Tuesday 27 February 2018

The Great Return

The Welsh writer and mystic, Arthur Machen (1863-1947), has become without doubt a highly influential figure. Artists as varied as H.P. Lovecraft, Jorge Luis Borges, Alan Moore, and the late Mark E Smith, creative mastermind behind Manchester post-punk pioneers, The Fall, have all claimed inspiration from him.

Machen is most widely seen these days as a purveyor of 'weird fiction', with stories like The Great God Pan and The White People viewed as early, and very unsettling, examples of the horror genre. He is also famous for his short story, The Bowmen (1914), which tells the tale of a phantom squadron of bowmen saving the British Army from destruction in France. Machen was a fine journalist, and he wrote the story in a journalistic style, which was taken as fact by many readers and gave rise to the legend of the Angels of Mons, who were said to have appeared to retreating British forces in September 1914.

Machen's most interesting books, in my view, are his novels, The Hill of Dreams (1903), The Secret Glory (1922), and the novella which is the subject of this post, The Great Return (1915). Machen's recognition of a deeper, richer reality behind the surface phenomena of daily life comes across particularly strongly in these stories. In this respect, as in others, Machen can be considered a precursor to Charles Williams. Like Williams, he was a High Anglican with a deeply mystical bent and a fascination with occult lore. His father was a clergyman, and the young Machen would have followed the same path but for a financial crisis which necessitated him leaving the family home and relocating to London to earn a meagre living through a variety of odd-jobs. Machen writes exceptionally well, as does Williams, about that city. This passage from The Three Imposters is especially reminiscent, I feel, of the perambulations around London Williams describes in War in Heaven and All Hallows' Eve:

Before me was the long suburban street, its dreary distance marked by rows of twinkling lamps, and the air was poisoned by the faint, sickly smell of burning bricks, deserted as that of Pompeii. I knew pretty well what direction to take, so I set out wearily, looking at the stretch of lamps vanishing in perspective: and as I walked street after street branched off to right and left, some far reaching, to distances that seemed endless, communicating with other systems of thoroughfare, and some mere protoplasmic streets, and ending suddenly in waste, and pits, and rubbish heaps, and fields whence the magic had departed. I have spoken of systems of thoroughfare,, and I assure you that walking alone through these silent places I felt fantasy growing on me, and some glamour of the infinite. 

Machen was born in Caerleon, South-East Wales. The town's Arthurian heritage and its Romano-British ruins made a strong impression on his imagination. The Great Return is also set in Wales, in a small village on the South-West coast called Arfon. The narrator, at one stage, climbs a hill and sits among the ruins of an ancient fortification called the Old Camp Head, which looks out over the sea 'towards Cornwall and to the great depths that roll beyond Cornwall to the far ends of the world; a place where fragments of dreams - they seemed such then - might, perhaps, be gathered into the clearness of a vision.'

Machen is not a great prose stylist and his stories are often constructed in quite a clunky fashion. In my view, however, it is passages like this which show why he is so compelling and influential. There is a real sense of the British Mysteries in his writing, and he has the ability (like Williams again) to bring those mysteries alive in a memorable and evocative manner.

In The Great Return, the Holy Grail appears in Arfon, bringing healing, transformation, joy and peace to all who come into its presence. That's the plot in a nutshell. The Grail comes and the lives of men and women are transformed. Spring morning consciousness, to borrow Colin Wilson's phrase, is the order of the day. That's all there is, and at this level of spiritual and imaginative encounter, that's all there needs to be.

I think this is also how it will be at the end of time. I really do. Sure, there will be wars and revolutions, earthquakes and tsunamis, totalitarian régimes, and economic and social meltdown. We will look at all these phenomena and see them as 'signs of the times' and so they are, but they are also nothing to be afraid of. Not ultimately. Not fundamentally. In his 1945 masterpiece, The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times, the French metaphysician, René Guénon (1886-1951) delineates with pinpoint accuracy the headlong erosion and inversion of values which mark the times in which we live, the final stages of the Dark Age, or Kali Yuga as Guénon calls it, following the Indian terminology. According to the Hindu doctrine of the Four Ages, which Guénon subscribed to, the Dark Age will cede place, as surely as night gives way to day, to a new Golden Age (Satya Yuga). 

Our difficulty, here and now, is that we do not know how much further the Dark Age has to run. We might already be close to the nadir or, conversely, our fall - like that of Milton's Satan - may still have dizzying fathoms to come. We might conceivably have to plunge all the way down - to a self-created Hell - enslavement to an Artificial Intelligence demanding worship and obedience like the bodiless 'Head' in C.S. Lewis's, That Hideous Strength. We are not in charge of the timescales. Guénon teaches us that the Dark Age has to run its course as per the parameters set down for it at the foundation of the world. The world grows increasingly materialised until it is as far from its spiritual source as mid-winter is from mid-summer. Then the switchback occurs and the spiritual becomes once again the dominant paradigm. The transhumanists view this kind of pabulum as outmoded superstition, of course, to be outgrown at the earliest opportunity, but they have tunnel vision and are merely acting out the roles pre-ordained for them as men of the Dark Age. Their fall is as inevitable as the changing of the seasons and the rising of the sun. It will be as spectacular and comprehensive as the fall of Numenor or Atlantis.

