Sunday, July 28, 2019

Christian Buddhism IV

Service announcement: It's another religious post. In case people are wondering why I'm sticking to this theme at the moment it's because in this blog's opinion,  that the reason why the West is failing is because of the collapse of religion.  The reason why this is important is because politics is downstream from culture, with religion playing a huge role in the formation of it. Ergo, bad religion, bad culture, bad politics.

Now back to our regular programming.
One of the big themes in Chesterton's works is the notion of identity being a product of boundaries and limits. He understood that in order for identity to exist their had to be some kind of differentiation between between parties and recognized that one of the curious factors of traditional Christianity is that it emphasised this differences while maintaining a unity.  Pre-Modern Christianity was pro-identity:
If any one wants a modern proof of all this, let him consider the curious fact that, under Christianity, Europe (while remaining a unity) has broken up into individual nations. Patriotism is a perfect example of this deliberate balancing of one emphasis against another emphasis. The instinct of the Pagan empire would have said, "You shall all be Roman citizens, and grow alike; let the German grow less slow and reverent; the Frenchmen less experimental and swift." But the instinct of Christian Europe says, "Let the German remain slow and reverent, that the Frenchman may the more safely be swift and experimental. We will make an equipoise out of these excesses. The absurdity called Germany shall correct the insanity called France."
Chesterton recognised that Buddhism was the total opposite of this. In Buddhist metaphysics, Nirvana is achieved when the self is "let go" and the individual is absorbed into the universe. i.e perfection is achieved through the loss of personality and identity. What's interesting though, is that while Christianity does not officially share an ideology with Buddhism some of its ascetic and modern elements approach this same position in practice if not theory.  The concept of Humility, for example, when pushed too far,  leads to an effective Buddhism. All cloaked under a legitimate Christian "orthodoxy":
It is just here that Buddhism is on the side of modern pantheism and immanence. And it is just here that Christianity is on the side of humanity and liberty and love. Love desires personality; therefore love desires division. It is the instinct of Christianity to be glad that God has broken the universe into little pieces, because they are living pieces. It is her instinct to say "little children love one another" rather than to tell one large person to love himself. This is the intellectual abyss between Buddhism and Christianity; that for the Buddhist or Theosophist personality is the fall of man, for the Christian it is the purpose of God, the whole point of his cosmic idea. The world-soul of the Theosophists asks man to love it only in order that man may throw himself into it. But the divine centre of Christianity actually threw man out of it in order that he might love it. The oriental deity is like a giant who should have lost his leg or hand and be always seeking to find it; but the Christian power is like some giant who in a strange generosity should cut off his right hand, so that it might of its own accord shake hands with him. We come back to the same tireless note touching the nature of Christianity; all modern philosophies are chains which connect and fetter; Christianity is a sword which separates and sets free. No other philosophy makes God actually rejoice in the separation of the universe into living souls. But according to orthodox Christianity this separation between God and man is sacred, because this is eternal. That a man may love God it is necessary that there should be not only a God to be loved, but a man to love him. All those vague theosophical minds for whom the universe is an immense melting-pot are exactly the minds which shrink instinctively from that earthquake saying of our Gospels, which declare that the Son of God came not with peace but with a sundering sword. The saying rings entirely true even considered as what it obviously is; the statement that any man who preaches real love is bound to beget hate. It is as true of democratic fraternity as a divine love; sham love ends in compromise and common philosophy; but real love has always ended in bloodshed. Yet there is another and yet more awful truth behind the obvious meaning of this utterance of our Lord. According to Himself the Son was a sword separating brother and brother that they should for an aeon hate each other. But the Father also was a sword, which in the black beginning separated brother and brother, so that they should love each other at last.
I don't think that the profundity of this statement is fully appreciated by many and is not even considered in contemporary Christianity, yet I think it strikes at the core of the malaise that is affecting it.  I'm going to go out on a limb here but it is my current opinion that contemporary Christianity, which is perhaps the worst blend of the old and the new,  has morphed into a force which destroys personality and identity just like Buddhism. In wanting all men to be Christ-like it wants them to stop being who they are so that they can be more like Christ. It's one thing to imitate the habits and virtues of a man, its quite another to assume his identity.  Instead of Christianity pushing  men towards being perfect versions of themselves--perfection being only possible through the sacrifice of Christ-- it continually pushes men to become copies of Christ: imperfect clones of Him.  Personality is thus destroyed and everyone becomes a "generic" Christian. We are all absorbed into the great modern Christ-Buddha. And yet this is not the way it is meant to be. Christ called his disciples friends and you cannot be friends with yourself.

