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Holy Week

21 March 2008

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that every one who believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. - - St. John 3:16

Ruled by Counterfeits : "True aristocracy, after true religion, is the greatest blessing a nation can enjoy. Early nineteenth-century Britain possessed an unrivalled capacity for aristocracy. Her troubles arose because she was ruled by a counterfeit instead of the real aristocracy which her institutions had evolved with such profusion… In every walk of life she threw up men who attained to the highest levels of achievement…
And if in Cabinet and Convocation inspiration was lacking, in the arts Britain was richer than she had ever been before… With the exception of Scott and Byron, none of these men were known at the time to more than a small circle of their countrymen. The blaze of genius was there, but it was a blaze in the garret.
The great chandelier-lit rooms below were filled with magnificently dressed nonentities. It was her real aristocrats who, when the nation's official spokesmen were silent, gave her the answer she needed. The poets and philosophers recalled her to the enduring truths of her being..."
- - Sir Arthur Bryant in "Freedom's Own Island," 1987

The Athanasian Creed, one of the foundation creeds of the Christian Faith says we are to "beleive rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ." If we are to "believe rightly the Incarnation", does this not mean that we should "make flesh", or make a reality of everything Jesus said and taught?


HISTORY IN ENGLISH WORDS

by Betty Luks
It should not be surprising to those who know of the Australian League of Rights and its basic policies, that in this most holy time of the Christian calendar, the articles presented to our readership refer back to our Christian foundation. The article following is by Owen Barfield, who, as some would know, was one of the J.R.R. Tolkien 'Inklings'.
It is now some years since I obtained a copy of his "History in English Words." It is a book I have come to appreciate immensely and it is found readily available at bookstores online. Mr. Barfield explained the book was "in the form of a brief, consecutive history of the peoples who have spoken the Aryan tongues… whose history in use and whose changes of meaning, record and unlock the larger history."

As a philologist (a discipline barely 100 years old in 1953) his interest was in plumbing the depths of "the inner, living history of man's soul" through the study of language itself. It had come to be seen the "historical forms and meanings of words" acted "as interpreters both of the past and of the workings of men's minds."
"In our language alone," he wrote, "not to speak of its many companions, the past history of humanity is spread out in an imperishable map, just as the history of the mineral earth is embedded in the layers of its outer crust… Language has preserved for us the inner, living history of man's soul. It reveals the evolution of consciousness…"

So, as we move into the Christian Holy Week, it was thought appropriate to re-present Mr. Barfield's rather lengthy presentation in which he outlines his own experiences, as a philologist, in his conversion to the faith of Christ. The original was presented to an audience at Wheaton College Illinois in 1976.


PHILOLOGY AND THE INCARNATION

by Owen Barfield
Sir Thomas Browne, that mystical, or quasi-mystical, author of the seventeenth century, wrote a book which he called Religio Medici, The Religion of a Doctor, A Medical Man. Many, many years later - in my own youth, in fact - Professor Gilbert Murray, who is well known in England and is probably known over here as a Greek scholar and humanist, wrote a little book (or it may have been no more than a single lecture reprinted) called Religio Grammatici, The Religion of a Scholar or Man of Letters. It occurred to me after I had given the title of this lecture, that if I had been a little more pretentious or a little more brash, perhaps I might have ventured to call it Religio Philologi, which I suppose would mean the Religion of a Student of Language, perhaps especially a student of the historical aspect of language.

It is impossible to give much attention to words and their meanings, and more especially the history of words and the history of the changes which those meanings have undergone, without making a number of interesting discoveries. Moreover, in my experience the discoveries one then makes are of a kind which it is impossible to make without being forced by them to reflect rather intensively on the whole nature of man and of the world in which he lives.

Let me give you a very simple example:
Has it ever occurred to you, I wonder, that the epithet charming, as people use the word today, has certain very odd features about it? In the first place, it is the present participle of a very active verb, namely the verb "to charm." Grammatically, therefore, when we speak of an object, a garden, for instance, or a landscape, or perhaps a person, as "charming," we make that object or person the subject of a verb which denotes an activity of some sort. That is what we do grammatically, but it is not at all, or it is only very rarely, what we mean semantically.

