We are up against one very massive barrier in American society in particular, and it’s a major problem within the broader Western world at large. A critical element in Western thinking is to deny anything above the intellect, to deny that there can be anything above it. In the context of Western Civilization, nobody is going to take us seriously when we talk about the heart-led way.
You would think their brains have died, been cooked and pickled, no longer able to grow. Most of the time you can’t even discuss it without losing them. Even among fervent American Christians, there is a weird psychological trick that happens when you say, “You gotta have faith.” Most serious believers get that part about not trusting their feeble intellects, but then, because there is no place for heart-led conviction, “have faith” means spook-ifying the whole thing. There’s no space above the intellect, so the issue is thrust into spooky territory that equates to superstition.
They can sense Christ calling, and they can feel the pull of conviction, but their minds can’t process how to proceed because the mind has no concept of authority without the reflexive insistence on logical proof. So we have this vast library of Christian self-help books that build a psychology of believing things out of sheer discipline. They try to create something that doesn’t exist, cannot exist because it relies on the fallen intellect. They remain sensitive to the accusation that faith is not reasonable. They seek to defend faith on the grounds of reason, and it’s just not there.
It’s not there as long as they allow non-Christian Westerners to exclude a vast wealth of non-Western scholarship. As soon as you go there, most Western Christians balk. They’ve had it so deeply drummed into their heads that this is barbarism, stepping down from the lofty heights of firm scholarship. They can’t seem to break the mental association that if something isn’t resting on reason, it can only be resting on sentiment and emotion. The word “mysticism” takes on the connotation of lacking the solid ground of reason.
And they keep reading this back into the Bible. They don’t understand how the ancient Hebrew intellectual culture would reject the Western bias toward reason. If it were possible to interview people like Abraham in English, he would struggle to work past the intellectual barriers inherent in the language due to closed definitions. In his ancient world, Abraham would have considered a whole separate category of “reason” that rests on a faculty above the intellect, that is not merely sentiment.
And Abraham would rely on parable to discuss these higher things. Parable is not mere metaphor; it’s more than a figure of speech. It’s an intellectual approximation, an approach to higher truth that indicates something without neat intellectual boundaries. The whole point of parable — parabolic language — is to signal to the brain to refer back to that higher faculty, to allow truth which it cannot itself handle directly.
This brings us back to that fancy word “epistemology.” It’s a word that arose in ancient Greece from the philosophy of folks like Aristotle and Plato. It asks a double-pronged question: (1) What can we claim to know as truth (2) such that we can act on it? What is valid knowledge; what’s real? He was aware of mysticism — it was all around him. He was forging a novel approach by denying mysticism as a valid source of “knowing.” It was he who cast all revelation and faith down into the pit of mere sentiment. In his arrogant trust of intellect, he created a false god of reason.
His new deity was imaginary; he made the mistake of thinking it could be infallible. He imagined that the mind could be separated from emotion and sentiment. This is utterly false. Human emotion is a part of the intellect. This is why people can observe the same phenomena, presume that it can be objectified, and still come up with different evaluations. It’s why debate itself even exists. No two of us will have the exact same desires attached to our human existence in terms of objective outcome, because no two of us can ever quite agree on what is good and right about something, since it affects us differently. In other words, we each have an instinct to preserve our personal interest, and we deceive ourselves into imagining that our personal desires are the most reasonable option. You cannot have intellect that isn’t tinged by sentiment.
But you can have the voice of faith coming down into your mind from the heart, a higher faculty that deals in things the mind cannot handle. This is a wholly different epistemology; it is a valid approach that everyone prior to Plato and Aristotle understood and trusted. This is the thing that will remain a barrier every time you seek to engage anyone who stands in Western epistemology. Even when you talk to Christians about faith, something inside of their heads diverts the nature of the discussion into false territory. The translation is largely subconscious and reflexive.
If we are going to continue building this religion of Radix Fidem, we will have to gather a body of scholarship that is non-Western. We need a wholly different psychology that includes mysticism as, not just valid, but more valid than reason. Honestly folks, I’ve been looking for this and haven’t found much out there. That means that we have to create our own parallel civilization, no small task. This will be our gift to future generations of believers whose hearts are awakened and called by God. This is His work in us.