Tuesday 30 June 2015

Are you an Endogenous personality (of the potential genius type)? Is someone you know?


Further reading at:


What is the meaning of synchronicity?


Reader's question: "What do you think of the relationship between personal eccentricity and genius?"

My answer: My understanding is that all true creative geniuses are eccentric; in the sense that they are substantially indifferent to "other people's" evaluations - therefore, they will not be much bothered about trying to fit their own behaviours into social norms - at least, they will not expend as much effort on this as do most people.

The reason is that creative genius is a product of what I term the Endogenous Personality - which means that the person is relatively inner-orientated, their evaluations arise from within (rather than being social) and their behaviour is inner-generated.

So eccentricity is part of a psychological package that includes creative genius.


Further reading:


Are there any more readers questions?

I am still open to writing posts based on readers' questions.

Questions could be sent as comments to this post (which will retained but not published), or emailed to me direct using the address brucedotcharltonatoutlookdotcom but using the appropriate symbols.


Bitter nuts (and seeds?) versus bland nuts - my subjective experience of malaise

A  personal observation. If I eat of lot of some types of nuts - such as almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts - and the same probably applies to seed mixtures e.g.pumpkin, sesame, sunflower) then it makes me feel generally rather 'off' - a bit queasy and down-spirited.

But this does not seem to apply to brazil nuts, nor to peanuts (which are technically not true 'nuts', but more like a bean).

I speculate that the difference might be related to whether the nuts have a bitter taste; and this may be causal, because bitterness is often the taste of plant toxins - leaves and seeds are often made toxic by plants to deter animals from eating them.

Nuts are seeds and would therefore be expected to be toxic; but they are sometimes edible when they are protected by a shell, because the shell makes a toxin unnecessary.

However,  it would not be surprising if some nuts were somewhat toxic- enough to have a subtle deleterious effect when a lot are consumed quickly - which is so easy to do nowadays, when nuts can be bought ready prepared for instant consumption.  

Has anyone else had a similar experience?


Monday 29 June 2015

What is High Fantasy in a novel - disagreeing with Neil Gaiman about Strange and Norrrell

Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is the benchmark for adult High Fantasy, and its mark is seriousness and realism about the world depicted.

In other words, pure High Fantasy must not have the slightest hint, trace or taint of ironic detachment or allegory; certainly no parody or satire - that is absolutely fatal; nothing 'arch', no breaking the fourth wall, nothing post-modern; no nudge-nudge humour about the quaint ways or beliefs of the fantasy world...

Of course this means that many people will - and they do - hate High Fantasy, because they find it boring. And many other people read High Fantasy in the wrong spirit - they read it asif it was an allegory - they enjoy it only by subverting it.

By this test, examples of High Fantasy would include Lloyd Alexander's Prydain chronicles, Alan Garner's 'Weirdstone' and 'Gomrath' novels, and JK Rowling's Harry Potter series. It would also include Terry Pratchett's first three Tiffany Aching books.

Most of Fantasy literature is not High Fantasy by this test - for example most of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series is parodic and satirical in its humour. CS Lewis's Narnia books are not consistently High Fantasy either, because of elements of narrator commentary from a modern standpoint - for example, the mockery of Eustace Scrubb and his parents, or of progressive education. And Lewis's Space Trilogy is too allegorical to be High Fantasy.

But I suspect that this interpretation and distinction I am outlining is probably not universally accepted.

When I recently read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and looked at the reviews, I came across reference to S&N's endorsement by Neil Gaiman, and how he regarded S&N as the 'finest work of English fantasy' written over the previous seventy years.

I certainly agree with the Gaiman's insightful appreciation of S&N's quality


 - but I disagree with him about how to classify it.


By 'seventy' years, Gaiman was referencing a novel called Lud-in-the-mist by Hope Mirlees published in 1926. On this basis, I went to to read  Mirlees's book, and found it both enjoyable and well written.

However, it was a qualitatively-different kind of book than Strange and Norrell. Lud-in-the-mist is not in the slightest degree believable; Lud is not about world-building or alternative reality - it is rather in the genre of a fin-de-siecle 'exquisite miniature' like Oscar Wilde's stories (e.g. the Selfish Giant). It is arch, satirical, self-consciously modern.

By contrast with Gaiman, I would regard Strange and Norrell as being in essentially the same category as The Lord of the Rings; for the seriousness, depth and realism of its alternative magical and fairy world. For the 'feel' of it.

There are also differences, but this similarity is the one by which I would choose to classify Strange and Norrell.

The thing is, S&N was marketed as a mainstream novel, not a fantasy - and the reviews and publicity focused on its pastiche literary style, as if it was a postmodern take on of Jane Austen - rather like John Fowles's once highly-rated The French Lieutenant’s Woman was a Victorian pastiche (and postmodern commentary).

But I would regard Strange and Norrell as true High Fantasy both in spirit and attainment; and I would therefore prefer if it had been marketed to the fantasy niche, and reviewed as such.

As such, I think S&N would have found more readers who took it with a seriousness appropriate to the book's scope, nature and ambition.


Saturday 27 June 2015

The destruction of the 'basic instincts', common sense and human nature - reflections on the mutational meltdown of Man

It has been a fascinating, and I must admit horrifying, three-and-a-bit years since Michael Woodley and I first discovered the first objective evidence that there has been a very substantial decline in general intelligence ('g') over the past two hundred years - the evidence was posted on this blog just a few hours after we discovered it:


Since then, Michael has taken the lead in replicating this finding in multiple other forms of data, and in a variety of paradigms; and learning more about the magnitude of change and its timescale. His industry has been astonishing!  


We currently believe that general intelligence has declined by approximately two standard deviations (which is approximately 30 IQ points) since 1800 - that is, over about 8 generations

(Note added - I now regard 2 SD as overstating it, also that an SD is not of fixed size over generations. More correct would be to say intelligence has declined since 1800 by more-than-one modern SD.).

Such a decline is astonishing - at first sight. But its magnitude has been obscured by social and medical changes so that we underestimate intelligence in 1800 and over-estimate intelligence now.

On the other hand, magnitude and rapidity of decline in world class geniuses in the West (and of major innovations) does imply a decline of intelligence of at least 2 SDs - so from that perspective the rate and size of decline is pretty much as-expected.


Two hundred years ago, and for many decades afterwards, performance of the population in a wide range of tasks was substantially impaired by things like malnutrition and high rates of serious endemic infectious diseases. On any particular day, many or most people would have been ill, and their ability to do skilled activities (including examinations - or IQ tests, if they had been in existence) was significantly impaired.

Furthermore, two hundred years ago there was much less information around, and people had to think things through for themselves.

However, general intelligence is buffered against environmental change - it is hardly affected by disease, or even malnutrition - until these are of such severity as to result in death (under pre-modern conditions).

So even very sick and/or malnourished populations, who may be living in simple cultures at a subsistence level, or under conditions of multi-generational malnutrition and near starvation, may have high g - and this will become obvious in terms of high performance as soon as their environment becomes more favourable (for example the migrant Norsemen and the Chinese).


Wind-forward to today, and the general health and nutrition are much improved; and in a thousand ways it is easier for people to give a falsely high impression of their ability by deploying technology and 'parroting' the hard-won knowledge of other people. This does not represent g-driven intelligence, but a multitude of specialized, task-specific intelligences.

To caricature,  in 1800, the average Man (when we was not impaired by illness) had a very deep kind of abstract reasoning and problem solving ability which was spontaneous and almost independent of education - his intelligence rose-up powerfully and unstoppably from below, rather like a geyser.

By contrast, Modern Man has a much weaker subterranean spring of intelligence and instead a 'mosaic' of separate and trained abilities, superficially 'studded' onto him by culture and education.

Modern Man has relatively very poor abstract reasoning and problem solving abilities; but can be trained to learn and can quote (or parrot) the reasons and solutions across a wide range of things - but without understanding what he is saying.

(And, indeed, without even knowing that he does not understand - since he equates 'knowing the right answers' with intelligence.)


Michael and I immediately recognized that the rate of change in intelligence that we were observing was too fast to be accounted for my natural selection favouring lower intelligence; although this does have a significant role.

We soon began to recognize that the primary mechanism was likely to be mutation accumulation due to the decline in child mortality rates from more than half to about one percent - child mortality having, through human history, served as the main (but not only) selective 'sieve' to remove the spontaneous fitness-reducing mutations which occur with every generation.

