Saturday 31 December 2011

Good habits and civilization - especially prayer


A devout life is not much about the flash of understanding but is mostly a matter of using insights into truth in building-up good habits; and this can be influenced by our will.

Modern society is a mechanism for inculcating bad habits, especially the habit of seeking instant pleasure, intoxications and distractions; a habit of regarding ourselves as passive recipients for 'entertainment'.

Against this we can inculcate Good habits - such as frequent participation in Holy Communion, reading of Scripture and devotional books (spiritual 'injections' as Fr Seraphim Rose called them), and most of all a habit of prayer.

I think that the use of one or a few repeated short prayers is especially valuable in modern conditions.

This practice is especially associated with Orthodox mysticism, and has a remarkable 'track record'; but it need not be Orthodox nor mystical.

The prayer chosen was traditionally drawn from scripture - the New Testament or Psalms or Prophecies. Or there is the Jesus Prayer - which has various versions.

The prayer is repeated and repeated whenever the need for prayer is remembered. There is no delay in finding a 'suitable' place or adopting a posture; as soon as the need is remembered the prayer is said (either quietly with the lips or in the mind).

Repetitions can be counted-off on the fingers - or with a device such as a prayer rope or rosary (maybe concealed in the pocket).

As the habit develops it will be found that sometimes the prayer comes to mind or is already running through the mind or being said unconsciously and without intention, and this is itself a reminder to pray consciously and with attention now.

The prayer can function as an alarm call; whenever we surface from the maelstrom of the modern world there is the prayer, ticking away, and reminding us of the real things.

A good habit to acquire!


Friday 30 December 2011

Guard yourself against the world?


Archbishop Averky also quoted often the words of St. Ignatius Brianchininov:

"Do not dare to raise your weak hand to stop the elemental tide of apostasy. Avoid it, protect yourself from it, and that is enough for you. Get to know the spirit of the times, study it so you can avoid its influence whenever possible."

Cited in

From its provenance, this must be taken as authoritative - assuming we can interpret it correctly.


The interesting thing is that the Saint's advice is the opposite from normal worldly advice which I used to follow. The worldly advice was that one had a kind of duty to expose oneself to the worst that the world could throw at you, otherwise you were shirking life, living in an ivory tower - otherwise you didn't truly know life.

The truly virtuous man could, and would, live among the seamiest characters and grossest experiences (whether actual or vicarious in art and the media) - and only by doing so would his virtue be proven.

Such was the worldly advice which I followed...


The worldly advisers knew what they were about, knew that if exposed to unrelieved and engineered temptation and horror 24/7 - then all but the most saintly would succomb to sin and despair; and that if everyone was exposed to incessant temptation and horror from an early age so that they never got clear of it, then there would be no saints.


H/T commenter Pierre.


The profound evil of non-judgment


Political Correctness says: Don't judge - don't be prejudiced.

Christianity says: Judge everything, superficial or deep - because everything is tending either to the good or to the bad.

Christianity says: Be prejudiced about everything -  because your attitude to good and bad things must be different.


Only, be prepared to revise your judgements or prejudices in light of further developments. You must judge and be prejudiced, but as a fallen Man these will err.

Only God knows justice and the truth - but we must judge as best we can, guess the nature of things as best we can - grow to be like God as best we can.


Thursday 29 December 2011

Six problems for modern Christian apologists - and a solution?


Historical Christianity came into an already religious world and won converts from Jews and then pagans - the modern situation of converting secular, materialist, utilitarian hedonists is very different:


1. Paganism absent

Christianity is a much bigger jump from secular modernity than from paganism. Christianity seemed like a completion of paganism - a step or two further in the same direction and building on what was already there: souls and their survival beyond death, the intrinsic nature of sin, the activities of invisible powers and so on. With moderns there is nothing to build on (except perhaps childhood memories or alternative realities glimpsed through art and literature).


2.  Incomplete

Modern Christianity as experienced by converts tends to be incomplete - precisely because modern Christianity has nothing to build on. This means that modern incomplete Christianity lacks explanatory power, seems to have little or nothing to say about what seem to be the main problems of living. For example, modern Christianity seems to have nothing to do with politics, law, art, philosophy or science; to inhabit a tiny, shrinking realm cut-off from daily concerns. Modern Christianity often deletes miracles; original sin; the virgin birth, the incarnation and dual nature of Christ; Christ's death, resurrection and atonement; the Holy Trinity; angels, demons and unseen spiritual warfare and so on - yet without these and other elements, Christianity does not really hang-together nor does it satisfy human yearning.


3. Shallowness.

Modern Christianity often feels shallow - it seems to rely on diktat of scripture and the Church - this is because moderns lack a basis in the spontaneous perceptions of Natural Law, animism, the sense of active supernatural power in everyday life. Modern Christianity (after the first flush of the conversion experience) thus feels dry, abstract, legalistic, prohibitive, uninvolving, lacking in purpose. 


4. Judaism absent.

Modern Christianity has to do without the centuries of Jewish tradition developing an understanding of the nature of God, the prophets and their prophecies, the devotional life of the Psalms etc; but modern Christians have to discover all this from scratch and for themselves, and often do not.


5. Confusion.

Modern life is hedonic, distracted - often drugged. Consequently people are often unclear about the nature of life. On top of this, in recent decades the prevalent ruling culture has been actively against the Good. Modern art is anti-beauty, modern philosophies are anti-truth, modern morality is an inversion of Natural Law. Propaganda (implicit and explicit) inculcates that the spontaneous ideals of humans (native religion, sex differentials, family, nation, loyalty, courage) are wrong. In sum moderns are deeply (deliberately) confused about deep matters. Therefore, modern Christian apologists have to explain the human condition, the basic nature of life; before explaining how Christianity is the answer.


6. Anti-Christian inoculation

The ruling culture now inoculates specifically against Christianity and the prerequisites of Christianity. It supplies ready-made arguments grounded in modern materialist hedonism to be used against all evidence or steps in argument that might lead to Christianity if rigorously followed. Christian apologetics cannot advance one step without eliciting these slogans, and modern impatience, distractability and a short attention span does the rest. That these hedonic materialist arguments are circular, incoherent and ungrounded is irrelevant in practice; because they effectively block the development of an alternative metaphysics from which their invalidity would be apparent.


In sum - modern Christianity lacks both pull and push - it lacks the pull which comes from people being grounded in Paganism and Judaism; and it lacks the push of being a complex and complete explanation of the human condition, relations, meanings and purposes.  If apologists both know and also attempt to supply all of this, to supply the depth and completeness of Christianity, they find they cannot do so all at once. If they try to be exact and comprehensive, the apologist comes-up against the modern inability to follow a long and complex line of argument; yet if he tries to present Christianity all at once then what can be communicated is inevitably a gross simplification: incomplete and shallow.


So what is the answer? If the fullness is too complex and the essence is incomplete?

And since people cannot become like pagans or ancient Jews - from where could they start?