Take for example the refugee crisis where this type of thinking is particularly evident. Under the modern schema we are told to see the face of Christ in all refugees and act accordingly. However this approach totally ignores the concrete realities of each and every person. Each refugee is made into an abstraction from which a generic solution is applied. There is no distinction between the man fleeing war, the economic refugee or the terrorist, as their particular circumstances are of no significance. None of the "refugees" has a personality or particular story as they have all been made Christ-like. The siege of Vienna would not have been won on these terms.

Or take nationalism, something the Church seems to have taken a quite forceful stand against recently. Until modern times, it was taken for granted that a good man would be proud of his country, its people and its history. Patriotism was seen as a virtue and yet it is now seen as a vice.
Human unity is a huge and overwhelming truth, in the face of which all differences of continent or country are flattened out. European unity is an ancient fundamental and sometimes invisible truth, which every white man will discover if he meets another white man in Central Africa or unpenetrated Tibet. But national unity is a truth; and a truth which cannot, must not, and will not be denied, but chiefly for these very reasons - that nationality is human and that nationality is European. The man who forgets nationality instantly becomes less human and less European. He seems somehow to have turned into a walking abstraction, a resolution of some committee, a programme of some political movement, [ED: or theological trend] and to be by some unmistakable transformation, striking chill like the touch of a fish, less of a living man. The European man is a man through his patriotism and the particular civilization of his people. The cosmopolitan is not a European, still less a good European. He is a traveller in Europe, as if he were a tourist from the moon. In other words, what has happened is this; that for good or evil, European history has produced European nations by a European process; they are the organs of the organic life of our race, at least in recent times; and unless we receive our natural European inheritance through those natural organs, we do not really receive it at all. We receive something else; a priggish and provincial abstraction, invented by a few modern and more or less ignorant men. So long as those organs are the only organs of a living tradition, we must live by them; and it is true to say that the time has not yet come for all the nations living by a tradition that they can all hold and inherit together. It means finding something that good men love even more than they love their country. And modern Europe has not got it yet.
Traditionalists tend to blame the changes in the Church upon Vatican Two and yet any  cursory study which will show that these problems have been in the Church for a long while. A lot of it is latent Manichaenism. These things were bubbling along unnoticed in traditional agrarian society and  I think it took modernity to bring them to the surface.  The more I look into this the more I think that the Church is in the grip of a heresy akin to Buddhism and it's like Arian times again.


A.B. Prosper said...

This article series is amazing. Thanks much for it

To the points at hand.

The Anti Flesh idea is a natural and logical outcome of Christian theology.

The simplified tautology is that God hates sin and is willing to punish through eternal torture people who displease him.

Since almost all sins are related to matters of the flesh and ego, therefore abnegating these things makes a person more likely to please God or at least to avoid eternal torture.

There really is no way to square this circle in any permanent way.

As to a couple of other issues, a crusades. None of our highest placed leaders are Christian in any meaningful way . I won't break the argument that they serve Satan or Moloch but religion for them is a tool to get cheap social capital

It doesn't work simply because they don't believe in it enough, This sort of thing has to be top down and the leaders must be thought to be strong enough believers . As much as I respect my President, Trump by no means would I see him as devout. His deeds and reputation preclude it. I suspect many Russians see this with Putin as well as do Hungarians and Poles

It simply doesn't work. In Europe at least I suspect Christianity is simply in its decline stage as was the Religio Roma at one time.

Until modernity ends Christendom will not be able to rise. Its maladaptive in this era being as it was created for Feudalism .