Guénon also explains how, as we get closer to the Golden Age, some of the light from this era to come will find a way of shining into the darkness of this present time. We should remember as well, as Christians, that the Golden Age for us is not just a block of time but is in fact the coming of a Person who, like the Grail in Machen's story, brings healing, transformation, joy and peace. 

The signs of His approach, as with His first advent, are likely to reveal themselves in a manner we have not anticipated and at a time and place we do not expect - a provincial backwater, not unlike Nazareth, perhaps - a place passed over and left to rot by the shifting tides of politics, finance and fashion - a run-down industrial estate, let us say, on a ring road just outside Middlesborough. People turn up for work on a Monday morning, and already by lunchtime a thousand unobtrusive miracles have taken place. Old feuds are forgotten, horizons are widened, workplace politics are recognised as irrelevant, broken families are made whole, and faces shine with light, laughter and joy. No-one knows how or why this change has happened. No-one cares either. All the workers know is that it feels good, right, natural and true. 'It's always been this way,' they say to each other. 'It could never be any other way. We just forgot it for a while.'

It wouldn't surprise me if a tremendous act of healing, bordering on resurrection, also occurred in the locality - on a nearby council estate, maybe - very similar in its details to Machen's account of the moment Olwen Phillips, a sixteen year old girl in the last stages of consumption, begins her recovery:

She said she woke up in the deep darkness, and she knew the life was fast going from her. She could not move so much as a finger, she tried to cry out, but no sound came from her lips. She felt that in another instant the whole world would fall from her—her heart was full of agony. And as the last breath was passing her lips, she heard a very faint, sweet sound, like the tinkling of a silver bell. It came from far away, from over by Ty-newydd. She forgot her agony and listened, and even then, she says, she felt the swirl of the world as it came back to her. 

And the sound of the bell swelled and grew louder, and it thrilled all through her body, and the life was in it. And as the bell rang and trembled in her ears, a faint light touched the wall of her room and reddened, till the whole room was full of rosy fire. And then she saw standing before her bed three men in blood-coloured robes with shining faces. And one man held a golden bell in his hand. And the second man held up something shaped like the top of a table. It was like a great jewel, and it was of a blue colour, and there were rivers of silver and of gold running through it and flowing as quick streams flow, and there were pools in it as if violets had been poured out into water, and then it was green as the sea near the shore, and then it was the sky at night with all the stars shining, and then the sun and the moon came down and washed in it. And the third man held up high above this a cup that was like a rose on fire; "there was a great burning in it, and a dropping of blood in it, and a red cloud above it, and I saw a great secret. And I heard a voice that sang nine times, 'Glory and praise to the Conqueror of Death, to the Fountain of Life immortal.' Then the red light went from the wall, and it was all darkness, and the bell rang faint again by Capel Teilo, and then I got up and called to you."

This is the Great Return. It is also the way the world ends, not with a whimper, nor with a bang, but with a high and holy chant, the ringing of a bell, a vision of goodness and purity, and a soft, warm light which grows and swells until the whole world, from the North Pole to the South, is suffused with its radiance. The fetters of the Iron Age snap and fall asunder. The Great Restoration is at hand. The dream, as Lewis writes in The Last Battle, is ended. This is the morning.

Monday 26 February 2018

Why Does God Allow It?

This post follows on from a comment on Bruce Charlton's post on his blog about the transhumanist agenda and the demonic corruption of the world. See here. The commenter asked why God allowed the demons to manipulate our world to the extent they do. Why are we left defenceless against their onslaught? What chance do we have?

Well, it may sometimes seem as though God has turned his back on the world but that is not the case. However, I'm afraid the answer to the question as to why he allows what is happening today may not be palatable to everyone. For the fact is that the events of this time constitute a test to sort out the sheep from the goats. That is not the demons' intention, of course, but it is why God permits their action. Yet we are not left defenceless. We have outer support from the teachings of religion, especially Christianity, but also some of the supplements to it that came about in the 19th and 20th centuries. Note I say supplements not replacements. We also have our own inner knowledge. Yes, we do, every last one of us, if we will but hearken to it and accept the wisdom of that still, small voice within. We all have a connection to the divine inside our hearts and if we ignore that it is our own fault and responsibility. Though mainstream religion is like an ebbing tide these days, there is more access to spiritual teachings than probably ever before. Perhaps there is too much and the variety and variation in quality can be confusing. Nevertheless, we have the ability to discriminate true from false, high from low, superior from inferior if we are faithful to the best within us.

You see, we have to grow up, spiritually speaking. No longer can we rely on a Church or an outer authority to tell us what to do and show the way. All have been corrupted but even if that were not the case we still have to go beyond the need for outer authority. That does not mean we should reject legitimate authority, but we have to learn to become our own authority as well. We tell a child when it is growing up that, until it learns to discipline itself properly, it has to accept some outer discipline. The pattern repeats itself in spiritual terms. But we have gone beyond the stage where we should rely on full outer discipline. We are no longer children. How can we be really spiritual if we are not so from within ourselves and of our own accord? 

