The Danger of the “Introspective Conscience”

Frederick Turner, in his important study of the history of the Americas from the point of view of Native Americans, Beyond Geography, points out that ours is an “introspective” and therefore dangerous civilization. 

Empty soul futilely fishing an empty ocean. Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels.

By “introspective” he means overly focused on ourselves and living without cosmos, without myth, without ritual worthy of the name. 

No wonder we find ourselves cosmically sad, cosmically lonely, cosmically destructive in our militarist vision of creating weapons to rain death on the rest of creation.  And busy destroying Mother Earth as we know her.  With a whole political party content with denying climate change.

Inner journeys are essential to get to our true selves.  But an exclusively  inward one can look only at oneself or one’s culture and ignore the rest of the world.  There lies the death of cosmic spirituality and with it the death of Mother Earth.  The world does not need more inward journeys; but there are no limits to the inner journeys we can and ought to make.

Where does this inward compulsion come from?  Biblical scholar Krister Stendahl recognizes St. Augustine as the instigator of the “introspective conscience” of the West and feels the reading of the Bible has been distorted in the process.

Brief documentary outlining the origin and impact of Augustine’s Original Sin Theory. Two Old Dudes Production

Augustine was a genius in writing what was probably the first autobiography of the West, but he remains oblivious of the sense of theosis, the divinizing of the cosmos, that Eastern Christianity put forward as the very meaning of salvation.  Russian Orthodox theologian Nicolas Berdyaev writes:

The central idea of the Eastern fathers was that of theosis, the divinization of all creatures, the transfiguration of the world, the idea of the cosmos, and not the idea of personal salvation.

How different would history have been if Europeans landing on the shores of Turtle Island had held that understanding of religion?  

To be continued

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality, pp. 76f.

See also Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance

Also see Matthew Fox and Bishop Marc Andrus, Stations of the Cosmic Christ.

Banner Image: “Alone.” Photo by Kris Mouser-Brown on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

How does theosis as Berdyaev understands it alter your way of looking at redemption or salvation?  What difference might that make in the history to come?

Recommended Reading

Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox lays out a whole new direction for Christianity—a direction that is in fact very ancient and very grounded in Jewish thinking (the fact that Jesus was a Jew is often neglected by Christian theology): the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality, the Vias Positiva, Negativa, Creativa and Transformativa in an extended and deeply developed way.
Original Blessing makes available to the Christian world and to the human community a radical cure for all dark and derogatory views of the natural world wherever these may have originated.” –Thomas Berry, author, The Dream of the Earth; The Great Work; co-author, The Universe Story

The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance

In what may be considered the most comprehensive outline of the Christian paradigm shift of our Age, Matthew Fox eloquently foreshadows the manner in which the spirit of Christ resurrects in terms of the return to an earth-based mysticism, the expression of creativity, mystical sexuality, the respect due the young, the rebirth of effective forms of worship—all of these mirroring the ongoing blessings of Mother Earth and the recovery of Eros, the feminine aspect of the Divine.
“The eighth wonder of the world…convincing proof that our Western religious tradition does indeed have the depth of imagination to reinvent its faith.” — Brian Swimme, author of The Universe Story and Journey of the Universe.

Stations of the Cosmic Christ
By Matthew Fox and Bishop Marc Andrus.

This is a book of meditations on the Cosmic Christ, accompanying the images of 16 wonderful clay tablets by Javier Ullrrich Lemus and M.C. Richards. Together, these images and meditations go far beyond the traditional Stations of the Cross to inspire a spirit awakening and understanding of the cosmic Christ Consciousness, Buddha consciousness, and consciousness of the image of God in all beings, so needed in our times.
“A divinely inspired book that must be read by every human being devoted to spiritual and global survival. It is cosmically brilliant.” — Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

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5 thoughts on “The Danger of the “Introspective Conscience””

  1. Avatar

    Defining ‘introspection’ as some sort of liability does not negate the deep inward journey that we need to take for experiential realization of Christ consciousness, of soul consciousness. The outward is a reflection of the inward. If we don’t have an inward embrace and conviction (awareness) of ‘the cosmos’, we cannot have a meaningful outward embrace of ‘the cosmos’. The journey, ‘the Way’, is always within and without.

    ‘One’ is not distant, apart from the whole, but part of it, one in being with it. Ours is to rest and reside in the peace of God and not have to ‘split hairs’ with theologians. Let them debate among themselves, a debate which requires its own form of introspection. — BB.

    — BB.

  2. Avatar

    Theosis, in its broadest sense, is the REALIZATION of sacred union with the divine nature, through fellowship and relationship with the Creator; through the creation of the all and the everything. Through this synergy of being and living in relationship with… one directly experiences the divine essence, present in all of creation. Henceforth, partaking of, participating with and complimenting this reality; all are led to the illuminating truth of the sacredness, oneness, wholeness and holiness of the all and the everything of creation in divine union with the Creator. This is the divine nature of transcendent love… the covenant of being and living in sacred relationship with, that humanity is awakening to and consciously remembering.

    Introspection, through ceremony and ritual… intuitively, imaginatively and creatively nurtures and cultivates this transformative partaking of and participating with; which compliments this illuminative, synergistic trascendent love… in which all can directly experience for themselves, the reality of this sacred union of oneness, wholeness and holiness with the Divine.

  3. Avatar

    Eastern Christianity theology is closer to understanding theosis and the Cosmic Christ among most of Christianity. However, it and other major religious institutions have been historically unbalanced/unhealthy personally and socially due to their fundamentally patriarchal beliefs and values. The genuine mystical and Indigenous spiritual traditions have honored women and feminine values, especially Sacred Mother Earth, all Her living beings, and All ongoing Co-Creation~Cosmos with DIVINE LOVE~COMPASSION within and among Us in the Sacred Process of the ETERNAL PRESENT MOMENT….

    1. Avatar

      Yes, Damian. That is my problem too with Eastern Orthodoxy. Theologically, they seem to have gotten much right that Western Orthodoxy, including Catholic and Evangelical churches have gotten wrong. However, when you go to an Eastern Orthodox church or read their writings, it does seem somehow uncreative, not forward looking, or flexible and yes patriarchal–not that I’ve really studied Eastern Orthodoxy enough to really say much. My Buddhist partner keeps encouraging me to read the four books of the Philokalia that he bought for me, but each time I approach it something puts me off.

  4. Avatar

    The mystical tradition of early Christianity was (neo)Platonism. Originally, it demanded a person’s entire immersion into a sacred framework which NECESSARILY involved a holistic Path (lifestyle, beliefs, rituals) that included intellect (usually logic), intuition (not specified as such, but absolutely essential WITHIN or underneath the logic-framework in this mysticism), and the radical, intuitive, non-dualistic, Sacred Mystical Revelation itself (as the ESSENTIAL CORE/FRUITION of the Path). No one who followed this mystical Path would have considered a narrowly self-focused theology/lifestyle to be mystically/theologically correct. This was all about a total immersion of one’s entire persona: i.e., worship in and as the act of self-transformation, which included one’s actions and thoughts in the community/Cosmic world

    Western Christian Scholastics decided that logic/analysis itself was a sacred act, a reflection of God’s Creating Act. But then they split it off from Mysticism’s holistic, non-dualistic Path and wholeheartedly pursued a logical/intellectual analysis of every-thing around them: the Bible, religious life, and the outer world, and they created eloquently persuasive dualistic theologies. Then “sin” and self-hatred were added to the mix, and Augustine’s narcissistic, guilt-ridden obsessions were elevated into theology. Everyone was fundamentally cut off from God. Mysticism’s Truth was denied.

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