Saturday, 13 February 2016

This is how to do it!


I had this memorised at one time - copying the rhythm and inflections.

Not many modern actors can do, or even attempt to do, what Olivier does and all actors used to do - speak blank verse as verse. Indeed, their directors will not let them.

And if you do not, you lose a great deal. Shakespeare wrote it as verse for a reason, and so speak it as prose throws away half the effect - and creates a different effect.

But, of course, if you are trying to be different from Olivier just for the sake of being different... well, greatness casts a long shadow.

[PS I don't blame Tom Hiddleston for the above fiasco - he is indeed one of my favourite actors - because he is only doing what the director's 'concept' demanded; and makes as good a job of it as could be done.]

Friday, 12 February 2016

Attitudes to Africa

Our modern era in The West sometimes seems to be defined through distinctions concerning one's attitude to Africa (implicitly sub-Saharan Africa). And on this question we have, as usual, gotten things upside down.

The mainstream secular Left has a concern with Africa that is both obsessive and wholly material - as must inevitably be the case, given the atheist and Liberal assumptions of our mainstream culture. The secular Left, from a vantage point of Western comfort, convenience and ease, regards Africa with pitying superiority underpinned by gnawing guilt.

Africa is (accurately, on the whole) seen as a place of endemic starvation and violence; a place of bodily suffering - and the conclusion is that something must be done, involving large amounts of Western medicine, money and expertise.

This imperative of curing poverty and disease comes from the Western perspective of near-total spiritual and existential bankruptcy. We see that Africa lacks what we have; but what (some) Africans have that we lack is utterly invisible. And that is Christian faith of a strength and purity which is far beyond almost anybody in the West (including beyond the mainstream Western self-identified Christian churches).

The consequences of faith are not just invisible, but actively denied - we will not acknowledge that religious faith makes any significant difference; certainly we will not acknowledge that it makes all the difference in the world. For the mainstream secular Leftist, religious faith is just a pathetic delusion, which tries but fails to make up for the reality of material poverty, oppression and disease.

From our position of utter existential poverty, of extreme spiritual suffering (such that we want nothing more than a life of continuous distraction, excitement and pleasure leading to a painless death; and partly organize, but wholly welcome, our national extinction and population replacement)... from this comfortably nihilistic perspective we want Africans to have the same as us. We apparently want this deeply: we want for Africa to be as this-worldly as ourselves.

So far Africa's interaction with the West has brought good and ill alike; but what counts as good, and what counts as ill is perspectival upon whether faith is regarded as real and serious or as a childish escapism.

The good includes Christianity. Why am I personally so sure this is good? Because of what I know of African Christians, including those I have met personally and the reports of those I trust who have direct experience. African Christians are better Christians, on the whole, than those in the West - and they seem to get extraordinary strength and happiness from their faith. If you are not persuaded - so be it: this is how it strikes me; and not as a subtle distinction but as a very solid fact.

The harm Africa has derived from The West includes almost permanent near- or actual-starvation, high levels of horrific violence, and some of the worst governments in the history of the planet. These are (mostly unintended) by products of Western medicine, Western aid, Western technology, Western expertise and Western ideas (such as communism).

In sum, Western interventions caused and sustains a massive population explosion in Africa, which continues.

Before contact, Africa seems to have been a place with a low and sparse population, kept in check by a high level of lethal diseases; and a relatively high standard of living in terms of the amount and variety of food and a low requirement for work and a high availability of social living.

Until the 1960s Africa had less starvation than either Asia or The West, and while it did have a high proportion of violent accidents and deaths, this was not the truly monstrous and sadistic violence that has been experienced over the past decades - this required the technology, organization, ideologies and destabilization which the West amply provided.

Well, the West has given Africa the goodness of Christianity, and we are in no position to help much more in that respect (indeed, quite the opposite - we in The West need Africa's faith). And most of the rest has turned out to lead to very horrible consequences - which are only exacerbated when the West continues to provide what it imagines to be 'help' and 'aid'. The effects of Western medicine, public health and hygiene were helpful in reducing suffering over the initial short term, but have been utterly catastrophic in the long term and continuing.

We in The West are so blind to the transformative power of the spirit that we are simply unable to understand what life is like for a really faithful and strong Christian. Everything looks different to one who sees the world in an eternal context and from an attitude of joyous gratitude at salvation.

To discount and deny this, as the secular Liberals of the West do when considering Africa, is the very worst kind of 'cultural imperialism'; because it encourages us to continue to destroy true personal fulfilment in the name of an insipid ideal of comfort, convenience and pleasure which we ourselves have come to despise - although were remain addicted to it.

Indeed the key is that word addiction: we are behaving like an addicted pusher - feeding Africa with exactly that which has enslaved us in terminal misery.

Theosis is more like building a 'pattern' (e.g. a tree) than moving along a linear scale (e.g. up a narrow path)

Theosis is a term for the process of divinization, sanctification or spiritual progression which Men are meant to undergo during mortal life.

So the task of mortal life can be summarized as: attaining salvation (not damnation) and - on top of this - moving as far as possible towards the same level of being as God (alternatively, which means the same, of becoming more Christ-like).

I regard theosisconceptualizing degree of theosis : For instance person A has gone two feet up the path, person B, two hundred yards, Saint C a mile and a half...

This linear metaphor works well enough in those branches of Christianity when ascetic monasticism is seen as THE path to sanctification and each person can be measure by the progress along this path - and even Saints can be ranked: For example among Old English Saints, Cuthbert is judged to have ascended higher than the Venerable Bede (great Saints although both were).

