Saturday, 30 June 2012

We should adopt the 'Mormon ideal' of early, fertile, monogamous, autonomous marriage


The Mormons (in the US and the UK) are the only group in the modern world which uses contraception (but not abortion) that has a sustainable pattern of fertility: above replacement level and with the largest families among the wealthiest and most educated.

This pattern of seems to be associated with the Mormon religion itself, which has the husband and wife as the 'unit' of highest salvation and a range of explicit and also implicit ideals which add up to approximately the following:

Sex occurs only within marriage, marriage should be in the early twenties, and couples should (as a general rule) aim to have as many children as they can raise decently without requiring support from outside the family.

Society must have an ideal, around which there will of course be individual variation (and from which there will, of course, be lapses).

The Mormon ideal seems just about right to me.


Friday, 29 June 2012

How to 'manage' creative individuals


Creative individuals are troublesome, as a rule. They tend to be impulsive (lacking in conscientiousness), and resistant to group-pressures...

Consequently creatives tend to be unsuited to functioning in modern bureaucracies - such as academia, sciences, law, the media, the institutional churches... all of which have become soul-destroying deserts of conformist dullness under a brittle veneer of fake fun and pseudo-significance.


My sense is that such individuals were integrated better, and functioned better, in the past.

In modern life a person with moderately high psychoticism is, on the one hand, excluded by the rigid and rule-filled operations of impersonal bureaucracies (i.e. pretty much all large organizations); while on the other hand outwith organizations their lives may lack sufficient structure so they are likely to go-off-the-rails (e.g engage in alcoholism, or promiscuity - in general, seeking short term pleasure and distraction).


What is needed is not to be found somewhere on a line drawn between conformity-to-bureaucracy and loose-cannon-license; but in an entirely different and older principle of social organization .

What is needed is on the lines of more characteristically medieval organizations: the monastery and the college.

This provided a compulsory, fairly frequent structure for life - by things like communal living, communal meals, and daily religious observances.

Some rules are inevitable and desirable; but rules constrain relations, and in essence authority should be personal, patriarchal and loving - like an ideal abbot or master.


Lacking natural submissiveness and docility, the main factor binding the high-psychoticism individual to society is loyalty - which is a kind of love.

One cannot love a bureaucracy, but one may love a monastery, a college, a guild - and one may be loyal to the patriarchal figures which head them.


Loyalty and love were the ties that used to bind traditional society; and modernity is hostile to, destructive of, loyalty and love.


And, as an interesting and profound aside; loyalty and love explain why the best Christians may not be (usually are not) the most conscientious, stable, submissive and altruistic of people. 

Christian faith is defined in terms of love and loyalty, not obedience to law. 

The best Christians are (surely?) those who love and are loyal to Christ and their fellow men; not those who are best at sticking to rules, nor those who sin least often.


Thursday, 28 June 2012

Are you against slavery?


You say you reject the wisdom of the tradition, the moral consensus of many centuries of our best ancestors, because they believed in slavery - whereas we know that slavery is absolutely wrong.


I see: are you against slavery then?

Okay, but just let me check: is slavery acceptable under any possible circumstances? Are there particular situations when slavery is OK?

Maybe there are some people who ought to be allowed to have slaves?

No, no and no, you answer... I see.


So, how do you feel about the fact that slavery never was abolished in several parts of the African continent, is still there, is growing - was that okay, should it be tolerated?

And how do you feel about the re-introduction of slavery into Europe and the UK over the past decade or two - is that okay, should it be tolerated?

What? You didn't realize slavery had been re-introduced?

Don't you read the newspapers? Or maybe you prefer to ignore the reports because slavery was brought to Britain by migrants from slave-owning societies and sub-cultures.


So, just how important to you is this issue of slavery?

Are you against slavery even if it is within oppressed minority groups - or do you think that excuses them: maybe we ought to tolerate slavery in Europe and the UK, so long as it isn't done by the native population - is that what you think?


Well, now you know about slavery in the UK and Europe - what should be done?

Is this important, is it urgent, is it a major priority?

Should we eliminate slavery (because it can be done, it has been done in the past) when it exists - say- a few streets away from where we live...

if so, then how quickly: over the next few days, weeks, months or years?



Ahh... I see... You don't like this line of reasoning.

I begin to understand.

You reject tradition because people in the olden-days had slaves and so were by definition less moral than modern people, than you and I - but you don't really object to slavery as such.


You don't much like slavery, but you don't really want to do what would be necessary to eliminate it.

In fact you are quite happy to tolerate slavery.

Slavery isn't really that important to you, is it?

I thought not.


Now, why do you reject the wisdom of tradition?


Why are Christians obsessed with sexual ethics?


Because sexual liberation - an ideal of sex outwith monogamous marriage with children - has been the wedge that has incrementally destroyed most of the Christian West; and because we live in the most pervasively and expansively sexualized society in the history of the world.

How could Christianity not be obsessed with that which has all-but eliminated it from public life?

We now recognize that there can be no compromise on this issue (of course there must be mercy to repentant individuals): this is a battle which Christianity has to win.



What kind of arguments should Christians use in discussing sexual ethics?

NOT utitlitarian arguments - not arguments about how Christian ethics make people happier or relieve suffering or make for a more humane or more efficient society. This is to use the One Ring to fight Sauron.

NOT rational arguments. It won't work. Modern people can only think in one-, or two-step, sound bites.

DO USE natural law arguments - about what everybody knows and feels, spontaneously, instinctively.

DO USE arguments based on tradition - the overwhelming consensus of our best and most Christian ancestors. Do point out that modern notions are just a few decades old, and question the arrogance of modern man (us being who we are) - could we really have superceded and can we really reject all the greats and Saints of the past?


Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Creativity and Eysenck's Psychoticism trait


Hans J Eysenck (1916-1997) was one of the few psychologists of near-genius ability to engage seriously with the question of genius.

(See his book Genius of 1995).

He regarded the essence of genius as a combination of high intelligence with creativity: the mechanism being that creativity generated the raw material and intelligence provided the evaluation mechanism.

And therefore much of Eysenck's contribution focused on the correlation between the trait of Psychoticism with creativity.


Psychoticism is a trait which is more often moderately high in men than women - and it includes at least three main strands:

1. The 'psychotic' aspect which is seen as a style of thinking characterized by broad field of association between concepts. (The opposite would be a narrowly predictable sequence of thoughts: if you start at A you will always get to B).

This style of thinking may be familiar from recalled dreams where one thing reminds of another thing, similarities are felt between things lacking a tight 'logical' connection, and the train of thought seems loose and unpredictable. It is also found in psychotic illnesses, intoxication, and of course the trance-like state reported by some creative people such as artists and scientists.

This aspect of Psychoticism is pretty much the same thing as Schizotypy.


2. Impulsiveness, spontaneity, desire for rapid gratification. (The opposite is conscientiousness, ability to sustain work at something which is uninteresting, sacrificing present gratification for future gratification.)

This aspect of Psychoticism is pretty much the opposite of Conscientiousness.


3. Emotional detachment, unawareness or indifference to feelings of others, selfishness. (The opposite is empathic tuning-into the emotions of others, sympathy with their feelings, fitting-in with the views of others - not wanting to offend or be ostracized.)

This aspect of Psychoticism is pretty much the opposite of Agreeableness (or Simon Baron Cohen's Empathizing).


Looking across the aspects, it can be seen that moderately high Psychoticism is a pattern of preferences which is suited to genuinely creative thinking which - when combined with high intelligence - may lead to 'breakthoughs' into qualitatively different forms of understanding. In other words: genius.

But it also shows why there is a dark side to genuine creativity, since many of the traits of Psychoticism are awkward or actively undesirable.

The concept of the high Psychoticism genius therefore strikingly resembles the shaman of hunter gatherer societies - respected but feared and often isolated - useful but usually semi-crazy and sometimes actually-crazy. Or the prophets of the Old Testament. Or the mad scientists (some eccentric, some dangerous) of modern popular stories.

