Monday 30 April 2018

The Quest Fellowship - a tiny band, against overwhelming odds...

I find myself fascinated, these days, by tales and legends of a small group working against apparently insuperable odds, ridiculously overmatched... yet succeeding (overall, mostly) with the help of divine providence.

This may explain my recent engagement with the Journey to the West/ Monkey story; as well as more familiar examples from Lord of the Rings, That Hideous Strength, or the excellent Mistborn fantasy trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. There were real life examples such as the 'Lake Poets' and the Inklings - or Tolkien's youthful TCBS club of schoolfriends. Furthermore, my family has recently embarked on a Dungeons and Dragons game presided over by my son - in which I role-play both a Bard and a Cleric with my wife and daughter as Rogue and and Fighter.

It is a familiar trope; and is usually associated with action and adventure. But I feel that the deep fascination of this scenario is at the level of thinking, not doing - and it about a spiritual rather than material quest.

At any rate; the current situation is a quest for something uncertain, in an unknown place, and without any clear idea of how to achieve it.

Consider this blog, Albion Awakening - we three authors are on a spiritual quest for the awakening of Albion - Albion being the deep spiritual aspect of Britain (or perhaps the British Isles including Ireland). There is no way that three people writing on an obscure blog could causally make a positive difference to a nations of some sixty million who are addicted to the mass media and overwhelmingly hostile to anything which might interfere with their pleasures, or which might threaten their comfort, convenience and self-esteem.

But the blog is merely the surface, communicating aspect of a motivation that exists in our minds, in our thoughts; and which (I think we all believe) can work by a direct process of knowing - a mind-to-mind mutual knowledge, rather than being reliant upon the process of sending out signals and having them received and understood in line with our hoped for meanings...

Furthermore, the 'odds' against us are balanced by divine assistance insofar as we are indeed pursuing a quest that is in-line-with God's hopes and plans... And if we are not doing what would please God, then such assistance will be withheld; so the harm is limited.

Divine assistance generally works by means of 'providence', or synchronicity - that is a 'behind the scenes' arrangement of events to produce the most hopeful juxtapositions of persons and incidents.  But God can only do so-much when it comes to human affairs, since our 'free will' can and does often oppose God's will... nonetheless, providence is known for recurrently leading to as-many-as-possible opportunities for us to 'make the right decision', and to nudge thereby things in the right direction.

So providence can ensure that something is noticed, but not that it is reacted-to; nor that it is reacted-to in a positive and constructive fashion. Providence can use communications to point-at a truth - but cannot ensure that a person grasps that truth intuitively (ie directly).

Anyway; I personally feel vastly encouraged by the idea of a hopeless quest against the odds, of a type that could only succeed by 'luck'/ wildly improbable 'coincidneces'!

The idea that we should simply get-on-with trying to do what we ought to do, as best we can determine and and best we can pursue that quest; and accept that that is all that we can do - but that is enough. despite that we almost certainly will never know the full outcome of our endeavor even if we did (improbably, overall) succeed.

I also feel encouraged by the conviction that such a quest cannot fail, because it has intrinsic value in the doing; and that any genuine achievement in the realm of real-thinking (thinking by and of our divine selves) is permanent and eternally available: makes a difference forever.

Can this blog 'awaken' Albion? Obviously not! But could it make a significant difference in that direction, could it be a decisive factor in Albion Awakening? Yes, of course it could! It could; if it is what God wills, if divine providence assists, and if that is what the people of Albion choose...

This understanding and perspective - Albion Awakening as a tiny band of cheerful but inept adventurers who hardly know what they are looking-for, and only hope to recognise it if they happen to stumble upon it; ridiculously pitted-against a vast and powerful system of purposive evil led by immortal demons and sustained by a legion of variously depraved, drugged and dozy minion masses - makes life both exciting and unpredictable; yet also possesses a refreshing clarity, simplicity and honesty!  

Sunday 29 April 2018

Learning from the failure of Brexit

As it becomes ever more certain that we we have 'Brexit in name only', it is worth reflecting on what can be learned from the experience of the last couple of years.

One is that the entirely of our ruling elites - no matter what they say - was corrupt and evil-motivated, and becomes more so with every passing month. We knew this already, but it has been confirmed.

Another is the the British people are spiritually asleep, or rather self-stupefied; and we are unwilling to be awakened. If Brexit, and the 'leave' vote, was a chance to recognise our situation and do something about it - then the situation was not recognised and nothing was done.

