Thursday, 14 December 2017

Spirit and Matter

At various places in this blog I have talked about spirit and matter but not really defined these words in any way. I actually rather like not defining them as a definition limits them in a way that leaving their interpretation open to the imagination does not. For we all understand, or should do, what spirit and matter are even if we cannot plumb the depths of what they are. We sense that each describes a very different aspect of life. That, roughly speaking, spirit is life and matter the garb spirit takes to express itself. An intellectual analysis can certainly elucidate that basic idea to a degree but it can also unnecessarily complicate it, and, worse, lock one up in theory which is self-defeating since mind, a material thing insofar as thought is expressed in form, can never comprehend spirit which is intuited or known directly. The annals of philosophy are full of highly intelligent people picking over the bones of a corpse. But still we are intellectual beings so one should make some attempt to expand on a basic definition while stressing that words can obscure the truth as much as they can help to uncover it.

I am regarding spirit as the essence of life and matter as the substance through which that essence manifests itself. The inner and outer components of being. But while the modern world accepts matter as the stuff of which we are made (though it's getting harder and harder to know exactly what that is), it denies spirit, regarding it, if existing at all, as arising from material forces. This is the basis of materialism, that matter comes before consciousness which is secondary. Naturally I disagree with that. Of course, I do. It's wrong! So, what is spirit?

One way to think of spirit is as the energy of pure being which animates otherwise inert matter thus enabling the one to become many, and the whole universe of becoming, change, time, space and so on to appear. But the word “energy” can mislead for spirit is not some impersonal force like a cosmic gas spread throughout the universe, and I doubt could have been conceived of as such before the rise of materialistic science which effectively transposed its concepts onto the spiritual plane. Spirit is fully and gloriously personal, though it may have a non-personal aspect. For it is life and life is consciousness and consciousness requires one who is conscious. I AM implies an I. And an I implies a Mind.

So spirit and matter are the basic duality of creation. They are expressed as life and form, subject and object, God and Nature and so on. This doesn't mean there is an irresolvable duality at the heart of existence for ultimately these two are one. Whether you regard things theistically or not the position is the same. Either matter is an aspect of spirit projected out as the vehicle for its manifestation or God creates matter from nothing as the fundamental stuff from which he then forms everything else.  Whichever way you look at it, matter either comes from spirit or is a part of it. But it is different to it as that which receives is different to that which gives. It is its complementary opposite in manifestation which is necessarily dualistic or nothing could be at all. Perfect oneness would be little different to perfect noneness.

Spirit and matter are the two poles of existence required for existence to be known. Matter is the mirror in which God is enabled to see his face and, as creation, it becomes his bride. Spirit is what gives life to matter, and the two combine to bring about all that is with spirit working through matter, which includes time and space, to carry life onwards to unimaginable glories of ever greater truth and beauty, making the one many and the many more and more perfect individualised manifestations of the one. Without spirit, matter is dead. Without matter, spirit remains in darkness and alone, unable to see its face or express itself. They are two but they are also one and through their interaction the universe is born. 

That is on the macrocosmic level. On the microcosmic level our task to render the material portion of our being ever more receptive to the spiritual which we do through the purification of mind and body, and the turning of our consciousness both inwards and upwards, not quite the same thing and both necessary. We have to transfer our attention from the phenomenal world and its contents to the spiritual one, and the priorities of the latter must become ours. It is a mistake to give too much attention to matter. It is, after all, not meant to be the primary partner in the relationship. But it is also a mistake to reject or ignore or downgrade it in any way since life is a relationship to which both partners contribute just as both do to a dance. The expression of life in matter is the expression of love.

Spirit is the light and life of creation and matter its substance and foundation. From their union comes soul which gives being its quality.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Christmas Music - Nesciens Mater

One of the most beautiful pieces of Renaissance polyphony I know of is by the French composer Jean Mouton who lived from around 1459-1522. It's for 8 voices and composed in the form of a canon with the 4 higher voices imitating the four lower voices five notes above them and two bars later. From such a seemingly mechanical construction comes astonishing beauty. 

