Sunday, 20 May 2018

Lapwing, Plover and Curlew

We had a lovely walk on the North Pennines in Northumberland today - and out on top of the heather moorlands the birds were more obvious than ever before: mating season, I suppose.

Lapwings were doing stunt flying, chasing each other; and making all kinds of weird, electronic-sounding noises - as well as the occasional pee-wit; which gives them their other name.



A single Golden Plover was first identified by its plaintive, sweet single note; then seen running around with its head down - very wary of us.



Curlews are the emblem of the National Park, and they were doing their usual long glides and long warbling calls - but also swooping in circles. One was landing, circling and landing - very bold, and making quite a variety of strange sounds, and swooping close to give us a good view.



There were also skylarks, and gurgling grouse; many hundreds of Swaledale and Cheviot sheep and their lambs; warm weather, and lovely views out to distant horizons. A glorious day...



Saturday, 19 May 2018

Why was Jesus necessary, what did he do?

Christians need to be able to explain (mostly to themselves, but if possible to others) why Jesus was necessary - what Jesus did that God the Father could Not do.

Traditional explanations for this have never satisfied me - they seem incoherent, inadequate or orthogonal to the problem. So here is my attempt:


Jesus is what enables us to know - and to know 'as gods'.

Without Jesus, God and Reality are incomprehensible.

Now, it is a fact that some people either do not want to know about God, or else regard the desire to be intrinsically blasphemous - and Christianity Is Not For Them.


Christianity is for those who want to know God, for themselves, by direct personal experience...

Why? Why would or should people want to know God? What is the point?

Because Christianity is about us becoming fully Sons of God - that is, on a parity (not equality, not sameness - but of the same 'kind') with Jesus Christ.

To become Sons of Gods we must grow-up towards becoming 'a god' (because a Son of God is a god - small 'g' indicating the distinction from God who is The Father and Creator); and as part of becoming a god we must know in the same way as a god knows.

(We can't just follow instincts, we can't just obey - we must know, for our-selves.) 

Growing towards divinity is called theosis; but... not everybody wants theosis - and Christianity Is Not For Them.


What about our condition after death? In the first place, the Christian expects to be resurrected after death - to have an immortal body; but that is not an unique selling-point for Christianity.

For Christians there is more. When Jesus talked about Life Everlasting, he made clear that it was qualitatively better-than and different-from this earthly, mortal Life.

In the Fourth Gospel this difference is indicated in multiple comparisons relating to water, wine, bread, flesh/ body, blood and so on. For example, when Jesus explains to the Samaritan woman the difference between water from the well and the 'living water' he offers.

Thus, for Christians, after death they expect to be resurrected and for their state to be qualitatively greater than on earth; and to become gods.

Not everybody wants this - some people want oblivion after death (permanent sleep); others want a life just like this earthly life, but with more of the pleasurable and none of the miserable aspects (i.e. Paradise). Others want to become a spirit - freed from a body. Others want to remain as-children. Others want to rest forever, in bliss - others to be assimilated-into God (Nirvanah). And Christianity Is Not For Them. 


The point I feel I need to take seriously is that Jesus was an incision in reality; Jesus changed 'history'; changed The Universe forever - All things, everywhere, and for every-body after Jesus, are different from how they were before Jesus. He was a transformation.

We first need to understand this, and second to decide whether or not to 'join'.

Because Christianity is an opt-in religion. Unless you have actively-chosen to opt-in, you are Not 'in'.


(Of course this 'choosing' is not a mere matter of conscious psychology, like choosing a cake from a shop! Choosing is an alignment at the deepest level of objective reality. And this is something we need to recognise - that there such a things as real, objective, permanent reality - regardless of our state of mind or knowledge-of-it - and this is the level at which Christianity is operating.)


Friday, 18 May 2018

Why was Jesus The Word? The answer tells us the reason for his incarnation

"In the beginning was the Word" - we know that the word was Jesus, before he incarnated - but until just-now, I never understood why he was The Word (that is I never found the explanations adequate, nor did I comprehend what 'word' was here supposed to mean).


From reading Owen Barfield, I realise that to understand words we need to understand concepts; and that concepts change through history. The concept of The Word, as it is used in the King James Bible and the Fourth Gospel, needs to be understood by its usage. So, I did a word search for 'word' and read all the usages in the Fourth Gospel.

From that I realised something of the scope of the term, and that 'word' in the Fourth Gospel meant (in part) something more like knowledge - but an objective knowledge that was permanent.

And from my reading and brooding on Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy of Freedom (1894); I knew what kind of knowledge that needed to be.


The Fourth Gospel tells us that we need to acknowledge that Jesus was the Son of God, sent by the Father. Why did the Father need to send him? The answer is that Jesus was The Word, and he became The Word incarnate; that is, The Word in This World.

Until Jesus was incarnated, Man did not have direct access to The Word - but only by indirect communications; however, by incarnating Jesus gave Man access to The Word - directly, objectively, permanently; if Men recognised Jesus as the Son of God.

Jesus would not have been much use if he was 'a teacher' merely, because a teacher needs to be listened to, heard, understood... and even when correct the understanding may be forgotten or distorted.

What was/ is needed is direct and permanent knowing; and this entails that when two people know something, they must know it direct and unmediated, and it must be exactly the same thing that they know. They must know the true-concept, not merely a copy or version of it...

We might picture this (as a simplified model) in the form that knowledge is located in a realm we can all access, and when someone thinks an objective thought he 'borrows' a thought from this realm, while he is thinking it - after which it returns to the realm to be available for anybody else to think.

This model is merely meant to emphasise that objective knowledge cannot depend on communication, or copying. Objective implies it is shared, public, identical between individuals. It is also necessarily true - which is another meaning of objective.


So, why do we need to acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God?  Because he is the only source of direct knowledge; it was incarnated with him - he is the source from-which we may know directly.

It is knowing that Jesus is the Son of God that 'points us at' the source of direct knowledge. (Because Jesus is The Word, we know that The Word is real, we know its location, we know what to do to find it.)

If we do Not acknowledge that Jesus is The Word, then we will 'die in our sins'. This is not meant as a threat, but as a simple fact. Jesus brings us immortality by resurrection; but unless we know and follow Jesus, that resurrection will merely be of our-selves as we-are here-and-now; that is, 'in' our corruption and sins (mixed in with purity and love - the mixture will vary between people).

Our 'heaven' will then be our-selves in a place with similar people to our-selves. Qualitatively, this heaven will be the same kind of place as this earth - but eternally.

But what about Hell? Jesus brought Hell into the world - as many have noticed.

Well, when knowledge is understood as objective and permanent and dwelling-in the soul (this being an implied property of The Word, in the Fourth Gospel); this means that once a person has known Jesus, has known him as the Son of God, this is permanent.

