Friday 29 December 2023

A Church Falling into Ruins

 I was slightly ill over Christmas, possibly with the dreaded 'Coughvid' since work colleagues who still (why?) test for it and who had similar symptoms did have that ailment. Basically, a nasty cold - no fun but hardly the end of the world. But it meant I didn't go to church on Christmas morning for the first time in many years. 

I'm afraid to say I was quite relieved not to have to do so. When my parents were still alive and I spent Christmas with them we would go to a small country church in Wiltshire. St Martin's in Bremhill was originally built around 1200, though not much is left from those days. It was altered in the mid 19th century but still has a 14th century tower and some Tudor stonework as well. The font is even older. When I went there, which was most Christmases between 1986 and 2006, the service was the traditional Church of England one using the Book of Common Prayer and the King James Bible. The vicar was a grey haired, red-cheeked ex-tax inspector (there is a good precedent for that) whom we would sometimes join for a drink in the local pub after the service. The atmosphere was cheerful but reverent, and the congregation was a mix of local country people plus a few outsiders like me. It was the sort of thing you might have seen in England for centuries. Most people there were probably not full believers but they respected and maybe even loved the tradition. They may not have been able to give themselves to it whole-heartedly but they knew it was better than anything that came after it.

Now, in the Church of England tradition is dead and most people think we are well rid of it. Of course, there are self-conscious attempts to maintain it here and there but that is completely artificial, and even many of the people involved still think that modernity is better. They would just like the cosmetic aspects of tradition but they are fully on board with the innovations, women priests, blessings for same-sex couples and all the rest of the dreary capitulations to secularism. Both the churches around where I live go in for all that stuff and consider themselves enlightened for doing so. Both were completely compromised during the 2020 lockdowns. Every time I have been, and I do only go at Christmas and Easter, I have felt dispirited and almost ashamed at contributing to such a desecration of true religion as these spiritually collapsed bodies provide. There is a Catholic Church near where I work in London, a beautiful 19th century building, and I go in there sometimes at lunchtime to pray and contemplate. That still has the old feeling of actually being a house of God that the C. of E. ones just do not have but even there I find that feeling is stronger when there is no service going on. Modern worship rarely adds to the sense of sanctity in a church. More usually it actually detracts from it.

There is a moral to this story. I believe that God is driving us inwards. When outer spiritual support is weakened or even collapses then we simply must go within to find proper truth. I am well used to people protesting about the risks of this, spiritual narcissism, egotism, pride, illusion, self-deception, etc.  Well, yes, all these exist and are genuine risks but we need to wake up. There's no virtue in remaining faithful to something that has abandoned or lost its connection to truth. Is it the Church we follow or God? You may think they are the same and sometimes, to a degree, never wholly, they are, but often in this fallen world they are most definitely not the same and we have to choose where our heart really lies. When the outer world is falling into ruin we must turn within and in so doing we will become spiritually stronger which is what God wants for us. Clearly, this is no excuse for anything goes but if our motivation is right God will direct us where we need to go. He always wants to bring us up not keep us in the same place.

My disillusionment with official religion does not mean I think we can do without it. Our spiritual state would be very much worse if the churches were no longer there. Inner spirituality needs outer structure to support it and make sure it doesn't stray into wild regions of eccentricity, fantasy and self-indulgence. And yet there comes a time when those who would really start to know Christ as a living inner reality must turn away from Peter and start to follow John.

Thursday 21 December 2023

Christmas Break

I shall be taking a short blogging break over Christmas. Many thanks to those who have supported this blog by reading and commenting over the last year. If you would like to deepen your acquaintance with some of the ideas behind it my latest book By No Means Equal is available. As the title suggests, it is an attack on the philosophy (there should really be inverted commas around that word) of modern ideology. Everything depends on getting first principles right, and we have got them badly wrong.

Specifically, the book seeks to show how equality, which has become the fundamental principle and basic assumption of Western liberal democracies, is a false doctrine founded on an illusion. Equality poses as a quasi-spiritual belief but is actually pure materialism. It's now regarded as a secular dogma with which any right thinking person should be in agreement, but it receives no mention in the Bible or any serious spiritual literature and that is understandable when one realises that, taken to a logical extreme, it would reduce the twin realities of creation and evolutionary unfoldment right back to the ground from whence they arose. For equality chops down the tree of life. It drags light back to darkness, reduces the individual to nothing and makes of a freedom a prison.

