Proof of God’s existence

Whenever I feel like reminding myself what a glorious city London is, I walk out of my building and look around. But I don’t see London.

See how small my London is?

All I can see is some quarter-mile of the New King’s Road, a few shops, restaurants, pedestrians, trees, cars. That’s all one sees at street level: street. The vantage point is too low.

I could move around, see other streets, other parts of the city. But I still wouldn’t see London, only its multiple isolated parts, much as I’d like to see the whole thing.

Such a vision can’t come piecemeal. It requires a single point of view, high enough to encompass the whole panoramic scene. Hence, I climb, huffing and puffing, up on the roof of my four-storey building.

That exertion uncovers a greater field of sight. Now I can see much of Fulham, all the way to the river to the south, Chelsea to the east, perhaps Hammersmith to the north. I can even see the taller buildings in Putney, on the other side of the Thames. But London? I still can’t see it.

I don’t know how high I’d have to climb to see all of London. A couple of miles? More? Still, the limits of human vision are such that the total picture I seek will forever remain elusive. But one thing for sure: the higher one soars, the more one can see.

It’s my observation that only theology, that summit of the mountain of philosophy, provides a single point of view from which one can see and understand much of life. A theory of everything may not exist but, if it did, that’s where it would be found.

Numerous attempts to explore other pathways and other destinations have been made, by physicists, chemists, biologists, neuropsychologists, geologists and other scientists. They’ve uncovered many of life’s mysteries, but without ever even coming within touching distance of explaining the world, its origin and its most unfathomable denizen, man.

Only theology assisted by philosophy satisfies the requirement Sherlock Holmes explained to his hapless sidekick, Dr Watson. Having investigated all the possibilities but one and found that they don’t explain the available facts, then the remaining theory, no matter how seemingly improbable, has to be true.

Only theology, and a system of thought based on it, provides such a theory. But say this in polite, which these days means atheistic, society, and you’ll be deafened with a chorus of “Proof! Prove that God exists!”

He doesn’t, I invariably say. It’s because of God that everything else exists. This never fails to add a few decibels to the litany: “Proof! Where’s your proof?!?”

Modern vulgarians, it has to be said, understand proof only as the empirical outcome of forensic investigation, something conducted in a lab or on a test stand. In that sense, there isn’t, nor can there be, any proof – practically by definition.

Proving means understanding and, with God, that’s patently impossible. A higher system can understand a lower one, but not the other way around.

But if there is no empirical proof, there are many indications – of a life above physical realities. If you don’t believe me, ask any pathologist.

Those professionals handle the human brain every workday of their lives. They touch it, they feel it, they study it – they certainly see it. Yet not one of them has ever seen a mind, the spectacular, tangible and yet undefinable product of the brain.

Does this mean the mind doesn’t exist? Not even the rankest atheist would suggest that, not unless he is imbecilic as well. They thus accept the reality of metaphysical phenomena, while illogically refusing to acknowledge their ultimate source. But then no one has accused atheists of a talent for logical ratiocination.

Today’s lot get hung up on all sorts of causes, half- or quarter-truths at best, and usually not even that. They sense how pitiful a wholly egocentric existence is, and so they have to issue a statement of caring – for ‘our planet’, animals, trees, minorities, assorted victims assigned to that category arbitrarily.

Thereby they hope to rise to the superpersonal without touching on the supernatural. A forlorn hope, that. Hugging the trees of trivial causes, they can’t see the luxuriant wood of truth.

However, if that vulgar proof of God can’t possibly exist, there are plenty of proofs of superphysical phenomena. I happen to be living with one of them, my wife Penelope.

As a brilliant artist, she has an in-built receiver attuned to high frequencies imperceptible to regular folk like me. Still, for her to be able to receive those UHF signals, someone has to send them to begin with. So is it empirical proofs you want? Here are three of them.

We moved to London from New York in 1988, when Penelope’s father lay gravely ill in hospital 200 miles away, in Exeter, their home city.

In those days Penelope could sleep for England. She’d drop off within minutes of her head hitting the pillow and sleep without stirring until woken up the next morning. If not woken up, she could sleep 10-11 hours, approaching Olympic standards.

