St Pancras

St Pancras, castle in the air

From the other side of the British Library, St Pancras station floats like a castle in the air. Paolozzi’s Blake’s Newton has better things to think on, staring at his compasses on the ground.

Paolozzi Blake Isaac Newton

William Blake, Isaac Newton

This is the first time I have taken a photograph on my phone and blogged it from the wordpress app. I confess I edited it a bit on the lap-top. At least I am now in the current decade…

Satan

Evil swallows most of its own venom and poisons itself, wrote Montaigne. I do not believe in Satan.

Milton’s Satan tempted Eve and Adam, and precipitated the Fall. Blake said Milton was of the Devil’s party, and did not know it. But in Genesis 3:1, the “serpent” which tempts Eve is “more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made”. Its motivation is unclear but it is not a fallen angel.

In Job, Satan is “The Accuser”, one of the heavenly beings, not the Enemy we find in Milton. He is the Accuser in Zechariah 3, and a tempter in 1 Chronicles 21. The word “devil” does not appear at all in the Old Testament. In Revelation, though, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Jesus watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.

In the Gospels, Satan tempted Jesus, proposing other ways of gaining followers, entered Judas before his betrayal, and causes mental and physical illness.

CS Lewis’s Screwtape liked two attitudes in humans- an unhealthy interest in devils, or disbelief. Wormwood seeks to draw his victim from things of lasting value to lesser things. Wormwood delights in the destruction of the World War, but Screwtape is wary, as war can bring out virtues of honour and courage in human beings. The professorial Screwtape even gives a lecture. In Perelandra, though, the spirit which possesses Weston and fights Ransom for the soul of the first woman created on Venus is mindless, silly in a way which is less than childish, destroying because that is what it does rather than for any purpose.

And there is Mephistopheles and Faust. This is Hell, nor am I out of it. He is a deceiver, whispering to Faust of things which have no value in reality. The Hesychasts imagined themselves surrounded by tempting demons. The start of sin was to pay attention to one, from which the sinner slid down to constant indulgence without shame. However, I doubt there is any a co-ordinating intelligence plotting this.

A man left his wife, and had an affair. She would not let him go, and they are back together. Now, he might see the affair as a lack of trust and respect for himself as well as his wife. He was running away. Then, he would not see it like that, or he might not have left her in the first place. His sin arose from his failure to see his situation and the people in it clearly.

It is tempting for the Evangelical to imagine “Civilization” as a whole is in fact NOT the glorious by-product of our marvelous Christian heritage, but rather the construct of an entourage of fallen angelic beings, led by Lucifer himself, a construct which in fact serves as the mechanism by which he ultimately aims to use in order to establish his fully-realized kingdom on Earth. It puts him at war with God’s creation.

William Blake, Satan before the throne of God from illustrations to the Book of Job

Purgatory

I Corinthians 3 is the scriptural justification, such as it is, for Purgatory.

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. 14 If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If the work is burned, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.

Blake, the gate of Purgatory

The idea makes some psychological sense. Someone with her heart in the right place might not deserve Hell, but might not yet be fit to enter the presence of God: so be sent to freeze and quake in frigid purgatorial fires, which cleanse her.

However, it reinforced Christianity as a tool of social control. Obey, or however harsh life is here, you will suffer more after you die. In The Karamazov Brothers, Lena, rebelling against the stultifying conventionality which has labelled itself the Christian way has no words for any alternative but evil and wickedness; so in her desperation she cries out to be evil. Living in Christian love should be freedom, but her Orthodoxy is slavery.

Blake, Light carrying Dante, Purgatorio canto 9

The doctrine of purgatory made the Church corrupt. Noble men, who used force and feudal law to compel peasants to work to feed them, who spent their time in armour on horseback murdering other peasants, accumulated wealth to endow chantry chapels, where monks would say masses so that their souls would spend less time in Purgatory. American conservative Evangelicalism is not the first time Christianity has made God weep. Blake, Purgatory, Dante entering the fire

And. There are moments in life when human beings are tested, individual and national Days of Judgment, which Jesus called being “born again” and Paul here calls passing through the fire: metaphors of pain balanced by the rewards offered, “seeing the Kingdom of God”, or being the temple where God dwells.

Why should I care what happens after my death, when I am alive? Humans create ideas of reward and punishment imposed by God, while Jesus and Paul teach of the ordinary consequences of our actions, enforced by objective reality.

Blake Purgatorio, the way into Heaven

Afterglow

William Blake, Night startled by the larkA week after the course, still full of the excitement of it, I went from South Wales to London for a reunion, and my friend agreed to put me up. In the taxi, she told me who her husband was, and I would have a name-dropping story if I did not feel confidentiality mattered here. We had texted a bit:

-Hail to thee, Blithe Spirit!
-Bird thou never wert
-I have you on my phone as Elvira!

