Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Ultimate End of all Reformation

John Stuart Mill was a Reformer. He was continually (as we all have been since the Reformation) "reforming the Reformation" (Milton). Now, I am not a Catholic, at least not formally (although I frequently feel far more fellowship towards them these dark days than anyone else), but I have to chuckle at these autobiographical thoughts of JS Mill. For one thing did the man not ask himself why he became so depressed? It occurred when it dawned on him that, if all Reformation (secular or otherwise) was replete and complete, what would this do to him? And of course, he knew, it would render him unhappy. Because the Leftist isn't happy unless he is "changing the world" (preferably someone else). He recovered from his state by reading a passage from literature, and then the poetry of Wordsworth (whom it is worthwhile noting was the most "conservative of the Romantics" as well as the most like an English country parson). Anyone who has felt depression of an intense sort should feel some sympathy (which I do) with Mill; he is a human being, who struggled to live his life the best he knew how. And he certainly was a fine thinker and writer, in the abstract (his ideas On Liberty were derivative from von Humboldt, who in my opinion, was more subtle). Yet he recovered from depression, only to re-immerse himself in his Reforms. This may be therapeutic, but (as Keats would say) the "eagle of Truth is greater than the lyre of Apollo" (or the world-shaking "reformers" who wish to make a better mousetrap out of the world). Did the man never question himself? When he "got better"? Did he never consider that when Liberalism finally reigned supreme in every nook and cranny of the globe, and all men busied themselves with consumption in the pursuit of happiness (Bentham's body is still preserved, stuffed, in the British Museum, for all to see, like a religious artifact from ancient Egypt), that there would still be the eternal question of Man:
Not only who, but What, am I? 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Honor Your Dead, Your Fathers

