Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The paradox of virtuous nihilism


Modern people are typically nihilist, yet do not behave as nihilists - rather they are intensely (albeit selectively and in an unbalanced fashion) concerned with moral issues.

They are relativists who do not believe in the reality of reality, believe that life is merely about pleasure - yet they are altruistic, kind, passionate about (some kinds of) injustice and so on.

How is it possible to live in such a state of obvious contradiction?


What makes this paradoxical state possible is, I think, pride.

Pride is highly valued and positively encouraged in modern society - under names such as self-esteem, and in processes such as self-development.

Much of modern education, 'therapy', self-help, lifestyle journalism etc is about making people 'feel better about themselves' - i.e. pride.

People therefore believe contradictory things because they feel themselves superior to the need for consistency, indeed inconsistency is evidence of their superiority.

For example, a person with nihilistic beliefs, one who thinks all behaviour is a contingent result of blind evolution, may behave altruistically - and doing this makes him feel good about himself:

'Look at me, I believe in nothing, I could be utterly selfish and short-termist - and yet I do these good things - how impressive is that?!'


Modern man is therefore his own Nietzschian hero of self-will; he sees himself as creating his own system of meanings, values and purposes by the sheer strength of his own mind.

'I did it my way' is the favourite song of the modern world.

Each individual consumed in self-worship, constantly amazed at his own remarkable ability to defy logic, to shape the world to his own desire; to hold himself suspended above the void of his own nihilism by the sheer strength of his own pride...


Prevention and treatment of Parkinson's Disease: ECT, nicotine, caffeine


Some reflections on Parkinson's disease, and the related Lewy body dementia; which are the second most common cause of degenerative brain disease (after Alzheimer's) - increasingly common in the developed world, probably due to the 'ageing population'.


The current medical treatment of Parkinson's disease seems to be extremely poor.

It is based around L-dopa, which seems to be a miracle cure at first, for a short time, but then almost always produces severe side effects and/or loses its effect.

It looks as if L-dopa is just too powerful a drug (almost a pure neurotransmitter), and the brain responds by 'fighting' the drug - i.e. the brain's homeostatic mechanisms are seriously destabilised by L-dopa, and the patient veers between hyperstimulation and 'freezing'.


On the other hand, electroconvulsive therapy/ ECT/ electroshock has been shown to be effective in some patients with Parkinson's disease in numerous trials - yet this fact is virtually unknown.

ECT is a much safer treatment than L-dopa. And even if it wasn't, Parkinson's is an extremely severe and debilitating illness - indeed people have had experimental brain surgery and transplant procedures (albeit with little success) for Parkinson's.

So there seem no valid reason not to try a course of ECT in Parkinson's, and maintenance ECT if it produces significant benefit.


There is very strong evidence (mostly from studies of tobacco smoking) that nicotine is preventive of Parkinson's disease, and sometimes helps treat it. This is rational, given that nicotine indirectly increases dopamine activity.

Nicotine can be safely given with skin patches with minimal side effects (for most people).

Why is nicotine not used in prevention/ early-treatment of Parkinson's?

Why is it not even tried?


There is also evidence that caffeine (coffee) is preventive of Parkinson's disease, and there is also a rationale for this because caffeine is a mild psychostimulant with dopamine boosting actions.


So, in Parkinson's disease we have a very serious and common disease with hopeless conventional treatment - we have in ECT a powerful treatment which almost certainly helps some people, even with severe PD - and we have in nicotine and caffeine two non-prescription treatments which almost certainly prevent the illness, and improve the early stage of the illness.

Why are they virtually unknown, why don't people try them?

Obviously, if they are tried and they don't work, or make things worse; then stop.

But why not try, especially when current treatment is so bad?


With ECT there is a very obvious prejudice against the treatment - a fear and horror which is ignorantly and dishonestly stimulated.

At root, probably this is because ECT is opposed by Big Pharma who want people to take ineffective/ harmful medication instead of an effective physical treatment. Drugs are marketed to the tune of 1000 dollars per head of population in the USA. IN a competitive world, with a rate of turnover and change, simply by not being marketed, agents drop out of use.

With nicotine and caffeine there is the problem (folk belief, media manipulation) that these drugs are supposed to be 'bad for you' according to the mainstream mass media ideas of 'health promotion'. There is therefore an underlying discomfort in recommending for health reasons a lifestyle or treatment associated with smoking and drinking strong coffee.


Whatever the reasons, the complete uninterest in effective treatment for people with very severe, common, debilitating, distressing, progressive disease is altogether typical of modern society.

Contrary to what might be imagined, modernity cares little for functionality, is all-but indifferent to effectiveness.

So it really is possible for effective, safe and available treatments of a common and severe illness to languish, unused; despite that anyone with Google Scholar could find out about them in five minutes...

This is the actuality of the information revolution: knowledge hidden in plain sight.


Monday, 30 January 2012

Christianity versus Atheism - where to start?


I think many people can grasp that ultimate belief is ultimately a matter of choice (I mean, belief is not compelled).

But the dispute is about the stance from which choice is made.

Three possible stances are modern, natural, metaphysical.


1. From where modern society places people, in a world where the public and professional arenas are thought systems which assume that all explanations are materialist, then atheism is the rational choice.

People simply believe what their job, the media, the law, what everybody assumes - that everything is to be explained with material causes and consequences.


2. But if we start from the natural man, who has not been raised in a modern society - we get to the various kinds of natural religion ('paganism') from where Christianity is - if not compelling - very appealing.


3. Or, if we start from a genuine engagement with metaphysics (true philosophy - that is, reflection on the basic nature of the world) then also we get fairly close to Christianity - to a place, at least, where Christianity is a plausible continuation.


Modern man is in an unique position from which the choice of Christianity seems arbitrary - since this position already assumes the irrelevance of natural religion and basic metaphysics.

What modern man fails to recognise is that skepticism about the relevance of both natural religion and metaphysics leaves no ground for knowledge.

Modern man is therefore a nihilist, and by choice; but without realising that he is a nihilist - he has no possibility of rational knowledge, by his assumptions, yet he will not accept that his assumptions destroy all possibility of knowledge, and he continues to claim and act upon his assumptions as if they were obvious knowledge - so obvious that he is incredulous that anyone can think otherwise.


This is the predicament: that modern man is a nihilist, but does not recognise the fact. Modern man believes he has grounds of knowledge for his beliefs, yet by his own assumptions he has no grounds.

Modern man thinks himself a realist above all other things, yet he denies that reality is real.

All that modern man means by 'reality' is that which he believes would, if contradicted, cause him suffering.


The modern choice of atheism is not perceived to be a personal choice - it is perceived to be merely an acceptance of 'reality' as reality is expressed through all of the powerful modern social institutions.

All of the powerful modern social institutions rule-out Christian explanations (indeed rule-out all non-materialist explanations).

The actual evaluations, the grammar of modern society is non-religious.

This is why it is absurd to imagine it is necessary or desirable to separate Christianity from Secular society.


When the explanations of politics, social administration, law, science, education, the military, the mass media etc all implicitly assume the irrelevance of Christianity - then why is it surprising that Christianity is perceived to be irrelevant?

Why is it then surprising that God is perceived to be an unnecessary hypothesis, when God is as (a matter of fact) an excluded hypothesis in all the public domains of modern society?

Modern society has placed us, as individuals, in this situation - God is excluded from the social bloodstream, atheism is active at a minute, capillary level.


Sunday, 29 January 2012

The problem of Christian moral teaching in a secular, hedonist context


My general perspective is that modern Christian evangelism should (probably) focus on addressing the alienation of modern man, rather than on ethical issues - that what requires emphasis is the mystical, existential, even metaphysical aspect of Christianity, with sin conceptualized as being turned-away-from God rather than as a list of rules.

And the Christian mystical perspective being described not in terms of what makes you happy, but what is real and therefore productive of meaning, purpose and relation with the universe.


