Monotheism or monopolytheism?


Today we’ll talk about the funny word in the title. ‘Mono-polytDBH experienceheism’ is a word used by David Bentley Hart in his rather heavy philosophical tome ‘the experience of God’, a book that tries to explain what the word ‘God’ God means in the monotheistic traditions . The word mono-polytheosm describes the idea that God is a being more like the gods of polytheism, but still the only one in his species. That’s the way in which I will use it anyway.  (Hart also uses it more or less as a synonym for ‘theistic personalism’, but that’s a term and discussion that I feel no connection with at all and will leave for others. Philosophy, theoretical theology and a multitude of deep words can be very important one one hand to really say something meaningful about Reality, but on the other hand one can easily drift off to get lost in conceptual words too that have not much relevance, or even reality behind them in any way at all…)

To start I offer a quote from Hart for a definition of the term:

“a view of God not conspicuously different from the polytheistic picture of the gods as merely very powerful discrete entities who possess a variety of distinct attributes that lesser entities also possess, if in smaller measure; it differs from polytheism, as far as I can tell, solely in that it posits the existence of only one such being. It is a way of thinking that suggest that God, since he is only a particular instantiation of various concepts and properties, is logically dependent on some more comprehensive reality embracing both him and other beings.” (DBH, the experience of God, p 127-128):

To be honest, Hart might always require slow reading and re-reading. One of my FB friends recently assured me that she needs a dictionary too when reading him, and unlike me she has English as her first language and is quite intelligent.

Back to Mono/polytheism. The main question is what I am talking about when I as a Christian and Monotheist use the word ‘God’. In a classical monotheist definition as used in Abrahamic faiths, and according to Hart also in other tradition like certain forms of philosophical Hinduism, this is something completely different from what is meant with the ‘gods’ in a polytheist fashion. Really ‘God’ has no plural and can’t have one either. God is the Creator, the Source and Ground of Being. The One, both transcendent an immanent in all of the multiverse. If the creation story is true in any way, as well as the rest of the bible, God is Universal (quite probably multiversal even, I’d add). Surely while I believe that Christians have special revelation of God in the person of Christ, other people have concepts of Him too. Not only the Abrahamic names of Yahweh, Allah but also the Manitou or Great Spirit of the original Americans, or the Hinduist Brahman or Ọlọ́run in Yoruba are ways to describe this Multiversal Creator. Yes, some things will differ, some pictures will be better than others, but there is One God behind all of existence. And all our talk of this Ultimate Reality is just primitive babytalk anyway, even in the most refined theological schools.

Some philosophers or theologians, for example in Christian Orthodoxy,  go as far as saying that God does not ‘exist’ because His mode of being is completely different, as he is the Source of Being, and maybe even Existence and Being itself. But all of these words are just mere fingerscratches on the surface of something bigger than the sun…

The problem is that not all people define God in this way. In certain views, which are those I would see as ‘monopolytheism’ we do have a “God” that is not completely the source of all Being, and depending on other things, and subject to certain natural laws (or ‘higher magic’?) that maybe even preceded it and that it can’t go against. Which means that our “God” still has a Higher Reality to depend on and answer too somehow…

This certainly seems to be an existing picture of God that I sometimes encounter in several schools of theology, especially in certain schools of modernist ‘liberal’ theology, probably including process theology, but similar sentiments can be uttered by ‘conservative’ Christians too sometimes. It also seems related to -though probably incompatible with- a form of deism in which God made the laws of nature and afterwards isn’t able to break them even if He wanted. (The lengths some people go to combine abstract philosophic notions of God with cramped modernist assertions against miracles can be quite amusing…) demiurgeThe problem is that we end up with something that is more like a demiurge than the Creator. (And if there’s a demiurge, maybe there’s a Higher God in the background that’s more important…)

It’s also often the picture atheists paint of the “God” they reject. Well, no disagreement with them, since I reject it too, but that seems very hard to explain sometimes… It is this “God” too that is rejected in the simplistic ‘only atheists of one god more’ argument that sound not very logical if you really think about what God is and what Gods are.
(Sorry Brian McLaren,I once again go with David Bentley Hart here )

Let me also be clear here that I do not per se have to reject polytheism here, even if being a more than convinced monotheist. I actually happen to have no problem at all with the existence of the gods, but just want the clear that whatever they are, they are not God and not in the same league at all. If they exist they are powers of nature or higher beings inside the word, or maybe entities on (fallen) archangel-level, or in some cases even thoughtform-entities (Hey Fotamecus, did you beat old Chronos already?) or just anthropomorphic personifications of actually rather impersonal forces inside this world. (WATCH OUT WITH WHAT YOU SAY HERE, I KEEP MY EYES ON YOU!)

It might even be that in a soft polytheistic vein what is called ‘gods’ are only personifications of the One, the Divine, which is thus just a way to describe aspects of God. Certain schools of Hinduism and some African religions seem to think that way. If I understand Yoruba well the orishas might function in such a way for example.

Still I as a Christian believe that I have access to a much clearer view on and path to the Multiversal Creator, wich is found in Christ as the most fully revelation of God. Yes, the most scandalous claim of Christianity is not the trinity which mostly leads to more philosophical discussions, long words and misunderstanding of these words, but rather the Incarnation, the idea that in the person of a human Jesus the Creator stepped into His Creation and even shared in our suffering -well, got tortured to death eventually even-, and in partaking in death conquered death, sin and evil, But that’s another thing. Let’s note also that the Living Word (Logos) is something completely different from all our human formulations.

