Thursday, 24 May 2018

Bread of Heaven etc: Jesus requires Two things of us (with a third as background assumption)

The Fourth Gospel ('of 'John') mostly works by having fairly extended sections in which an important point is made by multiple uses of paired words/ concepts (indeed, Gospel as a whole, excluding the last Chapter - works this way). An example is the discussion following 'the feeding of the five thousand'. (I cite the relevant Bible passage at the end.)

What I wish to draw-out here, is that Jesus says, in different ways, that two things are required of those who are to attain everlasting life: I have termed these believing-in and believing-on Jesus; by which I mean approximately that we first need to recognise Jesus as who-he-is (the Son of God, sent by the Father, doing the Father's will) and secondly that we need to trust and have faith in him to lead us to everlasting life.

What this means is expressed in the various pairings of this passage; and in relation to bread/ food/ flesh/ blood and hunger; as contrasted with drink/ blood and thirst. It really is quite hard to explain more clearly or accurately than in the actual Gospel! - but you can see that there is a pattern of some-thing, and Also some other thing. 

Then, there is the other matter (mentioned elsewhere in the Gospel several other times) that "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" and again "no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father".

My understanding of this, is that Men are divided into those who are for creation, and those against it; those who regard God as Good, and those who do not; God's party and the devil's party; those who acknowledge God as their Father, and those who have chosen Satan.

Unless a man already be of Jesus's Father's party, and regard God as Good, and wishes to be of-creation - then Jesus is irrelevant: that is the necessary background assumption to Jesus's gift.

So three things: 1. Believe in the goodness and desirability of the Father and of Creation; 2. Believe that Jesus the Son sent by The Father; 3. Belief/ Faith/ Trust in Jesus to lead us to everlasting life (Heaven).

John 6:26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. 27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. 28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. 30 They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? 31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. 32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. 34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. 35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. 36 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. 37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. 39 And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. 41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. 42 And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? 43 Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. 44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. 46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. 47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. 48 I am that bread of life. 49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. 52 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? 53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. 54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. 58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. 59 These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. 60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? 61 When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? 62 What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. 65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.

Lazarus was resurrected (not just brought back to life)

This seems plainly stated in the Fourth Gospel, here:

John 11:17-27 Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

Well, that seems conclusive to me; but the mainstream view is that Lazarus cannot have been resurrected because Jesus was the first to be resurrected - therefore this passage must be explained-away; and it is.

When we regard Lazarus as having been resurrected, it does change a great deal of the 'standard' understanding of what Jesus did, and how he did it. It seems that being resurrected 'at the last day' was already expected among Jesus' followers, and was not an achievement of Jesus.

What new thing Jesus brought was not resurrection; but the quality of that resurrected life; which is probably the main subject of the Fourth Gospel - in its many 'metaphors' (water, wine, bread, light etc) contrasting this mortal life with 'everlasting' life.

It was already expected that Men would be resurrected to dwell in Paradise (ie. a better after-life, but qualitatively similar to mortal life); and what Jesus newly-brought was resurrection into Heaven.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Reverse engineering the meaning and purpose of Life - general and specific

When we think about the purpose of Life, there is an element of 'reverse engineering' - by which we try to infer the function from its nature. This, in turn, involves a basic decision about whether this world is - on the whole - the way God wants it; or else a failure.

If we regard this world as the way God wants it; then I think we are forced to recognise that Life is essentially and for everybody about incarnation and death: that is, about being born in a body and dying, because these are the only things that everybody does.

Most humans throughout history have, indeed, done this only, and not much more - because most people have died in the womb, during or shortly after birth.

If the world is well-designed for divine purpose, then this brief life must be sufficient (in general) - for those people who experience such lives.

Beyond the general meaning/ purpose of incarnation and death? Well, each and every life is different - and often very different indeed.

Aside from the differences due to being born in different times and places, and to different parents (or without one or both parents); every life differs in smaller but important details to do with family, friends, people around us, jobs, children, events, health...

