Sunday, 31 May 2015

Reader's Question: Does Leftist teleology correspond to the female psyche?


Reader's Question: "I have heard other commentators speculate that Leftist teleology corresponds most closely with the female psyche. I was wondering if you had any thoughts as to its validity."

My answer: No. 

Teleology is purpose, and the ultimate purpose of Leftism is destruction of The Good.  

In other words Leftism is ultimately evil, and corresponds with the demonic psyche (and not, therefore, the female psyche).


There are indeed superficial ways in which modern New Leftism, or Political Correctness in the West is dominated by appeals on the one hand to the characteristically female disposition and motivations, and on the other hand to  men's spontaneous and deep-rooted tendency to 'gallantry': to protect and privilege women. 

As Steve Moxon points out in The Woman Racket, - in almost all societies, almost everywhere, and from an objective and biological perspective, women are the favoured sex - this is 'hard-wired' into our species by natural selection because the average woman is more important to reproduction than the average man: indeed the average man is biologically disposable, does not reproduce at replacement level, and is actively filtered-out of the gene pool due to the mutation load he is carrying. 

Biologically (NOT from a Christian perspective!), perhaps the primary function of 'the male' is to compete for reproduction; the relatively-few winners of competition having the 'good genes' - i.e. the fewest deleterious mutations - and siring the majority of the next generation, and the majority of males destined to fail to reproduce.

A particular psycho-social deformation of  modernity is therefore to direct preferences to the already-preferred sex - which creates all kinds of distortions and confusions. 

However, this is not the teleology (or purpose) of Leftism - it is merely a means to the end (which is destruction of Good) - a mean that happens to be effective for contingent historical reasons in some societies. 


At other times and places Leftism has been dominated by a focus on (preference for) the Proletariat (male manual workers), Nationalism and native populations, particular races or ethnicities, or (as now) other-nations/ races/ ethnicities/ immigrants. 

In sum, for Leftism, any stick is good enough to beat Goodness with - and women will be taken-up and then discarded as and when convenient - as happened with the previous Leftist deployment of other ideologies such as the Proletariat (which meant, in practice, native working class men), antisemitism (i.e. National Socialism in Germany), Nationalism (especially dominant in mid-19th century European Leftism),  overt atheist anti-Christianity (the early decades of the USSR), and atheist anti-clericalism (which, according to the atrocities they committed, primarily motivated the Left in the Spanish civil war). 


To understand the teleology of the Left; remember that much of mortal earthly life is spiritual warfare, and think of a demon searching for a weapon to attack Goodness. 

He (or she) will pick-up and use any person, group, idea for just as long as it is expedient or effective - then drop it and use another. 

And since destruction is the ultimate aim of the Left; it may be that, when one weapon is dropped, the demon will then turn and destroy his old weapon with his new weapon - as happened with the group 'native working class men' (the Proletariat) who the Left used, discarded and then (currently) attacked with 'other races', women, immigrants etc. 

The aim is destruction. The Left is in business as long as anything Good is remaining to destroy - and therefore the ultimate Leftist act is suicide. 


Saturday, 30 May 2015

Reader's Question: Why should anyone bother with Christianity?

Reader's Question: "Why should anyone bother with Christianity? Official, progressive Christianity is a dreadful thing. it told me growing I was a bad person and would never measure up. Most people like me have no use for it, because it has no use for them. It's quite by accident I bother with it at all."

My Response: Because it is true. At root that is the only reason to be a Christian; and if you do not believe it is true then you are not a Christian (and probably should not be a Christian if or until you believe it is true - because why should anyone structure their lives around untruth?).

Then the question moves onto what does it mean to believe something is true?

My belief is that we are not talking about being overwhelmed by evidence - because evidence *never is* overwhelming in any situation or in relation to any subject.

With Christianity there is evidence in favour, and against - so a personal decision is necessary, inevitable, and intended.

With belief, I am talking about an inner confidence, which is experienced as a personal revelation from God. That is the proper basis of Christianity (but only the basis).

Of course there are innumerable advantages to being a Christian; but its being true is the one essential.

Then we move onto what may be the very difficult task of joining a church, a denomination. As you say, official, mainstream, progressive Christianity is a dreadful thing; so I would say the new Christian is likely to find either a relatively small, relatively weak, relatively obscure church (or else join a beleaguered minority within one of the official, mainstream churches). Or no church at all - which is my current situation.


Note added: Perhaps the most difficult aspect is: what is the Christianity which is supposed to be evaluated as true or not-true?

There are so many answers to this, so many ways of giving an answer, that the outsider is bewildered. Some people give the answer as a list of propositions, other as a philosophical doctrine, others as a story - so part of knowing if it is true is deciding the kind of truth that Christianity is.

My understanding is that Christianity is (more or less, and at root) a (true) story about relationships - but that itself is making a choice between rival ways of expressing the truth.  


Santa Claus is really-real


This is a link to what I consider to be one of my most important ever posts.


Reader's Question: Christianity and the dinosaurs?

Reader's Questions: "How can a Christian satisfactorily account for the period of natural history including the dinosaurs? To ignore this difficulty would seem dishonest and to take a cherry picking approach to reality of only including the bits of reality one would like for comfort. As a rational person (or at least someone who feels a strong need to try to be rationally consistent - flexible metaphysical assumptions aside) I have personally felt this is an Achilles heel to the traditional Genesis story which gets swept under the rug. Furthermore, but of secondary importance, I am very tired of secular a atheists ending religious debates about the existence of God or the integrity of traditional creation accounts with a "What about the dinosaurs?! Fossil record?! Etc. " Until now I disagree with them through faith and sidestep the issue as best I can but this feels dishonest and they seem to have an excellent point."

My Answer: All science is based on the metaphysical assumption of NOT using divine explanations. Scientific evolutionary theory's task was to find a non-divine but nonetheless still metaphysical explanation for the data, i.e. the 'appearances' of the world.

Life had been classified by Linnaeus before Darwin, what Darwin did was to suggest a non-divine and purposeless mechanism relating the cross-sectional forms of life (including fossils) with a linear explanation based on descent with modification.

Natural Selection is not science, it is not testable science, it cannot be disproven - it is a metaphysical system based on the assumption that the forms of life arose and adapted and diversified by non-divine mechanisms, with no purpose. Modern biology works within this set of metaphysical assumptions.

Therefore, the evidence of fossils, dinosaurs etc has - by its own definition - nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity: it neither proves nor disproves Christianity, because Christianity was ruled-out from the start.

The meaning of the Genesis story within Christianity is a different matter - I would say that the meaning is not very clear; indeed to me, the early parts of Genesis are among the most obscure parts of the Bible (THE most obscure part is Job). It is possible that a full understanding of Genesis may not be available to modern people, since we think in such a different way from our ancestors.

(Aside: My personal view is that some parts of the Bible are much more relevant, and therefore (by divine intention) more comprehensible, than others at different times and in different places. Consequently, some parts of the Bible are best (more-or-less) ignored by most people most of the time - not because they are 'uncomfortable' but because they are not very relevant or are simply incomprehensible (these parts of the Bible are meant for other times and places, past or future). Leviticus is the most obvious example. It seems clear that the Gospels are (by far) the most important parts of the Bible for our era - e.g. as seems to be confirmed by the relative success of conservative evangelicals and Jesus-(and Gospel)-focused Christianity in winning converts among the modern young - the Old Testament being, relatively, all-but ignored. I am not saying this near-exclusive Gospel focus is ideal - but that it has worked, it makes sense, and it is what most serious modern Christians actually do.)


Reader's Question: Are you still interested by morphic resonance?


Reader's Question: "I am wondering about your thoughts on Rupert Sheldrake and his morphic resonance theory. It was something that you blogged about in the past that I haven't seen in awhile."

