Saturday, 25 April 2015

What makes the Golden Thread?


*
The Golden Thread is that private, mythic thread of memory which links our realest experiences back into our past. It is made of those moments when I was fully alive; when my true self, my soul, inhabited and suffused both the 'public' self and the environment- and both were lit-up. The Golden Thread is these moments of irradiation, joined-up.

Conversely, life led at the level of the external and public self was lost, was empty, meaningless - and therefore hard to remember as real. Whole years can be lost this way, barely registered; even when these were experienced as years of achievement.

Hundreds and hundreds of hours of life when I merely-existed, lived according to the world, or my public self... whereas when the soul was activated and dominant - even though that be 'merely' in yearning, aspiring; even in states of profound discontent and conscious misery - these times become linked into the Golden Thread.

By the most rigorous criteria, I am forced to regard the life as wasted that was not part of the Golden Thread; even when that includes much that others would regard as most significant. And that is a great deal of my young adult life.

I have experienced successes in several aspects of life; but these have proved to be almost-wholly illusory; when judged by the standards of the Golden Thread. 

It took marriage to re-awaken the Golden thread, and it too Christianity to recognize the Golden Thread as objectively real and valuable - and not merely a guilty, childish, secret fantasy; something merely in my mind which would die with me as was vulnerable to loss and distortion of memory.

Before Christianity, then, I feared that the all-but-forgotten hours, days, months and years might be reality, and the Golden Thread merely subjective illusion, wishful thinking.  Now I realize that the Golden Thread is the only thing which is not an illusion.

In an adult life which was mostly automatic, unfree, reactive; the moments in the Golden Thread are probably the only ones that are finally-significant, endure into eternity.

*

Friday, 24 April 2015

Control by Terror: The historical Christian church's worst sin and corruption (and a constant temptation for individual Christians)

*
It is a gross distortion, often based upon wildly-inaccurate information, to suppose that Christianity is distinctive and best characterised by terror phenomena such as 'the Inquisition' or witch-hunting or heretic-burning.

A gross distortion because we always must ask 'compared with what?'

Other similarly large and long-lasting religions are as bad or worse; and the atheistic Leftist regimes of the Twentieth Century - such as the USSR Communism under Lenin and Stalin, National Socialism under Hitler, Chinese  under Mao - attain a scale and thoroughness of terror and torment far beyond anything Christianity attained even it its worst.

So comparatively, Christianity is much better than most.

*

Nonetheless, Christianity certainly does - in some times and places and persons, become corrupted into a fear-based religion.

And when this happens, it is particularly striking and shocking, because Christianity has (or, ought-to-have) at its heart a conception of God that is the purest and most complete essence of uncompromising Love.

Insofar as this is not the case, just so far has Christianity been misunderstood or misrepresented.

*

Sadly, but perhaps inevitably, the use of threats, the induction of fear, and in general the psycho-social manipulation of people by motivating them to escape negative consequences, is a constant temptation for Christianity; and a thing which is prone to corrupt even the most devout Christians.

The problem is that negative Christianity may be very effective, in a this-worldly sense; very effective at inducing obedience and empowering the church. So it requires exceptional self-discipline on the part of both individuals and institutions not to fall into threatening people with Hellfire.

It is very easy for people to cross the line between informing people of what you believe may be the terrible consequences of their actions; and taking a delight in terrorizing them.

Yet any suspicion of someone taking delight in terrorization, or using Christian doctrine to attain personal, social or political goals is immensely damaging to the reputation of real Christianity.

Indeed, so shocking and discordant is this tendency, and so widespread has been this abuse, that it has probably been a significant cause of - on the one hand - apostasy from Christianity and the secularization of Western societies; and on the other hand the widespread evolution of the phenomenon of 'Liberal Christianity'; which is distorted, inaccurate, dishonest, ineffectual, and has ended-up inverting real Christianity and becoming actively pro-secular and anti-Christian in most essentials.

*

My point is that in the modern situation of the Culture War, a situation where Christians have had war unilaterally declared upon them both by secular Leftism and the other major rival religion, the temptation is to put Christian (or specific denominational) solidarity above the need to denounce the abuse of Christianity and its degeneration into a religion of hatred and terror.

Christians ought not to be hesitant about denouncing and distancing themselves from any real and genuine examples of either historical or modern instances of 'inquisition', 'witch-hunting' or heretic-burning type behaviour among self-identified Christians - from the gloating or threatening use of negative, punitive consequentialism ... indeed from anything which goes against the prime directive of our God being understood as above everything else a God of Love.

*

If there is, or appears to be, any conflict between Love and what is (apparently) advocated by scripture, tradition, church leadership, theology or any other source of guidance; then we must assume that there has been a misunderstanding somewhere, or some mistake or abuse.

After all, nobody is perfect, no church is perfect, sins and errors are everywhere abundant. Indeed, as I said, this particular sin is so tempting, and there is such a fine line between honesty and exploitation, that everyone will cross that line from time to time.

Every Christian will sometimes need to admit this sin, and to repent it.

But we must not put ourselves into a position of defending the indefensible. Solidarity above Love may be expedient for the immediate situation, but it is inevitably wicked and lethal to real Christianity over the longer run.

*

From metamotivation to the mass media - an appraisal of Abraham Maslow

*
I have been re-reading the work of psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) - who I regard as a sympathetic and insightful writer.

Maslow studied psychologically-healthy people, in a reaction against the focus on psychopathology of Freud, Adler, Jung and the like; and developed an 'optimistic' psychology which regarded Man as having a variety of higher and distinctively human instincts that demanded expression in the same fashion as our lower and animal instincts.

Maslow's basic thesis was therefore that when Man's survival needs have been satisfied; then - quite spontaneously and inevitably - higher meta-needs lead to the emergence and dominance of meta-motivations - in particular meta-motivations towards spirituality, creativity, artistic appreciation and the life. This seemed obviously true back in the nineteen-fifties and early sixties; but it does not seem obviously true since. It is not at all obvious that well-fed, comfortable, safe people are spontaneously reaching for higher things - indeed, quite the opposite.

*

It is hard, now, to imagine a world in which an earnest, exploratory, uncompromising idealist like Maslow could be elected President of the American Psychological Association, and become an international figure.

It is also clear that when people, en masse, have been given the conditions in which they might express meta-motivations; they instead spend many hours per day engaged in futile, undirected, cyclical self-distraction and auto-stimulation via the mass media. This sheer, deliberate wasting of time had already begun during Maslow's life, with people spending many hours per day watching TV - but has now reached unprecedented levels with smart-phones providing 24/7 portability and choice.

The question is whether Maslow was wrong about the emergence of meta-needs and -motivations; or whether there are indeed such needs but they have simply been buried beneath the more powerful and  immediate fake needs and motivations, provided on a moment-by-moment basis by the mass media.

*

My feeling is that there is a bit of both - Maslow's thesis of emerging higher needs was probably applicable to only a minority of the population; but also this minority have been corrupted, addicted and enslaved by the growth of mass media power and reach.

This has reached an extremity of incomprehension, where each person's awareness of their own addiction and slavery has been lost; and they would be shocked at the suggestion that they lacked any significant appreciation or desire for higher things.

The high-end media flatters each person (especially including those who produce the media) that they are already refined, creative, heroic, altruistic, truth-seeking, loving and compassionate individuals - a state apparently achieved merely by their passive absorption of media-generated material.

