Monday, 31 August 2015

The wrong choice of Gilbert Norrell - the crucial plot point in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

The main plot crux of Susanna Clarke's novel Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is to be found in the chapter entitled "A gentleman with thistledown hair", in which Norrell becomes the first English magician to summon a fairy and ask for his assistance for perhaps four hundred years.

Norrell is an extremely dishonest magician, and (despite doing exactly this) consistently argues (in public and even with Jonathan Strange) against the practice of magicians contacting fairies - because of the dangers; and this warning superficially seems to be amply justified by the subsequent events.

Nonetheless, it also becomes clear that all magic ultimately comes from fairies - and that even Norrell's own magic, which he believes himself to have learned entirely from books, has been tacitly permitted, and indeed encouraged, from Faerie by the Raven King.

So, I think we must assume that it was, in principle, alright for Norrell to enlist the assistance of a fairy - if, let us say, the thing was done for the right reasons and in the right way. But that in fact there was something about the way this fairy was enlisted by Norrell which led to many bad outcomes - the actual summoning was (we can infer) done for the wrong reasons and in the wrong ways.

Firstly, Norrell enlisted the fairy primarily for his own self-aggrandizement - in order to impress the prominent politician Sir Walter Pole by raising his recently-dead fiancee, and thereby putting Sir Walter into Norrell's debt. Norrell justifies this to himself by pretending the action was for the benefit of restoring 'English magic', but in practice Norrell always interprets 'English magic' purely in terms of himself and his own benefit; and he does his best to prevent or suppress all other aspects of English magic.

So first the motive was wrong. What, then, about the specific fairy who was summoned: the 'gentleman with thistledown hair'? At first glance he seems to be the worst possible fairy that Norrell could have summoned - however it seems that Norrell had no control over this, and I think we must assume that the Raven King was behind the choice.

The thistledown fairy has, indeed, many desirable qualities, some of which he tells us (and seem to be confirmed) and others which emerge through the story. Firstly, he is a King and is perhaps the most magically powerful fairy alive; and secondly he has been the servant and friend of some of the greatest magicians England has ever known: primarily the Raven King himself, but also the Golden Age ('aureate') magicians Thomas Godbless, Ralph Stokesy and Martin Pale.

Although there is considerable evidence that this fairy has become corrupted over the past few hundred years, and is now a monster of cruelty and conceit, I think that we would be justified in assuming that if Norrell's motives had been good and if Norrell's decisions had been wise and altruistic, this fairy would have been suitable.

The crucial moment comes when the 'bargain' is being settled between Norrell and the fairy - when the fairy asks: "Should I agree to restore this young woman to life, what would be my reward?"

Norrell asks what the fairy wants, and the response is: "to be allowed to aid you in all your endeavors, to advise you upon all matters and to guide you in your studies. Oh, and you must take care to let all the world know that your greatest achievements are due to larger part to me!"

This seems not unreasonable, and would seem to be the normal way in which fairies have worked with magicians in the past - they are apparently a conceited race and love nothing more than frequent praise and honours; but have been content to be led strategically and ruled by Men, who are more diligent than they.

However, Norrell rejects this request for selfish, egotistical reasons, without consideration; this, because he wishes to be given personal credit for all magic, and does not want to share status or praise with anybody - least of all with a fairy.

This refusal provokes 'a long silence' and then the fairy declares 'this is ungrateful indeed' - and eventually suggests a deceptive 'deal' where he claims 'half' of Lady Pole's new life - which Norrell simply understands to mean her lifespan being shortened by half; but which the fairy interprets to mean absolute control over half of each and every day of Lady Pole's life.

(For half of every day for an agreed ninety-four years, during the nights, Lady Pole is therefore compelled to be the fairy's companion in fairyland; engaged in repetitive and tedious dances, rituals and ceremonies - until she comes to regard her inescapable fate as literally worse than being dead.)

What has happened is that instead of Norrell himself paying the 'price' for the fairy's cooperation, he makes Lady Pole pay the price - whether she likes it or not. This is the essence of Norrell's wicked action.

So - I think we can locate Norrell's refusal of the fairy's first offer as the critical turning point in the plot of the book, since it leads to the enchantments of Lady Pole, Stephen Black and Arabella Strange - and to the fixed hostility of the fairy towards both Norrell and Strange (leading to their own bleak personal fates as co-prisoners bound in darkness).

In sum: it was necessary to the restoration of English magic that a fairy be summoned, and it was probably right that that particular fairy be the gentleman with thistledown hair; but most of the tragedies of the story stem from Norrell's selfishly bad motivations in summoning the fairy and his selfishly bad decision with respect to making a deal with the fairy.

We need a Western Christian Revival and a Western Christian Revival is the thing we need

Plenty of secular people on the Right can diagnose the ills of our civilization, that is - The West, but can offer nothing constructive as a response.

Of course Leftism does not work either, but then Leftism is not intended to work - it is intended to destroy: and that is something which Leftism does extremely efficiently.

It is much harder to make than to destroy, and the secular Right wants to make a more effective and efficient state - but humans just aren't set-up to care enough about that goal to make it the basis of a political movement.

My mantra is that the modern problem is motivation-deficiency - and it really ought not to surprise anyone that we are in this situation; considering how much effort has been and is being expended on destroying all the natural motivating instincts, and subverting and dismantling all the traditional motivations.

Effective and robust motivations are not something that can be manufactured and implanted - they must be built on solid foundations. No large scale society has ever held-together for long (more than a couple of generations) without a religion - and not just any religion, because only certain types of religion are effective.

Since religions cannot be manufactured and implemented any more than can motivation, then our choice and task is simple: we must choose a religion from those already in existence - and if we do not, then we will certainly perish from falling-apart.

(Of course if we do choose a religion we may perish anyway, for different reasons - and we will have to live with the religion we choose.)

Since there are only two existing and known-to-be-viable religions to choose from, and Christianity is by far the best suited to our situation in The West - then that is the obvious choice.


1. It is a fact that mainstream Christianity has been very thoroughly corrupted and weakened at the highest levels and throughout by secular Leftism.

2. That corruption and weakness is something which makes the task much harder and success much less likely.

However, accepting those Buts:

3. Although corruption and weakness in Christianity are real and relevant; they do not change the nature of the task.

The task remains the same. We still need a Western Christian revival, and only a Christian revival will give us what we need.

And this remains true however unlikely we judge the chance of success.

It is like sending the One Ring into Mordor to be destroyed in the Cracks of Doom - it was a plan with very little chance of success, but it was the only plan that could achieve the objectives - so that was what had to be done.

We must try to do what must be done; and doing anything else is not just a waste of time but actually reduces the chance of succeeding at what must be done.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Detecting potential genius during childhood

Annual photo - atop Latrigg

I seem to have developed the habit of posting a photo of myself each summer - here I am atop the modest summit of Latrigg, above the town of Keswick in the Lake District; after a delightful family picnic with one of the very best views to be found in that delightful corner of England (as endorsed by Alfred Wainwright - who was in a position to know such things).

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Putting Christianity Second: What is wrong with the Manosphere, Religious Reaction etc?

The Christian Manosphere is primarily about 'men' and only secondarily about Christianity - my impression is that their analysis would be that the problems of men need to be sorted-out before Christianity can be sorted-out: that the problems of sexual relationships are primary are most-urgent, and these problems are blocking any realistic possibility of Christian revival. the conclusion is that society must sort out sex first.

This is analogous to those Religious Reactionaries (primarily political, secondarily Christian) who regard sorting-out the problem of mass immigration as the primary priority, which needs the most urgent solution - and that only after that has been done, and borders are secure, can Christianity be sorted-out.

There are several other flavours of Christianized socio-political grouping - for all of whom the priority is secular.

My own view goes in the opposite direction - I believe that it is lack of Christianity which is preventing us from 'solving' what are in fact trivial-non-problems.