My Answer: I have stopped writing about this because I have lost interest in it -  and I lost interest in it when my Christianity became Mormon and my metaphysics pluralist. 

The peak of my interest in Sheldrake was after I had immersed myself in the work of Aquinas (from reading Ed Feser's book on the subject), had adopted a Scholastic philosophy, and was considering becoming a Roman Catholic (hoping and waiting for a group of the Anglican Ordinariate to emerge nearby). After that my interest had moved towards Eastern Orthodoxy and Platonism (via Seraphim Rose), and I got so far as becoming 'officially' a catechumin at a Russian Orthodox church.

Sheldrake's  metaphysical system fits well with this kind of classical theology - especially with Aristotelian-Thomism from which is is apparently derived. 

But when my spontaneous pluralism/ pragmatism again came to the fore, and I discovered that Mormon theology matched this perfectly, this led to a turn-around (and clarification) of my metaphysical assumptions - indeed a clarification of what metaphysics actually is, and how it differs from science. 

So - my conclusion was that Sheldrake is essentially a metaphysical philosopher (and a very good one!) but not a scientist; and therefore empirical research cannot either confirm or refute his ideas about morphic resonance. 

I was in touch with Sheldrake at this time, by e-mail and on friendly terms (he does seem to be a very pleasant chap!) but I was never able to be clear whether he accepted or agreed with my understanding - nor was I ever able to be clear whether he regarded 'forms' as coming from God, or being things that were 'just there' and built-into reality (this is left-out of the books); nor was I clear about how humans were supposed to be able to know what was a form, and what was not.

Anyway, having established to my own satisfaction that Sheldrake's ideas were derived from/ dependent on classical Aristotelian metaphysics - and that being metaphysical they were not 'testable' - and then my own metaphysical assumptions having changed towards William Jamesian/ Joseph Smithian pragmatism - naturally I lost interest in Sheldrake's work and ceased to read, think or write about it!


Friday, 29 May 2015

Is the goatee beard intrinsically bogus?


While there are - no doubt - many counter-examples (or what appear to be counter-examples) I have never been able to shake the conviction that a goatee beard is phony. This does not mean that the person with a goatee is a complete phony - but that insofar as he sports a goatee, to that extent at least he is a phony.

Why would this be? I think because a goatee requires that a man shaves every day, just as if he were clean-shaven - yet leaves this little tuft, which must indeed be rather carefully shaped and trimmed. It seems like none of the benefits of allowing a beard to grow, and all the disadvantages of shaving with added ones.

As to whether it looks good?... Well, let us just say that it may sometimes improve the appearance of some people.

But there is always that danger that anyone who has a goatee for any significant length of time will develop the habit of stroking it. And that simply adds to the problem.

The problem? In a word: smugness.

A goatee looks smug - leading to the question: "What does he have to be so smug about?"

Which prompts the thought that if he really had cause to be smug - then why is the goatee necessary?

Questions to ponder...


Reader's question: What is the power of prayer?

Reader's Question: "What is your understanding of the power of prayer? How does it work? What should we prioritize in prayer? For example, I often pray for others who are effected by natural disasters like the recent Earthquake in Nepal but the prayers can feel feeble/ineffectual because I am so remote to the 'world' of these people and the extent/scale of human tragedy in such events can be difficult to comprehend. In contrast, when I pray for the soul of a friend who has died or a closer loved one the prayers feel more spontaneous because of my natural emotional connection to the people, places or events. Are more sincere prayers more effective spiritually? Or does the effort of extending our hearts to less attainable/difficult ground e.g. praying for those we do not like or whose practices/behaviours we find difficult to tolerate, render the prayers somehow more noble and worthwhile?"

My Answer: Since you asked me, I will give you my personal focus, rather than trying to summarize what is usually (and correctly) emphasized.

My main idea is that prayer is more of a means than an end - it is desired of us that we open and maintain lines of communication with God - as a person, as our Heavenly Father, so that God is central in our lives and that we come habitually to recognise God at work in our lives, in the world, in the universe and for eternity. On that basis, the more things we pray about, the better.

Therefore I try to pray frequently, whenever I remember - which means the prayers tend to be silent (or nearly silent), and brief, and in all sorts of times and situations. Mostly I give thanks, and ask for protection and help for those I love - sometimes for relief from my own, or other people's, pain and misery - and the courage to endure.

I am certain of the value of prayer in the sense that I have experienced several examples of miraculous answers to prayers - although I have not communicated these to other people because I regard them as being 'for' my own faith. Other definite benefits have been personal revelations and answers to questions communicated as a strong impression of the answer - these have created and sustained my faith, and removed stumbling blocks.

But on a specific, instance by instance basis, I do not think we usually know what happens to prayers or as a result of prayers - except that it sometimes emerges that my prayers led to the 'best' result, even when in retrospect it could be seen that I was praying for the wrong thing, the wrong result.

When I was aligned with Eastern Orthodoxy, I tried to pray continuously using the Jesus Prayer or something similar - but I would no regard this as

1. Unbalanced - we are not all of us supposed to pray all the time, because we have other things to do, and other ways of communicating with God, for example meditation (although I do not rule out that some few individuals are supposed, destined, to pray all of the time).

2. Wrongly emphasized - I now believe that it is a fundamental misunderstanding of the fundamental nature of our relation to God, for us continually, or frequently, to be requesting his mercy. We have it; and it must be saddening and perhaps irritating to God that we do not trust him and the goodness of his intentions, but feel constrained to beg him and propitiate him

- God does not need propitiating (in this sense) because all propitiation (in a different sense) was done for us by Christ and (in another sense) it is only wicked tyrants (like the Pagan gods) who demand propitiation.

So my main prayer is what I have heard called 'arrow' prayers - multiple silent, short, thanks and requests; some few memorized (fragments) of Psalms and of prayers from the the Book of Common Prayer. And the rarer more focused and lasting prayers in solitude, when I may be seeking a sense of communion and understanding, relief, strength etc.


Reader's Question: What kind of phenomenon was late-60s folk rock?

Reader's Question: "I've often wondered about the phenomenon of late-60s British folk rock. That is, in the context of the hedonistic excess of the era, were those songs of traditional England a reactionary thread or was this a process of co-option of older motifs into a nihlistic era? The morality expressed in many of those songs was very pre-sexual revolution but the scene was very similar to typical rocker decadence. Thoughts?"

My Answer: I'm never altogether sure what is meant by folk rock - but I will assume you mean the movement of whom Ashleigh Hutchings was instigator - the main thread being Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span and their spin-offs - or what people sometimes call 'electric folk'. 

If so, I think you have encapsulated the reality - and the point that artists and performers lives, and the context of performance, are often at odds (the social environment of The Globe, for instance, often very much at odds with the sublime sentiments of Shakespeare - as was, no doubt, Shakespeare's own life) . 

As 'art' the folk rock movement was largely a relatively healthy neo-paganism backlash, clustering with the interest in Tolkien, DH Laurence, Thomas Hardy, Blake - love of the countryside and old architecture, the revival of Morris dancing, Mummers Plays. 

Politically, the folk rock movement was solidly Old Left, and included a lot of overt pro-union/ anti-boss material - but there was a strain of William Morrisite socialist utopianism. 

Religiously, there was no Christianity beyond the general affection of old churches and old ways; and sexually I would say that the morality was traditional - either a Rabelasian celebration of lust (e.g songs with jokey euphemisms like 'cuckoo's nest) or else celebrating love and marriage and fertility.  

So, as always a mixed picture - and a temporary phase. The movement was certainly not nihilistic; but lacked the courage and strength of a full religious faith... but then so did almost all the movements of that era. 

