Thursday, November 7, 2019

Am I A Christian? Am I A Stars Wars Fan?

Another quick one. This time; Christianity through the Stars Wars lens.

I'm a huge fan of Christianity, but I'm a fan of it in much the same way that I'm a fan of Star Wars or the Beatles. I've read the New Testament and I really found it fascinating. Agreed with lots of its tenets, and I took a lot of it to heart. It means something to me. It's now part of my palette of influences. Again, like the Beatles or Star Wars or all the other things I love and identify with.

So, am I a Christian?

..and this is what gets me to the topic of this article.

If you say you're a Christian people assume that you believe in it all literally. That you follow a particular version, and follow that version to the literal letter.

There's no middle ground for people who just like it. Or enjoy it. Or find some value in it in some way or other. People just assume it's either all or nothing. There's a total lack of nuance.

Imagine Christianity Was Star Wars.

Getting to my Stars Wars comparison I would paint it something like this;

Imagine you have a situation where, in say a thousand years time, you have people who believe that Star Wars really happened. That the Star Wars movies were literally true.

Now if you're just an average Stars Wars fan (who just likes the movies) you may be denounced by these "true believers" as not being a genuine Star Wars fan - even though you love the stories and find real meaning and value in them.

Alternately, when you state that you're a Star Wars fan to people who aren't fans of Star Wars they may just assume you're like the other "literal believers".

"What, you actually believe Darth Vader really existed??"

"Duh. How stupid do you have to be to believe that people can levitate objects using the force??"

It's a bit of a silly example, but you get the point I'm making. You'd be accosted by ignorant hardliners from either side. Simply for liking something. Very much like it is now with Christianity and many other religions.

If someone sees you reading the Bible they assume you're a literal believer of some description. There's no appreciation that you may be reading it because you find it interesting, or meaningful, or enjoy it in some other way.

"Why are you reading that? *confused look on the face* How stupid do you have to be to believe that someone could walk on water??"

Assuming that as you're reading it you must literally believe it verbatim. It's a bit strange really when you think about it. You wouldn't get that with any other content you were consuming.

"What? Why are you listening to that? Duh, do you really believe that there was an actual Yellow Submarine??"

No one would think you literally believed in magic because they saw you reading a Harry Potter book.

Are fans of Harry Potter expected to actually believe in magic by people? Do the real hardcore Beatles fans take all their songs literally? Completely missing all the poetical depth and meaning. It would be a strange world.

A literal interpretation. Be it by literal believers, or by those denouncing something under the belief that it's all meant to be taken literally. Just diminishes the whole thing. I think all the great religions of the world have been diminished greatly by this attitude.

You don't have to believe Moses was literally talking to a burning bush to find value in the tale. You don't have to believe that Master Yoda actually levitated Luke's X-wing out of the swamp to enjoy Star Wars ..or to find some meaning or resonance in the battle between the dark side and the force. 


Now, to summarise, I should state that I'm not saying that Christianity is or isn't true. Or that it's as fictional as Star Wars. My personal view is that it's impossible to know for sure what happened hundreds or thousands of years ago from such a removed position, but that ultimately it doesn't matter as if a story has value it has that value either way.

"Judge not lest ye be judged" makes sense regardless who said it or what the origin is.

This is just my personal opinion though, and ultimately it's an individual choice or judgement.

However, I do think that the lack of nuance from both sides means that literal believers miss out because they're overly consumed with concerns and doubts as to whether what they believe is literally true or not. Whereas those on the other side miss out completely as they deem something completely valueless because it isn't one hundred percent true in a literal sense.

..and no doubt those people reading this are now both equally annoyed. The literal believers annoyed that I'm comparing Christianity to Stars Wars, the Beatles and Harry Potter. The literal unbelievers annoyed that I'm saying Christianity has so much beauty, meaning and value.

(In fact, as I'm finishing this I'm listening to Kate Bush and the song Cloudbusting has just came on. What a song :) Personally I like all these things in similar way. It's all art. It's all religion. Why can I not like the New Testament in the same way that I like a Kate Bush or Beatles song?

Am I a Christian? Am I a Kate Bush fan?)

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Turtles All The Way Down..

This'll be a nice little fun one hopefully. Concerning the famed "flat earth" idea that the Earth rests on the back of a giant turtle.

The idea is said to originate in Hindu mythology. The general idea being that the Earth rests on four elephants, who in turn stand on the shell of a giant turtle. However, it's also a common cliché in the west and is often used to ridicule flat earthers and other ideas that employ illogical reasoning.

The story that most often gets repeated goes something like this;

A lecturer giving a scientific presentation about the Earth finishes his speech and then gets accosted by a little old lady who states; "You're wrong, Sir, the Earth rests on the back of a giant turtle".
The lecturer then politely asks; "..but what does the turtle stand on?"
To which the old lady insistently replies; "Another turtle".
He then further questions her; "..but what does this second turtle stand on?"
She then triumphantly answers; "It's no use, Sir, it's turtles all the way down".

Some of the various versions of this story can be found on the following Wikipedia page;

The first question that always springs to mind whenever I hear this story is how odd it is that a little old lady in the western world would believe such a thing in the first place. Was this a common belief in this part of the world in earlier times? Was she well read up on her eastern mysticism perhaps? Or is it simply a made up story, in part inspired by these eastern ideas, used to conveniently illustrate the ignorance and superstition of unscienced folk?

It's certainly an odd little story.

Etymology of the Two T's

Anyway, returning to the basic idea, what I really find fascinating is the etymology.

"Turtle" and "Tortoise" both contain a double "T" sound. In fact, in many ways they're both just variants of the same word, more or less meaning the same thing.

Curiously, we also have many words containing this double "T" sound denoting places at the edge of the world; Antarctica, Tartaria, Tartarus.

In Greek mythology Tartarus was a place at the edge of the world where souls where tortured after death. Torture is another word containing this double "T" sound and means "to twist" (another word with two t's).

The name turtle/tortoise no doubt simply denotes a shell or shelled creature. Shells, seashells and such, are often twisted too it's perhaps worth noting. The ring-shaped pasta tortellini also springs to mind.

So could it be that this idea of the Earth on the back of a giant turtle is simply a misunderstanding of what was originally meant? Maybe the idea was that we were "in" the turtle shell. After all, a turtle's shell is its home. As shells are for many other creatures. So it's a fitting motif.

Perhaps the idea was originally used as a metaphor for the "outer edge" surrounding the Earth. Hence why we have words conveying this double "T", suggestive of a shell, for places at the edge. When considered this way the idea of a "world turtle shell" doesn't seem quite as silly. It's also very similar to the concept of the "cosmic" or "world egg". Again, another conceptual idea where the world is within a "shell".

(Also as a side note, is "shield" related to "shelled"??)

It's also thought that the words turtle and tortoise could be related to the name Tartarus. The keepers of Tartarus were called Tartaruchi. According to Wikipedia the Italian and Portuguese word tartaruga (tortoise or turtle) derives from this noun.

The Arctic and Tartaria

A further thing worth relating is the potential overlap between the words Arctic and Tartar (or Tartaria / Grand Tartary). In fact, the Arctic Ocean was often labelled the Tartar Sea on older maps.

(Carte Generale Des Decouvertes
De L'Amiral De Fonte)

(Close up - "Mer De Tartarie")

I would imagine part of this confusion is due to the way directions can easily get confused. In this case the directions north and east.

If you travel from Europe to north eastern Russia or Alaska you can go straight east through Russia, or straight north across the North Pole.

(Which way?)

So there's land to the east and land to the north, but it's the same land. It would be easy to imagine how mapmakers, on hearing about land in these directions, could perhaps duplicate this land on their maps. This is maybe why the large area labelled "Tartaria" on older maps disappears so suddenly. It may have been that they overestimated the size of the territory by placing it both to the east and to the north of Europe.

Also, finally (and back to etymology) we have tartar sauce. This is a white coloured sauce normally eaten with seafood dishes. Its name is said to derive from the Tartars. According to Wikipedia;
This name comes from confusion over their allies the Tatars, because of whom the Europeans called Mongolia Tartary. This misnomer came from associating the name Tatar with the Greek mythological hell known as Tartarus.
However, given it's a white sauce perhaps its name also comes because of its similarity in appearance to the snowy Arctic. There's also steak tartare too, which similarly is said to get its name from the Tartars - owing to their fondness for eating raw meat. Again, Eskimo peoples tend to eat raw meat. So the overlaps seem numerous.

Ta-ta :)

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Why Empires Fall ..Capital Suction

I'm being a little cheeky here. Obviously there are myriad explanations as to why empires fall. I'm just using this post to highlight one particular problem that will doom all empires sooner or later.

