Western Culture and its Christianity

I began this train of thought by identifying autogenic disease as “western.”  But clearly the background conditions it addresses transcend any region or culture.  The inescapable business of surviving from day to day requires of everyone, western or not, that they deal with the shortcomings of their bodily existence confronted with a material universe whose processes and properties are determined by the implacable laws of physics and bio-chemistry.  It describes human life everywhere.  It’s the human condition.  Why single out the West’s response? … and why call it a disease?

… because western culture reconceived the human condition in moral and religious terms.  It ascribed will and intention to what were biological realities.  Death was interpreted as the punishment of an angry “god” directed at human beings despite the abundant evidence of the mortality of all organic life.  The ancients didn’t need modern science to see the reality around them.  The Platonic-Christian vision called death and diminishment “evil” and identified us as its source — that it was all our fault, our sin — introducing a dynamic of guilt and self-loathing and a justification for escape that became the core of the human project in Western Europe.

The existence of exploitive economic stratification among us — broadly speaking the enslavement of some people by others for the purpose of escaping the conditions placed on every organism to work for its own survival — was drawn into this worldview. Slavery was justified by Aristotle as the “spiritual” (mental) superiority of the masters over the slaves: that slaves were more “material,” sub human, and needed direction. It was a self-deception of appalling proportions.  There is no excuse for it.  In Aristotle’s world the use of “slaves” for the most demanding intellectual and administrative tasks was pervasive; the Roman elite routinely assigned educated Greek slaves to teach their children.  There is no possible basis for Aristotle’s outrageous claim except the crass, willful intention to justify a class system in which some people make other people do the work that is everyone’s responsibility. It represents the escape from the conditions of materiality erected into a “philosophical principle.”

This is endemic. Every ill we suffer coming from our ancient inherited social inequalities was either created or intensified by the refusal to accept the inescapable: we are all, each and every one of us, biological organisms trying to survive in a physical, bio-chemical world, and “work” is each organism’s necessary interaction with the environment to secure that survival.  I believe the enslavement of some by others for the purpose of evading that responsibility is the aboriginal source of all injustice, and the accumulation of superfluous wealth merely an addictive by-product.

I contend that the “escape from the human condition,” sanctified and elevated into cultural imperatives and concretized in religious beliefs and practices, was the autogenic disease that the Reformation was attempting to cure with religious treatments.  The reformers were left nearsighted by their times; they saw trees but not the forest … but they had an excuse: before the advent of modern science no one could.  They saw the problem in Christian terms.  But in reality what they were looking at was only the tip of the iceberg, the latest phase — the mediaeval Christian phase — of a profound and ancient delusion that had reached a point of crisis.  For the Mediterranean world had been infected with this disease since before the advent of Christianity.  Christianity had embraced it, canonized it, and spread it throughout the Roman empire.  By the 14th century it had grown to epidemic proportions; it was aggravated by the flagrant corruption of the Church hierarchy in the 15th.   In the 16th century what the reformers proposed was insufficient, for it was aimed at the symptoms of the disease in its Christian form and not at the source.  At a deeper level the Refor­ma­tion changed nothing, for the root of the problem — the disdain for matter — was left untouched.   The venomous snake of organic escape was still alive and well.  The Reformation merely precipitated a molting that shed the skin of the mediaeval form and allowed it to begin a new phase that eventually became the modern form.  But the characteristic alienation: the belief in the corruption of the body, the guilt and self-hatred and the desire to escape organismic life in this material universe that began in ancient times, lived on and is with us still.

Since the beginning of the common era — when Christianity was born — the West has generated a set of erroneous beliefs that made a religion out of our struggle with the laws of nature: it raised our survival efforts to the level of a holy war; it demonized matter as the “enemy” and split the human being asunder, setting an imagined “spirit” warring against its own body.  It was the onset of a plague we have carried, and spread, ever since.

