Tuesday 31 March 2015

Lloyd Alexander biographical documentary

A fascinating, and highly-recommended hour-long biographical film about Lloyd Alexander has been posted on YouTube recently -

I have a special affection for Alexander's Prydain Chronicles series, which I have read multiple times, including aloud as a bedtime book - and Alexander comes across through the text as an exceptionally likeable author.

I found-out about these books from Lin Carter mentioning them positively in A Look Behind The Lord of the Rings, and was delighted when the first three volumes (only)  came-out in an inexpensive UK paperback - the final two volumes were only published considerably later. They have a special, earnest charm and good-humour about them which I find to be a wholesome tonic.

I knew nothing about Alexander until I read an intriguing interview in a book about fantasy authors; then, - after he died in 2007 - I found a TV programme recording a delightful visit to his home -

Alexander had a remarkable and unique face; and it seems that the face contained the truth about his nature: he was an absolutely driven author, a misfit and maverick in the world, he suffered badly from depression, he was kindly, idealistic and much loved. It is all written there.

I write for Britain's most PC newspaper


OK, regular readers can have a good laugh at the fact I have today published a piece in The Guardian, which is famously the home of political correctness in British newspaper journalism.

It would not be dignified for me to try and explain myself; the fact that I am not getting paid probably makes matters worse rather than better...

The main reason was that I was asked to write 400 words in favour of lectures (one of my hobby horses), and as an ex freelance journalist, I became fascinated by the challenge of saying what I wanted to say, briefly and in an engaging manner.

Could I still do it, I wondered? Before I knew it, I had done it - so, yes.

Below is pasted the version I submitted - and to see how the sub-editors improved it, go to:



I am reluctant to discuss lecturing, since on this particular topic it is futile since I am in too small a minority. The fact is that real lectures are always greatly appreciated by students who want to learn. But what are called 'lectures' nowadays are a travesty. 

...Vast, stuffy venues that seat hundreds; students sitting in the dark and unable to see the speaker; a disembodied voice droning into a microphone; the lecturer reading-out endless powerpoint slides which have already been posted online; the scanty audience passive instead of actively making their own notes -  distracted by themselves and others intermittently browsing the internet and social networking; and the whole thing being recorded as if to emphasize to students that they don't really need to be there and they don't really need to pay attention... 

...well these atrocities are what people currently call lectures, and they are indefensible. 

However, so are the so-called alternatives to lectures! Mere gimmicks and novelties - designed to get praise and awards for teaching 'innovation'. (A bicycle with triangular wheels is an innovation - the proper question is whether it is fit for purpose.) 

But when lectures are taken seriously, and conducted in the proper way, they are the best pragmatic way of teaching knowledge to people who want to know. 

Good lectures are possible and achievable - I experienced many of them at my medical school. But good lectures are not easy, nor are they as cheap as some 'alternatives'. Good lectures require all-round effort from people who appoint teaching staff and design lecture theatres; from those who construct courses, and those who create the educational ethos.

And (hardest of all) good lectures require here-and-now concentration during the actual teaching period - effort from both lecturer and audience alike. A good lecture is hard work!

Because a good lecture is a one-off performance. Like the theatre rather than the cinema, everybody present contributes to the success or failure, everybody is 'involved'. But when it 'works', a good lecture is an experience that may be remembered forever. 

So real lecturing is irreplaceable in the same way that live theatre or musical performance is irreplaceable - real human beings, actually-present and in psychological contact; seeing and hearing each other in real-time; working together on something they both value. 

It is sad that so few modern students will ever experience anything of this kind. 


Don't rise to Leftist provocation

There is nothing that our secular Left culture likes more than for Christian reactionaries to expend their lives fulminating against it.

This indeed is a message always implicit but often also explicit in every triumph of the West - in policy, economics, law, and (above all) the sexual revolution:

"Suck on that you Christian bigots!"

"How do you like that you hate-filled conservatives?"

"What have you got to say about that? - Fascists!"

Much of TV, movies, novels, newspapers and magazines, fine art, comedy, social networking, government and NGO propaganda... has this exact same message: a slap or a punch in the face; a knife driven into the targeted religion, and twisted.

Then they sit back, rub their hands, and gleefully watch us waste our finite mortal time in impotent, futile, raging - until the time comes for another dagger prod.


Despair and salvation to Nirvana

When suffering exists with hope, we yearn for Heaven.

But when suffering leads to despair; then we yearn for release, permanent escape from suffering; escape into un-self-conscious being, reabsorption into the impersonal divine; bliss, Nirvana.

Cultures of despair reject the personhood of God - relationships are seen as a perpetuation of suffering. The Goal is detachment - especially from relationships.

Modernity suffers deeply and despairs deeply; modern Men yearn for Nirvana yet disbelieve it; because modernity starts-from a rejection of the personhood of God, and despair is a consequence of this rejection.

Despairing modern man can only imagine as real a temporary escape from self-hood into distraction or obliterative intoxication; or a permanent escape into extinction.

There are no other alternatives - neither hope of Heaven nor release into Nirvana.


Shepherd and Lamb

Jesus Christ is the Shepherd, master of the flock - and we his lambs.

And Christ is the Lamb - lovely and knowable.

The Lamb of God grows from innocent, joyous dependence to unresisting sacrifice.

The Lion is God the Father - and without Christ He is a thing terrible, awesome, un-knowable, feared.

The Lion would naturally kill the Lamb; and indeed the Lamb is killed.

The Lamb rises glorious and lies down with the Lion.

The Lamb evokes our love, compassion, care - but a mortal Lamb cannot save us. The Lamb must be reborn, and rule with the Lion.

The Lamb becomes Shepherd...

It is only by our love for the reborn Lamb that we may have a proper and necessary relation with the Lion.


Mortal incarnate life is about TWO things: Salvation and Theosis (The primary focus of God's plan was *not* you and I.)


The purpose and function of mortal incarnate life is not reducible to one thing - mortal incarnate life is not reducible to salvation unless salvation is given a dual meaning, in which case the duality of purpose is being covertly (and often insensibly) smuggled-in.

All Men live and die - that experience is common to all Men and to Jesus Christ - and that is the 'mechanism' of salvation. All that humans need to do is accept Christ's offer and gift of salvation (although that acceptance may not be as easy as it sounds given the corruptions of a long life in this world; and certainly acceptance of Christ's work cannot be assumed to be universal.)

But most Men are incarnated and die either in the womb or at or soon after birth; and more die while innocent babes or young children. These all experience the essential experience which is necessary for salvation.


The basic experience of mortal life is that our pre-mortal eternal souls are clothed in a body, then die and become separated from that body - but not only the 'physical' body. Our souls also experience dwelling within a personality, a specific set of dispositions, abilities, motivations etc. You could summarize this by saying our souls dwell inside a mind, and the characteristics of that mind - and the mind is not the soul.

This 'personality' or mind is also part of the body (that is it depends on the body - especially the brain) and the soul also separates from the mind at death.

So, during mortal life the soul and personality/ body are in a state of necessary disharmony (this is what some Christians call original sin) but after resurrection the soul is perfectly in harmony with the body/ personality.


Spiritual progression is linear and sequential, like Time. The primary aim of mortal incarnate life is salvation - which is first the experience of the soul dwelling in a state of disharmony with a personality/ body and then dying to be resurrected to the condition of a soul dwelling in harmony with personality/ body (unless the soul refuses the resurrection to harmony - unless the soul refuses to let go of the conflicted aspects of the body/ personality).

The aim of resurrection into harmony can only be achieved via the experience of mortal incarnate life and death, and via the work of Jesus Christ who underwent these experiences.


All this is salvation - but theosis refers to the degree of progress towards divine-nature achieved during mortal incarnate life; and this depends upon length of life and circumstances and opportunities of life - as well as upon choices, will, and other personal factors.

A long life (i.e. to maturity, to include more primary experiences such as marriage and children, creative work, friendships, self-sacrifice etc) offers more possibilities of theosis - of a higher degree of advancement, and more possibilities of corruption.

The value of a long life may be remedial in some instances (a chance for those who most need it; pre-mortal spirits who are significantly deficient), or to enable a more advanced level of spirituality (a chance for those best able to make the most of opportunities). Or mixtures.


Most of religious discourse which purports to be about salvation is really about theosis - it is about that small minority of humans who have lived a long life.

We should never forget that God's plan will very probably have been focused primarily on the majority of Men who never made it out of the womb, or early childhood. The plan was mostly about them; and only secondarily about us, about you and I - part of that tiny minority of long-lived Men whose business ought to be theosis.

