My overall argument thus far has been that the West is entrenched in a ‘meaning crisis’ and that the institutional Church is in an ‘authority crisis’ which has altogether moved it into what I’ve called its ‘post-authority epoch.’ Consequently, the only institution that I believe can adequately respond to the meaning crisis is in no condition to do so.
Can Hermetic Magic Rescue the Church? Part III: The Magi Return, by Sebastian Morello
My interest in this three-part series by Morello is summarized in this paragraph from his part three. I didn’t come at it because he was writing about hermeticism. I came at it because Western man has lost meaning, and having lost meaning, he has lost everything; I came at it because I also concluded that it could only be through the Church that meaning (and liberty) can be restored.
I’ve suggested that this double crisis also represents two sides of the same problem: the slow bewitchment of the Western mind by the spell of the Enlightenment.
We are nothing but the result of randoms atoms smashing together randomly. A few generations of such a belief and here we are. If it is all random, it is all meaningless.
Having divorced God from the individual and from reason, we thought we would find liberty – the liberty to pursue our purpose, a purpose as each individual defined it. But a self-defined purpose is man created in his own image.
There is no liberty or meaning in this – to live in a manner other than that for which man was created. One would not describe a lion “a lion” if it acted in ways other than how a lion was purposed to act; one would not consider that such a lion was living in liberty.
In this part three, Morello will expand on what he means by hermeticism a bit more:
Typically, Christians are uneasy at any mention of Hermeticism or esotericism. This is understandable, for such terms have come to mean anything that is not modern mainstream Christian spirituality.
Instead of defining it by what it is not, Morello offers a simple definition of what it is – at least in his framework:
What I mean by ‘Hermetic’ is a set of practices and disciplines of mind, will, and imagination, that habituate in the practitioner a vision of the world that acknowledges it as God’s Icon.
When considered this way, I find many individuals and traditions that are circling the same field – offering proposed solutions to the same problem. For example, there is a newfound embrace of more liturgical Christian worship – in the Eastern Orthodox Church and in the Latin Mass, both signs that a strictly and singularly propositional (rational) faith does not incorporate all of man and all of God.
There are discussions by individuals ranging as far and wide as Jonathan Pageau and John Vervaeke – one an Eastern Orthodox Christian and the other a cognitive scientist – both offering a path for the search of meaning.
I have written about the idea that living in accord with the natural law ethic will move man toward restored meaning (and, by the way, liberty). All of these discussions are after the same thing – restoring meaning to lives that are devoid of meaning.
…it is the vision we likely have to recover if we’re to break the spell that established modern man, who is a disintegrated, centaurial creature due to his acceptance of the rationalist paradigm and his retreat from grace.
Morello then expands on his view of hermeticism – it isn’t gnostic as Gnosticism is traditionally understood; however, it is after deeper meaning and understanding. I will just get to the punch-line:
Let us come, then, to the question in this three-part essay’s title: Can Hermetic Magic Rescue the Church? I must conclude with a qualified no. Hermeticism cannot rescue the Church. The Church has a Saviour, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone can rescue the Church, and so He will, for the Church must continue until the conclusion of the world.
The rescue, through Christ, is sacramental transformation, and breaking away from the spell of the Enlightened man. For this, Morello offers Hermes Trismegistus as a possible path.
I am working on another path; I want to go to the source. I have mentioned before that I have decided to spend some focused time on the Sermon on the Mount. The Church does have a savior, and that Savior is Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ gave us an extended Sermon regarding how we should live.
I remember once Paul VanderKlay, when commenting on the Sermon on the Mount, said something like “there is nothing about natural law here.” And I commented: “Wrong, wrong, wrong.” The starting point for deriving natural law ethics is to understand man’s purpose, his telos. Is there a better way to understand this, is there a better teacher to explain this, than through Jesus Christ and this sermon?
It seems to me a good place to focus. I will write more on this soon.