It made the body’s neutralization and ultimate obliteration a sacred quest, and has for millennia seriously attempted to factor out of the human equation the reality of being a material organism in a material environment. The fact that the goal was so delusional as to be impossible to achieve made for necessary compromises that further undermined the sense of integrity of the individual attempting to comply with its demands; society’s acquiescence, then, could be nothing less than corruption. The inescapable guilt and sense of failure created by this state of affairs was almost predictably interpreted as the result of immorality, the confirmation of the theory of an original “sin” that caused humankind to be corrupted and bound to matter.  We have since learned that it was all nonsense.  The only thing immoral in this whole scenario was the cultural ideology, the religious message, placing demands on the human organism that could not be met because they were the fruit of illusion — the illusion that we are “spirit” and that matter is our mortal enemy.

Relational morality

In such an alienated context modern technological interventions can be morally problematic, even though not immediately perceptible on the surface.  The morality I speak of is not casuistic, it is relational; it reflects who we think we are.  Its import is revealed over time in the application of these interventions, which are often exaggerated and inappropriate.  Let’s take a minute to explore this issue.  Cosmetic surgery may serve as a good example but the analysis is applicable to all kinds of technological interventions like the extraction and use of fossil fuels.

Everyone instinctively has qualms about cosmetic surgery. But it’s not “immoral” by our conventional standards, so why are we uncomfortable with it?  I believe what bothers us is a lack of balance so often present that derives from an inaccurate relationship to one’s self-in-the-world.  Conventional morality permits unrestricted recourse to cosmetic surgery (for those who can afford it), but it uses personal alienation as a premise from which moral permissions are derived.  Specifically, the reasoning is that since the matter of our bodies is a meaningless substrate, we have a right to change or manipulate it as we wish.  It has no intrinsic value or significance in itself.  Therefore cosmetic surgery is ad libitum. The only thing that could challenge its morality would be giving it precedence over other, necessary, life-saving surgeries.

But it seems obvious that decisions based on the meaninglessness of matter will be skewed and out of balance. A culture that denigrates the natural conditions of genetic inheritance and the natural curve of the life cycle as mere mindless mechanisms to which we are chained as to an alien and hostile process, will deal with them as invasive elements that get in the way of our lives, and decisions based on that attitude, understandably, will make us “uncomfortable.”

My modern western culture tells me “matter” is an obstacle and at best my slave. “Matter,” for this view of the world, — in the peculiar way it has evolved … in what specifically it has achieved … in the particular way it works within the laws of nature — is not “me.”  I do not have to love it, cherish it, respect it, protect it, or live with it: I do not have to consider it sacred. The only thing sacred in this view of things — the only thing worth cherishing and protecting  — is what gives “me” enjoyment, pleasure, satisfaction, fulfillment, as if “I” were different from my organism.  Such an attitude is a denial of the fact that my own personal self is identical with my emergence as the organic offspring of this material world; there is no “me” apart from it.

But make no mistake. The attitude I’m talking about is not meant to serve as a new premise from which to deduce some new moral conclusion … and it could as easily serve to impel the choice to have cosmetic surgery as to reject it.  Rather it is a call to see behavioral choices not as the application of an abstract principle of morality, but as a function of relationship.  It represents a change in the locus of morality, from the calculation of negative prohibitions to a conscious embrace of one’s reality-in-context which can induce positive response as well as negative avoidance.  In the case we are considering here it is the antithesis of the western autogenic pathology because the relationship in question is the relationship to our selves — our  bodies.  Disdain for the body as the enemy of “spirit” has been used as a premise for negative commands, and even as we moderns repudiated its practical applications, the premise has remained intact and continues to rule our thinking.  We may no longer use it to repress our pleasures, but it lives on in our general disregard for non-cerebral species and the delicate balance and fragile interdependence of the complex ecosystems that sustain life on our planet.

