The Inadequacy of Instinct and the Importance of Intuition

    Both Bruce Charlton and William Wildblood have written much about intuition.  The following are four good posts: "The Loss of Intuition," "The Overturning of the Natural Order," "Intuition, the Only True Knowledge," " Three basic possible ideal ways of 'being'. "  A useful taxonomy that they have both used is to distinguish instinct, intellect, and intuition.  Instinct is unconscious desires, intellect is our normal conscious thinking, and intuition might be called spiritual perception.  Another way we can view these three is as the sub-rational (instinct), the rational (intellect), and the super-rational (intuition).    

    In our current day and age, most people only acknowledge the intellect and the instinct.  And in practice, instinct is primary because the intellect is viewed as the slave of the instincts.  This viewpoint is so pervasive it is not argued for, just assumed as the only basis to begin discussion.  Many, many analyses of society have been written from this perspective.  Numerous plans have been constructed for manipulating instincts to form a better society.  However, human beings are more than just instincts.  The intuition is not something extra that can be tacked on as needed.  It is essential.  

    In previous times, the place of the intuition was taken by tradition.  To make strategic, long-term decisions about life, people could use tradition to "think for them."  As an example, consider what the Biblical writings must have been for the people of Jesus' time.  They were not just a list of rules, they were a living reality that people had absorbed into their thinking.  Our task now is to develop intuition.  But, without tradition and without intuition, many people are utterly helpless to make good life decisions.  And by good, I simply mean ones that conform to the basic human realities that existed for millenia.  Despite what moderns think, human life was not always the way it is now.  

    The bonds of religion, family, and community held society together and despite that these are subtle things, they are not any the less real for being so.  And, these bonds were given concrete form in various rituals and traditional practices.  But, it is a mistake to think that the practices of tradition gave rise to the bonds of society.  No, it's the other way around.  Without these bonds, the traditions would have been empty.  Now these bonds are as weak as they have ever been.  

    So, what is the solution of many people?  Well, they say, the only purpose of those traditions was to manipulate people's instincts for socially useful purposes so if we just make up other ways to manipulate instincts, then everything will work out.  But it never works.  The reason is because instinct alone is too changeable.  By itself it does not provide a powerful enough principle of cohesion.  

    One reason is that the means of manipulating instincts must be applied constantly or else it will not work.  And even then, if some contrary instinct comes about, then the attempt may still fail.  For example, suppose there is a person whose instinct is to steal.  But, they refrain from stealing because of fear of punishment.  If that truly is the only reason this individual does not steal, then the fear of punishment must constantly be in place or the person will steal.  Or, suppose the individual gets drunk and then temporarily loses the fear of punishment.  Then, they will steal.  Numerous other examples could be imagined, but the point is that manipulating instincts does not, by itself, lead to social cohesion.  

    Also, if we throw out intuition and do not acknowledge the super-rational then there is no reason to choose one means of manipulating instincts over another except for social utility.  But, first of all, how can we definitively determine social utility because different people have different preferences?  Even if we could agree, it can be very difficult if not impossible to determine which means of instinct manipulation is best because of all the unforseen circumstances that can arise.  C.S. Lewis makes a similar argument in The Abolition of Man.  Once you throw out what is above the mind, all you are left with is instinct and that means all that you choose is just whatever you happen to irrationally want (at that time).  

    Bruce Charlton raises similar points in the context of evolution in his article: "Reconceptualizing the metaphysical basis of biology":

    "In sum; natural selection is much more rapidly and powerfully dis-integrative than integrative. Yet, nonetheless, these transitions did actually occur in evolutionary history. For example, in a multi-cellular organism, the dividing component cells are constantly being naturally-selected for neoplastic (e.g. cancerous) change – such that they cease to cooperate with and contribute to the organism, and instead exploit it as a ‘host’ environment (Charlton, 1996a). How, then, did multicellular organisms evolve the many integrative systems (e.g. nervous, paracrine, hormonal and immune systems) designed to impose cooperation of specialized cells and suppress non-functional and actively parasitic (e.g. mutated) cell variants; bearing in mind that all such integrative systems are themselves intrinsically subject to neoplastic evolution (as well as loss of function from cumulative damage)?

The same phenomenon and problem must (according to the theory of natural selection) apply to the genetic organelles of the complex cell (such as chloroplasts and mitochondria; Charlton et al, 1998); and also to the individual organisms in a social organization (such as human society). Yet eukaryotic cells actually did arise – despite their innate and intractable tendency to self-destruct; and there are numerous highly evolutionarily-successful social animals among (for instance) insects, birds and mammals. 

...

The general problem is therefore that the net effect of natural selection is to break down the major transitions of evolution before they can be established – unless (as I will argue later) this tendency is overcome by some as-yet-unknown purposive (and indeed cognitive) long-termist, integrating and complexity-increasing tendency. "

    So, that is the importance of intuition.  Intuition puts us in touch with the spiritual, which is most powerful source of social cohesion.  If we regard the evolution of consciousness as real, then we need to get back to the cohesion of society as it was under tradition, but in a different way.  Everyone must develop intuition for themselves.  I cannot see exactly how this would work, but we need the super-rational, so we must try for it.   

    Our current society is inhuman.  It is missing important, vital things that existed for millenia.  At this point, we have had a generations of attempts to manipulate instincts for people's benefit that have all failed.  So, why not try intuition?

Magic, or Bust!

        Bruce Charlton's excellent recent post "Magic and will-power across the ages (or, How to do White Magic - as of 2021)" provides a great deal of food for thought.  In this post, Bruce Charlton describes magic as "the attainment of human will by supernatural (non-material) means."  He traces the development of magic down the ages, from hunter-gatherer times when it was mostly unconscious through modern times when it has almost entirely disappeared. 

    One thing that is apparent is that there is no magic without consciousness being involved.  For example,  Bruce Charlton writes this about hunter-gatherer magic:

    "A somewhat conjectural history of white magic (which, nonetheless, I believe is broadly correct) has it that in our pre-historical hunter-gatherer past, God-aligned white magic was simply part of life.  

The individual human's will was neither detached from the human group-will and the group-destiny; and was immersed-in the divine will and having a mostly un-conscious direct knowledge of divine destiny. 

Apparently, some individuals had a greater aptitude (what we no term the 'shamans') but the essential activity was universal: everybody did their bit, and contributed magically in some way - spontaneously and mostly unconsciously.

    Just as people took part in the life of the tribe simply by going about their daily lives, without any additional conscious effort on their part, the magic could have come about simply in the course of life, without any additional effort on the part of the hunter-gatherers.  But, although the magic would have been linked to the life of the tribe viewed by the senses, it would have been distinct from them.   I would imagine it as something like another stream in one's consciousness running parallel to one's thoughts.  Similar to how we can hear and see at the same time.  

    In the trajectory of magic throughout the ages, one notices that magic becomes more and more objective through time.  For example: 

    "For the Pharaoh and priest-magicians of Egypt, magic required elaborately-selected and -initiated priests; who employed complex systems of ritual, symbol and many other 'technologies' (such as divination) to align their wills with the divine.  

    Now,  these Egyptian magical technologies still require consciousness because, for instance, those outside the priesthood would probably not be able to use them.  And moderns certainly cannot use them.  However, some of the magic is symbols, use of language and ritual, which takes place outside consciousness. 

