Sunday, 21 December 2014

Jesus Christ is our Saviour. But saviour from what?

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Christians call Jesus Christ "our saviour", or simply The Saviour - but it is not clear to secular modern people what we mean by this; indeed, I believe that the meaning (or emphasis) has changed over the centuries, because Christ did not save us from just one bad fate; but from many, many bad things - and different people at different times feel themselves in need of different savings: so that what I understand Christ as saving-me-from may not be your understanding.

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At the time of his ministry and for many centuries, Christ was understood as saving us from death; and by 'death' people meant that the soul would usually endure in a (literally) nightmarish underworld (Sheol, Hades etc) where we would persist forever as demented, gibbering, desolate ghosts.

In effect, death meant death of 'the self' - death of consciousness and the will - but not an end to existence.

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Christ was also saving us from sin; and it seems clear that through most of history Men felt this to be necessary: felt that we absolutely needed to be saved from our sins; and that if we were not saved from our sins, then we would be tormented by them forever. 

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But modern Western Man does not feel himself in need of saving from death - because he regards death as extinction and therefore the end of suffering (not death as the doorway to endless suffering, as in the past).

And modern Man does not feel he needs to be saved from sin, because he regards 'sin' as an arbitrary cultural category - and Modern Man has redefined many sins as virtues, virtues as sins.

So in effect, Modern Man 'saves himself' from sin by promoting, enforcing, and believing, legislation and propaganda to abolish any sin he cannot stop or does not wish to stop; and making new sins from whatever stands threatens the continuation of this process.

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But Modern Man still needs to be saved - he needs to be saved from meaninglessness, purposelessness, existential isolation, alienation, and nihilism (the sense that all truth, beauty and virtue are 'relative'; that nothing is really-real).

Modern Man needs to be saved from the retrospective pall cast by the meaning-destroying pseudo-reality of death-as-extinction; and the nothingness of a world where profundity is repeatedly dissolved and remade, and where Man is become a mere conduit for ever-changing psychological manipulations.

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Another thing Man always has needed saving-from is suffering; the suffering of this world.

And Christ saves us from this suffering in two ways, at two levels. In the first place he offers a significant, albeit partial, alleviation of suffering in this world - mainly by putting suffering into a perspective of eternal hope.

An analogy would be the suffering of childbirth. Childbirth can be agony: in a purely physical sense childbirth may be as painful as torture - but the suffering is put in the perspective of a parent participating in the birth of a child and this makes a very big difference. Indeed, the perspective utterly transforms the meaning of pain, and drastically reduces the suffering.

And the long-term effect of suffering is likewise transformed by Christ - because there is the prospect of complete healing from all the ill effects of suffering at the resurrection. So all earthly sufferings are re-framed by Christ as temporary.

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Christ is still our Saviour, as before; but now Christ is perhaps primarily (upfront) most-often our savour from the void.

Christ is now, mostly, our saviour from the denied but pervasive existential terror that nothing really matters.

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It is not a matter of either/ or; but a matter of all-this-and-more. Because death, sin, suffering and alienation are all facets of the same evil fate - Christ is The Saviour.

However, maybe when we state this great truth to non-Christians, we need to consider what they personally most need saving-from.

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Great yearning nobility: Bach - Busoni - Ogdon

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This is one of my very favourite pieces of music - the Chaconne movement from JS Bach's Violin Partita number 2 in D minor (certainly one of the finest things he ever wrote) - transcribed for piano by the titanic  perfomer-composer-intellectual Ferruccio Busoni - and played by England's best-ever pianist John Ogdon (1937-1989). 

This recording, then, is greatness multiplied, concentrated and captured on tape. It evokes in me a state of mounting yearning, growing but never quite satisfied - because pointing - with surety - beyond any possible experience of this world.

Starts at 01:01: 17 (1 hour, 1 minute, 17 seconds)


Saturday, 20 December 2014

For those who are kept from Christianity by uncertainty, by unsureness

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If my own experience as an atheist and agnostic is generalisable, many modern people find themselves stuck in a mid-ground - profoundly dissatisfied with the mainstream secular world view yet unable to believe Christianity because - by secular evaluative criteria - it seems arbitrary, uncertain and conflicted.

They are mentally paralysed by question upon question about the validity of Christianity, and even the definition of Christianity - life is full of questions and each answer merely leads to more questions!

They know that 'faith' is necessary; but this seems in the first place arbitrary, secondly, dishonest, and thirdly they are pre-convinced that it would be ineffective, since to know that everything depends on faith is itself eroding of faith!

So they are stuck - neither one thing nor the other.

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Some suggestions:

You have a false and misleading model of how certainty and sureness is achieved. You have some notion that certainty is a product of logic and science - yet if you think further you will know that science is never certain and logic is controversial and errs (professional science and philosophy have been for centuries in a flux of change, at times overturning even the fundamental assumptions).