*

Maslow, for all his worth and achievement, intrinsically undercut his own thesis by his rejection of religion. He assumed that it would suffice to base human life upon an assertion of the biological reality of a higher instinctive world, and that Men would be motivated by the circular reasoning of telling them about their intrinsic motivations.

Maslow hoped that telling people that their highest goals were instincts, part of human nature, would strengthen these higher goals, and make them more socially-dominant.

In fact, it did the opposite. Maslow's psychology ends-up being self-destroying and self-refuting.

*

Once Men really believe that their highest motivations are simply a product of their innate biological nature, as Maslow taught; then these motivations lose imperative force. Human nature is then seen as an accident of evolution, and something always changing in response to society, natural selection, drugs, sickness.

Everything is seen as contingent, hence imperatives are illusory; therefore a life of psychological passivity and self-manipulation - a life of mass media addiction with individuality expressed as within-media choices - becomes not just reasonable but somehow inevitable.

*

As so often with recent thinkers, Maslow was strong on diagnosis and strong on aspirations; but weak on prescription. And as so often, this was because of his atheism - and the fact that he was trying to build the self and society on foundations of nihilism.

However, if we reintroduce religion as the proper basis of Maslow's ideas; then they become more accurate, coherent, viable and indeed motivating.

So Abraham Maslow can be recognised as a worthwhile thinker, and one we can continue to learn from.

*

Thursday, 23 April 2015

The Motivation Deficit - The Motivation Triad: Survival, Family, Religion

*


It can be argued that Demotivation is the primary pathology of modernity. The reason is obvious - modern society has severely-weakened or abolished at least three of the primary motivations of Mankind:

1. Survival
2. Family
3. Religion

Such that many, probably most, of those engaged in modern public discourse are operating in a context where biological survival is taken for granted, family is actively-rejected, and serious religion is regarded as nonsense (evil nonsense when practised by native anti-Leftists, quaint nonsense when practised by 'minorities').

*

Over the past couple of hundred years, people often thought and wrote that these motivators could (and should) be dispensed with, and that they could (and should) be replaced by other and supposedly-better motivations - (e.g. spirituality, fluid friendship, Leftist politics).

However, fifty years of experience shows that the replacements are just too feak and weeble to do the job, and the outcome is a massive motivation deficit.  

*

So, modern Man is reduced to trying to get-by on a very enfeebled and impoverished set of motivations - e.g. seeking comfort, stimulation, sex, status; avoiding suffering, pain, social-rejection...

But The Big Three motivations are either absent or weakened to the point of ineffectuality.

Small wonder that modern Man is alienated, nihilistic; lacks courage and honesty; and has become self-hating and strategically-suicidal.

*

There are plenty of Good Ideas, or at least sensible and practical ideas, floating-around in the mass media - especially old books; but no motivation actually to do them - therefore they are not done, and they will not be done; unless or until Men are again sufficiently motivated.

And Men will not be significantly remotivated until at least some of that triad of Survival, Family and Religion are restored and strengthened.

And this restoration and strengthening will happen sooner or later, because there is no remedy for demotivation and no way of compensating for demotivation - it is a single and sufficient cause of extinction.

So, selection mechanisms will ensure that the demotivated will be replaced by the motivated (specifically, the motivated who can transmit their motivation to the next generation).

A demotivated society will - inevitably, from internal causes - waste all its inherited advantages - dissipate all its strengths, attack all its virtues, fail to defend and renew itself - no matter how great are those advantages.

The motivated shall inherit the earth. But, what kind of earth they inherit will depend on the nature of their motivations.

*

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Why Christ was necessary - repair or progression? Some advantages of Mormon metaphysics in understanding Christ as essential

*
One of the difficult things about Christianity for a modern convert from atheism is to understand the necessity of Christ.

In this respect my experience recapitulated that of CS Lewis - I could appreciate the reasons to be a theist, to believe in 'god', but I found it hard to understand why Christ was necessary.

It is easy for a modern Westerner to understand how Christ is helpful (e.g. as a teacher) but hard to understand why he is necessary.

And part of the difficulty is understanding 'necessary to what?'. We might accept that Christ is necessary, we might repeat this as an article of faith; but it is apparently difficult for Modern Man to understand just exactly what it is that Christ is necessary to.

*

What difference did Christ make? - What was the situation before and after Christ - What does the world look like with and without Christ?

Indeed, the problems run even deeper than that, because any answers to the above depend upon a narrative of salvation - relating to God the Father - into which Christ is introduced. So the potential convert finds each question leads not to an answer but more questions - until he comes up against one or another of the fundamental (metaphysical) narratives which underpin Christianity.

Now, most converts do not go through this multi-layered process of questioning, but have a personal and direct revelation of the divinity and necessity of Christ. The problem is for those who do not have such a revelation, or who do have such a revelation but begin to question or doubt its validity (suspecting that the revelation may have been simply a psychological phenomenon due to wishful thinking).

But it is a deep problem for a modern convert when he finds implausible the ultimate metaphysical account of reality into-which the Christian story is being explained. This was my own experience.

*

As I have already said, a metaphysical account is not necessary to being a Christian; but I found the basic mainstream Christian story told to explain 'why' Christ was necessary, to be a mixture of discordant, implausible and incoherent.

The story I mean is the one about Man's task being to return to a pre-established perfection with the aid of Christ. God created a Good situation, Man destroyed it leading to a fallen world, and Christ restoring the primordial state of Good.

By this account Christ's job was to repair the situation which was set-up by God the Father, and wrecked by Man.

I understand that most Christians throughout history have believed that (more-or-less) this explanation is true - but on the other hand this story is a metaphysical abstraction which has been read-into scripture by a complex process of piecing together evidence from passages here and there, and underpinned by assumptions derived from Greek and Roman philosophy.

What the Gospels seem to be reporting is instead that Christ was operating in a situation where people already knew what was needed, already knew that a Messiah was the only possibly answer to providing what was needed - so that there was already a Christ-shaped-hole in the culture of that time and place. Jesus 'merely' had to demonstrate that he personally was the long-awaited Christ.

*

But what exactly that 'long-awaited Christ' was, is unclear from the Bible. And the attempt to explain Christ's role in terms of perfection-destruction-restoration has severe weaknesses.

In the first place, it reduces Christ to a role of repair - which does not explain why Christ is primary.

Secondly, it suggests a creator God who was either unable to set-up the situation so that it was robust to a bad choice from a creature whose strengths and weaknesses also had been set-up by that creator.

And thirdly, it is a world-picture that is merely an arc: perfection to wreckage and back to perfection.

*

It was the basic unsatisfactoryness of this explanation that kept me questioning (against my active will, I should add - I very much wanted to be satisfied with it, tried to be satisfied with it; but met with a continuous gut-resistance); and kept me fundamentally disbelieving of mainstream, bottom-line, metaphysical theology.

And it was this dissatisfaction which kept me seeking, and led to my delight in Mormon theology, when I finally understood that it solved all the above problems, inconsistencies, irrationalities.

*

For Mormon theology, Christ does not just repair a wrecked situation, he enables further spiritual progression: the whole 'universe' of Mormonism is dynamic rather than static.

After Christ the world does not merely return to where it was, but has had vast possibilities opened-out.

For Mormon metaphysics; the necessity of Christ goes beyond his role in repair and restoration, to enabling a world which is better than the world ever was before.

*

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Letter from your Heavenly Father (Part Five, churches)

*
My Dear Child,

As you look around you at the state of those churches which purport to be devoted to me, you will sometimes feel appalled and confused; while at other times you may be excited and encouraged to know that there are so many ways you can have a relationship with me which pleases me! 