To know Jesus is to be 'born again' as Jesus describes it to Nicodemus. It is permanently to be transformed. We cannot ever be the same as we were before, because (as I said) The Word is objective - it does not depend on memory or attention, it cannot be eroded by disease or death. We cannot un-know that which we know.


This may clarify: To believe 'in' Jesus is to know he is the Son of God; to believe 'on' Jesus is to love, trust and follow him.

Both believing-in and believing-on are choices, they cannot be compelled upon anyone but must be freely chosen. However they are knowledge, as well as choices; and objective knowledge is permanent and cannot be undone.

Furthermore, objective knowledge is public - and our belief in and on Jesus is itself objectively-knowable; it is not private - God knows what we each know.

(Men do not know what other men know, and can indeed lie to themselves about what they themselves know; but the knowledge is objective, permanent. We must learn to distinguish objective knowing from our 'current psychological states'.)

Hell is when somebody knows that Jesus is the Son of God; but does not love him, does not trust him, will not follow him.

More exactly, Hell is an active rejection of what Jesus offered - it is to know and hate Jesus, to regard his promises as lies, to regard his heaven as a Hell...

It is to know and invert the scale of Good and Evil established by the Father and endorsed by the Son. And thus to prefer a life in company with those who think likewise - which is Hell.


In sum; Jesus was The Word - which is approximately objective knowledge.

By being born Jesus brought objective knowledge into this world - and Jesus's primary teaching was simply to 'point at himself', and who he was; and invite us to love him and have faith in him, because he loved us and would die for us.

By bringing objective knowledge into this world, Jesus made it possible to become Sons of God, like himself - on a par with himself. Because such a Son of God must know - merely doing is insufficient. A 'god' must know the truth; and know it explicitly.


But The Word/ objective knowledge - while real and permanent in this world - is a possibility; it is not compelled nor is it coerced. The Word must first be recognised, then embraced - if it is fully to be believed and to be effectual.

The 'system' was established between Jesus and his disciples - in Chapters 13-17 of 'John's' Gospel we can see Jesus describing how this has worked. The disciples have first done what others can now do - they believed in and on Jesus.

From that point, and the coming fo the Holy Ghost; direct and objective knowledge has been available to all - as it never was before that moment; that is available to all if they want it, and when they choose to believe what they find.


But all this is conditional upon having the necessary concepts - the necessary metaophysical understandings and assumptions. Because the wrong ones will block the possibility of knowing.

Modern people absolutely-need to know that knowledge can be direct, objective and permanent - utterly independent of the contingencies of communication, perception, comprehension, brains, biology, age and illness... and indeed independent of death.


Note added: The purpose of a satisfactory explanation of Jesus's incarnation, death and resurrection needs to include both objective and voluntary aspects. There needs to be some understanding of how these events changed objective reality in a permanent fashion (regardless of human knowledge), and also an understanding of how human freedom interacts with that reality. 


Why does political correctness lie even when it doesn't need to lie?

This is one of those questions to which the answer has several levels, but goes deep.

In every single political correctness witch-hunt of scientists and scholars of which I have inside knowledge (and these are many, because of my interests in both evolution and intelligence), the media lies - lies grossly and qualitatively, deliberately misrepresents the nature of what was said or written.

Furthermore, as many have noticed, even the question of 'what happened' is removed from the table - I mean that what is true is not a part of the discourse, and is kept-out of the discourse.

It used to surprise me in the sense that even if it was known accurately and honestly what was true, and what was said would still offend the dictates of political correctness; such that there was no point in the victim defending himself because the truth of the situation was still unacceptable  - yet they lied.

At one level this is simply so that people will regard the victim as a 'abd person' and therefore guilty until proven Innocent (and innocence never can be proven when bad intent is assumed).

At another level, this is quite simply because political correctness, social justice warriors, Leftist activists - Are Evil. And Evil lies, always have, always will - reflexively, and under all circumstances. 

Because honesty is a homage to God; and lying is what evil does - even when 'unneccessary'; it is a gratuitous act, done from sheer evilness! It needs no reason - it is a habit, a Bad habit.

But it is by this habit, reflex, pervasiveness, gratuitousness we know evil.


 

Thursday, 17 May 2018

The brittle, hardness of traditional forms of Christianity

The traditional forms of Christianity - the main denominations or churches, are - it seems to me - extremely brittle. They are all or nothing, unreformable without starting a collapse leading-to destruction - they lead to, and seem to require, hardness among those who administer them.

Unfortunately, this characteristic brittle-hardness and imposition upon the individual is, I firmly believe, intrinsically and irreducibly anti-Christian.

So that, while we might say that overall and on average, many or most traditionalist churches have been - for significant periods, net-Christian (overall Christian, more than 50% Christian...); they have also had times, places and persons when they were certainly net-anti-Christian; because, whatever their practices, however 'correct' their behaviours; their motivations have been sinful.


This applies in different ways to Calvinist protestantism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglicanism... but the clearest example is the Roman Catholic Church.

Old style Roman Catholicism - as seen in Ireland or Spain up to the 1970s; or in parts of Britain with Irish communities such as Glasgow and Liverpool - was a sustainable religion; but it had plenty of oppressive and dead-ly aspects. Very 'school dinners'. It had strong elements of arbitrary authoritarianism, oppression, harshness...

The hope among some sincere and real Christians seems to have been that Roman Catholicism could be sweetened, warmed, made more fluid and organic... but the attempt to do this was instantly subverted into dilution, apostasy, and assimilation to secular leftist politics. So, in the late-1960s there was Vatican II implemented, the replacement of beautiful Latin with bureaucratic vernacular, an explosion of Marxism among religious orders, a release and facilitation of sexual abuse from among the radical priests; and overall less practice, less belief, less Christianity.

I feel that with the RCC it is all or nothing - to be viable it needs to be authoritarian, heavy-handed, and anti-individual; and any attempt to reform the undesirable aspects will just smash it.

This has also been the case for the other big Christian churches; although the decline has tended to be less immediately obvious than with Roman Catholics. The Church of England and international Anglican communion seems to have been unaware that it was held together mainly by the Book of Common Prayer and Authorised Version of the Bible. This was highly prescriptive, and the language was becoming less comprehensible... so from the 1920s it began incrementally destroying these unifying texts until nothing now holds the church together but its secular bureaucratic structure.

The big Nonconformist churches - such as Presbytarians, Methodists and Baptists - were known for their strict ethics, plain living, detachment from hazardous activities such as gambling, drinking, and mass media. The life was narrow and rather colourless and lacking in culture... but when the restrictions were eased, the nonconformist churches crumbled to dust; either disappearing or becoming de facto social clubs.


If this argument is true, which I believe it is (and Christian traditionalists agree that there is no such thing as reform, and that all pretended reforms are actually destruction); then it is a real problem if there is going to be no going back to the old practices. If, that is, there cannot be a return to any form of traditional religion of any kind; then Christianity is doomed...

