Monthly Archives: September 2014

1 Corinthians 13 (IV)


reLOVEutionAfter my explorations in the realms of magic, (false) scepticism and the defence of the middle ages it might be time to go back to writing about the Christian faith, and so I continue my meditations on 1 Corinthian 13. In this post I continue with the second part of the chapter, in its entirety. We could pause at every single line too (and you can do that on your own if you want), but I’m just going to let this part speak:

Let’s read this, and try to understand what Paul means here:

Love is patient,
love is kind,
it is not envious.
Love does not brag,
it is not puffed up.
It is not rude,
it is not self-serving,
it is not easily angered
or resentful.
It is not glad about injustice,
but rejoices in the truth.
It bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.

Take time to read every line slowly and to let it sink in…

But what does it mean? We don’t see this kind of love in our lives. Sure, it means that we must strive to love this way (helped by the Holy Spirit), even if this kind of love will not be perfect in our lifetime. It is meant to grow into perfection, since the only way to be in ‘heaven’ in eternity is to actually be able to ‘love our neigbor as ourselves and God with all of our mind, soul and strength’.

So there’s more to it than a description of ‘ideal love’ that only exist in some kind of Platonic ‘world of ideas’ of which we only see a dim shadow here and now.  There is also more than our human love in the most ideal circumstance.

Darin Hufford in his book the misunderstood God says that those are the characteristics of God, since 1 John says that God is love. This view might be challenging to some, but it is not too big a stretch to make: Why would the Love of God be less than what the apostle writes here about love? It would be utter nonsense to assume that God, who is said to be Love, would ask us to love more than He does himself.

So the love God has must go beyond the ‘love your enemies, bless those who hate you’ of the sermon on the mount.

So let’s read the verses again, and now focus on these characteristics being the characteristics of Gods love for us. For me, you and everybody… What does this mean? What are the consequences?

Radical, isn’t it?

PS: Please don’t start discussions here about Gods love and Gods judgement as if those were 2 different things. If God loves His Creation and His Children, God will probably need to get very angry when the things He loves get destroyed… And things need to be set right. Sin is a very destructive power that needs to be dealt with… But all judgement is rooted in love. If anyone does harm to your children and creation you would get quite angry too..

No, the ‘Islamic State’ isn’t medieval.. (it’s even worse: it’s modern!)


Someone on facebook linkkromzwaarded to an article from the Guardian about the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (formerly known as ISIS, and still called that in the article), the Islam-based terror organisation that reigns over parts of Iraq and Syria and has committed atrocities against humanity. If found it very interesting in making some connections that are easily missed, giving some historical background on modern Jihadism and deconstructing some of lazy assumptions that are often parroted in the media.

The Islamic State is one of the things dominating the news nowadays, even though they seemed to come ‘out of nothing’. They are a threat to our modern way of thinking and living, and tend to be quite absolutist  in their enforcement of what they consider an ‘Islamic state’ to be, in such a way that those who are not considered part of their particular type of Islam do better run away as fast as they can when the IS comes near…
And that category does not just include Christians (the Orthodox Churches of Mesopotamia are (were) among the oldest Christian communities on the planet), Yezidi and ‘heretic’ Shiites and more mystically inclined Islamic followers of Sufism but also anyone who doesn’t agree with them, even if they are as much of a Sunni Muslim as they are.

Some people like to call the things the IS does not only barbaric but also ‘medieval’. Which totally ignores that the worst things that are generally seen as ‘medieval’ are actually from the renaissance (like the European religion wars, the extreme witch hunts, …) But since most of us do are not very historically-minded and believe the englightenment-myths that the medievals believed in a flat Earth (almost everything believed in the Ptolemaic round-earth geocentric model) or that medievals had no place for reason. (Anyone who has read the scholastics will know that a lot of medieval thinkers were closer to excess rationalism than to shunning reason.)

But there actually is not much that can be called medieval (in an Arabic or European sense) about the IS. They are much more (post)modern with a lot of modern Western influence, and the IS  actually could never do what they do without the modern mass media for example. Without the internet and our  sharing of videos they couldn’t have had the effect on the rest of the world that they do now. For anyone who knows even a little bit about history it’s very clear that the IS is not really going back in time to reclaim something very old, (they wish though)  but something new and unique that can only exist in this day and age…

We also should watch out about being too categoric the link between IS and Islam. Yes, IS claims to be Islamic, but so do a lot of the people killed by them. Saying that the IS or any violent group is ‘the real Islam’ and that Islam is nonsense and dismisses all those Muslims who do not agree with IS at all as bad Muslims. (It only affirms the validity of IS anyway…)
On the other hand, saying that IS has nothing at all to do with Islam is also nonsense. They do claim to represent Islam and at least base themselves on a faulty image of Islam. even if they would be excluded as heretics by all other muslims, then it’s still nonsense to say they have ‘nothing to do with Islam’.
The Jehovah witnesses might not be considered as inside of Christianity, but to say that they have nothing to do with Christianity is just nonsense…

