Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Christianity and the absorption of Romanticism

If we wind-back over two hundred years to the beginnings of the Romantic movement in the West - to that great upwelling of human creativity and aspiration that is associated with the likes of Coleridge and Wordsworth and reached its culmination in the person and works of Goethe - we can see that it was addressing real and deep problems in Western Christianity, and indeed in Christianity up to that point.

We can also see that Romanticism on the one hand never went away but has always since been present - and on the other hand that Romanticism never got any further, indeed it never again got as far as it did in that first wave. Compare the 1890s, or 1960s resurgences of Romanticism with the original to measure the partiality, feebleness and corruption of later Romanticism - yet the impulse has never left the West.

Romanticism was indeed deflected and corrupted - especially into atheism and a focus on sex; but its original aspiration was not just good but in fact necessary: the assertion of Imagination to heal the alienation that had overwhelmed Modern Man with the advent of the Scientific Revolution from the 1600s and the dualism described by Descartes.

Christianity did not accept or include Romanticism, indeed ever since Romanticism Christianity has been fighting the long defeat against secular Leftism; and almost the only Christians who have survived as Christian have been those who rejected Romanticism and have remained alienated - those with materialist attitudes to the spiritual, those with a spiritual attitude to bureaucracy, those who accept the 'literalism' of the scriptures as if they were science textbooks (by some theoretical and dead version of science where it is a series of true statements).

These are harsh words to use against those who are desperately maintaining a glimmer of light as all around is engulfed in darkness - but the fact is that Christianity is not-good-enough; the deep problems it had when Romanticism arose remain and have hardened. It is possible that the alienated literalism of the strongest remaining types of Christianity is a double-edged sword: a defence against being dissolved in the evil relativism/ nihilism of modernity - but also a defect that guarantees continual shrinkage and eventual defeat.

By this account, the greatest success of Secular Leftism is to keep Christianity so continually on the back-foot that in fighting to prevent its absorption by Secular Leftism (which has been the fate of all mainstream Christian churches in The West) it has been unable to Romanticize itself - because that is what is required: Christianity must itself absorb Romanticism.

We need to do the mental exercise of re-winding two hundred years and absorbing, and Christianizing, the impulse of the Romantic movement.

This is done by purpose. Romanticism was all about process, but lacked purpose - because it came to reject Christianity. Christianity provides the purpose which can be used to organize Romanticism, to keep the good and reject the bad - and error, corruption and sin are shed as there is movement towards the goal.

In a sense, the lesson of the history of Romanticism is that purpose is almost-everything. Life is - or should be - a much more creative thing than was envisaged by The Age of Reason, a much more heartfelt and instinctual and spontaneous thing than envisaged by the Age of Enlightenment, a much more loving thing than ever was known to the logical Middle Ages.

Above all, Life should be One thing; and our reason, understanding and thinking must include that Life is One thing. Romanticism is, should be, that reorganzing of our reason, understanding, thinking... and then grasping and assimilating it by the Imagination.

Men are intrinsically imperfect beings, prone to error, prone to sin - but Romanticism saw that this was a feature not a bug: we are made this way (by God) for a reason, and a vital reason. For Christian Romanticism, life was not about a perfection of being and our failure to be it; but about the process of living, striving, creating, loving, erring, sinning, repenting and everything else... But all guided and shaped by Christian purpose.

It is the purpose which makes Christian Romanticism Good. Romanticism saw that it was a metaphysical error to suppose that good and evil could be separated in the actual human condition: they can and must be distinguished, but they cannot be separated - always both are there.

Always and inevitably both Good and evil - therefore this is part of God's plan, therefore it is necessary and not to be regretted or extirpated. We cannot be 'good' every inch of the way, therefore we are not meant to be good every inch of the way - we are meant alwyas (and every inch of the way) to aim at good.

(To be of Good Purpose, to be working for God's plan - a 'plan' which is more like organic growth and development toward establishing and maintaining a dense and diverse ecosystem, than it is like an engineering blueprint to be 'implemented' by Project Management).

This is of course what God Himself does - in our lives, to reach good involves bad - for example self-denial, suffering, hardship: only via these bad things can good be reached. So in our own lives. It would be fatal to try and extirpate all bad things - indeed that is the underpinning error of that Secular Leftism/ Liberalism which seeks above everything to eliminate suffering. It is fatal, and it is also paradoxical and impossible - we need to set-aside such futile hankerings. 

What God wants is not a paradox, but a direction. We take our mixed selves, living our mixed lives, and point them in the proper direction - and that is true and attainable and non-paradoxical Goodness; that is the Christianity we most deeply need: A Christianity which has absorbed Romanticism - a Romantic Christianity.

