Sunday, 24 September 2017

The Battle of Stamford Bridge


Today, September 25th, is the anniversary of the Battle of Stamford Bridge, fought in North Yorkshire on this day in 1066. King Harold's rout of Harald Hardrada's colossal pirate army stands as one one of the most spectacular military triumphs in Medieval history. To my mind it ranks alongside Trafalgar and the Battle of Britain as an epoch-making defence of the realm. The Vikings had been ravaging English shores on and off for nearly three hundred years. The Battle of Stamford Bridge brought that chapter to a sudden and definitive end.

King Harold's triumph has been overshadowed, unfortunately, by his loss of crown and kingdom nineteen days later at the Battle of Hastings. One can only wonder what might have been had Harold not been so desperately unlucky. With both the Normans and the Vikings sent packing Harold would have stood as undisputed master of a confident, united realm. At the age of just 44, he could have looked forward to a reign of a quarter of a century or more and the establishment of his dynasty on the English throne. He had all the makings of a great King. His reign, I'm sure, would have inaugurated a third Anglo-Saxon 'golden age' of religion, law, art and learning, following those of Alfred (871-900) and Edgar (959-975). 

Much glory and goodness has emanated from this country since 1066. My intuition tells me, however, in a way I can't quantitatively account for, that if Harold had won at Hastings, England would have been more like the Albion we hope to awaken and less like the hard-nosed powerhouse she so often became - materialistic, mercantile, rapacious and exploitative. 

This is why I always shed a tear on 'Hastings Day', October 14th. I mourn what might have been and should have been but never was. The door to the 'third golden age' stayed shut. One day, I believe, it will open again. How and why I don't know, but it comforts me to know that J.R.R. Tolkien shared my sense of loss at Harold's death and the subjugation of Old England. Let us leave the last word to another fine storyteller then, the historian R.J. Unstead and his account of Harold's mighty victory in The Story of England (pp.62-63).

Happy Stamford Bridge Day!

*******

'When William of Normandy heard the news that Harold had been crowned King, he broke into a rage and proclaimed a crusade to win his "rights". While an invasion fleet was being built, hundreds of knights rode in to join his army, attracted like flies to honeybee the thoughts of plunder and land. The Pope himself sent his blessing and a banner, for William had made his tale good, although his claim to England was no more than an excuse for a military adventure.

Harold did not fear the Normans. Indeed he longed for them to come all through the summer of 1066, for he had a splendid army assembled in the southern counties, far stronger than any seaborne force that William might bring. He was as good a soldier as the Duke, though more hot-headed, and he had an excellent fleet that would have given the Norman ships a rough passage in the channel.

The summer wore on and the Normans still did not come, for the wind blew steadily from the north and kept their ships from sailing. As the corn grew ripe, the English soldiers became restive, thinking of their farms and harvest-time. Surely the Normans would not come so late to risk the autumn storms and a winter campaign?

Harold had just disbanded his army and sent the fleet to the Thames, when a call for help came from the north. Three hundred longships had sailed into the Humber and an army of Norsemen, led by Harald Hardrada, King of Norway, was ravaging the land like a pack of wolves. Earl Tostig was there with the invaders, for he had invited Harald Hardrada, the giant Viking who had fought all over Europe, to come and take his brother's throne.

Hardrada defeated the Earls of Mercia and Northumbria, and made them promise to help him against Harold. Then they waited for the English King at Stamford Bridge, a wooden bridge that crossed the Derwent, seven miles from York.

With housecarls and as many fighting-men as he could gather, Harold came north at furious speed. In York, he learned that the enemy was only a short distance off, so, refusing to rest, he drove his tired men on without a pause. They came to Stamford Bridge, where the Norwegian host was camped on both banks, their armour laid aside and their ranks unformed.

Harold sent a message to Tostig. He would pardon him and restore his earldom if he came across to the English side.

"And what land will my brother give to Harald Hardrada?"

Angrily, Harold replied, "To the King of Norway, I will give six feet of English earth. No, seven feet, seeing that he is taller than other men and needs a longer grave!"

