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November 30, 2005

Crime, punishment and rehabilitation

The UK's jail population is once more in the news with the usual band of whinging liberals wringing their hands over the "overcrowding" and "lack of facilities" for "rehabilitation". While I have some sympathy for those affected by having a partner or parent in jail, we do seem to lose sight of the fact that most of those in this position are there because they seem to be pathologically unable to recognise the fact that they do not have a right to take what is not theirs, beat up anyone they dislike or to kill someone for their skin colour, sexual orientation or any other "provocation".

Listening to a spokeswoman for the usual bunch of "youff" criminal protectionistas, the SPCC - Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, but increasingly seemingly the Society for the Protection of Child Criminals or even the Society for Promotion of Child Criminality - having a parent in jail is the major cause of 61% of our "youff" becoming criminals themselves. It never seems to enter into these airheads vacuum filled crania that there might be a combination of abusive "home" life (something they seem to insist is to be preserved and perpetuated despite its patent clash with their proper title!), the influence of their criminally inclined syblings and peers and possibly even a genetic defect or link. All of that would mean ditching all the psycho-babble they have mouthed since the advent of Dr Spock's now discredited book on child rearing which he himself admitted never having followed!

The result of this constant fear of punishing the guilty is all to plain to see, the jails are full, yes, but if you look at who is in them, a large proportion are there for "crimes" that include driving too fast, non-payment of council tax and similar examples of "middle class" crime. Murderers, burglars, muggers and the like are out "on license" or on bail or wearing the electronic tags that allow them to carry out more murders, robberies and muggings! Yes, it is scandalous that we have such a high jail population, it is even more scandalous when you realise that this is a direct result of leniency and tolerance of criminal behaviour among children from an early age. Think only of the two boys who murdered little Jamie Bulger. They are now comfortably resettled under new identities - some say in Australia - and free to live their lives in anonimity or to commit even more crimes in future.

This despite the fact that several assessments of both of these "boys" in their time in jail recorded the fact that one in particular was manipulative and violent tempered. The other was a gullible follower. I have some sympathy with the second of those tow, but experience recently in my own community of having to deal with out of control children of the first sort tells me that it is merely a matter of time before we see as horrific an event as the killing of littel Jamie played out again by a group of "children".

Building more jails may not be the answer, but perhaps sentences which mean a severe loss of freedom and which are commensurate with the crime, locking up the really criminal instead of the minor offenders who haven't paid parking fines, skipped council tax or have offended some "moralist" law against calling a spade a spade. That, and a realistic look at what drives our youth into crime without dragging in all the 1960's garbage about pampering and coddling. Let's get real, life is tough, it isn't a perfectly safe environment and never will be, we have to take some knocks and learn some lessons the hard way.

Maybe the jail population figures are telling us we have the whole argument wrong on crime, punishment and rehabilitation. Maybe we have gone to far down the road of excusing bad behaviour and rewarding it. Maybe its time to teach by punishing it again.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:50 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 29, 2005

Preserving old glass

One of the great treasures of the Abbey is it's beautiful collection of 14th Century stained glass in the Quire clerestory. Quite how it all survived the attacks of the iconoclasts and the ravages of several civil wars, religious turmoil and the ravages of time, we will probably never know in full. But time has caught up with us! Condensation is slowly destroying the pigments - particularly on the North facing side - and it is also destroying the leading which holds the whole window together.

14th century window.jpg
One of the magnificent 14th Century windows in the East Quire range of the Clerestory, depicting Kings and Prophets.

The time has now come for us to spend mega money on doing something to preserve them for the future. We have to install an outer glazed element to effectively create "double glazing". This is a technique called "iso-thermal glazing" and it allows a constant natural airflow between the inner and outer glazing generated by natural "convection" currents and which prevents the formation of condensation on the inner window. The problem is the money. The Abbey, despite its historical importance and unique history, receives no funding from government, lottery or local government. We have to raise it all ourselves.

Thus, as I have mentioned before in an earlier ramble, we are launching a Campaign to raise £2 million to carry out essential repairs - and the windows will absorb around £250,000 of that. The rest goes on repairing and replacing stonework, repairing aging timbers, and other essential works to keep a 900 year old building standing. Anyone wanting to contribute to this can contact the Campaign Manager through the Abbey website.

Every contribution will be a great help!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:01 PM | TrackBack

November 28, 2005

Pensions and politics ....

Our wonderful government has done it again. They don't like the content of the report that they commissioned from Lord Turner - one of their own supporters - so they leak a whole slew of memos to the sympathetic press trashing its contents before the report is even published. Then they rush out all the usual liars to "brief" the press on how the Commission has "exceeded its brief"! Well, given their track record thus far, I suppose we should not be in the least bit surprised. I suppose we should simply be grateful that they haven't used some attrocity committed by one or another group of terrorists somewhere to "hide bad news".

I will confess that I have a personal interest in this debate. I retire next year on a pension that will not pay my mortgage, so I will have no option but to work until I drop. One thing I am absolutely determined on, is that it will not be for the present shower of complete incompetents that I currently have to answer to. Further, I can see several battles ahead as the funds I transfered into my present pension fund, have been "revalued" by them several times - always downward. Each time I have fought them on this and each time it is resolved only to have them "lose" the resolution conveniently with all record of the funds transferred in at some future point so that I have to fight the whole damned battle again! Always with a slight loss of the ultimate benefit.

None of this is helped by the Chancellor's ongoing raid on all pension funds which is stripping some £8 billion a year from the hard pressed funds - and he still has the gall to tell us we should invest more so he can steal more. This crisis is almost entirely the result of stupid and incompetent management who did not invest the workers contributions wisely, if at all, so when the stock market went bad on them, they threw good money after bad to the point that many funds have collapsed entirely. And then Gordon Brown and his thieves decided to tax the earnings of pension funds and stripped what remained.

You will notice, just in passing, that those parasites who occupy the Palace of Westminster have got their own pensions stitched up a treat. Index linked, non-contributory and you only have to "work" 10 years to get the full two-thirds final salary benefit! The rest of us have to put in 40+ and contribute to funds that have never been invested or have been so badly managed we will be lucky to get a damned thing - but Parliament is the body that decides how much we can have and now when we can have it. I will feel a little less aggrieved about this when I see them having to take a cut in their perks and benefits, pay the full tax on it all and have to put in as many years under incompetent and ignorant managers as I have.

A reasonably simple calculation tells me that if Parliament had to accept a pay freeze for the next ten years and pay the full tax on all their earnings and the "perks" - like an allowance equal to a second salary for "expenses" - this would be equal to around £20 per pensioner and there would be no need to raise the pension age as the Chancellor is now insisting is necessary. Another simple action would be to remove the tax the Treasury has imposed on pension funds. This would inject £8 billion straight into the funds, which, if properly managed and invested would go a long way to paying proper and reasonable pensions to those who have paid into them for their working lives.

I recently made enquiries to see what I would have to invest in order to draw a two thirds final salary pension after only ten years investment. It amounted to almnost two thirds of my current take home pay. Let's see our parliamentarians and their hanger's on do that, then perhaps I will consider their fat-cat pensions to have been earned. Untill then, they can damned well keep their mouths shut about anyone having to make "sacrifices" to pay for a problem entirely of their making.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:25 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 27, 2005

Let mighty organs sound .....

The Abbey has recently played host to another round of Gala Organ Concerts, and the three organs have been strutting their stuff magnificently. I took the opportunity to try and capture some of the features of the Grove, the "Exhibition" Organ built for the Graet Exhibition in the 1880's and subsequently displayed around the country. It is still very much in the shape and order in which it finished up in the Abbey in the mid-1890's and is now very much an almost unique example of an unmodified Victorian Organ.

Among its unique features is the playing action, a mixture of pneumatic and "tracker" operation with mechanical links for the stops. Pieces like the Boellman Toccata have to be heard on this instrument to appreciate what it really sounds like!

The four manuals for the Grove Organ - the fifth, the Pedal, is just visible in the photo with the pedal "pistons" for preset "Stop" changes above.

The organ has a magnificent set of "reed" stops and a very wide range of sounds encompassing all the flutes, and many of the traditional "organ" sounds. The playing action uses wind pressure to operate the valves for the individual pipes in some parts of the organ with the mechanical linkage of "tracker" action for the rest. It provides the Organ Builders who maintain and tune it wioth a number of interesting challenges.

The linkages for part of the "tracker" section of the playing action.

Listening to this magnificent instrument, under the hands of a real virtuoso, made me very aware of the fact that, once we have restored and repaired the tower and the transepts - we will have to do something to restore this wonderful instrument.

That will not be cheap either!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:31 PM | TrackBack

November 26, 2005

An island in the desert?

Bahrain is a small group of islands, tucked in neatly between Qatar to the East and South, and the Saudi Arabian shore of the Arabian landmass to the East. It is in fact a group of 36 islands, many linked to each other by causeways and bridges, surrounded by shallow seas and numerous reefs. Until the discovery of oil and it's exploitation, this was a land, ruled by the Emir, of agriculturalists, camel herders, goat herds, pearl divers and fisher folk. It was also the first country "outside" of the Arabian Peninsula to adopt Islam as it's state religion - just 8 years after the Prophet fled to Medina from Mecca.

One of the new bridges linking Manama to the island on which the airport is located.

Civilisation here is ancient, it stretches back a little over three thousand years to the "Dilmun" peoples who lived here 3,000 years ago. They left a legacy of numerous burial mounds, temple ruins and even traces of small (by our standards) cities. Their culture stretched across into Saudi Arabia and Qatar and traces of their civilsation have been found in Kuwait, the Euphrates delta and many other islands in the Arabian (or Persian if you are not an Arab!) Gulf. Bahrain is the modern name for an island that, in antiquity, was known as Awal and was then, as it is once more becoming, an important centre for trade in the Gulf area.

Old and new rub shoulders across this small nation as old traditions make way for new enterprises. The culture is an open one with Islam being predominant, but markedly tolerant of Christianity and other religions and their practices. The primary tensions one observes here are between Sunni and Shi'ite communities, with the Ruling Family being Sunni and the majority population being Shi'ite. The Sunni Rulers and their friends hold all the reins of power and most of the wealth, which leaves the remainder, if not exactly in poverty, certainly cut off from the means to become wealthy!

A motorised dhow powers up an inshore channel, the clarity of the water shows the reefs lying close inshore.

The capital is Manama, which is also the name of the central and largest island in the group. It is a bustling place with much new building going on as the island has succeeded in attracting financial and banking organisations to invest and build their corporate operations centres here. It is interesting though to walk the streets and one soon finds that the new buildings along the sea front mask the old city and it's maze of narrow streets and alleys. The Old Souk is an amazing place, vibrant with jewllery manufacturers and sellers, clothes and clothe merchants, spice sellers and cafe "bread" shops.

One of the streets leading through the Old Souk.

Outside of the central city, the accommodation becomes less opulent and much more traditional, small flats above shops with roof terrace space for families to get out of the indoor heat and even screened balconies for the women. Out in the vilages the dwellings show their age, and the tradition of Grandparents, Parents and Siblings all sharing one dwelling is much in evidence. As in other "young" nations (in the sense of having only recently joined the "democratic" and "technological" "Western" model of nationhood) there is a distinct lack of a "local" "Middle Class". One is either very wealthy, or a worker, with a further underclass of "guest" workers, usually from the Indian Sub-Continent or the Philippines. These latter usually live in "Camps" - batteries of hostels set up in compounds outside the city.

This was, hopefully, the first of a number of future visits to this fascinating nation. By contrast to the surrounding nations, Bahrain is much more open, relaxed and far more mature in their thinking on a range of issues. I hope that they can continue to develop the best of their society in a forward thinking way. The one cloud on the horizon is that the "disadvantaged" Shia community look towards the Iranian Ayatollahs for spiritual and political guidance. That could be their downfall!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:26 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 25, 2005

Big City views

Visiting the Big Apple for the first time - and on one's own - can be a bit daunting, but I still enjoyed the opportunity. These pictures date from my first trip to the Big Apple in August 2003 and as you can see - it rained, frequently in torrents! It is certainly an interesting place, one I would like to explore further if opportunity serves. In the meantime here are some of the sights I did manage to catch in a two day visit.

Downtown from the ferry!

Interestingly the hotel I booked online looked absolutely nothing at all like the pictures they displayed on their website! At least I will know better for the future. New York cabbies turned out to be much better than their reputation (thanks, no doubt, to Hollywood!) suggests, but most shop keepers, hotel staff and the odd public official (Fire Fighters and Police apart) were every bit as surly and unhelpful as I had been told.

A fast RIB fire boat patrol on the East River above Brooklyn Bridge.