[For clarification of the nature and origins and fate of Romanticism, a start could be made with: http://www.owenbarfield.org/romanticism-and-anthroposophy ]

Monday, 2 May 2016

Why an elected Christian monarch is impossible; why good government of Western nations is impossible

A Christian monarch is one who rules as a servant of God - and on the assumption that he or she was chosen by God for the job, and is guided by God in this task.

This is only possible in and for a society which is, overall, Christian - and therefore wants to be ruled by a monarch who at least aims-to rule the society on Christain principles; wants to be ruled by a monarch who himself aspires to be representative of God's will on earth and in mortal life (as best as possible with imperfect people in an imperfect world).

Anybody who is elected owes their position to the electors - or more often to those who rig and fix the election - and not to God. The exception is when the electors are few enough to gather in a room, and devout enough to subordinate their wishes to what they perceive of the divine will; and devoted enough to their people to seek a good and universal Father (or Mother) to the nation.

But for the decision of such a small group of devout people to be accepted and binding; requires that the powers of the population-at-large acknowledge the authority of this group - and this can only happen on the basis of a geniune and shared religion.

The first conclusion is that good government is not possible in the West today, because the people have no religion and are secular rejectors. It is absurd to suppose that a Christian monarch could be planted atop our society, and allowed to rule impartially and lovingly - yet with power and authority - on behalf of God.

A society has to deserve a great leader, or else the leader will either not lead, or not be great.

So there is no possible system by which The West as it is could have good political leadership.

A good leader is usually Father to the nation - but our nations are in permanent rebellion against parents, and especially Fathers. A good leader operates on the basis of broadly-shared transcendental ideals - but The West does not believe in the reality of the transcendental.

A good leader rules for the general and long-term spiritual good of his people (his 'children') - but we want only material good, and specifically for ourselves, and we want it now

The West must first become religious, specifically Christian - and only then will good leadership become possible. And if, as seems likely, we do not become Christian; then we might as well forget about pining for good leadership - which is an irresponsible waste of our finite time; and instead concentrate our efforts and attentions on something attainable.   

Charles Williams novels on Kindle from amazon-uk for 'half a dollar'

The Inkling Charles Williams died in 1945, and came out-of-copyright last year - immediately, The Charles Williams Collection, including all his novels, has been issued as an ebook on Kindle by Karpathos publishers at a give-away price of 82p.

If you have been intending to read some CW but not yet gotten round to it, then now is the time. Most people find either The Place of the Lion, Descent into Hell or All Hallows Eve to be the best of these novels.

Place of the Lion was one of the key books that sparked-off CS Lewis's serious prose-writing with Lewi's Space Trilogy and Tolkien's Lost Road/ Notion Club Papers and the legends of Numenor - which eventually got into Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. General enuthsiasm for Place of the Lion among the Inklings (it was Nevill Coghill who 'discovered' it in 1936) also sparked the friendship leading onto Inklings membership three years later and for the rest of CW's life.

I found it a very potent book which worked on me after I had finished it, so I have returned and re-read it several times over three decades - each time liking it more. The special philosophical interest comes from the implications of Platonic Archetypes; but in general PotL is a compelling description of the invasion of mundane life by the super-natural - the profound realities. 

Descent into Hell is powerful and memorable, with a compelling inner logic. The philosophical interest is about the nature of Time: the novel convincingly displays the implications of divine time as described in Boetheius's Consolations of Philosophy (which is the understanding of nearly all mainstream Classical Christian theology - God outside of Time; observing past, present and future simultaneously - but not typically of Mormon theology).

All Hallows Eve is the most novelistic and flowing - presumably because it was written with the benefit of the Inklings criticisms and advice. Jack and Warnie Lewis felt it demonstrated an astonishing understanding of life after death.

(For me the elements of sadism in AHE are too prominent - and this is an undercurrent in all William's books except for Place of the Lion. It is a thing to which I am particularly sensitive and averse in fiction - a fact for which my family could vouch, when it comes to watching TV and movies. For example, I initially could not get-into the first book of Harry Potter - which I now love - beause I felt a careless cruelty about the way it described Harry being treated by the Dursleys!)

The other Charles Williams novels are interesting in patches, rather than enjoyable, to me - and I have never succeeded in reading any of them straight-through. The exception, and the most distinctive of them, is The Greater Trumps; which is half very good and half botched.

I don't regard Williams as a great or even canonical novelist - but three significant successes out of seven is not bad - and these include books which have meant a great deal to some of the great authorities of English Literature; notably including the prime arbiter of quality in the mid 20th century, TS Eliot. So, and especially at this price! - they are well worth a try.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Attempting briefly to explain the big picture about Life

By my current understanding there is pre-mortal spirit life and post mortal resurrected life, both of which are about theosis/ learning to become divine.

