Good Friday and the Problem of Self-Pity

 

Definition of self-pity

: pity for oneself especially: a self-indulgent dwelling on one’s own sorrows or misfortunes

Evening Melancholy I 1896 – by Edvard Munch

The philosophy of Epicureanism posited by the Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BC) a few centuries before the birth of Christ offered mankind self-pity with license. Per Epicurus, there was no God or the gods were uninvolved with men and there was no life after death. So, mankind had to make the best of the atoms he was dealt. Man was to do so by avoiding pain and seeking pleasure in the company of like-minded friends. Self-pity could be dealt with in intimate and safe surroundings.

Prior to Epicurus, the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher and sophist[i] Protagoras (490 BC – c. 420 BC) postulated “Man is the measure of all things.” There were no Universal truths for Protagoras. As Epicurus would later teach, everything to be believed was to come through the senses. Protagoras’ atheism adopted moral relativism as a way to give meaning to a life of self-pity: “What’s true for me may not be true for you…”; “Anything goes…If it feels good, do it” until you die.

“Concerning the gods, I have no means of knowing whether they exist or not, nor of what sort they may be, because of the obscurity of the subject, and the brevity of human life.” – Protagoras

The Stoics[ii], around the same time as Epicurus, posited a grim fatalist outlook. Considering themselves cogs in life’s machinery their response was to lead a virtuous life in spite of “it all”. Materialism and passions were of no interest to them. “No Fear” and apathy towards life’s randomness were the attitudes they wore on their shoulder to appear non-self-pitying. They also advocated for suicide, the ultimate self-pity.

I cite these two Greek philosophers and the Stoic philosophy, because, as it seems to me, the ideals posited by them summarize all of the ensuing humanist philosophies: man is the measure of all things; there is nothing transcendent only naturalistic causes; man operates as a product of animal organism within different cultures; man must create his own meaning; man is logos.

Evident today in modern man’s worldview are philosophies espoused centuries ago. Strains or genealogies of man-as-logos thought has been passed down from the Garden through generations. I recognize the dehumanizing philosophies, those that elevate man to be the center of the universe and also entice him to live in servility to his bodily functions. There is no doubt in my mind that modern man is influenced by these self-pitying based philosophies. Our current politics, especially the politics of the Progressive Element, highlight their invasiveness into modern thought. Below, a recent campaign appeal to self-pity for votes (and a humanist version of Jesus’ “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”):

To anyone who has ever felt different or unloved or not good enough-this is a moment to show you that you matter to all of us. Keep believing in yourself, we love you. Change is coming.

@PeteButtigieg

Around the first century Epicureanism and Stoicism were evident in Greek, Roman and Pagan life. These philosophies gave words to what was inherent in man from his days in the Garden. During the first century these philosophies were already fused with pantheism and the zeal to worship pagan deities. Pagan sacrifices were offered to placate the angry gods posited by philosophers and the temple priests. Such offerings to the angry gods were meant to ensure that the self-pity-self-logos applecart was not overturned. Into that self-reflecting age came a Reflection of Heaven.

During the first century the Apostle Paul wrote “when the fulness of time arrived, God sent his son, born of a woman” to redeem those kept in “slavery” under the “elements of the world” Gal (4:3-4). The self-pitying responses to life were given notice.

Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, a church embedded with Epicurean thought, about the Israelite’s desert plight. The Israelites displeased God with their self-pitying Epicurean ways:

The people sat down to eat and drink, and got up to play. – 1 Cor. 10:7

The self-pity (“God doesn’t care.”; ‘We’re all going to die.”) the Israelites had in Egypt they brought with them into the desert. Their self-pity became a pattern of living: idolatry, immorality, testing God and grumbling.

Epicurus taught of a shared life with friends. Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi about a shared life in the King. He taught a different way of thinking, one not of self-pity, but one centered on the Logos and other-centered. Paul taught about a partnership in the spirit, about fixing your mind on the Messiah, about never acting out of selfish ambition and, about looking “after each other’s best interests, not your own”.

Stoics taught a grim fatalist apathy towards life’s hardships, that one must muddle through bravely without hope. Jesus taught “Blessed are the poor in spirit. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” There was no after life for a stoic. Jesus said, “There is plenty of room to live in my father’s house. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am.

Paul’s epistles explain more: Jesus knew what he had to do to rescue men from self-pity and its consequent self-destruction. He would deny himself and empty himself of all pleasure -glory in the company of his father-and take on the incomprehensible pain of the world. He didn’t blame fate or others for his coming crucifixion. There was no posturing stoicism against unknown odds or self-indulgent dwelling on one’s own sorrows or misfortunes when Jesus asked “My father, if it’s possible –please, please let this cup go away from me! But… not what I want, but what you want.” Love for the father and for his creation was his motivation and his life’s meaning and, his means to bring humankind into the same intimacy he enjoyed with the father.

I have given them the glory which you have given to me, so that they may be one, just as we are one. – John 17: 22

Protagoras taught “Man is the measure of all things.” Paul wrote that King Jesus was the measure of all things.

This is how you should think among yourselves – with the mind that you have because of you belong to the Messiah, Jesus:

Who, though in God’s form, did not

Regard his equality with God

As something to exploit

 

Instead, he emptied himself,

And received the form of a slave,

Being born in the likeness of humans.

And then, having human appearance,

He humbled himself, and became

Obedient even to death,

 

Yes, even the death of the cross.

And so God has greatly exalted him,

And to him in his favor has given

The name which is over all names:

That now at the name of Jesus

That every knee within heaven shall bow—

On earth, too, and under the earth;

And every tongue shall confess

That Jesus, Messiah, is Lord,

To the glory of God, the father.

-Early Christian hymn recorded in Philippians 2

 

 

Both Protagoras and Epicurus taught that death was the end. For them and for many since, there would be no thought of resurrection, only the dust bin of history containing once self-pitying lives lived seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.

Even though first century Judaism (and freaked-out King Herod) was abuzz with talk about the resurrection of the dead, Mary and Martha, (in bouts of self-pity?) appear to have thought that their brother’s death was the end of life as they knew it.

“Master,” said Martha to Jesus, “if only you’d been here! Then my brother wouldn’t have died!

“Master!” Mary said. If only you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died!”

The Resurrection and the Life would have none of this talk. And, he would deal with self-pity.

 

