Saturday 31 October 2015

Hope is located in the Imagination, which is a divine gift, and will guide us to the truth

The difference between pleasure and hope is striking - it is quite usual to experience one without the other.

At the extremes, presumably (to all appearances) a intravenous heroin junkie, or a cocaine crack-head, experiences extreme pleasure - probably more extreme than any natural pleasure. Yet such people seem utterly despairing - that is what appears from their behaviour, or is empathically perceived.

By contrast, someone is extreme pain, and misery of circumstances, or suffering from bereavement; may be extremely hope-full.

As Thoreau memorably phrased it, the mass of men may lead 'lives of quiet desperation' (hope-less-ness) - yet will nonetheless often self-report considerable happiness.


The best psychological conceptualization of pleasure is that it is the brain's representation of a body state - so if the body state is manipulated in certain respects by a drug such as heroin or cocaine, then the brain perceives this as pleasure. So, it is almost a 'mechanical' thing.

The imagination is another kind of thing. It presumably requires a certain physical basis - brain and nerves, for example - but it does not have any specific location, and has a high degree of autonomy; it is not just an average of emotional states or a product of circumstances.

So people in the most physically-favourable of circumstances, in perfect health - including mental health - may feel utterly hopeless, may be in a state of despair. So, what and where is it that hope operates?


Hope or despair seem to be rooted in our basic ideas - what could be termed metaphysical ideas: that is, our assumptions of beliefs regarding the fundamental structure of our lives and the world, and how the two fit together.

That 'place' of hope, or despair, is the imagination - and there is an objectivity of the imagination. I mean, the imagination cannot be fooled, the imagination cannot be hopeful on the basis of simply wanting hope.

If we feel despair because of our fundamental metaphysical assumptions concerning the basic nature of life and reality, then we cannot simply get rid of this despair with hope by arbitrary self-assertion.

Not everything 'works' in generating hope or alleviating despair: only some things are effective.


It is as if hope or despair is the causal end-product or consequence of our imaginative grasp of reality - hope flows from fundamental beliefs and assumptions.

But can these fundamental beliefs or assumptions be changed? Yes, of course: that is the experience of 'conversion'. But what we convert-to is not arbitrary - in a sense we can only convert-to that which gives us hope; and if our metaphysics leads to despair, then it is very difficult to believe it, because the capacity for any kind of belief tends to be eroded by despair.

I tend to the view that we almost-must believe that which gives hope - and probably should-not believe that which leads to despair. At least, the direction which our metaphysics should develop in - because, of course, the same basic metaphysical belief may lead first to hope, and then - with time, experience, new circumstances - this hope turns to despair.


In such a fashion our imagination is an inner guidance system; properly monitored it points us in the direction we 'ought' to go - but this direction may not be (probably will not be) the direction we will continue forever.

What I am, of course, saying - is that the imagination is divine; because if it were not divine it would not have ultimate validity. Imagination is a faculty which is a gift of God.

And there is a tremendous difference between being guided by the imagination - which is being guided by hope-despair (moving towards and believing that which generates hope, away from and avoiding that which leads to despair), and on the other hand being guided by pleasure-pain.


My impression is that apostasy (lapsing from a religion) often comes from being guided by pleasure-pain - so a hope-full religion is abandoned, because abandoning it leads to more pleasure or less suffering (especially more sexual pleasure, or less sexual frustration - in such ways the sexual revolution has been the most destructive wrecking ball of religion over the past century).


But if the religion is itself leading to despair (rather than pain, suffering or misery) then that probably is a very good and valid reason for abandoning it - and seeking some modification of that religion, or some other religion.

And conversely, the spiritual seeker probably ought to be making choices based upon that which leads to hope - and try to avoid being misled by the lures of happiness, pleasure, fun and excitement.

Maybe this sounds to you like relativism? But if the imagination is divine, then what I propose is objectivity: in seeking hope, it will lead us to the truth.

Ideally, and properly, our religion ought to be that which fills us with strong and robust hope, and leads on from hope to more hope. This is a function of the imagination - and one of the most vital reasons Man has been given this faculty.

Depictions of Jesus - which do you think is the best?

I think we can agree that most visual depictions of Jesus are so bad as to be counterproductive.

But, which one (or more) visual depiction of Jesus do you find the most convincing and realistic?

With links please...

Here is my most convincing portrait - Prince of Peace by Akiane (apparently done when she was 8 years old)
But for me the best 'depiction' of Jesus - by far - is the series of videos (see link on the sidebar to the left) of the life of Christ, and the actor John Foss:

Rudolf Steiner - where is God?

I had a bad migraine day yesterday and was grateful for Dale Brunsvold's audio versions of Steiner to give me an enlightening distraction from the state.

I found much to appreciate in the lectures, which focused on Steiner's intellectual and spiritual history of Man since the time of Ancient Egypt including the work of what he terms the Luciferic and Ahrimanic impulses.

These represent the false ideals of losing individually into a primal will-less consciousness and the will towards a consciousness, rationalist, materialism. The Luciferic yearns for the immersive spirituality of childhood or Hunter gatherer animus; the Ahrimanic for science, control, order, mastery. Each has some good, both are ultimately fatal.

Anyway, I found many sharp insights and understandings but also something very important missing. Then I realized it was God who was missing - specifically the recognition of divine providence... of the purpose and phases of history as the product of a personal Creator God.

Everything about Steiner's scheme describes history as unfolding towards a purpose and according to a scheme, and a scheme that is relevant, indeed unavoidable, for every person as an individual. This only makes sense, and carries a moral imperative, if it is a divine scheme - and if the divine scheme comes from a God who has our best interests at heart. If the scheme Just Is, then there is no reason except expediency to embrace it.

I then recognized that this unsaid presence of God, the Christian God, is necessarily implied by Steiner's system - the lack of explicit mention of which is confusing. And it has been profoundly distorting to Steiner's legacy - which has been broken and dispersed and assimilated into mainstream New Age and Leftist political movements.

But if the reader fills in this explanatory gap, and restores God at the head of Steiner's universe - which he personally would have agreed with - things suddenly become considerably clearer and more coherent.

Friday 30 October 2015

Briefly - What is Christianity?

Christianity is God's offer of eternal and divine life as his Son or Daughter, dwelling in a loving and creative heavenly society that potentially includes our family and friends, and Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is the Son of God who was fully divine as a spirit, then was born as a man. By dying and resurrecting, he made it possible for all Men to become divine like him.

Jesus Christ made this as easy as possible. You merely need to accept his offer and keep on striving to become like him. You don't even need to follow his rules; you merely need to acknowledge that his rules are good and true, and that you ought to follow them - but have not fully succeeded.

In a nutshell, we are already partly divine and can, if we wish,  become fully gods after death and within Our Father's heavenly universe - by following the path made for us by our divine brother Jesus Christ.

Thursday 29 October 2015

Review of TV programme 'Lewis' - Charles Williams themed episode

Yesterday I finished watching the two part episode of the Oxford-based TV detective series Lewis which was themed around the 'third Inkling' Charles Williams - and a series of ritual alchemical murders of members of a modern revival group based on the Companions of the Coinherence.

My verdict was that - aside from the novelty value of having Charles Williams discussed on mainstream television, the show was a load of old rubbish: it had nothing good about it except for being filmed in and around some attractive buildings.

Aside from its being just a poor piece of drama (poorly structured, unevenly paced, implausible characters with contradictory motivations, confusing, dishonestly misleading...); there were two aspects that seem worthy of notice.

One is that Charles Williams came out of it very badly indeed! What the viewer took away, I think, was that Williams was some kind of pretentious, megalomaniac guru who had devised a ritual - supposedly based on Williams' advocacy of 'substitution', or one person carrying another's 'burden' - that totally removed feelings of guilt.

In other words, CW was the purveyor of a type of sinister spiritualistic psychotherapy, or a specific tranquillizer, that made people feel good when they had done bad: made them feel good without need for repentance.

However, I do indeed think that this is a reasonably valid criticism of what Substitution became when Williams removed it from its original Christian context - and this was also the opinion of William's original biographer and disciple Alice Mary Hadfield. Williams would presumably have been appalled at the distortion of his views - but I hope he would also have been shocked into recognizing that this distortion is not a big reach from what he actually said.

