Friday, September 30, 2005

More on parsonage - RIDE OUT!!

Day off today, so not too much work to do - just Morning Prayer, a wedding and preparation for the Learning Church session on women bishops tomorrow morning... (grin)

A bit of context: I've had some feedback about unhappiness within (some parts of) the congregation, which is sufficiently grounded that I've called an extraordinary PCC meeting to discuss it. Which, as you might imagine, has prompted much soul searching on my part (and underlies one or two recent entries here).

Now last night I read Brian McClaren's 'A new kind of Christian' - which is EXCELLENT, and if the character Neo wrote a book of theology I think it would bear a remarkable resemblance to the book I'm writing... - but it had this in it:

"... a couple of long-term parishioners have been driving me crazy. Suspicious, cynical attitude, and so on. How much time to spend with them? Just ignore it? I've noticed these situations follow a pattern. Parishioners experience some personal offence - loss in power, hurt feelings about something. This causes withdrawal. They begin keeping a mental notebook, noting all additional offences. 'Demerits' add up, and a conspiracy theory develops. They can't help but talk about it, and 'concern' spreads. If I don't address it, they drift away, and their leaving adds a demerit in the notebooks of others...."

Hence the extra PCC meeting. ("What does Sam do with his time?" was the question being asked.)

I began down the road of self-justification with much resort to the nature of the job, particularly emphasising that the 'George Herbert model' is untenable, and that 'Ministry as Partnership' (what this Diocese calls 'mutual ministry' or 'the ministry of all the baptised') is the only way forward. And I've been keeping a log of the hours I've been working, and what I've been doing etc etc. My conscience is quiet, that I'm not 'lazy' or 'uncaring' or anything like that.

But I had this distinct sense that I wasn't getting to the heart of the matter. Although all these things were true, God was leading me a bit deeper. And what I am beginning to see is that there is a truth about the sort of person I am which needs to be brought out into the open and clarified - which is what I see now as the way forward at the PCC (in a couple of weeks).

The real truth is that I am completely deaf in my left ear - have been since birth. Which, for most of my life, I was able to completely cover up. I have heard it said that deafness is the invisible handicap; when you meet someone with hearing difficulty it's not immediately obvious that there is something missing. But it takes its toll.

This only really began to break in upon me in my second year of curacy (2001), when after a particularly busy Easter I succumbed to labyrinthitis (on my vacation) and collapsed. The thing is that, as a result of only having 50% hearing, I find listening very draining. Which means that I have developed ways of being particularly economical with my 'listening energy'. God being gracious in the way that he is, it has meant that, paradoxically, I've become a good listener. People realise that I am concentrating on them (in order to hear!! at least to begin with) and that sustained attention provides the safe context within which to explore the spiritual matters. So, through the handicap, God has given me the tools with which to develop a ministry of spiritual direction - which, deo gratia has already begun to bear fruit within the parish. So, pastorally speaking, I'm more of a surgeon than a general practitioner. I trust that God has space for such people within the divine economy.

But it means that I put a limit on the amount of time I spend on "routine visiting", ie knocking on doors and saying 'how are you doing?'. I do a fair amount of going to see people, but normally in the context of occasional offices or some other 'excuse'.

The truth is that, if I have a free moment, I simply won't choose to squeeze in another visit. I'm more likely to try and squeeze in an extra bit of reading, or simply sit in silence for a while. And I am really not sure that trying to change myself to overcome that (which I DID try in my last year of curacy, and ended up having to take a year off to recover from) is the Godly way forward.

Is this a sin? Is this pastoral failure? Does this mean that I'm not supposed to be a parish priest - that I should head back to academia?

I don't believe so. I've been praying a fair deal about this recently, and no doubt I shall continue to do so, but I do believe that I am in the right place, and that I am doing the work that God has called me to do.

But there is a definite sense of limitation. I'm not going to be the sort of priest that I thought I was going to be - that much of my training has told me I'm supposed to be. But I pray, and hope, and trust, that I'm still going to be the sort of priest that God is calling me to be. To be the person God is calling me to be - and thereby be, truly, the parson in this place.

So where to go from here? Openness with the PCC that this is the situation. Continue to emphasise the 'Ministry as Partnership' process which I have started, because that reveals truths that are independent of the particular priest in charge of the parish. Try to ensure that Paul's language about the Body is truly understood, and that the ministry is of the church, not of the priest.