 

~~~~

On my dining room table there is a fragrant pot of lilies. The fragrance….is not the smell of death but of resurrection…

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

[i] The philosophical school of Sophists did not deal in truth, logic, beauty or the transcendent. As Pluralists their teaching was a mix of philosophy, politics, opportunism and entrepreneurship. They were pragmatists who offered their life-counseling services for fee. They were self-help gurus.

 

[ii] Stoics taught that there is no universal truth, that what could be learned was through the senses and experience. The Divinity they believed in was the Logos, or mind. According to the pantheistic Stoics, we all breathed in pneuma, the air of the soul of the universe, the Oversoul. They avoided passion and worldly pleasures and thought the ascetic life ideal. Pleasure was not considered good and pain was not considered evil. Virtue is good and vice evil. Life deals cards, deal with it. Their philosophy can be summed as follows: “Everything happens for the best, and you can usually expect the worst.”; “c’est la vie!”

 

Palm Sunday and the Problem of Evil

 

Just a few centuries before the first Palm Sunday, Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 B.C.) promoted to his followers the notions of another ancient Greek philosopher, Demetrius (c. 460 – c. 370 B.C.). Demetrius’ had proposed the theory of Atomism to account for nature.

The theory in brief: random, unguided ‘atoms’ (as he called them) smash into each other, thereby creating the world and life as we know it. Such a hypothesis turned philosophy by Epicurus gave Epicurus the ‘means’ to do away with a personally involved god (and human accountability to a god). He went on to tweak Demetrius’ theory. He said that atoms do not always go in straight lives but can “swerve”. As such, his philosophy was then able to avoid atomism’s inherent determinism and to allow for man’s free will.

Epicurus also taught that nothing should be believed, except for that which was tested through direct observation and logical deduction – believed via the sensate and reason. He believed that the ‘gods’ were off angry somewhere upstairs. The gods were distant and uninvolved and therefore unrelated to ‘thinking’ and ‘sensing’ man’s life. Man had to make do with the atoms he had been dealt.

“What was most important in Epicurus’ philosophy of nature was the overall conviction that our life on this earth comes with no strings attached; that there is no Maker whose puppets we are; that there is no script for us to follow and be constrained by; that it is up to us to discover the real constraints which our own nature imposes on us.” ― Epicurus, The Epicurus Reader

Since, per Epicurus’s teaching, “that there is no Maker whose puppets we are“, the problem of evil paradox he posited augmented this teaching:

“The gods can either take away evil from the world and will not, or, being willing to do so cannot; or they neither can nor will, or lastly, they are able and willing. If they have the will to remove evil and cannot, then they are not omnipotent. If they can but will not, then they are not benevolent. If they are neither able nor willing, they are neither omnipotent nor benevolent. Lastly, if they are both able and willing to annihilate evil, why does it exist?” ― Epicurus


 

The Epicurean paradox is answered with another paradox: What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? Psalm 8:4

There was nothing ambiguous or theoretical or abstract about the appearance of Son of man. There was direct observation by his followers. In the fullness of time, including Epicurean times, the Lord of the universe put on human flesh – dust fashioned from the created elements including about 18% carbon – to deal with the problem of evil. Philosophers, before and after Epicurus, pronounced judgement on God for all the evil in the world. Jesus entered flesh and blood, space and time, to pronounce judgement on evil. He did so without equivocation. Jesus did not succumb to the Satan’s temptations, Demons were cast out. Hypocrites were denounced and death itself was overturned. Jesus suffered the full force of evil on the cross, an act of redemption from evil’s ransom.

The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that Hell should be able to veto Heaven. – George MacDonald, C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce

The King of Glory wept over Jerusalem and his people who so often rejected their reveal-to-the-world-the-one-true-God vocation. Palm Sunday. The King of Glory, emptied of his glory, rides a donkey into Jerusalem to meet evil head on and to put the world right. The “Epicurean Paradox” would be addressed and soundly answered. It was not the dénouement of evil.

Jesus is everything you need to know about God and the problem of evil. Let the King of Glory come into your life to deal with the problem of evil.

 

Genealogies of Straw?

 

…If the dead are not raised,

“Let us eat and drink,

for tomorrow we die.”

1 Cor. 15:32

 

People delight in looking into their genealogy to tell them where they came from and their ancestral background. But, what about the genealogy of our thoughts and our beliefs that are passed down? Continuing with the theme of my previous post, man as logos and centerpiece of the universe, man considers himself left to his own devices and to fend for himself. The “dead are not raised” has been passed down to us. Also passed down, la dolce vita, the Epicurean worldview prevalent today.

The originator of Epicureanism, the Greek philosopher Epicurus, and many others since, decided that God was not good at being God so man must take his place. In terms of the evil man encounters, this thinking is restated in the Epicurean paradox.

Per the Oxford Dictionary, Epicurus (341-270 B.C) was a “Greek philosopher, founder of Epicureanism. His physics is based on Democritus’ theory of a materialist universe composed of indestructible atoms moving in a void, unregulated by divine providence”.

According to several accounts, Epicurus lived and taught a philosophy of the unnoticed good life. He posited that man, a collection of particles he called atoms, would return to the earth when he died. From atoms to atoms you shall return, he postulated. When you are dead you are dead and while you are alive, as Epicurus advocated, seek pleasure and avoid pain.

Epicurus was not a political nor a spiritual man. He was more of a homebody given to a small circle of friends. Per Epicurus, everything to be trusted and believed came through the senses. And so, he deemed that God was remote if at all. And friends were real and to be trusted.

Epicurus also taught that nothing should be believed, except for that which was tested through direct observation and logical deduction – believed via the sensate and reason. Hence, the beginning of the fact/value split so prevalent in man’s thinking today. It is likely that Epicurus formed this worldview when he decided that God was uninvolved and impersonal at best and that he had to fend for himself.

Epicurean thought was embraced by some and passed down through the centuries. The Roman poet Lucretius, a disciple of Epicurus’s teachings and someone who lived about 70 years before Jesus, promoted the “god is angry” meme along with the theory of atomism formulated by Demetrius (460-370 B.C.), who died 29 years before the birth of Epicurus.

The atomic theory of the cosmos in brief: random, unguided ‘atoms’ smash into each other, thereby create the world and life as we know it. Such a hypothesis turned philosophy by Epicurus offered the ‘means’ to do away with a personally involved god and remove human accountability to God. Lucretius went on to tweak Demetrius’ theory.

Demetrius said that atoms do not always go in straight lives but can “swerve”. As such, his philosophy was then able to avoid atomism’s inherent determinism and to allow for man’s free will.

“What was most important in Epicurus’ philosophy of nature was the overall conviction that our life on this earth comes with no strings attached; that there is no Maker whose puppets we are; that there is no script for us to follow and be constrained by; that it is up to us to discover the real constraints which our own nature imposes on us.” ― Epicurus, The Epicurus Reader

Unlike the innocuous passing-on-sex Epicurus, the Romans took Epicureanism to new lows. The name of the Roman Emperor Caligula is associated today with unbridled decadence. Licentiousness continues today as the justification for the avoid-pain-seek-pleasure self.

The Enlightenment furthered Epicurean acceptance. As many began to claim science as the explainer for things being as they are and man as the interpreter of things as they are, the Enlightenment augmented the fact/value split. With science being claimed as the only arbiter of truth and reality, the transcendent was eschewed, as being unreasonable to ponder. Materialism and utilitarian atomism replaced the transcendent and facilitated the self-made man as the imago homo. An honest look around today would reveal that the worldview from the days of Epicurus down through the Enlightenment has been passed down to us.

“It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he has the power to obtain by himself.” –Epicurus

As I see it, underlying cultural Marxism, secular humanism, Progressivism and the American Dream is the philosophy of Epicurus: extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one’s feelings, desires, etc.; egoistic self-absorption, aka, solipsism. It is the worldview of safe spaces. It is the philosophy behind the Progressive’s push for acceptance of multiculturalism whereby all cultures are deemed equal including the dehumanizing ones so that individual culture has a larger safe space to operate in. The philosophy promotes universal healthcare as another safe space in the form of insurance against financial suffering as paid for by others so one can live an Epicurean lifestyle without pain. It is the worldview of the virtue-signaling relativist social justice warriors – I want a safe space for me to live my life as I see fit so I will serve up my self-justifying, self-righteous viewpoint of high-sounding humanitarianism. Epicureanism is the doctrine of the Religion of Humanity and the paean to mind and matter as savior.

Epicureanism underlies identity politics and individual rights. It promotes a circling of the wagons around your ersatz ‘friends’, your tribe, to protect your values and your territory for further self-satisfaction. It promotes dehumanization with its message that life has no meaning other than what you give it; life is only material and sensate. So, grab yours while you are alive. Out of this dehumanizing process comes the art, music, literature, media and architecture which degrade human existence and the imago dei in humans. But. Modern man, left to his own Epicurean devices, comes up short.

The narrator in C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy novel That Hideous Strength tells us about one of the central characters Mark Studdock. He is a young academic, a sociologist, and a member of the Progressive Element at Bracton College. He is an ambitious, self-centered and shallow intellectual who has come into the service of the National Institute of Coordinated Sciences (NICE). He believes NICE will serve the best interest of humanity through progress at any cost. Once he stopped hemming and hawing about joining the organization he is welcomed into the inner circle. But he soon finds that he has committed himself to a hellish organization which plans to re-do humanity by force so that only the best humans (in NICE’s view) remain. He is made aware that the tentacles of the organization are growing.

Studdock is told in no uncertain terms that the organization wants his wife Jane to join him. He is ordered to bring her in. With no moral depth and no moral base outside himself to guide him, Mark is perplexed and now in great fear for his life. Pain and death are the only things that are real for him.

It must be remembered that in Mark’s mind hardly one rag of noble thought, either Christian or Pagan, had a secure lodging. His education had been neither scientific or classical – merely “Modern”. The seventies both of abstraction and of high human tradition had passed him by: and he had neither peasant shrewdness nor aristocratic honor to help him. He was a man of straw, a glib examinee in subjects that require no exact knowledge (he had always done well on Essays and General Papers) and the first hint of a real threat to his bodily life knocked him sprawling. And his head ached so terribly and he felt sick. Luckily he now kept a bottle of whisky in his room. A stiff one enabled him to shave and dress.

What is your genealogy of thought and belief? Is it a genealogy of strawmen?

~~~~~~~~~

The opening quote is from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church. He is countering the embedded Epicureanism active in the church in Corinth. He does so with the resurrection.

To be continued.