These are individuals who we may admire, may be grateful to - but seldom like - and seldom want to be-like.


By contrast, modern mainstream ideas of creativity are sanitized fakes of pseudo-creativity - and usually focus on the personality trait called Openness to Experience: a scale which is (de facto) 'How much do you resemble the stereotypical Leftist intellectual elite member'.

High Openness is a measure of highbrow interests, love of the new (neophilia), and all those modernist concepts of art as being 'radical', 'challenging', 'subversive' etc.

Openness-'creativity' is about being anti-traditional, anti-Christian, anti-'conventional' - it is bohemian rebellion.

The High Openness person is a culture vulture whose idea of creativity is someone like Malcolm Gladwell. A high empathizing, highly agreeable, conscientious pick-and-mix, inversion and re-combination of pre-existing ideas constrained implicitly within the Leftist world-view.

This is the kind of Openness-'creativity' promoted by educationalists and government bureaucracies, subsidized, and lionized by high status highbrow media with profiles and groups of the Ten most-promising geniuses of today, and 'cool' viral video web lectures.


In sum, the fake creativity of Openness may be charming; while real Psychoticsm creativity is not.

Indeed, Openness-creativity has all the advantages over genuine creativity: except that it is a parasitic fake.


Eysenck's Psychoticism is - in academic circles - generally supposed to have been superceded; and in terms of academic fashion it has been superseded.

For one thing high Psychoticism is too rare among the usual psychology study populations (i.e. university students) so that its distribution is positively skewed (mostly low scorers).

And there are flaws in Eysenck's scale - especially that he does not include direct questions on the 'psychotic' aspects of Psychoticism - which is confusing and potentially distorting.

But the basic concept of Psychoticism is substantially correct and important - as would be expected from a man who was pretty much a high-Psychoticism genius himself - unlike the high-Openness personality psychologists who followed after him.


And indeed academics themselves, including scientists, have become almost uniformly high-Openness types. Those high in trait Psychoticism are filtered-out by a prolonged and multi-stage selection process that - at every level - explicitly favours women (lower in trait Psychoticism), and implicitly selects those high in Conscientiousness and Agreeableness; while being indifferent to, or punishing, genuine creativity and the impulsive and autonomous behaviours necessary to it.

The situation in the modern university or research institutions is therefore better in every way and for everybody - except that it is a parasitic fake.


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Can mainstream Christians/ conservatives/ decent people re-think their assumptions?


A lot of reactionary writing is based on the idea that 'people' can (that the elite can), and perhaps will, re-think their basic assumptions - by going-through a sequence of challenges of these assumptions, to dismantle the insane evil that is Leftism/ Political Correctness (before it is too late).


The problem is, of course, that no simple adjustment will work, because people are locked-into delusion by multiple false beliefs and false assumptions - so that any single challenge to a false assumption will appear wicked, absurd or impossible.

This also means that no conceivable sequence of single challenges to false assumptions is possible, since each individual step on the path seems wicked, absurd or impossible - so the process cannot get-going.

What is apparently needed are multiple simultaneous challenges to multiple false assumptions, each one being driven-through to its consequences (and with the assumption that absurd consequences imply false premises).


But is this even remotely plausible?

I mean that there will be a bout of wide-ranging, rigorous and sustained analysis of multiple Leftist assumptions?

Of course not.


(The fact that I have myself, in fact, gone through exactly the kind of re-thinking which would be necessary is enough to convince me of the impossibility; in that the process took me a very long time - more than a decade - and a tremendous amount of effort; such that I know that very few people would either have the time or be prepared to make the kind of effort I did.)


What is possible, indeed inevitable given the self-hating suicidal tendencies of Leftism, is either that the people with this particular set of false ideas will be replaced; or that the false ideas will be chucked-out lock-stock and barrel, not by any kind of subtle and balanced critique but by reacting-against them as a whole - by asserting (pretty much) the opposite.


Options: Not re-thinking but instead replacement or (over-) reaction:

because in practice politics is necessarily simple...


How many geniuses does it take to make an industrial revolution?


The industrial revolution (including the agricultural revolution) was a product of genius: that is my contention.

It was a product of a sudden ample supply of geniuses in North West Europe who generates breakthroughs (in the necessary fields) so thick and fast that productivity took-off and out-ran population growth for... well about 10 generations so far.

The breakthroughs came from NW Europe and its diaspora, but spread across the world: the main beneficiaries were the poor (although you'd never guess this from the reality-denying nonsense which masquerades as Leftist politics): for the first time in history, for multiple generations the children of the poor would survive to reproductive adulthood at a rate of more than two per woman.


The ground for the industrial revolution was prepared during the middle ages, when average (and peak) intelligence increased in a population which was also creative.

Then, from about 1800 and due to factors including the demographic transition I refer to above, the process went into reverse, and average intelligence (and peak intelligence) began to decline - so the proportion of geniuses began to decline to the current situation when there are very few or none.

Breakthroughs dried-up, the industrial revolution began to unwind, and a return to the agriculture based society began.


So, how many geniuses are needed to make an industrial revolution?

Well, how many did we have compared with now?

If average intelligence has declined by at least a standard deviation in the past century

then what effect could that have?


If we assume that to be in the top 1 percent of the population is the minimum threshold for genius (modern IQ 135) then that level of intelligence would have been found in ten percent of the population in the past - ten-plus times more common.

Among these highly intelligent people, what proportion would have the creative personality (moderately high - but not too high - in Psychoticism/ Schizotypy)? - say very roughly 1 percent,one in a hundred.

So there would have been be about one potential genius per thousand.


From these potential geniuses, how many would realise their potential in relevant fields (because genius is art, literature, music etc is not relevant to the industrial revolution) - plus some would die before maturity, some would be too ill or oppressed to work, some would have sheer bad luck...

Maybe one percent?

So we are now at one genius per 100 thousand population, or 100 geniuses in relevant fields in a country of 10 million - about half that number active at any time (the others being too young or too old).

A point prevalence of 100 geniuses (or somewhat less) to make an industrial revolution?


If intelligence was the whole story, then the growth in population over the past century or two would have been expected to just-about compensate for an approximately tenfold ('order of magnitude) decline in genius - yet genius has apparently all-but disappeared.

So there must be other factors at work.

I do know a couple of people from the British Isles whom I regard as geniuses - the psychiatrist David Healy and the economic historian Greg Clark (from whom I pillaged many of the ideas underlying the above analysis).

But neither are recognised as such, neither are especially 'successful' in career terms. This may be related to the fact that both work on a much broader canvas than is normal - but it also shows that our society does not recognise genius when, rarely, it comes along; or if it does recognise genius, then it is either indifferent or hostile.


Monday, 25 June 2012

What makes life worth living? - what makes *your* life worth living?


Whatever it is, it is inexpressibly precious - and yet without Christ it will all be lost by the loss of memory, by death, by irreversible change in the universe...

but with Christ all that has been Good in your life will be forever (every last bit of it);

but all the rest (but only all the rest) will be washed away 'like tears in rain'.


Saturday, 23 June 2012

Taking on-board that the Victorians were more intelligent than us


With the recent confirmation from reaction time measurements that average intelligence has objectively and significantly declined from Victorian times until now,

the next step is to start taking this fact into account, and unpacking its implications...


First, how much has reaction time/ intelligence declined?

Prof Silverman reviews data from Francis Galton between 1884 and 1893, extracted from a study of visual reaction times in 2,522 men and 302 women. The average reaction times were 183 milliseconds (ms) for men and 0.187 ms in women.

Silverman notes that in reviews of reaction time studies in 1911 (but not including Galton's work), it is clear that Galton's results were typical of the era - the range being from 151-200 milliseconds - median of 192 milliseconds.

By contrast, Silverman reviews twelve modern (post 1941) studies of visual reaction time (using a comparable methodology to Galton) - and the modern reaction times are very significantly longer - the total number of subjects was 3,836 - the mean reaction time was 250 milliseconds for men (SD 47) and for women was 277 ms (SD 31).