But there is another source for the IS, and modern Jihadism as a whole, that we might not like to see. Note the second word in the name ‘Islamic State’. The idea of the absolutist modern nation-state is as central to the IS as Islam is.  The earlier mentioned  article from the Guardian that inspired this post has the very interesting title “Isis jihadis aren’t medieval – they are shaped by modern western philosophy” and as sub-title “We should look to revolutionary France if we want to understand the source of Islamic State’s ideology and violence.”

For those with a short memory, the French revolution is not that long ago, and brought us the guillotine for those who disagreed, and brought on the modern absolute state which differed enormous from the way politics were done before that time.  Those were violent and barbaric times, in the name of progress, science, the enlightenment, and all that yadda-yadda… (Yes, the guillotine was seen as progress too, a new and modern way to execute people with superior technology…. Beheading might be barbaric, but it’s in no way incompatible with modernity!)

It needs to be said very clearly: contemporary jihadism is not a return to the past. It is a modern, anti-traditional ideology with a very significant debt to western political history and culture.

When he made his speech in July at Mosul’s Great Mosque declaring the creation of an Islamic state with himself as its caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi quoted at length from the Indian/Pakistani thinker Abul A’la Maududi, the founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami party in 1941 and originator of the contemporary term Islamic state.

Maududi’s Islamic state is profoundly shaped by western ideas and concepts. He takes a belief shared between Islam and other religious traditions, namely that God alone is the ultimate judge of a person, and transforms this – reframing God’s possession of judgment into possession of, and ultimately monopoly of, “sovereignty”. Maududi also draws upon understandings of the natural world governed by laws that are expressions of the power of God – ideas at the heart of the 17th-century scientific revolution. He combines these in a vision of the sovereignty of God, then goes on to define this sovereignty in political terms, affirming that “God alone is the sovereign” (The Islamic Way of Life). The state and the divine thus fuse together, so that as God becomes political, and politics becomes sacred.

Such sovereignty is completely absent in medieval culture, with its fragmented world and multiple sources of power. Its origins lie instead in the Westphalian system of states and the modern scientific revolution.

The absolute power of the state (here mixed-up with the sovereignity of God) is indeed completely foreign to the medievals, who had different spheres of authority that were often competing. The middle ages in Europe did have a constant battle for power against the Pope and the kings and emperors, because they both wanted power, and every lower feudal lord did have their own sovereignty in their little part of the world. Nothing like the absolute modern state or the even scarier theocratic version of IS was conceivable to them.

Which is the reason that the French revolution tried to erase all religion, because it could not tolerate another source of authority apart from the State like the Pope. Or even God.. The proclamation that ‘Jesus is Lord’ if understood properly is problematic in the modern absolutism, but since most people spiritualise that it’s not such an issue right now. The communist regimes of the 20th centuries did the same thing and tried to ban all religions, sometimes with a lot of violence.

When we mix this modern absolutism of the State with an Islamic theocracy, we get something like the IS:

In revolutionary France, it is the state that creates its citizens and nothing should be allowed to stand between the citizen and the state. That is why today French government agencies are still prevented by law from collecting data about ethnicity, considered a potential intermediary community between state and citizen.

This universal citizen, separated from community, nation or history, lies at the heart of Maududi’s vision of “citizenship in Islam”. Just as the revolutionary French state created its citizens, with the citizen unthinkable outside the state, so too the Islamic state creates its citizens. This is at the basis of Maududi’s otherwise unintelligible argument that one can only be a Muslim in an Islamic state.

Don’t look to the Qur’an to understand this – look to the French revolution and ultimately to the secularisation of an idea that finds its origins in European Christianity: extra ecclesiam nulla salus (outside the church there is no salvation), an idea that became transformed with the birth of modern European states into extra stato nulla persona (outside the state there is no legal personhood). This idea still demonstrates extraordinary power today: it is the source of what it means to be a refugee.

It’s probably because we don’t understand the middle ages very much (how can we, every Hollywood movie about that time is filled with contemporary modern though projected back upon the past) that we associate this stuff with the middle ages. But it’s much closer to us, closer than we like.

Also note that the use of violence by the IS is not medieval, but very modern, postmodern even, since it is used as a means of worldwide propaganda through the postmodern means of the internet.