We also discovered the biological concept of 'mutational meltdown' - which sometimes leads to the extinction of a species, especially when combined with a reducing population: mutational damage accumulates so fast in a population that organisms cease to reproduce and become extinct.

Michael has gone on to confirm the plausibility of this mechanism of mutation accumulation in rapidly reducing general intelligence, and to make the first steps in quantifying it.


But our story which had begun with declining general intelligence then began to take on a much larger scope.

Because if mutation accumulation was the main mechanism for declining intelligence, then this had implications for the total fitness, indeed the viability, of the human organism.

General intelligence can be regarded as an index of reproductive potential or 'fitness', because high g depend upon a highly efficient brain, which depends on multiple genes coding for multiple and complexly-interacting brain systems. Any randomly occurring mutation has a high probability of impairing brain efficiency, so intelligence will be expected to decline incrementally with accumulating mutations.

So, declining g due to mutation accumulation only represents the tip of an iceberg of genetic damage to the fitness of an organism, or a population of organisms.


In a sense, the reduction of intelligence may be one of the lesser concerns about this world of what looks increasingly like a mutational meltdown. Because mutations will also damage what might be termed the 'basic instincts' of the population or species.

In particular, mutation accumulation will be expected to affect social and sexual instincts of the kind we used to call 'common sense' and 'human nature'.

So, common sense could be considered the normal, standard behaviours which enabled humans to function in groups, and to survive; while sexual instincts refer to the basic sexual orientation and attraction of humans; and the suite of adaptations that lead to 'pair bonding', fertile matings, raising of offspring etc.

These basic instincts used to be taken for granted; but in fact they are highly complex adaptations, and represent the product of multiple generations of natural selection. Indeed, social and sexual instincts are perhaps the most sensitive of all human traits to damage of any kind - it is change in social and sexual behaviour which is most sensitive to any form of disease or disorder affecting the brain.

This applies to genetic and chromosomal disease, which always show-up in social and sexual differences; but also to trauma. For instance the residual effect of a stroke is much more evident in terms of subtle psychological changes to social and sexual behaviour (personality) than in terms of physical function. And, even small amounts of many drugs - such as alcohol; or hormones - such as testosterone or oestrogen; will observably change, and derange, social and sexual behaviour.


In conclusion, since there has been considerable mutation accumulation over the past two hundred years - enough to cause a very large reduction in general intelligence - this must also have caused considerable damage to human social and sexual adaptations.

Therefore, both common sense and sexual instincts are impaired in modern Man.

Our basic instincts have been damaged.


Once that is realized as being necessarily entailed, then the evidence for such impairment is all around us.

The most fundamental measure is fitness, i.e. reproductive potential - and it is probably the most remarkable fact about modernity that it leads to impaired reproductive success - indeed to below-replacement fertility.

The 'demographic transition', interpreted as plain biology, is therefore strong prima facie evidence of mutation accumulation; indeed it points to incipient mutational meltdown, since the (age-adjusted) post-industrial Western population has been declining for several decades.

Mutation accumulation would also be likely to lead to the lack of common sense, the lack of basic self-preservation, the lack of what would be expected as normal and adaptive social behaviours that are so striking a feature of the West.

And, even more significantly, the lack of any concern about this lack of common sense - damage to social mechanisms has been so profound that the Western population has lost the ability to notice or feel that there is damage - that our situation is pathological.

Indeed, the obvious pathology resulting from damaged instincts is vehemently denied - and to point it out is punished. This is exactly what would be expected when the lunatics have taken-over the asylum, when disease is endemic. Disease is the new health.

Look around. We live in a profoundly weird world socio-sexual , yet there is near zero response to the fact - just a kind of bland, bewildered, vague approval that socio-sexual change means 'progress'.


The same applies to sexual instincts. What is striking is not so much the high levels of disordered sexual behaviour; but the widespread loss of the ability to notice and feel that sexual behaviour is disordered.

Past generations did not need to depend on education and were immune to propaganda when it came to sexual instincts - but modern attitudes reveal that these basic instincts have been severely damaged - so that sexual attraction, evaluations, and motivations are all - very generally - disordered.

The Western populations have suffered such extremity of damage to their evolved human nature, that they have lost even the innate sense that there was any such things as human nature to begin with.

To be in the situation of arguing about the necessity of 'common sense', or the reality of sexual instincts and other attributes of human nature, is itself strong evidence that human nature has been substantially destroyed - as would be entailed by two centuries of mutation accumulation.


And more of the same is to be expected - because it is not clear that anything substantive could be done about this problem except over a multi-generational timescale - even if there were an understanding that there is a problem, and any motivation to do anything about it; neither of which is the case.


Some extra reading and references:


Friday 26 June 2015

The good of Swedenborg - videos by Curtis Childs

I have recently said some rather negative things about Swedenborg - this is misleading and I am (already) feeling guilty about it!


The fact is that I regard Swedenborg as a true Mystical Christian, but I just cannot digest his writings.

On The Other Hand; I very much like the video reflections of a young Swedenborgian chap called Curtis Childs - which have been regularly posted on YouTube over the past year; I especially like some of these One Minute vids:

Childs is a communicator of extraordinary ability and effectiveness - and can be genuinely inspiring.

Clearly, he is a man of his generation in terms of speech style and liberal/ new age-compatible socio-politics; but in these and other videos on the Off The Left Eye site sponsored by the Swedenborg Foundation, he functions a kind of one-man-band of evangelism and engagement with modern disaffected youth which much larger Christian organizations can only regard with awe, wish-for, and perhaps learn-from.

One individual can make a significant difference.

Two problems with Mystical Christianity (e.g. Swedenborg, Blake, Whitman, Steiner) under modern conditions

Since I advocate and practice a type of Mystical Christianity, I need to point out the severe problems with this kind of spiritual life, under modern Western conditions.

The problems are specific cases of Conquest's, or Charlton's, Second Law:


Which is that - nowadays - unless an institution or organization or church is primarily Christian, it is not Christian at all, but instead some version of New Leftism, Liberalism, Progressivism or Socialism.

This applies to mystical practice, as it does to everything else from charities, through educational institutions, and science and economics, to arts and hobbies.


1. People who take the mysticism, and leave the Christianity.

In other words, they gain the partial benefits of mysticism - in feeling more alive in a living world - but stop at that point. They do not proceed to the Christianity. They never achieve or accept an understanding of the purpose of life; but live in transcendental moments that lack any discernible meaning, and which are typically (almost invariably) de facto threaded-together by mainstream secular Leftism, including the perspective of the on-going sexual revolution.

2. People who focus on the mysticism in order to be able to ignore the ethics. They use their mystical knowledge and experiences in order to discard moral constraints that are part of real traditional Christianity - especially where these liberations are validated by modern mainstream Leftism; and especially when they are motivated to take advantage of sexual liberation (various kinds of sex outwith traditional marriage) for themselves.

In effect, they use mysticism as a rationale for rejecting (they would say transcending) the basic ethical constraints of traditional Christianity.


For example,  the poet and illustrator William Blake was a mystical Christian, but the large academic industry based upon him are not Christian - but instead use Blake to validate a primarily socio-political agenda.

For example, Jacob Bronowski wrote an early and very influential book which was instrumental in the late 20th century re-discovery of Blake - William Blake: a man without a mask. Bronowski was hostile to both Christianity (becoming a very well know atheist humanist), and he was also hostile to mysticism. His book (beautifully written and very informative) yokes Blake to a radical, revolutionary political agenda.

Later Blake scholars approved Blake's mysticism, but not his Christianity - Kathleen Raine (with her eclectic 'spiritual values') would be a representative of this. Among the millions who have studied Blake at college over the past couple of generations, I would be surprised if any had been converted to Christianity since that basic of Blake's thought is relativized into insignificance, grossly de-emphasized - and generally simply disregarded.

Something similar applies to Walt Whitman - although Whitman's Christianity seems to have been less profound and foundational than was the case with Blake.


Similarly, the religious and spiritual organizations founded by Steiner are now dominated by typical Leftist concerns of a New Age type (progressive education, alternative medicine, organic horticulture and environmentalism). Steiner himself focused everything in his vastly detailed system of Spiritual Science firmly and explicitly on Christ - but that has become an optional extra, and in practice left-out.

I suspect that Swedenborgians have gone the same way - but I am not sure.