Romanides argues that the Franks decimated Roman urbanization & established feudalism in an effort to maintain a precarious grip on overextended power from their home bases:
“In the time of Pippin of Herestal (697-715) and Charles Martel (715-741), many of the Franks who replaced Roman bishops were military leaders who, according to Saint Boniface, “shed the blood of Christians like that of the pagans.” In order to defend itself against foreign interference and protect itself from the fate of conquered Romans elsewhere, the papacy promulgated electoral laws in 769, according to which candidates for the papal dignity had to be cardinal deacons or presbyters of the city of Rome, and Romans by birth. Only Roman nationals were allowed to participate in the elections. Thirteen Frankish bishops were in attendance when these decisions were made.[ 5 ]
Meanwhile, Roman revolutionary activity in Gaul had not yet been fully suppressed. Pippin III had died the year before and Charlemagne and his brother Carloman had taken over the rule of Austrasia and Neustria. Within the surprisingly short period of only twenty-two years, from 732 to 754, the Franks had defeated the Roman-Arab alliance, swamped all the provinces of Gaul, and had swept into Northern Italy. This was made possible by the new feudal order which was first established in Austrasia and Neustria. The Roman administrative units of the civitates were abolished and replaced by the military comitates. The former free Romans were transferred en masse from the cities and were established on the slave labor camps called villae and mansi, alongside the serfs. They were called villeins (villains), a term which, for understandable reasons, came to mean enemies of law and order.
The Visigoths in Spain were overthrown by the Romans, who opened their city gates to the Berbers and Arabs. The Franks reacted with determination to avoid the occurrence of the same in Francia (Land of the Franks) by abolishing Roman urban society.
By the middle of the eighth century, the Frankish armies of occupation were overextended far beyond Austrasia and Neustria, where the main body of their nation was established. They could not yet afford to take over the church administration of Papal Romania as they had done elsewhere. It was expedient to play the part of liberators for the time being. Therefore, they appointed the Roman pope as a vassal of Francia. The measure of freedom left to the Romans in Papal Romania depended on their right to have their own Roman pope, bishops, and clergy. To lose this right would have been tantamount to the same loss of freedom suffered by their compatriots in Northern Italy and Francia. Therefore, they had to be very careful not to incite the Franks.
The Romans had made alliances with the Arabs (and Jews) and succeeded in overthrowing Visigothic Spain. Romanides is clear what his argument is:
The church in Francia remained in the grip of a tyrannical Teutonic minority.
Strangely enough, Romanides admits that the Donation of Constantine was a deliberate forgery by the West Romans (done in Francia) which was a cloak-and-dagger effort to convince the Franks that there was imperial and religious sanction to Rome’s complete independence (from Charlemagne’s meddlings). This forgery (in Romanides’ work) is really not condemned, but rather exonerated. There is no doubt that Romanides is right that there was a struggle for power between the remnants of Romanity and the “free Franks”, or that the medieval Church was founded upon the French feudal structure which eventually triumphed in the Lombard struggle over the papacy. He even goes so far as to credit the French Revolution with restoring the balance against the invading, subjugating Franks, who had believed that God had given them the imperium by divine right of trial in battle (and here, Dugin’s emphasis on Chaos as salvific finds a benefactor and friend in Romanides).
There is no mention of Frankish loyalty to Rome during the invasion of the Huns under Attila.  It is hard to see how Romanides can credibly call a province like Gaul legitimately “Roman”, given that Caesar had conquered the tribes there, & yet when similar foederati tribes had remained loyal to the Romans during the ensuing incursions, but had predominantly paid the price in blood and treasure by defeating Rome’s enemies on the battlefield, Romanides regards them as aliens. The fact that the Frankish tribes from the Harz regions finally made a political reality out of what had become a social reality (the death of Roman political structure in the West) seems more or less appropriate. Romanides here sees primarily an ethnic struggle, where it would (even in his own account) seem to have been one more of faction – Rome certainly wanted to remain within the sphere of Byzantium, bad enough to lie about it; but it also tried to reclaim its frontiers.
John Ruskin’s account of these doings seems far more sane and noble. Although admitting that the French people of 1789 were such that “no people had ever been so loyal in vain”, he nonetheless wrote a paean to the Frankish people and their Christianity in What Our Fathers Told Us: Bible of Amiens.
I return gladly to the dawn of chivalry, when, every hour and year, men were becoming more gentle and more wise; while, even through their worst cruelty and error (eg., the incident of the Vase of Soissons & Clovis), native qualities of noblest cast may be seen asserting themselves for primal motive, and submitting themselves for future training. Constantine’s victory only gave form and dying color to the falling walls of Rome, but the Frank and Gothic races, thus conquering and thus ruled, founded the arts and established the laws which gave to all Europe her virtue joy and virtue. And it is lovely to see how, even thus early, the Feudal chivalry depended for its life on the nobility of its women. There was no vision seen, or alledged, at Tolbiac. The King prayed simply to the God of Clothilde.
Ruskin has some other interesting passages on the college of Augurs begun by Numa, and the vestal virgins, and the supreme pontiff (who makes sacrifical offerings on behalf of the whole human race). Ruskin sees through the “stench of the barbarian tribes” into the soul of what gave the Gothic birth, as distinct either from Classical youth or Arabic cradle.
We are not to see in Frankish monarchies a dull literalism – surprisingly, the Franks did not always adhere to strict “monarchical” lines of succession. Adalberon (the same archbishop who exonerated Adalbero of Laon from charges of adultery with Emma of Italy, brought by fellow nobility), was a chancellor who decisively acted against the ruling dynasty in favor of Hugh Capet.
Crown the Duke. He is most illustrious by his exploits, his nobility, his forces. The throne is not acquired by hereditary right; no one should be raised to it unless distinguished not only for nobility of birth, but for the goodness of his soul.
Adalberon would later plot against Capet. Even the sins of medieval times tended to exonerate and recognize God. And here, I will end with the best defense possible against the modern accusation of “using God’s name” to do “Satan’s work” (leaving aside the rhetorical ellisions and fallacies which render this idea feasible to our minds); Edmund Burke:
The age of chivalry is gone. — That of sophisters, economists, and calculators, has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more, shall we behold a generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom. The unbought grace of life, achieved defensive nations, the nurse of the manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone! It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honor, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage while it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness. . . . 
This is what occured under Charlemagne, and more, if we can accept Ruskin’s account, which is by no means unsympathetic to ancient Rome. Why did Byzantium pursue a policy of attempting to subordinate the Western half of the imperium, when it was clear that the quarrel would end badly?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Horror of the Dead

How does one fight the "horror!" that Kurtz found in the "heart of darkness"? Very simply, by the mysterious, far more profound, joy and wonder that is religious, and which goes underneath the horror to pervade it and devour it from the inside out. In Christianity, this is symbolized by such pictures as the above.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Liturgy & Logos

