Some thoughts on Charles Forts ‘book of the damned’


“So, by the damned, I mean the excluded.
But by the excluded I mean that which will some day be the excluding.
Or everything that is, won’t be.
And everything that isn’t, will be
But, of course, will be that which won’t be” – Charles Fort

charles FortOne of more weird things that I found worth re-reading in the light of my year of demodernisation (and that probably also fits with my occultmergent series) is Charles Forts ‘book of the damned’ (PDF here, copyright is expired), a classic pioneering work in the field of the paranormal and so-called ‘anomalistics’. His work on this field is so important that the word ‘Fortean’ is sometimes used to refer to weird paranormal stuff..
The ‘book of the damned’ is his first and most known book. It’s a mind-stretching book that -although somewhat outdated from time to time and quite hard to read from time to time- I would recommend to anyone who wants to broaden his mind.

I must add that the most recommended parts are the introducing chapters. I can’t even remember if i read everything at all of the  rest even. He seems so obsessed with strange things falling out of the sky (frogs, fishes, black rain, organic matter, …) that it gets hard to follow why anyone would be that interesting in such things, even with the weird theorising in between that is quite amusing… I’ll let you find out for yourself what the super-sargasso-sea is…

Some of my readers will ask ‘Why on the third planet would anyone benefit from reading an old weird book about the paranormal?’ My first answer would be that it does always benefit one to read things that stretch your paradigm, from the myths of other cultures to outlandish philosophers, and the first part of this book surely reads as some of the more outlandish philosophers I’ve seen, and sometimes he’s equally hard to understand. Even though it’s never completely clear if Fort does believe everything he’s theorising himself, his philosophical framework is rather radical but very intelligent although not always that easy to get into, a weird form of monist thought.
Fort is equally interesting as much philosophers that made the ‘canon’, but I do see why he isn’t regarded as such. He’s not the kind of heretic that”s liked by the academic lovers of  their pet heresies. He is just too consciously anti-academic for that… But this is exactly why he is so interesting as a philosopher. Sometimes one has to look outside of the box to see what’s special about the things inside, and how we shouldn’t take anything inside for granted.  Fort, although writing in the modern time,  is very helpful in this regard. Although maybe a bit gaga sometimes…

But why I enjoy reading him is also for his weird writing style, his self-decaprivating humor and his weird and original lines of thought sometimes. Fort is a very good example of a real ‘free thinker’: not bound by any tradition, going against the grain of the zeitgeist and all orthodoxies of his time (he rails a lot against positivism for example)  And like all real free thinkers who use their own reading and make their won road by walking around with a machete instead of  taking a bus for tourists he might be wrong very often, but that doesn’t mean that his very original ways of thinking are not interesting… (Another really free thinker is the Christian anarchist Ammon Hennacy, whose autobiography can be read here, I recommend it too!)

What’s also very interesting in the thought of Fort, if we go to the content of his book, is the concept of ‘the damned’ that is so central to the book that it’s  used in the title. Those ‘damned’ are, like the opening makes clear quote, the excluded things that don’t fit in, in his book mainly the data that do not fit in the dominant scientific paradigm that are for that reason ignored and have no place at all. The ‘damned’ are the things that have no place in a worldview, that are unthought, that cannot exist even if they do and are therefore ignored. If they are encountered they get filed away because they cannot be processed. This is a very important concept that we don’t often think about.

I can not here for example that some things that Christians traditionally believe and practice have been reduced to ‘damned’ by the  current Zeitgeist, and even by some Christians. A lot of what is common in charismatic circles when it comes to the supernatural for example is ‘damned’ for example not just by modern scientific thought but also by a lot of more liberal Christians,  (and some cessationist for other reasons, but cessationism can very easily be halfway to liberalism or deism even). Everything supernatural is ‘damned’ for a lot of modern people, even so that those who do experienced are sometimes more or less gaslighted: My tradition says that science says that your experience is unvalid and that you might just be not only wrong but crazy if you don’t recant your ‘damned’ worldview… (My experience is that a lot of ‘emergent’ Christians that I met online react the same way on the supernatural. I guess that’s why I was the first to ever use the word ‘occultmergent’.)
A crucified messiah is an example of the ‘damned’ from the first century that was excluded but later on became excluding (not always in the best way. A resurrected Christ is the same now again for a lot of people.

Even the ‘box’ outside of which Fort moved was once damned: The then new science of experiment and observation (against which Fort rails a lot in his book, sometimes with reason and sometimes like a madman fighting mills that he things are giants) was excluded once and is now excluding.

Things that were excluding in the past are damned now.

