Sunday, August 22, 2010

Flying Too Close to the Sun

I have been meaning to post on the moral issue of "probability" for some time. Since the blog is largely a conversation with myself, save for the loyal family member or unlucky visitor who happens to stray these portals, I don't feel guilty for indulging myself.

After William of Ockham set up reason as a kind of neutral arbiter which could operate, so to speak, from a skeptical void (since names are just conventions, and since we really only know what we think we know), moral theology moved definitively in the direction of laxness. The Jesuit order attempted to instill a counter-discipline, but it was perceived mostly as a hair-shirt. Since Ockham, Western man has moved in the direction of only having to give one, just one, good reason why a tradition, rule, law, or custom could be safely neglected, guilt-free.

Of course, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that there is ALWAYS at least ONE good reason to do anything, even the most heinous acts imaginable (at least the ones I can imagine). While this may have liberated the sensual and sensually-sunken material man to pursue experimentation and science (or "Progress & Reality", as the proponents like to call it in its purest and most unfettered state), and while great material goods have undoubtedly been produced (though the problem of equity and distribution is yet, I note, to be solved, with no end in sight), it also essentially gave a trump card for Reason against Religion: no religious argument, or even a real religion, or perhaps even any personal piety, can long survive the conviction that one good reason on the devil's side is sufficient to fore go the ancient path.

This has been extended, even, in Modern Times to include the idea that merely one tiny doubt on the other side of the ledger (the Faith, or debit side) can suffice to justify a wholesale write-off. Modern "religious" people complain about this lopsidedness, but the two developments are related, it would appear. Minimalism in ethics can lead to minimalism in dogmatics, as well.

A host of intellects have debated these issues, and it is one of the more interesting Counter Reformation topics that developed out of the late medieval nominalism. I'll note Alphonso Ligouri as one of the more interesting.

People of Faith, Eternal Europe, and the Sacred Sacrifice

There is a lovely legend about Job. In it, Job is a mighty paladin, dispensing justice and maintaining order and equity for the entire region. He discovers that Satan has inspired wicked men to build a temple to demons. Knowing what it will mean for him personally, Job orders his soldiers to move against the wicked men, burning and razing the temple to the ground. Perhaps he didn't realize how intense it would be, yet Job acted knowing the danger to himself, because he was pure and chaste in his soul.

Satan comes against him, God having delivered Job into his hands, just as He will one day deliver His only Son into the hands of Satan to satisfy the older and deeper laws, as well as the more shallow ones, trusting in the obedience of the Son to raise man higher than the angels.

There is a similar legend attached to Abraham & Isaac, a story even a genius like Kierkegaard could not decipher properly, though he saw that the runes were truly dark, like the dark of the storms of God before the rainbow.

Was the Holy Mount, the mount of the Sun in Jerusalem, city of peace, the place where Satan hid the bones of Moses, after contending with Gabriel?

In the war between heaven & hell, the battleground is the human heart.

Give us more paladins like Job, O Lord, and the battle shall be yours forever.

To Him in whose sight the Seraphim are impure, but in whose sight, Father Abraham found mercy and pleasure, the One Who came among us forever, because of the love of Abraham for both God and his own son!

What will it cost to restore the bones of Europe, for which Christ has died? The darker it gets, the brighter the hero will become.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Feminism's Role in the New World Order

An interesting angle on what Modernity means.

"Maine grasped that feminism – the dogmatic delusion that women are morally and intellectually superior to men – derived its fundamental premises from hatred of, not respect for, the natural order; he grasped also that feminism entailed a fantastic rebellion against sexual dimorphism, which therefore also entailed a total rejection of inherited morality.

“The moral climate of society is changing quickly,” she tells Gorste, “and Sterilin will play an important part in stimulating the evolution of a more liberal morality.”