I would urge you not to become dismayed, but to see this difficulty as one of the most important of challenges from which you may learn a great deal.

As I have already explained, my hopes and plans for your education and development mean that you need to confront many levels of difficulty, and each person has been placed in a different situation which is (on-the-whole, but not- of course - in every detail) fitted to his nature and needs.  

Nonetheless, sometimes - perhaps most of the time - you feel as if you are adrift alone and without guidance. But this is a mistake - you have guidance because I am within you - I am 'built-into' you because you are my child.

(Analogously, you also are built-into your children, via the mechanisms of heredity - including but not restricted to genes.)

Therefore, even if you feel cut-off from communication with me, you have me inside of you at all times and in all situations.

But you might suppose this means that, because God is within you, you cannot make a mistake? And then you will realise that this would be a misunderstanding - because you are just a child and cannot avoid mistakes, and my scheme is to turn this fact to good; because it is through your mistakes that you can learn most rapidly and deeply. 

So, in any situation, you must simply do your best, try as hard as you can; learn from what happens, and be prepared to repent when you recognise your errors. But you have indeed been equipped with an inner guidance system - so that. if you consult this frequently, then over time - no matter how many mistakes you make - the overall direction will be upward.

Starting from ground zero, with no beliefs, you need to judge what is true (or truest). This initial choice of  what is true and what is Good - and what on the other hand is false and evil, must be made primarily (although not wholly) by what I sometime call the discernment of a warm and open heart.

You need to trying to discover what feels most deeply Good after investigation, reflection, prayer and seeking guidance from me as I dwell within you. You are seeking what is called a revelation - a communication from me directly and personally to you - which could come in a flash, or as a gradual or step-by-step building-up of deep conviction.

You, like all my children, are capable of error - in this job of discovering the nature of your faith, as in all the tasks you face. But there is no deeper nor more valid way of making your basic life decision than the the one I have been describing.

My intention here is that you will find this encouraging, and that you will relish the challenges that lie before you. As I have already said: do your best, try the hardest you can - and be prepared to acknowledge when you err (and I will tell you when you have erred - all you need to do is ask me; and when you do not understand or cannot hear may answer, just keep on asking).

It is not some kind of feeble second-best life that you are engaged in now; but a process of education. The difficulties you face are - on the whole - the difficulties from which you-specifically can potentially learn what you-personally most need to learn; and this includes your difficulties about churches.

Do not become paralysed by these problems and the extreme likelihood of mistakes! Perhaps the greatest danger of all the many dangers that confront you would be to try and live such that you cannot make any mistakes. I call this 'spiritual pride'.

So; do not despair, but be full of hope!

I am always with you - not to make your choices for you (that is your job and indeed only you can do it), but to guide you as to the rightness of those decisions. Keep your heart open and warm, whatever happens, and you shall prevail.

From your loving Father in Heaven

*

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Letter from your Heavenly Father (Part Four - your weakness)

*
My Dear Child,

You have sometimes wondered why it is that you can never get life 'sorted out'.

No matter how much you strive and study, no matter how thoroughly you ingrain good habits, you retain weaknesses of will, of resolution, of attitude. It takes very little to set you back - sickness (physical or mental), bereavement, loss of status, betrayal, a temptation that happens to strike your Achilles heel - even a casual slight from a stranger can leave you brooding for hours.

And you have noticed that even the most admirable humans - the most virtuous, creative, intelligent, altruistic, courageous people of whom you know - have serious and significant weaknesses - pettiness, conceit, spite, lust, gluttony, moral blindnesses... there are no exceptions, and if you think there are that is only because you do not know the whole truth.

Since you know my nature, you will also know that that this situation cannot be an accident. But while your weakness is 'part of the plan', and because 'the world' is so much stronger than you are it is in that sense inevitable that you will sometimes (perhaps often) succumb to your own weakness; you must not jump to the opposite extreme of supposing that I actually want you to yield to bad temptations!

You have before you the example of my Son, Jesus Christ, to show that the ideal for Men in their mortal lives on earth is to be tempted, and to learn from being tempted, but not to yield to any temptation. That is the ideal for which you must strive.

But of course you cannot achieve it. Jesus Christ was able and willing to resist all temptations, but you are not.

So why have I placed you in such a situation? One where you are 'set-up' to fail?

The answer is quite simple - you are on earth to learn, and this is the only way you can learn. The Only Way.

And I regard your learning as of such overwhelming importance that, although it pains me more than you can understand fully, I am willing to see you struggle and fail and struggle again - against impossible odds; because by this you are (whether you realise it or not) becoming more truly adult (more grown-up) and gradually evolving towards that higher state of divinity when you can inherit more fully your intended status and role as a Son or Daughter of God.

So I do not require perfection from you, indeed I am not worried by your failures so long as they are acknowledged as failures, so long as you keep striving, and so long as you do not give up hope.

You see, although I set up this situation of striving against impossible odds - of trying, failing, learning and trying again - I also provided a solution which renders you sure to win in the end.

All this applies IF, and only if, you wish to participate in my plan for Mankind to become gods of the same order as myself - you can, as I have previously explained, opt-out of the plan without penalty. I cannot force anybody to grow-up, and would not wish to force them - you can remain a child, or become un-self-consciously happy in Nirvana if you so choose.

Only if you actively oppose my plan by attacking my other children, and trying to subvert their spiritual progress, will I - reluctantly - apply active punishments to you; but even these sufferings I may need to impose upon you are intended to bring you to a recognition - which can only be your own free choice - of the consequences of your action, and encourage repentance.

The 'solution' by which you will win in the end, and by which you cannot be defeated by life, no matter how often or how badly you fail to rise to the challenges of the world, is known as the Atonement of Jesus Christ. What this does, what it enables, is essential to the plan.

It is the Atonement of Jesus Christ which means that no matter how badly you mess-up your life; your life will be a 'success' in the sense of making real and permanent spiritual progress, so long as you accept the gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

To accept this gift it is useful but not essential, to know about Jesus Christ and what he did. The gift of Atonement is for everyone (alive and dead and in the future) - and it is applied after your death. You will be given a clear and sufficiently complete knowledge of your situation, including the role of Christ, and you will be made the offer of acknowledging the reality of the situation (this is the essence of repentance), and being washed clean. You simply need to accept this offer.

You are probably wondering what, then, is the point of knowing about this offer during mortal life? The answer can be put into a single word: hope.

If you know and understand the loving concern I have for you, and the loving gift of my Son Jesus Christ, this will give you the hope you need to keep striving for good despite failure - it will enable you to learn the most possible, it will make your success certain and your progress assured.

So hope is not an emotion - or not just an emotion - it is knowledge.

And, if it was not clear to you before, I hope this knowledge of your hope is now clearer to you - and that therefore your hope will become invincible, indestructible; immune to the onslaughts of your inevitable weakness.

Because when your hope is understood to be based upon your failures, and merely requires that you acknowledge failure as failure; then it has been placed beyond reach of circumstance.

From your loving Father in Heaven

*



Saturday, 18 April 2015

We cannot escape from incredible beliefs, twist and turn as we may

*
As I have written (see references below): Christianity is incredible, and Mormonism is incredible-squared. In that sense it is perfectly reasonable to reject either or both - because there is no requirement for us to assent to the incredible.

