Friday 26 October 2018

Understand that what we are seeing is 'things coming to a point': and that this is our best hope

I know I have said this many times over the years I have been blogging, but not all current reader have been around that long; and it is terribly important to understand!

(To see what I have previously written - word-search 'coming to a point'.)

In the public domain, the mass media, the politics-government, in education and all other major social systems we are seeing 'things coming to a point' - this process is very far advanced, continues, is apparently accelerating.

The phrase comes from That Hideous Strength by CS Lewis, which is available free online at Project Gutenberg in Canada; it means much the same as what people imply by the misuse of the word 'polarisation' - it means that Good and evil are becoming so extreme as to lose the grey areas and be starkly separated; it means that there is no neutrality and every-thing of any possible public significance is now-and-increasingly either positively/ actively/ purposively-Good or positively/ actively/ purposively-evil.

This creates all kinds of problems, suffering, hardship, But in a world such as this one, coming to a point is a Good-thing. By 'Good' I mean in a spiritual and eternal sense - not a materialist and this-worldly sense. The process is Good for our souls, even when it is bad for our minds and bodies.

It is Good because it is better than the alternative; which is more of the same as we have been getting for the past fifty years; and which has led-to, is leading to ever-more, materialism, hedonism, short-termism, hopelessness, cowardice, despair... and consequently the active-embrace-and-propagation of lies, ugliness, sin and all other forms of evil.

The news, the law, the workplace, the schools and colleges, the mainstream churches - are pushing the evil agenda more and more aggressively, extremely, and rapidly. Whether this is because they can't help themselves, or because they feel that all opposition has now been crushed - or whether they fear that people might wake-up and push back (or from some blend of these) doesn't really matter: It Is Happening.  

Because things are coming to a point, it gets easier to notice and understand what is happening; and this a Good because it is something that each individual can only do For Himself. If he does not do it For Himself, then it merely passive, therefore it has Not Actually Happened.

Of course, so far, things have been coming to a point, Good and evil are ever-more-clearly distinct - and people have been choosing evil en masse. So be it. People have agency, people can choose evil, and they are apparently doing so in very large numbers. If so, they have made their choice and Will live with that choice (unless or until they repent it, which usually gets harder with time).

This is a test for everyone: it is a test for Christians. Christians are confronted with worldly-expediency versus spiritual virtue again and again, every day and in multiple situations; and their response (I mean their response in their own thinking) will necessarily go one way, or the other way.

Our true motivation is recurrently being tested, hence refined and strengthened.

This is Good and we ought to be grateful; because this is exactly theosis; it is how we grow in divinity (or the opposite).


Excerpt from Chapter 4 of That Hideous Strength, giving the origin of the concept of 'Things coming to a point':

"Have you ever noticed," said Dimble, "that the universe, and every little bit of the universe, is always hardening and narrowing and coming to a point?"

His wife waited as those wait who know by long experience the mental processes of the person who is talking to them.

"I mean this," said Dimble, in answer to the question she had not asked. "If you dip into any college, or school, or parish, or family--anything you like--at a given point in its history, you always find that there was a time before that point when there was more elbow-room and contrasts weren't quite so sharp; and that there's going to be a time after that point when there is even less room for indecision and choices are even more momentous. Good is always getting better and bad is always getting worse: the possibilities of even apparent neutrality are always diminishing. The whole thing is sorting itself out all the time, coming to a point, getting sharper and harder. Like in the poem about Heaven and Hell eating into merry Middle Earth from opposite sides . . . how does it go? Something about 'eat every day . . . till all is somethinged away.' It can't be eaten, that wouldn't scan. My memory has failed dreadfully these last few years. Do you know the bit, Margery?"

"What you were saying reminded me more of the bit in the Bible about the winnowing fan. Separating the wheat and the chaff. Or like Browning's line: 'Life's business being just the terrible choice.'"

"Exactly! Perhaps the whole time-process means just that and nothing else. But it's not only in questions of moral choice. Everything is getting more itself and more different from everything else all the time. Evolution means species getting less and less like one another. Minds get more and more spiritual, matter more and more material. Even in literature, poetry and prose draw further and further apart."

Mrs. Dimble with the ease born of long practice averted the danger, ever present in her house, of a merely literary turn being given to the conversation.

"Yes," she said. "Spirit and matter, certainly. That explains why people like the Studdocks find it so difficult to be happily married."