(For some Westerners, Eastern Orthodox is treated in this kind of way - because Orthodoxy minus living in an Orthodox country - with an Orthodox monarch and church-focused way of national life - can be seen as simply a de-ethicized, eclectic, pick-and-mix Christianized spiritual option. 'Celtic' Christianity would be another version.)


Mystical Christianity is - in and of itself - valid. It is just that in our modern cultural context, in practice, it is extremely prone to corruption.

Therefore, to recommend any type of Mystical Christianity is very risky.

However, I believe it is a risk that needs to be taken - because for some people this is the essential path-into Christianity. For these people, if there is no Mystical Christianity, then they will not be Christians.

So, cognisant of the risks, I want to develop a path through mysticism and into Christianity.


The apparent corruptibility of Mystical Christianity is therefore a serious problem, but one which I hope may be tackled and solved. Because (to reiterate) for many disaffected people in modern life, the main problem is alienation, feeling cut off from Life - and that is what most demands to be addressed.

This is why the likes of RW Emerson, and Jung, and Joseph Campbell have been of such interest to Westerners - because they address the most pressing problem.

In The Power Of Myth Campbell hit the nail: People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That's what it's all finally about. 
My position is that Campbell was dead right when he said 'that's what we're really seeking'; and dead wrong when he said 'that's what it's all finally about'. Campbell's perspective offers real and immediate spiritual benefits; but its built-in anti-Christian perspective means that the adherent then 'gets' stuck'.

The very effectiveness of mysticism - although only a partial effectiveness, indeed may serve to prevent the next step, into Christianity.


I know this from personal, lived experience. I was in that position for a long time - more than two decades, during which I pressed forward all the time towards a completing and fulfilment within this 'Romantic' Transcendentalist position but never got any further because - from this perspective - there is nowhere to go.

One is simply told to be satisfied with a life without purpose - a life of isolated epiphanies.



What is required is a spiritual discipline that starts with mysticism in a Christian frame, which presents the path as a seamless progress from mysticism into Christianity - this being set out from the beginning.

But my impression is that this path is not available in any institutional, organizational or church setting; it is therefore a path which must be traversed alone.

Therefore, my current advice (for what it is worth!) would be for would-be Mystical Christians to embark on the spiritual path, but always with the aim of a specific denomination in-view - e.g. to become a mystic en route to becoming an Evangelical, Western or Eastern Catholic, Mormon or whatever...

This may, or should, help to keep the mystic within the protections (if not on-the-rails) of real Christianity; I mean, within bounds of moral teachings and focused upon Christ - and away-from the siren seductions of New Leftism and the 'liberations' of the sexual revolution.    

The way ahead is via foolishness


I am talking about England, and I am neither being despairing nor sarcastic.


In a desperate situation, there often arises an admiration for shrewdness, cunning, calculation, strategic planning...

But when the desperate situation is self-inflicted, then all this knowingness works against you.


To allow oneself to become a fool is to trust in the unknown (call it the 'magical'); and as a way forward it has potential for both evil and good. It has also the potential for self-deception - one may simply be pretending folly.

To be a fool is not to be going anywhere in particular, certainly not anywhere that you know about - but it may be a good way to get out from where you are (when you, deep down, don't what to be there). 


Nothing can be said about where it will all end-up (nothing should be said). That is the whole point.

Somehow the magic must be let-in. And sometimes this is the only way.


See also - http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/a-fool-for-god.html

Thursday 25 June 2015

Spiritual corruption of Glastonbury

Glastonbury was one of the most spiritually significant places in Britain; now we can be sure that it is one place from which a renewal of spirit is excluded.

The town was first corrupted from a great Christian site into a seedy maelstrom of evasive, collaborative New Age mutual exploitation. Then the Festival usurped the town; and then the BBC usurped the Festival.

Glastonbury now exemplifies everything that is most wrong with Britain - the confluence of finance, bureaucracy and the mass media; wrapped in fake robes fashioned from past greatness.

The post-mortal ratchet

One important difference between this mortal life, and the life after death - the post-mortal life - is that our freedom can lead us downward and away from God as well as upward and to become more like him: we can make spiritual progress, or we can become more spiritually corrupt.

Post-mortally, we can only progress (although we do not necessarily progress).

This is highly significant, although it must be a half-knowledge - because it does not tell us what is the advantage of mortal life; why is it better, or necessary, for mortals to be able to decline into corruption.

And, what is the price top pay in post-mortal life, that means it is an upward ratchet only? What qualities have been sacrificed, that this can be made so?

To know this, the other half of the knowledge - would be to have a clearer, firmer comprehension of conscious extended life this mortal interval; to know what it is for.


Wednesday 24 June 2015

The engagement of Christian churches in modern 'ethical' policy debates is, I suspect, strongly counter-productive

When Christians appear in the major 'ethical' public debates of our time, they engage on the enemies ground, in a framework established by the enemy, and on the enemy's terms.

(The enemy being the mass media, as the primary fount and agent of the secular New Left agenda.)

I am thinking of the sexual revolution debates (extramarital sex combined with redefining marriage, abortion, redefining psychiatric sexual disorders as positive goods etc); and also the various 'medical' controversies on genetic testing and engineering, experiments on - and use of - human embryos and so forth.


What the public hears from Christianity on such matters is a bunch of knee-jerk fundamentalists who don't care about the sufferings of victims.

That is what they are hearing in all these instances, and that is all that they hear.

It is not what is being said, but it is what they hear.


There are two reasons for this - one superficial but significant, and the other one deeply significant and intractable.

The superficial one is that the mass media select, distort and lie about what Christians say, so as to paint them in the worst possible light.

The deeply significant reason is that even if Christians could get their true message across without the mass media filter - the general public still would not like it, indeed they would dislike it - because they are not Christians.

We live in a secular culture. Most people are not even nominal Christians,  most self-identified Christians are CHINOs (Christians in name only).

That is the problem, That is why there is a culture war.


So, really, what is the point in these Christian arguments in the public arena? If overall they are doing more harm than good? And surely that must be the right conclusion, given the way that the culture wars have gone?

So should Christians just give up?

Of course not. We should say no clearly and firmly, and reference it back to the fact that we are Christians; and make it clear that we will not cooperate with immorality, but will resist doing these bad things to the greatest extent of our power and will.

If - or when - the government (etc) tries to force us, we still won't do it unless really, really forced - and then only for so long as force is actively being applied. We will make things as difficult for them as possible, in as many ways as possible.

And we will continue to try to bring as many people as possible into Christianity - because that is the only way that anti-Christian policies can be fought: as they were successfully fought in the past.


There can be no real debate sans Christianity.

First Christianity, then we can have a real debate. 


The culture war can only (potentially) successfully be fought on Christian grounds, among Christians as it were - and that is where we should fight it: at the point where the culture impinges on Christians.

If there are not enough Christians, or they are too weak, then Christians might well lose.But really stubborn Christians (like the Amish wrt compulsory education) have pretty-much won some of these battles, even when in a tiny and powerless minority.

The culture war cannot be fought at its source, because the source is not Christian: conflicts against much larger and better armed forces should be fought by defending the citadel, not by set battles out on the open plain nor by attacking the enemy's castles.


[The other thing is that these debates are just so boring - aren't they? Any excuse not to engage in them is welcome.]

What makes good, or bad, luck?

Consider the basic situation.

Since we were alive pre-mortally, we differed even before incarnation - differed in our needs. God therefore must have placed us in particular times and places, and with particular parents in particular situations, for some reason concerned with the kind of experiences we could expect. This would mostly be related by what we needed most to learn during our mortal lives to equip us for resurrected post-mortal eternity.

So, we were placed here on earth, in a world which God created, among people, animals, plants and minerals that God also created. Everything on earth was shaped from the stuff of the universe, everything is therefore alive - albeit in different ways.

Furthermore, everything is - to widely varying extents - conscious and in communication with everything else.

Therefore life on earth is all about relationships - the relationships between innumerable (more- or {usually} less-conscious) entities in-communication.

All the entities, every-thing, on earth can be regarded as a matrix or web: each entity influencing and responding to everything else; some entities much more powerfully than others; and sometimes entities will align together collectively  - either defensively or aggressively - and thereby amplify their influence.


Luck can be explained in terms of the relationship between each of us and the web of other entities. Other entities in the web respond (individually and collectively) to our personal and collective human attitudes and behaviours - and that is the reason for luck; whether good or bad.