I detect not the slightest qualitative change for the better in public discourse; but public discourse is changing in that the program of corruption and inversion of Good continues to accelerate - and indeed has taken on a somewhat wild and reckless quality. This may have been the main legacy of the pro-Brexit vote - and may also represent the best hope for a spiritual awakening.

Because now Albion's best hope is in the errors and excesses of our enemies - that an increased irritation and anger, increased rapidity of accelerating evil, might prove sufficiently provocative to overcome the endemic fear, resentment and despair that besets the nation.

Initially, though, I see no way that Good can happen without a significant disengagement - from the mass/ social media and the mass of propaganda and dissipation (include interpersonal timewasting).

This would initially be negative - perhaps visible in a collapse of mass media participation, from so-called-work and learning; in people not doing things, not buying things...

Only after some such disengagement could there be search, discovery, awakening; then faith, hope and energy.

As so often, things must (appear to) get worse, before they can (really) get better...

Saturday 28 April 2018

The Music of the Ainur

And thus was the habitation of the Children of Ilúvatar established at the last in the Deeps of Time and amidst the innumerable stars.

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion


There are a wealth of creation myths to be found in the world, both now and throughout history. The best known, perhaps, is the one given in the Book of Genesis. But every religion has a creation myth, as does every mythology. There are scientific creation myths too, the Big Bang being the most obvious example, a transposition into scientific language of what other creation myths use poetry or stories to convey.

This multitude of accounts offer different approaches to the same mystery. They tackle the big question - why is there something instead of nothing? Viewed this way, all creation myths are worthy of respect. They are all laudable, all noble attempts at translating into human terms an act of creation on such a spectacularly large scale that it defies our minds' ability to comprehend it. None of us were there, after all, 'in the beginning', so it's impossible to say with the degree of certitude required in a court of law, for instance, that one myth is true and another false.

What I would say, however, is that some myths feel truer than others, and that what feels true for one person might feel less true for another. This sense of truth - this 'inner compass' - could well be subjective, therefore, coloured by our ancestral past and our religious and cultural upbringing. But that is no reason to distrust or disbelieve it. Quite the reverse. That very subjectivity is what makes it most real and true for us as unique, unrepeatable individuals. It connects us with the deepest part of our being, that secret chamber where the still, small voice points the subjective self towards the objective truth of God. Our deepest desire, as Ignatian spirituality emphasises, is also God's deepest desire for us.

The creation myth which speaks most powerfully to me is undoubtedly J.R.R. Tolkien's, Ainulindalë: The Music of the Ainur. Ever since I first read The Silmarillion at school in the 1980s, I have wished that this was the official Christian creation story. The Genesis account, if I'm honest, has never sparked my imagination or inspired any deep thoughts or feelings, whereas Tolkien's myth energises me on all levels. This, I believe, is due to the simple fact that Genesis is a Jewish creation myth, and I am not Jewish but Anglo-Irish. When I say this, I don't mean any slight on the Jewish people, who were and are a remarkable race who bring so many good things to the world. But the fact that Tolkien was attempting to write what he called 'a mythology for England' speaks volumes here. His writing is geared towards the European (and particularly British) imagination in a way that the Old Testament, through no fault of its own, is not. Maybe on some level Tolkien saw a gap where a native creation myth should be, and Ainulindalë is his attempt to fill it.

Some might find the high, remote style of Ainulindalë off-putting, perhaps, but there's a spaciousness and depth to the writing, I feel, which brings a real sense of the timeless and archetypal to the page. There's a warmth and musicality at work as well which tempers the text's severity and brings an extra dimension to a narrative which might otherwise come across as somewhat dry and abstract.

Ilúvatar, Tolkien's creator God, fashions the Ainur first of all, mighty angelic intelligences, 'the offspring of his thought.' He proposes a musical theme and commands the Ainur to take it up and develop it. They respond in some style, making a music so beautiful that Tolkien says it will not be equalled until the end of the world. As the music proceeds, however, it is marred by the discordant motifs introduced by Melkor, the most powerful and gifted of the Ainur. He wants to bring in his own ideas, rather than those suggested by Ilúvatar. There is a clash, and many of the Ainur become disheartened and lose their way. Ilúvatar introduces a second theme, which is spoiled again by Melkor's innovations. Undeterred, Ilúvatar launches a third theme, and this time, no matter how hard Melkor strives for mastery, he cannot drown it out. On the contrary, his discordance is taken up into the wider music and becomes part of that very theme which Melkor is trying to undermine. Ilúvatar brings the music to a close and shows the Ainur what they have created with their voices. They see the newly-minted Earth spinning in the void and the unfolding of its history. 'Behold your Music!' says Ilúvatar. 'This is your minstrelsy; and each of you shall find herein, amid the design that I set before you, all those things which it may seem that he himself devised or added. And thou, Melkor, wilt discover all the secret thoughts of thy mind, and wilt perceive that they are but a part of the whole and tributary to its glory.'