So; it seems that - in such a world as actually is - each individual life, if it is meaningful, must be uniquely tailored to the needs of each individual.

In sum, we have two levels of meaning and purpose in our lives; that which is general and universal; and that which is utterly our own.

The first we can know, the second we can also know - but, because there are seven billion current lives, and similarly vast numbers in the past - we can know the specifics, if at all, then very-probably only for our-own-selves.

What we cannot know is the specific personal meaning of Life for all other people, especially for people we don't know, have never met, and don't love (people we know about only via the mass media, or gossip).

So when we are asked the question of 'why' does such and such a specific-thing happen-to a specific-person, at a specific-time... some-body drawn as an example from the seven billion unique lives some-place... this is nearly-always an unanswerable question.


Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Why traditionalism has become impossible in an age of corrupted instinct

There are various lines of argument that point to the since fact: modern Man has corrupted instincts.

By this I mean that when modern Man does 'what comes naturally' he does not behave in an adaptive way. Adaptive means fitness enhancing; means increasing of reproductive success.

So modern Man, behaving 'naturally' is Not a 'healthy animal' but a sick one, a demented being, a crazy creature.

This is something new. There used-to-be a thing called the Natural Man, who had a natural morality - and upon-whom Christian morality could build; but this is no longer the case.

There are several materialist/ scientific reasons why this might be so; such as mutation accumulation, the multiple and combined toxicities (chemical, hormonal, electromagnetic...) of the industrial society, the evolutionary 'mismatch' between the society we evolved-in and the society we live-in, and the saturation propaganda for evil and unnatural behaviour from The System of bureaucracy and the Mass Media.

There are also spiritual reasons: the idea that we are meant to, divinely destined to, be attaining a higher form of spiritual consciousness; but are (en masse) refusing to do this; and are therefore unwitting victims of unconscious and distorted instincts.    

The corruption of instinct is the end of traditional forms of religion - of those many forms of religion based upon an authoritative church structure and the obedience of the adherents: the large-scale traditional forms of (for example) Eastern and Western Catholicism, Anglicanism, Calvinism and the Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist and other churches.

To varying but vital degrees - all of these depend upon a baseline of unconscious consensus about 'natural' Good and evil, beauty and ugliness, truth and dishonesty. This consensus has been destroyed along with the instincts that supported it.

And this corruption of instinct has happened soonest, most powerfully and more thoroughly among the church leaders; thereby accelerating and increasing the problem among the masses, the laity, the followers.

Thus, everyone is corrupt; but the corruption is made worse by the fact of its being worst among those with power, status and wealth. 

Nowadays, everything must be made explicit and fully conscious; including the assumptions which used to be taken-for-granted.

This has become most obvious in the area of sex and sexuality, where what used to be regarded as good, desirable, virtuous on the basis of common sense assumptions; are now subverted and inverted because the common sense is either become feeble or itself inverted.

We need to go as deep as our primary (metaphysical) assumptions, to know them; discern and decide - decide not not by common sense, nor by instinct - which is gut feeling; but by intuition which is the discernment of fully conscious, primary thinking of the real and divine self.

Indeed, before we can even attempt this, we each need to have decided that it is coherent and possible; that there is a part of ourself which is divine  and which can know - know directly and without mediation - the truth of things.

We must - that is - be able to distinguish between instinct - which is thing of the animal in us; and intuition, which is a thing of the divine in us.

Instinct cannot save us - but will, on the contrary, direct and drive us into damnation and death; but divine intuition can save us; and it is the only thing that can save us.


Magic - good and evil

There are two wrong attitudes to magic - currently prevalent. The obvious one is a fascination with magic, used as a means of personal (usually sexual, but sometimes power related) gratification. This was the version that corrupted (and consolidated the corruption of) Charles Williams as it has, and does, so many others who propagate it.

But it is also wrong to shun-as-evil all forms of magic, and reference to magic - which is the path adopted by too many Christians; who render their religion merely materialistic, legalistic - and who render the supernatural incomprehensible, arbitrary; a thing to be submitted-to and obeyed merely; and in practice a mask for worldly structures of totalitarian authority.

