Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Desert Island Discs - Record Four - JS Bach's Well Tempered Clavier Book One, played by Glenn Gould

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When I attended a comedy revue and Hamlet parody called Hamalongayorick at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1978, I enjoyed the interval music in which a jazz piano trio played Bach - and soon afterwards I bought an LP of Jaques Loussier's jazz trio (which was presumably being emulated); but also Glenn Gould playing Bach's Well Tempered Clavier Book One. 

Buying this double album was a double act of rebellion, since until then I had been a purist who insisted on Bach on harpsichord (and who indeed indeed was mildly hostile to the piano); and a rebel also in buying Glenn Gould's performance since the British musical establishment were barely aware of him, but when his performances were reviewed in The Gramophone they were usually given only two stars (out of five) due to their many eccentricities.

Insofar as the British establishment knew of Gould, they were hostile- and focused only on spiteful gossip. For example there was a false rumour that the fugues on his recording of the Bach 48 Preludes and Fugues had been recorded multi-tracked, with Gould playing one voice at a time. Of course, this was inadvertently very high praise of his ability to perform counterpoint!

But Gould and Bach's keyboard work provided my first serious, long term, and still-enduring instrumental obsession in classical music. I will listen to these pieces by Bach performedby many artists, on many instruments and combinations. And as for Glenn Gould... there were periods over the next few years when Gould - both his performances, and his example, became almost a life-line to me: a model of how I hoped, ideally, to live.

I have many memories of solitary times in various places (including Toronto - Gould's home city) listening to Gould and Bach with a luminous note-by-note intensity; projecting myself into that musical world as a place of detailed meaning and exalted inspiration.

At first I had to mail order Gould's LPs because they were not stocked by British shops, I bought some more on trips to the USA and Canada - but by the time he died four year later Gould had become almost a household name - and his star has continued to rise for many years. I even contributed a small piece to the edifice of his posthumous fame:

http://solitude-exile-ecstasy.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/solitude-exile-and-ecstasy.html

I find Bach's pieces, and especially (most of) Gould's performances, are just about the only music that never stales for me, no matter how many repetations - probably because its appeal is rather subtle and deep, so I never feel close to plumbing the depths.

Its appeal is also ascetic, monastic; and this is the best music for the enjoyment of solitude - even if that solitude was a moment grabbed from an over busy life, in a tiny room in a tower block in a city... Gould and Bach can make it as deserted as an island.

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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The mystery of creativity - a 'genie' within that uses us, we do not use it

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In considering creativity from a scientific perspective, much can be said - but at the heart of the phenomenon there is a mystery.

I have said that the truly creative essence of creativity is a 'black box' - in the sense that there cannot be a scientific description of genuine originality; but creativity is less like a black box than a living thing - a 'genie' within.

But this is not a genie who can be commanded like the slave of the lamp; but a genie who must be respected, nurtured and coaxed in order that he yield-up his gifts.

Indeed, in the case of a genius, the genie is the one in control. The genie ensures that he gets what he needs from his genius host - that the genie may find and follow his destiny; that he is fed with the knowledge, pictures, experiences he requires; that he is allocated enough time, the right situation, energy, attention...

And when the genie makes a discovery and gets a result; he ensures that the genius is flooded with happiness as reward; and that the genius is motivated to realize, and to communicate the genie's results.

In his essay On Fairy Stories, JRR Tolkien talked of subcreation; and suggested that it was an instance of Man emulating the divine Creator. Exactly so - Man is divine, not just in potential but in actuality - albeit feebly and partially and corruptedly; and creativity is a property of Man's divinity, just as much as 'free will' (or 'agency') is a property.

And creativity is a divine attribute, and the genius who lives in accord with his creative genie is a type of God-attuned Man: genius is a spiritual path; a path with the potential pitfalls of all spiritual paths, especially spiritual pride - but in its essence Good.

It is therefore an error to see a true genius as selfish. Insofar as he is humbly and faithfully serving his genie of creativity - he is following a divinely appointed destiny - for the ultimate benefit of all.

Whether or not a genius succeeds in making a recognized discovery - 'the way of the subcreator' is an intrinsically valid form of human life.

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Monday, 26 January 2015

The background to all choices...

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The background to all choices within life was our pre-existence choice to experience mortal incarnate life.

Without awareness of this context, our choices in life cannot be understood.

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Reality as a communication from God

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18th Century Natural Theology was in profound error: Nature is not evidence of the existence of God; Nature is a communication from God.

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The real world is a communication on behalf of God: reality is something which God wished to say... And we, as individuals and collectively, are those to whom God wished to say it.

Therefore, the significance of 'everything' - all reality, all events - is the response being made to this communication from God.

(That is: everything that is, is 'merely', or in essence or ultimately, communications.)

The communication of reality is like a vast book, or lecture, or a symphony - reality (like a book, lecture, symphony) communicates at many levels of detail and of generality.

These communications are rocks and landscape, tress and rivers, animals and people; also everything made and done by people. Properly understood, we would realize that they are all lessons.

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(In practice, of course, we can never understand all the lessons; and even misunderstand what it is that is the lesson - or see a specific lesson when the lesson is more general - or vice versa.)

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Reality is not the physical things of the earth, reality is not the physical human body.

What God is teaching is therefore not the explicit content supplied by the world, but something else of the nature of God; evil propaganda and pain are therefore not teaching us evil and falsehood. The teaching is always of Good.

Much depends on understanding the nature of the lessons which reality teaches us - but most of all depends on understanding that reality is a lesson.

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Suppose we knew a book only as its shape, dimensions and colours; or a symphony only as the volume and frequency of its sounds; or the smell of a rose only as a molar concentration of specified chemicals - well that is analogous to the situation of modern Man in a world of which he denies that it is communication.