God has not abandoned us but he is allowing temptation so that we may learn to resist it. If he did not, we could not grow properly. We would remain stuck at the stage of children who never leave home. Intellectually, many of us may have grown up, in one sense anyway, but we are still at a fairly low level spiritually. And yet it is not so low that we cannot make some spiritual efforts. We do have the wherewithal to pass the test of today if we will exert ourselves and make the attempt to unshackle our minds from the indoctrination that currently postures as truth. But we have to do this on an individual basis. Each one of us must make the steps to free him or herself as an independent being. Certainly, we can be helped but if we are to be free then we must make the effort, intellectually, spiritually, ourselves. And we cannot just return to a religious attitude of the past where we are the sheep and the shepherd instructs us. That does not mean that we should reject the past and deny all shepherds. But we have to think for ourselves and not just follow where we are led.

 God allows evil so that greater good may come. That is not to say that God is the origin of evil. Ends do not justify means. But evil is there and so God uses it. The basic law of the universe, especially as regards human beings, is free will. God cannot prevent what is happening for, if he did, he would be removing the reason for the creation of humanity. But what he can do is turn it against itself and use it to make souls more aware of the true good. When it comes down to it if we don't do this it is nobody's fault but our own. We are responsible for ourselves. We don't have to go where we are pointed. It is a test of our moral integrity and courage, and if we are not equal to the test then the blame can only be ours. You might think this is heartless but it is not. If we show signs of turning away from the world then God will be there. He will guide us and direct us to people and places that can help and support us. But it won't be obvious or easy because that also would remove the effectiveness of the test.

At the end of the day, it is about two things. Honesty and courage. If we are honest to what is inside ourselves then we know that the world we see being remade before us is a lie. But then we need courage to stand against that and not allow ourselves to be browbeaten by 'good' opinion. We should not be frightened of seeming foolish in the eyes of the world. We should not worry about being branded naive or even mad or, a popular shaming tactic today, 'extremist'. That is not to say that the falseness of today's world will not bring about real extremists (individuals motivated by hatred) in reaction to it. That also is part of the dark forces' tactics. They justify one evil by opposing it to another. But if we are motivated by love of God and truth then we need have no fear. 

Jesus said to his disciples that if they followed him, the world would hate them. The same thing applies now. Don't make that a thing to be proud of though. There are many traps open to the soul when it turns away from the world and towards God, and pride is the main one. But if you submit yourself, heart and soul, to God then you are secure against all attack. You will not necessarily escape suffering or condemnation but why worry about your outer self, especially when this is the way that the soul earns its stripes?

One final thought. It is not actually God who allows the evil of today. It is us. We have opened the door to it and given it the hold over us it now has. God cannot be held responsible for our own sins. You might say, why should a child growing up in this corrupt world be held responsible for the corruption? I'm sure that this is taken into account when the reckoning is due. Passive followers will not pay so heavy a price as active enablers. Nevertheless, even a child has the spirit of truth within it and the opportunity to respond to that.

Note: What I didn't mention in the main body of the post is that this time has been widely predicted in many traditions from all over the world, and the reason that was possible is that evolution proceeds in cycles. Now is the time when matter is most 'materialised' so there is a certain inevitability to our spiritual alienation. It forms part of a pattern, not that that is a reason to succumb to it or a justification for so succumbing.

Friday 23 February 2018

Past and future spiritual awakenings...

I am beginning to feel surer that past spiritual awakenings are a poor guide to what is possible and desirable now.

I have come across many, many prophecies, predictions and intense wishes that some kind of force will beam-upon, spread-across, grow-within The West in general, or the UK in particular... so that a great mass of people will undergo a positive spiritual change: will becomes Christians, and/ or will develop a higher form of consciousness.

Clearly there is a yearning for rescue, for being-saved, for being-developed, for being overwhelmed (like it or not, and insensibly) positively by some external benign influence...

I can accept that such things happened in the past  - for example in the Old Testament, where the focus is mostly upon the group, the tribe, the family of the Ancient Hebrews. They seem to stand or fall together.

But my reading of the 'tenor' of the Gospels, especially John's Gospel, is that this era was ended by Jesus - and I suspect that such revivals and awakenings of this 'mass' kind since Christ have only been of 'remedial' value; they have not, and could not, actually lead to genuine theosis of the kind that God wishes from us and made possible by Jesus.

The simple reason is that for us to become more-divine we must become more agent, more free; and in particular we must consciously, explicitly and actively choose to become more divine.

In the past and starting from a less self-conscious situation, it was possible and useful for a group of people to be unconsciously acted-upon by some beneficial external influence - but here-and-now I think that such mass influences, such unconscious influences, can only do harm and not good.

Certainly, the main thrust of demonic activity looks to be in the direction of reducing Man to the mass - by totalitarian monitoring and control, by getting our emotions and thinking locked-into technology which will take-over and drive our emotions, fill our thoughts.

