Cambria Will Not Yield

Friday, February 27, 2009

Breaking the Chains of Superficiality

King Alfred at the Battle of Ashdown

“For the victory of battle standeth not in the multitude of an host, but strength cometh from heaven.”

This past summer I got the news that my best friend from my grammar and high school days had died. I was of course surprised and saddened. I hadn’t seen Chris or spoken to him since the summer of our senior year in high school when he was on his way to France and I was off to college. On the surface we were rather unlikely friends. He was an honor student, I was not. I was an athlete, he was not. But we shared a certain contempt for, what I shall call it? Let’s call it a contempt for the Thomas Gradgrind, ‘just-the-facts-ma’am,’ educational establishment, and we also shared a love for the poets of print and stage.

I don’t remember if it was one of the last times or the very last time I talked with Chris, but I do recall that we had differed on the issue of radicalism. In his senior year Chris had gotten heavily involved with radical politics. He even wore an anti-Vietnam War armband at graduation. In contrast, I did not have the slightest interest in politics. I was too young to see the difference between us then, but looking back on our friendship now I realize that Chris was more of a ‘True Believer’ than I was. He believed, or wanted to believe, in the radical 'isms'. But I had the same contempt for the Left as I did for what passed as the conservative establishment. In other words, my temptation was nihilism while his was utopianism. But I was very fond of Chris, probably fonder of him than he was of me. He was the type of person who made friends easily.

I heard of Chris now and then through his brother and some mutual friends. He did the Henry Miller routine, living the avant-garde life for many years. About the time of my marriage, I heard he was back in the United States. I was anything but a radical by then, so I thought I would give him some time to divest himself of his avant-garde ways and then I would contact him and talk about how we had both come to believe in the King of Poets, the Christ.

But it was not to be. I got immensely busy raising a family and never did contact him. When I learned of his death, I desperately wanted to find out something about his later life. Against all reason, I just knew that in his later years Chris had become a believer in the Christ of antique Europe. When he had time to reflect on who it was that inspired so many of the poets of Europe, he would, I told myself, most certainly have become a believer. Well, there is always the hope something miraculous went on between Chris and God during his final hours, but the exterior evidence, the organizations to which he belonged, the job he held, all indicated that he had stayed a clichéd radical all of his days.

His death saddened me, but the fact that he had not become what I just knew he would become, was beyond sad. It was devastating. I’ve had this experience twice now in my life, when I thought that I was heart-and-soul in union with a friend, and then found out we were miles and miles apart. How does that happen? I don’t know. I do know that there can be no true friendship if one has not gone through what Thomas Hughes describes in Tom Brown’s School Days:
However, you’ll all find, if you haven’t found it out already, that a time comes in every human friendship when you must go down into the depths of yourself, and lay bare what is there to your friend, and wait in fear for his answer. A few moments may do it; and it may be (most likely will be, as you are English boys) that you never do it but once. But done it must be, if the friendship is to be worth the name. You must find what is there, at the very root and bottom of one another’s hearts; and if you are at one there, nothing on earth can, or at least ought to, sunder you.”
Of course there was a huge difference between Hughes’ traditional society and the one in which Chris and I grew up. In Hughes’ world, which was passing away when he wrote Tom Brown’s School Days, there was no such thing as the adolescent or 'teen' years. You had your boyhood and then manhood. At some time in your boyhood, you had to decide for good or evil. Were you going to adhere to the principles taught in your boyhood or were you going to go against those principles and forge a new lifestyle and a new faith different from that of your kith and kin? In contrast, the society in which Chris and I grew up did not encourage going down to the depths of one’s soul to see what was there. We were encouraged to make career decisions that were practical but not to make those ultimate decisions that turn a boy into a man. “Be true to the dreams of your youth,” Melville wrote. And he was right, in the context of a traditional society. In such societies boys form the ideals and beliefs that they will carry into adulthood. But in a non-traditional society, the final years of boyhood are called adolescence, and a boy is encouraged to believe that his childhood was a lie and his manhood will be a sham if he gives up the narcissistic dreams of his adolescence. And no true friendship can be formed when one or both of the friends are in a permanent state of adolescence. If I had not been an adolescent, I would have seen that Chris and I were miles apart, as far apart as Tolstoy, whom he adored, and Dostoyevsky, whom I idolized. But of course we both lacked the necessary powers of discernment to realize that.

It is not a little thing, this failure to get to the heart of oneself and to the heart of those we would call our friends. It is a tragedy. And when we perpetuate adolescence into our adulthood, as King Lear did, our personal tragedy has a ripple effect in society and spawns an infinitude of personal tragedies. The adolescent utopian, when he becomes a teacher, creates more utopian adolescents. And the adolescent, utopian politician creates a whole class of adolescent, utopian adults and calls them his constituents. And on it goes until a society becomes an organized state of permanent adolescence that has no principle to live by except the principle of superficiality. Depth in thought and feeling is forbidden. Any religion is tolerated so long as there is no depth to it. So all religions are tolerated except the one true religion, and all cultures are tolerated except the one culture based on the religion of depth.

And it is not only genuine friendships that disappear under organized, adolescent superficiality. Marriages based on love disappear. There is no “secret sympathy, The silver link, the silken tie, Which heart to heart, and mind to mind, In body and in soul can bind.”

How can a man or a woman raised to believe life is an eternal, superficial adolescence unite in a marriage that means something?

The European Christian, the incarnational Christian, must be very careful about this modern business of uniting with a non-Christian, superficial group in order to combat a common enemy. It’s a fearful thing to face a multitude of enemies alone, but if we water down our faith, our religion of depth, to be more compatible with our unfriendly allies, won’t we lose God’s aid in the battle and our souls as well? Organizational, ‘idea’ Christianity, neo-paganism, organized Jewry, and black barbarism, are all opposed to European, incarnational Christianity. If we pick one anti-Christian group to help us against another anti-Christian group, what have we gained?

I’m not very computer savvy, so I don’t always see everything that is put out by white Europeans, but I recently saw an article on the Vanishing American blog with which I wholeheartedly agree. In fact, it was the only article I’ve seen in many years with which I could wholeheartedly agree. And I think that is because there are very few incarnational Christians left and because those incarnational Christians still living and breathing do not use the Internet.

The Vanishing American quotes Drew Fraser as saying that spiritual problems must have spiritual remedies, not political ones:
It is high time for Anglo-Saxons to secede culturally, economically, spiritually, and theopolitically from the transnational corporate welfare state. It makes far more strategic sense for Anglo-Saxons to reclaim control over the Anglican Church from the neo-communists who presently infest it than to waste time, energy, and other scarce resources breeding a new generation of power-hungry white nationalist politicians.

Anglo-Saxons have been brought low, turned into the pathetic practitioners of the WASP lifestyle, by the spiritual disorder I call Anglo-Saxon Anglophobia. Spiritual problems require a spiritual remedy; they cannot be solved by political action. For Anglo-Saxons, an excessive faith in political theology is a large part of our problem.

The ethnoregenesis of the Anglo-Saxons presupposes their spiritual regeneration, in England and throughout the Diaspora. The Church of England created the English nation in the Dark Ages of medieval Europe. In the new Dark Age it must fall to the Church to save the Anglo-Saxon peoples around the world from the satanic forces to which they have become enslaved.

To wage that battle the Church will have to become the nucleus around which an regenerated Anglo-Saxon ethnoreligious community can begin to crystallize. The Church would have to embrace not just those who pray but also those who work to feed, clothe, and shelter their Anglo-Saxon co-ethnics as well as those who fight to defend the territorial and ethnocultural integrity of the Anglo-Saxon race against its enemies.''
Amen to that.