The world of five thousand years hence, in Maine’s forecast, is also a stunted, inward-turning world that has renounced dynamism and creativity, just as it has renounced sexually dimorphic procreation. When Aubretia first learns of the crashed rocketship at the North Pole, Maine inserts the historical tidbit that, “no rocket had been launched or even made on earth for four thousand years” because “it seemed more logical to womankind to devote worldly wealth on the development of the Earth and its inhabitants and the feminine mind saw neither sense nor sanity in space travel.” When the Mistress discusses the situation with Aubretia, she argues that spaceflight was a male aberration, a mere “sublimation of unexpended masculine drive,” such that “the cosmos itself became a mons Veneris at which mankind as a whole set its cap.” The little speech sums up feminist discourse – which denigrates all specifically male activities and derives all social problems, perceived or real, from male toxicity – quintessentially. It shows once more the cultural perceptivity of the author, who, I remind my readers, was writing more than fifty years ago."

What does this have to do with religion? Christianity is oriented towards "the Sun", literally.

"This is the true meaning of Our Lady of the Pillar in Chartres Cathedral: that Christ was born when the dead failed star Nibiru dropped briefly into the Heavenly Sphere near Sirius, or Isis. It appeared as a purple/red Winged Disc with seven accompanying stars, 'born' of Sirius. So the star-covered shrine represents the perihelion transit of the celestial Crown and Seven Stars of Nibiru through the Duat, the celestial home of Isis, the mother goddess. Its emergence into the consciousness of Mankind is indeed a rightful focus of continued veneration, as it was in ancient times."

The wise men who came from the East could read the oracles (if they were such as the above portrays them). This has NOTHING to do with "Gnosticism" or "heresy", and EVERYTHING to do with the esoteric roots of Christianity itself, which, to the uninitiate, foolish, or unsanctified, is in contradiction to the exoteric form which Christianity presents as a religion to the world. Dan Brown, in other words, is infatuated with his infantile progress in making tiny steps of more misunderstandings, piled on those he first conceived.

The key point to remember, whether discussing futuristic Modernism or psycho-babble Gnostic Modernism, is that both are ardently opposed to the balance inherent in the supremely solar religion, whose symbol is the "Son", and which we call Christianity. There is really only this, traditional point of view, or disintegration and imbalance. It is not that Christianity is "anti-woman", but that Christianity promotes the idea that the male principle is archetonic, a principle of binding order which then "makes room for" the second born. This kind of balance, whether between esoteric inner meaning or exoteric outer "dead forms", or between male/female, can only be achieved in a solar context. One can't invent telescopes to see stars by moonlight. It is interesting to note, in this context, the associations which Islam has with both the Moon and the feminine demons of the desert.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Heart of Darkness

"Lest you think only financiers and economists operate on this sinking sand of presumption, on the contrary I consider it the modern error in summary. It’s the idea that we can, in our pristine laboratory of the human mind, abstract away some part of what it means to be man, some part of the ineffable complexity of the world and man’s place in it, and then cheerfully go forth taking our abbreviation to be reality. Posit that man is a creature of sub-rational passions only, that libido dominandi is his chief feature, the will to dominate, to conquer, to acquire, to possess: here is the abbreviation of some moderns. Or again, posit that man is a reasoning creature only, that it can only be systems or structures outside himself that derail his natural rationality: here is the abbreviation of some other moderns. What modernity refuses to do, mostly, is take man as he is, a dualistic creature, one compounded of both body and soul, matter and mind...."

All of our problems stem from this lie, that Man can operate without flesh and blood integrated with spirit & soul. This leaves us as cogs in a gigantic Machine haunted by ghosts.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Mary's Feast.
"The beauty of the figure of the Virgin comes at once from the sacred retinue of vanquished goddesses she evokes or replaces, and from the way in which she transcends them."
N. Gomez Davila
Mary was the burning bush of humanity which was not consumed, out of which came the Logos of God for our salvation.

Paradise Lost

Something worth watching, and a way to introduce Milton to the young.

