Sunday, May 08, 2022

Dare We Hope?

This book is not making wild universalist claims that everyone is saved; the author is well aware of the numerous scary warnings about Hell in the scriptures and lists a number of them at the outset. Instead, Hans Urs Von Balthasar is asking the question of the title, may we hope that all men will eventually be saved? He feels there is enough evidence to answer this question ‎’yes’.

The Philosophical Argument

 God is categorically greater than man in all ways; and we know God wills that all men be saved. Is it then possible for humans ultimately to resist the will of God? “The question is whether God, with respect to the plan of salvation, ultimately depends, and wants to depend, upon man’s choice; or whether His freedom, which wills only salvation and is absolute, might not remain above things human, created and, therefore, relative.”

Evidences of the New Covenant

Von Balthazar points out that the warnings about Hell, which are almost entirely pre-Easter, need to be read in the context of numerous triumphal statements made post-Easter: 

1 Timothy 2:1-6:  I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men--the testimony given in its proper time.

1 Timothy 4:10: (and for this we labour and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, and especially of those who believe.

Colossian 1:20: and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Ephesians 1:10: to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

John 17:2: For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15: For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

John 12:32: But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."

Romans 5:15-19: But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

Romans 11:32: For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

Romans 11:26: And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.

Romans 14:11: It is written: "As surely as I live'', says the Lord, `every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'" 

2 Peter 3:9: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

(Here, it would not be right to see God’s patience coming to an end with death; why should it? For Christ has overcome death:

Romans 14:7-9: For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

Revelation 1:18: I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.)

The idea of an eternal Hell is also mitigated by the instances in the Gospels where it is seen as a restorative punishment, e. g., Matthew 5:26: Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.  

Scripture also never says at any point, of any particular human being, that they are in Hell.

We are cautioned not to presume to know the outcome of God’s judgment; neither to presume our own salvation, nor the damnation of another:

1 Corinthians 4:4-5: My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.

Romans 14:10: You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat.

Finally, we are positively commanded to hope and ask for things that are according to God’s will: and God wills that all be saved; so therefore asking for the salvation of others is allowed.

1 John 5:14: This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

Evidences of the Early Church 

Numerous early Church fathers taught that it was permissible to hope that all would one day be saved.

St Clement of Alexandria (150-215) taught that all punishments in the afterworld were corrective.

St Ephrem the Syrian (306-373)

St. Gregory of Nyssa (335-378) was confident that God is infinite, and evil is finite, and suggested that Jesus emptied Hell when he descended there.

St. Gregory Nazianzen (329-390)

Didymus the Blind (313-398) 

St Jerome (342-420) 

St. Maximus the Confessor (580-662)

And, of course, Origen (184-253), who based his theology of the afterworld on this passage:

1 Corinthians 3:12-15: If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

But wait, I hear you say. Wasn’t Origen condemned, among other things, for teaching universalism? Isn’t that why he isn’t “St” Origen? Well, kind of. Origenist writings were condemned – but not until Emperor Justinian’s time, 543-553 : and not apparently for ‘Universalism’ but for wacky things taught by later developers of his theology, particularly an extreme Mormon-style equivalence of Christ and believers. The condemned texts do not contain anything he actually wrote. And there seems to be some confusion as to whether he was condemned at all (according to the Catholic Enyclopaedia, 1913) since the acts of the 553 council approved by the Pope at the time do not mention his name. But any rate, his position that we can dare to hope for the salvation of all men went unchallenged for about 300 years! 

Note that only one of these Church fathers is after St Augustine, who was of course immensely influential.  He interprets Matthew 25 in the literal way and is confident that the outcome of divine judgment will be a great mass of damned; and from him it rolls on down through the High Middle Ages to the Reformers and Jansenists.

“Augustine solidified into historical opposites something that was, for Paul, a dialectical opposition. The theologian of grace was vanquished by the theologian of original sin. Not until the present day did Catholic theology succeed in finding its way out of this blind alley” (Henri Rondet, L’Esprit saint et l’Eglise, 1969)

Catholic Evidences

Just as Scripture is silent about anyone in particular being in Hell, so is the tradition of the Church. 

The Catechism of the Church teaches that we should hope and pray for the salvation of all men, without exception:

In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere “to the end” and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for “all men to be saved.”

Catholic Evidences with an Identitarian Twist (Mea Culpa)

Paul expresses in one place the wish that he would be damned, if it would mean the salvation of others: Romans 9:3: For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race.

Something similar has been said by numerous saints; among them St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) and St. Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897).  They hoped that in the end all would be saved, just like at the end of C. S. Lewis’ ‘The Great Divorce’: How can anyone be in heaven without having compassion for the damned? Does not compassion descend to the lowest?

