Sunday 30 September 2012

We cannot win by argument


This strives not to be a topical blog and therefore I don't like linking to recent postings on other blogs - but this passage from last week at John C Wright's place needs special consideration:


Political Correctness is both deeply entrenched and precisely and perfectly evolved to act as a parasite on our civilization, perhaps to the point where it cannot be eliminated without damaging the host....

Political Correctness is evil, confident, ruthless, conscious-less, highly adaptive, and highly expert at using our laws and customs to disarm attacks both legal and verbal against its depredations.

The law is on its side. The political parties are on its side, the Democrats openly, the Republicans reluctantly.

The mass media, the press, and the entertainment industry that both reflects and shapes the mood and opinion of the common man, the powerful and subtle instrument of propaganda ever devised, are in their hands and they are expert at operating the engines of deception.

The academia are on its side: men of ordinary learning and prudence face evil geniuses of sophomoric idiocy.

(And do not ask me how they can be geniuses and idiotic at the same time. No doubt it is special gift of Azathoth, their tenebrous god, which renders them immune from the law of non-contradiction).

Every worldly gift is on their side.

On the other hand, if God is with us, who can be against us?


This passage expresses the impossibility (and I mean impossibility) of defeating such a hydra-headed phenomenon as political correctness by means of worldly force; even if there was any such worldly force at command of Christians, which there is not.

If it was a matter of replacing a tyrant, it might be possible albeit unlikely, but Leftism has been for centuries woven through our society such that to kill it is to kill the host.

We cannot see a way out of this bind, but all that means is that we cannot see a way out.

The fact that we cannot see a way out is no cause for despair; and despair is - anyway - not an option.

We know what things we need to do, and these are primarily spiritual things.


Are the torments of hell eternal? Interpreting scripture - the letter and the spirit


I present a dilemma as an illustration of the difficulties of interpreting scripture.

The question is whether to understand the Bible as stating that Hell is a place of eternal torment, or whether scripture implies that after some period of experiencing torment, the damned are annihilated, destroyed, made into nothing.

This is an issue for me because I tend to understand scripture in a broad brush kind of way, rather than focusing upon specific sentences or words.

And I think that the broad brush understanding leads me to assume that Hell is for some period followed by annihilation; while eternal torment seems implied by a close up examination of the text. 


I hope this is not because I am looking for wriggle room to make space for my own notions, or to twist Christianity into a shape that suits me (instead of the opposite, which is what all Christians should try to do).

I hope it is due to a genuine desire to understand rather than a covert wish deliberately to misunderstand.

But one can never be sure about such matters.


That torment in Hell is eternal is implied by specific passages such as:

Mark 9:43-4 - And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched. Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

Also, I have always read the parable of the rich man and Lazarus as implying eternal torment in Hell; although perhaps it does not really do so.

Reference to the torments of Hell in terms of fire, worms, thirst etc. mean that intense suffering (if not the precise specifics of its nature) must be real.

Indeed, the consequences of recognizing failure to accept Christ could not but lead to torment - and it was argued as long ago as St John Chrysostom that this torment of regret was the primary suffering of those who did not choose salvation.


But on the other hand I believe there are several 'broad brush' arguments which apparently imply that the damned are annihilated, and that I personally find pretty convincing.


1. In this broad brush sense, I feel a need to reconcile the undoubted fact that the Gospel is good news (and was perceived as such at the time it was first presented), with a new emphasis on the torments of Hell which is absent from the ancient Jewish concept of Sheol.

(Sheol seems to entail annihilation of the individual self and self-awareness, a place depicted as dark and containing of witless gibbering ghosts, but not of active torment).

I tend to think that if the reality or nature of Sheol was being challenged by the advent of Christ, then this would have been specifically mentioned.


2. Also, in a similarly broad brush sense, there is the refrain that Christ offers us everlasting life - which implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) seems to contrast with death, or annihilation; rather than with eternal living-torment.

This, indeed, is an interpretation I find compelling.

Every time I hear or read of the promise of everlasting life, of life instead of death, or the wages of sin being death - it makes me think that death in the sense of non-existence is the ultimate alternative to Heaven.


3. Somewhat aside, there is also the argument that Hell is essentially prepared for the fallen angels, not Man.

Matthew 25:41- Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

I imagine this as being necessary in terms of sequestering irredeemable evil from Good - on a permanent basis.

But it may also imply that Hell is not to be regarded as the eternal dwelling place of unsaved Men.


I am not seeking closure on this issue, and it is a snare to try and try and learn exactly about the nature of life beyond death - indeed the concept of eternity is itself beyond comprehension.

But I use this example to illustrate how reasoning from specific passages may push in one direction, while reasoning in a broad brush way push in the other direction - and for someone of limited spiritual development such as myself, there cannot be a decisive answer.


We must, we should, look to tradition and authority for as much guidance as we need to proceed; and beyond that to try and avoid focusing on such questions for too long, and certainly avoid having disputes over such matters grow into dissensions.

But authorities differ, and often concerning the particular matters under question: we must then choose among the authorities, and within the authorities we sometimes must choose between different teachings at different points in their lives. Or we may not understand their teachings.  

The fact that John Stott, the premier Anglican evangelical scholar of recent decades, was an 'annihilationist' should indicate that it is not an interpretation 'beyiond the pale' - but the fact that he was in a minority among his peers (such as JI Packer) certainly is grounds for caution.


I am a fairly traditionalist Anglican, I think, on the matter of how the torments of Hell should be used in teaching and evangelism: the matter of Hell should not be avoided nor downplayed, but should a matter one for stark and sober realism; on the other hand the torments of Hell should not be deployed to try and intimidate or coerce people into conversion or obedience 'for their own good': that is a short path to spiritual pride hence evil, since we do not know enough of the workings or outcome of salvation to be specific and personal.

In this, I am much influenced by Pascal's Pensees and the idea of the 'Hidden Christ', and the profound insight that the world is made such that there is enough evidence for people to find it if they look, and to choose Christ; but equally the world is not deigned to overwhelm human will into submission by unmasked divine power and terror.

To argue that one must become a Christian/ obey the Law or else personally suffer specifically eternal as well as excruciating torment is - I think - never known with precision; eternity cannot, anyway, be understood by the human mind; and more importantly contradicts the Gospel of Love. The Christian God simply must be loved; and it is simply wrong to imagine that a state of terrified submission to 'God' can be, at some later stage be flipped-over into the free choice of Christ from gratitude for the Glory of God.


We know enough truth for our purposes - I am sure that we do; but this does not mean we ever can know the precise and explicit truth about every matter where we can formulate a question (or imagine that we have formulated a question - the question may be ill-formed and unanswerable, or we may not understand the real answer).

There is always ignorance, and at the heart of things there is mystery. 


Saturday 29 September 2012

Free will is a metaphysical thing


Free will is a necessary assumption (not a matter of observation); a metaphysical thing, coming prior to experience, framing experience.

It is not possible to observe free will nor to measure it; indeed experience has no relevance to the existence, nonexistence, strength or weakness of free will.

Free will is not empirical at all.


Free will is a necessary and inbuilt assumption in (at least!) all creatures capable of recognising the question of free will.

Christianity (and other things) are built-around this metaphysical assumption of free will.


The point, therefore, about free will is not to understand it - free will cannot be understood more than to acknowledge that it cannot coherently be denied - but to use it well.


Christianity must be chosen


Christianity must be chosen.

(As fallen Men) we start out turned-away-from God - and must choose (must will) to turn toward Him.

That means the default state is not choosing to become a Christian.


Over time, the consequences deriving from not choosing to become Christian will accumulate in the world; and this affects later choices, making it less likely that people will choose Christ.

This is the direction of history, and the trend of history; and why - at some point - history will come to an end: when no more people can or will turn to God.


Friday 28 September 2012

Why is Robert Conquest's Second Law so horribly true?


Robert Conquest's Second Law is something like:

Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left wing.

It applies to people as well, as I argued in yesterday's post on the apostasy of JK Rowling.

But why is it true?


Clearly the law only applies to The Modern West - where Leftism is the long term trend - it is not a law applicable to all societies and throughout all of history.

But it does seem to apply, without any significant exceptions I can think of, to The Modern West.


In the modern situation, the Left sets the baseline assumptions: for example in terms of atheism (i.e. the denial of Christianity), equality (i.e. the essential sameness of people), democracy (i.e. the denial of traditional authority), feminism (i.e. the essential sameness of sexes), an egalitarian concept of the nature of anti-racism (i.e. the essential sameness of races), and the sexual revolution (whatever appeared bad is now recognized as Good; and vice versa).

Since these are assumptions, they frame institutions, and shape their organization over time, unless and except the institutions explicitly defines itself against them.

The institution (or individual) that does not wish to become swept Leftwards (or person) must therefore either isolate itself from modernity; or set up a screen to filter the mass of incoming stimuli for any such assumptions - and then react against them.


So, to take the example of JK Rowling. The Harry Potter series successfully walked a tightrope between its superficial postmodern Leftism and an underling Christian traditionalism - but the underlying reactionary structure was indirect and implicit, while the surface was obvious and in-your-face.

