Tuesday, 12 December 2017

John Michell on the meaning of coincidences (synchronicities)

I once kept a coincidence diary... and I found that the more I noticed them, the more frequently they occurred. 

If I thought about someone he would immediately call or write; words I had never previously heard of repeated themselves in twos or threes; the clues in my crossword began giving personal messages; long-lost objects began reappearing in places where they should always have been; and if I wanted a reference to any subject, I had only to pick up a book lying one someone's table and there it was. 

Life became so nervously intense that I grew tired of it, gave up the diary, and sank back into normality. 

I think that during that period I was in a state of Primordial Perception, the state in which our primitive by highly sensitised nomadic ancestors lived. To live well, or at all, they had to be alert to all the clues and hints which nature provides, and know how to take advantage of them. 

They rode their luck, but not fatalistically but as they themselves made it; through the forms of sympathetic magic, which develop naturally from the primordial, spiritual mode of perception. 

That is not a state in which one can comfortably live today. It clashes painfully with the modern way of perception; and those who discover or fall into it are liable to end-up in the madhouse...

From 'Just a coincidence' in The John Michell Reader: Writings and rants of a radical traditionalist (edited by Joscelyn Godwin), 2015.

This is one of those matters about which Owen Barfield's scheme of Original Participation versus Final Participation has much to say. To do what Michell did, was to recover Original Participation - that is, to some extent to recover (in the adulthood, in the modern world) the child-like state of unconscious belonging-in the world.

But this recovery is only partly possible and entails a lowering of self-consciousness. This is indeed a path chosen by many - for example Michell; who reportedly smoked cannabis almost continually; presumably partly for this purpose. Other people use alcohol, trance states, partial sleep, or immersion in suitable external stimuli (this path is taken by separatists among tribal people).

Michell indeed advocated explicitly (and argued beautifully for) a return to an earlier state of group-consciousness - in effect to Original Participation.

But I would regard this as a failure of our spiritual destiny towards divine consciousness, as well as being in-practice impossible: having discovered that life was fuller of meaning than he supposed, Michell felt compelled to give-up this unconscious participation in the world because he felt himself slipping-towards insanity.

What we are supposed to infer from the proliferation of coincidences (i.e. synchronicities) which happens after they are noticed and taken seriously as communications; is that we should move forward to Final Participation - instead of sinking-into Life, we should bring all Life together into the encompassing, intuitive thinking of the real self: into Primary Thinking.

Instead of trying to lose our self-consciousness into a waking-dream; we should aim to expand our consciousness to include meaningful-coincidences in the stream of thought; to intensify thinking by learning how to think in freedom, from our-selves - instead of allowing thinking to become almost-always automatic, robotic, inculcated, manipulated...

So, it is a pity that Michell did not press forward into his life of coincidences; as probably (as a modern prophet) he really should have done. It was a test that he failed. Lapsing back into the usual incoherent and despairing compromise did not really help him, or us.

Monday, 11 December 2017

An Introduction to Owen Barfield

I am currently working on putting together a book on Owen Barfield: this is a draft of what might be the introduction:

It seems clear from accounts of those who knew him, confirmed by surviving filmed evidence, that Owen Barfield was a genuinely modest man. Of course, he had the solid, inner confidence that is essential to a genius; but this inner confidence did not come-out in personal interactions, where he was self-effacing and conciliatory. Much the same applies to his writings - which seek common ground rather than confrontation. This was, of course, a virtue; yet there is a consequent tendency to underestimate the depth, scope and originality of Barfield's achievement.

Furthermore, Barfield's writings are extremely careful, precise and balanced to the point that it is sometimes unclear what exactly are his own views. The prose is lucid and aphoristic; stimulating - yet, perhaps from not wishing to over-state or exaggerate, from not wishing to antagonise or dominate - Barfield did not always do justice to himself. He had a tendency to over-prepare the background; to explain and deal with objections, and to surround his assertions with qualifications and distinctions; to such a degree that by the time we eventually get to read his own actual beliefs - they are easy to miss. His considered views are typically articulated without much emphasis, or repetition, or re-explaining - so concisely that they can seem ambiguous.

In introducing my interpretation of Owen Barfield, his modesty can serve as a springboard; because it is the man's modesty that has, I believe, led to a general misunderstanding of the nature of his achievement. And therefore it has led to the potential value of a book which focuses on Barfield's philosophical understanding, states that understanding somewhat baldly, and accepts that understanding as a basis for development -  rather than re-rehearsing the arguments...  

