Sunday, 11 December 2016

Gwyn Thomas - the art of the storyteller

Of the great storytellers of recent times, the Welshman Gwyn Thomas (1913-81) must rank high: indeed nobody I know of ranks higher in terms of a spontaneous flow of colourful, poetic and unexpected language.

Through the nineteen sixties and into the seventies, Gwyn Thomas was probably the representative Welsh commentator on his nation, so far as the mass media were concerned - Wales was his prime subject matter.

Indeed, like many storytellers or raconteurs, he wrote and spoke mostly about himself: Gwyn Thomas in relation to Wales - he made himself and his environment (English speaking South Wales) into fictional characters; and articulating his response to a crazy and hostile world was the essence of the method.

If you love (as I do) the prose of Dylan Thomas (as well as the poetry) - then you will certainly feel the same way about Gwyn Thomas (no relation - Thomas is one of the commonest South Walian surnames); which shares the same virtues, while being more intellectual and baroque in form.

The Anglo-Welsh have a distinctive way of using language which seems to derive from their distinctive accent with its sing-sing intonations and rounding-out of round-vowel-sounds. Gwyn Thomas was probably one of the great talkers ever, a real spellbinder, and this too is an Anglo-Welsh thing - supposedly deriving from the hwyl style of chapel preaching.

 From 9 minutes his live conversation - and its effect on people - can be seen in full flow...

But it is no coincidence that one of the handful of great talkers and conversationalists I have known was a South Walian; capable of improvising and elaborating (exaggerating and fictionalising) a couple of minutes of observation or personal embarrassment into a symphony of self-deprecating humour that left me gasping for breath with helpless laughter.

As with so many of the British 'Celts', Gwyn Thomas's gift was enhanced and fuelled by alcohol - the fluency and freedom apparently required it; as as usually happens in such cases it led to illness and psychological decline in later years. But Gwyn Thomas was never a happy man - indeed made no pretence at being one; on the contrary he was an angry young communist who grew-up to be a bitter sentimental socialist atheist - and not far beneath the hi-jinks of his verbal dexterity and intense appreciation of the small things in life, was a leaden despair at the human condition.

So, I have posted videos above - and I presume I saw a great deal of Gwyn Thomas during my childhood, because - being adjacent to Wales, we had Welsh TV; but (if so) he blurs into a tapestry of incantatory anecdote and exaggeration.

My proper discovery came after a TV play based on Thomas's autobiography A Few Selected Exits (written by Alan Plater - himself a North East English version of the same basic type) starring Anthony Hopkins. I went on to read the actual book - which is undoubtedly one of the very best of all autobiographies. That is certainly the thing to read.

Aside from his autobiography, I much liked his A Welsh Eye, and I have dug-out a couple of books of short pieces, and a biography by Michael Parnell. (I haven't any interest in what I have seen of the novels.)

But I think the truth is that Gwyn Thomas was a great talker and storyteller who once fully-succeeded in getting this onto paper, in A Few Selected Exits - a one-off permanent classic of English Literature. Here is an excerpt from its gorgeous final passage:

I was at the Fountain Inn one evening last summer. Our intention was to cross the plateau all the way to Mountain Ash and fix once and for all the location of that shrine of loveliness that had slipped furtively in and out of my father's talk and dreams of so many years ago. 

The whole day had been a throne of sweet sensations. The walk over the mountain-top had been exquisite, the air and the grass a matching velvet...

The choir roared into a piece about the irrelevance of death and the certain prospect of renewal... Then, the midsummer dusk outstanding, they sang one of the loveliest of the quiet carols. The night put on a cap of gold. I was home, at my earth's warm centre. The scared monkey was back in the branches of his best-loved tree. I've never had any truly passionate wish to be elsewhere.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Perplexity - the emotion of a mind crumbling

Perplexity is a term used by some psychiatrists to describe the characteristic emotion of early, emerging hebephrenic schizophrenia - a state of worry, angst, concern that something is going-on but being unsure exactly what.

