The more I think about my subject matter of yesterday (it was Rev. Clatworthy who got in my cross hairs, but I’m tackling the ideas and not the suspected inner intentions of persons), the more I find myself with various notions whirling around. I would like to dig out my old post on Stages of Spiritual Life. I am reminded of the crude and basic imperatives of the God of the Old Testament, the narratives of jealousy and anger, his vengeance against the “baddies” who were swallowed up by the earth and presumably went to hell or non-existence. Is this the same God Jesus called Father? The Gnostics thought not, and that the Demiurge was some being other than God, not all evil like our notion of the Devil, but childish and showing defects of personality. The Father is presented to us by Christ as unknowable except though him, and entirely without sin and only loving. Such a state of things would be a noble attempt at explaining the mystery of evil. Perhaps, to some extent, orthodox Christianity fills in the gaps and cognitive dissonance with the narrative of angels who sinned and became evil. The narrative has its parallels in just about every religion in the world, monotheist and polytheist.
I am particularly concerned with learning about some of these ancient Gnostic themes and the way they are expressed in more modern narratives. I wrote these four postings where this theme is uppermost.
What is it? I am not claiming to be better or superior to anyone else, but expressing an old notion of St Paul:
For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” (Galatians ii. 19-21)
I see the parallel between the Pauline notion of sanctifying grace and the old notion of γνῶσις, which is a spiritual knowledge and aristocracy. Culture predisposes persons to receive this knowledge, because we have to be open and transparent, not hide-bound by ignorance, prejudice and bigotry. Just today, I came across The Age of Hooper which begins with an extract of Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited: “Hooper was no romantic…” I read the extract and the rest of the article. We have a very fine and subtle analysis of different stages of growth, both in faith and philosophy, and in human life in general.
Our artists chase after every faddish movement, but few contemplate much less venerate the depths of our iconographic tradition. Lovers of the old Roman Rite too frequently possess an irrational hatred of oriental rites. Devout laymen glory in thoughtless repetition of things written in books meant for the formation of children.
We can say the same of liberal and conservative Anglicans in their conflicts over the “hot-button” issues. How many of us have troubled to research into the history of feminism, Jung’s analysis of the hermaphrodite basis in each of us preceding the definition given to our bodies by the X and Y chromosomes during our foetal development? Things are not clearly cut, neither from the point of view of someone with “gender dysphoria” nor from that of those who would sentence such people to four dozen lashes with the whip. There are clearly conditions in which more subtle thinking is possible. All the issues brought up by liberalism, these concerning human rights and the dignity of the person, and also the future of our planet being exploited and irremediably polluted to make money for the few. Like William Blake, I easily understand the evils of uncontrolled capitalism and oligarchy, and the problem has only changed in its external appearance from the 1780’s to our own days. The most powerful message of the Romantics lifted its voice against children being exploited in factories and chimneys of houses, but not only. They sought beauty and transcendence in nature and human art. It is the same today as we turn our backs to the hubbub and superficial activism.
What is the alternative to all these evils? Socialism has been tried, and killed more people in its fanaticism than religion ever did. So had Robespierre’s system been tried and the curse is with us ever since. The answer is elsewhere.
The way of spiritual nobility is the work of a lifetime, and is often experienced only for brief moments outside the humdrum of our middle-class lives. Being an Ubermensch is not something we are born with, nor from belonging to this or that race of humans or social class. It is transcending our human condition and its evils and conflicts. It is becoming a person as opposed to an individual or part of a herd of conformity and peer pressure. It is the condition of true freedom of ourselves and others.