I will close here with the conclusion of the Guardian article, which is very important. The IS wants to be seen as a continuation of older forms of Islam, but we should not validate those claims. Their ‘caliphate’ (as well as that of Boko Haram in Africa) is no return to the caliphate of the earlier days of Islam, it’s something completely new that they try to validate by using that name.

Central to Isis’s programme is its claim to Muslim heritage – witness al-Baghdadi’s dress. Part of countering this requires understanding the contemporary sources of its ideology and its violence. In no way can it be understood as a return to the origins of Islam. This is a core thesis of its supporters, one that should not be given any credence at all.

 

Charles Fort as the ultimate free thinker…


charles Fort“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

I’ve written before about ‘anomalist’ Charles Fort as a required reading for thinking people. He was a ground-breaking writer about the paranomal, who also had a very interesting philosophy of how the world works. I don’t agree at all with either, but he’s still very interesting to read. What also can be said about him is that his work does not align with any tradition (let alone the dominant paradigm of his time and culture).  So if such a thing as a free thinker exists, Charles Fort is one of the best examples I have ever encountered.

Some people right now do seem to have a very weird idea of what a ‘free thinker’ is. Basically for them its just someone who agrees with everything they believe and aligns with a very strict line of rigid enlightenment thought that denies all the supernatural and treats ‘science’ in the same way as some religious fundamentalists treat their holy book. (Which is completely the wrong way anyway and a modern phenomenon…)
But let’s not even get into this kind of freethinkerism. Anything who puts a lot of rules rules up to define what ‘free thought’ and what is not is lost in Orwellian Newspeak at best… A lot of things can be said about ‘new atheism’, but calling them and their very strict tradition ‘free thinkers’ is just a tragic illusion…

A free thinker (if the term has any meaning at all) is an original thinker that is not at all invested in affirming any existing line of thought. A real free thinker is not bound by any tradition, and will most probably come up with ideas that shock everyone. He or she will say things that no-one wants to hear, and he or she will not be listened to by most people.

A real free thinker is often a lone heretic.

In some times and cultures people like that get executed, because they can be considered dangerous and become persecuted, since they do question every basic assumption. They show that there is no reason to take the dominant paradigm for granted, whatever it is that the majority believes. Which is always risky…

So, there is a role for free thinkers that makes them incredible important. They are heretics like I said. They are the ones that plant seeds to break with the traditions that have hardened and might be completely beyond criticism sometimes. Even if we can’t follow them, they still should help us to see that our certainties are very relative. And they are ironically the only possible starting point of new movements, new traditions. They bring on renewal and reformation, and are agents of change…

Does this mean that ‘free thinkers’ will be right all the time? Not at all. A lot of them will be completely wrong, while a lot of the people inside of certain traditions will often be much closer to being right. Some of them will just be full of wacko nonsense even. Some others do have the gift of seeing what’s wrong but not really a clue about a more valid alternative. But even those freethinkers should not be ignored. Questions should be allowed, answers should be questioned.

To use Forts terminology, the ‘damned’ should be acknowledged and their existence affirmed.

There is an interesting paradox here though: a real free thinker will remain alone. A follower of a free thinker is just a follower of someone elses though, and will never be a free thinker. From the moment people start following him you get a second generation of thinkers that build a tradition around him, and the real freethinkerism is lost already. People will build a system around the ‘free thinker’, which will end up having walls, and some kind of orthodoxy that decides who does and dos not follow the original guy. And in this stage even schism can come up, and other interpretations, and so on… You can even get a reversal, in which the original consensus becomes ‘damned’ and excluded, and what once was an alternative proposed by a freethinker is now the rigid orthodoxy, which in most cases means that there’s progress in certain ways, but in other ways things have been lost too in the new dogma…

The stage of a free thinker can only last for one generation, for one single individual even. A group of agreeing freethinkers is an oxymoron (or at least a statistical improbability as they should come separately to the same conclusions) and a tradition of freethinkerism is even more a contradictio in terminis… Or like I said, delusional Orwellian newspeak…

The view that by definition free thinkers are right while the ‘bad’ traditions are wrong is very naive and not very realistic. (Are there really people who believe that you can say ‘follow your own reason’ to everybody and then have everybody come to the same conclusions as they do themselves? Are people so delusional?) It is as nonsensical as the opposite idea that the traditions are right and the freethinkers are always wrong. Every tradition has good and bad points, and the free thinkers often (in the positive cases) are the ones who see the bad points, the blind spots, or the unintended consequences of a line of thought that end up somewhere horrible…

Let’s take Charles Fort for example. His thoughts are completely out of the box sometimes. He does not seem to follow any dogma of his culture (including the ridid rules of freethinkerism) and sometimes comes to conclusions that make one genuinely scratch his head… But their originality alone shows us how much our way of thinking is pigeonholed into very rigid paths.