Hence it is no surprise that all kinds of behavior tend to get out-of-balance. First-level pleasures become the standards that determine my enjoyments: they run my life.  But once I embrace my body as “me,” the innate love I naturally bear myself opens the door to deeper gratifications that come from being this particular body at this time on this earth.  The experience precludes any claim that there is “no value” here; the “value” is, in fact, transcendently existential; for it is the condition of the very possibility of my being-here. I cannot be-here without simultaneously having a definite place in the genetic chain of organic life and a biological organism with a necessary life-cycle of its own, umbilically connected to its environment in real time.  The mystique of embracing my body-self in THIS world provides an enjoyment that is unique.  Absent that depth of awareness, it is simply not accessible.  Many people never experience the profound contentment that comes from knowing they are exactly where they belong.  They remain strangers to their own body-selves and the earth that spawned them all their lives, forever wishing they were something or somewhere else, abusing themselves and soiling their nest in the pursuit of some non-existent utopia … a true “no-place.”

The ground of these experiences of belonging are scientific biological realities that cannot be denied. Genetically determined biological reproduction is the origin of all life on our planet.  There is no other basis for existence.  To be alive on this earth — to be-here — is to be an emergent leaf at the end of a branch of an immense tree, a totality that is interdependent in space and time.  It reveals that the cultural premise that identified humanness with an other-worldly spirit and gave encouragement to the exploitation and denigration of matter to have been a huge “metaphysical” falsification.  It was a vicious illusion, and a primary source of human alienation.  I cannot treat my body, bound as it is to the absolute conditions of its viability, as if it were other than “me.”

Relationship

Please notice what’s happening here. This moves the discussion decisively out of the arena of casuistic morality and into the realm of relationship, where “right and wrong,” “good and bad,” are a function of identity, love, trust, mutual agreement, communication, solidarity, commitment.  The religious issue in this relational frame of reference does not bear on “morality” in the sense that we are familiar with, i.e., that such and such behavior is “good” or “bad,” permitted or forbidden as determined by abstract “principles” applied with logical consistency.  It is rather a question of how I am related to myself and from there how I am related to everything else around me, individually and collectively, and what that means for what I do under the sun.  The real issue is how I answer the question: Who am I? That is where morality resides.

The answer, I submit, is: I AM my socially-reproduced-organism-product-of-this-earth. It is precisely because I have THIS organism reproduced from the living matter of THESE parents embedded in THIS social matrix, who live at THIS point in time in human history on THIS planet, having evolved from THESE remote ancestor species that I am here at all, and therefore that I am “me.”  There is no “me” apart from what constitutes my coming to be as an organism in real time in this universe.  No organism can be conceived apart from the chain of causes that produced it and sustain it.  There is no identity for a leaf apart from the tree that bears it. There was no independent “infusion” of a “soul” by “God.” I believe that were our culture to inspire the members of its social network to an organismic self-embrace at this depth and with this relational accuracy, the decisions about “cosmetic surgery” or any other human activity — one way or the other — would be made without ever having to ask in what case an intervention might be considered right or wrong.

The shift from casuistry — which characterizes a legal, negative-command morality, based on the superiority of “spirit” over matter — to relationality, is the key to this point of view that I am promoting. Relationship rules. Moral behavior results from, it does not establish relationship. It is significant that Martin Luther’s seminal insight was similarly relational.  The “faith” that justified was really a trust that could only exist when the two “individuals” involved — “God” and the human person — had a relationship.  And as he conceived it, morality flowed from the trusting relationship, it did not create it.  When Luther insisted that we were not “justified” by works, what he was basically saying was that the relationship to “God” is not created by what we do — our obedience — the relationship is prior to and is the condition for our doing whatever we do.  The behavior is shaped by the relationship, not the other way around.  “Luther rejected the Aristotelian notion that good works make a good man, and insisted rather that a good man does good works and does so freely and without legal regimentation.”[1]

Ancient hubris

The denial of our reality as evolving matter’s integral organic offspring — whose survival is secured by working within it — is an old problem.  Modem runaway technology is also an escape from individual labor.  It recapitulates the hubris of ancient times when, by turns, an individual’s efforts were directed toward the exploitation of others for the selfish purposes of self-aggrandizement and avoiding the survival labor that is the onus of every organism on the planet … and then, after a moral awakening, the attempt to domesticate one’s “selfish” body with a relentless asceticism whose central requirement was the renunciation of sex, fundamentally a delusional rejection of the individual’s place in the chain of organic reality.  Both are attempts to deny having a body, and both reject the responsibility to work.

