Editorial: On Christianity

I cannot think of a more integral religion than Christianity and I think that it is a deficiency in my notions of value if I am unable to recognise the treasury of wisdom that Christianity contains. It represents the ultimate hieros gamos of Heaven and Earth, the inner and the outer, spirit and matter, God and humanity, etc…. Not only is it written that God become human, but also that he suffered (under Pontius Pilate), was crucified, died, and was buried. In other words he suffered all ills and iniquities. But that on the third day he rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father etc…. We are to think of Christ as our brother: then we rejoice for his sake and also for our own, and to rejoice on another’s behalf is to vanquish egoism and still retain both feet on the ground, since we were not born into this world merely to escape it. In fact, the world is divine for otherwise Christ would not have taken birth in it, and it is further divinised and consecrated since he walked on it and was buried in it.

I understand the tendency to cast judgement on the Church of Peter. Also, hardly anyone could be more disappointed than I with the retrogressive literalism and corporatistic fixation that one may find in certain strains of modern evangelicalism. Still, it does not take a more-than-human discernment to perceive the manner in which these tendencies depart from traditional Christian doctrine. Jesus literally said that he often spoke in parables, and never set forth the teaching as a business venture. Also, imperialism is more an heritage of Constantine’s politics than anything implicit in Christianity. “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God, etc…” was Jesus’ teaching. He also said “on this rock I shall build my Church.” That is a play on words since petrus means “rock.” The Church of Peter is harder to isolate from the Romanism of Constantine’s legacy than is copper from the ore in the earth. Still, one could sense that the Church of Peter has fallen on hard times and was going up in flames on the Ides of April, during the fire of Our Lady, and fire is of course what is necessary for smelting. Perhaps an essence is being concentrated? Still, even if the Church of Peter is crumbling, there is also a Church of Paul, which the Church may be today, and there is a Church of John which the Church may become tomorrow, in the world after transfiguration (though certain forerunners like William Blake and Rudolf Steiner have already proclaimed that it is at hand, and have prepared the easy before us).

For this reason, I know that no one can fairly dismiss the Church until he or she has achieved some acquaintance with the Christian doctrine. I speak out of experience and regret; as one who once desecrated the name of the Church without hesitation, and set her in flames with words many times. I feel as Paul, “like one born out of due time,” and it was well into my 28th year before I had shaken off my “dogmatic slumber” and also passed through an ecstatic fascination with the noble religions of the East (for instance here and here and here) and with psychedelics. But then I was kindly welcomed, like an orphan, into the congregation at Grace Cathedral on the top of Nob Hill in San Francisco, and received the sacrament of Baptism on Whitsun in 2016, for which I will be grateful till the end of my days.

I consider that the first thirteen lines of the John Gospel contain more wisdom than anything I could produce in thirteen lifetimes. I also encourage anyone to contemplate the meaning of the Last Supper, the Eucharist, and the concept of theosis, and to reflect on the fact that Christianity did not begin by imposing itself on anyone. Quite the contrary is true; it began in the catacombs of Rome in order to escape persecution. Moreover, it is a misrepresentation of history to imagine that Christianity was a European export. Rather, barbarian tribes of Europe embraced a Messiah on a basis that had nothing to do with family ties or blood-kinship, which was virtually unheard of before that time. Again, criticism against the vicious actions of members of Church is understandable, but we might consider how much more vicious those actions might have been without the doctrine of the Church which explicitly forbade them.

In any case, I am hardly worthy to catch the coattails of Aquinas’ wisdom or buckle the latches of the shoes of Francis. In fact, he wears none since he gave them away out of love for those in need. I mean to say that we should be cognisant of the tradition we are rejecting when we dismiss the Catholic Church.

Max Leyf

Raphael’s “Small Madonna of Foligno”
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13 Comments Add yours

  1. Hesiod says:

    You know, it’s funny or interesting that you write this, because it’s much the same path for me. (I used to be viciously anti-Catholic in my youth.) It’s very easy to see all the failings and shortcomings, and that’s not to excuse it, but then why do people adore politics and politicians who are far dirtier all things considered?

    I fell in love with Catholic art and poetry, and the Church Fathers, alongside my philosophy studies and my extra curricular literary readings as an undergraduate and decided to be received into the Church with a professor of mine as my sponsor. One of the great benefits of the Catholic tradition is how it sees the good in all culture and stories and merely wants to orient the soul, the heart, to the supreme object wherein the lesser objects find even greater fulfillment. That stands in stark contrast to the iconoclasm of Zeal-of-the-Land Busy.

    I do think, alongside Facini and others, one could be very much a Catholic “perennialist” on those grounds, or even what can be implicated in Romans 1. I’m not sure if you’ve ever run across Anthony Esolen’s lectures. They’re hilarious funny but also deeply poignant at the same time. If anything, my Catholicism has given me a greater appreciation for literature, the arts, and culture than I had in my Protestant youth and early adolescence. And I do love the smells, bells, and pageantry of it all too.

