Deep Incarnation

Deep Incarnation – Comments from Robbie Tulip, 23 January 2023

Presentation to Ecological Theology Retreat, Desert Creek

  1. The integration of ecology and theology is an essential feature of modern spiritual ethics, in recognition that systematic observation of the natural world provides the context for well-grounded thinking about religion. Indigenous spirituality based on connection to country offers a starting point for conversation with the Caring for Creation movement about Biblical ideas that call us to revere the natural world as sacred. Celebrating the sanctity of nature equally aligns to what Pope Francis described in his encyclical Laudato Si as a ‘sublime communion of creation’. 
  2. Fr Denis Edwards provided a profound study of ecological theology in his book Deep Incarnation, published in 2019.  Its main theme is God’s redemptive suffering with creatures, how the presence of God’s love is the source of salvation. These are complex ideas that require some work to define and interpret.  Incarnation is the Christian belief that the eternal God who created and sustains our universe was fully present in the life of Jesus Christ, who provides a unique point of connection between the eternal truth and grace of God and the lost and fallen world of humanity.  Only this incarnate connection to God through Christ can save the world from its path to destruction and enable us to find a path toward healing and flourishing through ecological commitment (p124). 
  3. A problem that Denis Edwards observed in traditional theology was that it often wrongly separated humanity from nature, mistakenly interpreting salvation in terms of personal afterlife rather than seeking an integrated vision of what it could mean for God to save the world. Edwards writes that we can no longer think of ourselves as individuals whose reality ends with our skins, but rather must find our salvation through the interconnected world of all matter and energy and information (p26).  Similarly, the incarnate Christ is internally related to the cosmos at large (p25).  As Jesus said at John 3:17, he came to save the world, not to condemn it, meaning the world in its whole planetary reality.
  4. Reading the Bible shows us that Christ understood salvation to mean planetary transformation, together shifting our whole community from a false vision to a true understanding of how the glorious grace of God is working to liberate us from what Saint Paul referred to as bondage to decay (Rom 8:21).  Where conventional theology often taught that God could not change, Deep Incarnation sees that God can and does change, in that God’s identity is fully given to us in the story of Christ, where God fully chooses to experience all the changing feelings of life in all their complex nature (p82).  God’s nature, as a basic divine attribute, to want humanity to freely flourish for ever on Earth, means that God is intimately entwined with our constantly changing world.
  5. Deep Incarnation extends the traditional understanding of faith by seeing God’s loving presence in the whole of creation, recognising that God experiences suffering and change through radical solidarity and love for the whole world (p121). God differs from us in being eternal while we are bound within time, infinite where we are finite, all-powerful whereas we are weak, and purely good while our human motives mix good with evil.  Jesus Christ, as the presence of God within the finite bounds of time and space, connects us to the infinite and eternal.  Jesus brings the unconditional eternal love of God to confront the evil of the world through his sublime moral teachings, leading to his sacrificial death on the cross and the transforming power of his resurrection as an all-embracing promise of healing and fulfilment (p105). 
  6. Saint John’s Gospel tells us that the meaning of the incarnation is that the divine Word of God became mortal human flesh.  Denis Edwards explores the ecological meaning of this teaching, observing that the incarnation is a cosmic event (p6), that God is limited to working with creaturely reality (p14, p125), and that God suffers together in solidarity with all nature as an expression of divine love (p15), taking the side of the victims (p24) and feeling their pain (p113).  The incarnation signifies the work of God toward a peaceful and holy creation, calling all humanity to cooperate with God in enabling the natural world to flourish (p16) through the reconciliation of all things (p126).
  7. Therefore, the theology of Deep Incarnation sees reality in evolving relational terms, as an interconnected web of life, an ecological system where everything is connected and related to everything else (p19, p112). Christ enables all creation to find unity and wholeness in relation to God (p20), with the divine Word of God supporting the complex interweaving of matter and spirit (p23). The risen Christ is the ecological centre of creation, with the Word incarnate revealed in and constituted by ecological and cosmic interconnections (p111, p113).  The profound teaching of Saint Paul that in Christ all things hold together (Col 1:17) means that the incarnation enables the coherent unity of all creation (p24). The incarnation reflects the humble Wisdom of God in the world, recognising that in Christ God became as nothing in order that he might be everything (Phil 2:5-11, p115). Indigenous people can relate to the idea that God became nothing because they have so often been disregarded as though they were nothing.
  8. The theology of Deep Incarnation draws on the ideas of the early church to observe that the Word of God provides leadership and order to govern the world (p58).  However, the insatiable murder and violence that fills the whole earth (p60) shows humanity has turned away from the order of grace, creating an essential need to find a point of connection to the enduring truths of the love and goodness and care of God.  As St Athanasius of Alexandria wrote, the incarnation of Christ enables us to lift our eyes to the immensity of heaven, and discerning the harmony of creation, to know its ruler, the Word of God (p61).  This sense of the Word of God as providing the stable harmony of the visible heavens, like the laws of physics, presents an essential clue for us to reconcile theology and science, recognising the elegant mathematical order observed in astronomy as revealing the rational grace of God.
  9. This same gracious mathematical order seen in the grandeur of the cosmos ultimately rules the more chaotic ecological order of our planet through the unity of all, obeying the scientific principle ‘on earth as in heaven’.  Cosmic order is understood in the incarnation, with Christ as the rational mediating connection (Heb 9:15) between the seeming disorder of the world and the eternal order seen in the heavens, showing the pathway of redemption.  Heaven is not just a comforting emotional fantasy, but rather a vision of the planetary transformation of the earth, which is our permanent home (p86).  The Word of God teaches us to overcome the pervasive problem that we have been led astray by our senses (p62) and instead to find the deep reason within the story of grace, from Jesus Christ as the one who governs and orders the creation through wisdom (p63).
  10. Edwards contends that a key message of holy wisdom is that the human community is responsible for the wellbeing of all life on earth (p64), but our worship of false Gods has blinded us to this essential truth.  Salvation therefore involves a new kind of relationship of unity between humanity and God and nature (p65), seen in God’s loving solidarity with suffering as opening the path to the transforming and liberating sanctification of our world, entwined in human nature (p76), revealed in the cross of Christ. Our intimate integrating connection to God arises from recognition that God shares in all good values that support the ongoing flourishing of our complex planetary wellbeing, and opposes all evil values that promote needless destruction and suffering (p77).
  11. The theology of the cross presents the profundity of deep incarnation, firstly with the observation that in his death on the cross, Christ revealed and confronted the radical power of evil in the world, and triumphed over evil by rising from the dead. The theologian Karl Rahner saw the death of Christ in ecological terms, as an entry into the heart of the Earth, where everything is interconnected (p86). Rather than the old story of the descent of Christ to Hell, Edwards invites us to see Easter Saturday as a time when Earth is infused with divine life, with the resurrection as an embrace of the Earth (p87). Through the cross we are called to love the Earth as our mother (p89), through the loving self-identification of the crucified Christ with creation (p111). When Edwards says the cross is imprinted by the Word on the whole of reality (p122), he means God’s incarnate presence in Christ serves to reveal the sanctity of all nature.
  12. The evolutionary framework of ecological spirituality calls us to see life on earth as oriented to an ever-increasing complexity toward spirit (p90), with the incarnation of God in Christ revealing above all that the whole of creation is one.  This presentation of natural complexity as beloved by God further suggests that ecological theology has an essential role in advocating for the sanctity of biodiversity.  We can see divine complexity in the ever-deepening ecological interactions of environmental systems, and can therefore see the destruction of complex natural systems as evil.  The Bible endorses this view by saying the wrath of God is against those who destroy the Earth (Rev 11:18).  We can justly see this moral vision in the injunction of Christ in the Last Judgement (Matt 25:40) that whatever we do to the most vulnerable things in nature we do to Jesus Christ.
  13. In Christ, humanity can transcend our instinctive unreflective bodily situation to understand our unity with God (p93), overcoming our tribal instincts to evolve toward a higher spiritual unity.  Through Christ, the world as a whole is illumined by God, through commitment to the planetary community of life, revealing Christ as the innermost secret of all the world (p97). God is not impassive, unfeeling or distant (p114).  God is kind and loving and just and good, entirely present in our world for our salvation through the incarnate earthly life of Christ.

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Sermon on Prophecy

Robbie Tulip

Kippax Uniting Church

2 July 2023

Our lectionary texts for today are from Jeremiah 28 and Matthew 10. They both focus on prophecy, a particularly difficult theme in theology.  The wisdom tradition places prophetic prediction of the future in the context of understanding the signs of the times.  Rather than insisting just one course of events is inevitably fated by God, a predictive prophetic approach recognises that different paths are possible, depending on how people respond to their situation.  People have the freedom to listen to prophets and change their actions in response.  The view of prophecy as a divine revelation from God is important, but does not have to involve supernatural or miraculous powers. Prophecy can rather be seen as arising from careful observation and analysis. The prophets of the Bible are our cultural elders and role models. They should be read with care to appreciate their powerful insights.

Jeremiah is a major prophet in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Our text today from Jeremiah 28 discusses the political debate in ancient Israel about whether the nation should submit to rule from Babylon or seek independence.  Popular sentiment supported independence, but Jeremiah prophesied that this path of rebellion against empire would bring sword and famine and plague.  He rejected the views of the false prophet Hananiah who predicted rapid restoration of national sovereignty and return of the Jewish nobles from exile in Babylon.

Jeremiah’s assessment was that Israel was too weak and corrupt to stand up to the might of Babylon.  This uncomfortable message about national security led to him being placed in stocks for public humiliation and dumped into a sewerage tank to die (luckily he was rescued). Jeremiah argued that Israel had put itself in this bad situation by its own lack of faith in God.  Instead of a focus on moral principles to govern society, Israel had allowed a hedonistic and selfish culture to grow unchecked.  The prophecy was entirely about the consequences of Israel’s actions, pointing out the potential for change.

As a small nation surrounded by large and powerful empires, the only hope for Israel’s national security was to foster good diplomatic relations with its neighbours so they would treat it with respect and friendship.  But Israel ignored this prophetic message. The result was the captivity in Babylon. Israel failed to heed the warning from the prophet Ezekiel that the nation’s pride and aggression led to their subjugation by foreign powers. 

Instead of a government that followed the divine commands of justice and mercy and love, Israel had fragmented its political unity and wellbeing by allowing the rich to exploit the poor and forgetting about God.  Jeremiah saw all these problems as symbolised by the popular worship of false idols instead of the one true God.  He believed that a humble and respectful discussion about religion was essential to military and political strategy and security and stability.

