Sunday, 31 July 2022
Should Christians hand-over their eternal salvation to... historians? Romantic Christianity at the cutting-edge
Saturday, 30 July 2022
Me-Here-Now versus History - what kind of Christian are you?
Christians will find themselves - sometimes again and again - at a point where there is a stark awareness and apprehension of Me-Here-Now - a situation of direct and 'intuitive' knowing; rooted in a personal and first-hand experience, and a person to person relationship - typically in relationship to Jesus Christ.
This contrasts with traditional church-based knowing; which is rooted in historical discourse and 'scholarship' of various types; and is therefore second-hand (or third-/ fourth-/ fifth-hand...).
Church-knowing is indirect knowledge-about... rather than experience-of. It is something we learn and strive to remember... rather than apprehend with instantaneous clarity and conviction.
Because modern Men are self-aware, because we are conscious of our own consciousness; we distinguish these two 'ways of knowing' whereas at times in history these would have been regarded as aspects of a unity...
Indeed they were not distinguished, because the individual was then immersed in the group's thinking; and often had experienced none-other; his beliefs were spontaneously and unconsciously those of the social group, and these beliefs were apparently stable, apparently 'eternal'.
Man in the past did not distinguish even the possibility of himself having direct and personal knowledge that diverged from knowledge he absorbed insensibly and by training and education from his society.
Therefore in the past - when Men's consciousness was different; the basis of Christianity rooted in a church was natural, inevitable, and right.
But Now we experience self-validating truth for-ourselves, intermittently; in flashes, or 'epiphanies'; yet brief because we are then in a state of self-awareness that of-itself interrupts that which is being-observed.
As soon as we know we are knowing - that consciousness slips-away into mere knowing that we know...
But anyone who has known by this kind of directly-apprehended, wordless intuition; is aware of its utter distinction from those vast masses of external and historical 'knowledge' which constitute 'a religion' or 'a science' or 'literature'...
The question then arises; why should we believe secondhand church-knowledge?
Such a 'why' question would not have occurred in the past - but now it has; and it demands an answer; that is, assuming we are to give some version of church-knowledge absolute primacy* over all other contesting knowledge-claims...
For a Christian, we see on the one hand an enormous, heavy, complex system of historical claims which constitutions a denomination or church; all of which includes the claim that this is (in some essential fashion) the unchanging truth, and our job is to worship and obey.
Or job as a church-Christian is primarily to learn-about this body of historical material - and submit-to it.
Therefore, Me-Here-Now and (what feels like) direct knowing; must be fitted-into - and submit-to - this mass of external stuff.
For a church-Christian; Nothing we might ever possibly experience, think, say or do - past, present or future - can ever affect the directionality of that relationship.
The Church - and therefore History - is absolute and primary; we our-selves are contingent and secondary.
(And the same applies if, for instance, The Church is replaced by Scripture, or Tradition - it's all History, ultimately; all external - all given-us by a particular body of Men, all based-on historical claims.)
So, this is the crux. We have our own most intense, most real, most true and most important convictions - rooted in (what feels like) a direct-knowing of reality...
Or we have (what feels like) a secondary, second-hand, submission to (what purports to be) a vast bulk of mixed historical claims - cross-referencing the validity of authority, scriptures, traditions and practices, beliefs etc.
These two possibilities (for many perhaps almost all) people have separated, their combination was a consequence of unconsciousness - and now we are conscious - and they have been split apart by this consciousness.
Thus Romantic Christianity became a possibility, and the decision concerning ultimate authority became a necessity.
We can either acknowledge or deny the crux - but denial is dishonest.
What to do we do; where place our primary loyalty, where look for salvation? By submission and obedience to History (i.e. Our Church)?
Or; do we instead start the process of re-knowing, re-learning, re-making Christianity from the basis of the primacy of intuition, direct-knowing, heart-thinking (whatever we call it)...
(Which is (for Christians) intuition of the divine within us (as we are children of God), and our apprehension of the Holy Ghost without?)
The crux is: Do we trust our-selves and personal-knowing primarily; or we we trust... whatever we have been told by our favoured historians concerning church-history, and organize everything else around that?
Is Christian faith to be rooted in the Here-and-Now experience - or in curated historical claims?
Romantic of Traditional?
*Note: 'Primary' and Primacy' are used here to indicates which comes first and is foundational. It is not a matter of either/ or Romantic versus Historical Christianity - but which is primary and foundational; about which judges and discerns the other. Thus a Romantic Christian may be a full church member and believer - but at root he will have intuitively-discerned and evaluated the truth of the church's claims (at least; those which are of core importance to him), and consciously chosen to accept them. The Historical-Church Christian may experience intuitive direct knowing, but will accept or reject such insights in accordance with his primary obedience to the church - therefore no personal knowledge could ever (as a matter of principle) challenge or overturn the church's instruction and teaching. What a church-Christian experiences and knows here-and-now, will only be allowed validity when it supports the church's 'historically-based' understanding; and any other insights will be rejected as erroneous or evil.