(This post follows on from a post I did earlier this year titled; An Island. An Example, which is worth reading in relation to this. That in turn followed up on my post; EU Discussion: Limits on the Sizes of Democracies. So it's essentially all part of a series really.)

Why Empires Fall...

Anyway, if we imagine a continent. Let's say this one that I knocked up earlier.

If an empire or country conquers all this territory, and rules from its capital, as depicted below. Then that capital will funnel money, power and people towards it. Almost like a black hole. All the tribute or taxes flow towards this capital. All the big decisions are made here. Meaning in turn that successful and ambitious people will also head in its direction. Further concentrating this power.

Of course, all these numerous people in the capital will need feeding too. Meaning food will also be funnelled in its direction. Provided, like the taxes, by people living further afield.

This process is something that can easily be seen in all countries and empires. With the capital city always having this same gravitational effect. An easy example is Britain. Where huge amounts of wealth and people are concentrated in and around London. Completely disproportionate to the rest of the country.

Anyhow, the further one gets from the capital the more distant one gets from political power and influence. Meaning that people further away will be represented or ruled by people that have little idea what's going on where they live, and no doubt less care or concern for what's going on there as well.

Again, this can easily be seen in most modern countries. For instance, people in the north of England or Scotland complaining that Westminster politicians have no idea what life is like where they live.

..And the bigger the country or geographical region the bigger the problem. Likewise the greater the power that gets concentrated at its centre.

It's also worth noting here that even good, well-intentioned rulers will struggle to represent truly far flung places. As the distances involved and the sheer number of people place practical limitations. There are only 24 hours in a day. So there's a limit to how many problems a person or government can deal with in that time. No matter how sincerely they may try. (I touch upon this in the two articles mentioned above).

So in my little cartoonish example you can see that the further away from the capital the people are the less happy they are with their situation (and the harder they are to control). Or rather, the bigger the area governed the bigger the imbalance.

This is all pretty obvious stuff of course, and it shouldn't really require a little break down like this to point it all out. However, people often fail to grasp these simple concepts when they're dreaming of their unions, empires and other grand schemes. You can build your empire at great cost, but once you do sooner or later the bits at the extremities will begin falling off. This is no doubt why we see the same pattern of expanding and retracting empires throughout history.

So what's the alternative to empires? In the 'An Island. An example' article linked to previously I try to explain how "countries" form due to natural organic processes. In my opinion the best way to proceed is to respect these natural processes by respecting democratic choices.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

"Somewheres" and "Anywheres" Through The CJ Lens

As you can see from the last post I've finally finished publishing my book Civilisation Judas. This is quite a relief as it felt like quite a big project, and took a lot of time and effort. So it'll be nice to let it leave the nest and fly off on its own. However, there's one final thing I'd like to touch upon which relates to the themes contained within it.

In the book I proposed a new notion. What I labelled the "city aristocracy" - a class of people similar to the more familiar landed aristocracy, but that draw their status and influence from processes which occur in towns and cities.

In the first chapter I explained this distinction as follows;
The landed aristocracy are tied to their land and derive their wealth and status from it. With their power resting largely on tradition and force (the force needed to defend their territory, raise militias, maintain law and order, etc). 
However, the city aristocracy don't have vast areas of land, what they have is transferable wealth - money, gold, trade links, etc. Their power largely rests on innovation and intelligence. Unlike the landed aristocracy they are not tied to the land, but are in a position to move, and to move their wealth as well.
In the book I suggest that historically "Jewishness" was something that emerged from wider society as a consequence of this distinction. Essentially stating that the word "Jew" originally simply signified a member of this city-based social class. As opposed to a member of a separate religious or ethnic class. And that the modern distinctions, be they religious, ethnic, cultural, etc, all originally stem from this social division that naturally occurs in societies.

(This is obviously quite a novel idea which will seem strange to many people when it's first presented. However, I explain it further in the book.)

Somewheres and Anywheres

Anyway, something that would suggest that I've correctly identified a very real historic and social phenomena is the modern, and seemingly very new distinction made between "Somewheres" and "Anywheres".

These are labels that have came about as an attempt to explain the difference between "leavers" and "remainers" in the current Brexit divide. A division that doesn't seem to follow the classic left/right political divide, and that has forced pundits and writers to analyse and search for markers to distinguish each group.

The "somewhere" and "anywhere" labels seem to do this quite effectively. Which has led to their usage becoming common parlance in political debates about Brexit. (They also seem quite apt in describing the divide between Trump and anti-Trump in America, and other such modern political divisions.)

The most noted proponent of these labels is the author David Goodhart, who explains the division quite succinctly in this following Newsnight feature.

(David Goodhart;
Anywheres vs Somewheres)

It essentially states that "remainers" or open-border advocates tend to be more mobile and well educated, and lack any strong connection to a particular place - hence they are anywheres. Whereas the "leavers" or nationalists tend to be less well educated, more group-focused and more rooted to a particular place - the somewheres.

It parallels my above division of city and land quite neatly and again suggests we're dealing with a social phenomena. A divide that naturally occurs in societies due to social and economic factors. With the historical Jewish/Gentile divide, and the current leaver/remain divide, being similar manifestations of the same natural societal tendencies.

Of course, this division in reality is more of a spectrum than a hard line. Much like the naturally occurring left/right spectrum in politics. However, certain events, such as the Brexit referendum, may force people to choose a side. Highlighting this division in ways it wouldn't normally be noticed.

Comparing the Brexit divide to the historic divide between Jew and Gentile may seem an odd comparison, however, as I explain in the book. Before the modern separation of church and state, religions were the state. So religious divides were also political divides by virtue of that fact. Similarly modern Jews and Christians will not necessarily fall into these same anywhere/somewhere categories today. As modern religions are so far removed from their historic origins. Plus the wider social landscape will have changed so much since that time. In fact, most modern Israelis today will no doubt tend very much towards the somewhere category. So in many cases it may be completely reversed.

I would speculate that modern religions are in part simply legacies of earlier socio-economic movements. Though we see them as purely religious or spiritual today. Likewise we can see how, even in this supposedly secular age, political movements often take on the zeal and accoutrements of religion. Be it rainbow flags or MAGA hats.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Civilisation Judas - Available on Amazon

This is just a short post to point out that Civilisation Judas is now available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback format.

Kindle - Amazon US / Amazon UK
Paperback - Amazon US / Amazon UK

(the paperback version)

I've also made a little video to give a sense of what the paperback looks like in reality so people can prejudge before they purchase.

(paperback version - out now,
in the garden)

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Variation in Human Appearance, A Product of Domestication?

This is going to be a post about human eye and hair colour. I also want to post it on Twitter as a little series of tweets, so I'm going to do it BuzzFeed-style with short sentences and nice pictures ..hopefully.

Variation in human appearance, a product of domestication. A theory.

There's a lot of variation in how humans look. Hair colour, skin colour, eye colour. Especially amidst European populations. Red hair, blonde hair, brown hair. Green, blue and hazel eyes. Freckles and different skin tones.

(the eyes have it)

This is quite different to what we see in the animal kingdom, where species tend to be quite fixed in how they look. So you could say this human variation is a little odd and unexplained.

(identical animals)

However, one place you do see variation in the animal kingdom is in domesticated animals. Cats, dogs, cattle, etc. In a single field you may see cattle of a multitude of colours. Black fur, white fur, ginger fur, blonde and toffee-coloured coats. Some with one single uniform colour, others spotted or patterned. Likewise you tend to see cats and dogs with all manner of fur and colour patterns.

(cattle colours)

So are humans domesticated too?

If you were being quite wacky you could perhaps speculate that we've been domesticated by aliens or some other nefarious force. If you're being a bit more down to earth you could maybe pose the idea that other humans have done the domesticating. Through slavery and ownership.

(alien slave market :p)

Or, and this is my personal favourite, you could opine that we've domesticated ourselves by creating civilisation, and by separating ourselves from nature.


And that perhaps the rise of western civilisation was responsible for the large amount of variation we see in hair and eye colour in Europe.

Maybe the onward advance of civilisation will bring ever more variation in human appearance as we continue to evolve forward.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Cringe - Why It's Such An Apt Word

I haven't done an alphabet post in a while. However, I was thinking about the word cringe, and on reflection it seems like a good topic for discussion. I'm probably not quite young enough to talk about cringe without it being cringe, so hopefully it won't be too bad :)

If we break the word down we have the "C/K" sound, which we make at the back of the mouth. The "R" sound, which we make by curling the tongue backwards. Then the "ing/ng" sound which we make at the back of the nose.

