I'm reading Thomas Cahill's "Mysteries of the Middle Ages," and in doing so, it strikes me how absolutely secular understandings of the religious impulse fail.
The secular and the religious are divided by two completely different levels of understanding, the natural and the spiritual. Just as the outer is always formed by the emanation of the inner, the natural is always formed by the emanation of the spiritual; yet secular thinking denies this, and would have it that the natural emanates from itself. In this way, life begat itself by accident, and all things are random. Even the arising of the natural laws we see, it is claimed, are random events which could have been different.
In this world of atomistic materialism and accidental relativism, no true higher order can be discerned. Everything is equal, and equally meaningless, in the end.
This kind of understanding satisfies some narrow-minded men who have filled themselves with facts. It is not of the soul, but the body; and as we all know, that which is of the body dies, whereas that which is of the soul is eternal. This is why the ancient traditions assigned the qualities of meaning and order an eternal nature; they rise above what we know, forming it in the essence of their higher nature. They then unfold into this universe as an expression of the higher principles themselves.
We see this all around us, and it seems staggering to imagine that there are persons of so little imagination they think this has not happened. Yet there they are; and they perversely believe in some strange magic whereby things exist of themselves, rather than as expressions of a higher nature. They claim to have the highest kind of critical mind; yet their critique always extends to others, and never themselves. If they had the kind of critical mind which Gurdjieff referred to in his aphorisms, they would at once see how impossible their positions are.
Secular thinking begins with the premise that there is nothing but itself; in this way, it is, essentially, selfish. It denies the other; it denies God. And it believes that God and spirituality can be defined through its own methods and substance, and no other way. It does not admit of anything but itself; and in this way, it begins by rejecting anything that does not resemble itself.
The many philosophical weaknesses of this position do not trouble secular thinkers and materialists; since they are fundamentally cut off from the spiritual of unable to instinctively sensitive — an action that ought to be natural in all human beings — they have no ability to understand who they are, where they come from, or where what they espouse is going to.