Lost in Self-logos

 

Thus, in the conception of Humanity, the three essential aspects of Positivism, its subjective principle, its objective dogma, and its practical object, are united. Towards Humanity, who is for us the only true Great Being, we, the conscious elements of whom she is composed, shall henceforth direct every aspect of our life, individual or collective. Our thoughts will be devoted to the knowledge of Humanity, our affections to her love, our actions to her service. -Auguste Comte, A General View of Positivism [1848]

 

Mankind learned centuries ago, by the efforts of men like Polish astronomer Copernicus, that we do not exist in a geocentric universe. Now, according to some physicists, mankind is at the center of the cosmos. In order to avoid a Creator scenario, these scientists promote the anthropic theory:  the reason for the perfectly-tuned universe, for its fundamental physical constants, and the reason why things exist as they are on earth is that human existence required it. To support this theory, they posit a multiverse scenario with infinite trials and errors until man could exist.

Amir Aczel, PH. D., in his book Why Science Does Not Disprove God, describes some physicists’ viewpoint:

…if we are here, and the parameters need to be perfectly chosen for us to be here, then surely there must be infinitely many other places where parameters are wrong. We are here because we can only live where the parameters are right for our existence.

Now, I have no issue with the possibility of multiverses. But as Dr. Aczel writes, the proposed multiverse-as-cause theory to replace the creation narrative offers no mechanism to create the multiverses. The theory proposes an infinite number of somehow existing parameters doing something over and over infinitely many times to finally ‘create’ the perfect conditions for a habitable zone. Dr. Aczel goes on to state, “The anthropic theory is the weakest route to the multiverse.” As I see it, the theory has no mechanism for merit other than those who promote a God-less universe. The theory is basically one of effect with no Ultimate Cause. It is a theory of chance which says man is the reason for his existence.

Man-centered philosophical endorsement would come from the likes of Nietzsche. His “God is dead” rejection of Christian values was a push for mankind to move beyond good and evil and to loving necessity. One is therefore to live with uncertainty as a “superman”, above and center of it all. From the mighty-warrior Nimrod to Wagnerian heroes to the present FX-ed generated superheroes versions of Nietzsche’s “superman” have been around since the Garden. The “superman” notion is akin to Darwin’s theory natural selection and the survival of the fittest. In Nietzschean terms, What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

Social scientists place man at the center of the universe. Since Adam and Eve’s forced exit from the Garden of Eden, man, it seems to me, has always struggled to reclaim the Garden. Many seek to create a Garden Utopia through a relentless and self-directed improvement of the species. Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species supplies the process: selection, struggle, favored, preservation. Engels and Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and MaoTse-tung used Darwin’s theory of natural selection as justification for their “class struggle” political and economic theories. Millions have been imprisoned and slaughtered under the banner of “class struggle”. Strands of this ‘societal improvement’ is behind the current humanist thinking which is now being promulgated systematically by the Progressive Element. For Progressives, the social multiverses are the identity-centered tribes they select and deem struggling and require favored status and preservation.

Man, as the principle cause and logos of the universe, creates his own values. Thus, the religion of humanity. Secular humanitarianism is the tie that binds the Progressive Element: atheists, agnostics, deists, social Darwinists and those who buy into sentimental Christianity for the sake of progress. The creation of man-as-logos values produces a querulous society of competing values, hence the culture wars. Amorphous and relativistic values are promoted under the high-sounding and ambiguous rubric of “social justice”. Individualism is turned inward toward self-centered anodyne interest to be protected by “rights”. Progressivism inverts The Second Commandment: “love me as you love yourself”.

Vying for special status, groups call themselves “marginalized” and “victims”. This self-centered push for center stage drives identity politics: self-designated victims ‘struggling’ to ‘survive’ require ‘protection’ (rights). “I’ll make you care about what I care about – me” is the right to impose myself on others and call it “social justice”. Man, as logos, defines the impetus of the “social justice warrior:  resentment disguised as compassion which drives the will to power.

Resentment? Life is not easy to begin with. The arbitrariness of life and the forces beyond our control fuel resentment when contemplated in the context of others. Resentment leads to claiming that one’s gender or sexual proclivity or income status or healthcare as being victimized by others. Such a worldview, one without meaning except for self and necessity and a belief that relationships are defined by power, breeds contempt for those having some perceived advantage. Hence, the demand for societal and economic reparations and at any cost to others. Resentment is fueled by zero-sum thinking: one does not have because someone else has.

Resentment disguised as compassion? Man, as logos, wants to be seen as a self-justified humanitarian. Virtue signaling accomplishes that while being resentful at the same time. It is no-cost faux-altruism intended to make one appear empathetic and compassionate without appearing resentful except for those who question their virtue signaling. This is underneath the self-righteous clamor for the right of universal healthcare, of potable water, of inclusion, diversity, equity and the host of arbitrary self-placating categories.

Resentment disguised as compassion which drives the will to power? In an age that is increasingly nihilistic, power has become the transcendent meaning to life. And once you believe that relationships are defined by power you exercise the will to power to subjugate others to the relationships you desire. The exercise of the will to power implements mental-conditioning of its subjects, hence the revision of language and of history, to fit the narrative. The power to create one’s own truth is what is desired.

The best way to sum this mash of words is with the clarity of two Scripture readings from today. The first relates the man-as-logos worldview. The second reading describes those who are Logos centered.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son was the gospel reading for today: Luke 15: 11-32. The would-be Prodigal Son demands his rights (inheritance) from his father. The son considers his father dead to him. The father transfers assets over to his son. His son turns his shares into cash as he sells the property his father had accumulated over time through the father’s effort. The universe of one departs with his values and his will to power. He’s off to a distant land, far from the logos he knows. He leaves behind his father and the remaining older son to pick up his portion of work.

A lifestyle of nihilistic (sever famine) and sensate pleasure (self-directed compassion) has him eating slop in a pig sty. He’s sees that he is just another animal. His humanism ran out of money. He returns to his senses and heads home. His father sees his son a long way off and runs to meet him. The prodigal repents and the father rejoices in his return from the distant land of self. There is a celebration for the son who was lost but is found … alive. They are reconciled. But the brother has a growing resentment disguised as compassion for his father (“I’ve been slaving for you all these years!”) which drives his will to power to up his rights. He feels his rights, his pride of place, is diminished by his brother’s return and the father showering him with a wealth of unintended consequences.

The second reading is from the Epistles: 2 Corinthians 5: 16- 17. Paul writes about a Logos worldview that sees humanity from a kingdom perspective. He writes what the Prodigal experiences when he returns to the Logos and what the other brother claims as his right to experience.

From this moment on, therefore, we don’t regard anybody from a merely human point of view. Even if we once regarded the Messiah that way, we don’t do so any longer. Thus, if any man is in the Messiah, there is a new creation! Old things have gone, and look – everything has become new!

 

