Prophetic messages and cleverly-disguised myths (2 Peter 1; Transfiguration A)

This coming Sunday—the Feast of the Transfiguration—offers an excerpt from the work which we know as 2 Peter, the second letter attributed to the leader of the first group of disciples (2 Pet 1:16–21). This section of the letter is chosen to provide a companion piece to the account of the Transfiguration of Jesus, which we hear this year in Matthew’s version (Matt 17:1–9), and the story found in Exodus, of Moses atop a mountain “for forty days and forty nights” in the presence of “the glory of the Lord” (Exod 24:12–18).

2 Peter presents as a letter; the first verses follow the pattern of the opening address of a letter: “Simeon Peter…to those who have received faith…grace and peace” (1:1–2), but nothing else reflects standard letter practice. There are no closing greetings, simply a reference (unique amongst New Testament books) to Paul and “all his letters” and a warning not to be swayed by erroneous interpretations of them (3:15b–17). The work ends abruptly with a truncated benediction (3:18b).

The true purpose of this short document is signalled by a series of revealing phrases in an opening statement. With his death in view, the author asserts, “I intend to keep on reminding you …to refresh your memory…so that you may be able to recall these things” (1:12–15). Rather than a letter, the work is more accurately characterised as a farewell testament, delivered by a teacher to his disciples with his imminent death in view, to ensure that his teaching is remembered after his death.

Such works can be found in Jewish literature (Gen 47–49; 2 Sam 23; 2 Esdras 14; 2 Baruch 57–86; Testament of Moses; Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs) as well as in the New Testament (John 14–16; Acts 20:17–38; and we have noted that there may be elements in 2 Timothy).

The content of the teaching preserved in this document, however, is distant both from the teachings of Jesus (which the historical Peter would have heard) and from the first letter attributed to Peter. Rather than a letter penned by the disciple Peter, this book is a later work, written in the name of Peter in order to gain authority, to encourage believers at the end of the first century to hold fast to their faith.

The context in which this work was written was one of intense debate about doctrinal differences. However, in prosecuting his case, the author uses an argumentative style, with slogans and slanders to the fore, in place of substantive debate. Those who hold opinions different from the author are dismissed as “false prophets and false teachers” (2:1) and later as “scoffers” (3:3). Such people, it is claimed, are “nearsighted and blind” (1:9), “blots and blemishes” (2:13), “waterless springs and mists driven by a storm” (2:17).

Their behaviour is licentious (2:2, 18), greedy (2:3, 14), depraved (2:10), enslaved to corruption (2:19), defiled (2:20), irrational (2:12), insatiable (2:14), revelling in dissipation (2:13) and adulterous (2:14). What they teach is characterised as “the error of the lawless” (3:17); they malign the truth (2:2) and entice others (2:14, 18) by using slander (2:10, 12) and “deceptive words” (2:3); what they say is dismissed as “bombastic nonsense” (2:18) and “cleverly-disguised myths” (1:16).

The author claims that they once knew “the way of righteousness”, but have fallen away (2:20–21), in fulfillment of two rather odious proverbs, “the dog turns back to its own vomit” and “the sow is washed only to wallow in the mud” (2:22; the first from Prov 26:11; the origin of the second is unknown).

The author, by contrast, presents “precious and very great promises” (1:4) through his own “prophetic message” (1:19), which is further supported by the claim that he speaks as an eyewitness (1:16). The event which he witnessed is the moment when the divine voice declared Jesus as “my Son, my Beloved”, and Jesus was transformed (1:17–18).

This reference to the event known as the Transfiguration (reported in all three Synoptic Gospels) is intended to provide apologetic validation for his argumentative approach to things. His message is apologetically portrayed as “the truth” (1:12) and “the way of truth” (2:2), phrases familiar from the post-Pauline letter to the Ephesians and the “pastoral” epistles written by a student of Paul.

The author speaks this “prophetic message” as one “moved by the Holy Spirit” (1:21); the authority he claims is akin to “the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Saviour spoken through your apostles” (3:2). Such apologetic claims are intended to support the views of the author, although whether they will have had any effect on those he criticises is doubtful, as he says of them that they “despise authority” (2:10)!

These words also indicate that the author writes at some remove from the time of Jesus, since the phrase “in the past” clearly applies not only to the prophets but also to the commandment of Jesus spoken by the apostles (3:2). The consistently negative, adversarial tone of the work indicates that constructive elucidation of the way of Jesus has taken a back seat to castigating those who hold a different point of view from the author.

The scenario is of a time late in the first century, perhaps even early in the second century, when conflicts over teaching had intensified. The scene of Jesus on the mountain is told purely and simply to buttress the authority being claimed by the writer—part of the cut and thrust of argumentation at the time.