A popular refrain I hear from fellow Protestants is that “meaningless rituals”, gestures, “smells and bells”, or vain repetitions (a Scriptural phrase) won’t help find favor with God. While I am certain that ritual can (and does) degenerate into “those of darkness” who are fascinated with the dead (Rene Guenon) and their debased conclaves or practices, the pre-existent Logos of the universe that created the world through its pattern entails that relationships between and among “things” exist, even at the lowest level. Anyway, if vain repetitions include all things which repeat themselves, then why do we always prefer beautiful pictures or soothing colors for certain environments, as opposed to the opposite? As Millinerd pointed out, what happens when you “lose the Faith” in a church that used to be a drive-through? Will you be reminded by the stained glass on the wall? The spires? The ringing old church bell? Or the grease stains under the carpet? “Cultural Christianity” is the nave or ante-chamber of the Church – the paintings on the walls of these early Churches were the Greek Philosophers like Heraclitus. It is Justin the Martyr, not Hippolytus, who should guide our thinking here.
The absolute consensus among anyone interested in Tradition is that some patterns are more significant (or more elevated) than others. Some Ideas are more fruitful than others. Some people are better than others, at least in the sense (and no one can disagree with this) that they are truer to their real Self. But what happens when you forget there is a higher Self that is more real? You turn to Revolution. And you hate your patrimony. The worldview of those who reject liturgy per se actually leads to real “vain repetitions”: One damn thing after the other.
The Logos exists, both “in here” and “out there”. It was pursued in olden days all over the face of the earth. Here is Strabo (St. Clement mentions the Hyloboi also):
As for the Garmanes, he [Megasthenes, Indica fragment 41 Schwanbeck] says that the most honourable of them are named Hylobii and that they live in forests, subsisting on leaves and wild fruits, clothed with the bark of trees, and abstaining from wine and the delights of love; and that they communicate with the kings, who through messengers inquire about the causes of things and through the Hylobii worship and supplicate the Divinity.
Here is an example of how various rites and rituals from within a single Tradition coalesce. If one takes the Four Corners of the Earth from the Taoist exercises (Dragon for the east, Tiger for the south, Eagle for the West, and Bear for the North), and matches them to the eight directional exercises, we see that the archery exercise matches the Bear’s stolid pose, the light-scanning exercise goes with the eastern Dragon, the waist spin goes with the southern Tiger, and the adoring wave goes towards the western Eagle.
We can cross-match this against Druidry, and assign the place of yellow or light with the East and the dragon, the place of fire-orange-pink-gold with the Spirit in the south, the place of the limpid and pure water elements that are blue in the West, and the green quarter with the North, from which came life out of the ice.
Further matching this with the Christian tradition, we associate the East with the Father or primal Ur-Spring/archetype, the South with the descending fire of the Holy Spirit’s charisma, the West with water and the elements used in service of the Son/Logos, and the North with the symbol of the green Earth, or the “Amen”, the union of the three higher elements. Is this purely arbitrary? We think not. Even if it was thrown in dispute, it would only be to find a more faithful representation, much as one artist is “greater” than another.
The watches of the day, as well as the organs of the body, could also be related within this scheme. Indeed, when people reject “old Custom”, do they even know anything about what is being thrown out? Who knows, in the Christian West, or even better practices, the Emberdays? While better arrangements than this one occuring to me certainly should exist (I hope someone out there has studied this far more deeply), this configuration suggested itself naturally to my mind while I practiced the exercises, without any mental work. In other words, they arrange themselves this way – symbols teach us themselves, while we do the “work”, because they exist already, independently, and at a higher plain. This pre-existence implies that liturgy, far from being vain repetition, made up or arbitrary, is either given for use, existent as help, or revealed, with even a little attention or effort. I agree with Cologero that “mulligan stew” has no charm, so this exercise is not intended to convince everyone (as Simone Weil rightly warned against) that all religions/Traditions are just various and equal routes to the same path. We already can see vividly where that Idea leads. It is as fruitless as the idea that anyone outside your constellation of thoughts is doomed to Hell inevitably. A Tradition is not arbitrary when you are “called” to it; hence, Christianity has some impact on virtually everyone in the modern West, even if they prefer this not to be the case.
The purer and nobler the supplicant, the better the liturgy. This is what gave the Church its liturgy for thousands of years, and is not “pagan” – it is there, because the Logos is there. The strategy of the Catholic Church (and also the Orthodox, to some degree) was to baptize the natural cultures and human climates they came across, purify it, exalt it, and let Nature be subsumed (and preserved) within Super-Nature. They did not posit an endlessly devouring circle of hermeneutic suspicion, where “Idolatry” became the greatest sin. Actually, the greatest sin is to worship nothing at all, because that would imply that one’s natural state was the highest possible sphere of actualized Existence, and this would imply that the fallen self (or at least the non-perfected self) was the goal of all Creation. Isn’t this exactly what “salvation by faith” among the modern Protestants has come to mean?
I have sketched a very simple symbolic pattern which demonstrates that Taoism, Druidry, and Christianity have a deep resonance at the level of abstract symbolic in the physical world and its connection to the Logos or Pattern. Christianity itself cannot really extricate itself from its decline without re-emphasizing the teachings surrounding the Logos – only this will give a legitimate “common basis” for discussion, practice, and commonality, while also rightly showing Christians how to transcend even that in the fullness of the teachings of the Logos mystery (the preparations, Incarnation, and Second Coming, then Recapitulation).
Vain repetitions? Nothing is more vain than individuals who expect to ignore the Logos, over and over again, and still find cheap grace with a God that they imagine in a vacuum. When the Logos repeats a pattern, it is not vain – nor is it vain when man can see this pattern, and align himself with it, including in the arena of gesture and invocation. All depends upon the discernment of the Spirits.
What the Christian Church needs is not just Reformation and Revival, but Renaissance as well, patterned only upon the Logos, and not upon Luther, Charles Finney, or even Leonardo, who are by definition incomplete at best.
Whatever one can say about the Middle Ages (which we may be living in fairly soon as a purgatory for our arrogance), it was certainly more cheerful even in its high dudgeons, to illustrate which, we close with a story:
The emperor knowing that the bishop, being occupied in a great variety of secular business, was now and then guilty of a barbarism, both in speaking and in reading Latin, with the help of his chaplain effaced the syllable fa from the words famulis and famulabus, which form part of a collect in the service for the defunct, in the missal; and then called on the bishop to say a mass for the souls of his father and mother. Meinwerc, therefore, being unexpectedly called on to perform the service, and hastening to do it, read on as he found written, mulis and mulabus, but, perceiving the mistake, he repeated the words correctly. After mass, the emperor said, in a sarcastic manner, to the bishop, ‘I asked you to say mass for my father and mother, not for my male and female mules.’ But he replied, ‘By the mother of our Lord, you have been at your old tricks, and have made a fool of me again; and now, in no common way, but in the service of our God. This he who is my Judge has declared that he will avenge; for that which is done to him he will not pass by unpunished.’ Thereupon, he immediately convened the canons in the chapter-house of the cathedral, ordered the emperor’s chaplain, who had been a party to the trick, to be most severely flogged; and then, having dressed him in new clothes, sent him back to the emperor to tell him what had happened.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Political Self-Flagellation

