Thursday, 30 October 2014

Fighting bravely to support evil

*
I was watching a TV programme about the closing days of the 1939-45 war and reflected again on the courage, effectiveness, tenacity and patriotism of the German military, fighting every step of the way in defense of extreme evil - not surrendering until utterly defeated.

Just an extreme version of the situation of all who see truth in the West today - we dedicate most of our lives and best efforts to a culture, nation, institutions great and small that are (overall, in net effect) extremely evil - to the extent of openly propagating and enforcing wickedness as virtue, lies as truth and ugliness as beauty - and unrelentingly subverting and harassing Good wherever they perceive it (in real Christianity, marriages, families, wholesome and effective groups, organizations, clubs...) - and all of this so consistently evil that we have all-but lost sight of the fact.

*

As I perceive it, the situation is inescapable in worldly terms; we are all IN it together. And what we are in is precisely the kind of unrepentant society which, in the Old Testament and Book of Mormon alike, deserves to be destroyed and (unless they repent) will actually get destroyed - usually by God simply withdrawing divine protection and allowing the wicked nation to destroy itself; so that it is swiftly overwhelmed by enemies or by natural disasters that a virtuous society would survive - and indeed ennoble itself by resisting.

*

In worldly terms there seems to be no answer. The forces are too unequal; hundreds or thousands or even (in some places) millions against one.

To speak goodness and truth then comes across as bizarre, insane; and indeed itself wicked - since the moral inversions of modernity are interlocking and mutually reinforcing.

In practice, communication between the insane and wicked and wholly complicit majority; and a tiny, isolated, atomic minority who perceive basic truth - is impossible,

*

Indeed, even among truth-seers and -tellers, it seems to me that many have become embittered; hate-driven and closed-hearted; like dogs made savage by being locked up and tormented.

*

I have no suggestions for squaring this circle, no strategy for successful takeover; but to hold fast to the Good and continually identify and repent those many evils which we all daily do and say and think, simply by living in the world we live in - a world where our courage and hard work will be used against Good.

Luckily, with repentance, there is a limitless capacity for Christ's atonement to absorb our many and deliberate sins. Lucky indeed...

And our trust and hope should be and must be in those unseen and unknown mechanisms by which any Good, anywhere, is always and forever effectual - even when utterly private, uncomunicated.
*

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Introducing The teacher-free college: or, How can we cure bureaucratic bloat and managerial takeover in an institution?

*
The simple answer is that we can't.

When there has been bureaucratic bloat and managerial takeover, there can only be destruction and replacement, because reform is (in practise) impossible. 

*

Once an organisation has crossed the 'event horizon' at which management is dominant (e.g. many universities and colleges now employ more people with higher salaries in managerial and administrative roles than in teaching and research/ scholarship roles) - the organisations can only be (coercively) closed down, and new organisations started-up to replace them.

*

In theory, a corrupt organisation, bloated with bureaucracy and bureaucrats, can reform itself by eliminating non-essential administration while retaining productive capacity; in practise it cannot reform itself; since the whole set-up, the power structure, the rules and regulations, are all designed to sustain management.

(The people who are supposed to devise and implement reforms, are the exact people who need reforming.)

And the non-productive institutional elements have 100 percent of their time and effort to expend on concealment, blocking, propaganda, lying, lobbying, shroud-waving and all the other defensive measures.

So we must assume that corrupt organisations cannot be reformed, and must not waste energy, time and resources on attempting the impossible. 

*

An apparent exception is when a 'Fuhrer' is appointed with near-absolute power to sack, employ and restructure; without regard for the rules and regulations.

If that Fuhrer is ruthless yet benign and altruistic and dedicated to the functionality of the organisation (not a common combination) - then in principle he could strip-out the deadwood of persons and procedures, with an immediate increase in efficiency and effectiveness, and beginning the process of improvement in a manner which would be self-sustaining.

But that amounts to pretty much the same as replacement. It amounts to starting a new institution while closing the corrupt one; but leaving the name unchanged.

*

And the replacement process must, in practise, be quick and dirty; crude and complete.

If the process is strung out, powerful bureaucrats (and by definition these bureaucrats are powerful, or there would not be a problem) will entrench, will mobilise mass media opinion, will employ legal and procedural delays, will recruit the support of political parties (who will always welcome any powerful interest group).

And the replacement process must err on the side of overkill, in order that the job be done at all and not undone almost immediately.

These are both reasons why slash-and-burn with replacement is likely to be more effective than even the most rapid and radical renovation.

*

The easiest and most effective is when the system has a mix of good and bad institutions - then you simply close the bad and expand the good.

Much harder is when - as with civil administration, education, health care - the whole system is corrupt, and every single institution is fatally infected with metastatic management, every organisation is in a terminal phase of bureaucratic cancer

It is very difficult to close down the whole system - not least because there will be a gap before a new system can be constructed. Meanwhile no government agencies, health care system, schools or colleges... impossible to contemplate. But something that will happen anyway, as management takeover continues.

At present we already have vast institutions with vast management structures on top of a diminishingly-tiny, increasingly-victimised and ever-more persecuted set of people who do the productive work. Hospitals with hardly any doctors or nurses but armies of bureaucrats; massive university bureaucracies with a handful of part-time, underpaid, temporary teachers.

What is to stop this trend going through to completion - and having only managers and bureaucrats? Why not a doctor-free hospital, a teacher-free college?

*

Imagine (it isn't hard): students come to a college and experience a long induction phase explaining the commitment to to equality, fairness, diversity; go through procedures for grievances; parties and socials; tours of the library, cafes, bars and campus; practise role playing and training in proper behaviour; go through student evaluations and registering choices of majors, courses etc.

Eventually students are allocated to a course. They are given a wad of course documentation - aims and objectives, lists of material online, procedures and processes of evaluation; then - seamlessly - the students evaluate the course material and reflect on how they have benefited from it, its good and bad factors, how it might be improved; they then rate how this process has improved their knowledge, skills of research, analytic abilities - these evaluations are accumulated and stored as a measure of their achievements; they meet in facilitated groups to reflect on their college experience so far and how it has affected them, how it has impacted on their attitudes to diversity, how much they have been enhanced...

- and at some point in this whirlwind of evaluations and focus groups and gathering and analysis of feedback; the students are declared to have passed the course; and awarded a mark of A, A-plus or A-double-plus.

There never has been any teaching, only facilitated discussions; no exams, only feedback and evaluations; the focus being on how the students feel about things, how they are being improved, and how the institution may 'continue to' improve in response to student advice.

The college is grateful for the money, the students are grateful for the self-enhancing experience, a degree parchment changes hands...

*

Voila! The teacher free college. The education-free university. Management triumphant, pure bureaucracy; the cancer has replaced the organism.

How many people would notice the difference?

*

Reference: 
http://medicalhypotheses.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/cancer-of-bureaucracy.html
*

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Synchronicity and providence: The Will versus Will Power - ideas of William Arkle

*
William Arkle's Geography of Consciousness (1974) is so densely written that it is extremely difficult to understand - so it was only yesterday that I grasped the meaning of Chapter Sixteen The Will - and recognised that (without mentioning the term) it provided an explanation for a phenomenon which so interests me: Synchronicity.

