Friday, 22 June 2018

The Brompton Cocktail and the decline of medicine

morphine
cocaine
cannabis
gin
syrup
chloroform water

That rather remarkable combination of euphoriants is a recipe for the Brompton Cocktail, which was very successfully used in the treatment of terminal (fatal) cancer and other conditions; in the formulation as it was published by Cecily Saunders* in 1958 - and she (and her hospice movement) were responsible for propagating the BC into general usage. Later versions were improved by substituting heroin (diamorphine) for the morphine, since heroin is more powerful and less nauseating.

This was a strikingly effective, almost 'miraculous' drug combination for many dying people who were suffering extreme pain and dulled consciousness. The Brompton Cocktail would often (not always - of course; no drug suits everybody) relieve pain and breathlessness (morphine), maintain alertness (cocaine), induce calmness and sooth fear (the other components). But the BC was a combination that was greater than the sum of its parts.

(It also tasted pretty good, apparently.)

Nothing like the Brompton Cocktail had been seen before - it could, in minutes, transform the last weeks of somebody's life from a nightmare of in-turned agony into cheery and alert sociability. 


But nobody gets the Brompton Cocktail nowadays...

Why? Are the modern substitutes more effective? No - probably less.

The reason for replacing the Brompton Cocktail with inferior alternatives seems mainly to be stigma, partly inconvenience - and underlying these, the corruption of medicine by Big Pharma.

The stigma comes from prescribing drugs associated with abuse; the inconvenience is that the mixture needed making-up freshly, by the pharmacy, every few days. And, because all the ingredients are off-patent, generic - Big Pharma can't make money from them. 


The extinction of the Brompton Cocktail is representative of many ways in which highly effective treatments have been discarded, and indeed demonised, by modern medicine over the past half century; and replaced by new, expensive, worse alternatives. Other examples include diazepam (Valium) being replaced by SSRIs and Z-drugs, the removal of the uniquely effective barbiturate/ psychostimulant combination Dexamyl; and the near-universal replacement of heroin by morphine (medical use of heroin is, indeed, illegal in the USA - indeed, probably the only place in the USA where heroin cannot be obtained is a hospital). 

Since the 1960s the pharmacopoeia (list of drugs from which doctors can prescribe) has shrunk - from being repeatedly purged of old, cheap and well-understood drugs (e.g. the tranquilliser meprobamate, the psychostimulant pimozide) to make way for new, expensive alternatives of uncertain profile, often with inferior effects and inferior side effects.

The medical profession has been complicit in the process; going along with the antiscientific- progressivist assumption that newer means better/ old means worse. Looking around - this is a general phenomenon; exacerbated by managerialist indifference to functionality and outcomes and the politicisation of... everything.

So, as with so many other good things, it's a case of 'down the memory hole' for the Brompton Cocktail...  


*Note: This post was prompted by today's Google Doodle for the 100th anniversary of Cecily Saunders's birth - justly celebrating her as the pioneer of what is now called 'palliative care' medicine; but airbrushing her development and championship of the Brompton Cocktail - for which she was perhaps most famous among doctors. The Brompton name comes from the London specialist chest hospital, where the combination was developed for use in lung cancer, fibrosis etc.)

A (very) brief review of the Marvel Black Panther movie (2018)

Very dull and completely unengaging, such that I couldn't care less about what happened and was glad when it finished.

However, I didn't watch the whole thing. This was a family rental from Amazon. I saw the first hour - in a kind of blank inertia of waiting - then (when the hero had to undergo a repetation of trial by combat) lumbered off into the kitchen, and did chores for about half an hour, then returned to watch up to the end.

I could point at problems with the script, acting, direction, editing, CGI, pacing, preachiness... but when a movie doesn't work, it just doesn't work. Black Panther was the only Marvel superhero movie that I found boring, throughout.

Black Panther was a dud, hence not really fixable.


Thursday, 21 June 2018

The NOT-danger/ hope of Western Nationalism

When the mainstream of Western politics - both Left and so-called Right (neither of which are Christian) - are united in saying that there is a resurgent Western nationalism, you can be sure that this is not really happening.


Real, original, nationalism was a tremendously powerful, grass-roots, bottom-up kind of movement; a kind of mania or instinctual welling of emotion and desire that was so strong that (once the spark had been applied) it was very difficult, often impossible, to contain.

This original nationalism, running from the middle 19th to 20th centuries, was such a powerful motivator that men would risk their reputations, livelihoods and lives for it. Nationalism burned briefly, in any country it was active only for a generation or so; but while it lasted it inspired almost (but not quite) religious levels of motivation.

Indeed, Nationalism in Europe and among the European diaspora was precisely a replacement for lapsed Christianity - as was communism - nationalism was the first post-Christian generations seeking a meaning and purpose in life.


But real, genuine, powerfully-motivating nationalism is long-since dead... obviously! dead and gone and never to be revived. It was a flash in the pan.

So anybody who pins their hopes of a better world, of a reversal of Western self-hatred and strategic suicide, of an escape from Western decline toward extinction, on a revival of nationalism is going to be disappointed.

It won't happen.


In fact, my conviction is that all previous possibilities are closed-off. Despite that in many ways - including just sheer viability - the past was better than the present; I am sure that any previous form of organisation is impossible, for all sorts of reason - but mainly because that is not what God wants of us.

How do I know what God wants? Isn't that a claim of extraordinary arrogance and pride? Well, I am not going to try and persuade you; because knowing what God wants is something that everybody needs to experience for himself. I am merely telling you what I know - and that claim is not a reason why you should believe it...

Yet before rejecting as sinful pride any claim to know the mind of God on a subject, you need to consider what can be known about this world, in light of what all Christians know of the nature of God. 


What God wants is an objective fact of being; and it is (surely?) inconceivable that God the creator and our Father would make things such that his wishes were hidden from his children? (From any of his children who genuinely want to know them.)

So it is my task - your, task, every Christian's task - to discover what God wants; in respect to everything that matters. Discover for yourself, by all means available - including by direct insight (true intuition, of the real self).


Because we are all Sons and Daughters of God we all 'inherit' something of the divine, and a fully-divine potential; and it is this inheritance that enables us to know God, to know God's mind - and to love God as a person.

So this kind of knowledge of 'what God wants' is not something restricted by anything other than our own limitations. In principle, it is open to any person - at least, nobody is excluded a priori. (The main exclusion is that people don't really want to know.)

Those whose hopes require a resurgent Western nationalism simply need to discover for themselves whether this is the proper and intended divine destiny of the West...  

Not by trying to infer God's mind indirectly from 'the evidence'; but know directly, by sincere and honest prayer and meditation - and that ought to settle the matter; because the 'evidence' will then become simply understandable, in light of that knowledge. 


Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Adge Cutler, 'Scrumpy and Western', and my part in the matter


I spent my schooldays in Somerset, in a village called Backwell; and just next door in Nailsea was the birthplace of Adge Cutler: the man who wrote our 'national anthem' - Drink up thee zyder' and thereby invented the musical genre of 'Scrumpy and Western'.

Here is a 30 minute documentary on Cutler - which explains how he wanted to write pub songs for his homeland, which up to that point had lacked any:


of which I eventually, briefly, became a part-time practitioner (see below...).


Yes, that really was how the rural people spoke in Somerset when I was a kid - no exaggeration. As well as the distinctive pronunciation, there was also (compared with BBC English) an unusual use of pronouns - as in the I used to perform 'Don't tell I tell ee' (i.e. don't tell me, tell him). This version is performed by another Scrumpy and Western exponent, the song's co-writer, Trevor Crozier:


This post was triggered by my discovery that Nailsea had recently erected a bronze statue of Agde Cutler (which must count as a kind of incarnate oxymoron):


Some essential background on terminology. Scrumpy is the locally-produced rough cider (pronounced zyder) - which is the alcoholic drink made from mouldy apples that gets called hard cider, or applejack in the US. This was twice as strong as beer (and much more palatable), and cheaply available in bulk from farms - as well as in pubs - it was the normal social drink in the West Country until about 40 years ago. Oh, and wurzels (strictly mangelwurzels) are big turnips, grown for feeding to farm animals.