This is down to my (revealed, not logical) understanding that the basic purpose of creation is to enable/ encourage human spirits to become like our Creator and Father (i.e. at the same 'level' as him, so he can *fully* relate to us - this being his deepest wish, because otherwise his existence is relatively 'lonely' (although I also believe that God has a wife/ consort at the same level - i.e. our Heavenly , literal - tho not concrete, Mother) - or (to put it more positively) God may wish above all to live -ever-more abundantly - by the growth of loving relationships with a growing family of increasingly grown-up children.

This is naturally a vast task, and probably one taking an extremely long time/ great deal of experience and work - and never fully completed. But that is not a bad thing! rather it is what we are destined to do and our greatest conceivable and possible satisfaction. There is no hurry about this because it is a delight every inch of the way! (well, not every inch because of the suffering, but at every stage.)

Adding that there are things which can, at least by particular spirits, only be learned in this mortal incarnate life - not least by experiencing the negative side of things and through suffering - it seems a matter of common observation that (because of our free will agency) we find some thing very difficult to learn, and indeed - in practice, and over a finite timescale - some things we simply do not learn because we refuse to learn them.

To flesh out things in relation to reincarnation - my understanding is that most pre-mortal spirits need only what can be provided by a single mortal life; and that is the norm. But some need more than one life, and are offered the chance for another or more than another mortal life (always voluntary and chosen!); while others (who are, by one definition, mortal angels) have gained what they need from mortal life but choose to return to assist in this work.

As well as being united as children of the Father Creator (and Heavenly Mother) we really are and are meant to be unique individuals with unique paths all the way up to 'full' (but never finished) divinity!

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Evolution of Empathizing and Systemizing - Bruce G Charlton & Patrick Rosenkranz


In the steps of Samuel Taylor Coleridge

In the middle 2000s we had three family holidays staying in Greta Hall, Keswick.

This was the house found and initially inhabited by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), and later and for longer by Robert Southey - the poet laureate and the third, least but (personally) nicest of the Lake Poets who moved up to Cumberland from their early base in Bristol and Somerset. Greta Hall was much visited by Wordsworth and other luminaries of the era - and Coleridge's (unfortunate) wife stayed here (she was Southey's sister in law) when her husaband moved back south.

Coleridge was a tormented and difficult personality, an opium addict; and a world class genius in multiple fields including poetry, philosophy and theology. His influence was remarkable - and international - considering the disorder of his life and indeed his work. Coleridge could be said to have lauched the Romantic Movement - which has never yet gone away, nor has its destiny yet been fulfilled.

The book Lyrical Ballads that he co-published with Wordsworth (who was an even greater poet - regarded as a clear third in reputation to Shakespeare and Milton in English Literature), was probably the most significant single volume of verse in the whole Western literary tradition - nothing has been the same since. He was Britain's two-way link with the academic powerhouse of Germany - and the route by which Romanticism reached the United States via RW Emerson's 'Transcendentalist' movement - amplified by the major intellectual of the next generation, Coleridge's main 'disciple' and Emerson's best friend in Britain: Thomas Carlyle.

It really is quite something to stay in Greta Hall, and to work in Coleridge's study (now containing a a vast antique Chinese bed!) 

Indeed, we are returning for another visit this summer - when I am likely to be even more receptive to the place since I am immersed in Coleridge at present - partly through reading his works (in the astonishing and marvellous Delphi collection on my Kindle e-book - a whole library of Coleridge for £1.50! - thanks to Delphi I have much of the vast canon of Eng Lit carried in my bag much of the time), but mostly as refracted through the mind of another genius, Owen Barfield - in his astonishingly-profound and intelligent book What Coleridge Thought (1971).

Friday, 29 April 2016

What if The Lord of the Rings really *had* been an allegory of World War II?


Insanity is not subtle - if you need to explain it, there is no point in explaining it

I spent a year in the 1980s working as a psychiatrist participating in the admissions rota where I would cover all the medical work necessary in a large hospital overnight or at weekends.

Quite a few of the patients were brought in by the police, by ordinary police officers - who had been called to some incident and recognized that the person involved was 'mad not bad', and so brought them in for psychiatric evaluation instead of putting them into the cells.

The police were never wrong, in my experience. The people they brought in were always crazy - it was just a matter of sorting out what kind of crazy. In other words, an ordinary policeman was able to tell when somebody was insane - it was a matter of common sense (plus relevant experience).

But now? Craziness is built-in, high status, a marker of 'goodness' - increasingly compulsory.