The modern obsession with equality as a universal good is a legacy of several strands of thought in Western civilisation but ultimately it comes from a denial of God and the natural order of creation. God is being and he creates to be something. All things, by definition, must be different to other things. They must be separate and that means they cannot be equal. To pretend otherwise in the name of a supposedly enlightened morality is to prioritise the material world over the spiritual since it seeks to establish a false outer oneness in place of an inner spiritual oneness which, it should be noted, always goes hand in glove with multiplicity of expression.

Reality is hierarchical as in this illustration from Robert Fludd's Utriusque Cosmi or Metaphysical History of the Two Worlds (i.e Universe and Man). At the top hidden in a cloud of unknowing, the Unmanifest beyond creation, dwells God whose hand reaches down through the heavens, the realm of Cherubim and Seraphim, through the unchanging world of the fixed stars and then the world of the planets (astral plane) and finally to the elemental world of animal, vegetable and mineral. There is a chain linking God's hand with the female figure who is the Anima Mundi or Soul of the World, similar to the Goddess of paganism who as this shows is still a creature not the Creator, and she in turn hold dominance over the ape-like creature perched on top of the world who may represent mortal man seemingly measuring a small globe with his scientific instruments while thinking he has the whole of life in his hands.

This is just a symbol of the macrocosm and it ignores the fact that Man has a direct link to God implanted within his own soul but it conveys the idea that the universe is founded on many levels of being from pure spirit to gross matter though all are bound together by their foundation in God who informs the whole even if he also stands above it all. Equality is nowhere present in such a scheme but the opportunity for the humblest part of creation to rise through the spheres most certainly is for everything comes from God and everything that accepts its spiritual destiny may return to him though that depends on its own free will and ability to make the required sacrifice of attachment to the lower elements in its nature.

By No Means Equal is subtitled Reclaiming the Soul because the modern dogma of equality does away with the spiritual integrity of the individual, its true and unique quality. Equality is materialism, the reduction of the spiritual to what can be measured. Putting it at the centre of our understanding of human life shows we have completely lost touch with what lies beyond the quantitative world. It's time we saw through the illusion and rediscovered our source in the divine.

Note: The publisher tells me I should solicit reviews on Amazon so if anyone would care to leave a few words there (preferably positive ones!) I should be very grateful.

Sunday 17 December 2023

A Christmas Meditation

 The older I get the more obvious it becomes that Jesus Christ really is the Way, the Truth and the Life.* When I was younger I felt this but was under the fashionable impression (or illusion) that all religions said more or less the same thing and were just different ways of bringing man to God if one practiced them seriously enough. I still do think that God and the messengers he sends work through many outlets but in all others he is to a greater or lesser extent hidden. Only in Jesus Christ is he revealed. Jesus is the light shining directly except that it is in a human form. In all other spiritual approaches the light is behind a veil of some sort and obscured in some way.

The Incarnation gave everything in the world that could receive it an irradiation of light from above, a spiritual boost.  Thus, beyond the obvious impact of Christianity, the light of Christ operating from the spiritual world and filtering down through the mental to the material affected all genuine forms of spirituality and revitalised them to the degree that they were open to that light. It is no accident that the Mahayana form of Buddhism with the Bodhisattva figure postdates Christ, and even Hinduism acquired extra spiritual force from Christ's arrival in this world and the spiritual power he released. This statement would be rejected by Hindus and Buddhists but I make it because it seems to me to be the simple truth. It doesn't diminish other religions to say that they stand in the shadow of Christ. They remain what they are which are vehicles given by God, or those that act on his behalf (since God delegates), to helps souls in this world become better aware of their source, but in them all there is still a shadow over the fullness of truth. That shadow was dispersed by Christ. Other religions are effective in their own way but they are incomplete. Only in Christ is the truth made complete.

Apart from the figure of Christ, in which all spiritual truth is embodied and through which it stands revealed more clearly than anywhere else, and his gift of salvation to those who incline their hearts to him (not simply believe, as James 2 says, even the demons believe), there are two principal teachings in Christianity which take it further than any other form of religion. These have to do with the reality of the individual and the fact that God is Love. They are obviously connected. You might say that other religions include these but they don't in the same fully comprehensive way. Regarding love, Buddhism has its impersonal compassion but that is a mild thing compared to love especially in the context of the denial of the reality of the person. Even Hindu bhakti is not the same as agape in that it is an emotional or devotional thing, and love in the Christian sense is not an emotion but an act or condition of being.