It is indeed the characteristic emotion of a number of psychotic states characterised by 'thought disorder' - the interruption and fragmentation of of the 'stream of sconsciousness' - so that the 'train of thought' is derailed, lost, stopped, or interrupted by (what are experienced as) external intrusions and insertions.

Perplexity also describes the state of some people with delirium - perhaps due to a high temperature (pyrexia), some kind of intoxication or drug withdrawal, a response to brain injury or some other cause of global brain dysfunction. Also the pervasive state of some people with dementia - that bemused, puzzled, 'lost' look.

And perplexity is the usual emotion I recall from dreams - this morning being typical. My dreams are usually incoherent and dull, and they tend to become repetitive as I approach awakening, such that I am pleased to get out of bed and away from them. (No doubt this is one reason I am such an early riser.)

But those dreams are characterised by perplexity - an awareness of memory crumbling behind as the dream is moving forward - to know that any current understanding is temporary and begins cracking almost as soon as it has been established.

This, I suppose, is what thought disorder feels like. 


I live in the exact place - Jesmond - that inspired the world of Orwell's 1984

Above is the house in Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne, that was inhabited by the Bolshevik Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin while he was working in the Tyne shipyards, building icebreakers during the First World War 1916-17 - returning then to join the Revolution.

This plaque is situated to the right for the front door:

As the plaque states, Zamyatin went on to write We - which is credited to be the first futuristic 'dystopian' novel - and is generally regarded as the model for George Orwell's 1984.

But We was actually a development of the earlier story The Islanders, a satire about the life and people of Jesmond:

Which means that I live in the exact place upon-which was modelled the world of Orwell's 1984.

Note: the other Orwell connection is described here:
which demonstrates that Orwell intended to be buried in Jesmond (alongside his wife) - buried, that is, in the prototype of 1984! That would have made an amusing irony.

Friday, 9 December 2016

"Fake News"?... But *all* news is fake...

What news is fake, and what is real? All of it is fake and none of it is real.

If it is news, then it is fake. The only reason that alternative media exist is because news is fake - but that doesn't make the alternative news media true: they aren't. It's just news...

It would be a good thing is instead of combing the intenet for 'the truth' about some News, we were all instead to cut our news consumption by 95% - starting NOW.

For so long as our minds are being directed by the news what to attend to, what to think about, and what to think about it - or reacting-against the above - then we are missing the point.

The mass media are trying to retain and expand their hold on our minds by the risky gambit of creating and attacking a virtual entity called fake news, an Emmanuel Goldstein counter-revolutionary, for us to get outraged about: attacking, defending, defining, debating, pledging opposition or loyalty...

It's all news - and its all fake.  

The Gospel of John - the heart and essence of the Christian message

In my understanding; the Gospel of John has an uniquely important position in all of Christian Scripture, and indeed in all the world's writings - because of its author. The author was the disciple whom Jesus most loved, an eyewitness of his ministry; and the events of his death and resurrection.

The author of the Gospel was also, I believe, Lazarus - the first Man to be resurrected to immortality and re-named John - still alive and active in the world, until the second coming. He was sister to Mary of Bethany; who anointed Jesus's feet in a ceremony of sacred marriage after which she became Mary Magdalene and was the first to discover and speak with her resurrected Lord. Mary Magdalene and John were present with Jesus's mother Mary at Jesus's crucifixion; when John was given care of Jesus's mother.

All of this makes John's Gospel potentially of primary value for Christians - the 'source' above all others; the first source in importance, which should structure our interpretation of all other sources.

When I read the Gospel, in a proper state of mind that is both attentive and also open to its deep meanings, I find that it is - unlike the other Gospels, which read as reverend miscellanies and comprehensive compendia of memoirs - a through-composed, thematic and structured piece of writing in which everything written is of importance.

Furthermore, John's Gospel is almost wholly symbolic in its language and implications - it is absolutely not supposed to be read as a prose account of Jesus's life; but as a mystical, deep, poetic text from those who already know the basics and necessities, and have an ability to feel the resonances and implications.

