Monday, 4 May 2015

The pebbly beach fraud

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As a small child, my favourite outing was to the beach. I lived in south Devon, which was full of beaches - indeed this delightful, undeveloped little beach was within walking distance of our house:


But, more often than not, we would get in a car or two (if there were visitors or family friends) and visit one of the main beaches within a few miles radius; and all-too-often that beach was the dreaded Babbacombe, which had pebbles not sand.

This seemed to me a terrible waste of time. A pebbly beach was a fake beach, so far as I was concerned.

If you are going to bother to get in the car and go to a beach, why not go to a real beach, with real sand?

Especially one with fine white sand, like Dawlish:


Dawlish was the ideal - but a bit far for everyday usage - however, nearby Teignmouth (pronounced Tinmuth) was a good compromise, with its coarse, reddish sand:


But Babbacombe was a miserable place - the warmer the day, the more miserable it was.

Memories of sitting on uncomfortable pebbles, the agonies of walking barefoot on roasting-hot pebbles, avoiding the inevitably-present lumps of crude oil and dog's muck hidden among the pebbles...

Trying to bathe when the beach shelved too steeply and there was a scary undertow; and worst of all - no sandcastles, no water channel construction, no burying yourself or your sister or father...

Babbacombe pebbly beach - for a young kid, it was worse than no beach at all:


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Sunday, 3 May 2015

Vanity or Hope?

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Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ecclesiastes+1&version=KJV

In this world, and a mortal life; ultimately all is 'vanity': futility - evanescent and insubstantial as a mist, vapour, or breath upon cold air.

And from this there is no honest escape, and despair is the only honest reaction. To ask a Man to be satisfied with this life, to 'make the best' of this life, to 'count his blessings' and then to be content... is a counsel of despair – bleak, nihilistic, hope-less.

Unless there is more, unless there is something beyond this life, and something different and better in kind – then once we have raised the question of value we truly have no grounds for hope.

This is why secular self-help has the cumulative effect either of evasiveness and spin – or else induces a deepening despair.

The choice is stark: vanity or hope. Which of the two it is to be? This is a matter that should ultimately depend on what you most-deeply believe is true.  (The advice of others will not suffice.)

If religion, strictly Christianity or something like it, is truly-false; then we must (because there is no alternative) live either without hope or with only a delusion of hope (and these amount to the same thing, in the end); subsist as best we may and by arbitrary, fleeting criteria.

If it is true, then (potentially) everything is changed, the world transformed; because hope is real.

Conviction cannot come from reason or evidence - at most it can be consistent with these. Conviction can only come from the heart, from deep within, from a primary understanding of the issue as a stark, existential dichotomy; and from a primary decision, a primary unforced-choice that is also an insight - knowledge of what is true, what is real.

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Saturday, 2 May 2015

Colin Wilson's Spider World : The Magician (1992) and Shadowland (2002) volumes 3 and 4

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Continued from an earlier review of volumes 1 & 2:

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/colin-wilson-spider-world-tower-spider.html

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I have now finished the final two instalments of Colin Wilson's four volume Spider World fantasy novel and am pleased to report that I found the quartet to be extremely good, both edifying and enjoyable.

I was especially impressed by the last volume - Shadowland - which had that rarest of things in a long book: a satisfying ending to round-out the whole thing!

En route, the book was a really gripping study of different types of consciousness (as exemplified by the various races inhabiting this world) -  these are mainly novels of psychology, and in particular exploratory of the highest or furthest or strangest kinds of consciousness (ecstatic, concentrated, sensitive, animistic etc.).

The Spider World books are, in my opinion, among the very best of Colin Wilson's books; and among the best fantasy books I have read.