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If we wish to understand our-selves as significant entities, as souls; then we must accept that the world and everything in it (including our bodies) is a communication from God which it is our job (or destiny, quest, task) to acknowledge and do our best to understand (understand by sympathy rather than striving).

This is a factual statement of why so many people find no meaning in life: because they have chosen (without realizing it) to deny any meaning to life - because meaning is consequence of communication; so if life is not regarded as a communication then life can have no meaning.

But when communication is acknowledged as happening, then we may choose to see our role as understanding, participating and cooperating with this communication.

To acknowledge reality as divine communication is the first step (but only the first step) to escaping the living-death of alienation, and knowing we are truly alive and part of the living, meaning world.


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The above perspective is derived from A Geography of Consciousness by William Arkle (1974) - page 134 onwards.
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Desert Island Discs: Record number three - Mozart's Magic Flute

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I did not touch the sublime in music until I experienced opera in my mid-teens - and the first time that opera hit me with full force was in watching TV.

There were two: the funniest opera - The Barber of Seville by Rossini, in the performance conducted by Claudio Abbado and starring Berganza, Alva and Prey; and then there was Ingmar Bergman's Swedish-language movie version of the best opera/ the best piece of music ever written - namely Mozart's Magic Flute.

When I got from the record library the Magic Flute excerpts conducted by Georg Solti I felt for myself musical greatness - as in the above-linked performance of Sarastro by the gigantic Finnish Bass Martti Talvela.

This is music which Bernard Shaw, the greatest British music critic of his day (as a young man) said was the only music which it would seem appropriate to hear from the mouth of God.

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Mozart's Magic Flute is both the simplest and easiest, most child-like of the canonical operas, and also the deepest, most heavenly. Through its five contrasting main characters it touches on the most important human emotions and types - Tamino, the heroic poet; Papageno, the earthy, lusty, family-loving Everyman; Pamina the innocent maiden; Sarastro the noble sage; and Queen of the Night, the beautiful, insightful, gifted, proud demon.

Bergman's film version is not just the best of all opera films, and a fine musical rendering (with good although not great singers) - but Bergman's subtle reworking of Schikaneder's inspired but chaotic libretto matches more closely the depth of the music with the words. For instance, Bergman unforgettably makes Sarastro into Pamina's father - which makes perfect dramatic symmetry.

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The role of the Magic Flute in my life was spiritual, as well as aesthetic. I recognized, but struggled to make sense of, the vision of something higher and beyond. It is to my credit that despite professed atheism I did not reductively explain-away this experience of the transcendent - but unsuccessfully tried to articulate it within my covert and imprecise belief in Creative Evolution (a doctrine which was also derived from Bernard Shaw - especially as it was put-forth in my favourite play of that time: Shaw's Man and Superman, an explicitly Mozartian drama).

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My enjoyment of The  Magic Flute and Barber of Seville led onto an intense period of opera exploration on LP recordings, with the vital assistance of the Bristol City library - such that over the next four year I listened to the whole of the canonical opera repertoire from the classical and romantic era. Sometimes I was seeking aesthetic experience, often it was a love of singing - especially technical aspects of the tenor voice.

Music, especially opera, became a serious activity: a religious activity. As often as not I would borrow a musical score of the opera - and read that as I listened; if not, I would follow the libretto; and while I listened my focus was intense - I would not be doing anything else.

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Naturally I wanted to participate in this world of classical music, and did so in the only way I could - by singing in choirs and choruses, and on my own at home - which was unsatisfying but better than nothing. I had vague, unformed, but important-to-me notions of doing something musical more seriously at some point - perhaps being a music critic.

The best of Classical Music, especially opera, was the highest thing I knew, and I deeply wanted to be 'inside' it - somehow.

But at the same time I always held back from commitment, somehow knowing that even if the luck went my way; music could not provide me, with my nature as it was, and very limited aptitude and inadequate training, with what I sought.

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Sunday, 25 January 2015

A theory of creativity based on a new understanding of the nature of high-Psychoticism

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If the standard 'natural selection' model of creativity is regarded as deficient, as previously argued - I mean the 'Simonton' model in which creativity is explained as a product of the high-Psychoticism-trait (high-P) personality producing wide-ranging and abundant random variations on old ideas, and high intelligence sieving and sorting-through these abundant randomly-varied ideas on the basis of coherence and memorized knowledge - then what do I propose to put in its place?

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The key relevant difference between my view and the natural selection view - and the difference which leads to the following alternative model for creativity - concerns the nature of the high-Psychoticism trait.

Eysenck sees Psychoticism in terms of a tendency towards loose or broad associations - in other words a partially-pathological state. Psychoticism is seen as a partial breakdown in the normally tightly controlled and narrow associations of ideas to a situation being more like we have all experienced in dreams, and some people have experienced in delirious states of illness or alcohol withdrawal, or psychotic illnesses such as mania or schizophrenia, or under the influence of psychosis-inducing drugs (such as mescaline or LSD).

By contrast, I regard high-Psychoticism-trait as being an innate, substantially heritable, hard-wired set-up of the nervous system in which some individuals experience a higher dominance by 'inner' states than do most normal people. High-P individuals are inner-attentive, inner-aware, inner-engaged and inner-motivated.

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So how does high-P work in producing 'creative solutions'?