...Barfield was working at a level much deeper than philology: he was a metaphysical philosopher engaged in redescribing modern Man's basic assumptions concerning the nature of reality; and Barfield underpinned his metaphysics with a radical Christian theological reinterpretation of the nature and purpose of God's relationship with Man and creation.

I suppose that if Barfield were confronted with the above passage, he would quietly but firmly agree that he was - indeed - essentially working in metaphysics and theology; and would then modestly point-out the large extent of his debt to Rudolf Steiner; that much of Barfield's philosophy can be seen as built-upon the foundations of Steiner's early philosophical books culminating in The Philosophy of Freedom (1894).

And debt is real and vital; despite a few differences, and that Barfield's work leaves-out the great bulk of Steiner's enormous output of 'spiritual science'. Yet it also seems to be true that Steiner's work served more as a confirmation and clarification of Barfield's pre-existing intuitions than a primary source of them.

In the end, it seems necessary to acknowledge both that Barfield's ideas are built-on those of Steiner; and also that Barfield is his-own-man - and for many or most people Barfield could justify the status of serving as one of a handful of truly important philosophers of the twentieth century; one whose work is of potentially-life transforming, life-enhancing value.

Read the whole thing at the Owen Barfield Blog. 

An imaginary future historian looks back on the 21st century

A really insightful, clarifying and thought-provoking-thought-experiment from 'Bonald' in the blog section of Throne and Altar.

My understanding is that something-of the-sort will happen, unless somebody or something stops it (and there is no sign of that happening, so far) - but Bonald's is a kind of minimal view of what would happen (which would probably be much more extreme). And the real story (including the real motivations) is understandable only at the spiritual level of analysis (i.e. warfare between the powers of Good and of evil). Civilizational outcomes are just a side-show: a means to that end.

Metaphysics comes before Epistemology - we need to assume the nature of reality before we speculate on how we know what is true

For the past century and a half, metaphysics (the philosophy of ultimate assumptions concerning the nature of reality) has been ignored, ridiculed, asserted to be unnecessary; and the philosophical focus has been on epistemology - that is, the question of knowledge (how we can known anything, or know any specific thing).

Thus, it has been common since Logical Positivism for modern thinkers to claim - incoherently - that do not have any metaphysical assumptions, but 'instead' base their beliefs on 'evidence' (thereby including the assumption that they already-know what counts as valid evidence and they already-know to interpret it validly...).

Anyway - we should acknowledge that metaphysics is necessary, and an explicit metaphysics is necessary in modernity because metaphysics Will Be Challenged.

So - anyone can state a basic assumption, something about which we say: It Just Is; and the proper question is how may metaphysical assumptions be evaluated? 

Ultimately personal evaluation is an intuitive process, by which our true-self (our real-divine self) grasps the proposition entire and makes a solid evaluation. But that comes at the end of a process of clarification - that is, we need to come to that state of simplicity and clarity before we can evaluate it as-a-whole.

One help is to assume the truth of the assumption, then ask: Does this assumption make sense of the fact that I know it? 

(In other words, does this metaphysics support a coherent epistemology?)

If the assumption is (assumed to be) true,

Then could we, personally, know-that it was true?

Many metaphysical assumptions cannot sustain an epistemology by which they could be known.

This would incline me to reject them - how about you?


Most mainstream metaphysical assumptions are incoherent wrt. epistemology. As examples:
      If natural selection is assumed metaphysically true, as the only and sufficient explanation of Man; then human reason must be a product of natural selection; which means that human reason can never know anything (because natural selection is about differential fitness, not about truth).   
     If it is assumed that the universe is assumed to be a combination of randomness and determinism; then we personally could never know this - because we personally would be a combination of randomness and determinism and could never know anything. The universe might actually Be random/ determined - but if so, we personally could never know that. 


Sunday, 10 December 2017

Each birth is a death - and emergence of a new dyadic polarity

(Polarity is a term from Coleridge via Barfield meaning a dyadic relationship between two distinguishable but inseparable complementary elements - it implies that fundamental reality and priority of dynamic process - of creation and procreation. The prime polarity is love of two distinct, complementary, eternally wedded persons.)