This much is clear from many, many passages and parables in which Jesus's words are quoted both to demonstrate and to explain that this is what is going-on in the Gospel - again and again Jesus is asked for a straight, factual explanation of something and replies with a figurative one.

This is why I can only read and comprehend John's Gospel when I in a similar state of mind - when I am at a level of consciousness such that the symbolic, figurative, and poetical are natural and spontaneous modes of expression.

This is not a Gospel to decode or dissect or examine under a high-powered textual microscope; any more than is a soliloquy of Hamlet or a lyric by William Blake. John's Gospel is not a code - any more than Coleridge's Xanadu is a code! That attitude is guaranteed to miss the point and close-off even the slightest possibility of responsive and valid understanding.

Therefore, there can be no recipe for reading John's Gospel, no Fottnotes or Cliff Notes encapsulation, no prose summary capturing what it 'means' - and the only advice I can offer is: to read it when you, personally, are at your best and most elevated; and then read it in solitude and with concentrated and trance-like attention.

Then, and only then, may it speak to you.

Belief versus experience - and experience is what is needed

In the past, many people would experience contact with 'the spiritual' and 'the divine'  - it was not that they 'believed' it, but that it was a matter of their personal experience and the experience of people whom that they trusted and others in authority.

'Belief' in God, in our Heavenly Father, is not - then - what we want or need. What is required is experience.

And yet, the kind of experience people had in the past (before 'The Enlightenment', before the Industrial Revolution, before the era of Mass Media) is no longer available to us, or rather seems available only in altered states of consciousness - and as such it seems to us a kind of delusional wishful thinking, or a mental pathology.

What is wanted and needed is experience of the divine and spiritual but which is wholly integrated with alert and everyday thinking, but which casts a luminosity over that thinking so as to transform it, and transform our understanding of reality: to restore the meaning of lived-experience and remind us continually of lived-purpose.

It is into our everyday thinking which we need to welcome this transformation - that direct knowledge, direct perception, direct conviction of purpose which is called imagination and arrived not by the senses or from memory or from reasoning... by which arrives nonetheless, and carrying its own experiential conviction; which we ('merely') need to acknowledge, and appreciate as valid.

Introducing Charles Morgan - forgotten literary Titan

John Fitzgerald provides an introduction to a fascinating but forgotten English literary Titan of the mid-twentieth century - Charles Morgan; a Platonist, whose intense and spiritual perspective on life may be just what is needed by some people at this time.

Dystopia looming? And tough choices...

William Wildblood speculates on the implications of Smartphone technology, and what may lie ahead. Best to be prepared!

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Doo-Wop (dee doo wop wop)

I absolutely love the style of close harmony singing called Doo-Wop. Of which this is probably (for me) The Classic Song - "I wonder why" - here done by Dion and the Belmonts singing in a lip-synched 'live' performance - you can find better sound quality of this performance elsewhere on YouTube, but this video is priceless (the sponsor made chewing gum, as you might be able to infer):

My own introduction to Doo-Wop came from the late 70s revival band The Incredible Darts, with some very nice production - and the remarkable vocal (and visual craziness) talents of Den Heggerty as their Bass:

The above track inspired my one one-and-only venture into Doo-Wop which was written and sung by me in a medical review in front of a backing group - a dream fulfilled. There is no record of the performance, but my tune was a pastiche of the 50s style and the lyrics were a medicalised version of a joke I stole from Bill Oddie on the radio series I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again.

As I recall, there was an introductory verse addressed to an imaginary girl describing how I loved her so much that I could only spell it out, then came the chorus:

F is for the Flatulence that keeps me awake at night
E is for your prosthetic Eye, which gave me such a fright
N is for the Nausea that you inspire in me
S is for the Sputum you left floating in my tea
A is for the Agony, when we made love in the sand
S is for the Sweatiness when I hold your hand
H is for your Hernia, which I reduce for you...

Put them all together and it All... Spells...

(Awkward pause, shrugs, and skulks off the stage)

Anyway, another favourite from The Darts - a real beauty, this one!

Hate Facts - how much use are they?