But when theosis is not seen as a single path, when for example Marriage and Family life are seen as potentially a greater path to salvation than monasticism, there is the problem that each marriage and each family is unique in a way that each monk is not. We have moved from a model of theosis in which everyone attempts to conform to a single, perfect but not-fully attainable ideal to one in which each person is seen as intended to be unique.

That is, at any rate, how I understand these things: God wants us each to become more fully ourselves so that ultimately Heaven will be populated by a vast multiplicity of distinct persons; all spiritually advanced and still advancing - all relating to one another as peers or siblings: in essence, on a level of friendship.

Here in mortal life we have rules and constraints, which ultimately derive from the nature of reality, and which are for our Good: these include summaries such as the Ten Commandments, and other laws and regulations. Theosis must proceed within these boundaries; and when, as inevitably happens, we fail to live up to this ideal, we need to repent by acknowledging our failure and endorsing the revealed reality of the nature of things. 

But in the context of these rules, these constraints, our destiny is theosis - to advance spiritually; or rather, not so much to advance as to build our own pattern. So theosis can be seen as - for each of us - a destined pattern - or type of pattern, towards which we grow and which we increasingly elaborate.

But 'pattern' is too abstract, geometric, and simplified a word: we are organic beings. So perhaps a better metaphor is a tree - we are each a type of tree (an oak, beech, birch, blackthorn) and our destiny is to become a mature example of that tree - and, of course, all individual trees are different and in a sense meant to be different (due to their initial innate differences, differences in experiences, and in a sense different choices during maturation and growth).  

All metaphors break down if pushed, and this is no exception - but at a first level of analysis we might thing of our life on each as a period of growth, maturation, elaboration within proper bounds and towards something which is both characteristic and unique - like a particular oak tree.

And that God does not want all His trees to be oaks, nor does he want all his oaks to be identical - but for each to be the best of its kind and most fully developed of its nature.

In the end, the purpose of this post is simply to illustrate that our metaphors do constrain our thoughts, and that we need some more elaborate and personal metaphor to self-explain the (mostly unfamiliar) concept of theosis than the usual one of everybody progressing up along a path in single file.

Mortal life is, and is meant to be, complex and multi-faceted - and each person's life is both characteristic and distinctive - and our thinking ought to reflect that.


Thursday, 11 February 2016

Given that we don't understand what will happen - what should we do?

The Problem is by now so wide-spread and pervasive (i.e. almost-everyone is very thoroughly corrupted, and almost nobody is fully clear of this) that normal political solutions (e.g. relying on some power bloc) are sure to fail.

There must be a change of heart among masses of people almost simulaneously – yet the necessary change of heart cannot be forced, and has not happened so far despite many and severe warnings.

The causal mechanisms at work here are only very partly known and poorly understood – which means that many causes are invisible or unacknowledged. In fact, the most important causes are neither known nor understood. The situation is therefore un-predictable.

On the one hand, this unknown-unknowability gives hope if ever people do wish to change, but it will only accelerate the problem and lead to new problems if we continue on the present path.

In the end, therefore, there has been and is a choice – an individual choice, and a choice of individuals – and the consequences follow from that choice.

Because consequences of our choices follow by mechanisms that are poorly understood (or not understood at all) a coherent long-term plan or strategy is impossible –

Therefore
the only thing we can do-right is to choose-right (because we have no idea what will be the outcome of anything)...


So that is what we should do.


Wednesday, 10 February 2016

A Personal Reflection on Contemporary Roman Catholicism - an invited guest post by John Fitzgerald



Silence, Encounter and Depth
A Personal Reflection on Contemporary Catholicism
By John Fitzgerald

And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
Matthew, 14: 29-31
*******
I was born into an Irish Catholic family in Manchester in 1970. I had no idea, as a boy, of the seismic changes that had occurred in the Church prior to my birth. I don’t recall anyone – at home, church or school – referring to the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) or the change in the language of the Mass from Latin to English. My mother was (and is) a devout and serious Catholic. Her practice of the Faith was in no way affected by what had happened, positively or negatively. Throughout the 1980s, as I looked deeper into Church history, I tended to assume, rather blithely, that my mother’s attitude and experience had been common to everyone, that nothing much had happened and that the Church was rolling on as normal and maybe even going forward. Thirty years on it is as plain to me that this assumption was false and that, if anything, the reverse is true. The liberal/conservative polarity exacerbated by Vatican II – a little like Morgoth’s theft of the Silmaril and Fëanor’s subsequent curse – continues to disrupt and divide, weakening the Church and undermining her mission to the world.

Our local parish, in suburban Manchester, fully embraced the liberal credo. The altar rail vanished and the church was ‘re-ordered’, with the altar in the middle of the nave and the pews all around, a little like Liverpool RC Cathedral but without the space and atmosphere. I remember, as an altar boy, disliking the maudlin modern music at the Sunday 11am Mass and the chumminess, bordering on smugness, of the congregation. I felt bad about this. I should, I told myself, have had a more positive response to the main Mass of the week. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t, and also, conversely, why I felt such closeness to Christ at the early morning weekday Masses and at Benediction on a Thursday evening, when the priest had just myself and a handful of worshippers for company. But there was silence and depth there – that was the difference – and room for the Divine. These low-key services were at the antipodes of Sunday mornings, where the focus was fully on the human – the ‘People of God’ – and the numinous was chased away in a welter of noise and banality.