They definitely deserve to be far better known - and indeed, in the first instance, Shadowland needs to be republished, since it is current (seemingly) available only in very expensive second-hand versions, or in Russian!
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Nietzsche becomes a Christian? The assumption that faith is passive obedience may be a significant obstacle to the Christian conversion of creative people

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My impression is that one reason why Christianity is often rejected, almost axiomatically, by creative people who are deeply interested by personal development, spirituality, philosophy, higher needs... is their perception that to become a Christian is essentially a matter of passive obedience to a great mass of dogma, doctrine, theology and what-not.

So the convert goes to someone, gets some books, attends some sessions and gets instructed in all the stuff they now need to know, to affirm, to live by; and is supposed to accept this lock-stock-and-barrel! The irritating inconsistent gadfly is supposed to become a steady, solid ox.

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This person, for whom life has been a spiritual struggle to discover-for-themselves, creatively-to-appropriate, is (or at least feels they will be) catapulted into a world where they must adopt a passive and receptive attitude, and where their main life effort is to align with a predetermined set of demands.

It would be hard to exaggerate the alien-ness with which this strikes a spiritually-seeking, creative, habitually striving kind of person - a person of broadly the same kind as Nietzsche, for instance - and the visceral revulsion which may be elicited (which of course Nietzsche expressed vigorously!).

This is, indeed, one of the Good (i.e. not covertly sinful) reasons for the 'anything-but Christianity' view which has dominated high-level intellectual life for about 250 years in the West.

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Of course, there are also those who find the idea of setting-aside striving, seeking, grappling to be a most welcome idea - they want to get-on-with living, and are grateful for a framework within which to do this. They are grateful for the systemic nature of theology, for the distilled traditional wisdom of life-rules, demands, prohibitions...

But I am not talking about these people; I am talking about the people who are repelled by what they perceive to be the demand of 'organized religion' for passive obedience as the primary requirement.

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Is this repulsion based on reality? Yes, to some considerable extent - this is the way the world is, mostly - because religions cannot effectively be organized around the needs of a small minority; and a structure of rituals, rules, knowledge etc is exactly what is needed-for, and what is best-for, most people most of the time.

But since Christianity is true, then there cannot be any ultimate contradiction between the human nature of the spiritually striving and seeking creative individual and Christianity. There is no reason why the seeker cannot bring his seeking into Christianity. No reason why, say, someone like Nietzsche, could not become a Christian in a complete sense; and every reason why they should become Christian - even if they are then at-odds with the mainstream of The Church, as they always have been at odds with the mainstream of Society.

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If Nietzsche became a Christian, while remaining the essential Nietzsche, then he would-not and could-not (and, in a sense should-not) be expecting or expected to become a passively obedient, well-adjusted, model citizen. Christianity should be trouble and struggle for Nietzsche; and the Church should expect trouble and struggle from converting someone like Nietzsche.

I don't mean that this trouble and struggle should take the form of public conflict - a clash of will, each trying to change the other. That is an intolerable situation for any effective Church, and it is a kind of suicide for a Church to tolerate members to act to erode or dismantle it from within. A Christian-convert Nietzsche would have to forgo completely any polemics against the Church, forgo any attacks-on or undermining-of the complacency and passivity of the majority of the faithful!

But at the psychological level it should be accepted on both sides that a Nietzsche-type will probably always be struggling with something. That kind of person must and will always (or mostly) grappling-with, exploring, dismantling and reassembling, adding-to and subtracting-from, trying to live-by, expressing and extrapolating in various forms...

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The fact is that Christianity (being true, being everything) naturally does have a place for someone of the striving, seeking, creative, discontented Nietzschian type; and if any specific Christian denomination cannot not, or will not, tolerate such a person; then there may be others who will, and there is the possibility of a non-Church-Christian life.

Nietzsche was, to put it mildly, 'not a joiner' of human society - and as a Christian it would be unsurprising if he still was 'not a joiner'.

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The Nietzschian-type will, usually, be told that he needs to change first, before he becomes a Christian - that his job is to conform himself to the demands of the church and to affirm the check-list; but this demand must not be believed, must not be taken to express the necessary essence of Christianity, must be subjected to the same kind of critique that the Nietzschian would apply in other domains and situations.