Thus in the fullness of 'sooner or later' Rowling had to do one of two things: make explicit and clear the underlying Christian and reactionary structure (in effect admitting she had successfully tricked tens of millions of people into reading covert religious propaganda); or else she would be swept Leftwards by the prevailing assumptions of society.

If she had chosen the first path, there would without any shadow of doubt have been an immediate, immoderate, coordinated and sustained campaign to discredit and demonize the Harry Potter books; in which the whole weight of international mass media (ie the centre and origin of world Leftism) would have been involved.


But, as we know, she did not do this; consequently she has been swept into providing (with her new novel) an over-the-top endorsement of the vilest and most demoralizing Leftism; the inversion of Truth, Beauty and Virtue.


I find it tempting to put Rowling's very obvious corruption down to her friendship with the egregious ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown - who is surely the most pervasively dishonest British of Premiers since Lloyd George; but of course Rowling chose the friendship; and in truth Conquest's Law operates without any need for specific factors or agents.

It is a sign of the intrinsic short-termism and impatience of Leftism that JKR did not pause to sugar coat her message of nihilism, but lets the reader have it full-on and in their guts - or else the book would probably have been vastly more harmful.

As it is, the new novel is such a naive, open faced, unmasked instance of horribleness that even Leftists are embarrassed and disgusted by it.


At least for a while.

Probably, 'sooner or later', as the desensitization and inversions of unrepentant modernity continue to accumulate, The Casual Vacancy will come to be touted as a work of genius and the Harry Potter books (which are a work of genius) will be downgraded to 'kids' stuff'...

Verification by first hand experience of God in Christ


I came across the following useful passage in a chapter by Ralph Townsend in a book called Charles Williams: a celebration, edited by Brian Horne, 1995.


The Catholic approach to Christian doctrine may be described as the insistence that the final and clinching proof of the Christian faith, which raises probability to certainty, for intellectual and simple alike, lies in verification through simple first hand experience of God in Christ, and of Christ in the Church and its sacraments.


What jumped out at me was the phrase 'simple first hand experience'.

Becoming a Christian must make a difference, and that difference must be an experience.

The above is a distinctively Catholic emphasis on the experience of the Mass, the born-again experience is another, the answering of a prayer or an everyday miracle is another.

And the most crippling defect of modernity is the compulsive fashion in which 'simple first hand experience' is subverted, denigrated, ignored, and eventually demonized.


This is, perhaps, the ultimate alienation - in which people come to fear simple first hand experience; and subordinate themselves to... to what? De facto the mass media, isn't it?


Synchronicity and pattern recognition


Common assertion: Meaningful coincidences are meaningless, non-causal, because humans are built to recognize patterns. We are pattern-recognizing animals. It is just like seeing faces in the fire: we evolved to see faces and so we see them all over the place.


Question: But what is a pattern?

Answer: A pattern is a form, an arrangement of stuff.


Bigger question: How do we recognize form?

Answer: Because we have that form within us. We are indeed pattern-recognizers, because we are form recognizers and because we have form: we are form- if we were not then we could not perceive pattern or form.

But: how could an animal evolve to recognize form from the infinite variation and boundless stimuli of the world? How could natural selection ever find the form by random search among the possibilities from matching an unbounded possible number of forms with the undifferentiated mass of nature when not perceived via form?

Conclusion: There must be a finite number of forms, and they must be preinstalled both in reality and in creatures - or else nothing could ever happen (no analysis could ever get started). This is a necessity - the only debate is over where forms come from: whether these forms just are,  or whether they were created.


Reformulation of common assertion: Meaningful coincidences are meaningless - because they are not causally connected. Or, because synchronicity is not connected by identifiable sequences of causes, then it cannot be meaningful.

Comment: Hey, wait a minute! Are you saying that events are meaningless unless their causal connectivity is unknown? That a pattern is not a pattern unless we know all the causes of that pattern? Do you live by this metaphysical assumption? No - I thought not.


Further comment: And are you saying that when the causes are known then the pattern is meaningful? Because that is false: a sequence of known causes does not make a pattern, but just itself. 'A causes B causes C causes D' is not a pattern - it is just what happened. Nothing to suggest that that precise sequence of causes makes a pattern; it was just contingent history.

A conclusion: if causal sequences are the only reality - then there can be no pattern. The structure of linear sequential causality denies, makes impossible, the reality of pattern recognition

...including the reality of that pattern we call linear sequential causality.

This is a self-refuting metaphysic: necessarily invalid.


Looping back: Man is a pattern recognizing animal, reality is patterned. But (banal truism coming-up) Man is not infallible and may fail to perceive patterns and may falsely identify patterns.

The proper question is whether this specific instance of synchronicity is real. Who needs to be convinced? And what is the baseline: are all instances to be denied absent conclusive evidence of their massive improbability; or to be accepted absent evidence that they are false positives?

On what grounds do we choose between these? On whose authority?


Or maybe there is discrimination preinstalled along with the pattern precognition: not infallible of course, but good enough - if  we take notice of its promptings.

But do we take notice of its promptings? Do we not, are we not trained to (actually brainwashed to), ignore the promptings of our pattern discriminating faculty?


The importance of this matter: In a nutshell, atheism.

Modern people adopt a self-refuting metaphysic (the unique validity of linear causal reasoning) which they then believe has proved itself by observation of reality. A consequence is that all instance of synchronicity are known, a priori, without discussion, to be random coincidences, a product of the human pattern making tendency.

These same people - who define in advance that all instances of pattern are illusory, then claim that there is no evidence for the reality of God (I mean, God in a generic sense); despite that thousands of years of previous humans found such evidence all about them.

And, due to their aversion from metaphysics, their extreme distractability and short attention span, they may be trapped - they trap themselves - by this incoherent logic.


e.g. Bertrand Russel: "Not enough evidence God. Not enough evidence!"


Maxim: Good philosophy probably cannot convert a soul; but bad philosophy can damn one.


Thursday 27 September 2012

Charlton breaks his word


A while back I stated that I would (despite everything) read JK Rowling's new novel, which has been published today

I am breaking my word: I am not going to read it. Despite everything I said then.

Can't be done. 

There is no way I could make myself read a book like that nowadays.


I used to thrash myself through quantities of vile, subversive, despair-inducing Leftist stuff (novels, movies, TV, plays); since everybody else had done it, so I could say I'd experienced it, and to show that I was sophisticated enough to deluge my mind with slurry and come out of it all enhanced by the experience and deepened in sensibility... but no more!

Not me. Nope. Don't try to make me do it.


And so, yet another victory for political correctness - the deception, capture and enslavement of our best living fiction writer; and her enlistment as a propagandist of evil.

Of course she always presented a mixed picture: surface postmodern progressivism but a deep religious traditionalism.

However, in line with Robert Conquest's Second Law: anybody not explicitly and wholly reactionary will sooner or later become a total Leftist.


Of course she is not necessarily lost: she may repent.

But until I hear something of that sort, I shall henceforth cease to follow her career.


Memoirs of a second team hooker


Americans should not get excited by the title: in Britain the 'hooker' is a position in Rugby Football - the smaller guys in the middle of the 16 person scrum (otherwise consisting of the fourteen largest, heaviest, strongest - generally also hairiest, sweatiest, smelliest and most aggressive - players on the side).

The hookers job is to 'hook' the ball out of the scrum by a strike of his heel, and into the hands of his own scrum half - with the opposition hooker trying to do the opposite.


Unfortunately, at school I had some kind of natural flair for doing this.

However, I could not do anything else the hooker was supposed to do - especially not the other job of throwing the ball from the touchline down the centre of the 'line out' so that the teams tallest player could leap up and grab it.

I was also relatively slow, weak, had a low pain threshold, and was not very keen about inflicting damage on other people.

I also hated rugby. 

Therefore I ended up in the worst possible place: the second team.


The second team have only one raison d'etre and that is to be the people who the first team practice on.

They are, by definition, smaller, weaker and more cowardly than the opposition.

And they always lose.


The second team is essentially 15 unwilling, conscripted human punch bags; perhaps none more so than the second team hooker - who is nearly always the weediest person in the scrum (I certainly was); and almost anything can go on in a scrum, out of sight.

The worst thing that happens to scrums is when they collapse from the middle, but the people at the back keep pushing. This never happened to me, or I probably would not be writing this. Several schoolboys a year are paralysed from the neck down by this kind of accident.

Given that fact, I got off very lightly indeed. I also had the unique status of a moulded mouth guard (because my father was a dentist) or else I would be missing several teeth from being knee-ed in the gob. 


Rugby is a dreadful sport - rewarding the largest and most vicious and those with the least sensitivity to pain.

But is is especially dreadful at school where the participants are mostly unwilling; and even more especially after puberty hits, and boys become much more capable of hurting each other - but (because the teams are chosen on the basis of age, not maturity) some much earlier than others.

Late puberty is an insurmountable and all-round disadvantage in rugby. 


When I arrived at high school (from a primary school which played soccer, not rugby) at the age of eleven there were two chaps who had precocious puberty and were solid men.