There's also a "J" sound at the end of the word - cr-ingj. Rounding the word off.

So it's like we're drawing ourselves inwards in the mouth when we make the word, as if we're mirroring the overall body movements we make when we actually feel cringe.

When we do something cringey we withdraw into ourselves in disgust. Likewise, when we watch someone do something cringe we empathise with the situation and feel it on their behalf. It's a natural pulling back, like when we physically touch something we find disgusting. Or like a frightened turtle retreating into its shell. It's a natural movement of retreat.

I've mentioned the "K/G" consonant before and how it is often found in words associated with being sick. Gag, sick, puck, bork, yak, yuk. It's all quite icky. Which makes sense with the sound being made at the back of the mouth. The "R" sound, the rolling back of the tongue, is quite literally a retreat or pulling back. Then finally, the "ing" sound comes with a similar sense. Being very stuffed up in the mouth, at the back of the nose. In fact, it's the sound we make when we have a bunged up nose. Again, quite icky. You could even perhaps see that final "J" sound, where we put the tongue across the roof of our mouth between the teeth, as a closing off.

So it's the perfect word to describe the pull back in disgust we feel when we witness "cringey" behaviour. This is no doubt why the word feels so right when we use it.

Alternately, when we're confronted with something that we intuitively like, that's the opposite of disgusting, we tend to reach out and open up. When someone brings a cute puppy into the room the reaction is "Awwhhh! so cute!!". Our language reflecting our behaviour in its openness. Big open-mouthed "Ahh" sounds. "Soooo Cuoooooote!". High open-mouthed sounds at the front of our mouth.

So the physical movements we use to make our words in the mouth often reflect, or stem from the actual body movements and feelings we're performing at the time when we're speaking them.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

An Island. An Example.

A good long while ago I published an article on this blog about how democracy works in relation to population size - EU Discussion: Limits on the Sizes of Democracies

This post is kind of a follow up, using an example to illustrate some of the other factors that can influence the size and shape of a democracy.


To give a brief overview of the previous article. I essentially stated that democracy is limited by the number of people you can fit into a room. For example, let's say we have a small village of 500 people. Everyone in the village can go to the village hall, express their opinion and vote on any issues arising. Essentially they can represent themselves.

However, once you have more than say 1000 people it becomes effectively impossible to do that. There are only so many people you can fit into a single debating chamber before it becomes difficult for everyone to be heard and to have their say. It becomes impractical. Plus, on top of this, there are only so many hours in a day. So there's simply not enough time to hear everyone speak. Nor time to have thousands of people voting on every single issue of debate.

It's at this point that we need representational democracy, where instead of representing ourselves in a parliament we vote for someone else to represent us on our behalf. This in of itself is a dilution of the democratic process. We no longer get our own personal direct say on every issue. It also may be the case that we end up being represented by a person who doesn't share our particular view. For instance, you may vote for a Labour candidate, but end up being represented by a Conservative one. Still, though it is a dilution of the process, it's nevertheless the only real practical way of making any democracy work ..any democracy that's bigger than village-size that is.

How much our own individual power is diluted in a representational democracy then depends on how large that democracy is. If a politician represents 1000 constituents they're representing you and 999 other people. As well as themselves of course (!) . If they represent 100,000 constituents they're representing you and 99,999 other people. So once again, practicalities come in to it. There are only so many hours in a day, so there are only so many issues and people a politician can respond to. There's much more chance your elected politician will read your letter or email, or even meet you in person, if they're only representing 1000 people than there is if they're representing 100,000 people.

It's much like hiring a lawyer. If you hire someone who can devote all their time to you they will be able to adequately represent you. However, if you're just one of a multitude of clients they may only be able to devote a small fraction of their time to your case.

Of course, in counterbalance to this, there are obvious benefits to being part of a large country or political body as well. Such as the economic and military might that larger countries or unions can call upon. Which may outweigh the fact that you're less well represented politically. Or a smaller fish in a bigger pond so to speak. Also, more politicians per person means more politicians to pay a salary to, and more cost to you the taxpayer. So there are arguments to be made both ways.

Ultimately it's a personal judgement whether you feel the positives outweigh the negatives. The cumulative effect of all these individual judgements in a country then being the ultimate decider on whether things are satisfactory or not. The general feeling or view of the demos.

..I said "brief overview", I may as well have just re-written the whole article again :)

An Island

Anyway, onto the article. There are some pictures here, so hopefully it won't be quite as text heavy.

I'll be using the example below to highlight how natural geographic features can help to shape democracies (or countries in general, democratic or otherwise). Placing, like the village hall example, practical limitations on how democracies can function. It's all pretty obvious stuff really, but simple examples can help us to see these simple things a little easier.

Let's imagine an island;

(some incredible artwork here)

Now on this imaginary island there are 80m people. Who all speak Spanish. Given this situation it would probably make sense for this body of people to govern themselves as a single democracy or country. It would be practical to do this.

However, let's now imagine the island slightly differently;

(they're supposed to be mountains)

There are still 80m people ..but now there is a huge mountain range cutting the island in half. On one side of which there are 50m people who speak Spanish. On the other, 30m people who speak French.

Now in this situation it would make sense for the Spanish speakers on the one side to govern themselves as their own separate country. And for the French speakers on the other to likewise govern themselves separately. Otherwise it would mean that a parliament on the French side would be governing the Spanish side, or vice versa. With the physical barrier of a mountain range, and also a language barrier, separating government from the governed. Putting practical limitations on the effectiveness of the representation.

Now, of course, this doesn't mean that both groups couldn't exist as a single country or political entity. That's still perfectly possible and realistic. However, it would be reasonable for each side to have self-government if they so wanted it. If they felt the benefits of self-governance outweighed the benefits of being part of the wider political body.

The only way to then decide such a thing would be through the ballot box. A referendum, or some other democratic process, which would discern the will of the people in that particular area. Then set them, in a gradual and orderly way, upon their chosen path.

A real world example..

An example from the real world (apart from the endless Brexit that is) is the Northern Ireland issue. The problem here is that two of these natural factors clash. Looking at the island of Ireland geographically it makes intuitive sense that it should be governed as a single country. I think this is perhaps the main reason why most people removed from the issue sympathise more with those wanting to give Northern Ireland "back to the Irish". When looking at the map, as with the above pre-mountain imaginary island, it just makes sense to see Ireland as a single entity. The political view follows on naturally from the geography.

However, there is also the cultural factor. Which is harder for outsiders to see and understand. The Protestant/Catholic divide, similar to a language divide, which historically and culturally shapes the island. So we have this huge clash.

Once again, the only decent way to proceed is through the ballot box. If the people of Northern Ireland vote to remain separate that must be respected. There is no better or fairer way of deciding. However, democracy never stops. So those on the other side of the argument are free to try to persuade a majority of the Northern Irish people to think otherwise. If one day they succeed any such vote must also be respected.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Civilisation Judas - The Mother vs The State

**A finished version of this book is now available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback format - / **

Civilisation Judas - Chapter 10 - The Mother vs The State

The last chapter focused on the male archetype in Christianity. Here we look at the female aspect. Given the power and prominence of the Mary figures in Christian iconography, particularly the classic image of the Virgin Mary, it's worth first of all noting how relatively minor their roles are in the New Testament in comparison to that of Jesus. The four gospel texts, as expected, are dominated by the story of Christ, with the various female figures playing important, but supporting roles. Likewise the Acts of the Apostles and the various Epistles give little mention of the Mary figures, and are dominated by males, such as Paul and Peter. Who in turn speak heavily of Christ himself. However, in contrast to this, in Christian artwork and iconography both the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene appear almost on an equal billing with Christ himself. Expanding, in spite of their lesser game time in the New Testament, to reach parity in the wider cultural landscape. Vastly outshining all the other male figures with the exception of Jesus himself. So it seems the archetype is much bigger than the text alone would allow. Perhaps filling a natural need for such a companion female archetype in our collective psyche.

It's also worth noting just how many Marys appear in the New Testament. As well as Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus, we also have Mary of Bethany, Mary of Rome, Mary of Clopas, Mary mother of James, and Mary mother of John Mark. I would argue that the reason for this bevy of Marys is the confusion over the name Mary itself. My view being that all these Marys are simply echoes of the same female archetype. The mother figure. Either that or that the name is simply a title rather than a given name. For example, take the modern title mrs - someone not familiar with this term, on coming across several mentions of women titled as such, would maybe assume that mrs is actually their given name rather than simply a title common to all married women. Again, this serves as another example of how history can easily become confused and mistranslated.