Prophecy is about telling the truth in a blunt and unvarnished way.  It is no wonder people dislike prophets who challenge the comforting emotional myths the community has come to believe.  In Jeremiah’s time, as in every time, people wanted to believe the false prophets who painted a simple rosy picture.  But Jeremiah insisted the signs of the times were very negative – full of war, famine, pestilence and death – requiring a change of social priorities.  It is natural that people are upset by such claims and will look for any excuse to ignore and mock people who promote them. 

Despite his generally negative outlook, Jeremiah did have a positive long-term vision for the world, predicting that eventually a prophet would emerge who could call for peace.  With this vision Jeremiah saw the need for a messiah, a world saviour who could proclaim the truth that will set us free and bring peace to the world.  But the messiah could only arrive when world conditions were ready for peace.

How does Jesus Christ fit into this vision?  The prophet Isaiah rightly predicted that Christ would be despised and rejected.  Like Jeremiah, Christ came into the world in a time of war, dominated by the brutal Roman conquest.  He prophesied the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, a catastrophe that Rome subsequently inflicted in 70 AD. Naturally such a calamitous prophecy was very unwelcome to the Jewish community.  This must have played a part in their suspicion toward the overall message of Christ in the Gospels. 

The comprehensive reformation of morality that Christ proposed in the Sermon on the Mount has a profound prophetic vision, but did not really offer a practical short term political solution for Israel in its conflict with Rome.  In the long term, the difficult prophetic messages that led Christ to the cross were necessary and accurate and were vindicated in the story of the resurrection.

We can see why prophets like Jeremiah and Christ face political difficulties from rulers who found their message unwelcome, but also why the prophets were subsequently recognised and celebrated as people who brought essential information that the world tended to ignore.  As Jesus says in our text today, everyone who welcomes true prophecy welcomes God into the world and is rewarded for that insight.

The most important prophecy from Christ, in my view, is at Matthew 24:14, “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”  Jesus explains that the end of the age that he predicts will be a difficult time, but also a time of great positive transformation.  He goes on to argue, if I can paraphrase, that the spread of the gospel to all nations around the whole world is an essential precursor to a planetary transformation.  When the whole world is connected, the universal recognition of messianic values of Christ will become the basis of good government.  His vision is of an ethical message that will eventually bring the whole world together in unity and peace and justice.  Here Jesus is saying that while humanity is separated into different cultures who do not communicate with each other, war will continue, but the future age of global interconnection will enable a transformation of values.  Love will rule the world, gradually repairing the damage that heedless human evil has caused.

With this prophecy of world unity, Jesus built on Jeremiah’s vision that eventually it will be possible to prophesy peace.  This message is directly relevant to our world today.  Our planetary trajectory is still toward destruction, separation and war, but the Gospel message tells us we have the ability to be shaken out of our delusional fantasies.  We can wake up and see the truth of our perilous path, to connect with each other in a spirit of respect.

Global warming is a key challenge where a prophetic message of peace is needed today.  Recent science has shown that even if we speed up emission cuts as fast as possible, which is highly unlikely, that alone can’t be enough to make a difference to climate change.  The problem is that Earth system tipping points such as melting of snow and ice and loss of forests already have too much momentum, and will heat things up and overwhelm any cooling effect from cutting emissions.  An emerging scientific view is that the only thing that could reverse the current slide toward even more extreme weather is global cooperation to brighten the planet by reflecting more sunlight back to space.  A range of technologies have been developed for planetary brightening, technically known as albedo enhancement. Australia is leading in this work through support for marine cloud brightening to protect the Great Barrier Reef from coral bleaching. 

Governments and communities are quite reasonably cautious about such new and different climate strategies.  The problem is that a decision to keep ignoring planetary brightening technologies would definitely allow more dangerous sea level rise, extreme weather, biodiversity loss and system disruption as a result of warming.  All these crises would be far worse than side effects of well managed new technologies.  My view is that an International Albedo Authority should be established to research all the different possible methods.  This would have additional benefits of creating hope for the future by enabling nations to cooperate peacefully on a shared vision.  For example refreezing Antarctic sea-ice could help protect Australia from warming impacts.

Another area in need of prophetic vision is Indigenous rights.  The Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2017 offered a hopeful prophetic message of how the Australian community could come together in a spirit of reconciliation and recognition and respect.  Unfortunately, we are seeing a rather uninformed debate around the referendum on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.  Many in our community promote deceptive messages about supposed risks associated with the Voice, disregarding the many benefits of dialogue and the damage of spurning this carefully developed proposal.

With both climate change and the Voice, the challenge we face is whether to proceed with new and innovative solutions, or to stick with current failing approaches.  In both cases, the consequences of doing nothing are far worse than any risks of the proposed new approaches.  The Gospel of Christ calls us to work to transform the world, taking risks and confronting debate in a prophetic spirit of love and truth.  The Gospel message is that such a transformative prophetic approach can enable us to fulfill the promise of Christ that the will of God can be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.


Jeremiah 28:5-9
28:5 Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the LORD;  28:6 and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the LORD do so; may the LORD fulfill the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the LORD, and all the exiles.  28:7 But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people.  28:8 The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. 28:9 As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet.”

Matthew 10:40-42
10:40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.  10:41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous;  10:42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple — truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

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England 2023

Visiting England

I arrived in London last night, staying with Caroline in a flat in New Cross.  We will go to my old friend Tony Tonks’ sixtieth birthday party on Sunday, then head to the Isle of Man, Lake District and Edinburgh. Then I have a one day climate albedo workshop at Cambridge University on 6 June and I head home on 9 June.

I spent the flight listening to Beatles albums, and then to Ummagumma by Pink Floyd and some early Dylan. Amazingly, many of the Beatle’s biggest hits were only released as singles, and were not included on albums until later compilations, eg She Loves You, Can’t Buy Me Love, I Want To Hold Your Hand, I Feel Fine, Please Please Me, Love Me Do. I also read a book about the history of sugar, so deeply entwined with slavery, genocide and environmental devastation.

On Wednesday I spent the afternoon before my flight from Sydney playing croquet and talking philosophy with my old friend David Gillings. One of the themes we explored was my idea of the disentification of God.

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Climate Security

Here is my letter published in The Australian newspaper on 28 April 2023.

As published it read “Peta Credlin questions whether climate change is a security problem (“Lest we forget what’s worth defending”, 27/4). There is a serious risk of several metres of sea level rise this century. This change could destroy ports, beaches and coastal wetlands, and create millions of climate refugees. Climate is a core security problem. Climate security can only be addressed by international co-operation.”

The letter is available to subscribers only behind a hard paywall at

The article I responded to by Peta Credlin is copied at the end of this post. It mentioned climate briefly in the bolded paragraph near the end.  Ms Credlin is a leading Australian conservative commentator who was chief of staff for Prime Minister Tony Abbott and now has a regular TV program on Sky News.

The newspaper edited my letter – here was what I sent: “Peta Credlin questions whether climate change is a security problem (‘A country that’s in doubt about itself, that often thinks patriotism is a dirty word, is in no position to fight’, 27/4).  There is serious risk of several metres of sea level rise this century, destroying all ports, beaches and coastal wetlands, and creating hundreds of millions of climate refugees.  Extreme weather is steadily worsening.  Climate is a core security problem.  However, cutting emissions does nothing about temperature, only generating political polarisation and destruction of our energy system.  Climate security can only be addressed by international cooperation on solar geoengineering.”

They deleted my criticism of cutting emissions, my mention of extreme weather, my numbers of refugees and my call for solar geoengineering. 

On Saturday 28 April the newspaper published the following two letters in response, reflecting the conservative derision about this topic.

“I am grateful to Robert Tulip (Last Post, 28/4) for his warning that sea levels are rising. It has prompted me to look over my “tinnie” runabout, check my Wellington boots for leaks and dust off the sou’wester. Always best to be prepared.”

“Predictions of humanity’s demise by the end of this century are just baseless predictions, despite the credentials of the predictor. If governments thought sea level rise was a threat, they would not promote building developments close to current sea level – and as far as I know there’s no recommendation we should all head for the hills.People are entitled to their personal fears but we should not be forced to join the panic.”

There was a lively discussion in the online comments section, visible to subscribers only.  There was no sympathy for my view.  Given this universal condemnation within the conservative echo chamber, I should note prediction of over two metres rise is supported by the US Ocean Service NOAA, who stated in this 2022 report that global mean sea level rise in 2150 could be 3.7 metres. Other scientists consider the result could be even worse.

In response to a comment, I wrote:

“Security analysis of climate change should apply the precautionary principle regarding risks. The biggest risk is that focus on ineffective emission reduction efforts crowds out effective ways to cool the planet. Solar geoengineering could be deployed safely in ways that do not disrupt the economy, allowing ongoing use of fossil fuels.   When CO2 was last above its current level the seas were about 20 metres higher. That is the commitment created by Earth System Sensitivity, but we cannot know the time scale, like a turkey awaiting Thanksgiving.   Emissions apply constant forcing to fragile and sensitive ice systems in Greenland and Antarctica, destroying their protective sea ice and warming the ocean water. These glaciers lock up more than 70 metres of sea level rise, and are collapsing in unpredictable ways, more rapidly than consensus models suggest.   Recent scientific papers have found climate impacts are bigger and faster than models predicted. A 2020 study in Nature found Greenland is losing ice seven times faster than it was in the 1990s, now melting at over 280 billion tonnes per year. Other studies show climate tipping points have cascading effects that accelerate these processes. Moving to Higher Ground, a credible scientific analysis by John Englander, states sea level rise of 2.5 metres this century is predicted, with higher levels considered possible.   Security policy should take precautions against these serious risks. This requires a change of thinking. Cutting emissions only marginally slows the rate of warming, and can do nothing to mitigate these risks. The international cooperation required is for action to brighten the planet, enhancing albedo to create equal and opposite cooling to balance the warming from greenhouse gases. Research into solar geoengineering offers the most precautionary option, as a rapid, effective and cheap way to mitigate climate risk. The climate goal should be Net Zero Heating, not Net Zero Emissions.”

In response to a follow up question, I wrote

“Net Zero Heating means restoring preindustrial temperature using technology to cool the planet with equal and opposite effect of the warming from greenhouse gas emissions. It is a faster, safer, cheaper and more effective climate policy than the futile effort to achieve net zero emissions.”

Further comments included the following 40+ responses, all condemning the idea we should worry about sea level rise.

