Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Heroes and Heaven

I am currently re-reading Colin Wilson's 1959 book The Age of Defeat (aka The Stature of Man) in which he analyses the decline of the hero from his origin in the Romantic movement.

The context established by Wilson's previous books - The Outsider, and Religion and the Rebel) is that all lives are ultimately unsuccessful - so the problem of depicting a convincing hero is almost an impossibility... or superficially so.

Wilson is correct that all lives are necessarily unsuccessful in the profound sense that they are terminated by death (and even if death was somehow indefinitely postponed, the unsatisfactoriness of each human and of the world means that the problem remains).

But a life may potentially be regarded as successful when regarded in the context of immortality, eternity and divinity.

In a nutshell, a true hero requires the context of Heaven. And the modern problem of depicting a convincing and appealing hero is a consequence of the modern inability to conceptualise a convincing and appealing Heaven.

Because it is very hard to be both convincing and appealing together in a depiction. Few have achieved it - and probably nobody has achieved it universally; but those who have achieved it even in a form which only works for some people have rendered great service, and deserve gratitude.

An example is the poet William Blake - who is at his best able to make some of us believe in a Heaven which we would wish to inhabit. This is probably the ultimate secret of Blake's appeal and influence.

Another is the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith - who depicted a Heaven which is so real and satisfying that it has shaped the lives of millions, created a deep optimism and taken the sting from death with an effectiveness that is astonishing in a modern Western context.

(This is convincingly documented by Professor Douglas J Davies - a sociologist of religion and not a Mormon - in his The Mormon Culture of Salvation, 2000.)

Another example is CS Lewis in the final Narnian book The Last Battle; when he combines elements of abstract-spiritual Platonism with more concrete and 'physical' elements - such as retained sex and personality, landscape, family and friends - to produce a Heaven which is both attractive and believable.

Another example is William Arkle - especially in his Letter from a Father (1977) -


http://williamarkle.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/letter-from-father-by-william-arkle.html

My point is that the hero must succeed in an ultimate sense; and ultimate success requires immortality, eternity and divinity; which requires that we must believe in Heaven. The modern phenomenon of no-more-heroes and the Outsider perception that all lives are failures are correct but only when mortal life is assumed to be everything - or when what follows mortal life is unconvincing or unappealing.

One who really believes in Heaven and wants Heaven and expects to get there can be a hero, can recognise heroism in others, and could potentially (if he had the creative talent) also depict Heroes in a Heavenly context.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Things Jesus Didn't Say

Sometimes it can help to remind ourselves what Jesus did not say because he is often taken as promoting ideas which did not form part of his real teachings. Many people with an agenda try to co-opt him as an ally, frequently leaving out much of what he said and taking bits in isolation or out of context.

With that in mind let us recall that he did not say any of the following:

All you need is love.

Suffering is always bad. 

You need to get rid of poverty. 

The important thing is for everybody to be nice to each other. 

Everybody's equal.

Everything is one so differences don't matter

Everything's good in its own way.

There is no better or worse.

Evil is just ignorance. 

The devil has no reality other than in your own mind. 

Unity comes before all else.. 

I come to bring peace not a sword. 

My Kingdom is of this world.

Many are called and many are chosen.

You are God.

Most of these are half truths which are not completely wrong but need to be considered in the light of greater truth and not taken out of overall context. Heresies arise in just this way, by isolating a part from the whole and exaggerating it.

Why not add some more yourself?

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Guarding the Sacred Flame - Winston Churchill and Geoffrey Ashe on King Arthur


'Modern research has not accepted the annihilation of Arthur. Timidly but resolutely the latest and best-informed writers unite to proclaim his reality. They cannot tell when in this dark period he lived, or where he held sway and fought his battles. They are ready to believe however that there was a great British warrior, who kept the light of civilisation burning against all the storms that beat, and that behind his sword there sheltered a faithful following of which the memory did not fail ... Nonetheless, to have established a basis in fact for the story of Arthur is a service which should be respected. In this account we prefer to believe that the story with which Geoffrey of Monmouth delighted the fiction-loving Europe of the twelfth century is not all fancy. It is all true or it ought to be; and more and better besides. And wherever men are fighting against barbarism, tyranny, and massacre, for freedom, law, and honour, let them remember that the fame of their deeds, even though they themselves be exterminated, may perhaps be celebrated as long as the world rolls round. Let us then declare that King Arthur and his noble knights, guarding the Sacred Flame of Christianity and the theme of a world order, sustained by valour, physical strength, and good horses and armour, slaughtered innumerable hosts of foul barbarians and set decent folk an example for all time.'

Sir Winston Churchill, A History of the English Speaking Peoples: The Birth of Britain (1956)


*******


'Here is a spellbinding, indestructible theme, national, yet transcending nationality. For better or worse it has affected the country where it began. It has survived eclipses and demolitions, and Britain cannot be thought of without it. Yet no conceivable movement or government could trap it in a programme. That is a comment on the limitations of movements and governments. The undying king is a strangely powerful reminder that there is Something Else. By nurturing that awareness, and a questing spirit, his fame may have its effect on human thinking. It may influence history again, outside movements and governments and not only in Britain.'

Geoffrey Ashe, The Discovery of King Arthur (2003)



The UK General Election - what to look for?

The UK will have a General Election in a few week's time - almost a year after the historic result of the Brexit referendum.

While there is some limited interest in seeing how the election proceeds - it nonetheless seems-like the most pre-decided election of my life; assuming that the current government indeed presents itself as the part of uncompromising Brexit. But the election specifically, and politics in general, is certainly not going to change any of the most important things that need changing. That can only come from a spiritual and Christian awakening.

Yet, a General Election might also and far more importantly provoke a period of general reflection on the nature and future of Albion... If it does, this will be invisible to the mass media and public discourse - but only discernible in private and sincere conversations; and by those (few, presumably) who can intuit the spiritual reality of the nation.

It is this which we ought to be monitoring, ought to be aware of - and to assist - in what ways we can - and whenever possible.


Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Spirituality, freedom and consciousness

So much nonsense and wickedness has been advocated in the name of Freedom that it is easy to be put-off the concept, and stampeded into advocating some kind of repression in a good cause; but there is reason to believe that freedom - properly understood - is our destiny.

Christianity absolutely depends on freedom - because the Christian religion must be freely chosen. Or, in other words, Christians must be agent - that is autonomously able to create rather than simply being effects of some other, prior and external cause. This is captured by knowledge that we are sons and daughters of God, because only the divine is able to create and to be a primary cause.

In this sense we are, and ought to be, essentially free - free, that is, to be an origin of action... but the question is what is it that we are free to do (given that the world is so full of constraints, and we ourselves are constrained in multiple ways). The answer is to think - we are free to think; but again, there must be an immediate caution that not all of our thought is free - indeed for most people extremely little, Much of our thinking is unconsciously, or habit, or channelled by something external such as the conversation of other people, or the mass media, or simply (and frequently) bad habits of automatic and robotic 'thinking'.

Indeed, we are only free when we are aware; alert, conscious of our thoughts, when we are in purposive control of our thinking - precisely when it is not automatic or passively guided. We can assume that the fully-divine is wholly aware and alert and conscious, and thus wholly free - and this tells us clearly enough the direction in which we, personally, ought to be evolving/ changing/ developing. We ought to be tending towards a situation in which we are wholly free in our thinking, therefore aware of everything... eventually, even in dreams we would need to be conscious and purposive.

So, when it comes to wanting a more spiritual world, and a more spiritual Christianity - it is absolutely vital that this spirituality NOT be the kind of automatic, unconscious, dreamlike or altered-state semi-consciousness of much spirituality. It is not so much that this unconscious, instinctive kind of spirituality is bad - it isn't; but that it is immature, child-level, passive - and our destiny is to maturity, agency - towards a situation in which each man and each woman is fully divine.

Modern people are split between materialism in public life and some degree of passive and unconscious spirituality in private - in dreams, visions, altered states (perhaps intoxication or drugged states) and the passive and guided spiritual states of immersive experiences in arts and media... For all the potential benefits of good novels, plays, movies etc - the spirituality they induce is more-or-less passive and guided - during the actual experience there is not agency... the aim cannot be for people to be in a perpetual state of living by some externally-induced spiritual state (even if that spiritual state was induced by some divine, or divinely-inspired source).