Looked at separately, in only one study, only for men, were Galton's average values contained within the 95 % confidence interval - in other words, in 11 of 12 studies and 19 of 20 comparisons - as well as the overall meta-analysis - the difference in reaction times reaches conventional levels of statistical significance.


We do not have a standard deviation (measure of scatter) for the Victorian data - so we need to compare (looking at men) a (mean) average modern reaction time of 250 milliseconds (SD 47) with a (median) average Victorian RT of 183.

This implies that average (and being conservative in my interpretation) Victorian reaction times were more than one standard deviation faster than modern RTs; or, that the average Victorian would be placed comfortably in the top 15 percent of the modern population - probably higher.


If we assume that reaction time is a valid measure of general intelligence, in other words that RT has a linear correlation with g - then this would mean that the average Victorian Englishman had a modern IQ of greater than 115.


Does this degree of difference in IQ make for a significant difference in performance?

Well, yes - it certainly does.


The difference between the modern IQ standardized at 100 and the Victorian IQ of 115 plus would be somewhat greater than:

1. The difference between an unselective 'comprehensive' school which had an average population, and a highly selective 'grammar school'

2. A mainstream US state university and an Ivy League college

3. The cognitive ability of high school teachers compared with doctors

4. The measured IQ difference between Europeans and Ashkenazi Jews (as described by Cochran and Harpending, or Richard Lynn)


These levels of IQ difference would unpack to make very substantial differences in the attainment of high level intellectual activities: just as, for example the proportion of successful scientists, writers, lawyers and chief executives that are produced is very different for an Ivy League college than for a big State University.

So, while there would be an overlap of something like 10-15 percent - and therefore many individual exceptions - the difference in intelligence between moderns and Victorians would readily be observable at the group level: and the decline would be obvious - at least to the Victorians!


Friday, 22 June 2012

The amazing arrogance of denying St Paul's authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews


It is now apparently routine to regard the 'author' of the Epistle to the Hebrews as unknown. Yet its authorship was known to be St Paul throughout about 3/4 of the duration of Christianity and through the great ages of faith.

So why do people, nowadays, think that the author is unknown?

Not to put too fine a point on it - how do modern people, with their feeble faith - so arrogantly reject the knowledge of generations of better men, including the most elevated of Saints?


The answer is by the application of secular methods of textual analysis - which purport to prove that the author was not Paul, on the basis of stylistic and content differences with other Pauline works where the provenance is more obvious.


But this is utterly irrelevant to the authorship of scripture.

The main thing about scripture is its status as divine revelation - the revelation is given to a person: in this case St Paul.

How that revelation was heard, was (sooner or later) written down, how the first written version was transmitted (by its preservation, by sequences of copyists, etc) is very variable and usually unknowable.

But - for Christians - there is the underpinning belief that whatever the process or sequence, and whatever omissions or elaborations or scribal errors may be present - once scriptural status has emerged and become established, then matters of the kind regarded by secular scholarship are irrelevant.


In choosing to regard the authorship of Hebrews as unknown, moderns may imagine they are displaying humility.

Quite the opposite is the case - moderns are displaying extreme arrogance in imagining that, by their application of techniques of secular scholarship, they have somehow refuted the knowledge of the early church that St Paul was author of the Epistle to the Hebrews.

How could moderns possibly know that the early church was mistaken to regard St Paul as the author of Hebrews? - when the 'author' is properly that person who received the revelations which now we read.


NOTE: I have covered this general topic before, e.g. 

Of course, my point here is that we ought to be shocked at our culture and churches arrogance in rejecting the knowledge of far better people in a far better position than we are to know. Naturally, most most modern Christians simply accept that Biblical criticism is valid, without recognizing the profoundly dangerous implications of this acceptance.

The use of secular techniques of Biblical criticism on sacred scripture in order to reject holy tradition is a major cleavage point in Christian history - comparable to the filioque controversy which was, at root, about whether it was acceptable to change the revealed Christian Creed on the basis of what seemed to be rational-logical considerations.

In both cases, the subordination of tradition to scholarship led to a slippery slope of secularization.


Why modern people are, mostly, cowards


Because they have nothing to be brave about.


Courage is linked to conviction - there is a courage of one's own convictions, but it is a lesser thing. We have that kind of courage, but to be brave in pursuit of one's own pleasure is a species of selfishness - albeit a long-termist and strategic kind of selfishness, which is more impressive that mere short-termist impulsivity.


Our supposed examples of modern courage are therefore people who face hardship and danger for their own material benefit - but indirectly; people who fight for their own lifestyle or type of person.

Yet here we come up against modern Leftism - political correctness. People who are brave in pursuit of their own preferences are only approved when these are already people of an approved type: mostly victim groups.

So that if a person in an approved victim group suffers some kind of hardship or danger, or even merely risks slights and inconvenience, they may be extravagantly praised for their courage.


And famous media figures may be held-up as admirable for their 'bravery' in pursuing a life of relentless whim, gratification and greed - up-to and including suicide attempts: their supposed 'courage' apparently comes from them not actually having died of this.


Courage is properly for something greater than oneself - and a society which recognises nothing greater than the self has no place for courage.


Thursday, 21 June 2012

Should we *assume* the past was better than now, or worse?


Given that humans are incapable of neutrality (at least with respect to matters that concern them), then they will always have the assumption either that the past was better than the present or the present is superior to the past.

Having established this assumption, there is room for variation over the degree of superiority, and its magnitude: e.g. the past was better than the present with a few specific exceptions, or the past was a lot or a little better than the present - and this varied in different times and places, and so on...

But there must be an assumption.

Having clarified this - then the assumption marks a cleavage point between political perspectives; because if we assume (or expect) the present is better than the past, then we assume (or expect) that things are getting better (the 'progressive' and Leftist assumption) - while if the past is worse than the present then things are getting worse (the reactionary assumption).


Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Thomas Traherne - the Anglican Saint?


I am inclined to think that Thomas Traherne (1636-74) is an Anglican Saint, perhaps the only Anglican Saint who was not a martyr?

This on the basis of his writings, which seem divinely inspired to a degree otherwise unaccountable other than that he lived in close-communion with God (which is, to be a Saint).


But Traherne died in obscurity and his work was lost for two centuries.
Supposing he is a Saint, this may mean that the failure to recognise him earlier was evidence that the Church of England had become corrupt or made a serious wrong turn in failing on principle to recognize the validity of modern Saints; and/or that Traherne was fortuitously recovered about a hundred years ago for our use in modern times.


Because Traherne is a mystic - and perhaps that is what we most need in an era when all branches of the church, even the most vital, are corrupted by (often misplaced) worldly concerns.

Traherne is also unsurpassed as an embodiment of the via positiva, the way of affirmation, the path of Christianity which lives by the glory of God in this world.


Traherne's re-discoverer and first editor - Bertram Dobell - wrote that in the Centuries of Meditations there was just a single significant 'blemish' - which was The First Century Number 48. Dobell found this 'entirely repellant, and entirely at variance with the general spirit of the work' - and he would prefer to have omitted it from his edition.

Let us, then, look at this 'blemish' in context:



47: To have blessings and to prize them is to be in Heaven; to have them and not to prize them is to be in Hell, I would say upon Earth: To prize them and not to have them, is to be in Hell. Which is evident by the effects. To prize blessings while we have them is to enjoy them, and the effect thereof is contentation, pleasure, thanksgiving, happiness. To prize them when they are gone, envy, covetousness, repining, ingratitude, vexation, misery. But it was no great mistake to say, that to have blessings and not to prize them is to be in Hell. For it maketh them ineffectual, as if they were absent. Yea, in some respect it is worse than to be in Hell. It is more vicious, and more irrational.

