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Could the Portway be Roman in origin?

Sunday, 18 September 2022 at 22:41

Beckley on Dr John Dunn. Beckley village

Could the Portway be Roman in origin? (Not to be confused with the southern Roman Portway which runs from London to Dorchester)

Further investigations into an ancient road. (See previous notes Portway and Portway 2 in Blogs)

On the superficial face of it - an emphatic no. The roads on my suggested itinerary up to Beckley are certainly not straight.

There is an identified Roman Road from the Roman town of Dorchester on Thames to Beckley (which continues on to Alchester, near Bicester). This might well form the southern portion of the Portway, as an alternative to my itinerary.

After Beckley, the Roman road to Alchester and Portway diverge or cross, depending on which southern portion of Port Way is the right one.

From Beckley, there is a case to be made for the route of the Portway being reasonably straight, certainly in sections.

Where was the Portway heading?

Well from south to north it terminated at Bannaventa, a fortified Roman town on Watling Street, near what is now the village of Norton (very near to the hill fort of Borough Hill as mentioned in the essay (Road, history,nature and a motorcycle).

Dorchester to Norton is on a south-north trajectory.

Dorchester is situated at the middle of the base to an equilateral triangle, the two other sides of which are Fosse Way, running south-west to north-east, and Watling Street, running south-east to north-west.

A road from the Thames at Dorchester to Norton runs to near the top of the triangle, spicing the triangle in twain.

The Portway would have thus connected Dorchester on Thames and the Thames Valley with the road systems running to the north-west and north-east ofEngland.

There is a case to be made for a Roman Portway.

© John Dunn.

Portway 2

Saturday, 17 September 2022 at 21:18

The Magpie Farm on Dr John Dunn. The former drovers' inn, once Magpie Inn, now Magpie Farm

Portway 2

Following my comments in the essay below, Road, history, nature and a motorcycle, about an ancient route called the Portway, I thought that I would take time out to plan an itinerary for the ancient route.

The Portway runs northwards, out of the Thames valley.

A good starting point might be where it crosses the Icknield Way as the A4074, just north of Icknield Farm and west of Ipsden. The road is named on the Ordnance Survey Map as Port Way at this point.

After Benson, the route avoids wetlands by either the eastern route through the Berricks, or the western route through Warborough.

After Newington and Stadhampton, the route crosses the Thames at Chislehampton, before striking northwards to Garsington.

It keeps to the higher ground of Wheatley, Forest Hill and Woodeaton, with the wetlands of Otmoor to the east and the Cherwell flood plain to the west.

Islip is the obvious crossing point of the River Ray, leaving the route to thread its way around streams, brooks and springs, as higher ground begins to be met at Bletchington and more consistently after Kirtlinton.

Crossing the Roman Ackerman Street north of Kirtlington, the route keeps to the higher ground east of the Cherwell and west of Gallos Brook.

The road is named once more on the Ordnance Survey Map as Port Way at this point.

It is severed in twain by the old RAF airfield and subsequent developments at Upper Heyford, but the route clearly picks up again as a bridleway at Village Farm, actually passing a Portway Farm, before being severed again by the M40.

The route is picked up again as a bridleway, before a metalled road continues the route at Souldern, taking us to Aynhoe.

From Aynhoe, it continues as bridleway to Charlton, passing the Ancient British hill fort of Rainsborough Camp.

From Charlton it continues as a metalled road to Farthinghoe and Marston St Lawrence, passing between Thorpe Mandeville and Sulgrave at the crossroads by the former drovers’ inn now called Magpie Farm.

Passing east of Culworth, the metalled roadway is broken briefly at Crockwell Farm, continuing again as a metalled lane to Preston Capes where it converges with Oxford Lane.

Though the original trackway is lost on this last section, the modern road from Preston Capes through Newnham still shows signs of its age. Crossing over the ridge towards the Ancient British hill fort of Borough Hill, there are thick ancient hedgerows, and occasional holloways on the hill-climbs.

