Thursday, November 28, 2013

Oxford Movement

I'm reading, "For Sinners Only", A.J. Russel, the Book of the Oxford Groups.  The Oxford Movement did have a beginning of sorts in Oxford University.  Later the university would back away from the notoriety of the Oxford Group but at first those at the university attended in Oxford and several Oxford dons wrote letters of support.  It was 'procedurally' criticized not unlike the modern day Vineyard movement.  It lacked ritual and organization.
However it was based on 4 standards of conduct that appealed to the orthodox.  It claimed to judge conduct against
1) Absolute Love to all
2) Absolute purity
3) Absolute unselfishness
4) Absolute honesty.
Later 12 step groups would pull away from the Oxford Groups, citing the difficulty with these 'absolutes".  Indeed the AA programs states frankly, "we are not saints'.  I'm not sure that is a clear understanding of the message of 'sin' that also was central to the Oxford groups.
As for 1) Absolute love to all, the definitive writing on Love from a Christian and philosophical basis had been C.S.Lewis's book "Four Loves".  These were Affection, Friendship, Eros, and Charity.  Lewis felt that the likes and loves known to humans were entertained but at the best when they were linked to love of God.  God's love, the highest love, was charity. Interestingly, the word 'charity' to me ties it to 'grace' and 'generosity' or 'abundance'.  Godly love is not niggardly.  (Is niggardly still an acceptable word, or politically incorrect, does it's roots precede or follow from the same root as nigger?  Writing I can so easily be distracted into the search of meaning of something so simple as this, but if  i do then I'll not write what I set out to write, something about the Oxford Groups, not about the opposite of absolute love - the miserly and measured 'political correctness'. )
Jesus said "Love your enemies" because clearly that was human as even animals loved their family and tribe.  The book, "Evolution of God", strongly suggested that the initial Biblical interpretations, especially the old testament, were 'tribal'.  As a Jew I only had to love Jews.  As a Communist I only had to love Communists.  As a Smith I only had to love Smiths.  It was in the New Testament that the debate over circumcision and genital mutilation of men occurred. It's the same debate ironically raging now, like a soap opera,  about genital mutilation of women.  Greeks being rational didn't want to circumcise themselves to join a new religion so the 'brand' wasn't making much progress outside of Israel when Paul said to the Jewish purist faction, that it's one thing for you old Jews to say circumcision is necessary since you were violated and abused by your parents when you were too young to remember. All that is left is Freuds fear of death and fixation on his mother with all manner of unconscious trauma issues culminating in Woody Allen's sex life, all because your mothers and fathers cut up your peniss as babies. We can't expect adult men to subject themselves to such insanity and brutality for 'love of God'.  It's barbaric.
What followed was a major rift in the church.  Judaism has always remained a 'minority' religion with focus on the methodology of the politics of minority factions.  By contrast the two other Abrahamic religions, Christianity and Islamic, could go onto 'universality'.
I feel sorry for those who are ignorant and don't read the Bible or the Koran or the Bhagadvagita.  Recently at a Buddhist shrine I was enjoying the presence of the monkeys fornicating and crapping all around it because 'monkey gods' were sacred to the people of the Buddha.  Reincarnation themes prevail in all aspects of that religion and the relationship to others is tied to the idea that the ant or the monkey might well be your grandmother or your grandchild.  It permeates the thinking and being of all aspects of the society.  We take so much for granted not knowing the differences that derive historically from the very fabric of the culture. The dualism of western mind, deriving from Aristotle, is not clear in the east where politically the 'god-king' remained theoretically long past the developmental phase of Britains 12th and 13th century Magna Carta movements.  Superstitiousness, i.e. 'luck' and 'fortune' run rampant through the east while they're present in the west but more like 'rabbit foots'.  They exist but are more extraneous.
Love of the other and love of self are intrinsically tied to an understanding of God and reality.  We are 'forced' to accept a 'division', self and thing, matter and mind, a 'dualism' which is 'useful' and 'functional' especially scientifically but may not have any true 'validity'.
All of this was considered in the 30's when the Oxford Movement began and the subsequent AA and 12 step programs were developing.  Spiritualism was at it's height.  Madame Blavatsky was all the rage. Marx and Lenin were "revolutionary' ideas.  Stalin hadn't killed 80 million and Mao Tse Tung hadn't killed 120 million.  The War to End all Wars had failed.  Television hadn't come along to 'dumb' down the world and fairlytales were something children read, not adults. Propaganda was just beginning with Goebbells genius as yet not fully developed to the CNN/Internet standards of today.  The people of the 30's who were involved religiously in community were highly intellectual.
Reading For Sinners Only, one sees the intellectual capability, of that brilliant generation that gave rise to the Oxford Movement and the 12 step movements.  This wasn't dumb functionalism, technician based thinking, this was the kind of philosophical genius that gave rise to the Age of Enlightenment and essentially the Revivalism movements through time.
What is love?  Are you being absolutely loving when you pay your taxes?  Is it loving to refuse sex with your wife or husband?  Is it absolute love to hunt and fish?  Is day care 'absolute love'?  Is lying loving? There's all manner of questions, all politically incorrect, mind you, but all philosophically and theologically valid, which derive from consideration of 'absolutes' and 'love'.