For instance, that when an orthodox Christian looks at the stars he knows that the Heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament sheweth his handiwork;

whereas for a secular modern like Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes) the stars induce the cry:

"I'M SIGNIFICANT... screamed the dust speck."

This cartoon perfectly encapsulates the overweening spiritual pride and underlying utter nihilism of modern, secular man.


I was led to this idea of focusing on the mystical partly my my own response, when an atheist, to Christian ethical teaching.


Not by its own choice, Christianity has been brought into conflict with the modern world primarily on matters of sexuality and reproduction.

Naturally, therefore, among-ourselves, Christians must say NO to many things which the modern world first tolerates then encourages.

And this can be done rigorously, and through argument, since Christians share a belief in both natural law and revelation.

(Natural law being the spontaneous, instinctive human morality and spirituality - common to mankind).


Yet, the fact the Christians must strive to resist modern sexual and reproductive ethics in their internal operations, does not mean that this can effectively be done in the social arena.

It is precisely the triumph of modernity that in the social arena there is no belief in, indeed denial of, not just Christian revelation, but even natural law.

Without even a common basis in natural law, how can specific matters of sexual and reproductive ethics be discussed from a Christian perspective?


The answer is sexual and reproductive ethics cannot now be discussed from a Christian perspective - but only from a secular and hedonic perspective, concerned with this worldly individual happiness and misery.

Yet to discuss sexual and reproductive ethics from the perspective of what makes people happy or miserable, is precisely to reinforce the secular hedonic perspective.

Even if a Christian were to prove that, say, easy divorce usually led to misery - he could never prove that it always and necessarily led to misery, and the very act of evaluating in terms of here and now misery (or happiness) is precisely the evaluation used by the secular modern world; and precisely not the primary evaluation of Christianity.


So Christians can merely say what they believe (answer NO whenever the matter comes-up), stick to what they believe (still say NO even when persuasion or coercion is brought to bear); yet decline to explain their sexual and reproductive ethics in terms of secular hedonism

- simply to state that this is how things are from a Christian perspective; in light of natural law and revelation.


This is, of course, how other and non-native religions always have behaved in The West when trying to hold-out against pressure - not explaining; but instead saying, in effect 'it is not our custom', we cannot comply, we are commanded to refuse this.

And this has indeed proved far more effective than trying to fight coercion using the enemy's weapons.


In sum, Christians need to internalize that we are living in an alien culture which cannot understand us.

When resisting that alien culture, there is therefore no way to explain the true reason for resistance; merely the fact of it.

Those who truly want to understand must first become Christian.


Comparative religion from a Christian perspective - Kristor writes


From an e-mail by Kristor:

Comparative religion is useful to me in that it helps me limn the Religion of Adam, the religion naturally proper to natural man, which I take (and the Fathers took) to be Christianity.

The key thing is this.

If as a scholar of religion you approach Christianity as but one errant creature among many, as rather a taxonomist than a metaphysician, then you are on the road to Hell, or at least to nowhere (is there a difference between nowhere and Hell?)...

But if on the other hand you approach other religions as defective/partly successful & right approximations of the True Religion you are trying to discover and comprehend and practice, as rather a metaphysician than a taxonomist,

...why then you are almost bound in the course of your studies to arrive at the conclusion that orthodoxy – traditional Christianity, of whatever lobe of whatever “lung” – is the historical instantiation of that True Religion, and is thus the True Church...

(understanding the Church as extending throughout the cosmos (and indeed beyond it),

...and thus ipso facto throughout all human history, so that Christianity simply must be present incipiently in shamanism and animism, and in high paganism of the Neo-Platonist/Pythagorean sort, as in high Hebrew polytheism (El & His Son YHWH plus his pantheon of angels);

...and so that it is present at least partially in any religion that succeeds at informing a virtuous life of true human flourishing, or at fostering wisdom (however “merely” practical that wisdom).


Saturday, 28 January 2012

We don't regard the good moments seriously enough


One insight I get from reading Thomas Traherne (1637-1674) is that we habitually ignore and downgrade the paradisal, the heavenly aspects of our everyday lives.

There are moments of sheerest delight, of perfection - yet they barely register, or we shrug them aside to get-on with something else, or we persist in looking-forward to something else. 

Yet for the Christian these are foretastes and glimpses of Heaven.


The moments should not, need not be, grasped at nor 'reflected' upon - they are permanent, and they will continue to do their work. However, they certainly ought not to be slighted, mentally-denigrated, shoved-down and subordinated to worldly concerns.


That sitting with the family around the dinner table, chatting and laughing; that looking up to see Venus, the crescent Moon and Jupiter in a blazing line across the evening sky - that was not trivial, but one of the most important moments in your earthly life. To be treasured in eternity.


Friday, 27 January 2012

Not even trying - the corruption of real science


This is the title of a 'book' I have 'finished' in the past couple of days - and sent to the publishers for consideration.

The title is pretty self-explanatory (I hope) - the 'book' is about the (utter) degradation of science by dishonesty. 

(I say 'book' because it is only about 28,000 words - although even 28K is 'meaty' compared with Thought Prison.) 

This is probably as good a point as any to gather views on the book, since it may help to give me an impression of how far I have succeeded in my aims - and any problems can easily be fixed at this stage.

So... if any of this blog's regular commenters would like to be what-I-believe-is-termed a beta-reader for this book, then please send me an e-mail.

(I'm not asking-for nor wanting a copy-editor nor a sub-editor - but rather a few descriptive impressionistic critical sentences.) 


Political correctness beats cosmopolitan Libertarianism: because sacrificial religion beats hedonic individualism


The complete and utter feebleness of libertarian ideas (I am speaking as an ex-libertarian) comes from the fact that they are up-against religion: the religion of political correctness.


The 'secular right' agenda is lukewarm except where it is nationalist: cosmopolitan libertarians are simply not doing politics.

Because of the feebleness of their conviction, libertarians and right wing secular hedonists will sell-out as soon as they get a sniff of power, as soon as anyone offers to buy them off, or as soon as they are threatened.

Indeed, observation and experience shows that people will not sacrifice anything of significance to support sensible secular, materialist, pragmatic, libertarian right wing policies.


(And anyone who imagines libertarians will sacrifice in support of their supposed ideals, should try sticking their neck out and getting into trouble in support of libertarian ideas, and just see how much effective support rallies to them... Libertarians idea of a bold political stance is to sign their names to a sternly-worded multi-author letter - although most will not risk even that...)


By contrast, large numbers of religious folk will sacrifice comfort, prosperity, time, money and other resources to pursue their goals.

And the same applies, at a much lower level, to the Leftist religion of political correctness.

Political correctness is the feeblest of religions, as religion go; but any religion will beat no religion.


Leftists will sacrifice quite a lot for their beliefs.

Albeit these sacrifices tend to be gradual, quietist and passive - and not to require courage; nonetheless, leftists sit for hour after hour in excruciatingly dull committee meetings (until all their opponents have gone), work hard to buy expensive useless stuff-that-Leftists-like, travel to the right places even when they are unpleasant and dangerous, read miserable newspapers, books and blogs - and watch despair-inducing socially aware movies when the world is full of enjoyable edification, they shell-out vastly in taxes and ask for more taxes...


In sum, Leftists acquiesce in sacrifice of their own long term security and prosperity, their peace and comfort, sacrifice their own childrens' health and happiness, and the H&H of future generations in pursuit of their self-loathing and self-destroying ideas such as multiculturalism, unrestricted mass immigration, egalitarianism, affirmative action, 'democracy', world government, moral and aesthetic inversion, wholesale propaganda.

In general, real leftists trudge through life under a burden of near paralyzing, un-assuageable and self-stoked guilt which they do their best to amplify and spread - so they certainly feel as if they are sacrificing.


Yes, political correctness is indeed a sacrificial religion - albeit an atheistic religion of this-worldly nihilistic materialism; from which there is no escape except into distraction or oblivion - albeit the feeblest and most depraved of religions: but religion it is.

