Sunday, 18 November 2018

Any questions? - Enquiries invited


If readers want to ask me a question - this is an invitation for them to do so; in the comments below.

I can't guarantee to print your question (because it may go beyond the guidelines - mostly legal - that I myself adhere to about the scope of the blog) - I can't even guarantee to answer the exact specific question, if I regard it as one for which the proper response is to go deeper and back to the assumptions behind the question; but I will undertake to make a response linked to an identification of the questioner.

I'm quite happy to respond to 'trivial' questions (of the favourite-colour, special-dislikes type); but also - if you are concerned about some aspect of my deep, philosophical and religious views and want that clarified - I shall do so as honestly as I can.


34 comments:

Rubashov said...

Hi Bruce, thanks for your efforts over the years. 'Addicted to Distraction' in particular has helped me immensely.

My question is about your conception of eternity and hence the afterlife. It has always struck me that an eternity in which a human consciousness still "lives" in some sense would amount, being by definition ceaseless, to drudgery, regardless of how engaging, pleasurable or transcendent it is. This brings to mind Borges' story "The Immortals", where a group of immortal human beings degenerate into extreme sloth and callousness, not recovering for several centuries one of their number who has fallen into a canyon, for example. If one "lives" forever then nothing is necessary, everything is possible, failure or success irrelevant.

I am a Christian and heaven and hell intuitively make sense to me and yet I can't help wondering how meaning is found in a ceaseless afterlife.

There is no meaning in life without death, but there is also no meaning in life without afterlife.

For the moment I am content to accept that this is beyond my understanding, and leave it to God, but I would love to know what you think. Thanks again for your brilliant work.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Rubashov - Thanks. I'm not sure what the question is! If you are asking whether I regard the afterlife in Heaven as ceaseless drudgery, the answer is no. I don't think it is drudgery at all; because, for me, creativity in a world of loving relationships isn't drudgery; especially assuming there will be sleep to divide the active 'days'.

William Wildblood said...

Isn't Rubashov's question projecting time into eternity by which I mean judging the latter in the light of the former? Drudgery implies a focus on past and future and experiencing the present in terms of what has been and what will be but the one thing we know about eternity is that it is fully now, wholly in the present. There will still be a past and future but they won't impact on the now.

Or something like that!

William Wildblood said...

Looking out of my window I can a gibbous moon which puts a question in my mind. Do you think the sun and the moon can be equated to masculine and feminine components of the psyche as many mythologies appear to see them, and is there a lesson in that for the current disordered state of men and women and the relationship between them?

Tobias said...

As far as I have understood your notions of creation, God works on pre-existent beings and matter. He forms chaotic stuff into structure through pure thought, and that thought is loving thought. Creation is an act of continuous love.

• First question – is that description anything like the way you think about creation? If not, would you please say very simply how you do think about creation.

Second – About the stuff of chaos in which God and the pre-existing beings existed – I have some questions, one or more, or none of them, might be the way you think things happened. The questions are,

• Did God create the stuff of chaos?
• Did God create the other pre-existing beings?
• Did someone else create the stuff of chaos?
• Did someone else create the pre-existing beings?
• Was the stuff of chaos ever non-existent?
• Were the pre-existent beings ever non-existent?
• Was the stuff of chaos just always?
• Were the pre-existent beings just always?
• Was God always immersed in time?
• Do you think that there was ever a time when God did not create and form out of the stuff of chaos – was there a beginning of creation when the stuff just hung there, and God did not do his think of creation? (The inadequacy of language to get thought across!)

• Why, amongst all the pre-existent beings, if he didn’t create them, is God the one to be God?

I’m sorry to ask so many questions, but I think answers to them might help me to understand better.

Thank you

Tobias

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - If you are talking about extant members of the Jamaican Golden Swallow species - the answer is zero.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - No, I don't think that. Not everything has a sex - probably most things don't. And I suspect that the sun and moon are among entities that don't - not literally.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Tobias - Something like that, except that God is the dyad of Hevaenly Father and Mother - and the primary love is that between them. Of course, I don't know how you understand those key terms - such as thinking/ thought - whether you regard them as primary reality as I do. What I would say, is that I try to understand creation concretely, not abstractly - but that is difficult to express.