Then he gave the order to attack. The English broke through the forces on the west bank of the river but were checked by a gigantic Viking who held the bridge until he was speared from below by a soldier who had crept under the timbers. Once across the river, the English infantry cut the host to pieces and, as Harald Hardrada and Tostig lay dead on the field, they chased the remnant back to their ships.

Harold had kept his word. The most famous war-captain lay in his seven-foot grave, the pirate army was destroyed and only a few survivors were sailing ruefully back to Norway. The English buried their dead and tended the wounded, as the monks sang the Thanksgiving in York Minster.

But the wind that carried the Norwegians away brought the Normans to the coast of Sussex, where William landed his army without so much as a fishing-boat or a ploughboy to oppose him ... '


Thursday, 21 September 2017

What should be done and why should we do it?

It is taken for granted here that we need to be Christian - that is the essential frame if we want to be sane and positive.

(But, my understanding is that if we adopt the proper way of thinking and being, and pursue it honestly and with the proper intentions - it will sooner-or-later lead us to Christianity.)

What is needed is a metamorphosis of thinking - a qualitative change in the form of thinking.

(Because modern thinking is intrinsically incoherent, pathological and anti-Christian: we really must change it. Modern Man has tried and tried to believe in Christianity while thinking like a nihilist - it doesn't work. The thinking weakens, erodes, subverts the belief.)

But specifically why must we change thinking? Aside from its fundamentally anti-Christian structure and assumptions and implications; what are the reasons?

1. We have the urge and the need to change it

Positively, we want more and better than life can have with the way we currently think; negatively we are experiencing alienation and all the consequent nihilism (lack of meaning, purpose and relation).

I say 'we' have this urge and need... well I do - and that inner drive is sufficient for me; but not everybody does. Indeed, probably only few people have the urge and need, so...

2. Consequences

It is our divine destiny to move beyond our current way of thinking; this is the path of theosis by which we become more-god-like, more fully gods. We need to think the way God thinks - qualitatively.

And if we do not, then our fate will be one of corruption, decline away from the divine; and ultimately of deliberate, purposive, self-chosen degradation, god-rejection hence damnation.

(We may, or may not, experience greater suffering - but it is possible that our souls may become ruined, our spirits poisoned; even while our minds, bodies and feelings are pampered and indulged.)

3. Freedom

We want to be free - we want, that is, to be awake, conscious, self-aware and active in thought; and not to be unconscious, constrained and compelled, asleep, distracted, and passive in our thinking. The new mode of thinking is for those who really want real freedom - as a priority.  

4. We want to grow-up

At present our culture is wilfully stuck in adolescence, clinging to perpetual youth; or else we turn back from this horror and attempt (only ever with partial success, because it is doomed to fail) to return to the mode of being of childhood. But we may wish instead to grow-up, to become more-and-more intensely and frequently as-God-is in thinking: the spiritually adult way of thinking and being.

5. Living in thinking

We may wish to live in our thinking; in our newly active state of knowing; and not, as is currently usual, to live in our feelings or in our minds. We may wish to know directly and inwardly, rather than at secondhand via communications and media. We may wish to live personally, familially, uniquely and specifically; rather than generally, generically, abstractly, institutionally. And by judgement; rather than by committees, votes, procedures, consensus, coercion, laws, rules, principles, protocols...


What - exactly - should we do?

Do one thing - and that thing is Primary Thinking; or by another name, Final Participation (Owen Barfield); or by another name Pure Thinking, or the Imaginative Soul (Rudolf Steiner).

But what does this entail? How would thinking actually change? In short it is thinking of the real/ deep/ divine self - and it is thinking that we recognise as valid and unbounded (it is heady stuff this thinking!).

Many, many things would result - here collected under eight headings...

1. Metaphysics - a new set of fundamental assumptions concerning the nature of reality. This is the basis for taking primary thinking seriously - as valid; and it is also the consequence of primary thinking, seriously pursued.(A virtuous cycle.)

2. Healing - therapy for the chronic sickness of our soul, the split between self and environment - between experience and theory; which has afflicted Man ever since the commencement of modernity with its self-consciousness.

(The problem always was there, but as a child and in earlier eras were were not aware of it; we simply took experience for granted.)

Thinking has (so far) been our plague; but primary thinking can become the cure of its own disease. 