    With the ceremonial magic of Renaissance, magic becomes even more objective.  The focus (in both folklore and practice) is far more on the rituals and systems than on the individual magician.  The idea is that if you can just find the proper words, and actions, than almost anyone can do magic.  One example would be astrology which was worked mathematically in a very precise manner.  Indeed, Isaac Newton's interest in mathematics was sparked by his buying a book on astrology which he did not understand because it used trigonometry.  

    But, consciousness cannot be taken out of the equation even here.  Any ceremonial magician has a motivation and intent to do magic and must choose which rituals he will use to perform.  

    And what happens after the Renaissance?  Then we come to the most objective magic of all, technology.  The most objective means for human will to work upon the world, in that technology takes no account of the user and can be worked by almost anyone.  But even then, we cannot dispense with consciousness entirely.  Consciousness is necessary for the invention of the technology itself and repairing it.  And there is a minimum level of understanding necessary to use an invention properly.  And we cannot ignore the user's motivation; any technology such as a knife may have widely different uses based on good or evil motivation.

    So, what next?  If we extrapolate even further in this direction, could then be a completely objective means to work human will upon the world, that dispenses with consciousness entirely?  That is the idea of AI.  But even then there is original motivation to design and build such a technology, which does require consciousness.  Also, I believe that ultimately AI is a fantasy.  It is somewhat conceivable according to a materialistic view of the world, but if human consciousness cannot be removed from the world, then there must be deeper reasons why AI will never exist.

    Or maybe we have just reached the end of magic.  But if we look at human beings, human society needs the super-rational.  Human beings must have contact with what is beyond thinking and instinct alike.  And this would make sense if humans really have a spiritual part to them.  Furthermore, the only human society that has dispensed with the spiritual has not simply become instinctive or become animals.  On the contrary, we are unnatural.  So, we cannot dispense with a supernatural element of some kind.  

    And there is another reason why magic is a natural development out of technology.  One major problem with technology is that once invented, it can be used by anyone, no matter how ruthless.  Many people have (rightly) expressed dismay at the fact that science, which has given us so many benefits as also given us manifold ways to destroy each other more efficiently.  

    So, could we then move towards a kind of magic that only works for those with the right motivation?  I believe the answer is yes.  This is described in the above post as a new kind of white magic, white magic being described by Bruce Charlton as follows: 

    "I define white magic as in accordance with God's will; that is, in harmony with ongoing divine creation. 

White magic is done by loving alignment of an individual's will with Good..."

    Bruce Charlton describes this new kind of magic: 

" 'In sum: White magic now should not try to operate at the level of changing God's primary creation - we should not be looking to change our sensorial-perceptions of reality

We should not be motivated by a desire to impose our will; nor to attain any particular end-result in this world (such as a change in human behaviour, or society, or weather). 

Instead, white magicians need to attain (and this will, of course, be temporary and usually very partial) alignment of their own conscious thinking with God's ongoing creation.

And if this is attained then white magic will 'Just Happen'."   

    This is also elaborated upon more in this post: "Magical Thinking - the future of Magic" where Bruce Charlton writes: 

"If the magic of Original Participation was Sympathetic Magic; and that of the modern Consciousness Soul era was Ritual Magic - then the magic of the future could be Magical Thinking.

Thus there cannot be a 'black magic' of Magical Thinking. Magical Thinking is (as we experience it) intrinsically good because it is the divine in us (God immanent) really participating-in the reality of continuing divine creation.

    Is looking to magic crazy?  Well, in these times especially, we have so little raw material to work with.  Community, nation, and groups of all sorts are far weaker than they have ever been in recorded human history.  Much of our technology has been co-opted to support evil goals.  So, what else can we work with?  All human societies that have ever existed, except ours have acknowledged the supernatural, so why not look there?  Hence the title of this post. 

    Now, by magic I am using the same loose definition as Bruce Charlton.  I do not mean ritual magic circles or anything like that and we should not even attempt to do such things because at best they will do nothing and at worst, they will open up doors better left shut.  

    The other crucial thing about how to do magic is that magic is done in cooperation with the good supernatural.  Human beings creatively contribute, but we can't do whatever we want.  It is not us using the supernatural to fulfill our will (which never works anyway), but us cooperating with the good that is out there to bring forth goodness in the world.  And this could be accomplished by true art, prayer, meditation, or other means.  By nature it will be individual.   

    But we also need courage.  William James Tychonievich wrote in an excellent comment to the "Magic and will power across the ages" post: 

"In the meantime, let me just say that magic happens when you stop being afraid. That's one of the reasons magic has a certain inherent tendency toward the black. Being motivated by the Good is one thing, but if you're only "good" because you shy away from daring damnation, you're doomed to lead a non-magical life.

Perfect love casteth out all fear. White magic. So does perfect nihilism. Black magic.
"

    In other words, because we are cooperating with the forces of goodness, as part of this cooperation, we may have to step into something unexpected and uncomfortable.  But, if our motivations are good, then we can trust that it will be for the best.  

    Better to go down a hard path and find goodness at the end than a safe path to find destruction.  And we're already on the path towards destruction.  To not choose is to make a choice.  We can't go back.  Magic, or Bust!


Kurt Godel, Romantic Theist, Part 2

 Continued from Part 1 

    Godel was also friends with John Von Neumann and their later careers form an instructive contrast.  The mathematician Paul Erdos was once asked in an interview who was one of the best mathematicians whom he had met and he picked two: John Von Neumann and Kurt Godel.  Erdos said that they both understood everything, even topics not in their areas of specialization.  However, while Von Neumann's later work was more applied and practical, Godel turned to the study of philosophy.  Erdos said something like, 

    "He spent a lot of time studying Leibniz for some reason.  I told him, you became a mathematician so people could study you, not so you can study Leibniz."

    In an earlier post about Von Neumann, Bruce Charlton left a comment saying: 

    "Jacob Bronowski was a friend of JVN - and also a mathamatician. He rated JVN's intellectual gifts very highly, and that potentially he ocould have been one of the all-time greats, a first-rate world historical genius.

But Bron. believed that JVN wasted in talents by pusuing other goals (politics, money, power, glamour) - and therefore never left behind the great work of which he was capable
."

    This is an insightful observation.  I had heard that Oskar Morgenstern and other of Von Neumann's friends were concerned that Von Neumann became too enamoured with people from the "military-industrial complex" and was persuaded to work on their problems, but I had not heard the angle that this prevented Von Neumann from doing truly world-historical work.  It is worth thinking about because it relates to the issue of destiny and choice.  Von Neumann was so talented that he could work on almost any problem and make some progress, but he did not have to work on these men's problems.  He could have done something completely different and by doing so, the military industrial complex would have lost some of its power, which would not have been a bad thing.  