Bad luck may be a response to our own selfish, insensitive, aggressive, exploitative attitudes and behaviours being resisted by individual or collective responses from the matrix of living things (i.e. the web of other-entities); or this reaction may be against some group we are in - the species, a nation or smaller grouping.  In sum, bad luck is characterized by a relationship that is prideful, hate-driven, old, impersonal, careless: negative.

Good luck is the opposite - it happens when the relationship between an individual (or group) and the matrix is empathic, care-full, altruistic, warm, positive; that is, when the relationship is characterized by Love.


It is vital to remember that this system is not set-up to optimize our mortal health and happiness; but to provide the situation for providing the experiences necessary for developing our post-mortal resurrected lives.

Therefore, true luck is not referenced-to our current state of pleasure or suffering.


From this above metaphysical scheme, it can be seen that there is, on the one hand, no randomness to our lives - we are under God's care. But on the other hand, we are free agents with choice; and so is everything else in this world; not just the other people, but every-thing in this world.

We are subject to the consequences of our own choices and behaviours, and also subject to the consequences of the choices and behaviours of the other entities of the world. And as each of us is a sinful, weak, imperfect entity; so too (in their very different and diverse ways) are the other things in this world.

Just as we can be spiteful vengeful, self-centred - so too ca the matrix of things with which we are necessarily in relation.

Hence good and bad luck are not 'a matter of luck', not random, nor imposed individually and specifically at the will of God; but most a matter of the consequences of choices.


The above argument is adapted from the chapter entitled 'Justice' in A Geography Of Consciousness, by William Arkle (1974).

Tuesday 23 June 2015

If a leader emerged who might be a saviour of the West - what kind of person might he be?

If a leader was to emerge who might save The West (or some significant part of it) from self-hatred and indirect suicide, from the dead-ly combination of alienation and nihilism... what kind of person would he have to be?


He would, I think need to be a break from the recently-typical type of pseudo-leader - the promoted middle manager, the hysteric and the psychopath - who has so effectively served the interests of New Leftism (the ruling bureaucracy and the mass media) over the past fifty years.

There would need to be something magical, uncanny, unpredictable about him. His focus would - although this may seem paradoxical - be on the aesthetic good and the truth rather than on morality (since Leftism is all about moral outrage as an excuse and justification for lies, ugliness and hatred).

He would, of course, need to be a natural leader, a man of spontaneous authority (not, therefore, an intellectual); and in the background, in the shadows (as it were), there would probably be a grey eminence, a wizardly intellectual and poetic adviser, a Merlin-type magician.

Most likely, this person would be of noble background (although I'm not sure what kind of 'noble' this would be - but a kind which is recognized as such, without need for argument or emphasis).

Of course, this leader would be chosen of God (in that sense 'anointed') and his qualities might well come from what seemed to be a difference in nature - a prophet, reincarnate, suspected angel?...something of that sort.

He would not, of course, be perfect or flawless; but his imperfections and flaws would be of-a-piece with his strengths and leadership qualities. Therefore these defects would not be hidden nor minimized, although they would be repented. In sum, his dark side would indirectly reinforce his status as leader.


Now, it could well be said that what I have depicted sounds more like an Antichrist, a dark sorcerer (an Adolf Hitler type, in other words) than the Christian leader which would be needed to save us.

But my point is this: from where we are now, after half a century of New Leftism - a fake leader, an evil leader would almost certainly be someone who built upon the evil heritage of New Leftism, political correctness, and social justice: therefore the really dangerous kind of evil leader would not be the kind of person I described above - since that would be to risk losing all the progress-towards universal nihilism and alienation which has been the demonic triumph recent decades.

From where we stand, the Antichrist (and, of course, there may be several or many of these) would be a bureaucrat or a mass media man - and certainly not a real leader of the wartime Winston Churchill type which I have described above.

Successful Leftism is a product of status, wealth and freedom

The self-serving Leftist mythology is that it is a product of oppression - but the opposite is the case: Leftism is always a product of increasing wealth and freedom - or indeed of established luxury and status.


The earliest Leftists were the industrial proletariat - who were probably the wealthiest and free-est working class group who existed in the world at that time. Early (middle to late 19th century) socialism became established, therefore, among the well-paid workers in the urban areas and among new industries such as coal mining, shipyards, steel making etc.

For example, the late 19th century miners in Newcastle upon Tyne were so wealthy (for their time) that they were renowned for their fancy clothes and expensive pastimes such as drinking, gambling and having fun. They were, indeed, so well-off that their wives did not need to earn any money - and it became a source of 'macho' pride to be a sufficiently successful bread-winner that the wife would stay at home and look after the house.

Socialist miners formed the backbone or shock-troops of British socialism until the unsuccessful strike of 1984.

Meanwhile, a few miles down the road, the farm workers remained extremely poor, with no money left over for fun and games, and their wives and children needed to work as much as possible simply to get enough to eat.

Yet Leftist parties almost always opposed the Industrial revolution, which - following Marx's mistake/ deliberate error - they depicted as impoverishing the working class. In fact, as Greg Clark shows in A Farewell To Alms, the Industrial Revolution benefited the poor far more than the rich - and ended up by abolishing structural poverty altogether - fought every inch of the way by socialism, which afterwards re-wrote history and took the credit for the improvements.


If you read honest memoirs by the likes of Shelby Steele and Thomas Sowell, it can be seen that an analogous situation applied in the USA. The 'civil rights' era came after the great improvements in the wealth, status and freedom of the ex-slave population in the USA the situation. As usual, Leftism took credit for, and exploited, what had already been achieved without Leftism, and indeed most fought by the most Leftist parties.


The same applies to feminism. Steve Moxon demonstrates (in the Woman Racket) how feminism simply exploited the already achieved increased freedom and wealth of women; and after the hard-fought extension of the franchise to working class men women were simply 'gifted' with votes.


My point here is certainly not to argue that Leftist phenomena, e.g. antiracism and feminism, are indeed the ultimate 'good causes' that they are portrayed to be in the current mass media - but that, good or bad, the genuine successes were not the product of Leftism.

Leftism came after, declared them good things by lying about how things had been comparatively and beforehand, and rewrote the history to claim credit.

Thus Leftism is a phenomenon invariably associated with increasing wealth, freedom and status - because when people really are oppressed, poor and miserable they are too weak - when the laws and social practices really are against them, when they really are 'minorities' - people are much too frightened, vulnerable and exhausted (and with good reason!) to become Leftists and mount political campaigns.

The genuinely oppressed are those you never hear anything about from Leftists.


Who gets reincarnated?

My feeling is that reincarnation is not a part of Plan A for Christians - it is not normal. But neither is it excluded nor impossible - it sometimes happens. 

But I suspect we are not supposed to focus or dwell upon it, because to do so would be to the detriment of Plan A.

So, just in brief, when might reincarnation be a possibility?I can think of two, almost opposite, situations.


1. When an exceptionally Good person returns to earth as a teacher or prophet. I suspect that one reason that reincarnation has been, mistakenly, taught as a standard necessity is that some of the greatest religious teachers and prophets were themselves reincarnated.

For these teachers and prophets, I presume that mystical introspection told them that they personally had been reincarnated - which was true - but they mistakenly generalized this to apply other people: they made it a principle - which was an error.


2. When a soul comes to earth not only to experience incarnation and death - which is the universal necessity for spiritual progression - but also to have some particular kind of experience and this experience did not happen due to some unforeseen and accidental exercise of agency on the part of others: perhaps (sometimes) if a foetus is aborted, or someone (perhaps a child) is murdered before they have been able to have the experience which was an important reason for their incarnation,

(These are just suggestions; and we, in mortal life, would not necessarily know who were these people liable to reincarnation. But this may be a clue as to why most murders are regarded as a particularly bad sin)

In such circumstances, I would imagine that God might allow a soul to be reincarnated, and have another try - a second, or more than second, chance - if that was what the person wanted.


Because reincarnation (assuming it does happen), like incarnation in general, is and must (surely?) be the act of a volunteer: a choice.

The idea of a God who uses cycles of reincarnation either to torment or to punish souls is (surely?) incompatible with the loving Father God of Christianity; and Mormonism in particular is clear that incarnation is not compelled but is an act of free agency.