  1. As a Coastal Scientist who started work in the 1980s, I remember all the forecasts with which almost every coastal Council required compliance, a prediction of 2m rise by 2020. The rise has not occurred, no one has been held to account for the destruction this caused to the lives of many individuals. It hasn’t even been publicly acknowledged. Don’t repeat our previous mistakes.
  2. Sea level rises around the world at present are in the range of 2-3 mm per year, the same rate it has been for about the last 200 or so years since the end of the Little Ice Age.  Yet one of your correspondents thinks there is a risk sea-level rises will be several metres in the near future, although no explanation  how this might happen.  Does anyone ever fact-check these extraordinary claims about the climate which are invariably shown to be completely unfounded?
  3. The likelihood of a 2 metre+ rise in sea levels this century is on par with being invaded from outer space. Get a grip! 
  4. Did the Clown Caucus get together and agree to send in a wave of letters?
  5. Where does Robert Tulip get his information from? Several metres sea level rise is something not even Al Gore has been guilty of spouting. After all he has a number of first class beach front properties and if there was any possibility of several metres rise surely our panic stricken and woke state and local governments would be refusing development permits on all our land adjoining our beaches. 
  6. Are sea levels rising in the northern hemisphere, if so God help Iceland and Ireland!
  7. Robert Tulip I have been a Coogee Beach, Sydney, fan for 72 years and the water level has not changed.
  8. If the sea levels are rising as Robert Tulip suggests, why are so many wealthy climate catastrophisers such as Michael Cannon-Brookes buying waterfront homes? 
  9. Apparently  the sea level  rise at Port Denison is less than 10 centimetres  in 100 years. 
  10. Robert Tulip, these insane predictions have been in the mix for almost 50 years now. None have eventuated or even come close. “Climate is a core security problem” now seems to be emerging as the new alarmist’s mantra. These climate alarmists have no shame when it comes to their failed prophecies. Be gone the lot of you.
  11. Claire Lehmann writes an illuminative piece in today’s Australian about the fragility of today’s youth as a result of progressive ideology being pushed on the young, even starting in kindergarten, frightening children about many things, especially the fear of climate change and the prospect of not reaching adulthood. It is insidious and against the evidence of the continuing failure of doomsday predictions to eventuate. The long term damage to vulnerable children is indefensible and regular writers are continuing to add to the problem with hysterical predictions.
  12. And Robert Tulip needs to read it
  13. Robert Tulip, you say that “There is a serious risk of several metres of sea level rise this century.”
    Are you serious?
  14. Well, Mr Tulip is from the ACT.
  15. Absolutely unbelievable! Water covers two thirds of the earth’s surface! A seven metre rise requires seven metres of extra water covering two thirds of the planet? 
  16. Considering the fact that the amount of rise in sea levels in the last Century has been so minuscule it’s hardly recordable, how in earth will sea levels rise by metres in the next 75 years? More doomsayer nonsense with zero justification.
  17. Maybe Robert got his millimetres mixed up with his metres
  18. ‘(he) can NOT be serious!’ (apols. McEnroe, J)
  19. Robert Tulip where is your source that would lead you to believe that there is a risk of metres of sea rise this century? That is an old trope once used by the profoundly unreliable and discredit Tim Flannery….which lead to the song of building a beach house in the Blue Mountains..humour can be devastating.   Indeed climate scientist Judith Curry did a study specifically of sea rise a few short years back and concluded that the rise is completely manageable amounting to some 200mm per century…of course it will vary in different parts of the planet but that is a sound number. Being a scientist she said of course if the volcanoes under the antarctic landmass erupt it would produce different and far more dangerous results …an event she assessed as highly unlikely….and incidentally nothing to do with climate change.  The great Richard Lindzen arguable one of the greatest living climate scientists made the general point a few months back (google his interviews) (in essence) that the misinformation about climate change and the reaction to unrealistic perceived threats is in many instances ludicrous…beyond parody I think he said. A thrust of his position is that people who know precious little about this hideously complex issue make absurd statements that are picked up by politicians and others who know even less about the science and yet they are the ones who usher in remedies that have no affect on the misdiagnoses. Australia’ plan to address climate change with approaching 100% renewables is a perfect example of this phenomena, indeed a few years back Lindzen opined  (in essence) ..what are the aussies doing?  The western world is in a period of collective madness and until good engineering, good science  and sound economics are respected as they should be, we will continue to be at the mercy of the modern version of snake oil salesmen who have no answers but they will fool a lot of people a lot of the time.
  20. “Several metres” of sea level rise this century?  Let’s say “several” means more than two, and actually means three or more.  So 3000 mm in the next 75 years?  That equates to 40mm per year every year beginning today.  The best estimate is around 2mm per year.  Mr Tulip needs reminding that using hyperbole runs the risk of derision.
  21. It is ludicrous and most people have absolutely no idea of reality in this very important issue.
  22. Well deserved derision.
  23. Robert Tulip, I don’t believe that any of those wealthy, woke, believers in global warming who seem to readily snap up properties sitting just a meter above high tide marks on the ocean shore would agree with you.
  24. Not just properties by the shore – I’ve read quite a few are buying islands! As if they would spend millions on land that just won’t be there in a decade or two!
  25. I see a few of the technical fairies have emerged from the bottom of the garden in todays letter page. When the lights do go out could we see a few more letters telling us we told you so. Sea level rises of metres before the end of the century, really, I won’t be here but I’ll probably be still laughing from my grave.
  26. Robert Tulip: I suggest you move to the summit of Black Mountain, & wait for it to happen, But don’t hold your breath. We were promised sea level rise two decades ago!
  27. Robert Tulip we have been told for four decades that catastrophic sea level was imminent. Show us the evidence. 
  28. There is NO risk of several meters of sea level rises this century. 
  29. Robert Tulip, I’m waiting and watching the shoreline weekly. Sea level rises have been mooted for a couple of decades and clearly government policy makers and investors don’t believe it given the ocean shore and river bank development occurring across Australia. An interview with two Antarctic scientists i watched this week had the southern ice cap growing, not shrinking.
  30. Mr Tulip.  If sea levels are going to rise by several metres this century our new submarines will need longer periscopes.
  31. Hopefully the 3 metre sea rise will cover Canberra. Is that Mr Tulips concern?
  32. I have it good grounds to believe that Canberrans are snapping up Braidwood property to get sea views.
  33. Robert Tulip says that international cooperation is needed for climate security. Then why are countries around the world building more than 1000 coal fired power stations and Australia is getting rid of its remaining six to save the planet. Methinks Australia is no longer the clever country. It is quickly sinking into energy poverty because of the madness of renewables. Only when the lights go out will the climate zealots see that we are going down the wrong path. And by the way nothing Australia does makes one skerrieg of difference to the climate but then better to believe in a false climate narrative based on ridiculous climate modelling.
  34. the zealots will never see that we are going down the wrong path.  Don’t imply that they can understand anything.
  35. I think someone is tiptoeing through the tulips. The ocean is not going to rise by metres. Wheres your facts. Stop scare mongering. 
  36. Robert Tulip claims there is a serious risk of several metres of sea level rise this century. That is about 10 times the predictions by the IPCC which are on the high side because they are based on models that overestimate the effect on temperature of increased CO2. Half the rise since 1700 occurred before the industrial revolution and that natural rebound from the Little Ice Age is likely to still be influencing temperature much more than CO2.
  37. Relax. The rising sea level prediction will never eventuate. Just like the myriad of past predictions that bit the dust
  38. Mr Tulip – there is no credible prediction of several metres of sea rise by the end of the century. It would be helpful if you cited your sources. 
    The IPCC has made no such prediction as yours. 
    Sea level rises in Australia since 1900 are negligible. A 1.1 degree temperature increase since 1860 is not a basis for alarmism and frightening young and impressionable minds. 
  39. The CCP can’t have got this message or it might not have produced the man made islands in the South China Sea.
  40. why do so many politicians buy waterfront properties if the sea is going to rise so much? How can the sea rise in one spot and not all over? Remember, we were told the dams and rivers would never fill again….. 
  41. Robert Tulip, 5 years ago we bought a house 1.5 metres above sea level on the beach in Geographe Bay for $1.3m. Today the beach is as far away as it ever was and the property is valued at $1.6m. I reckon the real world thinks your fears of “several metres” of sea level rise is wrong. Stop reading the models, start reading the real world. Calm down, it’s not as frightening as you think.
  42. Robert Tulip, a climate change “expert” stated in a newspaper in 2000 that my home town would be under water by 2020. Obviously it’s still there, with no noticeable rise in water levels. Given every prediction so far by the “experts” has been wrong, I think we should stick with reliable 24/7 power until the scientists actually understand the “science”. 
  43. And my Palm Beach Q, beach,  refuses to do anything different, and insists on acting like a beach. Tides are the same since the Jellurgal people fished it, with a slightly higher Christmas tide, every year. The Jellurgal people can be found on the north side of the Tally Bridge, they share great knowledge about their land, so if on the Goldie,  pop in and see them. They make a great coffee, but good luck with trying to convince them, anything has changed.

Article by Peta Credlin Published in The Australian

‘A country that’s in doubt about itself, that often thinks patriotism is a dirty word, is in no position to fight’


APRIL 27, 2023


“This week the paradox of modern Australia was on full display. With hundreds of thousands of spectators cheering them on, tens of thousands of veterans and serving military personnel marched on Anzac Day to honour everyone who has fought for our country.

On that day, though, the Australian War Memorial’s new chairman pledged that the memorial soon would honour the Aboriginal warriors who’d fought against the British settlement of this country, even though such recognition would be more appropriate in the new $316.5m Indigenous centre called Ngurra, to be situated opposite the AWM on Lake Burley Griffin.

Yet again, it looks like popular enthusiasm versus official ambivalence when it comes to being positive about Australia.

So what’s it to be: pride in our country or shame? Is the Australian War Memorial – which World War I historian Charles Bean intended as the Anzacs’ shrine “in the heart of the land they loved” – now to be turned into a place of division and embarrassment?

It should be possible to come to a nuanced appreciation of our strengths and weaknesses as a nation. Yet it’s hard to be optimistic about getting this balance right in an era so given to fretting about toxic masculinity (even though it’s strong men who have kept us safe in the past and likely will again in the future); the history wars; claims that it’s racist to vote No to giving Indigenous Australians a special say in government based on ancestry; and the tendency to deny those with a uterus the right to be called women while biological men can, if that’s what they choose.

Former Labor MP Michael Danby says the Defence Strategic Review is a “damn squib” and “very disappointing”.… “If you can’t identify the problem, then the Australian people aren’t going to know why we’re spending all of this money,” Mr Danby told Sky News host Peta Credlin. “I thought More

All this matters because the Defence Strategic Review the government released this week says that not since the end of World War II have we been so close to major conflict.