"The Studdocks?" said Dimble, looking at her rather vaguely. The domestic problems of that young couple had occupied his mind a good deal less than they had occupied his wife's. "Oh, I see! Yes. I dare say that has something to do with it. But about Merlin: what it comes to, as far as I can make out, is this. There were still possibilities for a man of that age which there aren't for a man of ours. The earth itself was more like an animal in those days. And mental processes were much more like physical actions. And there were--well, Neutrals, knocking about."


"I don't mean, of course, that anything can be a real neutral. A conscious being is either obeying God or disobeying Him. But there might be things neutral in relation to us."

"You mean eldils--angels?"

"Well, the word angel rather begs the question. Even the Oyéresu aren't exactly angels in the same sense as our guardian angels are. Technically, they are Intelligences. The point is that while it may be true at the end of the world to describe every eldil either as an angel or a devil, and may even be true now, it was much less true in Merlin's time. There used to be things on this earth pursuing their own business, so to speak. They weren't ministering spirits sent to help fallen humanity, but neither were they enemies preying upon us. Even in St. Paul one gets glimpses of a population that won't exactly fit into our two columns of angels and devils. And if you go back further . . . all the gods, elves, dwarfs, water-people, fate, longaevi. You and I know too much to think they are just illusions."

"You think there are things like that?"

"I think there were. I think there was room for them then, but the universe has come more to a point. Not all rational things perhaps. Some would be mere wills inherent in matter, hardly conscious. More like animals. Others--but I don't really know. At any rate, that is the sort of situation in which one got a man like Merlin."

"It all sounds rather horrible to me."

"It was rather horrible. I mean even in Merlin's time (he came at the extreme tail end of it), though you could still use that sort of life in the universe innocently, you couldn't do it safely. The things weren't bad in themselves, but they were already bad for us. They sort of withered the man who dealt with them. Not on purpose. They couldn't help doing it. Merlinus is withered. He's quite pious and humble and all that, but something has been taken out of him. That quietness of his is just a little deadly, like the quiet of a gutted building. It's the result of having laid his mind open to something that broadens the environment just a bit too much. Like polygamy. It wasn't wrong for Abraham, but one can't help feeling that even he lost something by it."

"Cecil," said Mrs. Dimble, "do you feel quite comfortable about the Director's using a man like this? I mean, doesn't it look a little bit like fighting Belbury with its own weapons?"

"No. I had thought of that. Merlin is the reverse of Belbury. He's at the opposite extreme. He is the last vestige of an old order in which matter and spirit were, from our modern point of view, confused. For him every operation on Nature is a kind of personal contact, like coaxing a child or stroking one's horse. After him came the modern man to whom Nature is something dead--a machine to be worked, and taken to bits if it won't work the way he pleases. Finally come the Belbury people, who take over that view from the modern man unaltered and simply want to increase their power by tacking on to it the aid of spirits--extra-natural, anti-natural spirits. Of course they hoped to have it both ways. They thought the old magia of Merlin, which worked in with the spiritual qualities of Nature, loving and reverencing them and knowing them from within, could be combined with the new goeteia--the brutal surgery from without. No. In a sense, Merlin represents what we've got to get back to in some different way. Do you know that he is forbidden by the rules of his order ever to use any edged tool on any growing thing?"


William Wildblood said...

In one sense things are simpler because good and evil are becoming more clearly delineated but the matter is complicated by the fact that the world is presenting evil as good so unless we are alive to inner truths we are going to be deceived. But that is just a test of our inner integrity. We must go against the world which will not like us for it and we must do this with fierce determination but without self-righteousness or pride, another test.

Chiu ChunLing said...

Well, things are always coming to one point or another, and often more than one point at the same time. That is, there is always a decisive contest at some point in the future of any given moment for any individual and for any group of individuals who are all in conscious relationships to one another.

These points are always passing by, but while there is a moment of relaxation of tension after one such decision point, there are always plenty more such points in the future.

What matters is that each and every individual is becoming more definitely themselves over time (which is why time as perceived by humans exists). Eternity is a state in which what you will do in the future is consciously implicit in who you already know yourself to be in the present.

That is, the process of things coming to a point is what is meant by the temporal perspective.

But in regard to the particular subject of 'ancient magic', the simple truth is that effective petition to the spirits which God has set to govern aspects of nature has always been by virtue of appeal to the relationship of the petitioner to God. In pre-Christian ages and countries, it was possible to make such petitions without consciously appealing to the merits of Christ (and it remains possible for some to appeal to the merits of Christ without having any orthodox opinion about the set of historical details that would correspond to Christ's mortal ministry).

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - It ought to be easier for people to discern evil when it is extreme, and less mixed.