When the leftist religion is matched-against a devout, theistic and other worldly orthodox traditional religion it is, of course, utterly crushed - sooner or later, unless it can corrupt the theistic religion to worldly hedonism.


(The success of leftism derives from its power to corrupt enemies, not from intrinsic strength.)


But libertarianism is the ideology of minimal sacrifice - it is precisely the ideology of those who want-to-do what they want-to-do, nothing else: and they want it now.

This is why political correctness (as we see all around us) wipes the floor with its right wing enemies.

When a sacrificial religion - any religion, even a feeble one - is pitted-against the mere self-gratifying, individualistic, guilt-shrugging, 'glass bead game'-playing of intellectual, libertarian, cosmopolitan secularism - there can be only one winner.


Thursday, 26 January 2012

Simon Hughes blows a fuse over the doosra



- Oops - this post was intended for my cricket blog, but was inserted here in error. Anyone interested in the esoterica of spin bowling can go to:



A turn of the tide? What to watch for, pray for



I've said it before, and here it is again.

It is self-deluding to scan our environments, comb the mass media, for signs of hope, for a turn of the tide - if we neglect to watch for repentance.

For a spiritual renewal of society (a Great Awakening) repentance must be the first step.


There must be a recognition and repudiation of wrongness - then there must be a recognition of our own implication.

(Not, for example, a primary focus on blaming.)

To say: This is wrong, we were wrong.


You think you see a glimmer of hope? A leader speaks of Christ? But have they repented? When our leaders begin by repentance and tell us just what it is they repent; then we will know they may be serious

(Repentance is necessary, not of course sufficient, deception is possible. Antichrist will surely repent - partially. But piety without repentance is bogus.)

If they repent their own role in the collapse of our society then they may be serious, they may represent a turn of the tide.

Otherwise not.


(And this is not something subtle - a leader who repents... that is not something one sees every day.

(But I have seen it - Margaret Thatcher publicly repented socialism; the entire US political class repented racism - and has never stopped doing so, even when it became clear that un-religious, unilateral, specific and immoderate repentance had led to evil.

(Whether repentance led to good or not, because of repentance, these were deep, lasting 'religious' movements, not merely political expediency.)


And that is a thing we should pray for, when asked to pray for The Queen, The President, all those in authority. We should repent our own collusion, we should pray that our leaders also repent. Only then may God have mercy on us (until then it can only be a stay of execution in hope of repentance).


The Queen gave a strong Christian message in her speech to the Commonwealth this year -


- but the focus was unclear: it was perhaps coded.

I await repentance.


We are to become little children - Thomas Traherne


Thomas Traherne (1636-1674. Anglican priest) - Third Century, Number 5

Our Saviour's meaning, when He said, He must be born again and become a little child that will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven is deeper far than is generally believed.

It is not only in a careless reliance upon Divine Providence, that we are to become little children, or in the feebleness and shortness of our anger and simplicity of our passions, but in the peace and purity of all our soul.

Which purity also is a deeper thing than is commonly apprehended. For we must disrobe ourselves of all false colours, and unclothe our souls of evil habits; all our thoughts must be infant-like and clear; the powers of our soul free from the leaven of this world, and disentangled from men's conceits and customs.

Grit in the eye or yellow jaundice will not let a man see those objects truly that are before it. And therefore it is requisite that we should be as very strangers to the thoughts, customs, and opinions of men in this world, as if we were but little children.

So those things would appear to us only which do to children when they are first born. 

Ambitions, trades, luxuries, inordinate affections, casual and accidental riches invented since the fall, would be gone, and only those things appear, which did to Adam in Paradise, in the same light and in the same colours: God in His works, Glory in the light, Love in our parents, men, ourselves, and the face of Heaven: Every man naturally seeing those things, to the enjoyment of which he is naturally born.

Thomas Traherne - Third Century, Number 5


Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Witchery and sorcery as wicked prayer - Kristor writes


Excerpted and slightly edited from an email by Kristor:

Witchery and sorcery – black magic generally – is just intercessory prayer that is evilly intended.

And intercession needn’t be formal, or even conscious. If I’m envious of someone, or feeling glad about them, it seems quite reasonable that my feelings might have a concrete effect upon them, even if I never express my emotions to them, or indeed even become conscious of them myself.

Everything is connected, and not a jot or a bit is dropped from the signal, however obscured it may be. Every atom, says Whitehead, is a system of all things.

The feeling I have about you, and the feeling you have about me, are concrete, physical aspects of the world. They are not just epiphenomena; so, they must have their complete, due effects upon all other things.

If the world is to be coherent, there is no alternative; the momenta of feelings cannot simply disappear from history, without being accounted for by the rest of the causal order. This is why the very notion of an epiphenomenon is an insult to rationality.

Prayer then, sorcery whether white or black, is mediated by fields of mutual influence, of co-inherence and superposition. And in principle, fields extend without limit throughout all space, however weakly.

The body is contained by the soul, not vice versa; so also with physical objects and their fields. Physical bodies are the expressions of their fields, the fossils and artifacts of field transactions. In All Hallows’ Eve, Williams writes [p. 142]:

"The high thing which was now in his mind, [Lester’s] body that had walked and lain by his, was itself celestial and divine. Body? It was no more merely body than soul was merely soul; it was only visible Lester."

Lovely: the body as the soul made visible, tangible.


“Coincidentally,” I have just begun reading Morton Smith’s Jesus the Magician, which explores the whole faith healer/miracle worker aspect of Jesus’ ministry.

Lots of info here about the phenomenon of the miracle worker in First Century Palestine. Much (but not all) of faith healing is of course due to the placebo effect – “your faith has made you whole.” But that a man’s faith in a cure has made him whole does not mean that the cure was not objectively curative.

The placebo effect can after all just as easily defeat a cure proven to be effective, as promote a cure that is known to be specious. The most brilliant and incontrovertibly efficacious drug can be completely impotent when the placebo effect is negative, thanks to the patient’s disbelief in the efficacy of the cure, or of the doctor; or thanks to his despair.

If you believe you are beyond help, you probably are, because such beliefs tend to be self-fulfilling.

If on the other hand you believe God can cure you, why, you’re only talking plain common sense, right? Of course God can heal you. But, he can do so only if you turn to him in love and trust. If you don’t do that, you’re rejecting the cure.


So, faith healing is not rendered bogus or vacuous because the placebo effect is involved. That the patient’s willing cooperation in the procedure is needed to make it efficacious does not mean that the faith healer has done nothing at all, nor does it mean that the thing he has done is not really efficacious, any more than the fact that I choose not to notice a pinprick means I have not really been pricked.


Ought we, therefore, not to refrain from despair over the prospects of the West, not just because despair is a sin, but because our despair will tend to frustrate the cure that might this very minute be working its way through the dough like yeast?

Ought we not to have faith in a cure, so that we don’t get in the way of that cure?

A cure is possible, after all. Stranger things have happened.

Like the Church. There have been several Great Awakenings in the last 500 years. We could easily be on the verge of another; Great Awakenings are just the sorts of things that flaccid, desiccate, depraved, apostate ages tend to generate.


Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Would a global pandemic plague be the least-worst scenario?


Yesterday, I again came across reference to the impact of the Black Death plague on medieval society. It was a quite extraordinary phenomenon: so sudden, so universal, so devastating - and I simply cannot imagine what it was like to experience the death of around half the population within a short time.


Yet, what is remarkable is how little affected medieval society was.

There are apparently only three brief references to the Black Death in the whole of Chaucer; and the fact of it does not seem to have made much impact on either Langland or the Gawain poet.

It is, in fact, quite easy almost to forget the plague when discussing the history of England. There were 'benefits': apparently peasant wages doubled after the Black Death (due to shortage of labour) and this effect took some hundreds of years to be lost. Indeed, it is the post-plague benefits which tend to get empasised these days.


Of course, medieval society was segmentary - consisting of many almost-self-sufficient segments or units.