    By contrast, Godel published very little.  He spent time thinking about philosophy and theology.  Some of his views are are worth quoting: 

    In 1950, Godel wrote to his mother: 

    "You are right about sadness: If there were a completely hopeless sadness, there would no more be anything beautiful in it. But I think that from a rational point of view there cannot be any such thing at all. For we understand neither why this world exists, nor why it is constituted just as it is, nor why we are in it, nor why we were born in just these and no other external circumstances. Why then should we fancy that we know precisely the one thing for sure, that there is no other world and that we never were nor ever will be in another?"

    and in 1961 in response to his mother's question of whether they would see each other again after death, he said: 

    "About that I can only say the following: If the world is rationally organized and has a sense, then that must be so. For what sense would it make to bring forth a being (man) who has such a wide range of possibilities of individual developmentand of relations to others and then allow him to achieve not one in a thousand of those? ...But do we have reason to assume that the world is rationally organized?
I think so. For the world is not at all chaotic and capricious, but rather, as science shows, the greatest regularity and order prevails in all things; [and] order is but a form of rationality.
"

    In addition, Kurt Godel wrote an unpublished essay called "The development of the foundations of mathematics in the light of philosophy" where he seems to be calling for something like a development of conciousness: 

"But not only is there no objective reason for the rejection [of phenomenology], but on the contrary one can present reasons in its favor. If one considers the development of a child, one notices that it proceeds in two directions: it consists on the one hand in experimenting with the objects of the external world and with its [own] sensory and motor organs, on the other hand in coming to a better and better understanding of language, and that means—as soon as the child is beyond the most primitive designating [of objects]—of the basic concepts on which it rests. With respect to the development in this second direction, one can justifiably say that the child passes through states of consciousness of various heights, e.g., one can say that a higher state of consciousness is attained when the child first learns the use of words, and similarly at the moment when for the first time it understands a logical inference.

Now one may view the whole development of empirical science as a systematic and conscious extension of what the child does when it develops in the first direction. The success of this procedure is indeed astonishing and far greater than one would expect a priori: after all, it leads to the entire technological development of recent times. That makes it thus seem quite possible that a systematic and conscious advance in the second direction will also far exceed the expectations one may have a priori."

    Godel was a very careful writer and did not like to make speculative statements in print, however, I believe he hit upon by another means and expressed in different language similar ideas to Rudolf Steiner's.  And should we not expect this?  If it is indeed possible for people to know reality directly by thinking and if it is intended that humans beings should develop their consciousness, then different people according to their education and capacities should be able to perceive this fact.  

   

Kurt Godel, Romantic Theist, Part 1

    Kurt Godel (1906 - 1978) is mostly known for his work in logic and mathematics and especially for his famous incompleteness theorems.   In this post, I am going to talk about other things and in particular how he is a good example of the individual path to religion.  As far as I know Godel was not a Christian or at least I know of no statement that he was one.  Godel was baptized a Lutheran but grew up in a secular household.  However, he was certainly a theist, believing in a personal God, and seems to have come to this belief purely by reading and thinking.  So, following Bruce Charlton's notion of the Romantic Christian, I would term Kurt Godel a Romantic Theist.  

    There is a good quote from the Encyclopaedia Britannica's entry on Godel which gives a good background: 

"During that period, Vienna was one of the intellectual hubs of the world.  It was home to the famed Vienna Circle, a group of scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers who endorsed the naturalistic, strongly empiricist and antimetaphysical view known as logical positivism.  Godel's dissertation adviser, Hans Hahn, was one of the founders of the Vienna Circle and he introduced his star student to the group.  However, Godel's own philosophical views could not have been more different from those of the positivists.  He subscribed to Platonism, theism, and mind-body dualism."

    During the 1940's and 1950's, Kurt Godel worked at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey and was good friends with Albert Einstein.  Einstein had told a friend that when he [Einstein] was younger he was unsure whether to go into mathematics or physics.  But Einstein thought that in mathematics there were so many problems that it was easy to get lost in them, while in physics it was clear what the big problems were.  However, when he met Godel, he met someone who had solved a clear, big problem in mathematics.  Einstein and Godel discussed many topics in philosophy, religion, and politics, although they often disagreed with each other.  Godel was politically conservative and even something of a conspiracy theorist in that he looked for hidden meanings behind political events.  

    For example, Godel wrote in a letter to his mother in 1947: 

"If one looks more closely at the circumstances [of Franklin Roosevelt’s death], one cannot help feeling that some undeclared secret lies behind it. ... Even if his death really resulted from natural causes, the impression remains as if a secret power had objected to his further plans and declared: 'up to here and no farther' "

and also to his mother in 1953:

"It is interesting that within the course of half a year both of Eisenhower’s principal opponents died (Stalin outside the U.S., Taft within). I think such a thing has never happened hitherto. The probability of it is 1:2000."

    Einstein had differing political views and was a pantheist rather than a theist.  Einstein wrote in 1929 to an enquirer about his religious beliefs: 

"I believe in Spinoza’s god, who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a god who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind."

    On the other hand, Godel said: 

    "I went home with Einstein almost every day and talked about philosophy, politics, and the conditions of America. Einstein was democratically inclined. His religion is much more abstract, like that of Spinoza and Indian philosophy. Mine is more similar to church religion. Spinoza's God is less than a person. Mine is more than a person, because God can't be less than a person. He can play the role of a person."

    So, one reason that that Godel and Einstein were friends is because each found the other to be a person of comparable intelligence.  I suspect another reason is that because of his reputation many people probably deferred to Einstein even if they believed he was completely wrong.  I think Einstein must have become tired of this after a while and found it refreshing that Godel would tell Einstein if he believed his opinions to be completely off-base. 

    Also interesting is the story of Godel's American citizenship hearing.  Godel was scheduled to become an American citizen in 1947 and because he wanted to be well-prepared, he undertook an extensive program of study.  Godel studied the history of the United States and the Native American tribes, the working of the local government of Princeton, New Jersey and other such matters, in detail.  

    Another one of Godel's friends at the Institute, Oskar Morgenstern told Godel that he need not bother and that he would only be asked routine questions.  But, Godel remained unconvinced.  Godel then began studying the U.S. Constitution in detail and told Morgenstern that he had found a contradiction that would allow the United States to legally be turned into a dictatorship.  Morgenstern told Einstein and both worried that if Godel brought this up at his hearing this would jeopardize Godel's chances for citizenship.  

    So, on the day of the hearing, Einstein tried to distract Godel by asking, 

"Now, Godel are you really well-prepared for this examination?" and then proceeded to talk about a book he had read on Russian history and Russia adopting the Orthodox church.  However, it was to no avail.  When Einstein, Morgenstern, and Godel went before the judge for the hearing, the following exchange took place:      

"Now, Mr. Godel, where do you come from?

"Where I come from?  Austria"

"What kind of government did you have in Austria?"

"It was a republic, but the constitution was such that it finally was changed into a dictatorship."

"Oh! This is very bad.  This could not happen in this country."

"Oh, yes, I can prove it.

    The judge was a friend of Einstein's and since Morgenstern and Einstein had both vouched for Godel, the judge decided not to go down that rabbit hole and broke off the citizenship examination at that point.  For a while, some considered this story to be apocryphal, but Morgenstern typed up a few page memoir of the event, from which this dialogue is taken.  However, Morgenstern did not say what the contradiction was and John Dawson, Godel's biographer, has even searched through Godel's notebooks but has not found anything.  So, the contradiction that Godel believed would allow the United States to be changed into a dictatorship is now lost to history. 

    Also, towards the end of his life, Einstein told Morgenstern that Einstein believed his own work was not worth much anymore, but he continued to go to the Institute so that he could enjoy walking home with Godel.  

Part 2

A partial order of angels and some other ideas

    The nine hierarchies of angels described by Dionysius the Areopagite is an inspiring concept.  The idea is that in addition to whatever duties an angel has individually, each angel is part one of nine larger classes and these are arranged hierarchically.  The nine classes, called choirs, in descending order are: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, Angels.  Very few people who have ever lived have had primary knowledge about this subject and one who perhaps might have, Paul, said he was not permitted to speak about it.  Nevertheless, it is worth thinking about how to imagine these hierarchies.   

    

A picture from the Baptistry in Florence depicting seven of the nine choirs of angels

    Peter Kreeft, following Aquinas writes in his book Angels and Demons

    "Therefore, angels are arranged in a vertical hierarchy.  There is no equality among angels, no angels twins."