Perhaps as children again, children re-awoken and reborn in us; since children have spontaneously the prerequisites which our culture fails to provide and has suppressed:

Mark 10.13-16

And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.
But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.

Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.


How strange that children should be our repositories of ancient wisdom - and childhood memories the basis of salvation; but there it is, explicitly - Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein....


Wednesday 28 December 2011

Deliberate self-mutilation is an evil


If someone was to spray-paint Durham Cathedral with graffiti, or slash all the best paintings in the National Portrait Gallery, or blast a Vuvuzela during the climax of a great operatic performance - we would (or, at least ought to) recognize these as evil acts in their varying degrees; as destructive the Good.

We should not be distracted because deliberately wrecking Great Art, deliberately marring beauty, is somehow 'not as bad' as torturing or killing - wrecking Great Art is bad: that is the point. 


The same applies to the human face and body - deliberately to mutilate the human face and body is bad, is destructive of Good, is evil.

It is an act of desecration - a vandalism of sanctity.

And this is an objective fact - not a matter of opinion.


(As we all covertly recognize: our very viscera inform us of the fact.)

Even worse when the mutilation is permanent, scarring, cannot be undone.

Even worse when the mutilation is proudly advertized - so that others may be exposed to the act of evil; challenged to accept it, encouraged to emulate it.


Even worse when mutilation is normalized - brought into desirable situations in art, TV, movies, drama, news - into cultural institutions; into situations where the mutilation is accepted - perhaps after a struggle, or in face of ignorant hostility and prejudice - or simply made part of the background, assimilated unconsciously.

This is propaganda for evil - and far worse than oneself sinning (sin is inevitable in fallen Men; but the propagation - by favorable association, advertisement, by normalization - of sin is a voluntary act of  strategic evil).


Evil cannot be undone, but it can be repented.

However, only at the cost of Pride.

Advertizing, normalizing, boasting of sin is a highly regarded activity in the modern world - by contrast it is regarded as evil to point-out sin, to reject sin, to say that a sin is bad and should elicit shame rather than admiration - because to do so is hurtful - humiliating, even.

But repenting evil hurts, it ought to hurt - it reduces one's self-esteem and status among others to say 'I made a mistake, I did a bad thing'.

But that is what ought to be done.


Tuesday 27 December 2011

How should Reactionaries regard Conservatives? As seekers


There is a sense in which mainstream Conservatives are one of the worst enemies of Reaction.

This happens because - when effective - Conservatives make partial corrections that temporarily improve the situation without curing the underlying trend.

Effective Conservatives defer collapse but do not prevent it - and the longer collapse is deferred, the worse collapse will be when it eventually comes.


Yet of course Conservatives are much closer to Reactionaries than are out-and-out Leftists: Conservatives are more-nearly right/ Right.


What happens in modern socio-political life is that nuanced/ reasonable/ sensible/ moderate Conservative positions are continually being absorbed into Leftism/ Liberalism/ Political Correctness by default as the political 'centre' is moved ever Leftward...

Except in those exceptional instances when a Conservative perceives this assimilation as it begins to happen, takes a deep breath, makes a stand - then quantum-jumps into extreme, beyond the pale, Reactionary views.


This entails an inner rejection of modernity that is weird and indeed hypocritical; since nobody can live by it.

To the Conservative, the Reactionary is either crazy, or insincere - either way the Reactionary is seen not to be living by his beliefs, Reactionary beliefs are seen as inapplicable to 'real life'.

Yet this is the spiritual destination of Conservatism - pushed to the point of decision.

It is likely that few will make that inner decision, the quantum-leap, that road less taken: since all worldly considerations are against it.


But until a decision has already been made to take the broad path of the pragmatic mainstream; then the mass of Christian Conservatives should probably be regarded as 'friends of Reaction'; not for what they are but for what they might become.

Conservatives should perhaps be seen as 'spiritual seekers' on a path which may lead to Reaction, but as individuals who have not yet arrived at the fork in the way.


Monday 26 December 2011

Only one political principle for Christian Reactionaries


As Christians first, and reactionaries second, there is only room for one single, organising, inflexible reactionary political principle.


The Christian society is one organised-around the salvation of souls, or at least that is its ideal.

(Therefore, the Christian society is fundamentally different from the society we have.)

For Christian Reactionaries, political arrangements should be subordinated to retaining and growing the strength and possibility of Christianity.


Of course this does not at all mean that Christianity is the only important matter, since life cannot be divided and humans are corrupt, and almost all humans live 'in the world'.

It does not mean that The State/ Church should use 'compulsion' to engineer salvation. That makes no sense - the means must be the same as the end, and the end is that Christian salvation must be chosen, or not chosen.

(That is the necessity of Hell in the divine plan: because souls must be free to reject Christian salvation. This is perfectly explicit, and applies to angelic spirits as well as Men.)


Christianity is based on choice, on will; and the political principle must therefore also be based on choice, on will - that is on human attributes.

A Christian politics is necessarily a politics of individual choice - necessarily not (fundamentally) a system.

For the Reactionary Christian, civilisation must be fundamentally a thing of Man, of individual Men; therefore not of laws, rules, organisations, procedures, committees, votes, parliaments, panels, peer reviewing, nor democracy, nor mass movements, nor pressure groups...

Insofar as these things are necessary to civilisation, and they are, they must never be considered fundamental.


There is therefore no point, it is indeed counter-productive, to create blueprints for utopia for the perfect society that is Christian and much more.

Matters are too far gone, knowledge is too limited, that goal is too remote.


If we fight the battle on too many fronts, it will certainly be lost.

On the other hand, we must try to avoid being out-flanked - however this may not be possible with small forces.

The result may resemble a siege.


We cannot save everything, we must decide what it is vital to salvage.

In my opinion, when the nations and civilisations as a whole are anti-Christian then we probably, very probably, cannot save the current nation states and we cannot save our civilisation for the simple reason that Men are choosing not to save them.


There is no shortcut to the other side of salvation: we cannot make men want Good and then save them: salvation must come first: and repentance must precede salvation.


Societies have personalities (which are not the same, are the antithesis of, the results of votes and surveys and markets).

Modern Western societies must, as personalities, first acknowledge their sins (sin being the state of turned-away from God), and the cause of their sins; must take responsibility, repent, call for Divine aid.

This must come first, and it is pointless, no it is a dangerous delusion, to try and improve society without this; because it could be done only by coercion or trickery, and any apparent progress would swiftly be turned to its own undoing (since the apparent Good would in reality have come from the implementation of Bad intentions).


(contra Adam Smith, good results cannot ultimately comes from bad motivations but only briefly and delusively as a temptation; since over time bad motivations will thoroughly corrupt any well-intentioned system. Surely that is obvious by now? Isn't that precisely what we are experiencing?).


Thus the necessity for aiming fist-and-foremost at a state and practice of clear rejection of the world, and a humble acceptance of whatever consequences ensue.