There are much more examples of ‘the damned’ that we probably don’t see because we don’t have a frame of reference to notice them. Blinds spots in how we look at the world because we never have learned to see certain things and name them. Some of those things might be very important though…

(And as Christians we must ask the Spirit to open our eyes to the blind spots that come with being part of a certain culture and time. It is the task of prophets sometimes to put some of the damned in the light and give them their place back…)

peace

Bram

1 Corinthians 13 (II)


In this post we resume my meditations on 1 Corinthians 13 (see pt I here), Paul’s famous ‘love chapter’, and we do so by going to the next verse:

And if I have prophecy,
and know all mysteries
and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith
so that I can remove mountains,
but do not have love,
I am nothing.

We started out with a rather radical verse, and now we continue in the same vein, maybe even more radical. What Paul says here is that even with all prophecy, mysteries, knowledge and faith we are still nothing if we don’t have love. The love mentioned here is still the NT idea of loving God above all and fellow humans as ourselves, which includes our enemies. The full characteristics ofreLOVEution this love will be summed up in the second part of the chapter so we’ll arrive at that later. Paul is very clear hear. In the first verse he used metaphor and said that all languages of the world and beyond without love are just a noisy cymbal, but here he is very clear.

If I have no love I am nothing.

Let that sink in again.

If you have no love, you are nothing…

The things Paul sums up are what a lot of people are searching for. Prophecies are divine revelations, mysteries are hidden things we cannot know until we are initiated. Knowledge is something we all still search for. All our modern science and technology comes out of that search for knowledge.

All these things will not benefit us in the end if we don’t have love…

Interestingly Paul does add one more thing here: faith. His wording hereis a direct allusion to Jesus, who said that if you have faith like a mustard seed you can move a mountain with it. But without this love for God and fellow humans all faith is just psychology and magic. Faith is relational, and comes down to trust, and trust goes together with love here. We are to have faith in God, to trust God.

(The more I let this sink in the more I wonder about certain things I’ve seen in certain corners of the charismatic world. But I am not the one to judge)

I do not at all think Paul means that those things are unimportant, but he is quite clear that, for a Christian, love is important in such a way that we can have all the rest and still be nothing without it. Love is not just the law, it is both the way and the goal, though it will never be complete on this side of the New Heaven and Earth.

Without it we’re indeed nothing.

(Note also here that stuff like money and power are NOT even mentioned here. I do think Paul mentions things that do have worth for Christians here, and omits things we should not give too much attention to )

Peace

Bram

Some thoughts on thoughtform-creation


“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” (Albus Dumbledore in the last Harry Potter book)

(TW: warning for some weird occult stuff that can be pretty dark. )

Long ago, in what can be seen as a previous incarnation of my current  occultmergent-series, I had a post that should have kicked off a serieus called ‘reclaiming supernaturalism’, that in the end only lasted a few posts. But that first post was an interesting one, that got responses from some people in the ‘emerging church’ dialogue even. The question I explored in that first post  was something like ‘where do spiritual beings like angels and demons come from in an evolutionary creation’, a question I will go back to more comprehensively in a future post, but part of the answer might be an idea that I then didn’t even know about and which I will explore in this post: the creation of thoughtforms.

What are thoughtforms
It’s not that easy to provide a good defintion of thoughtforms, also because some sources do have their definition built upon rather specific views of the universe, which is often the case with new-age and occult stuff. The explanations can be sometimes contradictory, and the jargon can be quite diverse and sometimes just unreadable or weird (see here,  here, here, here, & here for example. If you feel the urge to read those links, don’t get too weirded out and don’t follow instructions for creating them please!) I will try to give a simple understanding of the idea that isn’t tied to a very specific tradition and that could work in my own worldview…

Most basically a thoughtform is a being that ‘emanates’ from strongly projected human thoughts. Or in other word, a being created (consciously or unsciously) by human very strong human will. (hmm…) If you’re still reading now we will look together at what this could mean…

Thoughtforms can be created by one person on purpose (like a tulpa or a servitor) or sometimes accidentally, or come up from a collective thought (an egregore). They can still need the person or group that created them and only exist for them, or in some cases get a life on their own and even become ‘gods’ (note the small letter ‘g’ here, we’ll speak about that later) according to some occultists.
(Let’s not here once more  that the terms can be quite diverse in their use, and they sometimes do get mixed-up in different writings… It’s not an exact science with standard definitions and SI-units…) But the basic idea is that the thouhtform is more or less a spiritual being that’s created by humans, and not a conjured demon or other spirit. Thouhtforms created for a purpose are sometimes destroyed after they did what they were made for btw.

But let’s start with the beginning to see what exactly what I mean…

tulpa
The first example of thouhtforms is the so-called ‘tulpa’, a word that comes from  Tibetan Buddhism and according to wikipedia stands for a “magic formation generated by a powerful concentration of thought, or a materialized thought that has taken physical form. It is created through meditation and a process of intense concentration and visualisation. The story of Alexandra David-Neel who saw the monks doing this and did her own experiments and created a tulpa that was hard to get rid of later is an example.

