Wednesday, September 09, 2015

The quest in the West

While the news describes the continuing invasion of Europe by the Third World Others and the surprising appeal of The Donald's attack on our own version of it, I am wandering through the culture and religion of The West.

The Arthurian and Grail legends are of great interest because they exhibit such a cross-fertilization of Christian and ancestral worlds. Part of their difficulty is also part of their strength, that there is no single canonical version. As with much mythic material, you can recognize the outline but the local and temporal variations abound.

The wounded Fisher King whose land is dying and who needs to be healed...not a bad image for the soul of the European male.

Playing with how to UpLift the Christian materials. By UpLift I mean what the German verb auf/heben means in a Hegelian context: to retrieve into a new context something prior, while preserving it and also transforming it. Naturally I am drawn to the archetypal approach, which somewhat matches the ancient Christian tradition of reading the Bible not just literally --according to the primary meaning, be it history, poetry, etc.-- but also symbolically. For my purposes, the historical meanings are not primary but the symbolic ones are.

A big part of the religious problem for Westerners is that scientific evidence is now the coin of the realm for what is true. Religion which tries to assert its beliefs as being as true as scientific data run the risk of aping a way of thinking which is incompatible with religion. But given the long history of Christian assertions of truth, backing off from that usually leads to the ghetto of poetry.

St Paul's critique of the Jewish Law as a mode of sacred living is argued partly on the actual effect it had on him: creating a sense of hopelessness that he would ever be able to carry it out sufficiently. What was intended, says he, to be life-giving had instead become toxic in its effects. A similar critique can be made of the Christian Gospel.

On the other hand, for all its problems --inherent and inescapeable in any human phenomenon-- Christianity may have paved the way for modern liberalism, with its corrosive egalitarian and universalist drive, but while Europe was Christian, --dogmatic and narrow-minded, as its Enlightenment critics asserted-- it never gave in to this drive. It was chock full of boundary, self-assertion and hierarchy --to say nothing of a rich and powerful divinity--and had woven itself into the fabric of many European identities. Only when Europe rejected this, did it walk down the path to self-destruction. The path from the triumph of science and reason to the dregs of technologism and post-modern deconstruction is no mystery. Which is why I continue to believe that any race and culture which is to survive must be shaped by sacred myth and ritual, kinship and code. I just don't think that atheism can build a world.

Nowadays, in the Church's struggle to maintain itself as a respectable instutiton in a post-Enlightenment world, it has ironically become infected with the same assumptions that its enemies used against it and has transformed itself from the backbone of the White West into one of the West's traitorous accomplices in destroying what it once built. What Pope before the fecklessly modern Vatican II period would have supported, even mandated as a Christian duty, the invasion of Christendom by streams of Muslims? It beggars belief, but there it is.

As Tarnas notes in his Passion of the Western Mind, the end result of the West's liberation struggle against mysticism and dogma and restrain in tradition was first a celebration of optimistic and heroic freedom but then, as it kept digging, came the nihilistic discovery that we are merely biological entities fighting and fucking our way through our tiny lives on a miniscule planet inside a universe so vast and uncaring that we are less than insignificant. Great job, guys.

There's gotta be a better way forward.


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