Friday, 24 October 2014

Neoreaction is wrong what it says Leftism is a Christian heresy - Leftism is Christian apostasy

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Neoreaction is wrong, and is in fact speaking nonsense, when it says that Leftism is a Christian heresy.

What they should be saying is that Leftism is Christian apostasy.

Apostasy means to abandon the faith; whereas heresy means contrary to orthodoxy. That clarification should be enough to show the error of Neoreaction.

Heresy can only be defined from one particular concept of Christian orthodoxy - so a Roman Catholic, a Russian Orthodox or a Calvinist could define some other person or group as heretical - indeed each would define the others as heretical - but strictly there are not generically Christian heretics, because there is no generically Christian orthodoxy from which to define heresy.

If somebody dissents from a generically Christian position, then they are not an heretic, they are an apostate - which is to say they are not merely unorthodox Christians but reject Christianity itself (for example, if they deny that Christ is their savior and Lord, but merely a prophet, teacher or good example).

Some Liberal Christians, who are always Leftist, could be described as heretics from the perspective of other specific Christian positions - but some are apostate since they deny basic, core Christianity.

Neoreactionaries logically cannot define, detect nor ascribe heresy, nor can they describe some person or group as heretical, because they are not arguing from any orthodox Christian position; they are in fact (qua Neoreactionary, and even if they themselves happen to be Christians) arguing from a secular position.

However, although Neoreaction cannot ascribe heresy, because it is neither Christian nor orthodox in any way, Neoreaction can legitimately detect and define apostasy: it can recognize that some person or group has abandoned core Christianity.

Neoreactionaries as individuals can only define heresy if they are doing so from a specific orthodox Christian position - but this will not merely relate to Leftism, but a Calvinist Neoreactionary will then define a Roman Catholic Neoreactionary as heretical and vice versa.

Anyway, enough has been said to demonstrate that the Neoreactionaries 'Leftism is a Christian heresy' meme is not just causally incorrect, it is logically incoherent.

Not just nonsense, but double nonsense!

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There are many myths - there are even new myths

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The greatest evangelist for myth of recent generations was Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) - but he was a man of contradictions.

On the one hand he was fascinated by the many and various myths of the world, throughout history - and he was Jungian in finding myths not just in anthropology and 'folklore'; but to be equally the basis of dreams, the creative arts... and pretty much everything. He spent his life extracting, collecting and disseminating multiple myths.

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Yet Campbell is best known for his book The Hero with Thousand Faces which - in its most extreme moments - says that behind this vast seeming-diversity, there is only one underlying myth: the Hero's Journey.

Indeed in his introduction (writing in 1949) Campbell makes clear his overall purpose in studying and teaching myth:

Perhaps it will be objected that in bringing out the correspondences I have overlooked the differences between the various Oriental and Occidental, modern, ancient, and primitive traditions. The same objection might be brought, however, against any textbook or chart of anatomy, where the physiological variations of race are disregarded in the interest of a basic general understanding of the human physique. There are of course differences between the numerous mythologies and religions of mankind, but this is a book about the similarities; and once these are understood the differences will be found to be much less great than is popularly (and politically) supposed. My hope is that a comparative elucidation may contribute to the perhaps not-quite-desperate cause of those forces that are working in the present world for unification, not in the name of some ecclesiastical or political empire, but in the sense of human mutual understanding. As we are told in the Vedas: Truth is one, the sages speak of it by many names.“

Campbell was still making the same point - that the underlying unity of all myth implies the unity of all mankind, up to his death; and that we should focus on this unity in the myths we live by, since the modern world is interconnected and inter-dependent. He was - in this respect - an extreme universalist, which accounts for his continued appeal to the mainstream, politically correct, New Left - which permeates academia, New Age spirituality and radical politics.

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In his personal religious preferences, Campbell was most positive towards Hinduism (as the above quotations shows), followed by Buddhism - and reserved mockery and animosity for Christianity (he was a lapsed Roman Catholic) and Old Testament Judaism.

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Although in the middle 2000s (before I became a Christian) I was immersed in Campbell's work, I always dissented from the trope that he was 'a great storyteller' - I found his recountings of myth to be tendentious and facetious - very seldom 'mythic' in style, but instead modernist and reductionist.

That which was 'mythical' was usually stripped away in the re-telling,  and there was a quasi scientific focus on basic symbols and plots - as must inevitably happen (it seems to me) when engaged in unifying what appears to be multiple.

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In his heart Campbell was an Eastern-style Hindu unifier - which is to be immersed in the specifics but simply to assert, non-rationally, that ultimately everything is one. But in writing for a Western audience, Campbell was a rationalistic unifier - asserting that the real underlying structure of all myth, all things, was identical. His pseudo-scientific method of unification came from Freud and Jung mostly, but also from pattern-recognising cultural criticism.

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My own views are almost the opposite of Campbell's in that I regard myths as open-endedly various.

I accept his broad brush definition of 'myth' as including not only the explicit myths of anthropology and folklore; but also dreams, psychosis, arts, fantasy, and all types of narratives.

What makes something a myth is, at the first level of analysis, psychological - a feeling, a way of thinking: this is indeed one of the primary human emotions - the feeling we sometimes get that tells us: 'This is a myth!'

In fact this feeling is more profound than mere recognition that something is a myth - it is the recognition of 'Me, Here, Now - inside a myth'.

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I am talking about the difference between recognising and discussing or recounting the myth of Father Christmas; and the magical feeling of being inside, of enacting that myth on Christmas Eve. The difference between describing the quest of Frodo in Lord of the Rings, and that feeling of actually living mythically (inside a 'story') which - by identifying with Frodo - the book is able to induce in some people.

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And, in contrast to there being one (or just a few) basic stories, I think that all successful myths are significantly distinct: so it is possible to make new myths, and even new kinds of myth which others can replicate. Lord of the Rings is one example: to reduce Frodo's quest to a Hero's Journal requires significant omissions and distortions, and is basically dishonest - yet the mythic aspect is undeniably successful and real.

And powerful new myths continue to be made - for example many of the best children's animated movies of recent years have genuine mythic power (e.g. Toy Story movies, Rise of the Guardians, Maleficent), yet the myth feels new, and the plots are significantly non-stereotypical and surprising.

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Of course not all attempts to make a new myth succeed - and some (many, most?) 'new' myths are in fact subversively motivated and anti-mythical in effect. They destroy or deny that mythic feeling in favour of a political agenda or avant garde modernism; they mock, invert, permutate and distort myths; rather than create new and psychologically profound myths.

This happens a lot, because real myths are a very important force for good in the modern world - one of ever-fewer places where people can live (for a while) un-alienated, and in relationship with reality.

Because myth is real; mythic modes of being are indeed more real than the world outside them; indeed the non-mythic mode never feels real but always alien, un-engaging, and merely a means to some other end.

By contrast, mythic experience, living inside myth, is an end in itself - not sufficient in itself, to be sure; but the essential basis for all the real things of life.

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Thursday, 23 October 2014

There are no organisms, species, living things etc (Biology cannot explain Biology)

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I have been doing some hard thinking lately about the origins of life, operating from within the assumptions of biology - and, as always happens, I pretty soon find myself getting perplexed at what I already know but keep on neglecting or forgetting; that biology cannot explain biology.