See also

The depth of God’s presence in our midst

Today (in the Eastern Church) is designated as the Feast of the Holy Innocents. (It was celebrated yesterday in the Western Church.) This festival day commemorates the story of “the Slaughter of the Innocents”, reportedly ordered by King Herod, and recorded in the opening chapters of Matthew’s Gospel (and nowhere else). It is a tragic story, a myth which is filled with pathos, and it resonates with events in the world we live in today. It is a story with great power (as are all myths).

But this story is strikingly absent from the usual array of carols that are sung at this time of the year. Sugar-coated reminiscences of the cute li’l baby Jesus (“holy infant so tender and mild”, “the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head”, “but little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes”, “gentle and lowly lived below”) take us well away from the murderous acts of the tyrannical ruler.

Most of the traditional carols really want us to focus on Jesus the exalted Lord, resplendent in glory, coming to earth from heaven, so they move us quickly away from the vulnerable infant, and especially from the grim political and social realities of the time.

Some of the traditional carols take us to the edge of the story of violence and repression, and then leave it unspoken, or rather, unsung. “Unto us a boy is born” refers to the fury unleashed by Herod in slaughtering the baby boys, but fails then to go on and narrate the flight undertaken by Joseph, Mary and Jesus. In “The first Nowell”, the three wise men see the star in verse 4 and come to find Jesus in verse 5, but nothing further is told of the ensuing events of Herod—slaughter—flight into Egypt.

A similar dynamic happens in verse 4 of “O come, all you faithful”, verse 3 of “Angels, from the realms of glory”, verse 3 of “Silent night, holy night”, and in verse 3 of the rollicking calypso carol, “The Virgin Mary had a baby boy”. “Brightest and best of the stars of the morning” spends one verse describing the cradle scene and two verses reflecting on the gifts brought to the infant Jesus, but nothing more as to how the visitors had come to him via Herod.

“As with gladness, men of old” devotes three verses to the story of the men of old seeing the star and bringing their gifts, but then dovetails into a pietistic plea to Jesus to “keep us in the narrow way”. No mention of the scenes of slaughter of the innocent infants and the fearful flight of refugees in these carols.

The star and the visitors from the east get prime billing; the murdered children and the hastily-departing family of Jesus, seeking the safety of refuge in a foreign country, are passed over very quickly.

Why is this state of affairs so? The lack of reference to the murderous acts of Herod and the fearful flight of the family of Jesus indicates that our Christmas carols sanitise and sanctify this foundational story, gilding the lily, reshaping our perspective on the story. They completely omit any references to a part of the story that has gained such traction, and that occupies such attention, in the minds of carefully critical contemporary Christians. Children continue to be sacrificed today, in the course of jingoistic warfare waged for ideological reasons. The tragedy continues today …

A number of contemporary hymn writers have turned their attention to this story. Shirley Erena Murray is right on the money when she highlights the violence and fear at the heart of the story, claims that the infant in the story has “come to plead war’s counter-case”, and articulates the hope that “goodness will outclass the gun, evil has no tooth that can kill the truth.”

Summer sun or winter skies, Christmas comes —

shepherds, angels, lullabies, words recorded by the wise:

read it in the book — take another look . . . .

Shadows track the hawk in flight; Christmas now —

children born in fire and fight, silent night a violent night,

hawks are in control of a nation’s soul.

There where terror plies its trade; Christmas now —

children learn to be afraid, minefields of distrust are laid,

evil is in force on a winning course.

Child of peace, God’s human face, Christmas now —

come to plead war’s counter-case, bring the dove a nesting place,

though her wings are torn, though her blood is drawn.

Winter skies or summer sun, Christmas comes —

still the threads of hope are spun, goodness will outclass the gun,

evil has no tooth that can kill the truth.

That is why the ancient story retold at Christmas resonates so strongly with our situation today. Not because “it really happened, exactly like this”, but because it takes us to the centre of our humanity and reveals the depth of God’s presence in our midst. We ought to sing more about it!

In the resources for Daily Prayer with the Northumbrian Community, that Elizabeth and I currently use, there is this wonderful prayer for this day:

Where is the sound of hope, the cry of the child that wakes?
 The dull, aching, continued breathing of the mother
 becomes a wail of grief, a weeping for the children who are no more.
 The silent landscape shudders.
 God of mercy, light in darkness, hold gently to Your heart
 the tiny ones we cradle in our prayer whose life was over before it had begun. Amen.


See also 


The counter-cultural, alternative-narrative impact of the person of Jesus

Today (in the Western Church) is designated as the Feast of the Holy Innocents. (It is celebrated tomorrow in the Eastern Church.) This festival day commemorates a tradition known as “the slaughter of the Innocents”, reportedly ordered by King Herod.

Continue reading “The counter-cultural, alternative-narrative impact of the person of Jesus”

Ye who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing

Today is the second day in the season of Christmas, which technically runs from 25 December to 5 January. This day brings together an unlikely combination of characters, worth pondering.