In sum, there may be, I think have been, exceptional situations in which reincarnation - another loop through mortal experience, or more than one such loop is permitted to volunteers; either for the good of that soul or for the good of other souls.

But reincarnation is Plan B (or perhaps Plan C, D or E...) - reincarnation is not the Plan of Salvation and Spiritual Progress as it applies to most people, most of the time.


Monday 22 June 2015

Converting modern Man. Which comes first: Christianity or re-enchantment? (Or, the synergistic twin evils of nihilism and alienation)

Owen Barfield (slightly edited from an interview with Schenkel):

My book Saving the Appearances (1957) was intended as a contribution to the healing, in the general mind, of the universally presumed Cartesian split between matter and mind - a paradigm-shift which I feel must precede the restoration of any spiritual dimension to the social structures of the West.


The two great problems of modern Western Man are nihilism and alienation.

Nihilism comes from the death of God, specifically the loss of Christian faith - so that life has lost objective reality, and has no purpose - therefore his life lacks direction and adds-up to nothing; the whole thing feels meaningless.

Alienation comes from the abstraction and literalism of modern thought; so that each Man feels solipsistically-isolated inside his own head - detached from public discourse, detached even from his own thoughts and feelings; which seems arbitrary, distant and irrelevant from the objective public world. Alienated modern Man does not participate; he is cut-off from the world; the world is lifeless, mechanical, deeply boring.


The Nihilism stands in the path of re-enchantment of the world; prevents a restoration of child-like participation in reality - because all meanings seem like arbitrary fantasies, and any healing seems as if based on make-believe. When nothing is really real, then modern Man cannot re-establish contact with reality. The death of God means that we cannot cure alienation.


And alienation blocks the path to Christian renewal - because when Christianity is conceptualized in the modern, alienated mode of thinking; Christianity becomes meaningless. To modern Man, even if Christianity is true, it seems irrelevant to the alienated soul. When the world is regarded as dead clockwork, the Gospels are just another story, just another set of rules, just another bunch of threats and promises.


This is the predicament of modern Man - he is caught in a pincer-grip: he cannot be saved by Christianity, because he is doomed by alienation; he cannot be saved from alienation because he is in despair from lack of Christianity.

So which comes first: the objective reality of Christianity or restored animism and re-enchantment?

Barfield says the first priority - even before Christianity - should be healing our state of alienation (or, the Cartesian split, as he calls it) - and I believe he is correct, for the following reasons...


Christianity comes from a pre-modern world, which simply takes for granted aliveness and the meaningfulness of the non-human. But Christianity in a world of scientism, a world of bureaucratic and legalistic discourse, cannot feed our starving souls in the way that it should.

To the typical modern Man, Christianity is perceived as the same kind of thing as the legal system, or a state office, or an NGO. It is a structure, a system, an establishment, a rulebook and a code of conduct. If modern man simply becomes a normal Christian, he will find that the moment-by-moment experience, the texture of his living, has not changed.

He will be the same-old alienated self, leading the same-old dull, un-engaged, life-at-a-distance.


The answer is that the healing of alienation should come first, but must be regarded as only a means to the end of a proper Christianity.

From the Romantic and Transcendentalist poets and essayists, through Jung, through neo-paganism, through Joseph Campbell, to some of today's Positive Psychologists; there has been no shortage of non-Christians who offer to cure alienation and re-enchant the world. But even if they delivered everything they claim, the fundamental problems of modern life - its nihilism - would be unaffected.

We might feel alive; but we would regard this feeling as arbitrary, merely subjective, a delusion - a temporary psychological state soon to be terminated by circumstances, disease, age or death.

However, if (instead of being the program of non- or anti-Christians) this re-enchantment was embarked-upon explicitly and purposively as a seamless preliminary leading directly into Christianity; then the synergy of mutual destructiveness between nihilism and alienation would be thwarted.


If this analysis is correct, then it highlights the futility - or at least extreme difficultly - of attempting to convert a typical modern Man directly to Christianity; because a single step conversion process cannot overcome the dual-blockage of alienation and nihilism.

What is needed is a double-stage conversion process, which addresses both aspects of the problem.


What is Creation about?

For mainstream Christian theologians, the primary act of creation is making the stuff of everything; for Mormons it is perhaps the shaping of pre-existent stuff- the making of form.

But perhaps God's primary purpose was neither of these - but to bring the stuff of existence into a relation - each with every other. Because, naturally, there is no coherence - only chaos.


Before form could even be possible, first everything needed to be brought into relation. However, relation is something that happens between entities - so the implication is that entities were already present.

Entities were already there - in other words, life is eternal and universal (but very various!). Life is not the problem - the problem is to bring the multiplicity of lives into relation.


That was done through Love. The reason that Christians say God is Love refers to this primary act: God brought everything into relationship, by Love.

We can think of this primordial Love as a light emanating from God and bathing the universe in luminosity - everything is inside God's Love; or, Love could be a sea, and everything immersed in this sea.


So the first phase of creation was to make the universe 'one' - not in identity, but one group (or family) as a network of relations: a network of loving relations. 

The second phase was to enable primordial Men to become divine, and share in God's love: this is a transition from being spontaneously bathed-in love, to each man becoming a self-conscious entity and then choosing to love (choosing to participate in God's network of loving relations).

So, the secondary act of creation is in relation to Man; and the enabling of each man's self-consciousness: so that we step-back-from the first state of unselfconscious immersion - become aware of ourselves as free agents capable for choice - and then decide whether or not to participate in the network of relations.

[This participation including the matter of making more (self-conscious) Men, who will then be confronted by the same choice.]


The choice is threefold:

1. To enter into the fullest relationship with God by becoming a fully self-conscious divine person and choosing to love God-as-a-person;

2. To return to primordial and unselfconscious immersion-in love, ceasing to be a person (e.g. the Eastern religious goal of Nirvanah, impersonal non-self);

3. To oppose God's unification of the universe through love, by explicitly and actively rejecting God - denying the desirability of a network of loving relations as the basis of reality: to assert one's autonomy from this web of love.


Note, for simplification, I have left-out explicit reference to the role of Jesus Christ - which relates to the process of self-consciousness - both in Man and in each man. I also left-out consideration of a distinction of God between Heavenly Father and Mother in Heaven.

Being child-like, apostasy, recovering child-like-ness - The three phases of life (referencing Thomas Traherne)

Most children have an innocence about them, which is (more or less - widely varying) corrupted as they mature towards adulthood - the best people then regain a childlike quality: there is a recovery of innocence.

The holiest people have a childlike quality; all geniuses have a childlike quality (even the nasty ones); some of the most courageous people (for instance in war) are also childlike - it seems likely that this is what is supposed to happen.


Of course, while child-like-ness in an adult is good, child-ish-ness is bad.

Adolescents are self-conscious and selfish, and most modern adults retain adolescent selfishness - and they are proud of it!

It is a modern compliment to be described as 'youthful' - youthfulness is clinged-to into the twenties, thirties... nowadays even into the fifties and sixties; but actually youth is the worst phase of life, and youthfulness is (traditionally) the worst time of life.

Yet youth is necessary, and it is a necessary transition - adulthood (adult child-like-ness) lies on the other side of youth.

But it is bad to get stuck in a transition phase.


If both are child-like; what is the difference, then, between the ideal child and adult state?

Simply that the child un-self-conscious - the child does not know he is childlike. The mature adult is child-like and knows it: he has consciousness of his own child-like state.


Consider this passage from Thomas Traherne's Centuries of Meditations, describing his childhood experience: 

All appeared new, and strange at first, inexpressibly rare and delightful and beautiful. I was a little stranger, which at my entrance into the world was saluted and surrounded with innumerable joys. My knowledge was Divine. I knew by intuition those things which since my Apostasy, I collected again by the highest reason.

My very ignorance was advantageous. I seemed as one brought into the Estate of Innocence. All things were spotless and pure and glorious: yea, and infinitely mine, and joyful and precious, I knew not that there were any sins, or complaints or laws. I dreamed not of poverties, contentions or vices. All tears and quarrels were hidden from mine eyes. Everything was at rest, free and immortal. I knew nothing of sickness or death or rents or exaction, either for tribute or bread. In the absence of these I was entertained like an Angel with the works of God in their splendour. and glory, I saw all in the peace of Eden; Heaven and Earth did sing my Creator's praises, and could not make more melody to Adam, than to me: All Time was Eternity, and a perpetual Sabbath.