Almost everything from governments, officials and the media is tending to get us to join-in mass events, movements, emoting... to corral us into campaigns, demands, fashions, trends, opinions; to be swept along, overwhelmed, carried by forces beyond our control...

I presume that this colossal effort is because such mass movements of mind are intrinsically evil -  intrinsically hostile to divine destiny and hopes.

Yet thought is free - real thought of the real self is utterly free and true. We can know what we need to know directly and unmediated, and such knowledge is of universal and permanent effect. This is precisely what the demonic powers need to ignore, confuse and deny.

The individual awakening to reality - that is the unit of awakening. The only mass awakening can be a mass of individuals - but nobody and nothing can make this happen.

It can only happen by a multitude of individual decisions - decisions made in full consciousness and explicitly.

Thus nothing can cause an awakening; and, although awakening can be made difficult, nothing can prevent it.

The next step is up-to each and every one of us; and the sooner we stop looking to someone or something else to do it to us - the faster it can happen.

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Belief in God is a Moral Matter

The world has gone mad over the last four or five decades but, because it has happened bit by bit, relatively few have noticed. You might say there was always been an element of madness about humanity but at least the West, under the influence of Christianity, attempted to move in the right direction most of the time. Now, however, many people believe things unquestioningly that not a few generations ago only a small minority of people were promoting, and they weren't visionaries but, for the most part, troublemakers and egotists, heirs to Rousseau and Marx and other rebels against truth.  But we have gradually abandoned common sense and our natural instincts, and allowed ourselves to be dragooned into a world of lies and deceit. This is what happens when God is chased from the world.

I know a man who is highly intelligent but a rigid materialist and atheist. In a rightly ordered society these two things would not be possible together but in our contemporary world, it is not uncommon. Of course, this form of intelligence is limited. It is a mechanical thing that lacks insight. It is like the analytical intelligence of the computer, but then we are increasingly being educated into that sort of mentality and cut off from access to higher modes of awareness such as true imagination, vision and intuition.

This person, in my estimation, suffers from a spiritual sickness which, at root, is a question of morality. He has deliberately denied the reality of God to himself because he does not like the implications of that reality. He wants to be completely independent, answerable to no one. He genuinely believes that he has come to an objective decision, based on the evidence, but it is clear to an outsider that his decision was made as a result of certain character defects and unresolved psychological problems, and that he has suppressed evidence that does not coincide with his preconceived notions and desires.

What are these character defects? They are chiefly located in the will. Many people in the modern world are non-believers because that is the default position in the world today. They follow the norm, and though they are responsible for their non-belief, they are less at fault than someone like this person who has reacted to the question of spiritual truth not with a mere lack of interest but with an active antipathy. For people like him it is not a question of not believing in God because you are too taken up with the things of this world, but a deliberate and fully conscious rejection of God.

This is why I say that belief in God is a moral matter. A truly objective person of normal intelligence who genuinely studies the evidence must come to the conclusion that there is the strong probability this world has, at the very least, a spiritual background. But often materially clever people are intellectually arrogant and this causes them to deny the fact of a Creator. It's the 'better to reign in hell than serve in heaven' scenario. But also I find that with many confirmed atheists there is an underlying resentment and hatred of truth. Perhaps there is an anger against their idea of God, possibly due to experiences they may have had in their youth. But the point is that their atheism is not rationally based. It is what they want to think and they want to think it because of a malformation in the soul.

A person with a pure heart will believe in God. A person who does not have a pure heart may believe in God but very often, if this is combined with intellectual arrogance, he will not do so. At the same time this person, to prove to himself and others the objective rationality of his position and his personal superiority, will frequently adopt a highly moral approach to the world but it will, of course, be a morality based on the leftist idea of one humanity with equality to the fore. It will be a morality of the head rather than the heart and therefore a fundamentally artificial thing that does not have love at its core, though it will frequently claim that it does. But scratch the surface and the anger and resentments will come out. Love is not possible without God.

If you discuss spiritual matters with a person like this, as I have, you will get to the position where you are more or less forced to point out that his opinions are based on his character failings. They are not just reasonable positions which have just as much right to exist as those of a religious person. They are the outcome of a perversion of the will. This, of course, is not really possible. How can you tell someone that fundamentally he is not a good person and his attitude to life is based on a moral defect rather than an intellectually justifiable analysis? But the fact is there is truth and there is anti-truth. Anti-truth, the dismissing of God from the equation of life, cannot be given the same status as truth. They are not equivalent in any sense. An atheist cannot accept this because he denies truth. Nor can he accept that his position is based on a moral failing. For him it's all opinion and he has as much right to his as you do to yours. But then, because he denies transcendence, he denies himself and all other people too so there is no truth anyway. He has embraced nihilistic meaninglessness and yet still he likes to claim the moral high ground!

But the good news for this person and others like him, indeed for us all since we all share these failings to a degree, is that the chance of repentance is always there, and that would wipe out all the stains of atheism in one go. There would still remain a lot of spiritual work to be done but the corner would have been turned and he would be facing in the right direction. Then he could put his undoubted talents to good use in the service of God.