So like the title says, I don’t care for thing mono-polytheism (and even less for any form of monopoly-theism, in that matter). If God is not the Absolute, the One, the Creator it makes no sense being a monotheist at all. We end up with a conceptual demiurge at best, and a self-created illusion or even God-replacing egregore at worst… Conceptual idolatry is always a danger for those who want to define God instead of just letting God be God while acknowledging that no theology will hqdefaultever fully describe the One. (Except for the Living Word, Christ, but here we have the same problem that we need Christ to just be Christ, and not try to trap him in our formulations and description like a dried butterfly in a museum collection.)

So for anyone who wants to discuss God and theology with me, please accept that the classical monotheist definition of God as the Creator of the universe (from which everything originates, including the regularities that we call ‘laws of nature’), not some being inside the universe bound by the ‘laws of nature’ is crucial for me. You can deny the existence of this God, but arguing about the existence of merely a one-of-its-kind god in this world is not something I want to defend and something I’m completely not interested in at all.

What do you think?

Peace

Bram

Concerning the ancient controversy of the universals and the location of Love, Goodness and Justice within the Divine.


PlatoWhenever one takes lessons on the history of either Western philosophy or theology that includes the medieval period, they will encounter the ancient discussion about the universals. Long words with too much syllables that give a lot of possibility to be misunderstood were and are still employed in such debates, so it’s easy to lose sight of relevance in such matters… And yet something seems to tell me that hidden beneath a lot of dust, endless lingo and adventures in overcomplicating the point there is something very important. That’s why I have decided to dedicate a blog-post to some of the discussion and weigh in on some aspects of a very ancient discussion it in my unique Bram-way.

For the uninitiated who haven’t had basic philosophy: the question is whether the universals do exist somehow and what their relation to the particulars. Universals are universal characteristics here, particulars are the individual things that we encounter around us.  So the question could be asked: does the dogness (universal) of a certain dog (particular) have some separate existence or not. This whole way of thinking might seem quite silly, but with some more abstract universals as goodness and Truth it might become more interesting, as we’ll see later if you manage to finish this post.
I will try to only use as much lingo as is strictly needed, although I probably can’t help mixing up jargon from different worlds as I often end up doing..

To oversimplify I will give ahondn overview of the discussion I will go back to the example of dogness of a dog:
The most important players are Platonic Realism which would say that all dogs derive their dogness from the Platonic Idea Dog. For Plato that Idea would exist somewhere in the world of Ideas. All particular dogs are just like imperfect 3D-printouts of that Idea into the inferior matter of this world and nominalists who say that universals do not exist and are just words in our heads, and the dogness of the dog is just something we call it and actually corresponds to no reality beyond our words.
An in-between position of more moderate Aristotelian realism or conceptualism does also exist, which locates the universals in the particulars. (The dogness of the dog is present inside all dogs). Educate and/or confuse yourself here, here and here.

(Note that ‘Realism’ has an almost opposite meaning here than when used in a modern context. Scientific Realism as an epistemology is more like the opposite of Platonic Realism. Well long live language and its abilities….)

So where do I start? I suppose best just with my own view, which can be described as a postmodern mix of basically Aristotelian and Christian Platonist Realism: I’d propose that there are natural and abstract universals that are located in the things themselves or at least in this world in some way, but much more interesting, that there are also Higher Universals too that are located in the character of the Creator. And there I have to add a probably more (post)modern layer where all of these are most likely to be interpreted with our human minds and thus described into human language and brought into a thoughtfield, which is a more manmade ‘worlds of ideas’ that has not much connection with Plato’s world of ideas, even though it might exist in some mental astral plane . I don’t claim to have much knowledge about such matters though..

The ‘world of ideas’ as just a set of thoughtfields
Lets first start with that last one, where I probably differ from classical thought most and make up my own clumsy mishmash: There is a world of ideas in our individual and collective minds, (in thoughfields probably more or less a la Jung) which is like I said not at all a Higher World as Plato envisioned, but something on a mental plane that is derived from our human thoughts. Part of it just consists of constructions of human interpretations of the material world. It’s not even one world, but there are countless one, every culture and time and group has such a world, and it’s derived from our collective and individual minds.
Rosetta_StoneThis is also probably the closest that I get to Nominalism, but even then I don’t say anything is ‘just words’ with no existence. I do still think these things have an existence of sorts on some kind of mental plane.
These thoughtfields are always a needed intermediary between us and Reality: we look at Reality and interpret it and construct pictures of Reality in human languages in a mental world. I do not believe we have unmediated access to Reality, it is always interpreted.

But that’s probably not even half of what’s going on in there. We as humans are highly creative beings, that can create new stuff inside the thoughtfields. There are a lot of things that do originate in there: all of our cultural movements and purtekstballone ‘social constructs’ belong to this same world of thoughtfields, from useless abstract discussion about the nature of the universals, and all of theological systems to dubstep and unjust caste systems. (or even thoughtform entities, but that’s another story) And things don’t stay there. We actualise them and bring them into the material world. All things that we make or remake in natural reality are nothing but a translation of what we make first in the world of thought too btw.