And I applaud the author’s awareness of the fact that our pagan “allies” are not really our allies:
But I find this growing movement in opposition to Christianity among many nationalists and ethnoconservatives to be troubling. I find it so not just because I take the attacks on my God, my faith and the faith of my ancestors personally, but also because it is harmful to our cause. Would the anti-Christians purge us from their number because we don't toe the secularist or post-Christian or neo-pagan party line? Would they take action against Christians should they ever attain power? I am beginning to think the answer is ''yes'' because of the vitriolic nature of their diatribes against Christianity. For some of them, Christianity is the object of hatred because it is said to be an 'alien, Semitic religion', not one intrinsic to Europe. This is the line Nietzsche used, if I remember correctly.
It is more than troubling, it is a call to arms. It always is a mistake to assume people can’t possibly mean what they say because what they say is too stupid or too horrendous. The true hearts among the neo-pagans will, like Harold the Dauntless, find their way, like all noble souls do, to Christ. But there is nothing a Christian European can gain by allying himself with neo-pagans. If the neo-pagans settle for neo-paganism because they claim Christians are weak, they are settling for that superficial reading of history because they want to settle for it. Mere fighting is not anything special. Every race, religion, and country has fighting men. It is what a Christian fights for that makes him unique. But the evidence is there for anyone who wants to look at history objectively; when Christians have to fight they are quite capable of fighting:
In these days when our wise generation, weighed down with wealth and its handmaid vices on the one hand, and exhilarated by some tiny steps it has managed to make on the threshold of physical knowledge of various kinds on the other, would seem to be bent on ignoring its Creator and God altogether—or at least of utterly denying that He has revealed, or is revealing Himself, unless it be through the laws of Nature—one of the commonest demurrers to Christianity has been, that it is no faith for fighters, for the men who have to do the roughest and hardest work for the world. I fear that some sections of Christians have been too ready to allow this demurrer, and fall back on the Quaker doctrines; admitting thereby that such “Gospel of the kingdom of heaven” as they can for their part heartily believe in, and live up to, is after all only a poor cash-gospel, and cannot bear the dust and dint, the glare and horror, of battle-fields. Those of us who hold that man was sent into this earth for the express purpose of fighting—of uncompromising and unending fighting with body, intellect, spirit, against whomsoever or whatsoever causeth or maketh a lie, and therefore, alas! too often against his brother man—would, of course, have to give up Christianity if this were true; nay, if they did not believe that precisely the contrary of this is true, that Christ can call them as plainly in the drum beating to battle, as in the bell calling to prayer, can and will be as surely with them in the shock of angry hosts as in the gathering before the altar. But without entering further into the great controversy here, I would ask readers fairly and calmly to consider whether all the greatest fighting that has been done in the world has not been done by men who believed, and showed by their lives that they believed, they had a direct call from God to do it, and that He was present with them in their work. -- Alfred the Great by Thomas Hughes
There is currently no Christian opposition to the Leviathan. Coalition groups led by neo-pagan and/or ‘get out the vote, write letters’ men do not constitute an opposition. In their desire to be ‘practical,’ in their desire to be ‘realistic,’ they are the most impractical and unrealistic men alive. They are not practical because they keep screaming at the powerless to wake up and do something. The powerless are fully awake, but they need a leader to lead them, not a hysterical screamer telling them to wake up. And the neopagan and letter-writing groups are unrealistic because in their efforts to be realistic, and therefore democratic and inclusive, they have cut themselves and their would-be followers off from the wellspring of life. Before Christianity became a propositional faith for the European he based all of his actions on his faith. If he fought it was in the name of his faith, and when he set up a government he modeled his government on his faith. It is not realistic to have a government independent from the faith of its people. Europeans would be much better off if we chose a Christian king and started to rebuild from that base than we will be trying to put Christian square pegs into the round holes of democratic capitalism of the state and corporate variety.

Unrealistic and impractical you say? No, if a people have the faith to choose a Christian king it will be a sign that they have the faith to follow a Christian king:
But what if the special function of the king is precisely this of sympathy with the masses? Our biblical training surely would seem to teach that it is. When all people are to bow before the king, all nations to do him service, it is because “he shall deliver the poor when he crieth, the needy also, and him that hath no helper.” When the king prays for the judgments and righteousness of God, it is in order that “he may judge Thy people according unto right, and defend the poor.” When the king sits in judgment, the reason of his sentence, whether of approval or condemnation, turns upon this same point of sympathy with the poor and weak,--“Inasmuch as ye have done it, or not done it, to the least of these my brethren.” From one end to the other of the Bible we are face to face with these words, “king” and “kingdom;” from the first word to the last the same idea of the king’s work, the king’s functions, runs through history, poem, parable, statute, and binds them together...
To those who look on the Hebrew scriptures as mere ancient Asian records, which have been luckily preserved, and are perhaps as valuable as the Talmud or the Vedas, this peculiarity in them will seem of little moment. To those who believe otherwise—who hold that these same scriptures contain the revelation of God to the family of mankind so far as words can reveal Him—the fact is one which deserves and must claim their most serious thought. If they desire to be honest with themselves, they will not play fast and loose with the words, or the ideas; will rather face them, and grudge no effort to get at what real meaning or force lies for themselves in that which the Bible says as to kings and kingdom... -- Alfred the Great
Life, the Christian always believes, has a deeper meaning than can be seen on the surface. If a man, a Christian man, settles for the superficiality of modernity, or even if he plays fast and loose with the truth by hedging his bets and spending half his time with modernity and the other half with Christianity, he will succumb to the modernist sickness.

Often, when we have recovered from a long illness but are still very weak from the effects of the illness, we feel better than we felt before the illness. The exhilaration of finally being well and whole again more than offsets the fact that it will be some time before we have regained our full strength. That is how the European will feel when he recovers from his illness. He was sick from a surfeit of superficiality in his religion, in his politics, in his culture. When he returns to the deeper things, he will start to regain his strength.

In the avant-garde world of superficiality there is no reverence, no pietas, no respect for the deeper things. But in Christian Europe (before Christ became an idea instead of a God), the King, the sword, and the woods were sacred. The King and the sword served Him, and the European woods sprang from the same wood that He consecrated with His blood. We haven’t gotten smarter because we no longer believe in kings, swords, or sacred woods. Quite the contrary, our brains can still tabulate the amount of facts we know about the natural world, but we no longer can see past our noses because the heart, having been treated like a poor relation for so many years, is no longer connected to the brain.

There is a wonderful scene in the 1930’s version of Mutiny on the Bounty when Fletcher Christian (played by Clark Gable), having taken all and more than a man should take from a tyrant, says, “We’ll be men again if we hang for it.” Wouldn’t we, the European males, like to be integral men again? It’s not impractical or suicidal to walk away from the soulless, superficial world of the modern automatons. We will never 'win them over' or be allowed to live in their world, and we will lose our souls. If we refuse to live in their world and struggle to regain the strength that our ancestors once had, we may perish in the struggle (though it is by no means certain that we shall), but we will have saved our souls. On the one hand, there is certain physical and spiritual death. On the other hand, there is possible physical death and certain spiritual life. Let us listen to King Alfred
on his deathbed, speaking to his son:
"My dear son, sit thou now beside me, and I will deliver thee true instruction. My son, I feel that my hour is near, my face is pale, my days are nearly run. We must soon part. I shall to another world, and thou shalt be left alone with all my wealth. I pray thee, for thou art my dear child, strive to be a father and a lord to thy people; be thou the children’s father, and the widow’s friend; comfort thou the poor and shelter the weak, and with all thy might right that which is wrong. And, my son, govern thyself by law, then shall the Lord love thee, and God above all things shall be thy reward. Call thou upon Him to advise thee in all thy need, and so He shall help thee the better to compass that which thou wouldest."
We are his sons. +


Friday, February 20, 2009

Winning Friends and Influencing People

“Alone, yes! – But why stand against the world?”

Over the years I’ve mostly received negative feedback on the articles that I write, which is one of the reasons I am always surprised when I get a complimentary letter. But complimentary or negative, I always used to respond to every letter I received when I was a young man. I now only acknowledge the complimentary letters, and I ignore the critical ones. I do this for three reasons.