Scrumpy and Western was a punning name for the kind of music illustrated above - which was a kind of yokel comedy that was an affectionate parody of West Country rustic life (the West Country of England is essentially Somerset, Devon and Dorset - Cornwall being a different thing). The subject matter was of the classic English Seaside Postcard/ Benny Hill/ Two Ronnies kind: smutty innuendo, and the celebration of drinking, eating, working men outwitting posh people etc.

This music was designed for local consumption - with specific and detailed references to local place names; which made it all the more appealing. The Cutler-penned Twice Daily was the B-side of 'Drink up thee zyder', and a kind of secret cult favourite among teenagers, for obvious reasons... The lyrics are clever, the tune is nice, and altogether it's a really great song!


Another favourite band of this type, but more of a folk group, was The Yetties from Dorset:


My part in this matter...

I took-up the piano accordion aged 16 - because I wanted to play a squeezebox of some kind, and they happened to have this one at school, that I could borrow. I took to it quickly, and formed a 'group' with my friend Gareth - who was a singer, multi-instrumentalist, and charismatic 'front man'.

We dressed up in suitable yokel gear based on the Wurzels - flower pot hat, neck scarf, string around the trousers and hobnailed books - and Gareth wielded a Cutler-esque thumb-stick; which, when thrust-upwards, apparently makes the (rude) V gesture, made popular by Winston Churchill.

And we called ourselves The Muckspreaders, after the above Yetties song which was our finale. The Muckspreaders only did a few gigs of which I recall one at a Bristol University dental students event and another as part of our school annual revue. Surprisingly we always got a great reception - thanks to good material, Gareth's extrovert comedy, audience participation in the singing, and local patriotism; my job was was merely as accompanist, straight man and choral reinforcement.

Anyway - this was all due - ultimately - to Adge Cutler; hence this nostalgic tribute.


Christianity and politics versus The Church and the State

The message of Jesus Christ is permanent and universal - but 'the State' is an entity very labile and variously defined, and also non-universal.

The earliest known human societies had no 'state' nor anything analogous - and several such 'hunter gatherer' societies these survived into the early twentieth century. It would be an etiolated belief in Jesus that tied-itself to the survival of any specific form of political organisation, such as The State.

Yet, the fact that Christianity arose in the context of the Roman Empire, and existed for most of its history in 'medieval'-type agrarian societies - in which the ruling class was divided into priesthood and warriors - has distorted and confused the matter of 'Christianity and politics' by defining it in terms of 'Church and State'.

So, to make sense of Christianity and politics requires taking a step back from Church and State - in recognising that Christianity is not The Church and Politics is not The State.

Once that conceptualisation has been achieved, then there is no longer anything difficult in  understanding the proper relation between Christianity and politics; because it is clear which is the most important, which should to frame the other, and to what end society ought to be orientated.


The necessarily Christian metaphysics of Self-Remembering: William Arkle on 'Paying Attention' in this life

From a (probably early 1990s) audio-lecture by William Arkle: Discovering your soul's purpose that can be found at the Wessex research group website. Transcribed from about 1 hour 13 minutes, and edited a little for clarity...

What we want to do to get the full benefit of God’s lectures is to be fully present

But we can’t be fully present if our soul is not with us in the ‘classroom’. That means being a physical body and personality, who – at the same time - knows he is a soul. 

Then you are fully present in God’s lecture. However, if your soul is not happy being in a physical body, and is trying to get out all the time; you’re not really going to be paying attention to what God wants you to pay attention to: why you are in this particular classroom, at this particular moment

That’s an argument for paying attention; but paying attention with all-of-you instead of just a bit of you. 

'Paying attention’ means paying attention to all of the things to do with physical life – which includes your motivation and sense of purpose.


Here William Arkle is developing one of his primary metaphors for mortal life, which is that our own actual Life is ultimately to be regarded a personally-tailored set of experiences; from-which God hopes we may learn that-which it is most-important for each of us personally-to-learn. Thus he terms mortal life a 'university', and the key experiences of life he terms the 'lectures', from-which we need to learns the intended 'lessons'.

Paying attention is necessary, and paying attention in the proper context is necessary. That is, we need to be aware that we are living in God's creation, in which God is present, and that our actual life (your life, my life, everybody's life) is neither random nor passively-determined; but has specific meaning and purpose.

So we need to pay attention in awareness that our life (Here! Now!) is a communication, a message, from God; or, more exactly, that there is intended knowledge to be had from it - and not general instruction but specific lessons that we personally need.

This way of paying attention does not require special powers of health, clarity or concentration - because it is a paying attention by the 'soul' itself - that which is divine in us, and which is (therefore) eternal and immune to sickness and impairment. It is, when achieved, self-recognisable and self-validation - not least because this kind of attention is instantly (albeit, usually, very temporarily) lucid.

This is sometimes termed 'self-remembering' but those who call it that often neglect that without God acknowledged as as our loving creator and parent, self-remembering/ paying attention is merely a psychological state, of no particular value.

For self-remembering to be significant, for it to be meaningful; it must be known as a part of the mutual divine purpose; of our personal affiliation to God's on-going work of creation.
 
 

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Why is traditional Christian evangelism ineffective in The West?

Well, to be exact, it isn't always ineffective - indeed, conservative evangelical protestants are among very few denominations still winning converts among native European-descended people. But the numbers are small, and most Westerners are immune to their message.

Why? Because traditional Christian evangelism focuses on salvation - on saving-from Hell. (Note: All the following is true, and I endorse it...) Traditional evangelism focuses on sin, and the need for repentance from sin. It focuses on getting people to recognise their sins, acknowledging that sin really is sin; and on having faith in Jesus as Saviour - in understanding that faith in Jesus is both necessary and sufficient for salvation.

All of the above is true and necessary and absolutely-must be affirmed by all Christians - and yet it doesn't work.

It doesn't work because people don't believe God - consequently they don't believe in the reality and objectivity of sin, they don't believe in Heaven, so they don't believe in Hell... even worse, they prefer Hell to Heaven; because Heaven would entail giving-up some favourite (usually sexual, but maybe emotional) sin. It doesn't work because people don't feel the need to be-saved; and they are unimpressed/ uninterested by what they are being saved-for.

And it doesn't work because the primary suffering experience of modern people is alienation - of being cut-off from the world; of finding life (meaning this mortal life) meaningless and purposeless: of finding nothing really-real, and of being haunted by a conviction that life is merely a senseless and lonely spark in eternity.

To save someone from alienation is not like saving someone from the consequences of sin; saving from alienation requires, more than anything, a purpose for life. From that purpose can come meaning, and that purpose may also give meaning to relationships; and when that purpose extends beyond biological death then a great deal has been achieved.

Christianity as a faith has, so far, been bad at providing positive purpose. Instead, purpose has traditionally been provided not by the faith but by the church, by the human organisation. Yet most Christian churches are now corrupt, and indeed anti-Christian overall; and those which are not corrupt are small, scattered; and mostly incapable (through lack of persons and resources) of providing an 'alternative purposive life' for alienated moderns.

What is needed, then, is development of Christian doctrine that goes beyond salvation; moves directly from saving-from on to living-for; from the negative to the positive.

I think this means Christianity picking-up from the incomplete 'project' of Romanticism - as exemplified by Blake and Coleridge; of seeking to reconnect Man with a living nature, of recognising that God is within as well an an external person, of thinking much more about the nature of Heaven than the avoidance of Hell. And understanding Heaven as an active, dynamic, purposive world - a world of loving relationships united in divinely creative activity.

And recognising that this is something we can, and should, be doing here and now, on earth, during mortal life.

This is the Good News of Christianity for moderns; and ought to be the first point of contact and primary message. Salvation is absolutely-necessary; but it is a means and not the end. As it says in the Fourth Gospel  (John 20:31):

...these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

Which makes clear that the ultimate purpose is 'life', which (through this Gospel) means the divine, Heavenly consciousness.