A week later I phoned and she had no time, and after that I phoned and never got a response, and then a shit-storm erupted around her. Was it something I said, or did, that stopped her responding? I don’t know, it is possible. I would love that friendship, I would love her spirit and energy somewhere in my life whoever her husband was. We had an email group which stopped, and we had a last reunion in 2012.

Nearly five years later, two weeks after another course and with a real sense of the blessing of it, I went from Northamptonshire to just south-west of London, and met people from the course. I have seen the beauty and strength and vitality of these people, and again I want that in my life.

The Hoffman Process gives a great deal: tools for bringing subconscious truth to consciousness, liberation from the patterns of behaviour of our parents which enslave us whether we follow them or rebel, again by bringing these to consciousness. It has percolated in me over the last five years, bearing fruit. I did not free myself then, or understand all those patterns, and I understand them better now.

Blogging, now- no answers, only, er-

What do I have in common with these people? I have hidden my talent, hidden myself away at home on the sick, they have jobs and houses and- children-

no, I will leave that in, but it does seem a bit panicky. Unnecessary. I really do touch others’ hearts. I see evidence of that. I am loved and valued.

Misgendering does not bother me as it did. Someone said “Good man” or some such phrase, on Saturday night, and it did not matter to me. I know I am female, or feminine, and that is OK, so “never trouble to deny“. This is the all-new self respect. For the first time in my life I have self-respect.

I am vague, now, because of confidentiality issues- after most had gone, I heard what shamed a man, and it made me respect him more because of what he had overcome. He shared with a group of us who had done Essence, and together we held him, first by our love and attention then physically in a group hug. It was an intensely powerful blessing for me, and also I think for him.

What do we have in common? Love. The power of God. Right now, we need that contact, to feel the group’s love for the individual as we face our uncertainties. We will need it less. But for friendship, that is all we need in common.

Ex-gay fail

File:Robert Blake - The Approach of Doom - c1787. Wash drawing.jpg

The Angel of RevelationWe hear of ex-gay “therapy”, how it can torture people into neurosis (as well as making a few bisexuals very smug indeed) but if this is the best they can do, they are no threat. Here are some of the cleverest ex-gay blogs around.

First, the same sex attraction video blog. The video is duller than a Windows 95 powerpoint presentation, with no sound, just scrolling words. Not everyone who attempts to change will, it says. Understatement. Do not attempt to change in isolation and shame, it says. Is this better than mocking gay men as unmanly? It still shames them about their sexuality. None of the videos for Church Leaders have any “Likes”. I thought of telling the blogger, but the comment policy says he will delete any comment he considers argumentative, and block any commenter he considers sarcastic. To gay people not suffering the neurosis he wishes to enforce, he says Please respect the rights, needs and viewpoints of my other guests.

He gives a list of reasons why someone would want to change. “Because homosexuality is compulsive.” Well, sex is compulsive for every living creature except captive pandas. “Internalised homophobia”- oops, no, he writes “because living a gay life just feels wrong to me”. “I believe I would be rejected by family, friends and my religious community if I choose to live a gay life.” Well, there is some truth in this blog. There is also a Same Sex Attractions blog, but it  comes from the same idiot or idiots.

Cain fleeing the Wrath of GodHere a man who “ministers” to the “ex-gay community” whinges about how ungrateful they are. They do not always treat him with respect, and he thinks this makes him Christ-like! He consoles himself that if his ministry fails, it is the ex-gay’s fault. But he admits he is losing: Every morning I wake up and see one more victory to normalize homosexuality.

Here is a celibate woman, taken in by such bigots: When I first came out of a homosexual lifestyle, it was spirit-crushing.  I went from one civil war of the heart to another.  That’s another story for another day.  But years of group counseling, healing, praying, and support from friends and family brought me to a place that I could finally call myself a whole person.  By no means a straight, heterosexual, or even opposite-sex attracted person.  But I felt that I was no longer defining myself by how I felt, but rather Whom I belonged to, and that was God.  I was not a lesbian, I am a child of God.

When memories surface, or I hear a song, or see the culture shifting radically in a pro-gay direction, I’m reminded of how I once identified and what I still grieve for.  I have to keep a tight rein on what music I listen to, what TV shows I watch, movies, internet, facebook… you know, it’s all over the place!  And sometimes the old feelings come out of nowhere.  Recently, someone came into my life that simply reminded me of someone I once knew and my heart started aching again! 

I am moved to tears. These wicked men must be ridiculed and their mouths stopped from spouting their lies, for her.