1) When I was young, I had a much greater respect for the rational, argumentative, dialectical type of apologetics. Now, I’ve come to believe that such debates are futile.

2) There is simply not enough time to write and then spend four to five extra hours a week responding to criticisms of what I have written.

3) In the Internet age, there are more ‘skim readers’ than ever before (quite possibly there are no human beings under 40 who have actually read a book or even an article from beginning to end). Someone will read two sentences of an article and, based on that reading, will fire off a skim-reader hate letter. I think we all would prefer to be liked, or even adored, rather than hated, but I am quite willing to be hated for my beliefs. What is intolerable is to be hated for something that I don’t believe but that a skim reader thinks I believe based on his two-sentence reading of something I wrote.

So let me launch into a summation of the major criticisms I’ve received over the years, which won’t clarify anything, because the skim readers who I am addressing won’t read more than two sentences of what I write. In fact, they haven’t read this far. Then why bother writing? Because I am headstrong, romantical and most unwise.

I like to think of myself as a man of the right. It sounds solid, substantial, and principled. But judging by the criticisms I get from the right wing, I think I’ll find another moniker.

Complaint #1: “You are weak on the Jewish issue.”
One irate women even told me once that I was a Jew, which was news to me, because I always thought I was of Welsh-German descent without any Jewish ancestry. But weak on the Jewish issue? What do my right wing critics mean? As near as I can gather, it is a combination of my oft-stated assertion that the Jews were not and are not the greatest threat to Christian Europe; my reluctance to give unequivocal support to the ‘no ovens’ theory; my refusal to view the Arabs as the ‘good guys’ in the Jewish and Muslim dispute; and my insistence on regarding Jewishness as a spiritual state rather than biological destiny.

Wow, those are some indictments. And I probably haven’t covered them all. Let’s start with the ‘Jews are not the greatest enemy’ assertion: I think that organized Jewry in its modern secularized form and in its more Orthodox religious form has always been a major threat to Christian Europe. One need only mention the Jewish strangleholds on the banks in Europe and America to prove that the Jews have an inordinate, an instinctual hatred of Christian Europe. But I think an avowed, even a maniacally hostile enemy in front of you is preferable to the wolf in sheep’s clothing in back of you. The greatest enemy of Christian Europe is now the Christian churches. The Jews would not have sufficient power to destroy individual Christians and Christian institutions if Christians had not become more hostile to Christianity than the Jews are. I’ve noticed that liberal southerners now hate the old white South more than northerners do; so it is with liberal Christians. In compensation for their old Christian days, they hate Christians even more than the Jews. And I do make a distinction between secularized Jews and Orthodox Jews. The vast majority of Orthodox Jews hate Christian Europe, but there seem to be more Orthodox Jews, such as the late Will Herberg, willing to support Christian Europe than there are “Christians” willing to support Christian Europe.

The ‘no ovens’ theory refers to the Holocaust problem. I don’t see why the right wing is so obsessed with proving that there were no ovens used to kill Jews. That terrible barbarities were done to Jews and to Christians, who were not guilty of anything other than being Jews and Christians, is (or so it seems to me) undeniable. That the Jews have lied about the number of Jews killed; that the Jews have been unconcerned about all the Christians killed; that the Jews have made, and are still making political hay over their “victim” status also seems to be undeniable. But whether Jews were beaten to death or gassed in ovens, or whether the Jews were starved to death or gassed in ovens, does not change the fact that barbarities were committed against them at the command of an anti-Christian, neo-pagan named Adolf Hitler.

The United States at the behest of Israel committed, and is still committing, terrible atrocities in Iraq. The Jews have committed and are still committing terrible atrocities in Palestine against the Moslems. But isn’t this a case of a big bully picking on a little bully? Are the Arabs a benign, peaceful people? Is Islam a faith of charity and mercy? Where, in the right wing, is the traditional, Christian European antipathy for Islam? Why is support for the Arabs any less repulsive than support for Israel? Does anyone doubt for a second that if the Moslems could gain the upper hand in Palestine they would commit the same atrocities on the Jews that the Jews are currently inflicting on them? What is sadly lacking in the Palestine dilemma is a Christian presence. If there was such a thing as Christian Europe and it was still strong, this is what Christian Europe would say to the Muslims and the Jews: “Neither of you have a right to Palestine. It belongs to Christ. But as a concession to erring human nature, we will permit both of you to live and worship in Palestine, providing you follow our rules.” You can fill in the rules yourself.

And if there was a Christian Europe but Europeans were not strong enough to control the Moslems and Jews? Then the European states, which would include the United States, would simply say, “A plague on both your houses.” But a Christian monarch would no more support the Moslems against the Jews than he would support the Jews against the Muslims. The modern television evangelists who think that the interests of Israel and Christendom are one and the same are insane, but so are the right-wingers who think Islam and the Christian West can become two peas in a pod.

I’ve noticed that almost all the pagan right-wingers and a sizable amount of the Christian right-wingers take the view that once you are born a Jew, you stay a Jew no matter if you claim to have converted to Christianity or not. A traditionalist priest, as distinct from a traditional Christian, once condemned a Christian author I was fond of, because he claimed the man had a Jewish ancestor some eight generations back.

Shakespeare, often condemned for anti-Semitism because of his play, The Merchant of Venice, actually gives us the traditional Christian view of the Jew, which differs markedly from the views of the right-wing Christians and the New Age, right-wing pagans. Shakespeare shows us what a man becomes who belongs to a religious sect that has hardened itself against the God of mercy. He hates The Light and those who worship The Light: “I hate him for he is a Christian.” But Shakespeare also emphasizes that there is redemption for the Jew if he will become a Christian. Jewishness does not have to be a permanent condition. In the play, Launcelot, who impregnates a negress, presents the literalist interpretation of Jewishness, while Jessica gives the traditional Christian view:

Launcelot Gobbo. Yes, truly; for, look you, the sins of the father are to be laid upon the children: therefore, I promise ye, I fear you. I was always plain with you, and so now I speak my agitation of the matter: therefore be o’ good cheer, for truly I think you are damn’d. There is but one hope in it that can do you any good; and that is but a kind of bastard hope neither.

Jessica. And what hope is that, I pray thee?

Launcelot Gobbo. Marry, you may partly hope that your father got you not, that you are not the Jew's daughter.

Jessica. That were a kind of bastard hope, indeed. So the sins of my mother should be visited upon me.

Launcelot Gobbo. Truly then I fear you are damn’d both by father and mother: thus when I shun Scylla, your father, I fall into Charybdis, your mother. Well, you are gone both ways.

Jessica. I shall be saved by my husband; he hath made me a Christian.
What is the key element of Judaism? Their hatred for Christ and the people who built a civilization based on their love for Christ. The New Age pagan, the Christian rationalist, as well as the post-Christian rationalists of the Catholic and Protestant bodies, all hate Christ and the Europeans who still honor His civilization. So who is the unredeemed Jew? Shylock and the modern Christ-hating Christians, but not Jessica. (1)

Complaint #2: “You hate Catholicism.”
Let us first be clear about the difference between a Christian’s hate and the barbarian’s hate. If I say I hate Bernard Shaw, which I do, it does not mean that if he were alive today I would want to kill him or torture him, as a Negro barbarian would want to do to his enemy. Now if Bernard Shaw led an army that was determined to force the Shavian faith on me by violence, then I would respond with violence. But in the absence of a declared war on his part, my response to Shaw’s evil religion would be a spiritual one since my hatred of him was, and is, a metaphysical hatred, which is much stronger than a barbarian’s hatred, but not as bloody.