One played for England schoolboys.

Never believe anyone who says that size does not matter in Rugby. Every single time this chap got the ball he would score a try. He would simply jog from one end of the field to the other, holding the ball up out of reach, with streams of futile schoolboys ricocheting off his trunk-like thighs. 


The other big lad was a bit different. His general demeanour was similar to Charles Hawtree in Carry on Sergeant.

If someone approached to attempt a tackle when the C.W act-alike was holding the ball, even though all he needed to do was amble to score a try, he would generally shriek in a high pitched voice, and crouch down to protect his gonads.

So size are strength are not everything in rugby - but they certainly help.


The trouble with being a hooker was that you could neither escape  nor avoid trouble.

Initially, before I foolishly revealed my talent for 'hooking', I had been positioned in the safest position on the field: fly half.

The fly half receives the ball from the scrum half - who protects him from the rigours of the scrum; and the scrum almost always stands between him and anyone who might think of tackling.

Indeed, the fly half's job is to get rid of the ball ASAP - to the 'three quarter' line of wingers and centres - and there was always one of these standing nearby to receive a pass... which - from me - was often a 'hospital pass'


In rugby you supposedly can only be tackled when you actually have the ball.

A 'hospital pass' is a slow, looping pass which the receiver awaits while some vast and aggressive forward is thundering towards him at twenty mph., head down like an enraged bull, in a trajectory designed to hit the receiver's vulnerable and stationary body like a ton of bricks zero-point-one seconds after he has gathered the descending ball.


Anyway, due to my slowness, lack of nimbleness, bad passing and a few other factors; I was tried out at full back.

This is a bad position.

A three quarter can almost always avoid having to tackle anybody by means of running too slowly, diving inaccurately, or 'accidentally' being thrown the wrong direction by a body swerve.

That leaves the full back - who typically confronts somebody much bigger, who moving much faster in the opposite direction: and is supposed to stop him by some kind of head on collision.



The one and only time I played full back on the school team (as a stand in for some injured lad) I found myself in exactly this situation - with all eyes upon me, and none of the obvious tackle avoidance ploys likely to succeed

In the fraction of time available I came-up with an alternative to annihilation.

As the forward steamed upon me I took a swift side-step, and then as he whizzed past I grabbed his shirt and held on tight

A moment later I found myself standing holding the shreds of a ripped shirt; while the bare chested forward did a victory dance over the touchline.


I saved my skin - but only at the cost of being revealed to the world as a complete and total girl.

Did I mention that was the one-and-only time I played full back?

I guess six years as second team hooker was my just reward. 


Wednesday 26 September 2012

An update on "Bruce Charlton Sacked" - Google prompt rankings


A while ago I explored the weird word of Google prompts - and the fact that the rankings of prompts they do not correspond to the number of Google search results.

This confirms that the prompts are generated by humans, not by algorithms - but raised questions about the logic being employed.

Here are the latest updates.

Search "bruce charlton" and you are prompted

1. Newcastle University (3,690 results)
2. Miscellany (9,480)
3. Thought Prison (1,360)
4. Sacked (1,370)
5. Medical Hypotheses (5,200)

Again - I find no correlation between the order of prompts and the number of search results - and no obvious pattern on which a human decision might have been based.

However, the person/s who do the prompt rankings have apparently decided that my being sacked (in 2010) is getting rather stale news, and the blog is doing rather better, so the order has altered accordingly.

BUT - I do find that the addition of a space (i.e. striking the space bar) no longer makes a difference to the prompts rankings, as it did last year.



Tuesday 25 September 2012

Classifying psychiatric drugs: Corrective, Symptomatic, Counter-pathological


The major psychiatric drugs fall into three categories: Corrective, symptomatic and counter-pathological.

Corrective drugs (when they work) tend to correct the underlying pathology; symptomatic drugs (when they work) do not affect the underlying pathology but relieve troublesome symptoms; while counter-pathological drugs create an alternative pathology that (in some way) tends to counter troublesome symptoms.

1. Corrective

An example are the psychostimulant drugs, such as amphetamines or methylphenidate ('Ritalin'). These are drugs which increase central dopaminergic activity - and are generally used in people where dopaminergic activity is low or deficient.

Some tranquillizers such as benzodiazepines (or the earlier 'Miltown'/ meprobamate) act to diminish anxiety states, probably by damping-down the same brain systems which cause anxiety - and could perhaps be regarded as corrective.  

I would place electroshock/ electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in the corrective category. It probably works partly by normalizing the coordination of the brain (as seen in the 'brainwaves' of the EEG) and breaking a positive feedback loop of sleep disturbance leading to behavioural change which perpetuates sleep disturbance - as happens in ECT treatment of severe melancholia with psychosis, in mania and acute schizophrenia. The therapeutic effect of ECT on, for example Parkinson's disease and Catatonia, also suggests that dopaminergic deficiency states are corrected.


2. Symptomatic

Tricyclic antidepressants such as Imipramine and Amitriptyline can be used to treat moderately severe 'endogenous' depression, where they probably act as analgesics/ pain killers to treat symptoms of malaise (fatigue, aches and pains, 'feeling ill'), treat insomnia and reduced appetite/ weight loss.

Hypnotics, or sleeping drugs (strong sedatives) are used to treat insomnia, and also the psychotic results of sleep disturbance and deprivation. 


3. Counter-pathology

Neuroleptic/ antipsychotic drugs cause symptoms of Parkinson's disease, and this pathology may counteract the symptoms of psychotic illness such as agitation - the demotivation which comes with Parkinsonism tends to make people docile, stops them listening to hallucinatory voices, stops them acting upon delusional ideas.  

Lithium also produces the counter-pathology of emotional blunting - and this can be used to treat mania; and to prevent manic or depressive breakdowns.

SSRIs when used to treat anxiety and mild depression produce a milder version of the demotivation and emotional blunting of neuroleptics (because SSRIs are chemically related to neuroleptics, being derived from the same antihistamines as are neuroleptics). Thus people with emotional instability, anxiety, panic, phobias, shyness etc. - may have these symptoms implores by the counter-pathology of emotional blunting.


There is a hierarchy implicit in this classification system: the most effective treatments (potentially) are corrective (although they may have other problems, such as addiction); while the worst treatments are counter-pathological - since even when effective on the target problems these will always have significant 'side effects' because the core 'side effects' are in fact the counter-pathology caused by treatment. 


Monday 24 September 2012

Why did the world change circa 1917?


It is pretty much accepted that the world changed around 1917; but why it changed has several explanations.

1. An economic explanation: The 1914-18 Great War: the exhaustion of European powers, massive destruction, trade disruption...

2. A psychological explanation: the trauma of the above war, the slaughter of the flower of young men, end of idealism...

3. A socio-political explanation: The Russian Revolution, specifically the Bolshevik takeover: world communism, the first of many atheist totalitarian tyrannies...

4. A Christian explanation: The martyrdom of Tsar and Saint Nicholas II:

That which restraineth the appearance in the world of the Antichrist, the man of lawlessness and anarchy, the last and most powerful enemy of Christ and His Church, is – in the teaching of St. John Chrysostom and others Fathers of the Church – lawful authority, as represented and symbolized by the Roman Empire. This idea was incarnated supremely in the Christian Empire: first in Byzantium, when Constantinople was the Second Rome, and then in the Orthodox Russian Empire, when Moscow was the Third Rome. In 1917 the “Constantinian Age” came to an end, the Orthodox Empire was overthrown – and the world, beginning with Moscow, has been thrown into an age of lawlessness and atheism (and in Christian life, of apostasy) such as has not yet been seen.

Fr Seraphim Rose


Christianity needs the devil - for coherence


Something that has struck me again and again, is that without the devil - that is without the concept of autonomous purposive evil operating in the human world - Christianity is incoherent.

Of course, philosophical ingenuity can at least seem to make Christianity cohere without the devil - and indeed that is mainstream.


But there are three significant problems with the mainstream Christianity-minus-the-devil:

1. It probably doesn't not really work, even at a philosophical level.

2. It is anti-Scriptural, and flies in the face of most of Christian history.

3. The arguments make no sense for plain simple people who are not philosophers.

In other words, subtracting the devil makes Christianity nonsense for the very people who might make the best Christians.  


Focusing on the third point: without the devil, at the level of plain simple analysis, when evil things happen they are explained as being done by God. Which means - in this non-intellectual way - that because God is Good, evil things are actually good. In other words, think of the most evil thing you can, and (without the devil) this was done by God for good reasons (which are no doubt obscure).

The above is not a parody, but is what plain people are being asked to accept from a Christianity minus the devil. No wonder the problem of evil (or the problem of pain) is responsible for so many people leaving Christianity.

Without the devil (and to the plain person), Christianity becomes merely a religion of submission to the incomprehensible will of God - meliorated by the promise that Christ's sacrifice and resurrection will make things right in the next life.


I am aware that the idea of the devil is now regarded as ridiculous or itself a source of evil; and that it can in practice become an excuse for evil ('the devil made me do it' etc).