3. Meaning, purpose and relationship built-into our way of thinking (instead of being excluded by it).

4. A transformation, a beginning of evolution - the experience (and expectation of) a moving-towards the goal of metamorphosis, of a changed and better way of thinking and being.

5. Motivation. At present Western, modern Man is profoundly demotivated - he does not want to do anything very much, very far ahead or to make sacrifices for something better...

Primary thinking will be - by contrast - a joy, an enthusiasm, an excitement and an expectation; a recovery of deep and lasting motivation.

(So freedom and motivation both... that is good.)

6. Positivity, optimism. These are products of faith in the goodness of God as loving parent; and the trust that our actual lives are, therefore, adequate to fulfilling his deepest wishes for our eternal well-being. This we can know directly - unmediated - by primary thinking. With Christ's gift of repentance, we are then immune to everything life may throw at us; anything can be turned to good...

7. Agency and Freedom. Do we truly want to be free - free in our deepest thought? Live from our-selves, not coerced or passive but generative, creative? Pursuit of freedom, agency, creativity all become possible, indeed inevitable - in the deepest sense. In primary thinking, freedom is directly experienced - we can observe our freedom in-action.

8. Autonomy. Because our (true) self is divine, because God is within us, because we have direct knowledge of God; then we have a solid and certain basis for everything.

We are not dependent on the chances of institutions, society, books, preserved traditions or uncorrupted authorities... even when these are all lacking, we can survive and thrive - by trial/ error/ repentance we can develop, and move towards The Good.

We need not go it alone - we can and should accept genuine help when available and needed; but we are not dependent on the external.


Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Albion Still Asleep

This blog is called Albion Awakening. However if we identify this idea with the notion of the majority of the inhabitants of the United Kingdom waking up to spiritual truth it's clear that Albion is not going to awaken at any time soon. We are too drugged by entertainment and the media, too brainwashed by atheist/materialist propaganda, too in thrall to technology and machines and too comfortably established in our artificial (both mental and physical) environments to wake up without being forced to by pain and suffering. That may come if we really show no sign of stirring but I’m sure the powers that be only use pain as a last resort.

But if the spirit of Albion is awakened in the country that might be a different matter. I am not interested in Brexit. The EU is obviously an organisation that pursues an anti-spiritual agenda wrapped up in a liberal, humanist package. No wonder it is so popular with the educated elite who can pursue their self-indulgent way of life without disturbance. But Brexit, if it happens, will probably lead to a situation that is little different spiritually but may be worse economically. It is a red herring. However Albion, England’s spiritual alter ego, could waken from slumber as it (he? she?) has done occasionally in the past when roused by threat or great need or some other circumstance which calls out to the depths of the national soul.

If this does happen it will be on a mental or psychological level. What form could it take? Perhaps there might be an increasing disgust with the shallow superficiality of modern entertainment and a search for deeper meaning. Perhaps there might be a rediscovery of history not viewed through the distorting, self-hating lens of political correctness. Perhaps there might be a sudden realization that we are destroying our country in both its physical and natural form and in terms of its people. Or perhaps there might be a revival of interest in the stories surrounding King Arthur and other luminaries of the British past, one that responds to the true meaning of these kings, saints, poets and heroes without distortion by modernist prejudices.  But however it comes any awakening will be sensed by us through the imagination. This is why it is the imagination that it most under attack by demonic powers through the perversion of art and culture inter alia.

One thing I can guarantee though is that any incipient awakening would immediately be attacked by those powers. What I mean by this is that the demons who are currently trying to manipulate our reality to their advantage and our great loss would try to co-opt and derail any awakening as they have done in the past. As they did in the1960s, for example, when they corrupted the nascent spiritual revival with the agenda of the sexual revolution and as they did in the 1980s when New Age ideas were channeled into psychic rather than spiritual channels. Even the green movement, which had a lot of potential at one time, was hijacked and turned aside from any true spiritual direction by a left wing ideology which effectively neutralized it. 