The other aspect was the sordidness of Williams's enthusiasts - in this small group of Williamsites we had a lot of argumentative and promiscuous drunkenness, a lot of tattoos, casual sex and extra-martial love affairs, a sado-masochist club which was affectionately portrayed, and the police bursting in on two of the male suspects who were at that point revealed as supposedly bisexual, and had just embarked on a passionate liaison (having met at the S & M club)...

All this regarded as a matter of course, and in a 'tolerant' spirit as adding to the general fun and colourfulness of everyday Oxford life.

Not that this is in any way exceptional for mainstream British television - even at what is supposed to be the high-quality, expensive/ high production values end as represented by Lewis.

But it is a Gedankenwelt - a thought-world, a lifestyle; that I much prefer not to dwell in and spiritually partake-of - especially not in this inclusive and celebratory mood.

The show is, in microcosm, a perfect example of the corruption and incompetence of the society which modern British elites admire, advocate and increasingly enforce.

There is good outside of Christianity - Nirvana is not an evil self-choice

Following from

Not all good is within Christianity - there is good outside it.

But, because we are (and this is just how things are, the way we find ourselves) children of God; because God made us what we are and made the world as it is - then that good outside of Christianity is a personal good. It is good for ourselves only.

What I mean is that we come to consciousness to find ourselves currently in a scheme or plan which comes from God. That we have consciousness comes from God. We are invited to regard this schemes as good, and to join with it - to accept and embrace God's plan of salvation and divinization of Men and Women.

To oppose the plan, as a matter of principle - to try and persuade others not to join in... well, that is evil, because we cannot offer anything better.

However, each of us, ourselves, as individuals, may reasonably decide we do not want to join-in with the plan - that we would prefer to opt-out. And this is not itself an evil decision - it may be a personal good - apparently the best conceivable course of action for us personally; it may be well motivated albeit selfish (in the sense of someone who knows what they he himself wants but not about others).

Because in the end, salvation and divinization are about happiness (in an elevated sense of that word) - and happiness is not a thing that can or should be forced upon a person.

So I am sure that God (as our loving Father) has made good provision for those who want to opt-out, who as individuals prefer not to join in with the plan. This provision has been termed Nirvana - an eternal (or as eternal as is desired) and blissful state of absence of consciousness.

Nirvana is not evil, to want Nirvana for oneself is not evil; but to preach the ultimate desirability of Nirvana is evil; not least because to do so is incoherent - given that the motive for choosing Nirvana is, and can only be, personal.  

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Not noticing the consequences and implications of the end of religion

Why are so many people so reluctant to deny the obvious fact that Man cannot function without religion: without a shared basis of meaning, purpose and relationship?

Well, in the first place, Man can function without religion in the sense that he does not immediately die, and many aspects of life can continue. There are and have been over the past century, many examples of irreligious societies which were powerful.

But at the level of daily interaction, it is - or should be - obvious that a society without religion has no concept of what is Good. This means that we cannot even begin to discuss what it true, beautiful or virtuous - there are no actual public debates or discussions on these matters - just agreements or clashes of assertions and preferences.

Modern morality, the discourse which goes on in the public space - from the mass media and government, down to every committee in every organization and every casual conversation - is a gigantic fraud and evasion.

Consequently, life has no purpose or meaning or even coherence - but we have decided not to talk about it anymore.

We have given-up.

(Contrast the writings of the fifties 'beat' generation or sixties radicals - with their, admittedly tedious and tenuous, but obvious - strivings for a new spirituality and meaning; contrast this with the hollow aspiritual nihilism of modern progressives, whether in the establishment or on the fringes.)


On the one hand 'because we can' - we are addicted to distraction, and the distractions are pervasive - so we can always escape from the difficult questions by filling our minds with something else.

On the other hand, because we don't like the implications. As well as being addicted to distraction, we are addicted to the sexual revolution - in many and various ways - to keep us going as a 'hope' or aspiration.

The powerful emotions of both idealism and hatred which are evident in the warriors of the sexual revolution make clear that this is about far more than regarding sexual identities and preferences as a matter of 'personal choice' - it has become the arena of the greatest hope of which modern people are capable.

The sexual revolution is now the nearest we have to a state religion.  Sexuality has displaced economics, politics, class as the basis of Leftism, which has been the dominant world view for fifty years.

(Even the modern discourse on race and ethnicity seems to be underpinned by an ultimate justification in sexuality insofar as it has any positive content, and is not merely the expression of underlying self-hatred and willed suicide.)

It ought to be obvious that the sexual revolution never has functioned, does not and never can function, as a religion - that it is a fake and ineffective, incoherent and dishonest religion.

Even worse, that it is (literally) pathetic for people to pin so much weight upon something which is at the same time defined as utterly arbitrary, contingent, change-able - so un-important that sexual choices can be regarded as purely personal.

(Like the movie actress Elizabeth Taylor's on-set behaviour; modern sexuality has a whim of iron. Whatever it wants now is absolute and urgent; then it wants something else...) 

But this is the weight sexuality bears, and the secret function it serves, and the self-contradicting ineffectuality with which it operates in innumerable lives.

The nearest to 'salvation' is some more-or-less vague utopia of personal and social sexual 'gratification' - in this world now, or as a hope for the future.

And I would hazard that this fake semi-religion is now the greatest obstacle in the path of the absolutely-necessary revival of real religion; because all real religions have taken a very different and subordinated view of sexuality; a perspective from which the current language of liberation/ freedom/ rights is utterly alien and nonsensical.

So we don't notice because we are distracted; and we don't notice because to acknowledge reality would be to end our highest hopes - and yet our highest hopes are pathetically inadequate.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Why is 'middle age' getting later and later?

What is Middle Age?

It is mostly about women, not men, since it is the reproductive span of women - in the context of lifespan, combined with the maturaltion rate of chidlren, that defines the basic cycles and stages of human life.  

So, three reasons why Middle Age seems to have gotten later...

1. As a stage of life

If middle age is defined as being around the middle of life, perhaps typically the beginning of the second half of life; then when natural life expectancy is 70 years, 35 is half-way.

In modern times life expectancy is more like 80 years, with 40 as half-way.

If this second half is divided into middle and old age - then middle age runs from either about 35-53, or 40-60 - when old age commences.

2. The dwindling and ending of fertility

The average menopause is women is about 50, but fertility declines with increasing rapidity from 35 - and perhaps 40 is the limit for conception for most women.

So middle age could be defined as starting at about 40. The span of conception has been extended by advances in medicine, and by prenatal testing with selective abortion for abnormal fetuses - therefore, although female reproductive span has not changed much or at all, in practice the age of average and last conception is much older... delaying the onset of middle age. 

3. The age at which offspring are mature and (culturally) ready to reproduce. This might be regarded as related to the average age of parents, especially the mother, at their first child.

In the past, the first child was usually about 20 (or less) but is now 30 (still increasing) - so middle age could be regarded as starting either as about 20 + 20 = 40 years old in the past, and 30 + 30 or 60 years old nowadays.

In other words, middle age is the age when you start having grandchildren.

Sixty years old seems absurdly late to be regarded as the onset of middle age - but I think this is more-or-less how it is now regarded; and to call even women in their fifties 'middle aged' would be regarded as an insult! - and I think this may be the reason why: Nowadays, women in their fifties frequently have children who have not (yet) married and not (yet) reproduced.

Until, or if, they have grandchildren, and themselves become grandmothers, women do not really feel themselves to be middle aged - hence the extraordinary delay in assigning the status of middle aged to women in modern society. 

McKellar Wafts the Angels

Note: The sublime aria begins at 4 minutes - up until then is recitative.

Kenneth McKellar was treated rather as a joke in my childhood - a Scottish chap who wore a kilt and sang patriotic songs to old people...
But he was perhaps the finest British tenor of his generation - indeed conductor Sir Adrian Boult stated he was the greatest Handel singer of that era (Boult being the premier Handelian). But McKellar did not like the life of an opera/ oratorio singer, and quit to became a middlebrow concert artist.

