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IS SCOTT MORRISON A VIRTUE-SIGNALLING HYPOCRITE?

IS SCOTT MORRISON A VIRTUE-SIGNALLING HYPOCRITE?

 The Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, who passes for some kind of Pentecostal Christian, in answering a privileged media Muslim’s charges of his inadequate management of “Islamophobia”,  declares his coalition party has “no problem with Islam”. Really?

While any decent citizen would hope and assume the nation’s leader wouldn’t indulge in hate speech and spread Islamophobia as such – Christian conversation is supposed to be always gracious (Col 4:6)! –  “no problem”, bespeaks virtue-signalling hypocrisy or just ignorance. No Christian, without disloyalty to the many oppressed in Muslim majority countries, can call themselves Christian who fails to have a few questions and problems around a faith that in so many places denies rights to and seriously oppresses their fellow believers (along with those  of other minority faiths and social groups from women to gays).

ScoMo’s Christianity is too like the “Liberalism” of those feminist Swedish politicians who, despite appeals from Iran (where last year a woman was sentenced to twenty years for removing a hijab in protest), proudly wore Muslim garb to make for goodwill with Muslims leaders. https://goo.gl/s4pq75  It doubtless gave them feelgood highs which is what a lot of political moralizers crave, but it won’t do if truth matters.

Like the return of the repressed following a too long sexual ignorance and repression, to some extent “Islamophobia” flourishes where open statement and simple fact is allowed little to no scope in public forums before the radical screaming begins that aims to shut down free exchange of ideas and free speech  as “far right” or “fascist” or “racist” discourse. Liberal  Sweden is  incidentally one of the worst western offenders in this area. Not to mention  how the will of much of its citizens has been ignored, the PC country is plausibly accused of sending Christians to their death in Muslim countries they tried to escape while the political establishment welcome Muslim migrants with open arms https://goo.gl/iSRMZd  It also has nothing to say that the city of Malmo is now emptied of its long resident Jewish population due to unchecked anti-Semitism.

That there are many good and peace loving Muslims need not be questioned, unless to indicate they don’t tend to be particularly conservative and orthodox. Regardless, what is perhaps most disconcerting about almost any major issue that presents itself concerning Muslims and faith issues,  is  that, as in the case of Waleed Ali calling out the Prime Minister  the protest and the complaint are one-sided.

Unlike Christians and Liberals of the West, the Muslim position evades self-criticism, it is loud in condemnation of perceived prejudice towards itself, but contributes next to nothing that might reform the oppressions across the greater part of the Muslim world, oppressions against which nearly all complaints an Australian Muslim might make are pinpricks. That more Muslim voices aren’t raised against injustice may itself betray some of the constraints adherents of the faith (whose meaning is “submission”) live under. This is usually a degree of pressure exerted by conservatives and fundamentalists who hold much of the power and call the tune and through what is often the apostasy charge or social ostracism threat. Not things in harmony with broad-based human rights.

In fairness, Christians can well ask – and even should ask as Scott Morrison fails to do – is, in how many Muslim majority states would Christians be allowed Ali’s platform and scope to point out that Christ’s final injunction to his followers was to preach the gospel in the whole world?  Evangelism should, like free conversation, be a basic human right of Christians and anyone at all. Islam denies this and much else to Christians like building or repairing  places of worship and whenever possible always has been doing this. Wherever it is a majority the religion  has normally  demanded Christians, Jews and all infidels to be respectfully subordinate and if not converting to pay crippling  jiza taxes  if they are to be tolerated rather than executed. While no Christian would wish to defend the misguided vision and barbarities of the Crusades, it must always be recalled the trigger to the fiasco was an appeal by Middle East Christians to the West to intervene against the level of oppression suffered. .

DON”T USE THE  “ISLAMOPHOBIA” WORD LIGHTLY AND FOR MERE VIRTUE-SIGNALLING

Before anyone starts raising the spectre of “Islamophobia”, they should recall not only the good-willed Muslim neighbours they understandably don’t wish to offend, but the following facts – a few among the all too many which Christians should consider it their duty to protest.

Maldives (quoting from The Guardian UK’s list of the 25 worst places to be Christian in 2018  https://goo.gl/dXDojK      Converting from Islam means forfeiting Maldivian citizenship, and owning a Bible is punishable by death. Churches are banned; Christian migrants and tourists also have to meet in secret and cannot own Bibles.   (No need to list it here but it is quite common in especially Muslim central Asian republics like Kazakhstan for bibles to be confiscated and destroyed and any teaching from it to risk arrest).

Brunei: Jail for celebration of Christmas https://goo.gl/QLhpcd

Algeria you could be forced to worship in a tent, not a church https://goo.gl/xtDnFE

You are not safe among  migrants everyone regards as only and always innocent victims, Christians have been thrown overboard for not converting to Allah https://goo.gl/yiK9as

Christians are not safe in Muslim communities in Netherlands https://goo.gl/oBDD1i
In Germany   https://goo.gl/mSxWFB
even in  England    https://goo.gl/Ht6fid

Christians (thanks largely to PC concerns which favour Muslims) though the most persecuted group in the Middle East are least likely to be selected for immigration https://goo.gl/cwEXzj

Where Pakistan is concerned one hardly know where to begin and what to include the abuse levels are so overwhelming. The infamous blasphemous  laws alone are  used to extort money, property, be revenged on families etc but the abuse is ubiquitous.
Christian children suffer in schools https://goo.gl/FjsibH
Rape, abduction and forced conversions are a major ongoing problem https://goo.gl/NnZ6tS . The case of Asia Bibi is better known than most – she was accused of blasphemy on absurd grounds including the crime as an “unclean” infidel of drinking from a cup of water on a hot day, and after 9 years in solitary, often beaten by vicious guards, she was acquitted of all charges but is still in hiding unable to leave the country because pious Muslims want her dead more than to leave their country as would be best. This isn’t cricket to put it mildly, but why is Australia or anyone playing cricket with Pakistan? Is it too much for ScoMo or his henchmen to suggest the sports will stop till the laws change? What is the all – accusing  Ali saying about the injustices of Pakistan?

Egypt – home of Waleed  Ali’s forebears  is not a safe place for Christians according to Guardian report of last year https://goo.gl/Urd9hQ

None of this touches on the woes, the discrimination against and sometimes massacres of Christians across central Africa from Zanzibar to Cameroons and perhaps especially the endless violence of Sudan whose ultra Muslim president is wanted for war crimes there has been so much genocide of Christians and animists in Sudan. The policies of Boko Haram (somewhat known from a media that rarely reports attacks on Christians), the vigilante groups ;pursuing Christians in homes and colleges in Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, all this goes on and on, sometimes more, sometimes less, but generally clearing the world of infidels before Judgement Day as per the fundamentalist vision of things.

I could conclude the links with a heartfelt condemnation from a British journalist and former MP of the indifference of so many people, even sometimes clergy, to the situation of many Christians globally https://goo.gl/3K7zSg  This was back in 2011 and it’s worse now.

It is neither hopelessly irrational nor automatically prejudiced to raise questions about the cultural assimilation potential of some people from these regions.  Fear of being called “racist” , something whipped up by especially the hard left, was what caused police in UK not to deal for years with the scourge of  criminal sex grooming gangs in Newcastle, Rochedale, Rotherham and Oxford  imported from the nation mentioned above for a particularly bad human rights record. It is also post-Christian and controversially so, to rail on the basis of an “equality” fetish, against suggestions that the often most persecuted Middle Eastern group, Christians, should not be given some priority for migrant intake – an “equality” obsession so warped it has actually seen Christians put last and least rather than first and most.

MORE FEMINIST, SECULARIST APPEASEMENT?

Helped by a hefty dose of ignorance where the affairs of religion are concerned, the current religion and rights situation in the world makes not only for injustice but absurdity. One can tell something in the value system is going seriously wrong when the very proper commiseration of the NZ Prime Minister with victims of the Christchurch massacre, passes from commiseration to theatrical identification  by  a donning of the hijab (that Swedish feminist gesture again) and   announcement of the  broadcast of a nation-wide, memorial ceremony with two minutes silence including afterward the Muslim call to prayer in which all were encouraged to join, even men were encouraged to wear scarves in solidarity with Muslims. Though I don’t endorse all that  NZ’s  Brian Tamaki says – he is, a leading pastor of Pentecostal persuasion (like ScoMo) – he has protested the inclusion of the Muslim call to prayer in the broadcast ceremony, and arguably he has a point if one considers what might be intended and could be involved.

The effect of Ardern’s  togetherness gestures is to be  rewarded by her image beamed  onto Dubai’s world highest building and Sheikh Mohammed telling her 1.5 billion Muslims respect  and thank her. Superficially it hardly makes sense Muslims should love the unmarried Great Mother with child  who in parts of Pakistan and Gaza would be more likely to find herself at the bottom of a well for offences to honour and morality! Since however joining in the symphony of praise  is even the tyrannical President Erdogan, (whom to criticize entails the imprisonment that has affected numerous journalists and women), Tamaki is not too far off in feeling he sees a declaration of Allah as the true God of NZ and notes that Ardern has removed mention of Christ from NZ’s parliamentary prayer.  Different cultures and faiths read signs in different ways, What is so appreciated by Muslim millions (and Waleed Ali over in NZ and embracing the infidel PM) is the implicit shift towards mainstream acceptance of their religion, the move towards absorption and submission that New Zealand’s agnostic PM’s appeasement encourages and that ScoMo is not going to question. In his role of politician rather than Christian, Scott Morrison  just hopes for the “indigenization” of Islam in this part of the world, when in fact an increase in its demands and its enlargement are  more to be expected.

INTERROGATE  PCISM  BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE

Secularist, humanist, post-Christian and hard left dismissal of Christianity has gone so far that (despite even atheist Dawkins’ warning that Christianity is soft against some alternatives), it risks producing a sort of sharia situation by default. Pressing for laws against “hate speech” and “racism”, though Islam is a religion not a race,  by increasingly placing “Islamophobia” under the hate/race category, freedom for expression and any critical views are compromised. To combine, to be together, is the new religion. But the self congratulating  “tolerant” crowds doing this aren’t and  won’t be mourning  and standing in silence for the innumerable Christian martyrs to blatant intolerance in fact.

These matters are matters for Judgement Day and examination of the ever deceptive human heart.. But today, since the views of the PM and politicians are hardly clear and owe much to pragmatic voting concerns, what Australia needs is a visit by the likes of Douglas Murray (author of The Strange Death of Europe). Such a person is needed to challenge and interrogate the too easily held and expressed views of the arguably ungrateful and presumptuous Waleed Ali…… That’s if the PC screamers wouldn’t start campaigns to ban Murray from these shores and if media, to its disgrace, doesn’t continue the one note mantras about “tolerance”, “diversity”, “equality” and “multiculturalism” in a way to hide truth. The distortions and virtue-signalling  overtaking  public discourse is suggested by the ironic rather than funny opening of Murray’s latest Spectator article:.

“I return to Britain just in time to find some online warriors trying to pin the New Zealand massacre on everyone who has ever spoken out against Islamic extremism or mass immigration, including me”.

Yes, this is the ridiculous level to which public debate and those who lead us have degenerated. And alas, it’s almost symbolized by the likes of Scott Morrison unable to speak up and, bumbling awkwardly before Ali. May Australia have more courageous leadership, honest media  and church leaders with more insight and backbone!

 
 

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THINKING ABOUT THE VATICAN GAY CLOSET

The inevitable response from Catholic critics to Frederic Martel’s In the Closet of the Vatican is that it lacks substance, he’s got it wrong about his probably 80% gay Vatican and that it’s all worth little more than gossip. While of course it’s possible Martel has got a few facts wrong, one can wonder how often in his over 500 pages. Hadn’t controversial reports since 2015 from such journalists as Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi made no impression or given no warning that more was present to be revealed? I wouldn’t expect the critics to consider any astrological dimension, but the guilty charge is so strong even  “the heavens declare” in this case. Uranus (anything to do with gays) is in the Vatican’s sex sector making easy trine to Mars (any men and sex) in the sector of the hidden!

Though I’m not suggesting Argentina’s Pope Francis is gay, – and Martel insists he isn’t – had conservatives never heard the common saying in the Pope’s nation of origin, “todas las curas son maricones” (all priests are faggots)? People get the idea, even if most priests won’t be as hypocritical  or on occasion blatant as some Vatican gays about their preference. Hidden, undeclared (closeted) homosexual clerics is a massive problem for Catholicism .  But Martel makes no claim that his 80% are all active. The most many can be accused of, but it’s bad enough,  is assisting cover-ups through complicit silence, sometimes reluctant, of serious scandals. That situation is surely even a reason why, when given the opportunity by an outsider (in this case a gay French writer) to just talk, so many are ready to blab to someone  used almost as a therapist or father confessor.

Before offering a few original perspectives and imagining improvements, I must emphasize what should be obvious, namely that for professed Christians hypocrisy is unacceptable and corruption more so and there’s no cure for them but repentance. Scandals known before Martel’s expose like the 2017 revelations about a top Vatican official, Msgr Luigi Capozzi’s cocaine-fuelled gay orgies iare disgusting; and it’s unpleasant to hear of sexually harassed Swiss guards and arrogant, high placed clerics using migrant male prostitutes whom they insult and underpay (others who do pay properly feel so guilty they get embarrassingly tender with them).

This said, I am neither so shocked as conservative Catholics at the given picture nor smugly assured like some American evangelicals that we are only witnessing further proof of the “end times” evil of the Roman “Whore of Babylon” soon to fall – which the Vatican might anyway do, because how much scandal bad press can any institution sustain? What  however I believe is finally coming to light is a more perennial, ingrained problem that is too often a tragedy for those involved and the result of chronic misunderstandings of theology and psychology that must be addressed, though I am not confident they will be.

Years ago in Latin America I was invited to give a talk to a group of self-confessed gay priests. It was the rather neat, pretty but queeny priest among them who took sudden exception as utterly ridiculous something I said about the book of Revelation  as regards the erotic (see the sub section “An erotic and esoteric moment” in ‘Apocalypse as a Gay Issue”. https://wp.me/p2v96G-1eT . The fact he didn’t grasp or refused to consider the rather obvious point involved, has its connection with the ongoing problem of gay priests in the Vatican and beyond it.  Because there really shouldn’t be quite such a problem with homosexuality. And what the gay Martel perceives as an irony – the strangely “homoerotic” Vatican with its images from Michelangelo including the ignudi (nude youths) painted around the Sistine Chapel alongside a clothed prophet Jeremiah a figure with whom the artist identified himself,  carries its own hint towards the solution. 

THE TRAGEDY OF IGNORANCE

But first things first. The “tragedy” I refer to is the one well represented by Martel’s lead-in story with ex-priest, Francesco Lepore. For him as for so many youths in Italy until quite recently, there were few places beyond entering orders for the more introverted, sensitive type of youth to go to hide or cure an attraction to the same sex. He might hope to self-cure through denial, or, if he couldn’t quite achieve that, as one who was often mother’s boy, he could feel the Great Mother, Mary, would always forgive him anyway. But there was often something more.

Lepore admits to how the church positively drew him towards itself through the senses, the scents, sounds, colours, the mysterious rituals and costumes in which you could lose yourself – plainly a bit like being in mother’s skirts and in parallel to the way gays almost dominate the woman’s fashion industry. And  that’s a point I take to be rather important because of things that emerged pre-Martel among the earlier revelations from Fittipaldi and Nuzzi.

In harmony with the tendency of especially people of Latin background to assume a role or pose (recall singer Madonna’s hit, Vogue, with its “strike a pose”) some Vatican clerics felt easy with being distributors of mass when dressed for the ritual, but equally easy with going to gay bars for fun nights and pick-ups once they were in civvies. Dress made and unmade the man, the personalities, their roles and responsibilities.

Something is going wrong here and it’s more than a case, as evangelicals might plausibly maintain that these priests were never remotely “born again”, because similar problems can be found among the community of the born agains too. It’s more like a whole historic blind spot is involved, one that can’t imagine being gay to be anything but (as Pope Benedict had it) a condition “objectively disordered” if not plain evil rather than in the majority of cases something perfectly natural to those involved, inborn, and even in its way vital to religion.

It is customary to start citing Leviticus 18 or Romans 1 (Protestants) or Natural Law (Catholics) against any idea of anyone being born different and meaningfully so. However, if I am not to get immediately and lengthily bogged down in answering the objections (which can be done), I must say directly that, psychologically and spiritually dominated as it clearly is by the Puer archetype, Christianity is “ascenional”. It is earth-denying and/or nature-denying more than any other faith. To that extent it is arguably the most “gay spiritual” of the world faiths with Buddhism perhaps some rival (its monks and attitudes are often quite gay),

This means Christianity is indirectly, and in some fashion that needn’t automatically affect woman’s rights (though ignorantly and crudely it may do so) against the feminine, the Dionysian swamp or raw nature. The point is well stated in Camille Paglia’s Sexual Personae which underlines the vital importance and inevitability of gay vision to human culture which is ultimately always a war against nature.

So much about Christianity is anti-gravitational, “contra naturam” – St Paul even says divine election and salvation itself are “against nature” – that just this standpoint is likely a cause, psychologically and historically, the faith sets its face against anyone or anything that, as though in rivalry, claims to be “naturally” against nature. Witness the tirade of St Paul in Romans 1 which I am quite prepared to state (as I do say in the poem and notes to A Saint’s Mistake https://wp.me/p2v96G-yS ) includes some real error and exaggeration and constitutes something Jesus never intended or would approve, something one can tell given certain hidden, unexplained facts concerning even Jesus’ original address to Paul which speak to him at more than one level. 

POSSIBLE REMEDIES

In quest of remedies for the gay clerics problem, it must of course be acknowledged there can be none at all without first some transparency, especially for those within the Vatican which is supposed to function as beacon and example for all of Catholic persuasion. It’s unholy to remain silent in the face of, say, child abuse, from fear you yourself might be outed as gay (which is not the same things as paedophile). Better to be openly gay and better far to be able to affirm the positive value of being so.

So, for a start obviously and ideally one would  simply hope that the gay priest could sooner or later be out as gay (not automatically banned from orders as is increasingly proposed) and  free to find the soul mate …..which might also be the best term for whatever partnership could be established and hopefully not changed by the week.