It is hopeless to try and explain why crazy things are crazy - if they really are crazy, then everyone knows. But apparently everyone does not know - there is a bland acceptance of the insanities of political correctness which means that we are in the position of trying to explain, argue, prove that something obviously crazy really is insane...

Of course, this is characteristic of dealing with insane people - they have no insight. That is the nature of insanity - akin to nightmares in which we accept whatever extreme craziness and illogic the dream brings, after a the merest brief twinge of puzzlement. 

Indeed, such is the extremity of the situation, that the insane people label normality as crazy. And here is a clue....

The situation has arisen and continues because in the modern West normal people are impaired. They are indeed so impaired that they cannot do what every policeman used to be able to do - which is to recognize crazy.

What is the cause of modern impairment? Well, I have argued two main causes on this blog: genetic damage - population wide mutation accumulation over the past several generations (i.e. the posts labelled 'mouse utopia'). That means that nearly everybody is ill, and lacks spontaneous instincts which used to be taken for granted. People accept insanity because they are too sick to notice or be bothered.

On top of this is secularism: the atheist assumptions of all significant public discourse in the West: the assumption that there is no God, no soul, no afterlife, no supersensible realm - no transcendental purpose, no objective universal meaning to life... and the rest of it.

The developed world is itself insane because it has deleted religion; and Man without religion is insane.

Religion (of some kind) is natural, spontaneous, built-in. All societies everywhere have always been religious (a tiny minority of atheists make no difference) - life without religion is new, uncharted territory for humans. But now a whole public world and discourse of religious understandings, interpretations, explanations - religiously framed laws - religious reasons for significant actions of the state and of individuals etc... utterly gone.

The insanity of Man without religion was not immediately obvious, because the generations overlapped, and for many decades people were brought-up on a religious basis, and only abandoned religion in adulthood. But there was a tipping point evident in the mid-1960s, and now for fifty years (two generations) the West has been ever-more-completely functionally atheist (especially considering that most mainstream self-identified Christians have such a feeble faith that it makes zero observable difference in any way; not even to the litmus test issues of sexuality).

My overall impression is that although Modern Man is genetically impaired such that his instincts are weakened and deranged; even this is not sufficient to make him lose his basic orientation and discernment when religion is strong.

A strong religious society is, substantially, antidote to the behavioural impairments of mouse utopia.

This can be seen in the most profound marker of modern decline: the sub-replacement fertility universal in the entire developed world (less than two children per average women, usually much less when new immigrants are excluded) - this is (obviously!) a short path to irreversible decline and extinction.

Yet serious religion is indeed an effective antidote to sub-fertility - even among the very craziest sub-populations (i.e. the intellectual elites).

So - when confronted by the normal everyday experience of trying to explain to insane people why something insane really is insane... take a step back. Remember that it is the basic metaphysical framework which is wrong - it is the deletion of religion from life which is crucial.

Man must have religion and there is no arguing with 'must'.

Legitimate and constructive discussion is merely concerned with the choice of which religion.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

The innocent are full of bitterness and resentment, while the worst are full of passionate intensity

There have been situations when I was attacked in the past, where I felt the attack was without justice, that I had been harmed and that I was blameless. But perhaps precisely because of my innocence, my response was self-righteous and proud. I egotistically 'took on' the opposition, and became increasingly angry and vengeful.

The question of whether such a response is 'effective' in the real world then becomes irrelevant - because one has been corrupted.

I have experienced this in myself - and I have seen it in others - many others over the years. When somebody has been genuinely wronged and they are genuinely innocent, it is a special hazard - or so it seems to me. Such people may destroy their own lives in bitterness and resentment; and are very resistant to repentance because they feel themselves so much 'in the right' and therefore regard any attempt to help them 'move on' as taking sides against them.

This is an absolute tragedy, a waste of a mortal life, when a person will not let go of his or her grievances (against a parent, spouse, nation, race, bigot or whatever). Whether or not the grievances are 'legitimate' this strikes me as one of the commonest and deepest sins among older people - even without encouragement - but of course this is a sin which is encouraged by our culture of resentment and victim groups.

Note: As CS Lewis also said somewhere, on the other side of the coin: it is a grievous thing when one's own selfish, spiteful or simply careless actions have led to this sin in others - and may well have happened without one's knowledge.

1987 memoir of Durham University, a book club, and my first contact with Charles Williams


Wednesday, 27 April 2016

General Intelligence is a Goethian Archetypal Phenomenon - a draft paper


We are worse-off than mouse utopia - because of evil leaders

Reader may recall the Mouse Utopia experiment as interpreted by Michael Woodley and myself in terms of mutation accumulation, and my crude attempt to apply this to modern Britain:

It seems ever more obvious that the mass of people in the West are behaving in ways consistent with significant genetic damage - that shows itself in terms of social and sexual maladaptation, and a kind of 'indifference' to survival trending over into self-destructive (extinction-seeking) attitudes.