Whenever truth appears the attempt to corrupt that truth follows. That is why we must remain vigilant whatever happens and never rest on our spiritual laurels. The dark powers always try to drag spiritual revivals down to a lower level so that the essence of the revival is lost though the form may remain. That is why purity of mind and heart is so important. Any weak spot will be sought out and exploited, whether that be lust or pride or greed or hate or fear, whatever. It is up to us to guard against these vices within ourselves. We can protect ourselves through prayer and visualization of Jesus or a favourite saint or other spiritual ideal but it is also important to be completely honest with ourselves. The devil is a liar and he works through lies and deception. He will try to get us to lie to ourselves about our motivations for example, but if we try to walk at all times in the path of love and humility while at the same time aspiring to truth at its highest then we are well protected. 

That’s hard, I know, but it’s what we have to do if we are to prevent any awakening, either personal or more general, from fizzling out into deception and disappointment. 

God needs his foot soldiers in this world and if you are called to that position, as most people reading this blog probably are, then you are fortunate indeed even if you suffer in your worldly life as it is more than likely you will. We have been assured that any hardship here and now will be more than compensated for later on.

Monday, 18 September 2017

If communications are ineffective, how may Awakening be stimulated?

I have argued myself into the conviction that - here and now - normal methods of communication are ineffective when it comes to the most important matters. They are either ignored or misunderstood; or even used against that which they advocate.

Yet this is a communication - so what am I trying to achieve?

I am trying to make negative point that may lead to positive action.

My negative point is that (as you sometimes suspect) you live in a sea of mostly false and evil communications - which propagate fake facts and inculcate false concepts. And there is no sure way of discriminating between true and false communications - a matrix of lies makes the occasional nuggets of truth inaccessible and un-understandable; bad money drives-out good.

But there is a universally-available world of reality which you are equipped to access. I cannot describe this, nor tell you how to reach this, because 1. You are not even reading this (!); and 2. Anything you do hear me say, will be distorted unpredictably in the transmission...

But I can make the negative point that you dwell in falsehood when truth is available - If truth is actively sought.

Because there is a creator-God, because he loves us; there is always and everywhere a way of knowing the truths that you need to know.

But we are free agents, and can refuse the truth - and nearly-everybody does. 

And therefore (because of God being both creator and loving) - if you so choose - you will always be able to find and to know, that truth which is essential to your salvation and spiritual development.

(And if you don't seek and find and know - then this is ultimately because you, personally, have decided not-to seek/ find/ know; and to do something else instead...)


Thursday, 14 September 2017

Heralds of Restoration


Nicholas Roerich, Northern Midnight (1940)

*

The Northern Lights have been seen over Britain. The report I read in The Daily Telegraph of 9th September described the phenomenon in strictly scientific terms - a series of solar flares, visually stunning, for sure, but bearing no deeper significance.

An apocalyptic part of me wants to protest at this. Surely the coming of the Lights is a sign? A foreshadowing of some great event to come, as the appearance of Halley's Comet in April 1066 gave notice retrospectively of the impending Norman Conquest.

A balance needs to be struck, therefore, between a rationalistic, unimaginative reading of natural phenomena and a credulous 'signs and wonders' mentality, which leaves us finding messages in cloud formations and the like. C.S. Lewis gets this right I feel in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader:

'In our world,' said Eustace, 'a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.'
'Even in your world, my son,' said Ramandu, 'that is not what a star is but only what it is made of.'

The eye of imagination, the eye of faith, sees beyond the physical components that make up the universe. It does not deny their existence but neither does it view what something 'is made of' as its sole and absolute reality. It goes past the material level (the validity of which it respects) to the spiritual essence which lies at the heart of every created thing. William Blake expressed this wonderfully in his famous quote:

'I assert, for myself, that I do not behold the outward creation and that to me it is hindrance and not action. "What! it will be questioned, "when the sun rises do you not see a round disc of fire somewhat like a guinea!" "Oh! no, no! I see an innumerable company of the heavenly host crying 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty!" I question not my corporeal eye any more than I would question a window concerning a sight. I look through it, and not with it.'

This theme is illustrated superbly in the passage below from Rosemary Sutcliff's Arthurian novel Sword at Sunset (1963). Ambrosius Aurelianus, the High King, is dying of cancer. He takes his lieutenants, Artos (Arthur) and Aquila, on a winter retreat in a remote hunting lodge to secure the succession. A tense political discussion is interrupted by the appearance of the Northern Lights. The tone and flavour of the evening is altered dramatically as new perspectives open up for all three men.

