Sunday, 30 June 2013

Losing Christian faith *entails* abandoning Christian morality

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England's Chief (Orthodox) Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks writes (I have added the emphases): 

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...You cannot expect the foundations of western civilisation to crumble and leave the rest of the building intact. That is what the greatest of all atheists, Nietzsche, understood with terrifying clarity and what his -latter-day successors fail to grasp at all.

Time and again in his later writings he tells us that losing Christian faith will mean abandoning Christian morality.

No more ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’; instead the will to power. No more ‘Thou shalt not’; instead people would live by the law of nature, the strong dominating or eliminating the weak. ‘An act of injury, violence, exploitation or destruction cannot be “unjust” as such, because life functions essentially in an injurious, violent, exploitative and destructive manner.’ Nietzsche was not an anti-Semite, but there are passages in his writing that come close to justifying a Holocaust.

This had nothing to do with him personally and everything to do with the logic of Europe losing its Christian ethic...

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Lose the Judeo-Christian sanctity of life and there will be nothing to contain the evil men do when given the chance and the provocation.

Richard Dawkins, whom I respect, partly understands this. He has said often that Darwinism is a science, not an ethic. Turn natural selection into a code of conduct and you get disaster.

But if asked where we get our morality from, if not from science or religion, the new atheists start to stammer.

They tend to argue that ethics is obvious, which it isn’t, or natural, which it manifestly isn’t either, and end up vaguely hinting that this isn’t their problem. Let someone else worry about it.

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I have no desire to convert others to my religious beliefs. Jews don’t do that sort of thing. Nor do I believe that you have to be religious to be moral.

But Durant’s point is the challenge of our time. I have not yet found a secular ethic capable of sustaining in the long run a society of strong communities and families on the one hand, altruism, virtue, self-restraint, honour, obligation and trust on the other.

A century after a civilisation loses its soul it loses its freedom also. That should concern all of us, believers and non-believers alike.

http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/8932301/atheism-has-failed-only-religion-can-fight-the-barbarians
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The absurd prominence of the Holy Trinity in evangelical statements

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I am sure that it is counter-productive when Christians give prominence to the Holy Trinity in describing the nature of their faith - to the point that it seems quite common for a statement of Trinitarianism to be the very first thing on the list when some Christian churches make a statement of 'what we believe'.

This is a mistake in so many ways. Fundamentally it is a mistake because these Trinitarian statements are (almost always) formally and literally meaningless - and can (presumably) only be made-sense-of at such a high level of abstraction or spiritual development as to be irrelevant to public statements of faith.

At the level of public discourse, especially of secular discourse, standard Trinitarian formulations sound either confused or insane - which is not a useful impression to create.

Furthermore, these Trinitarian formulations are all-but-irrelevant to the Christian devotional life - and indeed have been a terribly destructive force in the history of Christianity - provoking some of the saddest and most futile yet lasting schisms - such as the 'monophysite' controversy which was a quibble over words that led to horrible persecutions and the first major and still effectual split in The Church.

Against such an horrific backdrop, the Trinitarian formulations such as the Athanasian Creed achieved church unity at the cost of what could charitably be called incomprehensibility, or uncharitably be called obfuscation.

But all this should have nothing to do with a modern secular materialist who is making some tentative moves towards Christianity, and browsing the internet or picking up a leaflet, comes across a church that seems to be (and indeed is) genuinely Christian - and then gets immediately confronted by some Trinitarian formulation as if this was the core and focus of the Christian life...

This is an unforced error by the real Christian churches, a self-inflicted wound; or what people nowadays miscall 'shooting yourself in the foot'.

I cannot imagine anything more off-putting to an incipient Christian than to run-up-against something about the Holy Trinity - like a high jump or a stumbling block or a tangle of thorns which must somehow be got past to become a Christian.

I only got past it by accepting that it was all 'a mystery' - if Aquinas didn't understand it, then how could I? - but the problem was artificially created in the first place.

The Holy Trinity is a matter about which evangelists should answer questions honestly and as best they can - but at the level of answering questions.

To raise the subject of the Holy Trinity, upfront, without provocation - deliberately to highlight the problem, and then utterly fail to answer it acceptably is the worst of possible worlds!

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Saturday, 29 June 2013

Why so much debate concerning the term 'Reactionary'? (And Right-wing)

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The debate focuses on what is reactionary, and what is not; and what is the essence of being reactionary - therefore, being able to answer the question: what (if anything) unites reactionaries?

The underlying assumption is that there is something coherent behind 'reaction'.

Yet the term suggests not.

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What is reaction reacting against?

The answer is Leftism, Liberalism, Progressivism, Socialism - that general trend  which could also include Protestantism (some aspects of), Deism, Atheism, Republicanism, Democracy and so on. (I prefer to call all this Leftism.)

So that which reaction is reacting-against is itself diverse.

And reaction itself is very diverse - depending upon what are the dominant aspects of Leftism its reaction focuses-upon.

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So, the obvious answer is that reaction is unified only by that which it reacts against - reaction itself is unboundedly diverse, and coheres only in terms that all reaction point-towards that which it opposes.

So there is no essence to reaction - its cohesion lies outside of itself.

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This - I submit - is why reaction is futile. The proper response to Leftism is not reaction, but that to which Leftism is itself a reaction: Religion.

The only true 'Right-winger' is not the reactionary - who is in essence merely anti-Leftist, merely aiming at the destruction of Leftism - but the Religious: who is prior to Leftism, does not depend on Leftism in any way, and is positive and constructive in stance.

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(This analysis leaves open the question of 'which religion?'. There are at least several possibilities - but the religion of the Right must be prior to Leftism, and not a reaction to it.)

Van Wyck Brooks - The Flowering of New England (1936)

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From the section Emerson in Concord: 
 
RALPH WALDO EMERSON had lived in Concord 
since 1834. The former pastor of a Boston church 
and a son of the Reverend William Emerson, he had 
withdrawn from the ministry. Having a little income, he 
had bought a house on the Boston turnpike, surrounded 
with pine and fir-trees. There was a garden by the brook, 
filled with roses and tulips. In the western window of his 
study, he placed an Aeolian harp. It sang in the spring 
and summer breezes, mingling with the voices of the 
birds, fitfully bringing to mind the ballads that he loved, 
the wild, melodious notes of the old bards and minstrels. 
He had been writing essays and giving addresses that 
grieved and vexed most of his older hearers. Dozens, 
even hundreds of the younger people, thinking of him, 
thought of Burns's phrase, 

Wi' sic as he, where'er he be, 
May I be saved or damned. 