• Did God create the stuff of chaos?
No
• Did God create the other pre-existing beings?
No
• Did someone else create the stuff of chaos?
No
• Did someone else create the pre-existing beings?
No
• Was the stuff of chaos ever non-existent?
No
• Were the pre-existent beings ever non-existent?
No
• Was the stuff of chaos just always?
Yes
• Were the pre-existent beings just always?
Yes
• Was God always immersed in time?
Yes
• Do you think that there was ever a time when God did not create and form out of the stuff of chaos – was there a beginning of creation when the stuff just hung there, and God did not do his think of creation? (The inadequacy of language to get thought across!)
Yes - there was a beginning
• Why, amongst all the pre-existent beings, if he didn’t create them, is God the one to be God?
No answer to that. It just is.

Hrothgar said...

A somewhat novel idea has occurred to me recently as a result of reading some of your thoughts on resurrection/reincarnation.

What do you think of the following hypothesis: That the fairies of myth and folklore are in fact none other than our resurrected pagan ancestors, pursuing a post-mortal destiny appropriate to the values and beliefs they had in life, and the possibilities thus open to them?

NB: I am using "fairies" to refer to a class of approximately human-sized beings as encountered in most genuine folklore, not the diminutive, delicate, and sillified fairies created by and for a "sophisticated" culture that no longer really believed in their existence. My opinions on the latter are close to Tolkien's, but aspects of the former seem worth taking seriously.

Karl said...

Do you listen to podcasts, and if you do, what are some of your favorites?

Karl said...

@William: for Germans, for the English before the Norman Conquest, and for the hobbits, the Moon is "he" and the Sun is "she".

Bruce Charlton said...

@Hrothgar - I think that elves, giants etc. are - or were - a different kind of Man. I'm not sure, but I don't think that reincarnation happens very often; maybe very seldom.

@Karl - Not any particular ones regularly, unless Dale Brunsvold at Rudolf Steiner Audio would count? Even if I am not listening closely, I just enjoy the sound of his voice.

http://www.rudolfsteineraudio.com/


Andrew said...

Dr. Charlton, do you believe in destiny (at the individual level)?

(God-given or agreed upon between God and our pre-mortal selves?)

-Andrew E.

Chiu ChunLing said...

I guess I'll revisit Rubashov's question by asking, whether it makes any difference how enjoyable an activity is in whether it becomes drudgery?

Does enjoyment of an activity consist entirely of doing something or does it also consist of the satisfaction of desires as an ongoing result of the activity?

Conversely, if you could work without suffering fatigue and pain as a result of physical/mental strain, would it be drudgery?

Is it unimaginable that an activity could be both worthwhile in bringing about other satisfactions of desire while not bringing about impairment of our desire for ease and comfort?

Are there any conscious activities that you can imagine enjoying interminably as long as they did not exclude all other activities and enjoyment?

I'll direct these questions to Dr. Charlton rather than Rubashov because I think they could use something more than a simple yes/no answer.

On the question of male and female, I'll ask whether all dyads of synergistic cooperative possibility are necessarily characterized in terms of which contributes the larger gamete in reproduction, or even some directly mappable conceptual distinction which would underlie the concept of gamete size and reproductive activity?

On the question of what makes God capable of Creation, I would ask whether it is possible that a greater understanding of the nature of reality and the possibilities to bring about results such as Creation by applied action could vary between different entities to such a degree as to be adequate to say that one was a god and the other not, or that one was only a god but the other was God?

I'll also ask whether it would be possible for there to be multiple entities that had such understand of the nature and possibilities of reality so as to be God?

And if so, would it be more likely that they would cooperate or that they would compete?

Why?