    Mortimer Adler expands on this some more in his book The Angels and Us.  The idea is that two angels, being incorporeal, can only differ from one another in the number and generality of their ideas, so one must have more ideas and more general ideas, while the other must have less general and less ideas.  This is what Aquinas believed, that angels are linearly ordered.  However, even if we accept the idea that angels can only differ in terms of their ideas, then why can there only be more or less ideas?  Why not some angels who have the same amount of ideas but simply different ideas?

    Adler also writes: 

"According to Bonaventure, physical matter or corporeality, or having a body is not the sole cause of individual differences.  He maintained therefore, contrary to Aquinas, that it is not impossible for two angels to differ as individual members of the same species, even though they are incorporeal substances."

    I agree with Bonaventure.  There is a concept from mathematics called a partial order, which is helpful to imagine how the angels may be arranged.  In a linear order (also known as a total order) given two objects, one is greater in the ordering and one is smaller.  In a partial order, given two objects, one may be greater than the other or they may be incomparable.  Partial orders can be represented by pictures called Hasse Diagrams.  Here is an example: 

    

    We can see that the partial order is sorted into levels, where elements in each level are directly above the level below.  So, 0000 is less than 0010 and 1001, but 0010 and 0001 are incomparable.  Also, elements on a different level can be incomparable.  For example, 0100 and 1101 are incomparable.

    Of course, this idea is not unique to mathematics; it is something that is used implicitly in many everyday situations.  For instance, whenever someone needs to rank things but considers some to be equivalent and some not.  The advantage of the mathematical concept is to abstract the essential aspects of a partial order from any particular situation in which it is used. 

    This kind of situation gives us a good model of how the angels might be arranged in the 9 choirs.  Within each choir, many angels may be incomparable.  They have different tasks and different capabilities, but none are above another.  While on the other hand those of a higher level would have greater capabilities.  Notice also that in the Hasse diagram shown, if a number contains more ones in the exact same entries than another, then the number with more ones is greater than the one with fewer.  For instance, 1101 is greater than 0001.  So, likewise, an angel in a higher choir could be more powerful than one in a lower choir while the one in a lower choir may still have capabilities which the higher angel does not have.  

    There could also be angels in a particular choir who have their own unique, unusual tasks that are not shared by others in their same level.  

    Here are some other ideas about angels that are not are not enough for their own post: 

    It may be that the function of some angels is to deal with the destiny of human beings on a grand, world-historical or societal scale.  If we were properly oriented to the spiritual, then we would be able to allow these angels to "plan for us."  If we were properly aligned with God and Creation, then we would be able to allow them to direct us and things would work out long-term even with no plans of our own.  But in our hubris, we have tried to usurp the function of these angels with grand schemes of social engineering.  Which are bound to fail because perhaps that was never the function of human beings in the first place.  

    Also, there is the famous and old notion of the Angel of Death who is permitted to kill human beings.  In the book The Boy and the Brothers, there is an interesting passage towards the end: 

    "It was then that I saw a tall form like a deep black shadow behind the bed on his left-hand side.  It was not a Brother as we had known them.  It did not flash in and out like the Brothers I had seen, and see, but was still and constant.  'Of course,' I mused as I worked, clearing up, with a strange quiet on me, 'there might be a Brother like that - the Shadow of Death - the Angel of Death?"

    And if there is an Angel of Death, then why not angels who do similar work as fungi, angels who are decomposers and who clean up in certain circumstances.  In The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis envisions something similar; there are creatures who destroy the land of Narnia after the end of that world. 

    Of course, any primary knowledge about such matters is far above my capability, but these things are sill worth thinking about. 

An interesting application of algebra

     Owen Barfield wrote an unpublished novel English People.  On the official Owen Barfield website, chapters 1 - 8, 15-72, and 75 are available in pdf form.  Chapters 73 and 74 are published separately as The Rose on the Ash Heap and chapters 9 - 14 are missing.  They were loaned to an acquaintance of Barfield's who then lost them.  The website says that "the absence of these pages does not prevent the comprehension of the rest of the novel" and these chapters comprised about 6% of the novel.  So, one might wonder, about how many pages is that?

    This is one of the few times in my life that I have actually used algebra to find out something I wanted to know and it came up completely unexpectedly.  But it is exactly what we need here.  

    The official Owen Barfield website gives the number of pages of each of the pdfs: 

Chapters 1 - 8: 61 pages 

Chapters 15 - 24: 47 pages 

Chapters 25 - 32: 34 pages 

Chapters 34 - 42: 50 pages 

Chapters 43 - 51: 62 pages 

     Chapters 52 - 62: 47 pages 

Chapters 63 - 75 (except 73 and 74): 42 pages  

    Altogether, we have 343 pages collected into pdfs.  The chapters published as The Rose on the Ash Heap comprise 10% of the novel.  So, in total, we are missing 16%.  The website also says that the original manuscript is 550 pages long.  But since this manuscript is currently held in the Bodleian library, it must not contain the missing chapters.  Also, the 550 may refer to handwritten pages and we are dealing with pdfs, so we do not really know how long the original was.  But we can figure it out.  I believe the 10% for Rose on the Ash Heap refers to 10% of the original novel.  

    So, 343 pages is 84% of the original length of the novel.  Let X be the number of pages in the original novel.  Then, 0.84X = 343.  Hence, 343/0.84 = X.  Therefore, the original novel would have been about 408 pdf pages.  10% of 408 is about 41 pages.  6% of 408 is around 24 pages.  So, the novel that has been preserved is only missing 24 pages.  

There were giants in the earth in those days

     In a recent post Bruce Charlton raises the topic of giants and the nature of those giants.  He quotes John Michell who suggests that giants were nature spirits raised by magicians who sometimes developed some independence.  This is a fascinating topic and I agree with Bruce Charlton that the existence of giants is well-supported if you believe that ancient people were truthful and accurate in reporting what they had heard and seen.  In addition, the world has changed drastically even in recorded history, so it may well be that it was once quite a bit different.  In fact, the ancient Near East must have been a very strange place, if Melchizedek really was an angel, if there were people like Balaam with the power to bless or curse, and if there were giants like Goliath.   

    It may be that giants were spiritual.  On the other hand, I have read that some dinosaurs had hollow bones, which allowed them to grow long necks.  It may be that the skeletal and muscular anatomy of the giants was very different from human beings.  For instance, David was able to kill or stun Goliath instantaneously with a single sling stone to the forehead.  These giants may have been stronger, but with bones in some ways more fragile than modern humans.  Also, large animals reproduce more slowly and so that may be why the giants died off.  

    If the giants were partly spiritual, that would correspond with the famous passage of Genesis 6:4 

    "The Nephilim were on the earth in those days - and afterward as well - when the sons of God had relations with the daughters of men.  And they bore them children who became the mighty men of old, men of renown."

    Whatever this mysterious passage corresponds to and whoever these "sons of God" were, one possibility is that the giants were part spirit and part human.  On the other hand, this video suggests that the first part of this passage "The Nephilim were on the earth in those days" is a gloss on the passage meant to suggest that Nephilim were simply powerful men of various origins who were on the earth at the same time as the children of humans and "sons of God."  In any case, there is some oral tradition which would give more information about this passage that is now long gone.