Natural and abstract universals
This might have been a weird beginning, but now I’m going to get more classical  with the natural and the abstract world. for the ‘natural universals’ or properties of natural things like species of animals, plants or minerals for example I’d just follow the Aristotelean line that for example the horseness of the horse is found in all horses together. (My theoretical dog needed some rest so I summoned a theoretical horse for now…)
I can probably add something about the DNA of living beings or the chemical composition of minerals but that might go too far for now, and then I did remove the question of universals from philosophy to the natural sciences, which might be a valid thing here…

A side-note: this is where I would probably disagree with putting stuff like gender Venus of Willendorfcompletely in the ‘social construct’ category, which would be in the terms of my post like saying that it only exists or at least is derived from the thoughtfields. Gender is indeed to a certain degree a thoughtform-concept that varies per culture, but it’s still built a higher construct upon a reality that’s found within material nature, and translated and given form within every human culture. The starting point is the biological world, and not the thoughtfield; so I’d see all cultural expressions of gender not as pure social constructs, but as better or worse translations of the biological Reality of sex that is found in the particulars, or in other worlds in us individual humans.

When we go to the abstract universals (characteristics of logic, mathematics, equations, etc..) I suppose that they are just part of a less obvious ‘dimension’ of reality that is probably more transcendent in nature. I’d still say that they’re just part of Created nature anyway, and do not really reside inside of some Higher Platonic world of ideas (which I do not believe in btw, if that wasn’t clear yet). They just belong to a less tangible dimension of the natural reality we live in, and they will probably be discovered by most sentient species independently from each other, and then probably described in completely different terms and formats. But like earlier, they too cannot be reached directly with the human mind though (except for maybe some very simple ones, like basic geometric forms as a triangle) and will always have to be translated into languages that we humans understand with words and numbers and symbols and so on, and placed into our thoughtfields before we can access them.

Higher Universals: Love, Truth, Beauty, Justice…
Up till now we had something of a moderate postmodern Aristotelean realism (I guess) for what I’ve called the ‘natural universals’. But that’s still only half of the story, and we haven’t had the most important half yet. And here I will turn to a form of  Christian more or less neo-Platonist Realism:

My view on what I will call the Higher Universals (stuff like Love, Goodness, hqdefaultJustice, Truth and Beauty, and even Life and Being itself too) is that they are not primarily a part of this created world,  but that their source is ultimately found in the character/nature/attributes of the Creator Godself. (yes, I conflate some terms that are used very precisely for other things, and that often are used for different things in different traditions.  I just mean that these things are a part of the Being of God, not just of Creation. All more precise terms might have more detail than we humans can be certain about anyway…)
But again, in this form of ‘universals’ they are just Absolutes. And while I do believe that Absolutes do exist (bad bad postmodernist that I am), I do not believe we can ever reach them, by definition.
They cannot be accessed directly by humans because they are in a completely different Realm, and have to be translated to every context and language. Which might look very different depending on the particulars in which they are given form.

icon of the sermon on the mountStill if we look with the right mindset and open eyes we can see glimpses of them everywhere, and we as Christians need to live a life that contextualises and brings them into the concrete world, incarnates them even. Jesus as the Incarnation was the most perfect translation of the Higher Universals into a human being like us.

Realism and not Nominalism
That I end up on the side of Realism and not Nominalism might be more significant than we realise at first sight.  If you read the internet you will find certain people who denounce Nominalism for different and sometimes even opposing reasons, which I will not go into now. (You can read about Luther and Nominalism here -don’t skip the commments- for example, or about Ockham and Nominalism here. (Yes that’s the razor guy)
Foto0067So what is the problem with Nominalism here? From what I’ve read about Nominalism and from some discussions with people who know more than me it seems safe to say that Nominalism expects us to say that there are no real realities behind what I’ve called the Higher Universals. And this is where it gets dangerous: If we do not locate them inside if the Being of God, they have to be located elsewere. This will have them to be located in the will or decrees of God. And then we open up the door for people who say that anything (even ‘hate thy neighbour’) can be good whenever God decides it to be good (Ockham the razorguy seems to have  thought so, but I won’t go into that here now). And here we come into a ridiculous and dangerous domain where nothing makes sense that is to me completely unacceptable.

This is why I find it very important to note that Love, Goodness and the other of the Higher Universals are located in Gods Being somehow, not Gods will or something created. God IS Love (1 John). Love is a part of God, not a creation of God that could have been completely different and utterly unrecognisable in another world. People could be blue and even the value of pi might have been different if God wanted to create things differently, but Love and Justice have an Unshakeable Source, and will always be contextualisations of the same Attributes of the eternal Creator, even in the weirdest world possible.

God has created a world that was good in His eyes as a reflection of His character. Every inch of goodness within creation refers to the Creator. Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of Creation. This means that nothing good or true (or even beautiful) in our Reality is ever arbitrary. No law in the bible is arbitrary, but somehow they are contextual ans sometimes for us incomprehensible translations of the Higher Universal of Justice into a historical context that often comes across as strange and counter-intuitive to us moderns.

Since God as the Creator is universal, there is a Trace of Justice in every just law in every society except for probably the most wicked unjust corrupted ones. QxouqThere is a Trace of Goodness in every genuine act of goodness everywhere, no matter how imperfect. There is a Trace of Beauty in every expression of beauty made by humans that truly captures something, as well as a lot of very vapid Traces of Beauty in nature. There is a Trace Truth in every human idea that expresses something true.

All of these, no matter how many layers and worlds of interpretation, in their imperfect way, do point to God somehow. Even then we Christians have to go beyond those Traces, and incarnate the Way of Christ more directly in a lost world in deeds and in explicit words. We are to embody the Higher Universals as much as we can.  “Be perfect for I am perfect.” Says Jesus in the middle of the Sermon of the Mount. The whole point of the Sermon on the Mount is to align our character with the character of God.
Part of salvation is conforming to the likeness of God, and to partake in the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), not only for our own sake but also to manifest in our particular way the Higher Universals more and more in this fallen and troubled world that is in need of more Love, Truth, Beauty, and so on. We can only fully become ourselves if Christ lives in us and God shines through us.

