Thursday, 30 April 2015

Why we should not be too curious, or too definite, about the origins of God

It is vital for a Christian to known something of the nature of God - we need to know God's 'character' (i.e. that he is primarily loving); and know our relationship to Him (that He is our Father, we are His children); and that because we are made in His image it is legitimate to regard Him 'anthropomorphically' (God as Man-like, and Man as God-like).

However, I think common sense tells us that we cannot know about the origins of God, or the basic situation in which God is. We cannot know 'the universe', the reality in which God dwells. We cannot know this kind of thing, and we should not suppose that we do know this sort of thing.


Of course, we may entertain hypotheses on these matters - indeed we may not be able to help-ourselves, we may not be able to prevent ourselves from speculating. No harm done - maybe helpful.

But I feel that the lack of clear or detailed evidence from revelation (e.g. scripture), and the extreme difficulties of reasoning on these matters, is conclusive evidence that we are 'not meant', we are not intended, to make such metaphysical beliefs into a primary foundation of our Christian faith.


Therefore, I think that although we need to know (and love) God 'as a person' - to build Christianity around believed knowledge claims concerning the fundamental metaphysical abstract qualities of God is an error - can indeed become a type of sin.

We should not try to force an answer to these matters - this is neither necessary, nor is it likely to be helpful to Christian faith. (People may, and people have, overcome such obstacles - but that does not mean they have been helpful.) 


This is my strong objection to the standard approach of 'classical' Christian theology. I think Christianity made a serious mistake in its early centuries in establishing metaphysical assumptions about God at, or very near, the centre of the faith as unarguable, primary, non-optional dogmas.

I mean for example such beliefs as that God is necessarily omnipotent and omniscient; and that God existed and exists in a situation of nothingness (outside time and space) and created everything out of nothing.

It seems obvious common sense to me that we do not know these matters, and therefore that the extreme importance which they are sometimes given is potentially a serious problem.

We cannot know these matters, because God is the one thing that we must accept we cannot 'explain' - because to explain God is to try and explain what is first. Therefore we cannot reason from anything else about God; we cannot even safely reason; since to do so is to subject God to what may itself be a property of God.   

This should not be regarded as any kind of arbitrary constraint. There is no need or reason why we need to know where God came from, or exactly how he differs from us, or the precise scope of His powers and limitations, or the mechanism by which he created. To focus on these matters would be to miss the point of Christianity.


My position is not so much a denial of omnipotence/ omniscience/ creation ex nihilo etc. - as it is a denial that we really know (or need to know) such things. My position is not to claim that God must have limitations on knowledge or power and that He actually created from pre-existent stuff - more that these things might well be so, and are not refuted by scripture or reason.

The restored gospel or Mormonism should not, therefore, be seen as a set of symmetrical counter-claims to mainstream classical theology regarding the Omni-God and creation from nothing; rather Mormonism is a re-centring of Christianity away from these knowledge claims.

A re-centring of Christianity such that such matters are no longer at or near the centre of the faith; and instead a different focus on God conceptualized in a common sense and person-like, and Fatherly, and human-relational way - as being sufficient, less hazardous, more helpful, more accessible, more honest basis for the Christian faith and life - closer to the model of scripture including the teachings of Jesus.


Tom Hiddleston is a genius-actor - and what that means

I was watching Tom Hiddleston playing Loki in a not-particularly-good movie called Thor: The Dark World, and this confirmed to me that he really is an actor of genius; by which I mean something quite specific. He is incalculable in his acting, and produces flashes of the uncanny - surprises which give an unpredicted jolt of rightness.

It is interesting, and unusual, that Hiddleston is presumably extremely intelligent (he apparently achieved a 'double first' degree in Classics at Cambridge) - and highly intelligent actors (a somewhat rare breed) often lack this special instinctive quality - which is not something than can be achieved deliberately, or by planning.

Once I have seen this from an actor; then even when I see it only in one performance, my genius rating of them is permanent; no matter what else they do.

(Or fail to do - after all any actor depends on the script, director, editor and many others - any of whom can sabotage his performance. This seemed to me to happen to Hiddleston when he played Henry V in the recent BBC Shakespeare series, where the direction was appalling.)

Probably only a minority of the 'great' and successful actors have this special touch of genius (although of course such a negative judgment is contingent - it may simply be that one has not observed the performance when this happened). But I have certainly seen it is the likes of Robert De Niro, John Hurt and Alan Rickman; as well as lesser known actors such as Kenneth Cranham, Bob Peck, Alan David, Fiona Shaw, Laurence Fox (off the top of my head).