When the teenage storm broke, this soft-focus faith provided no kind of ballast. I drifted, almost without realising it, into the dour secularism masked as revolt so emblematic of post-1968 youth. As its spiritual deadness dawned on me, during my last year at university, I began attending a ‘conservative’ Catholic church. I was astonished; filled with awe and wonder. Here was the quality and distinction missing from the church of my youth – Palestrina, Byrd, incense, bells, the priest facing East – away from the people, towards the tabernacle – and a Latin Mass every week.

I was smitten. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t last. It wasn’t long before I detected a hollowness at the heart of things – a camp showmanship, which manifested itself in a fussiness regarding robes and vestments which irritated me as much, if not more, than any number of ‘70s liberal platitudes.

The priests were kind, well-meaning and wise in their way, but their exhortations from the pulpit were drab in the extreme – follow the rules, don’t rock the boat, all will be well. There was no imagination, no mystery, no agony, no depth, too little silence, and for me, at that time of my life, no encounter. I wasn’t pious like that. I was (and am) a Celt, for whom the borders between this world and others have always been porous. That sensibility was totally lacking. So, finding only legalism and lifeless ceremony, I jumped ship and plunged into the stimulating, though sometimes treacherous torrent of the Western Mystery Tradition. Much of what I picked up during that mid-to-late ‘90s era (e.g. the work of Colin Wilson and Geoffrey Ashe) has been of lasting value, but ultimately, the whole amorphous set-up promised more than it delivered. It was a hall of mirrors. The Divine, though partially glimpsed, remained elusive, disregarding the junior magician’s command to come into focus.

It was only in the mid-2000s, after discovering the Traditionalist (or Perennialist) school of René Guénon and others that I began to re-conceive Catholicism, this time on a civilisational level, seeing it as a deeper, wider, broader entity than the liberal, conservative or nationalistic narratives of my past had allowed for. I saw the Church in her eternal context, ‘rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners’, as C.S. Lewis writes in The Screwtape Letters. Catholicism, I realised, is a path to God that has played, and can play again, a pivotal role in the spiritual formation of the West. It might not be the only path, or the right one for all people at all times in all places, but for the West, and for Europe in particular, its past achievements, together with the spiritual power and potential it still contains, demand to be acknowledged and acted upon.

Nowadays, for the first time in my life, I feel in quite a good place, institutionally speaking. I worship at a Jesuit church, which places high value on contemplation and the Ignatian tradition of imaginative prayer, focusing on a personal encounter and relationship with the living, risen Christ. There is an also an Oratorian church nearby, which has a regular Latin Mass, so the civilisational elements which have become so crucial to me – this connection with Britain and Europe’s Roman past – is covered as well.

The Devil, however, as Lewis well knew, is a skilled and subtle operator. Each day of my Catholic life is another staging post in the battle to keep my distance from the legalistic squabbles which so disfigure the Church. The ‘hot’ example at the moment is the debate concerning allowing the divorced and remarried to receive Holy Communion. The liberal argument, at its best, sees a softening of the existing strictures as a Christ-like notion, akin to His verbal dismantling of the ‘whited sepulchres’ of first-century Judea. Conservatives dismiss this stance as intellectual window-dressing. The liberals, they claim, are simply caving in to contemporary mores. Communion for the remarried, they argue, is merely a Trojan Horse for same-sex marriage and the gender ideology behind it.

Broadly speaking, I feel that the conservative understanding is right, though I don’t believe it would be particularly catastrophic if the liberal view were to prevail one day, as long as it was underpinned by solid theological reasoning. But it’s hard sometimes to maintain the conservative line when one hears and sees the rigidity, cold-heartedness, institutionalism, paranoia and legalistic aggression often deployed, in certain Catholic forums, in its defence. Conversely, other comments, elsewhere in the RC press, portray the liberal mind-set at its absolute worst – naïve, deluded, self-destructive, blinded by modernity, and utterly ignorant of the great patrimony handed down to this generation of Catholics by the saints, martyrs, popes, scholars and ordinary men and women of previous times. Malcolm Muggeridge, thirty-five years ago, wrote superbly about this in The Great Liberal Death Wish. To learn where well-intentioned liberal reforms coupled with the dismantling of tradition can lead, he suggests, one need do nothing more than read Dostoyevsky’s The Possessed, that grim and startling prophecy of the collapse of liberal values and the unleashing, via the Russian Revolution, of unbridled nihilism. ‘After us, the Savage God’, as W.B. Yeats put it.

The Communion debate has been raging for two years now. It is difficult, for myself at least, to see it as anything other than a colossal sideshow and distraction – a quite spectacular waste of time and energy. A demonic intelligence, surely, is setting the agenda here. Both sides are being ‘played’. The world around us dissolves into spiritual, intellectual and material chaos. Imagination and inspiration are needed as matters of urgency, yet the focus of too many Catholics is diverted elsewhere, on human constructs and political agendas – the maintenance or amelioration of rules. Not that this isn’t important. It is. But on its own level, which isn’t the highest. J.R.R. Tolkien understood this perfectly. His paean to the Blessed Sacrament in his Letters shows exactly where Catholic priorities should lie: ‘Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament … There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth.’

This transcendent element was what most moved the actor, Alec Guinness, on his first of many visits to Mount Saint Bernard Abbey in Leicestershire: 

Arriving at the large, draughty, austere, white chapel I was amazed at the sights and sounds that greeted me. The great doors to the East were wide open and the sun, a fiery red ball, was rising over the distant farmland. At each of the dozen or so side-altars a monk, finely-vested but wearing heavy farmer’s boots to which cow dung still adhered, was saying his private Mass. Voices were low, almost whispers, but each Mass was at a different stage of development, so that the Sanctus would tinkle from one altar to be followed half a minute later by other tinkles from far away. For perhaps five minutes little bells sounded from all over and the sun grew whiter as it steadily rose. There was an awe-inspiring sense of God expanding, as if to fill every corner of the church and the whole world. 