As someone who got into significant trouble over hate facts (ie non-politically-correct truths) back in 2008 (i.e. social class intelligence differentials) - and considering that the suppression of hate facts is stepping-up, internationally, both in severity and scope - it is useful to ask how valuable hate facts are in The West.

The answer is; not very.

The systematic and official process of suppressing hate facts began in the middle 1960s (focused on intelligence testing). With the internet, it has never been easier or faster for people to access hate facts - and this outcome was anticipated twenty years ago - but they just don't.

The public are worse informed than ever before about the basic realities; and the reason is that they are addicted to the mass media, such that it structures their reality.

It is not merely a question of people 'believing' what the mass media tells them; but that they spend so much time engaged with teh mass (including social) media, and the mass media controls their attention and mode of thinking.

So facts of any kind have become almost irrelevant.

So why are they being so actively suppressed at the moment (under cover of the Orwellian inversion of 'Fake News')? I would say it is a panicky miscalculation by The Establishment - so, overall, I am very pleased! They are likely to create a situation in which - because facts are more difficult to find, there will be induced a craving for them; as with the Samzdat information sheets of the Eastern Bloc, and the secret seminars, and the word-of-mouth networks... Perfect!

So, while the repression of hate facts is undoubtedly of evil intent - it is an error on the past of The Enemy, and there is a distinct possibility that it will back-fire.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Alt-Right needs to get spiritual, or become what its enemies call it (or else die)

Alt-Right has nowhere to go but fascism, unless it puts spiritual values at the front and heart of the program.

I say spiritual values, because I don't see it as plausible that there can be any fully-Christian mass movement from where we are now - which is a situation in which public discourse does not admit the objective reality of anything at all outside the material realm - everything else is psychological, subjective, labile, and manipulable.

Thus a secular Alt-Right will inevitably be simply a different version of Leftism; a Leftism which has different materialist priorities, and panders to a different set of subjective emotions as a means to that end.

(Indeed, my impression is that most of the Alt-Right are exceptionally materialist, positivist, anti-altruistic and reductionist in their outlook - taking a positive delight in simplification of politics to their own power, security and well-being -- only to be shared, grudgingly, with those who directly assist this agenda.)

But materialism is a feeble, ineffectual motivator for Men. The most powerful motivator is an ideal; followed by fear and hatred - and, lacking any effective motivator and uniter, a secular Alt-Right will be forced to manufacture cohesion by encouraging fear and hatred as an urgent priority to unify-around.

(I am assuming that nationalism was merely a temporary, post-religious phase - and will not work. If nationalism was going to work, it would long since have done so.)

Or else the Alt-Right will simply die - lacking any local and immediate reason for staying alive, The leaders will be bought-off or scared-off.

(As seems already to be happening - and there is a strong track record of secular Rightists selling-out at the first opportunity - And after all, why not? Expediency is their bottom-line.)

Nobody can compel a spiritual awakening - especially among ingrained and self-satisfied arch-Skeptics such as abound among the Alt-Right. I can only hope that they will leave-off the mass media addiction, and allow themselves to open-out and incrementally become aware of the wider world of reality beyond the immediacy of nuts and bolts and prideful self-seeking.

Modern Leftism - The ideal of a no-winners/ lose-lose scenario

The modern Left does not really want to win - because it is in essence oppositional and there is no specific state it can win to. Of course the Left wants, and has got, power; but what the Left does with power is precisely to ensure that there are no-winners; that there is a lose-lose scenario.

The greatest success of the Left is perhaps the Middle East in general, and the Israel-Palestine conflict in particular - no side is allowed to win or made able to win; both sides are alternately supported and demonised, all sides have lost badly over a long time; the situation of mutual immiseration is well established and sustained. The future envisaged is... more of the same.

Much the same is worked for in internal national affairs in The West. For fifty years in The West here has been growing a great polarisation and conflict between sexes, classes, races, natives and immigrants... no side has won, all sides have lost - there has been solidly establishes a mutual mistrust, resentment, simmering hatred.