That said, I met some super people - ordinary New Yorkers - who made my stay interesting and showed a side to the city that was positive. It was very soon apparent that, despite TV and film images for the rest of the world, the Big Apple is about as typical of mainstream US as London is of the rest of the UK. Naturally a visitor wants to see as much as possible - I avoided the UN HQ - so I took in St Patrick's Cathedral, the site of the Twin Towers and 9/11, the Jewish Museum, Broadway, 5th Avenue and Times Square. I would have liked to take in a show, but didn't have time, so I did a "Round the Island" trip by boat instead and took in the USS Invincible and her consorts, a floating maritime museum on the piers at West 42nd Street.

USS Invincible and her preserved consorts, a "Fletcher" Class destroyer and an early missle carrying submarine.

As I said, too little time and too much to see and do. Another visit is definitely called for!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:06 PM | TrackBack

November 24, 2005

Wooden Walls

With all the celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar now behind us, I felt it was appropriate to bring out this picture of the famous old ship herself. A little shorter in overall length than a modern Type 23 Frigate, she mounted 104 guns in her broadside batteries, the largest, the 32 pounders, on the lower gun deck. Her crew of 995 men and officers (including a Royal Marine Comany of just over 100) lived in incredibly cramped conditions between the guns. Even the officers were quite crowded in their quarters aft in the Wardroom, with only the Captain, Thomas Masterman Hardy, and the Admiral having the luxury of a private space with separate sleeping quarters. The Midshipmen lived in the "Gunroom", a space below the waterline aft, which also became an overflow sickbay in battle.

HMS Victory, still in commision after 248 years, flying the Flag of the Port Admiral, Portsmouth Dockyard.

The 32 pounder guns had a range of about 3 miles and the 24 pounders on the middle gundeck could send a shot about the same distance. The upper gun deck carried lighter 12 pounders which had a slightly lesser range. Fired at close quarters into an enemy, the shot often passed right through the other ship, tearing out huge chunks of the ship's fabric in the process. Most wounds were from wood splinters rather than shot - and gangrene almost always followed a splinter wound as "Green Heart" Oak (from which these ships were built) is poisonous! On the Quarterdeck and on the forecastle she carried (in common with most British ships of the period) a number of "Smashers" - Carronades - short barrelled guns which fired a large hollow caste iron ball filled with metal balls. These burst on impact and did terrible damage in the process. Victory had 24 pounder carronades on the Quarterdeck and four 64 pounders on the forecastle. It was one of these latter which almost put Admiral Villeneuve out of the fight right at the outset.

The Grand Old Lady is open to the public and well worth the effort of visiting her.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:40 PM | TrackBack

November 23, 2005

A Church without Parish

On October 30, 2005 the reconstructed Frauenkirche, the most famous church of Dresden, was consecrated. Built in the 18th century the church has always been a prominent part or the Dresden "skyline". It's impressive Italian style architecture contributed to Dresden being also known as "Elbflorenz" (Florence on the river Elbe).

During the heavy bombardment of Dresden in the last days of WWII the church was totally devastated and reduced to a pile of rubble, 13 m high. After the war the SED regime of the German Democratic Republic wanted to remove the remains no doubt to erect an architectural monstrosity there. But people became very inventive about protecting the ruins, planting a hedge of roses around it to make it less noticeable. In 1966 the ruins were even proclaimed an antifascistic memorial against the war.

From 1982 onwards people would congregate at the ruins each Februar 13, the day commemmorating the devastation of Dresden. The ruins became a place and a symbol for the peace and civic rights movements in the German Democratic Republic. At last reunification between East and West Germany took place in 1990. And a plan was born to reconstruct the Frauenkirche.

Under the motto "Brücken bauen - Versöhnung leben" (Building bridges - living reconciliation) the impossible was achieved. More than a 100 million Euros were collected from all over the world. The former enemies from Britain and the United States generously contributed to this sum. British people also paid for the golden cross on the roof. One of the goldsmiths involved in making the cross is a son of one of the pilots who bombed Dresden 60 years ago - a true sign of reconciliation to me.

One of the many interesting things about the reconstruction ist that the remaining stones from the old building were carefully catalogued and fitted into the new church in their appropriate places. Experts from the University of Dresden developed a new kind of mortar which made it possible to connect new stones with old stones. The result is a stunning sight.
It took eleven years to reconstruct the building. Over the years the project gathered a lot of momentum. Each Christmas a special service was held outside in front of the growing building and over the years more and more people were attending. In the end thousands were coming.

Now that it is finished the Frauenkirche is a magnificent sight - from outside as well as from inside. A Baroque Riot, as the Monk would say, with soaring heights. Curiously enough, the famous church is now a church without a parish. It will doubtlessly be used for the occasional service and also for concerts, lectures etc. But now that all the excitement and the involvement of the media is slowly dying down it remains to be seen whether the Frauenkirche will find its proper and permanent place in future Dresden.

Posted by Mausi at 06:21 AM | TrackBack

November 22, 2005

Recognition at last?

The Monk is proud to announce that he has been awarded a Doctorate by the Unseen University and can now add DA after his name! According to the certificate the Hebdomadal Council of the UU, under the Chairmanship of Mustrum Ridcully DThau, etc. Archchancellor, has declared that the said Monk, having satisfied them that he had made the necessary pecuniary emolument and thus proved himself to be "Credulus Maximus", has been awarded the Degree Doctorate Doctorus Adamus cum flabello Dulci.

This entitles him to a range of entertaining "perks" including being photographed (for a fee) with credulous tourists, wearing fancy robes on occassion and bagging the best table in restuarants (after a suitable gratuity to the head waiter).

For those unfortunates reading this who haven't a clue what I am on about, I suggest reading "The Last Continent" by Terry Pratchett. Or any of TP's books which feature the Unseen University (Motto "Nunc id vides; Nunc ne vides") or any of the series that deal with the Watch and other denizens of the fabulous city of Ankh-Morpork.

You too can be a luminary of the famous UU. Try contacting their terrestrial agent at Sator Square.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:41 PM | TrackBack

November 21, 2005

European Ancestors

The Gray Monk has already posted bits about his fascination with the National Geographic Genographic Project which tells us about the migration of our ancestors from Africa into Europe and the rest of the world. With regard to Europe there has been a debate for years among geneticists, archaeologists, and anthropologists whether modern Europeans are descendants of the Neolithic farmers who settled in Europe about 7,500 years ago or of the Paleolithic hunters and gatherers who had been already present in Europe 40,000 years ago.

A team of scientists from Germany and the UK have just published their findings in the magazine 'Science' that the genetic impact of the Neolithic farmers who migrated into Europe from the Middle East is much less than had been thought until now. They extracted and sequenced mtDNA (maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA) from 24 out of 57 Neolithic skeletons. The skeletons came from various locations in Germany, Austria, and Hungary. DNA samples were taken from bones as well as from teeth. 6 (25%) of the skeletons contained the characteristic mtDNA type N1a which was formerly widespread among the farmers of the Neolithic age. But Europeans today have a 150 times lower frequency (0.2%) of this mtDNA type. That supports the theory that the Paleolithic hunters and gatherers had a much stronger genetic influence on the modern European female lineage than the Neolithic farmers.

This comes as a bit of a surprise. Until now it had been thought that together with the spread of farming techniques also went the spread of language, genetic material, and cultural techniques. One of the oldest of the Neolithic Age is the Linear Band Ware Culture, also known as Linear Pottery Culture. It originated in Hungary and Slowakia and within 500 years spread into the vicinity of Paris and Belarus. The quick spread and the fact that finds from an area of almost a million square kilometers are practically indistinguishable from each other seems to indicate that most spread was mostly achieved by immigration. On the other hand some archaeological studies indicate that some Paleolithic hunters and gatherers turned into farmers without mixing very much with the already existing farming population.

To me this shows again that evolution is never a one way road. Obviously Paleolithic hunters were not simply replaced by Neolithic farmers in Europe but shared the place for some time. I find it fascinating that science somehow never fails to provide us with new tools which enable us to learn more about our past bit by bit. It will be very interesting to find out next what actually happened to the Neolithic farmers in Europe. Wait and see.

Posted by Mausi at 04:08 PM | TrackBack

November 20, 2005

Yew Power

The penultimate battle of the Wars of the Roses was fought in Tewkesbury and every year there is a re-enactment on the old battlefield - or what is left of it. It is a grand weekend affair with the town filled with re-enactors from all over Europe (Both armies had large mercenary contingents) and the battle ended in a slaughter rather than a defeat. Edward IV secured his claim to the crown and captured Queen Margaret (Henry VI's Queen) in the process. She was merely banished, her son, Edward Prince of Wales, was killed on the battlefield and her husband died mysteriously in the Tower of London. The surviving Lords who had supported her and her husband's cause were all beheaded at the Tewkesbury Market Cross and, with the fallen Prince, are buried in Tewkesbury Abbey.

Both sides had Longbowmen, the devastating weapon of the high Middle Ages, and both sides made excellent use of them, right up to the point where Edward IV's army managed to turn the Prince of Wales lines and put them to flight. Then it was Edward's bowmen who began the slaughter.

A pair of "Bowmen" armed with Yew Longbows at the re-enactment of the Battle of Tewkesbury.

The longbow is made from a single strip of Yew wood just over six feet in length unstrung. The Yew has a unique property in that the outer layers are very hardy and the inner core is softer. A bow made from this wood has properties similar to the modern composite bow since, with the hard layers on the "outer" side and the soft layers inward, when the bow is bent, the softer layers are condensed and store energy while the outer layers are stretched. When the string is released, the energy is transmitted through the bowstring as the compressed layers push back into shape, increasing the "straightening" moment of the outer layer and lending power to the arrow. These bows generated a "pull" of up to 220 pounds at full "bend" and almost all of that was transfered to the 3 foot long arrow!

This is the weapon which killed almost 12,000 French knights and men at arms at Agincourt and a similar number at Crecy.

There is one more piece to this that should make anyone aware of the power of this weapon - it could, in the right circumstances (about 50 feet and striking a flat surface) - penetrate plate armour, chainmail and the padded jerkins beneath! It could also send an arrow almost half a mile - and the bowman could keep 14 arrows a minute in flight! Against this, the crossbow could fire a more powerful "bolt" over a short distance, but it could only fire three "bolts" to the longbow's fourteen! Also, for the record, modern bows of this type, have a "pull" of a maximum of 180 pounds.

In case anyone thinks we would have trouble finding Yew wood to make bows - every churchyard the length and breadth of England has stands of Yew trees.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:15 PM | TrackBack

November 19, 2005

Sunny expedition

Being a cat I seldom fail to be amused by my people. Two years ago they set out on an expedition to the north of the Scottish mainland to watch the annular eclipse in the early hours (4.44 a.m.) of May 31,2003. I should perhaps tell you that He is a hobby astronomer and over the years has become a keen watcher of the sun. He usually prefers a warmer climate for his holidays but the prospect of watching an eclipse easily overcame whatever doubts he had about spending time in Scotland.

They insisted on a cat sitter for me during their absence and asked a friend of theirs to stay with me. I could have managed very well on my own with a little bit of assistance from our neighbours who are great friends of mine - but who am I to object to a personal slave? And to own the truth, he looked after me very well.

My people packed up their camping equipment, a few spare clothes and set off in the middle of May. Camping in Scotland in May - they must be mad. They told me afterwards that they were almost washed away by a firs class rain storm when camping at the foot of Ben Nevis during their first week. But the weather gradually improved from then on.

On May 29 they reached their observation post at the camp site of John o'Groats and secured a place next to the beach with a beautiful view of the sea. Only a few campers were present at the site although the newspapers had said that thousands were to be expected for the event at the Scottish coasts.

The next morning they decided to take a long walk along the coast. It was a beautiful day, rather sunny with a gentle breeze from the sea. They walked until they reached some steep cliffs around midday where thousands of seabirds were nesting.


Seabirds certainly have a way of picking a place with a view ...


... catproof but rather crowded!

When they came back in the late afternoon the atmosphere on the camp site had changed completely. Whereas in the morning there had only been a few tents it was now absolutely packed with tents, caravans and people and bustling with activity. The biggest tent belonged to a local TV broadcasting station. The TV people were already interviewing the hobby astronomers about the oncoming event. Whoever was not being interviewed was busy rigging up his telescope to be prepared for next morning.

Apparently nobody got much sleep that night and He was up and out of the tent at least an hour before the eclipse was about to start. At last the long awaited moment had come: and he saw NOTHING! Absolutely nothing! Of course, whoever knows a bit about the sea knows that there's a good chance of a bit of mist rolling in from the sea at sunrise. Watching a solar eclipse at that time of the day might be difficult! On that day of all days the mist was even thick enough to totally obscure the sun for hours. What a pity.