Spiritual progression is a sequence of deaths and births.

The conception then birth of Jesus was the death of Jehovah, when Jehovah (who made this earth) became a part of a polar dyad with Man;  Jesus's baptism was the birth of Christ in dyadic polarity with the Holy Spirit; the resurrection of Jesus Christ required his death and a polarity with The Father.

Baptism and Marriage imply the death of a previous singleness and birth of a new dyadic polarity.

Truly to be born-again as a Christian is death of what we previously were; the birth of a child is the emergence of a new relationship of parenthood - and the death of our previous state.

An eternal marriage of a fully divine son and daughter of God is a recapitulation of the primal dyad - and the ultimate creative polarity; capable of procreation of new spirit children from primordial human 'intelligences' - as well as of 'normal' creation.

(I presume that marriage was the final stage in the theosis of Jesus Christ - by which he achieved the full nature of the Father; such is - I believe - represented in John's Gospel.)  

Because what emerges is a new polarity, to be Christian it is not a static state - it is the balance of a polarity - and that balance may go in either direction, even a long way towards apostasy, without the polarity being destroyed - so long as repentance is effectual.

(The sin against the Holy Ghost refers to the destruction of this polarity; which is non-viable, and a kind of death. Polar complements cannot be separated without destruction - perhaps into mere abstraction - of both parts.)

So at Christmas we celebrate a birth - which is also a death; complementary to Easter where we celebrate the same process with the opposite emphasis.

A birth is rightly to be celebrated; and for birth, death is necessary - including that death which terminates mortality and opens to resurrection.

It's Wassail time!

See and hear more at Albion Awakening...

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Is incarnation into mortal life a 'random' process? (Mormon theology compared with mainstream)

We are incarnated into this mortal life - and each person finds himself or herself in a different situation: different times in history; different places on the planet; different sex, class, race; different parents...

There seems to be only two basic possibilities:

1. That the allocation of souls to bodies is a random process. We are equally likely to end up anywhere.

2.  God 'places' us into some specific situation.

The first 'random' possibility implies that our situation and sex is a matter of indifference to God and to our-selves - one situation is as good as another. This choice is pretty much entailed by the mainstream Christian belief that each soul is created some time between conception and birth - each soul starts out identical, so there is no point or purpose in placing a specific soul in one place rather than other.

The second 'placing' idea implies that we have different needs in mortal life - and this implies that souls are different at the point of incarnation, which also implies that we have a pre-incarnation existence. This doctrine of pre-existence has been non-mainstream for Christians since about the time of Augustine of Hippo - but is held by Mormons among others.

This is a good example of the way that metaphysical assumptions affect theology. Mainstream Christians are pretty-much compelled to assume that our situation in life is random, and meaningless - in now way is our actual life-situation 'tailored' to our spiritual needs.

Whereas Mormons, and others who believe in pre-existence, are compelled to assume that God must have placed us into our specific life-situation with at least some regard for what situation will benefit us; and potentially this placing would be highly-exact (although human free will or agency will surely make it impossible for the placing to be fully-exact - since any niche would be changed by the choices of the people around it).

Aside: the question of sexual identity - man or woman - is another point of disagreement between mainstream and Mormon. The mainstream view sees the human soul as newly-created from-nothing - and sexual identity therefore as secondary, and in principle it might be male, female of something-else, or nothing. This links with God being neither man nor women, but containing both.

But for Mormons it is doctrine that every person is either man or woman - nothing else is possible in a deep and ultimate sense (whatever the effects of disease or environment), and this identity goes all the way down and back to eternity. Furthermore God is a dyad of Man and Woman: Heavenly Father and Mother; Jesus was a man; angels are either men or women etc...

It can be seen that Mainstream and Mormon Christianity, while both being genuinely Christian, are based upon distinct metaphysical assumptions.

And these basic assumptions lead to big differences in  how we personally regard our specific situation in life: for Mormons our situation is meaningful because designed for our needs; whereas for mainstream Christians our situation (and indeed our sex) is random.

God's creation is animation

God did not create 'from nothing' but by shaping and organising - by animating - pre-existent stuff; which included primordial men and women: seeds of consciousness.

Thus God's work of creation was to bring life and consciousness to reality - only that which is alive has meaning and purpose and the potential for relationship. Only that which is alive can be brought within God's reality of Love.