© John Dunn.


Saturday, 17 September 2022 at 21:12

Roman Road near Chesterton. Akeman Street near Chesterton*

Appendix to the essay posted below "Road, history, nature and a motorcycle"

You know... you often get a feeling about a road’s history, and this stretch of quiet lane, just after I had left Akeman Street, that kept to the high ground east of the Cherwell, did prompt me to think it was an ancient way of some sort. Whilst not a sharply defined ridgeway by any means, it did neverthless keep to the high ground between river valleys, which is the hallmark of many an ancient road.

Whilst writing this up, my curiosity took me to Google Maps, where I discovered the lane at this point is called Port Way. One website leads to another, and I read that Portway was a trading route, possibly Dark Age or Early Medieval in origin, running from the crossing of the Thames at Wallingford, past Oxford, north on the east bank of the Cherwell into Northamptonshire. I was on one of the more distinct sections of the ancient route.

This only added retrospectively to the romance of the road that I had travelled, quite apart from giving me the idea that Imight seek out sections of the Port Way that could be motorcycled in the future.

Road, history, nature and a motorcycle

Sometimes it is the smallest stretches of road, in unexpected places, that can make for the most pleasurable motorcycling, and I had to share this.

I had to get out of the chaos of Bicester’s ring road system, if for no other reason than to identify where I had been spat out of it geographically.

I was on the A41 heading for Oxford, whereas I had intended to be on the A41 towards Aylesbury.

I pulled off the main road to follow the old, pre-war route, to Oxford via Wendlebury.

There’s a bend in the road before Wendlebury, and a lane leads of from this, blocked by bollards to cars, but open enough for a motorcycle to slip through. Once through, I stopped , pulled the flask from the pannier, and enjoyed a coffee.

I had been on this spot before on a couple of occasions, and knew its history. The now defunct lane was blocked off when Graven Hill became an ammunition depot during the Second World War.

But there was more history. Through the gate in the field, before which I now stood, there was once a Roman town known as Alchester; completely invisible now to all but the archaeologist and his trowel.

Pondering the map, as I am wont to do on such occasions,my eye caught the name of Chesterton and Akeman Street; the former a village (a few hundred yards from being swallowed up by the the voracious field eater which is Bicester these days), and the latter, which is a famous Roman road.

All these ‘chesters’ and ‘cesters’ smack of the Roman activity that existed two thousand years ago round here, and I was drawn towards them.

I would take my leave of Alchester, ride over to Chesterton (crossing the busy A34 on the way), and follow Akeman Street on the short metalled stretch westwards towards Kirtlington.

That was my plan, and once on the Akeman Street I knew it was a plan that was meant to be.

We men of the wheel, we travel hundreds of miles with historic places of interest to see, race tracks to enjoy and ‘meets’ of various kinds to compare machinery, forgetting often that the most interesting place is most often under our wheels wherever we travel.

Akeman Street, so close to the chaos I had left behind, was empty of traffic. I could choose my speed, neither held up in front or harassed from behind, whilst savouring the history of the ancient route; the Roman soldiers that constructed the route, the legions that marched up and down it, and the countless thousands of generations that have used the road since the Romans departed these isles. And beyond the road there was the gently rolling Oxfordshire countryside to refresh the spirit as I rode along.

Yes, a short stretch, a departure from my intended way, but a happy one, an uplifting one, when the road, history and nature came together to offer sheer motorcycling pleasure.

There was a bonus. Just before Kirtlington, I turned off Akerman Street (out of necessity, the metalled section finished at this point) and turned northwards to follow the Cherwell Valley, which I kept to my left. The lane followed a low ridgeway with the Cherwell to my left and the Gallos Brook a mile or so to my right. This is hardly a dramatic landscape, and yet the lowish elevation was sufficient to give views over the Cherwell that gladdened the heart.