As I said before: people are funny. Fancy, going hundreds of kilometers to see nothing. Could as well have stayed at home with me!

Posted by Mausi at 08:27 AM | TrackBack

November 18, 2005

Tommy Atkins

Kipling's poem, written around the end of the 19th Century, has perhaps never been so apposite as in the present age of anti-military, pro-bureaucrat denigration of anything and anyone in a uniformed and professional service. This was brought home to me very forcibly on Remembrance Sunday, the 65th Anniversary of the end of hostilities in the second World War, as I watched the veterans filling the Abbey nave.

This year, for the first time ever, there were no services units on parade. Why? Because under this and successive previous governments, the armed forces have been cut back and cut back to the point where the only way we can now meet out international commitments is by sending the Territorial Army units. That's right, the part-timers are now being sent to do the work which used to be done by the full time professionals.

Do they get any credit for this? Not a lot. Kipling tells the story very well. This government and its cloud of "peaceniks" have failed utterly to recognise the truth of the statement:

"Si vis pacem, para bellum"

If you seek peace, prepare for war.

Of one thing we can be very sure, you will not find a single pen-pushing civil servant lifting their well padded rear ends out of their comfortable office chairs (£1,500 each chair in the MoD) or a single politician putting his or her neck on the line in any future war. Their secret weapon? When they run out of troops, ships and aircraft, they will simply change sides and enjoy the benefits of being good little workers for their new masters.

It was ever thus.

by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,
The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:26 PM | TrackBack

November 17, 2005


The number Two has always played an important part in man's thinking. We have two feet, two legs, two hands, two eyes, two ears. There are two sexes. Noah took the animals in two's into his ark. Quite early man must have also discovered that each child has two parents, four grandparents, eight grand-grandparents and so forth. Writing this down in the respective numbers 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 ... leads to the simplest of the so-called geometric series.

In ancient Egypt this concept was already successfully incorporated in doing calculations. The Egyptians were able to do all their multiplications by successive doubling, halving and adding up as is shown in the following example.

Let's multiply 11 by 19. You would successively double the first factor and halve the second, taking only the integral half of any odd number until you reach 1. Then you would add up only those doubles which correspond to odd halves:

 11   19*
 22    9*
 44    4
 88    2
176   1*

That adds up to 11+22+176=209.

Another approach is writing 19 in a binary way:

19 = 1*16 + 0*8 + 0*4 + 1*2 + 1*1 => 10011

Now you can double 11 again and put the binary number of 19 in the second column from bottom to top. You then add up those doubles which correspond to a "1" in the right column:

 11    1
 22    1
 44    0
 88    0
176   1

It's quite fascinating, especially if you show the Egyptian Multiplication to other people, physicists and mathematicians excluded, of course. They will instantly try to think up an example to prove you wrong and usually will not give up before the fifth or sixth try.
Have fun!

Posted by Mausi at 10:23 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 16, 2005

Musical treats

Recently the Abbey resounded to the sound of the Silurian Consort, a group of professional and amateur musicians who perform some interesting and unusual works for choir, organ and other instruments and combinations of instruments and voices. Their programme on this occassion included the Saint-Saens Mass for Double Organ and the Vierne Mass for the same instrumentation. These works are scored for choir and two organs, in this case the Consort used a top of the range electronic instrument as the "nave" organ with the Milton as the "Grand" Organ accompaniment.

As many of us suspected, the Mighty Milton easily outclassed the electronic versioin, although, it must be said, the electronic instrument was not bad. It simply did not have the power of the Milton.

The Choir did a magnificent job of the vocal parts, with the Nave organ doing a fair job of accompanying them - but it was the Milton that made it's presence felt in no uncertain terms. Under the hands of a very competent organist it spoke with authority whenever it was required to do so - and the music requires the "Grand" organ to speak in counterpoint to the choir in many of the passages. The range of sounds this instrument can produce, from muted flute and brass to thundering crescendo never fails to amaze us.

The programme was varied and well balanced with pieces for flute and piano, choir only and choir accompanied by either organ. Among my favourites was the "Cantique de Jean Racine" by Gabriel Faure.

Now I would like to hear the Vierne and the Saint-Saens Masses performed in worship. I suspect they will be magnificently uplifting in their real context.

We live in hope!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:43 PM | TrackBack

November 15, 2005

Flight of the Navigator

One of my favourite DVD's for when I want to just switch off and slide along in neutral while my batteries recharge, is the 1980's film of the same title as my heading. It features a twelve year old boy who is abducted by an automated exploration ship from a distant planet, who is returned to his home eight years late. The ship would normally return its abductees to the same moment it took them, but discovered, after the abduction and examination on it's home planet, that humans don't travel well through time. Hence the late return.

From there the story takes an amusing turn as first the boy, terrified by the fact that he returns to find his home occupied by strangers and his younger brother now approaching his twenties, eventually is "abducted" by scientists who just happen to have found the spaceship and to have it in a NASA hangar. How did they catch the spaceship? It wiped out it's star cahrts bumping into a High Tension power line. Oops! Needless to say, boy and spaceship get together and the rest, as they say, is pretty hilarious - especially when the spaceship develops the mindset of a twelve year old boy after it scans him to get the star chart information!

What made me think of this?

Well, for years - and especially having grown up in the Southern Hemisphere - my internal compass has been 180 degrees out! Thus, navigating my way around the UK has been fraught with interesting deviations and diversions as I get directions wrong (usually reversed!) and then I have a problem with the basic geography of the place. After all, I grew up were there weren't four River Avons, where the spaces between towns and cities were pretty huge and where they don't tend to be one amorphous mass! In short, this was one manually navigated and operated missle looking for a navigator!

Well, I got one. Thanks to a very dear and now departed friend I have a GPS device which sits on my dashboard and tells me politely to turn left or right, to take the motorway or the exit as appropriate. Suddenly I can find places and I even know how far I have to go and how long it will take. Add a visual display of the road ahead and the turns and distances to way-stations and suddenly I don't have to worry whether I am going the right way - it even tells me when I take a wrong turn and tries to get me back onto the route it has chosen.

There is only one problem. The idiot who inputs the destination data! Enter the placename gremlin. Have you any idea how many places there are in the UK with the same damned name? Unless you know which one you want you can end up travelling in the wrong direction and ending up in Cornwall (Kernow if you are Cornish!) instead of somewhere in Northumbria! Ah well, it adds a bit of interest to the journey when you throw in a route through the scenic parts instead of the direct one.

And before you all start suffering from laughter induced head injury - no, I haven't yet achieved that feat, I do have some geographic sense, unlike the hero of my opening story who winds up in Tokyo looking for Miami from Cape Canaveral.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:45 PM | TrackBack

November 14, 2005

Border controls

Munuvia has recently migrated to a new server - to further confuse the spammers. Unfortunately for a few of us, it seems to have confused a number of things as well! Like publishing posts which then do not appear on the Blog! All in all, the migration (like ducks flying South for Winter in certain parts of the world, these things eventually work themselves out - but it can be entertaining while we get there!

It turns out that the problem was with the entry index - which had become detached or in some way corrupted so that it could not "rebuild". My entries were being "published" and posted - but not appearing because of the little error in the index code. Ah well, all fixed now, and hopefully the rest of the move is smooth and uneventful for everyone!

At least no one's shooting at us. Yet!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:15 PM | TrackBack

November 13, 2005

No man is an island

A meditation on the state of man
John Donne
Dean of St Paul's Cathedral London

(Originally part of a sermon delivered in the Cathedral)

Perchance he for whom the bell tolls may be so ill that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The Church is Catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptises a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to the Head which is my Head too, and engrafted into that body, whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: All mankind is of one Author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation; and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again, for that Library where every book shall lie open to one another: As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come; so this bell calls us all....

No man is an island, entire of itself; everyman is a piece of the continent, a part of the man; if a clod be washed away by the sea Europe is the less, as well a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were: Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

c 1623 following the death of a friend.

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November 11, 2005

Remembrance Day

On the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 and at the 11th hour of the morning, the guns across the Western Front in Europe fell silent. According to those who were there, the silence was unnatural, not even a bird dared to disturb the stillness for several minutes. There were no cheers on the Somme or Ypres salients, nor on the rest of the Allied frontline. Right up to the final minute, the artillery continued firing at targets on the German lines and received return fire. One of the most senseless actions of those final minutes, was a cavalry charge by German cavalry across open and well defended ground which was stopped, well short of the Allied positions, by machine-gun fire. Almost the entire troop and their horses died in that final act of war.

The exhausted troops were simply too tired to cheer, or too traumatised by the events they had witnessed - or just grateful that they had survived. They had almost nothing to cheer about, too many friends had died, too many lay crippled and too many had lost their minds in the senseless slaughter of the preceding five years. Yet, within a generation, the same protagonists would be at each others throats again. Perhaps it is time to remember that the price of peace is vigilance and strength, something proved so graphically by the fear of further conflict that drove the appeasement movement between the wars.

My grandfathers, a great grandfather and great uncle all fought in the First Great War, so did an uncle. Two of the five were very underage when they joined up, all were marked by diseases contracted in their campaigns or by injuries received in battle. Two fought in Flanders and on the Somme, one in East Africa and two more in German South West Africa and in Palestine. Three were gassed, one almost died at the Somme - yet, a generation later, two were again in service, albeit in training duties and their children were abroad in North Africa, Burma and Europe. All of them suffered wounds and some less obvious scars - deep one's that have affected everyone who knew them. Until I began to study the campaigns they fought, I never really understood any of it, but now I think I have at least some understanding of what it was they underwent.

We live in a free society today, one they paid for in blood to keep free. We owe it to them all, every soldier, airman and sailor, every nurse aid, every volunteer to keep that freedom and to never surrender to those who would impose their dictatorial visions upon the rest of us. As the words of memorial say:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.

And in remembering them we must also resist every attempt to take from us the freedom that they won at such great cost.

Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 44 vv. 1 – 15 RSV

1 Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers in their generations.
2 The Lord apportioned to them great glory, his majesty from the beginning.
3 There were those who ruled in their kingdoms, and were men renowned for their power, giving counsel by their understanding, and proclaiming prophecies;
4 leaders of the people in their deliberations and in understanding of learning for the people, wise in their words of instruction;
5 those who composed musical tunes, and set forth verses in writing;
6 rich men furnished with resources, living peaceably in their habitations-
7 all these were honoured in their generations, and were the glory of their times.
8 There are some of them who have left a name, so that men declare their praise.
9 And there are some who have no memorial, who have perished as though they had not lived; they have become as though they had not been born, and so have their children after them.
10 But these were men of mercy, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten;
11 their prosperity will remain with their descendants, and their inheritance to their children's children.
12 Their descendants stand by the covenants; their children also, for their sake.
13 Their posterity will continue forever, and their glory will not be blotted out.
14 Their bodies were buried in peace, and their name lives to all generations.
15 Peoples will declare their wisdom, and the congregation proclaims their praise.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 10, 2005

Beginning of the end?

The defeat, last night, of Mr Blair's attempt to railroad legislation through Parliament, is a ray of sunshine in an otherwise bleak political landscape. The size of the defeat suggests that more than sixty of his own party voted against him on this, so perhaps they too, have finally woken up to the fact that Blair and his cronies have been abusing our democracy - nay, have been destroying it - and have now sent a signal saying "enough"!

Well, we can all live in hope.

Watching him squirm as he tried to pass the defeat of his much vaunted draconian legislation for detention without trial, I will confess to a feeling of satisfaction. At last some of this government's less than honest activities are being exposed. It may well be that the Police would like to be able to detain suspects without trial for up to ninety days. There is a very strong case for it even, but most of us are very uncomfortable about the lack of judicial scrutiny of it. Even more are very uncomfortable about the apparent control it would hand to a very small group of police officers and civil servants to decide who, where, how and for how long someone could be detained. As the late Pastor Niemoller wrote, "when they came for the Jews, I did not speak out, because I wasn't a Jew". Following through to "when they came for me, there was no one left to speak up for me!" Blair and his Thought Police should take careful note - Parliament has, for once, spoken on the concerns of the real moral majority, not the readers of the Sun or any of the other Rupert Murdoch controlled mouthpieces for Labour.

The truth is that this is not the beginning of the end for Labour or for their attempts to steal democracy and turn this into a one party state in all but name. Those of us who grew up in the Apartheid years under the South African Nationalist Party recognise the signs all to well. You change the electoral boundaries, create new "urban" constituencies and break up the oppositions "safe" seats, lumping these in with "safe" constituencies of your own and build in an unassailable majority while preserving the appearance of "free and fair" elections. You don't have to stuff the ballot boxes if you adjust the constituencies to ensure that you always have a majority of "safe" seats. Oh, and you stuff the Civil Service with people who are "natural" supporters of your policies.