Further, what do you think of the possibility that some populations of the common ancestors of modern humans referred to other populations of the common ancestors of modern humans as elves/dwarfs/giants/etc.? Would mere differences in technological/cultural advancement be enough to explain much of this confusion, or would obvious racial phenotype differences be necessary in most such distinctions?

Also, is it at all likely that primative men were more sensitive to real spiritual elements residing in natural phenomena or even capable of perceiving them directly?

Is it too bothersome that I'm mostly rephrasing other posted questions?

Northwest Alternative said...

What are your reasons for not joining the CJCLDS?

Hrothgar said...

@Bruce - Just to clarify, I meant this in terms of being an example of how your thoughts on widespread or universal resurrection might apply in practice - as something that might also affect non-Christians, including pre-Christians.

This is to say that I was thinking that the type and quality of resurrected life that might be available to certain prehistoric pagan peoples such as the Ancient Britons, and which they might actually prefer according to their lights, could be close to that of the fae - or such of it as has reached us in presumably rather garbled accounts. A great deal appears to fit, in terms of how the fae tend to behave, what we would expect resurrected humans to be capable of, etc. I'd have to go into more detail than is probably appropriate here to explain this fully though, especially if this particular issue is not one you have really thought about before. It's a possibility that now intrigues me, at any rate!

Bruce Charlton said...

@NW - (Note: I don't think 'why not?' questions can often be given a satisfactory answer.)

A new convert (of any church) is usually expected to believe and promise a great deal that he believes and intends (so joing a church, and remaining within and supportive of a church, are extremely different things - there is asymmetry).

So the answer is strictly personal and does not apply to others - I have thought a lot about this, and sought revelation. The conclusion is that I am constitutionally (personality and health-wise) absolutely incapable of *active* church membership; and indeed do not feel any sustained desire for that kind of life transformation.

So, I believe-in the claims and truth of CJCLDS theology and doctrines; but do not positively-wish to align myself with the church-order - and, of course, in this I *do* distinguish between matters of theology and church-order.

Therefore, there is no strong positive reason and several exclusions; and in addition I have the conviction that I ought to be working-'alone', or rather within a small group of family and a few friends/ colleagues. This is my destiny.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Andrew - Yes I certainly believe in destny at the individual level.

I regard it more as a amtter of reality than as a plan - because the future is not pre-known or pre-determined; and reality is always being-created. It is a matter of how we think and behave, the kinds of things we aim at.

Actually, destiny is a matter, mostly, of living-from our real/ divine self (and not living from superficial, inculcated selves).

NLR said...

What are some of the most interesting papers you read while editing Medical Hypotheses?

For my part, I find the medical and scientific posts on the blog (such as Ketamine and Depression, Shampoo and Dandruff, SSRI's, patient brooding and the malaise theory of depression, etc.) to be quite interesting because they not only provide knowledge, but also understanding and illumination.

Luther Burgsvik said...

Have you discussed the topics you write about on this blog with people whom you interact with on a day-to-day basis, either explicitly or subtely? And if so, have you managed to alter anyone's worldview in any way?

Bruce Charlton said...

@LB - Double negative. I don't personally know of anybody sufficiently interested in what I blog about, to want to discuss these topics; therefore I haven't altered anybody's worldview in my actual life - so far as I know, I am in a minority of one. But this has almost always been the case all through my life - so I expect nothing different.

https://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/2014/07/on-being-in-minority-of-one-or-few.html

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Do you have any insight on the sleep-paralysis/night-hag phenomenon? Do you think it is a sleep disorder pure and simple, or might it have a spiritual aspect?

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - It certainly *can* have a spiritual aspect, in the sense that it feels 'numinous' and is a version-of/ sometimes associated-with lucid dreaming (dreaming with afterwards a clear memory of the dream, partial knowledge that one is dreaming, partial control over the theme of the dream).

It is also a version of what Jung called Active Imagination - and which he practiced as his main meditative/ investigative mode - but it is a very diffcult state to *hold* because it is meta-stable transitional phase - with a strong tendency to flip into full sleep or waking.