This cannot might mean three things. 1. It might mean that, for various socio-political reasons, it is extremely improbable that the mainstream churches can, in practice, recover from their current shrunken and corrupted states... that there is just not enough to build-on; the baddies out-number and out-rank the goodies several-fold.

2. It might mean that we are now so deeply sinful that we have ceased even to want salvation, that we have come (en masse) actively to desire our own damnation and those of others; and we have entered the end times; and the world will move-into the state of general depravity that precedes the end of the earth and the second coming of Jesus.

Or, 3. which is my understanding, that 'cannot be a return' may be because God's destiny for mankind is linear and sequential, and the traditional era of a hard-brittle Christian religion is now left-behind us; and our only options are either to stay in the current phase of progressive collapse and corruption or else to move forward to some unprecedented form of Christianity - something real, devout, primary, central to life and living; and something that has never previously been seen on this earth.

To traditionalists, who identify Christianity with one or another Church, and for whom Christianity outwith that Church (or some Church) is an oxymoron (self-refuting nonsense) this is just a version of 2. - that we moderns are too sinful to want what we need.


My conviction is that - for many modern people in many modern situations - the Christian possibilities within a Church is worse than the possibilities outside. But more accurate is to say that churches are, or ought to be, secondary; most people cannot and should not depend on them primarily. When a Christianly-helpful church is available and possible, then support it; when not, get on with being a Christian on your own.

I think the best possibilities of a Christian future will depend on those who take responsibility for their own Christian faith. But the 'mechanism' by which this will take effect (if it does) will not be socio-political; but will instead be spiritual-mystical - and observable in terms of remarkable 'coincidences' and unforeseen 'luck' - due to God arranging things invisibly, in the background.

If we, each as an individual, really are pushing in the direction that divine destiny wishes us to proceed; then this is exactly what will happen. We can be sure of it.


William Arkle on Wiki

There is now a Wikipedia page for William Arkle, which I drafted and submitted - the process took two months! Here 'tis:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Arkle

It currently reads:

William Arkle (1924 – 2000) was an English painter, esoteric philosopher and composer. He was described by Colin Wilson as "among the half dozen most remarkable men I have ever met..."[1]

William Arkle was born and educated in Bristol. During World War II he served as an engineering officer in the Royal Navy. After the war he trained as a painter at the Royal West of England Academy. Arkle's recognition as an artist culminated in his work being the major exhibit at the first Mind Body Spirit Festival in 1977. In the same year Arkle was the subject of a BBC television documentary in the series Life Story [2]. His first book "A Geography of Consciousness" (1974) was focused on spiritual and philosophical themes [3]. A second book was published in 1977, "The Great Gift", which concentrated on his paintings and poetry [4]. Arkle composed music which was a precursor of the later ambient style. He collaborated with Robert John Godfrey and The Enid in providing artwork for their 1976 album In the Region of the Summer Stars. Godfrey later orchestrated three of Arkle's compositions for a 1986 album "The Music of William Arkle": this was re-released on CD in 2017.

References
[1] William Arkle (1974). A Geography of Consciousness. London: Neville Spearman.
[2] "Genome: Radio Times 1923-2009". Retrieved 13 March 2018.
[3] William Arkle (1974). A Geography of Consciousness. London: Neville Spearman.
[4] William Arkle (1977). The Great Gift : the paintings of William Arkle. London: Neville Spearman.

Destiny versus progress: Christians and Time

Christianity is rare among religions in being intrinsically historical, with Jesus Christ coming into the world at an actual time and place, living a life-in-time, and setting-off a sequence leading up to another historical event of the second coming, the end of this earth.

It is a fairly common error, however, for Christians to think and behave as if all times and places and people are The Same. Traditionalist Christians who (rightly) disbelieve in secular notions of 'progress', err in rejecting the necessary idea of destiny.


Destiny implies that there is a real change in 'things' between the incarnation and second coming - the exact nature of this change is a matter for dispute, but not the fact of it. History is real, and goes deep.

This fact is all-but denied by many Christians, who hold fast to the idea that what was right thinking and right living is the same now as it was 200, 1000, or 2000 years ago; they regard this as necessary to avoid 'liberalisation'/ dilution/ apostasy of the faith.

But they are wrong.


There is a qualitative distinction between one who believes that God has a plan or destiny, unfolding throughout history and ultimately aimed at our spiritual condition in post-mortal life; and one who believes in the goodness of secular progress aimed exclusively at material conditions in this life and this world.

Many Christians are confused by the common and usual but mistaken metaphysics which states as dogma that the Christian God is outside of Time - this is neither scriptural nor does it easily accord with the  basic time-contained nature of Christianity, and its unfolding over thousands of years before and after Christ's life.

It has been all-too-common for theologians to think and speak of the divine in terms of infinities and time-less, changeless eternities - a pagan or pure-monotheistic philosophical view of God that has time as the world as illusion.

By contrast, it is simpler and more sustaining for a Christian to put aside infinities and eternities; and to regard this world as having a destiny, a direction in which God hopes and intends the world shall go; but that what actually happens, due to the free will or agency of Men, can and does go-against this destiny; as has probably been happening for the past 200 years at least.

This divine destiny is about individuals as well as masses; it is about me today as well as the timescale of peoples across generations. It is part of our task to acknowledge this, and then try to understand it and live by it.


In other words; I am saying that we need a change in perspective; we need to think in terms of destiny rather than dogma, of the direction we should-be going; rather than organising our lives and societies according to a fixed and eternal blueprint.

We should think in terms of getting back on the right track to the destined future, rather than reverting or recreating some situation in the past.

And should notice there is a truly vast and decisive difference between this, and secular progress. 


Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Living without leaders - the silver lining...

In which I argue that all modern leaders are bad - but, luckily, living without leadership is exactly what we ought to be learning to do, anyway...

"What should I do next?" Maybe keep a personal and private journal?

If someone has become a Christian and they are not going to join an existing church suitable to their convictions and aspirations - what should they actually do?

It's a problem, because it is possible thy will not personally know a single person in the same situation, with the same perspective - and if they do know someone they are probably living miles away, probably in another country - known only via the internet or other mass media...

The essence of our current situation includes that all public discourse, all cooperative behaviours, are corrupted - often to the point of inversion.

Well, thoughts and thinkings are the most important reality; but for most of us this is not enough; we are good enough at thinking for it is suffice...

So that is where a personal (private) journal comes in. It starts as reflections and notions planked down, but may develop into a conversation with oneself - itself a way of thinking; a kind of feedback process by which the written expression of an idea becomes a partner in conversation with yourself as you have become in the (brief) time since you had that idea - because to make an idea explicit is to change the mind.

The writing of a journal, the process rather than the product, can be literally a form of meditation - it is for me. 