Genius has nothing much to do with good looks (although Hiddleston happens to be good looking), or voice (the actors with the nicest voices are - on the whole - among the worst of actors; since they have been chosen for the vocal quality rather than the acting). Anyway, Hiddleston is one of those rare actors that I find riveting - because I never know when he might suddenly produce one of those 'moments' out of nowhere.

And, for me, it is these rare moments that define acting as an art, and indeed make it potentially one of the primary creative arts at the same level as great opera singing from (say) Joan Sutherland or Fritz Wunderlich, or great musicianship from (say) Glenn Gould or Julian Bream.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Beyond Hedonism by Abraham Maslow - insightfully kicks the can further down the road, but still with no understanding of his necessary destination

This is not a direct quote but has been lightly-edited from The Psychology of Happiness by Abraham Maslow, 1964 - Published in Future Visions, 1996 pages 22-3.


The hedonistic definition of happiness is false, for real happiness necessarily implies difficulties.

For example it is a privilege to undergo the 'misery' of creativity, even the related insomnia and tension. It is a privilege to have children to weep over because of their troubles, rather than to have no children at all. It is a privilege to love family members and friends, even though doing so inevitably means to suffer all their pain in addition to your own.

Indeed, these situations are infinitely better than the misery of being wholly alone in life. We must therefore define 'good living' and happiness to include these 'misery privileges'.


For instance, Beethoven was tortured over his music; yet who would not want to be a Beethoven? Or, more exactly, who would renounce the privilege of creating eternal music merely to avoid the transitory pain of creativity?

After all it is probably possible to avoid all problems in life, and to lead a cow-like existence of tranquillity and peace without sweat of any kind! This (or something much like it) can easily be accomplished by having a pre-frontal lobotomy or perpetually ingesting alcohol, narcotics or tranquillizers...

We must therefore do our best to learn to appreciate the 'miseries of the higher life' including the real (not pseudo) problems of love and creativity. This is possible if we place them in the widest gestalt of our former, present and future life span, juxtapose them with the problems of other people, and take a perspective from the entire cosmos.

Then these real but wholesome problems take their appropriate place, and it becomes possible to experience the paradox of 'enjoying' the miseries of the higher life.

Life is not really life without these anyway. Empty sleep and dullness are not living.


Human nature always involves seeking better and better Heavens. We must abandon our search for never-ending contentment and serenity.

For example, consider the risks entailed in having a baby. We will worry about it beforehand. The baby might be born handicapped, sick or stillborn. The question is legitimately raised: Why buy this misery?

The same applies to falling in love or getting married: Why buy problems? Why buy trouble?

Yet such an attitude is self-deluding and a sure path towards unhappiness in life.

The most truly-fulfilled people (self-actualizers) gladly accept such 'troubles'; and indeed such 'troubles' are wonderful in comparison to the genuine miseries of boredom, loneliness and an empty, stultified life. Feeling emptiness inside is much worse than the complexities, including the miseries, of friendship and love.
To worry over something worthwhile is a state far better than having nothing and no one to worry about at all.


Here, for me, is the great value and also the frustrating incompleteness of Abraham Maslow. The above is a profound and intuitive insight into human psychology. Here is an appreciation of the value and need for love and creativity as primary goals in life - yielding a perspective in which problems and miseries can be seen in context for these primary goals. Maslow clearly knows this for a truth.

Here too is a vision of human life as an open-ended, progressing, striving and overcoming the intrinsic 'opposition in all things', seeking better and better Heavens (a view which must resonate positively with Mormons in particular).

Yet it also requires, and indeed begs for, completing in a metaphysical and ultimate view of life, the universe and everything which explains the value of love and creativity.

Maslow comes so close here (and elsewhere) to a recognition that he must - for the sake of cohesion and completion - take the further step into an actual religion; and that presumably Orthodox Judaism - his birth religion - or Christianity. But Maslow retained throughout his (relatively short) life the attitude of "anything-but Judaism/ Christianity" - an attitude so common, indeed prevalent, among intellectuals of the twentieth century and beyond. Maslow was pretty much open to any world view except these.

He had reasons, including some good reasons, for rejecting Judaism and Christianity as he understood them - but he never applied his searching, critical, discriminative intelligence to religion in the way he did to other things.

Maslow was in fact eager to reject Judeo-Christianity; hence lazy and slapdash about the validity and necessity of his reasons for rejecting them.