(What possible inducement could people have to do this? - it might be asked. The answer is precisely the need for the conception of the wholeness of Christianity, that perceives the world as full or living intelligences ('angels') and life as Spiritual Warfare. From this perspective, suddenly, we are inside life and life is real with purpose and direction. This would be an infinite compensation for loss of worldly goods - if only we could hold to it; which we cannot, by our own efforts.)

Of course, as fallen Men, resolve will (almost certainly) fail, repeatedly; and need to be renewed; but ultimates outcomes are (as always) in the hand of Providence - and need not concern us.


As always, to a (simple) man of discernment, things are absolutely simple, what we need to do is absolutely simple.

And that state of simplicity and discernment is what needs to be striven for.


Sunday 25 December 2011

Happy Christmas!



Some misconceptions about motivations


I regard the Eastern Roman Empire as a kind of ideal society - in the sense that it seems to have been the most devout Christian society and with the fullest, deepest, highest kind of Christianity.

Byzantium seems to 'prove' or at least confirm that divine monarchy is the proper form of government, Empire the proper form of organization, that Christianity ought to permeate the whole life (and not be encapsulated away from the state), and that Christianity can reach its highest deveopment when led by the ascetic monsatic ideal; when productive of Saints and Elders.


Would it be true to say that I want to impose such an Empire on England, Britain, the West? To install a monarch, a Tsar, and re-organise life to emulate Constantinople?

And do I revere Byzantium because I personally crave to live somewhere of that sort?


Well, no and no.

The Byzantine ideal serves to show what can be done, how humans can be very different from now - how a society can be devoted to Christian ideals and richly civilised, yet tough enough to survive for centuries against strong and hostile forces.

Perhaps most impressively (for me, living here and now) a society which never lost faith in itself, never became self-loathing and suicidal; and which courageously chose to die rather than submit.


But Byzantium emerged from the Roman Empire when it became Christian; it became a fusion of Hebrew, Greek and Roman cultures with the Revelation; but it was not designed.

Spiritually, Eastern Orthodoxy was a completion of paganism, not a replacement.


But I am a product of modernity, hence cowardly and shallow and a lover of comfort and distraction. I would find it extremely hard to live under an Orthodox monarchy - in fact I would probably get sick and die in a few weeks.

So my motivations about such potential futures are - of course - abstract and fantasy-like.

If human society ought to be Christian rather than anti-Christian, devoted to salvation rather than peace and prosperity, a divine monarchy rather than a democracy, other-worldly instead of this worldly: honouring of Love rather than kindness, Courage rather than career, Authority rather than anarchy - and so on, then we would need something very different from what we have. 


But I don't really think much about it - legitimate Christian reactionary politics is not about imposing a blueprint; it is about pursuing spiritual goals, making choices, and seeing what emerges from these choices.

Even if successful (which is highly improbable), even before corruption took its toll; likely as not we would not get what we bargained for; because what would be Good for us would, no doubt, be considerably different from what we consciously wanted.

Byzantium happened because the people deserved it, by their holiness; we do not deserve it, we could not create or sustain it - and it will not happen.

If Westerners, en masse, were to repent and reform, then - maybe - in a hundred years or more we might get somewhere near Byzantium...


Friday 23 December 2011

Living on in memory solves nothing - Ceremonial Time by Hanson Mitchell


I commented recently on the fake modern 'insight' that death is not-so-bad because people live-on in memory, in our hearts

The bogosity of this insight is beautifully expressed in a beautiful book called Ceremonial Time: fifteen thousand years on one square mile by John Hanson Mitchell (1984), from pages 200-201.


The thing that had stalked me in the woods of Scratch Flat for all those years was nothing more than death.

But it came to me very clearly that morning that it was not simply my own death that walked a few steps behind me; it was the full realization that my own cohort will die, that everyone whom I now know, whom I have known, and whom I will know, is going to die; and that, in spite of this horrifying fact, the world, huge and momentous and indifferent, will carry one. 

There is no escaping this devastating reality. The mysticism of Tonupasqua and the supposed indifference of Pokawnau, the bear shaman, will not alter it. The solid foundations and heavy timbers of the seventeenth-century English structures on Scratch Flat could not alter it, and for that matter, neither will an account of fifteen thousand years of history on a square mile of land.

No matter where I looked, in the running walls that line the woodlands, in the folktales of the American Indians, or in the town records or verbal accounts of the area, I realized I was reading the obituary of my era...

Time has obliterated and will obliterate all the places and all the living individuals of this earth in its course, and we are living in a little match snap of light and life in a dark and dead universe and there is not much that can be done about it in the end. 

I found the thought curiously comforting...


Mitchell has never yet gone deeper than this in all his subsequent work: his subsequent work is perhaps precisely part of the 'curiously comforting' carrying-on of light and life in a dark and dead universe.


Mitchell's perspective is, in other words, pagan - as he is perfectly aware, however top-dressed with post-modern irony - it is the ground position of those who face the human condition honestly and insightfully and without divine revelation.

The conclusion of Ceremonial Times is a recognition that all the good things of life are floating soap bubbles - they are beautiful for a moment, then they burst; and  soon after observing this we burst also.


Mitchell has responded to this insight by blowing more beautiful bubbles, becoming absorbed in the task, imaginatively dwelling in the beautiful bubbles...

But always lurking in the background is that awareness.


To say that mortality is not-so-bad is to forget all this, or to suppress it.

When we watch a beautiful soap bubble burst, that loss is not solved by our having watched it happen and remembering, because we too will burst and everyone who saw us burst will themselves burst too.

Memory changes nothing about the reality of mortality except to displace the problem by one step.

Essentially, memory it is a distraction from the truth.


The only solution to mortality is im-mortality - everlasting life.

The only memory that solves anything is perfect, complete, absorbing, re-experienced reality - yet human memory is imperfect, incomplete, unreal, and decaying.

So, the only real solution to the inevitable change and decay of life in Time is Eternity: life out-of-Time.


Thursday 22 December 2011

Fake boobs for women, fake bods for men


Because of silicone-fake-boobs there are now women around of a body shape that did not exist a generation ago and never had existed throughout human history. And indeed, in moderation, this is the most admired female shape in the mass media.

Likewise - but much less remarked upon - because of anabolic steroid-fake-bods, there are now men around of a body shape that did not exist a generation ago and never had existed throughout human history. And indeed, in moderation, this is the most admired male shape in the mass media.

But, due to a differential susceptibility of men and women to the influence of the mass media, and differential ability to discriminate mass media depictions from real life; this means that we now have a generation of women whose real life ideal of male attractiveness is (unknown to them) wholly a product of anabolic steroid use.

Just an observation...


Why the Left always beats the secular Right in democracy


Both the Left and the secular Right derive from the same deep root – utilitarianism. The only difference is one of emphasis.


The Left emphasizes transcendental morality/ virtue, the secular Right emphasizes transcendental truth/ honesty.


Because feeling oneself to be virtuous is much more popular than feeling honest, and because people hate wickedness much more than they hate lies, the Left will always beat the secular Right.