And it is interesting that between Augustine and the 20th Century, the articulation of this ‘Dare We Hope’ position was overwhelmingly a female affair- besides the three Saints above (who happened to be the only three female ‘Doctors of the Church’ up until 2010) among authorities quoted in the book are:

St Mechtilde of Hackeborn (1241- 1299) – It is impossible that someone should not attain what he has believed and hoped for “For I am Deliverer and Saviour of all that is, that was, and that will be”… “heaven and earth and the underworld, for I embrace and contain within me every created being. And if I appear before the Father to praise and give thanks, then it cannot but be that, through me and in me, the shortcomings of all creatures are compensated for in the worthiest way’

St. Angela of Foligno (1248-1309), and

Lady Julian of Norwich (1343-1416) 

And in the 20th century, quoted more than any other modern theologian (estimated roughly by me) is Adrienne von Speyr (1902-1967). And St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein, 1891-1942) has a long quote in support; and not mentioned in Urs Von Balthasar’s book, but central to my own hope, is the prayer from the Chaplet of Divine Mercy of St. Faustina (1906-1938) “have mercy on us, and on the whole world.”

In ‘Reframation’ Alan Hirsch and Mark Nelson have a footnote where they indulge in ritual 21st century self-criticism for relying so much on male sources. In general, I think this sentiment is nonsense; but in this particular case, I think a more ‘gender-balanced’ theology would have meant that the thesis of ‘Dare We Hope’ would be seen as an uncontroversial mainstream position in the Church.

Friday, March 04, 2022

An Introduction

 It seems that something exists.

Therefore, something must have existed without being generated by something else: there must be some thing that is self-existent: which just is.

There is a whole lot of stuff that is visible to our senses, which appears to stretch out for a long way in space and time. I call this the ‘universe’ with a small ‘u’. Once upon a time, it was common to think of this as the self-existent thing. But nowadays, since Fred Hoyle is dead, I can’t think of anyone well known who would say this; it looks like the universe is finite in space, and that it had a beginning in time. It also seems finely-tuned – to have properties that if they were a very very little different we would not be here to observe it, which makes sense if it is one of a gazillion other similar things with a range of properties but not if it is the one self-existent thing which happens to be just so.

Thus, I assert that the observable universe is not the self-existent thing. 

I base this assertion on three things:

1) The finitude mentioned above

2) The ‘fine tuning’ mentioned above

3) Historical humility. As new information has come in, the ‘universe’ keeps getting bigger than we suppose; around the stars orbit worlds like ours, and there is not just one galaxy, but a whole lot of them. It does not seem credible that the limits of our knowledge are the actual limits of all that exists.

Cosmologists agree with me and embed the universe in something larger- a ‘multiverse’, or some greater reality of gebits or branes where some sort of mathematical law applies, that somehow spawned the universe. This postulated ‘universe + 1’ in turn may or may not be the end of the story; the true nature of ‘all that exists which is not self-existent’ – which I like to call the ‘Universe’ may be many more levels removed from ‘universe + 1’.

Thus, my second assertion: There is no way for us to reason our way from our position within the universe to an understanding of the Universe. 

And my third assertion: There is no way for us to reason our way from our position within the universe to an understanding of the nature of the ultimate self-existent thing.

So, the only way we could know anything about the ultimate self-existent thing would be, hypothetically, if it could communicate with us.

We cannot discount this possibility on a priori grounds because we do not, and cannot, know anything scientifically about what the self-existent thing is like.

Where we cannot assess hypotheses on the basis of their utility in predicting the results of experiments in the universe (what I call ‘primary utility’) we should judge between them on the basis of their utility in other matters (what I call ‘secondary utility’). 

We have two hypotheses before us:

(1) The self-existent thing interacts with us like the God described by Thomas Aquinas, Ibn Khaldun, and Maimonides, and has communicated to us information about His nature;

(2) The self-existent thing does not interact with us in such a manner.

Which of these two hypotheses has the greater utility? 

Sunday, February 13, 2022

The World Turned Upside Down


You may recall, if you have read all this from the beginning, the biggest problem I had with being Catholic – with being Christian – before I stopped calling myself these things in 2007.

That was the idea of ‘extra Ecclesiam nulla salus’ – that there is no salvation outside the Church. The idea of Hell revulsed me – as it still does. The idea that anyone could be condemned to such a fate, not because of anything they had done, but because of what they had ‘believed’ – what they had professed in thoughts and words to be the nature of reality -  was a thousand times worse. This seemed to me utterly incompatible with my understanding of God – as it still does.

