Christian Relaunch

Otherworldalism

Otherworldalism is the belief that detachment from the visible world aids fulfillment.

For Otherworldalism in general, see the Creed Item called Culture. Here I deal specifically with Christianoid Otherworldalism.

Culturalism is the belief that detachment from the visible world hinders fulfillment.

That is, maximal cultivation of the visible world aids fulfillment.

Christianoid Otherworldalism prompts us to seek friendship with God, and hence fulfillment, at least partly in contemplation, through which it claims that the otherworld can be explored or cultivated. Thus it undermines the cultivation of this world's resources which in reality is the only route to fulfillment.

Heresy Heretical Belief Reformation Reformational Belief
Mysticism Complete detachment from the visible world aids fulfillment. Mundialism Complete detachment from the visible world hinders fulfillment.
Additionalism Partial detachment from the visible world aids fulfillment. Integralism Even partial detachment from the visible world hinders fulfillment.

The idea of an otherworld infiltrated Christianoidity in the early centuries, probably from gnostified Zoroastrianism or Hellenism (originally Middle Platonism I suppose, then powerfully stimulated by Neoplatonism). These differed about the origin of matter but agreed on the need to escape from it.

If the body is irrelevant (or even harmful), then practical actions are either (a) irrelevant, in which case we have no duties and there is no harm in doing whatever we feel like (antinomianism, a strange kind of "detachment" you may think, but for present purposes that is what it is); or (b) harmful, in which case we should avoid interaction with the world (asceticism).

The variants differ on the extent of the otherworld's claim during this life, while agreeing that it is more important than this world. One cannot ultimately serve both masters, and an imaginary world, regarded as real, will always trump this boring old real world.

Strictly speaking, the otherworld is always occult (Latin "hidden"), but that word has become associated with beliefs consistent with some forms of Otherworldalism but not others, so I avoid it when speaking of Otherworldalism in general.

The pursuit (and alleged cultivation) of the otherworld is known, by Christianoids and some others, as "spirituality", not to be confused with "spiritualism", which claims to communicate with the dead. Not all Otherworldalists are Spiritualists.

Otherworldalists often speak of "going to heaven" after death, as if life in Christ pertained to some "other place" rather than to this world that God has given us for our home, and as if my personal expiry, not the return of Christ, were the key future event for me. This confusion has been aggravated by the ambiguity of certain West European words; New Testament "basileus" means "reign" (kingship, the fact that he reigns) not "realm" (the region over which he reigns), but has usually been translated into Latin "regnum" and English "kingdom", which can mean either "reign" or "realm" and have usually been misunderstood as realm.

Celticists use "otherworld" of the sid-lands of Celtic legend, but having failed to find a better word I am using it with a different sense, as described in this page. The Celtic otherworld may imply what I call Otherworldalism, but I see no need to pursue that question.

C. S. Lewis explains with his usual clarity how the Christian hope deteriorated into the idea of "going to heaven when you die" in "Studies in Words" Chapter 9 ("World") Section 6 ("The Other World"). (I fear that he himself was not always immune to all forms of Otherworldalism, but here he is spot on.)

Back to Influential Heresies.