That’s So Second Millennium
CNAG: What’s Your Frequency?

CNAG: What’s Your Frequency?

March 29, 2019

A return to the idea of frequency dovetails with the influence of the images and other sensory inputs we allow into our minds that Patricia Bellm spoke about yesterday. It also converges with the topic of the NPR Invisibilia podcast episode Post, Shoot from earlier this month.

In that episode, the interviewer spoke with African-Americans, mostly high school age, in Wilmington, Delaware. It examined the situations created by their heavy use of social media, playing around with the imagery of gangster culture and engaging in diss wars with each other that remain confined to their social platforms... except when they don't, and someone gets shot.

I'm aware I am barred from speaking about anything going on in African-American culture beyond the barest facts. So I won't. I don't need to, in any case. I can cruise the streets of Milroy, Indiana, a rural community about as white as white can be, and see my young fellow German-Americans and Euromutts dressing themselves as if to try to fit into that style or listening to that music.

Patricia, how did she put it: "If you eat doughnuts, you will look like a doughnut. If you consume violent video games, you will become a violent person." The cautious scientist in me has to note that of course it's not that simple. Human beings are maddeningly complicated to evaluate and manage from the outside. [Reasonably apropos, and too good a quote to pass up: "Communism would be a wonderful system if only there were no people, and communism would be wonderful in Poland in particular if only there were no Poles."] We have a lot of influences, and no one cultural stimulus is going to dominate the outputs of our behavior except for a small minority of people.

Very few of the white kids watching the video for Trap Queen on YouTube are going to go out and cook up some crack or join a gang so as to have a rival gang with members to shoot. Does that mean that it doesn't have any influence? That would be more of that all-or-nothing thinking that helped our foremothers survive in life or death situations, but didn't help all that much in creating the philosophy or science that have allowed us not to be in life or death situations nearly so often. Of course it has some influence, and of course to tell exactly what nature and how much we are stuck with the uncertain means of statistical social science or the cumbersome ones of brain scanning, but we can look at ourselves and those closest to us and get some sense of the situation.

It should be too obvious to need stating, but once we are in the presence of a song or a movie or decide to start reading a book, we can't consciously choose what elements will influence us and leave the others behind. I'm kind of upset at American culture for feeding me enough stimuli, with no conscious cooperation on the part of myself, my parents, or my teachers, to imbibe the whole gospel (malispel?) of the sexual revolution and have it as an unwelcome part of my mental furnishings. I can't entirely shake the sense that burdened me so heavily as a teenager that if only I was doing what everyone else was supposedly doing (getting laid), I would be happy and my life would be worth living. It takes effort to keep it at bay, and used to take enormous effort that crippled me as far as the work of growing up and finding my vocation was concerned. I watch my diet of AC/DC or Crazy Town (remember th... no, of course not, never mind) or country music in general, because it's just not worth it making things harder on myself.

This all also comes back to the question I posed myself about knowingly filling my mind with fiction. If you're watching Scarface snort cocaine and shoot people, you're distancing yourself from reality. (I sure hope. There is help if part of that is your reality.) Add up enough distance, and it starts to make sense to call it dissociation.

How does this relate to "frequency"? I'm going to go out on a limb here with my modest familiarity with the term "frequency" and my considerable experience with dissociation and say:

Theorem. If surrounding oneself with reminders and expectations of good things and affirming the good that has been placed within you is vibrating at a high frequency, while surrounding oneself with mediocrity and telling yourself you're a fraud and barely getting by is vibrating at a low frequency, then losing oneself in fantasy and living apart from reality is not to be vibrating at all... zero frequency.

Just like absolute zero, no living person is all the way down at zero frequency, but some of us are only at a few millikelvin.

CNAG: Money

CNAG: Money

March 22, 2019

Money is a fascinating topic to take up in this connection because doing so illuminates some serious, jagged fractures within both of our contemporary political camps of “conservative” and “progressive” thought, and indeed, within our own minds.

