinction as that of between the Creator and the created. On a related note, I have often reflected upon the difference between Christian theosis and Vendantan moksha. Kristor, over at Orthosphere, recently commented that he thought that Dvaitadvaita ("dual nondualism") is the closest school of Vedanta to that of the Christian perspective. I think he probably is right?

William Wildblood said...

We can understand maya like that but that's not how advaita understands it though it is more how it is presented in the Upanishads from which Sankara, quite frankly, cherry picked to suit his ready made ideas. There is no real creation in advaita, never mind it having no being of its own, and that leads to the denial of individuality which is a critical error I think.

Regarding the uncreated remark I expressed myself a bit loosely. We are created, there's no doubt about that , but God creates our being from his being (what else could it be?) so there is the divine spark within us. And it's not just a matter of realising this as the non dualists sometimes say, but of actually developing it and growing into it. Hence there is reality in becoming as well as being which, again, advaita would not accept.

I'm not really familiar with Dvaitadvaita though I've heard of it. I've previously said that Ramanuja is much more insightful than Sankara and closer to the Christian view, but a brief look makes it seem, that, yes, that is perhaps the nearest Vedanta comes to Christian metaphysics otherwise known as the truth!

Chris said...

Hi William,

Thank you for responding to my questions, especially since I veered away from the subject of the original post. It seems to me that the problem with the metaphysic that feature unqualified nondualism is that it necessarily features what amounts to as a "double truth". There is "ultimate" reality and "conventional" reality. The latter is "real", but only in a relative sense. Shankara says, I think in the Viveka Chudemani, that Maya is most strange, neither sat nor asat, being nor non-being. Does this, in fact, amount to a denial of creation? Yes and no. The Advaitan does not deny Ishvara or God on the level of Being. But it is a subordinate truth. And that's the problem, I think.

"...God creates our being from His Being (what else could it be?)

It all depends on how creatio ex nihilo is interpreted. It could be understood as creatio ex Deo as you suggested, but it could also be interpreted as God creating neither from pre-existing "material" nor from His Being. Presumably, the concern would be lapsing into pantheism if one embraces the creatio ex Deo perspective.

William Wildblood said...

Isn't pantheism identifying God with this world so ignoring his transcendent aspect? I see the difficulty but if we see our spiritual selves as sparks from the Central Fire that would preserve the difference between Creator and created which is a difference that always exists.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - "sparks from the Central Fire" - or, as I prefer, God's Son's and Daughters - born as immature infants, and with a *very* long way to grow spiritually (if we so choose) before we might become of like-nature - like-nature, yet always Sons and Daughters...

William Wildblood said...

Yes Bruce, that's my understanding too.