A lot of what is being actively promoted - such as the transgender agenda (from inducing 'gender dysphoria' at schools to permanently altering children's brains and bodies with powerful drugs, giving hormones and mutilating surgery) - is viscerally-obviously evil. It requires a huge contextualising theory to excuse it, and to 'explain' why it is 'really' good for kids deliberatly to be permanently damaged in mind and body (as a matter of state policy).

The political stuff is harder to discern; because it requires people to join the dots, notice trends, remember what happened last time, infer motivations etc. Because of mass media addiction, people are less good at that than ever before; and when people do use simple memory and common sense they are mocked or deomonized as a 'conspiracy theorist' - my word, what a lot of work that slur is called-upon to do nowadays!

I suppose what the evil Establishment most fear is spread of a real understanding of the fact of *spiritual* war - because that insight makes things so much easier to understand. But of course that waits upon a metaphysical awakening.

Seijio Arakawa said...

Part of the way in which things are being clarified is that previously people had to be tempted and deluded into choosing evil in the hope of receiving something good in return, whereas increasingly people can and must be tempted and deluded into choosing evil for its own sake, with no discernible benefit.

Hence the plenty of people who give up their time and energy in service to pointless bureaucratic career paths, give up their beauty to self-mutilation, their character qualities to self-pity, and so forth.

Quite a few people have a latent understanding of spiritual war, intuiting the activity of a malignant force that wants humanity stop doing meaningful and good things and to lay down and die. However, since their metaphysics are materialist, they look for material mechanisms to explain their intuition. However bad these mechanisms might be in effect, they're not the whole story -- and yet I'm always startled by the downright Stalinist tone taken by mass-media in response to even these distorted intuitions. People might notice the war, and incorrectly ascribe it to some material circumstance like bad vaccines or fluoride in the water, but on the spiritual plane everyone seems to understand what they're really pointing to....

Bruce Charlton said...

@Seijio - Indeed.

One big problem with eth materialist 'conspiracy theories' of the kind you mention, or even the ones based on the assumption that the people-in-charge actively want to cause mass death and misery - the problem is that would be too easy for them to do, and they clearly aren't doing it (e.g. in a world with massive current population growth, increasing life expectancy etc)

Chiu ChunLing said...

The problem is that the majority of the PTB do actively want to cause mass death and misery, they simply don't want to suffer it themselves.

Evil consists precisely of the attempt to subvert justice. Natural justice assures that everyone will eventually be subject to the consequences of their own actions. Wanting to cause anything while excepting yourself from ever having to deal with the consequences is evil.

It's also highly limiting. One cannot do much of anything if one is always trying to make sure one doesn't have to ever suffer the consequences. The most anyone can do is defer the consequences for later, which is why a firm disbelief in the continued existence of the self after death is such an aid to evil.

One could say that it is the big lie that makes the wicked unfree.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - "Evil consists precisely of the attempt to subvert justice." I don't agree - indeed I think that justice has become almost meaningless as a concept in modernity.

Evil consists precisely fo opposition to Good; and Good is (pretty much) God's Loving Creation. Trying to pick 'justice' out of the web of creation is the problem - it can't be done fully enough to separate out the concept; as our legal system tries to do.

(As Barfield says - it can be distinguished, but not divided.)

Chiu ChunLing said...

Well, evil generally consists of all that obstructs "good". Good is a subjective value, it is defined by what we want. There is plenty of evil that exists implicit in the fact that the universe doesn't care what we want. I think it is possible to assert that all possible good is found only in Creation, that even that which we call good when in the context of Creation, we should find evil outside of that context.

The evil of volitional beings essentially comes down to wanting something that contradicts the desires they can actually satisfy. The desire to jump off a cliff for fun is evil unless you want to die rather messily or have a parachute/jetpack/whatever. The desire to push other people off the cliff for fun is evil unless you don't mind someone else coming to the conclusion that they should push you off the cliff.

The modern attempt to subvert even the concept of natural consequences of actions is evil. They are trying to avoid justice by making people forget what the word means. But the concept exists and must exist as long as people have functioning apprehension of reality because that is simply how the world works, the consequences of actions will inevitably affect the actor.

Justice can't be picked out of the web of creation because it is the fundamental structure of causality which must exist prior to creation (or anything else) being possible in the first place. If not for the law that actions have consequences which affect the actor, then the act of Creation could not happen, even if acts generally were possible, God would not be able to interact with Creation and it would thus not be Creation (in the capital letter sense, it might be imaginable that it would still be created, just not in a way that God could care about one way or the other).