What made McKellar such a superb singer was very simple: primarily the quality of his voice - as is the case with most singers - he just had a lovely clear tone. But his intonation was excellent, the phrasing was highly lyrical - although unobtrusive, and his technique was strong without being spectacular. His pointing of word meanings was also exceptional - although, again, subtle.

But the general public will always recognise a singer whose voice is beautiful - especially a tenor, which is a rare voice where vocal beauty is even rarer. There is an inbuilt thrill of being toward the limit of the natural range, with the constant danger of 'cracking' to worry about and add frisson, particularly when the singer uses an open-throated style of production, like McKellar. 

At the opposite end of McKellar's achievement is his unaccompanied version of the Irish song - She moved through the fair. This puts a microscope to his technique and musicality - it is hard to listen without tears.

This is the essence of ballad singing, and would have been loved by any people at any point in history - in ancient Greece or modern New Zealand, around the camp fire or in the Lord's great hall, in a bothy or a palace - McKellar was a true 'bard'.

Monday 26 October 2015

Why young women make bad sexual choices

Why is it that so many modern women have become attention junkies?

Because they can - is the short answer.

That modern Western women are often attention junkies seems clear by their chosen behaviour - their clothes, hair, self-mutilations - the whole way they 'present themselves'... which shows that they strive to get attention; especially from men.

And this attention is sexual.

The 'attention' sought is mostly short-term, causal, superficial... the admiring glance, the second glance, the mild flirtation. Harmless, just fun, one might suppose? This is the affirmation of individuality in the mass context of the anonymous city. Attention is tangible evidence that you 'stand out' from the crowd, are an individual, are desirable to 'men'.

And when women seek more attention, they usually succeed - which is why the process is addictive.

Modern Western women mostly succeed in getting sexual attention because - so long as they are healthy - it is easy when they are young. This for straightforward biological and reproductive reasons: young and healthy-looking women are all desirable, all attention-grabbing. Some more than others, of course - but all young healthy women will attract attention.

So most women start with a baseline of un-earned attention simply by virtue of what they are when young: to men they are potential mates to be evaluated, to other women they are potential rivals. Thus the appraising glance, the second look, the atmosphere of flirtation.

And if young women want it they can get more, simply by sending out cues of 'sexual availability' which men are hard-wired to respond to - hence the use of revealing clothing, or signals such as tattoos and piercings, and the bold glance and confident self-presentation -  which are interpreted by men as signals indicating a higher probability of low cost, no strings sex.

(Sluts always get attention; and a lot of modern women have noticed and taken this lesson to heart; and apply it to varying degrees.)

Of course, women may not be doing this consciously, they may deny that this is their intention, and they may be honest in this denial; but this is the reason for the extra attention.

And when more and more women are doing this, it creates an escalation of signalling, an 'arms race' among young women - to be 'the one' who grabs and holds most attention in a crowd. Anyone who opts out of the arms race becomes almost invisible in the crowds of modern life.

(In early human life, in small groups, every young healthy women was like a goddess due to sheer rarity value - she did not need to do anything at all: but simply be. Indeed it was her transcendent role to 'be'. As the poet Robert Graves put it: Man does, Woman is.)

So even young and beautiful women compete for attention nowadays, and because sexual advertisment is very effective at getting attention (attention from men, and also from other women who intuitively perceive a rival) then unless it is prevented by some internal restraint or external prohibition there is an innate tendency for women increasingly to sexualize their self-presentation - because if attention is the goal, then more sexualization works.

As women age into middle age - through their thirties - they progressively lose this unearned attention which is bestowed by evolution, and such women may start to complain they are 'being ignored'.

In reality, this 'being ignored' is merely a loss of biological privilege. (Welcome to the real world!) But in a secular and nihilistic world where community is broken down, and stable familes are increasingly rare; the loss of the daily thousand self-affirmations of casual attention is experienced as an existential crisis.

So middle aged women dye their hair to make it look younger - or maybe 'go blond', escalate the use of makeup, and start to dress more carefully to maximize their sexual assets.

And it works! They do indeed get more attention.

Perhaps for a while they get more attention because they accurately simulate the appearance of a younger women; but after a while they get more attention because they are giving-off signals of sexual availability - because the way men are 'wired' by evolution is that a middle aged (or elderly) women who is presented herself to enhance or simulate her sexuality, may be offering the chance of low cost, no strings sex.

Such signals are hard, perhaps impossible, to ignore - even when they are ignored or deplored. Hence the extra attention. For women; if you don't want to be ignored - and if that is your main objective, then the easiest and most effective actions is to make yourself look (more or less) like a slut - a woman of 'easy virtue' as they used to say.

(The woman need not deliver on what her appearance seems to promise - the advertisement of sexual availability may not be honest - but meanwhile she will get the attention she craves.)

In the end, women find themselves in an addictive cycle. In order to retain the unearned attention of their youth - or, as they may put it to themselves, in order not to 'be ignored'; from their thirties and continuing for longer and longer into the fifties, sixties, maybe even beyond - many modern women engage in escalating and un-discriminating levels of sexual signalling.

This is most obvious among single women and the divorced and those married women looking for affairs or new husband - but the addiction has infected even happily married women; who hate to 'be ignored' (as they perceive it) in the prevailing highly-sexualized social environment - and feel compelled to present themselves in a sexualized way.

This is experienced as 'empowering', revitalizing. It is socially admired. Instead of accepting their mature role as a 'mousy', ignored, middle aged housewife - faithfully devoted to family and community; middle aged women may suddenly dye their hair, or 'get a tattoo' - and experience a sudden increase in attention - especially from men - and all too often they misinterpret the real, underlying nature of and motivation for this attention. And other women will praise them (at least to their faces).

In the past, this arm race of sexual signalling was prevented by strong social norms - mostly enforced by the peer group of women - against even young women's behaviour. But especially middle aged women were sanctioned for presenting themselves in a sexualized way, or trying to simulate youth (the English expression for such behaviour was 'mutton dressed as lamb).

But typical modern women, and the mass media culture, do not enforce modesty and restraint. Instead our corrupt and morally-inverted society celebrates showing-off, attention-seeking: mere celebrity is celebrated.

To be unnoticed is to be despicable and despised

(I have heard middle aged women express real anger and resentment against those who do not join-in the attention arms race - who 'let themselves go' and accept the withdrawal of unearned privilege.)

This attention addiction is, I believe, the main basis of the ever-increasing sexualization of Western society over the past 50 years; and it was a natural and inevitable consequence of secularization and the removal of social norms that limited public sexual displays among women.

The process of societal sexualization has little or nothing to do with actual sex - the environment is highly sexualized, women are displaying, men are responding to these displays; marriages are delayed and broken, families are not had or abandoned under the pervasive pressure of 24/7 bombardment with sexual signals, of social life experienced as swimming through a sea of sexualization...

Meanwhile there is not much actual sex for most people most of the time - and never enough of it to build a life around (that being intrinsically impossible, a chimera) - and fewer and fewer children are born.

Western society spirals towards self-chosen extinction.

The sexuality of women is indeed a powerful social force - and any society which does not recognize that as a fact, and control this force, is doomed; as we are doomed.

At present each women is 'liberated' - i.e. allowed, encouraged, to manage this nuclear force of female sexuality entirely for herself. It is like giving a machine gun to a kid!

The problem is that the weapon of female sexuality will be used if it can be used without cost. Even with majority restraint, a minority can cause immense problems, and set-off an arms race.

Liberation is socially toxic: obviously so.

Female modesty just is a matter of general societal concern - and must in some way be externally regulated for the good of everyone.

There is no arguing with 'must' - but there are a wide range of possible means, some far preferable to others (some ways of controlling female sexuality are relatively benign, others are loathsome - the current Western secular attempts are both loathsome and ineffectual); and how best to regulate female sexuality is the proper topic.    

Note added: It is my conviction, presented many times elsewhere on this blog; that problems such as the one described above can only constructively be solved on the other side of a mass Christian revival. Any attempt to solve such problems in a secular context, starting from where we are now, will almost certainly do more harm than good overall - because (here, now) our motivations are corrupted, and this corruption will out in attempts to address structural social problems. 