The short answer is that the creative insight is preceded by a period of focused 'quest' (which may last many years) during which the mind is filled with more-or-less relevant ingredients. The inner-directed processes then observe, work-on, try to understand these various facts and concepts - try to select among them, achieve a clear view of their proper or best organization or arrangement,

This means that such high P individuals are attentive to their inner states (i.e. their thoughts and emotions, their 'stream of consciousness'), they are more spontaneously aware of their thoughts and feelings, they find these inner experiences more engaging, spontaneously more interesting than external matters such as social and sexual interactions (which fascinate most people for most of the time) - and these inner states provide the dominating motivations for such people, such that they are therefore substantially autonomous - that is to say indifferent to, independent-from peer pressure and socialization.

The process by which the mind works on these ingredients to give a breakthrough is a 'black box' - so far as science is concerned. (Although it can be said that the inner, unconscious mind works by different rules than those of conscious logic.) But it is the high-P person who has the focused abstract interest to bring together the ingredients, to watch the processes of understanding and organization, and to get a clear view of the answer as it emerges; and then powerfully to feel the rightness of the right answer as energies and positive emotions are triggered and experienced.

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Although this inner-dominance can be caused by diseases and toxicity or brain damage; which can cause any normal person to be overwhelmed by powerful and pathological inner stimuli, or cut-off-from outer perceptions - the idea of Psychoticism is that high-P is a relatively rare but hereditary personality trait - commoner in men than women, inborn, emerging in childhood and persisting through maturity and adulthood.

The reason that high-P is hereditary, is that it is an evolved adaptation with a useful functional role to play - i.e. creativity - and the reason it is rare is that not many (i.e. not a high proportion) of creative people are required by a society; and high-P tend to be associated with lower reproductive success overall (as would be expected when individual invest more time and other resources in the inner life, and therefore relatively less resource into social and sexual life).

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So high-P creative people are sometimes very useful to a particular human society (assuming that society 'takes advantage' of their special abilities) but there cannot be too many and indeed not many are needed.

The reason that high-P people are needed, but not often, is that most socially relevant problems (of population survival and expansion) are dealt-with by habitual and traditional means - the individual is socialized into the usual way of dealing with problems through childhood, and these usually work.

But most human societies have recognized (whether explicitly, or more often implicitly, tacitly, that some problems do yield to tradition or habit, and other problem do not always yield to tradition or habit - and what then?

In a nutshell, then is the time to bring in the creative specialist - the Shaman, the mystic, the intuitive priest, the scientific or inventive genius, the Holy Fool: someone who has resisted socialization and instead thinks by different rules, because he is more engaged with the inner world

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So the assumption is that high-P has evolved at a low frequency by some (unknown) group-selection mechanism that leads to a reliable but rare supply of high-P individuals to do this vital but infrequent job. And part of this group-selection must also be a recognition from the majority of low-P individuals that these high-P 'oddball' or 'eccentric' individuals must be tolerated, supported, and asked for advice and guidance in certain relatively unusual circumstances when their special abilities are the best (or only) hope for group survival.

Since the supposed mechanism is group selection, and different human group shave experienced widely different selection pressures; then it is likely that high-P is not found with identical frequency everywhere. This presumably explains why creative genius is very unevenly distributed by time and geographical space - and why its frequency varies over time within the same culture - not least because group selection is always open to being subverted by individual-level selection.

This group selected nature of high-P potentially explains why creative genius is all-but absent from many continents and nations, and also why it may appear in abundance (e.g. in ancient Greece) then disappear. However since genius also requires high general intelligence (high-g) then too low an average level of g, or a decline in g, may also be a cause of declining rates of genius.

But I think it fair to say that high-P is a more crucial aspect of genius than high-g, because any high-P individual who is sufficiently higher in intelligence than the majority of his group can perfom his creative social role; while a low-P person will not be creative, no matter how high his intelligence.

So I imagine that the 'shamans' of a recent hunter gatherer tribe will typically have had an intelligence level that is high for their tribal group, but of a lower than average level for a Western nation (as measured by IQ tests). However, such (by Western standards) 'low-IQ' individuals could nonetheless perform their highly valued and effective social function - so long as they had the high-P, creative personality trait.

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Also posted at:

http://iqpersonalitygenius.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/the-inner-nature-of-trait-psychoticism.html
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What is the cutting-edge and primarily 'creative' part of being a genius?

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It is worth noting at the outset that here I am doing science, and science rules out using supernatural explanations - so if creativity really has something to do with divine or diabolical or any other kind of spiritual inspiration (as was generally considered to be the case from the ancient Greeks and Hebrews  onward) - then this is not going to be a part of a scientific explanation. So if inspiration is real, then a scientific explanation of creativity can only be partial.

It is also - and for similar reasons - worth noting that science has, and can have, no explanation for real novelty, qualitative novelty, something absolutely new - but can only explain the present in terms of what is known of the past - so novelty will always be explained in terms such as new patterns of old facts, now shapings and combinations of previous forms and so on.

But, taking into account these limitations - how can we describe that actual, cutting edge, 'moment' of creativity - in which the creativity in itself happens?

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The thing that needs to be explained with human creativity is not just novelty - newness - but useful novelty. There are an 'infinite' number of ways of being new and worse - and not many ways of being new and better - the problem is how the mind gets from the vast 'search space' of new and false ideas or new and useless discoveries to home in on true useful breakthroughs.

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The mainstream idea in creativity research is associated with Dean Keith Simonton and endorsed by Hans J Eysenck in his 1995 book Genius is a variant of the theory of Evolution by Natural Selection: that useful creativity works by randomly generating large numbers of variations on old ideas, and then using memory and intelligence to test and sort through these ideas to find those few that are plausible in the light of previous knowledge and current observation.

The genius is explained at being better at making useful newness by having a Personality type which is better at generating multiple random variants of previous ideas due to having looser, wider, more far-ranging associations of ideas (which Eysenck explained in terms of the personality trait Psychoticism) - and then having high intelligence which leads to a well-stocked memory and the ability rapidly and efficiently to sort between these multiple random variants to check them for internal consistency and against previous knowledge.