Continue reading “Ye who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing”

Andrew and Elizabeth Wotherspoon, 11 December 1838

Andrew Wotherspoon was born on 31st July 1811 in Glasgow, Scotland. On 10 July 1836, he married Elizabeth Watson at Greenock, Scotland. Elizabeth Watson was born on 11 March 1817 in Glasgow, Scotland. She lived to the age of 76 years, dying on 13 September 1893. Andrew had predeceased her, dying on 18 April 1887, at the age of 75. Elizabeth is buried with Andrew in the North Lismore Cemetery. They are my great-great-great-grandparents.

Andrew and Elizabeth, later in life

Soon after they married, they boarded the ship James Pattison to sail to the Colonies. The ship, under the charge of James Cromarty, Master, set sail from Plymouth on 1 August 1838; it arrived in Port Jackson from England on 11 December 1838 with 300 emigrants in good health, including Andrew and Elizabeth Wotherspoon. So that arrival is 184 years ago today!

The James Pattison had twice sailed from England to the colonies with convicts (1829–30, and 1837). In between those trips, in 1835–36, the ship transported 238 free women, emigrating from Ireland to New South Wales. The 1838 trip was yet another journey bringing 300 emigrants to a new life in the colony. They were supplemented by the birth of five children during the voyage—although 11 people on board died during this trip to the colony, during which the ship became becalmed; she had to sail around Van Dieman’s Land rather than through the Bass Straight.

Prior to his marriage, Andrew had attended Glasgow University, taking courses in Latin and Greek; he completed his course in 1831, but did not matriculate, because he was a Free Presbyterian who held supreme allegiance to God, rather than any human monarch. Matriculation required swearing allegiance to the King, so he declined to participate.

Relatively few people, at that time, received education to such a level. Andrew, with his above-average educational achievements, spent much of his time in the Colony of New South Wales as a teacher—first, at the School of St John the Baptist’s Church in what is now the suburb of Reid on Canberra (in those days, it was part of the Queanbeyan district); then in Lismore, in the northern rivers region to the far north of NSW. He also worked as Postmaster in Lismore.

Before securing the teacher’s position at St John’s, probably in the mid-1840s, the records show that Andrew worked as a trunk maker in Sydney (1839), an ironmonger in Parramatta (1841), a clerk in Goulburn (1844), and then a teacher at Long Swamp near Bungendore (1846). These are the occupations that are noted in the church records for the baptism of the first four children of Elizabeth and Andrew.

Elizabeth was busy, of course, keeping home, giving birth to children, and being responsible for raising them. There were nine children in all. The firstborn, Janet Bell, bore the name of her maternal grandmother, Elizabeth’s mother, Janet Bell. She was born in Sydney on 24 Jan 1839.

Two years later, James was born in Sydney (born 29 April 1841, died 16 July 1923). Then came Walter, given the name of Elizabeth’s father, Walter Watson (born Goulburn 13.12.1843; died 20.3.1909), Robert Scott (born Goulburn 6. 5.1846; died 9.8.1893), and my great-grandmother, Eliza Jane (born Ginninderra 23.10.1848; died 22.8.1924).

There followed William Watson (born Yass 23.10.1851; died 30.3.1894); Violet (born Ginninderra 17. 2.1854; died 27.3.1934); Andrew Morton (born Ginninderra 22.12.1857; died 10.10.1928) and Kenneth McDonald (born Queanbeyan, 13.3.1860; died 5.5.1943).

Andrew and Elizabeth with their sons
(but not daughters!!)

St. John’s Church was established on land owned by the Campbells of Duntroon in 1841 and St. John’s school was set up 4 years later. Andrew is recorded as the school teacher in 1848, but may have been teaching there earlier. He was dismissed by Charles Campbell after a disagreement between them in 1853. Wotherspoon left the school and took up farming at Goat Station, near Coppins Crossing.

Following a tragedy in the family on 3 March 1859, when his 20-year old daughter Janet was drowned, Andrew opened a school at Ginninderra which he conducted for a few years, whilst also running a sheep station there. He was again offered the St John’s school and he taught there in 1861 and 1862.

The schoolhouse beside St John the Baptist Church at Reid is now a Museum

Of course, at this time, there was no Canberra. Copping Crossing, Gininnderra, and the St John the Baptist church, all were outliers to the town of Queanbeyan, which grew from the residence established by an ex-convict and inn keeper, Timothy Beard, who squatted on the banks of the Molonglo River.

By 1838, when there were 50 people resident in the district, Queanbeyan was officially proclaimed a township. By 1860, the town had a regular newspaper, The Golden Age (it subsequently became the Queanbeyan Age). A regular letter-writer to this newspaper was one Andrew Wotherspoon. In my research I have discovered that my ancestor, a staunch Presbyterian, was aggrieved that, whilst he was able to teach at St John the Baptist, the Presbyterians were denied the use of the church for worship.