So it never has been and never will be possible to base you life on that kind of empirical/ rational certainty - it has never existed.

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Social institutions - including churches - are human institutions, prone to error, prone to corruption.

The modern secular public realm is very obviously dishonest, manipulative, destructive - in a word evil. So, no help can be expected from them - but rather hindrance and subversion - from everyday human social interactions, and from the mass media, and from the official communications of social organisations such as government, law, education, health services, the police and military...

However, the mainstream Christian churches are also deeply implicated in this generalised corruption and destructiveness of modernity.

So the churches in general cannot be trusted, and the individual people who represent the churches cannot be trusted - and anyway, trust in any specific Christian church or person can only come after Christian faith, and not before it.

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So, there is only one place on which certainty may be built, and from which certainty can be extended - and that is your own fundamental, innermost, bottom-line heart; your real self, which is the deepest sense you have of your own self.

Your real autonomous free self; inside and independent of your social interactions and the manipulations of human communications and pressures.

It is to this real self that you must turn for certainty - which you must ultimately trust.

At the same time, you know that this real self is hard to access, and it is hard to know for sure that you have understood and interpreted it accurately - that you are not merely expressing wishful thinking, or being manipulated.

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Some tips:

1. Don't talk about your real inner self with other people; don't tell other people what you believe it says.

In a world of endemic corruption talking about your innermost discernible self will only increase the difficulty of locating and reading the real self; because of increased and more effective obstruction from the false self, the false self of corruption and manipulation, which is hiding your real self.

2. Accept on the one hand that your real self is the ultimate authority; yet that your understanding of your real self is both partial and prone to distortion.

Therefore, once you have decided that you understand something about the fundamental evaluation of your real self; you need on the one hand to accept it and build on it (since it is the best knowledge you have), while on the other hand you must be on the alert for feedback from your real self.

In this mortal incarnate life, you cannot avoid mistakes. The idea is that we act, because we must act; and often, inevitably and necessarily, we then repent our sins and errors to try again.

Your real self will tell you when you have made a mistake, a mistake about the evaluations of real self, or some other mistake in life.

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But why should this real self be regarded the bottom-line, indeed why should it be regarded as valid at all?

Now, when you are a Christian you will know that the real self 'has God in it' - the real self is 'placed in us' by God for our wise guidance. And the Christian will have other sources to test and correct what we suppose to be the promptings of our real self - there is scripture, church authorities, church traditions and history... but these are not available to the pre-faith, pre-Christian, who is our current focus.

So what about the modern skeptic-atheist-agnostic who is stuck? Why should he trust that there really is a real self, and that this real self should be trusted above all other sources of knowledge?

My assertion is not that he should trust the real self, but that as a matter of fact - this is what he already does.

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I assert that he already trusts his real self - but that the knowledge and insights of this self are very partial, very simple, unsystematic, personal - and therefore he allows them to be overwhelmed by the mass of public falsehood in which he is swimming.

I am urging that he should hold-fast-to and build-upon the knowledge he already has from his real self, and work from that - ignoring that it is small and simple and incomplete - and that it is contradicted by socially-accepted knowledge.

In the privacy of his own mind he should hold fast to that knowledge of the heart - no matter how tiny it may be - and place it above and beyond the mass of nonsense, falsehood, and manipulation that is the bulk of his thought.

If this can be done, then certainty and sureness and faith are the consequence and reward. 

Start with a tiny glowing-coal of certainty and sureness - and it really does not matter how tiny - but here at last is something utterly solid, secret, secure and unassailable; from which, bit by bit, more and more may be built.

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A remarkable, exciting and hard-hitting episode in the Book of Mormon - Alma: Chapter 30

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I am currently reading through the Book of Mormon carefully and in proper order, and yesterday I came to a really hard-hitting section - the book of Alma, chapter 30 - which describes the activities of 'an Antichrist' named Korihor

https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/alma/30?lang=eng

To clarify - this episode happened before the birth of Christ - since the BoM depicts a Christian society living by explicit faith in Christ, on the basis of the confident expectation of Christ - based on prophecy.

Thus this 'Antichrist' came before Christ - and worked to erode the belief in his future coming: the faith upon-which was based this Christian society.

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One very striking thing about this self-contained episode is that the Antichrist figure's criticisms of Christianity are presented in explicit and harsh detail.

I found this quite shocking in the context of a work of scripture: shocking, but wise and useful.

Because Korihor's arguments are immediately recognizable as the current secular-skeptical-atheist critique of Christianity, and religion in general; and therefore especially valuable to modern Christians.


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Edited from Alma verses 22 - 28

And it came to pass that the high priest said unto him: Why do ye go about perverting the ways of the Lord? Why do ye teach this people that there shall be no Christ, to interrupt their rejoicings? Why do ye speak against all the prophecies of the holy prophets?...

