Friday, February 28, 2014

Western Social Order – Part 2

A recent comment by John of Salisbury made me think:
“Not only were these scholars unable to drive out the bad scholars, but in combating insanity, they temporarily became insane…”
I thought about this question in relation to other questions or comments relating to the “inner struggle” of the man of Tradition in today’s very untraditional world. I had a good acquaintance on the Internet give up study in that area because he needed something more cheerful. If you will notice, Cologero does not restrict his reading to Guenon and Evola, but also studies a wider range of writers on a diverse array of subjects. It is probably true that a steady diet of Evola and Guenon has the potential to unsettle one. Caleb is planning to put up a post that addresses part of this, in that Tomberg’s Meditations are designed to lay a firm foundation, without which (if you neglect the first card of the Tarot), the rest becomes unstable. Cologero has done a fine job of supplementing Evola and Guenon (whom he terms the “Master of Tradition”), with the meditations on the Meditation. The Tarot discussion list (and Caleb’s article) is designed to assist in this process. In trying to imitate our betters, we often overstep or over-estimate our own capabilities, sometimes not deliberately, as we try to “come up to speed”. Incidentally, much of Phillip Rieff’s thought in Culture and Its Second Death explores the danger of being initiated into our elder’s/better’s debates too swiftly, including the fundamentally erotic desire to criticize those to whom we owe everything. Rosenstock-Huessy called this “Teaching too Early, Learning to Late”, in which the danger is that we learn just enough to be dangerous, to ourselves and others.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing – drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring!
I can certainly relate to this, having passed in and through and back into such phases, over the course of my short 40 years. In the case of Gornahoor, the best possible foundation has been laid down, but it has been made freely and openly available (with no secrets) laying out the Arcanum that must be mastered before entrance into the Mysteries. But the danger is still there, just a necessary one: in our chaotic age, one has to invite everyone, since those who should be ready are not. Jesus gave this in parable form in the tale of the Wedding Feast invitations.

John of Salisbury cites a medieval authority who claimed that there are three types of souls: those who fly, those who crawl, those who walk. Those who fly learn much, and swiftly, but soon forget. They make poor students (I think this is my soul’s danger, for instance). Poetry may be a help to such students. Those who crawl are dull of soul – in Pythagorean circles, they would not be allowed to be initiated, for instance, during the old days. Those who walk, steadily and constantly, those who are pilgrims, make the best students, fit to climb Parnassus and drink from its springs.

There was another recent article on Gornahoor that explained some of this quite well – different types or souls have to be handled differently. MIchel’s comment on this post by Cologero gets to an esoteric root that lies behind a lot of misunderstandings that occur during these confusing times. Different types or differing potentials require completely different spiritual trajectories: in Mouravieff’s words, if the center is God, and we all find ourselves scattered at various circumferences, the trajectory back of necessity takes a variety of angles and forms. And some people don’t necessarily manage to make a straight line, either!

All of this is to say that the “care of souls” remains paramount: even if one is caring for one’s own soul, in which case, even more “care” is required, not less.
In some denominations of Christianity, the cure of souls (Latin: cura animarum), an archaic translation which is better rendered today as “care of souls” is the exercise by priests of their office. This typically embraces instruction, by sermons, admonitions and administration of sacraments, to the congregation over which they have authority from the church. In countries where the Roman Catholic Church acted as the national church, the “cure” was not only over a congregation or congregations, but over a district. The assignment of a priest to a district subdividing a diocese was a process begun in the 4th century AD. The term parish as applied to this district comes from the Greek word for district, ????????. Those who earned their living on a position without cure of souls were known to have a sinecure (hence the expression).
Even when one is taking the “dry path”, and investigating the layers of one’s own soul in an esoteric manner, there is a care or “art” involved, & note merely a science (this may be where the balance between
East and West is reached, as the East approaches spiritual things almost mechanistically).
This pervasive feeling of hopelessness, of fighting against fearful odds, of being doomed, can be viewed and attacked from several angles. Since I’ve been asked several questions lately that pertain to it, I assume it’s relevant, and am relating it back to the conquest or reconquest of Western Social Order. It may relate to the “noonday demon” that attacked the desert monks, a lassitude and despair that could only be overcome with productive work: this is why Cologero has emphasized that practicing one’s caste and craft is as important as becoming “enlightened”. This is in the spirit of the Patristic fathers, who had monks weave baskets, plant gardens, build buildings, etc., because (as the Philokalia teaches) Satan can only attack along one front when we are working, rather than all fronts simultaneously.

First, as noted above, it is paramount to appreciate that simultaneously, Guenon is both the measuring rod (for several reasons, not least of which is that our teacher, Cologero, regards him as such) & also that which is to be transcended. That is, the goal is to not make Guenon’s mistakes. For a Westerner, then, we recognize that Guenon advocates a path away from exoteric form, in favor of an East that (in his day) was less tainted, and a source of hope. Of course, today, we see that the East has imitated the West, and that Coca-Cola and blue jeans have flattened the globe. Cologero has done a huge service in upholding Guenon’s standards, but eschewing some of his conclusions.