All biological definitions turn to mush and fuzz - and all biological categories (without which we cannot even begin to do biology) turn out to be unworkable when pushed to the edge.

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What is an organism? Nothing to do with a specific set of genes, not really; because there are somatic mutations within the life of the organism - from the moment of its origin, which means that cells differ genetically within the organism - so we are a colony, not a unity.

What is worse, it means that we change identity throughout life.

In trees, for instance, one twig is genetically non-identical with another twig someplace else; and neither are identical with the seed from which the tree grew - the tree is a lineage, not a unity.

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And life? It is about metabolism and replication - but metabolism is merely a pattern of processes with interchangeable molecules, and the line drawn around the pattern of processes refers merely to a quantitative concentration of metabolism - there are no sharp lines, but rather a kind of metabolic soup with more activity here and less here.

Replication? Well, at best it is a matter of probabilities and percentages - in nature (as distinct from mathematical or computational simulations) there is no exact replication; and no perfect system for repairing the errors of inexact replication.  

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So what is the human being? Not the genes, as above.  Not the phenotype - the shape, or function - which is constantly changing,

The human being is not even definable by descent - because over evolutionary history things change their nature; how could they not when there is nothing specific carrying the identity. After all, cell culture which was grown from a human lung cancer is related by lineage - and indeed contains most of the genes of the original host - but isn't the human being.

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There isn't an answer to these questions! - not from within biology.

Biology is not autonomous - nor are any of the sciences - all exist within a conceptual (metaphysical) framework that is outwith science.

Essential biological concepts like the organism, species, natural selection, life itself - depend upon non-biological definitions of essences or realities or forms.

So I, as an individual person, and as a human being, and a living thing have a non-biological essence - something that biology cannot (and does not) talk about - but takes for granted, denies, ignores and in a thousand ways just leaves-out of consideration.

Natural selection pretends to be some kind of ultimate explanation, but the basic and essential matter of what it is that evolves, how we chop up reality into evolvable units... this is beyond biology, logically prior to biology.

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So when I consider the origins of life, it does not take very long, does not take many questions of questions; before I find the question to be formally unanswerable, and I lurch back or veer aside, frustrated by the impossibility - even in principle - of getting any kind of ultimate answer.
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We need the Incredible - what can intelligence do?

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What we most need is what we find hardest to believe.

What we passively receive via the mass media is evil, false, ugly; aimed to subvert and invert our aims, to trap us in a bubble of distraction, to induce despair and wish for death.

Yet hard-nosed, common sense, data-based, rational analysis and policy making is an Iron Cage - it cannot motivate us, it reduces life to something that cannot engage us. It bludgeons, it coerces but never inspires.

Only the Incredible, that which we have been trained to regard as ridiculous, absurd, disgusting - can save us.

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But not not, of course, anything Incredible: incredibility per se is useless; but among incredibilities is where the real, true and saving answer lies.

To find it is a risky business, there is no longer any psychologically-safe path. There is danger of embracing the wrong Incredible: real danger.

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What use is intelligence?

Intelligence is power, intelligence is a weapon. Intelligence is indomitable - but only, at best, defensive of good - intelligence does not originate good.

Our own intelligence is outnumbered, conquest is impossible. But the intelligence of a single Man can (if they let it) defend himself and his allies against any number of foes - if they let it.

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Intelligence is like a good shaman - who can place an impenetrable magic circle around his village, disable the weapons of the tribes' enemies, deflect the mind-probes of the aggressors to conceal his people; he has a million tricks to hold fast in a spiritual assault, and draws strength from a million hidden sources.

He cannot be defeated: so long as he fights to defend sacred ground.

Only if he allows himself to be lured into stepping-out from the gods-protected zone of rightful occupation does he become vulnerable; and then the whole tribe may be threatened with invasion, subversion; death and absorption.

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Incredible? Yes.

The good-Incredible does not originate with intelligence, nor is intelligence able to recognise it; only to defend it once recognised

The good-Incredible originates outwith, and is recognised only by an open heart - which is also vulnerable to hurt.

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An open heart cannot be defended, but when it is hurt (as it will be) it can be healed - however, only the Incredible can heal the hurt open heart.

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So we absolutely need the Incredible, or else we cannot be open-hearted, and cannot discern the good Incredible from the evil; and then we will sooner-or-later be overcome; by one means or another. 

But with the Incredible, we cannot, and will not, be overcome; ever.


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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Monarchial Leftism (a terse definition of Neoreaction) - i.e. Neoreactionaries are anti-Christian (hence on the Left) but pro-Monarchial (hence opposed to mainstream Leftism)

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It seems that it is a core belief on the secular Right, including Neoreaction, that modern Leftism, political correctness, was caused by Christianity; and that Christianity is intrinsically pro-Left.

This is
just plain wrong; and I and others have refuted this on many occasions and argued the (almost) opposite view with a piling-on of evidence - that Leftism was anti-Christian in its very foundations, and continuing (very obviously - in materially supporting and concealing the almost complete obliteration of Christianity in the Middle East over the past decade); however, this is one of those many situations when argument does not make any difference.

So, accepting that Neoreaction cannot share the following analysis; what is  Neoreaction from the perspective of the (real) Christian Right? 


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(The (real) Christian Right being the shared political perspective of all 'real' Christians - as contrasted with the fake pseudo-anti-Christianity of 'liberal Christianity' - which is the religion of the majority who self-identify as Christians. This distinction between real and fake Christians is about motivation rather than doctrine; and in this respect liberal Christians are analogous to the vast majority of dishonest, career-orientated fake-pseudo-scientists who self-identify as scientists but are in reality merely docile bureaucrats. Real science is about the honest intention to understand the natural world; not about hype and funding, power, prizes and peer review. http://corruption-of-science.blogspot.co.uk . By analogy, real Christianity is about aspiring to
structure society by Christianity, aiming at that goal using whatever means - and there are large disagreements here, rather than the opposite liberal (pseudo-) Christian goal of structuring Christianity by society.)

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Neoreaction is (it now seems) founded upon anti-Christianity - but not in the sense of 'being nasty to Christians'. Neoreactionaries aren't usually nasty to Christians, quite the opposite - they try to enrol Christians on their side. But anti-Christian in genuinely blaming (their definition of) Christianity for causing what Neoreactionaries themselves regard as the greatest evils in the modern world. 


From the Religious Right perspective, therefore, Neoreaction
shares the anti-Christian foundational belief of the Left.  

Ergo Neoreaction is of the Left.

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But clearly Neoreaction is
not of the politically correct mainstream Left - to whom Neoreaction is very hostile. 

So if anti-Christianity was historically the primary belief of Leftism, then it is probably at the
secondary level of belief that Neoreactionaries differ from the politically correct New Left. 

Historically, anti-Christianity was the
primary doctrine of Leftism, and the secondary doctrine was being against the King: was anti-Monarchial (i.e. Leftism was 'Republican' in a broad sense that includes English, French and American Revolutions).

And this is
exactly where Neoreaction diverges from the modern mainstream PC New Left: Neoreaction is pro-Monarchial forms of government - when Monarchy is conceptualized in terms of a unified, formal and mandatory hierarchical structure of social organization with a single Man at the top.