The very question of 'absolute' is itself a consideration since it's a 'scientific' word to my mind. The 'absolutes'  I know are those of chemistry, such as 'absolute temperature'.  In the arts they refer to something considered 'independent and unrelated to anything else", the ultimate basis", "perfect' and 'complete'.
Note that Absolute is thoroughly 'alien' to the moral relativism of our day.  Everything, especially to those who smoke marijuania, is 'sort of okay'.  It's been said the 'devil is in the detail' because  as long as everyone is being 'agreeable' we actually don't have to 'agree' on anything. That's the basis of the propaganda of 'political correctness' and the history of the lesson of 'give them cake'.   So long as we're zombies we aren't thinking and we can be manipulated, conned, but more importantly we can con ourselves.
So it's not surprising that the words 'absolute' and 'love' are tied together by these deep thinking men and women of the 30's who'd just witnessed WWI, the most brutal slaughter of horses and men by machines known.  The annihilation of the finest and brightest of the world's greatest nations with the utter stupidity and callous brutality of the leading lizard brains of the day caused everyone to rethink reality.  It's the same kind of process that so affected Jewish thinking after the Holocaust of WWII.  While the rest of society looked at having 'won' against the dastardly Germans and Japanese, the individual jew, had to consider the 'victory' had cost them near genocide.  The genius of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, Martin Buber and others isn't independent of the times, any more than the Oxford Movement was or the 12 step movement.  Bill Wilson, co founder of AA had been a soldier and witnessed war. His alcoholism so understood by the eugenics thinking of the day which ultimately gave rise to 'genetics', was as much a product of the post traumatic stress disorder that permeated the soldiers of the day.
But absolute love to CS Lewis was 'charity'.  Charity refers to giving freely. This is at the human level.  Grace is the word we use for God's charity.  All we have and know in our relation with a higher power is 'grace'.  The 'covenant' of Judaism is the 'relationship' between God and Man.  The prophets of the Old Testament of the Bible refer to Israel as a nation deviating from God's will.  In the day, "individualism' didn't exit.  Alienation and Isolation were not the problems of our forefathers. These are 'modern' considerations post Camus, post Kaffka, post existentialism.  "Every man for himself" is a modern day phrase.  The nuclear bomb and the one button are today's issues. In the past , no man was alone.  Erick was even to the Vikings 'Erickson'.  Everyone was related, as the Natives of North America are rediscovering their tribal roots in the phrase 'all my relations'.
Jared Diamond, the brilliant anthropologist, has described well the nature of 'tribal' society as part of the 'nation' state and subsequent 'empires'.  We're at the evolutionary end and beginning of a old new age in the individualism which the word 'agape' or 'absolute love', charity and grace challenge.
Descartes studied the idea of self as did Carl Jung later.  Cogito Ergo Sum, "I think therefore I am" was the realization of Descartes who is considered to many the modern father of 'dualism'.  Thanks to his realization of the god like capacity of our 'thinking' we could today be considered as 'gods that shit'.  We may have all manner of great ideas but we are still attached to an animal like body.
Mario de Beauregaard, the brilliant neuroscientist, has written the book "Spritual Brain'.  In dualism , matter and spirit, there has been a functional reductionism for medicine to be an off shoot of veterinarianism.  Man is considered a monkey and doctors are merely one species vets.  The following is that the brain is not a mind. Mario Beauregaard with modern Pet Scans, ironically has shown that nothing could be so stupid.  Even the idea of the brain as merely a 'super computer', 'man as machine' is limited.
The question becomes then are we mirror or is the mirror us.
This kind of thinking isn't farcical but central to the failure of the present day legal system and the errors of the politics of the day distracted by the idea of Gaia, or earth god worship and the 'shit' of creation.  As C. S. Lewis would say, why look in the wall for the architect.
Today we create 'modern' 'myths' but myths are still myths.
Absolute love isn't Jerry Springer or even Oprah. It's a terrible idea that started a world wide movement that continues today .  It was a nuclear explosion of an idea generated solely by the combination of two words, "absolute' and 'love'.  Frank Buchman and the Oxford Groups, later Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob, thought about 'absolute love'.  It's hard to think about absolute anything when you're drunk or hung over.  It's hard to think about 'absolutes' today(period), because the propaganda is anything but the 'pale blue dot' of reality.  Our earth is not the centre of the universe.  So even considering relativism, if I am not the centre of the universe what is. What is the multiverse?
Over and over again we come back to "Grace" and "Charity" and "Pride" and "Humility".