Yet one of our first nights in England she couldn’t go to sleep at all. Something was bothering her, she was tossing and turning, dozing off for a few minutes, then waking up again – I had never seen that before.

Suddenly, at about 1.00 AM, she went quiet and fell asleep with a serene expression on her face. The next day we found out that her father had died at exactly that time, to the minute. She had known it – without knowing it in any empirical sense.

Then a couple of years later we stayed with friends in Amsterdam, who gave us a comfortable bedroom in the loft. The same thing happened: Penelope was so anxious she couldn’t sleep. She claimed she could sense some emanations in the air, and she might have even used the word ‘vibes’ that I dislike.

So I told her to forget those old wives’ tales and go to sleep. Then over breakfast the next morning our friends showed us a written history of their house – and what do you know. During the war a Jewish family was hiding in that very loft. They were betrayed, arrested, shipped off to a concentration camp and never seen again.

I could cite many such examples but, lest you accuse me of being uxorious, I’ll give you only one more. Fast-forward a few more years, and we stayed with another friend in Moscow.

We arrived on a crispy cold night and, that being Penelope’s first visit to the city of my birth, went out for a walk straight away. We took a long street (Myasnitskaya, which in my day used to be called Kirov Street) leading from the boulevard ring to Lubyanka, the square that houses… well, you know what it houses.

I must emphasise that Penelope knew nothing of Moscow’s geography and didn’t have a clue what that street was and where it was leading. I don’t know if she had seen photographs of the KGB building but, if she had, they would have only shown the façade.

Since we were approaching that sinister place from the rear and from the side, there was no way anyone but a Muscovite would have known what it was. I knew, but said nothing.

When we reached the rear corner of the building, Penelope again said something about evil emanations and, that dread word, ‘vibes’. Somehow she was in communion with the souls of the thousands murdered in that building, and the millions sent to their deaths from there.

Neither she nor I nor any scientist can explain such phenomena. They belong to a kingdom not of this world – certainly not of this physical world. But that doesn’t make them any less real. They simply point to the existence of another, higher reality, and most people are aware of at least some of it.

And yet many of those same people refuse to accept even in theory that a higher reality also has to exist. Thereby they reject the notion of causality, making Newton et al. weep in their graves. The rest of us know that, if something exists, something else caused it to exist – and notice I’m deliberately staying within the realm of reason.

Faith is something else again, and it’s a more sophisticated cognitive mechanism. But we don’t have to talk about it, even though it’s Sunday.

Russian leaders are good

For a laugh, that is. Instead of striking fear into the hearts of their audience, their animadversions are beginning to have a distinctly comic effect.

New star in stand-up firmament

By contrast, no one is laughing at Zelensky – this though he started his career as a stand-up comedian. (Commitment to truth forces me to admit he wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs even then: to paraphrase Mark Twain, Zelensky’s jokes were no laughing matter.)

If Zelensky progressed from bad comedian to statesman and wartime leader, Sergei Lavrov’s career path took him in the opposite direction. Everything that KGB officer cum foreign minister says these days causes much unintended mirth among the listeners.

The other day, for example, Lavrov attended India’s G20 summit. There he met US State Secretary Blinken, but the meeting was brief and, from Lavrov’s standpoint, unsatisfactory. Blinken just told him, in no uncertain terms if not in so many words, that there isn’t much to talk about for as long as Russia is persisting in its aggressive war on the Ukraine.

Blinken was curt, but at least he didn’t laugh in Lavrov’s face. That came later, when Lavrov made the mistake of taking questions from the audience.

The first question was: “How has the war affected Russia’s strategy on energy, and will it mark a privilege towards Asia? And if it does, how is India going to feature in it?”

In reply, Lavrov went into his stand-up routine: “You know, the war, which we are trying to stop, which was launched against us, using the…” The audience burst out laughing without waiting for the punchline.

Since the art of such performances is relatively new to him, Lavrov lost the thread. “…The Ukrainian people, uh, of course, influenced…” he started but wasn’t allowed to finish. Instead of finding out what it was that the Ukrainian people had influenced, the audience roared with laughter and shouts of  “Come on!”.