Journaling doesn't suit everybody, it doesn't help everybody; indeed it may make some people worse - increasing self-absorption and hardening wrongness.

But it may help you.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Was Pilate saved?

Yes, he was saved; according to the author of the Fourth Gospel, and going entirely by that gospel (written as it is by an eye witness) - I think that is what we are intended to infer: that Pilate 'believed on' the name of Jesus; and therefore was saved.

I feel that this is why so much attention is given to each of several interactions between Jesus and Pilate.

For me the crucial aspects seem to be firstly that Pilate asserted plainly and repeatedly (and would not withdraw the statement) that Jesus was King of the Jews, meaning he was the Messiah, the spiritual king (by contrast, the Jews said - "We have no king but Caesar").

Secondly that Jesus said to Pilate: "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin." - which, I take it, absolves Pilate of direct responsibility for crucifying Jesus. 

In short, we are shown that Pilate believed Jesus's claims concerning himself, and behaved as such - this (and this alone), we are repeatedly told, is what qualifies us for Life Eternal; and this is why Pilate is given such great prominence in the Fourth Gospel.


Note: Pilate comes out worse if the other Gospels are also taken into account; but the purpose of my current reading it to take the fullest account of the greatest authority of the Fourth Gospel. Here is the relevant text:

From John Chapters 18 & 19: Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man? They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee. Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die. Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all. But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews? Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid; And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away. And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst. And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was Jesus Of Nazareth The King Of The Jews. This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written. 

Note: Pilate makes two more appearances after this, first to allow the the crucified men's legs to be broken and finish the process; and to allow Joseph of Arimathaea to take the body for entombment. 

Come In by Robert Frost, & Wild Grapes

Thinking about thrush song, and how I haven't heard any for a few years - I recalled this poem by Robert Frost; picked up the book of collected poems, and read one after another.

For me, Frost is just The Best Poet - he wrote more poems that I love, by several fold, than anyone else.

This is one.


Come In

As I came to the edge of the woods,
Thrush music -- hark!
Now if it was dusk outside,
Inside it was dark.

Too dark in the woods for a bird
By sleight of wing
To better its perch for the night,
Though it still could sing.

The last of the light of the sun
That had died in the west
Still lived for one song more
In a thrush's breast.

Far in the pillared dark
Thrush music went --
Almost like a call to come in
To the dark and lament.

But no, I was out for stars;
I would not come in.
I meant not even if asked;
And I hadn't been.

Robert Frost


So much is there - and yet what is there I cannot paraphrase; or, when I try, it comes-out leaden.  But part of it is that with almost every line I read, as I go through the poem, it changes the sense of all the lines preceding...

I suppose I regard lyrics, such as the above, as the best kind of poetry - but of course Frost wrote many wonderful long poems in blank verse, too. This is a particular favourite, and perhaps not so well known as some:


Wild Grapes

What tree may not the fig be gathered from?
The grape may not be gathered from the birch?
It's all you know the grape, or know the birch.
As a girl gathered from the birch myself
Equally with my weight in grapes, one autumn,
I ought to know what tree the grape is fruit of.

I was born, I suppose, like anyone,
And grew to be a little boyish girl
My brother could not always leave at home.
But that beginning was wiped out in fear
The day I swung suspended with the grapes,
And was come after like Eurydice
And brought down safely from the upper regions;
And the life I live now's an extra life
I can waste as I please on whom I please.

So if you see me celebrate two birthdays,
And give myself out of two different ages,
One of them five years younger than I look-

One day my brother led me to a glade
Where a white birch he knew of stood alone,
Wearing a thin head-dress of pointed leaves,
And heavy on her heavy hair behind,
Against her neck, an ornament of grapes.

Grapes, I knew grapes from having seen them last year.
One bunch of them, and there began to be
Bunches all round me growing in white birches,
The way they grew round Leif the Lucky's German;
Mostly as much beyond my lifted hands, though,
As the moon used to seem when I was younger,
And only freely to be had for climbing.

My brother did the climbing; and at first
Threw me down grapes to miss and scatter
And have to hunt for in sweet fern and hardhack;
Which gave him some time to himself to eat,
But not so much, perhaps, as a boy needed.

So then, to make me wholly self-supporting,
He climbed still higher and bent the tree to earth
And put it in my hands to pick my own grapes.
'Here, take a tree-top, I'll get down another.
Hold on with all your might when I let go.'

I said I had the tree. It wasn't true.
The opposite was true. The tree had me.
The minute it was left with me alone
It caught me up as if I were the fish
And it the fishpole. So I was translated
To loud cries from my brother of 'Let go!
Don't you know anything, you girl? Let go!'

But I, with something of the baby grip
Acquired ancestrally in just such trees
When wilder mothers than our wildest now
Hung babies out on branches by the hands
To dry or wash or tan, I don't know which,
(You'll have to ask an evolutionist)-
I held on uncomplainingly for life.

My brother tried to make me laugh to help me.
'What are you doing up there in those grapes?
Don't be afraid. A few of them won't hurt you.
I mean, they won't pick you if you don't them.'
Much danger of my picking anything!
By that time I was pretty well reduced
To a philosophy of hang-and-let-hang.

'Now you know how it feels,' my brother said,
'To be a bunch of fox-grapes, as they call them,
That when it thinks it has escaped the fox
By growing where it shouldn't-on a birch,
Where a fox wouldn't think to look for it-
And if he looked and found it, couldn't reach it-
Just then come you and I to gather it.
Only you have the advantage of the grapes
In one way: you have one more stem to cling by,
And promise more resistance to the picker.'

One by one I lost off my hat and shoes,
And still I clung. I let my head fall back,
And shut my eyes against the sun, my ears
Against my brother's nonsense; 'Drop,' he said,
'I'll catch you in my arms. It isn't far.'
(Stated in lengths of him it might not be.)
'Drop or I'll shake the tree and shake you down.'
Grim silence on my part as I sank lower,
My small wrists stretching till they showed the banjo strings.
'Why, if she isn't serious about it!
Hold tight awhile till I think what to do.
I'll bend the tree down and let you down by it.'

I don't know much about the letting down;
But once I felt ground with my stocking feet
And the world came revolving back to me,
I know I looked long at my curled-up fingers,
Before I straightened them and brushed the bark off.
My brother said: 'Don't you weigh anything?
Try to weigh something next time, so you won't
Be run off with by birch trees into space.'

It wasn't my not weighing anything
So much as my not knowing anything-
My brother had been nearer right before.
I had not taken the first step in knowledge;
I had not learned to let go with the hands,
As still I have not learned to with the heart,
And have no wish to with the heart -- nor need,
That I can see. The mind -- is not the heart.

I may yet live, as I know others live,
To wish in vain to let go with the mind-
Of cares, at night, to sleep; but nothing tells me
That I need learn to let go with the heart.