But suppose Maslow had lived-out his three-score years and ten; even perhaps as an invalid? Suppose he had become confronted in his daily life by the reality (so much more easily deniable in early life) of his own weakness, mortality, dependence, contingency? Might he then have recognized what his whole system implied? How it cried-out-for, demanded, completion in religion?

I think he very well may have done. Such things have, I believe, happened to many others. This is, indeed, one of the greatest potential values from living into old age, from sickness, including even from the earlier stages of dementia.  


The ancients understood the need for a Saviour, a Messiah, for human life to be positive and hope-full - but modern people have lost this understanding, and therefore necessarily despair

The title states my thesis. The ancients knew that without a Saviour (a Messiah) then mortal Man on earth was doomed to a more-or-less unhappy situation. I believe that this was understood implicitly, because the ancient religions (including the religion of the ancient Hebrews of the Old Testament) was uniformly pessimistic - grim and harsh.

The most one could claim for ancient religion was that it was not uniformly hope-less (although some kinds of paganism seem to be utterly without hope). For instance, we know that the ancient Hebrews had hope of being saved in some ultimate sense - saved from the otherwise necessarily miserable fate of Man.


But my point is simply that the ancients understood that the basic human situation, mortal life in this world, was literally hope-less. They did not necessarily argue this, they simply perceived it, understood it, knew it.

The situation still broadly prevails among what might be termed 'serious religions' around the modern world - the basic human situation for these is, in its essence, pessimistic, grim, harsh. Their 'hope' is merely for an end to suffering, at most a permanent state of un-aware bliss. In other words the 'hope' is a death that is true extinction of thought, awareness.

The 'hope' of the self is destruction of the self. The 'hope' is that we cease to be.


How come that we moderns no longer know this? How come we moderns cannot understand the basic human situation and the necessity of a saviour if life is to be hopeful and optimistic? How come we generally regard the claims of Christ to be the Messiah as simply superfluous or incomprehensible?

How come we suppose that we can simply choose believe there is no God, or believe in a God but not a Saviour - and that this makes no difference to life!


My point here is not that Jesus is the Saviour - but more basic than that. My point is that we apparently cannot perceive that a Saviour is required if life is not to be hope-less; and that it was only the hope of a Saviour which stopped the ancients from despairing (because despair is the inevitable consequence of having no hope).


Properly understood, the situation seems to be unavoidable and inevitable: No belief in a Saviour means pessimism; and no hope of a Saviour means pessimism plus despair. 

Small wonder, then, that our civilization despairs! The extraordinary thing is that we do not even understand why we despair. Indeed we actively-deny the real reason for our intractable despair.

We may or may not personally believe that Jesus Christ really was The Saviour (that is not susceptible of conclusive proof either way, but requires a voluntary choice: requires faith) - but we have reached the extraordinary situation that we do not even understand the that there is anything that we need to be saved-from!


Semi-good (but significantly wrong) ideas: OK, then what? (With reference to Political Correctness and Transhumanism.)

One of the problems about ideas, about discussion, debate, advocacy - is that it may be so difficult to get people en masse to accept a truth (even when it is true) that those who advocate it never get to the point of discovering its consequences.

They never get to the point where you can say - "Okay, let's accept everything you say is valid: then what?"

People never get to this point, even inside their own heads, because they are so engaged by the process of advocacy, trying to persuade, implement, monitor etc. They never get to the point where they are forced to imagine that the thing they advocate is actually in place - and then doing the thought experiment of what difference it actually makes - what kind of consequences will ensue.

This problem is particularly bad when the advocacy is for something which is wrong in some way, or is pushing against unacknowledged realities - something which goes against the flow. Bad ideas of this kind never get near to being implemented, and therefore their advocates never get near to being compelled to see their undesirability.

The most obvious and dominant way that this is shown is, of course, mainstream New Left politics - political correctness. There is an arena where the mass of the population go along with ideas, policies, rules about things like democracy, equality and diversity that - if they were implemented in the desired way would be very obviously destructive (if the evaluation was honest - and that is a big 'if) - but which never get near being implemented because they are so riddled with errors, omissions and illogic.

But the phenomenon is very pervasive and cuts very deep in much secular thinking which is intended to tackle the fundamental problems of life. For example, the main ideological alternative to Christianity is Transhumanism - the idea that the primary problems of life can be solved by knowledge, science, technology. The analysis starts from defining these primary problems in terms such as pain and suffering, lack of joy and happiness, and death - so the ultimate aim is making people feel completely happy all the time (unless they chose otherwise) and each person lived for (say) several centuries.