If the West is to make it baring an unlikely religious revival , it's going to have to find a new source of cheap social capital or shrink to a manageable size, collapse catatbolically as it were.

Now as to the Crusades.

There absolutely was a religious motivation to the Crusades but it wasn't explicitly a religious war. It was also profitable in a material sense. Modern war is almost noften ever profitable for the masses or in longer term, anyone but defense contractors and ends up with large sections of the population mentally broken, maimed and the society at large with huge debt

Also assuming say a Christian army were to form up, they aren't going to even want anything these places have to offer. No army is going to die for Hagia Sophia or risk a nuke to liberate Jerusalem . They don't need land and won't get any riches. There's nothing in it for them or any State really

What they need is a place to be meek which are Neocon-Neolib leaders and cultural marxist agitators end up spoiling

A real crusade would essentially be against them and far more the 30 Years War than anything else since the above are essentially religious especially the later which is at its roots a Christian heresy

The Social Pathologist said...



The Anti Flesh idea is a natural and logical outcome of Christian theology.

I'm not actually sure about that. My understanding is that Christian theology seemed quite "based" until the reformation then it went off the rails. From what I understand the medievals weren't so concerned about fleshy sins as they were about pride. Chesterton was of the opinion that Protestantism had bought back the Manicheans.

No, I'm of the opinion that Manicheanism has its origin in the combination of intuition and cognitive miserliness. Chesterton recognised that the only cure for this was doctrine. I think the personalisation of Christianity has resulted in a lot of "intuitive faith" which I think is where the rot lays.

Chesterton again, from his book on St Thomas:

In truth, this vividly illuminates the provincial stupidity
of those who object to what they call "creeds and dogmas."
It was precisely the creed and dogma that saved the sanity of the world.
These people generally propose an alternative religion of intuition
and feeling. If, in the really Dark Ages, there had been a religion
of feeling, it would have been a religion of black and suicidal feeling.
It was the rigid creed that resisted the rush of suicidal feeling.
The critics of asceticism are probably right in supposing that
many a Western hermit did feel rather like an Eastern fakir.
But he could not really think like an Eastern fakir; because he was
an orthodox Catholic. And what kept his thought in touch with healthier
and more humanistic thought was simply and solely the Dogma. He could
not deny that a good God had created the normal and natural world;
he could not say that the devil had made the world; because he was
not a Manichee. A thousand enthusiasts for celibacy, in the day
of the great rush to the desert or the cloister, might have called
marriage a sin, if they had only considered their individual ideals,
in the modern manner, and their own immediate feelings about marriage.
Fortunately, they had to accept the Authority of the Church,
which had definitely said that marriage was not a sin.
A modern emotional religion might at any moment have turned Catholicism
into Manicheanism. But when Religion would have maddened men,
Theology kept them sane."

Until modernity ends Christendom will not be able to rise.

The Church has been playing this game for a long while and has been on the back foot. It needs to learn how to deal with modernity. Modernity is not the enemy, traditionalism is more to blame.

Chent said...

Thank you for this series. Christian Buddhism has always been endemic to the faith and I wonder if someday we will able to address this problem as a Church.

Modernity is not the enemy, traditionalism is more to blame.

I think you are mistaken here. Modernity is simply another religion, a religion designed to be anti-God and anti-Christian (you don't need a god to have a religion). They took over during the French Revolution and the American Revolution and became the official religion of the State (which was Christianity until then).

Modernity and Christianity cannot coexist for long periods of time, the same way that P and not P cannot coexist. For long time, we have an elite and legal system that had Modernity as their religion while the masses had Christianity as their religion. This changed during the 60s. Using mass media and compulsory schooling, the elite managed to convert the masses to Modernity.

You cannot serve two Masters. You cannot be Modern and Christian at the same time, because this means being anti-Christian and Christian at the same time.

This is not to say that traditionalism doesn't have its problems. But Modernity is not the solution.

Nevertheless, I would love to know what is your proposal.

Hoyos said...