The name Mary is very similar to the word marry, and I would suggest that the title Mary probably just signifies a married woman. In this regard it would make much more sense of the names given to both Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary. Virgin Mary would quite literally translate as married virgin. This would help to explain the story of the supposed "virgin birth". The mother of Jesus being not a virgin who gave birth, but rather a virgin who got married and then gave birth. Likewise the name Mary Magdalene would render similarly. Magdalene is generally thought to derive from Magdala - a settlement on the Sea of Galilee where Mary was thought to hail from. A name which in turn is generally said to derive from the Hebrew word migdál  ( מגדל ) meaning tower. However, a variant of the name Magdalene is Madeleine, and in German this means "little girl" (mädelein). It's also very similar to the word maid or maiden. So we could speculate that Magdalene simply means maiden. Which would then give the name Mary Magdalene the meaning of married maiden. Another identical concept. We also have the motif from history of the maiden locked in a tower. Common to fairy tales and ideas of marriage and chastity. So the double meaning of tower and maiden could have a deeper overlap in that sense too.

Interestingly, these Mary names are also very similar to the name Maid Marian. Another traditional female figure from history. Likewise associated with similar concepts. In her case May Day ceremonies and marriage rites. Again, her name could be similarly rendered as simply denoting a maid marrying. In fact, along with all the various Marys in the New Testament we also have the figure of Martha, the sister of Lazarus. With her name sounding very similar to the word mother. So it would seem that in the New Testament traditions we simply see a repeating, archetypal theme.

Incidentally, we also have another Jesus duplicate in the New Testament in the person of Barabbas, a criminal set to be crucified alongside Jesus. Who was then released by Pontius Pilate. The name Barabbas is said to translate as "son of the father", which has clear echoes of the "son of God" or "son of man" epithet often used in reference to Jesus. In some early gospel manuscripts his full name is even given as Jesus Barabbas. It's almost as if multiple folk traditions regarding these archetypal male and female characters have been amalgamated into one over-arching canon of work. Leading to numerous duplicates and inconsistencies.

Returning to Maid Marian and the various Mary figures it's also striking that the "M" sound is so common in all these names. The sound of the letter "M" is made by simply opening and closing the mouth, and as a consequence of this we have many onomatopoeic words associated with eating - something that naturally involves the opening and closing of the mouth of course. Words such as "Mmm", "chomp" or the text speak favourite "nom". We also have words like mouth and milk. This all perhaps helps to explain the almost universal use of this sound in words signifying mother. As in mam, mummy, mater, madre, etc. We also have the similarly derived word mammary. So it makes sense that words containing this "M" sound would be associated with feeding and nourishment, and that likewise they'd be used for names signifying the female archetype in wider culture. It's also of interest that the word mermaid, another traditional female figure - often shown bare-breasted in folk art - similarly contains this double "M" sound. A name which is likewise a compound comprising of the mer/marry and maid components of the aforementioned Mary names.

The double "M" sound is also quite common in popular culture. For example, names such as Marilyn Monroe or Mickey Mouse. We also have the now ubiquitous word meme. It appears equally significant in eastern cultures too. Such as the famed "Om" sound utilised during sessions of meditation, and considered sacred in religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. We also see the sound appearing in the titles used for religious leaders. Such as the Sanskrit Mahatma, meaning "Great Soul", or the Muslim title Imam. In fact, in Islam there seems to be an abundance of these "M" words. Muhammad, Muslim, Mecca, Medina, variants on the name Muhammad, such as Ahmed and Mahmud. The word Islam itself.

In Jewish history we have the noted medieval scholar Maimonides, who also has a name containing this double "M" sound. Or triple if you consider his full name; Moses ben Maimon. The biblical Moses of course is another towering religious figure whose name possesses the sound. In more modern times we even have the Mormons - an appellation that once again contains this repeating "M" sound. Not forgetting the word mammon too, meaning wealth or money - the milk of economic life. It may be that all these various words are so common simply because they sound pleasing to the ear, and so therefore get repeatedly used. Which in turn perhaps stems from the positive and comforting feelings we naturally associate the sound with from motherhood and breastfeeding.

Going back to the Virgin Mary, or Madonna - another "M" name, we can see that her iconic image also imbibes feelings of comfort and reassurance. The similar connotations of motherhood and breastfeeding being obvious. There's generally a natural and familiar beauty to her depictions. As there often is with the various other "mother" figures from tradition and culture. Again no doubt because of the natural associations they come with. It's an image we can all intuitively relate to. The image of the mother is the image of our own mother. No image or symbol can induce greater empathy in us. The symbol of the mother with child is in many ways the anchor of all human culture. Childbirth the natural cornerstone of all human society. Consequently the symbol of the mother and child is a powerful and emotive image. The image at the heart of family life, at the very heart of society.

The importance of the mother/child relationship, both symbolically and in actuality, brings me to the final focus of this chapter, and of this book. Namely the battle for custodianship of the child between nature (the mother) and civilisation (the state or social order). This is perhaps the key battleground and deciding conflict regarding the ultimate fate of society. Yet one that is generally missed when people contemplate the progress and aims of civilisation.

What's all too often overlooked by adults with their adult concerns is the life allotted to children in civilisation. Particularly in the school system, or the various other institutions of state or social care. It could be said that in many ways the state or school system removing a child from its mother is the very apotheosis of civilisation. The state, its rules and sophistication intruding into the most sacred and natural area of human life. Severing and overpowering the foundational bond that the entire social family rests upon.

School - the educator, the civiliser - yet also the jailer and suppressor of the child and its natural impulses. This lack of freedom children have in regard school is symptomatic of the wider lack of freedom civilisation has brought to all humanity. That stress of civilised living mentioned earlier. The stress which sometimes drives adults to walk away into homelessness, or to dream of some secluded desert island far away from it all, is not spared the child. In fact, the workaday week adults endure is imposed upon children in perfect imitation, specifically to prepare and subdue them into this adult life that awaits. The hours of a child's life not valued by the child's enjoyment of them, but by the value they have as a commodity to be used by civilisation, to further civilisation.

This may all sound a little overdramatic or grandiose, a bit of an exaggeration perhaps, but deep down we know it to be true. If we stop, ponder for a moment ..and remember. That feeling on a Sunday night before school. We can all recollect it quite easily. It still lingers upon our Sunday evenings in ghostly form even now. Yet we consciously forget it, push it to the back of our mind and just decide to accept it as an unavoidable part of life. That it probably wasn't really as bad as we remember it. That it's perfectly acceptable and normal that all later generations must also live through this. Yet deep down, when we pause, it's still profoundly vivid. You enjoyed the Friday night. A sheer relief; no more school this week. Enjoyed the Saturday ..but then, as Sunday evening crept forward. That feeling. "I'm back at school tomorrow." Five solid days of school, then just two days break. One of which being a Sunday ruined by the dread of the following Monday to Friday.

As a child you questioned why it had to be like this. Why five days out of seven? Who decided this? Why such an imbalance between freedom and work? But by adulthood it just gets accepted as a fact of life. Much like how the rent and mortgage mentioned in earlier chapters is also deemed a fact of life by everyone. Everyone that is, except those born outside of civilisation.

So, is this just the price of civilisation? Does there really have to be this trade off between freedom and civilised living. Is it not beyond the will of man to create a civilised world that also acts in harmony with our nature? That allows us to avoid such dread and anxiety. Giving true individual freedom, but with all the benefits of human advancement too. Perhaps it's the destiny of civilisation to redeem this situation by marrying nature and progress together to create something with the best aspects of both?

Looking more specifically at education, in Chapter Eight we briefly mentioned how literacy is more a consequence of access to technology than access to formal education. You may remember the mobile phone example. No one requires hours sat in formal school lessons to master the use of a mobile phone ..or a laptop, or a tablet, etc. Though such things can sometimes be quite complicated to use all people really require is access to the technology itself, and a desire to use it. Given this each person will then in turn learn to use the technology to meet their own particular needs. For example, one person may simply want to use a mobile phone to make basic calls and receive texts. Consequently they'll learn only to the most basic level. Another may want to do all manner of things, from gaming to god knows what else, and as a consequence may become quite an expert in the art. It's a completely organic process. Some may learn quickly, some will have more difficulties. Some at times may need the help and guidance of others. In essence, the tech literacy across society has just sort of happened - without the need for any form of structured education. It would therefore be silly, time-consuming and maybe even counter-productive to force everyone to sit through a formal education on such topics.

Such an imposed formalisation of the education process would also lead to a severe lack of enjoyment. The people with little enthusiasm for using mobile phones would not enjoy being forced to sit in a room and suffer the torture even more so. Likewise the more tech-savvy would resent having to endure the slow pace and formality of dull, compulsory lessons.