His letters, initially sent anonymously, were full-on, calling out the bigotry of the so-called Christians of the Anglican church. Mr George Campbell and Rev. P. G. Smith resented the implica­tions in these letters, and when the identity of the author finally became known they tried to have Wotherspoon dismissed. They failed. The letters to the press continued—bitter but truthful.

In the end, Wotherspoon was dismissed from his post, and he took his wife and children to Lismore on the north coast of New South Wales in 1863, where he became the first schoolteacher, and then the local Postmaster, from 1864 to 1871. It seems that his departure from St John’s School was also driven by reports of Andrew Wotherspoon’s involvement with a younger female person in the area.

There is a detailed discussion of events both in Queanbeyan (now Canberra) and then in Lismore, at

Andrew was rarely free of public controversy, which the local newspapers happily reported. In 1867, for instance, six parents of schoolchildren taught by him had petitioned the Council of Education to investigate the incompetency of Mr Wotherspoon, alleging that their children’s education was being “neglected and retarded”. A School Inspector was sent to deal with the matter in 1870, and another in 1872, as a result of which Andrew was to be “severely reprimanded and cautioned”.

There was another petition in 1874, which upheld Andrew’s view of matters; but the opening of a rival school by the disgruntled parents led to a decline in enrolments at Andrew’s school, and he ceased teaching later in 1874. He opened a store in Woodlark St in 1876. He died in 1887 and Elizabeth died in 1893.

One of Andrew’s descendants, Noel Wotherspoon, has compiled a biography of Andrew and Elizabeth with an extensive family tree; he sorties, “Possibly some of Andrew’s (now) distant descendants may consider him to have been narrow minded—by today’s standards. However, no one could deny that he had the public courage of his convictions and does deserve great credit for a meritorious life.”

Eliza Jane, my great-great-grandmother,
with her second husband, James Walker,
and her children from both marriages.
Herbert Taylor is at the left rear.

My line of descent from Andrew and Elizabeth is through Eliza Jane (1848–1924), Herbert Taylor (1873–1931), Jack Leslie Taylor (1897–1968), and my mother, Joan Hazel Squires, née Taylor. I am grateful that Elizabeth and Andrew made the decision to travel to the Colony all those years ago!

The achievements of the Whitlam Government, 50 years later

It was fifty years ago today (2 December 1972) that the Australian electorate came to its senses after 23 years of stodgy, backward-looking conservative coalition governments. Gough Whitlam led the Labor Party to a victory over a shrivelled and useless McMahon—Anthony coalition.

In three dynamic years, the Whitlam Government effected many overdue and very welcome changes, in so many areas:

Race relationships: the White Australia Policy was abolished, the Racial Discrimination Act began the move into multiculturalism for Australia

Land rights: returning land to the Gurindiji people in the Northern Territory began the process that led to the Mabo and Wik judgements; free Aboriginal legal services were also established

Education: free higher education was introduced, making hundreds and thousands of Australians the first in their family able to go to university

Civil rights: both conscription into the armed forces and the death penalty were abolished

Healthcare: Medicare brought universal healthcare for all Australians, providing access to GPs and hospitals at minimal cost

Rights for women: no-fault divorce meant that women could chose to leave an unhappy marriage without being financially burdened; removing the tax on contraceptives meant the Pill was made affordable and accessible; the equal pay case meant women would be more fairly compensated in employment

Foreign affairs: Whitlam was the first Western leader to visit China, reorienting our focus to Asia, leading to a flourishing trade with the region

The Arts: funding to the arts was doubled, the National Gallery, the Australian Council for the Arts, and SBS were all established

All of this, and more, to be thankful for!

See more at


On fantasy, mythology, and mental health (part II)

I have recently blogged about a most interesting series of conversations that I have participated in. I’ve been one of three members of the “Moon Knight Panel”, discussing the six episodes of this show, Moon Knight, which was released earlier this year on Disney Plus. The three of us—Will in Melbourne, Praxis in Hobart, and myself in Canberra—have recorded a series of seven podcasts that explore the issues that arise in each of the six episodes of Moon Knight. (Seven podcasts for six episodes, as the first podcast is an introduction to the panel members.) See

In that blog, I noted that it was not only the opportunity to discuss the condition of DID with others, through the medium of commentary on the Moon Knight series, that was what I appreciated about this recent experience. It was also the opportunity to talk at depth about the place of fantasy in our lives, and to explore matters of theology and mythology, the relationship of the divine to humanity, that was valuable.

Integral to the storyline of Moon Knight is the interplay between the divine realm—here expressed through the gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt—and the humans in the story. Indeed, Marc Spector is engaged as the avatar for the Egyptian moon god Konshu. Whilst “avatar” is in popular use as the electronic representation of a person in online games, in the Hindu religion it is used to refer to an incarnation, or manifestation in human form, of one of the deities. That’s how it should be understood in Moon Knight.

