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 Post subject: TL Question #12a - Resistance to God
PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 10:12 am 
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Today’s question will be a two parter. I'll post the second question this afternoon.

Pg. 83. SACKVILLE: My Lord had never believed in God because of Mr. Wyndham at the battle of Bergen. The night before the engagement, my Lord and Mr. Wyndham being possessed of a premonition of death made a solemn bond that if either was killed he should return to the survivor with tidings of the afterlife. Lights up on the DOWNS actor: his face is bloody. DOWNS: Where is the spark? Where is the spark? SACKVILLE: The next day a cannon ball carried away Mr. Wyndham’s belly. He not appearing from the grave, my Lord thenceforward turned his face from God.

Do you really think this was at the root of the Earl’s resistance to the Lord or do you think it was bigger than that?

Does it stem from some other experience he had?

Is there a connection at this point in the play to Downs?



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 10:49 am 
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There's no doubt that that incident shook him badly. And the fact that there was no visit from the afterlife didn't help. But there were other factors. He saw a lot of people die gruesomely in the Dutch War, and in the end Charles had to more or less capitulate because it was clear the war was not going to be won. To Rochester that made all those deaths meaningless (would that more champions of war would take that view!). The devastatiuon of the plague, and the tragedy of the London fire, further strengthened his view that there could be no God. Also, all his high-hopes for Charles' kingship to be one of integrity and virture came to nothing. So he was a bitterly disillusioned man, and God was not forthcoming with answers.

Underneath it all, though, I don't think the Earl was really ever able to give up his spiritual beliefs. I think he hid from them behind a veil of alcohol. I believe that is part of the reason for his deperate unhappiness. He was suffering from cognitive dissonance on a massive level. When he was near the end of his life, and no longer able to drink enough to hide from his inner convictions, he re-connected with his spiritual beliefs



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 10:58 am 
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lumineuse wrote:
There's no doubt that that incident shook him badly. And the fact that there was no visit from the afterlife didn't help. But there were other factors. He saw a lot of people die gruesomely in the Dutch War, and in the end Charles had to more or less capitulate because it was clear the war was not going to be won. To Rochester that made all those deaths meaningless (would that more champions of war would take that view!). The devastatiuon of the plague, and the tragedy of the London fire, further strengthened his view that there could be no God. Also, all his high-hopes for Charles' kingship to be one of integrity and virture came to nothing. So he was a bitterly disillusioned man, and God was not forthcoming with answers.

Underneath it all, though, I don't think the Earl was really ever able to give up his spiritual beliefs. I think he hid from them behind a veil of alcohol. I believe that is part of the reason for his deperate unhappiness. He was suffering from cognitive dissonance on a massive level. When he was near the end of his life, and no longer able to drink enough to hide from his inner convictions, he re-connected with his spiritual beliefs


I think you are right Lumi, it may well be part of why he hides behind the alcohol and the way he is. War experienced at close hand changes people in ways that those who have not witnessed it can't imagine, I am sure that many people experience spiritual changes whether you have strong faith or not. Some people find their faith helps them to work through it, but others I think often go the other way as it is possible Rochester did, he also may have felt total guilt at being spared, a common feeling I believe among those who have faught next to their friends and lost them.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 12:06 pm 
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Gilbert's Girl wrote:
he also may have felt total guilt at being spared, a common feeling I believe among those who have faught next to their friends and lost them.


I think that is a good point, GG. And that could be part of why he does not want us to like him.



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 3:29 pm 
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Yes I agree with these points.

I think Wyndham's death had a profound effect on Rochester, but there were other factors, too, that made him what I would term an agnostic. He was a highly intelligent and (for his time) well educated man. I think he was constantly reading, observing life and searching for God. I think he wanted to believe but there was a rational side to his personality that made him constantly question the evidence for God's existence. His disillusionment with the King (remembering that in those days a King was almost universally considered to be God's representative on earth), coupled with the events of his life, and his drink-fuelled depressions caused him to lose faith.

His famous (or infamous) "death bed conversion" is a much debated point among his biographers.

SPOILER WARNING!!!!!!!!!!

I must say I think Rochester's final monologue in the film addresses the question of the "death bed conversion" perfectly - we are still left wondering did he turn towards God in the end or away? Fascinating.



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 3:53 pm 
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Jackslady wrote:
Yes I agree with these points.

I think Wyndham's death had a profound effect on Rochester, but there were other factors, too, that made him what I would term an agnostic. He was a highly intelligent and (for his time) well educated man. I think he was constantly reading, observing life and searching for God. I think he wanted to believe but there was a rational side to his personality that made him constantly question the evidence for God's existence. His disillusionment with the King (remembering that in those days a King was almost universally considered to be God's representative on earth), coupled with the events of his life, and his drink-fuelled depressions caused him to lose faith.

His famous (or infamous) "death bed conversion" is a much debated point among his biographers.

SPOILER WARNING!!!!!!!!!!

I must say I think Rochester's final monologue in the film addresses the question of the "death bed conversion" perfectly - we are still left wondering did he turn towards God in the end or away? Fascinating.


We will, in fact, be discussing the deathbed conversion controversy later today.