“Whatever may be said in praise of poverty, the fact remains that it is not possible to live a really complete or successful life unless one is rich.” – Wallace Wattles

“Hello? How gross is that [quote]?! It offended me to my hippie core, until I understood what it was really saying and that, erm, you kind of can’t —not if you want to fully express yourself, anyway… you have to let a lot go because it will absolutely go up your nose if you’re still working on your issues around it being OK to make money.” – Jen Sincero, talking about that quote and the book containing it

“Money is not the root of all evil!” – Cathy Heller (if not an absolute quote, extremely close)

“Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” – Paul of Tarsus, 1 Tm 6:9-11

Money, it’s a hit
Don’t give me that do-goody-good bullshit
” – Pink Floyd

Money. Wealth. It unites people as diverse in their political thinking and way of life as Oprah, the Koch brothers, George Soros, El Chapo, Vlad Putin… and hatred of it, renunciation of it, or contempt for those who have it (important distinctions, admittedly) unites Francis of Assisi, Karl Marx, Mother Theresa, and as Jen Sincero notes, your general hippie, hipster, and mousy academic type.

People want money. They want various of the things you can exchange money to obtain (food, housing, pretty objects, fast objects, sexual favors…). Unsurprisingly, given that, they want money for the mere fact of having money, or rather, the emotions related to security and power that possessing money provides.

As far as practical advice goes, the right attitude toward money and wealth seems to me to require a lot of work on that nagging issue I identified a while back: we’re either bored with the golden mean, or it’s too complicated for us to think about two things at once.

Of course, to get by in modern society and do much of anything to help people, we need money. On the other hand, we all experience the temptation to spend money irresponsibly. We spend money on things that will not help others even in the indirect (and completely real) sense that we need to help ourselves in order to help others. We spend money on things that are actually destructive: alcohol, strip clubs, access to crappy TV shows that we know are eating up our lives and giving nothing back, Lexus SUVs, a fifth set of power tools. We exalt this money thing to the position of Higher Power and guiding light for our lives, piling up ever more of that security and power far past any point of diminishing returns. We spend time thinking about and managing this money to the exclusion of living a real human life.

Christianity warns us about all of that early and often. What we then seem to have done, here in the West, is bend part of ourselves back too far in the other direction and try to carry on with an unrealistic set of expectations about not being one of those bad rich people, yet wanting all the things that money can buy. If we want to be Mother Theresa, yet also drive Jen Sincero’s Audi, then yeah, we’re going to come into conflict with ourselves.

At this point, of course, the net widens…

CNAG is the Catholic-New Age Glossary… not backed by Webster’s or any other authority. These reflections are written by Paul, and they here on That’s So Second Millennium because they are an attempt to find the points ofharmony between different strands of psychology and spirituality as they are being explored and lived out in Western culture today.

CNAG: Deserve, part 3

CNAG: Deserve, part 3

February 27, 2019

I believe I have laid out enough lemmas to proceed to my own solution to the issues surrounding the word "deserve":

  • The word "deserve" is simply not an appropriate one for me, with my history of trauma and self-hatred on the one hand, and my need to have a literal and integrated understanding of concepts on the other, to use in regards to my relationship with Being Itself at all.
  • God is Necessary and I am contingent. There is nothing a contingent being could ever do that could place a moral obligation upon the Necessary.
  • God has chosen to love me and offer me grace. In fact, that was always the intention. Human beings run off of grace. I don't "deserve" it, but God wants to give it to me and knows that it is a good thing to give it to me. Nothing else is needed.
  • Being aware that I am therefore taken care of (and I can note in passing that the very common contemporary phrase "you are enough" seems to be the equivalent to this concept, although "enough" probably deserves its own future CNAG entry), I can finally take the focus off my own wretchedness, guilt, neediness, and shame, and do something to love other people.

As a Catholic, of course, I believe this Jesus of Nazareth is, was, and always will be central to this relationship between myself and God whereby I receive the grace necessary to live in an actual human manner. This grace is offered to everyone, whether or not they ever heard of Jesus Christ or even whether they lived before his time; because the Son of God is eternal, any action of his affects the entire history of the universe.