For I do believe that I bring some gifts to the table. The church is growing and, on the whole, I think morale is good. My teaching gifts are being employed, hopefully for good effect. But I suspect that there is something else.

The brain is plastic - that is, it is adaptable. The problem with my hearing is that the nerve from ear drum to brain is dead, so no information is passed to the brain. This means that the bit of the brain which would be processing information for hearing is 'freed up'. The adjoining region is that for sight; in particular, for pattern recognition. And the truth is that, having lost hearing, my abilities in pattern recognition have been enhanced. Put differently, I can gather a vast array of material and make sense of it. Think of the ability, when in a jungle, to put different bits of visual information together - this yellow patch with that glittering patch - to say 'that's a tiger'.

I'm really very good at that. God takes away with one hand, and gives with another. I have difficulty hearing, but I have been given intelligence to compensate. When I was first tested on these things, for the 11+ exam, I literally went off the scale being used, as it only went up to an IQ of 140. I eventually ended up getting tested by Mensa, who told me that I had an IQ of 174. Which puts me in (I think) the top 0.01% of the population. Ultimately, of course, that in itself is meaningless. I like Simone Weil's comment "the intelligent man who is proud of his intelligence is like the condemned man who is proud of his large cell." It is absurd to be proud of anything we have received from God; all that matters is what we do with what we have received. It took me a long time to come out of my cage though.

What is really on my heart, now, though, is this.

In my first sermon as Rector of this benefice I told people that the tide was turning. That secularity and atheism had crested, and that the Spirit is moving. Christ promised that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against the church, and I trust in His promises. There are things which I can see - and which are at the heart of the book I'm trying - and generally failing - to write. But I can do no other than act on what I can see.

I am thinking of Aragorn in the heart of the castle at Helm's Deep. The Orcs have laid waste with their reckless hate, and Theoden is despairing. And Aragorn remembers a promise, and says 'ride out with me'. And Theoden responds - better to die fighting for what you believe in than rooted out in despair - 'for death and glory','for Rohan'. And so they ride out, and they are met by the resurrected one, and the Orcs are defeated.

That is where we are in the Church of England. We have been besieged by the Orcs for too long. Let us draw swords together, and look to the rising of the Son. It is time to trust in the promises, and to ride out.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Normal Americans

Interesting post here about an average, every day US citizen.

"I'm tired of feeling like a bad guy because I think people like Mohawk man are raving lunatics. He is a lunatic. Anyone who wants to put an entire race in internment camps is a lunatic. Anyone who reads the Bible and goes to church and still is a functional racist is a lunatic. That may be elitist, but I can live with that."

My point of view is pretty similar to the writer's, but there is also a bit of me that thinks, if we are faced with the sort of mortal threat that I'm beginning to feel we are faced with from the <Islamists that a) not everyone can give fully thought out rationales for a Christian civilisation, and b) for Christian civilisation to survive, we will need to rely on people just like the one described.

It's a mess. We live in a fallen world, and we've (in the UK) mostly forgotten what Christianity actually is. I'll try and do a little bit to counter that, in this small island tucked away.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Schleiermacher and mysticism

Came across this and was reminded strongly of my gripes about Robert Pirsig's understanding of mysticism, which I wrote about here. I'd want to rephrase some of the points about Kant in that paper, but I think the basic argument has held up quite well. Nice to know I'm not the only sceptic on that front (and that much of the reverence towards "Eastern religion" is in fact a 'return of the repressed' - in other words, the Eastern philosophies, Kyoto school etc, were first influenced by Western philosophy, before they then became popular in the West as something 'foreign').

I've started up my 'Learning Church' sessions again, which are still - remarkably - popular. I'm going to do three sessions on Christian Mysticism next month, when all of the debates I have had on the MoQ list will bear fruit, I trust.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Displacement activity

Much more fun than yet another sermon (and a good excuse to work out if I can use 'trackback' or not):

5 things I plan to do before I die
1. Publish my book
2. Take my wife on a tour of the United States
3. Learn to play the guitar properly
4. Sail my own boat to a different country
5. Run at least 10,000 metres without stopping

5 things I can do
1. Touch type (used to be about 70 wpm but it's not that now)
2. Sing
3. Write
4. Recognise patterns, especially when not complete
5. Read maps and navigate