Korihor said unto him:

Because I do not teach the foolish traditions of your fathers, and because I do not teach this people to bind themselves down under the foolish ordinances and performances which are laid down by ancient priests, to usurp power and authority over them, to keep them in ignorance, that they may not lift up their heads, but be brought down according to thy words.

Ye say that this people is a free people. Behold, I say they are in bondage!

Ye say that those ancient prophecies are true. Behold, I say that ye do not know that they are true. 

Ye say that this people is a guilty and a fallen people, because of the transgression of a parent. Behold, I say that a child is not guilty because of its parents.

And ye also say that Christ shall come. But behold, I say that ye do not know that there shall be a Christ

And ye say also that he shall be slain for the sins of the world - And thus ye lead away this people after the foolish traditions of your fathers, and according to your own desires; and ye keep them down, even as it were in bondage, that ye may glut yourselves with the labors of their hands, that they durst not look up with boldness, and that they durst not enjoy their rights and privileges.

Yea, they durst not make use of that which is their own lest they should offend their priests, who do yoke them according to their desires, and have brought them to believe, by their traditions and their dreams and their whims and their visions and their pretended mysteries, that they should, if they did not do according to their words, offend some unknown being, who they say is God!

a being who never has been seen or known, who was nor ever will be!

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The various ways in which Korihor is dealt-with - in context of an ancient Christian society which practices that freedom of worship necessary to real Christianity - is also very striking.

This Antichrist is first tolerated, then dealt with mercifully - even therapeutically; and only when Korihor refuses to stop his actively-subversive and antisocial behaviours are sanctions reluctantly requested and imposed - but not by the authorities, instead miraculously by the hand of God.

After which Korihor confesses - but yet he does not repent or repudiate his ways. 

The story finishes with Korihor's grisly end, and draws a moral of of caution against trusting the promises of the devil.

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Altogether, I find this a vivid and compelling mini-narrative, of great current relevance; and overall the equal of, while distinct from, any episode in the Old Testament

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Friday, 19 December 2014

My scientific conceptual breakthrough of this year...

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http://iqpersonalitygenius.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/red-queen-natural-selection-mutation.html
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Martyn Lloyd Jones interview with Joan Bakewell - post-Christian Britain on the cusp between Old and New Left in 1970

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This is a fascinating 20 minute TV interview from 1970 - another era - with the influential evangelical Protestant pastor Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones (1899-1981).

(Despite significant theological differences; I have a great fondness, respect and admiration for MLJ - and would regard him as one of the very best preachers I have come across  - see much more at http://www.mljtrust.org/ )

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What makes this significant is that the interviewer is someone regarded as a doyen of the British media and a figurehead for mainstream Leftist modernity - Joan Bakewell, now a Baroness.

At this time, Bakewell was nearly always referred to as 'the thinking man's crumpet'  - 'crumpet' being a slang word for a 'fanciable' young woman - but typically of low socioeconomic status and low intelligence; while Bakewell was upper class, a Cambridge graduate, and an insider of the Leftist artistic elite.

In sum, Bakewell was iconic as the original attractive, intellectual, go-ahead woman media figure in the UK; and was an advocate of the sexual revolution both professionally and in her personal life. In the 1960s Bakewell had a long-term 'affair' with Harold Pinter while both were married to other people - Pinter himself being the iconic radical playwright of that era and a later recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature. 

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So the confrontation - as it were - in this interview was very much the Old Britain versus the New; and the subject matter of 'modern man' brings this to the fore.

But 1970 was on the other side of the modern domination of the West by hysterical politically-correct secular Leftism; and reveals a lost era of civility and consecutive thought. Bakewell shows she is amused by, and is rather condescending to, Lloyd Jones, but unfailingly polite and reasonable.

MLJ is not badgered or interrogated but given all the opportunity he needs to make his views lucid. TV viewers of that era could see both sides present their views as they wanted, and make up their own minds.

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But such 'neutrality' was an inevitably-brief transitional stage, 1970 being a time 'on the cusp' between the Old Left as relative underdogs and the New Left as overseers and commissars.

Still, a fascinating social document.

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The Book of Jer3miah on DVD (directed Jeff Parkin & Jared Cardon)

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This is more of a notice than a review, but having much appreciated the novelization of this Mormon 'supernatural thriller',

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/review-of-kindle-novelization-of-book.html

I eventually decided to 'treat myself' by rather expensively importing the original DVD from the US.

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The series was made by students at Brigham Young University on a microscopic budget, and released in twenty (approx) five minute segments a week at a time, broken into two series. Given these constraints, it works very well as a whole and in some parts - but is inevitably uneven in quality and structurally clunky.