This is such a difficult and unlikely goal, that Transhumanists will never come to the point where they are compelled to consider the consequences of their wishes; and the extent to which even if they achieved all their hope, the fundamental problems of life remain untouched

The emotions of suffering and happiness, and the significance of imminent death are extremely important problems - but even if they could all be solved the ultimate problems remain untouched: problems of meaning, purpose and my relationship to meaning and purpose - problems about the significance of my life.

Transhumanists could contend that they are not offering a complete answer, as indeed they are not, but that reduced suffering, greater happiness, greatly-extended healthy-lifespan are all things good in themselves - and which might enable people better to tackle the primary problems - but that is now what I see.

What I see is people who use the Transhumanist project so as not ever to acknowledge, consider, think-about the real primary problems of life. People who are so absorbed by the difficulties of getting what they want that they never recognize that - even if they could have it - it would leave the basic problems of life completely untouched.

I see people who are so wrapped up in 'the fight' that they do not know what they are fighting for. In effect, each has made the implicit decision that "the meaning and purpose of my life is the advocacy of Transhumanism". The practical strategy, the actually-lived approach to the problems of life, is so to fill one's mind with the problems of funding, achieving and implementing Transhumanism that there is no room in the mind for anything else - the means have completely displaced the end.

I often feel that the same applies to religions which offer 'more life' as their goal - which offer 'me as I am now' (but eternal and healthy) an eternity in a paradise of sensuous gratification; and fail to see that this is just more of the same old stuff. Or ideas of reincarnation as an endless recyling of versions of me as I am now - and they don't notice that this means that an eternity of staying-alive or recycling would be as meaningless/ pointless as they perceive the present to be!

They are, in effect, trying to solve the fundamental problems of lack of meaning, purpose, existential satisfaction by perpetuating lack of meaning/ purpose/ satisfaction forever!

All this may be perfectly understandable human behaviour - but it is frustrating to contemplate!


Note: There are many other problems with what is currently termed the Transhumanist project, but which has been around for a few hundred years - as is explained in CS Lewis's essay The Abolition of Man and his novel That Hideous Strength; but I take Transhumanism as my examplehere, being the most complete and 'idealistic' of the current world-betterment schemes.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Educating the angels

It recently 'struck me' that - assuming angels are beings with free will, and are indeed of the same 'kind' as Men and Jesus Christ (as Mormons believe) - there is no reason to assume that angels are perfect or infallible; and, on the contrary, every reason to believe that they are learning, progressing by trial and error - as we are.

Angels are, indeed, engaged in a process of education by experience - but approaching this educational process from the top-down (rather than from the bottom-up, as are we).

I tend to assume that, because they reside in Heaven in close contact and communication with the Godhead, angels are always well-motivated, always doing their best, always Good - but I suppose that their knowledge and abilities and foresight are all limited.

They must therefore make mistakes and perform their jobs (to some extent) sub-optimally. 

So, on this basis, real life angels may be much like that most famous of fantasy angels: Gandalf.


Note: this insight owes much to the ideas of William Arkle, for example: Discovering your soul's purpose at

Creativity as a primary Christian path

I have recently come to regard creativity as second only to love in God's scale of values; perhaps the second-most-important attribute of God; after love. This implies that creativity is perhaps also the second-most-important human value, after love.

The relationship can be clarified by thinking of love as primarily directed towards persons (which is the normal kind of love) or towards values (which is creativity).

This creativity is a consequence of love of non-personal positive values: truth, beauty, virtue, Goodness, harmony - and their subdivisions. So a primarily creative person can be regarded as one whose love is directed at values, rather than persons - in that sense they are devoted primarily to abstractions.

(Creative people are seldom 'good with people', indeed being on average much less interested or influenced by 'other people' than is usual. The opposite also applies as a generality. So, as creative scientists are seldom good with people, scientists who are adept a networking, management and who are interested by groups and committees are seldom creative. The psychological relationship of creativity and sociality is antagonistic.)


Creativity can then be seen as a consequence of loving abstract Goods. Just as love of persons points towards fecundity of persons (family, marriage, friendship) - love of Goods points-towards fecundity of Goods.

(The good creativity of a genius is positive behaviour as a consequence of a love of God's values; the creativity of an evil genius is destructive of The Good: it is a consequence of rejection, often hatred, of God's values.)