5 things I cannot do
1. Hear in stereo (deaf in left ear since birth)
2. Run more than about 20 yards without stopping
3. Concentrate on more than one thing at a time
4. Dot the i's and cross the t's
5. Write poetry

5 things that attract me to other people
1. Open minded intelligence
2. Laughter
3. Compassion
4. Strong sense of values/ moral integrity
5. Beauty

5 things that I say most often
1. Oh right, OK
2. Excellent
3. Sorry? (ie I didn't hear that)
4. Now then
5. Hmmmm, I'm not sure about that

5 celebrity crushes
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
Once upon a time I'd have said Elizabeth Hurley, but not now. Now it'd be (not in order)
1. Jennifer Garner
2. Angelina Jolie
3. Penelope Cruz
4. Uma Thurman
5. Kate Beckinsale

Now I feel that I have revealed rather too much. Ah well :o)
Off to the beach with kids....

Some statistics

In the first two years of my time in this job:

I have preached around 270 sermons (more than 90% for Eucharists, most sermons used at more than one eucharist – I’ll normally take 3 or 4 on a Sunday); and taken around 25 baptisms, 20 weddings, 70 funerals.

I recently started monitoring how I’m spending my time (for various reasons) and came up with the following rough figure for “billable hours” – ie not including reading theology (or the Church Times!) sitting around staring at the sky or blog reading/ writing; the ‘directly productive time’ – of around 45 hours per week.

Not sure if that counts as ‘good’ or ‘bad’; bit of a meaningless question when it comes to the priesthood. But I found it interesting.

And it tends to split between ‘busy days’ – when I’ll do 9 or 10 hours – and ‘quiet days’ – when I’ll do 6 or 7 and spend a couple of hours reading blogs or e-mail or writing messages on the MoQ discussion list (which I’ve now unsubscribed from… again)

There are three times where I feel that I am where I should be, being the person God has called me to be.

Singing the eucharistic prayer.

Teaching the faith, especially on Saturday mornings (Learning Church).

Engaging in intense spiritual conversation, one on one, being a channel for the healing power of the Spirit.

I’m building my ministry out of those three things.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.”

pistos ho kalon

Anyone know a Father Darcy?

Went to see my spiritual director, the regular check-up. Sadly, he has recently had to move and it looks like the close walk together is now at an end; he'll be based too far away to keep it going. (2 hour trip to get there I can cope with, but not 4 hour....)

He's been walking alongside me for ten years, since I first had my vocation experience, and he has played a huge part in untangling the various messes that my life had become caught up in. But now I need to find someone else. Anyone know a Father Darcy?

(That's a Susan Howatch reference :o)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Meet the family

It's been a big and heavy week. If I can raise the enthusiasm I'll say a bit more about that tomorrow. Lots of good things, but some not so good as well.

But in the meantime, I thought it would be good to put in some piccies of the key people in my world (taken with my new toy, of course).

Love of my life

Eldest son

And Youngest

There may be more later. It's a matter of record, after all :)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Sombre thoughts on Islam

When I get a free moment (less often than previously) I'm trying to read up on Islam, and the roots of the present terrorism. What I am disturbed by is that the more I read up about it, the more hostile to it I am becoming. So much so that my previous notion of calling the terrorists <Islamists is now seeming incredibly naive.

My thoughts are still evolving, but for the time being what I am most struck by is the violence inherent in mainstream Islamic theology, the glorification of the warrior (the martyr killed in battle) and the absolute insistence on a "Them and Us" mentality. For someone who has recently started to appreciate Rene Girard's take on Christianity, it all seems abominable.

Certainly we need to start taking the claims of Islam seriously. Good article here which expresses my present views fairly accurately.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Being poor

Great post on what it means to be poor here (hat tip to Sweet Nothings)

I would add: being poor is looking down the back of the sofas to see if there are enough coppers to add up to enough for a pint of milk (one of the clearer memories from my childhood).

"The spoil of the poor is in your houses"

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Some Mersea photos

Just to remind myself how lucky I am, to live by the water, only a few miles from where I grew up. It's the smell that makes it home.

My house is just behind the yellow house in the mid-top-left of the photo.

Heavy week for a parson

It's been an intense week, for various reasons, mostly work related. Causing me to discover various elements about how far I'm living out my vocation (1) and how far there are some profound social expectations on me that I'm neither willing nor able to meet (2). But dealing with those things takes time, and is difficult.