What is needed is therefore quite clear - and the state aimed-at is one of clarity - it is a state of thinking from our true self(our soul, perhaps) with full agency, full freedom, full autonomy. And therefore that this kind of primary thinking is, must be, the aimed-at freedom. Ideas of freedom which are located in physical actions - doing and not doing - are missing the point badly and dangerously. Our freedom is in our thinking - and what happens in the physical world depends on many other factors and can never be a pure and complete expression of our thinking.

Reality - ultimate reality - is therefore something which is at the level of thinking. It is not, for example, at the level of perceptions (these depend on our sensory apparatus, and our ability to decode senses) - nor at the level of the material (although we often work via the material - the material expression is always constrained by time and space and therefore incomplete, and at any point in time or space it is distorted by these constraints).

Albion Awakening is therefore ultimately something which happens - or does not happen - in the realm of primary, pure, real thinking - and any other detection or measure of it will be secondary, and necessarily distorted. Does this mean that it is inaccessible? No - because for the above metaphysical scheme to make sense requires that real thinking takes places in a universally accessible 'realm' - which is therefore (potentially) objective - in terms of being in principle wholly available to anyone able to access it.

I keep asking myself whether there is an awakening in Albion - and at present I don't know. But I have to avoid assuming that any such awakening would only 'really' happen if something in the material world was to indicate it - because while an awakening of the nation (or some sizeable section of it) certainly would be apparent in the material world - I really couldn't say just how it would be apparent. Since what would 'count' as an awakening would be something new and unprecedented - then I don't know how it would work through into something detectable and measurable in the material world...

(And this would apply to the institutions of religion as well - Christian churches need to change, to become more spiritual, and that spirituality to become more conscious - but what exactly this would mean to the organisation of churches, or indeed whether it implies a loss of institutions after that consciousness has been attained - is unclear until after it has-happened. I don't see how we could possibly know this stuff until after the change in consciousness; and the idea that we could short-cut to material change before there is spiritual change is precisely the delusion that would prevent the consciousness and spiritual change...)

To detect it I would need to perceive in in thought, in the universal realm of thinking when I myself was in the state of real thinking from my real self. I have felt that I did indeed perceive exactly this, but of course when I lapsed out of this way of thinking, and returned to the usual passive, automatic, inculcated, robotic thinking in which I spend most of my time - then I can no longer perceive it; and worry that I was just fooling myself with wishful thinking.

This blog began after the Brexit vote - and with the hope (perhaps conviction) that that vote was in indicator of some deeper change in national consciousness of a positive kind - that inference itself being something which was intuitive and not any kind of logically-entailed thing. I still feel not much further on - except that there does seem to be a sense that there may be deeper forces at work which lead to otherwise-inexplicable patterns at the material level. However, for these to become what are needed; then this change in thinking (if it exists) must sooner-or-later become absolutely clear, conscious, and purposive.

Unconscious instincts are not going to save us, and they are not what we need. Each of us should strive to bring to light the nature of our truest, realest thinking.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Apologies to commenters for delayed moderation

I was out of the country, and 'therefore' Google locked me out of my blogs (for the first time) - so some comment approvals were very delayed and I couldn't post anything to explain why...

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Resurrection

The Resurrection is the one thing that finally makes sense of the world. Without it everything tends to confusion and mystery but with it everything falls into place. It shows how evil is overcome and that good is ultimately real. It explains what we are, where we should go and what we have to do to get there.  It is the key to everything. I do not say that the religions that lack it are wrong, but they are incomplete. Of course, many people won't be able to accept this, for cultural reasons or because of some prejudice but once you see it it's just so obvious! Compared to all other spiritual approaches the Resurrection is like adding a third dimension to a two dimensional model, one that gives it a completely new appearance and makes you see it clearly and wholly for the first time.

So Christianity is true but what form of Christianity should we follow?  I don't mean what denomination. Some denominations are certainly better (in that they include more of spiritual truth) than others but, in the end, it does seem that they all belong to a form of human consciousness that is passing. I am not talking about some fantasy of an Aquarian Age, but human beings do evolve (as in unfold their divine pattern and grow into that), times change and the form our religion takes should reflect that. Or so I believe. Others will not but then the only valid form of Christianity for the West would be Catholicism and it does seem to me that, for all its glorious truths and beauties, it does somehow belong to the past. Catholicism is largely what has made Western civilisation but its spiritual, as opposed to religious, force is not what it was and I don't think it can inspire a civilisation any more as it once so magnificently did. I know many will disagree but I think religions pass through the same cycle of growth, maturity and decay as everything else and there is none now that is not in the latter part of that cycle. That is not to say the truth is not there but truth needs a body or form and the latter is not eternal.

Is that a depressing thought for Easter Sunday? I don't mean it to be. The revelation of Christ is for all eternity. The fact of the resurrection is too and we celebrate those today. But can Christianity ever be what it was? Can it universally supply spiritual needs in the way it once did? Or have we changed too much for that to happen?

My feeling is that we cannot go back. The West has largely rejected Christianity and that rejection appears to be decisive. Despite occasional revivals it really does seem that way. However we now have something considerably less than Christianity. If we cannot go back to Christianity as it once was then we need something more than Christianity as it was. That means a new form of Christianity. But just as Jesus came to fulfil the law and the prophets not to deny them so this new form must incorporate all the truth and virtue in Christianity as it was to make of them something that might be new in form but is the same in essence. We need Christianity but with a new dimension added to it, a dimension which was certainly contained in the old form for those who knew how to look but was often dormant or neglected.


You could call it the mystical element but that is a little vague. What it is is the inner truth of Christianity. The truth that we are all sons and daughters of God with the potential to become Christ-like ourselves. Christ is in us. We are not called to worship him so much as to become him and this requires a radically different view of our humanity, a realisation that we are neither sinners (or, at least, not only sinners) nor intelligent apes (though that is what we have made of ourselves) but spiritual beings already with the potential to become gods. I repeat, all this is present in past forms of Christianity, especially Catholicism, but whereas past forms focused mostly on the idea of salvation now we need to bring the deification or divinisation of man aspect out considerably more. We have become (partly, indeed, because of Christian teachings) much more aware of our individuality. We are more mentally orientated than ever before. These things need to be taken into account though we must see them as subordinate to the spiritual consciousness, as means for that to manifest not realities that exist in their own right and for their own self-expression as is the case now.

Christianity is true, now and always. The Resurrection is our guarantee of eternal life if we accept it. But it may be that a new form of Christianity is needed for human beings today that will be able to inspire them as the old forms did in the past, spiritually, morally and even artistically. For we cannot go back. And yet on one level this may be new but on another, more profound, it will not be new at all for everything is already fully present in Christianity as it is now.  The truth of Christianity will not change, it could not, but the form of the religion may have to be born again. I realise this is a controversial thing to say and I have no suggestions as to what that form might be, but I cannot see how Christianity as it has been will ever be as universally influential as it once was and we desperately need some form of Christianity or else we are lost.

And so we come back, as we always must, to the idea of and the need for resurrection. 

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

R.J. Unstead - Historian and Storyteller


I have studied history for nearly forty years now, yet no historian has made as great an impact on me as the first one I read - R.J. Unstead (1915 - 1988) - a schoolteacher from Kent who wrote or edited  almost fifty books, aimed principally at young readers. Most of these are out of print now, and that is a shame, as there is much we can learn from them. I have just reread Unstead's The Story of Britain (1969) and found it every bit as stimulating and inspiring as I did three and a half decades ago.

The clue lies in the title. Unstead is as much a storyteller as a historian. The Story of Britain is written as a tale, with highs and lows, ups and downs, and heroes and villains a-plenty. There are few concessions to the egalitarian spirit of the age. 'Much of the book,' as the fly-leaf says, 'is about ordinary people; but in the main it tells its story through great figures in British history: the knights and barons, kings and queens, the invaders; the soldiers and sailors, explorers and adventurers.'