Our anti-Christian, secular, hedonistic society is so profoundly disorientated and demotivated that it has become incapable of basic common sense.

Therefore, whatever the major socio-political problem, the answer is Christianity; and Christianity must come first.

The fact, and I think it is a fact, that Christian revival of any flavour seems extremely improbable in The West does not alter its being a fact.

Since it is the weakness of Christianity that is the underlying problem; giving priority to any secular problem leads to more secularism, and worse problems.

Friday, 28 August 2015

The Restoration of English Magic (re: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell)

Susanna Clarke's novel Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (2004), as 'about' the restoration of English magic after a hiatus of some 200-400 years; and the underlying assumption of the story is that this restoration is 'a good thing'.

Yet on the surface magic seems to cause a great deal of trouble and doesn't really make all that much of a difference to national affairs. So why is restoring it a good idea?

This matter is not tackled explicitly in the text, so I need to make inferences.

First of all, what is English magic and where does it comes from?

Magic is the ability to use the 'elements' (stones, water, rain, earth, wind etc) in order to accomplish aims; and magic comes from fairies. Fairies can do magic naturally, because they spontaneously communicate with the elements and can make alliances with them - the elements will usually do what fairies ask of them.

Men can become magicians and do magic either by forming alliances with fairies or (more, or less, superficially) copying fairy magic. Men usually cannot communicate with the elements; so if they do not enlist the aid of fairies, men can only do magic indirectly by learning what fairies do, and (more, or less, effectively) copying them to compel the elements to cooperate in a rather limited fashion.

English magic - as a tradition - came from The Raven King (John Uskglass) who ruled the North of England circa 1100-1400 from his capital in Newcastle. After he departed from England there was an immediate loss of magical scope and power, then Men's ability to do magic gradually faded-away over the next few generations. During the same time, contact between Men and fairies ceased.

Uskglass was the greatest-ever magician because he was a Man who was stolen by fairies as a child, and (for reasons unknown) came to embody the strengths of both races.

His kingdom in Northern England included both Men and fairies. The Men had the advantages of enhanced power; the fairies were better ruled by Men than by themselves (fairies being excessively indolent, of modest intelligence and too fickle to be strategic) - and they would also kidnap and enchant some men, women and children to be their beautiful playthings or drudging servants.

Despite this endemic, albeit low frequency, problem of fairy kidnappings; the people of Northern England regarded the era of The Raven King as a golden age - and had King Arthur-like legends about him returning and resuming his rule - this being a fairly likely prospect given that John Uskglass, despite being a Man in origin, seemed to have become as longaevus as fairies (who can live many thousands of years, and are difficult to kill).

Indeed, the story of the novel is about how the early steps towards this return are 'managed' (from 'behind the scenes') by John Uskglass.

But, in terms of the book; why was the era of magic a better one than the era which succeeded it? My feeling is that it was not because of the extra power deriving from magic and alliance with fairies; but because of the spiritual prerequisites of magic; that to be able to accomplish magic properly required the fairy-like ability to communicate and form alliances with the elements, with England.

So the era of magic was an era of depth and meaning, in which Men belonged to their Land in a way far beyond anything normally achievable.

To do magic, the English need to become 'at home in England' - to enter a real and personal relationship with the elements of their country.

And this requires that very hazardous undertaking: a renewed relationship between Men and fairies.

The Restoration of English magic was therefore, and necessarily, also the restoration of Englishmen's contact with the fairy race - an event which rapidly has some horrible consequences for several English men and women throughout the course of the story.

So, the Restoration of English magic is A Good Thing, but also a thing fraught with danger and with horrible consequences for some people; and although we see mostly the bad effects of renewed contact with fairies, I think we must also assume that this is A Good Thing too - and worth the risks and costs.

As with everything else; the result of interactions between Men and fairies broadly depend on motivations - especially the motivations of Men (who are more moral than fairies). Therefore, the benefits tend to flow from good motivations, and dangers and suffering tends to be a consequence of bad choices - greed, power-seeking, the desire for status, hatred and so on.

Indeed, the bad consequences of fairy contact can be seen to flow from a single bad (wrong, wicked) choice by Gilbert Norrell during his first contact with the fairy known as The Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair - this being the first contact between an English magician and a fairy for some hundreds of years.

More on this soon.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Utopian religion (and the Christian utopia defined)

Religions that successfully seek volunteer converts may do so by offering a 'utopia' - or at least a better situation than the convert currently has - this seems like the right thing to do, as a first step (of course it is not the only thing to do).

So for Christians seeking converts, it is worth establishing very early whether a person realizes that they should be expecting eternal life (that is what will happen to them) - specifically eternal life as them-selves potentially perfected, in a perfected resurrected body; and then to establish whether they want that life to be as a Son or Daughter of God (that is, as a substantially divine personage)?

And that this 'God' under discussion is a God of Love, primarily and always. And love means relationships.

Mormons need to make clear that they are 'offering' an eternal family life.

If a potential convert does not want to live as a Son or Daughter to a Loving God - if they have some other hope or preference (e.g. for solitude, or to have their self-consciousness dissolved into bliss) then they probably don't want to be Christian.

So, perhaps Christians need to start by sketching out their Utopia, stating clearly This Is What We Offer.

So first the religious utopia, and only then the decision; first know and understand the claims of religion, and only then, proceed to the evaluation of those claims.

1. First understand the advantages - the Pros

2. Then understand the disadvantages - the Cons (the requirements of a convert, the limitations etc).

3. Only then, if the potential convert likes the sound of it, only if the religion offers to provide something that he or she wants, the potential convert should investigate the truth and validity of these claims.

After all, what is the point of evaluating something you do not want; how can you know if you want it when you do not know what it is; how can you evaluate something you neither know about nor understand?

My point is that there is no point in discussing the truth of Christianity or evidence for or against the validity of Christianity until after Christianity has been understood. It is a waste of time and opportunity. And Christianity ought to be understood in terms of what Christianity offers, not in terms of anything else.

In particular it is an error to try and prove that Christianity is true, before a person has decided whether they want it to be true, or understand what it is.

And what Christianity is, has not much to do with theology and a great deal to do with what happens after you die.

This is nothing new, but was probably the usual way that Christian converts were won from paganism in the early centuries of the church. The missionary or evangelist would start by demonstrating that Christianity offered more, far more, than paganism.

They started by making clear the fact that (as Blaise Pascal stated so clearly in his Pensees), if they understand it, most people would want Christianity to be true.

And if people have not realized that fact - i.e. that if Christianity was true, then they would want it - then they probably don't understand Christianity - although, as I say above a minority people do not want what Christianity offers because they do not want to remain persons or do not want to become divinized or live with God or their families - In sum, there are people who do not want to continue having relationships after death.

But Christianity is mostly about loving relationships continued after death - that is the Christian utopia; and if people do not want loving relationships at the heart of their eternal lives. then Christianity is not for them.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Why do teachers use indirect methods like myths and parables? A letter from correspondent BK

This is an insightful e-mail sent me by a correspondent, printed here with permission:

Why did teachers use myth and obscurity? even philosophers? even philosophers who did so consciously or subversively, not believing them, or using them to dissemble their true opinions?

There was a wise man of a primitive forest tribe, who one day finished building a comfortable log cabin.

All the rest of the people lived in mud huts,  so they went to ask the wise man how they might build their own cabins.

'You are free to inspect my house, and ask any questions you like.'

The people made careful observations of the wise man's cabin,  and went inside to inspect all the rooms. He answered all the questions they had in as clear and precise a manner as possible, then they went off to build their own.

All of their cabins looked very much like the wise man's. But one man built his cabin from dead wood, which was weak and cracked. Others had mistaken the wise man's beautifully carved interior beams for decoration,  and omitted or misplaced them according to their tastes - these collapsed. One man built his cabin in a hollow,  and it  sank when the rains came. Another did not thatch his roof properly, and it flooded in the rains.

