Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The First, and Last Enemy: The Nemean Lion

When the Roman legions were caught in a tactically bad situation, they would often cut their own odds. For instance, at Gallorum Forum, the Legio Martia ordered the recruit band to stand to one side during the battle against Mark Anthony (BC 43, Civil War). The rationale for this was that inexperience would create chaos in the Roman lines, and that numbers were the least of the worries at that point. Martia was victorious, because her veterans were trained to function independently, to give their own orders when cut off, and to form their own tactics in the fog of war. In the Christian era, awards have been given for independent action against orders. The Austrian Empire gave this to those who achieved success by risking court-martial. This was a Baroque epiphany, additive to the legionary Pauline model. When Hercules went to slay the Nemean lion, he realized that the fur could not be pierced, and that the beast had to be killed in the mouth or throat, or have its hide ripped by its own claws. He had to strangle the beast. The spiritual warfare in our spiritual life is not straightforward: it is desperate, complex, and simple only in a non-obvious way. Saint Paul tells us not to beat the air. Instead, we are to arm ourselves, prepare ourselves, and fight as if only one can win. We cannot embrace the worldy model of "success".The Nemean Lion is the Self. It can only be killed, effectively and salvifically, by the Self, by the Champion. It must be tracked to its lair, and engaged in close quarters. It must be strangled and skinned with its own claws. It is the most difficult adversary, because it comes first. It could easily prove the death of the young champion, coming, as it does, so early as a dire challenge. Nevertheless, the one who conquers can wear the lion-skin forever. If we want to become like Hercules, we must not "follow orders" (didn't the Nazis restrict themselves to this), but must learn the deeper lessons, the lessons David learned from the Law which lead to the shewbread. And, finally, we must become champions. Perhaps, then, we may find adventure.
Isaac the Syrian says it thusly: "The effect of the cross is twofold; the duality of its nature divides it into two parts, One consists in enduring sorrows of the flesh which are brought about by the action of the excitable part of the soul, and this part is called activity. The other part lies in the finer workings of the mind and in divine meditation, as well as in attending to prayer, etc.; it is accomplished by means of the desiring part of the soul and is called contemplation. The part of the soul by dint of its zeal, while the second part is the activity of soulful love, in other words, natural desire, which enlightens the rational part of the soul. Every man who, before perfectly mastering the first part, switches to the second, attracted out of weakness--to say nothing of laziness, is overtaken by God's wrath because he did not first mortify his members which are upon the earth (Col. 3:5). In other words, he did not cure his thoughts of infirmities by patiently bearing the cross, but rather dared in his mind to envision the glory of the cross" (Word 55).
"It is evident from these words of Isaac the Syrian that what we call prelest proper exists when a man starts trying to live above his capabilities. Without having cleansed himself of passions, he strives for a life of contemplation and dreams of the delights of spiritual grace. Thus the wrath of God befalls a man; because he thinks too highly of himself, God's grace is withdrawn from him and he falls under the influence of the evil one who actively begins to tickle his vainglory with lofty contemplation and [spiritual] delights..." http://www.roca.org/OA/66-68/66n.htm
We wish romance, but not delusion. It is evident that the spiritual life is dangerous. The first, the last, the deadliest enemy is the Self. We have need of Hercules' strength and directness, as well as divine blessing, in order to slay this Foe.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Questions for the Church

The concept of the political (see Karl Schmitt) is not even registering on the Church radars. The political is the result of devoted unequals who work to strengthen the body to harness itself to the right spirit, in order to achieve soul. It is not an Idea. Worship the Intellect (whether TULIP, regulative principles, or updated liturgies), and you lose the body. The Church will burn its pinch of incense to Caesar and the gods of Equality. It will become a tool to help people adapt to the new slavery of globalization, which treats us all like atoms to be harnessed as resources in the quest for domination. We will become politically enslaved to the lusts of those pulling the strings of power. Man is an icon, not an atom. He is not an idea, theory, or model. He is real. She is real. It is increasingly against the law to incarnate any principle which goes against the "ideal" of equality. Equality is an Idea. A false but clear Idea. And the Left has nowhere else to go with their failed project. All must be melted down to slag to achieve the religious eschaton of materialistic ontology, where the true noetic (including the body) is illuminated, enlightened, and then glorified. The Left reverses this. First believe the Lie and be glorified, then comes "enlightenment" (or acquiescence supine), and then comes "meaning". Satan always goes first.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Perennial Religion


"Man is hopelessly religious..."