Unstead is also unashamedly Christian. His gloss on the period following the Synod of Whitby in 663 illustrates this perfectly: 'English monasteries, English schools, English scholars and churchmen became famous throughout Europe. The Lindisfarne Gospel, with its wonderful illuminated capitals and covers of gold, the carved stone crosses, the new churches and the singing of the choirs in the great monasteries were the marvels of their time.'

I studied history to M.A. level, and the higher I got the further away I felt from the simplicity and the imaginative vitality of Unstead's world. The 'great man theory of history', as they called it, was openly scorned at my last university, and to have mentioned Christianity in anything but a pejorative sense would have invited embarrassed silence at best and outright hostility at worst.

All this is to be regretted. R.J. Unstead believed in the capability of men and women to achieve greatness. This gives the reader agency, liberating him or her from helplessness and passivity. We are so much more than impotent pawns shuffled around on the chessboard of history by vast, impersonal, socio-economic forces. Unstead's Christian faith provides the wider frame of reference a nation needs if it is to bind itself together, become more than the sum of its parts and build a sense of  continuity between its past, present and future. Both these aspects are sorely lacking in our time. Unstead's chapter on King Alfred brings them together in a telling and instructive synthesis ...

*******

... Alfred was not called 'the Great' simply because he was a good general. At heart, he was a man of peace and, in those dire months as a fugitive at Athelney, he had come to realise what his people needed.

Wessex was well-nigh ruined. Trade had ceased, the farms were derelict, the churches and monasteries were roofless and empty. The people were hungry and lawless.

Almost single-handed, Alfred rebuilt the kingdom. He travelled up and down the land, praising and encouraging, building with his own hands and setting others to work. He fetched skilled men from abroad to teach the Saxons the arts they had forgotten, for on every side he found ignorance. 'Hardly a man in the kingdom can read his prayer-book or write a letter,' he said. 'I would have all the boys now in England set to learning.'

Schools were started and even the nobles had to go to their lessons if they wished to receive the King's favour. 'It was a strange sight,' wrote a bishop, 'to see aldermen and officials, ignorant from boyhood, learning to read.'

Since few teachers were left alive, invitations were sent to France, Wales and Ireland for monks and scholars to come and work in Wessex. Not all of them were good men and, to Alfred's sorrow, they sometimes quarrelled. Once, two of the foreign monks actually killed their abbot. But among the newcomers was a Welsh monk named Asser, who became Alfred's greatest friend and helper.

Books had almost completely disappeared, so Alfred kept the scribes at their desks making copies of old books that had escaped the flames. Almost all were written in Latin, for there had been little or no writing in Anglos-Saxon since Bede's time. Alfred set himself to improve his own knowledge of Latin and, with Asser's help, he translated parts of the Bible and works on history, geography and science.

This wonderful man never ceased toiling for his people. He found time for building, writing and governing and was keenly interested in stars, in trade and in foreign places. He rewrote the laws of King Ine and kept in touch with the Pope, for it was his Christian faith that gave him the strength to do so much. As one of the monks wrote: 'The King attends daily services of religion ... he goes to church at night-time to pray secretly, unknown to anyone.'

The noblest man who ever occupied an English throne died when he was barely fifty, but he left an example to his people and a message to his successors. 'I pray thee, my good son, be a father to my people,' he said as he lay dying. 'Comfort the poor, protect and shelter the weak and put right the things that are wrong.'


Monday, 10 April 2017

The World Today

It's always difficult to tell if one's impressions are purely subjective or if there is an objective element to them too, but at the moment it really does seem as though the vice of materialism (pun intended) is growing ever tighter in our world.

The environment is actually becoming what it is stated to be by science. Inner quality is withdrawing and consciousness is being constricted. The world is becoming harder and more solid. Don't you feel that?

At the same time, space is contracting and time is speeding up. And distinctions are being erased. Differences between male and female, human and animal and even good and evil are all being diluted and broken down and though there are corresponding reactions to this, reactions are what they are. The general direction is towards a sort of uniformity. Everything is being ground down to the undifferentiated state of prime matter.

It can never get to that state, of course, because that would be extinction but it can approach it and this is what spells the end of an age. Quality is replaced by quantity and the digitalisation of information is a good example of that. This is clearly the most spiritually destructive thing there could be but it is happening and the speed at which it happens in all areas of life is increasing. What can we as individuals do about it?

To begin with, we can recognise that outwardly it is inevitable. That will save us a lot of grief. But then we must understand that inwardly it need not,  I won't say affect, but it need not contaminate us.  We can stay detached or at least relatively so. We don't have to be swamped by the spiritual ignorance of our time. Indeed we don't have to be and we should not be for it is precisely this that is the test of our time. We are summoned to remain faithful to the truth even when the truth is trampled underfoot. And this is not just an intellectual matter. It's an affair of the heart. There are many people who adopt a spiritual worldview but don’t make that primary in their life. It's an add on to ordinary existence which remains their basic focus. Don't be one of them.

I am not talking about a religion. Lots of people do make their religion central but is it the outer form that is important to them or the real inner truth behind that form? Perhaps it's a mixture of the two but we must make sure that the real motivation behind all we are and do is dedication to the inner truth. I doubt religion as we know it will exist in the higher worlds because it will not be necessary and we must try to have a mind that lives as though we were in those worlds now because in a  certain sense we can only gain entry to them when we have the corresponding mental state. Like attracts like in the spiritual world absolutely not just in the general sort of way it does here.  I am certainly not dismissing religion but ultimately it is a tool not the real heart of the spiritual exercise.

If God does not exist there is no point to anything.  That is not put forward as a reason to believe but it's a big indication that he does exist.  The reality of meaning and purpose is demonstrated by the fact that their lack is so keenly felt. Not by everyone. The majority of people live in a state of distraction. But some people always, and most people sometimes, stand back from the superficialities of daily life to ponder on why, where and what. This is the voice of God calling you home. You should listen to it and seek to retrace that thread to its source.

We have to understand that our world is sunk in illusion partly as a result of the increasing materialisation of the environment as time moves along from the beginning of an age to its conclusion, but this process is accentuated when our passive submission to the illusion reinforces it. We do partially create our own environment. If we (the collective we) imagine the world to be nothing but matter then nothing but matter is what it starts to become. The environment actually becomes denser to our perception and more spiritually impenetrable. But we are not obliged to accept this and we must stand against it if we wish to be amongst the seeds that actually sprout and grow rather than those that fail to reach up towards the sun and so die.

The world today is in a parlous state because human beings have denied the fullness of their humanity, seeing themselves as animals ascended rather than spirits descended. This has led them to reject the hierarchy of being and replace that with various false ideologies based on mistaken metaphysical concepts. If you don't know where you have come from you won't know where you should be going. If you don't know what you are you won't understand what you should be. But first the intellectuals of the world, seduced by the cleverness of their own minds, and then, following on from them, the ordinary people have closed their hearts to what they are and where they come from. The thoughtform they have built up has become a powerful elemental being which is actually turning this world into what they have imagined it to be. A hard material world with nothing behind that.


Nevertheless, as dark as this world might become, God is always there and he will triumph. This we have been promised and it is impossible for it not to be the case anyway. Therefore all we have to do is stand firm and hold the line. Manifest the truth and be a light in the darkness for those who may be looking for one even if they don't know it. There will be many such, souls born into the spiritual ignorance of this contemporary world who in their hearts cannot find any joy in it. They sense its falseness but cannot see in which direction lies truth because all their education and all their culture has denied it to them. Be ready for them when they come your way and know that in helping them you help the world because you are helping in the fight against the 
hardening of the mind and the darkening of consciousness. 


Perhaps you think this all sounds rather vague but it really boils down to the most unvague and concrete thing there could be. God is real and our task is to know him.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Bureaucracy and the Ahrimanic influence - Rudolf Steiner's uncanny 1921 anticipation of the following century

To understand the following, you should know that Rudolf Steiner described 'Satan' as consisting of (at least) two beings: which he named Lucifer and Ahriman. Ahriman is about abstraction, materialism, and systematic reductionism - mechanics, technology, procedure...

As you will have guessed, Ahriman is regarded as the most dominant demonic influence of the modern era (waxing in influence, according to Steiner, from the end of the middle ages).