Modern society is by contrast massively interdependent - so the effect of a pandemic would be very different and in some respects probably much more devastating, and much harder to recover from.

In addition, all the non-governmental levels of organization (the trades, professions, churches etc) have been systematically attacked and mostly destroyed over recent decades.


Anyway, with the impending collapse of the Western economy, organisation and capability (leaving aside culture) - which has been sustaining the world through its food, transport, medicine; there will be some kind of major mortality from disease, starvation or violence - or combinations thereof.

We are faced with the near certainty, the 'necessity' of billions of casualties worldwide, from some cause or another.

And I wonder whether a global pandemic might be the least-worst, most merciful of these options?


(Although, for the reasons stated above, I suspect that pandemic might lead to massive violence and starvation as well, since modern society - perhaps I mean just British society - lacks the segmentary mechanisms for preventing them.)


These reflections were prompted by these irony-tinged biological reflections from Greg Cochran concerning the benefits of near-extinction to a species:



Note: I am a Christian and an evolutionary theorist, and Cochran is the other one - he is Roman Catholic. However, his IQ is approximately double mine.



Despite the internet meme, which I unwittingly propagated, I have discovered (by asking him) that Greg Cochran is NOT a Roman Catholic: a Christian, yes, but not RC.


Monday, 23 January 2012

From Kristor - error is permanent, and leads to further error


There is conservation, not just of fairness, but of value in general.

In any closed causal system, this must be so. You can’t increase the amount of value that a given state of affairs is capable in principle of expressing throughout its whole future, absent any exogenous inputs of value thereto.

All that you can do is rearrange the value that is already implicit in it. And all such rearrangements use up a bit of the store of available value, dispersing it in such a way that, spread about indiscriminably, it can no longer exert any allure toward a particular terminus ad quem, or therefore motivate any work, any action theretoward.


But note that for any given moment in a causal order, the amount of value that it can express over its whole history may vary, depending on the decisions made in and as that moment.

There is for a cosmos at its beginning an optimum amount of value that it can possibly realize over its history, provided it follows the optimum pathway forward from that beginning, without error.

If it should ever err, then cosmic history would fall from its optimum path, and would forever thenceforth find itself unable to climb back thereto – again, absent any exogenous inputs.

The value that a given causal order can express – can actualize – is quite path-dependent.


Once a cosmos has fallen a little bit, and cannot climb back up, it can of course fall still further. And, again, absent exogenous rescue, that is what must sooner or later eventually happen. For, once infect a world with error, and that error never thereafter goes away. It leaves its mark permanently in history, and queers everything after.

To see this, think of a bowling alley where the distance to the pins is, like, 15 miles. The tiniest error at the beginning of a ball’s journey is going to land it in the gutter, sooner or later. No ball will ever reach the pins.


But even without exogenous rescue, a world may devolve to the general death of heat, and all other values, more quickly, or more slowly, again depending on the path it takes. The bowling ball may land in the gutter almost the moment it is released, or it may roll along beautifully for quite a while. In the latter case, more beauties will be realized than in the former.

So, while there is no way to prevent the eventual utter exhaustion of all the available store of potential creaturely value present in the cosmos at its inception, that process of exhaustion may actualize more beauty, or less. The world is eventually doomed; in the meantime, it may be better, or worse.

From the extensive comments added by Kristor to:



John the Baptist


As a new Christian, I found John the Baptist a baffling figure - he is given considerable prominence in the Gospels, yet my tendency was to regard him as having been superseded by Jesus, and therefore somebody that could safely be ignored.

John 1:8: He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

Being a witness doesn't sound very important, at first...


Yet he was, according to Christ, the best man who had ever lived, up to that point: greater, therefore, than even than the greatest of the Old Testament Prophets:

Luke 7:28 For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist


Of course the greatness of John the Baptist is not exactly a secret. The church I most often attend is indeed named after him. But perhaps it is hard for us to understand why a 'witness' is so great? It is hard to understand because 'witnesses' are so rare now.


The key fact, in my understanding, is that John the Baptist was regarded, in the area and at the time Jesus operated, as the holiest man alive.


This was an era of miracle workers and claimed prophets. How to discern between them?

The answer was to turn for judgement to the holiest man alive.

When John endorsed Jesus as the Messiah, then that was as strong evidence as could be imagined of the truth of Jesus's claims - stronger and more decisive, even, than the miracles and (thus far) partial-fulfilment of prophecies. 


And this emphasises the problem of our own era, so lacking in holy men, in saints. Who is there now alive of unchallenged holiness to whom we could turn for discernment?

This lack is perhaps why I did not easily understand the greatness of John the Baptist. Perhaps we, as a culture, have forgotten that such greatness did once exist on earth.


There is, I think, no-one alive to whom we can turn - we must therefore turn to those who have died.


Sunday, 22 January 2012

Disbelief in miracles, belief in divinity of miracles - both vulnerabilities


Modern public culture, and the majority of the intellectual ruling elite, have a total disbelief in miracles.

They will deploy all possible resources to argue-down any possible miracle, especially of course the miracles of Christ; from a basis that miracles are impossible, all phenomena have scientific explanations, and therefore any naturalistic explanation is infinitely more plausible than a miracle.


In other words, miracles are implicitly being taken as sufficient proof of divinity - especially the God of Christianity (and since God is supposed to have been proven not to exist, then neither can miracles).


This leaves modern culture wide-open to utter deception by anyone who can credibly prove a miracle. Such a person will be assumed to be a divine messenger, or even a divinity.

The 'miracle' may or may not be real, it may be real or a cunning simulation; but if it can be proven such as to convince enough people, then whoever practised it will be worshipped as a god - since that is the covert assumption behind the utter refusal to regard miracles as real.


Others who are vulnerable to deception by miracles (real, or indistinguishable from real) are Christians who disbelieve in 'unseen warfare'. This includes many who are prone to regard 'religion' as intrinsically 'good' and spiritual experience as intrinsically true, valid and divine in origin.

Even Charles Williams - a truly great theologian in many respects, whose work I study intensely - did not really believe in purposive evil, in 'the devil' (or found difficulty in doing so).

And this opened-him to the potential evils of magical practice (the quest for supernatural power; in his case poetic power) - at least to some extent and at some points in his life because he lacked sufficient awareness of the possibilities, the likelihood, of demonic deception.


So, we need a proper understanding of miracles. On the one hand, miracles are real and possible; on the other hand, even real miracles are not necessarily derived from the divine indeed in a time of hedonism, aspostasy and corruption then deceptive (evil tending) miracles (whether supernatural or cunningly faked) are most likely.



Saturday, 21 January 2012

Three attitudes to miracles


Personal miracles are sometimes common events for praying Christians.

I am talking here of public miracles, miracles of claimed general significance.


There are three main attitudes.

1. They are all fake - all explicable by error, dishonesty or delusion.

2. They are rare, but some are real - and these are divine. If error, dishonesty and delusion can be ruled-out - using reasonable criteria - then public miracles are divine communications.

3. Of real miracles, most are demonic. Indeed public miracles are assumed to be demonic, except when there are grounds to consider otherwise.


The third position is, I believe, correct - it is the one I have derived from Eastern Orthodoxy especially Fr Seraphim Rose.

The normal public debate is therefore mistaken and a false dichotomy: I mean the debate between people who believe something is a miracle and that therefore it is from God on one side, and those who disbelieve that this event was a miracle (either specifically this event not a miracle, or often because they believe miracles to be impossible as such).

This is a distinctive aspect of Eastern Orthodox mystical tradition - a lively recognition that supernatural experience is real but usually demonic.


All other traditions (and individuals) seem, by comparison, dangerously credulous about mystical experience.

It is real, not-uncommon, but usually harmful.

The difficulty about mystical experience is not to have it, but to have it real and benign (ie. divine).


(Demonic miracles would no doubt be performed in a different way, using different methods, than divine miracles - but the point is that they may be very difficult or impossible for humans to distinguish in terms of their observable effects.)


