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.


Bruce Charlton said...

@William - That puts is very well!

BTW I have suggested 'Direct' as an alternative to 'Spiritual' in a blog post today:

Another, rather materialistic, analogy of this concerns what is a self-correcting viewpoint, and when that is reached.

Starting from atheist materialism, we tend to self-correct back to it - so any small or superficial changes will not make a difference, and we tend to fall back into error.

However, I do not regard that as a necessary fact of life - and if the basic 'system' can be made true/ real - if a Spiritual (or Direct) Christianity can be established - then we would naturally tend to correct back to that - small errors, deviations, then sins would tend to self correct without destroying the basic goodness.

William Wildblood said...

I couldn't agree more with what you say in your post, Bruce, and have commented there.