I still regard the best of it - eg much of mid seventies Steeleye Span, or the Compleat Dancing Master and Morris On albums - as among the best 'popular' music I have ever heard.


Reader's question: How to deal with addictions?

Reader's Question: "You have often wrote so eloquently and insightfully about media addiction and I wonder if you might have any specific advise for coping with or treating addictions of other kinds that are embarrassing to discuss but which are a big problem in the modern world. Specifically I am referring to Pornography addiction and the daily barrage of temptation in the form of posters, adverts, media directed at encouraging sexual thoughts and licentiousness. "

My answer: I don't have any specific advice to give for any specific addiction. Because modern culture makes 'total abstinence' impossible - in the sense that addicted people cannot avoid getting bombarded with external temptations (especially in the example you give: almost the whole weight of modern culture has gone into the promotion of the sexual revolution). 

But most people have several or many addictions, and lack the 'will power' to fight them all, all at once - attack one addiction, and while you back is turned another one gets worse... 

From the ultimate perspective, we are all sinners. Therefore I suppose that the main thing with addiction, as with any sin, is to continue to struggle, to repent, and not to defend or promote the sin - this is the human situation. 

An aware, struggling, failing and repentant addict is in a better spiritual state than one who falsely regards himself as free of addiction.


Reader's Question: What kind of Christian would CS Lewis be nowadays?

Reader's Question: "Probably a silly question as Churches tend to vary a lot locally but, if CS Lewis was around today do you think he would still be attending CofE and if not which alternative denomination do you think he would have supported and why?

I ask this as I have had three moves and three Churches (Baptist, CofE with Baptistery and now, possibly, CofE) and although I was lucky with the first two, it seems to be getting harder to find one with a strong 'Bible based' message.

All denominations seem to have their own particular emphasis but I am just seeking one that espouses the Christian common ground Lewis spoke of in "Mere Christianity" with little pandering to modernity."

My Answer:  Lewis was a mainstream Anglican who after converting began on the Protestant side of the denomination and moved gradually towards a more Catholic practice (eg taking more frequent Holy Communion, attending confession with an Anglican Monk).

But Lewis did not get much satisfaction from attending church - he did it primarily from duty; and he would not have tolerated the incremental liberalisation of the Church of England, the abandonment by senior Bishops of belief in miracles, the Virgin Birth, even the divinity of Christ; the introduction of priestesses from 1992, and so on.

I think Lewis would have continued to attend a church; but what kind of church? Would Lewis have become a non-denominational conservative evangelical, or a Roman Catholic (like his 'disciple' Walter Hooper)? Perhaps...

Or would he have become Russian Orthodox - a Platonist faith with which he had considerable sympathy and some links? That option seems most likely to me.

But whatever he became, he would have continued to be been dutiful but not an enthusiastic church member - although he probably would have tried to keep his negative feelings to himself. 


Thursday, 28 May 2015

Reader's Question: Is Zen dangerous to Christians?

Reader's Question: "Is Zen dangerous, as an admixture to a pure Christianity? I've always been attracted by the meditation practice and the idea of unexpected sudden enlightenment through nonrational means, but the insistence on a fundamental unreality (mu) seems nihilistic at best."

My Answer: I think Zen probably is dangerous for Christians, in the sense that it is aiming at something altogether different from Christian goals. 

Zen is aimed at detachment, Christianity aimed at Love - these are very different. 

Zen meditation is aiming at a particular psychological state - Christian meditation at some kind of communion with the divine.   

Having said that, it depends on how seriously Zen is practiced - I could imagine a moderate usage of Zen techniques from time to time would be compatible with an overall Christian life and even potentially helpful in a 'therapeutic' sort of way; but pursued rigorously (and successfully!) Zen clearly is not compatible with Christian theosis: they are two different things pointed in different directions... 


Reader's Question: Can warmheartedness be defined?

Reader's Question: "Agree entirely with your recent post on warmheartedness as essential. 

However in my religious and family experience that criterion has been wielded as a demand for capitulation to the sentimental, the manipulative, the doctrinaire conformist, or the resolutely unintelligent. I think without an admixture of creativity, humor, and independence, it's a dicey concept. Also, the Spirit blows where it will, and the upsurge of warmth or compassion is often unexpected and mysterious, sometimes toward objects designated for disapproval. 

"I know it when I see it, but it is seldom pursued as such. More often as spontaneous kindness, or the humility of not meddling or evaluating, or knowing when, and what, to ignore. Do you have more to say about it? Or a serviceable definition?"

My Answer: I think this is just one specific example of the universal need for balance between virtues; and how any one virtue carried to excess (and without balance) will become a sin. 

Having said that, warmheartedness is non-optional for Christians - it cannot be dispensed with or else all other virtues will be undermined and turned to bad. 


Reader's Question: Why so many young women seem to have "anxiety" these days?

Reader's Question: "What do you think of gender theory? Why so many young women seem to have "anxiety" these days?"

My Answer: I don't know what you mean by gender theory - or rather, you could mean any one of a large number of different things. So I shall leave that aside. 

Women have anxiety for several reasons to do with natural selection. Anxiety is the commonest psychiatric symptom. The reason is that it (i.e. fear) is an evolved, adaptive, necessary emotion to some degree - but we are no living in the same kind of environment in which we evolved - so anxiety seems to be triggered without need, and more severely than needed.

Consequently modern humans self medicate to reduce anxiety - using alcohol, and many other tranquilising, sedative and emotion-buffering drugs. Then, a secondary reason for anxiety is withdrawal from these pharmacological agents. 

Women are more anxious than men as a protective instinct to guard against physical damage or death, because women are required to live long enough (and be healthy enough) to raise maybe six babies up to adolescence. (More exactly, on average women's investment in offspring can enhance prospects of the survival and eventual reproductive success more than men's.)

Reader's Question: Is there a legitimate distinction between the 'mass media' and worthwhile media?

Reader's Question: "I have been wanting to ask you about movies and television shows. You have posted several reviews of Hollywood movies over the past few months. Clearly you make a distinction between the ‘mass media’ which we ought to avoid, and movies like ThorToy Story 3, television like Dr. Who etc. What is the distinction?"

Answer: My theoretical point is that we should aim to cut down exposure to the mass media to the point that we get free of its grip - that we cease to be 'inside' it. 

I am in fact exposed to a lot of mass media, often via my children - and these are what I sometimes blog about. But I think I have cut it down to the point that it is a novelty for me to watch a movie, or a TV programme; or read a modern novel; I don't read newspapers, and I only follow about half a dozen blogs. That seems to be little enough for my present purposes. 


Request for questions...

At present my mind is rather preoccupied with matters of little interest or relevance for blogging; so, if readers have any questions they would like me to answer, or would like expansion or clarifications of previous topics, I would be happy to provide answers and responses.

I would normally post the question anonymously - unless otherwise requested; followed by my answer.


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Religio Medici


This I confess, about seven years past, with some others of affinity thereto, for my private exercise and satisfaction, I had at leisurable hours composed; which being communicated unto one, it became common unto many, and was by transcription successively corrupted, until it arrived in a most depraved copy at the press.

He that shall peruse that work, and shall take notice of sundry particulars and personal expressions therein, will easily discern the intention was not publick: and, being a private exercise directed to myself, what is delivered therein was rather a memorial unto me, than an example or rule unto any other: and therefore, if there be any singularity therein correspondent unto the private conceptions of any man, it doth not advantage them; or if dissentaneous thereunto, it no way over- throws them.

It was penned in such a place, and with such disadvantage, that (I protest), from the first setting of pen unto paper, I had not the assistance of any good book, whereby to promote my invention, or relieve my memory; and therefore there might be many real lapses therein, which others might take notice of, and more that I suspected myself.