If this were really so, if God had ordained that human beings were to live or die eternally on the basis of whether or not they had explicitly accepted our Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, then that god would not be God. He would not be the ‘I AM’, the one self-existent being, but a creature, a malignant subcreator playing with a toy universe, and I would fight him with every fibre of my being, in obedience to the unseen and unknown God. Even if that God existed only in my mind.

So then. How have I come to reconcile my rampant universalism with the teaching ‘extra Ecclesiam nulla salus’? What do I understand this teaching to mean?

What it means is this: The Church is indeed the sole instrument by which Christ works the World’s salvation. The Church is the mystical body of Christ, the means through which salvation comes to the World. This salvation is a supernatural work, not limited by space or time, in which the members of the Body of Christ participate. It is something entirely different from enrolling additional members in the Church.

I am not told anywhere that I cannot believe this, so I will go on doing so.

Consider how our Lord behaved during his time on Earth:

He did not teach at all until he was thirty years old

He spoke in parables and seemed quite content to be misunderstood by most of his hearers

He said that he was sent to the lost sheep of the children of Israel, and not to the gentiles

These are not the actions of Someone who requires people to assent intellectually or emotionally to a proposition to avoid eternal torment. These are not the actions of Someone who wants to get that proposition out to as many people as possible as quickly as possible so that they can be saved. These are the actions of Someone who has all the time in the world.

Consider some of our Lord’s teachings about the Kingdom of God:

It is like salt

It is like light

It is like yeast

Salt is not any use without something to make salty; light is not any use without something to illuminate; yeast by itself is not a particularly attractive foodstuff. These things are all important because they act on something else and transform it: they do not make it into salt, or light, or yeast.

Consider what our Lord said about His Church: 

The gates of Hell will not prevail against it

Gates are not something that comes after you and knock you down; gates are something that you come up to and knock down, God willing. This does not mean (only) that Hell will not overcome the Church; it means that Hell will be overcome. It does not have a chance in itself against the Church.

Consider some of the things we are encouraged to pray:

The Fatima prayer, in the modern Rosary: “Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy”

The Chaplet of Divine Mercy: “Have mercy on me, and on the whole world” 

Why would be encouraged to pray that all souls be led to Heaven, unless such a thing were possible? Why would be encouraged to pray that God have mercy on the whole world, unless He desires to do so?

I believe that you do not have to be a member of the Church to be saved. I believe that it a good thing to be a member of the Church, because you have to be a member of the Church to participate in our Lord’s glorious supernatural work of saving others. Your prayer and fasting now can help lead to heaven someone you have never met, who died thousands of years before you were born on the other side of the world. Because Christ is fully God and fully Man; and God is outside of space and time; so the Body of Christ extends outside of time. Phillip K. Dick is right: ‘The Empire never ended.’ Through the Body of Christ, the 1st century martyrs are connected to us, and we are connected to them. Our prayers can help them. It is not crazy to pray for the conversion of St. Augustine. It is not crazy to pray for the salvation of Caligula, or Mao, or Ozymandias. 

That is what I believe is meant by ‘extra Ecclesiam nulla salus’.

So this world, with its armies and navies and harbours and highways and empires and republics that loom so large and important, is really hanging by a thread of prayer and penance. 

This thread is spun by God from a tiny minority of souls in a state of grace, whose participation in the sacrifice of Christ advances the salvation of all the world. The contemplative orders, which seemed so pointless to the younger pragmaticist me, are the most important thing.

From this point of view the suppression of the contemplative orders by Joseph II of Austria – by the Holy Roman Emperor, the highest temporal power in Christendom – was the greatest catastrophe of the modern age. I do not think is a coincidence that this suppression coincides temporally with the unleashing of the demonic forces that are still convulsing the world today. The one man whose primary duty is to watch over Christendom so that the nuns may pray in peace plots to close their convents; and across the ocean, the rebel armies of an infectious individualism that will eventually reduce Christendom to an atomised mist defeat their lawful sovereign. The spirit of revolution infects Europe; Yorktown is followed by Valmy; the map of Europe is redrawn, the Holy Roman Empire is no more, and one generation of insane fads follows another down to our own time, while the bodies of the innocents pile up in the tens and hundreds of millions.

Nothing and nobody is any longer in the right place; men no longer recognize any effective authority in the spiritual order or any legitimate power in the temporal; the profane presumes to discuss what is sacred, and to contest its character and even its existence; the inferior judges the superior, ignorance sets bounds to wisdom, error prevails over truth, the human is substituted for the Divine, earth has priority over heaven, and the individual sets the measure for all things. (René Guenon)

But the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church of Christ.