Konshu, as portrayed in Moon Knight

In this series, as Spector is the human manifestation of the divine Konshu, the moon god, he is known as Moon Knight. His wife, Layla, becomes the avatar of the goddess Tawaret, the goddess of childbirth and fertility, and thus also of determining the onward progression of souls in the afterlife. Tawaret appears to perform this function in episode 5, when she takes the hearts of both Marc and Steven and weighs them to see if they are “in balance”.

Layla as the avatar of Tawaret

Some scenes are set in the “council of the gods”, where the deities debate the actions of avatars and discuss what needs to happen amongst human beings. In theory, the human characters in the story have no choice but to implement the will of their god or goddess; in Moon Knight, the relationship is portrayed in a more complex manner. These scenes provide dramatic tension; the out working of “the will of the gods” amongst humans provides action drama, with some great special effects amongst the conflict and violence that ensues.

National Geographic was apparently consulted with regard to the Egyptian gods and goddesses, and the mythology that has developed around them, as they appear in the Moon Knight series; see


The relationship of the gods to human beings is heightened by the work of the avatar of the goddess Ammit, whose role is to execute justice by examining the souls of people and assessing whether they are good or evil. Those who are evil are instantly put to death, to avoid them carrying out any future unjust actions.

That, in itself, raises some central ethical concerns; is it in any way right to take a person’s life on the basis of what evil it is believed that person will commit? On the other hand, if you have the power to know how a person is going to harm others, do you not have a duty to interfere with their capacity to do so, to prevent that harm being inflicted on other people? A difficult cluster of dilemmas, indeed.

Arthur Harrow with a portrayal of Ammit on his staff,
which he uses to adjudge the goodness or evil of people

The avatar of Ammit is Arthur Harrow, who behaves very much like a cult leader; in later scenes, however, he appears as Dr Harrow, the psychiatrist who is working with Marc Spector in a mental hospital to help him come to grips with his dissociative identity disorder. Now that’s an intriguing plot twist!

Since Will and I (two of the three-member panel) are both Uniting Church Ministers, the discussion in our podcasts inevitably canvasses the notion of divine judgement, as well as the relationship between humans and the divine, that we both experience in our lives and know about from our reading in Christian (and Jewish) theological traditions. Moon Knight invites its audience to explore how fantasy—storytelling, spinning a yarn, depicting a dramatic plot—helps them to explore the complexities of the human—divine relationship.

This bears many similarities with the way that Christian scriptures employ mythology—storytelling, narrating ancient sagas, recounting dramatic encounters and events—to convey attitudes of faith. Scripture, in my view, is not propositional or mechanical, conveying truth in a direct way through dogma or assertion. Rather, Scripture is a collation of stories which convey truths indirectly, through the art and creativity of myths. So there are many resonances between “interpreting the Bible” and “understanding Moon Knight”!

(On understanding the Bible as a collection of myths, see; on the Christmas story as a myth, see

Connected with this understanding of the nature of much of the Bible is the observation that DID itself is a “fantasy-like” way of dealing with trauma and the associated difficulties. The identities that are formed by dissociation from “the self” in DID are the result of the mind of the person, playing at the edges of reality, creating characters—who then, often take on a life of their own and become a “reality” within “the system” of the host person.

So the Bible, Marvel superheroes, Egyptian mythology, and Dissociative Identity Disorder form a neat cluster of areas in which fantasy, mythology, creativity, and story-telling combine, leaving us with the fundamental existential question in itself: what is real? what is unreal? and how do we make the distinction? Or, even: should we make such a distinction?


The link to the podcast on Episode Two is at

For Episode One, see

For an introduction to the Moon Knight Panel, see

I invite you to have a listen and explore these fascinating (and challenging) issues.

Good information about DID can be found at

On fantasy, mythology, and mental health (part I)

I have recently taken part in a most interesting series of conversations, on topics that are quite unlike others that I have participated in. I’ve been one of three members of the “Moon Knight Panel”, discussing the six episodes of this show, Moon Knight, which was released earlier this year on Disney Plus. The three of us—Will in Melbourne, Praxis in Hobart, and myself in Canberra—have recorded a series of seven podcasts that explore the issues that arise in each of the six episodes of Moon Knight. (Seven podcasts for six episodes, as the first podcast is an introduction to the panel members.)

The six episodes were released by Marvel Entertainment, which began life as the publisher of comic books (Spider Man, Doctor Doom, Captain America, She-Hulk, and Wolverine, amongst many others). It has now expanded to be a film production enterprise. Moon Knight is a character in Marvel comics, and this series represents a stepping-up from the role that Moon Knight has had in the printed comic books, for this character to become the star of his own television miniseries. The six episodes contain action, adventure, violence, drama, and suspense—it’s a really well-done artistic creation.