The Sword

Saint Paul exhorts Christians to compete against one another in godliness, to stimulate excellence. Competition seems to be, not so much a fact of life, as Life itself. We all struggle, primarily (if we are wise) against ourselves, but indirectly this affects others. "Reason" and "liberalism" and "secularism" essentially either deny this totally, or embrace it in an animalistic context. Thus, politics consists in making sure CNN drifts farther left day by day, while protesting loudly against Republican domination of small talk radio. Cover words like "fairness" and "equality" are used as cloaks of maliciousness, to disguise the ugliness of the political act, both in itself as an end, but also the means, which has to be covered in velvet. Both sides do this - the "free"market today operates on the crony capitalist model with words like "choice" and "opportunity". The solution is not to castrate man (the Left) or to baptize convenient "as-isms" (the Right) but to direct man's attention to the inward spiritual struggle against himself. Anything else will first provide food for the carrion, & turn to carrion itself in turn.

Here is Jeffers (courtesy of D. Layman at First Things, who inspired this article...)

Contemplation Of The Sword
"Reason will not decide at last; the sword will decide. The sword: an obsolete instrument of bronze or steel, formerly used to kill men, but here In the sense of a symbol. The sword: that is: the storms and counter-storms of general destruction; killing of men, Destruction of all goods and materials; massacre, more or less intentional, of children and women; Destruction poured down from wings, the air made accomplice, the innocent air Perverted into assasin and poisoner. The sword: that is: treachery and cowardice, incredible baseness, incredible courage, loyalties, insanities. The sword: weeping and despair, mass-enslavement, mass-tourture, frustration of all hopes That starred man's forhead. Tyranny for freedom, horror for happiness, famine for bread, carrion for children. Reason will not decide at last, the sword will decide. Dear God, who are the whole splendor of things and the sacred stars, but also the cruelty and greed, the treacheries And vileness, insanities and filth and anguish: now that this thing comes near us again I am finding it hard To praise you with a whole heart. I know what pain is, but pain can shine. I know what death is, I have sometimes Longed for it. But cruelty and slavery and degredation, pestilence, filth, the pitifulness Of men like hurt little birds and animals . . . if you were only Waves beating rock, the wind and the iron-cored earth, With what a heart I could praise your beauty. You will not repent, nor cancel life, nor free man from anguish For many ages to come. You are the one that tortures himself to discover himself: I am One that watches you and discovers you, and praises you in little parables, idyl or tragedy, beautiful Intolerable God. The sword: that is: I have two sons whom I love. They are twins, they were born in nineteen sixteen, which seemed to us a dark year Of a great war, and they are now of the age That war prefers. The first-born is like his mother, he is so beautiful That persons I hardly know have stopped me on the street to speak of the grave beauty of the boy's face. The second-born has strength for his beauty; when he strips for swimming the hero shoulders and wrestler loins Make him seem clothed. The sword: that is: loathsome disfigurements, blindness, mutilation, locked lips of boys Too proud to scream. Reason will not decide at last: the sword will decide."

Robinson Jeffers

Man is an animal. But that is not all he is, or if he is, then -

"Thus materialism amounts to reducing man to the animal, and even to the lowest, since the lowest is the most collective; this explains the materialists' hatred for all that is supra-terrestrial, transcendent, spiritual, for it is precisely the spiritual by which man is not an animal. To deny the spiritual is to deny the human: the moral and legal distinction between man and animal then becomes purely arbitrary, like any other tyranny..."
--F. Schuon

As OneCosmos has it, man is an animal with this inconvenience, that he knows he is one. This is the terrible anxiety of modern man, because (of course), none of it is true. The knowledge of this truth/un-truth is both innate, and the product of a struggle with self. This used to be in our bones. Now, the denial of the Absolute, absolutely, is in almost all the air we breath. Western man is dying because he is not God, knows it, and believes that this makes him God. And so the vicious circle goes; the lower we sink, collectively, the harder it is to remember those intimations of deprivation which alert us to the living and real.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Lift the Anathema!