Of course, being anti-Christian means that the Man at the Top cannot be divinely sanctioned - so Neoreactionaries think in terms of a society run by a Dictator, or a Chief Executive rather than a real King.


But this pro-Monarchial foundation is the explanation for some of the most striking aspects of Neoreaction where they most sharply diverge from modern Leftism - such as being explicitly pro-slavery (because absolute opposition to slavery, with no regard for cost or consequences, was a very early dogma of the Left).


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So here is a terse definition of Neoreaction seen from the Christian Right perspective: 


Neoreaction is Monarchial Leftism

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(Alternatively, Neoreaction is in favour of non-Christian Monarchy - i.e. a dictatorship, or a society structured like an ideal-type of an effective modern institution or corporation.)

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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Deep Sleep dreams compared with Dreaming (REM) Sleep dreams: visions, meditations, inspiration and revelation

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Most, almost-all, the dreams that we remember are those which occur in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, such that this type of sleep is termed Dreaming Sleep. By contrast, Deep Sleep is usually recalled as dreamless, and when someone is woken from it (difficult) and does recall dream content, it is conceptually simple, slow, non-narrative.

Yet, I have come to believe that it is these slow, simple dreams of Deep Sleep which really matter, while the narrative dreams REM sleep are nearly always trivial.

I need a new name for the 'dreams' of Deep Sleep - because they are so different from REM dreams. I propose Slow Motion Segment - because although the Deep Sleep content is very simple and may be in words, emotions, or any other domain; when the 'dream' is visual it is not really static  - not like a picture - but more like a slow motion segment of video - like a second of waking time, stretched-out and its inner workings and evolution examined in incredible detail.

So, just as the release of the cricket ball from a bowler's fingers (or a baseball from the pitcher's fingers) can barely be seen in real time (taking only thousandths of a second), in 'super slo-mo', the extraordinary and evolving, interacting intricacies of finger, wrist and arm movement can easily be observed: that is a metaphor for what goes-on in the 'dreams' of Deep Sleep. 

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I have read many, many accounts of dreams - in all sorts of writings from the psychoanalytic, through the scientific, to the personal; and people have told me their dreams, and of course I have my own dreams... and the overwhelming impression is that dream content is nearly-always (but not always) trivial, emotionally-shallow, and lacking in serious significance.

REM dreams, by and large, are not a profound message awaiting decoding, they are at the level of a TV soap opera - sometimes emotionally sensational in a manipulative sort of way, but ultimately just froth: 'chewing gum for the mind".

But Deep Sleep is the most therapeutic, recreative and necessary form of sleep - despite that its mental contents are apparently not explicitly accessible. We are only indirectly aware of the consequences of Deep Sleep - seldom of the goings-son: we feel the difference that Deep Sleep makes, but are seldom aware of what made than difference.

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Meditation is, or should be, about linking-up the conscious mind with the slow, simple and significant world of Deep Sleep - and not with the flashy trivialities of REM sleep - which lead merely to hallucinations, delusions and other delirious phenomena.

The content of meditation is not supposed to be like a REM dream, but more like a Slow Motion Sequence - an examination and experience of something tiny and apparently-fragmentary that waking life would barely notice, it would flash-by in an instant; but which is revealed as rich and significant and enlightening.

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This means that when a mystic reports his visionary experience derived from this Deep Sleep type of meditation, he will be using the language of waking consciousness to describe what was perhaps a tiny and apparently insignificant moment of awake time, and will have to contextualise, elaborate and interpolate details in order to make sense of the Slow Motion Segment.

Indeed, this is, I think, why Deep Sleep and Visionary and Meditative and Inspirational and Revelatory experiences are seldom explicitly remembered (they are remembered by the effect, rather than by their content) - the awake time-scale is so extremely different from the experiential timescale of Deep Sleep.

I would say, many hundreds of times slower; so that Deep Sleep might spend an hour of awake time (as measured in the 'real world) examining the inward workings and implications of one experienced second of Deep Sleep dreaming...

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So to take a revelatory vision such as William Arkle's Hand of God

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/the-vision-of-william-arkle-question-of.html

My belief is that the actual vision which underlay the written account was probably of the nature of a slow motion segment - a short, visual and emotional experience, which was known in extraordinary detail - but which can only be recalled and described in narrative language of the type we associate with the awake state and REM sleep.

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I think this is also what happens in inspiration - for example in science. A very simple, short segment - known intuitively in rich inner detail - is what provides the insight, and not an extended explicit narrative: I am thinking of the simple visions of Kekule's Benzene Rings symbolised by ouroboros snakes with tail in mouth, or Szilard's Eureka moment about nuclear fission as a traffic light changed to green.

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What about those relatively rare examples of REM sleep dreams which are experienced as significant: Jung's Archetypal, Mythic or Great dreams. I suppose that these are a combination of normal narrative dreams of REM sleep, with an incursion of Deep Sleep and its Slow Motion Segments - so that, as it were, the trivial REM dream story suddenly slows down a hundredfold, and becomes extremely detailed, reveals great profundities: an epiphanic moment showing 'the world in a grain of sand'.

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These reflections came to me while pondering the prophecies of Isaiah from the Old Testament (and Book of Mormon); and how obscure yet significant they seem to the waking mind.

If we can suppose Isaiah having true revelations, yet needing to translate these into the shallow, trivial, fast moving world of everyday life - we can imagine that he hit upon a poetic method, in that lyrical poetry can condense vast meanings into few words.

(Perhaps this is, indeed, the primary 'function' of poetry in the human condition?)

There is the problem of translating poetry, and translating between an ancient society and a modern one is also difficult (some say impossible) - but in a divinely-inspired version such as the Authorised/ King James Bible, when being read in a proper spirit - the meanings will be there even for the modern and English speaking reader/ meditator; at least, to those able and willing to attune poetically, and not 'literally'- and thereby to intuit vast depth and detail from few words: words that can unpack hours from seconds.

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Mainstream Christianity is Incredible; Mormon Christianity is Incredible-squared (but both *are* Incredible)

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I am under no illusion but that Mormonism is Incredible in the sense that it severely strains credibility, and simply seems ridiculous, absurd, disgusting to the standards of normal public discourse.

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/mormonism-poised-between-incredibilities.html

However, mainstream Christianity is incredible also, and in exactly the same way and by the same type of criteria (Incredible that is, to the external observer, who is neither mainstream nor Mormon) - which is to say: to accept any kind of Christianity is to accept the Incredible, and to reject Christianity is also to accept the Incredible.

Christianity is Incredible, Mormon Christianity is Incredible-squared.

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Therefore neither mainstream Christianity nor Mormon Christianity should be presented as anything other than Incredible - because to do so is to misrepresent.

And because to do so is to diminish: positive transforming power is a consequence of Incredibility; so if our faith is in something less than the Incredible, then it is partial and enfeebled. 

If Incredible things are to be rejected, then both Christianity and Mormon Christianity should be rejected.

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But of course, the truth of Mormon Christianity is NOT entailed by the truth of mainstream Christianity - one can (the vast majority of Christians have and do) rationally embrace the Incredibility of mC while rejecting the incredibility of MC.