READ MORE: Home-made drones pack undersea punch | Guided missile production ‘within two years’ | Bullseye or bulldust? Our experts’ verdicts on the Defence Strategic Review | US admiral to review Australian fleet | Why cyber warfare is the new front line | It’s same same but going backwards | Defence review blind spot leaves our flanks — chillingly — exposed | Albanese, Labor face test of ticker over Defence review

Yet a country that’s in doubt about itself, that often thinks patriotism is a dirty word, is in no position to fight.

In his Anzac Day address this week, Governor-General David Hurley, the former defence force chief who commanded the Australian contingent in Somalia, said what had most concerned his men was not the risk of getting hurt but the worry that they might fail to be worthy of the example of their forefathers.

That’s the key question: if called upon, would we live up to their example? And do we believe in our country and our values enough to fight for it as our veterans did?

Governor-General of Australia David Hurley inspects the veterans march at the Australian War Memorial on April 25, 2023 in Canberra.

For current and former military personnel, obviously the answer is yes. And for the hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, who attended dawn services and marches around the country this week I suspect the answer is also yes. But for others, I wonder.

These days we spend so much time acknowledging “country” – with the inference that it’s really the country of only 4 per cent of us – rather than the country of all of us. Among the official class and elites, we spend so much time in angst about our past and rewriting history, even though ordinary people still sense that, in terms of freedom, justice and a fair go, Australia remains the best country on earth and has to be worth defending. But how long will this hold?

There were some very important messages in this week’s DSR. That we can’t count on 10 years’ notice of major conflict. That China’s militarisation of the South China Sea is a direct threat to Australia’s national interest. That our armed forces on their own need to be able to defeat any adversary – China included – that seeks to attack Australia. And, most worryingly, that we’re not ready for armed conflict, on any serious scale.

 Shadow Assistant Defence Minister Phillip Thompson is “making an issue of the wrong thing” by criticising the… timing of the Defence Strategic Review’s release rather than its contents, says Sky News host James Macpherson. Mr Thompson on Tuesday slammed the Albanese government for releasing the review the day before More

But it seems that the review, as usual, dances around some of the really important issues. As just about every defence analyst now says, communist China is getting ready to attack Taiwan. Because democratic Taiwan is never going to submit to communist rule, that means an assault on Taiwan is all but inevitable.

All but inevitable, that is, unless the free world makes it clear to Beijing that any assault on Taiwan wouldn’t be just giant China against tiny Taiwan but dictatorship versus democracy.

Deterrence through strength is the only way to raise the stakes enough to deter Beijing because anything other than the status quo would be a catastrophe. A successful Chinese assault on Taiwan, unresisted by the democracies, would up-end the world order as we know it as countries arm themselves to the teeth against Beijing or roll over and make the best accommodation they can with the communist superpower. But helping Taiwan risks a war between the superpowers, with all that entails, in terms of sending the world back towards the Stone Age.

The Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, Richard Marles, Minister for Defence Industry, Pat Conroy, and the Chief of the Defence Force, General Angus Campbell hold a press conference after releasing the Defense Strategic Review at Parliament House Canberra. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

There’s not much in this review, at least in the unclassified version, about how Australia might work to maintain the peace across the Taiwan Strait even though the US would certainly expect our help. What there is, though, is yet more reviews: a further review into our fuel security, given that we have just a few weeks of onshore fuel reserves; and a further review of the surface fleet. There’s plenty of talk about more missiles but, again, no hard dates for their acquisition.

In fact, the only specific commitments to come out of this review are to scrap the acquisition of most of the new infantry fighting vehicles and not to go ahead with the purchase of more self-propelled artillery. Even though the lesson of history is “to expect the unexpected”, as we’ve seen with the rise of Islamic State and the Russian assault on Ukraine.

There’s the obligatory reference to climate change, which the review says is “amplifying our challenges”. Seriously? With China commissioning hundreds of new coal-fired power stations and engaged in the biggest military build-up in peacetime history, we need to get our head out of the sand on energy security being critical to our national security and drop this climate obsession within the bureaucracy.

THEAUSTRALIAN.COM.AU05:04 Defence Strategic Review is govt’s ‘cannibalisation’ of Australia’s army capability

The Defence Strategic Review is the government’s “cannibalisation” of Australia’s army capability, says Shadow… Defence Minister Andrew Hastie. “The government has promised a lot with this DSR but what we’re seeing is no new money, we’re seeing cost-shifting and we’re seeing cannibalisation of army capability,” he told Sky News More

The Albanese government deserves credit for sticking with its predecessor’s plan for nuclear-powered submarines under AUKUS. But like its predecessor, it seems better at delivering words than at delivering actual military capability. For the most part, the plans are good, but there’s no real urgency at putting them into practice and no real attempt to persuade the public that spending on the armed forces might actually be a higher priority than, say, the NDIS. Probably because the government itself is unpersuaded.

If the situation is as serious as the government says, deeds must better match words. The other thing that really needs to change is how we think about ourselves. We can’t honour Australia and Australians on Anzac Day only to spend the rest of the year denigrating our country and undermining the rationale for defending it. Maybe that explains why it’s so hard to recruit the young people our armed forces need. Whatever the reason, let’s hope we all wake up before it’s too late.



Peta Credlin AO is a weekly columnist with The Australian, and also with News Corp Australia’s Sunday mastheads, including The Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Herald Sun. Since 2017 she has hosted her successful prime… Read more

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How Albedo Affects Climate Change

How does albedo affect climate?

Robert Tulip

23 April 2023

Published in The Canberra Times at (paywall)

469 words

The warming effects of climate change could be offset with equal and opposite cooling measures.

Albedo is the measure of how much sunlight the Earth reflects back to space. It is a significant factor in global warming due to the growth of darker surfaces that retain more heat. 

The loss of albedo increases the imbalance known as radiative forcing. Due to human influence, the excess of incoming sunlight over outgoing radiation is worsening.

Increased radiative forcing due to greenhouse gas emissions is partly reduced by anthropogenic cooling, mainly from aerosols that interact with the stratosphere and clouds to increase albedo.

Overall, the world is darkening due to the loss of snow and ice, soot pollution and decreased ocean cloud cover. 

The melting of sea ice is a major albedo loss.  Satellite and lunar reflection data show more than 0.5% decline in total albedo this century. 

Many new technologies have been proposed to enhance albedo. Marine cloud brightening would make salty mist from sea water to increase the albedo of ocean clouds, cooling the water beneath and reducing cyclone intensity. 

Australia has led the world in field testing of marine cloud brightening to reduce coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef.

Stratospheric aerosol injection could mimic the cooling effect of volcanic eruptions, adding about 1% of the highly reflective sulphur dioxide that used to come from burning coal without scrubbers. 

These and other geoengineering methods could mitigate climate impacts such as sea level rise, biodiversity loss and extreme weather.

Importantly, they could help avoid climate tipping points, while promoting international cooperation. 

Advocates contend that research shows the cooling benefits will justify deployment if these technologies are well governed.

Challenges include the need for international governance to ensure deployment is safe, equitable and based on the best science, while overcoming the political hurdles in the transition from fossil fuels.

Risks include disrupting weather patterns, international disputes, sudden termination and allowing ongoing failure to address CO2 impacts such as ocean acidification.

The IPCC is opposed to action to increase albedo, mainly on the view that brightening the planet would undermine decarbonisation. This view ignores the security risk that tipping points such as ice melt could cause sudden cascading warming feedbacks in the Earth system.

The practical impact of neglecting albedo is highly risky, allowing ongoing warming while emissions continue.

Action to cut CO2 will take decades, whereas brightening the planet could have rapid cooling effects, especially by refreezing the Arctic.

Using technology to increase albedo may be the only feasible way to mitigate global warming in the short term.

Unlike Net Zero Emissions, a climate goal of Net Zero Heating achieved by enhancing albedo could stabilise the planetary system quickly and cheaply, by balancing the warming effects with equal and opposite cooling.

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The Invisible Christ

Sermon delivered at Kippax Uniting Church, 23 April 2023

Luke’s gospel tells the story of two disciples walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus on the day Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him (Luke 24:15-16).  This inability of his friends who knew him personally to recognise the risen Christ indicates that Jesus was in some way invisible to them, that the disciples simply could not see him in his glorious reality. 

Why this would be is what I wish to talk about today.  Jesus Christ represents the powerful saving force of God.  The love and grace and humanity of Christ incarnate the presence of God in the world.  This message of the truth of the kingdom of God confronts the false stories of the kingdoms of the world.  Human thought is so conditioned by our worldly situation that the voice of God can barely break through.  There is something so unacceptable about the transformative liberation preached in the Gospels by Christ that his society resorted firstly to crucifixion, and then to blindness in the face of the resurrection. 

A first level of difficulty appears in the Gospel teachings to love enemies, to be poor in spirit, to be generous to those who are least and to care.  These involve too much personal energy for most people to give enough time and attention. The Christian message sounds impossible, a transformation of values to bring in the reign of God.  When the impossible ethics are wrapped in a seemingly impossible literal story, the broader society sees a lack of coherent vision within Christianity. 

And so, when Christ walks with the disciples to Emmaus, after hearing their stories of the cross, he responds, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.” (Luke 24:25-27)

Here Jesus suggests the visible events of the resurrection point to deeper truth of the nature of God that is revealed in prophecy. His statement that the cross was necessary for his glory rests upon the interpretation of scripture, of how the need for a Messiah was a central idea in Judaism, and how he had fulfilled this vision, how redemption and salvation emerge from suffering.

In this conversation Jesus calls the foolish disciples slow of heart to believe.  Many of us may have wished we might have been a bystander listening to the discussion on the road to Emmaus, as Christ brought together all the scriptures to explain their inner meaning.  The nature of God as Father of the world, exercising patient love for the flourishing of life, is a story that rests upon the heart to believe. 

It is quite a challenge to try to reconstruct what Jesus may have said, and easier to blot out this question at the core of faith.  The Old Testament prophets provide a vision of the necessity of a messiah, so the interpretation by Christ of the prophetic explanation of the world must have sought a coherent justification of his identity as only Son of the Father.

My view is that a central part of this Christology of Emmaus, this personal explanation by Christ of his own necessity, rests upon a deeper ancient cosmology that is now only dimly seen.  Astronomy was central to ancient religion, with the visible heavens seen as the orderly presence of the power and glory of God.  Reconstructing how Christ saw his own divinity therefore can place the gospel message against the possible visions of the stars in the prophetic tradition.

In the Lord’s prayer, Christ tells us to pray that the will of God may be done on earth as in heaven.  One way to read this is to ask how the will of God is done in the visible heavens of the Sun and stars.  The spangled night sky is vast, stable and orderly, combining the seemingly unchanging stars with the constantly changing planets.  Finding the order in the cosmos is the central goal of astronomy.