There are echoes of other creation myths here, of course, most notably Aslan's singing Narnia into existence in The Magician's Nephew and the Gaelic story known as The Earth-Shapers or The Shining Ones. In the Irish tale, it is the Earth itself that does the singing. Unformed, mis-shapen, and tormented by primordial monsters (a little like those in the stories of H.P. Lovecraft), the Earth dreams of beauty and expresses its longing in the form of a song which reaches the ears of Brigid, 'the keeper of the sacred flame', who resides with the other Lordly Ones in Tir-na-Moe. Brigid convinces her brethren to descend with her to the Earth and save it from its distress. They bring with them the four Hallows - the Sword of Light, the Spear of Victory, the Cauldron of Plenty, and the Stone of Destiny. With the aid of these sacred objects, they drive back the monsters, heal the wounded Earth, and create a fresh, new world.

Evil is active in each of these three creation myths (as it is in Genesis, of course) - the fallen angel, Melkor, in Ainulindalë; the corrupted queen, Jadis, in The Magician's Nephew; and the primal monsters in The Shining Ones. Tolkien's depiction of evil is subtly and skilfully done. Melkor falls by degrees - from frustration at not being able to use his talents the way he wants, to a fixation on following his own way rather than Ilúvatar's, to a flat-out refusal to countenance the good and a determination to destroy not just Ilúvatar's music but the whole new world the Ainur are labouring to build.

It didn't have to be this way. It remains a mystery what greatness Melkor might have achieved had he chosen to use his gifts as Ilúvatar intended. He falls into the trap of thinking that 'his way' and 'Ilúvatar's way' are different and that Ilúvatar wants to thwart and stymie his potential. Nothing could be further from the truth. Melkor's deepest desire for himself and Ilúvatar's deepest desire for him are one and the same thing. But through pride and arrogance, Melkor turns his face from truth and sets out on a path of destruction - of the world around him, of others, and ultimately of himself.

It is a futile endeavour though. Ilúvatar's third theme shows us that the machinations of evil only serve in the long run to give rise to new and undreamt of forms of good. Ilúvatar hides the Flame Imperishable in the secret heart of the world. Melkor searches for it, but in vain. He is looking in the wrong places - in self-promoting fantasies of power, glory and domination. But we can find it. All we need do is stay true to ourselves and our creator. It's easier said than done, of course, but we should remember that the final destiny of men and women - 'the Children of Ilúvatar' - is hidden even from the Ainur who sang the world into being and is known to God alone. 

This tells us that the work of creation is still ongoing and that we have a special, as yet unknown, part to play in its unfolding. We are called to become co-creators with the Divine. Nothing less than that. We are not there yet, perhaps, but the grandeur and suggestiveness of J.R.R. Tolkien's creation myth (together with the whole of his oeuvre) certainly helps point the way.

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Deviations of Modernity

At one time, I thought of writing a book on the deviations of modernity but lost interest as the whole thing would just have been one long round of negativity. The more I thought about it, the more I realised I would have ended up including practically everything about the world today in my analysis of what was wrong with it.  Its art, its politics, its science, its philosophy, its culture, its education and even its religion. For nowadays each one of these serves to sidetrack man from his true mission of self-knowledge. None of them really helps to align him with it.  Each one is, to some degree, destructive of truth. Most of them are based on lies and reduce humanity to a spiritually shrunken version of itself.  The prospect was too unpleasant to contemplate.  I didn't want to appear, even to myself, a miserable moaner with nothing good to say about anything.

That having been said, the negativity is not in me but in the world as it is today and, though a book is too much for me to do, a post on this blog will make the point well enough. After all, there isn't that much to say when you get down to it. All these deviations tie up together and come from the same place. They are all a denial of the fullness of what a human being is. They restrict humanity to how it appears to be in this world. They don’t all do this in the same way and to the same degree, but each does it to some extent.

For instance, science has long mistaken the part for the whole and simply denied those aspects of being it cannot access by its frankly fairly limited methods. It hobbles itself by its obsession with what can be measured. The contemporary artist is too fixated on himself as the artist and his response to the world. He fails to see further than himself. And that’s not even mentioning the striving for originality. To be original really means to go back to the origin of things and that is clearly God. What artist of the last hundred years does that? Some, certainly, but very few and hardly any whose work is acclaimed.