The ascetic “vision” was considered an esoteric gnosis by Greeks in the Platonic tradition, appreciated only by those initiated into “philosophy” taken as a kind of religion.  It should be noted that its practitioners were of the same ruling classes, able to pursue these “spiritual” goals only because their “carnal” needs were taken care of by the work of slaves, women and other menials.  “Rational” pursuits served to distinguish the “spiritual” elite from the “sub-human” proclivities of those who served them (and men from women), or more accurately, it identified being a biological organism as “animal,” or at least sub-human, “low class,” inferior, effete and unmanly.[2]   This was, until the imperial imposition of Christianity on all in the fourth century, only a “minority report” that existed within a conquest-driven Mediterranean culture that survived economically by the massive infusions of slave labor[3] and had re-conceived the naturally egalitarian act of copulation as an expression of male supremacy and domination.[4]  Many of us are quite familiar with the main lines of these flip-sided profiles.  The ascetic version is the traditional program still offered to Catholicism’s spiritual elite … and it is still expected to arise from a conversion from “worldly” pursuits which include marriage and the work needed to sustain a family.  Please note: the ascetic does not work, or if he does he takes it on as an ascetic discipline. In this view of the world there is no recognition of the responsibility of the organism to labor to survive. 

Prior to the separation of Church and State beginning only in the late 18th century, the theocracies of Europe were all Christian and while the main lines of this classic bi-polarity remained intact, the ascetic version was held up by all, Protestant and Catholic, as the highest that an individual could achieve.  That means that it reigned as the human ideal in the West, preached from all pulpits and sanctioned officially by all governments however hypocritically it was lived in practice, for 1400 years.  That the West internalized those values and that they live on today should surprise no one.

This is not insignificant. What other cultures identified as the very essence of a tragic myopia  became in the West the goal and purpose of life.  A “matter” that was believed to be the evil nemesis of the human “spirit,” was disrespected and its needs disregarded.  The word “tragic” is appropriate.  For this is not just an unfortunate shortcoming that adds more discomfort to an already difficult struggle.  To fail to accept the material essence of the human condition is fatal; and apparently from the way things seem to be going, by not respecting the materiality that is the necessary envelope in which we survive, the resulting mindless exploitation, both of humans and the earth, has not only destroyed harmony among us but it is annihilating other species and threatening the very life-support­ing capacity of the planet.  Without our material matrix … and without mutual support among us, we will not survive.  However “normal” it may seem to us who live with our situation every day, we cannot afford to misunderstand the depth and virulence of our autogenic sickness.  Western culture is the repository of the myopia that bears forward that misguided quest, and because of its unparalleled technological success, the proverbial spider has drawn other once wiser cultures into its web and is consuming them.

[1] Hans Hillerbrand ed., The Protestant Reformation, Harper, 2009 (1968), p.31-32

[2] Peter Brown, The Body and Society: men women and sexual renunciation in early Christianity Columbia U.Press. 1988

[3] See Kyle Harper, Slavery in the Late Roman World, AD 275 – 425, Cambridge University Press, 2011, pp. 58 (fn 150) – 60.  Estimates for the prevalence of slavery in the Roman Empire vary — upwards of two to three million slaves in Italy by the end of the 1st century BCE, about 35% to 40% of Italy’s population (Encyc. Brit).  For the Empire as a whole, the slave population has been estimated at just under five million, representing 10 – 15% of the total population. An estimated 49% of all slaves were owned by the elite, who made up less than 1.5% of the Empire’s population. About half of all slaves worked in the countryside, the remainder in towns and cities.  (Wiki: Slavery in ancient Rome)

[4] Brown, op.cit.

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13 comments on “Western Culture and its Christianity

  1. As usual Tony, great stuff. I saw John Hyland at the Climate March today. It was he who turned me on to your blog. Remember me, Compare ?