The New Testament alludes to this in several places. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (para. 605) points some of these out:

"At the end of the parable of the lost sheep Jesus recalled that God's love excludes no one: 'So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.' He affirms that he came 'to give his life as a ransom for many'; this last term is not restrictive, but contrasts the whole of humanity with the unique person of the redeemer who hands himself over to save us."

But if your lens shrinks those down too far, you can miss this truth amid the many other references to the possibility of rejecting grace and carrying on into damnation. Interestingly, the CCC pulls some distillations of this teaching from two first millennium "semi-ecumenical" councils, the Council of Orange (529) and the Council of Quiercy (853). The English CCC quotes the latter as follows:

"'There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer.'"

He did not suffer because he wanted you to feel guilty about it. He suffered for you because he knew it would save you and give you the strength to do good for others.

CNAG is the Catholic-New Age Glossary... not backed by Webster's or any other authority. These meditations are here on That's So Second Millennium because they are an attempt to find maximum harmony between different strands of psychology and spirituality as they are being explored and lived out in Western culture today. It flows from a respect for people's reasons for doing what they do and thinking what they think.

CNAG: Deserve, part 2

CNAG: Deserve, part 2

February 20, 2019

Last week I started to discuss this fraught word "deserve." I laid out the sharp contrast between the way the word is used in self-help circles and the way it's used in the New Testament.

As we'll discuss when we get to money, it's interesting to see how contemporary Western culture still carries concepts from Christianity, but has developed a drastic case of amnesia about where they came from, still less the moral and philosophical and theological framework in which they originally made sense and allowed one to live life. The process had to have begun the moment there were bodies of Christians large enough to be called communities. Once people are surrounded by others saying and doing things based on some common basis, the human tendency is to go along regardless of whether they understand why.

Interestingly, there is a lurid and terrifying story from the otherwise radically cheerful Acts of the Apostles about some of those precise people. The text leaves it implicit, but it's pretty clear that the reason Ananias and Sapphira died was not that they sold their property, and not that they gave some of the money to Peter, and not that they kept some of it for themselves, but that they were claiming and pretending that they were giving it all away, and therefore lying. The hypocrisy was the thing being punished.

In any case, cultures and political communities grew up in which official adherence to external Christian practices became the social norm and to some degree were legally mandated. Hypocrites, and partial hypocrites, multiplied apace. Partial hypocrites are particularly close to my heart, since as I was discussing last time, I am one of them, or at any rate I was. I took the message of the Christian Scriptures, ran it through my filter or distorted lens, and tried to live the parts I could see.

If, then, I try to let the message of both the entire Bible and the experiences I have had since I turned 31 affect me, I can see that my approach to the concept of "deserve" needed to be radically rethought.

There has to be a sense in which "Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath" (Eph 2:4) must be true. This is too fundamental to Christianity to be set aside. If human beings "deserve to be happy" without Jesus, then His own teachings about Himself don't make sense.

The thing is, human beings are completely contingent. We come into existence, and prior to that, there is not even a being to talk about "deserving" anything. We exist because the laws that govern the universe permit it, and the specific series of physical causes that operated on this particular rocky planet made it possible for the first humans to come to exist, and then human history played out in such a way that all our ancestors mated, bore offspring, and we were conceived. That existence is a gift, and God could have chosen things to come out differently. There are countless possible moral and conscious beings that could have come to exist and didn't and never will, and it makes no sense to say that they "deserve" it and aren't getting it. On what basis could one make that claim?

Thus, it seems to me that getting caught up in the idea that I deserve anything may be a complete waste of time.

Here I think it makes sense to point out the false dichotomy between "deserve" and "don't deserve." "Don't deserve" is not a single option. Usually we use "don't deserve" to mean "you're guilty and you should not receive some good because of your guilt." However, it makes equally good sense to say "don't deserve" in the scenario that there is no particular connection between your status and whether or not you should receive or encounter something. In that sense, even if you reject the Christian claims and believe something else, of course no one deserves anything from God.