Abandoning his preamble, Lavrov went straight to the original question, which he answered with uncustomary honesty. The war, he admitted ruefully, has indeed affected the Russians’ energy policy, and they “would not rely on any partners” going forward.

This time the audience detected a serious note, and no one laughed. Some, however, must have rejoiced, in a schadenfreude sort of way. What, they must have been thinking, not even North Korea?

To be fair, Lavrov was simply regurgitating the official line of Soviet propaganda, one that has been bandied about since at least 2014. I first heard it at around that time, when an old friend I hadn’t seen in decades was passing through London with his young Russian wife in tow.

The girl was an unreconstructed Putinista, which made me doubt my friend’s sanity or, alternatively, allegiances. When the conversation veered to international politics, the young lady accused the West, specifically the USA, of bestial aggression towards Russia.

When I wanted to know where that aggression was taking place, she looked at me with touching concern for the mental health of someone blind to the obvious. “In the Ukraine,” she said contemptuously. I tried to point out it was Russian troops, not the 82nd Airborne, occupying Ukrainian territory, but made no headway whatsoever.

Speaking of mental health (and comedy, come to that), Putin the other day outdid his foreign minister with room to spare. However, considering that his listeners were Russian, they had to laugh only inwardly. Here’s what happened.

A unit of 40 commandos entered Russia’s Bryansk region from the Ukraine. Reports identify it as belonging to the Russian Volunteer Corps, manned with Russians fighting for the Ukraine against Putin’s aggression.

According to the Corps spokesman, the commandos shot up a Russian personnel carrier, then entered a nearby village and filmed a short video calling for resistance to Putin. No civilians were harmed during the production.

According to the Russian side, the raiders attacked a school bus, killed two people and wounded a child. Such was the initial report, which has since been modified, more than once.

The wounded child was first identified as a girl, then as a boy, and then perhaps there was no wounded child at all. The target vehicle was in consecutive reports downsized from a bus first to an SUV, then to a car. The commandos took hostages, though perhaps they didn’t.

According to the Ukrainian government, the raid was a false flag provocation by the Russians. Neither side, however, produced any evidence, be it videos, photos or eyewitness reports, one way or the other. (The Russian side did release a photo of a bullet-riddled car with no number plate.) However, the old cui bono principle points an accusing finger at Russia, not the Ukraine.

Now make a death-defying leap of imagination and put yourself in Putin’s Size 6 shoes. How would you comment on that incident – what kind of conclusions were possible to derive from it even in theory?

Those nasty Ukies try to carry war into Russia? Wrong. This shows that the Ukraine has been the aggressor from the start? Wrong. Unable to defeat Russia on the battlefield, those Nazis are resorting to terrorism? Wrong.

Not wholly wrong, that is. Things along those lines were indeed said, but a great leader had to put them in a broad existential perspective. That’s when Putin donned his jester’s cap and put his funny foreign minister to shame.

Those 40 chaps, he said (quipped?), “set themselves the task of depriving us of historical memory, depriving us of our history, depriving us of our tradition and language.”

If such was their intention, their effort was undertaken on a rather small scale… but forget this remark. Any attempt to find a rational response to the ranting of a lunatic is wrong by definition.

If you doubt my qualifications to diagnose psychiatric disorders, you are welcome to come up with your own interpretation of that tirade. The only other possibility I can think of is one I suggested earlier: Putin and his henchmen are playing for laughs.

Back in the old days they all had to study Marx (Karl, that is, not Groucho). Hence they must be familiar with his adage that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.

But they are proving Marx wrong. His aphorism implies a consecutive progression. But Marx’s erstwhile disciples are showing that tragedy and farce can unfold concurrently. Yet, appalled by the former, I’m not laughing at the latter.

Homeless numbers soar

Well, not exactly soar, but they have indeed grown – by two. However, the newly homeless couple is unlikely to sleep rough, drink rotgut out of a brown paper bag and pester passers-by with “giza quid” pleas.

A sight for any sore republican eyes

After all, Harry and Meghan are rich, and they do have a roof over their heads in California. That’s their real home because that’s where their conjoined heart is.