For Christ, this visible cosmic order of the heavens could have provided the source for reflection on how our chaotic planet could aspire toward participation in the cosmic order of grace.  The eternal stability of the stars reflects the infinite and eternal stability of God, against the fragile and confused mentality of humanity.  If our minds could reflect the grandeur of the heavens, we could begin to fully understand what it means to be made in the image of God.

The Christian story is about how we connect with God.  As such it differs from astronomy which only describes the universe in factual terms, without asking how the human soul connects to the universe as a source of meaning and value.  Our connection to the universe should be understood as a big part of our connection to God.  Stories in the Bible show God is deeply mysterious, revealed in creative harmony and beauty.  Our connection to grace, to the orderly harmony and beauty of God, begins with our connection to the presence of God in our natural universe.

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Holistic Thinking – Jung’s Ethical Worldview

Holistic Thinking – Jung’s Ethical Worldview
Presentation by Robbie Tulip

Canberra Jung Society, 5 May 2023

Abstract: The psychology of Carl Jung is based on his holistic philosophy, his assumption that a connection between the individual and the whole of reality at various levels makes an essential contribution to personal and social wellbeing. Holism is “an all-embracing approach that sees things as a cohesive whole rather than a collection of isolated entities, a mind frame that focuses on the big picture” ( His holistic approach led Jung to explore topics such as the spiritual meaning of symbols and the totality of the Self, with valuable ethical and psychological insights.  Jung’s holistic ideas affirm and support cultural identity and diversity, and have broader moral and therapeutic benefits. By contrast, rejection of these ideas leads to a more narrow and exclusive way of thinking. Holism can guide our views on a wide range of fields, including climate change, theology and ecology, offering conceptual grounding for practical visions of reform and transformation.  Jung’s ideas can support what I call a triple paradigm shift, challenging prevailing false assumptions in science, politics and religion.

Giordano Bruno

One of Carl Jung’s heroes was the Renaissance heretic Giordano Bruno, a pioneer of holistic thinking.  When Bruno visited England in 1584 as a refugee from papal tyranny, he found shelter in the court of Queen Elizabeth.  Bruno took advantage of this brief window of peace to write dialogues on the tension between religious tradition and emerging scientific knowledge. His dialogue Ash Wednesday focussed on implications of the discovery that the Earth orbits the Sun. Bruno observed that this paradigm shift had revealed the coherent oneness of nature, supporting a holistic philosophy with no need of any supernatural assumptions about heaven, God or miracles. 

Seeing how everything fitted together opened up a new and accurate vision of our galaxy as composed of millions of Suns within a seemingly infinite universe.  This observation of how the unity of the natural cosmos is governed by consistent causal laws began the scientific revolution, generating dynamic intellectual and social currents that continue today.  The immense differences of view about holistic approaches between science and religion are reflected in how they clash over how humanity can connect to the whole of reality.  Psychology, and especially holistic psychology as explained by Jung, is caught in between these divergent perspectives. 

Bruno’s ideas about the primacy of observation brought him into sharp conflict with the Catholic Church, which burnt him at the stake in Rome in 1600 as a martyr for reason.  Bruno was an emblem of rationality for Carl Jung.  They shared the belief that observation of nature, integrated with spiritual awareness, can enable us to develop a holistic philosophy.  Jung followed in the tradition of scientific enlightenment to explore how systematic understanding of reality can chart an ethical path by combining evidence, logic and intuition.  Jung shared Bruno’s critique of Christian theology, and developed his ideas in ways that are still not well understood.  Jung held that the Christian heritage of the west must inform the holistic platform for a new age, a new systematic understanding of the whole of reality with earthshaking moral and social implications for profound transformation of belief, opening a series of connected paradigm shifts.

All is One

Holistic thinking is at the basis of the axiom in Eastern religions that all is one.  While often challenged as a difficult idea, this sense of cosmic unity reflects the simple observations that everything in the universe is connected and that human life is a part of this natural causal interconnectedness.  Ethical implications of this philosophical spirituality include seeing our own society as part of a single planetary reality, and considering moral questions in terms of the consequences of alternative paths of action.  The scientific assumption that the universe follows consistent natural laws reflects this holistic philosophy.

Bruno and Jung were part of the Hermetic tradition whose roots are thought to reach back to ancient Egypt, developing the axiom that all is one into the principle ‘as above so below’, meaning that the same laws that govern the movements of the stars govern the causal processes on the Earth. Although this principle has mystical origins, it also enabled the scientific revolution, as the intellectual basis of Isaac Newton’s discovery of the law of gravity as the unifying mechanism of the cosmos.

Religion has this same sense of unification inherent to its meaning.  The word religion comes from the same linguistic root as the word ligament.  Just as ligaments are the sinews that hold our skeleton together, religion is imagined as the social construct holding the world together, creating a sense of belonging and trust and shared identity.  Of course, this ideal vision of unity is very far from the reality, but it represents the goal that Jung imagines for religion if it is able to overcome its various pathologies that entrench separation and delusion.


One of Jung’s key ideas was that the human mind is grounded in what he called archetypes of the collective unconscious.  Archetypes are universal structures of the mind that have evolved as part of our genetic inheritance and identity.  This way of thinking by Jung remains controversial, and is targeted toward the scientific integration of spirituality and religion into psychology.  In his 1912 study Transformations and Symbols of the Libido, Jung explored how maturation into individual identity is an inherent endowment of human existence. He argued our maturation is governed by symbolic images that link our conscious mind to a deeply hidden collective psychic background, providing the form of our instincts (p43) as an essential feature of the biological evolution of psychic meaning and purpose. 

Archetypal analysis uses a method known as hermeneutics, the interpretation of sacred wisdom literature and philosophy.  Jung’s holistic hermeneutic was grounded in his wide reading in philosophy and religion, with his theory of archetypes particularly influenced by Immanuel Kant’s idea of the transcendental imagination.  For Kant, the necessary conditions of experience and knowledge can be locally defined, such as space, time and causality.  Through philosophical imagination we can construct a coherent unified vision of the world with a systematic rational explanation.  Jung applied this logical hermeneutic to analysis of incoherent beliefs, as seen in psychopathology, fantasy, religion and mythology, exploring how these may reflect an underlying hidden coherence within the collective unconscious.

A way to place hermeneutics as a path to holistic thinking is from its linguistic origins with the Greek messenger God Hermes or Mercury.  Just as the planet Mercury sits between the Earth and the Sun, so the principles of hermeneutics offer to connect human consciousness with eternal truth.  Jung gave the example of baptism, whose meaning is part of “the rich world of myths that have laid the foundation of religions.” The hermeneutics of baptism offer “profound insight into the marvellously delicate and meaningful network of unconscious determination” (Fordham lecture, 1912).  Archetypes such as the psychological processes behind the initiation process of baptism are our window onto eternity, stable enduring structures of the psyche.  Jung said such symbols cannot be reduced to things generally known, but must be interpreted in hermeneutics to appreciate that we live within “an infinitely complex and variegated picture” (The Structure of the Unconscious, 1916).

Such ideas create a very different perspective from dominant assumptions in the modern secular atheist world, even while Jung maintained deep respect for the scientific values of evidence and logic.  His problem with the scientific tradition was its effort to disenchant nature, based on the modern reductive observation that there is no evidence for the supernatural or magic.  Jung did not argue for the supernatural, but he held that the world is far more complex and mysterious than we appreciate, and that we need a new intuitive agenda of natural re-enchantment, through a focus on how everything is connected in one whole complex web of life, like the natural ecology of an old forest. 

The intellectual and political clash between science and religion partly turns on attitudes toward this holistic psychology, reflecting the difficulties that adherents of conflicting worldviews have in understanding each other, engaging in respectful dialogue and imagining an integrating synthesis of their contrasting views. 


Standing on the shoulders of giants such as Giordano Bruno, Jung sought to integrate faith and reason through a holistic perspective, bringing the tools of logic to analyse the content of religion in a way generally seen as mystical.  Mention of mysticism creates alarm among the scientifically-minded, but all it should mean is that we should aim to place our scientific knowledge within a coherent and systematic philosophical framework whose ultimate nature remains mysterious.  An underlying theme in Jung’s work is humility before the mystery of the whole.  That means exploration of mystical ideas can and should be rationally based, and wholistic psychology should aim to be defensible and contestable.  This scholarly approach is very different from how these topics are widely seen, by both advocates and opponents.

In contrast to the reductive sexual interpretation of Freud, Jung understood libido as an irreducible psychic energy.  For Jung, his focus on holistic thinking, respecting the interconnectedness of everything, provided the basis for his psychoanalytic therapy.  A key element of Jung’s holistic thinking emerges in his new perspective on Christianity, with far reaching ethical and intellectual implications.  Despite his break with Freud, the reductive methods of psychoanalysis remained highly important for Jung’s psychology, aiming to deconstruct our beliefs and practices in order to then reconstruct their real unconscious meaning.

Jung’s Treatment of Christianity

An informative analysis of Jung’s holistic thinking is provided by Murray Stein in his 1985 book Jung’s Treatment of Christianity – The Psychotherapy of a Religious Tradition.  My discussion here draws intensively from this study, which explains how Jung saw the holistic analysis of Christian faith as central to the problem of defining an adequate modern ethic.  All page references are to Stein.

The context is that the modern culture of secular disenchantment has reacted against the doctrinal errors and ethical weaknesses of religion, and instead takes science as its source of meaning.  As a result, Jung contended that society had largely lost contact with the underlying meaning and purpose of religion of providing personal and social connection to deeper shared truths. 

Psychology has an intrinsic connection to religion through exploration of the central role of faith in defining human identity, both consciously and unconsciously.  Explaining why people hold their religious beliefs, and how these beliefs can bring both pathology and fulfilment, is a key issue for psychology. Freud’s atheism sought to reduce religion to an explanation in terms of sexual drives.  For Jung, the role of religion in connecting us to our authentic self, to our community, to our cultural heritage and to a mysterious whole of reality understood as God, has an irreducible dimension that validates the place of spirituality as a central concern for psychology. 

A major problem in religion is its failure to provide a believable and coherent story that gives meaning to life.  The disjointed and implausible nature of religious belief is a source of psychological trauma, both for believers and for non-believers, and for the moral compass of society.  Jung approached religious incoherence as a psychological malady in need of therapeutic healing, while respecting the immense complexity of these questions.  His psychotherapy sought rational understanding of the psychology of religion, with a growing focus especially in his later writings on how religion could reform in a holistic direction.  His analysis was opposed to any apologetic or metaphysical defence of traditional religious views.  