An early appearance of Moon Knight in the comics

Moon Knight first appeared as a character in a 1975 comic, Werewolf by Night #32, where his character was a villain, aiming to kill Werewolf. Moon Knight continued to appear in various comics in subsequent years, in which he turns to become a “good guy”. His first solo series, Moon Knight #1, was published in 1980. There is a whole complex story that has evolved over the decades, as Moon Knight has appeared, as himself and in various guises, in various comic series during that time. I entered into this podcast series, however, in blissful ignorance of that long history of Moon Knight; I was viewing the episodes with Paul Ricouer’s “first naïveté”.

My involvement in the panel has come about, not because I am a Marvel comic aficionado—I am not—nor because I am a Disney Plus subscriber—I am not—and not even because I am an action movie buff—I most certainly am not! It was because the episodes reveal a situation in which the human character who is to the fore at the start of the first episode, mild-mannered British gift-shop employee Steven Grant, is revealed to have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), and DID is something that I know about quite closely, from my own lived experience of the condition.

Steven Grant actually turns out to have been an identity created by Marc Spector, a Jewish-American mercenary who has been implicated in numerous murders. The series provides a gradual revelation of the relationship between Marc and Steven—and by the last episode, leaving us on the expected cliffhanger, we are aware that there is yet another identity, Jake Lockley, lurking in and around Marc and Steven. Jake is a ruthless Spanish assassin; how he figures in the complex scenario will, we presume, be revealed in the second series, yet to be recorded (although readers of the printed comics will have a good understanding of this already).


Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) was previously known as MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder), and it was MPD that I was diagnosed with about 30 years ago. The process of therapy that led to this diagnosis was a thoroughly challenging and deeply disturbing process for me. The therapy that followed, enabling me to deal with the dissociated identities that were lurking in my being, was a comprehensive and exhausting marathon over some years. I haven’t spoken about this before to many people in my life—and certainly never in such a public way as I have in the podcasts and now in this blog.

The series does a fine job, in my estimation, of portraying the confusion, disturbance, incomprehensibility, and fear that comes with a diagnosis of DID. Although I did not have many dramatic experiences of suddenly finding myself in a foreign and unknown situation—which is what happens, very dramatically, to Steven Grant in the earlier episodes—I certainly had the experience of complete and absolute confusion, of finding myself “gripped” in an intense way by a personality or force that felt quite alien, of enacting behaviours that were completely uncharacteristic for me and deeply troubling for others. All of these things are portrayed with vivid drama in the Moon Knight series—far more dramatically than what my own experiences were, but resonating deeply with the experiences I had, which still remember very clearly.

One of the other members of the Moon Knight panel, Praxis, also has lived experience of DID—although his experience is very different from mine. The “system” of Praxis that he is living with is quite different from the “system” that I identified in my therapy. His personalities identify in ways very different from the ways that mine did, and his “living with a ‘functioning multiplicity’ system of identities” is very different from the process that I undertook, of “fusing personalities piece-by-piece, seeking an ultimate integration into one person”. Talking with one another about our rather different experiences of DID has been mutually beneficial—and even through the differences, there are many key similarities that we have shared.

The series also accurately depicts the sheer exhaustion of the process of “switching” identities—something that was a very real experience for me in the height of the time when my “personalities” were emerging. Such “switching” would happen without warning, many times in a fierce, dramatic way. The sense of suddenly being “taken over” by another identity was an intensely draining experience for me, even when it happened in a relatively “smooth” way. So the dramatic portrayals of this aspect in Moon Knight, whilst not entirely “realistic” for me, certainly convey the intensity and dramatic impact of how such experiences felt at the time.

One critic of the comic book character made this assessment a few years ago: “When you look at Moon Knight’s story as a whole, it appears to be more and more of a story about perseverance, endurance, and coming to grips with who you are. That’s an extremely universal story. That’s something anyone can relate to, in one way or another. It’s a call to believe in yourself, and to never give up. And, really, that’s one of the most heroic tales you can get.” (Matt Attanasio,, 22 May 2018)

That is a very positive and affirming conclusion for me to take from this story, and from my own experience. I hope that this is sensed by those who watch the television series. You don’t need to have experienced the condition of DID to take this lesson to heart.

The link to the first podcast (introducing the Moon Knight Panel) is at

The podcast on Episode One is at

I invite you to have a listen and explore these fascinating (and challenging) issues.

Good information about DID can be found at


The post below comes from 2019. I have updated it here with statistics relating to 2022, taken from Deathwatch 2022.

Click here to read our Deathwatch 2022 Report.

It is important to note that this and previous years death tolls are almost entirely made up of the deaths we learn of from official race day reports. Countless others are taken away from the racetrack and killed behind the scenes when it is clear they cannot (or were chosen not to) be saved, indicating that although high and devastating, these findings are still grossly understated.