To cleanse your palate, here is some truth about “ex-gays” from Peterson Toscano.

Born that way

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/39/Age_Teaching_Youth.jpg/441px-Age_Teaching_Youth.jpgIn a comment here, Coleman Glenn explains why, unless you see gay lovemaking as morally neutral, the “born that way” argument fails.

He is careful to say that he does not think homosexuality is anything like paedophilia, because paedophilia has a victim. He thinks gay sex harms those who practise it, though he does not say why. He says that “attraction to children” is classified as a mental illness in DSM5, and that arguably people are born with that orientation. But we who accept equal marriage would not accept that those attracted to children should act on their desires, and therefore for someone who believes gay sex is wrong, the “born that way” argument does not make it right. Let us debate other reasons why gay couples should be left in peace.

Well. Coleman is a Swedenborgian, and all I know of Swedenborg is that he was some kind of Christian whom William Blake despised- much of “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” is against Swedenborg. As a Christian, Coleman would value “It is not good for the man to be alone” and “it is better to marry than burn”. So, when I say that gay people are born that way, I argue that the person to assuage my loneliness, or the person who could stop me burning, is one of my own sex. So the “born that way” argument should work against Christian objectors to gay people, which explains the energy they put in to trying to argue we are not, in fact, born that way.

“Born that way” should also work against atheist objectors, if there be any such: if from your own experience you believe it is better to be part of a couple than not, “born that way” shows that gay people form couples which are- gay.

The real problem with the “born that way” argument is that it gives credence to people bleating that there is something wrong with equal marriage, or that gay one night stands might in some way be worse than straight ones. No. Really, no. Come up with some moral argument, and I might engage. Bleat that gay sex is wrong or icky without such an argument, and I have better things to do with my time. The homophobe has failed the basic test of human empathy, so the “born that way” argument will not work on him or her.

Added, late: if you came here from Facebook, please let me know how the comment thread there went.

Uses of Anger

File:Blake Plutus Inferno 7 1-15.jpgAs we rub against each other, we get angry, and part of growing up is learning to deal with that anger. We have the expression, kicking the cat, to refer to relieving feelings by abusing a weak other.

Just after transition, I realised that I could be a cat to kick. The venom of people shouting in the street “It’s a fucking Bloke!” startled me. You don’t know me! I am completely harmless! But the pressure of all that to which the man cannot retaliate- his wife, his boss, a face-off in the pub, other drivers- comes out at me.

This is possibly the purpose of the Nigerian anti-gay Act, just signed by President Goodluck Jonathan. Ayo Sogunro explains here how that Act could adversely affect even homophobic straight Nigerians. It creates a category of human beings, at random, which it is lawful to hate. All of society (even us, the scapegoats) can relieve their anger at us queers. In Britain, “Mainstream” political parties like the Conservatives incite hate and fear of immigrants, and promise to limit and control them. Anyone with a foreign accent is suspect. This pollutes society. With an authorised hate-group, we can express our anger and get a taste for it. It makes us more powerless against the true target of our anger. It makes us more frightened, for surely others react in the same way we do: if I hate the Other, anyone I see in the street might hate me. It weakens us and drives us apart.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/ab/Blake_Dante_Hell_VII_Canto.jpg/341px-Blake_Dante_Hell_VII_Canto.jpgRevolutionaries also wish to use that anger, to focus it against particular oppressors and injustices. It is harder to focus it against oppression and injustice per se.

Kneeling in meditation last night, I found how angry I was at that moment, my monkey mind a cacophony of resentments, mostly things I could do nothing about.

In Mandela, the Myth and Me, a man explains how he saw a woman weep as Pinochet was on his death-bed, and he felt a wave of compassion for her- and he wanted her to know his pain at the death of Allende. He also says, what can forgiveness mean if a man has stolen my watch and he is still wearing it?

I could not show anger as a child, so could not admit it to myself, and I suppressed it, and it roiled inside me unconsciously, like an Id monster. Jesus’ answer is to Love My Neighbour. If I am conscious of my anger, and give it its proper place, it is less likely to flare out in the wrong direction.

Uses of friendship

File:The Gates of Paradise by William Blake -3.jpgMy beautiful, talented and vibrant friend has emailed twice, and I have not responded. When we met last month, we hugged and I was delighted to see her, as well as reserved. She said, “Call me”, and I have not.

We met two years ago at a weekly drama improvisation. After, we went to the pub, and shared stuff, and said motivational positive-thinking wisdom stuff at each other. She came to see me at my stand-up gig, and we ate afterwards. Then we did not see each other again.

So her email in October was delightful, and yet I did not respond, by email or phone, and it occurred to me that I was ashamed to. I had been talking of performing, and all this wisdom, and I am in a cul-de-sac, not having given birth to a dancing star or whatever.