48: They that would not upon earth see their wants from all Eternity, shall in Hell see their treasures to all Eternity: Wants here may be seen and enjoyed, enjoyments there shall be seen, but wanted. Wants here may be blessings; there they shall be curses. Here they may be fountains of pleasure and thanksgiving, there they will be fountains of woe and blasphemy. No misery is greater than that of wanting in the midst of enjoyments, of seeing, and desiring yet never possessing. Of beholding others happy, being seen by them ourselves in misery. They that look into Hell here may avoid it hereafter. They that refuse to look into Hell upon earth, to consider the manner of the torments of the damned, shall be forced in Hell, to see all the earth, and remember the felicities which they had when they were living. Hell itself is a part of God's Kingdom, to wit His prison. It is fitly mentioned in the enjoyment of the world. And is itself by the happy enjoyed, as a part of the world.

49: The misery of them who have and prize not, differeth from others, who prize and have not. The one are more odious and, less sensible; more foolish, and more vicious: the senses of the other are exceeding keen and quick upon them; yet are they not so foolish and odious as the former. The one would be happy and cannot, the other may be happy and will not. The one are more vicious, the other more miserable. But how can that be? Is not he most miserable that is most vicious? Yes, that is true. But they that prize not what they have are dead; their senses are laid asleep, and when they come to Hell they wake: And then. they begin to feel their misery. He that is most odious is most miserable, and he that is most perverse is most odious.


Dobell's objection was based on an interpretation that Traherne was saying that "countless multitudes were suffering eternal torments would add to the enjoyment of the blessed (for I cannot see that his words will bear any other construction)".

I personally interpret the passage as being written from a divine perspective, in which everything that is, is Good (ultimately, all will be turned to Good) - and I see this as being a unifying theme in the Centuries.


On a different theme, look at the preceding passage:

To have blessings and to prize them is to be in Heaven; to have them and not to prize them is to be in Hell, I would say upon Earth: To prize them and not to have them, is to be in Hell.

To have blessings and not to prize them is to be in Hell - he means this is to reject God.

Not to prize one's blessings is sin.


If we find that we cannot prize our blessings, then this must be repented.

If circumstances, such as illness - perhaps melancholia, are such that we simply cannot prize our blessings; then we must not accept this as reflective of reality, we must not accept it as true - but must acknowledge that we have blessings, but repent that we cannot (try as we might) prize our blessings.


From this it may be seen that it is a great sin to subvert the ability of others to prize their blessings - to take-away their recognition and gratitude for blessedness; despite that so much (almost all) of modern 'art' and culture, political discourse and media, are aimed-at precisely that: inverting traditional virtue into hypocrisy, relabelling simple beauty as kitsch and plain truths as dangerously-simplified.


From First Century:

46: It was His wisdom made you need the Sun. It was His goodness made you need the sea. Be sensible of what you need, or enjoy neither. Consider how much you need them, for thence they derive their value.

Suppose the sun were extinguished: or the sea were dry. There would be no light, no beauty, no warmth, no fruits, no flowers, no pleasant gardens, feasts, or prospects, no wine, no oil, no bread, no life, no motion.

Would you not give all the gold and silver in the Indies for such a treasure?

Prize it now you have it, at that rate, and you shall be a grateful creature: Nay, you shall be a Divine and Heavenly person.

For they in Heaven do prize blessings when they have them. They in Earth when they have them prize them not, they in Hell prize them when they have them not.


Obscurity in literary modernism


I bought (at a bargain price!) a copy of Charles William's play Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury (1936) and have been reading it - or rather, trying to read it because I have no idea what is going on...

Deliberate obscurity entered literature with the 'modernist' movement - and of course has been rampant in the highbrow arts for about a century.

What I object to is when people are not trying to be comprehensible: I accept fully that this is not the priority (beauty is the priority - yet of course much modern art and literature is a) not trying to be beautiful, b) subverting beatury and c) creating ugliness... another story) - but art, poetry, literature, music wthout comprehension is a limited thing. Humanity cannot, should not, take much of it.


What motivates poets, artists, musicians to be incomprehensible? - well, let's say it is not a Good motivation. Comprehensibility is not Good, but incomprehesibility is indeed not-Good.

Although there may be reasons for it.

This blog, for example, is encoded - necessarily so, or it could not be published at all. Yet that is a bad thing about it, certainly it is bad.


Anyway, Williams often cites Cranmer's words: Cranmer was maker of The Book of Common Prayer which for several hundred years was used by all the Anglican communion.

Cranmer is one of the greatest of poets, though his work is woven among the words from the Authorized (King James) Bible: he is as comprehensible as may be in unity with beauty and truth.

Perhaps we are not all aware of his work?

Here is the BCP Sanctus:

Priest.  Lift up your hearts.

Answer.  We lift them up unto the Lord.

Priest.  Let us give thanks unto our Lord God.

Answer.  It is meet and right so to do.

Priest.  It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God.

Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name; evermore praising thee, and saying:

All.  Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth are full of thy glory: Glory be to thee, O Lord most High. Amen.


It is my inestimable privilege to hear and speak these words on a weekly basis during Holy Communion.


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

What work does the concept of natural selection do in public discourse? Atheism and Social Darwinism


I continue to puzzle over the way that the Left has embraced 'macro'-selection (the origin of species, of form) as a metaphysical dogma applying to humans - while suppressing discussion of micro-selection (adaptation, the shaping of form) as it applies to humans.

Such that to doubt that species evolved - and especially to doubt that humans evolved - is regarded as an extreme form of intellectual stupidity; while to assert the observable fact that humans that have adapted to (been selected by) their conditions over the past dozens of generations, is a discourse policed with extreme strictness among the elites.


So, what was natural selection for? What was the point of believing it? In the years after NS was brought into prominence by Darwin, what work did the concept do? 

There was, of course, the anti-Christian aspect. And this was perhaps the main value of macro-evolution in general discourse - to explain the origins of the human species without reference to divine intervention.

Because, let's be quite honest, biological taxonomy, the classification of living things, is a highly technical minority business; and while it is vital to the science is not and seldom has been exactly a hot topic either within biology or in public discourse - except insofar as it applies to humans...

(Indeed, the concept of natural selection didn't actually make all that much difference to the classification of living things, just tinkering at the edges: most of taxonomy had already been done by 1859.)


So, to simplify, the main function of macro-evolution in general intellectual discourse was to create a metaphysical framework that assumed humans had evolved - the specific details of which were unimportant, since they have been and continue to be constantly changed.


But what of micro-evolution?

Well, in the 19th century this was mainly applied to human society, in 'Social Darwinism' - that was surely the main positive interest of the theory of natural selection.

The interest was a matter of how natural selection could explain differences between races, between men and women, and human society at different stages of civilization - in sum, how natural selection could explain the specifics of human behavior.

These was among the themes of The Descent of Man - Darwin's follow-up to The Origin of Species. Unsurprisingly, Descent (including its path-breaking descriptions of sexual selection) was pretty much forgotten for many decades and remains one of Darwin's least known writings.


The Leftist Western intellectual elites were happy with the atheistic metaphysics of natural selection, but very worried by the use of natural selection to explain human behavior in terms of adaptation; and for many decades (since the ascendancy of the Left among elites in the 1960s) this discourse has been policed with extreme strictness.

Indeed, the whole domain of differences between humans became a taboo subject - never to be discussed freely and candidly. 

When sociobiology emerged, it was attacked with extreme aggression: deploying the crudest mob intimidation. Only when 'evolutionary psychology' emerged with a dogma against all significant human evolution since the evolution of 'anatomically modern' Homo sapiens some 150,000 years ago was pressure relented somewhat.

This dogma of the essential unity of mankind was, in fact, another re-assertion of macro- over micro-evolution - since it meant that significant adaptation was only of the species, and not within the species - yet even here the discussion of male female differences was fraught with hazard.


So that is my current answer to the question of what work does natural selection do in public discourse: macro-evolution (speciation) frames the question of human origins and purpose such as to exclude divine causes; micro-evolution (adaptation) provides explanations for observable differences between humans.

Macro-evolution is almost wholly a framing structure for science - and there is no direct human knowledge or experience to support it; while micro-evolution is a matter of direct observation in terms of, for example, the spontaneously obvious workings of heredity among individuals and groups and the perceptible effects of population changes (demographics).