When philosophy is severed from the intellect, meaning the intuitive faculty of the mind not the rational, it becomes sterile. It concerns itself with concepts that have no bearing on reality as it is but simply with things as they are thought. It is reduced to theory, mind games and empty abstractions. For if philosophy is not rooted in the good, the beautiful and the true, it is useless.

Politics now is what people resort to when they have no spiritual understanding. It is based on the denial of man as a spiritual being. It treats him as existing only in and for this world, and either attacks his individuality or over-asserts it. Consequently, it is practically always the vehicle for some form of oppression. In the modern world, politics has become a means of separating human beings from truth and is at the forefront of the attempt to reconstruct them in a new form that has no connection to what they really are or should be. In this it takes direction from the materialism of science, the spiritual aridity of philosophy and the misconceived misrepresentations of art.

Unfortunately religion and spirituality are also weakened forces. The former usually lacks an inner dimension that would give it spiritual power, and its adherents may be well-intentioned but do not sufficiently appreciate the reality of which they speak, tending, paradoxically enough, to emphasise the horizontal dimension of being over the vertical. The latter is too often vague and self-centred, either seeing reality as a pantheistic mush which aligns all too easily with contemporary atheistic attitudes, or else diminishing the spiritual quest to a search for the true self thereby denying proper transcendence. I generalise, of course, but, while there may be many individuals who do not fall into these categories, present day forms of religion and spirituality largely do, particularly in their more public aspects.

So where is one to turn? The fact that there is no outer support nowadays tells us that we have to go within. God now wants each person to find the truth inside themselves and to be their own spiritual support. This is both a test of their integrity and also a way for them to develop the insight required to become truly spiritual and not just passively so. This path is not without problems, never mind its difficulty. The possibility of illusion and self-deception is always there, but if we work to purify our minds of attachments and selfish desires and wrong thinking, and open our hearts to truth then we can make headway in modern times despite its anti-spiritual bias. In fact, it may be that by seeing through the modern deviations and benefitting from their plus points, because they do have them as anything must, we can make more headway than might otherwise have been the case if we lived in more spiritually understanding times. What are these plus points? Chiefly, I would say, the focus on the individual and the desire to understand not just follow. These have led to the many deviations referred to but they also have their positive side if they are harnessed to correct spiritual understanding. That is, if they are seen as servants rather than masters.

You cannot understand the contemporary world if you do not see it as the closing phase of a long cycle in which openness to spirit is gradually shut off and human beings become trapped in matter. At the same time, you will not understand it if you do not grasp how forces antithetic to God, supernatural forces taking advantage of the times, are trying to reframe human beings without reference to their higher nature. This is all presented as a good with resistance to it an evil, the reverse of the truth. It may be a pseudo-good when defined by its own terms, and unfortunately most people nowadays, without any basis in real metaphysics and lacking insight, are seduced by it and go along with it. Many even line up to promote it, thereby fighting for the devil while fondly believing they fight against him. Of course, those who do this do not have truth in them, or not enough real response to it, which is why they can be exploited, but they are convinced they serve the good. The devil uses much subtler tactics these days or perhaps it just seems so in the context of the times. But to present good as evil and evil as good is one of his favoured methods of corruption, and it deceives many especially when the full force of public discourse is behind it as is usually the case these days.

Let's end on a positive note. It seems to me that as the official line on what reality is becomes more absurd and more untenable, as it must because once something has started going downhill it will carry on until it reaches the bottom unless something powerful stops it, people will start to wake up. Maybe not a majority, but the truth that is within us all will surely reassert itself amongst many when they are faced with ever more flagrant challenges to goodness, truth and common sense. At any rate, the increasing divergences from truth will bring us all to the point at which real choices have to be made. Will we then meekly conform to the outer indoctrinations of society and the world or will we listen to the voice of our Creator within us? This will be both an opportunity and a test. Let us pray that we will be equal to it. 

Sunday 22 April 2018

A congenial spirit - the work of Stephen Hayes

I have just discovered the work of an English writer Stephen F Hayes who may be of interest to readers of this blog. Here is an excerpt from the introduction to a book of essays called Three Men in a Hut (2012, from Kindle for just 99 pence!):

The broadly Judaeo-Christian social, moral and economic consensus, based on a historical understanding of the message revealed and demonstrated by Jesus Christ, served us well for centuries. It was never perfectly realised, but it was at least a base line. 