I see I will need at least a Part 3 to try to tie this all back together...

CNAG is the Catholic-New Age Glossary... not backed by Webster's or any other authority. These meditations are here on That's So Second Millennium because they are an attempt to find maximum harmony between different strands of psychology and spirituality as they are being explored and lived out in Western culture today. It flows from a respect for people's reasons for doing what they do and thinking what they think.

CNAG: Deserve, part 1

CNAG: Deserve, part 1

February 13, 2019

Here's a point of tremendously sharp conflict. What do we do about this word "deserve"?

"You deserve to be happy / fulfilled / have meaning in your life / wake up every day excited..."

 - every contemporary self-help / New Age guru

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace [that] you have been saved."

 - this Paul of Tarsus guy (Eph 2:1-5), and not the only time he said something like this

I realize I have bitten off a lot right there. All I want to do at the moment is try to sum up decades of thrashing around in inner turmoil.

I tried to live with the idea that I was unworthy, that that was my fundamental relationship to God, for a very long time. It was not mostly intentional. I can read, and the New Testament says an awful lot of things about God's love and tender care for human beings and therefore for me specifically.

The problem is that I came to the Bible with even earlier experiences and filters. I use the word filter because it is widely used and recognized, but I actually don't like the image of a filter; I don't think it accurately describes the situation. A filter blocks some things and lets others pass. I don't think I had a filter; I had a very warped lens that shrank some things down to very tiny importance and expanded others enormously.

Given my existing lens or filter, then, passages like this got very distorted. I have purposely given you a nice long pull to show you how it worked. The lens shrank down to unnoticeable dimensions the past tense in the first few sentences. I read this and thought, "I do deserve wrath, pain, punishment." After all, I was very used to thinking that; in a horrible way, comfortable with it.

Then I went on to read the next sentence, and I could not really accept it. It seemed to contradict the thing I had just read, or really the conclusion I had just reinforced for myself. My place of rest for that sentence was more or less: "God is sort of offering mercy and forgiveness and happiness in heaven and whatnot, but He knows I don't deserve it, and He's making some sort of mistake, and He'll take it back... probably already has." The really insidious thing is that this was going on at the level of inarticulate emotion and gut reaction, and I could not see what I was doing to myself. I was always uncomfortable reading this passage and others like it; that was all I think I could have told you back then.

CNAG is the Catholic-New Age Glossary... not backed by Webster's or any other authority. These meditations are here on That's So Second Millennium because they are an attempt to find maximum harmony between different strands of psychology and spirituality as they are being explored and lived out in Western culture today. It flows from a respect for people's reasons for doing what they do and thinking what they think.

CNAG: Self-Love

CNAG: Self-Love

February 6, 2019

One of the most fraught issues in our "post-Christian" society is the complex of questions around the issue of how to regard oneself in a moral sense. I find myself thinking my way into a morass of terminology trying to make that more clear, so instead let me just cut to the specific dilemma I want to face today.

A great deal of your typical self-help literature and culture in modern America encourages you to love yourself. Jen Sincero ends every single chapter in You Are a Badass with the section header "Love Yourself" followed by some hopefully pithy reflection related to the chapter content.

The theologic/philosophic tradition I am heir to often defines love as "to will the good of another." Self-love can then be taken as almost a self-contradiction. If not, of course, it simply means to will my own good, and Christian thought can exhibit something of a split personality about this.

"Self-love" is very commonly used in Christian writings as a synonym for "selfishness." I'm not aware of much of anyone, aside from fictional characters meant to embody negative tropes, liable to use the word "selfish" in any but a negative context. We nearly all agree there is some such thing as "selfishness," and I think it is commonly understood to revolve around choosing good things, real or apparent, for ourselves at an undue cost to other people. What "undue cost" is then becomes an all-important thing to discern, along with whether a good we will for ourselves is real or not.