John Philoponus was ahead of his time. Anticipating Galileo and Mirandola by generations, literally centuries, he endeavored to explicate the Trinity in terms satisfactory to the peace of the Empire and with the goal of non-schism for the Church. Due to Imperial politics, he was eventually anathematized, but theologians like T. Torrance are dedicating time to "rehabilitating" him, primarily by re-examining and understanding his thought.

One of the interesting things in his work is that he anticipates quantum physics in talking about a kind of hyper-reality in which God works and has reserved for His working. A possible explanation for miracles and other wonders, it also provides a model or way of thinking (imagistically) about "how" God creates the world out of nothing and how He interacts with it, an interaction which culminates in the Incarnation of His Son.

Schuon discusses the concepts of Being and Beyond-Being in his 20th century work, and has been covering this. This is another way of talking about the essence/energy distinction (in Orthodoxy): we cannot ever know God in His essence, but we do experience His energies, which is His Love, towards us, and is more properly "Who" God is. Schuon would identify the Beyond-Being with the person of the Father, who is archetectonic, or the archetype for Creation. Jesus is identified with revealed Being, which is the "face" of God towards his finite, flawed, and weak creatures. The Orthodox theologian Bulgakov, I believe, also ventured onto some of this ground with his Mariology and focus on Sophia, or the wisdom of God.

The traditional Church has focused on Faith (pistis) perhaps to the detriment of Gnosis and Wisdom, although this balance is redressed somewhat in Eastern Orthodox thought. Philoponus' work may be a way for the Western Church to begin to re-examine and move back "into" the early concepts and struggles of the Early Church (which are more and more relevant to our time).

The important point here, vis a vis John Whitehead and process theology, is that Christianity implies some form of ontology, and is ineluctably bound up with the theology of earlier ages through the communion of the saints, not to mention the development of tradition and the language that emerges out of history. While God may be, for us, more "potential" than actual, and while Whitehead's thoughts may yield insights spiritually along these lines, it is always useful to dig through history and find a potentially more thorough and sound interlocutor that is working with the same lines and struggling with the same issues.

Given Philoponus' position in tradition, he may at least be useful ballast to efforts to re-vivify and re-articulate a "fresh" Platonic theology for our day, a theology which is classical, Christian, & well-adapted to modern conditions.

The important point here, boys and girls, is that safety lies in the deeper part of the stream, which mingles otherwise dangerous currents and influences, and is both deep and wide. If our bark is strong, that is the place to be...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Be stimulated by the Odes, take your stand on the rites and be perfected by the music.
— Konfucius (VIII.8, DC Lau trans)

Quote and painting, courtesy of Joel Dietz

Saints and Dominions and Powers

"In the aforementioned article, Arnold notes that “in the Greek Magical Papyri, the term stoicheia is used most commonly in connection witht he stars and/or the spirit entities, or gods, they represent. In a related sense, stoicheia was also used to refer to the 36 astral decans that rule over every 10 degrees of the heavens. . . . Each of these astral decans could also be represented by a magical letter. Given one of the common usages of stoicheia as letters of the alphabet, it is easy to see how this usage could have arisen.” He argues that “it is quite probably that the term stoicheia was used of astral decans in the first century A.D. or prior.”

In his commentary on Revelation (Social-Science Commentary on the Book of Revelation), Bruce Malina suggests that this is also the background to the “elders” that appear surrounding Yahweh’s throne in Revelation 4:

“As celestial personages, the twenty-four elders about the central throne of God fit the profile of those truly significant astronomic beings of antiquity, the astral deities known as decans. The word decan (from the Greek deka, meaning ‘ten’) is a creation of the Hellenistic period to designate the astral deities who dominate every 10 degrees of the circle of the zodiac (hence thirty-six). These deities are far more ancient than the Hellenistic period, deriving from Egypt in Pharaonic times. . . . As astral deities, the decans exerted tremendous influence on the land below and its inhabitants.”