Even knowing this; not everybody will even want life everlasting, life more abundantly, the life of Sons of God - most of Jesus's audience rejected it, after all. But modern people ought to be clear, at least, the magnitude of what it is they are rejecting.

If they can first understand the nature and scope of what is positively 'on offer' - only then, and if they want it, they can then decide whether or not this offer is real and possible.



The best neglected book? The Great Divorce, by CS Lewis (1946)

Although it is perhaps not CS Lewis's very best book (which would probably be, according to taste, The Screwtape Letters, That Hideous Strength, Abolition of Man, or the Narnia Chronicles), his fable The Great Divorce is perhaps the one that I find comes to mind more often than any other.

You can find a copy here

The reason I think of it frequently, is that TGD is the wisest of books concerning the most significant, yet difficult, of Christian doctrines for modern people - the nature of, and necessity for, repentance of sins. In particular, that The Problem for salvation (the choice between Heaven and Hell) is not the size of a sin (how sinful it is), but whether a person is prepared to recognise and acknowledge a particular sin as a sin. 

Thus, a repentant murderer is in Heaven; an insincere Bishop prefers to remain in Hell.

A further value of TGD is that it shows exactly and plausibly why a 'normal', everyday person might actively-choose Hell, and for reasons that would perhaps be regarded as utterly trivial by another.

The title of 'The Great Divorce' has always been the book's biggest problem - since it is both off-putting and misleading. In fact the book is an easy and enjoyable read, full of humour and satire - as well as poetry and visionary fantasy, along similar lines to The Screwtape Letters. It is also manageably brief (about 150 pages).

If you want to know a bit more before giving the book a try, I can recommend Adam Greenwood's article; which discusses the book from a Mormon Christian perspective.

But why not just read the thing! 


Monday, 18 June 2018

Modern sexuality - since not the sexual revolution, then what?

Earlier, I posted a negative critique of the destructiveness of the sexual revolution. This is, I would imagine, pretty well understood among reflective people. Yet the insight has no traction. The sexual revolution continues unabated, accelerates, continues to spread towards a knowable destination of destroying everything Good. 

Why? Simply because there is nothing in mainstream modern discourse that says why destruction is bad, and why Good is good - why we should prefer the latter to the former; or indeed what Good actually is.

In sum, the unopposed expansion of the sexual revolution is one of many consequences of Western Christian apostasy, of the atheist (no God) assumption of modern societies.


So, until such a time as a person chooses to abandon materialism and acknowledge the reality of God, then nothing can be done about anything. And until Christianity is accepted, then there will not be a sufficiently precise understanding of The Good to oppose, overthrow, replace the sexual revolution.


But, but, but... Once that point has been reached, the question still stands: If not, then what? If not the sexual revolution, then what instead. And, most important to the modern consciousness - from whence cometh that alternative? What is its provenance?

On the one hand we absolutely-must abandon the sexual revolution; on the other hand what replaces it needs to be Christian. But this knowledge very rapidly comes-up-against the practical and unavoidable question of nature and origin: the nature of what replaces it, and what is the source for what replaces it?

Now, the mostly obvious answer is for a Christian to point at the specific sex and sexuality teachings of the specific church or denomination to which they adhere. What this amounts to is: first believe in the authority of this church, then you will know what to do about sex...

But my sense is that this is insufficient (as well as incoherent - even among real Christians). To speak personally; I certainly want to know about the true and Good sexuality, but I need to know this for myself, convinced by inner personal experience; by a direct and unmediated knowledge that such and such is Good, and the rest is not Good. I need to know how this fits-in with divine destiny - with God's overall plan for me, and for Man.


More exactly, I don't want, because I do not accept as valid, the idea that sexuality may be captured in laws or rules - mainly because nothing at all, nothing vital and applicable, is really captured in laws or rules. Laws and rules are distorted and partial summaries, no more. They are not the source of discernment. Laws and rules are secondary things - and I want to be able to know primarily, specifically, exactly what is Right and why - not merely to have some list of generalities which must (like any law or rule) crudely be applied to specific instances.

So, as well as wanting specifics, I want to have specifics on the ultimate authority of my own fundamental experience - my profoundest intuitions; not on the say-so of any external authority (which may be only partially right, which may be inadequately informed, which may be corrupt, and which I may have misunderstood). Thus the authority of any groups of people, of any scripture, or any tradition, of any logical argument... all such are inadequate, insufficient, secondary.

(External authorities may be extremely helpful in practice! A repository, a source of teaching, advice etc. But I do not want the ultimate authority to be located externally - so that I am in a passive relationship to ultimates. This is the nature of full revelation as contrasted with mere obedience; revelation enables an active alignment-with the divine, an embrace of divine destiny, to work-with God.)

Sex and sexuality are extremely important - so important that I need to know about them as strongly as I know about anything else. This means that I need to accept that there really are Goods and bads, rights and wrongs; that these are objective realities. But/And I also need to know that I personally can have direct and unmediated access to these Goods and bads.


In essence, my assumption is that there is a single, real, universal, objective reality and truth about Sex and Sexuality - and that I (like any person) can know this for myself; and that is the proper (and indeed unavoidable without harm) task of each and every modern person.

This just-is the modern condition. The situation is that 'traditionalism' (obedience to external authority as the bottom-line) just-isn't possible for us; it inevitably devolves to play-acting and dishonesty; because it entails is an attempted denial of personal judgement that is itself a personal judgement. We may choose to avoid this destiny of personal responsibility - but only at the cost of the kind of outcome represented by the sexual revolution specifically, or materialist Leftism more generally. 

To take personal responsibility for understanding God's wishes with respect to sex and sexuality is an unavoidable (with harm) task for which Good motivation is vital; and Good motivation is only possible insofar as a person is Christian (i.e. accepts this as a basic framework, rejects materialism, and at least implicitly lives-by Christ), and then wants to know the real truth about it.

If the motivation is corrupt - if someone is really seeking an excuse to do something, or to oppose something, or to ignore something... well, then he will not have access to reality. Proper motivation is the prerequisite for direct knowledge. But if someone has the correct assumptions, and truth-seeking motivations, then everyone can know-for-himself exactly what it is that God wants from him, from us, when it comes to sex and sexuality; in each specific instance.


(And that knowledge will be the same for everybody - even though expressing and communicating such knowledge entails some incompleteness and distortion, and thus will probably lead to apparent disagreements.)


Modern sexuality is the essentially-destructive enforcement of 'whim of iron' - which leads to literal hell

Modern sexuality has it that nothing is more important, more fundamental, than that a person should be able to express whatever sex and sexuality they happen to wish - in their current mood, here and now, feeling as they happen to feel just at present.

In sum: the assumption is that, when it comes to sex and sexuality - like a stereotypical hysterical prima donna - whim is iron.

In other words, modern sexuality has it that current expediency is profound; such that to thwart sexual whim is hatred, aggression, oppression.

Which means - in practice, and given that people change, develop, are corrupted and repent - that everyone is supposed to pretend that whim is not whim.


Yet, as well as being the most important thing in the world, such that even to challenge or attempt to correct a currently-declared sexual desire or identity is utterly intolerable; modern sexuality also insists that sex and sexuality don't really matter.

Indeed, to emphasise that sexuality is a fundamental aspect of individual, social and political life - and therefore of legitimate general concern, with respect to large and more primary issues of religious conviction - is pure reactionary evil. Up-tight, Victorian, 'fundamentalist', 'fascist'...

For modernity, sex comes before any-and-all religion - sex trumps religion; religion (to be ethical) must fit-itself-around sexual priorities. By law, enforced by govt. regulations, enforced by employers, enforced by mainstream mass media...

But wait a minute! At the same time, sex and sexuality are at the very centre of modern socio-political strategies - all major institutions and organisation in the modern state now incorporate sexual priorities among their declared 'mission statements' -  none are exempt. No evaluation is exempt. No adverse functional consequences negate this priority: not sickness, death, annihilation... Whether it is the police or military, government or law, health services or education... all modern institutions and corporations must structure themselves around dogmas of sexuality and sexual identity.