The "anti flesh idea" as you call it has been explicitly condemned by the Church since basically forever. It was one of the primary charges. You've simplified yourself right out of Christian thinking. Jesus Himself said that it is not what goes into a man that corrupts him but what comes out. There are absolutely sins of the flesh, but the sins of the spirit and soul are far worse, and even the ultimate source of what makes a sin a sin in the first place. [NB to other commenters, don't push this on the protestants, they didn't believe in Manichaeism either.]

It seems to me that's the point of the Christian Buddhism series, is that something foreign to Christianity that is hostile to the flesh and the individual has crept in. The Bible nakedly appeals to self interest all the time and appears more than fine with the flesh, one of Jesus' acts after His ressurrection was cooking breakfast(!).

Plus, correct me if I'm wrong, but the crusades really weren't a moneymaker, remember, the West kind of lost those wars. You had the crusader kingdoms of Outremer for about five minutes historically and then they collapsed. The best thing about the crusades is that they kept Islam from expanding further into Europe, although you still had Muslim kingdoms going well into Europe all the way into the 19th century (Greece).

Hoyos said...

RE: my previous comment, I meant to type "primary charges against the Gnostic heresies"

A.B. Prosper said...

All of you criticizing the notion that the Flesh is Evil is a natural heresy and mentioning the churches reaction to it are correct

The thing is nearly all of peak Christendom was illiterate and living in a very limited knowledge base .

When I was studying the history of that period it was also accepted as fact that many clergy had very limited education and it wasn't unknown for clergy in undesirable to be able to parot a few verses by memory

Also don't expect common people to have nuance. This isn't a slag on medieval intelligence, far from it , but until very recently, public libraries at the very least, the breadth of knowledge available to anyone save dedicated scholars or the fairly and interested and affluent was heavily restricted .

This lack of breadth and outside of work depth leads to simplified logic and it would be quite possible for clergy to have little exposure to any systematic philosophy.

Thomism after all didn't exists to well after the 6th crusades. That is a whole lot of Christendom

Christianity like all religions can be self contradictory, mythic and irrational. This can also lead it many directions

Whether propositionally true or now though Christianity makes for excellent social software and since it appears to be failing, this lack will have consequences no one is prepared to deal with

Long term I guess at least in the US it will be Christian ,

The stat is a bit spurious but at current reproduction rates in a couple of centuries, the majority of the population will be Amish

Hoyos said...

@AB Prosper

Do we know that I wonder? The verbal memory of our illiterate ancestors was extraordinary, and the learning of monks of priests was once legendary. The liturgy itself communicated a great deal and we even have curriculums from much of the middle ages that show a rigorous course of learning.

St. Thomas Aquinas didn't arise from nowhere either. I have heard that the great plague thinned the ranks of the clergy, leading to replacements who weren't as well trained to meet demand but I'm not sure. Liturgy can communicate a lot and we make all kinds of assumptions about the common people not understanding it that I find doubtful. A knowledge of French, Spanish, or Italian can help you understand big chunks of latin.

I am deeply suspicious of the "vast swathes of ignorant peasantry in helpless sway to elites" type of thinking.

The Social Pathologist said...

@ Chent

Modernity is simply another religion, a religion designed to be anti-God and anti-Christian

I disagree with this. Modernity needs to be seen as more than a philosophical position. I think one of the things that's is not fully appreciated is the role technology plays in the formation of modernity. If you get a chance, I'd really recommend Peasants to Frenchmen by Eugene Weber. It's an outstanding book that documents the change in French society in the late 19th C. Technology was as much of a solvent of the past as was ideology. I think the the conflation of modernity with Enlightenment philosophy is a simplification.

The core problem of traditionalism is the inability to adapt to the circumstance. This doesn't mean a change in doctrine. It simply means that how things were done in the past may be not a good guide on how to do them in the future. Take monasteries for instance, perhaps instead of reviving them, maybe change them into places young men could stay for a few years and then go back into the community. I don't, for instance, have a problem with the vernacularisation of the mass provided it's done with dignity.It's a question of adapting the expression of the faith to the circumstances.


Good comment.