Let’s close this post with a quote from E. Stanley Jones’ Christ of the Mount that summarises what I’m trying to say here:

Moreover, if we are to be perfect as the Father in heaven is perfect, then the same moral laws that govern God’s acting must govern ours. In other words, the moral laws are not rooted in the shifting customs of men, but they are rooted in the very nature of the Divine. This gives us a stable moral universe and it means that moral distinctions have ultimate meaning. Moral laws are not based on the divine will, but on the divine nature. They are not whimsical, for God is not whimsical. They are dependable and orderly, for God is dependable and orderly. I can morally respect a God who will act on everything he requires of man. (E Stanley Jones, the Christ of the Mount)

This post was way too long, and my anarchist and unacademic approach to philosophy is probably quite sloppy… But I had to write this somehow…

What do you people think?

Peace

Bram

Atheist Faith in Reason as a Relic from Theism…


believe_800My problems with modern atheism are completely different from what most atheists assume they are. I say that not only as a Christian, but my inner atheist completely agrees with that, and is often the most frustrated part of me when I’m reading the ‘new atheists’ for example.

I actually don’t have much problems with people accepting accepting the possibility of atheism (the belief in absence of God). But a negative belief in God is not at all the only thing most modern atheism is about. Most of it is more built on a foundation of  a positive belief in reason, logic and science, which are often given a likewise inerrancy as fundamentalist Christians gives to the bible.

And I wile already have a problem with an an absolute faith in human reason when looking from a Christian paradigm (I think modernists on all sides, from Christian fundamentalists to new atheists have way too much unsubstantiated faith in it), I must say that in a paradigm without Rational Creator an unspoken belief that human reason can come to infallible truths is completely out of place and utterly naive. I will explain later what I mean with that.

My other problem with atheism is the assumed materialist worldview that from my experience not that very plausible. I won’t be easily gaslighted into the idea that the supernatural world does not exist. (I do even think that the way in which the universe manifests itself in such an non-magical way to most modern Western is some sort of magical trick, but that’s another story.)
I won’t even go into the problem that reason and abstract thought are way too transcendent and immaterial for a consistent materialistic worldview now, that might be for another time.

To explain why I have a big problem with combining materialism (the idea that the matter that we can observe scientifically is all there is) and absolute rationalism, and think  such a combination completely untenable and tautological I have to put onDSC03152 my atheist hat and explain this more from the inside…

(I put on my atheist hat now, which is actually an orthodox Pastafarian colander..)

To start we assume that there is no Rational Creator God behind this world. I do explicitly mean a Rational Supreme Being here that is behind the universe/multiverse as Creator and Sustainer here, and lower gods, spirits or body thetans are completely irrelevant here.
So whatever the source of all this is what we see and know, there is no such thing as a Creator! This means that we humans are just a species of apes wandering around on a tiny rock planet circling around a yellow dwarf star. We evolved without any plan into what we are somehow in a universe that wasn’t made for us. All of our reason and logic, and everything based on them is this just a by-product of processes in which our forefathers adapted themselves to their environment in order to survive the law of the jungle.

If  those ideas sound completely counter-intuitive to you, as a believer for example, I still ask you to try to consider the paradigm that I’m proposing here for now and try for now to climb into it and see the consequences of it.  (This is always the best option when encountering another worldview btw.)

When it comes to trusting our human reason we clearly have 2 problems :

– There is no reason at all to trust that the universe itself is fashioned in such a way can be reasonably understood by any rational being.
– Neither is there any reason to trust that the reason of our evolved brains has any way of accurately describing the world we live in, even if the universe would by some magic -otherwise than the will of a Rational Creator- be rational and intelligible to an actual rational being.

So once we let go of the notion that there’s a Rational Creator behind the Universe, which we might do because it indeed seems to be a bit of wishful thinking, we should be very very careful with trusting our own reason. There is no guarantee at all that there is any chance that  our reason and logic will really be able to nail Reality for us.
If we’re really intellectually honest we will have to be very humble intellectually, and letting go of the idea Rational Creator (or even believing in an irrational Creator if anyone wants to go there) also means that forms of modernist faith in reason and empiricism are nothing but naive relics of theism, and its faith in a rational universe that stems from a belief in a Rational Source behind the Universe, as Christians, other monotheists, Platonists and Hindus would do.
There simply is no reason to trust human reason very much, let alone think that our thought systems built on it can be absolute, objective or have any degree of infallibility…. The universe is a place not made for humans, and there is no guarantee except for wishful thinking that we will be able to really understand it. Reality can be bended into a lot of explanatory frames, which if good enough will all work.

But we’ll never be able to really pin down Reality.

Science indeed does a good job in making explanations and offering working models about the parts of Reality that are most accessible to us, but even those are approximations and will never be more than that. Yes it can be trusted up to a certain point, but always in the utmost humbleness and scepticism. It’s not because something works that it is true. The Ptolemaic geocentric cosmology was rationally sound and worked too.

Add to that the placebo-factor with the Newtonian law that something that’s in a certain state will remain in that state until enough energy is used to change the state (a brain or a society will remain in a paradigm unless it really can’t otherwise) and people stay in imperfect paradigms all the time because they can’t otherwise. Well, and every paradigm is imperfect anyway. Just get used to it.