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=synchronicity

*

My previous understanding was very general and external - that synchronicity was an indirect form of evidence for the reality of a personal God since it implied that 'the universe' was being 'arranged' such that I experienced certain events of special significance.

*

Arkle's explanation is related to a contrast between The Will versus Will Power.

Will Power is taken in its usual secular and common sense definition, and interpreted as the use of normal psychological disciplines to attain a particular goal.

Will power is a matter of 'getting what we want or believe we need'; it is a matter of strategically using our mind, understanding, predictive ability, force and manipulations to attain an objective.

Will Power may or may not achieve what it sets out to achieve - but it is essentially an attempt to impose ourselves upon the world; and therefore extremely prone to be evil in motivation and effect.

*

The Will is something altogether different in its nature and operation. It is our true, higher, individual Self; that contains an element of, and is in communication with, God.

Therefore The Will is a source of the power strength, and purpose of God as this specifically applies to our (real) selves.

The Will is therefore necessarily good, and (being divine) this good is harmonised with the good of all other things.

We have no conscious power to influence The Will by a strategic decision - any more than we could change God's will; we can only recognise The Will, and choose either to accept or to reject it.

*

Mostly we choose to ignore or reject The Will, and instead attempt to impose our false selves upon the world by Will Power.

And mostly this is un-successful - and this failure is both necessary and fortunate as the results of success would be disastrous to ourselves and to others (including the whole environment).

When (as is usual) the Will Power goes against The Will; The Will 'sabotages' our plans, by all kinds of means including psychological sabotage, but not confined to that - since The Will is divine it has power to influence other things in the environment - leading to what may be termed 'bad luck' but is actually a necessary failure to get what we want, because what we want is opposed to what God wants, and therefore creation is 'weighted against us'.

*

But a person who knows, accepts and lives by The Will (in however brief and incomplete a fashion) finds the opposite - he finds that not only his own mind (mental powers) but also 'things in general' cooperate in ways that are good.

This includes genuine synchronicity - which is a consequence of harmony between ourselves and our environment working towards the good, caused by The Will spontaneously (over time) reproducing in our surroundings 'a drama which represents the significance of our being': i.e. synchronicity, or 'meaningful coincidence' (as we interpret it).

*

By this account synchronicity is mostly an operation of God-within-us, rather than a situation created by God's power external to us. It is evidence of a truly vast and intrinsically good power - a divine power of subtle harmonisation that we may recognise (or reject); but which it is impossible for us to control, exploit or 'use' to achieve our personal desires.

This also explains divine providence, that sense of God's Will working in the world (but only with our chosen cooperation) can make situations that seem like a near-incredible 'good fortune' by a sequence of apparent 'luck'.

*

This may be the explanation for Great Men (in religion, theology, politics, arts, sciences etc.) who are (who 'happen to be') in the right place at the right time, and whose (small) decisions and acts are amplified (by invisible processes) to have vast consequences.

Arkle's example is Winston Churchill; whose personal qualities in the role of Prime Minister during the Battle of Britain were a consequence of extraordinary sequences of 'luck' - with world historical consequences.

"If you are a Churchill, you make a few small noises into a microphone, and you set forces in motion in people's natures which make all the difference..."

The lesson is that if we want real power in life, like Churchill, or the Greats in other domains of life; then this can be had only by renouncing Will Power, and embracing The Will.

*

We tend to suppose that the 'main problem' of life is 'amplifying our voices' - using force, cunning, chance to make the world take notice of what we think is important; but this is the false self at work deploying Will Power.

When the true self, The Will, is at work comes a recognition that our proper main problem, something that only we can do, is to recognise and nurture our true self, our highest consciousness which contains and harmonises with the divine.

And insofar as this achieved (and whether we know this is happening or not, and whether we are personally credited with it or not) the goodness of a true self in higher consciousness will quite easily and quite naturally be 'amplified' and propagated by innumerable instances of 'luck', sequences of meaningful coincidences: synchronicities.
*


Monday, 27 October 2014

The omniscient intellectual pundit - Peter Sloterdijk as exemplar

*

Browsing through a book on the premier living German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk, and then watching an online interview, I was struck by the pose of omniscience which is a characteristic of modern 'public intellectuals': they have something apparently complex and analytic to say on any socio-political topic that anybody cares to throw at them - the whole thing can be woven into some multi-coloured tapestry.

Sloterdijk, in particular, does this very well; with his shambolic-ex-Viking appearance, and slowly enunciated and sinuous sentences delivered with a twinkle of the eye and a pursing of the lips; as if to say "if this is the kind of thing you want, then here it is; and I can keep this up for as long as you care to listen..'


For much of my early adult life, there is nothing I would have liked better than to be a Sloterdijk-figure; essentially doing and writing pretty much as the spirit moved me, and my pronouncements tracked, reported and discussed in the 'serious' media; causing periodic 'scandals' but always somehow floating above them.

But, really, this kind of multi-valent faux-expertise cannot be good for the soul! Sloterdijk is a vast and wide-ranging consumer of the modern mass media, which he rapidly memorizes and swiftly reframes into arresting and shocking assemblages.

There is no possibility of assimilation - of deep processing - of meditative reflection, it is 99% second-hand reprocessed and unexperienced opinion, there is no over-arching 'project' or strategy, no moral, aesthetic or truth foundations - instead an endless, open-ended production of high-brow commentary and stimulation; ranging here and there and perhaps back again.

After not very long, it makes me hold me head in my hands, and start to beg for mercy. And Sloterdijk is the best of his kind, and far above the US or UK competition (if indeed there is any Anglosphere competition for this kind of thing... Chomsky, perhaps?).

But I wonder what goes on inside Sloterdijk's capacious cranium? Does he ever stop reading and pontificating and writing for long enough to take stock about his place in the nature of things; to reflect that he is merely whiling away his time and our time, in a pleasant and amusing fashion, until he dies and the rest of us die?

Does this, will this, ever seem like an urgent matter; something that requires not just attention, not just more theories and analogies - but an answer?
*

What alternatives to party-slacker college?

*
Most colleges for most people nowadays are a minimal excuse for slacking and parties; and this is worse than merely a waste of time and resources - it is bad for the students and it is bad for the colleges.

The students end-up having forgotten more in three years than they have learned, with a pack full of bad habits and an ingrained sense of entitlement; the colleges are destroyed by the basic dishonesty of the system - they become certificate mills that sell fake qualifications in exchange for fees - rationalized by pretend work, wholesale cheating, and pseudo-skills.

Yet parents feel it is mean to deny kids the 'experience' of college, and so do their kids - so what is an alternative?

If the party-slacker experience is considered to be an essential part of (ahem) growing-up, then the parents could pay for a solid year of this - maybe a year of travel and work 'abroad', of voluntary or church service, a year playing computer games, or being a writer or a dancer, or walking in the hills, or playing football or cricket - or whatever.

Then a year (or maybe two) of serious vocational training to prepare for a basic, realistic, get-able job that pays above minimum wage (thereby providing a more valuable education than that attained by the majority of graduates).

This would be much cheaper than three years at a residential 'college' pretending to learn; and might potentially be of some minimal value to the student, the parents, and 'society' (whatever that is...).