Malina argues that the numbers aren’t a problem. Usually there are thirty-six decans, but there is evidence from the second century A.D. that shows 24 decans. Coffin lids depict the sky goddess Nut surrounded by the signs of the Zodiac, and “on the sides of the cover are, to the left, the twelve decans of the day and to the right the twelve decans of the night.” As Malina sees it, John is showing the decans as “sovereign astral beings, embracing the whole cosmos in the course of one night and one day, keeping watch over everything. . . . in previous perceptions the decans were considered guardians and rescuers of the whole cosmos, at the same rank as the highest of astral deities, beings of power and might second only to the highest God(s). It would seem the elders here, now in henotheistic context, are much the same.”

If this is right, then the fact that the elders toss down their crowns, crowns that the saints later pick up, suggests that the saints who rule in heavenly places now fill the function once played by the decans in the old covenant."

Leithart, again, touches interesting territory and starts to break ground here...Saint Paul mentions in Galatians the "tutelage" of angelic spirits under which those came prior to Christ. If the symbolism is "more than symbolism", then the saints who gain the highest crown in the kingdom of heaven ("run the race as if to win") are actually part of the kingdom of Christ under Christ. The mystical body, or "Heaven", then, is actually NOT a democracy, nor is it without hierarchy, thrones, dominions, & powers.

Is it me, or is the obvious next question: "Should we be venerating the Saints?"

The Asia Minor Debacle

Leithart writes, concerning a question which has long troubled me; we'll call it the "mystery of Asia Minor"?

One of the themes of Jenkins’s The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia–and How It Died is that Christianization is reversible: Churches die. How to account for it?

Jenkins He cites on Payne Smith, a Victorian scholar, who wrote in the introduction to the works of John of Ephesus that “the young Mahomet, repelled in his first inquiries by the idolatrous aspect which Christianity outwardly bore, was rising to be the instrument of God’s just anger against the Eastern Church. For the picture which John has drawn for us . . . of the narrowness and bigotry, the fierce strifes, the want of self-restraint, the injustice and cruelty and utter absence of Christian charity, which characterized all parties in his days alike, make us feel that the times were ripe for punishment.”

Jenkins observes, “Obviously, such opinions carry little weight for most mainstream Christians today.” Call me “a modern reader of literal inclinations” or a non-mainstream Christian, but I fail to see why Jenkins is so skeptical. Suppose we just lopped off the divine dimension of Smith’s explanation: Would internecine conflict among Christians, bigotry, injustice and cruelty be a sufficient explanation for the failure of these churches? Or: Would it be a sufficient explanation if we noted that the churches of John’s day failed entirely to live up to the demands of their professed Lord, that they were hypocritical, that their actions belied their proclamation that Jesus had come to renew human life? Why does adding the theological dimension make this explanation less weighty?

Jenkins characterizes this style of explanation as an “Old Testament perspective.” He should read Revelation 2-3 again.

posted by Peter J. Leithart on Thursday, August 12, 2010 at 1:23 pm

The question of idolatry obscures things somewhat, for Leithart, here. There is clearly (at least) a symbolic connection between the Reformation and Islam (as Oswald Spengler has trenchantly pointed out in his Untergang des Abendlandes, Vol. I & II). This doesn't minimize the fact that government endorsement had somewhat compromised the Gospel by the time of Mahomet.

"For so the whole round earth is every way Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson

One of the consistent themes that has puzzled me over the years is this idea that Science is somehow a mixed blessing, as it is received at our hands, and by us. In my previous post, I suggested (along with the article) that G. MacDonald was clearly arguing against viewing Nature primarily as something to have dominion over in a rationalistic way; rather, Nature (as Chesterton might say) is neither a Mother nor a Slave, but a Sister. A very magical Sister. If Science is the backward unraveling of God's tapestry, in such a way that it precludes the very magic which we need to experience God, then it ultimately ought to be subordinated very closely to powerful and combative ways of mystical experience. It might also be subjected to the kind of intense scrutiny it itself applies to everything else (which has not yet happened).