With that qualification, let me say that yes, I do hate Catholicism in its modern Novus Ordo form and in its traditionalist form. Is there any other kind of Catholicism? I think there is if one looks to the Christian Church prior to the medieval ages and to the Anglican Church prior to the 20th century. But let us leave that alone for the present. (2) Why the hatred for the two modern manifestations of Catholicism? The Novus Ordo church is the end result of nontraditional traditionalism, so let me start with the traditionalists. What the ‘trads’ are preserving and espousing is the doctrine that spawned Vatican II, that made the Protestant Reformation necessary, and that has given birth to modern liberalism (see ‘The Lost Thread’ and ‘The Scholastic Heresy’). They have institutionalized the sin of the old Adam and made it the Christian faith. In their view the Church as an institution does not preserve the deposit of the Faith handed down by the apostles. It does something entirely different. By ignoring its own tenets it placed an inordinate amount of responsibility on one man. Karl Adam was absolutely correct when he said that the Church should not be dependent on that one chosen theologian to explain the Faith. (3) And I would add that what the Church did, when they traded Christ for St. Thomas Aquinas, was the same as what Adam and Eve did. Satan told Adam and Eve that true wisdom did not come from an intimate relationship with God, it came from pure reason’s contemplation of the natural world. And that satanic doctrine, through the good offices of St. Thomas, became the primary doctrine of the Catholic Church. The Novus Ordo church was simply the result of following the Thomist formula to its logical conclusion that would have horrified St. Thomas: the mind of Man is God. How can you not hate such a doctrine?

Complaint #3: “You are hostile to Protestantism.”
Yes, in my zealous Catholic days, I was hostile to Protestantism, but I must emphasize that I was never a Feeneyite, nor will I ever become a Protestant version of a Feeneyite. (4) What I am in absolute sympathy with is the Protestantism of Lady Alice Avenel as depicted in Walter Scott’s novel, The Monastery. She doesn’t know about John Calvin or Martin Luther; all she wants is to get closer to Christ. And she reads the forbidden book, the Gospel of Christ. For this she is reprimanded and denied the Gospel of Christ.

Alice of Avenel represents what is good in the Protestant Reformation. And unfortunately a reformation was needed, because the Church authorities of that time did not have the sense to simply form another order as they had done with St. Francis of Assisi.

But what of John Calvin? I have never known a good Christian who was a strict Calvinist. The good ones modify his doctrines and place Christ’s gospel above John Calvin, while the mad-dog lunatics who look and act like John Brown of Harper’s Ferry fame follow the logic of total depravity to its ultimate hellish conclusions.

Without a doubt Calvin’s total depravity doctrine was a reaction to the semipelagianism of St. Aquinas. Both theologies are monuments of “egregious folly.” Thankfully the Christian folk of Europe have rejected both follies.

The complex problems, such as the place of Mary in the Church, and the meaning of such terms as ‘transubstantiation,’ will never be solved by the theologians. They will be solved by the Christian folk who genuinely seek Him in their hearts.

Complaint #4: “Fairy tales and poets and all that literary nonsense has nothing to do with religious faith.”
First, fairy and folk tales of the Europeans are a very good source of religious faith. They represent the only true form of democracy, the democracy of tradition.

And secondly, a great poet such as Walter Scott gives us not only his own vision of the Faith, he also depicts for us the religious vision of his people.

In contrast the theologian does not give us a vision, he provides us with his thoughts about God. And it is just one particular man’s thoughts about God. He speaks for no one but himself and demands that every man, woman, and child should adhere to his philosophy of God.

The non-integral, rationalistic, theological Christianity of the schools has rendered Christians defenseless against the organized onslaught of the Jews and the Christ-hating Christians. And Christians are helpless because the philosophical undergirding of both the Protestant and Catholic churches denies that there is any indwelling grace within man. He has only dumb nature as his guide, which is the liberals’ guide as well. When the theological Christian quarrels with the liberal post-Christian, they are quarrelling over trifles; they really agree on the essentials. The men of faith are never theologians or theological Christians. They are Europeans who see Christ’s banner and no other, and they have already overcome the world because they, like Ratty, have never left their home. “Through Him, with Him, and in Him...” +
(1) In the recent conflict between the grand inquisitor bishop of the SSPX and the liberal, Jewish inquisitors I see that it is indeed true that the devil never rests. (I wish he would take a break now and then.) “Choose,” the devil says. I choose neither. But for the same reason Whittaker Chambers thought the convicted communist Alger Hiss should not be denied a passport because he was a convicted communist, I do not think the SSPX bishop should be denied the right to “deny the Holocaust.” As some blogger recently stated, “The Jews are not that smart.” If they were they would realize that by calling attention to a marginalized bishop within a marginalized sect of the Catholic Church, you only give a sectarian, religious zealot celebrity status far beyond anything he ever had before.

It is not for denial of the Holocaust that the bishop should be anathematized. He and his whole organization should be anathematized for denying the humanity of God. The Jews, having abandoned their faith, now have only one faith, the Holocaust. And they protect their new faith. Where are the Christian voices that protect their faith? Why was the SSPX never condemned for the right reasons, for their refusal to acknowledge that God has a human face and a human heart?

The Christian gospel announces primarily not an ascent of humanity to the heights of the divine in a transfiguration, an apotheosis, a deification of human nature, but a descent of the Godhead, of the divine Word, to the state of bondage of the purely human. This is the kernel of the primitive Christian message. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us”; he “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of man, and in habit found as a man” (Phil, ii. 7). Hence it is just as important to establish that Christ is full and complete man, that for all the hypostatic union with the Godhead, he possessed not only a human body but also a purely human soul, a purely human will, a purely human consciousness, a purely human emotional life, that in the full and true sense he became as one of us, as it is to establish the other proposition, namely, that this man is God. Indeed, the doctrine of the divinity of Christ first acquires from the other doctrine—Christ is full and perfect man—its specifically Christian imprint and its specifically Christian form; its essential difference from all pagan apotheoses and saviour gods.

--from The Son of God by Karl Adam

I’ve grown up reading all the ecumenical books that say a Christian should make alliances with every organization that affirms God. That’s too broad of a tent for me. Such a tent includes Muslims, SSPXers, Druids, African voodoo devotees, and so on. But if we limit the tent to those who believe in the divinity of God and His humanity, we won’t have an overwhelming coalition of numbers but men and women with faith in the one true God.

One final note on this SSPX-Rome-Jew conflict. To the Pope: Williamson never hid his views on the Holocaust. If you didn’t want him and his organization back in the Church, you should not have lifted the excommunication. But having once welcomed the unrepentant sinner back to the fold, you should not then have immediately thrown him to the wolves.

To the SSPX: What kind of organization sells out their own for a paltry pat on the head from the liberal powers that be? A lap-dog, soulless organization.

To Williamson: Abandon the God of the SSPX and appeal to the God-Man of Christianity, the only one to whom we can turn for mercy when a Christ-forsaking, Christ-hating world no longer even knows the meaning of the word.

(2) It’s more than interesting that the British people, after the terrible debacle of Henry XIII and his wives, when forced to decide about the best means to inspire devotion to Him, chose to link to the early Church fathers rather than the scholastics, and to stress the Gospels over the Church fathers.

I think this was a wise choice, because the Scholastics were the wise men who told us we needn’t enter the dark woods; we needed only their wise heads. In contrast, the early Church fathers only advised us about the journey; they didn’t tell us that it was unnecessary. They would not have been in the least offended therefore that the Gospels were given priority over their advice.

When I was a young man, I thought that the source of modernity was Protestantism. When I became an older man, I realized that scholasticism was the source of modernity. When Protestants also abandon the Gospels, they become scholastics and therefore modernists, which is why I have always claimed that the conflict is not between Catholic vs. Protestant but between peasant vs. wizard.