Robert Frost


A six-year-old atheist: Old Time Religion and the individual

My experience of Christianity as a child (5-11 years old) was an oppressive one.

The village school was a Church of England establishment, and so Christianity was woven into its life. But while I liked many aspects of the school, and have many happy memories about it; my recollections of the Christian side of its life is almost wholly negative. It was, as I said, an oppressive experience; like a weight of life-draining deadness pressing-upon me.

I disliked assembly, being preached-at, and I disliked most of the hymns we sang - which seemed dirge-like, with nasty words; and I resisted many of the things we said in prayers. I disliked being told that God was 'my' Father when I had one already, with whom I was more than happy.

I didn't like the Bible stories, I didn't like going to the nearby church, where the words were incomprehensible and the hymns even more dirge-like when accompanied by the droning organ.


It was clear to me that there was this thing called Christianity, religion, that wanted me and everybody else to fit-into standard shapes it already had waiting for us; that there was a pattern and it was supposed to be my business to squeeze into this shape and pretend to be happy about it - despite that the shape was designed for some other, some 'average' person - somebody, at any rate, who was not me, nor anything-like.

Christianity was not interested in me, as I saw myself; me as an individual with an intense self-awareness. It just wanted me to say and do a pre-specified set of things.

And there was a clear assertion that this was what Christianity is; that this whole set of social practises, the assemblies, hymns, prayers, talks, church visits etc - was Christianity: take it or leave it. I left it. 


Such are the reasons why I became an explicit atheist aged about six and - on grounds of conscience - was (intermittently) excused from RS classes (along with a Roman Catholic boy). I never saw any reason to change this decision as a child; although I was a relaxed kind of atheist, and participated in musical and social events at the church, was friendly with the Rector (priest) etc.

Such was wrong with the Old Time Religion, and such is perhaps what was intrinsically wrong with it - and perhaps why it can't ever come back: so many people don't want it back.

The modern consciousness (which we are stuck-with, for better, as well as for worst) cannot bear to be treated as something that society merely moulds-into pre-determined, standard shapes. And that is not negotiable.

Yet Christianity is true, and necessary; and the greatest possible life enhancement. Since we cannot live without it, we will have to find a way forward - a new way, or perish.  


Monday, 14 May 2018

The woman who poured expensive ointment on Jesus's feet and wiped them with her hair

The importance of coming to a decision concerning the relative authority of parts of the Bible, parts of the New Testament, and between the Gospels; can be seen by comparing the accounts of (apparently) the same event in the Fourth Gospel ('John') and Luke. (These are quoted in full at the end of this post*.)


Now, although these accounts apparently refer to the same incident, they differ in many details - in particular they differ in terms of the identity of the woman - for 'John' the woman is someone well known and loved by Jesus, sister of his beloved friend Lazarus; for Luke she is just identified as an anonymous woman and someone regarded as leading a publicly-ungodly life ('a sinner').

Most importantly, the 'moral' of the story is different in each - For 'John' it references, I believe, some 'lost' ceremonies of a spiritual wedding of Jesus with Mary (who is, presumably, the woman he married in Cana - in an ordinary Jewish wedding) and a foreshadowing of the deal of the incarnate Jesus, and his burial - and linked with Mary (Magdalene) being the first to speak with the resurrected Jesus. And/ or the moral is about the eternal versus the worldly.

(Since 'John' was writing shortly after the ascension of Jesus, all such contextual details will have been well known to his intended audience.)


But for Luke the story is 'about' the infinite forgiveness or atonement of Jesus, and how this means the most for those with 'the most' sin, those whose lives are built-upon the denial of God - emphasising that Jesus (unlike the Pharisees, and those who regarded adherence to The Law as the only path to salvation) came to save sinners (which is everybody, but particularly those who were furthest from The Law and - up to that point - the most vehemently atheist, selfish, self-indulgent etc).


So, how can we makes sense of these apparent discrepancies? So far as I can tell, we need to assume one of four basic possibilities:
1. 'John' is more authoritative, or
2. Luke is more authoritative; or
3. Both are equally authoritative, and are authoritative (both being valid alternative descriptions of the same event and meaning); or that  
4. Neither are correct: neither is authentic, both equally wrong (and therefore nothing of this kind ever actually-happened).

If we regard 'John' as authoritative and the account of a recent eyewitness, then we make sense of Luke in terms of him later collecting scattered accounts of Jesus's life and teachings and - under divine inspiration - making the best sense of him that he could. In this account Luke has done something like conflating several stories into one. This Luke's account of the essential teachings and meanings of Jesus's life is correct (because divinely-inspired); but the historical details are sometimes mixed-up. This is - pretty much - what I believe is correct.

If Luke is authoritative, then 'John' - writing much later, and from a faulty memory, or via an unreliable scribe, or a representative of his division of the early church - has made a mistake based on a partial memory, and perhaps the conflation of various Marys with perhaps unnamed others.

The mainstream view is probably a mixture of giving Luke priority, and also using all available scriptural material pretty-equally, trying to triangulate upon the truth. Perhaps the two accounts are partly complementary, and partly selective. This also goes along with ideas of Biblical inerrancy, or 'literalism' or 'fundamentalism' - which generally assumes that the whole Bible, or, at least, the whole New Testament - or at least the Gospels and Paul's Epistles; are equally valid.

(Indeed, in practice - especially among traditionalist creedal Protestants, Paul's Epistles, rather than any of the Gospels, may be given Primary Authority - and the Gospels are interpreted in their light.)

Rejecting both 'John' and Luke in favour of some unknown, perhaps lost, primary text, variously garbled through several independent lines of transmission, is another possibility, in principle.


My point is that each approach represents different assumptions, and leads to different answers.

We therefore need to be clear about our assumptions - and, I would argue, to trace these assumptions back to our primary intuitions - which may be related to larger units of meaning.

For example many mainstream church-going Christians have a intuition of the validity and authority of a particular Christian denomination or church - and they accepts their detailed evaluations from that particular source of authority.

Others, like myself, try to discover more specific intuitions derived from scripture, church teachng and practice, theology... or whatever - including the prime intuition that these specific intuitions are ultimately valid.... 



*References:

John 12: 1: Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always. 

Luke 7:36 And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

When was the Fourth Gospel composed?

Leaving aside the actively-misleading irrelevance that is Bible scholarship (which almost-always has been based-on the secular assumption that Scripture is Not divinely inspired, nor divinely protected, nor sustained and transmitted with divine assistance... In other words, Bible 'scholarship' operates on the basis that Scripture is Not scripture)... Leaving that aside:

The Fourth Gospel is, uniquely, an eye-witness account of the life and teachings of Jesus - written by Jesus's most beloved friend and disciple; the first written and most important Gospel; written independently-from the other three 'synoptic' Gospels (none of which claim to be eye-witness accounts, and which were, from internal evidence, compiled and created some time after Jesus's death).