Gay marriage (described by Pope Benedict as “the legislation of evil”) and the drive to so-called “gay marriage equality” represents an essentially secular ideal involved with wider social movements to equality. It was originally necessitated by legal problems over inheritance and adoption. Marriage is nonetheless very much about the making of families and this is not what gay relationships are usually or chiefly about. They are friendships, partnerships, unions and should probably be called such, and in the case of priests perhaps not even too precisely defined. Who knows precisely how the unmarried prophet Jeremiah and his secretary Baruch with whom he lived might have described their connection, or again the centurion with his boy/servant that Jesus healed in what is the nearest thing to a blessing accorded a same sex union?  I don’t consider there should be any need to formalize the connection except by personal declaration. (David and Jonathan declared they had a berith, which can mean variously covenant or marriage, but the matter was purely between themselves, not subject to public ceremony). To whatever extent the priestly relation would be sexual (and I would define chastity in this case as principally involving sincerity and fidelity) would likewise be a private decision perhaps influenced by – despite everything! – such principles as St Paul’s “better to marry than to burn”.

 I say all this because I believe, ideally and usually, relationship should be aimed for and as far as possible acknowledged too because it is vitally  important not to be attached  –  as plainly many  Vatican and non Vatican clerics are attached – to the closet. This reduces life to a kind of perverse game filled with rumours, secrets, gossip and an often demeaning humour. At times it is a sort of Catholic version of Genet’s The Maids with the priest as a species of bitter drag queen rather than any representative of God. In this uncertain space whose very repressions are almost loved, objections like the Latin American priest’s can be raised as soon as eros and change are frankly broached, and Mother Mary’s pardon can be lazily preferred to any engagement in the life of the Creator. Indeed, as Martel emphasizes, some of the most ardently homophobic, traditionalist priests are the most self-indulgently gay. This truly is unacceptable, but one might have to go into the subject of the poles of pleasure and self-denial to understand how the contradictions involved might ever come about.

THE PRINCIPLE OF PHALLOS

It can be made to seem, and in the early Christianity of the Fathers, influenced not least by ascetical values of Greek philosophical thought, it was made to seem that Christianity is all about self-denial, especially where any eros is concerned. We are, after all, told to take up the cross and deny ourselves (Matt 1:24)…so shouldn’t we be denying sexual pleasure? As with so much of the bible there is paradox and apparent contradictions to resolve. Jesus also tells us to love our neighbours as ourselves, an almost impossible task if one is to hate one’s deepest, most self-defining urges. It is even easy for some to claim just this is meant if one takes the statement that if possible we should be eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven (Matt 19:12), eunuchs however being by Jesus’ time a broad term that didn’t automatically signify castrate or even chaste but instead different and out of the family way. Origen who decided to take Jesus literally and castrated himself, later believed this was sin.

It was certainly rather crazy too, but was related to the idea that God somehow disapproves pleasure and punishes those who desire it. However, as has been observed, and most recently so by would-be church sex reformer Nadia Bolz-Weber, God created the clitoris which has no function at all outside of female pleasure. So we may well ask, is it likely God would wish to deny men all pleasure?

In the post-Freudian, post neo-Buddhist world that shapes our vocabulary and expression, I think we would be well justified to understand the demand to deny our selves as meaning something more akin to denying the ego with its wilfulness and cravings, while to love our selves means not ego but our deeper, greater selves that are related to God and others. We are not meant to be pleasure addicts, but we should still love our natural being and be able to take some pleasure in its affirmation.  And men, certainly, should not, like the neo-platonically minded St Augustine, regard every sexual feeling as arrogant uprising by the flesh in defiance of a holy God.

For gay men, and even to a degree straight men (for whom the penis is a form of power, or competition and at worst inclining to just control and even rape), there has to be a new acceptance and appreciation of phallos, the physical but also, beyond it, the spiritual dimension of the phallic. Something to the effect could hardly be more stressed in the inevitably little commented, little known story of Jeremiah’s loin cloth which again I have poeticized https://wp.me/p2v96G-Hm

From the beginning of life when the Jewish male is circumcised, the phallus is made to seem of interest to God, something that belongs to and, as it were, partakes in God. What this may do and mean for women is a subject in itself that need not be dealt with here; sufficient to affirm there is a subtle danger that amid contemporary emphasis on the rights of (and wrongs done) women, a new kind of de-spiritualizing, emasculating of men sets in that is not healthy but which unexpectedly gay men and vision might even help to overcome.

Emasculation did not take place in the case of the gay Michelangelo who stands in the Vatican pointing a way out of the confusion Vatican society has got itself into. Like Jeremiah who opposed the cult of the Queen of Heaven, but unlike the Vatican gays who look to mercy from Mother Mary, for the Sistine Chapel’s Last Judgement fresco, Michelangelo’s Mary, hardly any queen, is almost cowering away from the decrees of her Son. But at the same time, beyond the wall fresco and between the depictions of the prophets on the ceiling frescoes are the twenty Ignudi, the naked youths. The late art critic, Sister Wendy Beckett, found them highly enigmatic. She couldn’t understand their function (and nor really has any art critic unless to say they represent a perfection) but I think this should not be so difficult to grasp. It is simply a complement to other tendencies of Michelangelo’s essentially gay thought and vision.

SOME NAKED TRUTH?

   

Only recently a new star tennis player, the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, shocked and puzzled fans by posting to social media: “I like me better naked….when you put clothes on you immediately put a character on. Clothes are adjectives, they are indicators….When you don’t have any clothes on it’s just you, raw and you can’t hide”.

Quite so. While the side of nudity one tends to hear about from  religion is some version of a “naked and ashamed” theme, this isn’t the only side the scriptures present, and neither is the “just sex” meaning that a secular world gives to nudity by contrast. The prophet Micah, for example, declares “I will go stripped and naked” (Mic 1:8).  There are a variety of functions and meanings to nudity (I interrogate this subject in Naked in Thessaloniki: Riddle and Signhttps://wp.me/p4kNWg-fD), but what is certain is that the prophetic tradition that the Vatican tends to downplay in favour of its rituals, is a rather nudity-as-truth one.

It is psychologically and symbolically correct that Jeremiah and Isaiah (another “naked” seer) should be set among the ignudi. It’s all part of the same thing: the clothed and the unclothed psychologically complement one another and interact; and in many respects nudity as for the ancient Greeks is a male, not a female theme. As a point of symbolism, it is male nudity that symbolizes “truth” because the male genitalia are exposed, exterior to the body, “solar”, not hidden as for females and “lunar”. Woman can symbolize truth as beauty, but truth is not always only beautiful. A mixture of Christian and secular values have rendered art and Hollywood and Playboy’s display of women natural in a way it traditionally wasn’t and spontaneously, symbolically isn’t. Put on an event like the World Naked Bike Ride that is legally able to dodge the “indecent exposure” charge and there will be more males, often gay, in attendance. Throughout nature it is the male of the species is colourful and/or exhibitionist.

At the risk of more self reference, I would point to the message of a chance realization in my poem Baroque https://wp.me/p2v96G-IS  It is based on an experience had while in Sicily where I visited a church, not without charm and power of a kind, but ultimately oppressive in its highly ornamented style (like a weighed down, over-decorated wedding cake – the pic below is not the place in question but a typification). Because I didn’t care to sensationalize,  I didn’t outright state the chief thought  prompting  the piece. This was the feeling upon stepping outside into a sunlit square, of an imperious need for a kind of renewal by just light, sun, and endless sky being naked to which would be like a  baptism in its own right. Enough to say the poem which ends

The point of reception is here, now, even
This temple, the body; with this I greet change.

carries  more the thought of the second image than the first.

   

The statement is a purely personal one. It doesn’t belong with any programmes queer or other encouraging people to disrobe inside or outside of churches to protest something. However I would say that, just as Martel found some of the most rabidly homophobic Vatican clergy were the most actively gay, I am suspicious of those gay clergy and some non clerical gays  who too readily deny any real value to eros for their own or anyone’s condition and so treat nudity as little more than something else to ban, and little more than an aspect of modern pornography.

What dismissal of the erotic as part of the gay equation (which is taken up instead with rituals of the closet) can mean in real terms, is a flight from reality and change. It can accompany a disappearance into Mamma’s, or Mother Church’s or Mother Mary’s skirts, with a whole idolatry of clothes and ceremony  at the expense of a more “naked” and abrasive “male” truth. And  this must sometimes be pursued if there is ever to be reform. The ignudi as symbol of truth, change and perfection got painted in the right place.

 

 

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APOCALYPSE AS A GAY ISSUE

APOCALYPSE AS A GAY ISSUE

Improbable though it sounds, upon examination Apocalypse and associated themes like Antichrist and era change can be considered a rather gay theme both as regards its definition and opposition to  the idea. I don’t say this –  however relevant it is in a minor way – simply because of a recent controversy in Philadelphia. That American city, it means brotherly love and is name of one of the seven churches of Revelation (Rev 3 7-13), has had strife around a drag queen, hired in the interests of “diversity”, to storytell to children in a public library.  Controversially  the drag queen is named Annie Christ.

The Drag Queen Story Hour, not itself new, was launched in San Francisco in 2015 but struck a more radically odd note in 2017 when a drag queen called Xochi Mochi, dressed ominously as a five horned god/demon, “entertained”, if she didn’t frighten, children at Long Beach. What’s different now is that Philadelphia’s storyteller is suggestively named Annie Christ (quickly spoken Antichrist)…. Well, at least she didn’t call herself “Rapture”, something implicitly promised to those souls past and present symbolized by Revelation’s church of Philadelphia.

RAPTURE AND THE ARCHETYPAL

There are Christians who question whether the doctrine of so-called Rapture (of the believing prepared section of the church) was ever traditionally held, though something of the kind does seem indicated by certain parables of Jesus and St Paul to the Thessalonians. Some maintain it was the nineteenth century invention of an Anglo-Irish priest, but that’s disinformation (see Ireland’s Apocalyptic puzzles https://wp.me/p2v96G-19s ).

Yet even if Rapture belief could be proved to be only modern, that still wouldn’t favour its automatic disqualification from consideration. Since truth about the end times is said to be largely sealed up until its time approaches (Dan 12:9), new realizations are theoretically possible with the passing of time.

By those who emphasize it, the end is usually forecast as something due “soon”, though suddenly or quickly would seem nearer both the original sense and the perennial one. Whether one believes Rapture teaching is old or new, it should be recognized that parallel to the biblical theme there’s a more mythic/archetypal one.

The chief mythical/archetypal equivalent of Rapture to heaven and the marriage banquet of the Lamb, is the story of the youth Ganymede suddenly snatched to heaven to serve at the banqueting table of Zeus who seizes him in the form of an eagle. Over time, suddenly  disappearing Ganymede would even became a symbol of resurrection in a Christian art that stressed an immortality that entails being specifically, materially, raised from earth to heaven. The Thessalonian account of Rapture has those in their graves first taken up before the living are snatched away (1 Thess 4:7).

Jupiter is the Bethlehem Star and thus a major planetary symbol of Christianity (see Christianity and the Jupiter Difference, https://wp.me/p4kNWg-mb ), but the largest moon in the solar system orbits Jupiter and has been called Ganymede.

The Jupiter/Ganymede connection represented symbolic logic for sky-mapping astronomers, but for skygazers and as regards Christianity, the connection of this unlikely pair overlooks how in essence Ganymede also represents a gay myth and archetypally Jung’s ascensional Puer (child, boy or youth) impulse more psychologically. As such it has all the elements of special fate, shock, novelty, separation and speed liable to surround gay persons and/or issues. It’s a typology which, however, has more to do celestially with Uranus than Jupiter or any moon of Jupiter. Suitably, at the Pentecost birth in AD 30 of a would-be raptured Christian church, Jupiter and Uranus were in perfect fortunate aspect.

Myths of Uranus (Father Air) symbolically encompass birth control (Uranus tries to prevent Gaia from giving birth) and also castration; Uranus is castrated by his son Saturn who is restrictive Father Time – Uranus is a free principle outside of or ahead of time and the times one lives in, and this allies Uranus with the futuristic/prophetic grand plan of anything.

PROPHETIC URANIANS

Given the wide and shifting range of reference, it follows that Uranus enjoys associations not just with the prominent castration theme of his story, but “different” sex, or at least whatever or whoever is out of the family way – mythically Uranus is not well related or even clearly related in any family terms. His origin is abnormally uncertain – he can be fathered by Aethyr, or by Chaos or parthenogenically by Gaia. He can be born from day (Hemera) or from night (Nyx) or Gaia who can be seen as his mother parthenogenically but may also be his wife!

In harmony with  such fabulous levels of variation, across time and cultures we find the crucial “eunuch” word linked to Uranus’ castration theme can itself prove ambiguous and changeable. It’s a floating signifier that may or may not be taken literally where castration is concerned. Cross culturally, and certainly by Jesus’ time, eunuch was a quite loose, broad term that could include anyone different and out of the family way.  It was  thus nearest to the modern concept of “gay” or traditionally suggestive expressions like “confirmed bachelor”. All astrologers know that unless Uranus is somehow prominent and emphasized in a (male) birth chart, the individual will not be same sex inclined. It’s the reason in the early modern period that produced the first Gay Lib movements in Germany, gays were called Uranians (surely a more accurately descriptive term than gay or queer!).

Apocalypse is associated with above all two biblical figures, the prophet Daniel and John the Revelator who plainly knew the book of Daniel very well, while Daniel admits to some major influence from the much less apocalyptic Jeremiah but nonetheless revolutionary, almost heretical proponent of a “new” covenant.(Jer 31:31). What joins all three prophets is a strong handle upon the Uranian principle in some fashion.

DANIEL THE EUNUCH

According to Jewish tradition, including Josephus, Daniel was a eunuch in Babylon. We can’t be certain of this but it’s highly likely and the claim lets character and themes fall into better place. The prophet Isaiah anyway tells King Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:18) that even some of his sons will be taken away and made eunuchs in Babylon, and undeniably it was common for royals and elite males of defeated nations to be rendered eunuchs.

It is indicated from the outset that Daniel belongs in the royal/aristocratic bracket (Dan 1:3). That he was chosen with some other Hebrew youths for a special courtly education and because he was “handsome and without blemish”, might just indicate he was not castrate; but in context and for the king who had ordered it, castration would not be deemed any blemish in the way it could be for Jews to whom it would impose an outsider status. (You couldn’t enter the temple, but this would soon be destroyed, so Daniel would not be affected at that level). Also relevant is that nowhere do we read of Daniel’s marriage or offspring.

It is impossible to tell whether Daniel’s radically protesting Puer style character could have owed more to inborn traits or the psychological effects of castration (though it’s said unless castration occurs before adolescence there is no real alteration to the nature and direction of the sex drive); but in no time the Uranian, in-your-face type factor kicks in. Though Daniel  sits at the royal table, he does not wish “to defile himself” with the king’s (doubtless non-kosher) food and drink, so he appeals to Ashpenaz, the palace master of eunuchs to help him and his immediate Hebrew friends.

Many Christian conservatives are obsessively attached to the supposed superiority of the dated, often inaccurate King James bible; but it is believed at this point in the story the KJV is more accurate than newer versions with its “God brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the chief of eunuchs” (Dan 1:9). Ashpenaz is sympathetic but fears for his own head if Daniel should look worse for wear on a different diet; however he doesn’t interfere with his  guard or steward with specific care for Daniel who agrees to a test that Daniel and his friends, drawn into the challenge, must look as well or better after ten days for their vegetarian and teetotal regime. This test they manage to pass with flying colours and in consequence the steward arranges for them them to continue the whole of their royal training under the same conditions again with success which after three years the king recognizes.

It’s pretty clear what’s going on here. Handsome eunuch Daniel has taken the fancy of the eunuch/gay palace master, sympathetic to his style. Uranian tastes run to the original, different, revolutionary and futuristic, so the palace master is more willing than most would be to lend a sympathetic  ear to an attractive stirrer.

There is some parallel to the case of Jeremiah (who for all sorts of reasons we should assume was gay). When his prophecies bring him to imprisonment in a miry pit, it’s a kindly Ethiopian palace eunuch appeals to the king to secure his rescue. (As though to repay the deed centuries later, it is an Ethiopian eunuch through the intervention of the apostle Philip, becomes the first African Christian and noticeably, though not himself a eunuch, Philip is uniquely recorded as being raptured away from the eunuch’s sight (Acts 8:39)  – horizontally, not vertically like Elijah,  but my point is that “eunuchs” and rapture themes have a way of going together (and if Elijah wasn’t a eunuch, then his unusual lack of family and his running war with an aggressive woman, Jezebel, puts him somewhat within the Uranian frame).

Reverting to Ashpenaz,  the club, the gay grape vine exist and things happen. Favouring needn’t automatically imply it’s done for expected sexual returns. Looking back I could cite at least three cases where I have radically intervened in lives, pulling strings in a way that changed personal prospects, and for little more than that I had an idle fancy for or curiosity about the youth concerned. Of course such interference in fate happens outside gay society too and notoriously so in the casting couch as the #MeToo movement keeps reminding us, but it  has traditionally happened rather more within gay circles due to their being at society’s margins.

Involved in the case of Daniel is the rather spectacular point that – so far as I know – not even gay theology has stressed and developed, namely that God is seen as using and working through the Ashpenaz connection and its attraction. In which case, how much are you prepared to argue God disapproved and never intended the nature of such attraction?

Daniel survives his diet and worse (most famously the lion’s den – celestially the lion is the opposite sign to Uranus-ruled, skies and air associated Aquarius) and with suitable originality went on to describe, as no biblical figure had ever done before, the grand plan and course of the ages. He is shown into the far future and the finale of the little horn, the presumptuous prince, the Anti Messiah who becomes the Antichrist and Great Beast of John’s Revelation.