Wednesday 21 December 2011

Personal intellectual breakthroughs of 2011


Some things that spring to mind (all are linked):

1. Properly engaging with the ideas of Rupert Sheldrake - accepting the metaphysical value of morphic fields and morphic resonance.

2. Relating morphic fields to the nature and activities of angels.

3. Understanding the relationship between Time and Eternity as set out in Boethius's Consolations of Philosophy. Consequently, understanding the retrospective effects of prayer and the way that prayers for the dead can be conceptualized.

4. Understanding Christianity as the completion of paganism and the reality of animism - especially from considering the medieval universe as set-out by C.S Lewis.


All of the above were helped, behind the scenes, by e-mail interchanges with a new penfriend of 2011 -  commenter Kristor.


Any other lists of personal breakthroughs 2011 from commenters?  


Three little words - in The Lord's Prayer


Three little words in the Traditional Anglican version of the Our Father seem to represent the infinite perils of modernization, and yet in themselves them seem to be an example of reasonable and cautious modernization.


The Book of Common Prayer 1662 version was in use for about ten generations universally, and I learned it as a child attending a Church of England school:

Our Father, which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done,
in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
[For thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever.]


At some point, three little words were changed:

"Our Father, which art in Heaven" - and this was modified to "who art in Heaven".

"Thy kingdom come, in Earth as it is in Heaven' - which was modified to "on Earth".

"As we forgive them that trespass against us" was modified to "those that trespass against us".

I'm not sure when this change was made, maybe 1928, but it spread gradually and widely.


In some ways the change to three little words made an almost imperceptible difference - certainly it did not destroy much of the power of the language.

In another sense they make the prayer slightly clearer to modern ears.

And yet - changing three little words was the first step that led to the horrors of the paradoxically named 'Common Worship' which is (apparently) the most commonly used form now:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.

Which is merely a literal translation of the poem - an 'executive summary' of the Lord's Prayer (complete with invisible bullet points). 


We now see that there should have been no meddling.

If people really cannot understand the usage of which, in and them (and the idea is nonsense since the meaning is obvious from context) - then the meaning should have been explained to them.

The prayer should not have been changed at all, not even by three little words.


Tuesday 20 December 2011

Iain McGilchrist's The Master and his Emissary


The Master and his Emissary: the divided brain and the making of the Western world.

Iain McGilchrist, Yale University Press, 2009.


If you are interested in the brain and consciousness, this is one of the best books ever written.

Indeed, it is such a good book of its kind (philosophically-informed science) that it reveals with great clarity the limitations of the kind of book this is - the limitations, in other words, not only of science but of philosophy.


I will not try to summarize the book - suffice to say it is about the right and left hemispheres of the human brain.

Further information (and excerpts) are available at


Indeed, although I have been dipping-into and stepping-away-from the book for more than a year, I still keep coming across sections that jump out at me as if I hadn't seen them before.

Today I noticed on page 137:

If one had to characterise the left hemisphere by reference to one governing principle it would be that of division.

Manipulation and use require clarity and fixity, and clarity and fixity require separation and division.

What is moving and seamless, a process, becomes static and separate - things. It is the hemisphere of either/ or: clarity yields sharp boundaries.

And so it makes divisions that may not exist according to the right hemisphere.

Just as an individual object is neither just a bundle of perceptual properties 'in here', nor just something underlying them 'out there', so the self is neither a bundle of mental states or faculties, nor, on the other hand, something distinct underlying them.

It is an aspect of experience that perhaps has no sharp edges.


You won't find better quality scientific writing this side of Erwin Chargaff!

And for the sheer number and density of insightful and suggestive points, there is little else in this league.


Indeed, The Master and his Emissary is so good that you recognise where the book falls short of timeless greatness (although there is still time for a revised version which might scale this ultimate height).

As it stands, The Master and his Emissary is a brilliant and beautiful set of essays which is not unified due to a reluctance to ground its arguments in the metaphysical. It goes, that is, as far as science can go, and then as far as philosophy can go; but does not take the next step - which would be metaphysics, and indeed an explicit statement of religion.

The solution is pointed-at, implied, but not itself stated; not because a solution cannot be stated, but for whatever reason it is not stated.

It is, as a matter of fact, unstated - or at least not stated here.


The book is like a hemispherical dome that lacks its capstone - and therefore the book resembles a series of incomplete arches - each of which (because the dome is incomplete) requires substantial buttressing with the end result that the book needs far more 'building material' (words, evidence) than would be the case were the dome completed and self-supporting.


In other words, the component arguments are necessarily elaborated beyond what could potentially be an achievable level of clarity and brevity.


However, if The Master and his Emissary had indeed  been capped-off with its implicit key metaphysical and religious statement, then it would probably (in these corrupt times) have alienated both publishers and many sympathetic readers.

So it is quite understandable that this was not the case.

Nonetheless, it is a wonderful achievement, especially for the time and place it was published - very much an old style piece of scholarship, written from the heart by a man of exceptional brilliance and erudition who expended two decades of his best efforts on the task. .


Characteristics of discernment


What is the characteristic of a person of discernment: someone who perceives the truth among errors and lies, and is able to reject even the most cunning deceptions on the one hand, and spiritual pride on the other hand?


Discernment is quantitative, a matter of degree.

Even among Saints and Holy Elders there are degrees of discernment - only the highest and Holiest are infallible in discernment.


Persons of great and reliable discernment are not always to be found.

Indeed, such an ability is so rare as to be almost absent in the modern world; we are all prone to appalling lapses of judgement - yet of course we must judge.


(No natural means of judgement suffice - for example, although we cannot trust reason because it partial and fallible, neither can we trust gut feelings. Neither is revelation sufficiently plain and specific to be a clear guide to the corrupted soul in times of devious temptation.)


Discernment is not an optional extra - it is of the essence; and yet because truth is a middle way and a narrow path there is no default, no safe option.


Clearly discernment is not attained by philosophy, nor by science, nor by sensitivity to the feelings of others, nor by arrogance nor hatred.

These negatives are easy and straightforward.

But what is the positive?


Discernment is straightforward, but of extraordinary difficulty.

Discernment is attained through Holiness, which is precisely what we lack.

Is that a paradox? No, because it tells us what we must do (non-optionally) and enough about how to proceed.


We need to be aware of the need for discernment, of our own lack of discernment, and what is necessary to solve problems of discernment.

We know what not to do (not to do what comes naturally, not to depend on logic, not to take an opinion poll), and we know what we should do (strive for greater Holiness).

Whether we achieve sufficient Holiness to attain necessary discernment is itself a choice; not entirely a choice, but necessarily a choice.


I am in serious danger of shutting-up about current politics forever...


I have been predicting (in blog comments) for the past two years that Obama would not run for a second term as President - that he would prepare an exit. I won't bore you with my reasoning, but I was as sure of this as I have been of anything in current politics. And I made a bet with myself that if I got this wrong, then I would shut-up about politics forever, since it would then be clear either that I knew nothing about the subject, or that it was impossible to know anything about the subject, or both. There is still time, but it certainly looks like my pol pundit days are numbered.