Secondly, we avoid the pit of getting caught up in erotic disputations over nothings. We’ve seen a lot of posters come and go – many wanted to dispute with Cologero over various bagatelles or supposed critical mistakes. The Hermetic method (favored by Western thought that is faithful to Plato, Bonaventura, etc.) eschews such disputes, as does St. Paul. Avoid fruitless disputation….

Thirdly, for the above reasons, we should probably avoid a pure diet of Guenon and Evola and traditional thinkers, if for no other reason (this is an additional one) than that those who battle vampires and monsters develop a kind of hardness about them that can be monstrous. It is not natural (and they would have recognized this) to have to spend your whole life in combating insanity, from dusk till dawn. Rejoice over their gift to us, but don’t forget to plant a fig tree. Our times are conditioned by different possibilities; many battles are lost, others are looming, and some new possibilities have deepened or awakened. As our master Goethe says, a man who is not of his own times, can be a man of no other time. Read a mystery novel, watch a movie. Even the medieval thinkers (such as the author of Philobiblikon) says that it is possible to appreciate modern thinkers and writers, along with the ancient ones. Evola and Guenon have modern dimensions to their thinking. The entire Quantity/Quality distinction can become (at times) almost a quantitative category which taints our perception of Quality. The medievals emphasized the value of Estimation, in which the beginner practiced his craft of working by esteeming that which had objective, natural moral value, in their own day. Even in our day, there are people which have dignity, things or activities which have value, etc.

So temper it. If it gets you down so much you can’t function at all, and quenches the inner fire, even down to the last spark, find something more cheerful for awhile. But realize it isn’t Guenon or Evola’s fault – its a privation within ourselves. Luckily, within the Christian esoteric and exoteric tradition, we are allowed holy-days and feast days, in which we can re-create ourselves in the wonder of Creation, which abides, even in our horribly dark days.  As our teacher Wordsworth says, one impulse from a vernal wood, can teach you more of man, of moral evil and of good, than all the sages can. Presumably, Wordsworth didn’t even have access to the sages which we do, so temper this with grateful knowledge, and spend some time learning the constellations, or admiring the wonder of a storm. In the Romance of the Rose, an initiatic text, the writer asks rhetorically, what can be done with someone who doesn’t appreciate the approach of Spring and the gods of Love!

Fourthly, there are other thinkers out there, perhaps secular ones, who can be as circumstantially valuable to us as Evola and Guenon, under certain conditions. I would class Phillip Rieff in this category, at least for those like myself. He gives a feeling of “utter hopelessness”, but this is meant to be curative, in the spirit of Kafka. And it is aimed at the hubris and ignorance of our modern self. Some self-hatred and the cutting off of limbs or eyes is appropriate (symbolically speaking) as most moderns are in a rather unique bind, being cut off from their own soul, which is naturaliter anima Christiana (Tertullian). So a little Theodore Dalrymple, Richard Weaver, Phillip Rieff, Christopher Lasch, or other such notable secular saints is of great value to many – if nothing else, it’s a safer way to process (like the liver) the toxins of our intellectual age, which are in the air we breathe. Just realize that (being creatures) we have to balance our diet intellectually (until we are enlightened, when all things become pure). If you read Rieff, you’ll realize you should probably be listening to Haydn’s classical music (or some other classical composers!). However, the trip is worth it. Rieff shows us (in Culture, Its Second Death) that all of our spiritual states (even the Sartrean hell, which lurks for us today) are manifestations of our soul’s possibilities along the Vertical. There is no escape (or no false escape) from the vertical – we have to face up to the real problems and questions, first. As Solomon says, the house of mourning is more fruitful than the house of laughter, if it is a mourning of repentance. If (however) one is past this, then one is past it.

Christians are “ahead of the times”: we are not immersed in them. So just because this is the Kali Yuga, it (everything) still matters very much. One of my teachers, a Lithuanian who taught literature, once berated me for reading Christianity into Shalamov’s work: the whole point of his story was how small acts had meaning in and of themselves, regardless of a Christian interpretation or outcome! The character (interned in a camp) had found a can of condensed milk. For a short time, this can was God’s grace, without being officially God’s grace! Such is the mighty, eternal, and infinite mercy of God, which mercy endures forever, His chief attribute. This is the lesson Tomberg teaches also – not control, but mercy and Love, which is the Queen of Magic.
This is our burden, this is our time. It is hard, and we have to help each other. We have to show mercy, while remembering Truth. I hope this is encouraging, & look forward to being taught and helped by others on this path.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Western Social Order