'The regularity of life at the Abbey, the happy faces that shone through whatever they had suffered, the strong yet delicate singing, the early hours and hard work – for the monks are self-supporting – all made a deep impression on me; the atmosphere was one of prayer without frills; it was very easy to imagine oneself at the centre of some spiritual powerhouse, or at least being privileged to look over the rails, so to speak, at the working of a great turbine.’

It is precisely this ‘turbine’, this ‘power-house’ – this level of intensity – this silence, encounter and depth, that we need to tap into if we are to entertain hopes of igniting a Christian renaissance in the West. Without this spiritual energy and zeal, our society is left almost completely denuded, with nothing to show for itself except a giant religious and philosophical vacuum. And this vacuum will be filled, one way or the other, if not by a revived Christianity, then, in the long-term, by the imposition of authoritarian rule, either through the depredations of a corrupted ruling class or the ascendancy of a rival civilisation. What will ensue, I suspect, will be a second ‘War of the Ring’, the outcome of which will be every bit as uncertain as in Tolkien’s legendarium, and just as dependent on the extent to which the remnant of the West look up towards the outstretched hand of Christ or down towards the dissolution of a purely human social and political order. ‘Where there is no vision,’ as the Proverb says, ‘the people perish.’
  

A meaning for life - what are the pre-requisites?

For mortal human life to have meaning it seems that there must be both permanence and personal relevance for some things in that life.

If everything is washed away at death, then there can be no meaning - everything is just a momentary spark of sensation - a brief sensation, which might well be a delusion.

If all that is left is located in biological memory, then this depends on brains which are fragile and temporary, and memories are fallible and may be false.

So (for mortal life to have meaning) there must be some realm or place or time in which at least some thing are 'stored' permanently (some kind of 'Platonic' realm of true reality, beyond the changes and decays of mortal life).

And this must have memories which are true, real, accurate and valid - which means that there must be a possibility of direct, unmediated transmission of information or knowledge.

(Because any 'normal' material processes - working by means of the usual perceptions and senses and the usual modalities such as light, sound and touch - must be incomplete and distorted, and indeed may be wholly illusory.)

But an accurate and true reality 'somewhere' is not enough - that reality must also be linked to us as individuals, and to our specific mortal lives - or else mortal life is meaningless.

(Some religions, some types of Christianity, are like this: mortal life is rendered pointless and functionless by comparison with the perfection of Heaven - except, perhaps, that evil choices in mortal life are able/ likely to wreck our chances of reaching Heaven. This does provide a kind of meaning for mortal life - albeit entirely negative.) 

All this (and more) is implicit when we feel that life has meaning: that at least some of the things that happen in our lives are significant, and recorded in a true and permanent way that also has continued personal relevance to us - so an afterlife is essential as well.

It is clear from the above that some kind of religion - and not just any kind of religion, because some religions are inadequate - is necessary for there to be meaning in life.

Thus meaning in life is not 'given' - nor is it natural - but it requires some kind of revelation.

Lacking which, we will have the background awareness that life is ultimately meaningless, and what we do during it is merely a series of momentary distractions: in a world, nihilism.

The possibilities are therefore nihilism or religion (but only some religions). 


Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The ideal of eternal - not merely life-long - marriage should be universal among Christians

This is LeGrand Richards speaking in a CJCLDS General Conference back in 1971

H/T Junior Ganymede: http://www.jrganymede.com/2016/02/09/love-wants-to-be-forever
**

I just cannot understand … how marriages could be performed in the churches all over the world until death do you part. What a flimsy concept! 

Why don’t they go back to the time when God had finished the creation of this earth, and looked upon it and found it good, and placed Adam here, at which time he said: “It is not good that the man should be alone. He made a helpmeet for him, saying, “… and they shall be one flesh.” Now what God joins together and makes one flesh, you couldn’t separate without having two halves instead of two wholes... 

How could any man who has a true love for his wife and his children not want to believe that principle? 

I like the little verse written by Anderson M. Baten, “To His Wife Beulah,” in which he said: 
“I wed thee forever, not for now, 
Not for the sham of earth’s brief years, 
I wed thee for the life beyond the tears, 
Beyond the heart pain and clouded brow. 
Love knows no grave and it shall guide us dear 
When life’s spent candles flutter and burn low.” 

There are people like that who believe that marriage ought to be eternal, but there is no other church in all this world, outside of our church, as far as I know, that believes in the eternal duration of the marriage covenant. 

Just think what a difference it makes in our lives when we know that we are to live on and on forever and forever! I would just as soon believe that death is a complete annihilation of both body and spirit as to think that when death came it would separate me from my wife and from my children and that we would not know each other. I tell you, there wouldn’t be very much to look forward to. How could you want to live on and on forever without a continuation of the love ties that bind you together here? 

We see cases of kidnapping, when children are taken away. I remember years ago, I think it was in 1932, when Colonel Lindbergh’s little boy was kidnapped and a note was left asking for $50,000. He would gladly have paid what they asked if he could have gotten his boy back again. And yet here we come along with the knowledge of life eternal. 