(Although, tragically, many of us who live in the secular West explicitly state that we fully intend to reject salvation - and actively aim to persuade others to do likewise. But, fortunately, this madness has not afflicted the mass of men in history and does not afflict the majority alive today.)


Monday 30 March 2015

William Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Blake was a mystic - was divinely inspired - had direct access to and received evidence of reality.

Mystics provide us with what might be termed objective evidence; but most mystics are just as prone to misunderstand, misinterpret, and falsely-systematize objective evidence evidence as are you and I.

Blake was also a Man, of knowledge incomplete and fallible, and (perhaps more than usually) prone to hatred and resentment.

So, we can benefit greatly from the inspired wisdom of Blake - but need also to recognize that Blake's own understanding of Blake's own wisdom was rather poor - which is why so much of his writing is essentially meaningless (and hardly even attempts to be meaningful).

But if we consider The Marriage of Heaven and Hell from " Without Contraries is no progression" up to the end of the Proverbs of Hell "Enough! or Too much!"; then we are confronted with as profound and as concentrated a catalogue of truth as human hand has penned.

(With the exception of the Apostles.)


Our task is to regard this as divinely-inspired evidence; but to edit-out Blake's own false interpretations and systematizations of this evidence.

And this is what we must do with all (true) mystical insight - whether from the Prophets and Saints; or from other modern Christian (or at least self-identified Christian) mystics like Pascal, Traherne, Swedenborg, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rudolf Steiner and William Arkle.


There should be no division between religion and the state - 'theocracy' is a good thing

There cannot and should-not be any division or distinction between religion and the state.

Unless the state is to be evil; it must-be and ought-to-be permeated by religion; at every level and in both its largest principles and its smallest particulars.

There is no pre-specified political (or religious) mechanism by which this desirable state of affairs should-be established - indeed no mechanism could, even in principle, achieve this.

But any approach towards the goal of complete harmony in all aspects of life, under the guidance of true religion, should never be allowed to be blocked by such nonsensical and anti-Christian principles as the supposed desirability of separation of church and state, or a belief in the intrinsic wickedness of 'theocracy'.


It is not un-loving to judge people as having evil intentions - indeed such judgements are absolutely required

Christians sometimes feel or say that they ought to suppose other people have 'good intentions', and that this attitude is entailed by being loving, as we are required to be.

But this is a mistake. Christians simply need to judge the intentions of others as accurately as possible, and then act accordingly.

When a person is judged as having evil intentions, then this may need to be said explicitly; and such a person should be treated as such.


The Christian injunction to love, and not to hate - comes-in in the sense that a person's evil intentions should not be taken as a justification for hating them; because such emotions as hatred, resentment, grudge-bearing, vengefulness are un-Christian.

Of course, most people cannot help but feel hatred, resentment, cannot help bearing grudges, cannot stop a desire for revenge. However, such feelings should be acknowledged to be wrong, should be repented, and should not be justified.


As Christians, we must acknowledge that we ought to be able (were we perfect in our obedience) to love even those who are motivated by evil - as did Christ.

But that does not-at-all mean we should always assume good intentions, nor that we should always give people 'the benefit of the doubt'. To do that would be dishonest (a sin) as well as simply foolish.

Christians are not supposed to be self-deluding dupes, deranged by wishful-thinking - but to be clear-eyed realists.


Does Life have a plan, or is it just random? Neither - Life has a Plot

Secular modernity has it that each human life is random, contingent and meaningless. Obviously; to a religious person that is wrong.

Against this, many religious people say that their life has what they call a Plan - but it seems that this 'plan' is known only in retrospect, and has (what looks to the secular modernists) a self-justifying quality: whatever happens is argued to be 'part of the plan' - no matter how apparently horrible or absurd 'whatever happens' turns-out to be.

'Plan' is the wrong kind of concept for life - to think of life as having a 'Plot' comes much closer to the proper Christian attitude.

Life has a plot, and just like the plot of a play or a novel we only find out the plot at the end - however, any good play or novel is meaningful throughout precisely because we know that (so long as the author is competent) there IS a plot; and we are in IN it all the way.

A plot is not fully-planned-out, and a plot can accommodate all kinds of surprises and even accidents and disruptions without breaking the plot. In other words, a real plot has room for both free-will and contingency.

The plot of the Lord of the Rings requires that Frodo gets to the Cracks of Doom, but cannot fling the One Ring into it. In the actually used plot, Gollum fights Frodo, bites the ring off on its finger, and falls accidentally/ providentially into the lava.

But Gollum nearly repents in the tunnel approaching Shelob's lair, and in his letters Tolkien discusses what might have happened if Gollum had repented. Gollum's repentance would have been 'a good thing' but the plot was under divine providence, so the end result would have been the same - but by other means.

For example, Gollum might have taken the ring from Frodo and deliberately thrown himself into the cracks of doom (because he, like Frodo, would have been unable to throw the ring in). Of, if Gollum had been killed then Sam might have taken Gollum's role; either in some negative way if Sam had killed Gollum from hatred or disgust, or in a noble and self-sacrificing way if Gollum had died by accident or been shot by an orc.


My point is that there is room in the plot of life for free will, and accidents and without violating character.

Human life is governed by providence, there are end points which will happen (God will make them happen) but the timing and precise nature of these end points remains open - and is determined by choices, and also by such random or divinely un-intended factors as exist in the universe outwith God's will.

In your life or my life, bad luck is not 'really' Good luck, evil is not the same as Good - everything that happens is not part of a pre-decided plan. Life is a plot not a plan - some ends are pre-destined, God will ensure that they happen - but not exactly how and when they happen.

This, for example, is how we can know that the end of the world will come, and we can know that these are the end times leading-up-to that end; but we cannot know when that end will come, nor exactly how the prophecies will be fulfilled (and neither does Jesus Christ know this - as explicitly stated in scripture); because 'the end', while certain, can be advanced or delayed and re-shaped by human choice (as well as accidental factors).


Sunday 29 March 2015

Review of Glenn Gould's 'Solitude Trilogy' of radio documentaries

I have recently re-listened to the three programmes of Glenn Gould's 'Solitude' trilogy. The are The Idea of North; The Late Comers and The Quiet in the Land.


All comprise adapted interviews in what purports to be a documentary style, but which in fact uses the interviews as raw material to create monologues, dialogues and simultaneous speaking passages which are modeled on various musical forms - for example, some multi-voice sections have fugue-like aspects.

My impression this time is that none of the programmes are really successful, although all are interesting and worthwhile; also none of them are about solitude - but almost the opposite: they are about living in small, closely-knit and (in some sense) isolated communities - in the Canadian far north, Newfoundland and as a Mennonite (a group of Anabaptists who began as akin to the Amish).

The Idea of North is technically the crudest - and has long documentary like passages which are quite mundane; but it has the best overall dramatic structure, with a somewhat climactic ending featuring a background of Sibelius.

The Late Comers is probably the most interesting, with the best set of 'characters' having some accessible and relevant debates and discussions. The 'basso continuo' of ocean surf sounds throughout, binds it all together. But the programme lacks dramatic shape and just fizzles-out at the end.

The Quiet in the Land has some of the best, most moving passages - featuring a background of church bells, choirs, a sermon and an effective refrain discussing  'in the world, but not of the world' - but has too much argumentativeness, and discussion about disagreements and the dissenters among Mennonites; and not enough about the classic conditions of isolated, self-sufficient, self-confident Mennonite life. And again the whole thing fizzles-out inconclusively.


What strikes me about the actual theme of these programmes is that:

1. Gould stated clearly that these three radio programmes were the nearest he ever attained (or aspired) to a personal statement of his innermost beliefs - that they were a symbolic spiritual autobiography of some kind. Yet...

2. The actual structure and content of the three programmes (including the choice of people interviewed and their sampled words) seems to indicate that Gould yearned for a technologically simple communal life, with common sense, down-to-earth people.

3. This starkly contradicts Gould's many other explicit pronouncements that he loved most solitude, the cocooning (distancing, safe) effects of technology,  and the in general highly individual and eccentric life of a recognized genius musician.

 4. In conclusion, the so-called 'Solitude' trilogy indicate that either Gould was a more conflicted and contradictory man than is usually acknowledged - that his world view does not 'hang together' at even the most basic level; or, less radically, that his deepest yearnings contradicted his public persona - and that what he most deeply wanted in his soul, he was prevented from having by the very different nature of his more superficial personality and intellect.