King Charles has ordered the couple to vacate the five-bedroom Frogmore Cottage the Queen gave them in 2018. H & M are supposed to pick up their stuff and get out at their leisure, by early summer, which suggests there’s a lot of stuff to pack and ship.

I’m impressed with the King’s forbearance and amazed it has taken him so long. For Harry, expertly egged on and assisted by his objectionable wife, is clearly committed to continuing his late mother’s mission: damaging, ideally destroying, the British monarchy.

However, I can understand the King’s vacillation. After all, kicking out a prince of the blood isn’t the same as evicting a commoner in default of his rent payments. There are constitutional issues to consider, which, in Britain, involves studying the precedents.

Harry owes his position not to any achievement or appointment but strictly to the blood in his veins, which, legally if possibly in no other sense, is royal. As such, it doesn’t depend on any qualities of character (appalling in Harry’s case) or behaviour (even more so).

Since his status was neither given nor earned, taking it away completely is tricky de facto and impossible de jure. Harry was born a prince and so he’ll remain no matter what he does.

Yet that last sentence should be amended with a crucial proviso: within sensible limits. And, as the precedent I have in mind shows, the definition of what is and isn’t sensible is out of Harry’s hands.

The way our constitution works, the royal family gets every opportunity to sort out its internal squabbles. Yet should it be unable to do so, parliament can step in and chop through any Gordian knot with Alexander’s elan. An Act of Parliament can even remove a prince from the line of succession – something the monarch doesn’t have the power to do.

As the precedent I have in mind shows, the combined force of those two institutions is strong enough to reduce a transgressing prince and his bride to the status of pariahs and supplicants. And, unlike Harry, the Duke of Windsor had been a king, Edward VIII.

That he stopped to be when he decided to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcée whose questionable romantic past even included some on-the-job training in Asian brothels. Her political affiliations were no less dubious, since Wallis was a Nazi sympathiser, to say the least.

All things considered, the Baldwin cabinet told the king to choose between Wallis and the crown. He chose the former in a tear-jerking broadcast and was summarily banished not only from Buckingham Palace but indeed from the country.

From then on the Duke of Windsor was only ever allowed to come to Britain for the odd flying visit, mostly to beg his younger brother the King for more money to bankroll the style to which Wallis had become accustomed. She, by the way, never received the HRH title, which kept bugging her husband no end.

Meghan did, and of course Harry is entitled to it from birth. Yet while they both retain the title, neither of them is any longer allowed to use it.

Now King Charles has served an eviction notice, which has enraged the fans of that awful couple. Since those who love Harry and Meghan typically hate the monarchy, they accuse the king of maliciously acting out of spite.

In fact, he presciently averted a possible constitutional problem. For Harry’s rank in the line of succession would enable him to become one of the Councillors of State, effectively stand-ins for the King should he be ill or absent.

Yet there is a catch: a Councillor of State must be domiciled in Britain to retain a claim to that post. Now that he has been kicked out of Frogmore Cottage, Harry no longer has a UK address, which disqualifies him from a place among potential Councillors.

I doubt any modern prime minister would be able to act as decisively as Stanley Baldwyn did in 1937. However, the government has the precedent-based constitutional mandate to do so. The very minimum it should do is take the HRH title away from Meghan. After all, she only uses it as a weapon in her war on the monarchy.

And, by analogy with John Lackland, Harry should now be called Lackhome. That nickname could act as a constant reminder that he isn’t welcome in the country whose constitution he tries to undermine so resolutely.

Meanwhile, Parliament ought to consider removing Harry from the line of succession either permanently or at least for as long as he stays married to Meghan. That may not be for ever: once the couple lose the glitter, and hence the earning potential, conferred by their current status, Meghan may well dump Harry, citing Schiller along the way: “The Moor has done his work, the Moor may go.”

Then again, this may be one of those marriages made in heaven, with both cretinous male and manipulating female finding an ideal mate. Did I say heaven? Hell is more like it.

Hypocrisy in full bloom

Yesterday I committed treason – yet again.