On the one hand, there is no settling (in a final way) most "religious" questions. On the other hand, for that very reason, they are crucial to what it means to be human. Schuon seems to have been (like others before him) interested in getting to the very essence of ideation in the germination of sacred tradition. There are many barriers to this. One way of looking at this is to take tradition as a given, but a flexible, and potentially deeper, source of that given. There may be a way to change into more of what you already are. If Christianity was generated "ideationally" (see PA Sorokin) out of the idealistic corpus of Judaism, and if the process repeated itself during the Barbarian invasions, then it ought to be doable once again. See Chesterton's "five deaths of the faith" essay: http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/chesterton/everlasting/part2c6.htm
The trick would seem to be keeping the esoteric portion of a religion white-hot and creatively alive. The debates over the exoteric "tradition"would then be much easier. Something like that is occuring in America today, as conservatives in all denominations discover that they have more in common with faithful Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, or evangelicals than they do with the luke-warm in their own "congregation". The sharing of esoteric, subjective, mystic truth (however chaotic and haphazard and limited) creates a strong enough bond to attract attention across the theological divides (which may be proper ones).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

"...After a time in both Berlin and Dresden, Schlegel moved to Paris in June 1802, where he founded another new journal, Europa, and turned significant attention to the figurative arts..."

"...In 1925, [Rosenstock-Huessy] founded a journal, Die Kreatur (The Creature), which was edited by Wittig, a Roman Catholic; Martin Buber, a Jew; and Viktor von Wiezsacker, a Protestant, and lasted until 1930. “Among the contributors were Nicholas Berdyaev, Lev Shestov, Franz Rosenweig, Ernst Simon, Hugo Bergmann, Rudolf Hallo, and Florens Christian Rang. Each of these men had, between 1910 and 1932, in one way or another, offered an alternative to the idealism, positivism, and historicism that dominated German universities..."

This "occasional" is dedicated to providing a home for Christians (and others) who are dissatisfied enough with their own spiritual and intellectual circumstances to want to change. But more than that, it is about finding pure Truth, yet speaking it in love. "All things may be lawful, but not all are profitable..." . What we need now are networks capable of generating and elevating the antique inquiry which made no distinction between the head and the heart, and which frankly aimed at educating both the mind and the soul, together. The Blog Roll, the permanent pages, the links, and the posts are all aimed toward the same target: arming the self-questioner with material which has been proven to develop the sinews of the brain and awaken the spark of the heart. The author's perspective is that of the "traditional" Western project : a union of classical antiquity with the novelty of the Faith delivered to the saints, continued on under challenging circumstances and singularities emerging from contact with other traditions and Science in the modern world. All who share this belief, this conviction, even this desire or inkling, are welcome here. Fate returns, and the music re-awakens. As the debris and smoke clears from the "collapse" and the "culture wars", opportunity emerges, and we shall see what has stood not just the test of time, but of chaos and anger. It is there that we shall build again...To that end, you will find here, in the armorium, as many weapons from Gondor as I can find and you can wield. Unknown or forgotten thinkers are particularly useful to us in these matters, and my thanks goes to Joel Dietz for sharpening what little iron I have in this direction. In fact, he forged some of it. Also many thanks to the writers and thinkers (such as Res Publica) who bravely attempt what others think is impossible. The right thing to do is often inefficient, un-politic, unpopular, and seemingly impossible. Let us carry on…the truth is out there, and will continue to be so. The Good will take care of itself. We are just wanting to stand in the circle of Light. This site is a piece of a bigger picture, but also a haven of its own. There are only three forbidden phrases: 1. Who’s to say? 2. All things are relative. 3. There is no truth. (and 4. Any fancy derivative there-on). Since these statements are guaranteed to short-circuit thought or to end in a cul-de-sac (at best), let us restrict discussion to constructive ends. It need not always be of the highest standard, but it needs to be aimed at building, or at least defended as a necessary clearing of ground prior to something else that is creative. Schlegel and Rosenstock-Huessy are invoked as not as equals but as models. They set the tone. Rosenstock-Huessy saw back and forward in time as well as anyone, and Schlegel had begun to look East…