Modern humanity has but built for itself a technological cage.
Through cultivating and putting faith in the teaching that there is nothing greater than the base material order and the power of “scientific” reason, modernity has enslaved itself in the realm of limit and forged itself a dreary cage. Modern man believes wholeheartedly that since he has described the mechanistic aspects of the natural world, there is no deeper meaning to it. The “how” has been elevated to the “why.” Yet, ancient humanity was always more interested in the “why” of things, the “how” being understood for what it is, a lesser order.
Ever seeking his freedom modern man gropes for “spirituality,” which never is able to surpass his materialistic confines. Spirituality itself becomes mechanized. Indeed a better word would simply be “materiality,” for spirituality in its purer sense eludes materialized man.
(Take for example the sterile interiors of most modern religious buildings, such as Protestantism, which is the product of the early period of modern Western European history. Its ethos bespeaks of the spiritual poverty of modernity: sterile buildings devoid of all higher symbolism and beauty; strictly utilitarian in purpose.)
We have impoverished ourselves on every level, and yet, because we are ever the slaves to our own creations (technology) we believe ourselves to be freer than any before us! We are so very brilliant at advancing the science of our own enslavement. (Technology is not de facto evil, it is the intent and use of it that makes it such. Nonetheless, our modern obsessions with materialized technology are evidence of humanity’s dispersion into the lowest principles and the encasing of our race in the most narrow of views. The material order is good and has its proper place, but that place has, so to speak, been inverted in modernity.)
At every turn the faculties which in normal times allowed humanity to pass beyond the confines of the sensible world are stunted and stifled, that is the spiritual faculties. A sleepy lulu-a-bye hums softly, almost imperceptibly, in the background: there is nothing beyond the material. Eat, drink, be merry, for tomorrow you die; if there is an afterlife then it is but warm fuzzy feelings of amorphous light not to be taken too seriously.
It may “be asked how so complete and so general an atrophy of certain faculties has actually come about,” inquires the philosopher Rene Guenon. “In order that it might take place, man had, first of all, to be induced to turn all his attention exclusively to the sensible world.” A work which is necessary and “consistent for the ‘manufacturing’ of the present world.”
Humanity has closed the world in on itself, and it is ever so small.
Rather than expand, as boasts modernity, the boundaries of the known world, we have enclosed ourselves in the most limited space. Guenon further observes, “Never have those boundaries been so close as they are in the conceptions admitted by the profane self-styled science, never have either world or man been so shrunken, to the point of their being reduced to mere corporeal entities, deprived, by hypothesis, of the smallest possibility of communication with any other order of reality!”
The system of modernity is a vaccination against higher principles. The more it is embraced the more darkness floods the soul and blinds it to light. But the fearful thing is that modern man now perceives his darkness to be light, much as the poor victims of Plato’s cave. The more humanity submerges in its materialization the more it is self-inhibited from attaining its true purpose, and the more religious becomes its adherence to, and promotion of, its unnatural state.
“The repository of traditional knowledge veils itself and shuts itself in ever more strictly before the invasion of the modern spirit” observes Guenon.
The more our race becomes governed by mundane (mundanus) sensuality and vanity the more the expansive realm of eternity is closed to us.
The more we become of this fallen world the more the truth eludes us. For modernity, the sad “reality” of its own devising is, there is no Truth; thus it can never be found by moderns. Not because such an assertion is factual, but because modernity has imposed a self-limitation on its own quest for truth. It will never find that which it has convinced itself does not exist. It will never operate beyond its self-made confines. Moreover, it will never confess contrary to its own dogma: truth is relative and the spiritual life a fancy.
Are we then, of the modern age, doomed to this materialized existence? No. Although we may need to struggle all the more to free ourselves from it. And we must be ready to endure mockery from those who take shadows to be reality. But the person who has only glimpsed the light will no longer desire to dwell in the dark realms of materialized modernity.
We must “understand that in the midst of lawlessness, our job is to defend truth, love, and the Heavenly Law. This is the Gospel. This is the letter from heaven, written by the Lord for us. This is the source of grace. This is the way to the Kingdom of Heaven,” testifies Fr. Valentine Biryukov.
As Christians, specifically, those who hold to the ancient paths, we must hold faithfully to the true order of existence, to the “why” of our earthly sojourn, which leads to the true “how” of existence. Moreover, Orthodoxy in its essence is a testimony of eternal Truth. It calls humanity to leave the confines of materialism; in the Church, time and space expand to encompass every reality. Here the material takes on its true meaning in light of the everlasting.