I rode on to the former RAF airfield at Heyford. Wow hadn’t things changed around here since last I passed by, not all for the better. And yet I was buoyed through all the developments by the joy of the ride up to that point. I knew that beyond was the ‘Larkrise to Candleford’ country, made famous by Flora Thompson's pen, and it was there that I re-settled into the rhythm of country lane pottering that I relish.

No grandiose landscapes, no famous landmarks, no bikers’ cafs, just sunshine and a few thousand years’ worth of history under my very wheels at every turn, to make an ordinary ride special.

© John Dunn.

*© Nigel Cox and licensed for reuse.

Gnomic Will

Friday, 16 September 2022 at 22:42

Symbolic painting on Dr John Dunn. Adam succumbs, Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1531

Gnomic Will

St Maximus redeemed by Massimo Scaligero

The following is in part a commentary upon, and in part a development of, a previously issued blog entitled Gnomic wanting.

What I had found wanting in St Maximus’s considerations of the Logos and the‘divine intention’ for each individual, I found redeemed in the writings of Massimo Scaligero.

What St. Maximus wanted to say was constrained by the forces of idolatry in Christianity’s Judaic residue.

Scaligero cleansed the residue from his own thinking, largely due to the influence of Rudolf Steiner, and when overlaid upon the thought of St Maximus, there is a fertilisation that bears fruit.

For ‘gnomic will’ in St Maximus, read dead, or ‘reflected’ thought in Scaligero.

For ‘natural will’ in St Maximus, read ‘living’ thought in Scaligero.

The Fall was a product of gnomic will; having gained knowledge, Adam and Eve objectified each other each other, discovering shame, rather than Love.

‘Gnomic will’ is false, deluded and evil; but we will it, i.e. we want it, we take pleasure in the objectified.

Only Love overcomes the need for this, there being no shame in love.

The fallen state, the state of ‘gnomic will’ is analogous in my Mythology to the realm of Ananke, the dreary equilibrium, the interminable cycle, that awaits the violation and penetration of Love.

We are all born fallen.

To be read in conjunction with the previously issued blog entitled "Gnomic Will".

© John Dunn.

Love and the true self

Wednesday, 14 September 2022 at 21:49

A second St Maximus image on Dr John Dunn. St Maximus

Living thought is not limited by the skull.

Living thought is cosmic in its boundlessness.

The limits to living thought are the ‘mind-forged manacles’ of man himself,aided and abetted by the fallen angels that live amongst us.

Such limited thought is fallen thought, dead thought, and man is born fallen.

It is in Love that the Beginning follows death (resurrection).

John Dunn re-posted blog commentary 2022

These are thoughts prompted by my re-reading of the blog re-posted below. (Scroll down to Love and the True Self).

Continuing the theme on the writings of St Maximus (see most immediate previous blogs), there is an idea that a true path of divine intention is there for each of us, regardless of whether we follow it or not.

Not to follow the divinely intended path must equate to a deluded life, in St Maximus’s term of reference that is.

But I’m not so sure, and working the idea through in my head, I begin to become uneasy about the idolatry inherent to the concept.

Divine intention for anyone presupposes a god, as well as the forward looking intention, which makes idols of both.

Can anything be saved from St Maximus’s ideas?

The way of the Logos into man’s world is not to have it sat around, waiting for an opportunity to shine, as each man discoverers the divinely intended path.

The light of the Logos shines in our world when our thinking remains alive, rather than being lost and reflected back to us as though it represented a pre-existent material reality.

In this way we are the Logos and our thinking is the Creation that never ceases.

It might be said that the Logos enters the world (incarnation) in our thinking (living thought), unless murdered (crucifixion) to become the dead thought of material ‘reality’.

Even this would not be true, and cannot shake off the idolatry that clings on to our every thought.

To think of the Logos entering the world through us is to limit living thinking to the wet spongy matter in our heads.

Living thought is not limited by the skull.

Living thought is cosmic in its boundlessness.

The limits to living thought are the ‘mind-forged manacles’ of man himself,aided and abetted by the fallen angels that live amongst us.