So let’s go back to my basic point:  believing that reason al logic will ever enable us to completely understand the Reality in which we find ourself is nothing but a relic from the optimism of a theistic worldview that believes in a Rational Creator. We delude ourself with self-conceit if we trust too much in our human reason. The universe is basically absurd, and any certainty about the nature of the universe and our own rationality in another way is wishful thinking.

As atheists, Nietzsche and Camus were certainly onto something. The new atheists and any rationalist or logical positivist are just holding on to naive leftovers from theism in their reliance on how much both our reason, logic, and the intelligibility of the universe itself can be trusted.

(I take my hat in my hand and wonder if it it still belongs on my head when saying the following:)

And here I cchaosan only fall back into the  metaparadigm beyond chaos magick. (If you don’t know what I mean by that, please read this post here.) Groundless postmodern paradigm shifting combined with the power of belief to find the best working worldview is the only thing that remains for me here. Yes, I can use belief in reason as a paradigm, but it’s still a make-believe game that needs a lof of belief from my side to really make it work. 

I couldn’t go back to belief in reason here. I can’t go back to belief in progress. I can’t go back.  Reality is absurd and not made for us, and having faith in human reason and logic or in the rationality and intelligibility of the universe is utterly a form of self-deceit, but it’s a nice placebo.
Choosing the most soothing paradigm and remaining in it for as long as it’s lasting is the only solution to not slide into madness though.

(I put off the atheist hat now)

But I still go with Lewis, and not with Lovecraft. We are slightly irrational and confused beings in a world that has a Rational Source, and not more or less good and normal beings in a world that is utterly irrational, alien and dark behind the facade.

In the end I might be a notorious paradigm shifter, but I’m not (and have never been) a completely groundless postmodernist, rather a probably slightly crypto-Platonist/Aristotelian Christian with a healthy dose of humbleness about human capacities, so I still have the option to believe in reason and logic (even though they are in no way absolutely reliable). By the way, I’m a Christian because of Christ, and glimpses of a Love more Real than this whole universe. Not because of rational arguments and apologetics.

This might still be a very conscious choice though, because both possibilities seem equally plausible, unlike an enlightenment atheism that relies on an almost absolute faith in reason, logic and science in a materialist universe. That’d be, if I actually do follow reason here, too absurd even for a completely absurd universe.
I’m not naive enough for that.

So what do you think?

peace

Bram

 

 

Now this is extreme Christian introvertphobia!


DSCF0083Introvertphobia, or extravertnormativity, the tendency to try to have an all-introvert environment, which might mean that the introversion of eventual introverts that are in the way of this grand vision might need to be erased, was one of the topics of one of my recent posts here, and might be explored more here in the future, since I need to tackle more angles of it, and not much people seem to ever have done such… Today I saw an example of it that I hope is representative of nothing  bigger than just one USAmerican churchplant, but even for that it’s a bit painful for me to see.

To sum up the difference between introverts and extroverts that are important for this this discussion I will quote a part from the earlier post:

To simplify things too much for those wondering what the introvert/extrovert business is actually about: an introvert gets his energy from being alone, an extrovert gets it from being around people. So I don’t like big groups and mass event. Too many people around me can drain my energy especially if I have to pay attention to them, and I might need lots of time alone to regain that energy… And oh, it’s not a lifestyle of choice, it’s an inborn personality type parameter. One can learn to not act on it and pretend to be extrovert in some cases, but that would be at the expense of a lot of energy and  a loss of identity.

So I was discussing the problem of the agressive extravertphobia inherent to certain forms of prescriptive male gender roles (a topic for a later post) on a  FB group earlier today, when someone gave me the following, which is taken from a Sunday school handbook from an American church plant. It’s about David Brainerd, who was a missionary to the native Americans:9marks introvertphobia It might be that some people don’t understand, but reading something like this triggers all my alarms, and makes me see every introversion-erasure I’ve met again before my eyes. But this time it’s cloaked in Christian condemnations too….
I suppose it has something to do with the influence of a very extroverted surrounding culture that isn’t very understanding towards others. I do have the idea that some American milieus are even worse than the working class environment that I described in my last post on this subject. I also fear that the words ‘an unhealthy preference for devotional solitude over sharpening friendships’ can be meant to have more control of the people. The more they are in the group the more they can be controlled.

All of this is all the stranger because it is the most normal thing in the world for spiritual people (of any religion) to take time alone for prayer and meditation, no matter how many friendships they do have.
Even Jesus did so, and spent a lot of time alone in nature to pray and be with His Father so thinking that there’s something wrong with needing time alone to ‘recharge’ (as an introvert) and reconnect with God (devotionally) would also exclude Christ Himself…

And it’s very new to me too. While extravertnormative behaviour can be prevalent on stage with group events and stuff like that, such a deep condemnation of the need to recharge alone to connect with God completely caught me off-guard.  Because for me it’s so atypical: All my life I’ve had evangelicals mostly defend ‘quiet time’ alone with bible and prayer and so. In other Christian traditions there’s even more contemplative practice.

I must say that I hope that this is a single example, and that these things are rare. Not that there isn’t a lot of Introvertphobia and extravertnormativity in much more subtle forms in certain Christian circles, but this is, as we say in Flemish, too stupid to knock dead. I don’t see how anyone can take this seriously…

But I suppose than in the end it’ll come to this:
“Being introverted is an orientation, not a choice…”
– “No it isn’t, repent you sinner and join our very social group every moment of your free time!!!”
-“AAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah”
(yes, to an introvert this sounds very much like hell!)

so what do you think?

peace

Bram

“Welcome to my Book of the Damned!”


