On Intense Emotionalism, Intellectualism and The Golden Mean of Aristotle   Leave a comment


Today I want to talk about the conflict present in Our Society today as it relates to our express of Religion in the West. The purpose of this article is to show how falling to the temptation of expressing Religion in an “either or” fashion will undo what Religion is designed to do. On one hand the religious part of our society seeks to express God in a Highly Rationalized manner, or what I like to “Intellectualized” manner. However on the other hand the religious part of our society seeks to express God in a Highly Emotional manner, by this I mean coming together in order of trying to create or gain an ecstatic experience then anything else. The presence of these two aspects are important, and I will explain them in the same manner that Aristotle explained how virtue is achieved by a balance between lack and excess.

Intense Emotionalism

So to begin let us discuss how a predominant focus on achieving intense emotionalism is dangerous and define what what I mean by “intense emotionalism” as well. As I said earlier, I believe intense emotionalism is a predominant focus on achieving “a spiritual experience” when said spiritual community comes together, the community as a whole is comes together not merely to experience God but rather to experience some kind of ecstatic experience that one could tie to a spiritual significance to it. In the more popularized Christian denominations, one might claim that having convulsions on the floor is, “A Sign of the Holy Spirit in [said person]!” However, I fear that there is a danger to such a focus especially at the communal level. I especially fear that “spirit” making them act in these ways is anything but Holy, rather it is something more human if not straight forwardly demonic.

We may think that, we are humans and as such we are told to worship God with our whole being this includes our emotional being. To this conclusion alone, I am not in quarrel. When I was growing up as a child who went to Church every Sunday Morning I felt very disconnected and confused by the whole motion of the Roman Catholic Mass, to me it was “boring” and uninvolved. In a word I was there in body but my mind and heart felt far from it all. This is a manifestation of one extreme of the scale to measure the emotional involvement necessary in order to really take part in Mass/Liturgy, the other extreme however is Intense Emotionalism, the belief that: “If it does not satisfy me Emotionally, if I do not feel good, then I must reject it because it is bad.” Such a line of thinking is dangerous, not because God does not want you to feel good, but because our typical understandings of “feeling good” are based around lower emotional movements and mere spiritual hedonism.

The proper place for emotions and their expression comes therefore, when someone in Mass/Liturgy is able to learn and understand the True Faith. By learning and understanding the True Faith one is able to better appreciate why they come to these weekly and holiday meetings and take part in the Mass/Liturgy with the whole of their being. But to think that the Mass/Liturgy is here to serve as our “feel good” drug is absolutely foolish and presumptuous, the Mass/Liturgy is here to serve our Spiritual Wellbeing and we may not always feel emotionally satisfied per se when our Spirit is satisfied.

The great correction we need then, is to remind ourselves that, just because we do not like how something feels it does not necessarily mean that it is bad. Rather it can serve a good to our Psycho-spiritual wellbeing. Therefore I conclude this particular aspect of the discussion by reminding the reader of Christ’s Beatitude: “Blessed Are Those Who Mourn, For They Shall Be Comforted” (Matthew 5:4) But what does this mean? By mourning it was understood by St. Leo the Great as,

“Not the same as the affliction of this world: nor do those laments which are poured out in the sorrowing’s of the whole human race make any one blessed. The reason for holy groaning’s, the cause of blessed tears, is very different. Religious grief mourns sin either that of others’ or one’s own: nor does it mourn for that which is wrought by God’s justice, but it laments over that which is committed by man’s iniquity, where he that does wrong is more to be deplored than he who suffers it, because the unjust man’s wrongdoing plunges him into punishment, but the just man’s endurance leads him on to glory.” – Sermon 95