    • Sal Umana says:

      Frank & Tony, As another “Compadre” or godfather or goombah, I salute you. I also love John Hyland who is a true ‘mensch”. Yesterday I gave a lecture at Eckherd College in St. Petersburg on Liberation Theology. I relived the heady days of the 60’s and 70’s with Paulo Freire’s :”Pedagogy of the Oppressed” and Guttierrez’s social, political Gospel on the ‘option for the poor/ oppressed”. After reading all of Tony’s books, and now these latest blog entries bringing it all together, I am convinced more than ever that the historical Jesus was not talking about life after death, but a very Jewish messianic world where God’s rule of love for one another would reign. That is the Kingdom of God which the people heard as Good News. Now, Tony, you have given us a solid philosphical and scientific basis for the Beatitudes. Bonpane’s “Guerrillas of Peace” makes it very clear that the earth belongs to the poor and under the Rule of God/Love, the rich cannot enjoy it unless they are willing to share with all.
      Sal Umana

  2. theotheri says:

    Tony – As I think I told you some time ago, the realization that Plato’s spiritual world is pure fantasy and that I already am at home gave me an experience close to ecstasy. I can think of no other change in my world view that has had such a profound effect, and to this day, it still brings me flashes of sheer joy.

    But in my conversations, I have learned that by no means is recognizing that we are, as you say, socially-reproduced-organisms-product-of-this-earth. Why not!?

    From my conversations with people, it seems to be because, as they see it, it strips life of meaning. What is the purpose of it all? Even the great leaps of technological advances do not relieve everyone of despair. Rather than live in this existential void, they chose to sacrifice the present for the promise of an eternal future. That was what Constantine realized, wasn’t it?

    I don’t feel that way. It is clear that you don’t either. I wonder why not. Some of the words you sometimes use to describe this universe – words like “sacred,” or “magisterium” – are positively revolting for me. There is too much baggage in my background accompanied by incense and pious prancing about in fancy clothes. But I suspect the problem is one of vocabulary. Whether it’s a Mozart concerto, the morning sun on my face, or the exuberance of the two-year-old in the supermarket this morning, it is a source of energy for me and joy that no promise of “heaven” by any description can give me.

    But this joy in already being where I belong, rather than in exile, isn’t something that comes automatically with the loss of belief in God or in another better spiritual world beyond. I’m not a pagan, but I think many of them understand that joy and wonder and respect for our world is something we learn, and that others are essential in that process – just as it is our culture that convinced so many of us for so long that this material world is a degraded world to which we have been exiled because of our sinfulness. And is teaching so many of us today that happiness can be found in all the things that money can buy.

    But let us not forget — we humans are part of this incredible universe — despite all our limitations that seem to bombard us every single day,

    Again, thank you for a great post.

    • tonyequale says:

      Terry,

      Thanks. As usual I appreciate your insightful take on things. Indeed, the mysticism of living in the moment requires some practice because we have lost the skill. Unfortunately the meditation we were trained in was focused on the “other world” and may no longer be available for our new perspective. It’s a shame to lose a good tool. Thich Nat Han’s practice of “mindfulness” aimed at the “present moment” may help fill the gap. In all cases, however, it will require developing new habits of thought and imagery. Everything worthwhile takes work … at 75 I feel like an old dog trying to learn new tricks.

      Tony

      • theotheri says:

        Tony – At 74.5 years of age, I know the difficulty of learning new tricks. On the other hand, I never did learn to meditate – I still can’t. I have never had any conscious experience, however exalted I might have felt it to be, without content, i.e. without thinking. I suppose that is why I am not all that convinced by mystics.

        On the other hand, it does seem to me that, given the limitations of being human, one cannot accept that life is intrinsically valuable, except through an act of faith. That is, it is a conclusion totally beyond logical or scientific proof.

        I do wonder if my faith in the essential value of being would be quite so resilient, however, if my own life were not so fortunate. As a teenager, I remember telling “God” that I did not want to be a martyr, after all, and if possible, would he please not send me any challenges that were greater than I could handle. I can’t say I think it was “God” who arranged this, but, although I have often stumbled at rather small hills, I’ve not been faced, thus far, with an insurmountable mountain.