I would speculate that it was much the same with the advent of the printing press. Once such mass production made books and other reading material available to a wider section of the population the literacy took care of itself. People wanted to read. They wanted to use and enjoy this new technology. So they learnt in a similar organic way. Choosing to freely buy, borrow and share such books and pamphlets, and choosing to educate themselves in how to read and take advantage of such new developments in technology. This is perhaps why we tend to find literacy in towns and cities, and illiteracy in more rural areas. People in rural areas simply having less access to the technology. Again that dichotomy of civilisation and wilderness.

The school system often takes credit for the overall rise of literacy. However, I would proffer the argument that literacy is largely a consequence of access to technology and interaction with other people that are using it. Therefore the school system is just an organised state or civil management of an already existing occurrence. The school system is not education itself, but rather the regulation of education. Education is something that happens naturally. It would no doubt be much more effective if this was recognised.

It's also worth noting that the human mind works effectively not just by remembering, but also by forgetting. We remember the important things and forget the unimportant. It's not much use remembering every pattern in the clouds you've ever seen. Or every single blade of grass you've ever stepped over. You may have walked past your next door neighbour's front door everyday for the last ten years, but may still not recall the colour of it when asked. This is not because of some failing of the mind or memory, but because the colour of the front door isn't important ..unless you have a particular interest in front doors that is.

We tend to remember important things that we need to know - like how to tie our shoe laces, or the route from our home to school or work. We likewise tend to remember things that we have an emotional investment in, or a passion for. Such as the eye colour of the person we fall in love with, or our favourite piece of art or music. Anything that isn't valuable to us in one of these ways tends to get cast aside. This is why a schoolchild may have an encyclopedic knowledge of their favourite pop star or football team. Yet at the same time completely fail to remember what you've just been trying to impart to them regarding Henry VIII or the Battle of Hastings. It's all just information, but they have no everyday use for the information you're imposing on them, nor a passion for it. So very little sticks.

This is why the average person leaves school with basic maths, basic English and very little else. They need the basic maths and English to function in everyday civilised life - and both are things they would have learnt anyway to some degree completely regardless of schooling. The rest is just fluff.

Basic mathematics and numeracy is needed for such everyday things as using cash or telling the time. This is why virtually everyone in the civilised world can do maths to the basic level needed to get the shopping done or understand the times in the TV guide. As learning how to do these things has a practical use. In fact, in regard more complex mathematics, such as Pythagoras' theorem for example, you'll often hear children complain to their teachers; "..but when will we ever need to know this in real life?". The teachers will sigh in despair, but it's a perfectly sensible question to ask. Most people will never use such mathematics in their normal everyday life. Consequently most, intuitively understanding this, will never learn it in school, no matter how long you sit them down for in a classroom trying. The ones that do learn either having a natural aptitude and/or a genuine passion for the subject.

It's the same with reading and writing. Basic English is obviously needed to read letters, newspapers, signs, menus, to communicate with others, and so on and so forth. You need it to function in civilised society. It's therefore desirable and useful for a person to learn how to do this. Just as when you go to live in a foreign country you need to learn to speak, read and write the language in order to function and thrive there.

In fact, the learning of foreign languages is a good example to use to highlight the failure and pointlessness of formal education. Pupils spend hours every week in schools learning French or German, or whatever the preferred language of the state syllabus is. For instance, in Britain we tend to learn French at school. With successive generations each spending hours and hours of their life, as well as countless pounds of taxpayer's money, in this quest to make British people fluent speakers of French. However, in spite of all this time and money and effort almost every British person who has been through this process isn't fluent in French. Not even close. Again, most people leave school with very little. In spite of perhaps five years of solid French lessons they leave with just bonjour, au revoir, the French numbers one to twenty, and perhaps if they were really clever a few lines asking which way to the bakery. Basically the bits they learnt in the first few weeks of French lessons before the fun and novelty wore off. Again, that passion thing. The importance of having a genuine interest or enjoyment in something.

In stark comparison we can see that if a British child goes with their family to actually live and settle in France they will soon pick up the language - because they have to - i.e. it becomes useful for them to do so. When you think about this it makes perfect sense. It's how a mind is supposed to function. What is the point in learning French if you don't regularly interact with French speakers? Or again, if you don't have a genuine passion for French language and culture.

Taking note of this we can therefore see that it's largely pointless trying to teach people things they have no need or desire to learn. It's fruitless trying to beat nature. Reading a book can be very rewarding, but no one enjoys reading a book they're forced to sit and read. Nor will they absorb much information from it under such circumstances. Therefore it stands to reason that if there was more freedom for children (and for adults) they would become much happier ..and by extension much brighter. However, civilisation's desire to regulate human life doesn't allow for this. So we only ever see increasing management.

It's the uprooting of the child from the mother, or rather the failure to appreciate the importance of this bond between mother and child, that is in large part responsible for this onward creep towards human management. The obvious remedy would be a return to the veneration of the mother and child. Not necessarily in a religious sense, but at least in a way that reminds society of the sheer importance of this relationship. That makes sure civilisation remains rooted in the needs of the people, particularly the needs of its children. Rather than rooting the child in the needs of civilisation. A mother naturally wants happiness for her child. The state snatching the child from the mother, or overruling the authority of the mother, is therefore in many ways the ultimate rejection of, or act against nature. When we allow ourselves to forget this misery ensues.

Today we find ourselves in an age where parents are threatened with legal action for daring to take their child out of school for a week of holiday. The state decides what's best for the child and the parent must reluctantly follow. Many parents in response now want to homeschool their children, but again the constraints of work and civilisation itself make this difficult. If not impossible. With even those parents in a position to do so still having to be under the watchful eye of the state, following the state curriculum. In a truly free society parents would be able to choose the hours their child spends at school or the curriculum they follow - after all they are the ones that are paying for it.

Surely it's not beyond us to make school more flexible. If a parent, remembering the misery of those long school days and weeks, decides that their child would be happier spending less time in school, then why is that not possible? It would also be perfect for parents wanting to homeschool, but not having the opportunity because of work constraints. They could, for example, send their child to school on the days/mornings/afternoons when they work, then homeschool when they have free time. Currently the only choice available is to homeschool - if they even have that option - separating their child completely from interaction with other school children. Or to subject their child to the complete full force of the state. With no way of mitigating against its effects or excesses. Even a wholesome family holiday during school term is forbidden.

Finally, as well as that feeling on a Sunday evening before school there's also another familiar feeling from childhood that's worth remembering - that feeling we had at the beginning of the summer holidays. Those seemingly endless summers are for many people the happiest times of their life. Their fondest memories. It was such a happy time because it was free time. Not to mention the beautiful weather of course. You knew that for a full six weeks there was no school. Complete freedom. No constraints or compulsion. A heady carefree feeling of abandon that was only dampened in the final few weeks when you realised that school would soon be back upon you, and that your days of freedom were dwindling away. In fact, that day in the final week where your parents took you to get your new school uniform was especially depressing. Wasting a precious day off school, getting something needed for school, which in turn reminded you of school.

The summer holidays are generally the one time in life people taste real freedom. No worries, no clock watching. Real happiness. Sadly however, in the civilisation we've created even children only get six weeks of that freedom a year. With the odd other free week or two separating the endless grind at a few other points in the calendar. Why can't life always be like those summers? If not for adults then at least for children before they enter adulthood. Why has civilisation resulted in so little freedom? So little freedom for everyone, from the top to the bottom. Such a limited taste of that feeling. It makes little sense on face value. Imagine if we had more of it. Surely it must be the aim of civilisation to build that into existence, and to make civilisation work in the interests of increasing that feeling. Not just in the interest of increasing civilisation for the sake of civilisation.

We mentioned earlier in the book the word cultured in regard this civilising effect, and its relative meaning; to cultivate. Maybe the end goal of this quest to civilise the world is to create a garden paradise in some way, a tailored version of nature. Where civilisation enhances our experience of nature, instead of severing us from it. Maybe to refind the Garden of Eden in some sense even. To tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. [1] That freedom, and those feelings, perhaps should be the very fruits of civilisation.



[1] This line was famously spoken by Senator Robert F. Kennedy in his speech on the night of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

"My favourite poet was Aeschylus. And he once wrote: 'Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.' What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness; but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black ..Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world."