But the concept is just essential to Christianity; without the devil we cannot make Christian sense of Christianity in a fashion which is comprehensible.


The reality of the devil is therefore non-negotiable for Christians; and - since the earth is full of evil - the use of the devil in explanations will not be exception but frequent, everyday.


Naturally, there are other sources of evil and reasons for bad things: especially original sin (the fault of humans, including ourselves), and random events.

Specifying a particular evil as the fault of the devil is therefore a conjecture, and may be wrong.

But it is a possibility that ought to be considered: and not as a last resort but as a normal everyday thing for Christians.

That is, indeed, how the devil has been regarded by all truly devout historical Christians of whom I am aware.   


Sunday 23 September 2012

The significance, or non-significance, of theological heresy: the Coptic example


Disputes over theological heresies have plagued Christianity since early times.

Sometimes heresies are lethal, sometimes they seem trivial, sometimes they are very significant in terms of what theology implies about the underlying motivations.

For example, my interpretation of the Filioque dispute which divided the Western and Eastern Churches, is that the Eastern objection was to the act of revising the creed (on whatever grounds - even when, as the Western Church believed was happening, they were simply making it more accurate), rather than to the true theological implications of the Filioque (which are incomprehensible to all but very few).


Because theology is almost wholly obscure to almost everybody. C.S Lewis tried never to write anything about theology, and tried not to discuss it, because he considered it too high a matter; and except among the most learned and holy disputants, that such discussions led to arguments led to schisms and weakened the Church.


At what I regard as the height of Christian society, within the Byzantine Empire, there were several major theological disputes. One was the 'Monophysite' dispute starting in the AD 400s, an outcome of which was the separation of several North African Orthodox churches including the Coptic church in Egypt. This separation remains.

The point at issue was how to describe the nature of Christ in terms of God and Man - for example, whether He was God and Man separate, or fused, or the one absorbing the other.

Now, although I can read and use the words of this dispute; this is a matter far beyond my real comprehension. I am happy to accept the teaching I have been brought up on; but if I had had another kind of teaching or emphasis or form of words - no doubt the same would apply.

And one and a half thousand years of history have, I think, shown that this was a theologically trivial dispute - since the separated Orthodox Churches (such as the Coptic) have certainly remained Christian by any sane definition; have indeed survived extraordinary persecutions.

(Although this situation has now successfully been destabilized, and it seems possible that we may soon see the end of the Coptic church in Egypt).


Presumably there is a correct answer to the Monophysite dispute, but it seems (from what we can perceive) that it doesn't (so far as we can tell) really matter to the business of living a Christian life; which in turn means it was an evil and damaging dispute: that the dispute itself was far more damaging than the heresy (whichever side was heretical: and of course, both sides may have been in error).

This - if true - would not be at all surprising. If salvation hinged upon our correct understanding and precise expression of advanced philosophical, or linguistic, concepts - then this would run counter to what what we read in the Gospels, and counter to the teachings that the poor and ignorant are most likely to attain salvation (due to their humility and love of God).


Of course, theology is necessary; yet once there is a theology there will be questions, and these questions will seem to require answers, and these answers will satisfy some and lead to further questions among others...

When Christianity focuses on theology, then trouble is in the offing, unless there is already great faith, humility, inner discipline and love of God within which theological exploration may occur.

But even then, the corruptions of the world, the limits of knowledge and the feebleness of reason will tend to lead us astray.


Intellectuals are the worst culprits. Intellectuals love to evaluate others using theological criteria: these are heretical because they believe this - we know they believe it because it is written in their versions of scripture.

Thus intellectuals reason from statements of belief, to the (supposed) implications of belief - which is insecure already; and ignore the actual outcomes in terms of Christian life


Surveying the history of the Christian Church it can be seen that some supposed 'heresies' certainly do not look like they are fatal to salvation; while others certainly do look like they are real and fatal heresies.

This distinction between significant and insignificant heresy is not immediately obvious, since a person who adopts what will turn out to be a fatal heresy retains much from their previous state, and their behaviour may not change much immediately - the implications of a heresy will typically become clearly apparent only across the timespan of one or two generations.

For instance, Calvinism in New England was rejected by the heresy of Unitarianism; but Unitarianism only lasted about a generation before it collapsed into Emersonian subjectivist Transcendentalism, which then swiftly (in less than a generation) collapsed into politics (abolition, feminism etc).


What I find dismaying is that people so seldom do what I am doing here: look back to see if what actually happened helps us to understand what is essential, and what inessential, to Christianity; and then to learn from this about how to proceed in future.

Why, for example, has the Eastern Orthodox Church not re-united to undo the separation from Monophysite controversy? Why do not Liberal Christians (if such exist) perceive that the fruits of Liberalism in the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Lutheran (and other) denominations has been the destruction of Christianity?

That these things do not happen shows that the damage from theological schism is usually irreparable - that, in fact, theological schism leads to an even greater, and more damaging, focus on theology: such that after a while nothing else seems to matter.


And the one thing that cannot be perceived is that some apparent theological differences (such as the Monophysite dispute) are not valid grounds for considerations of heresy; and which side was taken made no real difference to real Christians.

It was the taking of sides that was the main problem. 



Saturday 22 September 2012

Does the mass media have a Leftist bias? No it *is* Leftist bias


People ask whether the mass media has a Leftist bias.

Unask the question: it implies a false frame.


The mass media is Leftist bias, it is the core of Leftism, has been since the mid-1960s at least and ever-more-so.


The standard model of media bias is a government which tells the media what to say and vets what it says in all minute particulars: something like Stalin and Pravda.

That obviously isn't what happens in the modern world - it would of course be impossible, such is the utterly vast volume of material being generated; and stupid people suppose this means that the media and government are independent the one of the other.


The mass media is not biased to Leftism, it is Leftism; so of course, Leftism  must come from within the media: the bias is generated by the mass media.    


What we have is (almost) the opposite of Stalin and Pravda.

Indeed, the power of government, and government officials, is now essentially the power of informers: they can 'shop' people to the mass media: their role is to enforce punishments on people chosen by the mass media.

But government cannot go against the mass media, because anyone who does will be picked-off for exemplary punishment.

If no specific person is responsible, then somebody will nonetheless be picked by the media for public punishment, to serve as an example (this is happening at present, all the time, all through the world, in large and in small).

Nobody is immune - everybody in public life who wants to stay in public life is afraid of the mass media.


(Well, everybody within the system of worldly modernity, anyway; but this now has an extensive reach, as events in the Middle East make clear. The state of deferential terror towards the mass media notably includes the heads of the major Western churches, who very obviously fear to depart from the media Leftist agenda, and live in continual trepidation about having a target painted on them by the mass media. This has eliminated traditional Christianity - that is, real Christianity - from the leadership of all the major denominations.) 


The mass media choose and label the targets for exemplary punishment, and various groups (police, officials, astroturf mobs, real mobs... it does not much matter which) will enforce punishments of one sort or another - from harassment via investigations up to vandalism, violence, prison and murder; and the media gives the whole process a positive interpretation.

That which happens outside this and/ or against the agenda of the mass media loop is ignored, mentioned then flushed down the memory hole, reframed, vilified, distorted, lied about, subjected to invented slurs...

Oh! the possibilities are endless!


Leftism is the mass media, and the mass media is Leftism, inseparable, the same thing: this of course  means that Leftism (in its modern form) depends utterly on the continuation of the mass media (depends on itself!), stands or falls with the mass media.

The mass media is the enemy of reaction, and cannot be subverted or exploited for reactionary purposes.

Anything which significantly damages the reach or grip of the mass media net damages Leftism - even if restrictions go against freedom, democracy, balance; even if directed against reaction; all things which tend to limit the mass media will ultimately lead to reaction...


(...Although, on present trends, not necessarily, nor even probably, tending to Christian reaction. Leftism is anti-Christian; but since Leftism is self-destroying it will necessarily lead to reaction: the priority for the Left is therefore that what follows its self-destruction will not be Christian. The only thing that could prevent this trend from becoming the outcome would be repentance and massive Christian awakening, renewal, growth...)


The paralysis of the West? Much worse...


It is tempting to regard the extraordinary failures of Western foreign policy as incompetence. After all, all sophisticated people say that one should never assume a 'conspiracy' when 'cock-ups' happen so often.

But I have learned that neutrality is all but impossible in this world and where humans are involved. Not everything is significant (although we cannot be sure what is significant at the time it happens) - but everything carries a positive or negative valence.

When foreign policy is so consistently carrying a negative valence, what we have is a negative filed: what we have is something non-accidental, indeed displaying organization.


Where that organization comes from is another matter - and something that may never be known: but that there is organization is clear.

Thus the failures are organized failures and the incoherence has a unitary reason.


And the organization comes from intent, from motivation, from the basic world view of the participants in Western foreign policy. It is this which ensures so many failures, and which ensures that any good outcomes will be accidental and soon undone.


This, of course, means that we are dealing with a very deep problem. A tremendous weight and inertia of falsehood and delusion.

The West is not merely paralyzed - that is, unable to move or moving only slowly. There is a large element of paralysis, but it is not the worst problem: the problem is that the West is trying to the wrong things, aiming at the wrong goals...