Hearts start to soften. The display outside triggers deep-lying memories in Artos and Aquila and sparks a moment of fraternal understanding. Ambrosius, when he rejoins the conversation, speaks with an imaginative fluidity that was lacking before. The political becomes the mythical. Something hard and tight has been broken apart, creating a space for the deeper pattern behind the flow of surface events to emerge.

This is the lasting impression left on the reader by Sword at Sunset - the political transformed into the mythical. Artos, in the end, follows Ambrosius' recommendation and succeeds him after his death, though not as High King but Emperor of a restored Romano-British Empire. Artos has many scars - physical, emotional and spiritual - and gains little satisfaction from his twenty year reign. He does, however, bring peace and security to the land, and through his words, deeds and presence, sows the seeds of the great national myth that has sustained the imaginative life of our country ever since.

The Northern Lights, on this occasion, are heralds of restoration rather than harbingers of doom, signalling the advent of a mythic, archetypal hero and the flourishing of the realm. Let us hope that their most recent manifestation prophecies equally glad tidings. There is no reason why not. 'We live in a time of revelations,' wrote the maverick English mystic, John Michell. 'When our minds are ready, the pattern will appear.'

*******

... After we had sat in silence for a while, Ambrosius spoke again. "Artos, I have a sense of fate on me. It is not merely that our scouts report certain movements of the Saxons. I believe in my bones, in my very soul, that a Saxon thrust such as we have not seen before is coming this spring - by midsummer at latest: and when it comes, there will be a struggle compared to which the battles we have known will be but candles held to a beacon blaze. And believing that, I must believe that this, above all others, is not the time to be leaving Britain in the hands of an untried king, but rather in the hands of a strong and well proved war-leader. As to what comes after, so far as the question of my successor is concerned, the victory in such a struggle would be a mighty weapon in your hand, Bear Cub, and if you fail, then Britain will not need a High King again."

His voice had died almost to a whisper, hoarse in his throat, and his brilliant eyes were haggard, clinging to my face. Yet still I was half resisting; and not from humility but from lack of courage. I had always been one who dreaded loneliness, the loneliness of the spirit. I needed the touch of other men's shoulders against mine, the warmth of comradeship. I was a fine war-leader, and I knew it, but I shrank from the very thought of what Ambrosius was asking of me. I did not want the loneliness of the mountain top.

Aquila had risen some time before, and tramped over to the window at the end of the room; he was something of a lone wolf, old Aquila, and his own deep reserve made him flinch from the least probing into the reserves of other men; and I suppose he did not want to see our faces while the last stages of the thing were fought out. Suddenly he spoke, without turning from the window. "Talk of beacon blazes, there's something big burning over yonder beyond Ink-Pen, by the look of it!"

I got up quickly and went over to him. "Saxons! Open the window, Aquila." He lifted the pin and swung wide the glazed leaf, and the cold and the smell of frost flowed in against my face. The window looked north, and as the dazzle of the firelight faded from my eyes, and the stars began to prick out in the clear sky, I could make out a dull red glow in the sky, like red reflection of a great fire.

Even as I watched, the glow was spreading, rising higher into the stars. "It would take a whole city burning to yield that glare," Aquila said, and I could hear the frown in his voice. And then the formless glow began to gather to itself a shape, a great blurred bow, and out of its brightness suddenly a streamer of light flickered up into the dark sky, and then another, and another; and I wondered why I had been such a fool not to know the thing at once - I suppose because in my mind it belonged to the North, and so I was blind to it here in the South Country. I laughed, and something in me lifted as though at the touch of a familiar magic. "No Saxons tonight, old wolf. It is the Northern Lights, the Crown of the North. Dear God, how many times I have watched those flying ribbons of fire from the ramparts of Trimontium!" I glanced aside at Aquila, whose exclamation told me that he had recognised the thing he looked at, at the same moment as myself. "Sa Sa! You too! You must have seen them often enough in your thrall winters in Juteland."

"Often enough," he said. "They used to grow and grow until they were like great banners of light flying all across the sky; and the old men would say that they could hear a rushing of great wings overhead ... But one scarcely ever sees them here in the South, and then no more than the red glow that might be a farm burning in the next valley."