*

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Why I am not, personally, a Platonist

*
I hope that in yesterday's post I was able to demonstrate my immense respect for Platonism, and for the achievements of Platonist intellectuals

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/is-platonism-religion-yes-it-has-been.html

I regard Platonism as the only philosophy with power to motivate good work, and make sense of life; nonetheless I am not now a Platonist - although I have been, at various times in the past including quite recently:

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=platonist

*

Platonism was never quite natural for me, and I always responded most instinctively and spontaneously to the Pragmatism of William James, which I first encountered in Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. However, this pluralism does seem shallow, unspiritual and incomplete, especially in comparison with Platonism, so I would vacillate and oscillate.

It was only after re-reading and second-time-round grasping Sterling McMurrin's The Theological Foundations of the Mormon Religion that I saw the bigger picture; which was the Christianity was primary and the foundation and the framework; and pluralist pragmatism was the metaphysical philosophy secondary, built-on and located-within that framework.

From this perspective, I perceive that Platonism is so strong a philosophy (for serious intellectuals, at least - it is incomprehensible or silly for 'normal people') that it had (very early in the history of the Christian church) usurped the primacy of Christianity, and had slotted-Christianity-into the Platonic framework which Greco-Roman intellectuals already had in place before they were Christians.

(In the above and what follows, I regard Aristotelian philosophy, and Thomism, as being a sub-set of the broad category of Platonism. It is different, but the difference in in detail; Aristotle was a modification, not replacement, of Plato; and the basic assumptions of Aristotelianism are within Platonism.) 

*

Platonism is so strong, so satisfying - including spiritually satisfying, and so nearly-complete a metaphysical system; that it almost cannot-help but become a rival to plain, storytelling, personal relations-based Christianity as revealed in the New Testament (and the Old).

Thus, Christian theologians have generally defended Platonism as if it was Christianity, and regarded non-Platonic philosophy as heretical - failing to see that in doing so they are putting philosophy before theology.

I am NOT saying that one cannot be both a Platonist and a Christian - that would be utterly ludicrous since so many great Christians (including church Fathers and Saints and people of high holiness) have been Platonists. What I am saying is that it is hard to be this and not to put the Platonism first.

So while I, as a pluralist pragmatist, freely and happily acknowledge the real and high Christianity of Christian Platonists; Christian Platonists cannot return the compliment! Or at least they do not, but indeed do the opposite - they deny the validity of non-Platonic (pluralist, pragmatist) Christians.

*

The focus of disagreement between Platonism and what might be termed plain Christianity is the nature of God.

For Platonism God is primarily - and in reality - abstract, has attributes and properties; and the person-hood of God is a kind of interactive software designed for our convenience and benefit - but not the core of the matter. God is, really, a God of the Philosophers; and God as Father is seen as a metaphor, a help for weaker vessels, but not really correct. Thus the philosopher has a better (deeper, truer) understanding of the nature of God than is possible for children and simple people.

For the pragmatist pluralist, who rests on Biblical revelation, the bottom-line nature of God is that He is Our Father; a person; and the way to describe Him and the Human Condition is properly to use the language of relationships. The philosophical descriptions of God, his abstract properties, are relatively shallow compared to this; and when philosophy comes into conflict with the personal and relational understanding - it is philosophy that must yield.

Since it is children and simple people (that are Christian) who most naturally perceive God as a person with whom we have a relationship, then it is children and simple people of faith who have a better (deeper, truer) understanding of the nature of God than the philosophical description.

*

So this is why, despite my enormous respect for Platonism, and my experience of its gravitational attraction, I am not myself a Platonist.

*

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Is Platonism a religion? Yes: it has been the secret religion of most serious intellectuals for more than two millenia

*
What I call Platonism is often impilict and may even be denied by its believers - but I think it is a religion, and it does affects people's lives and behaviours, albeit in an individualistic manner (since there is no church of Platonism).

*

By Platonism, I mean the belief that behind the everyday, up-front and obvious world of differences and changes and incomprehensible complexity; there is a world of simpler, eternal and unchanging 'forms' - and this world of forms is more real than the everyday world because we can have genuine knowledge of it (whereas the everyday world of change lacks pattern, and is unknowable).

By such a definition, Platonism has been the implicit religion of many of the greatest mathematicians and scientists, of many artists and scholars - and in general many of those who inhabit the world of the mind.

*

Platonism may be Christian, or non-Christian - in fact, Platonism has been the basic world view of the majority of Christian intellectuals since at least the middle second century AD (although there is very little evidence it in the Old or New Testament - and none of that evidence is clear or explicit).

But Platonism has been,  in fact, the secret religion of the majority of intellectuals full stop.

Whether this has anything to do with the specific lineage of Plato, or whether Platonism is a basic archetypal pattern of thinking into-which intellectuals tend to fall (a 'strong attractor' as it were) - I am not sure.

And although Platonism has been probably dominant religion of serious intellectuals, it is not necessary nor inevitable as the religion of real intellectuals - there are other equally coherent and motivating alternatives; such as Aristotelianism (a significant modification of Platonism - focused on the primacy of universal forms, rather than a separate world of forms).

*

But Platonism is dominant among serious intellectuals, probably because if a serious intellectual is not a Platonist, the philosophy will probably not be strong enough to work as a real religion. So an Aristotelian must be primarily a Christian (or some other type of monotheist) if he is to stay honest and true.

And the same would apply to a pragmatist pluralist such as myself - we could only stay honest if our pragmatism is underpinned by strong, binding, personal monotheism. I think it is too easy for non-Platonists to become corrupted by worldly-things unless they (we) are underpinned by monotheism.

In this sense, Platonism is the strongest of all philosophies

Platonism is the only philosophy which can serve as a way of life, as the bottom-line for living

*

Even nowadays, and even among those rare and few real scientists who self-describe as non-religious, Platonism is a strong, bottom line, metaphysical religion - as is most obvious when top-notch mathematicians (such as Roger Penrose^) discuss their basic stance and the meaning of their work.

This basic conviction about the nature of reality is - for such people - an important motivation and source of strength and honesty; because it enables then to resist the usually- irresistible worldly considerations of money, career, awards, peer status etc: the Platonist intellectuals regard themselves as working for eternity - their 'reward' for unworldly disinterestedness will be in Platonic Heaven, and will endure long after the expediencies and corruptions of everyday life have been swept away in this world of constant change.

And what is Platonic Heaven? The emphasis is impersonal; the Platonic God is not, primarily, a personal God with whom one has a personal relationship; he is an abstract God of abstract properties such as reality itself and the self-contemplation of reality; so Platonic Heaven is not a relationship but a state of being - some kind of bliss-full absorption in pure knowledge.

The Heavenly reward of the faithful Platonist is eternally to participate-in pure conscious awareness of exactly that eternal and unchanging reality which he has revered, and which he has served.

This is the hope which makes him brave, steadfast and honest in his dealings.

*

Yes, Platonism is a real religion, although rarer now in The West than at any time in the past 2000 years: Platonism is a real religion because Platonism makes a real difference.
*


^Here is a modern Platonist - perhaps the greatest living mathematical physicist - being explicit about his beliefs, convictions and motivations:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9Q6SWcTA9w
*


*

Friday, 24 October 2014

Neoreaction is wrong what it says Leftism is a Christian heresy - Leftism is Christian apostasy

*
Neoreaction is wrong, and is in fact speaking nonsense, when it says that Leftism is a Christian heresy.