    The main purpose of this post is simply to raise ideas to discuss a subject I find interesting.  However, as Bruce Charlton has pointed out in his posts, "insanity is lack of insight."  So, it behooves me to mention that I am fully aware that thinking seriously about the topic of the existence of giants would cause many people to regard me as crazy.  And this also raises an interesting point.  I have never seen a giant and whether giants once existed or not seems to have little direct relevance for our lives now, so is thinking about such questions if not crazy, then at least rather academic?  

    I am reminded of a sentence in Humphrey Carpenter's Tolkien biography: "his [Tolkien's] stranger beliefs rarely had any bearing on his behaviour."  In the context, this sentence is referring to Tolkien's mannerisms, but we should remember that Carpenter was one of the few people outside the Tolkien family who was permitted to examine Tolkien's personal papers.  So I think he was also referring to things like Tolkien's belief that his dream of a great wave covering everything was an ancestral memory from Atlantis.  (And there is actually some evidence for this because J.R.R. Tolkien's son Michael Tolkien inherited the dream without his father having mentioned it to him).  

    But, in fact, even though these beliefs did not have any obvious bearing on J.R.R. Tolkien's behavior, I think that his most personal and cherished beliefs did have effects, though not overt.  These considerations were put into Tolkien's fiction and did affect his private thoughts and hence his conduct of life, though it would be difficult to determine exactly how.  So, although it can be difficult to determine when such speculations are worthwhile, we should not rule them out altogether.  They can be valuable. 

Male and Female Celibacy

     In this post, I want to raise an idea I had that male and female celibates play different roles.  By celibacy I mean, not simply the state of being unmarried, but people who have specifically chosen to remain unmarried in order to fulfill a special role.  

    It appears that male celibacy is associated with separating oneself from society in order to do unusual work.  An example would be the archetype of the good wizard, who deals with arcane knowledge for the benefit of his people.  Another is hermits, such as Cuthbert, Dunstan, and Antony, all of whom were said to have struggled with demons.  They go outside the community in order to fight against its unseen foes.  In a comment on my post on the Desert Fathers, Bruce Charlton made a good point that hermits were believed to benefit their communities simply by their life.  Even people whom they never met or who never knew about them.  Another example would be an unmarried shaman who lives away from the main tribe, but who is able to help with tasks which require his unusual capabilities.  Yet another example is the genius scientist or alchemist who forgoes family life to pursue something outside the normal range of human experience. 

    On the other hand, I think that female celibacy is associated with holding the community together, rather than going beyond it.  One example would be the vestal virgins, who tended the sacred fire in the temple of Vesta, the goddess of the home and hearth.  Rather than caring for a particular family, their influence was seen as binding Rome together.  

    A different example would be the philosopher Hypatia of Alexandira, who has been entirely misunderstood by modernists.  Within Hellenistic paganism, raising a family was regarded as a duty.  So, I believe one reason for Hypatia's celibacy, in addition to philosophical discipline was that by refraining from one duty, she was then permitted to perform another. 

    If any readers have other examples or ideas on this subject, leave a comment.  

No, it's not inevitable!

     Francis Berger's recent post "Liberty No Longer Enlightening the World" raises some important points that are worth considering further.  Berger contrasts the idea that increasing freedom caused the decline of Christianity and the culture of the West with the idea that this increasing freedom was actually an opportunity.   He mentions the book Liberty: The God that Failed by Christopher Ferrara.  Berger writes: "According to Ferrara, it was the dark forces of Enlightenment that did in the Church and Christendom."  

    Ferrara's view is not uncommon.  Whether it is regarded as a good thing or not, many believe that the decline of Christianity was inherent in the changes that led to the Enlightenment.  These impulses could have been stopped earlier, but they could not have been prevented from having a negative effect.  But is this true?  Can we really be sure of this?

    Just from a logical perspective the answer is no.  Simply because we can document a series of events where each event follows another in time does not mean that each event inevitably caused the subsequent event.  At the end of his post, Berger raises this point: 

"I think about Libertas in terms of consciousness - that missed opportunity in the eighteenth century and everything that has followed since. The missed opportunity created Libertas. And the culmination of Libertas has led to Servitus. Servitus strikes me as the death of consciousness. Even worse, the death of spirit - the deadening of humanity, which is also the deadening of God. What comes then? Destruction?

But I do not think Servitus has won decisively - not yet anyway.

Perhaps we will rediscover libertas again  - true libertas - the kind of libertas that does not need to impose its glory upon the world with through the promise of a beckoning, light-casting statue.

The kind of libertas that can lead us from enlightening to finding the Light, if we so choose.
"

    There is something more subtle going on.  Rather than a change merely in culture, we have a change in consciousness, in how people think and understand.  This change was an opportunity, but everything bad that has flowed from it was a perversion of that impulse.  The two centuries following the enlightenment could have been entirely different in ways that are hard for us to imagine.  But, let that not deter us: no one could have imagined 2021 in 1921.  

    In fact, telling us that these changes are inevitable is the Big Lie that our enemies want us to believe.  If we really were meant to unfold this change in consciousness in a good way, then believing that the bad effects were inevitable plays right into our enemies' hands.  It wasn't inevitable then, and it isn't now.  Let us not try to manipulate the perversions of the impulse for our own benefit and turn them towards the good.  One century of that has proven an abject failure.  Instead, let us reach deeper and align our thinking and imagining with the Good to find true libertas.  

Important Saints for Our Age and a Possible Synchronicity

    The Desert Fathers are some of the most important saints to think about in our current time.  They were monks and nuns (there were also desert mothers) who lived in the Egyptian desert from the 4th century to the mid 5th century.  The lifestyle of the desert fathers was extremely austere.  Some ate only bread with salt and drank water.  Many lived communally but spent much of their time in individual cells.  Others lived as hermits, entirely alone.   Many made money for food by weaving baskets from palm leaves.  Probably the most famous of the desert fathers is St. Antony, who was one of the earliest to go out into the desert.  Antony lived as a hermit and many followed his example and went out into the desert as well.  

    Why are the desert fathers particularly important now?  The reason is that the purpose of all of their austerities was to build up inner strength, spiritual strength.  They denied themselves food, not to weaken the body, but to strengthen the soul.  

    Many of these monks and nuns were Egyptian peasants.  The life of an Egyptian peasant in the fourth or fifth century is already almost unimaginably austere compared to the life of a modern Westerner and yet, in those days thousands of people chose to go to the desert and live lives of even greater austerity.  This gives the lie to the idea that the spiritual is something extra, something for the materially comfortable.  Furthermore, in those times there were gladiator fights, public torture and executions.  The example of the desert fathers whose incredible purity of life coexisted along with such gruesome spectacles shows that real spirituality is not something weak; a merely aesthetic repugnance that flees from "real life"; it is something tough and strong.  

    Furthermore, these monks spent much time alone in prayer and contemplation and sought to strengthen the mind and soul.  The desert fathers also sought to discern true visions from self-delusion or even demonic deceptions.  In this time age of countless distractions when we must develop our own powers of discernment, the desert fathers provide a good example.  A few of these monks even were attacked by the powers of darkness.  Antony was one.  He withdrew from normal life to do battle with threats of which few are aware.  In these times when everything normal and natural is under siege it is apparent that we too are under attack by the enemies of God and humankind.  These are good saints to meditate upon and to ask for help.  The Penguin classics books Early Christian Lives and The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks have more information.  

