Sunday, April 28, 2013

Finishing What the Inklings Started

Finishing What the Inklings Started

George MacDonald
Given the level of interest in Christian circles in the Inklings, as well as the responsive reading of articles on Tolkien or Lewis at this site, it might be helpful to pinpoint what the perennial appeal of the Inklings is, wherein the power lies, and how one might recover and extend it.

Lewis makes no bones about his debt to George MacDonald : “I fancy there is not a single work in which I did not quote from him”. Lewis claimed that the reading of Phantastes and Lilith “baptized” his imagination, which lay dormant until his reasoning faculty “caught up” to the baptism many years later, and he found out that MacDonald had been telling him the same thing the whole time.

Through MacDonald, Madeline L’Engle and Dorothy Sayers (who promoted the revival of Trivium from the Middle Ages) also came under the influence of the spirit which animated the Inklings. Mihai has addressed how the imagination can lead one astray in the religion life; it can also be put into the service of the Truth, much as Scholasticism (which Tomberg praises on this score) put Reason in the service of the faith, until William of Ockham and Jean Buridan and Duns Scotus and others abandoned their sources and created nominalism.

This was the unique project of the Inklings; Cologero has remarked how poetry, myth, and legend is the main popular manner of transmitting Tradition exoterically to the masses (and here, we may note Matthew Arnold’s insistence that religion and poetry are more akin than one might suspect). So we may see the Inklings as attempting to extend Christian mytho-poesis to the masses through something akin to religion, but different, both in focus (the Imagination) and vehicle (mythopoetic truth). This is the basis of their perennial appeal and power.

It should be unnecessary to remark that Tolkien falls from a different spiritual heredity, through the Catholic Church, but that he was linked to the other Inklings by a kindred and worshipful fascination with things “Northern”. Charles Williams, of course, came to the Inklings via the Masonic and Rosicrucian orders; however, he too knew George MacDonald’s work. It is fair also to say that all of them, more or less, were drawn towards Dante, and this is not accidental.

Both Dante and MacDonald would have rejected modern “Science’s” claim to arbitrate truths of Reason, let alone Spirit:
“Scientists/witches like Watho attempt to know nature, but are in error: “human science is but the backward undoing of the tapestry-web of God’s science” (2, 236). MacDonald does not contradict science, nor does he press a theistic interpretation onto his readers. In fact, allegorising too would come close to an “undoing the tapestry” which would be quite alien to MacDonald. Rather he replaces anthropocentric science with an ecological perspective in which nature and its “sympathetic forms” come first, whether religious/fantastic or scientific/rational.” [This is  John Pridmore commenting on MacDonald's fairy tales.] The discourse which thus speaks of nature has its own authenticity and autonomy—The theistic and non-theistic accounts of nature are neither incompatible nor is the one to be reduced to the other.” This is not synthesis or dichotomy. “Instead MacDonald’s art is to present nature in a natural form, that is, in the form of the fairy tale. The cut-up, labelled, specimen means nothing; the flower is everything: “To know a primrose is a higher thing than to know all the botany of it” (Unspoken Sermons)
Why compare George MacDonald and Dante? Besides the fact that MacDonald lived a hard life and resembled a Russian staretz, and leaving out the fact that MacDonald was not an initiate, nor did he possess a great style (as Dante did), MacDonald was known to have read Church patristics, from which he derived a great deal of his imaginative and intellectual freedom from the rough-hewn Scottish Calvinism around him. His writings, moreover, are told primarily to embody moral truths: that is, he aims to make the Good appear more Beautiful. I have pointed out elsewhere a rather strange link in time and space with an Indian Sikh and preacher, which is of interest in terms of “passing the flame”.
George MacDonald was the seminal influence (spiritually) upon most of the Inklings (although it could be said that Tolkien added something different and also better to this union). The Inklings in large part existed because of the life of denial and enchantment with “baptizing the imagination” which he initiated, without the advantages of secret doctrine or formal initiation, and really only a few old books of theology and the example of his living father to point him in the right direction. However, like Dante, he endeavored to educate the reader towards that which was Holy, to make the Good attractive, new, strange, and overpowering. He was a spiritual teacher first, a man of letters accidentally.