Monday 19 December 2011

"Differences in how we make sense of things" - A Jim Kalb comment

[This comment from Jim Kalb's blog seems worth preserving.]

Liberals justify by reference to what they see as reason—fairness and avoidance of harm. But their vision of those things is religious. It relates to some ideal world rather than the practicalities of this one.

You can see that in the attitude toward HBD. Natural differences that matter among groups of human beings are metaphysically impossible for them. Belief in them is dirty and somewhat uncanny. The EU is another example. It’s not a policy, it’s a metaphysical necessity. 

That being so, I don’t think their ideals are really fairness and avoidance of harm. If you take something limited and relative and dependent on facts and circumstances and turn it into a divinized absolute it’s not going to be the same thing any more. Ares and Aphrodite, taken literally as active divine presences, are not the same as war and sexual attraction simply as such.

You’re right that Republicans are a team. Their nationalism, for example, is a matter of rooting for Team America. But liberals are a religion. If you’re not a Republican you’re not on their team, but if you’re not a liberal, you’re not a legitimate human being. Is being on a team more of an in-group concern than being a legitimate human being? It’s less a purity concern for sure.

It seems to me that left-wing morality has to do with compliance with an infinitely demanding system of abstract concepts. That’s a purity concern. Among true believers, PC is purity purified. That’s one reason why—as you note—liberals often work very hard to prove their worthiness.

Why do you say liberalism needs the support of overwhelming numbers to triumph? Certainly not prior support. The overwhelming numbers of people can find something to like in almost any political view from Nazism to traditional monarchy to PC liberalism. The point is that they’re not the active factor. That’s why there have been so many different political regimes, each of which has seemed inevitable and overwhelmingly real while it has lasted.

I’d tend to explain why we get one regime rather than another less by differences in psychology, in the sense of desire and motivation, than differences in how we make sense of things—that is, in basic explanatory concepts. Such things are not just for intellectuals any more than grammar is just for grammarians. 

So on that view indoctrination would tend to work if it plausibly applies how people generally make sense of things in a particular setting. That’s an obvious reason why PC indoctrination works better than say Calvinist indoctrination among North American middle class whites in the year 2011. If you want Christian indoctrination that works you have to go to the most basic issues and deal with them seriously.


Statistical assumptions are not scientific assumptions


It is worth noting that frequentist statistics are built on the assumption of no difference between groups (that two groups are assumed to be random samples from a single population). 

From this assumption, which has nothing whatsoever to do with reality (and is essentially an historical accident derived from the work of Ronald Fisher on crop yields), we tend to assume there is no difference between groups unless 'proven' otherwise. 


Yet, in the case of human groups separated by scores of generations, and when looking at traits (such as 'g' - general intelligence and personality) which 

1. substantially affect reproductive success, and 

2. are substantially heritable - then this assumption of sameness is irrational. 


In other words, it would make more sense, scientifically (as opposed to statistically) to expect to find important differences in cognitive abilities and dispositions (including their magnitude and distribution) between separated human populations. 


Indeed, that was pretty much always the case in the past - people expected that 'strange' people would be different from themselves - often exaggerating the degree of difference to an absurd extent in travellers tales. 


We have gone crazily far in the opposite direction and not only expect, but statistically assume that there are zero differences in the mean and standard deviation of traits, and that apparent differences are due to sampling biases - except when this probability is very (albeit arbitrarily) low.


In practice, as we observe, there is never conclusive evidence to reject the 'null hypothesis' that all human populations everywhere are actually one population varying randomly and apparent differences are due to biased sampling - the null hypothesis can always be saved by ever more attention on real or imagined sampling errors - when people really want to save it.


And failing to reject the null hypothesis is falsely assumed to be 'proving' no difference - yet it is nothing of the sort. It is merely the default assumption of statistics, which is an arbitrary - indeed non-scientific, assumption. 


(Bayesian statistics claims to overcome this problem of frequentist statistics, but I think it leads to other problems and disagreements. In fact, common sense/ built-in human reason is enough to overcome the problem to the extent that it needs ot be overcome. .i.e The common sense that if things seem to be different, it is reasonable to proceed on the assumption they are different, until proven otherwise. This assumption of difference should not automatically be inverted, as it is with Leftism/ political correctness.)


How much nurturing does faith require? Does society matter?


There is an extreme position that all people in all societies have an equal chance of salvation, that the quantity of devoutness is fixed, that there are always about the same number of Saints at whatever time or place in the world.

Such a view is wrong: it denies free will of individuals on the one hand, and it denies that humans are 'in it together' on the other hand.

(It denies co-inherence - mutual in-dwelling.) 


Christianity places free will and the choice of the individual at the centre of salvation, yet the individual is not isolated but a part of Man, and men are united with each other, and with God by and via Christ.

Our personal choices therefore affects everybody; other people's personal choices affect us.

Good deeds do Good; but evil deeds do evil.

Not merely materially, which is obvious, but transcendentally - in a supernatural way.


When a mass of people in a society are devoutly Christian, this aids the others in salvation; but when a mass of people in a society are consumed by pride and are willing servants of evil - this harms the chance of salvation of others.

When many people in a society have made bad choices, have chosen pride rather than the Lordship of Christ, this is not merely a matter of numerous isolated choices, but an accumulating burden of sin.

This burden is not only felt at the level of a society of interacting humans, although it is felt very directly there, but everywhere in the world, and indeed everywhere in the universe.


Some societies are therefore better than others, some societies are worse than others - human choice makes a difference and not just to the person making the choice.

In some societies salvation therefore is 'easier', more probable, can reach a higher level of sanctity due to the help of others - however, the flip-side is that in other societies salvation is harder due to the effectiveness and ubiquity of temptations (to selfishness, to pride, caused by the choices of other humans) and because the individual would-be-Christian gets little help from others but instead gets misleading advice, deceptions and distractions.

The Biblical prophecies imply that the burden of sin is accumulative through human history, because the consequences of bad choices cannot be cleansed from this world (at least, not without destroying human choice); and that at some point therefore the world will be brought to an end - probably when the probability of any individual choosing salvation has dwindled to zero or close to zero.


In a sense, none of this is any of our business - certainly it is not necessary knowledge, either way we must make the best choices we can in the situation in which we find ourselves.

But - to deny the differences in Christian devoutness in different times and places and types of society is false: it is to damage one's discernment of Good from evil and may be a denial of the co-inherence of each with all. 


Sunday 18 December 2011

Living as a Reactionary Christian - a handbook of strategies and tactics


It strikes me that a useful 'book' might be written on this topic - bits of analyses and lists of suggestions.




Deathly Hallows Part II movie - What is the moral? - Part II


I re-watched the movie Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II last week - which confirmed my early view

(i.e. Flawed, but more importantly contains perhaps the most moving sequence of scenes I have ever seen in any movie - viz from the death of Snape up to include Harry's own death and the King's Cross limbo scene.)


The HP franchise movie's most serious weakness is their deletion of the deepest, and Christian, moral or message from the books.