It was set down many years past, and was the sense of my conceptions at that time, not an immutable law unto my advancing judgment at all times; and therefore there might be many things therein plausible unto my passed apprehension, which are not agreeable unto my present self. There are many things delivered rhetorically, many expressions therein merely tropical, and as they best illustrate my intention; and therefore also there are many things to be taken in a soft and flexible sense, and not to be called unto the rigid test of reason.

Lastly, all that is contained therein is in submission unto maturer discernments; and, as I have declared, shall no further father them than the best and learned judgments shall authorize them: under favour of which considerations, I have made its secrecy publick, and committed the truth thereof to every ingenuous reader.


What a delicious prose style - and especially that expression, which might be taken as a plea from all daily bloggers, and indeed all those whose ideas change, evolve, over time:

There are many things delivered rhetorically, many expressions therein merely tropical, and as they best illustrate my intention; and therefore also there are many things to be taken in a soft and flexible sense, and not to be called unto the rigid test of reason.

I am, of course, myself, a doctor - so this blog is a Religio Medici; but it is long since I was employed  to treat patients. Indeed, I practiced full time for only two years. I left clinical medicine for many reasons, including insufficient stamina as a major one - but one reason was that I could never be clear why I was keeping people alive, and what I was keeping people alive for.

Therefore I moved into research, and then into English Literature and Philosophy, under the idea that Art or Philosophy might justify life, and clarify what it was all for.

They never did; and it was not until many years later, and indeed just the past few years, that I understood what it was all about - and therefore how, potentially, medicine might properly be practiced.

Because, without a knowledge (or intuition) of the purpose of Life, nothing can be done well - certainly not medicine, which becomes merely a kicking the can further down the road (extending life, a bit) in hope that somewhere down the line somebody will work out why...

More on Thos. Browne at:

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Anglican Unscripted - An enjoyable, and sometimes inspiring, Christian vlog


One of my favourite Christian resources is Anglican Unscripted - a regular news vlog presented by Kevin Kallsen and George Conger - who are conservative Episcopalians in the USA (yes, they do exist!).

They are a very genial and amusing couple of chaps, and come across as decent men and good Christians.

Kevin Kallsen is the technical guy, and hosts a web channel and various other media:

George Conger is - as well as having a parish in Florida - a high-level and highly informed religious journalist; and in this latest installment he reports on an extraordinary story that among the papers of Bin Laden were 'profiles' of Church of England Bishops - this is, in fact, the only Christian material so-far reported.

Their speculations on what misconceptions about the state of the Church of England might explain this special interest in English Bishops are very enjoyable.


Saturday, 23 May 2015

Since Social Justice/ Political Correctness/ New Leftism is essentially a suicide cult (not a religion) - what next?


In response to my post arguing against labeling New Leftism (or modern Liberalism or Progressivism) as a religion:

Alan Roebuck, at The Orthosphere, extended the argument to label the modern Left a suicide cult:

Suicide cult seems a reasonable, two-word, working definition of what Christians are up-against - encapsulating the standard, view among all mainstream and powerful leaders such as politicians, officials, educators and the mass media.

So let us proceed on that basis: that what we are dealing with in the modern Liberal, Progressive Left is a type of suicide cult; and plan accordingly.


Evidence that the Left has, over the decades, evolved (or mutated) into a suicide cult is abundant - the Left has lost its utopian aims, and has become almost entirely oppositional and destructive, Activism is about hunting down and destroying dissent - no matter how small scale, nobody is exempted, and there is no sense of proportion.

Actual advocacy of death is currently focused on the extremes of life  childhood and old age - with encouragement of contraception, abortion, sterility or the smallest-possible families (in a context of media, official and educational-institutional encouragement to frequent and unconstrained sexual activity).

At the other end of life there is a long-running and unrelenting campaign for the elderly, and terminally- or incurably-ill people who are experiencing (or expect to experience) low quality of life to 'have the right' to be humanely murdered in order to shorten, minimize or avoid suffering.

In sum, the modern Left does not offer any basis for living the examined life among the intellectuals, and is experienced among non-intellectuals as in violation of common sense and direct personal experience. It survives on the basis of bribery and distraction, and gets its motivations by inculcating guilt (among the elite), resentment (among the masses) and open-ended entitlement among a coalition privileged 'victim' groups.


As the triumph of the Left becomes more complete two things will happen:

1. The gross inadequacy of its world model as a basis for human life will become harder to conceal.

2. By its continual encouragement of destructive resentment and entitlements and paralysing guilt; the Left will destroy its own basis to provide the resources necessary to bribe, distract and cocoon the population.

If this happens gradually and linearly, then the dependent majority can be sustained for a considerable period by concealed inflation and borrowing and ever-increasing expropriation of an ever diminishing productive minority. By the time the real situation is apparent, modern society will be hollowed-out and cannot recover - and Christians will be reduced to a tiny, crushed and exploited minority.

But if the situation gets worse suddenly and exponentially, then awareness of the situation may dawn before destruction is fully advanced, and there may be a window for mass repentance and Christian revival: a Great Awakening.


The real Christians need to be ready for this, if it happens - every Western Christian will need to become a missionary to the best of his or her ability. The situation will be made difficult by the rising of Antichrist figures - fake Christians, who are perhaps 90 percent Christian but the missing 10 percent is the essence - lacking which the do more harm than good (as is their intent).

But the flip-side is that real Christians may be 90 percent non-Christian - but the 10 percent of Christianity that they do have is precisely the needful!

Having said this, missionaries can only help with the consent of those they are trying to help; and the biggest obstacle is (what seems to be) the corrupt and depraved state of the mass of the modern population - their moral inversion; their rejection of virtue, beauty and honesty; their embrace of wickedness, ugliness and lies.


In the end, and whatever the society he dwells-in, each individual is responsible for his or her own salvation (salvation cannot be forced-upon him); and God will sooner or later bring each and every Man to a point of realizing this as a fact, and one which requires a choice: yea or nay.

But Christians can help influence this choice, at this point of decision; by planting seeds of good doctrine, good behaviour, and the example of soft, open, and warm hearts. Our love will be communicated to those who need and would most benefit from it, by invisible and unknown means.

Each soul, as it hovers on the crux of decision, will be able to take this Christian work into the balance.

So the answer to the question - What should Christians do, confronted by the vast power of a majority suicide cult? - is simply to do the right things, as ever, and as much as you can, and in whatever situation you find yourself...

And derive hope from the faith that all good is noted and used, nothing goes for nothing, under God's all-seeing eye.


Friday, 22 May 2015

Hard hearts and literalism in Christianity - using Christianity as a transcendental justification for hatred


Edited from Saving the Appearances by Owen Barfield (1965) - the chapter "Religion":

The needful virtue is that which combats the besetting sin. And the besetting sin today is the sin of literalness...

The relation between the mind and the heart of Man is a delicate mystery, and hardness is catching. 

There is a connection, at some level - however deep, between literalness and hardness of heart.


The above quotes hit me with the power of insight - 'literalism' is indeed our besetting sin; and this comes out most starkly in disputes; and Christians are just as prone to it as are the majority secular culture. And literalism does often lead to hard hearts - indeed that is how it can usually be noticed - by the hard, brittle, cold tone which enters discourse.

In mainstream secular culture, literalism is seen in the legalism, the microscopic analysis of sentences and individual words, which prevails in modern bureaucracies (which means in most of modern life - since the interlinked bureaucracies - the system - is almost everywhere).

And in Christianity literalism is also a besetting sin - which can be observed in all denominations - although some are worse, in this respect, than others. It is my impression that literalism is what attracts some people to Christianity, and retains them in it.