When we speak, for instance, of a child as charming, we do not mean that the child himself is actually doing something. On the contrary, as soon as we notice that anyone, a child or a woman, is "charming" us in the verbal sense [in which case we rarely use the simple verb by itself, but we find some other expression such as "putting on charm" or "exerting charm" so as to ring out the notion of a willed activity], when that happens, the charmer who is charming in the verbal sense generally ceases to be charming in the adjectival sense!

Well, you could say the same thing about the word enchanting. I mention these two words because they're good examples of a whole class, quite a noticeable group of words in our language which possess the same peculiarity. One has only to think of such words as depressing, interesting, amusing, entertaining, fascinating, and so on to realize that we tend to allude to qualitative manifestations in the world outside ourselves by describing the effect they have on us, rather than by attempting to denote the qualities themselves.

The next thing that you find about this little group of words, if you go into the matter historically, is that these words, when used with these meanings, are all comparatively recent arrivals. Most of them first came into use in the eighteenth century - none of them is earlier than the seventeenth, I think.

The kind of question one is led to ask is: is this just as accident, or has it any wider significance? That is just the kind of question which the philologist, the student of language in its historical aspect, is led on to ask himself. Is the appearance of these words at this comparatively late state just something that happened to happen, or is it a surface manifestation of deeper currents of some sort? So you have a linguistic habit, one must say, arising in the West in the course of the last few centuries, of describing or defining or denoting the outer world in terms, as it were, of the inner world of human feeling.

Now, let us take a look at another group of words, a very much larger group this time, indeed an almost unlimited one. I am referring to all those words which go to make up what the nineteenth century utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham called the "immaterial language." In other words, I mean all those innumerable words in any modern language which do not refer to anything in the outside world at all, but only to the inner world of human feeling, of human thought - only to states of mind or mental events - hope, fear, enthusiasm, conscious, embarrass, humility, ambition, concept - you can go on reeling them off, any number of them, of course.
If you take the trouble to look up the etymologies of these words, you will find that in every case either they or their predecessors in older languages from which we have taken them, at one time referred not only to states of mind or mental events but also to some thing or some event in the outer world; that is of course what one might call elementary etymology. Only this time it is not usually a matter of looking back just a few hundred years into the past. We have to take a much longer survey if we wish to observe the historical process to which I am now seeking to draw your attention.

First, let me make this point - everyone is agreed, and I repeat, everyone, that there was such a historical process. Now you may ask, how do I establish that rather bold proposition? And the answer is: I establish it because I am in a position to call two witnesses to it from the very opposite ends of the earth.
In saying "the opposite ends of the earth," I am not only alluding to the fact that one of them is American and the other is English, though that happens to be the case, but I am thinking much rather of the fact that they represent diametrically opposite philosophies, diametrically opposite points of view and beliefs about the whole nature of man and his relation to the divine disposition in the world.

The two witnesses I'm thinking of are the transcendentalist, Emerson, and the positivist philosopher to whom I've already referred, Jeremy Bentham. You'll find in the section on language in the longer of Emerson's two essays which are entitled "Nature" the following passage:
"Every word used to express a moral or intellectual fact, if traced to its root, is found to be borrowed from material appearance. Right means straight; wrong means twisted. Spirit primarily means wind; transgression, the crossing of a line; supercilious, the raising of the eyebrows. We say heart to express emotion, the head to denote thought, and thought and emotion are words borrowed from sensible things, and now approached to spiritual nature. Most of the process by which this transformation is made is hidden from us in the remote time when language was formed." Well, that is Emerson.

Then you find Jeremy Bentham, hard-headed positivist Jeremy Bentham, in an essay of his also entitled "Language," [it comes in section four of the essay], writing as follows:
"Throughout the whole field of language, parallel to the line of what may be termed the material language, and expressed by the same words, runs a line of what may be termed the immaterial language. Not that to every word that has a material import there belongs also an immaterial one; but that to every word that has an immaterial import there belongs, or at least did belong, a material one."