This theory of creativity is coherent, but I think it is not true. The two reasons against it which seem to me decisive are 1. the open ended 'infinite' number of wrong and false ways that any random generator can produce variants, as contrasted with the finite capacity of any selection system for dealing with this endless abundance; and 2. that this description does not fit the phenomenology (inner experience) of genius at its most genius-like.

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The characteristic of genius is not that of mass producing a near infinite number of failures and falsehoods; but instead an amazing swiftness and sureness of touch at creating or discovering new things that are useful and true.

The Natural Selection view of genius is that it is mostly errors and failure; and that the mental process of a genius is essentially a struggle for existence on the part of true, useful, beautiful and virtuous things against being overwhelmed by false, harmful, ugly and wicked things

But this is simply not how the greatest geniuses operate, when they are at their most genius-like! It is, indeed, almost the opposite to the subjective experience (or objective observation) of creativity.

Of course genius is not effortless - because the genius requires finding his destiny, and then embarking on a discovery 'quest' during which he fills his mind with relevant 'data; but the actual cutting-edge of creativity is an act of insight - of In-Sight - that is to say the genius usually 'sees' the answer all at once and whole, and knows by intuition that he has the right answer.

That is to say, from the mass of inner knowledge accumulated, the genius looks-within and perceives the 'one and only' answer (it may be modified in detail later - but the shape is seen as one).

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What is astonishing about a genius like Mozart is how the work came to him complete; it is the facility with which they work which amazes us about so much creativity. Even when we see an artist 'struggling' - such as Beethoven - this is usually mostly a matter of an already-genius struggling to continue his work, and to be ever-original, when the pure and fertile imagination of youth has departed.

The youngest geniuses are perhaps the lyric poets - who are almost-always young men in the late teens or twenties, who fluently pour forth their songs and verses without strain or effort. Or the young mathematicians who just 'see' and 'know' things - which they may not be able to explain or prove.

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So, I suggest that the creative bit of creativity does not resemble a process of trial-and-error; but is a moment of (near) instant insight; and the place it comes from is within; and the method it comes by is intuition; and intuition is a multi-faceted process including illumination, validation, conviction and drive or motivation.

The genius looks within for his answers - and when he finds the answer it is seen or felt as an over-powering insight; which floods him with a conviction of its right-ness and a desire to accept it, make it, live by it.

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The above argument is continued at:

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/a-theory-of-creativity-based-on-new.html


This is also also posted at:

http://iqpersonalitygenius.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/what-is-creative-bit-of-creativity-in.html 
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Desert Island Discs - Second record: Steeleye Span

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One Misty Moisty Morning was the first Steeleye Span track that I heard, the first electric folk music, and it led onto the first time in my life that music became very important to me.

At the time I heard it I was, rather unhappily, 'into' underground and progressive rock music - none of which I have since regarded to with enjoyment. So I was listening to a late evening BBC radio programme which played mostly this kind of stuff - hosted by a DJ called John Peel. However, Peel had eclectic tastes and on this occasion played something from a new album by Steeleye Span: this signalled the kind of music that I had been waiting for. 

Because some time earlier I had discovered Tolkien; and that had changed my life - and the implication of Tolkien seemed very much against pop and rock music, whereas Steeleye Span sang epic ballads about elves and the supernatural, earthly songs about ordinary people such as milkmaids and sailors, and played jigs and reels and other Hobbit-like dances.

Of course, they did this with un-Tolkien-like electric instruments such as guitar, bass, violin, dulcimer... but somehow that made it better, because electric folk seemed to represent the infusion of modernity by folk influences, a saving of shallow civilization by ancient thoughts - for me, then, it seemed to be the future.

Staying with Steeleye Span I moved to explore other electric folk, and other folk music of all kinds; also I discovered medieval and renaissance music- and then Bach and Telemann as the first classical composers I engaged with, at least partly because they used the Treble Recorder which I had come to like through early music and folk.

So, this Desert Island Disc of Steeleye Span represents for me that teen period of musical exploration and expansion; during which music came to occupy a more central place in my life than before or since. And although Misty Moisty is a long way from being my favourite Span track, I do still enjoy it.

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Saturday, 24 January 2015

They wanted freedom - but they got... the sexual revolution instead

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If you look back at the heady days of early radicalism - which can probably be dated to the Romantic movement as it emerged in Britain with the young Coleridge and Wordsworth, and spread to Germany, the United States (Transcendentalism) and eventually everywhere else; and of socialism, communism and Leftism in general- it was apparently fuelled by a desire for freedom.

This freedom came in many forms - freedom from Kings, slavery, the lash of economic need, 'established religion' and its prohibitions and restrictions, escape from alienation into happy community - the freedom of art, literature, science to develop where it would...

It was a very big package of freedoms which were hoped for.

But nearly always, sometimes covertly or explicitly, there was a desire for sexual freedom - which means escape from the responsibilities of marriage and family, the severing of sex from marriage, new kinds of sex with new kinds of people - in essence a situation where there was a lot more no-strings sex all-round - the actuality of this for the leaders of radicalism, and the hope of it for the masses.

As the decades went by, the demands for sexual revolution became ever stronger, the the demands for other kinds of freedom began to be sacrificed to these demands more and more ruthlessly - until we get to where we are now in which the sexual revolution is the only kind of freedom.

So now there is less freedom of worship, of speech, less autonomy of marriages and families, less freedom from arbitrary prosecution and punishment and contract-breaking, less economic freedom - and in general a society absolutely stuffed to over-full with laws and regulations.