Is it not strange, that an infant should be heir of the whole World, and see those mysteries which the books of the learned never unfold?

Traherne writes of those things which as a child he knew by intuition, and which since his Apostasy he collected again by the highest reason. By this he means that his primordial state of child-like-ness was lost, and then he recovered it - and it is this recovery which enabled him to write the above passage. 

When I read Traherne it is tempting to mourn the loss of the first stage of natural religion - in which:

The corn was orient and immortal wheat, which never should be reaped, nor was ever sown. I thought it had stood from everlasting to everlasting. The dust and stones of the street were as precious as gold: the gates were at first the end of the world.

The green trees when I saw them first through one of the gates transported and ravished me, their sweetness and unusual beauty made my heart to leap, and almost mad with ecstasy, they were such strange and wonderful things: The Men! O what venerable and reverend creatures did the aged seem! Immortal Cherubims! And young men glittering and sparkling Angels, and maids strange seraphic pieces of life and beauty! Boys and girls tumbling in the street, and playing, were moving jewels.

I knew not that they were born or should die; But all things abided eternally as they were in their proper places. Eternity was manifest in the Light of the Day, and something infinite behind everything appeared which talked with my expectation and moved my desire.

The city seemed to stand in Eden, or to be built in Heaven. The streets were mine, the temple was mine, the people were mine, their clothes and gold and silver were mine, as much as their sparkling eyes, fair skins and ruddy faces. The skies were mine, and so were the sun and moon and stars, and all the World was mine; and I the only spectator and enjoyer of it. I knew no churlish proprieties, nor bounds, nor divisions: but all proprieties and divisions were mine: all treasures and the possessors of them.

So that is phase one. And then what happened? Phases two and three...

With much ado I was corrupted, and made to learn the dirty devices of this world. Which now I unlearn, and become, as it were, a little child again that I may enter into the Kingdom of God.

Elsewhere, Traherne explains that his corruption was by 'the world' - and not from any intrinsically sinful nature - his childhood innocence was real innocence.

Nonetheless, the corruption was 'unlearned' - and he became 'as it were, a little child again' - the evidence for which is all through his writing. 


This three phase division of life, seems to be a universal metaphysical destiny; it seems to be how things are meant to be.; it seems to describe the shape of history and the shape of culture and the template for each human life. 

It can be described in terms of a phasic development of consciousness,  or a phasic increase in freedom, or a process of divinization: of Man becoming a god (a Son of God - as Christians call it; a Son of God necessarily sharing in God's divinity).

This also describes the phases of pre-Christian monotheism of God the Father; the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ; and the consequences of that event on the history of Mankind and of each man.


Sunday 21 June 2015

Negative-unification of the Christian churches - the Jehovah's Witness test

I suppose that my highest hope in worldly things is for a Christian awakening in The West - that is; repentance of secular Leftism and resurgence of Christian living.

But what kind of Christian? My answer is - any kind.

(Any kind of real Christian.)

Yet all Western Christian denominations, all the churches, are relatively small (i.e. a small proportion of the population), and weak, and mostly ageing, in The West.


1. There seems to be no chance at all of any single denomination or church taking-over across all The West.

2. The dominant Christian church or denomination, the one with the best chance of growing fast and becoming significantly strong, differs between nations and region - for reasons of history, and probably of national character.

3. Therefore, for there to be a Christian revival across the West entails that several-or-many Christian churches or denominations must grow.

4. And for this to be a Christian revival and awakening, demands that these different churches and denominations must not be hostile to each other. If the different types of real Christians fight each other, then they will fail.


So, given the impossibility of one church dominating, and (sadly, but it's true) the impossibility of positive active alliance between Christian churches - what is required is a kind of negative unification: a sort of non-hostility pact between Christian churches and denominations.

This non-hostility must start in the the human heart - in each individual Christian.


On the one hand we need to include as many self-identified Christians as possible in the 'real' Christian category. On the other hand, it would be fatal to include the CHINOs (Christians In Name Only) who are in alliance with the enemy forces of secular Leftism.

If we each of us start with our own heart, we can monitor our emotional reactions to other Christian groups; and examine our own motivations for these reactions - and try to eliminate negative prejudices.

If we find ourselves salaciously approving media attacks on the Roman Catholic church, or feeling hostility upon sight of a priest or nun; then we should stop this. If we react to the enthusiastic worship of young evangelical Protestants or 'fish' stickers on cars with disdain; then we should stop this. If we find that we actually want to believe that the Eastern Orthodox churches are nothing-but government agencies; then we should stop this.


For me, a test case was the street ministry of Jehovah's Witnesses in my city. Every weekday morning, two or three smartly dressed, pleasant and ordinary looking folk, stand across the main shopping street holding out JW leaflets or mini books.

They do not speak unless spoken to, they do not move to block your way, they do not thrust their leaflets at you - they simply stand, and smile or nod, holding their literature at the ready.

Now - is this Jehovah's Witnesses campaign, conducted with exemplary good manners, A Good Thing or is it A Bad Thing? Is the fact that JWs are growing worldwide, a good or bad thing?

In Britain, JW's are  regarded negatively; as a joke, annoying, or pathetic. The current street campaign is apparently a response to people's annoyance at being harassed by JWs on their own doorsteps - and an attempt to focus evangelical activity on those people who have chosen actively to approach the JWs on the streets.

I needed to decide for myself - so I stopped and talked to a chap, and took and read a small booklet which focused on theology. I simply wanted to establish whether JW was Christ centred.

But my attitude to this evaluation was positive - JWs looked like they were Christians, I hoped they would be Christians, and I just wanted to check. By contrast, many people approach the evaluation of JWs with a negative and suspicious attitude, as if to say - "I think you are not Christians, and I will not believe that you are Christians unless you can 100% satisfy the following check-list..."

It was a matter of minutes to discover that JWs unambiguosly self-identify as Christians and practice a Christ-centred religion, this was very clear - so now I cheerfully regard any expansion of Jehovah's Witnesses as A Good Thing - and my attitude towards their success is that, overall, it advances the great cause.


What about poaching or sheep-stealing? What about Christian denominations trying to take each others members?

On the whole, this should not happen when other-church members are active and devout - but when members are CHINOs or inactive and apostate; then, clearly, it is good for them to transfer to another church if by doing so their Christian life is re-awakened. It is far better to be a real Christian than a CHINO - and achieving this may well involve a change of denomination.

But it would weaken Christianity overall if the churches expended their primary energies in fighting over the scraps of declining numbers of serious Christians in The West.

Given the harm to Christianity it does overall and in the long term, strategic poaching behaviour implies that it is better for someone to be nothing-at-all, than to be some other type of Christian than yourself.


There seems to be no realistic prospect of actual unification of the real Christian churches - after a millennium of major schism; and individually any one church is far too weak to make a significant difference at a national level, and between Western nations the biggest and most favoured church varies widely.

If a Christian revival is genuinely favoured; then we must have a negative unification; and this should be based not on theological or organization principles - but on the attitude in the hearts of Men.

What is needed is an attitude which is pleased by any significant religious success of real Christians anywhere in The West, including our own communities - and which tries to cure itself of the all-too-common, all-too-obvious negativity, hatred and spite towards other churches and denominations.

Any healthy organization will regard itself as better than its rivals; but the other Christian churches should be benignly-tolerated as rivals, not regarded as enemies. The attitude should be along the lines of 'we have more of the Truth than they do' - rather than 'they are liars, apostates and cultists'. 

This can best be achieved if all the churches focus on evangelism among non-Christians (including lapsed Christians and CHINOs). 


I would be happy to see a resurgent Roman Catholic Poland, a strongly Lutheran North Germany, a renaissance of Scotch Calvinism - and in England I would be truly delighted if there was a growth in several or many or all Christian denominations: e.g. among Conservative Evangelical Anglicans, Conservative Anglo-Catholics, Traditionalist Roman Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons (of course)  - and a multitude of tiny home churches, charismatics and Pentecostals...

...so long as they are at least negatively tolerant of each other; adopt a benign attitude towards each other. So long as the hearts of Christians are warmed by the success of other Christians - even when those other Christians are regarded as strange and alien, or misguided.