And such a dire psychological situation is what the effort of Leftism is all about - because ultimately Leftism is anti-salvation; its goal is to induce people to reject Good and damn themelves by choice.

Unending conflict is no accident - this is precisely the Left's aim and purpose: no winners, a lose-lose scenario.  

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

What does The Good Samaritan parable really teach? Discriminating love; therefore probably *not* what you have been told...

We all know the Gospel story of the Good Samaritan - and we probably suppose we know what it means - what is its moral.

But we are probably wrong, because the parable is normally misinterpreted as preaching undiscriminating and universal love, by God's second great commandment; on the basis that we should love our neighbour as ourselves, and everybody is our 'neighbour'.

In a nutshell, it is usual to assume that Jesus is teaching that everybody ought to model themselves on The Good Samaritan.  

What Jesus's parable actually does is to answer a lawyer who - following on from the commandment to 'love thy neighbour' asked Jesus who was his neighbour? And Jesus's answer, via the parable, was anybody that helps you when you have need is your neighbour, and that is whom you are commanded to love.

But the priest and Levite, who passed by on the other side and showed no mercy to the man fallen among thieves, were not his neighbours; and Jesus indicates that we are not commanded to love those who do not show us mercy. Anybody who fails to help us when we are in need (even if they are a priest or Levite) is not included in the commandment to love our neighbour.

So, the parable of the Good Samaritan preaches discrimination over who is your neighbour; and its meaning is very different from - and in a sense almost opposite to - the usual pulpit interpretation. Jesus's teaching is that we must love those who show mercy upon us - and therefore the parable is not telling us to all behave like The Good Samaritan.

I wonder if this correct interpretation surprised you as much as it did me?

NOTE: I got this interpretation from:


Luke. Chapter 10: 25 ¶And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? 27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. 28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? 30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, 34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? 37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

Modern evil: monsters and demons

Much of what is distinctive about modern evil is - ultimately - the work of demons: I mean the global conspiracy (the 'Illuminati') and their mass of minions and henchmen that constitute the secular New Left which dominates the West.

These are the strategists of evil - taking a long view - their plan being to subvert and damage The Good en route to their plan to invert Good and evil and achieve the self-chosen damnation of mankind...

(...The ugliness of Modern Art being asserted as beautiful, the beauties of traditional art mocked as patriarchal or Kitsch - truth being labelled as hate speech - politically correct lies as a deeper kind of 'truth'; chastity, marriage, family being denigrated as oppression - and the ever expanding, subsidised and officially endorsed license, transgression and manipulations of the sexual revolution as admirable and courageous liberations.)

But not all modern evil is demonic: some is merely monstrous.

As usual Tolkien can help clarify things. In Lord of the Rings, demonic, strategic evil is represented by Sauron and his enslaved Ringwraiths, and hollowed-out and possessed servants such as The Mouth of Sauron (and behind Sauron, excluded from The World itself - the actual Satan of Morgoth).

But evil monsters are also encountered - and these are 'tactically evil' in the sense of utterly selfish and seeking of their own immediate gratification. Old Man Willow is a monster of selfish greed, resentment of hobbits, and desire to dominate and presumably eat them. The Barrow Wight is some kind of wicked ghost, hoarding treasure and striving to perform human sacrifices. The Watcher in the Water seems to be a malign predator merely.

The worst of monsters is, of course, Shelob - the giant spider (descendent of Ungoliant) whose evil is an insatiable hunger for the life and energies of everything else that exists; without foresight or goal - to eat until there is nothing else left alive - when she would die of starvation...

The link between demons and monsters is that the demons will use the monsters for strategic ends; rather as the demonic Illuminati (of politics, royalty, Vatican, media, law enforcement etc) used the monster Jimmy Savile - but the pattern is replicated in many places and at many levels.

Unrequited love in Heaven

This is some of my theological speculation from a Mormon perspective, at the Junior Ganymede group blog:

Monday, 5 December 2016

Complementary evolution of entity and environment - What does it entail? Can it be detected?

It would obviously be a great advantage if a biological entity (e.g. an organism) could purposively evolve to exploit and environmental niche that already existed ready to receive it.