We are ripping it up and replacing it with a mix of crypto-Marxist bureaucracy, vacuous and unexamined 'spirituality', denial of history, a cult of self-gratification, a creeping tyranny of received and officially approved thought causing a progressive loss of free speech, and a fantasy economy based on unearned rights without duties, an unreal expectation of perpetual growth, cheap oil and debt. 

In my opinion, this house of cards is about to come crashing down.

You cannot build a life, a family, a community or a nation on lies, frivolity... and unrepayable debt...

Settling the question 'Who is Jesus?' beyond reasonable doubt - and acting accordingly - matters more than population growth, climate change, politicians' expenses, bankers' bonuses, the numbing weight of our still-growing national debt, interest rates, the 2012 Olympic Games, the new Coldplay album..., the credit crunch, war, my daughter's wedding, the 'Occupy' protests, the Higgs boson, mental health problems and sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS, the massive new aircraft carrier China is building, and everything else...

Hayes has pursued his ideas in an extremely interesting and wide-ranging dystopian novel called Darwin's Adders: a chronicle of pagan England (2012, Kindle, 99p) - which has many elements reminiscent of That Hideous Strength.

Indeed, Hayes has a blog about CS Lewis, which is well worth reading; and it was Lewis (especially the fiction) who was decisive in his becoming an adult convert to Christianity.

Stephen Hayes has an unusual biography - he qualified as a doctor a few years before I did; but currently focuses on growing apples - and has a vlog about the trials of running an orchard.

In sum - SFH does a great deal towards awakening Albion!...

Take a look around his work, why not?

Thursday 19 April 2018

Reckless global elites - are they afraid of something?

The second coming - WB Yeats- written 1919

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

The global elites are getting very reckless - they are doing all kinds of nasty stuff and barely troubling to concoct cover stories; or rather, their cover stories are so obviously faked, dishonest and incoherent that they are only carrying a small minority of the most psychologically-enslaved population with them (such as the mass media).

Because of this reckless haste to pursue the evil agenda at home and abroad, there are more and more threats against anyone who dares to be skeptical, or to voice disagreement. Are they afraid that their time is running out? Do they know something we don't about what is imminent?

Maybe... Too many threats are being too carelessly made - because the baddies don't have the power to enforce a large number of simultaneous punishments. They rule by consent - by the corruption of the masses; and direct coercion is only available for sparing and selective application - but maybe they have also forgotten this?

So, the ruling class are currently careless, the mask is slipping - or even being cast aside and the hideous leering face beneath revealed shamelessly.

Maybe they will get away with this - because no matter how 'cynical' the population becomes about the motivations of politicians, leaders, the mass and social media... nothing constructive can happen until people believe there is an alternative; and that can only happen if God comes back into consciousness...

God is the falconer in Yeats's poem above, the falcon - the populations of the West - cannot hear him; indeed deny his reality.

Thus the centre cannot hold, and things fall apart.

A century ago, Yeats wondered what rough beast might be born to 'replace' God - we already know the answer, indeed the rough beast had already been born in 1917 with the Russian Revolution, and has had many incarnations since. But of course, anti-God does not perform the same function as God - and totalitarian tyranny is in practice the agent of self-fuelling chaotic evil, not of static compliance.

So we still await the second coming - or rather, Christ patiently awaits our turning towards him - when he will be ready and willing to provide exactly what is needed.

Our problem is that what is needed is not what we believe we want...  If we can awaken from this delusion, that is the only hope.

And global political-media events are currently moving in a direction that tends to make an awakening significantly more likely now than it was even three short years ago...

Wednesday 18 April 2018

Empire and Albion

The British Empire gets a bad press these days. It was, so the story goes, greedy, rapacious, exploitative, racist, snobbish, well, you know the rest. And no one can deny that all those elements did exist within the totality of what it was. It certainly started off as an exercise in plunder and, while it probably wasn't so at first, it did end up being what we now call racist, though more or less the whole world was that then and not just Europeans.

But I submit there was considerably more to it than that. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that the British Empire had a divine mission, an opinion which would probably get me escorted to the exits in most civilised places nowadays. So be it. We have become far too over-sensitive to truths that don't coincide with our modern prejudices, but those who look for truth above all have to be prepared to look for it in places where it may not currently be thought to exist.