Friday 16 February 2018

Remember the Signs

A short while ago I wrote to William and Bruce, saying that I was taking a month off from posting in order to focus on my second novel. And so I am, but no sooner had I pressed 'send' than three passages from books I have read came into my mind almost simultaneously and I judged that the ensuing train of thought might be of interest to our readers.

The first quotation is from the Italian esotericist and political thinker, Julius Evola (1898-1974). Evola is a hugely contentious figure, but it's not the purpose of this post to go into the various debates surrounding him. Let's just say that there are parts of his oeuvre which I resonate with and parts which I don't. When he hits the mark, however, he hits it in some style, as this extract from his 1961 work, Ride the Tiger shows. Evola is taking aim at the notion of Geworfenheit, an important concept for many of the mid-twentieth century existentialist philosophers. Geworfenheit basically says that human beings are propelled randomly into the world with no rhyme or reason and that we have to create whatever meaning we can from scratch as we journey through life. Evola is having none of this. Even in those dark nights of the soul when one feels that the theory must be true, those are precisely the moments when it is most profoundly false. Here is his conclusion:

Elevating oneself above that which can be understood in the light of human reason alone; reaching a high interior level and an invulnerability otherwise hard to attain: these are perhaps among the possibilities that, through adequate reactions, are offered in the cases in which the night journey allows almost nothing to be perceived of the landscape that one traverses, and in which the theory of Geworfenheit, of being absurdly 'flung' into the world and time, seems to be true. 

If one can allow one's mind to dwell on a bold hypothesis - which could also be an act of faith in a higher sense - once the idea of Geworfenheit is rejected, once it is conceived that living here and now in this world has a sense, because it is always the effect of a choice and a will, one might even believe that one's own realisation of the above possibilities is the ultimate rationale and significance of a choice made by a 'being' that wanted to measure itself against a difficult challenge: that of living in a world contrary to that consistent with its nature, that is, contrary to the world of Tradition. (p.230)

This passage brought Jill Pole's encounter with Aslan at the start of C.S Lewis's, The Silver Chair immediately to my mind. Aslan is about to send Jill on her mission to Narnia from the high mountains of His own country. He warns her that her task won't be easy, gives her five signs to remember the quest by, then gives one last rousing speech before literally blowing her into Narnia:

'Stand still. In a moment I will blow. But first, remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs. And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart, and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters. And now, daughter of Eve, farewell ... ' (p.24)

It's a tremendously comforting and uplifting thought, I feel, that whether we believe we chose the circumstances of our lives before birth (Evola) or were sent here by God (Lewis), there is a purpose to our time on Earth and that we have a high and noble calling to fulfil. The 'night journey' can be hard indeed. The air is thick, as Aslan says, and our minds are easily disorientated and confused. If it weren't for the signs imprinted on our hearts by the living God Himself then we would fall into the abyss and our time on the planet would be rendered null and void. But no, we grasp, reach out for, and cling onto a golden thread, which keeps us heading in the right direction even when our inner compass has gone to rack and ruin and we've no idea where we're going or why. It's when we're feeling scattered and bewildered - especially when we're feeling this way, in fact - all at sea and at sixes and sevens - that the golden thread shines brightest from that deep and holy place where the 'light of human reason alone' cannot go, calling us onwards and home from the secret chambers of our hearts. All we need do is remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.

This brings us to our final passage, from The Candle of Vision (1918) by the Irish mystic, George William Russell (1867-1935), usually better known by his nom de plume, AE. Here, AE recounts a vision he experienced of a soul's triumphal return to his heavenly home:

There was a hall vaster than any cathedral, with pillars that seemed built out of living and trembling opal, or from some starry substances which shone with every colour, the colours of eve and dawn. A golden air glowed in this place, and high between the pillars were thrones which faded, glow by glow, to the end of the vast hall. On them sat the Divine Kings. They were fire-crested. I saw the crest of the dragon on one, and there was another plumed with brilliant fires that jetted forth like feathers of flame. They sat shining and starlike, mute as statues, more colossal than Egyptian images of their gods, and at the end of the hall was a higher throne on which sat one greater than the rest. A light like the sun glowed behind him. Below on the floor of the hall lay a dark figure as if in trance, and two of the Divine Kings made motions with their hands about it over head and body. I saw where their hands waved how sparkles of fire like the flashing of jewels broke out. 

There rose out of that dark body a figure as tall, as glorious, as shining as those seated on the thrones. As he woke to the hall he became aware of his divine kin, and he lifted up his hands in greeting. He had returned from his pilgrimage  through darkness, but now an initiate, a master in the heavenly guild. While he gazed on them the tall golden figures from their thrones leaped up, they too with hands uplifted in greeting, and they passed from me and faded swiftly in the great glory behind the throne. (p.36)

May our own return to the Heavenly Halls be every bit as unforgettable.


The Bathers by AE

Wednesday 14 February 2018

Here be Giants!

 The 'Long Man' of Wilmington, in Sussex

The original inhabitants of the island of Albion - or Merlin's Enclosure, as it was first called, Merlin being the presiding deity - were a race of Giants. Indeed, the name of Albion comes from their king.