Despite his critical stance, Jung was sympathetic to Christianity.  He regarded Jesus Christ as the archetype of the Self, the symbol of human wholeness and integrity, representing how our shattered humanity can be redeemed through a restored connection to the whole. Manifesting the holy, Christ represents for Jung a sacred marriage of heaven and earth, or spirit and matter (p149).  These ideas are very different from conventional theology about the saving role of Christ as expressed in literal dogma.  Instead, Jung imagined a future form of faith that would alter its basic assumptions about central matters of belief such as the transcendence of God and historicity of Jesus, while retaining high respect for the heritage of faith.   Jung’s passionate interest in heretical hermetic ideas about Christian theology has suggested to some that he was a prophet, imagining a transformation of religion to accord with the spiritual needs of a New Age.

As a doctor of souls, treating hundreds of patients each year, Jung’s clinical practice was therapeutic, helping people who lacked a sense of belonging and identity to restore their sense of self. His emphasis was the need for strong focus on holistic understanding. He brought this therapeutic model to his study of Christianity, essentially treating the whole of Christian doctrine and history like a patient coming for psychological analysis.  Such a generalising of the doctor-patient relationship reflects an effort to assess the trauma of modernity as a whole.  The growing psychological gap between broadly held opinions and reality is manifested in how the individual ego or a whole culture can become unmoored from reality and its interconnections. When we understand how we are connected to the whole of reality, we are better able to accept and live with this sense of connection as the basis of our ethical values, overcoming barriers that divide us from each other and from the natural world.

Jung’s therapeutic focus in the psychology of religion was on analysing the pathology of fractured and deluded conventional doctrines and beliefs, in order to imagine more coherent explanations of the data.  Religious language is often delusional.  The reliance of theology on ideas that are based in myth rather than observation creates a disjuncture between faith and reason, separating conventional faith from holistic integral perspectives.  The pietistic context of Jung’s society saw many people holding literal beliefs that were untrue. This syndrome of delusion produces psychological pathology and continues to generate trauma today.  Jung thought deeply about how best to help people in this situation, how to help bring his patients toward personal psychological wholeness, and how to imagine new integral visions of wholeness incubating in the collective unconscious.  He formed the view that social therapy requires challenge to Christian doctrine, within a context of support for the social value and heritage of the church, in order to facilitate religious and theological reflection on psychological wholeness (p22).

Jung’s therapeutic approach to religion aimed to heal the split between consciousness and the unconscious.  Neurosis arises when the psychic energy of libido is blocked, whereas achievement of psychological wholeness enables the free flow of libido, liberating our creative potential.  Neurotic blockages within Christianity include the portrayal of God as exclusively male, repressing the equality of the divine feminine, and the traditional assumption that Biblical narratives reflect actual history rather than events of symbolic imagination and meaning.  Jung’s analysis shows that deconstructing conventional beliefs, exploring how they arose, their social function, and their many anomalies, can support a constructive rebuilding of faith.  The goal is to engage with modern ethical concern, seeing achievement of wholeness as the original purpose of faith.

In his 1921 essay Psychological Types Jung explored how an enlightened understanding of the psychic energies of libido can transform our lives, bringing repressed elements into awareness and adapting our personality and ego from restrictive constructed limitations toward an understanding of the innate wholeness of the self.  In this process religion can either operate as a repressive barrier to understanding or can help heal the damage.  A constructive role of religion can accept its symbols as sources of creative energy and meaning, in a higher form of integration that is in large part unconscious. 

Jung’s attitude toward Christianity was ambiguous.  Growing up with a father and six uncles who were parsons in the Swiss Reformed church, he found his analytic and therapeutic assumptions were not understood or shared in church circles. That led him to an ambivalent attitude, identifying as a Christian but not with the church, a sense that traditional faith was a spiritual wasteland.  He found no answers in the church to his existential dilemmas about the problem of evil, or any interest in rational explanations of dogma. He saw his father as sadly crippled by his lack of intellectual interest in the meaning of faith, and was indignant at how his father had fallen victim to mumbo-jumbo and fancy drivel. He perceived his society as experiencing a broad cultural crisis of faith where direct spiritual experience was absent. 

By contrast Jung himself was passionate about discovering fundamental truths about humanity and the cosmos. His holistic hermeneutic method is reflected in the statement in his memoirs that “God himself had disavowed theology and the church founded upon it.”  This means that only an authentically holistic method grounded in observation and logic can restore meaning to religious language. It is impossible to achieve a holistic perspective when the only options are materialistic reduction that abandons all faith or supernatural belief that sacrifices the intellect.  Jung’s program sought a scientific study of the soul, while respecting the mystical sense of eternal transcendence in religion. Jung’s holy grail was the quest for a new containing and ordering mythos, an acceptable healing story that would explain the meaning and purpose of life.

This mysticism clashed with the reductionism of Freud.  Jung found Freud to be like his own father, dogmatic, rationalistic and narrow-minded.  Neither Freud nor Jung senior could appreciate the high holistic spiritual vision that Jung saw as essential and vital. The empty shell of Christianity was like the sexual dogma of Freud, and like so many other limited ideologies, a partial explanation that refused to consider the whole.

Jung developed his theory of psychological wholeness in his 1921 publication Psychological Types, the ground-breaking work that is the source of the Myers-Briggs classification of eight personality types.  The spectrum between introversion or extraversion, sensing or intuition, thinking or feeling, and judging or perceiving seeks to encompass the range of healthy human possibility.  The observation that no single perspective can tell the whole story of psychic wholeness helps to explain the distortions and assumptions in human relations.  By outlining these character types, Jung sought to imagine wholeness as a healing therapeutic goal.  He argued in Psychological Types that the partiality of Christianity, its lack of wholeness, reflects its dominant traditions of extraversion, feeling and intuition, and its rejection of the compensatory more introverted traditions of mysticism and philosophy.

Jung’s extensive interest in eastern religion and philosophy reflects this wish to understand how spirituality can support a path to psychological wholeness.  His Introduction to the I Ching, the ancient Chinese oracle, is an example of these holistic goals, reflected in his concept of synchronicity, the idea that all events occurring at any given instant reflect the combined causal qualities of that moment in time.  He controversially argues that divination can access the intuitive wisdom of the collective unconscious, contrary to prevailing Western biases.  His sympathy for oracular language, seen also in his interest in alchemy and tarot, claims that we can gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world through these neglected occult sources.  As the world now seeks greater respect for indigenous culture, Jung’s sympathetic interest in indigenous religious traditions such as shamanism informed his work on dreams and the unconscious. These esoteric interests reflect Jung’s belief in a world soul, an anima mundi, bridging the spiritual and material realms as a healing symbol of wholeness and connection and a response to cultural crisis. 

In his old age, the question of Christianity and wholeness became Jung’s abiding therapeutic interest, through his essays on the Trinity, the Mass, the book of Job and others.  He saw this intellectual analysis of culture as providing diagnosis, treatment and prognosis as doctor to a sick tradition.

Jung’s 1948 essay A Psychological Approach to the Dogma of the Trinity is discussed in depth by Murray Stein in Jung’s Treatment of Christianity. Beginning with an intriguing discussion of the numerous triadic parallels in other religions, Jung saw this widespread mythological pattern of three in one as an example of an innate and indestructible holistic archetype of the collective unconscious. This pervasive story is reflected in the mathematical dialectic whereby a third factor provides a connection between two opposing factors, such as in how a child brings together attributes of the father and mother. 

However, the social distortions of Christianity, notably its patriarchal exclusion of the divine feminine, meant the Trinity failed to integrate the whole.  Jung argues that this incompleteness appears in the exclusion of the dark side of reality from the story of Christ, and in a general failure of Christian theology to explain the problem of evil.  This brought him to the rather perplexing idea, partly grounded in his interest in Buddhist mandalas, that the symbol of three in the Trinity should be replaced by a symbol of four, a quaternity, as a basis for a new reformation of Christianity.  He argued, quite obscurely, that three represents ideal spiritual perfection while four represents worldly physical completeness.

This numerological argument is interesting to consider, in terms of how these abstract number symbols might relate to moves toward cultural wholeness. Jung recognises that the Trinity served as a formula of wholeness for Christendom, but observes that it has lost this power in modern times, so he is speculating about what symbols might now serve this function of connecting society to a holistic vision.  However, his idea of the four replacing the three is unsatisfactory.  There is no reason why the numerous religious symbols of four, such as the four evangelists, the four living creatures, the four points of the cross, the four directions of the compass and the four elements of fire, earth, air and water, cannot sit equally alongside triadic symbols.

These quaternal symbols are better understood as integrating with triadic symbols to form more complex visions of the whole than as somehow replacing the triad.  One way to consider this is that multiplication of three times four generates the spiritually significant number twelve, seen in the twelve months of the year and related Biblical ideas of the twelve disciples and tribes, while three plus four produces the seven days of creation and the week.  Triadic structures appear in modern philosophy.  Hegel’s dialectic of thesis, antithesis and synthesis is the best known, as a way to achieve systematic wholeness in the evolution of ideas.  Another example is Heidegger’s existential metaphysical system, replacing the trinity with nature, language and truth in the place of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Jung’s surprising view is that the Trinity might be made complete by the addition of worldly evil as a fourth point, recognising the power of the world. A basic problem here is that evil undermines completeness rather than adding to it.  Evil is the negative force of separation, destruction and delusion, and as such cannot be seen as a positive cosmic force in the same way that good can.  For Jung to describe the kingdom of the world as “a power opposed to God” is certainly true, but worldly power that creates its own reality in opposition to God can only survive for a short time and is not a cosmic principle.  The old idea known as Manichaeism whereby the cosmos has rival good and evil powers was rejected by the Christian teaching that evil only arises as a corruption of the good, and that good alone is attuned to the cosmos, meaning the Earth itself is good. 

The Christian vision of God can be re-imagined, in my view, as the features of the cosmos that support the sustained flourishing of life and complexity. That means opposition to God is opposition to sustainability.  Any worldly powers that oppose God in this way are destined to collapse.  This interpretation finds support in the Biblical idea that the wrath of God is against those who destroy the Earth (Rev 11:18).  Our sense of wholeness needs to be integrated into a vision of the good, of how the world can be improved.  I don’t agree with Jung that things that destroy wholeness can be part of our sense of completeness, except in the sense that God is understood as present even in the parts of nature that are destructive, as death is part of the renewal of natural cycles.  These ideas can help to see how theology could respond in dialogue to the challenges that Jung raises.  His observation that theology has lost its ability to convince and heal should be recognised as a serious invitation to dialogue, respecting scientific and spiritual critiques of traditional belief and leaving aside the old dogmatic arrogance. 