What they should be saying is that Leftism is Christian apostasy.

Apostasy means to abandon the faith; whereas heresy means contrary to orthodoxy. That clarification should be enough to show the error of Neoreaction.

Heresy can only be defined from one particular concept of Christian orthodoxy - so a Roman Catholic, a Russian Orthodox or a Calvinist could define some other person or group as heretical - indeed each would define the others as heretical - but strictly there are not generically Christian heretics, because there is no generically Christian orthodoxy from which to define heresy.

If somebody dissents from a generically Christian position, then they are not an heretic, they are an apostate - which is to say they are not merely unorthodox Christians but reject Christianity itself (for example, if they deny that Christ is their savior and Lord, but merely a prophet, teacher or good example).

Some Liberal Christians, who are always Leftist, could be described as heretics from the perspective of other specific Christian positions - but some are apostate since they deny basic, core Christianity.

Neoreactionaries logically cannot define, detect nor ascribe heresy, nor can they describe some person or group as heretical, because they are not arguing from any orthodox Christian position; they are in fact (qua Neoreactionary, and even if they themselves happen to be Christians) arguing from a secular position.

However, although Neoreaction cannot ascribe heresy, because it is neither Christian nor orthodox in any way, Neoreaction can legitimately detect and define apostasy: it can recognize that some person or group has abandoned core Christianity.

Neoreactionaries as individuals can only define heresy if they are doing so from a specific orthodox Christian position - but this will not merely relate to Leftism, but a Calvinist Neoreactionary will then define a Roman Catholic Neoreactionary as heretical and vice versa.

Anyway, enough has been said to demonstrate that the Neoreactionaries 'Leftism is a Christian heresy' meme is not just causally incorrect, it is logically incoherent.

Not just nonsense, but double nonsense!

*

There are many myths - there are even new myths

*
The greatest evangelist for myth of recent generations was Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) - but he was a man of contradictions.

On the one hand he was fascinated by the many and various myths of the world, throughout history - and he was Jungian in finding myths not just in anthropology and 'folklore'; but to be equally the basis of dreams, the creative arts... and pretty much everything. He spent his life extracting, collecting and disseminating multiple myths.

*

Yet Campbell is best known for his book The Hero with Thousand Faces which - in its most extreme moments - says that behind this vast seeming-diversity, there is only one underlying myth: the Hero's Journey.

Indeed in his introduction (writing in 1949) Campbell makes clear his overall purpose in studying and teaching myth:

Perhaps it will be objected that in bringing out the correspondences I have overlooked the differences between the various Oriental and Occidental, modern, ancient, and primitive traditions. The same objection might be brought, however, against any textbook or chart of anatomy, where the physiological variations of race are disregarded in the interest of a basic general understanding of the human physique. There are of course differences between the numerous mythologies and religions of mankind, but this is a book about the similarities; and once these are understood the differences will be found to be much less great than is popularly (and politically) supposed. My hope is that a comparative elucidation may contribute to the perhaps not-quite-desperate cause of those forces that are working in the present world for unification, not in the name of some ecclesiastical or political empire, but in the sense of human mutual understanding. As we are told in the Vedas: Truth is one, the sages speak of it by many names.“

Campbell was still making the same point - that the underlying unity of all myth implies the unity of all mankind, up to his death; and that we should focus on this unity in the myths we live by, since the modern world is interconnected and inter-dependent. He was - in this respect - an extreme universalist, which accounts for his continued appeal to the mainstream, politically correct, New Left - which permeates academia, New Age spirituality and radical politics.

*

In his personal religious preferences, Campbell was most positive towards Hinduism (as the above quotations shows), followed by Buddhism - and reserved mockery and animosity for Christianity (he was a lapsed Roman Catholic) and Old Testament Judaism.

*

Although in the middle 2000s (before I became a Christian) I was immersed in Campbell's work, I always dissented from the trope that he was 'a great storyteller' - I found his recountings of myth to be tendentious and facetious - very seldom 'mythic' in style, but instead modernist and reductionist.

That which was 'mythical' was usually stripped away in the re-telling,  and there was a quasi scientific focus on basic symbols and plots - as must inevitably happen (it seems to me) when engaged in unifying what appears to be multiple.

*

In his heart Campbell was an Eastern-style Hindu unifier - which is to be immersed in the specifics but simply to assert, non-rationally, that ultimately everything is one. But in writing for a Western audience, Campbell was a rationalistic unifier - asserting that the real underlying structure of all myth, all things, was identical. His pseudo-scientific method of unification came from Freud and Jung mostly, but also from pattern-recognising cultural criticism.

*

My own views are almost the opposite of Campbell's in that I regard myths as open-endedly various.

I accept his broad brush definition of 'myth' as including not only the explicit myths of anthropology and folklore; but also dreams, psychosis, arts, fantasy, and all types of narratives.

What makes something a myth is, at the first level of analysis, psychological - a feeling, a way of thinking: this is indeed one of the primary human emotions - the feeling we sometimes get that tells us: 'This is a myth!'

In fact this feeling is more profound than mere recognition that something is a myth - it is the recognition of 'Me, Here, Now - inside a myth'.

*

I am talking about the difference between recognising and discussing or recounting the myth of Father Christmas; and the magical feeling of being inside, of enacting that myth on Christmas Eve. The difference between describing the quest of Frodo in Lord of the Rings, and that feeling of actually living mythically (inside a 'story') which - by identifying with Frodo - the book is able to induce in some people.

*

And, in contrast to there being one (or just a few) basic stories, I think that all successful myths are significantly distinct: so it is possible to make new myths, and even new kinds of myth which others can replicate. Lord of the Rings is one example: to reduce Frodo's quest to a Hero's Journal requires significant omissions and distortions, and is basically dishonest - yet the mythic aspect is undeniably successful and real.

And powerful new myths continue to be made - for example many of the best children's animated movies of recent years have genuine mythic power (e.g. Toy Story movies, Rise of the Guardians, Maleficent), yet the myth feels new, and the plots are significantly non-stereotypical and surprising.

*

Of course not all attempts to make a new myth succeed - and some (many, most?) 'new' myths are in fact subversively motivated and anti-mythical in effect. They destroy or deny that mythic feeling in favour of a political agenda or avant garde modernism; they mock, invert, permutate and distort myths; rather than create new and psychologically profound myths.

This happens a lot, because real myths are a very important force for good in the modern world - one of ever-fewer places where people can live (for a while) un-alienated, and in relationship with reality.

Because myth is real; mythic modes of being are indeed more real than the world outside them; indeed the non-mythic mode never feels real but always alien, un-engaging, and merely a means to some other end.

By contrast, mythic experience, living inside myth, is an end in itself - not sufficient in itself, to be sure; but the essential basis for all the real things of life.

*

Thursday, 23 October 2014

There are no organisms, species, living things etc (Biology cannot explain Biology)

*
I have been doing some hard thinking lately about the origins of life, operating from within the assumptions of biology - and, as always happens, I pretty soon find myself getting perplexed at what I already know but keep on neglecting or forgetting; that biology cannot explain biology.

All biological definitions turn to mush and fuzz - and all biological categories (without which we cannot even begin to do biology) turn out to be unworkable when pushed to the edge.