As nearly-always with Christianity; the path of goodness resembles a middle path found by discernment - or rather, it is in actuality the path of love. Love naturally refuses to be captured or  constrained by simple rules regarding means and methods.

The problem is with magic-rejectors is that Christianity is an objectively magical religion - with Jesus Christ known (by disciples and enemies alike) as a doer of all sorts of supernatural feats, including raising a dead man - which, to one who did not regard Jesus as the Son of God, is simple necromancy: the worst kind of black magic.

So, the only reasonable stance a Christian can have towards magic is to support good, and oppose evil, magic; and the Gospels tell us that the difference is in whether the supernatural serves God's will and destiny, or is done with the aid of, and ultimately in service to, demons.

So, it is a matter of motivation. And I mean real motivation - what a person's motivation really is; not what they tell other people, nor even what they tell-themselves - but what their motivation really is.

How can we know motivation? Well, on the one hand, we can't know another person's motivation for sure in any way that can compel agreement of others (there cannot be compelling, undeniable, evidence); although we may know it for ourselves with certainly - due to intuition.

On the other hand, we must judge the motivation of others, as best we can. Yet this judgement is - like all true discernments - a thing which cannot be done by the mere algorithmic application of a flow chart. We are back to intuition - the bottom line of all judgement.

Thus is life. Because motivation is the most important aspect of Life; the most important matters are ones that are least amenable to 'proof' and procedure.

And we should embrace the fact, not try to avoid the truth, and distort it, by arbitrary application of simplistic schemes.

Magic is real: some is Good, some is evil; and we need to/ must decide for ourselves which is which... Taking-into-account what seems to be relevant evidence and what we (intuitively) regard as authoritative opinion...

But in the end making an explicitly intuitive discernment.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Setting out on a (modern) Fellowship Quest...

Pigsy, Sandy, The (transformed) Horse, Tripitaka and Monkey from Journey to the West - en route to finding and bringing-home the sacred texts

I am often stirred by the idea of a 'fellowship quest' - a small group who go on a journey to find, discover, destroy something; for the good of all. A band of brothers against overwhelming odds - the sort of thing seen in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, of Lewis's That Hideous Strength - and which links back to medieval examples such as Malory's King Arthur and Wu Cheng'en's Journey to the West.

When I consider what might be our modern equivalent, I am initially faced by a via negativa of what it would Not be - rather than any clear idea of what it should be; because it does seem clear to me that the old style heroic quest has been made impossible (or rather useless) by modern materialism, and the modern tendency to reduce spirituality to psychology...

The kind of journey we need to embark upon is one where we don't go to any particular place, and are not accompanied by any physical persons; we seek something that can be known only by an inner and direct intuition - and which will save only those who grasp it for themselves - the most that the heroes can do is point at it, or at least point in the direction where other people might fruitfully start looking...

The companions are as likely to be drawn from the imagination as from the address book; and are more likely to communicate in meditative convictions as by words or writings or gestures...

Read the whole thing at Albion Awakening

A negative re-appraisal of the work and life of the Third Inkling, Charles Williams

Triggered by re-reading Grevel Lindop's biography...

Sunday, 20 May 2018

The Holy Ghost in the Fourth Gospel

Fourth Gospel 'John' 7:39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)...

14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. 18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you....

19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. 20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. 21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.

25 These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. 26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. 28 Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe...

15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: 27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning...

16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you...

20:21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.


Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Ghost to the disciples, seems to come with And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.

But on the other hand, Jesus has several times indicated that the Holy Ghost will not come until he is glorified, until he is ascended - that the Holy Ghost cannot come until then.  It seems to me that the Holy Ghost is Jesus's presence after the ascension: I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

Perhaps, then, Jesus breathing upon the disciples prepared them to receive the Holy Ghost, that is to receive his presence, after his ascension; in the well-known episode described in Acts that is celebrated today.

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:

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.

[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.... 


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.