This leaves the movies somewhat incoherent, and lacking in profundity.


But watching this time I noticed some attempt to replace the Christian core with a modern secular moral.

This moral is a version of the idea that - while there is no real immortality - and nothing truly survives death, the dead continue to 'live' in the minds' or hearts, of those who loved them.

(Yes, I know that this is nothing more than a play on words, but it is what passes for high minded and inspiring spirituality nowadays.)


There seem to be two key moments when this morality is given quite explicitly, and where the text of the novel has been changed.

In the chapter The Forest Again, Harry finds the resurrection stone inside the golden snitch left him by Dumbledore, and recalls from the dead ghostly - but real - images of his parents, Lupin and Sirius, who will accompany him through the forest repelling the dementors.

Harry asks Sirius, "won't they be able to see you?" and in the book Sirius replies no - "we are part of you, invisible to anyone else".

But in the movie, Sirius is given the line: "No, we're here you see" - and on the word 'here' he points a finger at Harry's heart.


In the book, Neville runs forward and tries to attack Voldemort and Nagini, and because he is a 'pure blooded' wizard is is asked to join the Death Eaters.

In the book, Neville replies "I'll join you when hell freezes over... Dumbledore's Army!"

In the movie Neville is given a set-piece speech (which made me cringe) in which he delivers what I felt was intended to be the moral:

"Yeah, we lost Harry tonight (pause) But he's still with us - in here!" Pointing to his own heart on the word 'here'.


My interpretation of these added and visually/ verbally linked scenes in the movie, is that they were an attempt to provide a secular and non-denominational equivalent for the excised Christian morality - and they were about as effective and convincing as such attempts always are - which is to say, hardly at all...


Saturday 17 December 2011

The deficit of discernment


A big problem in the modern spiritual life is the deficit of discernment - our inability to know Truth from Falsehood - to see-through deception.

This deficit is perfectly understandable, considering the weak and shallow nature of modern Christianity; yet it is devastating in this particular time and place, where evil walks in a multitude of disguises, and puts forth a kaleidoscope of temptations.

The spiritual life has mostly been eroded by softness, blurring, laxness - yet the alternative of strict 'ultra-correctness' (the unyielding observation of forms) is often not a solution, since it can too easily be impersonated, and too easily transforms from love to pride.

Perhaps the lack of discernment, and the consequent inability to hold the true middle way, is the single most important spiritual problem of all in the end times when lies come salted with truths, and purposive evil wears the cloak of virtue?

Perhaps if only we could recognise the path, then we would be able to tread it?

Perhaps it is discernment for which we should pray, even above all other gifts of Grace?


Friday 16 December 2011

Charles Williams and co-inherence - a residue of magic?


One of Charles Williams most important contributions as a theologian seems to have been to clarify, explain and emphasize the idea of co-inherence - and its related ideas of exchange and substitution.

The concept is that we are members one of another, and with Christ, and therefore can substitute for one another, for example in the exchange of suffering. 

As when I agree to take on your anxieties, and your anxieties might be taken on by me - or by a third party; so that we 'bear one anothers' burdens'. 

This also links to the taunt of Christ on the Cross - He saved others himself he cannot save" - this is assumed  to be a general observation about mankind - to be saved we must save others, and be saved by others. 

This makes the main plot of Descent into Hell, and features in the mature theology of He Came Down From Heaven and Descent of the Dove. 

But Williams pushed this idea too far, in my opinion. 

In Descent into Hell, especially, he detached it from Christian life, and made it a kind of technology - almost a magical therapeutic practice for the alleviation of anxiety and pain. 

Williams biographer - Alice Mary Hadfield, says she had a long running disagreement with Williams on precisely this point - the extent to which exchange and substitution could be practiced apart from Christianity: she said it couldn't - he said it could.

This strikes me as a residue of C.W's fascination with ritual magic as a young man, and his decade long involvement with A.E Waite and the 'Golden Dawn' movement.

Perhaps it was things like this which made CS Lewis say in a letter to his brother, tongue in cheek, that for all his sanctity (which Lewis acknowledged and appreciated more than almost anybody) there was something 'combustible' about Williams  - the sense that in another era he would have been burned for heresy, and (in a sense...) deserve it!


How could humans cope with immortality?


Life would be bearable only if cyclical, like Tolkien's primordial unfallen Wood Elves.

Each day the same, no planning, no history, not going anywhere - waking to a day of hunting, eating, singing, love of nature - then sleep.

No ageing nor sickness, no necessity of death - everything governed by instinct and custom.

No sense of the years passing, no accumulation of sorrows and regrets; no big projects, no purpose - just more and more of the same until the (unanticipated) end.


A life ultimately non-attached.

No meaning, no purpose - instead absorption.

A non-reflective life, an unaware life.

A life strikingly similar to non-Christian Heaven.  


Something missing?

Something big missing?

The human bit?

Yes, that's how it seems to me too.


To imagine a kind of timeless human perfection is therefore to reveal that to be merely human is fundamentally unsatisfactory, it is intrinsically wretched.

To be human is to be wretchedly incomplete, to be an animal is not to be human; to be truly human entails becoming a god - which (if to be a god is not to be merely an immortal human) requires God.

To be an immortal god is wretched unless in communion with God.


Thus human destiny - like it or not, choose it or not.


Thursday 15 December 2011

What has the internet ever done for us?


One word: distraction.


The internet was supposed to be revolutionary: the internet was supposed to deliver (among many other benefits):

Economic growth - a massive boost to economic efficiency.

Reduced travelling - as information was exchanged online - so massive reduction in road, rail and air usage, home working replacing offices and factories etc.

A better informed population, less subject to propaganda and manipulation by the mass media; free self-education replacing physical attendance at schools and colleges, a quantum leap in science and scholarship.


All these and more the internet has failed to deliver. It hasn't even delivered a plateau.

IF there were any such effects, they have been swallowed-up by much larger trends in the opposite direction.

Okay, there are lots of conveniences - but it really is stunning how anything so big, so pervasive, so time-consuming could yield up so very, very little.


The internet: all means, no end - all process, no product.


So the net effect of the internet, overall and on-average, has been:

More of the same stuff.


Wednesday 14 December 2011

The Orthosphere it is? Do Ortho bloggers and other Ortho people agree?


From reviewing the most recent discussion about what 'Christian reactionary' bloggers might call themselves,

my sense is that Orthosphere (coined by Kristor) seems (to my subjective judgement) have emerged as the 'winner'.

Plus the suggestion from Imnobody that it could be shortened to 'Ortho' as an adjective - as in

"ortho blogs, ortho people, ortho thought, ortho books. It is a new name, which is useful when you construct a new identity."


I didn't like the word Orthosphere at first - but just a few days have familiarised it, and it now seems quite natural.

I therefore propose that we go with Orthosphere.


Why Pascal's wager failed for me


The Pensees by Blaise Pascal seem to me much the best book about Christianity I have read; although it is hard to believe that I only encountered them in August 2010, so they have not had a chance to withstand the test of time for me.