(3) "Too little attention has been paid to what Etienne Gilson, in his great book La Philosophie de S. Bonaventure, has told us about the literally passionate hostility shown by that brilliant Franciscan towards the Aristotelian epistemology taken over by SS. Albert and Thomas Aquinas. At that time in the fight against the Platonist-Augustinian illumination theory, which referred every ultimate and absolute certainty to an inflowing of divine light, and thus linked in the most intimate union created and divine knowledge, human perception was thrown on its own resources, and consequently knowledge and faith, the natural and supernatural, were neatly separated, and it was then that the primary conditions were created in which a world, which was more and more rapidly breaking loose from the primacy of faith, could emancipate all human thought from the creative thought of God. Men artificially mapped out a particular field of reality and called it Nature. They thus awakened and encouraged the evil illusion that the other reality, that of the supernatural, of God, had been brought into apposition with it from without, and that it was a more or less secondary reality. Nature was secularized by being released – from the epistemological standpoint—from its actual union with the supernatural, and the fiction was favoured that Nature was a thing per se capable of complete explanation independently of any outside factor. Thus we have all become secularized in our thought and we have schemata in our hands, or rather in our minds, which do not lead to the divine, to Christ, but away from him...

"Western eyes are grown old, and can no longer see the whole reality; or rather they have been ruined by long and bad usage. By having been concentrated on the world of mere phenomena their capacity to see the superterrestrial and the Divine has been weakened. Hence the evil does not so much lie in our bad will, certainly not in the difficulty of the Object, in the mysterious, paradoxical nature of the Christian message, but in the fundamental make-up of the modern European. He has forgotten how to see."

--from The Son of God by Karl Adam

George Macdonald put it more simply and more poetically:
I will go further: To arouse the hope that there may be a God with a heart like our own is more for the humanity in us than to produce the absolute conviction that there is a being who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and the fountains of waters. Jesus is the express image of God's substance, and in him we know the heart of God. To nourish faith in himself was the best thing he
could do for the man.
And Shakespeare puts it better still:

Thy bosom is endearèd with all hearts
Which I, by lacking, have supposèd dead;
And there reigns love, and all love's loving parts,
And all those friends which I thought burièd.
How many a holy and obsequious tear
Hath dear religious love stol'n from mine eye
As interest of the dead, which now appear
But things removed that hidden in thee lie.
Thou art the grave where buried love doth live,
Hung with the trophies of my lovers gone,
Who all their parts of me to thee did give;
That due of many now is thine alone.
Their images I loved I view in thee,
And thou, all they, hast all the all of me.

(4) Father Feeney was a Catholic priest who claimed there was no salvation outside the Church. He was excommunicated by Pius XII, and his excommunication was lifted by Paul VI. I’m sure Protestants have Father Feeney types in their respective churches as well, men and women who take one small aspect of the faith and make it the cornerstone of a new, cruel religion. In Father Feeney’s case, he took “Pharisaism to a new level of genius.”


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Love Talks with Better Knowledge

I try not to think of the Catholic traditionalists (who are not traditional) very often, because they are such a depressing bunch of post-Christian Christians. But I often get drawn into indirect contact with them in the form of a phone call or letter from an old acquaintance still connected to the movement. This last time, however, it was a front page article in the local newspaper that brought back all my old memories of the ‘trads.’ (1)

The article reported that a local traditionalist group was alleged to be involved in financial chicanery and unspeakable sexual practices. I believe the accusations because I know the trads, but accusations are not proof. One should shun the trads because of their anti-Christian theology, not because of unproven accusations about their sex lives.

And the essence of trad ideology, whether it be that of Lefebvre, the Fraternity of St. Peter, the Society of St. John, or Mr. Independent Trad, consists of the elevation of human reason to a pinnacle above revelation and the elimination of the humanity of Christ.

When Uncle Andrew, the evil magician in C. S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew, dreams of remaking Narnia over in his own image, he knows there is only one obstacle in his way: Aslan, the Christ Figure. “The first thing is to get that brute shot.”

“To get that brute shot”: that is the essence of traditionalism. Christ is the brute who stands in the way of the rule of the magicians. And that is all religion means to the traditionalists: “Who shall be master?”

Traditionalism, like modern, Novus Ordo Catholicism, is not based on Christianity but on modern Gnosticism wherein technique replaces religious faith.

The Dutch fairy tale, “The Two Wishes,” retold with slight variations in other European fairy tales, illustrates the traditionalist heresy quite well.

In the tale, Saint Peter comes back to earth to take a walk among the Dutch villages and see how the “people are faring.” On this particular Christmas Eve night, St. Peter knocks at the door of a prosperous-looking house. A middle-aged woman opens the door and quickly slams it again in St. Peter’s face.

“Beggars! I’m tired of answering the door to beggars!”

St. Peter trudges on through the snow until he finds a humbler thatched cottage. A bent little woman answers the door.
“Good woman—“ Saint Peter began.

Before he could go on, she cried, “Oh, you poor soul! Your shoes are wet and there’s snow on your shoulders. You must be cold to the bone. Come in! I’ve a bit of a peat fire, and a pot of broth—not much to offer you on a night like this, but you’re welcome to what I have.”

Saint Peter went into the small room where a meager fire burned on the hearth. But it was warm and pleasant, and the little old woman bustled about her kitchen, pouring the broth into an earthen bowl, cutting a slice from a homemade loaf, and bringing a pair of old slippers for Saint Peter to put on while she dried his shoes beside the fire.

After a while, he got up to go, but she said warmly, “Oh, no, you can’t go out in this weather! Wait till morning—perhaps the snow will have stopped by then, and the sun will warm you. My son is away; you can have his bed. Come, I’ll light the way.”

Saint Peter could not persuade her to let him go on. She saw to it that he was comfortable, and then went to put more peats on the fire.

In the morning she gave him breakfast, and before he left her he said, “You have been very good to me and made me welcome. I cannot repay you, but I can grant you a wish.”

“Oh, sir!” she cried.

But he held up his hand. “Do not make your wish now. Think about it a while, and when you have a good wish, say it aloud, and it shall be granted.”

With that he was gone, and the poor woman spent half the morning trying to think about what she would wish for. Then her eyes fell on the big, old-fashioned loom in the corner of the room. Her husband, who was dead, had been a weaver, and there was still a piece of unfinished cloth on the loom, just as he had left it.

“I ought to measure that cloth,” she thought. “I wish I knew how much there is.” Then she stood still. There was her wish. She said aloud, “May the work I begin tomorrow morning continue all day.”

Next morning she began to measure the cloth. When she had twelve yards, she cut it off and rolled it up neatly. Then she saw that the pattern had changed, and the colors were different. She measured that, and there was another twelve yards. She cut it off and rolled it up neatly and set it beside the first roll. She measured and measured—every twelve yards there was a different texture, a different pattern, a different color. The rolls grew and grew. She stacked them along the wall and then in piles on the floor.

The neighbors who came to see what she was doing could hardly get the door open. All day she measured and measured, and the cloth continued to roll from the loom. By nightfall the cottage was so full that she could scarcely get from the loom to the stove. There was enough cloth to last a lifetime. There was enough to sell in all the neighboring villages and towns. She would never want for money the rest of her life.
When the cranky rich woman hears about the good fortune of the poor widow, she is envious. She waits till the next Christmas Eve, determined that this time St. Peter will get a different reception from her.
It was Christmas Eve again when he returned. The moment she heard a knock that snowy evening the woman was sure it was the stranger. She flung open the door before he could do more than knock once.

“Come in, come in!” she cried. Her house was swept and garnished and polished. A delicious meal was cooking on the stove. “It’s a bad night to be out. You must rest before the fire, and have supper with us... This is my husband. See, he will take your cloak and dry it. Dirk, get some more fuel for the fire, and set another place at the table, and see that the big bed in the guest room is warmed.”

Saint Peter said he really could not stay. “I only stopped to ask my way,” he said.

But she would not hear of his leaving. “In the morning will be time enough. It’s dark; you would not be able to see the path. Supper is ready, and it’s a cold night.”

So Saint Peter stayed, and the next morning he thanked her. “I cannot pay you,” he said, “but whatever you do first tomorrow will last all day.”

The woman fairly danced with joy. She ran back into the house. “He said that whatever I do first tomorrow will last all day! This is what I hoped for! Oh, that foolish widow—measuring cloth! I will count money. There will be so much money before the end of the day that we shall be rich forevermore! First, though, I must make bags to put it in. If I get up right after midnight to make the bags I can begin counting my money by daybreak.”