The Aeschylus passage he quotes is from the play Agamemnon, as translated by the writer Edith Hamilton.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Civilisation Judas - Uncivilisation Jesus

**A finished version of this book is now available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback format - / **

Civilisation Judas - Chapter 9 - Uncivilisation Jesus

According to the New Testament the story of Christ occurred within the world of Roman, Jewish and Greek society. In fact, in the Gospel of Saint Luke it's stated that the sign placed above Jesus, mocking him as "king of the Jews", was written in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. [1] It's quite interesting how all three of these cultures, each essential in the development of western civilisation, seem to overlap in this melting pot of the New Testament. As per the last chapter it may be the case that all three are simply different versions of the same story. Strands of history telling the tale of the rise of city-driven civilisation. Jewish life with its laws, trade and literacy. Greece with its various city states. Rome, the ultimate city state.

When we read the New Testament this is precisely the sense we get, though most readers often miss it. In Christianity we see a rebellion or an amendment of civilisation. In many ways it's more a political movement than a spiritual one. Though again, in these earlier times the two are thoroughly intertwined.

The social and political dimensions are quite easy to see once you start looking. For instance, one of the overriding themes of the New Testament is the difference between rich and poor. In it the wealthy are "hypocrites". The poor, suffering and ennobled. Very similar to the modern haves versus have nots political debate we often witness now. Again, as with the Jewish or Roman attitude to foreign peoples found in the last chapter, it all seems mundanely similar to modern life once you strip back the ostentation. When indulging in the romance of history we often forget the humdrum reality it must have all, like ourselves, existed in.

In the Gospel of Saint Matthew we find the following quotes;

"No man can serve two masters ...Ye cannot serve God and mammon." [2]

"What shall it profit a man, though he should win all the whole world, if he lose his own soul." [3]

" is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. And moreover I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." [4]

The poor and needy are failed by civilisation. Suffering in destitution. Meanwhile the priests and leaders make a show of their piety with their rituals and public display. Yet, in their hearts, they're more concerned with grandstanding, material wealth and self-interest.

"Whensoever therefore thou givest thine alms, thou shalt not make a trumpet to be blown before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, for to be praised of men." [5]

These days we would call this virtue signalling. Doing a good act to be seen to be good. To be praised and rewarded, rather than from a genuine desire to help. It's similar to modern arguments about the hypocritical rich. Be it celebrities in their private jets preaching about climate change. Or wealthy politicians, from their relative comfort, preaching austerity and other such things. It's in many ways identical to today's left versus right arguments over the excesses of "capitalism" and the failings of the system we're living in. [6] In fact, Jesus throwing the money changers from the temple could be viewed as the ultimate symbol of man railing against crony capitalism " house shall be called the house of prayer. But ye have made it a den of thieves". [7] The system is corrupt. Its institutions misused. For all the laws and showings of civilisation it has lost its true moral compass and soul. However, Jesus goes even further than the modern left/right blame game and suggests that we're all guilty to some extent ..we're all sinners. It's a problem embedded in us all. In all human society.

In Jesus we essentially see a figure coming from within civilisation - a Jew from within the Jewish tradition. An inhabitant of the Roman world. Trying to simplify and correct the excesses of legal and civil advancement. In fact, it's notable that the apostle St Paul, in The First Epistle to the Corinthians, attempts to compel his fellow Christians to stop going before the law courts with their problems. Imploring them to solve things amongst themselves in a spirit of compassion;

"How dare one of you having business with another, go to law under the wicked, and not rather under the saints? ..are ye not good enough to judge small trifles? there utterly no wise man among you? What, not one at all, that can judge between brother and brother?" [8]

This all returns us to the "washing of hands" of the last chapter. In response to questions as to why the followers of Jesus did not do this;

"Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread." [9]

Jesus responds, not with an appeal to the written law, but with an appeal to higher morality;

"Hear and understand. That which goeth into the mouth defileth not the man; but that which cometh out of the mouth defileth the man." [10]

Elaborating further;

"..those things which proceed out of the mouth, come from the heart, and they defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts: murder, breaking of wedlock, whoredom, theft, false witness bearing, blasphemy. These are the things which defile a man. But to eat with unwashed hands defileth not a man." [11]

Essentially saying, if I may paraphrase Jesus, that it doesn't matter so much whether a man obeys the law or not. What matters is that he has good intentions, and by extension does good actions. It probably would be better in a practical sense if the disciples of Jesus did wash their hands ..I certainly wouldn't like to shop at a bakery ran by Jesus (!). However, from a moral point of view he's perfectly correct. If someone chooses to not wash their hands before eating that's their choice. Whereas the person using the law to enforce their will upon another, they're the one in the wrong.

This moral underpinning is something that can often get lost when people get bogged down in the technicalities of the law. It must always be remembered that laws are at best necessary evils. To arrest someone is to use physical force against that person. Something in of itself an infringement of that person's rights, and a moral injustice if taken in isolation. However, we may deem it necessary at times to do this in order to protect the rights of other people. If the person being arrested is abusing the rights of others through theft, violence, or some other criminal act, then we deem this use of force justified. It's an unsavoury, but necessary tool we must give society in order to protect the good from the bad, the law-abiding from the criminal.

However, when we forget that it's only ever a necessary evil. Or the people making the laws simply don't care, or deliberately misuse the law. Then the legal system and its enforcement becomes a threat to the very freedoms it's supposed to be upholding. The law then being used to force people to live and behave in a particular way. Perhaps being used by a majority to force their will and way of life upon a minority. Or abused by the most powerful group in a society to manage and control the rest.

Again, the "washing of hands" example from above serves us well. To use the law to force someone to wash their hands before eating would be an injustice, as it would be an evil carried out against one person, who had posed no threat, nor carried out no crime towards another. However, if that same person had, under false pretences, sold or given bread made with unwashed hands to another, then maybe the force of law would need to be involved. As in that case they would be carrying out an act that would possibly infringe or threaten another, and therefore the necessary evil of the force of the law would be needed to protect this potential other victim. The confusion surrounding this simple concept continues to this day. A classic example is governments today using the law to micro-manage how people live - stating what they can and can't do, what they should and shouldn't eat, etc. Instead of doing their job, which is to protect the individual's freedom to live and to choose. Though to be fair, things are never quite as simple as this in reality. [12]

In the New Testament Jesus sums all this up incredibly simply. When asked which is the chief commandment (i.e. law) Jesus states;

"Love the lord thy God with all thine heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and chief commandment. And there is another like unto this. Love thy neighbour as thyself. In these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." [13]

The sentiment may seem a little opaque to anyone blinded by the religiosity of the statement. However, it essentially boils down to this - if you view the world with love and good intent, and you care for others the way you care for yourself then you can't go far wrong. It's a practice that works regardless of belief in God, unbelief or agnosticism.

Again, in essence he's saying, it doesn't matter if you have technically broken the law as long as you haven't committed an immoral act. As the law itself can be morally wrong if it isn't operating upon moral foundations.

If we return to the themes above we can see that the legal system, though in principle there to protect the individual and uphold justice, can often through its sheer complexity or misapplication lead to suppression and injustice. Be it minor infringements of freedom - such as a forced compliance with an over-zealous health and safety law. Or a more serious injustice. Such as the deliberate use of a legal technicality to suppress free speech. Or the imprisonment of a political dissident by the use of laws crafted to work in favour of the state power against the individual.

In the New Testament we see Jesus and his followers echoing a similar sentiment to this. Urging a return to the simplicity and humanity of basic moral, emotive judgement, and a break with the complexity of technical written law. Be it Jewish or Roman. Therefore the story of the New Testament could be read as the story of people from civilisation urging a return to nature. Or at least urging a realignment of civilisation so that it operates more harmoniously with human nature. Christianity in this regard being a check on the madness of civilisation. A return to simplicity. A putting on of the breaks, and a re-evaluation of the overall societal situation.

Once again, this is something that most of us can appreciate today. That feeling of being "trapped" by civilised living and its endless demands. With a wish to escape to the country or some other remote wilderness. The feeling that this way of living isn't natural ..that this isn't true freedom. In fact, often at the fringes of society we see people attempting to "drop out" of civilisation all together. The stereotypical "hippy" commune being a classic example. Likewise the homeless too. For instance, though many homeless are often forced into homelessness for reasons completely beyond their will, some choose to drop out of the system as they simply can't bear living within it anymore. Sadly however, in most parts of the world, leaving civilisation in any sort of real sense is just not an option, and there's no way of ever returning to true freedom by simply "dropping out".

If a homeless person follows his or her natural instinct and tries to build a shelter or start a fire. Then someone "from civilisation" (a law-enforcement officer or another "official" of some description) will come and put a stop to this behaviour. If you want to build a house it has to be officially sanctioned by civilisation. If you want to start a fire it likewise requires permission. If you want warmth, food and shelter you have to play by the rules, no matter how fair or unfair they may be. Or how overly complex or unnecessary they are.