There can be little doubt that when what became the British Empire began in the 17th century, and right through the 18th, the impetus behind it was enrichment of the mother country with little to no thought of the countries colonised. But the motives in the 19th and early 20th century gradually changed and so did the actual purpose of Empire viewed from above. It became a vehicle to spread civilisation throughout many parts of the world that had either fallen into a kind of stagnation or else needed bringing up to speed because they lagged behind in terms of development, both intellectual and technological and even, dare one say it, moral. It had, I truly believe, a spiritual purpose which was linked to the evolution of consciousness, a new phase of which began in the West and needed to be spread worldwide. This was how it was done. It's no good saying it could have been done in ways which did not involve one country taking over another. At the time that was simply not possible in many places.

The British in the late 19th and early 20th centuries may have been racist, they may have been snobbish and they may have been rather limited as regards imagination. But they were mostly fair and they were mostly honest and they had a strong sense of duty. I don't think it is understood how many people genuinely thought they were serving a cause for the betterment of humanity. Of course, all the usual human sins and foibles were present. How could they not be? But I would say they were considerably less present than in previous and other contemporary exploits along similar lines. When I lived in India in the 1980s practically everybody I met who had been alive before Independence in 1947 recognised the qualities of the people who had governed them, and they admired them. There was appreciation of what had been accomplished in their country even if they all knew that what may have been beneficial at one time had certainly run its course by the mid-20th century.

It's very easy to condemn the British Empire from the vantage point of present day morals and ideals. It's also completely absurd and, to use a popular sniffy word of our time, inappropriate. The British Empire accomplished mighty things in that it spread certain standards and values around the world. It had its faults, sometimes grave ones, but show me something that does not. On balance, it did a lot more good than harm, and I believe most of the people who lived under it appreciated what it did for them, how in many respects it liberated them. My particular knowledge of it extends only to India but, as I have said, when I met people there who had been alive during the time of the Empire hardly any had a bad word to say about it. You might say that was just politeness but I think there was more to it than that. There was a genuine recognition that the country had been well governed by largely honourable people who were far from perfect but also sensed and tried to carry out a real mission.

The question then arises as to whether this has any relevance at all now or is it just a period consigned to history along with Henry VIII who probably seems no more alien to young people today than members of the British Raj. Here's a conjecture. A groundwork was laid both culturally and linguistically which might be able to be exploited further on down the line. I see a parallel with the Roman Empire which, after it was no more politically, rose again in a certain manner in Catholicism and the Latin language which were two of the most important ingredients of the religious Medieval civilization. Might something similar occur with the old British Empire? Patterns in history tend to repeat themselves though not in the same way so we should not look to an exact repeat of what happened in the past. Nevertheless, the seeds of something might be there. If a spiritual Albion has any role to play in the future that might be built from the ashes of the old Empire even if the two things seem very different in their basic orientation.

Friday 13 April 2018

Rediscovering the Centre - T.S. Eliot's 'Four Quartets'

Whatever disasters and disappointments the twentieth century might have seen, the quality of poetry emanating from the British Isles throughout this time remained generally very high - W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Louis Macneice, David Jones, David Gascoyne, Kathleen Raine, Elizabeth Jennings - the list goes on. Not all twentieth century poets were as spiritually attuned as the 'magnificent seven' named above, of course, but the very existence of such a 'cloud of witnesses' during this age of philosophical materialism should surely give us cause for hope. The spirit 'bloweth where it listeth' and God will always find a way to make His presence felt, no matter how dark the epoch. Alexander Solzhenitsyn's writings on the Soviet labour camps are terrific examples of this.

There's no finer English (or Anglo-American to be precise) example, to my mind, than Eliot's Four Quartets. This sequence of interlocking poems - Burnt Norton (1936), East Coker (1940), The Dry Salvages (1941) and Little Gidding (1942) - is especially worth reflecting on at a time like the present, with storm clouds gathering and the drums of war pounding. They give comfort in a time of darkness, just as they did in the Second World War. They acknowledge the darkness too. They don't pretend it isn't there. But they're not intimidated and overmastered by it, as Denethor was by Sauron in The Lord of the Rings. Neither do they offer platitudes and facile solutions. They simply show - in rich, sonorous, almost liturgical language - how that darkness can and must be defeated.