Sadly, all that will happen if Blair goes, is that Brown will step up to the plate and take his place. Many of us suspect that Brown has been the Puppeteer and Blair the Puppet for some time. Who knows, he may even choose to install another Puppet - after all, he wants to preserve his image of success, so have someone else do the failing for you.

What we can all hope for is perhaps best summed up by this countries most famous 20th Century leader, Sir Winston Churchill. This may not be the beginning of the end, but it may well be the end of the beginning. Let us all hope and pray that it is!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:31 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 09, 2005

Theological discussion

I belong to a "Theological Forum" which our Lord Abbot has set up to promote study and theological debate among the Ministry Team and some other members of the congregation who have a specific interest. Each of us is invited to produce a paper on a theological subject or aspect and to present this to the forum. Debates can, as you would expect, be quite lively as we argue each others points and try to find a common understanding.

We have had papers on "Relics", on "Profiling" on the ethos of Ministry, the principles of Islam and Sacrifice. Mine, which I offer in the extended post below for those with an interest in these matters, is on "Dualism", the concept that there are "parallel" existences of "spirit" and "body", that the two are somehow co-existent, but separate. This is really the Platonic and Gnostic understanding of God and it is in conflict with received understanding from Christ and indeed, from Judaism.

It is a persuasive and beguiling philosophy - all the more so because it seems to offer an explanation of the unexplainable. Read, if you wish too, enjoy, and if you you wish to debate it, let's start a forum!

The supernature of humanity – the dichotomy of the nature of the existence of spirituality and corporeal life.
Non fui, fui, non sum, no curo!*

An exploration of the Dualistic philosophy.

A paper prepared for the Tewkesbury Abbey Theological Forum

1.0 Introduction

When I accepted the challenge to prepare this paper, I little suspected the extent of the material available on the subject of Dualism nor the scope and range of the debate. Dualistic argument extends across a wide spectrum of human studies including psychology, theology and even into sociology. Arguments on the dualistic nature of materials and elements abound and even extend into the study of Quantum theory. It is my intention to focus here on those aspects which relate directly to the theology of the nature of the human “soul”, in particular to the nature of the human state; that is, is the material body by which we are defined as “Homo Sapiens” inhabited by a separate spiritual being in much the same way as the hermit crab inhabits an available shell, or is the body and the spirit one single entity which will continue into the life hereafter?

In selecting references from the plethora of sources a simple search of the world wide web, I have tried to find those which offer a balance between the position of the Catholic/Orthodox traditions on the one hand and the Protestant/Evangelical traditions on the other. Between these two positions, I have selected a few who represent the “anti-church” faction and who are non-Christian, pro-pagan, “wikka”, or simply “New Age” and who prefer to promote the “alternative” versions of the Christian doctrines and literature as being “more valid” than the “official” canon. Several other sources have been useful as they show up the thinking in Islam, Buddhism or other Eastern religions.

My research has identified the fact that such luminaries as Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Manes, Origen, Arius, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Descartes, Wittgenstein, Weber, and a wide range of Eastern philosophers have all addressed various aspects of the Dualist philosophy, either propounding it or refuting it. (Reaction to 17th Century Dualism: Article published on the Internet @serendip.com) To this list should be added the Cathars or “Cathari”, described as the last of the Gnostic adherents, and the modern Christian Scientists who argue that the body is irrelevant and the spirit is the sole “reality”. It has been discussed by the early church fathers and even formed a crucial part of the debates in the Council of Nicea. It forms a key part of the Zoroastrian beliefs and is an element in others including Hinduism, Buddhism and some related faiths. Even Islam has elements of Dualism in some of its teachings, in fact it could be argued that the Islamic concept of purity is Gnostic in origin and therefore entirely dualist. Manes, in particular, founded a Christian based movement combining Zoroastrian dualistic creeds with Christian teaching to found Manichaeism, a variation of the Gnostic heresy. Arius, also followed a form of this dualistic creed and was specifically refuted by the introduction and adoption at Nicea of the Nicean and Athanasian creeds. (History of the first Council of Nice: Dudley D, Peter Eckler Publishing 1925, reprinted 1999) From the 13th Century Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas argued that the Aristotelian view, though subjected to some important modifications, was the correct view.

Rene Descartes (1596 – 1650), the French mathematician and philosopher is credited with the revival of Dualistic theology and philosophy in the 17th Century. Known as Cartesian Dualism, his theory of the Human Machine raised the question of the division between metaphysical and physical existence. Put simply, saying that the “soul” was res cogitans, totally independent in existence of the physical body.

Dualism, it seems, has haunted theologians and scientists, an argument raised by Elizabeth Newman, Assistant Professor of Theology and Ethics at St Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana, in her paper “Theology and Science without Dualism”. (“Theology and Science without Dualism”, Elizabeth Newman, published in Cross Currents and accessed at http://www.crosscurents.org/newman.htm ) In this she argues that all current theological and scientific thinking is influenced in one way or another by the Gnostic dualist understanding of the spiritual relationship with the material. Yet, ultimately, I find that there is still an element of dualism embedded within her argument as she does not address the question of the difference between “spiritual” and “material” other than to indicate that she sees the two as integral – yet God is seen as standing at the head of creation. In it, but not “corporate”. Perhaps most interesting in this argument is the pointing to the fact that the Hebraic interpretation of the “Word” is that Word is also Deed. Therefore, as pointed out in Newman’s paper, St John’s opening statement can be translated as:

“In the beginning was the Deed, and the Deed was with God from the beginning.”

In this argument, it is necessary for us to return our thinking process to the Abrahamic “Covenant” process in which it is necessary to return to a “creation” and “covenant” in order to create an alternative central mythos in which we can construct a new philosophy free of dualism. I remain to be convinced, as this seems to suggest a return to a fundamentalist vision which may be unsustainable.

2.0 What is Dualism?

Dualism is defined, theologically, as the concept of the existence of two separate entities, equal in power and status, one good, one evil. (http://www.gotquestions.org/dualism.html and Basic Theology: Charles Ryrie, 1992) This theory is most fully developed in the Zoroastrian creed, but it has echoes in Zen, Buddhism and other Eastern pantheistic religions which teach of a balance to be maintained between forces of good and evil in the world. The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (http://web.gc.cuny.edu/cogsci/dualism.htm ) states inter alia;

“Dualism is the view that mental phenomena are, in some respect, non-physical. The best known version is due to Descartes, and holds that the mind is a non-physical substance.”

Underlying this concept is the view that the functioning of individuals is of two fundamentally different means – those functions associated with the autonomous and physical, and those functions which are on a “higher” order. In short, the two are in different categories and must therefore be centred on different “physical” existences. As, according to Descartes concept, the mind has neither spatial properties, nor physical reality it is a separate entity. The Cathars, whom some authorities consider to be lineal descendents of the Manichǽans, were rigid Dualists, perceiving all material things – and by definition, the human body – as being the creation of the “evil” spirit and the spiritual realm being the creation of the “good” spirit. In this sense they argued that the believer had to mortify the flesh in order to achieve purity and thus prepare for reception into perfection or heaven. (www.newadvent.org/cathen/03435a.htm Catholic Encyclopedia: Cathari.)

3.0 The Origins of Dualism

Zoroastrianism has existed for 3,500 years and embraces a wide range of thought. Only once, from 250 – 650 AD, when it was the “state” religion under the Sassanian Persian Empire, has it had a centralised control of its doctrines. From the first, Zoroastrianism has embraced a form of dualism, but, while little of Zarathustra’s original writing survives, some fragments are preserved in later texts which indicate his position. To quote Zarathustra himself from one such source,

“Now when the two mentalities first got together, they created “life” and “not living”. Until the end of existence, the worst mind shall be the wrongful, and the best mind shall be for the righteous.” (Deism: God and reason without Revelation; Dualism: Shapero, Hannah M G. extract from http://sullivan-county.com/z/dualism.htm )

Further examination of the teachings of this religious movement show that there are similarities with the “Yin/Yan” concept found in many Eastern religions, the “Good” mind being portrayed as “progressive” and the “retarding” one as holding back or even degrading the efforts of progress. Thus the two cannot agree or be compatible.

Classical dualism

In Greece, the Eleatic School, led by Parmenides, propounded a concept of a universality of being. In their view, everything exists in the singular, changes and plurality of beings are merely superficial. Plato proposed a dualistic vision in which he propounded a concept of “God” – and “un-produced matter”. The two existing side by side, the “un-produced matter” being chaotic, indeterminate and subject to fluctuation, but existing for eternity side by side with God. Order is due to God’s intervention and control, while disorder and chaos is due to the resistance of matter which God has not altogether vanquished. (Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

A further book, The Jewish Roman World of Jesus by Dr James D Tabor, (Extract found at http://www.religousstudies.uncc.edu/jdtabor/dualism.html ) describes “Hellenistic dualism” as

“a dualistic view of the cosmos and the human person so that salvation is seen as “getting away” from the world and the body.”

He points to the tomb inscriptions and prayers on tombs of the period and their evidence of belief in an “underworld” in which the dead reside in a non-corporeal state. Indeed, Plato’s allegory of the cave is said to be an example of the dualistic view of the world as a shadow of heavenly reality. (The allegory of the Cave, The Republic; Book 7: Plato) This concept is continued in Cicero’s “Immortal Soul” in which he describes the dream of Scipio Africanus in which he encounters his dead father in heaven and is given the secrets of the afterlife.

In Phaedo Plato postulates that true substances are not physical bodies, which are ephemeral, but the eternal “Forms” of which bodies are but imperfect copies. In his view, these “Forms” make the world possible and intelligible. Frege refers to these Platonic Forms as “concepts”. It is, in Plato’s thinking, the connection between intelligibility and the philosophy of mind that is relevant. He also argues for the immortality of the soul, but again it is the immaterial existence of thought that is relevant here as this he relates to the immaterial existence of Forms.

In the Platonic philosophy the immortal soul exists independently of the body, an entity it is imprisoned within, and which it strives to leave in order to live in the “realms of the Forms”. Interestingly he also argues that it may take many reincarnations to achieve this ambition! The major problem with this philosophy is that although he describes the body as imprisoning the soul, he has no clear concept of what it is that “imprisons” the soul. (History of Dualism: Stanford encyclopaedia of Philosophy: Accessed at http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/dualism/)

Aristotle did not accept the concept of the Platonic “Forms” having an independent existence, apart from their entity. Instead he argued for a vision of “forms” as the “natures” and “properties” of things and as existing embodied in those things. Many philosophers have interpreted this as a “materialistic” view, based on the apparent concept of the soul being a “property” of the body. This would be wrong, because what Aristotle is in fact implying is that the “intellect”, though a part of the “soul”, is different from other functions or properties of the body because it is not tied to a specific organ. His argument is therefore, that the intellect must be “immaterial” because if it were “material” it would be limited in the same way that the eye “sees”, but cannot “hear” and the ear “hears” but cannot “see”. Augustine preferred the Platonic vision of “matter” and “non-matter” Dualist approach in his theology which also supported his ideas on Pre-destination. Thomas Aquinas, on the other hand preferred the Aristotelian concept and developed his theology on that arguing that the soul, the intellect and the body are all one.

Later philosophers, notably Ryle (1949) and Kenny (1989) have argued that Aristotle is making a case for the soul being equivalent to dispositions found in a human body – but this is the anti-Cartesian approach. In fact Aristotelian thinking makes the “form” the substance. This is also the basis of the arguments put forward by Thomas Aquinas for the treatment of the soul, intellect and form as one – the substance of a living person.

The Dead Sea Scrolls also venture into the debate, a typical example being the references in the Scroll designated 1QM (also called the “War Scroll”) to the struggle between the “Sons of Light” and the “Sons of Darkness” which are not found in the Hebrew Bible, the Pseudepigraphica or the Apocrypha. Further references to “two spirits” are to be found in 1QS and are frequently referred to as evidence of the sect’s view of dualism, with the only similar passages to be found in Daniel 10:20 – 21 and the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs and the book of Jubilees. (Found at: http://deliriumsrealm.com/religion/dualism_1qs.asp ) The Scrolls are also concerned with the origins of evil, with the author attributing all evil actions to an “Angel of Darkness”. This does not solve the problem of the origin of evil precisely because the author of the scroll asserts that the Angel of Darkness is subordinate to God. Thus, it suggests that God is ultimately responsible for the creation of evil.