It seems to me that's the point of the Christian Buddhism series, is that something foreign to Christianity that is hostile to the flesh and the individual has crept in.

Yes, that is correct. The real danger is that this intellectual current is perceived as holy and therefore ignored, and in fact encouraged. It's a sort of cancer that eats away and the underlying structure unnoticed by the more lurid excesses of the liberals.

What's really interesting is that when people think about wanting to restore the Church, they always use the extreme ascetics as examples of how things should be done. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that Christianity has not been able to gain traction.

@Hoyos and A.B. Prosper.

The verbal memory of our illiterate ancestors was extraordinary, and the learning of monks of priests was once legendary. The liturgy itself communicated a great deal and we even have curriculums from much of the middle ages that show a rigorous course of learning.

In defence of A.B I think its fair to see that the level of learning of Christianity in pre-reformation times was "lumpy". There were quite clearly centers of very high learning and there were other areas that were not. One of the aims of the Council of Trent was to to improve the overall quality of priestly education through the institution of the seminary system.

As for the laity, the problem with them wasn't so much the knowledge of the basics of Christianity but the all the other pagan stuff that was mixed in. The book that I mentioned to Chent, Peasants to Frenchmen, has a very good sections on the faith of the peasantry in 19th C France. The Catholicism of the peasantry wasn't as pure as we tend to think of it. In fact, one of the things that Weber contends is that the emergence of a more conservative and doctrinally pure clergy in 19th C France did a lot of damage to the religiosity of the peasantry and actually furthered their dechristianisation.

MK said...

C: Modernity is simply another religion, a religion designed to be anti-God and anti-Christian

Modernity is a lot like the Roman Empire in its relation to Christianity. That is, it was not anti-religious but merely tried to be "multicultural" with all religions.

Yet there is a deep hatred of Christianity too in our modernity. It's not just Christian Buddhism of no-care. Why? Christianity owned the culture for a long time. So modernity is indeed like a religion in its response to Christianity, which it treats as dangerous competition.

Jamesy said...

The way I see it, there are those for whom Eudaimonia is possible. I'm sure you're one of these people SP. Naturally you'd like Aristotle and dislike self-negation. You operate from a state of excellence and take pleasure in virtue.

But there are those for whom Eudaimonia is impossible. Decades of filthy habits accumulate to form a truly vile character. For such people, self-negation is all we have.

I'm sure I'm not the only Christian who is just waiting for death patiently. I believe I'll be with God in the afterlife. But this world holds no happiness for me. Detachment makes perfect sense when you're miserable and evil.

John Rockwell said...

@The Social Pathologist

"The Church has been playing this game for a long while and has been on the back foot. It needs to learn how to deal with modernity. Modernity is not the enemy, traditionalism is more to blame."

Perhaps God has a habit of turning everything meant to destroy the church into that which refines it like fire. Purifying it from impurities every iteration.

Modernity therefore may have been weaponized by God to perform his mysterious work akin to a skilled surgeon removing the tumors plaguing the body.

Bruce (USA) said...

I have enjoyed this series.
It seems that for monks, self-denial is the Christian way. But for the rest (most of us) love requires specific obligations. Non-believers are described as being without storge-love. We love through particular connections (family, community, nation, etc.) Yes, we love some more than others-the horror!!.
I also think a problem with Christianity is that no one believes in Hell or at least people believe salvation is easy (thanks Protestantism!!). In the old days, Catholics were too busy working on their individual sins (breaking the commandments + the “internal” sins e.g. lust and hate) to worry about this social justice crap.
I don’t know how you manage to put out such high-quality work AND have time to be a physician.

MK said...

Waiting to hear your opinion on Pell's appeal. Being close, RC, and a shrink you are uniquely qualified to let us know: what gives? I don't think Americans would respond this way, or even get a conviction, period. I am seriously wondering: is this the start of a new secular persecution? Or just random injustice? Bug or feature?

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Gary Jenkins said...

I arrived here through a link from Dalrock. This is one of the most thought provoking articles I have read in a long time. It is wiping away a dull headache, I have had, from an uncritical acceptance of Buddhism.

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