If we do not, we risk becoming Men Without Qualities. Men will opine, and throw out the charge of Luddite heresy, but this is not an attack on Science. On the contrary, it is to recognize simply our tools and technology have been allowed to compulsively shape the manner in which we examine Reality, to a point that Science functions with all the trappings, power, & mystique that Sorcery once enjoyed in the ancient world. While not Science's fault, still, precious little has been done by scientists to guard against this eventuality. For them, Science opens doors of wonder. For us, those doors lead to more consumption and immersion in details & matter. The old myth of Thoth is relevant to our discussion here (see Neil Postman). What is it about Science which tends to exclude, even without meaning to, the ways of looking at & feeling about the world which proved so fruitful in former ages for both Art & Religion?
For so the whole round earth is every way Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

God's Forms in Nature (Jonathan Edwards?)

"For so the whole round earth is every way Bound by gold chains about the feet of God" ~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The Tree of Life is symbolized by many particular trees: the oak, the ash, the fig and others throughout the world. The axis is the Way itself, the way of return to the Absolute. It is also symbolized by man-made things: the ladder, the mast, weapons like the lance, and the central pillar of edifices. As architects know, many buildings are built round a central axis which is not in fact there, which is not Religio Perennis materialized. Very often in traditional houses the hearth is the center of the house and the chimney through which the smoke rises is another figure of the axis. And things which are normally horizontal are symbols of the axis: a bridge is also a symbol of the world axis. Witness the title Pontifex, the maker of the bridge, which is given to the highest spiritual authority of the Church -- the bridge, which is the bridge between Heaven and earth. Another fundamental symbol is the river. There are three aspects to the river: the crossing of the river symbolizes the passage from this world to a higher world, always, but then there is the river itself. There is the difficulty of moving upstream which symbolizes the difficulties of the spiritual path, of returning to one's source against the current. There is also the symbolism of moving in the other direction to the ocean, of returning finally to the ocean; that is another symbol of the Way. In this book amongst many other symbols, Guénon also treats of the symbolism of the mountain, the cave, the temporal cycle. In the temporal cycle the solstices of summer and winter are the gates of the gods according to Hinduism. The gate of the gods is the winter solstice, in the sign of Capricorn; the gate of the ancestors is the summer solstice, in the sign of Cancer.

Rene Guenon's doctrine, & perhaps that of Jonathan Edwards as well

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dead Letter of Science

Thursday, August 5, 2010

George Parkin Grant

Yours truly...

The Old Testament Psalms

In the Book of Psalms there is profit for all, with healing power for our salvation... All with eyes to see can discover in it a complete gymnasium for the soul, a stadium for all the virtues, equipped for every kind of exercise; it is for each to choose the kind each judges best to help gain the prize....

If you want to study the power of the law, which is summed up in the bond of charity (“Who loves their neighbor has fulfilled the law”), you may read in the psalms of the great love with which one person faced serious dangers singlehandedly in order to remove the shame of the whole people. You will find the glory of charity more than a match for the parade of power.

— Ambrose of Milan (397)
Commentary on the Psalms

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hayathology and Little Old Ladies

Lately, and from Yuletides of yore, there is a spate of Christian theologians calling for a de-Hellenization of theology. Here is a trendy example.

Though Whitehead repudiates the official formulation of authoritarian theology as "the deep idolatry" which fashions God in the image of the despotic prince of this world(PR.342), he basically agrees to the biblical ideas involved by the doctrine of trinity. He estimates the contribution of Alexandria and Antioch theologians as the only thinkers who in a fundamental metaphysical doctrine have improved upon Plato, because they had to grapple with the problem of mutual immanence between God and the world. (AI 168)

There is too much to quarrel with in this article, but I'll remark that one could argue that Antioch and Alexandria represent the continuation of the concrete truth coming to expression in Platonism. There was a real development, or pre-evangelium, that occured in the Mediterranean world. If you believe in any Providence. Whitehead's idea that God "needs" the world is precisely the kind of pre-heresy that the "Greek" or Platonic theologians objected against by distinguishing between essence & energy (another post?). God, contrary to Martin Luther (and hat tip to Daniel Fuller) spent eternity waiting to create the world to prove He doesn't "need" it. If He needs it, He could simply need it in a needy way, and this would be frightening.