Lewis formally (and unfortunately) rejected Tradition (as Gornahoor has established). Nevertheless, this was not as true for either Tolkien or Williams, which accounts for Lewis’ strange affinities for both, which pulled him in different directions (due to Williams’ unorthodox spiritual ancestry). Williams’ early death and the war, as well as Lewis’ marriage, and various other events, broke up the Inkling fellowship.
In Lewis’ later work, Till We Have Faces, there is a marked return to mythology and deeper spiritual import. I have not read Leaf by Niggle, but this later work of Tolkien is also more explicitly personal and also more explicitly mythopoeic, in the sense that it virtually claims that the Imagination, if saved, can be shown to have a place in the economy of heaven that is intimately linked to the true heart’s desire.
Why have modern day Christians confined themselves to a kind of fundamentalistic admiration for the “fantasy” element within the Inkling work, almost completely ignoring the actual sources and spiritual import of the Inklings at their most complex? This is despite the fact that, in the Inklings, they do not have to contend with esoteric doctrine, except a kind of careful employment of it in some of William’s work.

This kind of avoidance indicates an almost pathological ignorance of spiritual depth. The reality is that the mission and purpose of the Inklings went far beyond what was actually manifested, and indeed, could be revived. Let us hope that men of Tradition, and Christians if possible, undertake this work, because the implications of their most mature thinking and art carry them far beyond even the fantastic shores they undoubtedly discovered.

Honoring our ancestors would undoubtedly include faithfully differing from them in light of Tradition (MacDonald was practically cut off from it, and yet managed to discover enough to ignite the only revival of Christian letters England has known), and yet laying claim and extending whatever is consistent with Tradition in them.

This time around, those doing this would be armed with real Tradition. And what might Imagination in the service of Tradition look like?
Future posts will aim to demonstrate the truth of these claims concretely, and offer suggestions for carrying on the work of the Inklings.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives

Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives

Elder ThaddeusCologero had mentioned this book, coincidentally, at the same time that I had stumbled across it myself, so I finally made the purchase, and finished reading it. I found it most helpful; Elder Thaddeus is simultaneously very strict (insofar as he sets out an arduous teaching) and yet very compassionate, encouraging, and “human”: at one point, the man even had a cigarette problem, which he overcame, while in Kosovo at the Pech monastery. Elder Thaddeus was not a legalistic or judgmental man – what he was, most definitely, was a saint.
Apparently, Elder Thaddeus had several experiences with angels, one while wide awake in prison, in which a very tall man wearing an old military uniform with a strange gold cross came to him to assure him that the Nazis would not be executing him, because God had many in Serbia that needed comfort. He also experienced the prayer “in” or “by” the heart through the Jesus prayer, and attained all three levels of Orthodox mystical experience by the time of his death. At his funeral, the birds, of whom he had often spoken with love and admiration, came in great numbers.
Here are some important points of doctrine gleaned from his essays, topical sermons, and quotes (ie., these are points that are repeated in various contexts and ways).
1. Man is a spiritual being who is dominated by psychic delusion and bodily passions, which convince us that “we” need something that is superfluous.
2. This domination always occurs through the power of aerial spirits, which are fallen angels, who have access to man’s psychic constitution and long experience in manipulating man.
3. These spirits have varying degrees of wickedness, even among their own hierarchy.
4. They do this because they are lonely, fearful of the coming judgement, envious of man’s special and privileged status, and because they also “feed” off the psychic energy derived from man’s falling into sin. Each angel or spirit has their own “specialty”.
5. Man has the power to resist this, primarily because these spirits cannot access or even see man’s inner heart, and because God Himself intervenes very frequently to lead souls back to Him.
6. God knew that the original state of man would “fall”, and that we would not be able to maintain our perfection; He therefore wisely and compassionately determined to use His own nature, and ours, in a synergistic way to overcome the fall, to lead back certain souls who remembered Him despite their sins, through their educative process back to a pristine condition.
7. This synergism is most boldly seen in the figure of Christ, who is the archetype or pattern for what will come after.
8. Mary the Theotokos is the pattern for what our love for God should be like. (I will speculate that this is primarily due to the lack of perfection in Christ, and the “feminine” nature of our soul in relation to its higher parts/God). Christ is the eventual pattern for our love, but Mary is chief among the saints.
9. Communion with angels and saints is necessary in order to achieve communion with God.
10. No evil spirit can touch someone who hasn’t first harmed themselves. “We are the sole architects of our future”.
11. Everyone without exception desires absolute life and love: humans are variously warped in their search for this.
12. Vigilance, eternal vigilance, is necessary to achieve a state of grace, and even to keep it. You must examine every thought that enters your inner heart.
13. Only through the descent of the higher part of the soul, the Nous, into the heart, can a state of illumination be achieved. This state can be prepared for, and God will grant it, but only when the time is right (ie., when someone has a chance of keeping it, and/or not abusing it for evil ends).
14. Obedience and vigilance are greater virtues than fasting and even prayer, unless the prayer comes from the heart (or, greater, is “of” the heart).
15. God will listen to any prayer from the heart, even if someone is very far from Him.
16. The evil spirits try very hard to separate children from parents, because this fracture of Tradition and custom accomplishes the loss of moral knowledge, spiritual truth, and the blessing that naturally adheres to filial obedience.
17. Men are “thought generators and receptors” : our thoughts have power and being – they influence us, and ours influence others:
Your thoughts are burdened because you are influenced by the thoughts of your fellow men.  Pray to the Lord that He might take this burden from you.  These are the thoughts of others which differ from yours.  They have their plan, and their plan is to attack you with their thoughts.  Instead of letting go, you have allowed yourself to become part of their plan, so of course you suffer.  Had you ignored the attack, you would have kept your peace.  They could have thought or said anything at all about you, yet you would have remained calm and at peace.  Soon all their anger would have died down, like a deflated balloon, because of the pure and peaceful thoughts that would have come from you.  If you are like that, calm and full of love, if all you think are good and kind thoughts, they will stop warring against you in their thoughts and will not threaten you anymore.  But if you demand an eye for an eye, that is war.  Where there is war there can be no peace.  How can there be peace on a battlefield, when everyone is looking over their shoulders and anticipating a surprise attack from the enemy?
18. Love comes from God, passion comes from evil spirits; men are constantly confusing and mixing the two. When we do this, evil predominates.
Addendum: So as not to cause those of the warrior caste to stumble, I point out that Orthodoxy does not have, as saints, exclusively Brahmins. There are warrior saints as well. There is an interesting tale mentioned by Elder Thaddeus in his book: the Turks once summoned at a parley the Serbs, and reproached them for not submitting to their rule, as their Christian faith should dictate (does this sound like secular humanists lecturing Christians on the faith?). They wanted to know by whose leave they fought, as Christians. The Serbs explained that the Lord commanded them to turn the other cheek as individuals, but that they were given a mission to guard those under their care, their families and small ones, so that by fighting in battle, they were doing double service to Christ in protecting and loving those under their responsibility.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Enneads