The idea is a group-selectional concept (which I got from the great evolutionary theorist WD Hamilton - in the second, 2001, volume of his collected papers Narrow Roads to Gene Land) that when an animal is carrying a significant mutational load, it will cease to struggle to survive and may even allow itself to die (or seek death) because its own elimination will tend to benefit the rest of the group (e.g. by dying it will cease to consume resources, leaving more for the 'fitter' members of the species; furthermore, and more importantly, it will eliminate the mutated genes from the gene pool - this was plausibly seen in the Mouse Utopia experiment with the increasing prevalence of non-reproductive sex and solitary behaviour among the males).

But this 'self-sacrifice' for the good of the species is only useful when the 'mutated' individuals are relatively rare, and the rest of the group have 'good genes' and are low in mutations. The thesis of Mouse Utopia is that the whole population of post-Industrial Revolution countries have suffered mutation accumulation (mostly due to the near elimination of intrauterine and childhood mortality which used to run at more than half of conceptions) for periods that vary between maybe seven to ten generations - going back into the 1700s in England for the upper classes to a few generations less for the lower classes (because there was a lag before the lower classes benefitted from the decline in mortality rates).

However, when the mutated individuals make up the majority, or indeed the entire population, then this indifferent, passive, extinction-accepting/ seeking attitude becomes near-universal - as we see today.

Clearly the parallels between mice and men cannot be assumed! - nonetheless, this may not favour men. Things are worse in modern Britain (and the West generally) than in the Mouse Utopia experiment in at least three respects:

1. The mice were cleaned and provisioned by the lab workers, so did not have to care for themselves;

2. The mice were protected from predators and colonizers - which they would have certainly been unwilling to resist;

3. The experimenters were benign and did not take advantage of the situation.

But in The West, including Britain, we do not have these advantages - we have to provision ourselves, we are unprotected from predators  and colonizers and our ruling elites have an aggressive attitude that aims to encourage extinction and to seek and suppress any remaining adaptive and self-preserving behaviours.

So while Mouse Utopia did not reach extinction for several mouse generations even after reproduction ended altogether, because the last of the sheltered and pampered mice lived long (and passive!) lives - the timescale to elimination, in terms of human generations, would presumably be much shorter for the modern West.

It might be assumed that men had an advantage over mice in being able to understand what is going on, and do something about it - however, in practice, this is not the case; and it seems we will stumble to our demise just as ignorant of its causes as if we were mice.

Added clarification: Our ruling elites are not evil due to being genetically damaged by mutation accummulation - that does not make people evil, but merely diseased, biologically un-fit; instead our leadership class are (on the whole) evil because they have chosen to serve evil - in other words, chosen purposively to destroy that which is good.

(Note: Acknowledgment is due to Michael Woodley for ideas included above which he described and we developed in conversation yesterday.)

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

The modern desperate need for utopia (and Heaven)

It strikes me that one great appeal of the best (from my perspective the best!) fantasy novels, is their depiction of utopia in the sense of not an ideal but a 'good' society - and that this is a thing which is otherwise almost wholly lacking in modern culture.

Tolkien's Lord of the Rings has an unmatched range of good, believable and powerful appealing societies: The Shire, Tom Bombadil's little world, Bree, Rivendell, Lothlorien, Rohan, Minas Tirith - take your pick!

Lesser fantasy fails to provide any such vision of the good life (and is praised by mainstream literary critics for this lack - which they assert, from their nihilistic and purposively-destructive roots, makes it 'dark', 'edgy', 'realistic' and 'subversive' - the ultimate accolade of those who are ultimately motivated by despair and hatred) - and therefore cannot provide what we so desperately need.

Because utopia is a selective microcosm of Heaven, and Heaven is necessary for Hope - and Hope is a necessity for the good life.

What I would love to see is believable and realistic descriptions, creative depictions and speculative discussions on the subject of Heaven; and perhaps fantasy is the best vehicle for this at present.

Heaven has become (and not merely by accident - but also by purpose) unimaginable to modern man. Thus Heaven has become ineffectual: it must therefore be made imaginable, we need actively to imagine Heaven, and to engage with this imagination.

The Inklings and writers' groups - a review of Glyer's 'Bandersnatch'


Monday, 25 April 2016

A critique of Rudolf Steiner's early work on Goethe's philosophical perspective


The cosmic, objective Christ (a thought experiment)

Imagine that we knew nothing about Christ - that his life had been obscure, that there had been no gospels, that all evidence and memory of him had been lost.