Such limited thought is fallen thought, dead thought, and man is born fallen.

It is in Love that the Beginning follows death (resurrection).

Love and the true self

Everyone lives a deluded life until at some point he is awakened to the divine intention for his being.*

This leads us to the possibility of communion with others, as understood from my readings of St Maximus.

Whether of not man acts out the potential given by God, his true self is nevertheless kept in God and contemplated by Him.

The divine intention is constant, and could be said to be the true self of any individual, regardless of the deluded persona under which he might exist.

The point at which the deluded individual recognises that he is divinely interconnected with another being’s true self is Love.

Love transcends the deluded state in which one or both or more true selves are enshrouded, and establishes a relationship of true selves, a communion, however fleeting, during which they more closely track the divine intention laid out for them.

*See 'Blog' for The self from which the pertinent point is this:

To be a self is not our achievement, but rather a gift from God

There is something to be achieved from our own effort, namely, how we give form to the modes of activity.

However, something is given before any activity occurs. The mystery of an individual’s selfhood is kept in the mystery of the divine being.

Whenever we act out the potential that we are given by God, we give form to the modeof action in accordance (or discordance) with the divine intention for our being, as a self.

It is possible to live as divinely intended, but one may also lead a life of delusions separated from one’s true purpose.

© John Dunn.

The self

Tuesday, 13 September 2022 at 11:36

Saint Maximus on Dr John Dunn. The self is life after death, the resurrection and the creation

There is only Beginning. There is no chronology

The mystery is in the Beginning, and the mystery is Love

A reading of St Maximus helped me work through my own thoughts on the self.

I refer in the following re-issued blog to the self being a ‘gift from God’.

By the definitions elsewhere in my Thought Pieces and Archive, I could have said ‘the self is awakened by Love’.

I say this because when I used the expression ‘gift from God’ I was writing in the context of a reading of St Maximus.

I am aware, however that ‘gift’ has connotations of a handout from a presupposed entity who stands wholly apart from us. We thus fall again into the potential entrapments of idolatry.

Consider the self. What is it? It is that which is distinguished from what surrounds it.

Without the self there is nothing but the indiscriminate oneness in which the potential self is subsumed. It is death.

The gift of the self, or the awakening of the self introduces mind into the oneness, which introduces discrimination. Before the self there is nothing. With the self there is all past, all present and all future, i.e. everything.

The self is life after death, the resurrection and the creation.

Is there a divine intention for the self as St Maximus supposed?

An intention demands that there is a presupposed entity apart and beforehand giving rise to an intention about the future. There is a chronology; a before and an after.

I would argue that there is nothing before. (Which undermines the notion of the self being a ‘gift’.)

There is only Beginning. There is no chronology.

The mystery is in the Beginning, and the mystery is Love.

Which brings me back to my former statement.

The self is life after death, the resurrection and the creation.

I conclude that there is no divine intention as St Maximus supposed.

The blog that was a stepping stone to the thoughts above is re-posted below.
Dr John Dunn 2022

The self

Thoughts prompted by the writings of St Maximus

The essential characteristics of man are common at the universal, but never circumscribe one self, unless as a prison (I’ll come to this later).

For example, Peter, John and Paul are human beings and being a rational animal is an essential characteristic of such humanness. Rationality is essential for being the entity a human being; necessary, but not sufficient to be a self.

The essential characteristics are the forms which exist by themselves, while the self indicates a someone of those forms, i.e. someone, the self, who carries the forms in the concrete sense.

The individual has essential characteristics that are common, while in addition he has the personal characteristics of being that belong to himself.

The essence has only the essential characteristics of the species, whereas the individual has in addition that which shows the someone.

Peter is in all respects human being; there is nothing in Peter that is not human. On the other hand, to be human being is not in all respects to be Peter.

There is a distinction between being something and someone.

Let us move on from essential characteristics, which might be misinterpreted as being static, to modes of activity. The same principles apply.