At bottom, this essay is no better than the little old lady who angrily asked the pastor why the Greeks were messing with her Bible. There is no monolithic Greek thought (except maybe in the Orthodox Church, after Jesus arrived), nor is it possible to avoid the fact that Saint Paul openly approves of Stoical thought (and poetry) while denigrating Epicurean and Cynical thinkers.

As George Parkin Grant notes in his conversational interviews over philosophy, Plato never acted as if bodies were not real, or that we did not have them. All of those who go this angry Tertullianesque route will end up in sectarianism, because (in fact) Jerusalem and Athens (and Rome, and Antioch, and London and etc., etc.) very much do have something to do with one another. There is no simple gospel because the Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven - it grows. It articulates. And since paradox and mystery are at the heart of the Trinity, it should hardly surprise even tenured scholars that immortality of the soul and resurrection of the dead can both be true at the same time! I know, it's marvelous, even miraculous, but it is so.

I recommend heavy doses of Ficino to cure this illness in the brain.

If it’s not the theology, then what is it? Well, in a nutshell, it’s the piety. In the East ethics and morals are considered largely in Platonic terms, with the notion of the “ideal” being central. Thus, the entire life of piety in the Eastern Church is based upon striving for the ideal or goal, which is to be like Christ. In this way, MacDonald’s portrayal of the Christ-life is very similar to that of the Orthodox Church.

I’ve heard that when novices go to Mt. Athos in Greece, the center of Orthodox monasticism, one of the first things they are told to read is Dickens, because they can learn from his characters how to be a good, decent person. This basic goodness is considered the first rung on the ladder toward holiness. I think something similar can be said about George MacDonald’s novels. I have made it a point to recommend him to people who are interested in the life of piety, not because I am in any position to give advice (God knows I’m not), but because I have found his works to be of great spiritual benefit. Through his characters, we can catch a glimpse of how we can be if, with God’s help, we strive for the ideal.
Touchstone is a good magazine, and the excerpt above is telling. The Orthodox writer/teacher John Granger is interested in Harry Potter's universe. But the Harry Potter Archetypal Idealism & Alchemy which pervades that world of fiction is subject for another post...suffice it to say the Plato has more to do with poetry and the odes than with "philosophy", despite John Whitehead's conceptions.

Confucius wrote, "Take your stand upon the rites, be inspired by the odes, and find perfection in music...".

I do not know if it is possible to improve upon this formulation. What Plato defends, primarily, is the independence & primacy of the Good. The corollary to this, that the Good is somehow independent of change and mortality, is also the subject of another post, but it is only necessary to point out (again, incredibly) that a distinction can certainly be important without being all-consuming or absolute. Whitehead, in fact, admits this when he remarks that Christian theology improved upon Plato. Greek thought was anything but static. That was one of it's problems, formally. And Plato was not a "Platonist". He was a man who taught in parables.

I will note that the anthematized theologian John Philoponus seems a better way of reopening discussion on Greek "static-ness" than Whitehead. Although Whitehead has a good insight in wanting to reverse potentiality and actuality (assigning actuality to what we know and potentiality for embodying Good to God), I think Plato's emphasis is every bit as important, perhaps more so....Philoponus approaches this from a theological perspective that is sounder, and therefore, another post in the future on Hayathology.

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Different Kind of Protestant Martyr

Soon thereafter, the Iconoclasm started, and resistance against the Spanish rule in the Netherlands increased. As a devout Catholic, Egmont deplored the iconoclasm, and remained faithful to the Spanish king.

After Philip II sent the Duke of Alba to the Netherlands, William of Orange decided to flee Brussels. Having always declined to do anything that smacked of lese majeste, Egmont refused to heed Orange's warning, thus he and Hoorn decided to stay in the city. Upon arrival, Alba almost immediately had the counts of Egmont and Hoorn arrested on charges of treason, and imprisoned them in a castle in Ghent, prompting Egmont's wife and eleven children to seek refuge in a convent. Pleas for amnesty came to the Spanish king from throughout Europe, including from many reigning sovereigns, the Order of the Golden Fleece, and the king's kinsman the Emperor Maximilian II, all to no avail.