Friday, 29 July 2022
Pharaoh's Walk by Exodus (1971) a revivalist craze waiting to happen...
English-produced 'Rocksteady' Reggae with jazz flute from 1971... what's not to like?
I don't actually remember this from the era in which it was released - despite having had a strong liking for the Jamaican Ska/ Rocksteady/ Reggae of the late 1960s. But I recently came across it in a YouTube compilation of such music that was issued in the UK by the famous Trojan Records.
It is such a great little track that I immediately recognized it as one of those which will, sooner or later, be rediscovered and used as movie background, or a the theme for a TV show; so that sometime in the future 'everybody' will know it.
Well, thanks to BC's Notions; you can be one of the early adopters...
Thursday, 28 July 2022
"Daddy, what did you do in the the birdemic?" - The question that church-affiliated Christians need to ask
"What did you do in 2020 - when the churches were told they were 'inessential', ordered to close their doors without stated end-point, ceased to offer the sacraments, and forbade all gatherings of Christians - even outdoors?"
These are the kinds of question that real-Christians need to ask of their denomination, their specific church, and their pastor/ priest.
(...Unless, of course, they already know the answers full-well; because, for so many self-identified Christians; 2020 is, was, and always will be.)
Wednesday, 27 July 2022
Emptiness and futility, arbitrary motivations and hedonism - on re-reading CP Snow's The Light and the Dark (1947)
Although now almost forgotten as a novelist; CP Snow's work has many special qualities, and I find I return to re-read one or other of his books every few years*.
I last read The Light and the Dark when I was at school, aged about sixteen - but have appreciated it more this second time around. It is focused on the story of Roy - a brilliant scholar of lost and obscure languages, whose personality alternates light and dark moods...
(Not to the level of psychosis - he is not a manic depressive, always keeps working, and is never hospitalized; but nonetheless the down-swings are terrible for him to suffer. The point of the book is that his gifts and his miseries are part of a package - he cannot have the bright accomplishments without the shades.)
As always with Snow; the main character is based on a real-life model - an oriental linguist called Charles Allberry; whom Snow regarded as the closest and most intimate friend of his life.
As a teen, I was considerably put-off by the aristocratic milieu and snobbery depicted among many of the main characters (although not the narrator, who - like Snow - had impoverished lower middle class origins, but aspired to be assimilated into the rich and able ruling class. And achieved it - becoming Lord Snow of Leicester, and sending his son to Eton.)
This time around, I was more entertained than annoyed by the class-consciousness; and instead I saw the novel as a depiction of the spiritual bankruptcy of the English ruling class on the eve of the 1939-45 war.
In a nutshell; the characters depicted most intimately have nothing to live for - except arbitrary motivations such as cultivated snobbery, and short-termist 'amoral' (often sexual) hedonism. And then The War...
There are political motivations - communism or pacifism for many (especially scientists), National Socialism for a few; but these are essentially negative. In the end the war is fought - bravely and effectively - but against Germany rather than for anything in particular in the world afterwards.
Which is, of course, exactly how things turned out - but it is fascinating to realize that Snow could perceive this so clearly and explicitly even by 1947, when this book was published.
One sub-plot is the 'Light and Dark' protagonist's unsuccessful 'search for God' - Roy sees with absolute clarity that his life (and the world) is futile without God - but cannot 'make himself believe'; therefore leads an hedonically promiscuous life (alleviated by great - and secret - kindness and generosity to many people) which ends by deniably engineering his own death.
Most of the characters avoid acknowledging this harsh truth; and immerse themselves in little (or large) plans and schemes, to seek pleasure and 'get-on' - but all, sooner or later, realize the futility of this 'materialistic' life.
Seventy-five years later our civilization has lost the bleak, stoic insight of Snow (via his characters); and are still trapped by a false dilemma between a traditional Christianity they cannot believe - and a despairing life of increasingly short-termist, ever-less-coherent expediencies. Snow himself - with his life of ambition and status-seeking - seemed to be caught in this trap, up to his death in 1980.
Regular readers know that I believe there is a way-out from this crux of unacceptable nihilism versus impossible traditional religiosity (i.e Romantic Christianity) - but that it requires individuals to give their best efforts to understanding (for- and from- the depths of their natures) Man in relation to God.
This personal quest needs to be accorded at least the same effort and application as Roy gave to his unravelling of ancient texts; or others gave to communism, fascism and the other later leftist ideologies that purported to displace and replace Christianity.
So, here we are...
*The Masters is probably CP Snow's best book - being an extremely gripping, sustained, satisfyingly-structured work. The Search is less accomplished, but also excellent for anyone interested in 'real science' - it has stuck in my mind for several decades. Also The Affair, and The New Men are similarly memorable; encapsulating certain things incomparably well. The Physicists - a group biography of some of the greatest physicist of the early 20th century, most of whom Snow (who had degrees in chemistry and physics) knew personally to some extent - is also extremely good; as is Variety of Men, a collection of memoirs of eminent people.