Someone who loves literature will want to add to the possibilities of literature; the scientist will want to add to science, the painter to painting; a concert pianist who loves music or  an actor who loves acting will want each and every performance to be a re-creation of music; a teacher who loves teaching will want each lecture to be an unique event growing from that love.

The positive creative impulse or impetus (which may be very variously expressed, and only partially recognized as such) is therefore a natural overflowing of the creative person's love of God's values as expressed in an abstract subject matter.


Most people are relatively uncreative; only a few people are highly creative, and even fewer are primarily creative. This may suggest that God makes most people in hope they will choose to live by love of persons (including Himself) above all (to be "people-persons"); but that God also makes a few people who love God's own values above all (therefore, they are destined not to be people-persons): this creative minority would include most of the real geniuses, whose main life efforts and energies are directed non-socially.

Creativity seems to be (perhaps) the only valid positive spiritual path or 'way' to be solitary, or to 'neglect' fellow Men.

In effect, the dedicated creative person loves God before Man (as is commanded) but this creative love is expressed primarily via love of God's values rather than God's person.


Monday, 27 April 2015

The nihilism of Positive Psychology

Seen re-engaging with the work of Maslow, I have come across a more recent movement called Positive Psychology (which claims Maslow as an intellectual father) and of which I was only vaguely aware.

It seems that Positive Psychology is a big deal in the USA (two and a half million Google Hits for the term, multiple YouTube videos with tens of thousands of views etc). On looking into it, I find that I have myself been through several cycles of Positive Psychology during my life - beginning around 1980, and with several iterations over the three decades.

So I feel myself to be an experiential expert on this subject! - in addition to having read and pondered, and indeed researched, several of the component elements (Jung, Maslow, Joseph Campbell, James Hillman, cognitive neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, the scientific study of spirituality, surveys of self-reported happiness etc.).

From this perspective, the Positive Psychology movement adds nothing except shallow ignorance and exploitative hype, permeated with pervasive dishonesty and fuelled by blatant careerism. The excuse of being 'well meaning' is, I am afraid, long since worn-out - we may be able to claim that the originators of this kind of stuff were well meaning, but now that we are fifty and a hundred years down the line we already know where this is destined for.

So, I can tell you that it does not work, and will not deliver - or, more exactly, Positive Psychology operates at the level and with the efficacy of just one Lifestyle Choice among many.

It is not that we do not know anything about the science of personal well being - loads is known, and most of that has been known to common sense for centuries (probably millennia). It is just that knowing it does not make the difference that advocates claim.

We now live in an era of nihilism, or life regarded as (in reality) meaningless and purposeless and each human as thoroughly alienated - so in this nihilistic context a Positive Psychology of well-being can only be a psychology of pleasing delusions. A psychology of emotional self-manipulation. And if followed rigorously, a psychology of transhumanism - that is, the project of unconstrained technological 'transcendence' of human limitations on pleasure, happiness, and freedom from pain and discomfort.

We may start with a human, the intent is that we will end-up with something that is happy - and never mind whether or not it is human. Failing that we will end up with something that is not-unhappy, that does not suffer - and never mind whether it is alive.

Because positive psychology is self-destroying. Insofar as it is factually true and possible to know and manipulate the human prerequisites of well-being; then so far well-being is utterly relativized, made subjective, and dis-valued. We become convinced that our deepest motivations are a consequence of 'science' and not a basis for life. Human meaning and purpose are become subjects for manipulation, not fulfilment.

So, whatever the motivations, insofar as the project of Positive Psychology succeeds, thus far it undermines itself. And we can know this as a fact, not jus on theoretical grounds, but from many trials of the idea since late Victorian times.

If we actually manage to make ourselves believe that science holds the meaning of life, then at that exact moment we will find that life has lost its meaning.

Positive Psychology is no less than a nihilism bomb, operating on a delayed timer.


Note added:

It seems mention-worthy that the Positive Psychology movement was launched and given status by Martin Seligman. It must first be acknowledged that Seligman has a track record of substantial and significant achievement in science. So, how are we to interpret this? It could be: 1. that Seligman's endorsement of Positive Psychology broadly validates it; 2. that Seligman's advocacy is based on ignorance (this option seems unlikely to me); or that Seligman has been, like so many scientific leaders over the past few decades, corrupted into a charismatic, careerist, BS-merchant and bureaucratic shill.

Thus: is MS's advocacy sound, simple-minded, or spin?

Judge for yourself:


Demotivation, Demotivation, Demotivation!

