Curbing our animal impulses to be selfish, greedy, short-sighted, and aggressive is certainly a challenge we have to meet if we’re to survive in the long-term. I see Christianity, on the whole, as having surrendered to those impulses in its bid for institutional longevity. Christianity has been Americanized in the US; Americans haven’t been Christianized. Kierkegaard made the essential point here about the existential, inward aspect of spirituality which is marginalized in Christendom, in the secularized Christian power structure.

This is to say there’s an underlying problem, which I try to focus on. I came at this partly through Leo Strauss’s discussion of the exoteric and the esoteric. The question is whether philosophy, enlightenment, spirituality, existential authenticity or depth of character—call it what you will—is fit only for a minority, for a disempowered subculture, and whether the majority is bound to be comparatively unreflective, unenlightened, vulgar, and personally inauthentic (duped and deluded).

Conceivably, education and enculturation could be improved, but realistically, there’s a major problem here: if the fundamental truths are unappetizing, we’ll naturally recoil from them. Those who accept the harsh existential truths are going to be ostracized, because they’ll reject the mainstream myths that sustain the majority’s happiness. Happiness may require delusions, whereas those with philosophical temperaments are likely to be wistful and melancholic.

Christianity was originally radical and antisocial, but the early Christians sold out to the Roman Empire. Jesus’s (tail-end) Axial Age radicalism was undermined by the failure of early Christian prophecy, so Christians tasked themselves with compromising their spiritual principles to create a long-lasting Christian empire. Once again, then, those who are inwardly Christian or who are opposed to the anti-spiritual aspect of mainstream society have to go underground; they have to fight against the tide, and the tide includes Christendom, Christian orthodoxy and institutions that care more about earthly power than radical theology or spiritual change in society.

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