This could be achieved, I think, if the primary understanding of the situation of The West is realistic: if it is accepted that Christianity is, and has been for many decades, weak and dying in the West; if it is accepted that the main large denominations (Church of England, Roman Catholic, Methodist etc) are now overall CHINOs and overall hostile to real Christianity so we must balance positivity to conservative elements among members of these churches, with hostility to the dominant liberalism of their leadership; and if it is accepted that no single church denomination can possibly re-Christianize The West.

If all this is accepted; yet if Christian revival is the aim, then there must be some kind of mutual tolerance among Christians.

So - do you pass the Jehovahs Witness test? Can you bring yourself to approve, in your heart, their expansion (among erstwhile non-Christians) in your own community? Can you refrain from sniping, disdaining and criticizing them?

This is the kind of thing Christians will need to do, en masse, in a multitude of hearts, and with respect to each other - if a Western revival of Christianity is to have any realistic chance of happening.


Saturday 20 June 2015

Debbie Harry: Best female pop vocalist ever?

(Scruffy live version of Sunday Girl - so you can hear the singing minus recording production)

I would think that, taken as an all-round package, Debbie Harry - vocalist for the New Wave group Blondie - is probably the best female pop vocalist ever.

Obviously, she was a great natural beauty - which is a major factor in pop. Because of that, not many people noticed her singing. But her vocal quality, as a contralto, was extremely good - especially the lowest notes.

And her whole performance was understated, effortless - the song was performed almost straight, without showing-off.

She also had the advantage of a lot of superb original pop songs to perform, since Blondie were the most lyrical and melodious of the major US bands of their era.

You could find technically better singers (like Aretha Franklin) - who can do all sorts of pyrotechnics; you might even find a few that are better looking - depending on your personal taste (for me, Debbie from Sister Sledge is the most attractive pop star from that era - but that is no doubt idiosyncratic).

However overall, in sum, Debbie Harry was simply the ideal female vocalist to front a pop group.


The importance of NOT talking about sex

It is part of traditional wisdom, and an important part, that we should not talk specifically or in detail about our personal sexual experiences.

Not talk about it ever.

Why? Because it is sacred, obviously.

OK, but why is it regarded as sacred?


Well, many reasons - but one neglected reason is that there are lots of bad things in life which will only be done (by most people) if and when people talk about them afterwards.

Most people are not content to sin in secret.

How many people would go bungee jumping if it was secret, and they could not tell anybody about it afterwards ever, nor show pictures and movies? How many people would get drunk? How many would have sexual affairs if they could not brag or weep about them with their pals?

A lot fewer than actually do these things now. 


It is a great corruption of modernity, the way to which was paved by pop-Freudian psychology, that it is 'good to talk' about everything: and especially sex - 'unhealthy' to 'bottle anything up': and especially sex - and thereby people are led to do all kinds of sex-related things from the merely silly and wasteful, to the risky and show-offy, to the wicked and destructive... because (and only because) they are expecting to talk about them afterwards.


This is, or ought to be, common sense. It is hard to avoid noticing that the people who do the worst things most often - who are habitually wicked - are nearly always keen on telling everybody about it, get great satisfaction from telling everybody about it. The men boast to their mates, the women 'share' with their girlfriends.

When people talk specifically about their sexual experiences, by doing so they make them part of the world of entertainment, gossip, and sensational public experience.

Not only are the experiences instantly, then increasingly, devalued by the communication; the communication sets-up an expectation of having new kinds of experiences, novelties, variations - just like all the other things we talk about: news, books, TV, sports, summer holidays... these feed on change.

Since sexual experience is something which ought to be within permanent marriage, this is why sex should never be talked about. 


Note - The above principle is true; and I am not interested in being told that there are marginal or grey areas and exceptions - such as some medical problems. There are always marginal/ grey areas and exceptions to any true moral principle (or scientific law) - and only inexperienced young children should be impressed by this fact.

Friday 19 June 2015

What was it like to participate in an Inklings evening meeting?


The power of English Magic (from an interview with Susanna Clarke)


Edited from https://www.drake.org.uk/interviews/susanna-clarke-author-of-jonathan-strange-mr-norrell/

Question: You seem to specifically emphasize English magic throughout Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. It is rarely, as I recall, just magic that is returning — it is English magic. Is English magic very different from that of other places? Did other nations lose their magic as England did, and if so, is it coming back? Can you do English magic if you aren’t in England, or is it tied to the land?

Susanna Clarke's answer: This is an important question and I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t give it a lot of thought until I was nearing the end of writing Strange and Norrell.

Yes, you can do English magic if you aren’t in England. We know this because Strange does magic in Portugal, Spain, Italy and Belgium (and for an hour or so in America). Nevertheless English magic is tied to the land.

Let me see if I can explain this apparent contradiction. Human magic is borrowed from fairies — and fairies don’t think of magic as we do, as if it were something special. From their point of view it’s just part of normal life.

If a fairy wants something he asks his friends — the Wind, the Rain, the Hills and the Stars etc. — to help him get it. English magicians developed magic — made it less fundamental, less natural, but ultimately they were drawing on the goodwill of the English Wind, the English Rain, the English Hills and those Stars that you can see from the Sussex Wolds or Birmingham or Carlisle. So English magic was like a conversation between the magicians and England.

The reason English magic is particularly strong is because of John Uskglass - The Raven King, a child stolen from England and taken to Faerie, where he learnt fairy magic and gained a fairy kingdom, before returning to England to gain an English kingdom. He then taught his magic to other humans.

This wasn’t so much because he was a generous sort of person — he’s not usually. It was more because he had two sorts of subjects — fairies and humans — and he saw that he needed to get them to bond, to become one people. Getting them to do magic together was a clever way to do this.

On the other hand, how English is English magic? As we’ve seen it comes from fairies. And John Uskglass didn’t think of himself as English — not at first anyway. He claimed to be Norman, which (if it were true) meant that his grandfather would have come over from Normandy with William the Conqueror. And in the 19th century Jonathan Strange’s mother was Scottish.

At the end of JS&MN there’s a footnote about a Scottish magician and Scottish magic. And Jennifer-Oksana’s is an Introduction to The Books of Caribbean Magic (2nd Edition): a fun piece of fan fiction crossing JS&MN with Pirates of the Caribbean. Other countries do have their own magics — I can’t see why they wouldn’t.

On the whole I suspect English magic has the edge because of Uskglass.


CHINOs = Christians In Name Only

I propose the acronym of CHINOs as shorthand for the usual situation with self-identified Christians in the West - especially among the leadership (e.g. bishops, pastors, ministers, priests and priestesses) of the mainstream self-identified Christian denominations.

They are Christians in name only, by a fairly exact definition: they name themselves Christians, but their fundamental allegiance is to the secular mainstream mish-mash of Leftist ideology.

They name themselves Christians, and they use Christian language and concepts - but they use it to rationalize and defend an ideology that is derived from modern, mainstream secular culture: the usual range of politically correct concerns such as equality, diversity, social justice, socialist economics, feminism, antiracism and sexual revolution.

Instead of missionary work, CHINOs have social work and foreign economic aid, and international projects; they worry about global warming and reducing their carbon footprints instead of worrying about sin and repentance; instead of Bible study, they have seminars on patriarchy, racism, the environment; instead of learning Christian history, they research other religions.

CHINOs are placid about attacks on Christians and the (almost complete) extermination of Christianity in the Middle East; but 'passionate' about their politics.

CHIONs are 'inclusive' with respect to anti-Christian ideologies and lifestyles, but support for anti-Left groups is regarded as the ultimate evil ('fascism') and is absolutely forbidden among CHINO leaders. Failure actively and explicitly to support the CHINO progressive agenda (especially wrt the sexual revolution) is regarded as an anti-Christian act of hatred.   

For CHINOs, the main priority is not the collapse of Christian belief and increasing persecution of (real) Christians in the West - nor even the extermination and ethnic cleansing of Christians and Christianity in the Middle East, Sub Saharan Africa, South Asia... but that the Western church bureaucracy needs to catch-up with the post-sixties sexual revolution by being more 'inclusive' (= 'acceptance' moving-towards positive encouragement of sexual activity out-with traditional marriage, including whatever laws and policies are necessary to support this).

The rapid growth of (real) Christianity is Africa, South America, and China is either ignored are regarded with something akin to horror - since these new Christians oppose the progressive ideology to which CHINOs are primarily loyal. When Christianity and political correctness come into conflict - for CHINOs, Leftist ideology and progressive politics is always the winner.