So where does that leave us? As always, and from its surface to its fundamental depths; Leftism is incoherent. And since the sexual revolution is the battering ram, the shock troops of post-sixties New Leftism - the sexual revolution is incoherent. It does not make sense.

How come? Simple - because the sexual revolution is destructive in its essence - and destruction does not need to make sense. Indeed, sense is exactly-that which the sexual revolution, Leftism and (in the background) atheism seeks to destroy.

So far, its doing a great job!

This is why-and-how the sexual revolution is evil; because it is destructive. And it is purely destructive, destructive in its essence; which means that it is destructive of all Good.

Granted that the sexual revolution has destroyed some evils, along with the very concept of Good; it is necessary for people to recognise that this is the very nature of evil; the reason for its appeal and the way that evil corrupts.

In reality, Leftism is nowadays, mainly, the sexual revolution; and the sexual revolution is the incoherent enforcement of a whim of iron - simultaneously and incoherently whim-sical and of iron-necessity; hence destructive, hence - eventually - destructive of every-thing: everything Good, and bad, and indifferent.

Until, eventually, there is such chaos of mutually-resentful short-termist selfishness, that nothing can be done about anything.

And that situation is what's called hell.


Tolkien, Lewis and the hopes for Albion Awakening

To back-up and emphasize my previous post; here is an inspiring excerpt from William Wildblood's most recent posting at Albion Awakening.

By clarifying what the three co-bloggers - myself, William and John Fitzgerald - are hoping to do; William brings-out the nature and task of being a Christian in the modern West - the state of being an 'exile', and what can be done about it:

**

If there were patrons of Albion Awakening, in the sense of guiding lights, they might well be C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien with an honourable mention, particularly in Bruce Charlton's case, of Owen Barfield. 

The stories of Lewis and Tolkien were an inspiration to us when growing up, as they have been to countless others in a world starved of spirituality and real imagination. In my case I know, and in the case of my co-conspirators here I suspect, they were a real lifeline to something beyond the mundane, and their power has not diminished with age or familiarity. 

The more time goes by, the more respect I have for them and their extraordinary achievements, all the greater for being made against the flow of contemporary thought. Now, it is interesting to note that all three of these men were Christians but they were different sorts of Christians. Tolkien was Catholic, Lewis was Anglican and Barfield, while a follower of the anthroposophist Rudolph Steiner, was certainly orientated to the full reality of Christ. 

Funnily enough, this is reflected in the three of us in that John Fitzgerald was born and raised Catholic, Bruce Charlton is a Christian who leans towards Mormon theology, and I was raised in the Church of England and now don't have any official affiliation but am definitely Christian in that I acknowledge Jesus Christ as supreme Lord and Saviour. 


Some may regard a Christian universalism of this sort as a weakness but I see it as a potential strength insofar as it can actually enable one to go more deeply into the vastness of spiritual truth. I have argued about this many times and don't want to go into it here. Suffice it to say that it is neither the much and justly derided pick and mix version of religion nor is it an 'anything goes' attitude. 

The fullest truth is in Christ but official Christianity does not contain everything of Christ. It is, of course, quite enough for salvation (if observed properly) but it does not exhaust the wholeness of truth. 

Moreover, there are solid grounds for thinking that the Christianity of the past, based predominantly on faith, is no longer adequate and that we now need to seek a more direct insight into the nature of things. This does not deny the past but moves it forward, and I will go into it a little more further on in the post. 

Anyway, the point is that the three of us involved in this blog are all Christian but differ in externals, and probably in some beliefs as well, just like the Inklings mentioned above. Obviously I am not comparing us to them but it might be fair to say that we are standing on their shoulders and trying to follow in their footsteps if you'll forgive the rather clumsy mixed metaphors there. 

Quite frankly, the world is in such a sorry spiritual state at the moment that it is time for anyone who can to put his or her hands to the pumps. We write for those who see the disastrous spiritual condition of the modern world and often feel isolated or that there is nothing that can be done about it. 


We write to support such people and, at the same time, ourselves since it is a truism that getting stuff down on paper helps the writer himself to understand it better. That's true in my case certainly. The world can be a very lonely place for anyone who sees through its falseness and knows that what it calls good is often anything but. 


I think of people like that, among whom I number myself, as exiles, and exiles who are often not even sure if their dreams of home are real. One of the purposes of this blog is to affirm, categorically and without ambiguity, that these dreams are not fantasies or wishful thinking but solid and real intuitions of truth. 

As I say, all three of us here value the Christianity of the past but at the same time believe that, as it stands, it is no longer enough for the future. Times change, consciousness evolves and we are not the same now as we were in the Middle Ages. The roots of our religion remain the same but there needs to be new growth from those roots. 

We are now called upon to realise some of the inner truths of religion directly and for ourselves. This is not a matter of redesigning the basic picture but of making it more real by adding depth and perspective, maybe even some extra dimensions that will bring it to greater life. 

The fundamental truths are the same but we should now be going more deeply into them...


Read the whole thing...

Sunday, 17 June 2018

The once and future Christianity - by William Wildblood

Don't miss a new essay entitled 'Mere Christians' by William Wildblood at the Albion Awakening blog.

This has depth and breadth; it is inspiring and en-couraging... just superb!

Over the past few years I have come to regard William as a Christian writer unsurpassed, in my experience, by anyone today.

And he keeps getting better...

The Brown Swamp, those vast tracts of insignificant times - Life Not of the golden thread

I have written previously about the 'golden thread' that highlights certain times, places and events of my life - running back as far as I can remember. But the opposite side of that coin is the vast tracts of forgotten times in my life. The many things that happened that I remember about - but which feel-unreal and made very little lasting impact... this can amount to the bulk of many years of some situations, places, people...

I can remember that such things happened, but not feel what it was like; things that may have been psychologically overwhelming at the time, or of great duration, or unusual... but which did not link up with anything real.

This really is the obverse of the golden thread - where the moments may have seemed insignificant at the time, apparently ephemeral - maybe even things I thought very briefly, momentary insights or flashes of self-awareness... yet which have taken-on a mythic weight and permanence.

SO: the golden thread is myth, it is archetype, it is really-real - whereas most of life, including most of the most 'impressive' things in life (socially regarded as significant, quantitatively most dominant) are... the opposite of myth... just stuff, arbitrary, time-filling; unsuccessful attempts to live but in fact dishonest, contrived.

Such a lot of this stuff! Such a Brown Swamp! And such futile efforts expended! And such self-dishonesty of evaluation to cover the insignificance that was - in truth - the real experience... There was certainly, always, a part of me that realised I was thrashing around and failing - merely filling-time, occupying mind; that I was trying to manufacture-on-demand something that could only be discovered and known.

How badly I misinterpreted things. I thought my alienation was caused by dullness of circumstance, by being trapped in mundane and restricted situations - and that if-only I could change the circumstance and situations, then life would become real - which is to say mythic.

But in fact the problem was metaphysical - that I was constantly in-denial-of the reality of the real, of the insights of intuition, of the importance of that which I knew important - I was (mostly - except in golden thread moments) trying to live by external criteria, get my meaning from circumstances and my satisfaction from approval.

In sum, the Brown Swamp - its size, pervasiveness, the way it swallowed-up so much of Life; this was a consequence of an almost continuous denial of the reality of the real, of my own capacity to know the real, of the permanence and objectivity of significance; and this was at root a denial of God.

(All that was supposedly-real was felt to be unreal; and that which was experienced as real was categorised as merely personal and ephemeral.)

This is not about 'happiness'. At least on the surface, happiness can be dissociated from meaning - indeed it nearly-always is, for more people and most of the time. I was often happy.

But happiness without meaning or purpose or permanence or the reality of relationships... well that is alienation, and that is what I mean by the Brown Swamp; and that was me, and I think it is 'normal' - and that it is entailed by genuine unbelief in God.