My assertion that Christianity contains more of spiritual truth than any other religion might be dismissed as a simple product of the fact that I was born in a world formed and influenced by Christianity, and a Muslim might say the same about Islam, were it not for the fact that any unbiased mind should be able to see that in Christ there is a quality of goodness and purity and sheer holiness just not present elsewhere, not in any other prophet, saint, sage or even god. The light he brought illumined the whole world and spread even where his teachings were not outwardly known. It radiated out on a subtle or immaterial level to be picked up by those sensitive enough to respond to it and then interpreted according to their understanding. It is also, as he himself said, through him, and only through him, that all men now reach God even if they do so through another religion than Christianity which can happen if they pick up the spirit of Christ as it has infiltrated, if I can use that word, into that particular religion. Clearly, the spirit of Christ is more present and more discernible in Christianity though it can be veiled there as well, especially nowadays when all institutions  have fallen away from their core mission and been assimilated into the secular humanism of the materialistic and atheistic System.

The truth of Christ is also why Christmas is important. The first Christmas was the time when the light of God entered the world. That this light was for the whole world is demonstrated by the visit of the three Magi from the East, representing the pinnacle of previous spiritual knowledge, who came to pay their respects to the infant Jesus as the saviour of the world. They were not Jews but they came because they knew that the light embodied in this baby was universal. It repaired the damage done in the past and offered to all men the chance to free themselves from the bondage of matter not by effectively abandoning the relative world of individual beings, of love and beauty and goodness, all of which can only exist in a world of multiplicity and form, for the absolute of pure spirit as taught by the Buddha, but by reconciling spirit and matter, the One and the Many, through the holy mystery of love. This did not require rejecting suffering as the Buddha had done by rejecting the self that suffered, but fully accepting suffering and offering it up as a sacrifice to God. In this way the fallen self was redeemed and made holy instead of being jettisoned as a burden on existence. Thus was the purpose of creation fulfilled rather than being negated.

So, Christmas marks the time when God's reason for creating man is revealed and its fulfilment made possible. And the holy purity of the new born baby reminds us that Christianity goes beyond other spiritual approaches in that it alone fully validates the person, the person that other religions reject as the source of ignorance and a blot on the pure whiteness of naked existence. In Buddhism the person is a barrier to enlightenment and in Islam it exists but as little more than a slave which must submit and obey. Of course, even in Christianity the separate self must be given up, but what is given up is the false self, the self that by the barriers of its self-centredness blocks out God. The true God-given individuality remains and is then revealed as a shining being of light, a unique son of God born of the holy marriage between Spirit and Matter. And the possibility that we can become this being of light is what Christmas is all about.

* This is a slightly revised version of a piece I wrote 7 years ago. Now, of course, I am even older than I was then and the first sentence is even more the case than it was then.

Thursday 14 December 2023

Some Music for the Nativity

 This is Nesciens Mater by the 16th century composer Jean Mouton. Technically, it is a quadruple canon at the fifth with a delay of two bars between lower and higher voices but that's just the way it's constructed. The heart of it is its shimmering beauty in which time seems to be suspended and which conveys the awe and humility of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the face of the miracle of the Incarnation like nothing else. It is a halo of light in musical form.

Version 1

Nesciens mater virgo virum peperit sine dolore salvatorem saeculorum. Ipsum regem angelorum sola virgo lactabat, ubere de caelo pleno. Knowing no man, the Virgin mother bore, without pain, the Saviour of the world. Him, the king of angels, only the Virgin suckled, breasts filled by heaven.

The piece is so lovely it's worth hearing in 2 quite different versions. Surely this is music to convert the most hard-hearted of unbelievers.

Version 2

Saturday 9 December 2023

The Biter Bit

 There is a group of people that has been at the forefront of many intellectual advancements over the last 200 years, with both beneficial and harmful results. This group, or some of them, has also been responsible for much of the undermining of Western, and specifically Christian, civilisation and culture during that time. This is an undeniable fact but it's also the truth that dare not speak its name partly because of the historical suffering of this group and partly because of ideological restrictions, many of which have been promoted by the group themselves. Those who really care for truth and justice are placed in an awkward situation because of this. The fact has to be recognised but to do so publicly is impossible because of past association. The question I would like to ask is why is this? Why does this group behave as it does?

To begin with it does because it can. What I mean by that is that it has the freedom to do so, a freedom that historically has been lacking. And it also has the intellectual equipment to do so. Members of this group are among the more talented of humanity and they use their talent for good and ill. But why do some of them focus it so much on what amounts to moral corruption? Communism, atheism, feminism, anti-white attitudes masked as anti-racism, leftism in general in politics, the degradation of literature and art, the sexual revolution, all these and more feature a significantly high number of members of this group among their leading lights. Why are these people drawn to what amounts to spiritual desecration? I would suggest it is partly on account of what they have suffered at the hands of Western civilisation (is there an element of revenge involved?), and partly because the rejection of Christ still lies behind their world view.