When the island was first settled by normal-sized Men (Brutus the Trojan and his followers - great grandson of Aeneas) - it was necessary to defeat resident Giant population. Gogmagog was the most famous of these - apparently a small and weak example of the race. However, a remnant of Giants continued as an occasional menace for a very long time afterwards.

Thus Geoffrey of Monmouth - Albion's primary mythographer.  

Giants crop-up in many historical, religious, legendary and mythical sources, from all over the world; so there is no good reason to doubt their reality - except that we don't seem to have any nowadays. Much the same applies to the races of elves/ fairies and to dwarves - there is ample evidence for their existence in earlier time; far more evidence than for most supposed facts of history.

But of course, that does not mean that Modern Man would be able to perceive Giants, fairies or dwarfs, even if they were present - since we are self-blinded to much of the primary reality of this world; and furthermore treat as dogmatically-real many things which are imperceptible and undetectable (except by long chains of insecure and labile inferences).

Giants seem to be a member of the human genus - and perhaps even the same species, since there are many accounts of breeding between us and them - with fertile offspring. Presumably therefore, in some places (perhaps especially some parts of Britain?) some modern Men therefore have gigantic ancestry...

There is no reason why all Giants, everywhere and at all times, should be identical; but it seems that at least some were intelligent as well as strong. The great feats of building attributed to them could not have been accomplished solely by muscle-power.

The idea that giants were stupid seems like a modern slander, since they had their own long-lasting civilisations all over the place - but I suspect that were were easily tricked, and outwitted, by the normal-sized Men who replaced them. Perhaps childlike, naive and instinctive rather than idiotic.

Or perhaps some Giants were magical, and used that rather than 'technology' to perform their feats - indeed, since early man was certainly able to do magic, it seems likely that Giants were too.

How gigantic were Giants? My guess is about 12-18 feet, full-sized and full-grown - big enough to be qualitatively different from us; but not so big as to be just-plain-silly...

Giants don't, for me, have the fascination of fairies, nor the common sense imaginability of dwarves; yet perhaps they ought-to. It just needs a great storyteller or two, to help us picture and empathise-with them.

The Cerne Abbas Giant, Dorset - another impressively 'long' man! - albeit, he gained some extra 'length' a century or two ago when his umbilicus was accidentally incorporated into his phallus by over-enthusiastic turf-cutters...

(Note: Geoffrey of Monmouth had access to a now-lost book of the deep and mythic history of Albion - a book which, I imagine, would have provided almost exactly what JRR Tolkien felt was missing from his country's culture - 'a mythology for England'. Our modern Geoffrey - Geoffrey Ashe, the Greatest Living Englishman - made a really excellent job of filling this gap with his Mythology of the British Isles of 1990. Ashe uses Monmouth's book as a skeleton, fleshed out with all other available and relevant sources to provide a clear and concise mythical account at the start of each chapter, followed by scholarly commentary and footnotes. If someone extracted the mythical sections, and arranged them sequentially; when imaginatively-illustrated and published as a unity, this could make a wonderful Child's History of Albion.)

Tuesday 13 February 2018

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

"On either side of them, as they glided onwards, the rich meadow-grass seemed that morning of a freshness and a greenness unsurpassable. Never had they noticed the roses so vivid, the willow-herb so riotous, the meadow-sweet so odorous and pervading. Then the murmur of the approaching weir began to hold the air, and they felt a consciousness that they were nearing the end, whatever it might be, that surely awaited their expedition.

A wide half-circle of foam and glinting lights and shining shoulders of green water, the great weir closed the backwater from bank to bank, troubled all the quiet surface with twirling eddies and floating foam-streaks, and deadened all other sounds with its solemn and soothing rumble. In midmost of the stream, embraced in the weir's shimmering arm-spread, a small island lay anchored, fringed close with willow and silver birch and alder. Reserved, shy, but full of significance, it hid whatever it might hold behind a veil, keeping it till the hour should come, and, with the hour, those who were called and chosen.

Slowly, but with no doubt or hesitation whatever, and in something of a solemn expectancy, the two animals passed through the broken, tumultuous water and moored their boat at the flowery margin of the island. In silence they landed, and pushed through the blossom and scented herbage and undergrowth that led up to the level ground, till they stood on a little lawn of a marvellous green, set round with Nature's own orchard-trees—crab-apple, wild cherry, and sloe.

"This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to me," whispered the Rat, as if in a trance. "Here, in this holy place, here if anywhere, surely we shall find Him!"

Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror—indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy—but it was an awe that smote and held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near. With difficulty he turned to look for his friend, and saw him at his side, cowed, stricken, and trembling violently. And still there was utter silence in the populous bird-haunted branches around them; and still the light grew and grew.