I first heard of Pascal's Pensees some decades ago in reference to the 'wager' concerning the reality or existence of God; and knowing only this was enough to put me off reading the rest.


Because the 'wager' does not work under modern conditions, for people like me - modern society pre-immunizes us against any such arguments.

Perhaps mostly due to the fact that modern man is trained to believe that the concept of the soul is meaningless and there is permanent extinction of consciousness at death - therefore Pascal's wager works in the opposite direction from intended.

The 'safe' option of belief for moderns is therefore selfish, short-termist hedonism - on the basis that moderns only 'know' whether they are happy now and everything else is conjecture.

So Pascal's wager seems to suggest that it is 'foolish' to do anything other than optimize the current, here and now, state of well-being.


And because the wager does not work (stands no chance of working), or works in reverse; the fact that the wager is nowadays always linked with Pascal's Pensees serves to neutralize the whole book.

Which is useful for the powers of darkness if, as it seems to me, Pascal's Pensees is the single most important book of the truth of Christianity for modern people. 


Tuesday 13 December 2011

Q: Why do Christians pay *so* much attention to Lust?


A: Because it has been the preferred weapon of modernity, over the past half century.

In opposing Lust, Christians have been dueling the enemy, using a weapon chosen by the enemy. 


Lust is not a major sin in Christianity, not like Pride; but Lust is a major virtue for modernity - and a stalking horse for the other sins.

The gratification of Lust is used to justify more freedom of lifestyle, and this is used to reinforce Pride - which achieves the rest.


Leftism began by promising the mass of people food and shelter.

When food and shelter had been provided to everybody, albeit by capitalism not Leftism, Leftism shifted to promising the mass of people gratification of their sexual desires.

(Of course the primacy of Lust goes back a couple of hundred years among the classes who already had enough food and shelter.)


Leftism has emptied human life of all meaning and purpose and left humans isolated and atomized - yet all propaganda is directed against the one and only true solution to this self-created problem.

So distraction has become the primary mode of human existence, and this is where Lust comes in.


The distracting power of Lust, and its utter un-realism, has been built-up by modernity to a level where the reality of its psychological operations is so vast and encompassing that it is unbelievable when stated clearly.

Or not so much unbelievable, as humiliating.

(Are we really such pathetic creatures as to be led by the nose with ludicrously fabricated fantasies of Lust? Yes we are. Look around.)


Lust powers the modern world.

In our world as it has become, without Lust nobody would get up in the morning, nobody would talk to others, nobody would work, nobody would buy stuff, nobody would have anything to look-forward-to - people would have nothing to do, no reason for doing anything and - much worse - nothing to think about.

Of course Lust is very seldom actually gratified; yet the merest remote possibility of gratification is the most effective of all distractions.


Christianity has responded to this tsunami of Lust by trying to hold the line on specific points-of-Law - but with the exponential growth of mass media, mainstream Christianity has been like a pebble rolled by the tide.

Only those devout groups who cut themselves off from the mass media, who are actively hostile to modernity, have resisted.


So, the primacy of Lust is a consequence of the decadence that ensued from prosperity; since when it has become foundational to modernity as the primary motivator, Lust is that which lies behind most of the carrots offered by contemporary culture.

And mainstream Christians have been utterly unable to resist Lust because they are addicted to modernity.

Only those religious groups who have explicitly rejected modernity have resisted the primary distraction of Lust; and these are precisely the only organized groups which are now thriving, growing.


The West has been crazed by Lust, because Lust is all that it has.


Monday 12 December 2011

The Kalbosphere idea


My idea for naming the Christian reactionary blogosphere after Jim Kalb...

...provoked an interesting but inconclusive and fissile discussion.

Many of the suggestions for names either took the 'Christianity' for granted or ignored it and focused on the political dimension.

But for me this would be unforgivable - Christianity must come first, and must be the foundation of any socio-political views; and the Christianity cannot be assumed, especially not in the 'reactionary' blogosphere which is dominated by atheists (libertarians, nationalists etc).

So, my conclusion is that we should call ourselves...


unless anyone has anything better to suggest?

I have added a highly-selective 'blogroll' on this basis (noting that Daniel is a Christian seeker rather than a convert, as far as I know); and intend to re-label my blog accordingly (I mean as a 'Christian Reactionary' blog) - unless prevented by strong arguments over the next few days...


One alternative which I would certainly consider is REACTIONARY CHRISTIAN - on the basis that linguistically this has Christian as primary and reactionary as the modifier.

But, on the other hand, when Christian comes first in the order of words, it will be the first thing which people notice and focus upon.

So, I do not have a strong preference between the two - but CR does seem more easy to say and more memorable than RC.


Sunday 11 December 2011

A Charles Williams bleg...



What is it to live without sin? What is active evil?


I feel that the modern understanding of what it is to live without sin is mistaken.

This mistake means that the very worst sinners feel clean and pure, and react incredulously to any notion that they are faithful and diligent servants of evil such as have seldom been seen before on this earth. 


A man who lived without sin is not to be defined in terms of a man who objects all true and correct moral laws.

Rather, the man without sin is he who lives at all times in complete communion with God.


The correct understanding is only indirectly-related to the modern understanding of sin.

According to the modern understanding of sin, as breaking moral rules, the worst sinner is the one who breaks the most rules, or who breaks the most serious rules.

Therefore, for moderns virtue is measured in terms of behavior - that is in terms of objective, observable behaviour and how it corresponds to the laws of morality.


But the proper understanding of sin is mystical: to be sin-less is when the human soul is in continuous communication with God.

And by contrast, sin is not directly about behavior but about the soul being turned-away-from God, thereby by choice being cut-off from God - wholly concerned with the self.


Thus the meaning of Pride as the key sin - pride being the choice to prefer one's own will to God's will.


The modern secular Leftist elites do not perceive their own state of near-complete enthrallment to sin because they perceive themselves to be obedient to all the important laws of morality (especially after these moral laws have been revised and up-dated by people like themselves).

Modern secular Leftists do not recognize that their sin lies in the Pride of having turned away from God and trusting to themselves alone.

Indeed, modern secular Leftists perceive spiritually advanced Christians (including Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints) as sinful - insofar as they broken the rules of modern morality enshrined in political correctness.


This is a kind of ultimate in Pride: to set oneself in judgement over The Saints, the Mother of God and indeed God Himself.

Yet some of these people believe themselves to be Christians - and morally more 'advanced' than the Christians of the past!


We are (nearly) all sinners, humanity is wretched and (almost always) turned away from God and deep in Pride; yet sin is compounded, becomes active evil, when propagated deliberately, when propagandized, when subsidized, when enforced.

It is in this sense that the modern intellectual elites: politicians, bureaucrats and officials; lawyers; managers; journalists; teachers... are among the most evil people ever to have lived.

They not merely do evil impulsively, they not merely fail to discern evil, but strategically plan the triumph of evil - which they disguise from themselves and others by framing the world to exclude evil.