Macro-evolution is therefore essentially metaphysical - and Leftist (since the framework is intrinsically atheist - excludes god/s); while micro-evolution is essentially scientific and threatening to Leftism (since it challenges intrinsic Leftist dogmas about equality and the causes of difference).


So, back in the nineteenth century macro-evolution was used in public discourse to support atheism, while micro-evolution was used to support Social Darwinism.

Therefore, presumably the reason that (contrary to common sense and experiential support) the first has become a dogma while the second has become a taboo is that twenty-first century politics is pro-atheist but anti-Social Darwinist.


Note: For previous postings on this subject, search this blog for "selection"


Monday, 18 June 2012

Essential reading for IQ scholars: Grady M Towers essay The Outsiders


I sometimes wonder how many of those interested in IQ have read this brilliant and important essay on the problems and disadvantages of those with ultra-high IQ (above about 150); written by a man himself with ultra-high IQ who experienced many of the phenomena which he describes.



I would guess that not many have read it, since it is credited with only 6 citations on Google Scholar.

Well, there are the links: get on with it!


P.S.: Grady M Towers worked in a menial job, as a night watchman, and was murdered on March 20, 2000 in the course of his duties.


Note: The Outsiders essay is written from an apparently atheist perspective, as is common among those with very high IQ (William Sidis was an early example of a public atheist).

This may account for the 'Nietzschian' views expressed towards the end and also in the quotation from Aldous Huxley - which play with the idea that "men of genius are the only true men"; and that 'normal' people are not really human in the way that the tiny minority of geniuses are fully human.

The argument is made on the basis that it is to geniuses which humanity owes its great achievement and material advancement. 

I think that it is indeed substantially correct to assert that it is to geniuses which humanity owes its great achievement and material advancement. 


I suppose it depends what is meant by 'true' in 'only true men' - but for a Christian, genius is of secondary importance.

Genius is orthogonal to, independent of, salvation which certainly is not restricted to men of genius! 

(Of course we cannot know for sure, but...) If anything, the statistical relationship between IQ and salvation would be inverse and negative rather than positive.  


How can a modern Christian self-compensate for being a Clever Silly?


Tricky - one has to avoid anything in which intellectual shenanigans has much of an effect: anything in which conclusions are sensitive to abstract reasoning or degree of knowledge.

This renders hazardous a dependence on the interpretation of scripture except when this is plain and undeniable (and what is plain and undeniable to a Clever Silly is evidently not much).

And clearly the modern institutional church is itself substantially dominated by Clever Sillies - so the acceptance of church authority is a matter of out of the frying pan into the fire.

So we are left with tradition - the consensus of devout Christians through the ages (through the past 2000 years, and not neglecting the first 1000 years).

I think tradition is the best that can be done.


Of course this means that a modern Christian must either reject or regard as insecure all recent (past few hundred years) innovations and additions - but that's okay.


Further reading: 

For a clearer understanding of Clever Sillies see:  


Modern man aiming at Limbo?


While The Screwtape Letters is deservedly a Christian classic, its 1959 sequel Screwtape proposes a toast is at a somewhat lower level of literary inspiration and seldom gets much attention.

Yet it was a clear prophecy of social and psychological trends which most people only began to perceive a decade or more later.

Lewis is, indeed, describing the End Times.


Screwtape is a demon, by the way.


The quality may be wretched; but we never had souls (of a sort) in more abundance.

...We are tempted to say that such souls — or such residual puddles of what once was soul — are hardly worth damning.

Yes, but the Enemy (for whatever inscrutable and perverse reason) thought them worth trying to save. Believe me, He did.


You youngsters who have not yet been on active duty have no idea with what labour, with what delicate skill, each of these miserable creatures was finally captured.

The difficulty lay in their very smallness and flabbiness. Here were vermin so muddled in mind, so passively responsive to environment, that it was very hard to raise them to that level of clarity and deliberateness at which mortal sin becomes possible.

To raise them just enough; but not that fatal millimetre of “too much.” For then, of course, all would possibly have been lost. They might have seen; they might have repented.

On the other hand, if they had been raised too little, they would very possibly have qualified for Limbo, as creatures suitable neither for Heaven nor for Hell; things that, having failed to make the grade, are allowed to sink into a more or less contented subhumanity forever.


...The sort of souls on whose despair and ruin we have — well, I won’t say feasted, but at any rate subsisted — tonight are increasing in numbers and will continue to increase.

...The “great” sinners, those in whom vivid and genial passions have been pushed beyond the bounds and in whom an immense concentration of will has been devoted to objects which the Enemy abhors, will not disappear. But they will grow rarer.

...Our catches will be ever more numerous; but they will consist increasingly of trash — trash which we should once have thrown to Cerberus and the hellhounds as unfit for diabolical consumption.

...It is a change for the better.

The great (and toothsome) sinners are made out of the very same material as those horrible phenomena the great Saints.

The virtual disappearance of such material may mean insipid meals for us. But is it not utter frustration and famine for the Enemy?


He did not create the humans — He did not become one of them and die among them by torture — in order to produce candidates for Limbo, “failed” humans.

He wanted to make them Saints; gods; things like Himself.

Is the dullness of your present fare not a very small price to pay for the delicious knowledge that His whole great experiment is petering out?


Excerpted and edited from Screwtape Proposes a Toast - by CS Lewis, 1959


Sunday, 17 June 2012

What should the Christian convert do about 'church'? Are denominations necessary?


For a Mere Christian such as myself, denominations can seem like a problem.

(a Mere Christian being one who does not believe that any of the Christian churches or denominations has an unique access to salvation; but rather that there is a vital core of Christianity distinctive to none and shared by at least several).

The first tough question after becoming a Christian is, which church should I join?

Or even - do I really need to join a church? And if so, must it be one church or could it be several?

(I mean by church, the actually existing human institutions. Naturally, all Christians are members of the mystical Church of Christ.)


My present understanding is that the institutional churches, the various denominations, are necessary - but not for everyone.

Only some institutional churches are real Christian institutions, but these do not follow the lines of the broad denominations.

Thus there are real Christians in tiny groups such as home churches or the catacomb Orthodox church of Soviet Russia; and most of what goes on in the major institutions (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican etc) is not real Christianity.

So, in this regard, my fundamental attitude could be described as Protestant: salvation is possible, has happened, in isolation.


On the other hand, I believe that a real institutional church is of truly vast help to the individual in  the process known as 'theosis' or sanctification - the movement towards communion with God which may occur during human life on earth.

I believe in the reality of Saints, the special nature of Priests, real presence at the Eucharist and so on - which is a Catholic stance.

Salvation is possible without these helps, in my understanding; but sanctification is held back: Christians are kept at a lower level of holiness for lack of these Catholic helps.


So my tentative conclusion is that denominations are not essential in ultimate terms, but in practice they are potentially of critical value - a value that is mainly qualitative rather than quantitative - a matter of the level of holiness of Christian life on earth.

So that the highest level of sanctity occurs in a real Catholic society of which my prime example would be the Byzantine Empire, secondary examples Anglo Saxon England and Holy Russia, also the ages of faith in the Holy Roman Empire of Western Europe.

It can be seen that Catholicism is essentially 'Roman' - but remembering that Constantinople displaced Rome as capital when the Empire became Christian. Nonetheless, Catholicism is necessarily spiritually linked with Ancient Rome.


However, this implies that the highest level of sanctity is therefore not possible to most people in most places throughout most of history.

Most inter-denominational battles now, in the West, are therefore of very secondary importance to salvation; and discernment over the reality of Christianity within denominations now properly takes centre stage in our spiritual lives.


Still - the problem for the new convert remains.

CS Lewis could recommend simply joining the nearest branch of any denomination, preferably (for convenience) the denomination where you had been raised or the normal national church - that that will not do any more, since this is likely to get the new Christian insidiously and covertly de-converted and made into merely a Christian-flavoured, vaguely-spiritual Leftist.