One of the things in my mind is something that I read a little while back about the derivation of the word 'parson', which - I understand - is simply a corruption of the word 'person'. In other words, the priest is called to be the person in the community - that person who is set free from social obligations, in order that they might become the person whom God is calling them to be - and, God willing, through showing forth that freedom from social obligation, to act as the salt in the food giving flavour to the whole. And - of course - to encourage and foster that becoming a person which is the destiny of all Christians, all human beings.

Which means that when times are difficult, and a priest struggles with the weight of social expectations, the important thing is to listen closely to God and follow God's will, not that of the society, however holy and pious the voices of society might be. But then, that's why the priest is paid a stipend - not a salary, we're not paid by the hour, we're deliberately set free from financial pressure (in theory!) so that we are not beholden to unhappy parishioners. And it is why we have the freehold, ownership of the church, so that, barring imprisonable offences, we have security of tenure.

All these things can be, and have been, abused, but at root they are profoundly good. They are all ways in which the integrity of the priest is safeguarded, so that they are, so far as is humanly possible, set free to follow God, and to follow Him alone.

The Devil is the lord of this world, and it is worldly voices - so persistently seductive - that we must learn to discern, in order to discard. There is only one voice that we must listen to.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"Come unto me and rest;
lay down, thou weary one, lay down
thy head upon my breast."
I came to Jesus as I was,
so weary, worn, and sad;
I found in him a resting place,
and he has made me glad.

Theological bookshelves

Thought I'd balance things out by showing the theological side, otherwise you might have got the idea that I'm a philosopher ;-P

Saturday, September 10, 2005

New toy - see where I work!!!

Succumbed to temptation and bought a digital camera yesterday, one major reason was so that I could start to do more interesting things on this blog.

All of the books above the screen are philosophy. The theological books are actually all on bookshelves to my left, where they are easier to access.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Of sheep, dogs and wolves

Thinking much about the question of violence; of how far it is ever legitimate for a Christian to make use of violence; of how far violence is necessary in opposition to the <Islamists.

This I found helpful in bringing some clarity to the issue, even if no resolution.

"If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath--a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero's path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed....
"Understand that there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to be. Also understand that a sheepdog is a funny critter: He is always sniffing around out on the perimeter, checking the breeze, barking at things that go bump in the night, and yearning for a righteous battle. That is, the young sheepdogs yearn for a righteous battle. The old sheepdogs are a little older and wiser, but they move to the sound of the guns when needed right along with the young ones.
"Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day. ... While there is nothing morally superior about the sheepdog, the warrior, he does have one real advantage -- only one. He is able to survive and thrive in an environment that destroys 98 percent of the population."

Stanley Hauerwas talks about how he has to be a pacifist because he is such a violent man, which I can relate to.

If I ever reach a determinate conclusion on this, I'll be sure to let you know.

Monday, September 05, 2005

There are evil people in the world....

"There are good people in the world. There are evil people in the world. Evil cannot always be repelled by incantations, by demonstrations, by social analysis or by psychoanalysis. Sometimes, in the last resort, it has to be confronted by force."

An insight with which I am presently struggling.

Full article here.

hat tip to normblog, an excellent blog if you haven't yet discovered it.

Friday, September 02, 2005

A second flash of lightning

The first flash of lightning was 9/11. It revealed what had been hidden, and the nature of the conflict.

The second flash of lightning is Katrina. It revealed what is at stake, and the way in which the problems will work themselves out. (You could say, in Britain, that the fuel protests were the first writings on the wall).

I'm hugely influenced by this idea.

A storm is coming. Be prepared.

In particular, be prepared to do without petrol, and the consequences of petrol being scarce or highly expensive - like shortages in supermarkets.

Sometimes I think I'm a complete loon for thinking these things. And I would dearly love to be wrong. But I've been thinking them for a good four years now; nothing yet has been evidence against it; and there has been a steady accumulation of evidence in its favour.

"The actual outlook is very dark, and any serious thought should start from that fact." (George Orwell)

A Christian interpretation of the MoQ

Something I posted to the MoQ discussion group earlier today.

[Ian Glendinning] challenged me to be more forthcoming about what I believe. My long posts last month in the 'What it means to believe in the orthodox Christian God' are part of an answer, but I suspect what you are after is some positive description of how I integrate the MoQ with my Christian understandings. So herewith a 'Christian interpretation' of the MoQ; an 'interpretation' because the MoQ as it stands is clearly non-Christian, indeed some parts are anti-Christian. However, I am comfortable that those bits can be amended ('interpreted') with a result which is still recognisably the MoQ, but which is compatible with Christianity, as I understand it.