At least that’s how many NHS fanatics describe using private medicine. This proves that a state doesn’t have to be unashamedly totalitarian to scour the people’s minds free of any modicum of sound thought.

Anyway, my treasonous act involved a series of lung function tests, administered by a young man with a sense of humour. Afterwards he lifted my spirits by saying that the results exceeded expectations for a man my age and size.

“How do you know I’m a man?” I asked, thereby claiming impeccable modern credentials. “I may identify as a woman.”

We had a short laugh about that feeble joke, but then the young chap said something serious. “Men and women show different results, mostly because women’s lung capacity is much smaller,” he explained. “That’s why whenever we test transsexuals, we have to tell them in advance that for our purposes we have to go by their biological sex.”

“Do they protest?” I asked. “Not at all,” he smiled. “When it comes to their health, they don’t mind at all.”

I don’t get it. We are made to believe, on pain of punishment, that a man who used to be a woman is as much of a man as anyone blessed with the XY chromosomes. Such a freshly minted man may sue anyone for ‘misgendering’ (referring to him as a her), and he’ll probably win the case every time.

And yet when the health chips are down, he is happy to be regarded as a woman. Does one detect a touch of hypocrisy there somewhere?

Far be it from me to hold myself up as a model, but in this case I’m sure I’m no different from most XY humans. As such, I uncompromisingly identify as a man because, well, I am. That’s how God made me.

Now, if a nurse told me I’d have to be treated as a woman for medical purposes, I’d object vociferously, possibly violently. Much as I adore women, I’m not one, happy not to be one, and I won’t be treated as one, health or no health.

Methinks, on this basis at least, those recent converts to manhood remain somewhat different from me and, though I haven’t been delegated to speak for other men, from other XY humans as well. And whoever insists they aren’t different is either a fool or, more likely, a rank hypocrite.

While we are on the subject of hypocrisy, Putin and his propagandists struggle to pinpoint any legitimate reason for their bandit raid on the Ukraine. As a former adman who had to plug any number of lost causes, I follow their efforts with schadenfreude leavened – I’m man enough to admit this – with some latent empathy.

The overall thrust of their PR campaign is neither strategic nor strictly military. It’s mostly moral, which I, as an admirer of the early Crusades launched for moral reasons, have to welcome.

Morality is a multifaceted notion, as any reader of the Decalogue and the Sermon on the Mount will confirm. However, even Putin and his merry men aren’t so cynical as to feign commitment to the injunctions against murder, theft, perjury or cupidity.

Instead they’ve crystallised the whole moral message to its sexual aspects, none of which, incidentally, is mentioned in the Decalogue and the Sermon on the Mount. And even those are reduced strictly to railing against rampant homosexuality, transsexualism and their derivatives, such as homomarriage, propaganda of homosexuality, child adoptions by same-sex couples and so forth.

Since the West is depicted, not groundlessly, as the bastion of such perversity, and the Ukraine is treated as the West’s proxy, the on-going bandit raid can be described as a moral crusade. Russia casts herself as the last upholder of traditional morality, what one of Putin’s Western propagandists obligingly called “the most conservative and Christian nation in Europe”.

It’s not immediately clear how carpet bombings of cities, accompanied by mass murder, torture, looting and rape, can cure unnatural sexual propensities. Even if they can, the therapy strikes me as somewhat too radical.

Hence, much as I sympathise with the cause of traditional morality, I deplore Russia’s championship of it. And since my knowledge of Russia doesn’t come from books or flying visits on tourist visas, I find it hard to see it as a stronghold of sexual probity.

Words like Sodom and Gomorrah come to mind more readily, and today’s leaders of the country can claim residency in those towns with ample justification. Enter Lieutenant General Aleksandr Matovnikov, deputy chief of Russia’s land forces, member of the Kremlin inner circle and currently commander of the Russian contingent in Belarus.

In such capacities, the good general can be seen as the cutting edge of pristine morality slashing through the mire of Western degeneracy. That image, however, is rather at odds with the selfie video Gen. Matovnikov shared on the Telegram messaging app:

The general is seen performing full-frontal striptease and, unfamiliar with the genre as I am, I can’t judge the choreography. I can, however, judge the general’s physique and let me tell you: a Chippendale he ain’t.

A message accompanying the video describes the general as being “an avid connoisseur of restaurants and ladies in Minsk”. However, the facsimiles of his letters published later (whose authenticity is disputed) show it’s not just ladies that the general is an avid connoisseur of.

Yet even assuming that the intended audience is straight as an arrow, one finds it hard to see the general as a moral crusader. It’s easier to see him as a betrayer of state secrets, one of which is that Russia’s leaders hardly set an example of monastic behaviour.

Many of the country’s top functionaries are widely rumoured to be homosexuals. Mentioned in this context, inter alia, are Duma Speaker Volodin, the late LDP leader Zhirinovsky, former PM Zubkov, Gazprom chairman Miller, chairman of the Duma budget committee Makarov. And even Putin himself hasn’t been spared such accusations.

His KGB career was rather sluggish, plagued as it was by an early scandal involving his using a safehouse for illicit assignations, believed to be of a “non-traditional” nature. That may explain why his terminal rank at age 40 was a lowly major (he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel at retirement to give him a higher pension). By comparison, his KGB superior Oleg Kalugin was already a lieutenant-general at that age.

It’s widely believed that Putin ordered the 2006 murder of Alexander Litvinenko mainly because the KGB defector was about to publish documents proving those accusations. Currently, another KGB defector, Sergei Zhirnov, refers to Putin’s homosexuality as common knowledge within the ranks of that organisation (in view of what happened to Litvinenko, Mr Zhirnov would be well-advised to watch his step).

Reports of both hetero- and homo- orgies within the Kremlin elite are too numerous and detailed to be treated as so much smoke without fire. I for one am sure they are true: it’s that absolute power that, as Lord Acton explained, corrupts absolutely.

It would be easy to shrug and say something about boys being boys, or girls if they so choose. We are all sinners, aren’t we? We are, to varying extents. But not all sinners pretend to be crusaders for righteousness. And even fewer are willing to do mass murder under that pretext.

It’s that hypocrisy again.

Long live general principles

The argument was dragging on, and Dr Johnson, never the most patient type, ended it with a cutting phrase: “Sir, we know our will is free, and there’s an end on it.”

Dr Johnson, my ally

That conversation-stopper wielded by a first-rate English mind was as correct as it was, dare I say it, un-English. For the English mind tends to be suspicious of any judgement reached without a painstaking analysis of every possible detail. The English regard general principles as too, well, general.

That’s often sensible: few things in life are so clearcut as to be either black or white. Even the fashionable context in which those adjectives are often used, race, leaves plenty of room for disagreement.

This isn’t my subject today, so I’ll limit myself to a fleeting observation: both racists and anti-racists seem to regard anyone with any African blood at all as black. (I am ignoring the insane insistence that even someone with no black ancestry is still free to identify as black if he so chooses. This sort of thing belongs in the loony bin or else a Guardian editorial meeting.)

They are free to hold that view, provided they realise that their standards are more stringent than even the Nuremberg Laws. There it took one Jewish grandparent to be classified as a Jew and hence slated for extinction. Today’s racists and anti-racists proceed from the principle associated with Jim Crow in the US: a drop of tar, all black.

This is an example of a wrong principle, and their name is legion. Apply any one of those to a situation at hand, and any conclusion reached thereby is bound to be wrong. Hence the English are right to be suspicious: it’s more reliable to analyse the specifics of every problem, rather than jumping to hasty conclusions.

Alas, such pragmatic reliance on empirical fact sometimes leads to intellectual and ultimately moral relativism based on contempt for principles as such, right or wrong. This is a widespread failing in England, with people likely to skip over any philosophical musings and ask the lapidary question: “What are we going to do about it?” If no satisfactory answer is forthcoming, they lose interest.

Yet I maintain that, when they are backed up by lifelong experience, study and ratiocination, general principles can take one to correct conclusions quickly and directly, bypassing all the superfluous – and potentially misleading – nit-picking.

