What is the nature of the spiritual quest and how does it relate to other spheres of life – or what is the proper relationship between science and religion?

On the question of the relationship between the spiritual and other spheres of life.

The word religion has its roots in a latin word religio – to bind together. The connotations of this are that when someone sustains a religious way of life all the different elements within their life are brought together and harmonised within this mantle. This can be seen from a variety of different viewpoints. On a basic level, religions can provide insight or understanding of  one’s self, one’s relationship with others, they can confer meaning and give value, they can synthesise opposing areas – this is what Benedict means by making sure you don’t specialise in one area at the expense of the totality of your life (to have life to the full) or don’t build up piles of money, power etc. – too narrow a focus leads to a sclerosis of the spirit which can only be cured by a thunderbolt from above (this is the meaning of the tower of babel).

But surely any ‘philosophy of life’ can do this? Any set of beliefs about life, such as humanism etc. can confer meaning and give value, prompt people to act in a certain way. Many would say we do not need religion, with all the concomitant problems it brings, in order to live good, meaningful lives.

So religion must be more than simply an overview, a thing to bring together all the disparate elements of a life. We can do that without religion. Well, can we? In fact the synthesis we are talking about, where opposing forces, desires, attitudes and intentions become reconciled into a higher harmony which transcends their individual differences while retaining what is valuable in them has never been achieved anywhere other than through the action of what is called the spirit.

Marxism-communism began with this intention of synthesis. The Hegelian dialectic thesis-antithesis-synthesis is supposedly a historical process whereby the proletariat become aware of their oppression by the bourgoisie and come into conflict with them (the antithesis stage). Marx believed that this class conflict would result in the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and that the private property would become communally owned, which would be the synthesis state: the classless, stateless communist society.

But the desired result never occurred – the levelling off of society brought new kinds of tyranny of the very type that were supposed to be symptomatic of the old kinds of hierarchies. So instead of a synthesis state where opposites were resolved into a higher unity you had a negation, a neutral state, between the opposites but on the same level. Truth was supposed to spring forth from the clash of opinions, but instead of light, heat was generated – revolutionary energy, which in turn demanded more clashes in order to keep it aflame.

All this will be very familiar to those who have read Valentin Tomberg. He talks about fission – a process of splitting whereby huge energies are released, and fusion, where there is a conjunction or union resulting in great amounts of power too. There is a qualitative difference though – fission is intellectual clashing or polemics, and fusion is agreement, where differences of opinion are synthesised in a higher harmony. And there is a concomitant process in the socio-political realm where there is a taking-over of the job of the spirit by scientific or political means – and all the totalitarianisms of the twentieth century aimed at doing this – (whatever ill-informed people might say about the personal ‘religiosity’ of Hitler, National Socialism had no desire for people to have a personal relationship with God, as a higher authority than the political) the usurpation of the proper role of the spirit in the affairs of man by a lower centre of the Will.

So the answer is that the binding together of the all the different areas of the life cannot be done from below – the job must be founded from above. I am arguing here for hierarchy recognised as the true condition of things, as put forward in the book of Genesis, as recognised by Plato etc.

Tomberg talks about the myth of Cain and Abel as a kind of archetype of the phenomenon of revolution, and its relation to hierarchy: “The story of Cain and Abel is a myth, i.e., it expresses, under the form of a tale of a particular case, an “eternal” idea. Consequently, it pertains to time, to history, and not to space and its structure. It shows us how brothers can become mortal enemies through the very fact that they worship the same God in the same way. The source of religious wars is revealed here: and it is not the difference in dogma nor forms of worship or ritual which is their cause, but exclusively the pretention to equality, or if one prefers, the negation of hierarchy. This is also the world’s first revolution — the archetype of all revolutions which have taken place and which will take place in the future of humanity. For the cause of all wars and revolutions — in a word, of all violence — is always the same: the negation of hierarchy.”

Finally, there is an analogy that can be fruitfully explored which is based on a colour scale using a cone with an inverted cone underneath. at the top of the cone is pure white light which bcomes separated into the individual colours as it goes further down. The point of maximum separation is the middle of the two cones – each colour is clearly discernible – then as the inverted cone narrows the colours become blended together into ever muddier colours until they meet at the inverted point in darkness. This image should give us all we need to kbnow about this topic. At the top is the higher harmony into which each colour is subsumed – it is truth or spirit. The lower point of darkness is ignorance where all clarity has disappeared in the confusion of opinion and deception. The middle area where each colour is separated out and clearly discernible is the domain of the scientific – the ‘how’ of the world, where knowledge concerning nature is available. It is also in a political sense where free individuals reside, but any attempt to organise those individuals along totalitarian lines inevitably tries to bring about a harmony with a loss of individuality – and thus sinks down to the dark point of ignorance. Only hierarchy or ‘sacred order’ can bring about the organisation of free individuals within society under the operation of the spirit.

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