Tuesday, 26 July 2022
The Bad Faith of Traditional Christians; or; why we should acknowledge that our bottom-line convictions need to be personal, endogenous, intuitive, directly apprehended
Sunday, 24 July 2022
We should trust in our own salvation
There is a convincing line of thinking that regards fear* as the greatest sin; which is opposed by the virtue of trusting in the goodness and love of God.
This implies that we are meant to trust in our own salvation - i.e. be supremely confident that we, our-selves, will be resurrected to eternal Heavenly life; and therefore we ought Not to live in fear of damnation.
Only if we live confidently trusting in the fact of our own salvation, can we make salvation - that is our future Heavenly destination - the basis of our mortal life.
Surely this is what we need? I mean, to live this mortal life in the eternal context, to recognize it as a preparation for the Main Thing - which is post-mortal, resurrected life?
If so, then we should not allow ourselves (as So Many Christians have done, and still do) to mistrust and fret over whether or not we will be saved.
It is a very different matter to live in fear of damnation than to trust in salvation: at best, fear of damnation is merely a double-negative simulation of the positive faith which leads to following Jesus through mortal death to life-eternal.
A challenge to this - which comes to mind - is that someone might have the idea that he can be sure of salvation whatever he thinks, believes or does...
Yet that is incoherent nonsense. Someone who really believes in the salvation of Jesus Christ - in resurrection and eternal heavenly life - will naturally know that if Heaven is a real place, then it is Not something that can be fitted-around our mortal life.
If Heaven is real to us, then we will recognize mortal life must be fitted around Heaven - that way around. If Heaven is really-real then the natural and rational question is 'how we get there'.
Only if Heaven is un-real to us could we have the idea that we would go there whatever we thought/ believed/ did; that we would arrive there whatever direction we travelled; and would arrive there even if we not not want what Heaven actually is.
As I have often said, Christians - like almost everyone - are prone to abuse fear to gain short-term goals (e.g. threatening and scaring people with consequences); whereas what should-be aimed-at is a life without fear:
Without fear because we know (that is, we have solid faith) that God the creator loves us, and is good.
*By fear I mean 'existential fear' - which is a motivational state primarily, rather than an emotion.
Saturday, 23 July 2022
What is the "Orthosphere debate" (concerning the Altar-Civilization Model) ultimately About?
Francis Berger initiated the debate - and Orthosphere writers JM Smith and Kristor have thus-far responded.
My attempt here is to try and summarize briefly what I believe the debate to about About.
In other words - what do I regard as the ultimate question behind the rather complex arguments on both sides.
I think the ultimate question is something like this:
Is The Christian Church (in some sense of The Church) in-charge-of human salvation - or is salvation primarily a matter for each individual.
I think that all sides agree that individuals may err in their discernments and choices, and that such errors and choices may lead to that individual being damned.
The question is whether The Church (which in practice means My Church, in the way I conceptualize it) can err in an ultimate sense - such that The Church's errors will lead devout and obedient members to damnation.
My understanding of adherents of the Altar-Civilization Model, is that they are rooted in the conviction that (in an ultimate sense) The Church cannot err on the matter of salvation - whereas individuals can and do err; and therefore The Church will ultimately know better than any individual; and therefore the path to salvation is necessarily via obedience to The Church.
In even simpler terms: the Orthospherian conviction is that "The Church is Christianity"; and any individual can only be a Christian - i.e. achieve resurrection to eternal Heavenly life - secondarily, by means of The Church.
Whereas the Romantic Christian idea is (I think) that - however things may have been in the past (and I personally acknowledge that the Altar-Civilization model used to be true); here-and-now each individual Man can and must discern Christian truth and his own salvation...
Including the discernment of which (if any) institution he regards as The True Church, and his own relationship to that Church's authority.
In the end, at bottom, ultimately; the Romantic Christian idea is that it is our individual discernment (understood as our direct and unmediated relationships with God and Jesus Christ) which is necessary for salvation; and the choice of relationship with any church (or no church) is secondary to that.
In brief; the individual (not any church) ultimately 'defines' Christianity: i.e. the way to salvation.
And therefore if, or when, that individual errs; and does not repent, and is damned; it will always be his own responsibility - regardless of whether he was following any church.
Friday, 22 July 2022
Discovered after 180 years - Only photograph of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet
Here is the story behind this discovery.
It seems wonderful to see the face of a man whom I regard as a real prophet. This image is far more impressive than the portraits done at the time. It now seems a little easier to imagine how he did what he did, and why so many felt inspired to believe and follow him.
NOTE ADDED: Here are a selection of first hand, contemporary descriptions of Joseph Smith. There is a fair bit of variation; but observers seem to converge on the fact that he was unusually tall, had blue eyes, a fair complexion, large nose, light brown hair, and an athletic physique.
Do we get spiritual guidance from God, or the Holy Ghost (= Jesus Christ)?
My contention is that Christian daily spiritual guidance comes - by intent, according to divine plan - from the Holy Ghost, rather than from God the Father.
I'm not sure whether this matters very much; but I think we can see, throughout the Fourth Gospel, that Jesus's intent was that our external spiritual guidance in life was to be from the Holy Ghost.