Now this group is finding that intellectual and ideological trends it has set up and promoted are being turned against them. Emotions of antipathy and resentment it has fanned into flame are being directed back at them. Here is a classic example of being hoisted by your own petard. One can only hope that experiencing the results of their own propaganda may cause some of them to reflect more deeply. Sometimes God sends us back what we have sent out in order that we may learn the truth. But given that the only way anyone in this position learns the needed lesson is if he looks at his own motivations honestly that may not be easy.

Note: This post is not written in a spirit of antagonism. The group of which I am a member, British men, has probably done more than most to create the world of materialism in which we live. But God desires to save all souls and a prerequisite of that is an acknowledgment of both truth and our own fallen nature.

Thursday 7 December 2023

Wealth, Status and Power

These are the goods that most people want. Some want wealth more than power and some status more than wealth but most people want these things to various degrees. And yet the spiritual path is all about turning around and walking in a different direction and those who aspire to the mysteries of the Kingdom of God must learn to renounce worldly gifts and possessions. They must largely do without wealth and status and power. Traditionally, the way to do this was to follow the path of poverty, chastity and obedience which are more or less the contrary aspects of these things. This used to be well understood but many people nowadays seem to believe they can have the worldly goods and still lead a proper spiritual life. They would justify this by saying it's fine to have these things as long as you aren't attached to them. Some would even say that worldly gifts are a sign of God's approval which is patently absurd but then there's nothing so outlandish that somebody somewhere won't believe it if it suits him. As for non-attachment, it's a nice theory but generally if you have money, status and power you either are or you become attached to them. Self-deception is easy. Real renunciation not so much.

Jesus said no man can serve two masters, you cannot serve God and mammon. He also that it's harder for a rich man to get to heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Paul wrote to Timothy that the love of money is the root of all evil. These are very simple statements but we still shy away from facing the reality. There's no virtue in being poor and no sin in being rich as such but wealth is often or even usually a spiritually corrupting influence which fortifies the ego, and the ego is what we are trying to overcome. It's hard for a rich person to feel the full necessity of depending utterly on God and yet if you don't feel this then God is not the presence in your life that he should be. The same goes for status and power. If you have these things then you cannot help but feel you in some way merit them and that they reflect your authentic self. You will not feel your true debt to God as you should though you may convince yourself and others that you do. Not feeling a debt to God means not realising that you are as nothing and everything you are comes from him. These words can trip off the tongue but realising them to the depths of your soul is another matter.

When you get to Heaven you will have gifts compared to which wealth and status and power will be meaningless. But forgetting this there are many people who seek wealth, status and power in the spiritual domain. This is typical of the guru figure or the preacher who attracts a large congregation. Or maybe nowadays somebody with a big online presence. All have fallen victim to one of the tests of the spiritual path. It is not just the material version of these things you must renounce but their transpositions to the spiritual realm too.

This doesn't mean you have to don a hairshirt. In our day outer poverty, chastity and obedience are not generally required but the safest spiritual path is still to learn to do without worldly acclaim or reward. It's easy to be distracted and we often over-estimate our ability to remain indifferent to the temptations of the world and the ego. Yes, you aren't truly free until you are properly tested and it may be that your destiny puts you in the position where you have worldly success. At the same time, on the later stages of the path everything is stripped away and you must deal with the reality of just you without a worldly covering face to face with God, and then he will withdraw so it is just you, naked and alone. This is the dark night of the soul, a necessary purifying experience for the soul when it is cleansed of all remaining spiritual vanity and desire for wealth, status and power. Only then can it demonstrate that it merits being given these things as they truly are in the spiritual world.

Saturday 2 December 2023

A Dangerous Time to be a Woman

 From the spiritual point of view this is a dangerous time to be a woman. That might seem an odd thing to say since women have more power and freedom today than ever before, but that is just the point.  There is more power and freedom to reject God and the order of creation, and there is political and cultural support for doing so. A woman in the modern world must have a finely tuned spiritual sensibility to go against the prevailing winds. Plus an awareness of her natural tendencies towards vanity and entitlement. That doesn't mean reversion to traditional behaviour because there was always some truth and necessity in the idea of female emancipation and empowerment in the 19th century. To deny that would be to deny reality. All human beings were moving towards a greater awareness of self. Nonetheless, the truth that prompted the original ideas behind feminism do not justify its capitulation to forces of egotism, resentment, spiritual greed, pride and ignorance which is what has happened.