These and other related questions continued to exercise the minds of the Early Church fathers and gave rise to a number of “heretical” movements including Arianism, Manichaeism, Gnosticism and Docetism. It is suggested by many scholars that the interchange and adoption, of ideas and philosophic concepts was inevitable away from the “purity” of the Mosaic Law as interpreted by the Temple priests in the vast melting pot that was Hellenic Asia Minor.
The teaching of the Greek philosophic schools would have been a familiar source to all living in Asia Minor and the early church seems to have adopted a number of Aristotelian and Platonic theories from quite early. Under Thomas Aquinas the concept of this dualistic existence of God and “matter” was rejected, the concept of the separate existence of the human soul did receive further development. In this, the concept of an eternal world existing side by side with God is rejected. The concept of the Spiritual world, however, was given further definition and development. The soul was seen as “animating” the body and their separability was emphasised. (The Catholic Encyclopaedia: Accessed at: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05169a.htm ).

The Cathars, possibly the most well known medieval Dualists, based their philosophy on an interpretation of St John’s Gospel which suggested that there were two equal forces struggling for domination, the one, worldly and material, evil, the other spiritual and pure, good. Their following was divided into Croyants (believers) and Parfaits (Priests). The Parfaits led an aesthetic lifestyle, eschewing meat (but consuming fish!) and presiding at the ritual meals. Both men and women were elevated to this status and celebrated the sacraments equally. Central to their belief was the understanding that “evil” had imprisoned “good” inside the bodies of humans. Under their teaching the entry to heaven was through the soul and the “spirit” had to first enter the soul to ascend to heaven. To do this, devotees had first to detach themselves from the material world, perhaps explaining the willingness of the captured Cathari in the purges of the 1200’s, to willingly submit to the pyres! (Mysteries of the Cathars: Cathar Doctrine: Southern France Guide. http://www.le-guide.com/catharindex.html )

The problem of dualism was raised to a new position however, by the postulation of Rene Descartes, and his concepts have underpinned a number of scientific and religious debates since his time, even spilling over into the field of psychology. In Descartes thinking (Cartesian dualism), the mind stands in a “cognitive” relationship with the world, and in a “causal” relationship with the body. According to Descartes, the soul is the thinking part, the res cognito, a temporary resident in the body, which is little more than a complex machine under its control. (The Catholic Encyclopaedia) The mind has nothing in common with the body, but is, according to Descartes, connected to it at a single point which he decided was the pineal gland, right at the centre of the brain. Thus, soul (the mind) and body are two completely disparate and merely allied beings.

It is the Cartesian Dualistic philosophy which has fuelled much of the debate on the subject of dualism throughout the 18th and 19th Century – and to an extent still fuels the debate with the scientific community of the nature of God and of the immortal and eternal element of life.

Cartesian dualism

Descartes certainly rocked the world view with his separation of mind and body. In his thinking, bodies are like machines. They function well and in accordance with a set of “laws” which govern them. As a “mechanist”, his view was that matter would proceed in a deterministic fashion unless a mind interfered with it. In this view, the “mind/soul” is the machine operator pulling the levers that make the machine deviate from its deterministic path. The principle problem with this view (and one which exercised Descartes and his fellows for some time) is not so much where the interactions take place, but how two such different things interact at all. Yet, his arguments seem to me to be more a development of Plato and perhaps Zarathustra.

Arnold Geulincx and Nicholas Malebranche argued that all mind-body interaction required the direct intervention of God. This is a causal view and is founded on the concept that the mind-body interaction depends on occasions for intervention and thus all causation is dependent on God.

A much more enduring attempt to overcome this impasse came from the work of Benedictus de Spinoza a Jewish lens grinder who was expelled from his synagogue for his radical ideas on metaphysics. Published posthumously as De ethica he attempts to maintain God as the one and only “true” cause without actually dropping the idea of causality as being operative in mental and physical activities. He abandoned Decartes “two substances” view and promoted what has become known as the “Double aspect” theory. In his theory, God is the only substance, the universal essence of all that is in existence. (The 17th Century: Reaction to dualism of mind and body: Accessed at http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/Mind/17th.html )

This theory would later be developed into a further vision called “parallel-dualism” but which I do not intend to address here!

Varieties of Dualism

The dualistic view of humanity (and a few related matters of time, space and eternity!) is pervasive. An example is the “Dark Matter” theory postulated in Astrophysics to explain the fact that the universe is heavier and has higher gravitational forces than can be accounted for by the amount of visible matter. Careless use of language often suggests a dualistic approach in our worship as well, examples abound of hymns, particularly from the late 18th and early 19th Centuries which use the phraseology “body and soul” as if they were two entities.

The best known “modern” “Christian” version of Dualism is the “Christian Science” movement, or “First Church of Christ Scientist” which has some interesting teachings on this subject. The website “Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry” in an item entitled “What does Christian Science teach” (http://www.carm.org/christian_science/doctrine.htm ), raises several points of doctrine among which are:

• Christ is the spiritual idea of sonship
• Jesus Christ is not God, as Jesus himself declared
• Jesus did not reflect the fullness of God
• Jesus did not die,
• The Holy Spirit is divine science,
• There is no devil,
• There is no sin,
• Evil and good are not real,
• Matter, sin, and sickness are not real, but only illusions,
• Life is not material or organic,
• The sacrifice of Jesus was not sufficient to cleanse from sin.

Most interesting for this debate are the last three items, which seem to set out a singularly un-Christian position in the context of accepted teaching. Certainly the position that matter, sin and sickness are “not real”, but only illusions seems to reflect the position of both the Cathars and some of the earlier philosophers! I find myself unable to identify with any of their principle teachings, certainly the statement “God is infinite...and there is no other power or source” would seem to suggest a “Monoist” position, but this cannot be sustained in view of their position that “material” and “Spiritual” are separate, if illusory!

The medical field, particularly the field of psychology, has made use of the concept of duality to explain certain attitudes or mental anomalies as well. Some examples of Dualistic Theories are given below: -

Predicate Dualism – the theory that psychological predicates are essential to a full description of the world and that these are not reducible to physical predicates.

Property dualism – where “Predicate Dualism” deals with attributes or qualities, this theory states that there are two different kinds of property in the world. This theory steps in where physics is inadequate to describe what is there or what is happening; ie: the introduction of a “vital force” for an event to occur.

Substance dualism – postulates that there are two important elements, both a substance and the dualism of the substance, in short that it may have both a physical and a non-physical existence. Not so much the properties possessed as the thing which possesses.

To these can be added:

Epiphenominism, and

Other explorations in the realms of dualism include “Are Quantum Physics and Spirituality related” (Thompson Ian, Physics Department, University of Surrey. UK: Accessed at http://www.newdualism.org/papers/I.Thompson/qps.htm) which looks at the Quantum Physics and Wave Particle Duality and seeks to explain apparent anomalies in the behaviour of particles by exploring New Age assertions that quantum physics tells us about spirituality. Another paper by the same author explores “The Consistency of Physical Law with Divine Immanence” the abstract of which states:

“A model to show how the existence of physical law could be a reasonable consequence of Divine Immanence in the world of natural phenomena. Divine Immanence is seen as the continual production of the principal causes or dispositions which enable created things to act and change. It is argued that this is a physically consistent, philosophically coherent, and theologically sound.”

Perhaps the modern position on Dualism is best summed up by the Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati who says:

“We may believe in one or other philosophies of Dualism or Non-dualism. We may see these as contradictory or complimentary. However, when we want food or sex, or feel threatened, we automatically respond from Dualism, not Non-Dualism. If we watch a person die, or look at a corpse, are we not all struck by the mystery of apparent matter and consciousness? The higher truth quickly goes out of the window in such moments and we find we are faced squarely with dualistic, conditioned response of the stuff of our mind.”
(http://swamij.com/dualism.htm )

4.0 Soul and body? One being or two?

The modern view of the “soul” is flavoured by the secularisation which has seen steady growth over the last century or more. It has become a generic term for that “invisible essence” of the human being frequently regarded as a religious indulgence – or as Marx put it – something to deaden the oppressed peoples sense of pain and alienation. It is, in fact, in discussing the nature of the soul that most religions diverge! If one accepts that there is a spiritual nature to our lives, then it raises the question of whence it comes and where it goes at death. The atheist does not, of course, acknowledge the existence of any spiritual being at all and maintains that once the chemical processes that constitute a living body cease to function in “vital” way, the individual ceases to exist. No believer can accept this position, so the question of the existence of the soul, and what precisely it is and how constituted arises.

The Catholic Encyclopaedia has this to say:

The question of the reality of the soul and its distinction from the body is among the most important problems of philosophy, for with it is bound up the doctrine of a future life. Various theories as to the nature of the soul have claimed to be reconcilable with the tenet of immortality, but it is a sure instinct that leads us to suspect every attack on the substantiality or spirituality of the soul as an assault on the belief in existence after death. The soul may be defined as the ultimate internal principle by which we think, feel, and will, and by which our bodies are animated. The term "mind" usually denotes this principle as the subject of our conscious states, while "soul" denotes the source of our vegetative activities as well. That our vital activities proceed from a principle capable of subsisting in itself, is the thesis of the substantiality of the soul: that this principle is not itself composite, extended, corporeal, or essentially and intrinsically dependent on the body, is the doctrine of spirituality. If there be a life after death, clearly the agent or subject of our vital activities must be capable of an existence separate from the body. The belief in an animating principle in some sense distinct from the body is an almost inevitable inference from the observed facts of life. Even uncivilized peoples arrive at the concept of the soul almost without reflection, certainly without any severe mental effort. The mysteries of birth and death, the lapse of conscious life during sleep and in swooning, even the commonest operations of imagination and memory, which abstract a man from his bodily presence even while awake-all such facts invincibly suggest the existence of something besides the visible organism, internal to it, but to a large extent independent of it, and leading a life of its own.

The many philosophers who have looked at the nature of matter versus the nature of the spirit all find themselves at a loss at some point to explain the link between spirit and body, or put another way between consciousness and reason and the all to mortal flesh that houses it. Philo of Alexandria developed the Platonic Dualist theory, teaching the Divine origin of the soul, its pre-existence and transmigration. In doing so he contrasts the pneuma or spiritual existence with the soul proper, making it responsible for the occurrence of certain phenomena and giving it a “home” in the blood. He also attributed original sin and transgression to the union between material and non-material. It was left to Christianity to sift through the various strands of German, Greek, Roman and other writings to see if anything in particular gave rise to further thought on this matter. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and others of the medieval church around the early Middle Ages wrestled with this strenuously and finally agreed the present dogma. Descartes on the other hand, postulated on the separation of mind and body and those of Plato and his followers that the soul is somehow “imprisoned” in a body from which it seeks to escape do not address either the issue of what the spirit is, nor how it functions in relation to the supposedly independent material body.

It was this dichotomy which gave rise to Monism, particularly among German philosophers following on from the work of Weber. In this view, the mind or “intellectual coherence” is firmly rooted in the real world, tied to the flesh and body in which it has its supposed origins. (Immanent dualism as an alternative to Dualism and Monism: The world of Max Weber; Aeschlimann S S, Eastern University. Pennsylvania, USA: Accessed through http://www.asa3.org?ASA/topics/worldview/Worldviews4-00Steiner.html ).

Returning now to the thinking of the early Church and to the work of Thomas Aquinas, we find that for the Christian Church at large there is clearly a view within Theological circles that the soul and the body are one and the same. As I remarked earlier in this paper this is not always the suggested view in some hymns which reflect the Body/Soul divide postulated by Plato and Cartesian Dualist thinking. Clearly, among the majority of the laity, this is not given a great deal of thought and perhaps the question should be “what is the soul?”

Here again we come up against several diverging arguments.

Thomas Aquinas wrote a treatise on Aristotle’s De Anima explaining his views, and incidentally, the views of the Church since, on this important topic. Thomas postulated that the Aristotelian position was close to the truth – that the intellect is a property of the soul. Ergo, the soul is an integral part of the body to which it gives “anima”. The dogma of the Catholic Church declares that the soul will, after death, be re-united with the body at the resurrection of the dead. However, for much of the 20th Century the ideas of Werner Jaeger have re-opened this debate with a revisionist view of the interpretation of Aristotle’s views on the work of Plato. To quote Jaeger’s own assertion:

“One might indeed raise the question whether first philosophy is universal, or deals with one genus, i.e. some one kind of being; for not even the mathematical sciences are all alike in this respect, — geometry and astronomy deal with a certain particular kind of thing, while universal mathematics applies alike to all. We answer that if there is no substance other than those which are formed by nature, natural science will be the first science; but if there is an immovable substance, the science of this must be prior and must be first philosophy, and universal in this way, because it is first. And it will belong to this to consider being qua being — both what it is and the attributes which belong to it qua being.”
( Stanford encyclopedia of Philosophy: St Thomas Aquinas – Beyond physics)

Further reading of the texts I have been able to access suggest that even the great Aquinas experienced some difficulty in explaining this, before finally settling on the exposition we have today.

