Last year during Lent I did a series on The Discipline of the Beatitudes. What I discovered through that study was both inspiring and discouraging. Inspiring, finding that there was so much depth in these few short verses which before seemed like little more than Gospel Hallmark card verse, but discouraged when I realized the exacting profundity of the Christian discipline contained in them. I am a weak and sinful man, and the Beatitudes told me that was no excuse for moral cowardice and lethargy. It would be great to just sit back and continue to expound on the ‘dialectic of discipleship’ in the Beatitudes, but alas this is no theoretical exercise. At some point we have to start doing something if we are under discipline.
This year I intend to review, edit and repost the series throughout Lent. I also mean to use the content of this research as the basis for meditation and personal reform, hoping they provide encouragement for my prayer, fasting and alms giving discipline through the season. I have a conflicting mixture of anticipation and apprehension entering into this discipline. I have kept myself at arms length from the implications of this study over the time since last Easter. I have continued in old habits, and for all my desire to change things that I have put off for years I covered nearly no ground. I am often scattered really. This is nothing new for me, it is the disposition of the wild creative type. Praised by some in our contemptible age, but of no lasting use. Introspection and discipline are needed: sounds like Lent.
Battle Of Carnival And Lent PIETER BRUEGEL THE ELDER, 1559
There is much in the Modernen Geist which is despicable. Hegel may have been the last optimist, the final apologist for the Spirit of the Enlightenment. Since, it has been sullied by doubt, stagnated by relativism and resented for failing to deliver on the Universalist goods; fragmenting into myriad individual desires which are imperceptibly distinct, and yet stubbornly isolated individuations. It would be comforting to know that simply rejecting Modernity transformed us into another type; the Overman or an ancient sage. Frustratingly, we are still full of the memes of our time; the river of murky cultural water that has run through our soul. Indeed we have little hope of ever being fully cleansed of this pollution. For we were told to take our fill, and the human mind being what it is, worthless stuff lingers long past its welcome.
We of the New Right, have hero’s work to do. We not only have the task of forcing into the contemporary world social and political thought space, we must also prepare space for the restoration of the spiritual health of the Occident. (Our Northern Oriental cousins seem to have the jump on us.) There needs to be a space for a revived and new spiritual intuition to begin to grow. The call for spiritual revival is heard from every camp in our broader movement; Atheists, Christians, Pagans and Nietzscheans alike. None think our society is well, or just in need of more democratic rights. Perhaps this is what separates the true New Right from the Lite Right; we don’t taste sweetness in the fruits of Modernity. The young can be excused for thinking anger and physical strength are sufficient reform. And though some of them provide encouragement through their zeal, most have no idea just how corrupted they are by the vulgarization of the Soul that decades of degeneracy have brought. Our goal is not to become something new for ourselves only, but to set the social conditions for those who come after us to do better. Ideally, for them, this generation will be seen as wretched sinners of whom they cannot speak without blushing. For our media and schools and even our own minds and mouths are full of what St Paul said;
. . . it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.
If only there were secrets still.
I tend to have fewer readers for my overtly Christian posts. This is understandable. I hope for this reposted series though that others will come along if they wish. There is a very interesting feature of the Beatitudes, especially in the approach we are taking. They are deeply pragmatic, and do not require much in the way of theological belief to engage on a certain level. They provide a spiritual discipline that is rooted in nature. That is in the natural state of the human soul and in our relationship to God and society. Though delivered by Jesus, they require no confession of faith. They unfold in a logical back and forth conversation showing the way for spiritual ascent. Aspects of the wisdom of the Beatitudes can be found in other traditions; spiritual, psychological and philosophical. For example important aspects can be paralleled with Jungian Psychoanalytical therapy, as we will see. When we first notice this aspect of the Beatitudes, as Christians, it may be a bit unsettling. We have grown accustomed to discipleship as an expression of belief. These phrases of Jesus’ are about discipline as process though. This is not to belittle faith, but as we will see there is no magic in the Beatitudes. And though I will not be diluting the message to appeal to the unbeliever, if you are interested in the broader topic of spiritual restoration or personal transformation you should find some points of interest as we progress. As well, for you more doubtful or cultural Christians, you don’t get off the hook on this one. There is nothing necessarily supernatural in the discipline of the Master found in the Beatitudes. .
The cost of Liberalism in the Church is not just lack of conviction in the particulars of the faith, but the ransacking of discipline that faith encourages. Discipline is not merely an outward sign of righteousness, but an inward process of transformation. Once we allow the traditional requirements of virtuous living to become tepid by a misguided mercy-as-tolerance weakening of the just requirements of righteousness, there is no impetus to develop virtue than tolerance; if such is even a virtue in our current age. But we are deeply challenged to find good Christian disciplinary instruction. When the keeper of the Holy See Tweets such morally gooey statements as this:
we are in bad shape. Keys are not just for opening as the rest of the verse expounds:
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. .
We live in the age of Eli, where much of the official authority of the churches reflects the moral cowardice of our age. For Liberals the only sin is being illiberal.
We do not need good instruction because we are good. We need it because without it we cannot be good. Left to our own laziness and a pervasive ‘live and let live’ ethic we have the Postmodern world. A world where we no longer have even the hopeful optimism of the promises of humanism. Lives only of selfish pleasure seeking, detached from healthy community.
Lent is a time to observe both our interior and exterior life carefully. This is not a matter of torturing ourselves over moral minutiae so we can congratulate ourselves, but growth in spiritual maturity. To become men and women in and age of boys and girls.