“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15:1-8)
In the Hebrew Bible the vineyard is a metaphor for Israel. “Israel” means “to struggle with God”. This was the name Jacob received after he wrestled with the angel, who should be understood as a direct manifestation of God in human form. Therefore the people of Israel are those who struggle with God, those who engage with God, who have made a covenant with God. They are connected with the divine mystery beyond. God planted the vineyard and tends the vineyard and the vines bear fruit.
In the New Testament, it is not the people of Israel, but the person of Christ who is “the true vine”. The Many become One. The disciples of Christ are like branches connected to the source of life, to the water and nutrients in the soil, by being connected to the vine, which is Christ himself. He is the connection between the people and God.
The spiritual meaning is clear. If you are connected to God, you have life and bear fruit. If you’re not, you wither and die. But perhaps the idea of connection and disconnection also applies on a cultural and even a physical level? “Israel” represents a people, a community with a shared history, cultural heritage and common destiny. A branch cut off from the vine, an exile cut off from society, is cut off from the source of cultural and social life.
Cut off from Nature, from the elements, the weather, vegetation, animal life, and cut off from our own physical bodies, is there not also, in a very real sense, an atrophying, a withering and dying of our essential vitality? What happens to people who spend their lives in extremely urbanised environments? What happens to people who spend their lives in jail? What happens to people who spend their lives staring at a screen?
Dislocation and alienation are hallmarks of the art and literature of Modernism and Postmodernism. Louis Sass explores the relationship between Madness and Modernity in his book of that title; Iain McGilchrist explores it further in the context of left hemisphere dominance in The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western Mind.
Modern, urbanised people are clearly dissociated from the natural world like they never have been before. This is of course further exacerbated by the rise of information technology, computerised office work and entertainment media. As a result, people suffer from all sorts of stress-related conditions, anxiety and depression.
However, they are also dissociated and alienated from their cultural heritage. The prevailing modern myth is based on novelty and originality, and a severing of the bonds that connect us to tradition. The self-definition of Modernity and moderns is that we are cut loose from the past and can self-create ourselves as we wish. No other period in history has designated itself as “modern” in this way.
However, as Modernity inevitably begins to establish its own canon and its own history, the rug has to be pulled from under it in order to maintain the principle of newness. Hence the need for “Postmodernity”, which is simply the ongoing undercutting of the past as it is created in the present. It is like a gardener continuously pulling up any young shoots before they have the chance to establish roots and grow into anything.
In radical left-wing politics, this is called “Permanent Revolution”. From an anarchist perspective, this is necessary in order to prevent any social hierarchy being established. This principled commitment to a radical divorce from all established social structures and institutions is the same in the political as in the cultural sphere. We might call it, echoing C.S. Lewis, “the Great Divorce”.
The main excision of Modernity and Postmodernity, however, is the casting away of religion. The irony is that, in our Faustian hubris, we think we have done away with God or even killed Him, that we have somehow brought about “the Death of God”. We think we have simply cut off a dry branch of antiquated superstition and thrown it into the fire. But it’s the exact opposite. We have cut ourselves off and thrown ourselves in the fire:
“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”
The Great Divorce of Modernity is a simultaneous divorce from Nature, Culture and God, or in the language of the New Age, from Body, Mind and Spirit. The true vine which will heal this dissociation and alienation is simultaneously the body and blood of our saviour Jesus Christ, the vine of the living Judeo-Christian tradition, and the vine of the dead, ayahuasca (or endogenous DMT). And when we are restored and healed, we will be friends again, with ourselves, with each other, with Nature and with God.
“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. 17 These things I command you, that you love one another.” (John 15:11-17)