There was a movement behind us, the scrape of a chair being thrust back, and a slow slurred step on the tesserae, and we moved apart to make room for Ambrosius between us. "What is this marvel? This Crown of the North?" He set a hand on my shoulder and the other on Aquila's, breathing quickly and painfully, as though even the effort to rise and cross the floor had been a day's labour to him. "So - o," he said, lingeringly, when he had got his breath back. "A marvel indeed, my brothers." For in that short while that we had been standing there, the light had strengthened and spread, until one got the impression of a vast arc spanning the whole night, if one could have but seen over the northernmost hills that hid it from view; and from that unseen arc, as though it were indeed the head-band of a crown, a myriad rays sprang out, darting and wheeling to and fro, flickering out half across the sky, like ribbons of coloured fire that licked and trembled and died and darted forth again, changing colour moment by moment from the red of blood to the green of ice, to the blue of the wild-fire that drips along the oar blades of the northern seas in summer nights.

"I too have seen the glow like a burning in the next valley, and a flicker or so in the northern sky, from the high shoulder of Yr Widdfa," Ambrosius said, in the tone in which a man speaks in the place where he worships his gods, "but never the like of this ... Never - the like of this."

Voices, scared and hushed and excited, were sounding in the courtyard, a babble of tongues and a running of feet. Down there they would be pointing and gesticulating, their faces awed and gaping in the strange flickering light. "The others have seen it now," Aquila said. "They could scarcely make more startling chatter if it were a golden dragon in the sky."

"There will be many pointing to the north and bidding each other to look, tonight," Ambrosius said musingly. "And later, all Britain will tell each other that there were strange lights in the sky on the night before Ambrosius Aurelianus died; and later still, it will become Aquila's dragon, or a sword of light with the seven stars of Orion set for jewels in the hilt."


Nicholas Roerich, Fires of Victory (1940)


Wednesday, 13 September 2017

My mistake after Brexit - yielding to the atavistic desire passively to be overwhelmed by reality

I am now clear that - in the aftermath of the Brexit vote - I yielded to a false and counter-productive wish to be swept-up by tidal changes, passively to be led to a better future; I yearned for some new kind of leadership to emerge from the shadows, to take charge of the nation, gather and inspire us, take us to where we ought-be-be...

I also acknowledged that this could not happen without first a general awakening of the people - a repentance of materialism and Leftism and a new spiritual Christianity; but there was certainly some degree of yearning that this whole process would be driven by some kind of externally-applied influence... Rather as if God was to shine a bright light on us and reveal things in a new clarity.

Clearly this hasn't happened, and equally clearly if anything of the sort had seemed to happen it would almost certainly have been a fake of some kind: a deception leading somewhere even worse.

What I have come to believe is that events are building and building upon each of us as free, agent individuals - Especially those (few?) who have not (yet?) capitulated to one or another of the varieties of materialist, secular Leftism which wholly dominate public discourse (including the discourse of nearly all self-identified 'right wing' people and parties, and the mainstream churches, who are apparently monolithically obsessed with economics, politics, power...).

This idea that if things are true, then we ought-to-be overwhelmed by feelings and driven by mass movements is exactly what we need to grow-out-of. And if we don't then we will - sooner or later - join the enemy, or at least fuel the enemy's strength.

I am struck by the fact that we regard thinking as an activity which can (and should) only destroy. It is thinking that has destroyed the unconscious and spontaneous spirituality of our childhood, and of earlier cultural epochs. So thinking is clearly powerful... yet we deny the validity of thinking when it is used to cure the ills of modernity.

We assume that if something good needs thinking-about, then it is not really-real but only a kind of delusion of 'wishful' thinking. We assume that a Life cannot be built from thinking, that thinking is strong enough to destroy, but too weak to be a foundation of good living.

Of course, thinking can be and is manipulated all the time (but so is feeling, even more so!)

I now understand better that truth comes to us in thinking in a way that deliberately and necessarily does not 'overwhelm' us.

After all, is God overwhelmed by His feelings? Surely not! God is free; and so should we be.