 

~~~

I recommend reading The Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis for insight into humanism.

The Bill of Rumored Rights

 

Retired prison psychiatrist Anthony Daniels (Theodore Dalrymple) speaks and writes with keen insight gathered from his experience of the human condition and of its surrounding culture. Here is a short introduction of Daniels from the website Goodreads:

Anthony Malcolm Daniels, who generally uses the pen name Theodore Dalrymple, is an English writer and retired prison doctor and psychiatrist. He worked in a number of Sub-Saharan African countries as well as in the east end of London. Before his retirement in 2005, he worked in City Hospital, Birmingham and Winson Green Prison in inner-city Birmingham, England.

Daniels is a contributing editor to City Journal, published by the Manhattan Institute, where he is the Dietrich Weismann Fellow. In addition to City Journal, his work has appeared in The British Medical Journal, The Times, The Observer, The Daily Telegraph, The Spectator, The Salisbury Review, National Review, and Axess magasin.

In 2011, Dalrymple received the 2011 Freedom Prize from the Flemish think tank Libera!.

Not only is Anthony Daniels a prolific writer and well-read, as you’ll discover, he is also well-traveled. His accounts of staying in five countries (North Korea, Albania, Romania, Vietnam and Cuba), all five of which operate under leftist-ideology based regimes, is recorded in The Wilder Shores of Marx: Journeys in a Vanishing World. Would-be fellow travelers in the long march of cultural Marxism, both young and old, would do well to read about life in the totalitarian state under centralized government. Daniel’s accounts would be especially revelatory for the would-be fellow travelers promoting ‘democratic’ socialism, the ‘gateway drug’ to full-blown addiction to life under top down government. Democratic socialism is currently being promoted as the means to secure peace of mind (aka happiness) by coercively and exhaustively taxing the wealthy and then having unelected central planners redistribute the take. The uninformed traveler could also read about the state of Venezuela.

I first encountered Anthony Daniels via his essays in The New Criterion, a monthly literary magazine I subscribe to. His extensive bibliography is listed in the Wikipedia entry Theodore Dalrymple.

Having read several of his books, I recommend, for starters, the book noted above and the two books shown below.

Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass (start with this book)

Admirable Evasions: How Psychology Undermines Morality

Numerous articles written by Anthony Daniels appear in the Law and Liberty blog.

Below is a video of Anthony Daniels speaking at the Property and Freedom Society Annual Meeting last year (2018). His talk on multiculturalism begins with the subject of rights as misunderstood and misapplied today. My take: rights-gatherers employ victim status leveraged with inalienability to secure advantages in society. With their Bill of Rumored Rights they seek to bypass “the pursuit of happiness” and go directly to happiness.

 

How did our culture get turned on its head? “German Marxists”…”Marx and Freud”…”the Frankfurt school… left-wing academics… Columbia University”…

[Italian communist Antonio] Gramsci also looked to culture. If the Left truly wanted to win, it needed to first seize the “cultural means of production”: the culture-forming institutions such as the media and universities and even churches. He saw societal transformation coming about by a “march through the institutions.”…

Gramsci insisted that leftist intellectuals needed to question everything, including moral absolutes and the Judeo-Christian basis of Western civilization. They needed to frame seemingly benign conventions as systematic injustices that must be exposed. This is where we got professors fulminating against everything from “the patriarchy” to “white imperialism” to “transphobia.”

Marx at 200: Cultural Marxism’s Long Happy March Through the Institutions

 

How is the Cultural Revolution brought to bear on others? Enforceable Subjectivity (article by Theodore Dalrymple):

According to the Metropolitan Police, “evidence of the hate element is not a requirement. You do not need to personally perceive the incident to be hate related. It would be enough if another person, a witness or even a police officer thought that the incident was hate related.”

Example given:

Had a message from Guildford police tonight about my tweets following an appearance on @GMB with Susie Green and Piers Morgan. Susie Green has reported me for misgendering her daughter.

https://twitter.com/CF_Farrow/status/1107779340723515392

“A British police force is investigating @CF_Farrow, a journalist, because of words that she published,” writes @jameskirkup

https://twitter.com/SpectatorUSA/status/1108144367716302848

The Enduring Context

 

It was about this time of the year back in 2000 when I took my two oldest to Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History (the Field Museum today). What did we go to see?

CHICAGO — For the first time in 50 years, the Dead Sea Scrolls will visit Chicago in a special exhibition at The Field Museum March 10 through June 11.

Written on parchment and papyrus more than 2,000 years ago, the scrolls contain what are believed to be the oldest surviving copies of the books of the Old Testament…

Portions of 15 difference scrolls will be on display in The Field Museum’s exhibition, including five that have never traveled outside of Israel. One of those five is a segment from the book Deuteronomy, which includes the Ten Commandments; the other four contain language and concepts similar to those in the Gospels of the New Testament — written more than 100 years later.

The exhibition will also feature 80 artifacts from Qumran, the archeological site near which the scrolls were discovered;

Dead Sea Scrolls to be displayed in Chicago

 

I was enthralled by the exhibit. Parchment that is over 2000 years old containing Jewish manuscripts gave witness to the community of the “sons of light”. These “men of the covenant” cursed Belial and his unclean spirits, worshiped with angels and preserved the understanding of those who set themselves apart from the Second Temple they believed to be corrupted by sinful leadership.

The almost nine-hundred manuscripts found in eleven caves at Qumran provide us with the context for the time of Jesus. They record the Qumran community’s messianic hopes for salvation in the very near future. They speak of the resurrection, of angels and demons, of the Law and Prophets and of secular matters at the time.

The gap between the Protestant Testaments, with the exception of the book of Daniel, is about four-hundred years. The Old Testament doesn’t provide context for the time of Jesus other than in large broad strokes of God’s dealing with beastly kingdoms and the hope of God intervening to save His people. The Old Testament established the narrative that leads us to the fullness of time when Jesus was born and his kingdom on earth announced. The scrolls continue the narrative and connect the Old and New Testament times. And, more importantly, they help us understand the thinking of the first century Jew. They explain the words and phrases Jesus uses in conjunction with contemporary Jewish thought and theology. They explain Jesus as a Jew.

Though I was fascinated by the scrolls, my two boys would show more interest in another exhibit a few months later. In a sense the two exhibits ran parallel – discoveries reveling context.

 

SUE finally made a dramatic debut in Stanley Field Hall on May 17, 2000

 

In 2000 Sue the T. rex, a 67-million-year-old fossilized skeleton, was put on display. It is said to be the most complete specimen of its kind.  This display became the starting point to my accepting evolutionary creation.

I met up with more dinosaurs a few years ago. The company I work for held its one-hundred-and-twenty-fiftieth anniversary celebration in the great hall of the Field Museum. (Job-keeping disclaimer: the dinosaurs are not the people I work with!) The anniversary celebration was another reminder of the Enduring Context. Men and women have been working together for 125 years within an engineering company providing solutions that help mankind.

Just a few weeks ago I visited my mother. She is almost ninety and in hospice care. Once again, I was reminded of the Enduring Context. Mom’s and dad’s steadfast faith in God, which they received from their parents, has been passed down to their children, to their grandchildren and to a multitude of great-grandchildren.

We will do well to remember the past, its fragments and as it is fragmented before us, for we are not without its context. Whether it be dinosaur bones attesting to God’s evolutionary creation or scroll fragments attesting to a community that wanted to keep God’s narrative alive over 2000 years ago the presence of testimony from the past shouldn’t be discounted. The Enduring Context which began in God before the Big Bang is God’s desire for the universe He created. The Enduring Context can be summed up in the words of the Lord’s prayer: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

jacopo-tintoretto-crucifixion-1500s

There is art, music, literature, and architecture created with the Enduring Context in mind. And, there is art, music, literature, and architecture which knows knowing of the Enduring Context. The Progressive Element, eschewing the past, deems itself the only context that matters every time it rewrites history. Unless you are God or a Progressive demi-god, there is no present without the past for the likes of us. And if, as the English metaphysical poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself” then certainly no man is a context entirely to himself. A modern philosopher had this to say about context:

 

“We must strive to be worthy of an inheritance that we did not create, and to amend it only when we have first understood it” Roger Scruton Rousseau and the Origins of Liberalism

 

And though it seems to us in our daily struggles that sickness, death, injustice and evil are the Enduring Context, these are temporary. The resurrection of Jesus made sure of that. Our resurrection will continue the Enduring Context.

As followers of Jesus we imitate the One and the ones who are the Enduring Context. Our Lord’s context becomes our context as we walk in the Enduring Context of our citizenship:

So, my dear family, I want you, all together, to watch what I do and copy me. You’ve got us as a pattern of behavior; pay careful attention to people who follow it.

You see, there are several people who behave as enemies of the cross of the Messiah. I told you about them often enough, and now I am weeping as I say it again. They are on the road to destruction; their stomach is their god, and they find glory in their own shame. All they ever think about is what’s on the earth.

We are citizens of heaven, you see, and we’re eagerly waiting for the savior, the Lord Jesus, who is going to come from there.

Not All Roads Lead Home

 

In truth, all through the haunted forest there could be nothing more frightful than the figure of Goodman Brown.

Beside the Technicolor fantasy of a quartet of characters leaving their homes and going into a foreboding forest to gain what they think they are lacking from a wizard (see my previous post), there is another tale of a young man doing just the same. And though there is no wizard or fear of lions and tigers and bears in this tale, there is, “What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow!”. Both stories, it seems to me, are about journeys into the dark side, the nocturnal forest in this tale, looking for an esoteric mystical experience that will supply what they are missing out on. But those who covenant to journey into the forest, and the deepest darkest part of it, end up disillusioned and faithless.

Often, especially in our youth, we begin to question the religious beliefs and worldviews of our families, of our mentors and of those around us. We see hypocrisy around us and despise it and yet become two-faced in our own sought out experiences wrought in the dark. We then begin to take on ambivalence about evil, giving ourselves the ‘grace’ to operate in both good and evil ways. Moral relativism is that form of grace.

We tell ourselves that there are people who are restrictive, conservative and Puritanical. We tell ourselves that we have become too worldly-wise to be like them: “I have Jesus so I am above all that out-of-date fundamentalism”. So, we journey in the dark forest and into the deepest darkest part of the forest and think ourselves to be impervious to its ills.

We give ourselves permission to investigate the dark side. We say to ourselves “I will do it just one time. Why be left out?  Why not join the “communion of our race””? Thus, we journey into the night and encounter evil. And like Goodman Brown, we come home disillusioned, our faith destroyed.

Young Goodman Brown sets out one night to gain existential insight into who (or what) is good and evil in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1835 short story by the same name. The story, set in 17th century Puritan New England, operates within the Puritan context of sin, grace and unconditional salvific election. I consider the tale an allegory, as it employs symbols starting with the names Goodman and Faith.

In the tale before us, Goodman Brown leaves his saintly wife Faith at the threshold of their home. She is wearing a pink ribbon on her cap. The pink ribbon, mentioned throughout, I read as a symbol of the admixture of purity (white) and sin (red). The color speaks to Goodman Brown’s spiritual understanding based on his Puritan beliefs and also to his rose-colored romance-based naiveté about the nature of evil.