On 4 June Egmont and Hoorn were condemned to death, and lodged that night in the maison du roi. On June 5, 1568, both men, aged only 46 and 44 respectively, were beheaded on the Grand-Place in Brussels, Egmont's uncomplaining dignity on the occasion being widely noted. Their deaths led to public protests throughout the Netherlands, and contributed to the resistance against the Spaniards. The Count of Egmont lies buried in Zottegem.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Dreary Traditionalism

An acquaintance of mine recently declared himself ready for something other than melancholy traditionalists (in the "perennial" sense - think Catholic counter-revolutionaries, here). Yet I do not believe that this sense of impending chaos and doom is unique to traditionalism. It is unique to people who think, and by thinking people, I don't mean intellectuals or anyone who lives inside their brain. I mean people who deal with the substance and sinews of history, with their own substance and sinews. In addition, it is my settled conviction that (along with the truth that enlightened reason is less reliable than the prejudice of real intelligence) people cannot arrive at jouissance (or whatever you wish to call it) without experiencing a darkening of the vision. This is analogous to what we see in real life - our eyes can't adjust to the dark until...well, until the lights go out. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Benda:

from Trahison des Clercs

"Vico says that history is a series of alternations between periods of progress and periods of retrogression; and he gives two examples. Saint Simon says history is a series of oscillations between organic epochs and critical epochs; and he gives two examples. Marx says history is a series of economic systems, each of which casts out its predecessor by means of violence; and he gives one example."

"It seems to me so little such a thing that I observe large portions of the species (the Asiatic world in antiquity, the Germanic world in the modern times) who showed themselves incapalbe of it and quite likely to remain so. And this means that if humanity loses this jewel (Benda is talking about a Super-Sensate Good enshrined in classical civilization), there is not much chance of finding it again. On the contrary there is every chance that humanity will not find it again, just as a man who should find a precious stone in the sea and then drop it back in the water would have little chance of ever seeing it again. Nothing seems to me more doubtful than Aristotle's remark that it is probable the arts and philosophy have several times been discovered and several times lost...."

"I have said abouve that the logical end of the 'integral realism' professed by humanity today is the organized slaughter of nations or classes. It is possible to conceive of a third, which would be their reconciliation. The thing to possess would be the whole earth, and they would finally come to realize that the only way to exploit it properly is by union, while the desire to set themselves up as distincet from ohters would be transferred from the nation to the species, arrogantly drawn up against everything which is not itself. Such a movement does exist. Above classes and nations there does exist a desire of the species to become the master of things, and, when a human being flies from one end of the world to the ohter in a few hours, the whole human race quivers with pride and dadores itself as distinct from all the rest of Creaiton. At bottom, this imperialism of the species is preached by all the great directors of the modern conscience. It is Man, and not the nation or the class, whom Nietzsche, Sorel, Bergson extol in his genius for making himself master of the world. It is humanity, and not any once scetion of it, whom A. Comte exhorts to plunge into consciousness of itself and to make itself the object of its own adoration. Sometime one may feel that such an impulse will grow ever stronger, and that in this way inter-human wars will come to an end. In this way humanity would attain 'universal fraternity'. But, far from being the abolition of the national spirit with its appetites and its arrogance, this would simply be its supreme form, the nation being called Man and the enemy God. Thereafter, humanity would be unified in one immense army, one immense factory, woudl be aware only of heroisms, disciplines, inventions, would enounce all free and idstinterested activiety would long cease to situate the good outside the real world, would have no God but itself and its desires, and would achieve great things; by which I mean that it would attain to a really grandiose control over the matter surrounding it, to a really joyous consciousness of its power and its grandeur. And History will smile to think that this is the species for which Socrates and Jesus Christ died."