Continued on Albion Awakening.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Overcoming Sin

I said in the last post that evil and sin had to be eradicated from our nature to which the obvious question is how?

Well, first of all, there has to be an awareness of their presence within us. This may seem a self-evident thing to say but how often do we cover up our faults even to ourselves? We may give them a token acknowledgement but we usually don't want to go to deeply into the matter. So we need absolute honesty with ourselves and this is not easy.  No one likes to look too closely underneath the stone of their ego. All sorts of unpleasant things could be lurking there. But it may help if we accept that everyone with an ego is a sinner and that means everyone. absolutely everyone. It is just a natural part of being a human being in the world as it is. We all have egos and the sense of self-centredness. We are told there has only ever been one person born without sin, or maybe three but I'm not sure if the first two were technically born and they lost the sinless status anyway.

So the first thing to do is admit we are a sinner. Then must follow repentance. We must want, and really want, to overcome this sin. This must result in two things. One of them is falling on God's mercy, confessing our sin and recognising a higher being who we have sinned against.  This we have done because he is our creator and we are a created being who has gone wrong. 

The second thing is a determination to correct the problem and to go right to its roots.  The roots are the ego so we have to address that in ourselves. This means purification. There must be strenuous efforts to conquer sin within ourselves with, at the same time, the recognition that we cannot actually do this on our own. All we can do is get to the point where the grace of God can do it for us.  However to get to that point does need real and continuous effort on our part. Grace does not descend like sunshine on the wicked and just alike.  Or maybe it does but only the just can receive it fully.

Christ said that he would take away the burden of sin if we consigned ourselves to him. But this is not a one off thing. It is ongoing throughout life.  It  fact, it is ongoing every second of the day. But if you really can submit your sin to the light of Christ, you will find it is relieved. An important text in this respect is from Philippians chapter two. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God that worketh in you." This means we have to make the effort to overcome sin but, ultimately it can only be the action of God within us that does it. But we have to let him which means give ourselves to him, holding nothing back. Few of us are able to do this. It probably takes a saint to do it properly but we can all make a start.

To sum up what is quite possibly the most important question in the spiritual life. How do we overcome sin in ourselves? There are various sins, traditionally seven, but all sin is rooted in the ego. So overcoming sin is giving up ego. But we are our ego. How can the self give up the self? Clearly it can't but if it turns itself over to God, in love and humility, he can do it for us. Practically this means a constant and concerted effort on our part. It means watchfulness and honesty. The ego will reassert itself time and time again in ever more insidious forms. So we have to be alert. But if we cultivate good habits and submit everything to God then eventually the work will be done. Sin will fall away and be as if it never was.

Those most conscious of sins within themselves are the nearest to God, both individually and collectively,  and the converse is also true. The past may have contained ages of great sin, as all ages do, but at least the predominating culture was conscious of the reality of sin. Now we aren't aware of it at all. Does this make us the most sinful age yet?

Thursday, 7 December 2017

William Blake

I've put a piece on Albion Awakening about Blake and my slight reservations about his work, though these have to be seen in the context of overall admiration.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The Integration of Dark and Light

I've not read much Jung as he never appealed to me since I find there to be something of the fraud about him. Another person who wanted spirituality without God. But I've read books by people influenced by him, and one of the ideas that seemed to take hold at one time was that you have to integrate your dark side with your light side to reach a state of wholeness. This is, to put it bluntly, nonsense, maybe even satanic nonsense. 

Whether Jung really said this or whether it is a misinterpretation of things he might have said, I'm not sure, but the idea is out there and it needs refuting. It's linked to the possibly Gnostic idea that Lucifer is Christ's dark twin, in an ultimate sense working with him to drive evolution onwards. Another shot that misses the target and tries to justify evil, even if it might have a spurious sort of almost plausibility. 