Would the existence of Jesus then have any value?

Yes - because the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was of objective, cosmic significance - even if nobody alive knew anything about it!

In other words, Christ achieved at least two things which have permanent and universal value even if we know nothing about them: he took away the sins of the world; and he made it so that when every person dies he or she will be resurrected.

Those who knew or currently know nothing of Christ during mortal life, will be made aware of these true facts after their death; and will face a decision and judgment about whether they accept Christ's offer of salvation.

This is simply a fact of reality, independent of human knowledge, belief or experience. This is the cosmic, objective significance of Christ.*

*There is, of course, a lot more to Christ than this! But this much is given.  

The modern impossibility of politics for Christians

When I first became a Christian, some seven to eight years ago, my first instinct was to look for a 'reactionary' politics that was strong enough to defeat the long tide in favour of secular Left progressive radical destruction in The West.

But that was grossly to underestimate the extent to which Christianity has been defeated. It took me some time to recognize that politics has long since become impossible for Christians - because politics requires some grouping of people that can wield power - and there is no such group of any significant size and strength (and no possibility of an alliance).

Some Christians in the public arena, including blogs, are forever addressing a totally imaginary audience of like-minded persons - trying to stir them to effective resistance and positive action. There is no such audience.

The fact is that the Left has already won in the secular public arena (and the public arena is wholly secular in its baseline assumptions)  - Christianity is on the ropes, and continuing their job is easy because it is easy to destroy, and very difficult to build.

A single person, one saboteur, can therefore inflict immense damage - especially when he or she is a head of state, chief executive of a major corporation, wealthy, a senior judge, prestigious media figure professor or the like... and there are many, many such persons at work and active. The Left is organized in its work - especially at the highest levels - but it hardly needs to be organized

The mass media is overwhelmingly dominant in people's lives; and is overwhelmingly anti-Christian and anti-Good in its content - more importantly the form of the mass media is anti-Christian, anti-religious, anti-Good.

In such circumstances Christians need to be far more realistic and honest than they are. Even suppose that - by some ludicrously unlikely series of coincidences - a Christian leader and government found themselves in charge of a Western nation, they could not do anything significant to reverse the trend towards destruction of the good because the Western populations are so widely, deeply, thoroughly corrupted: the mass majority do not want to be 'saved' and will exert themselves (in so far as they exert themselves over anything) to continue along the path to physical and spiritual destruction.

Having made a plain, simple and realistic appraisal of the actually existing situation; it is very clear that the active Christian must be active in the religious sphere and not in the political sphere (it is no coincidence that the pseudo-Christian majority of anti-Christian subversives who dominate the mainstream Churches are so keen on political 'engagement').

The serious Christian nowadays must be working to sustain the faith, to spread the faith (evangelism) and to deepen his own faith and that of others - as best he may and confident in the activities of imperceptible influences - and that is where his main energies need to be directed.

Time and effort expended on politics is time invested in aiding the enemy.  


Further reading:

Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Durham University Ramblers - a great conversation group

Probably the most enjoyable and most worthwhile regular group of which I have been a member was the Rambler Club in the School of English at Durham University, late 1980s.

The name came from the fact that the group was focused on reading one essay per week from the 208 essays by Samuel Johnson published as a periodical called The Rambler from 1750-52. I was lucky enough to be asked to join for the last 20 or so weeks, completing the sequence - I infer the group had previously been meeting for at least seven years (since the group met only during term time, which lasted 27 weeks but some weeks would be missed to due exams). After finishing Johnson's Rambler, I believe they moved on to the Adventurer and Idler essay sequences. 

There were four 'core' members (which seems common for many lasting groups) of common interest. The 'Chair' was Derek T, whose characteristics were a nimbleness of wit, fertility of ideas, and a crisp phraseology - he tended to talk the most and shape the debate. The second most frequent speaker was David C - who was the most open-hearted and emotional speaker - he would also tend to give the conversation a dark and pessimistic turn. David F spoke only when he had something considered to say - with some diffidence, but always respectfully listened-to because his statements had a background of deep thought. Tom C was the oldest and most distinguished member, he beamed upon proceedings with a benign air - and he was turned-to to settle disagreements of fact, or he would chip-in with a 'crowning' verbatim quotation from a memory exceptionally well-stocked with the classics; especially Shakespeare (upon whom he was a great authority).

The structure of each meeting was quite simple. The timing was about an hour, people arrived carrying a packed-lunch, either having read the essay already - or, if not, then being given a photocopy to read while others arrived. Then the conversation would be kicked-off by Derek, who would usually take charge of moving it on or redirecting it as necessary.