As well as being exciting and intriguing, it is a serious work - an earnest work - which is mostly about religion in the modern world; and about the possible situation of someone who is a fairly normal boy yet (we sense) potentially a major prophet, gradually coming to an awareness of his destiny in a situation when evil forces are powerful, organized, pervasive - and know things that he does not.

As such it has much to suggest concerning proper living in a situation where evil is both seductive and high status; the difficulty of wise decisions in a situation of incomplete knowledge - and thus the near inevitability of failures and therefore the humbling (humiliating) need for repeated repentance and learning from experience.

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Since I am not a massive fan of the thriller genre, I tended to like best the in-between sections on 'student life' - in particular the protagonist's large, and larger-than-life, room-mate Porter Coolbrith - played by Jeffrey Blake.

In my judgement, Blake's performance was evidence of a really exceptional naturalistic screen actor - whose distinctive physique ought to assure him of a livelihood in character roles (although, like most men in the profession, he probably would not fully come into his own until he was - or looked - middle aged).

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Anyway, The Book of Jer3miah - both as book and DVD - has been something that got into my daily thoughts and dreams (in a good way!); so naturally I regard it a considerable achievement. 

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Thursday, 18 December 2014

Real functional creativity, versus the parasitic pseudo-creativity of fashion

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http://iqpersonalitygenius.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/creativity-is-transcendentally-opposite.html
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Homes of famous writers - RW Emerson and CS Lewis - and the best reason for a pilgrimage to experience them

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It is a strange thing to visit the home of a famous writer, and to be moved and inspired by the experience; because in many way, at many levels, the activity is clearly bogus.

To visit, decades or even centuries later, what is now a museum; a place mostly re-decorated, re-equipped and preserved rather than a working home... in a sense it shouldn't mean anything.

And of course, most of what it does mean is what we bring with us.

Most but not all.

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The happy memorability of my visit to Ralph Waldo Emerson's house in Concord, Massachusetts is something that has stayed with me. The trick of memory makes me suppose Emerson standing in his hallway wearing his 'gaberlunzie' (a large dressing gown) - and I recollect the simple Aeolian harp placed near an open window (silent, at the time I saw it).

Partly this was from was a touching sincerity about the staff - who seemed very decent people, and who referred to 'Mr Emerson' as if he might at any moment return from a walk in the woods.

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Or, The Kilns - home of CS Lewis. Although this was very straightforward suburban house of not so long ago; I nonetheless walked around it - and the grounds - in a kind of daydream. 

What was touching was the amount of love and work which had been put into rescuing and restoring the place - the actual house had been, for example, very dirty when inhabited by Lewis: ceilings and walls and soft furnishings stained with tobacco, and the carpets permeated with ash  - Jack and Warnie Lewis apparently did not use ashtrays, due to some belief that ash was 'good for' carpets.

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So most of what is experienced is brought, much is a recreation rather than a survival of the past - but is there something more?

Does the actual stone, brick and wood - the architectural shapes, and landscape layouts - preserve memories of the past?

Yes, very obviously so - I would have thought. If the houses had been demolished and the materials removed to the foundations, or the building utterly lost but rebuilt as an accurate replica somewhere else, then visited - this magic would have been lacking.

But the continuous existence of the actual place itself sometimes preserves some residue of the people who had lived there for for many years.

This works for houses, villages, towns cities and even nations - in different degrees. The continuation of their structure in situ typically preserves the past in arcane ways - ways that may be available for us to experience, and this fact certainly can 'make a difference'. 

And that is what we travel on pilgrimages to experience.

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Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Structured emotions in the psychology of creativity

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http://iqpersonalitygenius.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/creativity-as-process-and-outcome-of.html
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Best British long poem of the Twentieth Century - A drunk man looks at the thistle by Hugh MacDiarmid

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I have just discovered that the greatest British long poem of the Twentieth Century (in my opinion!) - that is A drunk man looks at the thistle (published 1926) - has been put onto YouTube, being read by its author, Hugh MacDairmid.

[See above or : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xt2gOOtrYRc ]

Up to twenty years ago I had read pretty much everything published by and about Hugh MacDiarmid - which was the pen name of Christopher Murray Grieve (1892-1978).

On reflection he was a terrible man who liked and wanted terrible things, on the whole; but his early poems written in his own version of a Scots dialect are simply sublime, and for a few brief years he was certainly inspired.

Sublime IF you can get to grips with the difficult dialect and arcane vocabulary. This, very few people have ever done, and fewer as the years go by; so I almost never recommend reading him to other people.