JOHN THE BELOVED

This youngest of the disciples who leaned on Jesus’ breast at the Last Supper has been portrayed in traditional Christian art as coy or feminine for doing so. Art’s “feminine” John tradition (the basis of Dan Brown’s crazy theory that Leonardo’s Last Supper John is really the Magdalene) perhaps began as art’s nod to the way that believers, male as well as female, are (almost queerly) rendered “brides” of Christ. This however can ignore the church is also a “male child” snatched/raptured to heaven (Rev 12:5) like Ganymede. However, historic John was not notably either bride or child but rather  Jesus’ “son of thunder”, bold enough to be at the cross unlike other disciples, and another of the “in your face” protesting types as I think we can detect from his writing.

If in line with tradition and Jung, who detected psychological connections between the Gospel and Revelation, you believe that John authored Revelation, then the “son of Thunder” certainly found his voice and his roar in the last book of the bible! As against much of the bible, Revelation is pictorial to the point of cinematic, and I would suspect that there are points in the text where its words simply attempt equivalence to something seen or felt rather than anything uttered for the author’s hearing.

Given how unlike Jesus’ voice-print and usual expression it is, one might question whether the Jesus of Revelation specifically said he will spit or vomit the Laodiceans from his mouth, as opposed to just indicating severe disapproval. The given words (Rev 3:16) sound more like a “son of Thunder” utterance!

In the same way, no matter what the mystery of the 144,000 of Israel symbolizes, it sounds more like John interpreting    something  than the reported angel speaking to him when  the Revelator is shown  a crowd of  men who it’s said  are virgins who haven’t “defiled themselves with women” (Rev 14:4). Though I will attempt an explanation near the conclusion here, at face value this is a rather impossible idea. It is in contradiction of such as the biblical statement the marriage bed is undefiled (Heb 13:4). So unless, improbably, orgiastic extremes were envisaged, the men couldn’t  automatically be defiled with women. But just like Daniel who doesn’t want to “defile himself” with royal foods, thundering John doesn’t want sex with women; he favours in-your-face attitudes from protesting persons with lives lived according to Uranian impulses favourable to separation and difference, persons who belong like Uranus more to heaven than earth. Even if, as is quite possible, the real meaning is  these men have not been spiritually defiled by the world/earth (often identified with the female principle), the choice of imagery making that point, still raises a few questions about the author.

The character, attitudes and eros of the Beloved Disciple is a subject in itself. I interrogate it in Part Two of Testament of the Magi, (https://goo.gl/x8KASy) so there’s no call to enlarge on it here. But this much can be said. We do know a few things about John from extra-biblical sources which, whether they represent literal historical truth or more likely just reflect a general impression of him, are still in keeping with the rather Uranian profile proposed here, like for example the explosion against the heretic Cerenthinus in the bath house or the strange doting on a rather church-troubling nuisance of a youth at Smyrna as reported  in  Eusebius The Church History  sourced from Clement of Alexandria.

AN EROTIC AND ESOTERIC MOMENT

And then, in Revelation itself, surely one of the most futuristic, in-your-face testaments of all time, there is a strange, almost erotic but certainly esoteric moment when the Revelator sees the triumphant Christ returning to earth as the White Horse rider. His robe is evidently fluttering and raised by the speed of the horse, allowing the Revelator to glimpse the name “inscribed” (tattooed?) upon his thigh.

It happens that by tradition Jupiter is not just arbiter of truth, exponent of any doctrines or philosophies but also ruler of horses and in medical astrology ruler of the thighs, For someone like Jesus born under Jupiter, that planet’s bodily zone can quite appropriately declare the identity of the person, especially when it also amounts in itself to a doctrine of divinity: “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Rev 19:16). But to be realistic here, nothing quite alters that where we focus attention is a key to our mind and preferences. And in the final analysis, it cannot be said that the average straight male will usually direct focus on the thighs of other men.

However true and revealing John’s observation may be in itself, at this point there is still surely something homoerotic in the vision and uranian in the mention of it. But then there may be things one might need to be uranian to be able to see or know at all, which is perhaps why Isaiah controversially implicitly ranks the eunuch higher than those who have offspring (Is 56:5).

THE TURNING OF THE AGES, CHRISTIAN AND AQUARIAN

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Isaiah may not rank the heteronormative as high as some conservative Christians, but almost nowadays it’s a commonplace among those who anticipate a “soon” Rapture,Tribulation, Antichrist and Millennial age under a returned Christ, the gay revolution, and its toleration , is itself regarded as a harbinger of the end. It’s all part of “as in the days of Noah, as in the day of Lot” (Luk 17:28). So in their view Sodom and Gomorrah necessarily returns. And disregarded amid this despite everything scholars remind them, is that the men who want Lot’s daughter, (not to say sex with angels!), are clearly bisexual, even satanistic rapists; but even at that, and no matter how irregular Sodom’s sex may have been, sex sin in not even cited by Ezekiel in his summary of the city’s evils (Ezek 16:49/50).

As there’s no smoke without fire, there is however no point denying that there can be an element of Sodom returned in, for example, the kind of exploitation of the under-aged in everything from prostitution to porn that the highly politicized gay establishment hasn’t help correct lest exposure harm the reputation of the larger community; and there has been a controversial hostility towards freedom of conscience and belief in the sometimes vindictive cases brought against Christian businesses by gay activists. And let’s not talk about problems like the behaviour of exhibitionists and those drag queens who interrupt Christian services and suggest a kind of demonic opposition a la Annie Christ.

But none of this is the whole or even the main story; and it is certainly not because any Antichrist is approaching that there are more gays in the world and we keep hearing things gay. Obviously gays are more visible and “come out” because there is no longer legal ban on their very existence and voice. But it’s more complex than that, and it belongs with what might seem to some the “mystery” that so many people are also turning vegan or that there is a move to renewable energy and that technology makes remarkable advances.

Quite simply, while on the one hand society is disintegrating  in ways consistent with the sign of the current era, Pisces, (and negatively so through such themes as drugs, addiction, fake news, confused mysticism and misplaced permissiveness to the point of decadence), as against this situation themes of the incoming Aquarian age also impinge. The general drive is thus increasingly towards Uranian individualism, self-perfection, a refusal of what seems earth-bound, which can even include consumption of meat. Increasingly the impulses are Uranian, upwards and aerial, a case of “there’s nowhere to go but up” a la Ganymede. But along with this, sex and relating themselves becomes more Uranian.  This means, means there will be more same sex attraction and less standardized gender roles – many Aquarians like Princess Stephanie of Monaco have always even looked more androgynous than the average person.

Unless as regards the terrible hypocrisy and corruption allowed to surround it, there are no “signs of the times” and here shouldn’t  even be extreme shock, in the revelations concerning the Vatican and its ubiquitous (supposedly 80%) homosexuality just revealed in Frederic Martel’s In the Closet of the Vatican. An  institution supposedly run on total celibacy is not going to attract too many red blooded heterosexuals and the chart of the Vatican shows gay relevant Uranus in the house of sex in easy trine to a hidden Mars (men) in the hidden twelfth; so that matter has always been pretty obvious and hardly news.

Quite what the new customs, values and laws and even understanding of love might be when the Aquarian age is finally, fully arrived we can’t yet know. It is however impossible that the gay/Uranian theme, which biblically and in many societies is only a hidden stream in previous ages, under a specifically Uranus-ruled age will not become more accepted and mainstream. The controversy around gays is a battle that conservative theology and attitudes will lose. Rather like insisting on the basis of the bible that the earth is flat, conservative insistence on the inherent evil of anything gay associated as already caused irreparable damage to individuals and churches in its failure to reach new understandings; but one reason it can and will hang on to its position in the immediate is because what I have been saying can be too easily dismissed as explanation through the supposedly verboten, or just foolish distorting lens of mere astrology. There is, it will be said, no behaviour and values modifying Aquarian age on the horizon, there is no such thing…….Really

WHY THE BIBLICAL MILLENIUM SEEMS NECESSARILY IDENTICAL WITH THE AGE OF AQUARIUS.

  

It should be noted that in Revelation Jesus is pictured more than once as a Lion, the lion of the tribe of Judah. The ideal or lodestar of an era will always be in its opposite sign, which for Aquarius is Leo, the lion. In the currently ending era of Pisces, Jesus, born under Virgo, sign of bread and the wheatsheaf, is the bread come down from heaven, the ideal of many in the Piscean era. But more is involved than just this.

The Second Advent proper, which is the visible return of Christ to earth at the end of the Great Tribulation, (not any more hidden Rapture event which furnishes the opportunity to escape the Tribulation time), is plainly envisaged as an Aquarian/Uranian event. The symbol glyph of Aquarius is lightning and the Coming of the Son of Man is compared to the lightning which crosses the heavens (Matt 24:27). But this is still not the clincher.

During the Millennium, a vast temple is to be built. It is described in great length and technical detail by the prophet Ezekiel. In Ezek 41: 18-19 we learn of the interior: “And on all the walls all around in the inner room and the nave  there was a pattern. It was formed of cherubim and palm trees, a palm tree between cherub and cherub. Each cherub had two faces: a human face turned towards the palm tree on the one side and the face of a young lion turned towards the palm tree on the other side.

There are echoes here of Ezekiel’s introductory vision of the divine chariot with the four living creatures with their faces, one of a human, to the right the face of a lion, to the left the face of an ox and then an eagle. These are clearly the four elements (air, fire, earth and water respectively) and also their signs Aquarius, Leo, Taurus and Scorpio, the latter anciently often represented by an eagle rather than a scorpion. Whereas however Ezekiel’s initial and initiatory vision is on the level of all that’s permanent in existence, the millennial temple keeps to the symbolism of the age: the axis polarity sign  of the human but would-be angelic/cherubic Aquarius is with the more divine, messianic lion.

GUYS FEELING “DEFILED” BY WOMEN.

I will now have a speculative go at interpreting the almost impossibly strange statement from John the Revelator about the 144000 Virgin Israelite males who have not “defiled” themselves with women. As I’ve said, this is not even a regular biblical idea – it sounds almost more like a gay one than anything. It does so even though it can be conceded many men do feel a little compromised in their being by women to the extent woman is “earth”, the Dionysian swamp of nature so vividly described by anti-feminist feminist Camille Paglia who is sympathetic to those men, often gay, whose masculine protest against the female principle has functioned as a motor to much civilisation.  On the religious plain, however, I think immediately of the gay poet, Auden, who was pretty self-indulgent around men, yet felt he had sinned against God when he went to bed with a woman. It wasn’t natural to him to do it.

Whatever else the 144,000 are and mean,  when they are first referenced in Rev 7 they are to be ‘sealed” (protected?) before Tribulation plagues can manifest, so they stand at the midpoint of something – specifically the ages or aions. It would be symbolically fitting if the dying age of Pisces, “ruled” by Neptune which is about mysteries, the hidden and disappeared, ended with the disappearance of the Rapture  and   “Behold I show you a mystery” writes St Paul in connection to that subject. It would  also fit if, by contrast, the new age of Aquarius were birthed at the return like lightning across the skies of Christ’s return to Jerusalem. But whatever one envisages or believes, in-between an end and a new beginning John seems to assume an interval between the two ages, an interval taken up with the marriage in heaven and the Tribulation on earth. The 144.000 could thus be seen as marking a crucial transition point, a  point of rest, reversal and a taking breath rather like the half hour of silence in heaven at the beginning of Rev 8 which follows the first reference to the 144,000 in the previous chapter.

To appreciate the meaning one  also has to consider how Revelation  presents its extreme subject matter.  It describes in the only way anyone would be able to millennia in advance,  what sounds like and could be a description of a super-destructive global conflict, a WW111. It describes these effects as though direct judgements God, a sort of Jove’s thunderbolts rather than what God permits, though biblically “the wrath of God”, like damnation is really always the absence of God. Mindful of just this kind of active/passive reversal, on the same basis, if we were conveying the same vision today, we might as  easily speak of the 144,000 women who had not defiled themselves with men. It could well amount to the same thing as men not defiling themselves with women, if it reflected those concerned  were are all essentially Uranian and  they had not, like Auden, done what was unnatural to themselves.

I don’t wish to suggest my speculation unlocks the only possible meaning of the very real mystery of the 144,000, but it would make a degree of symbolic sense that, at what is effectively the brief interval or midpoint of two ages during which a marriage is celebrated and one which itself queerly renders both sexes involved a “bride of Christ”, there should be a still point. At this point and with and through some persons or principle can occur the  reversal of energies towards the new age which releases a new eros with a fresh sense of what’s  natural and will unite people. The 144,000 who sing “a new song” ( Rev 14:3) can represent the new force of  reversal.

CONVERGING PERSPECTIVES

To  admit the archetypal and symbolic to the subject of revealed apocalypse is liable to place a more perennial, eternal “now” upon the more future orientated “soon” of prophecy. The big question of our times is nonetheless whether the two perspectives are drawing ever closer together towards a more literal crisis and fulfilment. What about the uptick of quakes and volcanoes, the radical climate changes, the fact that according to a centuries old prophecy the current pope is the last, that prominent Jewish rabbis expect the third temple will soon be built, that their Messiah will soon arrive (even this year) and even a red heifer necessary for dedicating the new temple has been born?

In some articles on this site and also McCleary’s Additions, I have tried to keep up with developing ideas and possibly significant events in this area. These are not trivial questions, certainly they are more serious than the irreverent trivializations of the subject into which the people of Philadelphia have been caught.

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2019 in culture, ethics, gay, Mysteries, psychology, religion

 

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TODAY’S CHRISTIAN IMAGE PROBLEM

If it’s your fate in life to be dismissed or hated, it’s reassuring to take the flack due to your support of good causes and so be able to protest with Jesus “they hated me without a cause (Joh 15:25). Today when in many places Christians are increasingly opposed or just left out in the cold and ignored, they need to ask whether they are not at least partly to blame for what has happened. They need to ask whether even Jesus might not remind them that in their generation the children of this world are wiser than the children of light ( Luk 16:8) and also that what Christians in the West are experiencing is less a straightforward “suffering for righteousness sake” than a type of judgement on the church through long insufficiently unexamined policies and beliefs (1 Pet 4:17).

For example, it is clear enough that recourse to secular courts was apostolically disfavoured (1 Cor 6:1).Yet today the main image of Christianity is not as any source of a preached gospel that cures souls but too often a political party or institution in constant legal war with the secular world to defend or impose rights and principles deemed old fashioned, unscientific or an interference in personal rights, a rear guard attempt almost to make society Christian by legal fiat than divine persuasion.

It’s not that some issues in contention like the right to die aren’t significant and complex, or that Christians should have nothing to say on them or that only secularist progressives are right about them; but too often what believers stand for is not as Christian or supportive of justice as they imagine….They may even serve little more than to stymie wider conversation around the faith and making persons, especially the unchurched young, hate God or feel excommunicated in advance as when a Pope (who has anyway controversially discouraged claims by believers to any personal relation with Jesus) compares abortion to Nazi crime.

Anyone would think such things as miscarriages (medically called “spontaneous abortion”) and stillbirths didn’t happen all the time, that God has not stopped them and has never pronounced about them, unless as mentioned presently. They are just a phenomenon of (fallen) nature. In the past leading Christians have rightly or wrongly pragmatically justified everything from war to prostitution but now they can’t allow an abortion for the most pressing reason.

Practically, the hard or traditional religious line that reaches the law courts (or plebiscite as in Ireland) on controversial themes too often serves to make do-gooders feel good or even pile up some other serious wrongs. Thus, when abortions are too strictly limited they only go to the back streets where they may occasion deaths of the mother, or they may, as in El Salvador, cause innocent women who have undergone still births or miscarriages to be imprisoned for years accused of murder. In Ireland until the recent plebiscite, the archaic penalty for abortion was fourteen years jail. Where did any pro-lifers protest this sword of Damocles over the heads of women and doctors?

It’s the likes of Amnesty International, not protesting Christian right- to- lifers, who are left to protest such scandals like El Salvador’s. Meanwhile few today will anyway listen to pro-lifers from churches that have turned up such high levels of child abuse, itself a proof of just how biblically illiterate or plain unbiblical some churches now are. Whereas some biblical scholars have long accepted there can be some wiggle room over matters from divorce to homosexuality, there really is none when it comes to Jesus and child abuse (Luk 17:4). The condemnation is made so strongly there never was any case for not dismissing a priest on the spot or defending the sanctity of the confessional in such cases.

Whole books could be written on sexual issues across time and culture for the churches, and some of my articles have now and again tried to tackle difficulties involved (like Issues of Sex, Love and Biblical ‘Incoherence’https://wp.me/p2v96G-111, but briefly let’s look at four main areas of contention. 1) Right to life and abortion, 2) Preservation of Life and Euthanasia, 3) Gay Rights and 4) the question of what is the occult.

ABORTION AND PRO-LIFE

If formerly unbelievers might be viewed as sinners, now some Christians have found a reason to either call or consider them murderers or unacknowledged worshippers of Molech (a god to whom live infants were sacrificed). Christians can agree that life must be respected and abortion as just alternative birth control, a lifestyle option in say, service of a career or dislike of the sex of a foetus, is wrong (as is likewise secular pressure to abort when a pregnant woman doesn’t want it). However, to deny that some abortion can fall into  this world’s ‘necessary evil” category and thus opposing abortion unequivocally, including in cases of rape, incest, danger to the mother’s life or awareness of extreme deformity and handicap such as could render the rest of a parent and child’s life an unrelieved burden, is controversial. Failure to make concession, especially to non believers, places Christian belief into the too hard (or plain silly) basket and most people will be left thinking those Christians who wanted especially extreme handicap spared should themselves volunteer for a lifetime of personally caring for it. Anything else could be deemed hypocrisy.

It is so not least because (despite the ritually repeated verse that God knew Jeremiah in the womb Jer 1:5), the modern Christian line has little biblical basis but is grounded instead in absolutist, abstract medieval doctrine influenced by the pagan Aristotle. Taken to the extreme – as matters long were as regards contraception – with this line of thought one could finish relative to the Jains who preserve life to the point of carrying a strainer to preserve ants ….in fact it almost  was so taken in the days when such as masturbation was considered next to murder because it killed supposed miniature homunculi, not seed constantly and automatically expelled.

The reality is that even one of the biblical prophets, Hosea, declares death in the womb upon the godless (Hos 9:15). The laws of Moses if taken literally (they weren’t necessarily and always so understood) would have been the death of many foetuses in the womb if the adulterous wife was executed, while the notorious Law of Jealousy if literally adhered to would induce abortion.