The people were quite put out. 'Have you withheld your secrets? Do you use magic? Did you lie to us?' they demanded to know.

The wise man had watched their enterprise go awry, and prepared for them. 'I will reveal all to you', he said.

Turning to the man who used dry wood, he struck a bone with marrow against a dry bone, and the dry bone shattered. The man said 'I ask of wood and you clap bones together? You are a fool.'

Next, he handed two stones each to the men who had built their cabins with haphazard beams. He told them to hold the stones,  one in each hand, whilst in various odd positions, and wait for a sign.  

Keeping two stones for himself,  he held each equally away from his body. Though he was one of the weaker of the tribe,  he held the stones easily,  as the others began to strain, grumble and drop their stones. 'Why did our houses collapse? That is all we ask! Perhaps you make us pose so stupidly to hide your own stupidity, for you have no answer.'

Approaching the man who built his home in the hollow, he made a false step into a puddle. After much difficulty,  he pulled his foot from the mud, then fished out his shoe. Sidestepping around the rocky lip of another puddle, he handed the muddy shoe to the man and said,  'This one is yours', and nothing more. The man went away furious at being insulted in this way.

The last, the young man whose roof had failed in the rains,  watched with much puzzlement,  but no anger,  for he had faith the wise man did nothing foolishly, stupidly, or cruelly. To him the wise man came, 'I really cannot help you, but', pointing to some ducks in the pond nearby,  said, 'those fellows know best of keeping dry. Ask them.'

The young man went away perplexed, and sat at the edge of the pond. Thinking perhaps the wise man knew a spirit,  he called out to the ducks, who did not answer. But then a wind came,  and the ducks took flight. From one fell a single feather, which landed on the water and floated like a canoe.

Then the young man understood all: the bones, the stones, the shoe and the feather. He immediately set out to build a cottage on a hill opposite the wise man's, where it stood long after his teacher's house fell, for he learned much of building in the meantime that the master never guessed.

I hate to spoil it, but that's what I'll do (I ruin jokes, too), and I want to tie this directly to your work.

I think we both agree that education today is really advancing stupidity. This is not all consciously Orwellian (though much of it is). But even when done in good faith, I have the dull sense that it is fundamentally destructive in an important way. Remember, communists in Russia crowed they raised literacy rates from 10 to 90% between the revolution and the thirties. The numbers themselves may have been damned lies, but I'm sure more Russians could read in 1937 than in 1917; there is also no doubt which Russia was more stupid and degraded.

Education today is all formal and standardized.  There certainly is a place for this. Wherever a body of knowledge is organized and professionalized, wherever peers share common referents and standards, there is a place for textbooks and jargon, journals, tests and all the rest of it.

But these things don't advance knowledge - they get in the way on the frontiers.

When the wise man let his neighbors copy what he did,  and answered the questions they thought to ask clearly and directly,  the results looked like good cabins but quickly fell apart because the people were not actually thinking. They missed anything in the building that was not immediately obvious, and were completely unprepared for what the wise man did not think to mention, or did not know himself.

The second time,  speaking to each person's problem,  but cryptically, the wise man forced them to think - to draw out implications for themselves. He does not give answers, but encourages students to 'get' them;  and if they can't,  there's no help for them because a direct answer would only lead to another problem. On the other hand,  if one (and there may only be one) 'gets' the point, he not only earns an answer, but a principle and disposition to 'get' more,  and if he has the capacity, perhaps more than the teacher himself was able to understand.

If the first method has its place in the tame and cultivated gardens of formal academia, the latter is the only viable option in the wild. When the tribesmen first failed, it was not their fault. Even the most intelligent among them could not be expected to succeed in the unknown using only what was already familiar.

Myth, fable, poetry, obscurity, and parable all force us to use our intelligence. Is it any wonder we were more creative as a culture,  and more competent,  when we were raised on nonsense and nursery rhymes (who does that anymore? Let Sesame Street spoonfeed your child letters - with a heaping portion of PC. This is proven to increase literacy!)

And is it any wonder God sent us prophets and not professors?

Spite - in some ways, the worst sin

Spite is the desire to harm, hurt, upset, annoy or offend someone else - and it is a terrible sin because it is both insatiable and self-righteous.

A spiteful person sees happiness and wants to destroy it, on the grounds that it is smug, and it will be good-for those concerned to experience a bit of 'real life' - he observes with satisfaction the misery of others because they 'deserve it'.

Spite is worse than Schadenfreude because spite is active - spite is actually going to the trouble of causing trouble - expending effort, time and resources to create suffering in others.

Spite is ignoble, petty, babyish - whereas some people embrace the sin of pride and try to defend it as a good thing; nobody does this with spite, nobody makes a big thing about their own spitefulness - not least because it reveals their dependence on others.

That many of the highest status people in the world are primarily motivated by spite is extremely obvious; although - perhaps because of horror at the reality of this fact - people talk as if this was an extreme and outrageous suggestion. Yet surely our insight and personal experience tells us that spite is nearly universal to some degree; and the dominant passion, the prime motivator, the principal drive and source of energy for a significant number of people - including some of the richest and most famous, the most intelligent and educated, the most charming and beautiful.

Indeed, in my personal encounters with the elite, the mass media stars and celebrities; petty spitefulness is probably the major and most striking feature they seem to share in common.  

In sum; it is the spitefulness of an evil person that causes so much trouble for others. A proud spirit damns himself; but it is spite that motivates him to drag others down; it is spite that makes him a nuisance, a wrecker, a ruiner, a destroyer; it is perhaps spite that most distinguishes a demon from the general run of lost souls.

Note: I remember how, as a kid, we especially used to dislike and fear spiteful children. Perhaps especially those pretty, 'perfect' ballet-dancing type girls, the ones whom the adults thought of as especially 'good', and always believed - but whose greatest pleasure seemed to be asserting their superiority with barbed comments and insightful criticisms that you couldn't stop thinking about; and who quietly delighted in getting other children into as much trouble as possible, whenever a safe opportunity arose. And of course there were plenty of boy tormentors too - including the most dominant and 'popular' kid; who would terrorize, or make gangs in order to enjoy the misery of their victims. But, in general, spitefulness caused more childhood misery than almost any other cause - and it was a special bliss, a kind of paradise, to be among any group of kids that was free of such characters. 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The necessity for inner strength, direction, motivation: the commensurate growth in power

In our era, because of the near-ubiquity of corruption, there is need for inner strength, inner direction, inner motivation.

Our society has been, is increasingly, and to an unprecedented extent - led astray by its leadership class, by the elites - we are almost-continuously and en masse - at work and during leisure - being propagandized, instructed, compelled to have wrong attitudes, false beliefs, and do the wrong things.

Whereas in the past individuals may be sustained in their convictions by churches; nowadays the largest and most powerful churches are preaching and teaching the same corruption as the mass media, politics, state bureaucracy, the laws and the educational system.

Luckily, thanks to our divine inheritance as Sons and Daughters of God, we have an inbuilt motivation and guidance system - it can potentially, over time and with some trial and error; discern the truth, can point us in the right direction and provide the necessary energy and courage.

The good news is that God-within-us can be recognized and accessed and strengthened; the bad news is that most people don't believe it exists and so will ignore it.

But if they do start noticing and feeling, then the guidance and motivation may swiftly grow to become so strong and clear that it will provide exactly what is most necessary.

The badness and wrongness of the times makes life very straightforward for our inner guidance system - mainstream modernity has become so obviously dishonest, ugly, wicked and incoherent that it is almost trivially easy to discern the Good. The prevailing mood has become so alienated, nihilistic and despairing that the deep joy which comes from following God-within stands out in the sharpest possible contrast.

Thus our powers grow, commensurate with our need.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Good Genes or Genius - two distinct ways of being highly intelligent

The usual way is that someone is intelligent (I mean within a population - I am not talking about the evolution of population differences) is by what is termed Good Genes: that is, having few faults or errors - the person has a normal brain but with nothing (or nothing much) wrong with it: in other words he has a low load of deleterious mutations (or, conversely, he is not suffering from mutation accumulation).