It should also be noted that Steiner regards both evil demons as redeemable - in other words, as having potentially Good and valuable aspects if or when their influence is ruled by, contained within, that of Christ. Thus the intention is not to destroy them utterly, but to defeat and enlist them in God's work.

**

Edited from the lecture Lucifer and Ahriman, given October 23 1921 as part of the series Cosmosophy, in Dornach, Switzerland - and reprinted in the collection Guardian Angels from Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000:
 

The Ahrimanic beings want to keep humans bound forever to earthly existence. This is why they want to mechanise everything. By doing this, they would transform the earth in their way.

They do not have the desire to rob human beings of action; indeed they want them to be as busily active as possible - so long as this is all done in a routine and stereotyped way.

Ahriman is a great fan of convention! He, it is, who insires the constant compiling of statutes  Whenever Ahriman sees a committee at work compiling statues, he is in his element!

Point 1, Point 2, Point 3... First this will be done, then that; thirdly this member has these rights, fourthly that member ought to do such-and-such. The member would not dream, of course, of respecting these rights, nor doing what it says at all...

But this part of it does not matter. The important thing is to compile the statutes and cultivate the Ahrimanic spirit. Then, you can point to paragraph so-and-so.

Ahriman would like people to be active, but everything should be run along programmed lines. Everything should be forced into legal terms...

Every morning, a person should (as it were) find a list lying on his bedspread telling him what to do throughout the day, and he should do it mechanically...

We do, of course, now and again see modern human beings rebelling against the work of Ahriman; grumbling about bureaucracy, which is absolutely Ahrimanic - complaining about the stereotyping of education and so on. But as a rule they only fall deeper into what they are trying to get away from.

The only thing that can lead us out from all this, is a complete change of attitude; a turning towards knowledge of the spirit, to the kind of thing that will once more fill our thinking with genuine spirituality - so that the living spirit can take hold of our whole being, and not merely our head.

Typing carried out in the Ahrimanic spirit could just as well remain unwritten; one knows, anyway, what it contains; it really does not need to be put down in black and white - the content is actually unimportant; and the real significance of typing etc. is its Ahrimanic form and spirit.

And in taking hold of our whole being, the living spirit can also conquer Ahriman. And when Ahriman is conquered, he will be redeemed.

I am not censuring the justified typing and enumerating of paragraphs - but spirit must enter into all of this. Indeed, in modern societies, we can hardly avoid carrying out Ahrimanic activities.

But if we bring spirituality into our civilization we can raise up into the sphere of the spirit even such Ahrimanic phenomena as typing! - and then Ahriman will be redeemed.


However, all this will only become possible if we are absolutely serious about the spirit. That must be our priority.  

Monday, 3 April 2017

Truth and Love

The gate to the kingdom of heaven has two pillars which are truth and love and you must conform yourself to both of these to a high degree before you are worthy to enter. That's a tall order as no one can be perfect, perfection coming only through the grace of God. But you must attune yourself to both these two qualities as best you can, holding them in a more or less equal balance in your mind and heart.

This balance is important for without it you will not only be unbalanced (obviously) but even lose touch with that which you are over-emphasising. That is because each suggests and assumes the other and if one is over-privileged at the expense of the other it means that you are not responding to the reality as a whole and in its totality but to a personal interpretation of the reality. With true love always goes wisdom. With proper wisdom there is always love. If you follow one of these paths and neglect the other then you are surely following a false path for you are not even following the reality of your chosen path, merely your idea about it.

The devil exploits our sense of fairness and will to do good to the detriment of truth so that truth ends up being denied. You might say that if love is observed what does truth matter? That's just sentimentality. If you do not honour truth above all, and seek to incline your being to it, you will have no chance of aligning yourself with the reality of God. You will remain enclosed in the earthly mind and that means you won't even be observing love. All you will have will be a mental approximation of or idea about love. Just its shadow. Thus by pushing us too much towards an idea about love, a false image of it, the devil effectively cuts us off from truth.

Same sex marriage is a case in point. Any right thinking person, heterosexual or homosexual, can see that it is a complete contradiction in terms, a metaphysical impossibility*, but we have been deceived into accepting it because we wish to be just and because we think that short term happiness of individuals in this world matters more than their education for eternity. That is, of course, because we do not acknowledge eternity or, if we think we do, it's only an eternity that is seen in the light of the desires, aims and purposes of this world. We are putting the earthly personality ahead of the spiritual soul and either denying the latter or else seeing it as an extension of the former. None of this will get us anywhere except deeper into illusion and chaos.

But the devil can also exploit the idea of truth to get us to deny love. The Inquisition is an obvious example from history but many cultures have damned and ostracised those who don't conform to their ideals. The protection of truth is important. There are so many arrows aimed at its heart, so many attempts to corrupt and distort it, so many half truths masquerading as the full version, that we all have a responsibility to fight for truth. But we should not let this fight lead us into blaspheming against love just as we should not take the reality of love, as a spiritual truth, for a reason to offer love to everything equally, regardless of its approximation to truth. Things that contradict truth should not be loved in their expression even if in their essence they are due love. The classic example of this is in the Christian exhortation to hate the sin but love the sinner. In fact, this saying cuts right across the divide between love and truth, successfully reconciling them both.

We live at a time of increasing polarisation when worldly extremes confront each other in mutual incomprehension and antagonism. These can only be reconciled from a spiritual perspective which transcends both of them, and I mean a real spiritual perspective not one that derives from either of these worldly viewpoints. One of them is a distortion on a lower plane of love and one of them is a distortion on a lower plane of truth. Neither has much relation to real love or truth but, just as evil has no reality in itself but can only exist as a perversion of the real, so the worldly viewpoints which dominate today can only arise from a spiritual reality albeit one misconceived, distorted and at many removes.

Spiritual awakening, if it is genuine and sustainable, requires awakening to the understanding that love and truth lie at the heart of the universe. I believe it is through the imagination that we can start to realise this for imagination is the key that unlocks the door to the higher worlds. It is the forerunner of intuition or spiritual intelligence, and it has always been my contention that those who deny the reality of God lack imagination. Such people might think they have imagination and be affronted if it is implied they don't, but what they call their imagination is earthbound in that, though it might extend horizontally as far as the (mind's) eye may see, it cannot rise much above ground level. It is a flat thing that is not proper imagination at all for it cannot see behind outer things to their inner essence which is what real imagination is all about. Unsupported reason, which works by proceeding from one thing to another, can never see the spiritual reality of truth and love but imagination, which perceives directly, can and, if it is real, will. Start cultivating the eye of inner vision now.


* I see the legalisation of same sex marriage as a real frontier that has been crossed. We were asked to believe the unbelievable and basically did without demur. The process had been led up to in stages but, even so, the breaching of that final barrier showed that humanity had officially become insane.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

It all began with a million miracles...

It must begin with individuals - because the organisations are corrupted: the organisations (including the mainstream Christian churches) are the problem, not the answer.

It must therefore begin in the individual minds of people - that is the place where awakening is most difficult to prevent.

It must begin with some change in assumptions about the nature of reality - after that, experiences change their significance - which means that miracles can be acknowledged as miracles...

*

A million miracles in a million minds - ten million! Not difficult, not unusual; in a sense it is happening already and is always happening - but until now people refuse to acknowledge the miraculous.

People have been sure that miracles cannot happen, and always explain-them-away on the basis of that prior conviction.

But once miracles are deemed possible; they will be noticed....

A million miracles every day - each personal, individual, each to awake, sustain or deepen faith.

Each miracle personal, individual, invisible - a million such, cumulatively unstoppable!




Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Brexit trigger day - an end of the UK being the EU Establishment's premier dumping ground for people that the rest of Europe does not want?

Well, it is now nine months since the Brexit vote for Britain to leave the European Union, and at last the process has been triggered.

The fact that it took nine months shows the reluctance of the UK Establishment to leave the EU - the fact it has nonetheless (apparently) (eventually) happened shows that - well - it has happened!

Whether this is serious remains to be seen by the outcome - but the past none months have been valuable in revealing the main reason why the rest of the EU wanted Britain to remain.