My attitude is that miracles happen, I mean real public miracles, but that most of them are demonic in origin and designed to mislead, to harm souls. I would not usually argue the toss over whether something really was or was not a miracle, but assuming it really was a miracle, would argue about whether it was a divine miracle.


Fr Seraphim Rose on the end times


I could go on with details like this, but my purpose is not to frighten you, but to make you aware of what is happening around us.

It is truly later than we think; the Apocalypse is now.

And how tragic it is to see Christians... with this incalculable tragedy hanging over their heads, who think they can continue what is called a "normal life" in these terrible times, participating fully in the whims of this silly, self-worshipping generation, totally unaware that the fool's paradise we are living in is about to crash, completely unprepared for the desperate times that lie just ahead of us.

There is no longer even a question of being a "good" or a "poor" Orthodox Christian; the question now is: will our Faith survive at all?

With many, it will not survive; the coming Antichrist will be too attractive, too much in the spirit of the worldly things we now crave, for most men even to know that they have lost their Christianity by bowing down to him.



Friday, 20 January 2012

Thought Prison is "beautifully written and very wise"


That is a comment in an e-mail from James Delingpole


which he has given permission for me to quote.

Quite a compliment, I thought - and one I am delighted to share!


Thursday, 19 January 2012

Left brain life...


Life in a modern bureaucracy proceeds by the maxim that if it does not leave an audit trail it is evil...

If it is not 'recorded' then it is not real, it didn't really happen.

Indeed if it did happen but was not recorded then it probably should not have happened - since it was a waste of time and likely sinister in content.

And if it does leave a record, then whatever that record says is reality.


So we are left with the Left hemisphere world - a vast, entropic pile of life-shards, heaped into a shape crudely-imitative of reality.


Yet the worst aspect of it all is that people seem superficially to be pleased at the process, excited, zealous!

Even, or especially women - who are more naturally Right brain creatures. Stunned at the (supposed) novelty of life as a panopticon of good intentions and niceness.

They really seem to believe, and certainly would not publicly doubt, that this time it will work.

While all the time their souls must be screaming in silent torment, their eyes seem to shine with ecstatic joy - in worship of the wondrous vistas just ahead.


Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The ethics of the barnyard


What many or most secular materialists seem to want - what they ask for - is the ethics of the barnyard.


Specifically (for the men) to live the pampered life of a stud stallion - well-fed, beautifully groomed, toned-up with refreshing exercise, frequently touring in a stylish vehicle to nice places to have sex with many and diverse partners, admired and envied by all the non-stud stallions...

And then to die swiftly and painlessly, preferably 'on the job'. 

That is, a meaningless and purposeless life - but one filled with pleasure.


Such a life is not impossible; it is just not human.


A human is not an animal; but a human might decide to turn himself into an animal, temporarily or permanently - by, drugs or a brain operation perhaps - and thereby lose self-awareness, reason etc.


And then that person might simply exist, simply be, simply respond to the stimuli he encounters in whatever way he is instinctively-equipped.

He would suffer, he might also experience pleasure; but would not be aware of either, nor would he fear the future - he would just behave differently according to whether a stimulus was aversive or gratifying.

All that kind of thing is certainly possible (i.e. from a secular materialist conception of the human condition).


I think many secular hedonists regard this kind of pampered animal life as a sort of paradisal daydream. Consciousness and rationality (and perhaps memory) are regarded as a curse. (A familiar trope in romantic literature.)

Yet, without that which makes us human, then the pampered stud stallion does not know he is happy - and from the S-H perspective he might as well be asleep: he might as well be dead.

The secular hedonist fantasy of unconscious animal bliss is therefore just one single logical step away from suicide.


Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Could Christian evangelism build on mystical yearning?


What do modern people lack, spiritually?

Some people have the experience of yearning for something which the world cannot give - for example when enjoying music, or a story, or a landscape - we may feel a joy which is also a yearning, since we know the world cannot satisfy it - indeed that we ourselves are unable to sustain it.

Either such moments are a meaningless delusion, or they mean something - and that something feels very important.


Christianity explains such moments and feelings as a foretaste or glimpse of Heaven.

The moments are meant to be an inspiration and encouragement - these moments ought not be sought for themselves, certainly these moments should not be grabbed or held onto; yet they are moments which with the right attitude are good for us, indeed potentially very good for us indeed - this is Christian mysticism, the via positiva - the worldly path to transcendence.


Christian evangelism and apologetics usually ignores this - instead focusing on morals and logic. But the yearning triggered by beauty is another way-in.

Yet Christian worship usually seems almost entirely to neglect this! Where, in the Christian life, are such moments of yearning encouraged?


This is not a matter of cheerful and enjoyable music, but of sublime music; not a matter of comfortable churches but beautiful churches (beauty which may be the glory of a cathedral or the plain austere beauty of a Quaker meeting house like Brigflatts).

And the words - the words ought not be merely true or sincere or interesting or relevant or funny - but poetic. Pointing beyond themselves. How dare we neglect that!


Imagine someone who feels this other worldly yearning going to church - what will they find? Will this yearning be encouraged and taken up into its full meaning; or will the church be irrelevant to yearning?

Church ought not be merely friendly, or at least friendliness is not enough - neither is happiness enough (there is plenty of modern friendliness, and even happiness, we can get happy friendliness at a fast food outlet) - but each and every formal act of Christian worship should itself be hinting or pointing at transcendence.  Neither is good advice nor solid teaching enough; and certainly good works are not enough.


Modern souls cry-out for a Heaven-glimpsing beauty which is especially deficient in modern life since modern life is so comfortable, so full of varied distractions and instant pleasures.

Yearning for the unattainable, the unworldly, is not confined to Christians - but Christianity has the capability of not just explaining but doing something with this transcendent yearning.

Christian worship, Christian life ought - surely - to encourage transcendent Heaven-glimpsing experience if at all possible?

Christian evangelism should be able to encourage those who are experience this yearning, to take their search into the Christian church, in expectation that this feeling will be channeled and nurtured.


Note: The above argument is based on CS Lewis's writing on Joy/ Sehnsucht and JRR Tolkien's essay On Fairy Stories.

Monday, 16 January 2012

People who like this sort of thing...


...will find this the sort of thing they like.


From 15 years ago, three issues of 'Antidote' - a spoof university newsletter I co-wrote with my brother.


Hard and soft hearts - and toughness


We must make tough decisions - that is decisions that are right but which lead to upfront, immediate costs.

For those with a soft, warm heart - these decisions are a cause of pain; but we must not harden our hearts to make tough decisions.


It is, indeed, a terrible spiritual hazard to harden the heart - for any reason or purpose whatsoever. Nothing, ever justifies deliberate hardening of the heart.


Because to harden the heart is to exclude love, to build a carapace of pride - it is, indeed, an act of cowardice: hard-hearted people are cowards, in the sense that they take the easier and more expedient root of not caring.

I perceive many people, many intellectuals in particular, and perhaps especially intellectuals on the secular Right (Nietzsche as the model), adopting a strategy of deliberate heart-hardening.

They expose themselves to evils and suffering with the aim of becoming immune to them, of deadening their reactions to them. They want to be tough, imperturbable, at the cost of hardening their hearts, indeed by means of hardening theie hearts.


(The ideal of being 'cool' is this - it is a fairly pure form of evil since it entails chilling the soul until it is unaffected by good of bad, but moves serenely through life, needing nobody else, living-off its own invincible self-regard.)


Fr Seraphim Rose perceived hardening of the heart as one of the great hazards of the modern world especially among Christians. He saw this as a hazard of ultra-correctness in religious practice - of legalism, rule-following, an enforcement of the self-righteous spirit.

Once hardness has become advanced in us, we find it difficult or almost impossible to come into contact with the world, of feeling life, when we cannot moved by anything for good or ill (only experiencing pleasure or pain - but not feeling joy or sorrow).

Orthodox holiness is a matter of tears.