We need to be free in the same way as God, and that means primarily by thinking, not feeling (although feeling is, secondarily, a part of valid thinking). Thinking comes to us 'horizontally' - one thought linked with others beside it; and what we should be looking-for is not to be overwhelmed but to experience a kind of 'mythic coherence', that 'insight' which we get when we think our way to a part of Truth.

This is a wonderful feeling, familiar to a scientist who has struggled for a long time to understand; then reaches an answer of simple clarity which coheres with his best knowledge.

Freedom is not really about choice, but about knowing from our true-divine self: we are free because our thinking is not caused by anything external (not by our perceptions, not by our memories; but it arises from our deepest nature -- this being a defining property of the divine... to think as an uncaused cause.)

In sum - instead of the attempt to return to an unfree, child-like state in which reality overwhelms and compels us; I now seek to understand reality as akin to such discoveries I have made in science; characterised by such features as insight, rationality, coherence; and that explanatory fertility which is a characteristic property of some-thing real.


Monday, 11 September 2017

The Temptation of Non-Duality

The spiritual philosophy of non-duality is increasingly popular today but, while it claims to give a pure and unvarnished description of reality, I believe it rests on a metaphysical mistake. It derives from India, where it is known as advaita, and it basically reduces everything to undifferentiated oneness, regarding anything other than that as, to all intents and purposes, illusion. Thus it is prepared to offer multiplicity a conditional reality for those in a state of ignorance but ultimately sees it as unreal. A subtler grasp of how things are sees oneness and differentiation existing right down to the wire, being two parts of the one whole with the latter not in any way unreal, though still seen in the overall light of God. God is the source of everything, of course, but what he creates is real. It is important to get this right because our understanding of spiritual reality affects everything we think and do and feel and are.

Non-duality is a very easy philosophy to adopt and consequently think one has 'cracked the cosmic code'. It's also convenient in that it does away with God which suits the modern mentality very well. But if understood to mean that there is the One and nothing else has any reality at all, it rests on an error. Certainly all serious religion acknowledges the unity of God and see all life as his but rather than using this to deny the reality in creation a more alert understanding sees that God gives his life to creatures and that they then have their own life, given by him but still theirs, and that this is perfectly real. The absolute oneness posited by non-dualists only exists in the realm of the complete unmanifest and unexpressed. Move one metaphorical (or metaphysical) inch away from that and this oneness, though underlying all, is immediately qualified by other expressions of truth which must always be considered if one is to understand the whole. In fact, for the created being, which we all are, they are in a certain sense primary.

The contemporary Westerner is so indoctrinated with the scientific world view and so much in reaction against traditional Christianity that when he belatedly turns to any kind of spirituality he frequently, wittingly or unwittingly, requires that to fit in with his pre-existing human-centric atheism. Consequently God has become something of a non-necessity in contemporary spirituality which is why Buddhism is so attractive to many people nowadays. It seems to offer spirituality without the disadvantage of God but this is precisely one of its flaws  and why, whatever its historical necessity and appropriateness in its original time and place, it is not so suitable for Western people today. The cultural context is different and Buddhism tends to fortify existing deficiencies rather than correcting them as it might have done in the theistic context in which it arose. So much does depend on cultural context which is why Zen Buddhism would have been helpful for culturally conservative medieval Japanese while not being so for beat poets in the 1950s who were reacting against conventionalism already. They needed something with more structure that would counteract their particular excesses and we do too. That is why we need God. Of course everyone, Buddhists included, needs God but he may perhaps be set aside for a while if the concept of him has solidified and the image become more important than the reality which was the case at the time of the Buddha.

Non-dualists and Buddhists don't sufficiently appreciate that our nature is not a unity but a trinity, all parts of which make up the whole. That is to say, they focus on the uncreated part of our being, the part that never leaves the divine world, ignoring that this is only a part of what we are. In reality we are not just spirit overlaid by various unreal 'sheathes' but spirit, soul and body, all of which contribute towards the wholeness of our being, and if we deny any part of this then we are not living in truth. To mistake the highest part of our being for the only real part is an error which you might categorize as a kind of intellectual absolutism. In fact, our spiritual goal is not to return to unmanifest existence as though our life in a body was an irrelevance but to learn the lessons of incarnation in a material world, the primary lesson being that of self-sacrifice in love, and this we can only do by giving all parts of reality their full significance.