Belief in Jesus is a separate thing. It is unbelief in God, in deity; in the sense of creator, that entails alienation; entails that apparent meanings and purposes in living are subjective and evanescent delusions merely; entails that life is necessarily a Brown Swamp.

And therefore my experience of the golden thread was a consequence of my failures in atheism; it was a negative attainment; those times and situations of unconscious belief and faith: intuited reality not-effectively-denied...


Saturday, 16 June 2018

First photograph of genius - JRR Tolkien, aged 22, analysed...

... over at The Notion Club Papers blog...


The most basic Christian assumption

- and it is an assumption - is that God is wholly Good, and loves us as children, and wants for us to grow to be like Jesus.

But how do you 'know' that God is Good, and loves us? Most people look for evidence about this - but there can be no evidence - for or against - because what counts as evidence depends on whether we believe God is Good or not.

(If God was evil, then any apparent-evidence might be there to deceive us.)

We cannot interpret this world, cannot detect or evaluate evidence, unless we have already decided whether this world is A Creation of God, and whether that God is Good/ loves-us etc. All of this makes a difference to everything...


How can we know? Well, how can we know anything? ... Here the weasel world is 'how' and the expectation that there is a Method - and the further expectation that the Method can be validated by evidence etc.

So, the situation seems, to the modern mind, hopeless.


But the matter of how we can know about God, about the reality, the nature, the plans and hopes of God is resolved simply by recognising that this is some-thing we must know directly.

There can be no Method. We must know in such a way that that knowing is foundational to all else, because that is the kind of thing we are discussing.

If the modern world teaches anything, it is that when God is subtracted it makes a difference.

(We tend to blame The New Left for hollowing-out, politicising, and subverting and inverting all social institutions - but that was already done by atheism. Government, the law, schools, colleges, hospitals, the police and military, the media are all hollow and instrumental and evil when God is excised from their hearts. But that is not something to be proven by evidence - it is something we know, directly.)

Modern Man behaves as if the only thing he knows directly is that nothing-can be known directly - we merely need to recognise that self-refuting contradiction; and to approach Reality with the spirit of wanting to know.

And we need to start with first things - instead of asking secondary or tertiary questions about reality. The question of God is the first question; and soon after comes the nature of God including our relationship to God.


This knowing-directly isn't some tortured and drawn-out complex philosophical process or scheme - quite the opposite. We moderns are already-embroiled in a complex philosophical scheme which has so confused and muddled us that the one thing we cannot see is the obvious; the one priority we cannot recognise is the vital.

There s a sense in which the human soul always does recognise God, and God's goodness and love for us - but there are many reasons why this knowledge is suppressed, forgotten and overwritten. Ultimate priorities yield to everyday expediencies, realities yield to wishes and fears... this is common observation. Then we accuse others (project) this; and the tangle becomes impossible to unravel.

The only act or choice that can go past the tangle, is to recognise direct knowledge (aka. intuition) as valid, as the basis of everything; and then all else can and will follow - for reasons that can only-then become apparent.

We all began, as children, with direct but unconscious knowledge of everything we needed to know; and the beginning of our task as adults is 'merely' to know consciously what we used to know unconsciously.

Quick, simple, attainable... 


And what of Jesus? Where does Jesus come into this scheme? Surely Jesus needs specific  revelations of scripture, tradition, church authority etc? Well, no. Jesus needs an understanding of the need for Jesus; and as adults this needs to be an explicit understanding. As children, and at the time of Jesus's life, the need for a Saviour was perfectly well-understood - although the identity and nature of the Saviour was a matter of massive disagreement... We have lost that understanding of need, and need to rediscover the truth of it; each for himself or herself, by direct knowing.

 

Friday, 15 June 2018

Albion and the 'Collective Conscious'

In a post over at Albion Awakening, I introduce the vital concept of the 'Collective Conscious', as a modification of the Jungian idea of Collective Un-Conscious; and as a way of explaining the place and nature of the really-real; as contrasted with the un-reality - the illusions, deceptions and delusions - of normal, everyday, modern life.


Thursday, 14 June 2018

New William Arkle website


William Arkle's son, Nick, has just launched a very well-produced website of his father's work.

Take a look!...


Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Are some people 'born evil' (more than others)?

All the evidence, for what its worth, would say yes - some people are born more-Good than others; some people are, as far back as you go, apparently... well, evil.

In other words, there is a difference between individuals. 

But how far back does this difference go? The answer partly depends on how far back we go.

If we each go back eternally, in some primordial essence, then does this Good-evil differential go back to eternity? Do we begin morally different? Or do we all start out exactly the same and the difference arises over time? 

This is not a matter of 'evidence'; it is a matter of metaphysics - it is a primary assumption; and it can be validated only by intuition (and the validity of intuition in turn depends on its being the thinking of our divine self - that-within-us which is divine).

If we assume Men are entirely created by God (from nothing/ ex nihilo) and we all start exactly the same; then, because God is Good, this leads to the problem/ paradox of why God would make evil in the world, and men corruptible by it?

If we assume Men are entirely created by God (from nothing/ ex nihilo) and we all start different in terms of degree of Good and Evil; then this leads to the problem/ paradix of why a Good God would make some people more-evil (or more corruptible) than others - and thus more prone to damnation. 

But if (as I believe) we all start different, and we have always (in some primordial form) existed co-eternally with God (and therefore, in this independence-from God have the existential basis of genuine free will or agency) - then this difference in Good-evil was already-there before God made us his children.

...Then we can see that the problem of evil is built-in, and evil was not made by God, nor was evil deliberately made possible by God (almost equally problematic).

So, God's creative endevaor is therefore to deal-with the already-existing situation of the reality of evil, and of differential evil; in entities already-with the basis of free agency; while encouraging us to choose first salvation (and thereby join God's family); and then choose theosis (and thereby work towards participation in God's creation).


Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Explaining the 'mechanism' of salvation and the necessity of Jesus (from the Fourth Gospel)

The beginning of the Fourth Gospel tells us that it was Jesus, The Word, who made this world; and it is this work of creation which enabled Jesus (and only Jesus) to be our saviour.

*

Having made this world; Jesus was then incarnated-into the world he had created; that is, he was incarnated from his creation, using the stuff of his own creation. This world has that primal and fundamental unity - of being created by Jesus - everything is inter-related and mutually-affecting, by kinship of shared origin.

So we too are all incarnated from this world, from the creation of Jesus. 

When Jesus died and was resurrected; this was the death and resurrection of the creator of this world, Jesus's mortal body and his resurrected body were both of this world (which Jesus himself had made).

We are incarnate from this world, Jesus became incarnate from this world (which he had made); we and Jesus are both Men; and therefore Jesus's death and resurrection had universal significance for Men. 

This it was, that made it possible for other Men to follow Jesus into resurrected life everlasting; and why only Jesus is our saviour.

*

Why then do we need to have faith in Jesus? Why doesn't salvation just-happen?

Because there are two things Jesus gave us; the first is 'physical' resurrection to eternal life, the second is 'dwelling' in Heaven (life 'everlasting', and life qualitatively greater - not merely unending existence...).

Resurrection just-happens, and it happens to all men. Instead of remaining as a severed soul - as was the case for all Men before Jesus; since the resurrection of Jesus, all Men (including those from before the time of Jesus) are resurrected.

Resurrection is not a choice - it 'just happens' - it is something like a change in physical reality; a change in what happens to the soul after death.

*

But Heaven is a choice, a decision, an act, an opt-in - and salvation therefore happens only through faith - that is love, trust of Jesus.

To understand this requires recalling the fate of the soul after the death of the body, and before the resurrection of Jesus - the soul was a witless, demented thing of little intelligence, little memory, little judgement, no free will... incapable of helping itself...

(This, at least, is how both the ancient Hebrews (with Sheol) and ancient Greeks (with Hades) regarded life after death - and other variants may be understood similarly. The soul after death was a damaged, incomplete, incapable thing - eternal life was merely eternal existence.)