There are far more CHINOs than real Christians nowadays, especially in England. Official Christianity is run by CHINOs and for CHINOs. CHINOs have the power, the money, the status and honours, the teaching positions; CHINOs publish most of the most prominent books about Christianity, and CHINOs are holding the mass media megaphone.

Indeed, subtract the CHINOs and 'real Christians' are a tiny minority - just a few percent - and many of these few are in small churches which are often regarded as heretical by the adherents of the (at present) larger and more powerful denominations^.

Anyway, CHINOs is here presented as a shorthand for something real Christians know well.


Note: CHINO is - obviously - an adaptation of the US usage of RINO to refer to 'Republicans In Name Only' - who talk the talk of Republicanism to get elected, but vote with the Democrats whenever the stakes are high.

Chinos are also a type of trousers; which makes the acronym a real name- but the specific trousers don't have any symbolic significance - except perhaps that 'Preppies' are fond of wearing chinos, and when they call themselves Christians, most Preppies are typical CHINOs.

^The contrast with CHINOs is 'real Christians' - and I would include in real Christians not only traditionalists in the mainstream catholic and protestant denominations, but also some other self-identified Christians such as Mormons (obviously!) and Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs are indeed the most visible real Christians in my normal everyday life, due to their admirably-conducted street missionary activities). 

Real Christians are, simply, self-identified Christians with Christ-focused religions who regard religion as more fundamental than political ideology. 

PS - Although I spontaneously thought of the name myself, just now; a swift search on Google shows that I am far from the first person to use CHINOs in this general way. 


Thursday 18 June 2015

Bad endings are common because most modern writers are corrupt (The example of Phillip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' triology)

Phillip Pullman published a well-known trilogy from 1995-2000 called 'His Dark Materials', comprising Northern Lights (aka The Golden Compass), The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.

The point I wish to make about this series is that it starts very well, and ends very badly. The contrast is extreme - the first part of the first novel is very good, and by the end of the third volume it has become very bad.

This interpretation of His Dark Materials is not really a matter of opinion, but as close to objective fact as you can get in literary criticism - anyone who doubts should read John C Wright on the technical aspects; and the ideological reason for these gross errors and incompetencies.


But bad endings are not unusual - indeed, it is quite normal, statistically common, even fashionable and mainstream - for books, plays, movies, and TV plays and series to start well and end badly.

But why should this be? Why do they, on the one hand, start well; and on the other hand, finish badly?


I think the answer is quite simple. Great works are written with the assistance of genius, which can be understood as a visitor who will only stay if treated well.

Many more talented writers are visited by genius than succeed in completing works of genius, because most writers betray their visiting genius before the work is complete - the genius flies away, and the work must be finished without it; and talent without genius is comparatively a very poor thing.

So, Phillip Pullman was a talented writer who was visited by genius and began Northern Lights; but he was dishonest in the way he used this gift - so away it flew and he cobbled together the rest of the trilogy on his own - getting across the 'message' which meant so much to him, but making a an artistic pig's ear of the writing.

JK Rowling is different. She was visited by genius when writing Harry Potter, and it sustained her through seven volumes - and the last volume, including its ending, are wonderful! The best thing in it (probably).

There are signs that, part way through, Rowling became personally dishonest and corrupt -  probably due to the temptations of fame - but she kept this out of the books. However, when she finished Harry Potter, Rowling embraced the dark side, and away genius flew - her work has waned even as her commitment to political correctness has waxed - and she has been caught in several blatant lies about her life and work. I would not expect her ever to write anything really good ever again.

However, throughout HP, Rowling was true to her visiting genius - it stayed with her for the duration, and she was therefore able to complete a great work.


And of course the benchmark classics all end well, else they would not be real classics. The Lord of the Rings, the Narnia Chronicles (despite extreme digressiveness en route), The Wind in the Willows (despite major incoherence and a detachably episodic structure) - all of these have deeply satisfying endings.

No author is so great as to overcome the need for a good ending. When George Bernard Shaw tried to end Pygmalion with an anticlimax, the actors when on tour secretly substituted the dramatically-implied-and-required 'comedic' ending (ie implying marriage between Higgins and Eliza). This, to Shaw's extreme annoyance! - but they would not stop doing it, because the audience response told them what was right. And the highly successful musical adaptation (My Fair Lady) made exactly the same change.

So, even so great a playwright as Shaw was not immune to the absolute requirement for a good ending. Even the greatest of all - Shakespeare - has to bow to this imperative...

All Shakespeare's best plays (best, that is, according to the consensus of playgoers through the ages) end well; and the ones that don't end well are not regarded as great.For instance, Measure for Measure is shaping-up superbly for most of its length; but the play has a truly terrible ending - so it never has become a part of the standard dramatic repertoire (despite having the best 'strong' female role Shakespeare ever wrote).


This, then, is a possible reason why too many books end badly; and why so many other narrative forms end badly too. It comes down to the abuse of visiting genius.

Bad endings have indeed, become a feature of modernist writing over the past century. The inability to finish a book, play, movie has been covered-up with nonsense about the sophistication of an 'ambiguous' ending, or 'deliberate' anticlimax, or the desirability of 'dark', 'subversive' conclusions; or the need for some kind of radically transgressive and expectation-thwarting finish (to educate the audience).

But the fact is that it is an extremely difficult thing to end a narrative well - and I would regard supposedly deliberately ambiguous (etc.) endings as a fake; an excuse to cover-up incompetence and failure.


Bad endings are so common nowadays because corruption of writers has become so common as to be nearly universal. When visited by genius, the writer is not grateful, does not perceive that this entails a duty to be truthful to his inspiration - but instead he tries to use the gifts of genius to pursue to fashionable ideology, or to ride some personal hobby horse.

Corruption leads to betrayal of genius - usually by dishonesty; and the cause of dishonesty is usually some brand of Left Wing/ radical politics - which the writer or artist places above the truth of art.

Dishonest art cannot be great; and an habitual liar can only be a great artist when he is (nonetheless) utterly truthful in his art - however badly he behaves the rest of the time.


How to meditate? No standard method.

How should someone set about meditating?

I think it is important to recognize that there is no standard method for meditating well - by meditating 'well', I mean such that meditating 'does you good, that the meditating has a positive (Christian) effect.

Learning how to meditate therefore seems to be one of those tasks which each person must tackle for himself - and this is how it is meant to be.

Of course there are many 'standard methods' of meditation which are taught, and which people practice. There are many 'school's of spiritual practice. But (and each person will need to reach their own judgment on this) I do not find any of them to be effective in the job of making a better person. The feeling or 'vibe' I receive from those people who practice a standard form of meditation, and advocate it - and tell you how much it has changed their lives, is generally not good.

My impression is that trying to standardize and formalize meditation is an intrinsically bad thing - it leads to problems like fakery, spiritual pride, sensation seeking; and it easily becomes a tool for power seeking.

I think we are intended to chisel-out our own method, and that learning how to meditate is part of making meditation into a good and helpful activity (because it can, of course, be the opposite).

For a Christian, there can be some general guidance - in terms of what you are looking-for. Here is William Arkle speaking:

You have something in you which can give you exactly that essential faith. And that something is a little spark of God's own divine flame. It is there. To understand that God's own divine flame is there in you, is the most vital component of what you need to know about this process of mortal life; because once you can read that inner spark of God for yourself, then you can get all the necessary answers for yourself: and then your faith grows into certainty.  


Wednesday 17 June 2015

Michael Moorcock's "Epic Pooh" essay on Tolkien and the Inklings



Functional brain imaging - my 1995 critique (Update... seems I got it right)


God's DNA - meditation as looking-within for the divine


The Northumbrian Flag

One encouraging development in recent years, in my corner of the planet, has been the spontaneous emergence of the Northumbrian flag from utter obscurity to widespread usage.

Our family car, for instance, sports a sticker of this flag which we purchased for a modest price when visiting a local stately home- and plenty of other vehicles do the same. I even bought a big actual flag of this - on impulse - then didn't know what to do with it, so ended-up by draping it on the wall of my office.

Since this is not any kind of campaign or political movement, I can only suppose it expresses a general but seldom-articulated love of the county of Northumberland - which is indeed a county that is easy to love.

The effect of seeing this flag unexpectedly, as I go about business in the city, is to give a lift of the heart and a breath of cleaner air - it is a small and secretive ray of hope.