However, rejecting Christianity and Mormonism simply because they are incredible makes no sense either - because that rejection itself leads to incredible conclusions.

*

To focus on Mormonism - it really is incredible that Joseph Smith (of all people!) should be a prophet of God and that the provenance of the Book of Mormon was as described (gold plates, angels, translating devices etc), and that Joseph's BoM translation really derives from a lost ancient manuscript.

So it might, superficially, seem straightforward to disbelieve these things. Let's call this the skeptical alternative. But what then?

Of course, most people who reject Mormonism as incredible have a rooted negative prejudice against it, do not know the whole story, and/ or they have wildly false or distorted ideas about Mormonism.

But if you approach the subject of Mormonism with a benign and sympathetic attitude, are honest and informed; then we can see that the skeptical alternative is also clearly incredible; because it requires on the one hand that Joseph Smith was both a genius and also a calculated fraud, who led a water-tight conspiracy; and furthermore that the CJCLDS grew from a foundation of fraud and conspiracy to become the (overall) highly positive and wholesome influence it is today.

*

But yet again, the skeptical alternative - while incredible and unprecedented - is not impossible.

It is possible to imagine or suppose that a fraudulent genius and a watertight conspiracy did indeed, by chance and against the original intent, lead to great good - why, not?

This belief goes against common sense and reasonable expectation, but it could be true. 

*

But then, if we are honest and rigorous enough to apply this kind of negative, skeptical alternative reasoning to other domains of life - such as other religions, the history of politics, science etc.; then we will find that they also crumble away into what could be fiendish conspiracies.

In particular, we will be compelled to notice that Mormonism grew under the microscope of the mass media, and is vastly documented compared with other world religions and major Christian denominations.

We may reflect that absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence when it comes to these other religions, and that much of the 'evidence' about early Mormonism is both ignorant and dishonest - as well as rootedly hostile...

In the end, no matter where we turn, or how we twist and twist about - we cannot escape incredibilities: we really can't. Not if we are honest and rigorous. 

*

The above is not by any means a proof of the validity of Mormonism - it is not intended as such, and I do not believe that there can be any such proof even in principle.

And what applies to Mormonism in small, applies to Christianity in large - the Christian story is packed with incredibilities and inconsistencies; yet to reject Christianity as incredible entails believing in some combination of delusion and conspiracy of a kind that is itself incredible, because grossly contradictory to actual behaviour and historical consequences.

It is that same skeptic's dilemma - Christianity could be based on delusion and fraud- that is not-impossible - it is just highly incredible. That path offers no escape from incredibility.

*

My point is that the impulse to avoid believing incredible things is mistaken, a basic error; because it is impossible. The notion of an incredibility-free belief system is an illusion and a snare.

Indeed, the urge to avoid incredibilities leads to the deep-rooted dishonesty and wilful self-blindness typical of the person who prides and advertises himself on being A Skeptic that relies only on Evidence.

(I mean the kind of man [we all know them - you may be one of them!] who applies skepticism only where and when it suits him, and blandly denies the incredibility of his own favoured incredibilities.)

But neither the skeptic not the credulous ever can or will avoid believing not just one but many incredibilities.

Incredible beliefs are simply a fact of life. 

*

This can be taken in two ways - either as meaning that we cannot believe anything because we could believe anything; OR that this is the way things are meant to be - and that it is a necessary and desirable part of the human condition that foundational belief require an act of choice from each of us as individuals.

To believe that fundamental beliefs cannot and should not be wholly-dictated by objective public 'evidence' and 'reason' but necessarily require an act of personal choice is, of course standard mainstream Christianity - it is what is meant by Faith.

Skeptics assume that the only alternatives are either being convinced by conclusive and credible evidence to reach credible conclusions on rational grounds; or else just believing whatever incredibility you want and calling it 'faith'...

But Christians deny that these alternatives exhaust all possibilities, and also deny that the skeptical possibility is coherent (for the reasons given above).

*

So what should we do, each, as individuals? Does everyone have to believe in Mormonism because it is incredible, or because everything else is at least equally incredible? Obviously not!

The Mormon answer is that each interested person as an individual has the possibility of investigating the evidence - and each must (and inevitably will) then make a choice. But people should not believe in Mormonism unless that choice is validated-by, or indeed comes-from, divine revelation.

Evidence is relevant, but never conclusive. Each person who professes Mormonism needs to, and must have, faith.

And exactly the same ought to apply to any Christian denomination. To be any kind of Christian (rather than just doing things that Christians do) requires faith; and that faith is based on individual choice; and that choice - to be valid - is not arbitrary but divinely inspired.

*

Is this a process without any possibility of error? No.

Can we be sure and confident that divine validation has happened? Yes.

But might we then change our mind about things we used to be certain about, or doubt our own certainty? Yes.

Does this then mean that truth is relative and arbitrary and we can believe anything or nothing? No.

*

Truth is real, humans are fallible, certainty is possible, faith is necessary.

These just are the facts, and we must work with them - we have no alternative: we must choose, and we will choose and indeed we have already chosen (although not irrevocably).

* *

References

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


http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/mainstream-christianity-is-incredible.html

Friday, 17 April 2015

Letter from your Heavenly Father (Part Three - the problem of natural disasters)

*
My Dear Child,

I know that one of the hardest things for you to understand about your mortal life on Earth is the sheer amount and severity of suffering which some people experience.

You will know that I am a God of Love, and it is not my intention for my children to suffer as much as some of you do; and indeed - as any loving earthly parent will know - my own sufferings on your behalf are extreme.


Suffering is not a matter to be disposed of by a single, simple explanation - because there are different reasons for different instances of suffering - and some degrees and instances of suffering are wholesome overall and in the long run.

Also, it may, perhaps, be helpful for you to know that all earthly sufferings can, and will, be healed by me after you move on to the next step - if you allow me to do this, because you must of course consent to my help (sadly, not all of you do allow this).

But one cause of suffering which seems particularly hard for you modern Men to understand is that caused by 'natural disasters' such as earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes and tidal waves. These seem to be arbitrary and random, and at least some of these happenings may seem impossible honestly to explain as part of any divine plan.

Yet, you reason; if they are not part of my plan, then why do they happen at all; why did I not make the world so that things like this simply could not happen? 

And a further worrying question sometimes arises in your mind; which is that since natural disasters happen now, on earth, will they continue to happen throughout the eternities, even in Heaven? And if not, then why must they continue to happen now?

The answer is one that challenges your habitual understanding of the nature of the universe. You are probably assuming that the forces of natural disaster are non-living, and work by simple 'mechanical' causality; therefore natural disasters are predictable and therefore (in principle) preventable.

However, in fact everything in the universe is alive - to a greater (like you) or lesser (like a rock) degree. And although most living things lack anything which you would recognise or could detect as consciousness, nevertheless they do have a kind of consciousness and do have some innate powers of self-determination.

In other words, there is no bright line dividing the living from the non-living- rather livingness is a matter of degree and type, a continuum which varies greatly but which extends all the way down.

So, life on earth in reality includes all those things which you usually (and in most instances quite reasonably) regard as non-living - rocks, water, metal, oil, glass, plastic - yes, even man-made things are to some extent alive.

Therefore, the causes of 'natural' suffering are the same in kind as the causes of suffering inflicted by human choices. Natural things may choose to be either benevolent (good) or malign (evil) in much the same way as people; and the way we treat natural things may also be good or bad.

Thus the milieu or atmosphere of the earth contains influences both benign and malign; every good choice and act adds to the good atmosphere - and vice versa.