We had four daughters before we had a son. We were sent to California to preside over a stake down there, and our boy went out with a member of the high council and his boys, and he lost his life in an accident. That is the greatest sorrow that ever came to us, but now we are getting up on the top of the ladder, so to speak, and we look forward, knowing that these love ties are intended by God, our Eternal Father, to endure throughout the eternities. It takes the sting away from death to know that we are going to meet those who are so dear and sacred to us. 

Thank God for this knowledge! 

**

I feel sure that eternal marriage and eternal families are a natural and spontaneous ideal for post-mortal life; and also something which naturally flows from the nature of Christian resurrection.

But this hope seems to have been one of those aspects of simple faith which have been (unneccesarily as well as artificially, as I perceive it) ridiculed, suppressed and in general squeezed out from Christian life by abstract theological arguments.

I find the earnest, open way of speaking of LeGrand Richards very clarifying in this regard - it is wholesome and stirs my heart.  

Why is Leftist metaphysics always self-destroying?

This is an interesting question - and the supposed answers I have encountered are unsatisfactory.

The fact that needs to be explained is that the metaphysics, that is the fundamental foundational beliefs of 'Leftism' are not only incoherent (which they are) but incoherent in a way that leads the system to consume-itself.

This self-destroying quality of Leftist metaphysics is apparent in the history of the political Left, and it is also apparent in the personal history of many Left-adherents.

*
(Note: Leftism here includes not just communism, socialism, nationalism, national socialism, liberalism etc - but also all mainstream forms of conservatism, republicanism, libertarianism etc. The true polarity is between Leftism and Religion; and the commonly-asserted Left-Right polarity is interpreted here as merely different varieties of secularism, therefore different varieties of Leftism. In other words, the only way of being non-Left is to be religious. Various religions are possible. To be non-Left is necessarily to advocate that the state be primarily religious with all other activities and functions subordinated to religion.)

*
The temptation, which leads nowhere, is to try and construct a Leftist metaphysical system from some specific attributes - and in contrast with the pre-ceding and rival metaphysical systems of religion (different systems for various religions and denominations).

But this doesn't work, because the Left keeps changing. At one time it was plausible to assert that the Left was about equality, but that clearly is not the situation now. At another time - say 30-40 years ago - it was suggested that the Left was focused on reducing suffering and humiliation -  but again that can now be seen to be merely a temporary phase.

And an historical consideration shows that the root of Leftism is not some positive doctrine, but a negative subtraction.

*
If we suppose that natural, spontaneous human metaphysics is religious and (sufficiently for life) coherent and systematic - then Leftism comes into the life of a person or a culture by subtracting something from this religious metaphysics. What might that be?

The first suggestion might be God or the gods - but I don't think that is necessarily correct: God/s may be allowed to retain their place (for a while) but certainly the definition and scope of God/s is the thing that is change.

I think the specific change is related to the subtraction of purpose - or to 'teleology'. Leftism removes ultimate, objective purpose from the metaphysical system.

In consequence, because we cannot live without purpose, instead of a unity and reality of purpose we get several or many purposes, that are not unified, and are not objectively real or relevant and compelling.

*
The earliest defined form of Leftism, setting itself up as rival to religion, was Marxism - and in that early Leftism there was a kind-of residual purpose that was was taken from the idealistic philosophy of Hegel in the form of an abstraction related to the direction of history. History had an inevitability of progression - and if someone wanted to be on the same side as history - that is, the 'winning side' - then he should be a communist. However, there was a major hole in the system in that there was no ultimate reason why it was good or necessary to be on the winning side - especially in the short term it may well be 'better' (yielding more pleasure and/or less suffering) for someone personally to oppose history.

So, even in its earliest and most 'religious' phase, Leftism did not provide an individual purpose - although it did provide a goal and direction.

*
It seems to be that it is this subtraction of purpose from our underlying metaphysical system characterizes Leftism - but the question arises of why anybody, or any culture or civilization, would want to subtract purpose from their foundational beliefs?

Since we have, most of us, experienced this for ourselves at some point in our lives, I think the answer is available to introspection (after which is can be checked against experience and evidence) - and that answer is liberation, freedom, escape from aspects of purpose that we find thwarting, oppressive, or in some way aversive.

This is the reason why sexual revolution is so often integral to Leftism - a fact difficult to explain otherwise. Because there are few people who do not feel, in some way and to some significant extent, constrained by the sexual rules and exclusions of religion. Likewise, people feel constrained by their social position, class or status; by actual or relative material insufficiency; by their nation of origin or residence; by their appearance or by some deficit... there are many possible reasons.

Leftism offers a liberation from the necessity of such constraints and others by its removal of purpose from ultimate understanding - there can be no ultimate reason for constraint if there is no ultimate and unifying purpose: so that particular problem is solved, whatever the problem may be. Constraint is removed, or else there is hope for this - and there is liberation.

*
Thus Leftism has a universal message and a universal appeal.

Whatever your personal grievance against Life, Leftism offers actual or potential liberation from it by means of the removal of ultimate purpose and removal of our ultimate obligations to that purpose. 

And this seems to explain why Leftism is always unstable, always moves from one liberation/ destruction to another, is always - sooner or later - hostile to any religion; and always ends-up in approaching nihilism.

Because nihilism (which is the conviction that nothing is really-real) is necessarily the end-point of any world view that lacks 1. ultimate purpose and 2. an ultimate rationale for each person to subscribe to that purpose.

Monday, 8 February 2016

The relationship between evolution of human consciousness and reincarnation - a consideration of Steiner and Barfield

The idea of an evolution of human consciousness throughout history has been a part of spiritual thinking for more than a century - I know it mainly through considering the work of Rudolf Steiner, Owen Barfield and William Arkle over the past couple of years.