'Things fall apart,' wrote Yeats in The Second Coming. 'The centre cannot hold.' If this stands as a pinpoint diagnosis of our current political ills, then Eliot's remedy, as set out in Four Quartets, is equally germane. It's not to fight fire with fire or lurch from one extreme to the other, tearing the fabric of society apart, as the Communists and Fascists did in the 1930s. Nor is it to look nostalgically backwards. 'We cannot revive old factions,' he writes in Little Gidding. 'We cannot restore old policies / Or follow an antique drum.' No, the way forward is a tougher, more exacting thing than that. The way through is the way down. We have to let go of our egos, our expectations, and even our belief in faith, hope and love. The waiting, and the humility that comes with waiting, is all:

I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love for the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the hope and the love are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought;
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing. (Burnt Norton)

The goal is the rediscovery of that centre which Yeats felt the modern world had lost. This is an inner centre - 'the still point of the turning world', as Eliot calls it - the secret, silent place where the creative logos - Christ Himself - sits enthroned in the depths of our hearts. It is a personal rather than a corporate rediscovery, based on a Dostoyevskyan recognition of the colossal importance placed on the value of each and every human soul by both God and the Devil. C.S. Lewis does something similar in The Great Divorce when he depicts the angelic powers, both good and evil, playing for the eternal future of living souls on a giant chessboard.

The way to this 'still point', for Eliot, is through a reconnection with history and place. These are the things that anchor us, that connect us to the Real, and both have been continually undermined since Four Quartets was written, and with dizzying speed since the end of the Cold War in 1991. A triumphant Liberalism has defined the greatest good imaginable as the individual's right to choose, whether as a consumer in the unfettered free market or as a 'liberated' self in the wider cultural and social sphere. 'All that is solid melts into air', said Karl Marx about capitalism, and that is one thing - perhaps the only thing - that he got right. We have slipped our moorings completely. Our roots have been cut from under us. All the things that gave us a solid, stable identity from which we could face the world in confidence and strength have been belittled and diminished - belief in God, love of one's homeland, a happy family life, meaningful work, even bodies like Trade Unions and workers guilds, which looked after the labourer and artisan, ushering him or her into something grander than the 'daily nine to five' - a lineage and tradition which gave work a wider context and meaning. Now even something usually so rock-solid as one's gender is being called into question.

None of this makes us happy or fulfilled. Quite the reverse. It leaves us feeling cut-off,  free-floating and alone, stripped of identity and our core sense of self, putty in the hands of those who would manipulate us, 'who would turn us into an automaton, a thing with one face,' as Macneice put it in Prayer Before Birth. We are told by the great and good to 'embrace globalism' and become 'citizens of everywhere', but all too often it feels like we're 'citizens of nowhere.'

Eliot would have railed mightily against all this. For him, history was everything. Past, present and future are deeply interwoven in his poetic vision. They are cut from the same cloth; all of a piece:

A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light falls
On a winter's afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England. (Little Gidding)

History, as we see here, is intimately bound up with a sense of place. The titles of all four quartets refer to specific locales, and these are sites redolent with history. The chapel in Little Gidding, for instance, is a place where 'prayer has been valid.' Our ancestors speak to us here. The voice of tradition comes to us on this sacred, time-honoured ground:

And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication 
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
Here, the intersection of the timeless moment
Is England and nowhere. Never and always.


'With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling,' writes Eliot later in Little Gidding, 'We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.'

The key word here is 'exploration', and this again should serve to cheer us. Rediscovering the centre is not a fixed, static affair. It's not about subscribing to a set of rules or bowing down before a 'heavenly beard.' It's a living, dynamic thing:

The inner freedom from the practical desire,
The release from action and suffering, release from the inner 
And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving ... (Burnt Norton)

It's not easy to achieve though. It isn't straightforward to write or talk about either. Language has its limitations and the material world can feel like a hard, intractable place at times:

... Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still.

But we have to try. This is our calling - to search for meaning, to scope out a pattern, to light up the dark with whatever fire we've been given, knowing that as we do so more fire will be given to us and more light will be revealed. If we take one step forward, God takes ten towards us, because we're in a relationship with Him, not a contract, and this is what He wants from us, to become Divine as He is - what the Orthodox world calls theosis. This can give us confidence and hope when times get tough, both in our personal lives and on the world stage. We are not helpless, free-floating automatons but sons and daughters of the Most High God, whose lives and what we do with them matter every bit as much as the judgement calls of Presidents and Prime Ministers. It is only the Enemy who says that they don't. Our time here on Earth forms part of a much larger narrative which our limited minds struggle to conceive. Sometimes, as with Eliot in the rose garden in Burnt Norton, the veil is lifted and we are granted an insight into that greater story:

And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,
The surface glittered out of heart of light ...

But it seldom lasts for long:

Then a cloud passed and the pool was empty.