That’s why we need free thinkers

(And why we need to read people from other times, other cultures, and expose ourselves to as much diverse views as possible! The dominant paradigm is always way too narrow to give us a balanced outlook on reality…)

Our nonmagical modern world as the biggest magical trick ever…


This nextgargamel post fits well into my infamous occultmergent series. It will actually just delve deeper into a weird paradoxical thought that I posted some months ago on my fiction blog Oranderra (which is mainly in Dutch, here are the English posts). It is just some weird out-of-the-box theorizing for fun, and very un- and antimodern probably. Which fits very well in my year of demodernisation too. Don’t take all of this too literally as ‘this is exactly what happened’ though, it’s just one of my wild thoughts that might be complete nonsense…

The original paragraph that I wrote went like this:

If we assume that the world is more ‘magical’ than we see, and that a very strongly projected will does really have some power that some could call ‘magical’, could the projected will for centuries of a whole society to live in a non-magical world that’s only materialistic/naturalistic, (magically) create a world in which the more magical side is gravely suppressed?

If this is so then the non-magical modern world is the result of an unconscious magical effect…

So what on Earth do I mean here?

Let’s first just come out (with no surprise here to any regular reader) as a believer in what could very unrefinedly be called ‘magic’. I mean with this doing things that go beyond our current understanding of science and technique.
On the other hand, this does not at all mean that all fictional magic can exist though, just as a lot of fictional technology does and cannot exist either…
I don’t claim to know that much about it, but having power over the world around us through ‘paraphysical’ means is something that exists. Most of us Westerners don’t do this kind of stuff or believe in it, and those who do generally don’t walk around with a T-shirt that proclaims ‘I can practice magick’ (that’s not a spelling error btw, but that way of spelling the word comes from Aleister Crowley, and some people ‘into it’ still use it for a specific type of magic). I’m not too sure either it’s that healthy to mess with sometimes too.

Btw, belief in magic exists in a lot of cultures and tradition,  and it exists in the bible too (even if we distinguish it from miracles), as well as in our our history and still exists in certain circles, like those people from whom I borrowed to use the spelling ‘magick’. (Yes, I do know people on Facebook for example who claim to practice it for example) But it is a part of the world most of us are not very in touch with.

Let’s go back to my original statement. The reason we live in such a nonmagical world as moderns itself is the result of a very strong magical effect… I know this is a strange line of thought, so maybe I should explain it a bit more.

The idea of a strongly projected will having power does exist in many forms in many traditions (new thought, ‘the secret’, name it and claim it prosperity gospel, chaos magick sigils…) I’ve written about that in another post for those interested.

If you believe enough in something, you can make it happen… If you project your will strongly sometimes what you want to happen has more chance to happen. And like I said in my already mentioned post, the line between magic and prayer can be thinner than we like sometimes. And the line between psychology and magical effect is very blurry too when it comes to the effect of positive thinking.

Let’s add one little note here that can be easily overlooked though, which is that even if magick works it’s still not all-powerful nor infallible, and will often only the chance of something happening. And to have great effect you need to put in a lot of power. Magic(k) if it exists does not mean ‘anything is possible’, but it is still part of the paraphysical part of our ‘natural’ world, and it has to follow a lot of ‘natural laws’, whether we know them or not. If magic is real it will actually be as limited as technology, only with other possibilities and limits…

Collective groupthought already has a strong power, even without creating thoughtforms like egregores. So if we go back to our example, the effect of the projected will (even unconscious) of a whole continent for a long time can be expected to be quite strong. We enlightened Westerners tell ourselves we live in a non-magical world. There is no magic. We don’t see magic.

There is only what we want to see…

I believe this  does have effect. It might form a strong barrier between us and the paraphysical realm (and to God too even in a way), which can be a protection but it’s also impoverishing our outlook on our world.
(I’ve heard people from elsewhere who were afraid of the magical world in very specific, and I don’t believe all of it was superstition. Even though the problem with the invisible world is that it’s very hard to make out what’s real, what’s exaggerated and what’s superstition. Both the ‘witches’ and the Christians that are against them in certain parts of Nigeria are quite scary to me for example)

But even without that layer of overt magic the effect is there anyway: Even the collective self-hypnosis without external effects would be quite strong… So even just staying inside the domain of psychology it would still be very powerful. We want to live in a reduced materialist world, we will just see a reduced materialist world around us.

Also, confirmation bias is very strong here… Scientific-minded people will not even consider data that does not fit within their worldview. People will just ignore things that do not fit with their worldview, and only stick with what fits into their world. Any worldview works as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Every worldview is protected constantly by the people whose world depends on it…

So, what do you people think? Am I babbling nonsense or onto something?

peace

Bram