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.