Tuesday, December 18, 2012

do you remember?

I was brought up, in regard to religious ideas, with the sense that only the conviction of sin was important. Everything was sin, briefly speaking. In consequence, religion was a very gloomy business and personally I loathed it. Morality was only sexual morality. Virtue was only continence, and so on, and, in general, sin and the feeling of being a sinner was the main idea of religion. I never understood anything else in regard to religion as a boy, and so was either afraid or worried or hated the whole thing. I began to stammer badly. I listened to the Scriptures, mostly drawn from the Old Testament, which always seemed indescribably horrible. God was a violent, jealous, evil, accusing person, and so on. And when I heard the New Testament I could not understand what the parables meant, and no one seemed to know or care what they meant. But once, in the Greek New Testament class on Sundays, taken by the Head Master, I dared to ask, in spite of my stammering, what some parable meant. The answer was so confused that I actually experienced my first moment of consciousness—that is, I suddenly realized that no one knew anything.

This is a definite experience and was my first experience of Self-Remembering—the second being the sudden realization that no one knew what I was thinking—and from that moment I began to think for myself, or rather knew that I could. As you know, all moments of real Self-Remembering stand out for ever in one's inner life, and one's real life is not outer events, but inner states. I remember so clearly this class-room, the high windows constructed so that we could not see out of them, the desks, the platform on which the Head Master sat, his scholarly thin face, his nervous habits of twitching his mouth and jerking his hands—and suddenly this inner revelation of knowing that he knew nothing—nothing, that is, about anything that really mattered.

This was my first inner liberation from the power of external life. From that time I knew for certain—and that always means by inner individual authentic perception which is the only source of real knowledge—that all my loathing of religion as it was taught me was right.

And although one always goes to sleep again after a moment of real Self-Remembering, and often for years, yet such moments of consciousness stand always in higher parts of centres and remain and await, as it were, the further moments of realizing, more consciously, what life actually is—that is to say, they are never lost, and, although forgotten in one way, stand in the background of yourself always, and come forward at critical moments to guard you.


icekold said...

I really like the self remembering article everything you say holds true to me and I have experienced strange moments of clarity like that. I will now proceed to see if any of your other articles hold true too.

Tom said...

The figure reminds me of Walker Percy's theories about language. I've got to post some of that if I can find it online.

CNu said...

Seven such events bracket my experience with this, three as an adolescent prior to work, three as a sober adult years after beginning, and most recently, the seventh occurring just two days prior to beginning this seasonal exposition on the subject.

Tom said...

So are you the author here?

***Screed Warning***

Some of my own organized-religion experience was almost the opposite -- what I realize now must have been a very liberal Catholic church. Morality--including decent behavior toward other people--was taught to us as a central point.* That Christian background, plus an absurdly credulous scientism, were the two crumbling pillars of my religious education.

BUT. SO. The moment of realizing that my Sunday school teacher had no idea what she was talking about was a defining moment for me too. Defining in a way that I am still trying to understand: I've started going to church again, of all things. Not because I believe the Nazi pope has the answer. No. But because in fact I come out of church in the morning, I look up at the sky, and I feel that the world probably does make some kind of sense.

Maybe this: There is an answer -- we just don't know it. Perhaps it's far too complex for us to know. Perhaps we have garbled a once-genuine message. Perhaps we're refusing to accept a currently-valid message in the gospels or somewhere. Dunno. But I'm just realizing now, maybe as I type: the picture that there IS an "Answer" that I don't know is radically different from the cartoon picture of the human condition that I got from scientism: that we're a bunch of bags of shit rolling around making squishing noises before we dissolve back into the ground. As a philosophy of life that supports decent behavior (or even personal survival), that one is a pretty tough row to hoe. And it's no more been proven or disproven by "science" than Xtianity is, so far as I can see.

Could this be why so many of us folks who've long thought of ourselves as "agnostics" or even "atheists" nevertheless find ourselves suddenly even more horrified by assholes Dawkins and Hitchens than we are by crooked televangelists? Dunno. Probably not, but it seems to be a step forward at least.


*I realize now that is not the Christianity that many folks--Catholics or not--are taught as children. Using one's "relationship with God" (whether evidence of the 'relationship' is based on ceremony or self-reporting) as the sole standard of Christianity is rampant everywhere and it's scary. James shot that down for all time, one might have thought. But no problem, we only cite James when it's time to do some volunteer work. He's a second-tier apostle. Paul is what you want for the top-shelf stuff.

CNu said...

I was brought up Lutheran - I believe mostly because neither of my parents cared anymore for the Baptist or AME churches in which they had respectively been raised. The lutheran is the most liberal catholic church you could ever imagine, my parents were close friends with the late Dr. George Tiller. In fact, George was a pallbearer at my father's funeral. I had a fantastic sunday school teacher and elder mentor named Ms. Louise Ebel. Ms. Ebel was very well traveled and highly entertained by precocious and serious children. Frankly Tom, I would have to characterize my own church upbringing as most fortunate. We visited the Baptist and AME churches, and were always most warmly welcomed, however, my parents had been ruined to the task of enduring a 2+ hour church service, given the scandinavian efficiency of the Lutheran church. The primary draw for them was the sunday morning adult coffee and discussion, which was like 60 minutes local for grown folks talk, and during the 60's and 70's at least, there was no such comparable free-wheeling discussion taking place routinely at the Baptist or AME churches.

As far as my religious "education" goes, that started at the private independent school I went to which proselytized a hybrid evangelical dominionism and was one of the hubs of the early pro-life movement, replete with presentations by Francis Schaeffer in full-drag. It was at that school that I got my first taste of aggressive nutty-as-phuk, and in my stalwart rejection of that, I forged what would become my lifelong investigation into organized religion and the origins and purpose of the same.

Tom said...

Aha, ok, thanks for clearing that up.

One thing these older traditions, Lutheran/Catholic/Episcopalian as one example, one thing they do is immunize people against nutty cults. [ I had a nice friendly discussion with some cult guys at IHTFP once--they had worked like crazy for months to induct me and I had just enjoyed their company without really paying attention to it--but I finally realized they weren't getting the message and played the "I'm Catholic" card. They said "wow I see" and gave up immediately. I didn't even really consider myself Catholic, but it was like a cross to a vampire for those guys. Nice (imo) misguided guys, they really believed they were saving souls, but nutty as phuk barely even covers it. ]

For me the nutty/phuk was always an element stirred into Catholicism along with everything else. Seems obvious to me that M.L. did some good sanitation work; St. Peter probably has made the same point with John Paul II up close & personal by now.

Tom said...

Only except compare Mediterranean efficiency. It's never hard in the Northeast at least to find a Roman Catholic church that turns in sub-40 min times Sunday after Sunday.

CNu said...

Me and the Mrs. start RCIA the second week in January.

ken said...

Was that your idea or the Mrs.?

CNu said...

Mine. My son has already been accepted at a very fine parochial school, my wife has been tugging our sleeves about resumption of church attendence, and not Unitarian Universalist, so I figure, let's go whole hog and get the inside scoop on the indoctrination he'll be receiving at school.

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