A better way to reconsider the Trinity, in my view, is to see a holistic natural trinity of Heaven, Earth and Life as equating symbolically to Father, Mother and Child, restoring the divine feminine within the sacred economy. A shift from the false patriarchal hostility toward the sanctity of the earth is needed, restoring the spiritual respect for Mother Earth as Gaia.  In this natural trinity, Heaven represents the orderly paternal principle of God the Father seen in the stability of the stars, Earth is the maternal principle of compassion and support reflected in distorted form in the Christian tradition of the Holy Spirit, and Life is the integrating synthesis of Heaven and Earth symbolised by Jesus Christ as the enlightened vision of what is needed to save the world from its path toward destruction. This finite trinitarian model presents the holistic human perspective as its basis. 

Jung explored his theological critique further in Transformation Symbols in the Mass, where he argued that the suppressed ancient heretical movement of Gnosticism had precisely the same holistic agenda of seeing Christ as a saving symbol of the original unity of humanity: “bringing order into chaos, resolving disharmonies [and…] reuniting consciousness with the unconscious” (p137). The implication is that Christian orthodoxy, through its alliance with the state and its masculine vision of God, has repudiated the holistic thinking needed to save the world, but that this saving thinking is actually present within Christian origins and can be rekindled today.  A repentant sense of guilt about mistakes, integrating our shadow in what Jung calls “the chiaroscuro of life” (p145), is needed to restore wholeness, transforming the bereft strife of modern life.

Like the Trinity, Jung explains that the communion ritual of the Eucharist has parallels in other cultures.  The Eucharist has an archetypal psychological purpose as a living mystery and a personal and social symbol of atonement.  But for Christianity to become at one with the cosmos, it has to find more humility in seeing its own traditions as one partial expression among many, rather than an exclusive truth.  In this way the Mass can represent renewal of wholeness with universal meaning across cultures.  Jung sees this potential for wholeness through the Mass in his comment that Christ is “perhaps the most highly developed symbol of the self apart from Buddha” (p142). 

Stein observes that “Jung identified with the Hermetic underground tradition in European cultural history” (140).  The Hermetic tradition, exemplified in writers such as Giordano Bruno, is a concealed and suppressed esoteric way of thought.  Its popular image is concerned only with practices of occult magic. However, Hermetism can relate constructively to theology through its tradition of wisdom philosophy, maintaining that hidden symbolic meaning behind the literal imperial doctrines of the church can be explored through a coherent critique of religion and society, seeking holistic integration of the psyche. Seeing the Mass against this hidden esoteric meaning indicates for Jung how the unconscious inner meaning in Christian practice can be discovered and transformed and reborn.

Jung argued that the losses involved in the Christian separation between spirit and nature were psychologically necessary in the patriarchal world of the early church, but this theological move created a serious split in the psyche.  The current move toward gender equality enables a reform of spirituality to integrate with nature, toward a healing wholeness.  In this area Jung foreshadowed much modern feminist and ecological spirituality.  These themes of integrating nature and spirit are central to the idea that Jung was the prophetic father of the New Age.  

The key text that expands Jung’s holistic thinking about imagining a future New Age for our planet is Aion – Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self, published in 1951.  Jung said the purpose of this book was to explain “the relations between the traditional Christ-figure and the natural symbols of wholeness” (p147).  He achieved this by seeing these natural symbols of wholeness in visual astronomy, understanding how our Earth is connected to the slow encompassing patterns of the cosmos as part of the whole.  He saw restoring understanding of this root of our being as able to heal the alienation and delusion experienced by the modern world.  This method, seeing astronomy as the context for mythology, supports the scientific paradigm shift in Jung’s ideas by proposing an integration between the descriptive observations available from empirical science and a holistic study of human perspective. 

Beginning with the astronomy of how the stars imperceptibly move against the annual seasons, one degree per lifetime, known as precession of the equinox, Jung explains the direct causal correlation between this observation and the whole mythological structure of Christianity.  He observes that the story of Jesus Christ is set exactly when the equinox moved from the constellation of Aries into Pisces, and this has extensive symbolic correlation, such as with images of the fish and the lamb.  These correlations can only be based on lost ancient ideas that underly the surviving texts, combined with intuitive ideas arising from the collective unconscious. 

These findings provide a profound basis to shift the paradigm of Christianity from simple supernatural belief to complex scientific knowledge, by interpreting all Christian texts as primarily symbolic rather than literal.  The scientific paradigm shift from description alone to an explanation of human connection with the cosmos combines with the religious paradigm shift from literal belief to symbolic knowledge.

The scientific and religious implications of precession is a topic I have investigated in some depth.  In my recently published paper The Physics of Astrological Ages, I show these concepts can integrate into scientific understanding of astronomy in a transformative and compelling way, to help explain the evolution of consciousness. These claims are supported by the direct correlation between precessional myth and the long term structure of terrestrial time discovered in climate science.

In Aion, Jung uses precession to “show the development, extending over the centuries, of the religious content which Christ represented… to show how Christ could have been astrologically predicted, and how he was understood both in terms of the spirit of his age and in the course of two thousand years of Christian civilization” (p149).  Implications for religion and society today emerge from Jung’s statement that “the old myth needs to be clothed anew in every renewed age if it is not to lose its therapeutic effect” (p156).  Taking Hegel’s triadic dialectic, we can see traditional Christian faith as a thesis, to which the scientific revolution counterposed an antithesis, creating the need now for an integrating synthesis of wholeness, recognising the merits and pitfalls in these conflicting traditions.  The narrative framing of this imaginative vision can provide the symbolic meaning of the coming New Age of Aquarius over the next two millennia, as a time when a new holistic ethical vision will develop a coherent critique of the dangerous forces now governing our world.

In Aion, and in his Answer to Job, Jung expresses the fear that the Promethean energies of human technology will destroy us. He argues a shift of ethos is needed toward an ethical understanding of psychological and planetary wholeness.  As we imagine the future guided by this transformative holistic thinking, Jung’s ideas can help us analyse the political and ideological problems of our world. 

To conclude, I would like to explain my view on the political paradigm shift that is emerging in response to the scientific and religious shifts foreshadowed by Jung.  This shift appears particularly in relation to climate change, where the inability to think globally is creating the urgent risk of catastrophe.  However, this inability occurs as much within the scientific community as among the deniers of science.  Recent work has shown that our planet is approaching a series of cascading tipping points, changing the stable climate systems in dramatic ways.  However, just cutting emissions is too small, slow, costly and contested to stop these looming changes.  If we learn to think holistically, we can learn that a new form of global thinking, focussing on the planetary heat balance, can enable us to prioritise different responses in order to support those with the best overall cooling effects.  A key theme is planetary albedo or brightness, understood in physical, emotional and intellectual terms.  Reflecting more sunlight back to space is needed to brighten our mood. As Carl Jung invites us to catch his holistic vision of a New Age, we can apply his ideas to the pressing ethical problems of planetary reality, integrating science and spirituality to create new ways of global peaceful cooperation, as we seek to identify and promote everything that is good.

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Shakespeare’s Richard the Third – His Own and Almost Only Expositor

Shakespeare’s Richard the Third – His Own and Almost Only Expositor

Robbie Tulip

Published in Spirit of the Mountains – Tributes in Honour of James Tulip 2020

In helping my Dad sort through his papers a few years ago, I wanted to see his PhD thesis, Richard III: A Study of the Elizabethan Villain-Hero.  Dad and I had discussed themes in his doctorate, how Shakespeare drew from the rich legacy of English cultural traditions of popular religious theatre in forming his depiction of King Richard as villain-hero, how the motiveless malignity of the dramatic villain has an enduring popular fascination, and how ‘glorious villains’ from Elizabethan theatre, such as Iago, Richard, Volpone and others, as well as inglorious rogues like Macbeth, conceal deeply complex moral dilemmas and traumas beneath a seemingly simple surface appearance, producing the paradox of heroism within villainy. 

The continuity that his thesis analyzed between Richard and Satan as main characters in English drama reveals much about Dad’s basic views on theology, exploring depictions of God as a metaphor for historical characters and events.  The medieval morality and mystery plays, with God and Satan in lead roles, provided important cultural antecedents for the Elizabethan dramatists, even though these Catholic traditions had been suppressed by the Protestant Reformation.  Finding the links of memetic cultural evolution and analogy in the Christian framing of Richard III became for Dad a forensic detective exercise, showing how the modern secular world of court politics in Shakespeare’s portrayal had a metaphorical relationship with divine themes that previously had been presented in the theatre in terms of sacred myth.

A thesis in the humanities should be a window on the soul.  The veins of symbolism, metaphor, culture and politics in this thesis reveal much about Dad’s worldview, while providing fascinating and insightful scholarly angles on Shakespeare and his world. In particular, Dad’s attitude toward theology had a sophistication and wisdom far more subtle and complex than most people understand.  Rather than treating figures like Satan and God against the scientific hypothesis that they are existing entities, he ignored such crude literalism in favour of the much more profound and important context of what these divine myths mean in their enduring cultural function as social constructs.   The depth of character created by the hypothesis that Shakespeare deliberately based his construction of Richard on the old cultural typology of Satan places the work in a vast and rich cultural space, opening realms of meaning not available to a merely secular interpretation.

The political importance of this analysis is that the modern world tends to discount the rationality of culture dating from before the Renaissance, and thereby frames its understanding against the scientific enlightenment as the founding story.  Showing the great debt that Shakespeare owed to the medieval world, and especially to Christianity, is essential to placing our modern search for meaning in its real historical context.

However, there was a problem.  Dad was not sure where his doctorate was. He had left Chicago in such a rush in 1962, together with my mother Marie and my elder brother Peter, to take up his new position in the English Department at the University of Sydney, that he never obtained a bound copy.  So I was pleased in hunting through his filing cabinets to find a chapter of the thesis with his final pencil notes to the typist.  But that was all.  Perhaps it was lost.  Some good news came a few weeks later.  Dad’s wife Peggy and my brother Bill were continuing to help arrange Dad’s papers, with some more urgency following his mesothelioma cancer diagnosis.  An old rusty filing cabinet with no key had turned up under the house, and the bumping noises when it was tipped over showed it had something inside. But what?  A kind neighbour helped to open this treasure chest with an angle grinder, and lo and behold out fell the rest of the final draft.  But still no clean copy.

The quest had me intrigued.  I went to the website of the library of the University of Chicago, and found Dad’s thesis in the catalogue.  I rang them to request a copy, and very promptly, for about $50, they emailed a full pdf.  Next Dad’s good friend and colleague Michael Griffith converted this file to machine readable form, and uploaded it on dad’s blog,, where everyone can now read it.[1] And it is very worth reading. 

