I have been neglecting this blog for some time, partly due to personal issues and partly due to having had a major computer crash. My data is backed up and some recent stuff is being saved from the hard disk of the stricken computer presently in the care of a technician. I have been able to put a Windows 7 computer into good use, installing the various applications from my external hard drive, and will be glad to have two parallel “rigs” for my translating work and my Blue Flower related work. I am hoping that my crashed computer can support Windows 7 after my bad experiences with Windows 10 – mainly a question of drivers. We’ll see…
There is also the need to be detached from some of the hysteria whirling around about the issues surrounding the Pope. I am not a member of the RC Church, but associations tend to be made between organised institutional religion and the old sins of unredeemed humanity.
Some time ago, I visited a kindly Englishman who owns a small château in northern France and aspires to building up a humanist vision of a change of consciousness. The theme reminded me of some of the ideas expressed in Romantic authors like Wordsworth, a kind of secular eschatology in an age when institutional Christianity was too tired to provide a convincing answer to materialist rationalism and the pent-up hatred against the old institutions of the Church and the Aristocracy. The reality is that the gentleman is alone in this comely dwelling in the woods. He has occasional visitors and friends, and sometimes some odd characters. He sometimes hosts groups of business people or educational concerns, which help to finance the estate. The central theme is New Age, a term that is eschewed by conservative Christians, both Protestant and Catholic. His ideas need rethinking – from financing his house through grandiose projects to building a community of alternative living at a human dimension. The contradictions are easy to understand but difficult to solve. I have enough problems of my own!
My approach to New Age has been philosophical and comparative (I have no experience with New Age groups), seeking an expression in modern times of phenomena like Gnosticism and Romanticism as it manifested itself in the wake of the French Revolution and the mid nineteenth century up to World War I. Unfortunately, it is not the only understanding of New Age. There is also a plethora of cheap commercial “spiritualities” and their charlatan gurus. The story of Theosophy and some of the “mystical” underpinnings of Hitler’s ideology are extremely confusing. Sometimes mental illness and psychosis enter the picture, and the end result is extreme confusion and a temptation to reject the wholesome and noble with the cheap dross and ravings of the feeble-minded.
With these thoughts in my mind as I contemplate an article for the next Blue Flower (Christmas 2018) on nobility of spirit, I am brought to the concept developed by Origen on the various levels of interpreting the Scriptures. These levels go from the literal / historical reading of the texts to analogy and allegory, a mystical and hidden meaning. In institutional Christianity, the Church has always had room both for ordinary parish life and the monastic life, covering both community life and the solitary contemplative life. Take away the “ordinary” way, and our “higher” way can only evaporate away from the lack of roots. Christianity that is purely Gnostic cannot subsist in history and human life. It cannot last, but it has to be there for those who can “take it”. Take away the “higher” way, and all you have left is materialism and the hubbub of modern politics.
I am reading April De Conick’s The Gnostic New Age. How A Countercultural Spirituality Revolutionized Religion from Antiquity to Today, published by Columbia University Press 2016. See a review. I am not yet very far through this book, but I am reading it to understand the issues and the need in people’s minds to wander beyond the bounds of Judeo-Christian monotheism to seek inner knowledge and self-consciousness. The challenge presented by Gnosticism is tracing the evolution of religion from obeying a tyrannical deity who sets the standards of the law too high and punishes transgressors without mercy, to entering into a Covenant, to the discovery of the loving and transcendent God the Father of Jesus Christ above the spirits of this world. The first view of the dictator god is that used by temporal rulers to obtain control over the masses, and this has always been the drama of the Church – to this very day. The theme runs all the way through history and both through religions and “secular” philosophies like anarchism à la Tolstoy. I find this book both challenging and enlightening.
My brother in the priesthood Fr Gregory Wassen has been writing in his blog after a period of relative silence, and I would like to draw your attention to his reflections on Plato and a theory of two worlds.
- “Modern Misunderstanding,” AB, viii …
- The Psalter and mystical interpretation
- Plato’s dualism (i)
- Forms as separate from their Instances
- Paradigms, patterns, and forms.
- Can a Form exist at a time it has no Instances?
There are many agendas and ideas flying about in this world, and we can’t heed them all. We need to work things out using our rational faculties, but also our imagination and intuition. As a priest in the ACC, I am greatly indebted to the breadth of mind of our Bishop with the kind of priests he is attracting – including Fr Gregory Wassen, Fr Jonathan Munn and Fr Andrew Scurr. We are coming together to build a new way forward, on the basis of orthodox Catholicism but also through the soaring of our minds and imaginations to that transcendent world beyond, our Sehnsucht for the ultimate in truth and beauty.
I would certainly like to work towards a meet-up of all those who have expressed interest in my Blue Flower project. Summer is nearly over, and there will be fewer distractions as we get back into the mood for work and reflection.