This last interpretation is plausible to me, since it is the human condition that we as mortals wake-up to 'find-ourselves' (that is, we become-aware-of our deepest, our primary selves) as-it-were dwelling inside not just a body but also a 'personality' - and the soul and 'personality' are not integrated.

(At least, they are not integrated during this mortal incarnate life on earth.)

Our souls peep-out through a personality and set of abilities and habits which are, to some extent, arbitrary and alien - and what this superficial self wants and what it does can be (and can become) very different indeed from what the innermost soul aspires to.

Perhaps that is the coded message that Gould left behind in these 'Solitude' programmes - that his genius required the eccentric life of high-tech isolation for which is is a famous advocate'; but that genius is not the deepest level of a man - inside the genius is a soul who usually sees things very differently and wants very different things.


Saturday 28 March 2015

Placeholder post - end of the seven year cycle


Yesterday, I quite suddenly realized, recognized, that I had (as of last summer) reached the end of one of my seven year cycles of primary interest and activity.

This cycle has been about intelligence, personality and genius and was triggered by reading A Farewell to Alms by Gregory Clark at the end of 2006 - but it took another year before the effects were felt, and it was 2008 before the tipping point came. That was also the time when I (covertly) became a Christian.

The previous cycle was from about 2001-2008 and focused on systems theory, public policy, and New Agey spirituality.

Before that was evolutionary psychology and psychiatry beginning in May of 1994 (triggered by reading an interview with Margie Profet in Omni magazine, then Matt Ridley's Red Queen), and before that was an eclectic mixture of all-sorts of stuff including epidemiology - as I was floundering-around and trying to find my destiny.

Anyway, what this means to the blog is uncertain - because I have not yet found-out what it is I am supposed to be doing from here.

I will not stop doing what I did before (just as I never stopped doing epidemiology, psychiatry, Ev. Psychol. and the rest of it). But I need to find-out 'the next big thing' - and this is a process of discovery, not invention.


Reference: http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2010/09/seven-year-units.html

Thursday 26 March 2015

Flann O'Brien - a perspective

Flann O'Brien is the best known pseudonym of Brian O'Nolan (1911-1966) - who also wrote outstanding comic journalism under the Irish name of Myles na gCopaleen.

O'Brien's output of worthwhile work is very slim, but the best is of the first rank:


At Swim-Two-Birds - a novel, published 1939. Utterly unique - dazzlingly brilliant in parts but wholly unsuccessful (excruciatingly dull) in others; it was a critical success (well reviewed) but sold less than 300 copies.

The Third Policeman - a novel written after ASTB in the early 1940s but rejected, and only eventually published posthumously in 1968. It is an unqualified masterpiece.

The Best of Myles - A collection of journalism published by Picador in 1975. The later Myles na gCopaleen collections are greatly inferior.


O'Brien became an alcoholic - drunk from mid morning every day - from the late 1940s, and none of his later work is worth bothering with. But the above are irreplaceable.

At Swim-Two-Birds has some of the funniest passages I have ever encountered - if you respond to the peculiar drollery of O'Brien's language. In that sense, it is the same order of humour as PG Wodehouse (although utterly different in flavour) - everything comes from the exact use of words, and the 'timing' of the passages.

Having said how much I love this - I would find it unsurprising when other people do not like it. You need to be on the same wavelength - to 'tune in'. It is possible that the reader needs some prior familiarity with Irish dialect and national character - but since I had these, I cannot really judge.

However, the novel was 'experimental' and was in fact a collage of various utterly different books and drafts written by O'Brien (including an MA thesis), including chunks of translated Irish legend (by O'Brien and a friend), letters, and other 'found' material. Some of the seemingly endless passages about Sweeney and The Pooka are best skipped. But the bulk of it is so good that I forgive all.

The Third Policeman is very different in flavour - a nightmarish fantasy/ allegory but with some extremely humorous aspects (particularly the footnotes about the 'savant' De Selby). The whole book is astonishingly perfect.

The Best of Myles is fragmentary journalism; but has a lot of highly original, wonderful, surreal stuff in it. I particularly enjoyed the Keats and Chapman parts.


O Brien's life makes for depressing reading. He did all his good stuff before his early thirties, but was given little or no credit for it (with his greatest achievement completely unknown). The accounts of his morose, irritable helpless alcoholism are horrible - despite that Dubliners romanticise intoxication and have made the later O'Brien into 'a character'.

Compared with other first rate Irish writers, O'Brien is much more natively Irish. Almost all of the (many) top ranking Irish writers were Protestant British (e.g. Spenser, Swift, Sheridan, Goldsmith, Shaw, Wilde, Yeats etc.) - probably only Joyce and O'Brien at this level could be considered indigenous (both were raised Roman Catholic - Joyce lapsed but O'Brien remained devout).

Anyway.... if you don't already know O'Brien's work, I would recommend the best as worthy to stand at the highest level in the relevant genres.

If in doubt, start with The Third Policeman.


Misconceptions about 'British Weather'

Foreigners, especially Americans, have some pretty strange misconceptions about how 'bad' British weather is.

In fact, as the ancient authors often used to state in early accounts of the British mainland, it is easier to argue that Britain has just about the best weather in the world.


Nonetheless, those who say the British weather is terrible are presumably responding to something.

1. I will define Britain for these purposes as the area bounded by London, Bristol, Glasgow and Edinburgh - since this contains a very high proportion of the population, and visitors seldom venture much beyond it.

2. Within this quadrilateral-ish zone, the weather is strikingly variable - notably there is a lot more rain in the west - about twice as much, such that a 'normal' day in Glasgow is rainy. Having lived there more than three years, I know from experience that this much rain does limit what you can do and how things look, especially as a tourist. But that is the extreme, the bulk of Britain to the South and East of Glasgow does not get anything like so much rain.

3. The British climate is more temperate, less extreme than just about anywhere.

Masses of people (I mean dozens, hundreds - never thousands) are only very rarely killed by the weather - by floods, storms, avalanches (!), heat etc - in the way that they are in North America and Europe - and even one single individual killed by the weather is rare and makes national news.

4. What is bad about the British weather is unpredictability, on a day by day - even hour by hour- basis. It is seldom you can be sure it will not rain on a given day; on the other hand it is seldom that the weather stays bad for long and there is always hope of imminent improvement.

(We do get - every few years - dry sunny midsummer and/ or icy-cold midwinter periods lasting multiple weeks - when there is settled High Pressure over the islands, and the weather stays the same day after day. People naturally remember these extreme stable periods, but they are uncharacteristic.)

5. My theory about 'bad' British weather is that people are responding to high latitudes - Britain is at a very high latitude compared with most populous countries; this means that day lengths are extreme (long days in summer, short days in winter), causing a considerable stress of the hormonal and neurotransmitter systems.

Those foreigners who spend the winter here are likely to experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD) of some degree of severity - lethargy,somnolence, irritability, asociability, carbohydrate craving and weight gain...


My hunch is that the bad reputation of British weather comes from extreme latitude rather than the actual weather.

Unless, that is, the disaffected foreigners who spread the bad 'rep' we have for weather had lived in the British rain-capitals of Glasgow or Manchester - in which case their bleak impressions were probably justified by experience. 


(Note: The good news is that SAD is completely treatable nowadays, by the use of artificial bright early morning light. Which I suppose makes Britain paradise - as I look out at the cold rain lashing the windows... But yesterday was sunny and last week was warm - so I console myself that the weather will soon change. )

Wednesday 25 March 2015

I do not want more geniuses


Late thoughts of William Arkle


My conversion story starting from synchronicity - in a nutshell, and with a philosophical perspective


One interesting aspect of synchronicity is that it is individually focused - when experienced, the coincidence was focused on me specifically.

And when the coincidence is 'meaningful' (as the usual definition of synchronicity implies) - then it implies something for me specifically.

If so, then the experience of synchronicity implies some generally-operative power which has some kind of specific interest or concern with me specifically.


It was this line of reasoning which led me from a New Agey belief in the importance of synchronicity, to the inference that - if real - it implied (entailed) a personal god having a personal relationship with me specifically (not an abstract god-of-the-philosophers).

From there, and the fact I am not a Jew, pure reasoning pointed to 'some kind of Christianity' as having a clear reason for god's concern with me specifically. That reason is god's love for me specifically.

(Pure monotheism lacks any reason why an 'omni god' who created everything from nothing should be concerned with individual humans.)


Having arrived at the assumption of a real, 'personal God', what kind of Christian should I be?