The work of creation continues; it is substantially a building coherence of love, and a bringing to higher consciousness - which is awareness.

The divine plan is for ever-increasing awareness of reality; and that reality is underpinned by love (love is the principle of coherence). Love can only be between alive and conscious entities (relationship) - so the universe coheres only by virtue of its being animate.

Love cannot be coerced, so God's creation is chosen: it is offered to us, and we are not compelled to accept it. We accept it because we want it. We accept developmental enhancement of our consciousness only because we want to.

And if we do not want these things, loving provision is made for us - as any loving parent would (sadly, but willingly) make provision for any child who chose not to grow up, or chose not to become more conscious, or chose to go-it-alone.

Friday, 8 December 2017

What would convince modern people? (What could give us the courage we so badly need?)

What convinces people, in the modern world?

The modern world is full of contradictory and confusing communications; on the other hand there is a denial of the reality and relevance of metaphysical assumptions concerning the nature of reality - so this confusion (being based on conflicting assumptions) is intractable.

Lacking clarity, modern people are - in practice - convinced by propaganda and power; that is by emotional manipulation and by fear.

This makes cowards of us all - because we lack confidence in anything; lacking confidence we lack courage.

To be courageous we need to be convinced - and if we lack courage we will lack all virtue, because we will be slaves of expediency...

What, then, would or could convince modern people they are wrong - in a world where propaganda and power are controlled by an evil Establishment?

Explanation does not work; because explanation depends on the already-existing framework of assumptions, which are incoherent.

Evidence does not work; for the same reason - what counts as 'evidence' is dependent on the incoherent explanatory framework...

The only answer I can think of is that people can only be convinced when they discover reality for themselves; in such a way that this discovery is personally compelling.

To do this, people will need to do what it takes. Each individual must discover reality for himself; in whatever way he personally find so convincing as to serve as the basis for courage.

Otherwise he will remain what he is: a coward, a dupe of propaganda, a slave of fear.

All Leftists are ultimately anti-Christian, by their Positivist assumptions

Leftism is built-upon Positivist assumptions;

therefore to be a Leftist is to be Positivist;

therefore to be Leftist is to be anti-religious;

therefore Leftists are anti-Christian - in their basic assumptions concerning the very nature of reality.

Read the whole thing at the Owen Barfield Blog...

William Blake by William Wildblood

A moulded mask of Blake's head, made during his life

Over at the Albion Awakening blog; William Wildblood provides the latest evaluation in our on-going discussion of the prophet, artist and poet (and Albionist!) William Blake.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Traditional/ Orthodox Church-led Christianity is now impossible - and people are (literally) fooling-themselves to think otherwise

When I became a Christian; I following CS Lewis's advice and went to the nearest branch of the tradition into-which I had been baptised. This rapidly unravelled as I realised that the Church of England was split and at-war, and my local branch was firmly on the wrong side.

After a while of trying to find a (not dying and spiritually-helpful) place in the Anglican communion and Roman Catholic Church - and failing to escape endemic debate and fighting; I tried to avoid this whole arena of dispute by trying to become Eastern Orthodox, which I understood to be based on Tradition. I just wanted to believe and do what the church said - and leave myself out of it...

However, I found exactly the same bitter division and dispute going right through Orthodoxy, wherever I looked. I was driven to use personal discernment again and again...

And gradually I realised that we moderns cannot be orthodox or traditional - for us to live in mere obedience to The Church is impossible - because there is no The Church (without first discerning what that is...), there are only layers upon layers of dispute and disagreement. In All churches and without exception.

We simply cannot escape the requirement to use our own personal discernment again and again...

Then I thought - if this is indeed the situation everywhere and for everybody, there must be a reason. God must have made things this way (he would not leave us bereft). And the reason seems to be that this is our task and duty - we are bred as individuals, and we must be Christians as individuals whether we like it or not.

Orthodoxy and Tradition and self-effacing obedience are only possible when they are taken for granted. Here and Now they are Not taken for granted - and therefore we need to live as Christians by our own discernment, taking responsibility for our own salvation and theosis.

We have-to do this, and we are doing it - all of us. 

And we therefore need to be honest and clear about the fact - and do it well and openly, rather than covertly and in a state of self-denial.

Orthodoxy/ Tradition/ Obedience are not just impossible - they are not even optimal. They have not been possible or optimal since about 1800 - but man has failed to grasp the necessity to remain Christian, and really-real Christian; while becoming a new kind of Christian.