The problem is that literalism justifies itself, by dichotomizing Christian discourse as all or nothing, and dividing the faithful from the heretics on clear technical grounds: either either people fully implement every line of scripture (when quoted line-by-line) or people have rejected the Bible; either people fully live by the rule-book or people are making it up as they go along; either everyone fully submits to church authority; either people adhere to traditional practices and ritual in every respect or else they have rejected it; either people are theologically orthodox or they are heretics or apostates.

In practice, individuals have their own favourite tests - the response to a particular passage of scripture, attitude to contraception or doctrine. In modern culture-wars (Christians versus secular mainstream) litmus test issues include abortion, and the ordination (or pastorate, or full membership) of women and sexual-revolutionaries. Within Christianity the tests are much more numerous- and generally reduce to the authority of authorities - the primacy of church leadership, scripture, traditions etc.


My point is that these disputes have a horrible way of playing into the enemy's hands; and the way this often works is by literalism - both sides end-up using literalist arguments, and both sides have their hearts hardened and chilled by the process. Those with the hardest hearts come to the fore, take charge and and take-over the disputes, and ensure that - from a Christian perspective - there are no winners but only losers. 

What I mean is that the right side - the side which holds the correct views - ends-up as being corrupted - so they come to hold the right opinions for the wrong reasons - and thereby the right opinions become invalidated and irrelevant.

Because in Christianity, having the right beliefs for the wrong reasons means having the wrong beliefs: the reasons are a non-optional part of the right beliefs.


It should be obvious, and it certainly is true, that a persona can sincerely hold all the correct beliefs, and do all the prescribed actions - every single one of them, and obey all the legitimate church authorities to the letter - and not be a Christian because they have hard hearts.

In other words because they lack love - also termed 'charity' and agape.


This hard-hearted lovelessness seems to be terribly common among strident self-identified Christians on the Christian blogosphere and even more so on the secular Right Wing/ Reactosphere. 

Among Christians, the inference is that these are people who have become Christian to provide a transcendental excuse to indulge in hatred.

In other words, a literalistic definition and interpretation of Christianity is being used to justify an attitude which is consistently and hypocritically directed at teh expression of hatred.

This is sometimes called Phariseeism - after the revealed attitude of Jesus's enemies among the Jewish priesthood - but it remains extremely common (albeit less rigorous, and not always focused on 'the law).


This kind of thing is very obvious to non-Christians, and 'hypocrisy' by this definition is one of the legitimate criticisms of the Christian churches throughout history.
Because, hypocrisy is properly a matter of motivation - the prime hypocrisy is to be motivated by hatred and pride in the name of a religion that regards love as the primary and always necessary virtue. 

We are almost all of us prone to this kind of hypocrisy, and it is understandable how debates and arguments easily degenerate in this way.  But while it can be explained, there is no sufficient excuse for it - and it is very, very dangerous (I mean morally hazardous) to seek to excuse hate-motivated discourse on the grounds of necessity, on the grounds of the greater good.

When we detect it in ourselves, we must repent and cease; when we detect hate-motivation in others we must be careful not to treat them as mentors, teachers, authorities, or good interpreters - no matter how learned or rhetorically skilful they may be, no matter how correct in their expressed beliefs practices and obedience.

Such hypocrites (by the above definition) are extremely dangerous if given power as Christian leaders - dangerous to those under their authority, and damaging to the faith itself; and very difficult to get rid of once in place because it is their motivation which is at fault, rather than their actions - which are always correct and orthodox.


So Christians must guard against hate-driven-pseudo-Christians - who are often the most orthodox and obedient in their behaviour; and must recall that love comes above all: Love of God and Neighbour covers, compensates-for, is far more important than total literalistic correctness.

In other people, but also more importantly in ourselves. We must guard against hardening of our hearts.

And if our hearts are hardening and we become aware of this, then there can be no excuse or compensation - the immediate priority must be to restore warmth to the heart (or to allow warmth to re-emerge, to become warmed); and the antidote for hardness is love.


Thursday, 21 May 2015

What does God want from Men?

It is helpful, in being a Christian, to know what God wants from us Men - To know, ultimately, where it is all supposed to be going.

The answer is that God wants us to become like Him, as much like Him as possible - so that we can dwell with Him in the same kind of relationship as he has with Jesus Christ.

We are Sons (and Daughters) of God, and so was Jesus Christ - but Christ began as God and became Man - we begin as Men and are offered the chance to become gods.

We are currently immature, childish, weak and flawed Sons of God - and God wants us to grow-up, as much as possible (eventually).

(This growing-up process is variously called theosis, sanctification, spiritual progression, divinization.)

That is what God wants from us; and salvation is ('just') the necessary first step on this path.

And it all depends on whether we agree with this plan; because we have to choose to cooperate with it - it will not be forced-upon us.

Do we want to become gods and live with God the Father and Jesus Christ - not as equal in status; but able to relate and communicate with them on the same level?

Or not?


Present Receptivity - a neglected form of meditation

I have become aware that there are multiple forms of meditation, with several goals and different - contrasting - effects.

One thing I do, or which sometimes happens-to-me, is something I haven't seen specifically described - perhaps because its effects are modest. It is a state of heightened present-moment, here and now, dynamic receptivity.

The first time I noticed it was when I was at college, walking on a path across a field, when I became aware that a warm wind was blowing between my fingers in a pleasant way, and I began to focus on the sensations that were happening to me - the feelings on my skin, the appearance of the path and the grass nearby, sounds of birds and traffic - and quite suddenly my consciousness snapped-into awareness of the here and now of what was happening to me: a state of Present Receptivity.

It didn't last long, because almost immediately I started 'thinking-about' the sensation, which distanced me from this sensory contact; but it was a valuable experience because I knew myself to be orientated and placed - also it dispelled that angsty worry which tends to grind-away for much of life.

Since then, I have always been able to induce the feeling whenever I remember to do it - which is not very often! But one time is in the morning or evening when I step outside to stand and look at the sky.

For just a moment or two, life is not just sweeping-by - but slows to the point that I become aware of myself, floating in the stream of time.


Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Yet more evidence that we are living in WD Hamilton's 'Planetary Hospital'

I was talking with Michael A Woodley yesterday, and he told me of yet more research evidence in the pipeline to support our hypothesis that modern men are suffering from more than a century's worth of mutation accumulation.

This follows-up on our work of three years ago when we discovered that simple reaction times had slowed substantially since they were first measured in the late 1800s - and that this indicated that general intelligence must therefore also have declined substantially over that period.

This decline could partly be accounted for by the inverse correlation between intelligence and fertility but this mechanism alone was insufficient to account for the magnitude of the reduction in intelligence.

We hypothesized that mutation accumulation might be the other main cause. This is almost certain to have been happening for about 150 years, as child mortality rates have declined from historical levels of a half or more to just a few percent. Hence the primary mechanism for purging the gene pool of spontaneously-occurring mutations - of which there are probably many in each generation - has been all-but eliminated.

Early indications were that this was indeed the case:

Michael has now unearthed confirmatory evidence of mutation accumulation using a completely different measure and in an independent population (paper prepared for submission, but still confidential).

It is becoming hard to avoid the conclusion that we have been, for several generations, living in what WD Hamilton (in Narrow Roads of Gene Land, Volume 2) called the Planetary Hospital - in other words, a world in which almost everyone is suffering from significant genetic damage, and an increasing proportion of the population are suffering from genetic disease.

This raises the possibility that some or much of the social pathology in The West, including the general mainstream attitudes to this social pathology, may be attributable - in part, at least - to the accumulation of endemic genetic damage.