But, although he had his followers in Boston, he was 
anathema to the pundits there. Everett sneered at Emer- 
son's "conceited, laborious nonsense. " John Quincy 
Adams and Andrews Norton thought he was an atheist 
and worse. The Cambridge theologians reviled him: he 
was a pantheist and a German mystic, and his style was 
a kind of neo-Platonic moonshine. The Concord prophet 
smiled at these accusations. He had the temerity to think 
that the great Cambridge guns were merely popguns. 
There was nothing explosive in his own discourse. He 
was a flute-player, one who plucked his reeds in the Con- 
cord river. But when he began to play, one saw a beauti- 
ful portico, standing in a lovely scene of nature, covered 
with blossoms and vine-leaves ; and, at the strains of the 
flute, one felt impelled to enter the portico and explore 
the unknown region that lay beyond. It was an irresistible 
invitation. As for the smiling musician, he was a mystery 
still. One thought of him as the man in Plutarch's story 
who conversed with men one day only in the year and 
spent the rest of his days with the nymphs and demons. 

Everyone had heard of him in Boston, where he was 
giving lectures. His birthplace there was a kitestring's 
distance from the house where Franklin was born and the 
house where Edgar Allan Poe was born. But, although 
he belonged to one of the oldest scholarly families, with 
countless names in the college catalogues, most of the 
signs had been against him. Tall, excessively thin, so thin 
that, as Heine said of Wellington, his full face looked 
like a profile, pale, with a tomahawk nose, blond, with 
blue eyes and smiling, curved lips, he had none of the 
traits, aggressive or brilliant, that marked his brothers in 
various ways. At moments, on the platform, he spoke 
with a tranquil authority, but his usual demeanour was 
almost girlishly passive. He had not acquired the majes- 
tic air, as of a wise old eagle or Indian sachem, that 
marked his later years. He appeared to be easily discon- 
certed, for his self-reliance was a gradual conquest. He 
had drifted through many misfortunes, drifted into and 
out of tuberculosis, drifted into teaching and out of the 
Church, maturing very slowly. He had known dark hours, 
poverty, pain, fear, disease. His first wife had died; so 
had two of his brothers. The trouble with him was, his 
elders thought, that he seemed to like to drift. He had no 
sort of record as a student. At Harvard, even three gen
-erations later, when people spoke of Emerson's "educa- 
tion," they put the word in quotation-marks,* it was not 
that he did not know his Greek and Latin, but that he 
was never systematic. He had read, both then and later, 
for "lustres" mainly. He had drifted first to Florida and 
then to Europe, and finally settled at Concord, the home 
of his forbears, where he had often visited at the Manse. 
The minister there, Dr. Ezra Ripley, who was Emerson's 
step-grandfather and very fond of the young man, felt 
that he was obliged to warn the people against this leader 
of the Egomites, those who "sent themselves" on the 
Lord's errands, without any proper calling. As for the 
lectures that Emerson was giving in Boston, on great 
men, history, the present age, the famous lawyer, 
Jeremiah Mason, when he was asked if he could under- 
stand them, replied, "No, but my daughters can." 

To the outer eye, at least, Emerson's life was an aim- 
less jumble. He had ignored all the obvious chances, re- 
jected the palpable prizes, followed none of the rules of 
common sense. Was he pursuing some star of his own? 
No one else could see it. In later years, looking back, 
Emerson's friends, remembering him, thought of those 
quiet brown colts, unrecognized even by the trainers, that 
out-strip all the others on the race-course. He had had 
few doubts himself. He had edged along sideways 
towards everything that was good in his life, but he felt 
that he was born for victory. He had not chosen his 
course. It had sprung from a necessity of his nature, an 
inner logic that he scarcely questioned. 

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The  above excerpt is one of my favourite passages in on of my favourite books of literary criticism - a book that was once famous (Pulitzer Prize, a year atop the Best Seller list) and highly prestigious; but is now neglected and deeply unfashionable.

Brooks wrote it (and the accompanying four volumes in the Makers and Finders series of the history of American Literature) by years of immersion in the primary texts (many of which he was the first to reread for many decades or centuries), and detailed note taking - then wrote the texts almost as a pastiche of the style of each author as he considered them - and without footnoting.

The vast primary scholarship was thus concealed, the style was made varied and vivid, and the book made accessible and appealing to a broad 'middlebrow' audience as well as to academics for whom this was, for a while, the only overview and the first point of reference to several authors.

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About 15 years ago, the above passage was especially relevant for me - I found it intoxicating, a description of 'what life is about' - more Emersonian than Emerson himself, somehow.

It captures something of permanent value which Emerson brought to the West - that close-up Aeolian Harp sensitivity to the phenomena of the world.

Emerson broke away from Unitarianism, which was already a break from Christianity - and that was a terrible error; but I feel that if this Aeolian Harp sensitivity could be brought-back into Christianity - or rather, allowed to grow from the incompleteness of current mainstream Christian perspectives - it would be a wonderful thing!

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Friday, 28 June 2013

Why did 1960s critics, teachers and librarians fail to see the genius of Enid Blyton?

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I read a great deal of Enid Blyton in my early and middle childhood, and was aware of the continual denigration of her work which came from the likes of critics, teachers and librarians.

I just ignored them and carried on reading.

Since her brooks are for the younger child, there is not much to attract adult readers, so from teens onwards I don't think I re-read any Blyton.

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Then when my children came along I read some Blyton with them, and read Barbara Stoney's biography of Enid Blyton - which I re-read with great enjoyment and profit last week.

It is very clear now that Enid Blyton was a genuine female genius - not just in terms of the quality (bearing in mind that she is par excellence a writer for children and must be evaluated as such), and quantity of her work - which was simply staggering (topping-off which was that she did not even employ a literary agent or secretary, yet solicited letters from readers and personally answered a huge mailbag) - but a genius, too, in terms of her mode of work, her way of thinking.

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Blyton left a detailed account of her method of composition in some fascinating letters to a psychologist called Peter McKellar. Here is part of an excerpt given by Barbara Stoney:

I shut my eyes for a few minutes, with my portable typewriter on my knees; and I make my mind a blank and wait - and then, as clearly as I could see real children, my characters stand before me in mind's eye... The story is enacted almost as if I had a private cinema screen there... I don't know what is going to happen... Sometimes a character makes a joke, a really funny one that makes me laugh as I type it on my paper and I think, "Well, I couldn't have thought of that myself in hundred years!", and then I think: "Well, who did think of it?

Blyton thus wrote in a trance state, a shamanic state - and her mastery of this state was the key to the reality of her world and her tremendous productivity. 

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In the days when Blyton was criticized without restraint, people used to say she was a 'bad writer' in the sense that her prose was supposedly badly formed and her plotting was supposedly crude. 

This is false. Her prose is clean and smooth and the books are very tightly written. Compared with most of the feted modern children writers - whose work is often padded-out, flaccid - Blyton's stories are all meat with no gristle.

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So why was she so hated?

The answer is obvious, her work was designed to exemplify and promote Goodness:

...my public, bless them, feel in my books a sense of security, an anchor, a sure knowledge that right is right, and that such things as courage and kindness deserve to be emulated. Naturally the morals or ethics are intrinsic to the story - and therein lies their true power.  

Blyton was brought up a nonconformist Christian, a Baptist, but (as with many geniuses) her observance and belief faded as her created talent waxed.