And somewhere in the future sentient gila monsters are praying for us on Luyten b

Tuesday, February 08, 2022

A Meditation on Scrupulosity

 I admire those who walk away from Omelas.

I admire those who refuse to co-operate, however remotely, with some evil so that good might result. Those who because of one distant crime, committed against one unknown innocent, are willing to forfeit their livelihoods, leave their homes, be abandoned by their friends and reviled by their enemies.

I admire those who are not willing to do nothing, who are prepared to draw a line in the sand and say, thus far, and no further. 

I admire those who walk away from Omelas. But I have not followed their example. I have told myself instead that their refusal is only a quixotic scrupulosity, and sometimes believed it.

I know that if we do nothing, the ghoulish use of fetal cell lines in medicine will continue. But I have gone along with everyone else and gotten vaccinated, as a condition of entering my workplace, as a condition of travelling on domestic aircraft. I have justified this decision to myself in two ways:

The first and greatest rationalisation (and O, how Dr Clam of years past would be disgusted with me) is obedience to authority. For I have come back to the Church of my ancestors precisely to put myself under authority, to put a bridle on my reason, to muzzle my logical and self-consistent consequentialist morality, since I needed some reason other than cowardice not to kill abortionists. So I have therefore to listen to the voice of the hierarchical Church. The Pope, and a fortiori to me the Pope Emeritus, have been vaccinated and encourage me to do the same. So I comply, following St. Loyola's principle, 'What seems to me white, I will believe black if the hieracrchical Church so defines'.

The second rationalisation follows the principle of William S. Burroughs, 'to live is to collaborate'. I do not see how we can get away with remote co-operation with evil so that good may result. My logical and self-consistent consequentialist morality is still there, ticking away. It seems to me that there are more serious ways in which most people in most Western countries co-operate remotely with the evil of abortion.

Leaving aside the obvious abomination and far from remote co-operation of voting in the monstrous fiends who advocate such things: most people in the West pay taxes, and most people in the West lend legitimacy through participation in the electoral process to governments that allow abortion. 

Civilised countries have government-funded healthcare, and civilised countries that are shot through with Satanic barbarism fund abortion. Money is fungible; so we pay for it. If I were to lose my job,I would have to go back to Australia and pay taxes.

Then there is that hard saying in Romans 13:1-2 about obeying the government. I can accept this without too much trouble if the government is an authoritarian one, since sovereignty is given by God. But a representative government makes the heretical claim that sovereignty derives from the people. In doing so, it claims to be acting in my name, and thus pollutes me with its crimes - with what it has done, and with what it has failed to do. Maybe this seems an insane scrupulosity to you. A brief anecdote: I voted for the more conservative candidate in a New South Wales state election, and a more conservative government was formed. Hooray. The more conservative premier proceeded to ram through legislation decriminalising abortion and bringing New South Wales into line with enlightened states like North Korea and the Renegade Mainland Provinces. Ffffff.... I mean, thank you, Gladys Berejiklian. I gave you a mandate and you used it to act diametrically opposite to everything I believe in. (Note to self: pray for soul of Gladys Berejiklian). If I were to lose my job, I would have to go back to Australia and participate in an electoral process that legitimised an abortion-allowing government.

So, those are my justifications.

A ninety-something German I have never met said it was a good idea; and if it is a bad idea, then there are other things  that seem bad to me that I would have to do if I didn't do it. 

Feeble justifications, or not? 

Is it a quixotic scrupulosity, to walk away from Omelas?

Pray for us, Blessed Johanna Vera Alderliesten.

Monday, February 07, 2022

Adam of Saint Victor's Song for the Patron Saint of Philosophers

Vox sonora nostri chori
Nostro sonet conditori
Qui disponit omnia
Per quem dimicat imbellis
Per quem datur et puellis
De viris victoria

Per quem plebs Alexandrina
Feminae non feminina
Stupuit ingenia
Quum beata Catharina
Doctos vinceret doctrina
Ferrum patientia
Haec et gloriam parentum
Pulchrum dedit ornamentum
Morum privilegia  
Clara per progenitores
Claruit per sacros mores  
Ampliori gratia

Florem teneri decoris
Lectionis et laboris
Attrivere studia:
Nam perlegit disciplinas  
Saeculares et divinas
In adolescentia

Vas electum vas virtuum
Reputavit sicut lutem
Bona transitoria
Et reduxit in contemptum
Patris opes et parentum
Larga patrimonia

Vasis oleum includens
Virgo sapiens et prudens
Sponso pergit obvia
Ut adventus ejus hora
Praeparata sine mora
Intret ad convivia

Sistitur imperatori
Cupiens pro Christo mori
Cujus in praesentia
Quinquaginta sapientes
Mutos reddit et silentes
Virginis facundia