That took a while to sort-out; but in retrospect I can see that there was a strongly philosophical process of evaluation going-on.

I explored the major classical theologies: Aristotelian Christianity (Thomism) and Platonic Christianity (Orthodoxy) - but always there were serious nagging doubts about their ability to explain the most important aspects of Christianity - and the sense that Christianity was being fitted-around these (pre-existing) philosophies; to the detriment of Christianity.

My stable conviction for the past two and some years has been that the most philosophically-solid and coherent branch of Christianity - the one which most clearly and simply and un-evasively explains the most important aspects of Christianity that seem to need explaining - is Mormonism.


(The key trigger, the clarifying experience, was reading and understanding Sterling M McMurrin's Theological Foundations of the Mormon Religion - written by an ex-Mormon (or non-believing Mormon) philosopher who treats the religion comparatively and abstractly.)


Most people would regard it as bizarre to assert that Mormonism (of all things!) is the most philosophically coherent explanation of Christianity - especially when compared with the long and professionalized scholastic tradition, or any other theology devised by generations of full-time professional priests and professors.

But the reason I find Mormon theology philosophically convincing (miraculously so) is exactly that it does not require high-level abstraction and educated skills to explain those things that most need explaining.

As an intellectual system, Mormon theology displays the kind of stunning focus, simplicity and clarity which is characteristic of the most important breakthroughs in science.

As a lifelong lover of science, a professional science theorist and theorist of science, and ex-editor of a theoretical of a journal of theoretical bioscience; no wonder I love it so much!


Of course, this above account is excessively abstract and leaves out far more than it includes - but a grasp of the unique philosophical solidity of Mormonism (among Christian theologies) was, and remains, of great importance and significance to me.


Reference: http://theoreticalmormon.blogspot.co.uk


Tuesday 24 March 2015

Does life (as a whole) make sense?

This is perhaps The Big Question.

Secular modernity, public discourse, has it that life as a whole does not make sense, does not need to make sense - and that the idea that life makes sense is wishful thinking or a primitive and childish delusion.

Modernity thinks it knows that life does not make sense; modernity thinks that 'science has proven' that life does not make sense.


If secular modernity is wrong, and life really does make sense, then claiming it does not make sense would be expected to lead to all kinds of harm.

But if life really does not make any sense - but just happens to be the way it is for no reason or purpose - then it does not matter what we think about it; indeed nothing at all 'matters' in any significant sense; everything is merely a matter of 'stuff happen' (or doesn't happen).


That life as a whole makes sense (in some way, at some level, even if that sense is utterly unknown) is perhaps the most basic religious attitude; perhaps something common to all religions that ever have been.

We are all born and experience early childhood believing, or rather simply assuming, that live makes sense; some people abandon this in later life.

This is something each person is responsible for answering for himself: the decision is one loaded with significance.


Christians before Christ?

One distinctive feature of Mormons is the belief that there were Christians before the incarnation of Christ - this is documented (in two different groups) in the Americas in the Book of Mormon.

These were Christians who knew by personal revelation and prophecy that a savour and redeemer, Christ, would come - and that his atonement would potentially cover everybody - before, during and after His incarnation - and who therefore practised a Christ-centred religion even before Jesus was born or resurrected.

I believe in the truth of the BoM; but even for a Christian who did not, there is a real possibility that what it describes specifically may have happened in one or more places.


How might Christians have existed before Christ?

My hunch is that a Saviour is something that would make sense only to those who were, in some sense, monotheists - those who believed in One God.

(Not necessarily a belief in a one-and-only God but a supreme, authoritative and ruling personal God who had a care for Men - individually and collectively.)

It is not that a Saviour is unnecessary in a polytheistic system, but rather that there is (apparently) a considerable muddle and imprecision about polytheism, such that its philosophical implications(including deficiencies) are unclear, and undiscussed.


How might Christians before Christ know about Christ?  Here are three possible lines of evidence.

1. Revelation - personal revelations to individuals, and to acknowledged prophets, may have been made by God to communicate the need for a Saviour, and the promise of a Saviour.

(God might make such revelations open to all Men and all societies; but they may not be looked for, or may be ignored or rejected.)

2. Reason may have worked-out the need for a Saviour; individuals may have understood that pure monotheism was philosophically-inadequate (even in principle) to provide and account for the combination of factors which characterised the human condition in relation to the divine.

(This argument is based on the fact that Christianity offers, or promises, more than any other religion - as was recognized by Blaise Pascal; in other words, other religions have more gaps and deficiencies.)

3. Psychology - people may have felt the need for a Saviour; may have recognized that they could not save themselves, and that for them to be saved required some kind of mediator between God the Father and man.

And they may have felt that because they personally needed a Saviour, then a loving God of power would 'provide' a Saviour.

(This is another place where it seems that monotheism is required to understand the necessity of Christ - those who believe in a polytheistic pantheon do not regard them as responsive to human needs.)


So, it is possible that early men may, for a variety of reasons, have concluded that Man required a Saviour; and that what Man needed God would somehow give.

Also that because a Saviour is once-and-for-all, it did not much matter whether He had not yet come: life should still be lived with that awareness.

And so some early men may have practised de facto Christianity.



My favourite is the Neolithic inhabitants of England who built the Avebury, Silbury, Stonehenge and the other linked outdoor temples, stone monuments, pathways and spaces across southern England.


I like to speculate, to imagine, that these people were monotheists - with their supreme sky God-the-Father associated with the sun - and that they were awaiting some intermediary Saviour who was Son to the Father God.

This is compatible with what little is known of these societies; but there is no positive evidence that I know of - indeed I do not know what might count as positive evidence of a proto-Christian religion among the kind of things that survive to be noted by archaeologists.

Only if some kind of writing is found from this era, and is deciphered, could we perhaps really know. But if archaeologists aren't even looking for proto-Christianity or rule-it-out a priori (because, as typical secular modern people, the idea strikes them as absurd) then of course they never will find it.


Monday 23 March 2015

A perfect storm of self-amplifying geniuses in 18th century England


Why some ultra-Left people become self-identified (Liberal) Christians - a safe haven from nasty macho men

The fact that many self-identified Christians, especially in the largest denominations, are extremely Leftist/ Liberal/ Politically Correct is very obvious - the current and previous Archbishops of Canterbury being prime examples.

Such 'Christian'-Leftists seem to be as convinced of the Leftism as anybody; they talk of it all the time, indeed compulsively - and their Christianity (however overt) is continually being adjusted and re-adjusted to fit around the changing needs of their primary political beliefs.


What puzzled me, until yesterday, is why such people bother to remain 'Christian' - even if it is little more than a matter of self-naming? In a world where when the mainstream of public discourse is secular Leftism - why do they insist on regarding themselves as Christian, advertising themselves as Christian; thereby alienating a sizeable chunk of the mass of Leftists?

Until yesterday my only explanation was a combination of careerism and fifth column subversion. For example, a middle managerial mediocrity like Justin Welby could never in a thousand years aspire to a position of such high status, privilege, fame and administrative authority as Archbishop of Canterbury - except in the corrupt and cowardly world of the Church of England bureaucracy. So as a career move, the Church makes sense for some people.

Once in position, many senior clergy devote their best energies into subverting real Christianity from the inside; leading their flocks, by incremental degrees, into the apostasy of evaluating Christianity by what they regard as the primary realities of secular public discourse (most notably in the realm of conforming 'Christianity' to whatever happen to be the currently fashionable imperatives of the sexual revolution).


But while both careerism and insider subversion are realities, they did not seem to explain the presence of so many low-level and passive ultra-Leftist individuals among the clergy and laity of Liberal churches.

The most likely reason dawned on me yesterday - when I found myself listening to a few excerpts from some conversations on the subject of spirituality and religion (including Christianity) between Rupert Sheldrake and a journalist called Mark Vernon.

(I would not recommend listening to these conversations, by the way.)

By his account, it seems Dr Vernon was ordained a Church of England priest - then left the CoE because it was Insufficiently Left Wing (especially concerning the agenda of the sexual revolution) - spent some time as an atheist - then re-identified himself as Liberal Christian (i.e an 'agnostic') who regularly - he said twice a week - attends services in what are (obviously) Liberal 'Christian' churches (plus, apparently, some kind of Buddhist practice as well).


So why did Dr Vernon stop being an atheist? The answer is that he discovered by experience that atheists are Insufficiently Left Wing - in other words atheists are 'intolerant'.