2)  Absolute Unselfishness -  This is clearly the opposite of Neitze's master race. The Oxford Movement had it's first advocates on Fleet Street. It was a movement that appealed to the Wall Street of the day. It's no surprise that Oprah has with all her wealth and success developed a tribal school for black girls in Africa modelled on Oxford ideas.  Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are promoting "altruism'. The greatest American businessman of all times was  Carnegy who gave his wealth to charity.  So here I am trying to make it rich only to find that those who have become ultimately rich say the greatest joy is not in 'keeping' wealth but in 'giving it away'.  The great Canadian story of Duddy Kravitz was the sad tragedy of the man who walked over everyone to become wealthy only to find himself alone with his wealth.  Alone and wealthy is a far more horrible state perhaps than poor and alone because it's like a man who cried 'my kingdom for a horse'.  All the wealth in the world can't 'buy' happiness.  All the wealth in the world 'can't' 'buy' love' What money 'buys' is not 'absolute love'.  The message of television is 'facsimile'.  There is nothing 'absolute' about the 'mirror'.
The orabunga is a circle, a snake eating it's tail and one of the oldest representations of 'God'. The myth is that God alone and lonely divided self into known and unknown so today we really only have to ask am I the eater or the eaten.  The central law of all religions is the golden rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Love your neighbour as yourself.  Ultimately if we are one and only divided into two theoretically, at the level of reality, then I'm stuck not really knowing whether I'm the fucked or the fucker.  Emerson , the great American philosopher, wrote "if the reds layer thinks he slays or the slain thinks he is slain , they know not well the ways I keep and turn and toss again".  Death is an idea 'individually'. I can't know my own death by witnessing the death of another. I assume my mortality but it's an inference not an 'absolute truth'.  I go to sleep similarly but don't 'know' I'll wake up.  There is so much about reality that I infer or deduce.
3) Absolute honesty - now there's the rub - as an animal I'm successful by deceit.  A hunter gatherer is not going to tell a bear that he's wanting to eat him. The hunter would best sneak up on either enemy or prey to kill or eat it.  But what of enlightenment. The world we know, the market world of wall street, the ridiculous laughable, materialist white collar gambling machine of wall street and the blue collar gambling machine of Vegas are both superstitious 'luck' based ideologies that live on 'dishonesty'.  Myths and hollywood and adult fairytales predominate.  The religion of love is a mirror to the war of fear.  Lovers versus terrorists. The hippies versus the police. The flower children versus the hard knocks.  Temperance movement versus the drunks. The prohibitionists versus the addicts.  It's all dichotomies and in dichotomy there is no 'absolute'.  Hegelian philosophy argued for the trinity of 'thesis, antithesis' and synthesis'.  Synthesis is beyond dichotomy and scienficially the 'synthesis' is the prevailing 'hypothesis' that becomes the starting point for the new thesis.
The key then is that 'absolute honesty' may be something that is highly dangerous to even consider in a society of hypocrisy where deceit is the norm, especially in a world of fashion, superficiality and political correctness. But what about 'absolute honesty' with oneself.  If I am a God that shits would it be wise to deny the shit or the God part?  This whole question of 'absolute honesty' was central to the failure of alcoholics to become and remain sober.  Those who failed were considered unable to be honest with themselves.  This issue of 'honesty with oneself' is central to the idea of the 'psychopath' who lacks a 'conscience' i.e. is incapable of self reflection or honesty'.
It's easy to parrot the words but the words are just keys to a plethora of welcome or unwelcome ideas.  Am I honest with my taxes? Am I absolutely honest with the boss ?  Am I honest with the children?
4) Absolute Purity - this is my personal bug bear.  I'm going to stop here because I have to go to work and frankly 'purity' is difficult for me. I am a sinner .  Sin is the word for human or 'imperfect'. It's been much abused by Hollywood and lost on the stupid. It's a powerfully important word that simply means that what I intend doesn't always happen as i intend it.  This is why we have 'outcome measures' and 'quality control' and 'target practice'.  If there was no sin in the world, I would think something and it would be as I thought it. I'd be God who doesn't shit or God who shits and thoroughly enjoys the shit and cleans up the shit or has a shit cleaner upper encoded into the shit.  There would be no shit possibly.  As a friend says, 'sin' is the second law of physics.  (period).  Entropy is sin at the cosmic level. Personally 'sin' is for me 'fat'.  If there was no 'sin' I'd be able to eat chocolate without getting diabetes or fat.  Sin is a sinfully good word that is unfortunately much maligned.   But at the level of 'sin' I've a problem with purity.
I feel 'impure'.  And that's where I'll pick up from at some point , that feeling of 'oldness' and 'wrongness' and 'jadedness' and 'bitterness' and 'soiled' and 'usedness'.  That's the issue of 'purity' and 'purification' was a whole process of the old religions. Coming back from Angkor Wat temple complex is saw the process of 'purification' ,the taking off of shoes, washing of feet, lots of water used in 'purification'.  The whole process of 'purification' How can I get that Madonna feeling of being 'just like a virgin' again. How can I make my boat 'new' and 'shiny'. How can I be 'fresh' like a douche advertisement or a mouthwash ad. What is this purification thing anyway. Isn't there something bodily and shit like inherent in this idea of purification.  Cleansing and renewing and such.
It's something to consider.
But those were the 4 absolutes - Absolute Love, Absolute Unselfishness, Absolute Honesty, Absolute Purity. Those were what I was to consider my conduct as a Christian against.  How do I measure up?  Am I being human or beast? Am I being a human or a machine?  Am I loving or politically correct?

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