*

What is an organism? Nothing to do with a specific set of genes, not really; because there are somatic mutations within the life of the organism - from the moment of its origin, which means that cells differ genetically within the organism - so we are a colony, not a unity.

What is worse, it means that we change identity throughout life.

In trees, for instance, one twig is genetically non-identical with another twig someplace else; and neither are identical with the seed from which the tree grew - the tree is a lineage, not a unity.

*

And life? It is about metabolism and replication - but metabolism is merely a pattern of processes with interchangeable molecules, and the line drawn around the pattern of processes refers merely to a quantitative concentration of metabolism - there are no sharp lines, but rather a kind of metabolic soup with more activity here and less here.

Replication? Well, at best it is a matter of probabilities and percentages - in nature (as distinct from mathematical or computational simulations) there is no exact replication; and no perfect system for repairing the errors of inexact replication.  

*

So what is the human being? Not the genes, as above.  Not the phenotype - the shape, or function - which is constantly changing,

The human being is not even definable by descent - because over evolutionary history things change their nature; how could they not when there is nothing specific carrying the identity. After all, cell culture which was grown from a human lung cancer is related by lineage - and indeed contains most of the genes of the original host - but isn't the human being.

*

There isn't an answer to these questions! - not from within biology.

Biology is not autonomous - nor are any of the sciences - all exist within a conceptual (metaphysical) framework that is outwith science.

Essential biological concepts like the organism, species, natural selection, life itself - depend upon non-biological definitions of essences or realities or forms.

So I, as an individual person, and as a human being, and a living thing have a non-biological essence - something that biology cannot (and does not) talk about - but takes for granted, denies, ignores and in a thousand ways just leaves-out of consideration.

Natural selection pretends to be some kind of ultimate explanation, but the basic and essential matter of what it is that evolves, how we chop up reality into evolvable units... this is beyond biology, logically prior to biology.

*

So when I consider the origins of life, it does not take very long, does not take many questions of questions; before I find the question to be formally unanswerable, and I lurch back or veer aside, frustrated by the impossibility - even in principle - of getting any kind of ultimate answer.
*

We need the Incredible - what can intelligence do?

*
What we most need is what we find hardest to believe.

What we passively receive via the mass media is evil, false, ugly; aimed to subvert and invert our aims, to trap us in a bubble of distraction, to induce despair and wish for death.

Yet hard-nosed, common sense, data-based, rational analysis and policy making is an Iron Cage - it cannot motivate us, it reduces life to something that cannot engage us. It bludgeons, it coerces but never inspires.

Only the Incredible, that which we have been trained to regard as ridiculous, absurd, disgusting - can save us.

*

But not not, of course, anything Incredible: incredibility per se is useless; but among incredibilities is where the real, true and saving answer lies.

To find it is a risky business, there is no longer any psychologically-safe path. There is danger of embracing the wrong Incredible: real danger.

*

What use is intelligence?

Intelligence is power, intelligence is a weapon. Intelligence is indomitable - but only, at best, defensive of good - intelligence does not originate good.

Our own intelligence is outnumbered, conquest is impossible. But the intelligence of a single Man can (if they let it) defend himself and his allies against any number of foes - if they let it.

*

Intelligence is like a good shaman - who can place an impenetrable magic circle around his village, disable the weapons of the tribes' enemies, deflect the mind-probes of the aggressors to conceal his people; he has a million tricks to hold fast in a spiritual assault, and draws strength from a million hidden sources.

He cannot be defeated: so long as he fights to defend sacred ground.

Only if he allows himself to be lured into stepping-out from the gods-protected zone of rightful occupation does he become vulnerable; and then the whole tribe may be threatened with invasion, subversion; death and absorption.

*

Incredible? Yes.

The good-Incredible does not originate with intelligence, nor is intelligence able to recognise it; only to defend it once recognised

The good-Incredible originates outwith, and is recognised only by an open heart - which is also vulnerable to hurt.

*

An open heart cannot be defended, but when it is hurt (as it will be) it can be healed - however, only the Incredible can heal the hurt open heart.

*

So we absolutely need the Incredible, or else we cannot be open-hearted, and cannot discern the good Incredible from the evil; and then we will sooner-or-later be overcome; by one means or another. 

But with the Incredible, we cannot, and will not, be overcome; ever.


*

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Monarchial Leftism (a terse definition of Neoreaction) - i.e. Neoreactionaries are anti-Christian (hence on the Left) but pro-Monarchial (hence opposed to mainstream Leftism)

*

It seems that it is a core belief on the secular Right, including Neoreaction, that modern Leftism, political correctness, was caused by Christianity; and that Christianity is intrinsically pro-Left.

This is
just plain wrong; and I and others have refuted this on many occasions and argued the (almost) opposite view with a piling-on of evidence - that Leftism was anti-Christian in its very foundations, and continuing (very obviously - in materially supporting and concealing the almost complete obliteration of Christianity in the Middle East over the past decade); however, this is one of those many situations when argument does not make any difference.

So, accepting that Neoreaction cannot share the following analysis; what is  Neoreaction from the perspective of the (real) Christian Right? 


*


(The (real) Christian Right being the shared political perspective of all 'real' Christians - as contrasted with the fake pseudo-anti-Christianity of 'liberal Christianity' - which is the religion of the majority who self-identify as Christians. This distinction between real and fake Christians is about motivation rather than doctrine; and in this respect liberal Christians are analogous to the vast majority of dishonest, career-orientated fake-pseudo-scientists who self-identify as scientists but are in reality merely docile bureaucrats. Real science is about the honest intention to understand the natural world; not about hype and funding, power, prizes and peer review. http://corruption-of-science.blogspot.co.uk . By analogy, real Christianity is about aspiring to
structure society by Christianity, aiming at that goal using whatever means - and there are large disagreements here, rather than the opposite liberal (pseudo-) Christian goal of structuring Christianity by society.)

*


Neoreaction is (it now seems) founded upon anti-Christianity - but not in the sense of 'being nasty to Christians'. Neoreactionaries aren't usually nasty to Christians, quite the opposite - they try to enrol Christians on their side. But anti-Christian in genuinely blaming (their definition of) Christianity for causing what Neoreactionaries themselves regard as the greatest evils in the modern world. 


From the Religious Right perspective, therefore, Neoreaction
shares the anti-Christian foundational belief of the Left.  

Ergo Neoreaction is of the Left.

*


But clearly Neoreaction is
not of the politically correct mainstream Left - to whom Neoreaction is very hostile. 

So if anti-Christianity was historically the primary belief of Leftism, then it is probably at the
secondary level of belief that Neoreactionaries differ from the politically correct New Left. 

Historically, anti-Christianity was the
primary doctrine of Leftism, and the secondary doctrine was being against the King: was anti-Monarchial (i.e. Leftism was 'Republican' in a broad sense that includes English, French and American Revolutions).

And this is
exactly where Neoreaction diverges from the modern mainstream PC New Left: Neoreaction is pro-Monarchial forms of government - when Monarchy is conceptualized in terms of a unified, formal and mandatory hierarchical structure of social organization with a single Man at the top.

Of course, being anti-Christian means that the Man at the Top cannot be divinely sanctioned - so Neoreactionaries think in terms of a society run by a Dictator, or a Chief Executive rather than a real King.