“Poor little Faith!” thought he, for his heart smote him. “What a wretch am I to leave her on such an errand! She talks of dreams, too. Methought as she spoke there was trouble in her face, as if a dream had warned her what work is to be done tonight. But no, no; ‘t would kill her to think it. Well, she’s a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night I’ll cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven.”

With this excellent resolve for the future, Goodman Brown felt himself justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose. He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind. It was all as lonely as could be; and there is this peculiarity in such a solitude, that the traveller knows not who may be concealed by the innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead; so that with lonely footsteps he may yet be passing through an unseen multitude.

As Goodman sets out, he does so under the cover of night and the cover of assumption: as a Puritan, Goodman Brown considers himself one of the elect. He carries with him a Puritan/Calvinist ‘good hands’ insurance card – the doctrine of predestination. He doesn’t leave home without it. And, as you read above, Goodman assumes that his association with the right people – his wife Faith in particular and the town’s good church folk in general – that he will follow them to the heavenly home. Goodman Brown goes out into the portentous night feeling safe and secure from all alarms. But his predetermined confidence quickly melts away as soon as he steps into the mysterious dark woods.

He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind. It was all as lonely as could be; and there is this peculiarity in such a solitude, that the traveller knows not who may be concealed by the innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead; so that with lonely footsteps he may yet be passing through an unseen multitude.

Goodman’s first encounter in the woods is an old man who reminds him of his goodly grandfather. The old man appears to be waiting for Goodman. He says, “You are late, Goodman Brown.” Goodman replies “Faith kept me back awhile”.

Though the old man appears similar to Brown in many pedestrian ways the old man also appears to have “an indescribable air of one who knew the world”. And there’s something else Goodman notices and tries to explain away.

But the only thing about him that could be fixed upon as remarkable was his staff, which bore the likeness of a great black snake, so curiously wrought that it might almost be seen to twist and wriggle itself like a living serpent. This, of course, must have been an ocular deception, assisted by the uncertain light.

It is clear to the reader that the old man is the devil who is supported by the serpent staff, He does his best to entice Goodman Brown down the road to what is later called “the communion of your race” where he will learn of the “secret deeds” of his fellow townsfolk and see hypocrisy countenanced.

Goodman balks, claiming to be one of a breed of men who is above the riff-raff.

“Too far! too far!” exclaimed the goodman, unconsciously resuming his walk. “My father never went into the woods on such an errand, nor his father before him. We have been a race of honest men and good Christians since the days of the martyrs; and shall I be the first of the name of Brown that ever took this path and kept—”

Goodman’s journey away from faith is stop and go as wrestles with the temptation of going on. He encounters something he initially resists and uses the honor of his good name and of those before him as a reason to rethink things before giving on to going on. But, he doesn’t use his faith as a shield and so bends in to temptation. He continues his journey with the old man’s urging.

The old man tries to persuade Goodman to get up and continue. He does so by using Goodman’s own argument. The old man conjures up a kinship with men like Goodman. He lies about having personal knowledge and acquaintance of Goodman’s family. He then speaks of townsfolk – deacons and those in power – as personal references. He cajoles Goodman to continue their ‘association’ by journeying on.

Goodman Brown once considered himself impervious to all the devil’s wiles. After all he was one of the elect and associated with the right people. But each step he took in the wrong direction away from faith weakened his resolve. His compromises were reinforced by his inordinate curiosity. He continues his journey into the deepest darkest part of the forest and sees what the “communion of our race” so desires, “that the good shrank not from the wicked, nor were sinners abashed”.

 

There are several interpretations and critiques of the story. Some will say that Hawthorne is pointing out the hypocrisy of a society that prides itself on its high moral and civic standing and makes outcasts of those who do not live up to its standards. Other interpreters go out on a dark forest limb with their construal:

Modern critics have interpreted “Young Goodman Brown” in many ways. The story as a critique of society stands out to some. To psychologically inclined readers, Brown journeys into the psyche. The village represents the superego, whereas the forest and darkness become equivalents of the Freudian id. The entire story becomes a portrait of one human mind that discovers the usually suppressed and disquieting reality of animal instinct

The story’s symbols lend its meaning to a wide audience and to many interpretations. As you read it you will have your own takeaway. I consider it an allegory or parable about assumptions, hypocrisy and the lure of evil to pull one away from one’s home base of faith toward the “reality of animal instincts”.

The story doesn’t tell us Brown’s motives other than “present evil purpose” Conjecture would lead us to think that young Goodman Brown had become questioning about evil and the devil even though he lived surrounded by strict warnings against both in Puritan village. One gets the sense that Brown goes out by himself to just stick his nose in on evil for the sake of understanding the world he lives in and perhaps the fear of evil inculcated in him by his upbringing.

 

I have provided some of my take on Young Goodman Brown and some excerpts from the story with the hope that you will read the short story (it should take about fifteen minutes). I invite you to consider what road you are taking when you want to stick your nose in on evil. Consider where it leads and what you will encounter. And, where it will lead you. This road does not lead home.

We are told in Scripture to “test the spirits” so that we may know what is good and true and from God. That is not what is going on in Young Goodman Brown. Rather, this a young man who leaves faith behind and takes a walk on the wild side and ends up at a satanic ritual. His road did not lead back home to faith. It led to nihilism and despair and the resolve to no longer exist.

In truth, all through the haunted forest there could be nothing more frightful than the figure of Goodman Brown. On he flew among the black pines, brandishing his staff with frenzied gestures, now giving vent to an inspiration of horrid blasphemy, and now shouting forth such laughter as set all the echoes of the forest laughing like demons around him. The fiend in his own shape is less hideous than when he rages in the breast of man. Thus sped the demoniac on his course, until…

 

 

 

Here is a link to the story: Young Goodman Brown

We’ve Been Down This Road Before

 

One does not need a degree in cultural studies to see that our culture is charmed by and suffused with charismatic self-knowledge, self-love, self-esteem, and self-awareness. The powerful, the glamorous, the ministers of inclusion, and the gurus of self-help each promote their version of snake oil which, by application, would lift the unenlightened feeble off of terra firma to the heights of self-dom. Their special tonic is said to awaken consciousness, to liberate from conditioning and to provide relief from suffering. Mystical, intuitive, subjective, inward, and emotional approaches to truth are everywhere promoted as leading to a higher plane of existence where self-knowledge is knowledge of the divine. The self and the divine are to be perceived and experienced as identical.

One quote from a gnostic teaching website is sufficient to reveal the ‘higher road’ many are taking:

“Yet to know oneself, at the deepest level, is simultaneously to know God; this is the secret of gnosis. Another gnostic teacher, Monoimus, says:

Abandon the search for God and the creation and other matters of a similar sort. Look for him by taking yourself as the starting point. Learn who it is within you who makes everything his own and says,” My God, my mind, my thought, my soul, my body.” Learn the sources of sorrow:, joy, love, hate … If you carefully investigate these matters you will find him in yourself.”

In the Garden of Eden, the serpent asked, “Did God really say…?” And, based on what I am seeing today, I can imagine that It also whispered “What does the god within you say?” The choice Adam and Eve made put them on the road leading out of the garden. This is the road most travelled.

As I was considering this topic the Technicolor image of the cowardly lion wringing his hands came to mind. I had the misfortune of seeing the musical fantasy Wizard of Oz in my youth.

Why the misfortune? While it made fantasy-tale sense that characters made of straw and tin needed something to be humanish, what was a humanish animal requiring courage about? What was it about this movie that disturbed me? It took me some time to sort out – discern – why I do not like the movie: it’s promotion of Gnosticism in the morally vacuous Land of Oz and the wimpy withering lion.

The lion in the Wizard of Oz is the anthropomorphic personification of presumably silly and timid humans lacking self-awareness. The lion comes into the story like a bleating lamb and leaves as a roaring lion. How did the transformation happen? Through gnosis. The lion is told by a wizard (a professor; a spiritual guide and self-help guru of sorts) that the lion must acknowledge the courage he already possesses inside. The same self-knowledge mirror is held up for the Straw Man and the Tin Man.

And what is the purpose of the new found-in-self brain, heart and courage in the moral vacuum of Oz? To “awaken their consciousness and liberate them from conditioning”? And the reason for courage? Courage to not be afraid of what? Of things that go “Boo” in the night? Courage to be yourself?

Lest anyone think that I am being picayune about a now beloved child’s fantasy they should pull back the curtain and see what’s lurks there in light of the above and with today’s culture in view.

In the moral vacuum of the Land of Oz, does gnosis-courage mean one bravely acts to be one’s self at all costs? If the only moral reference points are yourself and someone telling you have what it takes within, are you prone to then embrace your base desires to be one’s self? Are we to believe ‘wizards’ that through self-knowledge we change from baaing sheep into roaring lions? See for yourself what’s come out from behind the curtain in the Land of Oz:

Actress Judy Garland (1922–1969) is widely considered a gay icon. The Advocate has called Garland “The Elvis of homosexuals”. The reasons frequently given for her standing as an icon among gay men are admiration of her ability as a performer, the way her personal struggles seemed to mirror those of gay men in America during the height of her fame, and her value as a camp figure. Garland’s role as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz is particularly noted for contributing to this status. – Judy Garland as gay icon

Has Western culture has followed the Yellow Brick Road? Besides the ubiquitous adverts by wizards of enlightenment coming out with their brand of snake oil, we hear almost every day in the media of someone coming out (via self-knowledge) as gay. This gnostic way of understanding has been confirmed by Pope Francis when he said “God made you this way.”

It is no secret that Progressive elements in our culture promote being oneself as one walks along on their wide Yellow Brick Road of self-discovery. This way is touted as the higher, more “universal” and thus “neutral” perspective and that the meta-narrative of Christianity is the narrow road which must be avoided and declared the wrong way. Progressivism doesn’t see its own meta-narrative of identity politics and of reducing the moral universe to the god within. Progressivism isn’t self-aware.

Universities, under the thrall of Progressivism and of course benefactors, are incubators of gnosis. They seek to awaken a new vision and to stir up dormant impulses in cowardly lions. Pseudo-disciplines like women’s studies, black studies, LGBTQ studies, etc., offer Woke gnosis.

The Land of Oz campus admins create physical safe spaces so that self-realization is safely tucked in and away from things that go “Boo!” in the day. For Land of Oz sustainability, Marxism and socialism are taught as the means to create financial safe space. The idea is to make others pay so the disciples of self don’t have to concern themselves with material concerns. This, so one can continue to grow in self-awareness and be an SJW with a moral center carefully crafted around gnosis.

At graduation, participation trophies are presented to the brave – those who stood inside safe spaces against outside knowledge, and to the compassionate (for others like themselves). A diploma, a medal and a ticking heart-shaped watch are passed onto to another generation. These trinkets of gnosis are bestowed under a ceremonial banner, which reads: “Know thyself, Be Thyself. We are here for our own sake”.

There is a Yellow Brick way that seems right to a man who seeks to find what it takes to be one’s self, but the ends thereof are the ways of self.

 

 