She could hardly sleep for excitement. As soon as the clock struck midnight she leaped out of bed and put on her clothes and grabbed her scissors. She would have to work fast to make enough bags to hold all the money she intended to count.

As soon as she had cut up some old material she began on another piece, and when she had enough pieces she decided to sew them up at once. But, oddly enough, she couldn’t stop cutting! She took the sheets off the bed and cut them up, and the curtains from the windows. Her husband hurried out, “Woman, have you gone crazy?”

“I can’t stop,” she answered him. “I can’t keep these scissors from cutting!”

She cut up the bedspreads and the rugs and the tablecloths. She cut up her petticoats. Then she took her husband’s suits, one by one, and cut those to pieces. The poor man ran about, begging her to stop, but nothing could stop her. She snipped off her bonnet strings and then cut up the bonnet itself. She opened her wardrobe and cut up all her dresses. The napkins went next, and the towels, and the aprons, and the downstairs curtains. She wept in anger; her husband was bellowing in rage. But all day long, as long as there was anything to cut, she cut it up.

“Now I know what that stranger meant!” he shouted at her. “The first thing you did today—and you, you stupid, began the minute after midnight!”
Of course the moral here—the moral of many great fairy tales—is that the inmost heart, not the outward show, is what counts. One cannot substitute technique and intellectual acumen for the virtues of the heart.

To those who have become used to dueling-documents apologetics, it seems frivolous to bring fairy tales into a religious debate. But the European fairy tales represent the wisdom of our race. If the inner logic of the traditionalist movement goes against that wisdom, can the movement really be traditional?

The great deceit of traditionalist priests is that they outwardly try to appear anti-modern yet continue to infect their parishioners with the modernist mindset necessary for their successful triumph. They must inject into their adherents the Uncle Andrew virus: “The first thing is to get that brute shot.” All neophytes must empty themselves of all humanity and learn to look on God as devoid of all humanity as well. At that point, they will be ready to receive the true wisdom from the traditionalist gurus.

The true test comes when the trads speak of Him, the great lover, as the great hater—of the marriage bond, of the possibility of the salvation of more than a few, of all things human. If the neophyte swallows this he is no longer a neophyte but a traditionalist.

The great folklorist, William Shakespeare, speaks to the traditionalists in Measure for Measure. In the play, the Duke, in disguise, listens to the rogue, Lucio, defame him.
Who, not the duke? yes, your beggar of fifty; and
his use was to put a ducat in her clack-dish: the
duke had crotchets in him. He would be drunk too;
that let me inform you.

You do him wrong, surely.

Sir, I was an inward of his. A shy fellow was the
duke: and I believe I know the cause of his

What, I prithee, might be the cause?

No, pardon; 'tis a secret must be locked within the
teeth and the lips: but this I can let you
understand, the greater file of the subject held the
duke to be wise.

Wise! why, no question but he was.

A very superficial, ignorant, unweighing fellow.

Either this is the envy in you, folly, or mistaking:
the very stream of his life and the business he hath
helmed must upon a warranted need give him a better
proclamation. Let him be but testimonied in his own
bringings-forth, and he shall appear to the
envious a scholar, a statesman and a soldier.
Therefore you speak unskillfully: or if your
knowledge be more it is much darken’d in your malice.

Sir, I know him, and I love him.

Love talks with better knowledge, and knowledge with
dearer love.
Yes, no matter what traditional forms cloak traditionalism’s sinister doctrines, love talks with better knowledge and knowledge with dearer love. +

(1) When you make a mistake as big as I did, in becoming associated with the trad Catholics, it is quite easy to become a Montaigne skeptic: “Since I have been certain I was right in the past and then discovered I was wrong, I cannot be certain that any decision I make in the future is correct.” That type of reasoning is a satanic trap. The devil wants us to think we can never really know what is true and what is false.

But we can know; God has not left us bereft of guidance. Christ is at the center of our hearts. He is our touchstone of reality. I joined the traditionalists because of the liberalism of the Novus Ordo, not because I loved their church. When I saw how satanic the trads were and how they sneered at the Man of Sorrows, I left their church.

The answer to Vatican II liberalism is not traditionalism, nor, in my opinion, should we renounce all of Catholic history as un-Christian. In my heart I feel that the Catholic and Protestant churches are like a husband and wife who have separated but have not sought a divorce because they know in their hearts that they are mystically united. This is not the ecumenism of “You abandon your faith and I’ll abandon mine and then we can be united in our disbelief.” It is the ecumenism that says all things are possible for those who believe in the Lord. I have no faith in denominations, but every faith that the men and women who genuinely seek Him shall ultimately be united in Him.


Sir Walter Scott Again

I recently saw a recommended reading list put out by some organization that purported to be Christian. Walter Scott was not on the list. Such an admission is... Well, I’m at a loss for an adequate analogy, so I’ll have to settle for some inadequate ones. It would be like leaving Babe Ruth off the list of great homerun hitters or leaving Saint Francis of Assisi off the list of great saints.

Scott, like P. C. Wren, is undervalued as a writer because he believed in chivalry, a code replaced in modern times by psychology. Scott never takes sides against the Catholic Stuarts and for the King George Protestants, nor against the Covenanters and for the King George Anglicans. He lets the reader take sides, but Scott’s authorial voice does take sides on the issue of chivalry. The noble characters have it, and the bad ones don’t.

Scott is credited with inventing the historical novel, but that is a mere literary trifle compared to his real achievement. Scott’s achievement consists of the Christian vision conveyed in the totality of his novels and poetry. His Christianity is strikingly pure and elemental. The villainous characters pursue knowledge, wealth, and power, while the heroic characters cling to the intangible values of loyalty, love, and charity. Throughout his novels and poetry we see the words of St. Paul embodied: “The letter killeth and the spirit giveth life.” Scott always looks backward to a nobler time when antique Christian virtues were practiced. In contrast, the new age that Scott describes is dominated by lawyers and Pharisees. And by ‘lawyers,’ Scott means those with a lawyer’s mentality; for not all lawyers in Scott’s works have a lawyer’s mentality.

I think Scott, like Shakespeare, will always need to be read by Christians. He shuns the merely theological Christianity for the deeper incarnational Christianity. His Christianity is organic; he gets to Christ through the human.

Scott is often depicted as the conservative in contrast to Dickens, the radical. But this is incorrect. Both writers are conservative in the good sense, in that they espoused a basic non-modern Christianity and opposed the new order of capitalist greed and avarice. It is just that by the time Dickens was writing, capitalism had become so entrenched that opposition to it seemed more like radicalism than in Scott’s time.

My favorite work of Walter Scott is whatever book of his I am reading currently. But if pressed to come up with favorites, I would say that “Harold the Dauntless” is my favorite of the epic poems, and The Antiquary, The Heart of Midlothian, and Quentin Durward are my favorites among the novels.

Scott, in his numerous novels about the ill-fated Stuart kings, gives us a very poignant and moving depiction of the heart-rending desolation of exile. Take the novel Redgauntlet for example. When the Great Cause is truly lost, the title character leaves Scotland forever, still loyal to his lawful King. One does not have to be a Jacobite to identify with Redgauntlet. Cannot we, the Christian remnant, see ourselves in the present day as being in the same position as Redgauntlet? Having championed the cause of the old antique Christianity, a Christianity where race and kinship mean something, are we not exiles from our own Church just as Redgauntlet was an exile from Scotland? When looked at in this light, Redgauntlet’s parting is particularly poignant.
The general drew a little aloof, and signed to Redgauntlet to speak with him while this scene proceeded. 'It is now all over,' he said, 'and Jacobite will be henceforward no longer a party name. When you tire of foreign parts, and wish to make your peace, let me know. Your restless zeal alone has impeded your pardon hitherto.'