But despite the soft-totalitarianism of the world, we do have pretty much that sexual liberty the radicals practised themselves and claimed as the 'right' of others.Sex is freed from marriage, conception, and offers always expanding possibilities.

Yet, because all other freedoms have, in practice, been sacrificed to the sexual revolution - what we actually have doesn't seem very revolutionary: radical sex defined and enforced by the state bureaucracy, by state-funded agencies, in compulsory schools and en-thralled colleges; and its advocates and exponents given money, status, awards and honours - indeed, in Britain, the sexual revolutionaries are routinely medalled and ennobled by the Queen.

It is a truly extraordinary situation, in which to practice and propagandize sex is regarded as an intrinsically admirable and indeed literally noble activity; in which sexual radicalism is compulsory - sex of almost any imaginable kind, it matters little or nothing; just so long as that sex being praised and imposed is not within a true marriage and does not lead to a stable, loving and 'free' family!

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Friday, 23 January 2015

Follow Your Bliss? Is everyone the genius of himself?

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The mantra Follow Your Bliss comes from mythologist Joseph Campbell - he intended by it that Bliss be taken to mean something like your deepest sense of destiny - do what you feel you are 'meant' to do.

What did Campbell say would be the consequence? Essentially, that there would be unanticipated helps, that you would find doors open to allow you to progress towards your Bliss, and ultimately that your life would be happier and more fulfilled as a consequence. Perhaps also that you would do more good to others by Following Your Bliss than by directly trying to help others.

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The intention behind this advice was that modern society was life-less and alienating, and that the big problem of life was to escape its soul-draining coils.

But the specific advice was very much concordant with the idea that everybody is, potentially, the genius of himself; everybody is an artist of his own life - and that this is is primary satisfaction: the idea is that we as individuals create the meaning and purpose of our own life as an artist creates it in his work. 

The proof? Essentially, all this is based on a (I would say dubious - indeed false) 'reading' of the lives of great artists, who are regarded as the paradigms of living a successful life- the best possible life. Other non-artist's lives are seen in terms of this 'aesthetic' analogy - for example the successful life of father or an ascetic Saint is seen asif it were an artistic creation designed and intended to provide the kind of complex satisfactions of a Shakespeare play or a Beethoven Symphony. And it is also assumed that complex aesthetic satisfactions are sufficient to 'justify' life.    

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But this is a Catch 22 - if you need advice to Follow Your Bliss, then you are not a genius; because if you are a genius than Bliss Following is what you are doing anyway (unless something is actively stopping you) - being indeed internally-driven to do it.

Follow Your Bliss assumes that Bliss is the kind of thing that people most deeply want to follow, and they are prevented only by a lack of confidence or courage. But this would mean that the Bliss of one's own special vocation was reward enough in itself. But I don't see the slightest evidence that that is true.

Advice to Follow Bliss from someone who has been rewarded with high status, travel, adulation... well this is misleading, confusing - because these rewards are generally desired but they are not the Bliss.

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What works for a genius does not work for most people, because most people do not find the Bliss of a Genius Quest to be sufficiently rewarding to make it the centre of their lives. They like the idea of being hailed as a Genius, they like the idea of doing what they most want to do and being well rewarded for doing it - but that is not what is on offer.

To follow your bliss means to give-up on the normal social rewards, in order to enhance inner rewards. Not many people want to do this, not many people have ever wanted to do it: they aren't built that way; nor is it their destiny.

Campbell was himself a kind of moderate genius, he followed his own path, for many years his rewards were internal; but he never acknowledged how unusual he himself was - and he tried to make himself an example for others to follow. This was flattering to them, no doubt - but inaccurate.

So Follow Your Bliss is - nearly always - bad advice.

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Thursday, 22 January 2015

Desert Island Discs - First record: Overture to Rossini's opera The Thieving Magpie

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According to the rules, the castaway can take eight records, one book (other than the Bible and Shakespeare, which are already provided) and a luxury item which must be of no practical value.

The conceit is that these should sustain life on a Desert Island, in practice the idea is to make a selection which provides pegs upon which to hang a brief biography.

I insist that my interlocutor should be the programme's originator, the gentleman-enthusiast Roy Plomley (or Roy Plum-in-the-mouth as I used to quip as a teenager).

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First disc: Rossini's overture to The Thieving Magpie.

This was my favourite of four overtures featured on our family's one and only classical music record when I was a young child. I used to visualize the story of the opera (as summarized on the sleeve notes) as I listened - including a part which I added-in where a cat stalked the magpie. 

So it symbolizes my very happy early life, and the rhythm of its main theme - diddly dum-dum-dum daah - still has a function in being my favourite music used to wake up my wife and children - especially my daughter.

It is also a delightful piece of music; sunny, effortlessly tuneful, brilliantly orchestrated and very exciting!

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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

What is disease? Identifying the major epidemic pathology of modernity (or, some un-noted consequences of the biological definition of disease)

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I think there are two plausible definitions of disease (aka pathology):

1. A condition which reduces probable reproductive success - this is an objective, albeit probabilistic, biological definition.

2. A condition which causes pain, suffering, distress - this is a subjective, personal and to some extent social definition.

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So that lung cancer, or coronary heart disease, or pneumococcal pneumonia are biologically diseases because they threaten life, reduce the prospects of reproduction and the ability to assist in guarding life and assisting the reproduction of the family and group.

While most forms of pain - such as headache and backache, fever, vomiting and diarrhoea, also psychological symptoms such as depression and anxiety, and probably even deformity and disfigurement, are 'diseases' mainly because they cause suffering. In fact they are usually called 'symptoms' rather than diseases - and they are the kind of things that lead the sufferer to seek treatment.