Motives of mourning are not to be drawn from the miseries of a life of poverty, abjection, and subjection, which are the very blessings of the First Beatitude, but rather from those miseries from which the pious man is suffering in himself and in others, and most of all the tremendous might of evil throughout the world. To such mourners the Lord Jesus carries the comfort of the heavenly kingdom, “the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25) foretold by the prophets, and especially by the Book of Consolation of Isaias (11-16). Even the later Jews knew the Messiah by the name of Menahhem, Consoler. St. Gregory describes another reason to mourn: the more one ascends in meditation of Divine Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, and then realize the poverty of human nature, man can only be left in sorrow. When one contemplates that we were made in the image and likeness of God and lived in Paradise, the Garden of Eden, and compare that to our present state after the Fall, one can only mourn our present condition. But the sentence continues that they shall be comforted, by the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, and hopefully one day in the Kingdom of Heaven. Mourning in this context is called a blessing, because mourning our fallen nature creates in us a desire to improve ourselves and to do what is right!

Intense Intellectualism

However, having discussed what I mean by a desire to have an intense emotional focus in the Christian Community, it is now important to understand what I mean by also having a desire to intensely intellectualize over Religious Matters. A High Focus on Rationalization within the Christian Community makes things bland and linear. As I had said previously, I felt disconnect from what was going on during the Mass as a child growing up, feeling like as if I was not being stimulated enough. A highly intellectualized religious expression however, leads to spiritual dryness, where there should be a feeling of transcendence there is only linearity and blandness. Too little intellect leads to misunderstanding the Faith and impulsive practices, but too much intellect leads to making the transcendent a mere abstract and impersonal concept from which we would be psychologically existentially detached from.

I had written elsewhere on this blog that, philosophic and mystical theology are both needed, however, where Philosophic Theology ends the Mystical Theology begins. In order to truly negate belief in the mystical sense, one must acquire first. So concepts are needed to be given through intellectual understandings, but as one moves deeper into understanding the faith, rigidity must be surrendered in order to come closer to Living God. It should become obvious to us that as we get on in the mission toward Finding God, our faulty Human Reasoning cannot grasp fully the Divine because if it ever thinks that it has grasped it then it must be reminded that it is not divine but idolatry of the mind, for it has merely created a concept and began to worship, rather then allow that to serve as a stepping stool to better understanding. So where then is the balance?


So where is the Golden Mean where is the Virtue of these 2 forces in True Religion? Well we know that Intellectual Endeavor and Emotional Involvement are both important, you need to be able to appeal to the Body, Soul, and Heart/Spirit of the Person. Too little Intellect and you get a misunderstanding of The True Faith, too much intellect however and you subject the transcendent element to a mere impersonal abstraction. Too much emotive expression and you treat God like as if, He must provide you with constant and non-stop Happiness in an otherwise fallen world, believing that every “feel good spirit” that comes upon you is The Holy Spirit, too little emotive expression and involvement however and you feel disconnected once again to the transcendent element.

So too little of emotion and intellect is the problem with more modern Christian Faiths, and this leads to detriment of feeling disconnected to God and too much emotion and intellect treats God like as if He MUST stimulate our Feelings and Thoughts constantly in an otherwise fallen world. It would seem like as if Intellectualism and Emotionalism have become the new gods and have attempted to oust the One True God. Those who have the eyes to see past the feel good and philosophic stimulation see the effects though of doing this.

Therefore the Balance Struck must be that: Man Submits His Mind and Heart Over To God, Rather Then Tell God To Submit To Our Minds and Hearts! With our Minds we must admit that the moment we begin to try and hyper-rationalize over God, is the moment we took something Living and True and made Him into a mere abstract by-product of our thoughts, therefore we must quiet our minds of thoughts and allow God to reveal Himself to us.

With our Hearts we must admit that the moment we begin to try and demand constant “feel good” emotions in our own “fallen-ness” and the “fallen-ness” around us, is the moment when we merely turn to God only when we are down rather then all the time, God becomes something we merely consume like everything else in the culture, a pill to fix all our problems without our efforts. Well God does not want this of us, and demands of us to take responsibility for our actions, thoughts, and emotions in this life, therefore we must check our Pride in thinking we can just consume God to get Happy, and acknowledge that in this life following God will not always guarantee happiness, for Christ has blessed those who can mourn.


Posted September 25, 2011 by jimbo9889 in The Objectives

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