The situation is that MV ceased to regard himself as a Christian because it wasn't Left Wing enough, and subsequently came to regard himself as again a Christian for the same reason!


And so here we have the psychological mechanism which makes Liberal Christianity the ideology of choice for some of those who are most deeply, most viscerally Left Wing.

A Liberal Christian denomination like the CoE, Methodism, Church of Scotland or Wales, or The Episcopal Church in the USA is the best haven for those who most deeply value the 'softer' more 'feminine' Leftist values of tolerance, diversity, equality, human rights and the Undeveloped World (Fair Trade, Aid and all that).

For such people mainstream secular Leftism is too Right Wing in style; too dominated by rather alarmingly loud, brutal, tough and masculine values - as typified by such tub-thumping fundamentalist ultra-skeptics as Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchins.

Liberal Christianity is thus an asylum for nice women and epicene men of ultra-Leftist persuasion who want a safe refuge from nasty atheist macho men.


(This also explains succinctly why there are zero conservative evangelic Bishops in the CoE; despite that this is the only successful, thriving, growing, money-making branch of the church.)


Where do we go in our dreams, and why?

From what I have read of anthropology, tribal people (hunter gatherers especially) seem to believe that when you dream of a place, you go to that place - or your spirit does. This belief seems very sensible, and - with a few qualifications - probably more true than not.

My general perspective on dreams is that they are very important, but remembering dreams is not very important - they do their necessary work at an unconscious or subliminal level. The few and infrequent dream fragments we recall on waking can therefore be misleading. However, they are all the evidence we have.


I have certain places where I go in my dreams - and each tends to have a fairly typical mood or type of event associated with it.

Firstly, none of these places much resemble the 'real' places. So, when I dream of Durham Castle (which is a university college where I lived for a year) it has negligible physical resemblance to the actual castle - it is some kind of essence I dream about. The Durham dreams are always enjoyable and somewhat inspiring - which is my attitude to the place itself.

When I dream about Newcastle upon Tyne (where I live), I am often discovering some new and wonderful place or building that I 'never noticed before' - although last night I had the opposite kind of surprise, that the West End of the city (a street I lived while a student) had become a site of social collapse and violent strife.

(But, to be fair, that was one of those maddening dreams when, for some reason, I lacked shoes and socks - and pretty much anywhere is threatening in those circumstances.)  

I quite often dream negatively about Glasgow, dreams with a sense of oppression and meaninglessness - which are a fairly accurate encapsulation of my state of mind during the time I lived there.

(Glasgow was certainly bad for me; but probably for reasons having little to do with the place or people; and mostly to do with my own wrong attitudes, beliefs, weaknesses, and basic unmarried and living alone situation.)

In contrast, I have recurrent delightful dreams about Oxford - which is a city where I have spent many weeks over the decades. Although I love being in the places, walking around, visiting bits and pieces; in real life, I regard Oxford university as mostly a corrupt, dishonest, mediocre and not just useless but actively-very-harmful institution - however, in these dreams it is a kind of paradise of true scholarship and religion (as indeed it has been, through much of its history).


Most of my dreams that I recall are simply those dreams at the end of the night's sleep, from which I am pleased to wake - cyclical and irritating dreams, seedy and violent dreams, dreams of oppression and dementia (the way in which life, especially memory and understanding, keeps slipping away from me in dreams seems like a taste of dementia).

I assume that the purpose of these dreams is vicarious experience of temptation, pain, fear, cowardice, hatred and other types of evil, so that I know these states not just theoretically. And this, although horrible to go through, I presume is one of the potential benefits of a prolonged mortal life. After all, CS Lewis had terrible nightmares all his life, and I infer that much of his vivid writing on evil was a direct consequence of these dream-experiences.


But do I go to these places? Is my body, lying there in bed, one from which the spirit has departed to another place? Am I away voyaging, and often suffering?

Well, yes to all of these; somehow, in some sense.

Therefore, sleep is not a waste of time!

Sleep is not an avoidance of experience but a form of travel, and a valuable balance to waking experience. Not something to be minimised or to be ashamed-of.

Sleep is a biological necessity, a psychological benefit - and probably has great religious significance as well.


Sunday 22 March 2015

How much theosis, spiritual progress, are we 'supposed' to make through mortal life?

The gulf between how-we-actually-are and what-we-know-we-should-be is vast - but the response to this fact has been very varied.

Clearly, most people accomplish very little in terms of perfecting themselves throughout mortal life (and the great majority of humans who ever lived rapidly died in the womb soon after conception, or shortly afterwards as young children).


If Men are to bridge the gap between actuality and perfection, it needs something else; such as multiple accumulative lives (i.e some kind of reincarnation), a once-for-all infusion of divine help during or just after mortal life and before resurrection, or (as I believe) continued spiritual progression after resurrection and through eternity.


Mortal life has considerable scope for spiritual progression, but lives differ hugely in terms of length and experiences; so if mortal life has an important role to play then it seems to suggest that there must be some kind of matching process by which a specific soul is placed in a specific situation where he or she is best able to have the necessary experience, and has the chance to make the necessary choices.

In other words, the implication is that this life you have, or I have, is in broad terms the life our souls needed in order to learn some particular thing (or things) of great importance.


This is not the only, nor is it the primary, benefit of being born into a mortal body and dying - the primary benefit - the main instrument of spiritual progression - comes from simply that: incarnation and death.

But the fact that some people (like ourselves) have a long life also has a meaning, albeit a secondary meaning - it may suggest that we have something important to learn (that we had something we specifically needed to learn, some aspect in which our pre-mortal souls were deficient) - so that long life was not our reward, but merely a functional necessity (or at least a potential benefit) for our particular souls.

(This also implies that many of those men and women who died in the womb or as babies really are better - fundamentally - than those who survive. Of course, some of these were not intended to die and their lives were cut-short; but almost certainly some were intended to die soon after incarnation - because their souls were sufficiently perfect that they did not need to undergo the spiritual trials and risks of extended mortal life.)

If we long-lived have failed to learn the specific lesson/s of mortal life - what then?

Some would say we reincarnate and try again; but Christian revelation seems to regard reincarnation as very exceptional, and not done for this kind of reason.

Therefore, I suspect that if we mess-up our chance to fix the deficit in our souls during mortal life, it means that we are placed in (i.e. we are suitable for) a lower level of Heaven - which means that our spiritual progression is slowed-up considerably.

Slowed-up, and perhaps slowed up for large periods of time which must be lived-through; but progression is presumably not thwarted forever.

Since our loving Father made creation for our spiritual progression, and since we personally chose to undergo mortality (we could have remained unincarnated spirits, and stayed in Heaven); and since there is eternity for the purpose; it seems reasonable to assume that mortal life is divided into two benefits: qualitative and quantitative:


The qualitative benefit of mortal life - which all receive (except those who specifically choose to reject it - God does not force benefits upon us, He does not want to and indeed He cannot) is the incarnation into a body and death of that body then its resurrection - a process which all Men undergo.

This moves us to a higher level of spiritual being - when incarnated we have become higher beings, more divine than our pre-mortal selves, more perfect, closer to God-nature. 


The quantitative benefit of mortal life is the chance to fix particular spiritual problems by our choices and endeavor through mortal life.

If this goes well, if we make the right choices and proper efforts, then after resurrection we will find ourselves better (significantly more 'perfect') people than if we make wrong choices and have led wrongly-directed lives.

Better lives lead to acceleration to a higher Heaven, better able to participate more fully in the eternal divine work of love and creation.


Worse lives presumably lead to a minimal salvation in one of the lower mansions of Heaven, in which (compared with our pre-mortal selves) we have become 'lower forms of higher beings': higher beings because now we have bodies (are incarnate), but at a lower spiritual level than we started out because of our misdirected mortal lives.

Of course we might choose to stay that way (such Heaven is, after all, bliss compared with mortal life; which is one reason we chose to take the risk of undergoing mortality) - but over eternity most will repent the bad choices of mortality and want to progress.

It seems natural to assume that our loving Father would not thwart any desire for post-mortal spiritual progression. So, unless post-mortal spiritual progression is for some reason utterly impossible, I think we must also assume that spiritual progression in the post-mortal life must be a slower and more difficult thing than during mortal life - otherwise, why would we bother to experience prolonged mortal lives? Why would we not not just incarnate and die straightway, and thereby avoid the potential for choosing damnation?


The lesson for the longaevous Men, for you and I, is that we are here, here-and-now, for a reason or for several reasons; and that our main job is to to try and make the best choices and try to live with the best motives starting from exactly this situation.