But not only buddhist monks are in the business of creating tulpas. The website www.tulpa.info , which describes tulpas as just a ‘psychological phenomenon‘ can teach you hou to create your own tulpa, and defines them like this:

A tulpa is a consciousness that is very much like your own, in that has its own opinions, preferences, personality and so on. It can communicate with you, can have its own form, and can understand you like no one else could. It can give you second opinions on things and come up with original ideas of its own. A tulpa lives inside your brain, very much like you do.
(here is a longer description)

Now, what is interesting here is that tulpas, while they are described as a ‘psychological phenomenon’, don’t always seem to stay just in the imagined world of one person, but sometimes seem to interact with other people too. Using this technique to make an ‘imaginary friend’ might end up with a being that seems neither and is hard to get rid of, as Alexandra David-Neel experienced if we believe her story.

Smurfette was created by Garamel to punish the smurfs, but the original recipe is too misogynist to publish here...

Smurfette was created by Garamel to punish the smurfs, but the original recipe is too misogynist to publish here…

servitors
The word servitor launches us back into the occult jargon, and more specific in the shady realm of chaos magic. A servitor is more or less a created spirit-being that is created to aid the magician in a certain way. What shocked me is how easy it is with the internet to find a lot of ‘how to’ manuals to create such things. (To which I will not link now, I linked enough weird stuff already) A servitor is created, and sometimes destroyed when it fulfilled its purpose, but it sometimes can break free from its creator and get a life on its own. (hmm, reminds me of another story, of God creating humans beings…)

A note can be made here on the creation of thoughtforms on purpose. Usually a very strongly projected will and visualisation are used as we have seen already, in combination with an altered state of consciousness or trance, as the meditation of the Tibetan monks provides. In Chaos magic this is called a state of ‘gnosis’, and the used rituals have not much more purpose than getting into this state.
(Unconsciously made thoughtforms are probably made in a trauma or other very extreme experiences, and will not just come up under normal circumstances)

Lower progenitors of thoughtforms
If we use the classification of chaos magic, we can go up from here to egregores (thoughtforms emanating from a group that we’ll talk about next) but also go lower. A servitor is supposed to have some kind of personality or at least agency, but there are lower forms of ‘projected thought’ that do not create such things at all, like sigils (I don’t advise you to go experimenting with those) and actually just strong habits. The (re)programming of habits in NLP (sometimes used in the advertisement industry) could be seen as a very rudimentary progenitor of thoughtform-creation then, or at least a primitive form of chaos magic.  In the same way can a meme (yes, a concept invented by Richard Dawkins himself) seen as simple non-occult rudimentary form of an egregore.

Egregores
An egregore (sometimes spelled egregor or egrigor) is, according to wikipedia, “ an occult concept representing a “thoughtform” or “collective group mind”, an autonomous psychic entity made up of, and influencing, the thoughts of a group of people. The symbiotic relationship between an egregore and its group has been compared to the more recent, non-occult concepts of the corporation (as a legal entity) and the meme.”  It’s not that wikipedia is generally the best source for information on the occult, but I do think this is a good definition.

The simplest form is just the group mind, collective thoughts of a group, corporation of church, or the strange ‘atmosphere’ some groups can have. So we can use the word more generally in a way that does not have to imply that a ‘psychic  entity’ is formed, but the word is also used for the psychic entity that can behave like a thoughtform going wild and doing its own will, and modern magicians have their own views on egregores, and how to use them for their own purposes.

Godforms
If we go further in the line of thought followed by chaos magic, we get a being that’s powerful enough to function as a god with small letter g. A god is thus seen as a a very powerful thoughform created by a tribe for example, and all rituals and worship do indeed make it stronger. It does not seem so unrealistic for example to see the tribal gods of the OT Canaanite people as such. (This also might explain why in some fiction deities (or Japanese kami) need followers and worship to be powerful.)

Now that we’ve gone through all of this you should be able to read this weird story about the time-stretching servitor Fotamecus (I recommend reading it as fiction, although it certainly wasn’t meant to be written as such. ) and see how the hierarchy of thoughtform-like beings from sigil to servitor to egregore and finally godform functions in the thought of chaos magic. And even though this seems not the darkest example of modern magick, I still don’t recommend experimenting with it, kiddo’s…

So, that was my exploration of the thougghtform, which stayed neatly in the theoretical realm. Note that all of this has just been a exploration of how those things are seen in certain occult traditions and how it COULD work, not a ‘. It seems very plausible to me that such things can exist in some form, but do I believe that thoughtforms are the sole explanation for all spiritual creatures, including the one we call the Christian God? Not at all, when it comes to the Creator the roles are switched, and we and all of creation could be seen as thoughtforms created and sustained by Gods thoughts… I also don’t see this explanation as an explanation of anything spiritual, even if it could explain a lot of things from certain ‘ghosts’ and ‘imaginary friends’ up to some cases of encouters with aliens(?) and certain ‘gods’. We humans are not the creators of everything that’s out there. Spiritual beings could be an emanation of other energy sources in nature for example, or independent creatures from God (no matter if the bioloical part of the universe did evolve or not), or even something completely different…