In a nutshell, natural disasters are the product of bad, wicked, evil choices by entities in the same fashion as are wars and torture - and these are unpredictable due to the unimaginable complexity of a mostly-unknown and sometimes un-influence-able multiplicity of interacting choices and purposes and responses.

Therefore, in Heaven there will not be natural disasters - but on the other hand there will always be natural disasters in those parts of the universe where there is not Heaven - those parts where at least some of the entities have chosen to reject Love as the primary principle of existence.

In other words, harmony comes from Love, and some suffering will always be necessary and constructive - as part of learning and creative-evolving. But the futile or harmful kinds of suffering are eliminated by Love - provided that we remember that Love is a principle which binds all and everything, including those things we habitually tend to regard as 'not alive'.

From your loving Father in Heaven

**

See also:

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/letter-from-your-heavenly-father-part.html

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/letter-from-your-heavenly-father-part_13.html

Christianity and Rudlof Steiner - a highly qualified and cautious recommendation

*
I have written before about the strange genius of Rudolf Steiner


http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/where-did-rudolf-steiner-go-wrong.html

In a nutshell, Steiner strikes me as a mixture of amazing and genuine visionary insights, mixed with a mass of material about history, cosmology etc. that is so bizarre, and so complex (and so - I am compelled to say - silly) that I honestly cannot imagine there is or ever has been anybody (including Steiner himself) who could remember it all, wholly believed it all, or could make sense of it all.

(I suppose the poet William Blake is another example of this - with some of his vast,  incomprehensible and mega-dull 'prophetic' poems; although Steiner is utterly un-poetic, indeed strikes me as a poor writer in terms of organisation, emphasis and explanation.)

In the end, whether to expend any time on at all on Steiner depends on an evaluation of his honesty, decency and sincerity. I think he was a basically good man, so I am prepared to spend at least a bit of time sifting the what from the chaff- particularly in what Steiner had to say about Christianity.

Steiner was emphatically self-identified as a Christian in his later life (i.e. during the years of his greatest fame), and regarded the life of Christ as unique and by far the most significant event in the history of the world. He wrote and lectured copiously on Christian subjects and clearly regarded the subject as of vital importance

(Steiner's Christian focus brought him considerable conflict and opposition even when he was alive, lost him influential support; and indeed Steiner's remnant modern followers seem to have all-but abandoned Steiner's Christian focus and assimilated into mainstream New Age-tinged Leftism. All this is, for me, evidence that Steiner's Christianity was absolutely sincere, and that he regarded it as of prime importance.)

Having said that, Steiner's explanations regarding the nature of Christ, the mechanism of his achievement etc are highly idiosyncratic, and apparently contradictory, bound-up with his bizarre account of history.

So I certainly would not recommend Steiner to anyone who was not already a Christian, and had some solidity of faith  - because it would be just too confusing. But if you are already a Christian, and looking to increase your depth of understanding, you might find some inspiration, nudges and hints in Steiner (I say this having only read a small fraction of Steiner's vast published output).

Anyway, I have found myself returning to Steiner from time to time recently, and the process is made far more enjoyable by listening to the (home made) readings of a US college professor called Dale Brunsvold - if you search his name on YouTube, you can find a mass of Steiner material he has contributed free of charge - including some lecture series on the distinctive qualities of the four Gospels.

Brunsvold is gifted with an extremely pleasant, soothing voice which adds greatly to the experience. I find it much easier to let the bizarre stuff wash over me - while listening-out for scattered nuggets of inspired wisdom - than I do when I have to plough through turgid prose for myself, ignoring most of the content. 

*

Thursday, 16 April 2015

What kind of genius would you want (what kind of genius do we most need?) - if you could choose?

*
For me, it would be a spiritual leader - in essence a religious leader - who could awaken the true spirits of the English people that are now enslaved and confined by the nihilistic mass choice to live according to mass media-enforced secular Leftism.

I don't think any kind of genius scientist, mathematician, engineer, artist, poet, economist, lawyer, politician (etc)- would (even if recognized and taken notice of, which seems unlikely) do more than perpetuate (and probably exacerbate - by their work being misapplied) current problems.

So what kind of person? Ideally some multi-faceted genius who is also a patriotic leader; someone like King Alfred the Great (849-899 AD). That is probably way too much to ask, since there are few if any other men in history who combine political, military, legal and scholarly ability as he did.

But that is the kind of person we need; and it is not clear to me that anybody much less wide-ranging than Alfred would suffice to inspire, encourage and mobilize a crushed and craven people with the right spirit, and get them aiming in the right direction.

Refhttp://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/greatest-englishman-ever-king-alfred.html
*


Why the red-pill versus blue-pill dichotomy is so dangerously counter-productive

*
The idea (from The Matrix movie) is that people who take the red pill are an elite minority of sad, tough-minded realists who see things as they really are and who are consequently on what they regard as the reactionary political Right; but the mass majority of the population are deluded, euphoric dreamers who take the blue 'happy pill' of mainstream politically correct Leftism.

Thus, 'the big problem' of modernity is defined as having one set of correct beliefs, versus another that are erroneous - and idealists of each side evaluate others on the basis of whether or not they profess the full set of core beliefs.

*

But this is profoundly to mistake the big problem of modern life, which is not a matter of beliefs but a matter of evaluations. The evil madness of modern secular Leftism is the exclusion of the real self; so that people become incapable of seeing what lies before them, of knowing their own emotions, of common sense - and of sensing the presence and activity of God.

The real self, with which we are all born as children, is walled-in and crushed into insignificance by the vast and invasive 'ideology' of modernity; now hyper-amplified by the ever-present mass media - such that human life in developed nations has become merely a matter of socially-constructed false selves performing simple media-inculcated evaluations; and exchanging and reacting to pre-selected stimuli and responses.

The minority of self-styled red pill takers are doing exactly the same thing as the blue pill takers - that is they are engaged in a fake interchange of mechanically-evaluated ideas and emotions imbibed from the (alternative) mass media - while their real, natural, spontaneous selves detach, dwindle and are rendered ineffectual (the real self cannot be killed altogether).

Blue versus red pill evaluation and discourse is merely the difference between Tweedledumb and Tweedle-not-quite-so-dumb. So what?

*

What we really want, need and ought-to be doing is to recover that simple, essential self we all had as children - now imprisoned and tortured and utterly enfeebled - before we were got-at by the alluring social-expediencies and efficiencies of modernity.

We need to find and nourish the simple essential self that has a built-in divine aspect (god within us) and therefore is capable of responding to its environment using real (not fake) methods of evaluation. So life (whether happy or sad) again has meaning. purpose and relationship.

If we can recover our real self, which is also our divine self, we have made a genuinely significant difference to our state of mind - a difference far deeper and more pervasive and transformative than a mere change of ideas and beliefs; and we have made a significant step towards understanding our true condition, and developing a complex and comprehensive religion.

It is a matter of form not content, process not prescription, soul not media.

*  

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Avatar: The Last Airbender- Review of the TV series (2005-8)

*


I was persuaded by my son to buy the complete DVD set of the 2005-8 cartoon TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Legend of Aang - 12 DVDs featuring 61 'half hour' TV episodes for about twenty pounds!

(Although I should mention the first DVD was of atrocious quality, with a kind of 'double vision' effect.)

After considerable initial scepticism about the project, I ended-up watching every single episode with my son - and looking-forward every day to the next (at weekends we sometimes watched three or four).