(Just because somebody says a thing, just because they believe it, just because many people say and believe it - does not prevent them being mistaken. Maybe they haven't considered it deeply enough? The Nietzschian needs, viscerally needs, to find-out for himself, experience for himself, in his own way.)

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In sum, the Nietzschian must simply remain what he is, and have faith that because Christ is for everyone Christianity is also for him; and stubbornly but immovably refuse to be put-off or deterred by those who try to insist that he check-in his turbulent, tormented, questing intellect as a condition of conversion, before he becomes a Christian.

Nonsense! Nietzsche should be, should declare himself to be, a Christian now: exactly as he is - let come what may!

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Friday, 1 May 2015

Viewed close-up, life (of course!) has no meaning

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Scanning electron micrograph of a tooth.
Could you discern a tooth's function from this picture?


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Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:
We murder to dissect.

William Wordsworth

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Assuming that Wordsworth is saying that by dissecting (to try and understand a thing) we also murder it (and it thereby becomes meaningless, dead); this applies to the meaning of life: by taking a close-up, microscopic, analytic view we intrinsically strip-out what it means; perhaps without realizing, we destroy even the potential and possibility for us to understand its meaning.

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This is a matter of step-wise narrowing perspective, of ingraining this narrow perspective as a habit - of building-in the assumption that the smaller and more detailed the scope surveyed, the surer the knowledge derived.

Thus scientific knowledge (which excludes the divine) is seen as a path to exact validity; biology better than science;genetics than biology; fruit fly genetics than biology - then on-and-on through the ever-more-micro specializations of knock-out fly genetics, the behavioural investigation of knock-out fly genetics, and of particular types of genes... and so on-and-on until we reach modern science which is Balkanized into tens of thousands of autonomous technical disciplines - and has become merely useless, dishonest, bureaucratic careerism.

The same applies throughout all the multiplicity of endeavours - arts, literature, law, economics, theology, academia... pretty much everything.

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And - having trained-and-trained ourselves to regard the world in such a fashion - then we complain that life has 'no meaning'!

Yet the meaning of life is only to be seen in the Big Picture.  

This world has been set-up to provide the full range of experiences necessary for a human life conceptualized as spiritual learning aimed at higher divinity (i.e. theosis). This reality is only in the Big Picture - and not in the tiny time-slices of momentary life, nor in bits of the world regarded in isolation or one-at-a-time.

Reality is neither ecstasy nor suffering but both - both being necessary to enable us to grow towards becoming Sons and Daughters of God; and insofar as we experience or suppose that life is only one thing, or one half, or one short time - to that extent our knowledge is deficient, and our attitude is thwarting our ultimate goal.

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Screwtape wants a comfortable, middle-aged world

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If any reader have not already read or otherwise experienced CS Lewis's The Screwtape Letter, then you may be depriving yourselves.

The conceit of the book is its inverted perspective, written from the demonic perspective of advisory/ threatening letters from a senior devil called Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood who has been assigned to work on earth as a Tempter for a young man - they are trying to win the soul of the 'Patient' (i.e. the young man) for Hell; and in this task God is the 'Enemy'. This topsy-turvy angle makes for considerable humour, and many unexpected insights.

As well as re-reading the book; I have a fine CD audio-book of the basso-profundo-voiced Joss Ackland reading them; and also a very lively audio-drama version featuring the always-brilliant Andy Serkis as Screwtape with Bertie Carvel being perfect in the tricky role of his nephew Wormwood.

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The Letters come up fresh every time because there is just so much distilled wisdom and prescience - in the following (edited) passage, Lewis - a 1914-18 combat veteran writing in the middle of another world war, is arguing that from the demonic perspective war and premature death is mostly a problem, and comfort and long-life are their great allies.