So, what do you people think?
Pure nonsense or is there something to is?

peace

Bram

1 Corinthians 13 (I)


I don’t know where my year of demodernisation is going, apart from trying to stay away from too much Dawkinsian naturalist fundamentalism and not ingesting too much American stuff at the same time. At the moment it might seem that I’m mainly exploring the occult, and sometimes going back to discussions about sex(ism) and stuff like that. I will try to go to completely different domains too though.

I thought it might be good, being a Christian blogger of sorts after all, to spend some time on the bible parts (and other texts probably) I’m trying to meditate on, and write rather short posts -or longer ones like this one- about them. So I will start in this post with a series on one of my favorite chapters of the bible, one of the most famous parts of Christian scripture: the famous ‘love chapter’ from the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 13;1
1 Corinthians 13 is maybe one of the most romanticised parts of the Christian bible, but it seems to me that both the importance and the depth of what Paul is telling us here are often understated. The consequences of this chapter are beyond what you’d think when you just read it superficially. That’s why I’m going to break this into small parts of one or more verses, to let every detail sink in.

We begin with the beginning:
If I speak in the tongues of men
and of angels,
but I do not have love,
I am a noisy gong
or a clanging cymbal.

Rosetta_Stone I do know a few languages. My native language is Dutch, and my second language is English (especially written English even). I do know a bit of French as a Belgian, can understand a little bit of Latin, and if I’d work on it I’d be able to read some old Greek again. And then there are languages in which I know only a few words. (My Japanese is better than my Russian, but still almost non-existing…)

There are a lot of human languages that are spoken today, and even more if we count the extinct ones in which texts still survive. One can spend a lifetime learning to still master only a fraction of them. And then there are the languages of angels, of which we do know nothing, and will never know anything, they use our languages to communicate with us, but I do know some Pentecostals believe some people who speak in tongues might have a ‘prayer language’ that’s not human but angelic.

It actually does not matter. We could know all languages of all language-using beings in the universe, but if we don’t have anything to say, it doesn’t matter.
It will all be worth nothing more than senseless noise. I do feel a bit offended as a drummer here that Paul uses cymbals and gongs here to signify something like ‘useless noise’, but it’s true that banging on a cymbal is always a lot of noise, and unless that noise does fit in some context, like a composition, or a ritual, or a lesson or practice for learning to do these things, we shouldn’t do it.

Someone once said to not break the silence unless you can improve it!

And what is the only way to improve the metaphorical silence? What is the only way to make those languages more than mindless noise?

Love

Yes, let that sink in, Love!

Anyone who knows the NT should not be surprised. Love is what it all is about according to Jesus. To love God with all that we are, and to love our neigbor as ourselves is the whole law. And it is the purpose of the law. It’s the Kingdom of God breaking in into this present age when we live in this love.

And nothing else makes much sense.

This goes deeper than I can realise and I’m only scratching the surface here,  so I think I have to meditate some more on this one verse before I go to sleep

Peace to you all

Bram

On the magic of willpower and exercising strong faith


The_Thinker_closeAs you can guess from the title in this post we go back to a controversy no-one is asking for and resume my (theoretical) explorations of the occult (unofficially called the occultmergent series) and its intersection with Christianity.  More specifically we’ll look at a very important principle in both magical/new-age traditions and the Christian faith, namely willpower and strong faith.

We can start safely in the realm of the psychological: Willpower and belief generally have a very strong influence on yourself. Or even on people around you, since it can be infectious. People are very sensitive to suggestion, and it is often true that if you believe you can do something, the chance of it happening is a lot bigger than if you believe for 100% that you won’t be able to do it. That’s quite basic, but the effects can be quite strong. Auto-suggestion can be very effective, and placebo can even heal people sometimes while they’re not been given any medication.

The same thing works with the outside world, starting with the beings around us: If we behave towards people expecting something, there is a bigger chance of getting what we want often. If we approach a dog as if it’s going to bite us, chances are big it will bite us. If we approach it friendly chances are much bigger it will be friendly…

Let’s note here already that those things never work in an absolute way. The only thing they can do is increase the chance that something will happen, even if it is just with a few percent…

Let’s go a bit further now. So far we’ve stayed just in the natural realm; but a lot of people go further than this, and will say that the same effect works not just with ourselves, people or animals, but also with the universe and the natural world. This exists in more forms, but let’s start here with the ‘law of attraction’, which in this current time is probably best known as the basic idea behind the  selfhelp-bestseller The secret,  although the term and idea are a lot older and originating in the new though movement. Wikipedia sums it up in the following terms:

The law of attraction is the name given to the belief that “like attracts like” and that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts, one can bring about positive or negative results.