Which means, I believe, guidance from Jesus Christ himself; since the Holy Ghost is Jesus Christ, resurrected and ascended.
Of course it is never sufficient to 'quote scripture' since this leaves open the question of how we should read The Bible; and my understanding of the primacy of the Fourth Gospel is unusual among Christians.
But I think we can make a reasonable case that the plan for guidance of Christians towards salvation would be by Christ himself; since he is the one who enables our salvation.
And also because Christ is fully divine, hence a creator with full creative powers - hence able to shape the circumstances of our lives to benefit our salvation (and also theosis).
This conflicts with the usual Christian practice of praying to The Father - that is to the primary creator; which seems to be modelled on what Jesus himself did, and what he is reported as instructing for his followers in the Matthew and Luke Gospels.
This, then, is a situation in which the prior assumptions before reading the Gospels comes into play: the Fourth Gospel telling us, in effect, to pray to (and/or commune with) the Holy Ghost (which is Jesus Christ); while other sources say we should pray to The Father.
So - should we pray to The Father; or to The Holy Ghost/ The Son? Are we to model ourselves on Jesus's personal practice, or instead to do what Jesus told us to do?
Because I regard the Fourth Gospel as primary, I think we know what Jesus wanted.
But either way the decision goes; we should seriously practice inward and intuitive discernment, and seek confirmation of our understanding.
I doubt if this is crucial - and we could, of course, pray to both Father and Son/ Holy Ghost. But it may be that praying to the intended divine person - i.e. by seeking spiritual guidance from Jesus as the Holy Ghost - may, in some way, be more effective than the alternatives.
Thursday, 21 July 2022
Can globalism be replaced by multiple nationalisms?
Over the past few months, it seems as if we have seen the end of the globalist ideal - at least for the short- and medium-term; since the globalists themselves have (by their 'sanctions') divided the world -- rather than (as looked to be unfolding just a couple of years ago, with the global birdemic-peck strategy) administering the whole planet under a single (denied and mostly not-visible) authority.
But now the 'debate' is presented as a unipolar versus multipolar world: a single totalitarian system versus several or many national systems.
I have argued that the unipolar world was never going to happen because those who were implemented it were deliberately destroying the social institutions that would be required to administer it. Godless bureaucracy was generating demonic active-destruction: lawful evil was developing into chaotic evil.
Given such a background; is this multipolar idea even possible?
I would say not. The multipolar world is just an intended re-set to an earlier historic way of dividing the world between 'spheres of influence'; but this time the world is in a state of spiritual disintegration and therefore value-inversion.
Religions used to be synonymous with churches - and insofar as that is still the case we can see that religion has ceased strongly to motivate Men. This is evidenced by the international (and all-religion) church shut-downs in response to the birdemic - which revealed that the churches are subordinate to global-political (leftist, atheist) imperatives.
Churches have ceased to be possible alternative sources of motivation and guidance.
I am convinced that without religion as prime motivator and organizer, civilization is bound to collapse, and cannot re-emerge. Yet no major nation in the world is even proposing having religion as the core of their social organization - indeed, this may have become impossible, as a result of the developmental-evolution of human consciousness over recent generations.
Therefore, my prediction is that any multipolar world attempt will begin to collapse even before its structures have been formed.
At most the switch from uni- to multi-polarity will be a shift from greater to lesser evil; and as such may somewhat delay and slow the inevitably self-destructive impulses (personally self-destructive, as well as socially) that are a consequence of Godless and irreligious societies.
In sum: We live in a secular world; and secular institutions, societies and politics are unsustainable and indeed now in the terminal active-suicide phase.
So the world is paralyzed by insoluble demotivation, and perverted by inverted teleologies; such that any re-organization of the nations will not affect the inevitably lethal outcome.
Wednesday, 20 July 2022
Unrequited love in Heaven? Heaven is Not just an eternal version of worldly hedonism
When I was an atheist, I used to regard the Christian idea of Heaven as just an eternal version of the hedonism of this world.
In other words, I did not distinguish Heaven from the mainstream idea that the main thing in our lives is to be as happy as possible/ suffer as little as possible; with the mainstream 'utilitarian' notion of morality as wanting the same for as many other people as possible.
But if happiness is made the main thing about Heaven, then this leads to all sorts of difficulties in conceptualizing Heaven - which then make it even harder to believe in the reality of Heaven.
Many Christians already make the error of regarding Heaven as 'perfect in every way' which implies it must be a static state. However, if perfect happiness is also required then this rules-out free will (and indeed individuality) because we must be Made Happy.
And it rules out our participation in creation.
Yet, if we want to summarize Heaven in a single concept; that concept should not be happiness by creation - taking account that creation is inseparable from Love.
The idea of eternal happiness paralyses any possibility of creation - because it removes any motivation for creation. It also paralyses actual interpersonal Love as the characteristic of Heaven - replacing it with an abstract and unchanging love this just-is: going nowhere, because there is no reason to go anywhere (it being already-perfect).
Therefore, we should - I think - take care not to place happiness or any other 'emotion' at the centre of heavenly life; but instead regard happiness, suffering and misery as being subordinated to Heaven's primary reality and goal of loving-creation.