But here is one of my favourite passages from A Drunk Man:

O wha's the bride that cairries the bunch
O' thistles blinterin' white?
Her cuckold bridegroom little dreids
What he sall ken this nicht.
For closer than gudeman can come
And closer to'r than hersel',
Wha didna need her maidenheid
Has wrocht his purpose fell.
O wha's been here afore me, lass,
And hoo did he get in?
—A man that deed or' was I born
This evil thing has din.
And left, as it were on a corpse,
Your maidenheid to me?
—Nae lass, gudeman, sin' Time began
'S hed ony mair to g'e.
But I can gi'e ye kindness, lad,
And a pair o' willin' hands,
And you sall ha'e my breists like stars,
My limbs like willow wands.
And on my lips ye'll heed nae mair,
And in my hair forget,
The seed o' a' the men that in
My virgin womb ha'e met. 
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At the time he wrote The Drunk Man, MacDiarmid was 'making' these poems from already existing poems and translations, and his explorations in Jameson's Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language.

His own English Language (i.e. non-Scottish) poetry written up to that point had been hopeless (although his prose was distinctive in a strangely '1890s' sort of way) - and his later attempts were also mostly poor - clunky, contrived, utterly devoid of lyricism.

But for a few years in the 1920s he seems to have been a channel for an unique and amazingly sure-footed type of poetic spirit which worked for expression in Scots dialect - I really don't think he knew what he was doing, nor was he in control of it.

After the peak of A Drunk Man, he quarried out a few more pieces from the residue of this spirit - notably the implausibly wonderful and assured 'Harry Semen' (I would have thought it beyond-possible to write a beautiful and uplifting poem with that theme - look it up) - while his other writings and speeches and public persona was ranting and raving and boasting with an embarrassingly-wilful, incoherent, sophomoric petulance about anything which entered his head - but mostly totalitarian utopian communist nationalist politics.

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When all has been said, to produce such a quantity of lyric poetry of the highest class is so rare and valuable that I am prepared to filter the gems from the dross: Or, as MacDiarmid truly said about himself in a lucid moment:

"My job, as I see it, has never been to lay a tit's egg, but to erupt like a volcano, emitting not only flame, but a lot of rubbish."

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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

My life - in a nutshell (I wish)

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The butterfly, a cabbage-white, 
(His honest idiocy of flight) 
Will never now, it is too late, 
Master the art of flying straight, 
Yet has - who knows so well as I?- 
A just sense of how not to fly: 
He lurches here and here by guess 
And God and hope and hopelessness. 
Even the acrobatic swift 
Has not his flying-crooked gift.


By Robert Graves (1895-1985)

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Are reactionary rants useful - or counter-productive?

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I have done more than my fair share of common-sensical, skeptical, reactionary ranting; sadly, it is quite possibly what I am best at and what commenters like best.

A case can be made, and is made often, that such things are at least useful and perhaps necessary - however, people get a taste for doing and reading such things, and that taste is addictive, and it is possible to spend hours a day going from blog to blog reading anti-Leftist rants, take-downs and satire.

Some people imagine that there is an anti-Progressive blogosphere where you can go to find 'the truth' about the modern world - where the mass media can be dissected and analysed and reality discerned behind the shadows...

Given that political correctness goes from strength to strength, all this kind of stuff strikes me as being likely to be part of the problem rather than the solution.

Anyway, I have had enough of it; and am going to try harder to stop writing it and stop reading it. The problems of modernity are too deep and too pervasive to be susceptible to polemic.

If I cannot inspire people to good, then I cannot do anything useful.

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Review of The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin by L Jagi Lamplighter

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L Jagi Lamplighter, The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin, 2013. pp 380.

This was one of the most wholly enjoyable books I have read for some time, thoroughly entertaining and thoroughly interesting; an experience especially welcome coming from an author new to me. And unusual; given that I am increasingly hard to please, therefore not always reading fiction nowadays. I may go for a few weeks without having a novel 'on the go' - and even longer if re-reads are not counted.

It is in the Young Adult fantasy genre, set in a co-educational boarding school for sorcerers - something like a more wholesome and hopeful Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams: that is to say, a highly intelligent and witty fiction, bubbling with ideas.

The action is seen through the eyes of a thirteen year old girl who - as well as being an untrained sorcerer - has (inherited from her mother) a special power of memory, with total recall and rewind facilities. This ability is central to the plot - and depicted very convincingly. She is just starting at school, and the action of the book unfolds over the first days, consisting of detailed scenes almost in 'real time'.

As might be expected from a young teen heroine and in the 'girls boarding school genre' (a few Enid Blyton examples of which I read as a kid); nearly all the characters are depicted as very good looking, but in different ways and degrees; and life is seen through a lens of friends and friendship-groups. In addition, each child and teacher seems to have some distinctive magical or personal ability - rather like Marvel or DC superhero teams - so the characters are not inter-changeable.

My point is that the style is light, humourous, somewhat detached. Although there is plenty of emotion and action; these have a 'classical' objectivity - more like a Shaw play or a Mozart opera, than the emotional focus of Shakespeare or Puccini! Rachel Griffin has its passions and romances; but is a world away from the 'hormone storms' and doomed love of most YA fiction. The young heroine is precociously intelligent, sensible, philosophical as well as empathic - and consequently dominates the situation in a way which is essentially feminine - but tom-boyishly feminine. 