The thing to bear in mind is that when there is a problem (such as modern sexuality in general) which is obvious, and which contravenes basic common sense and traditional wisdom - there must be very powerful forces maintaining that problem

This means that attempts at reform must overcome strong resistance, which means that reform must be powerfully motivated - ie. reform must tap-into strong, widespread and fundamental human emotions.

In the modern and secular context, such strong, widespread and powerful emotions are almost entirely negative and selfish - for example: pride, envy, resentment, hatred, Schadenfreude. This seems obvious among the secular right wingers who advocate 'reform' in the sexual arena - either their motivations are too weak for them to succeed, or else their motivations are bad. 

Only religion is capable of being both a sufficiently powerful and also good motivation as the basis for the tough work of reform. And of religions, only some few. 

So, as in most things here and now, the first choice is to choose your religion. (And the choice of adequate religions, known to be sufficiently powerful, is in fact very limited indeed - indeed for the West the choice is practically limited to two broad and obvious categories.)

And if you cannot choose a religion, then (no matter how severe the problem - and indeed the more severe, obvious and simple-to-solve is the problem) it is probably best to do nothing: because no matter how bad things are - they can always get worse. 

Sunday 25 October 2015

Autumn in Northumberland

Today we went for a walk and picnic in the glorious autumn colours of the beeches etc of Allen Banks, Northumberland - I didn't take the above picture, but this is what it looked like.

Autumn is really the best of the seasons; and I'm not sure that old age isn't the best part of life.
But of course, like autumn, it doesn't last. 

CS Lewis to his oldest friend, Arthur Greaves - written a month before he died.

Christianity is an opt-in kind of thing (and how this relates to Hell)

I regard it as a fundamental error (although often genuinely well-intentioned) to argue theologically that Christianity, the Christian world view, is a non-optional reality. Christianity is, of course, true - and in that limited sense non-optional - but there is a tendency for apologists and theologians to assume that outside Christianity is only nonsense and evil.

But Christianity is, and always has been, an opt-in kind of thing. Someone can only become a Christian by choice, by faith - and choice cannot be compelled (or else it would not be choice) - so for Christians there is no such thing as a 'forced conversion'; it is an oxymoron - or a delusion.

But some of the wrong ideas are driven by fear of Hell, and the mistaken belief that there are only two options - Heaven or Hell - and that outside Christianity is only Hell (I mean Hell in the New Testament sense of a place of post-mortal everlasting torment).

The background assumption, which I regard as false, is that Hell is everything outside-of Christianity, and always has been. The idea that Christianity is and always has been the only escape from Hell.

This is, I think, a consequence of that philosophical view which sees reality as out-of-time - and everything existing then, now and always. So by this view, God's creation is once for all, from nothing.

(All this leads to the problem of omnipotence - I mean the nonsensical, incoherent consequences of assuming the omnipotence of God, when omnipotence is assumed to be absolute and mathematical, rather than quantitative. The greatness of God becomes regarded as infinite; and for Christians God is wholly Good - so when everything has been created from nothing by an omnipotent and wholly-Good God, then this implies that everything must be seen as wholly Good - past, present and future; here and everywhere and in all things must be wholly Good. There is no place for sin... yet Christianity is about redemption from sin, Christ came to save sinners - so where does sin come from? Free will is required to 'explain' sin. But free will can, in this scheme, only be a gift from God - when God is said to be omnipotent and to have created everything. So free will does not solve the problem of where evil comes from, in a universe created from nothing by an infinite omnipoent and wholly-good God. This, then, is the problem of omnipotence, as defined by Classical theology - the problem that it renders Christianity incoherent.) 

But if instead we take the (Mormon) view that God's creation is not a matter of making everything from nothing; but a matter of shaping, ordering, organizing primal chaos, a continuing process - then God's creation is more like an expanding island of order and meaning in a primordial chaos.

So the original condition of reality before creation was not evil, but chaotic; not evil in intent but lacking in intent.

And creation remains partial, albeit growing.

And Good is a property of God's creation. 

The domain of evil is the domain of the intention to destroy Good (evil is the purposive destruction of Good) - so evil came after creation.

Hell came after Heaven - and in a sense Hell came after Christ, because only after Christ was God's plan known such that it could intentionally be opposed.

(In the Old Testament - there is no torment of Hell but rather the loss of selfhood of Sheol - which is essentially conceptualized as being the same as Hades - viz an unorganized underworld of chaos.)

Evil therefore exists within God's domain, within God's creation - and not outside of it. (Because outwith God's domain is not evil, but chaos.) So, evil dwells entirely within God's domain and tries to destroy it.

The evilness of Evil is that of inflicting misery, taking joy in misery - a state of misery that want others to become like itself. Thus, evil is not irrational - but a choice.

Evil is not even incoherent - except in the limited sense of preferring incoherence to order.

The motivation for evil creatures is a desire to destroy Good because Good is not wholly themselves, but comes from God - this is pride. Or, even beyond this, a purely negative hatred of order, good, happiness - not a love of chaos (that makes no sense, because with chaos there is nothing remaining that is capable of love) - but a desire for universal extinction, for loss of awareness not just personal but imposed on all, loss of self-hood from the universe.

(A desire for personal extinction - that is, for oneself to return to chaos - is not evil; it is merely a choice - the personal choice not to participate in God's plan. But to preach the desirability of universal destruction, for destruction of others and everything - that is evil: to preach the goodness of extinction/ destruction of order, meaning, purpose, relations as a universal goal - that is evil.)

(The ultimate defeat of evil by Good is therefore not a consequence of God's supposed omnipotence; but a consequence of the self-weakening effect of evil enacted as a universal project for destruction of order. When evil is directed against the self it can succeed. But the more universal evil becomes, the more thoroughly evil succeeds, the more it weakens itself. Even a tiny last residue of purposeful self-growing order will be stronger than a vast sea of incoherent disorder.)

God is therefore responsible for evil - in the limited sense that there can only be evil after there is Good; and there can only be Good in the domain of God's creation.

Evil is the purposive un-doing of God's creation.

Back to choice. Christianity is chosen; and evil is the choice to oppose, to destroy, God's creation. Hell is the fate of those who, from reasons of Pride, choose actively to destroy Good - the conscious wreckers of created order.

Hell is therefore chosen, always chosen (not a 'judgement' in the modern sense of a judge sentencing a prisoner without regard for the prisoner's wishes) - because everybody knows Good - everybody being part of Good; and it is always a choice to oppose and destroy Good.

Saturday 24 October 2015

The implications of believing everything is ultimately good - philosophical versus 'simple' Christianity

In her Introduction to The Image of the City, a collection of essays by Charles Williams, Anne Ridler states that 'At the centre of Williams's teaching lies this dogma, that the whole universe is to be known as good.'

She then goes on to describe how Williams lived in a state of underlying misery - that he said he would have declined the gift of life, if offered; that he had a death-wish, that he did not hope for eternal life but would prefer everlasting unconsciousness, that the world lived in a web of distress, that the life of young people was hell... and so on,

The question is how Charles Williams went from a core conviction that everything is good, to a life of such total distress.

I think the answer is quite simple, which is that Charles Williams really believed, really lived by, the idea that reality was outside time, that all times were simultaneous - that what applied now applied forevermore. He was a profound Platonist - in believing that time, change, decay and corruption were superficial - the reality was time-less, unchanging.

Many, many Christians have said such things throughout history - but few have really believed them: Charles Williams was one of the few - and he was intelligent enough to find the implications inescapable and deeply contradictory.

If Life is good - and this is Life - and real Life is eternally itself... then this must also be good - and it seems terrible.

In my understanding, Charles Williams was a victim of the poison of what might be termed Classical Metaphysics in Christianity: the kind which says that life IS good - always has been and always will be. Most people are too emotionally shallow or too lacking in philosophical rigour to feel what Charles Williams felt as the implications of mainstream, standard, Christian theology.

Williams could never find reassurance, or relief from this state; because he was correct - the implications flowed from the assumptions; and the implications were tragic. The life and resurrection of Christ was, by this account, tragic - as revealed in Williams's most heart-felt essay The Cross where he concludes that the thing, the only thing, which makes the underlying reality of a good universe to be bearable, is that God also and voluntarily submitted to its justice and suffered its agonies when he became Christ.

If that is not despair - it is a mere - unconvincing - whisker away.