~~~

Of course, not all self-reflection is be rejected. Proper introspection is to occur in the prayer closet. There, in the Light of the Lord, sin is exposed and named. You learn to see yourself as the Lord sees you. You confess your sin and ask for forgiveness. Then the Lord returns you to the road before you to walk in his resurrection power.

Now, it takes no courage whatsoever to tell others how to live to make them comfortable for you to be around. That is social justice for the woke generation. It does take considerable courage to look into one’s soul and see the darkness within, to repent and to cast out any unclean spirits in the name of the Jesus.

The absolutions of the Woke World humanist religion are self-justification and self-righteousness. Both are repulsed by the Lord. Prayer-closet courage is required to resist both.

The Serpent’s Apprentice(s)

The Fall of the Damned, Peter Paul Rubens

Spiritual reality surrounds us. This fact is attested to at the very least by the numerous TV programs about the paranormal. Shown are ‘investigations’ of the dead, and of ghosts and of supposed haunting spirits. But what are those fascinated and even obsessed about the spirit world connecting with? What do we know about the unclean spirits, the ones Jesus cast out of humans (See my previous post Deliver Us from Evil)?

Genesis opens with God and His temple building creation of earth. We learn of light and darkness. And we soon learn of the spiritual forces of darkness that want control of the temple where God is to dwell with man.

Right from the start of man’s existence another voice interprets God’s word for its own purposes: “Did God really say you couldn’t?”; “You will not certainly die if you do eat the fruit.”; “God has held back nothing from you but the fruit of this tree. Eat it and know what He knows.” Humans fall into sin by willfully accepting the Serpent’s interpretation of becoming like God. Adam and Eve took the bait (an apple leading to God-like knowledge) into their hands. The enmity between humans and the serpent begins.

Prior to the fall of man, the Satan had a falling out with God. What happened is explained in detail in Ezekiel 28. A description of ascendant pride, whether of the Satan or of man’s, is recorded in Isaiah 14. The fallout of enmity between God and the red dragon, an emblem of the Satan, is described in Daniel 8 and here, in Revelation 12: 3-4:

Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads.  Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth.

Proverbs 16:18 sums the result of pride and opposition to God: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall”.

The fallen angels were booted from Heaven and were no longer able to return. Where did the fallen angels go after being kicked out of heaven? Genesis 6: 1-7 tells us indirectly.

When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.

Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”

The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.

The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.

So the LORD said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.”

 

In Scripture the “sons of God” typically refer to angels. Above are fallen angels. This passage infers that the first incarnation and sacrilege took place – fallen angels impregnated humans.  They had illicit intercourse with women thereby creating a super race of warriors. Then, as now, the fallen angels mean to deface the image of God in humans. They seek to undo what God has created and to ‘create’ a race of Un-men*.

The cast-out angels did what they apprenticed to do by their father, the serpent or the “Bent One” as so described in C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy. They came to down earth to create chaos and to gain the power and favor they lost. As agents of evil they come under the description of evil as provided in N.T. Wright’s book Evil and the Justice of God:

Evil is the force of anti-creation, anti-life, the force which opposes and seeks to deface and destroy God’s good world of space, time and matter, and above all God’s image-bearing human creatures.

As we read above, the fallen angels deface Gods’ image bearing humans in the temple of their bodies. Using human sexuality and man’s willful acceptance they debase that image. Does any of this collusion with evil leading to self-imposed temple defilement look familiar today?

Fallen angels multiplied what happened in the garden of Eden. Mankind’s wickedness grew with the earth’s population. Until the flood. Then, except for Noah and his family and selected animals, the human race was wiped from the face of the earth along with the Nephilim (“giants” in the Septuagint), the offspring of the intercourse of fallen angels with women. It may be assumed that with the decimating flood the hosts of the unclean spirits died and the unclean spirits were released into, for a lack of a better word, the ether.

Intertestamental Jewish writings provide the context of Jesus’ ministry including the existence of unclean spirits. These writing fill in roughly four-hundred years of information about Jewish thought and theology between the Old and New Testament. Topics include angels, demons, the messiah, the resurrection and the law of Moses. Each of these topics, which were on the minds of the Jews, is addressed in the gospels. Jesus responds to each topic, each question, and each confrontation with authority.

Adding to the context of Jesus’ day, synagogues, mentioned in the gospels but not mentioned in the Pentateuch, likely originated in exile and in Babylonia. The opening chapter of Mark’s gospel finds Jesus in a synagogue casting out an unclean spirit.