'And now I shall not need it,' said Redgauntlet. 'I leave England for ever; but I am not displeased that you should hear my family adieus.--Nephew, come hither. In presence of General Campbell, I tell you, that though to breed you up in my own political opinions has been for many years my anxious wish, I am now glad that it could not be accomplished. You pass under the service of the reigning monarch without the necessity of changing your allegiance--a change, however,' he added, looking around him, 'which sits more easy on honourable men than I could have anticipated; but some wear the badge of their loyalty on their sleeve, and others in the heart. You will, from henceforth, be uncontrolled master of all the property of which forfeiture could not deprive your father--of all that belonged to him--excepting this, his good sword' (laying his hand on the weapon he wore), 'which shall never fight for the House of Hanover; and as my hand will never draw weapon more, I shall sink it forty fathoms deep in the wide ocean. Bless you, young man! If I have dealt harshly with you, forgive me. I had set my whole desires on one point,--God knows, with no selfish purpose; and I am justly punished by this final termination of my views, for having been too little scrupulous in the means by which I pursued them.--Niece, farewell, and may God bless you also!'
And God bless you, noble Redgauntlet!

And who but a real Christian, a Christian in the blood, could write so well of true love?

But earthly spirit could not tell
The heart of them that loved so well.

True love's the gift which God has given
To man alone beneath the heaven.

It is not fantasy's hot fire,
Whose wishes, soon as granted, fly;

It liveth not in fierce desire,

With dead desire it doth not die;
It is the secret sympathy,
The silver link, the silken tie,
Which heart to heart, and mind to mind,
In body and in soul can bind.

--from “Lay of the Last Minstrel”
It has been said that all English literature is a footnote to Shakespeare. Sir Walter Scott would not disagree; his work is filled with Shakespearean references and Shakespearean themes. But I would add that Scott makes a magnificent footnote and a necessary companion to the great bard. +


P. C. Wren Again

I love P. C. Wren because I love Otho Belleme. And I know that P. C. Wren poured his soul into that character. We first meet Otho as a young child in the book, Soldiers of Misfortune, and we follow him from childhood to young manhood in Soldiers of Misfortune and in the sequel, Valiant Dust. Prophetically, Otho fights against two of the greatest enemies of Christian Europe. In Soldiers of Misfortune, he fights in the boxing arena a colossal black barbarian who has been trained by a white turncoat to show the world what great soldiers the black Senegalese can be. The fight scene marks what is probably the last time a European writer presents a conflict between a black and a white as a conflict between two spiritually antithetical forces, with the white man representing the forces of good and the black man representing the forces of evil. Otho is aware of the metaphysical nature of the fight.
Still, one might take heart from that, and hope to distress and bother him again, even to the point of administering the coup de grâce... and perhaps this M’bongu, while a marvel at fighting a winning fight, might not be so good in a losing one? There might be more lion-like élan than bull-dog tenacity in his make-up... possibly “more teeth and claws than guts,” as Joe would say.

Yes, there was a hope that though an English gentleman’s strength and insensibility might be inferior to those of a Negro, his spirit might be superior...
Yes, Otho and the men of Rourke’s Drift knew how to fight barbarism.

In Valiant Dust, Otho must fight the Muslims. And he fights them without becoming like unto them. Nothing, not the desert, the Arabs, nor the black Sengalese can change or alter the innate chivalry of the English Otho Belleme.

Wren is an amazing man. It was extraordinary when Scott picked up the gauntlet and charged through the early 19th century like a medieval knight-errant, but to champion chivalry in the 20th century, as Wren does, is miraculous.

All heresies stemming from Christianity seek to replace the incarnational apologetics—in which the Divine reaches out to man through his humanity, and man gets to the Divine through His humanity—with corporate systems-analysis apologetics. In corporate systems-analysis apologetics, man reaches the divine through a superior system of reasoning. The great value of an author like Wren or Scott is that they put us back on course. We get to God through man. And if we see a character in a novel striving for the heroic, and if that striving strikes a chord in our own hearts, well, then we feel connected to Him. We do not feel connected to Him if we read a corporate spreadsheet, put out by a theologian, which tells us the universe is being run by a CEO named God. +


Saturday, February 07, 2009

The European Woods

“Warrior! thou, whose dauntless heart
Gives us from our ward to part.
Be as strong in future trial,
Where resistance is denial.”
The most striking thing to me about the liberal Protestant, the fundamentalist Protestant, the Novus Ordo Catholic, the traditionalist Catholic, and the white neo-pagan groups is the one common faith they all share. This belief transcends their differences and keeps them from ever really diverging too far from modernity. Their commonly held faith is a belief in experts.

What has disappeared from all three camps, Protestant, Catholic, and neo-pagan, is a very European way of facing the numinous. It is true Europeans of old had their scholarly experts, their theologians, men who lived apart and studied the sacred books, but those experts did not determine what belief should be, nor did they mistake their own expert commentary (at least the non-heretical ones did not) on the Deposit of the Faith to be the Faith itself. The scholars of yore were kept in place by a religious peasantry, from whose ranks the scholars themselves often came, that placed a greater priority on the journey itself than on travelogues about the journey.

With the demise of the European peasantry, the reign of the experts began. The Christian Faith became a second-hand thing. It now only exists to the extent and in the way the experts say it does. And the modern European, lacking a blood faith, is at the mercy of the experts without any means of escape.

When I speak of the faith of a peasant I do not mean to suggest that only those who till the soil can possess such a faith. I am referring to all Europeans who experience the Faith firsthand. They have never come to believe, as Quentin’s father in The Sound and the Fury believes, that all tragedy is secondhand. The peasant journeys into the dark woods of existence with the intuitive knowledge that he will most certainly meet with witches, goblins, and other fiendish creatures. But he also knows, in his blood, that if he perseveres, he will see a light in the forest that will lead him to The Light; therefore, journey through the dark woods he must.

The modern European is a reed for every speculative philosophic wind that blows past the window of his brain. Because he no longer journeys through the dark woods, he is dependent on the experts. If he wants to receive knowledge of the light he must find an expert on the subject of “The Dark Woods.” But the experts have never gone through the woods themselves; they have second-hand knowledge of the woods based on their speculative theories about the nature of the woods. The modern Christian everyman takes the findings of his special, denominational expert and declares his tentative faith, pending further research by his experts, in the light that shineth in the dark woods.

And what killed the peasant faith (the only type of faith worth having) of Western man? It was the serpent of philosophical speculation:

“The vain pride of attempting to improve Christianity in the external exhibition of it in the churches, that it might vie in splendor with the pompous exhibition of the Jewish and pagan religions, and the presumptuous folly of explaining its mysteries according to the notions of the heathen philosophy, and, finally, of reducing the whole subject of Divine revelation into the form of a rational, systematic science, an attempt this, which rendered it as unfit for its primary purpose, the salvation of mankind, as the chemical process of distillation does our vegetable productions for the sustentation of animal life. The sublime productions of Aquinas, Maestrich, and Turrentine, are exquisite monuments of this egregious folly. As well might we attempt to imbibe vital heat by embracing a corpse, as to derive spiritual life, light, or comfort, from the perusal of those voluminous works.

– from “Christianity is Neither a Theory Nor a Philosophy” by Father Campbell
The pagan peasant climbed the cosmic tree that connected heaven to earth. But his connection was only to something cosmic and impersonal, to some Star Wars-type of ‘force.’ It was Christ who personalized the pagan cosmic tree by submitting to a crucifixion upon that tree. After Christ, faith is always personal; it is never cosmic or derivative. It is always down the ‘mean streets’ or through the dark woods that a man must go. He must imitate in some fashion the example of his Lord.