And how often, how usual, has been this tragic interpretation of Christianity the prevailing emotion among the deepest thinkers?

And what a contrast this has been to the un-philosophical and optimistic 'Christianity' of Christ himself, of countless 'simple' Christians, and the 'good news' of the gospels.

The difference is, I think, quite simple - and it is related to time. The simple, commonsense Christian - the non-Platonist, the non-philosopher - naturally regards Christianity as being about a future state of good - not an eternal good, in which all times are and will be equal.

So 'simple' Christianity is about God as an aim, not about good as an actuality; and Christian hope has been based on faith that the state of good will happen, not that good has already happened.

Sophisticated Christian theology superficially seems to be positive and optimistic in its claims of Heaven being here-and-now-and-always because of the un-reality of time - but its philosophical implications are dark, miserable and pessimistic (and difficult/ impossible to square with the good news of Christ) - in that ultimately things can never be better than now. And if, as is the case, we cannot see this now, then there is no reason to assume things can ever become better.

This is a false distortion of the plain Christian message of hope based on the optimistic conviction that time is real. Because time is real - that is linear, sequential; things that seem bad now may really be bad (we don't need to assume that bad-seeming is 'in reality' good), but bad things really can get better than they are now, and the Christian faith is that we know by revelation  that things really will get better.

In sum, Charles Williams is a better, a more rigorous, a more honest philosopher than most Christian theologians - and he lived and experienced the consequences of his theology. Since these consequences were so dark and despairing, the life of Charles Williams in relation to his theology makes a reductio ad absurdum of Classical Theology: i.e. the consequences of Classical Theology demonstrate its erroneous assumptions.

Friday 23 October 2015

Don't you *ever* let anybody tell you what you should, or should not, do!

(...Except me, here, now - the one who's telling you this...)

How do we get the right man, in the right place, at the right time - (example: Winston Churchill). From William Arkle

The Genius Famine book - online excerpts

I have just posted some 'taster' excerpts and the Contents page from my forthcoming book with Ed Dutton - The Genius Famine: Why we need geniuses, Why they’re dying out, and Why we must rescue them. University of Buckingham Press, 2015 (in the press).

Why does Jesus emphasize the need for faith?

Modern people cannot understand, or misunderstand, Jesus's call for faith - and indeed misunderstand what it is that we should have faith in.

In the first place, it needs to be clarified that everybody has a metaphysical system in which they believe - in other words, everybody operates on the basis of some understanding of the basis structure of reality. And this metaphysical belief is not a matter of evidence, because in real life all evidence is ambiguous and there is never enough of it.

(And to deny having a metaphysical system, or to doubt all metaphysical systems... these do not evade the necessity of metaphysics as an implicit basis of life; these are simply different and negative metaphysical systems.)

So that is the primary and inevitable act of faith - not of Christian faith, but basic human faith.

But perhaps the main message of the New Testament, and especially the Gospels, and especially John's Gospel (the one written by Jesus's beloved disciple) is that God is Good, and that God loves us as individual persons.

This is the first basis of Christian faith - the Goodness of God.

The second basis of Christian faith is that God loves us, you and me specifically, because we are a Son or Daughter of God - he loves us in the same kind of way, but perfectly and to the greatest extent, that a Good Father loves his children.

This is the second basis of Christian faith - our Relationship to God.

Because we are God's children, there is something of God's goodness in each of us. This is why it is so important, so often emphasized, that we are His children.

So - faith is made possible and real, because something of God is within us; and it is within us because we are a child of God. This piece of God within us (an hereditary piece of 'God's DNA') constitutes our inner guidance system; and means that the guidance system is potentially valid and certain, because of its provenance: it comes-from and is a part-of the Creator.

In striving for faith - this frame tells us what we should be trying to do. It tells us why faith is so important and how faith can be so strong: faith is important because it is our true inner guidance system; it is strong and strengthening because it is divinely capable of truth, and our lives can rest upon it because of its ultimate certainty.

By faith we can understand that by our mortal lives God is trying, in the most complete and thorough and long termist way he can - and harmonized with all other possible goods - to give us, each. personally... the greatest thing he can possibility give us.

In sum, Christian faith enables us to understand God - not only His power as the Creator (other Gods than the Christian are Creator); but also, and most relevantly, to understand that because God is Creator, is Good, and is Our loving Father; therefore we can trust... Life.

That trust in Life, a trust derived from belief in God's power, nature and love - is Christian faith.

That is what is unique about Christianity; and that is the purpose and necessity of Christian faith.

Thursday 22 October 2015

Impressions of TS Eliot's Four Quartets

One of the advantages of having severe recurrent unpredictable migraines is... well, being awoken at three am and treating the headache, sleeping a while, then waking again in a state of peculiar lucidity with the impulse to re-read (start to finish) Eliot's Four Quartets after a gap of nearly three decades.

I was in the perfect mood of receptivity - made more perfect by having just been out among the stars and plants and seen what I never saw before (probably never will again): Venus blazing, a multi-pointed white star on the Eastern horizon with - below and to the left, close together, in a slightly bent line - Jupiter, then Mars.

I have always had a negative feeling about the Four Quartets, before I even read them - and about Eliot. Not a dislike so much as a wariness not to be drawn into his world, his perspective on life - that sophisticated, fluid, memorable despair.

The Four Quartets was the work of a Christian, and a catholic Christian - it is a world winding down, written by a man winding down. The thesis is of this state being eternal - because now is all times. This is not ultimate pessimism - there are many meanings - but it is a sad stasis.

The poetry is close to prose, but has the compactness, epigrammatic, self-aware quality of poetry - and (mostly) a line of two half-lines each with two pulses (like a very loose descendant of Old English alliterative poetry). Eliot has a wonderful fluidity, no perceptible strain, a smoothness, an ability to use complex vocabulary without jarring and continuing the sounds, and (the test of poetry) quotability: this is, of course, reckoned one of the major poetic achievements of the last century.

But what a sad world he brings us into - what an end of civilizations, what a sense of hope-less-ness which pervades even - or especially - the hope that all will be well, all is well, all was well... if all is like this and well, that makes everything much worse!

Is all this the inevitable consequence of intelligence, knowledge and sensibility? That seems to be implied...

It isn't, of course; but that is how one feels during the reading; and no doubt in debate one would be unable to counter the argument by anything which did not sound, by contrast, superficial and crude.

Eliot is never vulgar - even the clashing slang of The Wasteland is parenthetic, ironic, detached; and yet vulgarity is a part of life - and perhaps a vital part of life; lacking which perhaps Eliot's resignation, the quiet aesthetic pessimism, becomes inevitable.

And I think he knew that - but nonetheless did what he did - incomparably well.

Wednesday 21 October 2015

The Hieratic Society and Original Participation

Our little local museum has a good section on Ancient Egypt, which I have visited a few times recently. As I stood there yesterday, I suddenly felt a sense of what it was like to live in that kind of society - in which the gods were near and one was immersed in Life, with little sense of being a separate individual.

It was a Hieratic society - a life of Temples, priests, mysteries, formality, glory, ritual, worship and therefore Original Participation - as Owen Barfield termed this type of consciousness.

Then I recognized this as being very similar - in terms of consciousness - to the Eastern Roman,  Byzantine Empire - how that type of Christian society was aimed at the same immersive, absorbed un-individualized participation. Life was laid-on - and the job of each person was to accept, participate, play his assigned part with joyful obedience.

Then I realized how this form of consciousness is past, irretrievable - and not intended to be the final shape of Christianity. Any society which primarily conceptualizes life in terms of obedience and immersive participation is inevitably a society which - to some significant extent - is failing to achieve that distinct individuality of responsibility and perspective which is surely part of the Christian ideal.

Christianity is about personal relationships - not immersive loss of the self; about spiritual development in unique and unprecedented ways, about personal responsibility and choices.

God wants us as friends, not as servants - and we want friends to be individuals not versions of ourself, nor identical 'clones'. The essence of Christ is not, after all, as our King (or Pantocrator - ruler of all) - but as one whose greatest wish is to enable us to rise to his own nature and level.

I do find myself drawn, perhaps nostalgically, towards a child-like immersion in life; but that is not the situation we find ourselves in in this world.