Words which refer to the inner world only:
When, therefore, we approach this immaterial language, these words which refer to the inner world only, we know that we have to do with words that at one time were words of the material language. We know that there has been a transition from the material language into an immaterial one.
Can we go still further and, at least in some cases, observe the transition taking place? The answer is that in some cases we can. You see, if in the case of any word of the immaterial language, we can lay our finger on a period in its history when the older material meaning had not yet evaporated, if I may put it that way, while the later immaterial meaning had already appeared, then we shall have located the transition itself.
Now let me take one of the examples which Emerson himself gives, where he writes: "spirit means primarily wind."
I imagine that is as good an example as any you could choose of an immaterial meaning which was originally a material one. In this instance we have the best possible evidence that there was a particular time when the material meaning and the immaterial meaning still operated side by side in the same word.

The time of the New Testament writing:
Not only so, but we know that that time was the time, about the beginning of our era, in which the New Testament was being written. Because in the third chapter of John's gospel you read in the account of our Lord's encounter with Nicodemus, first the words, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit."
But in the Greek it is the same word pneuma that is used, whether it is wind or spirit that is being referred to. In rendering the two phrases, which occur in one and the same verse, "the wind bloweth where it listeth," and "every one that is born of the Spirit," the translator has to use two different words for what in the original text is one and the same word. The two meanings, the material and the immaterial, were present side by side, or mingled, in the one Greek word.

Now I want to suggest that if we set side by side the two linguistic phenomena which we have been looking at, we see on the one side the thing I spoke of first, the relatively recent tendency to refer to the qualities in the outside world, [call it the world of nature, if you like], in terms of their effect upon ourselves.
Then you see on the other side a much older habit, [I call it a habit, because this time it is universal to refer to it as a mere "tendency"], that much older universal habit of referring to ourselves and our thoughts and affections in terms of the world of nature, the outside world. So we see, reflected in language, a curiously equivocal relation between this outside world and the inner man, the self or ego of the human being which experiences it. But we see something more than that. If you survey that equivocal relation, as I've called it, historically, you can't fail to be struck by the fact that there has occurred in the course of ages a change of emphasis. One could really say a change in the centre of gravity, a change of direction in the way in which this equivocal relation operates.

A very important process:
Looking back into the past, we observe an external, an outer language, a material language referring to the outer world of nature, which becomes more and more used in such a way that it becomes an inner language or an immaterial language, as Bentham called it. And this is clearly a very important process, for it is only to the extent that we have a language in which to express a thing that we can really be said to be properly conscious of the thing at all.
That may sound a controversial proposition, but I think it's an experience which we all have as children, when our learning to speak on the one hand, and on the other our whole awareness of our environment as a coherent and articulated world, increase side by side as correlatives to one another.

The existence of man's self as a conscious individual being:
What then was the thing of which this gradual historical development of an inner or immaterial language out of an outer or material language enabled mankind as a whole to become aware? The answer is clear, I think. It was none other than the existence, hitherto unsuspected, of an inner world in contradistinction to the outer one. In other words it was the existence of a man's self as a conscious individual being. Clearly, it was with the help of language - it was through the instrumentality of language - that individual men first began discovering themselves.

But now, what do we imply when we say that something has been "discovered"? If it was discovered at a certain point or during a certain period of time, as it must have been, we imply that there was a previous period during which it was not yet discovered. But please note carefully that, although this must always be the case, it may have been the case for either of two reasons. The thing may have been undiscovered because, although it was already in existence, although it was always there, no one had so far happened to notice it. That's the one reason. Should I be in order, I wonder, here in placing the discovery of America as an example of that category? I don't know.

But anyhow, there are plenty of other examples. Take the planet Neptune, for example. That's the first kind of discovery: not discovered because it didn't happen to be noticed although it was already there. But the thing might also have been undiscovered, for a different reason. The reason might be simply that it wasn't yet there. If you discover a new, wild flower in your garden, next spring, let's say it's an annual, the reason you didn't discover it last spring may be that the bird or the wind which carries the seed didn't happen to have passed that way, whereas this year it did. That is the second kind of discovery. We cannot always be certain which of the two causes any particular discovery belongs to. It is conceivable, for instance, that even the planet Neptune might not have been in existence until about the time it was discovered, though I expect we are right in classifying that as a discovery of the first kind.