I regard the Good Shepherd parable as providing the key to understanding salvation - which is that while the soul is always resurrected, resurrected Man cannot find his own way to Heaven.

The resurrected soul must be led to Heaven; that is, Man must choose to follow the guidance of the Good Shepherd. This following is not imposed, it is chosen.  

This was made newly possible by Jesus because the resurrected soul has greater capability than the discarnate souls destined for Sheol/ Hades; the resurrected soul has sufficient capability to recognise Jesus, to know him; it has the capacity and necessity to choose whether to follow the Good Shepherd, or not.

Why would the resurrected soul follow the Good Shepherd to Heaven, except that the soul loved and trusted the Good Shepherd?

That is the need for faith.

*

Thus Jesus was necessary to our salvation, only Jesus could give us salvation, only faith in Jesus can lead us to salvation.

 

What is Christian conversion like?

Conversion is like a teenager's decision to stay-within the family from-which he has just psychologically detached-himself.


Monday, 11 June 2018

The contradictions of modern life

By William Wildblood at Albion Awakening:

Edited excerpt:

Today we live a very contradictory existence. 

On the one hand, our beliefs are formed by materialism and our lives are largely lived as though that were true. This effectively requires that our sense of self be an illusion and any morals we might have arbitrary since one set cannot be better than another in any ultimate sense according to this doctrine. 

All morals are merely functional, for utilitarian purposes only, which means they rest on nothing substantial and the only requirement is to appear to obey them not to actually do so. 

But, on the other hand, we still live as if our self were real as well as those of others. The very idea of love, which we can't quite bring ourselves to renounce, insists that this be so. 

Surely we can't have it both ways? Either materialism is true in which case we, as real individual selves with some actual substance, aren't true, or our individuality is real in which case there must be a non-material basis to life. And, if that is so, there has to be a God since something cannot come from nothing nor can things give rise to themselves or the lesser to the greater. 

Moreover, we live as though free will were real but the philosophical basis of our culture, materialism, if true, would mean it was not. We would just be passive objects formed and impelled to action by mechanical or chemical but certainly external forces. Even the erudite philosophers who deny free will don't actually live as though they had none. Contradictions all over the place. No wonder we live in confused and chaotic times...

Read the whole thing...

The original cause of The Problem with the 1977 Silmarillion...

...Is described over at The Notion Club Papers.


Spiritual individualism

At present the two main lines are mainstream, modern materialist individualism; or a traditionalist communal-ism.

The first regards man as merely biological, a member of a species created by natural selection - but atomised into hedonic individuals, pursuing gratification.

Traditional religion has been almost wholly about fitting each individual into a pre-determined and simple scheme; subordinating the individual to the group. (Identity is considered as a type, not an individual.)

I think the truth is probably neither of these - the reality of the situation is probably spiritual, nor materialist, individualism.

Much of the success of modernity is because it seems to chime with the innate individualism of modern Man - but this promised destination is then twisted and perverted, and turned against itself - by the incoherent nonsense that is materialism as a metaphysical assumption.

However, it is possible to regard Man as intrinsically individual, in the sense of each being different from the beginning, from his or her origin; and each having an unique spiritual and eternal destiny. Then, this situation of primal individualism is made cohesive and creative by love; by the fact of sexual difference, in the pre-mortal spiritual state; of complementary men and women eternally real) and by families.

So there are primordial individuals, and then there is the opt-in system of love, from God. (Those who don't opt-in are not a part of cohesion - they have chosen existential isolation.)

New Testament Christianity is saturated with the language of family, and this is not an accidental nor optional thing; but a fundamental and literal reality. But it has been the early and progressive abandonment of relational family-language and its replacement by abstract physics-language (under the influence of pagan Greek and Roman philosophy and scholarship) that has been responsible for so much confusion, so much error.

The destined future for the followers of Jesus is one of individual men and women within families, eternally - but current ways of thinking, current metaphysical assumptions, make it almost impossible even to think this.

Instead we lapse towards the destructiveness of materialism, or the anti-individualism of traditional Christianity; neither of which is the path God wants for us, neither of which is a path which (if totally honest) anybody wants for himself, or herself - because both entail destruction of the self, the distinctive soul.

The future is to embrace individualism - but spiritual individualism, within a set of Christian metaphysical assumptions. 




Sunday, 10 June 2018

Mini-review of Tolkien and the Great War, by John Garth (2003) - specifically, the audio-book version

At The Notion Club Papers...


Metaphors of Heaven: nation or family?

In yesterday's post, I argued that the Fourth Gospel tells us that our salvation is straightforward (quick, simple - believe, love, follow Jesus); and the difficult thing for us to do in mortal life, is to struggle for higher consciousness; more specifically to struggle for a divine consciousness - that is, a consciousness aligned with God's motivations.

It may be asked why? It may be asked - what is the effect our our struggling for higher consciousness - how does it cash-out in an eternal timescale? What difference does it make whether I attain a higher consciousness or not?

Crudely: what's in it for me?

It is a fair question that needs answering. We need some idea of how this struggle in mortal life relates to what happens in life everlasting. On Earth and in Heaven.

What, then, is Heaven like - how can we begin to understand it?

Heaven is more like a family than a nation.

There is a tendency to regard post-mortal life as being structured on the lines of a traditional society; as a hierarchy, as a formal-structure with appointed duties... Something like the societies of Medieval Western Europe - with a King, Princes, Earls, and Nobles; gentry such as merchants and professionals, craftsmen and peasants... Or, the idea may be more like the medieval Roman church, with Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, priests and monks...

The idea implicit is that in Heaven there are certain, relatively few, jobs - roles; and we are each appointed to serve in one or another of them; and these jobs are linked hierarchically and as specialised functions.

But if Heaven is more like a family, an ideal-imagined extended family that occupies its own world - a family that coheres by love and is motivated by participation in God's work of creation - then each child born into the family has an unique, unpredictable destiny. Nobody knows how the child will 'turn-out', and the grown-up child will 'contribute' to the family in some unique way.

The child is not shaped-into a predetermined job; in a family ideally the child and the family interact to take account and benefit from what the child is and what he becomes. Each niche is unique (or, can be).

By this account of the nature of Heaven, mortal life is meant to make us each become more our-selves - not to fit-into pre-determined niches.

Salvation corresponds to the basic orientation, the desire to be in the family, to live for the family, to pursue the goals of the family... and beyond that, the striving for higher consciousness is like growing-up, becoming more adult; which is more aware, more conscious, more purposive more free - because one who is unconscious and passive is not free.


Note: Back beyond the above account is a further layer, or depth - which is that we each begin as an unique being. There is an assumption that all people begin as spiritually-identical; but I am suggesting that the opposite is true. In the beginning there were no two the same. This universe is one in which every person (probably, every entity) is unique, ultimately - and the Christian principle of cohesion, is love between non-identical, un-like things; which develop to become more themselves... Since we are to be gods (Sons and Daughters of God) the entire dynamic process being 'powered' by the fundamental and structuring complementarity of man and woman. We should set-aside ideas of sameness of origin, or sameness as a goal; we never were nor can be nor are meant-to-be the same as anybody or anything else - and glory entails the development of individuality within that power of love and directed by the eternal delight of participation in creation .

 

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Striving for 'higher consciousness' (theosis) is a teaching of the Fourth Gospel

Why is it so difficult for us to attain a higher form of consciousness? Why is success so rare and brief? 

The reason is that the higher consciousness is a divine form of consciousness, and to participate in it we must be in-accord-with divine creation... and not many people are.

Especially given that we must consciously be in accord with divine creation - and also aware of it, and actively choosing it from our true selves (our souls).  (This cannot be something unconscious or passive - because the divine is always conscious, always active and purposive.)

Many traditionalists find this line of thinking to be un-Christian, if not anti-Christian; so it is necessary to link it with Jesus. The best source on Jesus is the Fourth Gospel.

In the Fourth Gospel, aside from Jesus himself, the best example of a God-aligned Man is the author of the Gospel, the beloved disciple himself - if we agree that the author is the resurrected Lazarus. The Gospel itself is the product of exactly the kind of divine consciousness that we seek.