Carceris horrendi claustrum
Et rotarum triste plaustrum
Famem et jejunia 
Et quaecumque finut ei
Sustinet amore Dei
Eadem ad omnia

Torta superat tortorem
Superat imperatorem

Feminae constantia
Cruciatur imperator
Quia cedit cruciator
Nec valent supplicia

Tandem capite punitur
Et dum morte mors finitur
Vitae subit gaudia
Angelis mox fuit curae
Dare corpus sepulturae
Terra procul alia

Oleum ex ipsa manat
Quod infirmos multos sanat
Evidenti gratia
Bonum nobis dat unguentum
Si per suum interventum
Nostra sanet vitia


And then, foolishly inspired by the Ballad of the White Horse:

To the songs of old Sonora
Neither Alkoran nor Torah
Brought the Maker’s secret name.
Men of desert and of river
Had no prophet to deliver         
Wisdom from a bush aflame.  

Man must serve some truth or error
When he wakes to awe and terror
Like the grass upon the rain:
In the south of changeless weathers
Cruel men of gold and feathers  
Served their gods with blood and pain.
Spirits of the wind and water 
Cactus wren and bear and otter 
Had no hunger for the slain.
Men of desert and of river
Sung of Elder Brother, giver
of all arts that men can claim.

Elder Brother uncreated
Who the men of old had hated
Who had died and rose again.
But he was a shadow only
Of that Elder Brother holy
Who was God and Man the same.

Just an echo of that other
Everlasting Elder Brother
Who told stories when he came.
Stories of the world’s restorer
Brought at last to old Sonora
From the Virgin’s second Spain.

From beyond the furthest ocean
For the one true good’s promotion
Came a herald of His reign:
Men of desert and of river
Heard the news of their forgiver
Who had healed the blind and lame.

In that time of new creations
For the use of distant nations
Father Kino gave the name
Of his elder sister’s patron
To fair mountains which that matron
Never saw above the plain.

The Mountains of the Frogs they knew
He christened for a maiden who
Had won a martyr’s lasting fame.
And so for many times and places
Babad Do’ag it replaces
And a Christlike girl proclaims.

Raise your voices loud in chorus
To Him who made all things for us!
Praise His high and holy name!
He who from the meek and lowly
To His glory, surely, slowly  
Puts the strong and proud to shame.
Long ago they were astounded
At that maiden who expounded
Truth against the sophists vain.
Who confounded each deception
With a crystal clear perception
For both faith and reason’s gain.

There in Alexander’s city 
She made known the boundless pity
Of the God who knew Man’s pain.  
Made more noble on the basis
Of His overflowing graces  
Spirit flaring into flame.

Tender in her youth and beauty
Yet unsparing in her duty
To those queens of science twain:
All the learning of creation  
And the Father’s revelation
By her labour did attain.

Chosen vessel for His glory
Scorning all the transitory
Goods that others strive to gain.
Caring nothing for those riches
Earthbound men aspire to, which is
Madness to the carnal brain.

Like the virgins that He told of
Who their lamps kept prudent hold of
And good store of oil retained
Watchful for the King’s returning
So that with their lamps bright burning
They might herald in his train.

Brought before the mighty Caesar
Yet the cruel judgment pleased her
For a martyr’s crown remained.
Fifty sages held enlightened
Only stood like rabbits frightened
As she scorned the world’s refrain.
Cast denied of all provision
In a foul and noisome prison
Flayed by blows that fell like rain  
For the love of God enduring
Scourging, starving, and immuring;
Never broken by her pain.

Seeing how she bore her torment
Stirred the virtues lying dormant
In those come to watch the game.
Each one humbled to repentance
Was sent down to share her sentence
As cruel Caesar’s rage inflamed.

Broken by the tyrant’s hatred
With her dead she extirpated
Death to rise again like grain.
Angels bore her body yonder
To a mountain safe from plunder
There to wait the trumpet’s strain.

Oil there from her body flowing
Healed the ills of pilgrims going
To that mount where man attained
Knowledge of the law of Moses:
Even so her virtue shows us
How our loss can be regained.

You who dwell beneath her ranges
Serve the God who never changes
But all changing things sustains.
Sisters, brothers, do no falter!
Burn no incense at the altar
As each new Augustus reigns.

With no answers to refute us
They can only starve or shoot us
And such ills we should disdain.
Those who serve this world’s deceiver
Argued thus with each believer
Ever since the time of Cain.

Men of desert and of river
Call to mind her name and give her
Joy by sharing in her aim.
Blessed Santa Catalina,
By His grace may our demeanour
Show we heed our Master’s claim.