You might have noticed some changes on the blog here. Apart from the background colour and the new picture there’s also that new subtitle. I’m still a stranger on this planet but the subtitle right now has become

‘Welcome to my Book of the Damned!’

This probably is a rather weird subtitle for a simple Christian bcharles Fortlogger, armchair philosopher and idea collector like yours truly…. But faithful readers of my writings, as well as connoisseurs in the field of anomalistics, should be able by now to get the reference to the masterpiece of Charles Fort. His ‘The book of the Damned’ is mostly seen as an outdated weird book on the paranormal, but it is much more than that. I’ve said earlier that Charles Fort, and not the supposed freethinking modern ‘sceptics’, might be the ultimate ‘free thinker’. It contains also some of the most overlooked interesting modern philosophical writings from the last centuries that never made the academic canon. (As well as a lot of endless lists of weird stuff that fell out of the sky and other things that are beyond unreadable, I admit readily!)

But apart from his ‘intermediatist’ philosophy, which is as much worth reading as a lot op people in the academic canon, the thing about his masterpiece that interests me is his goal: to collect the ‘damned’, the excluded, the things outside of the canon or Zeitgeist…

A procession of the damned.
By the damned, I mean the excluded.
We shall have a procession of data that Science has excluded.
(Charles Fort, the Book of the Damned)

I don’t share Fort’s obsession with weird things, animals and fluids falling out of the sky at all, but I always felt attracted to the excluded, the silenced, the forgotten, the unseen, the uncanonised, etc… The questions no-one asks, the things that have no place in a worldview, etc…

(And those things sometimes seem to come at me to, I can’t help it…)

So although I never set out to, it seems like my blog has evolved into a ‘book of the Damned’ regularly. I’ve been blogging about egregores and thoughtform-entities as an evangelical Christian while trying to understand them more or lest scientifically, and connected C.S. Lewis to chaos magick in an exploration of the theory behind paradigm shifting. I‘ve coined the word ‘introverphobia’ (and also ‘extravertnormativity’) in my last post, as well as the term atheist gaslighting. I’ve tried to define logical fallacies that are unrecognised like what I called ‘package deal thinking‘ or ‘centrated thinking‘. I’ve linked our Western naivete with the supernatural to evolutionary biogeography,, and so on…

Except when I write meditations about Divine Love, I mostly end up somewhere about the box. I was going to add, ‘and when I promote my music, but even that seems to be quite far out to most… And I think I should embrace that as a calling, since I seem to not even be able to do otherwise… Yes, there’s a lot of things that are called ‘alternative’ or ‘out of the box’ that are firmly within their own canon and that still a quite big following, even though it’s technically minority. Think of the so-called alternative music of the nineties that was still extremely commercial and had quite a big following…. I never fitted in in those pseudo-alternative groups any more as I did in the mainstream I’m afraid.

I might’ve tried to fit in for years though. I started blogging in English at the end of the ’emerging  church dialog, and while I recognised some things and learned a lot, in the end it just ended up on the other side of the weird American conservative/liberal divide to merge with ‘progressive Christianity’ in some kind of theological liberalism that I as a non-modern can’t care about…
(A lot of emergers even seem to have emerged far from Christianity in places that are not interesting to me at all. Materialist modernism never was an option for me…) In the end, after having explored a lot of theology, science and philosophy throughout the years I had to explore the supernatural by myself (mostly theoretically), because outside of the Charismatic world a lot of people seemed to deny it completely.

(Notice also that by now I stopped bothering with trying to follow a certain ideological orthodoxy of ‘political correctness’, especially belonging a culture that I’m unable to understand anyway. Walking on invisible eggshells is unsustainable anyway…)

So I won’t bother anymore with fitting in. Charles Fort might disagree, but things are still real when ignored. and I seem to need to write about those things sometimes. Even when no-one else cares about them or believes in them or sees the need to.

So welcome to my Book of the Damned!

Bram

 

Boys who have to make the first move and the misandric introvertphobia of patriarchy…


puddleWelcome again at Brambonius’ blog in English. As you already guessed from the rather strange title filled with contemporary (pseudo)feminist lingo, today I’ll venture into new grounds again, places where I don’t have much reference material at all…

By lack of better words this post is  about the ‘misandric introvertphobia of patriarchy’ where ‘misandric introvertphobia’ can be taken both as one combined term, the discrimination against introverted men, as as the combination of both. (see also note at the end.)

Where do I start? If it wasn’t clear already: I’m an introverted man myself, so I’m offering some kind of insider perspective here. Even if you don’t agree with me at all, I hope you will still be able to read this as the account of a specimen giving an insider perspective…

To simplify things too much for those wondering what the introvert/extrovert business is actually about: an introvert gets his energy from being alone, an extrovert gets it from being around people. So I don’t like big groups and mass event. Too many people around me can drain my energy especially if I have to pay attention to them, and I might need lots of time alone to regain that energy… And oh, it’s not a lifestyle of choice, it’s an inborn personality type parameter. One can learn to not act on it and pretend to be ectravert in some cases, but that would be at the expense of a lot of energy and  a loss of identity.