Good is good and evil is evil and there can be no alliance between them. That doesn't mean that God cannot bring good, and maybe even greater good, out of evil but that is a very different thing to saying it is part of his plan and can somehow be accommodated. Evil must be overcome not integrated either outwardly in the world or, especially, inwardly in oneself.  The misconception arises I think because of a confusion between evil and nature. The natural is integrated with the spiritual, not rejected but perfected by grace, but evil, darkness, must be overcome by light. 

Here we have the clue to the resolution of this problem. Light does not integrate darkness but obliterates it. There is no fuller state that comes from their union. Likewise, our dark side must be rejected by subjecting it to the light of Christ. On a psychological level you can say that vices contain, and can be transformed into, their opposite virtue, say aggression into heroism. But, on the spiritual level, vices must be overcome. There is no integration of dark with light. Evil, sin, must be eradicated not integrated.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Is Albion an Angel?

Bruce Charlton's recent piece on Albion Awakening about whether Albion is a woman got me thinking because I must admit I hadn't been considering things along those lines. Not about whether Albion is male or female but about the degree to which Albion is a person. I know the personification of Albion in Blake's poems but that's, well, Blake! I also know the mythology of a sleeping giant but I had really been thinking of Albion as the hidden spirit of the land, without making that spirit into a person.

Continued here.

Thursday, 30 November 2017


Is discrimination a good thing or a bad thing? Increasingly these days it seems to be stigmatised as the latter but surely there is a big difference between an emotional reaction and a rational judgment, which is what discrimination actually is. For the one is centred purely on personal feelings while the other is both reasonable and objective, being based on evidence and dispassionate observation. For example, it is clearly wrong to discriminate between one person and another merely on racial grounds, but it is certainly not wrong to recognize that one culture may be superior to another in that it explores more deeply the reality of what a human being is or has a more developed understanding of what goodness and virtue really mean. Its philosophy may be wiser, its art more beautiful and its religion more spiritually profound.

Discrimination has to do with quality, and determining what has the greater and what the lesser quality. This requires an absolute standard, or the recognition that there is such a thing, and the understanding that reality is not merely relative. But we live in a quantitative age when everything is supposed to be equal with nothing better and nothing worse except, of course, if that premise itself is disagreed with which is automatically worse than agreeing with it.

In traditional Indian philosophy, discrimination or viveka is one of the main virtues to be acquired by the aspiring spiritual disciple. Principally it entails the ability to discern between the real and the unreal but, by extension, that becomes the ability to distinguish the higher from the lower. It is an essential virtue in a world of form in which one must learn to penetrate behind outer appearance, but it is also necessary in order to discern which forms reflect reality and which forms obscure it. We might say that Christianity is a form that reflects reality while leftism is a form that obscures it, and we need discrimination to see this. Without it how can we really know anything?

Lack of discrimination means lack of judgment. It opens the door to a steady reduction of quality because if everything is worth the same then nothing is really worth anything. Cliché but true. No discrimination closes the door to the  appreciation that there is a greater or higher to which we should aspire, and a lower which we should avoid if we are to develop in the way we should. But we know this. Unfortunately we've been duped into thinking that oneness is the highest condition and everything else must be sacrificed to gain that. But the only real oneness is the unified ground of the prima materia when everything is reduced to nothing. Spiritual oneness, on the other hand, is hierarchical because everything descends from God and aspires, when rightly ordered, to climb towards him.

The reason God created was to introduce the glories of many-ness into the state of oneness. In a world that had not fallen this would be apparent. Everything would be valued for itself but it would still be recognised that there are degrees of closeness to God, and some beings who reflected more of him than others. But we live in a fallen world and that means that there is another factor at work. Some beings have fallen away from God and their works reflect that. It needs discrimination to sort this out and to orientate ourselves to the good.