The biggest and most obvious problem in modern human psychology is the near total lack of steady, long-term, positive motivation. En masse, modern Western Man has no idea what his life is for, what he is trying to do overall, and lacks any strong reason to do anything in particular. Secularism has made everything a matter of unaligned, subjective, personal convictions or uncertainties.

The characteristic modern demand is that "Something Should Be Done!" Ask why that particular something is a good idea, or ought to be done, and there are plenty of superficially-plausible answers- indeed there are literally millions of such answers for millions of mutually-antagonistic things all of which "should" be done.

But ask who exactly is going to do them, who is motivated to do them - despite that whoever does it will immediately suffer personal disadvantages, and you get a blank.

Hence the pattern of bureaucratic democracy. The requirement  that 'THEY should do something about it", combined with complete uncertainty about who THEY are and why we should suppose that THEY would be motivated really to solve problems; rather than, for instance, merely taking the money then utterly failing to solve - or worsening - the problems; which officials term 'addressing the issues'.

Until people, in their own lives, actually have and will live by steady, long-term and positive motivations; then nothing significantly constructive will be done - nothing at all. And unless these personal motivations are aligned, then these motivations will merely sabotage one another- unless these motivations have a common basis, and therefore an intrinsic alignment.

I think it is impossible, even in theory, for a motivational system to be applied top-down to this mutually-destructive chaos of complex, conflicting and ever-changing demands. People who lack common motivation cannot be controlled except negatively - they can be dispersed, or briefly stampeded - but they cannot be made to work together in long-term projects that must overcome short term hardships.  

It therefore seems that the first requirement is for individuals to find genuine, visceral, effective motivation; and then - by reflection on what actually works in their own lives, felt-motivation - to discover ways of scaling-up enough of this subjective motivation to a societal level such that there is overall coherence between enough individuals.

Perhaps this is the primary task for Modern Man - to acknowledge and reflect upon his own personal deficiency of motivation; to stop supposing that the major problems can, will and should be solved by THEM; to refuse to accept their own state of alienation and negativity and to seek-out and find that which genuinely motivates in the way that makes a positive society at least possible

To find motivation Modern Man, as a first step, needs to give-up those secular, nihilistic, god-denying assumptions which guarantee (100 percent, lifetime, copper bottomed) that he personally will be demotivated: that whatever he wants or hopes or needs to do, will be undercut and destroyed by his own lack of motivation.

After this, answers will not be so hard to find.


Sunday, 26 April 2015

Why do we have bodies; why aren't we 'pure spirits'?

For Christians (and for some other religions) the fact that humans have bodies is hard to explain.

If one believes in beings that are pure spirits, it sounds as if it would be better to be a spirit than a body - less restricted, less limited, perhaps able to move extremely fast, occupy boundless space etc.

So why do we have bodies? The reason must be very important, because humans go to a lot of trouble to get and keep bodies - we are born into bodies, they die, and then our perfected souls are reunited with our now-perfected bodies... united for eternity!

So bodies must be better, in some way. But better in what way?


An unexpected answer popped-into my head this morning: we have bodies because God has a body; we are incarnate beings because that is how God is. 

This makes particular sense from a Mormon perspective, because of course Mormon's believe that God the Father has a body, just as does his Son Jesus Christ. So the simple idea is that we gain bodies and they become perfect and eternal, via a three-stage process of incarnate mortal life, death and resurrection - so we can be just like God.


But why should we need to be just like God?

The answer might be that God wants us to be as like Him as possible; so that we may (choose and learn to) become God's divine friends.

Is it therefore necessary that, for God to become the closest possible friends with each of us, we must have a body of the same kind as Him? Well, the idea seems to make 'common sense', in that it seems much more straightforward for any of us to be close mutual friends with an embodied person; than to be close friends with an unincarnated spirit.

It would seem that the lack of a body would seem to put a serious obstacle in the path of loving friendship with another embodied being at the highest level of friendship; and if we therefore need to have a body of some kind, then having the same kind of body as God would enable us to be the closest and most loving of friends.


So, perhaps the value of being incarnate through eternity very simply and directly arises from God's primary purpose in creation; which is to make potential divine friends, persons who may eventually learn and choose to become as much like Him as possible in kind (while remaining utterly distinctive individuals); and therefore the closest and most loving possible friends - which includes being like Him physically, as well as like Him mentally; alike in the nature of body as well as in soul.


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).

* *


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:

Christianity and Rudolf Steiner - a qualified recommendation

I have written before about the strange genius of Rudolf Steiner

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 aspects 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.


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.

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: