New Australia Day: a Modest Proposal

Australia Day means different things to different people: for Anglo Australians, it marks the beginning of European settlement and the transformation of a pristine wilderness into a modern democratic nation state; for many indigenous Australians, it’s “Invasion Day”, the beginning of the end of their traditional way of life and the source of their present-day difficulties.

In my case it was the date in 1991 when, with my pregnant wife and young family, I left the UK to make our home here.

After a 24-hour flight and the adjustment of our watches, we arrived on January 28 to find that the area of Sydney where we were to spend our first few weeks had been devastated by a cyclone. Just two weeks later my wife went into premature labour. She was hospitalised. The baby – the longed-for sister for our two sons – was born two months later but survived only a few hours.


Welcome to Australia. Source: The Daily Telegraph

Our personal history has much in common with that of other migrants and, indeed, the history of modern Australia: a fresh start, hope, crushing disappointment, resilience and survival. We have our third child: he’s a fine, strapping young man, just like his elder siblings. Not only that, but we have just welcomed our first grandchild (another boy!) into the world. Life doesn’t get much better.

So, when I think of Australia Day, I think of a lot of things, good and bad.

Consequently, it’s not hard for me to imagine that Australia Day is good for some people, less good for others. I’m not a fan of the black arm-band view of history and I love this country unreservedly, but I’m not blind to its faults. I have no first-hand experience of the kind of deprivation suffered by many indigenous Australians, but I’ve seen enough of it to know that it’s real and to understand why Australia Day is alienating for many of our first people.

So, let’s change the date; and let’s not.


Peter Nicholson, The Australian

I’m conciliatory rather than combative by nature, and the heated – and, all too often, overheated – debate about whether to change the date and what the new date should be doesn’t float my boat. So much of it is little more than grandstanding; no-one appears to be seriously committed to finding a solution. For what it’s worth, here’s my suggestion.

In the interests of acknowledging our history, both the good bits and the bad, and celebrating our achievements, let’s keep Australia Day on January 26. And let’s choose an entirely different day as “New Australia Day”.

That’s right – two Australia Days, if you like, each with a different but complementary purpose. While January 26 would still look at our past, and at our present in the context of that past, New Australia Day would challenge us to look to the future as one people. While January 26 would still celebrate what we have been and what we have become, New Australia Day should inspire us to embrace our potential to become something bigger and better – more egalitarian, more inclusive, more open-minded and open-hearted…more Australian, in the best sense.

Naturally, only one of these days would be a public holiday, and I think it should be New Australia Day. The change would be an acknowledgement that Australia has moved beyond (but not forgotten) its British and European roots and is maturing as a multi-cultural society which values its shared traditions, including those of indigenous people, and the opportunity they represent to create a richer and fairer future for everyone.

Mark Kenny recently argued in the Sydney Morning Herald for changing Australia Day to May 9. His reasons for choosing that date were good, but I think it would be a better New Australia Day.

C’mon Aussies, let’s end this pointless bickering and meet each other halfway with a double-barrelled national celebration which, while admittedly a compromise, is still symbolically meaningful: an acceptance of our past together on one day, followed at a later date by a new imaginative space in our national life in which we can come together and pool our strength, hopes and visions for the future.

The Space Between: The Stranger Replies to Rody’s Post-Nimbin Crisis

Hi, Rody – so you see yourself poised to make a choice between pagan spirituality and “civilised” (presumably secular?) values, and possibly some mixture of the two. Let’s think this through.

My approach, as you know, is to go back to basics and consult the Alienation Theory of History. The dichotomy you describe is analogous to that between the hunter-gatherer (pagan spirituality) and agrarian settler (civilised values). I won’t dwell on this point too much; I mention it mainly to create a broader sense of context.

Having done so, let me reference certain characteristics associated with each state, based on other people’s historical observations and my own personal experience. I shall single out one each: egoism in the case of pagan spirituality and alienation in the case of civilised values.

The spirituality of the pagan is spontaneous and creative. There is a subjective element: the pagan feels a personal affinity to the deity. If it’s mediated at all, it’s mediated by charismatic individuals (priests, druids etc.) rather than by highly developed and literate institutions. In such a culture, the personal and ecstatic mix freely. Solipsism is never more than a step away. (I’m simplifying and generalising, obviously, but don’t stop me now….)

“Civilised values” evolve over time but a constant theme is the individual’s relationship with the state. This is the core of The Epic of Gilgamesh: for Gilgamesh to become a good king, he had to experience love, loss, grief and acceptance of death. His building of the wall at the end of the story marks the transition, but his labours convey no sense of spiritual vitality: he is reconciled but alienated, too.


Build that wall, Gil (Source:

The simple egoism of ordinary people is a given. It has its roots in prehistory but is visible everywhere in our consumer-driven, celebrity-led society. If you immerse yourself in your pagan spiritual impulse, you risk losing yourself to your ego, and giving yourself up to extreme subjectivity.

As for the alternative, I believe that some degree of alienation is the price we pay for being part of a civilised society. At the most basic level, it means being able to subordinate one’s own impulses to the greater good. At the extreme, of course, it could mean losing yourself entirely, and enabling the abstractions and mechanisms of the world to corrode and even dissolve your sense of self.

I’m inclined to think there’s a middle way: rather than choose one over the other, stake out some neutral space for yourself between them, where egoism on one side and alienation on the other become the boundaries within which you can be your own man.

You may not need much to be free and fulfilled in that small world: common sense, love, decency, self-respect and respect for others would be, I imagine, a good start. It’s a humble way to live, but (to my mind, at least) it has the attraction of being independent from those two invidious extremes of the human condition.

Does that help?



Pagan spirituality vs. civilised alienation: Rody’s post-Nimbin existential meltdown

Dear Stranger,

Further to my Nimbin roots festival review of September 28, I’ve been thinking about the experience from a deeply personal perspective. Like most people on this blog, I’m trying to figure out where I belong in the general scheme of things. In my case, this questioning arises from youthful experience of relocation and alienation, which resulted in my feeling “cut off” from my creative roots—the land and the people of my childhood. At Nimbin, I glimpsed the possibility of reconnecting to them.


Only reconnect (Source: Nimbin Roots Festival FB page)

Nimbin of course is on the opposite side of the planet to where I was born but, as I noted in the piece, there are similarities between the town (drug culture aside) and where I grew up: a relatively small community with a retail economy set in a rural environment. This and the vibe that was everywhere that weekend revived in me a sense of creative possibility I hadn’t felt since I began writing music and poetry in my teens.

The question is, how do I respond to this or build on it? Do I immerse myself in the pagan spirituality that the Nimbin hippie culture represents, or do I draw on it as material for a broader creative enterprise which also addresses more “civilised” or conventional values?

I feel as though I’m at a crossroads here.



Folk Dancing with the Pot Head Pixies of Planet Nimbin

Nimbin is to Australia what Planet Gong is to the rest of the cosmos, and I had the pleasure of visiting it for the first time on the weekend of September 15-17, which happily coincided with the town’s second annual Roots Festival. If you like your music earthy, this is the place to be—and it’s a lot better value than the yuppified (though still admittedly very good) Byron Bay Blues Festival which takes place every Easter an hour or so’s drive away.


High Street (in every sense), Nimbin

And what a drive: this part of northern New South Wales really is God’s own backyard with curvaceous hills, fragrant bush and slinky valleys which, under sunny blue skies, are beguiling enough but would look and smell downright voluptuous after a drop of rain. But I digress.


Nimbin Rocks (that’s enough puns—Ed.)

The town is certainly a hippy haven and cynical city types like me can quickly tire of its monomaniacal preoccupation with dope and related paraphernalia, evident at the various cafes (“The Bent Joint”) and shops (“Hemp Embassy”). There’s an underlying authenticity, however. It put me in mind of what my small and unprepossessing home town might have become, had I been able to fulfil my schoolboy fantasy of replacing its water supply with lysergic acid.

But enough about me. What about the music?


The first act I saw wasn’t particularly promising: an earth-spirit wearing dreadlocks and a loin cloth and smeared head to toe in mud, who snapped into life and played a ditty on the Pan pipes in return for some coin. A little way down the street was a different story: some very fine blues harp indeed courtesy of Billy James from Billinudgel. He told me he enjoys teaching as much as playing, and I would have signed up for lessons on the spot but for the fact that I live an hour’s flight away.

That was it for the buskers. I have the festival flyer to hand and I could easily count the number of acts for the sake of statistical interest, but life’s too short. Suffice to say there were far too many, spread across six venues, for any one person to see them all. The first stage act I saw were blues/folk duo Darktown Strutters who played a very traditional set with sweetness and respect. Frustratingly, I can’t seem to find any examples of their music online (plenty of other bands called Darktown Strutters, but not them).

Blues Arcadia from Brisbane turned up the heat at Nimbin Hall with their soulful blues punched out by Chris Harvey on guitar and the charismatic Alan Boyle on vocals. Rhythm and keyboards were great, too, although I can’t say I saw much action on the bassist’s fifth string. Expensive thumb rest? Hmm….

They were ably followed by The Taste from Cairns who blended hip-hop with rock, soul and funk. The horns featured in the video below were absent on the day, but no matter. They were a blast: I particularly liked the lead guitarist’s imaginative but restrained use of effects and Vanessa’s vocals. (Note to rest of band: this lady is woefully under-utilised. Use her or lose her.) They sold branded stubby holders as well as CDs: a class act. They made me feel old, though: clearly nobody who remembers, or has heard of, Rory Gallagher would have chosen that name for their own band.

The other thing that made me feel old was the fact that neither I nor my companions had heard of ANY of the bands appearing over the weekend. We decided to choose which acts to see based on how interesting or exotic their names were. This put Sweet Emily and the Judgemental Fucks at the top of our list. They didn’t disappoint. Tight, angular rock underpinned by Emily’s chunky guitar rhythms and sharp-tongued solo notes. Many of her songs gave insights into her personal life, some of them intimate, all of them colourful. Tourette’s Syndrome never sounded so good.

And so, eventually, to bed.


Another beautiful day in paradise, beginning with excellent chai at the Phoenix Rising Café and what turned out to be my favourite act of the whole weekend. Jolanda Moyle plays ethereal, transcendent modern folk using acoustic guitar loops, sarangi (a classical Indian instrument, somewhere between a violin and a cello) and a hauntingly pure voice with plenty of reverb. Definitely music of, and for, the gods. “You’re in love with her, aren’t you?” said my bride of 33 years. “Er, well…”, I replied. Rolling her eyes, my beloved and our friends took their leave in search of entertainment better suited to the mere mortals which, through no fault of their own, they are.

Back to the Bowlo for some pared back electric blues from Gold Cost duo The James Street Preachers. As the video shows, Jamie Kasdaglis (guitar, keyboard and vocals) and Matt Lye (bass, vocals) are adept at multitasking.

And to cap it all off, Missus Hippy and the Love Handles on the Aquarius Stage—the venue reserved for local acts. Talk about Old Wave music in all its dusty glory: this is the first band I’ve seen in which neither of the guitarists has a full set of teeth. That is not a put-down but a celebration of the fact that men and women of a certain age can still rock it up with the best of them. MHLH do so with original material which is variously timeless and topical, written by rhythm guitarist Doug (I’d play the outstanding My Dog, but the sound quality on my phone video doesn’t do it justice). Mrs H. (aka Biscuit) sounds like a blues mama from way back and exudes earth-mother warmth while lead guitarist Joey has a certain, shall we say, other-worldly appeal. Bob on bass and the drummer whose name I didn’t catch carried it all along very nicely. A highlight of the weekend and a band I would love to see again.

Another highlight: staying at Crofton’s Retreat. Thanks to Wayne and Paul, Bear and Jack. See you next year, guys.

Ordinary Man, No Ordinary Album

One of the characteristics of the Old Wave that sets it apart from the rest of contemporary music is the depth and breadth of life experience behind the songs. That is exemplified nowhere better than on Steve Banks’ album, Ordinary Man*.

It’s Banks’ first album, but it captures a lifetime of highs and lows he’s experienced as a businessman, family man and—by no means least—a phenomenally talented singer, songwriter, guitarist and live performer.


These three quite distinct themes find expression in a fusion of blues, rock and soul which feels and sounds completely natural rather than conceptually driven.

Partly this is because of the extent to which Banks has absorbed and integrated these styles in his highly personal approach to musical self-expression. In the album’s flawless execution, it’s also a reflection of the close working relationship between Banks and his producer Jeff Burstin, former lead guitarist with the Black Sorrows and Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons.

Burstin—as his current work with Melbourne-based The Hornets attests—is a blues man through and through, and it’s the blues sensibility that helps to give the album its overall unity. The blues is quite rightly respected here as the Old Testament of modern popular music, but a willingness to infuse it with a contemporary feel makes its influence timeless rather than dated, and comes close to giving the album a classic quality.


Double trouble: Burstin (L) and Banks live in Byron Bay

There are no duff tracks and all stand tall, some very much so. The first, “The Way That It Is”, is what used to be known as a breezy little opener. It kicks off with a nail-it-down-tight drum intro followed by a brass riff that adds a touch of big-band swing which not only manages to avoid overwhelming the punchy compactness of the song but also complements Banks’ smoky vocal perfectly. It’s a classic tale of man chases woman and gets caught in his own trap (“I was in need of inspiration/She took me from behind…”) and introduces the relationships theme in a positive light.

“Money”, is a soulful lament about materialism (“You talk about money like you’ve had some for a while/You talk about money like it’s going out of style”) which is complemented neatly by the next track, “Like Robbie Says”, a tribute to The Band’s former guitarist, now solo artist, Robbie Robertson.  It’s a laid back country rock number which nicely captures The Band’s feel for Americana with a plea to free the spirit from the shackles of the social media age.

“Throw Me a Bone” combines great Stax brass with funky guitar to tell an all-too-familiar tale of a man trying to redeem himself in the eyes of a woman (“I’ve been walking, stalking the night/Trying to think of ways and means of making this right”) but it’s the next track, “Millie’s Song”, that really takes the relationships theme into Old Wave territory. It’s a beautiful tribute to Banks’ daughter, written for her 21st birthday, that could bring a tear to the eye of any proud parent. Not the least of its strengths is the killer line: “You had me at the ultrasound”.

The relationships theme takes a dark turn with “I Wonder How You Sleep”, payback for a business relationship sabotaged by betrayal—a pain made all the worse by the fact that the relationship had been based on close personal friendship (“The mistake I made was trusting you with my life and family/ I gave you all that I could give, you repaid me ruthlessly”). Expletives are two a penny on albums these days, but the one used here is heartfelt and almost chilling in its effect.

The title of “Me, Innit” betrays Banks’ Mancunian roots and the track is probably the most reflective on the album, looking back on a successful life but wondering how much of that success was the result of personal authenticity and how much the result of an ability to bluff others. It’s a brave song, laying open Banks’ insecurities for all to see.

“Gotta Get My Balls Back” is also highly personal. I have it on good authority that the song references a dark period in Banks’ life which involved, by Old Wave standards, some pretty serious substance abuse—a liking for herbal tea and gluten-free bread. I’m pleased to report that, after a stern talking-to by said Millie, our man is now back on the beer and chip butties. Driven along by Burstin’s aggressive 12-bar walking blues, it’s a great track for harmonica players to vamp along to.

The fun continues with “Fitzroy Rag”, one of several tracks co-written by Banks and Burstin, and a colourful homage to one of Melbourne’s more famous suburbs, not far from where the album was recorded.

Easily one of the album’s highlights is the title track, “Ordinary Man”, a deeply affecting elegy for a dearly loved brother. It’s one of those rare works of art where any attempt at criticism feels like an act of trespass, so I’ll restrict my comments to referencing The Band again and comparing the song to “It Makes No Difference”, written by Robbie Robertson and sung, heart-rendingly, by Rick Danko.

Both these songs, for my money, stand apart for emotional depth and delivery. The fact that more than 40 years separate them says a lot not only about the rare quality of Banks’ writing and singing, but also the extent to which he has absorbed and continues a great musical tradition.

The two final tracks—the bluesy “Give You My Mind” and the evocative sixties-style surf instrumental (complete with theremin) “Castaway”—round out the album to a very satisfying conclusion.

Available on iTunes and highly recommended.

*Full disclosure: Banks has a history of collaboration with Universal Stranger’s songwriter-in-residence, Rody. For more on the Old Wave, click here.


Notes for a poem, “Black”; by Simon Jones

(Notes for a poem)


‘Stick to the bitumen and you’ll be right.’


Black ribbon road

Laid down by some Ariadne of the outback

Through the red dust

(Ancient fire, consumed to powder

By its own heat)


Inscribed like black letter law;

Reminds me of Moses in the desert―

O children of Israel!


Takes me back

To my childhood

Land of my fathers

Wanderers in a deforested landscape

‘Pilgrim through this barren land’


(Should I start singing Bread of Heaven?)


The burning bush

Burns without consuming:

I am.


The howling dingo emptiness behind me

Always at my heels

Chasing my wheels.


God is an abstraction

Anthropomorphic attributions are idolatrous


But necessary

Because redemption is the human and the abstract (or divine)

Partaking of each other’s nature.


Prophets are inspired

A means to salvation by virtue of being human mediators of the divine (or abstract)

A variation on anthropomorphism.


Who is your prophet, O lost tribe of Israel?

(For so the Welsh were thought to be.)


“Speaking for myself, it was my Great Uncle Tom,

Or Rhondda Tom (as he wasn’t known; I just made that up).

The pinnacle of manliness in my family―

Teacher, politician, social activist―

In whom faith and scepticism wrestled,

Each making the other stronger;



In the issues of the day.”


The black economy;

Faces black with coal dust,

Their words hung black and biblical on the air, in their own ink of sound

And fell into print

Black letters

Fingers black with ink.


Tom inspired my father

My father became a journalist


A matter of record now

The echoes have died

But not

The fire in their eyes or on their tongues


The flames still dance in the darkness


Like the sunset up ahead

At the end of this long black road

Out of nowhere


(Painting: Three Generations of Welsh Miners, by Eugene Smith)

Alienation, Democracy and the Trustee Class: The Stranger’s View

Hi, Lizard – you received some interesting comments among the 2,737 Facebook likes for your item about The Book of Genesis (see last blog, below), and not all of them of the “Repent and accept Jesus” variety.  I was particularly intrigued with the discussion about the ancient snake-worshiping cult and its possible links to the Genesis story and to the snake incident in The Epic of Gilgamesh. One can only imagine how deeply these archetypes lie in the history of story-telling. It almost persuades me that there might be something to Jung’s idea of the collective consciousness after all.

I’m not a fan of populism, and I think its resurgence is an opportunity to reassert the importance of a trustee class and, in Britain and Australia, the continuing relevance of the monarchy.

Thank you, too, for referencing the Alienation Theory of History. The older I get, the more I find this theory—the idea that the roots of human alienation run back to the Neolithic—helpful in regaining some perspective on the ceaseless flux of daily life. It enables me to imagine that the flux and confusion can be characterised as the result of tension between pre-agrarian and post-agrarian traditions which, arguably, continues to resonate in our contemporary culture because (as you point out) such traditions began relatively recently in the timeline of our socio-intellectual evolution.


“The roots of human alienation….” Cliché or not, it’s still a powerful image.

It’s possible to visualise this tension in various ways. I see one aspect of it as arising from the relationship between constitutional monarchy and democracy, in Britain and Australia particularly. The tension in this relationship (much of it synthetic, in my view) seems to be growing. Just so we’re clear, I am a democrat, although a conservative one who believes that the monarchy and democracy can, and should, co-exist happily and to their mutual benefit. I am not star-struck about the British monarchy or any other, however. I believe that any stable and successful country needs a strong trustee class—people who exist above politics and who, through their personal values and public duty, embody their country’s character, history and traditions. It doesn’t need to be a monarchy but the British monarchy is all this and more. Nobody in their right minds, still less a patriot, would willingly entrust their country’s soul to a former politician or bureaucrat (Brexit is proof that many people share a similar view). Unless and until we find a better alternative trustee class to the British monarchy (and I can’t think what that might be) it should stay in place.


Gawd bless yer, Ma’am

What the monarchy (and, indeed, any credible trustee class) represents to me is an idea of social relationships based on human values such as trust, morality, loyalty, mutual care and compassion. This is in direct and absolute contrast to the values one encounters, and which are expected of one, every day in modern democratic society. There, relationships are essentially contractual, self-interested and short term. Indeed, as the Alienation Theory of History proposes, the movement towards these lesser values has been the overall direction of our social development since the Neolithic. Among modern historical examples, one need think only of the 16th century enclosure movement in England and, in the 19th century, the increasing use of legislation to regulate human behaviour (much of it necessary to extend the franchise and limit social evils such as child labour, etc.). Morality became less and less the governing principle of life, being superseded by technicalities.

This complex of shallow social democratic values is a source of alienation to me (and others) and I locate my sense of belonging in the traditional relationship that still exists (almost exclusively outside cities these days, in rural communities) between ordinary people and the trustee class. The social democratic microcosm belongs to a shallow self-serving bourgeois elite which, as the election of Donald Trump as US president last year showed, is losing its grip. I’m not a fan of populism, and I think its resurgence is an opportunity to reassert the importance of a trustee class and, in Britain and Australia, the continuing relevance of the monarchy. The internal corrosion of our cultural institutions by the fascist green left provides another opportunity.

Isn’t it strange how reflections like this should be set in train by a free-thinking meditation on the Book of Genesis?


The Stranger

Deconstructing Genesis: the Lizard’s Tale

Rody – you asked me to expand on my ideas about Genesis, as discussed during our well lubricated lunch with Ms Drysdale some weeks ago. As you will recall, they’re more about Adam and Eve and the Fall than any other part of the book. They’re not particularly well informed or thought through, so consider them not so much as opinions but more as speculations to which I would welcome your intelligent and critical response.

Firstly, let me make clear that I, like you, do not take the Bible literally or believe in the supernatural. I do regard the Bible, however, as important source literature, not only for understanding key aspects of Western history, but also for helpful insights into the human condition. Like all great literature, it’s a repository of profound psychological truths.


Insights into the human condition (Alltime 10s, YouTube)

My starting point in thinking about this subject is to remind myself of the historical perspective. As my favourite historian J. M. Roberts points out, humans have existed more than 20 times longer than the civilisations they have created (indeed, as the picture below reminds us, not all of today’s humans are “civilised”). That alone is a clue to understanding much about the human condition: civilisation occurs relatively recently in our development, and we’re still getting the hang of it. In this I subscribe to the Stranger’s Alienation Theory of History: that alienation has been a permanent structural feature of settled societies since they began, its origin traceable back to the Neolithic and the emergence of agrarianism alongside the established hunter-gatherer mode of existence—a major divergence in the human lifestyle, and a new and more polarising cause of social and cultural estrangement. (This is all theory, remember.)


We’re all still trying to get the hang of civilisation…. (© Gleison Miranda/FUNAI/

Using this idea as a lens through which to read Genesis, the story can be interpreted as a symbolic account of this primeval disruption (with which, surely, our own highly disrupted age can find some sympathy). Adam and Eve are foragers in a pristine environment which, I’m tempted to think, might be a poetic evocation of the landscapes left by the retreating Ice Ages, as remembered in the oral traditions of stories handed down since prehistory (I tend to get a little carried away on points like this, so please be patient). There’s a (no doubt tenuous) school of thought that suggests one of the drivers of agrarian settlement was the discovery of the pleasures to be derived from ingesting fermented fruit, and the application of this discovery to religious rituals. The Genesis story links the Fall to a change of consciousness in Adam and Eve, which occurred after they ate the forbidden fruit; perhaps that change of consciousness is analogous to that which occurs after drinking too much alcohol! Again, this is fanciful speculation on my part, but I note that a recurring theme for Roberts is the extent to which human history – or at least the story of human development – is the story of our changing (or growing) consciousness. According to Genesis, a change in consciousness caused humanity’s downfall.


Changed consciousness (Masaccio’s Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise)

On this reading, the Fall represents the loss of human connection with the natural environment because of the growth of settled communities and the challenge they represented to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle in terms of territorial claims, religious beliefs and cultural values. It’s worth noting in this context that Genesis was written, according to Wikipedia, “either just before or during the Babylonian exile of the 6th century BC, and the Priestly final edition was made late in the Exilic period soon after”. For the Jews in exile, the tale might have been a way of rationalising and “owning” their alienation in a great foreign city. Like the 40 years in the wilderness, the experience was formative: some important identifying characteristics of Jewish culture, such as the observance of the Sabbath, were established during this period.

Adam and Eve left Eden and went to the land of Nod—a Hebrew word for “wandering” or “wander”. They became the eternal outsiders – the first Universal Strangers, perhaps?




P.S. – On Creative Engagement and Religion….

Dear Rody – I’ve been thinking more about your note on meditation and Esse and I guess it raises the broader issue about the relationship between Esse and religion. As you know, I don’t see Esse as a religion and would be appalled to think that it could become one, but I am interested in the potential for existing religions to add it (somehow) to their world view. I haven’t really thought about this, but I offer here some preliminary ideas.

The link lies in the Judaeo-Christian idea of sacrifice—the ritual of atonement through which the relationship between man and God can be (re)established.

Esse sees the various religions as a branch of human creativity, and I think that the religions we have would appeal to people far more than Esse as vehicles for spiritual expression and fulfilment, because of the symbolism and traditions that they embody—attributes that would be so much more effective in engaging people’s senses and affections than the abstract and, let’s face it, arid nature of Esse.  It’s the idea of religion as essentially a creative pursuit which helps us to maintain a rational perspective on it, and this rationality is (or attempts to be) consistent with the rationality that the Esse concept claims for itself.

[This underlines idea that Esse is potentially most useful in the secular sphere, as a positive statement about God and a counter-narrative to theocratic zealots who claim that nihilism lies at the core of the capitalist-democratic project.]

So, looked at from this rational/creative perspective, how does religion or the faith experience line up alongside your quasi-mystical take on Esse? I’m going to come at this from a liberal Anglican Christian point of view.


In the Old Testament, it was goats…

The first thing to note is that, in my personal experience, trying to exercise Christian devotion to Esse rather than to the traditional theistic God doesn’t work on a creative level. For the devotion to mean anything, it must embrace the anthropomorphic fallacy of theism (symbolism and traditions etc,; see above): the relationship with God through Christ has to be seen as a personal one (again I’m speaking for myself). This is where the creativity or “willing suspension of disbelief” comes in. But what’s the link, relationship or point of transition between this and the real world?

I think it lies in the Judaeo-Christian idea of sacrifice—the ritual of atonement through which the relationship between man and God can be (re)established. In the Old Testament, it involved goats; in the New Testament, it’s the Crucifixion.  Here, it’s the sacrifice of reason to enable the creative engagement in faith. Like the other forms of sacrifice, it can take a sacramental form: the Eucharist, for example, sends us out into the world to be a “living sacrifice” to God.

The more I think about this the more powerful the idea seems to be, and the more it seems to offer a sane adjustment between the secular world and spiritual experience.

This doesn’t answer the broader question about how religions might relate to Esse but, for now, I’m enjoying the sense of balance that it’s restored to my life.


[Pic – The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt, 1854]

Neurology vs. Cognition

Thanks, Rody; interesting (I can only guess at what the physical side effect might have been). As to the role of meditation in Esse, it’s not something I’ve really thought about, but I imagine it would raise all sorts of questions about the relationship between neurology and cognition, and what influence our neurological processes might have on our cognitive ones.

Have you thought about that?