(The opposite is not possible - if someone believes that Mormonism is true then that does entail accepting the essential truth of mainstream Christianity.)

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So it is reasonable, and indeed usual, for mainstream Christians to reject Mormon Christianity as Incredible-hence-untrue; however, they should be aware that precisely the same qualitative point can equally-reasonably be made against mainstream Christianity - if that Christianity is to be positive and transforming.

Only the Incredible can save us: only the Incredible would offer us everlasting life as Sons of God.

Our choice, here and now, is between Incredibilities - or despair.

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Monday, 20 October 2014

The working of the Atonement of Jesus Christ can explain how self-chosen damnation is possible, and would be permanent

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(The following is offered as a possible way of understanding. If it is not helpful - please ignore it.)


The atonement of Jesus Christ is described as infinite, in the sense that there is no finite limit to the number of people or of sins which may be cleansed by it.

When time is regarded in a common-sense fashion as linear, sequential and irreversible; Christ's atonement must (I think) be seen as continuing and on-going and un-ceasing - for so long as Men sin and repent.

After Christ had suffered and died and descended into Hell; the atonement was completed for everybody up to that point in history. From that point onwards the atonement is re-enacted moment by moment; again with each repented sin.

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The historical atonement therefore established the process by which Jesus Chris took on himself the sins of the world - and suffers for us, that we may be made clean.

The atonement is what allows us to be resurrected and perfected in body and soul (cleansed, purged, made new and whole - while yet remaining our-selves).

But this does not happen automatically nor is it forced upon anybody - but necessarily happens only by our individual consent and choice.

If any person does not allow this to happen, chooses that it does not happen, reject's Christ's offer to take away our sins on condition of repentance; then the atonement does not apply, Christ does not cleanse us - and we are resurrected uncleansed.

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Since the resurrection is permanent and irreversible, the unrepented sins are built-in, permanent and irreversible.

This is the state termed damnation.

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Clearly, on this basis, it would be wise not to be resurrected until after we have acknowledged and repented our sins, and 'believed-in' Christ to the extent that we accept his offer to cleanse us.

On this basis, I assume our loving Heavenly Father would tend not to resurrect an unrepentant soul, but to wait and delay resurrection - in hope that repentance will follow at some time, in response to reflection and experiences in the post-mortem spirit realm (perhaps also interventions from those alive on earth).

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Only if and when an unrepentant soul insists on being resurrected here-and-now (through Pride) would damnation actually happen.

Only then would a soul be damned - firstly by that soul's own choice to reject Christ's atonement, and secondly by refusal to wait and delay, ponder and learn - but impatiently and against divine advice to demand immediate resurrection of their yet sin-full body and soul.

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Using common sense arguments against politically correct Leftism is worse than futile: the secular Right, and Neoreactionaries, need to ask themselves *why* the modern West does not apply common sense, and ponder the strength of anti-common sense adaptations

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So many of the major hazards of modern Western life - whether the Ebola epidemic, of one of the chronic problems of the economy, crime, education, mass migration... - could simply be solved by the simple application of simple common sense.

And the secular Right are the party of common sense, and within the secular Right Neoreaction is the party of hard-nosed engineers who know how to fix things - and both and delight in explaining that the problems of modern Leftism are caused by insufficient common sense, and could be cured by the application of more common sense.

Indeed the bulk of secular Right and Neoreactionary discourse is precisely the use of common sense to ridicule the Left. 

But they fail to ask why common sense is not, in fact, actually applied.

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This is the 64,000 dollar question.

Any explanation for the triumph of the Left which is fundamentally rooted in the history of ideas, has to account for the ability of propaganda (per se) - but in this instance emanating from a small, localized, fluid, and far-from-cohesive (mutually competing) elite - has been and is is able to overcome common sense - a psychological attribute which is solidly located in everybody, does not change, and is the default state.

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The more that the secular Right/ Neoreaction expose and mock and dissect the ludicrous incoherence and inefficiency and ineffectiveness of Leftism - using a baseline of common sense evaluation - the more extraordinary the continued existence and dominance of Leftism becomes.

The weaker its common sense basis, the stronger must be the real strength of Leftist ideas; else they would not have won. It is he source of the strength of Leftism that needs to be known and analyzed, not their weaknesses - which are clearly irrelevant!"

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The basic fact is that Leftism does in practice, and now, overcome common sense arguments - so it is futile to try and use common sense as a knock-down argument against Leftism.

Indeed, it must be that Leftism feeds-off common sense arguments - otherwise Leftism could not have grown-up and thriven in a context of universal common sense - therefore common sense arguments are worse than futile -

Common sense analysis actually fuels the engines of Leftism.

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Sunday, 19 October 2014

I like to eat dust - do you?

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It seems to be unusual - unique in my family - but I like to eat the dust at the bottom of packets.

The original was Oofle Dust, as we called it, which was the crisp frosting remnants at the bottom of Sugar Puffs breakfast cereal (made from glazed oats, and recently re-named) - this, I regarded as a magical substance (the name because Oofle Dust was the magic substance deployed by Sooty the Bear - above).

I also like any other breakfast cereal dust - including even All Bran - although the rest of the family throw this away - sometimes even sieving it out from the bigger particles - rather than having it 'spoil' their breakfast.

Also I like the little 'niblets', those spiky blobbages (structurally, the radicle) which come-out when salted peanuts are split. Although they taste slightly bitter, I tend to feel that are a kind of concentrated essence of goodness - but I have noticed that most people leave them untouched at the bottom of the dish.

Seems I like to eat my peck of dust.

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Reality must be easy to understand; even though it is hard to do

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If reality is understandable at all, then it is easy to understand - understandable by anybody who can understand anything.

What we can be sure about is that reality is NOT going to be too difficult to understand by children and simple people, yet possible to understand by intelligent and educated people.

How likely is that? That the difficulty-level of understanding the world just happens to be at a level that it is understandable, but only by a small minority of the ablest people; or that reality  is understandable, but only to the minority of people who happen to have studied the right subjects!

That understanding is at a threshold located precisely in-between childhood and adulthood, and between the ability of some adults but not others!

(This is why esoteric and gnostic and abstract and complex explanations must either be wrong. or unnecessary.)

No, if reality is understandable, this is not a matter of luck or statistical probability but simply because God has made reality and God has made us - such that reality is understandable; and that must mean reality is easy to understand - that it is understandable by immature, the unintelligent, the uneducated. 

(i.e. Reality is understandable by anyone capable of understanding anything-at-all.)

Reality is difficult to do, perhaps and probably; but easy to understand: if you allow yourself to understand it. 

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Saturday, 18 October 2014

There is quite an impressive amount of evidence in favour of the genuineness of The Book of Mormon (although this evidence is not conclusive)

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Mormonism stands and falls on the genuineness of the Book of Mormon being what it claims to be - there really is no wriggle room on this matter: the claims are much too explicit, specific and too concrete for them to be regarded as symbolic.

Furthermore, there really are only two possibilities with the BoM : it must be valid or else a conscious, deliberate and extremely elaborate fraud.

These are the rival hypotheses which need to be evaluated.

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Now, many or most people will be sure, a priori, that the BoM is a fraud; and if that is how the matter is approached, then that is the conclusion which will emerge.

