10. CHRISTIANITY AND RATIONALIST
THOUGHT

 

Most of the changes in religious thought flow from the outside inwards; that is, people's unproven thoughts become superstitious beliefs, and this results in divisions in which 'The Church' slowly became 'the churches'.

The difficulty is that when all these different 'truths' cannot agree, In the times when the greatest number of saints of the early Church were living on earth, what we now call Inner Christianity could only be understood by grasping it in both philosophical and religious terms.  Today, intellectually, that ˜time of saints' appears to many of us to be no more than a naïve cultural milieu.

Before the time of the Emperor Constantine, when monasticism and Byzantine culture interacted in a form that resulted from merging the intelligent but highly-intellectual Greek civilization with the Christian faith, which had been nurtured in the bosom of Hebrew religious thought for several centuries, this combination integrated to form a unified system of knowledge combining the different qualities of philosophy, science, including psychology, and theology ... a combination solidly based on a proven system of spiritual practice whose results were at one time clear to a large proportion of the population.

This ancient Inner Tradition survives on a small scale in forms such as ˜Hesychasm', an ˜inner teaching' that concerns the inner nature of the universe and the human.  The aim of this Christian tradition was salvation through illumination, which was then defined as the result and final fulfilment of what we now call Theosis: Charismatic Deification.  As Christianity spread to the West, the teaching of Theosis was partially lost through accidents of history, and those elements were replaced by a re-awakened version of pre-Christian Hellenistic thought which re-introduced to the Church elements previously eliminated from it, particularly forms of rationalist and humanist thought.

One result of the loss of the hesychastic teaching of Theosis was the arising of new doctrines, often supported by the highest authorities: archbishops, kings and emperors.  These new doctrines often differed from those of the early saints, although it was generally found possible to support them from one or other of the ever-growing number of varied translations of the Christian scriptures.

Individuals with a Western mind-set need to approach this by also considering certain other questions. One is the need to understand through this:

- That the teaching about Theosis in early Church thought referred to a growth process possible within the psyche of every normal and healthy human being.

- That the concept of Theosis makes sense only against a correct understanding of traditional early Christian truths about the world and ourselves.

- That these truths can only be correctly understood through experience gained in carrying out the traditional disciplines that at one time were taught alongside those Christian truths. Only this will give us something like the view held by the early Christians.

- That this process takes us beyond the personal qualities previously possessed by us as individuals, although the additional qualities are not or should not be sensed as personal possessions, but as charisms or gifts.

- That these gifts not only bring new experiencing to the individual, but slowly modify our behavior in a complete transformation of character.

- That the process referred to aims at and can lead to a state of sanctity or salvation. In this state, the presence of the divine charisms becomes permanent in the individual.

As a result of this situation, Praxis Institute has a clearly defined intention to do all it can to dissipate the deep misunderstanding around the New Testament terms represented in Greek by the words ˜gnosis' and its derivative, ˜gnostic', and so restore to its key place in Christian thought its ancient conception of a true spiritual knowledge as the basis of a genuine and practicable inner science.