        Be interested to know your further thoughts on how we learn to value this incredible, awe-filled, even awful and terrifying universe in which we find ourselves. I used to think it is an intrinsic natural response, rather like our response to love or to hunger or beauty but it is by no means a universal human experience. Socialization? yes; culture? yes; our individual brain and the differences among us in what we perceive, understand, experience? yes. Is that the full monty?

        Terry

      • Sal Umana says:

        Tony and Terry, I am 85 years old, and I appreciate every single word you both write. As for mysticism, I have since early childhood “had intimations of immortality” as the poet said. I now know from reading Tony and others, that I do not have an “immortal soul”, that I am instead, a relationship, an all-embracing connection to all of material Being, a ‘connatus’, a drive to survive, and it is succeeding as we speak. I have no idea what Plato or Aristotle or Philo for that matter, were talking about.
        Sal Umana

      • theotheri says:

        Okay, so we are all pretty much agreed that the way we see it, we are part of the process of this universe and always will be. We have not been expelled from a better more spiritual world to which we may regain access if we live good enough lives. We belong totally to this material world, in “a relationship, an all-embracing connection to all of material Being”

        Having said that, I think the world – especially those of us socialized as Christians – need to explore in much greater depth what this means in practical terms. I mean, the kind of question I hear people asking, for instance, is “how do I raise my children?” “how do I chose which government policies to support?” “how do I evaluate good and bad?” In other words, what are the principles that can guide me to live with faithfulness to this all-embracing connection?

        I cannot say I am without any thoughts on this (nor am I speechless in relation to others questions though perhaps I have less to say than I think). But I don’t have well-thought principles beyond the conviction that I believe we need to respect all being, including what we ourselves are, and indeed even to appreciate and take joy in the realization that understanding the entire process of which we are a part is an evolving process, which may always remain partly beyond our human capacities.

        I cannot think but that there are other wells of wisdom rather more profound than this that others have found – including other contributors to this blog. How do we want this new way of understanding ourselves and the universe to guide how we choose to live?

        Thank you – again.

        Terry

  3. Ian Fraser says:

    Thank you, Tony, for this interesting perspective on the autogenic disease of alienation from our own bodies. I wish to make three lines of comment.

    The first concerns your re-thinking of whether or not this is a specifically Western problem. “It describes human life everywhere. It’s the human condition. Why single out the West’s response? … and why call it a disease?” Your explanation for concentrating on the West’s response is valid, because the details you present are definitely of the Western world. However it is worth noting that Buddhist cultures are faced with the same possibility – that the recognition of the deep, inner self as real, and relegation of the physical body to the transient illusory world can similarly cause a rift in oneself by under-rating the importance of the physical and social self.

    My second line of comment is that it is very difficult to relegate the body to some lower level of significance, even to the extent of believing the body is unimportant or of low moral worth, if one maintains an active physical life. The very fact or working out, playing sport, dancing, taking care to eat healthy food, and learning to know your body to be able to feel well-being or illness, inherently places one’s physical self or body in a focal position in one’s life. Many people in cultures both East and West do live full physical lives and find them psychologically as well as physically satisfying. This is consistent with NOT suffering alienation from the physical which you describe in your post.

    And the final part of my comment is that rejection of the negative perspective of our physical selves and of the world in general which unfortunately is so much a part of traditional Christianity – particularly of the Western (Catholic and Protestant) traditions, less so of the Orthodox tradition – does not necessitate a rejection of all the Greco-Roman intellectual tradition or the Judeo-Christian spiritual tradition. “A healthy mind in a healthy body” was a common aim in Classical Rome and a balance of spiritual exercises and physical work is a requirement of the monastic life in Christianity as well as in Buddhism.

    • tonyequale says:

      Ian, Thank you for your clear and focused comments. I would like to respond to each of your three points.