(I encountered the idea over thirty years ago summarized in the work of Colin Wilson, but did not then pay much attention.)

The idea of an historical evolution of consciousness seems to go-with a belief in reincarnation, because reincarnation allows each person to participate in the different stages of evolution that are aiming-at a fully divine form of consciousness.

Steiner and Barfield describe this aimed-at state in some detail - in essence it combines on the one hand a direct involvement with, and participation in, reality such as was characteristic of early man and remains characteristic of early childhood; with, on the other hand, a fully alert, self-aware, purposive and analytic consciousness which is characteristic of the adult consciousness and the modern phase of Western history. 

So, the idea is that I am personally experiencing the distinctive modern, alienated consciousness now - including the knowledge and aspiration towards a future state; however, in earlier lives I have also personally experienced, and benefited from, earlier phases of human consciousness. At some point later this life, and perhaps further lives, I may incrementally, a step at a time, learn how to combine the positive qualities of all phases. This aimed-at fully divine conscious state is what Barfield calls Final Participation.

According to Steiner and Barfield, these earlier life phases include non-incarnated lives - lives when we were conscious but had no body. So the theory is really one of multiple lives, rather than re incarnation.

Therefore the human spirit or soul (i.e. that entity which is reincarnated) is here conceptualized as undergoing an educational process toward which each life is contributing.

Repeated lives, many lives, seem to be necessary in order to allow for the very large amount of experience and learning required to bridge the gap between being a man and becoming a god. Certainly, one mortal life seems grossly inadequate for this, especially given that most human lives in history were terminated either in the womb or in early infancy - a small minority of humans have reached adulthood, and even fewer of these have had a full experience of marriage, family, maturity and growing old etc.

So, evolution of consciousness and reincarnation seem to make a neat package. However, this package is, if not incompatible with Christianity, at least somewhat alien to the structure of Christianity; which places a great deal of emphasis on the individual life which we are experiencing now, and sees 'this life' as having potentially decisive consequences for eternity.

And certainly, while reincarnation seems to described in the Bible - most notably in the case of John the Baptist apparently being a reincarnated Prophet Elijah - there isn't any scriptural description of a scheme of reincarnation as the norm. And especially not of multiple lives.

My interpretation is that ancient Christianity saw reincarnation as true, but as an exceptional possibility, done in exceptional cases and for specific purposes - rather than as the standard procedure for the majority of people.

Does an exclusion of reincarnation then rule-out the evolution of consciousness throughout human history? No, but denial of reincarnation with multiple lives does limit the role of evolution of consciousness in the lives of individual spirits or souls - it breaks the link between the evolution of consciousness in history and the evolution of my consciousness and the specific consciousnesses of every other individual.

Put differently, the arguments which (in particular) Owen Barfield makes for different types of consciousness in human history, such as his insights into the changing scope and meaning of words, may well be true; but they lose their relevance to the evolution of my consciousness and your consciousness if we were not present (in earlier lives) actually to experience the several stages of this historical evolution.

In sum, the historical evolution of consciousness is a matter of historical but not personal interest, if we ourselves were not present during that history.

My own belief is therefore that I accept Barfield's description of human consciousness having changed throughout history and in broadly the way he describes; and I also accept that we are meant (or destined) to achieve that mode of consciousness Barfield terms 'Final Participation'. But I do not accept that the two are causally linked - for instance I do not believe that I have, myself, personally participated in the historical phases of the evolution of consciousness during previous lives.   

Rather, I see the evolution of consciousness as a sequence which is recapitulated in different scales in different situations: e.g. through human history, in each person's individual development from childhood to maturity, and also in the largest cosmic scale of our salvation and divination across eternity.

(To clarify this last point: the Barfieldian sequence of Original Participation, the Consciousness Soul and Final Participation can be mapped onto the Mormon theological sequence of pre-mortal spirit life, mortal incarnate life, and post-mortal eternal incarnate life.)

I therefore would modify the Steiner/ Barfield model, since I regard this evolutionary sequence of consciousness as a basic and necessary process in terms of Man as a whole and also individual men working towards fuller divinity. And I think it is because the process is basic and necessary that we see it appearing and re-appearing here and there throughout reality; operating at many scales and across many time-frames.

Note: Previous posts on reincarnation
http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=reincarnation

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Which religion would you support to rule your nation? Choose - or have the choice made for you (Note added today)

It is currently inconceivable that we in the West could have a government which regarded Christianity as the first and central principle of organizing life. A large majority of the population would oppose this, would indeed regard the idea as utterly monstrous.

And yet, of course, all long term stable and authoritative governments throughout history have put some religion as the first and central part of organizing all aspects of human life: politics was based-on religion.

Examples would include the Kingdoms of Ancient Egypt - which lasted 3,000 years, and the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire - which lasted 1,000 year; both of which were permeated by religion in their ideals - and often in their attainment.

The idea that decent government can be attained without religion is still just an idea - since what we currently have would neither be regarded as stable nor as government by people in the past.

It is very clear now that the Western elites want to destroy their societies - one way or another; the favoured methods currently seems to include (but not be restricted to) the destruction of marriage and family, chosen reproductive sterility with an ever-ageing population, and unrestricted mass inward-migration including a high proportion of dependents and aggressors.

But at the root of this is the negative decision to dispense with religion as the unifying aspect of government - and the utter failure to find any other positive principle with which to replace it. 

So the West is characterized by implacable hostility to real Christianity, and a focus on the permanent revolution of destroying the Christian legacy including inverting the transcendental Goods of Truth, Beauty and Virtue.