It is what the Eurocrats call 'the free movement of people' but which in practice means that the UK is valued primarily as the major dumping-group for people that the rest of the EU does not want...

That the EU does not want these people is clear from their behaviour towards them. 

*

We need to ask why it is so very important to the EU rulers that Britain specifically should get more unwanted people sent to us (passing through Europe, in preference to the rest of Europe) than anywhere else, year after year, decade after decade...

It must surely mean that the destruction of the British nation is a major priority for the global elites?

On the face of it, there are not many grounds for hope about Britain; yet the above fact should give us pause. There must surely be something good about us that makes it so important that we are destroyed by those of malign intent?

*

Some of it is no doubt related to the symbolic importance of the British past. But at least something must be related to the present - or else the completion of destruction would not be necessary.

Our task, therefore, is to make Britain worth saving - and that can only mean a mass spiritual rebirth, a revival of the highest and best aspects of British life and living.

This blog is aimed at exactly such a spiritual awakening.  


Sunday, 26 March 2017

The Shadow of King Arthur

This short piece is Appendix Three in the late Stratford Caldecott's The Power of the Ring: The Spiritual Vision Behind The Lord of the Rings (2005). It could just as well, to my mind, be called Albion Awakening, given how germane its themes are to those of this blog ...


... When the Israelites first demanded a king, Samuel told them in no uncertain terms what they could expect:

These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots ... He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants ... He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day. (1 Sam. 8:11-18)

The Lord told Samuel, "They have rejected me from being king over them" (1 Sam. 8:7).

Kingship is arguably the source of our most potent political mythology. The Israelites were not to be dissuaded from their decision "to be like other nations." And we find all that Samuel prophecied coming true. Yet God brings good out of evil, and in King David, only a generation later, he raises up a true hero: a king who is also a prophet, a poet, and a liberator. Builder-up of the great city Jerusalem, David is also a sinner. The privilege of creating a temple for the Lord is consequently reserved for his son Solomon, whose very name has become synonymous with wisdom, and the splendour of whose reign is legendary. "The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and he made cedars as numerous as the sycamores of the Shephelah" (1 Kings 10:27). Yet Solomon, too, fell, and lower than his father ever did - with hundreds of women and foreign gods - until the Lord raised up enemies against him.

Each king is able - or at least attempts - to draw on the mystique already accumulated around the names of his predecessors. We see it in the Caesar's; we see it in those who would imitate them: Charlemagne, Napoleon, Hitler. We see it in the tsars and kings and princes of every country and region. In England we see it expressed in the legends of Arthur and the histories of Alfred; we see William the Conqueror, Richard the Lionheart, Henry VIII, and Elizabeth I aspiring to the same mantle, with varying degrees of success. The abuses of kingship are notorious. Yet even now (in some parts of the world) the institution survives. Americans often fail to understand its appeal - except in terms of the glamour that attaches to great entertainers like Elvis, or great political soap opera stars like the members of the Kennedy clan.

In keeping with the origins of their nation, the more archetypally American the hero, the more he (or she) is a lone individual set against a system or a wilderness. Even the five-minute heroes of the screen draw upon that mystique. Yet having a royal family at least enshrines the principle that society revolves around the family and not the individual.

G.K. Chesterton's Ballad of the White Horse, which Tolkien knew, is largely about the romance of kingship, in those far-off days when a king could be at the same time a hero. Such a king is not merely a lone individual, but the representative and guardian of a realm and a people, whether by virtue of the blood royal or by divine appointment (like Saul and David). Nevertheless, the hero, even when he is a king, must always be more than a cipher or a figurehead. The power of the archetype comes into its own when the king manages to combine possession of the cardinal virtues with the opportunity to act decisively at one of the turning points of history. Then archetype can serve personality, and personality the archetype: the king is worthy of the honour he receives. Such a monarch can become for each of us a living symbol not only of what binds us together in society, but of what we each aspire to become in our own circle.

Every nation has a legend or set of legends that help to define and enshrine its sense of identity and mission. For Chesterton, whose thought is so close to that of Tolkien in these matters, a national identity is shaped by the interplay of legend with landscape. Countries become beautiful, he thinks, by being loved - by being transformed in love by the imagination of those who live and die there. Those who have lived become part of the landscape and part of the legend. Graves and monuments are for visiting and the shrine at the end of the end of a pilgrimage provides a meeting place between earth and heaven that sanctifies the whole realm.

For Romantics such as Chesterton and Tolkien, imagination is an organ of perception, not merely of fancy. Mythology may be the only way that certain truths can find expression. But the imagination can also transmit a lie, a false perception. Tolkien writes of the way Hitler had corrupted the imagination of Europe: "Ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making forever accursed, that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light" (Letter 45). The dark side of the imagination is to provide the irrational basis for all kinds of injustice and cruelty. In a fallen and corrupted world, our imagination is in desperate need of healing. It may still be an organ of perception, but the inner senses have light only through the moral organs of the soul.

The national legend of England was given form in the high Middle Ages by Geoffrey of Monmouth, Robert de Borron, the Cistercians, Malory, and a host of lesser storytellers. The whole edifice of Arthurian legend was based on fragmentary historical tales of a great chieftain who defended the remains of the Imperium from the barbarians after the protection of Rome was withdrawn. The Kingdom of Logres is, of course, more than a part (or even the whole) of what we now call Britain. It is our inner kingdom. Overthrown by human sin and weakness as soon as it was glimpsed on the stage of history it was not destroyed but "withdrawn" into the imaginal landscape of Britain, just as Arthur himself was not killed on the field by Mordred but transported to the Island of Avalon.

Avalon itself is often identified with Glastonbury Tor, which other legends link to the visit of St. Joseph of Arimathea with the Holy Grail. Joseph himself is symbolically linked by his cup and flowering staff to the other two Josephs of the Bible, in the Old and the New Testaments respectively. The national legend of England is thus a thoroughly "Christian" legend (in fact a bit too obvious a Christian allegory, Tolkien thought). Arthur's perennial mission is to render England receptive to the Blood of Christ, a receptivity of which the Grail is the emblem, and the flowering staff the result. (In John Boorman's film Excalibur, the land literally blossoms under the hooves of Arthur's knights.)

The Arthur story, like all Christian myths, conforms itself to its own supreme archetype, the story of Christ, which is both myth and history. Just as Christ gathered his twelve disciples, so Arthur gathered his knights. As Christ died on the cross before his kingdom could be realised on earth, so Logres ended in a field of blood and betrayal. But the perennial hope of healing and resurrection lives in the Grail, in the Eucharist, which may always be revealed to those who search for it. And as Christ will come again, so in him Arthur will one day restore the Kingdom of Logres.

I don't know whether Tolkien truly intended to rework the Arthurian legend of a Golden Age king, though it certainly formed part of the "leaf-mould" that nourished his own tale, and the parallels between them are numerous - even down to the fact that King Elessar is associated with a green stone (the Elfstone after which his house is named). For in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Arthurian tale Parsifal, the Holy Grail is formed out of a green stone that fell from Lucifer's crown when he was struck down by St. Michael. This possibly connects it also with the Silmaril taken from Morgoth's crown by the great hero Beren, an ancestor of Aragorn and the symbolic figure with whom Tolkien most identifies himself. But then, in Tolkien's fertile imagination all the tales and legends of Europe and the Middle East, from Gilgamesh to King Sheave, from Troy to Camelot, were gathered and their elements rearranged - a more accurate term might be "digested" - and transformed. Tracing these various influences on the author is an endless task, and one that Tolkien himself strongly discouraged. A story is to be read, he argued, not picked apart by critics and scholars.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Cycles of Change

This post originally appeared elsewhere but I think it is relevant to the theme of this blog so I am putting it here too.