She consequently did not live fully by Christian ideals, especially in terms of the sexual arena - marriage and divorce and remarriage, both to divorced men; however, unlike most literary geniuses, Blyton retained almost all her Christian practices, ethics and principles. Indeed, she wrote a great deal of Christian literature for children. 

Blyton was, therefore, that thing most loathed by the Left - a hypocrite. That is someone whose life does not match up to their publicly stated beliefs. Not all that much of a hypocrite, in fact, but enough for the Left who wanted to destroy her.

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To try and destroy, Blyton, the Leftist establishment said (and are still saying) all kinds of incompetent and ignorant nonsense and gibberish (indeed, I have never read or heard so much pure garbage talked about any other writer) to conceal that what the Left really hate about Enid Blyton was her effectiveness as a writer, and that her books were a good influence on children.

Therefore, being both good and effective and amazingly productive; quite naturally (to the Leftist mindset) Blyton should be slandered, ridiculed, bowdlerized, suppressed.  

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Thursday, 27 June 2013

Father Seraphim Rose: the beginning of an era - or its end?

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On the whole, I would regard Father Seraphim Rose, the American born Russian Orthodox monk (later 'Hieromonk' or Priest--monk) as the Western man of the Twentieth Century most advanced in holiness (theosis) of whom I know.

But the way in which I understand this fact has changed since first I became aware of him and absolutley immersed myself in his work somewhat more than three years ago.

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Fr Seraphim died in 1982, and at first I assumed that his life marked the beginning of an Orthodox revival in the West, with Fr Seraphim as a bridge between Holy Russia and the modern world - most specifically by his discipleship to St John Maximovitch

http://orthodoxwiki.org/John_(Maximovitch)_the_Wonderworker

But, as I discovered more about his legacy and the events following the death of Fr Seraphim, my perspective changed, and he seemed more like the final fruition of Holy Russia, its rounding-out; than a bridge into modernity.

In particular, modern Orthodoxy does not seem to have solved the dichotomy about which Fr Seraphim wrote so much: as he describes it this dichotomy is between, on the one hand, apostasy and accommodation to the prevailing society (mostly Leftism-Liberalism, although in modern Russia there are also anti-liberal currents); and on the other hand the distortion of 'ultra-correctness' in which strict adherence to liturgical and devotional forms combines with a cold hearted and uncharitable disposition which negates the value of these practices.

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Fr Seraphim was quite clear that after the death of St John Maximovitch, there were then no true Spiritual Fathers (Holy Elders, startsi) in the United States nor indeed anywhere else, and this meant that the chain of discipleship stretching back to the life of Christ was now broken, extinct.

The cause of this was, seemingly, the Russian Revolution, the Martyrdom of Tsar Nicholas and the systematic destruction by the Bolsheviks of Holy Russia and its monastic traditions.

But whatever its cause, the effect was drastically to reduce the possible degree of theosis or sanctity in the modern world, since without the supervision of a Holy Elder and the ascetic disciplines of monasticism, the higher degrees of theosis were impossible.

Hence there are now no Saints, and nobody with the authority to resolve misunderstandings and disagreements, to interpret scripture, to guide the Church etc.

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So, by Fr Seraphim Rose's own account, and the accounts of those he regarded as authoritative, Orthodoxy is now and irreversibly a much diminished thing; and - I infer - does not any longer stand with its peak above all other Christian denominations, but is simply one of a group of valid denominations with its own particular strengths and weaknesses.

Yet, by his work of translation and interpretations, and by the example of his life, Fr Seraphim Rose has made it possible for us to appreciate what has been lost from the world.

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Inclusiveness (Relativism, Tolerance, Multiculturalism, Diversity) are reciprocal Nihilism

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I have been reading again the wonderfully deep and insightful book Nihilism- the root of the revolution of the modern age, by Eugene (later Fr Seraphim) Rose
From the introductory remarks it is clear that the distinctive modern Leftist and Politically Correct beliefs such as Relativism, Tolerance, Multiculturalism, Diversity and now Inclusivness are all reciprocal-derivations of Nihilism.
Relativism, Tolerance and Multiculturalism were types of passive Nihilism; while Diversity and most recently Inclusiveness are increasingly-extreme forms of active Nihilism.
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Nihilism has been defined, and quite succinctly, by the fount of philosophical Nihilism, Nietzsche:

"That there is no truth; that there is no absolute state of affairs-no 'thing-in-itself.' This alone is Nihilism, and of the most extreme kind." ...

By "truth" we mean, of course--as Nietzsche's denial of it makes explicit--absolute truth, which we have already defined as the dimension of the beginning and the end of things.

"Absolute truth": the phrase has, to a generation raised on skepticism and unaccustomed to serious thought, an antiquated ring. No one, surely--is the common idea--no one is naive enough to believe in "absolute truth" any more; all truth, to our enlightened age, is "relative."

The latter expression, let us note -"all truth is relative"- is the popular translation of Nietzsche's phrase, "there is no (absolute) truth"; the one doctrine is the foundation of the Nihilism alike of the masses and of the elite.

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So, New Leftism (Political Correctness) began with establishing that all truth is relative, then moved onto a doctrine of Tolerance (including Tolerance of sin, lies and deliberate uglification/ destruction of beauty)...
And as these were accepted. Leftism moved on to propaganda for Multiculturalism (the assertion that since all societies, hence all religions and no religion, were only arbitrarily different and could not be distinguished nor chosen-between on objective grounds, then we 'ought' to accept and celebrate whatever social differences might arise)...
And then on to the further deveopment of  Diversity which was the policy actively to create, to engineer, Multiculturalism - by adopting the assumption that Diversity was a virtue, indeed an imperative...
And then the ideal of Inclusiveness which is that Diversity becomes not just one Good among many, but the primary imperative of policy; such that previous primary Goods must necessarily be demoted.
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Inclusiveness means that Churches must place Diversity above Christianity (which must be shaped to fit the needs of Diversity); Universities and Schools must place Diversity as a higher goal than educational attainment; the Army, Navy and Airforce must be Inclusive before they are militarily effective; economic and political policy must ensure that the nation and its residential areas, workplaces and even social clubs must all conduct their activities within the primary framework of Inclusiveness.
And all of this is lyingly denied in its actuality and implications, since the fact that all truth is relative is something every modern adult drank in with their school milk.  
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As a specific example, an 'Inclusive' Church is one which aims to include everybody - not, please note, by Christian evangelism - by converting non-Christians to Christians and inducing them to aim-at living by the Laws of God and the Rules of the Church and then including them as members of The Church (regardless of their sex, race, ethnicity or colour); but absolutely the opposite to this: an 'Inclusive' Church is one that aims to rewrite the Laws of God and the Rules of the Church such that nobody will be excluded by them.
While traditional Christian Churches were truly inclusive, in the sense that they positively aimed at converting as many people as possible and thereby 'including' as many people as possible; on the other hand, the self-styled-Inclusive Christian Churches do the inverse of including; that is, instead of including Christians, they do-not-exclude non-Christians.
Indeed, the imperative not-excluding-non-Christians has become the dominant goal of Inclusive Churches - such that the traditional Laws of God and Rules of the Church are now seen as an impediment to the work of these churches.
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Inclusiveness is therefore an extremely advanced form of Nihilism; Inclusiveness rules all major social institutions; and Nihilism therefore rules modern society.
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Sleep satiety - when you have had *enough* sleep

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It seems that we need so much sleep - until we are satiated - and then no more (and perhaps that more than enough may be somewhat worse than enough: sleep obesity in effect!).