Key Findings

  • At least 139 horses were killed on track for a number of reasons, most commonly for catastrophic front limb injury (46)
  • On average at least one horse will die on Australian racetracks every 2.5 days
  • At least nine horses died from cardiac causes
  • The state with the highest recorded deaths was NSW (55) followed by VIC (37) and QLD (20)
  • Fifty-five of the horses that were reported to have been killed had been raced as two-year-olds
  • Ten horses were only two years old when they died on track
  • Two horses are still listed as ‘active’ on the Racing Australia website at the time of writing,
  • All states failed on several occasions to upload race replays where a horse died. NSW was the worst culprit, editing or failing to upload replays where a horse died on at least seven occasions.


Remembering Medora, Dispatch, Dulcify, Verema, Admire Rakti, Araldo, Red Cadeaux, Regal Monarch, and Cliffsofmoher–who each died during or soon after racing in the Melbourne Cup.

Today the Melbourne Cup takes place. It has become known as the race that stops a nation. But the reality is, it really should be the nation that stops a race—and all other horse races—because of the cruelty that is integral to the horse racing industry. A brief history indicates this.

The race was first run in 1861 to a crowd of 4,000 people. Two horses died in that first race. An article in the Australian Dictionary of Biography describes the race: Medora’s front legs gave way and she fell heavily, bringing down her jockey, Henderson. Dispatch rounded the turn and somersaulted over her, careered into the picket fence and threw her jockey, Morrison. Next came Twilight who collapsed on top of them, bringing Haynes down with her. Unhurt, she broke loose before heading off across the course and was disqualified. Nearby spectators anxiously dragged the fallen horses off the track before the others came round the course again. The jockeys also sustained injuries; Henderson’s shoulder was dislocated and Morrison’s right collar broken. The injury to his right side was such that he could only walk with assistance and had to be taken to Melbourne Hospital. (see

In 1881, Jockey John Dodd died as a result of injuries received while riding Suwarrow in the race. The horse survived.

In 1979, Dulcify broke his hip 400m from the finishing post in the 1979 Melbourne Cup and was taken to the Melbourne stables of his trainer, where he was euthanased by a vet in the back of a horse float.

In 2013, a horse named Verema was euthanased right on the Flemington racetrack, although green tarps prevented the crowd from seeing what was happening.

Two horses died due to racing in the 2014 Melbourne Cup. Cup favourite Admire Rakti, who was carrying the heaviest weight since Think Big (1975), died of heart failure in his stall after the race, and Araldo broke his leg and had to be euthanased after being spooked by a flag in the crowd after the race.

In 2015, Red Cadeaux, the only horse to finish 2nd in the race on 3 occasions, and a public favourite, did not finish due to a fetlock injury and had to be euthanased 2 weeks later.

In 2017, Regal Monarch broke his right leg and had to be euthanased. Such deaths take place because it is difficult for a horse’s fractured bone to heal. So a broken bone spells death.

In 2018, Cliffsofmoher had to be put down after fracturing a shoulder early in the Cup. He was euthanased on the track, right in front of the grandstand, behind a large green sheet.

In 2015, 132 racehorses died on race courses across Australia due to repeat injuries, according to the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses. That’s about one death every three days.

Has that terrible figure produced a response from racing authorities, to lessen the death toll? Not at all—in fact, the number of death has grown in the intervening years. From July 2016 until July 2017, 137 horses died on Australian racetracks. That is an outrageous number.

The most recent set of figures kept by the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses indicate that over the past year, the most common reason for a racehorse dying was catastrophic front limb injury (61), whilst 7 horses collapsed and died on the track, 10 horses died from cardiac causes, and 5 horses died from bleeds.

We need to stop this cruelty. This is actually the race that shames a nation. The whole industry, however, is riddled with practices and customs that perpetuate cruelty and cause regular deaths, as the recent ABC 7:30 report has demonstrated. (see

Say Nup to the Cup.

See also

World Mental Health Day, 10 October

Every year during October, Mental Health Month is held. It is based around World Mental Health Day, which was first celebrated in 1992, as an initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global mental health organization with members and contacts in more than 150 countries. World Mental Health Day falls on 10 October every year and is now promoted internationally by the World Health Organisation.

The day, and the month, offers a way of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world through government health departments and civil society organizations across the globe. The WHO says that “World Mental Health Day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.”

This year, the theme for World Mental Health Day is Making Mental Health & Well-Being for All a Global Priority. The hope is that focussing attention on the mental health of people will result in a better general awareness in society as well as improvements in services offered. 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was estimated that one in eight people globally were living with a mental disorder. So this is a much-needed focus on a long-established matter. See

Certainly, the years of the pandemic have exacerbated short- and long-term stresses, undermining the mental health of millions. As mental health services were disrupted by restrictions and lockdowns, so the treatment gap for mental health conditions has widened. The need for ongoing attention to providing good mental health support is even more evident.