As I mentioned in a previous article, "The Poetic Core of Western Civilization," the shift from a fairy-tale appreciation of the Faith as a concrete, personal, earth-shattering experience, to a derivative, philosophical system is subtle and slow but devastating in its effects when it takes hold. Only a small remnant of the ancient Jews recognized Christ as the Savior because only a small remnant had a blood connection with their own Jewish faith which He could develop into a burning flame. The Pharisees were not atheists. In fact, they were ‘experts’ on God. Should not that give us pause when we hand ourselves over so willingly to the “religious” experts of today? (1)

I come back to my original assertion that all the neo-pagan, and Christian organizations, liberal, conservative, and traditionalist, have abandoned the integral European response to existence. “Since truth is a given,” they say, “we do not have to look for it. The journey through the dark woods is unnecessary.” Literature is no longer a shared journey with a fellow traveler through the dark woods; it is simply a poetic rendering of truths already known. And psychology, moral theology, and scholastic philosophy have removed the necessity of a more affective study of the human heart.” This is a complete reversal! There has never been anything like it before in the history of Western culture.

In healthy Christian times, the peasant hero often consults with a wise magician before entering the woods, but he knows that ultimately it is he and not the magician who must face the witch, the ogre, or the dragon. All the wisdom of the wise magician cannot equal the wisdom gained by the Young Drummers and Amadans of the Dough, who venture into the dark woods and down the ‘mean streets.’ The truths of revelation must be put to the test. Are they true or mere abstractions? We will never know for sure if we don’t break free of the experts and start the journey through the woods. Yes, they are often dark and foreboding, but the peasant senses that the darkness leads to a light that provides a warmth never felt or even hinted at by the experts.

Flannery O’Connor once made a statement that speaks to this ‘peasant vs. expert’ issue. She said that it was professors of literature who most often failed to understand her stories. I have noticed this phenomenon myself. It is professors of literature, for instance, who most consistently misunderstand Shakespeare. Even some of those who appreciate him, like Allan Bloom, Harold Bloom, Bernard Levin and Goddard, generally do not understand his works.

And I would add a corollary (which Flannery O’Connor should have taken note of, because it might have kept her from a misplaced admiration for Teilhard de Chardin). The corollary is that professors of theology (the experts), both clerical and lay, are generally the people who least understand religion. Why is this? Because religion, like literature, is a complete worldview. It cannot be studied in a compartmentalized way. One cannot approach the religious experience with only the analytical burner turned on in one’s brain. One must approach it with one’s whole heart, mind, and soul. (Who once said something about loving with one’s whole heart and mind and soul?) But the religious experts, like the literary ones, do not approach their subject with the integrality necessary to give an accurate depiction of the religious experience. We receive from them a distorted view of religious faith. And we desperately need to see the Faith whole and unperverted.

Norman Cantor, in his book Medieval History, points out that the modern world begins in the medieval age. He thinks that fact is a credit to the much-maligned medieval age. I think it is a damning indictment. But Cantor is right; the modern world does begin in the medieval ages for it is in the medieval ages that the reign of the expert begins.

Three radical changes were necessary to prepare the way for the expert. First, reason had to be freed from original sin so that a reasoning class of men could rule. Theoretically all were still infected with original sin, but in practice the thinkers, the reasoners, were free of it because they used their minds – in contrast to the peasants, who were full of all sorts of emotions and passions that rendered them incapable of knowing God without the aid of the reasoning men.

Once freed from original sin, the reasoning men needed something to analyze, which brings us to the second part of the modernist revolution – the separation of reason from revelation. No longer is revelation something that is seen in its entirety, inspiring love and awe. It now must be filtered through the analytical lens of the reasoning men, who will point out the rational, practical, and necessary parts of it to the peasants.

And what then occurs, when the reasoning men take over, is a Christianity that rejects Christ. Dostoyevsky depicts this type of Christianity in the ‘Grand Inquisitor’ chapter in The Brothers Karamazov. The Inquisitor’s essential complaint against Christ is that His religion of freely given love is too impractical, too irrational. He, the Grand Inquisitor, has improved Christianity – he has made it rational and practical. But the rational, practical quid pro quo religion of the Grand Inquisitor is not His religion and it is not ultimately satisfying to men and women with souls. The Inquisitor’s religion is a good solid religion for the practical everyday necessities of life, but it leaves the soul without the white moments that it needs for survival.

Now, I know the response of the Javerts in the various Christian churches: “Our Lord set up a hierarchical structure of reasoning men to hand revelation down to the faithful.” A hierarchical structure, yes, but was it meant to be a hierarchical structure of Pharisees and technocrats? I don’t think so. Our Lord founded His Church on third dumb brothers. He knew the Pharisees were too “educated” and too practical to accept Him. St. Paul, the greatest of the apostles and a highly educated one as well, was a great persecutor of Christians until Christ’s revelation turned him into a third dumb brother. There has been a satanic reversal in the Church. Pure intellect alone will always focus on Satan and turn men’s eyes away from the Redeemer.

The third change that completed the medieval revolt (it would be more accurate to say the Thomistic revolt) was the separation of grace and nature. When men were seen as having separate spiritual and physical natures, the door was opened to study men as mere biological specimens only. Man’s physical nature could now be studied as if it had no animating spiritual principle. True, the Thomists didn’t deny God, but by denying a divine link between God and man’s human nature, they sowed the seeds of modern man’s isolation from God. The existentialist revolt of the 20th century was a necessary revolt against the disembodied, computerized God of the scholastics. Where the existentialists erred was in rejecting the Christ, who alone can save us from the inhumanity of the computer god.

There can be no faith in men without faith in God. And there can be no faith in God unless one views existence as a fairy tale journey through the mysterious dark woods rather than as a classroom filled with experts on God dispensing information about His nature. One can find the devil as well as God in the woods, but that is the chance one takes if he wants to see the living God. In the expert-dominated classroom, there is never a genuine encounter with God. And in the 21st century, the great mass of people exists without any contact with God. In earlier centuries it was only some isolated intellectuals who lived, like Malvolio, in prisons of their own minds, but now the great mass of people have become intellectualized (which is entirely different from becoming wise) and live enslaved by “mind-forged manacles.”

Of what does the glory of the West consist? Is it really the rationalist heritage of Greece and St. Thomas? No, that heritage seems too similar to the ‘you shall be as gods’ heritage of the old Adam. The Old Testament prophets, the apostles, and the European poets all point to a different heritage, the heritage of the third dumb brothers, the fools for God.

I once had a professor in college, a lapsed Jew, who was always lamenting the fact that he, and all of us, had lost our sense of the sacred. “But what can we do about it,” he would always add; “We are all Hegelian rationalists now.” But are we? I certainly acknowledge that we live in a world that is imprisoned by Thomistic-Hegelian rationalism. But there is the poetic revolt. Existence contradicts the religious rationalists such as St. Thomas and the secularized rationalists such as Hegel. If the trip through the dark woods reveals that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in their rational systems, are we not then entitled to assume that the rational schemes are mere fictions and the fairy tales are the reality?

At least my Jewish professor lamented the loss of the sacred. The current breed of post-Christian, modern pagan, and Christian rationalists, who have replaced Christ with a rational system (even if He figures somewhere in the system) are worse than my former professor. And they have taken on all of the secularized Jews’ instinctive hatred for the culture of the European who still has a fairy tale connection to Christ. This is why you see creatures such as Thomas Fleming reserving his venom for Kinist-type Christians. His faith is in a rational system, so he hates all those who view God in poetic rather than in rational terms. To an antique European, Christ is Hero, Liege Lord, Blood Brother, and King. He is not an emaciated accountant who merely rubber-stamps his approval on a series of documents drawn up by the experts.

The “problem” of the modern European is one of vision. He needs to see that the fairy tale mode of existence is true. Then he will start to behave like the heroes of old Europe behaved, before the Europeans became too intelligent to believe in fairy stories about enchanted cottages in the woods and a God-Man who sanctified the woods with His blood.

1) Heresies always come from the academy. It is a delusion of the various religious bodies that they can create their own academies that are devoid of heresy. Whether they be Protestant or Catholic, they always end in heresy, because they start out with the false assumption that wisdom can indeed be put in a silver rod.

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