Perhaps he would never have dared to raise his eyes, but that, though the piping was now hushed, the call and the summons seemed still dominant and imperious. He might not refuse, were Death himself waiting to strike him instantly, once he had looked with mortal eye on things rightly kept hidden. Trembling he obeyed, and raised his humble head; and then, in that utter clearness of the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fulness of incredible colour, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that were looking down on them humorously, while the bearded mouth broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in majestic ease on the sward; saw, last of all, nestling between his very hooves, sleeping soundly in entire peace and contentment, the little, round, podgy, childish form of the baby otter. All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.

"Rat!" he found breath to whisper, shaking. "Are you afraid?"

"Afraid?" murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. "Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet—and yet—O, Mole, I am afraid!"

Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship."

Pan by Arthur Rackham

I'm sure many readers will have recognised that extract from The Wind in the Willows. It's the moment when Rat and Mole encounter the god Pan as they are searching for a lost baby otter. You can read the whole chapter here.

I find this passage one of the best descriptions of a religious experience I have come across, particularly in the way it conjures up awe, reverence and holy mystery. Rat and Mole are two simple souls (these are the ones God likes best, I believe, for their lack of 'side') though Rat is of a more mystical bent while Mole is a little pedestrian and down to earth though, at the same time, a thoroughly decent fellow of complete goodness. They are not looking for God but on a kind of mercy mission, hunting for Otter's lost son, and so they come upon this experience completely out of the blue. Most genuine spiritual experiences are like this. Not consciously sought but given.

You might think this is a purely pagan experience, an encounter with the spirit of Nature by beings who belong only to that world. It is but also it isn't. For Rat and Mole may be animals but they are human too. They talk, have homes with furniture, row boats and, most important, they are moral creatures. They are not just animals though that is their outer form. They are also individual souls like you and me with similar thoughts and desires. So this is not just a bit of nature mysticism, though it is that. But I think it goes deeper to something approaching proper religion, and that is because I see the god Pan whom the animals encounter as not just the Pan of classical mythology but a pre-Christian being who has gone on to a higher state in which he is now the custodian for Christ of the natural world. He holds nature in trust from Christ and so he has, in a manner of speaking, been baptised. 

This is just a personal interpretation but I think it fits the description by Kenneth Grahame. I don't know if he was a believing Christian but, of course, he would have been brought up in that frame of reference and that comes through in this extract in which Pan is transformed from a satyr of dubious morality into a real divine being.

The reason I draw attention to this passage is because I see it as describing something lost by Christianity but which is part of a traditional English spirituality and so may justly be associated with the idea of Albion. That is the idea of Nature being permeated by the divine, the sense that every flower, every leaf, every blade of grass and drop of rain, glistens and sparkles with spiritual light. It is the immanence of creation, the pulsating life of God that is present throughout Nature but which we have become dead to by our focus on our own selves and our idea that Nature is but a machine and matter is just matter. Every atom glows with the presence of God and when we awaken to life as it is we see that.

No doubt we could not live in this world very effectively if we really saw it as it was too often. That is one reason spiritual experiences are brief. It is why in the story Pan erases the animals' memory of this encounter “lest the awful remembrance should remain and grow, and overshadow mirth and pleasure.” But I'm sure it is only their outer conscious memory that is so affected. In their hearts they will have the memory of this numinous encounter for the rest of their lives and it will drive them onwards in their spiritual search. 

So it is with the rest of us. We may have just one experience of a higher state of being but that can be enough to provide a lifetime's worth of food for the soul. It inspires us for the upward journey. After all, we are not here to have spiritual experiences. We are here to learn and to grow, and the powers that be know that too much bliss or joy is not conducive to spiritual growth. Why struggle to become better if we have all we want now? At the same time, we must hold fast to the truth of our most intense moments of being, knowing that these are harbingers of eternal life.

Thursday 8 February 2018

Feminism and Power

Introductory Note: 

I initially intended the piece below for my own blog as it seemed only tangentially relevant to the theme of this one. However, on thinking a little more about the subject, it occurred to me that one of the things preventing any kind of spiritual awakening is precisely the false view of human beings first, and men and women second,  that feminism promotes and, with that in mind, I feel its inclusion here is justified.

Because feminism has defined itself as the search for equality a lot of people, particularly men, are reluctant to criticise it even when they have reservations about some of its effects. But for anyone who looks at life spiritually rather than materialistically or politically, the relationship between the sexes is best defined in terms of complementarity rather than equality, and, in that light, feminism contains many errors. Of course, it did initially supply a corrective to an over-balance on the male side but it has long since gone beyond that, and now it seems that its destructive aspects considerably outweigh its creative ones.

Feminism today is primarily interested in power and hardly at all in love which is a clear indication of its rejection of the feminine in its higher or more spiritual aspects. The truth behind feminist ambition is being revealed as its latest manifestations bring it ever closer to a form of collective insanity.

Strong words, perhaps, but let us consider the facts. The more feminists are given, the more they want. They claim only to want equality but this word, which is actually meaningless in the context of men and women who are fundamentally different and therefore can never be equal, is used as an excuse to put forward a constantly expanding list of demands. And yet perhaps that is ultimately a good thing because a metaphysical error is best exposed when the results of its expression are fully manifested. Until the consequences of its errors are seen, it can seem plausible. But once we see what the practical applications of the theory lead to then we can see the inadmissibility of the theory in the first place.