This is the same as older books named with titles as Think and grow rich preached and is said to be something that has been practised by people who became billionaires through it.  The whole idea is that you focus your thoughts and will on something you want, and really believe that you will get it, and then, eh, you get it. Usually there’s a few steps that are given, like these three from the secret:

The creative process as portrayed in the extended version of the movie The Secret involves three steps to attracting all your desires.

1. Ask – You must know what you want. I mean, really know what you want. The universe can’t deliver without first knowing what it is that you want to have manifested into your life.
2. Believe – You need to truly believe that what you are asking for will become yours. Doubts need to be pushed away. The idea that failure is a possibility will mess up the delivery.
3. Receive – It is important that you become an active player in reaching your goals. When opportunity comes your way you must not hesitate. Grab the brass ring when it appears

Put this way, I would call this nothing but a very primitive form of magic. Trying to manipulate the world around us through techniques that work in the invisible realm.  I actually do not believe that it can be seen as ‘summoning magic’ (‘the universe’ cannot be summoned as if it was a genie in a bottle and made our slave) and I am strongly inclined to think that whatever is happening here, it is only misguidedly framed here as a petitioning prayer with the Universe in the role of a Divine coke machine that gives you everything if you just ask it the right way. But I do not really doubt that it can work sometimes. (I have heard from people that it works. Focussing willpower and faith can have effect beyond the psychological effects and outside of ourselves.)

Note also that, I only say here that it might work, not that I agree with all the explanations behind it. The universe is not a Divine coke machine and God does not give whatever we ask either no matter what some ‘name it and claim it’ prosperity preachers tell us.  And regardless of what some believers say, this does at all not work all the time.  We need at least 2 ‘amendments’, which are actually things that I spoke of earlier when we were still in the realm of the psychological: Firstly it is not working absolutely, but increasing chances, and secondly, some people are better with it than others. ‘Magic’ is as much of a talent that some persons have and others don’t as playing music or painting, and like other talents it needs to be refined, even by those who use it unconsciously… So for some people it will work better and for some it will not work at all…

blessingIf we go back our topic, for by now at least Christians in my readership will have recognised this in a way very similar a much simpler version of it believed by certain charismatic/pentecostal Christians:  Derek Prince’s ‘blessing and curse’ idea is actually very close to this for example, except for the absence of blah-blah about the Universe and a Christian way of framing the whole thing. But the principle is identical:  If you speak positive things blessings will happen, but if you speak negative things curses are cast, that can have negative impact on your life, and that one might never get rid of unless they are broken in the name of Jesus. You can find a whole lot of things that might cause curses in your life according to Derek Prince here, ranging from illicit sex and anti-Semitism (yes, really!) to saying negative things to your daughter.

Or, let’s say the father has a daughter, 15. Like some young ladies of fifteen she has acne. And the father has to drive her to school every day and every day she’s up there in the bedroom putting things on her pimples. And so she’s late. And so the father gets exasperated and one day he says, “You’ll never get rid of those pimples, you’ll have pimples for the rest of your life.” Fifteen years later she’s a married woman with children of her own and she is still struggling with her acne. Why? Because of a curse.

While I would place this specific example probably just in the realm of the purely psychological with psychosomatic effects, I do not at al want to say that there is not something real behind this idea. But again, it is exaggerated into the extreme and a lot taken too much as an absolute all-pervasive reality by some. I’ve met Christians who lived in fear of negative words and got cramped by everything that they or other uttered that might be a ‘curse’… Which is a very unhealthy outlook on life, based on a half-truth, and another adventure in completely missing the point… (And the opposite of anything that could be called ‘freedom in Christ’)

There is a lot we can say about having strong faith. Surely Christians believe that having faith is important for a lot of reasons, and Jesus says that we can let a mountain drop itself in the sea if we have faith as big as a mustard seed (which is mostly probable to be taken as just a figure of speech, there are not much examples of mountain-moving faithful in history, with the spectacular exception of the Egyptian Saint Samaan…) But Christians should have faith in Christ, faith in God, faith in the Holy Spirit. Not just enough faith in the impossible so that it happens. That’s not Christian faith, that’s a form of magic.