Even if one discounted all this, the bible, especially the OT, is very concerned with objective and subjective states of purity and then purging impurity. Clearly any woman raped is liable and entitled to feel impurified and as such should be permitted if she wishes to seek the kind of purgation which in many cases only abortion could supply. Yet for the height of irony, those same conservative Christians, evangelical and charismatic, who in an age of ecumenism have followed a Catholic line (formerly American Baptists lent qualified support to abortion and Methodists still do) are the same who will write books on exorcism, associating possession states very often with the result of sexual impurity, not least through rape. Why then preserve impurified life that will need special treatment to avoid many other evils manifesting?

The bible respects life, but just not infinitely – if the bible and not abstract ideals counted, there would still be capital punishment for serial killers. And the pro-life campaigner ignores the extent to which the ideal that would preserve life under all and any circumstance is anyway simply a luxury of modern medicine. Not only under modern medicine does still birth and miscarriage still occur, but the mortality rate for women and their offspring in childbirth before modern times was enormous. Formerly godly persons accepted this as the will of God. Abortion should likewise be accepted as at least sometimes appropriate.

Failing reasonable compromise in this grey area, the churches have raised whirlwinds of secular demands for abortion for almost anything and often as just woman’s right to choose as though two persons weren’t involved. (Even that pre Christian advocate of free love, the poet Ovid, expressed shock at his lover’s blasé recourse to abortion).

VOLUNTARY EUTHANASIA

The role of modern medicine also affects the question of the termination of life and has led to increased pressure towards voluntary euthanasia. Here is obviously the most difficult of questions and not just for Christians. The possibility of misuse and exploitation of freer laws is patent and the average doctor doesn’t want to become as in Holland a Dr Death to people depressed or just tired with life. Moreover suicide under almost any conditions is deeply disturbing to relatives.

This said, not only is it controversial if religious beliefs rule the lives and choices of those who don’t believe, but modern medicine increasingly has the power to keep people in existence who are only existing, not living. Helped by medicine and advanced care, nature no longer always takes its natural course in ending lives as it has across history. In special if rare cases, it is controversially able to keep people in existence if they suffer locked in syndrome which cuts off all effective communications with the world beyond perhaps what a finger or eyelid can convey.

I recall the horror and disgust I felt a few years ago when the Catholic church in Italy refused Christian burial in the case of life support removed from a patient with locked in syndrome. This was treated as though murder while everything from ecclesiastical sympathy to representatives went to the Christian funeral of the popular but lifelong adulterous opera tenor, Pavarotti, a man so self indulgent at the table in later years he could barely stand up. Where’s the charity or godly insight? This sort of thing creates doubt and cynicism about the faith whose modern starting point is once again an intransigence so marked it is merely an invitation to secularist dismissal of religious and legalistic quibbling outright in favour of alternative policies of often radical licence.

GAYS AND THEIR RIGHTS

Although due a certain understanding of religious rights I personally believe Christians and independent businesses have a right to refuse to bake cakes or photograph for gay celebrations they don’t believe in, I don’t approve the Christian attitudes which have caused this to become an issue on the scale it has.

Much could be written and has been on what the Bible states or implies, theologically, psychologically and culturally as regards the “homosexuality” word it doesn’t use. Here I would only emphasize one thing which I think is a hinge to much else and which I would maintain conservative Christians wrongly ignore and at the risk of offending people’s integrity and denying the same scriptures they seek to defend.

No matter how you interpret Jesus on eunuchs in Matt 19 (and it’s claimed that by Jesus’ times its reference could include a wider range than just castrates and include the same sex attracted ) the fact is Jesus accepts that some people are born a certain way out of the norm. Conservative Christians of the cure party deny and ignore this vital point. Their assumption is that all persons are naturally born one way and can be re-directed into it and they may back this up with reference to rare cases of claimed cures (which may be real in the case of those sexually abused in childhood or the drug addicted whose sensibilities became blurred). And because they believe no one is born a certain way they make the further mistake of failing to realize how gay is more than just sex and the “lifestyle” they call it, but a whole outlook, psychology, even spirituality, (For some different views and approaches see   https://goo.gl/A8M4VV )

Scripturally, conservatives will further back their position with reference to St Paul on those who are contra naturam in Romans 1, implicitly rating Paul over Jesus as regards character fixity and thus any change and character issues. They will assume that the same apostle, (whom I’m sure they don’t really believe was right when in a weak, self-contradictory moment he declared women gain salvation through childbearing!), is the last word on the nature of sexuality. It follows that everything psychologists might claim and gays assert about themselves must then be wrong and even wicked lies. What can one say, and where is even common sense?

Although most homosexuals are not effeminate, some plainly are and nothing could ever make them he-men. If Christians are foolish enough to trust some translations and accept from St Paul a doctrine that “effeminates” will not inherit the kingdom of God, why not believe that say, on another plain, any obviously fixed condition, like say mongoloid children, will be damned for the original sin of being who they are? Sometimes there are grey areas in life, ethics and bible and this must be acknowledged and worked with. The expression “Gay Pride” which some Christians are dead set against as in itself another sin and a manifestation of a last days return of Sodom, is merely a reaction to attitudes long bent on shaming and persecuting anyone gay (in Russia you can still be dragged off the street by gangs and tortured if you merely look as though you might be gay, “effeminate” Some idiotic Christians like Franklin Graham are favourable to Russia because of its treatment of the gay question).

The charge of “pervert” that conservatives still too easily use (amid new, more self-defensive talk about loving the sinner but hating the sin), has always been around. Biblically King Saul directs it at the mutual attraction of David and Jonathan calling his son offspring of a perverse rebellious woman (1 Sam 20: 30) but the meaning is quite clear except to the conservative blind and deaf who to this day deny despite all the signs, that there was anything special in the relation of David and Jonathan whose lives are joined by a berith (covenant or marriage).

“Difference” stares out of the face of the Bible for those with eyes to see and not just In the case of David and Jonathan (consider my poem “Jeremiah’s Loincloth” https://wp.me/p2v96G-Hm , but there are none so blind as those who do not wish to see.

The behaviour of lunatic Portuguese missionaries to Japan abusing courtiers as lower than dogs and worse than Sodom because of homosexuality, was a major cause Christianity never progressed in Japan. The gay subject has always been divisive but it would be hard to describe the degree of damage (conservative) churches have done to modern Christianity via their approach to homosexuality. It succeeds to whole unrepented eras of outright, unchecked bullying and discrimination through (in America) what is often a kind of hill-billy theology of which the likes of the at least sometimes intelligent and interesting Perry Stone is representative. (Perry will sometimes mince and screech in imitation of – presumably – the drag queens he imagines all gays are, as he declares horror at all and any homosexuality whose toleration is a sure promise of America’s coming downfall and judgement).

Not only is this situation harmful to the churches now seen as merely unsympathetic and uninformed, but it’s unhelpful to gays themselves because it has largely or wholly prevented pastoral work, addressing questions like what are gays for, how should they live and so on.

And as in any community, wrongs and abuses are found in the gay community – one thinks especially of how youths from the country or thrown out of homes, instead of finding proper community acceptance and support have found instead exploitation. But nowadays the threat of charges of homophobia has virtually shut down the possibility of discussing or condemning corruption and any specific ills of the gay scene. Outside of conservative thought ghettoes, in secular society gay is now only ever good; it is not possible to state some of it may have a dark side or be soul damagingly misdirected.

Gays are  perfectly entitled to protest, why pick on them to moralize or save souls when so many heterosexuals live in irregular unions, some Christians several times divorced? Where are the Christians who protest the legal right to attend gay events to witness outside churches protesting some marriages?

When Gay Lib began the struggle was to deny gays new rights and the accusation was that they were just fornicators. When unions and marriage came into view that was as bad, another form of abomination. The message is clear and it’s homophobic. Gays are not meant to exist in even democracies. Gays have finally returned the compliment with the secularists among them wanting Christians dragged before the courts and denied their businesses and their rights. I don’t approve but can appreciate why it has happened and if one reads histories of homosexuality and the record of the church in relation to it, Christians can’t expect God’s favour on them short of some repentance and changed attitudes.

DEMONIZING ALMOST ANYTHING THAT MIGHT BE THOUGHT ESOTERIC OR OCCULT

Religion is often seen as at variance with science, but in one area Christian conservatives might as well join the scientists and rationalists and unattractively so for the many today who still desire and perceive a few mysteries.

A fourth Christian image problem attaches to extremist treatment of “the occult”, a term those using it often don’t understand but are convinced is damnable in any form they imagine it exists. Granted Christians can and must agree that certain activities like the Ouija board and fortune telling cards are verboten, they constitute the biblical “divination’ which ultimately depends for its effects upon chance or the intervention of real or imagined familiar spirits which may trigger obsession or possession. Exorcists have been surprised at how much possession problems have their roots in this kind of dabbling.

There is however a distinction to be made between inspired dreams and what is more empirically grounded and requires neither pure intuition nor external forces to arrive at, chief of these being the astrology which features strongly in the Talmud of the rabbis. (Elements of numerology which also feature in rabbinic thought and possibly some principles of palmistry, some of it with medical support, could also be included). The rabbis understood astrology be the study of cycles and phenomena and on the basis of the astrologically implicit theories of Ecclesiastes for which “what has been will be”, what happens under one pattern can occur again and this is not fortune telling. (It is true the prophets can be construed as disapproving astrology – unless and until one realizes they are not talking about mathematical astrology as we know it since the Greeks, but a more primitive, oracular stargazing that functioned much like fortune cards).

Astrology is also not a damnable doctrine of “fate” when applied to nations and individuals – if you try to understand how it works. Astrological patterns in most instances include free will, there are various possibilities and attitudes under them. It is nevertheless true, and hardly unbiblical if astrology points out, that the life pattern of a person is involved with root traits and that thus Saturn may symbolize and apply differently in the life of a politician as opposed to an artist. It is perfectly biblical to recognize shape in a life or even a day – the outlines are present from the first as Ps 139: 16  indicates.  Study of diurnals are the nearest thing to proving the Psalmist correct in the matter of every person’s day being forewritten and known.

Jung hoped the time would come when basic astrology was taught in schools. According to the late Catholic seeress Jeane Dixon this will happen. Both believed that there is a basic psychology and wisdom that should be known. Although it is foolishness to think individuals can learn their futures from sun sign forecasts (and foolish of Christians to treat the entertainment of reading them monstrous error), it is useful to social interaction and toleration of difference to have a basic grasp of difference as revealed by astrology. It even colours very accurately the kind of things and philosophies people assume (see my The Astrology of Beliefs   https://goo.gl/oN9aQe).

In this respect let it be said that failure to acknowledge and assimilate some astrology is almost as great a problem for the churches as their attitudes to homosexuality. Christians today need to realize the significance of living at the end of the (Piscean) era that began near to Jesus’s birth. They need to understand the symbolism of Pisces and its opposite/complementary sign Virgo as it runs through the whole New Testament and how the OT and NT difference with the elements of violence and extreme patriarchy of the OT are involved with traits and themes of the previous Arien age. Many things fall into place and are quickly explained if only this simple fact is recognized. But it isn’t with many unfortunate consequences. And with the esoteric repressed it re-emerges in eccentric forms like trying to obtain “Christian” numerological messages and clues to the times by looking up the number of Greek and Hebrew words in the lists of Strong’s Concordance.

A PROBLEM OF AUTHORITY

According to the demonized system of astrology, the chart for the foundation of Christianity in AD 30 reveals a sun in Gemini, the dual sign. This bespeaks a dark/light, saints and sinners type organization. That sun is in (fortunately)  very wide conjunction to Saturn. This is a promise the community will be bedevilled by the shackles of Saturnian “tradition” (not least in languages that hamper Geminian communication  – Latin, Church Slavonic etc) and proper understanding and use of “authority” in everything from politics to management of religious affairs.

Much of the foregoing covered here can be traced to current problems, especially American, around authority in religion. Arguably, and not least from the astrological standpoint, we do stand at the end of the Christian aion (era) itself. It’s a time even Christ identifies with lack and loss of faith ( Luk 18:8) and undeniably some clergy and theologians do now seem virtual atheists for sheer doubt (as Douglas Murray, author of The Strange Death of Europe has stated). But opposed to the doubt trend is an attachment to a radical concept of authority in its turn inconsistent with a religion that places so much emphasis upon not just belief, but faith so that not everything can and should be clear in all cases.

Among conservative Protestants there is almost a fetish of the Bible as “God’s Word”, totally inerrant. While it’s reasonable to call the bible inspired, it cannot and must not be deemed some kind of Paper Pope deemed inerrant.  And one doesn’t need to be a trained philosopher or theologian to know why it can’t. Commonsense dictates that when the Psalmists give voice to their complaints or St Paul talks about wanting some books he has left behind, plainly this is not “God’s Word” dictated from heaven. Anyone should be able to recognize  that when Ps 137 suggests it’s blessed to smash the heads of children of enemies against the rocks, this is outside the meaning and tenor of the bible as a whole.

Quite simply, there are degrees and levels of inspiration (in Corinthians Paul says the thinks he has the Spirit of God 1 Cor 7:40) on a subject, and there are a few glaring errors and low moments scattered about – much of Ecclesiastes is obviously weak. If there weren’t these moments, everything would be so clear there would never have been need for any biblical commentary past or present. If everything were perfectly clear there would also be no need for the Spirit to lead into all truth (Joh 16:30), or indeed for the Spirit to speak to the churches (Rev 3:22) at all because everything could be deduced from the scriptures anyway.

The bible is a guide and often a teacher to be dialogued with. A measure of doubt and argument should be almost fundamental to spiritual development. Truth is to be learned and acquired (Jesus says to go and make disciples teaching them). “To love God is to argue with him” is a rabbinic saying. There must be a modicum of wiggle room because there will be a few places where as even Jesus concedes to his disciples, “not everyone can accept this saying”. The bible is not something to hit people over the head with and to cut off all dialogue as so often happens in American religion where “The Bible says”  or, “God’s Word says” is used as a kind of ex cathedra, papal style authority to cut off all question and argument. The essential authority of scriptures is something to be learned and felt over time, not announced ahead of or in opposition to all questions put to it.

WHY ALL THIS REALLY MATTERS

Currently the churches are everywhere in trouble. Religious freedom and opinion are in danger from everything from political correctness in the West to outright persecution outside it as when last week thousands of Christians were slaughtered in Nigeria by Muslim fanatics and the fact scarcely reached the news. The relative silence was likely due to the fact secular liberal media cares little nowadays what happens to Christians anywhere  but cares a lot about never offending Muslims and pleasing offended women whose problems count for far more than believers tortured, imprisoned or murdered.

In these circumstances it is not however for Christians to cease from proper self criticism which if practiced would show how it became too easy for secular forces to dismiss believers. Nor is it for Christians today almost degradingly to plead they ought to be tolerated because of all the good works they do through charities and hospitals etc. It’s no good calling the charity card, however true, when otherwise justice and common-sense in the  direction of some policies have been (as most  notoriously in the treatment of child abuse scandals) too obviously lacking. Apart from which, and as should be remembered first and last, good works alone anyway never quite count. Christians should demonstrate good works as the natural expression of their belief in a gospel it was Christ’s parting command to go and preach. This preaching is now scarcely in evidence, but the right to be able to declare it (but without confusion and prejudice against whole classes of people from raped women to gays) is what needs to be understood and preserved as the Christian programme and the human law. Freedom of religious conscience and belief are the virtual basis of all human rights and freedom and this is ignored at our peril. So, to conclude……being, and still more important the decision to become Christian today, should never involve a commitment to be

1) unequivocally opposed to abortion on all and any grounds
2) unequivocally opposed to all and every right to die
3) automatically opposed to all gay rights
4) automatically, uncritically opposed to every possible form of the so-called “occult”, especially astrology (some converts are even persuaded to burn all books relating to that subject of the original Magi)

The religion that takes this line scarcely deserves the name of Christianity; it borders on a cult and is enemy to the very democracy that the struggle for Christian freedoms helped much to form.

See also article: Issues of Sex, Love and Biblical ‘Incoherence’   https://wp.me/p2v96G-111

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2018 in current affairs, ethics, religion

 

IRELAND’S OLD/ NEW SPIRITUALITY PROBLEMS AND JOHN O’DONOHUE’S CONNEMARA MYSTICISM

A NATION AND PEOPLE CHANGED

Recently, one of Ireland’s few exorcists, Fr Pat Collins, has charged that the hierarchy of his church is out of touch with the reality of Irish conditions. Despite or because of the decline of faith (he calls it “apostasy”) there has been an exponential increase in troubled people seeking and not finding deliverance from states they rightly or wrongly believe to be demonic possession. Exorcists and their ministry are lacking in Ireland. https://goo.gl/owAZN8

There is no question that the whole face of religion in Ireland has changed in the last two to three decades in the wake of the combined effect of disillusioning revelations of severe, often sexual, child abuse among the once revered clerical class and the Celtic Tiger years in which Ireland enjoyed levels of economic prosperity alien to long national experience. Multiculturalism which has brought in a variety of faiths has also added to what can sometimes seem like chaotic change. Who would ever have imagined the day would come that Ireland would be debating the legality of such as female genital mutilation favoured by some Irish Muslims?

Though many do still attend mass, one in ten no longer adhere to any faith, but what has emerged is less pure secularism than a kind of new ageism or neo-paganism some of which may still be quasi-Catholic in its way. It is very evident in the case of bestselling Lorna Byrne (Angels in my Hair – she sees helping angels everywhere all the time and she forecasts that Christians will eventually worship at Mecca) and Joe Cassidy the much in demand diviner.

Celtic and especially Irish religion is a rare and special phenomenon that takes some understanding, but here I am going to try to diagnose its strange ills. Historically and positively there is no question about the service Ireland and the Celts gave to religion and western civilisation itself which they helped preserve during the early dark ages.

There is no question either that there is some kind of, mystical, psychic and imaginative talent that the Irish bring to religion, but there is also an underlying darkness and repression and now, under western secularism, a new malaise. Can we hope to explain, diagnose and cure this? In one essay obviously not, but I can offer a few pointers and I feel this should be done especially as there is something amid all the change that takes us right back to origins, to the beginning of an era now ending and even the often overlooked contact of St Paul with one version of the Celtic mind and culture.