This is Not liberalisation, because it is not an excuse to ditch Christianity and replace it with Radical/ Leftist politics and the Sexual Revolution as life priorities.

We must be Christianly-motivated - honestly so; and we must take personal responsibility for the individual discernment that (anyway) we cannot avoid making: so we should make it a focus, make it explicit, make discernment clear to ourselves: that discernment is the basis of any and all possible Christain lives, here-and-now.

There is no other honest alternative.

Note added: To clarify, I am Not saying that the churches are obsolete or should be discarded or that real Christians should leave their churches... I Am saying that real church-Christians actually-are using their personal discernment to evaluate their churches, and to decide what to do, what not to do, which side to take, who is to be trusted, who is a demonic infiltrator and so forth. In other words, real Christians cannot (here-and-now) simply obey The Church, cannot 'passively' be ruled-by The Church, cannot opt-out of using personal discernment again-and-again - in sum, they cannot accord The Church ultimate authority over their personal salvation and theosis. And the same applies (from a Protestant perspective) to The Bible -- personal discernment must and will be used in choosing a translation (or in learning the original language - in discerning the meaing and context of words and phrases), in understanding and interpreting The Bible in terms of history (whose history?); in deciding which scholarship is necessary, which to believe and which to ignore. So I am first making a negative point - and the positive point which follows is that we can and should have faith that our powers of discernment are adequate to this task (because our God of love and power would not leave any single one of his children bereft of true-guidance, and if guidance is not to be trusted in the social or institutional environmment (as is the case), then we can be sure that true-guidance *will* be found by each man who seeks it).

What is reality, and how should we engage with it?

Well first, what is Not reality?

Reality (we would agree) has nothing to do with what appears in the public domain: in the mass media, in official communications from politicians, government, educational, police, military, legal, health service, religious or any other of the major social institutions that dominate the arena.

We know that all such systems of communication are not just unreliable but fundamentally corrupted - in most cases their net (overall) intent and outcome is an inversion of their officially-proclaimed focus and motivation.

I repeat: we know this.

So where is reality?

One semi-plausible but overall-mistaken idea is that while the overall public arena is contaminated and corrupted - within-it may be found groupings of people that provide honest and properly-motivated communications.

This may be true in a specific instance - but the question is how do we, personally, know which groups can be trusted here-and-now?

(Especially considering that the corruption of truth, beauty and virtue is on-going: more-and-more groups and individuals succumb every month... So groups cannot be trusted on the basis of past reputation - not even on the basis of centuries of past reputation... after all, the ancient universities are the focus and origin of much of the worst dishonesty and inversion to be found in modernity.)

The only safe conclusion is that no groups are to be trusted except when we, personally - here-and-now, have evaluated them as trustworthy. We cannot rely on any other authority.

So where is reality?... Wrong question. The proper question is what is reality?

Reality is not any actual communication - so (assuming reality exists) it must be in a realm untouched by communication, not dependent on communication - a realm that we can know directly - each for himself.

So we acknowledge a reality that is universally and directly accessible... But at this point we need to make an assumption concerning whether this reality is something we can merely observe; or whether it is something we can affect. Do we appreciate reality - without changing it; or do we participate in reality?

My assumption is that we can participate in reality - but clearly this participation is not automatic nor is it unconstrained. There are requirements set on participation in reality - not least that our participation is compatible-with existing reality in terms of form and direction.

Thus we return to the matter of understanding what kind-of-thing reality is?

In brief: I assume that we can only know that reality we conceptualise, and conceptualising means thinking - we cannot know anything of un-thought reality, because to know is to think.

Therefore assuming God wants us to know reality, things must be set-up such that we can know reality by thinking...

This (I believe) entails that reality is itself a kind of thinking; else we could not know it.

Reality therefore seems to be God's thinking, and God's thinking is knowable creation.

At this point comes another crux: if we ourselves are to participate-in reality, we must affect the universal divine thinking - which (I believe) implies that we ourselves need to be divine.

In other words, if reality is God's thinking, and we can participate in God's thinking, we must be of the same kind as God... at least to the extent of the times and situations we are actually knowing reality and participating in divine thinking.

(We do not have to be fully divine, nor divine all the time, nor forever - but while actually knowing and participating we need to have attained divinity.)