It is quite possible that a sincere new Christian convert will not 'fit' into any available real Christian denomination if the criteria are applied strictly; yet, of course, if he had been born and baptised into that denomination there would be no question about expelling him.

Thus the existing major denominations artificially raise barriers to the new Christian convert; barriers which were not found when the Church was young, and a person could become a Christian 'in minutes'.

On the other hand, in this world it seems to be helpful for the strength and cohesion of denominations (and therefore for the level of theosis) when they are much more exclusive in their practice than can be justified in theory.


So, what is to be done?

Perhaps the best is to detect and home-in-on any real Christianity in the vicinity; and take it as far as can be gone with honesty.

If a denomination 'will not have you' as a full member on this basis, or you cannot for various reasons satisfy the training-process; then it may be possible to be associated with the church but as an attending rather than a full member.


The alternative is perhaps to find a real Christian church, or the nearest approach, and obediently do whatever they say is necessary to become and remain a full member.

Yet it may be that traditional Christian 'obedience' is not possible in 'the end times' which we live in (this was the view of Fr Seraphim Rose) - and 'discernment' becomes the major necessity (despite that discernment is so easily infected with pride).

It may be that obedience will be used against a real Christian to lead them out of real Christianity and into one of the mass of pseudo-Christian heresies which characterize the leadership and majority of the major denominations.


What then for the Mere Christian?

Perhaps it will be necessary to focus less on denominations and more on the qualities of actual people.

Assist Real Christians, as individuals, especially as groups, wherever they may be found; and if you cannot resist then at least do not actively-support the fake-Christian-subversive majority.


The good is the enemy of the best - but when the best is not possible, we must settle for the good.

Holding in mind that neither we as individuals, nor the society to which we necessarily belong, deserve the best.

Quite the opposite.

Gratitude that we do not necessarily get what we deserve is something well worth contemplating.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

England, 1959 - and the Christian revival...



Christianity, slavery and modern jobs


The striking lack of 'jobs worthy of respect' in modern conditions

seems to present a challenge to Christians - thwarting their hopes of a seamless and integrated life and apparently consigning them to the active service of evil.


In such a situation it is worth remembering the fact that there have been many, many Christian slaves; people who were owned by others, had little or no choice over what they did, how or when they did it - and were Christian. There have been prisoners, and conscripted soldiers, in similar situations.

But a slave or prisoner does not justify their condition - their condition is taken as a misfortune, or accident.


Perhaps, then, the problem is that of honesty - that modern people are dishonest about their work: dishonest to others and to themselves.

In trying to gain status for themselves, to pretend they are masters of their own destiny - self-realizers - modern people use their jobs to amplify and reinforce pride.

Perhaps if people were genuinely humble about their jobs and saw them simply as accidents or misfortunes; then their jobs may not harm their souls - in the way that modern jobs clearly do harm souls: training and corrupting people into lies, and lying about their lies.


Jobs lead us into sin. We are therefore paid to sin. The food in our mouth is the reward of sin.

Yet we are all sinners, Christians know this; and sin is not so much the problem as what happens next.

In this world we will sin, but we must acknowledge this fact, identify the sins, and repent them.


Perhaps the most insidious new sin of modern life is related to spin, hype, propaganda.

A bureaucrat, a functionary, a politician does something he knows to be wrong: he does it because he is forced to do it. He sins on orders.

OK. But the true corruption comes next - when he re-frames the sin as virtue; when he makes arguments to justify the sin and say it is good...

Pretty soon he is working on a campaign or helping frame legislation to propagate sin - to induce others to sin on the basis that it is not really sin but good.

Pretty soon he is vilifying others for failing to agree that sin is virtue, prosecuting and punishing - tormenting, maybe imprisoning and killing, others because they will not agree that sin is good.

Pretty soon he believes the hype, spin and propaganda himself. He begins to believe in his heart that those who resist evil are themselves evil.

That is evil.


The slave, the prisoner, the conscript may be forced into evil, may be forced to go-along with evil and aid evil by his labours.

But the Christian must be clear in his own heart that that is exactly what he is doing; and must repent and ask forgiveness.

Ditto the wage slave, the prisoner of 'the system', the conscript of the forces of evil.


Ditto all of us.

Let not pride stand in the path of humble acknowledgement that in this world we necessarily live by and from actively doing evil.


Friday, 15 June 2012

Political policy and the human farmyard


It is striking that we live in a world where political policy is discussed in terms of a human farmyard - with the inbuilt assumption that the aim of policy is to produce comfortable and contented animals.

The assumption is that discussion is between kind farmers, whose aim in life is to give the animals what they want: clean dry sheds, plenty to eat, stuff to keep them amused while they are waiting to die...


And then I read something like Piers Plowman by William Langland written during the time of the Black Death plague and amongst extreme poverty - and he was primarily concerned with spiritual matters.

Few writers ever had more genuine concern to alleviate poverty than Langland, but there was never any hint that he would have thought this was enough or even the main thing.

So here we are in the society of greatest material abundance in history, a society that several generations ago abolished poverty as Langand conceived it; and yet we are focused entirely on material matters and exclude wholly from consideration spiritual and transcendental matters.

Freedom from poverty merely enslaved us to materialism.


I keep returning to the theme of the fundamental irrationality of mainstream intellectual life, its psychotic quality of being cut-off from reality.

Our attitudes to 'politics', to public policy, are those of the addict; who wants something simply because he wants it more than anything else and is miserable without it, and cannot countenance going through a withdrawal process to reach a better state.

We are farm animals who need to be distracted from our universal fate by pampering and distraction; and whose only concern is for ever more pampering and distraction.

By contrast, Langland's society was significantly focused on ultimate fate, and regarded pampering and distractions as - beyond a certain necessary minimum - a snare.


Fourteenth century Medieval England had every excuse to be focused only on getting warm and dry, finding the next meal, and avoiding a horrible death from disease - yet that was not their only focus nor their main focus.

From a public discourse which regards human society as a farmyard, nothing but more of the same can be expected.

Nothing of value can come without first an awakening to the reality of our situation, and an acknowledgement of our deliberate evasion of this reality, and a commitment to stop the evasions.



Thursday, 14 June 2012

Why is genius so rare?


If you are interested in creative genius, I would recommend two books:

Genius by HJ Eysenck, 1995

Human Accomplishment by Charles Murray 2003


Eysenck's is about the psychological basis of genius, Murray's more about the socio-political basis.


But why is genius so rare, even in places where there are a high concentration of geniuses - as there were here in England in the past few hundred years?

1. Genius requires very high intelligence - in a country with a high average IQ like England, this means in the top ten percent (above 120) and considerably higher for some subjects (e.g. mathematical subjects). But often geniuses are at intelligence levels of about the top one in ten thousand. Some societies have much lower average IQ than England.

2. Perseverance, self-motivation to pick-out and work in one area without need for external encouragement, autonomous indifference to the evaluations of others, ability to go it alone.

3. Creativity. This is Eysenck's big contribution.

Creativity is associated with a style of thinking that is relatively loose in its associations, inclusive in its linking of disparate elements - a style of thinking akin to that of dreaming sleep, psychotic illness, and intoxication.

Creativity is not positively associated with intelligence - or if so at a very modest level. Some societies with high average IQ have low creativity, and vice versa. European societies had (in the past) high average IQ and also reasonably high creativity.

However, creativity is moderately associated with mental illness, psychopathy and addiction - and also with impulsiveness and 'fecklessness' - with a lack of perseverance.

This means that most creative people, and most very intelligent creative people, lack the self-discipline and perseverance to attain the highest and accomplish great things.


Creativity is, in a nutshell, a bit crazy - and most crazy people are too disorganized to do much. But geniuses require to be a bit crazy, yet also do prolonged focused work - and this is a reason why there are so few of them.


So - high intelligence is very rare (and some societies have too low an average intelligence to generate more than a tiny proportion of very intelligent people).