So in the early part of the night we have cycles of deep sleep, then - presumably - when they have done their work we move onto cycles of dreaming sleep; until, when that has done its work, we awake spontaneously.

The general function of deep sleep is probably strengthening of specific memories, the function of dreaming sleep editing (testing for coherence) narratives of memories.

Presumably, our brains know when these functions have been achieved to a sufficient degree: then we wake-up!

We are satiated with sleep: 'full-up' with sleep.

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Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Review of Against Inclusiveness by James Kalb

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Kalb, James. Against Inclusiveness: how the diversity regime is flattening America and the West and what to do about it. Angelico Press, 2013. ISBN-10: 1621380408 ISBN-13: 978-1621380405 

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This book is the best I have seen, and probably the best which could be written, that discerns and describes a single systematic ideology behind Liberalism/ Leftism/ Progressivism.

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The key word to describe this book is thorough.

Even if, like me, you have given a lot of thought to these linked issues of Inclusiveness, Tolerance, Diversity and Multiculturalism - Kalb will impress by the way in which he joins the dots, fills in the gaps, makes logical links, and provides telling examples (in this last respect being bold and specific far beyond my own deliberately abstracted and decontextualized efforts). 

I find Kalb's prose style extremely pleasing - calm, reasonable, cultivated, yet quietly witty and with some pointed summaries, such as:

[p78]..inclusiveness reduces ethnic culture to ethnic-themed fast food, religion to self-indulgent reverie or poeticized versions of liberalism, and marriage to a sentimental recognition of almost any human connection with sexual overtones The end result is a single liberal way of life based on career, consumption, and diversion variously accessorized in ways not allowed to matter.

[p82] ...the destruction of the authority of particular culture bears especially heavily on cultural institutions. Rather than presenting, defending and developing a particular culture, which is likely to be one traditionally dominant at least locally, they must subvert it. Anything else would make them agents of oppression. Traditional and high cultures thus turn against themselves. They lose their specific function in the ordering of the life of a people and, to the extent to which they are not replaced by commercial pop culture, become hobbies, theaters of careerism, markers of status, or instruments of subversion.

[p108-9]  The liberal order is irretrievably prosaic and boring... A makeshift remedy, but the best available within the liberal order, is provided by 'coolness'. It seems trivial, but people take it much more seriously than they admit. After all, what else is there?...

At bottom, coolness is as silly as people think. It is notoriously unsustainable. Those who live by it either crash and burn, fall into gross hypocrisy ("sell out"), or grow out of it. Within the liberal order, though, growing out of it means growing out of the only thing - other than sex, drugs, celebrity, or lots and lots of money - that redeems life from quotidian dullness. It means turning into a boring, conventional, older person - just like Mom and Dad.

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I don't think I have any substantive disagreements with Kalb - merely differences of approach, and a lower level of optimism concerning what is likely to befall.

For example, I give the mass media a much greater role than does Kalb, and he gives a greater role to the effect of abstract ideas as causes. He sees reasonable hope for a smooth transition to a better polity, where I find this hard to imagine. Of course, I live in England whereas Kalb lives in the US, and it could well be that the realities here are significantly worse than there.

In general, I tend to regard the abstract ideas of Leftism/ Liberalism as mainly post hoc consequences of the over-riding anti-Good destructiveness which causally motivated the Left, rather than as themselves causes of destruction.

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And whereas Kalb elucidates and inter-relates the principles and ideologies of the Left (while making clear that these are each and collectively incoherent and unrealizable); I tend to notice the way that the Left switches-between these ideologies in an unprincipled manner which seems impossible to capture in terms of an over-arching unified positive goal. Rather, it looks to me as if the over-arching principle is negative and destructive, and the principles are used or discarded in accordance with this bottom-line nihilism.

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As a focus of hope, Kalb puts the Roman Catholic Church, whereas I would emphasize the LDS church; Kalb emphasizes the potential benefits of studying great authors such as Plato, Aristotle, Pascal, Burke and Newman, whereas I think that reaction (when it comes) will necessarily be simple and straightforward enough to be comprehensible by the average man.

But these are not substantive disagreements, they are merely different emphases.

And on the whole, on those points where we disagree, I would be glad if Kalb turned-out to be right and I to be wrong!

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The macho posturing of pseudonymous (or anonymous) bloggers and commenters

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One thing I find particularly repellant is macho posturing of pseudonymous (or, even worse, anonymous) bloggers and commenters; who - behind the facade of unidentifiability - 'pull no punches' in advising others (typically in graphically obscene language) to stick-their-necks-out, be bold, explicit and confrontational; and for such characters even to build-up themselves (their pseudonymous selves) as some kind of example of a 'dominant male'!

I guess some of these may be Leftist provocateurs, hoping - like Mao - to 'Let a thousand flowers bloom' in order to identify, and lop the heads off, any reactionaries.

But some, I suspect, are genuinely unaware of the slimy, grandstanding cowardice of their behaviour.

Therefore, if you are a pseudonymous web presence, and there are indeed good reasons why pseudonymity may be necessary (and I mean Good, not just expedient, reasons); then be aware that this fact precludes as illegitimate any systematic attempt to present yourself as (ahem) a 'tough guy'.

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Bandy legs versus knock knees

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As I walked the city streets, I was reflecting how seldom one sees a really good set of bandy legs these days.

Bandy legs are those which, when the feet are together, show daylight between the knees.

The opposite are knock knees which, when the knees are together, still have a significant gap between the feet. There are plenty of these about - especially among women - and they often go with pigeon toes.

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2010/09/pigeon-toed-gait-endemic-among.html

Bandy legs were very common round here, perhaps especially among face workers in the coal mines who spent long periods with pick and shovel crawling in narrow passages underground away from the sun, and therefore tended to be deficient in vitamin D.

Maybe due to this manual labouring link, and despite being conceivably a mild type of rickets, the BLs had an implication of the bearer being strong and fit; and were frequent among tough little footballers.

Indeed, the term always makes me think first of 'Nobby' Stiles - one of the members of England's 1966 World Cup winning team - small, balding, no front teeth, and (at least, as I remember it) a wiry pair of bandy legs. 

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Retrospective prayer, the impossibility of. Changing my mind *again*

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http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/retrospective-prayer-i-get-it.html
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In the above, written two years ago - I said that having not understood the concept of retrospective prayer, in - for example - Charles Williams' novel Descent into Hell - I now (as of two years ago) finally understood it.

Or not...