    A possible synchronicity is that January 15 is the feast of St. Paul of Thebes, who was traditionally the very first of the monks to go into the desert and live as a hermit.  Saint Jerome wrote about Paul of Thebes.  He tells the story that Antony had a vision that there was a monk deeper in the wilderness who was better than he.  Antony went on a journey through the desert, met Paul and conversed with him and then came back later to the place Paul lived after Paul of Thebes had died.  When Paul of Thebes met Antony, he said something interesting.  I first read it in the Book of Saints and Heroes, where it is rendered: "Tell me, I beseech you, something of the children of men, for much must have happened since I took up m abode here, well-nigh over a hundred years ago.  Are the walls of the ancient cities still growing bigger because of the houses which are being built within them?  Do kings yet reign over the earth, and are they still in bondage to the devil?"  

    When I first read that, especially the last sentence, I interpreted it as meaning that Paul thought the world may have ended while he was out in the desert and he was one of the few people left.  Then I read a translation of the original which said: "tell me, I beg you, how the human race is getting on.  Are new building rising up in the old cities?  What government rules the world?  Are there still some people alive who are in the grip of the demons' error?" which does not sound like Paul thought the world was over, but it is still a striking sentence.  Imagine a man who has been alone for many decades.  Paul of Thebes is one of the few completely unworldly people I can think of.

    Could this be a synchronicity and what does it mean?  Does it mean we will go into the "desert" on the fifteenth or that we will be cut off from information about the world.  In the way Jerome tells the story, Antony also met a centaur and a satyr, so will we see strange and unusual things in the coming weeks?  I am not sure about the synchronicity, but it fits with the rest of this post, so maybe it is worth posting. 

What is a Red Queen Religion?

    JM Smith of the Orthosphere has written a post responding to a post of Francis Bergers's which referenced a post of mine that used the phrase "Red Queen Religion."  I have enjoyed reading Smith's post, which used the phrase to refer to an individual Christian's practice.  Then, in the comments, the phrase was used in yet another way to refer to competing worldviews.  Since the original purpose of my post was     I used the phrase in the sense of the Red Queen hypothesis from evolutionary biology.  However, after reading the Wikipedia article, which says: 

"The Red Queen hypothesis, also referred to as Red Queen's, the Red Queen effect, the Red Queen model, Red Queen's race, and Red Queen dynamics, is a hypothesis in evolutionary biology which proposes that species must constantly adapt, evolve, and proliferate in order to survive while pitted against ever-evolving opposing species"   

    I realize now that there are at least two ways to view the Red Queen hypothesis.  One is in terms of species competing with each other.  But I was thinking more in terms of how the phrase was used in this post by Bruce Charlton where he says:

     "Mutational damage and other forms of entropic damage to organisms will spontaneously occur and accumulate - therefore each lineage is on a treadmill sweeping it backwards towards extinction; and the basic and minimal function of natural selection is to keep the organism moving forwards at least as fast as the treadmill is tending to sweep it backwards."

    After reading Francis Berger's statement

    "Many Christians view judgement as the Achilles' heel of their faith."  I thought about how statements such as "Judge not, that you may not be judged, For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again." (Matthew 7:1-2) have been used in bad faith arguments for the purpose of attacking Christianity.  And there are other features of Christianity that make it seem weak from a perspective of "social technology."  J.B.S. Haldane encapsulated this idea fairly well in saying: "Jesus left no code of law behind him like Moses ... and his moral precepts are so different from those of ordinary life that no society has ever made any serious attempt to carry them out  such as was possible in the case of Israel."

    So, should we refrain from thinking about such matters - do raising such questions only serve to undermine faith?  Or maybe, is this a feature of Christianity rather than a bug?  If Christianity is what we believe it to be, then maybe the essence is not a sort of social technology, but something bigger than that.  In that case, we shouldn't be worried about thinking more deeply about the faith because Christianity can always accommodate more.  Raising such questions isn't undermining Christianity but going deeper.  

    That being said, there are some important caveats.  First of all, it has to be a good faith question.  People who are just raising questions to wear down the faith will end up chasing their own tails or inventing fake answers.  Secondly, it may not be the proper time to find an answer, in which case we may have to live with an incomplete understanding.  And, thirdly, the increase in understanding may be very small.  When I said we can always go deeper in our understanding of Christianity, I meant that if it is needed, then we can do it.  But it may not be needed, or it may be needed only to a small degree.

    Can we draw a parallel between the small-scale increase in understanding and the development of Christianity as a whole?  If Christianity is a Red Queen religion, then it will tend to degrade of its own accord and so if this happens it is our own fault for lack of proper maintenance.  On the other hand, is there something else going on?  This is the point Bonald raises in this post

    "The anti-intellectualism to which I object is the assumption that the answers to the great intellectual problems are easy, that no serious intellectual work or fundamental re-evaluation of given ideas is needed.  This must not be true today, at least if Christianity really is true even though so few seem to find it credible.  The solution must require breakthroughs in our thinking and our imagination.  Having a more forcefully orthodox episcopate or holier priests will do nothing about the fundamental problem of people wanting to be as liberal and materialist as possible."

    In other words, maybe the way to help Christianity is not to spend our effort maintaining but in doing something else, moving forward to something else.  Certainly not liberal (fake) Christianity and certainly not discarding the substance of the faith, but something at a level between the societal and the metaphysical level.  And this would not be more advanced, but just different in the same way that Medieval and Ancient Christianity were different but there was still continuity between them.  

    So, if we can increase in understanding if we really want to know, then in the same way, if we have reasons for believing that we need to develop Christianity then we really can do it.  To use a metaphor, if Abraham was asked to leave his land and go to another, he could be assured that there really was another land waiting for him.   


The World is Under a Spell Part 2

 Continued from Part 1 

    Likewise, what has actually happened with the eliminativists is that they have fallen below the conceptual level.  In a lecture titled: "Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts: From Nature to Sub-Nature",  Rudolf Steiner says: 

"By far the greater part of that which works in modern civilisation through technical Science and Industry — wherein the life of man is so intensely interwoven — is not Nature at all, but Sub-Nature. It is a world which emancipates itself from Nature — emancipates itself in a downward direction.

    Rudolf Steiner had the idea that Divine plan for the development of consciousness was that consciousness would become increasingly less spiritual until a certain point at which point, consciousness would become spiritual again.  In the lecture cited in Part 1 of this post, Steiner gave a clue how to do this:  "We can, however, recognise the task before us: it is to permeate our concepts and ideas with spirituality. "

    However, the way up will not be like the way down, not only in its characteristics but because the way up must be conscious.  Steiner warned that if we do not take the upward path, then we will put ourselves in a dire situation: we will lose the old unconscious power of concepts, but will have nothing to replace them with.  And when you don't even believe in concepts, do you believe in nothing?  No, no one can actually believe in nothing.  What happens in practice is that people believe reality is what is imposed.  Bruce Charlton has many posts describing this phenomenon.  

    And in our world, what is imposed is not just materialistic and non-spiritual but in fact anti-spiritual and unnatural.  But who is imposing it?  I think Descartes was more prescient than he realized when he imagined an evil genius that could confuse people's thoughts and deceive them.  That is what we see all around us.  People do not even believe their own thoughts or their own experiences and not only that, they believe things for which they have no basis to evaluate the truth of.  If an ancient or medieval person saw our current world, I think they might conclude that it was under a spell.  

    The ultimate source of our enemies' power is spiritual (though their material power is immense).  The ability of mutually indifferent or even hostile groups to combine in such a way that all friction is ironed out doesn't make sense otherwise.  And if one believes that thinking is spiritual, then the ability to control thoughts is a spiritual power.  It is amazing how many people will not permit themselves to even think things that the media has declared unthinkable.     