Iamblichus has taken us on a metaphysical tour of the Numbers; is it too much to claim that any metaphysics or religion worthy of the name ought to be measured by the yardstick he has provided? I do not think so. That is, if a supposed “philosophy of Life” or doctrine cannot provide a legitimate and profound account of how it accounts for and accomodates the spiritual value of Number which is revealed in his meditations (which are the sum of centuries of thought upon such in Greece), then it is inherently suspect, and ought to be condemned. The condemnation would rest on the fact that it does not partake of Logos, Measure, or Number. The Logos is the structure of manifested reality, the pattern of higher things: as the Scripture puts it, it is the “evidence of things not seen”. By faith, guided by Reason, we see that the Numbers are actually markers or seeds and guidelines which reflect the unmanifested One above, as well as the manifested but higher planes of existence which are not so obvious to the the untutored. A great and valid religion should be able to explain its exoteric dogmas in terms of Number(s), so that it demonstrates a correspondence with actual Creation, rather than wish-fulfillment and delusion. The same would hold true for such ad hoc philosophies as neo-paganism or Nietzsche’s philosophy of the hammer. Where, in most modern worldviews, is there any effort to harmonize with the Logos? Most often, we only see expressed the virulent hatred for other points of view, even if justifiably so in terms of pure intellect. The same would hold for a certain kind of Traditionalism that restricts itself merely to the rejection of what is Modern, thus (in a weird way), acknowledging its opponent to be an anti-Monad which it is rejecting in a Dyadic rebellion.
Corrollaries to this are obvious. Obviously, the Stoical tradition is superior (for instance) to the Epicurean philosophy (a fact acknowledged in the epistles of Saint Paul, who doesn’t mind quoting certain philosophers as against others). In our own day, a similar form of sifting might occur with the many Thoughts we encounter in the “Marketplace of Ideas”. That is, some men are more sane, balanced, and normative than others, and can be taken as sound guides on certain subjects. Isn’t this what Gornahoor has undertaken?

