There is a school of thought that regards the whole development of modernity beginning in the West in the Renaissance as a terrible error, entirely destructive of true religion and spiritual understanding. I sympathise with that point of view but don't agree. The truth is there was a great purpose behind what we loosely call the modern world but it was a risk that could either advance the human race and take it to new heights or else take it back to a primitive level from where it would have to effectively start again. Or even destroy it completely.
The experiment was in consciousness. Human consciousness became more focused on itself, more individual, so that it could be more creative and, once realigned to a spiritual sensibility, more godlike. From being largely passive children of God we could become gods ourselves, able to wield divine powers for the creative enlargement of the universe. This was always intended as the evolutionary path that humanity should follow but I believe that in the West a few hundred years ago the process was stimulated and accelerated. A gradual evolution was boosted.
I must confess, I have thought about this a great deal myself. Pointing to the Renaissance as a signifier of the beginning of the end – as a sinful point in time in which Western man began to turn away from God and spirituality and began to focus instead on humanity and materialism – is a common trope in conventional Christian thinking, particularly among Catholics and traditionalists. I admit I have entertained the notion of “the harmful Renaissance” myself, but I ultimately rejected it for much the same reasons William does.
Now, there is no arguing that the Renaissance did indeed mark the beginning of the end of the Catholic Church’s dominance of religious life in the West. There is also no denying some of the deleterious side effects brought about by the gradual weakening of the Church’s influence in the West. Nevertheless, I have come to view the Renaissance and the centuries that followed – roughly up to the eighteenth century – as an inevitable and necessary step the further development of consciousness and spirituality in the West, a development of consciousness Wildblood argues led to heights of genius epitomized by greats such as Shakespeare and Beethoven.
The dominance of the Church marked the childhood of the spirit and consciousness of Western man. The Renaissance, on the other hand, signified the beginning of Western man’s spiritual adolescence. This spiritual adolescence can be directly compared to our own physical adolescence in our mortal lives. It is a time of growth, an awareness of new powers, a curiosity in the world around us, a direct questioning of authority, a smoldering sense of rebellion, an urge to be independent, a yearning to be accepted and appreciated, an appetite for adventure and pleasure and, most importantly, a longing to discover our true selves.
Like our own physical adolescence, Western man’s spiritual adolescence did not come without its fair share of hardships, challenges, self-doubts, and failures, but like our physical adolescence, our spiritual adolescence was meant to be a time of development; a time in which we were supposed to utilize our newly discovered freedoms and powers in order to make a successful transition into adulthood. In the spiritual sense, this transition into adulthood would entail a rediscovery of God from an evolved perspective as well as the honing of new skills and knowledge in order to make our way closer to God much the same way our physical adolescence is meant to be a time of preparation in order to become useful and beneficial members of society. The problem is, we never made the transition, as William points out in his post:
However, sound as the principles involved were, everything depended on the reception of human beings to their new powers, as powers is what they were. Would they use them to become more aware of God or would it be to pursue their own individual ends in their immediate environment? We know the answer to that.
And we do know the answer to that. The rub, therefore, lies not in the Renaissance, but in our utter failure as a civilization to properly use the new powers and freedoms we discovered at that time. To paraphrase Nietzsche, Western civilizations fully embraced the reality of being free from without prudently considering what had become free for.
The result is readily apparent all around us in the literal teenage wasteland the West has become. And like a true teenage wasteland, all positive or beneficial aspects of our spiritual adolescence seems to have fallen away at the collective level, leaving nothing but the worst juvenile aspects of material adolescence firmly in place. What else could possibly account for the faux rebellious attitudes, the rash hedonistic obsessions, the irresponsible reality denial, the thoughtless greed, the tawdry ambitions, the vulgar tastes, the insane impulses, and the suicidal individualism that poisons our crumbling societies?
Of course, all this could change, and change rather quickly if people in the West began to understand the vital importance of the free for they have missed. But in all honesty, that doesn’t seem like it is going to happen any time soon. Perhaps it may never happen at all. Perhaps the West has steered itself into a collective dead end where the only possible outcome is continued stagnation leading ultimately to destruction and collapse. Does this signify that there is no hope for anyone in the West? William Wildblood writes:
Does this mean the experiment has failed? Not necessarily. It may be that it was never intended to be universal. Many individual souls have responded in a positive fashion. Many more (as is shown by the state of the world today) have not but if we think of comparisons in nature, this may be regarded as acceptable. For instance, how many seeds sprout and then grow to maturity? A fraction of those that are produced by the parent plants. This doesn't mean that souls that have not reacted properly, i.e. spiritually, are rejected and die but they may be replanted in other environments more suitable to their state of evolution. That is what I think is happening now. I have often written that it is a time of decision. It is a winnowing of souls, a real sheep and goats moment in the history of human evolution on this planet.
I am sympathetic to this notion. Our civilization has obviously failed to grasp the significance of free for, but this failure does not render the concept of free for meaningless. On the contrary, it makes the very reality of free for all the more crucial at the level of the individual. It offers hope. As William notes:
So now we are living at a time when the results of the experiment are being revealed. The stimulated individual consciousness of man is making its choice. A choice of God or self. The experiment is coming to an end.
There’s probably not much we can do about the teenage wasteland surrounding us, but there is a great deal we can do ourselves to escape the teenage wasteland, at least at the spiritual level. It all comes down to the choice William Wildblood mentions in his post – the choice of God or self. The first represents the free for, while the second represents free from. The first choice represents a step toward spiritual adulthood; the second keeps you firmly locked in the teenage wasteland.
Make your choice, because the experiment truly does seem to be coming to an end.