The Good Genes highly-intelligent person is therefore negatively-intelligent - intelligent because of what he is not.

But there is another way - which is by having an Endogenous personality - which means that his brain is purposely designed (by group selection) to be creative, to make breakthroughs - he is, in sum, a genius (albeit very probably not a world historical genius; but a tribal or local genius).

My assumption is that - if we could know this - we would see a brain wired-up to be intelligent.

Therefore the brain of an Endogenous personality has high intelligence not so much negatively from lack of mutations; as positively - because it is a brain specialized to be highly efficient for the purpose of creative discovery.

The genius is positively-intelligent; because of what he is.

And this is why the genius has a special (Endogenous) personality. Usually personality and intelligence are almost distinct and little-correlated; but the brain of a genius is differently wired from a normal brain: it is a specialized and purposive brain, a lop-sided brain, a brain in which circuits usually used for social intelligence and reproductive success are co-opted to this purpose.

In sum, the brain of a genius is one that is specialized for creative discovery and both high intelligence and an 'inner-oriented' personality are features of this specialization.

Friday, 21 August 2015

The self is not swallowed by eternity, because the self is eternal

The usual idea (in modern life) is that if the self (unique person-hood - individuality) is temporal and temporary - then the self is swallowed-up when embedded in the context of eternity.

Or, the self becomes utterly insignificant when set in an infinite frame.

This is why some people find contemplating the stars to be a disturbing experience, or contemplating 'life' in general.

Maybe they are correct: if the self is temporary, then in eternity its significance is one divided by infinity.  

So, for the self to be significant - the self must be eternal.

Indeed, simplistically, it makes most sense if the self is eternal in both directions: before birth as well as after death.

By this common sense kind of analysis, the choice lies between a self that always was and always will be, and the self as insignificant.

Either the significance of the self is an illusion (lasting a short time, some kind of meaningless, accidental by-product of our form of 'life'); or else the importance of the self is extraordinarily great - divine.

And ultimate and permanent reality, the eternal universe, contains many, many selves; of which we, you and I, are - and always have been and always will be - two.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

"I think I am going crazy, mad, psychotic - what should I do?" The best general answer may be: Sedation, Sedation, Sedation - Sleep, Sleep, Sleep

The commonest cause of psychosis is Brief Psychotic Disorder

Which may be provoked by lack of sleep; from over work, stress, drugs, drug withdrawal...

The cure is sleep - a few days of sleeping plenty of hours.

Since sleep will not come naturally; this usually requires sedation

So if you suspect you are going crazy, and have not been sleeping much, there may be a window of opportunity when you could self-treat by sedation and sleep (before you will be admitted to a hospital and treated by sedation).

Most sedative drugs are only available with a prescription, which takes time - but there are some antihistamines that are available without prescription (over the counter) that should work just as well.

Indeed, these drugs are and have often been used in hospitals for sedating acutely psychotic people.They are old drugs, discovered in the 1940s, and generally regarded as among the safest of drugs for most people (e.g. they are often used in pregnancy):

Promethazine (e.g. Phenergan), Diphenhydramine (e.g. Benylin), Chlorpheniramine (e.g. Piriton), and Alimemazine (e.g. Vallergan) are some examples of sedative antihistamines which may be available without a prescription.

The hospital experience is that just a few days of effective sedation and sleep are enough completely to cure a Brief Psychotic breakdown - and the same would be expected when self medicating to abort such an attack before it gets severe enough to require hospitalization.

More explanation, references and detail are in my book from 2000, Psychiatry and the Human Condition at: -
Be aware that in this book, Brief Psychotic Disorder is discussed under the heading of Mania.

How to get knowledge from Imagination (structure not content)

How do we get knowledge from Imagination?

That we do - or can do - this, was a belief shared and elaborated by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Rudolf Steiner and Owen Barfield. But how this has happened and might happen is hard to explain - at any rate these three men found it hard to communicate what they meant.

So I will try another tack.

My suggestion is that we can understand Imagination by comparison with Love (as Christians distinctively understand Love - that is, as the primary and most important reality).

Love is not an emotion - it is a relationship. Hence Love is a structuring thing - relationships structure reality, and structure may become known. To know that there is structure is to know some thing; to know something of that structure is to know something more.

Hence, structure is a form of knowledge.

And Imagination has a structure, and it is the structure (and usually not the content) of Imagination that is knowledge.

So, it is the structural relationships of Imagination that constitute the knowledge.

Relationships are between entities - entities including both human and non-human, living and (what are regarded as) non-living.

The knowledge element of Imagination is about the world of relationships - and it is the reality of these relationships, and the specifics of these relationships, that provide meaning and purpose by binding us into relationship with a structured reality.

Three sentences by William Arkle

1. We must seek not to concern ourselves with God so much as to concern ourselves with what concerns God. 

2. We must stop supposing either that we are an accident within an accident or wholly a cause within a cause.

3. It will assist us to consider the significance of the family unit as we experience it for ourselves, and to reflect that it may hold within it the secret of the underlying pattern and purpose of the whole of the manifested universes.  

Selected from page 206 of A Geography of Consciousness by William Arkle (1974)

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Imagination and Fan Fiction (versus 'Shipping' and Hijacking)

One of the places where imagination can thrive in the modern world is in Fan Fiction. The idea of this is that a group of people who are mad keen on something - like Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Tolkien, My Little Pony or indeed almost anything - will collaborate to write stories about this 'universe', post them online, and usually get them read and commented on.

(Another aspect is cross-over fictions, in which someone takes their favourite universes and combines them - for example Dr Who and My Little Pony.)

The number of such fictions online is absolutely staggering; and since there is no quality control, the average quality is of course poor - but the peak quality is as high as any other kind of fiction that gets written.

The point is that Fan Fiction can be a world of Imagination - in which a world that has been created by others can be repeated, extended, developed by readers for whom that world is real. Certainly, I would have been very keen to participate in a Fan Fiction community when I was in my teens and had discovered Tolkien.

Fan Fiction is surely one of the best aspects that characterize that (mostly good) phenomenon known as  Geeks or Nerds .

So, I would regard this world and phenomenon as one of the hopes for the world; in the sense that individuals may strengthen their Imaginations through participation, creation, commentary in a large and active group which is probably not available otherwise. And then they will probably carry this through the rest of their lives, as a touchstone of possibilities.

Of course, the forces of darkness are in there too, trying to wreck this world-building with satire and mockery, or simply by dragging it down to sex, especially non-traditional sex (e.g. 'slash' fiction); and 'shipping' which refers to Fan Fiction type activities focused on relation-ships; which may be the same relationships as in the original work, may be speculative, and many be 'kinky in some way.

Shipping can be funny and clever, up to a point - trying to Imagine how certain relationships came to happen, what would happen in them etc; but in general it is a trivialization and a stripping away of Imagination - it is taking something special and good, and removing everything about it which gives quality and distinction; to reduce it to the mass media level of celebrity gossip, or the 'recreational fiction' level of passing time in some diverting fashion.

So, to take Lord of the Rings and write up the Aragorn-Arwen romance has a strong tendency to miss the whole point of the book - to miss what it is that makes Tolkien's world worth writing-about in the first place - and when it starts being about Aragorn and Legolas then this has tipped over into subversion, and an attempt to ruin Tolkien's world, to make it something else which is not Tolkien and much less.

Likewise Harry Potter. As the books were being written and serially published, a large and vigorous 'Shipping' community arose to speculate on whom Hermione would end-up-with - Harry versus Ron (or someone else).

Of course this could be harmless diversion, but if persisted-in for long it must have the effect of utterly missing the point of what the Harry Potter books are about - and I think it had exactly that effect on many people. After not very long, the Shipping becomes a matter of mathematical permutation, and exercise in shock, a tearing-down not a building-up.

