Monday, December 19, 2005

Apologia pro blog sua

Students of spiritual literature will recognize the title of this posting as a light reflection of Cardinal John Henry Newman's autobiography, Apologia pro Vita Sua. Cardinal Newman might well have felt the need to offer an apologia (which I think is best translated as "justification" rather than "apology"), as an Anglican who converted to Roman Catholicism — not the done thing in 19th century England.

My only recent conversion involved swapping some dollars for pounds sterling at Heathrow Airport last March, but I've been feeling like I need to justify something about this blog.

The tagline says Reflecting Light is about spirituality, psychical research, politics, and the way we live now. Looking back over three months' worth (if they are worth anything) of postings, I see that politics has been overweighted.

That was never my intention. If anything, I expected to emphasize psychical research, which I've been following for many years and which seems to have hardly made a ripple in the blogosphere. It's also been all but ignored in our materialistic, pseudo-rationalist culture. So finding news or ideas about psychical research (or parapsychology, as the few professionals in the field tend to call it) is no cinch. The subject matter is there, but it can take some digging, even if you're reasonably au courant in this area, as I try to be.

As for spirituality, I hold that the search for the experience of God is the greatest and most important adventure there is. If people can write in blogs about their quest for the world's best ice cream or the latest gee-whiz technological toy, why shouldn't one's daily interaction with spirit be a fit subject?

Why not indeed. But it has been harder than I expected to find suitable subjects in the realms of either psychical research or spirituality that can be dealt with adequately in the relatively short length of a blog entry and the limited time available for writing a posting.

Spirituality is especially tough to give its due in the blogosphere. For one thing, it's intensely personal, and while I have to refer to myself in a posting occasionally to set a scene, I'm determined that this is not going to be a blog about me. (Anyone who believes they are learning ego transcendence, as urged in Vedanta and Buddhism, would do well to write a blog: it's a good test of seeing whether you can put your lower self aside.)

More than that, spirituality is immensely subtle. Although it has an outward aspect — I believe spiritual growth that isn't grounded in benevolent behavior in the daily world is a delusion — the path is one of groping in darkness, at least in early stages. It takes great conscious effort but the results are often hardly consciously perceived at all; you meditate or pray or serve your fellow men and women and you seem to fail again and again. No revelation rewards your efforts. But maybe you think about how you are now and how you used to be and realize that you've changed in some way that can't be put down only to getting older or more wordly wise.

People much more spiritually gifted than me have had trouble putting experiences of transcendence and grace into words. But I still intend to try from time to time. Maybe it will be useful for others like me who meditate poorly, don't understand how to pray, and continually fall short of the glory of God. I can't tell you how to overcome blockages or inertia on the spiritual path, but I believe I can honestly tell you this: if your aspiration is sincere, you cannot fail. At some point you will understand this.

Politics, in contrast, is easy to write about in the sense that there is plenty of raw material to work with and it's right out there, often very dramatic. Until the past few years, I have not paid much mind to political issues, because I believed that they were unimportant, belonging only to the world of transient phenomena rather than the spiritual realm. That was shallow of me. The world of phenomena is less real than the world of noumena, but it is not unreal, and acting rightly in it is important if we would know the higher consciousness.

Even so, in comparatively "normal" times, I doubt that I'd have a great deal to say about conventional politics. (I still can't get worked up about things like congressional races, much less mayoral elections.) But at the moment there are what might be called meta-political issues. They are of more than passing interest — they will profoundly affect the course of history and "the way we live now."

First, of course, there is the Islamic march to dominate every society where it has gained a foothold. Whether this is something inherent in Islam or a perversion of it is an interesting topic, but whichever is true, there is minimal difference in the consequences. Islam has already begun to exercise a strong ideological and legal influence in several European countries, and the same process in earlier stages can be seen elsewhere. Islam is not compatible with Western traditions of individual freedom of thought and speech, and those traditions are decaying where Islam has established itself through immigration and a shockingly high birth rate.

Second, the tradition of individual freedom is almost equally threatened by a quite Western ideology: the super-state, as seen in purest form the European Union and to some extent in national governments. Centralized government, far removed from local interests and traditions, as well as from individuals, shows seemingly unstoppable growth. Its goal is to regulate virtually every aspect of life that matters in the name of rationality and efficiency. Under this system, society doesn't develop organically, and change doesn't stem from decisions of individuals or groups of individuals; it's handed down by bureaucracies motivated by the belief in social engineering. Whether the system is called Communism, Socialism, or democracy serving corporate capitalism, the principle is much the same.

Third, there is an international Liberal Establishment that includes politicians, academics, and the media that is determined to perform radical surgery on every concept of the nation state and on many previously long-established individual rights. To use the phrase "international Liberal Establishment" does not mean a conspiracy — the Establishment's personnel don't get together to plan their next move. It's just that they have the same assumptions and values and use their positions to set the tone of every controversy.

What do they believe in? Multi-culturalism, open borders, favoritism for every "minority" that can be found or invented (such as the Hispanic "race"), regulation, the moral equivalence of both sides in every conflict (except when it's minorities versus the majority).

Putting all three of those issues together, I am profoundly worried about the future of individualism, free thought and free discussion.

There are plenty of other bloggers illuminating these topics, and plenty of them are better informed and more sophisticated in their thinking than I am. There are a number of blogs (some listed in the sidebar at right) to which I am grateful for helping me to understand what's going on. As much as I'm tempted to defer to them and burrow in my chosen specialties, it would be moral cowardice for me to ignore the great political and social currents of this our time on earth. So I offer my thoughts in the hope that each individual's contribution will count for something.

And that's my apologia for this blog. Thanks for your time spent reading it.

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