On the other hand, as much as Christianity depends on love of neighbor, there is an irreducible individualistic element in it. We will receive an individual reward or punishment for our own actions (loc. cit.!). We cannot save one another, although interestingly enough, St. Peter exhorts us to save ourselves. St. Paul even comments in passing, as if it were an obvious thing and in no contrast to either Christianity or plain common sense, that no one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it.

Ultimately, I think we all have to accept that self-love is a very critical term to understand in a properly nuanced way. The Big Red Book of the Twelve Step program called Adult Children of Alcoholics has an entire chapter on Self Love, which contains some important attempts to clarify these issues:

"We cannot address the issue of self-love without examining some of the confusion surrounding this important spiritual principle. On one side, there are those who argue that self-love always leads to the slippery slope of narcissism. In this line of thinking, self-love is cast as self-absorption. These critics usually cannot define self-love because they are too absorbed in saying what it is not. They liken self-love to Narcissus, the character of Greek mythology who “fell in love” with his own image. Transfixed by the pool, gazing at himself, Narcissus dies emotionally and physically due to his inability to connect with another person or God. This is not self-love. Narcissism and self-love often get linked together, but these two concepts could not be more different. One is self-absorption while the other is self-awareness. The person who practices true self-love cannot be narcissistic. The practicing narcissist can never know self-love.

"There are some sincere, religious folks who think that self-love diminishes the authority of God. They believe it elevates the human side of the person while lowering the Almighty. These well-meaning folks stand ready to correct any talk of self-love or self-worth. They fear that selfishness or unclean motives can rule the person and society. This attitude is akin to defining self-love wrongly as narcissism...

"We also have seen thoughtful people who confuse self-love and self-esteem. This confusion represents a segment of the self-esteem movement that seems to place too much emphasis on affirmations and positive self-talk while attempting to neutralize anything negative in a person’s life. Under this model of self-esteem, the person experiencing failure or challenge is encouraged to minimize any uncomfortable feelings associated with an event. This is all noble and kind, but a key element of building true self-esteem is left out in some cases...  Self-love as we understand it does not eliminate pain or the need to try harder in some circumstances."

Ultimately, in my own life, I rely on the results of my own inadvertent experimentation on myself. Very young, I internalized the idea that hating myself, focusing on how hateful my actions (which I could not separate from myself) were to God, was the way to self-discipline and virtue. As I later saw it summed up in a therapist's handout sheet, I thought I could "horsewhip myself into compliance." I failed, or at any rate, I stalled out at a very low plateau. No one would ever confuse the me of the past with Don Bosco or Mother Theresa. Of course, sadly, they still couldn't, but I have come a long way, and I have done so by means of the Second Step of the Twelve Steps, which is stated and later augmented in Ch. 5 of Alcoholics Anonymous: "Came to believe that a Higher Power could restore me to sanity... God could and would if He were sought." God only does this because He "wills the good of another"--that is, me, and it just fails to make sense to me that I should hate myself when God loves me.

More on this next week, when we tackle the word "deserve."

CNAG is the Catholic-New Age Glossary... not backed by Webster's or any other authority. These meditations are here on That's So Second Millennium because they are an attempt to find maximum harmony between different strands of psychology and spirituality as they are being explored and lived out in Western culture today. It flows from a respect for people's reasons for doing what they do and thinking what they think.

CNAG: Happiness

CNAG: Happiness

January 30, 2019

Cheating a bit today, since this issue goes far beyond the realm of merely New Age concepts into the way the words "happy" and "happiness" have mutated in definition over the centuries. It's not unlike the situation with the word "substance." There is all the difference in the world between Thomas Aquinas' definition of "substantio" or the "subst-" in "transubstantiation" and the idea of a "chemical substance." Likewise, Boethius' or Augustine's "felix" apparently is an almost complete stranger to the modern definition of "happy" as, most notably, a fairly shallow positive emotion.

The classical philosophical definition of happy does not even make the cut in Webster's nine-subpart definition listed above. For Plato, Aristotle, and centuries of philosophers down to the present, the words cognate to "felix" or "happy" were used to describe a human being living in the best way possible, with all the virtuous habits and use of reason necessary for that to happen.