    But, as discouraging as the current situation is, if our enemies' power was purely material, we would have no recourse.  Whether things will turn out for the good in a worldly sense and how so, I hope, but cannot be certain of.  However, if the nature of what is happening is spiritual, then there is much that we can still do.  Only spiritual power can counter spiritual power.  So, developing the spiritual within us by thinking and also calling upon power greater than us, by prayer is what we must do.

The World is Under a Spell Part 1

    Towards the end of last year, I wrote about eliminativism, which is the idea that all conscious experience is an illusion.  It is worth revisiting because there is more going on than just an academic dispute.  I believe that the phenomenon of Eliminativism is intimately related to our current situation.  

    What has always struck me about arguments over eliminativism is how confident both sides are.  On the one hand those who argue against eliminative materialism point out that it is self-contradictory.   If you ask people to believe a theory that denies the possibility of belief, then how can they follow through with your request?  On the other hand, those who argue for eliminativism say that it is so obvious that science has reduced everything to material descriptions that those who believe the mind is the last holdout are either naive or afraid to follow through consistently the implications of science.   

    Something strange is going on here.  At the level of basic argumentation, eliminativism fails; it contradicts itself.  But, pointing this out does not convince those who believe in the theory.  So why do eliminativists believe what they believe?  

    The answer is that because the eliminativists do not believe in the mind argument cannot persuade them.  Jonathan Swift is reported to have said something like, "You cannot argue someone out of what they were not argued into."  Conceptual argument cannot persuade the eliminativists because they do not believe in concepts.  

    And I think we can go even further.  One of Rudolf Steiner's insights is that thinking is spiritual.  Thinking itself has spiritual power.  In a lecture entitled "Background to the Gospel of Mark: The Tasks of the Fifth Post-Atlantean Epoch" Steiner says:

    "We can still feel that concepts and ideas are in essence supersensible when we regard their very character as being a guarantee for the existence of the supersensible world. But only few feel this. What concepts and ideas contain is for most people extremely tenuous. And although there is something in them which can provide complete proof of man's immortality, it would be impossible to convince him, because compared with the solid, material reality for which he longs, concepts and ideas are as unsubstantial as a cobweb. They are, in fact, the last and slenderest thread spun by man out of the spiritual world since his descent into the physical world."

     This is an important paragraph because it elaborates on the way in which concepts are spritual.    Rudolf Steiner also had another idea, which was that in 1899 the world crossed a threshold; after this year materialism would be on the decline.  If we look around us, we see that this is not the case, but I think there is still something to this idea.  In the 19th century and earlier, materialism was primarily an intellectual doctrine.  It was believed because of arguments, which were put forward as inferences from scientific theories.  However, especially in the 21st century, very few people hold materialism as an intellectual doctrine.  Instead, they believe it because of the increasingly materialistic character of our world.  

    It is not that their concepts are materialistic, but rather, in the absence of concepts having power over people, they defer to what is around them, which is (especially in the West) a world structured according to the principle of materialism.   

Part 2

Christianity is Inexhaustible

     In his post  "The Limits of Solzhenitsyn's Concept of the Line Separating Good and Evil" Francis Berger writes: "Many Christians view judgement as the Achilles' heel of their faith."  

    The post itself is well worth reading because of the importance of the questions it examines, which is examining Solzhenitsyn's famous quote: 

"Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either - but right through every human heart - and through all human hearts.

    in the light of how there really can be sides in a spiritual war.  I am not going to examine this, but another train of thought that reading the post took me on: 

    Bruce Charlton has written about how Christianity is a strange religion compared to other religions in what it promises.  It is also strange in its teachings in that Christians are on the one hand enjoined to refrain from judging rashly, yet human beings must make judgments throughout life.  And there are many other difficulties like this.  Are the difficulties things that we should just dismiss because they can be manipulated to sow the seeds of doubt?  Or should we think through these issues precisely so that we can understand our faith better? 

      Then, after thinking about that, I remembered this quote from John Fitzgerald's post "The Marble of Exchange:"

"It shows to me just how far Christianity still has to go before it can become the religion it is truly capable of being. In a sense it hasn't done anything very much yet. So much of it is still latent, still in a state of potential, raw and undeveloped. And this should give us both cause for concern and grounds for real hope.

    In other words, Christianity can continue to develop.  Christianity isn't a Red Queen religion, where most of the energy is spent trying to avoid defects.  Christianity can always develop.  We can always go deeper in our understanding of Christianity because we can always go deeper in  our understanding of Christ.  Bonald quotes G.K. Chesterton who says:  

    "Now what we have really got to hammer into the heads of all these people, somehow, is that a thinking man can think himself deeper and deeper into Catholicism, but not deeper and deeper into difficulties about Catholicism.  We have got to make them see that conversion is the beginning of an active, fruitful, progressive, and even adventurous life of the intellect."

But Christianity not only is inexhaustible in depth, but also "horizontally."  Christianity can always accommodate new individuality because to be Christian is not to lose individuality but to bring it into something bigger.  

One example would be in the conversation of Jesus with the Samaritan woman (John 4:20-26) when the woman says: 

"Our fathers adored on this mountain, and you say, that at Jerusalem is the place where men must adore."

and Jesus replied

     "Jesus saith to her: Woman, believe me, that the hour cometh, when you shall neither on this mountain, not in Jerusalem, adore the Father.  You adore that which you know not: we adore that which we know; for salvation is of the Jews.  But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father also seeketh such to adore him.  God is a spirit; and they that adore him, must adore him in spirit and in truth.  The woman saith to him: I know that the Messias cometh (who is called Christ); therefore, when he is come, he will tell us all things.  Jesus saith to her: I am he, who am speaking with thee."

    I believe that among the earliest Christians, there were both Jews and Samaritans.  And I also believe that in becoming Christians they were able to overcome their differences.  But they were able to do so not by falling below them, by caring so little about their people that being a Jew or Samaritan didn't matter, but by going above their differences.  By becoming part of something bigger.  They still were Jews and Samaritans but were also Christians.

    Paul said something similar when he said (Galatians 3:26-29): 

"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise."

Significance of Rudolf Steiner Part 2

Continued from Part 1

    The third reason why Rudolf Steiner is important is his ideas regarding the modern world and the change and developments in civilization.  I am not sure about his ideas regarding the ancient world, but I believe Steiner did have genuine insights about modernity.  

    Science as well as the social changes of the modern world is something genuinely new under the sun.  Over the past four centuries much ink has been spilled trying to come to terms with this fact.  Bruce Charlton has mentioned on his blog how different the pre-industrial age was.  In particular, that rapid scientific progress is not normal.  It is very rare and so far as we know has only showed up in one society.  The ancient world was not just the modern with with science subtracted.  It ran on entirely different principles.  

    It is very difficult for us moderns to imagine this fact.  In fact, I believe that some people really do believe that a technological society is normal.  They believe technology will just develop if it isn't constrained.  That is the idea behind the meme that the Church held back progress during the Middle Ages.  People will naturally become modern if some force isn't holding them back.  That is also one reason why some people are interested in Atlantis.  They cannot imagine that the ancient world was structured differently and so they imagine that known history is just a decline from the advanced technological days of Atlantis.  But the problem with these ideas is that they have no explanation for where these forces opposed to progress come from.  Also, they do not come to terms with the ancient world on its own terms.  They view it as an aberration of modernity, when it was a completely different thing.