THE JOHN O’ DONOHUE INPUT

   

One of the classier and for its implications more significant expressions of the new outlook, is found in the bestselling works of onetime priest, philosopher and poet, John O’Donohue (1956-2008). He is most celebrated for Anam Cara (Soul Friend) which I wouldn’t consider his best work but which struck a chord in and out of Ireland, perhaps most for reassuring people there is nothing to fear in death and that much in modern life distracts from essentials.  One person who knew O’Donohue , was strongly influenced by him and has helped popularize him and with it ideas of spirit helpers, past lives together,  conversations with angels, etc is Ireland’s best selling novelist, Patricia Scanlan (see her recent inquiry  Bringing Death to Life), a point I mention in support of my view that to read and  interpret O’Donohue in any notably Christian way is to distort him and  misunderstand his influence at a time of change.

Raised in the Gaeltacht and the austere landscape of Co Clare’s Burren region that he nevertheless loved, O’Donohue was a pleasing personality with a wonderful Irish voice that graced his poetry and statements with a sort of oracular profundity not always due them. His fluent prose can moreover be more poetic than his poetry.

O’Donohue was almost prototypically Irish, a one man guide to the Celtic mind itself, a reason to explore his work. Significantly too, belatedly he brings German figures, especially Hegel and Goethe, into the orbit of Irish thought where they long needed to be because German culture has a lot to say about development, nature and “culture”, themes with affinity for the Celtic legacy in a way the many Latin influences upon Ireland from Dante to Proust don’t necessarily support.

O’Donohue regards the Celts as a nature people. He himself perceives landscape as “full of soul” and animate which recalls assumptions of the theosophist poet seer of the Irish Renaissance, AE, and even the bible, especially Ezekiel 36, though he doesn’t seem familiar with either source on this. He nevertheless calls landscape “the first born of creation” which seems to be a misremembering of a biblical dictum “Christ is the first born] [or preeminent] of creation” (Col 1:15).

Following seminary and studies at Maynooth, O’Donohue pursued philosophy (especially Hegel’s) at Tubingen perhaps most famous for its liberal theology, Bultmann and “demythologizing”. In some respects O’Donohue is himself a demythologizer of things Catholic but under the influence not of modern scholarship but medieval Meister Eckhart’s quirky, ultimately heretical mysticism beloved of new agers. Eckhart opines and O’ Donohue concurs, that nothing is so like God as silence, a denial of deity as the Creative Word/Logos that calls forth creation. O’Donohue has no real sense of the Creator. It’s worth noting that Ireland’s extensive mythic legacy lacks creation myths.

So…..while O’Donohue has described and expressed many elements of Irish character, its social spontaneity and capacity for solitude, its “wildness and serenity” – what’s Irish emerges if anything as a set of seeming contradictions and paradoxes – one may still question the new age drift of his interpretations and the mystic balm he offers the Irish and many others who nowadays draw inspiration from Celtica.

Although O’Donohue had the right to believe and teach whatever he liked, I still baulk at quite how much from his quasi-Catholic position ( Anam Cara is itself a concept of Early Celtic Christianities) he misreads where religion is concerned. Trained and practicing as a priest for much of his life, he seems more biblically illiterate than laypersons (like Edna O’Brien’s Co Clare mother to gather from O’Brien’s autobiography) and scarcely to have grasped what Christianity was about short of sending out hopefully successful blessings.

He assumes God and Death are probably the same thing and that’s what contemplative mysticism has discovered (DB p, 225) Really?….Whatever happened to “I am the resurrection and the life”? But no; hearing people talk of heaven as a response to death, O’ Donohue thinks it only sounds unrealistic, though he allows souls slip off somewhere but their heaven is more state than place and maintains that eternal life is simply eternal memory (DBy p. 171). By contrast heaven and salvation were what Celtic Christianity, especially the early kind, were almost obsessively about.

Bordering on Christian atheism, O’Donohue’s God is the God of Eckhart “who has no why” and whose intention is simply to be. This gets justified by a misunderstanding of Yahweh’s declaration to Moses of “I am who I am” which was noticeably delivered from the fire which of the elements is the most distancing and unapproachable. A major biblical theme is that even though God fills everything (Jer 23:24) humanity is still separated from God, especially by iniquities (Is 59:2), making barriers hard for both humanity and deity to overcome. (Even in most world myth the Creator withdraws, but recall Irish myth has a significant gap re creation). Given the withdrawal, wisdom accordingly begins with a degree of fear or respect of the Lord who it is advised to fear as a being with power to commit to hell (Luk 12:5), a notion O’Donohue won’t even countenance..

For O’ Donohue there is no barrier between us and whatever constitutes deity. This is one reason why soul knows no fear including of death – he cites the ancient world atheist philosopher, Lucretius to lend support. Accordingly prayer is just sending out your light rather than communing with God, while holiness is hearing your own voice or even being at home. One could go on and on about with the quotes and self-reflective claims, but does any of this matter beyond to say O’Donohue was a trendy writer somewhat apostate from his role of priest? I will suggest a certain pattern emerges with deep roots in the history and complexes of Celtic faith we need to understand.

ST PAUL AND THE CELTS

O’Donohue represents two things. First, and perhaps as long ago anticipated by St Paul, he belongs among those who especially in the last times (we’re necessarily in them if the St Malachy prophecy is to be believed!) will have “a form of godliness but denying the power of it” (2 Tim 3:5), an interesting idea I will return to in citing a few of the philosopher’s more controversial statements. But second and importantly, O’Donohue is an aspect of and clue to the problem of Celtic psychology and religion over the centuries, one that harks right back to, once again, St Paul who appears to have clashed directly with tendencies of the Celtic mind in the realm of spirituality.

Two millennia ago the Celts were still quite strongly represented across Europe from Ireland to modern day Turkey where Galatia was in effect a province of the Gauls or Celts. The Roman poet Catullus identifies himself as one of the Cisalpine Celts of North Italy; and supportive of the ancient view that the Celtic character was uniformly distinctive, his poetry with its violent satire, its Maud Gonne type syndrome around his ill fated love for Lesbia, the rushing hysterical golliambics of Poem LX111, virtually unique in Latin poetry, betray the relevant character. So we may assume Celtic character and attitudes in Galatia and they seem to have been present.

On the positive side the apostle commends the at least originally enthusiastic spirituality he’d witnessed and in what sounds like its visionary nature (Gal 3:1). And it is to the Galatians that Paul declares the famous oneness in Christ that abolishes distinctions of Jew and Greek (Gentile), slave and free, male and female (Gal 3:28). To be realistic about this, in the extremely class ridden, hierarchal, patriarchal society of the Roman empire, it would be those of Celtic culture who would be more open than most to receiving this kind of radical message.

On the negative side Paul has two linked complaints. The Galatians have quickly become obsessed and enchanted with the Jewish Law in a manner that gets in the way of faith and grace itself (Gal 3:2). He also complains of something almost its opposite, a return or submission to elemental spirits (Gal 4:8) and through an obsessive ritualism and observance of festivals, a kind of paganising as opposed to a Judaizing tendency.

Again this is interesting because earliest Irish religion (and plenty existed before and after St Patrick fed by various influences from abroad as far away as Egypt), shows a distinct interest in Jewish law and/or a way of works. The Celtic monk Pelagius, from whence the Pelagian heresy, regarded Christ as the supreme example to follow, but essentially on a path which obtains salvation without his intervention, a way of works without a redeemer.

There is an affinity of sorts between Irish and Jews – James Joyce explored it and the association of Irish and Jews in America gives some evidence of it. Accordingly one might have imagined the liberating and poetic Hebrew prophetic tradition that supports so much in the gospels might have been of greater interest. I can only assume it was the importance of the brehons and the lawyer class that supported a more legalistic trend. There would thus develop St Paul’s two poles: Judaistic tendencies among the elite and paganish ones (holy wells and cults of the saints) among the hoi polloi! Or perhaps women. The Irish American but very Irish radical feminist Mary Daly whose occult voyage I consider in Temple Mysteries and Spiritual Efficiency, virtually curses St Paul in her Pure Lust riposte to Galatians and her quest for “The Elemental Powers of Be-ing”. What it seems everyone needs is those elementals.

But we also find something of this in the more rationalist and male O’Donohue who while he airily and academically speaks of “the notion of God”, “the concept of a God”, “the concept of resurrection” not only believes that all our inspirations come from “angels”, but is strangely tolerant of, even favourable to, stories of ghosts and house spirits in western Ireland and not upsetting them.

Perhaps they never got upset enough and are even returning with a vengeance to trouble the likes of Fr Collins. It’s not as though Irish myth and faery lore however dreamily beautiful was ever particularly benign and conducive to living “happily ever after” – even leprechauns can turn nasty. Neo-Pagan author Lora O’Brien admits that while her visualizations for god contacts are almost always safe, if you run into problems there’s always “therapy” can help. Or Fr Collins if he can collect enough experts?

A LEGALISM AND ELEMENTALS CURSE?

St Paul warns there is a curse upon both legalism and what he regards as the paganish “bewitchment” of his Celtic believers, basically because they subject the person to what he calls “the flesh”. As indicated in my last blog, “flesh” is not necessarily, certainly not always, what people imagine. It can mean soul as opposed to organizing spirit whether personal or divine, which last is supposed to be the foundation of true liberation. (O’Donohue is absolutely obsessed with soul but seems in a total muddle when it comes to human spirit and/or Holy Spirit).

I think in effect the apostle is suggesting that to work well or at all, there is a certain technique in accepting even the gospel…..We had better not ask the question whether he meant more and that people who mismanage the gospel destroy themselves and others, since with so many shadows and misfortunes across Irish history one could almost wonder if something like a curse was involved!

Be that as it may, the curse of Celtic legalism soon emerged in the early Irish penitentials. If they prove anything at all, it is that the Irish religious spirit (so busy as in St Patrick’s Breastplate in blessing and protecting itself against sundry ills) was never especially open to ideas and beliefs of the “Amazing Grace” variety such as Paul advocates in Galatians and writes to defend. Instead, believers were required to punish themselves and earn their way to divine forgiveness, favour and salvation. Some of the penances could last years or half a lifetime and highjack all normal existence. (One wonders how much they were actually practiced, but the attitude they express was intimidating and repressive).

It is commonly said Irish Puritanism or “Jansenism” entered with some French priests over two centuries ago. The fact is it was present long before with brutally unforgiving, salvation-earning Irish missionaries to Europe like the efficient but ill tempered St Columbanus who couldn’t bring himself to bless and baptize a child born out of wedlock even if it was royal. Much that has been most typical of western Catholicism in terms of so called priestly power (priestcraft) and penance is a consequence of Irish/ Celtic missions which, regrettably, as much imprisoned Europe as saved its civilisation. (Admittedly Italy’s Pope Gregory the Great has his share in what developed). For more on curses and lack of forgiveness and medieval Ireland see Staging Sweeney Frenzy: Irish Parable or Problem?  https://wp.me/p2v96G-1b2

Above all the penitentials and their attitude were repressive of the image of deity itself. There were two ways of getting round this: either asking saints and angels to approach the unapproachable God on your behalf…..or subtly dissolving the image of God altogether.

The Irish were expert in and preserved Greek sources and so under the influence of neo-Platonism, perhaps especially Pseudo-Dionysius, the ninth century Irish philosopher John Scotus Erigena developed a whole “negative” philosophy which renders God ultimately unnameable and indescribable unless in precisely negatives. (God is not good because beyond good, not love because above and beyond love and so on). This sort of thing allows you, if you wish, to join Mary Daly in going “Beyond God the Father” if via less magical, occult means then Daly who finishes up with wicca. Erigena’s effort towards salvation got swallowed up in a doctrine of universalism.

A more literalist version of faith overtook Ireland and/or its intellectual class when in the twelfth century the reformist St Malachy of Armagh helped (along with English interventions ) to bring the island under the western Catholic rule to which it had never fully previously adhered. The Catholic change imposed images of a more definable, “masculine” form of deity while with Malachy as friend of the pioneeringly Marian St Bernard – Mary had fed him breast milk – over against God, Mary came increasingly to symbolize the principle of grace and mercy through Christ in a way the St Paul of Galatians would not have recognized.

Interesting, another medieval philosopher the Irish or Scotch, Duns Scotus, spilled much ink in the thirteenth century promoting the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which at the time was not believed or even thought heretical. However, Ireland’s absorption to western Catholicism gradually turned the country, for psychological as much as theological reasons, into a species of one large Legion of Mary that until the twenty first century it would considerably remain. Dia is Muire duit (“God and Mary to you” ) was a common Irish greeting. All this had and has consequences.

MARY AND THE GREAT MOTHER

Attitudes and beliefs as regards Mary have effect, spiritual and/or psychological in a variety of ways, which those like Fr Collins keen to augment Ireland’s exorcism services might need to absorb given that Catholic exorcism falls under Marian patronage. In Italy where exorcism has made a major comeback, rather noticeably as I point out in Temple Mysteries and Spiritual Efficiency,   goo.gl/se5qBn  the rite tends to be more like an ongoing therapy session (sometimes across years!). It rarely supplies the outright deliverance the early church was famous for and which find more duplication in some Protestant circles where there is no invocation of Mary, saints or angels but Christ only. (In early Christianity any believer was supposed to be able if necessary to exorcize. There was certainly no need to obtain prior permission from bishops).  There is unavoidably something aggressive in exorcism and even in some elements of Christian proclamation like the original opposition to paganism – as though St Patrick never challenged the druids, O’Donohue imagines Ireland knew no conflict between Christianity and Paganism! Anyway, it follows that when Christ is not centre of both grace and power, a measure of aggression falls to the image and role of Mary. The devouring Great Mother may emerge and even while superficially she may be presented as sweet to the point of plaster saint saccharine. There are even quaint Irish appeals to Mary to go box an enemy’s ears, though this oddity is nothing to the so-called wars of Christianity which are effectively wars of Mary. (Shock-jock queer theologian Marcella Althaus-Reid correctly enough defined the conquest of Latin America as something performed for Mary or at her visionary behest) [1]

The Great Mother, or Mary psychologically substituting for her, is a problematic figure for the Celts. The Celtic male risks being drowned or castrated by her and basically because, like O’Donohue, he is so full of “soul” and imagination she attracts and repels as the possibility of an organizing factor upon an artistic receptivity that borders on passivity. Catullus learned her power first by falling for the insatiable Lesbia, a woman apparently older than himself, then fearfully trying to banish her power and influence in his anti Great Mother as Cybele (Poem, LX111). It is a significant piece not notably duplicated elsewhere among the Celts.

CUCHULAINN AND THE PUER ARCHETYPE

  

Although like most ancient peoples Europe’s Celts were  theoretically patriarchal, they were less so than many others and not least in Ireland’s west. It’s from the West’s Connaught region that myth’s clearly matriarchal, Queen Maeve originates and from a place associated with entrance to the Celtic Otherworld. It is Maeve who precipitates the war recounted in the epic The Tain, a war in which Connaught is defeated   by Ulster but chiefly the Ulsterman, Cuchulainn.

The latter is a strange, one of a kind figure, violent, multi-talented, magical youth who can transform in ways recalling hindu gods (possibly reflecting Ireland marks the furthest west, and north India the furthest east, of an Indo-Aryan expansion whose extremities retained the most traditional elements of myth and law). To the extent Cuchulainn reflects human over otherworldly traits, he might today be compared to the explosive but intellectual Milo Yiannopoulos who is actually Milo Hanrahan born in Athens but with some Irish and Jewish blood and arguably more Irish impulse than anything. Regardless, to us today Cuchulainn in his violence will seem as unattractive as Maeve is in her selfish cruelty. That’s if we read the myth very literally and/or as some oblique guide to early Irish life.

If we think more in terms of ruling archetypes and symbols, we may find it unsatisfactory that Cuchulainn’s death is anticipated by the goddess Morrigan alighting on the warrior’s shoulder as in the famous sculpture in Dublin’s Post Office. She is after all, related to, or even part of,the triple goddess of Ireland. She or they (the myth is fluid ) hold its “sovereignty” as beings who meet and give the island to the founder druid Amergin. The latter chants his magical, pantheistic identity with the land in what O’Donohue, who I think misses the point, calls a poetry of presence. But then, though not neo-pagan per se, our philosopher reminds us Ireland was seen as the body of a goddess (AC p.116)…… in which case the goddess will represent nothing so much as what’s fixed and static which could be bad news if the principle involved is unhealthy. Almost everyone would agree that despite its many positives, some traditional Irish culture could be a bit too stuck in a bog traditional altogether.

Morrigan is a dark, death and war (but also land and fertility) associated figure whom at least early Irish monks identified with Lilith, Hebrew myth’s wife of Adam who became an ally of the Satan and queen of the demons. (Lilith retains potent mauvaise reputation to this day. Any continental astrologer will tell you that the Lilith point in the heavens that they  use, is regularly associated with misfortune and upset of all kinds).

WHO OWNS THE SOVEREIGNTY OF IRELAND?

     

What I see in  musing on Irish mythic/cultural themes, is that Cuchulainn and ancient patriarchal Ulster only nominally win the battle. The sovereignty remains with the goddess or goddesses. She is able besides to oversee the death of what or who, archetypally, is less a typical mythic hero or warrior figure than a less predictable, more independent puer type figure, whose sparking, explosive nature symbolizes something within Irish character more generally. There will be problems where this originality-serving aspect of psyche is only suppressed or ignored as I think it has been again and again.

I find some significance, and even an unintended addition to the current spiritual confusion, that Irish paganist Lory O’Brien ( A Practical Guide to Irish Spirituality)  seeks not only to reclaim Maeve who reigned from Cruachan in Roscommon, but the goddess Morrigan from the same region. O’Brien even regards herself as specially devoted to and a priestess of Morrigan whose dwelling was near Maeve’s at Rathcroghan in Roscommon, site of a, or the,  entrance to the Celtic Otherworld.  It was  called during medieval times “The Gate of Hell”  (see pic above) which plainly makes the Otherworld to be more an Underworld or Hades. Though O’Brien, who was long a tour guide at Rathcroghan, doesn’t come across like certain female occultists and/or radical feminists a la Daly  – indeed O’Brien  has even described her gender as “plural” –  it is still an essentially matriarchal side of the Celtic world she is reclaiming. And this belongs with a larger cultural complex and misreading of the past that any concerned psychologist or exorcist might wish to see banished as surely as (mythically) St Patrick banished the snakes from Ireland and Catullus refused the cult of Cybele.