What about written context beyond Genesis chapter 6? Other than the reference in Genesis, there is nothing written about fallen angels/unclean spirits until the intertestamental books. The topic of demons in these books may have been due to Babylonian interest in lesser gods and demons and their writing about them. Here is a passage from the Book of the Watchers (15: 6-12), written around 300 BCE:

And though ye were holy, spiritual, living the eternal life, you have defiled yourselves with the blood of women, and have begotten (children) with the blood of flesh, and, as the children of men, have lusted after flesh and blood as those also do who die and perish. Therefore have I given them wives also that they might impregnate them, and beget children by them, that thus nothing might be wanting to them on earth. But you were formerly spiritual, living the eternal life, and immortal for all generations of the world. And therefore I have not appointed wives for you; for as for the spiritual ones of the heaven, in heaven is their dwelling.
And now, the giants, who are produced from the spirits and flesh, shall be called evil spirits upon
the earth, and on the earth shall be their dwelling. Evil spirits have proceeded from their bodies; because they are born from men and from the holy Watchers is their beginning and primal origin; they shall be evil spirits on earth, and evil spirits shall they be called. [As for the spirits of heaven, in heaven shall be their dwelling, but as for the spirits of the earth which were born upon the earth, on the earth shall be their dwelling.]
And the spirits of the giants afflict, oppress, destroy, attack, do battle, and work destruction on the earth, and cause trouble: they take no food, but nevertheless hunger and thirst, and cause offences. And these spirits shall rise up against the children of men and against the women, because they have proceeded from them.

The “Watchers” designation tells us that these spirits are restless and never sleep. These disembodied spirits are able to dwell in humans and animals. We learn that they cause havoc: “the spirits of the giants afflict, oppress, destroy, attack, do battle, and work destruction on the earth, and cause trouble”. They are the ones Jesus casts out (again and again) as he begins His kingdom on earth.

 

In a previous post, See Him as He Is, I posited that followers of Jesus must see Jesus as He is as recorded in all of Scripture’s narrative and as revealed to them by the Holy Spirit. They are not to view him through a tainted by evil rose-colored glass worldview. Absolute clarity requires the Lord’s followers to remove their hands from their eyes and their fingers from their ears and to take in the reality of Jesus and the world around us. In my last post I noted that the unclean spirit in Mark chapter one knew exactly who Jesus is. The unclean spirit saw with absolute clarity. And, like Jesus, we are to see enemy as he is and then cast him out.

Now, the Evil One and his apprentices don’t care about your politics. They don’t care if you are Republican or Democrat. They don’t care about the color of your skin or about the colors of your flag. They don’t care if you are rich or poor or male or female. Here is what they care about: to “afflict, oppress, destroy, attack, do battle, and work destruction on the earth, and cause trouble”. The Evil One’s apprentices seek to deface creation and the image of God in each human. Throughout cultures and nations and throughout time, the apprentices entice, lie and pervert humans, turning them into beasts which live to satisfy animal urges.

In C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape (the Evil One), apprentices Wormwood. In the quote below note Screwtape’s frustration with how things were created by God and how that which has been created must be perverted:

”He [God] has a bourgeois mind. He has filled His world full of pleasures. There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least – sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working. Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us. We fight under cruel disadvantages. Nothing is naturally on our side.”

 

Don’t let twisted pleasure and appetites define you. Abhor evil. Cling to good. Don’t become an apprentice of the Evil One. Don’t give the enemy advantage. Don’t toy with evil. Stay away from mediums, Tarot cards, Ouija Boards, astrology, séances, pornography, drugs and …entertainment, the devil’s playground.

Disney’s Fantasia is one example of how entertainment downplays the forces of darkness. Consider the animated short wherein Mickey Mouse portrays a sorcerer’s apprentice. The popular cartoon character plays with magic and conjures up all kinds of out-of-control havoc. The ‘approving’ adult background music is Paul Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Watching this, a child is lured into relating to and empathizing with evil’s apprentice, an endearing cutesy child-like character in a wizard hat who experiments with magic and gets into ‘innocent’ trouble. On the surface, the animated short comes across as cautionary tale against disobeying the rules. But it actually encourages a child to try again and to avoid the consequences next time.

The twaddle of Harry Potter books and movies is meant to entertain and to make a huge profit for its creator and producers. Yet, the fantasy series has nothing good to offer the partaker. The series is just diversion, a distraction from reality. And worse. Like Disney’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice, its main characters engage with magic arts. Entertainment, like all temptations including the ones posed to the Lord, are, in essence, about denying reality and obtaining power to control reality. Once your child partakes of this ‘amusement’, he or she is hooked. See your enemy as he is. He wants your child to experiment with evil to obtain power. If you think I am kidding, look around at the pagan invasion of children’s culture. (A book I highly recommend: A Landscape with Dragons: The Battle for Your Child’s Mind by Michael O’Brien)

Unclean spirits promote fantasy. Their temptations come in the form of fantasy. Just as in the Garden they want you to entertain notions of unrestricted freedom and narcissistic god-like power (e.g., R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly”). The temptation to convert fantasy into reality – more money and notoriety – is behind the Jussie Smollett hoax. There is a vast difference between a healthy imagination in which good and evil and outcomes are considered and fantasy which projects into reality.

“… we need to make a distinction between fantasy and imagination. Both fantasy and imagination concern unrealities; but while the unrealities of fantasy penetrate and pollute the world, those of the imagination exist in a world of their own, in which we wander freely and in full knowledge of the really real…Fantasy covets the gross, the explicit, the no-holds-barred display of the unobtainable; and in the crisis of display the unobtainable is vicariously obtained.”

-Roger Scruton, Chapter 6, Fantasy, Imagination and the Salesman, An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Modern Culture

Spiritual reality surrounds us. This fact is substantially attested to by the influences of the perverse paranormal on humans. Look around at the effects of unclean spirits on humans. You find cynicism and sentimentality promoted. You find projection and scapegoating. You find a culture embracing victimhood instead of personal responsibility. You find unexplained mental illness and depression. You read reports of suicide. Evil, promoted day and night, afflicts, oppresses, and destroys the good.

Turn on the radio and you will hear music from the bowels of hell. Art and architecture are increasingly de-humanized. As you sit in front of any media outlet you come across daily headlines and a continuous stream of entertainment filled with accounts of murder, violence, sex abuse, revenge, racism, and all manner of evil. The dark web is a “malignant outgrowth of evil – a sub-culture collective of hive-minded individuals wreaking havoc today, even now as you read your computer screen”. The spirit of lawlessness surrounds us and encounters us everywhere we are, even in our beds.

This world, until Jesus returns to reign on earth, is under attack by the agents, apprentices, and accusers of the Evil One. These spiritual entities will do all they can with your permission to diminish the glory of God in the temples where the image of God dwells. And, just as unclean spirits impregnated women, these same unclean spirits want to impregnate and defile your temple – your body, mind and spirit – with inordinate desires with and for the proliferation of pornography obsession, homosexuality, promiscuity, pedophilia and all manner of sexual perversion.

We are told in Scripture to test the spirits. Test the spirits in your church. If you are hearing spiritual platitudes or prosperity gospel or that “God made you that way” or social justice and rights and political power promotions but you are not hearing evil being addressed and cast out and “Jesus is Lord” every Sunday then there is something very, very wrong. The apprentices have done their work by creating the “Holy Church of Christ Without Christ” (Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor) with the blessing of those in the pews.

Just as in the coliseum of Rome, Christians today are surrounded by roaring lions that seek to devour us. Some of us will be martyred. Others will deny or ignore or even try to placate the lions with compromise and then be consumed by them when a comprise is reached. Some will deny the Lord. Others of us will stand our ground and use the word of God to fell them.

Stay in control of yourselves; stay awake. Your enemy, the devil, is stalking around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, staying resolute in your faith, and knowing that other family members in the rest of the world are facing identical sufferings. Then, after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who called you in the Messiah Jesus to the glory of his new age, will himself put you in good order, and will establish and strengthen you and set you on firm foundations. To him be the power forever. Amen. 1 Peter 5: 8-11

What are those fascinated with and even obsessed about the spirt world connecting with? They are connecting with the unclean spirits that left the bodies of giants during the Flood and the spirits that left the bodies of pigs when they rushed into the water and all of the unclean demonic host cast out of heaven and unable to return. We must heed the Apostle Paul. Paul saw the enemy as he is. So, he warned the church at Ephesus, a church surrounded by sex cults and idolatry and inundated with unclean spirits, (Eph. 6:12):

The warfare we’re engaged in, you see, isn’t against flesh and blood. It’s against the leaders, against the authorities, against the powers that rule the world in this dark age, against the wicked spiritual elements in the heavenly places.

See your enemy as he is. Your enemy sees you as you are – the image-bearing creation of the One who cast them out of His Presence.

 

And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.

–        “A Mighty Fortress is our God” by Martin Luther

 

 

Lord, the whole of your creation, including me, groans waiting for your return to put things right, to finally cast out the red dragon and his apprentices, the unclean spirits. Help me as I wait to see the enemy as It is and to cast It out. Give me discernment from your Holy Spirit to be able to test the spirits in your church. If You are not declared Lord in the church we attend then help us, by your Spirit, to test the spirits of that church and to put things right.