But when was the Fourth Gospel written? From internal evidence (with a qualification, which I will mention) it was written soon after the ascension of Jesus, while the events were still fresh and vivid in the mind of the author; accounting for the detailed and extremely convincing vignettes that jump-across the millennia into the mind of the reader...

The exception is the last chapter of the Gospel. The early-written Gospel finished at the end of Chapter 20 with the words: "30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name."

The words of the final verse (coming after the 'Doubting Thomas' episode) complete and summarise the message of, and reason for, this Gospel: all throughout. Who Jesus was, and what this means for each of us: what we need to do-about Jesus.

Chapter 21 was written later, after the death of Peter; and is mostly 'about' Peter, his relationship with Jesus; including and the mission Peter was given by Jesus. (That is, when Jesus once says feed my lambs, and twice repeats feed my sheep. (The meaning of this episode needs to be the subject of a separate post.)

Chapter 21 concludes with a reference to Jesus having correctly foretold the manner of Peter's death - signing-off with a reference to the Fourth Gospel author's apparent immortality, and a reassertion of his identity and eye-witness status. 

Chapter 21 is therefore of the nature of an appendix to the main body of the Fourth Gospel - in terms of its discrete subject matter - and was presumably added some decades later than the bulk of the gospel. 

Is this stuff important? Well, yes - because a late date for the whole Fourth Gospel has been a major source of error in understanding the New Testament; relegating what truly is the single most important (and the only essential) part of the Bible, to the status of a late commentary upon The Synoptics. 

Knowing the early date and unique authoritativeness of the Fourth Gospel (which is really only a matter of taking Scripture seriously, in its own terms) transforms the way we read the rest of the New Testament; and indeed greatly clarifies the nature and meaning of Jesus. 

 

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Is Now, in The West, the most evil in human history?

William Wildblood discusses this at Albion Awakening.

Of course, it all depends on one's assumptions about the nature of good and evil.

By the mainstream materialist standards of the modern West; we are the best people that have ever lived, by far - and getting better! And our leadership class are the best of the best...

But by the spiritual and religious standards of any other time or place, and specifically by a Christian calculus... well, that's a very different story.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

The King James Bible is not a 'translation' - it is divinely inspired scripture, a direct apprehension of truth

I have said this before her, but it is probably worth repeating that I regard the Authorised Version of the Bible - or 'King James' Bible, as truly divinely inspired. Indeed, very obviously so!

This means that the KJB should never be treated as if it was a 'translation' of an 'original' text - and that the KJB has equal and independent validity with any other inspired version of the Bible Texts.

This means that Biblical 'scholarship' - non-religious academic speciality, dating back to around the early 1800s, and which uses the same methods as were developed for dealing with ordinary, not-divinely-inspired historical texts, is worthless nonsense.

Indeed, Biblical Scholarship is worse than nonsense, it is profoundly and actively wrong; and has been extremely damaging to the Christian religion.  

When I read the King James Bible, I am getting the word of God as refracted through the minds and pens of Men - it is (therefore) a communication of truth, not itself the truth... But I am Not reading a secondary/ translated version of a primary-communication. I am instead reading words that were produced by an inspiration of truth that was as direct as the people who wrote the original texts.

I am not saying that the KJB, or any other version, is infallible - I am saying that the KJB has equal validity with any other divinely-inspired version such as the original, and (probably) the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and Luther's Bible.

This means that when I cannot understand a part of the KJB - or when I suspect an error or omission on the part of the authors of the KJB, it does Not help to look at the original language version - since this is no more valid, no more likely to be correct, than the KJB.

Instead, with a divinely inspired text, the reading needs to be done in a state that is receptive-to, empathic-with, inspiration. So that reading the text will lead me to a direct understanding... So that reading the KJB I will be as directly aware of the truth and reality of what is being said, as were the KJB authors, or the author of the first known text. 

Such a way of reading is limited by my own range of sympathy, my own seriousness, my capacities, my goodness... so there is nothing 'infallible' about my reading. Nonetheless, it is the only proper way of reading scripture - I must know it for and from myself.

If I merely read an interpretation of 'what the Bible means' (whether popular low brow or scholarly and done by a great 'expert') - then this is analogous to reading a prose summary of some great poetry... like reading 'Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare' instead of experiencing the play, or reading a Hamlet soliloquy done-into bureaucratic bullet points... it is something altogether different and qualitatively inferior.

If you are an English speaker, you have the great (potential) privilege of being able, in principle, to read one of the true, direct, inspired versions of the Bible. If you are serious about your faith; it does not make much sense to read translations (of which there are hundreds, and more every year) when you can read the real thing - except insofar as translations of the Bible may help prepare you for reading the directly-inspired word of God.



Friday, 11 May 2018

What to do about the 'great and spacious building' - by Adam G

Adam G at Junior Ganymede has posted a transcript of a great talk he gave at church. This is both realistic, and very inspiring! In it Adam references the 'great and spacious building' which comes from a vision described in The Book of Mormon (see my note at the end); G&SB means much the same as the Liberal Elites/ the Establishment or The Cathedral. Here is an abbreviated version:

OK, let’s talk about Journalism and the Media.  These people are incredibly socially liberal, they don’t share our values, and the  higher up and more powerful and elite the journalist, the more they don’t.  They don’t go to church, they may not even know someone who goes to church, they are pretty much all in favor of gay marriage and transgender and all that and they may not even know someone who isn’t.  They are hostile to the idea that men and women are different, they are hostile to Christianity and organized religion.  That really matters.  Just to give you an idea,  though its about politics, studies estimate that the media changes elections in the direction of Democrats by as much as 5%.  Without them, purple states would be red and red states would be Saudi  Arabia.  If they can have that kind of effect on politics, what kind of effect do you think they have on culture and people’s attitudes about life?

OK, let’s talk about Academics and Education.  That is super important in today’s world.  Getting a degree is your ticket to the good life and it gives you status.  We don’t think about it that way, but its true.  People are proud of their degrees, it’s a status thing.  So when we send our kids to college, who are we sending them too.  Well, these people are incredibly socially liberal, they don’t share our values, and the  higher up and more powerful and elite the academic or the professor, the more they don’t.  They don’t go to church, they may not even know someone who goes to church, they are pretty much all in favor of gay marriage and transgender and all that and they may not even know someone who isn’t.  They are hostile to the idea that men and women are different, they are hostile to Christianity and organized religion etc. etc.

Entertainment.  Hollywood, singers, all that.  Ditto.  Socially liberal, don’t share our values, all of that.  Even the occasional actor who comes out as conservative is still careful to be socially liberal.  To them, thinking like us is unthinkable.  They make sex and violence into entertainment, they teach that nothing really matters and right and wrong is just up to you, they teach that women are the same as men and/or are sex objects, they teach that life is just about finding yourself.  Obedience to God isn’t on the radar.  This is our entertainment.