Is this plausible? Against it is the greatly increased Western life expectancy; but in favour of it is the ever reducing fertility - which mostly reflects an ever reducing desire for people (especially women) to have children - with fertility rates well below replacement levels despite unprecedented prosperity. And biological fitness is about reproductive success, not life expectancy.

But superficially, aside from a possible increase in 'autistic spectrum' disorders, there is no obvious epidemic of innate genetic disease among the native Western population. However, there is evidence of behavioural maladaptiveness - behavioural change which would (under ancestral conditions) lead to reduced reproductive success.

The subtlest and most easily-damaged human traits are social and sexual behaviour; and here there are very obvious changes which would tend to be net maladaptive. These might include a reduction in average self-preservation, bravery and ability to deploy violence among men to the extent of a near-suicidal passivity in the face of danger and indifference to the prospect of genetic extinction.

And among women an indifference to having children, rearing children; and the embrace of fashions which signal (according to innate signalling mechanism) sexual promiscuity and the presence of disease (eg deliberate, usually asymmetrical skin lesioning by piercing and tattoos - which mimics pathology).

In terms of sexuality, as well as the widespread embrace of non-reproductive sex in many manifestations, what is perhaps even more striking is the bland social indifference to this.

Indeed, what is most distinctive of all is an inversion of mainstream attitudes concerning sexual pathologies (by 'sexual pathologies' are meant those sexual practices which biologically impair net reproductive success). For perhaps the first time in human history, we are approaching the situation in which non-reproductive sexual practices are becoming the officially-sanctioned 'norm'.

The fact that traditional religion is an effective antidote to these trends indicates that biology is not the whole story by any means - and the abandonment of religion must bear a great deal of responsibility.

However, the abandonment of Christianity in the West may, to some extent, have been driven or more likely facilitated by changes in disposition (in attitudes, motivation etc) that are themselves a consequence of (mostly) sub-clinical genetic pathologies (ie. mostly-subtle impairments to social and sexual behaviours) due to mutation accumulation.

So, the current scenario - unrestrained as it is by the compensatory wisdom of traditional religion - increasingly resembles Hamilton's Planetary Hospital with more-or-less sick people in a majority; to the point of generating an inverted ethic in which sickness is seen as not just normal but good: a world of sick people (in effect) trying to induce as many others as possible to share their sickness (presumably so the sick will not be relatively disadvantaged).

Of course, this situation cannot long persist; not least because the sick need healthy people to look after them. But in the meantime, we have an extraordinary situation of the (indirectly) suicidal policy of promoting sickness.

This is probably unique in world history, because never before have child mortality rates been so low for so long; and never before has mutation accumulation been able to become so advanced - due to the soft, comfortable, prosperous life bequeathed to us by our recent ancestors.


Note added: According to WD Hamilton, when someone has a large accumulation of deleterious mutations, this will typically reduce the desire to reproduce. This impaired libido will presumably be partly from feeling ill and lacking energy; but also, and importantly, probably as a built-in, evolved, species-benefiting trait which is actually designed to reduce the mutation load in the relevant gene pool. In effect, the individual sacrifices his own reproduction for the benefit of his genetic relatives or group (indeed, this trait may be necessary for the evolution of complex brained species, such as humans, where mutations have exceptionally large scope for causing significant functional damage). This tendency to 'reproductive suicide' of the unfit would normally be a beneficial trait; however, when there is a heavy mutation load spread through the whole population, then this trait will lead to population reduction and eventual extinction; since too many individuals opt not to reproduce.

Slogans, badges, T-shirts, signs, masks and post-sixties, counter-cultural politics

There is something seriously creepy and repellent about the public display of 'political' slogans; which began in the sixties with badges or 'buttons', expanded to T-shirts, and more recently has settled upon photos or selfies of people holding-up signs with a 'message'.

What is worst about these photos of people holding-up signs, is the typical facial expression; which combines fake-anger, smugness and vacuousness in a way which is, at least, accurate concerning the probable state of mind of the sign-holder.

A singularly repugnant version is when a profession photographer gets a carefully pre-written sign and puts it into the hands of some 'minority' person - poses that person in some suitable fashion, then (presumably) shoots-off a couple of hundred images to find one with exactly the requisite combination of fake-anger, smugness and vacuousness.

Beyond this is the Guy Fawkes face mask; which comes from a shallow reading of a sophomoric graphic novel by a gifted but evil author based on a truly absurd analogy that equates an historical violent revolutionist who risked his life, and lost it, trying to restore the full severity of a Roman Catholic state - and the blank-faced, flaccid, lecture-skiving, weekend self-indulgence characteristic of modern ultra-left 'anarchism'.

Nauseating although this whole phenomenon is; I have to admit that badges, T-shirts, signs and masks are not false to reality; because they constitute a precise and complete account of current politics - which is indeed nothing more than just this: sound-bites and egotistical posturing in service of the mass media.


Is Social Justice/ Political Correctness/ New Leftism a religion? Actually *not* (despite superficial similarities)


"Social Justice” is a religion. It has saints, dogma, and sacraments.

There are some similarities (which the writer goes on to enumerate) but actually, in its core features, 'social justice' (New Leftism, political correctness) is not a religion - because it is essentially negative and oppositional, hence fluid and self-consuming.

The Old Left, such as Communism, was very much like a Godless religion; and it did have saints- such as Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Mao. But the New Left of Social Justice and Political Correctness has only temporary idols, any of whom may be vilified and demonized at any time.

The idols of the Social Justice Warriors are not saints, but merely function as clubs, taken-up to beat the enemy - then usually discarded. 

The evidence is that the majority of hate figures of the Left are themselves Leftists who used to be revered. Most early IQ researchers - such as Cyril Burt - were socialists; most victims of Two Minutes Hate such as James Watson and Larry Summers are Democrats; ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair was a socialist. For Heavens sake, the Nazis were socialists! 

The lesson is that modern Leftism is parricidal (as well as fratricidal), nobody is secure in their Sainthood - indeed nobody and no group is secure in the status: even Marx's 'proletariat' was redefined as evil white males. Today's Gods are tomorrow’s devils.

And this is the essence of the beast: it is negative, oppositional, lives by subversion, inversion and destruction of the Good; its stance is perpetual opposition.

Stability and the status quo and tradition is attacked, but there is no alternative stable state in view; no Social Justice utopia being aimed-at; no end-point at which political correctness will say 'enough', 'this is it'.

This non-religious nature comes from the New Left being located in the mass media, and not in any political organization. The mass media is subverting, inverting and destroying;one thing after another; but it is going nowhere except towards chaos.

So, fundamentally the Social Justice Warriors are something new; not a religion but instead something only possible after the death of religion as a political force; after mass apostasy and the forcible exclusion of religion from public discourse.

The New Left is in reality an anti-religion; and its religious aspects are merely tactical accidents of its negative and oppositional stance.


Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Mere Christianity - not merely, but not mere enough?


[CS Lewis’s and Richard] Baxter’s “mere Christianity” was not “mere” Christianity in the weak, attenuated sense of the word mere.

Both Lewis and Baxter used the word mere in what is today—regrettably—an obsolete sense, meaning “nothing less than,” “absolute,” “sure,” “unqualified,” as opposed to today’s weakened sense of “only this,” “nothing more than,” or “such and no more.”

Our contemporary meaning of the word mere corresponds to the Latin vix, “barely,” “hardly,” “scarcely,” while the classical, Baxterian usage corresponds to the Latin vere, “truly,” “really,” “indeed.”

Baxter had no use for a substance-less, colorless homogeneity bought at the expense of the true catholic faith. Indeed, he had his own list of non-negotiable fundamentals, including belief in one triune God; in one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ, the eternal Word, God incarnate; in the Holy Spirit; in the gifts of God present to his covenanted people in baptism and Holy Communion; and in a life of obedience, holiness, and growth in Christ.