We have come a very long way from the commonly-held idea that the way to now reality is by attending to communications; and that the way in change reality is to promote of alternative ideas in the public arena...

The situation seems to be that the real-action occurs not in group-orientated communication; but instead in the thinking of individuals.

Not much else could be so profoundly at-odds-with modern Life - with modern metaphysics and modern practice (practice being a large-scale and group-ish world of propaganda, hype, spin and rhetoric).

The conclusion seems to be paradoxical or else nonsensical, according to prior assumptions; reality is in thinking not acting, in direct-knowing not communication, on engaging the individual and not the mass, and is restricted by the mode and nature of thinking - and not by power, status or fame.

We tend, by sheer habit as well as conviction, to look-for reality in large scale communication, rather than in solo - albeit not solitary - thinking. We assume that the public arena is where serious things happen - yet serious Good may be restricted to the private realm of thinking.

The public realm of communications may indeed cause serious harm - by dishonesty and evil motivations, by misrepresentation and misdirection; but serious Good may, here and now and for you and me, be a matter of our personal thinking in the universal realm of reality.

Jesus preaching - by William Arkle

This is an picture by William Arkle. It can be found in the section Early Experiments with Colour at 

Positivism (which rules modernity) is death-by-definition

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of Positivism is a philosophical system recognising only that which can be scientifically verified or which is capable of logical or mathematical proof, and therefore rejecting metaphysics and theism.

To be more exact - Positivism is itself a metaphysical assumption - and that assumption is as above. This despite that Positivism explicitly denies the meaningfulness and/or validity of metaphysics. In sum, that denial of metaphysics and its 'replacement' by science/ logic/ mathematics, is itself precisely a metaphysical (not scientific, not logical, not mathematical) assumption. 

On this clear and deadly contradiction is built modernity. 

Positivism is modernity - in essence; it is what underpins and drives the modern way of thinking as it developed from ? the 1600s and which came to dominate by the late 1800s; and Positivism is solidly in place and totalitarian in all 'Western' developed societies.

The dangers of Positivism have been explicitly known since the Romantic era - for example in the works of William Blake and ST Coleridge.They knew, they predicted, exactly where it would lead, exactly the nature of the modern malaise. (Where they, and everyone else, fell short was in imagining the size, pervasiveness, addictiveness and influence of the mass media.)

Why is Positivism so dangerous? Because Positivism is anti-God, it is sin; it is indeed death... Literally - Positivism implies a necessarily dead world.

It is literally death because Positivism is a denial (and indeed ridicule) of the idea of reality as alive, conscious and purposive - thus Positivism is also the assumption that everything is dead; in the sense that there is asserted to be no real or significant difference between what is generally regarded as alive and what is 'known' to be dead.

Fro instance; Cosmology, Physics, Mathematics are abstract and they concern dead (that is un-alive/ non-conscious) phenomena. However, under Positivism; Biology, Psychology, Consciousness all ultimately reduce to Physics: therefore Biology, Psychology and Consciousness are concerned with dead phenomena. 

So, what we conventionally regard as Life is actually (by assumption) an arrangement of dead things, and Consciousness is an illusion (just yet another arrangement of dead things). This is standard, mainstream public discourse - and is Positivist.  

Positivism is death and Abstraction is death - when abstraction is assumed to be 'true' rather than a model of truth.

Yet our spontaneous (built-in) assumption is of universal life and consciousness. In our childhood origins, and in the belief of the earliest known civilisations, the assumption is that everything-is-alive - we inhabit an animated, conscious reality. 

However, these assumptions are not articulated, nor analysed, nor defended - they are simply taken for granted: life is based-on them.

So - over history (and through our personal development) we went from dwelling in an animated-conscious universe to regarding ourselves as dead things inhabiting a dead/ meaningless/ purposeless reality. Our task is to return to animism but with full consciousness. 

In sum: God's work of creation is a work of animation - it is a bringing to life and consciousness of the stuff of reality.  

We used to experience this, but not know it; we currently deny and do-not-experience it...

Our task is to re-learn the reality of God's creation, to explain how and why reality is animate and conscious; to attain the level of consciousness in-which the consciousness, life, personification of reality becomes apparent.

(To use Owen Barfield's terminology - our task is to understand, choose and experience Final Participation.)