May she joy as we delight
Remembering her blessed name.
And may we share her future bright
Together always in the same
Eternal city in the sight
Of He who took away our shame.


Sunday, December 10, 2017


At the end I stuck to my principles (see the Archive, around about August 2004, I expect).
As a disbeliever in civil marriage, I had to destroy the envelope the government sent me unopened. I picked it up carefully with tongs and deposited it in the wood burning stove. I believe civil marriage is a crippled abomination, made in mockery of true marriage as orcs were made in mockery of elves, and it is not for me to voice an opinion one way or another as to what its definition should be. A pox on its loathsome spotty behind. Let it collapse under the weight of its own contradictions and be consigned to the dustbin of history in another few human lifetimes. Good riddance.

I did put up a few 'no' posters at work, since it irked me only seeing 'yes' ones about. It reminded me, just a little, of Istanbul immediately after the coup. I also posted a copy of the letter from the Bishop saying we should vote 'no' on a noticeboard. But, as he just exhorted us to do so, and didn't say it was a sin not to, I did not feel bound.

People ought to be able to bind themselves by whatever contracts they like, according to whatever new-fangled codes their imaginations can come up with, or with whatever time-honoured codes their ancestors have bound themselves with for generations. The role of government should be to see that people abide by the terms of their contracts. And that's all.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Let's Blog VALIS! Part 8 of 14.

I was coming on to write an intermission and perhaps shrug, and say that it might be too late for me to pick up the broken cord and blog the rest of VALIS, but I find I already have written part 8. So there is nothing for it but to finish.

The hidden room in man’s house where God sits all the year,
The secret window whence the world looks small and very dear.

Chapter 8: In which Pore Sherri is Daid

The main external event of this chapter is that Sherri is dead. The main internal event is angry theodicy. Dick rejects the redemptive power of suffering; he angrily rejects these words from Wagner’s Parsifal:

Gesegnet sei dein Leiden,
Das Mitleids hochste Kraft,
Und reinsten Wissen Macht
Denn zagen Toren gab!

Pity has no power, Dick says. That is bullshit. But Fat is silent on the matter. In this chapter they seem very far apart: Fat beetling away on his exegesis, Dick swapping stories about Sherri and about dead cats with Kevin and looking on Fat from afar, analysing his search for redemption in terms of the grail story from Parsifal. The unreliable etymology of Parsifal as ‘pure fool’ is mentioned, directing us again (IMHO) to the fact that looking at what people’s names mean is key to unlocking the secret Kabbalistic meaning of VALIS.

This is the last chapter grounded in reality. From here on out, it will be event that Dick has made up. Who should we meet at this juncture as we leave reality behind, but that old clown, Schopenhauer? He is quoted as saying, more or less, that the law of conservation of matter should make us happy:

“Notwithstanding thousands of years of death and decay, nothing has been lost; not an atom of the matter, still less anything of the inner being, that exhibits itself as nature. Therefore every moment we can cheerfully cry, ‘In spite of time, death and decay, we are still together.”

Deedle deedle queep.

And Dick says that somewhere Schopenhauer says that the cat you see playing in the yard is the cat which played three hundred years ago.

Deedle deedle queep. 

I am with Kevin: every cat is unique. A unique arrangement of atoms and being in time and space that will never be repeated. What does it matter if the same atoms and inner being – whatever that means – are rearranged in different ways to form different cats? They are not the same bloody cat. Each unique irreplaceable cat is a unique and irreplaceable manifestation of the divine will and a contingent outcome of billions of years of decisions by innumerable entities.

In this chapter the exegesis continues to churn, throwing up model after model, adding lamina to lamina of Fat/Thomas/Elijah/Dick/Zebra/Uncle Tom Cobbley’s personality, never quite abandoning previous theories even as a new and almost entirely contradictory one is cobbled on. 

My take home message: it is dangerous to do your own exegesis. It is safer to be part of a community that can give a frame of reference to your experience.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Let's Blog VALIS! Part 7 of 14.

They rush in red and purple from the red clouds of the morn,
From temples where the yellow gods shut up their eyes in scorn;
They rise in green robes roaring from the green hells of the sea
Where fallen skies and evil hues and eyeless creatures be;

7: In which Phil narrates a dream about his Father’s house*, and the rest of the stuff that goes on is more or less batshit insane

Sadassa Ulna – that isn’t a Russian name. Those are the first words Philip K. Dick managed to enunciate from the verbal aspects of his phosphene hallucinations. [“How Much Does Chaos Scare You? Politics, Religion and Philosophy in the Fiction of Philip K. Dick”, Aaron Barlow] And this chapter is all pretty much straight reportage about his Theophany, which is why it is more or less batshit insane. And why it is so dense that I won’t even attempt to summarise it. It pretty much covers the same territory as the well known R. Crumb comic, which is much more entertaining than any plain text from me.