If we adopt the position of pure Cartesian Dualism we are in effect saying that the body is nothing other than a Homunculus, a shell totally without a mind of its own; capable of living but only in the animistic sense, that is; incapable of independent or “higher order” thought. Yet here too, we run into the question of what precisely is meant by “higher order” thinking. What do we mean by sentience? For, if the measure of what has and has not a soul is sentience and higher order thoughts we have to reconsider our measurements of these things in the light of modern medical discoveries and the work of men such as Pavlov.

On the other hand, if we adopt a strict Monist approach we are in effect saying there is no separate spiritual existence and the mind, the intellect which is the essence of who we are, dies when the body ceases to live.

A further question which needs to be addressed is the question of when exactly the soul begins to be the person. Many now argue that it is the moment of conception, while the legalistic position is that a person has no legal existence until birth. The position of the Church is quite clear, the soul and the body are one whole. The soul may leave the body after death, but will, at some point be re-united with a new and perfect body in the life to come. In essence the Cartesian debate on the division between “non-material” and “material” is not entertained.

I find that my own position on this is quite clear; I believe that my intellectual being is one and the same as my physical being.

5.0 Is God responsible for the creation of evil?

It follows that if God is the single Creator of all things in the Universe, then He is also the creator of evil. If one follows the Dualistic approach, saying that God represents the ultimate “good” and this is balanced by the ultimate evil, thus God = Good and Satan = Evil, with good balanced by evil. Thus the universe is in balance, an echo perhaps of the Yin and Yang beliefs of Zen, Confucianism and other Eastern religions. However, this is not what Dualism is suggesting, since there is a tension between good and evil and Biblically there must be a triumph of good. Ergo, theological Dualism argues for a situation in which the soul, the divine “intellect”, is free to choose between the Good or the Evil. Thus it is the Creator’s permitting the freedom to choose that allows evil to flourish.

Many authors have struggled with this concept, some more successfully than others. Papers I have accessed in studying this topic include “Immanentism in Modern Dualism as the root of Western Secularisation” by Dae Ryeong Kim and “Dualism” by Lisa K Stors. Both they and several others do not even attempt to go beyond mentioning the difficulty this presents and then do not address it. Many other authors arguing for a Dualist approach seem to consider that it is the result of human or divine choice.

It is an uncomfortable thought for many that God may well, as the Creator of all, be the creator of evil as well. To argue for any other position is to argue that Evil is a parallel creation – one that is created by itself as a counterpoise to “Good”. Such an argument is supportable only in Dualistic terms.

6.0 Life beyond life?

The accepted Christian view is that the body and the soul are one entity, the soul, whether labelled the “mind” or the “intellect” arises within a particular body and is the person. At death, we, as Christians, are taught to believe that the soul continues and will at some point be reunited with the body in a renewed and incorruptible form. Dualism suggests that the soul, which is a separate entity to the material body it has just escaped, continues – but as a separate entity with new properties, characteristics and form.

Here again, we run into a suggestion of an element of Dualism, in the question what becomes of the “soul” after death and before the resurrection of the body in the life to come? Certainly the ancient Egyptians believed in a physical body being required for the after-life, hence the extensive and comprehensive attempts to preserve the corpse after the death of an individual. Judaic teaching suggested that the body, once buried, need not survive in any great degree for the deceased to be brought back to life from even dried bones (See Ezekiel 37: 1) – if God willed it. Their concept of a life beyond the grave was restricted to a vision of an existence in an underworld supported by the Pillars of Faith. This “afterlife” was limited to a very selective band of those who had fully complied with Mosaic Law in every particular and by the first century AD, the factions of Sadducees and Pharisees had polarised on the question of life beyond death.

Christian Dogma states that the soul leaves the body at the point of death and then remains “in waiting” for the resurrection of the body at the end of the ages. This is open to interpretation as a form of “Dualism” in its own way, since this again suggests that the soul (Descartes “Mind”) can exist separated from the physical body it was formerly a part of. Interestingly the Catholic Encyclopaedia has this statement as part of a longer argument on whether or not a soul goes directly to heaven or hell:

Even as in bodies there is gravity or levity whereby they are borne to their own place which is the end of their movement, so in souls there is merit or demerit whereby they reach their reward or punishment, which are the ends of their deeds. Wherefore just as a body is conveyed at once to its place, by its gravity or levity, unless there be an obstacle, so too the soul, the bonds of the flesh being broken, whereby it was detained in the state of the way, receives at once its reward or punishment, unless there be an obstacle. (Catholic Encyclopaedia: Summa Theologica; Are souls conveyed there immediately after death? Accessed via http://www.newadvent.org/summa/506902.htm )

Again there seems to be an element of Dualism in the thinking underpinning this, as again the suggestion is that the soul may have a separate existence away from the body in which it “lived”, or as Thomas Aquinas described it, to which it gave “anima”.

The Hindu and Buddhist faiths also believe in a “Spiritual” existence outside of the body and the various levels of “Nirvana” and the assent in reincarnation from one state of existence to another as one “progresses” in the acquisition of spiritual knowledge and purity is clearly dualist in its concept. Even in the Muslim faith, the concept that “those who die in defence of the faith” will enjoy the company in heaven of 24 “perpetual virgins” or “houris” smacks of a Dualistic approach, something borne out by the fact that 12th Century Muslim scholars expended a large amount of their energy attacking the Christian Church’s writings and thinking on the Aristotelian model of unity of mind and body. This seems to have been based on the original, misinterpretations of Aristotelian writings then in use in the Church. Once these had been corrected the position became much clearer and Bonaventure and Aquinas were then in a position to refute the Islamic writers. The Catholic Encyclopaedia states on this issue:

The logic of Aristotle had indeed been rendered into Latin by Boethius and had been used in the schools since the end of the sixth century; but the physics and metaphysics of the Stagirite were made known to the Western world only through the Arabian philosophers of the thirteenth century, and then in such a way that Aristotle's doctrine seemed to clash with the Christian religion. This fact explains why his works were prohibited by the Synod of Paris, in 1210, and again by a Bull of Gregory IX in 1231. But after the Scholastics, led by Albert the Great, had gone over the faulty Latin translation once more, had reconstructed the genuine doctrine of Aristotle and recognized the fundamental soundness of his principles, they no longer hesitated to take, with the approval of the Church, the pagan philosopher as their guide in the speculative study of dogma.
(Catholic Encyclopaedia: History of Dogmatic Theology: accessed at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14588a.htm ) Certainly the earlier dogmatic thinkers, such as Anslem of Canterbury and Bernard of Clairvaux were influenced by the Platonic arguments rather than those of Aristotle, suggesting that a certain amount of the Dualist thinking was, at this time, deeply ingrained into Christian theology. (Catholic Encyclopaedia: History of Dogmatic Theology: A First Epoch, Beginning and Progress of Scholasticism (800 – 1200)).

7.0 The Communion of the Saints – physical or metaphysical?

The doctrine expressed in the second clause of the ninth article in the received text of the Apostles' Creed: "I believe . . . the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints".

The doctrine of the Communion of the Saints acknowledges the ongoing communion between all the members of the faithful both living and departed. This “bond” exists for all believers, as a bond between the material existence and the spiritual – suggesting a Dualist approach as it seems to have an element of Platonic “material” and “non-material” about it. According to the Catholic Encyclopaedia the Church believes:

The communion of saints is the spiritual solidarity which binds together the faithful on earth, the souls in purgatory, and the saints in heaven in the organic unity of the same mystical body under Christ its head, and in a constant interchange of supernatural offices. The participants in that solidarity are called saints by reason of their destination and of their partaking of the fruits of the Redemption (I Cor., i, 2-Greek Text). The damned are thus excluded from the communion of saints. The living, even if they do not belong to the body of the true Church, share in it according to the measure of their union with Christ and with the soul of the Church. St. Thomas teaches (III:8:4) that the angels, though not redeemed, enter the communion of saints because they come under Christ's power and receive of His gratia capitis. The solidarity itself implies a variety of inter-relations: within the Church Militant, not only the participation in the same faith, sacraments, and government, but also a mutual exchange of examples, prayers, merits, and satisfactions; between the Church on earth on the one hand, and purgatory and heaven on the other, suffrages, invocation, intercession, veneration. These connotations belong here only in so far as they integrate the transcendent idea of spiritual solidarity between all the children of God. Thus understood, the communion of saints, though formally defined only in its particular bearings (Council of Trent, Sess. XXV, decrees on purgatory; on the invocation, veneration, and relics of saints and of sacred images; on indulgences), is, nevertheless, dogma commonly taught and accepted in the Church. It is true that the Catechism of the Council of Trent (Pt. I, ch. x) seems at first sight to limit to the living the bearing of the phrase contained in the Creed, but by making the communion of saints an exponent and function, as it were, of the preceding clause, "the Holy Catholic Church", it really extends to what it calls the Church's "constituent parts, one gone before, the other following every day"; the broad principle it enunciates thus: "every pious and holy action done by one belongs and is profitable to all, through charity which seeketh not her own".
(Catholic Encyclopaedia: Communion of Saints accessed at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04171a.htm )
The suggestion here is that the “Body” under which this “communion” is facilitated is the Body of Christ; that is, the Church, but this is not necessarily the only interpretation of this doctrine. Indeed, a Dualist would argue that it is a doctrine which supports entirely the principle of there being a “Duality” of existence, that of the material or corporeal world and that of the spiritual.

The Westminster Confession further muddies the water, speaking of a “fellowship” being bound together with those before and those to come in Christ as their head. Yet this and other similar “Confessions” admit of this link with the “saints” while dismissing the concept of “Purgatory”, which again raises the question, where are the “disembodied” souls with whom we are in “communion”, if not in a spiritual existence? Does this not suggest a “duality” of existence this side of, and through, the grave?

8.0 Summary

Classic Dualism occurs in Zoroastrian literature around 3,000 years ago and permeates almost all Eastern religious thought. Plato developed the concept of “material” and “non-material” in Greek philosophy to describe the world, dividing it between “material” – the world we inhabit – and “non-material” a perfect and ordered dimension of which this world is an imperfect copy. Aristotle refuted this concept, arguing for a unitary system in which “intellect” and “material” were inextricably linked.

The early church favoured the Platonic view with such luminaries as Augustine arguing that it explained the imbalance and the separation between this world and the next. Later scholars refuted this and reverted to the Aristotelian model building on the work of Augustine, Anselm and Bernard until it reached its apogee in the work of Boniface and Aquinas. However, neither of these scholars seems to have confronted the problem still presented by “disembodiment” of the “soul” at the time of death, other than to adopt the position of the Church as reproduced above in extract from the Catholic Encyclopaedia.

The Cathar teachings seem to have been based upon a continuance of the early Gnostic, Arian and Manichǽan movements. There is some evidence too that their teaching may have influenced later thinkers, and seems to be enjoying some popular credence since the publication of the book the “Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown. Even before this, as evidenced by the wealth of material available on the internet on this subject, interest in their teaching and philosophy seems to have a wide following. It is possible that it was also an influence upon the thinking of Descartes and his followers.

In the 17th Century Descartes again argued for a Dualist concept, arguing that the intellect was independent of the body except that it had to be centred on the pineal gland in the centre of the brain. In his model, the soul or intellect becomes an unwilling prisoner in a body which is little more that an animated machine. A container for the soul which the soul is forced to use until it can escape.

In the 19th Century, Mary Baker Eddy founded the Christian Science movement, adopting many Dualist ideas and adapting these to her philosophy embodied in the treatise (some argue that it is the Christian Science “Bible”) “Science and Health”. Under the thinking embodied in this, the material is an illusion and reality – indeed the only – reality, is God. Thus her world is divided between the “real” and the “unreal”.

9.0 Concluding thoughts

Dualism in one form or another permeates a number of areas of religious thought. It is certainly a central plank for many of the Eastern Religions, and, as already discussed occurs in various guises in elements of Islamic thought. It has been, and still appears to be, a factor in many aspects of Christian thinking, even though it is officially contrary to the accepted doctrines and dogmas of the Church as a whole. It is certainly suggested in some of the language of hymns and prayers, even though this is not what the authors may have intended.

The argument centres on the question: “What is the soul?” and can then be extended to a second question; “Is it capable of existence without a body?”

If one argues that the “soul” is the personality of the person while they are in a living breathing body, the question then arises as to whether the soul is born afresh – that is a “new” soul is created – when a human being is conceived, and further, are human beings the only animate possessors of souls? If the answer to the first question is “yes”, then one must face the possibility that, as argued by the Sadducees and atheists since then, that the soul dies with the body at the moment of death. Ergo, there is no after life. If one argues that the soul can continue in existence after the body has died, and, as Christians, Muslims, Jews and others believe, does, then one must explain how, and if so, does this depend on the body being physically recreated in some form, though now, as promised in scripture, in an “incorruptible” form. Dualism would present an arguable case for the continuance of the soul independent of the body, and argument not inconsistent with elements of the Creed. However, if the soul is dependent on the resurrection of the mortal flesh – even in an immortal state – this suggests that the resurrection must include the material needs and spaces required for billions of the faithful returning to a material existence.