But there is one case where we can be absolutely certain that the discovery was not of the first kind, and therefore was of the second kind [the discovery of something which did not exist until it was discovered]; and that is the discovery by man of his own existence as a self-conscious being. The reason is plain enough. It simply does not make sense to say that at one time self-consciousness was an existing fact which had not yet been discovered. You can be unaware of many things, but you cannot be unaware of being aware. In this case, therefore, the discovery and the birth of the thing discovered are one and the same event.

A rich treasury of words:
We see, then, looking back into the past, a condition of affairs in which it was not yet possible to speak of an inner world or an individual self in contradistinction to an outer world. And when this did begin to become possible, the inner world at first could only be suggested by the way in which one employed the language of the outer world.
We see this particular way of using word, the [if you like] "symbolical" way, or the way of imagery, gradually growing in strength and variety until there comes into being whole rich, immaterial language, a rich treasury of words, which had at one time, indeed, an external reference, but from which, in common usage, all external reference has long since passed away. That is what we see when we look back into the past. And then we see looking at the present a state of affairs in which the tables have been turned.

The tables have been turned in the linguistic relation between man and nature, or between the individual self and its environment. Because, as I pointed out at the beginning, if a man now wants to say anything about his natural environment, anything rich or qualitative, as distinct from the purely quantitative measurements of natural science, he has to do it by employing a language whose literal reference is to something that is going on within himself, but employing it in such a way that he somehow suggests that those qualities exist not in himself, but in the world outside himself. I have, it is true, given only a single indication of this last, namely, a particular small group of words. There are, in fact, plenty of other indications of what I am saying, but it would take too long to go into them. I'm not, and I should like to make this very clear, attempting to argue a case. I can go no farther than stating it.

Evolution of human consciousness:
Now, a change of direction is, by its very nature, a change which must have taken place at a definite point in time. The moment of change may be easily observable, may be easy to determine or locate, or it may not. In the case of a billiard ball hitting the cushion and rebounding, it is easy enough. In the case of a more complex phenomenon, it may be very much harder. The waves, for instance, keep on coming in even after the tide has turned. And an extra large wave may make us doubt whether it has turned yet after all.
In the case of an infinitely more complex phenomenon, such as the evolution of human consciousness, it is even less likely that the actual moment of change will be easily observable. But that there was such a moment, even though we are unable to locate it exactly, is a conclusion to which reason itself compels us; for otherwise there could not have been a change of direction at all.
Moreover, if the moment of change or reversal cannot be exactly pin-pointed, that does not mean that it cannot be placed at all. I don't know the exact moment at which the incoming tide changed to an outflowing one, but I do know that it is an outflowing one now, and that five minutes ago, let's say, it was still coming in.

A great change took place:
And now, if I may leave my analogy of the turning of the tide, and return to this change I have been speaking of, this reversal in the direction of man's relation to his environment, this change from a period, in which, with the help of language, man is drawing his self-consciousness, as it were, out of the world around him, to a period in which he is, again, with the help of language, in a position to give back to nature something of the treasure he once took from her, then a student of the history of word-meanings can certainly be as definite as this: he can say with confidence that the great change of direction took place between, well, let's say between the death of Alexander the Great and the birth of St. Augustine.
Indeed, there are indications which would tempt him to be much more precise. Again, I'll only give one such indication. If one contrasts the meaning of the Greek word for word or reason or discourse [for it could mean all three: I'm referring to the word logos], if one contrasts the meaning of that word, as it stood in the time of Plato and Aristotle, with its later meaning; or to put it another way, if one contrasts the meaning of the old word logos, with the meanings of the words which we have to use to translate it; and if one then moves the microscope a little nearer, so to speak, so as to determine, if possible, the moment, or at least the single century of transition from the old to the new, then one is struck immediately by the way in which this word logos was being used, in Alexandria, for instance, used by Greeks and used also by Jews, in the first century B.C.
One may even be a little more pedantically precise, and remark that that particular word was in especial use in the Stoic philosophy, and that it was in expounding the Stoic philosophy that the concepts objective and subjective first make their appearance in a clearly recognizable form.
In other words, it was then that the fundamental duality with which we are now so familiar was first clearly formulated, was first sharply focused, a duality no longer merely between mind on the one side and senses on the other [which had been long familiar to the Greeks], but a duality between a self on the one side and its environment on another.