(A 'symptom' is something the patient 'complains of' in the terminology - as contrasted with a 'sign' which is observed by the doctor. A sign would be a heart irregularity or lung crackles heard with a stethoscope, or a deep abdominal swelling palpated with the hands.)

In fact, many of the subjective symptoms reduce to the biological definition because the personal suffering leads to impairment of functioning. For example a severe headache leads to stopping work and becoming - for a while - dependent and less able or willing to preserve life and pursue reproductive success; and also less able to contribute to social function.

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But, by the biological definition, disease has a larger scope than usually noticed. It includes everything which impairs potential and probable reproductive success. 

By this interpretation 'disease' includes many almost universal features of modern life. For example, any personal motivation or sexual preference which impairs reproductive success.

Because it is characteristic and indeed universal of modernized societies (The West) that by personal decision, almost all people - on average, en masse - have chosen, that is are motivated to choose, significantly sub-replacement reproduction.

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This chosen sub-fertility is therefore - in its many causes and justifications - objectively a disease state.

It is indeed an epidemic disease state.

And this is not a matter of subjective opinion - but a plain and obvious biological fact,

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Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Tears streaming in seconds...

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I was listening to a Liszt piano transcription of the Liebestod from Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, when I though I would listen to the original - sung - version of the piece; and found one performed by Jessye Norman under Karajan conducting the Vienna Philharmonic.

From a standing-start and within some ridiculously short period of time, ten to fifteen seconds perhaps, tears were streaming down my face and I was gulping for breath - and then matters got worse.

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This is an almost viciously beautiful performance combining one of the most wonderful of arias/ pieces of music; with a gorgeous voice, consummate orchestral playing, and simply sublime musicianship from one of the greatest-ever conductors.

If you insist on inflicting this upon yourself then jump in at about 4 minutes 30 seconds; just listen, don't watch the video; and hold on tight.

But at your own risk: I will accept no responsibility.



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Christianity is the capstone of a full spirituality (the capstone; not the whole thing)

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Having spent most of my life not a Christian, I am aware of how much can be provided spirituality by other 'religions' - as well as being aware that it is not enough. 

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My first religion was that of Higher Consciousness, of what Bernard Shaw called Creative Evolution. The idea that our human future was a matter of making our rare and best states of mind into our normal states of mind - and continuing in that same direction. This view was mine from the mid teens, and was amplified by Colin Wilson from about twenty.

The view was optimistic (compared with secular culture) but was difficult/ impossible to accomplish fully (more of an aspiration than a plan) - and left all the big things unchanged. Life might become happier, more fulfilling... but there was still age, decay, disease, bereavement, and our own deaths.

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The higher consciousness view makes everything depend on the mind, will, concentration active striving - and leaves out a great deal of unconscious life.

It was exhausting, and I could never stay inside the mindset, and always needed to take refreshment in more earthy and hearty activities and aspirations - folk music, dancing, vulgarity, feasting and carousing.

As well as wanting to become a being of higher consciousness -I wanted to be absorbed into the web of life, un-conscious like a happy animal. I wanted to live in the moment, and in dreams.

This was the other religion of animism - although I didn't find a name or theory for it until I was middle aged.

For animism life was and is and always will be. Everything significant is alive, and in communication. People die only to return - we ourselves are simply returned from previous lives. Life circulates: there is transformation but no real change.

There is no meaning to this - it just is; there is no purpose to this - it just happens.

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Thus animism. When in the state, briefly, all problems dissolved. But it was just like - exactly like - a pleasant dream. It did not link up with anything else. While a real animistic society is in fact full of explicit rules and purposes and explanations that are simply accepted as true - to be a solo animist in the modern West is not the same thing at all - it is to extract a part of a greater whole, and to try and deny everything except that part - an impossibility except as a brief 'holiday' from mundane life.

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So... Christianity. Meaning. Purpose.

But then, I found - I continue to find, mainstream public normal Christianity is incomplete. It lacks the necessary components of Higher Consciousness and of Animism. I needed - I still need - to incorporate the wisdom and sustenance of these into Christianity.

Christianity is the capstone of a full spirituality - it is not the whole thing, nor was it meant to be.

Or rather, it was the whole thing - but because Christianity was a capstone when Christ made it: it was an addition to what went before, to what existed - Christianity was a completion of what went before - it required much of Judaism and much else that was spiritually generic to early men.

That is worth bearing in mind - because trying to live by Christianity alone (as so often urged - often with the best motivations) can be to make something black and white, thin and hard, crude and cold, thin and unsatisfying fare (mere gruel) - whereas to regard Christianity as a capstone of much else can be to feel and follow Christ's teaching as a wholly-joyous and whole-some thing.

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Monday, 19 January 2015

The literary genre of Drama is ephemeral - confirmed

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Continuing from:

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2010/11/drama-is-nearly-all-ephemeral.html

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Last Christmastide I had the experience of discovering that my favourite TV programme ever was no good:

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/dont-forget-to-write-favourite-tv.html

This is now becoming a pattern. Last week I bought a DVD of the 6 X 1 hour, 1985 TV drama Edge of Darkness - written by Troy Kennedy Martin, and starring Bob Peck. I have always said that this was at the pinnacle of TV drama, and contained one of the great acting performances with Bob Peck.

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In re-watching, I knew that I would now be out of sympathy with the eco-thriller premise (back in 1985 I was a member of both Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth and a Subscriber to the Schumacher Society's Resurgence magazine - and all the rest of it...).