I detect that it concerned even the radical Mary Daly that paganism’s triple goddess risked being insufficiently dynamic as a form of trinity. As maiden, mother and crone there is something passive, nature-subordinate and fate ridden about her – rather, one might say, like Ireland itself that too often seems to accept and/or invoke disaster!

Nature presents us with an oscillating Ying/Yang theoretically equal. However, no amount of feminist reform and egalitarian urges will ever quite abolish the fact that, though not an invariable rule, initiatory action is predominantly Yang while Ying is more action as reaction, a correction and modification of given situations. Problems, resentments and repressions arise where this datum is insufficiently recognized and spirituality encounters difficulty too.

Like it or not, I think it has to be accepted that there is an impulse to religion (and one may find it even in so passive a religion as Buddhism), that is in a broadest sense “phallic”/aspirational/initiatory and that the often negatively applied term “patriarchal” is insufficient to cover. This Yang force is certainly present in Judaism. (I try to suggest this and how in my poem Jeremiah’s Loincloth ) [2] The Yang input does not automatically cancel out the Yin – another prophet Isaiah has God speak as a Mother – but it refuses the Yin a certain primacy for reasons which become clearer as the tradition reveals itself. In short I suggest a lot of spirituality, not least in Judaeo-Christianity is simply not properly lived or understood where Yin leads the way.

ABSENT THE OLD TESTAMENT

One reason Catholicism, but especially its Celtic and Marian expression, can finish at once so saccharine but also violent (one can’t forget some of those remarkably bullying nuns exposed by modern inquiries!) is because it owns and appreciates the Old Testament legacy so little, especially its prophetic traditions, that aspect of the OT I mentioned the Celts seemed to have overlooked in favour of law and tradition from the time of St Paul’s Galatians onwards.

Superficially and sometimes actually, the OT is a violent work, but when that’s so it may need to be worked with and contextually understood. There’s often more than meets the eye and at least some of us would maintain the OT narrative anyway presents the face of God and divine “anger” through the lens of its era, the fiery one of Aries – Yahweh even manifests in a burning bush and a mountain volcano. The age was a militaristic, distinctly patriarchal one but many things begin with fire which is (spiritually and psychologically) the strongest element as O’Brien concedes but O’Donohue in his essays on the four elements doesn’t quite get. It is surely relevant that St Patrick’s conflict with the druids which opens a whole new chapter in the life of the nation, breaks the druid’s power spell over the island over the question of lighting of an Easter fire. Patrick wins and  Ulster subsequently grows to become the centre of an organized, rather political form of Christianity, but arguably Patrick has, like Ulster in the Tain, only partially or politically won. The actual dark sovereignty of Ireland has not been confronted and I would even suggest it never has been.

The New Testament, whose record emerges with the (watery) age of Pisces. is inadequately appreciated without like the first Christians dialoguing with the whole Hebrew legacy, especially prophetic which it varies upon and fulfils. Catholicism only tenuously belongs with the “Judaeo-Christian” tradition due to a one-sidedness, sometimes bordering anti-Semitism where the Hebrew legacy is concerned…… Writer and academic Denis MacEoin is one of those who has been drawing attention to certain recent anti-Semitic strains developing in Irish academic circles  [3] though this also chimes with any Catholicism that follows Pope Francis. This pontiff’s credo is so alien to any prophetic sense of Israel’s destiny and those of our times it even agrees over Jerusalem with Erdogan of Turkey while the latter goes about demolishing the last vestiges of democracy in his country! Churches interested in blessing and being blessed – persons like O’Donohue is obsessed with the subject and devotes a whole book to blessings – might need to be more aware of the rule (Gen 12:3)  that Israel is to be blessed and not cursed.

I find interesting, and it’s almost like some Jungian shadow principle at work, that “unbiblical” Erin should be so long challenged and in conflict with a dour, aggressive Presbyterianism almost a parody of all things Protestant and itself ancestor to some of the odder corners of American religion. Both parties to this struggle have perhaps always needed on the psychological plane some species of suitably symbolic, dreamlike working out of their problems along the lines of Spenser’s flawed, but still important and Irish influenced visioning in The Fairie Queen. (Elizabeth 1 was no good fairy for Erin and Spenser’s recommendation to ban Irish language was execrable, but he offers a masterpiece with insights all the same). 

ABSENT SOMETHING ELSE…FIRE AND PHALLOS?

Even without the complication of Ulster in recent centuries, as already intimated, I should say that what Ireland needs (though it might take many essays to convey the full meaning) is more fire and phallos.  By the latter I mean something more  psychological and spiritual rather than purely sexual. Elements of the current spiritual confusion, the outcome of longstanding untreated conditions, are linked to over-emphasis on, or misreading of, what O’Donohue offers as virtual panacea for Ireland and the world, namely realization and acceptance of a sweetness and light cure-all “soul” life that is still refusing fundamental life energies.

O’Donohue enlarges, lives and breathes within “soul”, spreading it over everything like a druid mist, identifying it with beauty, peace and virtually with God – about the closest he gets to describing God is as an artist, in short an image of O’Donoghue himself! He’s caught in Amergin’s bind. That druid as it were claims all the territory of Ireland mentally by his sense of pantheistic soul presence, but the fate and sovereignty of the land still reside elsewhere; he doesn’t own what he sympathetically imagines which is forever under threat. He and Ireland are left open to whatever death and destruction the gods without the slightest explanation care to send or allow.

If one puts aside for one moment the possible religious meaning of statements like “the soul (Heb Nephesh /animal soul) that sins will surely die (Ez 18:20), one may absorb the more purely psychological implications. It will mean soul as the state of pure being O’Dononue tends to make it, is not autonomous and supreme but rather manageable, even dispensable because life can emanate from elsewhere. Outside, above and beyond it is active organizing spirit. Whether or not specifically religion will mediate organization, fire and in the broadest sense “phallic” consciousness can promote action and place some direction upon existence.

SOUL AND FACE

The more whacky side of O’Donoghue’s message whether humanly or more theologically, is well represented by his claim the face always reveals the soul’; it is where “the divinity of the inner life finds an echo and an image” (A.C. p.53). Always? If at all? The claim will be news to many, while theologically it ignores Yahweh’s rebuke to the prophet Samuel: “Do not look at his appearance…..for the Lord does not see as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7).

Yet O’Donohue’s weird assertion is key to a whole dimension of his work. It betrays how his faith amounts to a divinization of soul in the anthropology of the self approximating to biblical Hebrew nephesh or animal soul. It is this which as opposed to spirit (i.e. ruach – that O’Donoghue seems to think is a regular OT name of God) is what we share with the animals and which links us to nature and which is creative and sexual. You can tell that esoteric and biblical anthropology’s soul factor is the real focus because O’Donohue even proposes that relaxing into the body is a new prayer (A.C. p.74), that we should re-imagine God as Eros (A.C. p. 56) and that the senses are our guide to the soul (A.C. p.82).

Of course O’Donohue doesn’t realize the identification he is making. If he did he wouldn’t say other biblically illiterate things like animals knowing nothing of Jesus. (A.C.p.79). It happens that the early church and many theologians since have understood appearances of the OT’s mysterious “Angel of the Lord” to be appearances of the pre-existent Christ. In Numbers 22 this figure intervenes against the false prophet Balaam who abuses his ass. The ass, because animals have nephesh, is able to recognize the Angel though Balaam in his spiritual blindness can’t .

There is a Spirit of God and a Soul of God which last we may assume Jesus is., This status renders him among other things a sort of Lord of the Animals. But just as Christ as Soul and in some respects divine Yin – he is called the feminine Sophia/ Wisdom for a reason – will do nothing major until the Spirit falls upon him, so neither can or will human soul that O’Donohue and some mystics divinize at the expense of all else.

The soul without organizing human and/or divine Spirit will accordingly possess, as O’Donohue assumes, no fixed form which means there is no plan to our lives either (AC.p.82). The latter assumption can be questioned on various grounds and not just biblically though it is a decidedly unbiblical idea opposed to statements like “in your book were written all the days that were formed for me (Ps 139:16). Since however our existence still seems at once improbable yet potentially meaningful, O’Donohue is left to assure readers (in what is itself an implicit rejection of any Pauline notions of divine elect predestination), to be born is to be “chosen” ( AC p. 112) whatever that means.

In the end one is left with a soul of sublime or at least artistic potential that dwells in Beauty, whether visible or more invisible as per Pseudo-Dionysius, and this Beauty is then the nearest expression and definition of God. Yet paradoxically (but from hidden psychological necessity which abhors a vacuum and requires there will be an organizing factor) this beauty that we glimpse comes to us not from the spirit and realms above but if anything from below. Celtic myth according to O’Donohue understands that the underworld (where dwell the Irish gods who he believes describe the Celtic psyche) is the world of spirit (AC p. 124).

Since O’Donohue (in DB p.211) even cites the atheist poet Wallace Stevens to the effect death is the Mother of Beauty and associates the world of the spirit with what’s “below” rather than “above”, I feel one is indeed justified to identify O’Donohue’s soul and divinity image with the animal soul (nephesh) that the bible says must die and which belongs in effect and by default to Hades short of divine intervention, election or whatever. It may not be irrelevant that all of Lory O’Brien’s  visualizations in Irish Spirituality, take the practitioner through the blackness, surely an indication that the organization source of power is an underground, a realm of shadows, a species of Hades, which might mean she is seeing more clearly or honestly than O’Donohue for whom theoretically everything would make for light..

I don’t seek to decry the value and insights of Irish “soul” It’s a precious place and all can share in its inspirations and beauties to a degree, (though I agree with Lora O’Brien it’s something ultimately ethnic which you either have or don’t), but I dissent from what O’Donohue has made of it as philosophy of beauty. What this finishes up as is something surruptiously akin to the devotion to elementals among St Paul’s Galatians and still more to end of era “religion denying the power of it” as far as deity is concerned.

O’Donohue’s philosophical meditations are a version of the new age, interfaith vanishing trick in relation to the distinctive claims of many systems, especially Christianity’s today. These systems stand against just making up doctrines as you go along rather as one might compose a painting, at the same time as you call the exercise harmonious and identical with all other paintings (beliefs). It isn’t, but you can make it seem so by focussing on one aspect of being, namely the feeling, life or the imaginative soul as the whole item in an anthropology of the self and map of the psyche.

Despite all I’ve said, I agree with one of O’Donohue’s readers that reading him was like a trip to Ireland itself. He is representative in many respects but not enough and he ignores too many difficulties.

Ireland is a small country with a relatively newly established national independence. Given its comparatively small population now challenged by  high immigration and multicultural values favoured under secularist but Islam shadowed EU globalism, it is questionable whether it can hope to retain much that’s most distinctive about it. But whatever happens, it may still need some input from the likes of the concerned Fr Collins.

St Patrick did light Easter fire at Slane, and centring the spiritual battles of and for Ireland over specifically fire was correct in many ways –  so correct it was even possibly one of the reasons his version of Christianity gained traction over the other versions present in the background which might have suited the culture and people better. But even the saint’s win was not permanent because no victory until apocalypse and the end of time ever is, and in the case of Ireland there is something that St Patrick and Irish Christianity missed. Archetypally it is the great and oppressive ill luck and darkness represented by the so called “sovereignty” of Ireland and the black crow of Morrigan. The darkness is pervasive – even Dublin means Black Pool in Gaelic and modern Irish freedom was achieved there at the Post Office in which a statue commemorates the victory with an image of Cuchulainn but with the black crow on his shoulder. Never ignore the  guide of symbols to spirit and soul. I sense Fr Collins has more than even the out-of-touch attitudes of his Irish hierarchy to think about and more than a few distressed people to exorcise.

         For more on Ireland see “Real Irish” and Irish Reality (Symbols, Archetypes, Fate ) https://wp.me/p2v96G-17D

                                                          On Irish literature, Why Ireland Needs Yeats 2015 and more   https://wp.me/p2v96G-xA

                                                                On prophecy: Ireland’s Apocalyptic Puzzles  https://wp.me/p2v96G-19s

                                                                                A recent poem  Irish Changes: A Poem in a time of endangered free speech https://wp.me/p2v96G-1kp

NOTES

[1] On the Virgin and violence in Indecent Theology, pp. 56-61

[2]  Jeremiah’s Loincloth: A Poem of Faith and Phallos.  Explores the prophet’s strange male business or homoerotic given sign  https://wp.me/p2v96G-Hm

[3]  Denis McEoin, Uncorked: Ireland’s Pseudo-Academic AntiIsrael Hate Fest     https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/9701/ireland-conference-israel

 

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2018 in ethics, Mysteries, religion

 

ISSUES OF SEX, LOVE AND BIBLICAL “INCOHERENCE”

ESSENCE AND CENTRE: WHO HAS THEM AND WHERE ARE THEY?

Whether or not one is Catholic, there’s plenty for anyone to question in the ideas and policies Pope Francis;  but in some areas like private morality the drift of his thought is not so easily faulted. By contrast, some of his bishops, most notably those of Kazakhstan, are behaving like drama queens protesting that even to consider allowing the divorced to partake of communion, not to mention get remarried, amounts to blasphemy.

Blasphemy? The Pope can well retort as he has done to critics of his more liberalizing views in the Amoris Laetitia document, “Can one never be forgiven?” Can it be that marital mistakes of perhaps half a lifetime previous have one stuck in some permanent outsider, excommunicate status? But this touches on major questions usually avoided concerning the coherence or otherwise of biblical teachings on sex and relations. A Catholic theological student once put to this Protestant that the bible on sex is plain incoherent. Sounds extreme, but if you disagree you need a few answers.

I will be presenting and hopefully shedding light at the end of a tunnel of potentially depressing, faith shaking darkness; because in some respects – at least superficially and especially at the level of modern reception of texts as opposed to what may have been the writers’ original intentions – the case for “incoherence” is strong. I shall conclude with what I believe is the bible’s unstated, or only half stated, principle that is a key to many things and even some needed new vision.

PROBLEM ONE: MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE

Consider that Jesus tells his disciples to forgive not to seven but to seven times seven (Matt 18:2) whereas by implication it sounds like a once divorced person could be a virtually unforgiveable outcast. A person can’t divorce and remarry (unless they can prove “impurity” Matt 5:31.32) and if one marries a divorced person that entails a state of adultery ….apparently lifelong…. Wherever would that place St Paul’s notoriously pragmatic, “better to marry than to burn” (1 Cor 7:9)? Why couldn’t or wouldn’t it apply to the divorced?

Marriage and divorce teaching can seem still more contradictory if we consider how no similar relational restrictions fall upon Jesus’ repentant Prodigal who wasted his substance with whores. And something of this one-sidedness is reproduced today in recent evangelical rejoicings over converted singer and former gigolo and singer of his conquests, Mambo no 5, Lou Baya. He now witnesses to the change Jesus brings and speaks in tongues to film to supposedly prove it.

By contrast, if you once have a ring on your finger, the least slip, however understandable (say forced or arranged marriage such as until modern times often applied, or marriage entered on as an obvious folly of youth) could reduce you to a sinner status worse than the most abandoned fornicator. Luther shocked associates by suggesting concubinage was appropriate enough (and could it be so wrong?) in the case of a spouse become wholly incapable (and thus reducing their partner to lifelong celibacy). The automatic austerity of response seems all the more irrational given Jesus’ forebear David, described despite all his failures as “a man after God’s heart”, was a polygamist with plainly strong bisexual tendencies. Another forebear, Solomon, popularly believed to have written outstanding erotic poetry had (admittedly not successfully) numerous wives.

Now suppose you lived in a Brazilian favela, and had been beaten and abused by your husband who may not even have been technically unfaithful or had been so in ways scarcely to be admitted like incest with your daughter (who the right-to-life Christians believe shouldn’t be allowed an abortion to free her of the trauma and impurity she feels she carries, because that’s “murder [1] ). From these impossible situations you seek release. But you either can’t be divorced or if you can be so by state if not church, you can’t be allowed to find love again because Jesus doesn’t want you to remarry. How great a loving, forgiving saviour would you consider this Jesus to be? He might become your ticket to depression and nightmare! As Pope Francis (who also favours a kindlier approach to cases of abortion) asks, “Can one never be forgiven?”

St Paul seems no help either. The apostle even backs up the potential horror picture in 1 Cor 7. “A wife is not to depart from her husband” (not even if he is beating and abusing her or the pair are wholly sexually incompatible?) but if she does depart she should not remarry. This is supposedly a direct command from Jesus too!  Thankfully the relevant seventh chapter on marriage relations finishes with the admission Paul thinks he has the Spirit of God here. (v 40) Arguably on this matter he didn’t quite and Jesus never said or not in Paul’s precise terms. One just wishes with so much ability to influence lives, that people like Paul wouldn’t speak when they are not one hundred per cent sure of their position!

PROBLEM TWO: GAYS OR WHOEVER PAUL MEANT

One certainly wonders how sure Paul felt when he wrote the first highly rhetorical chapter of Romans. Admittedly modern scholarship has raised legitimate, serious questions about just what he was saying about precisely whom in cultural and religious context (paedophiles, prostitutes?). My guess is he describes practitioners of a decadent recreational bisexuality, but from an ancient standpoint that no one is or could be born gay or bisexually inclined in the first place so that they wilfully exchange their nature). Whatever, it’s hard to read the text (as widely translated and understood) and not have an impression akin to “hate speech” – the ancients were no stranger to such like the pagan astrologer Ptolemy hoping “effeminates” would be bashed in the streets – and that those Paul targets are seen as virtual origin and symbol of all evil and idolatry. Which seems absurd. Did gays or bisexuals crucify Christ or eat the first apple or found the non-Christian religions?