In NSW, people are being encouraged to Tune In this mental health month, with resources providing Tips to Tune In (practise self-compassion, take time to rest, notice your boundaries, connect with friends) as well as tips for a less-stressed workplace and colourful posts for social media, to spread awareness of the month. See

In the ACT this year, the theme for the month is as simple as A—B—C: namely, Awareness—Belonging—Connection. Awareness is about understanding how to maintain and boost our mental wellbeing, realising when we need to reach out for help, and knowing where to get it. Belonging is about looking out for each other, feeling safe and supported, and knowing that we’re not alone: there are others going through the same thing. Connection is about our relationships: not just with our friends, families and those we care about, but also the groups, clubs, and networks we rely on to help us stay happy and healthy. See

Loneliness is one significant cause of mental health issues. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that most Australians will experience loneliness at some point in their lives. 1 in 3 (33%) Australians reported an episode of loneliness between 2001 and 2009. 40% of these people reported experiencing more than 1 episode. In surveys undertaken since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, just over half (54%) of respondents reported that they felt more lonely since the start of the pandemic. See

Friendship, care and support is something that the church can offer to people—especially to people who are experiencing loneliness. A supportive community can help lonely people to strengthen their mental health and have a more positive life. It’s something that every local congregation can easily do. Look around in your community; who are the lonely people? How can you offer them friendship and support? How can you live out the Gospel by giving compassionate care to such people?


For myself, I have lived with an awareness of the importance of taking care of my own mental health for some decades. Long before the pandemic, I recognised the importance of accessing support services and taking steps to ensure that my mental health remained robust. It hasn’t always been so—there have been some difficult periods of depression, anxiety, and dysfunction that I have experienced. Some of those times were really tough. Fortunately, there were other times—more times, I am pleased to say—that were positive, enjoyable, hope-filled times.

I am most grateful for the consistent, loving support and the always perceptive guidance that I have had over all those years from my wife Elizabeth. There have been a number of times when she has made sure that I was safe, helped me to seek professional assistance, and let people know that I wouldn’t be able to carry through some of my responsibilities at those times. I am sure that I wouldn’t have made it through all those years without her.

I was also very fortunate that the church made generous provision for me to have extended periods of leave when that was necessary, following medical advice. I am so glad that I came through those periods of time and was able to continue in ministry and have the opportunity to serve in a variety of roles.

There are various learnings that I have taken from these experiences. In the early times, when I had no explanation for what was happening, working with various professionals to explore matters was certainly very hard work. In time, when a clear diagnosis was made and then a workable treatment regime was put into place, there was a clear pathway to enjoying better mental health. But it would take quite some time to get there.

Those were difficult and, at times, scary times. Coming to grips with the realities of life—learning to be honest about myself, with myself, and with trusted others—was a slow process, full of challenges, but ultimately a very important pathway to follow.

Integral to my particular process of therapy was dealing with memories of the past that surfaced. This can be a real challenge—especially when there has been no clear, present memory of those traumatic experiences back in the past. I had to be prepared to learn new things about myself. This was hugely confronting. Eventually, realising that many of these learnings provide insightful explanations about “the way I am”, and especially my specific idiosyncrasies, proved to be a helpful process. Difficult, costly, but ultimately quite rewarding.

In this process, I learnt the importance of building resilience to engage at deeper levels with what life presents. Dealing with a series of shocks that surfaced during periods of deepened depression, increased anxiety, and gradually-clarifying memories, needed constant inner strength. It was draining and demanding. Over time, looking back, I can see how I learnt to accept and integrate those learning experiences into my sense of who I am as a whole person.

For myself, I found that balancing personal and professional needs was very important. In crisis periods, prioritising the personal over the professional was essential. As each of those crises lessened in intensity, the integration of specific professional tasks became possible, so a phased “return to work” could take place in an appropriate way.

At times, my work in ministry, either in educational or in organisational/oversight roles, presented challenging emotional situations. In the regular run of things, being aware of the saturation level of emotional intensity in my life was quite important. I needed to know when to plunge in to such situations, and when to step back from those situations and leave others to deal with them.

This has helped me develop, I believe, a growing capacity to balance honesty and care: to know when it was most important to confront the truth in a situation, and when it was wiser to offer pastoral care to a person, or persons, caught in such a situation. I like to think that my own psychological journey, exploring and strengthening my own mental health, has given me some capacity to empathise with hurting people, to engage sensibly with angry people, to speak clearly to confused people. I don’t for one second imagine that I am world’s best at these kind of things— far from it! But I have tried to develop skills in such things over the decades.

When I look back on the three decades during which good mental health has been an important focus for me, I think that I can see how I began to forge a new way of being, in the midst of realising that I was actually a rather motley collection of battered and bruised pieces dating from various incidents in my life, long, Iong ago. I have thus had a focus on “becoming integrated” as a person (or, at least, becoming “more integrated” than previously). I think that this has been important for me to do as a person, and it has helped me to function effectively as a minister. I hope that has been the experience of other people.

So this year, on World Mental Health Day, I join with interested people around the globe in emphasising the importance of taking care of our own mental health, being alert to the signs of stress in other people’s mental health, and advocating for the provision of strong mental health services in our society. I hope you will share in that same commitment.