So far was happiness from being one particular emotion, it was possible to debate whether you could know whether a man was truly happy until after he was dead, and all his choices had been made and their consequences tallied up.

I stumbled across a podcast by a local priest recently in which he gave a sweeping overview of Western history's idea of God or the gods and God's will. Interestingly, he titled it "On Happiness." In it, he comments that the classical and high medieval sense was that God's will was simply for human beings to reach this optimal state of happiness, and God's laws were means to that end. Bishop Barron likes to quote one of the ante-Nicene Fathers, Ignatius of Antioch perhaps, as saying, "The glory of God is man fully alive." This gave way, Fr. Hollowell comments, to the nominalist late medieval and early modern idea that God is so "free" that He cannot possibly have been somehow constrained to give us laws that were merely good for us; they had to be given for some inscrutable reason of divine randomness, confused with freedom.

So very many of us remaining religious folk, as Fr. Hollowell notes (quite insightfully, I think), are just going through the motions and doing this and abstaining from that just because "those are the rules," with little if any meaningful sense of why those rules actually benefit us. It's a major bridge to cross for many of us to return to that state of innocent and childlike trust that God means the best for us, despite all the pain that we go through: the pain that comes and finds us no matter what we do, and the pain we incur turning aside from things that are against the rules... or that, eventually, we really have come to learn are bad for us.

Many things are on the other side of that bridge. There is not an end to suffering, but there is a sense that both the suffering and everything else has a purpose, and that sense of purpose leads to more frequent experience of the feelings of joy, contentment... possibly even happiness.

CNAG is the Catholic-New Age Glossary... not backed by Webster's or any other authority. These meditations are here on That's So Second Millennium because they are an attempt to find maximum harmony between different strands of psychology and spirituality as they are being explored and lived out in Western culture today. It flows from a respect for people's reasons for doing what they do and thinking what they think.

CNAG: Frequency / Vibration

CNAG: Frequency / Vibration

January 23, 2019

Definitely the word that generates the most eye rolls per appearance. I have something of an allergy to physics metaphors that I didn't create myself; that's a character defect. There is also the chilling sense that I get that people like Jen Sincero and Danielle LaPorte and so forth in some sense think they're talking literally about the frequency of... something... vibrating: "enthusiasm vibrates at a higher frequency than..."

 

Unless and until you can show me the plot of frequency versus mood or attitude, tell me how many hertz are involved, and show me what is actually vibrating, I'mma go on considering it to be a metaphor.

 

Frequency is tied up with the law of attraction. Apparently you attract things by "raising your frequency" to match the thing, or type of thing, you want to have in your life. This raising of frequency is accomplished by setting expectations and taking external actions to reinforce them: changing how you dress, the decor on your walls, the way you eat, and the people you choose to spend time with (that last being the most difficult and the one where the fewest suggestions are given!).

 

Underneath the pseudo-scientific name of "frequency" I think there's a ton of insight lurking. It's so clear that different groups of people set very different expectations for one another. My neighbor down the road hangs out with a biker club on the weekends. That's his world. In that world it makes sense for him to spend several thousand dollars out of his near-minimum wages on a motorcycle. In my world that makes no sense whatever, and I think that Triumph motorcycle he has his eye on is surpassingly ugly. These are things that don't admit of right or wrong answers. I could choose (it would have been easier to start when I was 16) to go live with him in that world. I'd pick up the rules eventually. Maybe I'd enjoy it. I don't know, and never will.

 

Yet there are worlds I would have liked to explore, and maybe still will. In college I was very torn up about dancing. There is something so appealing to me about learning an "actual" dance, like swing or salsa or two-step, and that's true despite the fact that I am a complete outsider to that world. I made several efforts to cross over, but I was always so cripplingly self-conscious that I withdrew in defeat, not to make another attempt again for months. I still feel that longing to experience the music, move my body, cooperate with a partner in creating something elegant, no matter how ephemeral. I would have to "raise my frequency" and set some expectations in order to do that. I would have to center myself very squarely on the truth that it's acceptable for me to make mistakes and learn. Further, maybe I could put some Fred Astaire posters up, join a Meetup group, find a place and make myself go every Friday for three months or a year, and finally find myself on the other side. I think I'd enjoy it. I'd like to find out.