Since the Leftist project is in its essence negative and destructive, it will necessarily be replaced by some positive polity (at the point when the Left has so weakened the power, will and morale of the West in a particular place that some local religious group becomes by default more powerful, and is motivated to take-over). So we will get religion at the centre of politics again; the only question is which religion, and this will vary from place to place.

Trends are in place which often allow the outcome to be predicted in a particular situation; but there remains scope for summated individual choices to change the predicted outcome.

The most important political question of our day is therefore to determine which religion you, personally, would and should support as the basis of your government.

You can - of course - opt-out of the choice, and forgo even any possibility of influencing the outcome. But that is, in effect, still a choice: it is the choice to allow other people to decide which religion should be the basis of your country.

**

Note added: This post is focused on the decision of which religion you choose to support. This, of course, goes far beyond the scope of the adherents of a religion. It is possible (and such things have happened, quite often indeed) that a large proportion of the population support rule by religion X in preference to religion Y, despite that the adherents of religion X are only a small minority. 

Likewise, given the actual available choices and trends; it may be that atheists, agnostics, and various non-Christian religions would support Christianity as the basis for government, having made the judgment that:

1. There must be a religion as the basis of government; and 

2. Christianity is the best religion.  

Indeed, even if there is a large and powerful Christian awakening and revival (which there absolutely must be for matters to improve in The West), for Christianity to make a difference at the worldly and secular level would require at least the consent - if not active support - of a much larger number of people than the actual Christians. 

(Or, should I say, 'probably' the above; because there are unknown and unseen factors at work in the world - not least the possibility of direct divine interventions - and hope comes from the most unexpected quarters.)

Friday, 5 February 2016

"Free will" = uncaused causation = "Agency" = a divine attribute. (Mainstream and Mormon Christianity compared)

When people talk about 'free will' they are implicitly referring to an uncaused cause - in other words, the ability to act (e.g. to think a thought) without that act being caused but coming from within.

This can be termed Agency - the property of an entity being an Agent, which is self-motivated (in which motivation originates from within, and is not merely passively caused-by something acting upon the entity.

If this is accepted, then it can be seen that free will and agency are not attributes of the 'material universe' of mainstream modern discourse (nor of science - in which everything either has a cause or else is 'random' and presumed to be unmotivated - like some aspects of quantum physics).
*


For Christians, indeed, free will and Agency are divine attributes; attributes characteristic of divinity.

Since, for Christians it is assumed (on the basis of revelation), that Men have free will and therefore Agency - this implies that Men are to this extent divine; by which I mean actual mortal incarnate Men are divine.

Which means that God made us as little gods - partial gods, gods in embryo: this is simply a fact, and neither a cause for pride or despair.

For mainstream Christians adhering to Classical theology, this implies that God created us ex nihilo (from nothing; presumably at some time between our conception and birth) as Agents , as beings whose wills are independent from him - so, to that extent, we are mini-gods who are out-of-control of God.

The aim is (by theosis) to become more like God but - since we are created/ creatures - theosis can never go very far towards God-ness. It is an eternal fact that only God can create from nothing, and the main fact of our relationship with him is that asymmetry.
*


For Mormon Christians, Agency is explained by our essence having been in its origins eternal and independent of God - we 'later' became God's spirit children in a pre-mortal life, and then were (voluntarily) incarnated as mortals.

God as the Creator is a shaper and organizer - he does not (because it is impossible) create from nothing.

Because we were agents from eternity, theosis is seen as an (in principle) unbounded process of progression towards becoming the same as God in nature.

The asymmetry between God and Man that remains eternally is not in terms of creative potential - since Man may become a creator in the same sense as God - but a difference of relationship. An earthly Father and his Son may be of the same nature, but the Father remains the father.

Thus: For Mormonism, relationship has an ultimate, vital and structuring metaphysical role.

This is an essentially unique attribute of Mormonism (unshared with any non-Christian religion and un-shared with any pre-Mormon Christian heresy) and this needs to be understood if Mormon theology is to be understood.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Blue Pill, Red Pill & Christianity compared using Tolkien

Blue Pill = Wormtongue's whisperings

Red Pill = Orc Draught

Christianity = Mirovor: The Cordial of Imladris

*

Blue Pill  
(i.e. Anti-Christian Leftism, Political Correctness, the propaganda of The Cathedral, the emanations of Social Justice Warriors)

[Gandalf]: Ever Wormtongue's whispering was in your ears, poisoning your thought, chilling your heart, weakening your limbs... Dulling men's wariness, or working on their fears, as served occasion.
[Theoden]: Indeed, my eyes were almost blind...

Red Pill 
(i.e. Secular Neoreaction, Dark Enlightenment, Alt-Right, Moldbuggism)

Ugluck thrust a flask between Pippin's teeth and pured some burning liquid down his throat: Pippin felt a hot fierce glow flow through him. The pain in his legs and ankles vanished. He could stand.

Christianity

As soon as Frodo had swallowed a little of the warm and fragrant liquor he felt a new strength of heart and the heavy drowsiness left his limbs. The others also revived and found fresh hope and vigour.

Lesson: Red Pill thinking is to Christianity as Orc Draught is to Miruvor: both awaken from debilitating delusions, give energy, and get you on your feet - the one with searing anger and aggression; the other by a sustained warming of the heart.

Don't debate the dishonest - Maxims for bloggers

Don't publish comments from, or debate with, the dishonest (and where somebody is dishonest is a thing you will need to judge for yourself).

The dishonest have an agenda, a reason for commenting - and they are using your blog to propagate it.