This overcomes the 'chicken or the egg?' difficulty that a new type of biological entity may not be viable until a suitable environment is provided; and a suitable environmental opportunity has no function if there is not an organism ready to exploit it.

An example is the scenario for positive-feedback, 'runaway' sexual selection imagined for the peacock's tail - which requires both the evolution of peacocks with large ornate tails, and also the evolution of a peahen preference for large ornate tails.

Conventionally, this is supposed to be a coincidence of (at least) two undirected genetic mutations - but clearly it would be a great advantage if such things were linked - if the large peacock tail evolved into an environment where peahens already had a preference for large tails.

This is merely one of innumerable situations in which natural selection becomes an extremely improbable explanation for adaptations; due to the extreme rarity of beneficial mutations and the multiplying improbabilities when multiple sequential mutations must be posited -- especially given that at any point in the proceedings the complex, cumulative process of adaptation could be destroyed by the occurrence of a much-more-highly-probable damaging mutation.

However, from the perspective of mainstream, materialistic biology; there are serious problems about any such complementarity of evolution, for example:

1. It requires teleology, or purposiveness - planning for the future (raising the question of what - or who - does the planning).

2. Teleology requires foresight - planning for the future requires valid prediction of the future -- not perfect prediction, but at least to a reasonable estimate. (raising the implication of some kind of cognitive activity; i.e. some kind of ... intelligence at word. You begin to see where this is pointing and why biologists don't want to go there?).

3. Complementarity needs some kind of mechanism of implementation - which would work on both the individual organism and the environment (something with such properties is hard to imagine, no such thing is currently known).

4. To be anything of interest to biologists, the idea of complementarity needs to be 'operationalised' so the biologists could detect it - and preferably make some use of it to enhance understanding and prediction - maybe intervention.

Complementarity in evolution would also need to solve something perceived to be a problem, for which current solutions are acknowledged to be unsatisfactory. Are there such problems?

I have argued that there are indeed several major unsolved problems in biology - of a kind for which complementarity (if it was real) would provide a solution: these problems include explaining the origins of biological life, the major transitions of evolutionary history and the origins of sexual reproduction.

In sum, complementarity implies that it originates in some kind of external and cognitive cause; and this cause would not necessarily be detectable or measurable - indeed presumably it would not be at least by current technological possibilities, or else it would probably already be known.

On the face of it, this sounds like a fatal objection - but that is not the case if the effect of the external cause can be hypothesised with sufficient specificity to make and test predictions. For example, gravity ('gravity waves') is not detectable (or, perhaps, not until the past few years), but its effects were early on hypothesised with enough precision to test.

So we could hypothesise that if there was some kind of organising principle that caused complementary evolution; then detecting certain changes in either one of the organism or the environment should be predictive of certain changes in the other. This would require observations extended over time to examine that the presumed cause precedes its presumed effect.

For example, if we could detect a novel differentiation of an organism - e.g an imaginary peacock that developed a square orange tail; then this should be preceded a peahen preference for square orange tails: the tail trait following the preference.

Or, if we can detect the emergence of a new preference among peahens for males with square orange tails - then this should be predictive of the emergence of a new kind of peacocks with such tails: the preference preceding the trait.

And in general - for complementary evolution to be happening, it should be possible to show that the environment was pre-adapted for the organism; that the organism adapted in response to an already-existing niche.

Such studies would be difficult (but then all useful new science is difficult in some way, or else it would already have been done) - but not impossible.

Why is sex so important (theologically)

Mortal incarnate life on earth is when sexual desire emerges (our pre-mortal life has the sexes but, I assume, not sexual desire).

That is why sex is so important to us - it is new, it hits our immortal souls like a ton of bricks! It is a major difference from everything we have experienced in our pre-existent eternity.

Sex is the essential middle term between marriage and family; and as such part of our primary sub-creative experience.

No wonder sex is so important to us!