The problem for most believers is a simple one. As Human Beings we tend to think in dualistic terms. Something either is, or it isn’t. This is particularly so when we are touched by the death of a relative or friend. To quote Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati again:

“If we watch a person die, or look at a corpse, are we not all struck by the mystery of apparent matter and consciousness? The higher truth quickly goes out of the window in such moments and we find we are faced squarely with dualistic, conditioned response of the stuff of our mind.”
(http://swamij.com/dualism.htm )

In many ways, Spinoza’s “Parallel dualism” in which the only real substance is God and all of Creation is a part of Him either “in potentia” or “material” is possibly how many would describe their thinking. But, even here, Dualism has the problem of how to explain the links between one state and another. This is the major flaw in Descartes arguments and in all subsequent models, the link becomes ever more tenuous the further one probes.

Thus, one author can sum up the argument thus:

“Just as Materialism is usually associated with Atheism, so Dualism is associated with Theism (or more specifically Monotheism). Theism, from the Greek theos, "God", is the belief that there is a higher personal power, God or whoever, who is running things. This may be thought of in a naive way as a vague "higher power"; in a dogmatic religious way as the Deity of one's particular religion or sect; or in a mystical way as the all-embracing Godhead, conceived of as a personal entity. Existence therefore has a purpose beyond the merely mundane, and the fate of the individual and the universe does not have to be a meaningless existence ending in a total extinction.”
(Found at http://www.kheper.net/topics/worldviews/dualism.htm)

However, in an article entitled “The death of Dualism” Ibrahim bin Isra’il al-Hinjew can write:

“I have always found it ironic that despite his undoubted genius in such varied academic fields as mathematics, science and theology, Rene Descartes never once realized that sipping a glass of wine caused his mood to change.”
(The death of Dualism: Ibrahim bin Isra’il al-Hinjew; accessed at www.geocities.com/freethoughtmecca/dod.html?200512 )

He argues powerfully that the advances in modern medical science, and in particular in the fields of psychological and neurological medicine show conclusively that the “mind is inextricably a function of the body and not independent. He calls this a “new materialism” and argues in his closing statement to this paper that:

“We are all materialists for much the reason that Churchill gave for being a democrat: the alternative seems even worse.”
(The death of Dualism: Ibrahim bin Isra’il al-Hinjew; accessed at www.geocities.com/freethoughtmecca/dod.html?200512 )

Yet the problem remains as stated in the foregoing extract from the Kheper website: if God has no “material” existence in the sense of seeing, touching and feeling, in short in a human shaped form, yet His believers are restricted to a material existence – we are forced to acknowledge a Dualist view of the cosmos and of Creation. Even Wittgenstein’s Tractus keeps metaphysics and the ontological world at arms length, presenting a very monistic vision. Yet Tulley, in the paper Tractarian Dualism, argues that Wittgenstein’s monistic vision is nonetheless Dualistic!

Herein lays the dichotomy. If the Cartesians, neo-Cartesians and other Dualists are right, then we must accept that the whole of creation is a balance between “Good” and “Evil”, the Yin and Yang of the Confucian philosophy. Yet, if “good” – or God – is equal to “evil” – or Satan – then Satan must be a co-equal “Creator”, assuming that Creation is a created thing and not an accidental collection of gravity, matter accretion and chemical accidents which have led to the impromptu emergence of life forms. Patently, if God is a creator of everything good, then Evil (whom I shall call Satan for this exercise) must be the creator of everything that is evil. That raises the question of who created humanity then – capable of both great good and great evil? By this logic we become the joint creation or a hybrid creation trying to exist between to opposing forces! Patently this is absurd and it flies in the face of all that we know of God and creation through the scriptures.

Equally the Cartesian hypothesis that the “mind” or “intellect” is in some way the independent being that is the individual cannot be sustained for the very reason that it is impossible to explain how such a being would be “imprisoned” within a “machine” that is the body in Descartes rationale. Patently the “mind” of the individual is unique, but it is formed and grown with the individual from the moment of self awareness until the moment of cessation of this body. Neither Descartes nor any of his followers or students has provided an explanation of the point beyond the death of the body, except to say that the “intellect” escapes the prison of its material body.

Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and their related family of religions project a series of reincarnations in which a “soul” may be elevated or demoted according to the spiritual growth achieved during the life just ended. Again this may be attractive as an explanation but it rests at least for some on the assumption that no “new” souls are created in the process of procreation and that all births are the result of a soul transferring upwards or downwards. This form of Dualism also has a problem with explaining the links between old soul and new body.

Protestant and particularly Evangelical Churches also have problems with aspects of theology and some espouse various forms of Dualism even though they are officially and doctrinally monists. An example is the monist treatise written by Wittgenstein which has elements that are distinctly Dualist! Perhaps the Swami Bharati is right – we can believe it or not – but when it comes to the crunch we adopt a dualist solution!

Even in aspects of the received teaching of the branch of the Christian Church to which we belong, I find that there are many aspects which appear to be Dualistic in concept or at least in presentation, though perhaps this is more a case of poor presentation or lack of explanation of some aspects of theological concepts.

For me this is brought into focus by the realisation that, if I accept that God is wholly good and wholly spirit, then his being must be both vast and embodied in every living thing if we are not to wander into the Platonic field seeing God as existing on a plane removed from ours! To accept that Plato is wrong and that the first preposition is correct, I must then ask myself if the sun, moon stars and planets – and all the other suns and planets – are all living beings created by the one Living God. Because if not, then we are back at the position that only animate life has existence and therefore only animate life can be the “Body of God”. Even more difficult is the attempt to ascribe a “material” “body” to God. This would suggest that God is therefore bound and limited by the same physical restrictions that limit us – time, place and gravity. This is why I have difficulty with the Michaelangelo image so many Christians cling too.

Then we have the evidence that evil exists. If God is wholly good and is the single creator of everything, does this mean that He also created evil? Or does He simply permit evil as part of allowing His creation free will? As with the Dualist approach there appear to be a number of unanswerable questions here!

I suspect that the Dualist argument will continue for a very long time despite the Church having a singular Monist doctrine.

10.0 Where do I stand?

I find myself unable to deny that in some aspects of my faith I must accept the label of Dualism, yet in others I find that it does not describe nor even begin to explain my understanding of God. It would be true to say that it is largely in the life to come that I remain close to the Dualist position for I find that while I believe in “the life of the world to come” (Apostles’ Creed) I am uncertain as to the meaning of the “resurrection of the Body” having always understood this to mean the resurrection of Christ’s body from the tomb, and not the rather limiting and limited body I, as a human being, have grown and developed within.

I do not subscribe to the reincarnationist positions of the Hindu and Buddhist family of religions, nor to the Cathari, Cartesian and Platonic understandings of Dualism. Here I am closer to Ambrose, Anselm and Aquinas than to anything else. I suppose I shall just have to wait, with all trust in God, and hope for enlightenment and understanding in the fullness of time.

The more I learn about genetic research and the revelation of the role genes play in our physical and possibly mental make-up, the more I find myself wondering about the possibility that there may even be some aspects of “Pre-destination” which can be explained by “predisposition”. This is certainly true when one examines Myers-Briggs outcomes and human behaviour, addiction and many other areas of human behaviour that are still under research. As understanding in these areas increases it may well be that we begin to understand the questions posed by monism and dualism better.

All in all, in writing this paper I have learned again that I have much to learn. My faith is in God the Father who created us, in His Son Jesus Christ who has given us eternal life in His death and resurrection and in the Holy Spirit who guides and teaches us. I believe too in the life of the world to come and in the resurrection of Christ’s body from the tomb – I have some reservations about my own form post death and the transition to the next life which have yet to be resolved. I can but hope that one day He will provide me with some of the answers these questions need!

As for Dessau’s statement, the alternative title of this paper, I can state categorically that I do not subscribe to his third and forth declarations. I was not, but the Lord created me, I am, because the Lord has given me life, I will be because the Lord has promised me this in the resurrection of His Son, and I do care, because He cares.

*Dessau said: Non fui, Fui, non sumo, no curio! "I was not, I became, I am not, I don't care!"


The Catholic Encyclopedia
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Papers by John Belof on Philosophy
Kheper Website – various papers and religions
The Skeptics Dictionary
Cross Currents Website – Theology and Science without Dualism – Elizabeth Newman
New Dualism Archive Website
Phaidea Website – Metaphysics Tractarian Dualism Robert E. TullySt. Michael’s College, University of Toronto
“About” Website – general papers http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/philosophy/g/dualism.htm
Arthur Custance Library website: The Mysterious Matter of Mind: Chapter Two: Cartesian Dualism: Mind and Brain Interaction
New Dualism Website: Why must homunculi be so stupid? Eliot Sober; Mind, 1982 & Taking consciousness seriously: a defence of Cartesian Dualism; Frank B Tilley 2004
The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-05.
Serendip Website: The 17th Century: Reaction to the Dualism of Mind and Body
The Death of Dualism: Ibrahim bin Isra’il al-Hinjew
The legend of the Cathars: Judith Mann
The Catholic Encyclopedia: Cathari


The perfect heresy: Stephen O’Shea


Mysteries of the Cathars. Languedoc. Southern France Guide: Cathar Doctrine


Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry: What does Christian Science teach?


Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry: What are the doctrines of Islam?


The New Lion Handbook: The World’s Religions; Editede Partridge C; 3rd Edition 2005

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November 08, 2005

Pigeons and other droppings ....

The government is obviously very embarrassed by the publication of our former Ambassador to the US's biography on his time serving Mr Blair. If not, they should be. As usual, we have all the top Civil Servants covering their rear ends and howling about "confidentiality" and "impartiality" but, frankly, they are as much a party to the mess the country is in, as Blair is. And the sooner it all comes out into the open the better.

What is particularly silly about the Civil Service's bleating on this is that the Ambassador did take the usual steps and sent a copy to the Cabinet Office for approval to publish - and the Senior Civil Servant himself passed it for publication! Are they now saying he didn't read it first?

The whole system is rotten to the core with nepotism and cronism. Everyone in the system is dependent on the guy above him giving him (or her!) a hand up the ladder. Keep their noses clean and no matter what the electorate thinks, they all move up the chain and impose more and more nonsense upon the populace. Let's face it, the revelations in the Ambassador's book are almost a side show to the latest ruling from the Inland Revenue on their arrogant and completely avoidable error! They now want to claw back the £4 billion they overpaid to recipients of Mr Brown's overly complicated system of "Tax Credits" - something unnecessary that replaced Child Allowances and Family or Married Persons allowances - with the result that many are now genuinely in hardship - because the Civil Service has screwed up and refuses to use common sense. Worse, they have also ruled that while British Citizens are liable for repaying this, immigrants wrongly paid it - and overpaid it - don't have to pay back a single penny, because this would be discriminatory!

It gets even better when the Home Office writes to a Victim Support Group who organise a Carol Service in St Martin's in the Fields and order them to arrange another venue because the Carol Service in a Church is "too Christian". The Tax Office (Inland Revenue) is also at it, ordering employees not to donate gifts to a charity that distributes these at Christmas to needy children - because the Charity is "too Christian". Even better, when called to explain this, their Great Panjandrum pronounces that "it was the Trade Union" that requested this! Really? And just how many moons circle the planet he inhabits I wonder?

How can a Carol Service be anything other than Christian? Don't these morons realise that no other Faith sings Christian Christmas carols? Perhaps that is the problem, they simply have no understanding of any religion other than their own invention - the Great Guru of Whitehall, All Seeing, All Powerful and All Pratt!

Mr Blair and his cronies now stand exposed to the criticism of someone close to the centre in their early years of power, someone who knows what they have screwed up. One thing is very plain, since this government took power it has increased direct interference in the private lives of every individual without any thought to the consequences. At every turn they play the fear or the safety fear card - another example of bankrupt arguments from this mornings news - a Minister and "Child Protection" campaigner arguing that if parents were to be told whenever their teenage daughters had abortions it would result in deaths, injuries and "back street" abortions. The same tired argument they used twenty or more years ago to allow doctors to hand out the Pill to pre-teens.