(By replacing evil with misery, they can do anything at all - so long as it can be rationalized as tending eventually, many steps down the line, to reduce the sum 'total' of misery.)

These modern creatures who rule the West (nothing like them has been seen before, except as isolated individuals or minute cults) are cut-off from God; they are nihilists (deniers of reality) and they zealously spread their disease.


They are so far gone that they find the idea of sin, of evil to be incomprehensible.

The reality of their own near-demonic state of sin is therefore literally incredible to them.

They lack the concepts to understand what they have become: because they have willfully-destroyed these concepts, and are now diligent agents of the destruction of these concepts in others.


It sounds bad: it is.

It sounds hopeless: it isn't.

I am describing my former self: repentance is possible no matter how far gone a person may be, it is never too late+.


+Strictly, never too late in this world; for so long as the choice can be framed and presented, it is never too late. Consider the 'Good' thief in Luke 23: 

39And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
 40But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
 41And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
 42And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
 43And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.


Saturday 10 December 2011



I don't like hymns - I much prefer a spoken Church service, using the traditional Anglican liturgy.

Obviously, I an wrong about this, in the sense that singing or chanting has always been a major part of Christian worship - in particular the psalms.

I acknowledge that far better Christians than myself have found music a valuable - even vital - element in worship.

And the Orthodox Church has the practise that only singing (not speaking) is permitted in services - although the 'singing' is often chanting a monotone (which I would regard as simply a means of vocally-projecting the words and of preventing vocal fatigue - monotone chant ought surely to be inflected just like ordinary speaking).

So, here I am being completely unreasonable...


But while chanting the liturgy and psalms are one thing, singing multiple hymns is quite another.

I really don't want to spend half an a hour of a Church service communally-droning half-a dozen or more multi-verse turgid hymns of vaguely praising sentiment - nor even short cheery hymns.

If I enjoy the music and my singing of it, then this is usually a non-Christian kind of enjoyment - an aesthetic enjoyment (or perhaps the enjoyment of group solidarity, like being in a football crowd).

Indeed, I used to enjoy hymns much more before I was a Christian than since I became a Christian - in fact the music was pretty much the only thing I used to enjoy about going to church; my enjoyment of hymns and the liturgy has been reciprocal, my spiritual life has grown with my hymnophobia!


I am backed-up in this hymnophobia by CS Lewis (who fought-against his hymnophobia, but found this difficult) and Charles Williams. Both, like me, preferred to attend the early, short, hymn-free communion or prayer services and evensong (which may be musical - but not usually hymn based) in the Church of England - rather than the main service of the day with its many hymns.

(Incidentally, these short Anglican services often also do not feature any 'sermon' or homily - which can be a valuable point in their favor in the case of politically correct priests.)

I wonder how many people are, like me, put off the whole idea of attending church by associating it with singing hymns and 'worship songs', and assuming that this is the proper focus of things?


Whether it is chanted or spoken sonorously, the formal Anglican liturgy (based on the Book of Common Prayer) and composed prayers are properly the focus in the services which I have personally found most valuable - the services are mostly stereotypical (the same every time) although elements change through the Church year.

These services contain the ancient wisdom and eternal perspective which we most need; whereas the improvised prayers, hymns and songs, and sermons are the place - too often - where worldliness has penetrated the Church, and taken over all-but completely.

When there is no ancient liturgy, when the words have been and continue to be changed and 're-translated' (i.e. brought into line with modern secular morality), when the forms and orders of activity are lost (I means elements like the creed, confession, Agnus Dei), when the prayers are topical and focused on utilitarian goals - then the Church is left wide-open to corruption, and has no fortifications for resistance.

And standing around and singing multiple hymns together is merely an off-putting distraction...


Friday 9 December 2011

A step back from the abyss - a topical news post


Regular readers know that I never blog on news items, which is why I feel compelled to mention that England today took one step back from the abyss that is the European Union.

Of course that leaves us just one step away from the abyss, but still, I'm pleasantly surprised... no, more than that, I am astonished.

The question is whether the Prime Minister has repented and this represents the first day of a new era; or whether it is today's step back which he will repent, and for which he will henceforth attempt to atone - in which case it will be business as usual, only more so.


Mozart's small operatic ensembles - the heights?


Whatever I think in theory, when I am actually hearing some of the duets, trios and small ensembles from Mozart's greatest operas - these seem to me the height of musical achievement.

I am thinking of things like the parts of Act 1 with the three ladies and/or three boys in The Magic Flute, or Papageno and Pamina's duet; or Soave sia il vento from Cosi, or the Letter duet and Act 4 Finale from Figaro...

Of these, above all I perhaps love the little scene where Tamino and Papageno get their flute and bells.

I mean this section - albeit not this performance nor the recording quality:

Presumably this says a lot about me! but the lightness, the little orchestral touches and transitions, the harmonization of voices, the simplicity and sentiment, humanity and glimpsed divinity... well, only Mozart could do this; and perhaps this kind of thing is for me a higher achievement than any other in music.


Blind spots in the Arts


I am very sensitive and discriminating in relation to the literary arts (prose, poetry, drama), and also to music including singing; less sensitive to the visual arts - highly responsive to portraiture and architecture (and landscape); and hardly-at-all responsive to sculpture (Rodin is the one and only sculptor to move me); and I am almost-completely artistically insensitive to 'dance' such as ballet (I might enjoy the music and animal grace and beauty of the dancers - the not the artistry of 'dance' as such).


Some people have a *very* specialized artistic sensistivity: Charles Williams lived for poetry and literature but was completely indifferent to the visual arts and even to landscape; and was 'tone deaf' - in other words found music meaningless, could not sing in tune and was unaware that he could not sing in tune.


Thursday 8 December 2011

Should Christian reactionary blogs be called the Kalbosphere?


I suggest that we Christian reactionary bloggers might call ourselves the Kalbosphere on the basis that James Kalb (currently at Turnabout) is our 'blogfather'.

JK founded View from the Right - currently run by Lawrence Auster and VFR budded-off the Thinking Housewife. There are some ace commenters here too, like Kristor and Alan Roebuck.

Other Christian reactionary blogs that I read regularly - and comment at - include Bonald at Throne and Altar, Proph at Collapse: The Blog, and Daniel at the new blog Out of Sleep (strictly, he is a Christian seeker at present).

We form something of a micro-network within the Kalbosphere, and there may be others?

e.g. Jim Kalb kindly blurbed my Thought Prison book, and it was reviewed on T&A and Collapse, and Daniel's comments helped in writing it. 

I am not sure what Jim Kalb would have to say about this idea - and strictly speaking Bonald did not lineally derive from the Kalb-sphere of influence (I don't think).

So maybe they would object...


The 'Kalbosphere' name corresponds to the Secular Right paleo-conservative 'Steveosphere' which has grownup around Steve Sailer - such as Dennis Mangan, 'Ron Guhname' at Inductivist (actually he is Eastern Orthodox, not secular), Audacious Epigone, HalfSigma, OneSTDV, Razib at Gene Expression and so on.