A long mortal life is not a reward, but a task; so long as we remain alive, our task remains undone, incomplete, significant soul-problems still need to be fixed.

We (you and me, nobody else) have this responsibility (although there is much help for us, if we ask for it). There is no cop-out; and our decisions will necessarily have very significant and lasting consequences - we will have to live with the consequences of our decisions.


Saturday 21 March 2015

Reverse socialism - the modern poor 'exploit' the rich (biologically)

It is a striking fact, which took many years to creep-up on my awareness, that socialism/leftism is wrong about almost everything.

I can still recall the bombshell effect it had on me when Gregory Clark remarked in a conversation that the industrial revolution had been a much greater advantage for the poor than for the rich. Exactly the opposite of what I had been taught, and what every reformer and philanthropist has believed to be the case since the mid 1800s.

In the modern world, biologically speaking, the poorest have the greatest reproductive success; and in economic terms, the trend has for several generations been towards a situation in which the poor are the real rulers.

Now it is factually the case that it is the poor majority who 'exploit' (i.e. live-off, reproduce at the expense of) the rich minority. 


If the industrial revolution began to bite from about 1800 in England, then this was when the survival of the children of the poor became above replacement levels - and the population began rapidly to grow from the bottom-up for perhaps the first time in human history - or, at least, the first time in a couple of thousand years.

At pretty much the same time, the wealthier classes began to reduce their fertility. For a while, the wealthiest families would still have reared (on average) more children to adulthood than the poorest, but pretty soon the poor began to outstrip the rich, as fertility among the wealthiest declined and declined without stopping - to well below replacement levels.


The point I am making here is that in industrial society (since c1800), the transfer of wealth goes from richer to poorer - until nowadays, people who are net economically unproductive and indeed net consumers of resources, who do little or no productive work, who are able to raise all the children they may choose to have, or have by accident; at the expense of the rest of the society.

In pre-industrial societies such people and their children would have died en masse, - despite working productively all the hours God sent- mostly from starvation and disease, plus high rates of accidents and violence.


So, in the agrarian past, the usual pattern was for ruling classes to extract more resources than they generated, and they used these resources to raise most of their numerous children. Each new generation of adults mostly had 'higher class' parents in a world of overall downward mobility.

Meanwhile the poor, whose resources had been taken from them, were so poor that they raised on average almost no children to adulthood. The children of the poor were 'culled' from each generation. No matter how many children the poor produced, only very few survived. 


With the industrial revolution these tendencies reversed.

So, what I was wondering is whether there is some kind of underlying, fundamental cause, operating from about 1800, which links the loss of resource-extractive power (or will) of the upper classes with their decline into sub-fertility. 


Why do the upper classes since c1800 'allow' most of their resources to be extracted from them; and does the answer to that question also explain why the upper classes have (pretty much) stopped having children?

This passivity looks like decadence - exhaustion, disease, dysfunctionality.

Indeed, since the mid-1960s, the upper classes have taken an ever more active role in increasing the transfer of both resources and child-rearing away from themselves and onto poorer and ever-poorer sections of the human population.

This goes beyond decadence - and looks like deliberate self-destruction, willed suicide


Friday 20 March 2015

Life in a world without genius


We *must* have motivation - but where can we find it?

Religion - that is where we find it; and there is no alternative.

So... Choose your religion, choose your denomination.

But then what? That is just to point yourself in the right direction of finding motivation - it is not taking one single step in actually becoming motivated.

Ideally, you find a denomination, find a church and ask to join that church - and be allowed to; participate as fully as you can and discover that doing so motivates you.


But any of these steps may be blocked, or may fail to generate motivation - indeed, some find some, most or all aspects of participating in an actual church to be de-motivating.

This does not necessarily mean that person would or should leave that church - but it does mean that they must seek motivation elsewhere (and I emphasize must - because sufficient motivation is not merely an option, but a necessity for the good life).

What then?


We will need to seek and make motivation outside the church (but in line with its teachings).

How? Here are some suggestions:

  • Meditation  and/or Prayer - These require some learning; therefore time set aside, effort made over sufficient time. 

  • Reading - scripture yes, but also (and perhaps mostly) devotional books, and in general reading which provide the right kind of motivation: novels, poetry, essays, drama. The principle can be extended to music and the visual arts.

  • Tithe or donate some of your money (or time) to religious causes, especially specific churches - what kind of causes? Evangelism is perhaps the primary one, especially evangelism in the place you live; but also all manner of support for Christians in the efforts to live Christianly.  


What you could be aiming-at is building in yourself a lively sense of the reality of God; a real sense of the living God.

That God is not just alive, and real, and out there - but also inside you.

And, to be motivated, hope is essential. And the hope must be hopeful - hope needs to be as solid and as specific as is required to give you motivating hope. This probably requires knowing more about Heaven.


What do you want to do when you are grown-up?

A question which it has become almost impossible answer honestly and hopefully.


At least, if you are a boy. Girls have the enduring possibility of motherhood - if they have not been taught to despise it.


Are modern parables possible?

A modern parable would have to be religious to be a parable, otherwise it would just be a symbolic story. 

On these lines there are many sections of Tolkien's, CS Lewis's and JK Rowling's fantasy novels that function as parables - in principle detachable and summarisable - for those familiar with the books. 

But a short and stand-alone parable is not really possible as a teaching medium in modern secular culture - because modernity has subverted and destroyed the common sense of religious purpose in life. 

Before a parable can work, the author nowadays needs first to establish a context such as a large work of fiction; in which parables are a meaningful form. 

Where do we keep our memories?


Thursday 19 March 2015

Nominations invited for the "Couldn't Shout Coals" award

Mine is Janis Joplin


Note: 'Why, s/he couldn't shout coals' (but pronounced differently) is a Geordie/ Pitmatic Northumbrian dialect phrase ejaculated as a judgement on somebody's singing. 

It suggests that the person in question would be unable, due to the poor quality of their voice, to obtain employment announcing wares for sale from the back of a horse-drawn wagon, as it traversed the back streets disbursing sacks of carboniferous fuel.


Note on the note: Pitmatic is, or was, the dialect of the mid-Northumbrian coalfield, spoken by many close and distant relatives during my childhood. 

My Father tells me that the Newbiggin by the Sea pronunciation would have been something like "Cannat Shoot Kerls"

For further info:


When society is so corrupt that geniuses are most likely to become evil, or their work to be misused and misapplied - then maybe that is when we stop getting geniuses?


The motivation deficit in modernity - and how to overcome it

Modern man needs motivation in a way that did not apply to pre-modern societies where the majority of the population were negatively-motivated by the Malthusian lash of starvation, disease and violence; and where the small minority who were not, were either desperately trying to keep themselves above this maelstrom, or who were clinging to power against multiple rivals who would kill them if successful.

So modern man needs motivation - and that motivation must be strong enough and complex enough and long-termist enough to structure his life; and that is exactly what the secular Leftism which now dominates the developed world some completely and utterly fails to provide.

There are weak, simple and short-termist motivations provided by secular Leftism, of course; for example, envy, hatred, hedonism and sex. These are amplified and channelled into political 'movements' by the mass media, state propaganda, laws and regulations. But clearly they are on the one hand socially destructive, and on the other hand clearly inadequate.


My initial interest in Christianity came from a consideration of motivations; and a recognition that the empirical evidence showed that when Christianity was removed from society as an effective source of primary motivation, nothing remotely adequate had replaced it.

And this had led to the characteristic malaise of this late modern period, increasingly evident since the mid-1960s - the collapse into sub-fertility in developed nations combined with staggering growth levels in some undeveloped countries, the active embrace of population replacement by Western elites, and endemic, compulsory dishonesty not only in public discourse (the mass media and all bureaucracies) - but also in science and medicine (those areas I best know from the inside)

The utter helplessness of the developed world stems from demotivation.

This helplessness is willed; it is not just a failure to tackle problems, but a demotivation so profound that it deliberately, systematically, mandatorily avoids even noticing the problems.


More than sufficient empirical data is available to show that Man must have a religion or else he will despair, give-up and eventually seek his own extinction (including the extinction of his society).

More than sufficient empirical data is available to show that secularism cannot provide motivation; so the viable choice is a choice between religions. Secular religions (like nationalism, communism, fascism, neo-paganism, New Age spirituality... so many have been thoroughly tried - and they have failed to provide a sustainable alternative - they are negative, demotivating, self-destructive and destructive of good.


It seems clear that religion is built-into Man in some sense; and if Man deletes religion then he deletes his motivation.