The Gospels and St. Paul:
And so, if it were possible [and of course it is not] that a man should have pursued the kind of studies I have been speaking of, without ever having read the gospels, or the epistles of St Paul, without ever having heard of Christianity, he would nevertheless be impelled by his reason to the conclusion that a crucial moment in the evolution of humanity must have occurred certainly during the seven or eight centuries on either side of the reign of Augustus and probably somewhere near the middle of that period.
This, he would feel, from the whole course of his studies, was the moment at which the flow of the spiritual tide into the individual self was exhausted and the possibility of an outward flow began. This was the moment at which there was consummated that age-long process of contraction of the immaterial qualities of the cosmos into a human centre, into an inner world, which had made possible the development of an immaterial language.
This, therefore, was the moment in which his true selfhood, his spiritual selfhood, entered into the body of man. Casting about for a word to denote that moment, what one would he be likely to choose? I think he would be almost obliged to choose the word incarnation, the entering into the body, the entering into the flesh.

A Man was born who claimed to be…
And now let us further suppose that our imaginary student of the history of language, having had up to now that conspicuous gap in his general historical knowledge, was suddenly confronted for the first time with the Christian record; that he now learned for the first time, that at about the middle of the period which his investigation had marked off, a man was born who claimed to be the son of God, and to have come down from Heaven, that he spoke to his followers of "the Father in me and I in you," that he told all those who stood around him that "the kingdom of God is within you," and startled them, and strove to reverse the direction of their thought - for the word metanoia, which is translated "repentance" also means a reversal of the direction of the mind - he startled them and strove to reverse the direction of their thought by assuring them that "it is not that which cometh into a man which defileth him, but that which goeth out of him."

Lastly, let me further suppose that, excited by what he had just heard, our student made further inquiries and learned that this man, so far from being a charlatan or lunatic, had long been acknowledged, even by those who regarded his claim to have come down from heaven as a delusion, as the nearest anyone had ever come to being a perfect man. What conclusion do you think our student would be likely to draw?

Well, as I say, the supposition is an impossible one, but it is possible - I know because it happened in my own case - for a man to have been brought up in the belief, and to have taken it for granted, that the account given in the gospels of the birth and the resurrection of Christ is a noble fairy story with no more claim to historical accuracy than any other myth; and it is possible for such a man, after studying in depth the history of the growth of language, to look again at the New Testament and the literature and tradition that has grown up around it, and to accept [if you like, to be obliged to accept] the record as an historical fact, not because of the authority of the Church nor by any process of ratiocination such as C. S. Lewis has recorded in his own case, but rather because it fitted so inevitably with the other facts as he had already found them.
Rather because he felt, in the utmost humility, that if he had never heard of it through the Scriptures, he would have been obliged to try his best to invent something like it as an hypothesis to save the appearances.

Further reading: Books available from all Heritage Book Services and Veritas Publishing Company.

"Trinitarianism: The Threefold Substance of Reality" by Edward Rock $10.00 posted;
"A New Britannia in the Southern Seas" by E.D. Butler $5.00 posted.
"Has Christianity Failed?" by E.D. Butler $5.00 posted;
"Releasing Reality" by E.D. Butler $7.50 posted.


THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY

by James Reed
Although I am a Christian, like Tolkien I have a philosophical interest in the Eddas and Sagas of the Vikings. Why? Because I am attracted to politically incorrect worldviews. Today, the worldview of materialism has happiness and individual self-satisfaction through consumerism as the goal of life. Everyone works to get money to get things to make them happy. Happy, happy, happy!