Such principles are an indispensable cognitive tool, provided one leaves room for adjustments should contradicting facts come to light. Without such in-built flexibility, overreliance on general principles may lead to doctrinaire obscurantism, which is never especially clever.

On the other hand, proper general principles properly used are the structural framework of any thinking methodology. They provide a discipline without which any thought becomes amorphous – like wine escaping from the confines of the glass to form an unsightly puddle on the tablecloth.

A few illustrations from my own experience, if I may, and please don’t accuse me of boasting if I only cite examples casting me in a good light. If you expect me to list the numerous instances where I’ve been proved wrong, you place an exaggerated trust in human goodness.

I moved to Britain from the US some 35 years ago and soon thereafter made friends with an NHS doctor, a friendship that’s still going strong. Yet the beginning was hardly auspicious.

The dinner-table conversation veered towards the NHS, and I remarked casually that any problems it experienced were systemic. Any giant Leviathan instituted on socialist principles is a condemned structure soon to collapse, I added.

Defending his corporate honour, my friend for life to be almost snapped my head off. I knew nothing about the NHS, he fumed, and he was almost right. Am I aware that… – and a long litany of facts followed, most expressed numerically.

I wasn’t. I proceeded from general principles and lifelong observation, but they were correct principles and accurate observations, which is why they have been proved right. A couple of decades later, my friend admitted as much, if only tacitly.

Another self-serving example, taken right out of the Peter Hitchens book of self-aggrandisement, is that back in the late eighties, early nineties I instantly saw through all that Western triumphalism about the victory in the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union and even, to mention the extreme inanity, the end of history.

In those pre-Internet days I didn’t follow the details of the unfolding transition, although I knew a fair amount about the key personalities involved. But however few details I possessed, they rested atop a vast mountain of knowledge and understanding – of Russia, communism and the symbiosis of the two in the national character.

Hence, proceeding from general principles, I instantly saw that all that putative triumph of virtue was in fact a transfer of power from the Party to a new elite formed by a fusion of the KGB and organised crime. This is a devil we don’t yet know, I was writing at the time, but rest assured it’s no less black than the one we are familiar with, and more dangerous for having a greater capacity for subterfuge.

It gives me no satisfaction to have been proved right, but proved right I demonstrably was. The same goes for China, a country about which I know much less than about Russia.

Here many Western observers go wrong not because they don’t know the facts but because they try to jam the square pegs of correct data into the round holes of general principles that happen to be false. One such is their unshakeable belief in the redemptive power of free enterprise.

At its heart, I suspect, lies the Calvinist dogma of wealth being God’s reward for virtue. Even though such people may be unaware of the historical motivation of their belief, it leads to the perdition of an incorrect syllogism. Thesis: Wealth generated by hard, free labour is a sign of goodness. Antithesis: China is wealthy. Synthesis: China has to be good, or at least not as bad as some doubting Thomases insist she is.

Being one such incredulous sort, I proceed from a different syllogism. Communism is evil, regardless of any economic window-dressing. China is communist. Ergo, China is evil and hence eminently dangerous.

Another example is economic. Whenever I am treated to endless ledger sheets of economic indicators, especially if they are accompanied by the ubiquitous word ‘paradigm’, my eyes glass over. Before long, I say, we’ll all be marching to soup kitchens, singing a version of the Depression song, “Brother, can you paradigm?”

To paraphrase Dr Johnson (without in any way comparing myself to the great man), I can say: “Sir, we know a state based on profligate public spending and exorbitant taxation is courting economic disaster from hell, and there’s an end on it.”

I lay no claims to any particular brilliance. Anyone can arrive at truth by riding the vehicle of a sound cognitive methodology based on correct general principles. Conversely, no recondite knowledge of endless arcane details will get even an intelligent person to the same destination if he proceeds from wrong premises.

And don’t even get me started on metaphysics. Suffice it to say now that the wrong general premise of atheism acts as a road barrier coming halfway down any intellectual route: thus far, but no further. That’s why an atheist philosopher is an oxymoron – even if an intelligent atheist isn’t.

This is the general principle I apply to judging such matters, and so far no one has proved me wrong. So long live general principles, provided they are correct.