Western Social Order

Cologero points out that quibbling over minor points of philosophy & actualizing states of being are not equivalent for the noble character. That is, philosophical debate is not for the gentleman, beyond a certain point. Surely the West (as such) was built upon such a a fundamental impulse, as the aristocracy of the Franks and Germans were a rough and ready group of fighters, with little taste for Byzantine theology. John Romanides has criticized this substantially, but does not address in any way the fact that the West managed to not merely retain much more than a shadow of Byzantine mysticism, but actually to incorporate and seemingly “add” elements of Tradition with which the East was less familiar. Cologero has discussed this under the title of The Three Orders. Byzantium retained the purity of dogma from Constantine’s day, but the social order was collapsing. They were apparently unable to escape the curse of political factions: in other words, they lacked unity. Procopius even relates a story about Justinian the emperor which is intriguing;
And some of those who have been with Justinian at the palace late at night, men who were pure of spirit, have thought they saw a strange demoniac form taking his place. One man said that the Emperor suddenly rose from his throne and walked about, and indeed he was never wont to remain sitting for long, and immediately Justinian’s head vanished, while the rest of his body seemed to ebb and flow; whereat the beholder stood aghast and fearful, wondering if his eyes were deceiving him. But presently he perceived the vanished head filling out and joining the body again as strangely as it had left it
…perhaps some of the “pure in spirit” who could perceive his disappearing head were Pythagoreans. In any case, political factions dismembered Byzantium long before the Seljuk Turks and the Crusaders delivered the finishing blows. Although I don’t agree with the pejorative, the adjective “Byzantium” today still describes a certain kind of stifling, convoluted atmosphere that is almost impossible to fathom. In fact, Cologero has also pointed out that the East/West schism was primarily exoteric, & should not (in fact) be recognized as decisive or definitive by those who have eyes to see. Just as the Inquisition’s attack on esoteric bodies within the Church should be “ignored”, in the sense of recognizing it as a natural kind of failing in these situations, while retaining both facets for future use, the West vs. East problem is also illusory, if one is trying to deduce eternal principles out of historical dialectic. Instead, move from Unity towards the One, rather than reasoning from the many back to Unity.

The Revolution is derived from such dialectic; although Romanides is not a revolutionary, his theology has made it in some senses more difficult to rapproche with West, in that there is nothing constructive or creative about it, and one has to “supply” what is missing. Indeed, had it not been for Gornahoor, I myself would have found his logic convincing, and would no doubt by now be reading Alexander Dugin and plotting to immigrate to Russia, or at least pining for it. A Revolutionary reasons thusly:
1. The Church has done bad things, or been implicated in the doing of said bad things.
2. Therefore, we are better off today with the Church in chains, culturally, if not annihilated forever.

Therefore, the upshot today is that, “as for my people, women are their oppressors, and children rule over them”. Isaiah 3:12.

As Robert Nisbet has pointed out in Twilight of Authority, the modern liberal state that has resulted from the above reasoning (which is shared by some of the brightest and best young people I have met or been acquainted with) drifts toward either chaos or a monolith that reduces individuals to atoms, with no power or defense against the centralized state, which has been optimized (ostensibly) for the good of all, and particularly the new “individual” neo-bourgeois. Phillip Rieff is a Jew that every man of Tradition ought to read: his book on Teaching & The Second Death closed off, forever for me, the idea that the new “individual” had anything to add – his diagnosis of the spiritual sickness that grips us is profound. It is no use arguing, you have to treat the condition as an illness; in this Romanides and Tomberg are in essential agreement, as are all the Traditional thinkers.

Unfortunately, a lot of the young are ineluctably drawn to the syllogism above, and those of old age, who are hopelessly lazy and self-corrupt, encourage them. What the enthymeme above leaves out is significant. What, for example, happens to other Ideals besides the Church that become tarnished? Are they to be discarded as well? And what happens when Man has tarnished his last Ideal? Should Ideals themselves be given up? What would that look like? Can Ideals be rehabilitated? Why should the abuse of an Ideal disavow the goodness or reality of that Ideal? Are Ideals inevitable, even when denied? Why did the Ideals fail to begin with? Are they inherently evil, inviting abuse? Why should this be? Can Ideals be critiqued by anything else other than Ideals? Were the Ideals ever properly instituted in the first place? Why or why not? What would a false Ideal look like, and how would we recognize it?

Cologero rightly points out that Socratic dialogue can end in aporia. But what if the Socratic dialogue was done, as he suggests, within a framework of actualization, as acts achieving states of being? That is the project of Gornahoor, or at least, the part I am most familiar with and best understand. It may be preaching to the choir, but it’s certainly better than what you’ll get at the average Sunday School, and you’ll know something more than a four-part Gospel harmony, although such things have value.

As an aside of interest, an author that links to the site frequently, Brett Stevens, has written a popular piece which summarizes in popular form some of the cogent criticisms of political European nationalism that Cologero has made in much more in depth and subtle terms. Some of the readers may find the piece useful and convincing, as I did. It points us in the direction of achieving what our director and founder a scale of spiritual order, rather than appealing to the baser parts of human nature, our own and others.
The West, historically, has excelled at achieving difficult balances with periods of crisis, from its inception, which involved multitudes of groups and periods of disorder. It can be hoped that it will do so again.