However, if the question is approached in an agnostic fashion, then the matter is far from straightforward.

And in fact there is a lot of evidence, some of it remarkable, in support of the genuineness of the Book of Mormon - easily enough to make the claims factually plausible and to make belief in the genuineness of the BoM absolutely reasonable by normal evidential standards; even despite some currently-unanswered questions and inconsistencies.

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Here is an interesting and accessible round-up from Daniel C Peterson - who is a highly intelligent, honest and learned scholar who is himself a Mormon.

In watching this, I would suggest that the positive evidence that Prof Peterson presents should simply be regarded as reasonable and plausible and significant - it is quite unnecessary to regard it as absolutely hard-line conclusive, or as there being no other way of interpreting it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VV8QN7bIeEE

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I think it would be a mistake to try and convince people that the Book of Mormon is true.

The validity of the Book of Mormon cannot be established by such evidence as assembled above; nobody is going to feel compelled to accept the genuineness of the book's claims on the basis of such evidence - not least because modern people find it easy to reject any 'supernatural' claims, and all empirical evidence of any kind is susceptible to plural interpretations.

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The Book of Mormon itself says explicitly that after all possible evidence has been gathered and evaluated, belief should be (and should only be) a consequence of prayer, of asking God about the validity of the Book of Mormon, and of obtaining a sense of personal conviction of its truth by revelation.

So, the way it works is that the investigator should establish for himself that it is at least not-unreasonable that the Book of Mormon's claims are true; and that there is significant (although it will never be conclusive) evidence to support its claims.

Then the investigator must pray to know the truth; must pray sincerely, earnestly and with an open heart.

If the investigator will not pray - then he should not believe; and if the investigator does pray but receives a negative answer - then he should not believe.

That's it - although of course the process may be repeated.

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Beyond evidence there absolutely must be faith by personal revelation.

Once the validity of the Book of Mormon's claims have been granted and confirmed, once someone is convinced, then this belief inevitably has immense significance and vast ramifications for understanding human history and the nature of life.

Nothing will ever be the same again.

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Modern non-religious spirituality either depends absolutely on memory; or else depends on the obliteration of memory

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Because modern spirituality has ruled-out in advance any role for God, then meaning can only be in memory - which will surely erode, become distorted and end with death; or in the obliteration of memory by 'living in the present moment' without self-awareness - which is to destroy what it is to be human.

Thus modern spirituality is peculiarly split in its attitude to memory. 

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To be 'spiritual but not religious' is a very mainstream sort of thing nowadays - as evidenced by the large 'Mind, Body and Spirit' section of bookshops, and the multitude of New Age activities and artifacts.

This can briefly be characterized as 'anything but Christianity' - being broadly positive towards all religious traditions past and present except actually-existing Christianity (which is regarded as one or another type of 'fundamentalism')

(Note: This was me, up to about 2007.)

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Among those who are spiritual but not religious, there are people who seek and collect epiphanies, spiritual experiences, moments of insight and enlightenment - relying on their brain-located memory to store, preserve and retrieve them intact and as required (in order that life have meaning).

Yet all this store will inevitably melt-away and become muddled with time.

And since they believe that there is nowhere for memories to be except in the brain, when the brain goes so do the memories (which are probably feeble and biased anyway), and then they are utterly annihilated, as if they had never been.

So, to live utterly dependent on one's own personal memory is at most a temporary stop-gap; and ultimately, it is futile.

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And there are people who seek to escape from dependence on memory, and live in the present moment - believing that the present moment is real, but memories an illusion, and concerns over the future are a snare.

They seek to lose all attachment to the world, to cease to be self-aware: indeed to dissolve the illusion (as it is regarded) of being a 'self' distinct from reality. They seek just to BE.

In the West this has been a strong strand of spirituality, from the Romantic Movement of the late 18th century (and in the USA, the New England Transcendentalists a little later).

And since the Beat Generation of the 1950s and Hippies of the 60s, the main reference has been to 'world religions' - whether Eastern and meditative, or aboriginal and shamanic.  

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There are various disciplined paths to the obliteration of the self - an arduous and prolonged training in something like Zen; or else there is an instant and reliable obliteration of the self and memory by means of intoxication with drugs, or the triggering of any other cause of acute delirium.

Or, for a more lasting - indeed permanent - solution there is death: suicide - that does it too.

Combining the two paths of intoxication and suicide is also quite popular since it was pioneered by Beats and Hippies - i.e. to drink or drug oneself to death, and call the process a 'spiritual' path. 

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So there are these two opposing strands in modern New Age spirituality - the one depends on a perfect and long-lasting memory, the other on destroying both memory and planning as evidence of a false self and attachment to the world.

The first is refuted by everything we know (from our own experience, as well as science and medicine) about the contingency and evanescence of memory; the second is a covert death wish - specifically a wish for 'the self' to die - coming from a cultural context of religions where 'the self' is expected to survive death, and either be reincarnated in a nightmare cycle of eternal suffering, or consigned to a state of eternal misery (such as Hades, Sheol, or Hell).

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From my own experience of banging my head against the possibilities, neither of these make sense as a way of living - so modern New Age spirituality is, in practice, not taken with ultimate seriousness; in practice, it is a tactical (not strategic), self-administered psychotherapeutic lifestyle option: just a collection of spiritual band-aids and stop-gaps.

The only way-out from this is to re-examine the primary premise of 'anything but Christianity' - at least, minimally, to the extent of allowing for the reality of a personal God. 

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Friday, 17 October 2014

A few notes on Oswald Spengler's Decline of the West

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I have been reading in Spengler's big book over the past few days ('reading in' means I have only sampled it - by no means read it all).

I have had a shot at Decline of the West before, about ten years ago I think; but then I was reading it on recommendation whereas this time I was reading it because I wanted to - consequently this time was much more rewarding.

Indeed, to my great surprise, I found the introduction and early chapters to be absolutely superb metaphysics (i.e. 'first philosophy', about the primary nature of reality and our concepts of it - not history) - it was about the nature of knowing and the deficiencies of thinking in terms of causality. To me, it seems more profound than the monism/ pluralism distinction I have been using recently (derived from William James, and lying behind Wittgenstein's late work).

I have read other works in this line of 'lebensphilosophie', such as Dilthey, which was popular and dominant in German academia and literary culture of the late 19th and early 20th century, but nothing I have come across before was anything like so good as Spengler.

On the basis of these early chapters of DotW, I would regard Spengler as being in the first rank as a modern writer on metaphysics. Of course, I will need to go back over this again soon - because it was too much to take in at one go.

As for the rest of the book, the bulk of it and the best known part, it contains all sorts of insights - but I often got bogged down.

The lesson I take away is as follows: 100 years ago Spengler wrote that the culture of the West was dead, and this was generally accepted by many of the deepest and most thoughtful thinkers of Central Europe (Wittgenstein for instance) - not because Spengler said it, but because they already knew it.

That is our present situation and has been for five generations - nowadays, we are not awaiting nor even experiencing the death of the West, we are living at least a century after it has happened! - We are currently living in the decaying of the already-dead West.

That seems to make sense of the things that Spengler did not predict, did not imagine - the literal insanity of political correctness, the aggressive official enforcement of ridiculous lies and inversions of reality, virtue, truth and beauty.