Within this tiny group of highly intelligent people, on top of all this, to get the coincidence of a creative way of thinking with a sufficiently persevering personality type is very rare.

And among this small percentage of a small percentage, there are the workings of sheer luck, there is the higher than normal risk of (self) sabotage by mental illness and addiction, there are the problems of a higher than usual probability of an abrasive or antisocial personality - and (as Murray identifies) the likelihood that for a person to aim very high requires a belief in transcendental values (the beautiful, the truth, virtue) - and that some societies (such as our own) lack this belief.


Put all these together and it is clear why in all societies genius is rare; and why genius is completely absent from most societies.


Further reading: 


The Ministry of Magic Wrock band


The Ministry of Magic are a 'Wrock' band - a term which means 'wizard rock' and refers to a genre of pop music inspired by the Harry Potter novels.

Since my kids discovered this band on YouTube a couple of years ago, I have listened to tracks from the four down-load-able MoM albums numerous times, while working around the house or as background in my office - I like them very much.

I don't really know or like any other bands in the 'Wrock' genre, nor do I even listen to much else in the way of pop music in general nowadays - but something about MoM is very appealing: I like the tunes, arrangements, singing, and general atmosphere of a bunch of decent and creative young men having fun.

And I also like the way in which the songs derive extra depth and resonance from their referencing of scenes, personalities and events in the Harry Potter world.

No doubt MoM and Wrock will be evanescent phenomena - a product of the generation who grew up n the decade while the HP novels were being written and released. Plus of course, pop music derives its appeal from the freshness of youth - so it is not the kind of thing that could, or should, be extended for too long.

In the meantime, I thank the young musicians and lyricists of Ministry of Magic for many scores of hours of pleasing and thoughtful entertaiment.


Favourite tracks include the House Song, I May Lose Everything, Phoenix Lament, and Don't Leave.


Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Stereotypes and prejudices in Harry Potter



The 'Biblical Poor' do not exist in the West


There are no poor (in the Biblical sense) in the West.

(Only isolated individuals with specific causes - there are no poor as a class).


The Biblical Poor worked all waking hours until they dropped, suffered chronic malnutrition and usually died of starvation: almost none of their children would survive to adulthood.


The Modern "poor" do not work at all, are obese, have more children than anyone else, and almost all their children survive to mature adulthood.


Chalk and cheese.

Everyone, all classes, are nowadays wallowing in 'luxury', by ancient standards.

And this is objective, biological fact: not a matter of opinion.


Therefore, when modern people talk about 'the poor' as a class they are actually talking about The Rich Man: the one who had such difficulty getting to heaven - only managing it via the eye of a needle...


A morphic field metaphor for Free will?


NOTE: I have already had second thoughts about this post! More to come on this topic. But it may be worth seeing my 'workings' and the comments by Nathan, for those who find Free will 'a stumbling block'.


Free will is an intrinsic part of Christianity - there can be no Christianity without Free will.

Yet Free will is a metaphysical assumption, not a discovery - no experience, no evidence can make any difference to the reality of Free will: either it is assumed or it is not.

But what is it? How does it work?


Ultimately, the question is bogus, and did not trouble our (most intelligent and thoughtful) ancestors; the question is unnecessary, unanswerable, pseudo-profound...

But why does the question nonetheless torment some people spontaneously?

How can the question be dealt-with; can anything be done to clarify matters?


One reason for this question may be that we spontaneously see Free will as a little man inside our heads who chooses between alternative courses of action: a homunculus controller sitting at a console in our brains pressing button A or button B.

Obviously this is a grossly simplified metaphor, but it is hard not to think along such lines.

Is there an alternative metaphor for free will? One which captures its essence to some extent - rather than merely kicking the can down the road from ourselves to another but smaller person doing the choosing?


Perhaps the answer is to break out from linear, sequential causality and to try the alternative of field thinking - along the lines of Rupert Sheldrake's version of morphic fields which organize and impose form.

If free will was conceptualized as an organizing field - perhaps something like a magnetic or gravitational field - it could be seen as exerting its influence by a tendency to impose a pattern on human behavior (as a magnet imposes a pattern on iron filings).

As a field, Free will might vary in its strength and range, and might interact with the consequences of its own action (as a magnetic field attracts iron, and the closer the iron moves the stronger is the effect of the magnetic field).


As yet the metaphor of Free will as an organizing field is vestigial - but promising enough that I think it could perhaps be helpful in breaking-out from the apprent inevitability of a homunculus controller.


Proofs of God - blogger WmJas


Penfriend and commenter WmJas is going-through the 'proofs of God' from Kreeft and Tacelli's Handbook of Christian Apologetics which I recently recommended - he is trying to evaluate their validity in detail:

Any readers of this blog who would like to participate in some careful and sincere philosophy/ theology are recommended to take a look:


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Christianity and masculinity


It is a fact and a problem that so many types of modern Christianity are unmasculine: it is a problem for men, and for women.

I won't go into detail - but a lot of what goes on in and around church, and how it goes on, does strike masculine men as effete, and therefore either uninteresting or actively-repulsive.

This is not, of course, a core attribute of Christianity - if Christianity really were intrinsically unmasculine then it could not have survived and thrived for so many centuries; and if Christianity were fundamentally unmasculine then it would be very popular among Leftists, instead of loathed.

(It is, of course, the residual masculine aspects of mainstream Christianity which Leftists most vehemently attack.)


The most fully masculine form of Christianity seems to me to be the Orthodox - and this presumably derives from the style and lifestyle of the majority of priests: stereotypically being large, bearded, deep-voiced patriarchs who dress massively and imposingly.

This makes for a big contrast between the Western and Eastern Christianity which I find very obvious between otherwise-similar countries such as Spain and Greece.


In the West, evangelical Protestants (and Mormons) are among the most masculine of Christian churches, and more masculine than most other modern social institutions - but mostly lack the advantages of a distinctive (and impressive) 'uniform' and a standard liturgy with formal ritual, language and music.


But effete Christian churches are much more significant than style or lifestyle.

The fact that Christianity does not appeal much to masculine men is a criticism and severe weakness of the Christian churches, and a measure of how far they have been corrupted by modernity.

It is also, and primarily, a criticism of masculine men. They need the church, whether it is masculine or not! And there is no doubt whatsoever, that if even a few joined a church and participated actively, then soon it would be more masculine.


Of course, men have also been attracted-out from churches by Leftism, especially with its inducements of sexual and lifestyle license ('sex and drugs and rock and roll'); an ideology which equates masculinity with impulsive self-indulgence.

But such hedonists are easily overcome by religious, disciplined and self-denying men, united by a higher goal.

If a Christian church or denomination can assemble and organise such men - and any such success would be very obvious - it may yet be a formidable and constructive social force.


Note added: A comment from Thrasymachus (below) recommended this useful book:

which gives data to suggest the problem is restricted to Western (not Eastern Orthodox) Christianity and dates from about 1200 - which I interpret as suggesting that 1. the unmasculinity of Christianity is ultimately a consequence of the Great Schism (which I take as the start of modernity), and 2. that a probable cause was the movement leading to enforcement of priestly celibacy in the Roman Catholic church, but that having begun the trend was reinforced by other factors - which spanned the Reformation.

I found particularly interesting the idea that the masculinity of Christianity is apparently related to the understanding life as Unseen or Spiritual warfare - and to the martyrs and ascetic monks as quasi-military heroes.


Monday, 11 June 2012

Why a Christian society should be a monarchy - and why this will (very probably) not happen


This - excerpted from an essay by Fr Michael Azkoul - seems like an excellent summary of what I think is likely to be true: 


THE 20th century has brought an end to sacred monarchy.

To be sure, several nations yet possess a king or queen, but with few exceptions, they reign without ruling. In the West, none of them pretend to hold their position by "the Grace of God," despite the liturgical rhetoric surrounding their coronations. ... nothing is more certain than the disappearance of "sacred kingship" from among so-called Christian nations.