And outside circles of extreme imperial decadence like those under Nero, did Roman gays really represent Sodom whose sin according to Ezekiel and early rabbinical commentary was not primarily sexual? Again we ask with Pope Francis, (who thinks it might be be OK for Catholics to be gay if they were devout and sincere), is there along with the divorced no meaningful forgiveness and acceptance?

It’s said that great men make great mistakes and I sense  that we are confronted with such a case with St Paul in Rom 1 which is by and large disinformation in affinity with his culture and times. What  could the apostle even mean with such ruminations as “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness…to dishonour their bodies among themselves”. I’m reminded of Ultra Orthodox in Jerusalem a few years back protesting against gay Jews but unable to state what it was gays do because they didn’t really know! We may guess that what the apostle hints at and makes seem worse by failing to define, probably wasn’t anything alien to heterosexuality!

Apart from the obvious target of sodomy (itself often enough practiced historically in southern Europe as a means of contraception) other possibilities are mutual masturbation and fellatio. In which case one might need to know, as I recall a prostitute interviewed for TV admit in warning to wives, that most men visit prostitutes for the fellatio their wives won’t perform.

So why target gays for this subject or indeed the masturbation common enough (though not mutually) within heterosexuality (57% of straight males regularly)  which last might have a bad name in the ancient world as effeminate or for the pre-scientific error it involved killing homunculi when in fact sperm is lost repeatedly in just the urine. So what is meant by “uncleanness” in Paul’s rhetoric?

PROBLEM THREE: SEX IS DIRTY?

Here’s another problem that the bible and not just St Paul, at least as read, presents: what does unclean or filthy as opposed to truly non kosher illicit mean? As Camille Paglia observes in Sexual Personae, almost by definition sex is fluid, messy and unclean. Lewd people and pornography can and will exaggerate that, but to make out, if only by hints, that somehow sex can be tidied up and sanitized and only be holy when it is, could invite confusion and distaste for all sex. Which you could claim is what Paul does. There were philosophical pagans of his time who as good as wished to do away with sex and there is some of this in the apostle, a man of his times, when he proposes ( if he does so – authorship of the relevant epistle is much contested) it may be better not to marry and unkindly proposes – can one call it anything else? – widows may remarry but they want to do so when they don’t love Christ enough ( 1 Tim 5:11). Please!

PROBLEM FOUR: VIRGINITY ISSUES

I conclude this recital of the incoherently dubious, discrepant and disturbing with something of topical relevance. It’s now scientifically proven that when it comes to virginity understood in terms of the hymen, this is a myth of many cultures and ages. There is no difference between the genuine virgin and the working prostitute, less than half of women bleed at first intercourse and those women who do are liable to do so for various reasons (such as irritation of the vagina) rather than the common assumption.

You can read the facts and the myths grown around them in a book by two Norwegian doctors, The Wonder Down Under. True facts apart, as in Deut 22 the bible goes along with widespread cultural ideas about virginity and takes a blooded cloth as one of the evidences of virginity in the case of an offended husband deciding his wife must have been playing the whore. (She would risk execution if proven guilty. Fortunately blood was not only or exclusively the evidence and as two or more witnesses were needed to prove guilt, it’s unlikely things would reach the point of execution (how much could even your neighbours know?).

However, all this raises questions and reminds us how to a great extent the Jewish laws were probably “utopian”. Like some other ancient laws, some of them truly impossible (like executing any doctor who failed a cure or any astrologer who forecast wrongly), they expressed ancient value judgements not necessarily meant to be literally applied. Under the law the adultery plus murder committed by King David in the Bathsheba affair should have had him executed, but when condemning him God and his prophet Nathan don’t require it. Only fanatical Pharisees and/or literalists would think in quite such terms.

Echoes of his heritage as a Pharisee are found in Paul and Romans 1:32 with its “and for this they [his perverts] deserve to die” (i.e. under the Law); and although in fairness he continues that not just these people but we all do the same (i.e fail under the Law and so are guilty under it) practically the damage was done. Those perceived as deviant would one day be sent to the stake, the inquisition and torture as even one of Italy’s leading saints, St Bernadino of Siena, actively recommended in Renaissance Florence. And there are still preachers today like American Baptist Steven Anderson who call for the execution of gays – basically on St Paul’s authority, however slight in real terms.

One feels that in memoriam of so much intolerance, martydom and even youth suicide, Romans 1, whatever its precise meanings, should be ignored for church readings or even censored from bibles. Luther wanted the whole epistle of James excluded as “an epistle of straw”. I am not nearly so radical, and feel James presents a meaningful counterpoint to the corpus of Pauline doctrine which was all the homophobic Luther (who loathed the bible translating Erasmus as an effeminate) wished to concentrate on. By contrast to Luther’s suggestion, mine is minor. One tricky page is little to exclude from a whole bible!

PART TWO

SOME SOLUTIONS AND TOWARDS COHERENCE

I reserve to Part Three what I believe is the likely, but unstated key to coherence. Before that I shall deal with a few points worth bearing in mind whether I am right or wrong as regards the major key.

I have painted a picture so grim and frustrating that some might consider dismissing the whole Judaeo-Christian tradition for it. But that’s a nihilistic reaction as overblown as dismissing the Greek philosophers because they accepted slavery and the innate inferiority of women. Times and people do change.

WOMEN OBJECTING TO THE LAW

Faced with apparent incoherence making for injustice, the thinking believer is in a position akin to that of the daughters of Zelophehad in Numbers 27. They find unfair a Mosaic’ ruling resulting from a response to the rebellion of Korah and affecting family inheritance; but instead of rejecting the whole system, they seek its enlargement or modification to include them and greater justice. And this is permitted. The priests take the matter to God and it is changed in their favour although the norm in the ancient Middle East was that women would not inherit. The outcome tells us something about the biblical legacy we are dealing with, perhaps especially for those who would maintain revelation exists beyond discussion in total independence of cultural, historic and personal factors.

Torah means instruction. It is not wholly or only laws. It is information and even a conversation. The rabbis say “to love God is to argue with him” and to argue your way along is permitted. In any case…

No system, not even a revealed one, can include just everything. The last verse of John’s gospel observes that all the libraries in the world would not contain all that could be reported of Jesus. We have of course the drift of Jesus’ teachings especially “what is necessary for salvation”. That doesn’t mean we have everything Jesus might have said or might say on earth today. Such can sometimes be the subject of reasonable inference and/or direct spiritual guidance.

It is important to accept – many don’t – that the God of history works through history. Accordingly there must be elements of the revelation not completely transcendent of time and culture [2].  Moreover if the Spirit is to lead into all truth (Joh 16:3), there must be insights along the way and a few improvements in perception of truth and vision. The churches are told: “Hear what the Spirit says to the churches”(Rev 4:22), but it’s problematic when just this is blocked in a faith supposed to include teachers and prophets (1 Cor 12:28) to guide its knowledge.

The inflexibility that fosters injustice owes much to two tendencies both of which avoid what I call the more “rabbinical” approach to problems by a measure of dialogue. In both cases there is a reductionism that either

  1.  assumes the tradition can be expressed in fixed philosophical formulae, like the “natural law” derived from Aristotle and Aquinas which renders all gays and many others, nothing but guilty deviants or considers the right to life an absolute to the point capital punishment, though biblically sanctioned, is unacceptable even for the worst serial killing and torture. These rules can then be inserted to a catechism that if anything holds more authority than a bible.

  2.  the parallel evangelical tradition which holds the bible is so complete and inspired in itself everything can and must be judged by it and mostly as heresy. The word for this is bibliolatry (or Paper Popeism).

Both these systems finish so monolithic and watertight they easily give way to claims of a dominionist kind that then seek to impose their version of unmodifiable law on society, believing or otherwise, for its greater good and falsely assume that this imposition is living out the gospel, a substitute for preaching it.

Churches both of the fixed liturgical or ultra-evangelical biblical  variety are never going to help our abused woman in the favela, or many today who come into churches from diverse, often chaotic moral backgrounds. These churches have no room for exceptions, and in especially the liturgical churches where familiarity with biblical sources is not at a premium, they will not set biblical statement and precedent against statement and precedent to arrive at any nuanced, dialectical position; if they cite the bible at all, it will only be the single verse they feel most directly, literally applies.

THE TENOR AND SOURCE OF SCRIPTURAL RULES

Especially established churches, (which under old national laws may marry the non or half believing citizen), don’t even engage the personal situations against which one must appreciate those scriptural teachings on sex and marriage one might question today.

But in just this area we must also remember that, originally, Jesus and also Paul mostly address disciples and converts. Among these, higher levels of conduct are automatically expected. It’s assumed they are not prodigal sons, not having affairs and deserting spouses. St Paul is representative here in being shocked at the behaviour of the Corinthians one of whose members is guilty of the incest he says is not mentioned among Gentiles – it was, but only whispered or condemned as a major disgrace as in the poems of Catullus.  The idea domestic violence might overshadow marital life wouldn’t normally be considered (though alas at least in modern times it has too often featured – consider the bizarre case of Iranian born converts  Saaed and Naghmeh Abedini’s marriage). Certainly it’s not something special doctrines as opposed to something more ad hoc would address.

Paul’s family ideal expressed in Ephesians 5 may seem a bit ancient world patriarchal today, but essentially it’s a pattern of relations based on mutual love and respect. If unacceptable situations arose they would presumably require separate treatment, rather as some reformers like Calvin commonsensically assumed desertion was a ground for divorce/remarriage. I imagine too that in the time of Jesus and the apostles most lives were so short this in itself would itself have influenced some attitudes to sex and celibate living.

FLEXIBILITY DOESN’T EQUAL OR FOSTER JUST PERMISSIVENESS

Many religious conservatives take the “slippery slope” position against reform of anything. But one should not assume that by being flexible just anything is permitted and spreads by infection. (If anything it’s a don’t surrender an inch mentality has blown the modern gay rights and marriage equality issue out of all proportion, raising a whole secularist movement against churches who could hardly claim all innocence in this area historically). Not only are divorce and separation too strongly disapproved from the start to make extreme change difficult, but paradoxically too, once freer like the daughters of Zelophehad to enlarge or modify the system, one may actually be more open to finding meaning in the stumbling blocks that prompted the original protest. One may admit a guiding insight where one rejects the ironcast rule. For example…..I retain my doubts Paul correctly conveyed Jesus’ teaching re wives and divorce in Corinthians. But supposing, amid questionable ancient world generalizing, he was broadly right correct about something to beware of?

In our modern feminist world figures show women are a good deal more likely to initiate divorce than men, (and in my experience more likely to do so with just career and convenience in mind). However wrongly, most men tend not to take their infidelities too seriously and not as any special insult to their spouse. So should women be more patient rather than packing up bags at the first infidelity or for career purposes? Convenience divorces followed by quick remarriage could indeed be considered not just adulterous but something that undermines family and renders offspring psychologically vulnerable.

In the same way, though we may feel revulsion at Paul’s rant against whoever are targeted in Romans 1, might the condemnation in some cases still be meaningful and understandable? One thinks of the late Fr Risdale whose case featured in Australia’s Royal Commission on Child Sex Abuse. Here we find such destruction of persons and lives by this vicious paedophile, would he not justifiably be almost a symbol of human depravity itself? The failure of St Paul’s rhetoric lies less in its detail than its over-generalization which we need to handle carefully.

MARRIAGE, DIVORCE AND ALL THAT….

For reasons of space and as I’ve written on these themes elsewhere, I won’t enlarge on the more liberal possible approaches to marriage, divorce and also homosexuality. Churches are anyway not fully agreed on these. Even the traditionalist Greek church allows divorce for just breakdown of marriage; and since “impurity” rather than “adultery’ is a ground for divorce in Matthew (the gospel which concedes to divorce), is not by extension a psychologically impossible marriage an impurity to be dissolved?

Whatever the truth, Jesus’ rulings were originally made in the context of Jewish arrangements for divorce proceedings which men could instigate and women only ask a husband for. This means that translated in more modern terms, it’s at least arguable the sin which remarriage involves is specifically males divorcing in order to have another female, perhaps married, they have taken a fancy to. This is different from divorcing following infidelity and/or marriage breakdown, then finding and marrying someone perhaps even years later.

If something like the latter situation wasn’t understood as allowable, then a lot of sincerely devout persons have been deceived about what God has supposedly told or shown them. As only one example, one thinks of ex-atheist Howard Storm who was divorced by his wife because she couldn’t stand his new interest in religion. Later Storm, who became a pastor, believed God had brought him together with another woman, his true wife. Catholic traditionalists and evangelical literalists would say he and others had no right to find love. The much revered religion writer C.S.Lewis lost many of his more conservative friends when he felt he was right to marry a divorced convert to Christianity.

PART THREE

THE KEY THAT RESOLVES THE INCOHERENCE?

I am sufficiently convinced (say 90 per cent) that the following is basically correct and the key that makes for more coherence and in the most time and culture transcendent way too. If acknowledged it would give room to a new degree of both rigour and flexibility and be applicable to both straight and gay. It’s good news and bad news depending and ironically it was from a gay source grappling with whether gays could ever hope to have any kind of union in the Christian sense that the pattern became clearer in my mind.(Those who feel there is nothing scriptural or original to say on this subject may refer to my Jesus and Sexuality  youtube  https://goo.gl/r6EW5j ).

It’s all a matter of “soul”. Many today don’t believe in soul literally or metaphorically but it’s core biblical teaching. The soul surrounds the body which lives in it (it’s what medieval astrologers would call the “form of the body) and it’s what separates from the body at death as assumed in Christ’s parable of the rich fool whose soul is required of him (Luk 12:16-21). The soul is eternal and is what can be “lost” in eternity….“what shall it profit a person is they lose their own soul”…. (Mk 8:36).

Much in biblical sex teaching becomes more explicable if the workings of soul are everywhere assumed, for example Ezekiel’s bilocality, his visit to Jerusalem while physically in Babylon, but also outside the bible in the case of NDE’s today where the patient sees themselves above the bed and observes the operating theatre or even goes up a tunnel (probably the biblical “valley of the shadow of death”). Kirlian photography may or may not have captured the body’s aura. As regards the bible, it does not define or describe the soul as would esoteric traditions calling it the aura or body electric or as in Hinduism, jivatman.

LIMITS OF BODY, RANGE OF SOUL

It follows that if any of this is true, it is not bodies or not just bodies, that make love but souls. “What God has put together…..’ (Mk 10:9) doesn’t refer to what priest and ceremony do, but describes rather the effect of souls interpenetrating which is possible whenever full penetrative orgasm has occurred (and the same applies to gays where  the act does not serve, as it can, to join two persons – which it can because more than the body is always involved. [ 3 ]

A protest familiar from cohabitating couples is that they don’t need signatures or ceremonies to certify their union. They are quite right…..except they haven’t realized that their union is as good as actual marriage already. The reason a formal marriage ceremony developed relatively late in Judaism and is not found among the patriarchs is why St Paul is appalled at believers visiting prostitutes. The full and complete sexual act in and by itself is biblically deemed enough to constitute a marriage. You musn’t join the Spirit to a prostitute( 1 Cor 6:15). There is no such thing, biblically, as people “living together”, they are married and whatever follows are then as good as extra-marital affairs.

Short of two situations I shall mention, the pair can’t not belong to one another if they tried. This is not entirely good news, but those understandably sceptical of the idea must explain why, for example, child abuse and rape (and even just many divorces) can prove so extraordinarily painful and destructive and perhaps too why despite divorce and other loves first loves prove ineradicable and are improbably returned to.

Rationally this should not be, but arguably it is so because something of the rapist and abuser and their evil is lodged inside a body/soul, especially a young one, unable to carry that. We are looking at what to esoteric traditions or Hinduism would be a muddied, dirty soul/aura. According to those psychic enough to see it, the aura of the promiscuous person is of a dull, clouded kind and this dulling of the soul needless to say reflects hindrance to spiritual development and even problems in relation to what and just who is carried out of life into eternity beyond.

That this really is a consideration is suggested by St Paul’s idea the believer should not separate from the unbeliever because the latter is now sanctified by the believing spouse (1 Cor 7:14). But how so if not through the aura? The glorification of a wholly, liberated, promiscuous sex is a product of modern materialism and rationalism which assumes only bodies are involved in sex.

CURING THE ATTACHMENT

Assuming the truth of these ideas, there seem to be only two main cures. The first is time and abstention across it. From years ago I recall reading even some gay pagan theorists advising gays seeking relationship not to rush into new connection because the aura will need release and cleansing in order for the new relation to work. I should say that many successful Christian divorce and remarriage scenarios worked, seemed and were legitimate  because time had intervened and divorce had not been launched solely in order to obtain a new partner ….. The limits of cure by time and abstention however are suggested by the seemingly lifelong damage afflicted upon some victims of rape and sex abuse.

The other cure is more spiritual, involving something of a more charismatic/ supernatural order in which the soul can be directly healed and cleansed by operation of the Spirit. Again, one can only put two and two together here because there is no clearly defined doctrine, only indications about both the church and individual members being cleansed by the water (of the Holy Spirit understood as per various references in John’s gospel and statements like those of Eph 5:26 and 2 Cor 7:1) and perhaps especially the soul being rightly understood and treated.

The epistle to Hebrews (Heb 4:12) interestingly speaks of a division of soul and spirit (which as I wrote this it clicked with me is very likely the division envisaged in Hinduism between jivatman (soul) and Atman (spirit) albeit Christianity would regard spirit both human and divine as more active than the as good as passive Being of Atman).

When Paul famously speaks (harps on some say!) about the division of “spirit” and “flesh”, this almost certainly indicates more broadly a conflict of spirit with body-supporting soul. The soul is what is overshadowed by, is medium to and marked by eros and much else in life. It is what dies and “the soul that sins it shall surely die” (Ez 18:20). In Hebrew soul is nephesh or animal soul – in short it is what we share with the animals as opposed to our spirit (ruach) which animals don’t possess. I think we now have a solution to Problem Three. It’s not that physical sex is dirty, but that the associated spiritual effects upon the soul aura can be.

Does what I am aiming at make for complete coherence? One weak point would be OT polygamy, but even here there need not be complete contradiction. If one man is simultaneously joined with several women, however unideal that may be, it is not against what is quite common in nature and something is retained that is not the case if it were vice versa. (The nature of yang inclines to action and as initiation, whereas the nature of yin has more by way of action as reaction). The greater problem for the theory is what does one make of what is the general state of humanity inside and outside the churches in a state of spiritual impurity through their often impulsive, chaotic multiplication of unions?