One aspect Spengler remarked-on which is illustrative and probably a deep poetic truth: that (in contrasting men and women) women embody destiny; women are history - bound-up in the process, so that it is wrong to talk of causality. So we need to look at what women are, generically - rather than what men say - in evaluating Western culture.

And that is the measure of our situation.

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Power, potential, pride: Tolkien's parable of Numenor

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There is no single lesson to derive from the Numenor parable; a true myth is not an allegory but a sub-creation with a life of its own.

But Tolkien's version of the Atlantis theme (deriving from Plato's dialogues Timaeus and Critias, and long regarded as, at least, semi-historical) is something I find ever-more resonant.

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The Numenoreans were the minority of mortal Men who had fought alongside Elves and Valar to overthrow the evil god Morgoth.

As a reward and compensation for destruction of their lands; by the gods these Men were given peace and plenty, their bodies were enhanced in strength and stature, they were freed from bodily suffering and illness, they were given a beautiful and safe island in which to dwell - out of reach of Middle Earth, their intelligence and skill were enhanced - including the use of magic, they had the friendship and help of the High Elves.

Their life span was extended about threefold, so they would have enough time to bring their schemes to fruition.

The Numenoreans were thus made super-Men; but they remained Men: mortal Men.

And for all their enhancements they had the faults of Men.

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What did they do - what did they make of their opportunities?

For a while they were satisfied to live well - enjoying the simple things of human life enriched by disinterested learning, art, and religion - and faithfully accepted death when it was due...

Then they became scholars, scientists and technologists; almost matching the High Elves in their ingenious devices; and surpassing them in becoming the greatest mariners the world had seen, the greatest military power...

For a while.

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But soon they got bored, felt constrained, wanted a change, wanted power and wealth and luxury and to dominate, wanted the worship and subservience of lesser men - wanted all this and nothing less than than all this; here, now and forever.

Wanted perfect satisfaction of all their desires: Good and evil.

Wanted permanent worldly gratification.

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They rejected beauty for power, science for magic, rejected truth and freedom for propaganda and totalitarian coercion, disbelieved in the virtue of the one God and his Valar - eventually, in a final rapid spiral-down into the pit, embraced the worship of 'the dark lord' Morgoth and the High Priest status of Sauron, because they believed he could grant them their desires.

Other Men of Middle Earth then feared them; they were terrorized, exploited, enslaved, sacrificed. 

Sensing their own degeneration and decline, ignoring argument, refusing repentance; the Numenoreans built a massive armament and assaulted the gods by force, invaded the undying lands to take what they wanted - to be immortal gods on earth...

And by direct act of The One (Eru, God); the invading army was destroyed, Numenor itself was destroyed, all its people were destroyed (except for a small surviving minority resident in Middle Earth or swept there in ships) by a cataclysmic remaking of the world.

In grasping at gratification of all their desires and forever, they embraced destruction: nihilism.

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Numenor is modern man, conceptualized as being enhanced in both individual and social capability but failing to use these gifts for spiritual purposes; and instead pursuing more and ever-more personal and material goals, never satisfied, insatiable - grasping at more life, more power, more pleasure; at first with energy and zeal, then with fear and exhaustion, finally with despair and insane self-hatred...

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Repentance and renewal was possible for Numenor at any moment up until the last moment - they were given chance after chance. The gods and The One held back their justice until they had no choice but to act.

But repentance was always blocked by pride.

At the end, the Numenoreans were, as a culture, insane, having embraced insanity by incremental steps, until - I guess, perhaps - the clearing of illusion at the very end. At the very end when utter failure was obvious and imminent, it is likely that death and destruction, annihilation, was actually chosen.

Chosen on the same basis that Denethor (one of the last true Numenoreans) described in his despair:

"...if doom denies this to me, then I will have naught: neither life diminished, nor love halved, nor honour abated. (...) But in this at least thou shalt not defy my will: to rule my own end."

Thus is pride the strongest of sins, thus is damnation chosen at the last.

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Thursday, 16 October 2014

Continuing revelation

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"Human judgment and logical thinking will not be enough to get answers to the questions that matter most in life. We need revelation from God." 

President Henry B Eyring. CJCLDS General Conference October 2014

(Note: President Eyring is the senior of the two counselor's to Thomas S Monson, who is the living Prophet and President of the Mormon Church.) 

The following 17.30 minute talk - if watched and listened-to with close attention - seems to me to get close to encapsulating what I understand to be the very heart and essence of the Mormon faith.

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/10/continuing-revelation?lang=eng

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The greatness of George Orwell - and his fatal flaw

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Having discovered that George Orwell's wife is buried just a few hundred yards from where I am writing (in Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne), and that Orwell himself seems to have intended to be buried here

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/george-orwell-intended-and-expected-to.html

..is a trivial micro-factoid in the scheme of things, but has had the effect of making me start thinking again about Orwell.

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My generation was fed Orwell at school from our mid teens - some of the essays such as Shooting an Elephant and Boys' Weeklies; excerpts from the documentary books such as Down and Out.. and ...Wigan Pier; and the two late political novels Animal Farm and 1984.

That Orwell was mostly correct about things was not really argued, but assumed; on the basis that he seemed obviously correct to almost everybody; so far as the English were concerned, Orwell was simply expressing the national character better than we ourselves could have done.

Orwell was claimed both by the Left - on the basis that he was explicitly a socialist through most of his life; and he was claimed by the Right - on the basis that his two best known novels are anti-communist warnings against totalitarianism.

In sum: Orwell's influence was much as any writer reasonably could have hoped for. And his warnings about the dangers of Leftism and the operations of totalitarianism were as lucid, as explicit, and as forceful as any writer could have made them.

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And yet Britain today is an 'Orwellian' society to a degree which would have seemed incredible even 25 years ago. The same applies to the USA, where Orwell was also revered.

In particular, the exact types of abuses, manipulations and distortions of language which Orwell spelled-out in fiery capital letters 100 feet high have come to pass; have become routine and unremarked - and they are wholly-successful, barely-noticed, stoutly-defended - and to point them out is regarded either as trivial nitpicking or evasive rhetoric.

The current manifestations of the sexual revolution, deploying the most crudely Orwellian appropriations and taboos of terminology, go further than even Orwell envisaged. The notion that sexual differences could so easily be subverted, and their evaluations so swiftly reversed; apparently at will and without any apparent limit would - I think - have gone beyond the possibilities Orwell could have realistically imagined.

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(Indeed, it is characteristic of the Kafka-esque absurdity of modern Western life that a plain description of everyday reality - say in a state bureaucracy, the mass media or university - is simply disbelieved, it 'does not compute' and is rejected by the mind. And by this, nihilistic absurdity is safeguarded.)

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I think Orwell would never have believed that people would accept, en masse, and so readily go along with (willingly embrace and enforce, indeed), the negative relabelling of normal biological reality, and he substitution of arbitrary and rapidly changing inverted norms: for Orwell, The Proles were sexually normal, like animals, and would continue so. The elites, whatever their personal preferences and practices, left them alone in this - presumably because sexuality was seen as a kind of bedrock.