Real tears are a consequence of a soft heart experiencing joy and sorrow - not hysterical tears, obviously not faked and manipulative tears, but natural 'weeping' from the heart.

(What is the cost of real weeping being taboo in modern society?)


In the past, tough men - not just monks but Kings and warriors - would cry readily in response to both beauty and loss.

Toughness is not indifference; indifference is not toughness. 

My Northumbrian Charlton ancestors lived in a situation of sustained violence on the border of Scotland and England over some hundreds of years - indeed some regard it as the most sustainedly-very-violent human situation in history.

These were tough men living in a tough world by any historical standard, yet they composed and listened to the Border Ballads; which stand among the best anonymous poetry of the world; they were soft-hearted men, who were affected by life, they wept openly and often.


And modern Charltons have retained some of this!

Bobby was probably the greatest footballer England ever produced. A tough sport. That's him on the right of this picture, being awarded the World Cup in 1966:

In tears - and still crying several minutes later - at 2.50 minutes


(What an image!)


And that is how we must be - both tough and warm-hearted like Bobby Charlton; Bilbo, Frodo and Sam; Harry Potter - all the real heroes.


Sunday, 15 January 2012

The conservation of fairness


A comment by Kristor at:

Everyone is unfairly rewarded, and punished, by the accidents of their births, and of their lives. 

The world is not fair. That’s just the way it is. 

Trying to make the world less unfair can only be accomplished by making it unfair in some other way.

There is conservation of fairness; it is a corollary of the conservation laws of physics.


This just strikes me as true. 


We can move fairness around but we cannot make the world more fair.

But we are not supposed to move fairness around - that is a meaning of the injunction not to 'judge'. 

Maybe fairness is like energy - it is conserved, it cannot be destroyed, but when fairness is deployed it is dissipated into slightly raising the background heat.


Perhaps when fairness is moved around it is dissipated into useless low level rhetoric, which can do no work. 


A society addicted to moving fairness around is perhaps depleting the system of its ability to achieve anything by means of justice. 

The fairness death of the universe...


Harry Potter, Co-inherence, and Substituted Love


I am actively reading both Charles Williams (the Inkling) and JK Rowling's Harry Potter chronicles - including John Granger's superb 'How Harry cast his Spell'...

when I suddenly realised that Rowling's book, across the whole series, is about the best possible illustration of C.W's distinctive ideas of co-inherence, substitution (including substituted love) and exchange.



It was the following passage, from the end of the first book of the series Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - Dumbledore is speaking to Harry:

Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing that Voldemort cannot understand, it is love.

He didn't realize that love as powerful as you mother's for you leaves its own mark.

Not a scar, no visible sign...

to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever: It is in your very skin.


This is pure Charles Williams! Not that I think it derives directly from Charles Williams - rather it indicates that JK Rowling has independently worked-out the same implications as did C.W. - implications which are orthodoxly, traditionally Christian yet somehow neglected or de-emphasised.


He saved others: himself he cannot save - this was said of Christ, indicating the reality of co-inherence - and the same could be said of Harry Potter.

Throughout the book he is saved from death, again and again, by the love of others - especially by sacrificial love, up to and including acceptance of death for love - such love as a kind of real but immaterial and permanent protection... It is operative even when (as in most instances) 'the person who loved us is gone'.


And in the end, in The Deathly Hallows, Harry demonstrates that as we are saved by the love of others; so it is our task to save - not ourselves but others.

Harry sacrifices himself (allows Vodlemort to kill him) from love of others; and the effect of this act of sacrificial love is seen immediately because after Harrys death and rebirth the pupils, Professors, parents and friends of Hogwarts are rendered immune to the curses and magic of Voldemort and the Death Eaters - there are no more casualties from the Good side in the battle.

So, because of the effects of Harry's invisible love, the evil cannot (for a while, anyway) harm good.


Yet all this happens without the Hogwarts defenders or the death eaters being aware of it - only Harry (and Dumbledore) know what has happened.


So this is love that is real (not a psychological trick, not effective because people believe it is effective - but effective even without awareness) love as a real 'substance', but immaterial...

Rowling's is a description of love that is totally in contradiction to the mainstream one in our society - where love is seen as a type of pleasure; something wholly subjective, one-way and temporary.

For moderns, A loves B, and the love is something happening in A's brain. When the brain state changes, or the brain dies, then love dies and leaves nothing behind - unless it has influenced another brain state, which is equally evanescent.

Indeed the modern cliche idea is that love is a short term brainstorm, maybe pleasurable or maybe miserable - but inevitably disappearing like snow in sunshine to leave no trace. Unrequited or one-way love is seen as pathetic, undignified, a waste of time.


Rowling's is a concept of love that saves - as it saves Snape, an almost-wholly nasty man, but who is wholly and gloriously redeemed by his love for a long-dead woman - married to someone else and who eventually disliked him - and the courage this love enables.

And of course, via Lily his mother (who is long since dead, but not 'gone') Snape's love saves Harry, many times - even despite that at a superficial level Snape loathes Harry (and the feeling is mutual).

Snape is a classic 'loser', in love but not loved; making sacrifices - his whole double-agent life is a sacrifice and he is sacrificially killed by Vodemort; except that this is not mere infatuation but real love, as proved by his sacrifice - hence its effects are real and permanent.


And CW's definition of the worst thing - the exclusion of love - is almost a literal rendition of Dumbledore's and Harry's explanation for Voldemort - a man who deliberately lived without love, and therefore became a kind of demon.


So the Harry Potter books can be seen as an illustration of Charles Williams web of exchange, substitution - people doing the work of salvation for each other - and only indirectly for themselves; this enabled because of co-inherence - that we are members one of another (contain a bit of each other) and unified by Christ (contained by and containing).

Love always working in both directions, and across the divide between life and death.

Love as real, effectual, permanent - the only answer to death.


It is very difficult for modern people to understand 'love' (agape) and how it is central to Christianity.

But the Harry Potter series does not just explain Christian love, it shows agape in operation such that readers can experience it for themselves.

For moderns, Rowling's use of love in her plot is extraordinarily strange (so much of it being love between the living and the dead) and it is remarkable that this very obvious and repeatedly emphasized fact is apparently unnoticed - at least consciously.


Somehow, the fact has eluded secular culture that Rowling's mega-bestselling seven volume book is, at a deep level, a precise and completely unambiguous depiction of agape in action, in multiple acts of exchange and substitution, crossing between this life and the next.


Saturday, 14 January 2012

Deadly 'safety' windows in a loft conversion... Psychotic Leftism in action


Some years ago we had a 'loft conversion' to add extra bedrooms in the roof of the house.

It emerged that these bedrooms were each required, by building regulations, to have access windows, like so:

That is, windows hinged at the top, so that IF there was a fire, and IF you were trapped in that particular room, and IF there was a fire engine with the right kind of ladder, THEN you could escape through this top-hinged window MORE EASILY than through the normal mid-hinged window.

This escape window was therefore a SAFETY feature.

Supposedly intended to SAVE LIVES (ta daa!)


So far so hugely-implausible but acceptable-ish.


THEN it emerged that in order for the escape window to be near to the eaves/ edge of the roof, and accessible to the hypothetical fire engine with a ladder of hypothetical length - the windows would need to be at FLOOR LEVEL.

THEN it emerged that the windows must (presumably because of the constant need for escaping blazes) be ALWAYS KEPT UNLOCKED.


Pause a moment and reflect.

1. Easy opening windows that give easy access to the sloping house roof, about 25-30 ft above the hard ground.

2. At floor level.

3. Unlocked.

What we are talking about is, in effect, a human sized hole in the wall of the top story of the house.


Add in young children...

Low glass door over hole in sloping roof, easy to open, left unlocked, small child in room...

(do the math)


Recall that these windows are compulsory.

And that these are SAFETY windows...

What are the differential odds of a combination of fire related events in which this type of low access window in this particular place make the difference between life and death compared with a higher window in a normal place?