But it was worse than that. Edge of Darkness just wasn't very good. It was incredibly slow, for reasons that seems pretentious rather than dramatically justified; Peck's performance was uneven and unable to convince - and included more than one unconvincing 'breakdown and scream' episode (there were *far* too many of these!); the plot was contrived, full of coincidences and pumped with trivialized murders; the characters were cynical, crude and stereotyped; and the famous climax was terribly disappointing on re-viewing.

My star rating dropped from five (out of five) to just two.

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My point is that drama relies on topicality to a far greater extent than the other literary arts. A really effective and enjoyable drama can becomealmost un-watchable very quickly - as the topicality subsides - and indeed, a drama with which you do not share the assumptions is very difficult to enjoy in the first place.

I remember watching Look Back in Anger by John Osborne,from 1956, which revolutionized the post-war theatre; had a huge impact. Twenty years later it had become not only dull, but positively embarrassing.

This does not happen with novels! I can re-read novels which I especially enjoyed ten, twenty, forty years ago - and I can always enjoy them now; maybe not quite as much, but I do enjoy them - even children's stories like Enid Blyton or the Jennings books by Anthony Buckeridge. 

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My conclusion: Drama is different - and usually inferior.

Or, maybe it is too easy to write high impact but ephemeral drama: the 'theatrical' experience casts a spell which persuades us that there is more going-on than really is there.

But most drama is ephemeral, very little lasts - and the counter-examples of Shakespeare and Shaw are merely exceptions that prove the rule. 

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Sunday, 18 January 2015

Sacrifice and Worship in terms of a personal universe

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It is a key aspect of Christianity and several other religions that revelation informs us that the universe is ultimately personal. That is: the most important thing in reality is relationships (first with God/ gods, second with other people).

This is the exact opposite of the hard-line 'Gaian' spiritual view that people are nothing-more-than a destructive infestation of the planet/ universe - therefore it could be a good outcome if the earth survived as a biosphere, but all people were eliminated from it.

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Much has been written over the past couple of centuries about Man projecting his own attributes onto God - as being the complete explanation for belief in personal deity.

Like all effective arguments, there is some truth in this one. God may be correctly acknowledged to exist, yet the understanding of his nature, his attributes may be false: indeed I think this has been the usual situation.

That is, the usual error throughout history has not been in denying the reality of God, but in misunderstanding God - and that is where projection came in.

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In daily life, we often observe that people assume that other people are like themselves; so a person who plots and conspires will see plots and conspiracies all around him - and so on.

So, a person who  himself lives in a social world where leaders demand sacrifices and abasement and in general 'mindless grovelling obedience' from subjects, will see God as having these attributes; especially if he himself would want such things from his subjects. 

Indeed, there have been many Fathers who treat their children as their subjects. God is seen as a King more than as a Father - or, more accurately, as a bad King who exploits his subjects; rather than God as a Good King who is Father to the Nation and who loves all His children.

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If we see the universe ruled by a loving Father who wants us, as individuals, to grow to be more like himself - tyrannical behaviour does not make sense - except as an expedient concession to societies and individuals who simply cannot envisage anything being otherwise.

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Yet, if we can imagine ourselves as a truly, wholly loving Father; we can ask whether (or why?) we would want such behaviours from our own children - on the assumption that we want our children to grow-up; grow-up to become autonomous, wise, free, loving friends - on as much the same level as ourselves as possible.

Our guidance on these matters comes from the revelations of scripture - which in the Old Testament show God struggling with very imperfect societies and people - and quite often being attributed the motives of a tyrant (i.e. being attributed the motives of demanding bloody sacrifice and abasing worship). But then we have the example of Jesus - who is a picture of His Father, and explicitly claims to complete and replace previous revelations - doing nothing of the kind. But in contrast working at the level of (what might be termed) friendship rather than tyranny.

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Jesus is presumably showing us, in his own behaviour, that it was a mistake - it still is a mistake - for God's children to regard their Father like an earthly tyrant who demands sacrifice and abasing worship and abject obedience because he is primarily motivated by Power not Love; that this is an insult to God's love, an insult to His deepest motivations; and indeed it works to thwart God's deepest hopes for us.

Of course, our loving Father forgives us for this dreadful way in which we (His own children) attribute to Him all kinds of our own limitations and faults - by far the worst of which is our deficiency in Love.

But it is a sin for us to do this, and it is something that needs His forgiveness; and it is something that at some time or another we will have-to understand as mistaken and wicked, and that we will have-to repent.

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Saturday, 17 January 2015

Time and the angels - speculations

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It seems to me that Time must run differently, at different speeds, on Earth and in Heaven; for Men and for Angels.

Human life on earth seems very slow, detailed, treacley compared to what we suppose is the swift, frictionless, effortless life of the Angels and in Heaven. That would suggest that more can happen in one second in Heaven, than in one second on earth.

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Furthermore, it would seem necessary that Angels must be able to do a lot in a small interval of earth time; and also human visionary experiences may take a few seconds of earth time, but contain many hours of subjective experiences.

This means that for Angels living in Heavenly Time, a short human life must seem vastly long and almost endless, changing only slowly, and crammed with minute details.

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The opposite notion, that a long human life is a mere eye-blink for an Angelic being, would seem to trivialize, and make pointless human incarnate life - but that surely cannot be correct! There must be a reason for mortal incarnate life, it is extremely important, and for the business of living - so surely it cannot be perceived from Heaven as almost 'over before it had begun'.

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It seems to follow that for Angels observing life on earth, and presumably for the other denizens of Heaven, our mortal lives must seem to be extremely long, vast in subjective duration, almost endless...

When a pre-mortal spirit embarks on an incarnate human life, this must seem like a huge 'interstellar' mission, fraught with hazards and opportunities - and perhaps to our family and friends now in Heaven this is also the case? - that they are waiting for what seems like great tracts of extremely differentiated time to meet us again.