It is surely correct to focus on what is “truly,” “really,” “indeed" - but the list of 'non-negotiable fundamentals' has come to look more and more misguided; as the denominations which officially hold to these fundamentals have become less and less 'mere' in the sense of truly/ really/ indeed - but have assimilated almost invisibly into the prevalent Western secular Leftism.

'One triune God' is hardly a useful discrimination - except to distinguish Christianity from pure monotheism minus Christ - since it amounts to espousal of a paradoxical or non-common-sensical form of words. It is, indeed, a ludicrous misrepresentation to put 'one triune God' first and foremost as a 'mere' Christian belief - when this is not even stated in the Bible (only in creeds from many generations later), but extracted from an elaborate close reading of the text combined with philosophy at a high level of abstraction!

Clearly Mere Christianity entails acknowledging Christ as our Lord and Saviour - but there are counter examples to the need for baptism and Holy Communion in some low church Protestant groups that certainly seem Christian - such as the Salvation Army.

And while a life of obedience, holiness and growth in Christ are certainly desirable and pleasing to God; the essence of the Gospel is that none of these are necessary for Salvation - thank Heavens, or else hardly anyone would ever be saved!

A better definition of real Christianity would therefore need to be much simpler and less parochial on the one hand - to include more than the mainstream 'catholic' churches (Orthodox, Roman, Anglican) ; while on the other hand much more rigorous in excluding the mass of clergy and laity in these 'catholic' churches who are happy to repeat 'orthodox' forms of words in creeds and catechisms - but who in practice systematically (and indeed aggressively) subordinate Christianity to the changing expediencies of secular politics.


The fallacy of fixing things (more on motivation, and its lack, and its absolute necessity)

Almost all of public life nowadays focuses around the business of fixing things; and virtually no fixing actually gets done.

It is certainly a thing which draws you in: diagnosing what is wrong, coming-up with schemes to fix it...

But it is wearying because the most sensible (simple, effective) schemes don't ever get adopted - and instead there are stubborn attempts to 'implement' ineffective, complex schemes, which are only tangentially related to what needs fixing - or else completely unrelated but simply 'sold' on the basis of lies and misrepresentation. Once introduced these useless, expensive, intrusive schemes are virtually impossible to dislodge.

But none of this stops the bandwagon rolling. Every day new fixes, critique of fixes, defences of fixes...

Things don't get fixed because at a very fundamental level people don't want them fixed. Failed pseudo-fixes persist because people benefit from the failures.


Motivation, motivation, motivation! The key to humans is motivation. Real motivations - and not asserted motivations.

In Britain all sorts of agencies and organizations are always claiming to be 'passionate' about some or other issue - but that is the point: they are not passionate, they are not motivated - they merely use the word.

Being passionate, being powerfully motivated, is not about rhetoric, nor is it about making passionate faces or noises: it is seen in actions.


The level of lying in public life, in organization life, in any of the bureaucracies - is so vast that it is really better not to listen to the words or look at the pictures; but just look at what people do, and what they do not do.

Less information is more knowledge. Less training is more understanding.

And nothing can or will be done without motivation - motivated leaders; yes - but motivated leaders only come in a context of motivated followers; otherwise there are just fake-motivated leaders (and a pretty feeble fake it is too).


There is really very little point in the vast exercises in information gathering and analysis, in strategies and plans and regulations, when there is near zero motivation. To say we are living in a house of cards is to understate the situation.

If or when any group emerges that is genuinely motivated they will simply walk-in and seize power; nobody will be sufficiently motivated to stop them; and they will attract support simply because they are motivated.

Such motivation cannot be manufactured; there is no formula or trick - it must tap-into some reality of human nature. This doesn't at all mean that anything which motivates is good; but it does mean that anything which fails to motivate is bad.


And our general societal state of demotivation is bad: it is completely unacceptable.

We should not tolerate it, we should not try and get used to it or adjust to it; we should regard it as a matter of extreme urgency to find what it takes to motivate us.

I do not mean motivation at any cost; but I do mean that we must reject anything which does not motivate.

I do not mean superficial motivation, a motivation for an hour or a day or a fortnight (these are over-provided a thousandfold) - I mean deep, slow-burning, sinewy, rugged, tenacious, stubborn, resistant motivation - that drives-us, drags-us, fuels-us, and inspires-us to trudge onward through the headwinds and bogs and despite our handicaps and hunger.


Motivation cannot be faked; and if we have it, then we know it.

We do not have it, as a culture; but it is there to be had.

It is absolutely necessary; and we should be satisfied with nothing less.


Monday, 18 May 2015

The big problem - and the solution

The problem is one that is easier to notice and feel than it is to prove, but I would suggest that it is something like this: that life in modern liberal democracies is to some extent thin or shallow. 

I do not mean that our lives are meaningless, nor that the opportunity liberal democracy uniquely gives to pursue our own conception of happiness is remotely misguided. On a day-to-day basis most of us find deep meaning and love from our families and friends and much else. But there are questions which remain, which have always been at the centre of each of us and which liberal democracy on its own not only cannot answer but was never meant to answer. 

“What am I doing here? What is my life for? Does it have any purpose beyond itself?” These are questions which human beings have always asked and are still there even though today to even ask such questions is something like bad manners.

What is even more, the spaces where such questions might be asked — let alone answered — have shrunk not only in number but in their ambition for answers. And if people no longer seek for answers in churches will they find them in occasional visits to art galleries or book clubs? ...

But what is interesting to me is that everything about these accounts is both of our time and runs against the assumptions of our time. The search for meaning is not new. What is new is that almost nothing in our culture applies itself to offering an answer.

Nothing says, “Here is an inheritance of thought and culture and philosophy and religion which has nurtured people for thousands of years.” At best the voice says, “Find your meaning where you will.”

At worst it is the nihilist’s creed: “All this has no meaning.” Meanwhile politicians — seeking to address the broadest range of people — speak so widely and with such generalities as to mean almost nothing.

Almost nowhere is there a vision of what a meaning-filled life might be. The wisdom of our time suggests that education, science and the sheer accessibility of information must surely have knocked such urges out of us. And the divide can be staggering...

I know that non-religious people do not like talk like this. And I know that religious people find it frustrating because for real believers the question will always be, “Why do you not just believe?”

Yet this latter question simply ignores the probably irreversible damage that science and historical criticism have done to the literal truth-claims of religion and ignores the fact that people cannot be forced into faith.

Excellent diagnosis - terrible (non-) prescription.

What is the point of saying that we are painted into a corner without checking whether we really are painted into a corner? What is this nonsense about the probably irreversible damage that science and historical criticism have done to the literal truth-claims of religion?

Honestly, people really need to be able to distinguish between metaphysics and wissenschaft. Science and historical criticism exclude religion by assumption, therefore they can have nothing to say - and say nothing - about the truth claims of religion.


No actual or possible discovery of science or history makes or could make any difference to the truth of religion. If  you don't understand this, then that is what you need to understand.

Don't keep on and on and on spouting nonsense - stop; analyze the nonsense and find out why it is nonsense.  


And what is this straw-mannic stuff about 'literal' truth-claims? I have never come across a literal truth-claim from anybody that did not really mean something contextualized. Words need to be interpreted for intentions; especially when words are the end-product of chains of forced choices. Accusations of literalism are just a rhetorical device to discredit the opposition. Nothing at all is 'literally' true - in the sense that religion is supposed not to be literally true - certainly science is never literally true (even when uncontroversially regarded as correct).


Sometimes things really are simple - this situation is simple.

“What am I doing here? What is my life for? Does it have any purpose beyond itself?” Do you really want to know the answers? If so, then choose your religion.