This is just about as good a TV cartoon series as it is possible to imagine - it has a very serious and satisfying story arc across all three series and sixty-one episodes, but individual episodes are most often free standing - aside from a few double episodes and a four-part finale.

It is just hugely enjoyable.

There are great characters and character development, a lot of humour, exciting fights using various 'martial arts' and special powers, multiple and varied settings and situations, and a considerable spiritual/ ethical element.

There is a lot of detail; the thing was done with real love - and in general is so much better than it needed to be!

In the end, it is the characters I remember most. Even the tiniest minor characters - such as the guards shopkeepers etc who are encountered - are given interesting characters, as if they had back-stories; but probably my absolute favourite is Uncle Iroh - who at first seems lazy and gluttonous, but turns-out to be a kind of Zen Master - who has attained enlightenment, lost ego, recognized the importance of small things (especially a good cup of tea), and returned to 'the world'.

*

An anti-topical post on the UK General Election - and my optimism for a spiritual rebirth of England

*
US readers would hardly be able to comprehend the lack of interest-in and coverage-of the UK General election - the first since 2010. Indeed, I just had to look-up the date, and was astonished to find it was only three weeks away.

Of course, I strategically try to cut myself off from the mass media; but, naturally, really big events - such as the Soccer World Cup or the Olympics - do impinge; however I am barely aware of the impending election.

The only sign of its approach has been a stand set-up in the university library to register students to vote, which I can never recall seeing before - presumably this scheme was implemented on the basis that the students will reliably vote for the most radically-destructive Left parties (because in British politics, all parties are on the Left) of which the academic leadership most approve.

*

So, the political picture is one of disillusion, uninterest and pessimism; but I do not regard this as hopeful since the English remain enslaved to media addiction, their materialistic hedonism (drunkenness, drugs, sexual license), and periodic outbursts of petty hatred. Worst of all, we have become an habitually and comprehensively dishonest people in public discourse - a situation that would have been scarcely credible even thirty years ago.

The characteristics of the English as described accurately by George Orwell sixty years ago are absent from public life - although still a factor in small scale interactions and behind closed doors. However, fear of being denounced y the thought police means that virtue, indeed common sense, has become secretive.

http://orwell.ru/library/essays/lion/english/e_eye

In sum, people are increasingly dominated by false selves, and increasingly lead false lives - the false self being constructed and reinforced by pandering to the demands of the body and the mind, physical satisfactions and mental stimulations.

*

But although I am politically pessimistic I am spiritually hopeful.

In the first place, under constant encroaching aggression from the bureaucracy and media, the British are (for the first time in several centuries) learning to separate and secrete their 'real' and free lives from the crushing psychological oppressions of the 'official' world.

The more that secular Leftist media/ political/ legal/ workplace persecution extends its tentacles, the more that sheer vitality will spontaneously resist and create its own environment. (See Vaclav Havel - The Power of the Powerless.)

This is not a resurgence of religion - but creates a fertile seedbed for religion's rapid, irresistible growth.

*

And in the second place, powerful, inspiring resources for true knowledge and en-couragement are widely, rapidly and cheaply available for those who want them.

In the third place, the official world of politics, government, law, the mass media, corporations and so on is not the only world - above and beyond and within there is an utterly autonomous and separate vast, universal, interconnected divine world; where everything (I mean every single thought, choice, and action) counts for something and influences everything from an eternal perspective.

*

So the positive possibilities in relation to the religious perspective are vast in power and scope - especially if we recognise that the current baseline is (by world historical standards) so very, very low.

We should recognise that the current situation is not one in which a strongly Christian culture is being eroded by rampant Leftism; but one in which the mainstream culture has for many decades been as un-religious, as un-Christian, as shallow and false and dishonest as any in the entire history of the world.

From a divine perspective our culture, our civilisation has already and for many years pretty much bottomed-out - this being especially evident since the advent of smart phones and social/ mass media and near-universal 24/7 mainlining with attention-grabbing distractions.

From this degraded position, it is not at all unlikely that there will be a spiritual recovery in England, and in the British Isles generally - so long as people actually want it, and so long as their souls rebel against lifelong confinement and torture...

(Albeit that this spiritual recovery certainly will not be apparent in those mass media which have so comprehensively walled-off and crushed our immortal souls inside fake personae. It is something we must notice for ourselves in our individual lives - or we will not notice it at all.)

*

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

JD Salinger - a genius who was sadly typical of Westerners who embrace Eastern religions

*


I have recently found a worthwhile - albeit over-long, unfocused and rather distorted - biopic of JD Salinger (above) - worthwhile especially for some new details and discoveries, and a great mass of photographic documentation.

I have a tremendous love of several of Salinger's works - Esme, Zooey, Raise High the Roofbeam, Seymour - and have been reading (selectively) biographies on him for over thirty years (the best is Kenneth Slawenski's excellent A Life Raised High of 2010) - so I was very pleased to discover the above documentary from 2013.

*

Salinger was a very religious man, and devoutly practised Vedanta Hinduism (indeed, this documentary claims that a posthumous 'manual' of Vedanta by Salinger is in the publishing pipeline); and it is striking how little difference this seemed to make to Salinger's two great personal flaws (of which I know): i.e. his relationships with women; and his tendency to abrupt, consuming and lasting hatred and resentment directed against any people who (apparently) let him down.

The main thing I took away from this film was a clearer sense of my condemnation of Salinger's 'sex life' - which for decades followed a stereotypical pattern of shallow, self-centred, selfishness; a series of relationships with teenage or teen-looking, gamine-pretty, precocious girls whom he would abruptly and coldly reject at the first suspicion of them behaving like grown-up women or real people.

For example, this documentary reveals that Salinger (against regulations) fell in love with and married a (presumed) ex-Nazi young women while he working in the de-Nazification branch of military intelligence in 1946 - a girl with whom he said he felt a literally telepathic communication, brought his new wife back to the USA, and then the marriage broke-up after a few weeks and was annulled.

An interviewee describes how, later, Salinger had courted her from the age of fourteen but ditched her five years later, suddenly and permanently, immediately after they had sex for the first time.

And his ludicrous and foolish and bilaterally-destructive shenanigans with the preppie freshman Joyce Maynard when Salinger was in his mid fifties, has been made the subject of a memoir.

*

I have a theory that most seriously-religious modern (twentieth century) Westerners who embrace Eastern religions - such as Hinduism or Buddhism - often do so in order to be religious but also 'take advantage' of the modern sexual revolution, in a way that would not be possible for a similarly-devout Christian or Jew (Salinger's Father was Jewish).

From the Western perspective, Eastern religion offers a meaningful, aesthetic mysticism that downplays or altogether leaves-out the Jewish-Christian requirement for sexual virtue  (i.e. sex only in the context of a monogamous and permanent marriage).

Furthermore, from a Christian perspective, the Eastern religions leave-out sin; which sounds-like a liberation but actually is not; because they also leave-out repentance, and the possibility of being 'washed clean' from sin.

So the Western convert to Eastern religion (apparently) feels no need to confess his sins or feel limited by conventional (traditional) morality - a situation which he presumably likes.

But neither can he repent his wrong-doings and make a fresh start - which makes change difficult (and futile); and potentially leads the seriously religious person to a helpless conviction of accumulating 'bad Karma', or passively being punished for the wickedness of previous existences.