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Heavenly Time experienced in Heaven doing Heavenly things would presumably feel the same as Time does here. But Heavenly inhabitants that have jobs to do in relation to mortal life must be good at waiting, must have enormous reserves of patience - they must be far better at waiting and far mare patient than we are.

So much so, that I suppose that - like in Sci-Fi stories of interstellar travel - the Angles concerned with Earth must surely need to go offline, to exist on standby, to lose track of time in a state of 'suspended animation' in order to make the waiting bearable.

In other words, Angels concerned with human events on earth would need to 'sleep' for quite long periods, or more likely to lose self-awareness and awareness of time, perhaps in in some kind of blissful 'living-in-the-moment' contemplation.

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Friday, 16 January 2015

Love Beethoven Symphonies but getting a bit jaded? Try Liszt's piano transcriptions! Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back!

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Almost everybody who likes classical music rapidly listens to Beethoven's nine symphonies - buys recordings, picks out their special favourites - and then listens then to death!

Eventually what Colin Wilson terms 'the robot' in our minds takes over listening to Beethoven Symphonies it can become hard to listen afresh.

Well, one way to renew the experience is to listen to Liszt's piano transcriptions which bring out whole new aspects of the pieces, with a wonderful clarity, lyricism and excitement.

Glenn Gould played a few, including the wondrous Pastoral (number 6) :


And some kind person has put ALL of the transcribed symphonies on YouTub played by a chap called Cyprien Katsaris who has a real feel for this music. Here is number 5 - Daa-Da-Da Daaah:


So which are my favourites?

1. Number 3 the Eroica. One of my very favourite pieces of music of all, one of the most significant pieces of music ever written. Exciting, optimistic, delicious, noble and superbly adept and innovative.

I love the first and last movements especially. (Actually this one does go significantly better with full orchestra - but I love the alternative tonic dominant end cadences on piano).

2. Number 6 the Pastoral. The first one I liked, a joy from first to last, and a wonder indeed.

These two above the rest - and all the others I like except... number 9, the contrived and clunky 'choral' symphony; which I usually don't enjoy much, except for the short tenor solo in an otherwise mostly raucous and shrill finale.

Still - in the piano transcription you can escape the endlessly shrieking sopranos...!

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Note: In general, and with one shining exception, I do not agree with the sophisticated view that 'late' Beethoven is the best - I find the late stuff to be too constipated; Beethoven is trying too hard to overcome the loss of his lyrical facility and being too consciously experimental and innovative. The shining exception is the Piano Sonata number 32in C minor Opus 111 - the second 'variations' movement is simply one of the most wonderful things ever written by anybody; as was recognized by Thomas Mann who put a whole chapter analyzing it into his novel Doktor Faustus. BUt as a rule I accept the common consent of the middlebrow concert-going, record-buying masses that the best Beethoven is in his 'middle' period.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Creativity is an adaptive (i.e. evolved), coordinated package

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Creativity evolved as a coordinated package of ability (especially high general intelligence), a creative mode of thinking (inner directed), spontaneous interest, and the motivation to pursue this -creative-ability-interest.

Therefore, high Psychoticism Creativity is an adaptive phenomenon - 'designed' (by natural selection) for the purpose of a proportion of individuals in the population being creative (e.g. innovating in ways beneficial to the group, solving difficult problems afflicting the group etc.).

So, the creative way of thinking, i.e. the 'flight of ideas', wide associations, awareness of the stream of consciousness, tendency to have visions and to get non-logically-derived ideas are not examples of mild pathology, not in their essence mini-Psychotic-illnesses - but they should instead be considered hard-wired systems for creativity.

This is emphasized by the way in which the creative way of thinking does not stand alone, but is linked to ability, interests and motivations - all of these being strikingly inner-originating, and inner-fuelled.

Thus,  creativity is a coordinated package: an adaptive package.

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(And, conversely, creativity is NOT - except perhaps very unusually - a rare and accidental combination of pathologies which 'just happen' to yield beneficial results.)
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Psychosis and creativity - similarities and differences

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http://iqpersonalitygenius.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/psychosis-and-creativity.html
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Wednesday, 14 January 2015

A striking passage from the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 11

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I turned to this section of the Bible after reading something in a draft version of the third volume of The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin, which the author L Jagi Lamplighter was kind enough to send me - and which is turning out to be a really remarkable and engrossing book.


20 Then began [Jesus] to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:
21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.
23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.
25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.
27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

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This spoke to me across the centuries - speaking of the unrepentant 'cities' of modernity, who are aware of Jesus's mighty works yet they repent not: the situation of our age and place.

Then Jesus thanks his Father that "thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes."

And this gives me the hopeful perspective that no matter by how much the 'wise and prudent' the rulers of this world, are corrupted, unrepentant, advocates of evil - the 'babes' - the children, the simple minded, those who are for whatever reason (by extreme of age, simplicity, isolation) cut-off-from the upside-down, inside-out, back-to-front world of mass media propaganda - these naturally and spontaneously perceive Jesus and his mighty works, or perceive enough of them for salvation.

Then with "no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him" we are reminded that everything we know of God the Father comes by revelation from Jesus Christ - by revelations of the pre-mortal Jesus as the Old Testament God Jehovah; by the incarnate Jesus coming among us with his teachings; and because Jesus himself is the image of his Father. All these attested-to by the conviction, the witness of our hearts. 

And then perhaps the most comforting and hope-full words ever spoken in the history of the world:  

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

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This must be, because the gospel is for the likes of babes and sinners and the simple: it is for anyone and everyone.

As the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1: 17-29:

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.

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