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As of now I  believe that the concept of retrospective prayer, and indeed the Boethian framework which rationalizes it, and describes God as out-of-Time, does not make sense - or rather, that it:

1. contains an incomprehensible necessity for transitions between God's world out-of-Time/ in eternity; and mortal human life in Time,

and

2. entails an ultimate monism and stasis in which change and free will is an illusion, and (among other things) human mortal life is rendered a futility.

I now believe that - as common sense implies - Time is linear, events are irreversible; and once something has happened, it cannot be undone (although it may be healed, and indeed it is this promise of healing which is near the heart of the Christian Gospel).

*

A belief in retrospective prayer will not stay-put - but its implications ramify and erode the vital importance of now - erodes the reality of free will - disperses the necessity of bringing of matters to the point of choice.

Having tried to live with the implications that retrospective prayer is valid I find that it is a confusing, paralysing, demotivating theological idea.

I think the idea of retrospectively-effective prayer is one of those brought in to deal with  unacceptable consequences of other false theological principles - so I believe it can be discarded without bad consequences.

And I have therefore discarded it. Let's see how this works out...

*

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The most popular posts ever on this blog


  
 
Pageviews
 
23 May 2009
 
10453
22 Jun 2010
 
7129
28 Feb 2012, 31 comments
 
3424
8 Jun 2010
 
3198
30 Nov 2009
 
2252
27 Jun 2012, 17 comments
 
1962
7 Feb 2009
 
1516
13 Dec 2012, 20 comments
 
1484
29 Dec 2011, 29 comments
 
1087
24 Feb 2013, 22 comments
1077

**

Conclusions? Most people (not necessarily commenters) are most interested in my opinions on IQ and evolution, not so much in the Christian Apologetics and Sociopolitical analysis. But a simple cut-and-paste visual joke is the easiest way to rack up the page views.

Bruce Charlton Sacked - Impact Factor trends and the decline of Medical Hypotheses

*

Since I was sacked from editing Medical Hypotheses in May 2010, the Impact Factor...

(citations to Medical Hypotheses in the target year for papers published in the preceding two years - so that the 2012 IF is citations in that year for papers published in 2010 and 2011 - which means that the 2012 IF is still not free of the effect of papers I accepted while still editor in the first four months of 2010)

...has declined from being above average for all medical journals (and therefore considerably above average for all journals) to, well, mediocrity:


I do not note this fact merely from schadenfreude but also because the journal which currently styles itself 'Medical Hypotheses' is a dishonest fake and a travesty of the vision bequeathed by the founder David Horrobin; and as such it ought to be closed-down - and on present trends it surely will be.

Which is nice.

*

He "wants" to put the clock back

*

No he doesn't - not in the way you mean 'wants'.

He thinks it both absolutely inevitable and transcendentally desirable that modernity will collapse - but he personally does not 'want' it in the sense that he supposes he would be happier or his life better if such a thing were to happen.

In fact, to mention only one aspect, his life would certainly be exceedingly restricted, mostly very painful, and he probably would swiftly be dead from one or another medical problem in a non-modern world.

So 'want' is not an appropriate term of description for his beliefs about what ought to happen.

*

The Leftist corrosion of acknowledged existential dependence by the concept of Rights

*

One of the terribly, existentially, damaging effects of Leftism has been to propagandize the falsehood that dependence - actual poverty, sickness, extremes of age, incapacity - brings with it the Right to be supported.

(These Rights being defined and enforced by the state who extract resources from one group of the population, keep some and distribute the rest to those with Rights.)

This large scale and all-but-universal policy of modern societies has inflicted many deep and deadly wounds on the souls of most modern citizens on both sides of the Rights divide - as was no doubt the demonic intention from the start - but one particularly anti-Christian wound has been to remove the spiritual benefits of poverty, sickness, childhood, old age or incapacity about which the scriptures are so clear.

*

The spiritual benefit arises from an acknowledgement of our own state of utter dependence.

We can still perceive this in young children. The great spiritual strength of children comes from their knowledge that they depend on their parents for everything, and from this comes trust - and this earthly knowledge of dependence is easily extended into a trust in God.

The spiritual beauty of acknowledged dependence in childhood is all-too-often replaced, and at an ever-earlier age, by that denial of dependence and assertion of Rights which is termed Youth: a state of extreme existential peril from which few seem fully to recover.

*

This business of acknowledged dependence is of extreme importance to the Christian life - indeed without a fundamental, bedrock acknowledgement of existential dependence it is hard to see how a Christian life is possible.

*

The secular Right have reacted against Leftist Rights-talk with a false and absurd assertion of Independence. This leads to an existential selfishness, a state of Pride in their supposed autonomy, a clinging to what they imagine they posses as of Right. Such Rightist Independence discourse is, then, merely a different form of Rights talk - merely an unChristian and economics-focused reaction against the pecking order of modern Leftism, while retaining the Prideful spiritual defects of Leftism.

*

Perhaps dependence is the main lesson we need to learn in our lives of incarnate mortality?

Such a recognition may then lead to choosing to love those (and they are many) upon whom we depend; and to love God.   

*

But the Leftist aims to replace this profound recognition of existential reality with an unassuageable resentment against those who do not provide us with what we feel we deserve and are due.

Thus the language of Rights - and these Rights have been extended from our Rights to resources, to a universal Right to high status (!), and since Political Correctness the Right to positive approval.

It is hard to imagine any state of mind better calculated to lead to damnation - that is, to a deliberately-chosen rejection of God - than the Leftist-inculcated rejection of acknowledged dependence and its replacement with a demand for our supposed Rights.

*

Monday, 24 June 2013

Implicit and explicit meanings in the Bible

*

I have been examining the early part of St Paul's Letter to the Ephesians:

Chapter 1 - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10 that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 11 in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 in whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Chapter 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

*

My point here is fairly simple - and it is that there are explicit statements (or truths) here, but equally important these are presented against a necessary background of implicit truths - which must hold if the explicit statements are to be coherent and consistent with the Christian message.

Some of the statements are quite striking - for example "predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself"  - what does predestinated imply?

And the concept of 'grace' 'according to his good pleasure' - this idea of salvation as an undeserved gift freely given. then there is "predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will". 

And a clear statement that salvation is by faith (in Jesus as Lord and Saviour), not works (good acts): "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 "

But if salvation is by Grace, and there is this thing predestination, and works are not relevant to this process - then what is there left for us to do? Are we puppets, robots, automata? 

Of course not! The Christian message of salvation is all about faith, and faith is (amongst other things) a decision; and a decision can only be made by a being with sufficient autonomy to make a decision: a being with free will. So implicitly we must have free will. 

Salvation is a gift of Grace, and when we have faith Grace works in us (so God is working on both sides) but in the middle is the act of free will without which Grace would have no meaning, nothing to work on. 
But what about us being 'dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath'.

We are depraved, that is clear; we are in thrall to Satan (the prince of the power of air); we are in such a terrible state that we cannot get ourselves out of it - all that is clear because explicit. 

But, implicitly, we cannot be absolutely depraved - or else we could not make that act of free will to have faith. So any theology which has it that we are utterly depraved is mistaken. 