What is the point of a traditional Christian blog publishing comments that seeks to undermine and subvert its blog posts? What is the point of overwhelming the Christian blog posts with following comments that are anti-Christian - and pro some secular agenda that is nearly always secular Left, nearly always pro-sexual revolution?

That would be taking one step forward and two steps back.

You may believe that you are publishing comments to refute them - but that may not be how the exchange appears.

When a commenter is dishonest, and when his aim is destructive, he has a massive advantage in debate - He can raise problems and doubts more simply and easily than they can be dealt-with; he can ask questions faster than you can answer them (a short and easily-understood question often needs a long and involved answer that is difficult to follow and needs concentration to follow - hence your answer will - often - not be followed).

When a commenter is parroting mainstream mass media opinion, he also has the advantage that his view is backed-up by what people (usually unconsciously) regard as 'evidence' (i.e. 1001 things they have heard, seen or read, somewhere - they aren't sure where - and sort-of accept as presumably valid).

A dishonest and subversive commenter can destroy certainty, belief and hope much more readily than you can patch-them-up.

Don't give them space and airplay, don't give them attention, don't waste your time on them. It will do more harm than good.

Education versus fertility - our revealed existential preferences

When it comes to women, the strong correlation (over many years) is years in formal education are inversely associated with fertility: more education = less babies.

That is not the whole story - because in the modern West even the uneducated are usually considerably sub-replacement in fertility (fewer than two children per woman) - but it is a significant part of the story.

So, on the one hand, the native Westerners are going extinct by choice, and have already created the most  old-age skewed population in history and matters are continuing to get worse. On the other hand, an ever greater proportion of ever less-able, less-motivated, and less-benefitting women are staying ever more years at places that call themselves 'a college' (and getting - or sometimes not - something called a 'degree').

Which is more important? 

This is, or ought to be, a non-problem - since there are 1000 ways of solving it while saving time, money and effort as well. 

The fact we do nothing about it except to continue to make matters worse, shows our priorities - no, worse that that, it reveals our preferences. We get what we want.

Real, actual, existing college is (for the overwhelming majority) a (literal) waste of time - in that it takes time, and actively-wastes it - which is evil. (Same with resources.) And it takes more and more time from more and more people and destroys it (while lying and misleading and concealing what is going on).

This is not neutral - this is evil. Yet this is our preference. This is what we celebrate - individually and culturally. Our moral imperative, unchallengeable in its authority...

By contrast, this situation reveals that we fear and hate our own potential babies, our unborn children and the ways and means by which they come among us: loving, stable marriage and family.

We must hate them because we will do nothing for them, not even speak-out in their favour; indeed we are - as a civiization, for our own selfish reasons - wrecking their future in ways both deep and serious, and superficial and immediate.

On the one hand, the primary form of human relationship -- on the other hand, a few more desultory years pretending to learm things that have neither interest nor relevance; pretending to have acquired skills that have really never even been attenpted, staving off loneliness and boredom by distraction with recreational sex, drink, drugs, and other miserable but addictive indulgences.

All this means - in brief summary - that as a culture, as revealed by what we actually do and celebrate and try to do more of: we fear, loath and want to destroy ourselves.

Okay that is the situation - and it IS the situation. What are we going to do about it?

Are we going to continue to pretend that there is no real problem except that we do not get enough of those things we supposedly want? (Like college, sex freedom and frequency, enjoyable distractions).

We already have more of this stuff than anyone ever in the history of everything. Is our lack of even-more really the big problem?

So - given that we are deep in a hole and still digging, and the walls will sooner or later collapse and crush us -- what are we going to do about it? What are you going to do about it? 


Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Where does modern poverty come from?

Modern poverty is different from ancient poverty - and this is true whether we are talking about 'relative poverty' in The West (where the poor do not work, are overweight and tend to overuse drugs); and 'absolute poverty in the Third World (where people work long hours, are thin and malnourished, and cannot afford any inessentials).

200 years ago, the modern poor would have been dead.

In other words, as a generalisation, the people who are poorest nowadays would not have been alive in the past.

(Socialism probably got its start and its moral force from observing the 'new poor' - and misunderstanding their origin. Socialists assumed that the new poor had been immiserated by capitalism from the old prosperous working class. But they had in fact been created by saving some of the children of the poor from death: but saving them from death to only-just-subsist in extreme poverty.) 

In The West, instead of being part of a chronically unemployed/ sick/ unemployable and socially pathological underclass, the modern poor would have been long-since dead - probably in the womb or in early childhood; plus quite a lot more in the teens. 

In the Third World  - they modern poor would have been dead from infectious diseases, or predation, or starved to death, or by violence (all of which have now been significantly prevented or cured by importing technology and expertise and other resources from The West).

The average poor woman woman 200 years ago would have had close to zero children surviving to sexually fertile adulthood on average (no matter how many babies were born). And if she personally did not raise the children, they would even-more-certainly die.

Nowadays, even in the poorest areas the average woman can expect to raise a majority of her children.

And in The West, she can expect that very nearly as many children as she gives birth to, will reach adulthood in a condition to have their own children (even if she personally does not rear them, someone else will be paid to do so - and there is no limit to the number).  

This analysis seems to suggest that the problems of modern poverty are essentially ineradicable - since there is no compelling reason to believe, no precedent to assume, that the problems can be solved.

Maybe they can be solved? - or substantially ameliorated? But, if we are hard-nosed and sceptical, we would have to acknowledge that that is just a wish and a hope, and - as yet - there is nothing at all to support the idea.