This is not a matter of salvation (there are many, many paths to salvation - Christ made salvation as easy as possible for us) - but of theosis - and a theosis aimed at becoming Sons and Daughters of God - which means (I understand) becoming more like friends than servants; more like adults than children.

God the Father will always be God and our Father, and we will not; however, Jesus Christ is our Brother - and the difference between us is truly vast - but not qualitative. We are of the same 'natural kind' and the ultimate goal of mature spirituality (when we have 'grown-up' and are no longer spiritually child-like) is to live as family and friends - not as Emperor and subjects.

So I think ultimately, in The New Jerusalem - and despite much of the monarchical symbolism of the Bible including Revelations, suitable to early stages of theosis - life will not therefore be Hieratic; but something more and better.

Charles Williams and Romantic Theology - to what extent was he fooling himself, or other people?

Tuesday 20 October 2015

The Two Great Commandments - understanding their metaphysical significance

Matthew 22:36-40

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

We are instructed to love God first, because that is the necessary first step to understanding God's 'system' - I mean, we must first acknowledge that God is loving towards us, well-intended, doing His best etc. 

Or, to be Christian, we must first agree with the aims and purposes of God's 'plan' for us; we must agree that this plan is benign - for our benefit: we must each of us join with God in this plan. 

The second commandment reinforces that that this is a system in which love is primary - and we must understand our situation in that light.

In sum - the two great commandments describe the 'metaphysics' of Life: the basic organization and principles of reality.

'All the laws and prophecies' - which also implies the many detailed and specific statements of scripture - should be interpreted in this light (i.e. they 'hang on' the two commandments), In other words, when their meaning, intention, provenance etc. are understood correctly, they cannot contradict these two commandments. 

And if we think that any particular law, prophecy or line of scripture does contradict either of the two great commandments, then we have in some way misunderstood that law, prophecy or scripture.

The two great commandments are a great simplicity at the heart of Christianity: comprehensible by almost anyone. 

Once grasped, they are of great value in discerning the specifics of what is true theology or doctrine, and what is false or mistaken . Even when errors of teaching or interpretation are backed-up by power, knowledge and/ or logic; when something violates the two great commandments, this tells us that we should reject it. 

The two commandments are, indeed, not intended as rules; but intended to be absorbed into the heart - to allow us to move spontaneously and surely through the complexities of life; directed by an inner guidance system that will err in specifics and temporarily - but over time, and in general, will keep us moving in the right direction. 


Note added: The two great commandments could perhaps usefully be summarized as The Love of God, and The Rule of Love.


Book review - The Greater Trumps, by Charles Williams

Monday 19 October 2015

Asperger's and Genius

The relationship between Asperger's syndrome and genius is analysed and described at my Intelligence, Personality and Genius blog:

Sunday 18 October 2015

Not listening for mistakes - live versus studio recordings

I have recently been listening to live performances of Beethoven sonatas by some of the great pianists  (Richter, Arrau, Gilels, Horowitz and the like) - and I was struck that they all make mistakes - every single one of them makes mistakes in every live performance of a piano sonata, and often quite a few.

(You have to know the pieces and be reasonably musical to notice them, but they are objectively present.)

Indeed, some of the recordings of famous pianists of the very earliest recording era - considered great virtuoso interpreters - are riddled with errors (by my recording-bred evaluations).

But I grew up on studio recordings, which seldom have any mistakes at all. Even when they are mediocre performances, and the execution in general is imperfect - they don't have 'bum notes' or that kind of obvious error, because these are edited-out during the recording process.

It seems that listening to recordings has been bad musical training for me - in some ways! Because I find that I am rather unreasonably distracted by these errors, and they somewhat impair my appreciation of what may be a truly inspired performance.

My zero-tolerance of errors is a result of my having been misled - because errors are a part of any real musical performance: the error-free performance of a Beethoven Piano Sonata is an artificial construction of the editor; not the achievement of any actual pianist.

My conclusion is that musical performance in the past was much more of a gestalt - an overall impression of the whole, or perhaps judgement was of the peaks of execution - and that there was not even a goal of being error-free.

To even be able to play-through something like a Beethoven piano sonata is something of a human miracle; to play it musically a rare achievement; and to play it with inspiration and flair - really to communicate its musicality via the interpreter... well that is a supreme accomplishment.

But to do all this and have zero errors is probably not human at all - but more akin to a Hollywood starlet whose face has been smoothed and body 'enhanced' by plastic surgery; or a middle aged leading man whose torso has been cut and sculpted by hormone supplements (the visual result tided up by careful make-up and lighting).

To demand error-free 'perfection' in real life is asking to be deceived, and to miss-out on the peaks of human accomplishment. All true greatness is sui generis (one-off); and in scaling the heights a genius inevitably breaks the rules, and slips and stumbles.

Aim high and you risk failure - indeed you will fail, sooner or later and probably sooner: demand freedom from errors and you can only get close by aiming low and trying to be accurate instead of great.


Note added: I would recommend, as a long term project, listening to the Beethoven Piano Sonatas. They are very various in style and mood, and so deep as to be inexhaustible. Perhaps I have listened to these, and to Bach's keyboard writing, more than any other music over the past 35 years. They are quite difficult to appreciate (and of course you won't like them all, or in all performances! - I personally find that much of the famous Hammerklavier is usually hard to enjoy); but my advice is just to keep playing them over and over. Sometimes they can be background music, which builds familiarity; sometimes you can listen with 100 percent attention. But I can state that the one thing you need not worry about, is getting 'fed-up' of them.

Saturday 17 October 2015

Checking the validity of knowledge derived from Imagination

Continuing from:

Imagination is an organ for gaining knowledge of the imperceptible world - of that part of reality which cannot be seen, heard, smelled, touched or tasted.

But of course Imagination can be wrong, that which is Imagined often is wrong.

On the other hand, so can the senses be wrong - there are hallucinations, illusions, misinterpretations, there are sensory deficits and neurological disorders where people cannot 'make sense' of their perceptions (e.g. agnosia).

So, senses are not always right, and must be validated; therefore the sometimes wrongness of imagination is not decisive so long as there is a way of validating Imagination.

If we consider how we validate our senses, this may tell us how we validate imagination. In brief, we validate our sensory inputs first in terms of coherence - does it make sense? And secondly in 'pragmatic' terms of living by the knowledge we get from sensory perceptions - and (in a very broad brush kind of way) deciding whether this 'works'.

For instance, if, by regarding our visual knowledge as true, we keep bumping into invisible things; then we may conclude there is something wrong with our vision.

The same kind of thing holds for Imagination: first we look for coherence (does what we Imagine make sense in light of other knowledge, including knowledge from memory?) If our basic approach to Life does not 'work' and we keep bumping into un-Imagined realities - then we may conclude there is something wrong with the way we value, or ignore, Imagination.

The proper question is: does it 'work' in Life, when we live on the basis of this Imagination-derived knowledge?

But what do we mean by 'work'? That word is doing a lot of work here!

The answer is that we ourselves have a say in deciding the criteria by which we judge something is working. The test of 'working' can be as shallow or deep as we choose to make it; and as specific and focused, or generalized and holistic.

Much Imagined knowledge works in some kind of short-term and very specific way (e.g. we don't instantly suffer agonies or die) - and on the other hand if we take a broader and deeper definition such that Life should be meaningful, purposeful and that we should feel to be in a real engagement with and relation to Life... then it is hard to link a specific piece of Imagination to such a very general and multi-causal outcome.

So it seems we can have a precise but rather useless specific evaluation; or a deep and real evaluation that is so imprecise that it can seldom or never be used to test any specific bit of Imagination.

And who says we should want more than just a very specific and short-term validation? Well, nobody 'says' it - but the point is: are we, personally, satisfied?

We can see this when somebody's Imagination is pathological - when somebody is clinically melancholic (endogenous depression) or else psychotically manic. (This has some equivalence to being blind or deaf.) The melancholic regards their Imagination as coherent and lives from it - thus he is wracked by guilt, demotivated, despairing, suicidal... The Imagination is dark, distorted, powerful.

The depressive regards the Imagination as true; but is the depressive contented with the outcome? Certainly not.