This is one argument against modern feminism but you might think it applies only to the extreme form or feminism gone bad. However, there is another point to consider, and this applies to feminism even when taken at its own estimation. 

The basis of the feminist claim is equality but the fact is that a culture based on equality (and if you have equality in one area then, by definition, you must have it in all) leads inevitably to decline since, by its very nature, it celebrates mediocrity and attempts to outlaw the exceptional and the challenging.  The culture produces a society in which the safe and agreeable is prized more than the exceptional or the new or what might initially seem dangerous because it disturbs the status quo. Such a society might be peaceful outwardly but it will tend to stay exactly where it is and never really progress in any way. Equality leads to stagnation and decline.

For, like it or not, it is the male that drives progress and evolution while the female stabilises and contains that drive.  The one is expansive and seeks change and growth while the other is contracting and seeks to preserve and maintain. Clearly you need both. But the same impulses in the male that can lead to violence when misdirected can also, when disciplined and pointed upwards, be highly creative. Of course, women are creative too but generally they are so in a more conformist, less exploratory way. They are less concerned with trying to grasp the truths of the absolute or bring fire down from heaven. Their focus is more on feelings than truth, but a preoccupation with feelings keeps one identified with the earthly persona and what causes it pleasure or discomfort. Yet identification with this part of our nature is precisely what needs to be transcended if both individuals and society as a whole are to advance, and if we are to go beyond what pleases us to what is actually true.

Why do the dark forces that are seeking to bring the world under their domination appear to target women to such a degree, offering them the temptation of a false equality?  Remember this was their tactic from the beginning. It is because their aim is to disrupt the natural order of being. They seek to foment rebellion against true order wherever possible, and the proper relationship between the sexes is the foundation of everything else. Disrupt that and you have gone a long way towards unbalancing creation and separating human beings from their roots in God. All humans are the losers in this but perhaps women are especially so as any material or personal gains they might make as a result are more than offset by their spiritual losses. Just what equality has a woman gained when, to achieve it, she must imitate a man and sacrifice the truths and values of her own womanhood?

We know that the family is the ground in which a spiritually healthy civilisation may flourish and grow. Not only is it the best framework for human development as it gives a background of love and security, but it also reflects the divine reality. That is why the devil has relentlessly attacked it, usually in the name of a spurious higher ideal. Feminism is intrinsically destructive of the family because it sacrifices the family, of which the mother should be the heart, to personal ambition. So once again, it is about power not love.

The feminist revolution may seem reasonable if one has adopted a materialistic worldview but, when you understand its effects on society and individuals, it is highly corrosive spiritually. However, men must accept that if the masculine sex had been true to its (rightful) position of spiritual authority and leadership, and if it had not abused its power, then feminism would have had no soil in which to grow. It is no coincidence that the female revolt against the male followed the male revolt against God. Men cannot blame women for this. By not living up to their responsibility, they have helped bring this situation about, though it has certainly been encouraged by the dark powers who, among other things, have promoted the illusion that one is somehow less valid a person as a wife or mother than as a unit of economic productivity. Only a materialistic age like ours could believe such an idea.

If you see yourself as both a spiritual person and a feminist you should consider the following. Feminism arose from a materialistic conception of what a human being is. It has no proper spiritual basis to it. Certainly, people have created a modern feminist spirituality put together by human beings from various sources including paganism (as understood in the 20th century), left wing ideology and occultism (as understood in the 20th century), but this has no grounding in any revelation or divinely inspired truth. It has been manufactured by human beings who have largely projected their own desires onto the spiritual world. (Other forms of spirituality do this as well, of course.) This is not to dispute that the universe is constructed from the interaction of complementary, masculine and feminine, principles but feminist spirituality has no real sense of transcendence, reducing the spiritual to the merely supernatural and then seeing the supernatural largely in terms of the natural.

A piece like this that criticises feminism might seem, to those who see things as they want to see them, to be criticising women. Of course, it's not. What it is criticising is that which attempts to destroy the idea of the masculine and the feminine as divine realities, each with its own role in the scheme of things, and which seeks to remake reality according to a corrupt agenda of a false equality. As so many people have pointed out, feminism is actually anti-feminine so the most you could say about this piece is that it criticises not women but female egotism and the search for power for which feminism is often an excuse and a front. Is that criticism a bad or a necessary thing? Bad, if you think there is no such thing as female egotism, necessary if you think it exists but is largely unacknowledged. 

But basically, like much that I write, this article is intended to point to the anti-spiritual nature of modernity of which feminism is merely a subset, albeit an important one. It is one more thing to be thrown off before true spiritual awakening can occur.

Concluding Note: I think it worth adding to this piece a comment I made on one of Bruce Charlton's recent posts on a similar subject which is that feminism was initially a good thing, in that it sought to restore a proper complementarity between the sexes, but it was soon misinterpreted as the search for equality and then twisted further into the quest for power. So there was at the beginning an evolutionary impulse behind it but human ego and, very probably, demonic distortion rapidly muddied its waters and misdirected its course.