It doesn't matter though. What does matter is that we do our best to follow our calling and keep scoping out those patterns. As Eliot exhorts us in The Dry Salvages, 'Not fare well, but fare forward, voyagers.' Or, in the words of Christ from the last book in the Bible, 'Behold, I make all things new.'

How these increasingly-evil times helped a soul to Christ (my own)

I think that if I had been born into less evil times, I probably would not have become a Christian.

The reason is that I have always had an ethic of truthfulness - that was what I tried hardest to live up to. And this was a reason why I studied science and became a scientist.

Yet, because of the evil of these times, I was under constant and increasing pressure to be dishonest in my work; and dishonest at many levels. I was supposed to work on subject matter that attracted external grants and funding, rather than where I felt I could make the best contribution. I was supposed to conduct the work in ways that optimised income and prestige rather than in the ways most likely to yield success. Publication, discussion, self-evaluation, 'research assessment' were all supposed to be done with an eye to institutional obedience to whatever was the latest managerial priority. And I was expected to censor my work (or avoid topics in the first place) whenever these led to politically incorrect conclusions...

Therefore, the pervasive and increasing dishonesty of The System had a direct impact on every aspect of my work that I most valued, to which I was most committed.

I was in a direct and existential confrontation with my own metaphysical assumptions - which were overall atheist, materialist, utilitarian... The World wanted me to discard my deepest ethical intuitions - and I found myself more and more puzzled why I did not just get on and Do this (as almost everybody else did).

My theoretical understanding implied that I ought to be a worse person, and all the rewards were aligned to making me a worse person - why didn't I simply become that worse person? I had ample excuses...

Specifically, why wasn't I just dishonest (in a 'good cause')? Why did I sacrifice my career and my colleagues careers to this ethic of honesty which I could not justify - which indeed my professed beliefs contradicted? Why did I try to be better when almost everybody wanted me to be worse?

The only barrier was conscience - yet my theory was that conscience was merely a product of natural selection - that is, of contingent, selection factors operating on my ancestors and having zero validity except in terms of reproductive success.

It was this conflict between my intuitive conscience and the world that led - eventually, after many years of delay, of putting-off the job - to examine my preconceptions; and that led (within a few months) to becoming a Christian.

But what if the world had been less evil? What if I had been just left-alone to get-on-with my science? - as the previous several generations had been - Well, then I would never have realised the incoherence of my convictions; I would never have become a Christian.

Thus the evil of the world, the increasing evil of the world, brought me to a point of clarity and choice that otherwise I might never have reached.

Wednesday 11 April 2018

Is Leftism Atavistic?

The hero's journey is a well-known archetypal tale in mythology in which the hero breaks out of tribal consciousness and the warm embrace of mother nature, and forges an identity for himself as a self-conscious individual. This he does by achieving some great deed which often involves overcoming a fearsome monster. By differentiating himself from the mass he blazes a trail for the whole of humanity to follow. This is what we have been doing as a species throughout the period of recorded history and it has brought us to where we are now.

But we have reached the point at which the next step must be taken. This next step requires becoming aware of the transcendent spiritual world and entering it as the authentic individual we have become. We have to build the reality of the spiritual world into ourselves and not just be passive to it. However, this is a daunting process that requires courage and sacrifice if it is to be done properly and we are to become fully conscious spiritual beings as opposed to the largely natural ones we are at present.

We have to go to the Father and accept the responsibility of our sonship. However, what we currently appear to be doing is returning to the Mother, a state in which the individual is subsumed and there is no proper judgement or discrimination for all are equally valuable whatever their personal qualities might be. There is no better and no worse and anything that attempts to break free of this levelling down is condemned for disturbing the peace. It is a withdrawal from the differentiated state to an undifferentiated union.

Leftism represents the return to the Mother. It is a refusal of spiritual responsibility and a retreat to an infantile environment in which the hero is feared and denied his chance to grow because that would imperil the whole. The leftist preoccupations with equality and the state indicate its dislike of the free individual who dares to stand alone. This may seem far-fetched when you take leftism on its own terms and as a purely political movement but when you look beneath the surface at underlying motivations another story emerges.

Of course, this is not the whole story. The hero can become arrogant and selfish, proud of his achievements and dismissive of those who cannot match him or who he thinks cannot do so. It is then that he needs to learn lessons of humility and loving kindness, and to understand that, while human beings are far from equal, that is no cause for looking down on anyone since we truly are all the sons of daughters of God, all with the potential to become godlike.

But we cannot do that unless we first become full individuals. The hero must learn compassion but when you try to clip his wings and drag him back into the mass you disrupt the progress of humanity and return it to childhood.