Does this prove that religion is true? Not exactly prove; but it is more compatible with the truth of religion (at some level, in some way) than it is compatible with the prevalent idea that religion is a pure delusion.

Because a delusion is (almost by definition) dysfunctional - that is how we know it is a delusion - and it is the absence of religion which is demotivating, which is clearly dysfunctional.


Of course it is facile for modern people to disbelieve the obvious and commonsensical, and to suppose that there will be some as-yet-undiscovered and non-obvious way of 'fixing' modernity that does not involve religion.

However, the both the present and future lies with religion.

The first decision is therefore whether to try and discover or make a new religion, or adopt an existing religion. It is easy to make a new religion, but very, very difficult to make a motivating new religion. Unless a religion can prove itself motivating enough to stop or reverse destructive trends under real world, modern conditions, then it is probably just a life-style option, rather than a real religion.

Having decided that viable options are restricted to actually existing religions; the next thing is to discover which religion is true, or rather which is true-est since all have considerable elements of truth.

Then it is a question of determining whether we can join, or at least actively support, that religion which we believe to be true/ true-est. In a world where all large institutions are strongly affected by secular Leftism, then this applies to religions and their adherents to some extent - and many or most religions are indeed utterly in-thrall to secular Leftism.

Nonetheless, Man must have a religion; therefore, in some way or another everyone needs to make a choice of religion to support and sustain; and then work-out how that support is t be implemented; in whatever way and to whatever extent they can manage, and which is most effective for them: effectiveness being measured (partly, but necessarily) in terms of motivation.


Wednesday 18 March 2015

The layers of genius un-peeled


(If you respond to it) Glenn Gould's Bach depicts the *detail* of Heaven

I see now that when I was (or am) responding to Glenn Gould's playing of Bach, it is a depiction of Heaven in a very detailed sense. I can (sometimes) feel this moment by moment, each tiny decision, nuance; the lines, tones, harmonies asif happening for the first time with surprising inevitability.

I am able to re-experience Gould's ecstatic absorption in his playing, and in the music as Bach composed it - and my condition in Heaven (when I want it) will be to play like Gould and compose like Bach but in my own (unique) way; because if I can respond to it on earth, then I can do it in Heaven.

Primarily, Heaven is a place of love and relationships; but/and Heaven is a place of creativity - the creativity of making and of performance. (It is a place of all positive Goods.)

Each person's creative ability and urge is different, and changed and expanded by experience and in combination. There is no repetition; and the creating can go on for as long as wanted.


Why is life so difficult? (intrinsically)

I don't mean life is difficult because of difficult things - but that even it its best and smoothest and happiest and healthiest Life Is Difficult.

(If life isn't difficult, you aren't doing it properly.)

It is difficult essentially because each of us is unique and has a distinctive destiny which must first be located then lived.

That each of us is unique is not an achievement, nothing to be proud of, but simply in the nature of human beings: a datum.

However, it means that nobody can tell us exactly what we should be doing; so even when we are doing broadly the right kinds of things, we are still confronted with the details that need to be evaluated, then executed.

This is not something to complain about, however! It is the great adventure of mortal life, and all the better from its having no precedent and no possibility of being repeated.


Tuesday 17 March 2015

A Heaven of unique personages

Mainstream depictions of Heaven often miss the point - we want to live in Heaven, but equally Heaven wants us (I mean each individual one of us) to live in Heaven.

Specifically, there are many dwellers in Heaven who have a very specific yearning that we personally should join them in Heaven: they want us there!

Dwellers in Heaven don't just want 'good people', or people of a certain general type, they want absolutely specific people; in fact every person who is alive is wanted.

Furthermore, there is a place, a niche, in Heaven for me, and another for you, and others for everybody else. Each persona will make a significant difference to Heaven.

If you, or I, do not get to Heaven and fill our unique niches, then that niche will remain eternally unfilled - and to that extent Heaven will be impaired.

Oh, they will get along without us, get along fine... but always there will be that empty slot as a permanent reminder of what should ,and could, have been.


The altruism of genius


Blog topicality experiment

Following a semi-topical post on Jeremy Clarkson, which got a lot of hits (at least ten times the usual number) due to being linked from some bigger impact blogs, I did the experiment of 'manufacturing' a blog post from my usual opinions applied to the day's headlines.

It was not such a success as JC, probably because it was about 12 hours 'late' but still got at least three times the usual number of page views.

(BTW: I have since deleted it.)

The lesson: if you want to be a successful high-impact blogger - then take your lead from the mass media, talk about today what everybody else is talking about today.

Don't try to beat 'em: just join 'em.


No thanks.


Glenn Gould and the importance of ecstatic experience

Glenn Gould - the musician - has been a significant person in my life since I discovered his piano playing in the autumn of 1978; indeed, he became an important role model at various points - despite the vast dissimilarity in our temperaments and talents.


I bought my first Glenn Gould - the double LP set of Book One of the Well-Tempered Clavier, primarily because I wanted to explore Bach on piano, and secondarily because I was intrigued by the poor reviews he invariably got from the Penguin Stereo Record Guide (the nature of the criticisms made me feel that I would like what he did).

Extremely rapidly, I began to develop an interest in Gould the Man as well as the musician; or rather, something about the way he played, when supplemented by a few scraps of knowledge of his biography and opinions, was enough to convince me that here was a fellow spirit.

I first managed to glean an impression from the liner notes on the (relatively few) LPs I could buy in England, a couple of journalistic pieces; and then, on a family visit to Toronto, I bought a precious (and expensive copy) of the first biography: Geoffrey Payzant's Glenn Gould: Music and Mind.

This crystallised what it was that magnetically-attracted me to Gould: the importance of Ecstatic Experience.


In the best of Gould's performances (a lot of them) there is an intensity of absorption which is ecstatic, and which induces a similar ecstatic absorption in me. While a student I can recall listening to a short piece - a prelude for example - at lunchtime, and feeling a swirling ecstasy, at the 'top' of my mind as I walked and worked, which lasted for some hours afterwards - and which seemed to enhance my experience of life.

This fitted with an already existing idea about the aim for my life to be lived 'at concert pitch' - a phrase which doesn't literally mean what I meant by it, and which I got from a passing comment of Hendrick Willem van Loon. In 1978 I was spending more time in solitude than ever before, and I began to realise that - as Gould said  - Solitude is the pre-requisite of ecstatic experience; and which I made the central theme of my radio programme Solitude, Exile and Ecstasy -



My central problem was that Gould's basis for ecstasy was a genius level of creative musical performance - whereas I had no basis for any such creativity. Now, it provoked in me a (rather feeble but sustained) search for some such ability - a search variously looking at music and acting, but mostly exploring writing: poetry, prose, drama and essays and also simply writing journals.

But as an immature young man I was too easily convinced of other similarities between Gould and myself; and in particular the notion that Gould's life - as I very partially understood it at that time, which was a very idealised and abstracted version of the real thing. Gould, it is now known, spent a vast proportion of time interacting with other people - more than I do, in fact; including various romantic and sexual relationships with women.

Nonetheless ecstatic solitude, in the state of total absorption during playing and creative composition, was perhaps Gould's essential reality.


In particular, I tried to believe that a solitary life of technological interaction with 'the world' would be an ideal for me, if only I had the strength of will to embrace it - yet whenever I got anywhere near this state, I found myself extremely discouraged, lapsing into an idle and disaffected and despairing condition.

Gould never gave live performances, was an expert on recording methods, lived alone, seldom went out, and was almost constantly in the presence of mass media - TV or radio were switched-on most of the time (even during sleep), newspapers were devoured, telephone bills amounted to several average person's salaries per year.

Yet/and Gould was very productive of recordings, broadcasts, writings - he was an international figure, much discussed; and a considerable influence on ideas.

The modern world now has many people who live in what is broadly the kind of way pioneered and advocated by Glenn Gould - a world in which technology is primary and human communication is primarily mediated by technology.

But now it is here, it doesn't seem much like Gould's world - in particular ecstasy, in the sense Gould meant it, seems extremely rare.


The obvious reason is that the mass of modern people are not Glenn Gould! - and the fact is that a self-created environment in which Gould thrived, and which he found conducive to creative ecstasy; is when scaled-up and applied at a population level leads the mass of Men merely into passivity, into inattentive dissipation.

What Gould thought were general principles about the world and Men, turned-out to be at most distinctive to a like-minded minority; and were perhaps even unique to him.