Actually this power of strong belief does not have anything to do with God or Christianity, it is also acknowledged in a lot of other traditions, as for example in a very interesting and unsettling way in the postmodern magical tradition of Chaos magic, where it is seen as a very strong and potent power to get things done (regardless of the content of that belief, it is just a tool here). Mindreality dot com describes it like this:

Chaos magic works with metabelief. It is the belief that belief itself is only a tool for achieving effects and not an end in itself. It means that you can belief anything you want, but it is the belief alone that has power. It is the idea that belief is nothing more than a state of mind, and as such, can be manipulated by the will. Magic is the act of causing change in accordance with will, whether it be lower will or higher will. It is the will that moves the energy of reality.Belief is a psychological state that can be deliberately self-manipulated, although it has the power to shape our own reality, and sometimes other people’s reality as well. It is the means not the end, the vehicle not the destination. Any object that you use and any belief that you choose is just a means for magic to work its effect. Hence it is  the most powerful form of magic in the universe because it involves and transcends all other forms of magic. Chaos is the creative principle behind all magic.  (color markings from the original source)

I would say that this ‘belief as a tool to cause change’ is exactly what’s happening in all the other stuff we’ve been speaking about, both in the psychological realm and beyond (except for prayers answered by an act of the Creator breaking in into Creation, which is a miracle.). It might as well be just a ‘law of nature’ that isn’t recognised as such, but I do have the idea that it can be abused in sinister ways. (Even when we stay in the psychological realm btw.)

I do have to note one thing here, that isn’t such a problem if we take the route that I make here, but that is often a big problem when people take this kind of thinking to the absolute. I’ve actually encountered this in both Christians and new-agers equally. The problem is that the idea that you absolutely can ‘make it happen’ through enough faith or positive thinking or whatever, is that it can very easily lead to victim-blaming and the kind of mentality that makes the friends of Job look like very understanding compassionate guys! If something bad happens to you, you did something wrong.  You didn’t that enough faith. You’ve attracted bad thoughts, whatever the way it’s explained, it is your fault. And the ones without problems get very cold and take a distance, since the victim is to blame for their own problems.
This is why I repeat now again that none of this is absolute, and that if this kind of magic does work, all it does is increase the chance that something happens. It’s always possible that something else happens no matter how much faith and willpower and whatever you have, for a whole range of reasons that has nothing to do with you at all. You are not by any measure the most powerful being in the universe… Not God nor the universe can be put in your pocket as a tool to accomplish whatever you want without fail. The opposite is true, Christians are not promised that God will give us everything we want and take away all our problems, but that God will be with us, even if we find ourselves in the valley of death. Jesus became one of us to suffer with us and finally die on a cross… It is only in self-giving, not in grabbing power and success, that Christians believe that Jesus could defeat sin, death and evil in the resurrection.

And I probably should add that the Christian God is not at all an impersonal force that we can tap into to accomplish whatever we want, but a sovereign Being with His own will, and the Creator of all we see and not see.  It does not matter how much faith we have, sometimes the answer will be ‘NO’ if we ask something. We cannot use the Creator to get everything we want, and we cannot ascribe whatever we get through this king of ‘name it and claim it’ techniques to the Creator either…

(The most dark side of this kind of thinking is that taken to the extreme everyone in misery has brought it upon themselves, like the people in third world countries, wars, accidents, natural disasters and whatever. Here this line of thinking becomes just straight evil, and completely unchristian… Remember also the tower of Siloam)

And as a last note I should say(like I said before), I do fear that in certain hypercharismatic environments it might happen that people do bypass God, and work certain ‘supernatural’ effect on their own, just through human magic as I’ve described it here. I’m saying human magic here as I’ve described it here, not demonic influence as most of those people would see magic, but still it’s not Gods work, just human work. Elvis has left the building… Which is why the more unhealthy hypercharismatic corner of Christianity can be swimming in a sea of supernatural stuff without barely anything of Jesus left… If we have to have faith as a Christian, it is to be faith in God, faith in Christ, faith in the Holy Spirit. Not just faith in having enough faith to get something. That would just be a Christian version of ‘the secret’, or even chaos magic…

What do you think?

Peace

Bram

On basic human dignity and ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’…


Note: I never completely understood the use of ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ in the context of homosexuality, and I am not speaking about that interpretation at all here. I would probably be better if that application and its connotations just didn’t exist, for it does not seem to bring much good. I just use the saying here for the plain meaning, apart from its (ab)use in certain discussions…

“Love the sinner and hate the sin.” -St Augustine in Opera Omnia, Vol II. Col. 962, letter 211

man and woman
Let’s start with the Basic human dignity in the title: as a Christian I do believe that every human has an intrinsic worth, just for being a human being. (Just as everything in Creation has to some degree a worth in just being what it is, that surpasses all our ways of measuring value in monetary units) we are all humans: men, women, children, old people, handicapped people, people we disagree with, people who say and do wrong things, people in countries we don’t like, very rich people and very poor people… And we all have more value than money could ever buy. This is because you and me and every other specimen of Homo sapiens is made in Gods image, the Imago Dei as theologians call it in Latin!

