Friday, June 11, 2010

RETURN TO THE CENTRE

Prophetic words taken from Return to the Centre by Father Bede Griffiths. OSB (1976)

What is the reason that modern society has lost this principle of integration?The reason seems to be this. In the Middle Ages - that is, in the years AD 500-1500 - not only in Europe but also in China and India and the Islamic world, a creative synthesis was achieved, in which the physical and psychic and spiritual worlds were marvelously integrated. The economic, social, political and cultural orders were all conceived as a harmonious unity in which each man (sic) was related to nature, to his fellow-man and to the divine source of truth and justice, the dharma, the eternal Law. Of course, this order was being continually threatened with destruction by the forces of disintegration, but the principle of integration was preserved in the 'perennial philosophy', the tradition wisdom, whether Confucian or Buddhist or Hindu or Islamic or Christian. A Chinese landscape, the Ajanta frescoes, the Hindu temple, the Gothic cathedral, the Taj Mahal, are all alike evidence of this creative synthesis, of the harmony of heaven and earth, of the right order of human life. In this period we can see the model of perfection, what human life was intended to be. After this period this creative synthesis began to disintegrate. The Reformation and the Renaissance, the 'Enlightenment' and the French Revolution, the Russian and the Chinese revolutions, are all stages in this process of disintegration. Now, after nearly five hundred years, the process seems to be almost complete, and there are those who question whether our present civilization can survive for more than fifty years.

Protestantism broke up the organic unity of the mystical Body of Christ, that divine-human order which the Church had established in the West, and made each man an isolated individual. Rationalism set the human mind free from the divine and enclosed each man in the limits of his own reason. Finally, communism came to deprive man of his basic liberty and enslave him to the material world, separated from the divine and dominated by human reason. But this is only one side of the picture. On the other side the religious traditions had each lost their creative power. Catholicism in Western Europe, Orthodoxy in Russia, Confucianism in China, like Hinduism in India and Islam throughout the Middle East, had all alike declined and become closed in on themselves, so that the divine Truth, which was in each one of them, could not exert its power. At the same time each of these revolutionary movements had released immense forces - humanism and democracy, science and technology, capitalism and socialism - which could no longer be controlled by any religious order.

Of course, all these movements have positive values, but they have been vitiated by a violent break with the santana dharma, the divine order, by which human life must be ruled. The principles of all these movements are to be found in the perennial philosophy on which all ancient civilization was based, and it would have been possible for the modern world to have developed organically from the ancient world instead of making a violent break with tradition. Protestantism would have been a movement of  reform within Catholicism, bringing about a renewal of the Church by a return to the bible for which we are looking today. Humanism and democracy, science and technology, capitalism and socialism, could all have grown out of the medieval order of Europe and India and China, in which they were already present in principle. But each has advanced by a violent break with the ancient order and thrown the whole world out of balance. The only way in which the world can recover is by a return to the eternal religion, the divine law on which human society is based. But this eternal religion cannot be discovered now exclusively in any one religion. We cannot return to the past forms of Catholicism or Buddhism or Confucianism or Hindu or Islamic orthodoxy. Each religion has to return to its source in the eternal religion, freeing itself from the limitations which historical circumstances have imposed upon it and rediscovering the principles on which modern society must be based.

2 comments:

TheraP said...

Mystics return to "the source" - but in a way that sets them apart. Those who seek institutional control dislike that "set-apart-ness" which is wholly God's - and cannot be manipulated by man. Mystics in just about every tradition are thus often cast out by institutions. They don't seek that, but they are misunderstood. Without the transformation inherent in the path to the center, those in power in the institutions simply cannot "see" holiness. They seek to control such people, whom God alone possesses.

This, I think, is one huge problem going on in the RCC. The hierarchy would like to "control" the "path to sainthood" - to control who is designated a saint. That's like trying to transfer water with your hands. You spill a lot! The spirit gets left out. So a church that focuses on hierarchy may miss the path!

I think I'm right. The pope would likely think I'm wrong!

Jayden Cameron said...

Which is why Mother Teresa and Padre Pio are saints (indubitably, but of the obedient type, though Pio labored under a cloud of suspicion from the Vatican for years) and Thomas Merton and Jan Hus are not ... just to mention a few rebel iconoclasts. There is a movement underway to canonize Dorothy Day who frequently picketed the Cardinal...but then that was the closeted, repressed and sexually active Cardinal Spellman, a truly vicious queen if ever there was one (me bad).