Parents control is increasingly undermined and brushed aside - look no further than Norfolk where the Social Workers have decided that a couple are "not intelligent enough" to have children - and the rights of children are regarded as more important than those of the people whose lives these irresponsible and morally deficient garbage mongers are destroying. It is their efforts which have now undermined every "value" on which our society is based, the have torn apart the very fabric of the family, deprived parents of any control over their offspring and they have the effrontery to be amazed when youth crime goes through the roof, teenage pregnancy keeps rising and parents simply give up even trying to control their offspring. Attempting to do so is likely to land you in a "Family Court" charged with abuse and tried on the flimsiest evidence by a bunch of Social Services Gauleiters and their poodle judges.

These "Family Courts" are a blot on the democratic traditions and on our legal system, wide open to abuse, manipulation and secretive in the extreme, anyone charged in one may as well take the advice over the door to Hell - "Abandon hope all ye who enter here"! You certainly will not find justice in one, nor will you find truth - especially if it is a Social Worker giving evidence against a parent! These courts are not subject to public scrutiny - "in the interests of the children" - and their proceedings fly entirely in the face of the precepts of justice. But don't expect Blair or any other of the denizens of Westminster or Whitehall to change them.

As the society in which we live becomes less and less "free", as Whitehall's tentacles reach deeper and deeper into all our personal and private lives, we need to worry about the future of this country and its people. We need to take heed of the rather dire purview of the present Astronomer Royal in his book, "The Final Century", and we need to think very carefully about where we are headed. Westminster and Whitehall are spiritually bankrupt, and in my book, that makes them morally deficient as well. While I would never wish to see a return to government by the likes of Cromwell and his Presbyters, or by fundamentalist religious people of any religion, I do expect the government to leave my Faith and my personal morality alone.

I suspect that the riots in France will be used as an excuse to impose more of this "secularist" garbage upon us, that it will be seen as another "frightener" in order to drive yet more Political Correctness on us and impose more restrictions on Christian worship, preaching and freedom - while handing out extra "freedoms" to attack Christianity to Islamists, Atheists and anyone else with an axe to grind.

Perhaps it is time to take the advice on the Bumper Sticker I saw in the US - "Beam me up Enterprise, there's no intelligent life here!"

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November 07, 2005

Any offers?

My blog is worth $25,968.84.
How much is your blog worth?

Not as much as I'd hoped - any better offers?

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November 06, 2005

The eastern choir of St. Stephan

In 1973 Marc Chagall, "the master of colour and the Biblical message" was approached by the parish priest of St. Stephan requesting him to design stained glass windows for the apse of the church. It cannot have been easy for the Jewish artist to meet such a request from German parish. But finally he accepted and began drawing the first sketches in December 1978.
From the very first the windows were intended to be a visible sign of friendship between France and Germany but also between Jews and Christians. The latter is expressed in the central window of the eastern choir.


Lower half of the window in the middle

The bond between Jews and Christians is the belief they share in one God. Accodingly the following Biblical events were chosen for the central window (from bottom to top):
Abraham being visited by the three angels (Gen. 18,1-10a)
Abraham interceding for Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18,20-33)


Upper half of the same window

Sacrifice of Isaac (Gen. 22,1-18)
Dream of Jacob (Gen. 28,10-17)
Moses giving the Ten Commandments to his people (Exod. 34,27-32)

These illustrations are also symbols of the celebration of the Eucharist. We pay honour to God in three persons as indicated by the three angels. The Eucharistic feast closely related to the feast of Yahweh at Abraham's table, the intercessory prayers being depicted as Abraham's act of intercession. The sacrifice of Christ is implied in the sacrifice of Isaac. Moses represents the preaching of the Word of God and Jacob's dream the mystery of every house of God.


The three central windows of the eastern choir

Compared to the windows on both sides the figures in the central window are rather small. Most of the window is taken up by the blue background. Blue is supposed to inspire tranquillity and encourage meditation. And, indeed, it does have this effect on the visitor. The blue background is also a symbol of the unfathomable God in the windows: we cannot actually see God, but he is always there with us and may reveal himself to us on occasions.

The two windows flanking the centre one depict the story of human salvation beginning with creation in the lowest picture on the right window. Two main motifs can be seen in these two windows. The first is the pledge made by God with the whole of Creation which is expressed by the words spoken to Noah: "I will set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be the sign of a covenant between me and between the earth" (Gen. 9,13). The second one comes as a bit of a surprise subject to be portrayed in a stained church window: the fact that man and woman are shown as equal in rank, virtually a pair, in their role in the history of human salvation. Unfortunately my photographs are not good enough to show you the scenes in the windows in detail. You just have to believe that from what we see in the windows the left one could be called "Window of the woman" and the right one "Window of the man". The artist intended them to carry on a dialogue. It starts with Creation on the lower left (characterised by the rainbow) and moves to the joys of paradise in the lower left. You can probably recognise those two on the photos. And so it goes on.

The windows are absolutely fascinating, even more so the longer you look at them. If you ever have the chance to visit Mainz come and look for yourself!

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November 05, 2005

Gunpowder, treason and .....

Today marks the 400th anniversary of the "Gunpowder Plot" in which the last man to enter Parliament with honest intentions tried to blow up the King, James I (the VIth of Scotland), and all the Parliamentarians of the day. Then, as now, it numbered among its ranks the "great and good" - or at least those who think they are - and the hanger's on, cronies and "lobby fodder".

Cutting short the Stuart dynasty might well have spared us Cromwell, but, depending on who followed James I, might have led us to a French style Revolution! Then we could well be in the same situation as the French with an agricultural policy that's a mess and subsidies from everyone else to prop it up. On the other hand they still have fleet worthy of the name and an airforce to support it - we just have bureaucrats. So perhaps we should mourn the fact that he failed - we would certainly have been spared the present PM - his family would have been prime guillotine fodder.

Interestingly, Guy Fawkes old school, situated in York, never celebrates Bonfire Night, and always holds a memorial service for him. An interesting case of one man's terrorist being another freedom fighter I guess - and certainly something our current bunch of politicians would do well to think on long and hard.

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November 04, 2005

Requiem for All Souls

Last night we celebrated a Solemn Requiem for All Souls at the Abbey. This is an annual service of commemoration for us and members of the congregation are invited to add the names of those they would like to have remembered to a list which is read out during the prayers of intercession.

The service is sung by the Abbey School Choir, at present sixteen boys and twelve men, under the Direction of Benjamin Nicholas their Director of Music. Last night's service was sung to the music of Gabrielle Faure, accompanied by the Milton Organ in the hands of Carleton Etherington, the Abbey Organist and Choir Master. It is a stunning setting - one of my favourites - and sung in a church such as the Abbey it is breathtaking!

The church is kept under subdued lighting and the congregation - around 100 people - sit or kneel in silence during the singing of the various motets. On this occassion I had included in the list the names of several friends, my immediate family members including my mother, father and grandparents and Church Mouse under her own name.

I can think of no better way to remember them than in the context of the Mass and uplifted by the music of the Faure Requiem. May they rest in peace and rise in Glory with Christ.

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November 03, 2005

Is it just me that sees the humour in this ....

I must admit that my funny bone is always tickled by irony - even when it is against me. This time it isn't, and I am finding myself chortling at the news that the editor of the Sun (a newspaper that includes highlighted words in its text so that their readership can pick out the message without actually reading it) who is also a militant feminist and campaigner against domestic violence against women, is currently in a cell in London for assaulting her husband.

If this isn't irony at its best then I am not sure what is! After all, the lady(?) is supposed to be the one at risk here, but her husband (an actor in the TV soap "Eastenders") is sporting a split lip following an altercation between them to which the police were called at 04.00 this morning. Who started it and why it came to blows we will probably have to wait to hear - the Sun is itself being remarkably circumspect about the whole thing - but I'm sure the Mirror or another of the equally opportunistic tabloids will dish all the dirt later!

I try very hard not to be vindictive, but I do find myself having a little lightness of mood whenever someone from the press, who never spare anyone else's character, are themselves revealed as flawed and no more saintly than the rest of us. Revenge is mine says the Lord, but sometimes I think He just allows His sense of humour to have free rein - after all, it has the same efect as the proverbial lightning bolt and is much more educational as the target ends up having to live with the exposure!

I wonder if the Sun will continue to support Labour and be a mouthpiece for their propaganda after this? Probably, after all, humiliation is not something with which Politicians and their minions are very familiar. In the meantime, I'll enjoy the laugh.

Thank you for the ray of sunshine in Fortress Wapping!

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Flying into the sunset?

Maybe not - certainly not, if it is one of Albania's now redundant MiG 15, 17 or 19 interceptors. They have all been virtually grounded since the collapse of communism in that country and the countries inability to buy the fuel - they burn around 1,000 litres on a short flight. The General responsible for selling them off, mainly to Western collectors who want to turn them into bars or some other form of decorative exhibit, says that these aircraft served the country very well - some of them actually flew combat missions in Korea!

The Albanian Airforce's Chief Maintenance Engineer seems to have been less than fond of them - in his words they are dangerous. In fact he says that almost all crashes involving them has been down to failure in the aircraft and not "pilot error", that well known MoD (UK) excuse for any crash. At least someone is certain of where the problems lie! He is even less complimentary about Albania's fleet of (still flying!) ex-Soviet helicopters. He tells Reuters that everytime he hears one of them in the air, he follows it on the ground until it comes down! Such confidence the man has!

It seems in fact that the Albanian's simply want shot of them any way they can get anyone to take them. I wouldn't recommend flying them anywhere however, the majority have been quietly sinking into the mud on airfield dispersal bays since the Hoxha regime fell in 1991. According to Reuters they are now rusting, showing signs of taking root and some have colonies of vegetation on them.

Still, for the real collector of Cold War warbirds, I guess there will be something to buy. All I ask is that no one flies one anywhere near me! By all accounts they have less chance of flying safely than the Bumble Bee - and as is well known the Bumble Bee is definitely an aerodynamic impossibility!

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November 02, 2005

A peep behind the false facade?

So Mr Blunket has resigned. I wonder how long it will take for him to be re-appointed to the cabinet this time? A few months maybe? Or, will he, like Mr Mandelson - Labour's "Eminence grise" - find himself rewarded by a lucrative little number in Brussels?

Considering that this government came to power on the promises that they were "squeaky clean" and have so far managed to bully, lie and otherwise obfusticate about every single thing that could possibly show them in a bad light, it is remarkable that they have managed to hide the dirt for this long. If Mr Blunket has been working for government contractors and buying shares in them, how many others are in the same boat? Mr Blair and his party spent most of the last Conservative government's years in office screaming "sleaze" at every opportunity, but, now that they are in power, have made sure that they have their placemen in the BBC, in the mass circulation press and in all the media agencies. The result is that no one dares to speak out about the Labour Party's dirty linen in the same way they eagerly pounce on the slightest misdemeanour by a Conservative.

As Dr Goebbels proved (and as Mr Campbell, Blair's media mastermind has practiced) if the truth is damaging, tell a lie, the bigger the lie the more likely it is to succeed as few, if any, will seek to confirm it. Even better, selective truth and misinformation is even more believable by the gullible, because the verifiable parts tend to hide the untruths. If you want to stifle any debate, shout abuse based on half truths, lies and urban myths - most effective of all, label the doubter a Bogeyman. Thus, anyone who questions "affirmative action" or multi-cultural shibboleths, is instantly labelled a neo-nazi or a Fascist.

The present facade behind which Blair and his apparatichiks hide the creaking and rather repugnant mess that is the Labour Party is slowly starting to give way. The sooner it collapses and falls away the better. Then, perhaps, the public at large will begin to realise that it has hidden lying about everything on a monumental scale; town halls run on nepotism, bullying and outright gerrymandering; misfeasance on a scale that would land anyone else in jail and a cynical manipulation of the truth that would have had Pinnochio looking for a low-loader to carry his nose.

For too long now, this band of misfits and maladroits have hidden the rotten stench of the corruption at the very heart of the Labour Party behind the flashy smiles and the glitzy presentation of the leadership. Like all facades attached to a clapboard concoction however, it does not refelct the true structure - and it is eventually peeled away. Alternatively, someone walks around the back and sees the decay.

Let us hope that somewhere there is a D9 bulldozer warming up in preparation to pushing this entire rotten edifice and all its creators straight into a rubble pit. It cannot happen soon enough!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 01, 2005

Versatile steam

Another visit to my photo collection turned up this little beauty, a truck tractor from the 1930's well able to hit 60 mph with a load behind it. The only limitation was the amount of water it could carry in it's boiler and a small tank.

A beautifully restored truck traction unit on display at the recent Fairford Steam Rally.

One big advantage was that it burned coal or coke - and the price was nowhere near todays astronomically taxed petrol or diesel! Perhaps time to rediscover this technology and free up some tax from the fuel bill. With a simple condensing system on a closed circuit steam line instead of the original system which exhausted the steam to waste, it should be possible to create something even more efficient than this today.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:47 PM | TrackBack