    Theosis, Divinization, sacramentality, this is all important for our consciousness too, not merely the “Christian,” but also the human who is imago Dei.

    And a most excellent selection of artwork too! 😉

    A very nice “editorial” reflection.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Max Leyf says:

      Very well said.

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      1. Max Leyf says:

        The Church of Peter is the physical church, the Church of Paul is the church of the soul, the church of John is the church of the spirit.

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    2. Max Leyf says:

      By the way, in my case it was reading Steiner’s lecture cycle on the Gospel of John (which I cannot recommend highly enough) that “woke me from my dogmatic slumber.” It definitely beats reading David Hume. 😜

      http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA100/English/LR1942/GoJonB_index.html
      http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA112/English/PLH1933/GoJohn_index.html

      They are also hearable at Rudolfsteineraudio.com thanks to Dave Brunsvold’s tireless labours

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hesiod says:

        Thanks. I’ll have to check this out when I have the time.

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  2. Hesiod says:

    I also liked your Peter, Paul, John triad. In many ways we see Peter as the zealous and institutional side of the church, Paul the missionary and exegetical/theological side, and John the mystic, contemplative, and visionary side. While many have their personal preference, the reality is all need each other and feed off each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Not sure, but you might also appreciate this article regarding the tension between the exoteric and esoteric aspects of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. While the author suggests that Judaism has been more successful in harmonizing the exoteric and esoteric, I’m not so sure that’s the case.

    As adherents of all three are obviously in the process of rediscovering and integrating their esoteric traditions, however, it doesn’t seem quite as impossible as it once did that they may yet express their regenerative and transformative powers in fully harmonious ways. Pope Francis’ Laudato Si is certainly a good example of that and, of course, “the Church” was never intended to be just another dry institution, but “the body of Christ.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Max Leyf says:

      Thank you. I can see why someone would say that Judaism has been successful at harmonizing the two aspects, but I imagine there have been successes and failures on all sides.

      This is probably a truism but both aspects are necessary, like bones and breath, skeleton and spirit. It is interesting to consider how Protestantism tried to do away with a large part of the traditional exoteric aspect and was forced to draw from the esoteric side to fill this vacuum, but in doing so, deprived the esoteric of its life. What do you think of this?

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      1. I’m of the impression that Protestantism actually drew from (more at plagiarized) the exoteric (as opposed to the esoteric) aspect of Catholicism to fill that vacuum quickly and wound up largely repeating the mistakes of its predecessor as a result, eventually placing far too much emphasis on the exoteric and smothering the esoteric to near-death.

        Protestant branches, of course, have developed their own creeds, dogmas and “statements of faith,” which are usually, actually statements of belief — belief in a specific set of beliefs, not to put too fine a point on it. (I’m sure there are exceptions.) In fact, it is for this reason that so many seekers find themselves unwelcome in various Christian communities, imo. They don’t want you making statements of faith. They want you making statements of belief in a particular set of beliefs. Unless I’m mistaken, this is one those demands (as opposed to “divine commands”) that stuck in Nietzsche’s craw, among others.

        It would probably come as a surprise, even to many people I know, that I once contemplated converting to Catholicism with the intent of becoming a nun, but finally couldn’t precisely because it was demanded that I swear
        to believe certain things I most definitely do not. Had I been allowed to join merely by making a statement of faith and without having to swear to extremely specific beliefs, I most likely would have become a Catholic nun. As it is, I’m somewhat of a nun anyway, but it’s proved a far more difficult path than it otherwise would have been with the support of an harmonious spiritual community.

        The purpose of the exoteric is to provide us with “certain handholds on our faith,” as a Christian comedian once put it (and I agree), not to be a means of enforcing absolute conformity and uniformity to a set of beliefs.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Pardon. That should read, “the purpose of the exoteric….”

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      3. Max Leyf says:

        Yes good points. I was thinking of Protestantism as, in principle, esoteric in light of Luther’s notion of “sola fide.” But I agree that there is ultimately little that is esoteric about the majority of Protestant branches.

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      4. Ah, yes. Well, Luther’s notion of “sola fide” is itself a belief, isn’t it? A belief in “salvation” by faith alone.

        This strikes me as a classic example of a schism having formed where none need have existed in the first place. It’s the idea of “salvation” (by works or faith alone, in this case) that proves problematic in a tradition largely based on a Fall and Redemption story. Salvation and redemption are not one and the same. Many Christians tend to think of “salvation” as a one-time deal (i.e. “I can do anything I like, because I’m already ‘forgiven.'”), whereas redemption is an eternal and creative process of discovery, recovery, reconciliation and course correction.

        At any rate, the “Big Three” appear to be in the process of redeeming themselves and, I for one, am fairly excited by and passionate about the Interfaith/Interspiritual dialogues taking place around the globe. It is, of course, not just these three that largely have failed to live up to their potential. Hinduism and Buddhism, et al, have exhibited their own short-comings as have the so-called “secular” “religions.” Not many of their adherents are engaged in “religare.” That’s for sure. But perhaps this state of affairs will change given time.

        Liked by 1 person

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