So firstly I'll sketch out how I understand the levels, and where they correspond with traditional Christian language. I'll also say something about the nature of religious belief, concentrating on Wittgenstein's notion of 'grammar', and I'll say something about your understanding of theism. I'll conclude with some very speculative points about the Trinity. I'll try to be as bold and clear as possible, but with the caveat that this is very much a 'work in progress' as my thoughts are still evolving. It should answer what you need, though (I hope).

How I understand the levels:

- basic 'engineering' of how the levels work, I'm not aware of having any differences, as set out in my eudaimonic paper. So acceptance of patterns of value, 'machine language interface', "natural selection" (with quibbles about the word 'natural') etc etc

- level one, inorganic, no difference to standard MoQ (Christian language might call it 'dust');

- level two, biological, no difference to standard MoQ (Christian language might call it 'the flesh');

- level three, social, probably some distinct differences. I see the social realm as being a) the realm of language, in the Wittgensteinian sense, and b) the realm of group desires (in a Girardian sense, which I haven't talked much about here). I think it is what Christian language refers to as 'the world'; it's also the realm of the 'ego', the ego being the agglomeration of social patterns which respond to the social pressures (eg flattery produces pride which encourages social cohesion). It is the realm of 'other people's desires';

- level four, what I have called eudaimonic, major differences from the standard understanding of the MoQ, which you're familiar with. Christian language would call this the level of the 'soul'. I see this as the arena of 'autonomous judgement', by which I mean it is not conditioned by the social patterns. I see the ego (social patterns) as the 'machine language interface' between levels 3 and 4. I see the extent to which that ego becomes transparent to Quality as a) the expression/ salvation of 'soul', and b) the development of 'freedom' (I accept Pirsig's account of free will, which I think is essentially a restatement of Augustine). This is not a discrete level, in that the 'top' is open to Quality in a way the others are not (pragmatically, not theoretically). I think the language of Christian mysticism maps comfortably onto this understanding, ie the soul needs to be stripped bare of all the level 2 and level 3 influences, at which point it becomes 'transparent' to God (quality), achieves union with God, expresses the nature of God etc.

Now, a bit more about religious language. What I often 'rail' about, concerning the misunderstandings of Christianity, is that the grammar of religious faith is misunderstood. That is, religious language does not function in the way that scientific language functions, and to construe religious language as making scientific claims is to necessarily misinterpret it.

Scientific language grew out of Christian language (the shrub before the tree) but has incorporated certain mistakes _within_Christian_theology_ . In other words, the mistake about the grammar of religious language happened first within Christianity itself, and has been contained within the development of science on what might be called a 'genetic' basis.

I would characterise the difference like this: the 'grammar' of scientific discourse is abstract; the 'grammar' of religious discourse is 'thick' or 'concrete'. By which I mean that the claims which science makes (*claims*) are for independence from social context. Whereas I see religious language as necessarily bound up with social context, they can't be understood apart from the social context, and, to a very great extent, they are concerned with the structuring and maintenance of the social order. Religious language gains its meaning from its use in the various local language games that make up the practice of religious faith. It is less concerned with correct external reference than with the orientation of behaviour, and therefore life. However, pursuing that latter necessarily involves some external reference, but it's not the primary source or motivation for religious language (as it is for scientific language). This religious language can be oriented in three ways: suppression of level 2 patterns, maintenance of level 3 patterns, and enabling of level 4 patterns. I think different religions can be evaluated on the basis of how well they do these three things.

Moreover, religious language is necessarily mythological, ie narrative based. As you know I don't accept the scientific claims for being independent of social context; what I think has happened is that one mythology (rich and religious) has been replaced by another mythology (thin and 'scientific') - which is actually responsible for the ills which Pirsig diagnoses. Any language which overcomes those ills is necessarily religious and mythological.

So religious language is necessarily, limited, local and partial. Yet I would also insist that it is possible to discriminate between religious languages and determine which are better and which worse. Which is what I think gave rise to level 4 in the first place, as discussed in my eudaimonia paper. I think that the different religious languages can be assessed by their contribution to human flourishing, or, more generally, by their Quality.