I personally don’t see a problem with people being different from each other. So please, be extroverted all that you want and hang out with loud people all the time as much as you want, as long as you don’t expect me to do the same. And that’s the problem introverts sometimes face. We’re seen as asocial by some, and completely misunderstood and unknowingly erased by a lot of others. In certain circles this isn’t a problem (most computer programmers and certain subcultures of nerds for example will be quite introverted and might be scared from people that are too introverted) while in others it is.

I can remember that around age 12 or so I read a sentence in an interview, I can’t recall at all with whom, but he said something like ‘I something hear young people say that their hobbies are reading or listening to music, and then I always thing ‘that’s not true, youLarus are just bored most of the time’. I had no words to describe how I was shocked by that sentence, so much that I still remember it more than 20 years later. But it seemed a complete unwillingness to understand people who were like me, and unlike that guy himself…

Years later, in my young twenties I had a job among ‘working class people’ in the public green department of the city. Before that job I never realised how big class differences could be, and how much certain personality types were favoured over others in certain environments. I was also quite shocked by the openness in which people could say racist, sexist and homophobic stuff in a way that would be impossible in places that I could understand much more, for example the academic circles my wife was in at that moment. They probably would be a textbook example of everything ‘intersectional feminism’ is against, except that it would be quite classist to say so…

Unlike the usual and more canonical forms of institutionalised bigotry on basis of ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation (and class, I was already an outsider because I was of the more ‘intellectual middle class’ type, you know, I read books, and liked philosophy, and stuff like that. ) there also was an unspoken and unnamed aversion against introverted people too. I’ve been called asocial and excluded because of the moments when I wanted to be alone after being with those people who drained my energy. I was completely an outsider, and not part of the supposed ‘privileged’ mostly male group btw. (Not wanting to talk about women in a not-so-positive way might already have played a role in that too) Much less than the few women who had more affinity with the group culture and a more outgoing personality, who were much more able to fit in. (or the non-Belgians)

Unspoken and unnamed but still perceived real differences sometimes seem to be much more of a barrier than the classical areas of discrimination. At least those can be addressed, while I didn’t even have the word ‘introvert’ nor any explanation to explain how I was different at that time…

‘Patriarchy’ as a whole seems to be favouring ‘strong men’ who are ‘manly’, which often excludes more introvert men, who thus or have to adapt and change their personality (which is even more energy draining, and creates a lot of cognitive dissonance) or be ostracised and excluded. It’s not always being male that gives privilege in a patriarchal environment, but more often the amount of privilege is directly proportional to the way in which you fit a desired model of manlinness. Having a personality completely opposite to that model of manliness will not really be helpful here, while being a Marget Thatcher clone will surely make you ‘one of the boys’… At least in the ‘masulinlist’ environments that I’ve seen.

All of this is probably also part of the reason I’m allergic to a lot of Christian masculinity stuff. The dangerous extrovert leader with a lot of assertivity just isn’t me and can’t be me. Sorry Mark Driscoll, whatever your ideas about how to get men into your church, they’ll always scare me away and offend me! Another part of the reason is that their so-called Christian ‘manliness’ is often the opposite of the character laid out in Paul’s list of the fruits of the Spirit, so it fails to be ‘biblical’ on all acounts. If you claim to follow the book, do your best to take that book seriously…

So let’s now go to the boys who have to make the first move from the title. That seems to be a ‘rule’ in certain cultures: the male always takes the initiative. The first time I heard about that rule I thought it was something alien from barbaric backwards groups or weirdos living in a closed community after being left there after colonisation times for centuries without contact with the mainland culture, but it actually seems quite prevalent in certain American ‘conservative’ Christian circles for example. Some even defend it as a biblical concept for some reason.

I’ve never understood that kind of logic, but it is something that makes the world a lot harder for introvert boys while it favours the more outgoing men that are already favoured by this kind of culture and seen as more manly. Introversion in men is not exactly supported by that kind of gender standards, in ways that go far beyond this silly rule. Or as I posted on facebook earlier, in a text that was more written for shock value maybe:

“Wanting boys to always take the first step in romance and relationship ultimately just creates a Darwinian selection against introversion in men. But since it does select for introversion in women and I suppose that introversion isn’t that gender-dependent the net result is only that introvert boys in every generation need to or slaughter their personality or remain alone without procreation…”

Oh yes, I’m exaggerating here, and we introverts generally do often develop coping mechanisms to live in an extrovert-normative world, but living with coping mechanisms all the time will still be quite exhausting. And it feels fake to never be able to be yourself…
(I also do know that introIlikehugsverted is not always the same as shy, thank you…)

So, systems that are based on male domination are destructive for most introverted males, who might in certain situations need to or give up their personality or give up their chances on a place in the system.

And even without this whole story and incoherent rant, ‘the boy always has to take the initiative’ is a dumb rule that is sexist to both genders at the same time anyway…

What do you think?

