I have been captivated by this myself. I am talking about the old theme of integral traditionalism as it is known by some among other names. I have a bookshelf full of René Guénon, Soloviev, Frithjof Schuon, Berdyaev, Mircea Eliade, Jung and others who might have been more or less influenced by the New Right movements in Europe. I was once fascinated by Distributism and a so-called Third Way, only to find out that people responsible for that movement had committed terrorist acts. I did well never to have anything to do with that kind of thing! Disappointment after disappointment… Perhaps we have a lesson to learn.
After reading the thought-provoking posting The Great Restlessness, I thought of my own stories to tell. In the 1990’s, I bought a book about independent Catholic and Orthodox bishops – as I have been a little too curious about that less than healthy subject. I won’t give the title of this book, because I feel the need to conceal the identity of the person (X) I am about to discuss. X had a friend who died of cancer at a very early age who was a medievalist and something of a “Romantic”, and wrote books about integral traditionalism. They were both fascinated with René Guénon and founded a kind of confraternity of like-minded souls. X decided that being in charge of the confraternity justified his being ordained a priest and consecrated a bishop, which was conferred by an episcopus vagans. The confraternity proved a failure and X joined the jurisdiction of a bishop affiliated with the Metropolis of Milan. When the bishop in question had his own problems, X joined the local jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, and was re-ordained. Something went wrong, and now X lives as a layman with his family and earns an honest living. What happened? We can never be in the skin of another person, but this kind of thing (theme and variations) happens to a lot of people. Myself too to an extent.
Perceptio seems to have hit a note, the utter incompatibility between modern western life and metaphysics, any notion other than materialistic. It is then that we have the idea of secession from the system to form small communities, inspired by monasticism, university life, whatever – so that some people can “reconnect”. It is appealing, and some little communities go some way towards satisfying this aspiration, between monasteries, continuing Anglican dioceses, what we do on the internet with our blogs, forums and e-mail lists. We try to avoid being alone. Sometimes, solitude is of the essence!
I try to forge on in my own way, and this is why we need to salvage the aspects of Gnosticism which can be reconciled with what is most constant in Catholic Christianity. Then, we need to examine other mythologies with the right keys of interpretation and understanding. There have been many foolish mistakes, illusions and failures. And, so there will be in the future. We cannot give up without submitting to the morass of materialism and the crass stupidity of the hylics. I have no formula of success, any more than had other thinkers and dreamers. Each of us finds our own way, however crazy that might seem to others.
I have concluded that eccentric and spiritual ways are only for individual persons who try to be true to themselves. At the level of communities, we have to learn to get by with conventional exoteric Churches – in the same way as we live in the general population. Some Churches are more conducive to others. Some believe they have found “it” with Orthodoxy, and one can only leave them to discover reality over the years. Others join a Church which is less exclusive in its “truth” claims but in which worship is uplifting and human relationships draw at least some inspiration from teachings by Christ, St Paul and others on charity (ἀγάπη). A Church is always a compromise between our idealism and the common denominator of humanity. We cannot expect too much from Churches, any more than from the civil institutions of the country in which we live: government, law, police, armed forces, welfare state, education and so forth. Churches give some attention to the metaphysical and spiritual, and give the first guiding steps. We are responsible for our own spiritual adulthood and the discovery we are called to make throughout life.
There, we are on our own – and it will lead to holiness or insanity!