But this pro-Monarchial foundation is the explanation for some of the most striking aspects of Neoreaction where they most sharply diverge from modern Leftism - such as being explicitly pro-slavery (because absolute opposition to slavery, with no regard for cost or consequences, was a very early dogma of the Left).


*


So here is a terse definition of Neoreaction seen from the Christian Right perspective: 


Neoreaction is Monarchial Leftism

*


(Alternatively, Neoreaction is in favour of non-Christian Monarchy - i.e. a dictatorship, or a society structured like an ideal-type of an effective modern institution or corporation.)

*

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Deep Sleep dreams compared with Dreaming (REM) Sleep dreams: visions, meditations, inspiration and revelation

*
Most, almost-all, the dreams that we remember are those which occur in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, such that this type of sleep is termed Dreaming Sleep. By contrast, Deep Sleep is usually recalled as dreamless, and when someone is woken from it (difficult) and does recall dream content, it is conceptually simple, slow, non-narrative.

Yet, I have come to believe that it is these slow, simple dreams of Deep Sleep which really matter, while the narrative dreams REM sleep are nearly always trivial.

I need a new name for the 'dreams' of Deep Sleep - because they are so different from REM dreams. I propose Slow Motion Segment - because although the Deep Sleep content is very simple and may be in words, emotions, or any other domain; when the 'dream' is visual it is not really static  - not like a picture - but more like a slow motion segment of video - like a second of waking time, stretched-out and its inner workings and evolution examined in incredible detail.

So, just as the release of the cricket ball from a bowler's fingers (or a baseball from the pitcher's fingers) can barely be seen in real time (taking only thousandths of a second), in 'super slo-mo', the extraordinary and evolving, interacting intricacies of finger, wrist and arm movement can easily be observed: that is a metaphor for what goes-on in the 'dreams' of Deep Sleep. 

*

I have read many, many accounts of dreams - in all sorts of writings from the psychoanalytic, through the scientific, to the personal; and people have told me their dreams, and of course I have my own dreams... and the overwhelming impression is that dream content is nearly-always (but not always) trivial, emotionally-shallow, and lacking in serious significance.

REM dreams, by and large, are not a profound message awaiting decoding, they are at the level of a TV soap opera - sometimes emotionally sensational in a manipulative sort of way, but ultimately just froth: 'chewing gum for the mind".

But Deep Sleep is the most therapeutic, recreative and necessary form of sleep - despite that its mental contents are apparently not explicitly accessible. We are only indirectly aware of the consequences of Deep Sleep - seldom of the goings-son: we feel the difference that Deep Sleep makes, but are seldom aware of what made than difference.

*

Meditation is, or should be, about linking-up the conscious mind with the slow, simple and significant world of Deep Sleep - and not with the flashy trivialities of REM sleep - which lead merely to hallucinations, delusions and other delirious phenomena.

The content of meditation is not supposed to be like a REM dream, but more like a Slow Motion Sequence - an examination and experience of something tiny and apparently-fragmentary that waking life would barely notice, it would flash-by in an instant; but which is revealed as rich and significant and enlightening.

*

This means that when a mystic reports his visionary experience derived from this Deep Sleep type of meditation, he will be using the language of waking consciousness to describe what was perhaps a tiny and apparently insignificant moment of awake time, and will have to contextualise, elaborate and interpolate details in order to make sense of the Slow Motion Segment.

Indeed, this is, I think, why Deep Sleep and Visionary and Meditative and Inspirational and Revelatory experiences are seldom explicitly remembered (they are remembered by the effect, rather than by their content) - the awake time-scale is so extremely different from the experiential timescale of Deep Sleep.

I would say, many hundreds of times slower; so that Deep Sleep might spend an hour of awake time (as measured in the 'real world) examining the inward workings and implications of one experienced second of Deep Sleep dreaming...

*

So to take a revelatory vision such as William Arkle's Hand of God

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/the-vision-of-william-arkle-question-of.html

My belief is that the actual vision which underlay the written account was probably of the nature of a slow motion segment - a short, visual and emotional experience, which was known in extraordinary detail - but which can only be recalled and described in narrative language of the type we associate with the awake state and REM sleep.

*

I think this is also what happens in inspiration - for example in science. A very simple, short segment - known intuitively in rich inner detail - is what provides the insight, and not an extended explicit narrative: I am thinking of the simple visions of Kekule's Benzene Rings symbolised by ouroboros snakes with tail in mouth, or Szilard's Eureka moment about nuclear fission as a traffic light changed to green.

*

What about those relatively rare examples of REM sleep dreams which are experienced as significant: Jung's Archetypal, Mythic or Great dreams. I suppose that these are a combination of normal narrative dreams of REM sleep, with an incursion of Deep Sleep and its Slow Motion Segments - so that, as it were, the trivial REM dream story suddenly slows down a hundredfold, and becomes extremely detailed, reveals great profundities: an epiphanic moment showing 'the world in a grain of sand'.

*

These reflections came to me while pondering the prophecies of Isaiah from the Old Testament (and Book of Mormon); and how obscure yet significant they seem to the waking mind.

If we can suppose Isaiah having true revelations, yet needing to translate these into the shallow, trivial, fast moving world of everyday life - we can imagine that he hit upon a poetic method, in that lyrical poetry can condense vast meanings into few words.

(Perhaps this is, indeed, the primary 'function' of poetry in the human condition?)

There is the problem of translating poetry, and translating between an ancient society and a modern one is also difficult (some say impossible) - but in a divinely-inspired version such as the Authorised/ King James Bible, when being read in a proper spirit - the meanings will be there even for the modern and English speaking reader/ meditator; at least, to those able and willing to attune poetically, and not 'literally'- and thereby to intuit vast depth and detail from few words: words that can unpack hours from seconds.

*

Mainstream Christianity is Incredible; Mormon Christianity is Incredible-squared (but both *are* Incredible)

*
I am under no illusion but that Mormonism is Incredible in the sense that it severely strains credibility, and simply seems ridiculous, absurd, disgusting to the standards of normal public discourse.

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/mormonism-poised-between-incredibilities.html

However, mainstream Christianity is incredible also, and in exactly the same way and by the same type of criteria (Incredible that is, to the external observer, who is neither mainstream nor Mormon) - which is to say: to accept any kind of Christianity is to accept the Incredible, and to reject Christianity is also to accept the Incredible.

Christianity is Incredible, Mormon Christianity is Incredible-squared.

*

Therefore neither mainstream Christianity nor Mormon Christianity should be presented as anything other than Incredible - because to do so is to misrepresent.

And because to do so is to diminish: positive transforming power is a consequence of Incredibility; so if our faith is in something less than the Incredible, then it is partial and enfeebled. 

If Incredible things are to be rejected, then both Christianity and Mormon Christianity should be rejected.

*

But of course, the truth of Mormon Christianity is NOT entailed by the truth of mainstream Christianity - one can (the vast majority of Christians have and do) rationally embrace the Incredibility of mC while rejecting the incredibility of MC.

(The opposite is not possible - if someone believes that Mormonism is true then that does entail accepting the essential truth of mainstream Christianity.)

*

So it is reasonable, and indeed usual, for mainstream Christians to reject Mormon Christianity as Incredible-hence-untrue; however, they should be aware that precisely the same qualitative point can equally-reasonably be made against mainstream Christianity - if that Christianity is to be positive and transforming.