In Heaven we may be happy at any particular time - but we may also suffer. For example, we may aspire - we may desire change which is improvement; and in general be discontented with how things are at present.
For example; there may be - at any given moment and for a particular individual - be unrequited personal love in Heaven. We may wish to become eternally married to someone who does not feel the same way about us. And this is extremely painful: here and now.
But in Heaven we have discarded sin; and therefore unrequited love is a starting point - not an endpoint. In heaven, one who suffers unrequited love will live eternally; but that person will be experiencing, creating and learning - and through this will come healing.
Also, nobody in Heaven is bereft of love; everyone will be in a loving family. And while family love is not the same as love of a spouse; it is certainly far better than the indifference and neglect that so many people experience in mortal life.
Therefore; while Heaven is much happier than mortal life for many people, much of the time; as it ought to be on earth; happiness is best considered a motivator, a guide, a reward - and not the end-point. We will surely feel very happy sometimes, and less happy or miserable at other times.
But we ourselves will be far better able to cope and make the best of these feelings - which will be the basis for our living and working.
Heaven is not about happiness primarily - but about living in love, fully aligned with God, and participating in the divine work of creation.
"Where do we come from, where do we go?" Understanding whether "death" is a good, or bad, thing
Tuesday, 19 July 2022
How might a 'group soul' (e.g. an Angel of England) actually work?
Monday, 18 July 2022
Top-down always makes worse, bottom-up can make better - but sideways is the usual direction of improvement
Continuing from yesterday's post about how large-scale, long-term strategic-planning-type thinking is always an evil; the implication would seem to be that bottom-up is the directionality of The Good.
This is certainly true - I mean, that Good comes from individual and specific persons, and their effect; but bottom-up directionality implies that the bottom improves as if affects policies, laws, rules at the top.
But if top-down is not capable of generating real Good, but only conformity and obedience; then how does any collection of people ever improve?
As well as downwards and upwards; the sideways directionality also needs to be considered!
(That is, if I insist on using abstract geometrical metaphors to 'explain' humans! - a practice that I recurrently warn myself against...)
And it strikes me that this is the usual way in which good-stuff is spread: that is within families, between friends, and (in the past) between neighbours or work 'colleagues'; and in particular from the-admired (sel-chosen mentor) to the-one-who-admires (chosen mentee): i.e spread between those who are similarly motivated and share similar 'world-understandings' (metaphysics).
This similarity, plus a degree of sympathy (resonance, empathy, accord) between persons 'at the same level', are what probably allows for Goodness to spread.
This seems to be the usual direction of genuine and strong Christian conversion - at any rate; whereas top-down imposition of a religion, or immersive socialization, of themselves, lead to a Christianity that is only culture-deep.
Note added: Sideways does not imply 'equality' because (as William Wildblood has clarified) there is no equality except in chaos. Creation is differentiated. There is always distinction, and may be hierarchy, in what I mean by 'sideways' - my point is that it is a chosen-relationship. So 'sideways' encompasses some (the most ideal) examples of the Master-Apprentice and Master-Servant type of relationship - when these are innwardly-affirmed relationships.
Sunday, 17 July 2022
The evil of strategic thinking
It seems increasingly clear to me that the world's policies are planned by a relatively small global establishment who practice 'strategic thinking'.
This is a long-term and large-scale analysis for which a decade is the basic time-segment of change; and even nations are too small to be of much interest: whole alliances and continental divisions (and indeed the planet) are the basis of critique.
So when one talks of geographical-population units such as the Anglosphere, Europe, Asia; and timescales of decades, generations, centuries - one is firmly in the realms of strategic thinking...
Strategic thinking is heady stuff for its empowered participants (I mean, those few who command the influence and resources to compel their ideas to be taken seriously then implemented).
To engage in strategic thinking produces a kind of ecstatic delirium in its participants; which gives them the grandiose delusion that the largeness of scale is intrinsically morally superior to the downstream world of manipulated-sound-bites and biased-selected snippets from the mass media and official communications, upon-which most people in the world waste their energies.
This innate moral superiority, and the fact that it is rooted in a world view that sees individual Men as merely subject components of vast masses of hundreds-of-millions being directed by strategists; is what leads to the smug psychopathy of the leadership class - the fact that they are not really human - but instead literally-demonic in their attitudes, motivations and behaviours.
The leadership class is literally demonic, because strategic thinking is not just a tool of purposive evil; but is itself innately evil.
This means that those who affiliate with God and divine creation cannot use strategic thinking for Good ends. To use strategic thinking is necessarily to regard individual Men, families, organically-real human groupings - as instrumental; as means-to-strategic-ends...
And this is precisely to take the side of evil.
So; it is useful to know about the attitudes of strategic thinking; because it unmasks the core activities of evil in the world today: the 'litmus test issues' such as the birdemic-peck, transagenda and sexual revolution more generally, climate change emergency, antiracism; and most recently the contrived Fire Nation War with its sub-agendas of hyperinflation and food/ energy famines.