Compare the odds that if you have an easy-opening and never-locked window at floor-level designed for people to get-out from, pretty soon (like, err, the next couple of hours) a little kid will open it and get out from it onto the sloping roof and - duh - fall off the roof?


Now, of course these windows are kept locked (we are not insane - we don't want our children to die) but the locks could not be added until after the building was inspected and we are stuck with these crumby almost useless floor level windows that can't be left open.

But this single minor incident is enough to tell you what you need to know about the modern world, its psychotic irrationality, our captivity to regulations and interest groups propounding'good causes' ("What? You wanna see people burned to death?"), its un-reform-ability; its exclusion of personal responsibility, individual judgment and common sense - pretty much the whole thing is in there.


Friday, 13 January 2012

What is Christian celibacy?


Some ideas, as a basis for discussion...


Not merely not having sex, not merely voluntarily refraining from sex in situations where it is not permitted or where children are not wanted...

(that is chastity - I think: a contingent suspension of sexual activity for a reason, rather than celibacy as a resolved cessation offered as a consecrated act...).


Nor is celibacy legitimately a means to the end of creating an autonomous and dedicated professional priesthood - but celibacy is (like it or not) a spiritual practice.


In particular, celibacy is an ascetic practice - a denial, part of the via negativa (negative way) akin to fasting, prayer vigils, endurance of heat, cold and other physical harshness etc.

These designed to develop control of passions, and resistance to temptations (including demonic masquerading as divine visions and experiences); prior to attempted Sainthood.


And, as such, celibacy is hazardous: spiritually hazardous. Especially, celibacy in isolation is hazardous (for many men) - since this is a partial acesticism.

Celibacy is likely to be much harder and more hazardous to attempt when the body is indulged and fuelled by plenty of food, warmth, comfort, alcohol, tobacco...


Celibacy should therefore properly be done under monastic supervision, as part of a general and mutually-reinforcing programme of ascetic training. (And when monasteries lack such conditions, celibacy is presumably that much more difficult and hazardous.)

Just as monks are only allowed to become solitary hermits after a period of disciplined training under supervision, with the gradual and incremental development of the powers of self-discipline as discerned by a competent Spiritual Father, the same should apply to lifelong celibacy.


Because celibacy is spiritually dangerous - it strongly tends (like other advanced spiritual practices) to produce spiritual pride; which is why it ought to be practised only under supervision and discipline until a person is 'ready' to go it alone and resist the temptations of pride - and this takes (apparently) something of the order of ten to twenty years of monastic supervision.

Therefore - since celibacy is so difficult to attain and so prone to go wrong, it is spiritually safer, as a general rule, to have mostly married priests administering the sacraments (since many such priests are needed and it is impractical/ impossible that there are sufficient trained and willing ascetics to perfom them), these being led by an elite of Holy and celibate monk-Bishops (Holiness being - ahem - more important than, for example, managerial abilities, eloquence or scholarship).

This was, I understand, the usual and universal practice until medieval times.


Rotten organizations


One of the hardest, and most paradox generating, aspects of modern life for a reactionary Anglican Christian is that all the organizations are rotten; including the institutional church.

I can still remember what it was like to believe that my medical school and university, the Medical Research Council, the National Health Service and other large organizations in which I worked were basically good, I even remember feeling that the British government was basically good.

By basically good I mean well intentioned, good at heart, productive of mostly good decisions and policies...


And over the years all these comforting feelings have fallen away or been stripped away. When almost every single decision an organization makes, and (especially) every new policy or rule, every initiative is bad - and not just slightly bad - then comes a time when your attitude 'flips'.

So suddenly you are in an essentially hostile world - where power resides in bureaucracies that run everything and are active agents of evil. Of course good people and good impulses remain in these organizations (thank Heavens) - but you can see them being mopped up and eliminated over the years.

What this means is that I find myself in the service of evil - since I live in a world of these organizations. Not the service of pure evil, of course! - but in service of organizations whose hearts are rotten.


It is like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when Voldemort rules from behind the scenes - using and subverting the established institutions to opposite goals - and the situation resembles Mr Weasley at the Ministry of Magic (promoting a pure blood agenda) or Professor McGonagall at Hogwarts (where torture is on the curriculum) - and where the Daily Prophet is propaganda in moral inversion and people believe it. How can a hoping-to-be-good individual operate in a trying-to-be-bad institution? Might they actually be making matters worse, lending support to the evil agenda? such that people might say: "well if Weasley and McGonagall are going along with all this stuff, it must be okay - they're decent people...".


What to do when a society, an organization, an institutions is set up such that it serves evil?

And such that individuals are neutered - all authority vested in impersonal committees, impersonal rules - where responsibility is displaced up and up until it reaches the purest ideology (just following orders); where the basis of each evaluative decision is bad in principle as well as practice...


Some reactionary Christians may feel that their Church is a refuge from this - but that is obviously impossible for an Anglican to believe - and I feel that other denominations are deluded on this matter: maybe this is an advantage for Anglicans? The recognition that insofar as a church or part-of-church is powerful, it is corrupt; insofar as a church is true it is beleaguered.

The clarity of knowing that there really is no powerful institutional refuge. The recognition that all which is good in an institution is under threat, feeble, may disappear at any time. Sooner or later Mr Weasley will be sacked and arrested; sooner or later Professor McGonagall will be forced to leave Hogwarts, the good priests will retire and be replaced by undercover Leftists.



Thursday, 12 January 2012

Contraception, patriarchs and monks


Contraception and the Roman Catholic hierarchy


was my most commented post ever, and many of the comments were excellent.

One result has been to clarify my thoughts, as follows...


I while back I made the statement that from a Christian perspective men were - as a generalization, or 'ideal type' - supposed to be patriarchs or monks:


From the purely sexual perspective, this implies that most men are called to the sexual life within marriage; and if they are not then they are probably called to a life of monastic (institutional) celibacy.

So that men (in general) either live in their family, or else in the monastery - they do not live alone, therefore they do not practice sex outside marriage - and they do not practice celibacy outside the monastery.


In traditional societies, before about 1800 in Europe, sex within marriage led to large numbers of conceptions - maybe about ten?- of which an average of eight children died before reproducing (very approximate numbers, but the orders of magnitude are about right).

This was one of the greatest sorrows of life - the deaths of so many children, mostly from disease and starvation.


So, the usual situation in traditional societies is to have no contraception (because it hasn't been invented), unrestricted sexual activity, large numbers of children, and large rates of child mortality.

After about 1800, child mortality rates dropped a lot, so that more children survived childhood, and the population grew very quickly.

For the first time in history, it was possible - normal - for almost everybody (even the poorest) to have about ten children and probably more than half of them would survive to adulthood. This was possible because of the rising standard of living, and massive transfers of resources to poor families.

(Contra the story of communism/ socialism, the Industrial Revolution was a massively egalitarian phenomenon - the rich keeping-alive the babies of the poor in unprecedented numbers.) 

As modernity continued, contraception was invented in more versions and with greater availability, and first the upper classes, then the lower classes reduced their family size (until eventually it was less than two).


Anyway, the two basic realities of traditional society - and a society without contraception - are patriarchy with very large families for the majority, and communal celibacy for a minority.

The children of these very large families will nearly all die in traditional societies; but in post-Industrial Revolution societies all children who are born (to anyone) will be kept alive (at first by voluntary charity, nowadays by wholesale confiscation and transfer of resources).


This clarifies the argument concerning contraception.

1. Marriage is not the place for celibacy. As a general rule it is unacceptable.

2. Celibacy is not a solo lifestyle. As a general rule it is unacceptable.


3. Marriage without contraception (and without celibacy) leads to very large families.

What happens to the children?

In modern societies any unrestricted number of children who are born will be kept alive and brought-up at the expense of others - and their children, and so on.

In traditional societies, most or (for the poor) all of the children born will die of starvation, disease and neglect.