The endemic failures of Western foreign policy are not merely the limitations of action in a complex world: they are both the incoherence and the evil of Leftism writ large: the evil of Leftism is responsible for the bad fundamental aims of policy and the incoherence of Leftism causes the paralysis that relatively thwarts the attainment of these evil aims.

Plus, of course, that there are residual good impulses in everyone, and occasional well-motivated people situated here and there - and the evil and incompetence are thus variously ameliorated; but these instances can be regarded as outliers, and the system is set up to disregard them.  


Friday 21 September 2012

Spoiled priests: Thomas Merton, Alan Watts, Bede Griffiths


I am re-reading that most valuable of biographies - Father Seraphim Rose: his life and works, by Hieromonk Damascene - and was reminded of the vast damage done in the late twentieth century by spoiled priests.

Thomas Merton - 3.5 million hits on Google search
Alan Watts - 700K hits
Bede Griffiths - 200K hits

The likes of these were instrumental in setting up and encouraging the sixties counterculture, the sexual revolution, syncretic and New Age spirituality, and the fusion of radical Leftism with the project for world government, the 'peace movement' and suchlike utopian plans for 'heaven on earth'.


The man who became Fr Seraphim was taught by Alan Watts in San Fransico during his pre-Orthodox Nietzschian beatnik era; the young Eugene Rose wrote to Merton, and followed his evolving apostasy with dismay.

Dom Bede Griffiths OSB had no connection with Fr Seraphim, so far as I know - but was a pupil and frequent correspondent of CS Lewis.


My impression is that few people have done so much damage as these spoiled priests - who brought 'inside knowledge' of what they attacked.

All were talented, learned, charming, eloquent, energetic, excellent writers - which of course only made them vastly more dangerous when they crossed over to serve the dark side.

If we add to them the numerous less famous priests, pastors, monks, friars (especially them!), bishops, archbishops and a Pope who were to a significant and crucial degree covert apostates (mostly in the sense of re-writing traditional Christianity to suit modern sensibilities) - then it can be seen that these foes masquerading as allies, these wolves in lambs' clothing, constitute just about the most important servants of evil outside of Communism (from which they were, of course, not distinct).


Milch cow minorities


Perhaps the most vulnerable minorities to exploitation and extermination are 'milch cow minorities', hated groups who exist merely in order to be exploited, but who are themselves relatively economically successful.

This I get from the work of Thomas Sowell, who gives many historical and modern examples - he calls them 'middle men' - and cites the Jews in medieval Europe, Chinese in Malaysia, Indians in Uganda and others.


Such middling minorities benefit the community in economic terms, which is presumably why they are tolerated; yet their success compared to the average makes them the subject of envy and resentment, while their political weakness makes them vulnerable to the ruling class.

Typically, they are subject to arbitrary 'justice' in that for a minority citizen to be accused of a crime by a majority member is to be guilty - so they live at the whim of the majority, and must be submissive as a condition of survival. 


Often, the ruling class can - for some reason or just on whim - stoke-up and direct mass anger at middle minorities; and they are attacked, expelled, exterminated.

On average the community ends up worse-off, because they have killed the milch cow; nonetheless this has often happened in history and is happening now in Africa and the Middle East (for example), because some people can benefit in the short term from the opportunities for looting and the rest of it.


But all modern societies, at this stage of their development, are in economic terms milch cow exploiters: because all modern states are Leftist and depend almost entirely upon a shrinking minority of productive native men.

(The unique factor here is that the modern milch cow minority has been artifically created by the inverse mechanism of privileging all other groups to make a coalition united only by their economic interest in exploiting the milch cow. Such is the long-term logic of democracy.)

What are modern Leftist ideologies (socialism, liberalism, feminism, multiculturalism) but rationalizations for milch cow exploitation?


Any examples of continued economic success among any of the milch cow minority make the whole group subject to envy and resentment - this hatred then justifies further ratcheting of exploitation under guise of egalitarianism.

Such arrangements are brittle, unstable.

To attack (in some fashion) the productive minority upon whom your medium-term standard of living depends would seem to be self-destructive, is indeed destructive in the long term, yet it often has happened, is happening.

(After all, modern-style mass migration from third to first world is very obviously socially destructive, yet it proceeds apace.) 


Because few people are long-termist - fewer than used to be.

The secular Western ruling elites, in particular, have become extremely short-termist, with a time horizon of a couple of years max. They are also personally more selfish, dishonest and exploitative than for many decades.

Destructive things may happen when they benefit key individuals who have the ability to make them happen.

It makes little sense for a family to starve, mutilate, or slaughter and eat their milch cow: but nonetheless this can, does, and quite likely will happen.


Thursday 20 September 2012

The goodies are un-cool


One of the ways in which the Harry Potter novels, although traditional in their deep structure, were representative of the modern world, is that the goodies were not 'cool'.

In the modern world, pretty much everybody who is 'popular', cool, beautiful, smart, witty, successful, admired and fun is a baddie: that is, a servant of evil.

And the people on the right side are by comparison square, dumb, plain, lame, nuts, nerdy and boring.

Harry's school gang is a bunch of 'losers' that includes a swotty 'mudblood', a seedy and impoverished blood traitor, the clumsiest and least-talented kid in the school, and a loony.

(Admittedly, on the periphery there are also a beautiful redhead and some anarchical trickster twins.)

The lesson is a Christian one, as also seen in Narnia and Lord of the Rings - if Good is to prevail over evil (eventually) it will only be by love, courage and self-sacrifice - and the assistance of divine providence.

In the modern world, Good will never win due to its superior power - or because people on-the-side-of-Good (remembering there are no 'good people') are more cool and popular - the servants of Good are a bunch of despised losers who can only win with the intervention of divine providence - covertly apparent in the form of 'luck'.

But as chance favours the prepared mind, good fortune will favour only a loving heart.


Leftism as a transitional state - to what?


Most people who have thought about it (actually, that isn't many people) would agree that Leftism (or 'liberalism') is self-destroying.

Therefore Leftism is an ideology which is transitional between what went before and what comes after Leftism.

In other words, Leftism is destructive of what went before, and supportive of what comes after.

Well, Christianity is what came before - so, is Leftism fundamentally destructive of Christianity, or only accidentally (and non-essentially) so?

While there was some space for disagreement about which until about 40 years ago, it is now as clear as anything ever is that Leftism is anti-Christian in its root and motivation.

The strength of Leftism's anti-Christianity is that it is consistently and coherently anti-Christian without even being consciously aware of the fact! Even (or especially) when denying the fact.

Let us learn from this. Let us not look to what Leftism says about itself - because Leftism's self-knowledge is, ahem, very limited - but to what Leftism does coherently and strategically.

The penny drops.

Leftism imagines it is anti-religion and in favour of stuff like sexual equality, sexual freedom, peace, prosperity, comfort and so on - but does nothing at all to safeguard these supposed values, indeed destroys them; using them merely as clubs with which to beat Christianity. But only Christianity.

But Christianity is not the only world religion, ideology, or political system; and is not one which has grown manyfold its share of the world's population in a century plus under Leftism; nor has Christianity made great gains in power and territory and influence around the world, sponsored by Leftist nations. Nor has the Christian way of life been supported within all Leftist nations. Nor have large numbers of devout Christians migrated to Leftist nations. And Christianity is experiencing near total suppression, destruction and displacement from its historic heartlands.

Never mind what Leftists say or believe about themselves and their motivations; they are liars who do not even believe in the reality of reality; and insofar as they acknowledge the good it is only to invert truth, beauty and virtue.

Don't listen to them - look at what they do consistently, coherently, both tactically and strategically - and you may understand Leftism as being in its essence transitional, a temporary stage between the Christianity which it destroys and en route to something else which it encourages, and will take-over whatever remains after Leftists have done their work.

Of course, it would be ridiculous to imagine that any such plan was human in origin. 


'People' do not want 'freedom'


They really don't.

Well, of course they selfishly want freedom for themselves to do what themselves want to do - and if other people don't like what they want to do and would want to try to stop them doing it, then they will say they want freedom.

But hardly anybody really wants freedom as a principle: instead, they want people to do what they want people to do: that is what they want, not freedom.


I learned this the hard way, by experiences in trying to defend freedom - because I used to be one of the insignificant minority of powerless people who really did want 'freedom', as a socio-political principle, not just for me.

I was myself involved in a few clear-cut infringement of freedom cases, and involved myself in some others, and I realized in each instance, with some astonishment, that it was very hard to find anybody to defend freedom: very hard indeed.

Sometimes people would 'defend' freedom in private, verbally - but even that was half-hearted and qualified. 

People would defend other people doing what they wanted these other people to do; but when it was a matter of other people doing something of which they did not approve, they would nearly always oppose them (and freedom actively be damned); at most they would make minimal murmerings but refuse to take any kind of principled stance or identify themselves in public (and freedom be damned - but passively).


Same on the national stage. People do not get roused up about the crushing of freedom, and it is a waste of time trying to get people roused up about, freedom issues.