When these mini-strategies are truly seen as aspects of strategic thinking; we may understand how it is they encompass the world and persist/ accelerate over timescales many-fold greater than the fare more frequent cycles of politics, business, finance, media... Even across human generations.
But those who take the side of Good cannot (and should not try to) combat Establishment strategic thinking with any alternative strategies - because that would be to use The One Ring 'against' Sauron.
We should seek understanding at the strategic level - but not ourselves operate at this level. Instead, our units of Christian activity should be individual persons, and groups who are affiliated by love - not groups whose members are joined by bureaucratic organization or economics; and not groups who have been deluded by strategic thinking.
Saturday, 16 July 2022
The dangerous delusion of 'physicsy' spirituality
Friday, 15 July 2022
Irresistibly cheerful, absolutely trivial... dance music of the late 1920s
The early steps of decadence are often very enjoyable - and the late 1920s "Charleston-type" dance music is no exception.
Since I was a young kid and heard 'Winchester Cathedral" - a pastiche by the New Vaudeville Band; I have really enjoyed that style of music - especially when performed by the Pasadena Roof Orchestra, which used to feature frequently on British TV during the 1970s.
Later, when at medical school, I used to go see a similar band from the Newcastle area, called the Savannah Syncopators (playing in the ex palace of the Bishop of Newcastle); and later still a similar band that played at my most local pub: the West Jesmond Rhythm Kings.
With the exception of owning a few LPs of Bix Biederbecke, and until the advent of YouTube, I did not know anything about the originals of this music: it was the more recent revivalists that attracted my interest.
Enough chat; here are a few examples:
And here is an impressive and amusing old video of Varsity Drag, from when the dance was still new:
Thursday, 14 July 2022
I think the peak of my 'vitality' - the sheer inner energy of life - was reached shortly after I turned twenty-one; during a particularly beautiful spring; and in a year when there were no formal examinations at medical school - so I could make the most of it.
I suppose this was when I had just 'grown-up' - at least physically. But psychologically there was an effect, too.
Up to twenty-one, it seems in retrospect as if the fact I was still growing lent a certain child's innocence to my aspirations and motivations, which meant I was not fully responsible and therefore my bad choices were more excusable.
I think we all feel this to an extent: there is a waxing livingness about youth that compensates greatly for its moods and tantrums.
But from my twenty-first year onwards, there was an irresistible 'darkening' of my nature; which I now attribute to my living without religion and therefore - ultimately - hedonically, selfishly. I was no longer growing-up; and the special dispensation of youth no longer applied - no matter how much I might wish it did.
In this sense, we can almost live without explicit acceptance of God when a youth, because youth's sheer vitality gives us (unearned, spontaneously) a spiritual communion with nature. We know God/ The gods implicitly - even when we deny such knowledge explicitly.
This natural-goodness ebbs after maturity, and in order not to become progressively corrupted we absolutely must take responsibility to make the right spiritual choices...
But, of course, at just this time of life, a modern person is most immersed in 'career' - as I was; on the assumption that if we get 'career' right, then the other major problems of life will be solved...
I can now see that - in trying to live without God - I was embarking on a futile quest. As I have often mentioned; I had the general attitude of desiring and seeking 'anything but Christianity' as the answer to my existential dissatisfactions. And I also now see that my negative feelings about Christianity were significantly exacerbated by the (apparently) universal conviction that to be a proper Christian one Must be a member of the one-true-church... whatever and whichever that might be.
I should have been a Romantic Christian - and I should have put at least as much effort into thinking hard about Christianity; as I did about politics, science, literature, music and my other enthusiasms. But that would have meant being less existentially selfish and hedonic - which was something I felt I could not cope with. I needed my selfish pleasures and idleness, psychologically to survive - so I reasoned.
The 'peak vitality' to which I refer presumably occurs for different people at different times (according to sex, rate of maturation, and circumstances) - and there sometimes arises a sense of nostalgia for a time when life seemed easier simply because we felt able deal with whatever it might throw at us; so strong was that surging energy from within.
But this optimism of vital-youth is an illusion, albeit a pleasant illusion; and we ought not to project from it onto something special about the time and place when it happens-to-happen; nor to seek to recreate that temporary phase.
Youth is a bit of a 'free pass', because our real business has not yet begun; and by the time we have recognized peak vitality, it is already going (willy nilly, irretrievably); and our true challenge from life then begins in earnest.
If we desire to move beyond futile yearning for lost adolescence, and for our adult life to be a good and positive experience; we must understand it in the context of God - and that means Christianity... of one sort or another.
What sort of Christianity is then our first proper concern.
Wednesday, 13 July 2022
What Tolkien's war experience can teach us about the modern world
It is characteristic of those intellectuals and officers who wrote about the Great War of 1914-18, that they experienced a permanent disillusion leading to the attitude epitomized by Robert Graves's autobiography "Goodbye to all that".