A serious question - though - is to do with mortal versus post-mortal life. Clearly we can look-forward to a divine consciousness if we are believers in Jesus as the Son of God and the Good Shepherd who (if we will follow) will lead us to life eternal, with divine qualities that are 'symbolically' depicted throughout the Fourth Gospel.

But why suppose that we ought to aim at divine consciousness in mortal life?  And why suppose that our failure to do would be responsible for the most extreme sins of modern life, as Rudolf Steiner recognised in a great prophetic statement of a century ago.

Well, perhaps because that is a theme throughout the Fourth Gospel, a Second Message; if that is what is implied by (for example) the conversation with Nicodemus about being born-again, or the conversation with the Samaritan woman about living water, or the discussion after feeding the five thousand about labouring for that meat which endureth into everlasting life.

It seems that there is a core/ minimal requirement for salvation: believing that Jesus is the Son of God and loving, therefore having faith, in him; so we may follow him through death to Heavenly life everlasting.

This core message is about salvation, and refers to our state after death and resurrection - but it is not about what we should do in this mortal life. Salvation is attainable by anyone who has these core convictions (believes-in and believes-on Jesus), and only by them. However, this gives no guidance for our worldly-motivations during this earthly existence. 

However, there is also this Second Message - focused not on salvation but on theosis, on divinisation or sanctification - and this second message is about what we should work-for and strive-for during mortal life. What should motivate us. The answer is that we should strive to attain a new way of thinking and being that is aligned with the divine.

In other words, we ought-to strive for a higher consciousness, by aligning our thinking with the divine and by participating in the work of creation, even before death and during earthly mortality.

And if or when we do not strive for higher consciousness - there will be bad consequences (as we see all around us).

 

What makes music 'spiritual' or 'sacred'?

William Wildblood explores the issues...


Thursday, 7 June 2018

What Tolkien meant by The Machine...

 Some of Melko/ Morgoth's machines invading Gondolin, as imagined by TheGreatMC at DeviantArt

Explained over at The Notion Club Papers...


Why has the Fourth Gospel been historically downgraded?

It seems that almost everything rests on assumptions... When reading, and indeed when originally making, the New Testament, our assumptions concerning relative authority, make a really Big difference to what we get from it.

Given that the Fourth Gospel is, by its own account, written by the disciple whom Jesus loved; it ought to have priority over all other parts of the New Testament. At the very least, and given it begins with the beginning of creation, it surely ought to be the First Gospel: first in position, first in composition, and first in authority due to its authorship.

However, if the Fourth Gospel had been placed first in position and authority, it would have framed the rest of the New Testament in ways that are very different from how Christianity evolved over the next many hundreds of years. As it is, the Gospels open with the three 'Synoptics' - Matthew, Mark and Luke - which are similar in structure and doctrine; that is, the accounts of Jesus open with the genealogy of Jesus leading back to the ancient prophets of the Old testament, and a version of the Nativity story. 


Why are the Synoptics put first in sequence and in authority, when they do not even claim to be eye-witness accounts; and indeed have internal evidence of being compilations? - When by comparison the Fourth Gospel is a wonder of integration, harmony and unity!

(Except for Chapter 21, which seems to have been added some time after the death of Simon Peter; said to be in the early 60s AD.) 

Unless we really disbelieve the claims of the Fourth Gospel - in which case it should not be in the Bible at all, since it is clearly dishonest - then it should be First.


Instead, the Synoptics are de facto given priority, by the simple means of claiming to regard all the Gospels as equal - or, indeed, especially among Confessional Protestants, inferior in authority to the Pauline Epistles.

Since the Fourth Gospel is qualitatively different from the Synoptics (and Paul's Epistles) in content, emphasis and several significant features; when it is regarded as 'equal' in authority, it is simply out-voted!

This means that, in actual practice (and for many hundreds of years), the Fourth Gospel (which ought-to-be First in priority) has-been and is merely fitted-into the other Gospels and/ or the Pauline Epistles; and any differences are explained-away.


This is simply a fact; the question is whether it is justified.

And that hinges on our understanding of what happened in the early 'post-apostolic' era of the Christian church - and to what extent it was divinely inspired, and to what extent it was human, flawed and corrupt.

Do we trust that the early and dominant theologians and church leaders were fundamentally correct? - I don't.

Do we trust that God inspired at least some translations of scripture to be sufficiently true? - I do: wrt the Septuagint, the Vulgate, Luther's and the 'King James'; which I regard as all equivalently valid (although not identical). 

By these assumptions, we can trust and use scripture (in these four versions), overall; and we can (as I do here) use scripture as evidence against the compilers and interpreters of The Bible.

You may not believe my assumptions are correct - and I cannot argue for them with 'evidence', since they are assumptions - but this procedure is coherent and reasonable.


 

What set John the Baptist above all the other Hebrew prophets?

The prominence which Jesus gives to John the Baptist requires specific explanation. After all, he is put on a level with, or perhaps even above, Moses, Abraham, Jacob and all the other greats; yet by the usual understanding, that status seems hard to justify.

What exactly, did John the Baptist do that was so important and can stand comparison, indeed excel, the remarkable achievements of the ancient Hebrew prophets?

It would be expected that we would be told exactly what that achievement was, and indeed we are. We are told what John did, and its effect - he was The Baptist, and he baptised Jesus, and this was the act that put him above all other prophets.

As we are told John was supremely important, the baptism of Jesus by John must itself have been supremely important. Well, we are told in the Fourth Gospel that the (divine) Spirit came and rested and stayed upon Jesus. Since we were not told anything about Jesus's earlier life in the Fourth Gospel; implicitly, this marks the exact moment when Jesus became what he finally was, and without this he would not have been who he was.

In the Fourth Gospel, there is no 'origins' Nativity story, no genealogy of Jesus, no information concerning Jesus's childhood (nothing about Jesus being related to John the Baptist). John's Baptism is apparently the sole and sufficient explanation of Jesus becoming fully the Son of God.

Of course Jesus was already the Lamb of God, even before he was baptised, and was recognised as such... by John the Baptist.

Therefore, the Fourth Gospel is telling us that it was John the Baptist who first recognised that Jesus was the Messiah, and on baptising him was aware of the Spirit descending upon him and staying upon him.

We tend to assume that none of this was essential to the work of Jesus; but we are probably wrong to do this. At least in the Bible, God does things by Men. Perhaps if one man fails, then God may find another - but decisions and events have permanent significance.

It seems that the weight of the divine plan of salvation rested upon the shoulders of John the Baptist; and that he was needed as the specific person who was worthy and able, to recognise and baptise Jesus, in the decisive event which began the ministry of Jesus.

Since the author of the Fourth Gospel gives no other 'reason' for Jesus's status; the recognition and Baptism by John may count as the single most important event in the mortal life of Jesus.

If that is so; the prominence of John the Baptist in the Fourth and Synoptic Gospels is easily understandable.


John Fitzgerald reviews and recommends a new journal: Jesus the Imagination

...Over at Albion Awakening.


Wednesday, 6 June 2018

The Temperance Seven in It's Trad Dad

This is exactly the kind of humour I like best. Plus, I love the style of music.


I am absolutely amazed that I had not previously come across this band, but clearly they were a force to be reckoned with at the turn of the sixties - an ephemeral perfection of sorts.

So, you want to start an Inklings book collection?

Here's where to go: Qoheleth Resources...


Jesus is the Only real Pastor/ Good Shepherd

Yesterday's post argues that (in the Fourth Gospel) Jesus did not ask Simon Peter, or anyone else, to be a Shepherd (aka Pastor) of his people: Jesus is himself our only Shepherd.

The Shepherd's role was to lead and protect his flock, and the flock is all Christians who believe in Jesus.

(Only the Good Shepherd can protect our souls in this mortal life, and lead us through death and into eternal life.)

