Saturday, April 26, 2014

Only what is

It’s strange how often reality presents itself to us not in an either-or dualism, but in some kind of unforeseen manner that defies all our attempts to categorize and define—unless we are willing to, consciously or subconsciously, settle for mental compromises that allow us to work within an environment we have created, no matter how imaginary, or worse, foist them on others, excusing ourselves because we are ‘experts.’

We see this readily in the realm of natural science if we view it in historical perspective. Though the logical guesses of the ancients—the atomism of Democritus, for example—were initially proven nearly correct, with modern researches into subatomic nature a new structure of the universe is being uncovered. No serious atomic scientist would dream of clinging to earlier models, even though for ‘household’ applications they still work.

In politics, because we’re now moving into a social sphere, it’s more difficult to give up old models of political organization that simply don’t work and maybe never did, and it’s also easier to pretend to expertise—now called ‘legitimate authority’—to perpetuate social and political pathologies, often at immense cost, especially in human lives. The either-or predisposition of the human mind draws imaginary lines that cannot, or must not, be crossed.

In religion, or that which is, as Paul Tillich calls it, the ‘ultimate concern,’ we move to an even deeper, more personal level of reality-evaluation, in which our critical faculties, if we try to use them to bend reality to fit our rational or irrational prejudices, can cause the greatest historical, cultural, and social dysfunctions. This is also where the greatest compromises with truth—that which is—are easiest to make, and hardest to abandon.

History, though, is as merciless as Darwinian evolution is, in weeding out the unsurvivables of our world views in every category of experience. It works, however, just as slowly, and so mistakes stubbornly believed in, implemented, or imposed, can take generations to finally fail and be discarded. In the political sphere, not imperialism, not fascism, not communism, are really dead yet, but neither has true monarchy been eradicated forever.

In the religious sphere—and we must confine ourselves for brevity of example, to Christianity—eighteen centuries of spent experiments with theology and ecclesiology, and five or six with scriptural exegesis, have resulted at present in a faith community strategically crippled by attachment to and promotion of ideologies that are as far removed from reality as we can make them, and history’s winnowing fork is already at work as we, helpless, look on.

A case in point is the famous assertion of ‘sola scriptura’ that arose at the time of the Protestant reformation. The reality is that this cannot be an either-or proposition, no matter how much we argue for or against it. It simply doesn’t yield to our manipulations or our attempts to turn theology into a one-dimensional process. Real theology, as multi-dimensional as the ‘real world’ is, is open only to those who experience first and humbly articulate later.

Without institutions or ‘experts’ to certify it, truth, reality, only what is, is notoriously vital and, though susceptible to dichotomy and dissimulation, lives on, survives and propagates itself in freedom as wild and undetected as nature’s. As Archimandrite Vasileios writes, ‘Heresy, by contrast, has in it that which is self-destructive. Its self-assurance—its attachment to human reasoning and sanctity which are its idols—leads it to a state of internal crisis’ (Hymn of Entry, p. 100).

Heresy—yes, it need not mean ‘religious’ heresy, but any compromise we make with reality—as all other elements of the physical universe and all living creatures appearing at intervals and being perfected by evolution—God’s instantaneous creation being experienced as ‘time’ and all events that fill it by creatures such as us—yes, heresy, wanting to believe that which can never be, leads always, by the mercy of God, to crisis—κρίσις, judgment.

For Christian and non-Christian alike, to be faithful and not infidel, is to ‘seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness’ (Matthew 6:33), and Reality, now not just what or even whom we rationalise, but the Uncreated in whom ‘we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17:28), is available to everyone without exception, the ‘true Light that enlightens everyone who comes into the world’ (John 1:9), who has trampled death by death, and bestows life to those in the tombs.

Χριστός Ανέστη! Αληθώς Ανέστη!

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