In Steiner/ Barfield terms, this is a partial reversion to the Original Participation of childhood and early tribal Man - what might be termed a shamanic state. It is (presumably) the kind of spiritual 'travelling' that shamans seek, and which (presumably) we all experience unconsciously and unremembered during normal sleep.

As such it has value potentially as a learning experience; but (I would say) it is more of a look-back, than a path forward; and it is also therefore something of a temptation to strive for such essentially-passive states.

Certainly I feel we ought *primarily* to be striving for a higher consciousness that is fully alert, conscious, purposive ('wissenschaftlich' as Steiner terms it) - rather than such a mixed-state - wit hteh body-mind partly awake, partly asleep.

On the other-other hand, we could see such experiences as a glimpse of a possible future mode of sleep; in which sleep is a conscious and integrated state, and the content of sleep is remembered in the same way as the waking state.

But the big mystery of sleep is actually what happens in deep (non-dreaming) sleep - in which (apparently, implicitly) the experiences are so simple and slow that we cannot recall or describe what happened - but the effect on us is profound.

Does this accord with your experiences and observations?

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

My past (and my wife's ongoing) experience with such states has been terrifying, certainly nothing I would ever dream of striving for. The sense of a malevolent presence (which I experienced as intelligent "monkeys" and "bugs" in childhood, and which my wife thinks of as a ghost or incubus) is certainly very strong, but I am undecided as to whether it is anything more than a hallucination.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - It certainly is an hallucination (ie subjective, nobody else can see it, but experienced as real); and hallucinations generally occur in mixed, delirious states that are partly asleep and partly awake. But the visions which shamans see are also hallucinations. The emotional flavour of an hallucination (euphoric, terrifyling etc) comes from the general body state - and presumably your terrors came in some kind of illness or other ill situation. By contrast, the euphoric/ ecstatic/ grandiose hallucinations of mania occur in a situation of feeling full of energy and health.

Lucinda said...

I re-read your post on Freud being worse for the US than Marx. I'm interested in knowing how you think people can safeguard their relationships from victim mentality. I agree with you that psychotherapy seems to have a bad tendency. What kind of alternatives are there for maintaining mental and emotional health in relationships, especially family relationships?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Lucinda - I think the answer must be as individual as possible; therefore it can only be done well if you know the person that wants to talk and the person who agrees to talk with them. What happens then, during the talking, will again depend on the individuals involved and the exact nature of the problem. A good church is often also a good network for this kind of thing; otherwise it would have to be on an ad hoc basis.

Eric - said...

What do you think about animals in relation to God? Do you have a favourite animal?

What kind of music do you find spiritually uplifting?

Do you play any instrument?

Favourite novel?

Thanks for your writing.

Eric

Bruce Charlton said...

What do you think about animals in relation to God?
I don't think much about animals, really; except those I observe in the garden.

Do you have a favourite animal?
Probably owls, especially barn owls.

What kind of music do you find spiritually uplifting?
Some of Glenn Gould's perfomances of JS Bach.

Do you play any instrument?
48 bass piano accordeon, D/G melodeon a bit (I've had it out for the past few days relearning some Morris Dances) - but not actively in recent decades; they are left-over from my youth when I sometimes performed in folk clubs etc.

Favourite novel?
If it counts as a novel then Lord of the Rings; if it doesn't (and if fantasy fiction in general doesn't count) - then there hasn't been any single favourite novel over the long span. At one time I would have said something 'experimental' like Tristan Shandy, Joyce's Ulysses or Flann O'Brien's At Swin Tow Birds - but not now. I would say that - over several decades - I enjoy some novels, but seldom find the novels that I find enjoyably-readable to be deep; consequently my favourites are those I most enjoy (rather than find spiritually useful) probably comedies - eg (over the past couple of decades) those of Barbera Pym: No Fond Return of Love, Excellent Women, Less than Angels, An Unsuitable Attachment... I am currently extremely keen on Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke - but I have only been re/reading it for about 4 years, so I'm not yet sure whether it will last in my estimation.

whitestone said...