Go into any bookshop and you will find whole sections of books on 'self development' and 'happiness'. Find out from the latest guru the secrets of success, wealth and enjoyment. The Viking worldview turned all that on its head, with its idea of the nobility of dying in battle.

The genuine Christian worldview is not much different: the battle is against Satanic evil, often within oneself. One strives for the good and finding Christ, not for any buzz of 'happiness' but rather for the 'peace that passes all understanding.' This spiritual joy is far beyond the crude concept of 'happiness' which so dominates our age.

Eric Wilson's book, "Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy," will be released soon. I have read an extract (The Australian 27/2/08 p.40) where Eric attacks the cult of happiness, but, not from a Christina perspective.
He makes the case for melancholia as a creative force. That may be so. However outside of art, in life we need an attitude of neither melancholia nor euphoria, but relaxed awareness, commitment and readiness.

We need to be in Aristotle's medium, of coolness, neither hot with passion, nor cold with the despair of life. Pacing oneself is the answer: there are a lot of enemies to defeat.


CHRISTIANITY, JEWS AND THE ENVIRONMENT

by Charles Knight
Christianity has been blamed for the environmental crisis, so-called. Lynn White Jnr. In his paper "The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis" (Science, vol.155, 1976) argued along these lines. Modern science and technology are products of Western culture (which for the environmentalist is by definition responsible for the environmental crisis) and because Western culture has its roots in Christianity - which has an arrogant and exploitative relationship to nature - then Christianity must be extremely guilty about the destruction of the environment.

It was an incredible argument with a clear logical jump from "X gave rise to Y" and "Y caused a bad thing" so "X caused the bad thing." Talk about blaming the sins of the sons on the fathers! However, White did not think it through. If Christianity is at fault (which of course I contest: surely mechanistic science and capitalistic/communistic technology must bear the lion's share of blame, if blame we must) then so is Judaism.

In fact Steven S. Schwarzschild in his paper "The Unnatural Jew" (Environmental Ethics, vol.6 1984, pp.347-362) argues contrary to White that Christianity synthesised Biblical transcendentalism and Greek thought and saw humans as part of nature, subject to natural forces, under of course, the divine plan of God. But Judaism operated with a fundamental distinction between nature and man such that nature was to be the subject of human ends. Schwarzschild traces this thesis through Biblical, Talmudic, medieval philosophic and modern Jewish religious and Zionist literature. He concludes that Jews are "unnatural persons" (p. 347) Jewishness in literature has been defined as "alienation from and confrontation with nature." (p.349)
For example in "Chapters of the Fathers" 3-9 of the Mishnah, Rabbi Jacob says: "One who walks by the road, studying, and interrupts his study and says: 'How lovely is that tree!' or 'How lovely is that furrow!' - Scripture imputes it to him as if he had forfeited his soul!" (p.358)

David and Joan Ehrenfeld respond to Schwarzschild ("Some Thoughts on Nature and Judaism" Environmental Ethics, vol.7 1985, pp.93-95) and, predictably enough, raise the "anti-Semitic" charge. Apart from that they say that Judaism introduced the idea of stewardship, as well as the laws prohibiting cruelty to animals.

The Ehrenfeld's may well be right on this and Schwarzschild wrong. But Christianity cannot be taken as the whipping boy of the environmentalists. If Christianity is at fault, then so is Judaism. But that of course is anti-Semitic, for it is an iron law of nature that any criticism of Judaism is anti-Semitic in today's culture. So, Judaism can't be at fault and neither can Christianity! Take that, environmentalists !

Further reading on League website:
A Christian trinitarian politics has major significance to the human condition. We refer the reader to the magnificent papers at the League website, on Race/Culture/Nation section - especially ones such as:
"The Cultivation of History";
"I Went and Hid Thy Talents";
"The Christian Basis of Social Credit";
"The Christian Roots of Common Law";
"The Local World";
"Towards a Trinitarian Politics" - and much more.

© Published by the Australian League of Rights, P.O. Box 27 Happy Valley, SA 5159