A Catalogue of the Severall Sects and Opinions
in England and other
Nations: With a brief Rehearsall
of their false and dangerous Tenents. Broadsheet. 1647
Source:British Museum,1647. Wikimedia.
5:An old word of advice goes; the way of ascent is precisely the same as the way
of descent. In this situation of ours, that way is language.
First of all,an apology to all of you: I write what I will write –
exercising that freedom,however, is neither the object nor direction that this blog has,
it is not the be all and end all of me, my opinions, or whatever quarrel you and I might
have. Lately I have noticed that I do react to certain trends in the media treatment of
religious conflict, even within Christianity – whose practice redeems itself of its manifold
transitory errors, while leaving us in the green fields of nowhere if we remain deattached
from this selfsame practice. I have been talking about a cross lately, and while to the outsider
hyperbolic and contrived, to the insider it is quite evident that it is not an instrument of
division I speak of, or rather, following the Solve et Coagula sequence, not only division.
The Vision that penetrates the darkest moment of engagement with history and sees through
it into a different landscape, has endured, it has prevailed and survived centuries and millenia
it is not the exclusive property of an elite, nor of an elite culture,religion or civilization.
Redemption and Salvation does not belong to secular law – whatever justice emerges from
secular law depends on a jurisdiction that can only extend to the boundaries of the known,
the revealed and the situational; a judgment that cannot be understood is useless.
Heresy trials, as illustrated by the charming little cartoon over the viles and evils of englishmen
on the footpath to perdition, at least as far as the Privy Council could see it – demonstrates this
situation above all others. Please be adviced I count the contrived Witch trials of europe and the
americas both as participant in the same phenomenon, while we are at it.
1. Freedom of conscience.
There has been a long time coming here – but now that we are both here, we should admit
that we do have freedom of conscience. We can even have a row over whether or not this
is a good thing. This selfsame thing opens up the place to all possible kinds and varieties
of opinions, values and ideas – it allows a competition for our attention, it allows a pressing
on all sides of views and perspectives that are not necessarily our own.
This valued, paradoxical principle are far from self-evident, we bear the burden,
individually and as a society – of evidence, we can only demonstrate it through action;
through our interaction with others, by our deepening and widening of certain boundaries
of convention, by allowing charity to be a part of our practice, which is the salt of any theory.
For reasons that are going to be clearer to you throughout this post – I have elected to post
this article in the “religion” category of my blog, there it sits with just one sibling, and a scruffy
old thing it was. I contemplated having it posted in the “rant” category, and considered that
an uncivil post is probably not worth sharing in the first time. The blanket moment of extreme
exhaustion,embarrassment and heart-tugging empathy for human folly – was best dilluted in
several strategies which did not involve vocalization, ranging from the primitive to the more
subtle. But I still allow myself to be exposed to these things, and while some modern Gnostics
are more sensitive to it than other participants in contemporary religious life – it appears to me
that at leas the phenomenon is universal, it is a fate, perhaps, best shared with an other.
I take religious advice from Catholics, Eastern Orthodox,Jews,Hindus,Moslems,Sikhs,Zoroastrians,
Shamans,Buddhists and what do we really have of religions and cultures –
but from what the direction it comes from, at least to me, is less important than what direction it is going, through me.
You see, what direction it is taking, and from where, is the responsibility of the mediator.
It impedes on his or her conscience, just as it is my conscience that is at stake, if I mediate
traditional wisdom, or on the other hand, my impression of it.
Therefore my possible fall into heresy is my responsibility, and moreover, damages me –
whereas the fall into heresy of any other, is theirs. Start believing in righting every wrong on
the planet and you will have no time to sort out your own conscience until the end of time.
There’s a modern paraphrase originating, or paralleling what the appearance of Christ to John
during the crucifixion, as told by the Acts of John – it says
“whatever they say about me, that’s what I am not” –
in other words, do not allow yourself to be fooled by appearances; look again,
what do you really see?
So there is their word on it, and then there is something else. We contend against it, from either
side of it , until it is finally gone – then we need to ask, what are we really doing?
A party of two, conversing, debating and occasionally meeting each other’s gaze, will only engage
in that contest in a limited space of time – introduce into that a crowd, or the belief that whosoever is engaged on the opposite side has no value and has no business in the debate as such, and everything said and
done are for the benefit of the whole world and generations to come, it is bound to continue for a little longer.
So I grow a little chatty and circumvent the juicy bits for a while; this belongs in the religion category because there are really no defending an instance of Gnosis. To my knowledge no one ever has, or at the very least
until very recently. The defense that Guilhabert de Castre presented to another legendary figure, Dominik of Guzmans, consisted in a dispute over the nature of salvation. He chose to engage his opponent with the Scriptures, they ended up contesting each others appreciation of the Scriptures and how they should be read.
I blame neither of the parties, but understanding the others view was reduced to the offer to live being right,
or die being wrong. The truth about the nature of salvation does not dangle on the end of a string of well phrased arguments and detailed theological dissemination – we know that, that is why we practice what we preach and most of us try to keep focused on it. Some of us grow cross-eyed, i’m sure. Anyways, it would be easy to pick at my argument that Gnosis is indefensible, useless as argument and decidedly not an icebreaker.