God created humans in his image and said “and God saw that what He had made was very good.” But we all know that this isn’t the state the world is in now, long after the first chapters of genesis (and probably long before the last chapters of revelations) But even if the Imago dei has been damaged, it is not destroyed, and we do all still bear the Image of God in us. Every human being, even the worst ones included, have enormous worth, just because they are human. We do not have conditional humanity, even the worst sinner is still to be respected as a human being, even if all his rights or his life are to be taken away by our worldly juridical system. Like the Orthodox fathers say, sin does never destroy our human nature even as sinful fallen being… It can seriously damage it though… No-one is beyond salvation on this side of eternity, so no Christian should treat any human like that…

Surely we all know the paradise story, and that the icon of God has been damaged… ‘Human depravity’ is a term used (and abused) by theologians to indicate that humans are fallen beings, often inclined to do wrong, which will hurt ourselves, our relationships with others, with the rest of Creation and with God Himself. We miss the mark, we do injustice to others and ourselves. This is so with all of us I am afraid. This is what sin is!

I should remark here that this doesn’t exclude that there’s not as well a basic goodness still left within every human being too, even though it might be damaged. All things created by God possess some goodness, as the creation story teaches us. People who come with extreme versions of ‘total depravity’ and argue that even babies are evil wretched sinners with no good intentions at all are just creepy and should not be put within a 1 km radius of any baby. My experience with my own kids shows that this view on babies is just faeces from a big male bovine mammal as the English-speaking like to say it when their grandmother is not around… But our human goodness can be distorted, along with Gods image in us, sometimes at the brink of total destruction.

So we indeed are all sinners and under the influence of sin as it pervades our world and our human systems, as the Christian faith tells us. But sin is not just some abstract condition we’re in that offends an easily offended Supreme being because of some weird theoretical problems with it. It seems to me that our theories so often make sin too abstract, too big and too otherworldly to do anything against in the real world, only accept the sacrifice of Jesus to erase the punishment. Such an approach actually does not do much justice to sin at all. If we can’t help but sin, and having one wrong thought is as evil as killing a whole continent full of people, cute kittens and endangered pandas, what does it matter anyway? It is so over the top that the word sin loses any actual real-world meaning.
Such views do also seem to forget that Jesus did not just come to destroy our punishment, but to do away with sin itself, and with our slavery to evil and death, and to defeat the devil and stuff like that.

Moreover sin is not just something abstract that is evil because it breaks some rules that were written thousands of years ago… It is very real, tangible, and something that does destroy our life and those of others! Bad habits, things that make it hard to have a life in connection with God and our neighbor, things that make it hard to live with ourselves, things that destroy creation itself, and so on. All of those things are sin. They are bad for very clear reasons. Sin always is destructive in some way…

And yes, we should look at our own sin first, but a lot of sin does not just affect one person. We have systems of systemic sin oppressing the poor, destroying creation, and so on. We have people persisting in habits that do not only destroy their own lives, but those of their family and loved ones too. So if I have a friend who’s an alcoholic, who is destroying himself and his family, and our friendship, and more things with that problem, is it then not just appropriate to just hate that sin? How could I love my friend without hating the thing that destroys him? Some people might say that alcoholism is not a sin but a disease, but there are many more aspects to sin than ‘breaking this or this law’, and a lot of church fathers did describe sin as a disease permeating human lives, and it often works that way!

So we should hate sin whenever we encounter its destructive force at work in human lives. And no, hating sin understood properly is not at all a rejection of the person, it is the opposite. The person should never be rejected even if they are being destroyed by sin. We should always try to love and help the person. To live in a way that brings the Kingdom of God here and now, even in this broken world. We know that destruction still reigns here, and that only in an ‘eschatological horizon’ sin will be completely done away with, but we need to live as ambassadors of a world without sin, without hate, without the destruction of good things. Which means that we’ll hate the forces that do destroy, of which sin is a very important one…

We will encounter sin in both our own lives and the lives of others, and see its destroying qualities at work. If we love the person, and see the sin destroy his life or the lives of others, we cannot do otherwise than hate the sin…

Let me also say here that we do not need to denounce everything we think violates certain rules or whatever. Sin is not about breaking rules in the first place. Rules are there(if they are just) to make sure we don’t sin, because the sin is evil. Law is there to prevent evil and destruction (or social incoherence) and is only secondary here. Law is just an aftermath of sin trying to prevent it from attacking again. I am speaking here of situations in which we see sin that is effectively destroying people, about real sin that is objectively evil because it does harm people. Rules, laws and even bible interpretations are not always the most relevant arbiter here…

Note also that a lot of the more horrible sinners -killers, druglords, rapists, slave traders, women traffickers, dictators,…- are just those who manifestly do NOT believe in this basic human dignity and just act upon it accordingly. If you think that poor people, or people of another skin color, culture, language or religion, or the other sex (or those outside of 2 binary genders) are for some reason less human like you, you will most probably automatically treat them as less than human…

But this does not mean that even those people can change and repent and change their ways, and come to a path that leads to life for themselves and many others. Note that for example the apostle Paul was a recovered Christian-hunter who had approved of the killing of Stephen, the first Christian martyr according to the book of acts. He did terrible atrocities that should be hated (and yet forgiven) but afterwards he became a Christian like there haven’t been many in the history of Christianity.

