Experiencing Ideas as Authority or Terror

Charles Williams was a British polymath combining considerable skills as a poet, novelist, theologian, and literary critic. He was also a valued member of the famed Inklings writing circle and a powerful influence on Narnia creator, C. S. Lewis. Williams’ most famous biographer is Alice Mary Hadfield who, during widely spaced periods in her life, wrote two perceptive critical biographies filled with useful insights concerning his life and work. One of her most revealing penetrations has a bearing on existentialism.

Sceptre, Orb, and Imperial Crown of Austria

You must regard your own emotionally important ideas with the respect due to proper authority. To be authentic, you must live by these defining and guiding ideas. (Photo: public domain)

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A Magical Book About a Magical Place

The Magic of Findhorn is a magical book. I first read it when it came out in paperback more years ago than I care to remember. For more than a decade, I reread it now and then to savour Hawken’s sweet distillation of the spirit of the time. Those were the heady days of pot-smoking hippies, smiling flower children, and idealistic communes. Findhorn added fairies, giant cabbages, and bushes that got out of the way when you wanted to make a path through them. It was wonderful to imagine that I might run off and join the small band of romantics building a new kind of community on what was once a garbage dump. I never did, of course. Sometimes I think I missed a great chance. Findhorn still exists, although it is now a foundation and calls itself a “New Age” community. Naturally, there is a website.

First paperback edition cover

An enchanting look at an early New Age community in Scotland.

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Chasing Happiness Cannot Replace Personal Growth

Is it enough to chase happiness in life? Numerous philosophers have argued that, for a deeply satisfying experience of life, something more is required, something founded on substantial personal growth, rather than a preference for a particular ephemeral feeling that manifests in a constant effort to spend a lot of time in the desired emotional state. Is it possible that the “pursuit of happiness,” so central to American, and indeed, much of contemporary Western values, may actually get in the way of attaining life’s greater riches?

Alfred North Whitehead

A. N. Whitehead said learning is impossible without the desire to learn. This matters because all personal growth requires us to learn something. (Image: public domain)

I have already argued, in “Religious Conversion Can Block Self-Discovery,” that a desire for spiritual salvation in the religious sense can seriously impede a person’s growth process. Here I will make the case that thoughtlessly chasing happiness (in the materialistic sense of money, entertainment, possessions, and social status) has a similar hindering effect. It is worth noting that “the pursuit of happiness” in this mundane manner may be a crude version of the creative person’s sophisticated use of subtle moods or feeling tones to enhance both their creativity and their ability to remain productive.

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Explaining Mysticism’s Dark Night of the Soul

In their book, Buddhism and Jungian Psychology, analysts J. Marvin Spiegelman and Mokusen Miyuki (who is also a Buddhist priest), mention the danger of “stagnation” following the integration of unconscious contents. This sounds a lot like the stage on the journey to enlightenment the mystics have famously called “the dark night of the soul.” It is the point where a seeker has seen the light, so to speak, but cannot quite believe it yet. This period of deeply troubling doubt and hesitation lasts for an indeterminate length of time until a sufficient level of acceptance has been reached to allow the final enlightenment to dawn, whereupon the ability to feel confident and to act is restored.

Saint John of the Cross

The dark night of the soul is a lengthy period of deeply troubling doubt and hesitation. It ends when a sufficient level of acceptance has been reached to allow the final enlightenment to dawn. (Image: public domain)

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Western Socialism Is Secularized Christianity

I am a conservative who, from time to time, gets testy about leftists and enjoys giving them a gentle prod. Today, I am feeling especially annoyed. While watching the news on television, I learned the Ontario government plans to “invest” in solar panels for northern Metis communities so they can generate incredibly costly electricity for themselves and then sell any surplus to the provincial grid at staggering prices. Presumably, the Metis contribution to the “beneficial” project will consist in sweeping snow and ice from the panels during the six hours of feeble winter daylight.

United Nations Building

Many conservatives see the UN building in New York as the “Vatican” of the socialist movement. (Image: public domain)

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The Human Need for Heroism, Glory, and Renown

Many people suffer a lack of meaning in their lives, especially in the prosperous countries where the hardships of surviving on a day-by-day basis are not pressing. Decent incomes and the modern social safety net provide leisure time and security while removing the need for the incessant life-sustaining, highly significant activity demanded by dire necessity. For most people in the developed nations, only casual pastimes, meaningless entertainments, or sporadic volunteer work (which someone else could do) remain to fill the void. This situation is regarded as wonderful, yet in reality, it exposes the comfortably well-off to the serious risks of boredom and lack of purpose. It is no accident that suicide and depression rates are high in wealthy nations.

Beowulf with Raised Sword

A perceived lack of meaning in life may indicate a desire for a more heroic and glorious way of living. (Image: public domain)

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