Level 4 I see as necessarily wordless. This is a corollary of the private language argument that I mentioned, from Wittgenstein, which demonstrates that language is necessarily shareable, ie it is a social level phenomenon. This doesn't mean that it can't be used for higher purposes, what it does mean, I think, is that it cannot escape being level 3. In the same way that agriculture can be a biological phenomenon organised by the social level, I think that many languages (eg science and mathematics) are level 3 phenomena organised by level 4 understandings. Language cannot encapsulate level 4, for this reason. Hence, 'the finger pointing at the moon'.

I see level 4 as being fundamentally oriented from the virtues; the virtues being those static patterns which enable resistance to social pressures (honesty and integrity etc - what the Sophists were teaching, originally). I see the various intellectual patterns like SOM, mathematics, Aristotelean logic - but also theatre, art, film, poetry (especially poetry) - as being the fruits of those virtues. Those virtues I think are the sinews of the soul; the soul being simply a level 4 pattern, more or less open to Quality (= salvation?).

The God question. I see Quality as one of the names of God, as final and accurate as calling God Father or Rock (no more, no less). I think it has advantages in terms of healing the breach between science and faith, I think it has consequent disadvantages in terms of actually living out the consequences of pursuing Quality. So in general terms I see no conflict between MoQ and belief in God, on this score.

You describe God as "a purposeful, willful, intentional, transcendent "intelligent" causal entity". Firstly, God is not an entity. Hang on to the point I made before about God never being a member of a class. We know what an entity is - God is not one. Here we come up against 'the limits of language', in that no language can capture what the word 'God' refers to (which might suggest that construing the word 'God' on the model of reference is likely to mislead..) Now I'm not clear on where the modifiers, once you've let go of 'entity', are different between Quality and God, if at all. I'll think further about this point and come back to it.

Finally some more specific things about intepreting Christianity using the language of the MoQ.

Jesus I see as someone who was wholly open to Quality, in such a way that everything he did expressed that Quality. He did this without breaking any of the social level patterns which had formed him (Pirsig's point that you don't need to destroy to transcend). This is what Christians mean when they talk about him being 'without sin'.

The crucifixion is the conflict between level 3 and level 4 (and absolutely essential for understanding the claims of Christianity).

The resurrection a demonstration that the destruction of level 2 by level 3 makes no impact on level 4.

The Eucharist is the level 3 rite which reaffirms the establishment of level 4 (through crucifixion and resurrection), and provides the most important virtues for the growth of level 4 in a person (food for the soul).

I think there are some ways to correlate the language of the Trinity with the MoQ 'Trinity' of Quality - SQ - DQ, ie that 'Quality' is God the Father, SQ is God the Son (the visible form, fully expressing all four levels); DQ is the Spirit. We are to be so caught up in DQ that we become wholly open to Quality and thereby come to resemble Jesus in expressing SQ on all the levels. And they are all the same, ie our eventual end is to become identical with Quality, indistinguishable from it.

The mystical path I see as the cultivation of level 4. That's what I see Christianity as all about.

I see the language of 'immediate experience' as the importation of a level 3 mythology (the social respectability of 'empiricism', and all the fruits following from it) to function as a 'pseudo-level 4', that is, the pursuit of a 'mystical experience' is delusional (anti-mystical) and tied up with the 'thin' social practices associated with scientific influence. I think it is precisely a social pattern. I think the 'orthodox' account of level 4 as intellectual is a perpetuation of Platonic mythology, resulting in a form of gnosticism (a correct understanding provides salvation) - this is where the MoQ as presently constituted tries to replace religion, and is what lies behind my 'cult' allegation. (Tho' let's be clear, I only think there are a handful of people who actually DO let the MoQ function as a religion. They're the most Platonist interpreters).

I see the mystical as the cultivation of wisdom. Hence the emphasis on honesty etc as the foundation for what comes later.

I think there are lots of other things that could be said, but that's probably enough for now. I hope that gives you a much clearer idea of 'where I'm coming from'.

"I don't want them to believe me, I just want them to think." - Marshall McLuhan

Thursday, September 01, 2005

My message from God

Was feeling blue, so sought light relief in another quiz:

You are Joan of Arc! You don't really want to hurt
anyone, but if they attack your friends or your
country and no-one else will stand up to fight
them, you head into the battle. Beware though,
conviction tends to get you killed.

Which Saint Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Scarily to the point (just add 'or your church'....).