In any case, there has never been a monarch who ruled in the East or in the post-Orthodox West by "the Grace of God," because the existence of true kingship depends upon true faith.

Furthermore, we cannot speak of a heretical society as societas christiana.

The Holy Russian Empire - the last phase of the Roman Imperium, successor to Byzantine or Christian Rome - was the last Christian society and Nicholas II was the last Christian Emperor. His death brought the extinction of "the age of Constantine," the end to God's Plan concerning holy empires.

With the disappearance of Christian Rome, that which restrained world revolution, world atheism, world anarchy, world apostasy, is no more (cf. II Thess. iv, 6).


Secularism characterizes the present age and nowhere is it more obvious than in the principles and policies of the modern democratic state, in which power ascends from the electorate to the elected, to officials and bureaucrats whose only concern, if any at all, is the material and earthly happiness of their constituents.

If there is a place for religion in these "pluralistic societies," it does not inform their attitudes, aspirations and decision-making process. The self-styled "separation of church and state" is a political dogma because it is already a spiritual condition... The secular state is always atheistic.


...The historical evolution of the Western political system from monarchy to democracy is also a process of secularization. By that we mean not only that power was gradually transferred from the ruler to the ruled, the electorate, but also that God and Christian values has come to have less and less influence upon Western life and thought. Power no longer descends from God to His viceroy for the salvation of the people and, of course, the state no longer bears the image of Christ.

The modern political situation is antithetical to that condition which prevailed under the Christian Emperors - or, indeed, under kingship in general. St. Constantine initiated the Christian Roman Empire, the societas christiana in which two ministries, the imperium and sacerdotium, the government and the priesthood, governed one people, a single body politic...


Christian Romans believed they dwelt in an Empire which should encompass the whole world because that Empire was founded on a religion intended for all men.

As a matter of historical fact, the claims of the Empire depended upon the truth of the Christian Faith. The loss of that Faith meant the loss of any claim to the Empire...

The Christian Emperor was not an ordinary ruler. He was vicarius Christi. His coronation was a Sacrament, for he was anointed, as was Saul, David and Solomon, to protect and guide God's People. He was a "messiah," the Saviour, the Spouse of the Bride, the Empire, His Body or, as Professor Kantorwicz puts it, the Empire was his "mystical body," his "second body."...

Also, the coronation of the Basileus or Tzar and the pageantry surrounding it compared to a liturgy. The Patriarch poured oil on his head, a sacramental oil, which signified the king's or emperor's sacred and messianic character, his leadership of God's People. He was the very personification of the "lay priesthood" about which the Apostles spoke.

His position as God's "servant" involved the privilege of entering the sanctuary during the Divine Liturgy to receive the Holy Communion in his hand as was the privilege of the bishop and presbyter. Clearly, then, his authority was not simply political or administrative but spiritual. He was expected to be holy that he might lead his nation into holiness.


He was "the father of his people" whose duties were more than the execution of justice, the prosecution of war and resistance to evil. He was obliged to help the widow and the orphan, to clothe and feed the poor and to defend the Faith. In other words, when he took his coronation oath, he also obliged himself to philanthropia, an imitation of Divine Providence.

On the other hand, the people were expected to obey him as a child obeys his father. No Orthodox spoke of his "rights" - he humbly performed his duties: to God, to the Emperor, to the nation...


...The Orthodox Church has lived with monarchy from the day the Lord established her nearly two thousand years ago. The first monarchy was Roman, sacred and pagan. Of course, some have argued that the Church is "in the world and not of it" and, therefore, it makes little difference what the political structure under which the Church lives; in fact, she ought to have no association with the world whatsoever.

God wished to refuse the Hebrew nation a king and the Orthodox Church is the New Israel. Finally, it would seem that "democracy" would suit Orthodoxy far better than any other form of government, because it is secular. The Church is free to act without the encumbrances of an imperial hierarchy.

First of all, it is important for Orthodoxy to live under a form of government, which is not hostile to Her, even more one, which would encourage Her spiritual and physical growth. The world belongs to Her, as it belongs to Her God. She must, therefore, associate Herself with it in order to sanctify it, to recover it from the Devil.

Thus, when the Lord commanded that all creatures be converted and baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matt xxviii, 18), we must assume that those nations would have governments and that these governments themselves must also become Christian.

It is useless to argue that the Church is "in the world but not of it," because that nation converted to Christ is no longer "of it," no longer "from it."

Consequently, if God hoped to deny the request of the ancient Israelites for a king, it was because He did not wish His People to imitate their neighbors. In any case, they had a government whose ruler was God Himself, directing them with a Law from Above through His appointed Judges - Joshua, Samson, etc.


...If God is King in heaven, he must likewise be King on earth. If all of heaven and earth belong to the Lord, then, similarly the Lord's viceroy is governor of the earth. This explains, in another way, why those not subject to the Orthodox emperors were also heretical and pagan.

Let us say, then, that no Orthodox worth his salt can live comfortably in a society where the Will of God is not accomplished.

How, for example, can we be reconciled to a society in which self-interest is the first principle of all action and where confusion, heresy and skepticism are described as good and creative? How do we share in a government whose authority is human and sometimes deliberately anti-Christian?

One cannot imagine a democracy in which the people humble themselves before the bishop. Worst of all, there is no secular society in which Christ, as a cultural fact, is recognized as God. Moreover, if the state must resemble Christ and the state is secular; then, Christ must he viewed as totally human.


...Thus, it would seem to me that an Orthodox Christian is faced with the dilemma of living in a society which is basically hostile and alien to him. Of course, we must honor the president, obey just laws and do no harm to any man. Yet we cannot allow ourselves to become an intrinsic part of secular society.

The early Christians were accused of being "anti-social" because they would not become involved in the affairs of the pagan Roman Empire, so we must expect the same reproach. Furthermore, we must understand that nothing exists to protect us, no Tzar.

We will be threatened even more with the appearance of the Anti-Christ. He will be the product of secular society. He will, almost ironically, establish a secular monarchy, an ecumenical or world kingship. In the end, of course, he will be overthrown by Christ whose kingdom will have no end.


The sadism of late-Leftism


Just something to look out for...

The good aspect of Leftism is its kindness, and its loathing of cruelty. This is a virtue.

Of course, any virtue taken on its own or to excess becomes a vice, and this happens with Leftism - nonetheless kindness is a virtue.

Watch out, therefore, when Leftists - whether individually or institutionally - become sadistic!


When Leftists take pleasure, delight in the suffering of others - suffering of any others whether they 'deserve' it or not, whether they 'consent' to it or not - then this is terminal Leftism.

This happens when Leftism has served its purpose, and a person or society has moved to the next level of corruption; when good motive such as kindness can be dispensed-with and evil motives such as delight in cruelty from reasons of pride of sensuality move to the fore.

When hypocrisy is cast aside, and naked power is wielded with delight in overcoming, in crushing all opposition - that is a very dangerous shift in Leftism.


Even when sadism is disguised by the pseudo-impersonality and inexorability of bureaucratic procedure, it is usually easy enough to observe. There is, after all, a clear distinction between polar opposites such as kindness and sadism - even if the sadism is masked.

As an example think of Leftism and sex.

Leftism began as a compassionate and 'therapeutic' plea to allow various forbidden sexual practices to alleviate the suffering of those denied them; but has evolved into something very obviously hard and cruel - a strident set of demands, an advocacy of openly exploitative sex (sex as a tool of hedonism, sex as a vampiric extraction of motivation and meaning in life), sex as the basis of personal identity, and the clearly sadistic use of sexual ideology to justify hatred and the crushing of opponents.


When the Left discards kindness and embraces sadism - then it approaches more closely to pure evil. Almost anything becomes possible and excusable.


[Note: there is often an even more obvious 'Nietzschian' sadism among the type of Leftism which goes by the name Libertarianism or the secular right - indeed, one can often observe people (usually young men, sometimes disillusioned older men) actually trying to train themselves into cruel indifference; to expunge their natural kindness and sympathy.]