Religions can't be invented to order, not real ones; so decide which existing religion is true/ truest, and then get on with it.

Get on with it as best you can.  

You may not get it right first time, or second time or even third time (we work by trial and evaluation, repentance and try-again), but you will at least be on the path, and moving broadly in the correct direction.


Ashamed of the gospel?

The days of socially acceptable Christianity in the West are surely over. The days of comfortable Christian orthodoxy are past. It is no longer easy to be a faithful Christian, a good Catholic, an authentic Evangelical witness to the truths of the gospel. A price is demanded and must be paid. There are costs of discipleship—costs that are burdensome and painful to bear.Of course, one can still safely identify oneself as a "Christian," and even be seen going to worship services at church. That is because the guardians of those norms of cultural orthodoxy that we have come to call "political correctness" do not assume that identifying as "Christian" or going to church necessarily means that one actually believes what the Church teaches on issues such as marriage and sexual morality and the sanctity of human life.

The choice for real Christians is often presented as an impossible dilemma: either capitulation to secular politically correct Leftism or some kind of crusade embracing martyrdom.

But this would be a crusade which opposed the leadership, the priesthood, of most of the mainstream Western Christian denominations - including Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and most other nonconformists. So, in practice, for many or most people, this would be a one-person-crusade... which is asking a lot more than most people have to give, and also guaranteed to fail in terms of the visible, public realm of discourse.

However, the visible public realm of discourse is not the only measure of success; and is indeed a shallow, ephemeral and ultimately irrelevant criterion.

The strength of individual Christian belief is measurable in the spiritual realm, and the success of resistance is to be measured in this realm. If there is to be a spiritual revival in the West, it will emerge from this invisible realm: having its effects by mysterious and apparently non-causal means.

In this sense, real Christianity is simpler and more powerful than ever before. Simply determining to be always honest, and to repent every failure in this aim, is now an idea of astonishingly radical import and implications - even when this honesty 'merely' takes the form of silence, and refusal to endorse. Such'negative' acts now have vast, potentially explosive, force in the real and vital realm of the spirit.

Thus nature balances itself: as the scope for public heroic positive action diminishes, so the significance of personal, private, micro-acts of refusal is amplified.


(Justly-) neglected philosophers

Despite the spread of feminism and multiculturalism, and their impact on fields from literature to anthropology, it is possible to major in philosophy without hearing anything about the historical contributions of women philosophers. The canon remains dominated by white males—the discipline that some say still hews to the myth that genius is tied to gender.

How tiresome is the academic subject of philosophy, how unjustifiably and dishonestly it appropriates the name of this subject, how ever-more tedious and shallower are its fashions and fads.

I would rather recommend a modern philosophical canon that included none, not one single representative, of the standard line-up of post-Medieval philosophers; but instead a collection of literary and middlebrow writers of the ilk of Samuel Johnson, RW Emerson, GK Chesterton and Robert M Pirsig.

(The exception, the cross-over, would be William James.)


Christian churches and the poor

A church that pays out to help the poor, but doesn’t pray with them, looks less like a church than ... merely another N.G.O.

When I was considering becoming a Christian, this was exactly how churches seemed to me. From the advertizing material outside or the leaflets and decor inside, I could not perceive anything spiritual going-on in them; but just an adjunct to mainstream soft-left, feel-virtuous politics and charity. Nothing that would turn around my alienated life; nothing that would turn around the demotivated and nihilistic nation. 

Anyway, there are no real 'Biblical' poor in Britain - instead a vast, massive, majority of the population are spiritually impoverished; starved almost to death, hungering and thirsting for meaning.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

The gift of Thomas Traherne to our age

One of the most extraordinary, but hardly known, events in the history of the Christian church was the recovery of the great works of Thomas Traherne (c1637-1674).

And his work really is great: the quality and beauty of his prose is among the highest in the English language, and unique. Nobody has ever matched Traherne for his Christian expression of gratitude and sheer joy in in the beauty of natural life.

Yet all his great work was lost for more than 200 years, then emerged by strange accidents through the twentieth century.


In the late nineteenth century, nearly 200 years after the publication of A Serious and Pathetical Contemplation, two manuscripts were found on London bookstalls: some of Traherne’s poems and a series of prose meditations divided into sections of a hundred. The poems were published as The Poetical Works in 1903 by Bertram Dobell, who then published the prose work in 1908 under the title Centuries of Meditations. A second version of many of the poems, seemingly prepared for publication by Traherne’s brother Philip, was then identified in the British Museum. This latter version of the poems, which included various poems not in the earlier volume, was published by H. I. Bell in 1910 as The Poems of Felicity. 

Select Meditations was almost certainly written at the end of the Commonwealth when Traherne was in his twenties, and had just become Rector of St Mary’s Church Credenhill (1657-74). It includes reflections on the problems confronting the ecclesiastical settlement of the Restoration England (1660). The handwritten book, found in Birmingham in 1964, was edited by Julia Smith and published in 1997. 

In 1997 two further discoveries were made. One was of five previously unknown works found by Jeremy Maule in Lambeth Palace Library; these were edited by Jan Ross and published in 2005 as the first volume of The Works of Thomas Traherne. One of these five works, The Kingdom of God, is arguably Traherne’s magnum opus. The others are Inducements to Retiredness, A Sober View of Dr Twisses his Considerations, Seeds of Eternity or the Nature of the Soul and a fragment with the editorial title ‘Love’. 

Prior to this in about 1967 another manuscript had been rescued from a fire on a Wigan rubbish tip by a man looking for car parts. This was Commentaries of Heaven, a kind of Christian encyclopaedia. It was not identified as Traherne’s until 1981 and was finally published in two volumes in 2007, edited by Jan Ross.

In 2009 The Church’s Year-Book was published as Volume 4 of The Works of Thomas Traherne together with A Serious and Pathetical Contemplation and a doubtful work, Meditations on the Creation. In preparing the Year-Book Traherne drew on a wide range of sources. It covers church festivals from Easter to All Saints’ Day (but with the pages for Trinity cut out). If there was a second book covering the rest of the Christian year, it has yet to be found. 

The other discovery of 1997 was at the Folger Library in Washington DC. Here Julia Smith and Laetitia Yeandle identified as Traherne’s a poem of about 1800 lines based on Genesis and Exodus and called The Ceremonial Law, which is currently (2013) being prepared for publication in volume 6 of The Works. Traherne’s notebooks, edited by Jacob Blevins, are also due to be published as part of The Works.

Has there ever been such a situation? A writer whose prose is - within its range - the equal of Shakespeare; yet who was utterly obscure at his death and whose significant work was unpublished and lost - yet finally much of it recovered.

What does it mean? It means, I think, that Traherne is exactly what somebody needs now. He is a man for our time. He has emerged in this age, because he supplies what was previously lacking in our tradition.


Perhaps he has already done some of his work, especially via CS Lewis (perhaps the best-read man of his era) - who called Centuries of  Meditations 'almost the most beautiful book in the English language'

and transmitted some of the spirit into his fictions such as Perelandra and the Narnia stories - especially the Last Battle.


But perhaps there is more to come - perhaps that is the meaning of the continuing discoveries of Traherne's work. Perhaps we are supposed to be taking notice of him.

Traherne is not the kind of author that invites analysis or exposition, there isn't much to say about him. You don't need to read much of him. He was a pure angelic spirit who communicates briefly, almost instantly and permanently.

Traherne's primary expressed emotion was joyous gratitude at the gifts of God; his words are a delayed-action explosion preserved and saved for a cynical and nihilistic age.

My feeling is also gratitude and joy that these manuscripts survived; and to try and allow my Christian life to grow from a heart in harmonious accord with the spirit of Traherne.