Social media.  Its everywhere, and its designed to hack your brain.  Its designed to make you think you are having a real social experience when you are not.  There are valid uses for it, obviously.  But there are also reasons why some of the billionaires who created this stuff won’t let their kids use it. So here they are, the rich and the influential and the famous, and they’re against us, and their influence is everywhere.  Look at the centers of power of our civilization, look at where all the decisions are made, go to New York or LA or DC, are they on our side?  We live in a world that is increasingly organized against us, even to the point of persecution, and where incessant propaganda fills every corner of our lives attacking what is sacred and precious to us.  Absolutely the Great and Spacious Building was for our day.

I don’t watch horror movies because I’m a big scaredy-cat with an overactive imagination.  But basically we live in a horror movie.  We are surrounded by monsters who want to swallow your soul. The thing is, most horror movies rely on people doing stupid stuff.  If it were real life, if the monsters were real, we’d cope.

The thing is, the Mormon home is a powerful thing.  It may sometimes feel like a fortress where we are holed up, surrounded by the world.  But if so, it’s the kind of fortress that is a base we use to launch strikes deep into enemy territory.  You are amazing people.  You are stronger than you know. Protecting my family against the world is something I brood about a lot.  It seems overwhelming.  How can I possibly win?  I will not give up, even for a moment, because losing my kids is unacceptable.  But its overwhelming. It’s me against everyone who matters in the world. 

So I went to the church General Conference brooding about this.  How am I going to protect my kids against overwhelming odds?  How can I do the impossible? Then one of the church leaders gave a talk about being a Dad and the Spirit whispered to listen up, this talk was my answer.  I did.  So what did he talk about?  He talked about having silly games at Family Home Evening.  He talked about praying for your kids and telling them you love them.

It’s that easy.

Imagine it like this.  Its like in a movie.  You are in your castle surrounded by your enemies.  Tomorrow is the Last Battle.  Maybe imagine a battle from Lord of the Rings.  The thing is, there’s no one the castle but you.  You’ve got your wife and your kids and that’s it.  And the enemies around you, they’re orcs or monsters and you can’t even count them, you can’t even see all of them they stretch so far out, there are millions of them, and its just you.  In the early hours, it’s the very early morning, you are getting on your armor and getting your sword and you are praying.  You have no idea what to do.  Because charging out and dying heroically in some kind of big last stand is not acceptable.  This is not a drama, this is real.  You have to win.  You have to fight and fight and fight and live and fight and fight and fight, you have to win, but there are millions of them, and its just you.  So you’re praying.  And God says, well, say family prayers with real intent.  OK.  And He says, read some scriptures.  OK.  And then have some family councils and family games and those little jokes that families have and mess around with your wife and kids.  OK, you say, but what then?  That’s basically it, God says.  Do that, you win.

Which is hysterically, hilariously easy.  It makes you want to laugh.  Imagine that Last Battle, all the nasty orcs spreading out to the horizon, and up there at dawn on the castle walls is Brother G. half-dressed in his armor, capering around, dancing around with glee, laughing his fool head off.

We should all be laughing our fool heads off.

It’s that easy.

**


Here is the main section in which the nature of the G&SB is defined. This excerpt is edited from the First Book of Nephi, Chapter 8:

And I beheld a rod of iron, and it extended along the bank of the river, and led to the tree by which I stood. And I also beheld a strait and narrow path, which came along by the rod of iron, even to the tree by which I stood; and it also led by the head of the fountain, unto a large and spacious field, as if it had been a world.

And I saw numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree by which I stood. And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.

I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree. And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed.

And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth. And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.

And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.

Resolving apparent inconsistencies/ omissions in the fourth Gospel

Long-term readers of this blog will know that I am trying to understand Christianity using only the fourth Gospel, as if it was my only source; because I regard it as qualitatively the most authoritative scripture.

On that basis I have come to regard the author (the disciple who 'Jesus loved') of the gospel as the resurrected Lazarus (and that Lazarus was resurrected, not just brought back to life); that Lazarus's sister Mary (of Bethany) was married to Jesus in Cana (in an 'ordinary' Jewish ceremony) when the first miracle was performed, and that there was a further mystical marriage at the time of the anointing of Jesus's feet with Spikenard on Mary's hair, and that this Mary is the same person as Mary Magdalene ('both' Mary's treating Jesus with loving but respectful familiarity, and 'both' engaging in physical contact appropriate only to a wife)...


Anyway; this is the background for trying to interpret an anomalous verse John 2: 4 - when Jesus says to his mother "Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is yet to come."

To me, there is something clearly wrong with this verse - certainly it does Not mean any kind of rejection of Jesus's mother, since she accompanies Jesus (and his brothers) to Capernum in verse 12. The verse might be garbled, or interposed - but my guess is that - since Jesus is the 'bridegroom' of the marriage feast, it may refer to Jesus's new allegiance to his wife.


And this may answer another puzzle about the fourth Gospel: why did Jesus's ministry start when it did? The answer seems to be that Jesus's ministry began when he was baptised by John the Baptist, and JtB recognised Jesus as the Christ, as the divine Spirit descended upon him and stayed - causing Jesus's new self-awareness as Son of God (to become Son of Man, at his ascension), and his new powers.

But why did Jesus get baptised by JtB? Well, the author doesn't say that Jesus and John are cousins  (that is in another gospel) - which seems like a strange omission, since the author of the fourth gospel - Lazarus - was a disciple first of John then of Jesus. So, if they were cousins, then he would know!

However, I think we can assume that it was Lazarus who brought his future brother-in-law Jesus to be baptised by his then-Master John the Baptist, just two days before the wedding. Perhaps (as in my own extended family) terms like 'sister' (referring to John's and Jesus's mothers), did not necessarily mean sharing the same parents - and perhaps the real link was the marriage-link between Lazarus's and Jesus's families, and that was underpinned by some childhood relation between the mothers of Jesus and Lazarus... (The beloved disciple is asked, by Jesus on the cross, to look-after Jesus's mother.)

Thus it was Lazarus who was responsible for the timing of  Jesus's ministry; and Lazarus was present at his sister's wedding to Jesus in Cana two days later when Jesus's new status as the Messiah became explicit with the first miracle - in which water to wine is both literal and deeply symbolic (the symbolism - which is itself literal - being multiply expressed in other parts of the fourth Gospel).


The second omission is more obvious and important than the garbled comment of Jesus to his mother; and it is the dispute among the Jewish leaders about whether Jesus could be the Messiah given that he had not been born in Bethlehem.

John 7: 41-3 - Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh out of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where Davis was? So there was a division among the people because of him.