I agree with you, that part of his stumbling block was his rational mind that caused him to question. However, I also think it was convenient for him not to believe. If he didn't believe, it would follow that he didn't have to obey the Commandments. Thus he could continue his debauchery.



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 9:44 pm 
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Of course it was devestating to Charles. The plague wiped out a third of Europe's population. War is also horrible and many men get PTSD. Post tramautic stress disorder. It's just horrible to watch your best friend die in front of you. It destroys you. You blame yourself when it wasn't really your fault. The Lord works in mysterious ways and this was just one of them.



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 11:16 pm 
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lumi..I totally agree with what you say about Rochester's spirituality being masked by the excess,but came through in the end, when there was no more need to pretend..It's hard to say what caused the disillusionment..The war experience certainly coloured it,but I also think it was being at Court and seeing the excess free from constraint that prevailed there.And he was really young..



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PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 1:45 am 
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This passage of the play didn't ring entirely true for me. I've not read any biographies of Rochester (while I hope to), but it seems I read somewhere that the promise that he and his friend made to each other did actually happen. Even still, it just seems to me that there must have been another or other underlying reason(s) for Wilmot's issues with faith. I say faith because for me, you can have faith without being "religious" and faith for me is more important. Perhaps it comes back to the lack of truth, he saw all around him or how he saw in real life that grievious actions were rarely met with true consequences (as is portrayed in the theater, that he loved).


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 2:08 am 
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Gilbert's Girl wrote:
lumineuse wrote:
There's no doubt that that incident shook him badly. And the fact that there was no visit from the afterlife didn't help. But there were other factors. He saw a lot of people die gruesomely in the Dutch War, and in the end Charles had to more or less capitulate because it was clear the war was not going to be won. To Rochester that made all those deaths meaningless (would that more champions of war would take that view!). The devastatiuon of the plague, and the tragedy of the London fire, further strengthened his view that there could be no God. Also, all his high-hopes for Charles' kingship to be one of integrity and virture came to nothing. So he was a bitterly disillusioned man, and God was not forthcoming with answers.

Underneath it all, though, I don't think the Earl was really ever able to give up his spiritual beliefs. I think he hid from them behind a veil of alcohol. I believe that is part of the reason for his deperate unhappiness. He was suffering from cognitive dissonance on a massive level. When he was near the end of his life, and no longer able to drink enough to hide from his inner convictions, he re-connected with his spiritual beliefs


I think you are right Lumi, it may well be part of why he hides behind the alcohol and the way he is. War experienced at close hand changes people in ways that those who have not witnessed it can't imagine, I am sure that many people experience spiritual changes whether you have strong faith or not. Some people find their faith helps them to work through it, but others I think often go the other way as it is possible Rochester did, he also may have felt total guilt at being spared, a common feeling I believe among those who have faught next to their friends and lost them.


lumi and GG, I think you both hit it on the head. I really feel that Wilmot probably had a breach of faith brought on by his life experiences. I had a very wise professor, who once told me that hate for anything or anyone is the result of previously disappointed love.


Live in Depp
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"With this hand I will cup your.... Oh goodness no!"~~Victor Van Dort

"The theater is my drug, and my illness is so far advanced that my physic must be of the highest quality."~~John Wilmot
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 4:56 am 
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GG and Lumi… I do agree that experiences of war, especially in a time when killing was in such brutally close quarters, changes men. However, I think that Rochester’s atheism is much more deeply rooted. He clearly saw God as an invention of man, and not the other way around.

Rochester: God is a thing men have made to frighten themselves with. Once frightened, they find meaning, like children playing in the scarecrow’s field. Well I am not to be frightened. I have shied my stones at the scarecrow, it is struck down and I am not.

Barry: But you are not content.

Rochester: Contentment is the drug of fools. I prefer truth. And the truth is that we are animals scratching and rutting under an empty sky.


After reading this passage several times, I do wonder whether if is Charles he is really talking about… the scarecrow he struck down.

I think JW had fundamental difficulties in letting go and just believing, especially when he saw little evidence of God in the world. There’s an interesting passage where Barry tells him that he has divine talent, but that he only chooses to see what is base and mean. She tells him that by giving wing to the angel… people leave with a larger idea of themselves and become more noble in their daily lives. In her own way was making a case for faith.



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PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 5:23 am 
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Good point db, I think you may be right about the Scarecrow :cool:


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 10:26 am 
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Gilbert's Girl wrote:
Good point db, I think you may be right about the Scarecrow :cool:


And I think she might be right about Barry too.



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PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 10:35 am 
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Good comments.

Wilmot was raised to believe in God and lost his faith through a whole series of life experiences - I believe one of the most significant had to have been the lack of a relationship with his father and that his father chose to be with the king and not him. Abandonment cause many to lose faith.

The death of Wyndham really did happen the way Sackville states but Wilmot's faith was already weak, hence the requirement for Wyndham to come back and prove there was an afterlife.

Returning to faith (spirituality) is not uncommon for people who go through a traumatic or life threatening experience because in the end what else is there?


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 11:25 am 
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Can I just say that resitance is very easy if you are certain the thing you are resisting cannot exist. Many people do not believe in any God, for a wealth of different reasons. If the only reason for believing involves some sort of leap of faith which leaves rationality aside, many of us would not consider ourselves to be resisting.



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