Only the Incredible can save us: only the Incredible would offer us everlasting life as Sons of God.

Our choice, here and now, is between Incredibilities - or despair.

*

Monday, 20 October 2014

The working of the Atonement of Jesus Christ can explain how self-chosen damnation is possible, and would be permanent

*
(The following is offered as a possible way of understanding. If it is not helpful - please ignore it.)


The atonement of Jesus Christ is described as infinite, in the sense that there is no finite limit to the number of people or of sins which may be cleansed by it.

When time is regarded in a common-sense fashion as linear, sequential and irreversible; Christ's atonement must (I think) be seen as continuing and on-going and un-ceasing - for so long as Men sin and repent.

After Christ had suffered and died and descended into Hell; the atonement was completed for everybody up to that point in history. From that point onwards the atonement is re-enacted moment by moment; again with each repented sin.

*

The historical atonement therefore established the process by which Jesus Chris took on himself the sins of the world - and suffers for us, that we may be made clean.

The atonement is what allows us to be resurrected and perfected in body and soul (cleansed, purged, made new and whole - while yet remaining our-selves).

But this does not happen automatically nor is it forced upon anybody - but necessarily happens only by our individual consent and choice.

If any person does not allow this to happen, chooses that it does not happen, reject's Christ's offer to take away our sins on condition of repentance; then the atonement does not apply, Christ does not cleanse us - and we are resurrected uncleansed.

*

Since the resurrection is permanent and irreversible, the unrepented sins are built-in, permanent and irreversible.

This is the state termed damnation.

*

Clearly, on this basis, it would be wise not to be resurrected until after we have acknowledged and repented our sins, and 'believed-in' Christ to the extent that we accept his offer to cleanse us.

On this basis, I assume our loving Heavenly Father would tend not to resurrect an unrepentant soul, but to wait and delay resurrection - in hope that repentance will follow at some time, in response to reflection and experiences in the post-mortem spirit realm (perhaps also interventions from those alive on earth).

*

Only if and when an unrepentant soul insists on being resurrected here-and-now (through Pride) would damnation actually happen.

Only then would a soul be damned - firstly by that soul's own choice to reject Christ's atonement, and secondly by refusal to wait and delay, ponder and learn - but impatiently and against divine advice to demand immediate resurrection of their yet sin-full body and soul.

*




Using common sense arguments against politically correct Leftism is worse than futile: the secular Right, and Neoreactionaries, need to ask themselves *why* the modern West does not apply common sense, and ponder the strength of anti-common sense adaptations

*
So many of the major hazards of modern Western life - whether the Ebola epidemic, of one of the chronic problems of the economy, crime, education, mass migration... - could simply be solved by the simple application of simple common sense.

And the secular Right are the party of common sense, and within the secular Right Neoreaction is the party of hard-nosed engineers who know how to fix things - and both and delight in explaining that the problems of modern Leftism are caused by insufficient common sense, and could be cured by the application of more common sense.

Indeed the bulk of secular Right and Neoreactionary discourse is precisely the use of common sense to ridicule the Left. 

But they fail to ask why common sense is not, in fact, actually applied.

*

This is the 64,000 dollar question.

Any explanation for the triumph of the Left which is fundamentally rooted in the history of ideas, has to account for the ability of propaganda (per se) - but in this instance emanating from a small, localized, fluid, and far-from-cohesive (mutually competing) elite - has been and is is able to overcome common sense - a psychological attribute which is solidly located in everybody, does not change, and is the default state.

*

The more that the secular Right/ Neoreaction expose and mock and dissect the ludicrous incoherence and inefficiency and ineffectiveness of Leftism - using a baseline of common sense evaluation - the more extraordinary the continued existence and dominance of Leftism becomes.

The weaker its common sense basis, the stronger must be the real strength of Leftist ideas; else they would not have won. It is he source of the strength of Leftism that needs to be known and analyzed, not their weaknesses - which are clearly irrelevant!"

*

The basic fact is that Leftism does in practice, and now, overcome common sense arguments - so it is futile to try and use common sense as a knock-down argument against Leftism.

Indeed, it must be that Leftism feeds-off common sense arguments - otherwise Leftism could not have grown-up and thriven in a context of universal common sense - therefore common sense arguments are worse than futile -

Common sense analysis actually fuels the engines of Leftism.

*

Sunday, 19 October 2014

I like to eat dust - do you?

*


It seems to be unusual - unique in my family - but I like to eat the dust at the bottom of packets.

The original was Oofle Dust, as we called it, which was the crisp frosting remnants at the bottom of Sugar Puffs breakfast cereal (made from glazed oats, and recently re-named) - this, I regarded as a magical substance (the name because Oofle Dust was the magic substance deployed by Sooty the Bear - above).

I also like any other breakfast cereal dust - including even All Bran - although the rest of the family throw this away - sometimes even sieving it out from the bigger particles - rather than having it 'spoil' their breakfast.

Also I like the little 'niblets', those spiky blobbages (structurally, the radicle) which come-out when salted peanuts are split. Although they taste slightly bitter, I tend to feel that are a kind of concentrated essence of goodness - but I have noticed that most people leave them untouched at the bottom of the dish.

Seems I like to eat my peck of dust.

*

Reality must be easy to understand; even though it is hard to do

*
If reality is understandable at all, then it is easy to understand - understandable by anybody who can understand anything.

What we can be sure about is that reality is NOT going to be too difficult to understand by children and simple people, yet possible to understand by intelligent and educated people.

How likely is that? That the difficulty-level of understanding the world just happens to be at a level that it is understandable, but only by a small minority of the ablest people; or that reality  is understandable, but only to the minority of people who happen to have studied the right subjects!

That understanding is at a threshold located precisely in-between childhood and adulthood, and between the ability of some adults but not others!

(This is why esoteric and gnostic and abstract and complex explanations must either be wrong. or unnecessary.)

No, if reality is understandable, this is not a matter of luck or statistical probability but simply because God has made reality and God has made us - such that reality is understandable; and that must mean reality is easy to understand - that it is understandable by immature, the unintelligent, the uneducated. 

(i.e. Reality is understandable by anyone capable of understanding anything-at-all.)

Reality is difficult to do, perhaps and probably; but easy to understand: if you allow yourself to understand it. 

*

Saturday, 18 October 2014

There is quite an impressive amount of evidence in favour of the genuineness of The Book of Mormon (although this evidence is not conclusive)

*
Mormonism stands and falls on the genuineness of the Book of Mormon being what it claims to be - there really is no wriggle room on this matter: the claims are much too explicit, specific and too concrete for them to be regarded as symbolic.

Furthermore, there really are only two possibilities with the BoM : it must be valid or else a conscious, deliberate and extremely elaborate fraud.

These are the rival hypotheses which need to be evaluated.

*

Now, many or most people will be sure, a priori, that the BoM is a fraud; and if that is how the matter is approached, then that is the conclusion which will emerge.

However, if the question is approached in an agnostic fashion, then the matter is far from straightforward.

And in fact there is a lot of evidence, some of it remarkable, in support of the genuineness of the Book of Mormon - easily enough to make the claims factually plausible and to make belief in the genuineness of the BoM absolutely reasonable by normal evidential standards; even despite some currently-unanswered questions and inconsistencies.