One gets the impression that Robert de Saint-Loup really cares for Marcel, and Marcel does not entirely reciprocate. Sometimes Marcel uses his friendship: he wants an invitation to the house of a woman; he wants a message conveyed to Albertine after she leaves him, and he wants to micro-manage how that is done, indicating a lack of trust in the messenger. He observes Robert’s love for Rachel as a writer might.

At one point I had two friends I saw weekly, and shared deeply. I have generally had one who would hear my woes, and now I have one 396px-The_Gates_of_Paradise_by_William_Blake_-1 who chunters on boringly about her issues, so that when I talked of my father’s funeral she moved onto another subject quickly, in great detail. Don’t worry, it isn’t you. She is pleasant enough when I have nothing better to do- most of the time.

So it seemed that I had been one particular aspect of myself with the Vivacious one (who is straight, unfortunately) and I would have to ease in to being other aspects of myself.

-How are you?
-Alright. You?

and deep conversation like that.

A friend could reassure me that one particular view of myself is correct. A friend could do many things. Perhaps I should explore.

449px-William_Blake,_painter_and_poet_(page_28a)Having finally got the idea of the Mega-me, I thought I might actually do it. The brain cannot tell the difference between doing something in fantasy and doing it in actuality- our mirror neurons fire off replicating others’ feelings, and if we can create feelings of achievement we can go out and do the thing in reality. So I thought I would ask Quakers to participate in an improvised drama, and imagined friends objecting because it was silly. Useful to have someone to project on.

By horrible coincidence, two people I knew through karate have also lost a parent in the last month. They announced it on facebook. I did not want to- but did, today. I have hardly been posting there for a month. Lots of loving, warming comments from people I rarely see, Likes because I said how wonderful he had been, and I walked in the park feeling Happy, perhaps because of the mild air and beauty of the place, perhaps because of facebook.

Job

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b5/Behemoth3.jpgSatan visits God. God boasts of Job, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. Satan- not Milton’s character, or even anyone in Revelation- says Job only worships because God has increased his possessions: if God takes them away, he will curse you to your face. God allows Satan first to take away Job’s children and possessions, and then his health. They agree that being good and retaining integrity mean worshipping God. Job refuses to curse God.

There is a strong strain in the Bible saying that the good prosper and the bad suffer. Well, Basher Assad is richer than the refugees in Lebanon, not all of whom can be more wicked than he, but we read Deuteronomy 28: If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands that I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. Psalm 37:25:

I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.

It is echoed when Jesus heals the man born blind, in John 9. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus.

The book of Job refutes this view. Job’s comforters assert it:
‘Consider now: who, being innocent, has ever perished?
Where were the upright ever destroyed?
8 As I have observed, those who plough evil
and those who sow trouble reap it.

https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/37/Blake_Book_of_Job_Linell_set_14.jpgGod numbers the hairs on my head- a beautiful, caring image– but here, God will not let Job swallow his spit. God’s presence and constant interest becomes a threat.

Job’s dialogue with his friends descends from intuitive integrity in Job and sympathy from his friends, to embittered self-justification in Job and outrageous accusation from his friends at the end (ESV Study Bible). Dramatically, this sets the stage for the appearance of God: the Elihu passages, also asserting that

He repays everyone for what they have done;
he brings on them what their conduct deserves.
It is unthinkable that God would do wrong,
that the Almighty would pervert justice.

are probably a later interpolation, by someone who missed the point. In the end, God answers Eliphaz, telling him to ask for Job’s prayers, but does not mention Elihu.

Then God speaks. Initially I wrote that he starts with his creation of the world, and then his operation of it, but he does not. Instead, he asks questions. Did you create the world? Do you rule it? This so masculine God, yet with a womb, bullies Job with irony: Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years! Job is silent. But that is not enough for God:

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5b/Blake_Book_of_Job_Linell_set_16.jpg

Unleash the fury of your wrath, he says.

I am God.

I can do what I like.

Who the fuck are you?

Have you ever prayed, God, what are you playing at? This resonates with me. This is a God I recognise.

Job submits and repents.

Probably the writer believed the world did not move- of course it doesn’t, if it did we would fall off, how could we not feel the world moving? How could he imagine the world moved? That theory started with Aristarchus. Job is restored to prosperity- God does it– though there is no suggestion that mitigates his loss, or the deaths of his children.

Oh, Violet, your target is so puny! Biblical literalists, forsooth, who may indeed believe Job is historical, even that his conversation with his Comforters was couched in precisely that poetic language. Read the book. It is beautiful. Faced with the ludicrous idea that good people prosper because God rewards them, it refutes it utterly.