In his book The Order of the Ages (which I thoroughly recommend to anyone interested in the subject of this post) the author Robert Bolton gives the dates of the Kali Yuga as being from 3102 BC to 2082 AD. If you want to know how he arrives at those dates you must read the book but, suffice it to say here, his reasons for them seem plausible enough. For those not familiar with the term Kali Yuga, it refers to the last of four ages in Hinduism during which the world gradually descends from a natural spiritual state into materialism and disconnection from the divine order. This particular form of the doctrine is an Indian one but the idea of a spiritual disconnect as time goes by exists in many traditions, and we are all familiar with the sense of nostalgia for a Golden Age in the distant past. This is the polar opposite to the modern belief in progress but does not necessarily conflict with it if we understand the traditional concept to relate to matters of spiritual consciousness and awareness of the source while progress in the modern sense refers exclusively to the material world which includes the social, technological and political spheres. Of course, viewed from the spiritual standpoint, progress in these spheres is no progress at all if it derives from an ignorance of our true nature and results in a divorce between our material and spiritual selves. In fact, in this sense, it is the very opposite of real progress.

The beginning date of the Kali Yuga is interesting because it appears to coincide roughly with the start of recorded history. Thus all that we regard as our known past falls within the period of spiritual ignorance, the lowest point in the cycle that runs from a pristine new beginning when men walk with the gods to the time when the gods withdraw, spirit is gradually obscured and our external physical environment becomes the principal focus of attention. Now this may be a fall in one sense, it undoubtedly is a fall, but it is also a natural and inevitable occurrence that presumably has the purpose or effect of helping us develop aspects of our nature (primarily mental) that otherwise might remain in abeyance. How far it is taken, though, probably depends on us and our reaction to the cosmic winds of change. We can go completely with the flow of spiritual deterioration or we can recognise it for what it is and, to an extent at least, remain apart from it, remaining centred, insofar as possible, in higher truth. The old saying that the stars incline but do not compel is relevant here.

The constituent parts of a full cycle are often referred to as Gold, Silver, Bronze and Iron (though this last, corresponding to the Kali Yuga, has nothing to do with the archaeological Iron Age when that metal was first used), and, temporally, they stand to each other in the ratio 4, 3, 2 and 1. Thus the Krita Yuga or Golden Age is four times longer than the Kali Yuga which we can see from the dates above lasts for approximately five thousand years. So the most recent Golden Age lasted for around twenty thousand years. Now, interestingly, because of the Law of Correspondences, each cycle can be broken down into mini-cycles which exist in the same proportion and bear the same relation to each other as do the parts of the main cycle. So within the Kali Yuga there are four sub-periods corresponding to Gold, Silver, Bronze and Iron which last for 4/10, 3/10, 2/10 and 1/10 respectively of the total duration. Remember the Kali Yuga in this system runs from 3102 BC to 2082 AD so these sub-periods range from 2,076 years to 518 years, the period in which we find ourselves now, the tail end of the Kali Yuga. For ease of comprehension I'll put this in a table below in a form copied from Robert Bolton.
  • Gold of Iron   3102 BC - 1026 BC    2,076 years
  • Silver of Iron  1026 BC -  528 AD    1,554 years
  • Bronze of Iron 528 AD -  1564 AD   1,036 years
  • Iron of Iron    1564 AD - 2082 AD      518 years.
Those who wish can look for patterns in these periods. They are not hard to find. Robert Bolton points out that the second corresponds to the classical civilisations of Greece and Rome and the third to the Middle Ages. However I want to break them down further by taking the last period and applying the same process to it. I want to do this for two reasons. Firstly, this period falls well within historical times and so events are more familiar to us, but secondly, there is the idea that as the cycles progress so time and the rate of change speed up. Therefore the effects of cyclical change are easier to see. Once again I am copying Robert Bolton with this table whose fascinating book is the inspiration for this post. Please note that when it says 'Golden age' in the table what is meant is the first section of the fourth section of the Kali Yuga thus gold of iron of iron.
  • Golden age 1564 - 1770   206 years
  • Silver age    1770 - 1926  156 years
  • Bronze age 1926 - 2030   104 years
  • Iron age      2030 - 2082     52 years
It will be seen that we are now living in pretty grim times, spiritually speaking.

Looking at these dates the first thing that strikes me is that the so called Golden age of this sub-cycle went from the Reformation and the birth of science (as it is understood in modern terms) to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Galileo was born in 1564 and Beethoven in 1770. These are two individuals who can very well be taken as representing spirits of a new age. The one as a scientist who confronted religious authorities and the other as the most important artist of the Romantic period which was a definitive shift away from God as the centre to man as the centre. Whatever the quality of Beethoven's music might be, the fact is that it does signify a spiritual loss compared to what came before in that the certainty of God is no longer present as it definitely was in Renaissance polyphony and even was in Baroque music. Man felt his exile from heaven more than ever before. It's probably a coincidence that the dates are so neat. We can't always expect things to fall into place quite so smoothly as this. The system is not an exact science. Nevertheless these dates do speak eloquently from a symbolical point of view.

The Silver age takes us right up to the brink of modernity. The 1st World War swept away the past, and the twenties are always regarded as the start of something quite new. Art, politics, everything changed in ways too well known for me to need to set them forth here. So what I want to do now is break down the third period, the one in which we live and therefore, it could be said, the most important from our point of view. Please note that this time the golden age is the gold of bronze of iron of iron. I'm sorry - it's getting a little complicated at this point!

  • Golden age  1926 - 1968  42 years
  • Silver age    1968 - 1999  31 years
  • Bronze age  1999 - 2020  21 years
  • Iron age       2020 - 2030  10 years
The dates here are not quite exact because the periods do not break down into whole numbers precisely to the year, but they are near enough. 1968 is a significant date. It might be said to be when the momentum built up during the early sixties really kicked in and the new ways, a focus on youth, sexual liberation and so forth, spread from a select group right out to the whole populace. I believe it's when colour TV started in England and there's a whole symbolism right in that fact. 1999, apart from being the end of the millennium, can be seen as the time when computers and the internet started to enter every home. Of course, these things build up gradually, they don't come out of nowhere, but if you are looking for tipping points these dates are about the best there are.

You can carry on breaking these periods down endlessly. For instance, the bronze and iron ages of the period from 1926-1968 start around 1956 and 1964 which strike me as periods of significant change, while the silver age of the period from 1968-1999 coincides with the '80s, a time of increasing globalism, unregulated capitalism and the spread of what is called by its opponents and probably is, cultural Marxism. Obviously one can take this sort of thing too far but that does not discount the fact that, using this method, significant patterns emerge without them being forced to do so.

The question could nevertheless be asked what is the point of all this? Is it just a bit of fun, the truth of which you can neither prove nor disprove, or does it have any purpose? To be honest, I'm not sure. I do think, though, that studying these dates can prepare us for change and help us to respond to it in a spiritually intelligent way. Particularly when you bear in mind that the dates are turning points when what already exists for an elite or group of specialists spreads out into the mainstream. It looks as though the next bit of the cycle will be starting up in a few years time, and then the final phase in the whole process ten years after that. These may well be, to put it neutrally, interesting times and it might help to know that there is some kind of pattern behind it all. Forewarned is forearmed. As those who remain loyal to God find the world crumbling around them comfort can be found in understanding that this is more or less inevitable given the nature of things. But note that the fact of spiritual degeneration does not excuse those who go along with it or, worse, contribute to it for "Offences must come but woe to that man by whom the offence comes". Just because spiritual decline is naturally occurring in the world is no reason not to stand against it, especially since by doing so you may be able to mitigate its worst effects or help someone else struggling against it who might otherwise succumb. The situation is as it is but you can make it better or worse. 

As for why things are allowed to be like this I would say that the answer lies in the reality of free will and the need for a test.

A Note on the Krita Yuga.
To say that the Krita Yuga or Golden Age was a time of greater general openness to the reality of the spiritual plane, and an ordering of the world in accordance with that reality, does not mean that there were lots of saints and sages walking around then. In fact, it may need the relative spiritual darkness of the Kali Yuga to enable a true spirituality to be born, in which the soul on an individual level, through its own efforts, struggle and suffering, can awaken and develop the capacity for love and wisdom within itself. For a pre-lapsarian Adam to become a Christ you might say. The Krita Yuga was a time when the quality of the higher planes of existence still 'seeped through' into this world and the divine order of being could be more correctly discerned, but that would still only have been according to the degree of inner development of the people at that time.