FINDING THE RIGHT BELIEF AND ATTITUDE

On the basis that, as the saying goes, one can’t unscramble eggs, the esoteric position, which in effect amounts to suggesting many present day unions involve ritual impurity, cannot be over applied. Pragmatically what we find has more or less to be accepted and worked with, though in the case of believers hopefully with the cleansing flame of an attitude of repentance. Remarriage in the Orthodox churches are not celebrated like first marriages joyfully; they are more like rituals of repentance, an acceptance of what shouldn’t be but which is and strives to be better.

Repentance, literally a change of mind and heart, is the  starting and centre point to any specifically Christian spiritual path…provided its value doesn’t get lost amid concentration on single deeds or in the case of failed relationships who and what should take the blame for whatever went wrong. Such only sets up internal arguments and ongoing guilt trips. The real problem is always sin in general rather than sins and one must always work at suitably leaving the past behind while aiming to improve.

But to to start again and efficiently with assumptions of an alternative, more spiritual, esoteric approach to unions and sex, there would need to be a whole more broadly “tantric” approach to sex. This doesn’t mean one thing; it can apply to everything from attitudes to techniques, but if this sounds merely fanciful and exotic and outside Judaeo-Christian tradition, I would point out that some rabbis like Schmuly Boteach (The Kosher Sutra) have already seen the point and speak in those terms. It is even to discover what the biblical tradition is about. My Solomon’s Tantric Song, [4] considers aspects of this theme. It’s none of it something to be summarized in a sound byte or  tweet, but if that were possible the nearest might be to the effect: you don’t just make love to bodies, but souls.

1]  Right to Life may sound idealistic enough and I am not saying abortion is a good thing,  but quite apart from the dangers to women’s lives from backstreet abortions when abortion is completely illegal as stressed by feminists, another problem is the fanatical suspicion and even  persecution that pursues women who suffer stillbirths. See goo.gl/g19Rf6  Why does the Catholic church not protest and condemn the monstrous injustices of especially El Salvador in this area? As mentioned in my last article, elements in at least the OT like the Law of Jealousy or Hosea’s prayer for stillbirths upon the wicked, can’t support ideas of the absolute, invariably precious nature of the foetus.

[2 ] It’s one disadvantage of those Christians who dismiss the wisdom of the Magi and astrology, that they can’t even perceive the clear shifts of symbolism and values between eras – the Law of Moses is instinct of the fire, war and law Aries-Libra era that the mercy and service of the Piscean/Virgoan era, initiated by a lake/sea as opposed to a burning bush, that Jesus swerves from).

[3] Consider various facts and arguments in essay,   Beyond Marriage Equality https://goo.gl/gnevLG

[4] Rollan McCleary, Solomon’s Tantric Song, CreateSpace, 2012 amzn.to/N6EK1I

Also of interest see ‘Thinking and being ‘Shameless’ with Nadia Bolz- Weberhttps://wp.me/p4kNWg-nD  a review of her would-be “sexual reformation” ideas

A COUPLE OF RELEVANT POEMS

Jeremiah’s Loincloth: https://wp.me/p2v96G-Hm

A Saint’s Mistake: A Poem of St Paul https://wp.me/p2v96G-yS

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2018 in ethics, religion

 

ANOTHER SIDE TO THE CREATION/EVOLUTION DEBATE

 

 WHEN THE ARGUMENT GETS EMBARRASSING

For more than one reason, the much viewed Evolution vs God Movie is worth watching on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0u3-2CGOMQ It’s truly an experience and it does raise questions but by no means always the questions its originator, the NZ born, American resident Ray Comfort might wish and intend.

On the positive side, if we can assume the interviews with the atheistic evolutionists are not rigged but authentic and they probably are, or mostly are, then they seriously – but also sometimes to the point of the hilarious – demonstrate the careless and shallow attitudes of the scientifically minded. Some clearly take the explanations of science to be true fact beyond discussion. They don’t recognize or admit the problems of their position. It’s a rare evolutionary scientist today who like Gerd Miller (not on film) freely admits there are problems with evolution because it can’t explain “complexity”. Scientists are not necessarily thinkers; but whereas thinkers are normally willing to listen to scientists, vice-versa doesn’t automatically apply, though it should.

Blinkered scientific dogmatism (scientism) is a subject in itself and I have said a few things about it in an unusual way in my Raphael and Lucifer mini epic and attached essay http://goo.gl/C32i3H\ …..Before the reader dismisses this as “just” poetry and probably not pertinent, I could mention that one of the few publishers who considers religious/metaphysical poetry today, refused it not because it was poor material – they admitted it was poetry to the highest standard – but because promotion in my case was a near impossibility for someone not already known as a performance poet and living where I did outside Europe. In the matter of poetry I seem to be something of perpetual poete maudit loser….but back to Comfort’s video and how he and it, make themselves losers despite having scored a few points in the first half.

NEEDLING FOR AND EXAGGERATING SIN

Having shown up scientific ignorance, Comfort wants to drive the point evangelically home that all these unbelievers are not  just deluded but going to hell and he does this as some American evangelicals are wont to do in the worst, intrusive and plain embarrassing of ways. (Culturally I believe the  remote origins of the style can be traced back to pugnacious Scottish and Ulster Calvinist emigrants to early America).
At the very least Comfort might have considered his interviewees had given him their time and honest opinions. Instead he seeks to exploit this for their greater good and by proving they have broken all the Ten Commandments in some way  hence need salvation right now to escape hell. They need only have told one lie and they are bound for the eternal flames. They need only have had a lustful thought and they are adulterers awaiting God’s judgement and so on.
We may well cringe or recoil in disbelief at this kind of narrow treatment including because, although the Bible and Jesus undoubtedly do preach hell, ironically what Comfort and those like him are maintaining is exaggerated, unbiblical nonsense…..

TAKING BIBLICAL LIBERTIES

For example, not only do the Ten Commandments forbid “false witness” (disrupting the course of justice by falsehood in effect) rather than simply lies, but the Bible at least implies what most people believe, namely that at least sometimes lies may be appropriate. For example, in Ex 1:19 the midwives deceive Pharaoh but are commended for it. The world of Comfort appears to be the Kantian one of the Categorical Imperative which knows no exceptions. If no one must ever lie, under a repressive regime they could finish up sending people to torture and death in the service of truth!
Likewise people become damnable adulterers if they allow themsleves erotic thoughts. This charge is based on ‘words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount which interiorize the Law. “Whoever looks upon a woman to lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart ” (Matt 5:28) . Probably few verses in the bible have been less well commented, understood  and privately alienated more people from Jesus than this. Forgotten amid its shock value is that one can only commit adultery with a married woman and the meaning (which in the original is almost more to look to do something than to look upon someone) is that if you have imagined and intend to have the person then there’s really no difference from your doing it which sooner or later you may well.
If the true meaning is radically otherwise and to the effect that every man should be blind to thought and feelings for women until they undress them on the marriage night anything else being hell bound fornication, then we might have to dismiss Jesus as the father of repression, the enemy of all classic art, friend to those cultures which seek to cover and banish women from sight, and a cause of homosexuality (especially if you controversially believe, evangelical style, that the orientation is not inborn but acquired by attitudes!). Jesus’ subject is the declared one, adultery’, itself an aspect of the theft and coveting, themselves subjects of other linked commandments. (Jesus is of course dealing in the ideal and we need not explore the possibility that in cases of severe repression and frustration a few lustful thoughts could be plain righteous in comparison with the likes of having women by calculated rape!)
Along the same literalist lines, bad tempered people become murderers. If you want to assert this you can justify it also from the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:22) where apparently calling your brother raca and fool risks the hell fire. As observed in my video Jesus and Sexuality, ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OG0odoWqINQ )  this makes almost no sense as people call others fool all the time and it means little. However, it means rather more if we understand raca was a serious Aramaic abuse term suggesting perversion and gross effeminacy. So, that whatever precise form homophobia took in Jesus’ time when homosexuality was not a word, it was cognate with and symbolic for a whole range of racist style hatred for minorities of a kind known to foster violence and sometimes occasion death.

PREACHING HELL TODAY

Damnation is a big subject with a long history not easily summarized. But if you intend like Comfort to preach it today, what might you fairly, logically and honestly claim that’s in some harmony with scripture without making yourself an idiot, fundamentalist style? Or even Jouhandou style? Atheist Existentialist philosopher, Sartre, once mocked Catholic writer Jouhandou and a Christian view of God over his admitted fears that some adolescent masturbation related to homosexual curiosity would send him to eternal flames. What sort of God…..?!
The greater problem is not so much individual sins about which it is often enough wise not to judge (“Judge not that you be not judged”)   as sin – in – itself.  Many early Christians would have also said the curse that Christ came to undo and ransom from. (1 Joh 3:8). It was understood, and there’s enough scriptural basis for it, that all humanity is born into a world and race that until the apocalypse ”belongs” under Satanic rule and which vis a vis God can be considered guilty by association.
If one can limit the obsession with individual deeds, the fact remains, and ”existentially” enough too, that we are all in effect under a death sentence, dying towards our end daily. Whether sinners in a big or small way, rather plainly people are alienated from others, from themselves, from nature and from God, “fallen”and to all intents and purposes victims of “original sin”, no matter precisely how you describe that condition or think about Adam and Eve. Scripture indicates what seems probable and obvious, namely that flesh and blood will not inherit the kingdom of heaven (1 Cor 15:50) and nor will sin – after all if God is perfection, Perfection can’t let heaven be wrecked while imperfect people sort themselves out within realms of the spirit they are not in harmony with or while they maybe refuse to be perfected in necessary ways. And the Asian religions which affirm reincarnation as a means to self rather than saviour overseen perfection, require so long for its achievement the time involved almost equals eternity itself!
It may be conceded that eternal “wrath” (it most essentially indicates separation from God) for the evil of  temporal deeds is hard to take on board. Annihilation would seem more just; but on reflection and logically, there are  problems with this seemingly more “generous” position towards which the present Pope has been said to be inclining. If God can annihilate us (our spirits or root of being in effect), God is not Lord of Life, but rather is partnered with death and this cannot be. God can only quarantine, hold in detention, limit and imprison evil – fallen angels are said to be precisely the spirits “in prison”(1 Pet 3:19) – not fully destroy  because everything exists through God.
Because everything exists through God who is above all light and (spiritual) fire, those who reject God will exist not just in “outer” darkness, i.e. at the furthest point from light, but exist through the core element, fire, without the other elements that make existence pleasant and bearable.

HADES AS DEFAULT DESTINY

Moreover, in the times the gospel was first proclaimed, it was almost universal western belief that with a few exceptions – favoured warriors or the most remarkable darlings of the gods – everyone went at death to the prison darkness of Hades, a version of hell, where they lived as suffering, bodiless spirits. Everyone from Homer and Sappho in Greece to Virgil and Catullus in Rome believed it, though Catullus decides it’s an endless sleep. Hades as the near universal destination  is more or less what the Bible teaches. Everyone has a soul that inhabits the body and leaves it at death (a point that can’t be fully proved or disproved either way though some evidence is emerging), but obviously this soul needs to be joined  with a body to exist meaningfully. The promise of (bodily) resurrection was a novel boon set against a general pessimism which only the democratized, popularized Christianity of recent centuries has gradually modified. The latter now allows most people to RIP although the Bible gives little or no ground for the idea but if anything appears to forecast a body of damnation in hell to parallel that of resurrection in heaven. Why this situation and its distinct pessimism?….

THE LOVE DILEMMA

….Among other things and paradoxically because God is Love. Love depends upon trust and faith and it is said that without faith it’s impossible to please God ( Heb 11:16 ) – which is perhaps another way of saying without love/trust you cannot please or even exist with God. The fallen angels having known God and thus wilfully sinning cannot be redeemed. Humans who haven’t known and seen God and who exist within time rather than eternity, have the opportunity within time to demonstrate a will to love, trust and volunteer (via repentance and the belief which engages will and intellect beyond the heart) to be perfected. Once outside time and into eternity, the same opportunity is not open. Some of the gospel’s urgency, it’s sense of a need to work before night comes, is involved with the limitations and risks of the human situation which is not all “happily ever after”.
It is in this context it always makes sense to preach, as Jesus according to Matthew and Mark begins by doing, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven –  heaven being Matthew’s circumlocution for God – is at hand ” ( Matt 4:17)  “The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk: 1:15).
The literal earthly kingdom was not at hand, any political fulfilment was for another era and a second advent, but the kingdom was and is automatically at hand if and whenever God (represented by Jesus) is specially present. There is an obligation to “repent” (change mind and intention) if you want to escape your likely fate.
I say “likely” because while general principles must be established in order to proclaim anything at all, where God is concerned exceptions may always intervene. Practically speaking, the fate of the unbelieving and unrepentant is “Hades/Hell”, but even the sins and sinner-listing St Paul allows that among those who don’t know the gospel, conscience is their judge and it may or may not excuse them on Judgement Day (Rom 2:15).
Though inevitably some cranks and fanatics have taught it, obviously too God was never going to send unbaptised infants to hell (limbo got invented to get round that embarrassment of extreme teachings), nor various kinds of ignorant and abused people scarcely accountable for themselves. Even so it is not inappropriate to have the image of Hades in mind as representing, as it did for the ancients, the default fate for many, the place too easily fallen into by the careless. Jesus refers to lost souls and hell’s torments too many times for the idea to be just ignored and rationalized away.
The fine details of judgement and afterlife need cannot be worked out by us. But the general principle should be honestly admitted and recalled. Today too many die without a thought given to faith or ultimate destination; they are like the rich fool of the parable whose soul is required of him but who has made no preparation (Luk 12:16-21). Christian atheist, Iris Murdoch, decided she did not wish to think of her own or anyone’s death in “Wagnerian” terms. But can one never quite do so? If it’s not oblivion, death is entry to “eternity”, a rather important occasion worth a few cautions and trumpets!

A POST-CHRISTIAN PENDULUM SWING

No matter how little one favours hell fire sermons of which the classic extreme is supplied in James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, it is striking just how much a swing of the pendulum since his time means fundamental declarations about the gospel, about this life and the next are simply not being made today. By way of fodder and appeasement to media and the masses, popes and archbishops will address crowds to appeal for world peace, for harmonious social and religious relations, respect for each others’ traditions and names of God, for the value of recalling “the good news of Jesus”.
This “news”, far from being as in its original form about repentance and reconcilement with God leading to resurrection but  if need be leaving mere family and cultural traditions behind  – leaving “the dead to bury their dead” as Jesus would have it – is instead to the effect we can be loved and included. Love and included, that is, by a church community which if possible would still like to influence society through its laws and according to philosophical formulae from Aristotle and Aquinas like natural law, all an easier option than to actually preach and persuade!
To become a faithful Christian today too often means enlisting to fight not for “lost” souls and for salvation enlightenment like the saints and apostles (that’s much too religious!) but campaigning for a variety of causes, for refugees or  “issues” like “right to life”. The latter (though overall abortion cannot usually be approved) cannot either be biblically defined as murder and  a form of  evil on any exceptionless basis. That the foetus is not infinitely precious and could ve regarded as impure is implied by the way God is quite prepared to kill in the womb ( Hos. 9:16) and such would anyway occur under the law of Jealousy outlined in Numbers 5, and indeed under quite a few capital offences if the relevant laws are taken literally (as opposed to examples that they sometimes are if one takes a more Utopian reading).

FORMULA FAITH

That such contradictions and problems are ignored certifies that, paradoxically enough, Christianity today remains as traditional as possible without being especially biblical. The Catholics for whom the OT is often a closed book, reduce a great deal of the faith to traditions and philosophical formulae that a catechism will represent, while the most biblical Protestants (the Evangelicals and Fundamentalists) read selectively and make no kind of philosophical generalizations in the way  at least sometimes to be practical one must  sometimes do, even if not under the auspices of the pagan Aristotle.
Instead, rather like Ray Comfort, conservative Christians try to corner and close every argument by stressing “the Word of God” says – it might be better to say “scripture says”- and all as though every word were dictated from God. Which it should be obvious can’t be the case. Indeed, if especially the words of Moses were perfect to the last detail under divine inspiration  it would not be possible or licit for the daughters of Zelophehad (Num 27) to have questioned the inheritance laws and had them changed. Fundamentalists never see the wood for the trees, can never hold two often complementary views together. Today they cheerfully declare against “global warming” and “climate change” as some kind of devilish doctrine, untrue because of record cold winters as though the greater heat and greater cold could never be two sides of the same phenomenon. It’s behind the reasoning that fuels the idea that because there were Adam and Eve there could never be any Adam and Steve, God being unable to permit any variation upon any theme, (a situation which could even cancel out the possibility of real music)..
People highly literal with “God’s Word” fail to acknowledge, or just realize, how suggestive and flexible a language Hebrew is, well on the way to the cloudiness of Chinese with its pictograms. Accordingly there  isn’t and shouldn’t ever have been any final dogmatic issues around seven days of creation “Day”and  “hour” have all sorts of different meanings in Hebrew……

THE GENESIS FILM

This brings me back to my starting point in the Creation/Evolution debate from which I have rather strayed. In conclusion I would point out that – possibly and hopefully – a new page is turned with release of the film Genesis:Paradise Lost. The video of this apparently stylish film premiered   last November, is available from February. https://genesismovie.com/ The arguments (including it seems from well qualified scientists) and the evidence for what gets claimed, have been found unexpectedly meaningful and the presentation is generally professional. I have ordered a copy and may get round to a review later.
I just hope after the near comic horror of treatments like Comfort’s, that any facts will be allowed to speak for themselves rather than be exploited to argue for a range of questionable but supposedly biblical beliefs beyond them. If nothing else I find myself in agreement with the makers of the Genesis film that failure to recognize any Creator and the blindness to all things spiritual this can entail is a, perhaps the, major issue for religion today, one cannot lightly and easily give down to popular and common scientific views of reality.Truth is often stranger and more surprising than we can imagine and it is right to keep an open mind.

 

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2018 in ethics, Mysteries, religion

 
 
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