So, from my perspective, Rachel Griffin was a completely-successful example of its type - and had me beguiled and mentally-stimulated throughout. And I was pleased to note that this is the first of a series, and there is another Rachel Griffin book for me to look forward to!

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Monday, 15 December 2014

The primary physics metaphor in New Age spirituality - Energy!

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Following from my comment that Christians (including myself) seem over-keen to use Physics metaphors -

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/why-do-we-so-often-use-physics.html

I remembered that the same applies to many New Age spiritualities, in their focus upon 'energy'. This is particularly striking in New Age therapies - 'Alternative Medicine' - for example explanations of acupuncture focus on energy channels. Sometimes these arcane energies may be felt, visualized, manipulated - even photographed.

Kirlian photograph

This is not always the case - for example, homoeopathy employs pre-modern styles of reason by analogy or 'similarities' and the causality uses a more 'magical' style of reasoning - and the modern theorizations are more chemical than physicsy.

But there is an awful lot of talk about energies in New Age discourse - energy sometimes being used in a manner than is more like 'motivation' or 'drive'.

But perhaps this is always the way when physicsy metaphors are used in religion - they naturally take on more psychological/ biological attributes - as when New Agers talk about the 'balance' of energies (i.e. a non-physics way of talking about energy).

Or perhaps it is more that religious metaphors tend, if not actively prevented, to revert to the undifferentiated explanations which were natural to humans long before science - so they almost never stick strictly to their chosen metaphor; but in usage it becomes less bounded and more generalized.

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Note: It was originally my brother who pointed this out to me. 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Leftist moral inversion is the ultimate in hypocrisy

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Leftists are quick (and dishonest) to accuse Christians of hypocrisy when they fail to live-up-to their own high standards.

But this is not (usually) hypocrisy - just the nature of 'aiming. Furthermore, Christianity is essentially not about living a sinless or perfect life - which is explicitly declared to be impossible for earthly mortals - but instead about repenting for our failure to live by ultimate standards.

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Accurately, a Christian hypocrite would be one who explicitly claimed personally not to sin, when in fact he did: it is a form of dishonesty - a false claim to high moral status.

But Christian hypocrisy palls into insignificance compared with the standard, routine, modern, mainstream secular Leftist hypocrisy: which is to sin, and then change morality so that that sin is redefined as good.

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This is completely normal for the pioneers and prophets of secularism and Leftism - especially in relation to sex.

The spokesmen of the radical Left, from Rousseau through HG Wells, (Bertrand) Russell and Russell (Brand)  - and what a catastrophic and complete decline in quality of famous progressive personnel the final name in that list represents! - the most influential and celebrated Leftist leadership have consistently engineered  official morality around their personal weakness and wickedness.

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So, if a Leftist wants to have sex outside marriage, practise assembly-line promiscuity, or get divorced, or take drugs, live as a sponger and parasite, practice professional hatred, seduce by dishonest manipulations... then their 'moral' code is simply re-engineered to say that actually all of these things (and anything else they happen to want to do) are actually good...

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Sin is defined as 'the new good', and if this angers, offends and disgusts anybody then that is good too - because (by definition) these people deserve it - being hypocrites.

In mainstream secular Leftism, [fill-in-the--blanks-with-whatever-I-personally-fancy] is first excused, then propagandised as not just self-indulgence; but actually worthy of celebration and lavish reward because on the side of equality, freedom, excitement, tolerance, spontaneity, fun, diversity - and against religion, tradition, hierarchy, patriarchy, marriage and families.

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So the mandatory pretence is now that sin is actually good (properly understood); and good is actually the very worst evil; and consequently the new moral exemplars are actively and openly selfish, hate-filled and hate-propagating, behaviourally-incontinent, lying, cowardly sub-mediocrities (mediocrity is actively preferred, because any form of excellence is - to a real but limited extent- good).


This is hypocrisy on steroids, hypocrisy in a massive stadium with light show and surround-sound - hypocrisy with the backing of the government, the law, the mass media, the education system - deep state-hypocrisy enforced by the tax office, the snooper and the mob - hypocrisy with a megaphone and a truncheon - hypocrisy at the end of a gun - hypocrisy with spies and drones and bombs.

Old-style Christian hypocrisy had nothing on this.

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Note added: Secular Leftist hypocrisy by moral inversion is the hypocrisy of great power - because only great power can change the rules, and re-define its own sins as virtues, and can force or persuade society to conform to these new ethics.

Secular Leftist hypocrisy is also self-destroying, a species of nihilism - which, paradoxically, provides its motivating  pseudo-altruistic basis. 