    Steiner was able to go deeper into an understanding of the nature of the modern world and how it differs from earlier times.  At bottom, the changes are spiritual in nature, including changes of consciousness.  Steiner was able to go deeper than the cycle of civilization.  Yes, there do seem to be patterns that repeat, but it makes more sense that rather than the changes over history being merely the working out of blind historical forces, there are qualities specific to each time period which allow us to go see a more comprehensible pattern. 

Significance of Rudolf Steiner Part 1

    Bruce Charlton has a post called "Why Rudolf Steiner? (despite everything)" where he discusses the importance of Rudolf Steiner and ends with this excellent summing up: 

"I completely agree with Steiner's core teaching, which is that our primary urgent task - here and now in 2020 - is to choose consciously to live by-and-from the spiritual (including to discover what that means for us, as individuals). 

This should be what we think about when we awaken each morning, and when we look back on our day each evening, and as we settle to sleep at night. 

This should be a focus of our meditations and prayers. 

Nothing is more important than this: here, now; for you - and for me."

    In this post, I will write about the reasons I have found Rudolf Steiner helpful.  

    One reason is that Steiner is one of the few "countercurrents."  One of the most harmful ideas that has been believed by human beings over the past two centuries is that the materialistic developments of these centuries and their dramatic acceleration in the second half of the 20th century and continuing into the 21st were inevitable.  In particular, I mean intrusion of machines and mechanistic thinking into all aspects of life, bureaucratization of jobs and thinking.  Many, many people believe all these things are right, good, and inevitable.  

    Some people who lived during those two centuries tried to manipulate these developments for their own benefit.  The vast majority viewed them as the backdrop of life; they neither tried to help nor fight against them.  Steiner is one of the few people (the Inklings are others) who not only acknowledged that these things were not right and good, but tried to fight against them.  To accept materialism and mechanization as inevitable is to surrender without a fight.  So if we want to get past these things, we must try to look for something else; some other possibility.  Whether one agrees with Steiner's proposed answers or not, the very fact that he was one of the few people to even try to do this makes him worth looking into.  

    Another reason relates to levels of analysis of society.  People can analyze society at many levels from day to day interactions to historical trends or even the metaphysical level.  However, there is a trap that is very easy to fall into.  It is easy to take the historical trends as a given and simply explain how they came about rather than look at any deeper cause.  Many of Steiner's discussions of societal questions take place on a neglected level which is between the macro-societal/historical and metaphysical.  I am not sure of a good name for it, perhaps the epochal or macro-historical level.  

    Let me give an example to make this more clear.  Even though I do not necessarily agree with the numerological aspects of his articles, often after reading Terry Boardman's articles or listening to his lectures, I have gained understandingMany historical or sociological analyses do not really provide understanding.  They report many facts and events and explain how one series of events led to the next, but they do not explain why just such and such a series of events and not some other led to a certain result.  There is no deeper pattern to fit the facts into and one is left with a description (often highly detailed) but there is something missing.  

    What Steiner did and what he provided those how use his concepts with is an ability to think about world events and changes in society from a perspective that can elucidate meaningful patterns rather than merely describe events.  And in order to get past the trap of thinking what we see around us is inevitable, we have to analyze on this level.      

Part 2


Some thoughts on 2021 Part 3

 Continued from Part 2

    So, I believe what might happen in 2021 is that the impulse of the Seventh Post-Atlantean Epoch will come into play.  Things will be strange because we will have impulses from three epochs at work on the earth at once, kind of like a triple conjunction of planets.  I also believe that the impulse of the Seventh Epoch will be stronger and more severe than that of the Sixth and Fifth.  One way I try to imagine this is the scene in C.S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength where Merlin is accepting the planetary spirits into himself.  In this novel, the planetary spirits of Saturn and Jupiter are stronger than those of Mercury, Venus, and Mars and but rather than overpowering the lesser qualities, they join with them: 

"Ransom greeted his guests [the planetary spirits] in the tongue of Heaven.  But he warned Merlin that now the time was coming when he must play the man.  The three gods who had already met in the Blue Room were less unlike humanity than the two whom they still awaited.  

... 

Yet Lurga [Saturn] in that room was overmatched.  Suddenly a greater spirit came - one whose influence tempered and almost transformed to his own quality the skill of leaping Mercury, the clearness of Mars, the subtler vibration of Venus, and even the numbing weight of Saturn."

    So, what should we do?  Well, first of all, keep doing anything good.  As Paul said in Philippians 8: 

"whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things." 

    Also, recognize that the supernatural is real.  The most hopeful thing about Steiner's philosophy is that even though we have moved away from the spiritual - there is a way back up.  External circumstances may hinder us in this, but it is available.  

     If we have the chance to do something that we have discerned is good, do not be put off by its strangeness.  

Meditate on what is good and powerful, like the guardian angel of Earth.

Part 3

Some thoughts on 2021 Part 2

 Continued from Part 1

    In fact, I believe that because the materialism and the misuse of science in the Fifth Epoch proved to be such disasters, as typified by the two World Wars, that the Sixth Epoch was begun early and in a different place.  Rather than beginning in Eastern Europe, it began in the Anglo-American world after World War II and especially accelerating in the 1960s.  In fact, I believe that the Sexual Revolution is actually the corruption of the impulse of the Sixth Epoch.  It's not hard to see how this might happen.  What would the corruption of an impulse for almost everyone to start a family lead to?  Well, the result is all around us.  (Corruptio Optime Pessima)  

    Steiner seems to suggest as much in his prophecy of 1918: 

    "But this much can certainly be said: The effect in the evolution of humanity would be that certain instincts connected with the sexual life would arise in a pernicious form instead of wholesomely, in clear waking consciousness. These instincts would not be mere aberrations but would pass over into and configure the social life, would above all prevent men — through what would then enter their blood as the effect of the sexual life — from unfolding brotherhood in any form whatever on the Earth, and would rather induce them to rebel against it. This would be a matter of instinct."

    The key phrase here is "configure the social life."  

    In another lecture, titled "Behind the Scenes of External Happenings" Steiner said: 

"the secret of the control of masses — I spoke of this to begin with. It is the secret of how to gain extensive control over those masses who concern themselves little with external affairs, yet possess spiritual capacities and are especially qualified to assist in the preparation of the Sixth Post-Atlantean epoch — it is the secret, too, of how the art of controlling these masses can be placed in the hands of a few individuals. "

    When I try to think about what the Sixth Epoch would look like, one thing I wonder is, how would the families defend themselves?  In other words, those who concern themselves with raising families would not concern themselves with the macro-structure of society within which the families exist and so they would be vulnerable to various kinds of attack on that level.  I believe there was something supposed to develop in the Fifth Epoch (I have no idea what it would have been like), which never got off the ground.  This impulse would have structured human life at the macro-level and would have defended the families in the Sixth Epoch from those who meant them harm.  

    So, if this is true, then it means that people who have the qualities of the Sixth Epoch inside them naturally assume there will be a macro-level structure that defends them and helps to structure social life.  But, they have transferred that belief to the system.  Which has had very bad effects indeed. 

    Notice also that Steiner uses the phrase "the masses."  It is essential that the Fifth Epoch of individuality take place before the Sixth so that human beings are not swept up in the impulses of the Sixth Epoch and become just an undifferentiated mass.  Unfortunately, because the Sixth Epoch was accelerated, people had not fully developed their individuality so these people that Steiner speaks about in this paragraph are highly vulnerable to manipulation on a certain level.  Which we do indeed see with the media.   

    

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