Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Charles Taylor: The Enchanted World

One of the concepts that Taylor wants to put across in his book was that the process of secularisation was abetted by a loss of the sense of "enchantment' in the pre-Modern world. Enchantment, as I understood him to mean it, meant that the world we lived in was seen as being infused with supernatural forces of both good and bad kinds.   Trees and rocks could be good, streams bad, forests foreboding and all of which could pass the "their magic" onto the individual  According to Taylor this worldview aided religious belief and the loss of it was one of the factors which led to secularisation.

 Taylor holds that this belief in "enchantment" resulted in the individual being "porous". Porosity in this instance being an "openness" to experiential states which would lead to transcendence. It also generated a sense of external agency affecting the human condition.

Now one of the things he tries to get across is that the rise of Protestantism  set forth a chain of events which resulted in a loss of this worldview.  The Protestant mindset resulted in a man that was less open and more "buffered" in the sense that there was less of a sense of external agency and more of inner responsibility for the outcome of a mans affairs. I'm not doing Taylor in this brief description but essentially the shift was that from being at the mercy of the gods to being agents of self-control responsible largely for their own destiny.

I personally don't buy it.

Protestantism may have resulted in more individual responsibility but it doesn't follow that the more responsible a man the less "enchanted" he is.

Rather Christianity itself was rather disenchanting. Good old Roman Catholicism seem quite keen to get rid of the pagan Gods and idols. As Eugene Weber mentioned in his book, Catholic priests, especially of the more stricter Jansenist/Augustinian types took to the destruction of pagan symbols and shrines with quite a bit of gusto.  Christianity as a whole wanted to drive out all the other Gods for the one true God.  It wasn't just the humanists doing the disenchanting.  And the Old Testament is full of contempt about worshiping rocks and wooden idols

What I think that Taylor--obscured in all his verbiage-- is trying to get at is that superstition i.e. enchantment, was one of the foundations of belief. Once again this is humanism 101 and really doesn't help the Christian analysis with regard to the process of secularisation.  Faith and superstition are two separate things.