Thus are geniuses often poor guides to life and living! What a genius wants - and indeed needs - may be poison to people in general.


Glenn Gould's 'Solitude Trilogy' of radio programmes are well worth detailed consideration. The Idea of North is the most famous - but the Latecomers and Quiet in the Land are both considerably better.

I intend to review them in more detail shortly; but it is worth noting that despite the name these programmes are not actually about solitude- they are about life in isolated communities (Canadian far north, Newfoundland, Mennonites) that are - to some extent- cut-off from the modern Zeitgeist.  

Monday 16 March 2015

(More) On being a pluralist Christian - implications of Christian pluralism

See also:

I am a pluralist Christian; because I believe that we need pluralism to break the (often) tyranny, the false implications, of the absolute and crushing grip of monist monotheism.

Accepting, as I do, that neither monism nor pluralism is a complete and fully-coherent metaphysical description of ultimate reality - I assert that, despite its historical rarity, pluralism is better for Christians (although not for the other major monotheisms).


None of this is to challenge the truth that there is, for Christians, One God. But One God does not, according to scripture and by common-sense, imply philosophical monism.

Monism is a philosophical theory that predates Christianity - and which states that everything ultimate reduces to one thing - in Christian terms that God is one entity that is/ contains everything else.

It has always been extremely difficult (I would say impossible) for Christians satisfactorily to accommodate the primary and essential reality of Jesus Christ within monism in a manner which is comprehensible or meaningful.

The only widely acceptable answer has been to declare the whole thing a mystery, expressible only in self-contradictory/ paradoxical language (e. the mainstream dogmatic linguistic formulations regarding the Trinity). But in terms of philosophy or common-sense this is no answer at all, but an evasion positioned at the very heart of Christianity.


The fundamental distinction is that pluralism is anything more-than monism; the fundamental distinction is between One and More-Than-One.

The precise numeration of how-many more-than-one is secondary, and a subject for revelation rather than philosophy.

In other words, we cannot known how many more than one by reason alone - such knowledge must be told us, must come to us, from divine sources.

General Christian revelation tells us that more-then-one includes primarily and minimally Jesus Christ; also, but in a different sense, the Holy Ghost; Mormon revelation adds our Mother in Heaven.

These are minimally and essentially necessary to complete the basic picture; but in fact they do not complete the picture; because the picture includes all the Men and Angels who ever lived. All personages bring to reality something significant and permanent - albeit not-essential to its existence.


For a pluralist Christian there is One God, meaning that our Heavenly Father is primary as creator and legitimate authority - but also God needed, and continues to need (and always will need), others to do his primary work.

Since we are not monists, there is no requirement to reduce a multiplicity to one. Indeed, more-than-one implies irreducible and necessary qualities as the basis of difference between personages.

Pluralism makes clear why the Good Shepherd cares about all his flock, each and every individual; because each is unique and by his or her nature unique. Take one away, and the universe is changed; and changed for the worse from the perspective of the Good Shepherd - who will forever grieve the loss.


The greatest temptation is therefore to choose damnation as a sure way of hurting God - the power to do this is real and intoxicating for those not bound by Love.

The power to hurt God is real in a pluralist universe but it is nonetheless a snare; because while every act is permanent and irreversible, and by it the universe is changed; nonetheless overall progression has merely been delayed and not stopped.

Over eternity, and with spiritual growth of multiple personages, there are unbounded possibilities for Goods - there is not a single 'perfect' Good which can be marred, but an open-ended number of Goods all of which are capable of further enhancement and which can be achieved in uncountable ways.


Note added: This is related to the necessity for divine revelation.

Revelation is required precisely because metaphysics (i.e. the structure and history of ultimate reality) is contingent. It could have been different, and its future is undetermined in detail (although not in direction) due to the multitude of choices by a multitude of relevant personages.

Therefore reality cannot be inferred by philosophy, from reason.

The primacy of revelation itself implies pluralism as the best metaphysics for Christians; because pluralism allows for contingency in a way ruled-out by monism.  


Sunday 15 March 2015

A kids fantasy castle - and the reality of Heaven

When my children were young, I would take them to a nearby park to play on The Castle.

This 'castle' was a clump of large bushes in which a child would hide, about three by nine yards and on a plateau raised about eighteen inches above the surrounding grass.

It is one of the many delights of having a small child to be able to recapture the mind-set which sees this as a castle; and regards visiting such a place as a treat.

The child's imagination does the job, with only the barest of stimuli; yet of course a child is not wholly satisfied by fantasy play. He yearns for the play to be 'real'. He yearns to have real fights against real baddies in a real castle.

However, if he was fighting (and beating) real baddies in real fights in a real castle - he would discover that this did not satisfy him either. It would not fill the yearning.

Indeed, if he had enough opportunities, the child would discover that nothing conceivable on earth can fulfill that yearning to fight real baddies in a real castle.

CS Lewis regarded this as a proof of Heaven, and called it the argument from desire; on the basis that such a desire would not be universal to Men yet impossible unless there was a real place but not on earth where such a desire could be satisfied.

As with all such arguments, it does not compel belief - and any desire can be 'explained away' by some evolutionary or otherwise mechanistic and meaningless just-so story; but I personally find it convincing.


The Jeremy Clarkson Affair

Most readers of this blog are in the USA - and are probably missing the current fracas over Jeremy Clarkson, lead presenter of the BBC TV programme Top Gear.

At one level this business is an indescribably trivial example of a long-running headline news story - but in reality this is serious. It is, indeed, a much more significant example of the Phil Robertson/ Duck Dynasty phenomenon.

Firstly, although he is apparently just the presenter of a programme about cars, Clarkson is a very significant figure in British national life - and has been a national figure for about thirty years.


Top Gear is, of course, a staggeringly-successful programme, with money pouring-in from vast international sales and spin-offs - and (whether or not you are interested in cars) it is an example of top-notch television.

Some of the programmes are as near perfection in their genre as can be imagined; and to maintain this standard over so many years is a remarkable achievement.

(Clarkson's contrasting sidekicks James May and Richard Hammond are also brilliant in their own right; but there is no doubt over who is top dog.)


The super-success of Top Gear is based on a whole new style of heavily-facetious presenting which was devised by Clarkson. This is very modern; because he is able to be outrageous, arrogant and outspoken; while simultaneously undercutting and making fun of himself.

In a technical sense, Clarkson is, in fact, one of a small handful of TV journalists who have changed the face of the medium. He is also a very good humorous opinion journalist - but it is the TV work which sets him apart.


It is only Clarkson's enormous talent and income-generating power which have preserved him for so long, because for the vast majority of the British mass media, including the BBC who employ him for Top Gear, Clarkson has been for many years public enemy number one.

That Top Gear comes from the BBC is an essential fact; because the BBC has been the primary origin, focus and disseminator of effective evil in British life for half a century - see my recent book: Addicted to Distraction


Every couple of months there is a major concerted attempt by the media to get Clarkson sacked by seizing on some trivial or manufactured 'gaffe'. Clarkson (and his co-presenters) have triumphantly survived all of these so far; appearing utterly un-fazed by the hate campaigns; emerging not only unscathed but apparently cheerful, carefree - and as cheeky as ever.


Because the primary significance of Jeremy Clarkson in British life is that he is the last remaining public figure who is openly and aggressively anti-PC; who never apologizes, who keeps on-and-on doing what he does, in the face of the unanimous scorn and condemnations of the opinion formers of Leftism.

Jeremy Clarkson's positive socio-political agenda is merely secular hedonism and 'common sense' - in the tradition of comic anti-heroes such as Rabalais, the Good Soldier Svejk or Han Solo - in other words, he represents nothing which a Christian reactionary such as myself would actively support; nothing which could serve as a basis for motivating a corrupt and demoralized nation.

Nonetheless, all men of goodwill should support Clarkson against his critics; because for the mainstream politically correct Left centred in the mass media, it is extremely important (and would be very pleasing to them as individuals) publicly to destroy Clarkson's highly symbolic career - to display their power to seek-out and punish all those who oppose the Left agenda; no matter how successful, gifted and well-liked by the public at large.


Even repressive tyrants of the past tolerated truth-telling jesters, to keep their feet on the ground, and in-touch with popular sentiment.

It is a measure of the extremity of reality-denying psychosis in Leftism that - uniquely - it will never tolerate any opposition of any degree from anybody.

What we are seeing in the elite-mob persecution of the Clarkson Affair is therefore a highly purified form of evil; yet further evidence of the reckless self-hating self-destructiveness of Western elites.