It is, in fact, a species of Hijacking - it takes a community doing one thing, and by exploiting inter-personal ties, points it at another thing altogether.

Instead of being Imaginatively enriched by these remarkable books, and developing a secret, vivid and real world of the mind; a mutually-stimulating community (indeed many communities) was created which simply 'used' Harry Potter as a disposable but convenient tool to pursue interests which are part of the mainstream mass media.

I actually saw this happen on a major blog called The Leaky Cauldron, which reduced the books by conflation with the much lesser and lower world of the movies; reduced the movies to show-biz gossip about the actors; and then successfully hijacked this community by enlisted them in the political campaign to 'redefine marriage' and extend the sexual revolution.

I have seldom encountered a more extreme and clear (and successful) example of the New Left tactic of cultural and institutional infiltration, subversion and takeover.

Anyway, and despite all of this; the world of Fan Fiction should not be neglected in terms of its great good potential and achievement. In a mainstream culture which offers nothing for Imagination to work upon; Fan Fictions may start with an appealing, magical, meaningful world (from novels, movies, TV, comics, video games etc) and keep a person's Imagination alive, make it stronger, and even grow it.

In sum: The importance of Fan Fiction is that, while very few people can (like Tolkien, Rowling etc) primarily create a meaningful, purposeful, participative Imaginative Universe - a much larger number of people can take such a universe and secondarily create within it; can incrementally extrapolate, interpolate, combine it with other such Universes, deepen and extend characters from it, make new plots using characters from it - and so forth.

Even tertiary participation - via reading and discussion of Fan Fictions - can be a creative activity; comparable to writing essays or participating in seminars. But better than most essays and seminars; in the sense that Fan Fiction is (mostly) amateur and done for love and from self-motivation; while most essays and seminars are professional and done to get educational credits and in obedience to external pressures.

Since this secondary creativity is typically done within a better 'world' than the self-hating mainstream secular-alienated-nihilistic world of modern public discourse; and since the world of Fan Fiction is a part of a person's life; this can serve to make a person's life more meaningful - which is to say Fan Fiction can make a person's life not just better but deeply better. And it has done, for very large numbers of people.

Not a trivial achievement!

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Strange and Norrell post-audiobook update

I have recently been blogging about the fantasy novel Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

The story so far is that I read it about three months ago and thought it was one of the best books I have ever read; but of course I had not re-read it.

So, over the past month I have been listening to the audiobook version - so this was the big test...

The verdict: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is one of the best books I have ever read.

I don't have anything critical to say about it - I just love this book.

Note: What amazes me is that such a good book has been written nowadays, and by somebody the same age as me. I didn't think it was possible - but it was.

BTW the Audiobook is excellent - although I would have preferred that the story was not interrupted by the footnotes (truly wonderful although the footnotes are). I think it may be possible to choose whether or not to have the foootnotes read-out during the story, or afterwards - if you have the CD audiobook - but I had a downloaded version which lacked this choice.  

For the modern West en route to Christ, Imagination is the middle term

It is absolutely necessary that we in The West become a Christian society again; which means nothing less and nothing more than many, many people making that personal choice.

On the one hand, nothing could stop them - it might happen now, this very moment!... But on the other hand the realistic possibility seems ever more remote - the trends of decline certainly seem to be inexorable.

It ought to be (one would suppose) an easy thing to swap meaninglessness, purposelessness and existential isolation for a transformed and deepened life, and swap despair for hope - but it doesn't happen. People feel trapped into their situation by what seems to them realism, honesty and reason.  

Modern society is characterized by secular, alienated nihilism - that is what most people are, this is solid, and it is what the public sphere is and enforces - especially the mass media but also the systems of law, education and employment. Secular - meaning we don't believe in divinity; alienated in that we are existentially alone in an indifferent universe; nihilistic in that reality seems unreal - and truth, beauty and virtue merely temporary and malleable matters of opinion.

This complex of beliefs, or dis-beliefs, work together to ensure that anything so complex as Christianity never reaches the point of being comprehended sufficiently that people are in a position to make a choice about it. Every attempt towards making an argument, or towards experiencing an insight, is shot-down, piecemeal, a little bit at a time; using secularism, alienation or nihilism in rotation.

(The length of time it takes to state the argument for Christianity is longer than the attention span which individuals will either permit, or of which they are capable.)

So, people are mostly stuck in a state of profound demotivation. Nothing good seems true; truth itself seems insecure - the only thing they are sure about is that they are unsure. The only thing they are certain about is the impossibility of certainty. Their only dogmatic rationality is that the whole subject of Christianity is irrational - aside from that, their irrationality is dogmatic and celebrated.

My point is that people cannot go from where they are directly to Christianity - there has to be a middle term.

To go from modern secular culture to Christianity is experienced as a negative step - from freedom to constraint, from possibility to narrowness, from universal and unbounded compassion to a difficult balance - from fluidity, clarity and simplicity to hardness, difficulty, complications...

So I suggest Imagination as the middle term - Christians perhaps need to be aware of this, and not be impatient to push straight on to Christianity, but to take Imagination itself seriously - have faith that from where we are now Imagination is progress.

Here =>  Imagination =>  Where we want to be (Christianity)

The thing is that imagination is as simple as is effective for that person, and a complex as they find rewarding. All we need to do is make clear that Imagination is Real.

We do not need to say how it is real, or in what specifics it is real, because typically we do not know. But we need to say that Imagination is real, and should be taken seriously.

When people engage in Imagination, they are in fact doing one of the most valuable things that they could possibly be doing. Imagination is, in fact - and especially in our society, and especially now - more important than almost anything else a person could be doing.

In fact - as a general rule, for most people most of the time - Imagination is more important than doing.

Most people ought to do a lot less, and Imagine a lot more.

The thing is, once Imagination is taken seriously and regarded as real, it is highly motivating; and the motivation it generates comes from within - a person absorbed by, seized by, Imagination is a person who has a thing that has become precious and rare - he has inside him, like a glowing coal, a sense of meaningfulness and direct contact with the world.

As Christians we know that Imagination - in this sense - is incomplete; for a start it lacks purpose; and ultimately it lacks Christ. But the necessity of Christ and an understanding of purpose is something that can only be known by a person who has gone so far as to acknowledge the reality of Imagination.

The early Christians had paganism to build upon; and the benefits of Christianity were added onto existing paganism. We have lost even paganism and are trying to build on the quicksands of secular, alienated nihilism. We cannot do it - but we can build on the foundations of a man who regards Imagination as real and true - or rather, that man can build on his own foundations.

Objective Imagination is obviously superior to mainstream modernity; and Christianity is obviously superior to Imagination once you have reached the point of acknowledging the reality of Imagination: Imagination is a middle term which renders the path to Christianity a progress of win now-win later.

In becoming a devotee of the Imagination we win, and in then moving on to understand and become Christian (that it, to understand the nature of reality and purpose) we win again. But that second step first needs a solid basis in Imagination - not to be fiddling and quibbling about Imagination, but to have faith in it.

That will happen, but it is a long way ahead, and a long way off. In the meantime, let us do what we can to sustain a realistic and serious attitude to Imagination - let us value and support Imagination in its many aspects and activities and inactivities - let us build faith in Imagination.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Top-notch background music - John Lewis playing Bach's preludes and fugues

John Lewis was the pianist for the legendary MJQ - Modern Jazz Quartet - that is to say, among the 'tastiest', coolest and most elegant of jazz pianists; and in this album he plays JS Bach's preludes and fugues with some genre-appropriate improvization, sometimes sparingly accompanied by bass, drums, violin, guitar etc. It makes for wonderful background music for working on the computer - or an excellent introduction to Bach's keyboard music.

(The effect is broadly much like Jacques Loussier - who I would also recommend - but better; since Lewis was a great musician, Loussier merely a very fine one.)