That is why we have Wisdom between us, we all have Wisdom, She is everywhere, she allows us, worthy or unworthy, to approach Her and drink of her fountain (no pun intended, I mean -please!).There’s no cultural boundaries for Wisdom. Whenever someone tries to engage an other in conversation, who is a stranger, who is not part of their own people, they appeal to Wisdom, to Sophia, unconsciously recognizing that this particular presence of truth, naked and translucent, remains a mirror through which we recognize our selves in others.
And it is this recognition that makes us humans human.
Wisdom, however, does not freeze salvation and make it something we can say, and by saying bring an other into it. Religious people wish to have Spirit in them, and above, as an authority, the many things they do and say.Secular people seek sense, they have an appreciation of timeless,naked truth – they just do not see God, Heaven, Angels and everything else that is fixed to religious consciousness at the end of that inquiry.
This means, that provided we are fortunate to be aware of the Wisdom in it, we can exchange particular insights and these insights can join each other and make whole, between us, what was formerly broken.
So, this could have been a secular rant, too. Only, you do know by now where my sympathies lay.
Therefore I will engage the topic of religion from a position which embrace the polyphony of voices and
testimonies, the wealth of images spread across the fertile ground of the human creative imagination,
which is to say: from within heterodoxy. The heresies engaged and combated on that particular battlefield
is different in kind, and consequence – from those engaged from within the battlefield of orthodoxy.
From an orthodox position a (in fact, only one) direct deliberation upon the nature of salvation, on the level that invoke authority from Wisdom in the particular capacities of unique and fixed events of revelation, local prophecy and discourse which build a house for wisdom through ancient and tested building blocks, is necessary. I have already mentioned that
a judgment which is not understood does not carry authority, and its fulfillment has in value been transposed from
a righteous act to a sin: this is what the orthodox position, not only once or occasionally, but always – seeks to avoid.
If this is not given due care in the process, the claim to justice,righteousness and orthodoxy is rendered null and void.
I have earlier given praise for the unique and very challenging positions of Vladimir Solovyov, Henry Corbin and Gilles Quispel – who each in their own field of studies, dissemination and parti
cular affiliations of the humanities – invested, one could even say, sacrificed the latter privilege to avail themselves of the former position, not to engage orthodoxy as an enemy, or to devalue the position of orthodoxy, be it Russian Orthodox, Protestant, Roman Catholic or Islamic – but precisely this, to make sure that what emerges out of either, with a dynamic and lucidity that do influence our cultures and societies, is being understood. My wife graciously asked me when I was pondering over an article (in fact it was The Paradox of Montotheism by Henry Corbin) , why anyone should care – we are after raised up to the words of the psalm that begins
“God is God, if the fields were barren and all men dead..”
(I kid you not, it is even sung at High Mass and Burials!)
And my reply was ;This lives in us, this participates within our lives – this is like homework we didn’t do, how can we hope to graduate? How can we redeem ourselves of all of these things we do not understand. The obscurity here, the shadows, the blurs, everything amiss – is human, participates in human nature, is Sophia trapped within the realm of Chaos, our Chaos.
We should care – if this is real, if this is relevant, if this is a mystery within life that we have both feet planted it,
we should bloody well care!
The phenomenon of the actual human exchange over truths that constitute an heterodoxy, or polyphony of
voices – indicate above all that a sufficient amount of us care what participates passively in us.
Paradoxically, the emergence of any orthodox position from that of dissonance,contention (the Apostle Paul
claims this were actually an necessity in the primitive Christian church, presenting it as a vital process
through which the Holy Spirit might engage and transform the community, and through it, the world) and heresy
represents essentially the intensification of such involvement and a sanction of such investments. Neither of
the emergent “positions” are safe, ultimately authorized, or final – neither actually represents a regression
and neither actually constitutes a poverty in values. Their polarization occur in our minds when we try to
determine the right approach, the right position, the right attitude, the right belief.
We are becoming aware, at an alarming rate, in this present age, that we are loosing the game.
It is a game we have long since forgotten that we were playing, but have persisted in participating
in because we do not know we are, and thus are incapable of finishing it.
Effect demonstrate mystery, mystery turns into a tug in the gut and thin air.
It does not matter what we call either one of the contesting teams, or what
values we choose to staple onto their surfaces.
Heterodoxy is first of all a diagnosis :
you should get a good grip, lift her out of there, before you empty the bath of water.
there is what reorientation is about.
We not only think differently, what causes us to think differently is determined by
a great amount of differences, on several levels, in perception,experience and sense of identity.
No amount of programmed “Unity” will rectify that situation, moreover, it is not even an error.
I will not stumble and fall into a conversation about perception per se – but simply observe that
ideologies, be they spiritually oriented or oriented towards the secular, that somehow misses
the mark about the contents of human minds, human lives and human souls , misses the mark
about what it is doing between or among us in the first place; that is to say, whosoever clings
to the illusion that individuality is negotiable on a basic level because a truth, any truth, can
be held to be absolute and has universal or general appeal.