The origins of political correctness? I see PC as a disease concocted in a lab and unleashed upon a the world. Self replicating and self perpetuating. It seems that the imagined death of god made our immune systems vulnerable, but the disease itself was at least in part created. I don’t believe it evolved naturally. Would be interested to hear your thoughts Sean fowler

Bruce Charlton said...

@whitestone -

Here is some of the stuff Ive written on these theme, just what came up on the search Ne Left.

https://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/search?q=New+Left

To make the problem manageable, I understand political correctness to be the New Left - which is the 'cultural' Leftism that became dominant from the middle of the 1960s. The Old Left was primarily 'economic' - as was Marxism. It aimed at economic equality - to varying degrees; and its chosen instruments were typically economic - nationalisation, taxation, subsidies and doles etc.

The Old Left's main rationale was the abolition of poverty, and sometimes the equalisation of opportunity - i.e. an efficient meritocracy. To a great extent the appeal was due to the idea/ hope that rational planning and meritocracy would be more economically efficient. But by the late 60s it was clear (from the Soviet Union and other places, and nationalised industries) that socialism was less, not more, efficient.

Anyway - by the mid-1960s it was clear that genuine 'Biblical' poverty had been abolished

https://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/search?q=poverty

and also that de facto equality of opportunity regardless of class had been achieved.

If the Left had been honest, it would had disbanded by 1965. Instead, it reinvented itself as cultural Leftism, political correctness, Social Justice - which is based on envy, resenment, fear, has no utopia, is utterly incoherent and labile - and is purely destructive.



Bruce Charlton said...

@NLR - I can't give you a proper answer, because I have probably forgotten most. Being an editor involved reading about 1000 papers a year (at peak) - but mostly reading to choose yes or no, rather than the kind of reading that one does as a real scientist.

If you are interested in an overview of the more bizarre side of the journal, Roger Dobson made a collection overviewing 100 of the hypotheses, called Death Can Be Cured (2008).

http://medicalhypotheses.blogspot.com/2008/03/death-can-be-cured.html

Perhaps the one I has special affection for was George Steinhauser's research on Belly Button fluff - and he was later a staunch supporter of the journal's principles, leading the authorship of a paper defending it against Elsevier's de facto destruction.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16877-scientist-spends-four-years-studying-navel-fluff/ - with a link

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11017-012-9233-1

Hrothgar said...

@Bruce - I would say that much fantasy fiction does indeed count as novels of one kind or another - Johnathan Strange quite self-consciously so, for instance, with its tendency to constantly pay homage to the society novels written around the time it was set. If memory serves, Tolkien considered himself to have been writing in the older genre of Heroic Romance (it could also fit in the Epic genre by many traditional measures, but he would probably have considered it too presumptious to claim this descriptor for his own work). He did make heavy use of novelistic techniques - often indeed using quite modern ones when they serve - which I think has tended to confuse the issue.

He was probably wise to do so, given how modern work tends to turn out when it strives to re-create the Epic format by adapting modern prose to older narrative techniques. Oddities like Nikolai Tolstoy's The Coming of the King are what then tends to result - one of the better examples of its kind perhaps, but not a work I gained much from, nor have any particular intention of re-reading!

Re: Owls - You might be interested to know that I have a whole family of burrowing owls (parents and three rapidly growing chicks) inhabiting my garden at present. They're rather tame compared to most British owls and I can often get quite near without them seeming too worried.

I don't know whether you ought to envy me though, as they can be rather awkward neighbours. They like to defecate and drop chewed remains of prey on the wife's car, swoop at me aggressively when I walk the dog in the evening, wake everyone up at night with their loud alarm call, and screech and chitter argumentatively at me while doing a vigorous head-bobbing display whenever I do something of which they disapprove (like trying to remove weeds near their nest or favourite perches, or shooing them off the wife's car).