And predestination? However this is understood, it cannot mean that free will is excluded. If you believe that we have a pre-mortal spirit existence, this predestination is understandable as a proper role, situation, status, that kind of thing. But there are other understandings.

But whatever predestination means, it does not mean that we were created inevitably to follow a detailed script of salvation or damnation - implicitly, it cannot mean that!

*

Psychoticism as the primary personality trait

*

http://iqpersonalitygenius.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/eysencks-personality-trait-of.html

Sunday, 23 June 2013

How to choose a denomination?

*

"OK" - somebody might say - "I am now a (Mere, non-denominational) Christian. What next? How to choose a denomination?"

If there is one you find wholly true and wholly trust, then there is no problem.

But what when you find the modern landscape of Christian churches to contain none to which you can whole-heartedly commit yourself?

You might find a specific church, a specific congregation or group, but almost certainly there will still be a requirement to commit to a denomination and that denomination may well have elements you honestly regard as false, overemphasized, gaps, or corruption.

Yet, if at all possible, you need to join and attend a church - at some level of frequency and activity.

Suggestion: Treat a denomination like a political party or a scientific theory or a friend or any worldly entity - don't expect perfection in all things (and don't behave as if such an entity exists).

But ask yourself, what is non-negotiable, and work from that.

Then consider your own motivation, what brought you to Christianity - the problem, the obsession, the need to escape some thing, or the yearning for some state...

That may be a clue as to which of the real denominations might provide the best focus and emphasis.

Then see what is available, what is accessible with what frequency - and develop your personal devotional life.

*


Note: These are intended as suggestions to move forwards a step or two, aimed at those feeling stuck in a position of being theoretically Christian - what then? This is not any kind of blueprint, recipe or formula.

*

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Assuming bad intentions

*

The Western ruling elites could be basically decent, well-meaning people who want good things but - through lack of knowledge, personal greed and other types of selfishness, short-sightedness etc. - end-up doing (and trying to do) mostly evil things...

OR

They could be basically evil people whose strategic goal is to destroy good things wherever and whenever they have the opportunity - but who are somewhat restrained from doing so with maximum long-term efficiency by defects such as laziness, cowardice, spite and short-termist comfort-seeking; plus being hampered and confused by that fact that they are not wholly evil and residual good elements will sometimes divert the motivations and sabotage the plans of the primary evil components.

*

We are agreed, therefore, that the secular Left politically correct leadership of all Western nations and all major institutions have done and are doing great evil, and are planning and propagandizing to do more great evils; and will not listen to anyone who points-out the facts, but rather the opposite: they will ignore, sideline, lie about, exclude, suppress-by-whatever means the truth - will violate common sense and call it sophistication, and will outlaw anybody learning from their own personal experience...

This we know.

But people retain considerable uncertainty about the basic set-up leading to this situation.

*

The mainstream secular Right continually try to explain the bad things of modern life by a kind of Marxist analysis which purports to demonstrate that although most people are damaged by policy X, the political leadership will benefit from it - and this is (it is argued) why they are doing it.

For instance it is common sense and personal experience to know for sure that mass immigration will lead to the destruction of any society sooner or later; and the fact that the secular Leftist elites aggressively promote this policy is obvious; but the usual explanations focus upon ways in which the elite leadership will benefit (personally and in the short term) from this policy (cheap labour, cheap servants, getting elected etc).

But this type of analysis and explanation assumes that the key opinion formers are basically good people, who want good things, but who have been corrupted by short term selfishness into pursuing policies which are harmful to more people and over the longer term...

(It is also to assume the primacy of Marxist analysis: the primacy of economic motivation. A double error.)

*

This is certainly not self-evident. Indeed common sense and personal experience suggests that the opposite is likely - that people are naturally very reluctant indeed to do anything which benefits them personally and in the short term when it obviously leads to the destruction of their society - including the world in which they will themselves live during old age and their friends, family and own children will have to live-in.

What this economic analysis is actually assuming is that the ruling elites are basically decent in the motivations, wanting the same things as everyone else, but seduced into the pursuit of selfish and short-termist behaviours about a few specific bad things like mass immigration, simply because they have been corrupted by power.

*

This does not make common sense.

On the one hand, the economic (secular Right) analysis assumes that the ruling elites are essentially good-motivated people who have been corrupted by power into long-termist (strategic) pursuit of their own short-termist selfishness

(for example mass immigration is being promoted now because will lead to cheap labour and electoral dominance in 5, 10 or 20 years)

- and yet, on the other hand, somehow, the predictable long-term massively destructive consequences to themselves and their friends and families of sustained mass immigration do not affect their policies.

*

The standard secular Right explanation for the wicked policies of the elites therefore assumes that the ruling Western elite are long-termist about achieving benefits but ignore inevitable long term harm; that they think strategically about economics, but about nothing else.

In a nutshell: the mainstream secular Right argue that the  dominant Leftist elites are strategically short-termist - which is an oxymoron.

This analysis does not make plain sense - of course it can be tortured into a semblance of sense by the addition of complex qualifiers; but that amounts to the same as saying it does not make sense. 

*

The actually-existing Western ruling elites are not like normal people

Therefore we should not judge them as if they were like normal people.

Especially we should not assume that they are motivated like normal people.

In particular we should not assume that their motivations are 'basically good'.

*

Some significant and dominant proportion of the Western ruling elites are basically evil in the sense of strategically seeking the destruction of good and good things, wherever and whenever they are found.

If they see a good marriage, or a happy family, an innocent child, or a beautiful building, or encounter a man of honesty and integrity - then their response is to hate it and want to deface it or destroy that goodness: break-up that marriage, pop-the-bubble of that family and rub their noses in filth, tattoo that child, demolish and replace that building, and corrupt that man of integrity into acts that violate his conscience.

If they encounter an argument which proves conclusively that their policies will certainly be widely destructive of good things and promoting of lies, ugliness and vice; they will inwardly nod, think 'thank you', and proceed with even greater determination having heard confirmation that this is a valid plan which will achieve its objectives.

*

The Western ruling elites will and do pursue evil policies even when they know that these policies will surely harm themselves, their families, and be destructive of everything they value and indeed love.

In fact it is not a case of 'even when' they know the policies will be destructive of good, it is 'because' the policies are destructive of good: that is what evil means.

*

And it you ask how it is possible for a person to be active in pursuit of evil, then I advise you to read the Old Testament (or Tolkien) for numerous examples.

Such people are not so much to be regarded as the ultimate origin of their own evil, but in the grip of evil; consenting to and embracing evil by an act of will which feeds upon itself.

But don't ever expect acknowledgment of truth from evil. It is characteristic and intrinsic of evil to lie.

*

People ask which is most likely "cock-up or conspiracy?" - incompetence or active planning?

Un-ask the question, these are not the options. Things are much worse than that.

The options are basically good people accidentally doing harm or purposive evil deliberately destroying good.

And it makes a big difference which is true; because if you treat purposive evil as if it was accidental harm, you will not stop it, but make matters worse.

When the destruction of good is actively (albeit covertly) being sought via policy; then starvation, disease and violence are seen as a feature, not a bug.