In regards to the Ennead, it is so short, that I simply recommend readers to peruse it. Iamblichus makes the point that Nine is the last of the numbers, since Ten is simply a Monad once Nine is taken away, and so on and so forth. Nine is the cube of 3 (in the sense of 3+3+3), and so is a kind of natural completion, or ending point, which Iamblichus again compares to a goal post that is raced up to and turned around to head home. Even its name is a play on words resembling Henad (Hen means One, so a Monad). It is Oceanus, or “horizon”: moderns might say, Event Horizon. It is also called Hyperion, because it is the supremely last manifested Number before the repetition begins (strictly speaking) with the Decad. It also contains all harmonic ratios, as 4+3+2 = 9 (sesquialter, double, and sesquitertian).

But the chapter is very short, and if you are going to read a chapter of this work, this is a good place to dive in.

I hope it is not necessary to point out that Plotinus wrote The Enneads, to readers of Gornahoor.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013



The Octad is a short chapter.
Iamblichus continues his march through numbers noting that all men, without exception, count 1-10. The empiricist says this is because they have 10 fingers, and the Hermeticist says “why do you suppose that is?”. In any case, it is not impossible to conceive attempts to circumvent divine order, such as the reordering of week days during the French Revolution, so their argument holds little water (which they know – most of the Anglos don’t use metric).

Eight is perfect, in that it is 1+7, neither number which is engendered, as Seven is a “second” Monad, in this meditation. The first two odd numbers (3 and 5) also produce it, making it relate to the process of the Cube (Claims Iamblichus, although he doesn’t specifiy how this is so).

The pattern four is in the ecliptics of the Zodiac, and the “circles” (tropics and polar), as well as finding expression in Harmonic divisions and even the teeth and skulls (presumably four big plates) of human beings. For instance, birds usually have four claws, and if an insect has more than eight legs, it is usually not exact.
Philolaus teaches that after mathematical magnitude has become three dimensional thanks to the tetrad, there is the quality and ‘color’ of visible Nature in the pentad, and the ensoulment in the hexad, and intelligence and health and what he calls ‘Light’  in the hebdomad, and then next, with the ogdoad, things come by love and friendship and wisdom and creative thought.
So we are looking more now at what is normally understood as “manifestation” or “Creation”. It is safety and foundation, because its root is in 2, and 2 is the leader of Manifestation in the sense of “daring” or “courage” (warrior-qualities).

There is a long section on harmonic relationships which is very involved with terms like sesquitertian, sesquioctave, etc., but I will recommend it to musicians, only noting for the Layman that what he needs to know is that the sesqui interval works as follows. 12 is the sesquialter of 8 (it succeeds 8 by an interval of half, so the “change” is related to the “substance” by law), and the sesquitertian of 9 (it succeeds 9 by an interval of one-third).

There is, of course, the Indian method of examining the birthday, name, and age of the person in order to use Pythagorean reduction to basic numerals to arrive at spiritual meaning. But these are more personal methods, and less metaphysical, than those which Iamblichus deploys.

8 resembles the infinity symbol, turned at a right angle. Does this mean that it is Infinity, set on its ear? In other words, Infinity set towards a downfall? Iamblichus does seem to indicate that “manifestation” in terms of Bios begins to break forth in 8, interweaving design and matter in actual genesis. We might think of the TV programs we were all indoctrinated on, which always start with some image of algae or lava or star dust, coalescing and shimmering and out-breaking, in order to appreciate the power of 8. The affinities are revealed: sex, division, mutual interdependence, etc.

Just for fun I looked up some modern numerology; Ellis Taylor seems to think that our Arabic numbers (in contradistinction to Latin ones, which are more pure) have been used to program us for failure. Although this sounds like the typical modern conspiracy theory, it may have something of interest, considering that even the Solfeggio scale has been reset in the modern Era. All changes of this sort ought to be more self-consciously investigated.
Our modern day musical scale is slightly out of sync from the original Solfeggio frequencies and is, consequently, more dissonant as it is based upon what is termed the “Twelve-Tone Equal Temperament.” In ancient times, the musical scale was called “Just Intonation.” And also, our modern music falls within the A 440 hz frequency, which was changed from A 417 hz, around 1914. In addition, a 7th note was added in the form of a “SI,” or a “TI,” as in the “DO, RE, MI, FA, SO, LA, TI” vocal scale, while the original Solfeggio scale was composed of only six notes: “UT, RE, MI, FA, SO, LA.”
I am not a literal conspiracist, but certainly there was a reason the musical scale was altered: Traditionalists who are mathematicians or musicians ought to look into these things. We recall that Gornahoor has taught that there is an invisible war on a higher pattern, and that changes are never random, even if no discernible pattern can be found.