The Rambler essays were essentially a stimulus to conversation, and the conversation was 'moral' in theme - typically beginning with whatever moral point the essay had emphasised, but evolving unpredictably according to the mind of the group and their interactions.

And the conversations were superb - due to the quality of the participants - especially the informal chairmanship of Derek T, and the necessary degree of structure. Behind the formal structure - and, I think vital to the success for the group - was a common purpose or philosophy; which was 'anti-critical'. These were hard-working and experienced teachers of English in one of England's premier universities who yet were very sceptical of the validity and value of mainstream 'literary criticism'; and were seeking a more personal, heart-felt and spontaneous way of discussing literature. By my estimation, they achieved it. 

I have attended and tried to form many small conversation groups, sporadically over the years - and they are in my experience, seldom at a high level and always very difficult to sustain - so I feel privileged to have participated in one of the shining exceptions; albeit briefly.   

Friday, 22 April 2016

The Inklings and the evolution of consciousness


Plus - at last! - an Inklings Group Portrait! (Not by me.)


God and sexual morality

Some people - most modern people, apparently - say that find it hard to believe that God - or, at least, the Christian God of Love - would exclude certain sexual behaviours, acts and identifications: would regard them as sins.

This labelling of sin seems to them arbitrary and unbalanced... it can indeed be made to sound ridiculous, to the point that through the twentieth century official public sexual morality was first - but only very briefly - made 'free', then now it has been inverted, with the 'normal', natural and traditionally Christian sex and sexuality becoming the problem; precisely because Christianity regards some acts and attitudes as sins... 

Of course, this whole matter hinges on the reality and nature of sin; and public discourse has long since regarded sin as unreal (arbitrary, artificially defined and open-endedly subject to re-definition) and has degraded the concept of sin to the point of ridiculousness - or indeed evil. The major modern moral inversion is that those who believe in the reality of sin are regarded as the ones who are evil.

Those who advocate what used to be (not long ago) regarded as sexual sin are nowadays treated as the virtuous ones and rewarded with praise and status (and material goods!) both by official culture and the mass media - they apparently 'solve' the problem of sin by dissolving the concept of sin and making it a matter of personal preference and freedom and the sacred pursuit of happiness. So long as the consequences of some behaiour can be portrayed (in official and media sources) as potentially happy, self-respecting, and kind - then that is taken to be the proof of rightness.

(And any contradictory evidence of consequent misery, suffering, despair following sin... is blamed upon those who 'label' the behaviour as sin. Essentially, this is Catch 22 in reverse!) 

At any rate, in a world of establishment and counter-cultural moral inversion - to focus on the sin of acts and behaviours has become counter-productive - even when true. I think the key to a response is regarding morality positively, as what God most wants us to do.


This differs among Christian churches - which is a source of weakness that has been exploited - but for the CJCLDS it is clear from multiple revelations and the teaching of living prophets that God most wants us to marry (I mean really marry, with a person of the opposite sex), stay married, have children, and live in loving families.

For Mormon believers, the primacy of marriage and family is not some bit of moral teaching 'parachuted' in from above, but something built-in from the ground upwards; from the basic metaphysical understanding of reality: the 'whole' human is ultimately (at some point, perhaps extremely remote, in post-mortal life, when Man has progressed to the fullest divinity) a complementary, irreducibly dyadic combination of an exalted man and a woman bound together by love.

'Celestial marriage' is the aim, and it is the completion, of Man.

This is the clear ideal - and this is what is taught, supported, worked-towards...

Now, there is compassion and help for those (which may be a majority) who for a multitude of individual reasons of many types, cannot do all of this (or indeed any of it) during this mortal life - and there is therefore a second strand of the ideal life of celibacy - it seems that this may be part of God's plan for some individuals during this mortal life, if not eternally.

There is of course the significant matter than the great majority of people will fail to live perfectly by the ideal; they will probably fail many times, in many ways both great and small, and they may not be able to stop failing. These are not 'damned' nor lost to salvation but they are required to 'repent' - i.e. required to acknowledge the ideal and their failure to attain it.

(And not, for example, to say that their failure is actually success; especially not to assert it is a superior kind of success: which is the norm in modern public discourse.)

But it is forbidden to argue and teach that 'other sexual ways' (of any kind) are either equal or superior to that which God has clearly said is the ideal. Anything other than the ideal must be acknowledged as sub-optimal.

The serious sin is not so much in doing otherwise than the ideal, but in assuming or arguing otherwise, or saying that sex and sexuality 'don't matter'; in making laws and regulations on that basis, or in failing to repent (i.e. acknowledge the sub-optimality of) other behaviours. 


I think that sexuality (in our era) shows clearly the two somewhat different requirements for public and private morality. Public morality (as a part of 'politics' - law, regulations, economic incentives etc.) must be, can only be, simple and clear.