When the state suppresses freedom in an arbitrary fashion, the only thing people want to know is whether it was in a good cause.


What is wrong when Leftists crush freedom, as is happening now, is not that they are crushing freedom but that they are driven by the inversion of good.

The essential problem is that Leftists are using the power of the media and the state to prevent good and impose evil.  They should be doing the opposite.


Resisting evil by trying to reduce the power of the state, in order to defend the abstract entity called freedom, is incoherent, crazy and futile.


So, forget about freedom; (almost) nobody wants freedom.

Speak out and fight for a system that encourages what you believe to be true, beautiful and virtuous - and discourages lies, ugliness and vice; not a system that merely 'allows' good or bad things to happen, impartially.


Wednesday 19 September 2012

Christopher Dawson and the Byzantine blindspot


Christopher Dawson - 1889-1970. Once very famous Roman Catholic historian of ideas, now all-but forgotten. Admired by Tolkien, C.S Lewis (who knew him) and TS Eliot.

See Sanctifying the World: The Augustianian mind of Christopher Dawson by Bradley J Birzer.

Excerpts from Progress and Religion, 1929 pp 157-166.

Dawson in italics - my comments [in square brackets].


It cannot be too strongly insisted that the victory of the Church in the 4th century was not... the natural culmination of the religious evolution of the ancient world, It was, on the contrary, a violent interruption of that process which forced European civilization out of its old orbit into a path which it would never have followed by its own momentum.

It is true that the classical culture and the religion of the city state ... were losing their vitality, and that nothing could have arrested the movement of orientalization which ultimately conquered the Roman world. But this movement found its normal expression either in the undiluted form which is represented by the different Gnostic and Manichaean sects, or in a bastard Hellenic syncretism.

[So, 'a bastard Hellenic syncretism', or 'orientalism' is how Dawson characterizes the millennium of the Byzantine continuation of the Christian Roman Empire! The coherence of Byzantium - as I see it by far the most coherent Christian society which ever existed on earth - is dismissed as a weird or exotic (yet centuries-long) suspension of crudely-mixed Judueo-Christian an Greek elements in asolvent of 'orientalism'.]


...the Byzantine culture does not simply represent the fusion of the Hellensitic-Roman tradition with Christianity. It contains a third element of oriental origin which is, in fact, the preponderant influence in Byzantine civilization. It is to be seen in the social and political organization of the Empire which borrowed from Sassanian Persia all the external forms of the oriental sacred monarchy.

The rigid hierarchy of the Byzantine state which centres in the Sacred Palace and the quasi-divine person of the Holy Emperor is neither Roman nor Christian, but purely oriental.

[This is just name-calling! For Dawson, 'Oriental' is clearly a bad thing in and of itself, and 'rigid' added as a meaningless adjective to 'hierarchy'; 'quasi-divine' as a sniping and inaccurate characterization of the concept of the Emperor. The ideal Emperor was actually conceived as an Apostle, God's representative on earth, and an intermediary with Christ Pantocrator (that is Christ as active and Heavenly ruler of all, ruling Earth via his intermediary). But actual Emperors were judged against this ideal, and deposed when their behaviour showed they were not the real Emperor and a mistake had been made in choosing them. Anyway, Dawson doesn't like this kind of thing, and he needs to distinguish The West from it. But in doing so he is actually taking a pro-modernizing stance. Because 'orientalism' is the ideal of unity, fusion or harmony of church and state - and in attacking this, Dawson introduces - not just as a pragmatic reality but as an alternative ideal - a distinction between the realm of God - the Church, or City of God; and the secular realm of the state - politics, military and economic activity. In other words, functional specialization: modernity. Once begun, unstoppable.]


And the same influence is to be seen in Byzantine religion in its tendency to neglect the historical and dynamic elements in the Christian tradition, and to become absorbed in theological speculations regarding the nature of the Godhead.

This tendency reaches its climax in the writings of the so called Dionysius the Aeropagite, which probably date from the close of the 5th century, and have exerted and incalculable influence on the religious life of the Byzantine world. Here we may see the most extreme assertion of the Divine Transcendence and the negation of all finite modes of being.

In fact, Byzantine 'theological speculations' were mostly reactive to heresy and criticism from Western Christianity - and were not core to Christian life. Byzantine Holiness was not 'absorbed' in theological speculations, its purpose was for the human spirit to be 'absorbed' with (in communion with) the Godhead itself: so that man becomes Saint, who lives partly in Heaven in communion with God, partly on this earth to learn, teach, and act as intermediary. The 'neglect' of historical and dynamic elements actually meant that for Byzantium at its best, Christianity was a living presence in daily life, which tried to create (by ritual, arts, ascetic practices, devotions, prayer) model itself upon and emulate Heavenly life. A moment-by-moment earthly copy of the permanent Heavenly ideal. Naturally, historical and 'dynamic' elements were subordinated to this timeless task (not 'neglected'). Dawson accepts the modern secular revisionist history that Dionysius is the work of a late author ('Pseudo' Dionysius) - when for many centuries the ancients accepted the identity of the originator of these teachings as the disciple of St Paul. I believe the ancients.


Thus abstract mysticism [of Dionysius] is linked up with a fixed ritual and ceremonial order which is its earthly and sensible counterpart...

Again this harping on Byzantium as fixed, ritual, ceremonial!... yet ultimate reality is fixed, surely? So why should not earthly copies be fixed? If the Byzantine fixity was unreal then the Empire could not have endured as it did! And why does Dawson, a pre-Vatican II ultramontane Roman Catholic, criticize Byzantium for its use of devotional ritual and ceremony? In seeking to distinguish, positively, Western from Eastern Christianity - he has drifted into anti-Catholic sentiment.


...the moral ideal of the Byzantine world found its expression in the uncompromizing other-worldliness of the monks of the desert which represents the extreme development of the oriental spirit of asceticism and world-denial within the boundaries of orthodox Christianity.

[But elsewhere, and rightly, Dawson is unstinting in his praise of the Irish, later Scottish and Northumbrian ascetic monks and hermits who maintained the last Western outpost of Christianity in the remote 'deserts' of the British Isles. St Boniface - who Dawson regards as perhaps the most important figure in the whole of European Christian History - was a Lindisfarne product of this non-Latin tradition. What were these if not example of uncompromizing other-worldliness of precisely the type that Dawson brands as 'oriental'? The 'Celtic Christian' church of Anglo Saxon times was precisely Byzantine or Eastern Orthodox - albiet not 'Greek'!) in all its distinctive respects. The whole Synod of Whitby dispute was a prefiguring of the Great Schism in terms of the Latin Christians (Pope as supreme bishop, a church led by priests) versus Byzantine Christian (Emperor as supreme authority, the bishop of Rome as having precedence but not authority over other Patriarchs, and led by monks)]


Nevertheless, even this radically oriental version of Christianity did not satisfy the Eastern world. With the coming of Islam it reverted to a simpler type of religion (etc)  

The drawn-out and bitter conquest of the Byzantine Empire by Islam is represented as having happened merely because the 'orientals' were not 'satisfied' by Eastern Orthodoxy, and wanted something 'simpler'... I wonder why so many Byzantines bothered fighting to the death to resist something that supposedly satisfied them more than what they had? And why so many of the conquered over the next centuries, even until now, continued to practice Byzantine Christianity despite its entailing subordinate status?]


In the Roman West, in spite of its lower standard of civilization, the conditions were more favourable to the development of an original and creative Christian culture.

[This is true: Western Catholic Christianity is indeed much more original and creative than Eastern Orthodoxy, and thus much more satisfying to creative geniuses. Unfortunately, being creative and original does not imply or entail its being more true, or more Holy. Indeed, if ancient Christianity during its first millennium had as much Christian truth as was available in the fallen world; then everything that came since - no matter how original and creative - has been deviation from that truth.]


In his Byzantine blindspot, Dawson is typical of most historians.

Indeed, I believe that our whole understanding of the modern world, the nature of civilization, and the human condition is distorted and perverted by a vast and pervasive Byzantine blindspot.


Constaninople was the second Rome, the capital of the Byzantine Empire was the Christian Roman Empire.

The core, essence, and highest manifestation of Christian Rome was Byzantium; of which the Latin West was - spiritually speaking - a pale and fragmented outgrowth. Rome was (in its variants and descendents), the only model and pattern of Christian civilization we can ever know.

As Rome dies over the centuries, so civilization-as-such dies, and is not replaced.

Rome or nothing or something altogether alien and unChristian - these are the only civilizational alternatives.


The Third Rome was Moscow - and Orthodox Russia was the lineal descendent of Byzantium: the Tsar (in ideal) was the continuation of the Byzantine Emperor. The Russion revolution a century ago was therefore the end of Rome as a cohesive spiritual-political organization; the fragmented Holy Roman Empire in the West ended about at the same time. It was the end of Rome which marked the qualitative rift with the Christian past - the Great War was only a mechanism. The twentieth century was then unleashed in all its various horrors. The end times began. 


Modernity and bribery


I got the insight from Ernest Gellner that modern societies (post-Industrial Revolution) attained cohesion and peace mostly by bribery; deals with domestic and international problems by 'buying-off' opposition - using the economic surplus generated by frequent and significant technical breakthroughs. 