*

Friday, 21 June 2013

I require of theology...

*

A comprehensible and coherent account of

the necessity

of the experience

of incarnate mortality;

for Mankind, for each Man, and for Jesus Christ.

*

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The dementing society

*

We live in a society of declining intelligence, diminished capacity to store new memories; and which deploys fluent and superficially-plausible confabulation to generate pseudo-explanations of causal links between current events.

Our society is therefore closely analogous to the state of a dementing person.

*

Confabulation is seen most extravagantly in chronic alcoholics with Korsakoff's syndrome. These people are almost unable to form new memories, and suffer gaps in their long term memories; but are sometimes fluently able to fabricate (i.e. confabulate) superficially-plausible explanations to account for the current situation and answer any questions which may be put to them.

They retain a fair degree of empathic social skills, by which they can (in effect) manipulate other people into giving them the benefit of the doubt for these confabulations - such that presence of dementia may go unnoticed for some time, and the degree of dementia be underestimated.

*

Something similar may be seen i the dementia of an intelligent person: for example the poet and novelist Robert Graves.

If you follow, chronologically, the many interviews he gave throughout his life (for example in the book Conversations with Robert Graves) or read his short essays - knowing that Graves ended his 90 year life in a state of profound and progressive dementia, one can track the changes back to at least 20 years before his death.

What can be seen are bizarre statements backed by confabulations drawing upon his vast long term memory; a manipulative chumminess or mateyness, and behind that (if video interview evidence is studied) a fatuous quality to his emotions - a disconnect between what he said and the way he said it - a kind of blankness behind the eyes.

There was an absence of critical thinking based upon joined-up analysis; and a reliance upon perseverative and disconnected, slogan-like assertion of conclusions/ obsessions/ maxims arrived-at in earlier life.

Graves's interviewers did not notice or excused this on the basis that Graves was a 'Great Man' - just as we do not notice or excuse similarly senile incoherence on the basis that Harvard, or Oxford, was a 'Great University'; or that The Times of New York or London was a 'Great Newspaper', or the BBC was a 'Great Institution'.

*

If we thus regard our modern, media-dominated society as if it were a person - then dementia is a close analogy for what we find in the elite, intellectual mass media, universities, legal profession, science, medicine and so on.

The fatuousness of modern 'high brow' intellectual discourse, its shallow incoherence, its use of arbitrary linkages, its dependence upon emotional manipulations and a willingness of the consumer to give the producer the benefit of the doubt... all this is typical of contemporary intellectual discourse.

It is therefore as if the world of elite intellectual discourse was the dementing-remnant of a great and charming creative intellectual like Robert Graves - garrulously recalling bits and pieces from a vast memory, and generating shallow and superficially-appealing or vaguely-plausible ad hoc explanations, connections and associations - relying utterly on the indulgence and goodwill of an audience who are, as it happens, themselves in much the same state.

*

A crude classification of societies by average intelligence

*

Average intelligence constrains the complexity of societies.


(Note: The level of intelligence does not guarantee complexity - complexity can be suppressed. Also, complexity can be imported from more- to less-complex societies. Also intelligence is necessary but not sufficient - average personality/ or 'national character', in particular, is very important.)

*

Assuming current average intelligence among natives in England as IQ 100:

115 - (i.e. average intelligence in England 120 years ago and probably for several hundred years previously). Can sustain an extremely complexly differentiated and specialized modern society based on continual medium term economic growth and the expectation of such growth, and underpinned by a continual stream of major technological breakthroughs.

(Note: breakthroughs  also require creativity, very high intelligence is necessary but not sufficient.)


100 - Can not sustain modern society; but can sustain a large scale and complex but static agriculture and trade-based society. Innovations and breakthroughs happen but are too infrequent, dispersed and insufficiently revolutionary to affect the basic nature of the society - they simply lead to a greater population density and per capita wealth reverts to pre-innovation levels.

In the long term a society with an average IQ of around about 100 will stabilize at a no-greater-complexity than that of a moderately-complex but essentially static agrarian society - with moderately large cities, and moderate societal specializations - something like the Roman Empire. 


85 - Simple agriculture, pastoralism, limited specialization of social function. No cities - only villages and towns. Simple technology.


70 and below - Immediate return hunter gatherer lifeways. Very little technology, no long term food storage, very little social differentiation, highly egalitarian.

*

Given that The West has probably gone from 115 to 100 in about 150-200 years (actually, I think the change has been somewhat greater or faster than this); it is interesting to speculate how far and how fast the process could continue.

Of course, at some point, social breakdown will reimpose the extreme harshness of natural selection on those of lower intelligence, but in the short to medium term, warfare, starvation and disease may mean that intelligence may continue to be selected against for a long time.

It seems conceivable, therefore, that the extreme rapidity of intelligence decline may - with a time lag, as societies benefit temporarily from the residual technological legacy of their ancestors - lead to a considerable overshoot of intelligence decline; such that there may be a reversion of two steps, not one.

The West may go all the way from modernity to simple agrarian societies - passing only briefly through a phase of complex agrarian 'empires' - in the space of a single digit number of generations from now.

*

What are currently called 'examinations' would have been called 'cheating' a generation ago

*

Yes, I know I've said it before, but I'm saying it again.

Giving someone unsupervised work to complete is not an examination except where there is an atmosphere of trust, selection by trustworthiness; and very strong, public and actually-imposed sanctions against those who betray that trust.

Sans this, there is simply endemic cheating; such that the honest non-cheat is harshly penalized for doing their own work instead of passing-off somebody else's work (quite possibly their own teacher's work, such is the ubiquity of corruption) as their own; and the results of such evaluations become essentially impossible to interpret.

And that, my friends, is the world we live in!

*

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

MA Woodley's Treadmill metaphor to explain why the decline in intelligence from dysgenic selection is so much faster than was the rise in intelligence from eugenic selection

*

In an epic telephonic conversation I had with Michael Woodley yesterday, he came up with a brilliant, clear and useful metaphor to explain why it is that although it might take (say) 24 generations to raise general intelligence by one standard deviation, it has only taken about 6 generations to reduce intelligence by the same amount.

*

'Eugenic' selection to increase intelligence is like walking at 5mph on a 4mph treadmill going in the opposite direction.

This is because eugenic selection is a mutation-selection balance mechanism, in which natural selection is working against existing levels of inteligence due to a significant level of spontaneous deleterious genetic mutations; such that most of selection is simply a process of filtering-out the continually recurring mutations.

Most of natural selection is thus a Red Queen phenomenon of running fast just to stay in the same place.

*

So, intelligence-reducing mutations are the 4mph adverse treadmill which natural selection is walking against - but positive selection for higher intelligence was so powerful during the medieval era (with near zero reproductive success for those of low intelligence) that intelligence increased at (say) 5mph - so that there was progress at a rate of 1mph.

But suppose that natural selection stopped working to increase intelligence, and indeed began to work against intelligence - what would happen?