A harder case is the manic - who may be energetic, masterful, optimistic, indeed euphoric. Manics are usually contented with their state - most of the time; and from their perspective the problems are caused by 'other people'. This is like a form of sensory distortion - the only clue to the manic that he may be wrong, is that nobody else in the world agrees with him - he would have to trust some other person more than he trusted himself to escape this kind of delusion.

Something similar applies to people whose imaginations are disordered by paranoid (self-referential) and persecutory delusions - they are unhappy, perhaps terrified; but blame it on other people. However they are profoundly miserable - and again, if they could deeply trust someone else - instead of fearing everybody for their covert hostile motivations - that would provide the only possible escape.

Taking these into account, I think we can see that the judgement of whether Imagination 'works' depends upon our perceived environment, against-which we are evaluating our Imaginations. The question is: what is the Reality by which we judge whether something works?

And in this regard the most striking example is the world of Western modernity - in which 'reality' is the world of mass media and bureaucracy - and what is 'true' is that which conforms to these worlds.

This, I believe, is how the West has gotten itself into the situation of positively embracing and defending a world view in which the Imagination is seen as purely subjective - as a matter of psychotherapy at best and mere entertainment and distraction as the norm.

The fact that rejection of the objective validity of Imagination has led us to despair, demotivation and alienation is rendered irrelevant - because 'real life' is now the mass media and bureaucracy - and they tell us that this situation is true, inevitable, and indeed 'good'.

So, instead of judging Imagination by an ultimate good outcome in Life - we now (in essence) regard a good outcome in Life (i.e. a life that is meaningful, engaged, purposeful) as the product of delusion.

In sum, for Imagination to take its place as a viable form of knowledge requires that Life be grounded-in - judged in terms of - common sense and personal experience and close and trusting relationships.

That would complete the proper feed-back loop by which Imagination could be evaluated - and would again give us access to knowledge of the imperceptible aspects of reality.

Friday 16 October 2015

Positive and Negative theology

I first came across the idea of a Positive (as well as a Negative) Christian theology in the writings of Charles Williams - he also called it Romantic Theology and the Via Affirmativa or the path of affirmation of images. The general idea was that Christian theology had typically been a path of negation, denial, asceticism, celibacy - but that there was also a (neglected) path focused on romantic love, art and poetry, richness of imagery etc. Williams regarded these as equal alternatives.

But it is hard to see how they could be equal, since they are so different - alternatives, yes, but in real life one or other of such vastly different paths is surely to be preferred; one or another must become the focus of societal aspiration and organization - one cannot aim both at being a celibate, solitary ascetic hermit or monk; and also at being a husband and father engaged with 'the world'.

Charles Williams knew (so far as I can find) nothing about Mormonism - and he would likely have found it to be boring or unpleasant if he had known anything - but Mormonism has for a long time been advocating and practicing something pretty close to Positive Theology: a Christian 'way' focused on marriage, family and engagement; and with no tradition of monasticism or the eremitic (reclusive) life.

Fundamentally I believe there are very different aspects of human psychology at work behind the positive and negative paths. The negative path aims at the relief of suffering, and the positive path at making life more fulfilling.

To feel the desire for the Christian negative path seems to me a desire to escape the sufferings of this world and live, instead, in a state of static bliss - absorbed in a permanent communion with God (who is, in essence, an abstract entity about which nothing positive may be asserted): doing nothing, simply being.

In the negative path, Love is seen as a sameness, a fusion of wills, the loss of barriers and all strangeness.

And there is no sex - indeed there are no sexes: maleness and femaleness are lost.

To desire the positive path is to wish that the best things in life be amplified and sustained - it also stems from the concern that static bliss would (sooner or later) become boring; and the conviction that the only thing which is not, ultimately, boring is actual, real, other-persons.

The dyadic goal of Mormon salvation can be seen in this light - the ultimate bliss is not the state of an individual soul in permanent communion with God, it is a man and woman in a permanent and divine Loving relationship at the centre of a network of loving relationships including God the Father and Jesus Christ (who are solid persons).

The difference between this version of the positive ideal and the negative ideal is profound - because in a permanent and eternal dyadic and sexual relationship between husband and wife, there would not be a desire for fusion and sameness but rather a delight in fundamental and complementary difference.

Sexual difference, and sexuality, both entail difference - a you and a me: not communion nor fusion nor loss of self nor consciousness. Instead a perpetual delight that 'we' are not the same, but 'fit together'. There needs to be the perpetual possibility of being delight-fully surprised; which means that there can never be full communion. Indeed if communion is full, it renders void the separateness and necessity of the dyad.

If a husband and wife become one, they stop being husband and wife.

There is indeed a desire for surprise, for open-ended possibilities. Once static bliss is put aside as a goal; it becomes essential that eternal life be interesting, rewarding, creative and (in some sense) progressive or evolutionary - changing, growing, developing without end-point or end. Otherwise - if life were static, or merely cyclical - it would become predictable and boring, and we would prefer a state of blissful loss of self.

It seems to me that Heaven must either be mostly like either the Negative or Positive ideal and that God would have a preference between these goals for Man - but I do not see why Heaven would have to be exclusively the one or the other.

So I see the Positive Way as primary, and God's first wish for us, and the basis upon which eternal life and Heaven are organized. But I see the Negative Way as an option available (on Earth and in Heaven) to those who - more than anything - wish to escape from suffering and hope to lose-them-selves in blissful communion with the divine.

Note added: Charles Williams descriptions of Positive Theology are at least difficult to understand, and probably fundamentally incoherent - this is because Positive Theology is metaphysically Pluralist - or at least implies this; while Charles Williams was very much a Monist who sought always to reduce apparent dichotomies (e.g. Good and evil) to unity.

If relationship is an ultimate goal and possibility, then there must be at least two irreducible entities to have the relationship - because if Man and Woman can be reduced to one, and Man with God can be reduced to one, then reality is One; and Positive Theology merely an indirect and off-route means to the same end as that which Negative Theology aims-at directly: viz oneness.

So Mormons - as pluralists - are the true Romantic theologians; and Charles Williams is fundamentally and ineradicably confused!

Henotheism versus Mormonism

Thursday 15 October 2015

The function of Imagination understood - the faculty providing knowledge of imperceptible reality

I have had a breakthrough in my understanding of the Imagination - which came to me when reading a passage from Jeremy Naydler's essay Ancient Egypt and modern esotericism - from the book The Future of the Ancient World (2009). I now feel I understand the function of Imagination.


The cosmic being who presided over Ra's diurnal voyage across the sky was the heavenly goddess Nut. It was she who gave birth to Ra each morning, and who received him into herself again in the evening. 

Each evening, when the sun god Ra entered her interior realm, he entered the secret and wholly invisible world that the Egyptians called the Dwat [usually spelled Duat]. The Dwat was conceived as being on the other side of the stars that we see when we look up at night. The stars were imagined as being on the flesh of the goddess Nut, and the Dwat was in some sense behind or within the world of which the stars demarcated the outermost boundary. 

All creatures were believed to return to the Dwat at the end of their lives, and wer born from it again, just as the sun God was born from the Dwat each morning. 

Knowledge of the interior world of the Dwat was considered by the Egyptians to be the most important, most profound knowledge, for people living on Earth to acquire. The Dwat was not only the realm of the dead, but the realm of the gods and spirits, and furthermore the realm from which all living things emerge. All life issues from the Dwat. 

To know this mysterious interior world was to become truly wise, because then one would know both sides of existence - the invisible along with the visible. 

The Egyptians lived with an awareness of a dimension of reality that is best described by the term 'Imaginal'. It is a nonphysical yet objective reality that we become aware of through the human faculty of Imagination. 

In other words, the reason that Men posses the faculty of Imagination, why it is built-into us, is so that we may know imperceptible reality.

That is what Imagination is for.

So, Man knows perceptible reality via his perception - the senses of vision, hearing, smell touch and taste - that is why we are born with eyes, ears, noses, tongues and skin receptors; and Man knows the imperceptible reality via the faculty of Imagination: that is why we are born with the faculty of Imagination.

Of course the Imagination can err - but so can the senses. But to deny the reality of Imagination as a source of knowledge - of real, objective, necessary knowledge - is akin to denying the reality of everything we get from our senses.