Barlow’s book equates the three-eyed creatures with claws with the Sibyl of Cumae, by the way.

The Empire never ended.

August 1974 wasn’t a crippling blow to the Empire at the hands of the immortal plasmate. It was a minor rearguard victory, coming between catastrophic defeats for the rebellion. The theophany isn’t exactly in between, but it is close enough, to those two defining evil dates of the second half of the 20th century: January 22nd 1973 and 17th April 1975.

On the other hand: credo sanctorum communionem.

The idea that the community of saints can assist one another across space and time is perfectly orthodox. ‘Thomas’ means ‘twin’, as you know, so it is a great name to call your personality living at another time and place.

I have had a dream of another place myself, a city that seemed to be in southern California, a sprawling gritty place where it seemed always to be twilight or night. In real life I was twelve, but in the dream, I was about seventeen and driving around the archetypal sprawling suburban California streets. My best friend in the dream was a girl with short grey-blonde hair and a cynical air, and I was completely at ease around her, whereas in real life the only girl I was friends with was my cousin Jessica and all the others made me tongue-tied and nervous. This girl was my best friend, but I was in love with another girl, a tall Hispanic girl with long black hair, and the other girl who was my best friend was helping set me up with her. The face of the grey-blonde-haired girl in my dream was a bit like the face of my wife, who I first met five years later, but crueller and not as pretty. The I in my dream was not a  supercompetent adult in a wish-fulfillment way, but more relaxed and competent than twelve year old me, in much the same way as real seventeen or eighteen year old me would be.

I never dreamed about being me that me again, or about those two girls. Of course all three of them must really be slices of me.

I didn’t say anything before about Sherri’s last name, Solvig. Is this related, perhaps, to the Solveig of Peer Gynt? This name can mean ‘strong house’, ‘daughter of the sun’, or ‘sun’s path’. In Peer Gynt it is etymologically linked to the sun. 

* In which there may be many mansions?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Let's Blog VALIS! Part 6 of 14.

The North is full of tangled things and texts and aching eyes
And dead is all the innocence of anger and surprise,
And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty room,
And Christian dreadeth Christ that hath a newer face of doom

In which Horselover Fat is given some good Jewish advice

Maurice isn’t a name that means very much: just ‘dark, swarthy’ and doesn’t seem to be very Jewish, but it is apparently a very common morphing of ‘Moshe’ into a less Jewish-sounding name adopted in the days when that was important. And in this chapter Maurice is loudly, simply, and with authority - not like the scribes and Pharisees, but like Moses on Sinai – directing Fat back to Torah.

His first commandment: “Go smoke dope and ball some broad that’s got big tits, not one who’s dying” echoes the first commandment of the 613 commandments of Torah, as listed by Moses Maimonides: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.”

And he calls out Fat’s gnostic bullshit.  Incredulous that Fat believes all this gnostic crap, he tells him what to do. “I want you to go home and study the Bible. I want you to read Genesis over twice; you hear me? Two times. Carefully. And I want you to write an outline of the main ideas and events in it, in descending order of importance[1]. And when you show up here next week I want to see that list.”

We are not told if Fat actually does this or not.

Those guys who carry the oil-smeared one have been reading ‘The First Book of Enoch’. It is not very good, they think. It is a fairly repetitive mish-mash that does not expand on Genesis 6:1-4 as interestingly as they had hoped. It may also have been the inspiration for “The Phantom Menace”, since another word for Nephilim, the monstrous beings begotten by the fallen Angels upon human women, is Anakim. Mind you, Darth Vader was not 3000 ells high, but that would have been difficult to harmonise with the original trilogy.

In the second half of the chapter Sherri complains about all the people she works with and all the other people she knows.

[1]: According to Moses Maimonides’ list of the 613 commandments by order of importance, the most important one in Genesis is ‘circumcise your boy children on the eighth day’.

London Calling

Loading Screen for 'London' zone of Funcom's "The Secret World"

The weird mistakes (?) in this image have always bugged me. In game, of course, the pub is "The Horned God", not "Thorned God". There is no shop with a looking-glass sign. I don't mind the car parked the wrong way on the one-way street - since we are imperfect beings - but the note on the pavement to 'look right' - away from oncoming traffic - when crossing the road is either vicious or incompetent. I wonder how many other deliberate (?) errors I have missed in this picture.

And I've found my notebook of VALIS notes, so I ought to get in and finish that ill-advised series of posts. ;)  Any day now...