Peace

Bram

Note at the end: I guess that only those words ‘the misandric introvertphobia of patriarchy’ already might be problematic to some… And not just because this kind of feminist-sounding lingo might make me unpopular by some people, since I’ve lost those kind of readers a long time ago anyway. Some other people more inclined to feminism might dislike my use of the word ‘misandry’, since the use of certain shibbolets  and a certain kind of logic that’s quite like the ‘guilt by association’ fallacy. Ironically that’s probably in part because its use by idiots who would themselves engage in the misandry described in this post though…
And then the other word I used, ‘introvertphobia’, is also not a canonical term in the catalogue of bigotry against minorities. I must say that I actually don’t really like the use of ‘-phobia’ for discrimination against a certain group, on grounds of etymological consistency among other reasons. Fear is not the same of discrimination or ‘bigotry’, and the whole X-phobic thing to me sounds a lot like Orwellian Newspeak sometimes… But the simplest way to be understood is to use this kind of terminology now I’m afraid, and thus my use of a -phobic neologism.
And then there’s the problem I have with the word ‘patriarchy’, which is often not defined at all and used as a container for all the sexist things in society one doesn’t like. Thus being one of the ‘thought packages’ I described in my last post that doesn’t have many meaning except for the establishing a strong we/them dichotomy.
Notice also that by now I stopped bothering with trying to follow a certain orthodoxy of ‘political correctness’ belonging a culture that I’m unable to understand anyway. Walking on invisible eggshells is unsustainable anyway…

On the logical fallacy of package-deal thinking


Hmm, I’m probably  back, moFoto0067re or less… This is a post that has been waiting to get finished for moths anyway, and it’s one  in which I try to pin down a problem that I see in this world without having a proper term to describe it (as far as I’m aware) so I can use my self-coined term later and link to this post. It’s a thought-error that I will call the logical fallacy of package-deal thinking by lack of a better name.

We like in a world ruled by semantics, and yet sometimes for most people nameless things are more important than the named things that we see with every 3 mouseclicks. So I write this because I have the idea that it’s very important for all of us to be able recognise and be conscious of this thought error which is also a potent tool for manipulation, lest we be lured into potentially dangerous ideologies because they have just one thing in common with us and with Truth or general common sense. The fact that there doesn’t even seem to be a commonly used term to describe what I’m writing about here today is beyond worrying actually. (I do actually hope that someone proves me wrong and gives me a term and tells me it’s a widely recognised problem. Please do!!!)

So what do I mean with the ‘logical fallacy of package-deal thinking’? I would suppose the name is quite clear but I’ll take some examples here to explain it further. Let’s use American culture as a source of examples today because it’s so pervasive in and beyond the English-speaking internet, and because a lot of my readers seem to be Americans for some reason.
So again, correct me if I’m wrong and inaccurately describe American culture, but as I perceive it a lot of people in the US seem to think for example that as a Christian one is ‘republican’, and thus naturally for unrestricted gun ownership, and for whatever goes under the name of capitalism today. The same goes with the idea that ‘pro-life’ (being against abortion) is related to being for the death penalty and pro whatever war America is waging overseas at the moment.

I do hope that I’m just rehashing faulty stereotypes here as an ignorant European who doesn’t understand American culture, because making these bundles of concepts is actually completely nonsense. There actually is a lot more reason to be anti-war and death penalty if one is ‘pro-life’ (especially if one wants that term to have any meaning beyond the Orwellian redefinitions of ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ in the US abortion debates) .

The only connection is a historical context.

Or take the idea of ‘republicanism’. In Belgium a republican would be someone who is against the monarchy and in favour of a republic (like someone yelling ‘vive la republique’ at the coronation ceremony of the king  ). This is Jesus_gun-210x210not connected to anything else the ballast that the American Republican party has accumulated in the last decades, which would baffle an oldschool American republican too. So the thought-package connected to ‘republicanism’ (mostly the same things as go together with American ‘conservative’ ideology) is a very arbitrary box of unrelated stuff jumbled together by history and local culture.
In Northern Ireland a republican might be someone who is for the ‘Catholics’ (Irish nationalists) and against the Protestants and England.
So what’s the problem? It’s is very simple: Certain concepts that are actually unrelated are in peoples mind intrinsically tied to each other into packages, often under some umbrella term (which also changes meaning contextually, language isn’t fixed either and can be quiet fluid…) But except for that quite arbitrary thought-package in a certain context, there actually is no connection between the different things tied together at all.

Christianity has nothing to do with favouring ‘republicanism’ over a monarchy or even a direct democracy. Favouring a republic has nothing to do with capitalism or with Christianity at all, etc etc…

Most of these package deals are very contextual and have a very random historical origin of how they got lumped together.

But there’s more…
Most stereotypes are based on the same thing, and in these cases it’s often just generalisations that might be true for a majority of the group described. Assuming that I like cars, watching sports, enjoy violent films and have no respect for women just because I am a man would be a good example. (None of these applies to me btw. Sorry Mark Driscoll…)

To use more hip lingo, these idea-packages are somehow a subspecies of the in certain circles currently very popular ‘social constructs’. In fact they are are accidental (or in some cases manufactured) constructs of our culture, which are, like all constructs  actually very contextually defined, and often rather fluid and in most cases variable over time and space. But still in a given context they seem quite solid and it’s often very hard to go against them.

It also makes intercultural communication problematic. In the US something ‘conservative’ that is supposed to be connected to Christianity is obsessed with free market capitalism. In Belgium it’s the liberal party that has a similar ideology and is quite anti-religious…(well, no surprise, no matter what Americans call it is still neo-liberalism…) So our packages are completely incompatible. It’s liberalism and socialism that are on opposite sides over here…

And still we need the complete deconstruction of those packages if we want to do justice to reality and the people we encounter. Which is not always simple, and it can take a lot of energy to have to go against a certain ingrained package-deal that is taken for granted time after time after time. It can get very tiring, and needs understanding from the other side too (which won’t always come!).

And undeconstructed packages can actually make all meaningful conversation impossible…

It’s very hard to see through those package deals, and to not get tangled up in the guilt-by-association tactics that often flow from it. But it’s on everyones interest that we learn to see and avoid this logical fallacy.

Anyone with me?

peace

Bram