Drug taking is an illicit attempt to recapture something of the consciousness of earlier periods. It is illicit precisely because it seeks to acquire the consciousness without developing the proper character. The aim now is to develop a spiritual character and not simply experience a spiritual consciousness. That is why wise teachers emphasise the importance of love and humility, and regard the search for mystical experience as largely unproductive and potentially even detrimental to true spiritual growth.

One further point. The idea of these ages and the spiritual degradation that occurs over their span is different to the idea of the Fall. The various ages are the result of natural changes in the cosmic environment as time goes by but the Fall was a failure of will, a deliberate act rather than a natural one. Very probably the way these ages work out would have been quite different had the Fall not occurred.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Old Port - A Fictional Meditation on the Traditional Latin Mass



It was half past four. The rehearsal had finished at four but Genevieve and Fintan were still there, bickering about faith, meaning, and Genevieve's supposed religious vocation.

Fintan went for a wander on the stage. He'd had enough of banging his head against a wall. Genevieve was unmoved - as fixed as the Northern Star - obstinate and obsessed. But then again, he mused, weaving his way between the statues and columns, so was he.

Fintan approached the dais and picked up the crown - a golden, gleaming circlet. He held it in his hand, fondling and caressing it, longing for Ambrose, Archbishop of Canterbury, to appear like a ghost from the stalls and ease it onto his head. Someone would crown him one day, no matter what Shakespeare said in Julius Caesar. He was twenty-seven, and consumed with ambition. To be hailed as a legend - a king among princes - the foremost Shakespearean actor of this second Arthurian age. That was the prize. That was what it was all about.

'You'd better be quick if you're coming,' whispered Genevieve from the wings. 'Mass is at five.'

Fintan put back the crown - for now - and followed her out of the theatre.

Sunlight stung his eyes and wind nipped his cheeks, as the raw March air snapped him out of his royal reverie. Down the cobbled hill, to his right, the big ships shimmered in the harbour. Waves bounced and sparkled in the setting sun. But Genevieve turned the other way, uphill through the narrow streets and the Old Port's celebrated mesh of cafés, pubs, galleries and music halls. The breeze whipped her long dark hair across her face. Seagulls cawed and chattered overhead. Down below, the place was buzzing, stuffed to the gills with good time Charlies from all over the Empire - sailors, showgirls, scholars, seminarians, you name it. The town had gone from strength to strength since the Great Restoration, no doubt about that.

There was still some damage showing from the war, of course. It was only five years ago, after all. Where the Castor and Pollux hotel once stood, for instance, was now a boarded up plot of empty space. The plywood boards, Fintan saw, as they passed by, were festooned with posters for all manner of books, performances and exhibitions, including one for their own play, Julius Caesar - seven-thirty every night at the Gaumont from March 10th to March 31st.

Valentina Ivanovna, the Director, had drawn the poster herself - a depiction of Fintan reaching up for a crown - the same circlet he had just been holding - that hovered and hung in the air, eluding his grasp like it was sitting in a pocket of time and space all of its own. He was there again in the top right corner, in a kind of inset, his blood-soaked form lying crumpled at the foot of Pompey's statue, the conspirators looming over him with their reddened knives. Fintan frowned. It was a nice picture - stylishly done - but Valentina had made him look distinctly non-regal. He would have a word tomorrow.

They turned right at the Round Table café onto Charles Stuart Boulevard. The new British flag - a rearing red dragon on a backdrop of gold - billowed and fluttered from the wrought iron lampposts. It was here, four years previously, that Alfred II had led the first of his Reconciliation Walks, comforting the bereaved and healing the wounded with his touch. His son and successor, Arthur, had processed through the town just last year. Alfred and Arthur had visited Fintan's home town, Leicester, too, but he had missed them on both occasions. Four years ago he had still been a Prisoner of War in Minsk, and when Arthur came he had been preoccupied in looking after his parents. He had never seen a king. He felt it acutely - almost as great a loss - more in many ways - than the left hand he had lost in the war.

They walked past the Art School. Its Doric columns reminded Fintan of Valentina's stage set. That was another reason, he realised, why he felt so intensely at home in the Old Port. It had high culture and low culture but nothing middlebrow - no mediocrity, no bourgeoisie, no middle class. Genevieve felt it too, he knew. She had an integrity, a passion for quality and a spark of nobility, that set her apart in his eyes. He had lost so much in his life - his Mum and Dad last year, his hand, his comrades and friends - that he couldn't bear to lose Vivi now - not when he was just getting to know her; not with the chance of a few days together in the Old Port after the play's run. Somehow or other he had to divest her of this tomfool idea of becoming a nun.

Fintan could hear the great bell from Our Lady's Church now, calling the faithful to Mass. They turned right, down St. Joan Street. Smaller premises surrounded them - humble convenience stores and artisan's dwellings. 'It's funny,' said Fintan. 'In the play, you're my wife. 'You try and stop me going to the Senate. Going to my doom.' Genevieve nodded but kept her eyes fixed straight ahead.  Fintan pressed on. 'It's the other way round now, isn't it? I'm not your husband but I'm doing the same thing - trying to save you from yourself.'

He was being provocative. Fishing for a reaction. But none came. Not even a shrug. Then it was too late. They were at the church. Fintan rested his hand against the grey, almost silvery stone, unaccountably out of breath, tears welling his eyes, people thronging all about. All or nothing now, he thought. One last chance. He leapt across the doorway, blocking Genevieve's path. 'Vivi,' he gasped. 'This is insane. Think of what you're throwing away. You're an actress. You're a historian. You're a playwright. You've written a play about Charles I for God's sake. That's all the rage these days. The world's not like it used to be. There's a home here for you. Don't shut yourself away. Don't throw it all away.'

A bizarre sight in the Throne and Altar pub opposite distracted Fintan. A wiry, bald little fellow, surrounded by a clapping, cheering crowd, was balancing a pint pot (it looked like Guinness) on his  head. Then Genevieve jinked past him and was gone. 'Come and see' was all he heard her say.

Fintan was at a loss, swamped by a sea of Mass-goers, streaming past him on either side. He wanted to bolt - cross the road for a pint and a smoke and cheer the wee chap on. But someone had taken his arm, he didn't see who, and spun him around. Into the church. 'Just sit down for a while, son,' a gruff Northern voice growled in his ear. 'It'll be alright.' Rough hands shoved him into a pew - the back one on the right hand side. By the time he got his bearings, Fintan had lost all sense of who it might have been who had manhandled him. He drew a deep breath and drank in his surroundings.

*******

Fintan was surprised by the size of the church. It had a wide, spacious feel that worked like a tonic on his nerves and gently settled the chaotic beating of his heart. He looked down the nave, his eyes drawn to the six tall candles on the Altar, then up to the curve and swell of the dome. A remarkably life-like mosaic - Christ washing the disciples' feet - swept across the ceiling in gold, white and blue. 

Our Lady's appeared to Fintan as if ablaze in candlelight - from top to bottom - on the Altar, in the two side chapels and in front of the countless statues. Incense permeated the air. A profound silence - penetrated only by the tolling of the bell - restored rhythm and depth to his breathing.

The church was about two thirds full - a good mix, so far as he could see, of young and old, male and female. Some of the women and girls wore white, lacy veils. Genevieve, he noted, remained bareheaded. He could see the back of her head, on the left hand side, about four rows from the front. She was kneeling down, her attention absorbed in a pocket-sized, gold-leafed book.

The great bell fell silent. Fintan heard a faint tinkle, then everyone stood up. Male voices, high above, struck up a slow, meditative chant. Far away in the front left corner, a silver crucifix followed by four flickering candle flames edged steadily forward, bobbing up and down over the worshippers heads. Fintan lost sight of the procession momentarily, only for it to reappear beside him, sweeping past him on his left as the Servers, with the Priest behind them, approached the Altar for the start of Mass.

Fintan counted five Servers - one very old, one very young, two about his own age, and one (the cross-holder) whose face he didn't quite catch. They wore black, overlaid by a white, tunic-type garment. The Priest was a burly, tough-looking individual, with close-cropped hair and stubble to match. If it hadn't been for his long purple vestment, Fintan might have had him down as a bouncer rather than a cleric.