And even if they don’t, we have to respect their humanity that’s created in Gods image, but never their sin. No-one is beyond salvation, no matter how big their sin! Every human being has basic human dignity.

There is no option for Christians to put any human being beyond salvation and write them off because they are ‘too sinful’. We are to love everyone created in Gods image. And the sin is never an intrinsic part of what makes us a human being, it is the damage done to it by our fallen world. And we should be willing to pray for even the most evil of our fellow humans to be saved from their sin, because if it destroys the humanity of others, it does destroy their humanity too!(I do not know if there is a ‘point of no return’ where a person is so destroyed by sin that the imago dei is lost beyond recovery, but we do not need to think like that! It’s up to God to judge in the end what can be salvaged and what not, now we should just love… Showing love to sinners might be the thing that brings them back anyway!)

We should love the sinners. They are human beings like us, equivalent to us. It is not right to think they would be under us in any way just as it is wrong to think we’re more than them in any way. And we should hate the sin, we should never affirm it, or bow for it, or think that the sin is the essence of the person.

If we let the sin between us define the other person as ‘less human’ than us and makes us view or treat them accordingly, sin has already won one more round. Just as much as it would have won if we’d have joined the sin itself…

What do you people think?

Peace

Do we Christians really live as followers of Jesus in the Spirit?


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How would the world look if all who call themselves ‘Christians’ and affirm that Jesus is Lord would take verses like the next ones foundational to their every-day life and to every decision?

How would the world have looked if people who claimed to be ‘Christian emperors’ or kings over ‘Christian countries’ filled with ‘Christian people’ would have meditated on verses like these every morning and did everything to let the Spirit transform them in such a way that this was the ‘normal’ for everyone?

Why, for those who dare to call ourselves Christians, is this so often not the ‘normal’, but do we derive our ‘normal’ from the fallen world around us because we need to be ‘realistic’? Don’t we believe that the Kingdom of God is a reality that will stay when this reality has faded?

Don’t we have to stick to what’s more real? Isn’t our world just a ghost compared to what is to come, and is the way of life laid out in these verses more real than our world now in a sense, even though its hard for us to see this and to align ourselves with the coming Kingdom.

 

Luke 6
27 “But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well, and from the person who takes away your coat, do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your possessions back from the person who takes them away. 31 Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you.

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, so that they may be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Are we even among ‘those who are listening’ that are addressed here?

It is said elsewhere that we will be known by our love as Christians. I must say I don’t always see that. I do see a lot of seminars in Christianity, about leadership and being a good Christian man and be victorious in Christ and whatever. Where are the seminars that help us find ways together to love our enemies, give to those who ask, resisting violence with love and not hate? Why don’t we do everything in our might to grow into what is described by Jesus here?

I know want to be sure as protestants that we are ‘not saved by our works’.  But isn’t the goal to be the sort of people that love God and our neigbor with everything that we are? The kind of people that would populate heaven (or the new Earth), the kind of people that are at home in a place were all evil is taken away?

Are we different as Christians? Are we known as Christians because we are ‘kind to ungrateful and evil people’? Are we known to be merciful because we believe that Our Father is merciful?

Galatians 5
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge your flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in a single commandment, namely, “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 However, if you continually bite and devour one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, being jealous of one another.

How many of the ‘works of the flesh’ are not present in modern Christianity, even apart from the hidden sexual sin and horrible abuse that’s going on.  Things like “hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions and envying” for example, can sometimes be on the foreground without anyone even noticing them. And they seem to have been since the early councils…

Note also that the freedom spoken about in Galatians 5:13 is the opposite of what our modern individualist sense of freedom (especially in the way some Americans are obsessed with it). We have the freedom not to indulge in our own longings but to serve the other in love!

Why are we as Christian so often even worse than the ‘sinner and tax collectors’ Jesus talks about? why don’t we assume it normal to go beyond this and really love our fellow humans, whether they are our friends of enemies, so people see Gods love through us?
Why are we as Christians so often distracted with stuff that go against the words of Jesus here, or are very clearly in Paul’s list of ‘works of the flesh’.

I can ask myself, but it would be very different if I as a Christian had always had examples of people living like this around me and finding it as normal as Jesus and Paul and the first church did… The world indeed would be very different if all Christians would find what is described in those 2 bible passages as normative and reality-shaping.

These verses  could be normative and reality-shaping for Christians.

These verses SHOULD be normative and reality-shaping for all of us Christians…

Can we please please please take this stuff more serious as Christians?  This broken world needs it.

Holy Spirit come!