Dad commented at his blog that the villain-hero theme of the thesis highlights his life-time absorption in this central location of creative energy in English literature, in the historical and political dynamics of evil.  For Dad, travelling across the world from the cultural wasteland of North Queensland to the great intellectual metropolis of Chicago to study the sublime dramatic genius of Shakespeare gave him a rather unique global triangulation on key points of the Anglosphere, from Australia, the USA and England. This broad wholistic perspective on the world, considered through the lens of villain as hero, was philosophical as well as literary and geographic.  He explains in his thesis that he sought to follow Aristotle’s causal model to analyze the text, not by the common method of isolating some narrow feature, but looking for its formal cause, its unified meaning as a whole.[2]  This search for formal meaning in the structure of evil is the aspect of the thesis that I will focus on, leaving aside the equally interesting material on Shakespeare’s material sources. 

The thesis has six chapters, exploring Shakespeare’s sources in the historical chronicles and in the early drama of the popular morality and mystery and miracle texts, while also looking at how the rival playwrights Jonson and Marlowe also made use of this earlier material and of the Roman theatrical tradition from Seneca.  The analogy between Richard and the medieval vices is the theme that most strongly resonates with Dad’s subsequent interests in the relationship between literature and spirituality, although the droll irony in his analysis of Thomas More’s History of King Richard is equally captivating. A key observation is that “while Shakespeare found the material for his play in the Chronicles, he found the form of his protagonist and of his play’s structure generally in the tradition of the native stage.”[3]

As ever, the opening line of a literary work sets its tone and direction. Richard’s ‘winter of discontent made glorious summer’ is among the most famous scene-setters for its ironic reversal.  Dad opens his thesis by observing that “the many ‘glorious’ villains of the Elizabethan stage have long suffered from being their own, and almost only, expositors”.[4] Scoundrels such as Richard, Barabas, Volpone and Iago gratuitously announce their villainy to the audience, presenting a caricature that somehow reduces the level of interest they create as dramatic characters. Such simplicity has origins in the morality play figure of Satan and ongoing popularity from Mister Punch through to Hollywood. 

Richard says at the outset “And thus I clothe my naked villainy with old odd ends stolen out of holy writ; And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.”[5] This announcement of his evil intent has made Richard seem a simple character to some scholarship. The devilish trope connects the simplistic surface appearance with the punitive morality of the dramatic genre, setting up the wicked for the inevitable fall.   While entertaining on the stage, this blatancy of evil leaves critics with less of the meaty ambiguity offered by a melancholy tragedy like Hamlet.  Therefore, the thesis observes that Richard and his fellow criminals have languished with a relative lack of critical attention.  The uncomfortable admiration the audience feels for the villain-hero despite his comeuppance leads in criticism to an air of disdain and neglect, with scholarly work tending to give more attention to the true tragedy where the hero does not deserve his fate. Yet the complexity emerges as we see how Shakespeare himself conceals his own theft in the depiction of Richard, if not out of holy writ then from its staging in popular tradition.

My focus here is the core argument in the thesis that “the essence … of the villain-hero can only be apprehended through the historical tradition from which this character sprang, the tradition of the Devils and Vices of the native English stage”.[6]   Shakespeare’s brilliance emerges perhaps most clearly in his deft construction of character.  With Richard his hidden method is to bring the deep symbolic meaning in mythological stories into the historical drama of the clash of kings, weaving from methods hitherto used in sacred material to inform a modern secular work. 

The genius of Shakespeare in distinguishing characters is explored in the thesis by comparing Richard with Macbeth.[7]  Both are anti-heroes punished as usurpers in a moral fable, but their personalities could not be more different.  As the Bard draws us into the contrasting minds and personalities of his villains, we begin to understand the artistry of allowing their own voices to typify human traits, whether of mischief, pride, ambition or weakness.  And the type of Richard as Devil has a universal resonance in the history of ideas through its mythological continuity.

The popular English medieval pageants provide a near exact analogue for the career of Richard: “Satan finds himself in a world completely ordered by God. He smarts under the orthodoxy of this Establishment, finding in himself powers and qualities that demand an outlet. This obsession with his own strength or beauty then directs itself to the throne of God, and the opportunity presents itself when God absents himself for a short while. Satan proceeds to sit on the throne to the dismay of his fellow angels. The denouement simply awaits the return of God, who punishes the usurper by casting him out of heaven.”[8]

The thesis explains that Satan’s few exulting moments on the throne parallel the brief pleasure that Shakespeare observes in downplaying the coronation scenes of Richard and Macbeth. The many pertinent parallels extend from Richard’s opening monologue to the presentation of his entire career. “In the three pageants at the beginning of the Mysteries— the Fall of Lucifer, the Temptation of Eve, and the Cain and Abel story- a significant pattern appears that corresponds to the pattern of Richard’s opening monologue, his wooing of Anne, and the murder of Clarence. The general sequence from the presentation of Satanic nature to the temptation of a woman to the fratricide leads the spectator to infer Richard’s demonic nature. To an Elizabethan audience it would surely have been an elaborate and sustained sign of Richard as the devil incarnate.” [9]

Further to this use of Satan, Shakespeare’s key formal source for his characterization of Richard is the Morality tradition, with its character of Vice, whom Richard explicitly compares himself to as “the formal Vice Iniquity”.[10]  Structural devices such as ritual and stylized depiction reveal this debt, even while the political story is wrapped within the ontology of the Tudor Myth, “God’s plan to restore England to prosperity”.[11] This formal archetypal level of derivation from the Morality Play raises Richard III above its material story, creating a timeless character, abstracted from history. 

The Mystery cycles follow Satan’s career from his fall from heaven to his role in the Crucifixion to his defeat on Judgment Day. “He is presented as a figure of absolute evil who for being thwarted in his beginnings turns to deceit and dissimulation in order to destroy the divine scheme first through Eve then through God’s chosen People until he attains a moment of triumph in the Crucifixion. But no sooner is he victorious than he falls, for his victim, Jesus Christ, shows his symbolic superiority in harrowing hell to its very foundations. The Resurrection is an earnest of the new dispensation and the numbered days of Satan close with the Last Judgment. In his end, however, Satan makes one last desperate attempt to fulfill his nature through the Antichrist. The general correspondence of the career of Shakespeare’s Richard to this pattern must be obvious; the Antichrist legend in itself is an epitome of usurpation.”[12]

Shakespeare’s intimate connection with the popular timeless religious dramatic traditions of political morality, with their simple direct character titles, is further analysed in the thesis against an Elizabethan morality play dating from 1553, Respublica – A Play on the Social Conditions of England at the Accession of Queen Mary.[13]  Respublica “describes how Avarice and his three accomplices Insolence, Adulation, and Oppression conspire to deceive the helpless widow Respublica. They do so by assuming the names of Policy, Authority, Honesty, and Reformation, and are successful in duping her but not in silencing the complaints of People. Respublica’s state is one of perplexed ignorance as to what is wrong with her ailing nation and she has to be shown the truth by a supernatural visitation on the part of the four daughters of God – Mercy, Truth, Peace, and Justice. They reveal the true natures of the Vices but it is left for the figure of Nemesis to resolve the play by punishing the Vices each according to his degree of villainy.”[14] Respublica has “virtually all the structural elements of our villain-hero plays worked out on a generic level. In plot, theme, and character the analogues to Richard III are striking.”[15]

With this traditional style of naming each character for a moral trait, in order to show the hypocrisy at large in the world (and with ongoing relevance today), Respublica forms a bridge between Shakespeare’s Richard and the old Easter folk traditions of the native mystery cycles, some of which are now again performed at cathedrals and theatres such as in Chester, York, Lincoln and Lichfield. In drawing on these traditions, Shakespeare reflects the gradual evolutionary secularization of mythology, from Satan as an imaginary Lord of Hell to Richard as an actual king who serves as a convenient butt for demonization.   

“Richard loves Richard”, as Shakespeare has the evil king mutter to himself on Bosworth Field, retaining his isolated self-absorption as he faces his destruction. A sad irony in Dad’s opening observation that Richard is his own best expositor is that Dad himself, while entirely the opposite of a villain, could have benefited from a keener focus on self-promotion. He never achieved the career potential that could have come from converting his PhD into a book, with the public influence and recognition that publishing such a valuable work of scholarly exposition would have brought.  The broadness of his theme – how Shakespeare’s approach to character reflected English cultural traditions – led Dad to leave aside any direct follow up on his doctorate, and instead to pursue wider interests including the interrelationships between literature and spirituality.  Valuable as his subsequent research into Ben Jonson and modern American and Australian poetry was, his lack of scholarly self-promotion was unfortunate, considering the rich material in his thesis as a powerful exposition of the religious influence on Shakespeare. 

The scholarly method used in the thesis finds structural parallels between different works in order to understand the history of ideas in terms of cultural evolution.  This is undoubtedly controversial and somewhat speculative.  Similar methods have been used to compare Jesus Christ to a range of earlier mythological figures, often in ways not broadly accepted.  My sense is that this method is of immense importance in forming a good appreciation of the influences and motives that act upon writers of great literature.  As in Isaac Newton’s phrase about himself, Shakespeare saw further by standing on the shoulders of giants.  Understanding who these giants were, including in popular religious theatre, helps us to understand Shakespeare’s often understated relation to Christianity, and also to appreciate the intimate links between literature and spirituality that informed all of Dad’s scholarship.

[1] Nano is the zany dwarf in Ben Jonson’s play Volpone.

[2] p7

[3] p85

[4]  p1

[5] I,iii,324-338

[6] p4

[7] Drawing from a 1785 Commentary, Whately’s Remarks on Some of the Characters of Shakespeare

[8] p162

[9] p168

[10] III,i,82-83 156

[11]  p20

[12] p161

[13] Respublica full text and commentary:

[14] p202

[15] p34

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Debating The Voice with Conservatives

Debating The Voice With Conservatives

The Australian newspaper published this letter from me on 10 November. 

Voice of reason

The concepts of reconciliation, recognition and respect raised in the dialogue on the Indigenous voice are essentially religious and spiritual in nature. Much Australian secular politics tends to see religion as unimportant or meaningless, and yet throughout history religion has been central to social cohesion and identity. The SBS television documentary The Australian Wars revealed major issues of genocide that remain an unacknowledged stain on the

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Berlin Tourism

In the last week of my visit to Berlin I was able to do some great visits to interesting places.

On Monday I caught the train south from Berlin to the city of Dresden.  Known as

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