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The consciousness Catch-22

Explained, and transcended, at the Owen Barfield Blog...

Four million page views passed today for this blog

Over seven-and-a-half years of daily blogging, and about 5000 posts, this is not spectacular! (Do the sums.) Evidence of staying-power, perhaps...

The Compleat Lecturer - 4: Talk-and-chalk (In Oxford Magazine)

The Compleat Lecturer: 4: Talk-and-chalk, visual aids, handouts and internet support
Bruce Charlton
Oxford Magazine  2017; 390: 15
(Eighth Week, Michaelmas Term)

‘Talk-and-chalk’ is a slang term for the traditional, and I would say best, method of lecturing – although nowadays a whiteboard and dry-wipe marker pen is used rather than a blackboard and chalk. Talk-and-chalk means that the lecture content is delivered by some combination of the spoken word, and material written or drawn on the board in real time for the audience to copy.

The blackboard and chalk were very messy, and the chalk dust was unpleasant for the lecturer. However, for reasons I cannot altogether explain, I believe that the blackboard was overall a more effective teaching method than the whiteboard; and that classes enjoyed blackboard teaching more than whiteboard. One hunch is that writing and illustrating with chalks imposed on the lecturer a slow and stylised way of working, which exerted a kind of hypnotic fascination on the audience...

Anyway, it seems that blackboards have by now been removed from almost all universities and colleges – so ‘chalk’ is probably no longer an option.

With talk-and-chalk, the only cognitive transition the lecture audience needs to make, is between taking notes ‘aurally’ from dictation, alternating with copying words and pictures - and for most students this alternation is not a problem. Those parts of the lecture written on the board tend to be key facts and concepts – such as references, summaries, definitions, tables and diagrams. The spoken parts amplify and illustrate these key facts and concepts.

For example: the lecturer defines key terms at dictation speed and written on the board; then verbally explains a concept while students listen; then summarises the explanation on the board, while students copy. He may then invite questions.

‘Visual aids’ comprise media such as projected slides, audio-visual material such as videos or short movies, overhead projectors, ‘demonstrations’ at the front of the lecture theatre, and so on. While these may sometimes be necessary, and at other times provide a useful change and stimulus, I would argue that in general they are all significantly sub-optimal.

Although they break-up the lecture, and provide entertainment; the problem is partly that visual aids encourage passive observation, and discourage the creative process of making of lecture notes – since they typically contain too much information and/ or information of a kind which cannot be captured in lecture notes. But another problem is that visual aids generate the need for a ‘cognitive gear change’ between very different media – in the sense that learning from a photograph, detailed slide, or movie is of a different form than speaking, writing and drawing.

For example, if the audience has been watching a five minute video; when the video finishes and the attention needs to be reactivated for Talk and Chalk teaching, then there is a kind of mental waking-up, a ‘lurch’, that results from the need for a sudden effort after passive relaxation.

This gear change is not necessarily fatal to the cohesion of a lecture, but it is a difficulty which takes some time and discipline to overcome – and it leads almost inevitably to a psychological fragmentation of the lecture.

Therefore, I believe that lecturers should in general stick-to talk-and-chalk, and resist the temptation to add visual aids – except when absolutely necessary.

Such uniformity of the lecture medium does, however, imply a need to give the audience short breaks to refresh attention - to converse, stand and stretch limbs, and fidget. A fifty minute lecture requires at least one such break of a couple of minutes - just enough time for the lecturer to wipe the whiteboards.

The importance of making each lecture into a real time, here and now, unique and un-repeatable, active learning event; is what explains why hand-outs and internet ‘support’ are so often a problem, with negative effects on learning. The core problem is that anything which diminishes the importance of being-there, paying-attention, understanding and recording the information; will certainly diminish the learning.

Typically, education needs both sticks and carrots - that is; punishments and rewards to enforce attendance, alertness and cognitive effort. Otherwise, over the ups-and-downs (and temptations) of a long course of lectures; class attendance, and therefore the chance for active-learning, invariably fall-off to some extent (due to the weakness of will of a minority of students). But attendance and attention may collapse alarmingly and to low levels, even when lectures are of high quality, when lectures are not explicitly (and also implicitly) regarded by the authorities as being central and necessary to the teaching.