This has been possible over the past couple of centuries because of long-term economic growth (per capita), which was possible because of continual increases in productivity, which was possible because of frequent and qualitative technical breakthroughs in production and distribution of essentials, which (I would say) was possible through the large number of Creative Geniuses working in relevant fields.


This system based on bribery and buying-off continues apace - despite that there is now no surplus from growth but rather a decline in the per capita production of relevant goods.

(Obviously a real economics would distinguish between necessary/ useful goods, and the rest.) 

Since there is no surplus, and since there is a lot of buying-off; we have rule based on government theft disguised as borrowing, government theft disguised as egalitarianism, government theft disguised as inflation, and just plain covert theft ('stealth' taxes, as refined in the UK by Gordon Brown).  


Coercion is thus focused on extracting more and more resources from fewer and fewer people to sustain the system of buying-off. This, naturally, satisfies the majority.

This is much easier for governments than abandoning the vast multinational system of influence by subsidy abroad and vote buying at home.

But governments built-on dishonesty and theft nonetheless feel moral, because they eschew the use of violence as a mechanism of social control (of course they use violence, but not directly, and they do not concede they are using it for control - therefore they use if inefficiently and ineffectively). 


It will not last, because it cannot last, and indeed hastens and makes-more-severe the inevitable collapse when there is insufficient resource to sustain the system of bribery.

And this is bad, bad, bad - because it punishes vice to reward evil, and destroys all forms of social cohesion to maintain both the state and the state's enemies (i.e. those which need to be bought-off).

So we are maintaining government, by strengthening the enemies of government (buying them off) by means of the incremental destruction of good behaviour - productive, cohesive, cooperative.  


This is one reason for state/ official/ educational/ media propaganda relentlessly, 24/7, banging-away on their project of demonizing the productive sector of the population which the focus of escalating coercive government theft.

It is easier to steal-from a group if you can persuade yourself that the victims 'deserve it'.

Then you can feel good about being a parasite, a cancer, a sadistic slave driver.


Tuesday 18 September 2012

Some litmus test questions


Most evil: Fascism or Communism?

Mormonism: good or bad thing?

"Archbishop Rowan Williams is well-intentioned, but..." True or False?


James Joyce or JRR Tolkien?

T.S. Eliot or Robert Frost?

Gustav Mahler or Richard Strauss?


The Bonferroni correction: experimental rigour or scientific illiteracy?

The null hypothesis is just common sense? Yes? No? (delete as appropriate)

Statistical significance has something to do with truth. True or False? 


Failure of the internet: Innovation minus Creative destruction = Decline


The basic model for economic-growth-generating innovation is probably that of a genius generating a breakthrough causing 'creative destruction' - for example, when a new industry or technology all-but wipes-out an existing one.

This is what potentially may increase economic productivity (i.e. economic efficiency, how much necessary and useful stuff is produced per man-hour of work)

And when creative destruction does not happen, it may be that innovations tend to reduce overall efficiency: such as the internet.


An example: education. Fifteen or twenty years ago I was reading many articles about how the internet would wipe out most residential universities and colleges; but there are more people in higher education than ever before.

And they are using the internet pretty much all the time - indeed, we now have the situation where students go and reside in the vicinity of a college yet most of students' 'teaching' comes from the internet, they spend most of their time using internet communications (including supposed teaching time time) and most of students' 'work' comes from the inernet.

If the internet has wiped-out anything in education, it is not residential schooling but education itself.

Thus, since the internet did not all-but wipe-out most residential higher education in a conflagration of creative destruction, instead it made higher education (even) worse.


And that has been the general effect of the internet with respect to economic efficiency. The theoretical effect on improving efficiency has remained exactly that: theoretical - while any economic benefits have been overwhelmed by other factors. 


It seems that there are very particular requirements for the kind of productivity-enhancing breakthrough that led to the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of modern societies based on growth and the expectation of growth.

The breakthroughs that enable the continuation of modernity must be big, frequent, relevant, and destructive to the status quo - if they are to overcome the powerful anti-efficiency trends which are also unleashed by modernity.


Monday 17 September 2012

Psychoticism and the mode of thinking



A world where Genius (and high talent) is evil


For a long while we have been living in a world where most instances of Genius, and indeed most of the most talented people, are evil in their net effect.

By evil I mean quite precisely destructive of virtue, beauty and truth - as these transcendental values are traditionally conceptualized.

This applies almost wherever you look: philosophy, prose, poetry, music, science - and in more modern areas like journalism and comedy.

I am particularly impressed by the extent to which so much of comedy has been an agent of evil - especially satire. And I mean the most accomplished, most creative and innovative comedy - the funniest comedy: how it has culmulatively and almost sytematically attacked meaning, purpose, hope.

At any rate, this is one of the biggest problems of Western culture - the extent to which its greatest exemplars were evil; hence destructive of the basis of their own pre-eminence.

Indeed, this seems the norm: there are exceptions, but the evil Genius is the usual kind of Genius.


Sunday 16 September 2012

Does Christianity support Western Culture support Christianity (etc)


Many, many reactionary bloggers focus on the relationship between Western Culture and Christianity, and how we need one for the other, or whether we can have the one without the other.

(People differ about which they regard as most important - the culture or the Christianity.)


But, but, but...

Obviously the two things are not intrinsically related - although they are compatible, yes

(or, at least were so for hundred of years, albeit unravelling all the time)

but anyone who would agree on the validity of Eastern Orthodoxy has already acknowledged that Christianity can exist without Western Culture.

(I personally would further argue that Christianity existed at a higher level under Eastern Orthodoxy than ever it did in the West - but to acknowledge superiority is not necessary.  It is enough for the argument merely to acknowledge that Eastern Orthodoxy is validly Christian and yet has existed for 2000 years outside the West in the Middle East and Asia Minor, and for many hundreds of years in Eastern Europe and Russia.)

So what is there to discuss?


The importance is that it seems, in these end times, as if Christians are going to have to choose in a way they could avoid in the past.

Nobody can have it all; nobody can pick-out the bits they want to keep, rejecting those they dislike.

Life is a package deal.


Obviously, real Christians who are also Leftists will need to abandon Leftism including democracy, the sexual revolution etc - they will need to make this choice or else stop being Christian; but the same principle applies to the Right who will have to loosen their grip on Western Culture, nationalism, racial politics, machismo and whatever else traditionally Right-wing worldly concerns may motivate them.

Sooner or later (if it has not already happened) each Christian will face this choice to put Christianity first and sacrifice other socio-political motivations concerns, or stop being a real Christian; sooner or later and probably sooner.

As Christians, we should prepare ourselves for making that choice.


Saturday 15 September 2012

Musical analysis of pop, rock and reggae


I was keen on pop music aged about 10-11, and played in a sort-of 'group', but throughout my teens I was interested by firstly folk music, then classical - and only around twenty did I take much of an interest in pop.

A thing I liked to do was use my basic musical knowledge (derived mostly from classical) to understand a bit about pop.


Because pop is simple, it was possible for even a modestly knowledgeable person to realize what was going on - although one thing I soon realized was that pop was more complex, and more diverse, than I had assumed.


For example I realized that within pop there was pop-as such, which was based on tonic-dominant harmonies (e.g. the Beatles) and rhythm and blues/ rock and roll based on tonic-subdominant harmonies (e.g. the Rolling Stones).

One of the biggest groups - Status Quo - had broken into the scene as a I-V pop group (Pictures of matchstick men) and then become the classic rock and roll I-IV outfit.

I recognized that punk rock was something new in terms of its use of minor chords in fast and aggressive music; and that its other musical innovations were singing in an English (not fake American) accent, machine-gun drumming and distorted rhythm guitars.

I was surprised to find that the loudest and most wild 'heavy metal' group - Motorhead - was actually a punk band in terms of its harmonies - and their sound was built on an unique strummed-bass guitar sound from Lemmy.

I was interested by the two trios which dominated early 80s English pop: the Police and the Jam: and that the fact that the Police singer played bass meant that the group was built around the unique and virtuoso rhythm/ lead guitar talent of Andy Summers; while the Jam's singer played guitar, therefore was restricted to rhythm guitar and their bass player - Bruce Foxton - was in effect playing lead on the bass as well as underpinning the sound.

I had always liked reggae (since the late 1960s) but couldn't understand what made it different: however listening to the 'two-tone' revival of ska and rocksteady (e.g. the Specials), I un-picked that the basis was (if counted as four to a bar) a combination of four elements:

1. off-beat rhythm (on guitar or organ)
2. coming down hard on the third beat (usually snare drum)
3. bass guitar which syncopated (in a triplet rhythm)
4. a hi-hat or other percussion tapping eight beats (semi-quavers) to the bar as background

And I recognized that the novelty group Madness, were actually great musical innovators, and had created a new and uniquely English (indeed Cockney) combination of  singing, dance, humour, sentiment and a 'fairground organ' sound built up from ska.

Signs of a misspent youth, no doubt...