Sunday, 16 August 2015

The Reality of Imagination

In reading Owen Barfield, I have become more than ever before aware of what he regarded, all through his life, as the key question: In what way is Imagination true?

Because - following the Romantics especially Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and in-line with Rudolf Steiner - Barfield argued that Imagination was true; and not just true but the primary and indispensable truth for our time.

Therefore it is our task - now, at this point in human history - to understand what it means and implies to say and believe that Imagination is real and true.

And the reason that this is important is that it is our way out from the modern condition of despair arising from nihilism and alienation.

The first step, as we live in the world, is to notice the power of imagination - and rather than dismiss it as mere fantasy or subjective whim - to believe it is real and true. And then to discover what this means.

So, we read Tolkien... or some other book or poem or play; or see a beautiful landscape, or church; or whenever our minds in some way, any way, come alive with apprehension of some-thing - and then do not dismiss these (do not snub it, mock or sneer at it, refrain from satire - do not take it lightly) we need to hold to these feelings as true.

True in some real way, a source of knowledge.

What to do next, how to understand the knowledge, how to check it... these are secondary factors. But the primary one is to regard the power of imagination as the power to apprehend real, solid, valid truth.

That is just the first step - but for some, perhaps many, it must be the first step.  

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Evaluating the Mormon Church 185 years on - a pretty straightforward business! But for many Christians it leads to a paradox...

When Mormonism came out, it would have been easy and natural to assume it was a fraud.

Because, if the facts of its origin are known and the implications understood - it seems like Mormonism either has to be true or a fraud - bearing in mind that 'true' does not mean, cannot mean, and never has in any circumstances meant something-like 'correct in every microscopic detail when each is detached and examined separately'. True-overall - or a fraud. 

But 185 years down the line Mormonism does not look anything like a fraud, quite the opposite.

Therefore to the unprejudiced eye it seems a pretty straightforward matter to believe Mormonism is true (given that the choice is between truth and fraud) - assuming that one has had a personal revelation to that effect, there seems no reason not to accept that personal revelation as valid.

(For any Christian to believe must be a choice, it is an opt-in situation - my point is merely the double-negative that 185 years down the line, there is no compelling reason not to believe - if one feels in one's heart, having prayed for guidance, that the LDS church is true.)  

At least, that is how is feels to me - to believe in the truth of the CJCLDS should not be psychologically or logistically a big deal - because after 185 years experience and knowledge, to believe that the Mormon church is valid is easy, not strange, nor a thing rationally difficult to justify! 

What is strange and difficult to justify; is to believe on the one hand that the CJCLDS is a fraud, and yet on the other hand that it is also what it clearly is: a good and beneficial organization. 

Although strange and difficult, this 'on the one hand and on the other' paradox is, of course, precisely what many people do believe: that is, many people do not believe the truth of the CJCLDS (implicitly they believe it was built upon a fraud - even if the fraud may have had noble intentions) but they do believe that the Mormon church is, nonetheless, a good thing

Logical or not; this paradox is simply a factual state of affairs, I know of several people in the above situation - indeed perhaps most people who are informed about the CJCLDS think that it is, paradoxically, both fraudulently-founded and also good.  

The paradox is quite real, and the paradox is also quite common. I am not sure whether it is a stable psychological state - or meta-stable and liable to flip into either faith on the one hand, or a more consistent (but less honest) view of pretending that Mormonism is fraudulently-founded and therefore evil (despite appearances). 

This particular 'and therefore' ignoble consistency is distressingly common among mainstream Christians. I mean, a willingness to believe that - because they regard it as fraudulently founded, therefore the obvious goodness of Mormonism 'must be' a fake. What follows is too-often a spiteful willingness and desire to believe all sorts of malicious lies and gossip and misrepresentations about Mormons; to infer all sorts of wicked and covert motivations - in sum to indulge in negative prejudice which already-assumes that which it ostensibly sets out to discover: i.e. the wickedness of the CJCLDS. 

Today's 2 X 2 Table is therefore:

Mormonism is:

True and Good
True and Evil
A Fraud and Good
A Fraud and Evil

To say the CJCLDS is True and Good is to be a believer; to say it is a Fraud and Evil is to be dishonest about 185 years of knowledge and experience. 

The two apparent paradoxes are True and Evil - which might theoretically be found in someone who  believed the CJCLDS had become corrupted - perhaps one of the other Mormon-descended groups such as the erstwhile Reformed Latter Day Saints. And the other paradox is Fraud and Good - which is the position being discussed here. 

So, this is a challenge for decent, honest, mainstream Christians (note: the challenge is not for Mormons!) -  I mean those many Christians who do not believe Mormonism is true, but who do believe it is good.

The challenge to make an explanation for your honest beliefs: an explanation for the reality of the Mormon church 185 years down the line - an explanation that describes how goodness can come from fraud, and what that explanation entails and implies. 

This is no easy matter, and I have never yet seen it convincingly done - and until it has been done we will not know whether it is possible to do. 

Note: By contrast with belief, which ought to be straightforward; becoming an active member of the CJCLDS is a further step, and very big step - for instance, I am a believer in the truth of the CJCLDS, and I did not find this a big or scary step to make once I had become a Christian - but I am not a church member. 

Friday, 14 August 2015

How to find motivation in a world where resolution is derailed by pleasure?

An inability to find motivation is extremely common - the usual solutions are distraction (for the masses) or careerism (for the elite).

The deep problem is that most people are exogenous (not endogenous) personalities - their drives, evaluations, motivations, purposes etc. come from outside, from society, from other people; and society is not providing motivations.

Why not? Because society is secular and the public sphere (whether in school or college, or in the mass media, or in conversations between friends) does not describe life as having any purpose or meaning or any special role for us as individuals.

All that people pick-up is that life is about seeking happiness or satisfactions, or doing stimulating or cool things - enjoying oneself.

But these are just short term psycho-physical responses, and they do not motivate, they do not provide a shape or direction - indeed quite the opposite, because a life conceptualized in terms of achieving pleasurable short-term responses will repeatedly derail and sabotage any long term purposes or understandings.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that spiritual reform is not only vital, but urgent; and ought to be each persons first priority today -- because without it, lacking it, there cannot be any progress at all towards anything better -- at most we might steel ourselves to a few hours or days of resolute motivation in a particular direction... until some chance emerges of something pleasurable now - at which point the quest is abandoned.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

The purpose and meaning of life in two sentences - unpacked

In a simple phrase we can say that the great longing in the heart of the Creator before creation began was the longing to give birth to individual children who would eventually become His friends in the everlastingness of the Divine Spirit which He himself exists in. The whole of creation is thus His method of bringing this about and it requires Him to give and us to receive the "great gift", which is the reality and conscious understanding of our own individualised Divine Being.

In a simple phrase we can say that the great longing in the heart of the Creator 

God has passions, God has wants, these drive the universe of reality

before creation began 

Everything created is affected by God's longing

was the longing to give birth to individual children who would eventually become his friends in the everlastingness of the Divine Spirit which He himself exists in. 

Men and women are those children. God's deepest hope is that eventually some of us choose to 'join Him' at a level and in such a way that we could be described as having a relationship of friendship: that we could 'grow-up' from childhood to adulthood in deity, and take up a relationship with God as we might imagine by extrapolating from the relationship between a parent and a child in the most perfect of loving families. This process of 'divinization', or theosis or spiritual progression is the purpose of life. 

The whole of creation is thus His method of bringing this about 

Created reality is organized around this purpose, that is the meaning of everything

and it requires Him to give and us to receive the "great gift", which is the reality and conscious understanding of our own individualised Divine Being. 

'Individualized Divine Being' - means that the only or best way in which God's purpose may be achieved is because each person has is not only his or her unique human self; but that self is a partially divine being - this is the gift we inherit from our Father. 

It is a gift - it is not something we are forced to accept, understand, believe to be true... indeed we could not be forced to accept the gift in any way that would fulfil its purpose, Everything must happen by choice. 