The idea may be promulgated that lectures are intended to be miss-able without disadvantage by provision of all ‘necessary’ material without need for attendance (or attention while attending) - for example by handouts, internet material, or making audio and/ or video recordings of lectures. This is something that administrators may emphasise as an amenity, or in order to ‘reassure’ students that they will not be ‘penalised’ for absences (unavoidable, or otherwise). Such an attitude, increasingly common - due to technological advances – is, however, lethal to the educational benefits of real lecturing.

In practice there needs to be occasional exceptions to the requirement for lecture attendance to obtain optimal educational benefit. But exceptions must be exceptional; arrangements and adjustments should be one-off, specific and tailored, not routine nor prescribed; and exceptions cannot without educational harm, be addressed in ways that compromise the integrity of the principle of attendance.

It ought clearly to be articulated and respected by the highest relevant university authorities that the mass of students will need actually to be present and participating in lectures to get the fullest benefit.

To put the matter curtly: if a student is not disadvantaged by failure actually to attend and be attentive during a lecture course; then there must be something seriously wrong with those lectures!


The 4-part Compleat Lecturer series is now compleat:
1. The first mass medium
2. The special effectiveness of lecturing
3. Lecture theatre size and design
4. Talk-and-chalk

Christmas is coming - so its time for this...

Mike Oldfield's In Dulci Jubilo from the memorable and happy Christmas of 1975.

Dig-out that old recorder or guitar, and play along...

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Who was 20th century England's 'John the Baptist'?

John Fitzgerald reveals his answer over at Albion Awakening...

More on the reality of being in a minority of one as the modern condition

There was a time, as a youth and young man, when I supposed that my interests would be, or would become, general interests - but the opposite has been the case. That which I now regard as best and most significant for myself, and for the world, is that which is known by a minuscule number of people (and - in proportion to the population) immeasurably small as a percentage.

My most significant intellectual influences over the past several years have been William Arkle, who is about as obscure as it is possible to be; Owen Barfield, who has reasonable name-recognition and some good secondary literature - but about-whom I have been able to obtain zero substantive personal discourse; and Rudolf Steiner...

My fascination with Steiner is extremely selective, to the point that (as far as I can judge) the entirety of the global Anthroposophical movement is fundamentally-wrong about him - so wrong as to have missed the main point completely and instead be doing much more harm than good!

(In a nutshell, Steiner's ouvre needed a massive degree of critical discrimination that it never got; and more obviously his official legacy has become wholly-absorbed-within the priorities and principles of mainstream Secular Leftism.)

There are about 15 million Mormons, but perhaps nobody else than myself who lives by an understanding of Mormon theology without being a church member - which is my path. And there appear to be just two people who are as deeply-engaged as myself by the deep-implications of Mormon theology - but for very different reasons than me; and I do not have any interaction with either of these two.

Then there is Tolkien. He is the main thing I have in common with large numbers of people - although I have to discount 'fandom' - which is merely a branch of mass media addiction; and I also have to discount nearly the entirety of academic interest in Tolkien - which is either mainstream Left-assimilated, or else interprets Tolkien within the frame of traditional Roman Catholicism...

But even with respect to Tolkien, my person fascination with the Notion Club Papers as a work of great implications has been met with solid indifference - almost nobody has read it, and even fewer more than once. And I have had no substantive discourse on the aspects of the NCPs that I regard as core and vital.

In sum, nobody-else in interested in Tolkien for the same reasons as I am! Or, if they are, then (for whatever reason) there has been no interaction on the subject.

My point here is that the fact of the situation is-that that which I regard as most important in Life, in The World, is de facto unshared.

And this, I believe, is not just typical, but intrinsic to the modern condition: My situation, in microcosm, is the situation of the world.

This situation is that with a part of us we crave to be deeply a part of a like-minded group; but in practice the choice is between being part-of-a-group at the price of corruption - of giving-up that which our hearts hold most significant; or else maintaining personal integrity at the cost of total isolation - of being in a minority-of-one about those things that really matter to our souls.

This just-is The Situation; and the spiritual-Christian philosophers best exemplified by Steiner, Barfield and Arkle, are those who have best explained this situation to me; and explained why it is in fact a necessary transition, and a necessary place-to-be, here-and-now.

...Including why being in a world-minority of one is neither a lonely, nor an ineffectual, place-to-be; since it is only via exactly this situation and its conscious recognition, that we can get true metaphysical-clarity of life, and about everything.