Publishing experience with my four after-becoming-a-Christian, blog-derived books

I have published four books since I became a Christian, all available in paper copy (and some in Kindle) from University of Buckingham Press. These were published on the basis of an agreement (suggested by me) that - by foregoing any money - I would be able to retain copyright and publish free, online, e-text versions of the books.

My intention was that this would increase the availability and impact of the books - beyond what would have been possible (or plausible) for a small publisher.

2011 - Thought Prison -  the fundamental nature of political correctness
- 47,000 Pageviews

2012 - Not even trying - the corruption of real science
- 18,000 Pageviews

2014 - Addicted to Distraction - psychological consequences of the mass media
- 26,000 Pageviews

2016 - The Genius Famine - why we need geniuses, why they're dying off and why we must rescue them. (co-authored with Ed Dutton)
- 5,500 Pageviews

If Pageviews were book sales then this would be pretty impressive! - but, probably they are not equivalent. It costs nothing and takes almost no time to click onto a book link; but if someone buys a paper copy of a book, they have invested more into it and are therefore more likely actually to read it.

Indeed, to read this kind of e-book pretty-much requires that the individual reader copies, pastes, edits and prints-out a copy; otherwise - if they try to read it on-screen - they are likely to be getting only a skimmed and superficial experience of the text.

In addition to the above; I have co-authored two other books - The making of a doctor: medical education in theory and practice, with RS Downie, 1992; and The Modernization Imperative, with Peter Andras, 2003. Both of these now seem, from my Christian perspective, to be essentially wrong.

The other book was Psychiatry and the Human Condition (2000) - which I would still regard as a very good piece of scientific work (!); despite that its view of the 'human condition' is secular, materialist and hedonic. 

In general, I have always realised that my books are inferior to my essays, in terms of creative achievement. I naturally write at essay length (which is why I can blog daily quite spontaneously) - and therefore have to 'assemble' and 'manufacture' my books like a mosaic from small autonomous units; even though the books are only short.

This isn't uncommon, in my experience - it seems to me that the best non-fiction prose usually falls into essay length rather than book length. For example, GK Chesterton was a better essayist than book length author - and this especially applies to writers (such as myself) who adopt an aphoristic style. An extreme would be Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose work naturally falls into aphoristic sentences or paragraphs - and who found even the essay to be something requiring artificial construction.

Books of aphorisms are indeed more-or-less un-readable qua books - Pascal's Pensees, Traherne's Centuries of Meditations, Nietzsche's works after the monograph Birth of Tragedy...

Thus non-fiction prose is much like poetry - at its best (and beyond a certain minimum length), its intensity is inverse to its effective length. Long narrative poems are either discursive and - line by line - inferior to short lyrics; or else are lyrics embedded-in longer sections of less-poetic narrative -- and much the same, mutatis mutandis, applies to non-fiction prose that aspires to artistic effectiveness.

Which of my books is best from an 'artistic' perspective - in terms of quality of writing - is something I am not likely to judge well - but at the time of writing it seemed to be 'Not even trying' - the least popular of all my books. I felt N.E.T. was as good a piece of extended writing that I could manage, with only one significant structural fault (a clunky transition of subject matter).

But, for non-fiction prose, the subject matter and views are extremely important to enjoyability: we must be interested by the subject matter, and have some kind of sympathy with the author's views to be able to appreciate it; probably because it is a polemical form, intended to persuade - and the reader must have some basic and broad-brush willingness-to-be-persuaded, if such a book is to be a positive experience.  

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Plumbing negativity and coming out of the other side

The modern condition is one of intense self-awareness to the point of doubting the value (and even the reality) of anything else - and then this doubt turning-back to attack the self - so that the solipsist moves from regarding everything as a product of his own thinking, to the dread that he himself is a transient delusion.

We are, it seems, meant to reach this point - although we are not meant to get stuck in it - but move through to the other side.

For some this is a once-for-all confrontation with 'the void' after which they re-engage with external life; but my experience has been one of reaching this point recurrently, and pretty frequently, throughout adult life.