There are modes of activity common to all. We are all active as being something. However when an individual gives form to a mode of activity, he manifests himself as a someone.

The character of being an individual is to give character to the mode of activity.

A human being is an individual when he assumes the modes of activity common to all, with a potentiality of power, in such a way that he gives form to those activities as belonging to himself, as a someone.

In order to be an individual an entity must be a someone who gives form to a mode of activity.

This condition is necessary but not sufficient.

A materialist would say that man is an essence with properties. Even if the properties are not unique to individual, the combination is unique. For example, one man differs from another because of the different time,place and circumstances in which they live. In this sense, man remains a something, an instantiation of properties, however unique.

But being something is to be distinguished from being someone.

In addition to being an entity, a something, distinguished by a set of properties, who gives form to modes of activity, each is created, not only as man, but also as a self.

Here we need the doctrine of man being created in the image and likeness of God. It brings with it a distinctive dynamics, but also a mystery, since what we are in our deepest self is hidden in the divine intention for our being, as a selves.

To be a self is not our achievement, but rather a gift from God

There is something to be achieved from our own effort, namely, how we give form to the modes of activity.

However,something is given before any activity occurs. The mystery of an individual’s selfhood is kept in the mystery of the divine being.

Whenever we act out the potential that we are given by God, we give form to the mode of action in accordance (or discordance) with the divine intention for our being, as a self.

It is possible to live as divinely intended, but one may also lead a life of delusions separated from one’s true purpose.* (He can of course be imprisoned within these delusions by others, but this must be dealt with elsewhere.)

The true self is kept in God and the true principles contemplated by Him.

One’s self as a mystery is to be achieved in a stretching out for God

This self is not an autonomous entity, a collection of properties however unique, haunting a ready-made world; it is, rather, an entity that is realised in a life characterised by being in accordance with divine intention.

* (For my personal record) In future work I will relate these delusions back to Massimo Scaligero’s concept of disconnection from the Logos in reflected thought.

© John Dunn.

Living thought

Sunday, 11 September 2022 at 22:26

Image of God on Dr John Dunn. The deification of ‘reality’ is idolatry and the pre-Beginning stasis without the ‘I’

The Logos is not to be treated as an idol, i.e. as something outside of ourselves, to be found again, to be presupposed.

Logos is coterminous with Love, or God. I have also ascribed to each of these the term Originatory Principle, i.e. the mysterious Beginning that will have no explanation. Love will not and cannot be explained.

In this sense, the Originatory Principle is not something over there, separate and apart, waiting to be discovered. Such thinking would be leading us into idolatry. It would be a higher form of the pre-Beginning state of fallen man, who sees everything as pre-given, i.e. the ‘reality’ into which we are thrown and have our ‘being’. This would be life without the ‘I’. (See blog ‘Violation, disruption and overturning’.)

Whereas, acceptance of the light of the Logos, through us, and into the world, would be tantamount to the discovery of the ‘I’.

The question is, what must come first to awaken us to the presence of the Logos and the discovery of the ‘I’?

The answer is Love, which is present in the encounter, but not before, and is itself the Logos.

Think on these things as you read below.

Living thought

Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17.21).

Living thought at one with the Logos cannot be achieved by the type of thinking that used to see the Logos outside of itself, but rather that of thinking that draws on the light of life of the Logos within itself, thereby ceasing to be reflective.

Thinking that still sees the Logos outside itself is identical to what today sees and thus deifies matter outside itself.

To accept anything as pre-determined prior to the experiencing of it - be it the Logos, or the material world into which we are born - is nothing short of idolatry.

In truth, the purpose of the Logos on Earth is to overcome nature within the human being i.e. the Resurrection; but itis not to lead humanity back to the Divine.

The Divine is not something that was there once and is now lost and has to be found again.To think in such a way would be to present the Logos as something outside of ourselves, to be found again, to be presupposed, to be worshipped as an idol.

© John Dunn.

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