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Chasing The Phantom.



We’re all blue from projection tubes...

Modern man is willing not only to trade this divine calling for enslavement to the world. Worse yet, he is willing to trade it for enslavement to a simulated world within the world.


True reality and true humanity are not found in armchair luxury, which leads to inactivity. Nor in the gain of wealth, which leads to want of more. Nor in politicians’ lawless lawmaking, which leads to indoctrination. Nor in sensual pleasure, which leads to brokenness; rather, true reality and true humanity are found in rejecting today’s materialism and accepting one’s divine calling as a being fashioned in the likeness of Christ.


We’re all blue from projection tubes. / We’re all blue from projection tubes. / This is the static age we live in. / Our eyes crisscross, hold, and gaze.  –The Misfits, “Static Age”

In observing the pathology of modern man, one must come to the conclusion that the disease from which he suffers has thrust him into a state of torpor, darkness, and delusion. Terminally unwell but forever in search of progress, he succumbs to vanities that deluge and swallow him: He has truly lost himself in the sea of vague definitions and vast irrelevance characterizing his age. He was born without purpose; he has fallen headlong into a blackness ironically born from light, i.e. the glow of monitors, laptops, mobile devices, and so on.


He is troubled if for a second he unplugs from the mainframe, whose myriad entertainments and talking heads benumb him courtesy of this “evolved” age. Though living, he lives curiously: He is truly dead but thinks himself alive, oftentimes—pathetically—thinking he lives with profound purpose and intensity. These distractions and dislocations are evidence of modern man’s deadness of soul. This deadness is described aptly by a great eleventh-century saint and mystic, who writes the following:

The dead among themselves can neither see one another nor complain to each other. Those who live groan in seeing them. For they behold a strange wonder: men stricken with death who live, yea who walk, blind men who think they see, and truly deaf who imagine they hear. They live, see, and hear as animals do; they think like the insane in the unconscious consciousness, in their cadaverous life, for it is possible to live without living, to see without seeing, and to hear without hearing. –St. Symeon the New Theologian (11th c.)

Thinking he is living in freedom, he is in chains; thinking he is progressing, he is regressing; thinking he is near to his vision, he is blinded; thinking he is inclusive, he is exclusionary of “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He is dead yet insane enough to think he lives truly, fittingly, wisely. Preferring reflections on screens to reflections on truth, he calls on fashionable and unthinking people to help him engineer an even greater age of delusion and disorientation. He, as Fr. Seraphim Rose says,

...retreat[s] into his mind, away from reality, into the prison of his own illusions.

He promises a new man, new civilizations, and new actualities visible only on panes of glass illumined by lithium-ion batteries. He promises virtual reality, surreality, unreality, something neither real nor of any virtue. In it, the virtuous is given no place, and the virtual—a place with no reality—is made man’s new home.


Changing “the truth of God into a lie” and preferring literally utopia (from the Greek for “no place”), modern man benights his vision with woeful ignorance (Romans 1:25). He dons spectacles that promise to assuage and somehow justify his delusions. St. Maximus the Confessor (6th–7th c.) says, “[w]hat health and illness are to the body…knowledge and ignorance are to the soul,” and truly, if ignorance harms the soul as illness does the body, in what dreadful ignorance does modern man find himself?! Ignoring the world within (deeming his mind no more than the product of organs and blood) and the world behind the visible world (deeming it invisible and thus nonexistent), he ironically reaches for what is truly depthless and nonexistent: images dancing on a glass that is only microns in thickness. 


Like the beguiled prisoner in Plato’s Cave, modern man stares dumbfounded at movement without meaning. Sensing not his larger surroundings and having lost his peripheral vision, he gazes upon the temporal, fleeting world (or worse, the parade of simulacra found within the fleeting world) as if it were the sole criterion of being. He figures that what stretches across his eyes—not what lay behind his eyes or may be seen in the eyes of others—must be the fullness of reality. He opens his eyes to a fantasy world and closes his eyes to the divine, immortal world, rendered imperceptible by his sensuality. He invests fully in sensation and neglects his unseen (yet no less real) spiritual composition, electing to live in a truly chaotic and schizophrenic state. Thus, man runs from phantom to phantom, convinced each ghost will lead him closer to reality. “Just as those who are in darkness are unaware of the nature of things,” says St. John Chrysostom (4th c.), “so too do those who live in sin  [fail to] distinguish between things; they run towards shadows as towards reality.” 


True reality and true humanity are not found in armchair luxury, which leads to inactivity; nor in the gain of wealth, which leads to want of more; nor in politicians’ lawless lawmaking, which leads to indoctrination; nor in sensual pleasure, which leads to brokenness; rather, true reality and true humanity are found in rejecting today’s materialism and accepting one’s divine calling as a being fashioned in the likeness of Christ. If men continue to void themselves “of the thought of God,” they will “become forever deprived of being,” to quote St. Athanasius (3rd c.). He who rejects God rejects himself and accepts a terrible nothingness unbecoming of his station, as man was created specifically for a divine purpose, i.e. to dwell with God and become like Him.


Now, modern man is willing not only to trade this divine calling for enslavement to the world. Worse yet, he is willing to trade it for enslavement to a simulated world within the world.

To cure his great madness, modern man must reject this world and the passions of the flesh, which tie him to it. He must remove his blindfold, readjust his eyes in spiritual discipline, and scorn what previously “entertained” him while asleep. Assessing man’s capacity for desire, St. Maximus the Confessor writes, “the desiderative power, pure of the passion of self-love, must direct all its desire to God alone.”  The energy we use to pursue the vain, material things that assure our undoing must be redirected and aimed solely at Christ the God-Man. Resurrection lies in rebellion, not in the vain rebellion to which many have turned in pursuit of lying promises but in a just rebellion against the world and its temptations.


The last true rebellion is a rebellion against that which obscures or disfigures one’s true nature, whose godliness may only be uncovered by shedding the shameful fantasies of the modern world and the virtual reality it offers.

Reality—in its capaciousness as defined by the Church and her theanthropic saints—was never meant to be experienced virtually; the very term “virtual reality” denotes a remoteness and removal from reality per se. May God forbid it!


Man’s escape is found not in escapism but in this rebellion: to be dead to the world and alive to God.


-The Editors

Excerpted from the exceptional work being done at:

 

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