Thoughtful secular Leftists recognize that rigorous implementation of their programme will sooner or later destroy themselves and everything they regard as good - but they interpret this fact as evidence of their own disinterestedness: evidence that they are not - therefore - ultimately selfish.

This, then, is the consequence of rejecting God: an ethic of total destruction re-interpreted as an ethic of impartial altruism!

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Saturday, 13 December 2014

Is it true to say that there is no escaping metaphysics? Yes. And No.

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"There’s no escaping metaphysics." 

There is a sense in which this statement is true, but another sense in which it is false - and a snare to Christians.

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The sense in which metaphysics cannot be escaped is that our explicit understanding of reality necessarily happens within a structure - so that when we are self-conscious, or communicating, we will be doing so from some metaphysical position.

The sense in which "there is no escaping metaphysics" is false, is that we can change our metaphysics, we can choose our metaphysics - and it is possible and normal for Christians to have a variety of metaphysical positions.

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It may be asked on what basis we change or choose our metaphysics? The answer is that these are various, and they vary between denominations.

The Transubstantiation schism in the medieval Catholic church was, as I interpret it, a dispute between the Roman church who asserted that there was only one true metaphysics of the bread and wine at Holy Communion - and that this had been given by revelation to the Roman church - all other metaphysical understandings being false, therefore sinful.

The Orthodox and Anglican Catholic churches refused to make any specific metaphysical system of what happened to the bread and wine 'true' but pronounced it a mystery and - in effect - a matter for personal revelation or local opinion, including having no expliict view at all on the matter.

The Roman Catholic Church is distinctive in making *many* metaphysical and philosophical questions into a matter of general revelation and doctrine - with explicit and specific explanations declared true and all others false. Outside the RCC the emphasis on metaphysics varies with time and place - and some metaphysical explanations are regarded mandatory while others as more-or-less expedient.

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But the overall picture of Christendom through the ages is one in which metaphysics is an expedient, which ought to serve a faith whose basis is much more than philosophy.

In sum, Christianity properly regards philosophy as an imperfect, incomplete and biased attempt to make explicit a reality which just is much bigger and more various than philosophy can comprehend.

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Therefore a Christian can (and sometimes should) change his metaphysical beliefs without ceasing to be Christian; and there is more than one metaphysical way of being a Christian (although some may be overall better than others, and some will be better than another for particular purposes); and indeed there are (there must be) non-metaphysical experiences in Christianity above and beyond the scope of philosophy - the metaphysics only comes-in when people attempt to make explicit and communicate the basic experience.

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In that deep sense, metaphysics is (merely) an artefact of the process of explanation; and it is the limitations on explanation which necessarily cause the limits of metaphysics.

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(The above is derived from my response to a posting and a comment by Kristor Lawson at The Orthosphere - http://orthosphere.org/2014/12/11/the-limit-of-theology ).

Friday, 12 December 2014

"Don't *judge* me!" - What does it mean? Is it valid?

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The phrase 'Don't judge me!', and the many variants upon it, means - do not morally evaluate me.

Behind this lies the assumption that it is extremely hazardous morally to evaluate people because:

1. We are subject to prejudice

2. Our information is incomplete

3. Our motivations are corrupt

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All of these are correct - it is the inference drawn from them which is false - that inference being that because '1, 2, 3' therefore we ought not to make moral evaluations.

This is, I would have thought, fairly obviously both self-refuting nonsense in its logical structure, and also perniciously evil in its intent.

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And this is true even in its softer (more evasive?) form- which is that judgement should be suspended pending 1. our moral re-education to root-out self prejudice and instead favour 'the other', 2. further, open-ended (yet still inevitably partial) empirical investigation, 3. our purification of motive (in the direction of universalist altruism).

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What can reasonably and rightly be asked of all people is that they be prepared to revise their initial (and necessary) judgement on the basis of further experience, knowledge, and genuine personal spiritual development.

We must and we do judge, everything and always - and must therefore do it here and now, and do it on the basis of what we already know and how we actually currently are as people

- but if we get to know better or become better people, that is to say objectively better - which objectivity entails we adhere to a metaphysics that there is reality, and reality is knowable; then we must be prepared to revisit that judgement.

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Thursday, 11 December 2014

Who rules the West: Sword and/or Book?... or something new: the Mass Media?

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In Plough, Sword and Book: the structure of human history (1988), the international superstar anthropologist Ernest Gellner expressed in his title the classic tripartite division of all agrarian, pre-industrial societies into a ruling class of 'sword' and 'book' - i.e. warriors and priests - in various combinations; presiding over a mass of productive peasants (i.e. 'plough').

This is, of course, a simplification - in particular leaving-out the skilled middle class (craftsmen, merchants, doctors) who neither function neither as priests nor warriors yet have a highly significant role.

