Friday, 22 July 2011

Modern Christianity = Ancient Christianity - Animism

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What proved important (and that slowly) about the new astronomy was not the mere alteration in our map of space but the methodological revolution which verified it.

This is not sufficiently described as a change from dogmatism to empiricism. Mere empiricists like Telesius or Bacon achieved nothing. What was fruitful in the thought of the new scientists was the bold use of mathematics in the construction of hypotheses, tested not by observation simply but by controlled observation of phenomena that could be precisely measured.

On the practical side it was this that delivered Nature into our hands. And on our thoughts and emotions (which concern a literary historian more) it was destined to have profound effects.

By reducing Nature to her mathematical elements, it substituted a mechanical for a genial or animistic conception of the universe.

The world was emptied, first of her indwelling spirits, then of her occult sympathies and antipathies, finally of her colours, smells, and tastes. (...)

The result was dualism rather than materialism. The mind, on whose ideal constructions the whole method depended, stood over against its object in ever sharper dissimilarity.

Man with his new powers became rich like Midas but all that he touched had gone dead and cold.

This process, slowly working, ensured during the next century the loss of the old mythical imagination: the conceit, and later the personified abstraction, takes its place.


From CS Lewis, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, 1953. pp 3-4 

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Historically:

Animism/ paganism (cosmology of animate universe ) ->

Christianity (cosmology of animate universe plus) ->

Dualism (mind and matter) ->

Materialism (matter) ->

Nihilism (nothing matters)

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A slippery slope!

Deny animism (reality as 'spiritual': animate, intentional and in relation) and then you get dualism, with spirit restricted to the mind in the context of a dead, insensible, mechanical, atomic universe. But then the spirit seems insubstantial and implausible so the mind is explained as just material; and then there comes nihilism - because dead, insensible, mechanical matter cannot reason, understand or explain itself: cannot know reality. So then (i.e. now) there is nihilism - denial of all knowledge, denial of reality, reality as mere delusion.

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Modern Christianity equals Ancient Christianity minus Animism.

Christianity was added-to animism: that is how it was for 1500 years: the fullness of Christianity includes animism.

From the end of the Middle Ages animism was progressively, relentlessly subtracted from life; and from Christianity: the impulse was secular, Christianity merely went along with it.

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Christianity remains after the subtraction of living-ness from the universe; Christianity remains in a lifeless and mechanical universe; but what remains is indeed remains. Incomplete, ruined.

Christianity without its animistic fullness remains fully effectual but becomes purely salvific.

Without the animistic universe this worldly life becomes merely a preparation for the next: A life in a dead universe awaiting death.

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I'm sorry: we simply have-to recover the pre-modern cosmology of an animated, a genial universe.

The falsity of alternatives is demonstrated by reductio ad absurdum. The truth of the animistic universe is attested by its naturalness, spontaneity and universality.

There comes a point when failure must be admitted, when we must humbly cease from imposing senseless error upon ourselves and our culture, and return to the consensus of humanity and what we all of us knew as children.

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