And this leads to Orwell's fatal flaw - which was exactly sexuality. He was, like most radicals, an advocate and practitioner of promiscuous extra-marital sex - indeed he regarded this as the natural thing, and it would be wrong to suppress it. And he was essentially an agnostic/ watery Anglican; Orwell was not quite anti-Christian as such (although arguably anti-Catholic - on political grounds: he - mistakenly - regarded it as a species of totalitarianism); but I think he saw Christianity as being a personal matter, and one that ought not influence or constrain national laws and public morality.

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Orwell was, of course, a patriot - strongly so; indeed his patriotism was a kind of bottom line for him, and he loathed those such as communists and national socialists who put other countries interests above their own; and especially those numerous Leftists in public life (at many levels, and going up to the top - including a King) who subverted Britain and covertly worked to promote Nazi or (mainly) Soviet policies.

At that time patriotism was a given for the mass of English people - although the upper class was full of traitors and fifth columnists, and the Scots, Welsh and (especially) Irish had developed an anti-English nationalism which allied itself with England's Enemies (the Scots and Welsh Nationalists were socialists/ communists, the Irish Republic allied with the Nazis).

But patriotism melted away and was aggressively suppressed in the decades after Orwell's death, and an attempt in 1993 by Prime Minister John Major to use Orwell's description of characteristic Englishness as a rallying point for national revival was mocked and ignored.

A country of long shadows on county cricket grounds, warm beer, green suburbs, dog lovers, and old maids cycling to holy communion through the morning mist. 

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In the end, Orwell's secular morality of 'decent behaviour' (decent, that is, except in the sexual realm - where it was pretty much a matter of grabbing as much as you could get away with); was revealed as spineless, sentimental, and having no basis - once Christianity had been stripped-out of British public (then private) life.

Orwell, like so many radicals of his time and ours, simply took for granted the rock-bottom which was provided by a Christian society - and he thought that we could pick and choose the bits we liked - the essential decency and gentleness and common sense - while leaving out the bits we didn't like: God, Jesus Christ, and the so-called 'puritanical' and anti-fun attitudes to lifestyle such as sex, alcohol, gambling and the like.

(In Wigan Pier, Orwell ridicules the then-strong puritanical strand of English socialism, implicitly including ascetic Nonconformists, as sandal-wearing, vegetarian cranks who put-off the common sense masses.)

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But it turned out that the Christian thing was much more coherent, more interconnected and inter-dependent, and much deeper-rooted than Orwell and his contemporaries supposed. The act of digging so deep to uproot and thoroughly extirpate just that single aspect of sexual prohibitions was - in practice - to render ineffectual all decent social rules.

Indeed, the extirpation of Christian sexual morality was less like digging than quarrying - and when the job was done, the gentle, fertile beauties of the English landscape were reduced to sterile rubble.

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(Orwell recognized the national significance of sub-replacement fertility - that it was an index of decadence and demoralization - but he did not foresee that exactly this, would be an inevitable consequence of his personal and ideological preferences for sexual 'freedom'. Many of us have made the same error - and continue to do so - in this, as in so many other ways, Orwell was a representative man.)

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In the end England's greatest and most formidable foe of totalitarianism, and his legacy of lucid explanation and stern warning, was undone by one fatal flaw.

The sexual revolution, which Orwell supported, weakened then destroyed Christianity as a force in national life - destroyed that massive edifice of religion which was, it turned-out, as a matter of fact, the only thing that stood between England and totalitarianism.


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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

William Arkle - The divine Father and Mother (the human family as an analogue for our relationship with God)

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The Father and Mother

Explanation by William Arkle :
Describing, in the most simple way, the profoundly attentive love that is constantly expressed towards each of God's children.
In this case we see the little human on earth, standing alone and unafraid before his inner realisation of this beautiful attitude of God. He feels the nature of love to be both as a mother and a father towards him, and that such love is not concerned with any difference in size between his nature and the much more mature nature of God.

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The Parents

Explanation by William Arkle


Depicting our Divine Father and Mother in an ethereal form and yet close to the earth, where they are looking upon a human father and mother on the banks of the river.

The children of the human parents are seen playing among the rocks beyond them. The purpose of the painting is to express the attitude of parental love that comes to us from our God, and also to describe the fact that our own children bear to us the same relationship which we bear to our Divine Parents.

This is of particular interest when we realise that all the relationships of love and responsibility we experience in bringing up our children on earth are a small scale replica of the problems and difficulties and joys that our God has in bringing us to life.

Such an important part of this life we are being given is the reality and strength of our own individual duality, which can only be given us if God leaves us with real freedom in which we can make real mistakes. And so we discover the same understanding in our earthly family situation. We know we have got to let go of the guidance and discipline we exercise over our children as they grow to an age when they must take their reality upon themselves.

The experience of being both a child and a parent on earth is thus one of the most profound forms of teaching which the Creator has arranged for us to experience, and we will find within those experiences the answer to most of the great enigmas of life.



From: http://www.billarkle.co.uk/greatgift/pictureseq/fset003.html 

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Note: To add a further layer to the analogy between the mortal family and the divine family, my understanding is that the models used for the Father and Mother, and The Parents were William Arkle's own son and daughter.
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Understanding the culture of celebrity

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The cult of celebrity is strange and gets stranger all the time- probably it is best to think of it as an addiction.

'Everyone knows' that celebrity is at best a fake and at worst enables and protects an astonishingly depraved life - Sir Jimmy Savile may have been (I hope he was) the most extreme example of top-level celebrity evil, but is not the only one - and at every level celebrity works in a multi-valently wicked fashion - causing both passive and active evil.

Celebrity in the modern world is on such a vast and intrusive scale, that the human mind is assaulted, bewildered, drawn-in and held in a prison of dissipative nastiness.

Even at its least actively-harmful, millions of man-hours are expended by ordinary people in watching, reading, gossiping and social-networking about celebrities and their doings - not to mention the multi-billion dollar segment of the mass media that is utterly dependent on the celebrity culture.

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This is evidence of human boredom, futility and desperation on a scale which is almost impossible to exaggerate. And the fact that so many people are happy, willing, active and aggressive supporters of the celebrity culture - in their spending, their allocation of time and effort and their proselytizing zeal - is conclusive.

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There is zero possibility of reforming the culture of celebrity - such attempts merely strengthen the culture by further increasing its size, complexity and ability to defend itself.

We see this all the time - a celebrity whose celebrity is fading will signal 'goodness' by adopting a 'good' cause, by emphasising 'charity', or becoming 'political'. Even when this is transparently self-serving (as is all advertized charity) then the subsequent debate fuels celebrity.

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The process has been raised to the power of three by social media and social networking systems - so hundreds of millions of people are now 'celebrities' - most importantly perceive themselves as celebrities - celebrity bloggers, youtubers, facebookers, tweeters... even schoolroom or friendship group celebrities who update their 'fans' on their minute by minute doings (celebrity paid-for each also acting as 'fans' to enable the celebrity of other members of the micro group).

The process resembles 'taking in each-others washing' - but the end result is that almost everybody who wants it (which is apparently almost everybody) has a personal stake in celebrity culture, feel a part of it.

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The culture of celebrity is a direct consequence of secular modernity - because without religion Man is un-rooted, life is futile, and becomes ever more alienated, nihilistic and despairing.