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Let's Blog VALIS! Part 5 of 14

Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds,
Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,
Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sea
White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty.

5.  In which Fat becomes a doctrinaire gnostic and Sherri turns out to be evil.

‘’You would know,’ Dr Stone said, and then he said something that no-one had ever said to Fat before. ‘You’re the authority,’ Dr Stone said.

This is the chapter in which Sherri turns out to be evil. It was kind of depressing for that reason, which is why I think I have gotten stuck here. Fat has a go at Sherri for picking and chosing which parts of the Bible she likes, but he starts off the chapter by doing the same thing himself, identifying the ‘I AM WHO I AM’ of Genesis with the blind god Samael of the Marcionites and hence making the entire Old Testament meaningless. And, since the Jesus of the Gospels and Paul of the Epistles are constantly quoting the Old Testament corpus favourably, Fat is emptying out the existing biblical canon of *all* meaning – or all non-occluded meaning. And he does this at the guidance of Dr Stone, who had seemed to be fulfilling the historical role of Pope Leo the Great (CE 440-461) in chapter four.

I think the healing in this chapter is a lie: like the healings in later chapters are lies. Dr Stone gives Fat the erroneous idea that he is the authority – that he is qualified to interpret his theophany. Correctly, he is moved to speak, as he accepts these words of Dr Stone: ‘I’ll be goddamned.’ And as soon as he leaves hospital, he unerringly seeks out his fate: ‘Fat homed in on death more rapidly and expertly than he had ever done before.’

1 John 3:1-2 which PKD quotes in this chapter as possibly the most important piece of the whole Bible was one of the readings for All Saint’s Day this year: “My dear people, we are already the children of God but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is.”

And this bit a little further on is pure orthodox Christianity, about the inbreaking of the Kingdom: “Above everything else, outranking every other aspect, object, quality of his encounter, Fat had witnessed a benign power which had invaded this world. No other term fitted it: the benign power, whatever it was, had invaded this world, like a champion ready to do battle. That terrified him but it also excited his joy because he understood what it meant. Help had come. The universe might be irrational, but something rational had broken into it, like a thief in the night breaks into a sleeping household, unexpectedly in terms of places, in terms of time. Fat had seen it – not because there was anything special about him – but because it had wanted him to see it.”

So. Sherri turning out to be evil. Is this a change in the beneficently presented Sherri of the previous chapters? Or a change in Fat? Or a reflection that all characters are mutable allegorical fragments of the all and that consistent characterisation is not part of what this text is about?

Is this chapter meant to be read on a deeper level as a refutation of the gnostic doctrines presented on the surface? Is it meant, like Chapter 4, to metaphorically relate part of the history of the Church, in the classical Protestant understanding – as a conflict between the true ‘hidden’ Church of Fat and the conventional Church of Sherri, which is described as ‘Antichrist’, and as seeking death, but again and again as exhibiting all the traits of conventional Christianity of a sacramental type? 

Sherri’s priest’s name is Larry Minter.  Larry is probably from ‘Laurence’, which means ‘man from Laurentium’, which means – since Laurentium was pretty much a no-account village in modern, I mean 70 CE, times – ‘old school Latin of good Trojan blood’. And ‘Minter’, I think, means ‘someone who makes coins’. So it is a name steeped in classical traditions and the love of money, and hence a pretty good name for a Renaissance Pope in the historical/allegorical reading of this chapter.

Jim Pike seems to have started out Catholic and lost his way rather badly. He seems exactly like a character in a Robert Silverberg novel, poor guy. May God have mercy on his soul.

Today as I write this the first reading of the Mass is from the Prophet Malachi: "The day is coming now, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and the evil-doers will be like stubble. The day that is coming is going to burn them up, says the Lord of Hosts, leaving them neither root nor stalk. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays." Those Guys who Carry the Oil-Smeared One feel rather exultant reading those words. If they were conducting a month of relentless optimism, they would have no trouble at all maintaining it.

And one more thing, slipping back to the surface reading of the text: Zebra, Fat’s name for the camoflauged alien emissary of God among us. I have always – or for the longest time, a quarter century at least – thought of the okapi whenever it is suggested that angels and demons can’t exist because we haven’t observed them with our penetrating modern ways of looking at things. 
A cute baby okapi.
 The okapi is not a small animal. But it took decades of looking for them for European researchers to see one, because okapi have good hearing and didn’t want to be seen. A fortiori, things with the intelligence, keen senses, nigh-massless bodies, and speed of movement attributed to angels and demons would only be seen if they wanted to be seen. We don't really have any evidence that such things don't exist, just a prejudice which is in conflict with the - probably equally evidence-free - prejudice of practically every society besides ours that they do.