That we are partially divine beings makes us capable of choice, and that we are partially divine beings means that our Destiny can only be chosen, and can be rejected. That Destiny is one of relationship with God and joining-in with His work and plans - along with others of His children who make that choice to accept the Gift. 

Behind all this is that the created reality exists in Time and an unfolding thing, as a series of experiences and choices - any spiritual progress toward divinity is experiential and incremental. 

The fact of theosis operating by necessary and cumulative human choices, based on our experiences, means that the nature of reality is such that God probably could not make things to be 'already' exactly as He wishes them to be - but that we are living in a reality which is en route to an ideal (and that ideal may itself be a process leading to something ever higher, more complex, more loving, more relational). 

The world never has been perfect; rather reality was and is designed to give the necessary experiences to God's children. Some 'imperfections' are due to the need for these experiences, others are real imperfections/ horrors are due to our own choice to reject - or other people' choices to reject, God's plan - which is for reality to be based on loving relationships.

(The most ideal and loving human family is our best model of God's aim: the most ideal and loving Father is the best model of God's nature and wishes for His children - on the assumption he hopes for these children to grow-up and become as he is. Once we understand this to be the essence of God's longing and the explanation of our condition - we must choose whether to accept or reject it.)

Going further than the above quote, and bringing-in other aspects of Arkle's insights: Since everything depends on choice - Good and evil are defined in terms of acceptance or rejection of God's plan for a reality of loving relationships. This plan can be, and presumably is, rejected - either partly or wholly. 

A person might reject the plan of relationships - and choose to live in solitary, blissful love (something like Nirvanah) - or a person might choose to reject love (this rejection is termed Pride) and either remain in an ultimately-solitary state of love-less-ness; or engage in relationships with those who have also also rejected love (this is termed Hell). 

So we have (another) Two-by-Two matrix of choices: Love, Rejected Love, Relationships, Rejected Relationships 

Love + Relationships = Heaven 

Love + Rejected Relationships = Nirvanah

Rejected Love + Relationships = Hell

Rejected Love + Rejected Relationships = Ultimate solitude

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

A timescale for human extinction - a speculative extrapolation from mouse utopia

I would not advise reading the above post if you are feeling despondent, especially not if you are also English.

Note - Sorry! I initially posted the wrong link for this post: now corrected.

The Sweetness-Strength Matrix

There are four possible combinations of Sweetness/ Hardness and Strength/ Weakness

Sweetness and strength
Sweetness and weakness

Hardness and strength
Hardness and weakness

Some self-identified Christians are strong but lack sweetness - and no matter how strict their observance, how devout their lives, how obedient they are to legitimate authority - their hardness leads them to serve themselves and not God. (These are the Pharisees.)

Some self-identified Christians are sweet but lack strength - and no matter how lovingly they speak, their weakness leads them to serve the world and not God. (These are the Liberals.)

Some self-identified Christians are hard and weak - these are petty and spiteful individuals; but so unpopular that they seldom do harm to anybody but themselves. Since they lack admired qualities - in their own eyes as well as the world's - they are only one step of insight and acknowledgement away from humility and repentance.

The biggest danger is to have one positive quality without the other - Love or Courage but not both; and to convince oneself, and others, that this is superior: this is what is most needed here and now; and for the sweet-weak to despise strength (the average modern Christian or idealist secular Leftist); or the hard-strong to despise sweetness (the 'strict' Christian legalists and inquisitors or Nietzschian secular Right).

There are four possible combinations - but only sweetness and strength together will suffice. We should ask ourselves - do we have both? Does our church have both? And if we lack one, we should seek the other.

Note: The key is not really to possess sweetness and strength - because to a considerable extent, these depend on how we are made - but to value sweetness and strength. No matter how we are made, we can value sweetness and strength; and we can repent hardness and weakness.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Wallflower, Wallflower...

Wallflower, wallflower, growing up so high
All the little children are all going-to die
Except [Johnny Smithson] - he's the only one
Fie for shame! Fie for shame!
Turn your back to the wall again

I remember this chant from my childhood, together with vague memories of a game that went with it involving some kind of dropping-out of one kid at a time until the last one was left - perhaps the one who was going to die?

It always struck me as a sinister and unlucky song, and I was very reluctant to sing it, or name anyone as the 'except' person who was not going to die - because of the people I was not naming.

But it has that strange, uncanny power about it that some nursery rhymes retain - the product of being orally-transmitted folklore, handed down among children one generation after another.

High IQ genes versus low IQ genes

The following is a draft from a chapter in a book on genius I am co-writing with Ed Dutton:

High-IQ genes versus low-IQ genes

At a genetic level, intelligence may reduce because of a reduction in high intelligence genes in a population and/or as an accumulation of intelligence-damaging mutations in the population.

Differential fertility would lead to a decline in intelligence by a reduction in the proportion of high IQ genes in the population. This happens from a combination of the relatively less intelligent people having on average the most children, and the most intelligent people having very low fertility. Since the most intelligent people are sub-fertile, with less than two offspring per woman, the genes which have made them the most intelligent will decline in each generation - first declining as a proportion of the gene pool, and then declining in absolute prevalence. 

For instance, when there is a woman with ultra-high intelligence who has zero children (which is the most usual outcome among ultra-intelligent women), then whatever it was about her genes which made her so intelligent is eliminated from the gene pool: this is the loss of ‘high-IQ genes’.

But our suggestion of mutation accumulation involves that the additional mechanism of an accumulation of what could be termed ‘low-IQ genes’. So, as well as there being a decline in intelligence from the reduced proportion of high-IQ’ gene, there is also a reduction in in the proportion of low-IQ genes: an increase in the proportion of ‘low IQ genes’ in the population.

High IQ genes have (presumably) been selected for in the past because they increased intelligence, and thereby (under ancestral - especially medieval - conditions) increased reproductive success.

But low IQ genes are not, in general, a product of natural selection: rather they are spontaneously occurring deleterious mutations, which happen with every generation due to any cause of genetic damage (e.g. electromagnetic radiation, chemical damage), or errors in replication.

These mutations will, if not eliminated, accumulate generation upon generation. Therefore when they have accumulated, the low-IQ genes were not 'selected for'; rather it was a matter of lack of selection, relaxation of natural selection. ‘Low IQ gene’ therefore usually means something like a genetic mutation that – in potentially a wide range of ways, by impairing almost any aspect of brain structure, organization or functioning; actively-damages brain processing speed and efficiency, hence reducing general intelligence.

In technical terms, the selection mechanism for eliminating these spontaneously accumulating low IQ genes is mutation-selection balance. The idea is that mutations spontaneously occur and need selectively to be eliminated. In other words, by some means, those organisms which have damaging mutations must fail to reproduce, so they will not hand-on the mutations to the next generation. The process needs to be perfect, over the long terms, otherwise the accumulation of damaging mutations will eventually prevent reproduction and damage survival to cause extinction (the term for this extinction is mutational meltdown).

The term mutation-selection balance refers to the fact that the occurrence of mutations must be balanced by the elimination of mutations: natural selection (including sexual selection – mate choice) must be powerful enough to sieve-out all the deleterious mutations. If natural selection is not strong enough to do this, then mutations will accumulate, brain function will be damaged, and intelligence will decline.  

Each spontaneous mutation has about a fifty-fifty chance of damaging brain function, because the brain depends on a very high proportion of genes to develop normally and make its structural components, its proteins, enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters and so on. Thus the brain is a large ‘mutational target’ (as Geoffrey Miller has termed it) – and will usually show up, in a quantitative fashion, the amount of mutational damage a person has. In other world, high intelligence requires ‘good genes’ – where good genes means a genome low in mutations; conversely a high mutational load will cause low intelligence.