Having raised this as an important issue, the author of the fourth Gospel does not resolve it for us. Of course, we are told in Matthew and Luke that Jesus was born in Bethlehem... But we are not told this in the fourth Gospel, where the issue is left 'up in the air' and (so far as I can see) never resolved for the reader.

This could be some omission from the Gospel, something that was lost - a statement that Jesus was born in Bethlehem; because it seems strange that, if Jesus was indeed born in Bethelehem, the dispute reported in the fourth Gospel was not simply settled.

Or, if nothing was lost; and since I regard the fourth Gospel as more authoritative than any of the Synoptics (or Epistles); perhaps this really was one way in which Jesus did not fulfil all the prophecies - but one which was later patched-up by oral history and legend...

After all, the fourth Gospel provides in abundance all the evidence necessary to prove that Jesus really was the Son of God, the Christ, the Messiah... There is, in particular, the testimony of John the Baptist (the most authoritative witness of that time and place); the miracles - especially the raising of Lazarus; and of course Jesus's resurrection, ascension, and his sending of the Holy Ghost.

Many mansions on earth? God's plan for salvation and theosis presumably extends down to the level of each individual person

There is a general plan of salvation - requiring the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus; and there is a general plan of theosis - by which we are all intended to strive for greater degrees of divinity, to become grown-up, mature Sons and Daughters of God...

But we know that God's attention goes down to the level of each person, and - presumably - everything that happens to and around us (given that nothing is random, and all determinism is actually do do with the purposes of beings) is intended (although not necessarily or usually intended for our own personal salvation and theosis - often for others).

Maybe this aspect is neglected by most Christians? - it is by me. It could be that the 'standard' model for salvation and theosis is more of the nature of an average description, than it is a simple categorical scheme into-which all-must-fit... or, at least, there will surely be such standard elements in sequence;  but it may be that our personal lives are much more 'targeted' on the spiritual needs of our pre-mortal spirit selves than is usually understood...

This would start with when and where we were born, and to whom; it may extend to the matter of God having encouraged several types of society and civilisation and circumstance to help with the needs of different types of people, of different levels of spiritual maturity...

And it may extend to a detailed level of the things that happen, and do not happen, to us each day.

Of course, we personally will not be able to know or understand most of what is going-on; but just knowing that 'something of the kind' is always going-on, is potentially a very helpful attitude to Life.


Thursday, 10 May 2018

If not, then what? As applied to Jordan Peterson (in this evil totalitarian society)

It is all very well for me to call Jordan Peterson an antichrist, and to warn people off taking seriously someone who is a merely a psychotherapist, left-libertarian, atheist... but the rejoinder is that 'who else' is there in the modern world getting mainstream coverage that is talking as much common sense?

And the answer is: nobody. Nobody else who has comparable fame and impact is any better than Jordan Peterson  - and yet Jordan Peterson is qualitatively inadequate for the needs of this time: he is a waste of time, a blind alley, a red herring; thus, in our state-of-emergency - he does more harm than good...

There just isn't anybody who has anything significantly worth listening to that most people have heard of, or who has power or fame. That is the nature of our time and place...

Surely this is not surprising? What do you expect - we live in an evil-dominated totalitarian society! What public figures, 'public intellectuals', people with a high impact 'platform' were there in Stalin's USSR or Mao's China or current North Korea? Exactly the same number that we have in the UK, the US and Western Europe.

For people to regard JP as a significant thinker is evidence that they have no idea of the severity of the situation here and now.  They have no idea of the pervasiveness and depth of corruption in a society that officially advocates and enforces moral and aesthetic inversion; which punishes truth and systematically generates an interlocking structure of lies. We are in a very bad way indeed - advanced en route to self-chosen damnation on a mass scale.

Put it this way; if our situation was such that Jordan Peterson really was a valuable public voice saying something we needed to hear; then we would not need him.

But as things are, to find what we need, we must (and must means must) look outside the scope of the mainstream mass media - that is: we need to look to writers and thinkers from the past or other places, or who operate in relative or extreme obscurity.

What we need to know will not be given us - we need to seek for it. And if we haven't sought for it, then we can be sure that it is not what we need... That's what it means to live in a totalitarian society.   


What is it to be a Christian?

I was asked a question yesterday by commenter NW, about what qualifies a person to be regarded as a Christian - and this led to the following reflections...

I don't like the implications of being 'qualified' to be a Christian! I think that gives the impression we are trying to plead before a judge, or satisfy and examiner. But our God is a loving Father, who wants the best for us - wants us to accept his gift of creation and join with him in the great work.

The way I regard definitions of being a Christian is that we need to 'believe' in Jesus - that is to have faith and trust in him; we need to believe that he was the Son of God and was creator of this world; that his incarnation, deeath and resurrection enabled us to have 'life eternal' which involves our own resurrection.

The above passage contains several key bits of terminology, and I don't think it is crucial to being a Christian that everybody agrees on them all... it is mostly (as usual) a matter of motivation. I think one can be a Christian by accepting that Jesus is 'in some way' personally essential to our salvation - without being sure of exactly how it works, or being sure of exactly what salvation consists in.

As you know, I am reading and re-reading the fourth Gospel ('John') as an eyewittness account by the beloved disciple. What Jesus teaches is very simple, and is mostly about 'belief' - the impression I get is that Jesus will lead us to salvation like a shepherd leads his flock... the flock trusts the shepherd (who will sacrifice his life for the least of the sheep) - and follows him to safety.

In a simple and profound sense, it is by trusting Jesus that we *follow* him through death and into the life eternal. I think that we need to ensure during mortal life that we are ready to do this after death, that we trust Jesus to lead us.

This implies that non-Christians, who have never even heard of Jesus, can also meet him after death and recognise him and trust him, and follow him to eternal life.

Indeed, it is probable that thsoe who have never heard of Jesus are more likely to trust and follow him after death than the typical modern person who has been poisoned-against Jesus.

(This is our particular test in the modern world, and why these times and this place is particularly hazardous to salvation.) 

I think Jesus understood this double-edged aspect of his incarnation, and refers to it several times in the Gospels. In that sense Jesus brought Hell as well as Heaven, and an unavoidable decision - because since the incarnation, many/ most people have *hated* Jesus, when they encountered him. So they actively-reject his gift.

And if we do not trust the Good Shepherd when we encounter him after death, then we will not follow him to life eternal - we will reject Heaven, and prefer the Hell of isolation-from love.


(This choice of Hell may not be irreversible, in principle. For example, I think that the dead may be reached by prayers from those who love them, and may 'change their minds', may revise their choice and accept the gift of Christ. Thus our love of neighbour, love of fellow-men, (when genuine) is potentially an instrument of salvation. But everything suggests that the decision whether or not to believe in Jesus Christ during our mortal life is extremely important - and I think we must assume that in practice such decisions are not easily or often reversed; even though the door to salvation is always kept-open by our loving Father in Heaven.)