The Christian sin of Pride tends to be amplified - since pride becomes the primary motivation, the one thing that keeps an otherwise despairing person/ artist/ writer active and purposeful. And pride often leads to hatred, resentment, a sense of superiority and despising of others as inferior - and the rest of it.

*

In Salinger I do not detect evidence of repentance. Regret, yes - but not repentance - which is what he so greatly needed (as do we all). Indeed, it does not look as if he resisted - but instead actively prosecuted for several decades -  the pathological and hurtful, and also both futile and self-destructive, cyclical pattern of his relationships with women. He does not seem to have recognized that his hair-trigger states of boiling anger, his abrupt and lasting rejections of friends who erred were primarily faults in himself.

(Even if he could not prevent himself doing these things and feeling these ways, it ought to have been straightforward for him to acknowledge the faults in himself, perhaps even to apologise.)

*

The reason that I have come so late to these recognitions about Salinger is partly the perfectionism of his writing. A novella such as the (brilliant, wonderful) Zooey was multiply revised and edited literally a word at a time, over an extensive period (by Salinger in collaboration with the New Yorker editor William Shawn).

Such a process of revision and editing has the result of putting a tight barrier between the author and the reader - the author's 'real' self may be excluded, and an impenetrable authorial persona constructed.

Yet (paradoxically) the astonishing detail and internal-consistency of the writing creates the impression that we readers have a window into Salinger's mind; and are actually perceiving his thoughts as they arise, one at a time - we seem to 'know' the author better than we have ever known anybody in real-life!

And so there is this mismatch, this gulf between a Salinger the man; who in real life seems to have been shallow, immature, vindictive, fickle, and self-righteous; and the constructed literary persona who is wise, deep, compassionate, sensitive: a sage - indeed a spiritual master.

*


Previous postings on JD Salinger:

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=salinger

Monday, 13 April 2015

Letter from your Heavenly Father (Part Two)

*
My Dear Child,

Now you know that my creative purpose is to raise-up my children to a divine maturity, in hope that they will freely chose to become loving friends with me and with each other, perhaps I can now explain some of the features of your mortal life, and especially its difficulties and suffering?

You are an eternal being, whose original essence goes back to the beginning of everything. This eternal essence is the basis of your fundamental autonomy, your free will, your ability to choose.

Because not everything about you was made, therefore part of you is independent of everything in the universe - including being independent of myself. You can be a first cause, an unmoved mover. To this extent you are unique: different from everybody and everything that ever has been.

On top of this, you have become a child of myself and your Mother in Heaven - we took this primal essence and added to it. We made you like us, self-aware: a personage. You are now a child of God, and this is the basis of your relation to myself, and all other people (past, present and future). To this extent you are intrinsically part of a family.

So you are unique but you are not alone. You do not need to strive to be unique, and you do not need to strive to be part of a web of relationships - these are given facts; they are already a part of your situation and the situation of everybody else.

So, although you are a child, very immature, flawed, weak and so on - nonetheless you are divine, invincible, eternal... and are at present on a path to higher divinity.

You have the potential to become a god of the same kind as myself, that is an 'adult' god, and to choose to enter into a full and adult relationship with me and your Mother in Heaven. That this may happen is our deepest yearning, and we have done everything possible to make it possible.

When I say you have potential to become a god like me, I do not want you to think about this in terms of power, but instead in terms of relationships.

You might imagine becoming a real and loving friend to a King of England or the President of the USA - or an Emperor of the world - they might want you as a friend, and you might be part of their families, you might work with them in collaboration on creative projects... but that does not make you personally a King, President or Emperor. You may be best friends, you may both be Men; but the King remains King, and you remain his subject.

That is how I want you to think about becoming divine, becoming a god, and having an adult friendship with me. It is not a matter of power, but a matter of love.

However your path is long, and intrinsically difficult. You are an infant god - a god, yes - yet an infant. As divine you are great, as a child you are weak - lacking in knowledge and strength, defective in goodness...

There is much you need to learn - and your learning must be practical and experiential, not merely theoretical. This is why life is and must be hard and full of difficulties, why it is a matter of trial and error - mistaking and repenting and trying again.

(There is a sense in which life necessarily resembles warfare, and fighting can only be learned by situations which include actual combat. Soldiering cannot be learned just from lectures at military college, nor only by drills, exercises and simulations exclusively. Real combat experience is essential.)

Furthermore, you must consent to learning at every step, and must continue to choose to continue the process. In this regard, ultimately, you cannot be coerced into learning or specific choosing; although you can of course be influenced - for good or for ill.

So, this is the basic nature of your situation, this is where you find yourself. This - where you are now.

And this is the situation which you previously chose in its general features  - although, obviously, you did not choose every specific aspect of your life - and many of these specific aspects are the consequence of other peoples choices- which are equally as real as your own.

You are probably wondering why you have to be told this.

The reason you did not already know all this stuff, is partly the fact that you did already know it, but mortal life on earth is so different from your previous Heavenly life that Heavenly knowledge is inaccessible in a similar way (and for similar reasons) as your dream life is scanty and fragmentary. That is, you may recall a few fragments, but most dreams are apparently forgotten, or cannot be made sense of, essentially because sleeping consciousness is so very different from waking.

Likewise your earlier state of Heavenly consciousness was extremely different from your current state of mortal consciousness. So you need to be reminded, again and again. And indeed life is full of such reminders - but you may have chosen to ignore or reject the reminders up until now.

Life is also full of falsehoods and distractions, and paths leading in wrong directions, which you have often chosen.

You are a mixed creature, life is a mixed business, there is much to learn - thus development is a long processes. But I hope you will agree that life is also real, important, and has an inspiring aim.

You are unique and you are free, and you are also surrounded by family and friends and helpers - some alive, some dead, some advanced in divinity; and I haven't even yet mentioned Jesus Christ! So, no matter what your current situation may be, the odds of ultimate victory are heavily, indeed irresistibly, stacked in your favour - if that is what you choose.


From your loving Father in Heaven

*

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Letter from your Heavenly Father (Part One)

*
This is a simplified and direct interpretation of the understanding I have of reality, and it is written as a letter from God to 'you', in order to emphasise the qualities which are most important in life and most easily lost in the essay form. It is based upon Letter from a Father by William Arkle

http://www.billarkle.co.uk/prose/letterfromafather.html

*

My Dear Child,

In this letter, and others to follow, I hope to answer some of your questions, and clear up some of your confusions.

You may wonder why I created you, since I do not 'need' anything? Especially since I have the loving companionship of your Mother in Heaven.

I do not of course need anyone else in order to exist - whereas you depend on me for the nature of your existence. (It is true that you and I are both eternal; but before you became my child you were 'merely' - albeit vitally - an un-self-aware essence.)

However, although self-sufficient in terms of my existence; as a God 'of love', mere physical existence is not the point - I live in order to love, and to expand the possibilities and practice of love.

So, I am not only the creator, but also creative - my whole plan is creative; and at the heart of this creative plan is Man, including yourself.

This is not difficult for you to understand, because there is a profound similarity between my situation in ultimate, and yours in microcosm. As I can exist without you, but not you without me; a human parent can exist without any child, but not the child without parent.

And as a parent may create vast, open-ended creative possibilities by having children, and by raising them to autonomous adulthood; so I have done with you and with all of mankind and the angels.

The similarities, indeed go further; because your ideal purpose in having children is very close to my own ideal for you; that is - the ideal of a good human parent is to enjoy every step of his child's development; to provide the love and experiences (including trials) necessary for maturation - and there is the powerful hope that when the child becomes an adult he will choose to become a close and loving friend with his parents.