Others have experienced the same (according to honest autobiographical accounts) - which may mean that the lesson has not yet been learnt and needs repeating - or, more constructively, that more and more can be learnt each time - leading to a greater depth and strength in the end.

The two temptations are falling back to an earlier position - which means that the problem has not been overcome; or to get stuck in the paradox. The difficulty is that - of course - that when in the still-point of doubt, there is no coherent reason for overcoming that doubt.

Help must come from outside the system of doubts, and doubts of doubts - which is, I guess, the value of the experience; yet that help must voluntarily be accepted: because our free will or agency can reject this help.

Furthermore, what seems to be help may be of harmful intent - may be preying-upon our doubts rather than overcoming them constructively.

Altogether there is need for discernment and wise choosing; and these can only be validated by assumptions that we feel sure are true, but without any 'evidence' that they are true (evidence being the very thing that we doubt).

The only possibility of genuine escape is if our assumptions include that we are made and destined for such times, such situations; such choices; and that providence will (if we let it) conspire to get us each through the problem.

This assumption seems to me both necessary, and validated - although it is, strictly, indefensible.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

St Godric and the earliest recorded English songs

From William Wildblood: 

The main reason I wanted to draw attention to St Godric is because of three songs he is supposed to have received in visions.

The first, Sainte Marie viergene, was given him by the Virgin Mary who appeared to him in the chapel of his hermitage accompanied by Mary Magdalene. Then a second song was given him by his recently deceased sister Burgwen, for whose soul he had been praying. She visited him with two angels who added the Kyrie Eleison refrains to her song, Crist and Sainte Marie.

The third song may have been given him by Saint Nicholas as Reginald writes that the saint  (who was eventually to be transformed into Santa Claus/Father Christmas) visited him one night and they sang loudly together. Apart from being very beautiful, and they are, these songs are of special interest in that they are the earliest English songs with surviving music.

More at:

Metaphysical polarity explained and illustrated

If polarity is to be the basic, fundamental, metaphysical principle of reality (as Coleridge and Barfield have convinced me) - then we need to understand how polarity works; understand this abstractly and also with an illustrative example.

The benefit of a metaphysics of polarity is that it explains both dynamic creativity and novelty - leading to an 'evolutionary' understanding of reality; and also it explains permanent order and the stability of itself.

For creativity there must be dynamism.

For dynamism there must be opposition in the system, opposition of two qualitatively-different forces.

Because they are qualitatively-different - the forces cannot be made one. 

For opposition to be perpetual, neither force must ever prevail.

If neither force ever prevails, this implies that the two opposed forces must be linked - such that strengthening one force also strengthens the other.

If the opposed forces are linked, they may be regarded as one force.

But the one force of a polarity is a two (dyad) that are one in a way that cannot, in principle, ever be unified into a single entity (because that would not be dynamic); nor can the two parts of the dyad ever be separated (because then the two would not be one).

An imaginary, illustrative example of a dyadic system 

A 'double star' consisting of two qualitatively different spheres - e.g. one iron, one copper - which orbit one another, at different velocities - and in orbiting they generate vortices that themselves become autonomous and generate dyadic-dissimilar star systems...

But the double star system has the property that it cannot be broken or combined; such that if the two  stars were to be forced together (to try and make them one) they would merely make a hybrid, an alloy; and if one of the stars was pulled away from its dyadic orbit, then it would be either iron or copper, but not the iron copper dyad.

So the double star can exist perpetually as a dynamic dyad, creatively giving rise to further dyads - and that dyad cannot be unified, nor can it be broken.

Another example - the man-women sex difference

Men and women are qualitatively different; they form a dyad in (ideal, celestial) marriage; this dyad is the whole-human and is creative - that is, generative of new and qualitatively different offspring who are always either male or female.

A man and a woman cannot be combined - if they were 'forced' together the result is a hybrid, or defective (hence uncreative), or neither one nor the other.

If men and women are forcibly separated, the result is not a full human being - but a partial (maimed) deficient entity; kept apart there can be no creative generation of further men and women.

With a man and a woman as an un-unifiable and unbreakable dyad; humankind can be perpetual.