Well, even if natural selection merely stopped, and did not reverse, supposing that nothing more happened than natural selection ceased to filter-out the spontaneously occurring deleterious mutations - then this would correspond to the person walking more and more slowly, and then standing-still on the treadmill: then the treadmill would sweep the person backwards at 4mph.

*

This merely by the stopping of natural selection to favour intelligence, there would be a rapid decline in intelligence.

But in addition, to the 4mph backwards, which would by itself rapidly undo hundreds of years of intelligence gains - the past 6-8 generations in England (and The West generally) have also seen a reversal of natural selection for intelligence - a dysgenic pattern of selection - such that the most intelligent have the lowest reproductive success, and vice versa.

*

SO - the reason that intelligence is declining so rapidly is that we are walking on a treadmill of spontaneous deleterious mutations, and the treadmill is tending to push intelligence backwards at (say) 4mph - but instead of walking forwards we have now turned around and started walking backwards - in the same direction as the treadmill.

We have added dysgenic selection to the already existing underlying tendency for intelligence to decline due to spontaneous mutations.

We have turned around on the treadmill and started walking briskly in the wrong direction - adding our (say) 3 mph walking pace to the underlying 4mph of the treadmill. 

And that is one way to understand why it is much quicker to undo intelligence gains than it was to generate them in the first place.

*


Note: This is obviously just a metaphor to get a specific point across! Don't, please, get hung-up on the fact that - presumably - this thought-experiment treadmill must be miles long... This is a ladder to be used to ascend to a higher level of understanding, then kicked-away.

An alternative metaphor could be that natural selection for intelligence is swimming upstream against the flow of deleterious mutations.

For some hundreds of years in medieval times, the speed of swimming was  upstream faster than the flow of the river downstream and the swimmer advanced relative to the river bank. But over the past couple of hundred years Western man has turned-around and begun to swim downstream - adding the speed of his swimming to the speed of the current - and the river bank is now whizzing past.

It will not take long for the  downstream swimmer to get back to the point at which he began his gradual journey upstream, and probably he will overshoot it; to find himself a lot further downstream than where he began.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Haiku: *Everything* lost in translation

*

The lamest translation of the lamest poem ever written in the history of the world:

The old pond,
A frog jumps in:
Plop!


Matsuo Basho translated (ahem) by Alan Watts

from

http://www.bopsecrets.org/gateway/passages/basho-frog.htm

*

Are there any good Haiku in translation? I've read an inordinate number of the blimmin things, since I came across them heavily recommended by JD Salinger - and never found one that rose even to the level of mediocrity as a poem.

*

Double-negative morality - the triumph of secularism

*

...may be summarized as follows:

I feel there is no compelling reason why I should not go-along-with current practices and prevailing trends.

*

Modern morality is thus not, or not typically, actively evil - it is instead conforming to evil; and this conformity is not active but rather has a double-negative quality.

Of course, once a person has gone-along-with evil (because he feels no reason not to) then he will be corrupted by that collusion - and will usually come actively to embrace that evil, to defend it, then to propagate it - but the initial move is more of an un-principled acquiescence.

Such behaviour appears cowardly - indeed it is cowardly; but much of this cowardice arises because courage is neither activated nor mobilized; and courage fails to deploy because there are no grounding beliefs which demand implementation; or which, when violated, cause a strong reactive response.

*

This, then, is the triumph of secularism.

Not to make men actively pursue evil en masse; but to subvert, erode, demotivate, confuse and relativize-away any grounds men might have for resisting or failing-to-go-along-with consensus.

Then, consensus can be driven incrementally towards evil by even a tiny proportion of strategically-wicked persons - and this will passively be followed by the mass, because there is no compelling reason not to follow it.

*

A positive marriage/child ratio - index of ruling class decadence

*

When a significant proportion of the the ruling elite have had been married more often than the number of their children, then that society is deep into decadence.

Thus an average marriage/ children ratio of above 1 in a group is evidence of exceptionally deep psychological pathology of the self-loathing-suicidal type.

*


Note: Of course the above does not apply to each individual person, since individuals have different callings and serve different societal functions; but it does apply to cohesive groups such as The Ruling Class, or religious denominations/ atheists, or nations. 

Monday, 17 June 2013

Escaping alienation into Art, or maybe Mythology?

*

I think I first became fully aware of alienation - the meaninglessness, purposelessness, disconnectedness of mainstream modern life - in the summer of 1981 (a very similar summer and in the same place as this one, which is why I am reminded of it) when reading JD Salinger's 'Glass Family' novellas (Raise High the Roof Beam Carpenters, Franny, Zooey, Seymour).

*

What I got from Salinger, was that the escape from alienation was into Art - probably into being an artist (and thus living inside the process of creation); and this became as kind of 'hidden agenda' for me from that time and for many years.

(Salinger also talks much of Eastern Meditative religions and of a Christianity seem through this lens - but these are means to Art, rather than ends in themselves.)

Escape into Art didn't work - and probably it never really has worked^, except maybe with Goethe - although one can be misled into thinking it has worked by artistic recreations of an artist's life.

*

Around 20 years later I engaged with Joseph Campbell and began to re-re-re-read Jung from the perspective that alienated meaninglessness could be cured by escaping into myth - and that myth was actually a representation of humanity's shared inner reality.

Thus myth, heroic journeys and quests; stories from all kinds of places and cultures which seemed to have a special power, breadth, resonance; were perceived as symbolically depicting not merely the escape from misery, or the search for pleasure, nor even the pursuit of assimilating ecstasy... but an adventure or task undertaken for the well-being of other people, of the community.

But this simply kicked the can further down the road.

Because if my life would not be justified - wold not be meaningful or purposeful - by seeking comfort, distraction, and ecstasy - then why should things be different when my life is dedicated to enabling increased comfort, distraction and ecstasy for other people?

Somewhere, there has to be some-thing worthwhile in and of itself.

*

One response to my earlier desire to escape alienation into Art had been to leave medicine for science - which was supposed to sustain and advance medicine; then to leave science for Art, specifically the study and practice of literature - which I supposed to be the 'end' for which medicine and science provided the 'means'.

Yet Art turned out to be just another means, and not an end in itself.

*

What of mythology? I perceived mythology to underlie Art, to be even-more-fundamental than Art - such that the best Art was mythical.

Yet if myth was supposed to move us, I found that sometimes it did and sometimes (more often) it didn't - and although myth was asserted to be universal and powerful (The Power of Myth was the name of Joseph Campbell's popular PBS TV documentary) - in actuality myth often was not powerful, and no myth seemed to be universally powerful - such that most people preferred soap operas, sexual titillation and trashy news stories and never exposed themselves to actual myths or anything approaching such.

So myth turned-out to be as atomic, subjective and variable, and as alienated, as anything else in modern culture - not an answer nor an antidote.

*

Only after I had exhausted medicine, science, art and mythology did I finally turn to religion; and to Christianity, which I had previously always excluded from my search.

And there was the answer - the problem framed, described, its consequences delineated. Staring me in the face.

*

^The Re-enchantment of the World: Art versus Religion, by Gordon Graham