In uncharted places far from the reach of civilisation this wouldn't be the case, and man would be free from any such prohibitions, but as civilisation has spread those uncharted places have increasingly rescinded. Therefore the bearded homeless person on our streets is the closest we ever come to seeing the true face of natural man in our modern everyday life. A mirror we tend to avoid looking into, but that's nevertheless ever present and deeply relatable.

In fact, the beard itself is in some sense a symbol of the outside world and of natural man. Since for a man to be clean shaven he needs to have the trappings of civilisation to some extent. A few weeks trekking through the jungle or out on the high seas, without the facilities to shave the face everyday, quickly reduces man to his natural, bearded state. Therefore, clean-shaven equals civilised, and fully bearded equals outsider - the barbarian at the gate.

The word barbarian itself is also interesting in this regard. The general explanation for its etymology is that it stems from ancient Greece. The story being that to the civilised Greeks all foreign languages just sounded like "bar bar bar" - leading to the term barbarian being used as a catchall for all uncivilised outsiders.  We also have words like babble of course, which seem to play into this sentiment. [14]

However, it's also worth noting that the word barbarian is similar to words like barbarossa - meaning "red beard" (barba + rossa). So perhaps barbarian simply means "bearded". Which would make slightly more sense, what with uncivilised people generally being bearded by nature. So the "barbarian at the gate" theme from popular history, in a very literal sense, is in essence symbolic of the wilderness at the gates of civilisation. The bearded homeless man at the gate, or in the shop doorway perhaps, being a modern manifestation of this dichotomy.

Jesus, of course, is likewise generally depicted as fully bearded. In keeping with this clash of worlds. Furthermore he's often shown with long free-flowing hair. Such aspects of the male appearance are in many ways incidental and superficial, however they help tap into a recurring archetype in the collective imagination. Often in modern times the outsider figure, the threat to the social order, takes on this appearance. Whether it be foreign threats to western civilisation, such as Che Guevara, Osama bin Laden or the Ayatollah Khomeini. Or by people threatening to change our world from within, such as John Lennon in his bearded "Bed-In For Peace" phase. Or the numerous other hairy hippies, rockers and revolutionaries.

Another interesting avenue regarding the etymology of the word barbarian is that it also comes with connotations of cutting. Barb meaning "to cut", as in barbed wire. There's an obvious relation to hair here too. As in the word barber. It's said that in former times barbers would also perform other cutting procedures, such as the aforementioned castration. Bringing us back full circle to earlier themes. In fact, the classic red and white barber's pole commonly displayed outside a barber's shop is said to have its origins in the blood soaked rags that barbers would hang up outside their premises. So it would seem that civilisation is associated with cutting in general. With both cutting of the hair and cutting of the foreskin being totemic of belonging to the civilised order.

Returning to the topic of circumcision it's worth noting here that according to The Gospel of Thomas (part of the Nag Hammadi texts discovered in Egypt in 1945) it's stated that Jesus believed circumcision to be unnecessary;

His disciples said to him, "Is circumcision useful or not?" He said to them, "If it were useful, their father would produce children already circumcised from their mother. Rather, the true circumcision in spirit has become profitable in every respect."

Again, if this account is to be trusted, it would further add to the theme of man returning to his natural state, and turning back, away from civilisation. The sentiment is likewise echoed in the First Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians, where it's stated; "circumcision is nothing, uncircumcision is nothing; but the keeping of the commandments of God is all together." [15] Paul then further mentions circumcision in the Epistle to the Galatians;

"Behold I, Paul, say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing at all. I testify again to every man which is circumcised that he is bound to keep the whole of the law. Ye are gone quite from Christ, as many as are justified by the law, and are fallen from grace. We look for and hope in the spirit, to be justified through faith." [16]

Further strengthening the sentiment. Though in this sense also suggesting a strong tie between the act of circumcision and the state of being under the law itself. Perhaps indicating a very real link between circumcision and the state of citizenship, as per earlier chapters. He prefixes this statement with the following; "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and wrap not yourselves again in the yoke of bondage." Again, likening being subservient to the law to being in a state of slavery in respect of it. Though we should once again remind ourselves that when we talk of law during this period we're also talking of religion in the same breath. The two being so imperceptibly intertwined. [17]

It's also perhaps worth noting here the attitude Jesus conveys towards things such as work, placing an emphasis on allowing nature, or God, to organically provide for man's needs. Ask and ye shall receive so to speak.

"Behold the fowls of the air; for they not sow, neither reap, nor yet carry into the barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not much better than they?" [18]

"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They labour not, neither spin." [19]

We could read this as impelling one to return to an almost animal state of naturalism. An absolutist return to the wilderness. It also ties in with the emphasis Jesus constantly places on faith in the New Testament. The importance of which he also frequently stresses whilst carrying out the many faith healings or exorcisms he performs in the gospels. A thing that may seem something akin to charlatanism to the more rationally-minded reader, but that perhaps has a deeper resonance when one considers the psychosomatic factors that can often be at play in regards illness. As too with things such as the placebo effect. Again, something that seems to work because of faith, regardless of a person's wider religious leanings.

In regard the stress of civilised living, it could likewise be hypothesised that much of the depression, anxiety and ill health we see in today's world could be a consequence of our lack of faith. Our God-less, materialist atomic-soup world, where nothing has any purpose or deeper meaning. Which leads us to have confidence in nothing but the certainty of our own death. Sometimes it's nice for someone to come along and say "don't worry, everything's going to be okay" - it can have an incredibly powerful effect, both mentally and physically. Especially if it's said with genuine confidence, or belief in fact, as per the case with Jesus. However, in our rational and sceptical world such confidence and faith is assumed folly. Though the wonders of it, again as with the placebo effect, are clear to see.

The worldview in the New Testament even has an almost Buddhist lilt to it at times;

"Care not then for the morrow, but let the morrow care for itself; for the day present hath ever enough of his own trouble." [20]

Again, perhaps an antidote to the stress and worry that comes with living a planned and micro-managed life in the city. Likewise we see a similar attitude with regard to material possessions;

Freely ye have received, freely give again. Possess not gold, nor silver, nor brass in your girdles, nor yet scrip towards your journey; neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet a staff. For the workman is worthy to have his meat. Into whatsoever city or town ye shall come, enquire who is worthy in it, and there abide till ye go thence. [21]

The parallels with the above referenced homelessness, and this idea of leaving civilisation is easy to observe. It doesn't seem like very practical advice to forego money and the comforts of civilisation, but then again perhaps it really is a question of faith. The sentiment is also markedly similar to the sentiments expressed in the doctrine of communism. The idea of abandoning material possessions and keeping things in common. It's very Christian in ethos. Perhaps unsurprisingly, like Christianity, communism is another thing that also has deep ties to Jewishness. In fact, the bearded Karl Marx could be another "barbarian at the gate", threatening the civilised social order with his Communist Manifesto.

This overlap is also something we see in regards Israel too, with for example the Kibbutz collective farming communities. One of the early main drivers for Jewish people wanting to return to Israel was their desire to leave the "Jewish" professions (such as law, accounting, pawnbroking, etc) which was their allotted life in the western world, to return to a more natural, agrarian lifestyle. In essence a return to the land. Ironically expressing the same urge back to nature that the Jewish Jesus expressed in the New Testament. In fact, both of these could be said to be manifestations of the same Jewish spirit. A spirit wrestling with the twin forces of the pull to nature and the pull to civilise. Of course, this Jewish spirit is identical to, or just another strand of, the spirit common to all civilisation in general. Likewise for the "Jewish professions" above you could just as easily read city professions. Therefore, in many ways Israel, with its bearded Rabbis and clean-shaven tech wizards, is a microcosm of the wider human struggle to divine the best way forward for society.

Returning to the New Testament it's clear that the archetype of the figure of Christ is something that we can all recognise and embrace to some degree. Nor does it require absolute belief to understand and see these themes. It seems that both Christians and non-Christians often get bogged down in the ifs and whens of the story. As is often the case with discussions about all religion. However, this misses the point in many ways. The meaning remains regardless of whether or not the story is historically or factually true. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. The sentiment holds regardless who said it, or when it was first uttered. In fact, what sincere believing Christian would throw this doctrine out and stop subscribing to its tenet upon learning that Jesus never actually said it?

This finally returns us to what was mentioned in the first chapter regarding what I call archetypal Christianity. In many ways the character of Jesus can be viewed as an archetypal man. Symbolic of all men, including each of ourselves. Likewise the various biblical Mary figures can be viewed as archetypal women (as we'll cover in the final chapter). This doesn't mean that the actual stories are untrue. Perhaps they are completely verbatim. It just provides a broader way of looking at things. A way that doesn't require absolute literal belief in the stories to find personal value in them. It also allows the character of Judas to be viewed through a slightly different lens. In this regard Judas simply becomes the mirror image of the male Jesus archetype. Jesus is the hero. The ultimate version of man. A man who sacrifices himself for all humanity. Whereas Judas is the anti-hero. The man who through fear and self-interest "sells out", takes the money (or "thirty pieces of silver"), and betrays Christ (his fellow man, and by extension the whole of humanity).