Yet, of course, that is what mainstream modern public discourse does assume - that Imagination is a mixture of hallucinations and refers to nothing real. We are in the position of someone who assumes that everything he sees, hears, tastes, touches and feels is a hallucination.

Which neatly explains the strange psychoticism of our Imagination-denying society - its gross and yet systematically un-noticed pathology.

It is is a difference which goes far to explain why Ancient Egypt was so adaptive as to persist for 3,000 years, why The West will not reach 300.

The shaving ritual

Shaving has taken-up a substantial chunk of my life, but on the whole it is a positive experience - a ritual.

As such, it has very specific ritual equipment.

  • Badger bristle brush
  • Pears transparent soap
  • Erasmic shaving Soap
  • Bic twin bladed disposable safety razor (for sensitive skin)
  • Johnson's Baby Lotion

...Yes, it is all rather let-down by the plastic disposable razor; but these are simply the best that money can buy - for my needs (as well as being unmatched value for money). Anything else cuts my face.

(I would also note that the late great broadcaster Alistair Cooke was a user of Bic disposables.)

Bowl of warm water - chuck in the brush and razor. Wet face, then rub it with the Pears soap. Take brush and rub brush first onto Pears soap, and then give it a good frothing in the bowl of Erasmic shaving soap. Use brush to apply creamy froth to face, and massage into face with brush ad lib. Shave. Rinse. Dry. Apply Johnson's Baby Lotion. 

The strangest aspect is the use of two soaps - all I can say is that this combination results in the creamiest and most effectively lubricating type of froth.

Badger bristle is acknowledged to be the best - my brushes were very expensive (both gifts) and are about twenty-plus years old. My understanding is that the contributing badger died of natural causes after a happy life.

Note: If you mess-up and nick yourself under the ear, so that you have one of those rapid-flow cuts - then I recommend dry it then instantly applying a dab of Driclor - which seals it with an invisible skin; as previously described: 

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Spirituality hijacked by sexuality - the need for goals as well as rules

I am recurrently struck by the extent to which spiritual movements are so often subverted, hijacked and destroyed by sexuality.

The clearest example is the mid nineteen 'hippie' counter-culture, which was supposed to be about a kind of spiritual revolution, including many Eastern religious elements, a critique of materialism, the desire for meaning and an escape from alienation, the formation of a more organic and ethical society and so on... but which very rapidly became primarily about the sexual revolution and the other stuff just a camouflage... a tool for seduction, as it were.

But this scenario has been played in many times and places over the past couple of hundred years - a socio-political movement starts out as spiritual, but ends up as sexual. (Indeed, nowadays, almost everything ends-up as being 'about' sex and the sexual revolution.)

Sexual takeover does seem to be a highly significant problem - presumably because it s not just a powerful instinct for humans, but something which spontaneously disguises itself, excuses itself, and operates at many levels.

In fact, sex is nearly all 'in the head' - a sexualized atmosphere may dominate in a person, a group even an institution with only a tiny proportion of actual sex, or none at all: it is nearly-all about anticipation, fantasy and memory. And sexuality is also far more strategic than is commonly acknowledged - with seducers engaging in detailed long-term planning and attempted manipulation.

(The secret that sexuality as a goal of life simply does not work, that sex does not ever or even remotely yield what it 'promises', makes the whole thing a bad joke; and humanity a bunch of existentially pitiful fools.)

Altogether, sexuality is a formidable foe - not to be underestimated! And real religions do not underestimate it; but always have in place some kind of explicit goals and rules.

Both goals and rules are needed; although rules get most of the attention. It is as if, when goals are lacking, then sexuality is the next-most-powerful thing, and will expand to take the place of goals.

So celibacy is one goals which many religions have put into place as a way of controlling sexuality - indeed for many religions celibacy is the highest goal, and the religions regard sex as a failure. This would seem extraordinary and paradoxical, except that sexuality is so powerful that even when it is all-but prohibited and at least strongly discouraged, enough still goes-on to perpetuate the group. However, there are obvious problems with holding celibacy as the ideal.

But marriage (in various forms) with an orientation to family is the main way in which the usurping tendency of sexuality is controlled, and indeed beaten, by religion.

Given this fact, it is surprising to me that marriage has so seldom been recognized as the highest spiritual aspiration - higher than celibacy. But when this happens, the advantages seem obvious.

Marriage with family is the goal, and there are also the rules. Religious people are used-to insisting on rules about sex, but without a goal then rules are merely negative: and a life based around a series of  'thou shalt not" statements is grossly incomplete, inorganic, maimed... and this fact has been noticed, exposed and exploited to the hilt by those who oppose religion.

Among the modern middle classes it is usual to put forward 'a career' as the proper goal of life; but we know from experience that this cannot work - the goal of a career is a pitifully feeble thing to pit against human sexuality! For the obvious reason that a career is a grossly inadequate and impoverished life goal - it simply cannot and does not do the job.

We need to have marriage as the goal, for individuals, and sustained by culture. From this perspective; I find it highly significant that in the modern West it is at best regarded as offensive to propose marriage with family as the proper and best goal of life - this is increasingly taboo; and indeed (in the UK, at least) it is illegal in some situations.

But the spiritual goal of marriage and family is what is needed; it is what is absolutely necessary for any effective and resilient spirituality in modern conditions: and nothing less will suffice.

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Twelve steps towards higher consciousness - derived from William Arkle

The two main reasons why 'diversity' is a bad thing

1. Diversity is never what the organization is about.

The organization is about Christianity, or education, science, military effectiveness or something like that: some function.

So a policy of diversity in-principle weakens functionality: always.

2. Diversity is a blank cheque for destruction.

Even in theory 'representativeness' is impossible because there are an open-ended number of ways in which representativeness can be demanded, and of situations in which it can be demanded.

Achieving the impossible is... impossible.

Actual real-life examples of allegedly-desirable diverse categories that 'ought' to be represented include: race (including sub-races) and skin colour (which somewhat cuts-across defined races); religion - and rival/ hostile denominations within religions, and types of no-religion; nationality and also the regions within nations; language use; immigration/ migration status; political views; age (old and young); sex - initially men and women but now now including inter sex and self-defined gender; sexual preferences between and within sexes (and there are a lot of these)...

Diversity requires first representation; then proportionate representation.

Even mere representation is impossible to attain. Simple representation of all diversity is mathematically impossible in almost all relevant situations.

But once proportionate representation rears its head - which it always does - then the mathematical impossibility of achieving proportionate representation at all significant levels and in all segments of society becomes even more obvious and less deniable. Just attempting to achieve it will inevitably be destructive.

Diversity demand representativeness, but does not limit representativeness. There are ever-more categories which are demanded representation leading onto proportionate representation. Further, diversity is continually abolishing its own definition of progress by continually introducing new categories - so the scale of 'injustice' remains fresh and urgent; justice remains ever out-of-reach.

All this is obvious; and if it wasn't obvious to dumb or naive people twenty-five years ago it is obvious now.

Therefore the proponents of diversity are deliberately and strategically destructive.

The advocates of diversity do not, not, NOT have 'good intentions' - insofar as they demand diversity for organizations and nations which have some good to their functionality - then their intentions are evil; because they are demanding the destruction of the organization by a principle which will displace its proper goals and which is impossible to achieve.

Diversity is not just a nice idea which can be abused, as most conservatives apparently suppose: it is a fundamentally wicked idea - it is an idea whose very principles are cancerously fatal.

We need to recognize the simple truth that the supposed 'ethical principle' of diversity is evil: root and branch - and not by accident, but by calculation.

Therefore, we should never acknowledge that 'diversity' is a desirable goal, we should never approve even just a little local bit of 'diversity' to be good, welcome or nice; because this is opening the door to evil, and asking it to enter.

Diversity is neither desirable, nor a goal.


Note added: 
Diversity is insatiable: Diversity is Ungoliant - the primal she-spider of Tolkien's Silmarillion. 
Diversity lusts to consume all that lives, grows and is Good. But its hunger is never assuaged, not in the slightest degree. If we feed Diversity, it grows in strength but is never satisfied. 
Ultimately Diversity would consume the world - and then, when nothing else was left to eat, consume itself.