In other words, the typical effect of the Great War was some combination of a rejection of tradition generally but especially Christianity; the embrace of hedonism - especially sexual, but also drinking and smoking, jazz etc.; socio-political leftisms of various types - communism/ socialism, fascism, pacifism, vegetarianism, 'green' ideas etc; an intense, tragic and paralyzing, yet guilty, nostalgia for the care-free privilege and security of the Edwardian era; and all underpinned by a bleak combination of philosophical materialism and hopeless nihilism.
But, as John Garth makes clear in Tolkien and the Great War, this did not apply to Tolkien. He was deeply affected by the war, his trench experiences, and especially the deaths of so many friends (i.e. all but one of his closest friends) - yet Tolkien was not permanently embittered nor disillusioned by the War, nor was he impelled to adopt the above-listed 'typical' literary responses.
What made Tolkien immune to this existential aspect of the war? I think the answer is quite simple; and it is that Tolkien had a deep and powerful Christian faith.
In contrast, from what I can tell, those who experienced the disillusion of the Great War either practiced a shallow and merely conventional Christianity, that rapidly and permanently collapsed under the intense and sustained psychological and physical pressures of trench warfare...
Or else they were not Christians at all, and the war confirmed their pre-existent conviction that the reality of life was nasty, brutish and short - and the only valid response was to live for today oneself, and agitate for a more peaceful, prosperous and secure society in future.
Many of the most disillusioned men were intensely artistic and aesthetic people, intensely political and reformist in outlook, and 'romantically' dedicated to a life of intense personal relationships. But they failed to learn from the fact that none of these - nor all together - were able to cope with the stresses and sufferings of the Great War.
Instead of noticing this failure of their ideals - instead of noticing that their own disillusion proved that their ideals were illusions - they doubled-down on their ineffective strategies... And have continued to do so in the many decades since.
The failure of secular ideals taught the failure of trying to live without religion.
And something analogous applied to mainstream Victorian/ Edwardian Establishment Christianity: it had been tested, and it had failed the test.
The failure of mainstream Christianity taught the failure of the churches.
Things could have been otherwise...
Tolkien, as so often, showed the proper and effective way forward - because he was both a Romantic and a Christian.
I think the same applies to this era.
The mainstream churches have been taught that they have failed in the face of crisis; the leftists have been taught that their ideals are incoherent and based on lies, propaganda and coercion.
We know what has failed - now we need to seek what is both good and strong.
As times of trial approach - beware of cultivating fear-less indifference to death, but at the cost of indifference to mortal life
Tuesday, 12 July 2022
"Emergence" is a metaphysical assumption - just as much as teleology
Sophisticated people nowadays use 'emergence' to 'explain' complex phenomena (e.g. systems comprising many agents) - especially when they do not want to posit any innate purpose, or do not believe in the existence of such purpose.
So, in describing a biological organism or sub-system, they might regard it as emergent from simpler units such as cells - a consequence of what just happens, spontaneously, when many specialist cells gather together, perhaps combined with some kind of mathematical tendency for 'order', or a selection process.
The idea is that there is no originating centre to the purpose; but instead apparent purpose emerges-from dispersed interactions from an innate, pattern-generating tendency.
Emergence is sometimes used to explain (or explain-away) the apparent cohesion and purposiveness, working across many subunits and across time, of phenomena that are seen in human society - such as the economy, war, or the mass media. Emergence is therefore contrasted with the focused purposiveness of top-down, hierarchical, organized, teleological beings...
I emphasize 'beings' as providing and imposing cohesion and purpose on a society, because of the common assumption that it can only come from humans. But that is another assumption - I mean the assumption that exists no God nor other supernatural beings, and therefore there can be no divine or other supernatural purposes at work in human society.
For example, the evil tendency of modern Western institutions is regarded first of all as neither divine nor supernatural (because they do not exist - by assumption).
Having restricted possible explanations to the human, the choice is between humans working in a centralized and hierarchical manner to impose cohesion and purpose - and the rival idea that order and direction emerge-from the nature of systems; and do not require positing any central and coordinating purpose.
By this account, evil Just Happens when systems (of the kind we currently have) emerge...
But emergence is not an explanation on the same level as the phenomena it purports to explain. Emergence is not some kind of scientific discovery. It is not some kind of solid, observable, empirical datum.
Instead; 'emergence' is simply a hypothetical assumption that some particular observation can and does happen without any guiding purpose or organization.
The advocate of emergence as an explanation has made unacknowledged metaphysical exclusions (e.g. of God and the supernatural as possible explanations), and is then making the unacknowledged metaphysical assumption that there is such-a-thing as emergence.
Having already-assumed that 'emergence' is real and can explain the phenomenon under discussion; then it is regarded as the preferred explanation on the grounds of some other general assumption about how to make valid decisions.
This might be along the lines of 'Occam's Razor' - which assumes that the simplest explanation (i.e. which excludes by assumption the largest number of possible causes) is true; or it least pragmatically preferable.
Another common assumption about how to make decisions is that we should always prefer to blame 'cock-ups' rather than 'conspiracies' - but this is not a generalizable empirical principle, nor is it logically justifiable; it is merely a modern (and often maladaptive) prejudice.