Simon Peter was asked to 'feed' the disciples and Christians; but Shepherds don't feed their sheep; their sheep feed themselves, and (because ewes feed lambs) sheep feed each other. This Gospel cannot have meant that Simon Peter was to be any kind of stand-in or substitute or analogous 'Good Shepherd'.

And 'to feed' is a word-concept with what seems to us moderns to be an exceedingly deep, complex and multiple meaning in the Bible... yet was, to people contemporary with the writings, just the way that language and consciousness were in that time and place.


Tuesday, 5 June 2018

The mystery of 'Feed my lambs/ sheep/ sheep' in the Fourth Gospel

The twenty-first and last (and I believe, later added) Chapter of the Fourth Gospel is intensely mysterious and difficult (relevant passages are reproduced below). It focuses on the disciple Simon Peter, and also the author of the Fourth Gospel himself (the disciple 'whom Jesus loved' - and who I believe to be the raised Lazarus).

It begins with the episode of the resurrected Jesus appearing to the disciples when they are fishing. This is clearly freighted with what we regard as symbolism, but what was then a kind of depth and multiple-applicability of language, that was due to a different form of consciousness, a different way of thinking and being in the world - and which is sometimes possible for us to intuit or express poetically, but which cannot be explained in prose. But the episode seems to be about the disciples gathering of what we would term 'converts', as well as about 'feeding'.

The matter of feeding is very difficult to grasp in the Fourth Gospel - there are many passages about eating, feeding, bread, meat, flesh... and at present I find it hard to grasp and impossible to express what they mean altogether; but the feeding of the five thousand is probably the main key to it - with the idea of food being God-given, and the Food of Jesus potentially giving of eternal life (in contrast to the manna of Moses).

After the disciples had gathered fish and dined; Jesus asks Simon Peter three times whether he loves him (three times in an echo of Simon Peter's earlier three denials of Jesus).

But the first time Jesus asks 'Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?'- these presumably being the other disciples. After Simon Peter says yes, then Jesus tells him to feed his lambs.

Lambs imply sacrifice, and I think this refers to Simon Peter's role in leading the other disciples. Simon Peter is told, prophetically, the manner of his own sacrificial death. So, Simon Peter, and most of theother disciples, are sacrificial lambs. 


The next twice, Jesus repeats the same phrase: 'Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? This time Jesus leaves-out 'Peter', which is his disciple name, given him by Jesus. So, presumably what follows relates to Simon Peter not as leader of the disciples, but in a different, more general role - perhaps as future 'bishop'?

And then his instruction is to 'feed my sheep' - not lambs. The symbolism of sheep is very different from lambs. Lambs are disciples, but sheep are the followers of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

So, Simon has to feed the lamb/ disciples and the sheep/ people... but wait a minute! People don't feed lambs or sheep. Lambs are fed by their mothers (by female sheep), while grown-up sheep feed themselves.

So this passage is Not about Simon Peter becoming a Shepherd, or Pastor; because the Shepherd's job was to protect and lead the flock - not to feed them...

And anyway, Jesus is The (Good) Shepherd - and this symbol is close to being his essence - Jesus, and only Jesus, will lead us through death to to life everlasting.

So, whatever 'feed' means in the Fourth Gospel, Simon Peter is being asked (for his love of Jesus) to do this both for the disciples, and for the people in General...

But not for the beloved disciple, author of the fourth Gospel, who has a different task and role. Jesus asks Simon Peter to 'follow me' - meaning, through death to eternal life. Simon Peter is himself one of the sheep/ followers, as well as a lamb/ sacrifice.

But a different identity and fate apply to the beloved disciple, who is not one of the sheep who follow the Good Shepherd through death (because, being Lazarus, he has already died); but instead he is to 'tarry' until Jesus 'comes' again... 

**

Fourth Gospel ('John') Chapter 21: 11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken. 12 Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise. 14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead. 

15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 

18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. 19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. 20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? 

21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? 22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. 23 Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? 

24 This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. 25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

Monday, 4 June 2018

OK, I'm a Christian - Now what? Lifestyle, politics or consciousness

Christianity has at least two steps - the first is becoming a Christian, which happens in a moment. This is a wonderful experience; but after some time the overwhelming feeling fades - as it is meant to. Then the question arises - what now?

Traditionally, the convert spends the rest of his mortal days learning and practising the Christian 'lifestyle' as it is understood by the denomination of his church in a particular time and place. That is one possibility.

Modern liberal Christians - a many evangelicals - reject a highly detailed prescribed lifestyle as being unscriptural; and there is a tendency for such to put their efforts into 'politics' of one sort or another: into trying to achieve Social Change. This usually ends, sooner or later, by leading out of Christianity; at least it does nowadays, when politics is so corrupting and evil.

If we reject (or cannot live by) a detailed-prescribed lifestyle; and if we also reject the mainstream 'social activism' of the mainstream churches - what then?

Another way forward is the spiritual - to cultivate and strengthen the spiritual side of of Christianity. In other words, to work on the form as well as the content of our faith.  

Another way to put this is to try and change our consciousness. That is the very texture of the way we think and feel - and to make it more Christian. Because the spiritual is not restricted to believing in Jesus in the same way we believe in the factual validity of an Encyclopedia; Christian belief is supposed to be a different, deeper, wider, personally-involved way of believing. 

Because mainstream modern consciousness, the way that most people including Christians think and feel, is in conflict with Christianity. We are materialists, prone to positivism, scientism - we live in a world of dead (un-alive) 'things'. We experience being cut-off from the world.

So long as people experience and think this way, they are falling far short of the way that we ought to be experiencing and thinking.

So, this is something that a newly-minted Christian could do; something to work-on that would enrich and strengthen their faith; a life's work, indeed.


Sunday, 3 June 2018

Men may become fully divine (like Jesus) - from the Fourth Gospel

Although the idea that Men may become fully divine is often regarded as being a distinctive doctrine of Mormon Christianity (and an heretical and obnoxious one!).

Yet, this idea is pretty clearly implied by the Fourth Gospel from three sets of statements: that Jesus is the son of God, that Men may become sons of God, and that Jesus is God.


However, the fact is not usually noticed due to the near-universal practice of reading scripture with a prior (non-scriptural) assumption of strict-monotheism - leading to the mystical-paradox of standard Trinity theology, which itself assumes that God is qualitatively distinct from Men.

Also, the Synoptic Gospels (and/ or Pauline Epistles) are, in practice, regarded as primarily authoritative - whereas I believe that the Fourth Gospel is the most authoritative book of scripture.

Anyway, the passages in the Fourth Gospel which lead to the conclusion that Men can become fully divine include the following (there are others).

Jesus is the son of God

John 20: 31. But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

Men may also become sons of God (like Jesus already is)

John 1: 12. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Jesus is himself God

John 1: 1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2. The same was in the beginning with God. 3. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

20: 27. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.


Saturday, 2 June 2018

The People want Bad things - so political change can't do any Good

This is something I find it hard to get across - I have been harping on the theme for about nine years, and apparently few other have reached the same conclusion, if the sustained massive interest-in and hopes-from political change is any guide.

My baseline understanding that that, in modern Western countries, hardly-any-people (only a small minority) want Good things. 

Quite the contrary, in fact. If their behaviour is anything to go by, then most people want Bad things for most of the time.


And if people want Bad things; then how could politics do any Good? Improving The System will  only make the mass majority of Badly-motivated people more successful at accomplishing the Bad things that they wish-for...


A Christian spiritual awakening is therefore not some kind of luxury, not something added-on after the prior and necessary political changes; but the pre-requisite to all Good political change.

When the people are Bad, nothing positive can be accomplished by political action of any kind. It is misplaced activity. 

Christian spiritual awakening is therefore the priority. It must happen before there is any possibility of Good politics.

...First your own awakening; then see if you can help others awaken, in some way that you consider potentially to be effective. 


Is there a Spirituality Quotient akin to IQ?

William Wildblood, with tongue-in-cheek, plays with this idea as a way of exploring the obvious 'dissociation' (i.e lack of correlation) between intelligence and spirituality; including the idea that it is ideal to be high in both.