It should be obvious to an unbiased mind that contemporary trends in feminist ideology have led to the validation of female pathologies and the rebranding as positive virtues of such things as hatred of men, excessive self-assertion, extreme emotionalism, aggressive argumentativeness, narcissism (I'm worth it) and other familiar examples of what can reasonably be described as toxic femininity. The traditional and true feminine virtues such as kindness, humility, gentleness, ability to sacrifice, all summed up in the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary, are derided as weak and submissive, concocted as ideals by men to keep women in check. At the same time, women are led into areas of life in which they have to suppress their natural femininity and develop more masculine traits which just separate them from their true selves and paths of spiritual fulfilment. You get what an acquaintance of mine once called the female cockerel. And yet, it has to be said, properly oriented women would not succumb to this. Those who do succumb do so because they are indulging an aspect of their fallen nature. A test has been given them and they have not proved equal to the temptations of egotism.

I know someone who has strong elements of what we now call borderline and narcissistic personality disorders and who, unsurprisingly, is a radical feminist because her radical feminism justifies and validates her psychological disorders. This may be thought an extreme example, but I wonder how many other times this scenario plays out in the minds of modern Western women who have been given the opportunity to sin in a way that has not been open to them before. I am reminded of Jesus's saying that it is harder for the rich to get into heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Riches is not just about money. It is also about power. Women have more of both these days and are correspondingly more at risk of spiritual loss.

This may not only be the fault of women though it must be said that it is mostly their fault because of female egotism and let's not pretend otherwise in the name of a misconceived sense of chivalry. Nevertheless, men have been weak and abandoned their natural responsibilities and duties. They have fallen for the temptation of wanting to be thought fair and progressive. So, in effect, both sexes have repeated the sin of the Garden of Eden, and the spiritual consequences are similar with increased separation from God the most significant.

I suspect that the degree to which a woman is or is not a feminist in the 21st century sense indicates the degree to which she is or is not in tune with the spirit of Christ. It's not the only measure but it is an important one. This doesn't mean that the ways of the past did not need to evolve. The development of consciousness means that the roles of the sexes did need to change at about the time they began to do so, but framing the discourse in terms of equality was a grave error. It should have required each sex seeking out its spiritual archetype and then conforming the soul to that. Women were meant to manifest greater personal autonomy but they were not meant to imitate men, still less seek to usurp their roles which increasingly they have and one of the consequences of that is the feminisation of institutions.

The feminisation of any institution always leads to its ineffectiveness as it first weakens and then eventually destroys the mission of that institution. This can be seen most obviously today in the fields of the university and the media. But it is also happening in science and religion which are both much diminished in our time as feelings replace facts and consensus trumps truth with hierarchical distinction broken down to egalitarian mediocrity.

The accusation of misogyny is often used to disarm and paint black those who simply point out the disorders of females while doing the same thing for men is fine. Those who uphold the traditional Christian (or just traditional) view of the roles of the two sexes are similarly dismissed. It's yet another weaponised word (racism, sexism etc) which is trotted out to shut down argument and score points without being required to demonstrate truth. All radical political movements seek to capture and control language and it is important in any fightback not to be bound by or respect the linguistic conventions of the new ideology which only exist to force the argument into certain predetermined channels.

It's also important not to fall for softer versions of the ideology which is a temptation as one might think these are not so bad as what else is on offer. I have noticed several books published recently by people describing themselves as ex-feminists or rational feminists who don't hate men and who wish to reclaim the territory that has been captured by the extreme version. One might feel relieved that sanity is reasserting itself but when you investigate these you find it is the same thing as before, just presented slightly differently. Often it is the sexual revolution that is rejected but that is only because it has advantaged men and disadvantaged women which may be true but it is a different question to that of the fundamentally misconceived basis of feminism itself.

Feminism can be regarded as a test for women. For both sexes but mostly for women. It is one that the great majority of them are failing. It is rather like giving someone a lot of money or power and seeing what they do with it, how they react to it. That is why I say this is a spiritually dangerous time to be a woman. You have been given what you want or what your ego wants. Of course, the other side of this is that those women who see through this worldly temptation will make considerable spiritual progress. As for men, they have to reject the spiritual sin of feminism while acknowledging that men and women both represent a fundamental aspect of God's creation though their roles are not the same, should not be confused (though there is overlap) and must be understood if harmony is to reign. The wise and the foolish understand this. The merely clever, of whom there are many these days, do not. Modern education has a lot to answer for.