In other words,a human father hopes (ideally) to raise children to become of the same kind as himself - an adult human - but each as a new, unique individual and autonomous adult. Friendship with children cannot be coerced, each child is different, friendship is necessarily a choice on both sides and unpredictable; but it is certainly hoped-for.

And (although this seldom can happen in mortal life) the best possible outcome would be for parents and children, their spouses and children, to make a loving extended family and engage in creative and cooperative projects of many kinds (including raising generation upon generation).

That is almost exactly what I want from you. I have provided, as best I can, the type of love and experience necessary for your development to become of the same 'kind' as myself - which is what you call 'divine'. My greatest hope is that you will eventually develop from children as you currently are (in comparison with myself) to become divine of the same kind as myself; and will choose to become my friend, and to engage with me in creative and cooperative projects of a scope and nature appropriate to our divine status.

So, this is why I created you, and all the other humans and angels; not because I needed to but because it makes life better - potentially. I say potentially because everything depends on the choice to love and work together, which is not (and cannot be) coerced.

It will greatly, inconsolably, sadden me if you choose to reject this plan and 'go it alone'; but that is always a possibility. So, at every stage of choice I have provided the best possible opt-out - so you may choose to remain a child rather than develop towards divinity; you may choose to reject personal relationships and instead become an abstraction of un-self-aware happiness; you may even choose to reject my offer of friendship and extended familial cooperation and creativity (rejecting even the choice of which family you inhabit) and live alone and independent (this seems like a terrible choice to me, a hellish choice, but you are free to make it because real friendship cannot be coerced.)

I created you from the motivation of love, and with the creative hope that this may lead to more love in an open-ended and expanding range of possibilities - so you can see how my first motivation is love, and my second motivation is creativity.

Thus it was both love and creativity which made the world, the universe, and everything that has form. When you find yourself confused and uncertain about what I am aiming-at or meaning, I hope that it may be helpful for you to remember this about my nature and yearnings: I mean my fundamental attributes of love and creativity.

From your loving Father in Heaven

*

Matthew's Gospel

*
I have been re-reading the Gospel of Matthew - and, for the first time, felt for myself a sense of its overall structure and methods.

My impression is of a text mainly composed of multiple memories about Christ and of what Christ said and did - probably taken verbatim and little altered. The effect is of multiple 'voices' and the author invisible.

The transitions between sources are not smoothed, the context and interpretation are seldom clarified. My inference is that the author regarded his sources as sacred, and was too modest or scrupulous to add or subtract - but satisfied himself with simply arranging the material in the best chronology he could.

The result is an aphoristic style: powerful, detached - and at times I could not understand the aphorisms, and they seemed to clash - always in situations where the context of the sayings and doings was non-obvious. 

Of the synoptic Gospels, the impression was that this was the one in the rawest and least-edited state; with advantages from that of less distortion, and also with a greater-than-usual proneness to error if using the 'proof text' method of reading the Bible a verse at a time.

What comes across with great clarity is the importance of Jesus's strong claim to literal Kingship (i.e. earthly leadership) of the Jews via his adopted father Joseph

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/jesus-was-literally-king-of-jews-by.html

There is throughout an overwhelming sense of Jesus's immense and formidable personal authority - his claim on the throne by descent and fulfilment of prophecies, his greatness as a scholar and debater - superior to all other Rabbis, and the extraordinary events of his death and resurrection with multiple prophecies being fulfilled and multiple signs that some great thing had just happened (including resurrections of other people).

And, as so often, I felt again the importance of John the Baptist - whose spiritual authority seems to have been so great; and therefore whose endorsement of Jesus as the Christ seems to have been yet another vital strand in the interlocking of evidence that here was the Messiah.

*

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Love is not a virtue - Love is the primary principle of reality

*
We grossly misapprehend and underestimate Love if we regard it as a virtue akin to Faith, Hope and the 'seven virtues'; we trivialize Love to regard it as an emotion (transient, labile, subjective).

Such views are simply inaccurate; because Love is the primary principle of reality: the structuring principle of the universe as we know it.

What this means is that our God is a God of Love - Love is his primary character, motivation, guiding principle - it is because of God's Love that Men were created.

Love is the reality - and everyone who has ever lived inhabits this universe of Love.

What people happen to feel about things is neither here nor there; all virtues are harmonized by love - and indeed the transcendental Goods of truth, beauty and virtue are harmonized by Love, and only by Love.

*

An inspired talk on the second coming of Christ from Neil L Andersen

*
I have been working-through the talks given at the LDS general conference last weekend. One in particular I found quite astonishingly powerful - this was Elder Neil L Andersen speaking on the subject of living in the latter days, the end times; and the nature of the second coming of Christ.

I would urge anyone interested to watch this fifteen minute video all-through, and with close attention.

I came away from it energized, en-couraged and hopeful, and grateful to live in a time of God-inspired living prophets.

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2015/04/thy-kingdom-come?lang=eng

*

Metaphysical consequences of secularism

*
It is the loss of Christianity which is at the root of Western cultural decline, and the essence of decline, and the essence of decline is that peculiar mixture of hedonism and despair, incoherent glorification of emotions and bureaucratic rationalism which is New Leftism or Political Correctness.

But people generally misunderstand the causality in this analytic claim, people generally assume that it is the loss of an authoritative Christian moral framework which is the primary problem. Or that the claim is that self-identified Christians are more virtuous than agnostics or atheists. People assume that the basic problem is that our culture can no longer state what is right and wrong and underpin statements with divine authority - can no longer say do this and don't do that because God says so.

But these are not the essence of what went so deeply wrong when Christianity was lost from Western public discourse.

The essence of the problem is metaphysical. Metaphysics refers to the basic structure of understanding reality. The bottom line about how things are. It is my conviction that differences in metaphysics or changes in metaphysics always come out, and reveal themselves in multiple ways - for example they set the tone or flavour of a religion, the focus of it, the emphasis.

What was lost with the decline of Christianity was a universe, a basic reality, in which good and evil were real and objective, truth and lies were actual, beauty and ugliness... When Christianity was deleted from public discourse, then virtue was no longer seen as being a thing built into the universe, but only a state of people's minds and people's minds as being only a temporary arrangement of stuff - often changing and terminated by death.

This is what I mean by a change in metaphysics. This is far more profound a change than a change in the shopping list of good and bad, modifications or reversals of the Ten Commandments. Because when the modern metaphysics is established then even if there was no change in the Ten Commandments then they have become merely a thing existing - temporarily, and indeed arbitrarily - in the ephemeral minds of men, and utterly disconnected from permanent reality.

So, to call oneself a Christian, sincerely to regard oneself as a Christian, while holding this faith within a context of mainstream modern metaphysics, is not to be a Christian at all, not really. It is just to regard Christianity as a subjective, ephemeral, lifestyle option within a primary metaphysical worldview that renders Christianity trivial.

No matter how much a self-identified Christian may say this or that, or do this or that, it does not matter one way or another unless they have repudiated the mainstream modern public secular metaphysical discourse.

And to do this means to live in a state of internal exile, to be fundamentally misinterpreted and misunderstood, and to be unable to communicate concerning everyday matters of fact and motivation.  

Unless the conversation can first be placed on a metaphysical level, then communication is not possible, and if there is a refusal to consider metaphysics, then there can be no communication, but merely misunderstanding of one sort or many sorts.

*