Nonetheless, as a description of the ruling class, Gellner was expressing what most people believe is not just true - but necessarily true: most analysts believe, or at least they assume in practice, that all past and all possible societies are ruled by a combination of warriors and/ or priests.

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The Neoreactionary Right certainly believe it; and interpret modern society as a variant of rule by priests or theocracy; with the priestly class termed The Cathedral (or, previously, the Clerisy; sometimes the Establishment); and modern Leftist/ Liberal/ Progressive politics are therefore regarded as a sub-type of a priest-dominated religion.

However, I think this is a mistake; and that in fact in modern developed societies, especially since the mid-1960s, the traditional Sword and Book ruling classes have been subordinated by the Mass Media.

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I argue this in numerous previous blog posts on the mass media, and in my recent book Addicted to Distraction

http://addictedtodistraction.blogspot.co.uk/

So I believe that the Mass Media is now the primary ruling social system, and that it is functionally different from a social system based on a priestly class.

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The main difference is that a priestly ruling elite - or theocracy - functions by imposing a church at the head of social organization; and the church has a definite, relatively specific, structure and personnel.

However, the modern society ruling class of the Mass Media has no definite or positive structure and no definite priest-like personnel - because its primary and essential function is negative rather than positive.

The modern ruling elite is not accurately termed a theocracy because it has no god - and no-god is a crucial deficiency for any theocracy! The modern elites is, indeed, an anti-theocracy - because is does not just passively omit, but actively excludes serious god-talk from the public arena.

It is anti-theocratic because it regards no god as real, and all gods as arbitrary, relativistic constructs - constructs which are made, and can be remade, by the mass media and associate subordinate social institutions (e.g. government, civil administration, NGOs, the legal system, police and education).

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In a nutshell, the modern supreme ruling elite centred in and around the mass media is not - over the long term - in favour of anything in particular - certainly not god or any specifiable kind of religion; rather it is against things - and the things it is most-actively against vary over time. Over time, it is against everything.

The modern elite's aim is not to define, impose and maintain any particular religious utopia; rather its aim is to subvert, destroy and invert many (and in principle all) spontaneous and actually-existing forms and structures.

The modern ruling elite is therefore not located in any specific institution (such as Harvard or Oxford, or the Supreme Court, or the civil administration) - because all of these are themselves subject to continual subversion, destruction, and inversion - all elite institutions have-been and are continually being re-made.

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Nobody is in control, nobody is going anywhere in particular; but the dominant class are subverting, destroying and inverting everything, everywhere, including themselves - not all at once, but in rotation and over time.

They are not self-consciously aiming at total nihilistic destruction (at least, only a handful of them are) but total nihilistic destruction is the modern elite's revealed preference.

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Why do we so often use Physics metaphors in theology? Why not use biology, or psychology?

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I do it myself! - examples are all over this blog: when I am trying to understand or explain God, I feel drawn into using physics-type or mathematical models and metaphors.

Of course it goes back to (what is known of) the earliest Greek philosophers - who regarded ultimate reality in physicsy ways - as elements such as fire and water, in terms of processes such as movement or stasis...

There isn't so much of this in the Bible - but it is there, for example in the use of Light and Dark as primary metaphors.

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Yet, is this really helpful?

Does it not usually amount to explaining one difficult-to-understand thing, by employing some even-more-difficult-to-understand-thing?

I have myself, on this blog, have tried to explain the peculiarities of mortal life compared with Heavenly Life, and of the nature of dreams, in terms of the theory of General Relativity...

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Yes, I know that physics and mathematics are capable of great precision of expression; but it is an immovable fact is that not many people really understand these matters - even/ especially the people who deploy physics professionally seldom have a true grasp.

It would surely be better to use biology or psychology as our main metaphors - since these are more comprehensible - but then there is 'physics envy' (analogous to Freud's - nonsensical- concept of 'penis envy'), to which thoughtful biological scientists allegedly tend to be prone...

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And perhaps, especially among intellectuals, there is a yearning towards impersonal abstraction as being the bottom-line of life - as the final and secure escape from mortal, worldly suffering: this seems like the motivation behind the main 'Eastern religions' such as Hinduism and Buddhism, and behind the deisitic/ Platonic religion of physicists such as Einstein and Roger Penrose.

But Christianity is about a personal God, and His personal incarnate mortal life, and has at its centre the personal 'emotion' of Love.

So what is Christianity doing, dabbling in physics as its bottom line explanatory model?

Good question!

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Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Did Jesus's public ministry begin because Joseph had died, and Jesus therefore became the heir to David's throne: rightful King of the Jews?

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Following on from:

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/jesus-was-literally-king-of-jews-by.html

When his legal Father Joseph died, Jesus then became the rightful heir of, or at least a credible claimant to, the throne of Israel; King of the Jews, by his lineal descent from David.

So, at that point, and with that status, he entered and began his ministry.

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Seems to make sense...

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