 

I see significant parallels between this concept of "frequency" and my attitude toward God. It was a shocking revelation when it finally hit me that I have been thinking about God's attitude toward me all wrong. I know that for myself I thought of God as permanently displeased with me, permanently expecting something of me despite the fact that I had no idea how to get it done, completely unwilling to help me, and permanently ready to condemn me for it. I realized that I thought of the whole Christian concept that nothing good happens without grace as hinging on whether a random and capricious God chooses to give you grace or not. I shudder when I think of all the Christian and Muslim groups that apparently think that believing God to be sovereign and free means that He is essentially random and unpredictable.

 

My mind's eye trails off over a vista of entire societies with crippling father issues...

 

In any case, that kind of voluntarism (if I may so use the term) I have concluded is inimical to a faith that works. A faith that works, I think, abides by this augmented version of the Second Step:

 

"Came to believe that a Power greater than myself could restore me to sanity, and would if He were sought."

 

Grace is not about whether God is willing to give it. He is. He has chosen to be consistent, if you will, has promised, and who are we to gainsay that promise? The choice is on my side, whether to "raise my frequency" and step out into the fog and trust that the grace I need will come, and that whatever failure I experience when I try to do the next right thing I see is just part of the plan and altogether acceptable to a loving God.

CNAG is the Catholic-New Age Glossary... not backed by Webster's or any other authority. These meditations are here on That's So Second Millennium because they are an attempt to find maximum harmony between different strands of psychology and spirituality as they are being explored and lived out in Western culture today. It flows from a respect for people's reasons for doing what they do and thinking what they think.

CNAG: Law of Attraction

CNAG: Law of Attraction

January 11, 2019

Let's do a really scary one.

Law of Attraction. So far as I can tell, this is a very, ummm, "results-oriented" take on the virtues of faith and hope. Jen Sincero circles around this a fair bit, not always calling it by that name. It involves picturing some situation, way of life, person, or thing that you really want in really vivid detail, surrounding yourself with pictures and other reminders of it, dressing and acting and talking as if it were already present and the way you want yourself to look and feel in that situation, and trusting that "Source Energy" or "the Universe" will "start pulling it in."

Another one of Jen's kind of terrifying phrases that really stuck in my head was "having a craft day with God." To be honest, I took it seriously enough that the other day I mashed it up with a suggestion from this little booklet on prayers and devotion to St. Joseph that I did the following:

  • I found a holy card image of the boy Jesus and Joseph doing some carpentry (looking a lot more like a happy father and son team than anything in MY personal experience).
  • I attached a list of five things I want to change about my life down the right side:
    • Victory over addictive habits
    • Greater sense of closeness to God
    • Figuring out more what this "love" business is and actually doing some of it
    • Focus, diligence, and peace in using my gifts
    • Freedom to love instead of codependency
  • I made this my desktop and laptop wallpaper.

Anecdotal evidence and all, but I'll let you know how it goes...

There are at least four possibilities here, which sound somewhat mutually exclusive, although as is usually the case in this marvelously intricate reality we inhabit, they really aren't.

1: This is hokum. The people who believe in the Law of Attraction are just the lucky ones. Random processes brought them enough of what they wanted, their confirmation bias kicked in, and now they trumpet their good fortune as if they actually did anything to cause it.

2: This is dressing up a very reasonable psychological effect as New Age mumbo-jumbo. If you focus yourself enough on something, and also think positive instead of looking for ways to self-sabotage, you'll capitalize on the actual opportunities that come up instead of tuning them out and making sure that the ones you see don't help you.