*

Here is an interesting and accessible round-up from Daniel C Peterson - who is a highly intelligent, honest and learned scholar who is himself a Mormon.

In watching this, I would suggest that the positive evidence that Prof Peterson presents should simply be regarded as reasonable and plausible and significant - it is quite unnecessary to regard it as absolutely hard-line conclusive, or as there being no other way of interpreting it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VV8QN7bIeEE

*

I think it would be a mistake to try and convince people that the Book of Mormon is true.

The validity of the Book of Mormon cannot be established by such evidence as assembled above; nobody is going to feel compelled to accept the genuineness of the book's claims on the basis of such evidence - not least because modern people find it easy to reject any 'supernatural' claims, and all empirical evidence of any kind is susceptible to plural interpretations.

*

The Book of Mormon itself says explicitly that after all possible evidence has been gathered and evaluated, belief should be (and should only be) a consequence of prayer, of asking God about the validity of the Book of Mormon, and of obtaining a sense of personal conviction of its truth by revelation.

So, the way it works is that the investigator should establish for himself that it is at least not-unreasonable that the Book of Mormon's claims are true; and that there is significant (although it will never be conclusive) evidence to support its claims.

Then the investigator must pray to know the truth; must pray sincerely, earnestly and with an open heart.

If the investigator will not pray - then he should not believe; and if the investigator does pray but receives a negative answer - then he should not believe.

That's it - although of course the process may be repeated.

*

Beyond evidence there absolutely must be faith by personal revelation.

Once the validity of the Book of Mormon's claims have been granted and confirmed, once someone is convinced, then this belief inevitably has immense significance and vast ramifications for understanding human history and the nature of life.

Nothing will ever be the same again.

*

Modern non-religious spirituality either depends absolutely on memory; or else depends on the obliteration of memory

*
Because modern spirituality has ruled-out in advance any role for God, then meaning can only be in memory - which will surely erode, become distorted and end with death; or in the obliteration of memory by 'living in the present moment' without self-awareness - which is to destroy what it is to be human.

Thus modern spirituality is peculiarly split in its attitude to memory. 

*
To be 'spiritual but not religious' is a very mainstream sort of thing nowadays - as evidenced by the large 'Mind, Body and Spirit' section of bookshops, and the multitude of New Age activities and artifacts.

This can briefly be characterized as 'anything but Christianity' - being broadly positive towards all religious traditions past and present except actually-existing Christianity (which is regarded as one or another type of 'fundamentalism')

(Note: This was me, up to about 2007.)

*

Among those who are spiritual but not religious, there are people who seek and collect epiphanies, spiritual experiences, moments of insight and enlightenment - relying on their brain-located memory to store, preserve and retrieve them intact and as required (in order that life have meaning).

Yet all this store will inevitably melt-away and become muddled with time.

And since they believe that there is nowhere for memories to be except in the brain, when the brain goes so do the memories (which are probably feeble and biased anyway), and then they are utterly annihilated, as if they had never been.

So, to live utterly dependent on one's own personal memory is at most a temporary stop-gap; and ultimately, it is futile.

*

And there are people who seek to escape from dependence on memory, and live in the present moment - believing that the present moment is real, but memories an illusion, and concerns over the future are a snare.

They seek to lose all attachment to the world, to cease to be self-aware: indeed to dissolve the illusion (as it is regarded) of being a 'self' distinct from reality. They seek just to BE.

In the West this has been a strong strand of spirituality, from the Romantic Movement of the late 18th century (and in the USA, the New England Transcendentalists a little later).

And since the Beat Generation of the 1950s and Hippies of the 60s, the main reference has been to 'world religions' - whether Eastern and meditative, or aboriginal and shamanic.  

*

There are various disciplined paths to the obliteration of the self - an arduous and prolonged training in something like Zen; or else there is an instant and reliable obliteration of the self and memory by means of intoxication with drugs, or the triggering of any other cause of acute delirium.

Or, for a more lasting - indeed permanent - solution there is death: suicide - that does it too.

Combining the two paths of intoxication and suicide is also quite popular since it was pioneered by Beats and Hippies - i.e. to drink or drug oneself to death, and call the process a 'spiritual' path. 

*

So there are these two opposing strands in modern New Age spirituality - the one depends on a perfect and long-lasting memory, the other on destroying both memory and planning as evidence of a false self and attachment to the world.

The first is refuted by everything we know (from our own experience, as well as science and medicine) about the contingency and evanescence of memory; the second is a covert death wish - specifically a wish for 'the self' to die - coming from a cultural context of religions where 'the self' is expected to survive death, and either be reincarnated in a nightmare cycle of eternal suffering, or consigned to a state of eternal misery (such as Hades, Sheol, or Hell).

*

From my own experience of banging my head against the possibilities, neither of these make sense as a way of living - so modern New Age spirituality is, in practice, not taken with ultimate seriousness; in practice, it is a tactical (not strategic), self-administered psychotherapeutic lifestyle option: just a collection of spiritual band-aids and stop-gaps.

The only way-out from this is to re-examine the primary premise of 'anything but Christianity' - at least, minimally, to the extent of allowing for the reality of a personal God. 

*

Friday, 17 October 2014

A few notes on Oswald Spengler's Decline of the West

*
I have been reading in Spengler's big book over the past few days ('reading in' means I have only sampled it - by no means read it all).

I have had a shot at Decline of the West before, about ten years ago I think; but then I was reading it on recommendation whereas this time I was reading it because I wanted to - consequently this time was much more rewarding.

Indeed, to my great surprise, I found the introduction and early chapters to be absolutely superb metaphysics (i.e. 'first philosophy', about the primary nature of reality and our concepts of it - not history) - it was about the nature of knowing and the deficiencies of thinking in terms of causality. To me, it seems more profound than the monism/ pluralism distinction I have been using recently (derived from William James, and lying behind Wittgenstein's late work).

I have read other works in this line of 'lebensphilosophie', such as Dilthey, which was popular and dominant in German academia and literary culture of the late 19th and early 20th century, but nothing I have come across before was anything like so good as Spengler.

On the basis of these early chapters of DotW, I would regard Spengler as being in the first rank as a modern writer on metaphysics. Of course, I will need to go back over this again soon - because it was too much to take in at one go.

As for the rest of the book, the bulk of it and the best known part, it contains all sorts of insights - but I often got bogged down.

The lesson I take away is as follows: 100 years ago Spengler wrote that the culture of the West was dead, and this was generally accepted by many of the deepest and most thoughtful thinkers of Central Europe (Wittgenstein for instance) - not because Spengler said it, but because they already knew it.

That is our present situation and has been for five generations - nowadays, we are not awaiting nor even experiencing the death of the West, we are living at least a century after it has happened! - We are currently living in the decaying of the already-dead West.

That seems to make sense of the things that Spengler did not predict, did not imagine - the literal insanity of political correctness, the aggressive official enforcement of ridiculous lies and inversions of reality, virtue, truth and beauty.

One aspect Spengler remarked-on which is illustrative and probably a deep poetic truth: that (in contrasting men and women) women embody destiny; women are history - bound-up in the process, so that it is wrong to talk of causality. So we need to look at what women are, generically - rather than what men say - in evaluating Western culture.

And that is the measure of our situation.

*