Help me to overcome my resistance to being different than the Dark World. I am born of you, the Light of the world. That is why I find no pleasure in the media or the politics of power. I want to dwell in your Light all of my days and in the age to come.

Father, your beloved and begotten son Jesus is Lord of the Universe. Amen.

 

~~~

Lord willing, I’ll have a future post about dealing with evil.

(*) In C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy novel Perelandra, Ransom the protagonist names Weston, the evil antagonist, the Un-man. Weston becomes less human and eviler as the story progresses.

Deliver Us from Evil

Evil and its enforcer, power, has been around long before man employed both to consolidate empires. Cain killed Abel to gain power over the living reminder of his own disobedience. Joseph’s brothers sold Joseph into slavery to gain power over the living reminder of their supposed unfair treatment and over their father’s love and estate. Evil and its enforcer, power, have always worked together with ruthless abandon to take truth hostage.

 “Violence finds its only refuge in falsehood, falsehood its only support in violence.”

-Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

An astute student of world history would discern that seeking and holding absolute power is valued as far superior to seeking and holding absolute truth. Those who hold power believe they can generate a ‘regime of truth’ by virtue of their position: “truth is what I say it is.”. Anyone attuned to current world affairs can readily see that culture and politics, including our democratic Republic in the U.S., revolve around who holds what power and therefore controls what is and what has been. For, as Winston repeated over and over in George Orwell’s 1984, “who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” A student of Scripture will see that the regimes of power and truth, beastly kingdoms, are made subject to Absolute Power and Absolute Truth.

It has been said that the gospel crafted by Mark, an ace narrator, was written to a Roman audience. Certainly, there is a “just then” immediacy to his gospel. A sense of action is invoked which would peek a centurion’s ‘man of action’ curiosity. Of more importance to a Roman though, and to any earthly authority and to those under authority, is the theme of who holds power. On earth, regimes of power control regimes of truth. The spiritual world of unclean spirits requires a human habitation to control truth incarnate (Rom. 1:21). Mark’s gospel is the proclamation of a new regime of power and has nothing to do with a justice league of super-heroes with super powers.

In terms similar to announcing a new emperor who claimed to be a son of god, Mark begins his gospel by proclaiming Jesus’ title:

“This is where the good news starts – the good news of Jesus the Messiah, God’s son.”

With this proclamation a new regime is declared. The title acknowledges Jesus’ authority and connotes his power. The title announces what Israel had so hoped for — a Messiah, one who is anointed by God and therefore God’s representative. The Hebrew scriptures chronicled anointed kings, priests and prophets who represented God to Israel. The book of Daniel and writings between the Testaments, in particular the Messianic Apocalypse and the Son of God text from the Dead Sea Scrolls, record Jewish Messianic beliefs in ancient Judaism. In these texts, “Son of Man” is the title given to the one who will reign and hold dominion over all things and offer blessings to those under him.

The new regime, anticipated in Psalm 146 and the Messianic Apocalypse, comes with four blessings:

-The hungry are fed

-the prisoner is set free

-the blind receive their sight

– all things are put right.

Mark’s opening statement declares Jesus to be the anointed One of God. And, of vast more import to the Jews and to the regimes of power and truth, Jesus is declared to be not just another mere mortal claiming to be a son of god, but the One God’s own Son. Human and spirit and citizen and centurion encounter Jesus in Mark’s account. They soon come to this realization.

In the first paragraphs of Mark, Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist is recorded. Here is the anointing of Jesus by water, by the spirit and by The Voice from the realm of heaven: “You are my son! You are the one I love! You make me very glad!”

Next, Jesus is tested by the Satan. The temptation is for Jesus to accept the realm of power and authority that the Satan offers to him.

A few paragraphs later we read of Jesus and his new disciples going to Capernaum. There Jesus encounters a force from the realm of darkness, the same realm offered to him by the Satan:

They went to Capernaum. At once, on the sabbath, Jesus went into the synagogue and taught. They were astonished at his teaching. He wasn’t like the legal teachers; he said things on his own authority.

All at once, in the synagogue, there was a man with an unclean spirit.

“What business have you got with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” he yelled. “Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: you’re God’s Holy One!”

“Be quiet!” ordered Jesus “And come out of him!”

The unclean spirt convulsed the man, gave a great shout, and came out of him. Everyone was astonished.

“What’s this?” they started to say to each other. “New teaching – with real authority! He even tells unclean spirits what to do, and they do it!”

Mark’s gospel account goes on to detail events which show the authority and power of Jesus. Over and over we read of Jesus’ power over demons, the unclean spirits which roam the earth seeking whom they may inhabit. Realms of power are juxtaposed – heaven’s and the dark forces of the Satan which control men. They are shown in direct conflict. And note above: the unclean spirt knows who Jesus is and by whose authority he works before anyone else in the story. But why does Jesus stop the demon from declaring his identity? Mark’s beginning narrative imposes a tension that is resolved at the end of his gospel.

Before the end of the gospel we read of exorcisms. The realms of darkness are dealt with in these passages:

Mark 1:21-28 – shown above

Mark 5:1-20 – a wild untamed man with inhuman strength is possessed by an unclean spirit. He lives in a graveyard. We read that “No one had the strength to tame him”. This demon possessed man sees Jesus and throws himself in front of Jesus and shouts at the top of his voice…

“Why you and me, Jesus?”  “Why you and me, son of the High God?” By God stop torturing me!”  this last, because Jesus was saying to him “Unclean spirit, come out of him!”

Jesus cast The Legion of demons into a herd of pigs. The pigs then rush to the sea where they drowned. (The unclean spirits leave the dead pigs and go on searching for someone to inhabit.)

Mark 7:24-30 – a Greek woman throws herself at Jesus’ feet. She pleads with Jesus to cast an unclean spirit out of her daughter. After hearing the gentile woman’s “even the dogs under the table eat the crumbs that the children drop” Jesus affirms her words and sends her on her way. Her demon-possessed daughter back at home was rid of the unclean spirit.

Mark 9:14-29 – a father brings his demon possessed son to Jesus. The disciples could not cast out the demon. Jesus is notably angry at the unbelief in the power of God, especially when the father hedges, “…if you can do anything…” Jesus reprimands the father. “What do you mean, ‘If you can?” “Everything is possible to someone who believes.” The father shouts “I do believe! “Help me in my unbelief!” Jesus commands the unclean spirit to come out of the boy. The boy convulses and the unclean spirit comes out. The disciples go to question why they were ineffective. Jesus responds, “This sort can only be cast out by prayer.”

In Mark 3:15, 6:7 & 13 and 9:38-39 Jesus gives his followers the authority to cast out unclean spirits.

Mark is an excellent story-teller. As you read above, tension was imposed by Mark in the beginning paragraphs – the silence imposed on the unclean spirit who disclosed Jesus’ identity. This was done to pique the reader’s curiosity. Mark wanted the reader to discover for themselves who Jesus is. Like those involved with Jesus, the reader would question “Is Jesus really the Messiah?” and “Is Jesus really God’s son?” Each encounter and event would provoke questioning and amazement in the reader: “What’s this?”; “New teaching – with real authority! “He even tells unclean spirits what to do, and they do it!” And then the crucifixion appears to give the regime in power – the Romans- the final word about Jesus. But Mark gives us the final word through the mouth of a centurion:

When the centurion who was standing facing him saw that he died in this way, he said, “This fellow really was God’s son.”

The tension is resolved by an onlooker.

 

Lest anyone think that Jesus’ sole purpose on earth was to promote social justice and to have his words later passed on as “all you need is love” sixties-style bromides, Mark’s gospel declares to us that Jesus came to deal with evil and its enforcer, power, and with the agents of corruption possessing a will.

Mark declares that there is a new Lord in power, one with all authority in heaven and on earth. As shown by Mark, no power-enforced “regime of truth” on earth or under the earth can take Jesus’ truth hostage. Truth is what Jesus says it is and his truth can set a person free from power-and will-enforced bondage. No regime of power on earth or under the earth can keep his creation hostage. The world of men is to be set free and blessed by his reign. He chose his followers to make that happen.

Jesus has conferred his authority and power to his followers so that the blind will receive their sight and the hungry are fed and the prisoners are set free and unclean spirits are cast out. The world is to be put right under his Lordship.

To sum Mark’s gospel into today’s media parlance, Jesus slammed, crushed and owned the enemy of our souls. To sum Mark’s gospel in Scriptural phrasing…

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our LORD and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever. -The Revelation of Jesus Christ 11:15