The modern situation is that there is nothing more significant for modern people than celebrity - except perhaps sex, but that is anyway almost-wholly absorbed into celebrity. When sex is non-celebrity sex, it either makes no difference and is invisible as if non-existent; or is regarded as despicable.

(After all, what is the point of going on a date, having a sexual encounter, getting married or having kids if you cannot facebook, tweet, snapchat, instagram, or blog about them to your celebrity group?)

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Celebrity culture is now so big and so immersive - and so destructive of goodness, reality, religion and the soul - that the situation cannot be ameliorated except via massive mass media collapse; which will happen, and will itself lead to so many problems and so much suffering and death, that the culture of celebrity will be sucked into a black hole.

But if the culture of celebrity is not repented, if the culture of celebrity is looked-back-on as a golden age of happiness (as so many people nowadays look back on the depravities of the nineteen sixties) - then the disappearance of the culture of celebrity will do no good to those who have lost it.

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This is the religious significance of the culture of celebrity: that it is itself evil, and by many means blocks any spontaneous tendency to repent the evils of the culture of celebrity.

Given its size, scope, inclusiveness, power...  in and of itself the culture of celebrity is sufficient to establish the modern era as the most evil in human history.

How strange that evil should have such an apparently harmless appearance!

One might have expected torture, human sacrifice, fighting - but it turns-out that evil triumphant is millions upon millions of people (each one some kind of 'local celebrity') gossipping about each other, 24/7, via the mass media amplified-a-thousandfold by social networking...
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Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Futile cynicism as a characteristic of late modernity (mouse utopia: terminal phase)

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Futile cynicism is everywhere, normal, accepted.

Everybody is 'cynical' about politics and politicians; advertising; the mass media; fashion; the culture of celebrity; the behaviour of lawyers, professors, tradesmen - everybody knows that the public world is full of hype, spin, unscrupulous selection, grossly partial exaggeration, devious dishonesty and outright barefaced lies.

And yet this cynicism is utterly futile, totally ineffectual - because everybody believes what politicians say (if they support them), and what the mass media says (if they want it to be true); and they buy and wear or mutilate themselves as fashion dictates, and they believe and obey legal verdicts and college qualifications and government officials; and they swallow up celebrities - hype, spin and all - in a single gulp.

In the not so distant past, for example in the Eastern Bloc, cynicism meant disbelieving and ignoring - it meant cooperating only when forced to cooperate. Nowadays, cynicism goes with blind docility and slavish obedience - the authorities play upon the public like a musical instrument.

The public are cynically aware of the facts, but it makes no difference. The modern public - as individuals and en masse - will soak-up and go-along-with anything and everything the leadership class dream-up to pander, exploit, titillate and torment them.

And the leadership class are exactly the same about each other, and about themselves.

Cynicism about cynicism = credulity.

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John Cowper Powys

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I read a great deal of and about John Cowper Powys (1872-1963), especially, in the 2000s - although I came nowhere near reading all of his output.

I first became aware of him back in the 1970s, when browsing the unusual novels in the Picador Books rotating stand which was to be found in most booksellers of that era. The titles were intriguing to me because Powys came from Somerset (where I spent all my schooldays) and his best novel was set in Somerset - and the blurbs heaped lavish praise on the content - but the length and (when sampled) glutinous density of he prose put me off actually reading anything.

Anyway, sometime later I came across, read, and re-read, Powys's best book (for me) which is his Autobiography. A weirdly mannered, selective (no women mentioned by name) and self-consciously crazed account of his weird mental life. This was written when he lived in upstate New York, at about the same time as he wrote his most admired novels.

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I subsequently read those novels, or, at least, I sampled extensively throughout most of them. I would say that his novels are almost unreadable in the normal way (i.e. read from start to finish and missing nothing out) and indeed seem not to require to be read in the normal way.

I don't think the novels were written like normal novels - they were poured-out serially and unrevised and unstructured - in a solitary and solipsistic trance. Their meaning comes from the very broad sweep and from the vastly-detailed scenes - which pulsate with LIFE, and where the protagonists are feverishly aware of the micro-minutiae of their environment. These are unique and characteristic - and they are why I read Powys.

The nearest equivalent in my experience is Women in Love by DH Lawrence; but Powys is even more animistically-detailed while Lawrence was a far, far better craftsman - and Powys has the faults of Lawrence (in structure and pacing and looseness) amplified by an order of magnitude. Powys also has the major fault of Charles Williams: you cannot follow what is going-on, who is doing what, who is speaking etc.

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I moved on to read most of Powys's non-fiction books - his popular philosophy (which are easier to read than the novels, and depict the rationale behind the way he wrote) and the available secondary literature of biographies, lit crit, memoirs etc up to the definitive account of Morine Krisdottir Descents of Memory published in 2007.

It is clear now that JC Powys was one of the weirdest men ever to publish zillions of words of writing. On the one hand, he was innately peculiar - a mass of obsessions, compulsions, tics, perversions, habits and hobbies, illnesses and self-indulgences. On the other hand, this natural weirdness was deliberately exaggerated as his way of psychological survival and getting on in the world.

For his early and mid adult life he was a barnstorming, travelling popular lecturer on literature and philosophy (mainly in the USA) - drawing large and loyal crowds - an self-consciously developing an genius persona by lecturing in a wild gestural style in his Cambridge gown, and hamming up romantic eccentricities of dress. On the other hand, this seems to have been the only way he could cope with life - he certainly found life very difficult on a day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute basis - always feeling in danger of being utterly overwhelmed.

He was tortured by duodenal ulcer pains, hours a day, every day, and quite naturally this came to dominate his life and routine - while also being something he exploited in a perverse kind of way.

Perhaps uniquely, it was in his late middle age that Powys began writing seriously, and his vast literary output is essentially that of an old and sick man.

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So, why did I read him? The reason was philosophical/ religious. More than almost anyone I can think of, Powys tried to intuit, devise and live-by his own religion - this religion was almost wholly personal and subjective. He didn't seriously expect it to be of much use for other people - although he does outline it as a possible strategy in some of his non-fiction.

This religion was a combination of animism and totemism - everything was alive, everything significant - but some objects (stones, trees) were (literally) worshipped by means of improvised and repeated rituals; while other objects (e.g. his walking stick) were accorded fetichistic significance - and treated with an obsessive solemnity. All about him - people, places and things - were re-named and assembled into a myth which only he knew.

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Did it work for him? To some extent it did - it kept him going, and writing; although at the cost of him becoming crazier and crazier, more and more helpless, until he would have struck most people as literally psychotic.

In another sense it did not work - because he was always aware that the structure of interpretations, the sacred objects and rituals, were dependent upon himself - so there was a constant need for energy, focus, creativity to sustain this 'life illusion' as he candidly called it.

And he always remains in a state of desperation - clinging on in the face of the hourly avalanche of difficulties and problems (bad in themselves and further exacerbated by his own decisions).

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So - have put you off yet?

If despite everything you want to sample this weird genius, then I would suggest looking at three books: The Autobiography, where you can get to know him on his own terms; Wolf Solent which is the most understandable of his great novels, and the vast and sprawling A Glastonbury Romance which is by critical consent (although the author would have disagreed) his magnum opus.

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