If this natural form of non-celibate marriage is pursued without regard for consequences (that is, by a system of ethics which focuses on the correct decision and ignores the consequences of that decision) then under post-industrial revolution conditions nearly all families will have (say) ten children, and these children will be sustained on welfare at the cost of the taxpayers (whether the tax payers like it or not).

(Because it is is now regarded as ethically non-negotiable in the West that all children who are born must be kept alive - and their children - by coercive extraction of resources from the community with no limit or restriction on the numbers of children and no limit or restriction on the volume of coercive resource extraction.)

Since this is obviously a road to chaos and cultural collapse it seems that the RC Church cannot (or is not) ignoring the consequences of 'natural' marriage, perhaps it finds these consequences unacceptable.


This means that Roman Catholic married couples who are required both to avoid reliable contraception and to avoid huge families are being asked to do something generally unacceptable - to combine the disparate paths of marriage and celibacy.

(And it means that many Roman Catholic secular Priests/ Parish Priests - who currently live alone and outwith monastic or other orders - are being required to live a life that, in basic human terms, is generally unacceptable.)

In other words, the ethical problems which swirl around contraception, including the arbitrary division between natural and artificial methods, are a result of compromises. 

The compromises are trying to achieve the end result of moderately sized families, when the natural result of no-contraception and a non-celibate marriage is to have very large numbers of children. 


It trying to be 'as natural as possible' and yet to avoid the consequences of very large families (the consequences either being vast child mortality rates, or - as at present - vast coercive extraction of welfare; the RC Church seems to have reached a compromise between principle and practicality - by advocating 'natural' contraception it is not following strict principles, it is not ignoring consequences. 

Neither is this teaching being strictly honest, in my opinion - because, by pretending to be based on principle,  it is not being clear about the probable consequences of these principles; and yet its teaching does take into account consequences.  

The result is itself a compromise - as is the current Roman Catholic demand for a high degree of celibacy within marriage a compromise - because it is required in order to avoid very large families and to avoid the use of artificial contraception. 

(Which is the only reliable type of contraception) . 


What will happen? On present trends, those religions who pursue principle without regard for consequences will carry the day - because (under modern conditions) these will have very large numbers of children who will all be kept alive and raised at the expense of everybody else. 

The two basic long term possibilities are unrestricted fertility and huge numbers of births or celibacy. Medium sized families require compromise of principles - and the use of contraception: and contraception is contraception - whether it is called 'natural' or artificial it is still contraception, because there is nothing 'natural' about contraception. 


Wednesday, 11 January 2012

What might increase devoutness? Micro-retreats?


Since I have been advocating that the cure for laxity is devoutness, and since I have been emphasizing the perils of rule following (the perils especially for the modern mind) - what should we do?

The answer should perhaps be re-phrased more like - what should we stop doing: and what we should stop doing is engaging with the mass media, interpersonal communications, socializing, passive forms of diversion (including those that are good for us, supposedly, like art).

We should dis-engage. Be silent. Go on retreat - or, at least, micro-retreats.


I have been on one proper Christian retreat, and it was certainly worthwhile (staying in a monastery for couple of nights, observing the silences and attending the services - plus devotional reading and informal conversation).

But I was thinking more on a daily basis. Frequent micro-retreats.


My own most frequent solitary retreats are for periods between half an hour and an hour - and take place in cafes and libraries - and in the walks to and from them (which can be used for prayer, or to fully aware of the surroundings).

Lacking these micro-retreats I feel a very big difference for the worse - a dissipation, a fuzziness, a loss of the sense of reality and contact with it, life just slipping past - they seem to be very important.    

But I notice that people seldom use such periods of unstructured time in the way I do - instead they try to structure the time, or to distract themselves from it.


The whole point about these times is that they are unstructured, unplanned. It is a question of attitude.

I take a notebook, I always carry a miniature Bible - maybe read a psalm or two; each day I carry a couple of books (mostly 'non-fiction') - these are 'used' (if used) in short intense bursts of reading interspersed with note-taking.

(The notes are seldom or ever looked at again, but sometimes serve as an aide memoire).


I would go so far as to say that - lacking some analogous times - the lives of many people seem to me to be quite hopelessly engaged and distracted. I can't see how they can get out from under this without time, unstructured time - if not a proper retreat, then developing a habit of micro-retreats.


Kristor on spiritual maps


From the comments to yesterday's posting, a mini-essay from Kristor:

The way I have parsed this is to distinguish between map and territory. Scholasticism, and more generally philosophy and theology – including even Eastern mystical theology – are maps. You get into trouble when you begin to be more attached to your map than to the territory.

When it comes to theology, this error arises when the thinking is dissociated in the thinker’s life from his direct devotional/mystical/revelatory experience. My reading of Aquinas indicates to me that his thought life was definitely not dissociated from his devotional life, or, for that matter, from concrete experience in general. On the contrary, Aquinas is one of the most concrete, common-sense philosophers I have read. Many of his refutations – perhaps even most of them – are of doctrines that are radically incompatible with life as we actually experience it, but that have nevertheless grown popular enough to call for their refutation.

If you hike along treating your map as more authoritative than the territory, you are going to get lost, because maps can be properly interpreted only in terms of and by reference to the territory. So, Scholastic philosophy can be terribly useful and enlightening, but it should not ever become the main thing.

Similar caveats apply to scientific life, to politics, to legalism (ecclesial and secular) – to life in general. Scholars are particularly prone to this danger of idolizing the map, but anyone who has tasted the allure of that delicious feeling of systemic intellectual mastery is vulnerable. Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Protestantism are all equally susceptible to this error (this is why, despite the overwhelming force and integrity of the mystical experience common to all 3 traditions, the schisms perdure). 

And, these days, the set of people who have been seduced by the temptation to intellectual mastery includes most of the population. Much of your work is about how our culture has got itself all tied up in great messy knots – in falsehood, error, sin, and wickedness – through an over-emphasis on rules, procedures, committees, etc. Viz., any of your stuff on pc, bureaucracy, etc. Much of our current problem as a culture derives from the fact that most of our people are wholly employed in dealing with these map issues; almost all “knowledge workers” are spending their lives on interpreting and reconciling maps, and never ever raise their heads to look out the window. I have referred to this portion of the economy as the “fake” economy.

On the other hand, if you try to get through the wilderness without a map, you are going to have a much, much harder time of it – and the chance of getting lost in such a situation is far, far greater than it would be if you had even the most sketchy and inaccurate map. I know this from experience! Having a lousy map is infinitely better than having no map at all, especially when lives are at stake (NB: lives are always at stake). It can be done – that’s how maps get charted in the first place – but it’s a lot harder, and more error-prone.

One may of course hire a guide, who knows the territory directly. One may apprentice oneself to a master; sooner or later, advancement in the spiritual life depends upon this step. There aren’t many masters, these days, or ever, I suppose. So, most people must fall back on maps.

As to where we go from here, I think you are right that simply substituting the old maps for the current maps is not going to work. Because they interpret things in such radically whacked categories, that would seem to our modernist interlocutors as if we were speaking Latin at them. From the modern perspective, the Traditionalist maps are simply incomprehensible; indeed, they seem like wicked deluded nonsense. 

No; we need to confront the territory directly. One must first experience the truth in order to know it, or to know that one has known it, or then – last of all – to try to formalize it in a statement or map that others can use, can follow, back to that experience of truth. Experience of truth is the main thing, the first thing, always.

Where we must start then is to keep pointing out to moderns that their map is deeply whacked; that it is leading us directly over the precipice. We must point to the precipices that now surround us on every side but one (the one that leads back over the way we traversed in order to get to this tiny point of cornice, high above the abyss); as in, “Hallo! Look at the demographic death that is already upon us!” Once they see themselves teetering at the very lip of that great maw, they will throw their wicked old maps away as fast as they can, and scamper on tip-toes back over the narrow road that leads back to the highway. Then and only then might we be able to rummage about in our rucksacks for the old maps that we once used, with some interest in actually using them again.