The Priest and his Servers genuflected in unison before the Altar. The cross-holder slotted his crucifix into a small square plinth to the Altar's right. The candle-bearers peeled off, two to each side, while the Priest and the cross-holder stood motionless in the centre. They turned around together, as the chant rose, fell and rose again like the waves in the harbour. They marched down the aisle, the Priest sprinkling the people with water from the cross-holder's brown jar.

Fintan saw the Server's face now. He had a cruel-looking scar - curved like a scimitar - across his left cheek. Fintan felt oddly certain that he had come by that scar in the war, just as he had lost his hand and - worse than that - Jan, Marco, Adam, Brendan, and so many more. Schoolfriends and comrades. The best (and only) brothers he ever had.

He felt a deep and sudden affinity with the Server. The Priest too. They were men - just as he was - and in that instant he wanted nothing more than to be part of their fraternity, to feel again that bond of brotherhood he had known at school, at the front, and in the camp at Minsk. Holy water splashed him in the eye as Priest and Server passed him by, and Fintan saw that he had been searching for this brotherhood - this sense of meaning, this intensity of feeling - ever since his release but in totally the wrong place - in in a vain and futile quest for individual glory and renown. Worse, he had projected his deepest spiritual and emotional desires onto Genevieve, a woman whose destiny clearly - and rightly, Fintan saw now - lay in a completely different sphere.

The Priest and Server returned to the Altar, and the Mass began. The congregation knelt down, and Fintan knelt with them. He couldn't understand, and in any case could hardly hear, the Latin prayers going on at the front. The Priest had his back to the crowd anyway. But Fintan didn't mind. No-one, least of all himself, had come here to be entertained. There was the whole of the Old Port for that. It was a relief as well, to be honest, not to be looked at by the Priest. Fintan didn't want the Mass to be about him or the people beside him. He wanted the Priest and Server to keep their focus on the Altar. It took some of the pressure off that he used to feel in church (on the few occasions that he went) before the war.

A new chant started up - female voices too now - Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison, Kyrie Eleison. Even Fintan knew what that meant - Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy. The words felt right and fitting. The follies, sins and errors of his life flashed before his inner eye. He hid his face in his hand and prayed to God for mercy and forgiveness for the first time since his capture and blindfolding.

The longer the Mass went on, the more it felt to Fintan like he was waking up from a long period of madness. Their was something in the way the Priest and Servers moved together - the Servers standing so close to the Priest as he incensed the Altar - left side, right side, centre - that gave Fintan the sense of being present at something real - something sacred and substantial - a genuine, living mystery. He was astonished. It was all such a far cry from what Mass had been like before the Great Restoration, when it was still said in English and the Priest faced the people. Those Masses, Fintan recalled, were well-meaning, but banal. They didn't compel him - didn't captivate him - and he had gone elsewhere to find meaning and value. But now he felt like he was coming home - home to himself and home to the truth. A new world - surprising and strange, yet deeply familiar as well - was  opening out like a flower before him.

Everyone stood up. The Priest ascended the carved pulpit, candle-bearers beside him, and chanted the Gospel. Everyone sat down, and the Priest gave his sermon - short, sharp and clear. He had a Liverpool accent, not quite as strong as Genevieve's, but similar in tone and intonation. Fintan wondered if they knew each other. The sermon was on the temptations of Christ and the seductiveness of worldly power and prestige. Staying true to ourselves and staying true to God are one and the same thing, the Priest said. Our deepest desire - what we long for more than anything else in the secret recesses of our heart - that's the key to who we are, and that's God's deepest desire for us too. We need to take steps, therefore, wherever and whenever we can, to build a culture and society that's congruent with this true self. 'We become what we contemplate,' he concluded.

The Mass continued. Fintan knelt down. The Priest blessed the Host, then the chalice, turned around to the people, turned back to the Altar, said a prayer and fell silent as the choir sang again - a haunting, plaintive tune, full of yearning, that stirred him to his depths:

Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus,
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra, gloria tua.
Hosanna in excelsis.
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Hosanna in excelsis.

Silence descended. The Priest bent low over the Altar. Fintan had the impression that something momentous - something earth-shattering - was about to happen. The Priest lifted the Host high into the air. The man with the scar struck a great silver gong - once, twice, three times. The Priest genuflected, bent over the Altar again, and lifted up the chalice. Its golden gleam caught and held Fintan's eye, as the gong rang out again. And Fintan felt a presence - something (or someone) totally outside himself - wholly other - existing beyond the confines of his mind - his projections, plans and schemes - beyond everything he knew about himself, yet intimately linked somehow with that deepest, reallest, truest self the Priest had spoken of in his sermon.

The gong sounded for the fifth time. The chalice hung in the air still, cradled in the Priest's hands, hovering, it seemed, between this world and the next. It drew Fintan's eyes up to the dome and the white-robed, kneeling Christ, washing a reluctant St. Peter's feet with His towel and bowl. Fintan gasped and shuddered. The mosaic, with the clarity of a thunderbolt, showed him in a flash what true Kingship really means - not being hailed as a legend, the foremost man of the age, and so forth - but sacrifice, service, and love - acting, in other words, as a brother to your people.

King Arthur II knew this well. His father, good King Alfred - the Restorer - knew it too. Fintan saw now that he had actually been involved in a lot of this throughout his life - a sacrifice, service and love that he had both given and received in great measure - at school, in the Army, and most of all, perhaps, in his parents care for him as a boy and his care for them when they were ill. Something softened, then snapped inside him. Ice broke and melted. The memory of his school-friends, his comrades, and his Mum and Dad was too much for him. Fintan buried his face in his hand again and wept for the first time since Jan, Adam, Marco and Brendan fell at the Siege of Tallinn. The gong resounded for the sixth and final time - booming, echoing, resonating, then fading. Fintan beat his breast three times. 'Kyrie Eleison,' he whispered. 'Christe Eleison, Kyrie Eleison.' The Priest genuflected, stood up again, and carried on with the Mass. Silence enveloped the church once more.

*******

A triangle of light - brightening, dimming, then brightening again - steadily lit up the stage. Fintan let go of the dial. Three-quarter light was fine. He didn't want it too bright. He jumped up onto the stage, striding purposefully between the statues and columns.

Valentina - in that earnest, Eastern European way of hers - had given each of the actors what she called a 'secret key', so that, as she told them, 'you can come to this place - this sanctum, this sacred space - at any time of day or night to better connect with the play, the characters, and yourselves - as actors, human beings, and children of God.' Fintan, in his arrogance, had chuckled to himself at the Director's flamboyant speech. He'd thought he had all the answers in those days; both for himself and  for others. He knew better now. The Mass had taught him that.

Fintan took up the crown - Julius Caesar's deepest desire - and held it in his hand. He heard a click behind him and turned around. There, in the wings, illuminated in a halo of light, stood the tall figure of Genevieve. They looked at each other for a long time in what should have been total silence but wasn't quite. Genevieve must have left the door open. The sounds of the Old Port at night - seagulls, cheers, and clinking glasses - stole through into Valentina's sacred space. It was right and fitting, Fintan felt. He remembered the little chap with the pint pot on his head and smiled.

'Remind me, Vivi,' he said. 'What's the last line of your play again? Charles' final words on the scaffold?'

Genevieve smiled. 'I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown,' she replied. 'Where no disturbance can be, no disturbance in the world.'

They laughed together, and Fintan threw her the crown in a looping, swooping arc. For a moment, mid-way between them, it seemed to pause and hover in the air, hanging there - a spinning band of golden fire - sitting in a pocket of time and space all of its own. Fintan looked closer, rubbed his eyes, and looked again. The crown appeared different to him - no longer a circle, but a curving bridge of molten light - a bridge between levels - between Heaven and Earth, the human and the Divine, the ego and the Self - a bridge of healing, unity and reconciliation - a bridge between Fintan's splintered post-war consciousness and what he longed for more than anything else in the secret recesses of his heart - quality, nobility, purpose, fellowship, and peace. 

A great restoration.

*

The painting at the top of this piece is Low Mass at All Saints, London (2013) by Timothy Betjeman. Please visit www.timothybetjeman.com to see his whole All Saints series and many more.