This has since been proved correct, now that we perceive that the effects of unprecedented prosperity and convenience in The West, better health and a twenty-plus year increase in average life-span have been accompanied by an historically-unprecedented collapse of faith and official embrace and approval of the inverted and Satanic viewpoint on many major issues.

Lewis accurately blames the quietly corrupted middle-aged and elderly (i.e. my generation, and that of my parents and grandparents) for this situation - since the young are naturally too unstable and easily-swayed to hold to an evil course, but will intermittently spontaneously recur to religiousness.

This particular passage is also where I was for the first time brought to recognize the need for Christianity to recognize that, through history, most humans die in the womb, infancy or before adulthood - and that the mature Man is a tiny minority of the species. Any adequate theology must therefore recognize 'premature' mortality as normal, and 'threescore years and ten' as exceptional.

God's plan of salvation has so far been mostly about fetuses, babies, children and youths.

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Humans, of course, do tend to regard death as the prime evil and survival as the greatest good. But that is because we have taught them to do so.

If only your Patient can be kept alive, you have time itself for your ally. 

The long, dull monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather. The routine of adversity, the gradual decay of youthful loves and youthful hopes, the quiet despair (hardly felt as pain) of ever overcoming the chronic temptations with which we have again and again defeated them, the drabness which we create in their lives and the inarticulate resentment with which we teach them to respond to it—all this provides admirable opportunities of wearing out a soul by attrition.

If, on the other hand, the middle years prove prosperous, our position is even stronger!
Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is "finding his place in it", while really it is finding its place in him. His increasing reputation, his widening circle of
acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home in earth which is just what we want. You will notice that the young are generally less unwilling to die than the middle-aged and the old.

The truth is that the Enemy, having oddly destined these mere animals to life in His own eternal world, has guarded them pretty effectively from the danger of feeling at home anywhere else. That is why we must often wish long life to our patients; seventy years is not a day too much for the difficult task of unravelling their souls from Heaven and building up a firm attachment to the earth.

So inveterate is their appetite for Heaven that our best method, at this stage, of attaching them to earth is to make them believe that earth can be turned into Heaven at some future date by politics or eugenics or "science" or psychology, or what not. Real worldliness is a work of time—assisted, of course, by pride, for we teach them to describe the creeping death as good sense or Maturity or Experience.

How valuable time is to us may be gauged by the fact that the Enemy allows us so little of it. The majority of the human race dies in infancy; of the survivors, a good many die in youth. It is obvious that to Him human birth is important chiefly as the qualification for human death, and death solely as the gate to that other kind of life.

We are allowed to work only on a selected minority of the race, for what humans call a "normal life" is the exception. Apparently He wants some—but only a very few—of the human animals with which He is peopling Heaven to have had the experience of resisting us through an earthly life of sixty or seventy years. Well, there is our opportunity. The smaller it is, the better we must use it.

Whatever you do, keep your patient as safe as you possibly can.

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Thursday, 30 April 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Note: There are many other problems with what is currently termed the Transhumanist project, but which has been around for a few hundred years - as is explained in CS Lewis's essay The Abolition of Man and his novel That Hideous Strength; but I take Transhumanism as my examplehere, being the most complete and 'idealistic' of the current world-betterment schemes.
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Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Educating the angels

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

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

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

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

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

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Note: this insight owes much to the ideas of William Arkle, for example: Discovering your soul's purpose at http://www.wessexresearchgroup.org/digital_08.html
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Creativity as a primary Christian path

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, 27 April 2015

The nihilism of Positive Psychology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Note added:

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

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

Judge for yourself:

http://www.ted.com/talks/martin_seligman_on_the_state_of_psychology?language=en

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Demotivation, Demotivation, Demotivation!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, 26 April 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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But why should we need to be just like God?

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

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

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

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

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Saturday, 25 April 2015

What makes the Golden Thread?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, 24 April 2015

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

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

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

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

So comparatively, Christianity is much better than most.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, 23 April 2015

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

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

1. Survival
2. Family
3. Religion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, 22 April 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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