"Nobody believed four years ago that you could have black folks and lesbians and gays and Latinos and young folk, standing together to move the country forward," said Jones, a former special adviser to Obama.

This race was about believing and proving. 

Now that this has been established, we will have to maintain the benchmark. There are more important milestones ahead - the "best is yet to come". We have to "move forward".  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Thoughts on Kirk

Read Redeeming the Time at my father's house lately - an interesting thought that occured to me while going over Kirk was that he is something of a man of "Tradition", yet never makes it more than implicit. That is, Kirk (with Burke) thinks that man is not made for absolute liberty. Being magnanimous at heart, Kirk is not willing to say this openly. That is, neither he nor Burke are willing to proscribe man & give definite limits or bounds to what man can or cannot do - for one thing, this is against their ideology - they both believe that man can, under circumstances that are favorable, attain to certain concrete liberties. So, the "conservative" position based on historical "custom" is left in somewhat of a quandary. Having arisen in the prosperous, Christianized countries of the West, & being committed by definition to preserving that benefice and patrimony in the favorable conditions the long process of Christianity created, and being gentlemen, it behooved neither of them to make explicit the idea that is latent within their thought - that Man, at some point, might have to suffer hard constraint of political liberty for the common good. Charles Maurras is more explicit - if (in a crisis) you can command, you are obligated to do so. Also:
All liberty is not suitable in every State; each State depends on its historic antecedents and it geographic position like each man on his ancestors and his country. Salutary and tutelary dependencies, since they gave life, sustain it, and conserve it, and whoever rejects it, dies. Liberty varies with time and place, but this is no State which can last without a sovereign authority.
This is more clear. But I think it could be made more clear even yet. Man is like an electric filament, stretched out between the gap in a divine current. Our politics and history and art, far from being subjective creations, are actually transcendent and divine, and carry this weight and karma. To pull too much power into the filament, or to burn for too long, is to invite destruction, to guarantee it. In fact, some men are incapable of serving as filaments at all. However, by careful re-compositioning over centuries, by learning the current through generations and modifying one's nature and becoming stronger, some filaments can burn almost indefinitely, like a candle that is at the end of the wick, but is only burning the wax, rather than itself.

The flame is liberty and knowledge of God. Very few are capable of having "absolute" anything, let alone absolute God (liberty & God are the same condition). Thus, from a conservative point of view, the idea that man has an abstract, absolute liberty by his nature that is not "latent" but "actualized" by political decree despite the existence of his passions, is sheer madness.

Those who hold this position are therefore, literally, insane. 

Kirk & Burke are too charitable to point this out; in my day and time, I think we have an obligation to do so. Obama and Romney are both equally deluded and mad. The King is not only naked, but mad. True conservatives will look for the man who can burn in the flame of God without being consumed, and will bow the knee to him as their sovereign.

Clearly, circa 1900, it was not obvious that most Americans were incapable of self-government, living as they did in a society still utilizing old instruments of production and adhering to older models of thought and worship. A great many people had what we would call "moral fiber". This is no longer true, and the stakes have risen. Few, if any, Americans are qualified to vote on anything other than the placement of their local street signs.