At death - ancient versus modern


When somebody dies, for most of human history what was perceived is that person leaving their body; the soul leaving the body.

Then there was a difference of opinion about where it went and what happened to it.


 But when a modern person sees another person die, they see that person being extinguished.


What a profound difference this is, concerning the key fact of human existence!

What a qualitative shift in the assumed baseline fact of life!

Modern Western secular Man stands on the other side of a gulf which separates his understanding of the human condition from all Men of the past, and from the majority of Men alive now.


So, on the one hand there is a natural and (probably) universal belief in the soul or spirit or essence leaving the body at death; and there is the recent, modern Western belief that the person is extinguished, snuffed-out, at death.

What 'evidence' could possibly have justified this shift?

Or, if not evidence, (which of course it was not), then what provoked the shift of assumption - the metaphysical perspective - which justified this wholesale reinterpretation of the facts of life deriving from the fact of death?


If you ever imagine metaphysics is unimportant, just consider this difference in watching a man die: the difference between seeing his soul departing from the body, and his extinction.


Friday 14 September 2012

The evolution of Creative Genius in European populations



Eternity as Out of Time


Theology and Philosophy at their most basic are concerned with the metaphysics of Time or Change - and the perception that there can be no knowledge of anything without reference to that which does not change and is therefore Out of Time.

The foundational problem of philosophy is therefore the relationship between Time and Eternity, between Change and the Permanent.

Thus the Ancient Jews founded theology and the Ancient Greeks philosophy in the sense that the Jews perceived that the one creator God must be unchanging and permanent and inhabit an eternal realm Out of Time, while the Greeks perceived the same but starting at the opposite end.

Eternity does not change and is thus Out of Time.


However, this matter is absent from most religions, and from the minds of most people: most religions and most people conceive of eternity as endless Time: Time that goes on forever.

On this understanding, eternity is (merely) change that goes on forever: thus eternity is conceived as either open-ended and never-repeating evolution, or else eternal recurrence.


Within Christianity the concept of Heaven as Out of Time is apparently restricted to the Catholic denominations (and to relatively few persons within these).

Clearly, the concept of Heaven as Out of Time, eternal, unchanging - is not necessary to salvation; and perhaps the best of Christians do not even ask such questions as lead to theology and philosophy.

But wrong philosophical answers to this question lead, recurrently, to such errors and stumbling blocks as the debates over predestination and 'the elect' - matters which were conclusively answered near the beginning of Christianity (on the basis of Heaven being Out of Time) by Boethius, among others; but which nonetheless came back to do considerable damage at the Reformation and since. 


And of course, every philosophical answer, no matter how correct and conclusive, leads onto further philosophical questions.

In this instance, philosophers ask how the eternal and the temporal realms are related; while Christians ask about the transition between Time and Eeternity which occurs at or around the time of death.

The Eastern Orthodox narrative of the soul guided by two angels through the upper airs, past toll houses inhabited by demons, for forty days before a first judgement as to its dwelling place - is one way of describing this which sticks to the concept of Time as linear and sequential. The Roman Catholic ideas of purgatory and limbo are other variations on the themes.

But none of the popular and accessible Christian accounts of what happens at death are able to say much about a transition between Time and Eternity (Out of Time); and indeed it is probably impossible to say anything more about this than Socrates/ Plato (who were probably the first to understand the problem).


In conclusion... if you have the kind of mind which sees the problem to which Eternity Out of Time is the answer - then you must not expect to get further precise and fully explanatory answer to the problems which follow on from this: the problems of the relationship and transition between Eternity Out of Time and Knowledge and this world we currently live in - this world of Time, Change, Decay and Illusion.


Lord of the Rings as anti-allegory...



Thursday 13 September 2012

Novels with The Inklings as characters



We are all Protestants now...


In exploring Eastern Orthodoxy, at some point it struck me that what we consider to be Eastern Orthodoxy in the Modern West is qualitatively different from what Eastern Orthodoxy is supposed to be, and was in earlier centuries: that is, a fully immersive and coherent way of life.

A modern Westerner attending an Eastern Orthodox church once or twice a week and practicing personal devotions between-times just is not at all the same thing as growing-up living under an Orthodox Monarch in a society where Orthodoxy is everywhere you turn.

Something similar applies to Roman Catholicism in the West; although Western Catholicism has not been as integrated a system as sometimes happened in the East, since there always was a secular realm.

And, having noted this, it seems very highly probable that never again will there be the kind of Catholic society that existed in the past.

Which means that Christians are 'all Protestants now' in a sense - all necessarily focused on private devotions as the centre of our Christian life, because there is nothing else for us to be focused-on, hour by hour and day by day.

There just isn't enough of the other stuff of Christian living.

Of course, this is a truly terrible loss of potential, of the highest levels of Holiness; on the other hand it means there is now no strong or Good reason for Christian disunity.


Apologizing - a clarification


Apologizing is something you might reasonably do concerning something you did, or for which you were responsible.

But when you 'apologize' for something you didn't do, and for which you were not responsible - then this is a different thing from apologizing: that thing is called blaming someone else.

Apologizing may be praiseworthy (or may not), but it has the virtue of being psychologically difficult and emotionally unpleasant; but blamimg someone else for something you didn't do under the guise of apologizing is merely a species of self-indulgence.


Wednesday 12 September 2012

What should we try to do about evil Leftist pseudo-Christians?


Real Christianity in The West is small and weak and - even where it exists - partial and much less satisfactory than it could or should be.

I believe that many or most modern Western Christian 'churches' are overwhelmingly anti-Christian in their net effect - they are pseudo-Christians, subversives fakes which retain a few 'trappings' of real Christianity but pursue an agenda that is dictated by Leftism.

Think of an Episcopalian church where a priestess is robed in hideous modern vestments, using a rewritten Leftist liturgy and 'inclusive language' Bible, bowdlerized hymns and worship songs, preaching a sermon about the need for socialist policies in Africa. Where is the Christianity? - literally in just a few words, dotted here and there, but clothed in bureaucratic prose stripped of beauty, embedded in a Leftist context, and glossed in a worldly framework.

This kind of thing was prophesied, and is a results of millions of people's bad decisions, and the increased domination of the forces of purposive evil, and reflects that we are in a terrible situation - I mean our society is visibly falling into sin with obvious signs of depravity more common and pervasive every month.


But if you are a Christian, it is not rational to treat 'Christianity' (i.e. The Church - the institution) as if it was the same kind of thing as Universities, The Legal Profession or The Military - that is just another increasingly corrupt institution; because it is of the essence of Christianity that The Church is not primarily a social system.

I saw it well put the other day (from memory) that The Church is a mystery with an institution - and not an institution that contains a mystery.

(I mean, of course, a mystery in the Christian sense.)


This is simply not debatable - The Church is of its essence a mystery.

The institution must grow from this - it is essential, sometimes useful and anyway inevitable, but it is not the essence. And of course the mystery of the Church is not amenable to measurement etc.

Nobody would disagree that it is possible, has happened, that the Christian 'church' may be huge and powerful but without the mystery - a hollow shell.

And something like the opposite could be true, as in the Soviet Union when an intense and surprisingly large Christianity apparently survived in the catacomb church. There were many martyrs for the faith.

Numbers and percentages are not the essence of the Church. Important in a way, but not the essence. Plain example: a Saint has a much much greater impact than large numbers of lower level Christians - let's say someone like Fr Seraphim Rose with a hand worked printing press in a two man skete in rural North California.


I would say (echoing Peter Kreeft) the biggest problem of modern Western Christianity is the lack of Saints - not the lack of numbers (although the two are not completely unrelated).

The US has been the centre of world Christianity for more than a century - but hasn't produced many figures of the stature of Saints; indeed, some Christian denominations are reluctant to allow the reality of qualitatively higher levels of Holiness in some people, which could be a big problem if it prevents people even trying.


In sum, the institution of Christianity is in its essence about Salvation, Holiness... it is about Christian goals, and it is this which must be the focus, and where lie the problems that must be 'fixed'.

Yes, most people who call themselves Christians are wrong about the sexual revolution, yes this does block them from progress and keeps them trapped in Leftism - but while I am horrified and angry about this subversion, ultimately it is a symptom not a cause.

Indeed the sexual revolution is a symptom of a fixation upon worldly and secular matters and a rejection of the transcendental - it is a symptom of hedonism replacing salvation as the ultimate goal of human life.

Secular arguments against Leftism that are based on this-worldly hedonism (i.e. the secular Right) will further damage, not help, Christianity.


So although people should certainly stop being Leftists, rejection of Leftism must not be the focus of Christian life, nor even a prerequisite.

If someone becomes a real Christian, and deepens their faith, then they will shed their Leftism incrementally, a piece at a time.

But shedding their Leftism a piece at a time will not in and of itself do anything at all towards them becoming a Christian - and if they shed their Leftism for worldly reasons, they will simply become a different type of Leftist; because anti-Christian, this-worldly atheism is the root and motivation of Leftism.


[Note: This post was adapted from a Sept 12 comment at Jim's Blog which was in response to a Sept 11 discussion at Foseti ]