Before the Industrial Revolution, individuals with a higher mutational load, which means a higher load of low-IQ genes (and therefore lower intelligence) had lower-than-average reproductive success due to very high (indeed, probably near total) childhood mortality rates. But since the child mortality rates fell from more than half to about one percent in most of Europe, almost all babies that are born have survived to adulthood, and most of them have reproduced. Therefore, we must assume that there have by now been several generations – in England at least eight generations - of mutation accumulation. And we must also assume that this has had a significant effect in reducing intelligence.

This produces what is truly a ‘dysgenic’ effect on intelligence, since it is not evolved, not adaptive, not a new ability – but instead a lowering of intelligence due to a pathological process; a destruction of adaptive human intelligence caused by an accumulation of damage.   

And although intelligence decline is a sensitive measure of mutation accumulation – it is not the only consequence. Many other human adaptations would be destroyed by mutation accumulation – including evolved human personality types. As well as pulling down human intelligence; mutation accumulation would be expected to destroy the Endogenous personality, to impair human creativity – and would be a further nail in the coffin of genius.

Monday, 10 August 2015

A successful Christian strategy for revival will probably build from currently-successful types of Christianity

It is my contention that Christianity in the West has been all-but defeated by Leftism - and that Leftism is itself a thing which has evolved as an anti-Christian ideology.

This means that modern Leftism has evolved in what was originally a Christian context to damage, subvert, destroy and invert Christianity. Because Leftism evolved in a Christian context, Leftism is pre-adapted to thwart most of the historical strategies of Christianity. 

In other words, when considering strategies to promote the future of Christianity, if a strategy has been tried and failed in the past, if a type of Christianity has been defeated by Leftism; then it is unlikely to work in the future.

(So long as the Leftist West stands. If any type of Christianity survives until after the West collapses, then it may well be in a position to exploit and thrive in the very different post-collapse situation.)

In other words, an attempt at straightforward revival of some past type of Christianity which is currently failing is not likely to work as a strategy for Christian revival in the current context.

How can we evaluate success or failure?

Biologically, any potentially successful and robust religious group needs to have a viable demographic structure: above replacement fertility, an age profile less than forty, a sex profile with about half men (or higher).

If a type of Christianity clearly lacks these (i.e. if it has significantly below replacement fertility, and age structure dominated by the elderly, and is composed mostly of women), I suggest that this is a sign that it has been defeated by Leftism, Leftism has the better of it; and we cannot hope realistically for a Christian revival from such denominations or churches.

Spiritually, since we cannot look into Men's souls we are forced to rely upon objective indicators. So, the viable type of Christianity will demonstrate evidence of devoutness - adherence to a demanding lifestyle, high levels of tithing, church service, missionary activity, strength in the face of persecution etc.

Such criteria could serve as a basis, as a beginning at least, for understanding of what might work (best to pursue several lines of strategy), and perhaps what ought to be done - to trigger and build a Christian revival.

Note: I also think that success is more likely from scaling-up a small but successful group, than from trying to reform a large group that is mostly a failure but contains minority pockets of success. At least, this is what happens with other human institutions. When the successful parts of an organization are in a small minority, it can be very difficult or impossible to reform the organization - unless there are first massive, majority 'cuts' to get rid of the negative, destructive influence of the failing majority. On the other hand, small successful institutions and businesses can often be up-scaled ten, a hundredfold within a very short timescale.  

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Christians reclaiming magic, occult and animism from the New Age

It will be easy for readers to misunderstand (or misrepresent) the following; so please read it carefully before jumping to conclusions about what I am advocating - it is somewhat different from what most others who have written on this theme have been advocating.

I came to Christianity late in life and via a decade or so of being a New Agey kind of person (but only in my reading, in my mind and private life - I have never been in any group) - and this grew from a lifelong feeling for myth, folklore, and the like.

From my Christian perspective, and from inside knowledge, it is crystal clear to me now that modern world of 'paganism' is set-up in on anti-Christian predicates, and most of its main writers and advocates are seedy, exploitative, devious and untrustworthy characters - with not many exceptions.

This was made clear yet again by reading The Book of English Magic by Philip Carr-Gomm and Richard Heygate, the text of which gave me a constant impression of camouflaged dishonesty and sordidness: the discernment of the heart warns me that the material described is emanating from an essentially (albeit not wholly) untrustworthy and ill-motivated subculture.

The New Age set-up has claimed for itself a vast swathe of paganistic stuff, and the New Age is mostly a mixture of airy fairy nonsense and nastyness of one sort or another (generally, the usual modern sex, alcohol and drugs stuff) - united only in its explicit and implict 'anything but Christianity is good' orientation; and it is therefore understandable that most Christians regard the whole subject with abhorrence as either fundamentally evil, or just too risky to be worth considering.

But I do not think this attitude is a viable option for modern Western Christians - I think that modern Western Christianity needs to reconnect with its animistic and pagan roots - and therefore the risk must be taken, and the good aspects of (for example) Shaminism, Witchcraft, Druidry, Magic, The Occult, Divinisation, Mediumship, Clairvoyance and so forth must be reclaimed from the New Age into a Christian context.

In this I follow CS Lewis who believed that Christianity was Paganism-plus - crudely put: real Christianity takes paganism and adds to it and completes it. The reason that this is not explicit from scripture is simply that it was so obvious to the people of the time that it did not need to be said.

The error of too many Christians has been and is to try and build a religion on what is distinctive to Christianity, deleting everything which is shared with paganism. This leads to a cold, detached, alienated, rationalistic Christianity that leaves the heart unsatisfied - and enables the New Age to monopolize many natural and spontaneous and good human aspirations.

My view is that it is simply not-an-option for Christians to dissociate from New Age preoccupations - and although it is risky to engage with them, Christians must recognize that there is no such thing as a safe path through life - risk cannot be avoided; and the attempt to avoid risk, is itself one of the deadliest of snares - often leading to a cold, heartless and covertly hate-driven species of pseudo-Christian zeal, which is all-too-common among self-identified Christians of past and present.

What I think would be best is for Christians to engage with this realm of 'paganism' insofar as each is drawn to it for good motivations; and insofar as their powers of discernment of the heart tell them that it is good, sweet and wholesome.

It is this discernment which must be cultivated, used and respected - it is the divinity within us that serves as a compass of good, and it will warn us if we are approaching wickedness or if we have taken a step into wickedness: then we must repent and turn-round to retrace our steps.

This is hazardous, but mortal life is hazardous. Men cannot avoid making mistakes; Men are not built to avoid making mistakes, nor is the world; but we can and should recognize when we have made mistakes; repent, and learn from that experience. We ought not to be afraid of life - and we ought not to be afraid of making a fool of ourselves - and then admitting that we have been fools!

This is not a matter of deliberately putting ourselves into the path of temptation! - a very stupid thing to do; but a matter of following our heart and being guided by our deepest discernment, meditations and prayers. Yes, we can deceive ourselves; yes we need help and guidance from informed others whom we can trust (if we happen to know of any such, but most people do not, and such people are seldom found in mainstream Christian churches) - but self-deception applies in every direction, and temptations into pride are just as strong on the path of strict and narrow 'Christian orthodoxy' as they are in exploration.

I fully recognize that some of the above arguments have been co-opted by Liberal Christians and actually-apostate but self-identified Christians to justify their conformity with the world of mainstream secular Leftism; but that path is taking Christianity into a world of politics and sexual revolution; as if such social and hedonic gratifications were our deepest contemporary need, rather than intrinsic with the very problem which needs addressing.

I am talking about a very different direction - the direction of personal contact with and participation-in the living universe.

Mainstream Christianity is, in general, an incomplete and unsatisfying thing; paralysed by the futile attempt to make life risk-free - and what we need is seldom to be found in any modern Western institutions - therefore of necessity we must explore, as responsible individuals, to find what we need to be alive and engaged with this world.

Note: The above was stimulated by a valuable conversation with the well-known reactosphere/ orthosphere pseudonymous blog commenter 'Thursday'; with whom I met for lunch last week while he was visiting my neck of the woods.