If morality is not presented simply and clearly, then it will in practice be interpreted in a simple and clear way - whether we like it or not.

So public morality will always be simplistic and harsh - just as is our current politically correct morality simplistic and harsh, but in an inverted way than the past. And it is the job of individuals to soften and nuance this simplicity and harshness when appropriate, in individual instance, based upon wise judgement and not on rules.

We cannot expect, and we will not get, perfection in attitudes, justice or anything else - there will always be a bias, and we must make a choice of which direction 'the system' is biased towards: morality (as in the past) or anti-morality (as at present). 


For Christians there is the 'problem' of being strong and able to resist being swept into secularism, while remaining compassionate and empathic.

There is no rule for this - but some types of strong Christianity are brittle and if they yield an inch they seem to collapse altogether; while other types seem to be able to be strong without harshness or encouraging hate: strong in will but soft and warm in heart.

I think this ideal of strong-and-loving, tough-and-soft, clear-and-warm... is made easier by regarding sin as failure to live by the ideal, rather than in terms of specific acts and attitudes being sinful in and of themselves.

What has made the modern sexual revolution such a devastating anti-Christian force is that it has managed to reduce sex and sexuality to be considered as discrete and detached acts, which seem trivial and arbitrary, and therefore not the kind of thing to have eternal significance.

Christians should not fall into this prepared trap - but try to make clear (not least to ourselves) that sexual sin is mostly a matter of failing to live by divinely ordained sexual ideals; but this failure is not of itelf the major problem in modern life: the major problem of modern life is denying the truth that God does have a plan, an ideal, for human sexuality and sexual life; and that we know (because we have been clearly told) the basic structure of this plan - and that when we (so often ) fail to live by the plan, we muct acknowledge ('repent') these failures.

But if you don't know, here it is:

Thursday, 21 April 2016

The link between the evolution of consciousness and reincarnation in Owen Barfield's thought

Owen Barfield's central idea, and the one for which he is best known, is the evolution of consciousness - meaning that the nature of human consciousness has changed throughout history such that people in different eras and places had very different relationships with the world: these changes fall into three general categories of Original Participation, the Observing Consciousness and Final Participation.

He traces the evolution of consciousness mainly by observing the characteristic changes in the meaning and usage of words, which seem to display a cohesive development - and also looks at other cultural evidence. Barfield's idea of evolution in this regard is not natural selection, but a developmental process (akin to the growth and differentiation of a living entity): the emergence and unfolding of human destiny, interacting with the agency and free will of individual humans.

What is seldom appreciated or emphasized is that for Barfield the evolution of consciousness is divinely designed, and bound-up with reincarnation. To put it concisely, the reason for the evolution of consciousness through history is that this provides the necessary conditions by which successive reincarnations of  human spirits may learn what they require to develop towards divinity.

So, for Barfield (although this is hinted at much more often than made explicit) it is God who 'provides' the evolution of consciousness in order that reincarnating human spirits may have the necessary experiences they need to growth towards the ultimate goal of Final Participation - whereby firstly, and stepwise, the Ego or Self has become separated from its original 'unconscious' immersion in the environment and strong in its purpose and will - awake, alert and in-control; then secondly the now strong and purposive Self/ Ego comes back into a participatory relationship with The World.

To underlying rationale (the 'point') of the evolution of consciousness is, for Barfield, bound-up with the reality of reincarnation; and therefore those (such as myself) who disbelieve in reincarnation as the normal human destiny, yet who believe in the evolution of consciousness, need to be clear that we differ from Barfield; and are, indeed, denying the main reason for evolution of consciousness as Barfield understood it.

To put it bluntly: those individuals who are sympathetic towards Barfield's core idea of the evolution of consciousness yet who do not believe in reincarnation, need to explain what the evolution of consciousness is for - if not to provide the conditions necessary for educating the reincarnating human spirit.  


Note: My personal 'take' on reincarnation is that it is not the normal human destiny - but that reincarnation happens to some individuals for particular purposes - for instance, a sage, prophet or saint may be a reincarnate who has returned to assist in the divine work - indeed I suspect that many of the wise intuitive individuals such as Rudolf Steiner and perhaps Owen Barfield himself, who claim direct personal knowledge of the reality of incarnation, are themselves actually some of these rare and atypical persons. As a believer in Mormon theology, my explanation for the evolution of consciousness is that humans have a pre-mortal spiritual existence before being voluntarily incarnated into life on earth - and the evolution of consciousness allows pre-mortal spirits to be 'placed' - by God - into the historical era which best addresses their personal spiritual needs: i.e. their specific needs for mortal experience of a particular kind.