3: Sometimes this is actually black magic. There are demonic forces quite happy to divert you from God by showering you with enough wealth, sexual pleasure, power, or what have you and doing it in such a way that you can fool yourself into thinking that these things are being provided for you by a benevolent spirit.

Cathy Heller (whom by now I love dearly) and Jen Sincero have said a lot about money not being the root of all evil and having a negative set of attitudes about money. A great deal of what they say has to be true; I absolutely believe there is a sort of "starving artist complex" that keeps people from asking a reasonable fee or wage for what they do, and keeps them in crappy situations making those crappy wages, and that, further, this attitude is due in large part to a post-Christian, post-Marxist vague sense of the ickiness of wealth.

So far as I know, even the New Testament does not say "money is the root of all evil."

It does, however, say "the love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Timothy 6:10; see also Hebrews 13:5, and just basically listen to how this Jesus guy EVER talks about wealthy people in his parables).

4: Often this is actually more or less the case. Although obviously you run into difficulties believing that a good God will give you things that are actually bad for you, the aforementioned sort of hang-ups keep a lot of people from asking for the things that they actually legitimately want, things that Jesus of Nazareth actively assured us that his Father wants very much to give us.

Lord knows that I, personally, concluded as a boy that basically everything I wanted and longed for in life was something that God wanted me not to have. I can testify that that attitude got me exactly nowhere, certainly nowhere that involved anything I would recognize as virtue or holiness or loving people or helping them in any useful sort of way. I have been a miserable failure at a lot of things, probably precisely because I have been just straight miserable and convinced that every desire I ever had was evil.

I'm committing myself to experimenting with a very different approach for the other half of my life.

CNAG is the Catholic-New Age Glossary... not backed by Webster's or any other authority. These meditations are here on That's So Second Millennium because they are an attempt to find maximum harmony between different strands of psychology and spirituality as they are being explored and lived out in Western culture today. It flows from a respect for people's reasons for doing what they do and thinking what they think.

CNAG: Source Energy

CNAG: Source Energy

January 5, 2019

Source Energy. Also, more or less equivalently, Jen Sincero will say "the Universe" with or without capitals. Source Energy / the Universe are of course terms for God; see also Higher Power in Twelve Step circles.

That's rather interesting, isn't it... why do contemporary spiritual movements feel such a desire to get away from the word God? I'd argue that a lot of it is that the bulk of Christians have lost sight of the great insights of the first millennium and a half of Christian thought. Christianity had to spring from Judaism. Judaism is founded on faith in a God that transcends any visible form. Eventually Greek philosophy caught up with this idea, and of course Indian, Chinese, and other sages had various versions of this insight as well. Christianity is founded on this idea of a completely transcendent God, and the theologians from the first to fifteenth centuries elaborated possible understandings of this transcendent God, built on both the record of Scripture and the thinking of philosophers.

This approach had its problems and could be over-intellectualized, but the reaction was worse. A competition between Protestants and Catholics to be more literal in their treatment of the Bible erupted in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and we are still living with the consequences. If you're not careful, you can forget that God is transcendent. If you've forgotten philosophy and hang your life on the double handful of Scripture passages that serve as proof texts for your subsect, it's easy to think of God as a pagan god: an old man in a chair in the clouds somewhere, probably grumpy and looking for an excuse to pin you with a lightning bolt.

That's not the Christian God. That's not the Catholic God. That God is Being Itself, present full force at every point in spacetime, completely consistent in the way It Thinks about and Loves Its creations.

That's what makes the Incarnation that we are still celebrating so crazy, of course; any pagan god could have a son, but for Being Itself to have a Son is quite another thing.

Of course, if you've learned any quantum physics at all, clearly the Universe or its Creator are pretty crazy by our lights anyway...

CNAG is the Catholic-New Age Glossary... not backed by Webster's or any other authority. These meditations are here on That's So Second Millennium because they are an attempt to find maximum harmony between different strands of psychology and spirituality as they are being explored and lived out in Western culture today. It flows from a respect for people's reasons for doing what they do and thinking what they think.