Yet even as a way of choosing between explanations; this modern procedure is rooted in some historically strange ideas about what counts as a simple explanation.
Through most of history (and probably still in most of the world) the most obvious - and thus simple - explanation is that things happen because some-one, or some-being, wants them to happen and made them happen.
When simple people encounter what looks-like coordination, control and purpose; they spontaneously have tended to assume that this is because some individual (or some cohesive group) is doing it - and that they want it because their nature is to want that kind of thing.
The place we have arrived at now is based upon layer upon layer of denying what is spontaneously obvious to simple humans; until we have reached the situation where the simple obvious explanation is the only thing we absolutely refuse to believe.
And because we refuse to believe the obvious, we cannot even perceive the obvious.
So, modern people cannot perceive evil purpose - cannot perceive personalized, organized and directional action towards evil - because they do not believe in God and therefore have no coherent understanding of evil.
Thus any apparent evil, pursued across nations and through decades, cannot actually be the work of beings with evil natures; but instead must be an 'emergent property' of abstract systems.
And this 'must be'; simply because all other possible explanations have already been ruled-out, in advance, by multiple unacknowledged prior metaphysical assumptions.
Why was it 'impossible' for Men to attain resurrection before Jesus?
I'm assuming here (as explained here) that the essence of what Jesus did was to make possible resurrected eternal life in Heaven.
One way I think about resurrection is that Jesus described himself as the Good Shepherd, and developed the explanation that we were like sheep who could follow him - implicitly from biological death of the body, to eternal resurrected life.
I take this parable rather 'literally' as describing a 'process' or transformation - happening through time - which we may choose to go-through after death.
It seems, from the Fourth Gospel, that the process is one in which it is necessary, in some sense, to follow Jesus; and that this following happens (broadly) because we love Jesus and have faith in his promises.
This raises the question of why is it necessary to follow Jesus; why cannot at least some Men find their own way?
One answer is that Jesus's own death and resurrection 'blazed the trail' which Men coming after were then able to follow - metaphorically, Jesus created or 'cleared' a path from mortal to immortal life; and afterwards this path was enough for Men to follow.
However, I am convinced that Lazarus was resurrected by Jesus before Jesus himself had undergone the transformation. If correct; this means that Jesus made possible resurrection for those who loved and believed him even before he himself died.
When did resurrection become possible? At the time of Jesus's baptism by John- when he began his ministry and became fully divine and capable of primary creation, as demonstrated by the miracles and direct interaction with God The Father.
In other words, Jesus's death and resurrection was 'only' a matter of providing him with an immortal body; because he had already - even while still mortal - made the eternal spiritual commitment to live in total harmony with God's creative motivations.
Putting these together; it suggests that resurrection was made possible by Jesus, a Man, attaining fully divine creative ability; and this itself is an aspect of Jesus (from his baptism) living (yet still a mortal Man) in permanent and complete harmony with the will of God the primary creator.
When other Men than Jesus (e.g. but not exclusively saints) have done miracles; these happened because the miracle worker was - at that moment, but temporarily - in harmony with God's will.
The difference between Jesus after baptism and other Men was that Jesus (while still mortal) had made a permanent and irreversible commitment to live in total harmony with God's creation; and we men are not able to make this permanent commitment during mortal life - but only afterwards, after biological death, and by means of following Jesus.
I have not really answered the question of what it is that Jesus uniquely does to enable us to choose resurrection; but perhaps the analysis provides some extra focus and specificity.
What happens to enable resurrection is this choice to allow ourselves to be made wholly harmonious with God's divine creative will.
This is mostly a positive desire to be resurrected, to dwell eternally in Heaven; but also vitally, 'double-negatively', it entails a willingness to discard our sins. That is, desiring to be cleansed of all our motivations that are Not aligned-with God's creative will.
Thus, to enter Heaven we must want to enter Heaven, and as party of this, we must want to be transformed such as to remove all aspects of ourselves that are hostile to Heaven. And we must want these permanently.
Until Jesus; no Man had ever been in the position of loving God so fully that he was able (or willing) to make this total and permanent commitment.
But after Jesus had made this commitment; reality was changed forever for those who loved Jesus and wished to follow him.
The crucial difference between Jesus and us, is that we cannot (as he did) make eternal commitments while still mortal; we can only make such commitments after biological-death. The 'entropic' nature of our-selves (including our minds and wills), and of this world, seem to render all permanence impossible to us.
There may perhaps be some exceptions, as with some (not all) of the true saints: so, perhaps some mortal Men can (since Jesus) love him perfectly enough to make an eternal commitment?
But for most of us, we are too labile and corruptible; and we are provided-for by having the final choice made post-mortal, at a time when we have become discarnate spirits.
All we have to do in mortal life is decide whether we want resurrected life in Heaven; and know that this is possible for any who choose to follow Jesus Christ's guidance on this path; and we can do this with the help of the Holy Ghost - who is the spirit of Jesus active in this world.
By this account - the deep meaning of Grace, is that this was done for us by Jesus Christ; and we need merely to assent; rather than having to find the path to resurrection by-ourselves.