      On the first, I personally find the Buddhist insistence on the illusory nature of the “self” very reassuring that they do not believe in a separable “soul” made of some metaphysically different “stuff” from the body … which is the Platonic belief and the source of our western malaise.

      Your second comment is very a propos and I agree wholeheartedly. The fact is, however, that the Platonic theory was developed in the context of a class society where the educated elite did no manual labor and most likely never set foot in a barnyard where the similarities of human with animal life could not have been avoided. The adage you refer to, mens sana in corpore sano, was developed in a “pagan” context, and not necessarily “Platonic.” Platonism was a “minority report” until it was embraced by Christianity and eventually became the philosophy of the empire.

      On your third, I agree that there are elements in our culture, like monasticism, that could sustain a different vision, but the monastic way of life, by definition, rejects mainstream culture because it represses or obliterates some of the very values you refer to. The Benedictine insistence on “work” I’m sure you realize, is an ascetic ideal that even in the monasteries came to be relegated to the “lay brothers” while the “work” assigned to the upper class monks was the singing of the divine office. But in any case, even at its best, monasticism was segregated from mainstream Christian life. I contend that the monastic values of poverty, shared manual labor and egalitarianism were confined to asylums in order to protect mainstream class society from being contaminated by them. And finally I’d like to point out that Protestantism tried to bring monastic values to mainstream life, and in part succeeded, but the underlying spirit-flesh demon remained unexorcized and the final result was to universalize the contagion.

      Tony,

  4. Ian Fraser says:

    Thanks Tony for your response to my comments. I believe you make valid critiques of what I had written and, as such, do contribute to how I see the impact of the Platonic “spirit-flesh demon” in our lives today.

  5. saluman73 says:

    I would like to offer a response to Terry, nicely titled “Theotheri” On Sept.26, he asked,”I cannot think but that there are other wells of wisdom rather more profound than this that others have found – including other contributors to this blog. How do we want this new way of understanding ourselves and the universe to guide how we choose to live?”

  6. saluman73 says:

    Sorry, but this is a continuation of above. My answer to Terry is that this new teaching of Ton y’s requires taking full responsibility for the earth upon ourselves. Previously, we were supposed to “pay, pray, and obey,” and the ministers, especially, were to do whatever the hierarchy told us to do without questioning. Now that we know that we are “in God, in whom we live, and move and have our being”, then what we used to call “God’s Kingdom on earth” is “our kingdom on earth”. We, hopefully, who have had “our consciousness raised”, are now free to “lay down our lives” for the common good. We can only do this together, in common, in community, in solidarity. That was supposed to be the rallying cry after Vat II but it was suppressed by the conservative, rule of law, warriers of the right. We have an obligation, a responsibility to take the church, and society, back.The real question is “When” and “How”!
    Sal Umana

    • theotheri says:

      Sal – Thank you so much for your response to my comment. To think of this world as “our kingdom” is ours is a new thought for me and an extremely helpful way of learning to understand our responsibilities.

      I am a little uncomfortable with describing “our raised consciousness,” though. I think I would prefer to say something more like “our different perspective.” I rather think we are more like those blind men standing around an elephant, one at the tail, another with his arm around the leg, another perhaps enjoying a shower beneath the trunk, but each one thinking that they see the picture better than anyone else.

      I have, undoubtedly moved from the position from which I view the elephant, but suggesting that it is “raised,” compared to other perspectives smacks of possessing the truth — different content from the old “pay, pray, and obey” commands of the past, but same assumption of superiority.

      Yes, the view we share is far more in sync with modern science, which in today’s world I personally find absolutely essential, as do, quite obviously hundreds of thousands of others. But who knows? The paradigms have been shifting for tens of thousands of years as we experience the universe in different ways. I suspect that the paradigm we espouse will also change, although I cannot begin to imagine what it might be.

      In the meantime, I think I’d rather put effort into making what small contribution I might make to the havoc we are in so many ways wrecking on “our kingdom,” rather than trying to “take the church back.”

      Again, a mega-thank you for taking my comment seriously and sharing your insights, which, as I say, I deeply appreciate.

      Terry

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