Having both sides of the story allows us to visualise the processes and emotions involved in both journeys. Journeys resulting in the same outcome. Jesus hung on a cross (or a tree) for his willingness and bravery to become a martyr. Judas hanging himself from a tree because of his feelings of guilt and shame. Both are extreme aspects of ourselves. Archetypes of man that we can empathise with and learn lessons from.

Returning to the politics of the New Testament, and how it has themes in parallel with the modern political or economic world. We can see that Judas can stand in for the modern "capitalist" shill or greedy fat cat. The person putting money or their career ahead of the wider moral concern. Judas is the embodiment of the self-interested materialist. A caricature or archetypal figure representing civilised man at his worst. In opposition to Jesus, the self-sacrificing and conscientious moral crusader. We may view Judas as the enemy, as the bad guy. However, he is part of ourselves. A higher-self or storybook avatar, representing our pragmatic, materialistic and fear-based aspects.

Like it or not we're all on a spectrum somewhere between Judas and Jesus.



[1] The Gospel of Saint Luke. Chapter 23. William Tyndale's New Testament. Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 2002. - "And his superscription was written over him, in Greek, in Latin and Hebrew. This is the king of the Jews."

[2] The Gospel of Saint Matthew. Chapter 6. William Tyndale's New Testament. Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 2002.

[3] The Gospel of Saint Matthew. Chapter 16. William Tyndale's New Testament. Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 2002.

[4] The Gospel of Saint Matthew. Chapter 19. William Tyndale's New Testament. Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 2002.

[5] The Gospel of Saint Matthew. Chapter 6. William Tyndale's New Testament. Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 2002.

[6] I've put capitalism in inverted commas because really what's generally meant when people complain of capitalism is not so much trade and commerce itself, but rather the crony capitalism and unfair banking practices that often seem to go hand in hand with it. The right to own and trade goods or property is something that most people would agree is a good thing, however it's easy to throw out the baby with the bath water when considering the failings and unfairness seen in wider society.

It's interesting to note that in the Qur'an usury is forbidden, but trade encouraged. This would lend weight to the idea that the Islamic Empire was in some sense a trading empire. Yet also suggests it had an astuteness in recognising the unfairness inherent in interest based money lending.

Those who devour usury will not stand except as stands one whom Satan by his touch hath driven to madness. That is because they say: 'Trade is like usury,' but Allah hath permitted trade and forbidden usury.

Sūrah 2 - Al-Baqarah - The Heifer. The Holy Qur'an. Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 2000.

[7] The Gospel of Saint Matthew. Chapter 21. William Tyndale's New Testament. Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 2002.

"And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said to them: It is written, my house shall be called the house of prayer. But ye have made it a den of thieves."

[8] The First Epistle of St Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians. Chapter 6. William Tyndale's New Testament. Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 2002.

"How dare one of you having business with another, go to law under the wicked, and not rather under the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? If the world shall be judged by you, are ye not good enough to judge small trifles? Know ye not how that we shall judge the angels? How much more may we judge things that pertain to the life? If ye have judgements of worldly matters, take them which are despised in the congregation, and make them judges. This I say to your shame. Is there utterly no wise man among you? What, not one at all, that can judge between brother and brother, but one brother goeth to law with another, and that under the unbelievers?"

Likewise in The Epistle to the Galatians, Chapter 3, it states;

"That no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, is evident. For the just shall live by faith. The law is not of faith, but the man that fulfilleth the things contained in the law (shall live in them). But Christ hath delivered us from the curse of the law, and was made accursed for us."

Suggesting the rigours of religious law had become a "curse" or burden to man.

[9] The Gospel of Saint Matthew. Chapter 15. William Tyndale's New Testament. Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 2002.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] It's perhaps worth adding here a point regarding the difference between legal and moral wrongs. This is quite a simple concept, but again, it's another thing that often gets forgotten in the hubbub of social and political discussion. It seems oftentimes there's a natural clamour for anything deemed immoral by wider society to automatically by extension also be deemed illegal.

Ideally an action should only be deemed illegal if that action directly infringes upon the rights and freedoms of another. However, forgetting this basic rule, people will often use the law to impose their morality or codes of behaviour on others.

For example, take drug use. Let's say cannabis. The general argument tends to be a simple binary one. On the one side we have people arguing that cannabis use is bad, and that it should therefore be illegal. On the other hand we have people stating that cannabis is great, and that it should therefore be legal and widely available.

However, if we separate out the legal judgement from the personal judgement, we really have two different questions that can each have a different answer.

1) Should people be allowed to use cannabis?

2) Is cannabis use good or bad for an individual?

It's therefore possible to believe that cannabis use is bad, and urge against it. Yet at the same time advocate for a person's freedom to choose as an individual whether they use it or not. After all, the decision taken only affects the person choosing to use it, and doesn't directly infringe upon the rights of anyone else. People so confuse personal judgement with legal judgement though that it's often hard to make such subtle arguments in the public sphere. In fact, one of the things that makes it so hard to legalise cannabis is that people are so ingrained with this sense that the law is their moral father or guardian. So much so that legalisation would not just be seen as a permission to use it, but also as an advocation of its use.

People would say; "It must be good for you, otherwise it would be illegal". Potentially in turn then leading to hoards of people engaging in something that may potentially have negative consequences. If these negative consequences then become apparent the cry would then come; "..but why aren't the government doing something about this?!". So we complain about the nanny state, but we also beg and plead for it to make our judgements for us.

In the debate about sexual freedom this confusion is particularly apparent. For instance, most people across society generally deem adultery to be an immoral thing, and will chastise a person for committing it. However, in the west, we generally see this as a purely moral issue, and would never countenance jailing a person for such behaviour. This is not the case in other parts of the world though, such as places under Sharia law. Likewise attitudes were quite different in western countries in earlier periods.

Now such legal prohibitions on things like adultery seem obviously antiquated from our western perspective. However, in substance it's no different to the cannabis debate. The logic is the same; adultery is deemed immoral and is believed to have a negative impact, it therefore needs legal prohibition. Otherwise the law (slash religion) would appear to be giving such behaviour the green light, which would then lead to more adultery and more negative consequences.

In this regard the modern "nanny state" is in many ways just another form of religious creed.

[13] The Gospel of Saint Matthew. Chapter 22. William Tyndale's New Testament. Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 2002.

[14] The word babble is similar to the name Babel, which is another variant of Babylon. The biblical story of the Tower of Babel states that before the building of the tower all the people of the Earth were a single united people with a single language. However, following the destruction of the tower God scattered the peoples of the Earth. Confounding their language so that they couldn't understand one another. Leading to all the various world languages.

So here again we see this bar bar babbling sound associated with both language and confusion. We also have baby-talk too, where babies string random sounds together in a similitude of real language. Or alternately where adults speak random "coochie-coo" type sounds when interacting with babies. So perhaps to be in Babylon is to be in a state of confusion or babyishness - i.e. in a state of ignorance or unknowing.

The word bible itself is also similar. It's said to derive from the Latin biblia, meaning book/books. However, given that books are used to record written language it seems reasonable to think there may be some relation to speech here too.

[15] The First Epistle of St Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians. Chapter 7. William Tyndale's New Testament. Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 2002.

[16] The Epistle to the Galatians. Chapter 5. William Tyndale's New Testament. Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 2002.

[17] Another passage of interest in this regard comes from The Epistle to the Colossians, Chapter 3. Where we find written;

"But now put ye also away from you all things: wrath, fierceness, maliciousness, cursed speaking, filthy speaking out of your mouths. Lie not one to another, that the old man with his works be put off, and the new put on, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that made him, where is neither gentile nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarous or Scythian, bond or free; but Christ is all in all things."

This strings together several of the dichotomies between civilised and uncivilised that we've been speaking of - Jew and Gentile, circumcision and uncircumcision, slave and freeman, Scythian and barbarian. Though in that last pair we're presented with something slightly new. The Scythians are generally viewed as being somewhat wild and unruly. However, in this example they're presented in counterpoint to the "barbarous". Suggesting that perhaps the Scythians were more civil than is often credited.

[18] The Gospel of Saint Matthew. Chapter 6. William Tyndale's New Testament. Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 2002.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] The Gospel of Saint Matthew. Chapter 10. William Tyndale's New Testament. Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 2002.