We bloggers (floggers?) tend to come to a watershed sooner or later, especially when we become aware of bad feelings and occasional hostility. I have certainly discussed “true churches” exhaustively and I haven’t much more to say on the liturgy that doesn’t belong in books rather than the internet.
Historically, I made my name on The Anglo-Catholic, banged a drum on the English Catholic blog and set up this one on the basis of interest in the Sarum liturgy. I developed an idea in parallel based on the old Goliards – the rebellious clerics who lived in the margins of Church life and wrote daring poetry. As time went on, I traced a whole tendency of humanity surviving the dominating strategies of the powerful and rich of this world, in Romanticism and modern sub-cultures. I am still interested in the Sarum liturgy: I use it and I read about its history – but I have nothing more to write about it.
My experience of life has pushed me to the very edges of Christianity. I remained orthodox enough to join a continuing Anglican Church and find my spiritual home in its English diocese. That being said, I am anything but a conservative. Why should people who are not Christians be forced to become Christians so that someone can “civilise” them by his standards? This question is all the more germane as we discover the truth of what western empires did in the parts of the world they conquered for money, justifying their thirst for power by the notion that they were “civilising savages”. Christ’s mandate meant something else, but what?
I came to the idea of what brought me to Christianity in the first place. It was beauty and a higher view of life and love of other people, and especially compassion and empathy for the weak. If it is the ideology of the strong and powerful to gain control over the “little ones”, then it is the Pharisaism that Christ violently condemned. It might be religion, but it is not Christ and what he represented. Love of beauty brought me to be attracted to churches and liturgical music, especially the Anglican choral tradition in which I was myself nurtured from my early adolescent years.
I have written on a number of themes that need to be developed. I am not interested in online preaching like some good priests do on their blogs. In particular, there is the spirit behind Romanticism (no matter how dissolute men like Lord Byron were!), the ancient Gnostic “heresy” and Jungian psychology. In the 18th century, the antidote to religious obscurantism was believed to be reason and enlightenment. But, science alone can be used for evil – like eugenics, genetic manipulation and psychiatry. Science also becomes a religion. We need to be enlightened with knowledge, γνῶσις, and be profoundly tolerant and have empathy for others, refusing to consider anything to be inferior to oneself.
In a context of Jungian psychology, another theme is uppermost in my mind, on which I have written, psychological androgyny – not wanting to be a caricature of the opposite sex or prance about in drag – but becoming more human by assimilating the female within us as an antidote to male domination and thirst for power and money. Such an idea attracts the ire of conservatives with ideas of gender identification in reaction against feminism, transsexualism and homosexuality. We are what we are without labels, but with a desire for empathy, softness, homeliness and humility. Is that why I wanted long hair on my head? No, hair is neutral, like it was until the mid nineteenth century and even later for unbreeched boys. These days, there is more of an agenda in very short hair than anything else. Might we see one day an unbreeching ceremony for men like the “burn the bra” movement among women in the 1960’s? I muse jokingly, but…
I reject ultra-masculinity as evolved in the nineteenth century and especially in the twentieth. It is grotesque and a reflection of that Nazi monster Heydrich I mentioned a few days ago. Some think I am obsessed with Nazism. It is the single event in the twentieth century that has drawn the judgement of the world on the various programmes it promoted. I name one in particular: eugenics. Social “Darwinism” goes back far in history. Hitler is dead, but the lust for Nietzsch’s Ubermensch, power, money and “racial purity” is still with us. That is why I have studied that ideology, its history and crank philosophy to understand things better. I have no personal political opinions except opposition to large anonymous and unaccountable authorities like the State. I have sympathies with anarchism even though I remain highly critical of that set of views.
As a good “post-modernist”, perhaps I should avoid “meta-narratives” in a discovery of a Romanticism for the twenty-first century. As with “psychological androgyny”, it is not a matter of trappings, appearances and labels – but a profound path towards spiritual knowledge and experience, something above all interior and within. I will try to progress in this vein…
….a profound path towards spiritual knowledge and experience, something above all interior and within….
I think these words call us to reflect how each of us is ultimately on an individual journey – no two people’s circumstances will be 100% the same. We each have our memories, things we learnt or took to heart or suffered by…..we are each evolving in one direction or the other. I think there is great value in trying to express what it is that has meant something existential to us, and why, and where we think it might lead to. I know the sort of things that I feel passionate about, the things I couldn’t care less about, the things that agitate me, the things that make me forget myself in joy or calm. Why is that so? In the telling or sharing of a story we can strike some chords in others’ hearts and memories and bridge somewhat the existential gap that lies between us. It’s crazy thinking we all have to think and feel exactly the same, even if we acknowledge that for constructive purposes we have to collaborate and we can only do so if we recognise common values.
We’re fast approaching Christmas and the end of another year, though really, one day begins and ends, physically, like all the rest. The thinking of days as different means that we can get anxious about things and we act differently. This will be my 60th Christmas, and now that I think about it, that doesn’t seem such a large number. And where have they gone to? I think remembering or looking back into the past can make one sad and so I try to be present-focused as much as I can be.
I’ll finish this brief reflection in response by recalling that my favourite psalm is 63: “O God, you are my God, for you I long, for you my soul is thirsting; my body pines for you, like a dry, weary land without water, so I gaze on you in your sanctuary, to see your strength and your glory.” Those words seem to me to be valid for every day, even Christmas Day.